Pure peace....purple and gold sunset reflected on Portage Lake in Jackson County, MI.
Pure peace....purple and gold sunset reflected on Portage Lake in Jackson County, MI.
A trinity of maples
a chorus of birches
wearing robes of scarlet and gold
celebrating ancient rituals
of the changing of the seasons.
Because if a frog choses a daylily that is in the royal colors of scarlet and gold, he has to be a prince waiting for the kiss of his princess, right?
We may not have many flowers this year, but we do have cats--and when it comes to filling the flower boxes, that is about the same thing.
A week later we went back out. This time we studied up more thoroughly on the butterflies, what exactly was their perfect habitat, what exactly were their host plants—and we looked at Google satellite maps of that 700 acres hoping to get a better feel for the lay of the land than what the map with indistinct blurry lines was giving us.
Day two of our search was a day full of jumping many 100 year old barbed wire fences, stumbling back and forth through marshes, gingerly stepping from hummock to hummock, trying to avoid getting sucked into the depths of of swampy water. We found the two track, the lake, and the creek, but at the time we didn't know it.
At the end of the day, hot, tired, covered with mud, and in tattered clothes, we had made it to the edge of a wetland near a woods. Every little brown butterfly we had seen up until then had that extra spot that identified them as Eyed Browns. On the edge of this wetland though, I spotted a little brown butterfly that seemed to have the markings of a Mitchell’s Satyr. It was gone in an instant, but I felt strongly we were finally in the right place. We were too tired to do much more looking, but we made note of the spot and resolved to come out later and hunt some more.
And this is why the person you go Mitchell's Satyr hunting with should know a whole lot more than you do—if not in the area of Mitchell’s satyrs, at least in the area of knowing something of what to expect when you have a wetland. If I had gone back out alone, I would have quickly given up, or have been drowned in the thick black muck, for that wetland where I thought I had caught a glimpse of the Mitchell’s Satyr, was by far the most difficult to traverse of all the wetlands we had been in so far. But my friend, being familiar with this sort of thing, knew to look for the fen in the center of what was a mucky and hard to penetrate moat protecting it.
And what a pretty little fen it was. It was the kind of place you would expect magic to happen, a grassy place filled with flowers and butterflies. It was surrounded on all sides by cattails and black muddy water, with tamaracks growing near the edges. Michigan lilies were in full bloom. The air was filled with the jasmine-like scent of the blossoms of the American Basswood tree. We saw several different kinds of butterflies, found two different kinds of orchids, and many other pretty flowering plants.
And we found Mitchell’s Satyrs!
Or I should say, we thought we found them in the plural. We spent an hour or two photographing butterflies. One little brown butterfly posed for us for five minutes, spreading its wings and drying them in the sun, giving us the opportunity for wonderful photos. We thought we were going home with the perfect Mitchell’s Satyr photos, and that our quest was over.
It turns out our search was successful—but not as successful as we had thought. I had been home for only a couple of hours when my friend called me. Guess what—we had been photographing Little Wood Satyrs, not Mitchell’s Satyrs. He read the description of Little Wood Satyrs to me as I scrolled back through all my photographs on my camera. Yes, they were all Little Wood Satyrs—until I came to the very first butterfly we had photographed in that little fen. This one was different—darker in color, more spots; the bands on the edges of the wings were different. Mark looked at his own pictures—and confirmed, yes, that very first little brown butterfly we saw in that pretty little fen, was indeed a Mitchell’s Satyr.
So now that we FINALLY know what Mitchell Satyrs looks like, we still have to go back out, find more than one Mitchell’s Satyr and hopefully get the perfect photographs. Be warned, if you ever get started hunting for Mitchell’s Satyrs, you may catch bog fever and proceed to spend every day off you have all summer long hunting for butterflies and rare plants in swamps and fens.
Now that you've read my story, take a minute and look at my friend Mark's photos from our adventures. (You also might like to follow his facebook page and browse his website while you are at it-- for always stunning nature photography and interesting lessons on botany, butterflies, and more.)
And here is the other butterfly that is sometimes mistaken for a Mitchell's Satyr--Northern Pearly-eye (This is the one mistake we did NOT make!)
Read part one "The story before the story" here.
The one thing that you should know if you are going to go out and hunt for Mitchell’s Satyrs, is that you need to go with a friend.
It helps if your friend knows a whole lot more about fens and swamps than you do, especially if hunting for rare butterflies in elusive fens is something completely out of your scope of experience. You definitely want someone who knows how to avoid being trapped in quicksand-like black muck. But you don’t want him to know TOO much about finding the little brown butterflies, because that would just make the whole thing too easy and take half the fun out of it. My perfect partner for the adventure was a newly found old friend at heart, a nature photographer, who has spent the last 30 years hunting for pictures in fens and bogs. Neither of us had seen a Mitchell’s Satyr—and he was just as eager to find and photograph them as I was.
Finding Mitchell’s Satyrs isn’t easy. We didn’t know that when we started out.
In our case we had to figure out mostly on our own where in that vast expanse of 700 acres that little fen with the butterflies was. The landowner spoke in riddles and dropped the occasional hint here and there on how to find them. But he wouldn’t come right out and TELL us where they were. And even more importantly, he didn’t tell us that half the land you have to wander on to get to the satyrs is thick black muck that wants to suck you down into its depths if you make a misstep. He handed us a blurry map with impossible to follow lines and vaguely waved his hand—“Oh, they are out there. Follow the two tracks until you get to the creek and the ruins of an old shack. If you get to the lake you’ve gone too far. Follow the creek to the fen. Oh and there are two creeks, make sure you don’t follow the wrong one. Go, explore, have fun!”
Never mind that the two track has been long overgrown, the remains of the shack have apparently sunk into the earth, the lake is a cattail marsh, and you just might miss the creek if you cross it in the wrong place. As far as where the second creek is, I still have no idea where that might be.
But none of that mattered on the first day of our search.
We naively strolled across a lovely sloping pasture full of singing bobolinks and long stems of grass blowing in the breeze. We debated crossing the fence into the cow pasture that had a bull and a dozen cows in it as it seemed to be somewhat in line with that creek and lake he had vaguely pointed to. We decided to go around the cows instead and jumped the fence into a wet meadow full of sedges and poison sumac. And right there in front of us, without hardly any looking at all, we found little brown butterflies with spots, and we thought we had it made. We spent a hour in the hot sun, chasing the butterflies through the sedges and photographing them.
I went to bed that night tired and happy—thinking we had found the Mitchell’s Satyrs, but also just a little disappointed that we hadn't made it farther into the heart of that beautiful piece of land.
In the morning though, I woke up to an email from my friend. We had been ecstatic over finding Eyed Brown butterflies, not Mitchell’s satyrs. They are a common butterfly that shares some of the same habitat as Mitchell’s, with somewhat similar markings, and a very similar fight pattern.
Honestly though, we weren't that disappointed in the discovery as this simply meant that we couldn't make up excuses to not go back and explore some more of those rolling hills and wetland.
This summer we have been on a quest for one of America's rarest and most endangered butterflies--the Mitchell's Satyr. Instead of just posting a photo--and saying "Look, we found it!" I decided to tell you the story from the beginning. Because these butterflies would probably not be in the fen we were searching, if it were not for a young man who was on a quest of his own many years ago. Come back each evening the next two days for the rest of the story.
In 1830 a young man set out on horseback from the rolling hills and grand forests of upstate New York and made his way to what would become the state of Michigan. He was in search of a farm of his own. But he would not settle for just any piece of Michigan land.
For this young man was first and foremost a seeker of beauty. Let the other young men claim the mundane flat land that is too easily plowed and turned into endless fields of corn and wheat. This young man needed land that would speak his name and make his heart sing. He would settle for nothing less than pure beauty.
When he arrived in what is now southern Michigan, he found work at a blacksmith shop. He worked hard earning money there, and on every day off would ride his horse for hours through the countryside, searching for that tract of land that would claim him as its caregiver.
One day, the young man brought his horse to a halt on the top of high esker. Spread out before him were the grassy rolling hills, marshland, and stately forest that his heart knew so well, from days of roaming land just like it as a boy in upstate New York. The wind in the tamaracks whispered his name and he knew that he belonged to this land.
So begins the story of our search for Mitchell’s Satyr butterflies.
For hidden deep within the marshy meadows of the almost 700 acres of land, is a little fen that is host to these rare and endangered butterflies. Throughout America, most of their wetland habitat has been drained and turned into subdivisions and cropland. There are only a few places left where you can find Mitchell’s Satyrs—as far as we know, they are only in a few scattered fens in Michigan and Illinois.
Three generations of farmers have farmed that land with care, guarding and nurturing the beauty that spoke to their father and grandfather when he first stood on that high esker so long ago. They knew they had a treasure—and it is not just the butterflies in the fen. A treasure trove of native plants and the only remaining virgin beech forest in lower Michigan are also hidden in the heart of that 700 acres. Three generations of farmers have protected these treasures and have chosen beauty over profit.
The first time I drove my Explorer around the bend and pulled into the driveway of what is now a dilapidated old farmhouse, with barns across the street that are showing their age, I caught just a glimpse of what that young man saw and I felt like I had come home. I had no idea who I would find inside the old farmhouse or the story behind the land, or what lay beyond the hill that the house was build on, but I felt just a little bit of what that young man felt in 1830. Perhaps it was because I too had grown up with the rolling hills and stately forests of upstate NY—and no matter how much I have come to love Michigan there is always just a little bit of heartache for what I left behind.
The man inside did not make my job as a homecare nurse easy. I had a job to do, and Medicare rules to follow. He was a man used to doing things his own way, Medicare rules be hanged! And I don’t think he was used to trusting strangers. Thankfully for me, old farmers are always my favorite patients, no matter how non compliant and crusty they might be. It was the day that I asked him why his grandfather chose these hilly acres to settle down on and build a farm instead of just buying some flat practical farm land that he started to trust me. His response could be summed up in a few short words—and I totally got it: “Because it reminded him of upstate New York where he grew up.” And he saw that I totally got it—and he knew that I would appreciate the treasure that he is the guardian of.
By the time he was ready to be discharged from homecare services I had a standing invitation to roam his land any time I wanted.
Read part two--"Finding Mitchell's Satyrs Isn't Easy" here.
in the morning
and I remember
the tender tomatoes
the scent of frost
the sounds of spring
I cover the tomatoes
and stand and savor
the stillness of the
moon drenched air.
Snow melting into the earth
A bud breaking here
A small flower blooming there
green haze slowly spreading
over forest and farm
spring gently, but surely comes.
The newest additions to our little farm...
The crows gather sticks
and the blackbird bravely sings
between the icy gusts
the south wind whispers
and the sun gently glows.
Earth groans and heaves as she labors
A deadly battle rages within
Winter, like a cruel midwife, reaches deep
with her icy fingers seeking to still
the heartbeat of emerging spring
wailing she flings hail and snow
the infant Spring will be frozen out
she feels her strength fading, melting
in the face of the wind and sun
with a shower of snow Winter renews her grasp
little Spring is too weak, too young to compete
with a crackle of chill laughter
she beats the earth and turns young buds to ice
young Spring will die.
The crows gather sticks
and the blackbird bravely sings
between the icy gusts
the south wind whispers
and the sun gently glows
and winter slowly dies.
This is a Test.
I'm testing the RSS Feed and the Email Subscription functionality.
I will delete this post shortly!
It is that time of year when some varieties of garlic start to think about growing, even if they've been carefully stored in a cool dry place. When you see a little green shoot starting to poke out of of your garlic cloves, don't panic. The cloves are still perfectly good to chop up and add to your favorite recipes.
Or even better, you can tuck some of the sprouting cloves into a dish or container of potting soil and grow your own renewable supply of tender, mild garlic greens. Just a handful of cloves can keep you in green garlic for the rest of the winter.
1) Find a container that has drain holes in the bottom and fill it with moist compost or potting soil.
2) Separate the garlic into individual cloves.
3)Push each clove about half way into the moist soil, blunt end down.
4) Set the container in a warm sunny window, then sit back and watch the garlic grow.
5) Like any indoor plant, keep a eye on the soil and water it when it starts to dry out.
In just a few weeks you will have 6 to 8 inch green garlic leaves shooting up out of cloves. To havest, simply snip off the leaves, taking no more than 1/2 of the leaves at one time so that the garlic plant will continue to have the energy to keep on growing.
Green garlic has a mild garlicky flavor. The chopped leaves are perfect to sprinkle over baked potatoes or to use in omelets, stirfries, or to add to salads. When cooking with it, keep in mind that the flavor is much milder and delicate than that of garlic cloves. When I use green garlic, I often use it raw or add it the very last minute to cooked dishes so that it does not loose its flavor.
I get asked quite often if garlic can be grown in pots. The answer is yes, it can be. Today I decided to pot up two bulbs of garlic along with lots of photos so that you can watch along with me as it grows and is harvested next summer.
I decided to try two different varieties--Kettle River Giant is a mild soft neck garlic and German Extra Hardy is a porcelain type hard neck garlic.
I divided each bulb into indivual cloves. That made 6 German Extra Hardy cloves and 13 Kettle River Giant cloves. Each clove will make one bulb of garlic after it is planted.
Then I mixed some good potting soil half and half with compost from my compost pile. I tossed in several large handfuls of bone meal and stirred in enought water to moisten the mix so that it was soft and crumbly.
The mixture all got put into two medium size planters.
Then I tucked in the garlic cloves, intitially spacing them 3-4 inches apart in each pot.
I had a few cloves left over. And I had the bright idea to tuck those into the pots as well. See, the best thing about growing your own garlic isn't the mature bulbs, it is those juicy, exquisitely flavored, not yet mature bulbs that you pull in May and early June. You haven't had garlic until you've sliced fresh from the garden, young garlic bulbs onto a salad or sandwich. There is nothing that compares to that. So, why not tuck in a few extra cloves into your pot to pull out as young bulbs? Just remember, that you will need to pull them out when they are still young. As the rest of the bulbs mature, they will need the space to grow and mature.
When that was done, I smoothed the soil over the cloves and tucked the pots into a safe out of way place under a bush in the flower garden. I basically wanted them in a place were they would be protected from the wind and sun as well as my little goats and where I could easily cover them with straw for the winter.
Finally I broke open a bale of straw and tucked it around the pots.
Indigo and Pebbles got pretty interested in the process at this point....
I shooed them away and topped off the pots with more straw. Now the for the rest of the winter the garlic cloves will put their energy into developing strong roots, and come spring will send up green vigorous shoots.
Come spring I will take the pots out of the straw and move them to a sunny location on the porch to grow. If all goes as planned, I should be pulling some young garlic in May and harvesting the mature bulbs in July.
"Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
I saw this quote for the first time a few days ago and recognized that this is one of the things that helps me get out of bed and go to work in the morning.
Call me crazy, but when I think about the fact that I can go to work, help people by what I do, and bring in an income that my husband and I are able to live on, I am filled with happiness doubled by wonder.
Being able to go to work is something I will never take for granted. I grew up in a home were the only option for girls and women was to stay home, keep house, and have babies. (Those are wonderful things to do, if they are what a woman freely chooses to do, but they aren't the only options women should have.) Going to college, supporting myself, helping others outside of the home--these are things that I could not even imagine doing when I was a teen and young adult. By the grace of God I was able to escape from that belief system, and between God and plenty of hard work, I am where I am now.
Wonder. It is what I feel when I consider that fact that I can get up and go to work. It sure does make it easier to get up, get ready, and get out the door on those mornings when I don't feel like going. It makes it easier to get through the day, especially on those hard days.
And it isn't just wonder at the big things--like the freedom I know have--that helps get me through the day. It is wonder at the small things as well. Tastes, touch, sounds, people. There is so much beauty, truth, and goodness in the world.
This 31 days series? It was supposed to be written, posted, and finished by the end of October. Several of my friends spent today wrapping up their last posts in their 31 day series, but here I am at almost midnight on October 31st, writing the 14th post.
Here is the thing about living with chronic fatigue. It doesn't work well to box yourself in. Some things in life are essential, but lots of things are not. If something is not essential, you can break the rules or bend the rules to fit your life! Remember back on day two--life is all about priorites when you have chronic fatigue. I need to go to work. I have to make sure my patients are cared for and that I follow up regarding their care appropriately. I need to take care of my husband and home and little goats. Farm work needs to get done. I need to make sure I am rested enough to do the things that need to be done. I need to take care of me.
Finishing a 31 days series in one month is pretty far down on the list on things that are important in my life. Even though I started with the intention of writing daily, I realized early on in October that my 31 days would extend into November. Letting myself out of the box of squeezing 31 posts into October, gives me room to breath and to actually finish the series. (If I felt like I HAD to finish in October, I would have given up a long time ago.)
As my husband likes to say, "Rules were made to broken". (Some of them, at least!)
And also when it comes to blogging and to writing, the message is not dimished by the length of time that it takes to write the message.
"Never own a disease. Reduce the amount of time you talk about being ill. Refuse to allow illness a place in your consciousness."
This message showed up several times in my facebook feed last night. And though denial is never helpful, I think there is some truth to the message. Dwelling on the negative, on what I can't change only makes the fatigue worse. Instead I try to dwell on the things I can do and that I am doing. Something it feels like the things I am accomplishing are few and far between. But even so, there is always something in my life that is positive, that I can focus on and turn my energy toward. Own the positive things in your life. Dwell on the what you can do and don't leave room for illness or chronic fatigue to run your life!
Depression can be a gift.
At least situational depression can be.
I am usually a fairly happy person, but I do get depression with almost any kind of major change. I've come to realize that, and accept that as part of my life. It has been as regular as clock work with every major life change. Graduate from nursing school, get depressed. Change jobs, get depressed. Get married, get depressed.
I also consistantly get depressed when I've been overly tired for long periods of time or simply overwhelmed with life.
Once I started to understand the patterns and causes for my depression, it was actually quite empowering. I get depressed when I feel like my life is out of control, either due to a major change or due to being overwhelmed and overly tired.
I have learned to use it a reminder that I need to slow down and take care of me. When depression shows up for me it means that I need to step back, look at my life and decide what is important and what is not. Sometimes it means that I need to cut something out, sometimes it means I need to add something. It motivates me to take control of the situation I am in and make deliberate decisions to make changes in my life.
(I do want to be clear that I am speaking specifically about situational depression. There are several kinds of depression, some of which are serious medical conditions and are not related to one's situation. If you have depression that does not resolve with making positive changes in your life, I would encourage you to see a medical professional for evaluation and treatment.)
"But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom."--Maya Angelou
Last week was a tough week for me. I took the week off to do some things that needed to be done on the farm and had a list of other things to do on my time off--both some fun things and a few things that I haven't had time to do over the summer. Turns out I felt pretty crappy the whole week and only accomplished about 20% of the things on my list.
Come Friday, I was feeling fustrated and angry at myself for my astounding lack of accomplishment. When I sat down to write the next post in this series, I couldn't bring myself to write anything.
I found myself thinking about the bloggers I know who have life altering chronic illnesses. Not one of them writes about their illness or how difficult life can be. Instead they write about beauty, the things that inspire them, they write about their freedoms. Looking at the ruins of my dreams for the last week and thinking about those bloggers, I was reminded of the poem, "I know why the caged bird sings." It is a poem that has meaning for me on several levels. I hadn't really thought of it being related to chronic fatigue, but it seem to fit how I felt at the end of last week.
The options were to beat my head against the iron bars of fatigue in despair or to open my mouth and sing. I can chose to sing, even if it seems I am standing on the grave of dreams. Even if it feels like my wings are clipped and my feet are tied. Because even in the cage, there is space to sing. Because even when the bars are black and life looks grim, there are beauties to celebrate, freedoms to rejoice in.
I do know why the caged bird sings and why her song is a song of freedom.
Because He is
I can simply be.
He fills the depth
and the inbetween
and makes up
for what is not.
Because He is
I can simply be.