Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Butterflies, Wildflowers, and Skunks

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all. 

by Cecil Frances Alexander

The above chorus was one of my favorite songs in Sunday school, and I'll tell you in a minute why its been in my head all week.

We have had about 4 inches of rain in the last 10 days in our area. Not all at once, and not always as heavy thunderstorms. But when it isn't raining, we have had beautiful summer days up here in the UP, and most days Bear, Ike, and I take our routine stroll to the mailbox.

We pass by this culvert full of forget-me-nots,

then stop and snap a shot of these wildflowers,

and admire the butterflies. We have so many this year!

Of course, Ike and Bear pay no mind to me, except to look over their shoulder every now and then wondering if they should wait for me to catch up. Naw, they have better things to look for - like mice, chipmunks, or red squirrels, or maybe even a snake to toy around with (like yesterday).

But a few days back, they were side by side, noses to the ground, zig-zagging in the tall weeds on the trail of some critter. I was scared to death it may be a porcupine, (no, they show no indication that they have learned their lesson from last spring's encounters). 

Spring 2011. Ike in the backseat of my car on the way to the vet. Again.

Anyway, I hollered for Ike and Bear to get back on the road, even going so far as to promise them a treat.

But they didn't listen, and yes, they knew I was lying. 

I can't carry treats when I have one hand on my camera, a free hand to swat the black, brown, deer, bomber, and all-species-in-between flies, my pedometer in my pocket to measure the steps I take each day, always falling short of the recommended 10,000 steps (WHO walks that much in one day, anyways, especially in the bug infested UP? Thank goodness it only gets better once June passes.), an old lady's hair net in the other pocket to put over my head in case swatting no longer works.

But I was desperate. 

I watched as Bear came out of the weeds, relieved that at least she was going to listen, but then watched in horror as she approached some animal in the tall weeds on the other side of the road. All I could make out was either a head, or the tip of a bushy tail. Either way, these two sized each other up, still as stone, nose to nose. I pleaded with Bear to come, and she slowly turned away from the creature and proceeded to walk down the road towards me. Somehow through all of this, Ike had joined me at my side, possibly thinking I was having a mental breakdown and he should see if he could help in some way. Then I got a whiff of what it was. Skunk!

Lucky for all of us, the dogs had commenced on their walk to the mailbox. Bear smelled fine so I knew she hadn't been in the path of the spray. The skunk sprayed after Bear turned away. So as not to alert them to the possibility the creature(s) they had been hunting might be in plain view very soon, I pretended I was following the dogs all the while walking backwards in hopes of seeing which way Pepe' Le Pew decided to travel. I still had to get the dogs back home taking this same route. Sure enough, not quite a baby any more, but not an adult skunk either, the critter crossed the road, head and tail held high, and disappeared into the weeds.

I took a deep breath. I was far enough from the stench that I could. We had survived so far. Perhaps Pepe' and his family would move on. When I caught up with Ike and Bear at the mailbox, I proceeded to tell them what good dogs they were for listening (but next time could you hurry it up a little?), and repeated my mantra over and over like I do after porcupine encounters: 

You don't chase skunks,
you don't chase skunks,
bad dogs,
you don't chase skunks...

Yah, whatever. They were too busy looking for rodents.

But wait. Not the end of the story. 

We head back home, and we get through the spot without incident...walking, walking, the scent of the skunk still lingering in the air...when all of a sudden Ike shoots into the woods like a bullet from a gun.

When he emerges, (after another fitful of my calling and bribing), he has his tail between his legs. The pungent spray he has received has him staggering, slowly, along the edge of the road, kind of crooked, kind of like he has just come from the local watering hole. Bear and I walked/ran as fast as we could home to get away from him.

Needless to say, he spent the rest of the day in the kennel. 

But getting back to the chorus above...why did God make skunks and porcupines?
Humph. I'm just saying it would save a lot of canines (and their maniac owners) a lot of  trouble...:)

These days, we are back to loving Ike up, the slight smell on his shoulders and forehead still a vague reminder of why... 

you don't chase skunks...
or porcupines...
or sand hill cranes...
or deer...
or moose...

Oh, and here's a picture as promised to my mother who texted me yesterday and asked how my garden is doing.

In closing, I want to share my exciting news that I applied and was granted a Bear license. It only took 7 years of applying, but hey, who's counting. (Actually, we all do! It's a loooong process, and the state of Michigan offered 3,000 less this year than in previous years.) 

Come September, I hope to get me a black bear! Big grin.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Aftermath of the UP Wildfire

7:00 p.m. As I sit here at my desk, under the glow of a stained glass lamp, soaking in the sounds of a passing thunderstorm - the fourth line to travel through the UP today - and catching out of the corner of my eye a glimpse of a lightning flash that resembles the passing of a gigantic firefly by my window, I am reminded of how welcomed this steady downpour of rain would have been appreciated weeks back when the wildfire was in full swing. More about that to come...

Yesterday, after church, we took a ride to the St. Mary's River for a Father's Day brunch at the Cozy Corners. I was very excited to witness two tugs, one in front and one in back, navigate a barge downbound to the Rock Cut. The Rock Cut is a narrow passageway through, you guessed it, lots of rock that make up part of the St. Mary's River system. The picture below is not mine, but it gives you a sense of what the freighters navigate through. It is hard to get a closeup picture of the Rock Cut as there is private property along this part of the river. Later in the day we did see the sister to the Algomarine, the Algoma Spirit, both from a Canadian fleet.

The barge and two tugboats

The Algoma Spirit

After dinner, we traveled west, then north to Paradise, then west again. As of June 11, they have allowed everyone back into the area of the wildfire. We traveled down this plush green snowmobile trail...

...but knew we were getting closer when we saw the brown foliage.

Little Lake Harbor is a beautiful lake on the edge of Lake Superior with access to the big lake. There are many cottages that surround this peaceful body of water.

The top left of this picture is where the fire hit. When it reached as far north as it could go, Lake Superior snuffed it out.

To the left of the sand harbor, you can make out the brown trees.

We couldn't tell the extent of the damage.

It appears as though the logging companies are trying to salvage what's left of the burnt trees and hopefully find a good use for them.

An eerie sight - but notice the hardy ferns amidst the black ash.

A logging production was already in place before the fire.

Acres and acres into the horizon.
Makes me wonder, where do all the animals go?

This house was saved - barely

But the owners of this garage weren't that fortunate.

The area is now quiet. Only the occasional curious passerby or a roaming member of the fire department occupies the area, and, of course, the loggers will return today. But the fire extinguishers are gone, all the helping hands and departments faded back into their lives like ghosts that were never here. But they were here. Setting up camps for food and sleep, working in a dangerous smoke-filled environment. 

God bless them all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Projects Galore!

Well, here I am, getting behind already with my posts. We returned home last night from a long weekend downstate visiting family and friends at Graduation Open Houses for two of our nieces. It was great seeing everyone. And then yesterday we loaded up yet another trailer full of our stuff to move up here to our permanent residence. Oh...but where to put it!

A picnic table, fishing boat, kayak - just to name a few of the items in that trailer.

Steve has been working on a shed to store some of our things.

And he built me a raised flower bed, garden, and trellis!

We had a load of top dirt delivered, and I spent today planting my garden.
When I came in to make supper, I found out we are under a frost advisory - how can that be? Today is June 12! Sigh. But hey, I am in the UP now, with a shorter growing season. 

The project we completed last summer is doing great. We sectioned off our split rail fence by the road with timbers and most of my perennials survived the winter and are slowly coming to bloom. 

We even discovered we have our very own wild blueberry patch by the driveway. I've been using my loppers to trim the trees allowing sunshine to filter in. These bushes were hidden in weeds and shade.

Looking forward to fresh blueberry pancakes come August!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Badlands and Wall, South Dakota

Another post of our trip out west. 

Our day trip began to the north of the Badlands. We were so close to the town of Wall, and had read so much about it, we had to stop in and check it out first, before wandering to the Badlands.

It's a tourist trap for sure, but a fun place to stop.

There are lots of shops and a couple of restaurants.
We even picked up a couple souvenirs of our own.

And there is fun stuff for the kids...er, adults, too!
This dinosaur would come "alive" every 10 minutes or so.
He would growl, and shake his head like he was trying to get out.
Seriously, I found him scary. I can't imagine what a little kid would think!

This was much less scary and practical - a jackalope!
Maybe we'll see one of these for real in the Badlands! :)

But this was the first critter we saw - a prairie dog crossing town to visit a friend.

Prairie Dog Town

Buffalo grazing

The Badlands are amazing.

Some of the rocks appear as if they've been painted.

A coyote enjoying the view.

If you look real close, or click once on the picture to make it bigger,
you'll see deer hanging out at the base of the hill.

Below are my two all time favorite pictures. 
The first one is a little blurry. I was so excited I think I was shaking.
Again, you might want to click on the picture to make it bigger.

As we traveled to our hotel from the Badlands,
we watched a real life cowboy round up his cattle.
So cool!

Happy Birthday to my brother Kevin!

Have a great week everyone!