The Daily Bucket is a place where we can post and exchange our observations about the natural happenings in our neighborhoods. Birds, bugs, blossoms and more - each notation is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the natural patterns that are unwinding around us.
Our campsite is huddled into the hillside of the family parcel, purchased during the Chicago World's Fair Columbian Exposition of 1893, bought, site unseen from unscrupulous land speculators selling 'premium' Wisconsin farmland to eager immigrants.
By the time my family arrived to claim their 160 acre farm, the robber barons of the timber industry had clear-cut and stolen all the old growth white pine and centuries-old oaks growing among the groves, the savannas, and the sphagnum bogs of the sprawling central sand plains.
The industrialists continued to churn their way through the northern pineries of Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and Minnesota, until there was no more to take.
In this area, great rafts of timber were floated down the Black River to the Mississippi and sold at obscene profit to rebuild Chicago after the fire, and spur the expanding growth of the heartland cities. Fierce slash fires in the 1890s had consumed what remained, revealing the Cambrian sand soil of glacial outwash of an earlier Pleistocene epoch.
The poverty and droughts of the 1920s and '30s drove most all other families into default and they moved on, abandoning their farms to the counties. Today, the family land is surrounded by 330,000 near contiguous acres of Certified Sustainable county and state forest lands.
It was dire straits to continue to farm the sand. The big white pines and oaks have returned to thrive again. The few roads here are little more than bulldozed trails, kept open for recreation, habitat and watershed protection, logging and fire control. It's a vibrant, hard working forest, and sustains the last strongholds of the endangered species Karner blue butterfly and Massasauga rattle snake.
It's too wild, too hard and too rough for civilization to take hold here for long. The black bears and wolves roam freely. I like it like this.
A gift. It was a most unusual and welcome gift from friends. A surprise outhouse arrived unannounced, complete with fancy seat with lid and a mouse-proof TP container.
The Outhouse was built by hand, transported, delivered and dug into place at our campsite with love and quirky practicality. It was sited just right for open-door privacy and the perfect view, while in use.
It sports a stainless steel half-moon and a fancy glass window with cloth curtains decorated with strutting turkeys and deer jumping over logs.
Late November fungi shelter shyly under the soft mulch of pine needles hiding from frost. A nosy pink dog Canis lupus familiaris snout is added for scientific size comparison.
The aromatic medicinal Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens goes by many names, such as teaberry, spiceberry or checkerberry. The shiny leaves stay green year round, even under the snow, and the berries are a minty treat if you can beat the chipmunks to them. I was surprised to learn that one fluid ounce of wintergreen oil contains as much methyl salicylate as 171 adult aspirin tablets.
The Pileated woodpeckers Dryocopus pileatus drilled deep into the oak heartwood. I can only guess what they might be feeding on.
British Soldiers lichen Cladonia cristatella is not just one organism, but a fungus and algae living together to form a new organism. Shed pine needles become giants walking among these tiny soldiers.
The soft, feathery needles of a young eastern white pine Pinus strobus hope to find a patch of sunshine to thrive. White pine is the tallest growing tree in eastern North America and can live beyond 400 years.
I was greatly saddened to find the plucked remains of the local raven below his nightly roost next to camp. Throughout the weeks of camping, he'd call out, Quork qui' qui' Quork, as he occasionally followed me through the woods while walking each day. I had imagined he'd given me a name.
What's happening in your backyard? Any new birds or winter blooms? Got a room with a view? All are welcome here to add a note to the bucket.