Ghost Bay 2011

Some time this past winter or early spring, a big blow must have come through Ghost Bay. Three good-sized cedars tipped over. Cedars mostly sit on the very edges of the Bay, giving the deer some good winter salads. Deer stand on the ice and trim the overhanging cedar branches as neatly as a professional landscaper might. But cedar roots here do not run deep. And as the cedars grow taller their foothold gets more and more precarious. Every tree in the Bay is precious and we are saddened to see this trio give up the ghost.

Meanwhile on the lake bottom, in the shallow edges of the Bay, life is winning. When this photo was taken, the blue gills were guarding their nests from marauding who knows what.  When I quietly pass by in my kayak, they seem to stare me down. This nest wasn’t being guarded when Steve snapped a photo. If you are wondering about all the debris, the bluegills are not “feathering” their nest with clean pebbles or sticks.  The fish disturb the silt in the hollowed-out nest and then the bottom comes into clear view. We think the bluegill are good recyclers too, because these seem to be the same hollow places the bass used as nests.

It is summer now. Lots of creepy crawly stuff is enjoying the exposed cedar root slabs.  And baby bluegill are all through the grasses of Ghost Bay.

Water Lily Traveling Woman Shawl

I am not a skilled lace knitter. Too often I practice random acts of yarn overs and senseless placement of SSKs. But I am determined to improve and I am quite pleased with myself over my Traveling Woman small shawl.

Liz Abinante has designed this wonderful shawl, written up an exactly correct pattern, and priced it sensibly. It’s suited to just about every weight of yarn, but mine is knit in fingering weight Dream in Color Baby. The colorway is sour apple. My only modification of the large size was to add one repeat of the leaf chart.

This was a fun knit, though it was a challenge for me. Honestly, I don’t know if I’m going to keep it or gift it. For the moment, I’m just going to stare at it.

Here are a few more views for you to stare at. The last photo explains why mine is a Water Lily Traveling Woman. Steve’s Water Lily photo was taken in July early morning light on Hillman Michigan’s Long Lake, in Ghost Bay.

Morel Mushrooms

A Morel. To be exact (I think), a Yellow Morel of the deliciosa type.  In Michael Kuo’s book, 100 Edible Mushrooms, he calls this mushroom an “icon of fungal fanaticism.” If you know where they grow, a lot of the diehard ‘shroomers keep it secret. We found this one and two others under the third white pine from the water’s edge, over by the rowboat. Steve spotted them.

We consulted Kuo’s book and were 99% sure it was a Morel. One had tipped over and you could see it had a hollow stem.  Great hiding place for little critters–though it looked pretty clean.  The key distinction between a Morel and a false Morel (which could possibly send you looking for a liver transplant–but mostly it just makes you wish you were dying) is that the real deal has its elongated pitted top attached directly to the stem, with no overhang.

It could have been quite tasty. We were tempted. But being the cautious sort we called our young neighbor Neil over to check them out. He identified them as Morels straight away and pinched them off at their base. He generously offered them to us, but we took a pass. Neil sprinkled a few stem crumbs around, telling us this would encourage more to grow. Maybe. Maybe so. I like that idea.

Kuo’s advice for finding them?  “Go find a bunch of trees.”

Interesting tidbit? Morels are members of the phylum Ascomycota. This means they release their spores from tiny structures called “asci.” Scientists don’t understand why, but all the Morel asci release their spores at the same time. And they sometimes release them just as they are plucked from their position on the ground. So if you see a Morel looking like it’s smoking, it’s just releasing its bazillions of spores.

Lots ‘o Rain, Lots ‘o Mushrooms

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It has been raining, a lot, here on Long Lake. We took a walk on a two-track off Sorenson Road. We rousted a grouse. But mostly we marveled at mass quantities of mushrooms. I have some guesses on what a few of them are. And none of them will be making their way into my salad. If there are any shroomers among you, I’d welcome your comments identifying them.  If you want to learn more about mushrooms, Dr. Michael Kuo’s site is amazing.  He’ll have you learning about mushrooms and laughing about people at the same time.  His 100 Edible Mushrooms is very accessible and entertaining, even though I don’t find it tempting to eat what I find.  In fact, I don’t even want to touch what I find.

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.