The following article was written by a colleague and appeared in our local paper.
I post it with Jim's permission.
Sense of Place
by Jim Lucas
One form of transportation as well as exercise I enjoy is walking and bicycling. For the 22 years I have lived in this community it has helped me to have a better sense of place. A sense of place for me is knowing where the first patch of flowers that bloom in the Spring (south side of St. Mary's rectory two weeks ago), recording on a calendar the last snow of the year (last week, so far), the last ice floating through the locks (Memorial Day 1995), I record annually when the certain birds arrive and leave from my feeder and the last frost of the season.
This quirkiness is part of my training as a biologist. But over the years, it has given me a sense of place, a feeling of what to expect next and what I need to do next for this season. For many years I have kept these thoughts to myself, but I have learned many people also have a sense of place, but for different things.
A good friend has passed on where and when endangered native orchids bloom in our region. Some of the locations are secret and some are on secluded plots on public land. By my friend passing on these secret locations, I learned to identify other locations where these same plants seem to thrive. Understanding the sense of place for these plants has given me a better understanding of their niche and my responsibility to protect this place for future generations.
We live in an old home. It is a very comfortable place, but the mystery of the age of the house and its history always has intrigued me. We have the abstract that tells us who owned it before us. From what I learned, William Bell lived in this house (there is a W. B. etched in the glass on a bedroom window) and there were never any young children living in our home. It was not until we removed years of wall¬paper and we found "H. Carr papered this wall 10th June 1890" that I had a sense that real people built and lived in our home.
While digging in the garden years ago I found a clay marble. I still wonder who the child was who lost it. I also know that our property was built on a former wetland where the spoils of the power canal are the basis for my lawn. Dig more then four inches deep and you find basically stones and broken sandstone.
Understanding the history of my home has given me a better understanding of the place we occupy and that the floors must have been rather dirty until 1902 when Hewlett and Co. laid the sidewalk in the front of the house.
It has been a rather pleasant March and April. There has been a record high temperature set this past week but this last Thursday morning we found that the calendar will say Spring, but winter weather can reach out and grab us just about anytime in this area.
Plants are similar us, they thrive best in some places better then others. Plant biologist study these things and documented the best places for certain plants. I have learned that basil grows best in soils above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. My basil has failed for years and the main reason is because I need to fool the plants that this is Italy or Thailand and not Sault Ste Marie. I plan to put a cover over a raised gar¬den so it keeps it warm during our cool summer nights.
If you want to know about what grows in your region, go to the USDA website and consult the hardiness zone and you can choose what best grows in your region
From my experience, I have found the last full moon, around Memorial
Day, is when it is safe to plant seeds and plants outside of the possibility of frost. But with the possibility of global warming, that is another story for another day.
Jim Lucas is with the Chippewa County Office of Michigan State University Extension Service.