Holiday Weekend!

On Saturday we celebrated the 4th of July! This weekend was filled with fireworks, food, family and the lake. The team got together on Saturday and had a big slip and slide, bonfire and ate lots of food. My family was in town this weekend so I couldn’t participate in the teams get together. But my weekend was still fun!

For my individual project I chose the aphid exclusion project. I will be studying how aphids effect echinacea plants and I’ll measure that by comparing leaf color and leaf length from non aphid echinacea and echinacea that have aphids.

Slipping and sliding into Independence Day

I think it is pretty safe to say that 2020 has not been the best year. During these relatively unfortunate times, it is important that we go out of our way to create positive experiences for ourselves and those around us. Of course, members of Team Echinacea are lucky to get to do field work every week day, and we also are blessed to be able to work with each other. However, when July 4th presented itself as an opportunity to have some fun with the team, no one was going to pass that up. Thus, we had a “first-time” experience with Team Echinacea yesterday… a July 4th slip ‘n slide!

Generally speaking, the team goes to a lake on the 4th and cooks out with the Wagenius family. Due to the current global situation, we decided to stay away from the general public. Stuart was a great host for the team on his home turf. He supplied us with root beer floats, snack packs, and popsicles while we read the Declaration of Independence. Thereafter, we discussed how the Declaration is holding up in current nationwide affairs. It was a very healthy discussion, and I think we will consider the words in the Declaration when we discuss fostering diversity with Team Echinacea in the future.

After our discussion, we transitioned to the great slip ‘n slide! It was a ton of fun! Drake donated his hoop-house plastic to slide down, and the Wageniuses supplied us with well water, hoses, sprinklers, and dish soap. It was a ton of fun! There were a variety of methods folks used to get down the slide, and it seemed like a constant struggle to find the optimal method. If anyone is looking for a video of themself going down the slide, please feel free to contact me for it!

Once the slide was over after a couple of hours, folks went home. Late in the night, though, the Andes people came over to the Hoffman House for a quick bonfire. It was a lot of fun, and really capped off the day with some great bonding!

People setting up the slip ‘n slide! It took a while to figure out how best set it up!
It eventually looked like this (very good)!

Flying through phenology

Today we were back at it again in the remnants, well-equipped with knowledge of both the phenology protocol and the phonetic alphabet for our radio chatter. John and Mia cruised to Wiley in the Bombusmobile, the New A Team of Anna, Anna and Amy stomped Around the Block, Emma and Riley teamed up in the Big East and Stuart, Allie and I chugged through Choo-Choo Corner. We were all back around 11:30, setting a land-speed record for 2020 rem phen!

chugga chugga buzz buzz

On Wednesday I wrapped up the first round of surv this season, so now every site has a map of flowering plants that the team can use during phenology. Though we’ll keep shooting through the season as we find more plants, the major surv push is over! Now I have time on my hands to help with phenology, so Allie gave me a brief tutorial and then it was off to the races this morning.

I started on Yellow Orchid Hill West, which threw just about every possible problem at me. I had new plants, old plants without phen records, mutant heads and two-small-plants-or-one-big-plant? questions to ponder.

The pollinators were out and about this morning, with a bold augochlorella coming in for a landing on an echinacea I was examining for style persistence. Maybe I should have checked back in a bit to get a more accurate assessment of shriveling! While doing phenology I also interrupted mating beetles and accidentally knocked a goldenrod crab spider off its hiding place on a flowering head, so today I guess I was bugging arthropods instead of the other way around.

In observance of July 3rd, that fateful day preceding the day when soon-to-be ex-British-colonists signed the Declaration of Independence, we ended work at noon. Lunch proceeded with a reduced crew and a lively discussion of all the different kinds of fruit preserves we could think of. It turns out that the good folks at Wikipedia have already made a list which seems to be a lot more comprehensive than ours (did anyone come up with fruit butters or curd? I sure didn’t.)

I’ve kept myself busy this week making memes. Emma and I are cooking up some hot new lingo that we’re excited to unveil to the rest of the team in the next few days, but until then enjoy this biting commentary on the West Central Minnesota Arsonist (still at large?)

Happy 3rd of July, y’all!

Big week—start of measuring

Greetings flog!

Today we kept up the steam that we’ve had going all week, this time with measuring Echinacea in P7 and P9, two experimental plots out by Hegg Lake. This involved working in teams of two to find all the Echinacea plants present in each of these experiments and measuring aspects of their fitness including number of rosettes, number of leaves, and length of the longest leaf. Lots of working methodically down rows and searching for itty-bitty, seven-centimeter-tall, one-leaved Echinacea plants among the grass and litter! Good thing everyone’s “Ech vision,” and work ethic, is strong at this point.

In the afternoon Mia gave an interesting presentation that she’s preparing to record for the Botany conference this year about pollination and genetic structure in naturally fragmented populations of a desert plant, Erythrina flabelliformis (coral bean). It was really cool to hear what she’s been working on!

In non-Echinacea news, I saw my first flowering Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) yesterday, along with my first Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) of the season, both in P2!

Stay cool,


An interesting bee pollinating a flower observed during phenology yesterday. ID, anyone?

Phenologists Going Strong

The Echinaceas Team has been hitting the phenology of the Echinacea angustifolia on the remnant prairie plots in western Douglas Country. This morning, the team split up, divided and conquered each remnant’s flower’s status . (Latin phrase: Veni, Vidi, Vici – which tranlates to we came, we saw, we conquered). We have been assessing each flower that has been uniquely identified with a number tag and a colored twist tie so that we can be as certain as we can of each of the flowers. The Echinacea Team has been gathering data for 25 years which makes us the world’s foremost authority on Echinacea angustifolia (according to me).

Riley T puts the “f’ in phenology on a site we call on27.

There’s much variation in the flowers, not only in there stages of flowering, but in their differences in color, age and height.

Nearly white petals
Brown petals

The afernoons have been filled getting caught up on Stipa searches in P1, flagging P8 and planning out the execution of our individual projects.

Amy and Allie diligently working on the porch.

Happy 4th of July to everyone.

Phenology Monday

Hey flog, it’s me, Amy!

What an exciting day. The team spent most of the morning checking on phenology in the remnants. We split up into four teams to cover the whole study area: the Big East Team (Stuart and Anna M), the Andes + Erin crew, the A-team (Allie, Anna A., and me), and Riley and John. It was a lot of fun. More and more plants are presenting pollen, but for now most heads are still buds or are just starting to present ray florets.

This is the only picture I took today! Check out those antennae.

The most fun thing about today was that we used a walkie talkie app on our phones to stay in touch while doing phenology. We practiced our radio lingo and learned what our initials are in the NATO phoenetic alphabet.

Persistent plant growing three rows into the soybean field at On27 (Photo Credit: Mike Sierra aka Mia Stevens)

In the afternoon, the A-team went back out to do phenology at Landfill and others started searching for Stipa. We finished the day with chores.

Huge opportunity for wishes! (Photo Credit: Mike Sierra aka Mia Stevens)

I can’t wait to do this all over again on Wednesday!

Erin keeping her boy Darwin dry during some sprinkles at Loeffler’s Corner, a site in the Choo Choo Corner Route (Photo Credit: Mike Sierra aka Mia Stevens)

Yours sincerely,

Alpha Whiskey

(Photo Credit: Mike Sierra aka Mia Stevens)

Lakes, bonfires, and a loose goat

Hi flog! Today began slowly, with people in the Hoffman House up and about doing some field work and getting some errands/chores done.

However, this afternoon the Hoffman House crew and some of the Andes Tower Hill folks met up for some relaxation at Elk Lake. Some of us braved the plant-filled, squishy-bottomed lake for a nice, refreshing swim.

A view of Elk Lake

After that, we headed back home for some dinner, and then to Hjelm to meet the goats and have a bonfire, complete with the requisite s’mores. Emma started the second bonfire, which resulted in a gigantic flame. You could have roasted a marshmallow 10 meters away from the fire.

Emma with her fire – you can see what’s left of the first fire in the bottom right.

There are 9 goats staying at Hjelm House this summer and they are all adorable. They love eating treats and nibbling on fingers. For the most part, they are all well-behaved goats. But, one goat, Noess, decided that it would be better outside the fence than in, and hopped out to join us at the bonfire. Noess spent part of the night missing and part of the night trying to eat marshmallows with us.

Saying hi to the goats!
Noess on the loose

We were also joined by many mosquitoes and some bats. Everyone had a great time and we look forward to more evening bonfires in the future!

Busy Thursday

Hi flogland,

Here are a few things that happened today:

  • A steady trickle of plants on their first day of flowering continues to roll in. Very exciting!
Anna M took this beautiful picture of an Echinacea head on its second day of flowering at Loeffler’s Corner
  • Erin E finished surveying all of the sites where I will be doing my crossing experiment, which looks at the effects of outcrossing distance and inter-parent asynchrony on offspring fitness!
  • A team completed a first round of twist-tying flowering plants at p2.
  • The team got trained in on Stipa searching.
  • I looked for flowering plants at East Elk Lake Road and encountered the plant tagged 18136, which is precious to us because we have been tracking it since it was a baby seedling. It might flower this year, but the bud is so little it is hard to tell!
Just a little bud!
  • My department at UMN had a forum about experiences of racism in our community, following several weeks of dialogue. My peers shared powerful statements, and I am hopeful that this will lead to positive change. Black Lives Matter. Read more about the perspectives we expressed in the open letter we wrote to faculty before the meeting.
Self-awareness is key!



Week #2

We began week #2 stalking Staffanson Prairie for Echinacea first in the rain and then if the pleasant breeze. We estimated about on 150 flowering plants on the East quadrant and will hopefully get to the West tomorrow morning. It’s simply amazing the variety of species found there and also the colors present. We then spent the afternoon visiting some remnant plots looking for flowering plants.

Prairie Smoke from Staffanson’s Prairie
Wood Lilly
Prairie Turnip – my new favorite this summer, replacing Monarda fistulosa

We then had an afternoon Zoom meeting wth Jarred Beck, Echinacea Project Alumni from 2014 discussing the history and benefits of burning praire. He also discussed upcoming research on burning some remnant prairies starting next spring.

Bees, ‘bees and bureau drawers

We had a pretty quiet Sunday here at the Hoff House, except for the constant rumbling of the washer and dryer. Stuart, Emma and Mia all paid us visits to do their laundry. The sun finally came out in the afternoon and I joined Mia in the yard, where we watched a bee which she identified as Bombus imaptiens trundling around clover patches.

Allie, Riley and I took advantage of the sun to throw a frisbee around the yard. The winds were gusty and occasionally carried the ‘bee way over our heads! Afterwards we deliberated about making crop circles in an un-mowed field of grass adjacent to the lawn, but if you see anything about aliens on the news this week, it wasn’t us!

UFOs have been reported in the area

Our Bombus friend returned and Riley and I chased her around the yard. We’ve named her Biggio for the MLB player and her enormous length. There seems to be several Biggios hanging out in the yard, though, and hopefully there will eventually bee enough for a pickup ball game.

Biggio! This doesn’t seem to be the Biggio who Mia orginially identified, as this one seemed a little smaller.

The Hoff House is largely unfurnished, so I was really excited to rescue a dresser from the side of the road yesterday. The former owners of the dresser drove up and said hello as I heaved it into my trunk, which briefly terrified me into thinking I was robbing them. Today Riley helped me haul it upstairs and I have now transitioned from a floor-based organizational system to a drawer-based one.

Not pictured: The antique framed photo of a church that the former owners of this dresser asked me to take as well

Let me know if you see any large bees or spare furniture on the roadsides of West Central Minnesota! The Hoff House has a vested interest in both of them.