Friday, August 16, 2019

Reed Canarygrass

Samples of Reed Canarygrass collected on August 16, 2019 from three locations in Eaton County, Michigan.
Days when I actually DO something are typically days when my blog posts are skinny. This is one of those days.

Today, I sorted through the old-men I knew. They must have known I needed one of them for a project. They were hard to find.

I finally ran my third choice down to earth. He was walking out the door buttoning up his shirt and mumbling about how his back hurt.  He was pretending like he needed to go to the doctor. Like I never heard that excuse before.

He will remain nameless for reasons that will become apparent later in this post.

After cuffing him around and promising him lunch, he finally agreed to ride shotgun in the pickup but only if I removed the zip-ties from his wrists.

Reed Canarygrass
I asked him if he knew what Reed Canarygrass was. He renewed his cussing. I thought it was because I had aggravated his back "helping" him into the truck. Nope, it was because he was intimately familiar with Reed Canarygrass, Phalaris arundinacea. Animals would starve before voluntarily eating Reed Canarygrass hay.

Our mission was to take samples from three, widely separated locations in Eaton County of Reed Canarygrass. The RCG had to be in full sunlight, growing in a pure stand and growing on "muck" soils and the samples had to be taken at least twenty feet in from the edge of the stand. Each location required at least ten sub-samples from scattered locations within the stand.

The reasons I needed an old man is that pure stands of Reed Canarygrass are the preferred habitat of the native Michigan rattlesnake. Furthermore, I have a problem with the starter on my truck. I wanted to leave the truck running while I dodged rattlesnakes and collected specimens. Having a hominid rattlesnake sitting in the truck ensured that it would still be there when I was done collecting samples from the site.

The reason for the road trip is that there are loads of he-said-she-said accounts of the nutritional and mineral profiles of Reed Canarygrass but there is ZERO data for southcentral Michigan for RCG growing on muck soils. And those he-said-she-said accounts? Some of the numbers vary by a factor of one-hundred.

Even though mid-August is a rotten time of year for collecting forage samples because of excessive maturity, one piece of "real" data, flawed though it might be is infinitely better than four-decimal-place, anal-extracted guesses. 

The locations spanned from southeast Eaton County to northwest Eaton County. The GPS coordinates follow:

42.568858, -84.682897
42.640663, -84.761788
42.731032, -85.072149

Midway through the sample gathering I fed my volunteer lunch. Shortly afterward, my volunteer started burping. Then spitting. Then retching. Then full-on vomiting. No, it did not all go out the window. He said it served me right. When a kidnapping victim pukes in your pickup, is it karma or trukma?

Now I have to dry the three samples. Cut it into 2" long pieces. Mix the combined samples to randomize it. Pack a pound of the randomized sample into a plastic bag. Mail it and a check for $40 to a lab in Ithaca, New York for the testing. They will turn around and mail it to the MSU Veterinary Lab in East Lansing, Michigan where they will run it through their plasma-ionizing mass spectrometer.


  1. You didn't feed him Reed Canary Grass, did you?

    1. Two chicken breasts, green beans, smashed potatoes and gravy, two slices of bread with butter and Coke Classic for $9.99 from Swede's Restaurant in Mulliken, Michigan.

      I had the pot-roast special and ate from the salad bar.

      The thing about being 87 is that sometimes the esophagus gets sensitive. One of my friend's issues is that he only has four teeth left, all on the bottom, and he can't chew the food like he used to.

      Getting old ain't for sissies.

  2. A lady who blogs on homestead issues for Backwoods Home Magazine grows reed canary grass spesifically for mulch because it goes to seed so late.

  3. Glad he's okay, and the results will be interesting...


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