Snow on the apple trees

So which Christmas song would you use to describe today?  I’m voting for “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.  That is, if we even consider that song a Christmas song.  Seems like they have been putting it on Christmas CDs lately, so it probably applies, even though some might think it really doesn’t have much to do with the holidays…but it DOES have lots to do about the cold.

It seems to be freezing all around the United States.  I’ve heard complaints from New York City and Nebraska and Georgia and even California (although that western complaint came last week, so they’re probably back to mild and sunny already…)

Red apple balls on white trees

I didn’t didn’t didn’t want to go outside this afternoon.  And, once outside, didn’t didn’t didn’t want to stay outside.  It felt too cold at 10 degrees.  Even though I was dressed very warmly.  I counted the remaining days of the outdoor adventure on both hands.  After today, only nine more days to go.

Would you like a little snow with your apples?

Today’s outdoor adventure involved a) taking pics of apple trees, b) taking lots and lots of snow pics which you’ll have to see later, c) walking around L’Anse and photographing decorated Christmas trees (I know you’ll be holding your breath waiting to see those!), d) walking down and up the road for maybe ten minutes and e) shoveling more snow off the back deck.

Camera goes berserk! Oh NO!!

A slight emergency ensued during the snowy-tree photography session.  OH NO!  The edges of camera suddenly seemed to go…black…and I got quite confused.  What was happening?  The camera wouldn’t dare break now would it?  Please, Camera, I need you to work for ten more days, I begged.  Do not die now.  You’re too new to die.  What in the heck is wrong with you?

Fortunately, upon arrival home, with some closer inspection, I discovered that the shutter had somehow become stuck.  Ahhh… a simple matter to gently touch it and the shutter quietly closed its gaping mouth.  That was what created the black side walls of the photos.  Phew…  Now let’s just hope it was a random event and not a precursor of anything more serious.  (Barry’s assessment after reading this blog:  the camera was frozen!)

Look closely. What do you see in that ball of sunlight?

On the way to town, I saw something really cool.  Two really cool things.  Here is your “Where’s Waldo” question of the Day.  Or rather your “What’s Waldo” question.  Can you spot two interesting things in the above photo?  And what might they be?

Now, if you would like to listen to It’s Beginning to Look a LOT like Christmas with our dear Bing Crosby, here’s your link.  If you prefer Baby It’s Cold Outside with Willie Nelson and Norah Jones click here.  I guarantee you will sing this second song all day.  Once you’ve heard it, it never goes away…

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Dentists recommend...playing hockey??

 

I can’t imagine dentists recommending that folks play hockey.  Only in the Copper Country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula would one glimpse a sign like this.  We laughed for two minutes before I made Barry turn the car around to photograph the sign.  And, I can guarantee you, turning around the car on a day like today proved no easy feat. (Ha ha, I am SO slow to get a joke.  Barry says dentists recommend playing hockey because players get their teeth knocked out and dentists have business.  Now I’m REALLY laughing!) 

Looking out the car window, Houghton, MI

 

We had to drive up to Houghton.  Barry had to interview someone, and he dropped me nicely at a coffee shop to sip cappuccino and play on my laptop computer, also known as Miss Ellie.  I wore sneakers up to Houghton, the first bad decision of the day.  The good decision involved throwing in a pair of Sorel boots in the back seat of the car.  After getting a good case of frozen sneaker-feet, I switched to the Sorels and clumped around during our later shopping expedition.  

Eleven very very very very cold degrees

 

The snow was still coming down in white sheets in the Copper Country.  Once you drive across the Houghton County line, you can expect the weather to worsen. It almost always does.  Usually within a mile or so of the county line sign.  People in the coffee shop moaned that the weather forecaster predicted up to ANOTHER two feet of snow up there in the next day or so.  Yikes!  We can always thank our lucky stars for living in the “banana belt” of Baraga County, especially in our locale near the Huron Bay.  After all, our storm abated after about fifteen inches of snow.   

Not very good roads today, but we're headed "south" toward L'Anse

 

I was glad Barry drove.  The roads were not stellar.  They combined ice, snow and slush into a mixture that kept us alert and cautious.  The white-out conditions in the Copper Country added to the fun.   

However, we did accomplish all our work and shopping.  After we turned around to drive home, passing by the county line, out came the sun!  Houghton County may still be getting lake effect snow, but we’re feeling like the tropics down here.  After all, our thermometer read 14 degrees!  Welcome winter!!  

The sun breaks through! We're back in Baraga County.

 

P.S.  Today’s outdoor adventure (besides running between stores) involved shoveling most of the deck.  A very good upper body workout.  I wonder if four out of five dentists would recommend shoveling?  Hmmm….

Yep, that's our house in the blizzard

 

Whipping blowing wild snow and wind

Welcome to our little blizzard.  Yep, parts of the Midwest of this United States of America have been hit hard.  We have…how many inches?  I brought the yardstick outside to try and gauge the exact amount.  Twelve inches?  Fourteen inches?  And the storm has not stopped yet. 

Through the window at dawn

 I awoke at 5:45 a.m. and blearily logged onto the Internet to see if school/work had been cancelled.  No announcements.  But I was pretty sure that we would not be having school.  The wind rushed and screamed outside the window at maybe 40 miles per hour.  The snow blew sideways.  I predicted:  no school.  But settled down beneath blankets on the couch to wait.  I admired the way our little ceramic Christmas tree reflected in the window as dawn approached. 

Looking out the living room window

The call came at 6:30.  Our principal announced “No School”.  Hurray!  A day off work. 

Brrrr.....

Most of my day was spent inside with the front door securely latched.  But, never fear!, I remembered the outdoor commitment.  Divided it into three mini-portions.  The first involved a meandering to the mailbox.  One truly must meander very slowly during a blizzard.  The foot goes up in the air, sinks down in the heavy snow.  Slowly one makes her way through the leaden snow drifts.  The wind blows snow sideways in your face.  You persevere. You get the mail.  You head back to the house. 

Car buried

The second trip outdoors…what did I do?  I don’t remember.  Maybe I just stood around hoping to catch the wind whipping up blizzard-like snow.  My eyelashes turned snowy.  It didn’t feel too cold, though.  

Looking up the road

The third trip outside, after dark, involved digging out buried cars.  This was truly a job.  A snow scraper isn’t enough.  One must find a push broom in the garage, and then broom off the foot or more of snow.  It helps to blare Christmas music from the car’s speakers.  It helps to have one’s husband atop his tractor, fitted with a snowplow, beaming light around the driveway.  

Looking into the woods

On the bright side, I accomplished much indoors today.  (Shhh…this is suppose to be an outdoor blog.  I’m not suppose to tell you about indoor activities.)  I finished the novel that I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo since November 1st.  It’s somewhere between 60,000-63,000 words.  It all ended rather well.  The heroine did not die, although she almost did.  She married the hero and we hope they are going to live happily ever after.  The novel combined a true historical setting from around our area…and some of my favorite things, spirituality and dreaming.  I am happy.  The characters in the novel are happy.  Now, with a little editing, it might someday be possible to actually SHOW the novel to someone!  Excuse me.  I mean a LOT of editing. 

Upside-down icicles in the sky

 Everyone around here is waiting for that blizzard. First it was a winter storm watch.  Then it morphed into a winter storm warning.  Now it’s a blizzard warning

 In the meantime, the weather has been rather mild.  Although this morning it was snowing cats and dogs.  You had to drive very slowly.  You thought the blizzard had arrived early.  But no.  It was simply a precursor to the actual blizzard which is reputedly supposed to start…in twenty five minutes.  Somewhere around 7 p.m. Tuesday night. 

Ravens calling in the sky

 They say we’re going to get lots of snow.  The question is:  do we believe them?  The National Weather Service gravely warns:  up to twelve inches of snow will befall us.  The way the radar loop is turning a swirl of blue from Iowa north, it may be true.  We’ll see. 

My mother just called.  “What’s the weather like up there?” she wondered.  They have a winter storm watch down in Michigan’s Thumb.  They are hoping to get snow, rather than treacherous ice.  I think I would agree that would be preferable.  

A cattail which looks rather like a bird

People usually go to town the day before a blizzard.  They try to stock up on supplies.  Get groceries for tomorrow night.  Maybe some hot chocolate or a bottle of wine or maybe some popcorn.  They fill up the car with gas.  Perhaps they buy an extra jug of water in case the electricity goes out.  If they remember they buy batteries for the flashlight.  They try to think of what they might need if the blizzard keeps them home-bound for a while.  The stores always seem busier when the National Weather Service puts out a Blizzard Warning.  

What our woods looked like prior to the blizzard

I walked in the woods this afternoon.  It is a pleasure to walk in the woods in the beginning of December before the snow gets too deep.  After this blizzard, if we get a foot or more, it will be impossible to walk without snowshoes.  Then it can be harder work to navigate amongst the trees.  So are we all ready for blizzard?  Ready to cuddle up on the couch tomorrow and read a book?  Ready to snuggle in the warm house as the snow comes down outside the window?  And in my case…ready to open the door, walk outside into the great and snowy white blizzard?  Anyone experiencing a blizzard want to join me?  Yep…it’s that time of year again!

The Silver River freezes

 

I’ve been fascinated by the patterns of the freezing rivers lately.  The rivers have been donning their winter garb of ice and snow, settling in for the long freezing days and nights. 

The Silver River with long shadows on the other side of the bridge

 

Yesterday I photographed the Silver River as it passed under Townline Road, but today drove a little distance up Skanee Road to wander along the river through the woods.  How it meanders!  How the river dances around this bend and those rapids, never stopping, always moving.  Until ice renders it deceptively silent and still.  Don’t walk on it yet!  In fact, I have never walked on river ice.  The currents still run beneath the silent frozen surface.

Years ago I dreamed of falling through the ice on the Silver River, sucked down beneath the hard glass surface, unable to find a way to the hole, unable to find a way back up.  It was not a happy dream.

Slurry of brown water, white snow and ice

 

In some places the river looks muddy and brown.  If you walk around the curve, it suddenly struts its beauty in stark white.  Fascinating patterns swirl everywhere.  Rivers of ice exist within rivers of sparkling water.  

Magical swirls, magical rivers of ice

 

The camera uploaded more than fifty photos by the time it finished shooting the patterns and swirls.  It seemed impossible to pick eight photos to show you.  Each one looks so unique, so different.  In the end, I just closed my eyes and picked.  (Well, not really!  But you get the idea…) 

An angel of ice

 

We are surrounded by such beauty that we do not notice.  I have never before thought of wandering by the riverside documenting the freezing of river ice.  Why don’t we think to do such things?  

Patterned curves as the ice forms

 

There are rumors that a big snow storm is headed for the Upper Peninsula.  Maybe tomorrow?  Maybe the next day?  Some areas may get ten to fifteen inches.  Baraga County is part of that warning.  You can read about it here if you like.  Sigh…winter seems to be starting awfully early this year. 

Oh beautiful river!

 

It’s lovely to sit inside when the snow falls.  You feel so cozy and peaceful and snug.  It’s even fun to put on your warm winter clothes and go outside.  What is challenging is when loved ones (or one’s self) need to be on the road.  Driving in a snowstorm is no fun.  The snow loses its appeal very rapidly. 

How ice forms when you're looking up close

 

Back to our discussion of freezing rivers.  It’s interesting to get right up close to the edge of the ice.  Not too close!  You don’t want to fall in.  But close enough to linger at the edge of something brand new.  Something beautiful.  Something we’re going to get to know very intimately during the next four or five months…

The beaver pond

Just think how many things we don’t know about nature.  

For example, I just had to Google the Question “Do beavers hibernate?”  

You would think someone who lives in the North Woods would know the answer to this question.  I thought I knew; maybe, perhaps, yes they do, no they don’t, let’s just get it over with and Google.  

Google pointed its wise finger to several websites which provided the definitive answer:  You Silly Questioner.  Of course beavers do not hibernate.  Don’t you know they eat the inner bark of trees during the winter?  Don’t you know that because the surface of their ponds may freeze solid, making it difficult to get trees, the beaver will chew down extra ones for an underwater food cache located near the den or lodge?  Don’t you know that?  

Pretty impressive sky, eh?

So now you’re wondering about otter, I suppose.  You want to know if otter hibernate.  I am here to tell you “Facts you Otter Know“.  They are definitively active all year-round. Cold weather does not inhibit their behavior.  In fact the author of the hyperlinked article insists that the otter loves ice and snow.  You otter know that.  

Bears hibernate.  You knew that, right?  Well, I am going to rock your world view, because some scientists disagree that bears actually hibernate in the same way as other animals.  That’s because they wake up frequently and their metabolism does not slow to nearly the same degree as, say, a possum or badger.  Why some mama bears even give birth during the winter, requiring a degree of alertness to care for the new cubs.  These scientists prefer to call this behavior denning rather than hibernating.  (It IS amazing what a Google search will teach you.)  

Another source just revealed that bears and raccoons torpor during the winter.  This source said that the raccoons sometimes go out to hunt before returning to their torpor-like state.  My husband can verify that.  He caught a big lake trout ice fishing and was saving the carcass in the snow and the raccoons stole it in the winter.  

Snowy tree, blue sky

Here is a partial list of animals hibernating around here this very minute according to wisegeek: chipmunks, ground squirrels (I beg to differ.  A red squirrel climbed the exterior wall, sat on the window and peered inside while I ‘denned’ at the computer this afternoon), hamsters (not any hamsters in these woods unless they escaped from someone’s house), skunks, bats, and badgers.   

Let us not forget our non-mammal friends, either.  The snakes that scared you last summer are sound asleep in a coma-like hibernation.  When we bring in our wood from the wood pile to wood room, we find shedded snake skins everywhere.  Sometimes we hang them up for decorations in the wood room.  I kid you not.  Back to our hibernation discussion.  Here are some more non-mammals:  lizards, frogs, toads, turtles and bees are all hibernating.   

One bird, the Western Poor Will, is considered a hibernating bird.  I can tell you what birds do NOT hibernate.  The chickadees, nuthatches, finches, blue jays, woodpeckers and juncos have all been seen near the bird feeder already this winter.  They are hard to photograph.  They flutter and swoop and dive so quickly all you can capture is a blurry whirr of wings.   

The chickadees at Catherine’s house yesterday were more relaxed.  You can see the non-hibernating bird here:  

Chickadee!

Oh yes.  I would also like to add that I did not hibernate today.  Barry had to go to the Trading Post, so I hitched a ride.  Then he dropped me off about a mile or more from our house and I walked home.  It was cold, but not freezing cold.  Snowy, but not too snowy.  The only non-hibernating animals spotted were ravens lunching on a deer carcass.  (I decided to spare you the deer carcass photo.)

Catherine's little sauna

First things first.  How many of you know how to properly pronounce the word “sauna”?  Show of hands!  Looks like a lot of you think you know how, but some of you are unsure.  Let’s practice for a moment.  I hear some of you saying “saw-na”.  No, that is not the way the true Finnish folk in this area pronounce the word.  Let’s try again.  “Sow-na.”  Yes!  Now you’ve got it!

 I was fortunate enough to be invited to a sauna today at my friend Catherine’s house.  Yes, indeed.  It was time to sweat.  Time for a little steam and purification.  Before she crumpled up the newspaper, placed the kindling inside the stove and struck the match, I was fortunate enough to meet her friend, John.  Luckily, they agreed to pose for a photograph for the little Sony Cybershot.

Catherine and John

We said goodbye to John and got serious about our sauna preparations.  (Well, mostly Catherine got serious about our sauna preparations.  I stood around and looked helpful.)  Soon she had a roaring fire going in the tiny sauna stove. 

Loading the sauna stove

While the fire is heating up, let’s talk about some sauna facts. Here is what our good friend Wikipedia has to say about the first saunas:   The oldest known saunas were pits dug in a slope in the ground and primarily used as dwellings in winter. The sauna featured a fireplace where stones were heated to a high temperature. Water was thrown over the hot stones to produce steam and to give a sensation of increased heat. This would raise the apparent temperature so high that people could take off their clothes.

The first Finnish saunas are what nowadays are called savusaunas, or smoke saunas. These differed from present-day saunas in that they were heated by heating a pile of rocks called kiuas by burning large amounts of wood about 6 to 8 hours, and then letting the smoke out before enjoying the löyly, or sauna heat. A properly heated “savusauna” gives heat up to 12 hours. These are still used in present-day Finland by some enthusiasts, but usually only on special occasions such as Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and juhannus (Midsummer’s Day).

 

Stained glass window in sauna

There will be a quiz at the end, so study hard.  I suppose many of you astute readers will notice the phrase “This would raise the apparent temperature so high that people could take off their clothes.”  So you astute readers are wondering what people wear when they take a sauna together?  My acute observations over the years point to three possibilities: A)  towels B) bathing suits or C) nothing.  It seems to depend on the group with whom you’re choosing to sauna, your modesty and the sex of your fellow sweaters.  Catherine and I chose the first two options. 

Protector of the Sauna

 We enjoyed a rather mild sauna today. Catherine did not even pour icy cold water over the hot rocks resulting in a potent steam bath.  No.  We sat on the top bench and chatted and yes, eventually sweated.  It has been almost FOUR months since we last saw one another in the raspberry patch.  How could so much time pass?  It is amazing that we can be so busy that we don’t take time to visit our closest friends.  

After the sauna...a beautiful sunset

 We also took a short hike down to the beaver pond before our sauna and was it COLD!  Only eighteen freezing degrees.  I was thoroughly icy-frozen for the first time since last winter.  It didn’t help that I had forgotten my warm boots and had to borrow John’s too-big sized boots, even though they were stuffed with nice warm socks.  Tomorrow I will how you some photos of the snow-covered pond and other exciting winter photos. 

After the sauna we lingered over dinner (until I abruptly announced it was time to go home and write the blog) slowly savouring delicious oven-roasted root vegetables over quinoa.  Oh Heaven!  Food and sauna and outdoor adventures are so wondermous when shared with friends.

P.S.  I have decided to forgo the quiz. I’m sure you all memorized all the facts anyway.  Instead I will paste in some more sauna history for those of you who are interested.  The rest of you can go about your day plotting about when you can enjoy your next sauna. 

As a result of the industrial revolution, the sauna evolved to use a metal woodstove, or kiuas [ˈkiu.ɑs], with a chimney. Air temperatures averaged around 70–80 degrees Celsius (160–180 degrees Fahrenheit) but sometimes exceeded 90 °C (200 °F) in a traditional Finnish sauna. Steam vapor, also called löyly [ˈløyly], was created by splashing water on the heated rocks. 

The steam and high heat caused bathers to perspire. The Finns also used a vihta [ˈvihtɑ] (Western dialect, or vasta [ˈvɑstɑ] in Eastern dialect), which is a bundle of birch twigs with fresh leaves, to gently slap the skin and create further stimulation of the pores and cells. 

The Finns also used the sauna as a place to cleanse the mind, rejuvenate and refresh the spirit, and prepare the dead for burial. The sauna was (and still is) an important part of daily life, and families bathed together in the home sauna. Because the sauna was often the cleanest structure and had water readily available, Finnish women also gave birth in the sauna. 

Although the culture of sauna nowadays is more or less related to Finnish culture, it’s important to note that the evolution of sauna has happened around the same time both in Finland and the Baltic countries sharing the same meaning and importance of sauna in daily life. The same sauna culture is shared in both places still to this day. 

When the Finns migrated to other areas of the globe they brought their sauna designs and traditions with them, introducing other cultures to the enjoyment and health benefits of sauna. This led to further evolution of the sauna, including the electric sauna stove, which was introduced in the 1950s and far infrared saunas, which have become popular in the last several decades. 

In Tibetan, there is a word Shokhang,wich means Sauna.

Welcome to our little township. I thought it was time to introduce you to some of the actual buildings which comprise our lesser metropolis.  Our tiny villages in the woods. 

We live in Arvon Township.  As of the 2000 census, 482 people lived here.  There aren’t really “towns” in Arvon Township, at least in the way most people think of towns.  Most people think that a town is perhaps composed of businesses like a grocery store, bank, restaurant, and gas station, all located in a common area.  (To find these conveniences our residents have to drive between eleven and twenty-five miles into the town of L’Anse which hosts all the modern conveniences.)  

There are at least three town “areas” in the township:  Skanee, Aura and Huron Bay.  The buildings in the following photos are mostly in the Skanee and Huron Bay areas, within a five or seven mile radius. 

But we do feature a school, a township hall, a post office, a Trading Post, a tavern, a church, and a community hall within our boundaries.  

So are you ready for the introductions? 

The Arvon Township School

 

Please meet our school.  It is a K-6 school which is very dear to my heart.  Mostly because I’ve worked there on a part-time basis as the business manager for many years.  Both of our children attended elementary school here.  The total size of the school has fluctuated between five and forty students since the 1980’s.  It is one of the last two-room schools in the Upper Peninsula.  A few others exist, but they are few and far between. 

Moving down the road a few miles and turning down Town Road, please meet the Arvon Township Hall: 

Arvon Township Hall

 

OK, I have to admit the Arvon Township Hall is precious to me, too.  I have been the township treasurer there (well actually I work out of my home) since about 1984.  

We even feature a little post office!  A very miniscule post office in a trailer.  Probably one of the tiniest post offices around.  I tried to convince our postmaster to pose for a photo in front of the post office but she declined.  

Our little post office

 

Where else can I show you on our little tour?  How about the Trading Post?  John is the owner and he’s a great guy.  He wasn’t around to ask for a photo shoot. 

The Huron Bay Trading Post

 

The Trading Post is where you go when you need supplies and don’t want to drive to town.  I mean the “real” town of L’Anse.  If your gas tank hits empty you head over here.  If you need toothpaste, beer, candy, chips, cranberry juice or pickle relish…you know where to go.  Aren’t we lucky to have a Trading Post out in the middle of the woods? 

And if you want to sit down and have a beer or drink, drive just a short ways up the road to the Huron Bay Tavern.  Also known as Billy the Finn’s (don’t ask why) it has been here for ages.  Years ago we used to have another bar/restaurant called The Timbers where everyone went for fish on Friday nights, but it burned down. 

The Huron Bay Tavern

 

If you want to see the Aura Community Hall (with its famous annual Fiddler’s Jamboree please click here).  If you want to see the pretty white Lutheran Church out in Skanee, you’ll have to use your imagination.  I forgot to photograph it. 

I did, however, take a photo of our unofficial “used car lot”.  The owner has been selling lots of heavy machinery for several years now.  I think this qualifies as a used car lot, don’t you? 

Anyone want to buy a dump truck? Loader?

 

So there you have it.  I have undoubtedly forgot several businesses like our marina, a beauty shop, a fire hall and some cottages for rent down on the lake.  (See!  I’m remembering as we speak.)  

Hope you have enjoyed the tour.  Please come and visit our little township along the shores of Lake Superior some day! 

P.S.  Outdoor adventure on Day 349 of the outdoor commitment:  walked up the road in the snow and back down the road in the snow.  A little slippery.  We must start walking very carefully on the snow now.  We only got a couple inches, but there are rumors that other places in the Upper Peninsula are getting more.

Red apple trees surrounded by birch

How to make the perfect apple crisp:

Find a tree laden with wild apples.  Cultivated apples are OK, too.  If you find a tree the pioneers planted, your crisp will be filled with pioneer spirit.  Try to avoid the grocery store.  Supermarket apples tend to be filled with supermarket spirit.  Not conducive to the best apple crisp.

Laden with apples even in December!

Fill an oiled 8 inch pan three-quarters full of sliced peeled apples.  Peer in at your apples.  Smell them.  Remember what summer felt like.  Remember what autumn felt like.  Take a bite.  Slowly savor the apple-crispin’ flavor of the apple before you even bake it. Crunch.  Chew slowly.  Chew even more slowly so you can taste every single subtle sweet tangy buttery whatever-you-might-call-it flavor.  Think of three words to describe your apple flavor.  Pretend that you’re an apple connoisseur. 

Looking up with apples

After you’ve filled your pan with apples, it’s topping time!  You have two choices.  You can pile a traditional topping over the apples such as the one below:

Traditional:  Mix 3/4 cup quick oats, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup soft margarine or butter.  Mix together well and place over the delectable apples. (Optional:  add nuts and cinnamon, as described below.)

Or you can choose Vegan, also known as non-dairy.  Which is what I would choose at this stage in my life.  But because I don’t write recipe creations down, I’m going to try to remember the last (approximate) apple crisp topping created:

Kathy’s topping:  Mix 3/4 cup oats, 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, two tablespoons vegetable oil (OK you guys can use three tablespoons if you still have good gall bladders) and three tablespoons of maple syrup, honey, agave syrup or rice syrup.  Toss in cinnamon!  Not too much, not too little.  Maybe a teaspoon if you’re into needing more exact measurements.  Now go find your nuts.  Grab a handful of pecans, chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews or whatever kind you like.  Just chop ’em up into a reasonable bite-able size.  Add to the topping mixture.  OK, and if you adore flaked coconut, add some of that, too.  That looks good, doesn’t it?   Ready for the oven.

Yellow Christmas balls of apples adorn limbs

Now put the apple crisp in the oven to bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Think about how much you enjoy seeing those apple trees at the sides of roads at this time of year.  The world looks gray and bleak and the trees wave their skeleton arms at you as you pass. 

But in the midst of all that grayness, the Apple Trees still cling to their apple children!  Like red and yellow Christmas balls, they brighten up the landscape.  On a sunshiny-blue-sky day, they look awesome.  On a gray spitting snow day, their decorations look more muted, but you notice how their colors still make you feel…more festive.

Fallen apples sprinkled with sweet snow

I don’t suppose you should gather up the apples pictured above to eat now, though.  Nope, they’ve been frozen more than once and are mushier than baked crisp. They are now reserved for the deer. You should have thought about your apple crisp in the autumn.  (We don’t call this season autumn any more here.  Nope.  Even though they say winter doesn’t start for another two or three weeks, it’s definitely winter here.) 

But now your timer is beeping and the smells coming out of your oven are FABULOUS!  You thank those pioneers.  You thank the farmers.  If you can eat ice cream, go ahead and ladle a little scoop on your plate next to that steaming apple crisp.  Oh look at it melt…

Now it’s time to take a bite.  Ahhh…yessss….yum….apple crisp!

P.S.  If anyone wants to disagree about the wonderful fabulous exceptional part of this heading…your difficulty would probably be that you couldn’t find pioneer or wild apples.  Try to find ’em next year, OK?

Full moon dances with clouds last night

The Anishinabe People (Ojibway) who live in our area call this December moon the Little Spirit Moon.  Some refer to it the Small Spirits Moon.  January’s moon is called the Great Spirit Moon. 

This month, on December 31st, another moon will rise in our night sky.  Many of us call the second moon in a month with two moons “The Blue Moon”.  Which is why you’ve probably heard the old-time saying, “once in a blue moon” implying something doesn’t happen very often.

I do not know what the Anishinabe call the Blue Moon.  I do not even know why they call this month the “Little Spirit Moon” although I could tell you some possible stories which may or may not be true.  Today it made me think of the small things in life, the little spirits, the precious gifts of life which are sometimes easy to overlook.

A small spirit: perhaps a coneflower or wild bergamot

Perhaps it’s because the sun keeps inching further and further away from our world.  As the darkness descends oh-so-early some people experience a feeling of despair or apathy or depression.  Perhaps “Small Spirits Moon” is meant to imply this is a time of year when our spirits sometimes flag or despair.  I’ve heard it said that our Christmas lights and candles burn in the darkness to help us through the bridge of the Winter Solstice.   That we share the light in this deepening darkness to help each other through these days.

As the earth in this northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun, the snows begin to fall.  The ice begins to freeze on our lakes and rivers.  We saw the first ice forming on a couple small lakes today. 

The sheen of new ice

Most of my outdoor commitment happened after dark today.  When one is planning to write a blog about the moon, one should go outside and look for it.  However, it wasn’t ready to rise in our sky at 7 p.m.  So I ambled in the dark.  How many of you have ambled in the dark in a forest?

It is a very interesting experience.

Can you see the ghostly images of trees?

You can see that it was snowing lightly this evening.  While it was dark, there seemed enough light to avoid falling in ditches, blindly running into trees or tripping over stumps.  I stayed fairly close to the house.  The wind rustled through the trees.  Suddenly–over there!–a great rustling ensued!  (My mind then began to wonder what that rustling might be.  Bears?  Deer?  Chipmunks?)  But the rustling stopped and the forest returned to silence punctuated with dog barks in the distance, perhaps the yip of a coyote, the low hoot of a faraway owl.

Our little house in the dark (with the moon in hiding)

Even though the snow fell gently down from the sky, it almost felt warm.  It’s nice to be bundled up in your warmest clothes when outside in December after dark. 

Goodnight, Little Spirit Moon.

P.S.  I just looked at the last two photos on a different computer and can not even SEE the ghostly images of trees and snow flakes and the soft etchings of our house against the darkness.  On this computer they basically look like two black photos.  Laughing…well I guess SOME of you can see the subtle ghostly images and the rest of you can enjoy the black night.   tee hee…

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