July 3, 2015
I hope everyone has a great Independence Day weekend … though I suspect the Redcoats won’t.
PS: If you ever get a chance to visit Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, I heartily recommend it. Definitely one of Michigan’s coolest museums!
PPS: Love the Bridge peeking up just to the right of the flagpole.
June 29, 2015
June 23, 2015
Last year Steve Stewart of Michigan State University Extension shared The Mayflies are coming – time to celebrate!:
It’s summer, so it’s time for the mayfly hatch! There are hundreds of species of mayflies (also commonly referred to as fish flies) in North America, representing a number of Families in the Order Ephemeroptera. Ephemeroptera comes from the Greek word for “short-lived” (as in “ephemeral”), and it’s a good name because as winged adults, mayflies only live a few days. The most widespread burrowing mayfly species in the Great Lakes is Hexagenia limbata, the Giant Mayfly.
Mayflies have a very interesting life cycle. They are the only insect to have two “adult” molts, and begin life as eggs laid on the surface of the water that sink to the bottom. The aquatic nymphs of mayflies are called naiads, and creep around rocks and vegetation. After months or years (depending on the species), they float to the surface and molt to a winged, but sexually immature, sub-adult. Often within hours, another molt occurs and the final stage emerges—the winged, reproductive adults, which possess only vestigial mouth parts and cannot eat or drink and, depending on the species, live for only days or, in some cases, mere hours.
One of the most obvious characteristics of the adults is their large numbers. They can emerge in huge numbers from a body of water. So huge, in fact, that their swarms can be seen on Doppler radar! This image is from June 14 showing a mayfly swarm over western Lake Erie, pushed ashore in Monroe County by an easterly breeze. Once ashore, mayflies tend to sit on upright objects and can completely cover the surfaces of posts, sheds, and light poles. At night, they are attracted to lights.
Some people think of mayfly hatches as a nuisance, and they can be a bit annoying when they are swarming. But mayflies are a good thing. Some people think of mayfly hatches as a nuisance, and they can be a bit annoying when they are swarming. But mayflies are a good thing. They are rarely found in degraded bodies of water because their external gills in the nymph stage are very vulnerable to silting and pollution. Mayflies are, therefore, used as an indicator species when testing for environmental quality, and their presence reflects the good quality of the habitat from which they hatched.
Read on for more including photos and school lessons on the Mayfly.
June 12, 2015
Westview Orchards in Washington Township north of Detroit let me know yesterday that they’ll have strawberries to pick this weekend. Real Time Farms agrees strawberries are starting to roll into southern Michigan farm markets from farmers including Prochaska Farms of Tecumseh, who had some at the Saline Farmers Market last Saturday. If picking your own is more your speed, U-Pick Michigan has up-to-date reports.
The Michigan Ag Council’s page on strawberries says that:
Michigan’s strawberry season starts in early June and can extend into mid July. Look for Michigan strawberries in-store or find them where they’re largely produced, in Berrien, Leelanau and Van Buren counties.
Michigan Strawberry facts:
- Michigan grows strawberries for both fresh and processed uses
- In 2009, Michigan produced 43,000 tons of fresh strawberries and 3,000 tons of processed strawberries, generating $6.6 million
- Most of the fresh Michigan strawberries were picked by consumers at “u-pick” operations around the state
- Strawberries contain 80 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C
- They are an excellent source of potassium, which can help control blood pressure and fight strokes
- They are an excellent source of fiber, which help reduce total cholesterol levels
In kind of a neat little coincidence, my friend Trish snapped this photo five years ago on June 12, 2010! She’s got a great blog entry on making strawberry preserves, something that’s definitely a Michigan tradition.
June 9, 2015
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore tells the rich tale of the ghost town Aral:
Aral was located on Lake Michigan where Otter Creek empties into the Lake just south of Esch Road, a few miles south of Empire, MI. Today this is one of the most popular swimming beaches in the Lakeshore, but in the 1880s, Aral was a booming lumber town!
When the United States acquired land, it first had to be surveyed before it was made available to individuals. In the summer of 1849, Orange Risdon was one of the surveyors assigned to the area around Grand Traverse Bay. In 1853 soon after he finished the survey, Risdon and his wife, Sally, bought 122 acres where Otter Creek emptied into Lake Michigan.
The US Civil War began in 1861, and to induce able-bodied men to join the Union forces, the US government offered $100 bounty to men who enlisted. By 1863 the bounty was increased to $300, and finally a draft was instituted. An interesting provision of the draft act allowed drafted men to avoid service by hiring a substitute or by paying $300. One of the men receiving draft notice was Robert F. Bancroft, who was married and 30 years old. He chose to take advantage of this provision by hiring a German immigrant to take his place as a soldier, but interestingly he followed his replacement to the battlefield. Instead of carrying a gun, he brought his camera and became one of the first battlefield photographers.
Following the war, the veterans returned home, and Robert Bancroft settled with his wife Julia and daughter Anna in Traverse City. He began buying land in Platte and Lake townships as investments and in late 1864, he bought the 122 acres from Orange and Sally Risdon of Saline, MI.
Bancroft cleared 20 acres and built a log cabin for his family to live in. Then he planted some black locust trees and an apple orchard around the cabin. Lumber speculators soon arrived looking for stands of white pine. Most of the forest in this area was hardwood, but there were some stands of white pine inland from Otter Lake. By the late 1870s Daniel Thomas bought a 5-acre parcel on Lake Michigan south of Otter Creek, but he decided to build a house across the road from the Bancroft’s. Lumber speculators were on their way north as the forests near Grand Haven and Muskegon were harvested.
…By 1883, the lumber business was booming and the town was growing. A post office was required. The community was known as Otter Creek – the “Krik” by locals. When they applied for a post office, their name was rejected because there was already an “Otter Creek” in Michigan. “Bancroft” was the next suggestion, but again the name had already been used. One of the workers suggested the name “Aral” because of the beautiful Aral Sea in Europe. Locals continued to call it Otter Creek though. Dr. Frank Thurber was named the first postmaster. Keep his name in mind, for he too would play a central role in the murder.
Murder you say? Indeed – read on for lots more…
June 5, 2015
The American Fern Society offers A Brief Introduction to Ferns that says (in part):
Ferns have been with us for more than 300 million years and in that time the diversification of their form has been phenomenal. Ferns grow in many different habitats around the world. The ferns were at their height during the Carboniferous Period (the age of ferns) as they were the dominant part of the vegetation at that time. During this era some fern like groups actually evolved seeds (the seed ferns) making up perhaps half of the fern like foliage in Carboniferous forests and much later giving rise to the flowering plants. Most of the ferns of the Carboniferous became extinct but some later evolved into our modern ferns. There are thousands of species in the world today.
…The life cycle of the ferns may seem complicated but it has worked quite successfully for millions of years. Though spores come from fronds of ferns, the fronds do not come directly from the spores. Spores from the parent fall to the ground and with an enormous amount of luck (millions perish for every success) they will find suitable moisture and light. The tiny single-celled organism starts to grow by cell division. Soon orderly arrangements of cells form little green heart shaped plants or Prothallia (gametophytes). These plants go unnoticed by most people as they are only 1/2 inch or less across and lie flat on the ground. This is an independent plant with its own simple “root” system (rhizoids) to provide it with nutrients and water.