Nature

<p>Home to Pokagon State Park and Trine State Recreational Area, Steuben County Indiana has over 100 natural lakes, bogs and woodlands, reservoirs and more!</p>

Tree Planting

By on May 17, 2017 in Nature, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

My doorbell rings even though the hour is still early. Coffee sits on my dining room table with the newspaper spread out in front of me reading about folks I know and those I don’t. I scramble to the door knowing who is there before I answer. Most of my friends just walk on in, so it has to be the kids from Angola Middle School. I hear their laughter and chattering before I even get to the door. And there they are. They are smiling from ear to ear, and so am I! It is Arbor Day in Angola, and they are here to plant my free tree from the City. “The tree is around back, I’ll meet you there,” I say, and all twenty students take off running to the backyard. I hurry to grab my jacket and meet them there in the early morning light with my camera tucked into my pocket. I think this is my fifth year to be the recipient of a free tree from the Angola Tree Board. The announcement always comes in the water bill, and the first 100 folks to call gets the trees. This year I called early enough to get the pink dogwood. I love this gift from my city even if it is getting a bit crowded in my yard. Mr. Hottell’s students all chatter at once. “Ooohhh…I love your house…I love your yard…I love your garden.” I smile at them thinking all the while how nice it is that this group of enthusiastic students appreciate this old house and the beauty it resonates. They gather together for a photo to capture the moment. They think it is just a picture of a bunch of kids planting a tree, but it is so much more than that. The photo captures such sweet joy and hope on their faces in the morning light. The students dig the hole while Mr. Hottell cuts off the burlap as the rest of us talk. I tell them about the other trees, and they listen with fascination. “This service berry tree is from the city. Students planted it a few years ago. The folk lore says that when this tree blooms it...

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April in Steuben County

By on Apr 26, 2017 in Nature, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

It is April in Steuben County, and that means many things. The lakers begin returning, the robins build nests, and there is poetry on the square every day! It started as a whim last year as it was the 400th year anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. It was reported that a Poetess was reading Shakespeare in Atlanta every day to celebrate. Not wanting to be behind the city of Atlanta, the folks in Angola decided to take also take on the celebration. Every day at 4:00 the sonnets were read on the square in town. It was a huge undertaking, and yes, I was glad when it was over. However, the good folks of Angola couldn’t forget or let it go. Wherever I went there were comments. “You are doing poetry again this year, aren’t you?” “What poet will you be reading this year?” I brushed the comments off with a shrug and a bit of a laugh. No, never again. I had already decided. But then February came, and the days were a bit gray and dreary, and it seemed as if the only cheery news would be coming from poetry. And then it happened, I announced Poetry on the Square, much as a town crier would call out into the night. It happened before I could even stop it! So every day in April there are poets and poetry on the square. The group has doubled in size from last year. Every day a new poet is showcased, but folks don’t even pay attention to that as everyone brings their favorite poems to share. Guests from out of town show up with poetry in their back pocket beaming as they walk up toward us. The poetry has ranged from Dickinson to Longfellow to Dr. Seuss to an obscure Canadian poet connecting centuries and countries. Even real poets show up as did Loren Niemi of Minneapolis and Michael Czernecki from upstate New York. (How did they hear about us?) Truth be told, I love this part of my day. My alarm is set for 3:25 every afternoon in case I would forget, but how could I? I bike on down to the square and greet everyone. Most...

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Ropchan Wildflowers

By on Apr 18, 2017 in Nature, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

With all the rain this week it might not seem like there are many wildflowers out in Northern Indiana Lakes Country yet.  However, you just need to know where to look!  One of the best places to see the first signs of spring is Ropchan Wildlife Refuge on State Road 827 near Orland.  It is not only a great place to snap some pictures of wildflowers, but in my case get my son home from college to go for a walk with the family dog. Some of the prettiest Hoosier wildflowers are known as Liverleaf or Liverworts.  Don’t let their unappealing name fool you though!  These tiny woodland flowers (about the size of violets) come in an array of colors from white to blue and purple.  These flowers have six petals and yellow pistols that, as my grandmother would say, make a nice little “tussy mussy.”  You can find them on the main path the leads into the Refuge. From there several paths merge and diverge – all equally filled with tiny spring flowers.  There are a great deal of bluebells – which I used to confuse with violets (everything comes back to violets with me) and plenty of forsythia too.  Phlox in pink, blue and white are beginning to dot the area, as well as a cool little flower sometimes called a wood poppy that comes in yellow.  It sort of reminds me of a tiny buttercup.  And those with a keen eye might also spot some wild geraniums sometimes called Cranesbills.  They are often bright or hot pink, but really do not look much like our garden variety geraniums. Two of my favorite Indiana spring wildflowers are Spring Beauties and Jacob’s Ladder.  Spring Beauties are often a hot pink flower with a delicate darker pink line striping the length of the petals.  Jacob’s Ladder are more of a bell-shaped purpley-blue or pink, with a white interior. The trails are easy to walk (reasonably flat/no hills) and perfect for any age – though a bit muddy from the rain. Definitely bring boots!  For a preview of the flowers click on the video and, as the song says, remember that the rain brings violets.  It is, after all, always...

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Hunting Mushrooms

By on Sep 19, 2016 in Nature, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

One of the things I like best about Steuben County is that it’s not just a place for the body, it’s a place for the whole person. That may sound silly at first, but how many times have you gone on vacation and caught yourself thinking about all the things you need to do back home? The email you forgot to send, the meeting you’re not attending, the lawn you’re not cutting…the list of responsibilities elsewhere goes on and on. But here in Lake Country we have the unique advantage of plenty of hidden places to lose yourself in from crystal lakes with water still as glass in the early morning, to canopied woodlands sheltering gentle surprises of nature, to sunny fields full of sweet grass and bird songs, all of them perfect for quiet reflection, centering yourself, and taking a moment to enjoy being exactly where you are. While being in the “now” is a great way to refresh the whole person, sometimes it’s not that easy. One of the activities that helps me reboot is hunting. But my kind of hunting doesn’t involve guns or getting up in the wee hours of the morning. Instead, I choose a subject and take my camera on a hike to find as many of it as I can. For example right now mushrooms and fungus have popped out all over the place. As my 5-year-old would say, “Ewww!” Granted, I might have been right there with him, but in my latest walks, I’ve acquired what a friend calls “black truck syndrome.” In other words once something has been called to your attention, you see it everywhere. That’s what’s happened with mushrooms and me. I’d never noticed just how may varieties there are: large, small, stalky, delicate, and in so many colors I thought only existed in the tropics. They’re everywhere framing trees in lace, hiding in the shadows, upturned and blocking my path as if to scream, “you must take my picture.” And so I do. If I knew more about them I might physically collect them, but shooting can be almost as much fun as eating—without the added calories or horrid death should you misjudge the poisonous ones! And...

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Trollin’ for Trout

By on Sep 8, 2016 in Nature, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

If you’ve never given rainbow trout a try, you really ought to. Personally, I like it smoked best. Trout was all the rage where I used to live in the mountains. But here, it’s a bit more difficult to come by. Sure you can get it in some restaurants and select super markets, but I’m talking about the fresh out of the water caught a half hour ago kind. Luckily, there is at least one great place, Lake Gage to find trout in Steuben County. It doesn’t hurt that the lake is gorgeous too. (Clear Lake used to have great trout fishing, but hard times have changed that.) Recently, veteran fisherman Bill LaVigne and his friend Tom, both of whom have been trolling for nearly 40 years, took me out for the afternoon to see what we could catch (watch the video above for more on our adventure). We hadn’t even set up when we saw a school of cisco on Bill’s gps. He informed me that they’re somewhat of a rarity in Steuben County these days too. Bill and Tom worked at GE making tools before early retirement, so it’s no surprise that they’ve developed their own spoons and canon balls for better trout trolling. Trout are cold water fish. In the spring, fisherman often catch them fishing from the shore or in the shallows with a kayak. But as the water warms the fish go deep, sometimes as much as 30 feet deeper. We went out on September 1, just at the end of the season. Even though it was the day after a storm with a northeast wind (which they informed me was not good for fishing) they were able to deliver a few fish for the camera. The DNR stocks Lake Gage annually, so most of the fish caught are less than a year old and come in between thirteen and fifteen inches long. Occasionally, Bill and Tom catch something much bigger. Not long before I joined them Bill got a 30-inch pike by accident. Getting to Lake Gage by boat is a bit of a trick. The only public access point is on Lime Lake and boats must fit under a very low bridge...

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What’s SUP?

By on Aug 21, 2016 in Nature, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The silhouetted figure of a young woman with a dog perched in front of her drifted silently by. The golden light of sunset cast them in a glow that’s usually reserved only for movies. This was the way I first encountered an ancient tradition that’s making a come back on the lakes of Steuben County. It’s called Stand Up Paddle Boarding or SUP for short. Others call it paddleboarding. No one knows for sure when the idea of standing on a water craft while paddling began, but the likelihood of early Native Americans using this method to traverse what would one day be called Clear Lake or perhaps Crooked Lake is more than likely. Ancient cultures dating back more than 3,000 years have used this technique for everything from fishing and travel to getting the upper hand in battle (by sneaking up on enemies). Modern SUPing has its roots in Hawaii in the 1940s when three surf instructors in Waikiki used paddles with their surfboards to get a better view of those they were teaching. Today SUPing can be found on just about any lake in Steuben County. Equipment can easily be found locally for under $200 everywhere from Walmart to Dunham’s and more. If you’d rather take a test drive before diving in full throttle, there are plenty of rentals creeping up around the area. Potawatomi Inn’s boathouse (at Pokagon State Park) now rents paddleboards. Stand Up Paddleboard Rental at Clear Lake (1299 Sailor’s Cove, Fremont IN) also rents SUPs. SUP 101 Lakes on Crooked Lake has a variety of services to fit your needs. It caters to all the lakes in the area, delivers SUPs, and provides free lessons with each sale or rental. For those interested in more advanced SUPing SUP 101 Lakes offers regular SUP Yoga and SUP Fitness too. Classes are $15 Monday through Thursday For those who want to see the area lakes in a new way, SUP 101 Lakes also offers a sunset SUP tour on a different lake each weekend. Participants hop on a board and paddle toward the sunset. For more information call...

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