The never ending (or starting) tale of Almanzo

As we gazed upon an apple in the eye of a dying bonfire, Stuart tried to recall an old tale from Laura Ingalls Wilder, about a boy who left a whole apple in a fire in an effort to cook it. Or was it a potato…?

Today, Amy, Jame and Will first did total demography at KJs (where you can’t shift your weight without accidentally crushing another tag), hitting 99 points, then did demography at the flowering plants on the North side of Aanenson. This task kept them busy until lunch time. Meanwhile, I went to Staffanson to collect data for Lea’s aster phenology experiment. There are still two flowering Liatris plants on the East transect, with Solidago plants in all stages of flowering. At lunch, we discussed the ways that time travel can, will, and probably has already, impacted and improved research by the Echinacea Project.

Now, was that potato story the tale of Almanzo…?

We saved harvesting in experimental plots for the afternoon. Lots of plunder was taken from P1, but it seems like something is consistently beating us to the punch in P2. Today, as well as the last few times we’ve gone, rodents (or somebody else) have eaten off parts of the Echinacea heads and left them, with broken achenes, strewn about the plot. We’re trying to recover these heads so we can accurately assess the seed sets of these experimental plants as a proxy for their reproductive fitnesses, but alas, they are no longer of this world. But don’t worry too much, because the interns will think of something clever to get around this (gulp). Meanwhile, I went back to the Dermatology clinic in Alexandria (my third time this summer —  a hat trick), where the doctor and I assessed phenology on my worts.

But wait, I’m still not sure if it was apples, or potatoes in that story…

After work, we went to Elk Lake and grilled some vegetables while watching high schoolers dive (fall off) the diving platform there. In what is either a testament to or indictment of our cooking, the vegetables actually turned out a lot better than anybody expected. The fare included marinated eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, tomato, corn, leeks, onions, watermelon, cheetos, and for those who love the taste of living creature, burgers. After this, we returned to the Hjelm house, where we lit bonfires in the backyard with some remaining buckthorn and two thirds of a bottle of lighter fluid. In a fashion almost as circular as this flog post, Stuart began to tell us the story of Almanzo —

Ah, yes, there was also the tale of the milk-fed pumpkin…

Other highlights:

  • Talking to the four-wheel man at KJs
  • Stuart’s watermelon-seed spitting
  • Finally learning whence the wind comes. It comes from Wind Cave. In fact, that’s why it’s called wind — it’s named after the cave.

Other lowlights:

  • Amy’s potty-mouth at P2
  • Grilled watermelon
  • Tomorrow is Will and Jame’s last day of the field season. Next week they begin classes, although they’ll still try to skype in to help with seedling searches.
Candid shot of Jame enjoying Kendrick Lamar's masterpiece album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.

Candid shot of Jame enjoying Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.

Stuart, mid-spit

Stuart, mid-spit

Jame is now the third-tallest team member, after Will, and bonfire.

Jame is now the third-tallest team member, after Will, and bonfire.

Cucumbers and ice cream literally every day



We’re drawing down here, folks. Today, we drove the team from the Hjelm House to work at Steven’s Approach in a single car. There, we did seedling searches, checking 18 focal plants for some of their old seedlings. There was a bit of confusion (and internal screaming) since tags there are replaced so often, and plants are mowed on the reg, but we finished by 11:30, and thankfully will have mostly easier sites remaining for seedling refinds. Yes, there were cucumbers at lunch.

In the afternoon, we hit cruise control, finishing total demography North of the Golf Course in just an hour. It turns out that the demography records at this site actually included plants from Liatris Hill, a site I haven’t visited before that we’ve mostly ignored so far this year. Man, what a pretty place it was, blanketed with sunflowers and cordgrass with leaves five feet tall, hidden from view of the roadside by a line of conifers and a hill slope. There were no flowering plants there, but several Echinacea basal plants are still alive and kicking. After finishing NGC, we returned to P1 to recheck some of the “can’t finds” from our exhaustive measuring there. We got a considerable proportion of the replants done, covering hundreds of meters and uncovering several hidden Echinacea basal plants, narrowly avoiding losing our meter sticks. Just as the aphids are slowly leaving P1, some corners of the plot are slowly being settled by paper wasps. Future re-checkers and harvesters beware.

The team breezes through total demo at North of Golf Course without a sweat (note: that last part is not true)

The team breezes through total demo at North of Golf Course without a sweat (note: that last part is not true)

After work we enjoyed watermelon slices on the porch of the Hjelm House, while Roxy enjoyed eating (mostly begging for) our rinds. We enjoyed these with our hands, mouths and faces. This was in part a celebration of our new sexy bright yellow GPS-pole, which James will lovingly nurture and employ tomorrow shooting points for his independent project (see picture). For dinner in Kensington, we tried our lot as Russian peasants, eating borscht and a home-baked loaf of bread for dinner. Yes, there was ice cream. We finished the evening with invigorating games of hearts, where James won one game and Lea won another by shooting the moon. Hmm, that’s funny, I can’t remember who came in last — there must not have been a loser.

Sweet baby (and) James

Sweet baby (and) James

Finally, shout out to Laura “Puff Daddy” Leventhal, whose last day of work is tomorrow before she heads back to Akron for a wedding and school. It was fun working with Laura, who always had good jokes or propositions for odds, let us look at her burgeoning wisdom teeth at the dinner table more than once, and was generally cool in other ways. She will be writing the last in her series of hilarious and topical flog posts tomorrow. Bye, Laura!

Where is the category for "team members sleeping"?

Where is the category for “team members sleeping”?

Keeping it 100 (percent on screen)

Hi world,

The first big issue of the day was the lone radish found in the fridge today. We tried to peddle it onto everybody on the crew, but most people thought it looked too smooshy, and nobody wanted to smoosh. Amy and I eventually split it in half and ate it before jumping in the car. Picture attached. It turned out to actually be one of our spicy radishes. I think that was appropriate because today was a spicy day.

Spicy radish.

Spicy radish. Would you have eaten it?

This day started out with distant sheets of rain that slowly crept up to base at the Hjelm House, forcing us to do indoor work. When the rain cleared around 9:30, crew members did bee observation videos. Some people were viewing bees for the first time, others were going out for their second stints. We saw some of the same patterns today that we say two days ago — Laura saw over 20 bees at Steven’s Approach, while other sites were pretty destitute. Other crew members worked on mapping and pulling hawkweed for a hawkweed eradication experiment in experimental plot 1. Also, we finished collecting our qGen2 experiment data for the year, freeing up more time and plastic toothpicks for other projects.

At lunch, to supplement our training yesterday on flower deformities, we talked about our own various human deformities, including dislocated fingers, weird moles and warts, and bruised ribs. We may make a fun little trip this weekend into Alexandria to visit an urgent care facility. From there, most of the crew split off to do phenology and GPSing. Alyson went to the bog, and Leah finished setting up plots for her own pollinator observations, and the family stayed behind to weed (including some gnarly thistles). I went up the Landfill bloc geotagging with Alex, with Abby and Lea doing phenology at the sites ahead of us and catching over 50 new buds. We GPSed over 60 flowers alone at Around Landfill and got over 80 flowers total. James and Will were able to finish mapping five sites on their own. All of this done with zero people getting electrocuted on the electric fence near the Landfill.

Alex narrowly escapes death, checking a tag for an an Echinacea under the electric fence at Around Landfill.

Alex narrowly escapes death, checking a tag for an an Echinacea under the electric fence at Around Landfill.

At home, Leah and Amy made dank filafel and salad. We all discovered that mint works just as well as dill in tzatziki sauce. After that, we played Farkle well into the night, with Amy “Farkle Queen” Waananen winning two games, the first one in a wild horse race with Lea “The Farkle Hustler” Richardson. We look forward to our Friday Pizza and Farkle night tomorrow, followed by more Farlke-related activities over the long weekend.

Travelogue: East Elk Lake Road First Contact

All the first year researchers were assigned a study site to visit and observe. East Elk Lake Road, located in the northwest corner of the study area, is a small reserve that has not been actively maintained. The site lies just off a gravel road and consists of plants by the roadside, with a ditch and hillock that run for around 200 meters alongside the road. A wetland surrounded by trees lies at the western edge of the study site, and the trees are encroaching on the prairie fragment. The study site is across the road from a larger prairie fragment contributing to a larger gene pool. The site south of the road had similar plant diversity suggesting more active management.

This study site was characterized by three different sets of plants. The edge of the gravel road is disturbed and the flora consists of a high abundance of brome as well as dandelion and Poa. Just beyond the disturbed road edge is a shallow ditch and sloping hillside. This area contained the highest diversity of forbs, grasses and legumes, many of which are native. Grasses included big bluestem and needle and thread grass. There were many native forbs, including Canada anemone, goldenrod and bedstraw. This was the only area in which Echinacea (a clump of four individuals) was found. We also found asparagus plants, some of which looked ready to eat! While many legumes are found in most study sites, this site had a surprising few native and nonnative legumes. Leadplant also grew along the hillside.  The top of the hillock was densely covered in nonnative brome, along with some relatively dense dogbane and prairie rose, but this area showed lower diversity than the hillside. This summit also featured tree saplings, no higher than five feet tall.

The size of woody trees and shrubs in the area and the large amount of duff on the hilltop suggests the site had not been burned for many years. Plant cover on the hilltop as well as an overgrown access road (we call this an approach) to the hilltop suggested the area had been used for grazing or farm fields.

View from approach with the brome along the gravel road shown on the left

View West from approach with brome along the gravel road shown on the left


Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three (4!) Bags Full

Today and yesterday Katherine and I harvested most of the heads from P1 and P2! It’s an all day affair now that it’s just the two of us, but we enjoyed seeing how much progress we’ve made- many of the rows and all of the heads for Q3 are completely harvested!   Today at P2 we had a picnic lunch in the field to maximize efficiency and enjoy the beautiful and clear fall day. I also gained a deeper understanding for just how caring of a person Katherine is. As we were harvesting she carefully ensured no bugs made it into the bag declaring, “Why must I have such a respect for the sanctity of all life!” as she herded another small bug back into its home at hegg. Unfortunately as we headed home, the truck didn’t quite start! Luckily, a kind passerby helped us jump it and after at the auto body shop we got to play with Bo, the friendly and pudgy yellow lab.

We started off today by receiving a post card from Ben! It’s addressed to all of Team Echinacea, so I urge everyone to return to read it in person (and so we can see you)! To say we were overjoyed would be an understatement, and it reminded us how much we miss our buddies who have returned home, to school, and to continue work in Chicago! Unfortunately as you can see from the pictures, some members were not so fortunate as to remain humans after the summer. So much time spent studying Echinacea has caused Gina to turn into an Echinacea and from eating too many cucumbers from the Wagenius’ garden, Ben has become a cucumber! We are impressed by how much this summer influenced our friends both academically, and physically.


Katherine cuddles Bo while the car is expected!

Katherine cuddles Bo while the car is expected!

Gina misses the project so much she's turned herself into an Echinacea!

Gina misses the project so much she’s turned herself into an Echinacea!

We miss Ben, but we like him as a cucumber too

We miss Ben, but we like him as a cucumber too

10 Sept 2015: A photo-journey


Smiles to begin the day!


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See ya!



Recruitment plot, ahoy!


Danny and Ali visible in distance


Captain K$ at the helm of USS Echinacea

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~*~ If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail ~*~ Katherine prepares to harvest!


Sub-optimal path to P2




“Make a face describing how you feel right now”




Musings from the field: “Do you think that the Vikings colors are purple and yellow because those are common prairie flower colors?”


“I like the clouds today! They’re very cloud-like!”- KGS




After yesterday, we thought we were going to need all of the mini-gBags!


Ali and Danny or Team Pallida in disguise?


Yessir yessir three bags full!


Yippee done before lunch!


The Pouch-Scarf: the field-fashion trend that’s sweeping the nation!


It’s like the cover of abbey road except that there’s only two of them, it’s close up, and they’re in the prairie



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“It’s the summer of mini-wheats and I’ve never been happier” – KGS

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Today several of us learned that “LetNo” is short for “letter-number”


Teamwork making the dream work!


Paper data sheets lost today: 0!


Don’t ask Ali how she feels about the Olympics


“Wow!! Look at the subtle gradation of color in this grass! It’s so beautiful!”


Hard times


Loyal follower


K$ saves the day


Danny “Banana” Hanson drives the tractor back to Town Hall at the end of the day

August 21: Last day on the Job

Today was my last day of work for this summer. It was also Hattie and Per’s last days. They go back to school next week! It’s crazy how much this summer has flown by! To inaugurate my last day we started with rechecking demography records. We then had our last lunch with the Wagenius’ as a whole. They are headed off towards Chicago where Gretel, Hattie, and Per will be staying for the fall (Gretel will be back and forth). The afternoon became warmer and the sky cleared up. The rest of the team got trained in on how to harvest Echinacea heads in P1. I stayed behind to finish up some work on my independent project. At the end of the day Abby and Will left without saying goodbye (I wish you both good luck in the new school year and hope that excellent times come your way). But out biggest trouble was figuring out what to do with Ricarda/Ricardo/Erica/Rica/Ric/Rick/Richard/Ricky. We debated whether to let him go on the grape vine outside the Hjelm house or to bring him back to town hall. We ultimately decided to let Ricarda/Ricardo/Erica/Rica/Ric/Rick/Richard/Ricky go on the grape vine outside of the Hjelm house.

We then headed home for our usual Friday night pizza making session! We made wonderful veggie, sausage and green pepper, and pineapple pizzas! We then went outside to watch the sunset through the smoke from the wildfires in Montana and Washington. The sun was a beautiful orb of orange as it set over the soybean fields to the west of K-town. Then someone put Kent in the shower.

Well hello there Kent!

Well hello there Kent!

Grand Water Bottle Clip 3000

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Is the Minnesota humidity too hot to handle? Are you tired of refilling your water bottle every so often? If so, the Grand Water Bottle Clip 3000 is just what you need! Tested and proven by our very own, this small piece of equipment is guaranteed to hold at least 10 bottles—- that means no more trips to refill your bottle! The GWBC 3000 is sure to have you well-hydrated enough to concentrate on recording proper phenology data AND increase your performance in sire/dam crosses! Get your Grand Water Bottle Clip 3000 today!— but it’s not in stores! Call 1-800-GWBC3000 to receive yours today!

*TODAY ONLY* BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% OFF GWBC3000! Call today and to order your very own Grand Water Bottle Clip 3000 & get the second 50% off (buyer pays separate shipping & handling) (no money back guarantee) (may not work if you are not a member of Team Echinacea) (bottle clips are not meant, for 10 bottles, please don’t try at home) (may not enhance phenology data recording or ability to cross Echinacea plants).


Harvest time and more!

On Tuesday we harvested 3 bags of heads from P1, 1 bag and 2 full egg cartons from P2


Today we trekked or “stalk whacked” through a corn field behind P1 to visit the site Kruzmarks


Where we found a sad looking Echinacea just peeking out from between blades of brome grass


where there was an interesting amalgamation of “ecosystems”… native prairie remnants, a pot hole, non-native conifer forest, and a monoculture of corn


Finally, we were able to finish out the day (Stuart’s last this season) at Staffenson. It was beautiful. White aster is blooming along with showy goldenrod and helianthus. Purple asters and gentians have maintained the purple hue as liatris is finishing blossoming.

Putting a lid on it: end of summer in Kensington

As summer draws to a close, this past weekend was spent doing what anyone does at the end of growing seasons, canning and harvesting Echinacea heads.

We’ve been a part of a CSA during the end of the summer, and have been delighted by the abundance and deliciousness of the produce we have received so far. The farm, Lakeside Prairie farm (, believes in sharing the abundance of the harvest. We have been able to come out a couple times over the season and harvest whatever they have extra of as part of our CSA. This is where I got beets and green beans to can, as well as cucumbers to pickle and lots of cabbage for sauerkraut.

Pictured below, Maureen and Elizabeth enjoying the plentiful harvest at the farm.


To bring the Wagenius’s canning pot back home I retrieve it via bike, which earned me some puzzled stares from drivers on the road.


Along with canning, we’re also occupied with Echinacea head harvesting. So far we’ve done a first round of harvesting at Staffanson Prairie Preserve and a third round at P1 and P2. We see more canning and head harvesting in our near future.