Weeds and Windshields

Fields in N Cape County 08-25-2015I was blasting down State Route C on the way to Cape from Altenburg when I noticed tall stalks of what I took to be corn in the middle of what I think is soybeans (my farm knowledge is somewhere between erroneous and inadequate).

Traffic on C can move pretty fast, so I turned right onto 516 at New Wells, and took the next right onto 517, which put me on a little-traveled road on the backside of my field. There was a cornfield on the driver’s side of the car.

It was from there that the errant corn must have escaped. Or, maybe the farmer hadn’t cleaned his equipment off when moving from field to field. Or, maybe a bird dropped the seed. Who knows?

What is a weed?

Fields in N Cape County 08-25-2015Funny what sticks with you from grade school. The teacher asked the class if they could say what a weed was.

The answer was predictable: dandelion, crab grass, ragweed, Jimson weed…

“How about an oak?” the teacher asked.

“No, an oak is a tree. It’s not a weed,” the class protested.

“A weed,” the teacher explained, “is a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants. So, wouldn’t you consider an oak tree in the middle of a wheat field to be a weed?”

She had us there

So, somewhere back at Trinity Lutheran School, in the middle of the 20th Century, the seed of a weed oak tree was planted in my head.

You can click on the photo to make it larger. I’m sure somebody out there will tell me that that’s not corn in a soybean patch, that’s really a radish popping up in a field of rutabagas.

Marcescence or Not?

Allenville railroad bridge over Diversion Channel 02-12-2013I stumbled across an interesting leaf thing, then I stumbled across what might or might not explain it. I don’t dabble in plants. I have a very simplistic view of nature. I divide animals into two camps: ones that I can eat and ones that can eat me.

Even though Wife Lila has a fascinating gardening blog (worth checking out, I have to say), I divide the plant world into two camps, too: weeds and not weeds. How do you tell the difference? You chop ’em all down. The ones that grow back are weeds.

Leaves were stark white

Having said that, I stopped to take a picture of this bush / tree / weed along the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad tracks south of the Allenville Diversion Channel bridge. It was the only thing around that held onto its leaves and they were a stark white.

It just so happens that I saw a story that explained what might be going on here. It’s a long piece, so I’m going to send you directly to the Northern Woodlands site for the whole drink of water. Bottom line is that different trees shed their leaves differently.

First trees were evergreens

The first trees on the planet were evergreens, Northern Woodlands points out. They appear to be green all the time, but entire age classes of needles die, turn brown and drop off every year. “On the other end of the spectrum are deciduous trees [like the birch, maple, cherry and aspen], which seem to drop their leaves all at once after a pigment party every fall.” I like that phrase. I’m probably going to steal it one of these days.

The story continues, “But then we have a third class of tree in beech and oak that seems to represent a middle ground of sorts between evergreen and deciduous. Their leaves die, but many don’t fall when they die. Botanists call this retention of dead plant matter marcescence.”

It goes on to explain why there might be an ecological advantage to being the last guy on the block to go naked, but I started tuning out. If anybody knows what the white-leaved thing is, let me know.

Dutchtown Straw Poll

Tuesday is Election Day. Mother’s phone here in Missouri has been ringing constantly with political robocalls. Because she is one of the few people left in the world who actually gets legitimate phone calls, she answers it. If she hears silence, she hangs up. This afternoon I even heard her mutter something when she hung up, but I was blessedly too far away to hear what she said. From the tone, I don’t think she wished them a nice day.

Went hunting nuts

Sunday afternoon, to keep from going nuts, we decided to go hunting nuts. Well, we didn’t actually start out that way, we just ended up there. We drove down a lane in Dutchtown next to our property and scooped up about a quart of pecans. They were a little on the small side, but they cracked easily and tasted pretty good.

Dad used to spend half the winter sitting in his recliner picking out pecans. We set up his old nutcracker in the basement workshop vise and even found the cigar box he used to put the cracked nuts in. It even had his old nutpick in it.

She’s got all the entertainment she needs to carry her through to warm weather.

The Dutchtown Straw Poll

On the way back down the lane to go home, I noticed the late afternoon sun lighting up the weeds. Like the polls driven by the robocalls, the Dutchtown Straw Poll was flicking left and right in the wind. The Undecideds were definitely driving.

The 2012 Election may not be decided by Tuesday night, but the phones will be a lot quieter. I share the hopes and prayers of all the election supervisors all over the county: please, please, please let it be a landslide for one side or the other.

Photo tips:

What makes the photo work is the backlighting. I exposed for the highlights, letting the backgrounds go dark to provide contrast. Most snapshooting guides will tell you to have the sun at your back. That makes for evenly-exposed, but deadly dull photos. Most of my scenics use strong sidelighting or backlighting that brings out the texture of the subject.

All of the weeds aren’t sharp because the depth of field is very shallow in a close-up. On top of that, there was a stiff breeze that kept whipping them around. Some of the blur is movement, other is because the subject kept moving into and out of focus. I like the horizontal shot because all of the out-of-focus stalks are bending to the left (that’s not a political assessment), taking your eye to the weeds that are in focus.

As always, you can click on the photos to make them larger. If you suffer from allergies, though, you might want to leave them small and keep your distance.