We watched this Osprey for about ten minutes in Ghost Bay. It perched at the top of a dead birch, turning its head from side to side as if the bay was a buffet table.  This guy isn’t nicknamed “Fish Eagle” for nothing. One time, again in Ghost Bay, I watched as an Osprey flew from a perch, hovered over the water, dove in (feet first) and yanked  out a good-sized small mouth bass. The bird carried off the wriggling fish in his talons, in a head-forward aerodynamically-efficient position. That’s typical. An Osprey’s body is specially adapted for such dives. Its nostrils are closable, to keep the water out. The soles of its feet have barbed pads on them. Only two raptors, Osprey and owls, have reversible outer toes. This means an Osprey can grab and hang on to its prey with two toes in front and two toes in back. All these adaptations make it easier to hang on to slippery fish. Once in awhile, in a pinch, they might nab a small mammal or rodent, but mostly it’s all fish all the time. Being a miserably ineffective fisherwoman, living on one’s catch of Long Lake fish is a talent I can respect.

An Osprey in flight is easy to recognize. Its belly is white and the underside of its wings are distinctively marked with brown feathers that look a lot like eyes. The front edges of its wings have four long feathers that curl a bit at the ends, with one similarly-shaped shorter fifth feather. Although you can’t see it this photo, that only shows a white head, an Osprey has an eye mask of brown feathers. And these birds are big. On Long Lake, only the Bald Eagles are bigger. Osprey can be two feet long, with a wing span of about six feet.

We have one very prominent Osprey nest on Long Lake. Check out  the top of the utility pole on the small island at the south end of the lake.  That straggly pile of sticks and stuff  isn’t something left behind  by the Presque Isle rural electical co-op crew. If we could  peek inside the nest at just the right time, we’d see 2-4 big whitish eggs, with splashes of cinnamon coloring. The chicks hatch over the span of 4-5 days. The early-born have a much better chance to survive. Younger siblings typically don’t get pushed out of the nest or cannibalized, but those first few days without competition for food just gives the oldest a leg up. Here’s what an Osprey and its young sound like. Kind of sweeter than what you would think when you see that determined flight from a perch, that menacing hover, and that fierce fast dive for prey.

Osprey populations were endangered by egg collectors and over-hunting in the 19th century and again by DDT in the 20th century. They are doing better now that we work to leave them alone. We are so lucky to be able to live among these Long Lake raptors.

Heritage Freedom Cap

I haven’t done Fair Isle for a good bit and my recent creations have all been two-color projects. This six-color creation was a blast to knit. On size 4 and 5 needles it moved right along. The pattern and the kit are the brainchild of Heritage Spinning and Weaving in Lake Orion. I caught up with them at last weekend’s Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan–speaking of having a blast. I purchased this pattern at the festival, kitted up with Michigan’s own Stonehedge Fiber Mill‘s worsted weight Shepherd’s Wool.

The keen-eyed among you, and actually you don’t need that keen eye, will see that I goofed on the last color round of decreases at the crown. I saw it happening but couldn’t quite bring myself to try to remedy it. By then handling the double points was getting quite fiddly.  I convinced myself it wasn’t going to be all that noticeable. Obviously, it is though. But how often does the very top of someone’s head get inspected anyway? Oh. I should mention that when I make a goof in a pattern and don’t rip it out I often keep the item for myself rather than gift it away. Maybe that’s why I let the non-prideful Amish knitter in me take over.  (Mere mortals shouldn’t make perfect stuff.) Because I really do like this cheerful hat. And it is sized large enough to fit my pumpkin head.

The designer says it’s named the “Freedom” cap because the center panel motif resembles a butterfly. Butterflies are  no more  free than moths, black flies and garden slugs, but we get the reference. Sweet hat. Fun knit.

Scarf Times Three

More knits from “60 Quick Knits: 20 Hats, 20 Scarves, 20 Mittens in Cascade 220.”  I know, that title is quite a mouthful.

This is Ruffled Scarf, designed by Cathy Carron. It’s knit in hurdle stitch, something I haven’t seen used in many patterns.This oldie but goodie is a 4 row repeat, on an even number of stitches. The first two rows are knitted and the next two rows are knit 1, purl 1 across the entire row. Obviously, the ruffles are knit in garter stitch. Best of all? You end up with a totally reversible scarf that looks different (but nice) on both sides. Worst of all? It gets boring after awhile. I knit mine in Paton’s Classic Wool. The pattern calls for a 48 inch scarf. With about 470 yards of wool, mine ended up at 56 inches, which I think is a better length for a scarf. The ruffle  is a sweet, retro touch.  I think Mary Tyler Moore would like it.  Or at least Laura Petrie.

This one is the sensibly-named Eyelet Scarf, designed by Lisa Bucellato. It’s knit in Cascade 220 wool. I usually knit little pigs out of this yarn, but a little scarf is OK for a change. The scarf is about 5 inches wide and 40 inches long. A one skein project. Looks nice on both sides.  Meant for an adult, but my sense is it’s not quite long enough and it would be great for a kid. As the book title says, definitely a quick knit.

This is the Wave Scarf. It took about 430 yards of Kramer Naturally Nazareth. (That’s Nazareth, Pennsylvania). It was not a particularly quick knit.  Knit 1, purl 1 rib never is.  The design is Debbie O’Neill’s. It was a bit troublesome to knit. At the beginning, the increases and decreases held my interest. Then I got cocky and made mistakes. Then I got bored and made even more mistakes. Then I got miffed with the ripping back. But, persistence paid off and the finished scarf is worth the effort. This is a very long wave. The designer suggests 68 inches. For me, that was mid-wave, so mine ended up about 72 inches long. There is one error in the chart: the stitch count is not going to come out correct unless you skip rows 83 and 84. With that correction, it worked well.

And, in case you are wondering why I decided to knit three wool scarves during a summer of mostly hot sticky weather, it is a mystery to me too.

Wild Low Bush Blueberries

Off of Boneyard Highway (don’t ask), grows a fairly large stand of low bush blueberries. Low bush blueberries grow on bushes that are about a foot and a half tall. The berries ripen in late July and August. They grow in clusters of several berries, at the end of the branches.

This weekend, we picked wild low bush blueberries. Actually the me part of we took a nap instead and was not, technically, in attendance at the Boneyard Highway blueberry pick. My job came later. Steve, Dan, Mel and Roxie the Chocolate Lab set out armed with info to be sure they didn’t end up picking something deadly like nightshade berries. Mindful to watch for poison ivy and  bear (neither were spotted), they picked about three pints of low bush blueberries.

The fruit of low bush berries are smaller, with a somewhat deeper blue skin color than the high bush berries typically sold in supermarkets. The inside of the low bush berry is more like the Crayola color “red violet” than blue. The two kinds of blueberries don’t taste the same. High bush blueberries taste sort of like lima beans without the pretty green color. It must be all those antioxidants. To my mouth they are a waste of chewing. But these wild blueberries are nothing like lima beans. They have a definite good taste. Tart. Interesting. You know they’re in your mouth, but not because you want to spit them out.

Once home, Mel and I picked through the berries and got rid of the rest of the stems and checked for any tag-along little critters. Then came my job. Half the blueberries in a saucepan with about two tablespoons of water and half a cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, and then let the mixture simmer for about ten minutes–longer than you would with their high bush cousins. Add the  2 tablespoons of cornstarch and two tablespoons of water you whisked together before you put the blueberries on the burner. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir constantly, for about a minute while the mixture thickens. Fold in the rest of the blueberries. Pour the filling into whatever crust you’re using. Let it sit for about an hour before you put it in the fridge.

We served our most natural dessert slathered up with that most unnatural topping, Cool Whip, the invention of  Kraft chemist William A. Mitchell. Truly better eating through chemistry.

For those reading my blog for a slice of Pure Michigan instead of pie, Michigan is the #1 state for production of highbush blueberries. We have more than 18,000 acres in blueberry production. If you click here, you can get a bushel and a peck of Michigan blueberry facts and even meet the MSU Small Fruit Team. If you are really into blueberries, you can attend The National Blueberry Exposition in October in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  And, at this very minute, the 47th Annual National Blueberry Festival is happening in South Haven, Michigan.

Here is my pie.  They don’t happen often in my kitchen.

Spatterdock a/k/a Yellow Water Lily

Spatterdock. Cow lily. Yellow Water Lily.  Nuphar Lutea. Most of what they are is underwater and not easily seen. They grow from rhizomes buried in the mud at the bottom of shallow sections of Long Lake. The Narrows and Ghost Bay are  home to our main colonies. Both are also home to the more delicate fragrant white water lily. And colonies is the right term. The rhizomes spread and pretty soon a shallow lake could be up to its eyeballs in water lilies. The rhizome sends up stalks. Most of the spatterdock leaves, at least the biggest ones, float on the surface. They are perennials–dying back in the fall and sprouting again each spring.

Traditional medicine finds uses for these plants. The stalks are edible, but are sometimes very bitter. The seeds are edible and can be ground into a flour. I recommend taking a pass on Spatterdock muffins, though, unless you’re really really hungry. Beavers and muskrats dive down to eat the rhizomes. Beavers, and all kind of waterfowl, will also eat the seeds. As you would notice paddling around the lake in the summer, one common use of the leaves is as an incubator for frog and bug eggs. Long Lake’s dragonflies and damsel flies often use the leaves as resting places. They helicopter down and don’t even make a dent in the leaf when they land.