Lakefront Visit, and some Campy Tips

Hi all!  I’ve recently returned from my annual pilgrimage north, and I have to say the transition back into city life is going fairly well, considering what a spectacular week I had to leave behind.  There were a number of beautiful and memorable moments: a gigantic setting crescent moon sliding down the most vivid crimson sunset sky just minutes behind the sun, glorious weather and captivating clouds, remarkably not-frigid lake water ideal for sauna-ing, the spirits of the bluff shooing us away with absurdly brief and localized thunder and rain (two warning claps and a 15-second sprinkle), mesmerizing sky-wide northern lights swelling and flickering for hours on the night of our sixth anniversary, and – miracle of miracles – our Polish-Swedish and Danish-German skin *not* getting sunburned despite eight straight days under the sun!  That last feat was accomplished only with much credit to some Cataplex-F capsules, gallons of water and diligent/obscene re-lathering of sunscreen.  We even got to have a shivaree* for my cousin and his new bride on her first visit to our little wooded Mecca.

*shivaree or charivari (Fr.): a medieval French custom involving lots of raucous noise-making and satiric songs traditionally used as social pressure to mock and scorn sinners and fornicators, which somehow migrated to the American prairie and my family now uses it to serenade those on honeymoon.  We still begin by parading around and banging lots of pots and pans, however.

On Wednesday my partner and I got up before dawn and trekked out to our secret spot near the border, arriving before 7 am when the mist was still laying heavy over the water and the mossy groves.  (Yes, the very same sacred spot where, six years ago, we first got that twinkle in our eyes and discovered the more flirtatious aspects of blueberry picking.)

Though we have been blessed with unfathomable bounty these last many visits, the northwoods finally made us work for our harvest this year.  Four labor-intensive hours to get anywhere near our usual quantities, with scant and scrawny (though perfectly delicious!) berries to choose from.  I also could have done without the slug patch I wandered into right off the bat.  I should have left some kind of marker for myself in the cattails so as not to repeat the experience… it was not a pretty sight!  At first they were tiny and harmless, but they got progressively larger as I ventured back, transfiguring into grotesquely swollen wood-grain-patterned cashews slurping all over the choicest bushes in oozing piles.  Yum.

Anywho!  What was I trying to get at?  Oh yes, lovely sunny breezy romantic wooded fruitful outing with a loved one.  The birds were flitting and calling, the squirrels scolding adorably, the insects keeping a respectful distance, and the plant life as diverse and impressive as ever.  It amazes me how much certain northern fungi and mosses look like deep sea creatures building soft coral empires under the birches and pines, luring you in your pre-dawn stupor to sink down onto them and relax a moment before you remember the dampness just waiting to seep through umpteen layers of pants…  (It is always worth it, however.)

After several hours of back breaking, I finally stumbled through a bramble onto a perfectly lovely and gluttonously ripe cluster of blueberry bushes.  I inhaled deeply and tumbled down, relishing the thought that I might at last stay in one location for a few minutes without having to desperately hunt for more than a handful.  Only a few branches gleaned, I heard a short call.  It had been a while since our last “Marco!”-“Polo!” exchange that we volley back and forth periodically to keep tabs on each other through the thicket, and I was just about to respond when a chilling chorus broke out behind me.  It was a louder performance than any the wilderness had put on for me yet, and I quickly gathered that this was because the source of the fanfare was only a few short yards away.  And that short call I had heard had *not* been human.

The rally was breathtaking.  I couldn’t find a perfect example, since recordings can’t do justice to the sheer harrowing volume in that early morning forest silence, but to give you an idea, check out this video, around the 2:37 mark.

I love wolves, and I love being around them, but with that love comes a respect for their territory and a healthy dose of awareness of my rank in their food chain.  Granted, I was probably in no kind of danger, since I have encountered them here many times before; this pack has plenty to eat and no interest in snuggling up with humans.  (Many more people are killed each year by pet dogs than by wolves.)  Their playfully carefree howling was perhaps the best indicator that they had no concerns about our presence, since they undoubtedly already detected our scent.  Even so, I couldn’t help but recall that the last time I had heard a cry of this complexity at this time of day had directly preceded a very noisy pack kill, and I was overcome with the need to have a visual confirmation of my partner’s whereabouts.

I (prudently) snatched up my pail of berries and darted off away from the sound towards the last “Marco!” I could remember hearing.  Bumbling through the branches with all the stealth and grace of a careening fruit cart, I found him within a few gasping breaths, calmly standing with his head cocked, listening silently and appreciatively to the cascade of howls still echoing behind me.  I felt foolish, and I never was able to find my way back to that prime berry patch.  Maybe to ease my embarrassment, the boy suggested that we stay a bit closer to the path.

Despite my undignified behavior, it was a truly magnificent thrill, and I look forward to sharing air, earth, woods, lake, sun and berries with the pack again next year.

Brandenburg Wolves

And now for your Witch Outdoors tip of the day:  To repel insects the easy-but-powerful, natural, and better-smelling way:

Pour about a teaspoon of carrier oil of your choice into the palm of your non-dominant hand.  (I recommend Fractionated Coconut Oil because it’s light and absorbs quickly, but you can choose whatever you like: jojoba, sweet almond, sesame, olive oil…)  Add to the carrier two-to-four drops of citronella essential oil and one-to-three drops of geranium essential oil.  Blend with a fingertip, then simply dab on any exposed skin and rub in like a lotion (but try to avoid getting it in your eyes, please).  Any excess can also be patted on clothing or swiped over your hair.  And no need to wash your hands — these oils are naturally antiseptic and bactericidal!  If desired, you can make the blend in larger quantities in advance to store or bring with you on group outings.

An additional tip:  A study conducted at Iowa State University revealed that the principle active ingredient in catnip essential oil is actually more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes.  Note, however, that the pure oil is so potent it should be used only in very low dilution (one drop to at least one teaspoon of carrier) if applied directly to the skin, or better yet simply spray/diffuse the oil if you’re going to be in one area for an extended time.  Be forewarned, however, that this can be a risky oil to use extensively if you’re in an area with any kind of wildcat population!  (They don’t call it catnip for nothing!)  Your best bet is to blend with other oils to take down the feline-summoning odor a notch.

That’s all for today, then.  Perhaps I’ll post some pictures once I wrestle them out of my camera?  Hope everyone is enjoying their summer and staying cool and safe.

Love,
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Re: the marten

First, I have to give credit to my pops for the amazing photos of the pine marten in the last post.

Also, did you know that you can lure a marten out of its den by making kissy noises on the back of your hand!?

Best. Animal. Ever.

xoxo,
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Winter Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From beneath the snowy drifts…

Yours,
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Autumn Love

♥,
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