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Tag Archive | "Howard Christensen Nature Center"

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Howard Christensen Nature Center


By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve

The Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) has developed a cadre of community programs under the leadership of Dave Kieft. Weekend, spring break, and summer camps are part of the variety. Family events meet the interests for all family members. School programming is increasing.

Individual and family memberships provide opportunity for people to visit everyday of the week at no additional fee. Swamp boardwalks lead to where spring frog chorus is a highlight just before dusk. Learn about additional HCNC membership benefits at the office or web site.

One can slowly approach Vernal Pond near the Red Pine Interpretive Center and frogs will quiet. You might see their heads retreat beneath the surface. Stop, sit, and wait less than three minutes and a brave Spring Peeper will begin a single peep. Soon others will feel safe and a massive chorus will fill the air.

While you are sitting, cup your hands behind your ears to enlarge your sound catching ear pinnae. The sound will become so painfully loud you will unable to continue with hands cupped behind your ears. Rotate hands so the cup is facing behind you. The back of your hands in front of ears reduces a large amount of sound from reaching and hurting your vibrating eardrums.

When you leave Vernal Pond, discuss how valuable movable ear pinnae are for dogs, foxes, squirrels, deer, and other mammals. They allow gathering of specific directional sound. Mammals are able to determine exactly where danger might approach. Notice Vernal Pond has more frogs than nearby Tadpole Pond. Vernal ponds are more important for frog survival than permanent ponds and lakes.

Predators approach prey quietly but a rustle of leaves, a broken twig, or even brushing against a shrub can alert mammals because ear pinnae enhance sound. People cannot move ear pinnae but we can use our hands to demonstrate the effectiveness of movable pinnae.

It was always my expectation when director at HCNC to share space with creatures that make the nature center home. We maintained a single file pathway along the west side of Vernal Pond from beech tree to driveway. The east shoreline was reserved for frogs and other creatures with no human disturbance.

Green Frogs sat frozen like statues. On the west shore, frogs submerge as we approached or they would jump frightened into the pond. Some would stay motionless ready to escape. They blended well with shoreline vegetation. East shore frogs waited still and quiet until we left the pond.

Green Frogs begin singing much later in the season when temperatures approach 70 F. Wood Frogs are mostly done singing by early April. Spring Peepers and Western Chorus Frogs continue song through April. Unfortunately, Western Chorus Frogs have declined in our area. It is a reason to leave some pond borders free of disturbance for native species. We worked to help people recognize we are visitors in wildlife nature niches and encouraged living with nature instead of crowding animals from homes in ponds, streams, forests, fields, and our yards. Small vernal ponds are essential with fewer predators.

Seeing animals is difficult without entering their home but we can provide minimal disturbance that allows habitats to remain healthy. That is a primary reason for restricting activity to one half of Vernal Pond. It allows vegetation to grow to pond edge and provides frogs with healthy living space in appropriate arrangement for food, water, and shelter to meet survival needs.

Please become an HCNC member. Discover frogs by walking nature center trails maintained for school and family groups in wild habitats. Make real world connections that would otherwise be vicariously through books, digital screens, or stories about the natural world. Enjoy being outdoors with wildlife.

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.

Posted in Outdoors, Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments (0)

Hometown Happenings


Hometown Happenings articles are a community service for non-profit agencies only. Due to popular demand for placement in this section, we can no longer run all articles. Deadline for articles is Monday at 5 p.m. This is not guaranteed space. Articles will run as space allows. Guaranteed placement is $10, certain restrictions may apply. You now can email your Hometown Happenings to happenings@cedarspringspost.com please include name and phone number for any questions we may have.

Fish Fry

Mar. 18: Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church, 10295 Myers Lake Ave., is hosting a Fish Fry on Friday, March 18th from 4:30 to 7 pm. Battered fried fish, baked potato or fresh-cut French fries, cole slaw, coffee and punch, dessert. 3 pieces – $9, 2 pieces – $7, 1 piece – $5. Eat in or carry out. 616-866-4298. #10,11p

Annual En Gedi Auction

Mar. 18: Come Be Refreshed! Friday, March 18th with the High School cafeteria doors opening at 6 pm. This year’s event has many great items for you to choose from to include furniture, MSU football and basketball tickets, private golf session by MSU Coach Casey Lubahn, hotel stays, fine dining certificates, tools, hand-made dolls, private wild turkey and pheasant hunts, clothing, wood pellets, puzzles, and much more!!!! With a $10 entry donation you can enjoy delicious appetizers while you browse the items on the silent and live auction table. All funds earned on this event will be matched by CS Manufacturing. En Gedi is a Christ-centered non-profit organization providing a FREE after school youth center, special high school and community events with a focus on building family. Donations of services or products (all are appreciated are greatly needed. Contact Sue Wolfe at 696-2246 or SueQ@hughes.net for tickets or for donation pick-ups. #10,11p

Lions Club Pancake Breakfast

Mar. 19: The Cedar Springs Lions Club’s Pancake Breakfast will be held this Saturday on March 19th from 7 – 11 am at the Cedar Springs United Methodist Church, on the corner of Main and Church. Adults $8 and Family $25. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, juice, coffee. All you can eat. The next planned date is April 16th. Proceeds to assist sight conservation. #11

Mom2Mom Sale

Mar. 19: The Resurrection Lutheran Church, 180 S. Third St., Sand Lake is hosting a Mom2Mom sale on Saturday, March 19th from 9 am to 1 pm. For questions regarding the sale, please contact Nichole at 616-263-9662. #10,11p

Annual Church Garage Sale

Mar. 19: Rockford Reformed Church, 4890 – 11 Mile Rd., Rockford, will be hosting their Annual Church Garage Sale on Saturday, March 19th from 9 am to 3 pm. Proceeds will go towards the youth ministries summer trips. For more information, call Deb Coon at 616-866-4829. #11p

Roast Beef Dinner

Mar. 20: The Rockford American Legion Post 102 on the corner of Northland Dr. and Rockford Park Dr. (330 Rockford Park Dr.), will be hosting a roast beef dinner on Sunday March 20th and every 3rd Sunday of each month. Open to the public. We will be serving roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, coleslaw, rolls, dessert, coffee and punch. Reasonably priced at $9 for adults, kids age 4 to 12 for $7 and under 4 years are free. Serving from 11am to 3 pm. See ya there and bring the family! #10,11p

Dinner at the Legion

Mar. 21: American Legion, 80 S. Main St. Cedar Springs, is hosting a roast beef and onion dinner on Monday, March 21st, from 5 – 7 pm. Included will be mashed potatoes, veggies, roll, drink and dessert. The cost is $9 for adults, children (15 and younger) $4.00. Come and enjoy home cooking. Take out is available. 616-696-9160.  #11p

Good Friday Walk and Remember 

Mar. 25: Walk to each of the Sand Lake Village Churches and listen to the thoughts of characters that experienced the crucifixion first hand. Friday, March 25th from noon to 1:30 pm. Our walk begins at Resurrection Lutheran Church (just south of town on Northland Dr.), with stops at the Full Gospel Church, Downtown Pavilion, Mary Queen of Apostles, and the United Methodist Church. Transportation will be provided back to the Lutheran Church. Children and families are encouraged to join us. #10-12p

Easter Egg-Stravaganza

Mar. 26: An Easter Egg-Stravaganza, a celebration for children will be held on Saturday, March 26th from 1 to 2:30 pm at the Solon Center Wesleyan Church. All children 10 years and under are invited to attend. There’ll be games, an Easter Egg hunt, and a special Easter presentation. Two bicycles will be given away as grand prizes! For more information go to: scwchurch.com or call the church office  at 616-696-3229. The church is located at 15671 Algoma Ave., just north of 19 Mile Rd. All welcome! #11,12p

Learn to Play the Ukulele

Mar. 30: During this hour and a half workshop you will learn the basics of playing the Ukulele. This fun and relaxed program will teach you the basic chords, rhythm and strumming you’ll need to play a few songs by the end of the workshop. Our instructor, Dean Wiers-Windemuller of Southtown Guitar will lead the hands-on workshop. Players of all levels are welcome and no prior experience is necessary. Pre-registration is required. For teens grades 6-12. Wednesday, March 30th at 3:30 pm at the Nelson Township/Sand Lake KDL Branch, 88 Eighth St., 616-636-4251. #11

HCNC’s Spring Break Day Camp

Apr. 4: Spring Break 2016 is right around the corner! Howard Christensen Nature Center’s Spring Day Camp begins on April 4th and runs the entire week. Crafts, exploring the property, and getting up close  and personal with animals only begins to scratch the surface of this fun filled week! Registration is now open. HCNC is located at 16160 Red Pine Dr., Kent City, 616-675-3158. www.howardchristiansen.org. #11

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Hometown Happenings


Hometown Happenings articles are a community service for non-profit agencies only. Due to popular demand for placement in this section, we can no longer run all articles. Deadline for articles is Monday at 5 p.m. This is not guaranteed space. Articles will run as space allows. Guaranteed placement is $10, certain restrictions may apply. You now can email your Hometown Happenings to happenings@cedarspringspost.com please include name and phone number for any questions we may have.

Blood Drive for Lizzie August

Mar. 10: Donate blood in honor of Elizabeth August. Lizzie was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 4 in 2009 and during her treatments she has received 13 red blood and 29 platelet transfusions along with 2 bone marrow transplants. She is now 11 and in remission. There are so many more who need our help. Come donate blood to honor her journey and the journeys of all the young children fighting their own battles. Creative Technologies Academy, 350 Pine St., Cedar Springs on Thursday, March 10th from 1 to 6:45 pm. To schedule an call Jennifer August at 616-799-0559. Come donate blood and register with Delete Blood Cancer to be part of the bone marrow donor registry. American Red Cross, 800-733-2767, redcrossblood.org. #10

Praise the Lord at Cowboy Church

Mar. 13: 2nd Chance will be having Cowboy Church on Sunday, March 13th at 6 pm. It will be at 2nd Chance School at 810 – 17 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs (corner of 17 Mile and Olin Lakes Rd). The message will be shared by Pinky Hosford who has an amazing testimony to share, Music will be shared by Gospel Singers, Larry, Deb, George and Ray, traditional country and gospel singers. Invite your family and friends. Cowboy Church will be every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month. Each service will have different people sharing God’s word and music. If you have questions, call 616-293-2150. See you there! #10

Job Seekers Workshop

Mar. 14, 28, Apr. 11, 25: Kent District Library and Michigan Works! Present free Workshops for Job Seekers. Workshops are on Mondays from 1 0 3 pm at the Nelson Township/Sand Lake KDL Branch.  March 14th: Resume Development Workshop, March 28th: Interviewing Workshop, April 11th: Brand: You!, April 25th: Communications Skills. For more information, please visit www.kdl.org/events or call KDL at 616-784-2007 or 877-243-2466 (toll free). #9,10p

Dinner at the Legion

Mar. 14: American Legion, 80 S. Main St. Cedar Springs, is hosting a roast beef and onion dinner on Monday, March 14th, from 5 – 7 pm. Included will be mashed potatoes, veggies, roll, drink and dessert. The cost is $9 for adults, children (15 and younger) $4.00. Come and enjoy home cooking. Take out is available. 616-696-9160.  #10p

Michigan Blood Drive

Mar. 15: The Cedar Springs United Methodist Church will host a blood drive on Tuesday, March 15th from 12:30 pm until 7 pm. Is your blood really red or is it green enough to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as Irish? Find out. Attempt to donate and you could also potentially help three people in need. The Blood Center thanks all the people that attempt to donate. #10

Dinner at East Nelson UMC

Mar. 16: East Nelson United Methodist Church, 9024 – 18 Mile Rd., is hosting a Ham Dinner on Wednesday, March 16th from 5 to7 pm. The menu will include: ham, cabbage, red potatoes, carrots, relish tray, rolls, homemade desserts. Everyone is invited. Donations accepted. #10

Fish Fry

Mar. 18: Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church, 10295 Myers Lake Ave., is hosting a Fish Fry on Friday, March 18th from 4:30 to 7 pm. Battered fried fish, baked potato or fresh-cut French fries, cole slaw, coffee and punch, dessert. 3 pieces – $9, 2 pieces – $7, 1 piece – $5. Eat in or carry out. 616-866-4298. #10,11p

Annual En Gedi Auction

Mar. 18: Come Be Refreshed! Friday, March 18th with the High School cafeteria doors opening at 6 pm. This year’s event has many great items for you to choose from to include furniture, MSU football and basketball tickets, private golf session by MSU Coach Casey Lubahn, hotel stays, fine dining certificates, tools, hand-made dolls, private wild turkey and pheasant hunts, clothing, wood pellets, puzzles, and much more!!!! With a $10 entry donation you can enjoy delicious appetizers while you browse the items on the silent and live auction table. All funds earned on this event will be matched by CS Manufacturing. En Gedi is a Christ-centered non-profit organization providing a FREE after school youth center, special high school and community events with a focus on building family. Donations of services or products (all are appreciated are greatly needed. Contact Sue Wolfe at 696-2246 or SueQ@hughes.net for tickets or for donation pick-ups. #10,11p

Pancake Breakfast 

Mar. 19: The Courtland Fire Department, 7480 – 14 Mile Rd., will be hosting their annual pancake breakfast on Saturday, March 19th from 8 – 11 am. The fire department will be serving pancakes, eggs, hash browns, sausage, juice, milk, coffee and tea. Adults – $7.00, Children 4-12 – $4.00, 3 and under are free. #10

Quilt Show Library Friends Fundraiser

Mar. 19: Saturday, March 19th from 10 am to 4 pm. Show your quilt! Last Call! Do you have a quilt that you want to show in the 4th Annual Friends of the Library Quilt Show? Call Barb at 616-236-9500 or Louise at 616-696-1376 to still get your quilt in the show. Quilts may be delivered to the Cedar Springs Middle School on Friday, March 18th between 4 and 6 pm or Saturday, March 18th between 7:30 and 9 am. Attendees will vote for their favorite quilts in each of the two categories, general and antique ( at least 50 years old). Admission is $2 per person and in addition to the quilt show there will be trunk shows for Red Button Quilt Co. and Blueberry Backroads, a silent auction, a quilting garage sale and a raffle quilt. Raffle tickets are available at the Cedar Springs Public Library, Luv2Quilt on 14 Mile and at the show. See you there. #10

Mom2Mom Sale

Mar. 19: The Resurrection Lutheran Church, 180 S. Third St., Sand Lake is hosting a Mom2Mom sale on Saturday, March 19th from 9 am to 1 pm. For questions regarding the sale, please contact Nichole at 616-263-9662. #10,11p

Roast Beef Dinner

Mar. 20: The Rockford American Legion Post 102 on the corner of Northland Dr. and Rockford Park Dr. (330 Rockford Park Dr.), will be hosting a roast beef dinner on Sunday March 20th and every 3rd Sunday of each month. Open to the public. We will be serving roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, coleslaw, rolls, dessert, coffee and punch. Reasonably priced at $9 for adults, kids age 4 to 12 for $7 and under 4 years are free. Serving from 11am to 3 pm. See ya there and bring the family! #10,11p

Good Friday Walk and Remember

Mar. 25: Walk to each of the Sand Lake Village Churches and listen to the thoughts of characters that experienced the crucifixion first hand. Friday, March 25th from noon to 1:30 pm. Our walk begins at Resurrection Lutheran Church (just south of town on Northland Dr.), with stops at the Full Gospel Church, Downtown Pavilion, Mary Queen of Apostles, and the United Methodist Church. Transportation will be provided back to the Lutheran Church. Children and families are encouraged to join us. #10-12p

HCNC Easter Egg Hunt w/Brunch

Mar. 26: Howard Christensen Nature Center will hold it’s 6th Annual Easter Egg Hunt with Brunch on Saturday, March 26th. Brunch will be served from noon to 2 pm. The Easter Egg Hunt begins promptly for all ages at 2 pm. Brunch is $5 per person or $20 per family of 4 or more and includes the Easter Egg Hunt. Easter Egg Hunting only $1 per egg hunter. Members are free. 16160 Red Pine Dr., Kent City, 616-675-3158. www.howardchristiansen.org. #10

CS Community Players Mystery Trivia

Mar. 30: The Cedar Springs Community Players are pleased to announce “Murder at the Kent”, a collection of three one act plays which will be performed at the Kent Theatre on March 30th, 31st, and April 1st.  The plays are Sorry, Wrong Number, Heat Lightning, and The Man who Died Twice.  These short, thrilling plays will delight the mystery lovers and send shivers down the spines of the audience.  And since every good mystery story requires some anticipation, the Players have devised a series of mystery themed trivia to build up the suspense before opening night.  These questions will appear in The Cedar Springs Post each week in the month before the production, starting on March 3rd.  Solve the riddles and bring your answers to one of the performances at the Kent Theatre to be entered to win prizes that night. #10p

Community Night

Apr. 21: Cedar Springs Community Night is April 21st and registration is underway. The deadline for registration is March 25th. Forms are online at www.csaparksandrec.com or you can call 616-696-7320. #10b

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Hometown Happenings


Hometown Happenings articles are a community service for non-profit agencies only. Due to popular demand for placement in this section, we can no longer run all articles. Deadline for articles is Monday at 5 p.m. This is not guaranteed space. Articles will run as space allows. Guaranteed placement is $10, certain restrictions may apply. You now can email your Hometown Happenings to happenings@cedarspringspost.com please include name and phone number for any questions we may have.


Free Nutritional Options for Wellness

N.O.W. (Nutritional Options for Wellness) program held at Solon Center Wesleyan Church Food Pantry. Teaching disease self-management and healthy habits to those in need. Partnering with Access of West Michigan, we offer healthy food and nutrition education classes to low-income individuals who suffer from one of the following diseases: Cardiovascular, Diabetes, COPD, Renal Disease, Celiac Disease. Talk to your doctor today for referral into the program. For general questions, please call Nancy at Access of West Michigan, 616-774-2175 ext. 109. #49,50p

“American Graffiti” fundraiser for CS Library

Dec. 11: The Kent Theatre is hosting a movie as a fundraising event for the new Cedar Springs Library on Friday, December 11th at 7 pm. For this event we will be showing the George Lucas film “American Graffiti”. This classic “coming of age” film about life in the early 1960s stars Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack and many, many more. Come join us at the Kent Theatre for a fun and nostalgia filled evening and raise money for a great cause! Tickets are $5 each and 100% of the money raised will go to the new library. #48, 49p

Praise the Lord at Cowboy Church

Dec. 13: 2nd Chance will be having Cowboy Church starting Sunday, December 13th at 6 pm. It will be at 2nd Chance School at 810 – 17 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, corner of 17 Mile and Olin Lakes Rd. The message will be shared by Bob “Toad” Cook, from Big Rapids, Michigan, retired Professional Rodeo Barrelman, who has an amazing testimony to share. The music will be provided by Ron Lynnes, from White Cloud, Michigan. Invite your family and friends. Cowboy Church will be every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month. There will be no service on December 27th so you can celebrate the Christmas weekend with your family. If you have questions, call 616-293-2150. #49

Michigan Blood Drive

Dec. 15: A Michigan Blood Drive will be held on Tuesday, December 15th at the Cedar Springs United Methodist Church from 12:30 to 7 pm. What a better Christmas gift than to give someone a blood donation. Each unit donated has the potential to help three people. The cost to you is an hour of your time. Cedar Springs Women’s Club will be providing homemade cookies. #49

Christmas Fund Distribution

Dec. 16: Due to the generosity of the late Evelyn Cossin, there are limited funds available again this year to assist some families in need for Christmas. The funds are available only to families living in the Cedar Springs city limits. Please send or bring letters requesting assistance to: Cedar Springs United Methodist Church, 140 S. Main St., PO Box K, Cedar Springs, MI 49319, C/O – Janet Avery. All letters should include some brief summary of your need for assistance. Letters must be received NO LATER THAN, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16th. **Note: If awarded some assistance, we will send you a letter informing you of your pick up times of 10am –noon and 7pm – 8pm on Wednesday, December 23rd at Cedar Springs UMC. All letters received will receive some notification of acceptance or denial of assistance. #49

Gingerbread Lane at Two KDL Branches 

Dec. 17,19: Stroll down Gingerbread Lane and enjoy tasty gingerbread stories. Each child will make a simple gingerbread house. Pre-registration is required and participant spots are limited. For all ages.

Thursday, December 17th at 6 pm at the Spencer Township KDL Branch, 14960 Meddler, Gowen, 616-984-5680 and Saturday, December 19th at 10:30 am the Nelson Township/Sand Lake KDL Branch, 88 Eighth St. 161-636-4251. #49

HCNC Holiday Social

Dec. 18: Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16160 Red Pine Drive, Kent City, will provide wine, punch and hors d’oeuvres on Friday, December 18th from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Bring your whole family! Everyone is invited! Games for the kids, Directors annual report and a time to socialize with the staff and other supporters of HCNC. Questions, call 616-675-3158. #49

Christmas Bake Sale

Dec. 19: The Tri County Country 4H Club Christmas Bake Sale will be held on Saturday, December 19th from 9 am to 2 pm at the Tractor Supply Co. in Cedar Springs. Packaged for holiday gift giving. #49.50p

Roast Beef Dinner

Dec. 20: The Rockford American Legion Post 102 on the corner of Northland Dr. and Rockford Park Dr. (330 Rockford Park Dr.), will be hosting a roast beef dinner on Sunday December 20th and every 3rd Sunday of each month. Open to the public. We will be serving roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, coleslaw, rolls, dessert, coffee and punch. Reasonably priced at $9 for adults, kids age 4 to 12 for $7 and under 4 years are free. Serving from 11am to 3 pm. See ya there and bring the family! #49,50p

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First bull experience


By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

A visit to Uncle Al’s farm when I was seven gave me a first close encounter with a bull. Uncle Al was actually my dad’s uncle. While my dad and he visited or did whatever adults do, we were sent to a harvested cornfield to salvage corn the machine missed. Following that chore, we headed to the barn to put hay in cow feeding troughs. When our work was finished we got to play.

We decided to jump from the loft into a large pile of hay. That all sounded simple but I had a big, fearful challenge. When we entered the barn, it was necessary to walk past the cows to get to the hayloft ladder. In the first stall was a bull with a metal ring in its nose. I was ok walking past cows but I feared the bull would kick me for sure. He was looking over his shoulder at me.

He was surely planning how to take me out if I tried to walk past him. My older brothers and other great-nephews passed without incident. It was still too frightening for me. When I heard others having fun, I needed to build courage to risk my life by racing past the bull to join the others.

I had seen matadors on TV with a bull attacking and one matador was gored. Bulls are to be feared. My brothers and the others survived passing the bull so I darted past without incident.  My fear was unfounded. With more farm experience by age 7, I would not have hesitated walking past the bull.

As director at Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC), I greeted student groups. Some groups came with wild nature experience. Others came from the city and had no experience in the woods. Some students had parents and grandparent that took them to parks, national forests, or wild natural areas.

For those that had never been exposed to wild nature niches there was great fear. I was asked if they would be attacked by tigers. Their knowledge of Michigan wild animals was a misconception. They only knew nature from TV. Like my farm experience, their visit to a nature center provided a new and unknown experience.

I did not fear going to a farm and the trip was filled with wonderful excitement until I encountered a bull. I wonder if students that had never been in wild areas were sick with fear as the bus traveled from school to nature center. The bus left the city, traveled to the north woods through the Rogue River State Game Area and finally stopped in the desolate wooded parking area at HCNC.

Unfounded fears are real and we all have them. I am comfortable backpacking in remote wilderness areas where mountain lions and wolves are present. I know elk are more dangerous and kill more people. I have greater fear for unsavory people in large cities than I do for large predators in the wild.

Our daughter used to pick up stones and fill her cheeks like a chipmunk when she was two. When we noticed bulging checks on our hikes, we would say give mommy or daddy the stones and she would spit out a mouthful. We figured stones in the mouth would build her immune system. Others feared disease or choking but gumballs were ok for their kids. We just called her our little geologist.

As adults, it is important that we provide diverse experiences for coming generations. Wild areas are shrinking and becoming more foreign to youth. Knowledge is often dominated by TV exposure and it often shows risky, dangerous encounters instead of normal reality.

Take kids to the Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16190 Red Pine Drive, Kent City, MI 49330 for a wonderful positive nature encounter. Leave your own fears behind.

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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World heroes


Ancestral perennial corn.

Ancestral perennial corn.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Honey Bees and native insect pollinators keep food on our tables. Our society would crumble without insect pollinators that keep flowering plants thriving. Pollinators are real heroes that we should honor, respect, and care for by how we treat yards, farms, forest, and fields. If you ask people who they owe their health, wealth, and security to, I expect most would not reply “insects.”

Perhaps this is because the importance of ecological sustainability is not integrated into child upbringing by parents and is marginalized in school education by political forces and narrow subject focus. Ecological literacy is integral for maintaining sustainable economic, industrial, and societal community success. That was my focus as director at the Howard Christensen Nature Center and Wittenbach/Wege Agri-science and Environmental Education Center’s cross curriculum instruction. Our survival is dependent on keeping essential workers like insects on the job.

As nice as it is to recognize the work of people we depend on, other life forms are equal or more essential. To help develop appreciation for life in our neighborhoods, Nature Niche articles highlight creatures with whom we share Earth. However, this week I would like to recognize a human world hero with whom I have had limited personal experience.

I met with Dr. Hugh Iltis at the University of Wisconsin when I was deciding a career path for graduate school. I was considering botanical studies with him as my advisor. Hugh had recently become aware of a perennial corn in Mexico, and he and his colleagues named the ancestral perennial corn Zea diploperennis.

What makes Dr. Iltis a world hero is his recognition for the importance of an unknown plant that is restricted to a few square miles on planet Earth and his efforts to preserve it. It is a true grass related to Zea mays, our domestic edible corn. Mexican and Nicaraguan governments have taken action to preserve these plants. Why?

It has potential for use in breeding insect resistance, perennialism, and flood tolerance into domestic corn. Can you imagine if farmers no longer needed to plant corn annually because it sprouted annually on it own? If we can breed domestic corn or genetically modify it to become perennial, it would have significant impacts for agricultural economics.

What if we could breed it or genetically splice insect resistance from ancestral corn back into corn that was lost during domestication 10,000 years ago? We could perhaps reduce human dependence on insecticides that pose dangerous health concerns for our families and other life forms.

The tolerance of Zea diploperennis to floods could possibly increase domestic corn survival if its genes were incorporated to help it survive when corn fields flood and soils become water logged.

Wild corn was thought extinct at the time this ancestral corn was discovered. Many people and perhaps most on Earth do not recognize the importance and need to preserve species in our neighborhoods. Their importance and value will be lost to us and future generations if we do not honor, respect, and care for the health, wealth, and security that other species provide in ecosystems that support us.

I did not take the road to study plants under Dr. Iltis’s direction. Instead, I chose graduate study in entomology and ecology, with a subsequent career in environmental education. I focused energies toward environmental stewardship essential for sustaining society and life on Earth, by following Dr. Iltis’ lead and that of other heroes that help sustain society. Hail Hero to Dr. Iltis, who is now 90.

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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Nature Center awarded grant for boardwalk


 

Howard Christensen Nature Center recently received a $2,000.00 grant from the Sparta Community Foundation.

According to Nature Center Director David Kieft, the grant will be used to repair and rebuild the Thunderwood Swamp Boardwalk at the Nature Center, located on Red Pine Drive, in Tyrone Township.

“This boardwalk is one of two remote trails on the HCNC property and was closed in the summer of 2015 because of disrepair and for general safety,” explained Kieft.

He said the grant money, along with donations from local businesses, and service from local groups, will rebuild the boardwalk to the high safety standards of HCNC. It will then reopen to provide uninhibited natural experiences in the hardwood swamp called Thunderwood.

HCNC is still accepting volunteers and contributions to help complete the project and those interested are asked to call the office at (616) 675-3158 to inquire.

HCNC has received several grants from the Sparta Community Foundation. Others included funding for the Planetarium, the Bird Wall, the Chrishaven Boardwalk, the aquarium wall and Animal Resource Center.

“Howard Christensen Nature Center greatly appreciates and thanks the Sparta Community Foundation for their continued support in the improvements and programming intended to enrich the community and offer a place of solitude for hikers, runners and families,” said Kieft.

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Family hiking exploration (part 2)


Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Five Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) trails were described last week and five more follow.

Trail signs have word names, picture icons, and color codes to involve all family members.

Spring Creek Loop (light blue lettered signs with frog icon)

Begins at the Welcome Center parking area and follows east past Chrishaven Lake and lake’s floating dock. It connects with Nature’s Habitats Trail (NHT) for a short distance and then continues eastward to Spring Lake where it loops south to follow the ridge above Spring Creek westward. It joins with NHT along the south side the enchanted Norway Spruce forest at the Spring Creek access spur and continues west until it spurs north to complete a loop near Chrishaven Lake.

Arboretum Paths (Red lettered signs with oak leaf icon)

It is a two-part trail. The East Arboretum Loop contains many species originally planted for ornamental transplant. The West Arboretum Loop is a Spruce/Pine plantation. The East Arboretum Loop is .4 kilometers (.25 miles) long.  The West Arboretum Loop is .5 kilometers (.3 miles).

Boardwalk to Chrishaven Lake (Dark blue lettered signs with sensitive fern frond icon)

A boardwalk leads through an old lake that has been largely replaced with vegetation to create a swampy/bog. A floating dock is present on the remnant of a once much larger lake and the boardwalk leads north to connect with Nature Habitats Trail. Its length is .27 kilometers (.2 miles).

Swamp Ridge Trail (Brown lettered signs with turtle icon)

Begins at the amphitheater fire circle between the Welcome Center parking area and the Red Pine Interpreting Building. It follows the south edge of the swamp eastward to Chrishaven Lake and continues east along the ridge.  At the open area south of the lake it raises from the lowland trail to upland but continues to follow the swamp ridge until meets Nature’s Habitats trail.

Thunderwood Trail (Green lettered signs with woodpecker icon)

Trail departs from Nature’s Habitats Trail, loops through upland forest to a boardwalk through what has become mostly swamp from what was once a marsh. Before entering an upland forest, hikers encounter large hemlock trees on their way to joining Arrowhead Trail. Length is .44 kilometers (.27 miles).

Some unnamed trails are meant for limited activity to allow wildlife privacy but are used during special programs. HCNC’s trail plan provides human access to nature niches balanced with providing plants and animals with needed sanctuary isolation for survival. Design incorporates three-use activity levels: High Activity, Passive Activity, and Limited Activity areas.

Constructed features along the trails enhance family hiking experiences. They include two interpretive buildings, Howard Christensen Memorial Spring, floating docks on the north and south side of Chrishaven Lake, Floating Bridge on Tadpole Pond, Swamp Shelter and Swamp decks on NHT, amphitheater, Swamp Tower, Tadpole Tower, Legend Circle, and Serenity Circle. A Welcome Center with restrooms is located at the south parking area.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.

Posted in Outdoors, Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments Off on Family hiking exploration (part 2)

Changes in Animal Communities


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

Ernest Thompson Seton and his naturalist partner studied caribou, arctic hares, wolves, arctic foxes, Canada Geese, Lapland Longspurs, Ptarmigans, and many other animals when they explored the arctic tundra in 1907. He headed north from the Eastern Deciduous Forest Biome where we live to explore a vast and relatively unknown arctic biome.

He wondered if caribou and musk ox still survived with the onslaught of uncontrolled shooting. He hired local native people to guide him north through known country and then ventured farther into an unknown landscape with the use of sketchy maps created by early explorers.

When I lead groups through various habitats in the deciduous forest biome at Howard Christensen Nature Center or Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, I focus attention on the succession of animal communities in habitats. Lichens and mosses colonize bare ground and are followed by a variety of plants in succession from grasses, herbs, shrubs, and trees. Associated with each set of plants are specific animal communities of greatest interest to people. The animals can only survive when associated with appropriate plant communities. The plants sustain many animals that become prey for other animals.

Farm fields at Ody Brook and HCNC were abandoned and became good study sites. At the site that later became Ody Brook, the farmer drove his tractor and equipment through the creek in spring and found it problematic so two 5-acre fields were abandoned. This also stopped the stirring of sediments that would cover trout eggs. Farming was abandoned in one field during the 1970’s and the other in the late 1980’s. At HCNC, the farm field was abandoned in the early 1960’s.

Habitats became qualitative observation areas (general overviews) when HCNC was established in 1974 for students in the Kent Intermediate School District. Observational field trips were led to help students understand succession relationships in nature niches. Qualitative studies are a good introduction to science but provide limited evidence required for making supported conclusions.

When I became director at HCNC in 1986, we established a study plot where students could learn how to gather quantitative data (detail numerical observations) in the abandoned field. The study plots supported school curricula expectations in science, mathematics, social studies, language arts, and art classes. The field trips allowed students to gather detailed quantitative data with hands-on learning experiences that helped apply classroom “book learning” to real-life applications. Quantitative studies supported the students general qualitative impressions made on discovery hikes at the nature center.

As society becomes more urban and suburban, people have fewer opportunities to learn the importance of qualitative or quantitative farming and wildland ecology values or their importance and how they are essential for maintaining a sustainable society. Farmers need quantitative observations to know when to treat insect infestations because qualitative is not accurate enough. They also need to know how to properly space crops. Following my departure for HCNC, the Kent Conservation District that assumed management of HCNC removed the quantitative study plot in the field. Quantitative studies in wildland communities require long term detailed data collection, and require coordination and integration among a variety of subject areas. Teachers need classes to return yearly and have students gather data for current classes to analyze to make valid scientific conclusions using data from previous years. Science, math, art, social studies, and writing teachers need to coordinate together for student learning to be most effective. Students need guidance to apply connections among art, math, science, and social studies.

What does this have to do with Seton’s arctic expedition? He spent the summer recording general qualitative observations but he also gathered some scientific quantitative evidence. Both are useful. Qualitative observations provided a general appearance of occurrences but quantitative evidence provided detailed records with specific numbers, species, and plant growth that would be useful for documenting changes over time. That is what students were gathering between 1986 and 2005 at HCNC. Detailed long-term data collection is necessary to make valid conclusions. In the arctic Seton made initial qualitative observations that set the stage for quantitative studies to follow. He also gathered quantitative data by collecting animal and plant specimens. Representative animals were shot for the American Museum of Natural History. The opened the stomachs of animals to document food eaten as well as documented behaviors observed.

It was not until Dr. Curtis provided detailed quantitative data from Lake Michigan Dunes that concept of plant succession was supported with adequate quantitative scientific evidence for valid analysis and conclusions. His model is now used worldwide. Quantitative studies are essential. Quantitative studies are not perfect but further repeatable studies allow scientific debate and corrections. Quantitative science is self-correcting. Most of us did not receive that kind of education as students. I didn’t. Modern curricula better prepares students with the help of places like HCNC. Unfortunately field trips have become fewer even though they are vital for helping students apply content learned in classrooms. Cedar Springs used to visit HCNC regularly with all grades from K through fifth. Parental encouragement at schools may help reinstate them. Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. has now assumed management of HCNC and we will see where the future leads learning. HCNC has expanded opportunities beyond school groups to community programming.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

616-696-1753

 

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments Off on Changes in Animal Communities

Halloween Happenings


Halloween-leadin

Check out some of the fun, fall activities going on in our area for Halloween!

 

MCC Haunted Indoor Forest

Oct. 24, 25: Montcalm Community College Art Club hosts a Haunted Indoor Forest from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Instruction North Building, on the college’s Sidney campus. A $2 donation is suggested.

Harvest Brains at Sand Lake/Nelson Library

Oct. 25: Program for teens, at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, October 25. Save your brains! Build a survival bag, practice your aim, and learn what it takes to stay alive during a zombie apocalypse. The library is located at 88 Eighth St., Sand Lake.

Harvest party

Oct. 25: Cedar Creek Community Church, at 2969 14 Mile RD NE Sparta, will host a harvest party on Saturday, October 25, from 5-8 p.m. There will be hayrides (using straw due to allergies), pumpkin painting, dunking for apples, cake walk, games, face painting, soup, hot dogs, popcorn, and lots of fun! All are welcome. Call 866-9829 for more info.

Pumpkin Carving and Lit Trails Walk

Oct. 25: Pumpkin/Carving and Pumpkin lit trail hike from 5-8:30 p.m. at Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16290 Red Pine Dr., Kent City, on Saturday, October 25. Suggested donation is $8 per person or $30 for family of four or more, including pumpkin to take home. (No one turned away for inability to pay. This donation helps keep HCNC operating.) Pumpkin carving from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and pumpkin lit walk through our spooky Enchanted Forest from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (Friendly enough for your toddlers. Non scary animals will be on display in the forest, weather permitting for the mock-animals). Includes pumpkin to take home or leave at the center for the wild animals to munch on. Dress up as your favorite nature character. Open to all ages.

Trunk ‘r Treat at Courtland-Oakfield UMC 

Oct. 25: It’s our fourth annual Trunk ‘r Treat for kids of all ages. Saturday, October 25, 5:30-7:00 p.m. at Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church, 10295 Myers Lake NE. Candy outdoors; hot dogs & baked beans indoors.

Trunk or Treat at East Nelson UMC

Oct. 25: Bring your kids and come “Trunk or Treat” at East Nelson UM Church, 9024 18 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs on Saturday, October 25 from 5-7 p.m. Warm up with hot chocolate and sloppy joes. Games and fun for all.

Fall Festival  

Oct. 29: Fall Festival for all ages at the Solon Center Wesleyan Church, 15671 Algoma Ave., Cedar Springs on Wednesday, October 29, from 6:30- 8 p.m. For families with children 5th grade and under. Games, prizes, snacks, boy and girl door prizes and candy, candy, candy! The church is located on Algoma, just north of 19 Mile Road.

Nightmare on Cherry Street

Oct. 30: Calling all 4th to 6th graders!  You are officially invited to come to our “Nightmare on Cherry Street” party at the Cedar Springs Library! The fun, games, and food will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 30 and go until 7:30. Registration is required, so come into the library to sign up or call 616-696-1910

Trick or Treat Trail Walk

Oct. 31: From 3-5 p.m. on Halloween, bring your kiddos by Howard Christensen Nature Center, 16290 Red Pine Dr., Kent City, to take a short walk down one of our trails to collect some candy, so we don’t get tricked!

Cedar Springs Spooktacular

Oct. 31:  The Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, businesses and churches in Cedar Springs are sponsoring the annual Main Street Halloween Spooktacular on Friday, October 31. Some of the free events include: spooky storytelling and crafts at the Cedar Springs Public Library, 4:30 p.m.; a haunted school house at the Cedar Springs Historical Museum in Morley Park 5-7 p.m.; a Kids Carnival, hosted by Calvary Assembly of God 5-7 p.m.; Trick-or-Treating at local businesses between 5-7pm; and Trunk or Treat at The Springs Church from 6 to 8 p.m. (see more details below).

Kids carnival

Oct. 31: Calvary Assembly of God will be presenting a free carnival during the Chamber of Commerce’s Spooktacular event from 5-7pm on Friday, October 31. The carnival will be at the corner of Ash and Main Street, next to DJ Nails, and will have lots of family-friendy games, with prizes and candy.

Haunted school house

Oct. 31: The Haunted School House is back this year at the Cedar Springs Historical Museum in Morley Park from 5-7 p.m. again. Nolan Patin has worked up another fun spooky event for the museum. We do adapt our spookiness when young children are coming through and will be handing out treats.

Trunk or Treat at The Springs

Oct. 31: Creative costumes—check. Oodles of goodies—check. Lots of giggles and loads of fun—doublecheck! You’ll experience it all at The Springs Church at Trunk or Treat on Halloween night from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be lots of candy for the taking, carnival games, a giant slide, and refreshments. It will be fun for the whole family, and a safe, well-lit environment for kids. The church is located at 135 N. Grant St., in Cedar Springs.

Traffic Squad/Fire Department

Oct. 31: There will be cider, donuts and candy at the Cedar Springs Fire Department on Maple Street from 5 to 7 p.m. or while supplies last.

Halloween Hospitality Center

Oct. 31: Warm up station at the Cedar Springs United Methodist Church, 140 S. Main Street, Cedar Springs, on Friday, October 31, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Serving hot chocolate and popcorn, everyone is welcome to join us.

Halloween party – Courtland Fire

Oct 31:  Stop by the Halloween party at the Courtland Fire station #2, 9535 Myers Lake road from 5-9 p.m. Games, snacks candy, cider, coffee,  car trunks with treats welcome. Sponsored by women auxiliary, and many stores in the area.

Family Harvest Celebration

Oct. 31: Pine Ridge Bible Camp invites you to its annual Family Harvest Celebration on Friday, October 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. This free event includes hayride, games, puppet show, cider, donuts and trip through Treat Town. Please bring a bag for collecting treats. It is a fun night for the whole family. Costumes welcome but not necessary. Please no witches, ghosts, monsters, etc. Pine Ridge is located just 5 miles east of town at 8415 17 Mile Rd. Call 616-696-8675 for more information.

Trunk or Treat at Crossfire Church

Oct. 31: Trunk or Treat at Crossfire Church, 4780 Cornfield Drive, Cedar Springs, from 6-8 p.m. There will be games and prizes, candy for the kids, hot dogs and chips available.

Ghostbusters at the Kent Theatre

Oct. 31, Nov. 1, Nov.2: Don’t let the Halloween weekend go by without spending some time at the Kent Theatre. A special showing of Ghostbusters will be on the big screen October 31, November 1 and 2, in celebration of Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary. Now in digital format, watch your favorite ghost busting team in action! Showing Halloween night at 6 and 9 p.m., Saturday at 3, 6 and 9 p.m. and Sunday at 3 and 6 pm. Tickets are only $3.00.

Sand Lake Fire Department

Oct. 31: The Sand Lake Fireman’s Association will host their annual Halloween festivities at the fire station at 2 Maple Street in Sand Lake from 6-8 p.m. There will be games, a bounce house, prize drawings, goody bags, cider, donuts, and coffee. There will also be a costume contest. Judging is at 7:15, must be present to win the contest. Call 636-8854 for more info.

Trick or Treat at Meadowlark

Oct. 31: Meadowlark Retirement Village in Sparta loves having trick or treaters. Their doors will be open from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, October 31. The residents can’t wait to see all the kids dressed up! Meadowlark is located at 65 Ida Red Ave, Sparta. Call 887-8891 ext. 102 for more info.

 

 

 

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Featured, Halloween funComments Off on Halloween Happenings