Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Plant lovin' ignoramus with baby...

Hi botanical types. I like letting my son play with (= eat) plants and leaves sometimes while hiking. The thing is ... I don't know which plants are safe/toxic/deadly.

Ones I know are poisonous: Oleander, yew, rhododendron

Ones I *think* are safe (PLEASE let me know if I am wrong!): Willow (just a leaf), wild fennel (are there any bad types?), sycamore, cottonwood, oak, manzanita (tons of varieties -- anything that could cause problems?), grass (he's eaten quite a bit of this), maple trees

Ones I would like to know more about: Pepper trees, random ornamentals (do you know of a good pictoral guide on line?), any common poisonous plants I should be aware of.

Houseplants I believe are poisonous: philodendron, dumb cane, ficus (?). Anyone have a good source?

Thanks all!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dr Nerd?

I've been asked what I want on my new business cards.
Perhaps because I don't want to plan a chemistry lecture, I'm debating what should be written on it. "Plant M. Nerd, Ph.D." or "Dr. Plant M. Nerd"?
Thoughts or opinions?

Friday, August 20, 2010

NASA contacts?

The institution I'm now at is part of a Space Consortium and as such receives funds from NASA. Because the last institution I taught at received major* NASA funding, I carry a coffee mug with NASA and my old institution logos. Somehow the chair of another dept. here saw this and after discussing with me my old institution's grant (to do summer science camps, train teachers and encourage undergraduates to do real research), decided that I should definitely submit a proposal for upcoming funds (actually the short term proposal is for a very small award to go to a NASA site and discuss applying for a bigger award) because "with all of your contacts it should be easy."

Of course, I have no NASA contacts.

However, I did learn that one of the NASA areas of interest involves the kind of work I do (invasives, effects of climate change on communities . . .) so I think I would like to apply for one of these awards.

But I have absolutely no contacts. E-mail me via the plant nerd if you have specific contacts. Comment if you have any other good ideas.

*2.7 million for an undergraduate teaching institution with 1,300 students counts as major to me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Let me apologize for my hiatus from the blog - I'm sorry! - and make excuses for it some other time. I need to get to the heart of a critical matter.

I cannot grow basil. I would love to grow basil. I need help.

I can barely get the stuff to germinate from seed. I have purchased lovely, thriving, pricey clumps of mature plants, only to watch them wither within days. Most recently, I bought 8 little ice-cube-tray plants, each with 4 adult leaves, and divided them among three pots. They showed promise, but two days ago I lost one of the plants, and now several others are starting to get black tips on their leaves, which I know all too well will proliferate towards the petiole, signaling certain demise.

What am I doing wrong? I Googled this and read about how even an idiot can grow basil. Is there some voodoo I should know about? How much and what "flavor" of sun does it need? Watering regime? Something special about the soil or pot? My plants aren't big enough to remove the apical meristem; I figure height vs. bushiness is a luxury I can't afford right now.

All advice about growing basil and comments about me being a dumbass are welcome. Alternatively, I will accept suggestions about how to preserve basil (and hopefully not always in pesto form), should I need to resort to buying the $5-for-a-giant-box-is-the-only-thing-available-at-the-grocery-store stuff.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Texting in labs

Another start of the semester post - Do your workplaces have rules about cell phone use in working labs? We have a kid in the lab that seems to be constantly on his phone texting. So I think with our new hires this week we need to lay down a rule about no cell phone use in the lab - go outside to talk or text. But I always wimp out of disciplining students. Ack. Though I did fire one last Friday! The students don't seem to take the lab job seriously - it is a real job - work the hours you say you will work or we'll fire you as we did last week! It's been a month of transition with a key lab person gone, another person brought on by the higher ups and trying to figure his role in our work life, realizing I don't really know what goes on in the lab, wondering if past people slacked off, etc.

On a positive note I found great dog trainers for the rust-colored one (great code name eh?) and he's much better with visitors and not attacking people on walks! It was mainly my behavior that needed to be modified. I need them to come in here and train me to get after students.

It begins again

Good Luck to Sparkling Squirrel on her first day of classes at the new school!

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Please Do Not Throw Paper Towels and Trash on the Floor"

I feel like such a fuddy-duddy, but I find myself thinking, "What has society come to when we need signs like that in a college women's bathroom*?"
*that, incidentally, has obvious trash cans right next to the paper towel dispensers

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I'm a Yankee now

No more Confederate flags. Yippee! We relocated to the lush and liberal (relatively speaking) Hudson Valley, a mere 90 miles from NYC.....and with a view of the Catskills out our front window. I'm very happy to be in a new (albeit still not tenure-track) position, and the hubby is very happy to be going to school (a Masters in Regional Planning/Geography with the goal of ridding the world of cars). A crazy, somewhat spontaneous move on our part, but the pieces are falling into place. Our house comes equipped with kayaks, so feel free to swing by for a little boating or hiking or blueberry picking near our rural digs.

I hope you are all well. Though I don't comment often, I do check the blog and wish you all well in your respective corners of the world!!