Nature

HAVE YOU EVER LOOKED AT YOUR LIFE and realized that it lacked purpose? Eight months ago we admitted this to ourselves.

Throughout our lives, we are led to believe that we find our value and worth in external sources. This is not true. To place our value in external sources, we create a gap between ourselves and the meaning of life. Which will always lead us to un-fulfillment.

What we know now is that a dream is not what we save up for, work towards or achieve. A dream is the way we experience life. Life is meant to be lived purposefully.

When you ignite your dream, you discover your values. The two are inseparable and support each other. It then becomes imperative that you embody these values in every moment to bring your dream to life.

For us this means leaving Ferndale and beginning our journey of Running Into a New Earth, taking us to the Stop Line 3 Resistance in Northern Minnesota.

THE PROPOSED ROUTE FOR LINE 3 crosses 227 lakes and rivers, including the Mississippi River and rivers that feed directly into Lake Superior. As a representation of these sacred waters, we will be running 227 miles along the North Country Trail.

“If Line 3 is completed it will carry nearly a million barrels a day of crude oil – the dirtiest oil to extract and burn – from Alberta, Canada through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

“When it spills, as all pipelines do, millions of people downstream will feel the effects, and wild rice beds sacred to the Anishinaabe in Minnesota will be destroyed.” – Line 3 Solidarity Action.

Enbridge, the Canadian company building this pipeline, is the same company responsible for the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history which happened in Kalamazoo, July 2010. They are also the same company pushing the Line 5 pipeline which is proposed to travel under the Straits of Mackinac.

THE WAY WE CURRENTLY LIVE as a people has an expiration date that is fast-approaching. Looking for answers within the same system that has led us down a path to our own demise, will only bring about more destruction.

It’s time to create a new energy within ourselves. Looking beyond our current societal structures. Change cannot take place within the current structures. We must change our energy, and the structure will follow.

Unhappiness and negativity is a disease on our planet. What pollution is on the outer level is negativity on the inner. Creating a new energy is to shift the way we experience life. To discover the depths of our being and the beauty that lies at our core. When this happens, our world around us will begin to change.

We heal ourselves, and by doing so, we heal Mother Earth.

To learn more about #StopLine3, visit www.stopline3.org and follow our journey on @wearebrandonandfiona

By Rebecca Hammond

IF YOU’RE SEARCHING OUT INFORMATION ON NATIVE PLANTS RIGHT NOW, it might be because you’re interested in pollinators like butterflies and bees, especially monarchs. Fifteen years or so ago, however, local experts began doing native plant presentations at places like Ferndale’s Kulick Center, and the main focus was the benefits to waterways because of the ability native plants have to hold excess storm water. Less storm water pouring down drains, less pollutants riding along, means cleaner Great Lakes. Nothing much was mentioned in those presentations about bees and butterflies except as an interesting side effect. Neither did they mention flooded basements, those still being a rarity.

If only those experts had waited a couple of years! Soon after this push to go native, basements in our local communities began to flood. And flood, then flood some more. Some homeowners now have flooded basements a couple of times a year. Heavier and more frequent rainfalls are the culprit, but the means by which water gets into our homes varies as much as our soil, plants, construction materials, and methods have varied.

Why do basements flood? Utilities Kingston, Ontario blames “…seepage or flow through the walls or foundation floor, from surface water sources, or by a sanitary or storm sewer backup.” This Old House says, “Even a small storm can trigger a deluge… a house with a 1,500 squarefoot roof sheds 1,000 gallons of water for every inch of falling rain. Once the water accumulates around your foundation, it works its way inside through cracks, joints, and porous material.” A number of sites mention gutters and downspouts sending water down walls instead of away from the house. Most mention nearby concrete and slope of landscape. Most mention soil composition, and many mention what’s planted near that basement.

Cleanwater.com says “Plants are the first line of defense when it comes to erosion control and stormwater management…The extensive and deep root systems of native plants slow down runoff.” Those roots hold water in the soil. Grass roots might be only two-to-four inches deep, but Ferndale’s city flower, Purple Coneflower, has roots that can penetrate to five feet, every inch of those roots able to hold water. Texas Native Plants states that those longer roots provide “flood mitigation services” and that they also filter out pollution.

IF YOU’RE NEW TO MICHIGAN OR GARDENING you might be wondering what native plants even are. They’re just plants that were here before people like us were. There’s quite a variety, and something for everyone: tall sun-lovers like Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susan (loved by birds like gold-finches as much as butterflies); shorter ones like Canada Anemone that not only grow in shade, but bloom in it; specific host plants like Milk-weed, the only plant monarchs will lay eggs on or their caterpillars will eat. There are even some adaptees that fit in quite well, like Queen Anne’s Lace (mine is crawling with swallowtail caterpillars) or Mullein, which may not have the prettiest flower stalk in the world but you won’t mind when you see downy woodpeckers land on it for the seeds. Their long roots hold water for them, as well as for us. These plants don’t need much extra from the grower.

Turf grass, on the other hand, has much shorter roots in comparison, but that’s not the only issue. Remember Michigan master gardener Jerry Baker? He promoted a formula for lawns that included things like beer and ammonia but also dish detergent, which allowed everything else to work for one reason: turf is water-repellent. Detergent breaks the surface tension and allows water to soak in.

Yes, water-repellent. Turf websites, especially golf course sites, call it that, and so promote the use of chemical surfactants to keep water on grass. Some sites actually call grass “hydrophobic.” Thatch is the main reason for this, and the more you fertilize lawn the more thatch it likely has. It occurs when plants build up more decaying matter than nature can break down. Illinois State Extension not only advises against over-fertilizing, they advise against overwatering!

I TRIED AN EXPERIMENT WITH A FEW GALLONS OF RAIN-BARREL WATER. I poured water at intervals onto turf, irises, creeping phlox, and lastly on a patch of natives that included goldenrod and black-eyed susans. All were a few inches from concrete, and slightly uphill from it. I expected water to run off quickly in all four places at first, and it did. But as I revisited each spot, one thing stood out: runoff never slowed from the turf. The irises and surrounding soil slowed it by the second pour. The natives? I had a hard time even getting water onto the sidewalk, as the less-covered soil that surrounds them is very absorbent.

The creeping phlox was the biggest surprise and disappointment because, although it’s not native, I like it and assumed it would allow rainwater easy passage. But it was as bad as grass, or worse. I waited about a half hour and repeated the whole process a few times and, although runoff from the turf maybe slowed a bit, it wasn’t much. There was no more runoff from the irises, and very little from the natives. The phlox remained a sieve.

So where does all this water go when it runs off? Into the streets, and down our storm drains. These drains have become controversial here in Ferndale. Some folks think we should clean them off, letting water flow rapidly, and some think slow is better; don’t clear them. Both camps hope that speed or lack thereof is what keeps that storm water out of basements. (It’s worth noting that blowing grass clippings and the like into the street is actually not legal.)

Since Ann Arbor is a leader in things environmental, I went to their website. It not only says, “Cleaning out the storm drain on your street is a simple way to help keep the Huron River clean and prevent flooding in your neighborhood,” they also have a downloadable map of storm drains with a checklist for found objects. Residents can explore their neighborhoods with kids or friends and search out storm drains and help “the neighborhood and the environment.” They can even adopt a specific storm drain.

The site also points out that, “Whenever there’s a heavy rainfall, or even just a little rain, a lot of pollution can end up being washed off the streets and into the Huron River. You can help prevent that simply by reducing the amount of rainwater that flows off your property from sidewalks, driveways, roofs, etc.” Options they suggest in addition to native plants: rain barrels and rain gardens, which can be large depressions filled with native plants, or a few lower places here and there. Residents can earn stormwater credits for these improvements. A person wanting to go bigger can install cisterns or dry wells, both designed to hold excess rainwater.

IF YOU WANT TO SEE SOME CLOSER EXAMPLES of rain gardens, check out the new ones along 9 Mile Road in Oak Park between Rosewood and Scotia. There are big depressions filled with things like swamp milkweed and Joe Pye weed, along the south side’s new bike path. Most of our yards are actually reverse rain gardens, by the way, sloping up away from sidewalks and streets, setting up more flooding.

Whether basements flood because water goes down storm drains too quickly or too slowly, keeping water out of our streets would help keep it out of our basements. Deep roots, less cement, and rain gardens would help. The City could consider once again allowing gravel driveways or adding more pervious pavement.

No matter how it gets there, water pouring off our lawns and streets and into our basements seems the ultimate exercise in futility and frustration. A local waterproofing company told me that no two basements are alike. Sealing walls, repairing cracks, adding sump pumps and stand pipes are all options. Keeping the water away to begin with might be a good starting point.

And consider this: if you or your neighbors use lawn chemicals, that storm water runoff will contain those chemicals. And so will your flooded basement.


“2014: The yard had no plants other than grass; major flooding in the basement. 2016: We move in, regrade the perimeter of the house, plants galore – basement does not flood.”
– Rachel Anne Engel, Ferndale

“No lawn for 20 years now. Basement never floods. If the backyard does it’s only on paver walk, plus it’s gone in 20 minutes. I never get standing water.”
– Dean Smith, Ferndale

“Forty years, no lawn other than 30 feet of devil’s strip. Only water was the ginormous flood six years ago when every house was flooded. Thirsty trees, shrubs, and plantings take up all the water that comes down, and our house is within 15 feet of a Red Run tributary.”
– Robert Lebow, Huntington Woods

“When I moved to Ferndale 20 years ago, the previous owner had used large concrete patio blocks around the perimeter of the house. There was a lawn in the front yard and back yard. Had water in basement on west side of house once. 18 years ago I took away all lawn in the front yard and most in the back yard, native plantings, some herbs and veggies, and I have never had water in my basement and I rarely mow the back patch of grass that remains for the family dog, which is away from the house anyway.”
– Catherine Jing Rehe, Ferndale

“90 percent garden plus 2 rain gardens. Only flooded once when sump pump died”
– Lauren Yellen, Ferndale

“No grass at all, 25’x25′ mostly edible garden, mulch! Has not flooded. I do seal the walls every few years. No sump pump, and snake the drains twice a year. My weeds/volunteers are morning glories, milkweed, mint, tomatoes and marigolds. Love my yard!!!”
– Merry Gundy, Ferndale

“We’ve never flooded and I give all the credit to our giant Eastern Cottonwood. This year I did get rid of most of my front yard grass and planted natives.”
– Elissa Agans

“Ours leaks and it did flood (seven inches) in 2014. We need a french drain and our problem will be solved. We have more grass than cement, lots of flower beds.”
– Jacquelyn Marie

“I live in Canton, a couple houses over from a creek, and we replaced most of our front yard with native woodland plants in 2019. We do not have flooding in our basement.”
– Jackie Fleishcher Best

“My basement only gets a water seepage when it’s a downpour or steady rain over several hours. Only one wall leaks via an opening near the chimney. Thankfully, the water goes straight to a drain. I have grass and plants and raised beds in my yard. The back area of my yard is where the downward slope is. My neighbor’s yard gets deep enough for ducks and birds to swim and play!”
– Pamela Bentley Callaway

“My basement has never flooded except for the sewer debacle in 2014. I have no grass – all perennial gardens and maybe a few native plants – but certainly not the majority”
– Barbara Harte, Huntington Woods

By Jessica J. Shaw

AS SPRING MAKES ITS APPEARANCE, warmer weather calls us to explore the green spaces of Metro Detroit. Thanks to local conservation efforts, the surrounding area is replete with several parks for those seeking good ol’ Vitamin N.

ONE INCREASINGLY POPULAR JAPANESE MODALITY in outdoor enjoyment is Shinrin-yoku, also known as “forest bathing.” As defined by the Association of Forest and Nature Therapy, forest bathing entails leaving digital devices behind and walking slowly through the forest, observing nature in its constant state-of-change.

Come join Ferndale Friends on paths near and far to enjoy the calming benefits of spending time in nature.

Stage Nature Area
6685 Coolidge Highway, Troy MI 48098

Start your walk by grabbing a map at the Nature Center. You’ll set out to experience 1.5 miles of trails in a park known for its ample wildlife such as deer and turkey. The wooded trails and boardwalks wind through upland forest, meadows, wetlands, and a cattail marsh playing a backdrop to the Rouge River. Go for the peace and quiet. Stay for the activities such as maple-tapping scheduled through the Nature Center.

Heritage Park
24916 Farmington Road, Farmington Hills MI 48836

Step onto the winding trails at Heritage Park and experience why “Let nature be your teacher” is the motto of the park. With four and a half miles of looping trails for hiking and nature study, curious hikers will find the park’s gems, including the Scout Trail where a small rumble of water cascades over rocks and the River Trail. Sweeping vistas can be enjoyed from benches throughout the park overlooking meadows and birdwatching spots.

Douglas Evans Nature Preserve
31845 Evergreen Rd, Beverly Hills MI 48025

Take a walk on the wild side at Douglas Evans. Ungroomed, rustic trails greet hikers who navigate the winding paths and invite the adventurous at heart to follow openings in the bushes to locate the riverside trail system. Sit-spots, like large fallen logs along the riverbank, make for places to pause to absorb the surroundings. Park on Evergreen Road and cross the bridge to enter this petite and untamed natural space. Be forewarned, there are no restrooms.

Red Oaks Nature Center
30300 Hales Street, Madison Heights MI 48071

You’ll find a pleasant surprise tucked across the street from Meijer on 13 Mile Road where you can steal away from the hustle and bustle at this 37-acre park. Here, trails are alive with birdsong while towering trees sway in the breeze overhead. Stop by the vernal pond in the spring and summer months to observe the dynamic changes it undergoes as the seasons progress.

Tenhave Woods Nature Trail
Lexington Blvd & Marais Avenue, Royal Oak MI 48073

Forest-bathers will appreciate this vibrant natural environment as a treat for the senses nestled away from the cityscape. This fenced-in nature area affords walkways winding through 22 acres in the Quickstad Park next to Royal Oak High School’s Raven Stadium. The park touts oak, beech, hickory and maple trees which are said to have stood since the early 1800s. Come Spring, several types of wildflowers, including trilliums dot the forest floor. Dragonfly Pond is a nice place to pause and is also a gathering spot for wildlife, like turtles and frogs.

Maybury State Park
20145 Beck Road, Northville MI 48167

Prepare for the grandest of adventures at this crown jewel of natural beauty. Start by locating the park map on signposts which distinguish walking trails from those meant for bikers and horseback riders. Meander under the canopy of trees through dense forest and rolling hills that give away to open meadows and the small lake. Paved walking trails are also available at this nearly thousand-acre park.

By Mary Meldrum
Photos ©2021 Parks & Recreation Staff

LAREINA WHEELER is the Director of Ferndale Parks & Recreation. She is an energetic and enthusiastic leader in the City’s very busy department. There are only four full-time and two part-time people working in the Recreation Department.

WHEELER’S DEPARTMENT IS THE LEAD FOR THE PLANNING, DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT of the city’s parks. They provide programming for all ages as well as a very robust sports program: Softball, kickball, soccer, baseball and basketball.

The Department also coordinates the city’s special events, such as the Fall Festival, the Fitness Festival, the Daddy-Daughter Dance, and other events that serve the community. The city’s Breakfast With Santa Around The World is a look at how people celebrate Christmas in different countries.

“We typically do a craft class that makes an ornament specific to the country that we are sponsoring that year. We try to do things a little differently,” Wheeler indicates.

Ferndale offers a SMART transportation program that shuttles residents from their homes to a destination within a five-mile radius of Ferndale.

Ferndale has 14 parks, and the Parks & Recreation Department has made major improvements including new play equipment, walking paths, and water fountains. The parks have been very well-maintained. Projects now include new walking paths as well as a pavilion and outdoor fitness equipment. New benches and trash receptacles are part of the improvements too.

Many of the improvements were made possible by a 2015 bond passed by the residents, including the installation of a splash pad. The community is very excited about that.

“This past year, we completed a park project downtown, Schiffer Park. We extended the park, installed custom planter boxes with seating, decorative paving, a drinking fountain and open grassy areas. We formalized and made it an official downtown park. There are custom planter boxes and seating and it is a beautiful asset to downtown.”

“SINCE COVID, WE HAVE REVAMPED A LOT OF THINGS. We offered free meals in conjunction with YMCA, Gleaners and our ongoing Meals On Wheels program. In addition, we worked with several grant partners, such as Project Play, to give out weekly sports kits. We utilized our partnerships to provide a different sport themed kit every week. The kits were sponsored by organizations like the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings. Some of the sport kits included hockey and soccer equipment.”

Wheeler went on, “We continued to have a presence online last year and we served the community the best we could under the circumstances. As we open up again, we are opening up outside. We have soccer starting this spring. Adult and girls’ softball and baseball and kickball will start again too.”

“Our Ferndale Daddy-Daughter Dance is usually held in the Winter. This year we are having a Daddy-Daughter Movie and drive-in. We plan to have some activities at the drive-in. We will have the COVID precautions in place.” There is a drive-in movie scheduled for the other kids on the same day.

The outdoor fitness festival will be in July, an opportunity for the community to come and exercise outdoors. “We collaborate with various gyms and health professionals who offer different fitness classes for youth and adults and provide health tips and information.

“In addition, our largest event is our Ferndale Fall Festival. We plan to still hold that October 2. We want to make sure we are doing everything safely. We always do safety checks. We are very excited about servicing the community, offering a little more this year and allowing the community to get out safely.”

WHEELER SHARES THAT SENIORS HAVE BEEN THE MOST AFFECTED BY THE ISOLATION and COVID. “We look forward to helping them overcome their isolation and get out-and-about.”

In 2019, Ferndale built an award-winning skate park, one of the most utilized parks in the city. You can see all abilities and ages in that park; children from three to four-years-old, all the way up to 55 or 60-years-old.

Wheeler has enjoyed four years as Director. She started in March of 2017. LaReina’s favorite part of the job is serving the community and giving them something they want and will utilize. “Knowing that I am working on something that will be successful. Projects are in line with what the community wants and I am bringing joy to the residents and youth.”

Wheeler says her Department always puts the community and the community’s needs first. “We make sure that we strive to make sure that our efforts are planned in an equitable and inclusive manner so nobody is excluded and everyone feels welcome when they participate. We work very hard. We have a great team and we share the same vision for the residents. We want to continue on our upward trend.”

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By Kerry Lark & Owen Tree

Branch Dieback In
The “Colorado” Blue Spruce is native to the Western U.S.A. and Canada, and is widely planted in many states including Michigan. This popular tree is valued for its silver-blue foliage and pyramidal form. So popular, in fact, that years ago Utah decided to designate the “Colorado” blue spruce as its first official State Tree.

It did so six years before neighboring Colorado picked the “Colorado” blue spruce as its official State Tree! For 80 years, the “Colorado” blue spruce was the official State tree for both states until Utah finally replaced it with the Quaking Aspen in 2014.

All trees are subject to insect, disease and environmental issues. That’s just nature’s way. Blue spruces are known to suffer from many disease, insect and environmental issues. Unfortunately, these maladies frequently lead to the partial or complete death of branches. Branch dieback can occur anywhere in the spruce tree canopy, but many times it will start in the lower part of the tree.

What are the major causes of branch dieback in our beloved blue spruces?

DISEASE ISSUES: Michigan’s hot, humid summer climate creates an ideal breeding ground for the growth of several types of fungi that attack spruces, causing disfigurement and dieback. Success in remedying fungal outbreaks depends on factors such as the type of fungus and severity of infection.

INSECT ISSUES: Insects and spider mites can cause damage to blue spruces. Treatments for insect infestations also vary in terms of successful long-term outcomes.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: Over time, urban environmental issues may weaken blue spruces, limiting their ability to cope with attacks from diseases and insects. Common urban issues include: poorly drained soil, inadequate sun exposure, summer droughts and lawn sprinklers spraying water on the lower branches. Education and prevention are paramount in order to reduce these environmental threats.

If combined together, these three disease, insect and environmental issues will cause spruce branches to die, rendering your trees aesthetically unappealing. If the damage is severe enough, these blue spruce trees may eventually need to be replaced with a new tree.

Unfortunately, the symptoms blue spruces display in response to attacks from these issues can ”mimic” each other. Mimicry can make correctly diagnosing tree problems challenging to the untrained eye. What should you do if you’re concerned about your blue spruces? Call a certified arborist from a quality tree care company that has the knowledge and experience to properly diagnose tree care problems and then provide the appropriate care.

THIS SPRING, GO OUTSIDE AND ASSESS AND APPRECIATE all your trees. Look at your landscape and consider adding diversity to our urban forests by planting new trees! Trees have a healing power and will make everyone feel more hopeful in 2021. Almost 200 years ago, the great poet and teacher Lucy Larcom summed this up best, when she said; “He who plants a tree plants hope!”

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WHETHER YOU HAVE AN ESTABLISHED GARDEN, A HOPEFUL STRIP OF DIRT WAITING FOR YOUR TROWEL, OR JUST A POT OR TWO, you can grow easy-to-care-for plants to brighten your yard and your plate. You can also skip spraying your lawn and harvest delicious edibles from it instead. (Not applying pesticides is better for bees and other pollinators, plus you’ll save money and won’t be contributing to pesticide run- off flowing into city water systems.)

When pondering what to plant, non-invasive native species are always a good idea since they’ll thrive all on their own. Noninvasive imported plants work well, too, assuming that they’re suited to our hardiness zone. In most of Oakland County, that’s Zone 6, with a few areas being Zone 5.

LETTUCE

Although lots of veggies are relatively easy to grow, lettuce is by far the easiest, especially if you’d like to grow something from seed. Unlike tomatoes and beans and peppers, lettuce doesn’t need any kind of support structure, and it doesn’t need as much sun, either. One caveat: lettuce needs to be protected from voracious bunnies!

An outdoor bistro table or chair makes an excellent lettuceperch, or you can use an outdoor plant stand to get your lettuce off the ground and away from marauding rabbits. (If you have a surplus of large pots, turn one upside down and put another one on top of it — filling it with dirt should make it stable enough to plant your lettuce in.) Fencing in your lettuce also works, but another advantage of using pots is that you can move your lettuce from one spot to another if it seems to be getting too much or too little sun.

Lettuce comes in many shapes and shades: closed-head varieties (crisphead, iceberg), looseleaf (red leaf, green leaf), and in between (romaine, bibb), and in hues from pale green to deep red. The more loosely the lettuce grows, the more nutrients it contains — a greater number of exposed leaves means the plant has to have a stronger immune system to defend itself from bugs and fungi that try to attack it. Deeper reddish hues also offer more nutrients in terms of anthocyanin content, which is a pigment that functions as an antioxidant. Another nutritional bonus: Lettuce is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. The flavors and textures of different varieties of lettuce vary, but they’re all easy to grow.

HERBS

Like lettuce, herbs also grow well in pots. Large-leafed herbs like basil and mint also have especially high amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. (And come in many different varieties! Purple ruffled basil, anyone? Or how about chocolate mint?) In terms of culinary applications, you just can’t beat fresh herbs that you can snip whenever you like. Plus, you can dry them at the end of the season to enjoy your garden bounty even in the winter months.

FLOWERS

If you’re looking for something pretty and practical, plant edible flowers like nasturtium, violets, pansies, and roses. Flowers from herbs and alliums are also edible and often stunning in their own right, so even if you don’t eat them, you can enjoy looking at them. (And chives are possibly the most hands-off perennial plant you can have.) Herbal flowers like lemon balm, lavender, are particularly beloved by bees, too.

LAWNS

The biodiversity of an unsprayed lawn is stunning, and a lot of it is edible: Dandelions (the flowers, leaves, and roots), red clover flowers, wood sorrel leaves (wood sorrel kind of looks like shamrocks and is tangy with vitamin C), violets, plantains (aka psyllium in health food stores), purslane (an incredible source of omega-3s), and many more valuable “weeds.”

Don’t spray your lawn — eat it!

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By Rebecca Hammond

THE OJIBWAY MUSEUM IN ST. IGNACE IS SMALL AND INTIMATE and worth a stop for its gift shop alone. It was there that I discovered books by Canadian First Nations writer Richard Wagamese.
A novelist and essayist, Wagamese produced two wise books of essays, now part of my daily morning read. In “Wolf Tracks,” in One Story, One Song he wrote about hiking: “The land felt alive. When I was out there standing on it, I felt alive, too. . . .[But] We can’t experience a primordial thrill with each breath.” And we don’t. And yet…

ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO HIKE IN MICHIGAN is Ludington State Park. It’s hilly and beautiful, with a long stretch of Lake Michigan beach and inland lakes ringed by classic stands of white pine. Most of the dunes there are stabilized by forest. They are steep in places. And a long hike there has ups and downs in more ways than altitude. If the day is icy and windy, just being there seems nuts. But it was there that I first noticed that such experiences aren’t sum totals of good and bad moments. They add up to more than mere pleasure or its lack.

Recently, Phil was forced to engage in a couple of my bucket list items (I hate that phrase, but there you are), as I was feeling that 30 years was too long to keep putting off backpacking Pictured Rocks, and at 62 was guessing that waiting longer might not make it any easier.

The shuttle ride of an hour and a half required four days’ walking back. I may have panicked about what we assumed was do-able do in four days is usually tackled in five if Noah’s flood hadn’t been pouring since we left the motel. Weather is distracting.

We hiked in the deluge for three hours. Then ,as we finally hit the Lake Superior shore, the rain stopped and sunbeams appeared. Angels might have burst into chorus, the change was so welcome and dramatic.
The next three days were a mixture of sore feet, breathtaking views, pounding surf, aching shoulders, hips, knees, bear tracks, and open pit toilets that were great equalizers. When you’re the only older woman in four days of encounters with the young and fit, anything that’s a reminder we’re all human is welcome.

BUT NO MATTER THE PARTICULARS, NOTHING COULD IMPACT the marvelous experience, not a last afternoon spent wading and sliding through mud, not some of our bad packing choices; even the mostly-terrific daytime weather and some of the world’s best scenery seemed less than the total. It was all so good that two weeks later we decided we needed another adventure. We packed bikes and panniers and headed to Otsego State Park, and hit the North Central State Trail, a rail trail extending from Waters to Cheboygan.

We planned to bike what Michigan Trails magazine told us was 53 miles (it was actually 60), and this was a vastly different experience than the backpacking was. In the first place, all that walking didn’t get us in the right kind of shape for cycling, although our legs were strong. The hardest part about long-distance cycling (in our late 40s, we biked across the UP, and another year, home from the Mackinac Bridge) ends up being the hours on the bike; hands, wrists, and shoulders getting progressively numb or painful.

It was cold, and of course both days had headwinds, even though we headed north one day and south the next. 60 miles is too far on crushed limestone, which seems to reduce average speed by about two mph. Did I mention it was really cold? We left Cheboygan bundled for the upper 30s at about 9:00 A.M. At 7:00 P.M., we were finally back at Otsego. Did I mention that railtrails are boring? There’s a bend in the flat, straight trail far ahead, and you look forward to its novelty. When you finally round it, you see more flat, straight trail. Rail trails often parallel highways, and at one point I switched to it just for some hills and curves. Phil stuck with the trail for a couple of miles, but joined me after seeing how much faster I could go on the paved surface, even with climbs.

FORTY TOUGH MILES LATER, PAST RIVERS AND BEAVER LODGES AND SMALL TOWNS, we were cheerleading aloud, not to each other, but to ourselves. I held mental conversations about what could be worse than what I was doing, in between chanting self-encouragement aloud. See that dead tree? If that fell on you, that would be worse than this. See that wasp nest at eye level right beside the trail? If it were warm and they were active, they could sting you. That would be worse than this.

But the takeaway from those tough two days of cycling ended up the same as the backpacking: the experience was worthwhile, greatly so, and we’re eager for more. Just this morning I read a William James quote: “What our human emotions seem to require is the sight of struggle going on… .Sweat and effort, human nature strained to its uttermost…then turning its back on success to pursue another [challenge] more rare and arduous still — this is the sort of thing the presence of which inspires us.”

Wagamese wrote that we can’t experience primordial thrills with each breath. But he also wrote that we should still strive for those thrills, “…that charge in the belly that says we are not alone and the earth is not ours to order.” Why treks reveal that charge is part of the mystery that makes them worthwhile.

Rebecca Hammond lives in Ferndale and believes in new beginnings. Wave when you see her walking to and from the library with Phil.

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By Sara E. Teller

JERRY HASSPACHER ADVOCATES FOR MORE AWARENESS AROUND CLIMATE CHANGE and other environmental issues. Since 2009, as a board member of the Sierra Club Southeast Michigan Group, Hasspacher has delivered 184 Climate Change & You presentations and with more to come.

Climate Change & You is a free presentation covering a variety of topics related to the environment about which the public should be more aware, according to Hasspacher. Topics include renewal energy, energy conservation, problem weather and severe weather, permafrost, sea level rise, acidification of oceans and lakes, loss of biodiversity, an increase in disease, pollution from all sources, and others.

Through the Sierra Club, Hasspacher has offered his expertise in a variety of settings, including libraries, schools, clubs, City Council meetings, and many others. “I can travel just about anywhere in Southeast Michigan,” he said.

“JUST THINK, IN GENERAL, the European Union has banned 379 chemicals and the U.S. has banned only 11,” he said.

“Michigan now has an administration that has stepped up, but not a legislator,” Hasspacher said, “So it’s largely left to local governments to do something.”

Hasspacher is very involved in Warren, the community in which he resides, in general, as well as throughout the tri-county area. He is on the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Authority, is a member of Beaumont’s Healthy Grosse Pointe & Harper Woods, a member of SEMIWILD, and a citizen member of Warren’s Environmental Advisory Committee and WarrenSUN.

He stated, “I’ve had a passion for environmental issues since I was very young and used to go camping.” Hasspacher also credits his careers in public school teaching and nursing for laying the necessary public speaking groundwork.

“I always say the two degrees are left- and right-brained,” Hasspacher said. “Nursing gave me the science background. And when I was a teacher I led an environmental club and the band boosters, both of which gave me valuable public relations experience.”

IN HIS FREE TIME, HASSPACHER ENJOYS PLAYING BADMINTON AND VOLLEYBALL, and riding his bike. His favorite ride is the 30-mile Beat the Train event that takes place in Detroit Saturday mornings at 6:30 A.M. throughout the riding season. Asked what else readers should know, Hasspacher offered, “They should know that on April 21, 2020, Earth Day will be celebrating its 50th anniversary, and it just so happens to be the same day as the Lyrid meteor shower and a night of ‘no moon.’ So, the showers will be highly visible.”

For more information about the Southeast Michigan Sierra Club, stop by a meeting at the Royal Oak Elks Lodge, 2401 E 4th St, Royal Oak, MI 48067, Thursday nights at 7:00 P.M. (a meet-and-greet takes place 6:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.). For more information on Climate Change & You and or to book a presentation, email jhasspac@gmail.com.

By Jill Lorie Hurst

Just when I thought I’d met every brilliant human who lives in the 48220, Ferndale Friends sent me to learn all about Rachel Engel: homesteader, permaculture consultant, perfume and candle maker, winner of the Ferndale Beautification Award, urban farmer, ecologist. Engel is one of the founders of the Ferndale Seed Library. She holds workshops for people interested in leading a zero-waste lifestyle.

Rachel is also warm, funny, empathetic and very gracious. Seconds after arriving at her Ferndale home on a snowy morning, I was seated in a big, comfy chair with a blanket tucked around my shoulders, terrier Teddy in my lap, immediately, dangerously comfortable. Rachel: “It’s important to be cozy and have your basic needs met. Celebrate your day-to-day.” She celebrates with husband/partner Brian, eleven-year-old daughter Terra and a growing group of animals that include Wyandotte chickens, “big, fat heirloom chickens who love the cold.”

Born into a military family, Rachel moved over 35 times as a child. She found Ferndale as a grownup, and met Brian just as she was leaving for a great job in Chicago. She left. And then returned. They’ve been growing a life together ever since.

The “growing” started when she wondered if he’d mind getting rid of the front lawn! I expressed interest and confessed a lack of skills. “Failure is all part of the process. Fail – you have compost. Things will grow better next year. Just get roots into the soil.”

RACHEL ADVISES STARTING WITH AN HERB SPIRAL. Easy to grow fruits and vegetables? She recommended garlic, chives, Asian pears, persimmons, arugula. Divide your yard into zones. Grow the things you use most in the zone closest to your house. Think small. Make long-term goals.

Rachel has two goals these days. One is design-ing permacultures for others. “Helping people become guardians of their own land. Each garden is diverse and unique. It’s based on following the sunlight paired with water and energy conservation by focusing on perennial food production and inviting natural ecological systems to do the work.”

Second, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which Rachel calls a “deep-hearted endeavor.” They deliver fresh, seasonal produce to lucky customers on a regular basis. Food is harvested an hour before delivery!

We discussed the idea of a CSA on every block. What’s a CSA? Each household grows different things to share with the neighborhood. “We can shrink our carbon footprint and increase our nutrition by becoming ‘hyper-local.’” Rachel is passionate. “The best legacy we can leave future generations is good soil.”

HER DAUGHTER TERRA ON GROWING UP in a permaculture homestead: “My favorite part is being able to go into the yard and being able to eat so many yummy veggies and plants. The hardest part is maintaining it, but it’s definitely worth it. And it matters because we are going through a global crisis and growing our own food helps the Earth in many ways. Also, growing up on an urban farm is so much fun because of being able to play with the animals and make many things and eat many things with the plants.”

On the walk home I thought about an herb spiral, the arugula we can grow, the clover and wildflowers that’ll replace the grass in our front yard. Up until now I’ve left the gardening to my husband, but Rachel has made me unafraid to fail! A great teacher inspires you to dig in. Explore. Set goals that work for you.

Rachel Engel moved more than 35 times as a kid. It was hard to put down roots. Rachel dreams of picking an apple off a tree she planted herself. Hopefully she’ll pick that apple right here in Ferndale.

By Ingrid Sjostrand

WHILE HAZEL PARK IS ON THE RISE ECONOMICALLY, it’s important to remember the environmental areas that benefit our community too. Natural spaces help wildlife and create a more aesthetically-pleasing city, which is why the Hazel Park Nature Initiative (HPNI) is working hard to make sure there is green growth added to the area.

Created by Amy Aubry, Hazel Park Mayor Pro Tem, and Grace Vatai, Executive Director and Naturalist of Mulberry Hill Wildlife, the Nature Initiative focuses on creating and restoring native green spaces in Hazel Park through four tenets – habitat creation, land management, education and community.

“We plan to create habitat and natural space in the city for the benefit of both wildlife and residents. Wildlife will benefit from things like native wildflower beds, pollinator gardens and lawn alternatives,” Vatai says. “Residents will benefit from increased beautification of our city through aesthetically appealing natural spaces, as well as opportunities to learn about and implement natural practices in their own yards.”

The idea for the Nature Initiative came when Vatai and Aubry found they had a shared love for the environment, and both recognized a lack of natural space in Hazel Park. After further discussion, they found there was community interest too.

“Nature helps ground us and promote well-being it’s good for us to be around,” Aubry says. “Increasing native landscaping and habitats will give residents more opportunities to see our diverse flora and fauna and help them flourish while receiving their own benefits in return. The Nature Initiative will also enrich our parks, streetscapes, and overall community.”

The HPNI has produced a few presentations at the Hazel Park Library to educate and encourage interest, including Bat Week and Native People, Native Plants programs. Bigger projects are in the works as well, including one that will encompass habitat creation, land management, education and community.

“We are currently developing a new natural area in Hazel Park which will contain native plant beds including a pollinator garden, woodland garden, native wildflowers and more,” Vatai says. “This will provide habitat for beneficial wildlife and also educational opportunities for everyone in Hazel Park by creating a place for people to come and learn about nature through direct experience.”

Vatai and Aubry encourage residents to join the Initiative and offer various opportunities to get involved including helping care for the gardens or providing donations. They will also be holding public events for residents’ feedback on the HPNI.

“When the time comes to address our City ordinances, City Council will vote on the proposed changes. We will hold public hearings where residents are encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings, and questions on the changes suggested, as well as offer up suggestions of their own,” Aubry says. “In addition, we will have lots of opportunities for resident participation: Come to fun, educational classes, volunteer at events such as plantings, or jump all-in and replace your grass with native plants on your property.”

“The Hazel Park Nature Initiative is one small step we can take that can have a big impact when we work together. By restoring food sources for wildlife and pollinators we can help creatures like the monarch butterflies and bees thrive,” Aubry says. “This life is bigger than ourselves – I’ve always been a bigger-picture kind of person and taking care of our surroundings is part of that bigger picture.”

“Being in nature is a spiritual experience. No matter who you are or what your beliefs are, there is a certain undeniable connectedness that reveals itself if you allow yourself to truly ‘be’ in nature,” Vatai adds. “Co-authoring the Hazel Park Nature Initiative is a fulfilling experience. Every human being deserves to experience the joy of living fully in a naturally beautiful place, and I believe that beauty is possible right here in Hazel Park.”

For more information or to keep up to date on events, visit facebook.com/hpnatureinitiative.