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Wednesday, September 21, 2011



Wednesday, 7:30 AM.  51 degrees, wind WSW, calm at ground level but some low clouds scudding along.  The sky is completely overcast and it is raining enough that we got wet on our morning walk and the barometer predicts rain.  It will be a rainy day.
    We came across several interesting prairie plants while goose hunting.  The blue flowered plant is the blue lobelia, Lobelia siphylitica, in the bellflower (Campanulaceae) family. It was growing with Indian grass and big bluestem grass.  The individual flowers are rather small but the flower spike is quite long.  It is a native plant of wet sands and prairies.  Native American medicine used the plant for colds, rheumatism and siphylis.  It has similar uses in homeopathic medicine, and has been known for its medicinal qualities since the early Seventeenth Century in Europe.  It is strongly poisonous in large doses.
    The yellow flower is sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale, in the sunflower (Compositae) family.  It is a very attractive fall flower, native to wet and wet-mesic prairies and meadows throughout much of the US.
    The little Ashipun River where we goose hunted is drying up, as are 240 acres of associated wetland, thanks to the Wisconsin DNR, which refuses to give permission to the townsip to fix the Eighteenth Century millpond dam at the nearby village of Monteray  It appears the bureaucracy does not like dams and millponds, even if they are part of local history, and regardless of the economic and  ecological consequences of removal.  An entire small community has developed around the millpond over a century and a half, and its heritage and current viability  are threatened by removal of the dam as well.
    Farmers cannot so much as level out a depression in a cornfield that collects water in the spring, since that makes it a “wetland,” and yet in this instance a large wetland is being destroyed without much consideration at all. It seems to me the government’s advice on wetlands and rivers and dams is all rather capricious.  How did we ever get along without it?

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