St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Monarch Butterflies Aflutter

An old friend of mine, Pat Swerkstrom, who grew up in Atlas and I got to know as a  college student at River Falls back in the 60s likes Monarch Butterflies.  He and I have a small competition--who sees the first Monarch of the season.    I think I beat him for the second year running with my first two this afternoon!  (update:  he saw his first one the same afternoon as I did, and even better, he found a tiny milkweek plant with a monarch egg attached!).
Pat Swerkstrom photo
2014 first monarch
egg on milkweed

I report the arrival on the educational website  Journey North, setup to let students watch the seasonal changes occurring in nature.   All sorts of migrations are watched and reported online from whales to monarchs, as well as the growth of various plants (i.e. milkweed -- the plant monarchs lay eggs on, the caterpillars eat, and where the cocoons are made.  Website is :  Journey North  

With the arrival of the monarchs, I think everything that migrates here has made it!  Some local species are not out yet in abundance, but likely will be soon--especially the mosquito.  I had my first attack last night too. 

Morels are out there, but somewhat small yet so another week should make them prime, especially if we get some more rain.  The farmers are mostly catching up with the crops after a late start.   The fields on the farms here are soybeans on the clay and corn on the sand and planting finished yesterday here. 

The apple trees are just beginning to bloom.  It appears that there will be lots of blossoms.  I haven't seen many bees around yet, a few bumblers, but the Siberian and other wild crabs that are in full bloom seem to have very few bees on them so far.  Without bees, pollination and fruit is less certain.  

The strawberries are beginning to bloom and the rest of the gardens need to be planted.   However, with Margo spending her summer helping at her father's place, I think watermelons, peas, and pumpkins and squash are enough to bother with along with a couple of tomato plants. 

Merlin, Margo's dad, has been home for over a week now, and is gradually getting more independent.  He has some trouble reading, and his left leg tires after walking more quickly than he would like.  He turns 89 this month.  His goal is to be able to be independent again.  Right now, Margo and his medical people want 24 hour support.  

Margo plans to come back for two weeks beginning midweek.  She has a series of appointments at Mayo for physical and post-cancer checkups that will last a week and then spend a week here in Cushing before returning for another month or two.  Her father is trying out an assisted living center for the two weeks--another alternative long term if needed.   Margo says he is improving and she is optimistic that he will keep on getting better.  He can walk some without a walker, and get in and out of bed, to the bathroom and that pretty much on his own.  

Strawberries are blooming and the wild plum and crab apples

In the old days we picked the rocks off he field, now they run over them with a roller and push them back down into the ground!

My favorite ground cover--Creeping Charlie with Burdock for contrast.  Very hardy, makes a wonderful shady contrast to lawn grass.

A tiny morel just starting next to a quarter 

I think 2 pairs of geese have nested around the pond

The second mowing
Below--the narrow ravine between fields that was tightly grazed cow pasture until 25 years ago is lush with cover for wildlife to lurk there until nightfall and raid the soybean fields all summer!  Just over the edges are large fields, but down at the creek bottom is a whole different world--where you might see a dinosaur stalk out.