Inquiring Photographer: Orchid Cubit Member Ursula

By Kathy Puckett (boojum) on August 6, 2010

Recently, I was thinking about the people I talk to every day online and realized I probably don't know them as well as I would like. Sooo, I have decided to create this member interview feature! I hope you enjoy learning about our members as much as I do!

Here are the questions that I will ask members:

1. Please tell us about yourself. (ex.: your past, your professional status, now, where you grew up, where you live now and the zone, etc.)
2. Do you garden besides growing orchids? Tell us about it.
3. What is your favorite music, films, books, quotations, etc.
4. What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.
5. Tell us about your interest in orchids and how it progressed.
6. What is most important to you? Who are your heroes?
7. What are your dreams and aspirations?
8. What makes you laugh?

Ursula, thank you so much for agreeing to become our first interviewee!!! Hopefully this will help us to get to know each other better and more deeply (and in my case with my weak memory, to remember who is who!) I have spend days with you, both at your home and mine, so I thought I knew you pretty well, but I was amazed by your many adventures! 

1. I was born and raised in Erfurt/Thuringia in the former East Germany and we moved to Cologne when I was 14 years old. I had a very happy childhood. Toys were scarce while growing up, but my brother and I could always ask for lots of books and board games. I don't have many pictures from my childhood to show here, since we left them behind when my brother and I were told one morning that we were relocating that very same day to my mother's home town Cologne in the former West Germany. That day was a great adventure for us!

But, at a visit in 2006 I took pictures from the house I grew up in ( downstairs corner) and my school, both now nicely renovated. 

While living in Cologne I met my husband to be, who coincidentally came from the same town/ Erfurt as I did. He had lived only a few blocks away from us. We did not know each other but had mutual acquaintances. Both of us went to College in Wiesbaden to study Chemistry and after graduation in 1966 moved to the USA as newlyweds, settling in Fair Lawn NJ. ( zone 6 b)

Picture taken Easter 1967

NJ is a hotbed for Chemistry and we were fortunate enough to land a job in different departments in the same campus of a major Pharmaceutical company. This allowed us to share the commuting time and saved us money needed to built a household. After five years I became pregnant and quit my job to devote my time to raising our two children. As they grew older and went to school I filled my time with plenty of odd jobs and sporting endeavors. I worked as painter, cleaning lady, waitress, census taker, soccer coach, anything to be around when the children came home from school.

Until a few years ago I owned a couple of knitting machines, on the associated computer I was happily designing pictures and knitting them into sweaters. I sold a lot of knitwear, especially children's sweaters, in those years. 
For years we played soccer on Sunday mornings with other families and their children which was a lot of fun. I had time to be part of a ladies racquetball traveling team. 
In those years I also ran a few large aquariums, keeping a variety of fish, mainly Cichlids. I wound up breeding Angelfish, and the selected best were traded in for fish food and equipment to run the tanks.
We bought some land with a small cottage in 1984 in North East Pennsylvania and we enjoyed taking long walks through our forest and meadow and made ourselves familiar with the interesting vegetation the area has to offer. Discovering native Orchids and tracking their stands throughout the years is still one of our very favorite pastime.

As the children approached the end of high school, money for college was needed so I went back to work full time. In 1988 I was re-hired by my original company like a freshly graduated scientist from college but they recognized my previous time of service. It was there in the early nineties that I was introduced to Orchids by my supervisor, who had lined the whole brightly lit glassed in corridor with his plants and lucky for me, he shared his expertise freely. I would say that was my training ground! I had been growing Cacti and Succulents and all sorts of other plants for some years and started happily to add some orchids to my collections.

It was in the early nineties that our children finished college and we were now able to travel. Thanks to my absolutely fearless and adventurous husband I/we have probably seen more of the world than most people. It started out with a rafting trip down the Colorado River and I was hooked. Seeing a total solar eclipse in the Andean mountains and another one in Colombia and experiencing a most fascinating eclipse in the Libyan Sahara were fantastic experiences. Walking around with Penguins in Antarctica, exploring the climate zones of Brazil, enjoying the sights and the most interesting vegetation of and around Kaieteur Falls during a long, spur of the moment weekend in Guyana, touring Tibet and visiting every Buddhist temple along the way, being able to see Mount Everest from a 6 mile distance while camping at the Mount Everest base camp for three days, seeing the major cities of China with a special tour on the Yang Tse river just before the 3 Gorges Dam was completed, exploring on foot the ruins of the temples of Angkor Wat as a side tour to a Thailand trip, walking around Machu Picchu, climbing the dunes of Erg Chebbi in Marocco to see the sun rise in the Sahara, traveling around Europe, and more recently spending a month in South Africa and Namibia followed by an amazing visit to Burkina Faso - the list is very long….. Traveling all these years and spending time interfacing with people of many different cultures and always sampling the local cuisine has been fascinating, fun and above all have played a huge role in my approach to life and people in general; and also along the way it honed my interest in the indigenous flora. Seeing plant life and in particular orchids in their natural habitats is first of all thrilling and also serves to very clearly provide a mental picture of the conditions a specific plant/Orchid under my care might need to thrive. Walking through the Pueblo Gardens at the foot of Machu Picchu and seeing a Trichopilia high up in the canopy of a tree - a brief rain shower followed by the rays of the sun filtering through the branches holding the Orchid or a Masdevallia coccinea flowering amongst the vegetation on the forest floor, are not forgotten. Exploring fascinating groups of various Cacti in bloom on a slope at 3500 m altitude in Bolivia is surely forever imprinted into my mind, along with the gigantic headache we had to suffer as a result of not being totally acclimatized to the high altitude.

Here is a small sampling of our travels:
 South Africa
 Klaus aka Pied Piper under Baobob tree
 approach to Angkor Wat
 raising my glass at BBQ in Antarctica
 at a Safari in South Africa
 in front of our tent at the Base camp of Mt Everest.
 the Potala in Lhasa/Tibet
 walking with Penguins in Antarctica
 at the market in Wanxian/China. One of the large Fish had jumped out.I placed it back into the tub which earned me some smiles.

I retired a few years ago from my job at Hoffmann La Roche, where I spent the last ca 14 years as a happy cog in the wheels of several drug discovery teams as it was my job crystallizing the relevant proteins. My retirement perfectly coincided with the arrival of twin girls, our first grandchildren Kammi and Anna, so I could lend a helping hand. And this year marked the arrival of another grandchild, a little boy, Jake. 

2. Our house is surrounded by a small garden, but I am not a very good gardener, my husband is very amused by my infrequent tomato, potato or vegetable growing endeavors which seem to benefit the native fauna and leaves us out of the loop. It seems that plants which are supposed to stay small over-tower those in back. My at least six foot tall Potato plant without any tubers was a sign to stay with easy stuff like Orchids. Growing up in an area which was, due to a cooler climate, famous for Dahlias, I tried my hand repeatedly growing those but failed. It took some years before I settled on more simple borders in the garden and I just work on keeping them reasonable weed-free. But, I do enjoy very much tending to my Orchids and C&S collection, for hours. I like taking their pictures and so I am able to share them with others.

3. I have always listened to mostly classical music but throughout the years I have focused increasingly on Choral music and mostly on Opera.
I am not a movie buff, but my favorite channel on TV is probably the Scifi channel, omitting the gory part.
Regarding books - I like Science fiction, poetry, enjoy reading the classics and now with the arrival of the kindle I find myself downloading a lot more of a happy mixture of books.

4. My interest in Orchids progressed to the point that we built a greenhouse in 2001 to house the ever growing collection and proceeded a few years later to set up a screened in area being able to summer the Orchids outside in a protected environment. The Cacti and Succulents wind up populating the deck and front steps of the house.

5. What is most important to me? I like us to stay healthy and fit so we can enjoy our hobbies and family and friends for years to come.

I don't think I have any heroes. The word hero is used too often in my opinion. 

6.see 5. 

7. What makes me laugh?
Perhaps that should be changed to who makes me laugh. I would think the person who still makes me laugh the most is my husband.

Ok there you have it.



About Kathy Puckett
Kathy is the admin for An Orchid Obsession. She is a speech-language pathologist, a former professional artist, a photographer, and an avid orchid grower. And most of all she likes to learn about the folks she chats with every day on her cubit.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Your autobiography kevin51 Oct 14, 2010 6:32 AM 2
Great interview! nap Aug 13, 2010 3:48 PM 9
Great phicks Aug 7, 2010 11:40 PM 5
Bravo to you both! sandnsea2 Aug 7, 2010 12:30 PM 4

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