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Sunday, May 31, 2009


Sunday, 8:-00 AM. 45 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is calm, the sky is mostly cloudy and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
Spring is the season of sweet scents. Lilacs of course are very strongly scented, but there are many others. The lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis, of European origin and an old garden favorite, is extremely fragrant. Once established it will continue to colonize an area, and when one comes upon it in the woods one can be sure it is the site of an old settler's homestead. The white, nodding bell-shaped flowers are diminutive but pretty, and the fruit is a bright red, cherry-sized berry. It has been used since ancient times as a stimulant for a weak heart, with much the same effect as Digitalis but milder. I see no reference to the plant being poisonous as it takes specific preparation to render it medicinal. That said, it is not wise to ingest plants, particularly fruits, which are not normally used as food..

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Saturday, 8:00 AM. 54 degrees, wind W, calm to moderate. The channel is slightly wrinkled, the sky is blue and the barometer predicts rain, which we got a trace of in a blustery half-hour last evening.
It is a fine day for the Historical Society's annual plant sale in Fountain Garden Park, and volunteers and customers are appearing already.
The European mountain ash, Sorbus aucuparia, on the south side of the house is blooming. They are called “ash” trees because of their ash-like compound leaves, but are not related to the ash genus (Fraxinus). The European species is more often planted than the native S. americana because it is more tree-like and adaptable, but the native species is beautiful and useful as well, it is native to the Boreal Forest and its fringes, and has red berries rather than orange. There are many hybrids and cultivars of both trees. They all tend to be rather short-lived and each has some problems, but the northern landscape is hardly complete without them.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Friday, 8:00 AM. 55 degrees, wind W, moderate. The sky is cloudless, the channel is wrinkled and the barometer predicts sunny skies. The rain eluded us again and I am watering heavily.
Soth Eleventh St. is being repaved, along with a number of other odds and ends street jobs around town, all seem to be going well.
The flowering crabapples, now the lilacs, everything is blooming more or less at once and for long periods of time, due to the cool weather. The shrub in blossom is a nannyberry, Viburnum lantana, this one the variety ‘Mohican’. There are a lot of native and non-native Viburnums, with many cultivars, a very useful landscape genus.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Thursday, 8:30 AM. 53 degrees, wind S, calm. The channel is like glass, the sky mostly blue and the barometer predicts rain. Showers have occurred in the region, and copious rain as fallen to the south, but none for us. If no rain in the next 24 hours I will have to get out the hoses and sprinklers.
The tree pictured is a cherry from central China, growing on the corner of Tenth and Wilson. It is Prunus serrula, I have no common name for it. It is handsome in flower and fruit, but its main attraction is the mahogany colored, exfoliating bark, very handsome in winter but obscured by foliage now. It is difficult to obtain, but this one I am sure came from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 44 degrees, wind NE, blustery at times. The channel is crawling, the sky is overcast and the barometer predicts partly cloudy skies. The rain passed us by again.
It may be cold, but this is a beautiful spring, the bulbs, flowering trees and shrubs and early perennials are fantastic.
The lupines are beginning to bloom, and this weekend and the following should be peak.


Tuesday, 8:0 AM. 57 degrees, wind SW, light. The sky is partly cloudy, and the barometer predicts rain. Predictions of rain are not rain, and we are going to work on the Reiten Boatyard Condominium job until it does.
Almost everything is in bloom now, including Trilliums out in the boondocks on Jammer Hill Road. Joan and I had a bumpy but worthwhile ride yesterday, but don’t go there unless you have a four wheel drive, high clearance vehicle.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Monday, Memorial Day, 8:30 AM. 54 degrees, wind SW, calm. The sky is partly cloudy and the barometer predicts the same.
The apple orchards are now in full bloom, apples white blossomed, crabapple pollinators shades of pink to red and white.
I performed my military obligation between the Korean War and the Vietnam War, a period of time that was mostly a standoff between the US and the Soviet Union, and except for a few incidents there was no shooting going on, so my experiences were not very remarkable and I can’t say I took any of it very seriously, and was more often a sophomoric wise guy than not. I was, however, soundly put in my place by Platoon Sergeant Arpin, and I remember it exactly, more than a half century later on this Memorial Day.
The post commander at Fort Leonard Wood determined that proper military tradition was being lost (probably true) and decreed that all personnel would stand retreat each evening with their units. This meant that everyone had to change into their dress uniforms after mess and go through the ceremony of taps and lowering the flag. No one was thrilled with all this, and after a week or so I asked, “Sergeant Arpin, why in the hell are we doing this?”
Now Sarge was a good guy, who must have screwed up somewhere along the line and been bucked down to being a platoon sergeant for raw recruits. He was something of a father figure, very patient, and a rarity among the breed. He was a whimsical figure in action, as rotund as a beach ball, and he huffed and puffed his way through the platoon sergeant business, but he had a certain military bearing and dignity about him nonetheless.
Anyway, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Ode, we’re doing this to honor the memories of all my buddies who got their asses shot off at Iwo Jima.”
No more wise guy, I stood retreat properly thereafter until some time later when the order was rescinded and things went back to normal.
So, Sergeant Arpin, I imagine you are resting in some military cemetery somewhere, as I doubt you had anywhere else to go, and I hope that you are happy there among your old friends. But I want you to know that I will stand retreat in my heart today for you and all your old buddies. It’s the least a young wise guy can do.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Sunday, 9:00 AM. 51 degrees, wind SSW, very light. The channel is glassy, the sky is blue and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
This is a day I wish could be bottled, so that when people ask me why I live in Bayfield, it could be uncorked and they could see for themselves.
Pin cherries are blooming along the beach dunes at the Sioux River. The diminutive sand cherry bushes are not yet in bloom.
I have to water and fertilize baskets and roses and then we are going to drive some of the forest roads, which are now nice and dry but probably full of potholes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Saturday, 7:30 AM. 52 degrees, wind S, light to moderate. The sky is mostly clear and the barometer predicts rain which we need badly.
The Reiten Boatyard Condominium planting job is almost finished, requiring one more day’s work next week .
Crabapples are blooming in profusion around town, and wild plums, which grow in large colonies, in the countryside. Lilacs are just beginning to bloom. It is a beautiful, long spring, even if it has often been cold and we need rain.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 45 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is calm, the sky mostly blue and the barometer again predicts rain. The Japanese knotweed pictured, locally called elephant ears, is considered an invasive non-native, and I don’t much care for it myself. This patch was cut down last year and the canes treated with a powerful herbicide, but here it is, back again as vigorous as ever. It looks like successive annual treatments will be necessary to eradicate it. But as is often the case, we should be careful what we wish for. This plant was introduced to Bayfield after the disastrous flood of 1942 to stabilize the ravine banks, and it has performed that task admirably. My feeling is that if we are going to eradicate it we should have a plan to replace it or we will be creating the erosion and flooding problems all over again.
I am picking up the native grasses and wildflowers for the Reiten Boatyard Condominium project today, and we will hopefully get them all planted tomorrow and Friday, and I may not post a blog for a few days.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 39 degrees, wind changed from NE to W, moderate with gusts. The channel is crawling and the barometer predicts sunny skies. We had a considerable blow last night that sent the porch furniture skittering, along with raindrops that pounded upon the skylights. But we got only a trace of rain. It was sort of a Shakespearean storm, “full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing.” The early evening was beautiful, with temperatures in the seventies, and the top went down on the convertible. It won’t be down today!
The pink blossomed plant is a Korean Rhododendron, I don't know the variety. It is in front of Citizens Bank on Broad Street, and seems resigned to the cold blasts off the lake. We picked up our hanging baskets from Bailey's yesterday, and I will pot them up into larger wire baskets today. They may sojourn in the garage for a few days if the weather doesn’t improve.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Monday, 7:30 AM. Wind SW, light with stronger gusts. The channel is lightly wrinkled. The sky is mostly clear, but the barometer predicts rain.
The wild cherries are beginning to bloom, that pictured being pin cherry, Prunus pensylvanica. It is a shrub to small tree, with flowers in umbels and shiny young bark.
The light red fruit is sour and has a single seed (as do all the cherries). The other wild Prunus species will bloom soon, as will the domestic cherries.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Sunday, 7:30 AM. 44 degrees, wind W, light to moderate. The channel is slightly wrinkled. The sky is blue and a bit hazy, and the barometer predicts sunny skies,
Marsh marigolds are blooming everywhere in wet ditches. They are a neat, compact, floriferous plant, but need pretty wet conditions. Hey can bloom for a week or two.
Returning from the beach with Lucky, we saw this red fox on the side of Hwy 13, obviously trying to catch his breakfast. They are usually much more wary. Isn’t he a handsome fellow!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Saturday, 7:30 AM. 36 degrees, wind W, light with blustery gusts. The sky is overcast but the sun is peeking through, and the barometer predicts fair weather. We got one-fourth of an inch of rain last night. It was a hood-up, hands in the pockets walk this morning.
The Arbor Day celebration and tree planting and the dedication of Cooper Hill Park was an unqualified success, thanks to about 25 students and teachers, Mayor Larry MacDonald, project organizer Shannon Swanstrom, Don Kissinger of the DNR and Jay Cablk of Jay’s Tree Service. Local musician Andy Noyes provided education/entertainment. Four trees were planted in and around the park.
The Bayfield In Bloom kickoff with the Larry Meiller Garden Talk radio show, broadcast from the city pavilion, was also a great success. Co-panelists Don Kissinger and Extension Agent Jason Fischbach and myself answered garden questions from around the state and from the audience. Kristen Sandstrom of the Chamber did a marvelous job of organizing the events of the last few days. There are a number of Bayfield in Bloom events from now through the garden tours of June 13th, and the city is really looking good. Today is the ninth anniversary of Joan and I moving to Bayfield, ostensibly to retire.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Friday, 7:45 AM. 42 degrees, wind NE, calm to light. The channel is slightly wrinkled, the sky clear. The barometer is down, predicting partly cloudy skies. The low of the past several days, which never did produce any rain, has moved east and its counter clockwise rotation is sending us cold winds right off the big lake.
Today is a full day, with a 9:00 AM Arbor Day tree planting and dedication of the new Cooper Hill Park, and at 11:00 AM the Larry Meiller Garden Talk radio show kicks off Bayfield in Bloom at the pavilion.
Blue forget-me-nots are blooming in the ditches, and gray pussy toes in sandy lawns. The purple flower is Burgenia, much used in older gardens here but which I find too coarse for my own tastes.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Thursday, 8:00 AM. 40 degrees, wind W, gale force at times. The channel is choppy, the sky is mostly overcast but clearing and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
I was checking plantings at Reiten Boatyard Park on the lake front late yesterday afternoon when I was approached by a strange creature reminiscent of something out of a 1950’s science fiction movie. It said “hello” so I had to assume it was friendly. It did not say, “take me to your leader,” assuming I guess that I was as high up on the totem pole as it was likely to find at the moment. It’s space ship was not in sight. It turns out this apparition was none other than Dwayne Szot (see blog of 1/22/09) heading for his daily swim in the harbor. He swims from ice-out to freeze-up, using a variety of wet suits. The aerobic effects of swimming, the stimulation of ice-cold water and the acceleration of heartbeat cased by shear fear must give him a heart like a steam engine. I’ll just keep planting trees, thank you. Good Luck, Dwayne!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 54 degrees, wind S, gusty. The channel is rough with white caps and the sky is overcast, the barometer again predicting rain.
The hummingbirds are back! Either they were a day late or my projections were a day early. The males at least are back to establish nesting territories and the aerial battles will soon commence.
Amelanchier canadensis, called Juneberry in the Midwest and shadblow in the east (because it blooms when the shad run) just began blooming here, this one on 11th street, and they are as beautiful as dogwoods although the blooms only last a few days. The berries soon follow, and they are very good, but the birds usually get them first. Shrubby commercial varieties are small enough to be netted and they are a good crop for jams and jellies.
The flower pictured is Fritillaria imperialis, also called crown imperial, an old-fashioned bulb little used today. Very pretty, they smell like a skunk. They evidently have the virtue of keeping critters out of the spring garden with their noxious s odor.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 50 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is like glass, the sky is mostly overcast and the barometer predicts rain. A tugboat with a dredging barge behind it is going down the channel.
The hummingbirds haven’t shown up yet, but gardens everywhere in town are colorful with spring bulbs and a star magnolia is blooming beautifully on 11th street. Many plants, like the magnolia, do fine here because of the long, cool springs, the result of the moderating effects of the lake. Hopefully we will not have a hard frost anymore, and the orchard cherries will not get nipped in the bud as they did last year.

Monday, May 11, 2009


7:00 AM. 40 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is like glass, the sky is blue and the barometer predicts mostly sunny skies. It looks like a repeat of yesterday, which turned out to be a nice day.
Yesterday being Mothers Day we mostly watched the ball game and waited for our kids to call Joan, which they all did. I fished the Sioux for a few hours early morning, but neighbor Zach has caught all the fish. But it was a fine outing, an eagle flew close over my head, and I had a nice hike high along the rocky ledges above the rapids, I came across what look like Indian rock pictures, but I doubt they are authentic. I have passed this rock a number of times and not noticed them before. Anyway they are interesting and I will let others be the judge of their authenticity.
The hummingbird feeders have to go up first thing this morning as this is the date they usually return.