Tag Archive | environment

Monday Memories

This also gets me off the hook for fresh material on the busiest day of the week  😉

The Willows are starting to turn yellow here. wpid-20140304_070015_richtonehdr.jpg

This is right on schedule with last year. This photo is from last year and had I taken a new one last Friday, it would have been void of snow. However Mr. Jack Frost is not done wit us yet! We’ve got 3-5 inches predicted for this evening! (Technically, I’m writing this Sunday night ~ We’ll see in the comments if I’m right!)

Summer blend gas is on order.

Our gas prices are starting to rise, even though the cost of a barrel of oil is going down. Yeah, living by a large city is awesome!! Not. So even though there is plenty of gas made and ready to go, the refineries have to make summer blend for the area that drives the price up almost double. $2.97 per gallon now will be $4.50 in June.

The upside is usually the price of diesel stays the same price throughout the year at about $2.70 per gallon. This is good when we are camping and driving a bit to get where were plopping for the weekend.

s daliDaylight Savings Time

This was a few weeks ago, however I think it’s important to understand where these notions come from and just why do we do it?!?

Many think this was all done to try to save resources, energy and money… However, environmental economist Hendrik Wolff, of the University of Washington, found that the Daylight saving did indeed drop lighting and electricity use in the evenings… HOWEVER, higher energy demands during darker mornings completely canceled out the evening gains.

rain barrel35 Water Saving Methods in the Garden

  1. Water lawns during the early morning when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces evaporation and waste. Watering in the evening can leave leaves wet all night, promoting disease problems. Better yet. DON’T WATER THE LAWN AT ALL!!! It doesn’t die, it goes dormant.

  2. Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. Your garden hose can pour out 600 gallons of water or more in only a few hours, so don’t leave the sprinkler running all day. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn it off.

  3. Use water from dehumidifiers to water indoor and outdoor plants. You can also collect condensation water from air conditioning units to use for watering plants.

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99 Edible Plants for the Midwest Forager

Many young weeds are great for food! Take a look at this list and get ready for fresh, free veggies!

Plants can be your best bet for long term survival or your short ride to being plant food. Here’s another wonderful site: Plants For a Future that lists over 7,000 plants and their medicinal purposes, really really great stuff going on there.

Asclepias spp. – Milkweed ~ Young pods, before they set seed*

Asimina triloba – Pawpaw ~ fruits (I’m dying to try these)

Artium spp. – Burdock ~ The root

Barbarea spp. – Winter Cress ~ The young leaves & flower

Betula spp. – Birch ~ The sap, inner bark, twigs

Brassica spp. – Wild Mustards ~ The young leaves, flowerbuds, & seeds

Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepard’s Purse ~ The young leaves, seedpods

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Enjoying the Climate Roller Coaster!

This is kinda crazy weather for February in the Midwest. In my experience, when Mother Nature teases us with a week like this in the middle of winter… She will generally rain down a hellion’s dose of rag-ass on us during April – May. I know. Just try to schedule outdoor construction for a living!=-O
Granted, things have started early and hung on to transition right into summer. It was as recent as 2012, when I had lilacs blooming on April 13, instead of the average time of late May.

I hope that we have another 2012, I’m ready for it =-)

Dump Shit Here ~~~>

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) claims this was an ‘honest mistake’. Seriously? How does ANYONE think dumping shit on the ground is OK*?!? Excusing something like this is why this country is going to hell in a handbasket. I would have thrown the driver……….. (wait for it) UNDER THE BUS on this one and said, “Sorry we hired a moron to drive our bus, it won’t happen again.”

The whole situation reminded me of one of my favorite Christmas movies.

*EDDIE DOES!!! HaHa!!!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Burr Oak Sketch

We recently went to the Vintage Wine Fest in Utica, Illinois, and camped at a favorite campground, Hickory Hollow. Sadly, the newly built sand mine next door has sent folks elsewhere to camp as it is very noisy, along with blasting throughout the day. Another sad note is that the owners want to retire. They had hoped to find someone to purchase the campground and continue to run it as one, however no such luck. The sand mine gave them an offer they couldn’t refuse and they accepted. The mine is allowing them to stay in business until October of 2017, right after wine fest, a big weekend for them.

We have been camping here for the last 10 years. We’ve been on many different sites, however site H0 is our favorite. There is a large, burr oak on the site that is just magnificent. I am besides myself to know that this tree will be killed to be able to remove the sand it’s roots have been in for over many years (give or take 100, my guess). I’m very sad. =-(

I, of course, had to try my hand at preserving the memory of the grand ‘ol tree.

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I hope some of the acorns I grabbed will continue on the heritage of this wonderful tree.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Eastern Gray Treefrog ~ Hyla versicolor

The eastern gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) common gray treefrog or tetraploid gray treefrog is only different from the Cope’s gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) in distribution, call and chromosomal count.

You can listen to the subtle differences in their calls below:
Eastern Grey Tree Frog – Hyla versicolor

Copes Grey Tree Frog – Hyla chrysoscelis

They are comparatively small compared to other North American frog species, with an average size of 1.5” to 2” inches (3.8 to 5.1 cm).

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He blends right into the tree bark!

As the scientific name implies, gray treefrogs are variable in color from gray to green, depending on what they are attached to. These guys can camouflage themselves like karma chameleons! They change color at a slower rate than chameleons, however they can change from nearly black to nearly white.

Treefrogs have a cupped toes and glands that produce a sticky mucous within them that allows them to climb high into the trees, sometimes being found 50′ feet high (16M).

These frogs rarely ever descend from high treetops except for breeding and hibernation*.

In the winter, they hibernate near the surface, just under the leaf litter. They are capable of surviving freezing temperatures as low as 18F (-8C). Special proteins in their blood, called ‘nucleating proteins’, cause the water in their blood to freeze first. This ice, intakes most of the water out of the frog’s cells. Meanwhile, the frog’s liver produces large amounts of glucose (sugar) which flows into the cells to keep them from collapsing.

In my opinion, a pretty cool trick 😉

*or to say hello to his friend, Ilex!


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Autumn Blooming Flowers 9-22-2016

One cannot manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other. Chinese Proverb

Not sure why you’d be holding down pumpkins, however see what I found blooming in 201320142015

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A mysterious seedhead    ||   Ageratina altissima ~ White Snakeroot

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Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ~ Calico Aster    ||  Potentilla fruticosa ~ shrubby cinquefoil

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This mushroom looked like a hamburger bun   ||    Beautiful mix of colors

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Grasses bloom too!    ||   Gaura lindheimeri ~ Wand flower

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Beautiful grasses

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Vicia ~ Vetch    ||    Thistle

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Leaf-Footed Bug ~ Leptoglossus oppositus

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Leptoglossus oppositus or the Leaf-Footed Bug, is a common, minor pest of many kinds of crops, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and ornamentals. It is a major pest in the southern states containing citrus, pecan and peach fields, where its feeding on ripening fruit causes fruit drop, among other issues.
These guys are cousins of the stink bug (Perillus) and do emit a smell when threatened. He’s another ‘SBD Dropper’ when nervous.
Ironically, they choose to pick host plants in the conifer family, rather than fruit. Native conifers they tend to decide to live in are:

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Leaf-Footed Bug with parasite

  • Lodgepole Pine ~Pinus contorta
  • White Spruce ~ Pinus glauca
  • Douglas-firs ~ Pseudotsuga menziesii
  • Eastern White Pine ~ Pinus strobus
  • Red Pine ~ Pinus resinosa
  • Mountain Pine ~ Pinus mugo
  • Scots Pine ~ Pinus sylvestris

Eggs are laid in small groups on the needles or leaf stems of the pine, and hatch in spring. Nymphs go through 5 instars before reaching adulthood. In the United States, the species only has one generation per season, however in southern Europe, it completes two generations a year and in tropical Mexico, three.

The poor guy to the upper right there has a parasitic egg attached to his right shoulder (thorax). I checked with Bugguide.net (an AWESOME source for insect ID) and they are not 100% on what type of hitch-hiker this is, however lean towards the Tachinid family (true flies) .

In the northern parts of its range (here, the Midwest), September is the time these bugs start to move about to seek crevices for overwintering. This is the fun time of year when all the bugs want to come in and enjoy the warmth… They will have to fight with the Lady bugs and Boxelder bugs to find a good place to sleep!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

 

On a funny note: I will remember this insect as the LEFT-Footed Bug, as that is what my brain first registered when reading the name, along with the Latin name solidifying it by having ‘oppositus’ in the name.

 

“Prairie Week” (September 18th – 24th) in Illinois

wp-1468781049081.jpgLet’s keep Illinois “The Prairie State

In the advent of the Green Movement, it’s surprising there’s confusion on what “Prairie Restoration” is. Some say, “Eh, just leave it be, it’ll go back…” Sadly, it won’t.

When the settlers first arrived in the Illinois area, the amount of grasslands or “seas of grass” stunned them. European settlers felt the need to tame the land and develop it for their needs. They plowed the prairie for their crops, cultivated plants from their homeland and suppressed the life giving fires once started by the local Native American Indians. Again, the natural lands were altered to suit the needs of man.

Many years have past since the first European pioneer ventured their way to the Midwest, however the influences of this invasion have lived on. Many of the areas that the general public sees, i.e. rights-of-way, unused farmland and even some forest preserves are almost void of native species. The Queen Anne’s lace, chicory, and phragmites are commonly thought of as natives, but are not. Most of these imported plants have become dominant in the landscape, with some plants turning downright invasive. This is the basic reasoning that if area’s were left to go “back to nature” they would not, as nature has been altered by man. Since the prairies were once disrupted by humans, if would be fair to say we would need the help of humans to return it to the way it was.

The transformation of a prairie has more importance than to just return the area to native plants. By returning an environment to its former, native state, an ecosystem is developed and many of the native biota (plants, animals, and microorganisms) can flourish. Once you’ve returned the land to its native balance, the magic begins. “Build it, and they will come”, also applies to restoration. Native species of insects, amphibians and birds will try to return and populate the newly found Eden.wp-1468781051672.jpg

There are many other uses for a prairie other than general aesthetics and the activities we enjoy at our local forest preserves. Prairie and native grasses clean the polluted air of toxins, but also from the soil itself. Aside from reducing erosion, native species can diminish the amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen in the soil. This in turn would decrease problems associated with fertilizers entering water systems.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of a prairie restoration sometimes isn’t the prairie itself. Volunteers, people who get nothing but pride out of a dirty, hard day of labor, conduct most restorations.

Area’s left to fend for themselves will become ravaged by invasive, non-native plant species, driving out the native insects, birds, and animals without the help of humanity. Let us continue to be able to celebrate “Prairie Week” (September 18th – 24st) in Illinois by nurturing our prairies and grasslands. It’s not called “The Prairie State” for nothing!

Get out there and enjoy  prairie near youuuuuuu!

Summer Blooming Flowers 9-14-2016

Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away

LINKIN PARK ~ “In the End” Hybrid Theory

Swing here instead to see what I found blooming in 201320142015

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Eutrochium purpureum ~ Joe Pye weed     ||     Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ ~ Turtlehead

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Phlox paniculata ~ Not sure of flavor

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More Phlox. This one is ‘Bright eyes’      ||     Veronica Longifolia ‘First Lady’ ~ Speedwell

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Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’
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Sambucus canadensis ~ Elderberry    ||     Errr…..

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Boltonia asteroides ~ false chamomile or false aster     ||      Strike 2

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Coronilla varia ~ Crown vetch     ||      Petasites frigidus ~ coltsfoot

I had never seen this leaf, so I had to take a pix to figure out when it would bloom next year (early spring)


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Summer Blooming Flowers 9-8-2016

Punctuality is the virtue of the bored. Evelyn Waugh

Don’t be bored… see what I found blooming in 201320142015

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Eupatorium perfoliatum ~ Common boneset   ||  Persicaria lapathifolia ~ Nodding Smartweed

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Apios americana ~ Groundnut

Tubers are more nutritious than potatoes and the seeds are edible also.

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Impatiens capensis ~ orange jewelweed, common jewelweed, spotted jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not, or orange balsam

The grass only has one name Panicum virgatum ‘Hot Rod’ ~ Switch grass

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Erigeron philadelphicus ~ Philadelphia Fleabane   ||   This bee was resting…. I petted him! He woke up & flew away.

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Silphium perfoliatum ~ Cup plant     ||   Unknown weed

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hibiscus moscheutos ‘Midnight Marvel’ I just planted two of these in my front yard. Love the leaf color.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl