Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reminder of seasons past

The weather forecast for tomorrow predicts about three to five inches of snow--the first snow of the season. As it's gone below freezing every night for a week or so, I've been harvesting the lettuce under the agribon row cover during the day when the temps warm to around forty degrees and the frozen water melts from the leaves. The Red Sails variety isn't supposed to be this hardy, but it's holding up fine. The arugula is also hardy enough for harvest and very tasty. I've also been getting wood up onto the porch and have about 3/4 cord up there now, waiting for times when it won't be easy to get it off the woodpile. Each year I say it would be nice to build a woodshed. 

As a reminder of seasons past I will post a few pictures that I shot last spring and summer of some more wildflowers on the trails behind the house. On June 8 I showed the white bunchberry flowers in  bloom; by July 23 the flowers had turned to red berries, waiting to dry and turn a more purplish crimson for the birds to eat. The bunchberry is a dwarf dogwood. They inhabit only a few places along the trail-edge, but they are very showy and impossible to miss in season. I've never seen a bird eat one of the berries, but by this time of the year they are gone.

One of the interesting wildflowers hereabouts is the jack-in-the-pulpit, which comes out of the soil in early spring. It appears in the lowground behind the house where it is usually damp, and also on the trail sides in the deep shade where it is dry. I had to wait until just the right moment for a streak of sunlight to strike this one. Some think that the striped spathe (pulpit) is a trap for insects, but although insects crawl in, they also crawl out. By late July, the spathe has fallen off, exposing globed, green, shining berries. In the picture to the right you can see the topmost berry turning red. In September they all are red. I'd meant to take another photo showing this, but did not get around to doing so. It is also called Indian turnip because Native Americans used the corms (roots) for food. Of the taste, the great 19th century naturalist Anna Botsford Comstock wrote: "I think all children test the corm as a food for curiosity, and retire from the field with a new respect for the stoicism of the Indian when enduring torture; but this is an undeserved tribute. When raw, these corms are peppery because they are filled with minute, needle-like crystals which, however, soften with boiling, and the Indians boiled them before eating them."

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