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Wednesday, May 31, 2017



JUNEBERRY BLOSSOMS AND EMERGING LEAVES (note srap-like petals, reddish young leaves)
Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  52 degrees F at the ferry dock, 50 on the back porch.  Wind NW, mostly calm with light gusts.  The sky is nearly clear, the humidity 69%.  The barometer is rising, now at 29.64".  Temperatures will rise into the low 70's today through Friday with clear skies, then temperatures will plummet into the 50's with thunderstorms on Saturday, followed by continued cool temperatures and mixed skies during the week.  It really looks like spring today.
   I'm still without my pocket camera, so these photos are from last year.  The wild plums have been blooming several days now, and are a week to ten days later than last year, more evidence of our late spring, if indeed any was needed.
   Wild plums and cherries bloom right after the Juneberries, and now the white blossoms all mingle together in the northern landscape.  The flowers are quite different when viewed closely, however; the plums and cherries having prominent anthers that reach far above the petals.  Also, the Juneberry leaves appear with the flowers, while the flowers of most of the wild plums and cherries appear well before the leaves.  The wild plums have thorns, the Juneberries and cherries do not.
   We have two native wild plums in Wisconsin, Prunus nigra, Canada wild plum, and Prunus americana, American wild plum.  Both can form large thickets on woods edges and along roads. Both are native to much of North America except the far northwest and south west. The Canada plum usually is more northerly in distribution.  I am not sure which is pictured, as the leaves  and fruit are an identification characteristic and neither have yet appeared. 
    Both species bear fruit good to eat fresh or make preserves of if one can out-compete the bears, raccoons and birds. Canada wild plum fruit is bright red, American wild plum fruit is yellow.  Bears will simply tear down branches to get the ripe fruit. 
   Careful of those thorns. Harvesting wild plums is another blood sport!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  48 degrees F at both the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind SSW, light to moderate with stronger gusts.  The sky is cloudy and overcast and it may rain.  The humidity is 78%, the barometer steady for now, at 29.82".  The skies will clear some and we will have highs around 70 Wednesday and Thursday, then temperatures will drop to around 50 with rain again on the weekend. 
   The cool, damp spring continues.  It was not a particularly harsh or long winter, but spring just hasn't  sprung, resulting in a fabulous season for bulbs and a slightly later but still nice season for everything else. 
   The crabapples and apples are starting to bloom in profusion,  but my pocket camera has finally worn out and I am relying on photos from my archives until I can replace it tomorrow.
   The parent species of both crabapple and edible apple, Malus sylvestris, in the Rose Family,  has been hybridized, by both nature and by man, to such an extent  that it is quite difficult to determine where one starts and the other leaves off, but suffice it to say that crabapples generally are ornamentals with small fruits, and apples are grown for their edible fruits.  Both are typically grafted to retain their particular hybrid or varietal  characteristics.  The Malus gene pool is very plastic, yielding an endless variety of genetic combinations and traits.  There are many  hundreds of varieties of apples and almost as many of crabapples, so it doesn't pay to try to go into much descriptive detail here about them.
   From an ornamental standpoint. crabapples are available in so many sizes, shapes and colors, etc. and are so tough and hardy that if one is diligent the right tree can be found for almost any landscape and garden niche.
   The fruits of crabapples are as varied as the blossoms, and should be taken into consideration when choosing a variety to plant.  There are a few crabapples, such as the 'Whitney,' that have fruits considered to be edible, or at least suitable for canning.  All crabapples are good wildlife food, and none are poisonous.  They are tolerant of many soil conditions, but require full sun.

Monday, May 29, 2017



Monday, Memorial Day, 9:00 AM.  56 degrees F at the ferry dock, 64 on the back porch.  Wind WNW, light with moderate gusts. The sky is mostly cloudy, with some overcast, the humidity 84%.  The barometer is beginning to rise, now at 29.62", predicting clearing skies with cool temperatures for the balance of the week.
  I was something of a wise guy at 21 years of age when I was in basic training, but I was put in my place, gently but firmly, by Sergent Arpin, an avuncular figure who replaced a succession of inept drunks as my platoon sergeant.  He was rather rotund, out of shape, and more of a father figure than a military presence. How and why he ended up with our bunch of troublesome misfits was a mystery.
   Sometime after Sergent Arpin's  arrival, the commandant, doubtless sensing an overall lack of military decorum,  issued orders that the entire post would stand retreat at the end of each day.  That involved changing into clean fatigues, polishing boots, and standing at attention and saluting while taps was played and the flag lowered.  All that was viewed as unwelcome nonsense by myself and many others, and I had the trepidation to ask Sargent Arpin why all this was necessary, although I considered it merely a rhetorical question.
   The sergent, who took all this very seriously for some reason unbeknown to me, answered in full, his rheumy eyes suddenly clearer, his middle-aged stance fully military:  "Private Ode," he said, calmly but  sternly, "We stand retreat to honor my buddies who got their asses shot off on Iwo Jima."
   Sarge, I am sure you have long since gone to that great muster in the sky, but you live on in the memory at least one of your charges, himself now an old man.
   I sincerely hope someone had the good sense to bury you in a military cemetery, next to your old buddies, and I hope they play taps over your graves today.
   With a real trumpet, and not one of those tinny-sounding, tape-playing fakes.
Reprinted from the Memorial Day 2015 post of The Almanac.

Lee Greenwood
If tomorrow all the things were gone
I'd worked for all my life
And I had to start again
With just my children and my wife
I'd thank my lucky stars
To be living here today
Cause the flag still stands for freedom
And they can't take that away
And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up
Next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA
From the lakes of Minnesota
To the hills of Tennessee
Across the plains of Texas
From sea to shining sea
From Detroit down to Houston,
And New York to L.A
Well there's pride in every American heart
And its time we stand and say
That I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up
Next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA
And I'm proud to be and American
Where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up
Next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA

Sunday, May 28, 2017





Sunday, 9:00 AM.  58 degrees F at the ferry dock, 58 on the back porch.  Wind SSE, calm with occasional very light gusts.  The sky has a high overcast, the humidity is 77%.  The barometer is still falling, now at 29.68".  Expect cool and rainy weather through Monday, then warming and clearing the balance of the week.
   Choke cherry, Prunus virginiana, in the Rose Family,  bears red (purple when fully ripe) berries in abundance.  They are excellent wildlife food and are good for making jams and jellies, but are rather bitter to the taste when eaten raw, and thus their name.  Choke cherry is a common shrub or small tree native to much of the more temperate forested portions of North America, and is a prevalent pioneer plant after forest fires or logging. 
   Several years ago our eldest daughter, who lives in Ohio, sent me a  jar of choke cherry jam from an Amish kitchen for my birthday, and it was delicious.  It is also seen occasionally on grocery store shelves, but it is pretty much a do it yourself project.  Pretty hard to harvest wild berries before the critters get to them, though.
   Well, the environmental left has done it again;  caused the demise of an American icon, the Ringling Bros.-Barnum and Baily Circus.  No more three ring circus to amaze children and adults alike.  No more death-defying aerial acts or dangerous confrontations with fierce lions and tigers. No more circus clowns.  No more circus parades.  And, of course, no more elephants.
   This was proclaimed a war of liberation, and the overly sensitive and gullible rushed to join the cause.  And as with most such wars, the victors never asked the citizens of the target country what they themselves really wanted.
   In this case, no one asked the elephants, who were the cause celebre and highest profile citizens of circus land.  Of course the elephants, although quite intelligent, do not have the capacity of speech.  But if they could speak, much less vote, on the demise of their "country," would they have perhaps protested just a bit?
   Protested that they had always lived in their circus country, were never wild and wouldn't know a thing about how to live in the jungle, or how to protect themselves from the enemies they would find there.
   That they had many human friends, whom they would miss very much.
   That they had gotten great satisfaction from useful work and its rewards.
   That they loved the applause of the crowds and the music of the bands, and most of all the parades.
   That, since they are intelligent animals,  being in a zoo would  simply bore them to death.
   Now I am sure I will be criticized, or worse, for my political incorrectness, but I do think our leftist friends have once again wreaked havoc on an unsuspecting and innocent country, the circus and its elephants, the latter to whom I can only offer this advice:
   Lawyer up. And start your own protest parade.

Friday, May 26, 2017




Saturday, 8:40 AM.  53 degrees F at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is mostly clear with some haze, the humidity 90%.  The barometer is mostly steady, at 29.83".  It should reach 70 degrees today, after a light shower last night.  Next week will be cooler, with chances of rain Sunday through Tuesday.
    Sweet woodruff,  Galium oderatum,  formerly Asperula oderata, in the family Rubiaceaea, is a common garden perennial,  native to much of Eurasia, and much used as a ground cover.   I find it a delightful plant, very fragrant, especially when dried.  
   Sweetwoodruff is traditionally used to make May wine, an old-world tradition.  A few sprigs of flowering sweet woodruff, picked fresh and steeped for a week or so in almost any white wine, makes a refreshing and somewhat different drink.  I think it is pretty good, but Joan doesn't care for it.  The plant has interesting whorled leaves and umbels of minute white flowers. It has another common name, sweet bedstraw, denoting its use  in Medieval times.
     Sweet Woodruff  spreads from rhizomes as well as seeds, and I find it grows particularly well under and around pine trees where not much else will grow because of  acid soil, shade and root competition. 

A poet,true to God and Art, not dead,
In his life-space not read
But when generations gone full read,
Is like sweet woodruff,
In whose leaves men find small perfume
Until they be dead.  

                                     Anonymous and  Ancient




Friday, 8:30 AM.  48 degrees F at the ferry dock, 49 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is overcast and it has rained a bit.  The humidity is 95% and the barometer is still falling, now at 29.77".  We may get a shower this afternoon, and it will continue to warm through the weekend, then cool off with possible rain showers Sunday through Tuesday.
   Lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria majalis, in the Lily family, is blooming, its very sweet scent evident when walking past a bed of the flowers.  It was introduced to North America probably hundreds of years ago from Europe, was often planted around settlers homes. and is very persistent, often  forming large leafy mats.  If one comes across a patch of it along a roadside or in the woods it is a certain indicator that a home once stood there (there is also a native species in the eastern mountains of the US, C. montana). The attractive red berries, and indeed the whole plant, is quite poisonous, and has a long history of use as a heart medication similar to Digitalis, to treat heart failure.  Children should be taught at the youngest age never to eat anything wild unless it is given to them by a knowledgeable adult care giver.
   Lily-of-the-valley is blooming pretty much on time, perhaps a few days late, according to my records: 5/22/15; 5/10/14; 5/11/13; 5/2/12; 5/24/10.   In a late spring such as this one, the later blooming plants are not affected as much as the earlier .
   Lily-of-the-valley prefers a slightly acidic sandy loam soil,  and semi-shade.  it grows well in the shade of conifers.
   The wild lily-of-the-valley,  AKA mayflower, Maianthemum canadense, is native to much of  eastern North America and around the Great Lakes.  It is a small woodland ground cover plant with attractive spikes of sweetly fragrant  white flowers, closely related to Convallaria.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


THE LAPLAND ROSEBAY, WISCONSIN'S ONLY NATIVE RHODODENDRON (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Herbarium Consortium)
Thursday, 8:45 AM.  44 degrees F at both the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind ENE, mostly calm with very light gusts.  The sky is mostly clear with some scattered clouds and haze, the humidity 93%.  The barometer is falling, predicting a chance of rain tomorrow and Monday, with mixed skies, and temperatures rising into the mid-sixties.  It will cool off perhaps ten degrees next week with further mixed skies.
   A few years ago I decided  to plant some Rhododendrons and azaleas in the increasingly shady and protected front yard, which is sheltered by a medium sized white pine,  a large Colorado spruce and several other conifers. The shade, wind protection and acidic soil made it a seemingly ideal location.  The planting includes a half-dozen PJM hybrids, several hybrid rosebay rhododendrons and a few of the 'Lights' azaleas, introduced by the University of Minnesota.  They have all at last become pretty well established, and bloom fairly dependably, but it has taken longer than I expected.  The PJM's are blooming now, but it will be a few weeks before the others flower.  Azaleas and Rhododendrons are all in the genus Rhododendron, the main difference between them being that rhododendrons are mainly broad-leaved evergreens, and azaleas are deciduous.  Azaleas in particular tend to have rather garish flower colors and can be hard to fit into a landscape, but they can be very spectacular.  I think the genus needs to be isolated in their own garden environment, at least where they are not visually compatible with the native flora.
   Rhododendrons are a finicky group of plants, even in Bayfield, but there are a few that are definitely hardy and are very colorful bloomers.  PJM is a 1939 hybrid of the Korean rhododendron,  introduced from Weston Nursery of Boston, and grows and flowers dependably.  They are a glorious sight in our springtime, sturdy broad-leaved evergreen shrubs covered with pink-purple blooms.
  It is hard to be specific about the names and lineage of individual plants, since the original PJM has been much crossed over the years and unless one knows the exact name and history of an individual plant one can only generalize, and identify them simply as PJM.  The Rhododendron Society web page goes into a considerable amount of detail about these beautiful plants.
   The 'Northern Lights' series, introductions from the University of Minnesota, are very hardy azaleas in a variety of flower colors ('Orange Lights', 'Rosy Lights', etc.).
   There are also hardy introductions from Canada and Finland.  I even see some individually hardy flame azaleas here along the Big Lake, which are usually hardy only much further south.  Generally speaking, azaleas and rhododendrons need loamy, acid soil and a shaded and protected environment, but perhaps less shade the further north they are grown.
   Wisconsin has only one native Rhododendron, the Lappland Rosebay, Rhododendron lapponicum, a relict species left ten thousand years ago by the retreating glaciers in the deep valleys and ravines along the Wisconsin and Kickapoo Rivers in south-central and south-western driftless (unglaciated) region of Wisconsin.  Their habitat is primarily the shaded, moist sandstone cliffs above the rivers.  It is a Wisconsin endangered species.
   Rhododendron lapponicum is also found in the New England states,  New York and the mountains of Pennsylvania and in Canada

Wednesday, May 24, 2017



Wednesday, 8:30 AM.  45 degrees F at the ferry dock, 45  on the back porch.  Wind ENE, mostly calm with light gusts.  The sky is cloudy with some overcast, the humidity 87%. The barometer is falling gently, now at 29.83".  Skies will be mixed and temperatures will rise into the the 60's by the weekend, then cool down again, with rain on Friday and Monday.  There may be Global Warming somewhere, but not in Bayfield.
   This has been a very late but long spring, first proclaimed by the daffodils which have lasted a full month but are about over, followed by the tulips that will go with the first warm days.  But there are always more firsts to usher in the latter stages of spring, such as putting up the porch baskets, and of course the arrival of the male hummingbirds. 
   I saw my first hummingbird of the year yesterday afternoon, flitting around one of the geranium baskets.  He almost bumped my nose, and he was either twittering, or his teeth were chattering.
   I don't know if I have ever been quick enough to take a photo of a hummingbird.  I sure couldn't find one in my digital archives, thus the Google photo.
   The boys are exactly a week late, their usual arrival in Bayfield is the 15th of May,  and is just as predictable as the return of the swallows to the California mission of San Juan Capistrano, . Perhaps they arrived on time and I missed them, but I doubt it.

   Robert Frost 
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day; 
And give us not to think so far away 
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here 
All simply in the springing of the year. 

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night; 
And make us happy in the happy bees, 
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees. 

And make us happy in the darting bird 
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill, 
And off a blossom in mid air stands still. 

For this is love and nothing else is love, 
The which it is reserved for God above 
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017



Tuesday, 9:00 AM   48 degrees F at the ferry dock, 47 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm, the sky overcast.  The humidity is 87%, the barometer 29.88" and steady.  We may get a shower this afternoon, and the next few days will have mixed skies with high temperatures around fifty degrees, with yet another chance of rain by Friday.
   The continual rain hasn't dampened the spirits of gardeners touring Bayfield; witness the photos of gardeners enjoying "Martha's Fantastic Garden" (use the search engine for more info on Martha's garden).
   I like visiting gardens in the rain.  The colors are more vibrant, the plants at their best. Some of our best garden visits have been in the rain.

                                                   Garden In The Rain

T'was just a garden in the rain 
Close to a little leafy lane 
A touch of color 'neath skies of gray 
The raindrops kissed the flowerbeds 
The blossoms raised their leafy heads 
A perfumed thank you 
They seemed to say 

Surely here was charm beyond 
Compare to view 
Maybe it was just that 
I was there with you 

T'was just a garden in the rain 
But then the sun came out again 
And sent us happily on our way


Monday, May 22, 2017




Monday, 8:00 AM,  48 degrees F at the ferry dock, 47 on the back porch.  Wind SW, calm with light gusts.  The sky is overcast, the humidity 87%.  The barometer stands at 29.80".
   The paper birch, Betula papyrifera, in the Birch Family, is a tree of the far north, native in North America from the Great Lakes north to the Tundra and all across Canada and Alaska. It is in flower now, the trees bearing both male and female flowers. The small, wafer-like seeds will mature by fall, and will be gradually dispersed over many months, often seen freshly deposited on new snow and ice in winter, and they will be taken everywhere by wind and the waters of melting snow.
   Used as an ornamental, paper birch trees are usually planted in locations too hot and dry for them to thrive.  The natural habitats of paper birch are stream banks, the edges of swamps, rocky hillsides and wet sands, although they will grow on drier sites in a cool climate.
   The paper birch was, and still is, an important element in traditional American Indian life. The exfoliating bark (skillful removal does little to harm a mature tree) provides a light and durable material for canoes and for wigwams, and is an excellent fire starter. Birch Bark makes good drinking cups and baskets.  Birch wood is light and easily worked, and it makes excellent firewood.
   Native Americans had a number of medicinal uses for paper birch, and in many northern countries birch species are taped like maple trees and the sap fermented to make a birch beer, or boiled down to make sugar, although it is inferior to sugar maple sap in that regard.
   Even in nature, paper birch are short-lived trees, seldom lasting more than forty or fifty years, if that.  They are a pioneer species, requiring full sun, and in nature are shaded out by oaks, maples and fir trees.  Paper birch trees will often stand dead, held together by their bark, until a strong wind or other disturbance sends them crashing in a pile of lumpy sawdust.
   The bronze birch borer often kills whole groves of paper birch trees, even in the best native habitat, and it sneaks up on ornamental plantings and kills trees often before it is detected.  Trying to control the borer in the wild is pretty much impossible, and although it is possible to combat it in the home landscape the effort may not be worth it for what is necessarily an ephemeral tree.
   The bronze birch borer is the larvae of a beetle that inserts its eggs under the bark of the host tree, where the borers feed on the cambium of branches and trunks, eventually girdling and killing the tree.  Their presence is indicated by raised areas on branches that trace their tunneling. If the bark is peeled back with a sharp knife the tunnels and grubs can be seen.  Systemic insecticides can be effective if applied soon enough, but are expensive to use and may not be worth the trouble and environmental hazard.
   To help a paper birch tree live as long as possible in the landscape, it should be planted in good topsoil that is on the sandy side, and it must have good drainage but also adequate moisture, and an acid soil.  The roots must be kept as cool as possible, which means mulching (use oak leaves or conifer needles if possible), or at least not mowing the grass beneath the tree.  Under-planting with compatible native shrubs, grasses and wildflowers is also an option.
   There have been a number of hybrids of the paper birch with the European white birch (the birch genus is circumpolar in the far north) or the eastern gray birch that are more adaptable, and are resistant to borer.  Also, the river birch, B. nigra, has a very ornamental, exfoliating  orange-white bark when young and sometimes is used in place of the paper birch, although it becomes a much larger tree and its bark becomes less attractive with maturity.
   Like many things in life, paper birch trees are a fleeting presence, and are probably best enjoyed when and where nature placed them.

Sunday, May 21, 2017



Sunday, 9:00 AM.  42 degrees F at the ferry dock,  41 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with light gusts.  The sky is overcast and foggy and it Is raining lightly.  The humidity is 96%, the barometer 29.81" and still falling, predicting continuing rain today, overcast skies tomorrow and rain again on Tuesday, with temperatures warming into the mid-fifties by the end of the week.
    Sweet cherry trees are selections of the European wild sweet cherry, Prunus avium, in the Rose Family;  sour cherries of the European Prunus cerasus. There are a number of edible wild native cherries but the fruits are small, generally tart,  and not usually grown commercially.  They do make excellent jams and jellies.
   The trunks and large branches of cherry trees are often whitewashed to protect the thin bark from damage in the late winter, when the sun's  strengthening rays reflect upward off the snow. 
    Cherry trees can grow quite large if not controlled by pruning, or  if not grown on dwarfing root stocks. They can be difficult to grow but the rewards are great, Bayfield sweet cherries selling last year for $4.00 per pound.

A cherry orchard by the house
"Sadok vyshnevyi kolo khaty")

A cherry orchard by the house.
Above the cherries beetles hum.
The plowmen plow the fertile ground
And girls sing songs as they pass by.
It’s evening—mother calls them home.

A family sups by the house.
A star shines in the evening chill.
A daughter serves the evening meal.
Time to give lessons—mother tries,
But can’t. She blames the nightingale.

It’s getting dark, and by the house,
A mother lays her young to sleep;
Beside them she too fell asleep.
All now went still, and just the girls
And nightingale their vigil keep.

Taras Shevchenko
Sadok vyshnevyi kolo khaty"
("Садок вишневий коло хати")
1847, Sankt-Peterburg (Санкт-Петербург)

Translated by Boris Dralyuk and Roman Koropeckyj 

Saturday, May 20, 2017



Saturday, 9:00 AM.  41 degrees F at the ferry dock, 40 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with light gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, the humidity down to 73%.  The barometer is plummeting from its  recent high of 30.29",  and rain is predicted for later today and thunderstorms for tomorrow.
   We have gotten over six inches of rain this past week, and it has left its damp fingerprints on the landscape, from rushing ditches and flood-stage streams, to freshened spring gardens and lichen covered oaks that look as though they have been painted to match the weather.
   No matter how sullen the weather, nature wears a smile, if we but look for it.

Parasite lichen
Lies grey on the years;
Lily buries herself
When winter appears.

Bright rose burns away,
Leaving lichen alone—
Fellow of frost,
Suckling of stone.

I am for lily,
I am for rose—
Delicate beauty
Trembles and goes.
Mary Eliza Fullerton

Nota Bene: Lichens are not parasites but saprophites, merely growing on  the surface of things and normally causing little harm.  

Friday, May 19, 2017



Friday, 8:30 AM.  41 degrees F at the ferry dock, 40 on the back porch.  The wind has changed from NE to SW, and is mostly calm with light gusts (the Nor'easter again lasted three days),  The sky is partly cloudy, the humidity 84%.  The barometer is steady, at 30.34" but will plummet on Saturday, bringing a weekend of rain with highs remaining in the 40's.  Creeks and rivers are at flood stage  already.
   Pin cherry is a shrub or small tree native to most of Canada and the Great Lakes region and mountainous areas in the northern United States.  It bears white flowers in loose umbels, which are followed by sour but edible bright red cherries.  The bark is smooth and gray, distinguishing it from other native cherries.  It is a major wildlife food, both the fruit and as browse, and was an important Native American food and medicinal plant.  It is far too aggressive and short lived for landscaping except for naturalizing.  It is an important reforestation species after a forest fire, as the seeds can lay dormant in the soil for as long as a century and still sprout after a forest fire.  Burned over areas are often revegitated with blooming, fruiting native pin cherries.
   I only have a few recorded blooming dates: 5/03/13; 5/18/09.  Pin cherries are great for jellies and jams, and usually easy to find in  abundance in burned or cut over areas.

Thursday, May 18, 2017



Thursday, 8:30 AM.  41 degreesF at the ferry dock, 38 on the back porch.  Wind NE, light to moderate.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, and it is still raining lightly after torrentia rains again last night  The humidity is 93%, the barometer rising, now at 29.63". It will clear later in the day and tomorrow should be dry, but rain is forecast again for Saturday.  Ditches are running full in the city, and local creeks and rivers will be close to flood stage.
   The red elderberry Sambucus pubens, in the Honeysuckle Family, is not nearly as well known as the common American elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, as it is a more northern species (it also is an important part of the western montane flora).  It is almost as attractive in flower as the American elderberry, the minute flowers occurring in more compact, cone-shaped umbels than the umbrella-like compound flowers of American elderberry.  And whereas the fruit of the latter species is blue-black and edible, the fruit of the former is bright red and it is quite acid to the taste and reported to be mildly poisonous to human uinless cooked, although I eat them without any obvious ill effects, Both species are good for jams and jellies and are also important wildlife plants, both for browse and for their fruits. The red elderberry prefers wet locations but will grow on drier sites, and on a variety of soils.  It is fairly shade tolerant but prefers full sun.
    There is some evidence that leaves, stems and roots of both species can be poisonous to humans, but I doubt people would eat those parts so it is not much of a concern, but it might be best not to put leaves or stems in one's mouth without some experimentation.     Elderberry plants have medicinal properties, and were used in a variety of ways by both Native Americans and European settlers.  The central pith of stems and branches is very soft and can easily be removed to make whistles and other useful objects and were so used in the past.  
   Both American and red elderberry are attractive in flower and fruit, as are their pinnately compound leaves.  The feather-compound leaf of the American elderberry has seven leaflets, that of the red elderberry five. Both species spread by root suckers and are hard to control in the smaller landscape.  My rule of thumb is, appreciate them in nature and where they can be controlled, but be careful introducing them into the landscape.   A case in point is the red elderberry that I have in the backyard.  It grew up between the crevices of a small rock wall and it was so persistent I finally decided that I would let it grow and make use of it rather than to unsuccessfully try to eliminate it.  For a further discussion of elderberries, use the blog search engine.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  45 degrees F at the ferry dock downtown and on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is overcast, the humidity 97%.  The Barometer stands at 29.61".  Temperatures today will be around 50, with more rain possible.  We had a thunderstorm yesterday evening with heavy rain and wind, that left at least an inch of rain.  There are flash flood watches for area streams.
   The cherry trees at Apple Hill Orchard on Hwy. J are beginning to  bloom and will be a lovely, if ephemeral, sight.  They grow the cultivars 'Cavalier' (early) and 'Lapin' (late). both of which are vegetatively hardy  but can loose buds or blooms, and therefore a whole crop of sweet cherries, due to a late frost, which will occur every so often.
    Failure of the bees to pollinate the blossoms can have the same result, but I am told a good crop can more than make up for a previous year's loss economically.  So far so good this year, as long as the honey bee pollinators don't shirk their duty.
   My recorded blooming dates are as follows: 5/12/15; 5/05/15; 5/29/13.  I wish I had more data, but that's it; seems pretty consistent, though, as the late date could be earlier as we don't drive the back roads every day.
   When I was a young man, not long out of college, my first really professional job was as an assistant to John Voight, the first Director of Milwaukee's Boerner Botanical Gardens.  John was an intrepid, straight-forward man who operated on principle, and expected others to do so as well.  Consequently, he was always on the hot seat with the union, with higher administration,  with the politicians and ward heelers and sometimes the public as well.  Everything I ever was, or had hoped to be, as a public servant I owe to John.
   Anyway, given his indomitable nature, he was constantly embattled, and somewhere along life's pathway he was given  an engraved plaque, which he kept prominently displayed on his desk.  I wish he had willed it to me, but he didn't, and I am sure it no longer exists.  It was inscribed, in a sort-of Latin:
    "Illegitimi non carborundum" which  quite loosely translated, reads:  
 Don't let the bastards wear you down. 
   If John's motto were in my possession today, I would send it to President Donald Trump, who certainly needs that admonishment more than John or I ever did.  
   May God Bless the America I once new, and that is disappearing fast. May He deliver us from the leftists, the anarchists, the snowflakes, the self-serving hacks and all the other devils that assault us and try to wear us down.  John, gone now these twenty and more years, would be out in front in this fight, waving the flag, and refusing to be worn down.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  44 degrees F at the ferry dock, 46 on the back porch (discrepancy caused by the ENE wind off the lake).  The sky is overcast and it rained much of yesterday and again some last night, for a total of perhaps an inch.  The barometer is still dropping, now at 29.73", predicting cool and rainy weather for the week ahead, and clearing by Monday.  The weather has not been very pleasant of late, but it is a perfect spring for transplanting.
  The common forget-me-not, Myosotis scorpioides, in the Borage family, is a  plant of European origin that is much naturalized  in wet places and on damp ground.  It is weedy in the garden but can be very beautiful when occurring spontaneously.  It is considered a perennial but  is pretty much an annual that reseeds itself.  There are several native North American species but I am not familiar with them and most of what one encounters is, I think, the European species.  There are other naturalized species as well. A species native to Alaska is the state flower.  The Greek genus name refers to to the mouse-ear-like  blue petals of the flower.
   The forget-me-not has a rich history in literature and folklore.  This grouping is along a retaining wall on a property fronting Hwy. 13 on the north side of Bayfield, but they grow everywhere the conditions are appropriate, and they often are a beautiful display in one location one year, and absent the next. 
   My recorded dates for first blooming of forget-me-nots are: 5/12/16; 5/05/15; 5/28/14; 6/05/13; 5/09/12; 5/25/11; 4/27/10. Pretty much all over the spring calendar, but since they are primarily annuals, I would expect them to be erratic.