May 31, 2008

Too Close for Comfort/ guess who's coming for dinner

Last night a bear tried to get into the house. I'd heard clumping and banging, and thought it was a raccoon maybe, and stomped on the porch and yelled a bit, then went back to prepping for market. When I sat down for dinner, I heard the noise again, around the back this time; I looked out to see a black bear at the window, standing up and trying to get in. That window was closed, and I raced around and slammed the doors and windows shut. The bear, a yearling and probably just kicked out of the nest, snuffled around in the gardens a bit and wandered off down the hill. It did surprisingly little damage to the flower bed it had been standing in, just broke some auriculas (there's a pun in there) and columbines.

If it comes back, I will call fish and game to trap it and move it. And for a few days at least, no cooking anything too yummy smelling and letting it waft out the window!

May 14, 2008

Tree Scent Soaps

Two batches of soap, both "tree" scents, and the house smells amazing. Balsam poplar, my favorite warm incense scent, scented only with the infused oil of poplar buds (pictured here);
and cedar (western red cedar), with essential oil and infused cedar frond oil, so sweet and crisp and green it makes you smile. Loving trees as much as I do, I often joke I must be descended from a long line of chickadees and hamadryads.
The cedar essential oil is hard to get reliably, so I soap it when I can (and am this year going to infuse a lot more oil and see if I can bypass the distillers entirely on that item.). I added a touch of Sweet Annie to it, it has a similar green apple scent to cedar (what we in the Pacific NW think of as cedar, anyway, Thuja plicata, one of the more generous of trees, providing basketry materials, shelter, shade and fragrance).

Now that I have my sense of smell back, I will be soaping some scent blends I've been working on--apricot, honey, another rose (of course another rose!), pink lavender, and orange blossom and tuberose.

In between, of course, transplanting herbs, sowing veggies, and propagating roses.

May 6, 2008

Botanical Latin (Tomayto, tomahto)

Plant name pronunciation is often a hot topic for gardeners. I often get asked for the correct way to pronounce names like Clematis, Agastache, and so on.

Latin names, necessary for correct identification of plants and international discussion (Rosa muscosa means the same thing to a Swede and a Pole and a Japanese: a type of rose bearing moss on its buds, that is, fragrant hairs; but Moss Rose is also a common name for Portulaca grandiflora, a creeping annual more closely related to cacti.), can be confusing. If you've never studied another language than English (and it's too bad if you haven't, but that's another topic), it will be hard to decipher the meanings, and the pronunciations can be very difficult.

There are books and websites devoted to the latter, but it's my feeling that understanding the derivation (oh, muscosa refers to mossy, and grandiflora means large flower) is more important than being able to speak an artificial language.
Botanical Latin was started by a Swede in the 18th Century, Carl von Linne' aka Carolus Linnaeus (note that neither is a Swedish name. . .). His binomial system works very well & is used by far mostly in print. While it can be interesting to learn the exact pronunciations, it is rather difficult because it's

  • an artificial language (no native speakers)
  • based on two dead languages (no more ancient Romans, or ancient Greeks)
  • used by people around the globe with different pronunciations of words in common anyway. Aluminium/Aluminum, anyone? Never mind East coast pronunciations vs. deep South. . .
My feeling is, if we can understand each other, we're pronouncing it correctly enough.

May 3, 2008

Wildlife weirdness

Yesterday I saw one of the strangest things in wildlife viewing I have ever seen. The Canada geese were doing their evening flyby (they turn left by a certain tree behind the greenhouse). Sometimes one will perch in that tree and act I suppose as a flagger for the rest--I hear the calling from the tree and soon others come in, following his call. That was weird enough. Geese don't have the kind of feet that cling to branches, but instead wide webbed flat feet, so I don't know how that one managed it.

But yesterday, there was much honking and squawking, all coming from one point high above the shop, and I stepped around the greenhouse for a look, and there were a pair in a cedar tree, with much flapping. Another pair came along a minute or so later and fairly bombed into them, shrieking the goose version of "This is Our Tree!", and after a cacophony of honking and wing flapping, the first pair erupted out of the tree, sounding like a flock of ruffed grouse. The 2nd pair stayed for a while and then flew on themselves. So now I have 4 Canada geese who perch in trees. I had thought the one lookout was an oddity, but with four, it must be a movement.

Update: Turns out this is not totally rare for the Pacific Northwest Canada goose (Branta canadensis)--sometimes they will nest in a disused Osprey or Bald Eagle nest, both of which are found locally. It helps them avoid ground predators such as raccoons or voles, common here as well. Still doesn't explain how they manage to hang onto the branches, however.