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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Spirit Mountain

Yesterday I was on the road. Today was the first day at the North Country Trail non-conference. Long story- just pretend it's the conference.

We awoke to a view of the harbor. Well, the harbor is out there somewhere. But it was pretty.

foggy sunrise

By noon, here was the view.

foggy sky

Hey, at dinner we could see the view. A bit muted, but at least it was there!

foggy view of Duluth

Tonight was the major banquet dinner. It was possibly the best of the dinners I remember at these events. Buffalo meatloaf was the main course- very tasty. The rest were real bread, not baked air, veggies cooked nicely- done but not mushy, salad with real vegetables, not shredded cold cardboard. Wild rice. Wowzers.

buffalo meat loaf

The program was given by last year's thru-hiker, Luke Jordan (trail name Strider). It wasn't a good setting to get a picture of him tonight, but here we are earlier in the summer, at an NCT event.

Joan Young and Luke Jordan

I also went to two programs this afternoon- one about the Superior Hiking Trail portion of the NCT, and the other about a separate loop trail in Minnesota about 30 miles long called the Sioux Hustler. Very interesting, and really more interesting than hiking in the fog.

Tomorrow, a six-mile hike!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ag Report 1- The Cucurbitas

I have been inspired by Stew at Seasons in the Valley to bring you a bit of a local agriculture report. I'm a farm kid at heart, you know.

There are lots of different crops here, and I'm getting ready to be gone to Duluth for a few days, but I'll bring you a few pictures today. And it will be the Curcubitas (squash and relatives).

The two I expected to find are setting fruit and beginning to ripen. Most commonly found around here are fields of pumpkins. Can you find the big green one hiding in the leaves? No orange yet- too early. There are still blossoms!

pumpkin field

The other expected one looks like this.

butternut squash field

Care to hazard a guess? These are closer to being ripe, but probably two months before they harvest them. It's butternut squash.

butternut squash field

However, this one was a mystery to me. I called in the experts (namely Chuck of Secondary Roads) to find out what it was. I sure never saw anything that grows like that! Turns out, I have eaten it, though, compliments of Chuck and Sylvia, so he easily enlightened me.

orange zucchini field

This is orange zucchini. I would have thought this was a novelty vegetable (technically, squash is a fruit), but here is a HUGE field of it. The tractors and crates were circled at the edges, so they are getting ready to harvest. It sort of looks like it will be harvested by hand. Not sure, but there were carts like people ride to pick asparagus.

Anyway, it sure grows funny! And the leaves are awesome. I stole two. Shhh. They were right on the edge of the field, broken off a plant. One was very small and one was half rotten, so I don't think they'll be missed. They are being transformed into bread as I type. (And it made good bread- I just had a piece)

orange zucchini field

They don't really taste as good as regular zucchini, so I have to wonder where all this orange bounty is headed.

Me, I have to hit the road in the morning. As early as I can. Well, this is me. It won't be THAT early!

See Creepy Crawlies? for butternut squash
See Farm Country in Fall for the pumpkin harvest
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Staghorn Sumac

There was a fair amount of interest in the sumac, so I decided to talk about the other kind in my kingdom, Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina.

These are weedy little trees, but they are sometimes grown as ornamentals for the bright red fall color and the clusters of red fruit.

They like to grow as transition trees at edges. That's just what they do here, working their way out from the mature trees in the cemetery into the field.

staghorn sumac

These were familiar trees of my childhood. The wood is soft and my dad considered them junk trees, so he didn't care how many I cut to build forts, make arrows, etc. There were always more the next year!

It gets its common name from the fuzzy appearance of the young shoots. They look like the branched antlers of a deer in velvet.

staghorn sumac

The leaves are compound, with up to 15 leaflets on each side. Of course they turn wonderful colors in the fall. Primarily red, but see the link below for a stunning clump that looked tropical.

staghorn sumac

And the fruits (there are male and female trees), are an upright cluster of red drupes (little fruits with a single seed in each). They are easy to spot, even from a distance. If you can catch them when they are very new you can make a lemonade from them. Apparently the ground-up clusters are valued as a spice in some parts of the world.

staghorn sumac

I've got some soaking to see if I get a decent beverage on this try. Usually it just isn't worth it.

See Tropical?
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shining Sumac

I decided to just continue the back yard tour of plants I like. Although I worked hard to get the stand of white pines started, I did nothing at all to make the turkeyfoot (big bluestem grass) or this sumac to grow. I'd love it if the old, tired farm field eventually turned into a maze of native plants. I'd better get busy whacking the autumn olive if that is to become a possibility!

The shining sumac is also known as winged sumac, or dwarf sumac. Quite a large patch of it has developed just beyond the turkeyfoot. I've blogged about it before, but these pictures are better, and the plants are larger now.

Here's how it gets the first two names. The leaves are deep green and shiny, and they are winged. Sometimes names even make sense!

shining sumac

It's often grown as a small ornamental tree. Mine stay shrubby. I suspect it's because the deer like to browse on them in the spring.

The flower heads are really stunning when you look at them up close.

shining sumac

I also have a "sort-of" mystery plant. It's one of the wild lettuce, but seems to have characteristics of several species. Maybe you'll see that one another day.

See My Kingdom Today
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Also Known as Turkeyfoot

Five years ago (wow- I've been blogging since before then!), I did a post on Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardii. I mentioned that it had another name, but almost didn't get around to saying that it is also known as turkeyfoot.

In those years, the patch in my backyard has grown. It's an impressive jungle in August and September, as the stalks get more than six feet tall. It's native, and I'm happy to have it. It's thriving so well I don't feel guilty about mowing my trail through the middle of it. I like to walk through the grassy forest.

big bluestem, turkeyfoot

You can see that it's purple-ish in hue- thus the bluestem. And when you see the seed heads against the sky, there are the turkey feet! But what are all those little dots?

big bluestem, turkeyfoot

Those are the anthers, spreading pollen all over the place- making more turkey feet!

big bluestem, turkeyfoot

Sadly, it's not an edible plant. But, I'll take pretty and native.

See Beautiful Big Bluestem
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