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Sunday, August 31, 2008


Sunday, 8:15 AM. 60 degrees, wind WSW, calm. The channel is slightly wrinkled, the sky blue with some haze. The barometer predicts mostly sunny skies. It will be a warm late summer day.
There are fall warblers in the yard now, flitting about, unidentifiable in the leaves (or out).
I picked another pint of wild blackberries from the few bushes in the front corner of the yard. They are plump and tasty after the rain. The closest I will get to identifying them is Rubus flagellatis, an appropriate species name. They demand their blood price for every pint picked. They are blackberries rather than black raspberries for two reasons; the running canes root at the tip, and the berries do not pull easily from their stems as do raspberries, but rather break off, stem included. They are a real bramble and worth your life trying to go through them with walking shorts on. Each berry gets an “ouch” or a cuss word as it is picked.
After church and lunch I will go out to the Town of Russell shooting range and toss myself some clay pigeons and see if I still have the eye and reflexes to maybe bring down a grouse, the season opening in two weeks.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Saturday, 8:00 AM. 53 degrees, wind W, calm. The east half of the channel is glassy, the west half dimpled. The skies are clear and the barometer predicts mostly snny weather. The holiday weekend will be a perfect ten.
The hedge maple, Acer campestre, is a serviceable and attractive large shrub-small tree, of eastern European origin, long used in landscaping in this country. It has attractive yellow fall foliage color and, as pictured, colorful winged samaras (a papery fruit enclosing the seed). Properly trimmed it can make a hardy small street tree.
Lots of everything to do this weekend.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Friday, 8:15 AM. 55 degrees, wind NW, moderate with gusts. The channel is crawling. The sky is clear and the barometer predicts sunny skies. We got a little over an eighth of an inch of rain last night, bringing our total to a little less than an inch of rain in 24 hours, not enough but we will take it.
The plant pictured is growing in the ditch at Tenth and Mannypenny streets. It is a dead nettle, and as far as I can key it out without spending half the day doing it, it is Lamium purpureum, in the mint family (Labiatae). It is a somewhat common weed of Eurasian origin. I find it interesting because of its similarity in appearance to the stinging nettles, in the nettle family (Urticaceae), which at first I thought it to be. The stinging nettles have barbed, poisonous hairs on the entire plant. The dead nettles have similar appearing hairs but they are not poisonous and do not sting. These plants evolved together, and the dead nettles live on the reputation of the stinging nettles, and like a gang "wannabe" in a bad neighborhood, derive protection from their similarity in appearance (they are called “dead” because their hairs are not “alive” and do not sting). The stinging nettles can be very unpleasant and should be approached with care. When I find one I will bring the subject up again.
Have to get the flag out for the holiday and be sure the yard and gardens look O.K. for the long holiday weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Thursday, 8:15 AM. 55 degrees, wind W, light to moderate. The channel is wrinkled, the sky overcast, and the barometer predicts rain. We got three-quarters of an inch of rain last night and could use a lot more, but are thankful for every drop. The rain barrels are replenished, the lawn greening up as I write, and the potted banana on the deck happy for the first time all summer.
The Russian olive, Eleagnus angustifolia, pictured here, is neither olive nor Russian, although it is of Eurasian origin. It bears pea-sized silvery fruits which look somewhat like olives. It has disease problems and is considered invasive although I have not seen it particularly so. It is drought and salt tolerant, and its gray foliage is unusual in the landscape but I see no particular advantage in this plant and do not recommend its use. It has been much over planted. There is a native species of the far western plains of North America, the silverberry, E. commutata, which may be of some landscape use, as might the native buffalo berry, Shepherdia Canadensis, also of the Western plains. All these plants are in the family Eleagnaceae.
It looks like a good day to do some desk work and see what the weather does.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Wednesday, 8:15 AM, 52 degrees, wind W, light. The channel is wrinkled, the sky is mostly overcast and the barometer predicts rain. An enormous thunderhead just appeared on the northern horizon.
We now nave twenty pounds of flash frozen blueberries in the freezer, which will pretty much last until next berry season. We bought them from Highland Valley Farm on Valley Road in the orchard country. There are a number of local farms that sell excellent blueberries, including Blue Vista, Good Earth Gardens and Rocky Acres, but they don’t sell frozen berries. It would take me weeks to pick twenty pounds of wild berries, which I think have a more distinct flavor, but Joan likes the farm berries better, so take your choice. Highland Valley Farm is owned by Rick and Janet Dale, and they have transformed 40 acres of old farm land into one of the largest and most modern blueberry operations anywhere, and Rick volunteers for USAID to help establish small farming enterprises in Eastern Europe. Being a small farmer is hard, hard work but Highland Valley Farm is a prime example of real success.
Highland Valley Farm is a participant in the very successful Bayfield area farmland preservation initiative sponsored by the State of Wisconsin and the Town of Bayfield, which has bought restrictive covenants on several farms in the area to keep them from wanton real estate development. The Bayfield Regional Conservancy was a prime organizing factor in this program, which means so much to the future of the Bayfield area. More on this topic in the future.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 49 degrees, wind NNE, calm. Cannel slightly wrinkled, the sky is blue, the barometer down, predicting partly cloudy skies.
Many invasive species seem innocuous, or very natural, in the landscape. The buckthorns fall into that category. However, they can take over the under story in disturbed wood lots, particularly in urban areas. There are a number of species and varieties, but in our area only two, Rhamnus cathartica, the common buckthorn and R. frangula, glossy buckthorn. They are invasive because the produce seed very heavily and particularly the latter has been much used in landscaping, for hedges. ‘Tallhedge’ is a much used cultivar. The common buckthorn is particularly thorny. The bark and berries of buckthorns look a good deal like wild cherries, but the berries can be definitely identified by squeezing them in your fingers; the common has two or three seeds, the glossy four, each seed flat on one side. The berries are very bitter, and were once used as a purgative. Buckthorns should not be planted and should be eradicated where possible.
This morning we are going to Highland Valley Farm to pick up or two boxes of flash-frozen blueberries, which should last us through the winter.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Monday, 8:00 AM. 44 degrees, wind SSW, calm. The channel is calm. The skies are clear and the barometer predicts the same.
Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium maculatum, is named after an American Indian healer (common name), and the genus name after the Greek king Eupator, who supposedly was the first to recognize the medicinal properties of the genus. It is a common native plant of damp fields and roadsides, and is often seen in the garden, where its use probably derived from medicinal herb gardens. Its common name in herbal use is gravel root, which alludes to its functions in treating diseases of the kidneys and urinary tract (stones), arthritis and gout. Both Joan and I depend on this plant in the treatment of our respective ailments but you will have to do our own research, I am afraid. Another common native plant in the genus is Eupatorium perfoliatum, boneset, much used in the past for treating virulent, high fevers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Sunday, 8:00 AM. 50 degrees, wind WNW, light with strong gusts. The channel is wrinkled. The sky is overcast, but the barometer predicts sun. It looks like rain and even a shower would be welcome.
A lot of wild fruits and seeds won’t be developing well because of the drought, but there are always some. The highbush cranberry, Viburnum americanum, has highly ornamental red-yellow fruit that can be used in preserves but is not otherwise edible, and is not a cranberry at all.
The alternate leaved dogwood, Corns alternifolia, has attractive blue-black berries that have bright red stems.
The garden, despite being somewhat weedy and incomplete, is still attractive in an unkempt fashion, and the roses have been very nice.
The sweet corn and melons have been delicious. The corn variety we have been eating recently is named ‘Love Me Tender,’ and I bet Elvis’ estate is collecting royalties. I almost expect to see an ad featuring a shadowy Elvis peering out of a Graceland window, eating corn on the cob. The King lives (and loves his sweet corn)!

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Saturday, 6:45 AM.57 degrees, wind SSW, moderate. The channel is crawling. The sky is blue, and the barometer predicts rain.
It threatened rain for the last hundred miles coming home last night, the sky was angry and the wind blew fiercely, but nothing in the rain gauge, so I will have to water again.
We have had a succession of foreign guests staying at Garden View the past ten days, first a young couple and baby from Germany, who are visiting relatives, then a young Chinese couple who I assumed to be students, and the last four days another German family, the son a sophomore at UW Eau Claire, who had been a high school exchange student, and who intends to stay here. They have had a fine time hiking and swimming, have visited the sea caves, seen bear, deer, eagles and an elk, have taken many photos, and are going to see a Packer exhibition football game in Green Bay. I don’t think foreign travelers often come here directly, but if in the region anyway, we are certainly an attraction, and it makes life interesting.
The Urban Forestry Council meeting was more productive than such meetings usually are... we are developing an initiative to plant 20 million city trees in the state by the year 2020, which should give me something more to do, and for probably the rest of my life.
There were more obvious if subtle signs of fall while traveling, most notably the sensitive ferns, Onoclea sensibilis, so-called because they turn golden brown at the first hint of frost. There were other hints as well, such as a few golden tamaracks, and a few reddening maples. In the next several weeks there will be many more obvious signs, so it’s time to mark the hunting seasons on the calendar and get the guns out .
Lucky has to be picked up from the kennel this morning, as we got back too late last night to do so.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Thursday, 8:15 AM. 63 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is glassy and fog obscures the Island. The sky is mostly clear, and the barometer predicts partly cloudy skies. It will get pretty warm again today. We are going to Stevens Point today (about 5hr. south) for a meeting of the Wisconsin urban Forestry Council, of which I am a member. Lucky will stay two nights at Blue Ribbon Kennels in Ashland, as we will be back too late tomorrow to pick him up then.
The UFC meeting’s most important topic will be the Emerald Ash Borer, which has devastated ash trees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and now has entered southern Wisconsin. It is a massive problem both for city trees and native populations of ash (genus Fraxinus) trees, reminiscent of the Dutch elm disease problem of a generation ago, and the Chestnut blight of a hundred years ago. This pest is also of Asiatic origin, arriving on our shores in shipping pallet wood. We never learn, it seems. Terrorists are not the only vermin needing to be interdicted at the border.
The pest is a small green beetle, the larvae of which is a flat-headed borer that girdles the cambium layer of the tree, just under the bark, and kills it. The destruction will cost billions (that’s with a B) of dollars, and great ecological damage to native forests as well. At this point the only way to stop the beetle is with impractical and very expensive applications of pesticide to individual trees. There is some hope of introducing, also from Asia, a tiny parasitic wasp that can kill the beetles, but this is still in the exploratory stage. One thing we can all do is to not transport any ash wood (firewood, living trees, etc.) from one location to another, to quarantine the insect.
Keep your eye on this problem, it is huge. For more info google Emerald Ash Borer, there is a lot out there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Wednesday, 7:30 AM. 58 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is calm. There is considerable haze over the Island and on the eastern horizon, The barometer is down, predicting partly cloudy weather.
At this time of year I get many questions about the pictured plant, Tamarix ramosissima, native to southeastern Europe and central Asia. There have been a number of them planted in Bayfield because of their pink blossoms and unusual appearance.
It is highly tolerant of saline soils and very useful in that regard for planting on ocean shores and along roadsides that get a lot of winter salting. Unfortunately this renders it highly invasive in the US southwestern deserts.
All of which brings up an interesting question; it does not seem to be invasive elsewhere, so when and where should a plant be labeled and banned as an invasive species? If it is planted here, can it escape from here to the southwestern deserts? But, to be the devil’s advocate, might it escape to our Great Lakes sand dunes? I have heard that the common Lilac is invasive on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron; does that mean Lilacs should be banned in Toronto and Detroit? Kentucky bluegrass is invasive in native prairies; should we not have lawns and ball fields? And, how do you legislate against things that are already here and part of the landscape (sounds like immigration, doesn’t it)?
The whole subject of invasive species is complicated philosophically, scientifically and practically. It is also important from a regulatory standpoint, since Big Brother (the federal government) and the Little Brothers (the states) are much engaged in passing legislation on these matters, and there are high-pressure groups on both sides, actively lobbying. This is a divisive topic. Keep your ear close to the rail on this one.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

8/19/08: RAIN, PLEASE

Tuesday, 7:45 AM. 50 degrees, wind SW, light. The channel is crawling slightly. The sky is clear and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
The low pressure has moved out and high pressure in, and we still have had no significant rain. The red oak acorns falling on Manypenny Ave. are about half the size they should be. Acorns are a major wildlife food so this is a concern. We need a good rain for the apple crop as well. However, this looks like a bumper year for blueberries, which caught rain at the right time. Andy and Judy went to a Madeline Island bog with friends and came back loaded with blueberries. They are coming to dinner tonight and the menu will be brats and beer, fresh sweet corn and green beans, cucumber salad, and honeydew melon and wild blackberries for desert. Typical summer fare, to be indulged in during the short season.
Lots of yard and garden work to do today.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Monday, 7:45 AM. 67 degrees, Wind W, light with gusts. Sky partly cloudy with high, fast moving cumulus clouds. The channel is wrinkled and gray, like an old many. There is haze on the Island, and the barometer still predicts rain, as does the red maple tree. We got a quick little storm last night that left little to measure. There is evidently a large weak low system to the west, moving slowly.
The wild blackberries are ripening and they are wonderful. The first apples are ripe, this one from Hauser’s, they call a “green” transparent. A few more old fashioned varieties, like the lady’s apple, will be available soon but there aren’t many of these early old varieties grown anymore. The white, aster-like flower is an everlasting, genus Gnaphalium, I won’t hazard a guess as to species. It is blooming now on some sandy roadsides, the genus is confusing, and some of them were once used medicinally, this one is very pretty.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Sunday, 7:45 AM. 66 degrees, wind NW, calm. The channel is calm to dimpled, the sky is mixed clear and high thin white and gray clouds with some mare’s tails. The barometer again predicts rain. Yesterday was warm and muggy and today will be the same.
The wild carrot, Daucus carota, is inbloom along the roadsides. It’s common names are Queen Anne’s lace, and in England, bird’s nests (which refers to the appearance of the inflorescence in seed). Both are very descriptive of the plant, which is easy to identify. The wild, virtually inedible carrot has been transformed through thousands of years of human selection into the garden carrot we know today. The wild and cultivated plants both have healthful herbal qualities as diuretics and carminatives. The herbal uses have been mostly abandoned and we think of the carrot today in primarily culinary terms. The wild carrot is easy to identify but be sure you know it well before you make any use of it, as it is in the parsley family, the Umbeliferae, which contains many poisonous plants.
Another sign of fall is the red-twigged dogwood now fruit. It’s white berries are very decorative but are not edible.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Saturday, 7:45 AM. 61 degrees, wind NW, light to moderate. The channel is crawling and looks like it may get rough. There are white-gray clouds on the northern horizon and overhead. The barometer predicts rain.
Yesterday’s mail brought my fall issue of Mazina’agin, “a chronicle of the Lake Superior Ojibwe,” published by The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (but, please, it is really too soon for it to actually be fall!) It is a read I look forward to, as it has both modern and traditional Indian wildlife and cultural articles. It is very professional in both content and style. The current issue has a host of articles, from lead in venison to fish carving, Lake levels, marten stocking, loons, the Clam Lake elk herd, invasive species and more.
It is a free publication, except for a $5 postal charge outside the United States and Canada. You can obtain a subscription by calling 715-682-6619, or by writing Mazina’agan, P.O. Box 9, Odanah, WI 54861. It also has excellent art work and many fine posters, etc. are available.
This is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Commission, and of the federal, state and tribal agreements on Indian hunting and fishing within the territories ceded to the U.S. by 19th Century treaties. This reaffirms the Indian's right to harvest fish and game and wild rice on these territories, as the original treaties stipulated. Those rights had never been fully implemented, as there was violent opposition to this by many non-Indians, but it has all worked out pretty well. After all, what difference should it make to anyone else if Indians shoot a deer or spear a fish to feed their families and keep their traditions alive, as long as the resource base and the rights of others are respected, as they currently are?
This matter has been, and should be, a matter of honor on on the side of both the tribes and the states and federal governments, that the original treaties are respected in perpetuity, and that all our people can live together in peace and with the knowledge that justice prevails.

Friday, August 15, 2008

8/15/08: A "SEE FOREVER" DAY

Friday, 8:15 AM. 57 degrees, the wind is W, calm. The channel is patterned, with swaths of glass water intermixed with dimpled areas, very beautiful. The barometer predicts sunny skies which are currently cloudless. It is a “see forever day.”
My photos never capture the full aspect of these views, but suffice it to say that not only several islands but the iron ranges can be seen from vantage points on Hwy J and Hwy 13 today.
The hollyhocks are finally blooming nicely. The garden needs work but actually looks O.K.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


7:45 AM 58 degrees, wind NW, moderate. The channel is crawling, with some white caps. The sky is blue and the barometer predicts mostly sunny weather. A fine day!
Landscaping is at its best an artistic expression of a relationship with nature, and can take many forms: simple, complex; native, cultural; allegorical, abstract: one could use most of the idioms of the art world in describing landscapes. However, once a theme is chosen, it is very difficult to mix landscape styles.
There is a little cottage behind an older home on the corner of Ninth and Manypenny that has several window boxes full of petunias and is flanked by some old Hydrangea bushes, which makes a very pleasing statement. It is simple, straightforward, unassuming and quite pleasant. It is an example of doing a few good things in a tasteful and balanced manner, to an excellent effect.
My neighbor is out and about in his back yard in camouflage pajamas! If some misfortune befell him in the wilds of his domain, would anyone ever find him?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Wednesday, 8:30 AM. 59 degrees, wind SW, calm, the channel is glassy. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts rain. The rain gage holds only one-tenth of an inch of rain, despite the indications of the last three days. I may have to water the garden anyway, and our new city trees will have to be watered soon as well.
Another sign of approaching fall is the blooming of the native big-leaved aster, Aster macrophyllum, which is a woods under story and roadside plant which often dominates large areas of ground with its big leaves. Although it is an attractive plant in the wild it can’t really hold its own in a formal garden. There are many native asters, often difficult to identify, but this one is easy.
The chamber get-together last night was sponsored by The Winnfield Inn, which has wonderful formal gardens, right on the lake.
More desk work and several meetings will fill the day and give my foot some more rest.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Tuesday, 7:45 AM. 56 degrees, wind SW, calm. The sky is overcast with high gray clouds, and the channel is slightly wrinkled. The barometer predicts rain, as it has for the past 48 hours.
I hope it rains, as we really need it and the rain barrels are empty.
The humming birds are busy this morning, but the feeder solution is getting cloudy and I will change it today. Everything else is quiet, in anticipation of the rain.
A staghorn sumac bush across the street has turned red, seemingly overnight, another early sign of fall. We have hardly had summer!
No walk for Lucky and me this morning, as I have a very sore foot. It will be desk work today.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Monday, 7:30 AM. , 49 degrees, wind SW, calm. The channel is glassy. The sky is absolutely clear. The barometer predicts rain by earl evening.
Yesterday Joan and I and Lucky took a break from watching the Olympics and rode up the south shore past Port Wing and had a picnic. It was a glorious top-down day.
There are two plants blooming now which from the car can look similar because they both have prominent pink blossoms and are tall plants, but ecologically the one is very invasive, and the other a beneficial pioneer plant.
The former (the first pictured above) is purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, a garden plant of European origin. It spreads easily by seed into a wide range of habitats, and is particularly damaging in wet areas, where it forces out the native cat-tails, which are important wildlife plants. There is now some success in controlling it with an imported beetle.
The latter (the second and third photos) is the native fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium, a tall perennial herb, very beautiful in both flower and seed.
The guests in our Garden View apartment had a fine time kayaking to the Myer’s Beach sea caves yesterday, the wind being cooperative. It can be very dangerous if there is a significant north wind.
Lots of yard and garden work to catch up with, and I have to get the boat running before fall fishing.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Sunday, 8:15 AM. 54 degrees, wind W, light. Skies are mostly clear, the barometer is down, predicting partly cloudy weather.
Skipped church this morning and took Lucky to the beach. There are incipient signs of fall now, a lone red maple turning early; wild black cherry trees, Prunus serotina, laden with almost-ripe fruit.
The beach and its sand are constantly changing position do to the action of wind and waves. If not stabilized by nature, there would be constant destruction of habitat. The primary stabilizer and colonizer of our Great Lakes beaches is beach grass, Ammophila breviligulata, which although it produces seed, spreads and does its work primarily by stoloniferous runners that produce new plants, much as a strawberry plant does, by offshoots. This tenacious grass stretches across huge areas of sand, and if conditions warrant, other plants such as wild rose and sand cherry and poison ivy follow in its wake, and eventually other shrubs and finally trees. This whole natural succession process is of course often altered by wind, waves, fire or human activity, and then must start all over again.
It has been said, “grass is the benediction of nature,” and that certainly applies to beach grass.