Notes from the Island
May 1996


Spring has finally arrived and the wildflowers are flourishing (even if the lawn is not). We are going through what I think of as the second round of spring flowers. The bluebells are fading, but the yard is carpeted with purple and even white violets, as well as an occasional cinquefoil. And the pinkish-white spring beauties are still going strong.

At the upper end of the Island you'll see golden ragwort and wild blue phlox. Down at your feet are some of the purple trillium and if you look up, you'll notice a blooming wisteria which survived the flood. Our lone azalea bush, on the other hand, had its roots exposed and is not doing well, although there are a few blooms.

Scattered around the Island are patches of Solomon's Seal, garlic-mustard, and star of Bethlehem. And if you look closely, you may find the wild ginger, which is planted in a lily bed upstream of the house on the Virginia side. The mayapples are blooming on the Maryland side. And celandine and sweet cicely are flowering near the front stairs.

We may not have much of a lawn, but the stinging nettles are plentiful. Susan and Tove Elfstrom make nettle soup by gathering tender young nettle leaves and steaming them (don't use the stems). They then make a roux with butter and flour, add milk (and sometimes bouillon), spices and the steamed nettles.

The Canada geese have started to nest. Usually they build nests of feathers and down directly on the ground on the small islands dotting the river. This year I discovered four different nests on Ruppert Island including one in a discarded tire. More to my surprise, I've found one on the Island on top of a pile of debris not far from the Clubhouse.

The beavers are still active. We occasionally see them out on the lawn in the evenings. I'm not sure what they are eating, because there isn't any grass there.

And, yes, I've seen my first snake. It was a small garter snake, still sluggish from the winter. There was also a toad hopping around on the bricks.

Members have been very active coming down to the Island to clean up after the flood and there was a good turnout for the Annual Spring Workfest. Many thanks to George and Marcia Loeb who grilled the chicken.

As usual we put out the floats and set out the picnic tables. Several people carried the shower stall from the mud at the lower end of the Island back to its proper position. It still needs some repairs, so is not yet in running order. Gerry Barton, David Holdridge and Tove Elfstrom rebuilt the missing section of the walkway and anchored what needed to be anchored.

The rest of the Elfstrom family and friends bravely took on the task of rooting up nettles at the lower end of the Island. Many people picked up trash and driftwood off the lawn. Others raked and put mulch around trees before putting down grass seed. Several members gave the Clubhouse a good Spring cleaning. Others repaired the brickwork in and out of the house. And I can't forget to mention those good folks who carried all the lumber down the hill.

The following people came down to the workfest or one of the work parties: Blair Bower; Fern and Jay Ingersoll; Mark Brenneman and sons; Phil and Marianne Ross; Peter, Amanda, Tom, Ollie and Louisa Cannell; Burton and Elaine Pogell; Bill Eichbaum; Elizabeth Rice; Brad Coolidge; John and Judy Lentz; Mark Ambre; Terry Murphy; Sally Strain; Severina Rivera and Jim Drew; Susan, Tove, Miriam and Madelene Elfstrom; Carol and Ava Petrash; Rachael Andruzzi; Paul Smith; Julie Smith; Beth Burtolin; Julia Morgan; Meranda Oakley; Al Brown and Mardy Burgess; George and Marcia Loeb; Warren Brown; John and Peggy Thomson; John, Susanna, Sam and Polly Membrino; Gerry Barton; Rich Lodish; John Matthews; Penny and Dick Doolittle; Thomas, Kaitlin, Pat and Margaret Barry; Ann Marie and John Cunningham; Tilda, Tommy and Darren Tucker; David Winer; Tryon Wells; Holly Syrrakos; Frank Daspit and Nell Hennessy. My apologies to anyone I might have missed.

I have already been swimming this year. The water was a little cool and I didn't stay in long, but it was a hot day and I needed some refreshing. See you soon.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker