Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Milkweed season

I have three types of milkweed blooming in my yard.  I've let a big patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) turn into a jungle near my mailbox. 
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) with its bright orange flowers is more attractive.  I have some blooming in a prairie garden in my backyard.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) with its brilliant pink flowers is a close contender for showiest milkweed.  It grows naturally near our pond.

All three are great host plants for Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Maple Sugar Season 2020

Michigan's recent weather, with warm sunny days and cold, below-freezing nights, is perfect for maple sugaring.  The temperature changes make the sap flow and a strategically driven spile can divert some into a bucket.  Heating the sap concentrates the sweetness, as water transforms into clouds of steam.

Maple Syrup Festivals near Kalamazoo

March 7-8 and 14-15 Maple Sugar Time Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Chesterton, Indiana 
March 7, 15 Maple Sugar Madness Sarett Nature Center Benton Harbor

March 7-8 Maple Sugar Festival Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

March 21-22 Sugar Camp Days Bendix Woods County Park, New Carlisle, IN

March 21  50th Annual Sugarbush Festival  Blandford Nature Center  Grand Rapids

April 24-26 Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival, Wakarusa, Indiana

April 24-26  79th Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival Vermontville
Also consider
Michigan MapleWeekends

Michigan Maple Syrup Events 2020 in Oakland County and Southeast Michigan
Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival

Chicago-area Maple Syrup Events

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Holland's Kerstmarkt

I'd been interested in visiting the Kerstmarkt in Holland, Michigan for several years and this season I finally made it on the last day it was open.  The Kerstmarkt is the Dutch version of the outdoor Christmas markets that are popular throughout Europe.

Holland's market featured over a dozen booths selling crafts, plus a few offering food and drinks, and warming hut.

On Saturday's the Holland Farmer's Market sells fresh produce, baked goods, and chocolates which doubles the size of the market.

It also offered a dogsled demo on the day I visited.

The Kerstmarkt was a pleasant, low-key experience.  It was no where near the size of Chicago's Christkindlmarket but it did make a list of the Top 50 Christmas Markets worldwide.  On its own, I'm not sure it justifies the drive from Kalamazoo but it does make a good excuse to visit downtown Holland during December.

The Kerstmarkt right at the edge of Holland's 8th Street shopping district, which is West Michigan's best "Main Street." My favorite place for lunch in Holland, New Holland Brewing, is just a few blocks from the market. Along the way, The Outpost is great shop for camping, SUPs, and outdoor clothing.  8th Street also has branches of regional favorites like Gazelle Sports and Kilwins chocolates and a newly opened Hopcat.

Holland Kerstmarkt
8th Street Market Place
150 W. 8th Street
Holland, Michigan

Monday, December 2, 2019

Winter Events 2019-2020

While we had snow earlier this year, December is the traditional start to Winter.  Get ready for a season of skiing, sledding, and skating.  Plenty of local festivals celebrate the season.

Winter Events near Kalamazoo

December 7, 2019 Tree Lighting & Traditional Holiday celebration Celery Flats, Portage 
December 7, 2019 13th annual Candy Cane Hunt Mayors Riverfront Park Kalamazoo
December 7, 2019 Local Gift Fair  9 am -4 pm Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo 
December 31, 2019 New Year's Eve Fest Kalamazoo
January 11-18 2020 Kalamazoo Beer Week Kalamazoo

January 23-26, 2020
Winterfest Grand Haven
January 31- February 3, 2020  Icebreaker  South Haven

February 14 -17,  2020  Great Backyard Bird Count

February 15-16, 2020 Free Fishing Winter Weekend throughout Michigan

February 22, 2020 Winter Beer Festival Grand Rapids

February 29, 2020 Quietwater Symposium East Lansing

Ongoing events
International Festival of Lights Battle Creek November -December 
Zoo Lights Binder Park Zoo Battle Creek
          Dutch Winterfest Holland
Millennium Park Skate Rink opens December 8, 2019, or when weather permits Portage
          Christmas Bird Count

See also

OptOutside  An alternative to hitting the malls on Black Friday

Discover Kalamazoo's event listing
Gazelle Sports Races and running calendar

11 Unforgettable Winter Places in Michigan

West Michigan Winter Weekends

Sarrett Nature Center's Event list Benton Harbor

The DNR has calendars of events for State Parks and Recreation Areas.

Events from Pure Michigan  

Friday, August 30, 2019

Fall Events 2019

As August comes to a close, Labor Day brings the final holiday of summer.  September and October offer plenty of warm days and cool nights for outdoor activities.  Fall is a great season for for camping, paddling or a walk or bike ride through the woods.  Area festivals celebrate Labor Day, Sandhill Cranes, harvests, and art.

Fall events around Kalamazoo

August 30- September 2 Lawrence Ox Roast Lawrence

September 2 West Michigan Labor Fest Grand Rapids

September 6-8  Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival Paw Paw

September 13-14 Grand Haven Salmon Festival Grand Haven

September 7-October 27 Project 1 Grand Rapids (Project 1 replaces Art Prize this year.)

September 21 Fall Festival St. Joseph

September 27-28 Oktoberfest Grand Rapids

October 12 BontebokOktoberfest Binder Park Zoo  Battle Creek 

October 12-13 Cranefest Bellevue

October 11-13 Fennville Goose Festival Fennville

October 19-20 Arts and Eats Tour  Hastings, Middleville, Hickory Corners, and surrounding areas

Also consider:

Southeast Michigan Labor Day events from MetroParent

Labor Day Weekend Events for Metro Detroit (Oakland County Moms)

Mackinac Bridge Walk
5 Spots to Sip Cider, Pick Pumpkins, and Soak up Fall from Discover Kalamazoo
Fall Scenic Drives from Pure Michigan

Fall recommendations from 52 Michigan Weekends

Fresh apple cider from VerHages Cider Mill.

Fall walks and rides on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo

Gazelle Sports' calendar of West Michigan Races and Events

League of Michigan Bicyclist's Michigan Ride Calendar

Sarrett Nature Center's Event list Benton Harbor
Events from Pure Michigan 
The DNR has calendars of events for State Parks and Recreation Areas.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Summer Events 2019

Now that the solstice has passed, Kalamazoo is fully into Summer.  West Michigan is a great place for biking, canoeing, hiking, and camping, or beachtime at Lake Michigan.  

Summer events near Kalamazoo

June 26-July 3 Wenke Greenhouse's Cart Sale  Kalamazoo

July 3-7 Balloon Festival Battle Creek

August 8-11  56th annual Blueberry Festival South Haven

August 23-25 Hastings Summerfest Hastings

August 23-25 Kalamazoo Balloon Fest at  Gull Meadow Farms, Kalamazoo

September 2-5 Lawrence Ox Roast Lawrence

Also consider:

Long weekend suggestions from Pure Michigan

50 fun things to do in Michigan this summer

West Michigan Summer Weekends

Kalamazoo Farmers Market

Michigan Fireworks Displays a comprehensive list of fireworks throughout the state

Kzoo Kids: 101 Summer fun ideas for families.
Gazelle Sports Events page (running and races)

Bike Friendly Kalamazoo's  Event listings
Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo
Events from West Michigan Tourist Association

Kzoo Kids lists Beaches near Kalamazoo & Battle Creek promotes Lake Michigan beach towns.
Beach Freaks guide to Michigan's Best Beaches
League of Michigan Bicyclist's Michigan Ride Calendar

West Michigan Coastal Kayaker's Association Event Calendar
Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy volunteer workdays

Sarrett Nature Center's Event list Benton Harbor

Michigan Festivals and Events Association Events browser

Michigan DNR's State Park Events

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Bow in the Clouds Preserve

Somehow I had never visited Bow in the Clouds Preserve, even though it's just a few miles northeast of downtown Kalamazoo.  The preserve was originally part of the Nazareth Campus of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.  They donated it to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy several years ago.
The entrance is off Nazareth Road, about a half mile north of Gull Road.  There's a good-sized gravel parking lot beside an old barn.  The SWMLC just completed an accessible trail with an overlook to the marsh.  (Grand opening event May 11, 2019.)

From the new loop trail, a dirt (non-accessible) trail drops down to the marsh itself.  Look for the blue metal blazes.  An extended boardwalk took us right through the marsh, where we saw woodpeckers, mourning doves, robins, and deer.   Marsh Marigolds added some nice color.
After crossing the marsh on the boardwalk, the trail climbed slightly through some mature woods.  There were some big patches of Mayflowers and one section featured budding Celadine Poppies. Eventually stairs led uphill to the Nazareth Campus.
We took another set of steps back down to the marsh and then switched to the trail with white metal blazes.  This trail followed the edge of the marsh and looped north along Nazareth Road to return to the accessible trail and the parking area.

Bow in the Clouds Preserve
3400 block of Nazareth Rd.
Kalamazoo, MI 49048