Rejecting the Will of the People: Wolf Hunting in Michigan

Rejecting the Will of the People: Wolf Hunting in Michigan

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This is a real departure from my regular blog posts. I am doing so because I feel very strongly about this subject. I have gathered signatures. I have written and made phone calls – as have thousands across the state – to our supposed “representatives” and kept up steady pressure in the state. Still, the Michigan Senate has turned a deaf ear to the citizens of Michigan and have sent SB 1187 which authorizes wolf hunting to the State House for consideration. This Legislature is Fast-Tracking this legislation to benefit some very well-oiled outfitters and outsiders who have only a financial stake in a new hunting species.

I want to share my response to “my” Senator in Lansing regarding his vote FOR wolf-hunting in Michigan. For those of you who don’t know, the population of this very-necessary predator – which helps to maintain the balance of nature – is exceedingly fragile. The Michigan DNR’s estimates of our state’s wolf population have been steadily declining since 2012. There is no scientific justification for opening up this small population of an ecologically vital species to cruel and unsporting trophy hunting and trapping.

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From “Keep Michigan Wolves Protected” website

In the 2014 general election, Michigan voters soundly rejected two referendums on the trophy hunting and trapping of the state’s small population of wolves. And in late November 2016, a three-judge Appellate Court panel unanimously rejected an unconstitutional law that was rushed through the 2014 legislature to circumvent those citizen votes on wolf hunting.

Additionally, a federal court upheld a lawsuit by The Humane Society of the United States and other wolf protection groups, which charged that the 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to remove federal Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region — and opening them up to cruel shooting, trapping, snaring, and even hounding by packs of dogs — was not warranted. Wolves were returned to federal protection, where they remain today.

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From: “Keep Michigan Wolves Protected” website

Even with the well-documented information above, the Senate of the State of Michigan voted to authorize the “Natural Resources Commission” (a political group with no scientific base) to set wolf hunting dates. Not only does this run counter to the expressed will of the populace, it runs against everything that science has been trying to convey.

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Here was my response:

Please convey to Senator Hune that I have grave concerns that he has become more concerned about being in lock-step with the party than listening to the concerns of his constituency. In my many years of following government and politics, I have found that those who maintain their seat without opposition tend to lose touch with the people they are supposed to be serving. I fear this is becoming the case for a man who went to Lansing as a young person who wanted to make a difference.

I am disappointed in his vote for this measure. It appears as though there is another power-grab in place to circumvent the will of the populace. Again, this will plunge the state into another debacle where Michigan will look anti-environment. This is very sad. For a state with the abundance of natural beauty to come out against the very wildness that makes it so appealing to many (and, not incidentally a very important link in the balance of nature) is counterproductive.

When the Gales of November Came Early – 41 Years Ago

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November 10, 1975. Do you remember?

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.”

 Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976

 

I remember it well. I can still “see” Harry Reasoner sitting at his desk on the evening news talking about the apparent loss of the ship “Edmund Fitzgerald” and crew of 29. For some reason, it struck me – viscerally. Perhaps it was because we were so used to seeing great ships going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (although they were not nearly as large as the Great Lakes freighters). I remember following the story at the time. I never forgot the sadness I felt. Then, too, there’s that song…it’s one of those that sticks in your head and takes forever to get rid of.

  

The last voyage of the Great Lakes Freighter “Edmund Fitzgerald,” captained by Ernest M. McSorley, started in Superior, Wisconsin on November 9, 1975. The “Fitz” was loaded with over 26,000 tons of iron ore pellets. The ship was scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River. She left port with the Arthur M Anderson whose captain was Bernie Cooper. It was determined that the Edmund Fitzgerald would take the lead as she was the faster vessel.

Both captains were acutely aware of a building November storm entering the Great Lakes. Captain McSorley and Captain Cooper agreed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, where they would be protected by the Canadian shore. They would later make a turn to the southeast to eventually reach the shelter of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been upgraded to storm warnings early in the morning of November 10. While conditions were bad, with winds gusting to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had often piloted their vessels in similar conditions.

 

Last Voyage

As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, it appeared to Captain Cooper on the Anderson that the Fitz had passed far too close to Six Fathom Shoal. He could clearly see the ship and the beacon on Caribou on his radar and could measure the distance between them. He and his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the dangerous area of shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald from sight

According to transcripts and quoting from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website, “At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” McSorley was “checking down” his speed to allow the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, ‘Yes, both of them.’”

There were no more extraordinarily alarming reports from Captain McSorley that afternoon. However, at around 5 p.m., a wave smashed into the Anderson smashing its starboard lifeboat. Winds were reported to be almost 60 knots steady, with gusts to 70 knots. Seas were running 18 to 25 feet.

Again, from the GLSM website, “According to Captain Cooper, about 6:55 pm, he and the men in the Anderson’s pilothouse felt a “bump”, felt the ship lurch, and then turned to see a monstrous wave engulfing their entire vessel from astern. The wave worked its way along the deck, crashing on the back of the pilothouse, driving the bow of the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under.’”

The first mate of the Anderson spoke to the Fitzgerald one last time, about 7:10 pm.

Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talking to you later.” The mate signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” of the Fitzgerald kept getting obscured by “sea return,” meaning that seas were so high they interfered with the radar reflection. Around 7:15 pm, the pip was lost again, but this time, did not reappear. The Anderson’s First Mate called the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There was no answer.

Quoting Captain Cooper, “At this time I became very concerned about the Fitzgerald – couldn’t see his lights when we should have. I then called the William Clay Ford to ask him if my phone was putting out a good signal and also if perhaps the Fitzgerald had rounded the point and was in shelter, after a negative report I called the Soo Coast Guard because I was sure something had happened to the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard were at this time trying to locate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

Captain Cooper kept asking the few other ships in the area if they had seen or heard anything from the Fitzgerald. As there had been no word, he persisted with the Coast Guard. Captain Cooper and his crew had just managed to pilot the Anderson to safety in Whitefish Bay. They were all breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Coast Guard made a huge request of them.

There were no Coast Guard ships in the immediate area. Could the Anderson go back out into the storm to look for the Fitzgerald? I can’t imagine the anxiety. Here they had just reached safety after being hammered by a huge storm including two huge, rogue waves (called “two sisters” in maritime lingo), but the seaman’s unwritten code is that you go to try to help fellow seamen.

The Anderson became the lead boat in the search. The Anderson was again severely pounded by the storm and was rolling badly, but they were able to locate the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats (empty) and other debris, but no sign of survivors. The William Clay Ford also left the safety of Whitefish Bay to help. These two were later joined by two Coast Guard cutters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Coast Guard continued the search. On November 14, a specially-outfitted, U.S. Navy plane got a strong signal 17 miles off Whitefish Point. In the next few days, the Coast Guard cutters used different technologies (including side-scan radar) to check that area. One of them located two large pieces of wreckage on the bottom in the same area. A similar search took place in late November. However, winter was closing in. There would be no chance to continue until spring. As large as the Great Lakes are, Mother Nature and winter are stronger. The Lakes become impassible with ice.

 

In May of 1976, they returned to try to determine if these sonar responses were, indeed, the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Navy submersibles took thousands of feet of video and hundreds of still photos. On May 20, 1976, all question as to the final resting place of the “Fitz” was removed as photos were examined and the name “Edmund Fitzgerald” was clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake.

Depiction of the Wreck

In November of 1994, family members of the crew brought their concerns to The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). They were worried that technology was getting to the point where more and more divers were able to dive the wrecksite of the Fitzgerald. They, naturally, considered this sacred ground as it is the final resting place of their loved ones. The families were still trying to find some form of “closure.”

 

After discussions with the families, a long list of U.S. and Canadian government agencies, and the owners of the wreck, it was determined that a single, significant artifact – the ship’s bell – could be removed from roof of the pilothouse and brought to shore. A replacement bell, inscribed with the names of the 29 sailors who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald, would be returned to the pilothouse.

The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald broke water at 1:25 pm, July 4, 1995 as family members watched. A wreath was placed on the water following the recovery. Family members there that day finally had the opportunity to express their grief, say goodbye and for some, bring closure after 20 years. The replacement bell would be returned to the wreck.

 

The Fitzgerald’s bell was stabilized and then delivered to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. From there, the museum continued restoring the bell for use as the centerpiece of a memorial to the men who died in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can see it, today, as the centerpiece of their museum along with a photo of Captain McSorley and additional information about and pictures of the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever, legally, remain off-limits to divers as it is the final resting place for the 29 souls lost that fateful night.

 

Christening of the “Fitz”

“Life” moments of the Edmund Fitzgerald

8/7/1957: Keel laid

6/8/1958: Hull #301 is christened “Edmund Fitzgerald” after the CEO of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

9/24/1958: The Fitzgerald makes her maiden voyage

1972: Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald

11/10/1975: Last day of the great ship

5/20/1976: More than 40,000 feet of video tape from expeditions to the purported wreck by submersibles is examined. The words “Edmund Fitzgerald” were clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake

7/4/1995: The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon

 

To this day, the true reason for the sinking goes unsolved. Did the Fitzgerald essentially scuttle herself on the shoals in the storm? Were the hatches properly fastened? Did the two giant, rogue waves (the “two sisters”) that hit the Anderson continue to build and swamp an already listing Fitzgerald driving her into the bottom? We’ll never know. There were no survivors to tell the tale.

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

 

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about. Be sure to “subscribe” to my blog. You will be automatically notified of each new post.

 

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

A Day of Celebration and Tears!

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After a long hiatus, I’m back to blogging. Life has a funny way of rolling by faster and faster as each year passes. Work, home, dogs, birds…all seem to demand their amount of time and energy. Happily, I may have figured out a way to steal some time and tell all y’all about the wonderful celebration we attended. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoy telling the story.

3rd Annual Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue Reunion

3rd Annual Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue Reunion

July 25 was the Third Annual Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue reunion. This was a day for all athe dogs who had been adopted through the rescue to come together with their owners and meet/reacquaint with others.

Some of the Reunion Attendees

Some of the Reunion Attendees

It was also time to meet some extraordinary people who are involved in saving so many German Shepherd Dogs from certain death in the overcrowded shelters in California.

Lisa & Kathy from the Miracle Network with one of the greatest contributors and two Miracle Dog owners.

Lisa & Kathy from the Miracle Network with one of the greatest contributors and two Miracle Dog owners.

This group is the Miracle GSD Network. You can find their page on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/310605105708097/

Lisa and Kathy from the Miracle Network flank Maz (one of the leading contributors)

Lisa and Kathy from the Miracle Network flank Maz (one of the leading contributors)

This group is especially dear to us, as they are the ones who saved our darling Dolly!It was our first opportunity to meet some of these dedicated women with whom we’ve become very dear Facebook friends over the past year. It was also the first opportunity for them to actually meet – face-to-face – with many of the dogs they’d worked so diligently to save. There were lots of happy tears shed over these first meetings. I’m not completely certain, but I think even the dogs realized how important and special these women were in their lives.

Dolly with Lisa (her first opportunity to meet the girl she helped to save!)

Dolly with Lisa (her first opportunity to meet the girl she helped to save!)

The group began when several of these women got together just a very few years ago to see if they could help with the dire situation in the shelters in California. The shelters were (and are) filled well past capacity and it has meant that hold times for dogs (especially large dogs like German Shepherds) have been cut to just the bare minimums required by law. Rescues were doing their best to try to save as many as possible, but sheer numbers and widely-spread locations and even crossed communications were hampering their abilities. The women from the Miracle Network have been able to help cut through these barriers. They have helped funnel dogs from the overrun shelters to reputable (strenuously checked) rescues throughout the country. They take absolutely NO funds for their work and spend hours upon hours on the computer and telephone with the yeoman’s job of coordinating getting the dogs from the shelters to the rescues which are all around the country.

One of the approved rescues is Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue. Kristin Bright has been involved from the very beginning. It is through her rescue that we adopted our adorable Dolly and our precious Cinder.

Kristin with Lynne's Kaiser

Kristin with Lynne’s Kaiser

Another great photo of Kristin with Kaiser

Another great photo of Kristin with Kaiser

A few months after Dolly came to live with us, we lost our Sydney. Not long after that, Kristin contacted us as a possible home for another senior girl who had recently been rescued from Ohio. Cinder was not part of the Miracle Network, but was an owner turn-in. You can read all about both Dolly and Cinder in previous posts, but they were alumnae at the reunion on Saturday.

Our Cinder at the SMGSR 3rd Annual Reunion

Our Cinder at the SMGSR 3rd Annual Reunion

Cinder Chilling at the Reunion

Cinder Chilling at the Reunion

All of the dogs here had amazing back stories. It’s impossible to share all the stories. Here are a few that will amaze you and which exemplify the work being done to save these fantastic dogs.

Naturally, you know I have to start with Dolly. The before and after are really something to see, and she was one of the dogs who wasn’t in very poor condition.

Our Dolly (Miracle Dog #307) - Intake Photo

Our Dolly (Miracle Dog #307) – Shelter Intake Photo

Our Dolly now!

Our Dolly now!

Dolly & Cinder Taking it Easy

Dolly & Cinder Taking it Easy

Here are photos of Kyra (Miracle Dog #38) before and after!

Kyra BEFORE the Miracle Network swooped in to save her

Kyra BEFORE the Miracle Network swooped in to save her

Kyra now! Three beautiful girls!

Kyra now! Three beautiful girls!

Kyra with her Dad

Kyra with her Dad

Kyra's a Happy Girl!

Kyra’s a Happy Girl!

Kyra Enjoys Looking at the World From Above

Kyra Enjoys Looking at the World From Above

Here is handsome Zeppelin (Zeppy) – Miracle Dog #69. It’s clear that he has gone from the depths to a wonderful, loving home.

Zeppelin (Zeppy) in the Shelter - Poor bedraggled boy!

Zeppelin (Zeppy) – Miracle Dog #69 – in the Shelter – Poor bedraggled boy!

Zeppy now! He's such a Happy, Handsome Boy

Zeppy now! He’s such a Happy, Handsome Boy. Who wouldn’t be with two lovely ladies!

Zeppy is Now a Gorgeous, Silky Boy - Miracle Dog, indeed!

Zeppy is Now a Gorgeous, Silky Boy – Miracle Dog, indeed!

This is Tequila! Of all the sad faces, she had one of the saddest. I fell in love with her when I first saw that sad face. I was so hoping the right person would come along and give her the home she so richly deserves. She sure hit the jackpot with her “mom”, Susan!

Tequila (Miracle #373). Have you ever seen SUCH a sad face?

Tequila (Miracle #373). Have you ever seen SUCH a sad face?

Tequila now! I can hardly believe it's the same dog. She is absolutely stunning!

Tequila now! I can hardly believe it’s the same dog. She is absolutely stunning!

Amazing Transformation! Just proves that, with love, anything is possible.

Amazing Transformation! Just proves that, with love, anything is possible.

The most amazing story of all (in my opinion) is that of Dulce (now named Cali). This poor dog looked so emaciated and rough. I can’t help but believe she would not have lasted more than a day or two more had the Miracle GSD Network not swooped in and saved her.

Dulce (now named Cali) in the shelter. It's hard to look at this photo. She's just skin and bone.

Dulce (now named Cali) in the shelter. It’s hard to look at this photo. She’s just skin and bone.

Dulce/Cali (Miracle Dog #383) after just a few short, loving months

Dulce/Cali (Miracle Dog #383) after just a short, loved period. Isn’t the difference amazing?

Everyone who saw her transformation (and her forever family hasn’t had her with them very long) was thrilled. I think more happy tears were cried over this pup than any other.

Sweet Cali! Safe and LOVED at last!

Sweet Cali! Safe and LOVED at last!

There are so many happy stories with the Rescue and Miracle Network. It was wonderful to get to meet other human family members who share with us the love of rescued dogs. I hope to be sharing many of these in future posts.

Another great story is that of Karu and her puppies. Karu wasn’t at the reunion, but two of her pups were. Karu was rescued and had puppies. Karu is full German Shepherd Dog, but dad was apparently a Mastiff/Boxer mix. Two of the pups – Augusta and Gunner – had not seen each other since they had been adopted. It was clear to all that they remembered each other. It was such a joy to watch them play together.

Karu's pups, Augusta and Gunner, meet again for the first time since adoption. Gunner (the brindle) looks a little tentative

Karu’s pups, Augusta and Gunner, meet again for the first time since adoption. Gunner (the brindle) looks a little tentative

I think they're starting to remember

I think they’re starting to remember

That's my BROTHER!

That’s my BROTHER!

Yep, they're brothers, all right

Yep, they’re brothers, all right

All in all, there were easily forty-plus German Shepherd Dogs all in one place. There were absolutely no instances of fights or difficulties because we all respected each other’s space. There was ample area to walk the dogs, kiddie pools to drink or cool off in, and activities to keep the dogs entertained. There were also many children around who really enjoyed being able to pet so many beautiful dogs. That was remarkable in that the dogs seemed to enjoy the kids as much (if not more).

German Shepherds everywhere

German Shepherds everywhere

The kids and dogs got along terrifically.

The kids and dogs got along terrifically.

There were contests for the dogs (like who could lie down and stay the longest) and “hot dog” eating contest. (Not really hot dogs – they were special doggie treats that floated.) I entered Dolly at the last minute.

Kiddie Pools for drinking and cooling off (for the dogs)

Kiddie Pools for drinking and cooling off (for the dogs)

She wasn’t sure at first, but got them all. Just as they were finishing the contest, Jim decided that Cinder needed a chance to beat Dolly’s time. Not only did Cinder beat Dolly’s time, she won the contest with all ten pieces snagged in 10 seconds! A new record! She won a prize bag full of fun toys and treats!

Dolly wasn't sure about this contest

Dolly wasn’t sure about this contest

There were cakes and treats for humans and canines alike. The door prizes and raffles were really top notch.

Treats for the Dogs

Treats for the Dogs

and Cake for the Humans

and Cake for the Humans

Just a few of the prizes

Just a few of the prizes

We all had a marvelous time and are very much looking forward to next year’s get together. We’re really hoping that many of those who couldn’t make it for this reunion will be able to join us next year.

I can’t say enough about all the work put in by Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue. Kristin has so much on her plate running the rescue; but she did a fantastic job of pulling everything together and assuring a great time for everyone. I can’t imagine how she found enough hours in the day to do everything she did. If Wonder Woman were real, I imagine she’d look a lot like Kristin.

The amazing Kristin

The amazing Kristin

Kristin taking a short break

Kristin taking a short break

Kristin greeting one of the pups she cared for before adoption.

Kristin greeting one of the pups she cared for before adoption.

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Comments” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Cinder(ella)

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

After a long absence, I’m back. Work can put a real crimp on blogging, but I love my job and the people I work with, so I try to find a balance. In the transportation industry, things get really crazy for several months before Christmas, so work necessarily had to jump to the fore. I hope that I’m finally going to be able to get my blog rolling along again with new posts and updates to old stories. I hope you will hang in with me and follow along.
I wrote about losing our sweet Sydney last August. What I haven’t written about is the message we got only a few weeks after she went to the Rainbow Bridge. Kristin Bright from Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue got in touch with me to tell me about a wonderful, older girl that had come to be with their rescue.

Cinder (the day she arrived at SWMI Rescue)

Cinder (the day she arrived at SWMI Rescue)

 

Cinder - Skin and Bone (Day She Arrived at Rescue)

Cinder – Skin and Bone (Day She Arrived at Rescue)

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This gal had come in with another dog – a male – from an owner who had some severe medical issues and was going to have to go into assisted living. Neither of his dogs could go with him. It was obvious from the photos, that “Sinder” had not had proper care for some time. She was painfully thin, had some severe flea dermatitis, had hard callouses on her legs, had virtually no fur on her tail, and her toenails were incredibly (grotesquely) long. I don’t believe it was from lack of concern, rather lack of ability to do anything.

Grotesquely Long Nails (Photo taken day she arrived at Rescue)

Grotesquely Long Nails (Photo taken day she arrived at Rescue)

Kristin told us that she immediately thought of us as we had experience rescuing older dogs. She knew we were missing our Sidney and had room in our home and hearts for another dog. In case you’re relatively new to my blog, we had adopted eight previous German Shepherds – including Sydney – and fostered two others. Kristin told us that this girl was a real sweetheart and needed a loving home to help her bloom and get back in shape.

Beauty and Nobility Shone Through

Beauty and Nobility Shone Through

Maybe it was the nobility in her lovely face. Maybe it was the obvious need for a furever home. Maybe it was because we know how hard it is to place a dark-colored dog – especially an older one. Maybe it was just that both Jim and I hate the idea of a sweet, old dog not being with a loving family, but we immediately told Kristin that we would bring Bear and Dolly for a visit. If all went smoothly, we would adopt Sinder.

Despite All the Ills, Beauty and Sweetness Shown Through

Despite All the Ills, Beauty and Sweetness Shone Through

Before we could visit, Kristin had Sinder spayed. (Yes, we’re pretty sure she had been used for breeding.) At that time, while she was under, the vet cut and cauterized her nails. They were so long and misshapen that they had to be done under anesthesia. She had several baths with medicine for her skin and coat. She was on her way back to health.

The Day We Met & Brought Cinder Home

The Day We Met & Brought Cinder Home

As is obvious, the visit went very well. Dolly is an in-your-face kind of girl (although she’s finally learning to relax a little). She’s like one of those women who get right up in your face and talk very loud. She’s not at all malicious, she just grew up on the streets and had no manners. Even that didn’t faze good, old Sinder. (You’ve probably noticed that there are two spellings of her name. She was turned over to the rescue as “Sinder.” We changed the spelling to “Cinder” to match her coloration.)

Silly, happy girl. Cinder VERY much a part of the family

Silly, happy girl. Cinder VERY much a part of the family

Now Cinder is blossoming (Cinderella?). She gained the badly-needed weight. Her coat is shiny and full. Her tail looks like it should, and her dermatitis is long gone. She’s a happy, quirky dog. I say quirky because she’s of the opinion that every toy that comes into the house belongs to her. It’s rather comic, and it’s a good thing both of the other kids are easy-going. I wonder if she ever had a toy prior to coming to live with us. She’s also not good with small dogs or cats. That doesn’t matter at all to us as we don’t have either. As it turns out, Kristin knew we would be a perfect fit. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cinder with Her Lovely Coat and Tail

Cinder with Her Lovely Coat and Tail

 

Such a Pretty, Sweet Girl!

Such a Pretty, Sweet Girl!

Sweet Cinder (ella?)

Sweet Cinder (ella?)

Below is the link to the Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue. Please cut and paste it into your browser. Kristin does amazing things with very short funding and assistance. If you are in Michigan or close state and are considering adopting a new family member, you might want to see who is available. If you are considering making a financial donation to a tax-deductible charity, you might want to consider SWMGS Rescue.

http://www.swmigermanshepherdrescue.com/

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

Cider Mills! Never Knew What I Was Missin’

Just the other day, I was asked about cider mills. As I have a new bunch of readers (THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Welcome! Please feel free to comment), I thought I’d reblog this post from 2011. Hard to believe it’s been three years since I first posted this.

Colmel's Blog

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

Ahhhhhh, Autumn! What is it about the first leaf turning that sends me into a frenzy? Maybe it’s because I had such a deprived childhood. Okay, by deprived I mean that, while growing up in Florida sounds like heaven to so many, the only colored leaves we ever saw were in photographs or cut from construction paper. So the change in the air, the change in the sound and the vision of a colored leaf just sets off all my happiness whistles.

 

Apple time! The other bell…

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Michigan Maple – Syrup That Is

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Michigan is known for many things – the Great Lakes, the automobile, cherries, apples, wine, beer, and other spirits – but did you know that some of the finest maple syrup comes from Michigan? It does. There are sugar houses in virtually every county in Michigan.

Like fine wines, every year is different when it comes to the quality and quantity of syrup. The main determining factor is weather. Here are some interesting factoids about Michigan Maple Syrup (from the Michigan Maple Syrup Association website)

  • Michigan ranks 5th in maple syrup production in the United States.
  • Average maple syrup production in Michigan is about 90,000 gallons per year.
  • There are an estimated 500 commercial maple syrup producers in Michigan with some 2,000 additional hobby or home use producers.
  • The production of pure maple syrup is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States.
  • Maple syrup is one of the few agricultural crops in which demand exceeds supply.
  • Only about 1 percent of Michigan’s maple forest resource is used in maple syrup production.
  • In an average year, each tap-hole will produce about 10 gallons of maple sap, enough for about a quart of pure Michigan maple syrup.
  • It takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.
  • Maple syrup is the first farm crop to be harvested in Michigan each year.
  • A maple tree needs to be about 40 years old and have a diameter of 10 inches before tapping is recommended.
  • The maple season in Michigan starts in February in the southern counties and runs well into April in the Upper Peninsula.
  • Warm sunny days and freezing nights determine the length of the maple season.
  • The budding of maple trees makes the maple syrup taste bitter. Thus, production ceases.
  • Freezing and thawing temperatures create pressure and force the sap out of the tree.
  • A very rapid rise in temperature (25 to 45 degrees) will enhance the sap flow.
  • While the sugaring season may last 6 to 10 weeks, but during this period, the heavy sap may run only 10-20 days.
  • Maple sap is boiled to remove the water and concentrate the sugars in a process called evaporation.
  • Maple sap becomes maple syrup when boiled to 219 degrees Fahrenheit, or 7 degrees above the boiling point of water.
  • Pure Michigan maple syrup has 50 calories per tablespoon and is fat-free. It has no additives, no added coloring and no preservatives.
  • Maple syrup has may minerals per tablespoon: 20 milligrams of calcium, 2 milligrams of phosphorus, 0.2 milligrams of iron, 2 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium.
  • Maple syrup is classified as one of nature’s most healthful foods.

Every year, on the last weekend in April, the town of Vermontville hosts the original, the “granddaddy” of Michigan syrup festivals.

As is typical in Michigan, some years are gorgeous, shirt-sleeve weather and some are bitingly cold. This is important to keep in mind as you are preparing to go to the festival because you will be outside most of the time.

Naturally, the day starts out with pancake breakfasts. Lines are very long, so be prepared to wait. These breakfasts are a main form of revenue for charitable causes in the area. The pancakes and sausage are good, but the syrup is heavenly.

The Vermontville festival is great for all age groups. There are always games and contests for the little guys, and there are craft booths, car shows and sales of all things maple. My personal favorite (next to syrup, of course) is maple sugar candy. If you’ve never tried it, you’re really missing out. It’s very rich though but easy to make, so buy lots of extra syrup to make candy with.

Here are a couple of photos of the early crowds. Notice the long line for pancake breakfast.

Early morning - Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival

Early morning – Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival

 

Crowds Lining Up for Pancake Breakfast

Crowds Lining Up for Pancake Breakfast

Here are the instructional exhibit and the coop sales buildings.

Instructional Building (Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival)

Instructional Building
(Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival)

 

Maple Cooperative - Buy All Things Maple Here

Maple Cooperative – Buy All Things Maple Here

The local mounted patrol came by to check things out.

Local Mounted Police Unit

Local Mounted Police Unit

Some of the terrific cars at the car show

Pretty in Pink (50's era Ford Thunderbird)

Pretty in Pink (50’s era Ford Thunderbird)

 

Early Ford Mustang Convertible

Early Ford Mustang Convertible

 

Gotta Have Fuzzy Dice

Gotta Have Fuzzy Dice

One of the craftsmen is a chainsaw carver. His specialty was bears (naturally, a favorite of mine), but he also had some other cute “critters.” Two of his bear carvings made it home with us.

Bear, Bears, and More Bears (Plus a Few Others)

Bear, Bears, and More Bears (Plus a Few Others)

 

Bears and Other Critters (Check the Bear with Beer Sign)

Bears and Other Critters (Check the Bear with Beer Sign)

DSC_0060mp

This One Had To Come Home With Me

This artist made useful items from found materials. There were all manner of benches, chairs, cabinets, and bookshelves made from discarded items.

This bench was made from old farm implements (pitchforks) and discarded doors.

Bench from Pitchforks and Found Door

Bench from Pitchforks and Found Door

This corner cabinet (which I bought) really grabbed my attention. It is made from an old window, old shutters, and an old door.

 

Nifty Corner Cabinet (from found/discarded materials)

Nifty Corner Cabinet (from found/discarded materials)

Made from Old Window, Shutters, and Door

Made from Old Window, Shutters, and Door

These are just a few of the activities that go on during the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival. Other activities include rides, fireworks, bands, a parade, a 5k walk/run, a petting zoo, a flea market, and several dinner, fundraisers – lots to do for the whole family.

So mark your calendars, now, for the last weekend in April. Plan to visit the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival. I might see you there!

Here is a link to the festival’s website.

http://www.vermontvillemaplesyrupfestival.org/schedule.htm

 

Up Next: Autumn comes to Michigan

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Than THESE in the Bush

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

For the past several years, one of the main items on my “bucket list” has been to attend one of the Michigan Audubon trips to Sault Saint Marie, Michigan in the winter. We had signed up a number of times, but something had always come up to keep us from going on the trip. I was determined that this winter, we were going to make the trip and see some terrific birds.

 

Let me tell you a little about winter in Michigan. If you follow my blog, you know that this has been an extraordinarily cold and snowy winter. We’ve had temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit on multiple occasions. While this is definitely not preferred weather for the human species, it’s perfect for some of the boreal species of birds. These birds are at home in the very far north of Canada and Alaska. This year, nothing was going to stop us – and it didn’t.

Snowy Rid

Snowy Ride

We left Friday morning for Sault Saint Marie “the Soo.” There were several snow squalls along the way, but it made for a picturesque, albeit a bit dodgy, ride. I was glad that my Michigan-born husband was behind the wheel.

The BIG Bridge

The BIG Bridge

The ride across the Mackinac Straits over the big bridge was uneventful (thank goodness). The huge chunks of ice attest to the temperatures we’ve seen this winter. I have, however, seen old photos where the Straits have completely frozen and people have been able to walk from Mackinaw Island right to the mainland.

Talk about ICE

Talk about ICE

The Audubon trip started the next morning with us all meeting at the local McDonalds. The weather was quite cold (in the single digits – Fahrenheit – and low 10s), but it was gorgeously clear and sunny. As we spent most of the time in the car, the cold and wind only got to us when we got out to scan for birds or to set up scopes and get our binoculars on some pretty darned spectacular birds. Let me explain here that most of these birds are rare for our part of the country. Most of our targets were boreal species which rarely venture out of the heavily forested, far northern part of Canada.

Pine Grosbeaks!

Pine Grosbeaks!

 

Pine Grosbeaks!

Pine Grosbeaks!

One of our first stops was at feeders at a Michigan State University station. Here is where I first saw the Pine Grosbeaks that I had so dearly hoped to see. There weren’t just one or two birds – there were lots of them. The males are a gorgeous bright red with gray wings. These birds are regularly seen in the UP, but these were my first ever. They are quite confiding, and had little worry about so many humans standing around. (Our group was comprised of approximately 15 birders and Skye – our guide extraordinaire.)

Grosbeaks!

Grosbeaks!

Other birds that rarely venture into the Lower Peninsula are Redpolls. We were lucky enough to see several flocks of Common Redpolls, and more than a few Hoary Redpolls thrown into the mix.

Redpoll

Redpoll

The real focus of the trip, though, was owls. There had been several Snowy Owls reported as well as Northern Hawk Owl and the ever-elusive Great Gray Owl.

 

There was a lot of driving involved in our “owl-prowl.” We covered lots of territory without seeing any owls at all. I have to say that I was surprised at how many ravens we saw. Ravens are not at all common in the Lower Peninsula so seeing those was a treat. We also got the rare opportunity to see a dark-phase, Rough-Legged Hawk. What a beautiful bird! It was almost solid black except for a band of white through its wings.

Great Gray Owl (thanks to Jeromy Hakyl)

Great Gray Owl (thanks to Jeremy Halka)

We did finally luck out in that another birder who was reporting in on the internet found the Great Gray Owl. We made a hasty caravan back to the area in which it had been seen. Fortunately, the reporting birder was still in the area and told us exactly where to look. Sure enough! There he was – sitting comfortably in a tree not more than 40 feet from us. As mentioned earlier, there are some birds which are not around humans very much, so they do not fear us. Great Gray Owls fall into that category. As you can see in these spectacular photos, we didn’t perturb the bird at all. Let me mention right here that these photos were actually taken on cellphones. Yes, I’m serious. A terrific young student named Jeremy Halka (who was fighting a terrible cold but still came out) patiently focused cellphone cameras over and over to get us these terrific shots. He had figured out how to use the camera on a cellphone to take photos through our spotting scopes. This brings bird photography to a completely new level for most of us.

Great Gray Owl (gorgeous photography by Jeremy Halka)

Great Gray Owl (gorgeous photography by Jeremy Halka)

After we had all spent many cold minutes observing and photographing the Great Gray, he flew off to hunt for his next snack. We all piled happily into our vehicles and the caravan was off again. This time, we were heading back to the area we had hastily left in search of the Great Gray Owl. We hoped against hope that the Northern Hawk Owl that had been seen in the area was still there. It was!

 

Northern Hawk Owl (Jeremy Halka)

Northern Hawk Owl (Jeremy Halka)

Perched in the very top of a pine tree, our sharp-eyed leader found the Northern Hawk Owl surveying the snow-covered farm land around it. Another amazingly beautiful bird. I understand completely how this bird was named. He does look like a hawk and an owl, combined.

Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl (Photo by Jeremy Halka)

Once again, we were able to get some terrific photos thanks to Jeremy and his patience.

 

By this time, it’s getting to be late afternoon, and we are all pretty tired from fighting the cold. Our last destination was an area where Snowy Owls were commonly seen. I have to say, THIS was the bird that I’d been most hoping to get a good look at. I’d been looking forward to this for so long. The Great Gray was such a surprise, I had no long-term expectations. The Snowy, on the other hand, well I knew chances were good.

A little aside here… Jim and I had actually seen a Snowy Owl before, so it wasn’t a “life bird.” However, the only looks we’d ever had were through a spotting scope of an owl sitting down in a field several hundred yards away. It was also cold and very windy that day and there was snow-shimmer. Yes, we saw the top of the owl’s head and its feathers moving, but hardly the kind of observation we longed for. We had also gotten in the car and driven miles and miles on many occasions to try to see Snowy Owls that had been reported. Every time, we were unsuccessful (skunked in fishing/birding terms).

First Time to REALLY see a Snowy Owl!

First Time to REALLY see a Snowy Owl!

I can’t truly explain the absolute joy I felt when we stopped at our first sighting of a gorgeous Snowy Owl (either female or juvenile due to the dark spots – an adult, male Snowy is almost completely white). Let’s just say I’m not sure the car had come to a complete stop and the door remained wide open. Oh my GOODNESS!!!! What an amazingly beautiful bird! We had hit the owl “trifecta!” As we left this owl (I believe all but a very few of us had been able to get good looks at Snowy Owls before), we were blessed to see three more in rapid succession. I begged a stop at the second one as I had not been able to get a good photo of the first. The group was very considerate and we piled out, once again, to observe yet another juvenile or female owl.

jeremySnowy

Snowy Owl (photo by Jeremy Halka)

After leaving that owl and seeing the other two flying and at some distance, we called it a day. The cold and the exhilaration had taken it out of all of us. We caravanned back to the McDonalds and made plans to meet up again the next morning at 7.

Yep! That's MINUS 24 Fahrenheit! (-31 Celsius)

Yep! That’s MINUS 24 Fahrenheit! (-31 Celsius)

Sunday morning dawned clear, bright, and exceedingly cold. As most of the group were planning to head back “down state – home” later in the day, there were a larger number of cars in our caravan. Instead of driving this time, though, we rode with Sault Saint Marie resident, Doris. We were so grateful to her for driving in such inhospitable weather. It definitely was the coldest I’d ever been in. Yes, it was 24 BELOW zero Fahrenheit! I had to laugh when I found out that Doris grew up in Florida just like I did. What were two southern girls doing in -24F with snow up to our derrieres? Birding! That’s what we were doing. Must be some form of “sickness.”

 

Our first stop brought us a tree full of Sharp-tailed Grouse. The snow was so deep that they weren’t dancing on their lek.

Tree Full of Sharp-Tailed Grouse

Tree Full of Sharp-Tailed Grouse

How deep was the snow? It was so deep that the cattle could have easily stepped over their fencing. They were standing on top of it as it had gotten so packed down that they weren’t sinking in. I’ve never seen anything like it. I have to say, that the snowmobilers were having fabulous weather for their races, but I don’t think any of us were properly dressed for the extremes we encountered.

 

After leaving the grouse, we headed back to an area where Boreal Chickadee had been reported. If you read my blogs about our trip to the UP this summer, you know that we had looked all over to hopefully find Boreal Chickadee and Gray Jay. For the first time on the trip, we didn’t see the bird we hoped to see. There were lots and lots of Black-capped Chickadees, but no Boreal Chickadees.

 

That was the trip. We ended up where we began – the McDonalds. We said our good-byes and went our separate ways. It was a terrific trip! We met lots of terrific people, learned a lot about the Soo, and saw fantastic birds.

 

Up Next: Not in Forty Years…

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!