Thursday, June 28, 2012


We bailed into the big duallie truck at 5:30 this morning, headed straight to the glade to finish the sampling exercise we started last week. We had three 50m. transects (30 quadrats each transect) to go. Sampling on this glade, these transects, has occurred every year post prescribed fire since 1993.

As the truck roared into motion, the loud radio blared all the panicky heat warnings we've heard all week: "Do not go outside unless you absolutely have to! Use your air conditioning and your fan! Check on your neighbors and relatives! Make sure you stay hydrated! Bring in pets!" Oh, brother, it is not that hot outside, with average air temperatures 101 late this afternoon and humidities in the 20s. Geez, just be sensible in the heat. I don't recall a single heat advisory the entire time I lived in New Orleans with average summer temperatures much hotter than this (conversely, when the December temperatures plummeted to 40, there were "cold advisories" issued). Our transects, by the way, are located on exposed south and east facing slopes, a massive glade landscape, a really great spot with terrific glade flora. Work must be accomplished regardless of the weather, which is why we set out so early. We worked in hotter conditions last July.

Every footfall crunched the crisp glade vegetation into little bits--the fall bloomers, the spring bloomers, the deep rooted perennial prairie grasses. "My quadrat is toast," muttered my former boss while trying to determine a tiny shriveled sprig of Linum sulcatum. Nevertheless, we've sampled in drier conditions in previous years, so our desiccated little quadrats still have the same cover values as they would if the plants were fully hydrated and plump and luscious like they should be in June. Sampling in drought is old hat to us now.

But Ozark glade flora is adapted to dry conditions, perhaps not to this degree, but the asters (esp. Aster laevis) and Liatris cylindracea are as erect and green as they were in May. You can still pick out diagnostic traits of the grasses (Aristida purpurascens isn't batting an eye to this weather). Nevertheless, I do hope we have a spell of rain soon, with rumors coming out that some rivers are barely floatable. If I can't be on an Ozark river in a canoe, there is no other place I'd rather be than peering into a sampling frame in a high quality Ozark landscape. I could have stayed out there all day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Grass

I spent not a little bit of time trying to work through the vegetative characteristics of a small, stunted sprig of grass found on an overgrazed dolomite glade last week. Most of the Missouri flora keys require a flowering stalk, which this one lacked. I gave up after going through books and through half of the cabinets in the Herbarium today. After having seen the previous surveyor's sampling pages from 2003 that listed one single "unknown grass," I figured this one must be it.

 If I'm at my wit's end with a durned species, if my Quality Control Officers (both out of town this week) can't tell me what it is, I'll send it to the state's best botanist for help. I hate bothering him with stupid questions, of course, I really do, but I hate even more to have incomplete data sheets or a less than 99% accuracy for analysis purposes. I'm not trained in botany by a long stretch (which surely must be obvious), but I'm a quick study...sometimes. I think I have a mental block with the vegetative characteristics of the genus Bromus. Anyway, I'm grateful that Justin, Missouri's best botanist, is not an arrogant prig but is instead a stellar cat, awesome guy, great teacher, he's among my very short list of "favorite people ever." Anyway, I'll be able to record that durned stinkin' grass if the scan comes out well enough for him, my 'unknown grass' is a placeholder in sharp mechanical pencil marks in three quadrats on my sampling pages. I was sampling a really basic dolomite glade, not a crazy rich woodland with all those Panicums et alia et alii, and there's only a finite number of species it could be (so it's frustrating that I don't know it). Anyway.

I'm not obsessing too much over it on this First Monday of Wimbledon when my much researched bracket was turned into a red-streaked mess. Unlike the French Open, I actually researched the Wimbledon draws this year to find out which players were grass specialists, which younger (1st grand slam tournament) players won Wimbledon Juniors' titles and so forth. Visit Wikipedia (which I normally despise because of all the crazy misinformation on the Roman poets) and type in any tennis player's name and you can see his or her record, whether he/she is good on grass, clay, hard court, carpet. (Wikipedia is so silly sometimes, even mentioning which tennis player dated whomever and irrelevant nonsense like that.) While researching my bracket I learned  there are many more clay specialists than I would imagine by watching the French Open, ahem, where many players take their hard court games to clay for some reason. Fewer grass specialists, even, and most of them are British or Russian. Sharapova (classy grass specialist, of course- I picked her to win the tournament) has a long road ahead of her at Wimbledon, actually.

Question 1: What happened to Berdych today? I had him advancing pretty far, having seen him play at a lot of tournaments in recent months. Was Gulbis injured and is now coming back? Gah, Berdych looked great earlier this year. Today was sad.
Question 2: More of a comment: Venus should retire, I guess, being knocked out in the first round of her favored surface, and knocked out in the first round of French and so forth.
Question 3: How did Sloane Stephens learn to play a grass court match? She grew up on the Eastern seaboard (US) but I didn't think we had a lot of grass courts anywhere in America. They require a lot of maintenance, even more than clay courts (too few in America, by the way). She must have grown up fancy to learn to play a grass court game. She looked good. I hope she's playing in the Olympics this year.

Anyway, here are the links to my brackets if you want to see how pitifully I'm faring:
Men's   Women's 
Tennis is such a fantastic distraction from the frustration of daily toil. Sampling, tennis, sampling, tennis, yes I should just retire at 39 and do this for a while if I can finally learn all those vegetative characteristics of tricky grasses.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

In the woods

Sampling began in earnest these past two weeks, with long 14 hour days spent in the woods--hiking to a sampling plot, driving to another location, scouring my little quadrats for every little twig I could find from spring and figuring out the fall dicots from their two leaves. It's a good time to be in the woods, in the shade, in the prairie grasses and rich forb cover.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Augusta goes to the Big Apple!

If you don't have access to a nice Barbaresco or a good Salice Salentino the next time you make rustic Italian fare, look no further than Augusta Winery's '10 Norton. It seems that James Beard has chosen this Norton to be served in his fancy restaurant next week, paired with an Italian meal prepared with surely the best ingredients and using only the finest tableware. Kudos to Augusta!

Augusta 2010 Norton at The James Beard House in New York City

The James Beard Foundation is at the center of America's culinary community, dedicated to exploring the way food enriches our lives. On November 5, 1986, the James Beard Foundation officially opened the James Beard House in New York City, "to provide a center for the culinary arts and to continue to foster the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation, presentation, and of course, enjoyment."

At 'The Beard House' multi-course meals, complemented by wine pairings, are prepared by guest chefs from around the world. On Tuesday, June 26th Augusta Winery's 2010 Norton and Montelle Winery's 2010 Dry Vignoles (both Gold medal recipients) will be featured as part of a six-course, Rustic Italian menu. Chef John Griffiths, a protégé of JBF Award winner Larry Forgione, will embrace his mentor's commitment to seasonal and regional cuisine, spinning the finest Midwestern ingredients and products into Italian fare that's both modern and comforting. For more information or to make reservations for the June 26th dinner in New York, see here...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

For Molly

Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting for that old Mrs Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of and she never left us a farthing all for masses for herself and her soul greatest miser ever was actually afraid to lay out 4d for her methylated spirit telling me all her ailments she had too much old chat in her about politics and earthquakes and the end of the world let us have a bit of fun first God help the world if all the women were her sort

It's Bloomsday again. Do something Odyssean.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

To Sampling

I gave my last presentation for the summer on Wednesday. Thursday, with the ultra-long day lengths and Ozarks flora busting out all over the place, I started my vegetation sampling. I've been preparing for it by spending hours in the fine herbarium (though ruing that there are few collections of Sporobolus and Juncus...), listening to my Peterson warbler cds on the little computer on the desk there and cross checking the herbarium specimens with Steyermark and George.

Glades are in full glory now, and some of the spring guys are still noticeable enough to count--I found a few desiccated stalks of Draba cuneifolia on Friday, and the violets are still visible despite the dry weather. I have a lot of plots to revisit this year and my colleague has a lot of field verification to conduct to make sure my data is accurate. I added a new species to our glade restoration plots this week, Parthenium hispidum, a very distinctive Parthenium that grows in huge clumps on this recent restoration unit. I collected data pre-treatment, post cedar removal, and this year I'll revisit the transects during the first growing season after the first fire that occurred in early November. Glade restoration -when accomplished correctly- is fun to follow because most glades will respond positively to cedar removal and fire. But bulldozing cedars on glades like they're doing in Arkansas? Bringing wood chippers on glades? I bet the plot data in those situations would reveal a lot of soil disturbance, and certainly not the rich matrix of glade flora that I will encounter in the coming weeks.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Natural Integrity

It took our group 4 hours to hike a mile trail through my favorite landscape in Missouri. Of course, this after a November fire totaling over 1,000 acres, after 30 years of regularly occurring fires in this magical place. At one point, we were asked if we had planted all those wildflowers in the woods. We were all pretty flummoxed by seeing Aster patens blooming alongside a Missouri evening primrose. I think most of us with native plant flowerbeds back home will be whacking back our asters and goldenrods to make sure there are blooms in the fall, the time of year they're supposed to bloom. Solidago gattengeri is in bud already. I start my vegetation sampling this week and already I couldn't find hide nor hair of the little Drabas that bloomed in March; their little straw skeletons usually stick around until the first week of June, but not this year, not here. One of my esteemed friends found a new record for the woods here, a pretty beat up Platanthera flava (I wanted it to be var. flava, but an astute botanist reader quickly told me it was var herbiola. Regardless, no Platantheras are known from here, an area that has been heavily botanized by some of the region's best botanists. Sometimes it just takes time -like 30 years of good management- for certain plants to show up in the matrix. I was really hoping it's flava var flava because I like the guy with the clock around his neck.) Yes, a full weekend around chats and field sparrows in the woods, lots of blooming Desmodiums, and a great lot of folks who can recognize the best tract of woods in the state when they see it.