Lincoln Road Journal, One year in the yard, May, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
I didn't attend any ceremonies this day. Worked on the cabin after sleeping in. An overnight rainstorm gave everyone a case of sleep-in-itis.
Later, once the sun burned through the clouds, a pleasant day evolved. And the tree pollen we left in Ludington began to show in the Upper Peninsula. Spring is moving north, even as we headed home to the south.
Fire and water
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Late in the afternoon I went for my first swim of the year. The water of Lake Superior's Whitefish Bay was cool, but not bad. Let the record show I again swam in a Great Lake before my June 20th birthday.
That evening we hosted a bonfire at our beach. There's something mesmerizing about a fire on the beach on summery night. It was warm and there was a bug hatch, a form of fish fly that liked to land on any surface, whether human or not. The bugs didn't bite, but they kind of tickled and annoyed many.
Earlier in the day, another bug hatch of some sort of fly hovered over the canopy of trees along the Bay. One heard the buzz first. It was audible, though low in volume, for miles along the lakeshore. Again, these bugs didn't bite or even come near the ground. But just how many there were is mind-boggling to consider.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Drove north late Friday arriving on Whitefish Bay about 1 a.m. Work day on the cabin despite the beautiful weather. Only photos I made were of a kayaker -- nephew Nick -- who paddled down from the family compound a quarter mile to the north. The water level of Lake Superior is low enough that islands are showing in the bay.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Another day and more signs of new life in the yard.
First, some stuff I've missed that my wife saw.
The pilleated woodpecker was back May 12 working on a dead birch left just for that purpose. We've seen pilleateds there before. I'm sure they're there when I don't see them. This was proof.
Then last week, May 22, the hummingbirds returned. How do they know to go to the spot where the feeder was the year before unless it is the same individual or individuals. By Tuesday there were a couple and they were fighting. They might be little but they do like to spar with each other.
Today, I saw the first frogs at the creek, though they didn't cooperate for photos. Soon enough. More butterflies. More caterpillars. More bees. Lots of pollen. I had to take an antihistamine today and the nearby lakes are coated in the white and yellow pollens.
The weather remains remarkably warm, sunny and summerlike. In Michigan, on a holiday weekend, that's about all one can ask for.
I think I'll try to mow the jungle that is my yard. At least I'll try the tamest areas around the house.
That's kind of an American way to start a holiday, eh?
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I missed it.
It seems like I visit the creek nearly every day. Wednesday I decided to stay away for a day.
Today, when I went to look for photos and changes to note, I was surprised, first by the red-shouldered hawk that flew by at eye level within five feet of me. I was concentrating on a plant at the creek's edge when I heard something. It was the drum of wings moving air. I looked up to see the hawk flying along the creek so close to me yet by me in an instant.
The experience was cool.
I moved a few feet downstream giving up on the image I couldn't quite make to my liking. It was then I saw it. There, across the creek, clinging on erosion control fabric still standing from the reconstruction of the road crossing that had been destroyed in a storm almost two years ago now, was a prehistoric looking creature. I knew it was a dragonfly's casing, the last step before metamorphosis transform the science fiction looking hulk into a dragonfly.
I rushed back to the house to put on boots knowing the only approach was through the water.
Upon my return I waded halfway across the creek, set up the tripod and began to focus It was then I knew I was right ... and I knew I was late. The shell was empty.
I made a few photographs, looked back upstream and saw a second shell, fresher looking, but also empty. I watched an ant enter the shell, probably scavenging for food left over by the change.
A couple dragonflies buzzed me as I considered the black, gray volcanic-looking shells left behind like a castaway from some "Mad Max" movie. How could I miss it?
But I was glad to know the dragonflies are back.
New life continues to emerge, including plants growing out of a submerged stump, evermore insects, evermore wildflowers.
Life continues, and things change, whether we take the time to pay attention or not.
The shells are interesting, but I would have dearly loved to photograph the emergence of the dragonfly.
I'll keep looking.
A star of the woods' floor
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I went hunting for pink ladyslippers in flower today. In recent years there have been upwards of a dozen of the plants -- protected in Michigan as rare -- in flower. This year, the plants are there but none have flowered.
Instead what I found as I edged near the wild portion of the woods, was a curious white flowering plant, easy to overlook until one noticed there were scores of them in bloom, not in one place, but scattered through the woods.
By the time I had found them, the lighting in the woods wasn't good. But I marveled at their fecundity. This is their time in the woods.
This evening I identified the plant as the starflower, Trientalis borealis Raf.
It's a long name for a small flower reputed to most commonly come with seven flower petals above seven leaves. The ones I photographed mostly had eight flowers and at least one guidebook cited a range of 7 to 9 as being normal. Their little flowers dot the woods in white today. A native plant of much of the north and east United States, in Michigan their numbers are such one is asked not to pick them.
Not to worry, I let most of the wildflowers live undisturbed. Instead of a mono culture showplace lawn of long blade grass cut short to look like golf course, I have a shaggy looking yard rich in diversity and full of surprises all year long.
I sneezed frequently while walking the yard today. The pollen is noticeably present. One can see it covering cars or anything left outside. That includes webs created by spiders. Generally hard to see in mid day in the woods, the pollen dusts the web which become quite visible then.
If you suffer allergies, especially to woods, this isn't a pleasant time in the woods. After we moved to Lincoln Road, our youngest daughter now grown and living in Illinois near St. Louis, tested positive to allergies to trees common in our woods including beech and birch. (Curious about the pollen count in your area, visit http://www.pollen.com/allergy-forecast.asp, plug in your zip code and see what's in the air in your locale on a given day. We're at a medium high level, according to the site, with the pollen expected to increase at least until Saturday.)
Times like now would be miserable for her. There's so much pollen in the air, lakes are coated with it in the calm of the early morning. It doesn't look appealing, but it's natural.
I remind myself when I have to sneeze or get congested. Any allergies I have in this regard, are mild, but noticeable.
Maple seeds also are falling. For those of you lucky enough to experience the fall of maple seeds, it brings back memories of youth. Kids love the whirlybird like fall of the seeds some call helicopter seeds/
Scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=maple-seed-flight-aerodynamics-09-06-11) describes what makes them fall in the spiraling manner that is so captivating. In essence, as they fall they create their own vortex and that also provides lift slowing the descent.
The reason for this is to help the tree spread its seed over a larger area, thus helping increase the production of young maples.
In the woods today while looking at starflowers I noticed many young oaks, white pines, beeches and maples. Few of the dozens I saw will survive to adulthood, but for those that do, they can trace the majestic tree they may be some day to the acorn, pine cone, beechnut or whirlybird maple pod that found its way to the ground, sprouted and grew.
New plants are emerging everywhere. There's a virtual mini-forest of young trees on the woods' floor beneath the canopy of new ferns.
Mixed in among the young trees are the white flowers of the starflower. In some cases they're bigger than the little seedling trees, both are stars of the woods' floor.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Daisies. A simple, humble flower. But it's nice to see them reappear in the yard. Their fried egg color scheme of white petals surrounding the yellow yoke of the center of the flower hints of the heat that has arrived and is likely to come. They had a summery cheer to the spring garden.
Wildflowers mix in with domestic ones in some of our flower beds. Such is the case where the false Solomon's seal (Smilacina racemosa) grows at the edge of raised beds. It's a handsome plant, a member of the lily family. It's white flowers will later yield red berries in autumn. For now the spray of white is another color in the garden and the woods.
May 21-24, 2010
Tropical -- or so it seems by central northern Michigan standards -- conditions arrived with two inches of rain overnight Friday. That brought out a rich green aura to the yard. Light green, dark green, yellow green, aqua green. It seemed every shade that could incorporate green was represented.
The slugs came out, too. As did the Fowlers toads and spring peepers. Spiders, flies, mosquitoes and other bugs hatched with the warmth that today, Monday, reached into the upper 80s. It was steamy, sweltering even for these parts of Michigan.
So I was surprised today when I spooked a deer in late afternoon down by the creek. It seemed early for deer to be on the move on such a warm day.
The creek, which Saturday ran a dirty, grayish-brown like sludge of creamed coffee that sat too long, today is running an iced tea red that contrasts in a startling manner from the green grasses, ferns and plants it cuts through.
Tonight is still, warm. A waxing moon is growing in the sky, adding light to the woods, but only so much since the leaves are about full now.
This could be one of the warmest days and evenings of the coming summer.
If not, we're in for a hot one.
Moon, May 23, 2010
Fog after the storm, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I was intrigued by the dandelions gone to seed in the side yard. It seems they multiplied since they were yellow flowered plants. Interestingly, each yellow head of a dandelion is composed of individual flowers. These each produce a seed that has a parachute-like ability to float in the wind. The seeds, when undisturbed and on the plant, make a geometric ball that's very attractive and very appealing to the kid in all of us to pick and blow some air at it to give flight to the seeds.
Green lawn fans might freak at the practice, but others remind all that dandelions attract bees and other pollinators that help crops and other flowers, too.
After enjoying lying down and getting eye-to-eye with the dandelion forest gone to seed -- when was the last time you lay down on the ground and took a bug's eye view of the world? -- I retrieved the mail passing by the ever increasing stand of autumn olive. The bushes are in bloom now and cast a fragrant aroma hard not to notice.
The bumblebees have noticed. They're cruising in and around the autumn olive stand like an air transport, alighting for a moment on a blossom, then moving to another blossom. The buzz of their wings gets one's attention as they pass by. Today, they were easily spooked and didn't let me get close. Maybe another day.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
A gorgeous, warm day for May with temperatures in the upper 70s. Spring is moving into its mid to latter stages. The sun doesn't set until after 9 p.m. The bugs are increasing by the day. Windows remain open after dark -- but most are closed before going to bed since by morning the lows will be in the low 40s.
The eastern tent caterpillars are growing in the yard. I probably should try the soapy water application that supposedly will kill them. There are so many in the surrounding woods and, for that matter, throughout northern Michigan my soaping a few tents of them won't make a bit of difference, other than to make us feel good that we didn't take their invasion without trying to stop them.
In truth, they are a native insect and now through early June is the prime time for them to feed. They should diminish in a few weeks.
And while they will defoliate especially cherry varieties including the choke cherry trees they populate in our yard, they generally are not thought to do permanent damage.
Burning the webs was once a preferred management approach by homeowners, but now it's frowned upon, in part because the woods is often so dry this time of year burning the relatively harmless tent caterpillars has led to fires that have destroyed property or woods. It's better to ignore them.
Another bug initially startled me, especially when I realized it was three bugs joined together and dragging along a dead eastern tent caterpillar.
From what we can tell the bugs are stinkbugs. My wife remembers them from her farm days in Lenawee County. What they were doing dragging the carcass of the tent caterpillar around I can't say. However two
Tuesday, May 19, 2010
A warm day today was welcomed. It felt summery, good. Girls sunbathed at Stearns Park on Lake Michigan -- not on the beach which was windy, but up on the grass away from the blowing sand.
At lunch, it was warmer on the deck than in the house. A sure sign of late spring and summer.
This evening, when I got home the yard was in shade, not full shade, but 75 percent shade, perhaps the first day I noticed it this spring. Leaves are coming on strong now. The yellow green and shades of reds of the new leaves are still present, but giving way to the rich summer green of mature leaves, leaves that block sun and shade the yard.
We have shadows all year long, but only shade from May through October and the shade is here.
Monday, May 17, 2010
We arrived home shortly after 9 p.m. enjoying a beautiful sunset over farm fields as we drove across Mason County on the last leg home. A crescent moon hung in the western sky.
It was among the warmest evenings yet, making for comfortable unpacking. While we were gone either the crows or a squirrel -- or both did a job on the one bird feeder. The top is almost off. I'll have work to do tomorrow. Until then.
A beauty of a weekend
Saturday-Sunday, May 16-17, 2010
The weather was warm and inviting, especially for Lake Superior in May. Bonfires on the Whitefish Bay beach each night followed by stargazing as the embers burned down. Shooting stars, satellites, contrails and the vast richness of the Milky Way kept us entranced at night.
During the day, when not working on the fixer-upper cabin we bought last year, we watched the play of light on the bay, listened to seagulls on the little sand spit of a temporary island formed this spring in front of the cabin. We watched and listened to scores of blue jays streaming to the neighbor's feeder. It must be a flock migrating north that's hanging out for now.
As I grilled chicken at the family's place down the beach that evening, I glanced over at what through my whole life has been called Wiersema's Leaning Pine-- a large white pine at the edge of the beach at about a 60 degree angle. Some years it's at the edge of the lake if the water's high. Other years, such as this one, it sits back 30 to 40 feet from the water's edge.
On Saturday night as I looked over around sunset, I was startled to see an immature bald eagle perched on a dead branch. It pretty much ignored me as I watched it turn its head this way and that, looking and listening to activities on the lake to the east or the woods on shore.
Eventually it winged its way south toward our cabin where it headed inland.
Moments such as these are what makes "Up North" a magical place.
But with the magic comes a curse: bugs. So far this spring they've not been bad. This weekend little gnatty flies were pests Saturday and inland Sunday evening.
Monday, as we prepared to head home and lunched outside, the flies that covered a nearby screen porch were a warning the bug season is about to begin.
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