Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Water Sampling and Campfire

Last Friday's Campfire was a blast. I was able to get everything accomplished on time, and although it rained, all of the events were over by the time rain drove the horde away. I believe the cross-cut saw contest ended with two teams tied in victory with a time of 23 seconds.

This week has been water sampling centered. Tuesday were the wells and the tap, and today was the lake. The process of sampling the lake was roughly outlined to me--they take a boat out, divid the lake into three sections, and then test the water at 3 different depths. Generally, the levels of dioxane have been reported as decreasing. I should be getting the report from last years samples shortly.

This morning was stunning. Saginaw has a way of being particularly spectacular when I'm going through a rough time. Whatever mood I wake up with, it dissipates at least temporarily when I head out for morning rounds. The light filtered through the trees in that special way that gives you pause, and the fog over the lake slowly swirled away before my eyes. The witch hazel is looking magnificent, yellow flowers on yellow leaves.

Sometimes I can't believe I live here.

Out in the boat sampling. Chilly morning activity.

Hi, I love you.

You are magnificent.


Thursday, October 9, 2014


Campfire is coming.

The to-do list is long, and every day I seem to be getting an email requesting information for this or that. Earlier this week, I cut the perfect log for the cross-cut saw competition. Today I kind of ruined that log dragging it to the barn. Idiotically, I did not notice that it was being chipped away by the road. So now the back third of it is a smaller diameter. Alas, it will have to do. What is done is done. And my calves hurt. Many thanks to Bill, Oliver, and Lauren for the help!

Today was a full-on Saginaw day. In addition to the log dragging, I did rounds, attended a Properties Committee meeting, cleaned up the bonfire pit, and mowed down the zen meadow. I'm whipped.

Class use this fall has been extensive. Several ecology classes have been out in the woods, and a few others may be seen floating about the lake. My first year landscape architecture students have made several field trips out here (and will be out again tomorrow). As they research the site for their projects, a lot of interesting photographs and information have become available. One student in particular found some excellent old images at the Bentley Library. So much flannel!

Last weekend I cleared some deadfall from the driveway, and also attended the Native Plant Sale at the botanical gardens. I picked up a hefty load of my favorite perennials to plant around the cabin. My hope is that they will ultimately disperse their seeds throughout the wood. Saginaw, my gift to you.

The big witch hazel by the cabin is already blooming! It is lovely, but much earlier than anticipated.

Spider flowers.
Oh, you pretty.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fall, y'all

I love this time of year.

Turtlehead looking fly.
It's like this nebulous days are somewhat chilly, the nights quite a bit chillier. The trees are just barely starting to turn over in color--I've watched the subtle and slow bronzing of canopy across the lake--and yet the fall blooming flowers are out in full. Aster. Goldenrods. Turtlehead. I noticed the buds of the witch hazel starting to form (and am already looking forward to its lovely November exhibition). I could walk around this place in circles for hours and hours and never care about anything else. Sometimes I do just that. Some of you might have noticed this by now.

Fall, yo.
Tomorrow I am giving some students a tour of the forest. They will be doing some research on improving the educational value/experience of the SNRE properties, but particularly this one. Saginaw Forest is the most well-used of SNRE's research plots, being so near to downtown. I don't think that much will happen in the remainder of my time here in terms of big projects, but it's exciting to discuss them nonetheless. I do still continue my desperate "battle for the barn" and volunteer tools. One hinges upon the other. I am persistent but not hopeful.

Give us a wave if you are around the woods. This is a happy time.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Activity, activity.

Things amped up around here the last month or so.

"Amped up" by 80-acre forest standards,  I mean.

Between students coming out to do research and classes starting up, bodies have been busy here around the moss house. Some of you may have noticed this weird contraption out on Third Sister.

I refer to it simply as the "robot boat." But really it's an interesting project being tested by a group of engineering students. Their goal is to design a new and improved method of measuring evaporation on the Great Lakes (current measuring tools are land-based, not real-time). Different versions of Robot Boat have come and gone from our waters as they tweak the design (leaking seemed to be a problem).

A more permanent installation has been put in place to monitor the flash floods of Honey Creek, just behind the outhouse.

Classes are going to start using the site soon as well. Soil Ecology, Woody Plants, and even the class I'm the GSI for--the first year landscape architecture studio. I'm really excited to be working with a class taking on a design project out here. Talk about a perfect opportunity for all involved. I've been gearing up for the influx of activity with meetings, clearing honeysuckle/buckthorn, mowing, and collecting tools. This is an exciting fall.

The weather wreaked havoc on tree branches here last night, as I'm sure those of you in Ann Arbor can believe! But I do love this place post storm. It takes my breath away every time.

Enjoy the goldenrod.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

High Summer

July is waning.

I've been bad about blogging. I spent two weeks in Alaska working on my masters project, and although I had many things going on in the woods before and after these travels, I completely failed with the reporting. I'll run you through a few of my activities.

Alaska, ooo baby.
Major developments prior to my departure can be attributed to the outstanding help I received from a friend of mine. Chris assisted with meadow mowing, porch enhancements, and clearing trees to the fence line of the berm road. Lots of work done in a short period of time! It was very exciting, and I'm eternally grateful for the time he put in out here. It was a hot week, too.

Zen meadow.
Cutting 'em back.
Other pre-trip activities included tool maintenance--chainsaw sharpening and cleaning and a lawnmower tune-up. Everything is working spectacularly, which makes my job much easier.

Right before I returned home, the drive-way was finally regraded! No more broken shocks for me. I can't tell you how nice it is to not have to hold my breath inching over the enormous chasms in the road.

Since getting back, I've been out and about mowing, pulling purple loosestrife, clearing back overgrowth on the trails and boardwalk, and telling people to stop fishing. I missed home, and have loved every minute of being back on the trails with my loving partner, Leto Little-Wolf.

Today I'll be up on Liberty clearing back honeysuckle obstructing the view of the road. See you all around...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Flowers and Power Tools: Not necessarily in combination.

Last week, something totally wonderful happened.

Penstemon digitalis appeared. In my "yard." Right there. As I made abundantly clear in the last post, I get pretty geeked about flowers. I wasn't expecting this one so it's given me the giddies through and through. If you happen to walk through my front yard meadow, check around the edges for this beauty and take a peak inside the corolla tube--the stamens are curled around the inside, almost like a floral ribcage. It's totally neat.

If any species of lobelia pops up anywhere, at any point this season, I might just poop my pants.

I took advantage of the raininess this week to get all of the power tools in prime working order. The chainsaw blades are sharpened. The lawnmower is getting treated to a full tune-up. In the meantime, I'll be doing the same 'ol same 'ol: chopping honeysuckle and buckthorn (emphasis on the berm road), and walking about looking for trouble.

"I must have flowers, always, and always." --Claude Monet

Thursday, June 5, 2014

So. Flowers.

As you might expect from a Landscape Architecture student, I love flowers.

Love them.

So it has been a lot of fun to see what's popping up month after month. June is a joy because one of my favorite native wildflowers, Columbine, begins it's annual display of awesome. I don't know if you've ever taken the opportunity to look at it up close, but it's such an amazing little piece of architecture. Dual colored; long, graceful nectar spurs; the crazy cluster of stamens...Aquilegia canadensis, you always steal my heart. The best of the Ranunculaceae!

Geranium and False Solomon's Seal are on their way out. Spring Beauty came and went in the blink of an eye. The days spent cooing over the little white flowers of Blood Root have passed, and with it my interest in painting red lines all over my face with the plant's colored latex.

I can't wait to see what comes next.

A flower you will see in abundance right now is Dame's Rocket. Please feel free to pull it up--it is invasive and we want it out of here!

Yesterday I cleared a tree, sharpened tools, and mowed. Today I pull Dame's Rocket. See you out there!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Last week was b.u.s.y. After doing some honeysuckle/garlic mustard removal early in the week, the weather hit--and didn't stop. The saturated soil brought down trees left and right, to the point where I lost count of how many I cleared and how many I had to go. On Saturday, I was up early to clear a big one before my volunteer work day. When nobody showed at 9, I was disheartened--but at 10:30 I scored two very able-bodied hard workers!

Since there were only three of us, I scrapped the original workday plan of clearing the shrubs along the berm in favor of pulling garlic mustard. We did good work--a lovely and productive morning. Thank you, Diane and Gayle, for the four bags worth of weeds!

I have a bit more tree clearing to do--what was left was "low priority," and I needed a break. Weather is beautiful now, though. Hopefully it will stay that way for when I get home from work!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Too many.

Four trees fell yesterday.


3 of them are cleared. Please bare with me on the fourth, I'm tired from the prior 3 and I have to go to my other jobs, too! I cleared some of it (a big multi-brancher), so it's not quite the disaster area that it was originally.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Some surprises aren't pleasant.

After looking down and realizing that during your struggle with a honeysuckle branch, you stepped on a fresh, juicy animal carcass. 

I missed the bigger part of yesterday's nasty weather here in A2. I was in Novi at the time. Just caught the tail end of it in the evening. After the rain and thunder passed, the woods were a beauty. The sky was a splash of clouds and color, fog rose up around the house, and drips played a little concert under the trees. This morning was also lovely. Our hour hike felt too short, and the work of pulling and cutting and dragging felt like no chore. I took the opportunity to just work around the house today, pulling garlic mustard and cutting honeysuckle and buckthorn. There are few good things one can say about garlic mustard, but it is at the very least easy to pull.

Hope everybody stops by to enjoy the beauty before the next rain.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ah. Sunshine and silliness.

Guess who calls DPS whenever you're parked anywhere at the (well-signed) front gate to have your butt ticketed?

Yeah. This girl.

The weather is getting nice, so naturally people lose the ability to decipher signage.

Wait, is that how it goes?

Also, stop trying to hide your fishing pole behind your back! I can see it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May, beautiful May.

Good morning.

And another beautiful one it is.

Currently just finished breakfast, with a husky sleeping peacefully on the couch. We got up at our standard early hour for working and walking. My task for this morning (and tomorrow as well) was raking sections of the trail that have all but disappeared under thick layers of leaf litter. I know it sounds odd, but I think it's a good idea. The little offshoot of path along the west side of the lake has appeared almost hidden, and other sections have turned into water slides where the leaves have compacted into thick, smooth sheets.

I like spreading out my work over the week, putting in an hour before going to work in the morning, rather than bunching everything together on the weekends. Next week I intend to tackle some ambitious invasive removal, but I'll talk more about that another time.

Lately I've had a nasty habit of misplacing items of necessity, but today I found my DW-40 and was able to fix the completely jammed lock on the barn. Finally.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Flowers. Of All Kinds.

It's chilly, but it is still undeniably spring.

Everyday we come across something new blooming. The bloodroot always makes my little heart just melt. Such a lovely little treasure. The may apples are popping up in patches throughout the wood, like little green umbrellas unfurling against the sun.

And last Sunday, there were Daisies. Scouts, that is. I once again hosted an army of little girls for a nature walk. Spring edition. The weather was perfect, and attendance was high. We discussed flowering plants, mostly, but also touched on decomposition and critters. All in all, a nice day. And I think a few of the girls maybe learned something.

And as a reminder, there is NO PARKING up at the gate. Have had to tell a lot of people to move their cars since the weather got so nice.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Signs of Spring

Some nights ago I had a dream about my dog breaking out of the house into the night. He gleefully leaped about the "yard" snapping up frogs. The dream felt very real, as he a) loves eating frogs and b) loves to escape. Although he is a winter dog, he admits there are perks to the summer--eating frogs being the main one.

The following afternoon, I heard something I hadn't experienced in many months: a symphony of frogs. The dream was a premonition!

The week has been filled with interesting elements. It's been fun watching the snow and ice melt away from its final strongholds. There are still a few patches, but I imagine they won't last another week. On Monday I shoveled a dead raccoon off the trail along the berm. Today I removed a downed tree. The pup took care of the sticks. Team teamwork.

Selfie with dog turns into stick getting pushed into chin.

You are the cutest thing that ever happened to forest management.

I saw the first spring flowers opening up beside the cabin--unfortunately they are a non-native garden escapee (siberian squill). Lovely shade of blue, though.

And finally--the willows!

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Perfect Saturday morning: Up early. Toast. Tea. Hike. Ax.

Winter seems to have kind of come back this morning, but I rather liked it. The brisk air was the perfect temperature while I worked up a sweat hacking at a fallen ash, Leto singing his displeasure nearby. Pushing the log out of the way, the chilly breeze was refreshing.

The leaves have frozen on the ground, so as we made our typical morning rounds they produced a pleasant crunch beneath the feet.

Being "spring," I have a growing list of things to do, some done, some not. Carpenter ants have been making appearances in the cabin, so I laid out ant bait. Now dead carpenter ants are making appearances around the cabin. Debris collecting in the gutters from winter melts was cleared out this morning. Tools need sharpening.

Leto got giardia this week from his nasty habit of drinking out of muddy puddles in the driveway. This meant some unexpected items on the to-do list.

Two mornings ago, we saw a coyote precariously slipping around out on the ice, off to do who-knows-what.

The world just seems to be waking up. Myself included.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Planning ahead!

Spring is approaching. So is garlic mustard.

I'm interested in making an email list of folks who want to get down and dirty volunteering with me in the woods this spring/summer. If getting face deep in raspberry prickles, buckthorns, and poison ivy is your bag, come join the fun! There will be snacks--and my amazing company--to heal some of the emotional (if not physical) wounds.

What I look like at the end of everyday between May and September.

If you're interested, please email, and I will put you on the email list for this season's fun in the sun.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Today's Lesson

Axing downed trees is fun.

Axing downed trees after slipping on ice and smashing your tailbone is NOT so fun.

I generally prefer the ax to the chainsaw, for no other reason than that the physical act of swinging feels so much more rewarding. My target for today was also still half-buried in ice/snow, despite the fact that the world is melting. Since I couldn't see how far deep I needed to cut, I would have been more comfortable using the ax even if I didn't like it. I needed to make two cuts.

Sadly, on this morning's hike, I slipped on the ice going downhill, soundly slamming directly onto my tailbone.

So glad no one was around. The exclamations of agony rivaled Nancy Kerrigan.

Only a few swings in, I knew I was going to have a rough time. The pain resonating up from my hindquarters after the impact of each blow was almost as bad as falling all over again. I valiantly toiled through one of the planned cuts (of course it had to be a hardwood!!), and then waddled back home to nurse my pride.

I think I'll be finishing the job with the chainsaw.

A short but sweet cautionary tale. Watch out for the ice!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Poop party!

It feels like winter is letting go today...though I know that's not true. A couple more inches of snow expected within the next few days, and back to the 20s!

The driveway is a river of snowmelt, but it will take more than a day to vanquish this winter blanket. We enjoyed the warmth on rounds today, and the lovely sunshine.

We did NOT enjoy the EXCESSIVE amount of dog poop occurring on the trails. That's right, I said ON. Folks, please be responsible pet owners, and pick up after your dogs. And keep them on leashes. My dog is on a leash. My dog's poop is in a little blue baggie. If you need a baggie, stop by the cabin--I have many! I'm not sure why this little problem comes in phases like this. Sometimes it's fine, and sometimes its a poop party. And I can tell the difference between coyotes' and dogs'. Trust me.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Where have I been!?

So sorry.

It is a great irony to me how often I hear the questions:
"How are you holding up out there?"
"Are you staying warm in the cabin?"
"Is that outhouse heated?"
"Are you stuck?"

Ironic, because they make this winter in the woods seem such a hardship. But the answer to all of these is that it is fine. It is more than fine. The furry Duke and I, we are winter folk. Truth be told, when I am not slaving away at school work, we are outside scurrying through the trees about 2 hours a day. With all the snow, I've wanted to keep tabs on all of the leaners, to be on top of fallen branches in the trails. I like to track the boot steps of visitors to see where they go off trail and why. I like to look for the deer in the early morning (encountered a herd of ten, walking single file down the trail this AM).

But that's enough words, I suppose. Instead, enjoy some photos. I made sure to take some from out on the lake today! I've been meaning to do so for a while. Happy winter to all. May it drag out indefinitely!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Looks like some new development plans for Saginaw's neighbor:

The woods are already bordered by quite a bit of development and impervious surface. This has been detrimental to the creek that runs through the property. New development might lead to new problems in these parts.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year

Happy New Year!

After having the flu for the first half of the break, Leto and I are now fully enjoying vacation in the woods.

Despite all the snow, deadfall has not, thus far, been an issue as of late. We'll see after this weekend when another foot piles on to everything we already have!

The trails have been extremely popular with the cross country skiing crowd, and we've been getting in on the action with some skijouring. The whole wood has been beautiful, calm, and peaceful under this blanket of snow. I haven't seen a winter this good since elementary school. I feel very grateful to have it now, my first winter in the cabin. And no, that was not meant to be in the least bit sarcastic. It really is a joy!