Saturday, March 25, 2006

Whirlwind Tour of Paris

My next few posts will definitely be about my recent trip to Paris with Christine, and her parents. I love Paris and will definitely go back. Five days was only enough to wet my appetite. Above is a picture from the main garden at Versailles. Louis the XIV had a different way of looking at front yards. It took me almost an hour to walk from the palace to the end of the Grand Canal. It is hard to imagine that this landscape was completed prior to the availability of large earth moving equipment.Not much in the way of color this time of year at the garden, but I found some yellow and purple in the form of pansies. I can't wait to see this place in the late spring or early summer. I will get back. I could spend days at Versailles outside wandering and wondering.

Yes, we did get to see the Eiffel Tower. One evening we even had dinner at the lower deck. This picture was taken from a boat on the Seine River about 9:30 pm Paris time.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why society needs more horticulturalists

I was traveling with a colleague back from a BioForum Conference and in a quest for coffee we headed into one of the thousands of strip malls that dot the countryside. No coffee, but we stumbled on what was truly the most extensive example of bad pruning practices that either of us had ever seen. There were at least 5o butchered bradford pears, a dozen birches, and even red maples. One pruning scheme apparently was used for all species. These were once trees providing shade to cars and aesthetic value to this parking lot. If you look at the far side of the parking lot you can see how these trees should look this time of year.YIKES! Things look even worse upon closer inspection. These images will be used in the landscape management class as examples of things NOT TO DO. If you listen closely you can hear this tree's cry for help.It is hard to imagine, but some of the hack jobs on the birch trees actually made some of the pruned pears look tolerable. Please, if you see this in your neighborhood or hometown try and stop the madness.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

First Ride in North Carolina

I took a few hours off this afternoon to go for a bike ride. It looked like it was going to rain at first, but it cleared off and tempertures approached 80 F. Not too far from the cabin I am renting is the Nantahala National Forest. I headed towards the Tsali Recreation Area which had been described in numerous publications as a mecca for mountain bikers and horseback riders.The trail did not disappoint. The right loop is open to bikers on sunday (they alternate between horse and bike access). It was a 13.9 mile loop that must have been close to 10 miles of single track like the image above. The Southern Pine Beetle has done a number on many of the trees, but there were still some densely wooded areas, several, stream crossings, and a couple of deceiving puddles. I say deceiving because I took a digger on one and went over the handlebars on another. The trail was very dry, but where there were puddles they were deep and lined with rim sucking mud. I thought the first crash was a fluke, so being a scientist I replicated the experiment and crashed again. I was finished with science for the afternoon. The trail was mostly rolling with lots of chances to do a little aerobic work and catch a little air. The trail is well maintained and suitable for beginners and more experienced riders alike.Back at the trail head cleaning up to go home. I had quite a bit of that good North Carolina mud embedded in cuts and on my skin. Luckily I had a few towels around and managed to sit in Christine's car without trashing it.Back at the trail entrance there was some interesting information in the trail brochure I thought I would pass on. "The Tsali Recreation Area is named after a Cherokee Indian who once lived in the area. The U.S. Army captured Tsali and his family during the Cherokee Removal in 1838. Tsali and others escaped during the march (Trail of Tears) along present day Fontana Lake. During the escape two soldiers were killed, and Tsali and three family members were later executed for their deeds.

For some, Tsali is a symbol for country and home against the unjust Cherokee Removal. Today the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians resides in and around their ancestral lands, the Qualla Boundary, located 12 miles east of the Tsali Recreation Area."

Saturday, March 11, 2006


I went to the Organic Grower's School today to do some recruiting for the college and just enjoy meeting other folks involved with horticulture. One of the local high schools has an adopt a chicken program. For 5$ you get to choose the breed and name your chicken and the students in the agriculture program will raise it. I never even thought of adopting a chicken before, so those of you who know me know I had to do it.

There was actually very little paperwork and I got to hold a Rhode Island hen like mine, but I was told that the one I held wasn't actually the chicken I had adopted. This had me concerned for a brief moment, but the chickens all seems so well adjusted that I thought their care must be excellent. I adopted a Rhode Island Red because that is the type that my Dad used have when I was a kid. I promised the kids that I would drop by the school and check on my chicken. Maybe I'll send my chicken a care package once in a while to...some organic feed or maybe a chew toy.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Spring is in the air...

I couldn't resist a horticultural entry today. The daffodils were up on campus, the sun was shining and it was warm. I know spring isn't here for good yet, but it sure felt like it today. If you are interested in Daffodils check out the American Daffodil Society.It was warm enough that honey bees were all over the cherry trees that were blooming. It was a little windy, so I trouble getting a clear shot, but it was an excellent afternoon. These particular trees are located on campus near the horticultural center.The trees that were attracting all the attention from the honey bees are Prunus X incamp 'Okame'. This tree is a hybrid of of Prunus campanulata and Prunus incisa. It is known to be cold and heat tolerant, but late frosts damage the blooms from time to time. Length of flowering time is longer than many other ornamental cherries. The blooms are smaller, but the show of color reminds me of a Kwanzan cherry that was in my grandmother's yard in Virginia. The Kwanzan has double flowers and when petal fall starts it was like a pink snow storm. My sisters and I loved to play in the fallen petals when we were kids and then go inside grandma's house and get some wonderful fresh baked rolls.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Muscular Strength/ Endurance Report

The gym I joined here in North Carolina offers a free fitness evaluation as a perk. I had never had one of these before, so I thought it would be a good idea and it was free. So here for the whole world to see are my fitness stats or lack thereof.

Age: 37.93 years (very accurate)
Non smoker
moderate regular physical activity
height: 68"
weight: 162 lbs (this was after my coffee)


Bench press: you had to bench 80lbs repeatedly to the beat of a metronome for as long as you could I did 22 before my rythm (make that muscles) gave out. The ePhysiologic software rated that as Good for my age.

Abdominal crunches: you had one minute to do as many as you could. I did 37, rating: Intermediate.

HandGrip Dynamometer: measures grip strength. My best a 36, rating Poor. The trainer said I need to work on this one.

Sit and Reach:
Ancient torture device to measure flexibility. My best a 16, rating Average.


Lean weight: 134.40 lbs
Fat weight: 27.60 lbs (mostly spare tire, but some probably in my cranium)
%Body Fat: 17%
Average for men my age: 15-21%
Interpretation: I was in my target weight and body composition zone, so I have no increased risk of death due to cardio disease. However, lowering my body fat could improve my performance in endurance activities. The software also advised that I not lose too much weight as that might be adverse to my health. At age 37.93 I am really not concerned about losing too much weight, not with the way I like to eat anyway.


Stationary bicycle riding with increasing resistance. Result: Average. I was a little suprised at this one. I tend to do aerobic exercise a few times a week. I guess I need to do a little more.

Well there it is. Doesn't look like I will expire tomorrow, but there is still more work to do. Especially on my grip. I am going to blame that one on computers.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Elton Buddy and Flat Iron BLDG.

So Elton John better look out. All I need is an infusion of musical talent (I have none) and his days as the king of pop are over. I debated putting this picture up, but I thought that all my friends should know that recent events have not damaged my sense of humor.On a more interesting note I meet a great hydroponic medicinal plant researcher down in Asheville tonight and on the way to the pub to talk shop I took a picture this building (to the right). It is known as the flat iron building and has a very interesting wedge shape.

Friday, March 03, 2006


The beer for this weekend is Cottonwood Endo India Pale Ale brewed by the Carolina Beer Company in Mooresville, NC. Being a graphic design and bicycle enthusiast I was immediately attracted to the image of the medieval character with a bicycle helmet, stein, and hops. This beer is hoppy! For those of you who mountain bike you know that an 'Endo' is an unfortunate wreck where the rider goes forward over the handlebars. I like hops and I like this beer. However, if you don't like a beer that makes a 'bold' statement you might want to pass on this one.

Grape Flavored Apples ???

I have been hearing about this product for over a year and finally noticed it in the produce department today. These are Washington apples that are infused with artificial grape flavor. It does make for an interesting twist, but I had to ask myself why? However, this company may be on to something with Grapples. At the checkout line 5 different individuals, including the cashier and bagger, remarked about how wonderfully these smelled. I actually tried to have everyone do a taste test right there, but nobody wanted to go beyond a deep inhale. I guess not many people crack into food on the little conveyor belt and try to pass it out....kind of like being last on the elevator, doing a 180 and looking at the other passengers instead of the door :-)
---if you haven't tried this you should, you will never see a group of more uncomfortable people.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Citrus in North Carolina

Alright, of course you can't grow citrus in North Carolina, but it sure felt like you could today. It was up over 70 F and I got to go for a run in t-shirts in shorts. Far cry from what the temperature was in Vermont last week. Oatmeal just wasn't enough this morning, so I cut up a Cara Cara navel orange. I thought the early light striking the juice sacs made for a nice picture, well if you are into horticulture anyway. The Cara Cara navel is much more red internally than this. This particular cultivar of navel has lots of the carotenoid pigment lycopene like pink grapefruit or tomato or watermelon. I have seen some that were as dark pink/red as a 'Flame' ruby grapefruit.