Summer Issue: Coming Right Up!

It’s the first official day of summer, and the sign up sheet for the summer issue of Bezhig Eta (just one) is open! Are they printed yet? No, they are not. But they’re going to be! Expect them to hit your mailbox approximately in July sometime. It will be summer. There will be zine. I got a stash of envelopes from my mom & a couple sheets of stamps from a plantstagram friend, so I’m all set.

The summer issue is on pipsissewa or gaagigebag (everlasting leaf), Chimaphila umbellata. Since it’s in the same family as the spring issue, I’m tempted to stick with that for the fall and winter issues – but I wasn’t planning to, originally. I guess once fall is approaching, I will just write about whatever plant I feel like at the time. It seems far away right now, so I can’t really guess what that will be.

I have thought about taking requests, but I can only write about plants I know, so I’m not sure that would work. On the other hand, I’m really curious what plants people want to read about! Leave me a comment or email me if you have ideas.

June plant walks

There’s another plant walk weekend coming up! Saturday 6/18 I will be at Beaver Hollow again, 88850 Compton Rd, for an 11:00 plant walk & talk focusing mainly on what’s blooming along the boardwalk through the marsh. Come early and/or stay late to scope out the awesome wildflower garden near the parking area! Free but registration is required. We will try to wrap up around noon but 12:30 is more realistic.

Sunday 6/19 we’ll trek up the Iron Bridge / Gil Larsen trail at 1 pm, meeting at the public parking lot at Washington & Broad. Since we’ll make frequent stops to look at plants, we will not cover a lot of ground, skipping out toward the school and coming back down along Third Street. However, this one involved some stretches that are a bit steep or narrow or wet, compared with Beaver Hollow being super accessible. Again, this plant walk is free but registration is required.

If you can’t make it this time, there’s always next month! I’m doing monthly walks at Beaver Hollow on the third Saturday. July’s Sunday walk will be at Brickyard Creek!

Earth Care Plant Walk & Talk

In addition to my series of ‘third Saturday’ walks at Beaver Hollow this summer, I’m leading another series on Sunday afternoons! These will move to different trails around the Bayfield area. The first one is *tomorrow* Sunday, May 22, at the Les Voigt State Fish Hatchery on highway 13 just south of Bayfield at 1:00 pm. Registration is required, but we still have room for more!

This series is hosted by Bayfield Presbyterian Church, which holds a special status as an Earth Care Congregation. That means the church has made commitments to take action on several facets of environmental stewardship, including education on the natural world around us. Of course, the walks are open to all!

Upcoming walks in this series:

June 19 Iron Bridge Trail ferns & streamside flowers 

July 17 Brickyard Creek conifers & wood-edge flowers 

August 21 Brownstone Trail shrubs & native grasses 

September 18 Frog Bay Tribal National Park lichens & fern allies 

October 16 Salmo Trail fall color & fall fruits 

Registration link for our May walk at the Hatchery: https://forms.gle/bQe59N1XHSqa5YEs5

Beaver Hollow Plant Walk & Talk Series

I am thrilled to announce I’ll be leading monthly plant walks at one of my favorite spots, Beaver Hollow (the place with the blue heron nests!) this year, May through October.

Although the event technically starts at 11, I’ll be hanging out in the wildflower garden beforehand, so come early to check that out. We’ll gather in the outdoor classroom to talk about what’s in bloom, and then go see what we can see along the boardwalk! As we head back up to the parking area afterward, I’ll point out a couple good places to duck into the woods – no trail, but that’s 100% allowed, choose your own adventure.

The only thing is, to keep the group size manageable, registration is required. You can sign up for free here and learn more about this awesome nature preserve here. If you scroll to the bottom of their homepage, you can get on Beaver Hollow’s email list to be reminded about the rest of this series! 

While there is no fee to attend, I strongly recommend supporting Beaver Hollow and/or joining Friends of the North Pikes Creek Wetlands. Becoming a member of this group has wildly changed my life – I’ve gotten involved with awesome projects and met awesome people I never would have otherwise.

p.s. If the days & times for these walks don’t work for you, keep an eye out for info on *another* series of plant walks I’ll be leading this year, on Sunday afternoons!

Another year bursting with flowers

Although we’re only a month into 2022, my calendar is filling up with wonderful events throughout the blooming season. I’m looking forward to hosting two separate series of wildflower walks (one in Bayfield and the other nearby). I’ll post more details on those once they are publicly announced by my partner organizations. I’m also hoping to work with Arrowhead Native Plant Explorers again, because I had a great time on Wisconsin Point with them last year – but even if I don’t end up leading a walk with them this season, I will definitely make the drive over there to learn about some new plants and places. A couple other plant-related collaborations are brewing, too, so it looks like a busy season ahead.

And although we’re already a whole entire month into 2022, I’m still working at getting all my wildflower seeds outside to cold-stratify under the snow. Ha, I imagined getting all of them outdoors in the first week of January! I only managed about 40 containers before I took a break from it, but now I’ve gotta finish that while we still have half of winter left.

The other thing I’m doing this month is culling some of my veggie, fruit, herb and flower seeds so I can share with my local seed library. Now that I’m more confident in my ability to save seeds from mature plants, I don’t need to keep any more than what I’ll plant this year. I’m excited to help build up our local collection and develop landraces (or, locally-adapted varieties) by selecting seeds to save over time.

Finally, I’m figuring out where all these miraculous seedlings will be planted a few months from now. Very little of my land is cleared. I’ve been squinting at satellite images and sketching on graph paper, looking up soil and sunlight needs and making absurd lists of what-goes-with-what. I know that, to some extent, this planning will be futile, because life unfolds in unexpected ways. But this is the time of year for garden dreaming, so in my mind, I see all the gorgeous colors, hear the bees buzzing, and feel the August sun on my shoulders. It’s really just around the corner.

Update: Unlocking Meeker

I finished typing up my notes SORT OF. I’ve popped them into a mega spreadsheet. The next step is to type them into a nicely formatted manuscript & create a printable pdf.

If you’re interested in checking out my notes, and especially if you’re willing to leave feedback to help me create a nice commentary on The Big Green Plant Book as I call it, here is a link to my document:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1fwGIZNF4sd8nXhr-q4qSkDqT-6-aeK27-J6mT8sxvVQ/edit?usp=sharing

The Big Green Plant Book

Of the many plant & language resources I use on a near-daily basis, one of my key go-to books is Plants Used by the Great Lakes Ojibwa (by James Meeker, Joan Elias, and John Heim). I think of it as The Big Green Plant Book. Published in 1993 by my local treaty authority, GLIFWC (Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission), it is a compilation of data drawn from historical ethnobotany texts. Each page covers a single plant species, with botanical drawings, range maps, and notes, added by Jim Meeker. Meeker was working for GLIFWC at the time & teaching at his long-time post, Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. (Meeker and Elias were a married couple, and Heim was a student at Northland – now working at GLIFWC I believe.) I never met Jim, but he is remembered quite fondly around here. Must’ve been quite a guy.

In the introduction to the book, the authors appeal to readers to supply ojibwemowin names where they are missing or unrestored. Unrestored names are those listed in the text (not in bold, usually in parentheses), copied directly from the source texts without being transcribed into modern orthography. They’re difficult to read and understand, nearly impossible to know how to pronounce. I’ve been going through the book and attempting to transcribe as many of them as possible. I’ve also been adding names from other sources that were not included. One roadblock I hit is when there is an unrestored name in a source I don’t have access to (and can’t find the same name recorded in any other source). Often the source texts include a meaning or other details about the plant and its use, giving context clues that help me figure out the root words of the name. Eventually I’d like to get access to all those old sources – but it’s exciting to have found so many additional sources which either corroborate a listed name or supply a name that was missing. Some of these sources were around at the time of publication, and some have been published more recently. Ojibwemowin is a living language, and while there are not many speakers here in northern Wisconsin, there are fluent/first speakers with plant knowledge across Anishinaabe-akiing.

The text is almost 30 years old and I think it’s time for a second edition, not only to expand on the language. Taxonomy has changed a lot, especially in the past 5-10 years with genetic testing. The plant range maps (which cover the ceded territories of Lake Superior Ojibwe in northern Michigan, Wisconsin, & Minnesota) also need updating as more thorough information is now available but also as plants migrate due in part to climate change. And it could include photos, many of which I’ve taken. It’s a project I would love to be involved with, but for now I just keep chipping away at restoring the language. I’m planning to publish my notes online as a little commentary that can be used as an appendix of sorts, adding to the wealth of knowledge in this great book.

aaniin, waabigwaniin!

That means “hello, flowers” in Ojibwemowin, the Ojibwe language, and it’s how I start all my little plant pronunciation videos on Instagram. It’s the equivalent of “hey, guys” at the beginning of every video on YouTube, or my version of “hey, all you cool cats and kittens” if you will. It’s also the hashtag you can use to find all these videos on Instagram – or just click right here!

I started making these videos after several people asked about pronunciation for the plant names I was sharing. They should really be taken with a grain of salt, because I’m a language learner, and my pronunciation isn’t perfect by any stretch. There can also be regional variation in how we say words and even in what we call plants, because Anishinaabe-aki (Ojibwe country) stretches hundreds of miles away from me in different directions. Even though I’m not qualified to teach the language or anything, I figured I can at least post videos of how I learned to say these plant names. Some plant names are simple and widely known, like giizhik for cedar, but some are a little more intimidating! So even if I don’t get it perfect, it’s a start.

Since each video focuses on just one plant, they are really short. You could binge all of them in just 10-15 minutes.

One other hashtag for all these videos is #ojibweplantnames which also pulls up all my plant pics with text overlaid, showing the names (and their literal translations) along with the flowers, berries, leaves, or other plant material. I’ve made about 150 of those images so far.

My life list of plants + Ojibwemowin

Over the past five+ years of documenting plants in Ojibwe country, specifically the western end of Lake Superior, I’ve built up a pretty long list. Up until now, it wasn’t published online, but I would share the link with anyone who wanted to scroll through it via Google Drive. At this point, it’s been so widely shared, that I may as well just publish it. So, here it is!

The final tab lists resources I’ve used both to identify plants and to find their names or descriptors in Ojibwemowin (the Ojibwe language). Since I’m just a language learner and not a fluent speaker, I always recommend folks check out those sources in addition to my work.

When I come across names recorded by non-speakers using archaic phonetic spelling, I transcribe those names into the modern orthography commonly used in Wisconsin and Minnesota, known as double-vowel or Fiero. While this makes the names easier for learners like me to read and understand, it also opens the door to me making mistakes.

This list isn’t a compilation of the existing literature published by others. Rather, it is a list of plants (and other beings!) I’ve encountered, photographed, identified, and researched. It’s built around my interactions with the land. For that reason, there are many plants listed without names, and many plants not listed. But I hope it will still be helpful to others, if nothing else, whenever possible, to greet our plants by name.