April 22, 2009
May 3, 2008
The photo is part of John’s amazing Benzie County! photo set (slideshow) and it’s no coincidence that the next photo is a tasty looking morel mushroom – both cherry blossoms and morels are found at the same time of year!
Every May, the cherry trees of Michigan burst forth in white clouds of splendor, and dwelling as I do in the heart of Michigan’s cherry country, I am lucky enough to have a front row seat. I was struck by how little presence Michigan has in the cherry blossom information that can be found online. We’re just an afterthought on Wikipedia’s Sakura (cherry blossom) entry and event a search for Michigan cherry blossoms yields mostly Japanese restaurants.
I suppose that the fruit has become the bigger deal, but it wasn’t always that way. In their History of the National Cherry Festival, the Agile Writer notes that the Festival began in 1910 with a prayer ceremony for a good cherry crop. It was formalized in 1925, when the cherry growers partnered with Traverse City merchants to create the “Blessing of the Blossoms Festival” to promote the region and the cherry business.
- The annual Blossomtime Festival takes place this weekend (first weekend of May) in Southwest Michigan.
- A search for “blossom” at the Leland Report finds a lot of photos including this beauty of a White Barn, White Blossoms & White Clouds.
- On Saturday, May 10th Leelanau County will host a Cherry Blossom Tour with free bus rides to orchards – a great photo outing!
- The Wineries of Old Mission host their annual Blossom Days May 17th & 18th.
- Here’s a Blossom slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool that’s heavy on cherry blossoms!
- There’s got to be more! Post anything you know or questions you have below!
May 15, 2014
I love old books, and was happy to find Wild Flowers Worth Knowing by Neltje Blanchan, a 1917 book that is available online through Project Gutenberg. The entry for Yellow Adder’s Tongue; Trout Lily; Dog-tooth “Violet” (Erythronium americanum) is a good example of the descriptive & endearing turns of phrase you often find in books from another age:
Flower – Solitary, pale russet yellow, rarely tinged with purple, slightly fragrant, 1 to 2 in. long, nodding from the summit of a root-stalk 6 to 12 in, high, or about as tall as the leaves. Perianth bell-shaped, of 6 petal-like, distinct segments, spreading at tips, dark spotted within; 6 stamens; the club-shaped style with 3 short, stigmatic ridges. Leaves: 2, unequal, grayish green, mottled and streaked with brown or all green, oblong, 3 to 8 in. long, narrowing into clasping petioles.
Preferred Habitat – Moist open woods and thickets, brooksides.
Flowering Season – March-May.
Distribution – Nova Scotia to Florida, westward to the Mississippi.
Colonies of these dainty little lilies, that so often grow beside leaping brooks where and when the trout hide, justify at least one of their names; but they have nothing in common with the violet or a dog’s tooth. Their faint fragrance rather suggests a tulip; and as for the bulb, which in some of the lily-kin has toothlike scales, it is in this case a smooth, egg-shaped corm, producing little round offsets from its base. Much fault is also found with another name on the plea that the curiously mottled and delicately pencilled leaves bring to mind, not a snake’s tongue, but its skin, as they surely do. Whoever sees the sharp purplish point of a young plant darting above ground in earliest spring, however, at once sees the fitting application of adder’s tongue. But how few recognize their plant friends at all seasons of the year!
Every one must have noticed the abundance of low-growing spring flowers in deciduous woodlands, where, later in the year, after the leaves overhead cast a heavy shade, so few blossoms are to be found, because their light is seriously diminished. The thrifty adder’s tongue, by laying up nourishment in its storeroom underground through the winter, is ready to send its leaves and flower upward to take advantage of the sunlight the still naked trees do not intercept, just as soon as the ground thaws.
May 15, 2013
NPR’s Noah Adams visited “The Ridge” to see how the apple crop was faring in 2013 after the devastation of 2012. The engaging 4 minute piece looks at methods they use to battle frost and how last year’s 99% wipeout hurt farmers. It’s well worth your time, but if you’re looking for the punch-line, the crop appears to have the potential for full harvest.
The Ridge Economic Agricultural Partners (REAP) explain:
Fruit Ridge or “the Ridge” is a topographical land feature located NW of Grand Rapids, Michigan and considered to be an agricultural mecca. The glaciers of long ago left behind gently rolling slopes. The deposits were fertile clay loam soils with excellent moisture holding qualities that provided great soil and terrain for the growing of premium fruits, vegetables and the raising of livestock, including buffalo.
Approximately 8 miles wide by 20 miles long, the Fruit Ridge is regarded as one of the prime fruit-growing regions in the world. Elevations greater than 800 feet and its location (about 25 miles from Lake Michigan), creates a unique climate (ideal growing and moderate winters) for fruit production. The Ridge supplies 60% of the states (Michigan) apples. An estimated 66% of the Ridge lies in Kent County, all within 20 miles of downtown Grand Rapids.
“The Ridge” is an area of 158 square miles (8 miles wide and 20 miles long) covering 7 townships and 4 counties: Kent (Alpine, Sparta, Tyrone), Newago (Ashland), Muskegon (Casnovia) and Ottawa (Chester and Wright).
The National Weather Service noted that the high temperature yesterday at the Otsego County Airport in Gaylord only reached 35 degrees – a new record for the coldest high temperature for the date that crushed the previous record of 44 degrees from 2003. It was also the coldest high temperature ever recorded in the month of May for Gaylord. They notched a record snowfall of 2 inches as well, beating the old record of 1 inch from 1971.
Temperatures dipped into the 20s across the state last night. Although the word isn’t in yet about the effect those temps have had, an mLive article about the apple crop on Fruit Ridge explains:
As fruit trees begin to develop and blossom each spring, their ability to withstand cold temperatures is greatly reduced. As bloom nears, temperatures in the upper 20-degree can cause considerable damage to early blooming crop varieties.
Currently on the area’s Fruit Ridge — a band of ideal growing land northwest of Grand Rapids — several different varieties of apples are in bloom, said Armock. Also, sweet cherries are nearly past bloom in some areas, he said. Tart cherries are in the flowering stage of bloom, as well as some varieties of strawberries and blueberries.
In fact, across the state, growers have been making preparations for “potentially the largest crop of apples and cherries that we’ve ever seen,” said Armock, who estimated the 2013 crop could yield between 30 and 34 million bushels of apples this year, from Traverse City down to the state line.
Read on for more, and here’s hoping their efforts at bringing in helicopters last night paid off. After the near total destruction of the apple, tart cherry and other crops last year, it would be a hard blow to stand.
October 25, 2012
Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbita family, which includes squash, watermelons, and cucumbers. Their origins are believed to have come from Central America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico that date back over 7000 years ago.
Pumpkins were an important food source for Native Americans. They regularly made pumpkin porridge, stew and pumpkin jerky and they made a broth that contained squash blossoms. They also dried pumpkin shells, and then weaved them into mats, which they used for trading. Early pilgrims quickly added pumpkins to their menus and also sent seeds back to Europe. The earliest version of pumpkin pie was made by baking a hollowed out pumpkin that was filled with milk, honey and spices.
Pumpkins are high in potassium, Vitamin A and fiber. They are also a good source of beta-carotene. Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, copper and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.
Read on for more including recipes and a comprehensive listing of Michigan pumpkin patches.
Lots more pumpkins on Michigan in Pictures.
September 10, 2012
Orange Pippin says that the Wolf River apple (first discovered along the river of the same name in Wisconsin) is:
A well-known American cooking apple, notable for its large size. Wolf River is mainly used for cooking, and it keeps its shape when cooked. It is fairly sweet and doesn’t need much sugar added.
Wolf River has a very high natural resistance to the disease apple scab, and good resistance to fireblight and mildew. It is also very cold hardy, making it a good choice for growing in the northern part of North America.
The Freep notes that the extreme damage to Michigan’s 2012 apple crop has created problems for those in the apple business:
Prices will vary, but consumers can expect fresh apple prices to be about 30% to 50% higher than last year, according to Bob Tritten, Michigan State University Extension Service fruit educator for southeast Michigan. Cider prices are up about 50%.
Last year’s Michigan apple crop was about 26 million bushels, said Dawn Drake, manager of the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Division, a branch of the Michigan Farm Bureau. But early warm weather forced the apple blossoms out early, and that was followed by several days of freezes, which killed most of the tender young blooms.
“This year they’ll be lucky to have 2 (million bushels),” Drake said.
Sergei didn’t think much of the taste when he tried it at the Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, but I read that the Wolf River doesn’t reach full flavor unless it gets hit by frost. Check it out bigger and see more in his Fall slideshow.
May 28, 2012
Decoration Day, Kingsley, Michigan, 1909, courtesy Kingsley Branch Library
Decoration Day is the most beautiful of our national holidays…. The grim cannon have turned into palm branches, and the shell and shrapnel into peach blossoms.
~Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Wikipedia’s Memorial Day entry notes that the holiday may have begun as Decoration Day on May 1, 1865 when freed slaves joined with clergy, teachers and citizens of Charleston SC to form a gathering 10,000 strong to memorialize 257 Union prisoners of war and celebrate the “Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.” In 1866, the commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, Gen. John Murray, proclamation for “Decoration Day” to be observed nationwide. May 30th was selected specifically because it was not the anniversary of a battle.
Michiganders can feel a measure of pride that Michigan in 1871 was the first to make “Decoration Day” an official state holiday. Read more about in Michigan’s First Memorial Day from Michigan History Magazine on Absolute Michigan.
The photo shows the parade held in Kingsley on Decoration Day in 1909. In foreground is a marching band. The largest building in the background is Brownson Sanitarium. It’s from the collections of the Kingsley Branch Library. Here’s another photo of the “Kingsley Cornet Band.”
Next Saturday you might want to join the library for the first annual Kingsley Adams Fly Festival with fly-tying lessons, music & food with special guest R. W. “Bob” Summers, someone who I once had the good fortune to interview.
May 17, 2012
“This is the worst that Michigan has experienced in the past 50 years at least. I don’t know how far you’d have to go back to find something similar.”
~Michigan Farm Bureau commodity specialist Ken Nye
Over on Absolute Michigan we have a report on the cataclysmic losses Michigan fruit farmers are facing in 2012.
April 7, 2012
A spring freeze last week across Northwest Michigan killed more than half of the buds on tart cherry trees. Industry officials estimate the loss for the region in the 50 to 70 percent range. Trees can produce a decent crop if a third of the buds survive. But several factors, including another freeze this spring, could still damage more of the crop before harvest.
Leelanau County saw the heaviest loss, estimated at as high as 90 percent of sour cherries killed in many orchards. But other fruit trees, like apple and sweet cherries, are in decent shape.
Antrim & Benzie county crops appear to be in better shape, but with a hard frost out there this morning, it’s probably not over yet.