Obscure Knowledge

An Essay By Raine // 12/20/2007

I was thinking the other day, and I just realized that I have a whole lot of obscure knowledge. I know alot about various and sundry things...that most people don't know, or would even care about. Flax, for instance. Did you know that Flax is one of a number of plants that are used to make linen? Most of what we call linen today is made from the flax plant.

Flax is a bast fiber. That means that the fiber comes from its stalk, not the "fruit" as do tufts of cotton. Flax grows in tall, closely planted stems that resemble hay. It grows to three or four feet in height and has fragile blue flowers. I have Flax in my flower garden.

The flowers produce sesame-size linseeds used for oil and as dietary fiber.

Here's what you have to do to prepare flax to be spun. Or at least, the methods that I know and am currently trying. First the flax must be retted to remove the woody fiber from the stalks. There are two methods of retting: dew or field retting and pond or stream retting. Dew retting involves laying the stalks on the ground for up to a month and allowing the dew to keep the plants wet until the woody husk rots off. Stream retting takes considerably less time (ten days to two weeks). The stalks are tied underwater and the wood rinses away.
After retting and drying, the flax must be broken. The flax is either beaten with a wooden mallet or chopped on a flax break. This breaks the remaining woody material on the stalks. Next, a scutching blade is used. This wooden "sword" is used to scrape the flax until the woody outside starts to fall off. Then the flax is hackled. The hackler drags the flax through a device that looks like a 6" x 6" bed of nails. Usually the flax is hackled on two or three different hackles of varying degrees of coarseness. The flax is pulled through the coarsest one until it pulls smoothly. Then the hackler moves to the next fine hackle and so on. Once the flax is hackled on the finest hackle and all the wood is off, it resembles human hair. And then you can start spinning it. That's a whole other paragraph or even two. I'm 'retting' my flax right now. I want to see if I can spin it into thread, on a hand spindle.

See what I mean? Obscure knowledge...how many people care about learning how to spin flax fibers into thread by hand?

Or what about Mushrooms? Mushrooms, as we all know, are the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting bodies of fungi typically produced above ground on soil or on their food sources. The standard for the name mushroom is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, and the name 'mushroom' is often given to fungi that have a stem (called a stipe), a cap (called a pileus), and gills (each called a lamella) on the underside of the cap just as do white button mushrooms.

But, mushrooms can also be a wide variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems. Usually forms deviating from the standard form have more specific names, such as puffballs, stinkhorn, morels, etc.

Chanterelle(Cantharellus) are bright yellow to orange and found in June to September under hardwood trees.

Giant Puffballs(Calvatia) range from 8 to 24 inches and is usually found in open areas. They're supposed to be good.

You can find Green-Spored Lepiota(Chlorophyllm) in lawns and other grassy areas. Rather poisonous!

Morel Mushrooms(Morchella) look really neat. They're edible, but be careful of False Morels, don't eat them!

The Destroying Angel(Amanita sp.) is white, with three similar species. It's deadly!

I know a whole lot more mushrooms and fungi, their latin names, where to find them, what they look like, how to cook them and if they're edible. Like Hedgehog Mushrooms, Cup Mushrooms, Shaggy Mane, Fly Amanita(poisonous!), Russula, Sulfer on Chicken(Laetiporus), Slippery Jack and many others.

Think that's not enough? Well...what about dinosaurs!

Dinosaurs were vertebrate animals that apparently dominated the earth for over 160 million years, first appearing approximately 230 million years ago. At the end of the Cretaceous Period (about 65 million years ago) a catastrophic extinction event ended dinosaurs' dominance on land. One group of dinosaurs is known to have survived to the present day: taxonomists consider modern birds to be direct descendants of theropod dinosaurs.

The first dinosaur fossils were recognized in the nineteenth century.

The term dinosaur is sometimes used informally to describe other prehistoric reptiles, such as the pelycosaur Dimetrodon, the winged pterosaurs, and the aquatic ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and mosasaurs, although technically none of these were dinosaurs.

One of my favorite dinosaurs is Deinonychus. This dinosaur was a lightly built, fast-moving, agile, bipedal, bird-like dinosaur. It was built to kill. It had a curved, flexible neck and a big head with sharp, serrated teeth in very powerful jaws. Each of its three fingers on each hand had large, sharp, curved claws. It had four-toed feet; the second toe had a 5-inch sickle-like claw, and the other toes had smaller claws. Its long tail had bony rods running along the spine, giving it rigidity; the tail was used for balance and fast turning ability. Kind of reminds you of a Velociraptor. Only I like Deinonychus better.

I also quite like Diplodocus. The name, Diplodocus, means double-beamed lizard. This dinosaur was an herbivore and walked on four legs. It also had a very small brain.At first sight, you might think of a Brontosaurus(actually, an Apatasaurus, the name brontosaurus is no longer used), but while I believe the two come from the same family (diplodocidae), they are not the same. Both came from the late Jurrasic period, if I remember corrently.

Struthiomimus was like an ostrich...its name means 'ostrich mimic'. It had a long neck; long, slender but powerful legs; and a small head. A horny, toothless beak covered its jaws. It had large eyes and a large brain.

Struthiomimus closely resembles Ornithomimus and many scientists consider them to be one and the same. But Struthiomimus was a bit smaller and had a longer Tail. It stood 7 feet tall and was 12 feet long. Its tail was 3 feet longer than its very short body. It is known from at least one complete skeleton and several partial ones found in Alberta, Canada.

Oh! Another of my favorite is Compsognathus. You might recognize these from the popular movie, Jurassic Park. These dinosaurs caught and ate small animals. It was about the size of a chicken, and walked on two thin, long legs, had three-toed feet, a small pointed head with sharp, small teeth and hollow bones. Compsognathus had short arms with two clawed fingers on each hand, and a long tail acted as stability during fast turns.

I also quite like Ankylosaurus, Baryonyx, Pteranadon, and Spinosaurus. I could talk about dinosaurs forever! Well...maybe not quite that long.

Still not convinced? Okay, lets talk about clouds. Clouds are classified into a system that uses Latin words to describe the appearance of clouds as seen by an observer on the ground. For example, the translation of cumulus is heap. Ever paid attention to cumulus clouds? They look very much like a big heap of cloud. Nimbus basically means rain, so put a few things together and you have cumulonimbus. Which usually means you can expect a little precipitation.

Further classification identifies clouds by height of the cloud base. For example, cloud names containing the prefix "cirr-", as in cirrus clouds, are found at high levels while cloud names with the prefix "alto-", as in altostratus, are found at middle levels.

High level clouds are typically thin and white. Mid-level clouds are composed primarily of water droplets. Or if temperatures are cold enough, they can be composed of ice crystals too. The same with Low-level clouds.

The most common form of high-level cloud is cirrus, thin and wispy. The word cirrus comes from the Latin word for a tuft or curl of hair. Cirrus clouds are very wispy and feathery looking. They form only at high altitudes, about 7 km above the earth's surface.

Clouds with the prefix "alto" are middle level clouds that have bases between 2000 and 7000 m, such as altocumulus clouds. They appear as gray, puffy masses, sometimes rolled out in parallel waves or bands. The appearance of these clouds on a warm, humid summer morning often means thunderstorms may occur by late afternoon.

Stratus clouds are one type of low level clouds. The word stratus comes from the Latin word that means "to spread out." Stratus clouds are horizontal, layered clouds that stretch out across the sky like a blanket. Stratus clouds may extend for many kilometers across the sky.

Again, I could talk about clouds for a very long time...see what I mean by obscure knowledge? I can't imagine that any of this information will ever be of much use in my life....but you never know.

I did enjoy learning it all! I love my obscure knowledge!



Did you know that slugs have four noses?

Anonymous | Fri, 12/21/2007

Double :D

Did you know that the largest popsicle in the world weighed half a ton?

Scio, diligo, servo Deum.

Lucia | Sat, 12/22/2007

Scio, diligo, servo Deum.


Half a ton? Four noses? Wow!!! Nice goob, Raine! It's so true!!!


Emily | Thu, 01/24/2008

Did you know that mules

Did you know that mules can't have a gender?

Megan | Sun, 01/27/2008



Uh....yeah! doesn't everything have a gender? well not EVERYTHING but most things!


Emily | Tue, 01/29/2008

I said they can't have a

I said they can't have a gender.

Megan | Tue, 01/29/2008



I did enjoy the dinosaur part, but here is some more obscure knowledge:

Large dinosaur bone fossils (among other things) have been found sticking through several layers of rock... if the layers had taken millions of years to form, the bones would have rotted away.

Dinosaur bones have been found with red and white blood cells on them, which would not last millions of years.

Before the word "dinosaur" was invented, the word dragon was used to describe such animals.

The biblical monsters Behemoth and Leviathan are described in ways that fit dinosaurs.

Sorry to go on, but I find dinosaurs extremely interesting.

Ezra | Tue, 02/26/2008

"There are no great men of God. There are only pitiful, sorry men whose God is great beyond measure." - Paul Washer [originally Jonathan Edwards]


Did you know that the leviathan mentioned in Job could breathe fire?
It says so.

Sarah | Tue, 02/26/2008

"Sometimes even to live is courage."

Blogging away!


I think Behemoth was an Ultrasaurus (Chief in the ways of God)...

Ezra | Thu, 02/28/2008

"There are no great men of God. There are only pitiful, sorry men whose God is great beyond measure." - Paul Washer [originally Jonathan Edwards]

Behemoth is a dinosaur!

Behemoth is a dinosaur,
A dinosaur is he.
He eateth grass as an ox,
His tail's like a cedar tree.
His bones are strong,
As bars of iron,
He's chief in the ways of God.
Could Behemoth be a dinosaur,
A mighty sauropod?

(Chorus from a song by Buddy Davis)
(Job 40:15)

Nathanael | Thu, 02/28/2008

We are waiting for the long-promised invasion.
So are the fishes. ~ Winston Churchill

Great minds think alike!

Hey! Great minds think alike! I mean, not to brag or anything...but...I already knew all that stuff in great detail. Minus the flax though.

Nathanael | Thu, 02/28/2008

We are waiting for the long-promised invasion.
So are the fishes. ~ Winston Churchill


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