It has been 8 days since our EF4 tornado visited us. I think I will name him Bob. Read about Bob's antics. In spite of Bob, the green milkweeds are now very apparent and in gorgeous bloom. Do you have any?

May 27 2013 

Becky Emerson Carlberg

It has been 8 days since our EF4 tornado visited us.  I think I will name him Bob.  What a mess.  My home sailed through unscathed when neighbor’s houses in all directions had minor to severe damage.  I would like to attribute it to having all the windows, as well as the attic fan louvers, open… plus our roof is relatively new.  It was more likely sheer luck.  Bob hop-scotched and apparently split into two parts as he crossed Garrett’s Lake Road. He lifted his west leg first, but paused before raising his right leg just north of Garrett’s Lake Road.  That leg plowed through a valley full of old oaks and cottonwoods, laying down every single tree.  Bob’s last hurrah.  He had already demolished houses further south in Sunset Estates, got a few more houses off 177 close to I-40 and rearranged residences along Old Highway 270…. after leaving his imprint on Bethel Acres.

The western side of my property was tremendously torn up as was the house and land that borders it further west.  Old large oaks were twisted and stripped of leaves, the old plum tree was smashed, and cedars were uprooted.  Bob skirted the west side of my house, ripped up the 50 foot tall poplar by the side door, and took down the large Bradford pear and elm just to the north of the house on his way to the northeast.  The apple tree (with apples) on the east side of the house was slammed down, the lawnmower shed was moved off its foundation, the choke cherry choked, the apricots croaked, more oak trees or their heavy limbs were sacrificed, the maples to the northeast were decimated, and part of our barn was taken apart.  Debris is embedded in the trees and bushes that border Garrett’s Lake Road.

The damage to houses, shops and garages was terrible, but Bob also had a huge impact for the local plants and wildlife.   Nests disintegrated, countless unknown critters died, and their habitats were destroyed.  The week before, I watched a pair of Mississippi Kites build a nest in the top of a tall oak off Garrett’s Lake Road.  I have not seen the birds again and that part of the tree is gone.  My hummingbird has never shown back up again at the feeder.  Butterflies search for blooms that have blown away.  My pine trees survived to the east, but lost every single cone, littering the ground below them with a sea of giant brown “roly polies”.  The cottonwood that the red-shouldered hawks loved to frequent has been reduced to a framework with few leaves.  But Mother Nature is resilient. One squirrel, a few cowbirds and some house finches have returned.  The pair of collared doves is still with us.  I have heard yellow-billed cuckoos here and there.  Their call is distinctive, and they are masters of disguise; very hard to find in the trees.

Help came for anguished homeowners immediately. Work crews and individuals from other cities and states arrived.  The Southern Baptist Convention, Methodists, Mormons, Mennonites, and others fanned out.  Armed with chain saws, strong backs and vehicles designed for moving brush and logs, they have been working countless hours.  Lot after lot is being put into habitable shape.  The Salvation Army truck has been making three rounds a day with food and snacks, bless ‘em. The couple dispensing the food had come from Clearwater, Florida.  They return to Florida tomorrow (Tuesday, May 28th) for a brief twelve hour stay at home before driving to Atlanta for another Salvation Army function.  Contractors and associates have been assessing home destruction, and now nearly every roof is either totally or partially covered in thick blue plastic.  Walls, windows and roofs await repair. 

Our Memorial Day weekend was spent totally in the field cutting, dragging, digging and picking up debris.  All those plastic cup lids?  They came from an overturned semi on the Interstate, courtesy of Bob the Tornado.  Amazingly, one family’s dog rode out the tornado in his flying doghouse, and another family was in their house while Bob lifted and slammed down their roof three times.  Apparently travel trailers practically explode, and even those not in the direct path look severely beaten up.  

One dedicated volunteer who had driven from Enid spent the entire day with my husband.  He brought his chain saw and chewed through tree after tree while my husband dragged the branches to the road.  Even after a branch popped him in his head, leaving a trail of blood dripping down his nose (alcohol, neosporin and bandage dealt with that) and a bottle of deer and rabbit repellent splashed all over his jeans after a small tree hit it (it was organic…putrefied eggs and garlic oil…powerful), that man continued until he and his chain saw ran out of gas.  Admirable and very appreciated.

During the afternoon, Mormon youth offered assistance with tree branch removal, after which they requested a tour of our cellar.  Many were from Utah and had never been in a cellar.  Their problem was with snow.  One asked “do you have a bathroom or small fridge down there”?  Nope, we tended not to spend long times in the concrete box. “Does it leak?”  Nope.  “Do you use it often”?  Not really, but it is a great thing to have.

I must go wash windows.  Debris is still plastered all over the glass, the cars and house, memories of bygone Bob.  Bye Bob.  Stay gone.

The Green Milkweed

In spite of Bob, the green milkweed (Asclepias viridis or A. viridiflora) is now in bloom. The milkweed leaf beetles gather to dine on the milkweed.   It also provides a food source for the Monarch Butterfly as it starts its migration northward out of Mexico.  The caterpillars eat the leaves, but the butterflies love the nectar.  Not only are Monarchs found taking a sip, but Swallowtails, Whites and Silvery Checkerspots also like the green milkweed nectar.

Another name for the green milkweed is green antelopehorn, as the fruit has a thick green horn shape.  These large seed pods are full of seeds surrounded by fluff.  When the “fruit” is mature, the pod bursts open and the seeds are dispersed, each floating away, kept aloft by the fluff.  Goldfinches like the fluff around the seeds.  They line their nests with it.

The milky sap of green milkweed contains cardiac glycosides.  When the Monarch caterpillars munch on the leaves, they accumulate those toxins in their body, making them taste terrible (to birds) as well as making them poisonous.  That protective advantage is transferred when the caterpillar changes into the butterfly.  Birds usually give the Monarch wide berth.

Other birds, insects and animals use milkweed as protective cover.  Spiders hide, waiting to ambush an unsuspecting insect.  In addition to butterflies, hummingbirds, ants, yellow jackets, green lacewings and bees like the flower nectar.  The nectar and pollen have no cardiac glycosides.  In just a few days, go out and collect green milkweed seeds.  Plant them and open up a new buffet in your garden.  Just watch those red red robins go bob, bob, bobbing along!