Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Another year of flowers: Nettleleaf horsemint

Agastache urticifolia

I think I'm up to about 75 native flowers with the additions this year.  This one has actually been around here for a few years, growing in a native rose/snowberry copse in the north fence. Knowing what mint can do (spread everywhere), I was a little worried, but when several plants showed up in the prairie south of the copse I decided to make sure they're native (they are), and let them go.  They bloomed this year...

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Another year of flowers: Mule's ears


Wyethia Amplexicaulis

I planted these seeds so long ago, I can't really remember when it was.  I think it was in the late 90s, but certainly no later than about 2005.  Today is the first bloom I have ever seen on it, having had to use a photo of a flower blooming down the road for last year's "Year of Flowers" photo.  Which means that it took about 20 years to see a bloom.  It took about 12-15 years to see a leaf.  So, I'm pretty tickled to see these flowers today!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Another year of flowers: Palouse camas


Camassia quamash

I have rescued native plants from roadsides, construction sites, drainage ditches... These camas plants were the last camas bulbs not planted by humans that I had seen in my little town, growing in a small field just east of Palouse, about a block away from me.  I loved seeing a camas flower or two show up every May for years in this particular spot.  The owner had told me that I was welcome to dig any plants that I wanted, and I had gotten a few cinquefoil plants a long time ago, but I left the camas unmolested.  For several years, the owner let someone overgraze their horses on it, so that it became a patch of dirt, mostly, and for about three years afterwards no camas bloomed.  Then, four years ago, one camas came up in that spot and I thought--I'd better mark this and try to get the bulb.  So I did, and I planted it in my camas patch, hoping for the best.  Two plants came up!  But, no flowers until this year.  The lot has since been sold to a person who thought it would be a great idea to build an apartment complex there--fortunately the community came together and made sure that didn't happen, but it is only a matter of time now before they build a house or something there, so I am very happy to have saved these jewels.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Another year of flowers: Grassland saxifrage, etc.


Micranthes fragosa

I have two clumps of this, rescued from a drainage ditch just across the border in Idaho, just as the spraying outfit was coming for it.  I didn't know what it was, but I knew it was something. Well, now I know, thanks to my official Whitman County botanist, Pam Brunsfeld.  This is another plant that DNA analysis has complicated with confusing names (well, to me, anyway).  Its common name--Grassland saxifrage--is stable, but its scientific name has gone from Saxifraga integrifolia to Micranthese fragosa.

Since we're getting some real rainfall this Spring, flowers that I didn't have last year are blooming this year.  Last year I had to use an older photo to show Sugar bowls (Clematis hirsutissima).  It just started blooming out there this year.  Such a wild flower!

Clematis hirsutissima

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Another year of flowers: Glacier lily!


Erythronium grandiflorum

Wow, sometimes you get a gift.  I did not plant this, but about ten years ago I planted the Cinquefoil seed that contributed the plant in the background.  A few years later, a single leaf blade came up beside the Cinquefoil.  It looked like a bulb of some kind, so I didn't mess with it, but I sure wondered what it was.  For the last 5-6 years, it has just been that leaf, but today I went down to check on things and... it's a Glacier lily!  One of those native plants that you really cannot dig and move, so you just have to enjoy them where nature decides to share.  I feel very lucky!

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Aother year of flowers: finally, Sagebrush buttercup


Ranunculus glaberrimus

This year they're blooming!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Violin microphone shoot-out!

For years, my go-to microphone for recording my violin (or anyone else's) in the studio has been a Cascade Microphones Fathead II ribbon microphone with a factory-added Lundahl transformer, run through an Avalon 737 tube preamp. Using a ribbon mic live is impractical for two reasons--its pick-up pattern is a figure-8, and they are too fragile for the stage.  So, for live sound reinforcement, I have used an old favorite, a Sennheiser 421 dynamic mic.  The last few times I've played for dances, I've noticed that he Sennheiser is a little scratchy-nasty in the high end, so I have been wondering if there was another option with the warmth of the ribbon mic.  I kept seeing singers using a microphone I had associated with broadcasters--the venerable Shure SM7B, and the warm, smooth sound haunted me--that is exactly what you want for a violin when you are close-miking live, because a violin makes weird scratchy bow sounds that are right there by the instrument, but not audible from ten feet away.  Somehow, the ribbon mic eliminates the bow noise, and I wondered if the SM7B would do the same.  I have not seen/heard anyone using an SM7B for violin, or any other acoustic stringed instrument, in fact.  If not for the pandemic, I would have booked time in a studio that had one, so I could try it out, but... not possible.  So, I took the leap and I just bought one, along with a Cloudlifter CL-1, which is a gizmo that takes phantom power from your preamp, and hijacks it to add 25dB of clean gain to the signal.  So here are the microphones...

From left to right... 

Audio-Technica AT4050 (the windscreen is moved off behind the mic), running into an Avalon 737 tube preamp.  This is my standard set up for a singer, and I thought it would make a good comparison to the other microphones.

Sennheiser 421, running into a channel of my True Systems Precision 8 preamp.  This is something like my usual live sound violin setup.

Shure SM7B, running through a Cloudlifter CL-1, into a channel of my Precision 8.  I did not roll off the bass, nor juice the "presence" setting--I am running it flat.

Cascade Fathead II, running into an Avalon 737.

So, what I did was record a couple of tunes onto four separate tracks, "Hector the Hero" is an air composed by Scottish fiddle legend J. Scott Skinner, and is played in Donegal (N. Ireland), and I decided to pair it with a jig from Donegal, "Hardiman's Fancy." To compare the microphones, I edited a single track (with just a bit of reverb), switching off between the microphones, at regular intervals.  The tunes are in two parts, and so on "Hector the Hero," I only played it once, so I divided each section in half, and switched at that point.  With the jig, I played through twice and switched on each part.  Here are the specific timings...

Hector the Hero

A1/first half--0:00-0:14/S421  A1/second half--0:14-0:27/FatheadII  

A2/first half--0:28-0:41/AT4050   A2/second half--0:41-0:54/SM7B

B1/first half--0:54-1:09/S421  B1/second half--1:09-1:22/FatheadII  

B2/first half--1:22-1:36/AT4050   B2/second half--1:37-1:52/SM7B

Hardiman's Fancy 

A1--1:52-2:02/SM7B     A2--2:02-2:12/S421    

B1--2:12-2:21/Fathead   B2--2:21-2:30/AT4050

A1--2:30-2:39/SM7B     A2--2:39-2:48/S421    

B1--2:48-2:57/Fathead   B2--2:58-3:09/AT4050

And here is the recording.

If you want to download it for some reason, you can do that free from that page...


You will make your own conclusions, of course, but here are mine.  I am thrilled by the sound of the SM7B--I think it wins the comparison, hands-down.  I expected it to be better than the Sennheiser, which does indeed sound a little scratchy and dull in comparison here, but I didn't expect it to be the best of the bunch.  The 4050 was better with the violin than I expected, but I suspect that has to do with the Avalon preamp, which helps to make it more luscious.  The Fathead was interesting--it is getting the cushy Avalon ride that I gave the 4050, but I noticed, in this close-miking arrangement, that it picked up the little thumps of my fingers hitting the fingerboard more than the other mics.  In a real recording I would eliminate that by placement or EQ, but I noticed the problem more in the Fathead than the others.  It is fine, but... the SM7B is superior, in my opinion.

Of course, this sets up an experiment I didn't yet do--SM7B into the Cloudlifter...and then into the Avalon preamp.  Really, my point here was to see how the SM7B would do live, and so the squeaky-clean solid-state Precision 8 was the best test for a live sound, but next time I record the violin for to make a real recording, I will have to hear the SM7B through the Avalon.  That it compared so well with the Fathead in this setting bodes well.  And I should try the Cloudlifter on the Fathead, too.