Exploring Fabius Township and St. Joseph County, Michigan, with side trips all over this Great Lakes state

Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter washline

During a cold, snowy December this icicle was the only thing to hang from the clothesline.  Now with temperatures in the upper 40's it has disappeared as has most of the snow.  Thunderstorms and lightening have marked this last day of 2010.

Happy New Year to all my blogger friends!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Uncle Gene

Uncle Gene with his nieces and grand nephews,  the special joys of Christmas when family can gather from near and far.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


This is Islet, a beautiful woodblock print by Kalamazoo artist Mary Brodbeck from her Lake Superior series and xylography is the extra special name for the technique of woodblock printing.  Mary studied in Japan with Yoshisuke Funasaka in 1998 as a recipient of a fellowship from the Japanese government, whose mission was to “help keep traditional Japanese arts alive throughout the world.”

For more information on the very ancient art, visit these Wikipedia articles -- Woodblock Printing and xylography.

And more extraordinary explorations of X-words, visit ABC Wednesday.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas roses

Roses, yes, but not really "Christmas roses" or Helleborus niger.
Here is a version of the legend of the Christmas rose (http://www.noelnoelnoel.com/trad/rose.html) and the story of the beautiful Christmas hymn, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Es_ist_ein_Ros_entsprungen) and here are two versions from You Tube -- by the Tolzer Knabenchor:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDVpHZZAzZo


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family

With Christmas on a Saturday in the western calendar, we have lost Good King Wenceslas going out on the feast of Stephen.  But perhaps very appropriately this year for the day after Christmas, we celebrate the Holy Family.  

This is the ornament we found in the bookstore of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky.  Ceramic painted with a "patented needle technique," it comes from artists in Uzbekistan.  Our habit has been to buy a Christmas ornament during our summer travels, usually in the Upper Peninsula.  This is an exception to that rule. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas morning

The Christmas tree is always most wondrous in an early morning light. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good morning!

Friday, December 24, 2010


Yes, yes, yes, the sun is shining!  Whoopeee!  Let the sun shine in!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ents in the winter sunset

The cloudy day I complained about yesterday morning really turned around by day's end.  Our walk through Brother Francis' pine and oak plantation gave us magical views of the trees as Ents.  Maybe winter isn't so bad after all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

our winter wonderland on ABC Wednesday

One year Michigan license plates read "Winter Water Wonderland;" this slogan has not been repeated.  It was claiming too much to call our winters a wonderland.  Except now and then, when the sun comes out and the shadows on the snow beckon you, and the deer, down a winter path.  Our part of Michigan, the south west corner bordering Indiana, also borders Lake Michigan.  And in winter that is a problem.  While the lake water is warmer than the air, moisture is sucked up into clouds and gives us, it is rumored, as many cloudy days as Seattle.  We all know it to be true as our spirits sag, until one day the sun comes out and the wonderland is back and winter woes are whooshed away for awhile.  Well, at least we have now passed the shortest day!  Can spring be far away?

Be sure to take some time an visit ABC Wednesday for many more explorations of W.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fallen vines covered with snow

When a tree comes down so do the vines (Virginia Creepers or wild grape) that have grown to the tree's top branches.  Here the curve of the wood lets one know that it is vine under the snow not a tree.  They provide a striking contrast to the otherwise linear nature of the woods.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Now you see it

Last night's moon floating above the almost-colored cloud, but tonight it will disappear a while, giving us a solstice when even the light of the moon leaves us.  Time to wear our wreath of candles and bring back the light!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snow sky in the morning

These December snow days create marvelous morning skies.  The sun struggles to gain a footing among the swirling fingers of lake-effect snow clouds and we are usually walking in a light dusting of snow flakes.  Today the sun won out by noon but now at 2 pm has succumbed to the pale gray clouds floating in on a northwest wind off the lake.

Warmer skies can be seen on Skywatch Friday every Friday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Abstract

Yesterday the sun was shining and the patterns of the shadows were wonderful to behold.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

V for Vitality

A vision of vitality for V-day on ABC Wednesday.  Here are Willow (on the left) and her friend, Paca, (who lives in Milwaukee) having a very vivacious romp up the path through the meadow on Thanksgiving.  May your tongue hang out today because you are having so much fun!

For more explorations of V-day, please visit the gang at ABC Wednesday.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

big snow coming?

The blizzard warnings are out, but hopefully we will miss the worst of it.  This is the woods this morning as it became light and the snow became heavier.  It is winter!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Unbelievable and unique for ABC Wednesday

Unfortunately on this day for words begining with U, this is not the hylocereus undata and which variety of night blooming cereus it is, I do not know.  I do know that it is unusual in its blooming habits, blooming only one night, but with spectacular results.  This specimen is so tall that it is now growing up through the air vent in the first floor ceiling!

Out of its natural habitat, these unbelievable blooms are rare for us.  These are photos from 2005. When it does, we invite friends to stay up with us and enjoy the spectacle.  An artist friend brings her watercolors for unique renderings of the bloom.  I whip out my camera! 

More words and photos about U words can be found on ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tools of the season

When it first started snowing  Sunday, we used the broom every few hours. However when we woke up yesterday, we had to get out the shovel.   I have found myself buying bright colors for use in winter.......

Monday, December 6, 2010

a snowy day

December has brought us snow, five inches at last count, and the world is beautifully draped in white with more snow falling.  The lake effect snow machine is working overtime!  Just double click on the photo and the snowflakes will really show up.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Portrait of Late Fall in SW Michigan

And now the Lake Michigan snow machine is revving up.  Up to a foot of snow expected tomorrow for the county right next to us.  We should not get that much -- I will let you know.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Skywatch Friday

A late November morning and the sun has illuminated the storm clouds making it seem as if it is quite all right for that plane to head straight into them.  But is it?

For more dramatic sky scenes, please visit Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

are your eyes deceiving you?

No, they were not!  My first Christmas tree of the season and it is hanging from the ceiling of the Wood Fire restaurant in Dowagiac, MI.  My cousin and I were there to celebrate his birthday and enjoy good talk and good food.  If you live in SW Michigan, your will not be disappointed for lunch or dinner at the Wood Fire.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Back to the UP for T-day on ABC Wednesday

It is the tantalizing Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   They are a teaser of a waterfall because they are spilt into two sections, upper and lower, just like the state.  Part of a Michigan state park (visit Tahquqmenon Falls State Park website) they are probably the most visited falls in the UP because the park is just about two hours from the Mackinaw Bridge.
Here is the another view of the lower falls and the island that divides them.
Enjoy more pictures and information about Tahquamenon Falls at this excellent Wikipedia article.

And treat yourself to more explorations of the letter T on this week's ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You better not go in the woods today....last day!

I know some of you are feeling, "oh thank heavens, this will be the last day of the fungus series," and it is in terms of this year's firearms season for deer hunting......  But do not underestimate how many fungus portraits I have to share with you!
These beauties are just one small section of a fallen log in the woods next to the house.  About 30 feet long it is a veritable forest of fungus in many colors and sizes but all of this particular fan-shaped variety.  At first they reminded of me of clam or mussel shells.  The greenish ones are now making me think of leaves.  What do you see?

Monday, November 29, 2010

We braved the woods on Thanksgiving

Yes, it was a safe and happy US Thanksgiving weekend, the drive from Milwaukee and back for Neil and Jane and Paca, the dog, and the walk in the woods for Jane, Neil, Gene, and me and the two dogs.  Do you think our bright colors helped?  We did not hear any shooting that day, but gunfire was heard this morning, the next to the last day of Michigan firearms deer hunting season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Alien creature? Better not go in the woods no. 3

Back in our backyard this time and we have watched this fungus growing from a downed tree since the middle of summer.  It is shriveling up in the most interesting fashion and beginning to resemble an alien creature come to visit.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You better not go in the woods today....no. 2

I can tell you where I found this lovely, but not what it is named.  Sorry.  I have tried with many mushroom guides but there are just too many mushrooms who look alike.  So here we are in the woods along Miners River in Pictured Rock National Lakeshore with this unnamed speciman.  To me it looks like a pierogi (the Polish version of an Italian ravioli).  I must be hungry!  The best homemade pierogis I ever had were when we were camped a Laura Lake near Armstrong Creek, Wisconsin.  Armstrong Creek was settled at the beginning of the 20th century by Polish immigrants recruited from Chicago to the "farmland" of northern Wisconsin.  They arrived to find only forest not farmland, but stayed and built a community that still celebrates its Polish roots.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Rainbow for R-day on ABC Wednesday

A beautiful sight over Lake Superior!  We were staying just north of Paradise (!) on Whitefish Bay when we were treated to this stunning rainbow.  It was not whole but the half was enough to more than satisfy our sense of wonder.
For more R's and maybe a few more rainbows, please visit ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You better not go in the woods today....

It is not the Teddy Bears Picnic, but is firearm deer hunting season for the next two weeks. So I am going into the woods via my photographs of my favorite woodsy friends, mushrooms.   Although today's entry is from my front yard which had been newly mulched.  These gray-topped guys are not something I have usually seen in our woods, so they were a special treat.

I am well aware that not all share being fans of fungus, but I am fascinated by their popping up every now and then and their varied shapes and colors.  So I will continue this week to share some recent new friends with you!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sea Lamprey barrier on Miners River

Today for Sunday Bridges we are back up north on Miners River and looking at that plain and simple bridge from another angle.  In the foreground, creating a "waterfall," is a Sea Lamprey barrier which prevents the spawning lamprey from proceeding upstream and into Lake Superior.   This "waterfall" may lack the romance of natural falls but has helped to control the scourge these sea lamprey present to big fish in the Great Lakes.   The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, a cooperative US and Canadian endeavor, estimates that there has been a 90% reduction in the sea lamprey in the the lakes.  For us UP travelers this work means that there are local fisheries where we can buy our fresh whitefish.  Once in the Keweenaw Peninsula we watched the local Ojibwa/Chippewa fisherman filet it for us from his morning's catch.  The best eating ever! 
Remember click on the photo to enlarge it and see some of the reflections snaking through the river.
For more bridges from around the world, please visit Sunday Bridges from M. Louis la Vache.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

last gasp of autumn color

The burning bush is showing the effects of frost but hanging on to keep giving us autumn color.  The other deciduous tree with leaves left is the beautiful Sweet Gum whose star-shaped purple leaves, when they do fall, stand out among the browns of poplars and oaks. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hazy skies of Indian Summer

A temperature that hit 70F and hazy skies have been the norm this week of our Indian Summer, a time in autumn when the first hard frost has come but not the first snow.  The term was first used in Letters From an American Farmer, a 1778 work by the French-American soldier turned farmer J. H. St. John de Crèvecoeur (a.k.a. Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur):
"Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer." (from The Phrase Finder)
American historian Daniel Boorstin in The Americans: the Colonial Experience "speculates that the term originated from raids on European colonies by Indian war parties; these raids usually ended in autumn, hence the extension to summer-like weather in the fall as an Indian summer. Two of the three other known uses of the term in the 18th century are from accounts kept by two army officers leading retaliation expeditions against Indians for raids on settlers in Ohio and Indiana in 1790 and Pennsylvania, in 1794."  But there is also the suggestion that is named for the traditional period when early Native Americans harvested squash and corn. (see Wikipedia article on Indian Summer)

In Western Europe this type of weather was called St. Martin's Summer from the feast of that saint on November 11, while Russians and East Europeans called it Old Ladies Summer.  And Indian Summer is the name given to the Milwaukee ethnic festival held in September honoring Native Americans: Indian Summer Festival.

No matter what name you give it, we have been enjoying what the National Weather Service defines as,  "a period of considerably above normal temperatures, accompanied by dry and hazy conditions ushered in on a south or southwesterly breeze."  See the attempt by a weather historian to deal with the naming issue in the article, Just what is Indian Summer and did Indians really have anything to do with it?

If you are in the midst of Indian Summer, please enjoy it!  And check out more skies on Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rural Electric Coops

Our rural electric coop used to have a much more place-specific name, Fruit Belt Electric Coop, which is so descriptive of the large number of orchards that grace the hillsides of southwest Michigan.  It is one of 930 electric coops in the United States, most begun under the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to bring electricity to rural areas.

Midwest Energy's main office is in the Cass County right next door to St. Joseph County and we visited it to pick up free fluorescent light bulbs and an application for "interruptible electric service."  Our new furnace has a heat pump making us eligible for a 50% reduction in the electric rate we pay if we agree that the Coop can interrupt our service at peak hours.  We figure it is worth a try!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a quirky word for Q Day

There at the very top it is: the quoin, or more familiarly the keystone, allowing this couple to walk by with complete confidence that nothing will fall down on them.  He is truly unconcerned, but she is gazing at the top of the arch just to be sure.
This quoin is part of the Grand Rapids Arch by British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy at the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
For more explorations of the quirkiness of Q, visit ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dedicated to the truly serious among us

This is Scott's Falls at the west end of the AuTrain Bay, but I do not know the name of the intrepid photographer who is risking limbs, no doubt, and perhaps his camera by wading in.   We have not often seen this falls with water, but this September it was filled and flowing with water, and a photographer.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Celebrating THE artist of Fabius Township

She is an artist in so many ways, in glass, in watercolor, pastel, and oil, in fabric, in her teaching and as a friend.  Happy 80th birthday, Joan!  Originally from California, she has made Fabius her home for over forty years.  Her work graces many homes as well as public buildings and churches.  Here are just a couple examples, starting with a small mandala in pastels:
in slab glass:

in watercolor:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rosy Morning

You did not need rose-colored glasses to start your day.  The sky obliged with this rosy glow.  You just have to be early enough! 

For skies from around the world, please visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Paean to a Pasty

As you can see we could not wait to eat before allowing this pasty to have its portrait taken.  It is sitting with us at a picnic table at  Bay Furnace National Forest Campground just west of Munising, Michigan, where we bought it at Muldoon's Pasties (their Facebook page).  It is a complete meal in a crust,  perfect for lunch at a roadside picnic table as you travel the UP.   Pasties for lunch and whitefish for supper and we are the happiest UP travelers!

Pasties, originally brought here by Cornish miners, are "the" food of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We have tried the pasties from one end of the UP to the other and Muldoon's stand up with the best.  Originally we would always get pasties at Dobber's in Escanaba and then it became Gramma T's in Negaunee, but two summers ago when at the Porkies we discovered The Pasty Corner in Iron River.  It is now our #1 for flaky crust and delicious filling, however it is the farthest away from us.   Perhaps the bottom line here is that we never pass up a pasty shop; we have tasted pasties from Suzy's in St. Ignace,  Lehtos, Wildwood, and the AuTrain Cafe along the way, and Toni's in Laurium on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Visit Pasty Central for more not only on pasties but on the UP in general.

Here are the traditional ingredients of a UP pasty: diced potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, onions & ground or diced beef. But these days you can also buy a vegetarian or chicken pasty.  If you would like to learn more about the origin and history of this Cornish cuisine, visit Wikipedia's article, Pasty.  I am now so hungry I must complete this blog and search for a proper substitute for a pasty.  Wish me luck!

For less edible but still fascinating words beginning with P, visit ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oh no, snow in the forecast

Yes, this morning the local weather forecast mentioned the word some dread, some cheer, snow.  In honor of this first mention I bring you the ultimate winter cap, the Stormy Kromer.  A UP (the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) classic, this sign is on the side of the Mackinaw Straits Fish Co. in St. Ignace, our first stop after crossing the bridge.  Here we purchase supper, fresh whitefish fillets.  

Explore the history of the Stormy Kromer cap and learn more about George "Stormy" Kromer who asked his wife Ida to modify a baseball cap for colder weather, the Stormy Kromer cap.
And for a more traditional place to buy your cap, you cannot beat the best department store in the Upper Peninsula, an old fashioned, traditional department store, Getzs in Marquette.

Monday, November 1, 2010

more signs of fall

Yes, election day approaches and by tomorrow evening these signs of autumn will have disappeared.  But autumn will stick with us and so will the pundits proclaiming what the vote "really" means! 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mighty Mac at night

Well, a version of the Mighty Mac at night.  But maybe this is just right for Halloween when weird sights are not unusual.

Enjoy less weird bridge scenes at Louis La Vache's Sunday Bridges!  And yes, yes, Go Giants!