Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, deerit nihil

If you have a garden in a library, nothing is missing. So wrote Marcus Tullius Cicero to his friend Terentius Varro on June 13, 46 BCE, later recorded in his ­Letters to Friends, Book 9, Epistle 4.

Cicero was suggesting a garden in the library, where he could spend his time in a natural setting, reading, writing, and conversing with his colleagues. This ancient idea can also apply to contemporary thinking about libraries and their landscapes. How can we create outdoor spaces that work in concert with the library interior?

Losing Needles

For all of the benefits pine trees can offer, they also suffer from their share of problems. One of the most common is when pine tree starts losing its needles. When this happens, it can spell the death of the tree. Unlike the leaves on deciduous trees, pine trees never regrow their needles. If the tree loses too many, it won’t be able to survive. Therefore, it’s important to spot and treat problems before they prove fatal to your tree. Here are some of the common reasons that pines lose their needles.

Needle Blight

Dothistroma needle blight (caused by the fungus Dothistroma pini) and diplodia tip blight (caused by Diplodia pinea) are common explanations for needle loss in pines. Dothistroma needle blight generally affects the lower crown of a pine tree. East of the Great Plains, this has resulted in the death of nearly all Ponderosa pine plantings, and caused severe damage in plantings of of Austrian pines in the central and southern region of the Great Plains. Both of these pine species are highly susceptible to this specific fungus. Along the West Coast, plantings of lodgepole and Monterey pines have been affected.

The first sign of Dothistroma appears as dark-green bands and yellow spots on the needles. The bands and spots eventually turn brown. Along the West Coast the bands turn a reddish color, which is why this infection is also known as “red band disease” in that region of the country. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the fungus is commonly found in, and frequently spread by older transplants produced by landscape nurseries.

Diplodia tip blight is most common in mature, two- and three-needle pines such as the Austrian, black, red and Mugho varieties. It has also been detected in young nursery plantings that are growing quickly. Needles infected with Diplodia will expand and turn yellow, then brown. At the base of dead needles, small fungal fruiting bodies can often be found. Should the fungus infect wounds within the tree’s stems and branches, the disease has been known to cause girdling cankers.

The fungi that cause these diseases prefer wet, cool springtime conditions and takes advantage of injured trees. Restrict pruning to the winter when the fungus isn’t present. Regular and thorough watering will help the tree be more resistant to problems. If infection should occur, using a strong fungicide can provide some control.

Pine Wilt

This fatal condition is caused by a certain roundworm species called the pine wilt nematode. This tiny, destructive worm eats the pine tree’s cells, causing it to wilt from an inability to transport water and nutrients. It is common in most mid-Western and Eastern states, most notably in North Carolina.

The pine wilt nematode, frequently spread by the long-horned beetle, generally does not attack pine trees younger than five or six years old. The most susceptible pines are mature Austrian, Cluster and Loblolly pines, as well as the black and red varieties of the Japanese pine. These species are likely to die within 30-90 days after symptoms are initially identified. Unlike most of its soil-dwelling relatives, the pine wilt nematode infects the upper parts of the tree. Symptoms include needle wilting, yellowing and eventual browning, leading to the death of the entire tree.

According to North Carolina State University’s College Of Agriculture and Life Sciences, pines diagnosed with this disease must be removed and burned or buried immediately to prevent the infection of other pines. Keeping pines healthy is the number one method of preventing this disease altogether. If you want to save an infected pine, nematicides are available, but they are expensive.

Pine Bark Beetle

These insects tend to infest ailing pine trees and aren’t picky about which pine species they exploit. Adult beetles are tiny– sometimes as small as 1/16 of an inch in length. Once they find an unhealthy pine to attack, they release a pheromone to attract other beetles. They chew their way underneath the bark creating tunnels, or galleries, where females will lay their eggs. Larvae will hatch and continue to eat away at the tree until they become adults, hindering the tree’s ability to transport nourishment and water.

If you notice many squiggly lines in the bark, it is likely the tree is hosting these destructive pests. Needles on infested pine trees will turn yellow and then red before dropping. Resin, or pitch, often develops on the surface of the bark. You may also notice very fine boring dust accumulating in bark crevices, underneath areas of infestation and at the trunk base.

Keeping pines watered and fed properly will help them resist infection and degradation. Infected pines should be removed and burned to prevent additional infestations.

Phytophthora Root Rot

This soil-borne fungus infects pine trees, harming or killing them in the process. The pathogen will infect roots in waterlogged soil conditions, presenting it self when trees are planted in containers or in areas with poor drainage. It is a frequent issue among nurseries using overhead irrigation during the growing season.

This type of fungus attacks the roots, causing them to rot and die. Although it lives in the soil, the symptoms are presented on the above-ground portions. Signs of an infection include: reduced growth, reddening or browning needles, dying branches, falling needles and eventually death.

Younger pines frequently die outright when infected, while mature trees may first develop cankers on the trunk accompanied by split bark and oozing pitch. Phytophthora Root Rot can be prevented by planting pines in well-drained locations.

Professional soil tests from your local inexpensive tree care company or university agricultural extension can tell you if this fungus is present in your soil. If infection occurs, commercial fungicides are often helpful.

Autumn Mac N Cheese

This recipe calls for combining béchamel sauce with grated cheese, then stirring in just-cooked pasta. It works beautifully as both a creamy stovetop dish with any sort of mix-ins you like, and as a crunchy baked mac ‘n’ cheese sprinkled with panko breadcrumbs.

Ingredients:

4 cups (1 quart) whole milk

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Kosher salt

1 pound elbow macaroni

8 ounces shredded 2-year aged sharp cheddar cheese (about 3 cups)

3 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 cup)

2/3 cup panko * Panko is coarse Japanese-style breadcrumbs.

 

Directions:

Begin by making the béchamel. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it just comes to a simmer. Then turn off the heat and set saucepan aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown in color, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

While whisking constantly, slowly add the hot milk to the flour mixture until evenly combined and smooth. It will get very thick when you first add the milk but will then thin out.

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and while whisking constantly, cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about three minutes. Stir in one tablespoon of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt as desired. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until it’s almost al dente (just on the edge of being underdone), then drain and rinse with cold water; set aside. (If you plan to top the mac ‘n’ cheese with panko and bake it, heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.)

Place the reserved saucepan of béchamel over medium heat and stir in both cheeses just until melted and smooth. Add the pasta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is heated through and steaming, about 2 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately or, if baking, transfer to a 5-quart baking dish, sprinkle with the panko, and bake until bubbling and brown on top, about thirty minutes.

Pluot

The strangely named “pluot®” is a hybrid plant grown from a plum and an apricot. Pluots® are extremely sweet, due to very high sugar levels, and are available in a wide range of varieties. The actual ratio works out to around 70% plum and 30% apricot and they mainly look like plums. They have a great deal of nutritious value and are low in fat, making them ideal for snacking or sweetening up other dishes.

Pluots® are sometimes also referred to as “Dinosaur Eggs®” due to the strange dappled coloring on some types of the fruit. The name has actually been trademarked by a California pluot® grower, though there are still a wide range of available types with other strange-sounding names. Varieties such as the “flavor grenade,” “dapple dandy,” and “flavorglo” are fairly common, as are the “hand grenade” and the “last chance.” The “flavor heart” is one of the largest types of pluot®, heart shaped with black coloring and yellow flesh, while the “candy stripe” has pink and yellow stripes with spotted red skin.

Many people are suspicious of pluots® thinking that this strange fruit must be genetically engineered, but this is not the case. Pluots® were first sold in 1989 and were developed by a Californian fruit breeder named Floyd Zaiger. It took Zaiger several generations of cross breeding before the modern pluot® finally emerged. Zaiger’s work used the “plumcot,” a 50-50 plum and apricot hybrid created by Luther Burbank in the late 19th Century, as a foundation for additional hybridization.

The process involved in this hybridization is very complex. Climate control must be exactly correct, while pollen is carefully transferred using a tiny brush. Pluots® are a registered trademark of Zaiger’s Genetics, and there are now at least 25 different varieties of pluot® available in stores.

Eaters can tell that pluots® are ripe when the fruit gives to pressure and is very fragrant. People should handle them delicately, just like a plum. The pluot’s® sweetness makes it a great ingredient for many recipes, such as a cold, summer fruit salad.

They can also be used as an ingredient in ice cream or yogurt, or in a sauce over pancakes. Many people cut them up and add them to breakfast cereals to sweeten them. Blended pluots® also work quite well in smoothies or in alcoholic beverages.

Pluots® are an intensely flavored fruit, often full of vitamins A and C, have a very low fat content, and are sodium and cholesterol free. High sugar content makes them quite sweet, though each one only has about 40-80 calories, depending on size. They are mainly grown in the Central Valley area of California and are available through September.

Washing Hands

As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. In turn, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Although it’s impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

Always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food or eating
  • Treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes, or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated — such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes
  • In addition, wash your hands whenever they look dirty.

It’s generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:

  • Wet your hands with running water.
  • Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
  • Lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
  • If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.

Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product’s antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.

Smell Of Rain

Some scientists believe that people inherited their affection for the scent of rain from ancestors who relied on rainy weather for their survival. There are several scents associated with rainfall that people find pleasing.

One of these odors, called “petrichor,” lingers when rain falls after a prolonged dry spell. Petrichor, the term was coined in 1964 by two Australian scientists studying the smells of wet weather, is derived from a pair of chemical reactions.

Some plants secrete oils during dry periods, and when it rains, these oils are released into the air. The second reaction that creates petrichor occurs when chemicals produced by soil-dwelling bacteria known as actinomycetes are released. These aromatic compounds combine to create the pleasant petrichor scent when rain hits the ground.

Another scent associated with rain is ozone. During a thunderstorm, lightning can split oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere, and they in turn can recombine into nitric oxide. This substance interacts with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form ozone, which has a sharp smell faintly reminiscent of chlorine.

When someone says they can smell rain coming, it may be that wind from an approaching storm has carried ozone down from the clouds and into the person’s nostrils.