Monthly Archives: February 2009

Updates: Of weather and health and typos

Scroll to the bottom for the lastest, and almost the last, post for Black History Month.

It snowed all day today, beautifully. This has been a most unsatisfactory winter, here in Bozeman itself. It started with quite a promising bang back in December; in the images below you can see every single indicator switching direction at 5am, which is when temperatures plunged into the negatives for a couple of weeks before Christmas.

WxStationGraphAll: condensed

More recently, however, we’ve had day after day after day of temperatures in the forties, though it’s almost always below freezing at night. In Montana, in January and February, that is not just weird, it’s worrying. I know that other people elsewhere are eager for spring, but planting season doesn’t really begin here until late May, so I don’t bother to feel excited yet. I just want a little more real winter weather before it’s over, and we seem to be having some finally.

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On Wasting Time

Scroll to the bottom for a brief bio of Ira Aldridge, black Shakespearean actor in the first half of the 19th Century.

Ripening tomatoes

One night a couple of weeks ago it seemed briefly possible that I might get almost enough sleep. By ten-thirty I was upstairs, preparing for bed. Then, toothbrush in hand (in mouth, actually) I wandered over to my two potted tomato plants by the upstairs south window, and the jig was up.

Tom It seems sometimes that plants exert a gravitational force entirely out of proportion to their mass, and my winter tomatoes are the worst. If I get within range, I can orbit for an hour, peering at the undersides of leaves, squashing the occasional aphid, gnat or white fly; snipping off ragged leaves; checking for new growth; flicking blossoms to ensure that they pollinate despite the windless indoor conditions; deciding which suckers to pinch, which to welcome, and where to allow just the first leaf to grow, a policy that helps (I hope) to combat the attrition that gradually claims the older leaves.

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Compost, trucking, and other garbage

(Scroll to the bottom for today's bit on Black History Month.)

I find myself today at, a website for truck drivers. Interesting. Of course, it is compost that has led me here, albeit via a circuitous route. Here’s a sort of overview of the process: Compost, yard-waste, garbage, landfills, municipal solid waste, cities, New York City.

Put it all together and you get the question, What does New York City do with its garbage?

The answer is that it exports it by truck and rail to Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Virginia, besides sending a fair amount upstate.

Something I’ve learned while digging through the garbage recently: nothing is straightforward, and some of the stories are so ludicrous, so intricate and unlikely, that it’s hard to decide whether to laugh or cry. Toronto, for instance, has been sued by no fewer than three First Peoples (the Oneida, the Chippewa, and the Munsee) over its newly purchased Green Lane Landfill site. And that’s just the tip of that particular garbage pile.

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Aphid Alert II: Indoor tomatoes

(Scroll to the bottom for today's story in honor of Black History Month. It's not a happy one, but it matters. I've removed the video clip at the end of that section as it downloaded too slowly for some computers.)

WARNING: This post contains graphic photographs of pests on leaves.

White fly '08

Our December report on the aphids infesting the Manic Gardener’s indoor tomatoes has continued to fascinate viewers everywhere,  so we recently sent a crew for a follow-up story. The unfortunate events surrounding this interview have been vastly exaggerated, leading to the promulgation of false information across the web. (The Manic did not lift up our camera-man bodily and throw him out of the house, though she may have tried.)

We are happy to inform you that our EFG (Exposing False Gardeners) personnel sustained only minor injuries. The camera, we regret to report, was destroyed and all visual footage lost save these few photographs. (Final results from the lab indicate that it was the bricks, not the orange juice, that did the damage.) Fortunately, the audio survived, so we are able to offer you the transcript below. We hope that this clears up all misunderstandings.

EFG has no plans to return to the home of the Manic Gardener in the foreseeable future.

At last report, the woman known as the "Manic Gardener" was holding off a SWAT team with a combination of unripe tomatoes and pure invective. As one team member was heard to say, "The mouth on that woman!"

Here is part of that fateful interview: 

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MS flare-up lays the Manic low

(Scroll to to bottom for a clip from the great Nina Simon, today's featured artist in honor of Black History Month.)

   Since I have the world’s lightest case of Multiple Sclerosis, it took me a while to figure out what the incredible fatigue that hit Wednesday morning reminded me of—not the flu, because there was no achiness, no pain with movement—just the fatigue. It was sort of like one of the blizzards in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Hard Winter: clear sky and then whump, whirling snow, screaming winds, but that analogy was not going to help me identify what was going on now.
   One minute you’re doing your morning exercises, and the next you get up to find one of your thighs going brrrrrr-r-r-r-r-r, not just shaking but actually quivering, and as the morning continues through the breakfast that you eat and the tea that you drink because it seems smartest to do what you usually do, and you finally make the phone-calls to husband and doctor, the fatigue mounts from legs through the body until you’re drowning in it, there’s nothing left to do but lie down and surrender.

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