Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hemp and Manila (Hemp)

Hemp is famous for being part of the marijuana family, but has many uses.  Products from hemp include seeds, oil and fiber from which food, cloth, paper and building materials can be made.  A major use for hemp in the 16th to mid-19th century was in the making of rope, especially for use on sailing ships, and sail canvas. 

Hemp field

Raw hemp fiber

However, hemp rope needed to be tarred in order to protect its integrity from heat, rain and salty ocean water.  So in stepped manila hemp (called such but it isn't actually hemp) made from the fibers of the Abaca plant (in the banana family) and is the strongest of the natural fibers.  It is stronger, more durable, and more flexible than hemp.

Abaca fiber drying

I recently made a trip to Mystic, Connecticut to visit with my friends Rick and Lynne who drove up from New Jersey and we visited Mystic Seaport which exhibits a portion of the original buildings of the Plymouth Cordage Company's ropewalk built in 1824.  The original building was over 1,000 feet long (needed to make a 600 foot rope).  Natural fibers are first spun into yarn, many yarns are spun together to make a strand. then three strands are twisted in the opposite direction to form rope.

Yarns spun together to make a strand

Strands spun together to form rope

A lot of rope is needed for sailing ships - such as the Joseph Conrad, a square rigged ship, built in 1882 in Copenhagen.

The Joseph Conrad is also on exhibit in Mystic Seaport.  More about my trip to Mystic in the next post.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A $40 Woodchuck Dinner

And speaking of pests (see previous post) ...  No, I didn't pay $40 to eat a woodchuck. The woodchuck under my shed ate up $40 worth of new plants I hadn't even put in the ground yet!  I bought four perennials - garden phlox - to put in one corner of my garden that just seems to remain bare no matter what I plant there.  There used to be Jacob's Ladder growing there, but they've all but disappeared.  I planted other things there last year, but only one little plant came up with pink flowers which the woodchuck has also eaten.  The flowers, that is.  This particular woodchuck seems to have a taste for blossoms and not leaves.  Anyway, I left the phlox out in the area where they were going to be planted with the intention of going back out later in the evening to plant them when it was a little cooler.  Later in the day I looked out and thought they looked pretty sparse, but didn't realize how sparse until I got my shovel and went out to put them in the ground.  Then I really saw what had happened.  The woodchuck had eaten them while they were still in the pot!

A few days later I saw a woodchuck out in the garden eating everything in sight, but ignoring said phlox - maybe because there wasn't much left to eat.

It ate a ton of violets and other low growing plants.  Even weeds which I wholeheartedly support!

Did you notice the lime green plants in the first photo?  Those were also newly planted and it seemed to stay away from those.  I'll be buying more soon!

Then he proceeded to eat all the blooms off my beautiful purple columbine!




Then it went on to the hosta!  I had seen chunks out of the hosta leaves but have had so many bugs eating my plants (see previous post) I thought the bugs had done it.  Now I have proof it was not bugs but woodchuck cravings.



Needless to say, it must have finally been full because what was left of the garden got a reprieve as the woodchuck retired to the shed.

A few days later I actually did catch a woodchuck chewing on the phlox which I still haven't planted yet. Not sure it's worth doing at this point.  Yes, he was very destructive to my garden, but I had a riot watching it eat. There are actually two woodchucks around - one has a shorter tail.  I'm thinking that maybe this was a momma woodchuck that had been cooped up with babies since it ate so much.  All the columbine flowers are pretty much gone.  Hopefully they'll bloom again and I can enjoy them for a few days before the woodchuck makes a return visit.