Search This Blog

Total Pageviews

Sunday, August 20, 2017

NETTLE ME NOT


STINGING NETTLE LEAVES AND FLOWERS

STINGING NETTLE PLANT

Sunday, 8:30 AM.  66 degrees F at the ferry dock, 64 on the back porch.  Wind SW, light with occasional stronger gusts.  The humidity is 88%, the barometer  at 29.90".  The forecast calls for mostly clear to partly cloudy skies with highs around 70 for the coming week, with no rain until next weekend.  Perfect summer weather.
   Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, in the Nettle Family (Urticaceae) is a common roadside and waste place weed that is surprisingly irritating if one comes in contact with it.  Tiny stiff, stinging hairs cover the plant and can hardly be avoided.  It is a Northern European and Asiatic plant but has become distributed almost worldwide. The plant pictured is small, but nettles can become very large and can be a challenge if encountered..
   The needle-like hairs of stinging nettles are extremely irritating when touched, but the nettle plant has a lot of beneficial characteristics.  It is a very nourishing early spring herb, before the stinging hairs develop fully, and if soaked in water can be made into a cooked dish or soup, even added to bread and beer (better get the recipes before trying) and there are a lot of traditional medicinal uses for the herb, including as a diuretic.
   There are many idiomatic references to nettles in many languages, and it has been mentioned in Shakespear's Henry IV and in Aesop's Fables.
   Anyway, if you get "nettled," look for the "touch me not" plant that may be nearby, and hopefully get some relief.
   If that doesn't work, try some Calamine lotion.
  
  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

MONARDA

A FIELD OF MONARDA

THISTLE-LIKE FLOWERS, SQUARE STEMS (IT'S A MINT)



Saturday, 9:30 AM.  70 degrees F at the ferry dock, 67 on the back porch.  Wind variable, with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is mostly clear, the humidity 76%.  The barometer is rising, now at 29.98",  predicting fair weather for the next week, with highs around 70.  Beautiful!
   Beebalm, Monarda fistulosa, in the Mint Family, is a relatively common inhabitant of meadows and prairies in much of North America.  It's thistle-like pinkish flowers add another flower color to the summer garden spectrum.  It spreads, and grows to about 3' in height.  The leaves are opposite on the stem
   Being a mint, the dried leaves make a refreshing tea, which also has strong antiseptic qualities and was a prominent Native American medicinal plant, and mixed with honey is still used in herbal medicine to treat colds and sore throats.   It has square stems, as do all mints.  The stems are also hollow, which is the Latin meaning of the species name. 
   Monarda didyma, red beebalm, is a native stream bank plant with similar qualities.
   Monardas are good garden plants if controlled, and are very welcome in native plant restoration projects .

Friday, August 18, 2017

FOGBOUND

COASTGUARD BUOY TENDER "BLUE HERON"
Friday, 9:00 AM.  64 degrees F at the ferry dock, 60 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is cloudy and it looks like rain, which we had some of yesterday, the humidity still 88%.  The barometer is steady, now at 29.85".  The dew point is 60 degrees, so the grass is wet with dew.  The weather forecast is for temperatures in the 70's with mixed skies, and chances of thunderstorms on Monday and Tuesday.
   Yesterday was a rainy day that became quite foggy by late afternoon.  The Coast Guard buoy tender "Blue Heron, "  evidently paused in its work, was moored off the Bayfield harbor.  I couldn't find any suitable poems  on the internet, so made one up.

FOGBOUND

It's a perilous time
Out on the Big Lake
When the fog rolls in on a Nor'easter
When chart and compass are of little use
And even radar and GPS are lacking

It's a perilous time
When a life is fogbound,
Lost on the murky waters of the mind
Enveloped in doubt
Fearful of running upon the shoals

When fogbound,
A ship at sea, or a soul
Had best  drop anchor
Ring the bell and sound the foghorn
And wait for the fog to lift

Thursday, August 17, 2017

WOODLAND PHLOX

WOODLAND PHLOX
  PHLOX IN A MID-SUMMERGARDEN

Thursday, 8:00 AM.  63 degrees F at the ferry dock, 60 on the back porch.  Wind ENE, gusty.  The sky is overcast and we have had a third of an inch of rain. The humidity is 96%. It would be foggy if it weren't so windy, and we may get more rain today. The barometer is steady for now, at 29.61".  The high today will be in the low 60's, then warming significantly over the weekend, with partly cloudy skies and the chance of a thunderstorm again on Monday.
    Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata, mostly pink or blue, sometimes white, are blooming in gardens now.  Phlox are mostly North American species in the Jacob’s Ladder Family  (Polemoniaceae).
   Woodland phlox  are tall, strong growers (the Latin species name means "spreading") and stand out along with asters, goldenrods,  browneyed susans and purple cone flowers in the mid-summer and early fall garden.  Native to forests and fields of North America, they do not reach this far north and west in their natural range, but are hardy when planted in gardens.
   Creeping phlox, Phlox subulata, is one of the first plants to flower in the early spring, and is native to dunes and rocky ledges around many of the Great Lakes and in the Appalachian mountains.
   

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

KIDNEY STONES AND BROKEN BONES

JOE PYE WEED IN THE GARDEN; A HEALING PLANT...

...WITH BEAUTIFUL COMPOSITE FLOWERS AND SPOTTED LEAVES
Wednesday, 9:00 AM.  63 degrees F at the ferry dock, 60 on the back porch. Wind E, calm to light.  The sky is cloudy and overcast and rain is predicted.  The humidity is 85%, the barometer falling, now at 30.02".  Highs in the mid 60's are predicted for today and tomorrow, with chances of rain and thunderstorms; then warming and clearing toward the weekend, with more chances of rain on Sunday and Monday.
    Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium maculatum,  in the Sunflower Family, has just started blooming, right on time according to my records.  It is named after an American Indian healer (common name), and the genus is named after the Greek King Eupator, who supposedly was the first to recognize the medicinal properties of the genus. The species name maculatum (Latin for spotted) refers to the spotted leaves, which grow in whirls of four on the strong, upright stems.
   Joe Pye weed is a common North American plant native to damp fields and roadsides, and is often seen in the garden, where its use probably derived from medicinal herb gardens; it has also become a popular rain garden plant.   
    Its common name in herbal use is gravel root, which alludes to its usefulness in treating diseases of the kidneys and urinary tract (stones, or gravel), arthritis and gout. Both Joan and I often depend on this plant in the treatment of our respective ailments but you will still have to do your 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, and rumored to be useful in setting broken bones; the latter belief a holdover from the Doctrine of Signatures of the Middle ages, which attributed the medicinal values of plants according to their physical appearance, in this instance the rather unusual clasping of the leaves around the stem (perfoliate) which was taken to mean it was useful in mending broken bones.  Needless to say, the Doctrine wasn't very scientific and only worked coincidentally.  The white-flowered boneset was nonetheless a useful medicinal plant.
BONESET (Google photo)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

BIG LEAF ASTER



BIG LEAF ASTER COVERING THE FOREST FLOOR...

...ROSETTE OF LARGE BASAL LESVES...

...SMALLER LEAVES OF THE FLOWERING STEM...

ASTER FLOWERING STEM WITH FLOWER PANICLE

Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  64 degrees F at the ferry dock, 61 on the back porch.  Wind ENE with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is quite cloudy, the humidity 88%.  The barometer is steady, at 29.88".  There is heavy dew on the grass (the dew point is 61 degrees) and heavy fog  is reported throughout much of NW Wisconsin.  Highs will be in the mid 60's through the week, with chances of rain and thunderstorms; then warmer and clearing on the weekend.
   The big leaf aster, Aster macrophyllus, in the Sunflower Family, the Compositae, is an early aster of woods and woods edges.  In the Bayfield region it forms large colonies in the mixed  conifer and hardwoods  under story.  The species name translates from the Latin as large-leaved.  It seems to be blooming several weeks later than last year, a function, I suppose, of the cool late spring and mild summer weather.
   The perennial plant has a rosette of large basal leaves, from which it sends up a flower  spike with smaller leaves on the stalk, topped by a panicle of white to light pink to mauve composite flowers wlth a bright yellow center.  All in all it is an attractive flowering ground cover. It ranges from the mixed forests of the northeast and Canada to around the great lakes and beyond, and southward in the Appalachian Mountains.
   The young leaves are edible and were used as greens by American Indians, and smoked as an attractant and charm for deer hunting.
   Big leaf aster is one of those valuable native ground cover plants that builders and new homeowners  probably don't recognize, and often damage irretrievably during construction.  It is always wise to get some expert advice on what is growing before drawing a plan or plotting a home or driveway on a wooded lot.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I MIGHT AS WELL GO TO WALMART


WHERE'S THE TREE?

Monday, 8:00 AM. 64 degrees F at the ferry dock, 62 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is overcast and it is raining gently, the humidity 88%.  The barometer is still falling, now at 29.91". It looks like we have some rainy days ahead, with highs around 70.  I have yard work to do, but it will probably have to wait.  In the meantime, the rain is quite pleasant and welcome.
   Rabideau's Orchard on Hwy. J has signs all over, for miles around, advertising "Tree Ripened Peaches." 
   The trees, unfortunately, are in Colorado and although they aren't too bad, they cost a buck a peach.
   I might as well go to Walmart in Ashland.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

SOW THISTLE: EAT THEM RATHER THAN SPRAY THEM

A LARGE PATCH OF SOW THISTLE ALONG HWY. 13...
...DANDELION-LIKE FLOWER...
...AND SEED HEAD
Sunday, 9:00 AM.  67 degrees F at both the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind variable, with light gusts.  The sky is partly cloudy with thin, high white clouds drifting in from the West.  The humidity is 73%.  The barometer is falling, predicting possible rain and thunderstorms beginning tomorrow; the high temperatures are predicted to be around 70 today and into next week.  It is a very quiet Sunday morning.
   Sow thistles, of which there are several local species in the genus Sonchus, in the Sunflower Family (Compositae), are a common field and garden weed worldwide. That pictured is probably Sonchus oleraceus.  The species name refers to its similarity to edible lettuce, in scientific Latin.
   Sow thistles are pretty plants both in bloom and in seed, and the young leaves of most species are edible and evidently very good, as there is an Italian spaghetti dish made with them.  Sow thistles have been used for food since ancient times.
   Being closely related to the dandelion, sow thistles share many of its herbal qualities,  among which are use as a diuretic and as a treatment for gout and kidney stones.
   The common name comes from the old belief that the milky sap of the sow thistle helped sows to nurse their young. Being exceellent rabbit food, they are often called rabbit thistle.
   So many weeds are edible and have significant herbal medicinal qualities that one wonders which came into use first, the weed or the cultivated crop; anyway, weeds and cultivated crops certainly  often evolved together under the influence of human use and selection.
  Perhaps we should simply eat the weeds, rather than spray them.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

CAMPFIRE

SMOKY CAMPFIRE
...MARSHMALLOWS.....

...S''MORES

Saturday, 9:00 AM.  67 degrees F at the ferry dock, 62 on the back porch.  Wind NNW, light with slightly stronger gusts.  The sky is virtually cloudless, the humidity a low 66%.  The high barometer has begun to fall gently, now at 30.12" of mercury, presaging a chance of thunderstorms by midweek next.  In the meantime, skies will be mainly clear and high temperatures in the mid-70's.  Glorious summer weather.
   We spent yesterday evening with friends and neighbors at their camp out on Old Hwy K, near the Rez.

 CAMPFIRE 

Last night's campfire
   out in the woods
Offered marshmallows and s'mores
And smokey memories of summer evenings past

Of good times and old friends
   (now gone)
Of warm beer on hot August nights
Of  a good dog buried nearby



Friday, August 11, 2017

LITTLE GREEN APPLES

BUMPER CROP AHEAD

Friday, 7:45 AM.  63 degrees F at the ferry dock, 59 on the back porch.  Wind variable, with light gusts.  The sky is clear, the humidity 83%.  The barometer is steady, at 30.11".  The highs will be in the mid-seventies and the sky clear until next mid-week, when a falling barometer will bring chances of rain and thunderstorms.  We are in for a week of great summer weather.
   It will not be long before apple season arrives, and frm the looks of the orchard and roadside trees, laden with l ittle green apples, it will be a bumper crop.

Little Green Apples

Little green apples
where you were hiding in
blossoms on my tree

Hummingbirds hovered, 
bees kissed the white blossoms, 
promised little green apples.

Little green apples
who would taste your tartness first
blue jays, swallows, me? 

Last season's apples, 
wrinkled skin scattered under tree-
forgotten old men. 

Jay P. Narain

Thursday, August 10, 2017

SUMMER IN A VASE

SUMMER BOUQUET
Thursday, 8:30 AM.  63 degrees F at the ferry dock,  62 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is overcast and it is raining, the humidity 94%.  The barometer is still falling, currently at 30.07".  Rain will stop later this morning, the day's high will be in the mid-60's.  The week ahead is predicted to have highs in the 70's with clearing skies and no rain.
   Buddy and I got caught in a shower on our morning walk, which was cut short as we stood under a roadside tree as we waited for a break in the rain.  It is a quiet, wet morning, the gentle rain refreshing and pleasant.
   Joan asked me to pick some flowers for a table bouquet yesterday, and I collected roadside blooms from down the street and added a few purple coneflowers from the garden to the mix and she had the makings of a fine summer flower arrangement.  Tansy, wild oregano, wild asparagus and purple coneflower, and viola:
  Summer in a vase.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

POWER OUTAGE

t

LIGHTS OUT


Wednesday, 7:30 AM.  63 degrees F at the ferry dock, 60 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is partly cloudy, the humidity 87%, after a thunderstorm last night.  The falling barometer is still at 30.08".  Highs will be in the high 60's to low 70's, the skies mixed, with chances of rain and thunderstorms tomorrow and continuing later into the week.
   We had a brief storm last night, with one loud clap of thunder about 9:30, just as it was getting dark.  Lights, TV, internet and phone all went unceremoniously dead, and we had to scuttle around looking for candles and flashlights.  It was evidently an area outage, and the lights on Madeline Island were out as well.
   As the darkness increased and the coyotes began to howl, the candle on the dinning room table flickered and guttered, casting a kaleidoscope of shadows on the walls.  No Brewers ballgame.  No dire news of North Korean nukes.  A little conversation, feed the dogs, and to bed early.  Not a bad evening, all things considered.  Then waking up at 12:30 AM when everything came on again and wishing it had all stayed off the rest of the night.

It took a power outage for me to see the light
Of what it is I am really like
To hear the words that you said without the noise
I could listen close, without distraction of toys
I saw the darkness of how I felt surround me
The candle that you lit, so profound within me
Safety, security, as well as desire
Lit so lovingly by that fire

It took a power outage for me to release pent up fear
To see that you are so very near
Never so far away as I sometimes believe
You are here, here with me
You hold my darkness, always at bay
To keep me happy, chase the blues away
I never saw this until the lights went out
When I made the darkness become my doubt

That same darkness that you made light

by
Deana Repose Oaks



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

OH I LOVE THAT SUMMER MOON

LOVE THAT SUMMER MOON
Tuesday, 8:45 AM.  70 degrees F at the ferry dock, 66 on the back porch.  Wind WNW, light with moderate gusts.  The sky is mostly clear, the humidity a relatively low 66%.  The barometer si falling, now at 30.12" of mercury.  Today's high will be around 80, then it will cool off some and rain and thunderstorms are predicted for Wednesday and Thursday, after which we should have a long spell of nice summer weather.
   The full moon last night was awesome, a real "summer moon."

THAT SUMMER MOON
Craig Morgan

I remember like it was yesterday those hot nights
Fireflies, candy apple kiss at the county fair
A little backwoods detour on the long way home
To be alone, honeysuckle sweetened up the midnight air

And that summer moon
Shinin’ like sunlight
Bouncin’ off your eyes
And lightin’ up mine
Just me and you
Pullin’ off on a back road
Blanket and a radio and that summer moon

Ooh, I love that summer moon

Monday, August 7, 2017

FICKLE HUMMINGBIRDS








                           
   
THE HUMMINGBIRDS ARE INDEED BACK AT THE FEEDER
Monday, 8:30 AM.  65 degrees F at the ferry dock, 60 on the back porch.  Wind W, light with stronger gusts.  The sky is partly cloudy with high, wispy white clouds, the humidity a relatively low 65% .  It will warm into the high 70's today and tomorrow.  The barometer is at 30.12" of mercury and falling, predicting chances of rain and thunderstorms Tuesday and Wednesday, then with highs around 70 and partly cloudy skies through next weekend.  It is nice summer weather.
   Hummingbirds are disarmingly charming little creatures, but they are, I am sorry to say, quite fickle.
    I have been feeding them for lo, these many years, the feeder always up on time for their spring arrival, and kept up even after they have obviously left for the season, just to be sure a tardy member of the migration does not go hungry.   And what thanks do I get for my steadfastness? Not much.
   I left the feeder solution become stale, or whatever happens to it, for how long? perhaps a day or two past its prime, and suddenly no hummingbirds!  It was a few weeks ago that I noticed their absence and I immediately (well, almost immediately) washed the feeder and refilled it with fresh solution.  What thanks did I get? A cold shoulder, that's what.
   They left me for some neighbor's feeder, someone who was already feeding a different family of birds, and the warlike little creatures probably had to battle the other birds.
   At any rate, they finally have returned, or perhaps the birds that are buzzing about are youngsters now out on their own.  Anyway, there are an awfully lot of mock battles going on,  Maybe not so mock, although I have seen neither blood nor feathers beneath the feeder.
   Hummingbirds do not always play nice.
  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

CANADA GOLDENROD IS BLOOMING

CANADA GOLDENROD: A LARGE, SPREADING PERENNIAL PLANT...

...PLUME OF SMALL YELLOW FLOWERS..

...LONG, NARROW, SMOOTH LEAVES
Sunday, 8:00 AM.  61 degrees F at the ferry dock, 56 on the back porch.  The wind is variable and calm, the sky partly cloudy with mare's tail and other thin white clouds, presaging an incoming front from the west.  The humidity is 88% and the barometer steady at 30.04" of mercury.  Highs today will be around 70, warming to mid-70's with chances of rain throughout the coming week.
   When goldenrods begin to bloom, the summer is on the wane.  Canada goldenrod, Solidago canadensis, in the Sunflower Family (Compositae), is one of the easiest to identify of the seventy-five plus species in the genus, most of which are native to North America but many of which, Canada goldenrod specifically, have spread as an invasive species throughout the Northern Hemisphere and elsewhere (native species  of plants and animals can be just as invasive as non-native).
   Goldenrods hybridize readily and are a  nightmare even to taxonomists, who's mission in life is to study complicated things and complicate them even further.  There are only a half-dozen or so that I recognize readily and I simply lump the rest together.  
   Canada goldenrod will grow almost anywhere except very dry or very wet areas.  It is quite attractive and sometimes grown in the garden, but it spreads and takes over.  Some ornamental goldenrods are less aggressive than the species and are welcome in cultivation. As wild plants goldenrods are attractive in late summer and fall.  They are often blamed by hay fever sufferer's for their allergies, but they are insect rather than wind pollinated so they are not guilty in that regard.
   Dried S. canadensis and other species have been used in herbal medicine as a diuretic in the treatment of gout and kidney stones, and as a wash for eczema and other skin irritations, and the genus name alludes to that fact in a roundabout, Latinized way.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

SHUT UP AND LET ME SLEEP!



NO BEEP ...

NO BEEP..


                                                                   
                                                                               NO BEEP...
                                                                             NO BEEP...
                                                                             NO BEEP...
BEEP !

Saturday, 9:00 AM,  65 degrees F at the ferry dock, 60 on the back porch.  Wind variable and very light,  the sk is clear, with some haze, the humidity is 79%.  The barometer is falling some, now at 29.98".  It looks like a nice summer week ahead, with highs in the high sixties to mid-seventies, mostly clear or partly skies, and a chance of rain on next Wednesday.
   Thursday night we were invited to dinner with friends, and while we were enjoying a glass of wine before dinner we heard a familiar sound; an almost inaudible, un-locateable little "beep."  Our host, who was doing the cooking, said somewhat nervously, "now which annoying gadget is that?"  We all listened attentively, checking off things on our own mental lists, and all hoping our evening wasn't going to be marred by searching for a secretive, o-so-difficult-to-find and deal-with smoke detector.  
   It was finally found to be a freezer door that was not tightly closed. Going home after an otherwise delightful evening, we heard  a very faint "beep" emanating from somewhere in the truck.  Where was it, what was it...at least it could not be a smoke detector; so we tried to forget about it until we got home.  When the plaintive little sound followed us into the the house Joan determined it was something in her purse.  Her telephone was  telling her she had neglected to listen to a message.
   All the beeping proved a considerable prod to my memory, and I found this post from August 5, 2010 :
                                                      BEEP NATION
   The other night I awoke to a faint, periodic beep. I lay there staring at the ceiling, trying to analyze the source. Microwave? No. Toaster? No. Stove? No. Coffee maker? No. Key’s left in a vehicle? No. Truck backing up somewhere? Unlikely, at 1:00 AM. The refrigerator does not beep that I know of.    What was that annoying sound? Thankfully, upon close inspection it was not the dreaded smoke alarm, which when the batteries are low emits a constant chirping until the battery is replaced, even if the battery is removed, the alarm dismantled and put outside on the back porch and the door closed.
   What was it? After considerable triangulation and with Joan’s (now also wide awake) help it was found to be a small room thermometer which had sat unobtrusively and quietly on the dresser for some years, but was now emitting a kind of faint terminal distress signal, like a foundering ship at sea sending out a last, desperate short wave SOS.
    I removed the batteries to ease its pain, and it fell silent, mercifully, at one o’clock in the morning.
What is it with these beeping devices, each emitting the same tone, same pitch, same periodicity, until it all becomes a meaningless annoyance?
   Shut up and let me sleep!

Friday, August 4, 2017

PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE

PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE FLOWER SPIKE
...WILLOW-LIKE LEAF
Friday, 9:00 AM.  56 degrees at the ferry dock and on the back porch as well.  Wind variable, with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is cloudy and overcast, after rain showers yesterday and last night. The humidity is 89%.  The barometer reads 29.66" and is still falling, predicting more unsettled weather, with temperatures in the low seventies.
   Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, in the Loosestrife Family, the Lythraceae, is blooming now in wet roadside ditches and marshes.  It s a strong growing perennial native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa that has been popular as a garden ornamental plant in Europe and America for many years. The species name refers to the plant's leaves, which resemble those of the willow (salix). The plant also has medicinal qualities as an astringent.   It is quite attractive,  but unfortunately spreads readily by seeds and plant parts and is very invasive, particularly in wetlands, where it competes with cattails and other native wetland plants that are valuable to wildlife. It also grows so profusely that it can clog waterways and impede the flow of water.   For these reasons it was declared a noxious invasive plant many years ago in Wisconsin and most other states.
   Purple loosestrife can be controlled by mechanical means (digging and disposing of he plants) and by chemicals (primarily Roundup), but those controls are expensive and problematic.  The Galerucella beetle, which feeds exclusively on purple loosestrife, was introduced in 1994 from Europe to control it.  Several other weevils also feed exclusively on this invasive plant, and are also used in its biological control.  
   The Galerucella beetle has been distributed free of charge to citizen volunteers, who raise and distribute the beetles and monitor loosestrife populations, under the supervision of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  This program has been amazingly successful, and today purple loosestrife is basically under control in the state.  Wetlands and other areas that once were overrun by purple loosestrife are now mostly free of it, and the occasional loosestife bloom is nothing more than an accent among the native plants.
     A truly good aspect of the biological control of organisms is that it does not aim to completely eradicate a target population, a residual of which must remain in the environment as host for survival of the control species.
  I often rail against government programs and agencies that are overblown and out of control, but purple loosestrife eradication is an environmental success story, a cooperative program among scientists,  government agencies, and citizen volunteers that has efficiently and economically solved a real-world ecological problem.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

SPECTACULAR SMOKETREES




EURASIAN SMOKE TREE (ON W. 6TH ST. IN WASHBURN)

...AMERICAN SMOKE TREE FALL COLOR (IN A SUNNY LOCATION)...
... IN A SHADED LOCATION
Thursday, 8:00 AM.  60 degrees F at the ferry dock, 56 on the back porch.  Wind ENE, light with occasional strong gusts.  Intermittent rain is falling from overcast skies, and the humidity  is 81%.  The barometer is falling, now at 30.11".  Partly cloudy skies, with highs around 70 and periodic   chances of rain are predicted for the next seven days.
  The Eurasian smoke tree, Cotinus coggygria, in the Cashew Family (Anacardiceae),  is mostly planted for its unusual large, filmy flower plumes that evoke the appearance of smoke. The individual flowers and fruit themselves are visually insignificant.  There are many cultivars of the Eurasian species, some with purple leaves.  The one pictured is on West 6th St. in Washburn, and is a true eye-catcher.
  The American smoke tree, Cotinus obovatus, also called Chittam-wood, is native to calcareous rocky woods and bluffs in a small geographic area in the far south-central American Midwest and south into Texas, but  it is perfectly hardy much farther north.  It has spectacular fall leaf color but is otherwise not outstanding. It has been a favorite shrub of the National Arbor Day Foundation to distribute free to its members, so it has been widely planted.
   The smoketrees are closely related to the sumacs  of the genus Rhus.  Both genera have strongly scented yellow wood.  Sumacs have pinnately compound leaves; smoketrees have simple, toothless leaves.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ROADSIDE WILD ASPARGUS IS BLOOMING

MINUTE WILD ASPARAGUS FLOWERS

WILD ASPARAGUS FLOWERS AND FERN-LIKE FOLIAGE
Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  63 degrees F at the ferry dock, 61 on the back porch.  Wind ENE, mostly light with occasional strong gusts.  The sky is overcast and we should get rain today, possibly tomorrow. Temperatures will then rise into the low 70's, with rainy weather next week.  Easterly winds bring cool, wet weather, courtesy of the Big Lake.
   Wild asparagus plants are in bloom along un-mowed roadsides around Bayfield.  Most of the plants are probably garden escapees, but evidently there is also a "wild" species or subspecies native to Europe that is an immigrant to North America . Whether there is truly a difference , I don't know.
   The cultivated asparagus, Asparagus officionalis (the species name is from the Latin for "sold in shops") in the  Asparagus Family has been grown for many thousands of years as a garden food plant and medicinally as a diuretic, the effects of which are obvious to all who eat it.
   We all have experienced the characteristic odor of asparagus induced urine, and there are often grants awarded for investigation into it, and subsequent skepticism about why funds should be spent on such studies.  What is less commonly known is that the sensitivity to that odor is determined by a specific, inherited gene, and thus is useful in genetic studies, and is not as frivolous or unworthy a research opportunity as it may seem to reporters and laymen. Thought you would like to know that.
   Roadside asparagus is perfectly good, and easy to identify as a wild edible, but it is difficult to find the tender sprouts in the spring, so now is a good time to spot where it grows for future reference.  The tall, fern-like foliage with its tiny yellow flowers is easily recognizable now, and will be even more so when it develops its red berries, and turns golden yellow in the fall.
   Even if one does not intend to eat the young shoots, it is fun to spot the plants along the road and know what they are and appreciate their considerable beauty and interesting history.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BERRIES

PIKE'S CREEK WINERY BLUEBERRY WINE

BUNCHBERRIES ON BLOOM ROAD
Tuesday, 7:30 AM.  73 degrees F at the ferry dock, 70 on the back porch.  Wind WSW, light with moderate gusts.  The sky is partly cloudy, the humidity 69%.  The barometer is falling, now at 29.99".  Highs today will be around 80, falling into the 60's Wednesday and Thursday, which will bring a chance of rain.  The week thereafter will have highs in the mid-70's, with mixed skies.  It is a breezy, pleasant summer morning.
   On Sunday I introduced readers to the new Pike's Creek Winery and its berry wines, and promised a wine tasting report.  We did just that, cracked a bottle of their blueberry wine and shared it with friends Andy and Judy out on Bloom Road.
   We liked it very much.  It is a crisp, dry fruit wine, not sweet at all,  that went very nicely with pungent goat cheese, and an aged sharp cheddar.  It has a faint but pleasant bouquet, and is a very clear blue, no sediment at all.  It is strong enough that a glass apiece was quite sufficient before dinner.  We recommend it highly.
   In other berry news, bunchberry, AKA dwarf cornel, Cornus canadensis, in the Dogwood Family, is ripe along Bloom Road.  The bright red bunchberries are edible but taste rather mealy, and are best left for the birds; but the plant makes a fine native woodland ground cover, and like its close relative the flowering dogwood of the east and south, is beautiful in flower.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A CAR SHOW LAMENT: NO BARN, NO MONEY

1935 FORD ROADSTER STREET ROD
1955 FORD THUNDERBIRD
1957 STUDEBAKER SILVER HAWK
1961 CHEVROLET HARDTOP
1937 WILLYS OVERLAND (RARE)

Monday, 8:45 AM.  72 degrees F at the ferry dock, 71 on the back porch.  Wind variable and mostly calm.  The sky is clear, the humidity 81%.  The barometer is falling, now at 30.17".  Today's high is predicted to be in the mid-80's, becoming significantly cooler by Thursday, when it will be in the 60's.  There will be chances of rain and thunderstorms as the weather cools. Pleasant weather around 70 with clear skies should arrive by the coming weekend.  I have a design project to work on while the weather is too hot to work outside, but the lawn needs to be mowed and weeds pulled in the gardens when the weather is more amenable.
   The neighboring city of Washburn held its annual Brownstone Days celebration Saturday and Sunday. It is a combination historic architecture festival, carnival and car show.  We have gone often enough over the years that we no longer tour the historic buildings, but are always interested in the car show, since many of the entries are automobile classics that Joan and I knew well in years past, and a number of the models we may even have owned.
   There was only one car at the show that I do not recall seeing before; a 1937 Willys Overland, a vehicle obviously ahead of its time, at least stylistically. Willys was a pioneer in the auto industry and went through numerous changes and transformations over the years, and finally became a major producer of the WWII Jeep, but disappeared from the industrial scene after the war.
   I was never enough of a gear head to build a real hot rod, but I owned a lot of great cars and trucks in my younger days.  Some standouts: 1939 ford pickup truck;  1939 Buick Century; 1948 Hudson; 1951 Studebaker Starlight Coupe;  1957 Chevrolet; and too many others to even think about.
   Looking at the price tags on some of the vehicles in the show, I came to the realization that if I had kept all the cars and trucks I have owned in my lifetime I would be a multi-millionaire.
   Unfortunately, I never had a barn to put them in, or the  money to own more than one vehicle at a time.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

BLUEBERRY WINE

A NEW BAYFIED FRUIT WINERY...
...MADE FROM LOCAL BLUEBERRIES, BLACKBERRIES AND RASPBERRIES...
...THE PARENT COMPANY IS HIGHLAND VALLEY FARM, A MULTI-GENERATIONAL LOCAL BJUSINESS...
... AN ORIGINAL AND INTRIGUING LABEL
Sunday, 7:45 AM,  75 degrees F at the ferry dock, 71 on the back porch.  Wind variable, with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is partly cloudy, the humidity 86%.  Highs today and tomorrow will be in the mid-80's, then cooling to the 60's and 70's with mostly clear or partly cloudy skies through the week, with a chance of rain next Sunday.  It is a very quiet, breezy, pleasant summer morning.
   The first of the Bayfield blueberry crop is now being harvested,  We stopped by Highland Valley Farm yesterday to check it out, and it will be bountiful.
   Highland Valley Farm is a multi-generational family business, as are a number of the Bayfield orchards and berry farms, and the younger generations often come up with new and innovative business ideas and models that give new life to their enterprise.
   One such innovation is Pike's Creek Winery, just opened at the Dale Family's Highland Valley Farm. The berry farm is just a short distance from the North Branch of Pike's Creek, which originates in the valley. The wine produced is not from grapes, but from their own blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  Each wine has a  logo with a different color berry in a black bird's beak; blue for blueberry wine, red for raspberry and black for "black and blue," (blueberry and blackberry mix),  The wines are naturally fermented  to 13.5% alcohol without fortification, a pretty potent beverage, and sell for $16.50 a bottle, or $45 for one of each.  One dollar tasting samples are available at the winery.
   Highland Valley is the largest blueberry grower in Wisconsin and a bumper crop begs to be made into wine, so the winery goes hand in hand with the parent operation.
   I did not sample or buy wine yesterday but shall very soon, and  will report on the taste and quality, which is bound to be good.