Saturday, November 17, 2007

More baby herbs

As I was saying, when so rudely interrupted by Blogger, almost all of this happened in one day. The thyme really grew fast too.

The chives are having a real growth spurt today as well. The mint and parsley seem to be coming along fine too.

In the other Aerogarden (located in the office/exercise room for lack of available table space in any other area where it will get the necessary dark to set fruit), the tomatoes are also progressing nicely. The yellow cultivar sprouted in 3 days, with the two red cherry tomatoes sprouting in 4.5. I took the hot cap off the yellow ones on Thursday night, and the other two got their caps off Friday night. Today the yellow ones are just starting to show the 2nd set of leaves. Tme to find my teeny scissors and sacrifice the weaklings among the tomatoes.

Portrait of the Basil as a young herb

Things have been coming up apace in the Aerogardens. The dill showed up on day 4, and was ready to have its hot cap off the next day, along with the 2 basils & the thyme.

The chives appeared on day 5, as did the mint, and the parsley is just showing a hint of green.

Unfortunately, Blogger is pretty much refusing to upload pix.  I've tried about 10 times, so the rest will have to wait until later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Patience may be a virtue....

but it's not one I possess in any quantity. Fortunately for me, the Aerogarden is really going gangbusters. On day 3 (well, 2.5 from starting) 3 of the 7 types of herbs have sprouted. Both the purple and green basils and the thyme are up. I tried for a picture, but the teeny-tiny hot caps reflect too much. They'll come off in a day or so, and then I'll get a portrait of a young herb.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Garden Outside & the Gardens Inside

While it is certainly not what we would call winter here in Barrow, since the temperature is still well above 0˚F, for most folks it would qualify. The Tundra Garden is draped in a blanket of snow, with mushroom hats on the sections of log that serve as garden funiture (stools, tables, whatever is needed) in warmer times. Although much more snow will accumulate, and it will be scuplted by the wind in various and ever-changing shapes from fantasy, the overall state of affairs won't change much for the next 6 or 7 months. We're down to less that 3.5 hours of sun today, and going fast.

That being the case, what's a gardener to do? I do have a fair number of house plants that live by windows with fluoresecent strips above them. The mother-in-law's toungue does very well (5 feet high and blooming regularly) and the Christmas cactus blooms several times a year. However, I have a yen for fresh vegetables.

SO, prompted by an article in the Anchorage Daily News by Jeff Lowenfels, garden writer extrodinaire, I bought a couple of Aerogardens. (If you follow the link, keep in mind he gardens in South Central. They have a couple more months than I do.) They are self-contained hydrponic gardens, with lights. They come with a pre-planted seed kit, although you can get stuff to use your own seeds. I set them up over the weekend. They are cute, the lights are very bright, and they hum gently when the pump is running. I'm finding the bright islands of light very alluring, and I must admit I keep checking the herb one to see if the basil is up yet (I know--it's too soon, but in a couple days...). I'll keep you all posted.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Night is falling on the TundraGarden

At this latitude, winter is pretty dark. Today, the sun officially rises at 10:51 and sets at 3:30. So we have a whopping 4 hours & 40 minutes of daylight! Of course, it's overcast today, so there's not any actual sunlight. It diminishes rapidly; tomorrow's sunrise is10:58 and sunset is at 3:30. I believe the sun will set until next year on Novemeber 18th.

This doesn't mean that it's totally dark. Around solar noon the sun is close enough to the horizon that we get a sort of twilight that one could read by. The ground is snow-covered, so what light there is is reflected. When there is a full moon and no clouds it is actually quite easy to get around outside of town.

I've ordered an Aerogarden, and am eagerly awainting its arrival to try a few things under lights. My house plants live unde a couple of flourescent strips we put along the windows they are next to, to make up for the sunlight they don't get for half the year.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Visiting in Idaho

I'm in Idaho for a conference. One of my friends here has bought some land & is planning to build on it. He took several of us up there to see it. The place has great views. It's on a really steep hill, currently covered with juniper, which really smells wonderful. There were lots of deer tracks on the lot.

The contrast with home was really striking. Aside from the fact that there's no snow and lots of daylight here, the overwhelming impression is dry. It seems odd, since I actually live in an Arctic desert, but the permafrost keeps the water on the surface and it's so flat, it doesn't run off quickly. Here, it looks like they don't get much rain, since there's a lot of stuff built on steep places, and lots bulldozed for new construction don't seem to have much in the way of erosion control.

I haven't had much chance to look at gardens, but the ones I've seen seem to feature large rocks plopped in them, and more bark mulch than I've seen in *years*.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sea Ice and the view from the Tundra Garden

One can stand in the Tundra Garden (or in my front door out of the wind) and look at the Chukchi Sea a couple of hundred yards away. We're finally getting some sea ice in the near-shore. It was fairly cold for a few days and some new ice was forming, but strong east winds blew it off. For the last few days ice has been showing up from somewhere to the north & east. It's small chunks, but they have 6 inches or more thickness, so they're not brand new. This is really late. Normally by mid-October there should be shore-fast ice. I've been working on a project involving the shipwrecks of an entire whaling fleet lost in 1871 due to ice entrapment in early September.

Yesterday, a walrus came riding by on the ice (it's the dark spot on the ice). For the last several weeks, huge herds of walruses have been beaching themselves along the Chukchi Sea coast at various spots. The females and calves normally stay with the ice in this area, but it pulled back so far this summer that it wasn't over waters where they could find food. They need to be able to dive and find clams & such, but the ice was over much deeper waters, so they had to swim for it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sustainability-A Blog Action Day view from the TundraGarden

Today is Blog Action Day. Although I usually stick to the TundraGarden itself, today I am looking at sustainability. Sustainability is a fairly broad topic, and there's an awful lot of discussion and information available about balanced, sensible, non-greedy use of resources in a locally appropriate manner. That's really important, and if we would all just do that, the giant experiment that we are all taking part in on an involuntary basis might run a bit slower, or even grind to a halt. That would be a really good thing, and if you're interested in trying to move things in that direction here are a couple of resources:

The Union of Concerned Scientists Greentips newsletter
The Nature Conservancy Carbon Footprint Calculator

In my non-gardening life, I'm an archaeologist. That means I tend to look at things over time scales much longer than even those of the average gardener. My particular professional interest is something called "Paleoeconomy" which is a fancy way of saying I'm interested in how people fed, clothed, and housed themselves in the past. One thing that becomes apparent very quickly when one studies this is that the world in which we live (topography, climate, biota) is continuously changing, and has apparently been doing so since well before human beings evolved. There are of course changes from day to night, from day to day, month to month, year to year. But there are also longer-term changes, at least some of which appear to occur on cycles of various lengths, from decades to many millennia. Just like waves in a wave tank, the cycles can amplify each other, or cancel each other out.

Unfortunately, as our society has become urbanized, and developed truly extraordinary engineering prowess, most people (other than the few fishermen, farmers, and hunters that are left) seem to have lost touch with this fact. The result is that many things are being designed as if we lived in a static world. Incredibly expensive houses and infrastructure are built on barrier islands (which by definition do not stay put), in areas only a few feet above sea level (which has been rising for some time to thermal expansion of the oceans), on top of faults or in areas where the soil is going to turn to Jell-O with the first serious earthquake, and other similarly silly locations. Once this happens, large amounts of resources are spent on trying to maintain this infrastructure, particularly when it belongs to the well-to-do and well-connected.

Great effort is put into protecting certain areas as "critical habitat" for threatened species, without considering that a few hundred years ago these areas were not the same as they are now (e. g. Izembek lagoon eelgrass beds). Sadly, no effort is put into figuring out where those endangered species found that habitat in the past, nor attempting to project where they might find that sort of habitat in the future as changes continue. Currently, it is all too easy to assume that an area is not important to a species (which it may not be at the moment), and that it is therefore suitable for some other use, and never realize that it may be the critical habitat of 300 years in the future. Thus, all this effort may be simply prolonging the decline of the species.

Current legal and regulatory frameworks tend to assume a static world. We really need to be taking a much longer view, and working to change those frameworks in such a way that people are able to move toward a more flexible, and yes, sustainable, way of living. For example, communities that wish to relocate after flood damage rather than simply rebuilding at their original high-risk location face huge hurdles. It is far simpler and quicker (although neither simple nor quick) to get assistance to rebuild in place, sometimes repeatedly. There has to be a better way. Changing the status quo is going to take a lot of pressure from a lot of people, but we've gotten ourselves into a bit of a hole, and the only sensible thing to do is stop digging now. It is not the time to be playing "after you, Alphonse."

Monday, October 08, 2007

New Season, New Template

The green just seemed like too much color, now that the snow has fallen and the TG is white. So, changing with the seasons....

Friday, October 05, 2007

Northern Light

A couple days ago we had one of those gorgeous fall days that come along so rarely. Winds were calm for much of the day, and the sun was shining. Temperatures dropped overnight, and the lagoon behind my house froze over.

It has been snowing for a couple of weeks, but not sticking; now it is. The birds have mostly left for the south, with the exception of the gulls, who are waiting for fall whaling, which means feasting for them as well as the human community. A few were left, hopping around in the snow looking for seeds.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fog & wind

Well, the weather is more typically fall in Barrow, although still quite warm. I think we set at least 3 record highs for date just this month and it's only half over.

Meanwhile, the garden is pretty much in full fall mode, which means everything is brown except a few sedge/grass clumps.

The lemming is no longer in residence. It hasn't been seen since a bunch of owl feathers appeared, so the best bet is it became lunch for baby owls. In any event, things got a chance to grow a bit taller than they were able to when the lemming was here. Sheep have nothing on lemmings as mowers, it turns out.

If it gets a little nicer, I'll go take pictures of the bathtub/water feature, which finally got some plants in it this summer.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Long Hiatus & Willow Rust

Well, it certainly has been a while. Life happens. I've been incredibly busy with work, and didn't get to do much gardening, or garden photography.

This has been a very weird summer, with essentially no rain in June or July. It was good for the flowering plants, especially the River Beauties. No hot caps needed to get a lot of flowers.

However, it seems to have been a bit hard on at least one species of willow. The Salix longifolia usually has a few spots of rust, but this year it is essentially golden with rust, except for near the drip line, where I'm guessing it got a little more water. Turns out one of the folks coming to a conference my husband & I are organizing here actually is a specialist in Arctic willow rusts, so I spent Saturday PM collecting leaf samples for him. They are currently being pressed, and I'll hand them off to him in late September.