Monday, June 28, 2010

Having Your Wildflowers - And Eating Them Too!

We are in the peak of the daylily season, a native of Asia that  stormed across the countryside adding brillilant splashes of orange to rural roads, meadows and wet ditches.  This is one alien invader, an invasive species no one battles and most love. And some of that love is directed to your taste buds.  I've been munching and grazing on 'wild' daylilies ever since I was a camp naturalist back in Western N.Y. during summers in my college years.  And more than a few eyebrows were raised as kids on my nature walks came back munching on flower petals. Now that I write for newspapers and know the dreaded word LAWYER, here is my disclamier: The plant is considered an edible plant but I have no idea what your stomach will think about it, so I'm just telling you what I do, not what you should do.  But ask your grandparents about them: I bet they ate them too! The name daylilies is self-evident: each blossom lasts but a day.  I eat fresh petals raw or toss them into a salad. I'll take closed buds and fry'em up like fritters, and when camping I have dug the rhizomes and cooked them like a potato. Bottom line: all parts of this wondrous plant are edible; raw or cooked. So be bold  if you so choose and eat these tasty aliens: Eat'em raw, steam them, stir-fry them, boil them or just smile at this orange flowering escapee that has been here since other foreign invaders (American settlers) trekked across the land with their tuber-like roots that were easy to transport across the sea and  even easier to transplant. I think the tubers taste best in fall --not sure why. But watch where you pick!  Some roadsides are bathed in chemicals from "weed control" operations and others hold toxic lawn chemical run off.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Of Earthquakes and Cows

On this third day of summer fireflies flickered before dawn and again at dusk as distant bolts of lightning slashed  a gray-black sky, black raspberries stained my tounge and lips, day lilies splashed rural roadsides in blazes of orange, bluebirds hunted bugs at the edge of the meadow, confident cocky goslings marched ahead of the gander, deep booming bullfrogs sounded early, thunderheads exploded with downbursts of wind, tree leaves  flipped to their silver sides, red-winged blackbirds flashed their colors in the cattail marsh, bass ignored my jitterbug lure antics, deer flies chased joggers on woodland trails, turkey vultures scavenged a  pancaked possum, hummingbirds hovered at the suction cup window feeder, painted turtles sunned on a nearly sunken pond log, robins splashed in the birdbath, cows at Ortonville's Cooks Farm Dairy waited with pleading looks for toddlers so they could steal licks from poorly guarded ice cream cones and tectonic plates in our restless Earth shifted near Ottawa, Ontario sending a 5.5 earthquake rumbling through Oakland County. And that is the way of nature, full of the predictable - and full of surprise over which we have no control.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Kindest Thing Is To Throw A Stone and Teach Them Fear?

Our relationship began early spring of 2009.  She appeared at the edge of my meadow one morning and seemed to be watching me hang maple buckets to catch sap. And then a few weeks later I saw her again in back of the barn: Standing.Watching. One foot nervously stomping. But she did not flee. By the middle of spring I knew "Hey, Girl!" quite well by her distinct facial coloration and from time to time  in summer I would notice her in the dogwood thickets along my woodland path.  I would glance her direction as I passed and she would watch.  Autum came and she was gone-- for awhile. But with winter's arrival  her boldness increased and she would crane her neck high to knock a few morsels of seed off the birdfeeder.(I did not tell her she was violating the no feeding ban on deer from the MDNRE). And then in spring 2010 Hey Girl became a regular visitor. When I sat outside to read in early morning and sip on coffee she would appear at the edge of the meadow near the day lilies and just watch. Time passed: She keeps her twin fawns down in the tall grasses but from time to time I get a glimpse of their ears as they sneak peeks at mom's human associate as I voice quietly, "Hey Girl!"  But then, the morning after the  powerful wind storm that raked Oakland County a few days ago everything changed. She appeared again next to my barn and began to munch on downed black walnut leaves. And with her was a buck. Strangely he seemed to follow her lead and after about ten minutes he too just stared at me acting as if he knew me well. The sudden facial licking from Hey Girl to the buck surprised me and I toss about thoughts that perhaps he is not an off season breeding companion, but an offspring from last year I never saw before her trust for me grew. But now I worry, for trust between wildlife and humans can be deadly for wildlife. Does Hey Girl and her buck trust all humans or just me? And I wonder if perhaps the kindest thing I can do is throw a stone to teach them fear?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Duck and The Owl

I always smile when I watch people install plastic owls to keep away geese or ducks. Sometimes it works: for a day or two. But wildlife is not a gullible as we are.   They quickly realize that its just a hunk of big-eyed plastic as this resting mallard on a dock in Oxford Township recognized..   Moments before I came in from the water for a picture about a dozen other ducks that were snoozing next to the owl departed. They knew the stranger in the boat (me) was more of a clear and present danger than the lifeless guard owl on a secluded dock on Whisper Lake.  And its not a one-legged duck, just a resting position.

Monday, June 14, 2010

When Lawns Go Wild And We Go Free!

Over 10 years have passed since I moved to my older home on a hillside in Brandon Township. The former owners had maintained with great love and care a carpet of closely mowed green from the front porch all the way down to the edge of my road.  To me it looked like a sloped golf course. Ho-hum. Yawn. Some might accuse me of being lazy, but that carpet of green is getting smaller and smaller. Every year I make sure it shrinks. Wildflowers that need next to no care - I burn them every other year-  edge sections and line the split-rail fence.  A hodge-podge of black raspberries are in a central section, a rustic arbor with grapes and flowering climbers are next to the garage and now the rewards are pouring in: tranquilty, butterflies, honey bees, small animals and yesterday a doe with fawn ambled by and sampled a flower or too. Fireflies will soon sparkle at night and wrens nest in wild corners where lawn once ruled. With a steep slope driveway of crushed gravel my downsize plan of wild restoration continues.  Come fall, I'l be roto-tilling out the green along the edges and sow that too with wildflower seeds. Next spring, with no extra care to be given,  I'll have more  colorful splashes of blooms and even less to mow. And in one section I just simply stopped mowing this year to see what happens: Orange and yellow hawkweed  flower.  Maybe I am pushing the limits as to what I can or should do, but earlier this year, shorlty after the last snow melted I walked down my dirt road and tossed a few handfulls of wildflower seed along a barren section where a county grader had cut a deep slash during winter plowing. Today I noticed they are blooming leaving me with a bit of a Johnny Appleseed Gone Wild feeling.  And sometimes I just wonder how it came to be that the great American lawn, the mono-culture carpet of dollar-sucking, time-consuming boring green so many are slaves too, is so worshipped. You don't think the pressure of advertising has anything to do with it?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Old Memories and Fishing Free: Saturday, June 12 & Sunday, June 13

I fished for the first time the summer after my dad died. I was seven years old. My mom outfitted me with tackle: A crooked stick, a string and a safety pin.  That was back in rural Connecticut. Best as I can recall I caught nothing. But from the smile on my face in that old black and white photo I had fun. More than a few years have passed.  Every now and then I paddle my kayak out into a small nearby pond shortly after sunrise or a bit before dark just before the mosquitos go into full assault mode and cast my favorite jitterbug lure to entice bass to explode from the lily pads. Sometimes they do. I toss them back. But I always have fun. And unlike back in Connecticut I  have a current fishing license on my person. That's the law. If you want to try fishing and don't have a license, well, this is your weekend to wet a line. The Michigan Deparment of Natural Resources and Environment has designated Saturday, June 12 and Sunday, June 13 as Free Fishing Weekend: all fishing fees are waived for the two days This applies to adults and kids, residents and non-residents on the waters of Michigan.  Keep in mind that all fishing regulations still apply and telling a Conservation Officer you did not know the rules just does not cut it. Details:   Take your kid fishing or take yourself. You just might have fun.  Check with your local parks with water resources. Some  have special fishing events to commerate the event. Every now and then when I see a child fishing with a parent I think back to my crooked stick, string and safety pin. And I smile to myself.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Back From the Wilds: Fawn-Predator Study

Back to blogging from my Brandon township  home. For the past 4 days I had been away in the UP with the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association. As part of that event I spent a day in the field with wildlife graduate students from the University of Mississipi College of Forest Resources. They are working with our DNRE on  a study of fawn survival in Michigan. The study includes fact gathering on predators, weather and habitat. But to conduct the study you need particpants: coyotes, bobcats, wolves and bears. They must be captured first.  GPS and radio-telemetry collars are placed on  captured predators after DNA samples are taken and measurments and general health is documented.  Pregnant does are fitted with vaginal inserted transmitters (VIT's). These tiny devices are expelled with the birthing of the fawn and send a radio signal that lead researchers to the fawn which is then outfitted with a small temporary tracking collar. The photos are of an adult coyote captured in Delta County last Saturday morning and then released to pursue his ways with a radio collar.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Celebrate National Trails Day on Paint Creek Trail

Paint Creek Tail is excellent. And fun. And healthy. And full of good people. This 8.9 mile long crushed gravel pathway follows the lay of the land along a former rail bed from Lake Orion to Rochester. And if you still feel energized when you reach the Rochester Municipal Park (at the south end of the trail) continue along on the one mile long concrete Rochester River Walk Trail. That connector tail meanders along the waters of Paint Creek and goes under Rochester Road adjancent to the Paint Creek Tavern, a great place for a burger and beverage on its outside deck overlooking the rushing creek and trail. Tell waitress Mary Ann I sent you!
The River Walk Trail  takes you to the Clinton River Trail and from there you have miles and miles more to discover.  National Trails Day is Saturday June 5th. If you have not yet discovered wonderous Paint Creek Trail make that the day. Today is just fine too!  Or as the American Hiking Society says, "Find Your Happy Place."   Special free events are planned for June 5th  at the (former) Paint Creek Cider Mill (4480 Orion Road in the tiny town of Goodison) to celebrate trails day. Many of these events  focus  on native plants and environmental sustainability   For details on Paint Creek Trail, including maps and  parking access point check out their first rate web site:  Happy peddling, hiking or just plain strolling. Happy fishing too, for Paint Creek is a trout stream. But be sure to check and follow all DNRE and local regulations if you plan to wet a line.