Tag Archives: Fox Lake Road

What’s Happening

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After a lot of wavering on the issue, it seems spring has finally arrived here on Beaver Island. Though frost was threatened for last night, I don’t think the temperature dipped that low. Even if it had – a frost in May is not unheard of here – I stand by my assertion: spring is here. The proof is everywhere.

Our Beaver Island ferry boats are making daily trips, now, back and forth to Charlevoix. It has been a month since they’ve needed the assistance of the Coast Guard’s ice breaker. The shops and stores in town have restocked their shelves. There are cars – more than winter’s one or two – parked along the street; there are people – more than one or two – going in and out of the businesses.

Lately, I’ve encountered other vehicles on the roads, on my way to and from town. Sometimes, there’s a car ahead of me, kicking up a cloud of dust. Now and then, I’ve had to wait for a couple vehicles before pulling out onto the King’s Highway. In the winter, I am usually alone on the road for my seven-mile trek into town. Now, we have traffic!

In the woods, every view offers a hundred shades of green and yellow. Some trees are in bud; others are in various stages of unfurling their leaves. The forest floor is blanketed with wildflowers, mosses, grasses, piney ground-covers and wild leeks. I’m sure there are edible mushrooms there, too, though they escape my vision.

In my yard, the forsythia and service berry bushes are in full flower. Lilacs, hummingbird vine and snowball bush are just showing buds. The rhododendron by the back door is covered with magenta-colored blooms. I’ve been daily breaking off the drooping blooms of daffodils while welcoming other varieties as they open. Tulips are still blooming.

The peonies are pushing up their red leaves; poppies are showing their fuzzy, fern-like foliage. Day lilies and iris are displaying their sharp green leaves, to make their presence known, and remind me of what’s yet to come. The lawn, after a recent rain, is suddenly desperately in need of mowing. In the garden, one pea plant has just barely pushed a leaf out of the ground and, if I were to bring a magnifying glass, I think I could honestly report that the spinach is up.

After two weeks of spring-like weather without bugs to contend with, now the mosquitoes have hatched. I noticed them yesterday morning, while working out in the yard, but they were not a distraction. By the time I walked the dogs in the evening, they were impossible to ignore. I pin-wheeled my arms all the way down the road. This morning, every time the big dog comes in, she brings a swarm of them with her, all hungry for blood. This is the down-side of spring, here in the woods off the Fox Lake Road.

As one final testament that spring has arrived, I have family here! Yesterday, my cousin Keith and my sisters, Cheryl and Brenda, came to open up the family farmhouse for the season. They dug right in to projects, clearing and sweeping and freshening. I pitched in a little, while relishing their company. Last night it was red wine, pretzels and euchre around Aunt Katie’s kitchen table. The season is upon us!

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May Miscellany

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On this eighth day in May, out here on the Fox Lake Road, one big pile of snow remains in my yard. It is on the west side of the garden shed, so it misses the bright morning sun. A little more protection is contributed by the wild chokecherry tree on one side, and the field on the other. Unless we get a big rainstorm, I think it may last until June!

Not twenty feet away from the unseasonable snow mound, the forsythia is in bloom. Just across the side yard, at least four different types of narcissus are showing off their brightest yellows and oranges. Hyacinths perfume the air just outside the kitchen door. Snowdrops, which started flowering a month ago, right through the snow, are still putting forth their pale blue blossoms.

Last evening, I opened windows to let in some fresh air, along with the sounds and smells of spring. The air turned cool in the night, but I was toasty warm under the covers. This morning, I woke up when I heard the furnace come on. That drove me out of bed in a rush to close windows; I have no intention of trying to heat the outside!

The sun has come up bright and strong. The big dog is napping on the back porch, in a pool of sunshine. I stripped the bed first thing, with the intention of washing the sheets and hanging them outside on the clothesline to dry. Though it’s my day off, I have no other household projects planned for the day. There is plenty to do outside.

Through the last week, with so much yard work to catch up on, I’ve kept to a specific after-work ritual. I greet the dogs, and invite them outside. I stow my bags inside the door. I pick up my bucket and hand cultivator, then drop to my knees. Anywhere in the yard, as it all needs attention.

It is slow progress, but steady. One day it was the peony bed, another the long day lily bed. I spent several days weaving my fingers in between daffodils to pull out the grasses that have already moved in, and the fallen leaves that provided passage for them. At least one hour on my knees, every day, before I think about walking the dogs, making dinner, and all of the other things that fill an evening.

Today, with more time to at my disposal, I could tackle a bigger job. The lawn mower could be cleaned, oiled and put to good use in my yard, which never did get that last fall mowing before the snow came. Clearing the yard of leaves and windfall is another all-day job. I could plant peas and lettuce in the garden; they can stand the cool weather. Blackberry brambles need to be cut back from the side yard where I keep the compost bin. They moved in, and their sharp thorns have made emptying my bowl of kitchen scraps a hazardous affair. The garden shed still needs a coat of paint.

As I plot out all the things that need to be done, I waver. On the one hand, there is no time to waste: before I know it, the time for planting the garden will be past. It will only take one good rain to bring out the mosquitoes, and any work in my yard will be impossible without full armor of chemicals and netting. Soon, the summer season will be full upon us, and my energy will be sapped by the busy-ness of my work days. The time is now.

And yet…this is May. The forsythia is in bloom. The yard smells heavenly. This is the perfect time of year – before the bugs come out – to wander the woods with the dogs. There, the Dutchman’s Breeches, Spring Beauties and Trout Lilies are blooming. The wild ramps scent the air with the smell of onion, and will soon be ready to harvest. In moist areas, there is hope of finding morel mushrooms. If I’m going to take time to enjoy this season, the time is now.

So, what to do? For now, I think I’ll pour another cup of coffee and think about it.

 

Dogs (the April A~Z Challenge)

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On Friday, the 30th of March, weather reports predicted a big storm coming our way. High winds and cold temperatures were expected. Plus maybe several inches of wet, heavy snow. Maybe freezing rain. What did we expect? When this month had come in like a lamb, of course it was going to go out like a lion!

On Friday, though, it still looked like spring out here on the Fox Lake Road. The road itself was completely clear of snow and ice. The snow was melting away from the tree trunks, even in the deep woods, and my yard was more than halfway bare. Daily, the big dog was finding toys she’d left outside, that had been buried for months under the blanket of white. Daffodils were poking their first leaves out of the ground, and the rhododendrons were in bud. The temperature was in the 40s, and the sun was shining brightly when I got home from work.

“We’d better take advantage of this day,” I told the dogs, and they seemed to agree. The big dog, Darla, is always up for a walk. She headed right out, no need for coaxing. Even Rosa Parks, who often has to be begged or bribed to come along, was right on my heels. We crossed the road and took Cotter’s trail through the woods.

Sometimes the snow on the trail was firm enough to walk on; most of the time, though, every footfall broke through six inches of mush. That’s tiring, and hard on my knees. I hadn’t changed into boots; my cloth shoes were going to be soaked. On another day, I might have turned back. On Friday, though, the sun was shining, and both dogs were tail-wagging along beside me. We walked the whole distance in, then back out. We were all pretty proud of ourselves for it, too!

The storm did come through, as predicted, with about five inches of wet snow. Before it had time to melt away, another winter storm followed it. This morning, the dogs are barking up a storm inside as the young man that does my plowing clears almost of foot of snow from my driveway. I’m glad the dogs and I took advantage of spring weather when it made its brief appearance!

Forward Steps

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It’s another wet, gray day here on Beaver Island. One more in a long week of them. The temperatures have risen, hovering just above freezing. That allows the snow to melt, giving us surfaces that are slippery slush, cold water over ice, mush ice or – rarely – clear, depending on where you are. The King’s Highway, being a wide, paved road, is mostly clear. The Fox Lake Road, my driveway and the paths and trails around it, are a raucous combination of the other choices. I’m drinking my third cup of coffee, debating whether walking conditions will improve if I wait.

Snow melt puts moisture in the air, which gives us gray skies, cloud cover, mist and fog. All of that has been accompanied by intermittent rain. The sun came out – just briefly – over the harbor three days ago, and people stopped in their tracks to stare, admire, and comment. It has been a gloomy week. My mood follows the weather.

Though heartened by yesterday’s activities world-wide, I’m still frightened and discouraged by the political weather. I have always had trust in the strength of our democratic process, and the underlying good in people, no matter what their politics. This election, I have to say, has caused that trust to waver. I’m tired of hearing that genuine concerns are simply a matter of poor sportsmanship  or of being a “sore loser.” I’m weary of being told to wait, that everything will work out. I think I’ve heard all the same rhetoric that the people giving that advice heard, and I don’t have any idea what good things I am supposed to be waiting for.

I have friends and relatives (whose kindness, humanity and intelligence I am certain of) who back our elected president. He also has, as supporters, some of the cruelest, most degenerate and despicable people around, who spout hatred, lies and racism freely, and who believe they have an ally in Donald Trump. His cabinet picks do not encourage me. His inaugural address did not give me hope or soothe my fears. His reelection campaign – already in progress – gives me a sick feeling. Regarding his “Keep America Great” slogan, in his own words:

“I never thought I’d be giving my expression for four years, but I am so confident that we are going to be, it is going to be so amazing. It’s the only reason I give it to you. If I was, like, ambiguous about it, if I wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going to be great… Honestly, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait till you see what happens, starting next Monday. A lot of things are going to happen. Great things.”

Again, we are told to wait. I don’t like waiting, especially when the wait is for undefined – and thus frightening – steps to “great”ness. I don’t see greatness in the cabinet choices thus far. I don’t see greatness in the plans for “the first 100 days.”  I don’t see greatness in the rise of blatant and forceful bigotry. I don’t see greatness in the many disparaging comments and attacks caused by any show of dissent or disagreement. Even the arguments, which go right back to comparisons to other candidates or the last administration, lack substance. The election is over. Being “better than…” or “different than…” is no longer enough. Now, it’s time to hold our elected officials to a standard.

Yesterday, in news reports of peaceful protest worldwide, to express support for kindness and consideration of all people, I saw greatness. That, I don’t have to wait for. What I feel like I’m waiting for, on this gloomy Sunday, are all the unknowns. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking with Dad

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I was about half way to Hannigan Road yesterday, walking my dog down the Fox Lake Road, when I heard the low rumble of the County road truck. Darla does not chase cars, or even seem to notice them, most of the time. She barely gives them a glance as they go by. If I don’t grab her and pull her away, she won’t even yield her walkway, which is right down the middle of the road. We’re working on it.

However, all of my dogs have always hated the road trucks. Perhaps it’s the sound they make when scraping gravel or snow from the roads, or just the noise of the diesel engines. It might be because they pass by slowly, sometimes stop nearby, and often turn around in front of my house. I don’t know.

Maggie looked at cars as a means of meeting folks, and would run right up to them and jump on the door to greet the driver. She’d always want to attack the road truck, though. Clover was afraid of cars, and generally gave them a wide berth. Except for Randy’s car, which she would lay in wait for, and ambush as he drove by. And the road truck, her mortal enemy. She taught Rosa Parks everything she knew, so the little dog grew up hating the road trucks, too. Now Rosa has taught Darla, and my quiet household erupts in wild leaping and barking whenever one of them drives by.

Not knowing how Darla would react when encountering the truck on the road, I hurried to grab her collar and lead her to the side of the road. We waited together until it passed by, then continued on our way. The truck was grading the road yesterday. With the big blade down but at a slight angle, it was scraping and leveling the gravel road, one half at a time. As it went down one side of the road, it pushed a mound of dirt and leaves into the center. It would do the same thing coming back down the other side of the road. A final pass would “crown” the road, smoothing the dirt mounded in the center.

As we continued our walk, my Dad had joined us. It was the smell that brought him to mind. In the same way that freshly cut grass transports me back to my childhood summer Sundays, when Dad would mow the lawn, worked earth brings thoughts of the spring of the year, and Dad in the garden. Dragging the plow behind his small tractor, he worked the clay soil every year, trying to soften and enrich it with additions of grass clippings, manure and mounds of seaweed.

I think Dad always had a garden. When we were tiny, he worked up a small plot of ground, and taught us to space the seeds by measuring the distance with our hands. He was always thrilled to see things grow. He would compete with any of his gardening friends for the earliest radishes, hottest peppers, tallest corn or largest squash. He was proud to carry in a harvest of peas or beans or tomatoes.

Though Dad was a smart man with good stories and many abilities, the garden is what I associate most closely with him. When I leaned close to give him a hug, for most of his life Dad smelled a little of smoke and tobacco; there was usually a hint of beer or something stronger; always, Dad smelled like the earth. It makes me happy that – as the old woman I am and almost twenty years after my Dad has left this earth – something as simple as the smell of freshly turned soil can bring him right back.

Monday, the First of August

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The sky is brightening this morning on a fresh new month. August!

It seems I have spent much of the last several weeks complaining. Even when it wasn’t being typed out here (with italics to emphasize the severity of the complaint), it was going on in my head. First, all the “too”s: too tired, too busy, too overwhelmed, too many jobs, too little time. Then I moved on to all the disappointments, slights and insults.

One hot day, when my dogs refused to stop barking at other visitors at Fox Lake, I had to load them up and drive (whine) all the way down to Miller’s Marsh instead. It was only a couple miles farther; it was still peaceful and beautiful; the dogs were able to cool off; there were frogs in the shallow water, birds in the trees and waterlilies blooming…but I complained anyway.

I forget how good I have it, here in my little house on the Fox Lake Road. I say, “work is too hard,” “meat’s a little tough,” or “the car is awful dusty,” without thinking how fortunate I am to have all of these things. My Mom used to remind us, as she piled our plates with mounds of cooked peas (which we hated!) that children were starving in China. She was big on gratitude and appreciation.

It’s a matter of perspective. Mine needs a shift. I need to look at what’s right, rather than what’s wrong.

This Monday, the first day of August, is a good time to start.

What Next?

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I was starting to catch up. I was feeling pretty good about it, too. A little chagrined that it took so many weeks into summer to catch up on winter’s bills, but pleased nonetheless.

The hours at the hardware store have been expanded, to take advantage of summer’s business. That gives me some over-time. There have been a few days where I worked 10 hours. Working longer hours makes it even more difficult to find time to cover events I should be covering for the news-magazine. It’s even harder to come home and sit right down to write when I’m tired from my other job.Still, I was counting the money.

I have been whittling away at my long list of hardware store charges. You know, dog food, detergent, a candy bar to help get through the afternoon slump…it all adds up. The charges tend to pile up over the winter, too, when money is tight and hours are few. I’d finally be able to pay it off! I would be able to pay my winter tax bill…just in time for the summer tax bills to come out. I would pay off winter’s propane bill, before I had to turn on the heat this fall. Hurrah!

I took today off – arranged in advance – to participate in a garden tour. I scheduled myself for Monday to make up for it. Monday, my back went out, so I ended up off work that day, too. It’s not going to be such a big paycheck after all.

Sunday, coming down the hill to Fox Lake, Rosa Parks twisted her leg. She’s been hobbling around on three legs ever since. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I’ll have to get her in to the vet. I’m terribly afraid that it’s that tendon in the knee, that will not repair itself and that requires surgery to fix it. My old dog, Maggie, had to have each of her knees done; Clover, after slipping on ice, had one. Now maybe Rosa Parks.

Last night, driving home late after attending a concert, I found I had no headlights. Someone waved at me, enthusiastically, from the sidewalk as I drove through town. I thought they were just appreciating the cool jazz playing on my car radio. By the time I made it out of town and away from the street lamps, I recognized the problem. I messed with a few buttons and switches to no avail.

No lights. At least the King’s Highway is fairly open, and the sky was still pretty light at 10PM. Paid Een Ogg’s Road, though, is bordered with trees. Luckily, it’s a straight road. Fox Lake Road not only has a dense canopy of trees down the entire length, but it’s narrow and very curvy, too. I found the blinkers still worked, and gave off enough light to make my [slow, strobe-y] way home. So, add the car to the list of necessary expenses.

What next?