We talk about birds, fishing, hunting, and wildlife arts a great deal on this page. But another wonderful thing to learn about as a family is the weather! Wind, rain, hail, snow and bright sunshine all create an impact on your natural environment, on your hunting and fishing successes and influences how that camera works! Here is a picture taken over Lake Huron during a severe thunderstorm–beauty is always all around us.19095784_10209280624914573_293261404_o

Stick Lanterns–a Wild Art Project!

With all the cedar down with the land clearing going on, I’ve been really drawn into seeing what I can make with limbs, small trees and the a few larger logs.  Above are LED light lanterns.  I’m still perfecting the way to put the walls together, but I can tell you It’s a great deal of fun. The two light colored ones were created with paper walls, the blue on the left with cloth. These prototypes, imperfect as they are, were incredible at night.  It’ll be fun to try to embed dried leaves between layers of tissue paper next, creating the panels.

Cedar Arts

We have a lot cedar boughs down, so I decided to try my hand at a little archway, using branch weaving. I’ve got a ways to go, but this is how it looks. I have corrected the lean, by the way. HA! I think I’ll add a back, and it will be a sweet little place to sit or I can display some of my glass painting inside, a little “contemplative” shrine of sorts.  A chickadee came and sat on a crossbar as soon as I lifted the frame into place.  We looked at each other, she gave a loud “cheeeep!” and took wing.  Magic moment.

Later today, I’m going to do some tee-pee style garden supports, and want to do a couple in the woods for places to sit and journal in nature…after the mosquitoes come and I go I suspect. Ha! We continue to lay out log raised beds and frame our bird feeding stations.  I’m looking forward to landscaping with rock, including making paths.  We are “blessed” with tons of limestone and granite; will be so much fun using the materials at hand.

I’ve also tried my hand at stick wrapping and weaving, and need to go root around in the woods and find a couple of click sticks to decorate for rhythm instruments.  The odd triangular frame is for peas to grow on–we can’t plant until Mother’s Day here in the north country–but gotta get everything ready to go!

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Birds at the Family Wild Dragonfly House

I’ll keep editing this post as time rolls on.  It’s a list of the birds we are seeing on our land, and links to learn more about them.  Enjoy!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-crowned_Sparrow/id   The White-Crowned Sparrow means spring is really here–they come through in fairly large flocks of 15 or so and are gone in a few days.  They’re not very afraid of folks!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Turkey_Vulture/id  We had a turkey vulture come and scope out our bird feeder, perching on the electricity pole for a time right by the house.  They’ve been making fly-by’s over the newly deforested fields, too–when they go over, all the little birds scatter.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tufted_Titmouse/id  These little guys are so lovely, especially in the winter.  They don’t appear often, and are very shy.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-capped_Chickadee/id One of my favorite feeder birds.  In the winter, they won’t even move much when we feed.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/id These little ground feeders are also harbingers of spring here–we had over 40 on the ground on 4/15/17.  They love hiding in the downed cedar trees.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-breasted_Nuthatch/id We have seen both white-breasted and Yellow Breasted Nuthatches here https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-breasted_Nuthatch/id Ah, life lived running straight down a tree!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Robin/id  Our favorite joke about the American Robin is when they are hunched in eight inches of surprise Spring snowfall: “Wait until I get a hold of my travel agent!”

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Hairy_Woodpecker/id These big guys look like they were designed by Pacific Northwest artists–all black, white, red and bold.  They are very adept at managing suet squares swinging away in 40 mph winds!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Downy_Woodpecker/id The Downy woodpeckers are smaller than the Hairy Woodpeckers, but no less bold with the suet!  🙂  They seem to like the company on the Black Capped Chickadee and the spring’s Dark Eyed Junco.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Cardinal/id The Northern Cardinal and his mate were such beautiful birds, especially backlit with snow and cedar trees.  I’ve only seen one pair so far.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mourning_Dove/id This is one of the species that can be hunted, but I don’t let it happen.  I love the deep, mournful calls and the activity around the feeder.  Yes, I’ve been told they are delicious.  Tough.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/id Every so often, we get a fly-by over the new fields.  They are spectacular and making a huge comeback in Northern Michigan.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wild_Turkey/id One day, I had 15 birds walk through the back yard, all in single file when they moved. They spread out to feed a bit, then disappeared into the deeper woods, again in a line.  Lovely.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-tailed_Hawk/id Just starting to see these guys occasionally over the field.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Goldfinch/id These are the most brilliant birds on the property–small splashes of sunshine!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/id These ducks have just been fly-by’s, but with all the water this spring, I won’t be surprised to see them digging around in some of the seasonal ponds.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Canada_Goose/id Lots of fly-bys–they are everywhere here in Northern Michigan, but still beautiful when they create their honking “V” in the sky.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Sandhill_Crane/id Just the last few years, these cranes have started flying over, and some small pairs and groups staying well into summer.  This never happened when I was a child growing up in Northern Michigan.  Interesting.  We often hear larger groups of them, especially in the spring.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Flicker/id This spring, it has been fun to watch the mating dances in the yard around the suet feeders.  Three or four at a time, bowing and bobbing.  Lovely.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/id Last summer, we did get a couple of these little visitors to our hummingbird feeders.  Hope to see more of them this year.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/id I love these guys–so smart. I call to them, and they call back.  We usually get them over the fields and in the surrounding trees. Very, very rarely they will come to get corn on the ground by the feeders.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruffed_Grouse/id These big old birds are smart and observant.  We scare them up a lot on the property and they come to the feeder in the wintertime.  But make one move at the window and BAM! they are gone.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Goshawk/id One of these predators swooped through our feeder area last summer, picking up a Chickadee in mid flight and not even slowing down.  Breathtaking.  Literally.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Purple_Finch/id Already had to edit the blog today!  A pair of Purple Finches just stopped by the feeder.  Nice splash of color against the green, brown and gray today.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Baltimore_Oriole/id  Lovely orange and black splash of color at the feeder today.  Showed up on May 12, 2017, drawn to suet.  I’m going to get some fruit based suet for them!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Indigo_Bunting/id We have two of these males coming to the feeder quite regularly. Adding sunflower seeds and thistle have really increased the population of critters.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/search/?q=Red-bellied%20Woodpecker/id you have to look carefully at this bird to tell it apart from a flicker. They are a little smaller, and don’t have the black half-moon on their chest.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/id This is a lovely bird, with bold and distinct coloring. Much bigger than I “expected.”

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/search/?q=Pileated%20Woodpecker/id The female came in to the feeder–talk about a bird who looks like a dinosaur! Lovely!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Herring_Gull/id They don’t land, but we often see them circle over the seasonal ponds in our newly-exposed field.

ttps://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-winged_Blackbird/id These were a surprise–I was used to seeing them perched on cattails all along Michigan roadways. I think the open field drew them, as well as the abundance of water.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Kestrel/id This one tackled a Bluejay on the ground and was it ON! The two aren’t much different in size, and soon the battle drew a whole tree of screaming Bluejays.

Family Wild Dragonfly House

It’s been a fun winter, repainting (still working on it), setting up an recording studio in a closet and now having the land cleared.

We bought the 50 acres last July, and while the front 10 or so is reasonably good land with over 20 apple trees, it’s very rocky.  The back 40 is a marsh/swamp, bodies of trees creating the “land” where new trees grow.  It dries out fairly well in the summer, but the spring creates thousands of tiny pools of water. The little cedars there are ancient, but incredibly small, and shot through with tamarack and the occasion birch or poplar tree.

We hung up game cameras and tried to observe wildlife transit patterns.  Truth was, nothing much went into the deep woods.  No deer tracks.  One coyote all year, even though we left a gut pile from butchering our rabbits.

I was able to find a firm that agreed to cut us out four 10 acre fields with transit corridors between each field running east/west.  We’ll be sowing clover, and later, species that do well with damp feet and rocks like dogwood varieties, pussy willow and the like. The cedar will be chipped, the other trees used to fuel a local electricity plant.  We don’t “make” anything with the deal, but we gain a canvas that we can work with to increase the wildlife utilization on our property.

The machinery is quiet impressive–it’s fun to watch an entire tree seem to uproot and “walk” itself across the horizon before laying itself down in a sorted pile.

Here are some pictures! You have to imagine solid forest before these were taken.  Next, they will pick up the piles you see and begin the processing stage.  Fascinating.  Most of the tree is used, which I like to see–very little waste. And the other thing I like to see? The sky!  Such stars at night, beautiful clouds and sunsets.

Why it is called hunting

This weekend was the annual Doe and Youth Hunt in Northern Michigan.

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We didn’t see any deer, but it was an incredibly successful hunt.

Huh?

In the deep quiet of the blind, I could feel my body relax.  All I had to do was stay awake, watching how the light brought first this leaf, then that fallen tree, then the blue of the Jay into sharp relief.  This time of year, the forest sings with toads and insects, and the wind murmurs through the poplars and birch almost like chimes.

And there was quite a bit of wildlife to watch–the antics of a small pine squirrel trying to carry away an entire apple, the very noisy business of a woodpecker, the quick lilting steps of a grouse.

If we shot a deer every time, this season would be called “harvesting” or something like that.  I loved my hunt–meditation and beauty.

Kim Nunneley

Chicken Coop with “Found” Materials

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Good Morning!  What you see here is the beginning of our chicken coop using primarily rustic materials from our woods and found/recycled materials.  It will be eight feet by eight feet, egg collection box on the outside of the structure, light and a used dog kennel as the outdoor run.

We did purchase a tenon cutter (2″) because we have a gazebo, deck railing, furniture and other items we’re choosing to make out of cedar.  The cutter shapes the ends of the logs as you can see in the picture above, which are then inserted into a corresponding hole in the bigger cedar trunk.  It’s really like working with really big Legos!

Our extended family had thrown out perfectly good OSB board on the fire pile, so we rescued that for the walls. The board is put on using the many nails and screws we rescued from our “little house” project last year (purchased a $14,000 cabin, refitted it, and raised its value more than $30,000 using primarily Restore materials.).

We will invest in a metal roof and a clear story panel for added light, and will put in an LED bulb to keep our hens laying through the winter.  Considering that even simple sheds can cost thousands of dollars (and don’t really teach you new skills!) we felt this was a more interesting and economical way to go.

Eventually, we’ll side the whole thing with logs cut in half length-ways so the coop looks like a little log cabin.  I’ll add pics as we get it done.

See ya soon,

Kim

 

 

Our Project: Fifty Acres

 

 

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Our big family project is contained in fifty acres of cedar forest in Northern Michigan–and just outside our local city limits.  The ground is almost pure rock–the forest is actually perched on the bodies of previous trees, creating hillocks and very shallow root structures.  The front 13 acres has a little more soil, but not much.  Mike tilled open meadow there, and found about 1.5 inches of soil between each flat shale stone.  We have lots of limestone, too, which will make planting anything kind of difficult.  At this point, I think we’ll frost-seed clover in the early spring, and pick stones to make raised bed areas that will hold in dirt that we’ll have to bring in.  Next year, we’d like to get in sunflowers and several rows of corn in those beds.

We’ve been freeing up apple trees in the property up-front, 23 of them by last count.  We have speculated that perhaps this whole area was once an apple orchard–nearby properties have lots of very old trees.  In the spring, we’ll be trimming them while they are still dormant and use Triple 19 at their bases to help boost them back into production.

The back yard will be graced with cedar-log raised bed gardens, a labyrinth and gazebo, and a zen garden.  My kennel is going up in the garage (my parents laugh about that because who turns a great car garage into a giant dog house in an area with so much winter-time snow?!  ME!) We are raising North American Retrievers–more about these great dogs will come with another blog! Fun with pouring cement for the kennels, etc–you are sure to laugh at our learning process.

Yesterday, we ambled about an hour away and found a used dog kennel for sale (usually $300, and we got it for $100).  This particular find will become our chicken run, once we attach it to the coop and patch up a few little holes with new chicken wire.  The kennel was moved whole, on a trailer while we sang “Green Acres is the place to be…”  Too funny.

Some of the bird feeders are up and we are already seeing chickadees, nuthatches, thrashers, blue jays, hummingbirds, black squirrels, pine squirrels, 13 striped ground squirrels and rabbits.

Oh, yeah.  Rabbits.  We have two litters, three breeding does and one buck.  I chose Rex-New Zealand crosses to have less fur to deal with during butchering.  I opened one nest box and one lovely blue rabbit-ling fell out…and ran like crazy into our very tangled woods.  If he/she survives, we may have some very interesting wild rabbit colors in the future.  Sigh. At least they don’t look like baby rats anymore! HA!

We currently boast six adult hens and a lovely rooster we call Cabrera (For Miguel Cabrera osf Tiger Baseball fame).  He’s very well behaved and takes good care of his hens. We also have nine chicks that look like Black Austrolorp/Barred Rock crosses.  They are fully fledged now, and we’ll add the hens to our flock once they have some size to them.  The cockerels, well, lets just say like the taste of slow cooker chicken!

 

 

Welcome to Family Wild

Welcome! You are about to embark on an adventure! Over the next few weeks, Mike and I will be creating the nuts and bolts of the website, as well as completing the Family Wild Manuals and books.  Kids earn patches and medals as they work through the activities, and families create projects, try recipes, learn nature arts and crafts, fish from boats and river banks, on and on.  In time, you’ll be able to take part in a Family Wild Tournament or enter essay and photo and art contests.  It’s all designed to get everyone in your house back on the water or out in nature, even if that “nature” is your own backyard.

We’re glad you’re here!  Come back soon and often!

Kim and Mike