by Rachelle the Drunk Phytologist
Looking back, my whole childhood was a plant and nature love story, complete with a 20 acre playground. Growing up on a show rabbit farm in Northeastern Indiana allowed me to explore, dream, and get dirty. I made little moats in the mud of my mom's garden to water her bedding plants, picked fruits out of our orchard, and jumped into our pond on a hot day to gather pond weed and algae for an impromptu Loch Ness monster costume.
As a nerdy kid who loved to read, I would take my books and climb the white cedar by my house to curl up on a branch and escape to another world. The white cedar was planted when my grandmother was a girl, and years later was given the inspired name of "Mr. Tree" by my brother and myself. Its branches were perfect for dreaming and reading with a barn cat in your lap. In addition to a reading nook, Mr. Tree was the deck of the USS Enterprise (both the naval and the spaceship), a castle, a fortress, an island, and a sanctuary.
Mr. Tree features prominently in most family photos along with the many trees my dad has planted over the years. At an early age, besides learning how to cultivate vegetables and flowers, my dad and grandfather taught me how to identify all the trees in our woods, when to forage for hickory nuts, where to find morel mushrooms, and how to tap maple trees to gather sap for making syrup. I was taught how to manage our woods as my dad removed invasive species and coaxed hardwoods to grow where cattle grazed a generation before. I would make little salads as a treat for our rabbits by gathering herbs, greens, and dandelion leaves from our yard, and go to a neighbors' to pick out and purchase the perfect bale of hay.
Plants were such a part of my everyday growing up that it is no surprise I pursued a career in plant science. Even though I have grown and moved away from the barn and the woods and Mr. Tree, it will always be a refuge for me and it will always be home.
Rachelle the Drunk Phytologist is a Ph.D candidate in Plant Molecular Biology at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. Rachelle is passionate about food security and sustainability and science communication and advocacy. Find Rachelle here:
Youtube: Everyday SCIENCE!
TwitchTV: "Drink and Think" Stream
Facebook: The Drunk Phytologist
Pond at Buuck's bunny farm with goose, Trinity, and dog Anja
Rachelle with her brother and their grand champion Flemish Giant rabbit, Amber
Rachelle with her parents in front of Mr. Tree.