Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) receives its name from its blue inflorescence, an open, branching, pyramid-shaped structure known as a panicle. The panicle is 1-1/2 to 5 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide. The waving branches bear spikelets on their ends. Each spikelet has three to six flowers capable of producing abundant awnless seed. Read More
Silver bluestem (Bothriochloa saccharoides) is a unique, attractive bunchgrass that derives its name from its silky white inflorescences. These silvery plumes range from 2-1/2 to 6 inches in length and obtain their distinctive appearance from their short, bent awns. Another name this species has received from its appearance is silver beardgrass. Read More
Most Americans probably know that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm to examine the properties of lightning. But did you know that he was also one of the first recorded storm chasers? Read More
Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) is one of the most iconic plants of the tallgrass prairie. Its sturdy, upright stems are usually covered with a blue, waxy coating, giving it its name. These stems grow in clumps and vary dramatically in height depending on the environment. Big bluestem can be a modest three feet tall, but it can also reach an amazing nine feet in height. The scale of the stems pale in comparison to the root system, however, which may probe as deep as 13 feet below the surface of the ground! Read More
Foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) receives its common name from its unique bushy inflorescence, or flower, which is similar in shape to the tail of a fox. This flower averages about two to five inches long and is soft and greenish or purplish. Its fluffy appearance comes from the awns, which can measure up to three inches long. Each yellowish-brown seed typically has four to eight awns, and it is also armed with tiny barbs along the edges. Read More
How well do you know your grass anatomy? You can probably identify a blade, a root, and maybe even an awn (ouch!), but how about a culm, a rachilla, or a panicle? Read More
A quick glance at the heating properties of Osage orange may suggest that this tree is the world’s best firewood (if you don’t mind battling thorns and sharpening chainsaw blades frequently). After all, this dense wood is the hottest-burning firewood east of the Rocky Mountains, producing as much as 32.6 million BTUs per cord according to K-State. That’s enough heat to warp a wood-burning stove without proper precautions to keep the temperature down.
But sitting in front of an Osage orange fire can be anything but restful. Once the wood heats up, the constant shower of sparks can transform your fireplace in a miniature fireworks display.
Sparking occurs when the wood releases sap, which in this species is a thick, sticky white substance containing latex. The sparking increases dramatically if the fire is suddenly exposed to air.
You can mitigate, but not completely eliminate, the spark shower by allowing the sap to dry out before burning. Osage orange dries very slowly, taking from six months to two years depending on the size of the pieces. Note that the wood should be split before drying begins. Dry Osage orange is remarkably like iron.
It’s always best to be on the safe side, even with dry wood. Never burn Osage orange in an open fireplace, and never leave the fire unattended.
A new year—a new reading challenge!
This year, Kansas is the theme. To complete the challenge, you must read 12 Kansas-related books by the end of 2018:
- A book about Kansas prior to 1854.
- A book about Kansas flora.
- A fictional book written by a Kansas author.
- A book about territorial Kansas.
- A book about Kansas travel.
- A book about Kansas fauna.
- A book about Kansas in the late 1800s.
- A book of poetry written by a Kansas author.
- A book about a famous Kansan.
- A book about Kansas in the 1900s.
- A book of Kansas photography.
- A book about a current issue in Kansas.
Here are the rules:
- Books in electronic formats count.
- Both fiction and nonfiction books count.
- You can read the books in any order.
- Books cannot be counted twice, even if they fit into more than one category.
If you can complete a book a month, you will be able to complete the challenge easily.
Let us know what you’re reading this year! We’d love to hear from you!
The Homestead Bookshelf
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