Thursday, September 27, 2007


Are there any melon experts out there? Yes, melons, not melones. I guess those would be experts of another kind. Here's the issue. For years, we planted watermelons, cantaloupe, and honeydew melons (mostly seeds) in our 50x50 home garden. And every year we would get a small or nonexistent return. We would fertilize, water, take special care of the plants, even burp them, but at most we'd get tiny melons that could hardly be called melons. This year, fed up with the lack of harvestable produce, I threw seeds everywhere, ignoring the info on the seed packets (you know, six seeds to a hill, hills three feet apart . . .). I threw in squash plants too just to add to the mix. I figured, what the heck, maybe the more the better. And despite a long drought from July through August, the plants produced copious amounts of melons, and large ones too. And the squash plants went to town as well, probably one of the best crops of winter and summer squash we've ever had.

So, is that the secret? Throw in so many seeds the vines grow on top of one another, crushing the weeds and intimidating the insects? It seems to have worked, but for the life of me, I don't really know why. We didn't water them any more than in a typical drought summer, and we didn't add buckets of fertilizer. If anyone can enlighten me on this, it would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Geology 101

Most folks seem to think geology is one of the most difficult sciences to understand. Why? I was never quite sure as a student why other students felt that way, but I heard that perspective repeated over and over again during my tenure as a geological lab assistant at Cleveland State University. Students felt the geological elective, Geology 101, which was a class non-science majors could use to fulfill one of their requirements in the sciences, was very, very difficult.

As the geology major, I would stare back at them with astonishment. How could geology, the obviously greatest of the sciences - be hard? Certainly chemistry and physics were much tougher than geology, and they both used much more math than geology. And biology - wow, that field was literally filled with organic pitfalls. Nevertheless, during three years of assisting students in the labs, that geological perspective never seemed to sway. They took Geology 101 for whatever reason, but many of the students were intimidated by it, intimidated by what it stood for, some of them were even terrified. I mean, having to identify rocks and minerals, know what makes a volcano blow, understand how erosion works, know what weathering is, and just what is a glacier and how does it form, what is the Pleistocene, how does a cave form, how are minerals formed, blah, blah, blah. (Yep, have to admit, when I think about it, it could go on for quite some time - the things geology encompasses).

I suppose now I guess I can see their point. The geological sciences are the combination of all of the other major sciences - biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, even ichthyology. But consider this too - geology is just about everything we are. From the keyboard I'm typing with, to the screen I'm looking at, to the chair I'm sitting on, to the light I'm using to see by - and boy, at my age, I do need more light than I used to.

So, from my perspective, if someone doesn't understand at least a little about the geology they're "standing on," it's really like not knowing who your grandparents were and not knowing anything about where they were from. And if you do know something about geology, you're not that surprised when big earthquakes happen, when tsunamis wipe out towns, and when volcanoes blow their tops, sending thousands of tons of dust skyward, reddening the sunsets for months. As a geologist, these things are completely logical to me. Millions of creatures have come on gone on the Earth, why should our age be any different. And truthfully, it isn't.

Up Next: The Geology of The Caverns of Mare Cetus