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Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Tuesday, 7:30 AM. 41 degrees, wind WNW, moderate. The channel is wrinkled, the sky partly cloudy and the barometer predicts rain.
It looks like it may be a blustery trip across the UP on our way to Columbus, Ohio for the annual America in Bloom meeting and a visit with daughter Greta and her two field trial dogs.
All the house plants are in, and everything else is in its own until we get back. It has been a good, colorful summer but all things, good or bad, must come to an end. It looks like it will be a spectacular fall. Back in about eight days.

Monday, September 29, 2008


8:00AM. Wind W, calm. The channel is slightly wrinkled. The sky is overcast and it rained 1.5 inches last night.
We leave shortly for a camp breakfast with Andy and Judy, as they will be gone back to Cedarburg by the time we return from Columbus and we may not see them until maple sugaring time in March.
Later: the breakfast was delicious, cooked over a smoky open fire; bacon, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, cheese, and tomatoes. The morning was wet and chilly and the fire felt very good. We talked for a long time but failed to solve the financial crisis, and made very little headway on the political and social problems, but at least we tried. Maybe we should have had the Bloody Marys. I have no photos, because although I brought my camera I forgot to take the battery out of the charger. Just picture four tough old customers and their dogs carrying on and having a tolerably good time in spite of all the dire news. Maybe Wall Street and Congress should have the same attitude. Maybe they should have Bloody Marys all around.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Sunday, 8:00 AM. 45 degrees, wind SW, light. The channel is crawling slightly and the sky is mostly overcast, but the barometer predicts sunny skies.
A bear has enjoyed most of the shaggy mane mushrooms on Manypenny, and has left his calling card on the road.
The fuzzy fruits of the female stag-horn sumac, Rhus typhina, in the cashew family, are now fully ripe. They are not actually edible, but if placed in the mouth produce a tingling, pleasant, lemony taste. They are a good thing to quench one’s thirst with on a hot fall day a-field when no water is available. This plant has exhibited strong antiseptic qualities, and decoctions were once used as mouthwash for sore and bleeding gums and for skin problems. I think the berries would make a very nice tea but I have not read of them being used in this fashion.
In ingesting any plant, one should always keep in mind the properties of its close relatives, and the sumacs are in the same genus as poison ivy and poison oak, and the poison sumac, Rhus vernix, is highly toxic. The latter cannot easily be confused with other sumacs, however, as it has waxy white fruits and the other sumacs have fuzzy red fruits. It is also usually found in swamps, and other sumacs in drier locations.
Our guests have left. We had a fine visit and they leave for Milwaukee laden with apples and driftwood.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Saturday, 7:30 AM. 50 degrees, wind WSW, calm. The channel is calm. The sky is clear with lingering storm clouds in the east. We got one and four-tenths of an inch of rain last night, a real gully-washer. The barometer predicts more rain. Just what was needed.
We and our guests dined by candlelight on the porch, an elegant setting with a large iron pot of Joan’s excellent chili on the table. The after dinner entertainment was the presidential debates, a snoozer we thought, but the Brewers beat the Cubs, and will probably go to the playoffs.
Asparagus, pictured here, often grows wild along the roadsides and can be quite spectacular in an air sort of way. It can be harvested in early spring if you remember where it is. I missed its bright red berries sometime this spring or summer, the birds got them I am sure. Asparagus is a strong diuretic and was in the past used for that and treating urinary tract stones. It used to be available only in the spring, but with worldwide markets today it can be purchased almost any time of the year.
So it’s off to breakfast with guests and then to an orchard or two.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Friday, 8:15 AM. 57 degrees, wind SW, light to moderate. The channel is crawling slightly. The sky is mostly clear and the barometer predicts rain.
The white pine cones have turned brown and opened to release their seeds within the last two days, and the balsam fir in the front yard has shed its seeds and the cones have disintegrated, leaving only the upright pedicels of the cones standing on the upper branches (an easy identification factor).
The last rains have brought on the mushrooms, the shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus) on Manypenny and Ninth Street thrusting up through the grass overnight. They are beautiful and listed as edible, but I vouch for no wild mushrooms.
The yard work is done and we have to get ready for company tonight and over the weekend.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


7:45 AM. 42 degrees, wind NE, calm. The channel is glassy. The sky is partly cloud and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
The little herb garden is cleaned up and looks nice with sage, rue, a few mums and straggly pansies in bloom. I took a last harvest of tarragon, parsley, basil, sage and oregano and cut a lot of things down, ready for winter, and transplanted two clematis around the iron trellis.
The little garden weed pictured is sheep sorrel, Rumex acetocella, related to the garden sorrel. It has unmistakable hastate leaves (shaped like an medieval halberd) that have, to me at least, a very pleasant, crisp acidic taste. It can be used in salads and sauces like the common sorrel (I don’t know how much the latter is used any more). The sorrels were formerly used as antidotes for scurvy, as diuretics and as spring tonics. Joan doesn’t like the taste but I do, so give it a try.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 47 degrees, wind S, calm. The channel is crawling, and the sky is mostly clear. We got one-quarter of an inch of rain last night, and the barometer predicts mostly sunny skies.
The wild asters have been coming into bloom for some time and I think all are now in full bloom. The genus Aster, in the family Compositae (now called Asteraceae by some) are, like the goldenrods, so many and confusing that one must be a specialist to recognize them all, which I am not. This kind of statement is also an easy way to cover up one’s lack of knowledge. So I have pictured a few of the more common here. The large-leaved aster, Aster macrophyllus, is a common woods understory plant, with very large leaves and sparse, fairly large flowers. The blue aster, Aster azurius, is of medium size with blue flowers; the heath aster, A. ericoides, has small white blossoms and is a small to medium sized plant with angular leaves (like heath plants). The umbel flowered aster, Aster umbellatus, is a strong, tall plant with large flat to rounded heads of whitish flowers; the New England aster, Aster Novae-Angliae, is a tall vigorous plant with fairly large individual purple flowers. A similar plant with pink flowers is the New Belgium aster. Most aster flowers have yellow centers. The New England aster is often seen in the garden, and is also called St. Michaelmas daisy, as it comes into bloom about that saint’s day and is often planted in churchyards for that reason. I am not aware of any medicinal or economic uses of the asters, their beauty alone makes them valuable, and for most of us it is O.K. to recognize them all as asters and enjoy them as that.
The next few days have to be devoted to fall garden chores, as I am way behind.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Tuesday, 7:30 AM. 57 degrees, wind S, calm. The channel is calm. The sky is overcast and looks like rain, but the barometer predicts partly cloudy weather. I think it will rain.
There are a lot of [people taking the BART bus these days (Bay Area Regional Transit) which has a route from Red Cliff through Bayfield and Washburn and on to Ashland to Odanah, a few miles to the west on Hwy 2. Students, shoppers and working folks are finding it a great alternative to the car and high gas prices.
Fall colors need successive nights of near freezing temperatures and warm days to be at their peak, and we have not experienced this as yet. Precursors abound, however, a tree here or a branch there in color, but more likely a leaf which appears to have had a paint brush drawn across it. The third year needles of the white pines are beginning to turn golden yellow and soon the trees will be all gold and green, and then the old needles will fall and blanket the ground. Gold may be worth $1,000 an ounce, but the gold beneath the pines is priceless.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Monday, 7:30 AM. 51 degrees, wind E, calm. The channel is glassy. The sky is overcast and foggy but the barometer predicts sunny weather.
It is the first day of fall and all around the signs of the season abound. Colors are coming on fast, and the Bonneys, on 6th and Manypenny, are putting their garden to bed. The canvas-covered rototiller, the upturned wheelbarrow, the garden refuse ready to be composted, the garden fork left standing, would be appropriate props for an artists canvas.
The mountain ash tree is full of birds this morning, robins, flickers, sparrows and cedar waxwings. Lucky and I flushed one grouse on the trail out near the Settlement yesterday afternoon, but it boomed off unscathed. Lucky is slowing down but so am I and we now walk the trails pretty quietly, Indian style. Old dogs and old men make good hunting partners.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Sunday, 7:15 AM. 48 degrees, wind E, calm. The channel is slightly wrinkled, the sky is overcast and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
The Johnny Appleseed scarecrow has inspired me to write a tongue-in-cheek account of his trial before the World Environmental Court, Judge Pettyfog Bumble, presiding:
JUDGE BUMBLE: John Chapman, AKA Johnny Appleseed, you have been summoned before this court today from the musty pages of history to stand trial on the charge of Eco-Terrorism for the spreading of an alien species, the apple, throughout the pristine wildernesses of North America. How do you plead?
JOHNNY: Your honor, begging your indulgence sir, all I did was spread the seeds of a highly useful and edible plant, the apple, in places far and wide where people would someday live, and the apple trees were there to greet them when they arrived. Is that any worse than the settlers who brought wheat, rye, barley, peas and other good food plants to the New World to feed themselves and countless others?
JUDGE BUMBLE: Enough of this moralizing nonsense, Mr. Chapman! How do you plead, guilty or not? And we will get to the farmers after we have done with you, because along with the useful plants they also brought noxious weeds and turned prairies and woodlands into cornfields. In your case, Mr. Chapman, these terrible apples, so prone to insects and diseases, and in need of all kinds of toil and expense to grow them, have sprung up as weeds everywhere, forcing native species from their rightful place in the ecosystem.
JOHNNY: Your honor, I am a simple person, and know nothing of ecosystems. But I must plead guilty to being an honest man with the best of intentions, and that my selfless life’s work, without home, wife or children, has resulted in a billion apple pies, millions of gallons of cider, and myriad numbers of my fellow citizens keeping the doctor away by eating one of my apples every day. If that is terrorism, I am guilty of that also. And, I might add, I am in good company, for that greatest of all farmers, Thomas Jefferson, has said, and I quote, “there is no better thing a man can do for his country than introduce a useful new plant to its shores.” Your Honor, I rest my case.
JUDGE BUMBLE: Mr. Chapman, I find you guilty as charged, and your sentence will be pronounced by the highest court of mankind, the court of public opinion. May God (if there is one) have mercy on your soul (if you have one).
So, gentle reader it is up to you. Should poor Johnny suffer at the hands of the revisionist historians, like so many other of our heroes, or should he remain one of the most endearing of our pioneers, and the environmentalists be, ahem, damned?

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Saturday, 8:00 AM. 50 degrees, wind NNE, strong. The sky is mostly clear and the channel is crawling. The barometer predicts partly cloudy skies.
There are signs of fall now all around, maples turning, flickers congregating on the roadsides, and the hummingbirds have gone south.
I had two face cords of firewood (oak, maple, ash, birch, ironwood) delivered yesterday by Don Sullivan, who has a huge firewood operation out on Hwy 13, west of the Rez. He does a great job, keeping aged, split wood in a huge Quonset building. It was $140 for two face cords, split and delivered. A full cord is 4x4x8, a face cord a little less than half that. It will take a while to stack it in the shed. I will burn perhaps 4 face cords in a year. Our metal insert fireplace is not as efficient as a good wood stove but is fairly efficient if one is careful to use the glass doors as a damper. Many folks hereabouts have sophisticated wood heating systems, with outside wood furnace and hot water heating.
Thought everyone would enjoy a few more scarecrows. The dancers, tepee and boat are at Peterson’s Foods, on the Rez, and Elvis at The Winfield Inn and Gardens.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Thursday, 7:45 AM. 44 degrees, wind N, calm. The channel is glassy, the sky has a few puffy white clouds and the barometer predicts sunny skies. It is a repeat of the great morning of yesterday, complete with geese and woodpeckers.
Andy and Judy came to dinner last night, but our mutual friends Paul and Joanne from Three Lakes bowed out. Judy went to the Town of Russell Board meeting Tuesday evening where the Compton Road development was on the agenda. There was a full house, with many very concerned property owners, who basically got nowhere, and the rezoning goes on to the County Board where it will probably be approved.
There are a number of reasons rampant development is often approved in small rural communities: the lack of experience by officials and citizens alike, the usual lack of legal counsel, the general attitude of farmers that “nobody’s going to tell us what we can do on our own land,” and sometimes more sinister reasons as well. Developers can usually push their way through the process, often with disastrous long term results, and specific development plans are often just a “straw man” for some other scheme. An argument in favor of development is a supposed increase in tax revenue and corresponding decrease in property taxes, but we have owned eleven homes in four states over forty years, and not once have our real estate taxes gone down for any reason, so I consider that a mute argument at best.
On a lighter note, the Bayfield Chamber has an annual Scarecrow Festival, and it is a hoot. Two years ago I made a little flower girl scarecrow, but it got wet and fell apart in a storm and being an old softy, I was greatly saddened by her untimely demise. Won’t do it again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Wednesday, 7:15 A.M. 48 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is glassy mostly, the sky is blue and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
It is a fine quiet morning, bathed in a golden glow from the rising sun. The full moon still hangs suspended like a stage prop, 30 degrees up from the western horizon. I encountered a pair of pileated woodpeckers on the corner of 9th and Mannypenny, and from the height of 11th and Manypenny, looking south, I spotted a raucous flock of geese rising up out of the marsh along Pikes Creek.
We have to go to Ashland to the dentist this morning, the compensation being a beautiful trip with the possibility of the top being down on the way back if it warms up a bit.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Tuesday, 7:30 AM. 46 degrees, wind SSW, calm. The channel is wrinkled from even a light wind coming across 20 miles of open water from the southern end of Chequamegon Bay. Pictured here because of its pretty red berries is false Solomon’s seal, Smilacina racemosa, in the lily family. This is a pretty common woods plant throughout mush of eastern and Midwestern North America. The European species and probably this one as well were formerly much used in folk medicine for its healing effects on broken bones, bruises and skin problems. In Italy it was used as a cosmetic for its effect on the skin. I have no personal experience with it.
We have a local controversy over a proposed development project in the very rural Town of Russell, a few miles northwest of the city of Bayfield and on the border with the Town of Bayfield. A change from agriculture, forestry and residential zoning has been approved to permit the building of condos, town homes, a hotel and landing strip for private airplanes on 380 acres. It would be a gated community next to County Forest land and orchards and berry farms, and certainly not in keeping with the rural character supposedly protected in the Town’s comprehensive plan. Last night, at a packed meeting of the Bayfield Town Board, that board passed a resolution to ask the County to delay review of this development for one month, to allow more public input. The area is littered with failed developments large and small, which have a very negative effect on the landscape and character of the region. There are political, economic, environmental and philosophical issues herein which are difficult to address, and much more will be heard of this and similar developments in the future. When the dust settles a bit I will write more about these matters.


Monday, 7:40 AM. 49 degrees, wind ENE, calm. The channel is slightly wrinkled, the sky is mostly clear and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
The plant pictured is the somewhat common field and roadside weed, burdock, Arctium flava (or a closely related species). The burdocks, of which there are several species, are Eurasian plants commonly associated with agriculture. The burr seed heads cling to clothing, fur, etc. and spread the plants widely. In the past it was a somewhat important medicinal plant as a stimulant, diuretic, and antidote for scurvy and skin problems but has pretty much fallen out of use. In Colonial times the unripe burrs were sometimes prepared with sugar or honey as an after dinner candy. The juice of the burdock, rubbed into the skin, is an old antidote for the stings of nettles, which we mentioned a few days ago. "Dock in, Nettle out," was an old English children's rhyme, and this use of the burdock was related a number of times in various Shakespearean plays. In any case, if you spend much time in the field you will come across the burdocks, or rather they will come across you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Sunday, 8:15 AM. 50 degrees, wind WNW, light with gusts. The channel is m0stly glassy and the sky overcast. The barometer predicts rain, which we got six-tenths of an inch of yesterday afternoon.
Note the orange vine growing on the ornamental plants in the large pot. It is a parasitic flowering plant, without green leaves or any chlorophyll at all, and I thus thought it would be of interest. It is in the genus Cucutus, in the morning glory family. There are perhaps a dozen species of these plants native to North America, and more in Europe and South America. This plant, variously called dodder, strangleweed, hellweed and love-vine, can be a very noxious weed on some agricultural crops and is a very nasty thing one would not wish to escape into a garden, even though many species of dodder need very specific host plants to survive. The species are very difficult to key out and I will not try. I was called to identify it and my recommendation is to destroy it before it flowers (it is about ready to), burn or bury the ornamental plants it is growing on, and sanitize anything that could harbor seeds.
My supposition is that the seed that produced this plant survived in improperly sterilized potting soil. Composted soil or manure, etc., must reach a temperature of above 180 degrees for a good length of time to kill seeds and spores, or must be properly steamed or chemically treated. With a “lover” like this, who needs enemies?

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Saturday, 7:30 AM. 46 degrees, wind WSW, calm. The channel is like glass with light fog. The sky is blue with some mare’s tails. The barometer predicts rain, the advancing remnants of Hurricane Ike, up from the Gulf.
Pictured here are the woodbine, or Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquifolia, previously described, and poison ivy, Rhus radicans. It is easy to see how they can be confused, but just remember the old saw, “leaves of three, let them be.” Five leaflets are harmless.
Well, we have phone service for the next few days at least, and will keep our fingers crossed.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Friday, 8:00 AM. 48 degrees, wind NW, calm. The channel is glassy, and there is fog on the waters. The sky is clear and the barometer up, predicting partly cloudy skies. We got one-half inch of rain yesterday but I managed to get the lawns mowed.
Fall color is becoming apparent, the rusty orange leaved shrub is one seldom seen, it is mountain maple, Acer spicatum. It has typical maple opposite branches and leaves somewhat resembling red maple. The species name spicatum refers to the spiked inflorescences of small white flowers, quite attractive, which bear typical maple winged samara fruits. It is native to northern woods and should be used more in the landscape.
The purple leaved vine is another native, woodbine or Virginia creeper, Parthenocisus quinquifolia, which occurs throughout most of the eastern half of North America and beyond. Its purple fruits are quite decorative, and the fall color outstanding. As the species name indicates it’s compound leafe has five leaflets, and unfortunately it is often confused with poison ivy, which as you know has three leaflets (leaves of three, let the be).
It promises to be a beautiful day, uninterrupted by pesky calls from friends and customers, as we do not have any incoming local phone service.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


9/11/08: Thursday, 8:00 AM. 50 degrees, wind SSW, calm. The channel is calm, it is drizzling rain, the sky is overcast and the barometer predicts rain.
Judy’s birthday cake party turned into a campfire dinner, with “dessert first.” Andy and Judy, Joan and me, Myron and Mike talked about everything but religion and politics until dark (no party should encompass those subjects). Our only regret is that we forgot to sing Happy Birthday (next time, Judy).
This morning, anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks is fittingly somber. I was fishing that day when I heard the news and got home in time to witness the accounts of the second tower collapse. I was sickened by it all, particularly since I had been in the Twin Towers on business often (did you know that on a windy day, you could feel the towers sway on a high floor?), and if we had still lived in New York we would be mourning friends and neighbors. America is one of the largest and certainly the most powerful of nations on the planet, economically, geographically and in population, but we are just a small town in many respects, connected with each of our fellow citizens in myriad and mystical ways that I do not think others understand.
At present Joan and I are not that well connected with anybody, as we have not had local telephone service in a month, due to the gross incompetence of several companies who cannot or will not get their act together. If Nippon Telephone offered service here I would sign up. In the words of the bard, “A pox on both their houses.” Where is Ma Bell when we need her?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


7:00 AM. 42 degrees, wind WSW, calm. The channel is dimpled. The sky is mostly cloudy and the barometer down, predicting more of the same.
I walked Erick’s dog, and of course Lucky, and Roxy tagged along. All are good dogs, at least as long as one has a pocket full of treats. It gets light later and later each day now, so it was kind of a dusky walk.
The hawthorn tree pictured here is Winter King hawthorn, Crataegus X ’Winter King’. It is a very handsome, smallish tree, with deep maroon fall color and attractive berries which last the winter. Most of the hawthorns are hard to use as street trees due to their spreading habit and sometimes vicious thorns. As a young nursery worker I hated them, because digging one was like tangling with a wildcat. I may still have some scars on my backside from the three inch long thorns of the cockspur hawthorn.
The geese are starting to flock up to move further south, and their honking V formations are commonly seen every morning now.
There is a surprise ice cream cake birthday party for Judy at camp this afternoon and we will be happy to attend, and maybe pick some blackberries and collect some more wild carrot plants as well.


Tuesday, 7:30 AM. 41 degrees, wind WNW, moderate with gusts. The channel is crawling. The sky is mostly sunny and that is what the barometer predicts.
Joan and I are going to Duluth today for a doctor’s appointment and I will stop and look for a tailgate cargo carrier for the pickup. Joan suggested it for deer hunting as when hunting alone I would have a hard time getting a large deer up into the bed of the truck. I hope all this anticipation does not cause jinx the hunt.
Later: the trip was all good, and the carrier, purchased at Gander Mountain, is assembled and on the truck (I will have to remove it to put the trailer hitch on for the boat). There were lots of signs of fall along the rout to Duluth but I saw nothing that I thought would make an effective photograph. Have to walk Erick’s dog Morgan tomorrow morning. He is in Florida helping parents deal with the hurricane’s and his wife Nancy has an early morning meeting.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Monday, 7:30 AM. 41 degrees, wind W, moderate with gusts. Te channel is crawling and the sky mottled blue with high gray clouds. The barometer is up and a strong high pressure system is coming in.
Today is the tree symposium at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center west of Ashland on Hwy. 2. This is a wonderful tourist information facility with interactive displays an movies on local history, and is a must-see for visitors to our region. It has a unique gift shop as well.
Later: the program was absolutely great, even for an old pro like myself. It concentrated on the common mistakes made in planting and selecting trees, the bottom line being that most trees fail because they do not match their planting environment (ecological error) or that they are planted too deep (not as easy to determine as one might suppose). It was very hands on, with a good balance of lecture and hands on. I saw no one nod off, which is a feat in itself.
The photos are of the facility, with two tree board members at the entrance, and some of the lecture and demonstration activity.
Tomorrow I must accompany Joan to Duluth for an eye doctor appointment.