Entries to Win Afghan

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Winners are: 3rd place- e-book of your choice: Wendy Nystrom. 2nd place- book of your choice, paper or e-book: Sue Ann Crawford. Winner of the afghan: Elaine Hull.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Peony Surprise

I've apparently never showed you my peony before. That's not the surprise. It doesn't usually bloom.


In fact, in the 46 years we've lived on this property (and the peony was there when we moved in) it has only bloomed in the years I remembered to fertilize it just when the leaves were coming up. You know me well enough to guess that was not very often. I did pretty well the few years I worked hard at flower gardens, but that's not too recent.

The big surprise is that I did not fertilize it this year and got three blossoms anyway. Not bad for no effort.


That said, of all the peonies there are in the world, the double pink ones are my least favored. When I was a kid we had a long strip bed of them that were alternated white and deep red. That I liked. In fact, I went back to that house once between owners and "stole" a dark red one. Guess what. When it came up and bloomed it had reverted to pink. I didn't know they would do that. Needless to say, that was a bummer.

So, I played with the picture. This peony I could almost like.


If I ever get back to Ann Arbor at the right time of year, Nichols Arboretum has a spectacular peony garden. That would be a photo op, for sure.

See Single Peony
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Can Numitor Skip to Numenor?

OK, I'm just being silly with the title, but this little guy's name is Ancyloxpha numitor, and I need some way to help me remember. Of course, I can't think of anything that will help me with Ancyloxpha. I can't even find out what that means.

Anyway, this is the most common of the skipper butterflies, called least skipper or least skipperling. But it's not the one I got pictures of before. So this one is ordinary, but the picture is pretty good. I'll settle for that.

least skipper

Numitor?- a descendant of King Aeneas the Trojan, and grandfather of Romulus and Remus. Numenor?- one of Tolkein's mythical lands... probably an allusion to Atlantis.

Skippers are very small butterflies with big eyes, so it's pretty easy to say, "It's a skipper." But there are several thousand species if you want to get more specific. I'll be lucky to remember this common one. But it's not too hard. The underside is solid orange, and the top wing doesn't have as much of a point as other skippers. I had to look at quite a few pictures before I figured out what they were talking about, but now I get it.

Anyway, he's cute, and this seems to be a week for "bugs."

In other news, after I got my second wind after work, I packaged up a book order for 2 copies of North Country Cache, rode my bike to the post office, mowed the lawn (not by the road yet), went and got mower gas and stopped at the bank. The yard looks really nice from a distance. We won't talk about all the ground squirrel holes, the sprouting autumn olive, the broken aspen tree I can't trim by myself, the weeds and divots. I just plan to enjoy the cool greenness for now. Wonderful weather today. I'll take every cool summer day I can get.

mowed lawn

See Hesperiidae (another skipper)
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Good Day to Be Green

This seems to be the week for insects. If this little one hadn't been bright green and sitting on a blue trash can, I probably wouldn't even have seen it. Its body is only a little more than an quarter-inch long. But look at those antennae!

grasshopper with long antennae

It might be a young grasshopper, but with those antennae, it might also be a young katydid. Young for sure- no wings yet. It's a pretty good match for the picture of a fork-tailed bush katydid nymph. At any rate, it made me smile.

See a full grown katydid
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Young Fifteen-Spot Lady Beetle

Wow! Just before we started the hike yesterday, this guy landed on my arm. And thanks to finding an old fifteen spotted lady bug several years ago, I knew just what it was! I find that pretty amazing in itself. And no one else there had seen one before, so I got to look really smart (smug grin). Most of us call them lady bugs, but of course they are really beetles, Coleoptera.

fifteen-spot lady bug

Anatis labiculata. Here's the side view.

fifteen-spotted lady beetle

As they age, the backs of the wings get darker and darker until they are nearly black with no spots showing. That's what the first one I found was like.

It didn't want to be anywhere except on my skin, for some reason. We had quite a time getting it off and onto a natural surface so we could leave. That seemed pretty strange.

I believe these are a native lady bug (beetle), but I did notice that strange smell, like the Asian lady beetles have, on my hands afterwards. Not as strong, but definitely there.

In other news, the weather was gorgeous today! And the sky was wonderful. I know, sky pictures are a dime a dozen, but I enjoyed it.


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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Manistee National Forest Challenge Hike #4

After the horrible humidity of yesterday, I wasn't sure I was looking forward to a 10 mile hike today. However, there was a great breeze and it cooled down a little too. Seemed like a perfect afternoon! We started with 10 hikers, but finished with 12. Instead of having people dropping like flies we were manufacturing them!

hiker group

Since I'm the leader, I've been staying at the back of the group to be "sweep" (the person who makes sure no one loses the trail or has problems of some sort). That has worked out really well for me, because it turns out we have several really fast hikers in this group. They just want to move down the trail and never stop. As you probably know, one of the joys for me is seeing many of the interesting little beauties along the way. So, since I'm last, I can just stop and take pictures and then catch up to the last people. I don't think most of the hikers even saw some of these.

Today, I found two treats. These are the tiny pinwheel mushrooms. I like them a lot.

pinwheel mushrooms

And here's a flower that isn't really rare, but I don't see it very often. Racemed milkwort, Polygala polygama. It likes sandy soil.

racemed milkwort

The hike today was part of what I backpacked last fall. We passed this burned and downed tree again. I really like this tree. And it looks so different from the way it looked in October.

burned tree

Sue and Sophie were also on this hike. Sophie sure likes climbing trees. This was the second leaner she walked right to the top of. The first one was skinnier and higher, but I didn't get a good picture of that. She has to check for possible chipmunks, you know.

dog climbing tree

Here are Laura and Sue at Tank Creek. We have two people who regularly walk with us who are 10+ years older than I am. Laura is one of them. I think that's pretty remarkable.


A number of peaceful small wetlands dotted the final miles.


And I liked these cedar trees singing in harmony at Tank Creek.

cedar trees

And, a final parting shot at technology. Sue was using the Nike mapping app. Laura had RunKeeper, and I was using Map My Hike. There was a huge discrepancy in recorded mileages. Nike said 10.39 miles. RunKeeper was something in between, and Map My Hike said 11.93 miles. That's 10% error in one of them. NCT online maps say about 10.6, so that suggests Map My Hike was the most wrong. Not making me happy.

Anyway, here are most of us at the end, proving that everyone was still standing and smiling.


Got a picture of a really neat bug, too. And it's cuter than the last one. Saving that for another day.

North Country Trail, Newaygo County, 6 Mile Road north to Nichols Lake boat ramp.

See MNF Challenge Hike #3
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Two Birdbaths, No Birds

Got some more pictures of the teasel that grows on my easiest roadwalk today. Turns out it's also cut-leaf teasel, the same as the really, really lacy one I saw in Ohio last year. But the point is, the leaves also form cups around the stems which collect water. Look closely, they are very full of water. I was thinking these might make a great place to find a drink on a dry hike, or for a bird to get a bath. But I didn't see any birds hanging around.

cut leaf teasel

Interestingly enough, one study suggests that when insects die in these pools of water those teasel plants grow better. This suggests some sort of carnivorous activity!

Just a reminder of what the whole plant looks like.

cut leaf teasel
I got out my birdbath that was a selfie birthday present three years ago. Here's a joke. I still really like it, but to my knowledge no bird has ever set foot on the rim, in the water, or even beside it to investigate. Ah well. I try.


We had to stop feeding the birds because the squirrel became such a problem. The red squirrel moved on, but now we have a fox squirrel living nearby. The birds have been coming to see if there was food this year. Nope. But there is water. Do they care? Apparently not.

See A Little Splurge
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Friday, June 16, 2017

Stag (Beetle) Party

OK, it wasn't much of a party since there was only one beetle, but it was still very cool. This guy was crawling around the floor at work. I'm sad to tell you he was injured. I put him outside, but he probably has become a meal for something else by now.

stag beetle

It gave me an opportunity to learn a whole lot of new things. For starters, there are many different species of stag beetles (I didn't know that!). I have submitted this to Bugguide for a more specific ID. When I get info, I'll add it here.

stag beetle

They get their name because those large mandibles (lower jaws) do look like the antlers of a deer. And some of the other species have long and branched ones that look even more like deer.

Only the males have the large mandibles. The females' are smaller, but stronger. Is there a message in that? The male beetles, just like male deer, use their mandibles/antlers to fight other boys for the pretty girls.

Insects are both creepy and fascinating. Look at all the armor, and joints, and decoration. These look a lot like the Garthim in The Dark Crystal (a favorite movie). Or probably I should say that the Garthim look like these beetles!

stag beetle

Most interesting to me are those elbowed antennae with the "comb" at the end. I'm not sure I ever had such a close look at a stag beetle before. I've seen them scurrying away, but the fact that this one was injured meant that I could pick it up and look it over. Carefully, mind you, they can pinch!

stag beetle

Soon, I'll be off to work for the night.

See Fifteen-spotted Lady Beetle
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Beautiful Bride

Best thing about today is in a category of things I seldom take any interest in, but when it's the quality item, you take it!

My friend from work, Michelle, got married.

bride in pink

That said, I didn't make it to the ceremony. Three of us had to stay at the paper and get the Daily News out the door. We were hoping we might be done in time, but that was a long shot.

But I stopped by afterwards, and I'm glad I did. As you can see the area was nicely decorated for the small gathering. I got to at least let her know I cared. At this point, I hadn't even met the new hubby, but that did happen before I left.

See 44 years, but who's counting?
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fife Lake Loop- Day 3

Just 6.6 miles of the loop remained to be hiked. This is the section I'd seen before when it was North Country Trail, but that was in the early winter, so it looked quite different. I did recognize a few spots. On flat terrain, with not too many outstanding points of interest, we moved right along.

Also, it had rained in the early morning hours. We were dry in the tent, but the grass was wet along the trail, and plopping down to rest just made us wetter.


A little dog knows how to stay dry at rest stops. Just climb on top of a handy pack.

dog sleeping on a backpack

Soon we started paying attention to smaller sights, such as wool sower galls on oak leaves. I'd seen them before, but this one is really large- almost two inches across.

wool sower gall

One nice wet meadow had blue flag in bloom.

blue flag

Let's talk about water. We had found that open water where we camped 0.7 miles south of M 186. There was another wetland with open water about a mile south of that. It was smaller without good access, but you could probably get water there if you were desperate. Can't promise it stays wet all year, though. We had stashed a gallon of water where the trail crosses M 113. It turned out we had plenty still from the morning fill-up where we had camped, so all we had to do was top off our bottles. It seemed a little weird to pour out the rest and crush the milk jug to carry out, but that way we didn't have to go back with the car to get it later. Six miles south of M 186, the trail follows Walton Outlet Creek where you could easily get water again. The day wasn't as hot as Sunday. We started hiking at 69 degrees, and it only barely broke into the 80s before we finished around 3 pm. I think we would have had enough water even without the milk jug stash, but it's always good to be prepared.

Here's Walton Outlet Creek. There is another semi-developed campsite along here which would be a very pretty one to stay at.

Walton Outlet Creek

We were on a roll. Our feet were soaked, and we could hear a restaurant calling. We stopped twice for snacks and pressed on. We knew we were getting really close to the car when we passed the southern turnoff to rejoin the North Country Trail. (this is looking back)

NCT Fife Lake Loop junction

A look downstream reveals the trestle for the Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Railroad (now Great Lakes Central), which is a live track.

Great Lakes Railroad trestle

This brings me to mention a piece of this trail that really should have an interpretive sign. That said, I didn't even think to take a picture when we were walking it. The straight E-W section that's about a mile long, follows the berm of the old Manistee and Northeastern Railroad (Manistee to Traverse City and an associated spider web of spurs). I've mentioned that line before, and another piece of the old bed is part of the NCT near Hodenpyl Dam. This was primarily a logging line, but as the timber began to disappear it carried cherries from Traverse City, salt from Manistee, and potatoes. It was merged into C&O in 1955, and the line was abandoned completely by 1997.

Once again, we were walking along the Manistee River. I just liked this stump.

stump in river

Onward to the car where we had to take a few congratulatory selfies, and then to the North Side Restaurant in Manton for a late lunch. Highly recommended for hikers. The linoleum is peeling and the table tops are delaminating, but we got good, real food and lots of it for very little money.

happy hikers

We had thought our hike was 21 miles, because the text on the map says that. But the very same map (if you add the mileages) only totals 20.1 miles, as does the official NCT web site maps. Well, we probably walked an extra mile to that water pump and looking for not-so-good cache trees. Haha.

Would I go with Sue again? You bet. Time to start plotting another adventure.

If you care, this same piece of trail is part of "The Princess and the P's" chapter in North Country Cache.

Fife Lake Loop Trail, and about a mile of North Country Trail just west of the Old US 131 State Forest Campground near Manton, MI

See Fife Lake Loop- Day 2
See 85.7 and Still Walking for more of the Manistee and Northeastern rail bed
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