Sunday, July 21, 2019

Visiting Switzerland--A Quick Look

Although most of our images of Switzerland look like this:

Swiss Alps

Most of the people live in the central plateau, which looks more like this:

central Switzerland

(Both photos have reflections because they were taken from train windows.)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Visiting Colorado--Wildflowers of Rabbit Ears Pass


Rabbit Ears Peak, 2015
Rabbit Ears in 2015
Rabbit Ears Peak is a landmark in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests in northern Colorado. At one time there were two distinct ears (photo above), in 2017 part of one fell, so more imagination is needed today. (Article after photo: link). Close by, Rabbit Ears Pass takes Colorado Route 40 west to Steamboat Springs. Most summers, the wildflowers are spectacular.

fireweed Chamaenerion
A big stand of fireweed (Chamaenerion)

wildflowers, Dumont Lake, CO

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Plant Story--Coneflowers, Echinacea and Ratibida, American Wildflowers

Two often-cultivated American wildflowers go by the common name coneflower, plants in the genus Echinacea and those in the genus Ratibida. 
coneflower, Echinacea
coneflower, Echinacea
coneflower, Ratibida
coneflower, Ratibida

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Visiting China--Flowers of the Wumen Bridge, Suzhou

Wumen Bridge, Suzhou, China

The Wumen Bridge in Suzhou, China, crosses the Grand Canal and has done so for a thousand years. Chinese emperors built the Grand Canal from Hangzhou in the south to Beijing in the north to ship grain, salt, wood and other goods by water, because China's rivers all run east-west.

The bridge is attractive. Of course it has been repaired many times in the last millennium, those are not the original bricks. The views were pretty.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Adventures of Felix Luna, a Travel Pillow

Felix Luna in Japan
Ten years ago I'd been traveling extensively for about three years and realized a neck pillow would improve the long flights over oceans. In Denver International Airport I bought one. Not just a neck pillow, an animal. I named him Felix Luna, Felix since he's clearly a cat, Luna for the half-moon shape.

Now, celebrating ten years of travel together, Felix is quite the world traveler.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Plant Story--Garden Asparagus, Its Folklore and "Asparagus Pee"

red asparagus shoots

Garden asparagus (Asparagus officinalis, asparagus family, Asparagaceae) has been cultivated since Roman times (see last week's post link), so there is interesting folklore.

It was and is considered an aphrodisiac. It comes up as phallic shoots in the spring. Historically and prehistorically people celebrated spring as a rebirth and time of renewed reproduction. Asparagus shoots fit well into that. Cultures from Greece to England have included asparagus in spring (fertility/Easter) festivals, both as food and in decorations from bouquets or chaplets (little wreaths worn on the head).

Apart from symbolism, asparagus shoots are one of the earliest vegetables of spring. If you imagine Europeans living all winter on dried peas and pickled cabbage, having fresh vegetables would not only be a delight, it would provide nutrients that were likely missing in the winter diet, so indeed fresh asparagus would act as an aphrodisiac.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Plant Story--Ancient Asparagus, Asparagus officinalis

Asparagus is an odd vegetable. We eat just the new shoots. Not leaves, not roots, not fruit.
It is also an old vegetable, eaten in the European tradition since at least Roman times.

asparagus store display