Saturday, April 5, 2014

Baseball and Gardening . . .

It must be spring!
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Both the boys had their first games of the season today.  Rohan played this morning.  He played pitcher for one inning and got two boys out by throwing the ball to first.
Larkin played this afternoon.  He's playing kid-pitch this year, so his games are pretty long  (lots of walks.)  Jeremiah took the kids so I could get the garden going.
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Zahana stayed with me and was my happy helper. 
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We planted dill, asparagus, calendula, rosemary, carrots, beets, lettuce, peas, and ferns.  Yay!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Lichen BioBlitz Part 3

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Sunday morning, Jeremiah sorted and organized the lichens we had collected the day before.  I followed the experts around while they identified lichens.  Then we both worked on identifying a few of the easier species using the microscope and Brodo's Lichens of North America
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Mealy Pixie-cup Lichen
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In the afternoon, we enjoyed a beautiful hike up to Picken's Nose with expert lichenologist, Sean Beeching (in red).
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The views were amazing.
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Garnets in stone.
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Most of the trail was covered in rhododendron, which is taking the place of the dead hemlocks.
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Searching for lichens at Picken's Nose. This is our host and guide, Jason Love, manager of Coweeta.
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Such a lovely weekend together!  I'm so glad we went.
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lichen BioBlitz Part 2: The Non-lichen Part

Just when the lichens were all beginning to blur together, some other captivating bits of creation began to poke themselves up through the leaves.
Millipede, Sigmoria nantahalae, an apt species name. Smelled like almond flavoring.
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Pipevine, identified by the scratch-and-sniff test. No leaves or flowers yet.  No butterflies either.
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Dead Man's Fingers(fungus)
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Swirly rocks (official name)
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Reminded me of broccoli.  Reminded someone else of saxifrage.
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Mountain Saxifrage, growing in the rock face next to the trail
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A sedge
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Breaking Buckeye Bud
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Mountain Maple
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As we were leaving the park for the day, the sun came out and a brilliant rainbow arced across the sky.  We ended up driving right past the end of the rainbow - breathtaking!
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lichen BioBlitz Part 1

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My mom watched the kids this weekend so Jeremiah and I could go to the lichen bioblitz at Coweeta.  It was the first research done on lichens in the Nantahala National Forest.  The goal was to start a checklist of lichens found in the park so their health and presence can be monitored.  Lichens are an excellent indication of an environment's overall condition.  So we got to be real researchers...even though we were totally clueless!  :)
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, over 800 species of lichens have been identified.  I could identify a couple of them.  There were two lichenologists leading the group.  They would look at a rock and immediately start rattling of scientific names.  Kind of unreal.  I saw some patches of varying shades of greenish gray without any real distinguishing features.  I think I was expecting something like identifying birds or trees, to come away with a considerably larger chunk of information than I went in with.  The main thing we learned was how little we know about the world.  So many new words!  All the information was a little overwhelming.  But at the same time, it was entirely fascinating.  When we got home, Jeremiah ordered me The book off ebay, so I plan on working on getting more of that information to stick in my head!
Warning: I took over 400 pictures of lichens in two days.  I didn't really know how to narrow that down, so I just picked a few, especially my favorites, the Cladonias.
We started out Saturday morning with a class about lichens: categories, distinguishing features, what to look for, etc.  We spent the afternoon checking out prime locations in the rain.  We collected lichens off trees, logs, and soil.  People who had chisels collected off rocks too.  Specimens were put into baggies with notes listing GPS coordinates, substrate, and collector's name. We didn't have to know what we were looking at to pick it up and put it in a bag!
Our first stop was this rock face.  The big brown lichens hanging down are Smooth Rock Tripe, Umbilicaria mammulata.  It has a very, very faint mushroomy flavor.  (The hard hats were required because of all the dead hemlocks.  Good rain protection too.)
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Graphis scripta.  Crustose, on bark. Apothecia resemble writing.
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Usnea strigosa, one of the most common and easy to identify
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Several different crustose lichens on a few inches of stick.  The black lines show chemical warfare to prevent them from overlapping each other.
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Foliose is the category of leafy lichens.
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Some sort of little pixie cup lichen popping up between the moss.
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Common Toadskin Lichen, Lasallia papulosa
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Pink Earth Lichen, Dibaeis baeomyces. The largest our lichenologists had ever seen.
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The guy in the orange hard hat is Malcolm Hodges, one of the lichenologists.  There was a wide range of people on this expedition, from those who knew practically nothing to serious students to the knowledgable.  photo 4bfa110a-4883-49df-89d8-3926b751a635_zps7b8ee7c8.jpg

Typical lichen researcher's posture
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Dog lichen, a Peltigera species
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Before I went on this trip, I thought I knew this one, but it turns out there are several that look like this, all with varieties of "Soldier" names.
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A type of reindeer lichen with moss
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