Category: Geology

Cephalopod Week 2017! (by )

Cephalopods are things like squid, octopi, cuttle fish and the nautilus or at least that is all there are today in the rock record it is quiet another matter. Ammonites with their curly shells pretty much ruled the seas at one point and were so wide spread and abundant and varied that we use them as markers in the geologic record i.e. you know what type of ammonite you've got - you know the time period the rock was formed.

Ammonite Ink Sketch

I love my fossil cephalopods (lit. head on legs) and the modern ones are pretty amazing too!

There are so many videos on youtube of them doing amazing things like escaping from jars and squeezing through very small gaps, mimicking walking and so on.

The Natural History Museum London has an entire twitter feed dedicated to cephalopods which is well worth a look and can be found here.

The Guardian has an article on Snake Stones i.e. our friends the ammonites again, which you can find here 🙂

The New York Times has an interesting article on the genetics and intelligence of squids and octopuses, which is stuff I am putting straight into one of science fiction stories as it really is quiet weird! You can find that article here.

Ever since I was a child I've loved the way cuttlefish skin changes colour, squid skin is pretty fab too 🙂

I also have one crotchet squid for my hair and one cuddly octopus for snuggling that have been given to me - surprisingly they are both purple 😉

Over at ChemKnits they happen to have collected a load of free patterns for our cephalopod friends which you can find here.

The drawing sheet still needs some work done on it but will soon be up for free down load though sadly not this week. I will also be creating two different boarders for it - one for workshops and one for the third of my adult colouring in books - Colouring Rocks!

Enjoy what's left of Cephalopod Week and I will try and do better next year 🙂

The Rock Pools (by )

(Back blogged due to server migration issues)

Rock pool

On the last day beach outing in South Africa we came across the rock pools with many and varied creatures, some bright and some not so bright.

Clam Anenome fish

There were anenomes, barnicals, fish, clams, many bright shells and so on. Though some where deeper than others and all had fresh (though sea salty) water washing over them as we stood there watching. Some were deeper than others.

Algea and sea weed

Mary was most taken with the red anenome 🙂

Red Anenome

I liked the fact that the ripples in the sea water cast little rainbows even over the more subtly coloured creatures like this clam.

Clam South Africa

And as promised here are the fish 🙂 or some of the fish anyway 🙂

Fish South Africa

I probably would not have found the rock pools if Lionel had not pointed them out as they are sunk into fractures in the rocks which are slippery with algea. They were worth the slipping risk!

Finding the rockpools

The girls loved the rockpools

Finding Rockpools

Alaric spent ages with them looking in their wibbly wobbly depths 🙂

Looking in the rock pools

I just loved how you could see a whole little ecosystem there contained in a cradle of rock 🙂 It made me miss Ewan Laurie lessons and paleobiology and being shown byssal threads on field trips 🙂 I may have board the kids with all this along with dentition and muscle scars on shells which apparently I tell them everytime we are at a beach (oops!).

Rockpool South Africa

We actually came home with a book on the oceanic life in South Africa and I will attempt to look up some of what we saw. It also made me determined to do more with the poems and stories I've written about rock pools in the past 🙂

Beach Rocks! (by )

(Back blogged due to server migration)

Exploring South Africa

I love rocks, stones, minerals, landscapes... South Africa was already under my skin for it is the home of the Cradle of Humankind and though we did not manage to go and visit it I know of it and about it and as a teen I read every book our library and the library network had to offer me on human origins and various homonid ancestors. My entire Punk In Pink novel series is based on an alternative history that comes from the fossil gap.


But more than any of that - South Africa has rocks!!! It has many and varied rocks and landscapes that show the origin of those rocks so vividly. Even the birds love the rocks!

The Boulders

The thing is that I am a geologist, yes I am not in industry or working for an institution but I was a geologist way before I ever set foot in Imperial College, and even before I did A'level geology. I was the child that collected stones and shells and leaves and stones and fossils because they were stone shells and leaves and tried to make her take a fossil home from the Welsh Mountains that was bigger than me at the age of 5.

Rising boulder

So I took a lot of photos of rocks and how they fit in the landscape and sometimes you can see write small what is write large like contacts between rock types or the way fractures behave.


I feared that not being active in the field and not studying would mean I could no longer read the landscape, I feared the head injury may have robbed me of what vestage of that ability I had left. But the more we explored, the more I looked, the more I saw, the more the puzzle pieces fell into place.

granite boulder

And once I saw the shape of how it was I began to look for and read the geology of the area - out of books and a map Alaric's Dad and Lynn showed me. I can not tell you the joy of having read that landscape correctly - true I may not be able to tell at a glance what a rock is exactly anymore but I still know enough to tell the rough how it foamed and why it is structured the way it is.


And I might have really liked the feldspars on the beach boulders and the quartz and the mica... and I might have tried to get the girls to look at them and they may have been more interested in the fish (don't worry I took a photo of the fish but you'll have to wait for another post for that one!).

rock in the sea

But Mary would scamper off and find me things and drag me to them and make me look and tell her and Jean would pretend to not be interested but then collected some stones for later...

Boulders at the Boulders

And yes these photos are all from our beach adventure on that last day and believe me if the camera battery hadn't gone flat I would have taken more. I still recall the chinmey climb to the sea we walked past and on other days preserved ripples and fossils and so so much more which I did not get photos of or have come out blurry and which there was no time to sketch.

Interesting weathering

I love rocks but I know most people don't so I have tried to limit the rocky outcrops... I mean posts on them 😀

Geo Bake Off – Geologist Despair (by )

Sisters and their epic geo-cake

I mentioned the Geological Society's Bake Off to Jean - this is the result - she's been planning it for weeks!

cake top view complete with zome in sections

The girls are seriously proud of this 7 cake monstrocity.

Cakes all bakes for the geo bake off

They have certainly enjoyed eating it 🙂

Mary eating geology cake

Jean eating geology cake

There is a lot of hidden stuff that went into this cake.

One of the themes was mud which is why there is chocolate orange mud flows 🙂

The chocolate mud flow on volcano cake adding chocolate mud flows to volc cake

But there were all sorts of challenges and Jeany decided she wanted to try and complete as many as possible.

So within the river valley there is structure for a cross section.

The river valley complete with internal cross section

And then she just got plan creative - with the structure of the cake and I believe some youtube research.

Within are the mazi-bones

These are the marzi-bones fossil human ancestors or related species buried in a cash by volcanic ash - they may or may not have already been dead when this happened some more excavation will have to occur to find out!

What's within the mud close up cake

The top layer of the Mud Tower is a chocolate gravel lens between a sandy mud and a volcanic ash.

chocolate gravel lense between the sandy mud stone and volc ash

You can see the colour difference really well in this photo.

Mud tower with slice talen out

Here is Jean cutting open mud tower to reveal whats within.

Jean cutting into the mud tower cake

Spoiler... the chocolate gravel lense.

chocolate gravel bed hidden between two layers of cake mix

Here's the river valley with birds foot delta - at this stage the volcano is dormant or extinct.

River valley cake close up

This is the main part of the cake with Mud Tower and the ammonite loaf as zoomed in bits and the past hidden behind the lush "hill".

cake top view complete with zome in sections

Of course there is a hidden volcano and... erm Jurassic Park toilet death scene...

icing lava and Jurassic Park toilet death scene with t-rex

Making the dude out of icing

The geologist hammer was another challenge - but being Jean it is a geo-thor hammer so is the wrong shape (to be honest she sneaked a time travel train into it so I was amazed there was no tardis). I did the writing.

Geo-Thor hammer made of icing

Within there is an ammonite - this one was completely and utterly Jean's own idea and it worked and she is soooo happy she is taking it into school tomorrow 🙂

The ammonite within cake loaf

This was the tense moment of cutting in and finding out if the idea had worked. It's a bit flatter than intended but we agreed it's had metamorphic stuff happen to it thanks to the volcanos proximity.

Jean cutting her hidden fossil cake

The cake did kind of over flow but that's not surprising - here's how it was made...

bottom layer of cake mix for hidden fossile cake swiss roll ammonite in you go ammonite loaf ready to bake hidden amaonite cake splurged

icing hammer before writing Jean's hidden fossil load with icing hammer

Did I mention that she called this cake collective - Geologist Despair.

Geologist Despair Cake

Geologist Despair the cake that rocks

Volcano before lava.

volcano cake before lava

She did try to put structure inside the volcano but it didn't work that well.

Strips within the voclano cake didn't really work Inturnal structure of the voclano cake

The volcano was fun to put together - she remembered Dino-Mountian I'd made her for her 5th? Birthday 🙂

Marshmallow fluff cake glue Filling the volcano cake with chocolate frosting

How the river valley was put together...

creating the internal structure for a hopeful cross section valley cake four types of rock ready to bake! River valley cake with ash and mud inclinded layers chocolate butter icing from different angle chocolate orange butter icing for mud base grass for the hills added to the river valley cake River valley cake with birds foot delta

One time travel train and it's in a tunnel - the tunnel was the challenge 🙂

Time travel train coming out of icing tunnel between the two time zones of voclano cake

And before the tunnel, infact she did a lot of icing moderling for this.

Train added to cake sans tunnel making lava moulding the icing decorations for the cake

Of course Mary pulled her weight too 🙂 Mainly with rolling out icing and smearing chocolate everywhere!

Mary rolling icing for the cake

She did most of the Mud Tower by herself 🙂

chocolate coating the geo-cake

Stack of cake Choclate flop Mary coating mud tower in chocolate Mary adding the chocolate gravel Cake stake chocolated Marzipan tree Mud crack cake

Mary put chocolate gravel leaking out of an erroded side and some other bits including sticking out marzi-bones 🙂

Mud tower with grit and boulders and bubbles and cracks

Mud cracks were a challenge - Jean went with the existing cake cracks and made the lonely tree which was another of the challenges.

Look at those mud cracks and the lonely tree cake

Lonely tree... did I mention the lonely tree?

Lonely mazipan tree

Other general cakey making pics...

Jean and Mary sorting cake tins for geo bake off Alaric and Jean sieving flour Jean putting cake battery into bee hive tin to make a volcano cake adding the chocolate fragments mixer hard at work food colouring and choc powder for different types of mud

Creating the Marzi-Bones...

icing sugar in mould ready to make cake decs marzi bones are go agglomerate possibly glacial deposit created with chocolate and spongue cake Ring cake with chocolate inclusions etc Jean adding the bone cash to the cake Surprise marzipan remains can see the colours of the mud tower bottom cakes better and therefore the strucuter

maripan skull

I really love this idea 🙂

The marzi bones

Creating T-Rex...

mixing green and white icing for t-rex icing t-rex needs a trim

icing t-rex ready to go

This has been EPIC - it took 3 days to make the cakes - Alaric is taking Mud Tower into work tomorrow etc... Both girls have enjoyed it so much and of course we used home grown eggs. The cakes themselves range from chocolate orange to mint to vanilla and strawberry in flavour. There are three icings and marzipan involved and some of the cake is me friendly ie gluten free (the volcano) and some is Mary friendly and so on.

Jean was a little sad as she had meant to put Mary Anning in and a geological map too but she forgot and just don't ask her about how atomically correct her loo death scene is ok.

The Best of Berries (by )


That awkward moment when someone takes a photo of you picking berries along the foot path to town and you realise OMG! I've turned into a hippy! I'm not even just picking black berries but ones people give you funny looks over as they think they are poisonous (which they are if you don't cook them!). My top was not quiet tie dye but near enough and my baby had no trousers on whilst my eldest skipped about in a hand painted t-shirt - yep I'm one of those mums - also urban blackberrying - BEWARE THE CYCLISTS!

This was a post I put on facebook and some interesting things came out of it - for a start I had to qualify that I meant the Rowan berries as toxic unless cooked. But they are not very toxic as in it is something that builds up over time and can sometimes lead to liver (or maybe kidney failure) from what I've read. Anyway the chemical is broken down by temperature extremes so that is freezing and cooking. Which is why the old country lore is that you don't pick until after the first frost.

And the classic argument over elder berries and weather they are poisonous. Main issue being that ripe berries aren't but they have to be really ripe and that they just aren't very toxic again though the leaves and stems are. Again cooking brakes down the cyanid within (it is also in apple pips and various other things) - some people have developed a tolerance from eating them as a kid etc...

Then I was asked what I thought of berrying along busy roads - which is an interesting one - this was my response.

Ok when the petrol was all lead based it was a big problem but now it should be ok - some of the ones (berries I'd picked) today were from road sides - it helps that my friends did the soil surveys a few years back - only thing I would say is that they shouldn't be eaten directly from the bush still if from heavy roadsides as there will be dust on them but a quick wash should sort that out. (However be aware this is my opinion and I haven't seen any data for years).

Also unless you have a map of the UK with metal ions on it etc... you are going to struggle to know what is safe where anyway - there are areas of Wales for a start where heavy metals weather out of the soil and plants there should be avoided for human consumption - add in illegal human refuse dumps and so on... Somewhere may seem nice a pleasant - even have farm crops growing on it and really not be good at all.

But the risks are minimal anyway as it is build up that's the issue wand everyone eats from a wide variety of places these days.

Having said all this people swapped recipes for things, and then I found out that haw stones contain cyanid - but again the cooking will brake this down - but this lead me to think about the confusing wealth of info out there on edible plants etc... I have not found an actually study of this specifically to tell the public the exact risks of things - for a start a table of how much cyanid is on average in various foods and compares say free food to stuff like apples and almonds etc... Also people seem confused by cyanid groups verses cyanid itself which react very differently - if we cut everything with the groups in out of our diet we would quickly starve (if I remember my A'level chemistry correctly).

Also I have been freely dispensing information about blackberries to people who enquire whilst I am out and about and often on of a group will be really taken with the idea whilst another will have apoplexy about them being dirty etc... There is very little in the way of public knowledge about this stuff - have any tests actually ever been done I wonder? How dirty is a blackberry straight from the briar and what do the soil test etc... mean around the road sides.

In the wake of Jamie Olivers comments about food and poverty and people being silly for not knowing - it would make sense to have an education program, healthy eating reduces costs to the NHS and benefits etc... it is a long term thing. People are scared of food they haven't grown up with or don't want to squander tight budgets on culinary experiments that might go wrong or really just can't get the fresh fruit and veg from the shops but also do not feel safe or confident in going out and finding their own in case they poison their family - these are reasonable fears and so easily addressed.

Jamie has always had a big head but he's also got a big heart and has done a hell of a lot with the school dinners and stuff (I think he just needs to stop and have a little think again over what he is saying and step into others shoes for a bit), but you know he really shouldn't have too - we should have a Ministry of Food anyway :/

So if I was in charge what would I do?

Well I would have all school children out on wilderness trails learning identification of edibles or more importantly poisonous plants. I would have fruit trees planted along verges and in parks - I would get tests done to see exactly what impact traffic fumes etc have and if the levels of harmful things are too high I would look at traffic regulations and find ways to reduce those. I would have cook-ups at community centres and places so that people can come along and learn to cook for free etc...

I would have a government leaflet/website that told you all about were it legal to forage (in clear terms) and the risks set out (this is the risks not just the hazards) but I would include the same for processed and main stream farming foods. I would initiate more allotments and community orchards and let the public know the things exist!

Schools are starting to grow veg and stuff thanks to the super markets and there has been an upsurge in general homestedding activities but they are being seen as a very middle class thing as they tend to be the ones with the time and spare resources to plough into learning about these things. I am finding it very frustrating trying to get hold of an allotment and to be frank most of our shopping bill is fruit and veg and that is just wrong! It is stupid that processed foods cost more than fruit and veg fresh from the field/vine.

As one of my friends posted on FB recently - growing your own food has become a middle class want rather than a working class need - but the problem there is that it is really still a need for EVERYBODY regardless of income or age. I've been reading up on things like depression, stress, learning difficulties etc... all being helped by... well nature - yes I know it all sounds hippy but these are medical studies etc... I think it would need a lot of work though - most of those being pushed into poverty at the moment are households were both parents work (I know surprising isn't it?) and therefore they are not going to want the extra stress/time restraint on already tiring lives - but maybe allotment sharing could come into place or something like that.

You also need to make sure people know they can join these things and that they are not exclusive schemes - I remember some of the allotments near were we grew up were very particular about who they let on to the site etc...

I hear that high end offices in London are now installing gardens on their roofs were people can grown veg and even keep bees. I have hope and I am enjoying my blackberrying - I've received one jar of jam from a friend and the neighbour nabbed me yesterday to shyly ask if I would like some of her 'bramble' jam once it was cool.

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