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Friday, April 21, 2017

HITTING ALL THE STAATION BUTTTONS ON LIFE'S RADIO

SNOW SQUALL YESTERDAY

NORTH WIND AND ROUGH WATERS
Friday, 8:00 AM.  38 degrees F at the ferry dock, 40 on the back porch.  Wind NNE, mostly calm with very light gusts.  The sky is clear, the humidity 80%.  The barometer is rising gently, now at 30.18".  Tomorrow will be warmer, in the sixties,. and clear, then the temperature will plummet and snow showers are again predicted.  The balance of next week will be mixed skies and weather.  It is a beautiful day but this is northern Wisconsin, after all.
   The last three days have been pretty nasty, with a prolonged snow squall yesterday that left a bit of white stuff on the ground for a while.  The constant high winds caused rough conditions on the lake, and I did not see a ferry sail all day (I don't know if it actually shut down).
   We will be traveling, so there won't be a post for a few days, as life seems to be compressed into the coming weekend.  We will attend a 90th birthday party in Wild Rose, Wisconsin for a cousin who lived with us when I was a kid, a "big sister" for an only child.
   Then it's on to Milwaukee to deliver a baby buggy to a niece with a newborn, the buggy being in the family for several generations.
   Then on Sunday we will attend the funeral of a very dear friend in Occonomowoc.
   Seems like we will be hitting all the station buttons on life's radio.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TAG ALDERS: GETTING TO KNOW THEM


FEMALE FLOWERS, OPEN TO RECEIVE POLLEN
A COLD, RAINY DAY

MALE FLOWER CATKINS, FULL OF POLLEN


Thursday, 8:45 AM.  38 degrees F at the ferry dock, 35  on the back porch.  Wind north, very gusty.  The sky is overcast and it is raining, a cold, pelting rain; the humidity is 94%.  The barometer is steady, at 29.95".  The forecast is for continuing cold temperatures with possible snow today, then warming into the 40's and clear Friday and Saturday, then cooling off with chances or snow or rain into next week.  The daffodils are shivering, they can take it, but Buddy and I are wet and chilled from our walk, and my shoulder aches.
   I have written a lot about tag alder in posts over the years, because it is so prevalent, and as an indicator of the advent of spring, but it can bloom over a long period and is difficult to determine exactly when it is in full bloom, at least for me; but for purposes of phenology (tracking the dates of the blooming of flowering plants) the following are my dates of record: 4/20/17; 4/17/16; 4/22/15; 4/15/14; 4/29/13; 4/11/11. These are pretty consistent dates, considering we have had some relatively severe and also relatively mild winters within those years, and correspondingly early or late springs. 
  Tag alder, or speckled alder,  Alnus incana, is a common large, multiple-stemmed shrub (occasionally small tree) of wet areas throughout most of North America except the South and the prairie states.  It can occupy huge areas that have been cut over, particularly in the North (in my observation).  It is called speckled because of the light colored lenticels (specialized organs for  atmospheric gas exchange) that occur on its reddish, cherry-like bark.  I do not know the derivation of the name "tag alder."
   Alnus incana has several synonyms, including A. serrulata and A rugosa, and there are a number of other species of alder with which it hybridizes, particularly at the edges of its range, so I can't get too particular as to its exact botanical classification.  Additionally, there is a larger European species, A glutinosa, which is occasionally used as a street tree.
   The alders have a light, useful wood but probably none but the European species becomes large enough in trunk diameter to be milled.  The genus also has considerable folk medicinal value, as all parts of the plant contain salicilates (the main constituent of aspirin), and  alder bark was used in kinnikinick, the American Indian smoking mixture.
   Alders are nitrogen fixing plants, and a western species is important in preparing mountain soils for forestation; they are intolerant to heavy shade and thus are a natural nurse crop for Douglas fir and other forest trees, which shade the alders out as they grow.
    Like many people, tag alders don't seem very useful or important until we really get to know them.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

IT'S ALL ABOUT TIMING


A CHALLENGING LANDSCAPE...

WALKWAY TO LAKE STAIRS INSTALLED,.

MEADOW GRASSES AND WILDFLOWERS PLANTED
Wednesday, 8:15 AM.  38 degrees F at the ferry dock, 37 on the back porch.  Wind N, calm to very light.  The sky is overcast, the humidity 85%,  The barometer is steady, at 30.15".  The forecast is for snow tomorrow, with cool temperatures and mixed weather for the next ten days.  We got around an inch of rain altogether in the last 24 hours, very welcome, but it is a reluctant spring.
   We got the meadow grasses and wildflower seeding done on Monday, just in time for a much needed rain on Tuesday.  Landscaping is as much about the nuances of timing, as anything.

                   LANDSCAPING
   Get the approval of the client before he leaves.
   Get the seed in and covered before it rains a lot.
   Get the perennials in before the weather turns hot.
   Get the evergreens planted before it snows.
   Get the bulbs planted before the ground freezes.
   Get the job done while you have the crew.
   Get paid before your bills come due.









Tuesday, April 18, 2017

FORSYTHIA SAYS "SPRING"

FORSYTHIA AND HEATHER
Tuesday, 9:00 AM. 37 degrees F at the ferry dock, 34 on the back porch,  Wind calm and variable.  The sky is overcast and cloudy and it is raining, the humidity 93%.  The barometer is still taking a ose dive, now at 30.21".  Today will warm up some, then drop again, with snow predicted for Thursday, then warmer again with mixed skies.  We needed a good rain, it was getting really dry,
   Forsythia are a pretty good indicator that spring is here to stay.  They are also good indicators of whether the spring is early, late or more or less on time.  My records show the following bloom dates, all when the plants are in full bloom: 4/2016; 4/16/15; 5/16/14; 5/12/13;3/23/12; 4/10/10.
  The genus Forsythia has eleven species, ten native to eastern Asia, and one to southeastern Europe. The genus has bright yellow, bell shaped flowers that bloom prodigiously in early spring. It is in the olive family (Oleaceae), and has opposite leaves and branches. The common name and scientific genus name are the same, but the common name "forsythia" is not capitalized.
   Brought to Europe from Chinese and Japanese gardens in the Eighteenth Century, the shrubs we are  familiar with today are mostly derived from Forsythia x intermedia, a hybrid cross between the species suspensa and viridissima.  There are many selections and back crosses of the original hybrid, and it is often identified only dubiously at most garden outlets, which is usually O.K. for general purposes.
   The genus is named for John Forsyth, an Eighteenth Century British Royal Gardener and founder of the Royal Horticulture Society.  It has become the commonest of landscape and garden shrubs, and though often overused and perhaps considered trite by some, its colorful early blooms and hardiness render it useful and probably necessary to most common landscapes.
  Forsythia is of the easiest culture, but needs full sun to bloom well.  The flowers bloom on older branches, including that  of the prior year, so forsythias are best pruned right after they bloom.  If pruned in the fall a lot of the next spring's flowers will be lost. If they get too large they may be drastically cut back, but then they will have few blooms the next spring and possibly for another year thereafter.
   Blooming along with daffodils or heather, forsythias say "spring."

Monday, April 17, 2017

NATURE, THE GREATEST MAGICIAN

A FOG BANK...

...ROLLING IN, OBSCURING MADELINE ISLAND
QUAKING ASPEN...
...FLOWERS ARE  NOW IN FULL BLOOM...
 ...THESE ARE FEMALE CATKINS
Monday, 8:00 AM.  32 degrees F at both the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind NNE, mostly calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is cloudy and overcast and there is mist in the air, the humidity 92%.  The barometer is still rising, now at 30.21", predicting rain tomorrow and continued cool weather and mixed skies through tomorrow, then warming into the high 40's and 50's during the day with mixed skies the balance of the week.
   Buddy and I went to the beach yesterday and almost froze to death, the temperature a full twenty degrees lower than Bayfield and the wind blowing a gale out of the northeast.
   It was worth it though, as we saw LaPoint on Madeline Island disappear in an advancing fog bank, then reappear and then disappear again, as though it was a subject in some great magic show.  It always amazes me the way the seascape can change with the atmosphere,  nature the great  magician wielding its wand.
   I also had the opportunity to observe close at hand the flowers of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) in the Willow Family, the Saliceae, the flowering branches of which are usually too high to reach.  They were in full bloom, the male and female flower catkins are on different, male and female trees (dioecious).  Those pictured are female.
   The hillsides will soon turn a wispy gray, as all the poplars come into bloom.
   Nature is indeed the greatest magician.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

LIVE FIRE AND SMOKE TRAINING

A MOBIL TRAINING UNIT FROM WISCONSIN INDIAN HEAD COMMUNITY COLLEGE..

GIVES LOCAL VOLUNTEER FIREMEN...

...THE OPPORTUNITY...

...TO DON SPECIAL EQUIPMENT...

AND PRACTICE UNDER REAL-LIFE FIRE AND SMOKE CONDITIONS


LIGHTING THE EASTER FLAME

Sunday, 9:45 AM.  Happy Easter! 36 degrees F on at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind variable, with very light gusts.  The sky is overcast and foggy, the humidity 95%.  The barometer is rising, now at 36.66".  Today and Monday will be partly cloudy and cool, warming with significant rain on Tuesday, then cooler again with mixed skies and weather the balance of the week.  We attended Easter Vigil yesterday evening at Christ Church Episcipal, followed by a seder meal, all in all a wonderful service and gathering.
   As we returned yesterday from the recycle center outside Red Cliff we drove through heavy smoke, and glancing about saw that it was fire and rescue training, provided on-site by the Wisconsin Indian Head Technical College.
   A large number of voluteer firemen were dressed in their fire and smoke gear, with protective clothing and oxygen tanks, waiting their turn to enter the smoke filled trailer provided by the school.  This was  evidently a pretty sophisticated simulation, and the training serious business.
   We have lived in communities with volunteer emergency services and those with paid professionals, and have always felt the two to be functionally pretty similar, but rural volunteers are becoming a scarce commodity, as young people seek work elsewhere, and older volunteers become fewer and fewer, and the community tax base struggles to provide support for either volunteers or paid professionals.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

DAFFODIS ARE BEGINNING TO BLOOM

A QUIET, GRAY DAY
DAFFODILS ARE BLOOMING ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE HOUSE

Saturday, 8:45 AM.  45 degrees F at the ferry dock, 49 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is cloudy and overcast, the humidity 88%.  The barometer is  at 30.80", the forecast calling for highs in the 40's and 50's until it rains Tuesday, then coooling off to the 30's and 40's with possible snow on Thursday.  It is a quiet, gray morning.
   The first standard daffodils bloomed yesterday on the south side of the house, and others around Bayfield will soon follow.  Blooming dates can vary somewhat with the spring weather; here's some history of first bloom: 4/26/16. 4/23/15. 4/16/14,  5/3/13, 4/14/11. 4/15/10.  In a warm spring they might last two weeks, in a cool spring a month or longer.
   Nothing says "spring" like the yellow trumpets of daffodils.  I am not particular as to species or variety, as long as they are yellow daffodils.  I think those pictured are "King Alfred," an old and usually inexpensive favorite.  miniature daffodils are also blooming.
   Daffodils were grown in ancient Greece and Rome and have been a commercial plant for centuries and longer.  There are many species, mostly native to southern Europe and North Africa, their epicenter being the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal).  They grow in meadows and woods and along streams in their native habitats, and prefer a slightly acid soil, adequate moisture and good drainage. Primary colors are yellow and white, with some species and varieties also having orange or pink floral parts.  The species of the genus Narcisus, in the Amaryllis family, hybridize readily, and I cannot go into much description of varieties as I am not a real fancier.  I just like the typical form, and if they happen to be fragrant, so much the better.  Having been grown commercially for hundreds of years, there are endless varieties available.
   Bayfield has planted thirty or more thousand yellow daffodils throughout the community through the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce.  It is worth a trip to see them in full bloom.  Daffodils naturalize in lawn grass pretty well, but a few rules have to be followed to enjoy then over the years: don't mow the lawns they grow in until the daffodil leaves die back; and, fertilize the lawn they grow in with a complete low nitrogen fertilizer, or bonemeal if you can get it, in the fall.  Daffodils probably grow best in a garden area where they can be dug up and divided every four or five years, but there is nothing to compare with the massed blooms of naturalized daffodils.

DAFFODILS
 by William Wordsworth, 1815

I wandered, lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.