Visiting a prairie beyond the circle

Six hundred or so miles southwest of Paw Paw Lake lies Prairie Village Kansas were you can walk wagon ruts from the 200-year-old Santa Fe and linked Oregon Trails. Beyond the community park that preserves the “Prairie Highway” heritage older, well-preserved homes fill this southeast suburb of Kansas City. Only in your imagination can you see the gently rolling hills spread with prairie grasses, now dusted with a little snow or trampled by freezing rains.

This eastern terminus of the frontier trails to the West is far from the sheltering ring of the Bluecircefarm, but free of lake-effect snow drifts. Visits totaling weeks here have let Sophie establish her daily route of neighborhood inspection and nap times. But she looks longingly at her space in the back seat of the truck and will be glad to leave this one house, two dogs neighborhood.

She’ll be bringing a member of the Bluecircle family to interim residence in the guest house, widening her choice of people to love and protect. I think she’ll enjoy keeping track of a bit larger family. The orange “U” trailer behind us will be as big as the prairie schooners outfitted here in the 1820s but our journey will be shorter, and far easier.

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Fallen leaves, needles and temperatures at season’s end

img_1995Bright October afternoons of oak and maple leaves swirling in the wind are gone for another year.  The last red raspberries and tomatoes have frosted away so only b’sprouts, tiny broccoli and milkweed pods persist in the garden beds.
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A few yellowed needles drop from the Bluecircle pines but it will be many years before they make a layer of mulch under a mature canopy.  On a recent hike near Gun Lake fallen needles from the tall pines decorated the still-green maples.

But now the first gusts of lake-effect snow have brought shivers to the hilltop. Bronzed leaves that evaded the mulch pile blow randomly between the trees, finding company in the piles that grow by fences and shrubs. And the sun sets low in the almost-winter sky. img_0164

A walk in the Wilderness

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A week’s camping in Wilderness State Park at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula was highlighted by warm days, cool nights and virtually no biting bugs.

The large stands of mature red pine and hemlock in the park are linked by lightly used hiking trails and abandoned logging roads. The dune terrain is gently rolling and for the most part unblemished by public access.

At the western end of the park a peninsula of conifers, sand and gravel beds extends far into Lake Michigan and is reserved for pedestrians, birds and its native species.IMG_0087

Looking up into the canopy of mature pines, oaks, firs and a few maples reminded me of the future of the Bluecircle trees, a forest in its early days. IMG_0094

Beauties and the Beasties

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First, the beauties of mowing in midsummer include the scents of flowers and cut grass. The Queen Anne’s Lace is beginning to fade with goldenrod soon to come. The garden beds are overgrown with tomatoes ripening faster than they are needed and a few summer squash are still filling in the ground level. We’re impatient with sweet corn that isn’t quite ripe enough to pull.

And then there are the risks of the field when the weeds have grown tall. A hidden groundhog den neatly trapped the rear wheel of the Snapper mower, bottoming the deck and adding a
“tow out” break to the afternoon chores. Another good assignment for the Gator.

A hornet's nest on a maple seedling lurks in the weeds

A hornet’s nest on a maple seedling lurks in the weeds

The pink tree flag in this picture marks a second-year maple seedling in the weeds. Just below it, and with its bottom nearly touching the ground, is a very active 10-inch hornet’s nest. The photograph fails to capture the path the lucky author used to speed away from the beasties, leaving these weeds (and the nest) to the frosts of October.

Pomona Point Neighbors

My neighbor shared this crisp late-summer view of the Bluecircle Farm from recent aerial photography of the Pomona Point area on Paw Paw Lake.  Pines, spruce, poplars and oak march like ragged battle lines across the grass.treefarm

As Pomona Point approaches its 150th anniversary Bluecircle Arts recently tried its hand at publishing and crafted a brief history of the Point and its neighborhoods.  This is now an e-book: “Pomona Point Neighbors at Paw Paw Lake”   http://www.blurb.com/ebooks/586338-pomona-point-neighbors-at-paw-paw-lake .  The book expanded a March, 2015 post on this blog about the history of the Bluecircle land to tell the resort history of the peninsula.

Snow on the roses

Snowy Bluebird Sophie the snow-loving dog was a lot happier with today’s April snow than the bluebirds in the woods. A stiff north wind and freezing temperatures for a second day brought 4-5 frosty inches to the Bluecircle. The Spring greens of lilac buds and the daffodil patch are already re-emerging in the noon sun but it’s too soon to put the snow shovel away in Watervliet.Greens in the snow

Ashes to ashes, chicks to hens

With apologies to the Book of Common Prayer that directs “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” many of the tall but dead ash trees on and around the Bluecircle were felled last week.  All were victims of the emerald death (ash borer) a couple of summers ago.  When the first 10″ trunk snapped in two in a recent storm, leaving a fifteen-foot stump and thirty-foot mass of broken limbs across the path, it was time to get the rest safely down and converted to firewood. That second step will take a lot longer than the first.Peeps 1 mo.

Meanwhile, first in the cottage kitchen and now in the coop five little hatchlings have grown feathers, big feet, tiny combs and a little courage.   “The peeps” are buff Orpingtons and I’m sure they are looking forward to  weather warmer than we’ve had the last few days.  The coop is connected to a wire run but so far the little flock hasn’t ventured more than a few steps from the security of their coop and its heating pad.

 

 

Shadowed snow invades inland

IMG_1833Downwind of Lake Michigan Winter brings many kinds of snow … tiny grains like white millet, wet flakes that hurry down, or light, dry rafts of giant flakes that swirl around the trees.   When the air is cold,  dry and gusty and the blue sky is cloudless the sun can burst from behind a lake-effect snow band bringing sudden blinding whiteness.  Just as quickly it can be enveloped by the snow cloud and dimmed – temporarily.   Yesterday a brilliant morning sun encountered the lake effect and painted gray shadows on the shaded side of falling flakes, making them silent grey invaders headed for the pristine drifts below.

When the cold checks out early

A rainy afternoon made the lake ice into a splash pond resembling mid-March instead of midwinter.  This month the cold was like a guest  you prepared the house and cooked for who then departed prematurely – days earlier than expected.   The snowshoes, long underwear and mittens are collecting dust but at least the refrigerator isn’t full of leftover food.  IMG_1807

Squirrels recovering buried treasure where there was a foot of snow last week look delighted while all cross-country ski tracks around the BlueCircle are either icy or washed away.   The greenhouse lettuce succumbed to persistent clouds and freezing temperatures so gardening season is finally over.

I prefer a snow-covered dog to a wet and muddy one and she would rather delve into snow piles then almost anything else so maybe the next puff of Winter will bring at least enough for that.  Meanwhile there’s time to catch up on indoor projects and plan for Spring.

An arborist’s nightmare

IMG_1671 In the tail-end of a hurricane wind the saw-wielding climber was roped high in one of the “old trees” of Smith’s Landing a.k.a. the Fairview Beach neighborhood. At first view the towering Maple looked sound, and despite the obvious skill (and courage) of the suspended man it seemed cruel that this tree had been selected for removal.IMG_1668 Of the dozens of Ash trees lost here in the last 3 years many still stand as leafless skeletons. Last year extensive removal of mature shade trees and old pines that had the misfortune to grow within “a threatening distance” of power lines further depleted our green space.
Sadly, this tall old Maple had now begun to split between its two main trunks and become unsafe.IMG_1673