Welwitschia Mirabilis: African Tree Lives 2,000 Years

The Welwitschia mirabilis is variously called a plant or a small tree, although many botanists consider it a dwarf tree related to the pine. Though it is grown on other continents today, it is believed to have originated in Africa. It is found in a narrow area of the the Namib Desert in southwestern Africa for about 600 to 700 miles or 1,000 kilometers from near the Kuiseb River in central Namibia to the city of Mossamedes in southwestern Angola.

It’s Edible; How It Survives Harsh Environments

Belonging to the Welwitschiaceae family, the Welwitschia is sometimes eaten by humans, who more often than not eat part of the female tree either raw or after it has been cooked in ashes. The elephant, zebra, rhinoceros, oryx and springbok are among the animals that eat it. The typical tree grows to about 500 millimeters or 19.69 inches tall. The tallest Welwitschia on record was found in Namibia and measured 1.8 meters or 70.87 inches in height.

But, in general, it’s not height that marks the Welwitschia’s appearance but its broad,stubby look. Its leaves droop down, and as time passes, the dusty and windy conditions of its environment may put some rips in the leaves even though they remain more or less immovable. The broad leaves help to keep the tree’s soil moist and cool while also lessening soil erosion. Their bark is like cork.

A Cone-Bearing Plant with Deep Roots

Seeds from the tree sprout only in heavy rains and since the Welwitschia grows in arid and semi-arid environments, sometimes it’s a long time between rains. Fortunately, however, the seeds of the Welwitschia are hardy and can survive for years before heavy rains come to make them sprout. Heavy fog is essential to the Welwitschia. When the seeds do sprout, the fog of the areas where they grow gives them the moisture they need to exist until the next rains. The tree’s leaves have stomata or very small pores that absorb the fog’s moisture.

The Welwitschia is a cone-bearer with separate male and female cones. The female cones are larger than the male cones, which flower. The flowers on the male cones produce pollen to pollinate the female trees with the help of an insect called probergrothiussexpunctalis. A female Welwitschia can easily produce 10,000 seeds. In the spring, the female cones release seeds, which are carried by the wind. The tree’s roots can go down into the ground as much as 30 meters or 98 feet. It also has side roots.


Discovery by Europeans

The Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch first saw the plant in the Namib Desert in Angola in 1859. Three years later he brought it to the attention of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (England). Hooker named the plant after Welwitsch. Mirabilis means marvelous in Latin. Even though the species name was changed to bainesii, it never caught on so the term mirabilis is still used today.

It has been written that Welwitsch preferred … Read the rest

A Beginner's Scrapbooking Experience

I never before had any inclination to try scrapbooking. There has never been anything to happen in my life that has made me want to detail it in a book with stickers and cut outs and pictures. That was until my daughter was born. At first, as I was collecting little mementos like her hospital id bracelet and name card, I thought I would get my sister, the more creative member of my family, to make a scrapbook for me. However, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted things to be done my way and the only way to insure that was to do it myself. But how in the world do you get started?

The first thing I did was try and find a class on scrapbooking where they would tell me exactly what to buy and how to put things together. However, living in a small town where Wal-mart is our only "craft store" that was not possible. Then I went online and try to find a "how-to" on getting started scrapbooking. Nothing I found really put things in way that a complete novice like me could understand. But, I needed to get started somehow. So I went on Ebay and bought me a scrapbooking kit. Then I bought other stickers and dye-cuts (what the heck do you do with those?) and other such scrapbooky items. As these things arrived I stacked them on my dining room table, along with about 300 pictures of my daughters first ten months of existence. I had the materials but what do I do now?

I finally caved in and asked my sister for advice. I needed to know specifics such as what do you do with the dye cuts? What do you use to actually stick pictures to the pages? How many pictures should you put on a page? Do I need the special cutting boards or can I just do things with scissors the old fashioned way? Does everything have to be acid free?

She took me to the Dollar Tree, who has a great selection of scrapbooking stickers at a great price, and loaded me up with special hole punches and stickers. Then we went to Wal-mart and she told me what kind of adhesive she prefers. She also showed me a scrapbook she had completed to show me different ideas for the dye cuts and borders that had come with my scrapbooking kit and gave me a cutting board to use that she had in storage.

Armed with all this knowledge and accessories I finally sat down to try and piece this thing together. I had an idea in my head as to how the order of things should go and got started. Before I knew it I had a pain in my neck and five pages completed. Score!! I felt a great sense of accomplishment and I didn't think my pages looked all that bad either. … Read the rest

Parenting in Someone Else's Home

Combining families is one way to survive tough economic times. Parenting in someone else's home involves a lot of compromise. There are bound to be parenting disagreements and blunders along the way. I consider myself lucky to have my daughter and grandchildren in our home for an extended stay. Still, we have our issues, most of which have been solved with some well thought out preparation. Hopefully some of these parenting tips will be helpful to others in our situation.

Have a family meeting before you combine families. As soon as my daughter arrived from out of state, we all got together in the back yard to discuss our expectations. My daughter and I have similar parenting ideas but they are not exactly alike. We included the kids in the meeting so they would know what was expected of them too. We used the family meeting to come up with basic house rules and the consequences of not going along with the those rules as well.

Be a considerate parent house guest. Once again, I'm lucky I have the daughter I do. Kids can be quite destructive, by intention or not. When you're combining households, be considerate of the damage your children might do to the other person's home. Have a hands off rule where the belongings of others are concerned. You might have to keep a closer eye on them than you would in your own house. Pay for any property damages in a timely manner or repair the item in question.

Be sure kids do their share of the housework. Hopefully, as a parent, you know it's your job to make sure your hosts aren't doing all the housework. Treating them as your personal maids can generate anger and resentment. My daughter and her kids all chip in on household chores. It's rare that I have to pick up a mess they've made or put away their belongings. When you're combining families who both have children, this parenting tip makes a huge difference in the way you all get along.

Disagreements on parenting issues will arise. When they do, try to be civil about it. Make an agreement to discuss problems rationally. It's true that you are the parent and have every right to discipline your children as you see fit. However, taking a "mind your own business" stance isn't always logical. When your child's behavior effects other people in the household, your parenting tactics become their business. Try to take their concerns seriously. Work out your differences peacefully.

Give the adults in the household an occasional break from the kids. I love my grandchildren. I spend a lot of time with them. Still, I appreciate bedtime like never before. I've gotten used to my quiet child-free household over the last few years. I'm glad my daughter understands this. She gives me a break from my home-schooled grandkids once a day, during the day, by taking them outside or on school outings. Parenting in someone else's home is … Read the rest

Homegrown Wine in England

Coxley Vineyard is a quiet, peaceful country retreat set in the heart of the Somerset countryside of England. Proprietors Max Orofino and Vince Ferro run an award-winning West Country restaurant. You can be assured of superb food and a fine selection of wines, including estate grown and bottled Coxley wine.

The vineyard that adjoins the property is open to the public. The wine is a medium-dry white from French and German grape varieties, and 6,000 bottles are produced annually. The climate precludes red wine. The original owners of the vineyard tried producing up to 20,000 bottles but found there was no market for British wine. Even locals are not willing to try British wine when cheap European wine with a much better reputation, if not taste, is available.

Some blame the politicians and bureaucrats (ahh, the same the world over) who pass regulations that increase his cost and prevent Britain from developing a wine industry to compete with France and Italy. However, I have tasted British wine. It's not just politics that depress the attractiveness of British wine. Vive la difference.

Adjoining the restaurant are ten rooms that have been slowly remodeled and modernized over the years. All the rooms are en suite with color television, coffee/tea maker, central heating, and with facilities for the disabled.

Unlike some hotel restaurants, this one is a local favorite. The menu is an eclectic mix of French and traditional English. There is always an extensive list of specials on the blackboard augmenting the one-page menu. Although the menu is not extensive, there is at least one dish covering different likes: a vegetarian, a fish, pork, beef, chicken, lamb, etc. The duckling in honey orange sauce was especially delicious. A favorite of here is the traditional Andalusian Paella.

I suggest the Hot Spotted Dick for dessert only if you still have a substantial appetite. It is a mouthful. And for those who still believe the British can't make a good cup of coffee, the menu lists "real espresso" and "real cappuccino." After all, Starbuck's has arrived.
The rooms (at $60 to $75) fill up on the weekends, so call ahead. The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is included in the room price. Coxley Vineyard is near Wells, Somerset.

Coxley, itself, is ideally situated for those wishing to explore the West Country. The beautiful Georgian city of Bath is a short drive away, and combines outstanding architectural heritage with elegant shops. The Roman Baths is touted as the finest in the world. Other notable Bath attractions include the Abbey, Royal Crescent, Pump Rooms, Assembly Rooms, and the Museum of Costume. Bath is often crowded and rooms can be expensive. Staying in the Wells area is a practical and economical alternative.
Wells lies in the shelter of the Mendip Hills, home of Cheddar cheese. Some think of Wells as the prettiest of cathedral cities. It is the smallest. This size invites exploration on foot. Also in the area are … Read the rest

To Teach


Who am I
but who I tell
you I am.

Who am I
but who you
me to be.

Who am I
but the person
who wants to
teach you.


This is my domain
This is my world.

I’ve created this place
out of staples
and tape

ripped out of
my own money
in order to
teach you.


I’ve never said
I was anything
but the person
who stood


of a classroom

you made
me more than
that.… Read the rest