From Southern Wisconsin

Hank Xiong

Ambling outside can be a fantastic method of learning what is out and about and to anticipate what to expect later this spring and beyond.
Forests, woodland edges, prairie entrances and flowing springs give enthusiasts plenty to ponder and predict just by looking, smelling and listening.
Hear that hummingbird’s drone? Smell the wild plums? See the oak’s flowers?
Despite varied weather, garlic mustard is robust. Who would have wondered that when it was transported to the U.S. as a salad green it would be so problematic? Its predominance along animal trails augurs some of what dispersed this alien. Muddy feet carry teeny seeds, which grew into biennial plants and more seeds. Late frost nipped at leaves and left flowers to form and stems to be nibbled at by deer, often the guilty vector. Pull a few or a hundred while hiking. At least it gives a feel-good sensation.
Frost touched ginseng and tender shoots of others, too, sometimes setting them back a year or forever.
Yellow lady-slippers and showy orchis stemmed that hazard while other fast-growing herbs did, too.
Mayapples are split between two-leafed flowering stalks and singles resembling umbrellas. It will be edible lemony fruit in a couple months.
Morel “trees” look the same as always, but those that produce or are too old, give few clues for their poorest of showings this year.  There’s still time, barely. The hazards of poor moisture and low temperatures have righted, but this is an autumn underground grower, so answers are more entwined with something as complex as a fall maturing underground hyphal mat, root connections and spring conditions.
Morel buyers, serious pickers, and novice hikers generally say something like, “Worst year since 1972, or instead of 100 pounds, I picked 20.”
The return of ruby-throated hummingbirds is upon us, along with other migrants, even deep within woodlots. One male hummingbird appeared as though it were on a string, swinging a 20-yard arc while the lady didn’t seem to appreciate or understand.  For someone having not experienced this act, a pause could have been wise, even revealing. Who knows, maybe a nest was soon to be built. Apple blooms have provided some nourishment already.
With hummers about, sapsuckers are sure to be close at hand, some drilling sap holes, only to be robbed of juices by hungry hummers.
Burned prairies, dead elms, live oaks and apples seemed to be in a fog regarding morel growth, even though shooting stars, ginseng, and orchids were budded and some opening.
Even trees without flowers, cone trees, are spewing pollen, waiting for the wind to carry sperm-laden grains to seed cones.
The last turkey hunting period, (F), is ongoing, and toms are still courting. Many hens are nesting. One hen was noticed leaving feathers hanging on brambles when she left a partially disturbed nest. This particular nest (pictured) looked more like a planned structure big enough to contain a dozen eggs and a 10-pound hen.
Red cedars, at least on wet days, appear to have been decorated for the holidays with orange balls forming gelatinous projections.  This display is much more complicated than hanging gall-shaped balls. A fungus that jumps between apple trees and cedars is the culprit, with spores going back and forth.
COVID-19 has been accused of causing another Ungreatest Depression. To help cope with many takeaways, reading Beuna Coburn Carlson’s book, “Farm Girl, A Wisconsin Memoir,” published by The University of Wisconsin Press in 2020, is a great place for outdoor-minded folks to begin to cope. The book originates in Plum City, Wis.
This pandemic could be an opening for deer management folks if they allow it. People during Carlson’s childhood, and now, will continue to need food. How about loosening the deer regulations and seasons during these troubling times? How about a system “allowing” hunters to kill a deer for non-hunters? The deer population can stand it in most areas. Following COVID-19, start over with season discussions.
Other outdoors activities can assist the need for food, the need to be alone, and the need to allow nature to drown out the vortex of dealing with something as complex as a disease-causing parasitic particle.
Summer is starred with strong fishing, including trout, walleye, panfish and catfish.
Many fruits have already started forming. Put faith in the fruit of the bloom.
Farm crops - alfalfa, soybeans, corn and oats - remind one of a Victory Garden to occupy time and feed our hunger.
The great outdoors continues to be an answer to some questions and problems we face.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112