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 Best Wishes for the New Year! Here in west Michigan we finally have a little bit of snow. That makes playing outside feel like winter fun. This month I'm offering a new product - a puzzle book - for sale, and am continuing to give programs about the North Country Trail. Use the links at the bottom to see a schedule of future programs and book signings, or to order North Country Cache, or other products. The background "quilt" is made from designs generated from WINTER WEEDS, picture 5.
                                                                         -- Joan
 Slime Molds Capture My Imagination Read more
 A non-camping kind of pooch Read more
 St. Mary's Healthcare Plans for Walkers Read more
 Changelings, and a booklet to buy Read more
 A matching game. Read more

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Here's an excerpt from North Country Cache concerning Slime Molds:

scrambled egg slime
White filaments and yellow blobs on apple bark 7x

I asked for a book about Slime Molds for Christmas this year, and my family, who has learned to stop asking questions and just buy those books with unpronounceable titles, bought it for me. (Actually, it's not so tough: say MIX-o-my-SEAT-eze)

insect-egg slime
one sporangium on black cherry bark 30x

So now, I'm trying to grow my own slime molds in petri dishes. I was going to tell you that so far I only have slimy bark chips, but I just went to check them again. After one day I have this growth on apple bark, which appears to be a mix of a white filamentous slime and a yellow sac-like something, unless that is the plasmodium and the beginnings of sporangia. And after 20 days, on the black cherry bark I found one, count it!, sporangium. That's the fruiting body. I have no clue what kinds of slime these are, but they are interesting. I may not be able to identify them yet, but that doesn't stop me from being curious!

Myxomycetes, A Handbook of Slime Molds at Google Books
Introduction to the Slime Molds from Berkeley
Slime Mold Pictures at Waynes' Word
excerpt from North Country Cache, chapter 33, "A Nice Walk in the Woods"


Maggie is my dog; at any rate, she lives with me. Suzanne, a ten-year-old who now lives in Oregon, firmly believes that Maggie is hers. Maggie began her life as we know it at a shelter, one of a litter of very sick little baby dogs. Suzanne's mother thought it would be fun to have a puppy and a toddler at the same time. The toddler was unflappable and the puppy was listless. Many days and many dollars later it appeared that the red, wiggly four-legged baby with the golden eyes would survive a serious case of double pneumonia. Many months and many more months later it also appeared that we would all survive the toddler with the mind of her own. Actually, she has become a poised young lady who plays the violin and loves to read.

Oh, sorry, this is supposed to be about a dog. So the idea of a puppy and the toddler together quickly lost its appeal and Maggie moved in with the grandparents, Suzanne's, that is. But they both had full-time jobs, and Maggie was spending 20 of 24 hours each day in a cage. Twice daily walks around the block were woefully inadequate for a now-healthy teen-aged pooch. They begged me to take Maggie home.

But I wasn't sure she was the dog for me. She had bad hips; "No putting a pack on this dog," Doctor Jim admonished me. She needed Dramamine to ride in a car for longer than ten minutes. But finally it was my house, or back to the pound for Maggie. Of course she came with me.

Although she is dog enough to love day hikes and snuffling through the underbrush, she's not really interested in becoming a backpacking hound. I took her on a weekend jaunt (she outgrew the worst of the motion sickness), carrying all her gear for her. She whined, and wanted under her blanket in the warmest spot by the fire. She nervously whimpered at ordinary night noises, and wrestled me for first rights to the sleeping bag. At home she won't even venture off the porch in the rain. After organized coaxing and training she has learned to cautiously enjoy chasing waves at the beach. So Maggie's attitude toward serious outdoor adventures has made it easy to follow Dr. Jim's instructions.

Now, her doctor, er... vet, says she should lose ten pounds. Maybe your vet, er... doctor says the same thing to you. Being a dog of very little fur, she's always tended to be cold. She insists on sleeping under the covers of the bed.

But recently she's developed a new fetish. Our house has an annoying, but apparently harmless, infestation of tiny black flies. They don't bite, but they do like to hover around one's eyelashes and ears. Maggie has both, especially the ears. She has taken to snapping at the flies, pretty much constantly, whether they are evident or not. So now, to escape the flies, she worms her way under a blanket on the couch, where the flies can not molest.

But someone just called her name... perhaps for a short walk through the nearby woods with scrunchy leaves to overturn, an old rabbit trail to sniff out, and a full supper dish awaiting at the return.

And that's why Maggie wears a babushka.

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Grand Rapids, Michigan is working hard to become a center for health care and health education in the state. "Healthcare Hill," northeast of downtown, proposes to bring in 500 medical students and create over 3000 research and healthcare jobs.

This means lots of new buildings. For once, some of the planning includes designs that promote healthful living, such as walking. St. Mary's downtown healthcare campus will be expanded to 26 acres. The mixed-use plan calls for medical offices, retail and residential condominiums, with a pedestrian friendly urban design.

More about Grand Rapids health industry growth, Grand Rapids Press story, Jan. 5, 2007.

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Changelings: Change one word to another one letter at a time, but each word in between must also be a word. For example, you can change FLAME to BLAZE in only 2 steps: FLAME, BLAME, BLAZE.

Try your hand at these: SHOE to BOOT (4 steps), CAVE to HILL (5 steps), TOAD to FROG (10 steps).

If you are enjoying the puzzles from these newsletters, you can get more! Volume 1 of "Puzzles for Outdoor Enthusiasts" is now available for purchase. It includes Crosswords, Kriss Kross, Anacrostics, Changelings, Laddergrams, Word Warp, and more. There are over 50 puzzles; all have outdoor activity themes. This first volume is definitely medium to hard in difficulty, but an easier volume is in the works. You can buy the booklet for only $3.50 (plus tax in Michigan) at Books Leaving Footprints

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Most people view winter weeds as a garden menace to rout. Others enjoy the forms and design. Match the pictures of these common "winter weeds" (dried seed heads of summer plants) with their names.

 1.      a. Spotted Knapweed
 2.      b. Canada Goldenrod
 3.      c. Motherwort
 4.      d. Queen Anne's Lace
 5.      e. Pokeweed
 6.      f. Milkweed

Click for the answer (a popup window)

see one artists interpretation of Winter Weeds and Seeds
read about a woman who uses all these "weeds" to makeFlower Arrangements
Winter Weed Finder from Nature Study Guild (scroll down about 3/4 of the page)

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copyright 2007 Shark Enterprises
Joan H. Young