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Scott Rall: Let's talk anger management

BY SCOTT RALL The Globe outdoors columnist The very common story that I have heard this summer has to do with rummage sales. The story goes like this: The husband or boyfriend helps his gal set up for a rummage sale. Items are priced, and when th...

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BY SCOTT RALL

The Globe outdoors columnist

The very common story that I have heard this summer has to do with rummage sales.

The story goes like this: The husband or boyfriend helps his gal set up for a rummage sale.  Items are priced, and when the time is right they are hauled to the driveway to entice passersby to stop and see it there are any treasures present. The process is repeated the next day and, after the sale, the balance of the goods are taken to Goodwill.

The results are that the event raised a few bucks and the male wishes he would have just written a check to his gal for that amount and saved all of the effort.

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I have an effort that in some cases will look and act just like a rummage sale. My effort involves hand harvesting native plant seeds.

One of those native plants is called wild licorice. When I first saw it a few years back I took a picture of it and sent it to a friend.  I was going to spray it with chemical because I thought it was some sort of cockleburr. He called me back right away and explained that this was a desirable native plant and that I should pick it and sell the seeds.

I figured this might be a good idea.  It grows only in sandy soils, and on my spot this means the north facing side of the steepest hill on the property. It had never been there before, but it showed up the year following a controlled burn. It matures much earlier than many other native plants, around Aug. 1. When the seeds are ready to pick they look like a cluster of cockleburrs in a deep brown color. They act just like them, too.

A cloth glove or even a leather glove with the swede side exposed just turns into a prickly mess. If there is an attachable spot within six inches it will magically collect and hold these stubborn seeds.

Using your bare hands works the best, but you need skin about three times the normal thickness to go glove-less.

The year 2015 was the first time I started my harvest. The window of harvest opportunity is very small. Once mature, they only stay attached to the plant for about five days and then fall off. Once they land on the ground in grasses that are 2.5 feet high there is no getting them back. If they are ready and you get a rain or a stiff wind, this, too, will cause them to fall, making harvest impossible.

The first year it was about 90 degrees and me and Kirk Schnitker harvested about two pillowcases of seed. I felt like Billy Goat's Gruff. This desk jockey was just a pile of sore back and muscles after six hours of this hand work on a steep hillside.

The second year was much more successful.  After about 30 total hours of harvest, we had two big cardboard boxes of the seeds and thought we had hit a home run.

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We were about 80 percent completed when I had an unwelcome bunch of visitors. I was standing there picking seeds one minute and 15 seconds later I surrounded by what had to be 1,500 really mad bees.

These ended up being a native bee species that had a nest underground, and in the next 15 seconds I had been stung about 40 times.  I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt and there was not a hardly one square inch of skin that did not have a bee sting on it.

I certainly intended them no harm, but they must not have known that.

I am very allergic to honey bee stings. I ran to the truck to get my EpiPen in case I had a bad reaction, and much to my surprise I had none at all.  The sting of a native bee did not negatively affect me.

The seeds are dried and then processed by a native seed dealer.  They bust up the seed pod, releasing the tiny seeds inside. It takes very special equipment.

The seeds I harvest are added to native seed mixes to add diversity to the plantings. The goal is the most diverse seed mix possible, and wild licorice is not readily available in many markets, which makes it in high demand.

The return on my investment is better than a rummage sale, but there are times that I wonder if the monetary return is worth the effort.

I just figure it is a labor of love. We are finished for this year and I just wanted you all to know that the bees are still there and they are still not happy. Maybe they need an anger management class.

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