Saturday, October 14, 2017

Time to Move

 "Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. 
Someone else always has to carry on the story."
Bilbo to Frodo 
Book II of The Fellowship of the Ring 
by J.R.R. Tolkien

This quote, which represents the theme of this blog, also summarizes this post.

It is time to carry this blog to a different home where it will find new adventures.

With some help from some fellow students, I'm finally creating a website. It will be a website and blog combo on WordPress.

In the next few days, I will transfer this blog to its new home on my website. Don't worry though, you can follow me there as well. It will have a cleaner display better organized. All my posts, pictures, comments, etc will be imported into my website for easy access.

I also hope to set up a way to connect this blog address to my new website. Therefore, if this link is clicked it will redirect you to my new blog on my website.

In case this doesn't work or it takes me a few days to figure out, I will link my website below so you do not miss any of the action.

Please note: my website is currently undergoing major construction and does not have much content. Hopefully, in 7-10 days it will be fully functioning and ready for viewing.

The goal is to make this blog easier to find, so I can develop a larger group of readers. It is one step further to reaching my dreams.

I thank you for your patience as we make this change, and I thank you for being faithful readers of this blog.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Publishing Update

Hello all,

It has been a busy few weeks with the start of this college semester. I've also had a snow flurry of publications.

The book review I wrote over the summer has made its appearance in three different publications thus far! All of which are linked below.

Evangelical Church Library Association

The Waynedale Newspaper

My Bread of Angels book review was also published on the Aboite Independent website.

I'm also digging into the art of devotionals and journalism and hope to see many more publications before the end of this semester.

On that note: the easiest way to keep up to date with me and my writing career is to like and follow my Author Page on Facebook.

Following my social media links will also help me build my career as a writer.

Other social media where you can find me is my Pinterest page and Goodreads.

You can also find these links on the right column of this blog page.When my social media platform expands, I'll continue adding to that area.

Thank you all for your interest in my writing. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Meat-Eater Monday: Growing Carnivorous Plants by Seed

It is Monday again! This week I'm going to talk about the struggles of growing carnivorous plants by seed.

Reproducing carnivorous plants is easiest by letting them grow and dividing the rhizomes. However, producing fascinating hybrids requires you to grow them by seed.

Most plants are easy to grow from seed. Carnivorous plants are difficult -- at least that is my experience.

After over 8 years growing carnivores, I've yet to successfully bring a plant from seedling to adult. However, I have high hopes for the seedlings I planted last year.

Part of the trouble with baby carnivores is that they take 3-5 years to fully mature and are extremely finicky until then. Mine have always fallen prey to drought, flooding, mold, or too much sunlight too soon.

Hardy sundews and American pitcher plant seeds need a few months of a cold winter climate for stratification. This can be done in the fridge or naturally outside.

Venus flytrap seeds can be sown immediately after harvesting.

Unfortunately, seedlings grow painstakingly slowly. But, I suppose the best way to show this is through pictures.

First off, the seeds are incredibly small.

Venus flytrap seeds

Top: Venus flytrap seeds Bottom: American pitcher plant seeds
 Last fall, I sowed my American pitcher plant seeds and stuffed them under a blanket of straw with all my other plants for the winter cold.

A 4-6 weeks after the weather finally warmed up, tiny sprouts started popping up. The first two leaves are not carnivorous.
 Just to show you how slowly these things grow, below is a picture of the seedlings this fall. After a full season, they are still tiny pitchers. Each plant only has 2-4 pitcher leaves on them, and they are about half an inch tall.

As an experiment (and because I can't live without some carnivorous plants in my dorm room) I'm keeping half of this years seedlings in my dorm room for the winter so they can get a jump start.
A quarter is shown for scale
 I believe the seedlings below are 1-3 years old. There are a few yearling sundew seedlings volunteering in the pot.
Quarter is shown for scale.
 The plants below are four years old. I'm not entirely sure they were from seed, but I suspect they sprouted from accidentally dropped seed. This spring I need to re-pot them into their own "adult" pots.
 Below is a close-up of my volunteer baby sundew. Almost all of my sundews are accidents.
So, this blog post ended up being more of a show and tell. But then, like I said, I haven't had much success with growing carnivorous plants from seed, so there are better websites than this blog to teach you how to do it.

Basically, you care for seedlings as you would an adult. They are just far more sensitive to mistakes and changing environments.

Growing carnivorous plants from seed is NOT recommended for beginners.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Meat-Eater Monday: Flowers

Many people think the attractive leaves of many carnivorous plants are flowers.

This is a leaf NOT a flower.
In reality, carnivorous plants have leaves like any other plant -- they are just modified to attract, trap, and eat insects. To reproduce they flowers in the spring, which look more or less like normal flowers.

Venus flytraps and sundews have the most normal looking flowers.
Venus flytrap flowers
American pitcher plant flowers are far more complicated. They all look about the same but can be different colors, peach colored, butter yellow, to red and any range in between.

Is it hard to tell what you're even looking at?

Hopefully, this label picture will help a little. (There are better-labeled photos is you google Sarracenia flower labels)

So basically, the flower hangs upside down. There are five petals hanging down in the dips of the style. There are five stigmas which collect the pollen. The pollen falls down onto the umbrella-like style.

This flower encourages cross-pollination because bees must climb through over the stigma, which collects the pollen from a different flower. The bee then picks up the pollen from this flower and exits by ducking out under the petal.

Becuase of this tendency, American pitcher plant hybrids run rampant in the wild.

Hybrids are fun because they aren't sterile. They can be crossed over and over again, and you can create amazing complex hybrids.

Every year, I try to cover my flowers with cheese cloth so I can pollinate the flowers individually with a Q-tip. This allows me to cross a plant with the pollen from a flower that bloomed earlier in the spring.

I try to keep a close record of the crosses I make, so I have some idea of the ancestry of my plants.

The petals only say on for about 10 days. The flower is able to be pollinated for about a week before the petals fall off and the flower starts tipping upward. It is as if once the flower sheds the weight of the petals, it can look back up to the sky.
A flower after the petals fall off.
Throughout the summer, the seed pod swells until the entire flower drys and turns brown and the seed pod cracks open. The seeds can be harvested in the fall.

seed pod mid-summer

As a general rule, unless you want to try your hand at growing carnivorous plants from seed (it is terribly difficult) it is best to cut off the flowers before they bloom. This will preserve your plant's energy and help it grow bigger, stronger leaves. Producing a flower takes a lot of energy, and unless your plant is healthy and growing in full sunshine outside, it may harm your plant. If it is too stressed, producing a flower might even kill it.

If your plant hasn't had a dormancy or if you divided the rhizome, cut off any flowers it tries to produce.  There is always next year. Let your plant recover its strength.

There is no greater joy than seeing your big, beautiful plant in full bloom and creating your own hybrids can be fun.

Friday, August 18, 2017

2017 USPC Championships: Polocrosse

These are my last pictures from Championships. If you haven't gotten your fill of horses yet, check out last year's pictures under the label section on the sidebar to the right.

Polocrosse is one of those rare Pony Club sports I'd always heard of but knew nothing about. So I jumped at the chance to see Polocrosse in person. I'm glad I did because it ended up being one of my favorite things that I did the whole week.

Polocrosse is basically lacrosse on horses.

In Polocrosse the horse has polo wraps and bell boots on all legs to protect them from getting hit with balls, rackets, and other horses. Each rider has a racket. The "referee" is dressed in a striped shirt and also rides a horse and carries a racket.

 The game begins on the edge of the field along the middle line. Each team consisting of 3 players line up in ascending numerical order.
 The "referee" then throws in the ball and everyone tries to catch it in their racket. The riders then peel off and make a beeline for the goals on either end of the field.
 The ball is passed to whatever player is open at the time.
 If the ball is dropped, everyone circles back and tries to pick it up with their racket to claim it for their team.
 However, a successful pass from teammate to teamate is ideal.
 Once you have the ball it is a race to the edge of the field.

 On each edge of the field is a 30 yard line which the ball cannot be carried over. Therefore the ball must either be passed from one player to another over the line or one teammate can "bounce" the ball across the line, however they must be able to recover the ball.

Another rule is that only the #1 player of the team attempting to score and the #3 player of the defending team are allowed past the 30yd line. This keeps things from becoming crowded. The defending #3 player tries to keep the #1 player from scoring by blocking their path and/or knocking the ball out of their racket.

Once a point is scored, everyone heads back to the center to start again.

 This continues until the end of the "chukka." Each chukka lasts for 8 minutes and the goal is to score as many points as possible in that chukka. After the chukka is finished, players dismount their horses and lead them off the field to cool them off.

 When we hiked out to the polocrosse fields, I was excited just to watch the game played. However, in an attempt to raise interest in polocrosse they graciously invited anyone who wanted to to ride a polocrosse pony and play a short chukka. They supplied us with rackets, balls, helmets, and horses.

I and many, many others grabbed our rackets and started practicing.
 This is the horse I would eventually ride. He was a sweetie.
 My quiz teammate got her chance first.
 She got to play a 3 minute chukka
 Then it was my turn.

We traded horse, helmet, and jersey, and I mounted up.

It was very strange riding a horse in shorts...

But I was very, very happy. When I went down to CHAMPS I never expected to have the opportunity to ride a horse much less play polocrosse!

 We lined up for my chukka... it was kinda chaotic since none of us knew what we were doing.
 When the ball was thrown in, no one caught it and it landed on the ground in the middle of the field. Several people tried to pick it up off the ground but to no avail -- Picking a ball up from atop a horse is no easy thing. Suddenly, I saw and opening and headed for the ball.

I unconsciously put to use all the skills I'd learned in mounted games practices and somehow managed to scoop the ball off the ground. I trotted off toward the goal. (These practice chukkas were kept to walk/trot for the safety of the inexperienced players and the health of the tired horses.) 

Since I was player #2 on my team, I couldn't score the point or pass the 30 yd line so I called for my #1 player. I tried to pass it to her over the 30 yd line but the ball hit the ground. Fortunately, she managed to get it off the ground and scored the point!
So, that is the story of how I learned about polocrosse and also got to ride a polocrosse pony and play in a chukka. It was an experience I'll never forget and I'm so glad we made the choice to go all the way out to the polocrosse fields.

I wish my region had the ability to play polocrosse -- at least for fun.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Year Ago Today

           From splashing in frothy, saltwater waves to crawling up the agonizing slope of Croagh Patrick, there are twenty-three people who share memories no one else in the world ever will. When I set off on the journey of a lifetime exactly a year ago, I hoped they would become good friends – instead, they became family.  We shared tears, laughter, stories, frustrations, but most of all we shared love -- A deep unfailing love for each other and the Ireland we experienced together.

                For several years the Lord pressed the verse Ephesians 3:20-21 on my heart. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine … to him be the glory.” There is something strange in the way God works. He brought together twenty-three people of varying personalities and backgrounds and bound us together through the storms and joys of Ireland into a solid rock of friendship. I hoped to make a few friends.  He gave me twenty-two of some of the best friends I could ever ask for. The memories and friendships we’ve formed are beyond words. 

                We will never be able to replicate the three months we spent together. Those precious days flew by too quickly. But the winds of time can never snuff out the burning light of our friendship. I’m so thankful for these wonderful people who changed my life in ways they cannot even imagine. I cannot thank them enough.