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Monday, June 18, 2018

Hikers Haven

Sunday, I spent the day with trail friends Connie and Jerry. Jerry has hiked the Appalachian Trail. They are both long-time volunteers for the North Country Trail, and Jerry helped build the Midland to Mackinac Trail. They both also do trail maintenance on some of those miles.

hikers haven

I was welcomed and well-fed. We went to church together. After a hot afternoon, we decided to forego dinner in favor of ice cream. Perfect choice! I think the three flavors we ended up with were raspberry cheesecake, Scout mint chocolate, and turtle cheesecake.

eating ice cream

My next hiking plan may be starting to simmer. We'll see.

Then I was off to my next destination, Interlochen, where I am now.

In other news: I don't have my assignment for tomorrow finished... have to get back to work.

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Dow Gardens- Branches

One of the interesting aspects of Dow Gardens that sets it apart from some others is that it was planned with heavy emphasis on trees. This leads to a couple of unusual features. The one I'm sharing today is interesting branches.

There's not much rhyme or reason to my choice of pictures. They are simply views I liked where the picture turned out reasonably well.

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

There were lots and lots of these trees that grow in a widely spreading clump/cluster. I never did find a label for what they are (lots of exotic species in here), and I suspect they may have been pruned when young to emphasize the growth pattern. But they create peek-a-boo views from one section to another that are appealing. You can't quite tell in the photo what is beyond, but it is a waterfall.

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

Next up is a bronze beech. These have all the loveliness of a regular beech, but the leaves stay dark purple-bronze all summer.

bronze beech at Dow Gardens

I liked this hint of the rocks at pond edge and the bridge through the abstract shape formed by the branches in this one.

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

And this branch hanging over a grassy space seems impossibly long

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

Finally, although you could argue that this picture is more about the rocks, I like the contract between the roundness of those rocks and the lines of the branches.

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

In other news: I'm spending the day with some trail friends and will be heading to Interlochen Fine Arts Camp tomorrow. Stay tuned.

See Dow Gardens- Just Getting Started
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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dow Gardens- Just Getting Started

Long day, all good. Need to get to bed, so I'll just give you a quick opener of the Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. Not even any explanation tonight. Sorry. Gotta catch some zzzs.

These are just three of the most formal sections of walkway/bridges sprinkled around the 110 acres.

red bridge at Dow Gardens

This one has its picture taken more often, I think.

half circle bridge at Dow Gardens
This is a short walkway section with a formal appearance. However, a great deal of the landscaping was done purposefully to make it look informal and natural. More on that another day.

walkway lined with flowers Dow Gardens

This was the activity I chose for the day at the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association Conference. Wonderful place. More on the writing later too.

See Matthaei Botanical Garden
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Friday, June 15, 2018

I Used to Have Nice Plants

I had big plans and worked hard on developing a nice flower garden for quite a few years. Then it all went downhill. For one thing, I'm continually battling really lousy soil. It's more like pure beach sand. Then there are the critters: deer, woodchucks, rabbits are the most devastating to flower beds.

Then along came 2009... the year I decided to hurry up and be the first woman to hike the entire North Country Trail. I did no garden care at all in 2009 and 2010. I've never been able to give it the time required to recover from that neglect.

Then there's the expense. You don't have to be rich, but you do have to have at least a small budget, and I no longer had room for it in my wallet.

I've now made a monumental decision. But first... just a few goodies that managed to bloom this year among the weeds. First a couple of iris. Nothing spectacular, but nice.

purple iris

yellow iris

I thought I had showed you pictures of my rock garden when it was at its finest. But maybe not. Can't hunt up those pictures tonight. That was around 2001. It really was lovely. I spent half an hour a day weeding, all summer long. I had a $100 a year budget, but I also liked digging up odd plants I found, or getting gifts.

Anyway, here's one plant that has been too hard to kill, despite all the grass that's trying to get it. It's a pink bush geranium, variety 'Bloody Geranium' for the dark red leaves in fall. See link at end.

pink bush geranium

Finally, here are two varieties of Dianthus, sometimes called Sweet William, or pinks. Neither one is growing in the rock garden any more. They were probably a poor choice to put there in the first place because although they are a perennial, they self-seed, and they kept moving themselves around. This variety is called 'Brilliant.' I haven't seen any for a few years. This year, there's a patch in the lawn. I mowed around it. They look lots better than the weeds we mow and call a lawn.

dianthus 'Brilliant'

I was especially happy to see this little gem. I ordered this dianthus from a specialty catalog, and love it, but it was never as prolific as the common ones. In fact, I didn't think there was any of it left. But a couple shot up. This variety is called 'Arctic Fire.'

dianthus 'Arctic Fire'

So what's my big decision? I'm not going to play in my horrible gardens here any more. The overall results are too disappointing, and I don't plan to stay home enough to try to reclaim the mess.

I'll go visit other spectacular gardens. Or I'll stroll through other people's messes and dig in the dirt with them. Maybe I'll end up volunteering a bit in some public garden.

Of course, seeing these plants try so valiantly to bloom and live makes me want to just go spend hours weeding and digging and hauling... and then no writing happens and I didn't accomplish enough in the end to make a difference in the gardens anyway.

And what's the next step in this plan? How about a big public garden tomorrow? I'm going to the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association Conference, and one of the day activity choices is Dow Gardens in Midland. Stay tuned!

In other news: I did a lot of stuff for the Writers' Rendezvous. I did some work on the Long Distance Hiker Recognition. I did a LOT of errands. I'm about half packed. Gotta get back at that. I leave at 7 am. No writing happened.

See Pink and Blue for this geranium in the fall
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Local Critter Count

Here's some of the local (in back of my house) wildlife of the past week. Nothing new, although one of them did something new.

First up is a female widow skimmer dragonfly. I actually got really good pictures of both the female and male in 2011. So, if you want to see them better, follow the link below and click on the thumbnails.

female widow skimmer dragonfly

Next, we'll do the plain old whitetail deer. Lots of them, but they do have a certain charm (until they eat all my plants).


The dead branches at the top of one of my aspen trees is a favorite spot of the birds. Today, a flicker took advantage of the perch.


Now it's back to the insect world. This one is a little creepy, but interesting. This is a bracken fern covered with rose chafer beetles. These are annoying brown beetles that will eat certain plant leaves so fast you can almost see things defoliate. They love roses, but also hollyhock and birch. Well, I guess they also like bracken. At least for mating. The ferns in this area were black with pairs of beetles. That's better than all over my rose bush. They don't bite, but they fly and they tickle when they land on you.

rose chafer beetle

Finally, the oriole. Not that this is a great picture. It's not. But it's the solution to my mystery singer. For weeks, there has been a bird here singing twitter, twitter, cheep, cheep. Over and over and over. I could not identify it or find it. I asked real birder friends. I tried to record the sound (with no success). At long last, yesterday, I heard the singer, saw it fly to the aspen, shot a picture and wow. It's the oriole! This is the first time one has ever stayed to nest around my house. I hope I can find the nest this fall to show you.

He wasn't doing a typical song for an oriole, but they are highly variable. I did find a similar one on youtube, so I'm really sure it's my mystery bird.


Saw two sandhill cranes today too. The bird I have not seen or heard this year is the meadowlark. Seems odd. They have always been dependable regular visitors.

In other news: I did some things for the Writers' Rendezvous and wrote two chapters in The Bigg Boss. Also made more rhubarb granola. This batch has more rhubarb, and I like it. I have a trip coming up. Not far away, but I'll be gone nearly a week. I think I'll be able to blog though. Stay tuned.

See Widow Skimmers
See Northern Flicker
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