Archives for category: guest post

 

Who, us?

Who, us?

 

Emu Wet

For this post, I’m going to quote Deb’s last emu update, verbatim. Thanks to Deb for sharing the emu experience.

“Don’t they just match in with the land of mud. And they are loving the water puddles, but dancing and running crazy when it started to rain on them.

Funny fellers indeed.

 

They do love water.

They do love water.

Enjoy the Day!”

IMG_00000882

As my grandmother used to say, “Nice weather for ducks.”

 

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White Poppies

RR Edwards

 

Regular California Poppies

Regular California Poppies

Regular California Poppies

Regular California Poppies

The obsession started the day I noticed an unusual patch of white-petaled flowers. They were among an irregular sea of bright orange California poppies—the only surviving descendants of a package of mixed, native wild-flowers that I’d sown a few years earlier.  There they were, White California poppies!

 

White Poppies

White Poppies

I’ve always loved our state flower, whose beacon of orange can be seen everywhere this time of year. In some respects, it grows like a weed—appears randomly, in small isolated patches, or covering whole fields. It spreads at will, thrives in most types of soil and, once the spring rains germinate its seeds, will continue to bloom through the dry months of early summer. But all this outward heartiness belies the sensitive side of this flower. You can look, but you cannot touch! Once established, it doesn’t like being jostled and will wilt and die at the drop-of-a-hat. As the state flower, they’re protected—you’re not allowed to pick them. But anyone who’s ignored, or been unaware of this law, is soon holding a drooping blob of orange and green, and that usually dissuades any future attempts at gathering. Though I’ve always believed this plant to be an annual (dying out completely, after dropping its seeds in the summer), I was surprised that a number of our potted poppy plants survived last winter, and went on to flower this spring. Who Knew?

 

A More Delicate Poppy

A More Delicate Poppy

I had never seen, or heard of a white California poppy. The only response my casual inquiries drew was, “Really?” Eventually, someone told me that it was a rare, but not unheard of genetic mutation that, over time, reverted back to brilliant orange in successive generations. That’s why you don’t see ever-spreading patches of white poppies. I can’t attest to the accuracy of this premise, but it made sense to me. I guess I could have gone on-line and researched the topic, but it made little difference to what had become my mission — to create a permanent strain of white California poppies.

I assumed that if I wanted to reinforce the mutation, I needed to find it in another, “unrelated” patch of white poppies. And so, during the travels of my daily life, I scanned my surroundings in search of other genetic outcasts. I finally found what I was looking for in an area I’d passed countless times—an embankment along a nearby freeway on-ramp. Now, I had to watch and wait for the white poppy petals to fall away, and the seed pods to ripen and dry. This was the same routine I was going through, in front of my home—anxiously waiting for the seed pods to dry, and collecting them before they burst and scattered their tiny seeds.

 

The Average Seed Pod

The Average Seed Pod

The average seed pod is about 3” long, about 1/8” in diameter, (though that can vary a lot) and tapers to a point at both ends. Its trick in spreading its seed is not unique, but it is unusual. When the seeds ripen, (they’re the size of large grains of sand) and the pods dry, the pod splits in half as if it were spring-loaded, and flings the seeds as far as several feet. The difficulty in gathering seeds is waiting long enough to be sure the seeds are mature, but picking the pods before they “explode.”

 

Nearly Mature

Nearly Mature on Scraggly Plants

When this adventure started, several years ago, I was able to collect several hundred seeds from my yard, but only a few dozen from the on-ramp location. (The difference, in part, was simply access.) A problem with the seed I collected was that I couldn’t ensure that all of them came from white-petaled plants. By the time I came up with my grand plan, the seed pods were already developing and had long since lost their petals, so there wasn’t a clear division of plants by color. Unavoidably, some of the seeds I gathered came from orange poppies.

Sprung and Unsprung

Sprung and Unsprung

That was a few years ago and it wasn’t until last year, after moving to Two Rock, that I had a chance to put my plan to work. I placed seeds in 6” pots, separating them into groups of “home” and “on-ramp” poppies. (I wanted to be sure that I could pollinate one group with the other.) When the plants started to bloom, I found that about half of them were white and the others were orange. I pinched off as many of the “undesirable” blooms as I could, and used a Q-tip to transfer pollen from one group of white flowers to the other. By this point I was second-guessing myself about my “scientific protocol” but it was, what it was.

On top of that we had to leave for about 10 days to attend a family memorial back east. I arranged for the neighbor’s son, (who we’d hired to feed the cats in our absence) to pick off the orange blossoms when they appeared. I explained to him the reason for the task, but perhaps it was all a little too esoteric for a 14 year-old boy to appreciate, because upon our return, I was greeted by a speckled patch of orange and white poppies. At this point, the experiment was out of control—the orange and white flowers had engaged in unbridled relations, and there was no telling what the color of their offspring would be. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that! That’s why they call them wildflowers.) I decided to make the best of it, and continued to remove the undesirables. When the pods were ready, I harvested those seeds where I felt confidant of white-petaled-parentage, and allowed the rest to go on about their natural business, spreading their seeds. But I vowed to do better next year.

As I mentioned before, I was surprised that a number of last year’s plants made it through the winter, and they became part of what turned out to be a sizable patch of new poppies that came up this spring. Rather than plant any of the seeds I had gathered from previous seasons, I decided to work with what nature had delivered. What I hadn’t expected, and was pleased to see, was that most of the new flowers were white. And so I began, again, pinching off the orange blossoms and, when possible, removing the entire plant that was producing them.

Bounty

Bounty

Well, the last of the poppies are now drying up. (Due to our unusual weather, it was an early poppy season.) And I’m happy to report that I’ve collected an impressive quantity of seeds—and there’s more to come. Just how many seeds is hard to say. By weight, it’s a little over an ounce and a half. That may not sound like much, but there are thousands of them. But when I started this whole thing a number of years ago, I had no idea how changed my life would be.

So many tiny seeds!

So many tiny seeds!

The love of a wonderful woman and an opportunity to create something special together, are calling me and my white poppies to lands in the east. I’m not sure how I’ll do with snow in the winter and humid summers, and I’m less sure how my fine petaled friends will do. But, I’m optimistic (and that’s saying a lot, for me) and I think these two California transplants will do fine, just fine.

 

The following is an article written by guest writer TRESSA S. EDWARDS, daughter of our intrepid editor. Originally published in her high school newsletter, Tressa has given us permission to post her article. Though the content is not typical for Two Rock Chronicles, we feel Tressa’s voice deserves to be heard, and look forward to her future contributions to the blog and to Two Rock Publishing.

New Hope in the Battle Against AIDS/HIV

Tressa S. Edwards

For the last 32 years, AIDS has been a somewhat mysterious disease, killing off nearly 30 million people since its discovery.

On June 5th, 1981, American Epidemiologists reported that five previously healthy men in LA had become ill. Two of them died, becoming the first lives claimed by a then unidentified virus. Now, over 33 million people are infected with the same virus that causes AIDS. Though there is now a name for it, a cure hasn’t yet been discovered. Or has it?

In 2007, a man known as the ‘Berlin Patient’ was cured of HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. His name is Timothy Ray Brown and, at the time, was the only person on record to be cured of HIV. He received a life-saving (in more ways than one) bone marrow transplant for Leukemia. Found in the bone marrow was a gene mutation which made the newly produced white-blood cells resistant to infection while playing host to the HIV virus. Though he was lucky, not everyone can have that same opportunity. Aside from being incredibly painful, bone marrow transplants can be fatal or have severe side-effects. This rules them out as both practical and as a cure.

Recently, however, there was a baby who was cured of HIV. She was born to an unknowingly HIV-positive woman in rural Mississippi. Just 30 hours after she was born, her bloodstream was tainted with signs of the virus. She was indeed HIV positive, having most likely contracted the disease in the womb. After confirming her status as HIV-positive, she was transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center and given her first dose of AIDS medicine. Within a week, the viral load was almost undetectable. She was then continually treated for the next 18 months, until the mother disappeared with her child. She re-appeared some time later, telling doctors that she had not given her child her medication in over 5 months. The doctors assumed that the virus would have continued to replicate, and start to deteriorate the child’s immune system. However, they ran tests and found her to be HIV negative. After checking and rechecking the results, the young girl was deemed ‘cured’ by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, as well as John’s Hopkins. She is now 2 1/2 years old, and still HIV free.

So what does this mean for a cure? It means that those at risk of being born with HIV, as well as those already born with HIV, are given a possible chance to remove the virus from their systems. Though there are preventative measures already available for mothers who could potentially pass on the virus, they are not always effective. Instead of simply giving people a way to potentially prevent the disease from being passed on, there may be a way to now ensure that even if it is transferred, it doesn’t have to claim more lives. Scientists and researches along with doctors are figuring out ways to measure the proper dosage, and length of time which newborns need to be given the standard AIDS medicine for it to effectively remove the virus from their systems. Let us hope they find a way soon. In the mean time, we must remain proactive and aware.