“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” proclaimed Astronaut Neil Armstrong as he set foot on the moon fifty years ago.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” proclaimed Astronaut Neil Armstrong as he set foot on the moon fifty years ago.

The Apollo Program lasted from 1961-1972. The goal was to land humans on the moon and bring them back to Earth alive. The launch of Apollo 11 was on July 16th 1969. The Saturn V rocket (3 stages) launched from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center carrying three astronauts. Two consecutive stages of the Saturn fell away as it soared ever higher. Once in orbit, the Columbia detached from the 3rd stage, turned around, docked with the lunar module still inside and pulled it out of the Saturn booster. That too fell away. The Columbia and Eagle continued the 240,000 miles to our moon. Trip took three days.

The 20’ x 12’ Columbia, piloted by Michael Collins, was the orbiting command module attached nose to nose with Eagle, the smaller lunar module. July 20th the Eagle, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, separated from Columbia, descended and landed on the moon in the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong was first down the nine rungs, followed by Aldrin 18 minutes later. They placed a wired “waving” flag in the vacuum. Total time spent working on lunar surface with gravity 1/6th that of Earth’s: 2 hrs. 15 mins.

The astronauts in the Eagle spent the night on the moon. Next day they returned to the Columbia. As the Eagle lifted off, the engine exhaust blew over the flag. Oh well. Eagle had to be jettisoned away and sent into orbit before the Columbia could return to Earth. Eagle later crashed on the moon. Splashdown of the Columbia was in the Pacific Ocean on July 24th. Mission lasted 8 days. Apollo 11 has been on tour for 2 years and returns to the Smithsonian Feb 2020.

Speaking of the universe, Sandy Wood, the smooth voice for StarDate on KUCO-FM, has retired after 28 years. I’ll miss hearing her, but Billy Henry has taken her place and StarDate goes on.

The past several weeks giant moles have been at work NE to SW of my house disguised as large earthmoving equipment. Turns out DCP Midstream is responsible. This corporation deals with natural gas products, owns 60 plants and over 60,000 miles of pipelines across 17 states.

Months before, separate signs about the critically endangered American Burying Beetle and pipeline appeared along the road. Suddenly up cropped tall posts festooned with waving triangle flags throughout the fields. The beetle signs vanished. A primitive wide highway snaked its way through the rural area. Huge green pipes lay end to end above the ground.

The reason was a 12 inch crude oil pipeline in Colorado was being converted to transport NGLs (natural gas liquids such as ethane, propane, butane used for cooking, heating and fuel additives) from Platteville, Colorado to Cushing, Oklahoma. From there a series of existing, underutilized and/or new pipe will carry NGLs to the Panova Station in southeast OKC. An unutilized pipe will then carry the liquids to Mont Belvieu, Texas.

The replacement pipeline is 18 inches in diameter. The Cushing to OKC leg is to be completed this October. The black and orange American Burying Beetle actually held up the pipeline, causing DCP a delay while they waited for permits. A shame the permits were granted. Formerly native to 35 states and 3 Canadian provinces, the beetle is now only found in Rhode Island, Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma. These imperiled beetles prefer oak hickory forests and grasslands, just where the pipeline went. We’re not talking a little trench through the pastures, but a road the size of a major 4 lane highway with trees with plants leveled on both sides. The pipeline could have been a dirt interstate.

This carrion beetle recycles dead animal carcasses returns nutrients to the earth. It is yet one more canary which indicates how disturbed our environment has become. The American Burying Beetle could soon join the countless species that have gone extinct because of…..? Gulf Coast facilities are expanding to accommodate fuel exports. NGLs to overseas markets from Mexico to South Korea have been breaking all-time records. Destroying land and emptying our reserves for other countries. Is this careful planning of our resources?

This morning, destroying resources came in the form of herbicides. The frowning old biddy, derriere parked in an ATV, spray nozzle in hand, was killing weeds along the fence. I understand that. When she drove through the tall grass of a wetland continuing to spray, this was criminal. The area drained off a hill into a distinct ecosystem full of crawdads, salamanders, dragonflies, etc. What an idiot. By her looks, she’s had well over a half century to destroy the environment. I silently sent her my standard curse: May your corn be full of worms. I then thought she’d probably spray the corn as well without a second thought.

Wonder if she’s eradicated all the nasty blackberry bushes on her land? Blackberries are now at the height of ripeness. My blackberry bush has outdone itself this year. McLoud Blackberry Festival was July 13th. The event began in the 1940’s to celebrate the blackberry harvest, the town’s big cash crop, but ended in the early 1960’s. Although blackberries still grow wild in the area, blackberry farms have disappeared. The festival continues with a parade, vendors and even blackberry royalty. Blackberry jam, cobblers with or without ice cream and fresh blackberries were sold by the McLoud Chamber of Commerce.

Das Jam Shoppe in southwest Missouri made the jam sold at the festival. The jam is cooked in small kettles for a richer flavor. The business has been in operation for 23 years with 4 busy employees. Several varieties are sold at Atwood’s.

The blackberry jam was plenty sweet and rich, but less blackberry flavor than I prefer. The seeds were like little rocks. Then again, the outer covering protecting the blackberry embryo is super tough and blackberries are notorious for their unyielding seeds.

I embarked upon a quest to pump up the taste and somehow soften the seeds. The blackberry jam was emptied into a pan, heated and soon melted into a purple puddle. A half quart of fresh blackberries was dumped into the liquified solution, covered, and simmered for 15 minutes. The seed hardness may never diminish. They’ll be sweet but indestructible.

After the boiling process, the blackberry concoction was poured through a sieve and mashed with a spoon until only pulp and seeds were left in the mesh basin. The liquid was decanted into a clean jar and placed on the counter to cool. The seedy pulp was spooned into another small jar. Two hours later, the seedy medley had set firm and the liquid was the consistency of pancake syrup. Now I have very flavorful blackberry syrup to pour over ice cream or drizzle over toast. The seeds only require a spoon and hankering for thick cooked blackberries.

Imagine on a hot July afternoon picking and wolfing down warm berries from a blackberry bush. Ignore the chiggers. Chiggers are euphemistically called harvest mites, but I figure that name has to do with humans being the source of the harvest. Others call them berry bugs. So quaint. The miniscule red juvenile mites burrow into your skin, hang around for 3-4 days, then exit as adults no longer interested in you. Meanwhile, you have this insane itch and red welt to remind you: chiggers and blackberries go together in Oklahoma! The yin and yang of the blackberry.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.