Entries to Win Afghan

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

What's Blooming Today

If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you've seen these plants before. Either that will make them a bore, or they will be like old friends. Either way... they are actually thriving and blooming in my crappy soil, so I will take them.

I thought this was the Bloody Cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum. The name comes from the fact that the leaves turn red in the fall, which these do. However, I just dug out my plant record book (put away because I was going to give up gardening, right?), and it was sold as Grayleaf Geranium/Cranesbill, Geranium cinereum 'Splendens.' I got one little droopy 3" pot for free in 2001 at the tag end of a plant sale. It's clearly the most successful plant in the rock garden now. And 22 years after the fact, I don't think it's cinereum. That one is supposed to have grayish leaves, and a "striking" black center to the flower. Neither of these is true. Also, sanguineum is supposed to flourish in dry sandy soil. Well, there you have it. Plus the very red leaves in the fall. It's beautiful, but I'd really like other plants too. A bunch of this has to go. If you are local and want some later in June, let me know. The flowers are a darker magenta than the picture shows.
bloody geranium

Another huge success in the shade came from Ester in 2107. This is dwarf Solomon's seal, Polygonatum humile. Not native, of course. It has filled in a huge section under the birch tree. I gave a bunch to Betty. It keeps the dark green glossy leaves all season, and looks very cool and nice. The flowers are subtle, but they are in full bloom now.
dwarf Solomon's seal

I've just about got the plants separated that had all grown together. At least for now. I don't want to transplant anything else before I leave since it won't get watered from the sky (according to forecasts) while I'm gone. When I get home, I plan to move a bunch of hostas.

I threw in some marigold seeds last week among the fading daffodil leaves. They are just starting to come up. I wonder if they will survive my being gone.

In other news: I'm about to go hack off my hair and take a shower. I'm just a short-hair person. I can't stand the fly-away mess any longer.

See Pink and Blue

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Around the Neighborhood

The neighborhood in the vicinity of my own front flower garden was being enjoyed by robins and sparrows as I was watering it. The birds were having a wonderful time fluttering in and out of the water. You can see a whitish smudge on the left side which is a drop of water falling from the sprinkler.

I'm not ready to show you yet, but this garden is actually starting to look almost nice. I'm still working on cleaning up the difficult place where plants I want have got their roots all intertwined. But I'm getting there.

I walked to the shop to pick up my car this morning. (It's all fixed until something else breaks) The snowball viburnum, Viburnum macrocephalum (literally bigheaded viburnum) is in full bloom in the cemetery. The flowers are sterile. Link below talks about why.
snowball bush

The lawns in the cemetery are also covered with English Daisy, Bellis perennis. "Daisy" is a corruption of "days eye," as daisies close up at night and open to the day. These are only a couple of inches high, so the lawn can be mowed and the flowers are never hurt. I've tried to get some to grow in my lawn and/or rock garden, but with no success. I think they don't like my horrible soil.

Next beautiful bush of the season is Bridal Wreath spiraea (or spirea), Spiraea 'Arguta.' As a child, on Memorial day we would take huge bouquets of spirea, peonies, iris and lilacs, depending which ones were blooming then in any given year. It's a very old-fashioned shrub, but still popular for its beauty.
bridal wreath spirea

This afternoon, I went to Betty's briefly to deliver some plants I'm splitting. She has this ornamental Geum in bloom. I think maybe the variety 'Borisii.' I'll have to ask her to look in her records some time. It was in bud when I helped weed, but now it's covered with hot blossoms.
garden geum

Also, Betty has iris in bloom. I checked mine. I have a ton of plants that are alive, but that garden bed has become so shaded with autumn olive they don't bloom. I can dream of recovering the garden, but probably not if I want to do other things too.

It's interesting that of all these fairly common garden flowers, the only ones that may have native origins are the Geum and the Iris. North America has many wild Geums (often called Avens), and we've all seen wild blue flags. Sadly the wild yellow flags are not native. Of course, all except the daisies have been tinkered with over the centuries to make the plants more appealing in gardens.

In other news: I did a lot of editing. I have two jobs I should finish before I leave for the next (last) leg of the hike, but I may only get one completed. You may have noticed in pictures that my hair is longer. I thought I wanted my assymetrical braid back. Then I thought maybe I wanted long hair and braids. I'm not sure I can stand dealing with it, and I hate the way it tickles and flies all over. It may all come off.

See Bridal Wreath Spirea
See Snowball Bush

Monday, May 29, 2023

Road Trip!

Cathy and I took a road trip today. There was a specific purpose, but I'm not going to tell you what it was! There's a hint in the second link below, but it's related to some very good news. The news is that the Ludington Daily News is reinstating my "Get Off the Couch" column which was discontinued when Covid hit.

Here is where we began our adventure, on the shore of Lake Mitchell in Cadillac.
Lake Mitchell

It included the Manistee River near the middle
Manistee River

The day started out at a nice temperature, but boy was it warm by the time we got to the river.

We ended at beautiful Traverse Bay.
Traverse Bay

The adventure included shady back roads.
shaded road

And.. pizza! I had been hungry for it, and Cathy said we should do it.

An incidental find was a house made of salt-glazed bricks. Although the process was discovered around 1400, it was not used on structural brick until the early 1900s. So this house is probably from around 1920. Salt glazing isn't done any more (on any kind of production scale) because it's environmentally unfavorable. You are more likely to see it used for silos than for buildings, but occasionally there will be a house or township hall.
salt glazed tile house

Before we headed home, we had to have some ice cream. Although the bay made it cooler right in Traverse City, it was in the mid 80s everywhere else. Hot.
ice cream

The day was not about hiking, but we did walk somewhere between 2 and 3 miles just incidentally. My LDN column will resume after I finish the hike, and Mason County Press is still carrying my articles too. I am all set with what I'll write about for the first one, perhaps two, entries.

The car is delivered to be fixed in the morning.

See Glazed Tile Silo
See Feels Like Home

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Newbery Medal Winner 40 - Island of the Blue Dolphins

I'm sort of backing back into this potential series of blog posts. You might recall that I thought I'd start reading my way through the Newbery Medal winners (outstanding children's book). But the first one was so horrible, I quickly got stalled. Now, I'm jumping ahead to the 40th winner because I was asked about it.

This weekend, someone asked me if I'd read The Island of the Blue Dolphins because her pre-teen son loved it and read it over and over. She thought this was fantastic, since the protagonist is a girl, but that did not bother him. No, I hadn't read it. Well, at least I'd heard of it, but that was all. A writer of good (hopefully) children's books needs to be a reader of good children's books.
Island of the Blue Dolphins

In my defense, I'll mention that the book was written in 1961. I was in 8th grade. And I'm sure my school library didn't get it until a few years after that. By then, I was not reading children's books.

I found it free online at Internet Archive., then search for Island of the Blue Dolphins. You will need a free account.

This book has been listed by some sources as one of the most popular novels of the 20th Century. (Seriously? How did I completely miss this?). Anyway, it's a great story.

Current criticisms include that it's a Caucasian writer attempting to tell the story of a Native American and that many parts of the cultural narrative are not accurate. Well, OK. But it's a fictional story, based on the merest kernal of truth. Perhaps the author, Scott O'Dell, could have done more research. But millions of people must be glad he wrote it. It's a classic coming-of-age tale. There is also apparently a genre called Robinsonade, after the Robinson Crusoe story (people suddenly separated from civilization), into which this book fits.

The kernal of truth is that there was a real woman who was rescued from the island of San Nicolas (off the California coast) in 1853. She had lived there alone for 18 years and had tamed a wild dog to be her companion. She had been left behind when the remnant of her people were taken to California in 1835 by ship. Variations on the story have it that she jumped overboard and swam back to the island when she learned that her child/younger brother was not on the ship. After she was rescued, there was no one left who understood her language, and she died just 7 weeks later of dysentery. The real woman was probably in her 20s when she was stranded.

O'Dell takes this skeleton and gives us Karana, a girl of 12, who jumps overboard and swims back to the island because her younger brother is not on the ship. The brother is soon killed by the wild dogs and Karana is left alone to survive.

Supposedly, some of the native skills and customs are totally imagined by O'Dell, but the struggle to come to terms with her plight and to find enough self-reliance to survive is a theme that resonates with young people of any culture. The book is told from Karana's point of view, and does not attempt to explore the depths of emotions she must have felt. Karana mostly sticks to the "facts." and lets the reader add the details. She does occasionally mention being lonesome, or says how much joy she found in the company of the dog she manages to tame.

Personally, I liked this straightforward narrative. It rang true to me that a person who has been raised where every meal, tool, item of clothing, etc is only to be had by finding or making it yourself would have a matter-of-fact attitude toward dealing with the world. The greatest struggle Karana mentions is to overcome the tribal tabu against females making weapons, yet she had to defend herself from the dogs, and she needed to catch food beyond the abalones she could collect from the rocks. I don't know if this cultural norm was real or made-up, but I can believe that would have been an extremely difficult psychological situation.

The story was made into a movie in 1964. I watched the trailer on YouTube, but it was awful. Maybe it wasn't awful in 1964, but compared with the book, it was jarringly fake. Some movies age well. This one does not.

In other news: The vendor event wrapped up. I haven't done the final paperwork, but I did well. That is good.

See Newbery 1 - The Story of Mankind
See Newbery Medal Through the Years

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Yielding to Temptation

I spent all day at the vendor event in Ludington, and it was a busy day. The traffic was steady, the weather was great. I did well. That does mean that I'm pretty tired. Constant interactions with people. Another full day tomorrow.

Lots and lots of dogs at the event. I saw my first giant schnauzer. I didn't even know there was such a thing. There were two beautiful vizslas, always a favorite of mine because of Maggie. Two retired and rescued greyhounds were handsome and chill. They were much calmer than some I've known. Too many small dogs to count, and one puppy pug in its human's arms.

But what I'm going to share is that I gave in to temptation and bought a plant yesterday. I had to go to the garden section of the store to get a hose mender, and that was my downfall. I looked at plants, and that was "all she wrote." There was Brunnera, (Brunnera macrophylla) very reasonably priced, and one came home with me. This is the variety 'frostbite.' Supposedly, the deer won't touch these because the leaves are very rough. It's sometimes called Siberian bugloss or false forget-me-not (the flowers bloom in early spring and look a lot like forget-me-not). But it's usually grown for the leaves. Like hosta, there are many color variations. I know for a fact you can pay a lot more than I did for unusual varieties. But I can try out a bargain one in my garden. It's very pretty.
Brunnera frostbite

That's all that happened today. It was plenty for one day.

See Better Than Expected

Friday, May 26, 2023

McCarthy Lake - Day 427

This is the last Lower Peninsula hike that counts before my final day, Sunday, June 18. It ended up being short, because I want to save 6 miles for that day. Cathy hiked with me.

First feature was tiny McCarthy Creek. It has a little water in it this time of year. Blue flags growing- not in bloom yet.
McCarthy Creek

Then past McCarthy Lake. This is a small wetland at the upper end of the lake. The main water is farther out at the back of the picture.
McCarthy Lake

Here's a view of the open water. The creek actually flows out of the lake and runs north for about 2 miles until it empties into the Big Sable River. Following that just went on my to-do adventure list.
McCarthy Lake

That wasn't a long enough walk, so we drove to the road that goes to the Ward Hills fire tower site, and walked up that and back to the car. That added a little over a mile to our walk for the day, but that's not NCT miles. The view from that hill is almost totally obstructed, but this is what you can see looking west, so Scottville and Ludington are out there somewhere.
Ward Hills view

On the way back we saw a pair of scarlet tanagers. All this picture does is prove we saw the male.
scarlet tanager

The picture of the female is slightly better.
female scarlet tanager

In other news: my car was getting looked at while we hiked. Wheel bearing. Ouch. Fix next week, but not cheap. Then I bought groceries on the way home, and spent the afternoon getting ready for a vendor event this weekend.

Miles today: 3.4 that count. Total miles so far: 4702.9. Over 4700!

See Spencerville Sweets

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Ditto, and Friends

This was the second day of the blazing training and project. Trevor came back, so we had 6 people again.
group of people

After some verbal instructions, we again broke into two groups of 3 people. I think two people is an ideal number on a team, but remember, this was for training, so we wanted either Pete or me to be with a group in training. I was paired with Trevor again, and a young woman named Jackie. It's so great to have younger folks show up to participate.

We encountered hikers on the trail. It turned out to be my friends Kurt and Connie! I do run into them occasionally because they love to hike the NCT, but it's been a while because I've been off on my big hike. Their furry friend is Nola. Of course, we know all hikers will appreciate the new blazes, but it was fun to see people who were glad of the blazes right now. Today!

Connie took a picture of me scraping the bark on a tree- doing the prep work for the person who had the paint. (Oops, I guess I'm actually sawing off an obstructing branch)
trail work

There are 4.3 trail miles between M-55 and Koon Road. Our teams worked toward each other, and we hoped we'd meet in the middle today. But we were still a half mile apart when we were all ready to turn around. We each still had to blaze the other direction back to our cars. We really wanted to complete the whole section, but it just wasn't possible today. We didn't get to the cars until 5 pm, and I was really beat. So, if you hike that section, there is still a short "wasteland" in the middle with very poor blazes.

At one point in time, this section was way overblazed. Those blazes are now so faded you can't use them to navigate, but if you were paying attention, you could see multiple pale blazes way too close together. We spent a lot of time scraping and gently spray painting over those. There is nothing about this job that goes quickly. But it's worth it.

See Blue Badge of Honor

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Blue Badge of Honor

The Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA held part one of a long-overdue blaze painting seminar today. One thing you are guaranteed to get when working with this paint is... blue. We wear it with honor! It's great to have an NCT sticker on your car, but you can always tell the real trail people. They also have blue paint somewhere on their cars. Maybe just a smudge, but no matter how careful you try to be... it will be there.
blue paint on hands

Six of us met. Pete and I served as trainers, explaining the standards, tips and tricks, etc.
painting trail blazes

Then we split into two groups and each went out to tackle a section of trail that was desperately in need of new blazes. Trevor, Dan and I worked together. We were a good team.

Just because, I'll show you some instructive blazes. This one is a testimony to the Nelson Blue paint (our official paint) being formulated specifically for use on trees. You can see how the lichen doesn't like to grow over the paint. Obviously, this blaze needs fixing, but regular paint would have simply disappeared several years ago.
trail blaze with lichen

Here is a lesson in what not to do. This tree has two really old blazes on it. The top one was a diamond shape at one time. It has been at least 25 years since anyone has painted any diamond-shaped blazes. So, don't do that any more. The official blaze is a 2"x6" rectangle. I don't know why the tree is cut in the middle of the diamond, but it was, and the size and shape suggest it had something to do with a blaze. Then there is the old blaze below the diamond. Someone scraped the bark of that tree too aggressively, it bled sap and then healed. But this tree now has two ugly scars.
old trail blazes

Finally, you may think that no matter how good a blaze painter you are, you can't prevent this. Pileated woodpecker- 1, blaze- 0. In one sense you are correct, but the woodpeckers prefer dead or nearly dead trees since they are going after insects. Occasionally, you are stuck with nothing to paint except a dead tree. But for the most part, avoid using them for blazes. The bark (and your blaze) peels, the trees fall over, or the woodpeckers have a party.
pileated woodpecker damage

Collectively, we reblazed 2.5 miles of trail in both directions. There will be 6 of us again tomorrow.

See Some Previous Blazing

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Stayin Alive'

I worked my tail off today. If I could do this every day, I might make progress! But I don't seem to be able to do it. Anyway, I did 15 minutes of a job I don't like, and then rewarded myself with 15 minutes of gardening. All day.

Here are things from the rock garden that are still alive (that I've found so far). First is the one that makes me happiest. This is a sedum I bought in 2020 as a self-reward for finishing some hateful task. It's been in a pot the whole time and has survived the winters. It was only identified as a sedum hybrid, so I don't really know what it is. But I like the colors.
purple hybrid sedum

While I was weeding around it, I nearly wiped out some surviving miniature iris. I'm pretty sure these are 'Baby Jewel,' a nice dark purple one with the typical bearded iris shape but only about 6 inches tall. I don't know if there is any hope of them blooming this year, but perhaps they will be happier now.
baby jewel iris

The moss phlox is taking over the world, along with the miniature geranium, but for now most of these get to stay since at least they are providing cover and blooming. This was a candystripe variety, with pink and white striped flowers. A bit of it remains in that state.
candystripe phlox

Most of it has reverted to plain magenta or white. That pretty much guarantees the variety is a hybrid.
magenta moss phlox

One more quality plant showed up, but it moved itself to the yard. This is a pasqueflower gone to seed. I'll mark where it is so it can go back in the garden.

This is Sedum sexangulare. Yes, each stalk has six sides. I used it as a nice filler to drape over the rocks. It seems to be the best survivor of the small sedums. I hope a couple others show up, but at least I have this one.
sedum sexangulare

A lot of clumps of Blue Fescue have also survived. This is grass I wish I'd never planted. It self-seeds prolifically, and consequently moves itself around. The clumps are pretty when they are blue, but then they just get ugly. For now, some of it gets to stay.

One other problem with the rock garden is the rocks. A lot of them started with nice colored faces. Now they are nearly buried with the accumulation of 20 years of weed detritus. I don't even know if they could be cleaned up. The dirt needs to be dug back so the rocks show more than just their tippy-tops. I sprayed the biting ant nest. I'm sure I'll have to do that several times.

Tomorrow, I'm participating in a trail blazing seminar with our NCTA Chapter. I probably won't have any energy for gardening after I get home.

Oh, and I knew it was too good to be true. One of the hoses has a leak, so I need to find or buy a mender.

I also continued to weed the front bed. I'm making progress, but have to go a bit slowly in the section I'm on because there are plants I want that have grown together and have to be separated. Also, there was some poison ivy in the flower bed. NO!!!! Got that menace removed. And I trimmed the dead branches from the birch tree.

See Rock Garden Report
See How About Those Sedums?