Saturday, December 09, 2006


On our recent trip to Hawaii, Nikkala and I stopped by the Dole Plantation. It was a lot of fun and we learned quite a bit about pineapples and how they are grown. Have you ever wondered how they were grown? Did you think they grew on a vine, on a tree, underground...? Well, I'm going to share some things I learned about pineapples.

1- Pineapples are a member of the Bromeliaceae family. This is the same family as Spanish Moss and some other tropical plants. It is native to Jamaica and has been grown in the New World for centuries.

2-Christopher Columbus is thought to have brought it back to Spain and it quickly spread throughout Europe. Spain is thought to have taken it to the Philippines, Guam, and Hawaii. Pineapple was not grown much commercially in the early years because it does not keep very long and it couldn't be grown in places outside the tropics and greenhouses.

3- James Dole came up with the idea to can pineapple and began marketing it around 1900. It was a huge success and his 60 acre farm grew to cover more than 250,000 acres across several islands.

4- It takes 18 months after planting to produce the first pineapple. They take 3 crops off each plant over a 5 year span.

5- Pollinated pineapple blossoms are not desirable, so hummingbirds (the primary pollinator of pineapple) are not allowed on the islands of Hawaii.

6- Pineapples are planted and grown vegetatively (just like potatoes). They whack off the tops of the fruit and place it in the ground where it grows roots and the leaves off the top of the pineapple become the new plant. Here is a man planting pineapples.

7- Pineapples are grown in beds and irrigated using drip irrigation. The ground is covered with black plastic as a mulch to keep weeds out and disease out. Since it is a monoculture, they have big problems with disease and weeds, therefore, the photos show a lot of plastic on the ground as a byproduct of the mulching practice. Notice on the first photo there is a star showing the drip tape coming out of the main feeder hose. Just an FYI, I've been doing research on using drip irrigation in potato beds, that's why I find it interesting.

8- Pineapples are harvested by hand with this large machine. People walk behind the long boom that sticks out and place the pineapples they pick onto the boom where they are taken to the main covered area and boxed up for shipment.

9- Pineapple grow out of the main plant attached at the base. They will NOT ripen after picked, therefore it does no good buying a green pineapple from the store and letting it sit for a few days before eating. They are picked ripe and the sooner you eat it, the better it will taste. Fresh pineapple in Hawaii is allowed to ripen a bit more since it will be consumed sooner, that is why pineapple brought back from the island always tasted the best.

10- Pineapple on a hamburger is really good. So is the fantastic pineapple split... yummy Dole Whip on top of chunked pineapple with coconut topping and caramel...all encased in a half of pineapple...YUMMY!!! Anyone going to Hawaii should eat them both!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Potato People

So I don't post quite as often as my wife. In fact, I've posted so infrequently that Chris has placed me on his junk links. That's ok... I'll forgive him (but maybe not for hurting my fantasy record...).

But to the point of this post. I recently finished harvesting and grading the potatoes I've spent all year growing. Some of the trials looked pretty good. Others didn't. One study in a particular field in Minidoka county looked really bad. You see, when you grow potatoes, you want them to look like the ones you buy in the store. Moderate size, no disease, no green, and most importantly, a uniform shape and conformity.

Well, while we were grading this particular field, many of the plots had absolutely no potatoes that could be classified as US#1 (the prime classification for a potato). That is very odd. But what that meant for my crew is we could guess what the potato was trying to look like. You see, Michael Jackson is not the only thing that wants to look like something unnatural. Check out this potato:

I thought it looked like some strange Klingon vessel or something. It would certainly pass a an extra large ginger root before it would pass as a potato. Anyway, my favorite from this year is a potato that looks like Bentley with his pants down (or Rabbit ears if you prefer to look at it upside down).

What do you think? Should Bentley and the potato go on the road as identical twins sepaerated at birth?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

NASA and the pork problem

NASA and the pork problem

DISCLAIMER: OK, I realize that this isn't a life changing event. I even realize that it isn't newsworthy to some, but I thought I would comment on it since it is related to some of the research I was involved with while attending Utah State.

A recent piece from Florida Today that was run in USA Today the other day talks about the pork projects that are eating up NASA's budget and causing them to cut funding to some of their most critical programs. For those who may not be aware, any congressionally mandated project (or "pet" project) is considered "pork". Now the NASA administrators hates pork, especially when it deals with them. You see, no one likes to be told what to do with their money, especially NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. He recently told congress that he is "deeply concerned that the growth of these unrequested congressional directions is eroding NASA's ability to carry out its mission of space exploration and peer-reviewed scientific discovery."

That sounds good, but what are some of the "pork" projects and what are some of the missions NASA wants to carry out?

Here is a list of a few projects that were mandated by Congress (pork) this year:
•• Shuttle rescue mission to Hubble Space Telescope
•• Recently launched probe bound for Pluto
•• Construction or renovation of dozens of museums, planetariums and science labs for colleges.
•• Computers, classrooms and lab space for colleges and schools across the U.S.
•• A website and laboratory for the Gulf of Maine Aquarium.
• OnTarget-Geospatial Extension Program (program designed to educate Natural Resource and Agriculture managers, including county extension agents, to use NASA technologies such as GPS and remote sensing in their work)

What are some of the projects the NASA administrators want to fund but may need to be cut because of the "pork"?

•• They may cut half of the funding for the agency program that helps ensure historically minority colleges and universities are represented in NASA projects.
•• International Space Station experiments (such as studying ants in microgravity environments) may be cut.
•• Space Shuttle missions
•• Development of a CEV to go to the moon.

Now don't get me wrong, I love space and I would love to send someone to Mars or back to the moon... but what benefit does that give us here (other than a Mars base where we can run when the crap hits the fan -- e.g. Al Gore's doomsday scenario of the global ice caps melting and killing us all). On the other hand, I love seeing the photos that come back from the Hubble. I also enjoy learning about space from planetariums and I think that education is on of NASA's greatest jobs. But Mike has different plans for the money and he is upset. He has even threatened to cut funding to robotic space missions (such as the Mars Rover mission) because he is being forced to fund other projects.

Seriously, it sounds like everyone has pet projects, including NASA, and they are just miffed that they have to do what congress wants. Anyway, that is what happens when you are an agency that relies completely on discretionary funds. Sorry, but that is life. And I think a lot of the pork projects are really good for the country.

I have to admit, that not all of the projects are things that I would personally want funded, but neither was the wolf recovery in Idaho or the millions we dump into salmon and steelhead recovery when the data shows it will never help until the dams are gone (and I think the dams are more vital than the fish...) ... but I digress.

So next time someone tells you that congress is wasting billions on pet pork projects, ask yourself what agenda that person is pushing and if that pork is something that is helping your community.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I recently accepted a job with the Univ. of Idaho. I am assigned to the experiment station in Aberdeen and will be working there as well as some plots in the Blackfoot areas under Bryan Hopkins. Bryan is the potato cropping expert and we have worked together before with OnTarget and some other projects while I was with Utah State and NASA. Nikkala is happy to be moving back to Idaho and I'm happy to be moving to a place with good fishing and hunting (sorry, Utah was never as good as the South Fork for fishing). We will miss Logan and all of our friends there, but it is good to experience new things.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A lot has happened since the last post! To start with, I'd like to announce the arrival of the newest member in our family, Bentley Helaman Stephens. Take a look at him over at He sure is a cool little guy.

In other news, I defended my thesis back in November and I am finishing up all the last little revisions now. I'll post a link to the thesis as soon as it's done. I know everyone is real excited to read it. I wish Micro$oft Word wasn't such a pain in the neck to use, it tries to fix everything automatically and it is usually wrong when it tries. If I were to do it again, I'd try AbiWord. I like that little program.