Trees Are Life

Photo by Karen Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser

I am very fortunate to live on Old Mission Peninsula, an eighteen mile extension into the Grand Traverse Bay. It is a glorious environment of natural beauty. Oh yes, there is evidence of human habitation, paved roads, houses, a school and library, farms, a lighthouse, etc. There are also gravel roads, orchards, vineyards and many wild spaces. Peninsula Drive is my main route to and from my home. Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate its beauty. The tree-lined road showing off the West Bay on the left or right depending on your direction, wildflowers, hawks and eagles in the trees, squirrels, deer….a nature lovers dream. Last week about five miles into my drive home I gasp….there in front of me was a total disaster area.

Photo by Karen Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser

Trees had been torn from the soil by their roots or sawed at their base lying  on one another as if fallen soldiers. The soil shoved and pushed this way and that, debris filled the road, and the air reeked of the smell of fresh-cut wood.  The road was littered with machines of gigantic proportion looming over my Jeep pinching the lanes until they were narrowed to one.  I could hear the buzz of shredders which I later learned were taking board sized logs and reducing them into chips. As I waited for the hard hat muscle to allow me to pass I felt helpless, hopeless and profoundly amazed by the destruction. Once home I just sat at my kitchen table listening to the icy noise of the shredders.

Once I found my voice the air was blue. How could this be? What is happening? Don’t people understand what trees do for us? Why was this not discussed? Maybe it was or maybe my reaction was expected and it was easier to just do it.  What is that vulgar saying, “Do it now, apologize later”.

Photo by Karen Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser

What do trees do for the Earth and its residents? They increase property values and encourage business as a landscape of trees is preferred to empty space. Dollars speak. Hospital patients viewing trees out their windows heal faster with fewer complications. ADHD children are calmer in nature.  Trees provide shade discouraging evaporation thus cutting down on the need to water. Three mature trees properly placed in your yard will lower the temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit cutting your cooling bill by fifty percent. Trees mark the seasons, provide food, and jobs from picking fruit to preparing food. Preventing water run off that in turn causes pollution and soil erosion is of particular importance in this area.  Fertilizer run-off from orchards and vineyards cause mucky shorelines which I personally find very unpleasant. Trees provide oxygen and use carbon dioxide which helps prevent climate change. In one year one acre of mature trees will use the carbon dioxide expelled by your car after driving 26,000 miles and provide oxygen for eighteen people. They also clean the air of other toxic gases and store particles of pollution in their leaves. Trees provide homes for wildlife….part of our food web.

The ‘Tree of Life’ is every tree.

Photo by Karen Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser

“Oh come on”, they may say, “what harm will cutting five miles of tree-lined road do….end the world?”

My answer is no but here is a shocker…..the world is bigger than Old Mission Peninsula, much bigger. This is happening everywhere from clearing road sides to deforestation. As a matter of fact deforestation is referred to as ‘The Modern Day Plague’. Seven generations of my family have been and are loggers having followed the White Pine from New York to Washington State. For this family the value of trees is well known. Managing trees and forests is extremely important. Nature manages with wildfires. There is also a place for us to make decisions…I am asking people to think not only of today but long-term. It takes time and energy to think and plan. There are reasonable people willing to be part of  both sides of  this environmental discussion of living with nature, in this case trees. Communication could solve so many of the world’s concerns but there is always that chance you may learn something or not get your way.

I imagine, because no has informed me, that soon we will have a newly tarred road with a larger shoulder for bicycles.  Not sorry about that….want room for bicycles…it is a lovely ride but a little less lovely these days.  Where is the balance?

Photo by Karen Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/

https://www.treepeople.org/resources/tree-benefits

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There Really Is A Rabbit Island

 

signIs it their unassuming nature, their innocence, or sweet little nose that makes us fall in love with the rabbit. I just watched two large wild rabbits on my back hill take a luscious breakfast of newly green grasses. I am hoping they were part of the family of five that grew up in our wildflowers last summer. We watched these, then bunnies, grow fewer in number all summer. These two survived the winter eating birdseed and apples I threw out. I watched their tracks circle the house and hoped for the best. I was very glad to see them today and hope they will start families in the wildflowers this spring. If we are lucky we will see them with their mates doing the rabbit dance. The dance involves a chase, circling and the male jumping like an Olympic high jumper.

I have learned of a place….a rabbit lovers paradise. This place is Okunoshima  (大久野島) Island, Japan. It is a small island in the Sea of Japan.  Okunoshima is part of the Hiroshima Prefecture. Sadly this island has a dark past. During World War II Okunoshima was the site of a poison gas (mustard gas and tear gas) factory. The gas being manufactured was used in warfare with China. The project was top secret and one of the many horrors of WWII. In 1988 The  Okunoshima Poison Gas Museum was opened on the island to teach all who come about poison gases and their effect on the world.

Today  Okunoshima has a kinder gentler name, Usagi Jima, (うさぎ島) Rabbit Island. There are 700 feral rabbits roaming this island. How they got there no one is quite sure. The rabbits are somewhat tame and will come readily to humans. The mere rustling of a bag will bring hundreds your way. Tourists line up to be rushed by rabbits. People are encouraged to feed the rabbits and bring them water as well. Some of the soil and water on the island is toxic due to the gas production.

Usagi Jima is now part of Japan’s Inland Sea National Park system. It can only be reached only by ferry and boasts of campsites. walking trails, golf courses and hotels.  It also means there is no hunting on the island. In addition cats and dogs are not allowed to accompany their humans on this trip. With few predators these rabbits can look forward to a long happy life and if you are lucky enough to visit they will give you a great deal of joy. One of my many dreams.

Sources:

wikipedia.org/wiki/Okunoshima

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Wildlife

Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by
Chris Rieser

One of the many pleasures of spring is watching wildlife prepare for and raise their next generation. Both our bluebird houses are occupied, our raptor house is filled with squirrels, and we are hoping our bat house will soon be filled. There are various holes in the ground adjacent to our bird feeders and nests in the trees. I love watch the male ducks look after their mates and the hawks dance in the sky.

As many people I feel the need to keep all of nature safe. Big mistake, Mother Nature knows exactly what it is doing. We need to understand that all animals are as knowledgeable as we are of caring for and raising their families. Many of us, myself included, have interfered with this process bringing about unintended results. As April, May and June are  birthing months for much of our wildlife in Michigan it is important to be aware of how unnecessary we are in this process. The rule of thumb is….’Hands off.’ This is not to be cruel but rather informative as we all want to be helpful…it has taken time and willpower for me to trust the wildlife.

I was horrified when reading an article written by a local Wildlife Technician which mentioned that half of the fawns the Care Center receives are stolen from their mothers. It is not uncommon to come across a fawn in the woods or your garden at this time of year. They are curled up, motionless and make no attempt to run away. This may lead you to believe they are suffering, however all they are suffering from is stress from your presence. The fawn sees humans as predators and this is their natural reaction. The fawn’s mother more than likely left it there to keep it safe. The fawn’s coloration and lack of scent also promotes safety. If you touch the fawn you give it your scent which will not bother the doe but will make it possible for a predator to locate it.  The doe has gone off to feed and can be gone from 6-8 hours at a time. She knows her scent will attract predators. She will return several times a day to nurse her baby but will not approach if she senses danger and that is you.

If you have taken a fawn take it back to the spot you found it. If the spot presents an obvious danger place the fawn within 200 yards of the original spot. Fawns have been reunited with their mothers two to five days after they were removed. Never feed fawns as their digestive system are very sensitive and easily damaged. Skinny and wobbly is the norm. If it is too late to return the fawn or you are sure the animal has been abandoned or injured the animal must be turned over to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation worker. These individuals are trained to care for wildlife. It is illegal to remove wildlife from their habitat. In most states wildlife belongs to the state.

So how do you know if an animal is in distress. The Humane Society gives the following advice:

Signs that a wild animal needs your help

  • Presented by a cat or dog
  • Evidence of bleeding
  • An apparent or obvious broken limb
  • Featherless or nearly featherless and on the ground
  • Shivering
  • A dead parent nearby
  • Crying and wandering all day long”

Capturing and transporting the animal

Never handle an adult animal without first consulting a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you. Once you’ve contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible.

Unless you are told otherwise, here’s how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport while you’re waiting for help to arrive.

1. Put the animal in a safe container. For most songbirds, a brown paper bag is fine for transport. For larger birds or other animals, use a cardboard box or similar container. First, punch holes for air (not while the animal is in the box!) from the inside out and line the box with an old T-shirt or other soft cloth. Then put the animal in the box.
2. Put on thick gloves and cover the animal with a towel or pillowcase as you scoop him up gently and place him in the container.
3. Do not give the animal food or water. It could be the wrong food and cause him to choke, trigger serious digestive problems or cause aspiration pneumonia. Many injured animals are in shock, and force-feeding can kill them.
4. Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place—away from pets, children and all noise (including the TV and the radio)—until you can transport the animal. Keep the container away from direct sunlight, air conditioning or heat.
5. Transport the animal as soon as possible. Leave the radio off and keep talking to a minimum. Because wild animals aren’t accustomed to our voices, they can become very stressed by our noises. If they’re injured or orphaned, they’re already in a compromised condition. Keep their world dark and quiet to lower their stress level and help keep them alive.”

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/injured_orphaned_wildlife.html

 

While mushrooming we found a day old fawn.

Traveling to one of our favorite spots for morel mushrooms my husband and I almost ran over this fawn. We got out of the car to visually check it and found it to be fine. We heard the mother snort in the woods across the road. We took this picture and left immediately. When we returned, without mushrooms sadly, it was gone. This was fortunate as we were unsure of how to leave the spot without causing additional stress.

Photo by Kylie and Carrie
Photo by Kylie and Carrie

Two of my favorite young women, Kylie and Carrie found a nest full of eggs in the wreath on their apartment’s front door.  What to do? This was the most frequently used door for both human and canine, of which there are three, residents of the home. It was decided the nest would remain where it was, the door would be used a little as possible and as gently as possible.

They trusted mama bird and mama bird appeared to trust them. This fuzzy little guy has come into the world ready for worms.

Photo by Carrie and Kylie
Photo by Carrie and Kylie

Morale of the story…..’Hands Off’ and appreciate from afar.

 

Sources:

www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/injured_orphaned_wildlife.html

Traverse City Record Eagle, Hands off Bambi!, April 7, 2016, 3B

 

 

 

 

 

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Sweet Secrets

By Dave Pape (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Dave Pape (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
One of nature’s first gifts of spring, a sweet delight, maple syrup. I have thought of collecting sap and making maple syrup as a quaint little country hobby. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Producing maple syrup is big business and hard work. Eighty percent of the maple syrup used today is produced in Quebec, Canada. The Federation of Quebec Maple Sugar Producers has complete control over its production. Producing maple syrup without their oversight is illegal. In the United States maple syrup production is regulated differently.

Vermont is known for its maple syrup producing 5.5% of the syrup used globally. New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut produce maple syrup on a smaller scale.  I enjoy watching several stands of maple trees, where sap is collected, within a mile or two of my home.

Early pioneers learned  to make maple syrup from the Eastern Woodland Native Americans. How the Native Americans learned this process is the subject of many stories. One tells of a Native American chief throwing a tomahawk at a maple tree releasing the sap. His wife collected this sap and boiled venison in it. Another speaks of observing deer licking sap as it oozed from a tree. It is said that in 1791 Thomas Jefferson began a maple plantation at Monticello.  In the 1860s during the Civil War making maple sugar became big business as the sugar had a long shelf life and could be easily carried. With the invention of tin cans, metal spouts, and evaporating pans the job was a bit easier. Most of the syrup was made by dairy farmers to earn extra money during a slow time of year. The Quakers and abolitionists preferred the maple sugar to the cane sugar produced by slaves. Today maple syrup is still produced with  great vigor.

Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser

All plants are producers meaning they make the food they need to grow and survive.  This is done though a process called photosynthesis, photo meaning light and synthesis meaning to combine.  Leaf cells contain chloroplasts. The chloroplasts contain chlorophyll which gives the leaf its green color. The chlorophyll collects and changes the sun’s energy into a form that can be mixed with water and nutrients from the tree’s roots and air, carbon dioxide to be specific, resulting in glucose (sugar) and oxygen. This is nature’s genius creating a balance that is the basis of all life on Earth.

In the fall trees prepare for their dormant period by storing glucose in their root system. The end of the dormant period is signaled by below freezing nights and 40-45 degree days. The tree begins drawing water and nutrients from the soil. This draw causes pressure sending the stored glucose up the trunk to the buds. This process occurs over twelve to twenty days and is the time we collect the glucose or sap. Once the buds begin to show their small greenish leaves sap collection stops.

Collecting and making maple syrup is referred to as sugaring. The process has not changed over the years, however the tools for collection and production have changed a great deal in efforts to make this procedure more economical and less labor intensive.

There are hundreds of species and subspecies of maple trees worldwide. Thirteen of these trees are native to the United States. Of those trees three are preferred for sugaring due to their high sugar content. Commercial sap  is made from the Sugar Maples, Red Maples and Black Maples. The area supporting a group of maple trees is referred to as a sugar bush. To be tapped a tree must have an eight inch diameter. For this tree there will only be one tap. With the addition of every 20 centimeters in diameter another tap may be added. A maximum of three taps may be used without harming the tree’s growth.

Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser

In the beginning a hole was made in the tree and a container placed on the ground to collect the sap along with anything else nature wished to add. Later a spile (tap)  with a hook for a bucket, first wood then metal, was used. The buckets were also covered. A horse drawn wagon would head to the sugar bush every one or two days to collect the sap and take it to the sugar house. The sap was then placed in a holding tank. Once there was enough sap it was placed in a copper boiler heated by a wood burning fire and boiled evaporating the water (sap is 98% water) and leaving syrup or sugar behind. It takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser

Sugaring is still done with pails in addition to blue or silver plastic bags. Technology, however, has brought about many changes. Much of the equipment to collect the sap is now made of plastic. The trees are still tapped. Attached to the taps are miles of blue tubing leading to a storage tank. A vacuum pump helps pull the sap of many trees into the tank. The storage tanks are in the sugar bush or sugar house. The sap is then put into a reverse osmosis machine to withdraw some of the water. Its next stop is an evaporator where it is boiled. When the sap reaches 219 degree it is done. Once it is filtered, its density adjusted and graded for color and flavor it is ready to be bottled and sold.

Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser

 

 

It is easy to see why pure maple syrup is so expensive costing as much as $60 a gallon. As we purchase maple syrup it is important to read the label. Many of the leading pancake syrup makers in the United States use a high fructose corn syrup as the major sweetener. If it is pure maple syrup you are after you must dig deep into your pockets. In my opinion it is well worth it.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=400450
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=400450

 

 

 

 

 

ARE YOU CHECKING YOUR SYRUP? ONE READER FOUND HERS TO BE MADE OF TURBANADO SUGAR WHICH IS ANOTHER NAME FOR RAW CANE SUGAR.

By User:Miguel Andrade - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=708106
By User:Miguel Andrade – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70810

Sources:

/commons.wikimedia.org/

purecanadianmaplesyrup.com

wikipedia.org/wiki/Maple_syrup#Grades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday: I Donated Blood

By Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick) - [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=407197
By Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick) – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=407197
When studying the systems of the human body every student is amazed by, what I see, as a miracle. Just take a moment to think about it. Billions of cells alike and different working in harmony, more times than not, that create a vessel for the soul and allows life.

Today I would like to discuss one of these systems and how we can support this miracle for others known and unknown. The system I would like to discuss is the circulatory system specifically what it carries, blood.

For some just hearing the word blood will cause discomfort. Seeing blood might send some into hysterics or even cause unconsciousness. Others, however, are undisturbed. I am fortunately one who is undisturbed when viewing blood in a predictable manner… chaotic blood loss is very upsetting.

Oxygen, nutrients, antibodies, clotting factors, and waste are carried through out the body by our blood. It is carried through arteries, veins, and capillaries that make up what we call the circulatory system. Organs specifically the liver and kidneys clean our blood. The lungs give life sustaining oxygen to the blood and release useless gases as we exhale.

The average male carries about 12 pints of blood while the average female has approximately 9 pints. Generally blood makes up about 7% of our body weight.

Blood is made up of cells suspended in plasma. There are red blood cells, the largest group, white blood cells and platelets. Hemoglobin, an oxygen carrying protein in red blood cells gives blood its color. Oxygenated blood is bright red,  deoxygenated blood is a very dark red. It is  the deoxygenated blood that makes our veins appear blue.  The light reflecting from our skin along with the brain’s reading of visual input results in the blue appearance.

http://www.disabled-world.com/calculators-charts/blood-chart.php
http://www.disabled-world.com/calculators-charts/blood-chart.php

Although our blood is basically the same there is a presence or absence of a variety of antigens. Antigens signal the immune system to create antibodies, cells that attack invading cells or viruses. Hematologist, those that study blood, divide blood into eight types. When receiving blood you must get a compatible type or your body may attack the donated blood as an invader.

 

There are a variety of ways to give blood and a variety of organizations that will safely take your blood. The organization I like to work with is Michigan Blood miblood.org. This organization is extremely professional. The donor is interviewed, educated, properly attended to and treated respectfully. I am sad to say that I stopped donating for a while allowing a rude attendant from another organization discourage me. Working with Michigan Blood miblood.org has been an extremely positive experience.

Blood can be donated by drawing a single unit or by drawing parts of the blood through a process referred to as apheresis.  Through this process only plasma, red blood cells, or platelets are donated. I do what is referred to as a ‘double red’. I donate two pouches of red blood cells. The pouches are only filled half way so that preservatives among other things can be added. Red blood cells are used for trauma cases, surgery, anemia, blood disorders and blood loss patients.

wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Blood_plasma_donation_3663.JPG
wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Blood_plasma_donation_3663.JPG

Apheresis is not much different than a traditional donation but for the fact that the tube from my arm carries blood to a machine that separates the red blood cells by spinning the blood and carries them to the pouch….a draw.  After a short draw there is a return as the other components of my blood are returned. This process is repeated many times. The process takes about a half an hour. There is no pain just fascination and the mystery of who will receive my blood.

STORY WITH A HAPPY ENDING

A high school sports teammate of my son’s, a young man and his family, have made their home in a small town not far from Traverse City. It is nice to have people who knew you down state nearby. We became aware that during his wife’s delivery of their third child she experienced complications that nearly took her life. After seven pints of blood and skilled doctoring she is well. The family decided to have a blood drive to express their gratefulness and to reinforce the need for blood donation. My husband and I decided to make the trip and donate. This is where I became acquainted with Michigan Blood miblood.org.

I believe it was the tee-shirts the family wore (giving me goosebumps as I write) that had a profound effect on me thus encouraging me to begin donating again. Mom’s tee-shirt simply said, ‘Blood Saved My Life‘, Dad’s, ‘Blood Saved My Wife‘ and the boys, ‘Blood Saved My Mother.‘ There is really no more to be said.

If donating blood is something you can do….please make some time.

 

Sources:

miblood.org

wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood

 

Continue reading “Monday: I Donated Blood”

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