Saturday, December 2, 2017

Happy Winter Holidays!

My Mammillaria and I wish you a very happy winter holiday! I hope that for all of us, 2018 is a more peaceful, joyful year. Our Hurricane Irma repairs are about 75% finished, and I was so happy to see most of my Tillies are pupping, and my lone Mammillaria is blooming. I'm replanting my outdoor garden with butterfly and bird friendly natives. Nature will continue.

Who put this hat on my head??

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Weekend Walkabout: Only a Few Years Ago

What a difference a mere handful of years can make in the 21st century on Earth. Here are a few photos from my island "back then":
The Always Charming Florida Marsh Rabbit, MRobb

Florida Dunes in Bloom, MRobb
The Florida Marsh Rabbits and nearly all the flowers are gone now after being Cuisinarted by 2 strong hurricanes. I do not think they will return. Of course, a friend of mine who's been here longer than I have reminded me that my island is a human-created dune. It's only existed for a handful of decades-- so is its return to the sea less sad because of that? I miss the way it used to be, even if that was only the bat of an eyelash in Gaia-time.

Sometimes I feel that when I'm uploading these images to Google, I'm uploading images of our fragile, changing world to the New Virtual Ark. Will Google's AI find them interesting enough to preserve? Will Google's AI survive on a planet where humans cannot? I don't know! And I do remain optimistic, which is perhaps silly at this point, but we've come through crises before. Still, I do feel like uploading some more photos of my little island each week....

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Perfume Post: That Which Survives (Hurricanes and Heat)

Perfumistas like me often debate the ideal conditions for perfume longevity. What precise temperature and level of humidity is optimum? Well, I can tell you what temperature and humidity is not at all optimum....
Hurricane Weather.
Hurricane Weather, MRobb
I've gone through what I call Speed Prioritizing My Life twice in a year, first for Hurricane Matthew, then for Hurricane Irma. In both cases, I had to leave my home and was told that, due to storm surge, I might never see my home or neighborhood again. In both cases I got to return to a damaged, but habitable, abode. Did my perfume collection suffer? OK, that sounds like the most trivial silliness, and on one level, it is. But most of us have collections, and all of us have possessions that just, for no logical reason, make us happy. My perfume collection and tiny perfumery lab has been a sanity keeper for decades.
A few of my lab creations.
So...civil and military authorities are telling you to get out NOW. You have a couple of cars in reasonable shape, some gas in the tank, a family, probably pets, and a whole bunch of Stuff. What do you take with you???

This is why I call it Speed Prioritizing Your Life, and it happens for anyone dealing with a natural disaster, like hurricanes, fires, tsunamis. Earthquakes, you don't get any warning, so they don't count.

Here's what I took for Irma: Sauf Contre Bombarde 32, possibly the finest incense perfume ever created, L'Artisan Parfumeur Traversee du Bosphore, because it's immensely comforting, and there is a charming family story connected to its creation, and Ormonde Jayne Champaca, because I'm nuts for that one, and a bottle of Angel that one of my children gifted to me in London, again, connected to a lovely family story. Those were all I had room for. I couldn't take my scent library or anything from my lab, except for my book of formulae for perfumes I've come up with over the years. Oh, wait, I took a bottle of frankincense eo, because I'm a Frank Nut.

We had all agreed, if the storm surge was severe and our homes and boxes of Stuff headed out into the Atlantic, we'd have a beach salvage party afterwards. Would I find some of my collection out there in the waves? It was a pretty funny image!
OK, Guys, where's my Stuff???

So as it turned out, my home was sort of OK. But with a third of it blasted out, and none of it with A/C for awhile, in days of tropical heat and humidity, the collection did indeed take a hit. What died?

Pretty much anything with natural citrus or florals. Toast. Gross, nasty, burnt and moldy toast. Thrown out with the furniture and drywall. What survived?

Everything based on resins and spices. Not surprising, because these have been used since ancient times to preserve. In Egypt, preservation of the dead for millenia was managed with these fragrant substances. So they are fine. I'm wearing them.

Lots of synthetics like the woody-ambers and the musks were also fine. I think they'll be in our ecosystem, intact, for millenia! Whether that is a good or bad thing is left to be discovered....

Pondering an Uncertain Future....

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Who Will Give a Bug a Hug? (and plant native plants)

Thrips, yeek. Aphids, yuck. Bees, get hugs, wasps, too, even, well, a mental hug. Spiders are groovy. And OK, ladybugs eat aphids, and I love ladybugs, so I guess some aphids are OK. Some beneficial probably eats thrips, too.

And there are so many beneficial insect species on this planet, some we haven't even identified yet. And they are leaving! As I've said before, humans are insuring that this is the Age of Loneliness....
Humans Alone in a Dreary World?
Just because we CAN spray more pesticides doesn't mean we SHOULD. Just because we CAN build another minimall or parking lot doesn't mean we SHOULD.  When we do these things, we lose insects, the very base of the food web, and our crucial pollinators. The BBC has an alarming story which SHOULD keep us all awake at night:

And of course, the birds and amphibians are leaving, too. Ditto non-human mammals. What kind of planet are we making?? Do you want your kids to live in such a world? I sure don't. Can we convince the Captains of Industry, the One Percenters, that they don't want to live on a barren planet, either, assuming anyone can live on a barren rock...?

On a personal, homey level, this is the time to plant insect-friendly gardens. Bring back our butterflies and moths, our bees and wasps, our beetles and mayflies. My garden got trashed (again) by a hurricane this year, but as soon as hurricane season is over, I'm off to my Native Plant Nursery and I will rebuild. Even if it lasts only a matter of months before it's smashed by the next hurricane, it will give a welcome home to some lonely bugs. How about you?

Will you give a bug a hug??

Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Miami, Florida: home to many insects.

The Rare and Exquisite Cannonball Tree, which loves bugs.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hurricane Irma: That Which Survives

I'm referencing a classic Star Trek episode because I did think that my garden, post Irma, was like Losira, just a scary zombie. I'm glad to say I've been proven wrong. Some plants survive. But what exactly did they survive?
Irma approaches Florida courtesy of Slate
Category 3 winds for many hours. 15 inches of rain. Salt spray for 36 hours. Most of my garden was pretzelized, brown and twisted beyond recognition. I didn't have the heart to photograph it. It was just plant carnage. (Not gonna talk about my house! It's semi-habitable.)

But almost 3 weeks later, these plants are trying hard to survive. Here's the list of which plants are doing their best to keep going:

1. Schefflera- considered pests in many areas, these trees just can't be kept down! I am very fond of them at this point. No one touches my Scheffleras!
2. Tillies. Yup, I was right to say Tillies are the future. They were blown all over the place, but they are still growing and thriving, even after tornadoes and a Cat 3. Here's one I found upside down in a flower pot:
If Harvey, Irma, and Maria are harbingers of the superstorms of our future, Tillies are ready to meet the challenge.

3. Sansevieria, superstrong, supertough, nothing can knock these guys out!
4. Texas Buttonwood. This tree was a gorgeous creature, lush and 12 feet tall, and harbored many reptiles and cottontail rabbits. It was pretzelized by Irma, but it's trying to come back. I've been giving it Reiki and water with dilute fertilizer daily. It's trying!
Two hurricanes in less than a year. And we are much more fortunate than so many of our neighbors to the north, south, east, and west. This is climate change, as hurricanes have a mission to move excess heat from the tropics poleward. And we have a lot more heat to move these days. That means there will be more of these superstorms until we get this mess cleaned up ourselves, if we can, and I think we can. I'm scared about the future, but I think we have an opportunity here to make it better. No politics here, just real experience. Blessings and peace, everyone!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hit Hard By Hurricane Irma. Will Post Again Soon!

Two hurricanes in less than one year, I'm really tired. My outdoor garden is now a blasted heath, worse than after Hurricane Matthew. My house is having extensive repairs done. I'll post when I can!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Late Weekend Walkabout: Tropical Storm Emily

Such a pretty name for a storm, and thankfully, very pretty and helpful for us. (For western Florida, not so much, lots of people trapped by floods.)

 But there was a beautiful sunset and some much needed rain from surprise Tropical Storm Emily on my sand dune yesterday:
Tropical Storm Emily: MRobb, 2017

It's nice when a tropical cyclone is a good thing, isn't it? Hope you all had beautiful weekend walkabouts.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Perfume Post: What is an Oriental Perfume? And Why Do I Have So Many???

So here I was thinking I was much more into green, herbal thingies. Right. I'm not big on florals, but I do own quite a few, not big on roses but I own at least 3, etc., etc.. One thing I was quite clear on is that, living in the Tropics, I do not love Oriental Perfumes. Nope, not me, not a bit.
She likes oriental perfumes...a bit.
Well, maybe a little....
I did live in very cold climates for years. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.
Dolomiti, MRobb, 2015

So what makes an oriental perfume an oriental? There's a great discussion for those who really want to get into it on Basenotes:

Generally speaking, three vital ingredients are vanilla or vanillin, labdanum (rock rose resin), and benzoin. Patchouli or sandalwood are usually considered the fourth vital ingredient. They are meant to be warm and rich, perhaps also spicy. They are generally considered good perfumes for winter, or cozy evenings spent with significant others. They conjure the boudoir and the hamam. Guerlain's Shalimar is usually spoken of first, but weirdly, I can't stand Shalimar (it's lovely, just can't bear it). I do, however, own several versions of Guerlain's Samsara, and wear it often, particularly its lightest version, Samsara Shine. The heaviest oriental I've ever worn is Serge Lutens' Ambre Sultan. It is actually quite amazing, practically psychedelic, worn in very hot weather. Might injure bystanders, though.

Orientals typically overlap with gourmands, incense 'fumes, and florientals. Gourmands just smell more gustatory, though where the line is drawn depends on the sniffer. Florientals emphasize, well, flowers. Incense fumes are based on frankincense, but often have hefty doses of vanilla, benzoin, and labdanum, so they're in the club.

Some of the orientals that I wear frequently, even in the heat, are Lalique's Le Parfum, L'Artisan Parfumeur's Safran Troublant, Guerlain's Samsara Shine, and Sonia Rykiel's Woman (original). I wear incense frags constantly, and make my own, as I am basically addicted to frankincense at this point, and labdanum follows close on Frank's heels.

Orientals have not been fashionable for some time, but I guess I really do love them. If you've never tried an oriental perfume, do try one before going to sleep, at the very least. And try it again before a cuddly interlude. I think you'll agree, there's nothing else like them!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A New Cactus Joins the Group: Astrophytum ornatum

I haven't acquired any new cacti for a couple of years. I tried, several years ago, to grow the spectacular Astrophytum from seed- they didn't even germinate. They are notoriously hard to grow from seed I know, but still, I've grown Lithops from seed, so I did have some hope. Ah well.
Growing Lithops From Seed
Astrophytum are also known as Star Cacti, and they are simply gorgeous creatures. So I was thrilled to find one at, of all places, Lowes, a big box store.
Look what I found!
I like how the nursery makes a little basket pot so it's easy to transport your new cactus, injury-free. Great idea! And now, a closeup:
Astrophytum ornatum
Astrophytum ornatum is the largest of the Astrophytums (or is that Astrophyti??). It's a native of Mexico and can grow about 12 cm wide and 1 meter tall! Of course, that takes a long, long time. Yellow flowers arrive in summer. The white flecks on the stem are unique to this genus. They can tolerate high temperatures and high levels of sunlight, and are somewhat frost-tolerant. Water sparingly, as this genus is very prone to root rot. I'll be keeping mine indoors, as we get flooding rains on a frequent basis here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Weekend Walkabout: It's So Hot!!

It's too hot for a Weekend Walkabout anywhere but in the house. Summers keep getting hotter and hotter. We have less of our old, daily, polite rains. Now we get nothing for weeks at a time, then a monsoon that causes floods. It doesn't cool off at night anymore, and we are literally dependent on our air conditioners. Scary. Our Avian Cooling Station is running full tilt-- here are our Fish Crow Fledglings, cooling their toes....

Hoppin and Pippin are amazing. They've learned to take frequent showers at the cooling station. They bring little shells from the beach to float and play with in the Avian Cooling Pool. Corvids are remarkable and charming creatures.
Since I'm kind of stuck inside with the A/C, I've been painting. My Nebula 3 is getting there....
Here is Nebula 2, the Gold One....
And for all my American Readers, Happy 4th of July! Here is Dahlia, celebrating....
Wishing you all happy Weekend Walkabouts!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Perfume Post: Our Human Sense of Smell Is Not That Bad!

I was taught that Homo sapiens has a lousy sense of smell compared to other mammals. Well. Not so.
Perfumistas take heart! (Thank you, Alert Gardener Jim!)

Humans have a good sense of smell    Peter Stern   5/12/17 

In comparison to that of other animals, the human sense of smell is widely considered to be weak and underdeveloped. This is, however, an unproven hypothesis. In a Review, McGann traces the origins of this false belief back to comparative 19th-century neuroanatomical studies by Broca. A modern look at the human olfactory bulb shows that it is rather large compared with those of rats and mice, which are presumed to possess a superior sense of smell. In fact, the number of olfactory bulb neurons across 24 mammalian species is comparatively similar, with humans in the middle of the pack, and our sense of smell is similar to that of other mammals.

Science, this issue p. 597
Head out to your local perfume shop, or botanical garden, and have a terrific sniffa without feeling like a lowly class of mammal! Here's to the olfactory arts....

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weekend Walkabout: Fish Crow Bowls!

As you know, I am Corvid Fangirl. Bigtime. Our local crows are Corvus ossifragus, the Fish Crow. They are playful, intelligent, and highly sociable. Our local Clan Munin has two new fledglings this year, which I named Hoppin and Pippin. They are on the sand dune right now, hunting ghost crabs and bugs. Brunch! They have found good use for my avian cooling station during this hot spring, also.
Hopping in for a second bath.

And then a third....
To mark the end of nesting season, I designed and made Fish Crow bowls. Duncan has a great glaze called Shimmer Black Diamond which has flashes of deep blue, just like a crow's feathers. You can't see it in photos, but it's great IRL.
Fish Crow Bowl central design.

Greenware bowls.

Finished Fish Crow Bowls and SeaCeramic beads.
Have a wonderful weekend walkabout and enjoy the company of your local birds!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Five Years and Counting: A Big Thank You to My Readers!!

I can't believe I've been keeping this blog for 5 years! I'm so happy you've found a spot to learn more about Tillandsias and Mesembs, and share in my gardening adventures. I hope you have enjoyed the posts on all sorts of sundry and various things of passing or abiding interest to me, your humble blogger!
Our celebrity Mesemb, Babytoes
So a big shout-out to my readers and followers, and a big bloom from Babytoes, perhaps the first internet celebrity Mesemb?? Or is that going too far? ;-)

And yes, I still grow Lithops. I've come to feel, however, that it's best to support policies and laws that support their wild environment, where they grow best. Growing them at home certainly improves their fan base and helps more people become aware of how precious and amazing these little plants are. So let's grow some more! I think we can all agree on more Lithops in the world....
My sand dune at night. Painting by MRobb


Mesembs in bloom
Learning about all sorts of Mesembs and cacti is a wonderful hobby, and I'm going to continue, most likely, for the rest of my life. Tillandsias are native to my area, and frankly, I'm running out of space to grow them, as they are extremely happy in my home and garden. So you'll be reading more about them, too.
Los Tres Amigos.
And my artwork and pottery continue, so thank you for your wonderful compliments.

So have a wonderful weekend walkabout, and once again, thank you so much! See you soon!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Weekend Walkabout: The Avian Cooling Station

We're in an extreme drought. That's the actual, scientific category name. Extreme Drought. And yeah, it's hot, too.
But we have A/C and fresh water (for now). The birds don't. Nesting season has come smack in the center of this drought, the worst since the 1800s. Birds suffer heat stress and dehydration and can easily die from it. If you see a bird with its bill open, it's suffering from heat stress. How to help our avian neighbors? With an Avian Cooling Station!
By keeping a patch of lawn green and unmowed, the small reptiles, insects and bugs that ibises and other birds need can thrive. Letting some backyard go to seed gives the seed-eating birds some desperately needed food. Here are some local ibises getting some tasty grubs for breakfast.
Here's a local mourning dove taking a bath. Bird mite populations have exploded in the hot dry weather. The heavily infested birds need water in the form of rain or baths to keep the mites from making them anemic. (FYI: Bird mites don't affect humans, generally speaking.) The setup is simple. A small lawn sprinkler set on low creates a great bath and doesn't use much water. Several clean basins with fresh water, changed several times a day to prevent the spread of disease. Don't mow the lawn. Plant some native plants. That's it!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mothers' Day and Starting Over With Plumeria

Happy Moms' Day!
As you may remember, my outdoor garden was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew last year. A good friend gave me a piece of her plumeria tree, which was also destroyed by the hurricane. Fortunately, tropical trees like plumeria are smart and know how to regenerate after a nasty storm. This spring, my new plumeria is in bloom!!
All you really need to do is take a big stick of plumeria, dust the base with rooting powder, plant it about 10cm deep in decent, well-drained soil, and water daily until it takes root. Wonderful!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tillies Then and Now: Spanish Moss

Tillandsia usneoides, also known as Spanish Moss, is one of my favorite Tillies. A clump of Spanish Moss is actually a huge congregation of little individuals, growing en masse. A Masse of Moss! Here is my first little bowl of T. usneoides from 2012:
And here it is in 2017. It likes to capture other Tillies, such as this T. intermedia. After a few weeks, it's impossible to untangle the plants, but they seem to do all right together.
Spanish Moss is a natural air filter- it pulls all sorts of junk out of the air, even heavy metals. This makes it very helpful at times like these, when we are in a severe drought, with lots of wildfires spewing ash and smoke into the air. I wish I had enough Spanish Moss to cover the walls of my house! It's being used as a natural bio-filter in Asia, and of course, helps improve the oxygen levels in cities where oxygen is low. Tillies are indeed the future!