The mighty oak and other tales

Today I ventured a little farther down the road that goes by my sister’s old farmstead. It is a steep hill; each day I venture a little more down the road. This way I am able to test my breathing and build endurance in hill climbing to return home. The forest was loudly making her presence known today. Acorns were dropping on the forest floor. How mighty the old oak trees are with maple tree companions.

I am always amazed to observe plants along the way. There is lots of poison ivy growing in the ditch area and I saw darling jewel weed growing near the ivy. The sweet flower is the antidote to poison ivy. You rub it on infected areas and it clears up itchy skin patches. How do remedy plants know where to grow where poisonous plants exist? Do plants communicate? I believe they do. Plants release chemicals and essential oils. Trees are known to communicate when they are about to be attacked by predator bugs. They release chemicals that warn a companion tree colony that danger is headed their way. I suspect that all plant colonies have this chemical defense mechanism. How good of the jewel weed to come and grow near the poison ivy.

A few days ago I received a call from Mike Carpenter, caretaker, Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, WI. We had planted a three sisters garden at the habitat. It was growing profusely when I left WI on July 11. Well, it was growing so well that deer thought we had planted it just for them. Mike mentioned that the deer were coming in a night, making beds and sleeping at the habitat. They didn’t have to go far to forage. Deer have helped themselves to all the squash and baby pumpkins. Hungry critters have also eaten all the beans except a handful.

I think Mike made the gardens extra inviting by feeding the plants with fish juice all summer. He’s a fisherman and doesn’t throw anything out. I never saw our vegetable garden looking so good. Mike said he wants to put up a night hunter’s motion camera so we can see who lives in the habitat at night.

Long view of secret gardens

Aldo Leopold bench

Aldo Leopold bench

Yesterday afternoon I took the mail out to the Aldo Leopold bench which is under a maple tree and near a trail in the woods. This is my own secret garden now. I was content to sit there and read the mail.

Joe Pye Weed

Looking up I could see Joe Pye weed, one of my favorites. I love the story that goes something like this. Long ago a group of people who came over the big water from Europe became ill. A Native American came to their rescue and gave them a tea to drink. The pilgrims got better. One of the sick asked him, what is the name of that plant? The Native American said, “Joe Pye Weed.” You see that was his name. I can just imagine Joe Pye walking away after saying this.

Butterfly Corner

Published by Washburn County Register, Shell Lake, WI, 16 May 2012

May 8 – Northwood School, Minong, WI. I met with Shelby Ausing, parent of students at Northwood School, Josh Tomesh, principal, and Jean Serum, Administrator. The school is implementing a Butterfly Garden on school property.  I chose the site based on a gentle sloped terrain. Property has native hazelnuts, chokecherry, and Juneberry growing naturally in the background near red pines. The open sandy land is visible from Route 53. Land base is between ½ acre for restoration and up to 1 acre for total habitat. It flanks the school entrance driveway and parking lot. The habitat will be within easy access for students to walk to from grade school and charter school. The habitat will be used as an outdoor classroom.

While walking the site, I pointed out two native wild strawberry colonies; pussy toes, host plant of painted lady butterfly; and violets, host plant of fritillary butterfly. Minor invasive spotted knapweed was evident and will need to be eradicated. The area has been mowed, which will be discontinued to allow native habitat to emerge. Happy Tonics will work in liaison with the school. We will advise with conception, landscape design, planning, planting, and maintenance. Northwood School is an average of 8 miles, round trip, from my home in Minong.

May 9 – JoAnn Flanagan, Oregon, OH, reports, “Saw several monarchs today down at the state park. Had the binoculars out – biggest week in birding there. People from over 47 states in attendance.”

May 10 – Sophie Belisle, Shell Lake, called in the first monarch sighting for Shell Lake. She has followed the monarch’s arrival in Shell Lake for two years.  She received a jade butterfly ring, metal butterfly book mark, and My Name is Butterfly, as gifts for her participation in this year’s monarch tracking.

Mike Carpenter, habitat caretaker, has the shrubs weeded. Open space was created around them.  This will allow them to be visible from Route 63. A layer of wet newspaper and mulch will be added around the shrubs. Residents can use the same technique to kill weeds and allow air to get around shrubs and trees.

May 11 – I saw my first male monarch today. He looked like he was in good shape. Milkweed is up in Minong. Mother butterflies don’t need much, only newly emerged milkweed to lay eggs on. Later in the afternoon, I saw a female monarch searching for milkweed. She will tap the leaves and taste the plant with feet to determine if it is truly milkweed.

Mike Jensen, Lampert Lumber, in Spooner, donated building materials for a garden shed, approved by City Council last fall. Happy Tonics, through a grant from Wisconsin Environmental Education, matched 50 percent of the donation. Bob Forsythe, Technical Education Department, and students at Shell Lake School are building the shed. We are thrilled that Mr. Forsythe and students took the project on as community outreach. To learn more about Lampert Lumber Community Giving visit http://lampertlumber.com/about/community-involvement

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