9.27.18. End of Week 20

My sister Emily visited me in Minnesota this last weekend, and we had plans to go up to Voyageurs National Park for canoe-backpacking. We ended up stranded on a rock with a canoe full of water.

We started the weekend driving to Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota’s boundary waters, planning to canoe-backpack from shore through Lake Kabetogama to two separate islands where we’d reserved campsites. We loaded up the canoe with everything we needed, and set off. It was somewhat windy, but we felt we could push through. After rounding the corner, the current became 3 foot waves, which we bobbed up and down through, heading straight into. We had to turn right, parallel to the waves, to reach our island, which had a rock on the corner of. We started to turn, and the wind picked up toward 30mph and pushed what became 4 foot swells into the side of our boat, shoving us very quickly into a shallow shelf leading up to the large rock on the corner of the island, where we became stuck. The waves kept coming, filling our boat, and teetering us back and forth with the bottom of our boat stuck on the rock. We couldn’t get free from the rock, so we had to jump out of the boat and frantically collect our belongings onto the rock which was thankfully large enough to sit and stay on, and only 10 feet from shore. Our canoe was stuck. We were soaked waist-down. Our belongings were soaked. We almost completely lost the sleeping bag Emily was borrowing from my roommate. We lost our entire bundle of wood. I was pretty freaked out through this whole process, but Emily was pretty relaxed. She’s on the sailing team at Western and is pretty used to swamped and capsized boats in rough water. I was partially worried for our safety, but partially for my backpacking supplies, which is the majority of what I’ve spent any spare money on and been 90% of my birthday presents for the last 3 years. Emily helped keep me calm.

Our only option was to call 911. They got in communication with a shoreline resort who was able to send a pontoon boat to come rescue us. They helped us get on board with all the belongings we had. They were unable to free our canoe as well, so we tied it to a rock for the resort we’d rented it from to retrieve later in the weekend. They took us back to shore.

We sorted through everything, most of which was pretty soaked, and weighed our options of what was dry enough to allow us to sleep trough the night that was supposed to get into the upper 30s- brr!! We decided we had enough to stay warm for car camping nearby, and our car could be a warm refuge if needed.

We luckily ran into another group we’d seen earlier who had a roaring fire started, and offered to let us hang out soaking sleeping materials near their fire to dry, which made a HUGE difference. They also loaned us an extra fleece blanket! Their friendly hospitality was everything.

That was Friday afternoon-evening.

The visitor center Sunday told us that this weekend has had unseasonably cold and strong winds, and we just got really unlucky with the weather. Another group went out this morning in kayaks (we think may be the group we camped next to who dried our things) and they got swamped, and then the rescue boat for them got swamped too! It’s been a rough weekend at Voyageurs.

We in the end were very lucky things ended how they did. We’re here to tell the story, safe and uninjured. We had cell service. We had friendly people willing to help us dry our sleeping things and had an extra blanket from them. We had a really beautiful camp spot right on the lake in our state forest campground, and all our food was saved.

We went out paddling in a much calmer area yesterday which was beautiful! We paddled a lovely 3-4 miles and we’re very glad to have done that! We paddled under many soaring eagles, past a waterfall and beautiful orange trees. We saw a loon and wood ducks.

Sunday we stopped by Itasca State Park where the headwaters of the Mississippi River reside, and that was really awesome to see!

The first ⅔ of Monday was dry and pretty pleasant- we picked for several hours at Sheep Berry Fen in the morning. A large roost of red winged blackbirds is preparing for migration, and were swarming in and out of the trees. The afternoon was spent at the Esker picking in a large patch of dotted blazing star before the rain picked up.

Tuesday we spent the morning picking on the Esker. It was pretty chilly but stayed dry despite the rain in the forecast! The Esker seemed a bit slower picking today vs other days, so we decided to change locations after lunch.

We drove to the gravel pit at Ordway, which is usually pretty abundant in seed. I found a large patch of pinweed to spend time on, and searched for thimbleweed, asters, wild onion, and purple prairie clovers in between.

Wednesday, we chose to spent or day at Strandness, which is pretty reliable in seed ripeness quantities. This site has quite a large amount of many different sunflowers, prairie rose (rosehips), Tickseed/coreopsis, more Canada wild rye and tall meadow rue than we usually see elsewhere, and is the only place we’ve found any Sneezeweed. The morning started out quite chilly in the low 40s, but warmed into the upper 50s by the afternoon, and was overall a very beautiful crisp sunny fall day. We’ve been collecting about 5,000 grams (11lbs) a day in seed recently, and our list of species is still close to 30 per day. That said, however, we can feel the peak picking season is slowing down a little bit, with not quite the abundance we were finding a couple weeks ago at our usual steady sites.

Thursday we decided to try out the north Esker, where we have gone very few times. This area has asters aplenty- hairy false golden aster, and smooth blue aster. We spent the morning basically crawling around collecting the fluffy seed of these asters, among a few other plants.

After lunch we went to Freese, where we spent the afternoon picking sunflowers, bergamot, an several others. It’s been a chilly but mostly sunny fall day, and I think it’s pretty safe to say all the warm weather is gone for the season.


10.25.18. End of Week 24- Final Week!

Wow, I can hardly believe that this is our last week of work!

This last weekend one of my best friends I’ve missed so so much was visiting another friend in Wisconsin, so we decided to all meet halfway! They wouldn’t be at our Airbnb in Chippewa Falls till after midnight, so I spent the afternoon hiking about 7 miles at Afton State Park in eastern MN which was absolutely beautiful. So many kinds of deciduous trees turning colors, leaves blowing through the air and crunching under my feet, and sun shining through. This is a very large park consisting of prairie and forest right on the St Croix River which is the border between MN and WI for much of the state.

I checked into our awesome Airbnb which was a farm house on a farm right next to a big classic red barn, and the hosts were wonderful. The mom and daughter (who has moved away) are big Doctor Who and sci-fi/BBC fans and have all kinds of decorations around the house relating to that, and the daughter works for the forest service so there were “Smoky the Bear” items around as well. We ended up at a pretty great place only 10 min from downtown Chippewa Falls!

I went out to a coffeehouse in Eau Claire playing live music (a folk/bluegrass cover band) that night and spent time there for the rest of the evening before coming home.

Uyen and her friends arrived super late, so we talked a bit and then went to sleep so we could get up early enough to do things the next day. We went to brunch, a popular candy store, the Leinenkugel Brewery (Wisconsin’s main beer brand that is the pride of Chippewa Falls), to Yellowstone Cheese for some ice cream and fresh squeaky cheese curds (yes, cheese curds squeak as you chew them), and then walked around downtown Eau Claire! I have really missed having Uyen around to spend time with, and am excited to be back in the same area again!

Monday we started our morning heading to Strandness, one of our reliable seed sites. There is a large patch of tickseed here where I basically spent the entire day picking.

Tuesday, we met with all our directors and talked through a sort of “After Action Review” of the season- what went well and what didn’t, what we wish we had the opportunity for and we’re glad for the opportunity for, etc. Afterwards, they took us out to lunch, and we all got burritos and chatted and then said our goodbyes. We’ve been pretty lucky working for this team! After lunch, we spent time marking on the different preserve maps where different species have high concentration, so we can pass on that knowledge to the next year’s seed crew.

After work, I did my best to distract myself while I waited to leave to pick Cullen up from his delayed flight, which ended up almost an hour late and arriving at 9:40, but we’re finally reunited again!

Wednesday, we went back out into the field to the middle of our main Ordway Prairie for the morning. Thursday was forecasted to be rainy, meaning we may end up processing seed in the seed shed, so this would likely be our last day actually seed picking.

Showy goldenrod

After lunch we went out to the Esker and spent the afternoon there.

Looking down the Esker

Cullen brought home pizza for us after work, so I would have quick food before a phone interview I had scheduled. Afterwards, the 3 of us plus Cullen went out to the local brewery we’ve been to a few times for our last hangout together, before cait and I frantically pack up to leave on Friday.

Thursday it was supposed to rain all day, so we took that opportunity to go process seed in the seed shed. We stayed in the seed shed all day processing, but did get a chance to see Dave for the last time. He stopped by to pick some seed up, and gave us each some of his homemade apple cider and some photos from the season, which was super thoughtful. We’ll definitely miss working with Dave and everyone else at TNC, we got so lucky with our leads and directors this season. It feels so strange to be saying goodbye to this team and to the prairies after so many months here!

This season, over 24 weeks, we have collected seed from 141 different species of prairie plants! This collected seed has added up to almost 250,000 grams, or 550 pounds! We have identified more species than we had the chance to collect, which adds up to quite a lot of species! All this seed will be processed and then dispersed onto different restoration sites owned by The Nature Conservancy, with a goal of restoring them back into native prairie. These sites may have been former farm fields or grazing lands, and have potential to be restored, helping build a larger network of connected prairie, allowing for more gene flow and transfer between areas. Only 1% of native prairie in Minnesota is left, and prairies provide immense pollinator habitat, carbon fixation, and have dense and deep root systems helping to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion and water runoff. Working for The Nature Conservancy as a Prairie Restoration Technician in Minnesota has been an incredible experience, and I’ve learned so much about restoration work, and what work I’m passionate about. I’m super excited to bring this passion and new knowledge back home to Washington and continue serving lands near my home.

Friday, Cullen and I will be getting breakfast at a local diner and then will be on our way to Badlands National Park!

10.18.18. End of Week 23 and Randa Visiting!

This last weekend my dear friend Randa came to visit me after a work event! We visited Lake Maria State Park with its beautiful fall colors, went climbing at the climbing gym in Minneapolis, ate some delicious dessert at a super fancy dessert place downtown, and stopped by the Mall of America before dropping her back off at the airport. It was a lovely weekend getting to catch up!

Super fancy and delicious pumpkin dessert (Pumpkin Cremaux?) at Edwards Dessert Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis

Monday began very cold at 28 degrees again, but at least it wasn’t quite as windy and the sun was out all day. We picked the first half at the Esker and the second half at Sheep Berry Fen. I mostly picked Little Bluestem all day, but we also got a lot of goldenrods and some blazing stars and asters. I picked the 5-headed wood lily Dave had flagged and covered in netting to keep from being eaten by deer that seem to really love green wood lily seed pods.

5 headed wood Lily – VERY uncommon to have this many
Little bluestem seed looking like snow in the sun
Some cows watching us work

Tuesday, the temperature was almost 40 degrees when we began work, which doesn’t sound like much, but it was so much warmer than lately! The sun was brightly shining, and the wind wasn’t too bad at least on one side of the hill at the area of Ordway we started at. I basically spent the whole morning picking little bluestem again, along with a few asters. The sun lights up all the fluffy seed like little halos is you stand at the right angle, and I just followed the brightly lit fluff all morning. I found the most effective method to pick little bluestem, for me, is to spread my fingers out and put them through several stalks of a bluestem plant, make a sort of fist, then pull up. This seemed to collect the most with the littlest work in the shortest time.

More little bluestem looking like snow
This seemed to be the most effective picking method for little bluestem
Fist full of little bluestem seed
Little bluestem seed

After lunch, we headed to the lower part of the Esker, where we picked mainly hoary vervain, and I picked an entire gray hip-belt bag (that goes from hip to knee) full of the fluff I stripped off dotted blazing star plants, which is a LOT of seed. I tried to keep it from flying out of the bag as the wind picked up. This afternoon, a couple ladies that work for TNC stopped by and chatted with us briefly about our work. Then some other guy stopped by and said he never sees anyone out here so he walked in to ask us what we’re doing out here, if we work for TNC, and asked us about some of the different plants and flowers he’s seen out here. He says he likes to just walk around the property, and always loves seeing all the plant diversity out here and the number of wildflowers, and had thought they were planted and was surprised to hear they were there naturally. We hardly ever run into anyone aside from our own crews out here so it was surprising to see multiple people in one day!

Dotted blazing star

We struggled to put away all the seed into the seed shed which is quickly filling up. Luckily, the fluffy seed has little moisture in it right now since it’s been dry for several days, so we just piled that on top of the fluffy seed from yesterday in one of the giant pools, without a screen. The vervain also was pretty dry and we just created 2 little vervain mountains in the smaller pools on top of the vervain we had picked a week ago. Quite a lot of seed piling up in there!

Mountains of hoary vervain
Super full seed shed

Wednesday we began our day at Loen, the site with the huge population of rough blazing stars, that was filled with hundreds of monarchs earlier in the season. We spent the morning stripping seed fluff from the stems.

Rough blazing star

After lunch, we went back over to the lower part of the Esker where still the hoary vervain is. US Fish and Wildlife wanted to do a trade for some hoary vervain, so we all focused on that. In the few hours after lunch, we filled 2 of the giant yellow bags, and 6 or 7 of the gray hip belt bags with hoary vervain (on the stem because it’s difficult to strip when picking). It all added up to 45 pounds! It completely filled and piled high into one of the giant kitty pools in the seed shed.

Bag after bag after bag of hoary vervain

Thursday, we actually had warm enough weather for a prescribed burn! It would get up to about 65 degrees (briefly). We met at Ordway with the other crew to get ready. We did our introductions since we all didn’t know everyone, and talked about the plans and goals for the day, the current and projected weather, safety routes/escapes, and the hazards. The goal was to add heat that would help the seeds germinate earlier in the spring, increasing forb production. This burn was going to have a few areas of concern- near a wetland full of dead cattails that can take over quickly, and an area which has apparently had a “spot fire” (where a spark carries fire to an area out of your burn unit unintentionally) every single time this unit has been burned. We were also down a ranger we thought we’d had, which created a limitation.

When we walked up to where we would start a test fire, we found big hay bales we didn’t expect to be there (bordering private property), so suddenly, what we thought we could use as a “burn brake” (where fire won’t run past at the edges) had to be modified, because we needed to protect the hay bales by burning black around them. The area bordered an oak woodland that fire passed under more easily than expected, making the hay bales at the edge of the ag field a bigger concern. We spent a pretty good amount of time trying to create black around the hay bales to widen our burn brake, but the fuels and the strong winds, as well as being down a ranger were against us. In addition to that, our radios were having some sort of issue where one or two people couldn’t be heard by some others despite being on the same channels. After a lot of attempting to make it work, we ended up calling the planned burn off. Too many things were stacked against us, and the risks were too high. Risks of the fire getting away from us, running too fast, creating spot fires, and running into private lands that we needed to keep the fire out of.

We changed out plan for the day to use it as a training opportunity. We practiced what it takes to build black around an obstacle you need to keep safe, like the hay bales. We also practiced how to attack a spot fire in tallgrass prairie where the flames can get pretty tall and move fairly quickly when dry. We split into teams, and then waited till the fire had spread a bit, to where there was some black inside it where you could step into. Black is a safe zone, especially in a prairie where you don’t have branches overhead that could fall. From here, we teamed up- some with bladder bags (a backpack full of water with a hose and pump coming off you can use to spray as you walk) and some with flappers (a rubber square about 1 ft x 1 ft used to snuff flames), and we just worked our way around the edges of the fire, with a ranger spraying the larger hose ahead of us and at the headfire (the front, where the fire is moving forward from) where the flames are tallest and fastest. It was a good exercise learning about how sometimes waiting for there to be a safer area of Black inside the fire to stand in to work on suppression, so you have a safe- and less hot- place to work from. Learning how fast it is spreading, and what direction, is very helpful in safely attacking the fire. Safety always comes first. If you go right up to the fire and attack from the side, not from the black inside it, what happens if a gust comes from a different direction and pushes the fire straight at you? This is why you stand in the black inside the burned area where the fire cannot push into, because all the fuels are gone.

All in all, the day didn’t go as planned with the intended prescribed burn, but it seems that the right call was made in order to protect our safety and prevent spot fires or uncontrolled head fires with the neighboring properties. A lot was against us today, and it seems the best decisions were made. We made the best out of it with the training/learning opportunities for all of us.

After the fire, we did our After Action Review, my crew said goodbye to the other main crew we’ve worked with some and spent some leisure time with since we didn’t think we’d get to see them again before leaving, and we headed off.

This weekend I will be driving to Wisconsin, where one of my best friends Uyen will be visiting a friend, so we’ll meet up for a couple days, and I’m very exited! Only one week of work left, Cullen arrives Tuesday, and then we leave to road trip home next Friday! Pretty crazy!!

10.11.18. End of Week 22

This last weekend we all stayed around home instead of going somewhere for the whole weekend. I started reading Hank Green’s new (and first) book “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” which I’ve had a very difficult time putting down, I picked up tire chains for my road trip home (though I really hope I won’t need them), I went mushroom hunting with Cait on Saturday, and we went to see a movie (Crazy Rich Asians) Saturday night with some vouchers we got because of a failed-projecter at a movie we tried to see a month ago. I made lots of phone calls catching up with friends and family, and had a very nice and restful weekend overall.

Boardwalk at St Johns University arboretum
Trail at St Johns University arboretum

Monday TNC wasn’t working, but Cait and I needed the hours to meet our AmeriCorps minimum, so we worked a sort of ⅔ day on our own. We drove to Ordway and picked in the drizzly weather throughout the late morning and afternoon. Seed production is definitely slowing but we managed a pretty good variety at least. We found 4 of 5 blazing stars where we were -tall, northern meadow, dotted, and rough. We had 3 different kinds of sunflowers- stiff, giant, and Maximillian. I found one lone wood Lily pod, and a fair amount of thimbleweed.

Thimbleweed leaf changing with the fall colors
Trying to stay dry in the drizzly misty weather
Our list of species from this Monday

Tuesday, we began the quite cold damp day picking at Strandness, one of my personal favorites. I regretted not bringing my insulated winter boots and was instead dancing my feet around with 2 layers of socks in my rain boots trying to get the feeling back into my toes. I spent pretty much the whole morning picking tickseed in a very large patch up on the hill.

Patch of tickseed (the dark small seedheads)

After lunch, it started to rain on top of the cold weather, so we decided to go process seed in the seed shed. This always creates a lot of dust that is pretty irritating to your nose and throat so it’s ideal to wear a mask, but the masks are not super comfortable, especially if you’re someone who wears glasses like me. It doesn’t sit quite right and causes your lenses to endlessly fog up (probably the most frustrating part). I figured out a way to put the mask over my scarf over my face, which at least made it a little more comfortable, and maybe reduced the fogging a tiny bit, but not by much. Nevertheless, we managed to process quite a bit of seed, working what we could down to a fine material and then the thicker pieces like some of the sunflowers and bergamot, we decided to leave in a separate bin and put it through a larger setting on the seeder.

Me with foggy glasses and my mask over my scarf
Bin of unprocessed seed
Processed fluffy and fine seed

Wednesday was drizzly and cold all day, and we had plenty more seed to process, so we spent the entire day processing see again. We made a pretty good dent, working our way through most of a full large sized kitty pool full of seed. We filled 1.5 of the big gray Tupperware bins seen below with processed seed just from today. Lots left to do though!

Thursday we woke up to a fine dusting of snow on the ground. It wasn’t going to get above 35 degrees all day (and remained close to 32 most the day), and the wind was almost 20mph the entire day as well, making a “feels like” of a whopping 20 degrees for work! Thankfully, it was dry out, but still very cold.

Our backyard this morning.

We decided to pick at Roscoe, and walked across the crunchy frozen ground trying to keep our fingers and toes warm as we picked. We were bundled up with our warmest jackets, hats, and scarves over our faces to stay warm in that freezing wind chill. It is supposed to warm up a bit for next week thankfully, but I’d say today was definitely the coldest day we’ve had so far, with the wind chill.

Bundled up in the jacket that kept me warm commuting into downtown Seattle last winter.

After lunch we drove to Brenner Lake near the seed shed and picked there for a while before ending for the day.

This weekend, my dear friend Randa I’ve known 8th grade is stopping by on her way back from a work conference, and I’m so excited to see her!

10.4.18. End of Week 21

This last weekend I spent Friday afternoon hiking 8 miles on the arboretum trails at the university we live near. The maples turning colors made for a stunning early-fall hike, and one I very much needed to cool down my frustrations with the current news cycle. Hiking always helps.

Saturday, Autumn and I went with our director Dave and his wife to their friend’s property in NW Wisconsin for the weekend. We explored a couple Wisconsin state parks with beautiful waterfalls and plentiful mushrooms, and ate at the delicious and well known Duluth Grill.

MN on the left, WI on the right

Written on a rock leading to the lighthouse
A lighthouse on the Wisconsin side of a breakwater in southern Lake Superior
Amnicon Falls State Park
Red pine
Wisconsin State Parks have these posted in extra-scenic places
We found the name of this waterfall funny..

Dave looking at his photos, holding his dogs
Crazy looking fungi (or maybe Lichen?) Amnicon Falls State Park
Coral fungi at Amnicon Falls State Park!

Mushrooms at the property we stayed on
The Amnicon River 
Really cool patterns on the ferns!
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Purple mushrooms!
Perfect maple leaf
Looking out over the valley at Pattison State Park
Tallest waterfall in Wisconsin (165 ft) at Pattison State Park
Tallest waterfall in Wisconsin (165 ft) at Pattison State Park
Autumn and I next to the tallest waterfall in Wisconsin (165 ft)- photo credit to Dave!

Tuesday we began work on the cool misty morning at the property our seed shed is on. I tend to tolerate/enjoy the cold misty weather much more than most other people in Minnesota or people not from Washington, so by coming to this site, I can do seed picking outside on the property surrounding the seed shed, and Autumn and Cait can process seed inside.

After lunch we all went to the front area of the Esker preserve we usually just drive past. We found lots of milkweed, thimbleweed, and dotted blazing stars.

Dew drops on a horizontal spiderweb
Thimbleweed blown’ in the wind
Common milkweed nearly releasing its seed, until a big gust comes through

Wednesday we began our morning at Loen to go check on the rough blazing stars. They were still a mix of ripe and unripe, but we picked what we could. The day was supposed to get up to almost 70 degrees which is pretty strange for how the weather has been lately. We could actually spend time without multiple layers on to stay warm today! We found lots of slender wheatgrass, bergamot, coneflower, and stiff sunflowers at this site.

Rough blazing star in seed
Slender wheatgrass seed heads
Coneflower seed- broken off the main seedhead
Foggy Loen morning

After lunch we headed to the center of Ordway, where we always really enjoy picking. The weather was still quite enjoyable and while pretty invasive on the prairies, the sumac has turned a beautiful red color along with other autumn trees, and it’s bringing some color back to the prairies where most the flowering species have gone to seed. I was reminded this afternoon at this site how much I’m really going to miss this job and these prairies. Only 3 weeks of work left now.

Switchgrass at Ordway
Sumac turning red on Ordway
Red sumac patches on Ordway
Ordway Prairie

While wednesday reached a high of 70 and started quite warm to begin with, Thursday began at 28 degrees with frost on our cars, and stayed in the low 30s for much of the morning. It was very sunny, however, which helped keep a little warmth on us in addition to our many layers needed to stay comfortable. All in all, it was a very beautiful day. We picked at Miller Hills in the morning, which isn’t the most seed-dense property, but with a little adventuring around you can find some good patches.

Staying warm in the 28 degree start to the morning!
Evening primrose gone to seed and shattered out

After the morning at Miller Hills, we went towards the main Esker, but stopped in the field of Hoary Vervain that looked pretty ripe. We quickly filled our side bags with seed, and then filled up 2 of our larger bags we use to combine all our seed into. This field used to be a sea of bright purple, and is now mostly brown, but we hardly made a dent in the very abundant vervain of this area. It is somewhat possible to strip the seed off the stalks, but it is very difficult to and very rough on your gloves, so we chose to just clip them off instead (which definitely takes up a lot more space).

Field of Hoary Vervain
One Hoary Vervain plant
Hoary vervain snipped off
Hoary vervain when stripped off looks like this
We quickly filled 2 of these bags in just a few hours

Our seed shed is getting pretty full, both of processed seed and unprocessed seed! Lots of work to do to get everything ready for dispersing at the restoration sites, but it’s great seeing so much work done in front of our eyes. Only 3 more weeks!

Pools of unprocessed seed and white bags of processed seed fill our seed shed

9.20.18. End of Week 19

This last weekend my mom came to visit me here! We’d planned a busy few days of driving up to the north shore on Lake Superior. We ate pie on the beach and hiked to see the lighthouse at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on the way up to our campground at Temperance River State Park. At our campground, we set up our cart-in campsite, and then hiked up the Temperance river loop that gives a beautiful view of all the potholes and awesome glacier-made features of the river valley. We made dinner and started an early fire, knowing the thunderstorms were to set in soon, which they started around 7:30 or 8. It went from a light drizzle to thunder and pouring rain, so we escaped into the tent and watched as the rain pummeled the tent, but we stayed perfectly dry. We managed to get to sleep for 4 or so hours before being woken up by such intense thunderstorms they were too loud and bright to sleep through. We were wide awake. We ended up getting hungry around 4:30am so I went to the car to get snacks, and found our neighbors were also leaving for breakfast because they were hungry and wide awake as well. We finally slept again around 6 till 8 and then were up for the day. We were lucky to have beautiful sunny weather all of the first day and dry overcast the second day! We slept all night with waves crashing against the beach below us so we went to check them out in the morning. Lake Superior was roaring! Such huge waves hitting the shore! We left our state park for breakfast at a lake view restaurant, then drive to visit Tettagouche State Park to see the waterfalls, and hike to shovel point where we could see Palisade Head. Afterwards we visited Black Beach and Gooseberry Falls State Park before leaving the shore around 7 to drive back to our home in Central MN! Sunday we went on a short canoe ride and I showed my mom the prairie nearby before she drove off to the airport. I’d say we had a pretty successful weekend!

On the beach at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park with the lighthouse in the background
Split Rock Lighthouse
Split Rock Lighthouse
Our tent with a view of Lake Superior! We heard the waves crashing all night
On the Temperance River hiking trail!
These amanitas were all over Temperance River State Park!
Looking out at the crazy waves after the stormy night!
On the shore of Temperance River State Park
Look at those waves crashing! Temperance River State Park
High Falls at Tettagouche State Park
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Shovel Point at Tettagouche State Park
Shovel Point at Tettagouche State Park
The Shovel Point Trail at Tettagouche State Park
Shovel Point Trail at Tettagouche State Park
Canoeing on the lake I live on!

Monday we began our day with a conservation crew working at Roscoe Prairie. It started out sunny and cool, but by lunch there was a pretty intense thunderstorm overhead. We ate lunch and watched the storm and then drove to the seed shed to process seed instead since it was so stormy. The massive amounts of milkweed fluff mixed in with the rest of the seed has been posing a problem for separating the seed. It is similar to the silky sticky texture of a dog or cats undercoat you just brushed out and wadded into a ball- it just sticks to everything and is impossible to remove your seeds from it.

Wood lily seed pods ripe for picking!
Stormy skies over Roscoe
Stormy skies over Roscoe

Tuesday, we spent the entire day at Ordway Prairie. We walked out further from the central area than we had before, and I found a very large patch of thimbleweed, which I spent basically the entire day picking and still didn’t pick all of it. Thimbleweed fluffs out like lamb’s wool and feels like wool and is very satisfying to pick. With a little help from the Conservation Corps crews, we picked 8200 grams of seed today, or 18 pounds of seed!

Thimbleweed ripe and fluffed out!
Lots of thimbleweed seed (and fluff) collected!

Wednesday was going to be a drizzly day. We started off in the seed shed working to process seed and separate more milkweed, before going to Loen after lunch, where we hoped to find ripe rough blazing star (this is the site covered in massive amounts of rough blazing star and monarchs a few weeks back), however most the blazing Star was not ripe yet. Soon after arriving, it started to rain, so we picked in the rain until it was time to leave. Mostly stiff sunflower was ready here.

Thursday we plan to catch up on indoors online work for the job as a day long of thunderstorms and rain are forecasted. My wonderful sister Emily arrives late Thursday and we have a weekend trip at Voyageurs National Park planned and are very excited and hoping for good weather!

9.14.18. End of Week 18

This last weekend all 3 of us went camping in Sandstone at a park with some really awesome outdoor climbing! We had perfect weather, and the walls were super cool. It was my 3rd time climbing outdoors but my first time with 50-60 foot walls outdoors. I was able to complete most 5.8s and 5.9s unless I was too tired, and even got about half way up my first 5.10! Cait did an awesome job practicing her new lead climbing skills, and Autumn cheered us on in a perfect viewing location sitting comfortably in her hammock. Outdoor climbing is a whole new game, with dusty dirty holds, water seeping through the cracks, trees to work around, and very large scary wasps, but it’s a lot of fun and I’m excited to do more in the future!

working my way up a 5.9
This was a really fun 5.8
Hangin on!

This week is back to warmer weather with highs around 80. We also decided to push our start time back a half hour as the sun is rising later, so the dew has a little more time to dry. We began Monday at Lake Johanna Esker. The Indian grass is beginning to have more of it ripe, and lots of the milkweed is ripe enough! We collected most types of milkweed at the Esker, and it never ceases to amaze me how soft and silky the fluff is. Most of the wild onion is very ripe now as well.

I had mating crane fly pairs crawling up my pants, which was very strange… they just hung out on my legs and wouldn’t leave! A grasshopper also started trying to eat the fabric of my pants, pulling a strand into its mouth, which was pretty weird as well.

Wild onion gone to seed
Green milkweed seed pod close to popping open
Green milkweed seed
Green milkweed seed
Milkweed fluff
Dodder- parasitic plant with no chlorophyll
Mating craneflies
TWO PAIRS of mating crane flies
It’s hard to see but this little guy was pulling threads of fabric from my pants into his mouth

After the Esker, we went to Leif Mountains, a site we are rarely at. This site still has occasional grazing in parts, so we were actually within the grazing area of the cows today, dodging cow pies with most our steps. I saw another New England Aster at this site, and we found a large patch of pinweed. At the end of the day, we had picked 5300 grams of seed, or about 11.5 pounds, consisting of 33 different species!

Cows sharing the land with us
New England Aster
Hanging out on the indian grass!

Tuesday we spent the entire day in the deeper areas of Ordway Prairie that we don’t get to as often. We found a good patch of wild bergamot that is finally ripe enough you can tap the little seeds out of the hollow tubes making up the seed head. We also found the large collection of prairie rose we’d seen on a steep seed of a slope earlier in the season, and picked a lot of rose hips there as we tried to not fall and slide on the maybe 50 or more degrees angle slope. A lot of the milkweed is ripe, and we found the first of the wood lilys that were ripe to pick. Their seed pods are 3 chambered, and each chamber is filled with stacks of disc-like seeds from top to bottom! Some of the goldenrods are have gone to seed, looking like a fuzzy Christmas tree, and the big bluestem is also starting to ripen.

While trying to pick jewelweed in a wet-edge area, we also unknowingly brushed against some nettles. Fortunately, the sap from jewelweed stems and leaves can be used as a remedy for nettles, as well as poison ivy and poison oak. Conveniently places right next to each other, just as ferns with their analgesic spores are often right next to nettles in the Pacific Northwest.

Wild bergamot in seed- there’s a small seed at the bottom of each little tube
You can tap the seeded and the little seeds pop out
Rosehips from prairie rose
Green milkweed perfectly fluffed out
Common milkweed seed pod with the milky sap coming out
Wood Lily seed pod with the disc like seeds stacked in 3 compartments
Gray goldenrod gone too seed- looks like a christmas tree!
Big bluestem gone to seed
White Aster
Orb-Weaver spider eating well.

Wednesday started with an unexpected thunderstorm around our home, and left a dramatic sunrise over the dark storm clouds at the beginning of the day. We spent the day on our own at Roscoe, which is always rich in diversity. The day was spent in bright sun picking false indigo, Virginia mountain mint, purple prairie clovers, among others. Larger numbers of New England asters are blooming and growing much taller than I had seen before.

New England Aster
New England Aster

Thursday we spent the morning hours at Miller Hills. I made a pretty large loop on this property, exploring more of it than I’d seen before. I wanted to get from one nob to another without having to go way back around, and avoid wetlands, so I hesitantly decided to follow a deer trail down into this forested area at the bottom and duck and zig zag my way through the trees, looking for an exit out of the wall of trees I was in, and eventually made it out. It has been incredibly windy all day, which makes picking a bit more difficult. The plants sway all around, making it difficult to grab the stalk you’re going after, the seed tries to fly out of your hand or out of your seed bag, and your seed bag flies around and closes the top so it’s more difficult to quickly put the seed in. Not to mention your hat flying off your head a few times! Nevertheless, we managed to pick a pretty good load. Lots of wild bergamot, sunflowers, tickseed, and prairie violets. I also found the first seed from New England Aster, on an even larger and more robust pant than I had found yesterday at Roscoe.

Purple Prairie Clover in seed
New England Aster blooms and seed
Very large New England Aster
Colorful hills!
Lots of yellow and purple!
Goldenrods and asters are very colorful!
Inky Cap mushrooms
Inky Cap mushrooms

We spent the afternoon at Freese WPA, where I picked mostly wild bergamot, trying to find some shelter from the wind in the lower areas.

My mom arrived in Minneapolis this afternoon and is going to spend the weekend here visiting! We are headed up the north shore to camp tomorrow, and despite some thunderstorms in the forecast, I’m looking forward to a great weekend showing her around MN.