The Secret Lives of Chives

Posted in My Garden on July 5th, 2008 by MadDog
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Most people would probably encounter no difficulty identifying this object: 

A bucket of chives

Right. It’s an old paint bucket filled with chives.

But, HAH! It’s also bucket of interesting information. I learned some new things about chives this morning.

For instance, I did not know that chive flowers have a very nice aroma. I sniffed them to see if they smelled like anything at all – faintly expecting some chive-like pungency. Wrong! They have a somewhat faint but distinct fragrance. I’d say it’s somewhere between rose and jasmine, with maybe a little frangipani mingling in. It would make an alluring perfume. Here are the flowers of the chive: 

Chive flowers

It’s interesting that a seed pod has already formed in the centre of each flower. A few buds in the middle of the bunch have not yet opened. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see that a tiny spider has spun its web across the bunch of flowers. I did not even see this until I began to work on the photo with Photoshop.

When the petals have all fallen away the seed pods dry and crack open. Here you can see the seeds inside:

Chive seed pods

I found a seed pod that looked almost dry and opened it. Here you can see the opened pod and a single seed. Though it appears that each pod should have three seeds – according to the shape of the pods – most of them had only one or two:

A chive seed pod opened showing the black seeds

The final surprise came when I put my large nose down close to the pod. I was not expecting the obvious. It smelled strongly of . . . CHIVES!

The next time I go to my garden to cut a bunch of chives for my baked potato or my scrambled eggs, I’m going to have a new appreciation for the stinky little stalks.

When Ants Fall In Love

Posted in My Garden on July 4th, 2008 by MadDog
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Today is American Independence Day. We get US holidays off at the office, so I’m home today, cleaning up my bachelor’s mess in anticipation of Eunie’s arrival this afternoon. Not a moment too soon for me!

In my garden this morning I found a few tantalizing images.

On the side of a fishtail palm, muli ants were scurrying up and down. For all the running around that they do, you’d think that it would be more common to see them carrying food. Isn’t that the point? One might occasionally observe them dragging a huge bug off to their colony, but usually, they seem only to be hurrying somewhere for purposes unknown.

Here a couple share a tender moment:

 Muli Ants in Love

An acute observer might note that the image has been rotated on its side. It looked too strange vertically.

For the foreigners out there – why are they called muli ants?

Well, it’s complicated. Citrus fruits, in Neo-Melanesian (Melanesian Pidgin) are called muli. This especially applies to lemons and limes. I have heard it said that one can make a lemonade-like drink my getting a mob of muli ants, putting them in a glass, and mixing them up with water and sugar. I suppose that the formic acid would act like the citric acid in the lemons. Have you ever smelled formic acid? Man, it stinks!

Now, if drinking that stuff doesn’t seem like a horrifying experience, then I’m not sure you’re really paying attention. Maybe I’ll try it someday and report the results. Anyway, that’s my version of why they are called muli ants.

By the way, they are fearless beyond reason and, given the chance, will bite like tiny lions.

Orange seems to be my colour this week. Just in front of the house there are some lilies that remind me of the tiger lilies common in North America. I don’t know what they are called:

 Lilies in my garden

Just for fun, I tried the Photoshop watercolour filter on the lilies. You can see the effect more clearly if you click on the image to see a larger version: 

Lilies as a watercolour

For the last one, I’ll skip the photo completely and just show you the pattern that the poster edges filter gave me.

This would be great on a black t-shirt: 

Somebody put this on a black t-shirt for me.

Enough for today.

In My Garden #5 – Orange Coconut Trees?

Posted in My Garden on March 22nd, 2008 by MadDog
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I recently saw a PowerPoint slide show presented by Maureen Hill. She had some very fine photos of her trek to Antarctica and South America with Val Jerram. It was a comedy of penguin and blubbery seals on an icy stage. Maureen’s sense of humor was at the boiling point.

I was, however, distracted when she displayed huge boulders that looked as if they had been nearby when Jackson Pollock suffered a conniption fit while carrying a large bucket of bright orange paint.

A sudden and unanticipated wiring alteration in my brain caused small sparks to fly out of my ears, startling the nice ladies on either side of me. The colour splashed on the boulders seemed to be suspiciously similar to the weird orange splotches so common on the flanks of our very own coconut trees! Hey, what’s going on here? Antarctica – Papua New Guinea. Hot – Cold. Rock – Tree. What’s the connection?

Having, of course, taken a picture of a coconut tree in My Garden (memory like mine? – few other choices), I arranged to have lunch with my well-informed friend Mr. Google. He cleared things up for me . . . to a point.

I don’t have Maureen’s photo, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Here’s my snap of the mysterious orange stuff on my coconut tree:

Orange lichen on my coconut tree.

As it turns out, there is a family (actually a genus, but let’s not get picky) of lichens called Xanthoria that are remarkably orange. I’ve always been intrigued by lichens. Hey, we don’t have, let’s say, dogs and chickens plotting, “Let’s mash together and make a whole new thing!” So what’s the deal with fungi and algae?

Anyway, I couldn’t find a definitive page that said, “Yeah, the coconut bilas in Madang is the same as the Pollock paintings in Antarctica”, but my suspicion is aroused that such is the case.

Curiosity now temporarily satiated, I’m musing over the serendipitous fact that if we were invaded by a herd of ravenous reindeer, we would be able to point them to our coconut trees for a good feed.

I also found out that the light green stuff that looks like dried cabbage is yet another kind of lichen. Enough, already

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In My Garden #4 – Shiny Happy Chilies Holding Hands

Posted in Humor, My Garden on March 4th, 2008 by MadDog
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As I was going to the car, I saw these cute little chilies just shaking off the morning dew.  Had to run back into the house to get my camera.  Here they are:

Happy Chilies

As I was taking the photo, the R.E.M. song Shiny Happy People started relentlessly humming in my brain. (Yes, it’s a strange and wonderful place in there – I hope I don’t have to relocate anytime soon.) So, without further elaboration, here’s an homage to R.E.M. for making me feel good this morning (with apologies to the songwriter).

Shiny happy chilies laughing
Meet me in the bush
Chilies chilies
Throw your love around
Love me love me
Take it into town
Happy happy
Put it in the ground
Where the chilies grow
Gold and crimson shine

Odly enough, the title of the song came from a Chinese propaganda poster. The song appeared in Michael Moore‘s anti-war film Fahrenheit 9/11 during footage of George H.W. Bush visiting the Saud family.

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In My Garden #3 – ALIENS! – Ant Body Snatchers

Posted in Humor, My Garden on February 19th, 2008 by MadDog
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Hmmmm, my garden seems to be getting a lot of attention these days – and not all of it is welcome.

This morning, while making my usual rounds with camera in hand, I discovered that Aliens From Outer Space have established an ant body harvesting operation in my garden.

Have a look at this:

Alien machine to harvest ant bodies

Clearly, this is a cleverly disguised device for collecting and preserving the nutrients from ant bodies for later consumption by the fiendish aliens which have occupied my garden.  The ants are attracted to the death machine by the cloying scent of the ‘flowers’  These elegant but devilish contraptions then lure the hapless ant to the yellow thingie in the middle (see the ant walking around on it).  The ant is then immediately sucked inside the dissolving chamber which is full of alien digestive fluids, a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, and a little ascorbic acid as a preservative.  (click on the image to see a bigger version)

Please, in the name of public safety, check your garden for suspicious activity.  You can look here and here to verify that any flesh eating ‘plants’ that you find are safe.  Mother Earth has quite a few of these and they are most generally satisfied with the occasional bug.

But we must not let these alien upstarts have our ants.  First it will be ants, then cats and dogs, then small children and goats.  Heaven help us!

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In My Garden #2 – Kermit – Your Friend and Mine

Posted in My Garden on February 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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We all have small visitors to our gardens – often unseen by us.  Kermit, however, likes to hang out where the night lights shine. That’s where all those tasty bugs are.

Here’s Kermit visiting our leaf strainer last night:


I like Kermit.  It makes me feel happy whenever I see him.  I think he knows this.  He came around for a beer last night to congratulate us.  We just got a new motor on our boat yesterday.

If you see Kermit hanging around your house, say Hi for me.

If you’d like to read about Kermit and all his lain, have a look at this.

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In My Garden #1 – A Sunrise Good Enough To Eat – “Mmmmmmm delicious!”

Posted in My Garden on February 14th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’m going to do a series on amusing things that I see in my Garden.

Those who have seen my garden will nod and wink and punch each other’s arms saying, “Yeah, sure – His Garden; what a laugh.”  Okaaaaay, so its just the dirt in front of my house where our haus meri shoves stuff in the ground to see what will happen.  I know it’s not Kew, but it’s ours.

Anyway, I’ll start with one of our favorites – the sunrises.  Our house faces more or less east, so if I wake up between about 5:30 and 6:00, sometimes it is worth losing sleep.  Here’s an example:  (remember, you can click on any photo in this blog to get a larger version)

Veranda Sunrise

Well, some pictures speak for themselves.

Stay tuned for more vaguely amusing stuff from My Garden.