Al Batt: Sniffing the south end of a porcupine

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

I’m glad it’s summer and not winter.

Do you like hot, muggy weather?

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No, but think how terrible it would be to shovel snow in this heat.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me. The weather had been up and down. I dumped the dust from the rain gauge in the hopes water could find room there. It’s dry, but at least I don’t have the hiccups. Bo Jackson, one of the greatest athletes in history, won the Heisman Trophy in 1985 and later played in the NFL and MLB. A hip injury cut his athletic career short. “Bo Knows” was the theme of a 1980s Nike campaign featuring Jackson. Now Bo knows hiccups. Jackson said he’d tried every cure, including smelling the south end of a porcupine. I doubt he sniffed a single porcupine. An Iowan, Charles Osborne, holds the record for hiccuping—68 years. Doctors couldn’t determine cause or remedy for Jackson’s chronic hiccups. DIY remedies abound. I had hiccups for three weeks. I said “pineapple,” named seven bald men I knew, had someone order me to hiccup, held my breath, held down my left ear, ate spoonfuls of both sugar and peanut butter, and drank water from the wrong side of a glass.

I’ve learned

Parthenocarpic cucumber varieties don’t require pollination to produce fruit. 

There is no bottom to politics.

Barbers can’t cut hair any longer.

I enjoy boring politics.

After reading “Moby Dick” three times and watching whales in Sitka, I’ve determined it’s better to watch whales than harpoon them. 

When I figure things out, I learn I haven’t figured things out.

I grew up around Dwight Potter, Dwight Miller and Dwight Casper. They looked nothing alike, but they each looked like a Dwight.

The perfect peach is so juicy it should be eaten over a sink.

Nature notes

Roadside botany offers tall, yellow flower stalks of common mullein and evening primrose (blooms at dusk). Primrose’s Potawatomi name is “yellow top.” No one is sure when wild parsnip (native of Europe and Asia) arrived here or how. There are records of this plant being in Wisconsin in 1894. It’s a biennial that grows 5 feet tall with leaves of two to five pairs of toothed leaflets often shaped like mittens. It has yellowish-green flowers that form umbrella-shaped clusters 4 to 8 inches across and bloom in June and July. The stem is green, 1 to 2 inches thick and smooth with few hairs. Wild parsnip grows in sunny open areas, such as pastures, fields, roadsides, and disturbed areas, and can tolerate different soils and moisture levels. Wild parsnip is persistent even after being sprayed. Contact with its sap combined with the presence of sunlight causes phytophotodermatitis, unpleasant rashes or blisters on skin. The prairie plant golden alexander, a native perennial, can be mistaken for wild parsnip. The primary difference between the plants is a matter of scale. Wild parsnip is much more robust. Both are lacy-looking plants with thick green stems topped with disk-like clusters of yellow flowers, but golden alexander is significantly smaller when mature. Wild parsnip has appreciably broader leaves, and bigger, flatter flower clusters. Wild parsnip has deeply forked leaves and those of golden alexander are smooth with fine serrations. The flowers of wild parsnip form flat clusters, while golden alexander flowers are more loosely and unevenly clustered. Queen Anne’s lace has white flowers that bloom in an umbrella shape pattern called an umbel. Queen Anne’s lace usually has a single purplish flower in the center of the umbel. Legend says Queen Anne pricked her finger while sewing the lace and a droplet of her blood fell to the center of the flowers.

If there are webs on a lawn on a dewy morning, and the sheetlike webs aren’t sticky and have a funnel (tunnel) on one side, it’s the work of a  funnel or grass spider. The webs become noticeable on the heavy dew of a cool, humid morning. A web could be a dollar spot fungus. The branching mycelia of this fungus resemble spider webs on the grass, but dollar spot disappears when dew dries. Excess moisture and lack of nutrients are causes of dollar spot fungus.

Meeting adjourned

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”―William Penn.