Sunday, May 1, 2016

Frostweed and Jamaican Leaf of Life

I grow a number of medicinal herbs in my outdoor garden. The two I'll show today are Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) and Jamaican Leaf of Life (Bryophyllum calycinum and pinnatum):
Frostweed is thusly named because it sends out water vapor when temperatures plummet, and creates some amazing natural frost sculptures along its stalk:
In traditional medicine, the leaves are smoked for a variety of ailments, including bereavement and grief in general. I have not tried this, so I have no comment! The Jamaican Leaf of Life is used for respiratory conditions, particularly asthma. I make a tincture or tea out of the leaves. The flavor is astringent and salty, and rather pleasant. Some people around here just chew the leaves, but I find that makes me pucker, like I do when I eat a persimmon.

The Leaf of Life propagates the way the Mother of Millions does- from nodes in the leaves themselves. Just throw a leaf on the ground and watch roots sprout and tiny plantlets grow. In tropical zones, the Leaf of Life is lively indeed! My herbalism teacher gave me one leaf a few years ago, and now I have over 20 plants! 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Schwantesia borcherdsii blooms!

Yes, I really do still grow mesembs, and Schwantesia is one of my newer additions. Schwantesias are dwarf mesembs, just like Lithops. They have gone through an extreme form of evolution to become very small, compact, and highly stonelike in appearance. They did this because they live in some of the harshest corners of our planet. (Do planets have corners? I guess they do!)

Schwantesia herrei, by Fred Dortort
 According to Mesemb Expert Fred Dortort, Schwantesias don't turn their outermost leaves into dry, protective sheaths the way Lithops or Conophytums do. They live in cracks in boulders and other out of the way, rocky hideouts. The evolved along the Orange River. Their blooms are a startling yellow. They really don't like much water or soil. Here is mine, a Schwantesia borcherdsii:
Schwantesia borcherdsii in bloom, MRobb, 2016
I am thinking this little plant needs even less water than a Lithops, and perhaps it wants to be misted and splashed now and again, as it would along an arid river bank that flash floods every once in a while? Fred Dortort recommends soil devoid of organic matter, bright sun in the growing season, and a little water every 2 weeks during the growing season when light is longest. He says that if in doubt, don't water. So that's what I'm trying. So far, so good....

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bloomin' Babytoes Meets...The Monster!

I'm supposed to be making ceramic dishes and pencil holders this weekend, you know, serious stuff. And they need to be finished by late next week. But I'm distracted by a bloomin' Babytoes, the first of spring 2016!
Babytoes Blooms in 2016, MRobb
There it sits, right in the window of my studio, distracting me with its cheerful beauty. So instead of making serious pots, I made...the Monster!
The Monster! Greenware MRobb 2016
Yes, yes, I know, I'll get to work now. Have a wonderful weekend and happy gardening!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Weekend Fun: Angel Muse Perfume Review

After almost a month of embroilment in serious environmental concerns here on my sand dune, I needed a completely frivolous moment in order to lighten up a little. In fact, my family and friends insisted on this. Fortunately, the House of Mugler came to the rescue with a sample of the new Angel flanker, Angel Muse, in the mail.

My longtime readers know that I have a deep sentimental attachment to Angel, even if I wear it only rarely. The backstory is here:

So I always review the newest Angel somewhere in the Virtual World. Here is my take on Angel Muse:

I own the Taste of Fragrance Angel, which is Angel spiked with dark chocolate. I don't wear it often, but when I have a craving for it, it's a freakin' awesome sillage monster of epic proportions. I think of it as a friendly Kaiju.

That's my Angel, a Sillage Monster!
Angel Muse substitutes a gentle hazelnut milk chocolate for the dark chocolate, and as a result, Angel Muse is more of a wombat than a kaiju.

Common Wombat, Tasmania, Photo by JJ Harrison
Muse is absolutely Angel, but relatively soft and cuddly compared to the other flankers. Mugler has used the hazelnut cream note before, and it's lovely. I like Muse so much more than Angel Eau Sucree', which I thought was dull and perhaps even a little trashy. Muse has a sense of fun and twisted elegance. And House of Mugler's choice of Georgia May Jagger is inspired!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Melancholy Musings and an Update

I've been too sad and too busy with the current environmental meltdown here to blog. Mostly too sad. After gathering data on the human health effects, putting that together with some other concerned residents, and sending it out to everyone, including the governor, and attending various meetings, the upshot is...not much. The human health effects were deliberately ignored, as was a state of emergency, because key officials did not want to "scare away the tourists", and tourism is the biggest part of our economy. I don't think they realize that we now have extensive social media and all it takes is one unhappy, ill tourist to send images of the current horror all over the world. It's better to face up to our addiction to pollution and environmental exploitation and get into recovery! Now!

The only photos I have are so sad I can't even upload them from my camera. Maybe someday. I do have some links on the human health effects of cyanobacteria,which we have here. These "demons of the ancient world" are ironically the reason we are all here- billions of years ago, they created our oxygen-rich atmosphere! But today, they are back, and are quite a scourge to life on land and water:

Interestingly, another species of cyanobacteria has been found in Greenland, on the ice, greatly accelerating the loss of that ice by making it dark, pockmarked, and mushy so it absorbs more sunlight.  Their little homes are called cryoconites, if you want to Google that. Maybe cyanobacteria are Gaia's way of voting us off the island???
I'll be back next week with proper posts on mesembs, including some new ones I am growing, and of course, the News for Tillies.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Everything Is Dead

Not one living thing in our beautiful, vast river is alive. No one near my  home has spotted a single living creature in the water for more than two days. Everything is dead.

I have personally communicated with dozens of people who are suffering from the toxic aerosols from this event. It's mostly respiratory problems, shortness of breath, asthma, sinus problems. Conjunctivitis, dizziness, and nausea, too. Pets are affected also if they've been near the river. I'm heartbroken. I'm sick. It's World Water Day and I'm crying saltwater tears for our planet.... I will keep reporting as I learn more about what has happened here in my formerly beautiful world. I know many of you are suffering in similar circumstances. We all need to work together to keep this planet together. What a mess, and what a job. Through tears, let's have hope and work together!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Weekend Walkabout: They're All Dying....

Y'all know how much I love my sand dune and all the creatures that live on it, and in the ocean, and the river. (I live between the Atlantic Ocean and a large estuary, which we call a river.) This weekend I have had a heartbreaking walkabout. The river is dying.
Brown and red tides are becoming more common here. But they usually only last a short time, in one spot. The critters can vacate that spot and carry on. Not this time. The guess is that this Brown Tide is caused by Aureoumbra lagunensis. Each cell is tiny, yet they are legion. They suffocate everything in their world, and they eat arsenic, then secrete arsenite, a potent toxin. They also gunk up the gills and blowholes of marine creatures, thus suffocating them. They suck the oxygen out of the water.
This toxic algae hasn't been studied much, though there are a few researchers on the job in Texas. We're coughing and hacking a fair bit here, but that's nothing compared to the creatures that are stuck in the water:
Neighbors have noted manatees in distress, with gunked up faces, and dolphins, too. I'll report further as I know more. Have any of you had Brown Tide in your neighborhood? It really sucks.