The Cactus Patch
Volume 9       July 2006      Number 7

Time On Our Hands
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

It has been a slow, lazy month. TV has been taken over by the World Cup in Football. (The USA is not doing too well. I think it's because they're playing soccer while everyone else is playing football.) There were a couple of odd showers at the beginning of June, but it is otherwise dry as expected. Nights hover just above freezing (one got just down there) and days are tolerable.

Back on the 17 &18 of May we celebrated International Museums Day, but it wasn't terribly exciting. The theme was on Youth and the Botswana Society had a panel discussion on the so-called "Passion Killings" here. These involve jilted lovers. Mainly it's a result of the male dominance in society that treats women as property. Hopefully this is a dieing attitude.

On the 20th The Bird Club had its annual general meeting with a talk on Cuckoos and other parasitic birds. An interesting question was raised about the genetics of matching host egg colors. I surmised that since egg coat and color is strictly female, it doesn't matter which male they mate with. It was a cold night, but they had hot soup and a good hot meal.

On June 4th we had a turkey dinner at the Cooks'. Dr Turton was allowed, even tho she's British. All the rest of the mob was American - including a Peace Corps Volunteer. (No, we aren't confused. They were just bidding farewell before a long leave.)

On the 6th the Film Club began a Hispanic series. On the 13th they showed Macario, a Mexican film which centers on a starving family and an obsession with turkeys which are offerings to the dead. Our friend Christina (Mexican wife of the Spanish Ambassador) had the difficult job of explaining the custom of the day of the dead. Quite a task.

The 10th of June was celebrated as World Environment Day here and once again the museum got first place for its display. Also once again, the 1000 km "Desert" Race tore across the Kgalagadi at the same time. Polly and I were out looking at plants at the time. We found an interesting population where Aloe marlothii and Aloe littoralis meet and hybridize. This is 20 Km (12 miles) North of Molepolole. The A. littoralis was in full bloom and the hybrids just starting. A. marlothii doesn't even have buds yet, so one wonders how the hybrids are formed.

The race crossed the road a ways north of the Aloes, so hopefully they are not affected by it. There was a policeman at the crossing who warned us about speeding. Further north near Shoshong we stopped to look at the Euphorbias. This time I used the gate and did not get tied up in the fence. I have decided the "new" Euphorbia is neither a new species nor a hybrid, but rather a neotenic Euphorbia cooperi. (This means a reproducing plant has retained juvenile characteristics. I decided this after finding a seedling and a couple of juveniles and noting their features.

On the way back we met the race once again as it followed a river bed under the main road. Shortly after this we witnessed the winner of the race being ticketed for speeding! (This was shortly after the end of the race. Incidently, we were stopped for speeding as well.

On the 14th we went to a video by the drummer Myizer which showed his recent visit to Egypt with his group "Koitrans". Now they are off to Germany at the request of the German president who was impressed by their performance during his visit to our museum.

On the 16th a film crew followed me around the garden. I'm anxious to see the result, but they say editing will take a lot longer than the filming. The next day Polly and friends went down to Kanye to spread P1000 in largesse from the Charity Thrift Shop. This goes to Hospice and Orphanage efforts.

I read an interesting book on pioneering in Nebraska recently (No Time on My Hands, Grace Snyder 1986, University of Nebraska Press). Why should I care? Well, the story is that my greatgrandfather moved from Ohio to Nebraska, but didn't stay there long as he reported, "They were starving". This is borne out in the book where there is a song that goes:

We have reached the land of drouth and heat,
Where nothing grows for us to eat.
For winds that blow with scorching heat,
Nebraska Land is hard to beat.

There is also a mention of cactus (?Opuntia humifusa), "Bunch grass and prickly pear cactus covered the unfenced yard, and north of the house a stunted cottonwood sapling seemed barely alive in the sand. 'I've put out a good many cuttings since I moved here, but it's the only one that's lived, and itís the only tree for a good ways in any direction from here,' Bert said of the sad little tree."

We have lots of Opuntia humifusa (=O. compressa) as an invasive weed in the Botanic Garden here. I have no idea who brought it across the Atlantic or why.

The navigator Francois Dodan with the winning car. The driver Hannes Grobler is off seeing the police

A hybrid aloe 20 km north of Molepolole.

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