Yikes Sue! That this is huge! Ours are quite small in comparison.
Today's photos are all of Hounds-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale). Paul doesn't like it because the little burs get stuck to your socks, but i think it might be a good permaculture plant. It usually grows as a biennial. It has a thick branching taproot that grows to 40 inches, which makes it drought tolerant. Seeds are only viable in the ground for 2-3 years. Seedlings do not compete well and generally need 10% or more bare ground. It can easily spread on disturbed sites, but as other plants become established hounds-tongue becomes less dominant. The plant concentrates calcium in its leaves, which it draws up from the subsoil. It has some alkaloids which are poisonous to cattle and horses, though they will still occasionally graze it (using it medicinally?). If given other food choices, poisoning is not an issue. Deer will sometimes eat it, and sheep commonly graze it with no ill effects. The leaves are said to repel moles in the garden, and have been used to protect stored fruits and vegetables from rodents.
The leaves contain allantoin, which is said to speed healing in the body. It is supposed to have anti-tumor properties. It has be used to treat insomnia, coughs, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, and minor wounds. The leaves and roots have pain relieving properties, but like most medicine, can be dangerous in large quantities.
The first photo is of another crawler making its way across the road at night. It is a harvestmen of the order Opiliones. It is an arachnid, but not a spider. Harvestmen do not spin silk or have venom. They only have two eyes. Their second pair of legs are longer and are used to feel around and collect taste and smell information. Most are omnivorous, and many are scavengers. I occasionally see them munching away on other bugs that were killed in the road (like night shift street sweepers). They only have one body segment. They can release a foul smelling odor to repel predators.
The second photo is of Common Chicory (Cichorium intybus). It is growing on the berm around the lemon tree site. It has a deep taproot to break up compacted soil. The leaves of chicory are usually bitter, but that can be reduced by changing the cooking water. Some cultivated varieties have been selected for their roots. They are dried and ground to use as a coffee substitute. The root has been used to eliminate internal parasites.
The third photo is a rotting log i thought looked nice. A fungus has eaten part of the wood and these bits were left behind and separated. It looks like it was a white rot fungus which has broken down the lignin and left behind the lighter colored cellulose.
Every night when i bike up to the Lab i have to swerve around several kinds of bugs that are crossing the road.
The first photo is of an unidentified millipede. According to the Montana Field Guide there are 25 species of millipedes in Montana. Unfortunately this is an area that doesn't seem to be well researched. None of the 25 species have pictures or descriptions in their Guide. Millipedes usually feed on decaying plant matter. They add segments and legs as they mature (which may take two to five years). They can live for several years as adults. When disturbed they may release a defensive chemical. In the past I've found some that emit smells like almonds or lemon.
The second photo is an unidentified camel cricket from the family Rhaphidophoridae. They eat organic debris, insects and other small arthropods. These crickets do not chirp or sing, as they have no wings. They prefer moist areas and are often found in caves. Not sure what moist spots they are able to find in this dry summer.
The third photo looks to be an unidentified funnel weaver spider from the family Agelenidae. These spiders often build a funnel shaped web and wait inside the narrow end for prey to fall on their net. They are some of the fastest running spiders and will run out to catch and bite prey. I guess the males are more likely to go on a walkabout as they are not as successful staying in one spot.
The first photo is Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). These flowers always seem to have many different kinds of bees and wasps visiting them. It is a pioneering herbaceous perennial that is strongly rhizomatous. It doesn't compete well with trees and won't tolerate much shade. The young leaves and stems are edible when cooked. Different parts of the plant have been used to treat burns, prevent infection in wounds, treat Candida, urinary tract problems, and sore throats. It can be used to make mustard, orange and brown dyes.
The second photo is Creeping Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens). It has nice yellow flowers in the spring that can be used to make a lemonade like drink. The berries are edible, but usually too sour to eat fresh and are often made into jelly. They taste better after a frost. The root and root bark have been used for pain relief, clear the lungs, and treat fever. A lavender dye is made from the berries, and a yellow dye from the inner bark and roots.
The third photo is Rocky Mountain Beeplant (Cleome serrulata). This one was being guarded by an ant that wanted the nectar. The bumble bees that came to it couldn't land and just hovered around the edges collecting pollen from the stamen. It is drought tolerant and prefers sandy soil. It is growing on the berms around the teepee. The leaves, flowers and shoots are edible when cooked. The seeds are edible raw or cooked, or dried and ground. It has been used as a fourth sister that helps attract pollinators to a three sisters garden. It can be used to make a yellow-green dye. A black paint is made by boiling the whole plant until thick.
I was looking through a folder and found a few photos from a while ago that i missed posting.
The first photo is a seed pod that was forming on one of the mini hugles here at basecamp. I'll have to pay attention earlier next spring to get a photo of the bloom. It has unusually twisting leaves, but still couldn't track the species. It was growing in almost pure sand (the hugle berm wasn't finished yet).
The second photo is a spider web from a foggy morning. It was probably built by a basket web weaver in the genus Calymmaria. They are nocturnal and stay pretty hidden during the day. At night flying insects will run into the sorta random upper web and fall into the basket below where the spider will pounce on it.
The third is another unidentified flower growing on the top of wofati 0.8.
Today's photos are all of Daikon Radish (Raphanus sativus). It has been re-seeding itself and there are many of them in different stages of growth. Daikon are know for being able to use their massive root to break up compacted soil. If you leave it in the ground to rot it will be a channel of organic matter deep into the soil.
The first photo is of the flower. After you see these the root starts to get tough.
The second photo is of the seed pod. These are a delicious radishy snack. You can also add them to whatever other vegetables you are cooking. Leave some on the plant to mature into seeds.
The last photo is of the root harvest! I plan to make some kimchi with a couple of these. The tops are edible too and are best a little cooked.
I previously posted about finding dried mushrooms stored by a bushy-tailed woodrat and seeing flashes of it in the wofati. Last November some live traps arrived. I finally remembered to bring one up to Allerton Abbey. Somebody started calling the woodrat Peggy Sue. Well, i sent him packing. I gathered up all the food stores i knew were in the wofati and biked it and Peggy Sue a few miles away. Now it will be much quieter at night and i won't keep finding cabbage in with my jam jars. Whoever sent the the traps, thanks so much!
Today's three photos are of Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola). It opens a round of blooms for one day then a couple days later is covered in dandelion like parachutes. Then it will do another round of blooms and so on. It is also called compass plant because the leaves will twist themselves to face the sun. It is fairly bitter but the young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds can be pressed for a possibly edible oil that is also used for soap making, paints, and varnishes. A milky sap flows from wounds on the plant. The sap from flowering specimens is collected and dried to be used medicinally to relieve migraines as it is a mild sedative. It has also been used for treatment of insomnia, anxiety, and hyperactivity in children.
An easy way to tell this plant from Wall Lettuce (Lactuca muralis) is that it has 12-20 ray flowers (each petal is a separate flower) but wall lettuce has only 5 ray flowers.
Here's a few more pictures from the day we went to Mike Oehler's.
The first is the sunrise from the top of Allerton Abbey. It had rained the previous evening and everything was shrouded in fog as we ate breakfast. After we made it over the pass into Idaho, all the fog suddenly was gone and we were in the bright sun.
The second photo is of Townsend's Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii). These bats have a 12" wingspan and enormous ears. The feed mostly on moths. The can live up to 20 years.
The third photo is of a Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla). These frogs can change their color from green to brown as the season's change. As tadpoles they are vegetarian feeding on algae using special scraping beaks and pollen that lands on the water. As adults they feed on a wide variety of insects and other arthropods. Sometimes expanding their bodies because they've eaten something almost as large as themselves!
Both the bat and frog are present in Montana and i hope to see them around the Lab someday.
A couple of my uncles have told me how they collected the berries of Silverleaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) for their mothers and grandmothers for cheese making. My recollection is that it made a soft cheese. This plant grows as a weed where i lived in New Mexico. Here is a site that briefly mentions it.
Yesterday eight of us staying here at Wheaton Labs took a field trip to Mike Oehler's place in Northern Idaho. Paul was awesome and let us use his van so we didn't have to take multiple cars. Mike took time out from writing and working to get already written books published to lead us on a tour of his place. He showed us all the different underground and earth integrated houses (along with the Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse) on his 45 acres. Some had been lived in for many years, some were never completed and have already started to collapse, and one was still under construction. It was quite a treat to see the structures i've seen in books and videos in real life. Mike answered our many questions during and after the tour. The Ants had questions that will help them finalize their designs. It was neat to see things that inspired Paul's design of the Wofati.
The first photo is of the $15 house. No one has lived in it for quite some time. Mike said it has one small leak in the roof. He was pointing out the young forest that has started growing on its roof, and thought one leak wasn't bad after so many decades and so many trees.
The second photo is Mike sitting in the $500 addition to the $50 house. It smelled a little musty, but not bad for no one living there for so long. It wouldn't take much to make it livable again.
A large portion of the ridge house is unfinished, but i thought this bit of well fitted lumber was a nice touch.
Thanks, but had the same results with Pandora Recovery. All it found were some older folders and ReadyBoostPerfTest. Pandora Recovery also tried to hijack my homepage, default search, and new tab page. It doesn't give you an opt-out during installation, so i wouldn't recommend it to others even though it is free.
I'm not sure what the first one is. It looks kinda like a reddish coyote, or a grayish fox. What do people think? Is there an easy way to tell them apart in a slightly fuzzy photo? I know we have both here.
The next two photos are of deer. First is a deer sneaking around in the middle of the night. The next is a young buck moving at dusk.
The memory card that the last podcast was recorded on is corrupted. It is a SanDisk Ultra microSDHC i 32GB. Does anyone have any expertise in recovering files? It is an mp3 file that is maybe 80MB in size.
I ran the card through Recuva and all that showed up were hidden files the card uses internally.
I ran the card through SanDisk's programs RescuePro and FileRecovery. It found the other mp3's that were saved on the disk from previous podcasts, but not the most recent one.
The recorder was stopped and turned off in the usual way. The card was removed later. When put into a card reader it showed up as corrupted and no files could be found on it. No new files have been saved on the disk, so nothing should be overwritten.
If you have any suggestions or special equipment, help would be appreciated.
Chris spotted this tiny snake in the driveway. It was maybe 6". He asked "What do we do when we see a snake?" Of course, the answer is: Take a picture! It looks like the western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans). There are several subspecies of this snake, so the appearance is quite variable. It was part of a live birth along with 5 to 17 siblings. At this stage it is eating invertebrates, but as it grows it may consume the occasional vertebrate using a combination of mild venom and constriction.
Fresh food! The second picture is a radish i found growing on one of the berms.
The third photo is some kind of buckmoth caterpillar in the Hemileuca genus. It was crawling around outside Allerton Abbey. The spines will sting and can leave a welt that is visible for weeks.
The borage (Borago officinalis) i planted from seed has started to bloom. I'm taking this opportunity to compare it to comfrey which caused some confusion in an earlier post.
The first photo is the borage blooming (with tiny native pollinator).
The second photo borage's rather bumpy looking leaf with deeper veins, more bristles, a more irregular margin, and a more rounded tip.
The third photo is comfrey's much darker green (almost bluish) leaf with a more pointy tip. The comfrey is growing as a much taller plant.
The comfrey seems to be done blooming, but you can see it in this earlier post.
Borage is grown commercially for the oil extracted from its seed, which has high levels of healthy fatty acid GLA. The flowers are edible and make a nice treat. It is said to be a good companion plant for tomatoes, spinach, brassicas, legumes, and strawberries. Basically you should plant it all throughout your polyculture garden.
Julia, yes, i made the jam at Allerton Abbey. I'm sorry, but making jam is enough work that i can't imagine making only 3/4 of a pint of any kind of jam. If i do it, i try and fill the canner so i don't have to do it as often.
Thanks Sue! I'm sure your fruit will look especially lovely five months from now when we are lacking.
The first picture is of False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum). It grows basically everywhere in North America in a variety of habitats. It has edible shoots in the spring that can be eaten like asparagus, though this should only be done where it is abundant. The berries when red and ripe are edible, but apparently only taste good on the west coast.
The second picture is Evan learning to drive a bulldozer. After we picked his dad up at the airport we stopped to visit James (past gapper) and check out his property. He has a cool 40 acres and we used his bulldozer to move a tiny amount of debris where he plans to put a pond.
The third photo is one of Egyptian walking onions i brought from Minnesota. It did well and has put on some bulbils. I will separate those and spread them around the Lab to multiply the number of plants.
Evan, Curtis and i went to rescue some apricots that were falling on the ground and rotting. Thanks to a tip from Paul we heard about a couple of trees where the owners didn't want the fruit and they were never sprayed. We picked mountains of apricots and there were still many left behind for another day. Besides eating what was probably too many delicious and juicy apricots, i made tons of jam. After two big batches of jam (37 half pints) i started giving apricots away and freezing some for later. The big red pot is one of the many goodies sent through the gapper love thread. Not sure who sent it, but it is much appreciated!
Cassie, that's too bad about the huckleberries. Guess you'll have to come back and pick more.
First photo is of Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), one of several species called bearberry. The fruit is eaten by bears and birds and edible for humans, but mostly tasteless. The Algonquin name of kinnikinnick refers to it use as a smoking herb. This plant is favored as a low growing evergreen groundcover. The leaves have antimicrobial properties and have been used to treat some urinary tract complaints.
The second photo is a collection of kale stems and dried mushrooms i found in a box of spices. I guess i'm not the only one that thought that was a good place to store food.
The third photo is of the culprit. Sorry i don't have more than a head shot, but this one is fast! On first sight i thought this was a kind of squirrel (because of the somewhat bushy tail not visible in this photo). It is the Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Neotoma cinerea). With one of the walls on the wofati missing for reconstruction, it has been impossible to keep animals out. The woodrat is closely related to the other frequent occupant, the deer mouse. I found that one stash of dried mushrooms, but they usually keep their food is several places. I haven't found a midden full of shiny bits (and things we thought we misplaced), but i'm sure this packrat has one nearby. The newborns latch onto their mother's nipple with special teeth and she drags them around for a few weeks. When alarmed, the woodrat drums its hind feet making a clicking noise. Woodrats will often dry their food on rocks in the sun before storing it for winter. They are a important dispersal method for the spores of hypogeous mycorrhizal fungi (like truffles).
Today's photos are all of White Campion (Silene latifolia). This weed can be found growing in a wide range of habitats. Female and male flowers are found on separate plants. It tends to bloom in the evening and is pollinated by moths. This plant contains a bit of saponins, so it's foliage isn't that attractive to herbivores. Because of the saponins, the root has been simmered in hot water to use as a laundry detergent. When ripe the seed pod opens on the plant and looks like a tiny vase full of little dark grey bumpy seeds.
Seems like the standing clover would slow the wind down better than mowed clover (trees would be even better). If you slow the wind down, it will drop a load of snow. The standing clover would offer a little shade for the snow (trees would be even better). If you shade the snow, it is more likely to melt instead of sublime (evaporate). If you shade the snow, it melts slower, giving it time to soak in better instead of all running off.
First is a photo of Zach Weiss sewing up a bale so it can be notched to fit around a post. Ernie Wisner was amazing in explaining these complex methods.
Second is a photo of Evan cobbing one of the wing walls. The cob will be covered in plaster and besides protecting the wood it will help reflect light into the wofati.
The third photo is of yet another aster, Pearly-everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea). The flowers are surrounded by white bracts which last quite a while and are often dried for floral arrangements. The young leaves are said to be edible but may be bitter. A salve can be made with the plant to treat burns.
First is Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). It has a long history being used medicinally. It escaped cultivation in the US as early as the 1600's. It has a root system that stays in the top two feet of the soil and spreads by rhizomes as thick as 3/4". The fern-like leaves have a distinctive smell, kind of like camphor. It lives between 3 and 10 years, depending on moisture at the site. Tansy has been used to treat intestinal worms, reduce fevers, preserve meats, and as an insect repellant. If growing near potatoes it has been shown to reduce the number of colorado potato beetles.
The second photo is a violet (genus Viola) that is growing near the wofati.
The third photo is Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). It has been blooming forever, and i was finally able to get a decent photo of it. Yarrow leaves are also very aromatic, smelling similar to chrysanthemum. It is said to attract predatory wasps. It has deep roots that pull minerals from the subsoil and make it drought resistant. Yarrow has long been applied to wounds to stop bleeding. It has also been used to relieve pain and reduce fevers. The young leaves are edible and can be cooked like spinach. Basically, it has a million uses and you should find/grow some. Prolonged use can increase photo-sensitivity of the skin, so don't overdo it.
Thanks Sue and Julia! I guess one thing that doesn't come across well in the photo is how brilliantly orange the flower is. I always thought calendula was more yellow. Wikipedia says there are 15-20 species of calendula (seems like a number they should be able to determine exactly), so i bet one of them is very orange.
I've got my non-macro lens back from repair and today was the first i've put it to good use. We worked on mixing up cob for the Allerton Abbey renovations. In the morning a few of us went out and collected dried up cow pies to use for the fiber in the cob and plaster. After soaking a while and being broken up, it was mixed with a good clay sand mix from another part of the Lab. Others went out to collect a couple western larch logs for the strawbale wall to rest on. Before we could cob the wing walls, they had to be stuffed with wool to fill the spaces between the logs and plastic liner. Hopefully this will help hold the heat in the thermal mass through winter.
First are Roel's crackly cob mixing alligator feet.
Second is Curtis packing an amazing amount of wool into the wall.
The bees and butterflies like the thistles even though Evan's bare feet don't. The first photo is some kind of fritillary butterfly in the genus Speyeria. Montana has about a dozen species in that genus and i can't really tell some of them apart. It is sipping some nectar on a bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Thistle likes compacted areas and this one will send a taproot down over two feet. The peeled stems and first year roots (before it blooms) can be eaten, but i haven't tried it yet. It might be a little too painful to prepare with all the spikes. I guess that could be an added incentive to clear it from an area.
The second photo is an aster. I couldn't find a match. The leaves have a toothed margin. The bees sure like it.
The third photo is one of the potatoes that was planted in a mini hugle down at basecamp. It seems to be doing great. Time to pile some mulch around those.
Thanks Akiva and Kai! I think you're right on this one. Zach, spurges have milky sap, and after checking, this one didn't. Although PFAF warns that other members of this genus have oxalic acid, this one doesn't taste lemony to me. I'll have to keep an eye on it and see if i can tell when the seeds are ripe.
Inge, the knapweed has been deemed a noxious weed. That means it is an opportunistic exotic and isn't very good animal forage and gets in the way of monoculture crops. The county will spray it because there is a chance its seeds will spread and have some economic impact on a farmer. The two beetles i posted were introduced as a way reduce the knapweed population and come from its home territory. But you are right, the bees love knapweed.
Thanks Leslie! I'm here as a gapper, not an ant. That means i won't be building a house for myself here (unless i become an ant). While i've been here i've mostly been working on a small part of Paul's massive to do list. I've been planting seeds and trying to build soil. We were short on rain, so lots of the growies are getting a late start. For two weeks, i was also taking the PDC. I'm currently staying in the first wofati - Allerton Abbey.
The first photo is a Rubber Boa (Charina bottae). These are passive, slow, and extremely smooth snakes. They are most active at night and so are rarely seen. They feed mostly on the young of small rodents. The females give live birth to between two and nine snakes every four years. They have a small territory and i found this one near the wofati, so maybe i'll see it again.
The second and third photos are of a female Ponderous Borer (Trichocnemis spiculatus). Their larvae feed on the sapwood and heartwood dead ponderosa pine and occasionally douglas fir, which are the two main trees around here. They leave large tunnels through the wood as they grow to three inches over several years. This beetle was about 2.5 inches!
Yesterday i posted some photos to a plant ID thread over in the plant forum for a low growing weed we have here at Wheaton Labs. Maybe you know what it is?
I've been pulling knapweed by the road so the county doesn't come by and hose us down with toxic gick. I noticed a couple of biological control insects on them. The county won't wait for these to be effective. I captured a few to be transplanted to the area across from ant village (since i was removing the food source for their offspring).
The first is the Knapweed Root Weevil (Cyphocleonus achates). They like to hang out at the bottom of big knapweeds and lay eggs so the next generation will bore out the big taproot. This will usually kill the knapweed within two years.
The second is Blunt Knapweed Flower Weevil (Larinus obtusus). It could also be the almost indistinguishable L. minutus, but they prefer the diffuse knapweed while L. obtusus prefers the spotted, so i'm betting it's the first. The larvae of these will eat the maturing seed resulting in a drastic reduction in viable seed.
The root and flower weevils together can result in as much as 95% reduction in the amount of knapweed within a few years.
Growies! The third photo is some melons i planted around the shower water heater compost when that was being rebuilt last month. With the recent rains they are growing fast! A couple of them are blooming too!
I've noticed this weed that grows as a ground cover. The first photo is taking over some bare dirt near the wofati. The second is filled in, much more carpet like, on the path between the office and the house (so it can take some trampling). The last photo is of the tiny flower on this plant (sorry i couldn't get the focus better). These flowers are only 1-2mm across. I'm hoping to find out the name to learn more about it. I suspect that this may be a good plant to seed into our finished construction areas. Thanks for any help.
Thanks Cassie! I'll keep trying to make interesting posts about the stuff around here.
The first photo is Canada Milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis). This is a taprooted nitrogen fixer. This vetch doesn't sprawl like others, and grows rather upright. The ones i've seen at the Lab have been about one or two feet tall, but it can grow to twice that. This milkvetch doesn't seem to be poisonous to herbivores like most in the genus, and is eaten by many animals.
The second photo is common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). It has very fuzzy petals inside that bell. I'm sure that helps with pollination, as insects squeeze in to get the nectar. It makes white fruit that is mildly toxic, but is eaten by a wide variety of animals. The plant has been used for medicine, soap, arrow shafts, and even as a lotion in Russia.
Third is Pineapple Weed (Matricaria matricariodes). Sometimes this plant is called wild camomile, but has a pineapple scent when crushed. This plant can withstand lots of abuse and is commonly found along walkways and roads, where compacted. The young flower buds and leaves are edible in salads and the flowers can be used fresh or dried in tea. Most of it here has gone to seed, but this one was still looking fresh.