For some reason, we see more animals in the yard during the winter. I'm not sure if it comes from seasonal changes in their behavior or in ours. We've seen deer every morning this week and an opossum last night.
Most conifers in Michigan are green year round. The Tamarack (Larix laricina) is the only one that loses its needles for winter. The brown needles remind me of an artificial tree I almost bought by mistake in Uruguay.
Kalamazoo is at the southern edge of this tree's range which extends to northern Canada. Historically, tamarack has been used for many purposes from ships to paper to decoys.
While we had a few flurries earlier, this weekend was the first time there was enough snow to cover the ground. Last night the roads were slippery. The pond iced over as well. It feels like winter is here.
Each Fall, Sandhill Cranes gather together to prepare for their long flight south. Baker Sanctuary outside of Battle Creek attracts thousands of the big birds. They'll stay in the area for several weeks before migrating to Florida and Georgia for the winter.
It's apple harvest season in Michigan and a friend invited us to a cider making party. The process was pretty simple. We dropped the apples into the grinder and cranked the handle. The ground apples fell into a mesh bag inside the wooden tub of the press. After about 15 minutes of grinding, the tub was full of apple pulp. Then the press was screwed down squeezing all the juice out of the apples. And that's it.
Over the last few days, more color is appearing in the woods. These silver maples near the Kalamazoo River were almost red while most of the trees were still green. The boardwalk is part of the Kalamazoo Nature Center's trail system.
Michigan's bogs have a number of unusual plants, including carnivorous ones. Orchids don't eat meat but they are beautiful enough that collectors threaten their existence. Many are protected by state and federal laws.
Mid-to-late April is the beginning of the wildflower season in West Michigan. Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica, like many of the other early spring flowers is small and pale. These plants grow in mature woods and bloom quickly while sunlight still reaches the forest floor. In a few weeks, the maples and beeches will leaf out, creating daylong shade.
After nearly three months of continuous snow cover, Spring is coming to Kalamazoo. Officially, it started with over a foot of new snow about a week ago. Now, there are some signs that warmer weather is actually on its way. These snowdrops just broke through this morning.
I teach economics at Kalamazoo College. My wife is also an economist. We were on sabbatical in Europe for the 2014-15 academic year. (Salamanca, Spain, followed by Oxford, UK.) We were in Uruguay for the 2006-7 academic year.