From Rancor*** to Rejoicing

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Frances, the fabulous shiny Ford Focus has been in a beastly mood all week, beginning Monday morning, August 19th. First off, her speedometer timidly informed her that she had 180,000 miles in her tummy, and that, Frances considers, is past middle age. But what really galled her oil pan was a discovery at “The Landing” at Bucks’ Lake. The episode began innocently enough. She spotted her friend Greg Genelin (JoEllen of craft skill fame,) sawing up a fallen red elm along Hwy #93, lest some unwary patron of the highway dent his/her auto. Greg was in his usual jovial mood, he loves to salvage dead trees, but after chatting a bit, Frances gave out an unhappy gasp accompanied by a wheeze .

Someone/s had mixed up a ghastly menu on the parking side of the highway. It consisted of (we’ll leave out brand names) an assortment of empty cigarette cartons; fourteen aluminum beer cans; (did you know there’s a drink called Rita’s Margaritas?) a variety of empty pop and high energy containers; Shopper magazine; plus five empty plastic nightcrawler containers. Ugh! We can’t go on. (Night crawlers are a spendy item!)
That’s a costly little fishing trip wouldn’t you say? Mix it all together and it spells L I T T E R of the foulest kind. After carting the odiferous mess to the nearest garbage and re-cycle receptacles, Frances spent the week in a grumpy blue funk.

Sunday, August 25th, began on a much higher tone. Bright morning sun spewed out upon the valley, and Frances begged to see if the myriad numbers of white pelicans which had been fishing on the former wastewater treatment ponds were still present. The birds were scattered about the waters, over 1,000 strong, diving for fish stranded in the murky waters. This satisfied Frances, and she timidly inquired as to revisiting Bucks’ Lake parking area to see if the pelicans were trolling on those waters. She was elated to find Sylvia and Sylvan, the trumpeter swans, and their four cygnets sailing about Coachlight Pond, having finished their vegetation breakfast. Upon reaching the spot where Greg had been working, she expelled a satisfied sigh of relief, as the litterers either hadn’t revisited the scene of the crime, or were off to miss the waste receptacles at the Minnesota State Fair.

Peering over the edge of the landing embankment, she let out a beep of delight! Standing two feet tall, an utterly gorgeous and beautiful plant, just three spikes in all, was growing out of the clay bank. Due to the square stems, it was obvious the plant was from the mint family, but who/what was it? She had never observed the pink hooded flowers before! Later in the day, Frances discovered that the one of its kind on the bank, was an Obedient Plant. Why obedient? When each of the individual orchid-like flowerets is pushed up, down, or to the side, the flower stays where one puts it!
When subscribers read this column, they will snicker and ask, “You haven’t experienced this plant before, it often grows in gardens?” Yes, but it is an invasive, and must be carefully attended to or it will take over the flowerbed. Out of a former messy bank, rose a piece of Mom Nature’s surprises, but, where did the plant come from?

A highlight of the week was another rare bit of nature’s gems. Friends from out-of-town shared a preying mantis with a couple of youngsters visiting the Jeff and Lisa Steinborn home. The PREYING MANTIS, all of three inches long, freezes in a prayer position, ready to snatch its prey from its surroundings. This odd and extremely interesting insect is not native to Minnesota, but their egg cases can be purchased at plant nurseries such as Bachman’s, other garden stores, or ordered on-line. They are a natural enemy of aphids and many other plant enemies such as Asian beetles. They are a natural control for destructive insects. You purchase them in little “egg cases,” and each egg case contains 200 potential mantises. Tiny, tiny, tiny miniscule bugs upon hatching. Best thing about them is they die out come frost, thus no danger of a mantis invasion. We are finding that they make wonderful pets, but one must crawl around in ditches or your back yard to catch crickets for them to eat. To know more about this fascinating creature, dial up “Buzz-Life Science.”

NEWS FLASH: To add to this article, Karen/Keith Swenson sent a super photo of a Henderson area friend, a SPINED SOLDIER BUG. This critter is a non-chemical controller of grubs, caterpillars such as tussock moth larva, Mexican beetles and others. It has a penetrating proboscis that sucks the juices from its prey. Just think, two PREYERS out there that we PRAY will help reduce the number of ‘nasties’ in the natural world. SO much more news for next week!

*** Rancor = anger, hostility, spite, resentment, etc.