It’s June

It’s June, only 20 days away from the longest day of the year. The sun was still quite a way above the horizon at 7:30 pm when I took the picture above. In spite of this, last week we had a couple nights below freezing. The night it got down to 28 degrees, my new potato plants froze. They had just gotten above ground and were looking so healthy and strong. Everything else in the garden got covered with tarps and sheets and survived. It is light now at 5:15 am so maybe everything will grow fast and produce before the short summer is over.

I took several walks this week. It is scary how fast the trees went from bare to fully leafed out. It’s like they know they have to hurry. The wooded trails are SO BEAUTIFUL! My walks go slow because I am always stopping to take pictures, or identify bird calls. It all looks lovely to me and is like medicine for my soul.

Even things that are nearly spent can be lovely (and that should be comforting to those of us who are nearly spent…)
Birch trees are so unique. White trunks just aren’t the norm.
The streams and marshes are full of water, flowers, reflections.
Who could refuse a path like this?
Looking a fern in the eye is kind of amazing.
Black water reflections captivate my camera (and me).
Canadian mayflowers are even a little late here. A natural garden in the pine forest.
Such a contrast from my winter trail. And to think that all this was just waiting in the cold ground and appears in its season without any help from us.

Yesterday’s walk was past a beaver pond and a large marsh. I pushed through the bushes to get a view of the water and watched a family of ducks swimming. The cattails started rustling and moving and out of them came the largest raccoon I have ever seen. It had a grizzled white head and was prowling through the marsh, probably looking for nests with eggs. Later I saw a pretty box turtle digging a hole in the dirt for her eggs

It was a good walk. I am still counting steps – 13,000 yesterday and 10,000 today. The last two weeks I have been working on getting the garden going instead of walking, but even then it was easy to get 5,000 to 7,000 steps tilling, carrying mulch and fixing fence.

Suddenly, it is summer in this crazy, wild, northern place.

It’s a good thing it doesn’t have to be a very big hole.

Hope for Things Thought Dead

What is the story here? I can see it plainly, but I never know how plain it is to others – we are all products of our past thoughts and experiences and it can make such a difference in our outlooks.

Last fall I put these amaryllis bulbs in the garage for their winter dormancy period. Their long leaves flopped over, turned yellow and dried up. They got no water, very little light, and no attention. One of them started pushing up a new leaf during the winter but there was no chance of it surviving and I worried about the untimely appearance. They were all dead looking, didn’t seem very stable or rooted in their pots, and were soft like they might be rotting. Nothing hopeful about them.

And then they came to life, like so many things do in the spring. Tips of the new leaves were barely visible in the dead layers of brown wrappings. I didn’t know if the early started would start again a second time, but it did. It was much later than the others and seems a bit tattered but it’s alive.

For me, it’s all about the hope that is built into creation that dead things come to life. It’s one of those plainly seen reminders of the intentions of our Creator. Seeing how life is embedded into the DNA of plants and trees and animals of all kinds, I can’t imagine that it isn’t also built into us. I do believe there is a creator God and that he’s telling me on a regular yearly schedule, that he is all about restoring, making new, and starting over, no matter how unlikely it might look to me. I love the sound of that and the spirit behind it.

Funny thing, once I started believing that God was sending me personal messages through things I could see and touch, things he created for my environment, he became real and personal to me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in science. Science is a process by which we study our world. But science is not a creator. Science is still looking for a creator.

I’m enjoying this season. I’m watching for green grass to come up through the dead, matted fields. I’m watching for the geese to come to the marsh to make nests. I’m looking at the lilac twigs to see how far along the buds are. I’m watching the sunrise shift rapidly from south to north on the horizon. There is nothing dead that doesn’t have some hope attached to it and it all feels very personal, now that I’ve decided it is.

End of March

March is nearly over. I’m giving myself grace when it comes to doing all the things that could be called productive. It’s a little hard to concentrate so I go walking instead, alone most of the time. Even in this very unusual time, life goes on, and so, unfortunately, does death. In two separate instances, people I’ve known well enough to grieve over, have died. Neither had anything to do with corona virus, but were unexpected and shocking. These strange weeks/months will stand out in my memory for a long time.

My refuge is to walk in the woods and be reminded of how beautiful and special this world is and how it was designed to be a place where people could thrive. I see God’s intricate design everywhere – in the way the snow melts, the way some plants stay green and alive under the snow, the way the birds find their way back to their birthplace, the way everything responds to the sun in some way. God’s outdoor magic is medicine for my soul.

It looked like bubbles from the bath tub blown all over the meadow.
Ice hazards in some spots, but bare ground in others.
When the snow is gone, so is the path. The pink ribbons suggest the way, when you can find them.
Wintergreen, some with berries, alive and well.
Hepatica (mayflower) always first because of this head start.
Lakeview Loop, aptly named
I want to give this landmark tree a name but can’t quite decide.

P.S. The seeds went in today. I hope I haven’t done it too early. I couldn’t wait.

Ever Changing

I have written much about the wetland property where I now live in Wisconsin, where I take frequent walks and do my communing with nature and peace of mind. Well, today there was a major change.

The marsh

One of the more prominent areas of our wetland is a huge marsh. It is bordered by higher ground and is composed mainly of cattails, water plants and sometimes water shrubs of some kind. There are usually waterways around the edges and sometimes small bays and extensions. The beaver lodge is in one of the waterways, close to the edge of the marsh.

The snow melt and the recent rains have raised the water level considerably. In some places water has started to cover our paths, and submerge our footbridges. The dams that the beaver have constructed are now completely underwater and I can’t see them. But the most amazing thing is that the marsh migrated last night.

Neighbor’s house and her new open waterway.

My brother got a call from a neighbor on the other side of the marsh. She told him that she suddenly had a beach where the marsh had been – open water. I had to go out and see what had happened. Evidently, wind and rain had done the job of loosening the marsh from the soil underneath and the whole thing moved north and west. The open waterway to the beaver lodge is now closed – it’s the path I took over the ice this winter when I checked on them. And other waterways that were wide, separating us from the marsh, are now narrowed to five or six feet.

The marsh now comes within five or six feet in an area that used to be open.

I wonder how many animals and birds had to re-orient themselves this morning. Nature is ever changing, sometimes delightful, sometimes catastrophic, but changing always.

The Lodge

Nothing refreshes me, body, soul and spirit, like being outside in the woods and marshes. I had a good dose of nature today.

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I have a fascination with the beavers here on our wetlands. (I feel like I’ve said this before, at least once.) Today I was dressed well enough and had no time constraints so I went off the track into the woods to make my way to the beaver lodge – not that beavers live in the woods, but the wetlands are complicated. The water flows into ponds that have fingers of marsh that spread out into all the low places in the woods. I could see the beaver lodge from the path but to go directly to it would mean crossing a bit of ice with occasional open spots. I like to stick to the wooded areas around the edges.

 

The path, and I was surprised to see that it was an obvious trail, led through the most awesomely beautiful snowy wonderland. There were a lot of animal tracks, but a person with their dog had left prints as well. It’s kind of special when I get to go someplace that I know not many people have gone. I could hardly stop taking pictures.

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Ice, followed by snow, piled high on every little twig and branch.

 

We’ve had some storms in the last few year which have taken down a lot of trees. In addition to that the high water levels have killed trees, and the beaver have chewed a few down too. The woods look like they’ve a rough time of it, but even that has a beauty, in that life and death are there, entangled with each other. The starkness of winter leaves it all visible.

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Life and death, in close proximity.

 

I found the lodge. I walked out on the ice. I even found a place that looked like it might be an entrance into the watery world below the ice – a dark hole, under a log at the edge of the marsh with open water and lots of animal tracks. Could it be where the beaver come and go? I was looking for tracks that might look like a beaver tail was dragging behind, but I couldn’t say for sure that I saw any.

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The lodge – easily as tall as I am.

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and the nearby hole into open water, that has obviously been well investigated by animals.

 

The lodge is quite a large structure, a mound that can be seen from quite a distance away. On the way there I crawled into the fort built by the survivalists in the burn pile. There was snow in the entrance but further in it was dry and cozy looking. I imagine it could look a little like that in the beaver lodge.  I hope they are in there, safe and warm.

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Beaver tracks? I don’t know… probably not.

Winter is awfully long here. I don’t know what beavers do in the winter, but it’s probably eating and sleeping for the most part. I hope they don’t get bored…

 

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#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things W

The Woods

That’s what we called it when I was growing up, “the woods”. Even though there were trees in lots of other places, when we said “the woods” we all knew which trees we were talking about. It was a lot of several acres covered with hardwood trees of various kinds that had been left forested when the land around it had been cleared for farmland. It was behind our house and it never took more than two or three minutes to slide between the fence wires and run across the small pasture to the edge of the shady, cool greenness.

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A slightly crooked view of the Owen Smith farm with the favorite woods dark behind the buildings.

I spent a lot of time there doing “kid work”. I cleared paths, made moss gardens,  forts from branches, and climbed trees. My favorite trees had names. I knew where to look for the first flowers in the spring, the small ones. They were soon replaced by a green and white carpet of triliums, then the jack in the pulpits, the columbine, the ferns, princess pine, and wintergreen. All this to say that I was blessed, early on, to have developed a love and respect for a forest ecosystem. I would almost say that I need to have ready access to that kind of place to be truly happy.

Which is why I like to think that I’ve been blessed again, by a knowing God, to live in another woods. This one I call “the oneacrewoods”. I’ve watched this acre of Florida bloom and grow since 1994. It never ceases to amaze with its century old live oaks, palms, citrus, kapok and pine trees. It has bromeliads, cactus, orchids, and many kinds of exotic ferns and grasses. We see land tortoises, raccoons, possums, armadillos, squirrels aplenty, large hawks, many smaller birds, and an occasional fox. I can’t adequately describe how beautiful I find this place to be, how special it is, how favorite to me.

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Sunday Walk
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Have you ever loved a place so much that it made you cry to think of leaving it?

Today’s Grateful Thought

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There are thousands more to come down.

There are so many beautiful places in this country. I can’t help but think that I am in one of the greatest for this time of year. I’m a “Yankee” according to some who were born here in Florida, but after 30 years in this state I think I’ve earned the right to brag on it. I’ve spent the last two days working outside in perfect weather. Perfect. I’ve driven past the sparkling blue Gulf. I’ve sat out in the yard, visiting with neighbors and listening to the birds. I’ve been watching the buds on my orchids swell and open to the sun. And tonight I’m out in the back yard listening to the crickets while I watch the brush pile of downed limbs burn, glow and spark upward. I love living in Florida.

It’s the way I’ve always experienced it. When I start anticipating a possible move, I also start a new awareness and appreciation of my present home. It’s the season when one of our rare trees in the oneacrewoods, the kapok, blooms and drops literally thousands of blossoms on the ground. The flowers are the size of badminton “birdies” and have to be raked up or they become a wet, sticky mess that sticks to tires and shoes. What could seem like a never-ending chore, since they are falling even as I rake, is instead a marvel to me. Someday I will not have this gorgeous tree to tend, and that thought makes me sad. I think of all the energy and work that has gone into the production of these showy, red missiles and wonder what the abundance means. Was it our wet fall, or does the tree know that there are hard seasons ahead?

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I raked this clean just yesterday.

The truth is, I’ve loved everywhere God has allowed me to live, even the places I didn’t want to go to at first. There are reasons for being where we end up being, and we are there to look for those reasons. Looking with expectation, curiosity, and the desire to learn is the challenge.  Tonight I’m really thankful for our time in Florida. I’m just sayin’, it’s a great place to be.

Lake a Day Challenge: Company Lake

This is the last post of my challenge since this visit to the northwoods has come to an end.  This lake was a surprise for me. Although the road my sister-in-law and I were biking had been around forever, and was named Company Lake Road, I hadn’t been aware of how pretty it was or of the lake it was named for. The lake was breathtaking in the morning light when we came past it. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera and had to come back later in the day for photos. It was still pretty gorgeous.

I have to say that this spot is typical of the beauty in the Hayward area and the northwoods in general.  These small lakes, marshes and streams are common. Fish, frogs, turtles, cranes, crows, eagles, geese, ducks, swans, chipmunks, skunks, badgers, otters, beaver, fox, wolves, bear, deer… you name it, it’s here and can often be seen close up.  I will admit that I did not get wet in Company Lake but I have an excuse. I will suffer with mosquitoes, but I will not go close to poison ivy, and the bank where I took these pictures was full of it.  Just enjoy these pictures of late summer in north Wisconsin and know that it is a wonderful place to be.

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#5: Lake Hayward

It’s not just about the lakes here in northern Wisconsin. It’s about the whole outdoors experience. Part of it, for those of us who grew up here, is berry picking. I’m talking about serious berry picking, where you gear up with two layers of pants, long sleeves, a belt to hang your berry bucket on, head protection against the deer flies, lots of bug repellant and your sixth sense of where not to go, where not to step, what not to touch.

We went berry picking this morning because my brother had reported seeing bountiful berry patches on our farmland near Round Lake. He had been cutting trails in the overgrown woods and fields with his flail mower (he does this for fun, yeah???) and wanted to take us out in his Kubota tractor to where we could just stand in the trail and pick all the blackberries we wanted. Sounded good. We went early because of forecasted severe weather coming our way.

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Beautiful fruit. Wicked, brutal thorns.

Mom and I drove out to the field/woods in her SUV and met my brother and his wife. We were startled by a graceful buck deer that ran across our path. We were also aware that there were bear in the area, as seen on my brother’s woods cam, but thankfully we didn’t flush any of them out this time. We also saw large flocks of Canada geese and several sandhill cranes in the harvested oat field we drove through. After hunting for a while we did find what we were really looking for, berries, hiding amidst the goldenrod and pines. Unfortunately, the storm found us and we had to cut our picking short. But now we know where they are, and we’re not telling.

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Goldenrod. I’ve never seen so much of it in one place.

Today’s lake is Lake Hayward, which is formed by a dam on the Namekagon right in the town of Hayward. Here the town has its beach park and I remember many picnics and swims in this spot. I remember it being a lot larger than it really is, oh well. It is close to another Hayward landmark, the “big fish”.  Hayward being the Musky Capital of the World someone had to build a giant muskelunge for tourists to get the full experience.  If you want to, you can climb the stairs and view the town from the fish’s mouth, something you don’t get to do everyday.  Today’s photo credit goes to Mom who accompanied me. wp-1470860401413.jpg

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Both feet wet in Lake Hayward, holding lilypad.

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The mouth of the fish (nightmare material, maybe)

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And the tail, with a person in the picture for perspective. It’s big.