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Hello reader! First of all, these photos were taken yesterday. I felt suddenly silently called to visit Lake Superior’s shore, filled with a desire to photograph ice-forming pictures. Imagine my surprise to discover the ice extravaganza which coated benches, gates and poles.
Walking out the boardwalk-pier proved very very challenging. It required tip-toeing. The entire boardwalk lay coated with a covering of ice. One did not want to walk too quickly, slip and enjoy a polar plunge in the bay. I wondered which recent day furiously frosted this lake-side world with thick ice.
Much of the beach looked clean-swept with only dustings of snow. Stones and snow slumbered together, bedmates for the winter.
The ice is forming along the edges of the lake. Many predict an early ice-fishing season. (I actually witnessed a surveyor/architect fellow walking on river ice today. What craziness! Was he nuts? River ice is so fragile, so delicate, so thin. I wanted to leap from the car and photograph his insane behavior. Yet, did not want to embarrass the fellow. My own brand of quiet insanity, you think?)
Today’s outdoor adventure involved an insanity of its own. Heading out into the woods without snowshoes. (You see now how the river-walker and I have something in common…although it still seems his venture might be a little more dangerous.) I followed the ridge behind the house, the snow almost cresting the top of the boots. It was a work-out trudge. Kind of like going to the gym.
I emerged on the road awhile later, nicely sweating, after communing with a woodpecker. I caught a photo of him in flight, which perhaps you shall see on Sunday. He pecked away on a dead tree. I begged him to come closer, closer, just a little closer, but he looked down his long beak at me and said, “You are close enough, madam” and flew away to the next dead tree stump.
Our temperature turned so mild today and crested above the freezing mark. The ice in downtown L’Anse will undoubtedly have melted today. Perhaps folks can amble down the boardwalk toward Lake Superior without slipping.
As we approach the darkest day of the year, let us remember to walk carefully if we live in northern climes. Ice is silently forming, preparing to transform our Great Lakes.
I suppose you’ve all figured out I’m crazy about numbers. Stats. Useful information. It’s kind of an obsession, as I explained to a friend this morning.
We’ve covered the top search engine terms people have used to find this blog. Now let’s look at the top blogs during the 365 day outdoor commitment. (Although, it seems to me that these top blog numbers are not really accurate. If someone logs on to a blog and simply scrolls down the page without clicking on the actual title of the blog or the comments, no “hit” is registered in the statistics of a particular blog.)
#1 is Some Like It Funny and Some Like It Serious (1,247 hits) and #3 is Repeating myself like a broken record, record, record (or CD, CD, CD) (393 hits). Those two don’t really “count” as random top blogs because these were the blogs featured on the home page of WordPress.com. The #2 top blog isn’t really a blog at all. It’s the “About” (612 hits) story which explains what this blog is about.
#4 is Fisher, Pine Marten, Bear and Moose (326 hits) which features photographs by Pam Boppel-Nankervis, a local wildlife biologist. The first photo (up above) was captured by a game camera.
#5 is The gall of that oak tree! That was the exciting day when we discovered that oak trees often grow green balls known as “galls”. Very educational…for all of us. Apparently, many, many folks are interested in oak galls. 309 hits for this one.
I am also delighted to tell you that I discovered one of the dead birds hidden within this blog! At least part of a dead bird. The above raven’s claw was featured in a post called Dead raven, deer hide, river and stones back in March. Perhaps all the people searching for “dead bird” end up on this post. It has had 284 hits.
#7 in the greatest hits series (ha ha, Barry made me use this title!) is A sucker for sucker fishing, written in May. I’m sure many fishermen have visited this post, wanting to know the secret for catching suckers. Bet they left not knowing much more than when they started. Here’s what I remember about that day: throw the fishing pole into the water and wait until the sucker bites. Then jerk the pole up and hope that the hook caught the sucker. End of my knowledge of sucker fishing. 237 hits here.
#8 An all-time favorite of blog visitors has been Let’s have a scavenger hunt! (235 hits). The idea for it popped into this brain on the way to the mailbox one day and we had a few eager participants. The rules: find some pussy willows, sumac or wintergreen, birchbark, animal scat and an animal. Photograph all five and email ’em to me. Some folks opted to put them in their own blogs. We had so much fun that Amy over at Flandrumhill decided to feature a follow-up contest. Hers was really classy and educational.
(Photo credit for above goes to Pam Boppel-Nankervis. And this was NOT from a game camera. She actually got this close to the fisher. Can you imagine?)
I hope that you don’t consider this cheating. Putting in all these old photos and doing wrap ups of the year. The statistics just beg to be included, you understand. Besides, I didn’t think you wanted yet another photo of me in that darn snowmobile suit from 1970 filling the wood room. That’s what we did again today.
Almost forgot to tell you! More excitement. The temperature leaped back up into the 20’s. Once again, we’re living in the banana belt…
…you know what we’ll be doing.
Winter chores. Which usually involves a lot of Snow.
Here’s a synopsis of our outdoor life from November through April or May each year:
Then there is the challenge of scraping the car. Seems like I even wrote a blog about it back last winter. Let’s see if it can be found. Yes, here it is if you would vicariously like to experience the thrill.
This morning proved a very lucky morning. My dear husband offered to open the door and walk outside to take pre-dawn photography shots. Wasn’t he kind? (HE didn’t have to go to work this morning…) He even scraped and brushed the car after the photo shoot. Of course, I do believe I scraped HIS car yesterday morning, so perhaps now we’re even.
As of the last daylight check, it seems like it gets light around here somewhere around 8:15 a.m. Dark around 5:45 p.m. Our daylight hours are a little skewed compared to most folks on Eastern time because we’re so close to the Central Time Zone. (Morning observation: forget the specifics. It’s hard to determine when it gets light. Let’s revise to say anywhere between 7:45-8:15 a.m. in the morning. Or you can click here to get the official time.)
In the afternoon we opted to fill the wood room. You need to get the wood inside for a couple days before you burn it in the woodstove for prime burning. Even though we have our wood pile nicely tarped, it still needs to dry out completely. First, you have to shovel the snow off the tarps. (This is usually not my job.) Then one of us stands inside in the wood room while the other hauls logs to the door. The inside-worker stacks the logs in nice even rows in the woodroom. Because the inside worker has a cushier job (unless they are putting the logs up high) one must trade off. I let Barry stack the higher logs and then jump inside to stack the lower logs while he carries the wood in. Got that convoluted lesson in wood hauling and stacking?
This winter looks extra-challenging for chores because a certain Garage Addition Builder has not yet finished his project. In fact, it looks like February might be the finishing date. You never know. The metal roof is in at the lumber yard. He’ll drive his ’49 Studebaker in to pick up supplies on Friday. Before he begins to work on his daily building project, he must shovel the snow off the rafters. It makes building a garage addition in the summertime look like a piece of cake!
Another very important winter chore involves plowing the driveway with our tractor. I suggested today that he uncover the tractor and re-plow the driveway for a photo shoot. He declined. So you will have to imagine what the tractor and plowing job looks like. Or, if you’re really bored and missing this blog during the winter, re-read all the entries. Somewhere in the archives there is a picture or two of the tractor. I promise you.
My jobs are shoveling the deck and sometimes the front porch. And…oh yes…we mustn’t forget…emptying the ash buckets. After you burn enough wood in the woodstove, it fills up with ash which must then be dumped out in the woods. And now you can visualize this exciting chore:
Yep, that’s our winter chores. I’ve probably forgotten at least ten of them. So you can see, even if I decide to shut the door and stay inside all winter, it’s not going to happen! Those outdoor chores will simply have to be done…
By the way, if I eventually start another blog, I am looking forward to being able to post indoor photographs. For example…looking around furtively…no one is noticing this isn’t an outdoor photograph, are they?…don’t you think this statue of Abraham Lincoln with the cactus growing out of his head looks cool? (Barry just raised his eyes and did not seem to agree…) I did not even position that cactus. Life is amazing, isn’t it?
This blog is dedicated to the many readers who randomly discovered this blog by utilizing a search engine. You know who you are. The reader who types in “close up pictures of puddles” or “never mind what I have posted yesterday” or “cauliflower brocoli salad” and end up on this blog.
WordPress.com gives us all sorts of statistics, and search engine statistics are some of the funniest. You wonder why in the world people would type in “people running in snow filled night”. You sometimes even make up funny stories about it.
I am here to tell you the all-time top searches that resulted in finding this outdoor blog during the 365 day commitment. Are you ready? (Don’t tell me you already can figure it out, based on the title!)
The first and third top searches were status quo. Centria.wordpress.com and Opening the door, Walking Outside were to be expected. But who would have thought that 111 hits have resulted from the search “Palm Trees”??
(For all you new or itinerant visitors, the palm tree photos came from a trip to Fort Myers Beach, Florida, back in late March.)
Search Term #4: wood splitter. Well, this is a perfect Yooper (Upper Peninsula) search engine term. And do we know about wood splitters! We are expert wood splitters. (I can say this with assurance after a whole year of operating the lever. We have not split off any fingers or other accessories and hopefully we never will. Perhaps I should leave out the word “expert”. Let’s substitute “experienced” wood splitters.)
Search engine term #5: Sand movement on Lake Superior. I am curious about that one. Eighty seven hits followed these words. Were they all the same person? Is there a group of sand movement analysts? Did my blog offer them anything concrete for their research? (metaphorically speaking, of course…)
Then we have the feather-searchers. Eighty two feather searchers have landed on this blog. I have posted a few photos of feathers, and we have lots of birds in the Upper Peninsula, that’s for sure. Here is one of my favorites from late June:
#7 search engine term: dead bird. Hmmm…. Sixty two views on this post from searching for “dead bird”. Unfortunately, my own search on this blog did not find a photo of a dead bird. They apparently had more luck. I have a vague memory of photographing a dead–maybe–robin or chickadee in the yard. But neither my memory nor the blog search engine could discover it. It’s hiding somewhere in this year-long blog. Fifty cents to the avid blog reader who can find it! Just kidding!
#8 (and we’ll stop here): the infamous Vegetable Scraps! I have told you before that searchers keep landing on this blog seeking Vegetable Scraps. Maybe they are looking for soup recipes. Maybe they want to make brocoli-cauliflower salad. Instead they arrive at a photo of scraps we throw out for the deer during the winter time. I thought this photo back in January looked almost artistic.
If you have a blog for two or three or more years, the search engine hits can reach into the thousands, so I’m told. It’s odd to think that years down the road people may still be typing in “palm trees” and arriving at this Upper Peninsula of Michigan 365-day outdoor commitment blog.
For any of you who are reading this post (having typed in palm trees, wood splitters, sand movement on Lake Superior, feather, dead bird and vegetable scraps) I have a little note for you:
P.S. very cold today for the outdoor adventure. Eleven freezing degrees. It took three trips in and out the front door to fulfill the commitment. In and out…kind of like sand movement on Lake Superior…
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…)
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.
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.
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!)
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…
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.
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.
The call came at 6:30. Our principal announced “No School”. Hurray! A day off work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…)
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?
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Several times this year I wondered what would happen with the outdoor commitment if I got sick. Here was the rough plan: Barry would pull out the reclining lawn chair and I would snuggle on it for at least a half hour beneath dozens of blankets. Or in Grandma’s 1970’s snowmobile suit if it was winter.
Today I didn’t feel well. Don’t worry. It’s not a serious sickness. You don’t need to hear all the details, but it involved intestinal disfortitude followed by chills followed by a headache which still exists twelve hours later. Of course, the headache may be caused by caffeine withdrawal. Because of the intestinal challenges, I am not drinking coffee or black tea…and that almost always results in a headache.
I lay on the couch almost all day,mostly napping and staring into space, except for a work-related trip into town. Finally the Outdoor Adventure could be postponed no longer. Barry was at work, so the reclining lawn chair was not a possibility without a lot of fuss. So I put on Grandma’s snowmobile suit and boots, hat, scarf and mittens and carried a small cushion out under the spruce tree (where I camped last winter. Click here and here if you want to read about that excitement.)
And then I looked at the sky.
It felt a little chilly. It also felt invigorating in a good sort of way. I closed my eyes and listened to the chickadees with the whhhhirrrr of their wings and the sounds of them cracking open the sunflower seeds with their beaks. Little bits of sunflower shells fell on me. The neighbor’s dog or rooster kept hollering. (It’s quite pathetic when one cannot determine the difference between a dog and a rooster. But sometimes you can’t…even when you ARE feeling well.)
For the last five minutes of the outdoor time, I sneaked inside, grabbed the phone and returned to lie on the front porch. Called my mama. It’s always good to talk with your mother when you’re feeling a little under-the-weather. You remember the times when she gently tended to you as a child. (And probably also said, “And you can’t go outside until you’re feeling better!”)