Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the upper Midwest and see an amazing explosion of fall color.
I spent one of those weekends visiting my mom Peggy in Northern Michigan. Once the rain finished, we went out to the woods to have a look at some of the beautiful places Peggy likes to visit. Even though it may not have been peak color time, the textures and colors of the Northern Michigan forests that weekend were still stunning.
Daisy decided it was warm enough to go in the water. She’s become much more daring in her old age.
We had some fun taking panoramic pictures.
After lunch, we headed to a new spot to check out a beaver house.
We didn’t see any beavers, but saw some very active muskrats enjoying the warm fall day.
On the walk back to the car, we were poking around in the woods. I was particularly intrigued by the club-mosses that were so easy to spot this time of year. I shot some pictures of my find, and then noticed my mom was also taking pictures. She had seen the same thing in another spot and they had captured her interest as well!
Spinulum annotinum (Stiff Club-moss)
While we were looking at the Spinulum annotinum, we realized that there were a number of other species of club-mosses in the area.
Dendrolycopodium obscurum (Tree Club-Moss)
Lycopodium clavatum (Running Ground Pine)
Club-mosses are perennial, evergreen plants related to ferns and horsetails. They spread by runners, either above or below ground (rhizomes) and get their name from the club-like, spore producing strobili found on top of many club-moss species.
Club-mosses were often collected for Christmas decorations, but these are very slow growing plants and are now protected in most states.
As a bonus, there were lots of British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella), Pixie Cups (Cladonia chlorophaea complex) and Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) in the area.
I’m always amazed at the fascinating things you can find just a few feet off the beaten trail.
Many of us are used to having unwelcome visitors to our feeders and gardens. Squirrels, rabbits, even deer are common visitors to our yards. Whole businesses are out there dedicated to creating garden pest deterrents and squirrel-proof bird feeders. But, nothing is a match for what came to visit Peggy’s feeders.
Here’s a before…
Then, one morning a couple of weeks ago, this is what she woke up to…
Never in the more than 10 years in her house had she ever seen anything like this. The only thing that can do this kind of damage is a black bear. And a very large, strong bear it must have been given the size and sturdiness of the feeder stand. The cross beam had been ripped right off the bolts holding it on.
Feeders were ripped apart.
This homemade suet feeder was impressively ripped open, bending the old steel hinge and ripping off the wire cage. This was actually the bear’s favorite. He carried it off into the field behind her house where Nikki, Peggy’s dog, was able to track it down.
Peggy put out a animal-cam to try and get a photo of the bear if it decided to come back. Mostly she just got shots of herself working in the yard and mowing the grass. It took her while, and with the help of some friends she was able to get everything fixed and back together.
I’d like to show a “ta da look how great it looks’ photo, but wouldn’t you know, the bear chose THAT NIGHT to come back again. Not just to her feeder, but to a few others on the block as well. Unfortunately, all she got on the animal-cam was a big black blur.
This time, the bear wasn’t able to rip down the arm, but did do some pretty bad damage to her more expensive feeders. Again, with the help of friends, she was able to repair them and now takes them in every night. It’s a nuisance, but having a bear visit your yard is a bigger nuisance. Once it gets cold and the bears head into hibernation, she can start leaving them out again. Nikki will be happy too. She hasn’t been too thrilled about going out at night.
I was out on a bike ride recently with Steve and my mom on the White Pine Trail State Park in Cadillac, Mi. This is a beautiful, partially paved trail extending from Cadillac to Grand Rapids. On this day’s ride we rode from Cadillac to Tustin, about 20 miles round trip.
When my mom and I are riding, our rides tend to be a bit of a scenic tour and we stop a lot to check out things we see. Today, we spent a while looking at a pond with a lot of recent beaver activity. From the looks of it, they have really have been busy beavers!
You’d have thought loggers had been in this area and in a way they were. The beavers take down these trees to use them for food and building dams and lodges. Beavers have been been reported to be second only to humans on their ability to alter their environment for their own needs.
Some fresh activity. Hopefully it doesn’t fall across the trail.
There is a beaver lodge on the pond that was visible earlier in the season before everything leafed out. On a nearby pond, there was a lodge that looked a bit abandoned. Maybe they’ve moved down the trail to this pond?
Since I am writing about beavers, I wanted to relay another story from the same bike ride. Fellow geocachers out there will enjoy this.
We were looking for a cache that had been reported as missing. When we arrived at the spot where it should have been, there seemed to be something wrong. The area looked different, and the pine tree that the cache was supposed to be attached to just wasn’t there. Maybe we were in the wrong spot? Or remembering the location wrong? Nope! A beaver had visited the spot, cut down the tree and stripped the branches bare. The oddest part was that he had taken down a pine tree. Why would a beaver want to chop down a pine tree? That would be quite unusual. We left puzzled and laughing at what we had discovered.
He took this down and shredded all the branches off. The cache was gone.
Last night the temperature at my mom Peggy’s house was predicted to get down to the low 30’s. That means frost was a real possibility. If you saw her gardens in my post a couple of days ago (Gardening: All in the Family), you know her plants are well underway and many not able to survive a first. So what to do?
Every plant has its own tolerance to cold. Zinnias, Impatiens, Petunias? Forget it, they like it warm. Cold weather vegetables, strawberries, perennials? Maybe leaves and flowers damaged initially, but they’ll be just fine. The seed packet or container tag will give you some insight into what they can tolerate. When in doubt, cover them.
If you know that the plants are likely to be damaged by an overnight frost, you need to cover them with a sheet or blanket. My mom has a whole collections of sheets just for this purpose. By tenting the sheets over the garden, it creates a warm air pocket around the plants. If it’s thought to be colder than a light frost, you can add a a layer of plastic over the blanket to trap even more warm air (never right on the plants). Be sure to remove the coverings first thing in the morning before condensation starts to form on the inside. If still cold enough, the moisture could freeze on the plants and cause harm as well. An actual freeze requires even more elaborate weather protection, or you may just need to sigh and start over.
Then say a little prayer and hope for the best. Peggy’s plants looked good this morning. It did get down to 31°, but warmed up quickly once the sun came up. Hopefully that’s it for the cold weather.
For as long as I can remember my mom had vegetable and flower gardens, sometimes big, sometimes small. So did my grandparents. All this interest in growing things rubbed off on me and hopefully I’ll pass it on to my kids. With that in mind, I had my mom and daughter take us on a tour of their June gardens. First my mom, Peggy, in northern Michigan.
So lucky to have the space of all these raised beds (check out all the raspberries in the back!).
Petunia garden protected from the rabbits
Hummingbirds are enjoying the flowers right now. Soon they’ll be looking for some extra food.
A more natural garden.
A lovely visitor–Tiger Swallowtail
Salad in a bag!
Succulents! This is a creative work in progress. I can’t wait to see what she does with this. I know she’s got some great ideas.
My daughter Emily lives in an apartment with some friends downtown. When we were talking earlier in the spring, she was complaining about the price of tomatoes. Soon after that, I happened to see a great looking potted patio tomato plant that would fit on her porch.
She couldn’t have been more excited and has taken lovingly care of this plant. It gets a hello and a glass of water from the mason jar every morning. Recently I got a text that read “Mom! 2 of my tomatoes hatched!” I hope they grow big, red and juicy for her. I think she’ll be hooked then.
Do you have someone who inspired you, or have you inspired anyone else to garden?
While I’ve had my share of bad winter and spring weather here in Chicago, it still isn’t nearly as harsh as it’s been at my mom Peggy’s house in Northern Michigan. She’s still patiently (??) waiting for the soil to get warm enough to get her plants in the ground. Just yesterday morning, there was yet another dusting of snow and overnight frosty temperatures in the low 30’s. While it may be a nuisance, Peggy did get some beautiful pictures that for the moment make you forget it’s mid-May.
Keeping the Orioles alive in the cold!
Yum! Fresh oranges for the birds are a hit.
Everything is ready, except the weather!
Has spring truly felt like it’s arrived at your house yet?
Happy First Day of Spring! Ok, a little late, but so is spring this year so I thought it was fine to still say it.
I spent the last few days up in Northern Michigan with my mom where there are very few signs of spring yet. The sun is definitely a bit brighter in the sky and the birds are chirping a bit earlier in the morning, but it is still pretty cold and there is still a lot of snow that needs to melt before any plants can start to grow. The lakes in the area are still completely frozen over. No ice-fishing huts anymore, but the ice is still thick enough for a pick-up truck to go speeding across the lake while we were there. Maybe their winter short cut across town?
Not a very inviting place to sit today!
Even without the signs of spring outside, there were plenty in the stores. The farm and feed stores are all ready to get going, so of course I had to pick up a few items I “needed”.
My husband is very glad I did not come home with one of these… although mostly I didn’t since I don’t think our zoning allows for raising farm animals in our backyards. They sure were cute and I’m wishing I could have farm fresh eggs every morning.
On the way back home, I stopped to visit a fairly new, unique specialty market, the Willow Mercantile in Cadillac, MI. Whether you’re visiting the Cadillac area or passing through on your way further north, it’s worth a stop. You can even mail order your “up-north” favorites from them.
They offer their own line of locally made preserves, salsas, butters and jarred vegetables, specialty olive oils and vinegars, locally grown vegetables and farm fresh meats, interesting treats from around the world, a huge selection of local MI craft beers and an extensive wine inventory. Everything a specialty food shopper would want! Then throw in some kitchen essentials and a nursery, and you have one fun place to visit and shop.
Just some of what I came home with.
I’m back home where temperatures are a bit warmer (50’s woohoo) and I’ll have some signs of spring in Chicago in tomorrow’s post.
While watching the Cornell Bird FeederCams, it got me to thinking about the very creative set up my mom Peggy has in her backyard in Michigan for feeding birds. She’s been watching and feeding birds for as long as I can remember, and I owe her for passing on her passion for nature and gardening to me. Although I often feel as though something has been “lost in translation” when I look at my yard, I always know who to turn to for an answer.
I love sitting on her back porch and watching all the different birds come to the feeders. It’s really a party out there. She gets all kinds of interesting birds that either live in the area year round, or just seasonally. Some even visit every year while passing through on migration. I think they know she’s there every year for them. She changes things up a bit from summer to winter based on who is in town for the season and she recently sent me some pictures of her feeders this winter.
Do you have feeders in your yard? Do you have someone that you’ve learned your passion for gardening or nature from?
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of those places you go to that makes you realize how beautiful and naturally diverse our country is. On the northwestern shore of Lake Michigan are stunning, glacially formed bluffs that overlook Lake Michigan. The shoreline is a hilly, varied landscape where you can find rivers, clear lakes, sandy beaches, beech-birch and maple forests and a dune topography that is ever changing.
The name, Sleeping Bear, comes from an Indian Legend describing how a mother and her two cubs tried to escape a fire raging in Wisconsin and became what is now the Manitou Islands and the Sleeping Bear Dune. If you have younger children, the book, The Legend of the Sleeping Bear by Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, is a “must-have” before you go or as a souvenir when you’re there.
We stayed at the Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor and you can read about our stay and other things to do in the area in my previous post, Family Trip to Glen Arbor, MI/Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We spent about a day and a half in the National Lakeshore exploring the area. You could definitely spend more time, as there is so much to explore and enjoy.
First thing to do when you arrive is to visit the Philip Hart Visitor Center on M-72 just East of M-22 in Empire, MI. As with all National Park visitor centers, it’s a great place to get oriented, ask questions or get advice on your visit, and learn more about the area through exhibits. You can also pick up great wonderful, inexpensive booklets from the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes that cover things like Hiking Trails, Common Wildflowers and Birding.
After the Visitors Center, you’ll want to head out to the Pierce Stocking Drive. It’s a 7.4 mile scenic drive that takes you to some of the best scenic sites in the park and gives you a great overview of the different forest and dune ecosystems. It is a seasonal road, so check that it is open when you want to go. Be sure to pick up your Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive booklet and take it along as you travel to the 12 numbered stops. Parking can get crowded, so best bet is to go early. You won’t want to miss the #9 Lake Michigan Overlook. It’s probably the most photographed spot in the park. As tempting as it is to run down the dune, remember that you need to get yourself back up and more than a few need to get rescued from the dune each summer. It’s also been designated a protected area that has been terribly damaged by all the years of climbing, so they’re trying to reduce the environmental impact on this fragile ecosystem by suggesting people stay off and just enjoy the beauty.
After you’ve enjoyed the scenic drive, continue traveling north on M-109 to the next stop, the 110 ft. Dune Climb. This is the place to climb to your heart is content. Once you’ve climbed up, you can hang out and be entertained by people watching and enjoying the view, or you can continue onto a fairly strenuous Dunes Hiking Trail that will take you to Lake Michigan. Be warned, there is no shade or water and the trail is all sand, which makes for difficult walking. If you’ve timed it right, this is a great place to have a picnic lunch. In fact, other than in the towns, there is no food service in the park. There is a small Camp Store at the Dune Climb, which stocks mostly light snacks, trinkets and souvenirs.
Continuing on M-109, your next destination is the Glen Haven Historical Village. Hours of the Village Museums and shops vary, so check the Visitor Guide. Even if things are closed, it’s still a great self guided area and worth stopping at. We found the Cannery Boat and Maritime Museums to be particularly interesting. It’s also a great spot to put your feet in the water and skip some rocks. This is also the starting point for the strenuous Sleeping Bear Point Trail.
Glen Arbor is the next stop on the tour, and more can be found about there in my previous post about our trip the to the area.
Glen Arbor is also an entry point to the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. It’s currently a 4 mile, multi-use paved trail from Glen Arbor to the Dune Climb. My son used it on our trip for cross country training runs. But, he had lots of company from bike riders, rollerbladers, walkers and other runners. The plan is to have an additional 4 miles of trail from the Dune Climb to Empire completed by spring 2014. When fully completed, the public/privately funded trail will run 27 miles, from the southern edge of the park, north to Good Harbor Bay.
If you haven’t had enough of beautiful scenery and have the time, a trip to the more northern Point Oneida Historic District and Pyramid Point area is worth the trip. You can bike or drive through the back roads of the historic agricultural landscape. While you’re there, be sure to take a quick hike on the moderately difficult Pyramid Point Trail. The views are spectacular.
Two other parts of the park we’ve been to on other trips are the Platte River District, south of Empire, and the Manitou Islands. In the Platte River area are the Platte and Crystal rivers, which are wonderful for canoeing, kayaking or tubing. The Empire Bluff Hiking Trail is often recommended as the best hike in the Park. The Manitou Islands are accessible via Manitou Transit, which leaves out of Leland. You can visit South Manitou Island for the day, or camp overnight, and see preserved beaches, wildlife, shipwrecks, giant cedars, historic farms and even climb the lighthouse. Be sure to bring everything you need, as no services are on the island. North Manitou is even more remote and completely undeveloped. Trips here require an overnight stay, so great for a backpacking experience.
What else to do? There’s plenty more! There’s beautiful sandy beaches, trails to hike, campgrounds, Star Parties, roads and trails to bike on, and ranger-led activities to participate in. There’s even plenty to do in the winter. Check out some of these resources to help plan your trip to this spectacular vacation spot.