July 2008 Archives

Echinacea angustifolia is flowering late this year.

Peak flowering this year was 27 July. Peak was 12 July and 14 July in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Here's a rough graph that shows flowering phenology in these years. Red dots are the count of fl plants on each day. Horizontal gray lines indicate days that each plant shed pollen.


See the updated animation of flowering in the common garden experimental plot.

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Here is a picture of the "inside-out cucumber" that Per brought into the Hjelm house today. But is it merely a strange vegetable or an apparition of the Virgin Mary? The vegetable says you must make a pilgrimage so that it can give you blessings.

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While perusing the BBC Mundo website to improve my Spanish, I ran across an article explaining the relation between tracking bees and tracking serial killers. And apparently, these British scientists are using tiny, tiny radio transmitters to track their bumblebees. An article just about the scientists from February was linked to on the page, and that article even has a video on how they attach the transmitters! Again, no ice packs, but no dominant hand and forefinger, either. Using forceps, it looks like they have the bee put in a special container that presses the bee against a mesh with foam, and then place the tag. Pretty cool, but I think a Melissodes is a little to jumpy for that, compared to a quiet bumblebee. Food for thought, though, I suppose. Thanks, BBC!

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Robberflies can catch bees in midair. I've never seen it myself but I know that's not all they can do....

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The spider could not be reached for comment.

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cr.jpg cr2.jpg

There's something going on with the grasses in the common garden. I'm not sure whether it's crown rust, but it might be.

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Hey everyone,

We've been working at organizing and analyzing our data and just wanted to share some of the highlights with all of you and give some tips for next year's bee squad.

- 9 bee genera recorded
- 72 bees painted
- 258 bees recorded
- 330 flights recorded
- 831 head visits recorded

We'll post some nice flight maps once we have them put together (Denise is quickly becoming an R expert).

And now some advice for next year...

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As of 25 July 2008:

1422 of 1850 heads have started to flower in the common garden.

171 heads are done flowering.

194 of 1033 plants have not started to flower.

Here is a graph showing the number of heads that started to flower on each day.


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Here are some clarifications about how mfl and immfl should be filled in for heads in and past the flowering stage. Selecting status "Flowering" means that the last day of flowering is certainly 4 days away or longer. If the last day of flowering is 3 or fewer days away, then select "End of flowering."


Flowering It is not necessary to fill in mfl, ffl, or immfl. (mfl and Immfl are presumed to be well over 11).

End of flowering Fill in mfl and immfl! (Both may 11.)

Last day of flowering Fill in mfl and immfl! (immfl should be zero.)

Done flowering Fill in mfl and immfl! (mfl & immfl should be zero.)

Note 1: When the action is xxxx, then fill in a status (usually: flowering, end of flowering or done).

Note 2: When status is "Flowering," "End of flowering," "Last day of flowering", or "Done flowering" then don't fill in ffl!


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Hello, all! This is Denise. =D =D

Lani and I are starting our posters. We're doing one that targets the field work and one that targets the lab work. We're hoping to fill it up with mostly photos like this:

Since I got back, I've been staying at Carey's house. His step-mom has a garden, and guess what I recognized? ECHINACEA! Loads and loads. ^o^ Anyway, we saw a sickly plant in her garden and were hoping for some feedback as to what it could be. There's some discoloration on the leaves and the heads don't look too healthy as well. Here are some photos:




=( Unhappy echinacea, yes. What could it be?

Here are some other plants from another part of her garden that look much better:



Team Echinacea:

A grad student, Emme Bruns, from UMN is studying crown rust. She has been noticing heavy infections of rust on some of the Bromus and Elytrigia (Agropyron) grasses around the twin cities and was wondering if similar infections are occurring up here.

Have you seen anything that looks like a rust pathogen on either of these species?
y5765e1y.jpg ocr.jpg

If the pathogen is present, she would like to visit to survey disease incidence and collect isolates.

Let me know if you see anything like this--and make a mental note or note in your visor where you see it.


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Last week's scandal recedes from the public eye following the disappearance of two bees from the south end in broad daylight on Thursday. Common Garden residents are now locking their doors and speculating about the identity of the killer in their midst. Well..... not all of them.

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Hi all,
Lani, Denise and I are back in Chicago safe and sound. After such a rainy start to the day overall the drive was smooth and even included a Disney sing along. My reunion with my puppy, Raven, was filled with lots of jumping and tail wagging.
Photo of Raven from before I left for Minnesota...tried to take one tonight but she was too hyper.

Ben, Lecia, and Julie, I had a great time working with all of you and I wish you the best of luck in your future ecological endeavors. Everyone else I will see you back in Chicago or in Minnesota in the near future. Have a great rest of the summer Team Echinacea and we will keep you posted on our progress here in Chicago.

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Lecia and I have begun to identify our collections. Here's a list of the species we found at some roadside remnants with links to their USDA PLANTS Database descriptions:

Native species

Galium boreale

Heliopsis helianthoides

Anemone cylindrica

Anemone canadensis

Rosa arkansana

Introduced species

Lotus corniculatus

Melilotus officinalis

Medicago sativa

Further info on some of these species can be found at efloras.org and vplants.org.

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Project pollinator competition is going well, although it has had its issues, mostly involving my camera/pole/counterweight apparatus. I have chosen my plants and four sites, all roadside: Nessman, Railroad Cross, East Elk Lake Road, and Northwest of Landfill. I am surveying plants that have flowered synchronously except for Nessman where I can survey the entire population. In total, I will record data for about 26 plants and 33 heads.

It was very difficult to get my camera high enough to get a 3 m radius around the plants. Hence, I will be taking multiple pictures of each plant to try to get the distances from the potential competitors to the Echinacea. I've done some test shots in the field, and using 1m white "x"s made previously by the kite team has helped a lot to orient myself in the photos and to see how many pixels (not "pickles" like I said to a friend on the phone) are in a meter in each picture. I shot pictures for one of my study plants at Railroad Crossing and also took field measurements for distances from one plant to the other. I repeated the measurements with ImageJ and found that there is only a 2-6% difference in the methods, so I can use them interchangeably! I'm super pumped! This makes much more sense for sites that have few surrounding plants.


A couple plants at East Elk Lake Road. Each of the Xs are uniquely marked, and the cardboard next to the plant is its tag number.

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Today marks the halfway point for the summer. Five weeks down, five to go. We've accomplished a lot and much more remains. After a long afternoon of measuring plants, we had some watermelon and carbonated beverages to cool off, mark the 1/2way, and wish the Chicagoans well.

Three of our team members are leaving tomorrow for Chicago (Jennifer, Lani & Denise). They will keep us posted about the analysis of the bee-tracking field data and how it relates to their pollen flow study.

Here's a photo of us on the porch of the Hjelm house today, just after lunch.
Lecia, Ben, Megan, Christine, Denise & Gretel
Julie, Jennifer, Lani. Amy & Stuart.

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We had a slow start to the flowering of Echinacea in the common garden for the 2008 season. Being one who gets excited about the abundance of Echinacea heads, I'm pleased to post the numbers of plants and flowering heads so far.

The total number of plants flowering in the common garden as of 17 July 2008 (which is sure to increase as we find more hiding in the tall brome or decrease as they are grazed by deer):

The total number of flowering heads identified as of 17 July 2008 (many still just buds):

As of 17 July 2008:
447 of the 1868 have started to flower. (They are still far from peak flowering!)

Here is a graph showing the number of heads that started to flower on each day.


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It was an exciting day on the prairie. After a soaking morning rain, it felt hot and steamy. Just before noon the plants started flaunting their pollen and the bees took advantage. There was plant sex and bee sex and Team Echinacea jumped into the fray trying to keep up with the frenzied activity. Every team-member broke a sweat trying to keep up with all the bees. It was a crazy scene and the excitement in the air was palpable. The bees eventually outmaneuvered and outlasted us, but we had a great time. We left around 12:50 looking forward to another exciting day.

Unlike most of the shy bees, this rascal loved the cameras. She gave quite a show flying from head to head, daring us to follow. We caught her here spreading pollen all over her legs.

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I just posted photos of prairie insect specimens from our collection, including many bees that pollinate Echinacea. Enjoy!

Here's a photo of a specimen of Andrena rudbeckiae (Female). Click to enlarge.

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Hi all,
Since this is my first flog entry of the season at quick intro for our new readers. My name is Jennifer and I am a Ph.D. graduate student at University of Illinois-Chicago in an integrated program called LEAP (landscapes ecological and anthropogenic processes) . I just finished up my third year and have been part of the Echinacea project for longer than I often like to admit. If you are an avid flog reader you may remember be from such classic 2007 entries like "Fishing in Minnesota�? and "Microsatellites in Echinacea...they do exist.�? Today I am going to discussing my plot at Hegg Lake. In the summer 2005 we followed the DAILY flowering phenology of the 224 flowering plants in the main Common Garden. We took the seeds from the flowering heads and germinated and planted around 4,000 (3,942 to be exact) and planted them in the spring of 2006 at a new common garden site at on DNR owned land near Hegg Lake (about 7.5 miles from the main Common Garden site). Hegg Lake is a beautiful site and it is, fortunately, on top of a small plateau so there is nearly always a breeze and the mosquitoes stay away.
Measuring at Hegg Lake 2008

We have just finished measuring and rechecking Hegg and I have final survival and growth info for this year. Unfortunately the last winter was really rough on my poor little plants and death was much higher than I would have liked. This also meant measuring and rechecking Hegg took a long time this year. Next year I must come up with a better method for measuring and rechecking. My current plan is to buy 50 meter tapes and measure along the 50 meter tape...I think this will dramatically reduce the time. Below is info for the last three years of survival and growth data. The first number the the year, then the average number of leaves, then the average height of tallest leaf (cm) and finally percent survival (cumulative).
2006- 2.13- 6.36- 94%
2007- 2.14- 13.24- 85%
2008- 2.07- 13.61- 76%

As you can see my plants barely grew (and that is only the ones that survived) and the average number of leaves actually went down. More disappointing is the survival which took at hit with the really long cold winter. That is it for Hegg this year...glad it is done...hopefully next year, with a site burn, my plants will grow more and death won't be as bad.

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This animated GIF file is a map of all plants that flowered in the CG on each day from July 5 to July 15th. Each dot represents a plants that's flowering on the day (see upper right corner).

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-sized image.

heads312.png This legend shows plants with 3, 1, and 2 heads flowering (left to right).

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We had a busy day today. Reinforcements arrived to help on all of our projects. Ruth Shaw (U of MN) helped with phenology, bee tracking, PX caging, collecting pollen and crossing. Elliott Graham (Madison, WI) helped with bee tracking and PX caging. Jack Kiefer (Wadsworth, IL) is leading the plumbing initiatives and made progress on several fronts including connecting the main water line to the Hjelm house!

Great forward progress on a sultry day. Well, in late afternoon it was still with air temp of 85 degrees F and a dewpoint of 57 degrees F.

Thanks to all for a great day!

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Less than 10% of the heads that we think will flower this season had started flowering as of Sunday. Flowering is so late this year! We'll walk through the Garden systematically tomorrow (Tuesday) to see what's new. It's possible one head (49.33 946.33 grn) will be done flowering tomorrow.

There's always something new and exciting going on when Team Echinacea is in full swing. After we all pitch in to assess flowering phenology tomorrow, Amy will work on her large-scale crossing experiment that requires erecting pollinator exclusion cages, collecting pollen & hand crossing. The fun doesn't end there. We are tiling and plumbing the Hjelm House, photographing floral development on Echinacea heads, measuring plants at the Hegg Lake CG and the main CG, taking ladder-high aerial photography of flowering plants in the prairie remnants, and chasing bee pollinators in the CG. And that's just tomorrow!

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These bees thought it would add some excitement to their lives if they hired Team Echinacea to stand around them watch their... relations. Naive as they were, they didn't realize that there was a camera in the crowd and the photos would inevitably be leaked to the Internet. This is sure to cause a scandal among the insects of the common garden when they read of it in the tabloids tomorrow.

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Here's one of this year's painted bees. It's big enough to see (sometimes) when it flies around, which is a plus.


As for the day-by-day flowering sequences of Echinacea, I'm trying to figure out a way to put them together without exploding my computer.

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Hi folks! Here's the protocol for measuring plants in the common garden this year. The protocol hasn't changed much from last year, but the description has improved; the protocol is now a html file and there are many nice images from 2007. Thanks to Jameson and Gretel for taking the photos. And thanks to the wonders of digital photography, Pendragon forms, the UMN library's blog, and contributors to this flog. Wahoo! Let the counting of leaves, ants, and aphids begin!

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Hey everybody, I pleasantly stumbled upon this blog today and i'm glad to see this year's Team Echinacea is up and running. Everything is looking good. The Flog is definitely proving to be a useful, as well as fun and interesting tool. I was a member of Team Echinacea last year as well as the Bee Team.
I recently got the chance to watch an experienced beekeeper mark a queen honey bee. The process was very quick and easy and I think could be tailored to use in the field in MN. There is a special container used for capturing and marking. A marking pen with special bee marking paint is used. There is no cooling involved. I'm going to try to find a website that explains this. The marking paint used by beekeepers is designed to last for the lifetime of the bees. Here is a video from youtube that demonstrates the marking of a queen bee.
I think that you guys should invest in some marking pens and look into getting other beekeeping equipment, at least just to see what is out there. Last year we didn't really look into that stuff so we were just kind of reinventing the wheel.


I'm working on improving our seedling search protocol, using perhaps photography, a physical grid, or some combination of things. Here's a couple photos I took to test out a locating device: toothpick plus coffee stirrer plus thumbtack. The first photo is in easier short foliage conditions and has two red markers and a blue marker somewhere in the 1m diameter circle marked by the meter sticks. The second photo is in more difficult high foliage and has two red, a blue, and a white. All are visible in both pictures, but perhaps not immediately apparent. Happy hunting!





This is a picture of one of the plants at the landfill where Lecia and I are collecting plants. We didn't collect this one (which I think is Delphinium carolinianum subsp. virescens (Nuttall) R. E. Brooks) because there were only three plants. Luckily Christine was with us to take some really good photos.

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For my independent research project, I want to assess if plants in homogeneous Echinacea populations fare better with pollinators than plants in populations mixed with introduced sweet clover, introduced thistle, and native prairie rose. To accomplish this, I will apply several methods. First, I will randomly choose flowering Echinacea plants in several of the remnant populations to study. Then, I will record the number of introduced potential competitors as well as other native plants within a certain radius of the plant by using aerial photography. To get the camera high enough above the plant, I will stand on a ladder and hold a ~4m pole with the camera on one end and a counterweight (two wooden blocks nailed together) on the other. I will take two rounds of photos for each plant- once before peak flowering and once after. I will be able to determine distances from plant to plant by placing markers at one meter and calculating the number of pixels per meter when I review the photos.

cookies and pole apparatus 013.jpg
my giant pole and me.

After classifying the surrounding populations to the flowering plant, I will determine the pollination success by observing the styles of the flower. When a flower receives compatible pollen, within 24 hours the style will shrivel, indicating successful pollination. I can count the number of shriveled style rows in each flower head to determine its success as a pollen receiver. I hypothesize that the flowers in closer proximity to other flowering plants will receive less successful pollen visits than Echinacea in more homogeneous populations. Hopefully, I will collect data from more than twenty plants. The plants are finally flowering, so this week I will be choosing my plants of study and start counting styles when they emerge.

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Here's a practice time lapse series for plant (28, 943) from July 2nd-6th. I'll be photographing 16 plants every morning or until people get tired of driving me around to the garden. I didn't hit the 'thumbnail' option when I uploaded this, so if you want to see it in its full glory, right-click and go to "view image".


Even though I've marked the position and height of the tripod with flags, it looks like it's difficult to get the same photo every time. The changing background, I suspect, is a result of the head growing upwards a bit, causing me to change the camera angle. This shouldn't be as much of an issue in the pictures taken from above.

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After spending a good while talking about our independent project and looking over the work of last year's Bee Team, Denise and I have come up with a preliminary plan for the next two weeks, sure to be revised once we actually get out there and figure out what works and what doesn't. We considered how many different topics might affect bee behavior, including home ranges and the quantity of pollen on an echinacea head, but we ultimately decided that observing flight distances in relation to local daily densities of pollen-presenting echinacea would be the best complement for the lab work we've just finished. How will bee flight patterns change throughout the season--will they fly farther than usual between two echinacea before and after peak flowering, causing beneficial gene flow, or will the extra distance between the echinacea heads cause the bee to move to a neighboring non-echinacea, reducing the chances that the pollen will reach another echinacea plant? Due to the late flowering the year our observation time has shrunk to just two weeks, but hopefully it will be enough time to catch pre-peak and at least part of the peak flowering behavior.

The key data we'll want to gather during our observations are:
- species of bee
- the row/position/head of echinacea visited, and in what order
- any other plants species visited between echinacea visits, and approximate location
By combining this data with a daily map of pollen-presenting echinacea heads in the Common Garden, we'll be able to chart the bees' flight patterns and analyze their behavior.

Thanks to the time spent by last year's Bee Team working out the kinks in their painting and observation protocol, we should be able to save a good deal of time by adopting their methods. So, following their lead, here's the general plan:

Last year's team suggested that 7:30 AM would be the best time to begin catching bees. Because of our reliance on others for transportation to the garden, this may or may not happen, but we will try to get started as soon as possible each morning. Using a row number randomly generated by our visor as a starting point, Denise and I will search for bees in that row plus the row to the west and two more to the east. When we find a bee on an echinacea head we will catch it with a net, place it in a vial, and label the vial with the row, position, and twist tie color. The vial will be placed in a soft-sided cooler underneath an ice pack so the bee can calm down while we continue searching.

Once we have a few bees in the cooler we will return to the original capture site, take the first bee out of its vial and place it on a plastic bag on top of the icepack. Using handy dandy paint holsters made out of eppendorf tubes and duct tape, we will place a small dot of paint on the bee's back, being careful to avoid the wings and antennae. The previous bee team suggested applying the paint with a short piece of metal from a flag, bent, sanded, and taped to a stick, but we will probably have to make do with toothpicks for the first day or so. Once the bee is painted and has warmed up a bit, it will be returned to the echinacea head where it was collected and observations will begin.

For observations, last year's Bee Team suggested having teams of 3-5 people, with one person recording data and the others a few meters back from the bee, standing in a circle. When the bee lands on an echinacea head, the observers will call out the color of the twist tie and, if they can, the specific position of the plant. If the bee is moving from plant to plant too quickly for the observers to check the position, one of them will put a stake in by the plant before moving on and the data recorder will check the position. Due to the difficulties voiced by last year's Bee Team over consistently recording accurate start and stop times for the bees on each head, and because we plan to use paper forms rather than the visor this year, we will not be recording these times. We will, however, make note of the collection and release times, as well as the time at which we lose track of the bee.

According to this plan, it looks like the materials we will need are:
- bee catching nets
- vials (glass was recommended)
- sharpie & labeling tape
- soft lunch cooler (1 per group?)
- hard ice packs (2 per cooler?)
- clipboard, data sheets, and a pen
- duct tape/eppendorf tube paint holsters filled with acrylic paint and marked with each color's 3-letter abbreviation
- painting apparatus (toothpicks, until we can rig up the metal/stick deal)
- plastic bag, to keep the bee dry on top of the icepack while we paint it
- flags for marking echinacea if the bee is too fast for us

Things that we probably will not want:
- bug spray
- eye patches
- cement shoes

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Dear All,

This is Andy McCall, I am studying pollination and herbivory with Stuart and Ruth and am based, this summer, at Denison University, where I teach.

You may remember me through my witty or witless posts last year on this flog; it has been a long time since I have posted anything, but...

Together with Colin Venner (on the crew last year) and Monique Brown, both of Denison, I have cobbled together a few small videos of pollinators we observed last year. We have over 800h of video to watch and we are more than halfway done!

Anyway, I am going to try and post a few videos of known pollinators and a few unknowns -- I would love it if anyone might be able to identify the unknown bee -- we have several, but it is hard sometimes to see characteristics on the video.

I hope the flowering commences soon!

yours, Andy

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We are very interesting in observing (and participating in) the Echinacea mating season this summer. We are still waiting for the action to begin.

Here is a map of the flowering plants in the main garden. Each dot represents a plant with 1 or more buds (immature capitula). The short purple bar indicates a plant with one bud, a long bar indicates two, and n short bars indicates n buds. In the main garden we found 869 plants with at least one bud and a total of 1572 buds. The most buds on a plant is 11. This is a modified "sunflower plot" that was generated with R.


We are waiting for the action to begin. At this time last year, like most years, Echinacea flowering was in full swing.

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This photo by Christine shows fours seedlings near Echinacea plant 2044 at StApp on 17 June 2008. The seedlings are mapped & uniquely identified on pages 56 & 56 of "Seedling search 2008." The ruler is marked with 16th of inches on the top and millimeters on the bottom.

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As is probably apparent in this recent explosion of posting, we've now got the Internet on the inside of the condos. Neither rain nor mosquitoes nor legions of caterpillars can keep us from our e-mail.

To demonstrate our unsurpassed powers of data transfer, I present to you.... a picture that is truly huge.

This is the most developed Echinacea head in the common garden* which is remarkable because this time of year is usually the peak of flowering, or so they say. In any case, I'll be taking pictures of it and some of its developmentally challenged comrades every day or so. The result ought to be a number of sequences that chronicle this awkward phase in their lives, followed by their blossoming and wild reproductive successes (or lack thereof). Yes, much like the reality TV stars that they are, these plants will have no secrets!

* except maybe for the 99 garden, where I did not dare venture

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So about a week ago, Team Echinacea was counting and mapping tiny little seedlings. I was working with Gretel, and we had found a plant that apparently knew how to reproduce 47 times in one season. Yes, we mapped out 47 seedlings but not before a spray truck came along.
Because of the strong winds, we could not hear and were quite surprised when a large truck spraying chemicals on a nearby farm rode by us, emitting a putrid scent. Not wanting to breathe in chemicals, Stuart and Gretel began to yell at the spraying perpetrator: "Stop! What are you doing?!��?
The driver stopped, and we all moved upwind, away from the chemical mist. Stuart argued some with the driver who was standing close to the sprayers. Eventually, the driver realized that he was losing the argument (you are not supposed to spray people with chemicals) and drove away.
We decided to move to another spot, and on the way we saw a Bobcat (farm machine, not the animal) on fire. A bunch of cows stood around looking confused. Strange afternoon.

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