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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A good day at the wetland

Entering the last week of October, and our valley has yet to experience a frost (although that situation may change tonight). On a sunny, 60-degree afternoon, avoiding a stack of research paper drafts, I stopped for a few minutes at a wetland backwater of the Ohio River. Lots of life was happening. Some sort of insect was emitting a most musical chirp near the parking area, small beings of some sort were skittering into the fallen leaves before I could see them, bees were still working the late asters, and various unidentified birds were calling among the fall foliage. The sunlight was sparkling on the water in a most satisfying way. Even better, a goldfinch with some of his breeding plumage still hanging on decided to swoop among some trees just a few yards away from me, always a cheerful sight.

Then, the stroll's highlight: a patch of goldenrod that seemed to think we were still in early September, pure, clear yellow in the afternoon light. Sun brought down to earth on an autumn afternoon is a good thing.

Friday, October 7, 2016

"They need to get rid of those weeds"

Or so said the old gentleman encountered on the river trail one morning a few weeks ago. I had commented in passing how lovely it was to walk along the water, and he countered that the "weeds" along the trail were so tall that they sometimes obscured the river view. The solution, of course, would be to have the city take them out.

Now our city employees and a number of volunteers do take out weeds along the river. Every spring brings garlic mustard eradication parties, and the city is waging an ongoing war against Japanese knotweed. These are not, however, the plants about which that morning bench-sitter was complaining. No, the objects of his particular ire were asters, goldenrod, and wingstem.

I simply nodded and kept going, figuring that getting into a debate on what constitutes a weed with a chance-encountered octogenarian was not a worthwhile expenditure of time. Never mind that all three of these "weeds" are featured in the USDA's booklet on pollinator-friendly plants for our region, and that all three have extensive root systems that help protect our fragile riverbanks from erosion.

The ubiquitous goldenrod (solidago sp.) is a pollinator magnet. In a former garden, I mounted a stepstool to determine the variety of insect species feasting on our head-high driveway planting. The exact count has vanished from my memory, but there were lots.

Falling in love with wingstem (verbisena) took a while. It is admittedly an ungainly plant, with flowers that do not appeal to everyone, but I have succumbed to its charms.


So have the local bees. 

Besides, who could manage not to love that color on an early-autumn day?

 And in the fall, asters are the life of the party, the almost-last hurrah of any garden, roadside, or field.

Other than a propensity to colonize the known universe (and this might be a better world if flowers ran it), what's not to like?