Category Archives: Boulder

Boulder Pays Tribute to Mork

Two days after Robin Williams sad death, I made my way to visit the Mork and Mindy house here in Boulder. Many people were milling around, traffic was very busy on an otherwise not so busy street, and there were many flowers and notes lining the fence in front of the house. I heard a few sniffles, too. It was all very touching to see, and yes, I, too, was a fan.

Here are a few photos from my visit.

Biodiversity in Boulder County Colorado

We all know that loss of biodiversity is one of the big problems with today’s global agricultural system. I’m lucky that my county which is part of the Rocky Mountains has a lot of open space and wild space, so there is a lot of diversity left even though the urban areas are encroaching badly on this beautiful place. The three photos below were all taken recently here in my county. Let’s celebrate and strive for biodiversity as we set farm policies around the world… Please.

A moth on a doorstep.
Photo by Gordon Hardman.


Owlets.
Photo by Bodo Blaczak.

Cooper’s Hawk “Hawklets”.
Photo by Alek Komarnitsky.

Celebrating Plants at the University of Colorado’s Greenhouses

“Every plant has a story.” —-Tom Lemieux

The University of Colorado operates a few greenhouses on a shoestring budget, categorizing them under the “shop” category, enough to earn them once a month cleanings, but even so, they contain an invaluable resource of genetic wisdom from the global plant world.

Run under the guidance of a man whose muse is plants, which is obvious from the first moment that you meet him, Tom Lemieux grew up in Maine and California, and studied horticulture at Berkely. Lemieux has traveled the world on plant expeditions and he believes in starting plants from seeds, which means that many of the exotic species in CU’s “Greenhouse Facilities and Collections” have been propogated by him and his staff from seeds. One plant they started from seed was a date palm, from a bag of dates purchased at Costco, for example.

Last month the greenhouses were open to a small number of community members for a tour and I jumped at the chance.

Lemieux began our introduction to plant appreciation by talking about “convergent evolution” in plants. He demonstrated the concept with a cart full of unique species from the plant world.
Convergent evolution is the term used to describe how very different plant species can evolve into very similar plants in an attempt to survive in similar conditions through adaptation. (See the photo at left to help understand the concept.) It is a fascinating subject that demonstrates to us the resilience of life itself.

In the study of plants we are able to see firsthand Nature’s wisdom, its creativity, its beauty, and even, its sense of humor. We marvel at Phi, the golden proportion found in the plant world. And, we realize that our very existence as homo sapiens requires plants to clothe us, to feed us, to medicate us (or alter our minds, if you will), to shade us, to shelter us, and to help us find solutions for engineering problems – through biomicry.

When Lemieux gives school children tours of the greenhouses, he challenges them to try to go two weeks without using plants, a challenge which makes them think about how much they rely upon the plant world for survival.

The photos below, which I took during the greenhouse tour, will show you some of the marvels that are housed in CU’s plant collections, and they are a sampling of the plants which have evolved and exist on our amazing blue marble.


Natural curls


Cactus with white fuzz and white flowers


Star shapes


An unusual plant with an unusual trunk


A ball shape


This is an example of an ant plant, which has large holes in its codex base.


This is a pair of Cuban Pako Palms, which are the same ages, and demonstrates how much better the plant thrives in the ground, versus a container.


A provocative smelling flower seeking to entice insects inside


Stripes


Exotic


A drama queen of color contrasts: green, pink, and purple!


Pieces of this plant, Lycopodium huperzin (from China), have been requested by a lab in another state for Alzheimer’s drug research, according to Lemieux.


Not only does this plant have fascinating spots and dots for adornment, it has red undersides to its leaves.


Interesting texture with bumps that look like reading braille – is this plant’s hallmark.


What kind of environment required this shape for survival? There are both leaf succulents, and stem succulents in the plant kingdom.


There were many plants with stickers in CU’s plant collection.

I took far more photos than this, and felt like a kid in a candy store while snapping one shot after another following the tour.

How noble is the plant kingdom!

A favorite Willa Cather quote of mine is, “I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.” What an enviable philosophy of life a plant has compared to we humans who are never satisfied with anything at all, always chasing after that which we think would make us happier or more comfortable instead of just blooming in place. Indeed, every plant has its story, but you are going to have to study it to learn what its story is, and even then, you’ll never know all of its secrets.

Colorado Farmers Hit by Flood Could Use Your Help

Readers,
A friend of mine is involved in the efforts to help out the small farmers here in Boulder County and other northeastern Colorado counties following the devastating flood which happened two months ago.

Here is a brief summary from him about this most worthy cause:

Local Food Shift Group (a Boulder Colorado-based non-profit) has partnered with the Community Foundation of Boulder County to create the Front Range Farm Relief Fund (see video below).

The Fund will provide grants to small farmers, ranchers, growers, beekeepers and other food businesses in ten front range and northeastern Colorado counties hit hard by the “biblical” flood that hit the area in the middle of September.

Applicants to the fund are small, diverse farmers, ranchers, growers and food producers who do not qualify for federal flood insurance, FEMA benefits or other government aid programs.

Please learn more at: Front Range Farm Relief Fund, and pitch in if you’re able.

Thanks!

………………………………. TO DONATE ……………………………….

By clicking the link below, you will be directed to the Community Foundation’s secure donation site, where you can select the amount you want to give and your payment method.

Select “Front Range Farm Relief Fund” from the pulldown menu under “I want my donation to be designated toward:” to apply your donation toward this fund.

Thank you for your support!

Click here to donate now.

Or make a check payable to Front Range Farm Relief Fund, and mail it to:

The Community Foundation
1123 Spruce Street
Boulder CO 80302

World Food Day: Eat and Act Like a Coloradan

Today is named “World Food Day” and numerous online and hard copy publishers have their version of a story about wiping out hunger, what is wrong with the food and agriculture system, and how to fix it.

This is becoming a well-worn story, now that everyone’s come to the realization that there is more than enough food in the world and that hunger stems from other problems such as political mismanagement, economics of individuals and individual nations, waste, storage, distribution, infrastructure deficiencies, requires regional solutions, and the like.

In addition, each day more and more NGOs and institutions announce that they’ve set out to solve the “how to feed the world in the future” problem, as their newly appointed goal, which, while this is a noble cause for those of us suffering of plenty, often the wheel just ends up getting reinvented.

So, I shall go against the mainstream approach to this Food Day 2013 by talking about obesity, which is equally unhealthy for humans.

Since obesity is the number one food problem in America and much of the world, my Boulderite version of World Food Day is to present a newly released book explaining why Coloradans are consistently the thinnest in the nation. The book, “State of Slim: Fix Your Metabolism and Drop 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks on the Colorado Diet” is by James O. Hill and Holly R. Wyatt.

It’s all about lifestyle, activity level, and exercise, says co-author, Dr. James Hill. Add a mind-set to eat healthily, and we’ve got a winning combination of daily values here in Colorado that really works.

The authors advocate adopting the Colorado lifestyle, which means doing physical activity 70 minutes a day, six days a week — for the rest of your life, far more than the CDC’s current recommendation of 150 minutes per week. This, they say, will reset your body’s metabolism.

Since I live in Boulder, and am typical in this lifestyle practice that he’s advocating, I say that this amount of exercise each week simply expends more calories than sitting, and promotes an emotionally healthy attitude which carries over to the way we eat. It’s an overall consistent value system. I also don’t see this amount of exercise or activity as being a punishment; it is one of the highlights of my day.

People living elsewhere who are thin have also adopted this same “Colorado” active lifestyle, the authors conclude.

Sometimes, it seems like media decries personal responsibility when it comes to obesity. While it is an undeniable problem that big-food knows how to create addictive foods rewarding our brains through using too much salt, fat, and sugar; and, food eaten away from home supplies way too many calories per portion, Hill’s book suggests that by adopting an active lifestyle the rest will follow; and, that there are no easy avenues to weight loss.

Unfortunately, the reality is, for those of us living in the industrialized world, to the great detriment of our health, we’ve engineered activity out of our daily lives. We must now work at engineering it back in, and that is my wish and hope for all of us on this “World Food Day.”