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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Anything but Brown

Mostly, I was a slug today. But I finally got myself into gear and went for a walk. I did a very familiar section of the North Country Trail, but then wanted to check on something else and had a tiny new adventure.

Here's the new adventure. The state has designated a place where anglers walk as an actual trail. What I wanted to check out was the campsites and parking along Sulak Road that leads to the Pere Marquette River. So I followed the "fisherman trail" down to the river, and beside it for a ways. I can't say I've never seen this piece of river before because I've paddled it several times, but I've certainly never seen this spot from this angle.

Pere Marquette River

What I want to do is continue to follow the river and see if you can make a loop back to Upper Branch Bridge. There is one area where the banks are very steep. I don't know if there is an OK way to get to the top. If you can, then you can connect back to the NCT. But, since I left home mid afternoon, it was getting a little late in the day to go off on bushwhacking adventures. I'll try another time.

Meanwhile, I have to confess to a tiny bit of frustration. Not at anything connected with the virus restrictions. I'm just officially ready for Spring to start showing her face. Meanwhile, enjoy some of the usual sights:


Pere Marquette River


Pere Marquette River

A polypore bracket fungus of some kind. I like the layers.

bracket fungus

And this little anomaly. In the blowdown area, the cut ends of many logs had these star-shaped designs. This was the most perfect. Weird.

star pattern in cut wood end

Total hiking - about 6.5 miles. Miles that count for the NCT Hike 100 2020 Challenge 4.5- I'm calling it 4. Total is at 68 miles.

In other news: I finished the truly boring accounting project I needed to get done, worked a tiny bit on my art project and read a book.

North Country Trail, Lake County, MI. Timber Creek at US 10 south to Wingleton Rd and back, and from Upper Branch Bridge south to Sulak Rd, Sulak Rd to the Pere Marquette River, fisherman's trail to the river and back to Upper Branch Bridge. 6.5 miles

See More Fun with Dave

Monday, March 30, 2020

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 - Mare Nostrum

Let's go back to the Philadelphia Flower Show today. I'll show you my favorite of all the displays. Some of the pictures don't do it justice, but I did the best I could with the crowds and whatnot.

It was a display by the American Institute of Floral Design. This organization is "the oldest and largest non-profit organization dedicated to recognizing and promoting the art of floral design as a professional career." So, I'm not sure how to interpret that as to exactly who put the display together (a local subgroup?). But, it was stunning.

Their sign began, "Escape and enjoy the sights of Mare Nostrum, where the sky and the sea compete on who holds the truest of blues..."

The theme was Mare Nostrum - Our Sea. There were 12 components of the exhibit. I guess it would be picture overload if I showed you all of them (and some of the pictures aren't great) but they are The Ocean, The Wave, The Breeze, The Sky, Textiles, Pottery, Tile, The Arbor, Container Gardens, Homes on the Cliffs, Rooftops, and The Sail.

I'm starting with Tile, just because it's a really nice picture without much competition from surrounding stuff. And you can see how blue was dominant.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum Tile

Three of the themes were about materials. Here is a portion of the Pottery display. I loved how the plants spilled from the pot.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum Pottery

The attention to detail was great. This is just one tiny element. You can see it in the above picture just left of center.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum- Pottery

And Textile was rich with texture.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum Textile

I loved the parts that focused on the big picture: The Ocean

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum The Ocean

The Sky

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum The Sky

There was so much motion in these next two! The Breeze

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum The Breeze

and The Wave

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum The Wave

I think I need to stop with the pictures for today. Container Gardens was a combination of traditional and whimsical and was staged under the walk-thru Arbor that was woven with lemon branches laden with fruit. Blue, yellow and white- my favorites, and then filled with green plants. Rooftops and Houses on the Cliffs were OK, but not as good as the ones I've showed you.

There were tall sails you could see from a long ways away to draw you to the exhibit, and one was interpreted with white flowers.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum The Sail

The most whimsical part? The foam on the waves was flowers and... marshmallows!

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- Mare Nostrum The Wave

I really loved the colors, the arrangements, the combinations of plant material and other items, the richness and depth of the compositions, the theme... well, everything! This was my favorite display this year.

In other news: Cold and rainy again. I did some accounting stuff, mailed some things, and then started working on my last square for the Art Center Bingo. Stay tuned.

See Trail Work Day
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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Stay at Home Fun

Cold and rainy today. So I stayed home and finished two more squares for the Ludington Area Center for the Arts Bingo Game.

The line I chose included the landscape, which I did first- see link below. It uses the middle free square. So I have 3 to go. One is to do a still life. This is nothing wonderful. It's not even a great composition. But I'd been wanting to try to copy this particular style. So my goal was accomplished, and it will count for the square. Medium is colored pencil.

colored pencil still life

One of the squares in my line is kinda whacko! It says "COVID-19 virus art - create your own virus." OK then. I call this work "Dance of the Naked Virus," and it's mixed media. My reaction... meh. I tried a new technique with the background. My success was poor, but I learned a lot. The virus studded cells turned out pretty good. The naked virus proteins are off balance. Mixed media. I'm calling it done. It was totally experimental anyway.

mixed media virus art

I also made soup. It's better than refrigerator soup because I bought some things to put in it. However, I did trim down some freezer burned sausage to salvage the good parts to put in, and thawed a pile of black beans I'd thrown in the freezer some time ago that went in too. This was a complete winner because Omer even liked it, and he hates soup.


I guess it was a day of experiments. I also tried Navajo Fry Bread. It's OK. Actually, it's pretty good. But it's just a plain fried bread: flour, salt, baking powder, water. The pan has to be oiled and quite hot and I managed to set off the smoke alarm. You can only cook one at a time (unless you use multiple pans), so I wouldn't want to make enough for a big group. I like biscuits or pancakes better. But now I can say I've tried it!

Navajo Fry Bread

In other news: Did a little bit of accounting work, and worked on a web site.

See Art Center Bingo- Square One

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Railroad or Road?

Can you believe that I discovered something new on my North Country Trail section this week? It's true. I guess I'd never hiked it at the exact right time of year with no leaves, and/or maybe with the light right for me to see it. Or maybe I was simply being unobservant.

At any rate, I found a worked road or railroad bed that cuts across that section of the trail. But what is it? I'm afraid that in the pictures you can't really see much of what is obvious when you are there. Well, not so obvious, I guess, since I've walked this piece probably 50 times, and never saw it before.

Here is the trail, going straight up the middle of the picture. I've marked the other grade in yellow.

grade crossing a trail

When you stand in the trail and look SW (to the lower left of the picture), there is clearly a cut made for some sort of transportation. I've marked the edges of the cut in white.

road cut

When you stand in the trail and look NE (to the upper right of the picture), there is clearly a raised berm. I had to step down off the trail beside the berm to get it to show up in a picture. I've marked the edges of the berm in magenta.

road berm

This looks like a railroad grade. Roads were seldom cut or built up that substantially to level them. They usually just wandered up and down unless there was some serious need to bench them into a side hill or get out of the wet.

But, here's the thing. I have a map of the historical rail lines in Lake County. This is not one of them.

I have looked at county maps, the forest service map, and the USGS topo map. This corridor does not show on any of them.

That being said, there are a lot of dashed-line roads on the historical rail map, and there is a possibility it shows on that. I'd need to follow it some more and see if it makes the indicated turns. Sounds like a fun adventure! And then... what will I know? I'm not sure. If it leads to the railroad grade (where we fixed those bridges yesterday) does that indicate it was a very temporary logging spur? A skid road? I think I'll need to talk to the Lake County Historical Society again.

I do love mysteries like this!

In other news: I worked on updating one of my web sites most of the day. I also went to the grocery store. Currently, I think this is the most risky behavior I engage in. It was busy, and I was very glad to get out of there and wash up.

See Boards, Blazing, and Bugs

Friday, March 27, 2020

Boards, Blazing, Bugs

Today, Loren and I met on my section of trail (keeping our distance and never touching), and replaced all the broken boards in the five little bridges that cross the bottomland hardwood swamp. (Snowmobiles are not supposed to use this, but they do, and it's murder on the decking.)

trail work

We replaced 12 boards and one sill that was rotted. These pictures show the difference. We did also replace those two with broken ends you see on the one bridge, but we did them last after we were sure we had enough boards with us.

trail bridge

trail bridge

After we got that project done I continued working on the blazes. Got another half mile done, with about one mile to go. Big job. Today's PSA is to show you a turn blaze. Double blazes indicate a turn with the top blaze offset in the direction of the turn. So, this one means there is about to be an abrupt right turn.

trail turn blaze

There were a few signs that spring is getting closer. The weather was wonderful- in the 50s. This little green stink bug held still long enough for a picture.

stink bug

Also saw the first mourning cloak butterfly of the season, a frog, and a chipmunk.

Wonderful day!

There is no other news. This was all day.

Hike 100 Challenge is at 64 miles.

Doing trail work on the North Country Trail, Lake County, Michigan, north of Freesoil Trailhead. About 5 miles of walking

See Bright Green for Spring

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Begonia Selections 2020 - 1

The Begonias can go on for days and days. Well, I'll try not to do that to you, but I've picked a few of my favorites today. Some of them are the more bizarre ones.

This one is 'Persian Brocade.' Not necessarily bizarre, but I like how rich it looks.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 - Begonia Persian Brocade

Next up is 'Paso Doble,' which is a fast Spanish military step or a two-step dance. I suspect it refers to how the two colors intertwine like they are doing a dance. Very dramatic.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 - Begonia Paso Doble

While we are on the subject of dancing, this one has the interesting name of 'Breakdance.' I think I can see those pointy leaves just leaping around a stage.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 - Begonia Breakdance

I found this one very interesting because the flower is unusual for a begonia. There was also a very small one of these blooming in a miniature display. It's called Caribbean Prince.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 - Begonia Caribbean Prince

Last one for today has very interesting leaves. Looking down from the top this looks like there is something wrong with the leaves. The variety is 'Cathedral.'

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 - Begonia Cathedral

But when you look at the leaves from the underside, you can easily the source of the name since the light shines through and looks like stained glass windows.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 - Begonia Cathedral

And that's the extent of what I'll show you today.

In other news: the phrase of the day is "telephone meetings." I've had three of them. I really hate conference calls. Oh well, they are safe and we got things done. Back to the trail tomorrow. Stay tuned.

See Begonia Parade 1

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Painting Trail Blazes 101

I was out this afternoon refreshing blazes on the section of North Country Trail that I have adopted. Our Chapter's web site used to have a detailed set of pages that helped people know how to blaze, but things changed, and they are no longer there.

Maybe you are a little curious as to what I mean when I say "painting blazes." Maybe you have a piece of trail of your own and you need to know how to do this. So I'll tell you what I did today. I really need to get those instructional pages back up on the web somewhere. We had a ton of good info.

For starters, this is not like blazing the first time. That takes the short side of forever. This is a tiny bit easier because you can mostly repaint the same trees unless dead ones have fallen, understory has grown up that you don't want to remove, or you made bad choices the first time. (There are always some of those issues.)

The last time these blazes were touched up was (I think) six years ago. That's a long time. Too long, really, but because I did the job well in the first place, most of them weren't too bad. Here's one of the old ones. You can see that it's faded, and starting to chip, but still in pretty good shape.

North Country Trail blue blaze

Since this is the 101 course, I'll pretend I had to start from scratch. The secret of selecting trees to paint is that blazes should not be spaced according to a measured distance, but by sight lines. Here's a repeat of a picture from the other day.

North Country Trail blue blaze

When you reach one blaze on the trail, you should be able to see one more- like where the yellow arrow is pointing. Sometimes you'll see two, depending on how the trees have arranged themselves, but you don't want to see a whole string of them like Christmas tree lights. Choosing the trees to blaze is a time-intensive process. If you don't have two people you will do a LOT of walking back and forth to choose the correct tree.

Choose live trees unless there is really nothing other than a dead one. Just know that the dead one will probably fall down in a year or so, and then you'll have to pick another tree anyway.

Some species of trees are better than others. Red pine are some of the worst. However, there's a lot of planted red pine in the Manistee National Forest, so it's often the only choice. This is a six-year-old blaze on red pine that has held up this well only because it was prepped properly in the first place.

North Country Trail blue blaze

We've learned that you can scrape it down enough to make the blazes last well. And this brings me to my next point.

The bark should always be scraped and/or cleaned. Older trees need serious scraping. I like this marine scraper.

marine scraper

Some people like a hatchet, some a different kind of paint scraper. You want to take off all that loose outer bark and get right down to something solid that won't flake off. Here's a scraped red pine. You can see some blue, because that's where the old blaze was, but I rescraped it today because the bark loosens as the tree grows. You can see I've taken a lot off without hurting the tree a bit. Then I wipe it with a hand or rag to knock off any loose bits.

North Country Trail blue blaze

You don't want to nick the inner bark so that the tree begins to ooze sap. So on a smooth white pine or young maple, you probably shouldn't even use a tool. But you do want to knock off dust, lichen, and "stuff." A good rub with a rag is usually enough on these kinds of trees. They take nice smooth blazes that look terrific! But I don't have many of those easy trees on my section.

Now we are finally at the actual painting. The official North Country paint is Nelson Blue. Nelson is the company that makes it. This is paint that's formulated specifically for use on trees. It's oil based, and a real mess to work with, but it holds up well.

Here's that same red pine, with a nice fresh 2x6" blaze. Square corners, filled in well. Don't skimp on the paint. Stuff it into cracks in the bark.

North Country Trail blue blaze

I did about a half mile today, working on my own. This activity kills my shoulder, so when my arm starts to go numb, I have to quit.

All those instructional web pages are on one of my hard drives. I really need to make them available. I'll add a link here when I do that.

All together, I probably walked 6 miles (because I had to walk to the half mile I blazed), which makes the Hike 100 Challenge for 2020 at 59 miles.

In other news: I wrote some in The Lonely Donkey this morning, and then did the blazing. I still have at least a mile to go.

North Country Trail, Lake County, MI. Freesoil TH north to FR 5514 and back with numerous back-and-forth trips

See Blazing Pics at end of this post

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 - Flower Carts

Back to the Flower Show today. This was one of the judged display categories. The design had to include some sort of push cart.

This was the blue ribbon winner. Title "To Bee or Not to Bee." Intent: "On a sunny garden path in southern France, a community gathers seeking to strengthen the declining bee population..." Judges said, "The scale and authenticity of the cart filled with a variety of well-grown plants captures the imagination." There are 19 different kinds of plant.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- garden carts

There were two red ribbons given. One was called "Dreaming of Liguria." Intent: "Along the Ligurian coastline of Genoa is the Italian Rivera where the golden umbrella of the sun embraces the rocky hillsides..." Judges said, "The consideration of space and color, and well-ordered placement of plants made a pleasing design. Better compatibility of the plant material would have been more instructive." There are 22 different varieties of plant.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- garden carts

The other red ribbon went to "Fleur de Lune Apothecaire." Intent: "A traveling apothecary rests amongst the shady trees of Baou Saint Jeannet..." Judges said, "Repetition of plants and containers creates a balance within the design. Some of the plant material was not compatible with each other." [these are flower show judges, not grammarians]. 22 kinds of plants.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- garden carts

And a white ribbon was awarded to "Birds, Bees, Butterflies, Bats, Beetles." Intent: "The stone walk is a perfect path for wheeling this cart filled with containers of flats... to draw pollinators..." Judges said, "Construction of the wooden boxes to fill the cart was creative. The overuse of ivy diminished the impact. Smoothing the path would make for an easier passage." 21 varieties of plant.

Philadelphia Flower Show 2020- garden carts

What do you think? I really like the old wheelbarrow and the organization of the winner. The color of the second one was stunning too. I thought the shopping cart was clever but it limited the design of the display a lot, and they didn't use the whole space.

There are still tons of things to show you from the flower show. Of course we haven't even ventured into my love of the succulents and the begonias, and I haven't showed you my favorite commercial display yet either. Hope you are enjoying these posts.

In other news: today was a non-starter. I woke up at 4 am for no reason I can discern, but finally got back to sleep. Then when I got up, I couldn't wake up all day long. Went to the post office to mail some books, napped and read. Still tired.

See PFS 2020- White Plants