Lightning fire!! Last week, Jamie and I worked out of town, and in the field, for several projects in western Kentucky. On our way, as we were driving on a small country road through a farming town, we watched storm clouds gather ahead. As we approached the storm, several thick bolts of lightning struck the wheat fields ahead of us. We were exclaiming over the intensity of the flash, and the accompanying crack of thunder, when we noticed dark smoke rising from the wheat fields. As we approached the location of the lightning strike, the wind picked up and pushed the blaze across the fields in a line of fire and thick smoke. Wow!! We could tell the wheat had already been harvested, so essentially the field was acres of standing straw, and it was burning fast. We stopped the car, quickly looked up our location, and reported the fire to 911. Not long after Jamie got off the phone, and we started to drive away, leaving the fire to other passersby to admire, the storm clouds broke open and heavy rain fell, which I'm sure doused the flames. It was an exciting beginning to our field work, for sure.
Maybe not quite as exciting as a lightning fire, but still interesting to me, was finding the parasitic plant called dodder, which looks like orange threads wrapping the stems and leaves of other plants. Plants that are parasites on other plants are pretty cool, especially since most of them aren't green. Who need chlorophyll when you can just steal another plants juices, right? Because I've been a long time fan of the novel Clan of the Cave Bear, whenever I see dodder I always wonder if this is the plant that the prehistoric characters where using as a contraceptive. In the novel it's described as golden threads wrapping other plants. I love it when real life mimics fiction.
Speaking of Clan of the Cave Bear, when the main character's cromagnon mother braves the terrible weather, and sacrifices her own health, to find a special root that will save her adopted neanderthal daughters life by helping her through child birth, could she have been looking for black cohosh? Oh, how I love the plant related drama! I may have to read the book again, now that these plants have brought it back to mind.
We found some black cohosh while it was in bloom, which was exciting to me, since I rarely get to see it with flowers. I know black cohosh is used to help with menopause, but I also read that it was used to help stimulate labor. Cool plant.
We spent plenty of time hiking along the woods, and up and down stream channels, looking for the endangered plant that was our target, but not all of our field work was on foot. As a nice change, part of our project was on a golf course, so we zipped around in a golf cart. So fun! After getting paid to be on the golf course with all the other folks who where there on vacation, I was really loving my job!
Watching the sun set over the lake from the state park lodge balcony, while we all had a tasty beverage, was the perfect way to end a strenuous work day filled with cool plants, golf cart fun, and the state park dinner buffet.
The following day, it was hot and humid, but the light streaming through the trees made beautiful patterns in the mist rising from the flowing stream we were near. Jamie and I were working with some other folks, and as a group we hiked the forested hillsides. I like working outside. I think it's worth the heat, the ticks and chiggers, the physical strain, the dirt, the chance of snake bite or skunk spray, but what I don't like is getting stung by angry bees. Jamie and I have both experienced yellow jacket attacks while doing field work. It really hurts, and it's frightening since you never know how bad the reaction is going to be, but there's just no way to remove the risk when entering the territory of stinging insects. So, when our coworker unknowingly bumped a hornets nest with his hat, and suffered through the resulting hornet attack, we were all a little shaken, and it ended our fun field days on a bad note. Fortunately he wasn't allergic, and fortunately we were prepared with antihistamines, ibuprofen, and sting easing wipes. The "hornet incident," as we call it, has motivated us to update the first aid kits and review our first aid training, but it also caused me to have fitful sleep filled with dreams of stinging bees for several nights after. I would prefer to be alert instead of fearful, but maybe a little dose of fear will keep me from sticking my head in a hornets nest!