Camping Memories


We went camping this weekend.  I hope my kids will remember their camping experiences fondly.  The gentlemen slept in the tent with me, while the ladies fought over the guest bed in my folks’ pop-up tent camper.

When I was a kid, we used to go camping a couple times a year with family friends.  Unfortunately Mom and Dad’s friends did not have their own kids until I was in high school.  I hope my brother and I were not a factor in this decision.  Our favorite camping spot was a lake a couple hours into Wyoming.  I remember camping on an island and watching fireworks on July 4, 198?.  My aunt and uncle joined us at the lake once when I was about 13.  They actually had kids, their youngest at the time was probably not one yet, they had a three-year old and another around 10.  The oldest cousin was a couple years younger than me, but lived with her mom most of the time.  She didn’t visit her dad nearly often enough, but we always made the most of it when she was around.  I don’t really remember anything specific about that time, just that it was fun to have someone new to play with.  Do you remember that Jules?

The Wildflower family doesn’t do things the easy way.  If you are picturing us pulling up to the island in a motorboat, you are sorely mistaken.  We had an inflatable rubber raft and a few paddles.  No waterskiing for us.  I remember quite a bit of river rafting.  This would not be serious white water style rafting, but the river did have some interesting spots.  I also remember my folks rowing across a huge lake because they left the pickup at the wrong end of the lake.  Oops.  My crazy uncle kept rowing the opposite direction as the other rowers.  I don’t believe they kicked him off the raft, but I know they wanted to.

We camped in a tent.  I remember sleeping in the tent that belonged to our then kidless friends with my brother once.  It was in the mountains somewhere and really cold, as in it snowed that night.  The wind also blew, and blew our tent over.  I have vague memories of thinking a bear was after us, but then going back to sleep (or possibly into a temperature induced coma) when nobody ate me.  When we woke up the tent was under an inch of snow.  Two preteen sized bumps in the snow were the only signs a tent was ever there.

Drive by Tomatoes


I had to take the van in for something and I drove past the dealer’s camper lot. I found my dream camper, so I made the guy give me a tour. Oh, it is just what I would want.

  • two sets of bunk beds
  • very small
  • front part folded out like a tent with queen bed
  • it would be an awesome way to visit my MIL (or anyone else for that matter) without imposing

It is pretty hard to justify something like that when we don’t go anywhere. That and the fact that we don’t have the money in the first place. But a girl can dream. I took pictures, and if I had fast internet, you’d be looking at ’em. GD pointed out that maybe it won’t sell this year and they will knock a lot off the price. Yeah right. But if we don’t go anywhere, why get it? They wanted $11,500, and it is an 02.

On the way home I did something I’ll bet most of you haven’t. The little community just north of us (on a US highway) has a couple of road side melon/produce stands. This time of the year not much is ripe yet, so they don’t man the stands. They chain a tool box with a slit cut into it to a table and post a price list. I got 12 ears of corn (mmmmm) half a dozen ugly tomatoes, two zucchini and four huge bell peppers for $10.50. I wrote my check and slid it into the slot. In two weeks things will really take off and I could buy pretty tomatoes from real people. Some people from Washington stopped as I left. I wonder what they thought!

I made a zucchini cake today and as I cracked my homemade eggs, I found little specks of blood. This is very typical of homegrown eggs, and it is perfectly safe. I guess they breed the anomalies and the color out of eggs at the factories. Some people candle their eggs, I don’t know what that is really, but I guess you can see things that customers may not want (like specks of blood). GD killed the rooster earlier this month (after he attacked me), cooked him and fed him to the dog, so we definitely won’t have any eggs with chickies in them. All he was doing was harassing the hens, maybe they will re-grow their back feathers now.

It is embarrassing to admit I bought zucchini, but our garden is a complete train wreck. In my defense it was under water three separate times, and it had standing water for a few days too. I planned to get out there and weed it tonight after Paul went to bed, but he didn’t zonk out until after 10. GD would rototill if I just found the things he was supposed to miss! I planted zucchini and a few other things, but they got planted late, so they will be producing late. I have my fingers crossed. The atrazine from the corn field across the road wiped out our raspberry bushes. They looked beautiful too. Somehow the tomatoes survived.

My friend OBL wrote about her disappointing experiences with farmer’s markets where she lives. I don’t know what planet Barbara Kingsolver lives on, but I have never seen a market like what she describes. Nobody sells lettuce or anything early, they don’t even set up until after July 4! The informal one has maybe four vendors, the honey guy, the two roadside stand folks from the next town and maybe another guy who just sells corn. On a side note, I used to drive by a sign that read “Corn on the Curb.” How clever is that? The more organized market is now defunct. They had several more vendors, a meat guy, the honey guy, an herb woman, homeschoolers selling homemade cookies, and someone who made goat milk soaps. I don’t think the farmers from up the road even had a spot there, probably because they had to pay for it. There might have even been some crafts too. You certainly couldn’t count on getting much in the way of groceries there. I guess the more farmer’s markets get patronized the better they will be. I hope so.

Theater is gone with the wind


Ten dollars says that is the headline on one of the three local daily papers tomorrow.  After the tornado went through Kearney a month or so ago, I saw a photo on the news showing the drive-in theater screen with a few panels missing.  I thought “Uh oh.”  Yep, they tore it down today.  I very rarely go to the movies, and driving an hour to do it was not very convenient.  I had only been to this theater once.  I am not sure I ever went to another drive-in, but I always wanted to.  Nebraska still has two operational drive-in theaters.  One of the theaters is kinda close to where I grew up (an hour away ) so I will have to take the kids one of these days before that one gets torn down too.  They never even gave the town a chance to raise money to help fix the screen.  Do you have drive-in movie memories?  (Hat I am sure you do but I’m not sure I want to hear them!)  Do you have a drive-in near by?  Do you go?

Good Mother? Bad Mother?


  • I fed my kids cookies for a snack, then made peanut butter celery sticks for myself. Pretty soon the kids were eyeing my snack wanting some.
  • I organized a home circus complete with elephant, tightrope walker etc.
  • I made the ladies pack for themselves when we went on vacation – with photos from catalogs telling them what they needed and how many.
  • I lock my kids out of kitchen so I can cook supper and watch Friends in peace, except lately I have been having one of the ladies “help” me cook. It is so hard to get them to play apart from each other, and I can’t cook with three or four kids in the kitchen.
  • I labeled several objects throughout the kitchen by name, so Mae could work on her reading. Then I moved them a week later so the door says fish and the fridge says chair.
  • I took the kids to the sitter so I could take a three hour nap.
  • I can be talked into reading to them for hours on end.
  • I’m pretty lax with sunscreen, because our lawn is so well shaded.
  • I let my kids dress themselves nearly all the time.
  • I keep driving past the water park with vague promises that we will go this summer, but I have only taken them to the wading pool once, and it is free.
  • I admitted in front of witnesses that the bathroom is my favorite room of the house, because the door locks.
  • I recently found myself resisting sharing an avocado. I mean seriously, I have a kid who wants to eat a healthy vegetable and I won’t share it with him?
  • We have flashlight safaris in the living room.
  • I drink pop and don’t share it.
  • I rent Looney Tunes from Netflix to distract my kids so I can clean the kitchen.
  • The kids are used to being hustled out of the house because I usually try to do one too many last things before leaving.

If my parenting was a weather forecast it would be “Mostly benign negligence with brief periods of intense creativity.”

Five More Native Plants



  • Needle-and-thread
  • Previously known plant
  • Stipa comata
  • Perennial, grass family, found in drier sites across the Great Plains. Needle-and-thread is related to two other very similar species. This cool season grass (it matures in the late spring) is a staple of drier ranges. It is both drought and winter tolerant. Its seeds are very sharp with a long twisted awn attached, thus its common name. American Indians bound rows of seed heads into bundles and used them for a comb.


Shell leaf penstemon

  • Shell-leaf penstemon
  • Previously known
  • Penstemon grandiflorus Latin translation: Big flowers with five stamens
  • Perennial, figwort or snapdragon family, Eastern Great Plains. It is also called beardtongue and bluebells. This plant is striking due to its height as well as its showy flowers, but disappointingly it has no scent. Several species of Penstemon grow in Nebraska, but only one is scented and it is done blooming. I may write about it later, if I see any, which I probably won’t. Several tribes used Penstemon to treat a variety of ailments including stomach aches, chest pains, vomiting, toothache and both snake and eagle bites. The Lakota Sioux made a dye from another Penstemon for use on moccasins.


Black Samson

  • Black Samson
  • Previously known
  • Echinacea angustifolia In Greek, echinus means sea urchin or hedgehog
  • Perennial, sunflower family, various species found throughout the Great Plains. American Indians used Echinacea for many things and passed this knowledge to pioneers. They treated mumps, smallpox, snakebites and bee stings, toothaches, rabies, arthritis, and stomach cramps, as well as symptoms of the common cold. Some tribes used it as a stimulant like primitive caffeine.
  • In 1871 Dr. H. C. F. Meyer, a patent medicine salesman of Pawnee City, Nebraska, who had heard about the use of the plant by the Indians, marketed a tincture of the root as Meyer’s Blood Purifier. This potion was touted to cure syphilis, gangrene, diphtheria, cold sores and malaria as well as everything the Indians used it for and many other diseases as well. Dr Meyer was so sure of his blood purifier, he offered to let a rattlesnake bite him, then he would cure himself using only his medicine. In the 1920s scientists tested Echinacea but could not find evidence that it cured snakebites, anthrax, botulism, tetanus or tuberculoses. It does have medicinal properties, aside from treating colds. If you peel the outer skin from the root and chew on the black and white tap root your mouth will tingle in a metallic way and go numb, apparently it has numbing properties when used topically as well.


Showy Milkweed

  • (Showy?) Milkweed
  • Previously known
  • Asclepias speciosa Nebraska is home to 15 species of milkweed, and many of them are very similar.
  • Perennial, milkweed family. In the 1940s, the US government began ordering lifejackets and flight suits lined with milkweed because it is light and very buoyant. It is also used in comforters. Milkweeds have an incredibly sweet odor, but the scent masks several toxins. Monarch butterflies eat large amounts of milkweed while they are in the caterpillar stage, and retain the toxins once they become butterflies. Birds learn to avoid eating monarchs because of this. American Indians cooked milkweed much as we might use cabbage. Children chewed the sap like gum. Dried seedpods served as spoons. The most interesting medicinal use was to aid in lactation. They believed the white milkweed milk would encourage a mother’s milk. If that weren’t enough, they also used it to cure tapeworm and as a contraceptive. I am pretty sure my contraceptive does not guard against tapeworm, but maybe I should ask my doctor.


Sensitive Briar

  • Sensitive Briar
  •  Seen one other time
  • Schrankia nuttallii
  • Perennial, mimosa family, found throughout the central and southern Great Plains on dry disturbed sites. Rather than the flower what you actually see are tubular pink stamens each tipped with a yellow anther. The leaves of this plant collapse inward when they are disturbed, and they are great fun to mess with. The leaves may collapse to conserve moisture.


I am running scared.  This whole George Bush legalizing wiretapping thing has me as nervous as a career politician in a room full of anarchists.  Somebody from Virginia, and you know who you are, has viewed my website 8 times, about every hour and a half, since midnight last night.  This has been going on for weeks and weeks.  Pray tell have I written something that will compromise national security?  Is it my party affiliation?  Is it a internet version of a robo-caller?  Is it because I blocked RonPaul08?  Am I so interesting they must check on me several times a day?  I don’t read my blog several times a day – and I love to read my writing!  Why not subscribe and get over it?  You know, when I worked for the USDA I had security clearance of the most elementary kind, is someone afraid I will reveal Ted Turner’s Nebraska address? Where certain endangered plants can be found?  How to get your land enrolled in the CPR haha inside joke(CRP)?  I hate to think of not looking at my footprints anymore…it used to be fun to speculate what the person from Australia was after but now, I don’t know.  I was really tempted to put the Anarchist’s Cookbook on my Currently, but decided against it.  Maybe just putting it here will redlist me.

Monday Musings and grammar

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I laid awake last night thinking of grammar. I like to think I have a pretty good handle on the written word. I admit I overuse commas, and semi colons remain a mystery, but otherwise I think I am pretty good. I took the grammar test on the Daily Writing Tip’s web site and got a 70%. Not a stellar score, but it has been 19 years since I took Mrs. Kortum’s College Comp class. I may not always be right, but I know where I might be wrong. Double punctuation is another problem of mine.

The concern keeping me up late was my use of Lewis as possessive in my last post. I wrote “Lewis’”. Is that right? According to Lynne Truss who wrote Eats, Shoots and Leaves, it could be. Great. I like a wishy-washy grammar answer. She pointed out that punctuation usage is in flux. Her rule is:  (I wish I could get this to not double space on a hard return without going to bullet points, if there is a trick, please let me know.)

Modern names ending in “s” (including biblical names, and any foreign name with an unpronounced final “s”), the “s” is required after the apostrophe:

Keats’s poems

Phillipa Jones’s book

St James’s Square

Alexander Dumas’s The Three Musketeers

[okay, there is my answer…or maybe not]

With names from the ancient world, it is not:

Archimedes’ screw

Achilles’ heel

If the name ends in an “iz” sound, an exception is made:

Bridges’ score

Moses’ tablets

And an exception is always made for Jesus:

Jesus’ disciples

Now we find ourselves mentally pronouncing “Lewis”. Loo-ess, how is that different from her example of Moses? I say that Moe-sess, not really an “iz” sound, and while I am here, doesn’t Jones end with an “iz” sound? I will let it stand. Please forgive me if you think it should be “Lewis’s”, or better yet tell me why it should be. You could also tell me if I should have the comma next to the “s” or after the “”” mark.

My next question is, do you know anyone named Meriwether? It seems that name has gone out of general usage.

On to another topic.

I am thinking of going with an occasional theme for Monday, like Memory Lane Monday but that sounds really corny. How about Monday Musings? I think I will go with that.

Bill Gates describes “Musing” as:

1. vti think about something: to think about something in a deep and serious or dreamy and abstracted way Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

and we know Bill Gates is the authority on all things.

Monday Musings for July 7

My musing today is a recipe. Many of my good memories revolve around food. I remember good restaurants and what I ate at them. I get excited when I learn a new cooking skill, like making crepes (incredibly easy… now if I could only get someone else to eat them with me). I love to try new recipes, I love eating. Occasionally Mom used to make this completely unique dessert. It is called Ritz Cracker Pie, and it is wonderful.

Ritz Cracker Pie

  • Add ½ t baking powder to 3 egg whites. Beat until stiff.
  • Gradually add 1 cup sugar and 11/2 t vanilla, beating again.
  • Gently fold in 1 c chopped nuts and 20 crumbled Ritz crackers.
  • Pour into a 9 inch greased pie plate (8X8 works better for a carry-in dish).
  • Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.
  • When completely cool, spread with one cup whipped heavy cream.
  • Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

I think of a recipe as a guide, so I start altering things the second time I make them. Believe you me this does not need to be refrigerated 8 hours. It changes and is good after refrigeration, but it is plenty good without waiting 8 hours. I have put fresh fruit and whipped cream in this, it is good with ice cream in it. I bet it would be good with just a drizzle of chocolate, ooh and maybe a mint leaf. I will have to try that next time. I just ate three pieces (there wasn’t enough for everyone so I took one for the team) so the next time I make this will not be very soon.

A Step Back


First, a note about my sources. I have my trusty out-of-print Wildflowers of Nebraska and the Great Plains by Farrar which is an unparalleled source for Nebraska flowers. I own three copies, the nicest one stays in the office, the one with the denim book cover rides around in the car with me, and the one with the bunged up cover is in the kitchen. My second favorite sources are two books by Kelly Kindscher, Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie and Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie. These delightful books are full of original sources and chock full of information. Melvin Gilmore’s 1914 thesis, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, for (I assume) a master’s degree in Botany from the University of Nebraska is a fun historical perspective on native plants. He did lots of primary research among Indian tribes along the Missouri River. My oddest source is a huge three ring binder I literally had to beg a man to copy for me. Clarence Nollett put together over 450 pages of spectacular information called Range Grasses and Plants of the Native Prairie.  I may very well be the only non-descendant to own the book.  I am unsure, maybe a little skeptical, as to Mr. Nollett’s sources, since he often has information that none of my other books contain.  Finally, I received a copy of Plants of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Phillips several years ago as a gift, and I look forward to really delving into it for the first time.

July 1-41

Now a plug for the place I bought most of these books. The tiny town of Valentine, Nebraska has the best bookstore in the world, well definitely in Nebraska. The Plains Trading Company stocks everything from Harry Potter to Ben Green’s Horse Trading. He has Cather’s complete works and Snyder Yost and John Grishom and Amy Tan. It has the unique feature which keeps a small town (1100 people) book store in business, something for everyone. He stocks a treasure trove of plant, animal and nature books as well as tons of stuff about Indians and cowboys too.

These photos are re-runs but with more information, as promised.

white-eyed grass

  • White eyed grass
  • Previously known
  • Sisyrinchium campestrae
  • Perennial, Iris family, found in the Southeastern Great Plains
  • The leaves come directly from the ground like domestic iris do.  American Indians made a tea from this plant to treat stomach cramps and hay fever



  • Rose
  • Previously known
  • Rosa arkansana
  • Perennial, Rose family, found throughout the Great Plains
  • Rose hips or fruits were used as an ingredient in pemmican, a mixture of meat, fat and berries the Indians ate in the wintertime. Many tribes used rose petals in salads and as a fragrance for hair oils and perfumes. The young shoots were used as an herb. The bark, roots, petals, hips and stems were used by different tribes to make teas. I have made rose hip jelly, it tasted a little like apple jelly. Various parts of the rose have been used widely by Indians and pioneers to treat diarrhea as well as a variety of eye problems including snow blindness and cataracts. Rose hips contain an enormous amount of vitamin C, much more than your basic orange.

Prairie ragwort

  • Prairie ragwort
  • Previously known, not researched
  • Senecio plattensis
  • Perennial, Sunflower family, found throughout Great Plains
  • Senecio in Latin means old man. The name refers to a tuft of white hairs at the top of the plant’s fruit. Several species of Senecio grow across the Great Plains.  Lewis’ journal vaguely alludes to Senecio along the Missouri. American Indians used some Senecios to treat a variety of uterine issues. According to Mr. Nollett, it is mildly poisonous to livestock, causing liver damage and a disease called stomach staggers. He also notes that it was used to increase perspiration and treat kidney stones.


  • Onion
  • Previously known
  • Allium canadense in Latin, canadense means northern
  • Perennial, Lily family, found throughout the Great Plains
  • Both onions and garlic grow wild in the prairie. They look very similar to each other and also very similar to a plant called Death camas, which is highly toxic. Bear this in mind if you think you see a wild onion. Onions flower though June. American Indians used onions for cooking, in much the same way we do now. Indians used onion to relieve many maladies including coughing, vomiting, sore throats, ear infections, swelling, constipation, colds, headaches and sinus trouble. Explorers ate onions to prevent scurvy. Onions provide a good source of vitamins C and A.

pink poppy mallow


  • Pale Poppy Mallow
  • I knew of the purple variety
  • Callirhoe alcaeoides
  • Perennial, Mallow family, found in undisturbed sites in the Southeastern Great Plains.  A close relative, purple poppymallow is quite showy and grows along road ditches.
  • American Indians cooked the roots like parsnips.  The leaves when cooked are mucilaginous and were used to thicken soups

Odds and Ends


This weekend our neighbors invited us to their family reunion. Cool huh? They had a cream can dinner. I had heard of them, but had never been to one. They took a new cream can, like what farmers used in the 1950s, and filled it with corn on the cob, carrots, chunks of potatoes, two kinds of squash chunked and still on the rind, bratwurst and cabbage. They added some liquid, maybe beer? Then they cooked it on the top of one of those turkey fryers. It was wonderful. I need to find out what the liquid was.

This week and the next I have the ladies enrolled in morning classes at the local museum. This week is Tipi Preschool and next week they learn about pioneer and Victorian life on the prairie. Maybe the gentlemen and I will go find some flowers to photograph, and visit the museum.

I got my new dishwasher installed. GD had me pick it up Friday and by Saturday evening I was cleaning out the fridge and putting gross leftover dishes in it. We got a low end expensive dishwasher. It is above the Kenmore we had and still comfortably under the $1100 models on display. I love it. It got dried deviled egg stuff off of my dishes! I will be completely impressed if it gets egg yolk. Must. fry. eggs.

I accept the challenge


I am joining a Xanga plant challenge. When I saw “100 species challenge,” I thought for sure it would be birds. I have a heck of a time with birds. You can pick up plants and look at them then glue them to paper for future reference. You can pick up bugs and look at them then pin them to a board. If I could press birds and then peruse a bird book at my leisure it would work great for me. I have actually pressed some birds – on the grill of my vehicle, but it can be difficult to identify them if too many feathers blow off and it just isn’t a very reliable method of bird collection. Not to mention the fact I feel bad every time I drive over something I shouldn’t (see previous post).

I see this as a great opportunity to drag my kids into mosquito infested pastures and make them resent my passion for plants. My dad drug us to cemeteries and museums for decades and guess what? I am interested in history…but I can visit a museum and not read each description of each article, unlike my father. Today I headed over to the hay field next to our property. The grass is taller than Mae, and we were all wearing shorts, so it wasn’t as much fun as advertised, but I took the butterfly net and camera, so the ladies had something to fight over. I got a new weed (I probably should know it) and some grasses. Is marijuana native? I will have to look that up. I wonder if it has any cultural properties I could research…lol. They call it Nebraska No High for a reason I suppose.

Here are the official rules and then my personal modifications to them.


1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge. I [Sarah] will make a sidebar list of anyone who notifies me that they are participating in the Challenge.

2. Participants should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the participant’s home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

3. Participants are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can name in the first post in which that plant appears. My [Sarah’s] format will be as follows: the numbered list, with plants making their first appearance on the list in bold; each plant making its first appearance will then have a photograph taken by me, where possible, a list of information I already knew about the plant, and a list of information I learned subsequent to starting this challenge, and a list of information I’d like to know. (See below for an example.) This format is not obligatory, however, and participants can adapt this portion of the challenge to their needs and desires.

4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts. This can be done either by tagging these posts, by ending every post on the challenge with a link to your previous post on the challenge, or by some method which surpasses my technological ability and creativity.

5. Participants may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

6. Different varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries (e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate entries); however, different species which share a common name be separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g., camillia japonica and camillia sassanqua if the participant can distinguish the two–“camillia” if not).

7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge. You can make it as quick or as detailed a project as you like. I’m planning to blog a minimum of two plants per week, complete with pictures and descriptions as below, which could take me up to a year. But you can do it in whatever level of detail you like.

Wildflowersp’s tweaked version:

2a. Plants will be native species to this area

2b. I am going to have to increase the range too, maybe go county-wide

3a. The thought of messing around with loading 100 photos on dialup is enough to keep me up past midnight, so not many photos.

  1. New plant or previously known plant
  2. Common name
  3. Latin name
  4. General information including where located
  5. Cultural information
  6. New information I found

On your mark, get set, go!

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