West Michigan herbalist Lisa Rose authors book about Midwest foraging

Herbalist and wild food forager, Lisa Rose stops to sample sumac berries. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Herbalist and wild food forager, Lisa Rose stops to sample sumac berries. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Lisa Rose was smiling when she handed me a leaf and asked if I wanted to taste it, humorously questioning whether I was brave enough to eat it. It was long and green with serrated edges, plucked off a nettle — a stinging nettle as some call them — a plant I grudgingly know.

“Roll them (so the hairs are inside) and it won’t sting you,” Rose advised, showing me how and popping one in her mouth.

“The nutrient value in these — oh my gosh,” Rose gushed with characteristic enthusiasm. “It’s high in plant protein, about 20 grams per serving and it’s delicious.”

Skeptically, I followed suit, still uncertain about chewing it up, anticipating a flash of pain. But its flavor was distinctive, even tasty — something akin to spinach.
It went down without incident, a perfect coda for our walk through a local park where we sampled a variety of plants from chicory and elderberry to sumac and monarda fistulosa, a plant from the mint family similar to oregano.

It is also known as bee balm.

Rose is a professional herbalist, writer, teacher and wild food forager. Her new book, “Midwest Foraging; 115 wild and flavorful edibles from burdock to wild

"Midwest Foraging; 115 wild and flavorful edibles from burdock to wild peach," was published this summer.

“Midwest Foraging; 115 wild and flavorful edibles from burdock to wild peach,” was published this summer.

peach,” is a must-have for anyone who likes to forage. It was published this summer by Timber Press and is a remarkable piece of work, offering beautiful photos and hundreds of useful tips about when, how and where to harvest edible plants.

It is available online and from a variety of booksellers.

As we walked through the park, we chatted about the ethics of picking wild edibles. They play an increasing role in the local-food movement and are offered at chic dining establishments.

“Gathering nuts and parts (of plants) is one thing; in national parks, you can gather parts, but physically removing the plant is another thing,” said Rose, who resides in Ada with her two children and Rosie, her golden retriever. Continue reading

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Adventure, endurance races aplenty this fall in Grand Rapids

Runners in Michigan Adventure Racing's Art Prize Edition has competitors navigating through this international art competition. Photo: Josh Duggan.

Runners in Michigan Adventure Racing’s Art Prize Edition has competitors navigating through this international art competition. Photo: Joshua Duggan.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids is known for a lot of things: Art Prize, the Grand River, and a booming craft-beer economy are among them, but the city is also gaining recognition in the gonzo world of physically challenging events.

It’s becoming a Midwest adventure and endurance racing center. “Adventure racing is bigger here than probably anywhere in the U.S. on a per capita basis,” notes Mark VanTongeren, founder of Michigan Adventure Racing (MAR), in Ada, which annually produces four adventure races and two trail running races.

MAR’s grueling Epic Edition and Art Prize Edition races are among several  scheduled around Grand Rapids this fall, including the popular Zombie Dash. Find out more about each in my latest report on the new  My Experience Grand Rapids Blog.

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Government agencies to spend $74 million on Asian carp control

Silver carp jumping as a boat goes by. Photo: Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Comittee.

Silver carp jumping as a boat goes by. Photo: Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich. – Federal and state agencies intend to spend $74.2 million over the next two years to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. New control techniques are being developed and a third electrical barrier is planned for the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, according to federal officials.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building the electrical barrier. It will be online by 2017,” said Mike Wiemer, co-chairman of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, a multi-agency task force formed in 2009 that released the “2015 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework” in June, calling for 48 different actions.

Among them is:

* Improved monitoring to assess Asian Carp behavior and population densities and further development of the technology;

* Using piscicides to target and kill carp without harming other species;

* Using chemical attractants to concentrate carp populations so they can be physically removed by commercial fisherman;

* Deployment of sound pressure waves using water guns to deter passage; and

* Development and deployment of carbon dioxide barriers to deter carp passage.

“The U.S. Geological Survey is working on the use of a CO2 device to keep the fish from working between the waterways,” said Weimer, a senior fisheries biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They are testing it now and are getting good results. We hope to implement that as soon as possible. And the Army Corp of Engineers is going forward with exploring construction of an aquatic invasive species lock that can be used at strategic locations.” Continue reading

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DNR: Gray wolves have spread across entire Upper Peninsula

Gray wolves now live in every Upper Peninsula county/

Gray wolves now live in every Upper Peninsula county.

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – One or more wolf packs now live in every Upper Peninsula county, having spread from west to east over the past 20 years. Most –for now – are concentrated in Western counties, according to state wildlife officials.

“More live in the Western U.P. than East, but it’s not a huge difference,” said Kevin Swanson, the statewide wolf and bear program coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “There is at least one pack in every county now, and many more in some.”

In all, there are 125 packs, approximately 636 wolves, according to data from the agency’s last winter wolf survey in 2013/2014. The survey was not conducted last winter because of the “controversy over them and because they were listed again as an endangered species,” Swanson said.

“We are looking to do a winter survey to see how many there are,” he said. “We haven’t seen (U.P.) deer density this low in decades, probably not since the early 1980s. We’re wondering what we will see because deer are their main prey. The winter started out very badly last year, but we had an early break up and deer were able to get away. I’ve seen more fawns this year. It looks like we have had good fawn production.” Continue reading

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Wooden canoe gathering brings out beauty of bygone era

 WCHA member Dave McDaniel, of Oscoda (foreground), and WCHA president, Ken Kelly, of Grand Rapids, enjoy a paddle in wood canoes in early summer. Photo:  Howard Meyerson

WCHA member Dave McDaniel, of Oscoda (foreground), and WCHA president, Ken Kelly, of Grand Rapids, enjoy a paddle in wood canoes in early summer. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Wood canoe enthusiasts from around the Great Lakes will be gathering in Lake City from Aug. 15-16 for a weekend of fun and festivities. For wood canoe lovers, it’s a show not to be missed.

“We’re hoping to see 400 to 500 people,” notes Russ Hicks, a wood canoe restorer from Eaton Rapids, and founder of the Michigan Chapter of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA), a national nonprofit dedicated to keeping old wood canoes alive.

“Wood canoes engender the ‘When I was young’ comment or ‘At my grandfather’s cottage …’ It always takes (people) back to simpler times,” Hicks explains.

Forty to 50 antique wood canoes will be displayed at the Upper Great Lakes Regional Assembly of WCHA that weekend. The gathering takes place at Crooked Lake Park Campground on the south side of Crooked Lake, in Missaukee County.

Admission is free, and the public is invited to attend and browse.  Continue reading

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Time for a bit of wild

Horseshoe Bay is a federal wilderness area near St. Ignace on Lake Huron. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Horseshoe Bay is a federal wilderness area near St. Ignace on Lake Huron. Photo: Howard Meyerson

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White River: A scenic trip through national forest

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The White River passes through the Manistee National Forest where paddlers with basic maneuvering skills can enjoy the quiet surroundings. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

MONTAGUE, MI – It was a perfect summer day when I launched at Sischo Bayou, a remote canoe landing on the White River in the Manistee National Forest. I’d come looking for a half-day float, some time to myself and an opportunity to try out a new canoe. The river didn’t let me down.

The White’s waters were high and colored from recent rains. Once I slipped into the current and slid downstream, the quiet dip of my paddle was the only sound to be heard.

The White is a state-designated “Scenic River,” part of Michigan’s Natural Rivers program. Three sections are being studied for inclusion as a National Scenic River, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Its waters emerge from a Newaygo County swamp before flowing southwest for 70 miles through White Cloud and Hesperia, eventually arriving at Montague and White Lake.

Fishing is good all along its length. There are smallmouth bass and trout in its upper reaches, salmon and steelhead in the lower. But, I hadn’t come to fish this day — only to paddle and enjoy the scenery, a lush mix of tag alder and dogwood, pines, oak and aspen.  Continue reading

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Lead and Loons

A family of loons. Photo courtesy of William Norton.

A family of loons. Photo courtesy of William Norton.

By Howard Meyerson

Τom Cooley has examined a lot of dead loons during the past 27 years. They appear every year, dead on beaches and inland lakes where cottage owners, researchers, national park volunteers, or Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) staffers pick them up. The carcasses eventually find their way to the sterile confines of Cooley’s necropsy room.

Cooley is the MDNR pathologist at the agency’s wildlife disease laboratory. His job is to determine why the long-lived birds died, why their haunting calls no longer fill quiet evenings on northern Michigan waters. Cooley has been documenting the cases for nearly three decades. What he’s found is that Common Loons, a Michigan threatened species, die regularly from lead poisoning after ingesting lead fishing tackle. Lead is the third-largest cause of loon mortality in Michigan.

“We’ve looked at 376 [dead] loons over 27 years, not many each year, maybe 11 or 12,” Cooley said. “With lead poisoning, you deal with a sick animal which may go and hide. They may not be as visible as one caught in fishing net, or that flies into something. The numbers may under-represent the (lead) problem, but these are the birds we see.”

Cooley’s records show that 60 loons—16 percent of those examined—died from lead poisoning. Somewhere in the course of their lives they swallowed a lead fishing sinker, a lead jig-head or split-shot, all commonly used by anglers. Loons pick up lead fragments and sinkers in the course of normal feeding. They may swallow a fish with a hook, line, and sinker attached or pick up lead on the bottom while eating gravel to help with digestion. Continue reading

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Trout Trails website helps pinpoint successful spots

Trout Trails online

By Howard Meyerson

Ever find yourself wondering where else you might fish for trout in Michigan, where the fishing is good and river access is guaranteed?  I admit I often end up fishing the same old rivers, one that many know about. Most guidebooks and state resources reiterate these popular sites. And often being short of time, I turn to them for expediency.

But if you examine the state’s trout and salmon waters map, you find those tried and true destinations are just a fraction of the trout water available. Much of the untold bounty remains the province of online forum discussions, word-of-mouth, and the wink and nod exchanged by locals at taverns.

That’s about to change. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced a new program last week, called “Trout Trails.” You can find it online at michigan.gov/trouttrails.

This first iteration has 129 trout fishing waters listed. Each lake or stream has a quick fishing-profile and photo, access points described and a link to Google maps for directions. Each also provides a link to local visitor information, making it possible to plan a trip and find accommodations or book a fishing guide.

It is very user-friendly.

“We developed it to provide anglers with confidence about where they can go and find new places to fish for trout,” said Suzanne Stone, education and outreach specialist with the agency’s fisheries division. “We created it initially targeting out-of-state anglers, but once we developed it, we realized that people downstate would use it, people who never thought to go to the Upper Peninsula because they didn’t know where to go.”  Continue reading

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DNR: No benefits from steelhead net pen experiment

Hatchery steelhead raised in open water pens did not do as well as those released directly to the lake. Photo: USDA.

Hatchery steelhead raised in open water pens did not do as well as those released directly to the lake. Photo: USDA.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich. – A 3-year experiment to determine if steelhead survival improves when hatchery-born yearlings are allowed to acclimate in a pen before being released to open water showed no benefit, according to state officials who add the approach may even be detrimental.

“We were a little surprised (by the findings),” notes Jan VanAmberg, manager of Marquette and Thompson state fish hatcheries, referring to 2011- 2013 experiment at three Lake Huron Ports – Harrisville, Harbor Beach, and Van Etten Creek on the AuSable River. “We hoped to see the same dramatic (positive) response we see in chinook salmon. But, the bottom line of this study was net pens do not make a difference with steelhead.” Continue reading

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