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Old guy, new nature leaf

I’m an amateur naturalist and a pro (technically, I’ve earned $5.81 on Adobe Stock so far) photographer, with tons of photos and years of personal observation of what’s going on in the ever-fascinating world of nature.

So I’m going to post a pic and a bit of text every day. I hope you find it interesting, or enlightening or refreshing.

Any comments — and I’d love to hear your thoughts — can be directed to me at bobqsix@Verizon.net.

Pictured is Opie, our precious 17-pound rescue dog and best woods buddy ever.

Enjoy and please come back often.opie edit (640x426)

 

Sinuses feel like you need a drill to get them open? Thank Mr. Ragweed

ragweed

Everyone’s enemy:  common ragweed. Achoo!! It’s everywhere now along with mugwort and a bunch of others.  The rain, overkill as it is, at least helps keep the pollen count down. But on a sunny, blistering day like today, forget it.

Common ragweed, also known as bursages, is herbaceous plant that belongs to the daisy family. It originates from tropical and subtropical parts of South and North America, but it can be found around the world today. Common ragweed grows near the rivers, on the meadows, pastures and seasonally flooded areas. It prefers moist, fertile soil and areas that provide enough sun. Common ragweed induces health problems in individuals diagnosed with hay fever. People fight against common ragweed using various herbicides.

nteresting Common ragweed Facts:

Common ragweed has erect, green, hairy stem that can reach 3 to 12 feet in height.
Common ragweed produces two types of leaves. Large leaves divided in 3 to 5 lobes with serrated edges and long petioles are located on the lower part of the stem. Smaller, lanceolate leaves, covered with hairs on the bottom side can be seen near the base of the flowers.
Common ragweed produces individual male and female flowers on the same plant (monoecious plant). Male flowers are organized in the cylindrically-shaped spike on top of the flowering stalk. Female flowers are born in the axils of leaves. Common ragweed produces yellowish-green inconspicuous flowers from August to October.

Wild Lettuce: WebMD says it’s good for everything from swollen testicles to getting high!

Wild Lettuce. Tough to get a clear picture of this spindly 10 foot monster. D. rug it all around F. Slocum yesterday trying to get it to come into focus. Maybe as web.md said it already got me high, a good old contact high. Stranger things have happened.

lettuceBlurb is from web md. note last line: some people use it to get high. well, there’s enough of it around if you are.

Wild lettuce is used for whooping cough, asthma, urinary tract problems, cough, trouble sleeping (insomnia), restlessness, excitability in children, painful menstrual periods, excessive sex drive in women (nymphomania), muscular or joint pains, poor circulation, swollen genitals in men (priapism), and as an opium substitute in cough preparations.

The seed oil is used for “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) and as a substitute for wheat germ oil.

Some people apply wild lettuce latex directly to the skin to kill germs.

Some people inhale wild lettuce for a recreational “high” or hallucinogenic effect

Purple loosestrife: Know your purple enemy and how to fight it….

A few more odds and ends from yesterday’s sauna (silver lining: down 3 pounds in a day!)

When purple loosestrife gets in gear, as it has here at Deep Hollow, it’s not pretty. Way too aggressive. What you can do:purpleloose

People spread purple loosestrife primarily through the movement of water-related equipment and uninformed release of garden plants. The plant produces millions of tiny seeds in shoreland areas. Seeds can be hidden in mud and debris, and can stick to boots, waders, and other fishing and hunting gear. Roadside maintenance equipment can also spread this plant and its seeds.

Whether or not a lake is listed as infested, Minnesota law requires water recreationists to:
•Clean watercraft of all aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species.
•Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.
•Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
•Dry docks, lifts, swim rafts and other equipment for at least 21 days before placing equipment into another water body.

Follow the “Play, Clean, Go” best management practices to prevent the spread through terrestrial systems.

Report new occurrences of purple loosestrife to the DNR immediately by contacting your DNR Invasive Species Specialist or log in and submit a report through EDDMapS Midwest .

Control Methods

Management of invasive aquatic plants involving either mechanical removal of plants or application of herbicides to public waters requires a permit from the DNR. Talk to a DNR specialist for more information.

Mechanical control can be done using hand-held equipment like a shovel or weed puller, but is labor intensive for large stands. Hand removal is recommended when dealing with individual plants or very small stands. Mowing is not recommended as plants will likely re-sprout and seeds may be spread.

Herbicide control can be done using glyphosate herbicides. An aquatic herbicide formulation is required if treatment is to be conducted on or near water.

Biological control can be done using four species of beetles which are well-established biological control agents in Minnesota. These beetles solely eat purple loosestrife, and are a good control option if the stand of purple loosestrife is at least one acre in size or larger. Biological control insects released between 1992 and 2002 have established reproducing populations at more than 90% of the release sites visited. The long-term objective of biological control is to reduce the abundance of purple loosestrife in wetland habitats and, if effective, will reduce its impacts on native wetland flora and fauna. Talk to your local invasive species specialist if you are interested in collecting and releasing beetles at a site. The best time to collect beetles for biological control is in late May or early June.

Milkweed pods: From saving soldiers from drowning in WWII to high-end bed stuffing today.

milkMilkweed pods, at Deep Hollow yesterday before I almost kerfuffled from the overwhelming heat and humidity.

They are becoming actually trendy. the fibers in the pods are used to stuff high-end mattresses and clothing these days, while they have a storied history.

They kept soldiers and sailors afloat during WW II. You can even eat them, but I’d advise saving them for the monarchs who need them a whole lot more.
Different Uses of Milkweed

Milkweed is primarily known as the only food source for monarch butterflies, a butterfly species known for the massive distances they travel during migration to escape winter. North American monarchs in particular can travel up to 3,000 miles and stay in California and Mexico.10

To help protect monarch butterflies and improve their chances of survival, you can plant milkweed in your garden or farm. You may use the Milkweed Seed Finder to locate seed suppliers in your area. If you opt for starter plants, make sure they are not pretreated with pesticides.

Small creatures rely on milkweed as well, such as the eponymous red milkweed beetle, which is known for its striking lipstick-red color, black spots and long antennae.11 Another example is the swamp milkweed beetle, which has orange and black markings.12 Certain aphids, ladybug beetles and ants also derive nutrients from milkweed.13

Humans have also benefited greatly from milkweed throughout history. Native Americans taught the first European settlers how to cook the plant properly to avoid becoming poisoned. The sap was applied topically to help remove warts, and the roots were chewed to help ease dysentery. Infusions of the roots and leaves were also made to help with coughs, fever and asthma.14

Milkweed has shown surprising potential in the realm of textiles as well. It is known for its strong fiber, which was used to make bow strings, threads, fishing lines and belts. However, it was during World War II that milkweed shone the brightest. It was used as the filler in life vests and flight suits to help countless soldiers and sailors survive at sea. To make the flotation devices, hollow milkweed fibers were coated in wax, making them waterproof and buoyant.15

Got a pesky witch? Agrimony may be just what you need

Agrimony. Growing Rampant along the shore of Frances Slocum.ag

Used to be used to ward off witches and said to cause a deep sleep when held in the hands. Hmmm.

Agrimony Facts

Agrimony is herbaceous plant that belongs to the rose family. There are 12 to 15 species of agrimony that grow natively in temperate parts of Northern Hemisphere and some parts of Africa. Agrimony tolerates different types of soil, but it requires plenty of sun for the successful growth. It can be found in the hedgerows, on the edges of the fields, along the roads, in the wetlands and woodlands. Since the ancient time, agrimony has been used in folk medicine and it is still one of the most popular and commonly used herbal remedies today.

Interesting Agrimony Facts:

Agrimony has erect, hairy, unbranched stem that can reach 1.6 to 6.6 feet in height.
Agrimony has long, black-colored, woody root.
Agrimony has compound leaves that consist of 6 to 8 oval or oblong lateral leaflets and one terminal leaflet. They have prominent midrib and toothed edges. Leaves are dark green colored and alternately arranged on the stem.
Agrimony produces small yellow flowers arranged in long terminal spikes. Flowers contain both types of reproductive organs (hermaphroditic flowers).
Agrimony blooms during the spring and summer. Flowers are rich source of pollen and nectar which attract hoverflies, flies and honeybees, main pollinators of this plant.
Fruit of agrimony is achene equipped with rough hairs that serve as hooks.
Agrimony propagates via seed and division of the root. Hairy achenes easily end up tangled in fur of various animals and travel large distance from a mother plant.
Agrimony is also known as “Church Steeple” because of the shape of the spikes that resemble the top of the church.
All aerial parts of agrimony emit sweet scent when they are crushed. Due to pleasant, apricot-like smell of the flowers, agrimony is often used for the preparation of potpourris.
Agrimony is good source of vitamins of the B group, vitamin K and iron. Leaves and flowers can be consumed in the form of tea. Fresh flowers can be also used to improve the flavor of the home-made beer.
Stem, leaves and flowers of agrimony are used in medical purposes. They can be used fresh, dried or in the form of powder, tincture and liquid extract.
Agrimony is often used in treatment of diarrhea, liver and gallbladder disorders, kidney stones, diabetes, sore throat, laryngitis, urinary disorders, insomnia, stress and to facilitate healing of the wounds (especially those that bleed).
According to a widespread belief, agrimony induces deep sleep when it is held in the hands (it keeps person asleep as long as it is kept close to him/her). Besides for good sleep, agrimony has been widely used to ward off witchcraft in the past.

Nothing to do with nature. But Trump’s emulation of Hitler, and Luzerne County’s adoration of the new fuhrer, needs to see the light of day wherever it can.

 

I wrote this for Harrisburg where there’s a strict 850-word limit. In writing it, I found I couldn’t do justice to it in that limit so it became this 1,400 word piece. Harrisburg passed on it at this length so I’m trying to get it placed in as many places as I can. It will appear in the regional political blog, the LuLac Political Letter, this Wednesday.

PLEASE SHARE if you fear Trump as I do. Thanks.camp

 

By Bob Quarteroni

How does a nation go mad? How do ordinary, everyday people transform into soulless drones willing to follow the devil into hell?

Specifically, how did the German nation sell its soul to follow perhaps the most evil person who has ever lived into the bowels of depravity unmatched to this day, and hopefully, forever.

A slowly falling apart 70-year-old atheist and existentialist, this question has haunted me my entire life, since I think the only questions worth considering are the ultimate ones: Why are we here? Is there any meaning to all this? If it’s an indifferent universe, what do concepts like good or evil even mean?

In these ruminations, the German question has always loomed large, the purest example of what we generally call “evil” on display for the whole world to see or, in the case of the German people, not see.

How could good quiet people sit by and watch Hitler nearly destroy the world, without rising up and stopping him? Didn’t they know, couldn’t they see, didn’t they care?

Hitler came to power in a not especially unusual scenario: The 1929 Wall Street crash caused huge economic problems and social unrest for Germany. Hitler – a mesmeric public speaker and master of propaganda – capitalized on this unrest, along with the fear of communism, to secure votes.

By the 1932 election Hitler had the largest party in the Reichstag and was thus able to push for the position of Chancellor, which he was given in 1933. After this, he was able to force the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act, meaning that he was able to govern without their approval.

And that was that. Starting with mere thuggery, he became increasingly evil until he nearly destroyed Western civilization, murdered six million Jews in the Holocaust and led to World War II being the deadliest military conflict in history, with more than 60 million people killed, about 3 percent of the 1940 world population.

All the while the German people were complacent. Hitler was expanding the Fatherland, factories were humming, stores were bulging with goods and if some of those undesirable people were being punished well, they probably deserved it, being so different and all.

The true, day-by-day banality of evil. As Hannah Arendt said, “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

This weighs heavy on me right now, because I believe – truly believe – that the world is seeing the improbable rise of a demigod who may be the most serious danger to democracy – to Western Civilization – in my 70 years on earth: Donald Trump.

And yes, I’m drawing direct comparisons between Hitler and Trump, because they are cut from the same cloth: For their willingness to use the “big lie” to advance their purpose, for their demonization of peoples they consider inferior (Jews then, now all migrants, liberals, “fake news” journalists and “low IQ” black people – among others), for their total disregard for the truth.

Trump takes pages from the Hitler playbook, using lies and distortions as red meat to his increasingly rabid followers, playing fast and loose with the law, showing scant respect for the underpinning of our democratic form of government and increasingly urging his followers to only follow laws and behaviors that he gives his imprimatur to and the hell with the rest.

It’s not just me making these comparisons.

A Nazi party expert said there are similarities between the two men.

Both “bluffed” their way into power, confounding an establishment that did not know what to do but normalize them, according to Hitler biographer Ron Rosenbaum.

Rosenbaum said he shied away from the comparisons before the election for fear of trivializing genocide, but all that changed after the election.

“Now Trump and his minions are in the driver’s seat, attempting to pose as respectable participants in American politics, when their views come out of a playbook written in German,” Rosenbaum told the Independent last year. “The playbook is Mein Kampf.”

Which brings me to my county, Luzerne, which is so in love with Trump that an upcoming book by Ben Bradlee Jr. is called “The Forgotten: How the Abandoned People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America.”

“Bradlee said while millions of Americans greeted Trump’s election with shock and confusion, for millions of others he offered solutions to problems that had worried them for decades — problems like under-employment, illegal immigration, globalization, excessive government regulations, and the demise of traditional manufacturing jobs,” according to an article in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.

So is this how the slippery slope begins: An appeal to pocket book issues, to getting the trains to run on time, to punishing “those” people for taking “our” jobs and building fences, real and societal, to keep out those pesky migrants and outsiders who don’t fit in and keep to Luzerne County as white, insular and parochial as it’s been as long as possible (83.1 percent of Luzerne County residents are white, 10.7 percent Hispanic and 3.6 percent Black).

A perfect storm: Take a population seeking fall guys for its crummy employment picture, stagnant wages, fear of Hispanics flooding into Hazleton and the closing of factories and let someone like Trump appeal to their basest instincts, to any viciousness in their hearts, truth be damned.

The good burghers of the country lapped up Trumpism so well that 78.688 of them voted for Trump and only 52,451 for Clinton, this after giving Obama a five-point win in the previous election.

Like good Germans, these good people overlooked Trump’s lies, his meanness, his disdain for the law, his routine disparagement of all types, shapes, colors and persuasions of people, his savaging of the democratic system, his piece-by-piece dismantling of everything from NATO to nuclear arms agreements, to overlooking his lapdog approach to another venal dictator, Putin

Why, because he was one of them, not some pointy-headed Washington type. He understood how much they – well, hated – some things that were going on – all those Hispanics flooding into the southern part of the county, and all the immigrants working for Amazon, the county’s biggest employer, and all those damn governmental rules and hell, even Social Security has stopped going up.

It’s a complex world but not for Trump and his followers. Everything is blindingly clear. We are right and they are wrong. We tell the truth, they are fake news, we are the real Americans, they are the ones who allow us to be cheated in trade wars, we want to build a wall, they want to allow illegals in and then give them welfare and driver’s licenses.

So enthralled with Trump, the blinders were on, so they could conveniently forget about kids in cages, separated families, the tsunami of lies, the goading and the incitement to “lock ‘em up.”

And there’s no buyer’s remorse. His fans packed Wilkes-Barre Township’s Casey Arena for a rally a couple of weeks ago and Trump pumped out his babble of lies and distortions and half-truths and the crowd lapped them up.

They’re all smiles now, but one day they may open their eyes and find it’s too late to stop a madman from fulfilling what he sees as his mission, whether it’s a brutal solution to the migration problem or a walled-off fortress America or shredding of so many laws, rules and regulations that the wheels start coming off the country. And they’d only have themselves to blame.

Is this silly, going too far to compare the legally elected president to the worst madman in history. Perhaps. Perhaps not. The future is writ in water.

Henry Siegman, who had to flee Nazi Germany with his family in 1942, doesn’t think so.

“To those who say that comparisons of Trump’s presidency to Nazi Germany are hyperbolic, I say try telling that to the mothers whose infants have been torn from their arms,” he wrote in the Nation. “A president responsible for such an atrocity exposes a level of cruelty that has no limits. None. Trump has already told us that for him there is little difference between the neo­-Nazis in Charlottesville and the Americans who took to the streets to condemn their bigotry.

“What is frightening about today’s America is how much the pass that Germans were willing to give Hitler mirrors the pass the Republican Party and too many Americans have been willing to give Trump. As Timothy Egan asked in his New York Times column, ‘when the Trump toxins have gotten deep into the national bloodstream,’ how much will the evil Trump might yet do be seen as acceptable?”

Bob Dylan wrote, “it ain’t dark yet but it’s getting there.”

If Luzerne County is an indicator of the future, we’ve already gotten there.

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While Kirby and Nesbitt Parks get swallowed up, local media turn a blind eye

The Susquehanna flood plain is losing a battle to two Japanese imports: knotweed and hops.

I wrote this article about it last year and the Harrisburg Patriot-News, of all places, ran the piece about the problem in Wilkes-Barre.

But I CANNOT get the local media to look at the problem. Why? I haven’t got a clue.

Pic is of Japanese knotweed in the fall.

knotweedYou might not have noticed, but we’re at war. And the enemy is winning – and winning easily.

The battlefield, in this case, is the natural area in Wilkes-Barre’s Kirby Park, a sprawling riverbank oasis or, more accurately, a former oasis that’s now a green hell.

That’s because as far as the eye can see the land is being overrun and carpeted by two wildly aggressive invasive plants: Japanese Knotweed and Japanese Hop.

These two monsters have carpet-bombed the floodplain area, with endless stands of knotweed growing 10 feet or higher, and a green slug-like carpet of the hop, which covers anything and everything in its relentless path, denying space and sunlight to native plants it destroys in its mindless march.

This is a microcosm of the damage these two have done all along the Susquehanna River and, in the case of knotweed, to just about any natural spot in Pennsylvania, from the worst urban concrete ghetto to large grassland vistas.

Kirby Park is the strangled canary in the mine, a dire warning of what is happening and will apparently continue to grow worse, since so little attention, funding and political will is evident to fight it.

And this is the tiniest exposed tip of the iceberg.

According to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, “Although the numbers vary widely, some of the current research estimates that there are approximately 50,000 non-native species in the United States today. Of that, approximately 4,300 have been considered invasive species.”

“Invasive species have contributed directly to the decline of 42 percent of the threatened and endangered species in the United States. The annual cost to the United States economy is estimated at $120 billion a year, with over 100 million acres (an area roughly the size of California) suffering from invasive plant infestations,” researchers at the Nature Conservancy concluded.

But we’re looking at just two. How bad can two little plants be?

Worse than you can imagine.

Japanese knotweed was introduced to the U.S. from Japan as an ornamental in the late 1800s. It now can be found in the U.S. in 42 states, eight Canadian provinces and at least 36 European countries.

It spreads quickly, forming dense stands that exclude native vegetation. On riverbanks, it easily survives severe floods and rapidly recolonizes, usurping the role of native species.

This is one very bad boy: It can grow through walls, tarmac and concrete and can grow by up to four inches a day during the summer. It is listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

Mortgage lenders have even been known to refuse mortgages on properties which are affected by Japanese Knotweed.

And that can be deadly.

Newsweek reported on a case in England where a man “…killed his own wife, and then himself, on being told [wrongly, as it turned out] that knotweed from the next-door golf course was going to destroy the value of his house.”

Called the “Godzilla of weeds” by the Plant Conservation website, it is tremendously difficult to control, much less eradicate.

As Wallace Kaufman says in “Invasive Plants,” “Seedlings may be cut or pulled to exhaust the rhizome and kill the plants. This may take up to 10 years in a well-established stand.”

Japanese hop is just as bad. It can spread to cover large areas of open ground or low vegetation including understory shrubs and small trees.

Many thousands of hop plants per acre may be produced, eventually blanketing the land and vegetation.

The vines grow rapidly during the summer, climbing up and over everything in their path and can form dense mats several feet deep, blocking light to plants underneath.

According to the National Park Service, hop vines twine around shrubs and trees causing them to break or fall over.

It displaces native vegetation, prevents the emergence of new plants, and kills newly planted trees installed for streamside habitat restoration. Hop can quickly cover small trees hiding them from view, preventing mowing and obstructing herbicide applications.

Yes, Mother Nature can go berserk at times.

Taking a walk through the natural area is like taking a walk through an emerald minefield. It seems like an existential battle as the two Japanese imports struggle to see which will ultimately kill off everything else before, one would imagine, turning on each other to see which will be the only green thing left as far as the eye can see.

The sobering fact is that once these plants are well established it may be impossible to remove them. If they are removed, the cost is staggeringly high.

Researchers at Cornell University estimate that invasive species are costing Americans more than $130 billion every year.

It’s like climate change. Everyone (well, everyone with a functioning brain) agrees that the problem is serious, but beside some hand wringing and yet more studies, little is being done to address the problem.

What needs to be done? The public needs to get outraged and engaged, and start holding politicians’ feet to the fire. Only when the elected leaders – from the smallest borough with a street department to the EPA – realize that we want to reclaim our lands will anything be done.

But now, silence rules. The Kirby Park natural area is mostly used by the homeless and shelters and trash are strewn all about. Wilkes-Barre Police are supposed to patrol the area but only seem to show up sporadically after some violent incident.

“Regular” people are afraid to go there because the vegetation is so overwhelming it hides potential evil-doers.

So this invasive duo rules, winning the war more and more every day. And sadly, it’s a war that most people don’t even know is being fought.