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The awesome Thimbleberry Blossom

The awesome Thimbleberry Blossom

So you’ve got lots of pictures of flowers.  That’s cool.  But where are the photos of bears, moose, fishers, wolves, coyotes, porcupines, skunks and beaver?  Where are the pictures of mountain lions, spotted fawns, bobcat, weasels, raccoons and frogs?

If you live in the woods, don’t you see animals all the time?  C’mon, you’re stepping outside every day…WHERE ARE THE ANIMALS?

Ummm, I don’t know.  I keep looking.  Every single day.  Wanting to see a bear, just maybe not nose-to-nose.  Maybe the kind of bear you can photograph hunching beautifully out the driver’s window.  Maybe a moose munching on grass at the end of our road.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Instead…this is the only animal (besides birds, squirrels, chipmunks, bumblebees and mosquitoes) that I’ve seen lately:

Backwards dead wasp.  Makes you wonder how & why he died.

Backwards dead wasp on lupine. Makes you wonder how & why he died.

I did see a spotted fawn a couple days ago.  The poor little thing started across the road and I (somewhat shame-faced admit) pulled the car over to the side of the road and followed it into the woods.  “C’mon, little fawn…time for a picture!” but it proved more wily and smarter than the photographer.  Saw another fawn and its mama about a half mile down the road from the mailbox at lunchtime.  They stopped and we eyed each other before they sauntered back into the forest.

Fields of lupines alongside our roads

Fields of lupines alongside our roads

The fawns are usually born around Memorial Day weekend.  Their mamas will leave them curled up in a ball in the woods.  If you stumble across one, the fawn will remain motionless and stare at you with big wide eyes.  We’re instructed not to pet them, not to come close.  Instead we stare back with even bigger wider eyes until common sense says “leave, now!”  Now the fawns are growing up, and following their mamas everywhere.  Sometimes they get confused and remain frozen in place in the middle of the road.  Then it’s good manners to wait until they decide to move.

The lovely buttercup nods our way

The lovely buttercup nods our way

On the way home from downstate I thought about sharing with you my one and only moose sighting story.  It was back in the late 1980’s.  The kids and I were driving home from Marquette when this huge awkward–what could it be?  a gangly horse?  a cow?  (the mind sometimes refuses to cooperate when startled)– MOOSE loped in front of our vehicle.  Our mouths dropped open and we slowed.  Within five seconds of the moose crossing every vehicle approaching or behind us pulled off to the side.  At least a half dozen people with cameras dangling from their hands ran after that moose into the woods.  I couldn’t believe it!  How could people be that silly?  Were they nuts?   (now, all these years later, I would be the first one following that moose into the woods….)

So, thinking about sharing that twenty year old moose tale, lamenting that you rarely see a moose around these parts, Barry gleefully announces all the animal sightings he’s experienced in the past week or so. And, leading the list:  A moose at the end of our road.  And from our deck a bear cub in the ravine right behind our house.  And a partridge which hit the side of his car so hard that feathers flew up everywhere.

Blackberry blossom (or black raspberry)

Blackberry blossom (or black raspberry)

OK, I hope you all have enjoyed the flower photos.  Sorry about the lack of animals, except for that rather strange-looking dead wasp.  We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled.  Prepared to dash off into the woods at any moment…

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Baby robins almost grown up

Baby robins almost grown up

The animal world can sure be loud. 

First, I have a terrible story to tell.  I think it turned out OK, but initially it looked…challenging.  It started yesterday afternoon.  It involved robins.  Sigh.  All of my trials and tribulations this spring involve robins…

I saw the baby robins near the garage with their beaks in the air, awaiting worms from mama and papa.  Oh, didn’t they look cute?  Wouldn’t it be an adorable prize-winning photograph?  (Or at least something somewhat interesting to blog readers?)  I moved close with camera lens zoomed in. 

Suddenly the nearest half-upright robin baby from the above photo, taken a couple days before, shot straight up in the air, scared to death as the camera approached him.  Then he flew!  Across the grass, toward the safety of the woods, away from the crazy human, he flew low but sure, his wings flapping. 

My heart stopped in fear.  About the time the mama and papa began screaming and dive-bombing me.  It was awful.  Horrible.  I almost cried, seriously, thinking I might have prematurely caused the robin to leave the nest.  That the robin might die because of my camera greed. 

The parents were angry, and rightly so.  Dive-bombing continued for the next five minutes as I ducked and cowered and got out of there as quickly as possible.  Apologies didn’t seem to help.  Their clamor was shrill and piercing.  Alas.

However, early this morning Barry announced that all the other baby robins were gone.  Flown away.  Left the nest.  Suddenly I didn’t feel so guilty. Maybe it was TIME. They were ready to fly, and I just provided a slight…impetus.  Whew.  Guilt slightly abated…

Three sheep

Three sheep

Today I visited a farm.  To visit the animals.  Specifically, the sheep, the horses/mules and the chickens and bees.  My friends Barbara and Evan live up in Herman.  I haven’t visited their farm in over a year, so it was nice to tour their barns and fields.  Very interesting and instructive.  It proved a fun morning.

First, came the ram.  All the close-up photos of this curvy-horned fellow turned out fuzzy.  Sorry.  He scared me.  Barbara warned me to stay away, as he’s protective of those female sheep.  We eyed each other.  I finally took a good photo as he meandered away with his flock.

See that reddish ram heading away down a forest road?

See that reddish ram heading away down a forest road?

The sheep baaaahhed and baaahhed quite unabashedly.  There are at least a couple dozen of them.  Barbara reported the lambing season progressed well this year, and they didn’t lose a single lamb.  They have named all of them.  She kept a steady litany going, sharing all their names.  It amazed me that they could tell this black sheep from that black sheep, or this red one from that red one.  I suppose when you’ve helped birth many of them into the world, it’s easy to identify their characteristics.

I'm sorry.  I really don't know if this is a horse or a mule.

I'm sorry. I really don't know if this is a horse or a mule.

Then there were the chickens clucking and calling and carrying on.  They were free-range beauties, pecking everywhere in the dirt, wandering into the woods.

Chickens clucking

Chickens clucking

Barbara gestured over toward the woods, at bee hives far beyond the sheep.  Could we get a photo?  She said there were a couple hives near the garden.  We opened the fence and wandered in.  Bees rested on the thousand dandelions leading up to the hives, buzzing in yellow splendor.  We tried not to step on any.

Organic honey for sale this summer!

Organic honey for sale this summer!

Their dogs did not bark.  Except perhaps when I pulled in the driveway.  We finished our barnyard tour with tea and Babycakes muffins from Marquette.  It was great to visit their farm again.  Hope you all enjoyed it, as well!

Let’s travel along Memory Lane for this outdoor blog.  Back to the turn of the century, around 1999 and 2000.  The years we Upper Peninsula residents learned about the Forest Tent Caterpillar.  Many of us don’t want to look backward to be reminded of these creatures, but let’s reminisce briefly for those who have never weathered such an invasion.

What triggered this memory was this eastern tent caterpillar nest near the Bishop Baraga Shrine last Friday:

Eastern tent caterpillar nest

Eastern tent caterpillar nest

Almost rather pretty shimmering in the sunshine, right?  These are the more common variety of tentworm caterpillars.  They’re fond of wild cherries, or ornamental trees such as crab-apple, apple, plum, peach and cherry.  We co-exist rather happily with these caterpillars.  Hardly even know they’re around…

However, back in 1999, rumors whispered from the south.  The forest tent caterpillars were marching north from Wisconsin.  Entire swaths of trees were denuded of leaves as the caterpillars moved toward Lake Superior.  A driver along an interstate might suddenly notice bare tree limbs, completely devoid of greenery, with dozens or hundreds of acres of trees suddenly decimated by the army of multi-legged leaf-munchers.

We didn’t think too much about it until the army arrived here.  Until our tree leaves were consumed.  Until we were desperately thinking of creative ways to save some of our trees, especially prized oaks.  First we boiled up gallons of the hottest cayenne pepper-laced water. That didn’t even burn their feet. We finally settled upon a necklace of aluminium foil drenched with cooking oil near the tree base. 

The hungry fellows like wild cherry trees like their cousins, but they especially enjoy supping on poplars and oaks. Apparently their invasions occur in cycles of ten to twenty years. 

They settled thick upon the land for two years.  There were coccoons in the eaves, the awnings, the trees, the bricks, the blocks, the windows, the doors.  Everywhere the forest tent caterpillars could imagine.  We have a–shall we say, fond?–or at least, amusing?– memory of our son’s graduation party in 2000.  We set up folding tables on the side lawn, beneath the oak.  Can you perhaps imagine the scene as hundreds of tentworms dropped out of the tree onto the tables, perhaps frightening away guests?  My mother-in-law just mentioned that she kept herself busy inside of the house, hoping perhaps to avoid the industrious caterpillars.

Another memory:  in their march through L’Anse, they were so thick they covered the gas pumps at a local station.  Can you imagine the thrill of pumping gas through that quagmire?

Nine years later remnants of the nests remain.  I did an extensive search to photograph one of the beautiful carcasses for you.  At least two presented themselves.  For your viewing pleasure:

Exhibit A.  Old forest tentworm caterpillar nest

Exhibit A. Old forest tent caterpillar cocoon

One of my most miserable outdoor memories occurred in the midst of this invasion.  It was spring.  I wandered into the woods, about a half mile up the road from our house.  Probably thinking of morels or spring wildflowers or the challenges of the day, I didn’t notice until too late. 

Suddenly, unexpectedly, I was surrounded by strands of webs.  Hundreds, thousands!  Everywhere one turned, the sticky webs covered glasses, hair, eyes, clothes.  You couldn’t breathe without ingesting them.  It felt like a thousand almost-invisible ropes were surrounding you, tying you up, immobilizing you.  I tried to run but became more deeply entangled in webs.  Couldn’t even see because my glasses were covered by the threads.  The vague memory of the horror movie “The Birds” surfaced and I felt like screaming.  Honestly, it was not pleasant.  I didn’t return to the woods for at least a month after that adventure…

Here is another specimen left over from those days:

Exhibit B.  So glad I didn't wash that shed window for ten years!

Exhibit B. So glad I didn't wash that shed window for ten years!

We’re truly hoping they don’t return to the Upper Peninsula for a long, long time.  Once every lifetime is probably enough…

P.S.  Besides photographing old caterpillar nests today, I drank jasmine tea outside in the cold 45 degree wind talking with my mother-in-law on the phone.  How’s that for an outdoor adventure?  It counts, doesn’t it?

Remember the bud man?

Remember the "Bud Man"?

Remember the little man-like bud perched on his branch in late April?  Today we’re going to be honoring his growth.  Perhaps having a coming-of-age celebration for him.  We’re even going to be boldly announcing both his nickname and Latin baptismal name. 

But first, a second picture of his flowering a few weeks ago.  Doesn’t it feel like we’re sitting together slowly turning the pages of his family photo album?  Let’s see how Junior has grown!

The teenage years.  Bud man grows up.

The teenage years. Bud man grows up.

Yes, there he was in early May in purple seed-like glory.  (Why are we calling him a male?  He may be a she.  Maybe, as a plant, he’s both.  Perhaps a botanist could enlighten us.  But for the time present, let’s stick with the male metaphor.  Get it?  Stick?  Pun intended!)

In his finest flowering glory in late May!

In his finest flowering glory in late May!

You can smell the most heavenly scent beneath the blossoms.  Oh wondrous!  One can feel downright giddy on the scent of wildflowers wafting their perfume through the woods.  One wants to capture the fragrance in a bottle and spray it on during nights when the full moon shines over the Huron Bay.  That’s how beautiful the fragrance is.

OK, are we ready for the scientific name?  Pen handy?  Write this down and memorize:  Sambucus cadandensis.  That’s Latin for you.  In modern-day English we call this the American Elder.  Or Elderberry.  Or Common Elder. The Audubon’s Field Guide to North American trees describes it in less romantic terms.  Sturdier terms.  It says: Large shrub or small tree with irregular crown of few, stout, spreading branches, clusters of white flowers, and many small black or purple berries.  It goes on to describe height, diameter, leaves, bark, twigs, fruit, habitat and range.

I am sorry we don’t have a berry photo to share.  Last August I wasn’t thinking of the tree as part of a year-round photo album.  Instead, let’s zoom out so we can view a family of elderberry flowers enjoying a Tuesday gray afternoon in the north woods of Michigan. 

Family of elderberry flowers enjoying the drizzly day

Family of elderberry flowers enjoying the drizzly day

Like all of us, elderberry trees do grow old and pass on.  I wasn’t sure how to say that delicately.  But, our luck, the several elderberry trees on our property have blossomed in their glory before toppling over into the soil to become memories for those of us who loved their fragrance, their berries, their blossoms.  I am hoping this one won’t die, but as the area succumbs to drought more regularly, the swamp-loving roots dry up and…well, you can witness what happens:

Dead elderberry branches...  :(

Dead elderberry branches... 😦

The book says:  This common, widespread shrub spouts from roots.  Elderberries are used for making  jelly, preserves, pie and wine.  Birds and mammals of many species also feed on the berries.  The bark, leaves and flowers have served as home remedies.

Yep.  I know that’s true, especially the part about birds eating the berries.  We’ve had a race for the elderberries every year and the birds always win!  They’re flitting around the berries half-drunk in the sun before I remember that they’re ripe and sweet and ready to make into some jam.  Jam sounds good, doesn’t it? 

Finally, are you ready for the tree, the whole tree and nothing but the tree?  Here it is!  American Elder or Elderberry in her spring glory!

 

Home of the "Bud Man"...the whole tree

Home of the "Bud Man"...the whole tree

Robin male trying to get a little action with the window

Robin male trying to get a little action with the window

Philandering robin-husbands, that is.

We are ready to pull out our hair.  Remember that robin who kept pecking at the basement window at the end of April?  Well, he’s still at it.  At least once or twice a day, he tries to two-time his wife.

He attempts to mate with the basement window over and over and over again.  (This is not the faithful robin partners who hatched the babies from yesterday’s post.  They are a good married couple.  No, we’re talking about the Basement Robin.)

For awhile, thanks to my mother-in-law, I pushed a couch up against the window.  He stopped for a few weeks and fell in love with a “real” robin and began to build her a nest.  But the minute I returned the couch to its original position in the basement, he started again.  I re-blocked the sliding glass door with the couch for another week.  He stopped.  Finally, I moved it away, and, sure enough…the robin daily re-appears for his daily philandering.

Sulky love-struck robin pouts on bucket back in April

Sulky love-struck robin pouts on bucket back in April

We just grimace these days when the robin begins his daily hammering.  We don’t speak too highly of his behavior.  Frankly, he irritates us.  I know you could turn this around.  Instead of looking at him as “unfaithful” we could instead look at him as faithful to his first love.  His reflection.  But we just want him to get on with his life.

Not only that, he’s made a huge mess of our downstairs doorway, the wall, the downstairs window.  Someone is going to have to clean up this mess, eventually.  And that someone is probably going to be…me.

The robin's mess

The robin's mess

I just don’t want to clean it too soon.  Need to wait until he’s done with his wanton behavior. 

This afternoon we realized the result of his philandering unfaithful behavior.  THE NEST.  His BABIES.  Oh my goodness.  The nest measures only about two inches high.  Because he’s been so delinquent, the nest was not properly constructed.  The poor babies are practically falling out of their decrepit home.  It’s quite sad.

Disadvantaged robin babies

Disadvantaged robin babies

They kept singing and chattering beneath the deck on and off all day.  The mama and daddy did deliver worms.  And the unfaithful robin only knocked against the window later in the evening, when the day’s feeding chores were finished.

Who would have thought robins deal with philandering?  Not me!

Oops!  I may have erred scientifically about the motive behind this robin’s pecking at the basement window.  Please view the comments to read what flandrumhill has to say about male robin behavior.    He may be a family man after all… 

This photo is dedicated to my daughter Kiah

This photo is dedicated to my daughter Kiah

OK, I’m home.  What an exciting time in La Guardia Airport yesterday.  I realize it’s an “indoors” experience, but thought you all might want to know.  If you decide to fly out of La Guardia, leave some extra time.  I arrived two hours early.  Good thing.  The security line snaked all around inside the building.  Behind the check-in, around by the Dunkin’ Donuts, all the way back around, wall-to-wall people snaked toward the TSA folks in their official uniforms so they could scrunch up their faces and study our identification and boarding passes. 

I said to the security guy (when finally we peered face-to-face):  “Busy day?” and he shook his head, No.  Not busy???  No, he said, when it’s busy the line goes way outside. 

Fortunately, hopefully, we all made our plane to wherever we were going.

Green chairs in park

Green chairs in park

I had another blog ready to write.  Honest.  All about the first day outdoors back in the beautiful Upper Peninsula!  The words were ready to spill themselves forth onto the computer.  But then I decided to scroll through the photos of the NYC trip, and really really wanted to post a handful more before wrapping up the trip and filing it in Memory’s folder.

Hope you don’t mind…  The photos insisted upon their rights.  They cajoled.  They begged.  And I finally succumbed to their snapshot pleadings…

What do you think of this awesome root statue?

What do you think of this awesome root statue?

I tried to post the following photo five times from Kiah’s computer.  It always appeared turned sideways or upside down, and it seemed impossible to re-arrange it.  It’s part of a statue down in Battery Park dedicated to the immigrants who settled in this country.  The statue is amazing!  I photographed little sections of it, as the individual faces and expressions seemed equally powerful as the larger statue.  Here is one, hopefully upright:

Prayer of the Immigrant

Prayer of the Immigrant

So the Internet refused to work last night after I returned home.  The Marquette Public Library announced brazenly that it closed at 6 p.m. on Friday nights.  Therefore, even though yesterday’s blog had been written early in the morning, a challenge existed how to post it.  I called Kiah and begged her assistance.  Would she please post?  She agreed.  Yesterday’s blog came to you courtesy of Kiah’s willingness to post.

What possibly could be wrong with the darned computer?  It looked like a discouraging weekend.  How to post blogs, how to get caught up on computer time, how to play Scrabble on Facebook with my son?  Oh the difficult questions of life.

Until we discovered a plain brown box next to the mail.  “What is this?” I asked Barry.  “Don’t know,” he replied, “it showed up in the door one day.”  I unwrapped it, and guess what it was?  A new Internet ethernet system, courtesy of the phone company (our Internet provider).  Apparently we’re blessed with an upgrade!  So we scrambled to figure out how to hook Wire A with Port B.  It still wouldn’t work.  But later, after sitting out on the deck (having my outdoor experience at 9:30 p.m.) we finally figured out why it might not be working. Success!!  Memorial Day weekend could now proceed smoothly, with Internet properly working.

Just look up.  and up.  and up.

Just look up. and up. and up.

And for you faithful readers who salivated so lovingly over the radish photo from the Green Market in…well, whatever part of the city we were in that afternoon…OK, you can view the asparagus photo.  Tonight we grilled whole asparagus on the grill.  It was yummy.  We even ate outside, although it wasn’t as warm as one might prefer.  But it IS Memorial Day weekend!  Maybe I’ll post more grilling photos as the weekend progresses.  Hurray!  Summer is here!  (yeah, right, maybe not in the Upper Peninsula…but it’s coming closer every day!)

Asparagus, anyone?

Asparagus, anyone?

Recipe for grilled asparagus:  Buy fresh asparagus.  Organic if possible.  Cut off tough bottom ends.  Drizzle well with virgin olive oil or brush with a pastry brush.  Heat grill.  Put asparagus on sideways (horizontally, not vertically.  Otherwise you’ll lose the asparagus in the bowels of the grill.)  Cook for 6-10 minutes.  Cook until crisp, el-dente, or cook until the asparagus melts in your mouth.  Use a knife and cut off a small portion to determine when the proper moment has arrived.  The asparagus will be tenderly browned and oh-so-good.

Promise.

Grilled Asparagus.  A culinary delight.

Grilled Asparagus. A culinary delight.

DSC03880 (1)

Hummingbirds return to the north woods

Every year on May 10th we say “Time to put the hummingbird feeder up!”  Most years we wonder if it will freeze when the temperature drops below 32 degrees, and try to remember to bring it in during those chilly nights.  But we put it back outside during the day, to swing in the breeze outside our front window, waiting for the tiny flash of red and green which tells us the hummingbirds have returned from their southern vacation.

The flashy males return first.  The less flamboyant females appear about a week later.  Then begins the strange mating dance which is prefaced by the males dive-bombing and chasing one other.  You don’t want to get caught in their antics.  Sometimes, if you’re sitting on the front porch, minding your own business, they’ll swoop and buzz within inches of your head.  It’s a little disconcerting.

You’ll be happy to know we put the feeder up on Sunday and spotted the first hummingbird Wednesday morning.  They’re still skittish and quickly zip away if you move toward the window in hopes to get a vibrant picture.  The above photo looks rather like a silhouette, but if you peer closely enough you can almost see the rapidly vibrating wings.

Wild Leeks:  The Sequel

Wild Leeks: The Sequel

Right after work I trekked through the cedar swamp again to reach the wild leeks.  We were hankering for some more soup.  Potato Leek Soup, this time.  I got lost again, eventually discovering the lush growing grounds.  Picked a bunch.  This time they smelled really pungent.  I mean really pungent.

My unofficial theory is that the longer the leeks grow, the more odoriferous they become.  Our kitchen smelled so strongly for several hours after cleaning ’em that my husband said, “OK, no more leeks this year!” 

Fortunately, the flavor of the leeks in the potato soup was very mild.  Just right.  Very delicious.

Fiddlehead ferns unfurling

Fiddlehead ferns unfurling

It’s really challenging to walk in a cedar swamp.  You have to walk carefully to avoid falling in.  There’s trees at odd angles and you can never walk in a straight line.  You have to jag to the left to avoid a rotting stump, then jag to the right to miss a soaked boot. 

This amazing spiderweb shimmered out of an old stump.  So happy the camera caught its lattice-like weaving.

Spider web

Spider web

Before and after our wild leek potato soup we started to plant the garden.  It’s finally time.  The cold-weather crops need to be planted, especially the onions, lettuce, spinach, and peas.  Barry rototilled the garden yesterday, working up the soil.  We raked, planted and set up the pea fence today.  The lovely pole pea vines (which grow five to six feet high) will climb up the fence, eventually supporting the pods which we’ll munch and shell sometime in July. 

Gardening season hath begun!

Two rows of lettuce & spinach planted

Two rows of lettuce & spinach planted

Dead bird, still warm to the touch

Dead bird, still warm to the touch

Everywhere you walk in the woods Life and Death greet you.  In the springtime the flowers and the leaves and the grasses and the plants burst into joyful being.  But it’s impossible to walk two steps without being reminded about the inevitability of death.

I found the above bird, not long passed away, lying near the trees.  It probably crashed into one of our windows and died instantly.

A dangling explosion of a tree bud (anyone know what kind?)

A dangling explosion of a tree bud (anyone know what kind?)

Life shines out so new and beautiful at this time of year.  There’s a potency to the energy.  The Native Americans advised us to eat the parts of the plant where the energy is the strongest.  In the spring you eat leaves and buds.  In the summer, you eat the fruit and by autumn you’re nourished by the deepest root in the earth.  That’s how the energy in a plant travels.

Rotting decaying birch tree

Rotting decaying birch tree

The forest is constantly decaying.  There are downed trees everywhere.  Branches askew, losing bark and rotting.  Dried leaves molding and deteriorating.  Scat on the ground.  Plants dying.  Molds and fungus.  Everywhere that which once grew and tingled with new life is returning to the soil, composting the land, enriching the earth, in order to break down and nourish new seeds.

Trout lily

Trout lily

After a long winter of snow and freezing temperatures, our forest plants seem to burst.  They seem to grow faster than in warmer climates, as if attempting to reach the sun before the next snow falls.  The world cascades into green.  And then the glorious paintbrushes of nature paint vibrant colors everywhere.  We live in Paradise, perhaps.

A carpet of red maple buds beneath a tree

A carpet of red maple buds beneath a tree

The buds fall on the earth without a fuss, it seems.  They simply drop onto the earth and begin their next stage, their next transformation.  They simply let go when it’s time.  No rushing life, no prolonging life.  Simple:   now it’s time to burst and bud, now it’s time to let go.

Acorn beneath giant oak

Acorn beneath giant oak

Then there’s the acorn.  Is it alive or dead?  Or is it both?  It released from the oak that nourished it for so long, and now lies on the forest floor.  Will it be planted into the dirt and create a new oak tree?  Will it be simply break down to compost the old oak from which it birthed and died?  Is it about to rot, or create new life?  Or perhaps both?

My first fish...bait for lake trout

My first fish...bait for lake trout

A year ago if someone had invited me to go sucker fishing (or even offered a $10 bill for the pleasure) the answer would have been a definitive “no”.  No, thank you, I don’t like to fish.  No, thank you, find someone else to go.  No, thank you, no thank you.

So this year, with a 365 day outdoor commitment, and the necessity to write a blog every single day…the answer to a sucker fishing invitation became, “Sure!  Count me in!”

Four of us headed out to the Sturgeon River armed with poles, nets, hooks, worms and other fishing paraphernalia:  Nancy, Don, Barry and me.  We were aiming to catch sucker or carp, also known as “bait fish”.  These are the fish which are filleted, dusted with Borax powder (don’t ask me why) and cut into small pieces and later twisted on hooks to lure the mighty lake trout from the bottom of Lake Superior. 

Every good fisherman and woman around here has a frozen supply of sucker.  When we’re eating the lake trout later on a sultry summer evening in June, we need to remember the sucker and carp who gave their lives today so that we might eat trout sprinkled with lemon pepper and perhaps slathered with tartar sauce.

Nancy fishing (look at that sand-eroding hill in the background)

Nancy fishing (look at that sand-eroding hill in the background)

Here’s what you do.  You bait your hook with a worm and toss it into the fast-moving river.  You have to be at just the right sucker hole.  In order to find the appropriate hole where the fish linger, you must know some locals.  But you also have to hope other locals aren’t at the fishing hole when you arrive. 

The worm dangles on the hook, held down by sinkers.  You keep tension on the fishing line.  If you’re alert and lucky, suddenly you’ll feel or see the end of your pole twitching.  When the pole twitches (maybe the second time?  I don’t know…never got the technique down exactly right) you pull the line up forcefully to set the hook in the fish.  Then you reel the fighting fish in toward shore, pausing occasionally and walking backward.  Once the fish has landed, someone pulls the hook from the mouth and puts the fish in a garbage bag.

Truth be told, I don’t think I’m much of a fisher-woman.  Part of me wants to cry killing these beautiful silvery creatures from the river.  Most of me loves being primarily a vegetarian.  But we do eat seafood…and to eat meat, it’s important to be aware that it doesn’t come from a supermarket.  It comes from the wild, from fast-moving rivers and deep lakes.  It comes from this land we live on.

Reflection on the river

Reflection on the river

I liked looking at the reflection on the river, the sand avalanching down the steep eroding hill, the wildflowers.  It was fun to put down the fishing pole and wander through the thickets to explore down to the bridge and back.  At near 70 degrees, the afternoon felt so warm and inviting. 

We caught nine carp and sucker and went out for dinner at a local restaurant, the Hilltop, before driving home.  Then Barry really had to go to work scaling and cleaning the fish, before applying Borax and putting in the refrigerator downstairs.

Barry hosing down the fish after scaling them

Barry hosing down the fish after scaling them

Barry said he’s going back fishing on Friday if the weather cooperates.  I’ll probably pass on the invitation this time.  There’s plenty of wild leeks and hopefully morel mushrooms waiting to be plucked!

No wonder they called it the Blossom Moon

No wonder they called it the Blossom Moon

 The Annishnabe called the May moon “The Blossom Moon”.  Some other Native American names for this month include When Women Weed Corn, When the Ponies Shed their Shaggy Hair, Idle Moon, Planting Moon (or literal translation:  Putting it in a Hole Moon), When the Horses Get Fat, Migratory Geese Moon and the Moon when the Little Flowers Die.

Our Little Flowers are just sprouting up every place you can imagine.  I’m wondering how they’re enjoying the weather today.  IT SNOWED!!  Twice.  Once this morning, about 10:30 a.m., as we were sitting around the kitchen table.  We looked outside and, sure enough, flakes of snow drifted lazily to the ground.  And then not so lazily.  But they weren’t easily photographed, so you’ll have to take my very sorry word for it.  The thermometer lingered in the 30’s all day and I wanted to stay inside again.  But found the warm coat and ventured outside and of course it proved enjoyable.

Burdock burs...Nature's own Velcro

Burdock burs...Nature's own Velcro

I loved this photo of the burdock prickly burs taken on the leek-hunting day.  They seemed to shimmer in the sun.  They’re not so fun when they stick on your pants, your shirt, your boots.  Some of them caught in my sneaker shoelaces and this morning it was necessary to pick them out.  I don’t know if anyone has eaten burdock root?  It’s an extremely healthy addition to soups and stews when chopped fine and simmered a long time.  (especially good in vegetarian split pea soup where it imparts a smoky flavor.)

Dandelion greens

Dandelion greens

Speaking of wild edibles, the above dandelion greens were dinner.  In addition to a few other dishes.  Barry was kind of wrinkling his nose, as our dandelions last year proved a tad too bitter.  But we simmered a bunch, salt & peppered it, and prepared to eat our vitamins.  When…surprise!…they were mild and delicious.  We’ve even decided to harvest more for tomorrow night’s dinner.  (If you can pick them young enough, they still taste mild.  If they’re too old…wait til next year.)  They provide incredible healing power, energy and cleansing after a long winter and should be eaten by all.  Yep.  That’s what I think.

Old Thyme and New Thyme

Old Oregano and New Oregano

Continuing on the food theme, I’ve begun cleaning out our oregano patch.  You have to break off all the old stalks and clean up leaves and toss everything in the woods.  I was carrying the stalks off to discard when this sweet duo appeared.  Dried oregano flowers, pressed in heavy books, can also be glued onto card stock to make pretty greeting cards.  My mother-in-law even framed her oregano card!

Rock with green grasses

Rock with green grasses

This grey rock with the deep rich green grasses sweeping upward along it seemed somehow artistic.  Or poetic.  It was a good break from cleaning up the perennial flower garden to admire the rock. 

And finally:

Baby blue robin eggs on the garage windowsill

Baby blue robin eggs on the garage windowsill

Looks like flowers and shrubs aren’t the only things blossoming!  We’ll be seeing baby robins in the nest one of these days.

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