September, 2009

Volume 14, No. 9

What Is It? We have answers!

Over the last three weeks I have gone to all my usual spots looking for milkweed plants. NONE! The dried stems from last year are there but none from this season at all. This is in the Biddeford/Saco area. Anyone else notice this? JB

September 12, Calais (Map 35)
Moosehorn Wildlife Refugehas been an active area lately. Over the last week, we’ve seen a Great Blue Heron, American bald eagles, flocks of geese a moose. I’ll always be amazed at the sight of a moose, no matter how long we live in Maine! This cow has been spotted frequently over the last couple of weeks hanging out here in the area. I overheard talk in town that the rangers have helped her cross Rt.1 at least once. I go out every time I’m near that end of town to see if I can spot her, and I’m watching closely for the bull who must be close by, this being mating season for them. TM

September 17, Lisbon Falls (Map 6)
For the past week or so I have noticed that things in the yard have been out of sorts. One morning a small flower pot was knocked over while on another morning some plants had been knocked down. I forgot a pizza box on the table out back and the next day it was on the ground and two left over slices were gone. I decided to set up my trail camera to see who these night time visitors were. Always wanting to play the part of a good host I decided to set up a elegant dinning experience for my nocturnal guests. From the pictures that were taken they seemed to enjoy their experience very much. SY

Golden September

Why is September ‘golden’? Well, there are a lot of yellow things in September, but ‘Golden September’ pops up in my partially silver clad head because I remember an old Grammar School song that went something like:

“In Golden September with bright sunny days,
The skies are clear and blue
The bees in the clover although summer’s over
I love September, don’t you? Don’t you? I love September don’t you.”

I don’t know why this ditty is clogging up the synapses in my head, but I sort of like September, and the golds, besides a few leaves and St. Johnsworts flowers, are mostly members of the Asteracae family like Goldenrods. Here in the Quoddy region we presently have many types of Goldenrods blooming and some that are not even golden. Goldenrods can be used for a good many things. Native Americans used a poultice made from the boiled leaves and blossoms as a healing agent and relief for various types of skin irritations. Goldenrod is used as a medicinal herb, especially in Europe, for urinary tract problems like bladder infections and kidney stones. Thomas Edison experimented with Goldenrod to make rubber. His efforts yielded a plant over 12 feet tall that had a promising percentage of rubber, but the process never got beyond the experimental stage. When I was young I remember experimenting with Goldenrod stems in various forms of weaponry like arrows and fencing epees in spite of the stern warnings from parents, uncles, aunts and teachers to the effect of: “Put that down! You’re going to poke somebody’s eye out with that!” Nowadays I like goldenrods for the critters that use them. There is even a Goldenrod spider, Misumena vatia. This little spider, a crab spider, doesn’t bother to build a web but waits on a flower like Goldenrod and grabs whatever bug comes by. She can change color to almost all yellow if she sits on a goldenrod, or she can be white with rusty spots. She chose the latter color when sitting on my faded green BDN paper box. Another spider that likes to live in Goldenrods is the Black and Yellow Garden spider, Argiope aurantia. A friend gave me this one if I could identify it. I have seen them in goldenrod meadows, but I have never seen them around our house. I let her go on one of our Hollyhocks, and she briefly posed for her picture, and the next day she had her web constructed and had caught a few luckless bugs. This Garden spider likes to build her web between a couple of stems like Goldenrods (or Hollyhocks) pretty close to the ground in a spot that’s not too windy. The world of spiders is largely dictated by the ladies. Guy spiders are generally puny in size and in anything they do, and their sole purpose is to deliver a pedipalp full of sperm to the female to propagate the next generation, and their efforts are often rewarded by being eaten by their larger spouse.

Garden Spider

I’m glad I’m not a spider. All of our adult spiders will perish with the first hard frost, but I get to witness more of the golds of September. My two wretched squash plants have a couple of golden blossoms that will yield nothing, as will my only yellow watermelon that I started many months ago indoors. After three plantings I have one cucumber plant that has golden blossoms, and with luck maybe I’ll get a miniature cucumber. My sunflowers didn’t do too badly, but I have to pick one of the bright yellow flowers and count the visiting bees for the Sunflower Project. My Yellow Wax peppers, the most reliable pepper that I can grow, have produced some pretty fiery fruit, and my Yellow Jelly Bean tomatoes (Pinetree Garden Seeds) started to produce some interesting and tasty little golden gems a couple of weeks ago. The plants grew well over 9 feet high against the barn (almost as tall as Edison’s Goldenrods) but collapsed down to the 6 foot brace. Shortly we will witness the golds of the sugar maples, poplars and hackmatacks. A golden opportunity to get ready for the silver that is to come.

Saturday, September 5, Cape Elizabeth (Map 3)
Saw something today I had never seen before in all my trips to the beach. While walking along Crescent Beach at low tide you could see what I would call snail trails. Tiny lines in the sand that the snails had made as they moved through the sand. SY

September 6, Calais (Map 35)
In early August, we started noticing yellow spots on our maple tree leaves. With this year’s cool, wet summer it was easy to assume fall was falling a bit early! After some reasearch, I learned the trees have been infected by a fungus that will eventually eat up all the leaves. The condition was only aided by the wet weather we’ve experienced.

Two diseases have been identified this year by pathologists with the Maine forestry service – tar leaf spot and maple anthracnose (Kabatiella apocrypta). Trees can be reinfected in the spring as new buds develop if the affected leaves are not disposed of properly by raking and burning them. The fungal spores will survive the winter on the dead leaves, so it’s important not to add them to the compost pile.

Wood Snail

Although they look awful now, nature is constantly renewing itself. I’m looking forward to seeing the trees filled out with fresh, new leaves again next spring. TM

September 6, Molunkus (Map 44)

A walk through the forest showed us several things we missed seeing. The only interesting living creature was this wood snail spotted by my husband. I don’t think I’d have seen it. It was only 1.5″ tall and blended in well.

We didn’t see this raccoon.

We missed a moose and the chipmunks that made these tunnels.

I wish I’d missed the crab apples. They were sour! RF

September 7, Talmadge (Map 45)
There are two flocks of Eastern wild turkeys in our neighborhood. One is a small flock of six. The other is a larger flock of 17 birds. One of the poults is half the size of the others. It looks and acts fine. RF

Monday, September 7 Poland (Map 5)
Spent a few hours this afternoon kayaking on Lower Range Pond. While there I came upon a herd of turtles sunning themselves on a old log. Before some dove back into the water I counted at least six. SY

Friday, August 28 Lisbon Falls (Map 6)
Picked my trail camera up today after being out in the woods for the past two weeks. During that time raccoons, a fisher and a opossum passed by. SY

Oppossum aren’t a common sight in Maine


What Is It?

Q. My daughter who lives near water across the harbor from Boston took this picture and asked me what bird it is. I’ve checked my various references and can’t find anything like it. I know it must be a young bird of some sort. Anyone know which one? JF

A. A juvenile starling molting to winter plumage. DV

A. The unknown bird in the photo is an immature starling. LR

Q. This hedge of bushes grows alongside the driveway of our bank, and it had beautiful white flowers earlier in the season. Now the flowers are just about gone, and these deep orange fruits have grown. It may be a common thing here, but I’ve never seen it before! TM

A. Rose hips! They just grow BIGGER in Maine!
But I have a question about them… out west I was taught they are best harvested after the first frost, which generally is what gave that variety the red color. Is this true in Maine as well or can I harvest them once they start showing red, before frost? Jj

A. These are almost certainly the white form of the rugosa rose, Rosa rugosa alba. GR

A. The “hedge of bushes” growing near TM’s bank is Rosa rugosa, commonly called the beach rose or wrinkled rose. It’s native to Asia but has been introduced as an ornamental plant and thrives in New England, especailly in sandy sites such as the back sides of coastal dunes. The flowers can be either pink or white, usually with just five petals and with a pleasant fragrance.
The orange/red fruits are the rosehips–the pulpy flesh that surrounds their core of hairy seeds is quite tasty and is reputedly high in Vitamin C, though it’s hard to get very much flesh off any one hip because the hips are small and the cores are large. PC

A. Your photo is an image of a Rosa Rugosa plant, commonly known as beach rose. It is fairly common and somewhat invassive plant. The buds you see in the photo are known as rose hips and were an important source of Vitamin C to natives prior to colonial times. SB

Photo by Fred Gralenski
Lingonberries in Pembroke


Here in the Quoddy Region the blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and cranberry (V. macrocarpon) outshine their shy cousin, the Lingonberry (V.vitis-idaea). There are acres and acres of blueberry barrens and a festival specifically celebrating the blueberry and all of its beneficial qualities; there are acres of cranberry bogs, and of course cranberry sauce is a staple at Thanksgiving. No fanfare for the Lingonberry. It’s just a neat little plant that grows here on the coast and deserves a bit of attention.

Our Lingonberry, (Var. minus), is native to North America, grows about 2-3 inches high and is also called the Dwarf Lingonberry, Mossberry, Cowberry or Mountain Cranberry. Some botanical historians believe that the Lingonberry, not the grape, was the ‘Wineberry’ mentioned by the Norsemen in their sagas describing their discovery of ‘Vineland’. In ancient Scandinavia a desirable and potent wine was made from their Lingonberry. The most popular Lingonberry is the European (Var. majus). This grows about 12 inches and the fruit is commonly harvested in the wild in northern Europe, where it is made into many types of foods but famous for a sauce to be eaten with Reindeer steak. There are only a few acres worldwide where the Lingonberry is cultivated, and the Pacific Northwest is one of the areas, although the web site ‘’ from the State of Washington lists only strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries for sale. The plants are expensive; St Lawrence Nurseries list them at $10 each. An attempt was made a few years ago to raise Lingonberries in the Whiting area, but the art of cultivating them and if they can be cultivated here was not fully understood, and they generally did not prosper.

Lingonberries, like blueberries, spread mostly by sending out roots and colonizing the surrounding areas. They can tolerate pretty rough conditions, and seem to like partial shade. Lingonberries are pollinated by insects especially the bumble bees (Bombus spp), and the ‘mining ‘bees (they dig holes in the ground) of the Andrenid and Halictid variety. These are the same guys (gals) that pollinate the blueberries. The literature mentions that Lingonberries in most areas bloom twice during the year, and ripen in mid August and mid October. I’ve never noticed this, and my Lingonberries are ripening now. The fruit is tart, but supposedly sweetens after being covered by snow and tasted in late winter. My berries never seem to get that far, but are eaten by Red squirrels, Gapper’s red-backed voles, Deer mice, Meadow voles, deer, bear, foxes and seemingly everything else living here or just passing through.

I couldn’t find a word for Lingonberry in my Passamaquoddy reference book, but the Inuit called it ‘Kimminnait’. The Inuit collected the berries, crushed them and mixed them with bear fat and other dried meats as a flavoring and preservative. Lingonberries are rich in vitamin A and C, chocked full of anti-oxidants like their blueberry cousins, and the seeds have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. The Native Americans, by their normal diet, easily avoided the problems of scurvy, but it is interesting that Lingonberry or the other berries of the Vaccinium genera were not recognized by the Europeans as a cure. Cartier, on his second voyage to Canada, lost crewmen to scurvy, but was saved by the Native Americans when they told him about the healing effects of a tea made from cedar (Arbor vitae). On his third voyage, with this knowledge, he wintered over here in 1541-1542 and apparently had no problems with scurvy. Over 60 years later Champlain lost about half his men to scurvy in the winter of 1604-1605 on St. Croix Island. History would probably be different if he had collected some of the little red berries underfoot.

Editor’s Column
Robin’s Thoughts & Rambles


September 9, 2009

There’s a frost warning for downeast and northern Maine tonight. I’m ready. I picked bushels of eggplant and peppers today. This has been such a hard growing season that I’m ready for it to disappear and move on to the winter growing season.

After dropping kids off at the Springfield Fair Sunday, Steve took me to Molunkus. Ever heard of Molunkus? I hadn’t until a year ago even though it’s only an hour’s ride from home.  We were hoping to see some of the deer and moose that have been spotted recently. We saw their tracks but that’s it.  It wasn’t disappointing though. I’m never disappointed by a walk in Maine’s forest on a 70*, sunny, breezy day.  I’m taking my sister to Molunkus tomorrow. We hope to photograph deer and moose but if not, we won’t be disappointed.

I heard a new-to-me winter predictor. If the web worms are high in the tree we’ll have deep snow.  They’re high in trees here right now.  They were very low two years ago and we had 118″ of snow that winter.  I don’t think I’ll put much faith in this one!


September 2, 2009
My sister, Melissa, called Monday. “Want to go to Millinocket tomorrow?”

Of course I did! Her husband, Jon, is a contractor. He’s at Jim Strang’s cabin on Henderson Pond this week. Life is tough for Jon. He’s working in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stepped foot and the weather is perfect. Jon needed a few tools he hadn’t packed so Melissa was going to take them to Jim who would then take them to Jon. There are only two ways to get to the cabin. Oneth by hike, twoeth by flight. Melissa called back Tuesday morning. “I’m hoping we can fly to the cabin.”

Flying? In a little plane? Don’t those fall out of the sky easily?  hmmm…. Melissa has been after me to take a flight since she and Jon spent their anniversary at the cabin back in July. I’ve flown. A lot.  I remember two-story airplanes that took us off to the Philippines, flights to Florida, Minnesota and other places. I’m ok with big planes. Actually, I love flying. I wasn’t so sure about a small plane though.  Maybe we’d get to Millinocket and we wouldn’t be able to fly and I wouldn’t have to make this decision.

Just as we were pulling into the parking lot of Katahdin Air the plane was coming in to land. It looked uneventful.  I watched four men walk out to the plane, climb in and take off. It looked painless. They looked like they were having a great time!  Twenty minutes later Jim landed again.  He pulled into the dock, got out and turned the plane around, with one hand, easier than I can turn our boat around at the dock.  This was going to be a breeze! Yes, if we had the opportunity, I’d go.

I met Jim in the office. Melissa told me he was a nice guy.  Steve (my husband) told me he remembered him as being a nice guy when they met 25+ years ago. Jim paid his way through college and bought his first plane using one of Maine’s natural resources – he dug blood worms on the coast. My father-in-law bought marine worms. Small world. Jim’s schedule changed a little while we were in the office.  Marcia, one of the women who works in the office, was sure she could make this work for us.  And it did! An hour later we climbed from the dock into the plane, buckled up, put on the head phones and away we flew. It was awesome!

Jim pointed out usual spots to see moose and told us it has been a good year for seeing bear from the air. We didn’t see anything. He gave us some interesting history of the area.  The highlight of the flight was flying beside Mt. Katahdin.  We landed at Henderson Pond easily. A ride in our boat on a breezy day is rougher than this plane ride. I poked around the cabin and beach and wondered what’s up the trail beside the cabin. I’ll check it out next summer! We visited with Jon, heard some great stories and all too soon, we parted ways. The flight back was great! Jim pointed out a few more spots. “That’s where a bull moose was polishing his antlers last week.”  I hope to take another flight before they close for the season. We’re talking about a Fly ‘n Dine. I’m hooked!

Thank you for a FANTASTIC time Jim. It was nice to meet you and Marcia. I’ll be back soon!

I’m trying to figure out winter. Colder and snowier than usual? Warmer and little snow?  I don’t know. I can’t decide. My dogs and outdoor cat aren’t putting on winter coats yet. That’s unusual.  I haven’t seen a hornet’s nest so I don’t know if they’re high or low.  High meaning a lot of snow, low meaning little snow.  What does no hive mean? We usually have two or three on the farm.  I stopped at a store with my sister Tuesday afternoon to check out the bear being tagged. It was a 215 pound boar, estimated by the game warden as being six years old.  Interesting. I thought a six year old bear would be much bigger. This info makes me wonder if my little pain-in-the-butt bear isn’t as young as I thought. Maybe he’s not a mischievous young bear.  Maybe he’s just a pain the butt. I hope to not find out. He hasn’t been around in weeks and I like it this way.  Anyway! I’ve strayed off course here. I got personal with bear so I could see his teeth (brown, not nice and white) and feel his coat. It was thin. He didn’t appear to be putting on a dense winter coat yet. Take into consideration that I’ve never touched a bear in early September until two days ago so I have nothing to compare his coat to. Speculation. Lots of speculation and no really good guess about what to expect this winter. If anyone’s taking orders I’ll take a total of five feet of snow, lots of sunny days, little wind, 20*.  Please and thank you.