Entries to Win Afghan

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wildlife, With a Background of Banjo Music

I must have gotten lost today and taken a trip to Appalachia. Two very strange experiences. It all began when I went to the door of a home worth half a million (no, I'm not making that up), to introduce myself and explain that I'd be taking pictures and measurements of the outside of the house. A middle-aged lady answered the door. She was wearing a men's tank-type undershirt with no bra, and pajama pants. Now, I'm not gonna say anything derogatory. It's her house and the UPS lady knows that I don't dress up when I'm home alone, either.

So I began my measuring, and a car pulls in the driveway. A man who looks like he stepped out of Duck Dynasty comes on the porch, followed by that skinny kid who plays the banjo, and I explain what I'm doing, and that I have talked to the lady of the house. He says he's just her brother, visiting from Kentucky, and he goes in, asking the lady as he does so if they need more wood for the fireplace. The house is huge and complicated, and it took me a long time to get all the measurements. It has a swimming pool, walled courtyard, and other amenities. Strewn across the property are enough cheap, broken plastic toys to stock Goodwill. OK, so they have grandkids. But it all seemed very out of sync with the level of the abode.

I did a few more houses in town that just needed pictures, and then took another time-warp trip to the hills. Headed for an address on a private lake. I've never been back in there because you aren't even supposed to drive the private road unless you have a reason. So I assumed it was all high-falutin' places. Well, the road is in two sections, and I was on the wrong one. Cue the banjos and fill the air with woodsmoke.

The farther down the road I went, the more hillbilly things got. And that's saying something, given the rural nature of our area anyway. At the end of the dirt road it opened into a muddy cul-de-sac with seven or eight rustic houses (I don't want to say shacks, but these probably weren't collectively worth half a million). A small boy with a shovel stared at me with unblinking eyes as I got out of the car. A very pregnant young woman greeted me, rubbing her huge belly and holding another toddler by the hand. It's a little chilly yet; she wasn't barefoot. She explained to me that I'm on the wrong section of road to reach the number I want, and continued telling me that she's one of the Polsons (named changed to protect her, or maybe me). "All these houses are owned by our family," she said proudly, sweeping her arm around to take in all the "cottages."

I commented that it was very nice to have a place on the lake, and thanked her for the directions. Can you say "run for your life?"

OK, it really wasn't scary, but it was pretty funny.

Here are the wildlife spottings from yesterday. Except I had no chance at all to catch the hawk with his beautiful red tail spread wide. Will you settle for a great blue heron in flight?

great blue heron

Nothing I saw is unusual at all, but it's so nice to see the critters beginning to move around again. Here's a cottontail rabbit.


The last two are just at our bird feeder. I always feel like that's cheating for getting pictures. Nevertheless, this is the first time we've had a red-wing blackbird come. I like the action in this picture as he was changing directions. He was noisy and tried to be more bossy of the feeder than even the blue jay.

red-wing blackbird

Then a little downy woodpecker came. I caught it on the porch rail, just getting ready to spring up to the feeder. Kind of a funny pose.

downy woodpecker

See At Ellen's Birdfeeder
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

He Didn't Know Who He was Dealing With

Out working today. Driving down a county road. A man coming the other way sticks his arm out the window and flags me down.

"You can't get through," he says. "There's a big tree down across the road."

"OK, thanks," I reply.

But I had to go look. Why? Because there was no where to turn around? Because.... (sheepish grin) Because it's what I do...

tree across road

That's not such a big tree. I have my 16" bow saw in the car.

A few minutes later, back of car in this picture.

tree across road

Problem solved.

See More Than I Bargained For
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Monday, April 28, 2014

Day Off


I gave myself a day off, and did only a little bit of necessary stuff. It's going to be a very busy week. And wet. I needed a breather.

These snowdrops aren't mine, but were in someone's yard where I worked last week. The continuing cold weather has kept the spring flowers from really showing up, so I'll take them wherever I find them.


See Promises, Promises
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

This Year's Roofing Project

If you agonized with me through the large roofing project last fall, I decided to give you a break this year. This year's piece was very small by comparison, just the steeper part of the roof on the back. I got it done in three days of work. Forgot to take a completely "before" picture, but you can tell where the old shingles were from the first day's shot.


roofing project


roofing project

Sunday (today):

roofing project

I did not get all the old mess off the roof. That's going to take another tarp and more energy than I had today. I just hope the blue tarp doesn't shred. We're supposed to get wind tonight. And of course, it hasn't been warm enough yet to seal the shingles. But I can only do what I can do, and I was pooped.

Speaking of pooped, the new section has already been christened.

roofing project

The entire front has to be re-done too, but it's not nearly so critically pressing. Don't worry, though, I have several other major chores to keep me out of trouble here this year.

See Looky, Looky, I Played Hookey for last year's roofing project
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Serene and Small

These are three more pictures from yesterday. I have something quality to show you that I worked on today, but I'm saving the pictures until it's done. (Tomorrow I hope). But it's not a problem, because there is more fun stuff from my little walk yesterday.

Part of the path is right along the Pere Marquette River. This is one restful scene where some cedars grace the far bank.

Pere Marquette River

I also saw some very large pixie cups. Some are close to an inch tall, twice what I think of as usual. But they are out in the open instead of hiding in the grass like the ones I found in my back yard.

pixie cup lichen

Also found one kind of clubmoss. There are several that commonly grow in the area, and I'll bet I'll find others on this walk if I keep my eyes open. This is bristly clubmoss, Lycopodium annotinum. It's about three inches tall.

photo label

It's always bright green and shiny. It looks like someone spread plastic festoons in the woods. (Well, I just discovered I already showed you this yesterday. OK, I'm tired. Going to bed soon)

See A Pixie Hiding in My Grass
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Friday, April 25, 2014

A Hike Too (?) Early

I'm leading a hike next weekend that purports to be a "Fern Walk." I had to go past that area today anyway, so I took an abbreviated walk to see what was popping up. No ferns, haha. Not even little nubbins of growth, let alone a fiddlehead. There were some of last year's fronds on the evergreen varieties.

This area should have been sprouting with new fern fronds like crazy. Nothing. Well, nothing ferny. Lots of moss! And it's green.

boggy area

But I did see some evidence of plant life for this season. The skunk cabbage is a little wetter than it likes, thanks to all the rain last week. But it seems to be fine.

skunk cabbage

I have showed you liverwort a couple of other times. I don't know the different ones except that this is a thallose liverwort, which means it looks kind of like a leaf. I do think it's different from the other two, but looks can be deceiving. If you want to see the others, click "liverwort" in the labels at the end.


This was a nice little surprise. I hadn't ever seen it along this path before. Just wasn't looking in the right places. It's Goldthread, Coptis groenlandica, which has bright yellow roots (the gold thread), and gets a pretty white blossom. It likes acid soil, telling me that this area is boggy.


In slightly drier areas, I found bristly clubmoss, Lycopodium annotinum, although they change the Latin names of these "fern allies" every time you turn around. But this one is easy to tell. It looks like plastic, and the "leaves" point downward. And it grows with runners, not in clumps.

shining clubmoss
Here's one of my favorites! It's a horsetail, Equisetum scirpoides, dwarf scouring rush. But I love how it's curly. It's also very tiny as you might guess by the name.

dwarf scouring rush

Growing pretty much everywhere is partridgeberry, Mitchella repens. Very common to find it with wintergreen, and that's also everywhere. So common, I didn't even take a picture. Both are evergreen, so they are easy to spot in early spring.


Finally, here's just a piece of driftwood along the river that I liked.


Heard the first spring peepers of the year, and saw a fish (probably a steelhead) jump a foot out of the water!

I had to do a lot of work today, and this walk was less than an hour, but it was awesome!

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Kind of Portent?

As I was leaving this morning, look who was hanging around on the barn roof. Hopefully, they don't know something about my immediate future. (Just kidding.)


It was a long and busy work day. I'll get my fun day some other day. But I did get to drive some new back roads. Still not very green here, but I like 'em anyway.

back road

back road

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! It was amazing. Something over 120 greetings on Facebook.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Little Splurge

Went hog wild and bought myself a little gift today. (It has a tiny chip so I got 10% off, and it was much cheaper than I thought it would be- all the right things, and blue too!). And the flowers will hopefully continue to give some color for a while.

birdbath and flowers

I want to put it where I can watch the birds play in their birdbath from the chair where I work.

In other news, I started the back section of the roof that is this season's chore. It's a small piece, and I hope it will go really fast. REALLY fast.

See Looky, Looky, I Played Hookey
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Manistee Lake- South End

Out doing work assignments today, and that put me in a location to see Manistee Lake from a new angle. Manistee Lake is a body of water formed from the Manistee and Little Manistee Rivers. I think it's a natural lake. Which is to say, not created by a dam.

This is looking north from the southeast end where the Little Manistee Flows in.

Manistee Lake

It's really sort of an ugly duckling, because it's been so heavily used for industry. Instead, Manistee has embraced the Lake Michigan shoreline for recreation.

Manistee Lake

Nevertheless, on a sunny day, the water is blue, and there are usually some anglers out in boats. The oldest sections of Manistee are located on this lake, pretty much just beyond that factory you see. It has expanded north and west, and the city center is now along the outlet of this lake, on the Manistee River, between Manistee Lake and Lake Michigan.

The pictures were taken from the village of Stronach.

See Curious By the Manistee
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Monday, April 21, 2014

Finally! A Glimmer of Spring

I love my little miniature Jetfire daffodils, although they seem to be evolving into a more uniform yellow. The trumpets used to be orange.

Jetfire miniature daffodils

Rain today- just gentle, and not really enough to soak the soil, it only wetted the top. But it certainly felt more like spring than winter. In the link below, the Jetfires were in full bloom on April 18, and they are just starting this year on the 21st. Surprisingly, that's not a huge difference, considering the never-ending cold here.

See Jetfire
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