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Thursday, August 31, 2017


Thursday, 8:00 AM.  Wind W,  calm with light gusts.  The sky is mostly clear, the humidity 85%. The barometer is rising slowly, now at 30.31".  High temperatures will be in the low 60's to 70 degrees through the weekend, with mostly clear skies, and a chance of rain on Saturday.
   I had a dentist appointment in Ashland yesterday afternoon, and saw this wind surfer at the beach on Hwy 2.  The day started out with sunshine that quickly changed to a short but violent rainstorm, then partial clearing and a change in wind direction from westerly to a sharp north wind that made the lake very choppy and the surf high; not good for fishing but evidently perfect for wind surfing.
  This surfer was obviously having fun trying to hang on to a rather violent ride, and was amazingly successful at it, as we watched for some time and he only got dumped once.
  If he hadn't been able to hang on to the kite it would have sailed south into the hills of the iron range.   Worst case scenario it could have taken him along with it on a crazy Mary Poppins ride.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  70 degrees F at the ferry dock, 66 on the back porch.  Wind W, light with slightly stronger gusts.  The sky is mostly cloudy, the humidity 78%.  The barometer is rising, now at 30.00".  The week ahead should be drier, with clearing skies and highs in the high 60's to low 70's.
   I received several calls within the last few days regarding the identification of a tree on the corner of Second St. and Mannypenny Ave. in Bayfield that was described as a conifer with an unusual shape, like a Florida "monkey puzzle tree."  I thought I knew what tree was being referred to but had to check it out to be sure.  It will be an interesting tree to those who love trees and love a mystery as well.
   First, it is a deciduous tree, not a conifer; it has leaves, not needles, although the leaves are very small, dark green, and densely crowded on the branches.
   Second, looking closely, it has opposite branches and feather compound leaves, which would probably make it an ash tree of some kind. But what kind of ash tree?
   One that very few people in a northern Wisconsin town would have ever seen, although I had my suspicions.
   Upon close inspection, it can be seen that the top was grafted to the branchless trunk at about the height of six feet, so it is a horticultural variety.
   It bears no flowers or seeds, so it is either a male ash tree (the ash genus has separate male and female trees) or it is a female tree and the flower buds freeze out this far north.
   What tree would fit all these characteristics? After much thought and a little research (and I admit I had been considering the identity of this tree for a while before I was asked the question) the only tree it can be is:
   Mana ash, or flowering ash, Fraxinus ornus, in the Olive Family (Oleaceae),  It is a tree native to Spain, Italy and the Mideast, and hardy as far north as parts of Poland.  It is called Mana ash because when the bark is cut a sweet sap exudes and solidifies which can be collected and eaten, and is theorized to be the "mana from heaven" of the Bible.  It is called flowering ash because the female tree bears beautiful blossoms.  This tree, since it is grafted, is probably the horticultural variety 'Meczek', developed in Hungary in  the1980's.
   So there you have it, the mystery tree is a mana ash, Fraxinus ornus 'Meczek', the flower buds of which freeze this far north, although the vegetative tree itself is winter hardy.
   How did it get to Bayfield twenty-five or more years ago?  My guess is that a shady (pardon the pun) tree nursery had some odd young grafted trees it didn't know what to do with and sold them to an unsuspecting customer, the City of Bayfield.  I doubt they were ever expected to live and prosper in northern Wisconsin. 



Tuesday, 8:00 AM.  60 degrees F at the ferry dock, 58 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm, the sky overcast.  The humidity is 94%, the barometer 30.10" and steady for now.  The week will again be cool, with mixed skies and chances of rain.
   We have had a continually wet spring and summer, resulting in high water levels in lakes and river sloughs.  This has nothing to do with the Gulf Coast hurricane, but for us has resulted in dieback of woody plants in river sloughs, and the favoring of water loving grasses and cattails, and with other ecological changes (I'm sure it is favoring muskrats and beavers as well).
   As is always the case, changes in the environment favor one thing over another. Not to trivialize human suffering, but perhaps a Johnny Cash moment is in order for The Chequamegon Bay area, if not for Texas:

"Five Feet High And Rising"

My mama always taught me that good things come from adversity if we put our faith in the Lord.
We couldn't see much good in the flood waters when they 
were causing us to have to leave home, 
But when the water went down, we found that it had washed a load of rich black bottom dirt across our land. The following year we had the best cotton crop we'd ever had.

I remember hearing: 

How high's the water, mama?
Two feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa? 
Two feet high and risin'

We can make it to the road in a homemade boat
That's the only thing we got left that'll float
It's already over all the wheat and the oats, 
Two feet high and risin'

How high's the water, mama? 
Three feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa? 
Three feet high and risin'

Well, the hives are gone, 
I've lost my bees
The chickens are sleepin'
In the willow trees
Cow's in water up past her knees, 
Three feet high and risin'

How high's the water, mama? 
Four feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa? 
Four feet high and risin'

Hey, come look through the window pane,
The bus is comin', gonna take us to the train
Looks like we'll be blessed with a little more rain, 
4 feet high and risin'

How high's the water, mama? 
Five feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa? 
Five feet high and risin'

Well, the rails are washed out north of town
We gotta head for higher ground
We can't come back till the water comes down, 
Five feet high and risin'

Well, it's five feet high and risin'

   I remember, as a young man, wondering what the ruler-like markers were for along the roadsides the first time I saw them in the hills of Missouri and Arkansas; I found out during the first torrential rain that they were meant to warn of the depth of the water over the road.
   How high's the water, Mama?

Monday, August 28, 2017



Monday,  8:30 AM.  62 degrees F at the ferry dock, 60 on the back porch.  Wind ENE, light with slightly strongere gusts.  The sky is cloudy, the humidity 96%.  The barometer is steady, at 30.06".  The week ahead will again be cool and rainy.
   The Smartweed genus, Polygonum, in the Polygonum Family (Polgonaceae),  is comprised of upwards of 650 species  that the taxonomists keep stirring around, so I won't be more definite than to say I think the one pictured is indeed water smartweed, Polygonum amphibium.  It is a sprawling and spreading plant of wet places and as the species name indicates can live in both water and on dry land, a true rarity in both plant and animal life. It's pink flowers on upright stems are quite pretty and distinctive, as are its stems with swollen joints at the nodes of the simple, alternate leaves.  The vegetative parts of the plants look much different in the two habitats, but the blossoms give it away.
   Water smartweeds can colonize large mudflats on the wide rivers and reservoirs of Nebraska and other Great Plains states, and seeing huge acreages of pink flowers in these places when the water is down can be very compelling.
   It is a plant that has had many food and medicinal uses for indigenous peoples, and is purported to be particularly useful in the treatment of skin irritations.

Sunday, August 27, 2017



Sunday, 9:30 AM.  62 degrees F at the ferry dock, 59 on the back porch  Wind SW, mostly calm with light gusts.  The sky is cloudy and overcast, it is foggy and raining lightly, the humidity is 93%.  The barometer is rising gently, now at 30.02".  The week ahead will be chilly, with mixed skies and a chance of rain on Wednesday.
   Ugo Racheli and his wife Marcia were residents of Bayfield for almost two decades, but after they moved back to Colorado several years ago they never lost touch with the people and times of Chequamegon Bay.
   Ugo passed away in May of this year, just one day shy of his 84th birthday.  Ugo's life was well lived and quite fascinating, and many Bayfieldians, Joan and I included, attended a Celebration of Life memorial for him yesterday at the Pavilion.  It was attended by a large crowd, despite the fact that the Racheli's moved several years ago; a real tribute to them.
   Four of Ugo and Marcia's children, and a number of grandchildren, came from Colorado and other far places to host the event, which was replete with poetry readings, some of them Ugo's, and with lots of music, much of it of course Italian.
   Ugo was a dashing young Italian Air Force pilot, training at Loredo Air Base in Texas, when he and Marcia met.  They married in Italy (it was to be a 64 year long love affair) in a ceremony that included walking under the traditional military archway of crossed swords, and it was a storied life thereafter, filled with six children and many homes and  changing responsibilities.  Ugo became a US citizen, and was always very proud of his adopted country.
   Ugo went on after flight school to graduate from college with an engineering degree, which propelled him to become a NASA scientist, then a manager, with MS and PHD degrees in psychology and artificial intelligence, and finally a college professor.  In later life he taught and mentored many children in our area's public schools, and as a crowning adventure he and Marcia opened an Italian restaurant and deli just outside of Washburn, where one could enjoy the very best in Italian home cooking, served with true friendliness and delightful conversation.
   As is true for all of us, Ugo and Marcia had their tragedies and sorrows, but all in all they lived a storied life filled with duty, passion, and love.  As a tribute to both, those gathered sang:
That's Amore
(In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl here's what they say)
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you'll sing "Vita bella"
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella
When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool
That's amore
When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet
You're in love
When you walk in a dream but you know you're not dreaming signore
Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli
That's amore
(When a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore
Bells will
   Ugo used a quote from Mark Twain as his mantra: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day!"
   Ciao, Ugo!

Saturday, August 26, 2017




Saturday, 9:45 AM.  60 degrees F at the ferry dock, 58 on the back porch.  Wind SSW, light with moderate gusts.  The sky is covered with a high overcast and it is beginning to rain  The humidity is 83%, the barometer 30.21" and falling.  We will have a cool and rainy weekend, with clearing skies and continued cool temperatures for the coming week.
   We slept in this morning after watching the Brewers loose to the Dodgers, 3 to 2.  If you've seen one home run you've seen them all, and the way to win ballgames is to get 'em on, get 'em over and get 'em in; which is a lot more fun to watch, as well. The Brewers haven't learned how to play baseball and win as yet.
   Yesterday evening we attended another annual Bayfiel Boat Storage bash, with wonderful Cajun food.  Half of Bayfield was there.  It must have cost friends Tina and Jon a forturne!

Friday, August 25, 2017



...BERRIES (Google photo)

Friday, 8:30 AM.  56 degrees F at the ferry dock, 51 on the back porch (48 at 7:00 AM).  Wind SW, calm with occasional light gusts.  The humidity is 81%, the barometer is falling gently, now at 30.28", predicting a chilly and rainy weekend.  Aah, summer.
   The Almanac post of July 7, 2017 discussed at some length the red elderberry, Sambucus pubens, in the Honeysuckle Family; today's will be about S. canadensis, American black elderberry, which is much better known to most folks than the red.  It is closely related to the European elderberry, S nigra, in fact some authorities consider it a variety thereof.  It's flower heads are much larger than those of the red elderberry, and the edible fruits are black.
   S. canadensis is widely distributed in the wild throughout the United States; red elderberry is more prominent or replaces it in the far north, and I see none of the black elderberry growing wild around Bayfield, only the red.  The black elderberry pictured is part of a city landscape planting.
   Black elderberry fruit is prized for making elderberry wine, and also for jams and jellies.  Years ago we used to pick the flowers and dip them in pancake mix and fry them and I remember them as being very tasty.
   There is a lot of controversy over the edibility of the raw fruit of both the red and the black elderberry, with their tiny seeds (which contain cyanide), and some authorities consider them poisonous unless cooked. I have eaten both red and black elderberry raw fruits and seeds with no ill effects, but don't take my word for it.  As regards the red berries, the birds get most of them anyway.
   Poisonous or not, elderberries have a long medicinal history, and are considered an anti-oxident, immune system stimulant and tonic, and useful in treating colds and flu.  One source says the common name elderberry may refer to its use by "elders" for the relief of arthritis. Elderberries have essentially the same uses in American Indian and settler herbal traditions.  In any case, elderberry extract is a rather popular panacea.
   Sambuca is an anise-elderberry cordial quite popular in Italy (also New York Italian restaurants), usually served with, in or after coffee, or with coffee beans in the drink glass.
   There are other species of elderberry, including a blue elderberry native to desert regions of the US and Mexico, which were a food source for native peoples.  Sambucus stems have a soft pith and are easily hollowed out to make flutes and whistles, and the Latin genus name refers to an ancient flute-like musical instrument.
   All in all,  Sambucus is a fascinating and useful genus of plants.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Thursday, 8:30 AM.  59 degrees F at the ferry dock, 52 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm, the sky clear with some haze, the humidity 83%. The forecast calls for highs in the mid to low 60's , with rain on Saturday.  There may be global warming somewhere, but not in Bayfield: the thermometer on the back porch was frozen at 48 when I looked at it earlier this morning. If this keeps up there will be frost on the tomatoes rather than on the pumpkins.
   Last Saturday's post discussed the several Monardas native to eastern North America, with photos of Nonarda fistulosa,  The other Monarda, Monarda didyma, red beebalm, I have never come across in the wild that I can recall.  For all that, it is not rare, and is often seen in gardens, and of late in rain gardens, since it is a plant of stream banks and other wet locations. Being a mint, the dried leaves make a refreshing tea, which also has the strong antiseptic and other qualities of M. fistulosa.
  I came across the red beebalm pictured above in a local wild garden. The species Latin name refers to the paired stamens of the flowers, which is an identifying characteristic.
   Monardas are good garden plants if controlled, and are very welcome in native plant restoration projects .

Wednesday, August 23, 2017




 Wednesday, 9:00 AM.  60 degrees F at the ferry dock, 65 on the back porch.  Wind WNW, light with stronger gusts.  The humidity is 88%, the barometer mostly steady, at 30.08".  The grass is again soaked with dew.  The forecast calls for mixed skies with highs in the mid 60's, with a chance of rain on Sunday.
   I had been promising Buddy a run on the beach, so we went yesterday late afternoon.  The beach grass was in bloom.  Buddy had a good run, and encountered a strange water creature that he was quite uncertain about.  Anyway, a good time was had by all
   American beach grass, or American marram grass, Ammophilla breviligulata, is the primary pioneer dune species along the Great Lakes, as it is on the Atlantic coast .   It is now beginning to  flower, and the seeds will soon develop, the stalks remaining long into the winter.   Beach grass spreads aggressively by runners, and tenaciously holds and builds the foredune, the sand dune closest to the water.  Often it is the only plant species holding the sand in place.   It is an extremely important conservation plant, without which lake and ocean shorelines would be much more prone to erosion.  A. arenaria is a quite similar European beach grass, in times past used for beach erosion control on the east coast of the United States, but now considered an undesirable alien.
   The beach and its sand are constantly changing position due to the action of wind and waves. If not stabilized by nature, there would be constant destruction of habitat. The primary stabilizer and colonizer of our Great Lakes beaches is beach grass, which although it produces seed, spreads and does its work primarily by stoloniferous runners that produce new plants, much as a strawberry plant does, by offshoots. This tenacious grass stretches across huge areas of sand, and if conditions warrant, other plants such as wild rose and sand cherry and poison ivy follow in its wake, and eventually other shrubs and finally trees. This whole natural succession process is of course often altered by wind, waves, fire or human activity, and then must start all over again.
    It has been said, “grass is the benediction of nature,” and that certainly applies to beach grass. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017



Tuesday,  8:45 AM.  Wind NNW, with moderate gusts.  The sky has a few clouds, the humidity is 83%,. The barometer is falling, now at 29.91", it but is soon predicted to rise, bringing clear skies with temperatures in the high 60's, and a chance of rain by the weekend. It is a beautiful day, but feels like fall.  We picked our first ripe tomatoes from the garden yesterday.
   We saw two coyotes again this morning, quite large, a lot bigger than Buddy, who didn't know what to make of them.  They must have been the same coyotes that howled in harmony with the rescue squad sirens about 8:00 last night.
   Wild cucumber vines are rambling over trees and shrubs in wet spots, making many woods edges look like they have a bad haircut.  The vines are pretty in an unkempt way, and are sometimes planted to climb on arbors, but I wouldn't want them to eat my house.
  Wild cucumber, Echinocystis lobata, in the gourd family, the Cucurbitaceae, is common throughout much of southern Canada and the lower 48 states of the US. The Latin genus name refers to the prickly fruit, and the species name to the distinctly lobed leaves. Since wild cucumber  has at times been used as an ornamental vine, it is also escaped from cultivation.  It is an annual that climbs by tendrils like the garden cucumber, but is not related to it.  Each "cucumber" or "balsam apple" bears four seeds, which reportedly were used as beads by American Indians.
   The plant is said to have had some use among Native Americans as an analgesic and a bitter tonic, and as a love potion.

Monday, August 21, 2017






Monday, 8:45 AM.  63 degrees F at the ferry dock, 60 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm, the sky mostly cloudy but clearing, humidity 85%.  The barometer is falling, now at 30.06"  We may get some rain today, but the forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid 60'sfor the week ahead, with rain on the weekend.
   I recently completed a landscape plan for a large contemporary home located on a densely wooded bluff just outside of Bayfield. I thought readers of the Almanac might be interested in the plan as it features native plants in a wooded environment and has a number of obvious challenges, including very steep hillsides and a dense forest environment.  The plan includes a dry creek bed and stone retaining walls, the costs of which are not included in the plan estimate below.


According to owners wishes, all plants and seed mixes are native, except no-mow grass immediately around residence (5’-8’ width) to discourage pests.  A few plants may be nursery selections of native species, and fescue and rye grasses used as cover crops and transitional plantings.
   The plan cannot be considered absolutely true to scale because of distortion caused by enlargement, and the plan, as is always the case, must be adjusted at planting time.
   The costs are estimates, and do not represent a final bid price.


1      MEADOW  ROSE Rosa blanda #1 pot, 30  @ 60= 1,800
2      BLUEBERRY Vaccinium (native selection) #2 pot,  Appx. 25 @ 30=750
3      SHADE GRASS AND FERNS (creeping red fescue seed and native ferns)
$750 + or -
4      JUNEBERRY Amelanchier  x grandiflora #7 pot, 3 @ 30=90
5      SUMAC Rhus typhina @2pot, 20  @ 35=700
6      MEADOW GRASSES AND WILDFLOWERS (seed mixes)Approximately
      meadow seed mix and excelsior mat covering , approx.=$1,000
7      BALSAM FIR Abies balsamea 5’B&B, 1 @ 350=350
8      BASSWOOD Tilia americana  #15 pot, 1 @ 170=170
9      ROUND LEAVED DOGWOOD Cornus rugossa 10 @ 30=300
10  HEMLOCK Tsuga canadensis  #5 pot, 5@ 60=300
11  WILD HONESUCKLE Diervilla lonicera #2 pot,  5 @ 30=150
12  SNOWBERRY Symphoricarpos alba #2 pot, 5@ 30=150
13  TAMARACK  Larix laricina #15 pot, 1 @ 170=170
                   INSTALLATION LABOR, ESTIMATE=4,000
                         PLANTS, SEED AND LABOR TOTAL ESTIMATE=$10,680

   Estimates do not include state and county sales tax of 5+%, nor additional grading, top soil or installing dry creek bed and walkway, which must be done prior to planting.  Once site work is completed seeding and planting is best done in cool weather in September; otherwise in spring.
   I deal with Northwoods Nursery in Rhinelander, WI, which is wholesale to the trade, and with Prairie Nursery of Westfield, WI, for seed and roses, they sell retail and wholesale.  Excelsior fiber matting is available from Brock White Construction Materials, Duluth, MN.
 If you bid out the job I would be available for on-site consultation regarding dry creek bed and walkway layout and supervision.

Art Ode
August 1, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017




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




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


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.


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 pray, and wait for the fog to lift

Thursday, August 17, 2017



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



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






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



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


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




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.


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