Lab Girl


As a child, Hope Jahren spent a lot of time in her professor father’s laboratory classroom where she became comfortable with the tools of science. At a very young age, she developed an abiding love and respect for nature. Her description of the daily trek home from the university with her father in the dead of a Minnesota winter put me in that place and time from the perspective of a child. It also contributed to the picture of who she would become as an adult- someone accustomed to physical hardship and loneliness, for although she spent a  lot of time with her father, there was little that passed between them that even approached personal conversation. When Hope described something about a tree, however, how it hardens in preparation for winter, for example, her voice became reverent, like a preacher delivering a sermon, or a person in prayer. Sometimes her voice broke with emotion, especially when she talked about trees, or her personal struggles with mental illness. I should mention that I listened to an audio version of this book and the author was the narrator. As much as being about one woman’s struggle for acceptance in a male-dominated field, the book is about Hope’s journey to find acceptance, both in her professional and personal life. Thanks to Hope Jahren, I have a new respect and wonder for trees!


What a great segue above. The remarkable world of trees! In addition to taking their cue to start hardening, not from the ambient temperature, but from the gradual shortening of days, trees (and probably other fauna) have root-to-root signalling systems to communicate with other trees. Studies have shown that trees produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as a means to warn other plants of impending insect danger. Nearby plants exposed to the  VOCs prepare their own defense weapons in response. “These plants know that when your world is changing rapidly, it is important to have identified the one thing that you can always count upon.” Trees and I share that knowledge.

W1siZiIsInVwbG9hZHMvcGxhY2VfaW1hZ2VzL2QyYTY5ZDNkYmMyYWZiMmI2ZF8xMjk3NDY1Nzc4NV82MzFiOGQ1ZDdkX2IuanBnIl0sWyJwIiwidGh1bWIiLCJ4MzkwPiJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcXVhbGl0eSA4MSAtYXV0by1vcmllbnThe Ankerwycke Yew, one of the oldest trees in England, has quite a remarkable trunk, at 26 feet in diameter. Estimated at 1400-2000 years old, it is reported to have borne witness to the signing of the Magna Carta. It’s difficult to definitively determine the age of yews because as they mature their trunks hollow out, making it impossible to calculate their age by growth rings. The photo comes from the site Atlas Obscura and the photo credit is SYNX508 on Flickr (Creative Commons).


700 miles north of the northern coast of Alaska, on Axel Heidelberg Island in the Nunavit Territory of Canada, Hope and her business partner, colleague, friend, Bill, sampled 100 vertical feet of time, digging deep to recreate a historical record of plants that had been there. In the punishing climate, with grueling tedious work, Hope and Bill pampered themselves daily: “At least once a day, we indulged ourselves in the following way: we’d plop waist deep in the crunchy rubble and pull out some treats. Nothing tastes as good as a Snickers bar and a hot thermos of coffee in the cold middle of nowhere, and once a day we focused all of our energy toward savoring this pleasure in quiet, companionable reflection.” Snickers is my favorite candy bar, but I wondered what would a Snickers martini taste like? After a bit of trial and error, I arrived at…

Snickers Martini
serves 2 (large martinis)

5 ounces 360 Double Chocolate vodka
2 ounces hazelnut liqueur
.05 ounces amaretto
2 T peanut butter powder
1½ ounces French Vanilla Creamer
2 ounces Ghirardelli Caramel Sauce ( zap it in the microwave for 15 seconds to get the texture more liquid

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.  Add vodka, hazelnut liqueur, amaretto, peanut butter powder, French Vanilla creamer, and caramel sauce to the shaker.  Shake for about a minute to get all ingredients well blended. Strain into martini glasses.



Tastes like Snickers!




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