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orchid keiki: my phalaenopsis had a baby!

Though it is nothing to brag about apparently. I thought it was a good thing until I read that it was the orchid’s response to stress. I also read some orchids just do it, stress or no, as a way to propagate. I also read more than one expert recommend cutting it and tossing it because it leeched nutrients from the Mama and would take years to bloom. Let us address these three ideas (stressing, cutting, tossing) respectively.

1. Sure, maybe I stressed it — I’ve definitely accidentally gone twice as long as usual between waterings (on more than one occasion) — maybe not (none of my other orchids, all subjected to the same neglect, have issued spawn). Either way…

2. I’m going to cut it. Mama’s looking chipper, keiki’s getting bigger, and with a deft snip Daddy will have two (yes, I just referred to myself both in the third person and as “Daddy”) orchids where before there was only one.

3. As for blooming only after several years, permit me to direct your attention to the photo below, which clearly shows a bloom stalk (the reddish bud between the two lower roots) emerging from the keiki (keiki’s Hawaiian for “baby”). And after only a couple months! Never trust an expert, that’s my motto (along with “F@$k ’em if they can’t take a joke,” and “no witnesses.”).

orchid keiki

And while I’m thinking about it, are humans the only mammals with umbilical cords?

nutmeg and mace: myristica fragrans

I just learned what fresh nutmeg looks like. Here are some visuals to aid in blowing your mind:

Myristica fragrans

myristica fragrans

myristica fragrans

myristica fragrans nutmeg seed

What you buy in the store – if it isn’t ground – is the dried seed (which is inside the brown part inside the red web). But I don’t care about the spice any more. I just want to hold the insides of that fruit. It looks like it should still be beating. I have never seen anything come off a tree that looked so alive.

The shiny red web (the aril) around the seed is mace, another spice (and favored repellent). Two-for-one, this bad boy. About 3% of the oil is toxic, which is why smart guys trying to get high on nutmeg usually come close to dying.

Takes nine years to get fruit from a seedling. And only then if you’ve got a hermaphrodite. Otherwise, you better find your lady a fella, or vice-versa, depending on which it turns out you have. Which makes this one a chancy buy. Which is unfortunately for me not enough of a deterrent. TopTropicals down in FL sells 2-3 yr old seedlings, as well as Plant it Hawaii. Both great shops.

how to dry a dead snake

I found a little serpent in the driveway of the farm last time we went out to walk the paths. The Catholic lawyers ran him over, and he was good and dead by the time I discovered his carcass lying still in the dirt.

No more than nine inches total, just a baby probably, a life cut short by an early-model Florida-plated Chrysler 300. Florida. Chrysler. Catholics. It does not get any worse than that.

But he was so near-intact that I thought maybe I could preserve him and put him on a shelf for looking and wonder and study. I brought him home and put him in a tupperware to bake him dry out in the sun.

Callous as hell, it probably seems, but really, I’m mostly sure he won’t really mind. And too, my goal is reverence, not profanity. Being as spirit-forward as he is, he can probably read my meaning better than most of you meatsacks.

dead snake preservation technique
There's a chance I may still get into heaven yet.

the impossible mangosteen (garcinia mangostana)

My two new mangosteen trees arrived from Hawaii today, looking wonderful. I had pretty low expectations for the size and health of the plants after all my searching and researching. Not only are they nigh-impossible to grow in the US, it seems they’re also pretty hard to come by.

Most of the tropical fruit tree nurseries I’ve been dealing with don’t carry it. And I was nearly tempted by an ebay seller who ships them from Hawaii bare-root, but I bought a rambutan from him a couple weeks ago, and it now looks like death warmed over — I’m not even sure it’s alive — so I figured there was a better route and kept looking.

I finally found another grower, Hula Brothers in Hawaii, selling them for $100/ea. or two for $150, shipping included. I figured what the heck, I’ll most likely lose one, might as well get two, improve my odds. I kept checking the door all day today, and they finally came at five pm. They were the best-looking plants I’ve gotten in the mail yet.

mangosteen treeThat’s probably a five-year-old tree there. Which means just five or six more years until I have a chance at some fruit.

It takes ten years for a mangosteen tree to fruit in favorable conditions, favorable being ultra-tropical always moist and never-lower-than-eighty-degrees kinda weather, preferably on a riverbank. There’s only one known instance of anyone getting one to fruit above the 200th parallel. Some feller in S. Florida got lucky. But I’m going to mimic Thailand/Puerto Rico in a greenhouse, and I’m going to get it to fruit. Mark my words. Check back in six years re: deliciousness.

The fruit is a beaut is the reason for my mania. I have never seen anything so pretty that tastes so good.

mangosteen fruit

not all right

Everything, it turned out, is not all right. In fact, if you can believe it, my thumbnail fell off. I really thought it wouldn’t. Then I thought it would. Then I didn’t. Then I knew it would.

I updated Courtney periodically, the forecast ponging back and forth every few days, “I think it’ll stay” one day, “It’s definitely coming off” the next. And so she made fun of me, as she should have. “Keep me updated.” she teased after a month of wishy-washy prognostication. I started referring to it as “my journey” a week or so ago. There must have been something more profound than either she or I knew afoot to put a label on it like that.

And there was. Because it came off, (Or I cut it off. Or most if it, the part that was hanging from a corner, the part that was going to catch on something and make trouble for me. It had been pushed up by the new nail enough so that I knew the tender bits underneath was safe. It was just a matter of clearing the debris.), and when it did it was obvious, fingernails are just one more window into the soul. Add it to the eyes, tack it on to the mouth, that pearl-hard shell of shiny keratin is a prosopopoeiatic mirror. Remove it, and you’re looking at a zombie, a soulless mask, a face with no sense.

Lamp it yourself, nerds:

missing thumbnail

intractable fungus

Two summers ago I cleared the understory in the back yard. I stacked all the long skinny maple trunks at the edge of the yard and forgot about them (after the next door neighbor bristled at my interpretation of the property line).

This summer, after months of frustrated desire for a back yard aesthetic paradigm shifter, I took a couple of the trunks from the pile and painted them (gradients of pink and blue respectively).

It was a pretty cool effect:

Last night I went out to wrap some lights around the blue one, and rather miraculously I think, some fungus spores had managed to either a). lodge themselves before it was painted and then poke out through the paint or b). lodge themselves into the tree through the paint and sprout out through the same holes whence they had inpoked. Either way: pretty!


Cormac McCarthy’s Typewriter

Continuing with the spasm of materialism inhabiting this e-ournal* for the last couple of weeks (it’s the holidays, bub), consider Cormac McCarthy’s Olivetti for auction this friday at Christie’s.


I begged and begged Courtney to buy it for me but no dice. I don’t know what I’d do with it anyway except look at it sitting in the corner.

And write letters to myself from him:


What a slamming writer you have turned out to be.

– Cormac


* Thank you A.H.M for lending this appellation.

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