Sunday, July 8, 2012

Appreciating "place" at Sleeping Bear Dunes

I'm back from our annual trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, and I have some highlights to share!

Each year that we go, our trips to the Dunes have been a place to explore, get outside, and really immerse wrap ourselves in the concept of "place"- the sights, sounds, food, culture, and experiences of a certain locale.

As I have gotten deeper into gardening, seasonal eating, and conscientious consuming, this has also been a trip where I can really live my values.

This year I was accompanied by my parents, Mike, an aunt, and two young cousins. Being able to share our families' favorite place with others is a true pleasure.

Each year we have a few staples that we always try to hit, including the dune climb, time on the beach, dinner at Joe's Friendly Tavern in Empire, and a stop at Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co, based right in Glen Arbor!
Of course, we visited the Empire Dune Climb, and everyone made it up to the top! We didn't go all the way to the lake, but concuring that climb is usually a feature of our trip! We saw a few new sites too, including the Historical Farm Tour of Port Oneida and the Port Bestie Light House.

The west side of Michigan is known for its agricultural productiveness, and the entire state was hit hard this year, by a late-spring cold front that did a great deal of damage to much of our fruit crop. Michigan is  of blueberries, sweet cherries, apples, etc. a lot of which were nearly decimated this season. The effects of this were evident everywhere, from the lack of roadside cherry stands to the sign posted at Glen Arbor's Cherry Republic, where we made a stop.

We also made sure to purchase locally grown fruit when we found it- this year it felt even more important that it usually does. We stopped and bought local cherries, picked up raspberries and blueberries at the local grocery for snacks during our day trips, and even foraged some mulberries on the Farm Tour and raspeberries from our campgrounds.

Last year the site Mike and I camped at had several wild raspberry bushes around it and it was such a treat to find them! This year, I led my young cousins, 7 and 10, to show them were the raspberries could be found.

The kids evidently thought it was a pretty cool find- every morning and every evening they would go on a walk "to the raspberries" and back, and would bring back enough berries for everyone to have a few. I was proud of them- junior wild edbile foragers! :)
I made sure to emphasize that not all berries are edible and that you should only eat them if you're an adult you trust that can help identify berries and says they are safe to eat!


On the farm tour, we'd get out at each stop and look around- check out the old barns, look at the farm machienery. At the Port Oneida School stop I found a red mulberry tree towards the back of the school. My aunt went and got a used plastic container so we could collect some of the mulberries.

Later than day, when picking up our pizza in town, we wandered around the pizza place and found a black mulberry tree! My cousin Noah spotted it and pointed it out to us, and we took turns picking the berries. Some other pizza-awaiting kids wondered what we were doing, so we shared our find with them.

We ended up leading our own tour with the assistance of a Port Oneida booklet, and I narrated our journey as we visited many beautifully weather and sadly abandoned pieces of agricultural history. Here are a few photos:

The Dechow Farm
Carsten Burfiend Farm
The Charles Olsen Farm

A tractor at the Miller Barn

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