Sunday, August 31, 2014

Visiting Iceland--the Intriguing Westman Islands

Westman Islands from Iceland
Westman Islands from the seashore in Iceland
I read Icelandic history in preparation for a trip to Iceland in 2012. The Landnámabók, the Book of  Settlements, written sometime between 900 and 1300, describes that in the first year of settlement, 874 or 875 AD, Hjörleifr Hródmarsson drove hard 10 Irishmen, whom he had captured in Ireland and enslaved, making them drag the plow, as he had only one ox. The thralls (slaves) made a plot. They killed the ox and said a bear had done it. When Hjörleifr led them out hunting for the bear, the Irish thralls killed Hjörleifr and all the Norsemen who were with him. The Irishmen then took the women of the small settlement, food and weapons and fled by boat to offshore islands. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Visiting Kauai -- Additional Impressions

I wrote about our April trip to Kauai a couple times. Here are some pictures from the trip that don't fit very well anywhere else.

I didn't mention the chickens. Chickens are all over the island. At first you think you're seeing them just outside someone's yard. Then you figure out that they are feral, like cats in cities. 

feral chicken, Kauai

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dye Plant--Sawwort, Serratula tinctoria, Obscure Historic Yellow Dye

sawwort Serratula tinctoria
sawwort Serratula tinctoria
I like rescuing plants. You know, taking a sickly little plant, giving it good light and regular water and watching it recover. My relationship with sawwort began that way. 

I was new to Colorado in fall of 2006 and finding plants for the yard of my new house. So I was looking on the end-of-the-season garden racks for promising marked-down perennials at McGuckin's Hardware Store in Boulder ("Colorado's Favorite Store"!). I chose a pot or two and got chatting with the clerk. She pointed me to the edge of the garden shop where a couple of run-down, sad-looking plants slumped over the edge of their pots and said I could have them, no charge. How could I resist?!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Visiting Denver--The Denver Botanic Garden, the Plants as Art

Dale Chihuly's glass art, in the Denver Botanic Garden until November 2014, is very much worth seeing, but when it is gone, the plants will still be there. Influenced by Chihuly's glass, I looked at the plants and saw some fantastic shapes and colors--

shrimp plant

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Visiting Denver--Chihuly Art at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Chihuly glass, Denver Botanic Garden
Chihuly glass, Denver Botanic Garden
The Denver Botanic Gardens are  a glorious place.

Right now there is an art display of Dale Chihuly's glass sculpture throughout the garden.

The art makes me think about gardens and art: plants are beautiful without sculpture--in the next blog I have pictures of plants from the Denver Botanic Garden that same day, seeing it as "great art, by Nature." (link)

But the Chihuly pieces are a "must see" while they're in Denver (until Nov. 2014). I like some very much, for others I thought the garden more beautiful before they were added. And so it was great fun.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Visiting the Faroes--Grass-covered Hills and Marsh Marigolds in the Sheep Islands

Faroe Island view
Faroe Island rainy morning, through the bus window
The Faroe Islands are in the North Atlantic, between Norway and Iceland. (See map. ) I visited them about the first of June on a tour with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, organized by Academic Arrangements Abroad. There are 18 islands, 17 with at least one inhabitant. 

It was cool and raining when we arrived. On the same latitude as the middle of Hudson Bay, the Atlantic's Gulf Stream keeps the temperatures mild. Average highs are about 51 ( 11 C) in summer and 37 (3 C) in winter. It rains more than 16 days a month all year round, though the rain may be a passing shower or a day of drizzle. Total annual rainfall varies between islands but in the capital, Tórshavn, it is about 50" (1280 cm).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Visiting Southern Colorado--the Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dune against the mountains
Great Sand Dunes against the mountains
I have seen sand dunes--Jockey's Ridge in North Carolina, Sleeping Bear in Michigan, the Nebraska Sandhills--so although I put the Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa, Colorado on my "to see" list, I didn't expect to be impressed. 

I was.

The road out of Alamosa takes you northward in open sagebrush country. The mountains draw closer. At some point you realize that the light area at the base of the mountain is a sand dune!