Happy 2016 … plus Scratch Circles and the Sands of Time

The Sands of Time

The Sands of Time, photo by David Marvin

The Wheel of Time has rolled into another year. It might be my increasing age talking, but it seems as if the world has gotten harder over the last couple of decades. I hope that 2016 treats everyone more kindly, including you!

Apparently I can’t even post a simple metaphor without learning something new. David writes:

Scratch Circles or “Scharrkreise” form when plant matter is blown around by the wind, etching circular designs in the sand.

If you want to get all geeky on sand circles, scratch circles & Scharrkreise – a term coined by R. Richter in 1926 – those links are just the thing for you!

View David’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his slideshow.

Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories, photo by Richard Deming Photography

Here’s hoping that whatever holiday you are celebrating this season is wonderful. Thanks everyone for being a part of Michigan in Pictures!

View Richard’s photo bigger and see more in his Christmas Time 2010 slideshow.

Christmas Full Moon and the Metonic Cycle

Moon December 18 2015

Moon December 18 2015, photo by Dave in Michigan

EarthSky notes that the December full moon will be the first on Christmas since 1977:

This month, the December full moon falls on Friday, December 25, 2015. For Earth’s Western Hemisphere, it’s the first full moon on Christmas Day since 1977.We won’t have another full moon on a Christmas Day until 2034.

A 19-year cycle of the moon is the reason. Amazingly, the moon’s phases recur on (or near) the same calendar dates every 19 years. This cycle – known as the Metonic cycle – happens because 235 returns to full moon almost exactly equal 19 years. So, in other words, the phases of the moon realign (or nearly realign) with the same calendar dates every 19 years. We just missed a full moon on Christmas 19 years ago; instead, the full moon fell on Christmas Eve. It was December 24, 1996 at 20:41 Universal Time, or UT.

…In any year, the phases of the moon take place about 11 days earlier than in the previous year. For instance, the December 2016 full moon will happen on December 14, 2016, and the December 2017 full moon will fall on December 3, 2017.

View Dave’s photo big as the moon and see more in his moon & moon shots slideshow.

More about December’s full moon in Christmas Moon, Snow Moon, Cold Moon, Oak Moon, December Moon on Michigan in Pictures!

Santa Claus for the Cause in Bay City

Bay City Santa Claus for the Cause

Santas invade Midland Street 2015, photo by Tom Clark

Tom took this shot of the assembled mob of Santas at the 2nd annual “Santa Claus for the Cause” event last Thursday (Dec 17) in Bay City. They raised over $15,000 for a bunch of worthy charities in Bay City with sales of Santa suits. More about the event from mLive – I’ll try and give you an early heads up for this next year too!

You can view the photo bigger and see more in the gallery from the Santa Parade on his website – follow him on Facebook for more!

How Pere Marquette 1225 inspired the Polar Express

Pere Marquette 1255

Pere Marquette 1225, photo by Bob Gudas

The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso is home station for the Pere Marquette 1225 locomotive aka the Polar Express:

Retired from service in 1951, 1225 was sent to scrap, in New Buffalo, Michigan. In 1955, Michigan State University Trustee, Forest Akers was asked by C&O Chairman Cyrus Eaton if the University would be interested in having a steam locomotive (Eaton did not want to scrap the engines but was having a hard time finding places that would accept them) so that engineering students would have a piece of real equipment to study. Forest Akers thought it a good idea and proposed the idea to University President John Hannah. John Hannah accepted the gift of the locomotive. When he told the Dean of the College of Engineering about the gift, the Dean said that Engineering was not interested in an obsolete locomotive. John Hannah then called up Dr. Rollin Baker, director of the MSU Museum and told him that he was getting a locomotive. The C&O then instructed the yardmaster at New Buffalo to send an engine to the Wyoming Shops for a cosmetic restoration and repainting with the name Chesapeake and Ohio on the side. The 1225 was the last engine in the line, i.e. easiest to get out. It had nothing to do with the number representing Christmas Day.

Baker received the gift of the locomotive in 1957 when it was brought to campus. The locomotive remained on static display near Spartan Stadium on the Michigan State campus in East Lansing, Michigan for a decade. While on display, a child by the name of Chris Van Allsburg used to stop by the locomotive on football weekends, on his way to the game with his father. He later stated that the engine was the inspiration for the story, Polar Express.

Lots more about the Michigan’s largest operating steam locomotive at Wikipedia and information about riding the train and the rest of their collection at the Steam Railroading Institute.

View Bob’s photo bigger and see more in his slideshow.

Michigan Holly or Winterberry

Holly

Holly, photo by Third Son

How like the holly in deep winter time
How like the star in the dark night shine
How like a path on the snow driven plain
How like the candle — how like the flame
How like the winter that promises spring
How like the carol we sing.
~Joel Mabus (How Like the Holly)

The Hope College Biology Nature Preserve has this to say about Michigan Holly (Ilex verticillata: Aquifoliaceae):

Michigan Holly is a medium sized shrub not normally growing taller than 12 feet and usually about 6 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide. It has densely branched stems that grow into a round crown and flower in May and June with small yellow-white flowers. The fruits are highly distinguishable and grows in bright red clusters of small berries, forming in September and October and persisting into mid-winter. Michigan Holly (also known as Winterberry) is dioecious, so both male and female plants are needed for fruit production and only females bear fruits.

Michigan Holly is found throughout Eastern and Central North America, but does not grow well in the West, Southwest, or Lower Midwest because of dry winds and heat. It is found naturally in wetlands and will tolerate standing water or swamps, however, it prefers to grow in well-drained, acidic, damp, loamy or sandy soils and full or partial sun.

Click through for photos and a little more information.

View Third Son’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his Early Winter 2015 slideshow.

More winter wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures. Also, definitely check out Michigan sonwriter Joel Mabus’s CD How Like the Holly – one of my favorite holiday albums ever!

December 1st … Back into the Woods Day

Sit for a Spell

sit for a spell, photo by Doug Jonas

Longtime readers may know that I celebrate December 1st as “Back into the Woods Day” because for my money, the hardest 15 days for the year for the non-hunting lover of the outdoors in Michigan are November 15-30th. Enjoy as you will – orange clothing not required!

The photo was taken in Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest in Augusta, midway between Kalamazoo & Battle Creek:

Established on abandoned agricultural land, the 716-acre Kellogg Experimental Forest is known worldwide for research on tree breeding and genetics, planting techniques, and plantation establishment and management. Much of the research that developed the Spartan spruce, a hybrid that combines the color and drought resistance of a blue spruce and the softer needles and rapid growth rate of the white spruce, was done at the Kellogg Forest. The forest is open to the public for biking, hiking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing, and has several interpretive trails.

Click for visitor information and there’s also some videos of what researchers are up to that show some of this beautiful spot.

Doug says this was an enchanted afternoon in the woods, with sun, shadow, snow and reflected sky. View his photo background bigilicious and click for more of his great Michigan photos.

More winter wallpaper and lots more parks & trails on Michigan in Pictures!