Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | November 13, 2013

Snow and My Camera

Holly one spot use

Winterberry Holly shines bright along the edge of the marsh in the Allegan Forest.

Yesterday, while shoveling compost into 5-gallon buckets and cutting down the long row of ornamental grasses behind the pool, it rained. After five hours in the rain spent cutting down, cutting up, raking and hauling the grasses, it began to snow.

So Gene and I retired to our home, ate lunch and hunkered down in the living room in front of our Eden Pure heat (think nice warm and direct heat ah!) Out came the heating pads (yes, we have a matched set!) and we began to watch a DVD, Lincoln. Half way through the movie our dog Sassy let us know it was past time for her walk so on went the long underwear and outerwear and we drove into the forest to a favorite park we like just ten minutes from our property.

Path pretiest jpeg

The Ely Lake path that leads us to the marsh and wildlife sanctuary. 

I figured as long as I was going back out into the elements I was going to cut my Winterberry Holly for the upcoming holiday season. While Gene loaded the truck with the gardening loppers, gloves and buckets, I grabbed my new Cannon Rebel for more practice.

Holly closeJPEG

Winterberry Holly in its red brilliance!

If you are not familiar with winterberry holly, these deciduous shrubs are native to eastern Canada and the eastern half of the United States. Winterberry holly prefers acidic soils (which we have here in our county). The shrub can be grown in partial shade or full sun. Winterberry holly will attract songbirds to your property, the fruit of winterberry holly serving as an emergency food source for birds.

Littleflower Publications, noting winterberry holly’s ability to attract songbirds, says that its fruits” are consumed by small mammals, songbirds and game birds, including eastern blue birds, wild turkeys, and quail. They are also eaten by white-tailed deer.”

Gene cutting holly jpeg

These branches will be used as Christmas decorations inside and outside.

We cut several branches of the gorgeous red holly which is spectacular against its gray bark. Holly is very easy to find this year due to the wet spring and summer, unlike last year’s drought which produced none in either the lower or upper parts of Michigan. I am very mindful of not cutting more than my share, since this is a major winter food source for birds and animals. Luckily as I mentioned previously, the holly is abundant this year growing everywhere along the forest roads that we go.

Vertical holly jpeg

More Winterberry Holly.

Then we ventured into the woods at Ely Lake County Park for a nice long walk. I am spending as much time there as possible now that the private land adjacent to this unique park with rustic camping has been set aside for horizontal fracking.  I see a sad time in the future when we will no longer be able to walk here and enjoy its quiet beauty. This is a shameful truth of our states governor policy on allowing fracking in both private and state lands – a policy that makes me feel both sad and angry.

We like to hike back to the preserve where we often get a peek at waterfowl. It’s a long walk but a very pretty one and today in the light snow and dimming late afternoon light, it was extraordinary. I love the quiet and peace of a woods walk paths were covered by freshly fallen oak and birch leaves and the sound of the snow hitting the trees in a pitter-patter was soothing to me.

Gene best sassy jpeg

My dear husband and our five-year-old Labrador retriever, Sassy.

On our way into the wetlands I practiced taking portraits of Gene and Sassy though I realized after the fact I forgot to change the A icon to the P for portrait setting. Opps! After too many years using just a point and shoot, I guess I’ll learn if that change is necessary or not.

Enjoy my practice shots and the natural beauty of the park before it is too late.

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. Love the Holly! I will have to check our woods for some. We are in Mendon Michigan
    so I am not sure if it grows wild. This fracking I am not sure what that is but I thought they said on the news they were doing it by a lake we grew up by.

    • This holly type grows in wetlands primarily. There use to be a gorgeous seasonal Christmas tree farm/gift shop barn past Barton Lake/Vicksburg where you could go out and cut a Xmas tree and buy Holly. Not sure if they are still in business? Do be careful as I’m told that cutting wild Holly is against the law…..You can harvest wild rose hips which are also red. Have fun in the woods!! Fracking is NASTY business. They mine for gas and oil and ruin the land, air and water in the process. Google fracking for a snoot full….I am EXTREMELY opposed!

  2. Well, you were meant to be a blogger ~ Loved your post as always!

    Loved your pictures and your love for your hubby, also love how your thoughtfulness shows up in your words. Very for me to see today 🙂

    I grew up in Michigan and lived there until I was 50, its still my “home”.

    • I am so glad that this piece was meant for you today-I just love that synchronicity. And wow, did you ever make my day, I think I am actually am sitting on cloud nine. Thank you so, so much! I was a freelance feature writer and photographer for newspapers and magazines for most of 30 years – a job I adored. Blog writing reminds me lot of that. So glad you appreciate my photographs too, as I felt I had lost my knack with them when I gave up my film cameras. (I had three, if you can believe that. One for black and white film, one for color print film and one for color slides and many exchangeable lens!) That all seems a bit excessive now, but I did sell my “words & pictures” so it paid for my hobby too! I’m feeling pretty excited about this new camera and what is happening with it now. Again, thank you for your oh so kind comments. Namaste!

  3. I meant to say “very NICE for me today” to read this post.

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