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Archive | Outdoors

Chemical-free options for managing mosquitoes

By Melinda Myers

It’s time to get outside and enjoy summer BBQs, gardening, hikes and much more. Don’t let mosquitoes keep you inside; Instead enlist these chemical-free strategies to manage these pests in your landscape.

Start by eliminating the mosquitoes’ breeding grounds.  Drain the water out of buckets, old tires and clogged gutters and downspouts that hold water needed for mosquitoes to reproduce. 

Check kids’ toys, tarps and pool covers that also retain water. Drain the water and store these items in the garage or turn them over to keep them from becoming a mosquito breeding ground. Even small containers hold enough water for hundreds to thousands of mosquitoes to breed.

Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week. Make it part of your routine maintenance; rinse birdbaths when watering containers. Or install a small pump to keep water moving to prevent mosquito breeding.

Use organic mosquito control like Mosquito Dunks and Mosquito Bits (SummitResponsibleSolutions.com) in birdbaths, rain barrels and water features. Mosquito Bits quickly knock down the mosquito larval population, while Mosquito Dunks provide 30 days of control. They both contain a naturally occurring soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis that kills mosquito larvae, are certified organic and safe for pets, fish, wildlife and children.

Use Mosquito Dunks to manage these pests in areas subject to periods of standing water. One dunk provides control of 100 square feet of water surface for 30 days. Slide a dunk over a stake secured in the problem area, preventing it from washing away in heavy rains. It remains in place and provides control when the area is flooded again.

Attract insect-eating birds to the landscape with a few birdhouses. You’ll enjoy their beauty and benefit from their diet of insects, including many garden pests and mosquitoes.

Reduce the mosquitoes’ daytime resting spaces by keeping your garden weeded. Removing weeds and managing neglected garden spaces will make your landscape less inviting to these pests.

Keep mosquitoes away when hosting a party, gardening or relaxing outdoors. Use a fan to create a gentle breeze that keeps the weak-flying mosquitoes away from you and your guests. Some gardeners even take a small fan into the garden while weeding.

Light a few citronella candles for a bit of ambience and mosquito control at your next evening party or event. Citronella oil and the scented candles do have some mosquito-repelling properties. Scatter lots of candles throughout your entertainment space. Position the candles within a few feet of your guests for some short-term relief from these pests.

These strategies and some personal protection will help you increase your summer enjoyment. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing, covering as much of your skin as possible with long sleeves and pants.

For Deet-free personal repellent options, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also approved products with the active ingredient picaridin (found in Skin So Soft products), IR3535, and the synthetic oil of lemon and eucalyptus. Avoid products that contain both sunscreen and insect repellents as you need to apply the sunscreen more often than the repellent.

Using a combination of these mosquito-management strategies is sure to provide a summer filled with more enjoyable gatherings with family and friends.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Summit for her expertise to write this article. Myers’s web site is www.melindamyers.com.

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Get ready for Take an Adult Fishing Day

Girl taking photo of boy and dad holding up fish on pole.

Know kids who love to go fishing but hate waiting to see if their mom, dad or another adult wants to go? Why not have them plan the outing themselves?

Kids can initiate their next fishing trip by finding their gear, locating a place to fish and asking an adult to go with them. Maybe they’d like to locate a spot nearby by searching through the Family Friendly Fishing Waters website? (https://tinyurl.com/y5e5kbnb) Or visit one of several state parks or visitor centers that offer instruction on how to fish through the Hook, Line and Sinker program? (https://tinyurl.com/y3kwx5wt) The options are almost endless!

Or plan to head out on Saturday, Aug. 3, the third annual Take an Adult Fishing Day in Michigan. On that day, we’ll ask anybody who takes an adult fishing to share their picture with us using the hashtag #TakeAnAdultFishing. We’ll randomly select a few winners to receive a fishing gear prize.

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Air Cooled or Air-Conditioned?

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Chipmunks, thirteen-lined squirrels, woodchucks, and many other mammals spend hot weather time underground where the air in their dens is cooler. They also use tree cavities and other places that not only offer a cool reprieve but provide protection from predators, and biting flies. 

We enter our homes relatively free from mosquitoes and deer flies because we have screened windows. Many keep windows closed to prevent hot humid air from making the house uncomfortably damp and sticky. 

Air conditioners cool the air and reduce the humidity to make it more comfortable for working inside. They also increase utility bills. Having an air-cooled home will save money and can be effective for comfort. 

When people visit our home, they think the house is air-conditioned but ours is air-cooled. Designing with nature is effective. A sugar maple tree stands on the south side of the house and one shades the west side. They help keep the house from being heated by intense sunlight radiation during hot afternoons. 

I like a bright yard, sun, and active butterflies with a well-lit garden and field. The open area on the east side provides morning sun that dries the area but does not excessively heat the house. At midday we can sit on the shaded side of the house to enjoy the open area teaming with active butterflies and bird life. We mow a strip by the back porch where we sit comfortably mostly free from mosquitoes because it is sunlit. The backyard was mowed for the first time on June 30. Grass, catsclaw yellow flowers, maiden pink, oxeye daisies, and other flowers dominate the yard. Plants cool the ground where rabbits and millions of insects thrive to feed birds. Few insects are bothersome to people. The yard is a sea of flower blooms that attract an abundance of life. 

Mowed trails provide easy access for daily walks through the sanctuary where we are not likely to twist an ankle, get soaked pant legs, or stir up mosquitoes. 

When I was chief naturalist at Morningside Nature Center in Gainesville Florida, my office and location for meeting visitors was a 19th century farmstead. It was designed with nature’s air-cooling comfort. The front door was opposite the rear door to allow air movement. Windows were placed in a manner to enhance air exchange with outside air. Interior walls were minimal so they did not impede airflow.

Florida is humid in the summer where daily rains keep humidity high. In the 1800s, air conditioners were not an option and people learned to design home construction for maximum comfort. One learns to accept surrounding atmospheric conditions like high humidity, daily rain, and sultry conditions. One can also learn to minimize unpleasantries by designing home placement and surrounding vegetation for optimum effect. 

The naturalist office in the farmstead was used for visitor programming and was comfortable without an air conditioner. The air-cooled building was shaded by trees but was open enough for free air movement. Close to the home was a fenced area for farm animals. The pine fence was designed for easy assembly and disassembly so it could be moved to allow animals to be housed where they could graze on fresh vegetation. The farmyard allowed open space for air movement to reach the home and for sunlight to dry nearby air. 

Current home construction often does not consider “design with nature.” Take a lesson from nature niche residents that live nearby and learn how you can capitalize on cooling effects nature can provide to make your home most comfortable without increasing your utility bill or adding carbon to the atmosphere. 

We open windows at night and shut them in the morning. With the aid of shade trees, our home remains comfortable. We live comfortably in an air-cooled home without air conditioning. Fans suffice during prolonged heat waves. Learn from early settlers that lived comfortably 150 years ago by designing with nature.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Adopt-a-Game-Area program helps restore grassland habitat

Volunteers stand by a kiosk recently installed at St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area.

While traveling to some of southern Michigan’s state game areas this summer, you might notice something new—kiosks highlighting habitat improvement efforts sponsored by the Adopt-a-Game-Area program.

A cooperative effort between Pheasants Forever, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Hal & Jean Glassen Memorial Foundation, the program gives individuals, corporations and foundations the opportunity to support grassland restoration projects on public lands that they use and enjoy. 

Grasslands restored through the Adopt-A-Game Area program benefit pheasants, deer, turkeys, waterfowl, cottontails, songbirds and native pollinators. Each acre restored is also open and accessible to the public, providing opportunities for hunting, birding and wildlife photography, and improved water and air quality for all Michigan residents.

The kiosks showcase property maps and information and educational materials about grasslands and grassland wildlife, and recognize sponsors who have contributed to habitat restorations there through Adopt-A-Game Area.

Kiosks have been installed at Maple River State Game Area, Allegan State Game Area, Sharonville State Game Area, St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area, and St. John’s Marsh State Game Area.

Additional kiosks soon will be raised at Coldwater Lake State Park in Branch County, Shiawassee River State Game Area in Saginaw County, Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area in Bay County and Verona State Game Area in Huron County.

Sponsors can earn Gold (over $25,000), Silver (over $5,000) or Bronze (over $500) sponsorship levels with their tax-deductible donations. In return, sponsors receive their name on the kiosk at their chosen game area, on the Michigan Pheasants Forever and DNR websites and social media accounts, in an annual press release and in publicity materials developed for organizations’ own use.

To learn more about the Adopt-A-Game Area program, including how you can become a sponsor today, visit MichiganPheasantsForever.org/AAGAP or contact Ben Beaman at bbeaman@pheasantsforever.org.

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Fishing rod cast away

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Rod and Katie were neighbors that lived next door in Mrs. Hoag’s upstairs apartment. A singing mouse lived in her basement and she would allow kids to stand at the top of basement stairs and listen to the mouse sing. My brothers and I still talk about the singing mouse. 

Rod worked with my dad as a lineman for Bell Telephone. Rod’s dream was to become a barber up north where he could enjoy outdoor nature niches.

At some point in my young life, Rod and Katie moved to Tawas City where he opened a barbershop. Our family was invited to visit and we made the great trip. We stayed at their home where Katie made the best waffles and hot chocolate I can remember having. I am sure the best waffles had more to do with the experience than the food. My kids have often heard about the breakfast Katie prepared. 

The weather was great and we fished from Tawas pier. Dad had bought my brothers and me fishing poles. Details escape my memory but I expect we visited a bait shop and headed out for an exciting day. Once on the pier, we readied to catch many fish. 

Perhaps I was taught how to bait a hook and thread the fishing line though the rod eyelet guides. I was still too young for the art of tying the leader with hook to my line. I learned about leaders, bait, and lures. How to use a reel, cast, and release a lure was part of the day’s events. When to release one’s thumb from the casting release that allowed the line and lure to sail into Lake Huron was new for me. 

We spaced ourselves along the pier to begin the art of fishing. I casted, and when I released my thumb, the pole jerked and sprang from my hand. I watched it disappear into clear Lake Huron water. It sank in ten to fifteen  feet of water. I called my dad and we looked at the pole that settled on the lake bottom. 

Perhaps my dad was angry but I do not recall. Dad, Rod, and my brothers gathered in dismay to look at the lost pole. Rather than angle for fish, the task was now to snag the pole and pull it from the depths of the Great Lake. With a lure or hook on another pole, a line was lowered with plans to retrieve my pole. It looked simple enough but repeated effort proved evasive. 

After continued effort, we finally departed without my pole. That was one of my first fishing experiences. Fortunately, I have not lost another pole but I have lost a great many fish. I wonder how many anglers have lost poles. I was probably about six years old. The visit to Tawas City and the fishing pier remains vivid as does Katie’s waffles and hot chocolate. 

Another experience I recall my dad telling was when he hooked a gull. It might have been on that trip when dad casted a lure and a gull grabbed it from the air. The hook embedded in the gull’s beak. Dad needed to reel in the gull. Since then I have learned of this happening to another angler. 

I probably was not present when the gull was caught or I think my memory would be clearer. After reeling in the gull, the hook was removed and the bird released. 

Somewhere at the bottom of Lake Huron is a rod and reel lost about 1956 but vibrant memories are not lost. Fourth of July memories are waiting to be made. Celebrate our nation’s founding by enjoying its natural wonders. The outdoors is beckoning your presence. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Fishing Tip: Fly season is quickly approaching

From the DNR

We bring you this oldie, but goodie fishing tip from 2014. Courtesy of Neal Godby, a DNR fisheries biologist out of Gaylord.

Although much of what a trout feeds on throughout the year is under the water’s surface, June is prime time for dry-fly fishing for stream trout.

Many aquatic insects, like mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies found in trout streams emerge during June making it an exciting time to fish with “dry” flies (those that float on the surface of the water). Check with your local tackle shop or fly shop to see what might be hatching in your area.

Many of the mayfly hatches occur after sunset, so be sure to be familiar with the river you are fishing, make sure your headlamp/flashlight is working, and have fun!

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Another bald eagle

Photo by Eric Nelson

Last week we ran a photo of a couple of bald eagles that was taken in Solon Township. This week we have another bald eagle photo—this one in Nelson Township, near where others have also seen one. Eric Nelson said he spotted this eagle at Northland Drive and 16 Mile Rd and snapped a quick photo.

Thanks for sending it along, Eric!

Do you have a wildlife photo you’d like to share? Send it to news@cedarspringspost.com, along with some info about it and your contact info. We print as space allows. Receipt of photos does not guarantee they will be printed.

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Get to know Michigan state parks through the eyes of storytellers

Telling stories around the campfire is a time-honored tradition. Often, those stories contain playful anecdotes and deeply personal memories.

As part of the Michigan state parks centennial, the DNR is hosting storytelling events where you’ll hear seasoned storytellers share their personal park tales. At a recent event in Lansing, Alexis Horton, the DNR’s diversity, equity and inclusion officer, engaged the crowd with her memories of introducing a group of students who’d never camped before to the fun and camaraderie of s’mores and time outdoors at Waterloo Recreation Area. (See a transcript of her story here: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/AroundCampfireAlexisHorton_658666_7.pdf)

Just this past weekend, the DNR hosted a campfire storytelling event in Interlochen, with three more coming up July 20 at Van Riper State Park (Champion), Aug. 17 at Belle Isle (Detroit) and Sept. 21 at Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Middleville). These events are more than just listening to spoken stories; they’re a way for people to connect with treasured experiences.

Learn more about the centennial Campfire Storytelling Project at Michigan.gov/StateParks100. Questions? Contact Maia Turek, 989-225-8573.

Upcoming storytelling events:

Saturday, July 20 at Van Riper State Park in Champion

Saturday, Aug. 17 at the Belle Isle Park in Detroit

Saturday, Sept. 21 at Yankee Springs Recreation Area in Middleville

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Native plants

RBy Ranger Steve Mueller

National Wild Ones native plant organization president Janice Hand wrote, “Consider that as a Wild One, you are not only enjoying the good feelings that comes from helping the world’s environment, but you also know that you are doing your part to leave a better world for the next generations. In turn for that satisfaction, I think Wild Ones members get more years of life added.” Consider joining Wild Ones – River City Chapter.

She added information from studies that indicate spending time tending native plantings in gardens lowers blood pressure, heart rate, stress and strengthens the immunity system. These are not new ideas and researchers have been looking for physical evidence to support healthy life styles for decades. 

In my case, with the on-going challenge of non-curable terminal cancer (multiple myeloma), oncologists have told me no more gardening because my weak immune system does not protect me from soil fungus. Wild Ones tend Ody Brooks garden. Living deliberately is a personal effort and I continue outdoor activities.

New myeloma cancer treatment advances have extended life to an average of 7 to 8 years. I have lost friends to this cancer in years 7, 8, and 10. I am in year 22 since diagnosis. I think extended time outdoors is medicine contributing to my continued survival. I planned to be on the long end of survival since first diagnosis.

Two bone marrow transplants and the most recent five years in a clinical trial has slowed the cancer activity. Treatments are temporary and the clinical trial is no longer effective. A new treatment has begun that will hopefully reduce cancer activity. I am struggling with adjustment to the new chemo and spend too much time sleeping, weak, tiring fast, short of breath and need to greatly limit activity working in the sanctuary. 

You and I have another health aid mentioned by Janice. Studies show being outdoors improves physical well-being and adds 2.81 years to life, improves short-term memory adding 1.26 years, and doing things to improve the world for wild things adds 1.75 years to our life. We can and should stay active outdoors.

I continually encourage spending time outdoors enjoying nature niche exploration. My work outside is significantly more limited than last year and I am moving slower. It is frustrating but I keep heading outside. When diagnosed at age 47, the oncologist said there is no way to predict if I will survive less than a year or have extended time. I will turn 69 this summer and strive to reach age 75 with reasonable functional health. 

Wild Ones promotes native plantings to reduce water use, store carbon in trees and perennials, and to provide habitat for life tiny and large. Wild Ones promotes reducing the United States’ 40-million acres of lawn and its resultant pollution, pesticides, herbicides and wasted water. It is tough because groomed lawns are beautiful.

My efforts and newspaper columns might help others live healthier chemical free lives that support mammals, birds, insects, and plants if readers so choose. I was pleased to see a piece next to my column in one of the papers a few weeks ago about the importance of planting native plants. In the 1980’s and 90’s, I was commissioned to coordinate an extended tree planting over ten years. The funders gave 100,000 ten-foot trees to 5th graders over the ten years in Kent County. 

Norway Maples were one of the trees and my objections fell on deaf ears. Norway maples are a non-native species that does not support native insects and birds. I requested native species given. I was told “a tree is a tree.” More recently Doug Tallamy’s popular book “Bringing Nature Home” discusses the number of insects and associated life that are supported when native species are planted in our yards. Change the world locally.

Doug Tallamy has met with me twice and requested I provide him plant lists for Michigan to aid him in the effort to maintain Michigan’s biodiversity. The “Big Idea” is reduce lawn size and plant native species for a healthy future to sustain the good life for wildlife, ourselves and society. Live deliberately with a small lawn.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Bald eagles

Photo by Dan Kreiter

Bald eagles are the symbol of American freedom, and knowing that they were once endangered and near extinction, it is thrilling to see this majestic bird once again fly overhead. They have been off the endangered species list since 2007, and in the last few years, we have continued to see more of this beautiful bird. Dan and Breanna Kreiter, of Nelson Township, recently spotted these TWO bald eagles in their back yard on 21 Mile Rd. What a great sight! Thanks so much for sending us your photo!

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