Adapt, or Perish

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

Times are as tough as we’ve ever seen them. Humans, flora, fauna are changing their relationship to Planet Earth as never before in our 85-year life-span. The droughts occurring before these times take on new meaning as one observes the current situation. “I’d prefer a wet summer to a dry one, at least you can harvest something off the ‘high ground.’” (An adage coined by our moms, Frances and Catherine, having lived through one of the most severe heat waves in the history of North America.)

Born in 1936, we were poor, a major depression was upon the land, but we weren’t aware of much beyond our immediate surroundings. Living on the home farm north of LeSueur and on the banks of Rush River, running water was just that. You ran out to the outside pump for fresh drinking water, to the cistern for wash water. Farm homes were air-conditioned…by opening windows. Cooking and heating was accomplished by burning wood; cooking on an iron range stove; heating with wood gathered from the forest as trees were tumbled, sawed by hand, broken open with axes, carted into the home during all seasons. Yet, we were happy, singing around the piano, listening to the battery-powered radio, eating food gathered from garden, chicken house, beef and hogs from yon barn. Meat was preserved by smoking, canning or frozen during the winter…refrigeration consisted of winter ice. Fish could be taken from the Minnesota River as a welcome treat, until the river became polluted and Pisces were unfit for consumption. Groceries from ‘the store’ consisted of flour, salt, sugar…traded for eggs. Yes, we were poor of worldly goods, but rich in family, friends and faith.

Readers have read numerous articles as to how ‘low’ the Minnesota River is in July of 2021. Yes, there are places where one can walk across the shallow placid stream, unheard of in most former years. Motorized boats have a limited expanse upon which to travel; canoes and kayaks are the most common water transportation. Folks who have never ‘fished’ the river are doing so now, perhaps learning more about those waters than any time in the past. Bones, mussel shells, artifacts gathered from mud-coated beaches provide topics for further exploration.

Fauna of forest and field are forced to become more flexible in their selection of food as the days pass. For birds of prey, a veritable feast is set before their talons and sharp beaks. Readers note deceased raccoons, muskrats, squirrels, fawns splattered on area roads and highways. Vultures dine royally, eaglets have food aplenty without traveling long distances. In many cases, acorns, apples, pears, walnuts are aborting their respective trees, gardeners water their thirsty vegetable treasures or watch them shrivel by the day. Agriculturists scan withering fields, while being concerned with shortages of winter fodder and high prices for hay. The list goes on.

Are you, dear readers, hearing any CICADAS? Recall but a few months ago, 17-year locusts were to be overwhelming the eastern states. We’ve heard limited reports (meaning none) thus far for the Henderson/LeSueur area. This phenomenon would have an effect on the cicada killer wasp population. Perhaps we’re asking the question too early in the summer. (Responses welcome at 665.2658.). On the other antennae, Roger (Lorraine) Just discovered a brand newbee mid-July. A wee green critter with strange hieroglyphics landed on Roger’s hand while he was mowing lawn. After lots of bug searching, we came across an exact replica in the Red-banded Stink Bug nymph. (How is THAT for a tongue twister?) While attempting to stay coolish, pursue that bug on Google…most interesting information on a small critter many will not observe in their entire life-times. Thanks Roger and Lorraine.

Thinking of unwelcome insects, consider the influx of Japanese beetles early in July. A LeSueurite phoned to ask directions for control of the prolific rose and zinnia destroyers. These writers replied that we’d seen none, yet that very afternoon a flock (herd?) dropped down on the zinnias and morning glories, turning the plant leaves to webs in moments. Picking them off the plants seems to be one of the most common non-chemical eliminatory processes, or, perhaps you have a thumb and forefinger that don’t mind insect squishing? Barb prefers dropping the beasts into a pail of soapy water. Both methods work.

The famous Trumpeter Swan cygnets of Coachlight Pond on County #93 have been reduced from eight to six. With low algae infested turgid water, Coachlight Pond is not the place to take your kidlets for an outing these days. It’s hard to believe that the cygnets will ever become the elegant white long-necked swans we’ve come to observe and enjoy. Now is the time to try that “fry an egg on the sidewalk” experiment. It works! Stay safe, be prepared for the next Covid plague.