Life on Mars, My Garden and Other Arid Places


Curiosity

From NASA web site, artist’s image of Curiosity rover on Martian surface. May it be so.

The NASA web site provides a countdown, and as of this writing, it’s under four hours until we find out if Curiosity gets to the red planet or Mars kills Curiosity.

Here’s hoping all goes well. Mars is now like Iowa in summer 2012—devoid of water. Well, sure, the drought on Mars has gone on for a few million years more, and the corn there looks even worse, by a bit.

But, in this arid summer of 2012, it’s great that humans are (knock on wood) landing another rover on Mars. Our curiosity about our own universe is a positive thing—and one of the few public policy areas where I very much disagree with the Obama administration.

Sure, many government belts ought to be tightened. But not the one that fuels basic scientific research and tells us about ourselves. NASA ought not be starved for funds, even in a recession.

And I worry what might happen if Curiosity crashes. The billions spent on sending the rover were not a “waste,” even in that case, because space exploration requires some costly gambles.

Anyway, I hope, dear readers, by the time most of you see this, that the first images from Curiosity are being posted by NASA.

Back on Planet Earth, Iowa got some much needed rain Saturday. About two inches fell, the first significant rain since May. The blessing was not unmixed—high winds at one point left 16,000 people in Cedar Rapids in the dark when tumbling trees severed power lines—but we’ll take the rain and wish for more.

In my gardens, there are some plants hanging on and others suffering. I fear I may lose some ferns—we had a nice patch peeking through our rock retaining wall, but most of the wall ferns are withered and brown. Even some “in-ground” ferns are looking sick or dead, despite the watering I’ve been doing in the garden. Today, after the rain, a few of the “dead” ones are sending up new growth, so there is hope as long as the 100-degree arid days don’t stretch on again.

Astilbe is suffering, and some clumps have died. Hydrangea are dropping, and the largest of these bushes, on the northwest corner of the house, has more dead than live parts (but may survive, since a bush may come back if any of it lives). The crab apples in front are panting for water and slowly retreating. The older ones in back are tougher, but still don’t look happy.

Most Hostas are OK, but a few, even in shady areas, look sunburned.

And then there are the baby trees. I had some Catalpa started from seeds, most of which have expired (not the transplant from Mimi’s yard, however, which is going strong). I planted seven Arbor Day Foundation trees this spring (in a pack of ten, three died over the winter), and three are OK, one is barely hanging on, one has lost all its leaves but seems to be trying to come back, and two seem to be just about knocking on heaven’s door.

Well, all in all, it felt a bit odd today to mow. I have not done that in more than a month—this is the first July in my memory where it was so dry all month long that the grass didn’t grow and didn’t have to be mowed. It was a big chore because I had to rake six weeks worth of fallen sticks and an unusual covering of mid-summer leaves from the yard before the mow.

I can only hope that August might bring a few more mows. And some good news from our arid red neighbor. Even if I am fretting about my not-wet garden, I’m also thinking of you, Curiosity.

August 6 update:  Well, as you know, NASA did it.  Kudos.  I found this video which outlines what NASA did.  Despite the cheesy background music, I do think it’s quite an accomplishment:

New York Times story describes the challenge well, too.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Life on Mars, My Garden and Other Arid Places

  1. Wander

    We finally gave up on the THOUGHT of a garden this year. With arid heat stressing our usual lush to dormancy we decided it would be a good year to power wash the fence and paint. Gets all that fussy business out of the way. Besides, the run-off water seemed to be appreciated by what green remains. Thanks for the video – I do so enjoy your blog.

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