“Look Beyond the Murky Water and Biting Bugsters”

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Tuesday, June 4th found Frances, the fine flying Ford Focus in a pensive mood as she and her passengers sat on the Hwy 93 gravel edge next to Coachlight Pond. She was waiting patiently for her guests to shriek, “Sylvia and Sylvan Trumpeter swans are still trying to nest on Coachlight Pond!” That was not the case, as of that date it appeared apparent that for the fourth time, the muddy mucky gucky water has claimed swan nest number four. Frances had other thoughts on her engine, one of which was “Have you noticed the snow on the trees on the east side of the highway?” Sure enough, in our absorption with matters of swan nests we hadn’t noticed the mile long stretch of hillside forest, black locust trees, on the west side of the road, ranging south for a mile toward the LeSueur ramp entry.

Our aversion from noting the beautiful white covered hillside, bottom to top, must have unconsciously erased any thought of white glory, as but two months previous the hillside and all the remainder of the known world had been snow covered. There before us was a scene of true majesty…hundreds (if not thousands) of black locust trees posing for early morning sunlight, ignored by us humans but appreciated by Frances.

Turning our hearts and minds away from our now defunct trumpeter swan project, we began exploring green foliage of the valley twixt Henderson and LeSueur, the project claiming more time than was our original intent. We’ve always termed the dense gathering of trees in the Nagel area to be black locusts, and will continue to do so until happily corrected. Breezing along Pumpkin Hill Road however, we came upon a neighbor who knows the ins/outs/ups and downs of many bushes, trees and horticultural tidbits. It just happened that in his yard, he too has black locust trees, thus we were on the pleasant end of gathering lots of information. Locusts grow to 75 feet tall with fragrant white short-lived blossoms, thus the photo in this week’s article. Sometimes when one is standing near a locust tree in blossom, the roar of the pollinating insects at the blossoms constitutes a monotonous drone! In eastern United States, locust is prized as firewood, railroad ties, and ship timber as the wood is resistant to rot. The plants may take over hillsides, preventing water run-off.

They reproduce rapidly, with extensive fibrous root systems, and spread through root suckering runners. BUT, (note that there is always a ‘but’,) the plant is on the Minnesota Noxious Weedlist! They are invasives. They colonize and reproduce vigorously and are as difficult to control as the evil buckthorn! Once again, one finds oneself weighing the pros and cons. Always seems be that way doesn’t it? Oh, and one more ‘nastie.’ The leaves, inner bark, young shoots, pods and seeds are toxic! (That means, as you well know folks, poisonous. Urg!) Not that many run around eating parts of locust trees, locust insects, maybe, but not trees. If you wish a bit of fun, ask your Google to find the relationship between mastodons and locusts. Yes, mastodons, not wooly mammoths. You have a surprise in store.

06.04. found Frances patiently observing her two slaves planting potatoes. Oh yes, on Good Friday, we faithfully ‘got our potatoes in,’ two of them, in a hanging pot. But now, first of June or not, the potatoes went into the earth, fine potatoes supplied by Barb Conrad and crew; a great tilling of the soil by Connor Wigand; strong fine line from Bender’s True Value; plus the best ingredient, sunshine!
Just as the last potatoes went underground, a greenish black cloud appeared over the trees, the sun disappeared, and darkness fell upon the land.
Trees ceased their incessant chatter. Tension, apprehension, even dread was palpable. Birds trembled and fled. Then the storm struck, lightning flashed, thunder roared, a maelstrom unlike we’d ever experienced in the woodland shut out the world. Rain swooshed in copious sheets, shutting off all sound other than the wind. Should Frances make a run for it, or stay put under an ancient maple and a towering oak? Frances decided to flee, unheeding of the possible hailstones which would ruin her fine figure. Each reader has a memory of that ferocious early June afternoon.

Results? Taters WERE in, now many ARE out, and those that stayed in, may as well be covered in cement. Oh, well there’s always next year!

“Where have MY birds gone?” Great question of the week. Many have flown to their rightful lairs to the north. Others are incubating eggs, carrying food to youngsters, eating natural foods, ignoring the orange slices, grape jelly and sugar water. Rejoice and be glad, YOU have been a savior to many!

HOT FLASH! Trumpeter spotting, Coachlight, 06.09, 4:00 p.m., east pond. Maybe?