Monday, August 29, 2011

How Healthy are your Roots?

Not the ancestral kind, the kind that anchor plants, protect the soil, and keep invasive plants from invading. And how do you monitor the health of plant roots?

I describe new techniques for monitoring plant roots, vegetation, fuel loads, and ground water in my latest Rangelands column.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Where in the World is Queen Ida(ho)?

I returned from a summer-long road trip to a long to do list and a pile of mail (the mail that could wait--a friend forwarded the important things). My to dos included a visit to the Boise Public Library for an annual update of my contact information.

As I stood in the checkout line at the downtown library I looked to my right for a comforting welcome home nod from Queen Ida. I expected to see Queen Ida where I left her this spring: sitting regally on the throne of Idaho, cradling a potato in one hand with a hoe as her scepter in the other, attended by a mountain bluebird and adorned by a sprig of flowering syringa. I had missed seeing her warm face, turned toward me so that its edge follows the jagged ridgeline of the Bitterroot Mountains on Idaho's eastern border.

But Queen Ida was gone. I stared at a wall as blank as a bowl of cold oatmeal. Only a forlorn picture hanger remained where the framed poster of the Queen had hung and ruled serenely over library patrons.

I asked after Queen Ida while the woman at the desk updated my information. But she hadn't noticed the abdication. The librarian at the information desk reported that others of Ida's devoted subjects had inquired about her. But she couldn't remember the details of the Queen's whereabouts. I left my business card and hoped for an update.

The next day Kevin Booe, the Boise Public Library director, called me with a full report on the absent sovereign. (Apparently matters of missing royalty go directly to the top at the library.) Kevin assured me that Queen Ida's absence is only temporary. She has gone to visit Terri Schorzman at the Boise Department of Arts and History. This department encourages the public, literary, visual, and performance arts and preserves historic and cultural artifacts. Terri is looking into the details of the Queen's copyright to see if it's possible to make a copy of the poster.

Kevin also shared some of Queen Ida's story with me. She was created by Carl Babcock, an art professor who worked at the library after he retired. The poster was commissioned for Idaho's state centennial in 1990. Other paintings by Carl, of scenes from Alice in Wonderland, hang in the children's section of the Library.

If you also miss the twinkle in Queen Ida's eye next time you're in the main library, don't worry. The queen will return soon to reign over library patrons, librarians, and directors.