The Flat Part of Europe

Quick. When I mention Germany, what kind of landscape comes to mind? Mountains, the big rivers, castles on hills, Neuschwanstein (which falls into “all of the above”). And lots of trees, probably pines, pines on hills, that sort of thing. In other words, Bavaria, the Black Forest, Heidelberg, and similar sites. Actually, more of Germany is rather flat to rolling, while northwestern Germany is pancake flat. In part because it got pancaked by ice, and covered in river sediment after the ice ages ended. It is closer to Holland than to Bavaria in terms of topography, and can be forested, grassy, swampy, or all of the above at once. Continue reading

Sunrise Mountains

It is not unusual, especially in spring and early summer, to see mountains on the eastern horizon at sunrise. This is not a mirage, nor is it due to my lack of caffeine while walking at a quarter before sunrise. It has everything to do with Panhandle weather, and when our monsoon-season storms come through. Continue reading

A Rose is a Rose but what Kind of Rose?

Floribunda, Old Rose, rambler, climber, hybrid tea, damask… There seem to be scads, if not thousands, of different kinds of roses. They come in all shapes and sizes, from miniatures to climbers and ramblers that will take over the entire landscape, very simple flowers to flowers that make bees wonder if they’ve fallen into an M.C. Escher drawing, colors from pure white to deep purple to almost black to “all-of-the-above.” Some thrive from being ignored, some almost require being tucked in every night. After DYCs*, roses seem to be the largest swath of generic flowers. “What is that?”

“A rose.”

“What kind?”


Arrrrrgh! Continue reading

Book Review: The River, the Plain, and the State

Zhang, Ling. The River, the Plain, and the State: An Environmental Drama in Northern Song China, 1048-1128 (Cambridge University Press, 2016) Print edition.

Chinese imperial management of water has been one of the critical keys to following the history of imperial after the Zhou Dynasty. Some of the bedrock work in US environmental history took as its starting point Karl Wittfogel’s “Hydraulic empire” thesis, looking at state control of water and society and how that relates to the development of both the US government and the American West. Because Chinese records are so copious, a lot of work can and has been done looking at how the Chinese lived with and coped with their major rivers and the hydraulic “systems” that developed over thousands of years. This book focuses on a small space in time and shows how the complicated interactions of state, environment, and society caused, then reacted to, and were shaped by, the Yellow River changing course between 1048 and 1128. Continue reading

Mid-May Playa 2017

So, things are settling down around the playa. There have not been any heavy, localized storms to drop concentrated rain on the lake, so the water is limited to the middle, and it’s more mud than water. But the warm-season plants are thriving.

A forb. With pretty flowers that peaked a few days before I was able to take the photo, of course.

The gradations in color mark the different rings of plants leading into the marshy area.

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Storms Seen From Below

When you live in places where you can see weather coming, sometimes for hours before it finally reaches you, you develop an appreciation for clouds and storms or wanna-be-storms seen from below. I enjoy weaving around cloud towers in the air, so long as I have a way out and they stay towers, not “Oh dear, that’s a wall with hail streamers, I do believe I’m in trouble.” And I’d just as soon be under a roof when the weather starts producing 50 kt winds, sideways rain, and Things Hiding In the Dark (aka rain-wrapped tornadoes at night).

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