Friday, June 29, 2012

on the surface

smooth water morning
silhouetted reflections
soon a breeze will breathe

Photo Location: Big Crooked Lake, Grattan Township, (Grattan Township) Kent County, Michigan

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


"Pop quiz?"

"But Mr. Havenga, you didn't tell us this was coming! We didn't have time to study!"

"No worries! If you've been Walking With Father Nature, you should do fine."

"Please number your paper from 1 to 10."

"Now, identify these plants by looking at only the veins."












Number Correct = Rating

9-10 = Master Botanist
7-8   = Minor Botanist
5-6   = Future Botanist
3-4   = Wanna-Be Botanist
1-2   = Perhaps Another Branch - Scientist
0      = Hope you liked the greenery


1. You may ask anyone for help except "Father Nature".
2. You may review any WWFN post: April, May, or June.
3. You have 48 hours to finish. (Answers due Friday, June 29, 2012 @ 8 A.M. EDT)
4. Please hand in your tests when you're done. See instructions below.


In the "comments" section at the end of this post, write:

1. answer 2. answer 3. etc.

I will accept answers through Facebook, although I prefer WWFN.

Good Luck. Good Skill. See you soon. I'm going to do some field work with my camera.

Hint: Answers one and ten are the same.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Is "Pretty Weed" an oxymoron?

This plant would seriously belong in last week's post: "Weeds or Wildflowers" (June 18). I am tempted to vote weed when I see it growing profusely along the very edge of every road all over the midwest, from now to early autumn. It looks as gangly and obnoxious as ugly's cousin. But when the flowers appear, well, you decide...

Chicory's stiff stem bears several stalkless, showy, blue (rarely white or pink) flower heads.

From underneath, looking into blue sky.
The flower's width is 1.5" diameter (4cm) with several square-tipped, fringed rays.

The two-parted style is surrounded by dark blue, fused anthers. Can you see little square columns?

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Basal leaves (3-6" long) are shaped like a spatula, resembling Dandelion leaves, and are pinnately cut (feather-shaped).

Root: Long, stout, and fleshy with milky juice.

Height: 12-52" (30-130cm)

Flowering: June - October

Habitat: Fields, roadsides, and waste places.

Insect pollinated; chiefly bees.

Only a few flower heads on a plant open at one time, and each lasts only a day. In fact, they open in the morning, and close in the afternoon. It is not a good vase flower.

This is an alien from Europe and Asia, and has escaped to abundance throughout most of the U.S.

Chicory was used as a means of extending the coffee supply during the Civil War, WWI, and WWII.

Some people prefer Chicory to real coffee.

The Chicory used to be cultivated for this use. If you want to try the process for yourself, go for it. Find a strong and experienced shoveler, because the ground is usually hard-packed and dry along the side of the road. Dig up some of the long roots.

Wash them thoroughly.

Scrub them with a stiff brush, or scrape them with a knife like I did here.

Then roast them slowly in a partly opened oven until they will break crisply between the fingers, exposing a dark brown interior. Grind them and store them in a closed container for brewing as a coffee substitute, or for blending with your regular supply of coffee beans.

I did not do these last steps because the recommended harvest time is just after the flowering ceases.

NOTE: This product is available commercially. I've seen it on the web for $6.99/pound. While you're looking for it, be certain to research (Google) this plant. There are numerous articles promoting it; as well as some articles against it due to possible side effects after long-term use.

Chicory has many nicknames:

Blue Sailors, Wild Succory, Ragged Sailors, Barbe de Capuchin (French Endive), Blue Daisy, Blue Dandelions, and Wild Bachelor Buttons.

I'll bet that the UNC students and alumni love this color:

Now that you've spent a little time with "Chicory"
she wants to ask you two crucial questions:

"Do you think I'm pretty?"                                                    

"Or do you think I'm an oxymoron?"

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Photo Locations:  Grattan Township, (Grattan Township) Kent County, Michigan

Reference:  Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants - Bradford Angier (Angier)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sky Touching Earth

stiffly brittle
yucca standing firm
resisting persistent
winds rattling
rack of pods
above coarse
sword leaves
enduring slow burial
under white sand
horizon perfectly
curving along
sky touching earth
©  2012  Richard Havenga

Photo Location:   

White Sands National Monument,  (White Sands) Alamogordo,  New Mexico

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ripe and Ready

When I was a boy, growing up in the country, the Fourth of July meant three things: one was hard work (for a 12-year-old), one was pleasurable work, and one was just plain exciting.

July 4th seemed to be the average date I got to help my Dad and a neighbor farmer, Jim Boylin, bale our hay. While balancing on a moving, bumpy-ride hay wagon, I got to stack the 60-pound bales until it was full; over-my-head high. Then we unloaded them in our barn and stacked them to above the cross beam supports. All the hauling, throwing, lifting and stacking was done by hand; and muscle. All done in the dust, the sweat, and the chaff of July's heat and humidity.

The exciting part was firecrackers! The tiny red ones all bound in flat little red tissue packages. The short fuses all fused together. Most years I was able to get some. Anticipation was as high as expectations.

The pleasurable work, and a sort of reward for the hard work of haying, was picking some Wild Black Raspberries. At that age, in 1960, I had the delicious freedom to wander and explore about 300 acres on four different farms. I knew where to find the Wild Black Raspberries, and when they were ripe and ready for picking.

*                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *

Due to our odd warm spell early during this 2012 spring, the berries are ripe and ready early. I can't tell you exactly where we found these, but my wife joined me for the harvest.

We are very efficient pickers, so if anyone was a few hours, or a day behind us, good luck. We cleaned them out. But there will be more every few days.

Before we get deeper into the thickets and thorns, let's learn a little about the Wild Black Raspberry.

Prickly, or bristly arching stems, called canes.
White flowers, compound leaves, whitish below.

Insect-pollinated flowers in spring; chiefly bees.

Black Raspberry can tolerate moderate shade.
Blackberry fruits often dry on the plant, while Black Raspberries fall to the ground when over ripe.

Cloning raspberry stems rise from a perennial base and last for two years; flowering and fruiting only in the second year. Floricanes (second year stems) often show smaller, less divided compound leaves than Primocanes (first year stems).

Black Raspberry often roots again at the arching tip of the stem. Last year, this dark-colored fruiting stem was green. The green cane to the left will bear fruit next year. That's one way it spreads itself, hopping around like this, in very slow motion.

In the late 1970s I thought I made a discovery that Black Raspberries thrive under Black Walnut trees, but I found another author (John Eastman) who knows this to be true.

Rubus fruits are not technically berries, but "Small, black, juicy drupes, packed in diminishing circles about the elongated receptacles, forming a flattened, hemispherical, aggregate fruit". But you can call them berries.

(This is a six-inch section of stem. Click on any photo to enlarge)

They have strong, hooked prickles, spines, short thorns, call them what you want, on the rigid, white-powdered stem (cane). We averaged an "Ow!" or an "Ouch!" about every ten seconds when we waded into the thickest thickets.

Berries detach easily from the receptacle, which remains on the fruit stalk.

Black Raspberries are widely consumed by a host of birds: pheasants, grouse, wild turkeys, Blue Jays, Tufted Titmice, Veeries, Wood Thrushes, Robins, Gray Catbirds, Brown Thrashers, Rufous-sided Towhees, Northern Orioles, and more.

Mammals that eat them include: Chipmunks, Raccoons, Squirrels, and bears if you have them.

Dense raspberry thickets provide excellent nesting and protective cover for many birds and mammals.

In the winter, White-tailed Deer and Cottontail Rabbits browse on the stems.

On June 21 and 22, Rich and Mary harvested 10-12 cups of berries in two outings.

This large serving bowl holds about four cups. One cup of berries = 2-3 times the amount of vitamin C found in an orange.

What else can you do with these wild, free-for-the-picking, delicious Black Raspberries?

Toss some in a bowl of cereal.

Scatter them over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Or with anything else you want.

I am a lucky man to be married to the best baker in West Michigan.

Mary whipped up this fine-looking pie (from scratch) right after we got home from picking. She dusts it with a light sprinkling of sugar before it goes into the oven.

Then she baked it (40 minutes @ 400*) But she had to hold me back from devouring it, while it cooled.

Just look at this sweet dessert! Our just reward. If you were here, we could share it with you.

Thank you God for providing. Thank you Mary for your baking expertise.

Now hurry! Get ready: long pants, long socks (beware of Poison Ivy). Get your bucket, your persistence, and start picking. The Wild Black Raspberries are "Ripe and Ready".

Okay, I've really got to go now. Mary said the pie is cooled enough to eat, and I get to scoop the ice cream. Mmmmmm...

Wild Black Raspberries (Rubus occidentalis)

Reference:  The Book of Forest and Thicket - John Eastman (Thicket)

Photo Location: Cannon Township, (Cannon Township) Kent County, Michigan

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Didn't everyone's Grandma and Great Grandma have Forget-Me-Nots growing in the corner of a moist, shady garden? Perhaps they grew the Tufted Forget-Me-Not, which is very adaptable to garden soils.

The species featured on this page is the True Forget-Me-Not. The wild one.

I found them in cold, clear water. A barely flowing streamlet, with no defining edges. It began as several springs seeping from a nearby slope (above the "Springhouse"*). Then the springs merged into a slow, meandering waterway; mostly invisible under the dense growth of plants. This streamlet was laden with Water Cress, Sedges, Cattails, and, lest I forget, these tiny blue beauties.

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

With my knee boots on, I eased into the deep mat of aquatic vegetation. A heavy dew had settled on all the plants overnight, and these flowers still held tiny beads of moisture.

A slender, weak perennial.
Erect at first,
partially reclining later.
Sprawling upon
Water Cress,
leaning on Sedges.

Sky blue flowers
with yellow center.
Growing on small, curving,
divergent branches.
as flowers bloom.

Flowers: 1/4" (6mm) wide, corolla 5-lobed

Flowering: May - September

Leaves: 1-2" long, oblong, blunt, hairy, mostly stalkless

Height: 6-24"

Habitat: streamsides, wet places; prefer cold, clear water

  • Introduced from Europe and once extensively cultivated.
  • It is now naturalized around streams, lakes and ponds.
  • In bud, the tightly coiled flower cluster resembles the tail of a scorpion, hence the species name (scorpioides).

How did you like it?
Your Grandma loved it!
If you are blessed
with children,
or blessed
with grandchildren...

Please remember
to show them,
(or to grow them)
the Forget-Me-Not,
so they will...

True Forget-Me-Not  (Myosotis scorpioides)

Photo Location:

Wabasis Lake, (Wabasis Lake Park) Kent County Parks, Michigan

* "Springhouse" - On the lower level, 100 yards west of boat launch.
                                A great place for your kids to play in the cold, shallow water.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Photo Haiku - Montana

sun brightens foothills
just upstream from Paradise
Absoroka Range

dozen horses graze
seek green patches in valley
"paints" are most handsome

head-butting and dust
bull buffaloes fight for mates
winner takes harem

clouds collect color
twilight settles on grasslands
Meadowlark's last song

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Photo Locations:


1. Pine Creek, Montana

2. Medicine Tail, Montana

3. National Bison Range, Ravalli, Montana

4. Crow Indian Reservation, Crow Agency, Montana