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Welcome to the Pine River Review. Our sight is dedicated to our little homestead located along the Pine River tucked inside the Chippewa Nature Center's 1400 Acres of wild in Michigan's lower penninsula. We love to share our pictures, video, comment, and our own homespun music. Step inside our world as we celebrate this beautiful nook!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thirty Days Has September.....

And so we bid September "Ado." I have enjoyed great photo opportunities this month and I am particularly indebted to the very patient dragonflies of Michigan for letting me practice on them with the Raynox macro lens for the Panasonic FZ-20 and FZ-35. I am doing my best to wear them out!

        The hard woods are giving up their leaves in the grand style we enjoy at the 45th parallel.

The forest floor is thick with ferns and mushrooms.

                             A disgruntled Garter Snake is not amused with picture taking.

I was sitting precariously atop an 8 foot step ladder near my giant maple when this Black Capped Chickadee posed for a portrait.

                     Old red barn, sunflowers, billowing clouds. A classic Mid-Michigan moment.

We'll soon be saying good-bye to the Dragonflies and Damselflies until next spring except for a few stragglers like this beat up old veteran.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September Near Miss Pics

I have yet to determine the exact name of this dragonfly. I suppose it's from the Darner family.

No identification problem here, it's a Cabbage Moth sipping nectar! Look closely.

                                              An Amish couple taking a leisurely Sunday drive.

This weather vane is about to fall off an ancient red barn. The James Co. of Fort Atkinson, WI  made these large weather vanes around the 1900s. This one has not been used for target practice and would probably go for at least a thousand bucks on the collectors market.

          There are an interesting variety of insects that live in my Gladiolas including this pretty beetle.

                                       A gnarly branch festooned with a little early color.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Falling For You

Note: I am linking this older post to the Old Barns meme that I just discovered. Welcome old barn folks, and be sure to check out World Bird Wednesday!
It's official, fall has arrived and Michigan's fall colors are beginning to emerge as chlorophyll production decreases with the shortening days. I have been waiting all weekend for the clouds to lift and let the sun light up the few trees that are in peak color. I'll have to be patient awhile longer.
   You don't hear about it much but Mid-Michigan has tons of fieldstone buildings many a hundred years old or more. Suzanne and I took a ride North, where there was a chance for blue skies, in search of a few. If you would like to learn about old Michigan barns, there whereabouts, and the struggle to preserve them, check out this phenomenal link

Many of these old barns have seen better days. These are massive wooden structures. See the old cedar shake shingles under the asphalt ones?

Look at those "finger" feathers, yep, a turkey buzzard. It was sitting on a post waiting to get at some road kill when we rousted it.

At last, a fieldstone barn in good repair. Be sure to slowly double click on this picture to enlarge it. There is a ton of detail!

We see a little autumn color here and there.

Gasoline equals Dinosaur. No one has filled up here in a while.

 This Plymouth Barracuda's front end looks like it may have clipped a deer.

A prime example of fieldstone architecture.

The road side Pumpkin stand. Dozens to choose from in every price range. Now back home to the Pine River with our pumpkin!

"To the complaint, "There are no people in these photographs,"
I respond, "There are always two people:
the photographer and the viewer."

Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Something Strange in the Sky this Weekend

There were strange things aloft this weekend. They were brightly colored and flew as quietly as the clouds themselves. The Kopytek family was in the neighborhood and in a whirlwind visit they took us on two wonderful adventures. They are part of a hot air balloon team that was meeting in Midland and they dragged the old folks along with them to experience the sport. The gist of it is the balloonist lay a large X in the middle of a field that serves as a target then drive off madly in their chase vehicles through the countryside in a upwind direction to find a place to launch. This evening a random side street served as their Cape Canaveral. The teams erected and filled the giant envelopes with propane heated air and the pilots floated the airships back toward the X. As they passed over the target each tossed a weighted ribbon downward trying to plop it as close as they could in order to win the day.

Mrs. Kopytek lays open the envelope and tries not to get broasted in the process.

What a strange and beautiful pastime.

When all the hot air balloons had returned safely to the field that evening they celebrated with a "Glow."
This is our own geocache soon to be hidden deep in the woods
         As if ballooning wasn't enough the Kopytek men introduced us to a new way to have fun in the woods.
 Geocaching is a world wide phenomena where small caches of random goodies are hidden inside waterproof containers and stashed in out of the way places. The GPS coordinates are then taken and recorded at There geocachers can look up the caches that are near by and go treasure hunting for them. Our group scrambled through the woods across the way searching for a couple of hours. We were quite successfully in the end locating two caches. Little log books are kept inside the containers where we signed in and left clever messages for our brother and sister geocachers who would follow. Of  course, once bitten by the geocache bug, we had to put together a cache of our own. The prizes inside included a hand made survival bracelet made from yards of parachute cord, an African coin from Kenya, and flag pins.
        This young observer of the wild, daughter Kate, carried my new camera into the woods for me and captured this intriguing macro of a honey bee gathering pollen from goldenrod.
It was a perfect weekend and I'm sure glad I had Monday off. Whew!

That's Dave Van Ronk on guitar performing "The Entertainer."

Thursday, September 16, 2010


My old point and shoot Panasonic FZ20 camera is sadly giving up the ghost. I am loosing shots due to hot pixels, tiny bright spots on the pictures that are a sure sign of sensor failure. My new Panasonic FZ35 and Sigma 150 micro lens arrived this morning and as luck would have it, I had a free day to go "Bug-a-wugga." Loosely translated the term describes the public act of taking macro bug shots. Although I feel that I am theoretically performing a valuable artistic and scientific service I also understand that the act of capturing these shots looks totally absurd to the uninitiated, kind of like the exaggerated arm flaying power walkers employ. I lay on the ground peering into flowers one at a time or perch one legged on a log end, quickly improvising the scaffold I need to get high enough into the grape arbor to take the shot of the dragonfly that.......Ahhhhhh......hold steady......Just took off.... and I'm jumping off the log and running across the yard in hot pursuit until it lands again and I freeze all but motionless for minutes at a time taking picture after picture of an all but invisible bug on a twig, my body frozen in a contorted pose only a life long devotee of extreme yoga could truly appreciate.
     Somewhere, lost in the double helix of my DNA, a switch has been flipped and I have become irretrievably consumed by the exploration of the microscopic dimensions via the camera lens.
     My neighbors can not see the bugs, but they do see me. Let 'em think what they want, I know what I must do.    Bug-a-wugga!

Did you know that with your cursor placed on the picture you can slowly double click your left mouse button to enlarge these images? Now isn't that cool?
 I've never been this close to a damselfly. It's amazes me how hairy they are when viewed at this resolution.

       When afflicted with a passion such as this a new bug in the yard becomes an event with the power to make or break your day depending on whether you get a couple good shots out of the hundred or so you'll take. Enough of blogging I'm wasting daylight!

"Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer."

                                                                                         Henry David Thoreau


Journeys End- Part 6

Back in '75 when I reached the upper portions of the Nile River south of the Sudd swamp I began to meet tribal Africans rather than the Muslim folk of North Africa who had been so generous to me. The Dinka tribe of southern Sudan are migratory cattle herders and getting to know these folks caused me to reevaluate my notions of civilization. By that time I had been in the "Third World" long enough to be well acquainted with the gut wrenching poverty and over population that had shaken the conscience of this mid-western child of privilege to his bones.
The Dinkas however were not to be pitied by a mere 22 year old Michigander. They are giants to be held in awe and not just because their average height is a long and lean 6'4". For a people who's worldly possessions include not much more than a spear, shield, and body adornments like the beaded corsets pictured here, the Dinka culture has proved its practicality, illuminating African life from 3000 b.c. to the present. For 5,000 years Dinkas have followed the Nile floods that irrigate the grass lands tending to the cattle that are the center of their existence in this never ending cycle. They are a wildly happy and contented people living a life style that is the very definition of sustainability.
    When I compared it to my own western culture and its excesses I was humbled by the beauty that I began to perceive as my concept of what is civilised matured to the point where I didn't keep score by who had developed the fastest plane or built the tallest building. I was the savage who needed their counsel being the product of an industrial revolution barley a hundred years old and already grinding to a rusty halt.
      This autumn at the far reaches of the Pine River, my journeys end, 10,000 folks, whose numbers form another strange civilization, waited in the morning light to enter the 160 acre Wernette Farm to celebrate the Wheatland Music and Arts Festival. For 35 years they have returned to camp together in peace and community under starlit skies and to the sound of acoustic music and dancing feet, a celebration that lasts three days. Sustainability and traditional culture are a central theme of this gathering and it gave me great joy that at the end of this journey, like the one I took 35 years ago, a strange and wildly happy people held a torch whose sensible light burns brightly at the source of a great river.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Source- Part 5

  What exactly constitutes the source, and why should it be so godawful important? In simpler times, to pursue and finally identify the source of a system was to hold the ultimate trump card because the power to control a resource logically emanated from this mythical starting point. 
Well Gang, meet Pine Lake, the mystical origin of the Pine River. I realise now how naive I've been pursuing this quest. Though the Pine River begins as a little trickle on one end of this lake and crosses a farmers field where it's waters are hidden by the long green grass that shades its meandering route, Pine Lake is not the Rio Pine's ultimate source. The water that bubbles up from the ground or condenses from the sky follows a course that is barely understood by science or intuition. If I extend my thinking just a little to incorporate the satellite images of water vapor swirling through our planets atmosphere how feeble and inadequate becomes my concept of source as it relates to the headwaters of my beloved Rio Pine.

Behold, the true origin of the Pine River!
To me these images are the Grand Metaphor that best illustrates the unanticipated complexity of our relationship to the Earth when viewed outside of our immediate interests.

Look closely and you will see the humble beginnings of the Pine River, Earth.

It is enough for me to wonder at the amazing things that touch my five senses for they are to many to count and to intricate to fathom.

"All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions"
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Welcome to Sumner- Part 4

Sumner is a tiny river village that is not on the way to anywhere unless your looking for the source of the Pine River. The river flanks the village on the west and a simple park occupies the floodplain. The playground there still has one of those suicidal merry-go-rounds where you grab hold of the bar and run like hell around the outside spinning it faster and faster until you fall off, your head reeling.

In Sumner the frogs are content with small village ways.

I don't see Sandhill Cranes by my house so this sighting was a nice treat. The pair moved away from me at a casual pace.

A Group of Cedar Waxwings Kept a sharp eye on me as I trudged upstream.

I think I just may come back to Sumner for the color tour in a few weeks.

Sumner 48889

This video gives a look at the Pine River just north of the village where I saw the Cedar Waxwings. The song is a traditional melody called "Salt Creek."

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Lower Third- Part 3

Michigan Chemical on the banks of the Pine circa 1965
          I want to leave the St. Louis/Alma area behind me now. It's just to complicated a place for a man looking for simple reflections. Alma is a college town and this being early September the town is electric with youthful exuberance. All of that activity seems oddly juxtaposed a mile upstream from St. Louis, the site of so many depressing ecological disasters. Not only was the insecticide DDT manufactured here, the fire retardant PBB was also shipped out of the Michigan Chemical Company's Pine River facility. In 1973 bags of PBB were mislabeled at the plant as a cattle feed supplement and sent to dairy farms and ranches across the state. During the next year virtually every meat eating and milk slurping Michigan resident ingested the fire retardant until the mistake was discovered after a dairy farmer noticed his livestock sickening.  By 1976 the State of Michigan destroyed 28,900 cattle, 2,900 pigs, and 1.5 million chickens burying them along with tons of poisoned feed in a clay pit in Kalkaska county.    
         The chemical plant itself was eventually closed and dismantled. The 50 acre site was entombed with a three foot thick layer of clay that was intended to keep the polluted soil forever isolated. Surprise, it didn't work. The EPA came back to St. Louis in 1994, 16 years later, and test showed the river sediments surrounding the former Pine River facility contained 4% DDT's!
         Brain freeze! Aheee!
The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeleton of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life. - Arthur Koestler

      Bald Eagles are often seen as the poster child for DDT because the effects of the chemical drove these apex predators to the brink of extinction in the lower 48. But the iconic raptor has made a rousing come back and today Michigan has over 500 nesting pairs, more than five times those recorded in 1969. I saw one this morning floating just over head as I drank my morning coffee on the deck. Alma College has been instrumental in monitoring and helping to facilitate the clean up. A big thank you to them and all the folks that have worked in concert to reinvigorate the lower third of the Pine River.