I was looking at a blog I often read, and thinking it's time for another post there. Then I came back to my own blog and realized it's much longer since I posted myself. I was away at a conference in Yorkton (I know, Eleutheros - a bunch of people in a stuffy room tossing bags of air to each other), and then church and catching up at home, and then Monday night I went down with the flu. Ohh, I was out of practise. Kids handle it so much better. Dry heaves were getting me up every hour until I finally sought the Internet's advice, got past all the suggestions that involved doctors and pharmacists, and found out I should be sipping water. Sleep at last. Nothing but water all the next morning, and then a stagger downtown for some apple juice. This morning I tried a little toast. I'm hoping that the lingering headache is just a side effect of fasting.
The conference was fun, anyway. It's a chance to catch up on friendships with like-minded people - "plant nerds," as the seed-testing guy called us. He described himself and his coworkers as "the lab geeks of the plant nerds." He gave a talk on seed testing procedures and regulations, and how native plant seed just doesn't fit the system. Boring? Not at all! He was so warmly engaging and self-deprecating, and he showed up the ironies of his work so well. Seed testing is done with reference to grade tables, which list particular crops and the standards for each. Crested wheat grass, an introduced species that invades native grassland and excludes other species, gradually simplifying the vegetation and reducing the depth and fertility of the soil profile, is a recognized crop species included in the grade tables. It's a crop, but definitely not something that you want to be planting in a native prairie reclamation project. Green needle grass, a native species widely used in seed mixes for reclamation, is not in the grade tables. So, if you send a sample of a native species - say, northern wheatgrass - for testing, the standard procedure would treat any crested wheat grass in the sample as "other crop," and any green needle grass as a "weed."
He got a good laugh with that example. He also described ways that his company will try to work within the grade tables, using alternative procedures, to give the best representation of native seed. For example, if that northern wheatgrass sample has a lot of green needle grass in it, he will look at grading it as a mix, instead of as northern wheatgrass. His name is Morgan Webb, and the company is Seed Check Technologies Inc., in Leduc, Alberta. The website gives a sense of that same warm-hearted, fun-loving spirit that Morgan showed in person. (A tip for navigating the website: no scroll bars appeared in my browser, but I found that I could just click somewhere in the text and then use the up and down arrows to scroll.)
I showed some of my winter botany photos at the members' slide night, but when Morgan mentioned that seed testers have to take 16-hour government exams and be able to identify roughly 2000 species by seed characteristics alone, well, I was humbled.
Speaking of winter, we've had a bit of snow here (just in time to give us some whiteouts and icy snowpack on the drive to Yorkton), but already the fields and ditches are going brown again. We're supposed to get a high of -18°C and a low of -33°C on Friday, but then right back up to near normal temperatures on the weekend. Normal would be a high of -7°C, but for most of this winter, it's been warmer than that. Darn, I'd take a week of -40°C nights, just to kill off some insects, but I'm afraid we aren't going to get it.
Well, if I can sit up and write this long, I must be feeling better. Time to get on with ordering garden seed. Yes, it's a little late, but not as bad as you might think. I see that our southern friends are already well into growing things, but we really shouldn't start here until around March 1st.
Six days till Garth gets home! I owe him another posting on his website, and I really need to clean up my clutter before I have to share the bedroom again. Okay. One feeble step at a time.
A new journey
2 weeks ago