The pinecones have been blowing off the slash pine (Pinus elliotii) growing near the road. Tornado Bob tried to take the tree down, but other than two large branches that fought and departed, the tree stood its ground.

The pinecones have been blowing off the slash pine (Pinus elliotii) growing near the road. Tornado Bob tried to take the tree down, but other than two large branches that fought and departed, the tree stood its ground. Slash pine cones range from 5 to 8 inches in length, and are mid-way in the prickle department of pinecones. I like to collect them for use later as defensive mulch or organic drainage material in the bottom of plant pots. Light rain actually fell one day early this month and all the cones on the ground were tightly closed. Those were easy to transport. The following week, the next group of cones that had succumbed to gravity were wide open and fluffy, making their handling dicey.

Pine cones make nice weather predictors. When it rains or the humidity is high, the cone scales are closed and the pinecone takes on a sleek appearance. The seeds inside the scales are protected and kept dry. If conditions are windy and arid, as right now, the cone scales expand open. It is a cool seed dispersal mechanism for the wispy pine seeds and allows them to fly away from the family farm, plus safer than the usual discharge of pine seeds by wildfires. Thus, note no fires in a forest where there are open cones on the forest floor. Those woods are too dry. One grade school teacher set up a pine cone weather station just outside the door for her students to observe every day. The kids learned a little pine biology and became amateur meteorologists.

While waiting to donate a coat to Goodwill, I watched a pickup, bed filled with black plastic sacks of empty plastic water bottles, drive up. Depending on the availability of recyclers, Goodwill on occasion will accept plastic bottles to be recycled, but not at this time. When I asked where she lived, the response was in Shawnee. We engaged in a lively conversation about water.

Cape Town South Africa may run out of water by April. Living organisms need water to….well, live. The outdoor plants are mighty thirsty right now. Have you been watering them and filling containers with water (and periodically breaking ice this past week) for the birds and wildlife? Have you, yourself, been drinking extra water to compensate for the super low humidity to help your body restore fluids to the skin, membranes and all parts between? The frighteningly low amounts of moisture we have received during November (.05), December (.70) and two thirds of January (.32) is noteworthy. Usually never blessed with high levels of precipitation, our winters usually have at least an inch of moisture (even snow) per month. Deserts get 10 inches of rain a year. My skin texture is that of sandpaper. So, what’s next?

Why so many bottles I asked the woman? Was there a party? Nope, she said. She didn’t trust the city water. My significant other worked as a water chemist in Virginia before coming to Tinker. He trusted city water. The tap water comes from sources that may contain bacteria, metals, large particles and other things and must pass through a municipal water treatment plant that filters and removes contaminants. The water must meet certain standards set by the EPA and the Federal government. The city water is economical and much less harmful to the environment than bottled water.

Here I shall add two caveats, but neither has anything to do with the quality of water being delivered: the composition and age of the pipes in a house and natural phenomenon such as earthquake, tornado, flood or severe drought; you know, the normal Oklahoma weather events. They do have a way of resetting the schematics of pipes and your lifelines should be checked after any or all of them, depending on your luck.

Bottled water sources are nebulous and hard to track down. Plastic bottles are too often tossed out windows to wind up along the roadsides and in ditches. If the bottles sit in hot cars or warehouses for any length of time, plastic residues can be leached into the water. In landfills, plastic water bottles break down very s l o w l y. Pieces of plastic bottles make up large portions of the Pacific and Atlantic garbage patches formed by currents, wind and ocean features. This can’t be good for ocean life that often finds its way into us. Just the sheer packaging and transportation of water bottled in plastic wields giant footprints.

The erroneous concept of contaminated tap water still haunts many Germans. The drink handler in our village of Jettenbach sold dozens of cases of bottled mineral and fizzy water each day. The tap water stigma originated during WWII with the disruption and tainting of water supplies. Not today. Their water is very potable, a term my dad liked to use from his Army days. Potable means safe to drink. We drank the German tap water while many locals hiked up the hill to purchase crates of bottled water from the shop. At least the water was packaged in recyclable glass bottles. We seemed to be okay.

Gardening with the Experts 2018

Trust your city water. It is probably cleaner than the water inside your plastic water bottles and you can actually fill your own glass bottle with city water. Take it with you to the 18th Annual Gardening with the Experts next Saturday, January 27th 2018. Held at Gordon Cooper Tech Center in Shawnee, the entire morning will be filled with professional plant presentations: “Plants that Thrive on Minimal Water” by Lisa Hair, Oklahoma Baptist University Gardener and Groundskeeper, “Landscaping with Bulbs” with Linda Vater, KFOR TV, and take a jaunt with Casey Hentges, host of OK Gardening in “Visual Tour of OSU Botanical Gardens.”

All that attend are asked to bring their best garden tips, $10, and veggie or flower seeds, labeled in plastic sacks. January 27th is National Seed Swap Day. What better time to exchange seeds and hear great gardening ideas for the spring. Enjoy a quick continental breakfast at 8:30 am and spend the morning listening to the garden experts. Here’s to hoping you win a door prize or your garden tip is amongst the top 3 and receives an award. Short and sweet, it all ends by 1pm.