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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring: when the finches become golden again

For this American Goldfinch the molting process is just starting and there is a ways to go yet, but it is definitely a sign that spring has truly come to southern Michigan.  The male is the lucky one to lose the drab muddy color of winter.  For a much more exciting view of bird life in the spring, go to the Eagle Cam from Norfolk, Virginia: http://www.wvec.com/marketplace/microsite-content/eagle-cam.html
There are three little eaglets (born between March 11 and 13) and you can watch them and the parents as long as there is daylight.  It is addictive, believe me!

More signs of spring in southern Michigan: it was 22 degrees on Tuesday morning; the temperatures are predicted to approach 80 in the next two days.  These spring swings are hard on the budding trees and bushes.  

Last Saturday was the annual Volinia Maple Fest and the cooking shed was not operating as is usual at the fest.  It was a small harvest this spring because earlier warm weather had caused the maples to bud and "buddy sap" is no good for making maple syrup.  We learned this from one of the students who run the maple syrup business.  Volinia is about 13 miles west of us in Cass County.  For more about the Volinia Outcomes School, try this link:http://www.volinia.org/about_volinia.htm

Saturday, March 27, 2010

the moon also rises, with apologies to Hemingway

A beautiful moon rising in the east about 5:45 p.m. last night -- the photo can just not capture the magic of the moment seeing it up there in the clear blue sky.  There is a little bird in the cedar on the right (the cedar is over 12' high to give you some idea of the perspective here.  The white pine on the left are quite tall (3 stories as buildings go) and about 16 years old.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Another view of the storied milkweed

Headed into the meadow again this morning and got this alternative view of a few seeds and floss hanging from the open pod.  Further adventures walking with Willow will be detailed tomorrow.  Got quite exciting for a few hours!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


As a result of Willow's wanderings in the milkweed patch in the meadow, the two of us discovered the wonderful inside from one of the empty pods still standing.  Its form is so interesting, the soft white silk and the hard brown seeds which remind me of a cone from an evergreen.  How I wish I had studied a little more biology rather than running from any biology course after the mandatory frog dissection in high school!
In trying to learn more about this plant that I associate with attracting Monarch butterflies, I found an article from the Christian Science Monitor, October, 2008, entitled The Heroic Milkweed.  During World War II even children were involved in collecting the milkweed floss for use as a substitute for kapok in life jackets.  Japanese control of Java had cut off the supply.  And the fairgrounds in Petoskey, Michigan, became a drying and processing site for the silky floss.  Read more: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Gardening/2008/1026/the-heroic-milkweed

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ice on the "pond"

The in-between season brings cold mornings and the "ponds" were iced over producing these beautiful patterns.  The "ponds" are really metal horse troughs that help to solve the problem of water in the basement.  But they are not just practical, they provide habitat for water plants and goldfish for all or part of the year. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

photo on the fly

OK, I was on my way to an 8 am meeting in Three Rivers, not exactly late, but I certainly wasn't going to be early.  And here is this gorgeous sun rising into a break in the clouds ahead of me.  So I pull over to the side of the road and jump out to quickly snap a shot.  And who knows what my camera was set on?  I didn't stop and check settings.  And this is what I got; the squiggly lights of the school bus headed out of town and the cars headed in.  Almost a watercolor effect as well as picking up the moving lights of the vehicles.  Here is the next shot after the bus was gone and when I change the setting to Auto.  Perhaps I needed more coffee to be awake enough to concentrate on what I was doing!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why this fascination?

A fallen tree in the woods is an exhibit of the old, last year's shelf fungus and the new, the flourishing mosses of the turn from winter to spring.  I have never met a fungus I was not fascinated by making me notorious in my family for stopping to photograph everyone of them when hiking up north.  Although I study all the books on mushrooms, I am afraid to eat what I find, except for the storied Morels.  Hard to believe but we need rain if there is to be a good crop soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

beginnings and endings

Close to the vernal pond (which is very low this year), Willow and I found this reminder of death in the midst of new growth.  Taking on the green hue of the emerging plants around them, these bones are very beautiful.  The pond is a favorite place for the deer, their watering hole, and many trails lead to it from the surrounding woods and fields. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Seen out the window

This is Ruby in front of St. Francis.  What is she so interested in?  St. Francis or the burrows in the mound behind him?  But she stayed there quietly for ten minutes or so.  Such concentration!
Ruby, Ruby Begonia is her full name, adopted us one day maybe 7 or 8 years ago as we walked our road.  She was very little and came toward us crying.  When we heard a car coming, we scooped her up and she stayed in my arms the half mile to home.  She has been with us ever since, but is our most outdoor cat, taking every opportunity to roam far and wide, except when winter finally gets her down, or in, to be more correct.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

a view from the tea house

Overlooking the ravine with its vernal pond is this exquisite little hut modeled on a Japanese tea house.  I will try to do a series of seasonal views to give you a chance to experience the colors of stillness it provides. 
And yes we do find morels though not in abundance.  People jealousy guard the whereabouts of the best sites!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Walking the fields

There are still a few patches of snow, more snow may fall, but even two days from the official start today feels like spring.  A beautiful sky, a warm temperature (60), and you can declare winter over! There is more than evidence of mosses growing; I saw an emerging patch of oregano in the field, escapees from an herb garden of many years ago.
This field is to the south of the white pine and oak plantation pictured yesterday and paths through it are maintained by the Hermitage staff and volunteers.  Here Willow goes off lead and races up and down, round and round, enjoying herself immensely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

the path to spring

This "plantation" of white pine and oaks is now probably 15 years old.  It is part of the Hermitage property and the system of paths in the hills and woods surrounding us.  With the snow gone, it is again accessible and a joy to walk through.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

the green cliffs

For color in a Michigan March, look down  and you will be rewarded.  Very appropriate for the coming week and a celebration of the Emerald Isle, wouldn't you say?  And hopefully you are not a ground level because you drank too much Guinness!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March is not Michigan's most colorful month......

You don't even have to the choose the sepia effect to obtain this photo!  With only the smallest patch of snow left, the vista is dominated by shades of brown and the shades of plants past.  Today I found many open seed pods of last year's milk weed.  The result I hope will be many happy monarch butterflies this summer. 

There is color emerging but the long view doesn't show it.   If you study the ground you are walking on, you will find the greenest mosses to cheer you up.  And Garrison Keillor makes me laugh every time with this definition: "March is the month that God designed to show those who don't drink what a hangover is like."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Where shall we go today?

Rainy and foggy for the last couple days so the snow is disappearing fast and the deer highways are easy to maneuver now.  Looked out the window at just about 7 in the morning and here they came strolling by.  Have discovered, while walking Willow, that the trails and the "residues" of many deer are everywhere;  she is taking me places I have not been on our property beyond the trails we keep up.  Walking anywhere is possible since the snow is almost gone but the grasses are still depressed. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

snow drops

Could not resist contrasting the depressing snow with the hopeful snow drops, our first sign that winter is leaving us at last.  There may still be more snow storms, the first week of April always seems to bring one, but we are now headed the right way toward spring.  On the other hand my mother told of the snow fall as she marched in a Memorial Day Parade in the 1920's in northern Indiana!  Spring is the most anticipated season and seems to be the shortest.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

four and twenty

red-winged blackbirds, up in a tree not a pie!  You are seeing only a fraction of the tree and its many limbs filled with blackbirds.  Flocks of them are heading north these last two days, but some will stay here for the summer.  They make quite a racket, but it takes many of them to equal the calls of the sandhill cranes, whom I have heard but not seen for the last few days. 
It was a beautiful morning today with fog to the east and this completely clear sky to the west.  
In an odd coincidence, today is the Orthodox feast of the forty martyrs of Sebaste.  In Russia this saint's day was traditionally commemorated by making a pie with forty skylarks.  In the state of Texas, USA, there is a church dedicated to these 4th century martyrs: http://www.40martyrs.org/
If you wish to read a "history,"  a marvelous story of the martyrs, go to: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=100706

Monday, March 8, 2010

enjoyment, pure and simple

This is Willow who delights in rolling in the snow.  That is her ball behind her.  We are celebrating 7 days of sun!

Sunday, March 7, 2010


First orchid of this season!  There are four orchid plants, all have one or two stalks with buds at various stages of development.  How lucky can an orchid lover get!

Friday, March 5, 2010


Walking through the meadow these last few days on the top of the snow, I am discovering past life.  Last year's grasses emerging from their cocoon of snow and leaving their impress on it.  I am captivated by the sight and you will also get to see more flora emerging in this meadow, soon not just last year's!
The snow is almost gone in certain areas, those sloping south and into the sun's warmth.  Other spots north-facing are still deep and difficult to trudge through.  Willow bring much lighter than I skims over as I sink in.
We are giddy in the midst of this fourth day in a row of sun!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

good morning

The sun coming up and bit by bit lighting the fields to the west is a sight for which I must thank Willow who took me tramping through the meadow where the crusted snow, over a foot deep, held us both up for very easy walking and beautiful vistas this morning.  The temp was the upper twenties so not too cold at all.
You are seeing part of the property that belongs to Gilchrist Center, a retreat center of the Fetzer Institute of Kalamazoo.  Their mission is to explore the mind/body relationship and to foster love and forgiveness in our world.  Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion, jointly written by religious leaders from all over the world, was supported in part by the Fetzer.
John Fetzer was a broadcaster who once owned the Detroit Tigers.  His statue of Shiva included an arm holding a baseball bat!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Passageways: which way to go?

Passages can take many forms: roads diverging to different destinations, one season to another, a state of being chosen or passed up.   At this crossroad in Fabius Township, take the road south to the Hermitage, a retreat center, or continue to the west and reach "the" lake (Michigan, that is), or  choose walks in the woods and quiet contemplation or a beautiful drive to a marvelous dinner at the Wood Fire  (www.woodfiredining.com) in Dowagiac at the western end of Dutch Settlement Road, or simply be grateful that one road is snowless, definitely a sign of winter drifting away.  Hope your passageways can be this fruitful!
This photo is part of CityDailyPhoto Theme Day for the start of March:
Click here to view thumbnails for all participants