Category Archives: Family Picnic

Consider the lilies of the valley

The common names of plants tell a lot about a plant, and sometimes they just offer subtle hints, and sometimes they may even lead one astray. In Thompson Ethnobotany, by Nancy Turner and others, the roots of the twisted stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius, a close relative of the lily-of-the-valley) are described as “very poisonouos” and the fruits as “not eaten”.

I was in Alaska teaching a class of 3rd graders about plants. I was waiting for my group to assemble prior to a hike. One little Tlingit tyke was sitting down with some twisted stalks piled in his lap. “Hey George, want some cucumber plant? Tastes just like cucumber.”


I was instantly rebuffed by the term “cucumber plant”, which seemed an irresponsible name for a poisonous plant. Read on

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From Bowies to Quercus

I am informed that my first word was “Bowies” which meant flowers. That should give some indication of how I got where I am today, which is to say botanically oriented. Actually there was a long lag period between bowies and the point where I used Latin names for plants.

The first Latin name I knew for a plant was Quercus, the oak. Quercus came into my head during a round trip across the country from Baltimore to the west coast and back, just in time to start graduate school. Edith rode with me on that trip in a Chevy Camper Special. On the way back we traveled through Canada. Read on

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Long ride on a big yellow bus

Some come slowly to the realization of where they are in their time. By that I am referring to having a sense of who you are and what you stand for, a sense people tend to have for others but not for themselves. This sense develops over a lifetime with age and experience.

The year was 1969 and I was sixteen. Outside of a prosaic life of school and idle summers at the lake, the world was experiencing Woodstock, love-ins, peace marches, and music the likes of which had never been heard before. But I watched 1969 go sailing by without me on the boat. And I cursed my time for being born too late.

school bus

For me, you are either on the bus or under the bus.

Read on

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The Incandescent Man

It is always important to make a good first impression.

In the mid-1990s, I met my best friend and partner while living on a ramshackle old farm that the locals called the “ruins”. This farm needed all manner of chores to keep it from falling down, from daily irrigation to constant fixing.

I was careful when I first got to know my new friend not to display my typical hurry up and relax attitude. She was a person of refinement and grace, which I did my best to respect in all matters. She had been dropped into a homespun life where spring and fall were compressed into frenetic weeks of planting and harvest. Life was a race against the onslaught of nature, who was bent on freezing our crops and pelting us with hell and high water.  Read on

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Chelan Dock

The dock was getting splinters and needed fixing. It had been a while since these beauties dove off the pier back in the 30s:

Beauties on the lake Check out that dock.

Here is a link to the big spring 2005 project – a new dock on Lake Chelan.

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