Tag Archives: The Carduan Chronicles

February Ice Storm

Perhaps it is just a coincidence. Most likely it has no relation at all. However a February ice storm came by.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the space ship arrives in the middle of a February ice storm.

February ice storm coats everything
Ice coats this old log. It isn’t thick, but don’t step on it. Your foot will slide off possible making you fall. Such a coating was on the landing site for the Carduans. Thrill ride anyone?

This year’s February ice storm wasn’t much. It heralded a warm front coming in. About a quarter of an inch of freezing rain covered everything. During the day the ice melted and rain began.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the ice storm drops a half inch of ice as a cold front moves in. The sun does come out and melt the ice off the trees. This is typical of such storms in the Ozarks. And that’s a very good thing.

That quarter of an inch of ice is treacherous. Any surface becomes slick. Walking is asking to fall and get hurt. Driving is not advisable from my house as the hills will be too slick for even four wheel drive to conquer.

February ice storm encases tree twigs and branches
Twigs and branches sport an ice coating. This coating is thin. When the coating is a quarter of an inch thick, sunlight will sparkle through it making the trees into crystal structures. The thin coating will try to do this, but melted too soon this time.

There are drivers who believe four wheel drive makes any winter road passable. Ice removes all friction between the road and the tires. Without friction, the vehicle slides no matter how many tires are trying to find traction. I would rather stay home than slide off the road and twenty or thirty feet down into the creek bed.

February ice storm creates frozen drops
An ice storm is freezing rain. It falls as very cold rain that freezes on everything. This milkweed pod has an ice coating with more dripping off as frozen drops. These can get fairly long as new drops add onto the frozen ones already there.

The grass stuck up through the ice and made walking possible. The goats do need milking, hay and water, ice or no ice. The chickens need food and water. And I want those eggs and milk.

A February ice storm can be destructive. The ice is heavy and can break off branches, bend small trees to the ground or snap them off and break electric lines. This little storm did little damage.

Instead the storm set the mood as I work my way slowly through the first rewrite of “The Carduan Chronicles.” In that the ice storm is followed by snow. There is snow in the forecast. I wonder.

How Do You Count?

Nature doesn’t count the way we do. When you look at a flower, some flowers are in sets of three, some fours and others fives.

Purple trillium is an easy one to see the sets of three in. It has three leaves, three sepals and three petals. False garlic is another one.

Bluets come with four petals. The early small bluet so hard to photograph as the camera always tries to lose focus has four distinct petals in some shade of lavender, blue or white. The later long leaf bluet has a trumpet that breaks into the four petal lobes at the top.

count three with purple trillium

A spring ephemeral purple trillium sends up a single stalk with three leaves. On them open three sepals exposing three purple petals hiding three yellow anthers.

The rose family has a set of fives. Tame roses have been bred to have so many petals, it’s hard to see the underlying fives. Wild roses, crabapples, wild plums and swamp agrimony have five petals.

People count in sets of ten. We have five fingers, all right, four fingers and a thumb, on each hand. Children use each one to stand for a number and end up making ten.

Our number system is set up on tens. We keep adding one number at a time until we get to that tenth one. It goes in the next column as one complete set of ten plus no ones (10). The ones add up again until we get to that tenth one again. It becomes a two in the tens column plus no ones (20).

count four on a bluet

A common bluet flower has four petals. They are often blue but range from white to lavender. All have the dots of color at the base. I find them very difficult to photograph. They seem to stay out of focus.

As I began to look over my rough – very rough – draft of The Carduan Chronicles, I hit this fundamental fact. I was counting in sets of ten. The Carduans would not count in tens as they do not have five fingers on each hand.

Now, as the Carduans are imaginary, I could change that. Yet I had good reasons for not giving them five fingers. Size is the most important factor.

I am roughly fifteen times bigger than the average Carduan. My hand is about six inches long from palm base to finger tip and half that wide. That would give the average Carduan a hand four tenths of an inch long and two tenths wide, roughly half an inch by a quarter inch. Their fingers would be a sixteenth of an inch in diameter, ridiculously small to have any strength in them.

count five on prairie roses

Prairie roses have this wonderful scent. It’s a bit sweet and spreads for five feet and more around a bush. These simple roses show the typical five petals.

So the Carduans have two fingers and an opposable thumb, three digits on each hand. They will count in sixes. Theoretical math calls this base 6. I’ve heard of it, but know little about how to use it.

This means I have to recalculate things in the draft and correct these counts before I can do a proper rewrite. This changes the number of ration packs in a crate. It changes the time frame altering the time line I need to construct to correct another set of problems.

The one thing I don’t need to change is the number of degrees in a circle. That was invented by the Sumerians long ago and they used a base of sixty giving 360 degrees in a circle. We still use this for navigation, for longitude and for compass readings. And sixty is divisible by six.

I still prefer using the normal way to count.

Wildflowers are one topic of photographs and haikus in “My Ozark Home.”

Finding Proper Viewpoints

Describing how to explore an Ozark ravine isn’t hard, or is it? I’ve explored ravines many times and now have the Carduans exploring theirs. But I need to find the proper viewpoints.

As I ramble down the ravine, I see far up the way. The streambed shifts from one side to the other. Side ravines enter, some folds in a hill, others coming between two hills.

Proper viewpoints of a ravine from my height

From my vantage point, my Ozark ravine is easy walking. Most fallen trees are small and easy to step over. I can see far ahead of myself.

Is this what a Carduan would see? No. Why not?

The Carduans are a little smaller than a blue jay. Finding the proper viewpoints for these explorers entails sitting and lying down. I settle for putting the camera down near the ground and taking pictures.

proper viewpoints for a small animal or a Carduan

From the viewpoint of my imaginary Carduan or any small animal, that easy to step over log is a major obstacle. The leaves mire progress down. An Ozark ravine walk becomes a struggle.

As I walk along, I step over fallen trees and branches. The Carduans will have to climb over these. If they are lucky, the trunk is crooked or lies on a soil hump leaving room to walk underneath.

When I cross over the stream bed, I look up the way and find a sloping way down and up. Most of these do have a foot drop on both sides. No Carduan will risk falling three times their height onto rocks.

proper viewpoints to see how a Carduan would spot a honey locust

The Carduans discovered the honey locust and its thorns. These thorns vary in length. The longest I’ve found was 16 inches. They are tough enough to stab through a tractor or truck tire. That distant tree is a honey locust. What would tip a Carduan off that this is the tree they seek?

Luckily for the Carduans trees fall across the streambed. Some are giants a foot or more in diameter. Others are six inches in diameter.

For me, I’d choose the big trunks. The smaller ones are adequate, but I’m not much of a tightrope walker.

The Carduans would prefer the smaller trunks. These would be wide roads to them and much easier to get onto.

Adam and Eve Orchid leaf

An Adam and Eve or Putty Root Orchid puts up a leaf in the fall. it lasts until late spring when the orchid blooms.

I may be interested in the proper viewpoints to use on my ravine exploration, however I have other things to see. One is an orchid. I’m sure there are more growing in the ravine, but I’ve only found the one.

Called Adam-and-Eve or Putty Root, this orchid puts up a leaf in the fall. It stays green through the winter, then withers away. This is when the flower stalk rises up a foot or more lined with half inch flowers.

Adam and Eve Orchid seed pods

The seed pods of an Adam and Eve Orchid are still hanging on last year’s flower stalk.

I found the leaf last winter. I couldn’t find the place to see the flowers. Now I’ve found this fall’s leaves and marked the place well for next spring.

Interestingly, the proper viewpoints to use when photographing smaller plants near the ground are the same as the ones I need for the Carduans.

Find more views of my Ozark hills and ravines in “My Ozark Home.”

Fall Liverworts Flourish

Wanting to reacquaint myself with the ravines as I get ready to work on “The Carduan Chronicles”, even though this is November, not February, I walk back into the first one after the rain stopped. Water is flowing over the rock shelves and making small waterfalls. Dead leaves cover everything. And the liverworts flourish on the rocks along the water.

liverworts flourish in ravine

Last winter this pond was frozen over and a white ice river extended up the ravine above it. The white ice river moved into “The Carduan Chronicles” for one adventure and a bit of exploration. The ravine itself has influenced the imaginary ravine the spaceship lands in. for now the ravine is a lovely walk looking up the slopes at the fall colors and admiring the mosses and liverworts on the rocks near the water.

November is National Novel Writing Month, that annual challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. And I am attempting to return to Cardua and finish my draft long neglected as I finished two books, “My Ozark Home” and “Mistaken Promises,” over the year.

I do remember the premise: Spaceship Nineteen from a convoy ferrying colonists and supplies to a new Arkosan colony is dropped out of a disintegrating worm tunnel into a February ice storm and lands in an Ozark ravine where the three crew members and six young Arkosans are stranded leaving them to learn how to survive in an alien environment. Reading through the draft has helped me remember the incidents and interplay between the Arkosans now Carduans as they name their new home Cardua.

Walking through the ravines is to help move me back into the story. My walk was working until the liverworts distracted me.

Liverworts flourish in a pile on a rock

These liverworts pile exuberantly over this rock and each other. This would be a Carduan point of view as I put the camera on the ground looking at the rock.

Liverworts are one of those primitive plants mentioned in biology texts that teachers have probably never seen. There is a picture of a liverwort. The class yawns and forgets all about them.

Much of the year the liverworts around the creek and up some of the ravines merit only that yawn. These plants like lots of moisture and cool temperatures. Summer may have the moisture, but not the temperatures. Winter freezes them. Spring and fall are the best times to see liverworts.

new liverworts flourish

Evidently this is a new liverwort colony. The tongues are growing outwardly, branching and creating a pretty pattern across the rock.

Last spring lasted about three days.

This fall the liverworts flourish. Long green tongues stretch out over the rocks. They branch, pile over each other and almost glow in the dim light under the clouds.

Even being distracted I noted several things I may use in “The Carduan Chronicles” over the course of the month. And I have an added reason to visit other ravines: to see if the liverworts flourish in them as well.

Learning Botanical Families

Like animals are sorted into animal families, plants are sorted into botanical families. These are based on the flowers.

As I struggle to identify the wildflowers I come across, I’ve tried to learn the different botanical families. A few are fairly easy.

botanical families include Asteraceae

A common Asteraceae flower head has a disk of tiny flowers surrounded by ray flowers that look like petals. Not all Asteraceae flower heads have ray flowers. They all do have the tiny disk flowers.

The Asteraceae includes flowers like daisies, dandelions, sunflowers and pussy toes. All have masses of tiny flowers squashed into a single head on a disk.

The Asclepiadaceae have complex flowers with five petals, five hoods and pollinaria (packets of pollen). Common milkweeds are butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, purple milkweed and green milkweed.

botanical families include Asclepiadaceae like butterfly weed milkweed

Butterfly weed milkweed, like most milkweeds, attracts lots of butterflies, beetles, bees and wasps. The flowers have five backswept petals, five wells of nectar and five horns pointing into the wells. The sizes and colors can vary, but all the flowers have this basic pattern putting them into the same botanical family called Asclepiadaceae.

Other families were more difficult for me to recognize. Then a friend loaned me a book “Botany In a Day” by Thomas J. Elpel that goes through most of the families and explains how the flowers are arranged in each family.

Family by botanical family I am plowing my way through this book. It is easy to read and understand, just filled with information that takes time to absorb.

Then I found Elpel includes edibility and medicinal information for plants within each family. It is mostly the medicinal uses and many are ones I would never want to try after reading the descriptions.

Botanical families found in Botany In a Day

The book “Botany In a Day” includes keys to the various botanical families and pages about each family along with edibility and medicinal information. It’s written for Montana but many families occur in the Ozarks too.

The edibility is what I am interested in. I do pick and eat a number of wild greens. Lamb’s quarters is a favorite. Pokeweed, chicory, plantains and chickweed are other tasty treats.

The problem with these plants is where they grow: disturbed ground such as gardens and roadsides. I need to know about edible ravine plants as the Carduans in The Carduan Chronicles will be sampling and eating some of these.

This book is a step to finding plants for the Carduans. The first step is identifying the plants out in the ravines.

Back to poring over “Botany In a Day” and learning the botanical families. Then I can identify the plants and find which ones are not only edible, but tasty.

Designing Carduan Ravines

Ravines abound in the Ozark hills around me. Small ones are merely folds coming down hills. Narrow ones are where two hills are close together. Large ones can broaden into wide shelves of land adjoining a deep graveled creek bed.

For the Carduans, their ravine will be their world for a long time. The distance they can go exploring will be limited.

At a bit over five feet tall, a mile is 2,100 steps for me. That makes each step about two and a half feet long or half my height.

Since my Carduans average four inches tall, their steps would be two inches long. A mile is 63,360 inches long or 31,680 Carduan steps long, about a 15 mile equivalent.

Admittedly Ozark ravines aren’t that long. The longest one nearby is a mere half mile. This would still be a seven mile Carduan hike.

Carduan combined ravines

Creating a world for a novel is always a challenge whether the world is our own or on an alien planet. No Ozark ravine is the same as any other Ozark ravine. That made designing one for The Carduan Chronicles easy and hard. This is the rough draft. Next it needs a distance scale and detailed drawings. I wish I could just take a picture.

The immediate Carduan ravine therefore will need to have everything they will need within a short distance. What will they need?

First is their landing ledge. This almost level rock ledge juts out of a hillside and overhangs the ravine.

Second is a water source. Springs and seeps are a common Ozark feature. adding one to the Carduan ravine is reasonable.

Third is level ground suitable for agriculture. The Carduans are an agricultural people raising livestock and crops for food and fiber.

Fourth is a safe place to build homes. Ozark ravines are prone to flooding so this must be high enough to stay out of the flood waters. It must be defensible from coyotes, bobcats, owls, snakes and other predators who would consider the Carduans tasty snacks.

I went exploring nearby ravines. One yielded the perfect ledge rocks. First criterion met.

Another had two ravines joining, one with a spring and the other larger one with the possibility of level land. Another had a wonderful series of rock ledges for the spring water to descend in a series of small waterfalls. The second criterion met.

The level land came from another section of ravine. This has several ravines feeding into a main one creating deltas. These are high enough to avoid small high water events, but will flood once or twice a year. The Nile River would do this and provide wonderful soil for the Egyptians. Third criterion met.

The fourth criterion solution was found on the sides of a ravine. It will be noted as solved here as it is a part of the story.

So now I get to draw out the map.

The first of The Carduan Chronicles is schedules for release in October, 2018.

Designing the Carduan Space Ship

Winter weather has returned. Except for chores that must be done, staying inside is the main plan of action. I am back to work on The Carduan Chronicles including designing their space ship.

Space ships are the things of books for me. Teaching science I covered things like lift, payload and thrust as factors in flying. Paper airplanes and water rockets made great labs.

But space ships?

The Carduans arrive in a space ship. It’s a short flight, supply ship equipped to carry up to 60 passengers and cargo. It has no heavy weaponry or long range capabilities. All it has to do is accelerate to speed, drift into the worm tunnel, then land at the destination.

So I need a simple, bare bones space ship.

Where do I start? Dimensions. The Carduans are four inches tall. The ship must be six inches tall, minimum.

Carduan space ship for The Carduan Chronicles

This is the floor plan of the Carduan space ship. for The Carduan Chronicles. I prefer to work with pencil – it is erasable. I inked in the main lines so I could scan my design. Please forgive the roughness. There are lots of crates in the storage area. If they are standard size like the food crates, the piles are five high and six deep. What is in them? I don’t know. It’s like finding a pile of presents under a Christmas tree. As the story progresses, the crates will be opened and discoveries made.

The ship must have a thick, insulated hull as space is cold. There needs to be an area for wiring and other pipes inside that hull. There are the observation screens, the control computer areas, the passenger/cargo areas.

Two door locks provide ingress and egress. Engines and fuel tanks take room. There are solar batteries, bathroom, water reclaimer and storage, infirmary, air tank storage, trash area.

Unlike the NASA Gemini capsule, the Carduans want room to move around. The space ship keeps getting bigger and taller.

And the size has constraints. An Ozark ravine can be large. Even the rock ledges can be large. But trees are a problem.

Finally the Carduan space ship was stuffed into an oval 30 inches long and 18 inches wide. All the interior areas were fit in. And there was plenty of passenger/cargo room.

How tall should the ship be? At first I thought 18 inches. That was over four times the average height and seemed excessive. It shrank to 12 inches.

side view of Carduan space ship for The Carduan Chronicles

From the side, the Carduan space ship is rather plain. It has no windows. It should have several raised areas for the sensors. There would be one on the top, two on each side, one in front and one in the rear. I decided to go with rollers rather than wheels as they would provide better support across the ship. It is designed to carry cargo, possible heavy cargo. This is why there are three rollers. The rollers are four inches diameter extending two from the base of the ship to the ground.

That gives room for the engines at the rear. And additional cargo space over the engine compartment.

Since the ship is a short flight transport, main engine access can be from the outside. That lets me make the engine compartment only 6 inches high.

The ship must be able to land. Perhaps wheels such as are on airplanes would be better. Still, I wanted rollers, three of them. And I am designing the ship.

Is this the best space ship? Probably not. Is it a feasible ship? I don’t know. Does it work? It seems to. And that is what matters.

You may disagree or see some problem I missed. If so, please let me know.