Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thresherman's Park

Thresherman's Park, where the Rock River Thresheree takes place over the Labor Day Weekend has a woods. And in those woods the wild grapes are ripe. The drought that curled the leaves, broke with weeks of rain which has filled the grapes with juice to bursting. It was in my mind to gather some of those grapes and perhaps make something out of them. Jelly? Grape juice? Wine?
Thresheree? Yes, Thresheree. Many years ago, some farmers realized that threshing, harvesting and removing the grain from the chaff, was no longer being done the old way and people were fascinated by the old techniques and in the old machines because they'd never seen it done that way before. So they banded together donated some land, and formed a club to keep the knowledge and the machines from being lost. The Rock River Thresheree was born.
My extended family has been participating in the Thresheree for decades.
That's my second cousin Marty, (Once removed?), on top of the tractor. So since I'm here...
My "job" for the Thresheree doesn't start until the steam engines (steam powered tractors) are fired up. I'm scheduled for the water wagon. The water wagon goes from engine to engine refilling their boilers as needed. Because if the boilers get short of water the whole machine blows up. And I mean BLOWS UP, giant chunks of metal hundreds of feet in the air.
This gave me a bit of a pause. But obviously these guys know what they're doing or they'd be dead. Right? At least that's how I comfort myself. But as they are slaving away, getting these fascinating machines going, I'm thinking grapes and head for the woods. It is the time of year when the fruits come to, well, fruition.

The woods are absolutely full of grapes. Unfortunately, I realize, the grape vines have crawled up the very tall trees and getting them down to do anything with them, could just be a rather large problem.

They do look luscious and perhaps tomorrow if I brought the long gadget in the garage, meant to lop tree limbs, perhaps I could clip clusters down. But today, I'm just not tall enough. I'll just wander awhile.

That's when I notice these. Perhaps some sort of cherry? I've not found out yet so I'm not making any jelly out of them. Good Rule Number One, as your mother told you, if you don't know what it is, don't eat it.

Then walking down the tracks, yes there is also a steam powered train on site, The Cannonball, I come across this flower. I think it's Woodland Sunflower. I've not seen one before. It's interesting that because the Park is about machines. Machines and rarely herbicides are used to control the plants. And as there are many portions which aren't mowed all that often there are still native plants on the land.

And here, Red Ossier Dogwood with it's distinctive white berries and red stems. Also a favorite of migrating birds. What about people? Dogwood Berry Jelly? Good Rule Number Two, even if you know which kind of berry it is, if the frugal local people don't make jelly out of it, it's either nasty tasting or poisonous.

Which brings me past the steam engines again. Look into the fire box. That's the hole with the door. See the pale streak inside near the top? That's the arm of a fourteen year old boy. And what's he doing in the firebox? He's giving it an ultrasound. I kid you not.
Typically it's pregnant women who have a clear gel squirted on their abdomens from a container that looks like nothing so much as the old plastic ketchup and mustard bottles used at hotdog stands, and then a sensor is passed over the area in order to get a look at their unborn babies. In this case, the squirt bottle of gel looks exactly the same, the boy inside squirts a bit on the metal inside the firebox, puts a pen like sensor to the metal and "ultrasounds" it. This is the method used to find out the thickness of the metal of the firebox. A spot that's too thin could--you guessed it--cause the machine to blow up. I'm off again.

Look at this! This is a giant anthill. A giant anthill for Wisconsin or New York anyway. It's a good three feet across. Guess they've not be disturbed in awhile.

They look to be regular ants. Amazing what happens when humans haven't intervened either intentionally or unintentionally.

Then I see these. Bright red, luminous berries on a bush with lobed serrated leaves. I think they're currants but back to Good Rule Number One. Take it home an look it up before you eat it and be sure.

Yes, they are definitely currants and currently definitely sour. I wonder if they're ripe?. Then when I looked up a jelly recipe and find it takes 7 cups of sugar for 4 pounds of currants I realized these might not be ripe but even ripe they are possibly a little tart.

Now here we have more luminous red berries and look, on the left is that lobed serrated leaf. Currants? Take that out of your mouth! Actually look more closely. These berries are more "drop" shaped and the currant leaf on the left doesn't belong to these berries. Look closely, they are on a plant that is mature enough to vine slightly. Look carefully. This is Nightshade. Or as my mother called it Deadly Nightshade. If I touched it she made me immediately go into the house and scrub my hands.
Actually, according to my botany professor, it's quite hard to poison oneself to death by eating , Nightshade. Though as he said, "You'll just wish you were dead. The hallucinations are reputedly horrid." The common name of the compound in question is belladonna. Spanish women used to make an infusion of it and put drops in their eyes to dilate the pupil.
Marks of beauty can be very strange.

Then suddenly I see another cluster of berries. And just what are those? They're low; they'd be easy to get. They seem to be attached to the wand like plant with the broad leaves. It's False Solomon Seal. False Solomon Seal Jelly? Never heard of it. Do you remember Good Rule Number Two? Indeed.
Enough with the berries for the moment, next up something for the squirrel fans.
New Yorker, Bill Walters, sent a link to a New York Times piece about the squirrel in right field at the Yankees vs Red Sox game the other night...

SPORTS / BASEBALL August 30, 2007
A believer of Norse mythology might have advised Yankees fans to not make too much out of their victory against the Red Sox on Tuesday night.
Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

Your image with dark purple berries (almost black), which you're not syre about is Rhamnus frangula. The berries and bark are used medicinally as a laxative.

Donegal Browne said...

Thanks A!