The exterior of the new garage is now mostly finished, awaiting the arrival of the electrician and crew. Snowfall lags well below our average but the snowblower has gotten a little exercise and the fuel tank may have to be refilled before we bid this season goodbye.
The February sun and a little rain have made short work of the Nordic ski trail that briefly ringed the Bluecircle and Conservancy. But cold nights brought ice back to the open waters of Paw Paw Lake for at least a few more weeks.
Thin ice grew to a shore-to-shore ice covering overnight as the gale subsided and temperature dropped into the low teens. The lake finally achieved its winter hibernation beneath a shroud of white.
The new garage has progressed from piles of lumber and a plan to a completed roof, windows, slab and partial siding. However, construction has now lapsed while the crew finds a warmer place to work. Delivery of the main doors by the end of the month should let inside construction begin soon.
Since the solstice work has begun on the Bluecircle workshop-garage overlooking Paw Paw Lake. The project plan was developed using Home Design Studio Essentials software. Early plans were larger and others more complicated; window, roof and wall concepts came and went. The 70-year old garage it replaces is scarred, roofline and rafters charred and sagging from a near-fatal fire decades ago.
The site was transformed from concrete and sand to studded walls in less than 3 days thanks to Charlie Sample’s dedicated crew and a warm December. The “little green giant” he pilots is now flying lumber to the carpenters – truss framing is underway and the roof deck should be in place this week. Then another dose of lake effect snow will cover the muddy ruts of construction and restore the reality of Winter.
Late Fall sunshine is a welcome visitor though it brings wind instead of warmth. The tall maple and black locust woods harbors two deer and few dozen squirrels, all fattened up for the cold days ahead. The mower is finally parked in the barn and the tree farm is more ready for snow than its owner.
The long-needled Red, White and Scotch pines are now wide enough to span and close their 8-foot rows. Some are nearly 20 feet tall and fallen needles, or pine straw blankets the ground between them. Oak, hickory and maple seedlings have now survived their infancy in the meadow where the blue clay subsoil was too dense or wet for pines.
For over a century the acreage that would become the Woodland Conservancy and Bluecircle Farm was a productive orchard. Now forty years have passed since the last apple and peach trees were torn from the land. The trees and flowers now there are a work of restoration that continues with each passing season.
The Bluecircle has reached that age where it’s no longer a baby. The last two years have been free of drought and wind damage, so some pines, oaks and maples are reaching their “teens” in height while the poplars tower far above.
Tulip poplars that line the pathway from N. Watervliet Road will shade it in the next year or two. At the edges black walnut trees spread by busy squirrels are slowly overtaking wild sumac and briars. With nearly 50 walnut seedlings or 7-year trees in the farm plantings the ground will soon be thick with nuts.
Red oaks produced a few dozen acorns this year, as did both the chestnuts and English walnuts. The mature white oaks had heavy loads of acorns and the local squirrel population is large, fat and fearless.
Hickory seedlings were added this year to round out the nut menu for future wildlife. There are no picture of the BC apple orchard that has struggled. Of the original 9 seedlings only 7 are standing. Three of the founders lost their “appleness” grafts and survive only as rough peach rootstock so this year they were replaced with pot-raised transplants.
The latest addition was a small bat house over the watchtower, a platform crafted from remnants of gazebos and old lake docks.
A summer came and went after the last post here, fading like the sun over Lake Michigan in August. Soon the greens of the Bluecircle will evolve into their own annual sunset.
For the most part these have been wet, hot months. Groups of 25 new Norway spruce, sycamore and black walnut seedling have fared well and most twigs of sugar maple have also survived. Conditions were good for conifer growth so farm “anniversary” photographs a few weeks from now will show some rows of trees closed, their branches too dense for the lawn tractor to pass. This writer will not be sorry when “mow again” can be removed from the weekly agenda.
This gallinipper (psorophora ciliata) was likely a product of the plentiful rains that frequently left standing water near the lake. Fortunately these extra-large mosquitos are not as common as the tiny pests that buzz at DEET and even follow you indoors.