Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Freedom to Eat

                The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that we cannot trust our government and many of the businesses in the world to provide good food for us and our families.  The government has proven that it will do whatever is necessary to take control of Americans, and the bottom line is often more important to companies than doing what is right.

                The best way to know what we are eating is to grow our own food.  In an attempt to gain more knowledge about growing food, I enrolled in the Alaska Master Gardener course.  Today’s post will be Basic Botany #2 and will be about seed germination, plant growth and development, and environmental factors that influence growth.  I hope that my explaining the material to my readers will help me understand and retain the material better.  The quotes will be from the class manual Sustainable Gardening – The Alaska Master Gardener Manual.

                Seeds contain the entire DNA necessary to grow into an adult plant.  Germination is a big word that describes “a complex process whereby a seed embryo goes from a dormant state to an active growing state.  Seeds are usually covered by a hard coat that does not allow water to enter.  Before some seeds can germinate, something must cause a change in the outer coat of the seed.  This can be accomplished by “the heat of a forest fire, digestion of the seed by a bird or animal”, wearing away by fungi or insects, use of a file, or by chemical means.  Other seeds must go through a cooling period.  In all cases, the most important thing is to protect the embryo. 

                Germination of seeds can be affected by other factors such as (1) age of the seed – Older seeds are “less viable” and produce “less vigorous” seedlings.  (2) The best seedbed is loose, fine-textured soil.  (3) The seeds must receive a “continual supply of moisture” without getting too much water.  (4)  “Seeds must be planted at the proper depth and the right temperature” which is different for different species. 
(5) As most gardeners already know, weeds seem to germinate and grow faster than flowers or vegetables.

                In order for a plant to grow properly, there must be “three major physiological functions” present to “drive plant growth and development:  photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration.  “All three are essential to a plant’s survival.  How well a plant is able to regulate these functions affects its ability to compete and reproduce.”

                Plants manufacture their own food through a process “called photosynthesis, which literally means `to put together with light.’  To produce food, a plant requires energy from the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water transported from the soil through the xylem.  During photosynthesis, it splits carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen, adds water and forms carbohydrates (starches and sugars).  Carbohydrates are used by the cells or transported through the phloem to other parts of the plant.  Oxygen is a by-product that exits the plant through the stomata.”

                If any of the ingredients – light, water and carbon dioxide – are missing, photosynthesis stops; if any of them is missing for a long period of time, the plant dies.

                The second of the three major physiological functions is respiration.  In order for the carbohydrates made during photosynthesis to be of value to the plant, they must be converted into energy.  The plant uses energy “for cell growth and building new tissues.”  “The chemical process by which sugars and starches are converted to energy is called oxidation.  It is similar to the burning of wood or coal to produce heat.  Controlled oxidation in a living cell is called respiration.”  Respiration occurs at night and in all life forms and in all cells.

                The third major physiological function is transpiration.  This function takes place when water vapor is lost through an open stomata caused by the leaf’s guard cells shrinking.  “Evaporating water causes a negative water pressure in the plant and more water is pulled up from the roots.  Dissolved nutrients are pulled in with the water from the roots.  The rate of transpiration is directly related to whether stomata are open or closed.  Stomata account for only 1 percent of a leaf’s surface but 90 percent of the water transpired.” 

                Transpiration is important because it (1) transports “minerals from the soil throughout the plant,” (2) cools “the plant through evaporation,” (3) moves “sugars and plant chemicals,” and (4) maintains “cell firmness.”  Different conditions cause different amounts and rates of water loss.  “Transpiration is greatest in hot, dry (low relative humidity), windy weather.”  Most plants are able to manage the intricate balancing of photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration.

                Plants are affected greatly by their environment.  For optimal growth, plants need to be in their ideal environment.  We cannot expect desert plants to thrive in a rain forest and vice versa.  “Either directly or indirectly, most plant problems are caused by environmental stress.  In some cases, poor environmental conditions (e.g., too little water) damage a plant directly.  In other cases, environmental stress weakens a plan and makes it more susceptible to disease or insect attack.  I came to understand this fact last summer when I failed to have enough air moving throughout my greenhouse.  My plants all developed powdery mildew about mid-summer and needed special help for the rest of the season.

                Plants are affected by light, temperature, water, humidity, and nutrition.  Problems arise with too little or too much of any of these factors.  Quantity (how much), quality (what type) and duration (how long) of light affects plant growth.  Quantity is the intensity of the light and varies with the seasons – with summer having the maximum amount of light.  Quality refers to the color or wavelength of the light.  “Sunlight supplies the complete range of wavelengths and can be broken up by a prism into bands of red, orange, green, blue, indigo and violet.”  Duration is known as photoperiod and “refers to the amount of time a plant is exposed to light.  Photoperiod controls flowering in many plants.”  Plants are classified as short-day (long-night), long-day (short-night), or day-neutral depending on their needs.  Flowering and other responses in plants are triggered by the “length of uninterrupted darkness,” a critical component of floral development.

                Temperature is another very important factor in growing healthy plants.  It “affects the rate of most biological and chemical reactions” and influences most plant processes, including photosynthesis, transpiration, respiration, germination and flowering…. High temperatures can damage fruit production …. Low temperatures reduce energy use and increase sugar storage….  Adverse temperatures can cause stunted growth and poor-quality vegetables.”

                Other conditions affecting plants are their hardiness (ability to withstand cold temperatures), water and humidity, nutrition, fertilizers.  My manual states that “Fertilizers are not plant food!  Plants produce their own food from water, carbon dioxide and solar energy through photosynthesis.  This food (sugars and carbohydrates) is combined with plant nutrients to produce proteins, enzymes, vitamins and other elements essential to growth.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Basic Botany

                The second class in the Alaska Master Gardener course is about botany.  I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about plants, but I am now learning that I know very little about them.  For instance, did you realize that “plants make their own food from sunlight and water” and are the “primary food source for humans and other animals” – either directly or indirectly?  I think I knew that but I am not sure.

                This is not all they do.  They also “provide fuel, replenish the earth’s oxygen supply, prevent soil erosion, slow down wind movement, cool the atmosphere, provide wildlife habitat, supply medicinal compounds and beautify our surroundings” (Sustainable Gardening – The Alaska Master Gardener Manual).

                The botany chapter focuses on vascular plants – plants that contain xylem and phloem, which conduct water, nutrition, and food to the rest of the plant.  There are two types of vascular plants:  monocotyledonous (monocots) and dicotyledonous (dicots).  Monocots are plants like grass that produce only one seed leaf (cotyledon), and dicots are broadleaf plants and have two seed leaves.  These differences are important to know in order to understand the growth and development of plants.  It is also important to know if one desires to kill a certain type of plant.  One cannot kill dandelions by using something that will only kill grass and vice versa; however, there are mixtures that will kill both types of plants.

                As you probably already know, there are three different classifications of plants:  annual, biennial, or perennial.  The classification is based on the life cycle of the plant and how long it takes to produce flowers, seeds, or fruits.  Annuals are plants like marigolds and lettuce that live for only one growing season.  They “germinate, grow, mature, bloom, produce seeds and die” all in one season.  Annuals are either summer or winter plants; summer annuals complete their life cycle in spring and summer while winter plants complete their cycle in fall and winter.  Knowing whether a weed is a summer annual or a winter annual is important in controlling its growth.  Of course, there are very few plants that will grow during a winter in Alaska, and some plants that grow in the winter in warmer climates become summer annuals in Alaska.

                Biennial plants take two growing seasons to complete their life cycles.  The first season they produce vegetation (stems, leaves, etc.); they usually live through the winter and produce flowers, fruit, and seeds during their second growing season.  Some examples of this type of plant are Swiss chard, carrots, beets, sweet William, and parsley.  These plants can “bolt” and go to seed during their first season because of the long hours of sunshine in Alaska.

                Perennial plants live for more than two growing seasons and are divided into two classifications:  herbaceous perennials and woody perennials.  Herbaceous perennials “have soft, non-woody stems that usually die back during the winter” with new growth coming from the crown in the spring.  A delphinium is a good example of this type of perennial.  Woody perennials “have woody stems that withstand cold winter temperatures” such as trees and shrubs.

                Plants have both external parts and internal parts.  As in most living things, cells “are the basic structural and physiological units of plants.  Most plant reactions (cell division, photosynthesis, respiration, etc.) occur at the cellular level.  Plant tissues “are organized groups of similar cells that work together to perform a specific function.”  Plant cells have “all of the genetic information (encoded in DNA) necessary to develop into a complete plant.”
                The external parts of plants – roots, stems, flowers, fruits, and seeds – are known as organs. An organ is “an organized group of tissues that work together to perform a specific function.  These structures can be divided into two groups:  sexual reproductive and vegetative.
Sexual reproductive parts produce seed; they include flower buds, flowers, fruit and seeds.  Vegetative parts … include roots, stems, shoots, nodes, buds and leaves; they are not directly involved in sexual reproduction.  Vegetative parts often are used in asexual forms of reproduction such as cuttings, budding or grafting.”

                Roots are very interesting things and have two major types:  primary and lateral roots.  The primary root is the main root that usually goes straight down, and lateral or secondary roots grows out of the side of another root.  If the primary root grows long and has few secondary roots, it becomes the main part of the root system and is known as a taproot.  Examples of taproots are carrots or dandelions. 

                If the primary root does not continue to elongate and produces lateral or secondary roots, it becomes a fibrous root system, the network of roots found on most plants.  Roots grow best in loose, well-drained soil.  Some vegetable crops are simply roots that have enlarged, such as sweet potatoes (swollen tuberous roots) and carrots, beets, rutabaga, parsnips, turnips and radishes (elongated taproots).

                Stems can be shoots, twigs, branches, or trunks.  They “support buds and leaves and serve as conduits for carrying water, minerals and food (photosynthates).  Stems place the leaves in favorable positions for exposure to light.  The vascular system inside the stem forms a continuous pathway from the root, through the stem and finally to the leaves.  It is through this system that water and food products move.”

                The “plumbing” system of a stem consists of xylem, phloem and vascular cambium.  “Xylem tubes conduct water and dissolved minerals; phloem tubes carry food such as sugars.  The cambium is a layer of meristematic tissue that separates the xylem and phloem and continuously produces new xylem and phloem cells.  This new tissue is responsible for a stem’s increase in girth.”  Both monocots (grass) and dicots (broadleaf plants) contain xylem and phloem, but they are arranged differently; in monocots they are paired in bundles and in dicots they form rings inside the stem.  The phloem is the outer ring (becomes the bark of the tree), and the xylem forms the inner ring.  Sapwood is the newer xylem, and heartwood is the older xylem.

                Stems have nodes where buds are formed.  Stems also come in different types. Stems can be long (branches of trees or strawberry runners) or have short distances between the nodes (such as strawberry crowns).  They can grow both above ground and below ground but must have buds or leaves.  Above ground stems are crowns (strawberries, dandelions),  spurs (fruit-bearing stems on apple, cherry, and pear trees), or stolens (strawberry runners or spider plants).  Stems that grow below the ground are called rhizomes (irises), tubers (potatoes), bulbs (tulips, onions), corms ( gladiolus, crocus). There are also tuberous stems (tuberous begonias and cyclamen) and tuberous roots (dahlias and sweet potatoes).

                The main function of leaves is to absorb sunlight, which is needed to produce plant sugars through photosynthesis.  Leaves are flat in order to present as large of an area as possible to absorb sunlight.  A leaf has a midrib down the center of the leaf with the blade on either side.  The leaf is held to the stem by an appendage known as a petiole, which is attached to the stem at a node.  The petioles come in various lengths and may be missing entirely.  The leaf blade is then “described as sessile or stalkless.  A celery stalk is a leaf petiole.”  Leaves come in various types and sizes and have one or both of the following purposes:  plant identifiers and/or food (kale, lettuce).

                Flowers are the most beautiful part of a plant and have the sole purpose of sexual reproduction.  “Their beauty and fragrance have evolved not to please humans but to ensure continuance of the species.  Fragrance and color attract pollinators (insects or birds) that play an important role in the reproductive process.
                “Flowers are important for plant classification … [and] knowledge of flowers and their parts is essential for anyone interested in plant identification.
                “Flowers contain a stamen (male flower part) and/or pistil (female flower part), plus accessory parts such as sepals, petals and nectar glands…”

                Fruit is the fertilized, mature ovules (seeds) plus the ovary wall.  It may be fleshy (apple) or hard (acorn).  Some fruit have the seeds enclosed within the ovary (applies, peaches, oranges, squash, cucumbers) while the seeds of other fruits are on the outside of the fruit tissue (corn, strawberries).  “The only part of the fruit that contains genes from both the male and female flowers is the seed.  The rest of the fruit arises from the maternal plant and is genetically identical to it.”

                There are simple fruits that develop from a single ovary.  Fleshy simple fruit are cherries, peaches, pears, apples, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and eggplants.  Dry simple fruits are papery, leathery, and hard, such as peanuts and walnuts.

                An aggregate fruit comes from a single flower with many ovaries (strawberries, raspberries, etc.)  Multiple fruits develop from a “tight cluster of separate, independent flowers borne on a single structure (pineapples and figs).  We consider some fruits to be vegetables even though they are technically fruit:  tomatoes, papers, cucumbers, squash, green beans and eggplants.

                Seeds contain “all of the genetic information needed to develop into an entire plant.  It is made up of three parts….  The embryo is a miniature plant in an arrested state of development.  It begins to grow when conditions are favorable.  The endosperm or cotyledon is the seed’s built-in food supply and is made up of proteins, carbohydrates or fats (orchids are an exception).  The third part is the seed coat, a hard outer covering that protects the seed form disease and insects.  It also prevents water from entering the seed and initiating germination before the proper time.”

                This was a lot of information for me to process in one day; however, I find that I understand the material much better as I attempt to explain it to my readers. I will continue sharing information as I study more about basic botany;  part 2 will come later.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Winter Gardening in Alaska

                How does one get their gardening fix during an Alaskan winter? One way to do this is to attend a gardening class. Today I attended my first class in the Alaska Master Gardener course.  The course is approximately 40-45 hours long plus 40 volunteer hours sharing what I learn. 

                Even though I have been gardening in Alaska for more than forty years, I learned several things today. Since I will be doing a lot of reading for my class, I plan to share what I learn with my readers.

                What did I learn?  I have known for years that straw was a good insulator to keep plants from freezing during our long, cold winters, but I never knew the “scientific” reason for doing so.  Today I learned why winter mulch should be straw and not hay.  Straw is the remains of the wheat, barley, and other grain plants.  Once the grain has been harvested, the farmer mows the remaining plants and usually bales it just as he does hay.  The straw is hollow and has few if any seeds remaining on it.  On the other hand, hay is a combination of alfalfa, grass, and other grass-like plants.  Seeds remain on the plant even after it is cut and baled it.  Straw remains the better choice for mulch because (1) it is hollow and air adds insulation and (2) it will not plant any grass in the gardens.

                What else did I learn?  I learned that people are growing their own vegetables and fruits more now than in recent years.  Gardening has become very popular in the world of hobbies because more people are growing their own food.  This must be the reason why there is difficulty enrolling in the Master Gardener course.  Numerous students commented about wanting to take the class for years and finally being able to do so.  The class is limited to fifty students, and about forty-five are enrolled in this class.

                The class is all about sustainable gardening.  The manual for the class - Sustainable Gardening – The Alaska Master Gardener Manual - states, “Gardening in the past century focused on producing the largest possible pest free crop, sometimes disregarding soil health and vegetable quality.  Conventional methods may have produced good results, but they were not the best for long-term management.  Gardeners and crop managers are moving towards sustainable gardening methods as science has learned more about the environment and the consequences of practices.
                “Sustainable gardening is a whole system approach that is good for the environment, good for families and good for the community.  It takes minimal input of labor, water, fertilizer and pesticides while building the soil into a healthy living system.  A thoughtful balance is made between the resources used and the results gained.”

                You may ask how this is done.  That is a good question and deserves a good answer.  I learned in my reading that there are several ways to do sustainable gardening:  (1) use mulch to add nutrients and reduce weeds and water loss, (2) Use certain plants to feed both the soil and the farmer, (3) Compost garden waste and add it to the soil to reduce the need for fertilizer and to feed the microorganisms in the soil, (4) plants flowers around the vegetables to attract beneficial insects that eat pests, (5) use a mulching lawn mower to mulch the grass clippings and leave them on the grass to make it healthier while using less water and less fertilizer, (6) use techniques to warm the soil to allow for the growing of warm weather crops, and (7) leave some pests in the garden to increase the numbers of parasitic insects.

                Of course gardening in Alaska means that one must take care in choosing what to plant.  A wise gardener will plant only those varieties of crops that can tolerate the cold Alaska soils while at the same time maturing during the short growing season.

                Today was the introduction to the course.  More information will come later as I learn more new information about sustainable gardening in Alaska.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Earl Warren

                Earl Warren was born March 19, 1891, in Los Angeles, California, to Methias H. Warren and Crystal Hernlund Warren.  His father emigrated from Norway where the original family name was Varren.  His mother emigrated from Sweden.  Methias Warren worked for numerous years for the Southern Pacific Railroad but was blacklisted for joining a strike; in 1894 he moved his family to Bakersfield, California, where he worked in a railroad repair yard and was murdered during a robbery by an unknown killer.

                Earl Warren grew up in Bakersfield, California; there he attended Washington Junior High School and Kern County High School (now Bakersfield High School).  He worked for the railroad on summer jobs.  He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley (BA in 1912 in Legal Studies and Boalt Hall, LL.B. in 1914).  He was admitted to the California bar in 1914.

                While in school Warren was a member of The Gun Club secret society and the Sigma Phi Society; he maintained lifelong ties to his fraternity.  While he was an undergraduate, Warren played clarinet in the Cal Band.  He was a lifelong friend of Robert Gordon Sproul, a fellow Cal student and future president of University of California.  Sproul nominated Warren for Vice President at the Republican National Convention in 1948.  “He was strongly influenced by Hiram Johnson and other leaders of the Progressive Era to oppose corruption and promote democracy.”  Earl Warren was the 30th Governor of California (1943-1953) and later the 14th Chief Justice of the United States (1953-1969).

                Warren married Nina Elisabeth Palmquist Meyers, a Swedish-born widow, on October 4, 1925.  (Mrs. Warren died at age 100 on
April 24, 1993, in Washington.)  The couple became the parents of six children.  A daughter, Virginia Warren, married veteran radio and television personality John Charles Daly on December 22, 1960.

                Warren served as the District Attorney for Alameda County, California, as the Attorney General of California, and three terms as Governor of California.  He was nominated for Vice President of the United States on the Republican ticket in 1948.  He chaired the Warren Commission, formed to investigate the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

                Warren “is best known for the decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, especially regarding the rights of the accused, ending public school-sponsored prayers, and requiring `one man-one vote’ rules of apportionment of Congressional districts.  He made the Supreme Court a power center on a more even basis with Congress and the Presidency, especially through four landmark decisions:  Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), and Miranda v. Arizona (1966).”  As Chief Justice he swore four men in to the office of President of the United States:  Eisenhower (in 1957), Kennedy (in 1961), Johnson (in 1965) and Nixon (in 1969).

                Justice Warren had a “profound impact on the Supreme Court and the United States of America.  As Chief Justice, his term of office was marked by numerous rulings on civil rights, separation of church and state, and police arrest procedure in the United States.”  He retired from the Supreme.

                In 1969 Warren retired from the Supreme Court.  “He was affectionately known by many as the “Superchief,” although he became a lightning rod for controversy among conservatives:  signs declaring `Impeach Earl Warren’ could be seen around the country throughout the 1960s….”

                Justice Earl Warren died five years after his retirement on July 9, 1974, in Washington, D.C.  His funeral was held at Washington National Cathedral, and his body was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Vice President

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:  “… The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole numbers of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice….”  If no vice presidential candidate has a majority of elector votes, the Senate has the right and responsibility to choose the next Vice President of the United States.

                W. Cleon Skousen explained the numbers:  “Notice that two-thirds of the whole Senate must be in attendance, and a majority of these could make the selection.  This means that sixty-seven Senators could constitute a quorum and as few as thirty-four Senators could choose the Vice President.”  (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 716.)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Prophecy Fulfilled

                Do you believe in prophecy?  Do you believe that anyone can know of something more than one hundred years before it happens?  I do; in fact, I know that prophets can foretell the future.  I also know that we have prophets living in our day.

                In 1833 the Prophet Joseph Smith foretold something that came true this month.  “For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:11).

                This revelation was fulfilled in a new way during the 184th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held on October 4-5, 2014.   “With each talk being translated into 93 languages, members in non-English-speaking nations heard the conference proceedings in their own language.  However, for the first time members in various parts of the world heard four General Authorities’ voices – not those of translators – as they spoke from the pulpit in their native tongues.”  Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Seventy spoke in Portuguese, and Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong of the Seventy spoke in Cantonese while Elder Hugo E. Martinez and Elder Eduardo Gavarret, both of the Seventy, spoke in Spanish. 

                I appreciated hearing the various languages and thought they were all beautiful, but I had a difficult time concentrating on the English translation of the talks.  I think that I personally would feel the Holy Ghost stronger closed captioning rather than hearing two voices speaking at the same time.  Since this is the very first time that conference speakers have spoken in languages other than English, I feel certain that some adjustments will be made.  The overriding feeling I have is gratitude that my sisters and brothers can hear General Authorities speak in their native languages.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Parenting Mistakes

                Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when mothers and fathers recognize parenting mistakes and correct them.  Most parents love their children and try very hard to rear them correctly; however, many parents try so hard that they go overboard and spoil their children while other parents avoid parenting all together.

                LDS parents are no different in these tendencies than other parents.  A blog by the name of “Aggieland Mormons” published an article entitled “4 Surprising Mistakes LDS Parents Make.”  I believe there is merit in reading the article because “good parenting is the greatest challenge in the world” (James E. Faust).

                The four mistakes cited are (1) Not prioritizing your marriage, (2) Letting children decide what they want to believe and follow without giving full gospel instruction, (3) Not having consistent family dinners, and (4) Keeping your kids in a bubble.

                I might have gotten three out of the four right – maybe.  I know I could and should have done better in a couple of them.  How do you fare?  Are you making these mistakes?  If so, you might consider changing your parenting ways.  Parenting is such a great responsibility and carries such great rewards or horrible circumstances.  We all must learn to do better and strengthen our homes, communities, and nations.