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Saturday, June 30, 2012






Saturday, 8:00 AM.  72 degrees F, wind WNW, light.  The humidity is 62%, the sky is virtually cloudless and the barometer predicts the same.  It is a gorgeous morning but will be a ?summer day.”
    My grill needed cleaning so of course something got into it last night.  Raccoons, I assume, since a bear would have caused some damage and a big commotion.  I did some garden work yesterday despite the heat, and managed to give away a lot of Iris; sort of like leaving zucchini on doorsteps at the height of the harvest.  At dinner on the deck last night we watched a veritable boat parade in the channel…sailboats and ferry boats going every which way.  Blue Vista Farm has raspberries ready to pick: the wild berries are not anywhere near ripe as yet.
    The pundits are trying to make sense of the Chief Justice’s argument supporting the majority opinion of the Supreme Court re Obamacare.  He is like the Oracle of Delphi, giving us a riddle to decipher, instead of a rule of law we can understand.

Friday, June 29, 2012




Friday, 8:00 AM.  70 degrees F, wind WNW, calm at present.  Humidity is 63%, there are a few white clouds in the sky and the barometer predicts partly cloudy conditions.  It looks like it will be a seasonably warm day to work in the garden.
    The perennial garden is a green mess at present, the spring flowers over with and most of the mid summer things not yet in bloom, and everything overgrown and weedy.  But, I have begun to clean things up, and it won’t be long until it looks pretty decent again.  The roses, though, have been beautiful, and different roses, some Spirea  blooms and Valerian make an outstanding arrangement, not only beautiful but extremely fragrant.
    Valerian has a very distinctive odor, which not everyone finds pleasant, and is often used in aromatherapy (which I know little about).  But I do know something about medicinal herbs, and Valerian is a dependable sleep aid.  For many years I have used it  on occasion to induce a good night’s sleep.  As good or better than a shot of brandy, it is not a narcotic and is not habit forming as far as I know.  The dried root is usually  used in commercial formulations.  It is a powerful anti-spasmodic and was used in earlier times in the treatment of epilepsy and other nervous disorders.
    Commentary: I am mystified by the action of the Supreme Court re Obamacare, and particularly by the majority opinion rendered by the Chief Justice.  I will wait until the pundits analyze it all and I have a chance to think about it before commenting in depth. 
    I am, however, very concerned about one particular aspect of the Court’s actions; the fact that it took the Administration’s very specific use of the word “penalty” in the presentation of its case,and interpreted it to mean “tax,” thereby invoking the authority of Congress, under the Constitution, to enforce compliance of the single payer mandate. 
    Sounds like George Orwell’s long-dreaded “1984” has at last arrived and declared its “newspeak”  our official language  Pictrue this scenario in a trial; “We know the defendant said X, but what he really meant was Y.”   If the courts can interpret specific words in the English language to their own ends, our days as a free people are indeed numbered.
    Bill Clinton, that old scoundrel, evidently had it right all along: “It all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’, is.

Thursday, June 28, 2012





Thursday, 8:15 AM.  72 degrees F, wind NW, moderate with stronger gusts.  The humidity is 60%, and the barometer is up.  If the wind continues from the NW,  or better yet changes to the N, the temperature will remain moderate.  If it shifts again to the W, it will be a warm day.
    An unusual little flower is blooming in our front yard garden, it is shinleaf, Pyrola rotundifolia.  I don’t think it is particularly rare, but rather is probably much overlooked.  Each spike of tiny white flowers arises from a few basal leaves.  It is sometimes placed in its own family, or in the Ericaceae, the heath/Rhododendron family.  It and other species in the genus were used as a poultice for cuts in both American Indian and folk medicine.  The closely related wintergreen, Gaulteria procmbens, in the Ericaceae, is still used commercially in salves for the relief of arthritis, strains and bruises.
    Political commentary: the Supreme Court announces its verdict in the Obamicare case this morning.  I think its decision is totally unpredictable and I make none.
     Did you know that the Administration is currently spending three million dollars advertising food stamps on TV, even though one in seven Americans are already receiving them?  It is a blatantly obvious attempt to buy votes in the November election.  Meanwhile. the orchards and berry farms hereabouts cannot get enough help for the harvest, and it is hard to find reliable lawn care or cleaning help even at twenty or thirty dollars an hour;  it seems to me there is a rather obvious connection here.  If this is the effect of just food stamps, think what a further culture of dependency on the government would do to our national work ethic and our spirit of entrepreneurship.  Greece looks closer and closer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012





Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  70 degrees, humidity 70%, wind NW, calm.  The sky is blue but hazy and the barometer still predicts rain, of which there is no sign at resent. It looks like it will be a nice, somewhat warm, early summer day.
    We are fast transitioning into real summer.  Japanese tree lilacs are now in full bloom.  There are a number of varieties, that pictured is Syringia reticulata ‘Ivory Silk.”  Its compact form and huge, fragrant blooms makes it an excellent small street tree. The Monarch butterflies love it.
    There are a number of small, shrubby Asian maples that are decorative and useful, the one pictured is the Amur maple, Acer ginnala.  It  bears small clusters of yellowish flowers followed by bright red, dual-winged maple fruits  that are quite pretty.  It has excellent fall color.  It has some value as a small street tree or as a border plant.
    Beach peas, Lathyros japanica, of course in the pea family, are blooming everywhere now along roadsides and on the beaches.  The rose-pink  flower clusters can be really outstanding, but the pea-vines are very hard to control and it is best kept out of the garden.  The species name refers to the fact that it is circumpolar in northern latitudes.  It is an iconic plant of the Great Lakes.  Being a seashore plant, it even shows up in Chile.
    Political commentary:  the Administration’s response to the Supreme Court’s mixed decision on Arizona’s enforcement of  immigration laws is to double down on the state’s attempt to control illegals within its borders. The INS is now essentially enforcing only those federal immigration laws which it wishes to, and that for obviously political reasons. 
    One usually associates selective enforcement of the law with sleazy little scams such as not arresting the mayor’s  son for DUI. This selective enforcement, however, is on a huge scale and involves national security. But, large or small, selective law enforcement scams rob all law abiding citizens of their right to equal enforcement of the law, a fundamental freedom under our Constitution.       

Monday, June 25, 2012




Tuesday, 8:00 AM.  Wind NW, calm.  The sky is blue except for some haze, the humidity is 75%, and  the barometer predicts rain.  Not now, maybe tonight is my guess.
    We went to Duluth yesterday on business  and saw few signs of the recent flood, but heard many tales of flooded basements and roads out, etc., and neighbor Sam the coast guardsman next door told us about the Bayfield unit taking its air boat to Duluth during the flood and rescuing people from flooded homes just south of Duluth along the St. Louis River.  He said it was a real flood with a lot of damage and some precarious situations.
    Yesterday a large bear ambled through our backyard at dinner time.  He would have appreciated a bratwurst but what he really craved was fresh Bayfield strawberry shortcake, with whipped cream, of course..  The rascal got neither. Sam happened to be on his deck and caught it on his Iphone camera.          







Monday, 8:00 AM.  57 degrees F, wind NW, calm.  The humidity is 75%, and the sky is clear except for some haze.  The barometer predicts partly cloudy skies.  We are going to Duluth today, I don’t know if the flood damage will be apparent or not.
     The apple orchard fields are robed in gold now with tickseed, Coreopsis tinctoria, in the sunflower family.  There must be hundreds of thousands of them.  Their ultimate source might be native or they may have escaped years ago from area flower farms and reseeded themselves..  In either case they are a fine sight.  Their common name refers to the seed capsules, which are “stick-tights,” and the species name refers to its ancient use as a dye plant.
    Tall meadow rue, Thalictrum  dasycarpum, in the buttercup family, is growing in abundance along Hwy. 13  between the Onion and Sioux rivers.  It is an attractive but rather subdued wildflower.
    Sweet Cicely, I believe this one is Osmorhiza chilensis, in the parsley family, is blooming now along Hwy. 13 between Bayfield and Washburn.  It is a rather tall but delicate plant in flower, with a rather sweet, faintly anise scent. 
    Growing along with it and easily mistaken for it from a moving vehicle are white-flowered yarrow plants.  I am not sure whether these are a native species or escapees of the much cultivated Achillea millifolium, as it is a very mixed up and difficult genus, but I will guess them to be the native A. borealis.  In any case Achillea species have long been associated with wound healing, that property supposedly discovered by the Greek warrior Achilles. I have put a compress of the leaves on cuts and it seems to work.  
    I am disgusted with our resident bear, who destroyed one of my Juneberry street trees Saturday night on Tenth Street, just to get at a few berries.  He is a bad news bear and obviously needs a lesson in sustainable urban forestry, or perhaps a butt full of birdshot.              

Sunday, June 24, 2012







Sunday, 64 degrees F, wind NW, light.  The sky is virtually clear except for some clouds and haze on the eastern horizon.  The humidity is 80% and the barometer is high.  It is a beautiful morning, except that Buddy took off on me for about ten minutes while we were on our walk.  He is so quick he can disappear in an instant and then feels free to run, shock collar or not.  I scolded him, but one can’t punish the dog for coming back, or the next time he might not.  Buddy is not an easy training subject but we are making progress.
    The neighborhood bear is still around as evidenced by the overturned dumpster in the next block.
    The common elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, is a large native shrub, quite noticeable  in flower and fruit but seldom used in landscaping except for perhaps naturalizing large borders. Its berries are often used to make jelly and wine but it is reported to be toxic to some individuals.  We used to make lacy pancakes of the flowers by dipping them in batter and frying them. It is common throughout the US east of the Rocky Mountains. I forgot to take a photo of it wile we sere traveling and it is not much seen this far north.
    Pictured is a horticultural selection of the common elderberry named ‘Black Lace,’ which is very showy and unusual. This one is on Mannypenny Ave. and about Fourth Street, but there are others around town. 
    Although such horticultural oddities are often very beautiful they can be hard to use in landscape design,  being too bold, or even unnatural, in appearance.  “Black Lace” is best used at the back of a showy perennial border or as an unusual accent plant.  I have also mentioned the northern red elderberry, S. pubens, which is now bearing fruit.  The two species and the horticultural variety provide an interesting view of how the species of a genus can vary, and how horticultural selections can vary even more.
    Political commentary: never on Sunday

Saturday, June 23, 2012






Saturday, 8:00 AM.  62 degrees F, wind NW, just strong enough to ruffle the aspen leaves.  The sky holds a few high, wispy white clouds, and the barometer foretells the same.  It will be a nice, but perhaps on the warm side.
    I came across a few interesting prairie and meadow plants on our trip to the southern part of Wisconsin; three native and one introduced.
    Rosin weed, Silphium integrifolium, is native to dry prairies of the Midwest.  It has a typical, daisy-like Composite family flower and rough leaves that clasp the flowering stems.
    Beardtongue, Penstemon gracillis, is a very pretty flower of dry, open woods and prairies of the upper Midwest, and a member of the Scrophularia family.  Its seed pods are like diminutive pepper shakers, and the tiny black seeds like freshly ground pepper in appearance.
    The common milkweed, Asclepias syriacus, in the milkweed family, is a common but quite beautiful and very fragrant native flower of meadows and roadsides, and the obligate host of the monarch butterfly caterpillar.  When Linnaeaus named it he incorrectly assumed it was from the orient, and thus the species name.
    The common white daisy, or Marguerite,  Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum, “a pernicious but beautiful weed”, was introduced from Europe.  Our roadsides would be far poorer without it.
    Political commentary:  the President’s claim of executive privilege in not disclosing documents in the “Fast and Furious” gun-running debacle is raising persistent questions concerning a cover-up, but of what?  One quite, I believe, possible cause for a cover up of the entire affair would be that it was engineered from the start to ensnare legitimate gun dealers in the Southwest in a scandal that would discredit the entire firearms industry and the so-called “gun lobby.”  This would be very popular with anti-second amendment rights elements of the Democratic Party.  Is this an over-the-top conspiracy theory?  Perhaps so, but if not that then what, and why the reluctance to put all the facts before Congress and the people? When the truth is withheld, conspiracy theories thrive.

Friday, June 22, 2012








Friday, 6:45 AM.  60 degrees F, wind NE, calm.  The sky is partly cloudy, the humidity 70%.  The barometer is way up.  The atmosphere is clearing after the rain storms, but lower Chequamegon Bay and its tributaries are red with mud and sand.
    We had a good trip but are happy to be back in cool, pleasant Bayfield on the shores of the Big Lake.  Our town seems to be all in one piece after torrential rains that caused major disruptions in Duluth, ninety miles to the west, where freeways were under water and a number of zoo animals escaped or were drowned.  Our trip was hot, muggy and rainy, but we persevered.
    The Flat Coat Retriever Society of America field trials in Manitowoc were interesting and fun to watch, and daughter Greta’s bitch Raven did well, nailing two Master’s events, although mistress and dog did not succeed in their first attempt at qualifying for the nationals, a very difficult undertaking.  In any case Raven is a flashy, beautiful competitor, although Buddy, who felt he could have done as well as any dog he watched, says, “If you’ve seen one black flat coat retriever,  you’ve seen ‘em all, and they can’t even point!”  Buddy received numerous quizzical looks from black coat owners, whom I told that he was of the original flat coat stock, from which all the white has now been bred out.
    Our visit with old friends Bill and Alleen in  Oconomowoc was great, we did a lot of wild life watching on their farm (deer, cranes and lots of other birds) and were serenaded by tree frogs and bull frogs.
    Bill and I shot a few clay pigeons but the weather was so miserable and so windy that neither of us did very well.  Buddy got to run and explore.
    The Urban Forestry Council meeting in Stevens Point went well, highlighted by a tour of the city’s excellent street and park forestry operation.  Thankfully, the oppressive weather broke Wednesday  night and we had a comfortable trip home yesterday. Buddy also got to hang out a lot in the air conditioned motel, as it was too hot to be in the truck most of the time.
     Now the lawn needs to be mowed , the mail read, telephone calls answered and business taken care of.

Friday, June 15, 2012




Friday, 8:00 AM.  66 degrees F, wind SW, calm.  The sky is mostly  overcast with high gray clouds, the humidity is 80%, and the barometer predicts rain.  Yesterday afternoon we had  thundershowers, and some pea-sized hail.  It is a nice enough morning at present.
    The lupines (Lupinus perennis) are in full bloom all around the area and the earliest to open are now setting seed. They will be past their peak shortly.  Lupines get their genus name from the latin name for wolf, lupus, because it was once thought that since they grew in poor soil the plants must “wolf” the soil nutrients, which they do not.  Lupines are only an indicator of infertile soils, and since they are legumes they actually add nitrogen to the soil they grow in.. They are a real show here, and could be a major tourist attraction if their annual blooming date was strictly reliable, which it is not, but can vary by a week or more, depending upon the weather. Our lupines look like they are mostly the native lupine but local heritage says they were introduced from the Bayfield flower farms early in the 1900’s. I think the story is more complicated than that as the wild lupine is common in Bayfield County in the oak barrens, and may have migrated from there over the years, and possibly these plants have mixed with horticultural selections of the native lupine grown by the flower farms.
In any case it is a complicated history, and the USDA and the Wisconsin sources are not particularly helpful. Our plants are mostly deep blue with some white and pink individuals and many individual flowers have white throats, and the native plants have pretty much that range of color variability. Ours may have been horticultural color selections that escaped back into native populations, enriching their color palette. I have seen these plants all along the southern Lake Superior shoreline and northern Lake Michigan dunes, from Duluth to at least the Mackinac Bridge, so if they are not technically native they might as well be considered such. But, native or not, they are beautiful, dependable, and a joy to see. I have seen the Texas bluebonnets in full bloom (also lupines but a different, and much shorter, species) and I think ours are every bit as much of an attraction.
    If I were more of a botanical sleuth I would try to really figure this conundrum out, and maybe I will get into it in greater depth at some future time. Photos really do not do the lupine display justice, as they often occur in huge fields which don't seem to have much of an impact in a photograph, and they usually appear in patches large and small along the roadside, like pearls on a string, or more like charms on a bracelet, so their aesthetic impact is much greater than that depicted in a picture. Right now they are in bloom along state Hwy 13 from Ashland all the way to Red Cliff and beyond along the south shore, and east and west along US Hwy. 2.
    There will be no blogs for a few days as Joan,  Buddy and I are traveling; first to a big AKC flat coat retriever meet in Manitowoc (daughter Greta has her coal black flat coat bitch, Raven, entered in several events), then on to Oconomowoc to visit old friends Bill and Allene and finally to an Urban Forestry Council meeting at the University in Stevens Point.  Buddy had better behave himself, as the flat coat people may not appreciate an English pointer intruding on their turf.  Maybe we should dye him black for the next few days.  Guess he will have to stay in the truck.

Thursday, June 14, 2012





Thursday, 8:00 AM.  60 degrees F,l wind WNW, dead cam at present.  The humidity is 75% and the sky is filled with black rain clouds. It feels like rain.
    Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius, in the rose family, is a shrub native to southern Canada, the upper Midwest and the northeastern US. It grows in a variety of poor soils; mostly gravelly shores and thickets. I can’t say that I see much of it in the wild, but it is a common and utilitarian landscape shrub. It makes a good hedge, trimmed or untrimmed, blooms well and has a rather decorative exfoliating bark reminiscent of paper birch.  In order for the latter characteristic to be apparent, the growth of new young stems must be encouraged by yearly pruning.  I find it a useful border or rough hedge plant, but it can have a rather unkempt appearance if not kept pruned and controlled.
    Political commentary: Attorney General Erick Holder, being under attack in Congress for the administration’s high level security leaks to the press and the Fast and Furious gun scandal, has responded with a diversionary attack on the State of Florida’s voter registration law, which was enacted to purge illegal immigrants and dead people from the voter registration rolls.  It certainly looks as though he is proving his worth and loyalty to the President and the Democrat Party in hopes of not being “thrown under the bus.”  However, his liability to both entities now arguably being greater than his assets, I predict he will suddenly leave, either resign or fired, and soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012







Wednesday, 7:30 AM.  53 degrees F, wind NW, calm at present.  The humidity is 70%.  The sky holds a few errant clouds and the usual haze inhabits the eastern horizon.  The barometer, trending down, predicts partly cloudy skies.  It is another fine morning.
    This has been a great spring for most flowers, and roses are no exception.  All my roses, mostly shrub roses and admittedly nothing fancy, came through the winter well, in spite of the oddly warm couple of weeks in March.  Now they are next to incredible in bloom, a veritable parade of roses.  It is difficult to say how the rest of the year will treat them but so far, so good.  One of the things I appreciate about roses is that no matter how highly hybridized they may be, the essential qualities of the genus remain obvious; range of color of bloom, appearance of fruit (hips), fragrance (to a degree)), appearance of leaves, shape, etc. are all recognizable as being 'rose'.  As the poet said, “a rose is a rose is a rose, is a rose…”  In the past I often shied away from roses as being too much trouble, requiring too much spraying and babying and I still feel that way about Hybrid Tea roses and some other fancy forms.  But so much has been done to improve shrub roses that they are little more trouble than any other ornamental plant and much more rewarding than many.
    I have a few modern varieties such as the Double Knockout, which is hardy and tough and floriferous; a very nice white shrub rose, Mr. Lipton; a native rose, R. setigera, the yellow Harrison’s rose, and a number of roses that that are unnamed, as I acquired them, maybe rescued some, here and there.
    Shimon Perez, 89 years old and a former Israeli prime minister, is in the US to receive the Medal of Freedom.  Talking about the middle east yesterday, he lamented that everyone had questions, but that, “Questions are not answers.”  Unfortunately, the same can be said about all our problems the world over.  It is easy to ask questions, sometimes pointed, often damning.  Providing answers is the difficult part of the equation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012





Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  52 degrees, wind WNW, moderate.  The sky is parly cloudy with puffy white and gray clouds.  The humidity is 70% and the barometer is way  high.  It is a perfect morning.  It was very windy last night, the wind whining and whipping through the masts and lines of the boats at Port Superior Marina where we ate dinner with friend and boater Fred.
    The insectiverous pitcher plants, Sarracenia purpurea (in the pitcher plant family) were indeed blooming on Sunday in the Bark River Slough.  The leathery flowers, although their faces are partially hidden because they are nodding, are quite beautiful.  The “pitchers” are modified leaves that catch first rainwater, and then unwary insects.  A “pitcher” is easy for an insect to enter and almost impossible for it to get out of.  Sharp downward facing hairs on the inside of the “pitcher” trap a hapless insect and force it ever-further into the collected rainwater at the bottom. Sort of like an unwary homeowner sinking further and further into debt and an under-water mortgage, until he is absorbed by the bank. The insect eventually dies and is digested, the nitrates and minerals of its body a welcome supplement to the plant, which struggles to survive in the nutrient poor, highly acid bog environment.      A bog is a uniquely specialized and interesting environment, which we will have to explore in greater depth (maybe up to our knees) at some future time.
    There is so much nonsense currently arising on the political scene that I am having a difficult time even thinking about it, much less commenting on it.  Perhaps I am trapped in Recall Fatigue.

Monday, June 11, 2012





Monday, 8:00 AM.  69 degrees F. wind W. light with sometimes gusts, a welcome subsidance after the terrific winds of yesterday and last night.  Those winds brought us a few raindrops but mostly were an empty threat, although violent storms approached from the west as near as Duluth.  Hot, sultry air from the southwest meeting with much cooler air from the northwest was bound to unsettle things.  Today the atmosphere is hazy but much less threatening, and the barometer is on the rise again.  The white pines seem limp with exhaustion today, after disgorging their pollen throughout several windy days of wild  carousing.
    The past Saturday and Sunday turned out to be something of a wildlife weekend.  First, we had a large bear cub tramp through the perennial garden about 9:15 Saturday morning,.  We were eating a rather late breakfast and something made me look up from my soft boiled egg just in time to see the little critter, which I thought at first to be a neighborhood black lab, picking his way through the peonies.
  I said, “bear!,” and Joan looked up and saw it too.  Buddy was preoccupied with his food dish.  The baby buin was gone before I could get the camera; we waited in vain to see mama, but the little guy was evidently off on his own Winnie the Pooh adventure.
    Then, while out on a convertible drive on a hot Sunday afternoon, we decided to see if the pitcher plants were blooming at the Bark Bay Slough natural area (they were, but more of them tomorrow).  Turning down the gravel road off Hwy 13 that leads to the slough, we saw what appeared to be two awkward, playful puppies coming towards us.  I didn’t realize they were tiny fawns until I could see their spots.  Actually, they appeared to be all legs, ears and spots.  I stopped the car and they approached us, curious and unafraid.  The doe was invisible in the roadside brush, but her bleating, which sounded much like a muted car horn, was inescapable and very near.  The fawns, being very naughty, paid her scant attention and eventually ambled on into the woods on the far side of the road only when their curiosity was satisfied.  I am sure their anxious and angry mama joined them as soon as we drove down the road and out of sight.
    Corny, but I guess original political commentary: I think the only way to assure that White House security leaks are stopped is to send an army of Joe The Plumbers to Washington.