Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nuts!

I think the squirrels should be doing well this winter as we had a world record acorn crop this year. Daily sweeping of the deck produced bucketfulls of the fruit. I slipped several times and almost fell in the back yard filling the bird feeders. Worse than ice, I thought at the time. And the ricochet shots off the roof in the middle of the night were more than a little annoying. Still we love our white and burr oak trees. Almost as much as our beloved butternut..... The Juglans cinerea. It has distinctive ridged and furrowed bark. It produces drooping clusters of sweet nuts which are used in baking. It grows to 40' to 60', 35'-50' spread. This tree grows at a slow growth rate but was already mature when we bought our first home on Oak Hill. Although it does best in full sun, our butternut still did well surrounded by white oak trees. The fruit is a tapered. oblong, 1 ½"-2 ½" fruit covered with sticky hairs which encloses a brown, corrugated, thick, 1"-1 ½" shell that terminates in a point. The oval kernel is tender with sweet, oily, buttery flavor. The butternut or white walnut is one of the hardiest nut trees, A North American native, the nut has a rich, buttery flavor used in baking, confections, and eating fresh. The attractive, light golden wood is used for paneling and furniture. Its nuts are valuable as food for deer, squirrels, and birds. And so early that fall I raked together the fallen nuts and placed them on the sun deck to air and dry. A few weeks later they were placed in a basket and left on the deck for further airing. My intention was to shell them around Thanksgiving time.Imagine my surprise when I checked on them later to find that every single one had disappeared! Who would sink so low as to take such an item from a person who had carefully gathered the harvest for the winter? I was appalled. I figured that the perpetrators had brought a box and dumped my treasure into it, leaving the basket as a sick reminder of their crime. To say I was ticked would be somewhat of an understatement. Reporting the loss of my nuts to the police or the insurance company didn’t seem to be the way I wanted to go either (he chuckles to himself). So life goes on and their were many other fall chores to finish. One task was to cut down a dead quaking aspen which loomed over my garden. Chain saw in hand I headed out into the woods. The tree was about 60 feet tall. Now aspen is a very soft wood but after I notched it and made the final base cut, it went down very quickly. Rather too quickly, I thought, until I realized the tree was hollow. And there to my huge surprise was the mother load of butternuts. All safely stored away for the winter. How sweet it was! I’m not a revengeful person at heart but property rights must be respected and these nuts were mine!
Well, as they say, "all’s well that ends well." I used the vise in my workshop to crack open the nuts. They were so sweet. Not holding a grudge, I made sure the squirrels were well fed that winter with corn and sunflower seeds. Sadly though, the butternut tree is gone now. The people who bought our house next door to our new one in the woods, sawed it down. Apparently raking up the butternuts was too much bother.
And so leaving the feeders well stocked, we prepare to leave sub-arctic Minnesota for the desert. There the grandchildren await the arrival of Santa Claus. And we hope "warm family times" await all our blogging friends wherever you are located this holiday season.
Troutbirder and Mrs. T.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Arrived Last Night

As I stepped outside, this somewhat cold and dreary morning, winter had arrived on Oak Hill overnight. Greetings winter! I'll let Baron outside to romp. My own snow romping days are over. But content, I'll start up the snow blower to clear the driveway. Go back inside for some hot chocolate. And watch the bird feeders from my easy chair while starting a new book. Each season to its own rhythms here in the northland.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turks Cap Lily - Not!

Lilium Superbum - The Turks Cap Lily


There are lessons to be learned in just about all phases of life. History, or in this case botany, can teach that. Keeping an open mind might be one such lesson. Take the case of the elusive Turks Cap Lily. Wildflowers like birds can have "local" names. Thats why both are scientifically identified by latin names. Some time back I posted some wildflower pictures and identified one of them, found in a native prairie preserve, as a "Turks Cap Lily." Every one around here called these wildflowers Turks Caps, so I was absolutely certainly positive that's what they were. Thats why when several commenters gently informed that they were Michigan Lilies I replied that they were seriously mistaken. The ideological rigidity of todays politics come to mind doesn't it?






Michigan Lily



Lilium michiganense is an attractive plant that adapts well to flower gardens. The Michigan Lily can be distinguished from Lilium superbum (Turk's Cap Lily) as follows: 1) the former species has a more northern distribution in Illinois, 2) the anthers of the former are ½" or less, while the anthers of the latter species are ½" or longer, 3) the former has yellow bulbs, while the latter has white bulbs, 4) the tips of the tepals of the former curve backward toward the base of the flower, while in the latter species they curve backward considerably beyond the base of the flower, and 5) specimens of the latter species may have a conspicuous 6-pointed green star at the base of the flower, although it is not always present. Somehow I'd been unaware of the difference. Oops!


Today, I wish I could remember the names of the people I'd self righteously "corrected" by email. I'd send them a belated apology. Or maybe the title of this post might catch their eye... but I doubt it. In any case, let's all try to keep more of an open mind..... I'm working on it..... :)