My Winter Mouse


Weighing only ounces they instill fear, create chaos, startle us, and can carry disease. Living in a rural area from time to time I see mice running through my wildflowers and tall grasses. Most are consumed by the snakes, foxes, birds and other carnivores that also make my wildflower field, grasses, and pine trees their home.

I am well aware of the damage mice can cause. I keep my birdseed in a garbage can with a lid, have a fat cat residing in my home, and keep the garage door shut, among other things, to keep these little creatures out of my environment.

In keeping with my life philosophy that each soul is as valuable as another I have developed a relationship

Little feet finding treats.

with a mouse living under my porch. I would see its little footprints in the snow as it made nightly trips to find food. It made me smile to see the print of its tale dragging in the middle of its paw prints. I saw it making trips night after night in the frigid cold.

I found a primitive wooden bowl and put it on my porch. I placed 3 Spanish Peanuts in it and yes the next

Chris Rieser

morning they were gone. Then a walnut and dried cherry. Each night it checks the bowl as if receiving manna from heaven.

My favorite experience with this little fellow was the day I left it dryer lint. We had just washed our plush bath towels for the first time. The lint was so soft….virgin lint so to speak. I tucked it under the doormat. It was gone the next day.

See those bright eyes far left near the rabbit statue.

I will continue this silliness until the first signs of spring then it is on its own. I am well aware feeding rodents is not a good idea but somehow this little fellow speaks to me.




Nomination for Fiona Finds Her Purpose

Dear All,

I have been nominated for the: Red Hot Local author award for my book, ‘Fiona Finds Her Purpose.’ My love of animals and wildlife conservation is presented in this work of fiction loosely based on an actual event. A black lab, zoo, and African Wild Dog pups all play a part. I would so appreciate your vote.
Go to: Then to start voting. Scroll down to People and then local author. Choose Karen Reiser (Rieser) and continue to submit.
I am so flattered by this nomination and appreciate your help. The novel is available on Kindle or Amazon.
                                                     Thank you,
                                                     Karen Rieser

Water, Light and Me…A Discussion of Lighthouses and the Life Saving Service




Department of Environmental Quality

Nature, the creator of beauty and destruction.  Her beauty exquisite, natural landscapes, flora and fauna  embellished beyond imagination. However, when it comes to her ability to destroy, no matter how hard we resist, and we try mightily, she remains undefeated. One of her most powerful weapons of destruction, water. Our seas, oceans, and lakes bring us delight yet can also cause massive life threatening disasters.  Living on the shores of Lake Michigan, I have witnessed both her beauty and destruction.

I am certainly not the first to realize water’s power…..from the very beginning humans have been challenged by and benefited from this forceful molecule.  Water combined with forces such as wind, gravity, and friction can bring it on. As human beings began to look to the water for food and transportation their need to control  its threats became an immediate concern.


At first people gathered food from the water by combing the shores or walking into the shallows. Yearning to explore deeper waters vessels were created to take them there. Once leaving shore it was very important to be able to return to the spot from which you launched. To do this the spot of departure was marked by a pile of rocks. These piles were referred to as day markers.

Enticed to ventured further return trips were likely to occur at night. Bonfires were lit on the hilltops marking the spot of return.  These fires required a great deal of wood resulting in a lot of smoke and scattered light. In order to save on wood, scarce in some areas, a metal basket or brazer was used. Poor light and a great deal of smoke were still a problem.

A smoke driven light was built in Alexandria, Egypt in 280 B.C. The Pharos lighthouse was the tallest light ever built at 450 ft comparable to a 45 story skyscraper.  A wood fire was built on a platform at the top providing light at night and a column of smoke as a marker during the day. Built with slave labor and lasting 1,500 years the Pharos light was brought down by an earthquake in the 14th century.

Over time light was needed for more than food gathering expeditions. People began to use the waters as paths to interact with others from trading goods to colonizing other lands. As humans explored farther away from home over longer periods of time nautical dangers were realized. Shallow waters, rocky reefs, shoals, and other navigational dangers were marked by light. Light also  guided ships into or out of safe harbors or identified ones location.

In the 1500’s oils replaced wood as an energy source. These oils, whale, vegetable and sea oil were placed in a lamp.  The oils created a sooty flame and rank odor.  Desiring to create the most brilliant light a variety of lamps were designed to burn oil.









The pan light could burn twelve or more hours. The bucket lamp had four wicks. There were many more designs trying to satisfy the needs of this new industry.


In the 1870’s oil was replaced by kerosene. This highly combustible liquid burned cleaner and lacked the rank odor of the oils. At first kerosene was burned in a lamp whose light could be seen from 8 to 12 miles away. Later the light was placed inside a Fresnel Lens which extended the light twenty or more miles. Looking like a beehive, this series of stacked prisms gathered the scattered light into one strong beam.

Lighthouses and their keepers served the world for many years. The Great Lakes area boasts of 129 lighthouses. Their keepers saved many lives and tons of cargo by alerting ships to danger and making daring rescues for those conquered by the waters.

Once electricity was available lighthouses were no longer of use. Buoys or small towers display lights where needed often run by car batteries. Lights on Lake Michigan are now managed by the Coast Guard.


It was observed that raising the light improved its visibility. The lights were moved into a tall structure that became known as a lighthouse.

Lighthouse design varied depending on the environment it supervised and the contractor who built it. In Michigan we can find round tower, pyramidal, skeletal, conical, square/integral, and schoolhouse designs.


A round tower of brick that may or may not be encased in steel is the earmark of the ROUND TOWER LIGHTHOUSE. South Manitou Island is an example of a large round tower light. A large steel encased round tower can be found on Big Sable Point while Manistee Pierhead light represents a small steel encased round tower. The round tower lights are usually painted each having a unique design telling the sailor exactly where he or she is.


The pyramid shaped lighthouse was one of the less popular designs. It was constructed of steel or wood and could be part of the keeper’s dwelling or stand-alone. The North Manitou, sadly washed away in a storm, and the Manistique Breakwater light are PYRANIDAL.

Designed to minimize wind resistance and provide firm support the SKELETAL LIGHTHOUSE provided only a frame on which the light sat. Of the few that were constructed the Whitefish Point and South Fox Island lights are examples of the skeletal lighthouses.


If a round tower is narrower at the top than the bottom it is considered a CONICAL LIGHT. Attached to these lights was a small building or entrance room. From there the tower was climbed. The tower may or may not be attached to the keeper’s dwelling. The Tawas Point or Point Iroquois lights are conical.


Examples of SQUARE INTEGAL LIGHTHOUSE are the Round Island in Lake Huron and Big Bay Point on Lake Superior. Here the tower is built into the keeper’s dwelling.


Peninsula Lighthouse, Old Mission Peninsula
Chris Rieser

Looking like an old fashioned schoolhouse the SCHOOLHOUSE LIGHTS were made of brick or wood. The light tower was built into the keeper’s living space. This simple design was often used on the shores of the Great Lakes and was considered cost effective.






I am a baby-boomer born and raised in suburban New Jersey. The extended family I was aware of were from New York, New Jersey and Washington State. In those days and in this family relatives were not talked about.

I moved to Michigan to attend Western Michigan University, earned my Masters Degree and never left. Oh what a voyager I thought I was….the first of my family to live in Michigan. My interest in my extended family grew and bit by bit I learned I wasn’t the voyager I thought I was. Through I met a cousin and now dear friend from my mother’s line. It was from her I learned of Captain Joe and Jerome Kiah. To the best of my knowledge Captain Joseph Sawyer is my Great-Great-Great-Great Uncle and the Superintendent of the Tenth Life – Saving District in Michigan covering Lake Huron to Lake Superior. Jerome Kiah is a distant cousin… four generations back also served in the Life-Saving Service.

Captain Joe was born in Ogdensburgh, New York in 1830.  In his youth he became a lake sailor. As a  Navy ensign during the Civil War he fought in an engagement near Johnsonville, Tennessee, on the Mississippi River. He barely escaped with his life when the vessel he was traveling in caught fire.

At the wars end Captain Joe moved to Detroit where he began a  lumbering business and married Catherine. His business failed and his family fell on hard times.  Witnessing numerous disasters on Lake Huron he was concerned with lifesaving. He invented a detachable float apparatus to be used on ships as a rescue tool. This invention was said to have merit but never came to be due to lack of funds. In 1876 Captain Joe entered the Life-Saving Service as the Superintendent of the Tenth Life-saving District.  He found this to be noble work. He worked hard earning the respect of his men and keepers. Captain Joe would say,”It will be the banner Service in this country yet.” He was right as the Life-Saving Service was the precursor of the United States Coast Guard. Sadly, Captain Joe met his death at the age of 44 on Lake Huron.

As superintendent each quarter Captain Joe would travel from station to station to check the condition of the station, pay the crew, deliver mail and other goods. At 7:30 a.m. on October 20th, 1880 Captain Joe, Keeper Feaben and Surfman Joseph Valentine boarded the two masted supply boat and headed for Rogers City about sixteen miles away. Within a mile and a half of their destination the vessel was struck by a squall. This causes the vessel to list, take on water and sink.  Once the boat settled on the bottom her mast reappeared as the water was shallow. The men swam for the mast.  From the water they could see a sawmill filled with workers. The men yelled and waved their shirts for help, the wind taking their voices out to the lake. No one heard. They decided to swim. Keeper Feaben and Surfman Valentine each tried only to return after a few feet due to the frigid water. Captain Joe then made his attempt only to turn around. He was within fifty feet of the ship when he went under never to be seen again. A little while later Keeper Feaben was washed away by the waters. His body was found twenty-three days later washed up on a beach near Rogers City. Surfamn Valentine was eventually seen and rescued. It is said that five dollar bills washed up on the beach for years.

Captain Jerome G. Kiah – distant cousin Jett

Captain Joe’s nephew and my distant cousin, Captain Jerome Kiah was the keeper of the Point Aux Barques Life-Saving Station and the sole survivor of an 1880 disaster.  On April 23, 1880 the J.H. Magruder  was in distress having washed up onto a reef. Captain Kiah and six experienced surfmen oared their way toward the vessel.  The waves were heavier than expected. A wave hit the boat filling her with water. They tried to bail but it was useless. A second wave capsized the boat. The boat was righted several times only to be hit again and capsize. One by one all six surfmen drowned due to  hypothermia. Captain Kiah climbed on top of the boat and lost consciousness from time to time. When conscious he banged his feet and hands and screamed to keep his blood moving. A local farmer heard the screams and went for help. Finding the Life-Saving Station without men or boat he ran a eighth of a mile to get Andrew Shaw the lighthouse keeper. By the time they reached the beach Captain Kiah had made it to shore and was holding onto a root of a dead tree swaying and moving his feet as if walking. His face was black and swollen with froth frozen around his mouth and nose. They walked a mile back to the station with Captain Kiah sandwiched between them. Captain Kiah fell several times and experienced seizures. Left in his wife’s Annette’s care he slowly recovered.

Later that day the lifeless bodies of the surfmen washed ashore. The stranded ship Magruder released her load of lumber and was able to extract herself from the reef and sail to Sand Beach without loss of life.

On June 30, 1880 Captain Kiah resigned feeling mentally and physically traumatized by the event. In October having recovered he accepted the position of Superintendent of the 10th District, after Captain Joe’s death. He was awarded the Gold Life-Saving Medal of the First Class by the Secretary of the Treasury. He retired in 1915.

My family’s history in Michigan seems to have been tragic. I am, however, very proud of their life choices, work ethic, and strength. I rejoice in the fact that they loved the lakes I love so dearly and the state I have chosen to make my home.



  3. Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1881.,  Washington:Government Printing Office, 1881, pages 59-64.
  4. The Lakeshore Guardian, Point Aux Barques Life-Saving Station Keeper Sole Survivor in 1880 Disaster, Janis Stein, March 2009, pages 1-5.
  5. U.S. Coast Guard, Tales From the Keeper’s Log: Life and Life-Saving at a Life-Saving Station, Debbie Allyn Jett, 2008.



Fabulous Fall

Photo: Karen Rieser

There is no line to cross as we pass from one season to another yet somehow we all seem to know when a new season arrives. For me fall has arrived. How can I tell??????  Well, the sunlight seems richer and calmer than the summer sun.  The air carries a fresh-baked smell and there is a quiet I hear at no other time of year. For me fall is peaceful and rewarding.

Nature expresses the end of the growing season in a variety of ways. Flowers such as goldenrod, Chinese lanterns, chrysanthemums, and bluebird smooth asters appear in our wildflower garden. Surrounded by the aging bloomless flowers of the spring and summer, they are the last chance for bees and butterflies to find nectar.

Photo: Karen Rieser

Apples are visible in the orchard across the field as well as gracing the farm stands with their beauty and sweet fragrances. This marvelous fruit is part of the Rose family which also boasts of apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears, raspberries, and almonds.Originating in Eastern Europe and Asia

Photo: Karen Rieser

apples are consumed all over the globe. The 7,000 varieties of apples available today provide important health benefits.  It is said apples help regulate blood sugar, prevent heart disease by regulating fat levels in the blood, have better anti-cancer benefits than other fruits and that eating an apple will leave you highly satisfied.  “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”


Photo: Karen Rieser

The vineyard next to the orchard is also showing the fruits of its labor. Glamorous clusters  of red, purple and green grapes hang from their vines. It is not only me that sees their beauty but hungry birds looking for a healthy meal.  Some farmers shoot off poppers while others spend hours netting their

Photo: Karen Rieser

vines. In early fall the vineyard take on a ghostly appearance.  Here the grapes are made into wine. Down state wine and grape juice is made.


Two Lads Winery, Old Mission Peninsula, September 29, 2017 12:12











Photo: Karen Rieser

The wooly bear, wooly worm or hedgehog caterpillar (it rolls up in a ball and plays dead when touched as does the hedgehog)  leaves its grass in the fall to find a dark sheltered spot in which to hibernate for the winter. They are spotted on the sides of houses, headed for the garage or on driveways and sidewalks. My grandson used to bring them inside for a toy train ride when he was young.

This engaging caterpillar is composed of thirteen segments of rust and brown bristles. It is said by looking at them one can predict the conditions of our next winter.  If there is more to the brown section the winter will be mild.  A severe winter is predicted if the black sections are larger.

So what becomes of this caterpillar in the spring? It leaves its shelter, eats, pupates, and becomes an Isabella Tiger Moth. I have not seen this moth but will be on the look out next spring.


Photo: Karen Rieser

The color tour, a sure sign of fall. The pines or conifers are shedding a few brown needles.  The deciduous trees begin to store sugar in their roots for next spring’s leaves. Once this is done the leaf’s shaft seals and chlorophyll is no longer produced. Once the green of the chlorophyll is absent we see the colors that have been hidden in the leaf all along. Brilliant reds, flashy oranges, and creamy yellows are abundant. People travel by the bus loads to witness this natural beauty.





Photo: Karen Rieser

Preparing for their return south birds and butterflies are flocking. The monarch butterfly will fly thousands of miles to winter in El Rosario, Mexico. Some birds will travel a short distances from a high elevation to a lower elevation. Others may move from one state to another. High flyers  travel from continent to continent. What tells the birds to flock? It is thought that the change in the daylight, lower temperatures, food supply shortage and genetic predisposition all play a part.


Photo: Chris Rieser

Chipmunks, squirrels and mice are  also busily working on winter arrangements.  Unfortunately, our car has been the desired spot for both a mouse and chipmunk.  Tearing the hood insulation and tucking it into the engine seems to be the design of choice. Nests have been destroyed and the car moved into the garage. My Jeep is now outside….I dare you!

Photo: Chris Rieser

This classy chipmunk has chosen a log cabin display in a public park as its winter lodging. The squirrel to the right is taking over a bird house. My back hill is full of holes as close to the bird feeder as possible. I will see mouse trails in the snow from the pine trees to the bird feeder. These guys are cute but, OH THE DAMAGE THEY CAN CAUSE.


The star of the season is the pumpkin. Farm stands display  acres of pumpkins. Stores bring them in by the ton.  As time goes on homes, stores, schools, zoos, etc. are all displaying this lovely fruit. Gourd, squash, pumpkin all name this fruit originating in the ancient Americas. It did not look like the pumpkin of today as it had a crooked neck. The pumpkin stores well and was roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried. Its blossoms went into stews and its seeds roasted. Pumpkins strips were also dried and woven into mats. The hollowed rind was dried and served as a bowl.

The pilgrims enjoyed the pumpkin as food and drink by making pumpkin beer. The western Europeans used the pumpkin as a lantern. At home they has used turnips and beets to carry a lump of burning coal to ward off the evil spirits of fall.

Pumpkins are still popular today for both food and decoration. I love to paint pumpkins. This year I made a portrait of a friend’s

Read In Peace Pumpkin
Photo: Karen Rieser

dog, R2D2 for my grandson, a comical cow for my grandson’s teacher, R.I.P. Read in Peace  and Pete The Cat (the theme at the library this fall) for the library and a crow and butterfly for me. Carving pumpkins is great fun for young and old. I think my favorite use of a pumpkin was at a Big Cat Rescue. Local stores donated left over pumpkins to the sanctuary. The pumpkins were stuffed with meat and given to the cats to toss and play with until they eventually retrieved the meat.

Pies, soup, pancakes, cakes, bread, cookies, stew, stuffed blossoms and seeds are still consumed. I made pumpkin pancakes each fall for my students. Besides blowing all the circuits in that old place the children held tightly to the recipe.





We could go on forever as we enter fall. The rustling of the leaves, great piles of said leaves to jump in, the sweet smell of the mornings cool air, forgetting to take home a jacket at the end of the day as the afternoon is bright and warm, hearing the wind whistle or the sounds of children playing outside. Enjoy these last days, the days before we too huncker down for the winter. Nature will never disappoint.









Nature’s Spirit

Lately, I have been experiencing a dry spell. What to write? What to write? What to write?  For me, our present political scene is depressing, thus making it hard to feel positive about much in life.

I was so excited when we returned from our vacation to the east coast. My grandson met relatives for the first time. He visited the sites of his mother’s childhood. We explored Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and New York City with all its complications was enjoyed. Along the way we interacted with a great variety of people. I felt…….real life isn’t as damaged as I thought. Then Charlottesville, VA. My heart sank. What now?  I have decided for me to maintain a healthy physical and mentally balanced life I must turn back to the spirit of nature. I must observe, listen, respect, experience, and rejoice in it.

I am presently half way through the book: God Is Red by Vine Deloria Jr.  The writing is thirty years old but is speaking to me about the philosophy of life I have come to develop over my sixty-seven years. The basic premise is that we are but a small part of nature.  All life is not dependent on us. We are not life’s focal point. We must submerge ourselves in nature and react to the world in the here and now.   Somehow this gives me strength….

We must observe:

  1. You have seen this image in a previous blog. It is the crocus growing in the yard of a friend in Japan after the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The strength of this disaster could not discourage or bully this lovely blossom.




2.  Despite the Road Commission’s attempt to mow down the  life in my yard the milkweed recovered quickly. I found three monarch butterfly eggs. They are presently in their chrysalises soon to emerge ready for their trip to Mexico. I am not the only one making such an effort.  There are thousands of people, some working with the University of Kansas program Monarch Watch, and others on their own, protecting these little predictors of the future.



3.  A cactus, given to me 30 years ago by a struggling student, finally blooms. What a beautiful surprise. I hope this means that she too is blooming wherever she may be.





4.  Animals still feel there is a reason to reproduce, nourish, and protect their young.







Life is not dependent on us to flourish, however, we are capable of destroying it on a large scale.


We must listen:

The bees have been talking: Colony Collapse Disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when the worker bees disappear from the hive. They have left plenty of food for the queen and a few nurse bees for the surviving larva. In 2006  North America experienced a drastic number of disappearances of the western honey bee. Western Europe along with other spots on the globe also experienced this but to a lesser degree. Bees pollinate one-third of our food. If they lose we lose. We are listening and some improvements are being made. There is still a ways to go.


2.  The Karner Blue butterfly is talking and we may have missed its message. This lovely creature’s entire life cycle is  dependent on the blue lupine plant.  The blue lupine grows in sandy soil in maple and aspen barrens. Fire is the blue lupine’s friend as it controls the growth of shrubs allowing the maples and aspens to grow and give the plant shade. Human invasion of the lupine’s territory, death due to pesticides, and human control of fire has dwindled the blue lupine population to almost nothing showing a 99% drop in the butterfly population. The loss of any strand in the food chain weakens the whole.


3. The  Western Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna is talking.  Presently, marine fish account for 15% of the protein in our diet. It is projected that the consumption may grow to 35% of our diet in the near future.  Sushi lovers can not get enough of the blue fin tuna. At this point in time over harvesting has endangered this fish.  In Maine I witnessed the tuna fishermen bringing in their catches….numbers being carefully monitored.  What is the rest of the world doing? During my visit to Japan I came to realize this tuna is worshiped.


4. The monarch butterfly is talking. In or around 1996 I began teaching fourth grade. I wanted to create a team-like atmosphere for my students so we became the “Mighty Monarchs”.  The first days of the school year were spent studying this magnificent creature and its journey south. We tagged butterflies and supported schools in El Rosario, Mexico. It was hoped they would stop logging and begin a tourist industry celebrating the Monarchs that over wintered there.  A week or so before school I would collect caterpillars by the dozens.  As the years passed I found fewer and fewer caterpillars until I found none. I ordered caterpillars through the mail….IMAGINE THAT….. This seemed so artificial to me and many of the little caterpillars did not make it to the butterfly stage.  The last five years of my teaching we became the “Super Stars” studying the heavens.

Human invasion, cutting down or killing the milkweed, pesticides and logging are all contributing to the decline of the Monarch butterfly. More and more people are being educated about the needs of this butterfly and are interacting with it. This year I have raised four. That is twice as many as last year.


We must respect:

It is my opinion that humans have disrespected nature for thousands of years and we have and are suffering for it. We can think about over crowding and poor sanitation that brought the plagues.  The earliest recorded bubonic plague, also known as black death, was the Plague of Justinian in AD 541.

The industrial revolution completely ignored the needs of the Earth dumping waste in rivers, lakes, oceans and the air. When the Cuyahoga River caught fire people began to take notice.  We have had years of regulations, some followed and some not, some kept, some lost. There have been great improvements, however we still suffer.

For me, global warming is very real.  I acknowledge the fact, it is hard for many to understand. There are also many who do understand and are afraid to acknowledge it.  I get it, it is scary. So what can we do….I feel like a mouse swimming in the ocean.

  1. Reduce  Reuse  Recycle
  2. Do not change the landscape to suit human purposes….New Orleans paid dearly for that.
  3. Reduce your waste. Our recycling bin is filled weekly. Our trash bin is rarely half full monthly.
  4. Purchase items with recycling in mind….I buy glass rather than plastic.
  5. Plant native plants and flowers.
  6. Allow animals native to your area to share your space. Yes, coyotes, wolves, cougars, etc. Learn how to live with them….our mistake is thinking it is all about us.
  7. Teach the children about the balance of nature.
  8. Continue to educate yourself concerning the Earth’s needs.

They Set Up A Camera In The Forest And Captured The Most Incredible Scene Ever

Experiencing nature is a gift:

Photo by Carrie and Kylie
Woman’s best friend
Photo by Karen Rieser





Their are also times we must experience nature’s wrath to protect life. It is amazing how many people will answer this call!

Rejoice in nature.

Rejoicing in nature is simple.  Nature is found outside your window, in the cracks of your patio,  in your yard,  on beaches, in boats, in city, state and federal parks, etc. etc. One can sit, hike, swim, sail…

For me…I love opening the window in the bedroom all year long to smell the night air. My husband….not so much. I like to sit on the porch when it is raining. I like to walk in the rain. I love the snow by a fire. It is endless. There is so much to enjoy by just thinking to use your senses.

There are more formal ways to rejoice in nature.  The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy takes you into the forest and teaches you how to look at it using all of your senses. You are immersing and cleansing yourself with nature. This is not a hike or a swim rather it is an experience. It is referred to as ‘forest bathing’ and is proven to be beneficial to both mind and body.

I close with a smile on my face and a purpose. Reach out to nature…whatever that means to you….and find peace of mind.

Once again I find a place for Chief Seattle’s quote:

  1. Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.





Mowed Down

I work so hard to provide an environment that supports the miracles of nature  and then bam it is butchered. My entire yard – front, side and back hill has been seeded with Michigan wild flowers and grasses. We have also planted bushes to attract butterflies as they migrate.  An expensive water system has been installed to nourish them. It is not only a joy for my family but the neighborhood. Several families have put wildflower patches in their yard.

Yesterday the county felt it was necessary to mow a six-foot path across the front of my yard to improve the line of sight for drivers. It was not only my yard but the entire neighborhood. I live in what I would call a closed neighborhood…..only one way in or out. The roads are used by homeowners and their occasional guests. I have exactly four drivers that pass my house on the way to their homes and don’t hold your breath waiting to see them drive by. I have never known there to have been an accident on the neighborhood roads unless ice was involved and at that time of year we are lucky to get the roads plowed let alone an extra six-foot line of sight at the side of the road. There was no notice that this was going to happen….the most common method of the government achieving what it wants and what it knows its constituents may not be pleased with. A neighbor, having lived in the area for eighteen years  never remembers this service being given to the neighborhood. He actually mows a twelve-inch path next to the roads with his riding mower avoiding our yard as he respects our culture.

So what is the big deal?  The big deal is that I have a strong spiritual belief and connection to the natural world. It is my belief that I am to be a steward of nature.  A  book I read from time to time and have out again after this experience is, “The Green Bible”.  This Bible highlights in green all the teaching about protecting, respecting and enjoying nature.

I have been mocked for my beliefs as all believers in this world have. For me, most people find me ridiculous. So be it. My favorite saying is, ” What other people think of you is none of your business.” Just love it.

So what really happened yesterday?  My milkweed was mowed down.  Milkweed the life blood of the monarch butterfly. The bees that love to pollinate my flowers were killed. Oh the buzzing as you walk down the driveway is wonderful. These same bees pollinate the apples and grapes next door. Homes have been lost for wildlife. Some of the animals I have observed living among or walking through the wildflowers are bees, butterflies, snakes, chipmunks, rabbits, song birds, deer, crows and ducks.  I am sure there are more that are clever enough to remain unseen. For me these lives are important and in many ways support my life….remember the food web from elementary school?

I would like people to take and minute and think.  Is the action you want to take necessary, a high priority for safety, or disrespectful? Rather than spending time, money and employees on mowing down ecosystems could the potholes in the roads in town be filled so that our citizens are not unnecessarily supporting body shops? Could lumpy roads be repaired? Could money be spent on low-income housing so our city workers can afford to live here? This list could go on and on.

It is my hope this area will fill in again and become what it was. The yard is just beginning to bloom and amaze. The unexpected mowing has made me very very sad and a bit defeated. As the flowers I will rally.

A few quotes from my favorite environmentalist, Chief Seattle:

  1. Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.
  2. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children

All I ask is that people take time to think, then think again and again. We live in an area of supreme natural beauty….the Great Lakes – we are the fortunate.





Spring Thoughts

I am always a bit overwhelmed by the advent of spring.  The three or four winter months with their cold, snow, and darkness is pleasant enough at first, snuggling with the fire and seasonal decorations, but does eventually gets long and somewhat depressing. Then the calendar promises spring. Sadly, I expect it any day weeks before it arrives then one day, the light is a little different suggesting good things to come. As I observe this unwinding to spring I see so many things in the nature of people and mother nature that gives me a sense of hope. Here are a few of my thoughts and observations.

Hearing the first sounds of song birds makes me smile. The sun is on its way as the songs of winter birds are mingling with those arriving or passing through.  The extended hours of day light brings on an inner stirring – let’s move – let’s sing – let’s find new things to eat.

Several weeks ago I was awed by twenty cedar waxwings resting in the river oak growing outside my living room window creating quiet a portrait. This elegant bird just was passing through.

I am waiting for the humming birds and orioles….feeders displayed.


A true sign of spring is putting out the birdbaths. I have created elegant mosaics in their basins, placed pennies made prior to 1983(still have copper to slow down the algae) and placed them in just the right spots. Birds announce the baths arrival as the less than shy chickadee waits for the first drink on the limb above my head. But ouch, the next morning the basin is on the ground. Who does this. My trail camera lets me know.

While establishing his territory a male robin mistook his reflection as a challenger. For days he charged this false foe. I laughed as his footprints showing all his toes are well displayed on the window. He must have found a mate as he has not been seen for a few days.

It is my observation that the male duck is a first-rate caregiver. I am observing pairs flying over head or waddling through the open fields. Landing in a large puddle in my yard the male watches the female swim then waddle over to eat the corn left for the deer. Only when she is done and preening beneath the pine trees

will he eat.  The couple explored my back hill checking out nooks and crannies for a nest. I believe our yard was rejected as I haven’t seen them for a couple of days and the puddle is now dry.

Ahh, but down state the great-great-great- grand-daughter of a duck I cared for was back nesting in the court-yard of the school in which I taught.  For years I made sure these ducklings and their mother found their way out of the courtyard. Upon retiring I found a willing volunteer to keep an eye out for them. Being a bit ahead of us weather wise the ducklings have hatched and made their parade out the building to a site unknown to us to this very day.


As I rounded the house to take the recycling out, there she was under the pine tree,  a large female rabbit collecting pine needles for her nest. I walked quietly not looking at her and she stayed. Returning to fill the bird bath I spotted her behind the sumac. I dumped some corn near the bird bath which she went to as soon as I turned by back. I left her alone but suspect she is building a nest nearby and we may be enjoying some bunnies in the near future.

The bee boxes are in the orchards ready for business. This is a sure sign the peninsula will be in full blossom very soon. The blossom sheer beauty and the promise of a future harvest is invigorating.  Farmers are  busy tending their trees, vineyards and fields, such noble work. The farm stands are sporting fresh maple syrup, marvelous eggs, leaving a spot for the soon to arrive asparagus. Mushroom hunters are out searching for the rare morel mushroom that makes its appearance with the forsythia disappearing with the lilacs. Today I observed a jogger stopped by a tree sorting through the grass hoping to find this mushroom treasure.


The first flowers of the season are appearing – dandelions, crocus, daffodils, tulips, forsythia, and hyacinths. The trees are leafing out, the willows first. All is good.

People too seem to renew their spirit with the coming of spring. We venture out of out homes and renew relationships with  our neighbors.  We notice our community and the life it holds. Sometimes, for a brief moment, we enter the lives of strangers renewing a sense of worth for all involved.

With the first signs of spring coming into view a friend and her husband drove to a doctor’s appointment. As they did they spotted a homeless man walking on the roadside.  Sadly, something we all have come notice without much thought.  On their return they saw the same man sitting on the side of the road rubbing his bare feet.  Stopping their car her husband asked the man’s shoe size….sadly he had larger feet than the driver. The driver however took off his socks and told the gentleman something was better than nothing. This small but tremendous act of kindness left both parties feeling needed and cared for.

A second friend had brought her dog to a canine eye specialist miles away from her home.  As she waited she observed a heavy set tattooed man bring in his small dog. He asked for towels as the dog was bleeding badly. The vet took the dog for examination not allowing the gentleman to observe. Do whatever you have too he said through his tears. The poor gentleman continued to weep. After multiple tests and blood work the diagnosis, an infected uterus. The dog would need to be spayed and hopefully the infection was contained or more surgery would need to be done. They brought out an estimated bill, $800. The gentleman became so distraught he was moved to another room where he made calls to his wife and mother. My friend asked to speak with him. She told him she was aware of his dog’s situation and she was an avid supporter of dog charities. She would like to pay the dog’s bill. He explained he had been referred to a voluntary vet clinic and would need less money but still had today’s costs. Between his wife, mother and his next pay check he felt he had enough to pay for spaying. Could they set up a payment plan so he could pay her back maybe through the vet?  She told the  gentleman you don’t need to know who I am and I don’t need to know you… is the dog that needs care.  She paid his days bill along with her own. The vet called my friend several days  later reporting that the pup was now healthy and at home.  Again…..people rejoicing in life.

Oh yes, a definite sign of spring… from small to tall.  I love it when my students start bringing their mitts to school. These well massaged hopes of great catches, the brightness in their eyes and smiles of a thought of a home run or maybe a grand slam.  Fathers and mothers:  “That’s my boy.” or ” Good eye.”  Grandparents cheering on… the most faithful of fans.


Yes, spring is a time to rejoice in life in a variety of ways….think about your spring….it will bring a smile to your face. I better get this published as in a few days it will be summer….the time we see the fruits of spring.


Behind The Scenes Fiona Finds Her Purpose

Fiona Finds Her Purpose is written for readers age ten to one-hundred- ten. It discusses several issues I am very passionate about: animal rescue, protecting endangered animals with hopes of returning them back to their natural environment, and protecting habitat for the life that is shared there.

Fiona Finds Her Purpose is very loosely based on a real event. I had no personal experience with this event but was fascinated by the idea. In writing Fiona Finds Her Purpose I combined experiences I have had over a life time. I learned of the unconventional feeding program described in the book when visiting a wild cat rescue. Fiona is actually a dog rescued by a friend still showing evidence of having been a mother. The description of the zoo is a bit of all the zoos I have visited over a life time. I learned of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Species Survival Plans when taking a class to be a docent at a nearby zoo. I researched African wild dogs and brought a lifetime of observations of domestic canine behavior to the story. My imagination was in full swing…..this is a true work of fiction.


To see African wild dogs in the wild check out: Spy In The Wild – A Nature Miniseries….Love part 1…..Season 1   Episode 1     PBS   Google It and enjoy.


Living Along Side The Coyote

Just days ago an alert came over our neighborhood website advising people to accompany their pets when outside as the coyotes are looking for a warm meal.  Fortunately, in the original text and subsequent replies, that was all I read. Thankfully, there was no mention of killing this creation of nature for the drives acquired through biology that are interwoven with a healthy ecosystem. It took eleven days and the first post of killing has just appeared.

There are many thoughts as to how life has evolved on Earth, we all have our personal beliefs. I, after years of thought and study, have decided not to question the origin of life but value it. I feel very strongly that the creator, whomever or whatever it is, would not create a life it did not value. I have therefore decided that I will live my life respecting all living and non-living components of the Earth. Please note I said respecting….not liking. I do wonder about the mosquito or snakes but it is not up to me to make a value judgement.

After making this decision life has been easier and harder to live. It was  hard when I saw a neighbor down state had hanged a coyote in the tree in front of his  suburban home….proud of his kill. I called the DNR and was told it was not against the law. Sometime later as I walked along a city path I found the milkweed I had been watching and checking for caterpillars hacked to the ground. I called the Parks Department, they listened as I explained the  value of milkweed. The head of  the maintenance  department sent his workers out with pictures of milkweed so it would not be mowed down again. Being informed, in my opinion, is very important when sharing space with other living creatures ourselves included. I have never really thought about coyotes or do I know much about them.  It is time to get to know my neighbor.

Are there coyotes living along side me. Yes! I have never seen one but suspect I have heard one, seen their tracks, and realized it was coyotes that feasted on and finally removed the deer carcass resting in my neighbors yard. I am fascinated by their ability to allude me.

So what is a coyote? Simply put a coyote is a non-domesticated dog. Prairie wolf, brush wolf, cased wolf, little wolf and American jackal are a few names assigned to this animal.  Although closely related to the wolf the coyote is smaller, has larger ears, a coat of red, white, grey, and brown and behaves more like a fox than a wolf. Their weight is anywhere from 18-44 lbs with a nose to tail length between 3ft 3ins and 4 ft 5 ins,  the tail measuring 16 inches.

The coyote’s range extends from Alaska east to New England and as far south as Panama. Their territory, marked with urine, extends between 10 and 12 square miles. Historically the coyote’s habitat has been deserts, mountains and open plains, however the modern coyote has also adapted its breeding habits, diet, and social life to inhabit urban and suburban areas. This ability to adapt along with its biological traits and social structure are the prime reasons for the coyote’s success.

Physically the coyote is a survival machine.  They can run forty miles an hour,  jump 8 foot fences and are good swimmers. Their ears are large, very sensitive and serve a dual purpose.  The coyote’s acute auditory abilities allow it to locate the smallest of prey and avoid danger. The movement and position of the ears identifies its rank.  As with all members  of the dog family the coyote has a highly developed sense of smell.  This allows the animal to locate prey, carrion, danger and the markers left by other coyotes. Digitigrade or walking on its toes allows the coyote to be swift and silent. By nature the coyote is very sensitive and rarely seen.

The social structure of the coyote varies. They may live alone, in pairs or in a pack. Hunting will be done day or night alone or in a pack. Pack hunting is required when trying to bring down a large animal such as a deer. Tracking large animals and striking when the prey is exhausted is their usual MO.  Being opportunistic predators they will eat what is in an area. This would include: meat and fish fresh or spoiled, mice, rats, rabbits, ground squirrels, insects and fruits such as melons, and berries. Urban and suburban coyotes will eat garbage and dog food. Coyotes have been observed killing sheep and poultry, giving them a bad reputation, but are more attracted to the foods listed above.  Like dogs, the coyote will cache excess food.

Water or liquid nourishment is predominately derived from the foods the coyote eats. They have however been known to dig holes to find water, find standing water or in urban or suburban areas drink from pools, ponds and dog dishes.

One of my favorite experiences occurred in Jackson Hole, Wyoming as I attended my brother-in-laws wedding. The ceremony was held at a private home surrounded by grassland and mountains, truly a site to behold. As I waited I noticed a coyote off in the distance ‘mousing’ or leaping in the air and diving nose first into the grass. It was a true ballet for the observer….not  so much for the mouse. The coyote did not seem interested in us as it trotted off with its meal not to be seen again.

Vocalizations are one of the traits coyotes are best known for. The howl is informing other coyotes that I am here and this is my territory….females welcome. The howl does not appear to communicate aggression. In a small group with pups the yelp can be either a sign of criticism or celebration…I guess you have to be there. A coyote protecting a den or kill will bark. When a coyote wants to call its pups without making noise it will huff. An aggressive coyote will bark, lower its head, extend and bristle its tale and show its teeth. Another coyote is more likely to see this behavior than you are.

Mating season for the coyote is January with pups appearing in April or May. Born blind the pups stay with the female in a den she prepared months earlier. The pups will nurse for five or six weeks and eat solid food the male brings in three weeks. By ten weeks the pups will emerge from the den to go on family hunts. Coyotes can mate with wolves (Coy-wolf) and dogs (Coy-dog). It is my understanding that there is a Netflix program concerning the coy-wolf: Nature:Meet the Coy-wolf 2014.  I need to watch this.

Over time coyotes have been considered a nuisance, a mistaken human value judgement in my opinion. The attempts to exterminate them have resulted in an animal alert and wary. Most of the time coyotes want to avoid humans. These animals become dangerous when they associate food with humans. So, what do we do if we see a coyote too close for comfort?

“If people feed coyotes or if there is a food source associated with humans the coyotes will become less fearful of people and more attacks will occur.  So in order to reduce or eliminate attacks it is VERY important that we condition the coyotes to fear people.  People can help condition coyotes by doing the following:

  1. NEVER feed coyotes
  2. Remove coyote food sources such as trash, fruit and pet food from the environment.
  3. Keeping small pets inside from dusk to dawn or in safe enclosures
  4. Never leave young children unattended in yards or parks.
  5. Harass coyotes with loud noises, clapping hands, yelling, throwing rocks at them and waving our arms to create fear
  6. Call the local department of Fish and Game or local law enforcement agency if coyotes attack humans, become too aggressive by approaching humans and by showing lack of fear of humans or if they attack small pets.”

How do we protect our pets?

“A: There are a number of things you can do to prevent your small pet (cat or dog) from being attacked by a coyote.

  1. Keep small pets (cats, small dogs and other pets) indoors from dusk until dawn.   Or keep pets in a coyote-proof yard, area or cage from dusk until dawn.
  2. Install a fence or convert your fence to prevent coyotes from entering your yard.
  3. Feed your pets indoors.  Or if you feed them outdoors do so during the day and never leave pet food out at night.
  4. Make sure trash is not left outside in bags and that all trash cans have secure lids with locking mechanisms.  Secure the cans to a fence or wall with rope or elastic cord so the trash cannot be tipped over.
  5. Install motion sensitive lights in your back yard and around your house.
  6. Don’t leave fruit, berries or compost on the ground or uncovered.
  7. Don’t overflow bird feeders. Hang them high or in areas that are not accessible to coyotes.
  8. NEVER feed coyotes.
  9. You can install one or more 7 foot or higher posts with a platform at the top for cats to use as an escape from coyotes.  The posts need to be made of a material that the cats can climb.  When being chased by a predator a cat can climb the post and sit on the platform until it is safe to descend and the coyote is gone.
  10. Clear brush and vegetation to remove habitat for small animals that may attract coyotes and to remove areas where coyotes can hide while stalking their prey.
  11. Always keep pets on a leash when walking in parks, forest areas or in residential areas. “


I do believe with this knowledge I can live along side the coyote. The vast majority of the advice will serve to keep all unwanted guests away including humans who are after your lawn furniture! The vast majority of time killing wildlife is unnecessary. Coyotes don’t think about us (I feel many humans  erroneously feel they are focal point of many animals) they want to avoid us at all costs….we are unpleasant.  I am concerned that misinformation and or lack of knowledge can create an hysteria or panic (I may be witnessing that at the present time).  Please don’t waste hours of you life in fear be proactive. Refer to some of the advice given above and both you and the coyote will be happy.  My favorite: motion lights and of course, no food or open compost. We must be wise: we are part of the environment, the environment was not created for us to alter.





The Dandelion Friend or Foe

As I wait for the first flowers of spring I think of the dandelion.  Researching this herbaceous perennial has challenged my thinking. This curious plant is known to some as a wildflower and to others as a weed or herb. The dandelion shares the genus Taraxacum with a great many others. The Taraxacum officinale commonly known as the dandelion is the subject of my discussion. Its name, dandelion is French for lion’s tooth.  I had always been confused by this as nothing about this plant seemed to resemble a lion’s tooth. I have come to learn that it is the jagged leaf that gives it its name.


Having evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia the dandelion has been used overtime as food and medicine. It was brought to North America from Europe as a garden flower but now grows as a wildflower. The flower’s head consists of many small individual flowers or florets and has a diameter of two to five centimeters. From bright yellow to hues of orange the dandelion flowers open in the day and close at night. I have had students bring me lovely dandelion bouquets only to find them on my desk a withered mess the next morning….always disappointing.

Reproducing asexually a dandelion does not require pollination.  As the flower matures it becomes a seed ball often called a blowball or clock. Seeds attached to fine hairs encompass this spongy ball and float off with the wind.

The dandelion’s flower head sits on top of a hollow stem that oozes a milky latex  substance when picked. This latex is being investigated in Germany as a rubber substitute. The stem emerges from a tap-root which firmly anchors the plant in the ground. There is nothing more satisfying than getting the entire tap-root when weeding.

Dandelions reproduce quickly. In the temperate climates of north America we see them most everywhere there is sun. They consume athletic fields, orchards, golf courses, lawns and squeeze through the cracks in sidewalks. There is no stopping them.  Quite an industry has developed to help us get rid of the dandelion. We pull them, poison them and curse them.

So, how do we think of the dandelion….friend or foe? As with most things in the world sides can not be easily chosen or are pure. I maintain we have to look to the use of the dandelion as medicine, food and  garden plants with caution.

As an observer of nature I see the first dandelions of the spring as very much a friend. They nobly provide nectar for bees, butterflies and moths before other blossoms appear.  Providing the first meals for these pollinators is extremely important for the success of other flora in the area. One of my favorite memories is walking through the side yard of our rented house after the bees were delivered to the orchard. The entire yard buzzed until the apple blossoms emerged. I was amazed by nature’s plan. I have therefore decided the first dandelions may stay.

For the gardener the dandelion is both friend and foe. Its tap-root brings nutrients to shallow rooted plants adding minerals and nitrogen to the soil. They also attract pollinators promoting pollination for all blossoms in the garden yielding fruit, vegetables, and flowering plants. Dandelions emit a gas, ethylene, that helps ripen fruit. Not all fruits benefit from ethylene gas. Apples and pears require it to ripen as cherries and blueberries do not. As rapid reproducers the dandelion crowds a garden taking space needed for other plant varieties.  The gardener must protect themselves from too much of a good thing.

As a food dandelions are mostly a friend. As with all foods balance must be maintained. Too much of a good thing may have negative results. The entire dandelion plant is edible. Its leaves contain vitamins A, C, and K, in addition to calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. Their leaves are often blanched to get rid of their bitterness and sautéed as spinach. Fresh leaves may be used in salads or on sandwiches.  Dandelion tea is also enjoyed by many. The flowers are often fried  or combined with citrus to make wine. A caffeine free coffee results from a ground tap-root. Rootbeer uses the dandelion as one of its ingredients.

I see and buy wonderful dandelion leaves from the market and would advise one to only acquire them there. I worry about what my neighbors may have sprayed on their lawns etc. that the wind may have carried over to my yard. Unless I have sole control over the plant I would only eat commercially raised dandelions.

As a medicine I would suggest both friend and foe. I am not a big fan of herbal medicines without my physician’s approval. His or her education, experience and knowledge of the most recent literature along with personal knowledge of my medical history trumps me walking up and down the aisle reading boxes of untested herbs, vitamins and minerals. This is not to say that herbal medicines don’t have their place but that I am leery of prescribing for myself. Some of my research indicated that there is no scientific evidence that the dandelion is effective as a medication. It is “likely” safe when eaten as a food or “possibly safe” in larger amounts. Allergic reactions of the skin and mouth and contact dermatitis from the latex have been experienced by some.

Others find the use of the dandelion helpful, however suggest you discuss dosage with your physician.  Here is a quick and easy chart provided by Organic Facts at concerning medical benefits.


The dandelion appears to be a cure-all as ketchup was once thought to be. Proceed with care.

After my limited research I will never look at the deceptively simple dandelion in quite the same way.  I will think twice before pulling them from my yard (which is a wildflower garden) and will not pull dandelions that appear before the apple and cherry blossoms. Food for thought, more research to be done.