Tuesday, May 17, 2016

#Spring -- win some, lose some

The time has come, I fear, to report an unmitigated failure in germination of the butter-fly weed seeds we tried to start more than a month ago. The package said something about best if planted before last December. We ventured the cost of a small bag of potting soil and gain the knowledge that the information on the package was correct. As we look back on the list of plants we've tried to grow on our little corner of the Anoka Sand Plain, we've had considerably more failures than successes. I'm not sure why. We haven't tried autopsies or toxicology reports on the dead. In fact, one of the ways we often were sure there were dead was a lack of bodies where we had buried roots.

 Butterfly-weed (Asclepius tuberosa)
 Butterfly-weed (Asclepius tuberosa)
Photo by J. Harrington

So far, based on a quick and incomplete count, over the years we've lost about six or eight apple trees, a few less pear trees, marsh marigolds, saxifrage, several Northern Plains Blazing Stars, prairie smoke and pasque flowers, etc. They too readily seem to offer opportunistic snacks to pocket gophers, moles and whatever else munches below ground, and deer and rabbits on the surface. Mother Nature's strategy of profligate procreation as a matter of necessity for many of her offspring is becoming more clear to me every year.

eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Photo by J. Harrington

Then again, before this year, I'd never seen or heard of downy woodpeckers using Baltimore Oriole nectar feeders, nor rose-breasted grosbeaks feeding on grape jelly. Although eastern swallowtail butterflies are supposed to be relatively common, I hadn't paid much attention to or noticed them before this season. I suspect Rudyard Kipling was more correct than I like to think about when he wrote about "counting your losses." Good advice for wood-be naturalists and phenologists too. I need to go find some butter-fly weed to plant.


By Rudyard Kipling

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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