Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Botany Talk

                                           One of the season's first artichokes! > 

Hello farmers and gardeners! Caitlin here. Yet again, I've left the farm feeling ecstatic and inspired. I can't explain enough how unique this class is. The curriculum is holistic yet specific, personal yet broadly applicable, and realistic. We talk about scientific inquiry, cultural understanding, and cosmic revelation all in one lesson. How rare is it that you have instructers both fresh and new as well as wise and worldly teaching in the same environment? Not only are we graced with an abundance of diverse knowledge coming from different perspectives, but we also are, as a class, an incredible collection of like-minded, kind-hearted souls. Every week I connect with a new person. With a class of over 30 (maybe even 40?), we are also young and old, from many backgrounds, a symbol of biodiversity. I am so grateful to be a part of this experience. I want to thank you for being a part of it too!

Today in class we packed 4.5 billion years of evolutionary history into 2.5 hours. Our main subject was the vast Kindom called Plantae. This subject is not a light one. As in previous classes, our classmates helped Wendy and Henry teach and learn about botany by giving portions of the lecture.
  • I gave an overview of the way we use language to catagorize plants we know and love as well as explaining the catagories of plants: Bryophytes (non-vascular plants inculding liverworts, hornworts, and mosses) and Tracheophytes (vascular plants including club mosses, ferns, gymnosperms 'the naked seeds' such as conifers, and angiosperms, the flowering plants). 
  • Henry gave an awesome calender representing the evolution of the earth (with each week consisting of about 1 billion years!) and went on to break down the Kindom of Plantae into its smaller sects. He drew a great cladogram outlining the evolution of Plantae and what disiguishing characteristics separate them. The protected embryo marks the shift from cyanobacteria and other algae to the thallus-formed, gametophyte-dominant reproductive liverworts and mosses. The development of vascular tissue marks the leap from mosses to club mosses and ferns, plants with branching stems, conducting tissue, and sporophyte reproduction. Then came the transition to the seed plants, a catagory that the farmers are most interested in. These include the gymnosperms and angiosperms.
  • Henry also gave an awesome diagram explaining the wild radish ancestor, how the variations of the parts of this plant can be found as dominant forms in other plants. These parts include terminal and radial buds, stem, leaves, roots, stem flowers, and flower bunches.
  • Chester gave us a cool history of the origins of agriculture, a topic that is huge and could be studied for years! We learned about the Fertile Crescent of Western Asia and the domestication of wild emmer, where it is thought to be one of the first instances of plant and animal domestication. We also learned about Nom Nak Ta in about 14,000 B.C., Nillex in Central Africa, Tio Cente where corn popularized in Mexico, and Ecuadorian and Peruvian farming. All of these places shared a semi-arid environment and has seasonal change, conditions which led to a more simple development of domestication.
  • Wendy gave us a fantastic example of our newly earned knowledge of botany by discussing the history and phylogeny of the tomato plant! This really made me think about our last assignment, to discuss the implications for the self and the world when producing just one lil' tomato.We also talked about how the spread of agriculture is and has always been neighborly, as well as different examples of the spread of crops, including wild rice of Northern Minnesota, abundant and diverse Peruvian potato variety, and why the potato famine of Ireland occurred.
This tomato history really struck a chord with me. It made me think about how our oral history keeps our place and our culture in line and in the present time through communication, while the language of botany provides hard records that will stand true on a larger scale of time. Interesting to look at the strength that is created when we learn to speak in the moment and also through the steady language of scientists. An amazing book about how language shapes sensation is Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. I highly recommend this book! It's one of my favorites, and it is constantly becoming more and more relevant. Some classmates mentioned these books today that'd I'd been meaning to bring up as well!
The Botany of Desire -Michael Pollan
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus -Charles C. Mann
Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources - M. Kat Anderson
Plant and Planet - Anthony Huxley

Some books that helped shape the lecture today were:

Gardening at the Dragon's Gate
Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel
The Metamorphosis of Plants by Joann Wolfgang van Goethe
Micro-Eco Farming by Barbara Berst Adams
A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us by Sid Liebes

Coming next week: "Talk Dirty to Me: A Lesson on Plant Reproduction"
Check out the book Sex in Your Garden by Angela Overy

Also, in honor of World Water Day which was on March 22, check out Basins of Relations: A Citizen's Guide to Protecting and Restoring Our Watersheds
Brought to you by our friend Brock Dolman at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center.
    No homework assignment for this week! Enjoy yourselves!

    < Snapped a photo of Keri snappin' a photo!

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