Friday, November 27, 2020

Hitting the Backroads

Not wanting to travel too far from home during these crazy times, other than our quick trip to Minnesota before COVID numbers started flaring up again, I have entertained myself the past several months by expanding my photograph collection of plants and other nature related subjects. I started in early spring, as spring woodland wildflowers began to bloom. I already have hundreds of photos of the same plants, but there’s something soothing about hiking in the woods and connecting with nature, even when crouching on fallen leaves to get the best angle, then having to stand back up again. My daughter and pooches accompanied me on many of these spring hikes, which made for a fun family outing.

As spring turned into summer, I switched to photographing prairie plants. I have hundreds of pictures of many of these plants as well, but still, I kept snapping pictures. I have a backyard prairie, so photo subjects were very handy. I’d snap pictures, view them on my laptop, and retake, if necessary, to get better shots. Soon, I was taking pictures of bees, butterflies, and whatever flying wildlife would sit still for a few seconds to have their pictures taken.

As the season progressed, I’d carry my camera with me to take pictures on the way home from work in areas I’d spied particular plants blooming. Sometimes I’d spend a half hour or so on a weekend, driving to a local spot to capture pictures I hadn’t during the week. Soon my photo collection grew even more, and I could see an improvement. Even though I’ve been taking pictures since I was ten years old, there’s always room to learn and grow. 

Many may think taking so many pictures is a waste of time, but it’s good entertainment for me, and since I use them for work,  and to help promote the books I write about nature, the photos come in handy for promotional purposes, and maybe even a future book cover. Besides, when I get back to organizing my pictures, I’ll be deleting photos taken several years ago that don’t cut muster.

As the growing season came to an end, and the leaves had mostly dropped, I branched out and started paying more attention to some of my favorite backroad landmarks. I don’t have to go out of my way to photograph these spots, since they are on some of my favorite backroads I take to and from work many days. I’ve taken pictures of historic barns, bridges, and even concrete fence posts along my favorite backroad that runs along a portion of the Hennepin Canal.


My older daughter will be getting her senior pictures taken in three days, and my eyes have seen local spots through the lens, so now I have some areas in mind I think will make amazing backgrounds. We’ve postponed getting pictures taken until after her braces come off in two days, so we’ve missed some of the beautiful plant life that makes great outdoor backgrounds. The two areas I have in mind still have some color and texture that should work well. Hopefully the photographer (not me!) and subject (my stubborn daughter!) agree with my ideas, but even if they don’t, my eyes have been opened this past spring and summer to the beauty that surrounds us each and every day in our area. Even though I love to travel out of state and out of the country, there’s something to be said about appreciating our local backroad scenery.

A Superior Vacation

This is not the first time I’ve written about my obsession with the Great Lakes. My family traditionally travels to Lake Michigan over Columbus Day weekend most years, but this year was an exception. I wanted to travel to a spot that wasn’t crawling with tourists escaping Chicago or other metro areas, so I looked for somewhere that would hopefully be less crowded. Because I’d heard great things about Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior, we chose that area for our trip. Though we’ve visited multiple areas along Lake Superior, we’d never travelled to that particular area.

Noting several state parks dotting the shoreline, I tried to prioritize which to visit during our short stay. While it was nice to take a fall vacation, we still had to work around our daughters’ school schedules, so we didn’t have enough time to visit all the places that looked interesting. I booked a room in Duluth, thinking that would be a good starting point for areas to the north or even if we wanted to visit the shoreline in Wisconsin. Duluth itself is an interesting and beautiful city, especially with the fall foliage dotting the hilly city, and nestled along Lake Superior, right into the Minnesota border. We visited the Great Lakes Zoo, my daughter’s choice, and also spent some time at Leif Erickson Park. We drove across the Aerial Lift Bridge. But, what I was itching to do was hit the shoreline for some spectacular scenery.

We were not disappointed. Between the beautiful fall foliage, shimmering blue water, and granite shorelines, the scenery was indescribable. The weather was perfect, and the light hitting the water, granite hills, and tree leaves made things even more gorgeous. We traveled on scenic Highway 61 northward to visit many parks—even as far as Grand Portage at the Canada border. Knowing they wouldn’t let us in, we didn’t bring our passports, but one of these days I hope to cross the border and travel all around the lake.

We started off at Gooseberry Falls State Park. As the name implies, there are waterfalls but also streams, wooded trails, and amazing views of Lake Superior along sheer granite cliffs. The view right outside the visitor’s center is a perfect photo opportunity, with birch and aspen trees framing the blue lake water in the distance—simply breathtaking!

From here, we continued north to the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. We hiked along the shoreline but decided to visit the lighthouse until the next day. My daughter drove us back to Duluth, so I could sit back and enjoy the views along the way.

The next day was more of the same. We visited the Split Rock Historic Site for views of the pristine and interesting lighthouse and grounds, not to mention the lake, then hiked down to the shoreline for views from below. The scenery from the wooded trail on the way back up were just as amazing. Continuing our journey northward, we headed to the border and visited Grand Portage State Park, where we saw more beautiful waterfalls. But the views that were even more amazing were from two scenic pull offs along Highway 61. I could have spent all day gazing at all the shades of golden tree foliage, contrasting with the rocky hills on one side and the beautiful lake on the other side. We could see for miles, as far as Canada and Isle Royale National Park.

We broke up the drive southward to Duluth by making a quick stop at Tettegouche State Park. We hiked down to the tiny bay and knew we would like to spend more time at this park but were pretty worn out by this time.

In addition to taking more time to explore Duluth, there are dozens of other parks and natural areas I want to visit or revisit the next time we make this trip. And trust me—there will be a next time!


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Just Released

 Leaf Peepers, the Sixth Book in the 

Nature Station Mystery Series

What starts out as a carefree road trip turns into a dangerous murder investigation when Kristen Matthews and her friends head to the beach over Labor Day weekend and find more than they bargain for along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.

Kristen and her friends are enjoying the beautiful lakeside scenery at the Indiana Dunes and several southwestern Michigan parks while they plan a trip itinerary for a Nature Station ecotour aimed at Leaf Peepers. But the fun stops when Kristen stumbles upon a dead body, and they switch from researching possible tour stops to researching murder leads. While the women are busy searching for clues and interviewing those who knew the victim, Kristen wonders if their girls' trip will turn out to be all work and no play. Travel along with Kristen and her Nature Station buddies while they not only soak up the scenery but also hunt for a killer.

To schedule author events or programs, contact the author at

Softcover ISBN: 978-1-950560-37-0  $12.95

EPUB ISBN: 978-1-950560-38-7  $4.99

Purchase Options

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Barnes and Noble

or to arrange for personalized copies. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Adventures in the Prairie

If you “Like” my Author Jannifer Powelson Facebook Page, you will have noticed several wildflower pictures posted on a regular basis during the past several months. In the spring, it was spring woodland wildflowers, and now that it is summer, I have posted several prairie species photos.  I enjoy posting these pictures to generate interest and familiarity with the featured plants and to help promote both my Rachel Raccoon and Sammy Skunk books, as well as Nature Station Mysteries. I also want to share something positive on social media to help offset all the negativity we see every day. 

However, there is another reason I’ve been posting so many, and that’s because I’ve been taking so many! Unfortunately, due to COVID 19 putting a damper on traveling too far, plus the huge workload I've had this summer with my work as a conservationist, I have not been able to take a vacation this summer. We hope to go somewhere this fall but are waiting to see how this unusual school year goes for our daughters before we make firm plans. Our one quick trip to Iowa for a school shopping getaway was perfectly timed for the weekend before the historic Derecho hit. The area where we stayed was hit particularly hard. It’s sad that the country backroad scenery we enjoyed traveling through now looks entirely different.

Luckily, I’ve been able to take even shorter trips to local prairies to photograph some of my favorite plants. My own backyard prairie has been a hotbed for photo opportunities. It’s buzzing not only with a variety of colorful and diverse plant life, but it’s also a haven for bees, butterflies, other insects, and songbirds. I’ve also visited Center Prairie, west of Princeton, the Hennepin Canal near Wyanet, Princeton Library’s pollinator garden, and Stark County’s Route 40 Rest Stop to capture some of my favorite bloomers. We’ve had some beautiful blue skies with white puffy clouds that make beautiful backgrounds.

Even though I have hundreds of wildflower photos in my collection, I can’t seem to stop myself from taking more! I don’t mind, though, as taking and sharing the pictures gives me much joy and stress relief. I’ve had fun getting down on the ground to get the same old wildflowers from a different angle. Getting up again isn’t so much fun, but the pictures are well worth the effort.

One of these days I’ll be able to travel to my favorite places, plus those on my bucket list, again. In the meantime, I try to make the most of sticking closer to home. If you look closely you can see nature’s beauty no matter where you are.


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Coming soon ... Leaf Peepers

Coming soon...

Leaf Peepers, the sixth book in the 

Nature Station Mystery Series

What starts out as a carefree road trip turns into a dangerous murder investigation when Kristen Matthews and her friends head to the beach over Labor Day weekend and find more than they bargain for along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.

Kristen and her friends are enjoying the beautiful lakeside scenery at the Indiana Dunes and several southwestern Michigan parks while they plan a trip itinerary for a Nature Station ecotour aimed at Leaf Peepers. But the fun stops when Kristen stumbles upon a dead body, and they switch from researching possible tour stops to researching murder leads. While the women are busy searching for clues and interviewing those who knew the victim, Kristen wonders if their girls' trip will turn out to be all work and no play. Travel along with Kristen and her Nature Station buddies while they not only soak up the scenery but also hunt for a killer.

Softcover ISBN: 978-1-950560-37-0  $12.95

EPUB ISBN: 978-1-950560-38-7  $4.99

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Spring Wanderings while Sheltering in Place

White Trout Lily
We haven’t even made it to the halfway point of 2020, and it’s already been an interesting year!  We’ve all adjusted our lifestyles, whether it’s our family lives, social lives, work schedules, home schooling, shopping habits, and just about everything else in our daily lives. In addition to major events being postponed or even cancelled, businesses have struggled, jobs lost or intensified, going without our favorite products, and a host of other changes. Many people are having a tough time dealing with all these issues.
My family is lucky to continue to work, even if our work environment may be our dining room table a day or two a week, and when at the office, we must practice social distancing with the other skeleton crew members. As I write this, the Sheltering in Place is in effect until the end of May, most likely with social distancing practices to be practiced, even after some restrictions are lifted. I don’t wish to make light of what anyone is going through, but in my family’s case, we are trying to make the most of the situation.

One positive outcome from all this, is that more people, my daughters included, are exercising outdoors. We live in an older residential neighborhood not far from a city park, so we see a lot of foot and bike traffic. While walking the dogs in nearby neighborhoods, I also notice more people hanging out on their porches and patios or just puttering around their yards. It’s great to see everyone out and about.
One thing I’ve had more time to do is one of my favorite springtime activities—walking in the woods. I’m fortunate to live a few miles away from a public, but usually pretty private, natural area. Once or twice a week, we load up the dogs and my camera to take a short hike in the woods. Even though I already have hundreds of wildflower photos, I can never resist adding more to my collection. This year I even photographed a new type of trillium, Snow Trillium, I’ve never seen before, and also snapped dozens of photos of some of my standard favorites like Hepatica, White Trout Lily, Dutchman’s Breeches, Purple Trillium, Marsh Marigold, Blood Root, Bluebells, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and many more. I hope to sneak another trip to the woods into this weekend’s plans.
Experiencing this pandemic has taught us many things, but one of the most important is to make the most out of this simpler time by taking more time to smell and enjoy the flowers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Civil War Reflections - By Brenna Powelson

 Through Lincoln’s Eyes 
 America’s Bloodiest War - By Brenna Powelson

America will not be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. – Abraham Lincoln

March 1. 1865 - This ruinous bloody war has already been going on for four years, and my greatest fear is that politically I will be the last president of the United States of America, and the Confederate states would win their war for secession and that the Republic would collapse into a collection of micro-states. I feel as if I am leading the citizens of America astray and failing my country. The people don't deserve this, and our country doesn't deserve this, but the union must be preserved, the slaves must be freed, and this  pestilential war must end; however, that is more easily said than done.

March 21,1865 - I knew when this war started that lives would be lost, but what I didn't know was that many lives would be lost so quickly. The Battle of Bentonville lasted three long days. The Union army lost many: 194 killed, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing, for a total of 1,527 casualties. I am excited about the Union's victory; however, I don’t see the point when so many lives have been lost, and how much families have been separated. What hurts the most is the thought that wives might wake up tomorrow morning without a husband, and kids waking up without a father, who was alive just one the day before. My own boy, Robert begged me to allow him join the Union army and told me would never forgive himself if he let another man die while he did nothing. I was not over all thrilled with the idea, but if I said no, he would not forgive me, nor himself, so I agreed. However, his mother, on the other hand, was not so understanding. 

April 11. 1865 - What is wrong with me?  The war is won, my son is alive and well, families are reunited, the American people have regained their faith in me, and I have a speech scheduled today.  However, there is a hole in my heart that empties inside of me. I feel the pain that I have been feeling since I was nine years old. I FEEL THE SAME PAIN I DID WHEN MY MOTHER AND SISTER DIED. I  FEEL THE SAME PAIN WHEN WE HAD TO PACK UP AND MOVE TO INDIANA. And I suppose there’s no reason why I feel this way; it may be because all the lives that have been lost, or maybe because half the country is angry at me. Maybe I’ll try to feel better and celebrate with the Union, and Mary is talking about going to a play in a couple days. 

April 15, 1865,  7:21 a.m.  
Pain, I feel pain. I can’t open my eyes at all, and all I feel is pain and the doctor touching my head. 7:22 a.m.- I have a quick burst of strength. I look at my loving wife, and I mumble my last words, ``We will visit the Holy Land, and see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior,'' and then everything goes dark.

According to a Soldier
America’s Bloodiest War  - Brenna Powelson

Freedom is the last best hope of earth - Abraham Lincoln 

March 31 1865- As I look out onto the empty battlefield, all I can think about is the wail of pain from soldiers and the sound of gunshots. I look at the empty battlefield that used to be a patch of grass but is now a resting place for those who gave their lives. As we were walking back to camp, the other soldiers started singing, and the rest joined.  

“Yes we’ll rally round the flag, boy’s, we’ll rally once again 
Shouting the battle cry of freedom,
We will rally from the hillside, we gather from the plaine 
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The union forever! Hurrah boys Hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star; 
While we rally round flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom”

Once we got back to camp, men settled into their tents, trying to comprehend what had happened today. The battle only lasted one day; however, we lost 1,870 men who risked their lives for their beliefs. We all knew when this war started that many would perish. This war was brother against brother, states against other states, one nation divided, and Washington vs. Richmond. President Lincoln said that all men are created equal, but the South refuses to agree with their president, so now, here we are stuck in the fourth year of this bloody war. 

April 9, 1865 -  The Confederacy has surrendered. The Union has won. The fighting is done, and we all try to celebrate. I can’t help but think about all the lives lost, for people they didn’t know, so those people could be free.

April 15, 1865,  7:38 a.m. - I just heard the news about Mr. Lincoln, and I can’t help but feel empty inside. He was our leader from the start to the finish of the war. Shot in the head while trying to enjoy a play with his wife to celebrate the end of the war, he was the one who should have been celebrating the most. Though Mr. Lincoln may have died, his legacy will never die.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Clearly Focused

After struggling with increasingly dry eyes and eye allergies that made wearing the gas permeable contact lenses I've worn for over thirty years become extremely uncomfortable and difficult to see clearly, I recently switched to wearing soft lenses. Even though I knew they were usually more comfortable for people who fought the same issues I did, I fought making the switch. My hard lenses helped to keep my vision stabilized for years, and they were easy to care for and pop in and out of my eyes. Watching friends and family take care of soft lenses, not to mention taking them out, I wanted no part of them. It looked like they were putting tiny pieces of Saran Wrap into their eyes, and I couldn't fathom how they took them out of their eyes. It appeared they pinched them right off their eyeballs! 

I've now had soft lenses for a month and still have issues some days putting them in and taking them out, but I have improved to the point, that if I am lucky, I can put them in on the first or second try. They still feel a bit cumbersome, ready to slide off my finger and into the sink if I don't balance them on my finger just right. But what a feeling it is to hold down my lower eye with one finger, center the lens in my eye with another, (without blinking is key!) then listen to the lens crinkle into place. When I hear that noise, I know vision in that eye will soon become sharply focused. 

Not only are things becoming increasingly sharply focused as I get used to caring for and wearing my new lenses, (after a couple of switches to my prescription, I can see great, and they are very comfortable) but my work in progress, Leaf Peepers, the sixth book in the Nature Station Mystery Series, is becoming more focused as well. I have chosen a well focused front cover image of maple leaves exhibiting bright fall color for the front cover and narrowing down images of a Lake Michigan sand dune for the back cover. The book takes place in the late summer, while my main characters are planning an ecotour for so-called leaf peepers to view lovely fall foliage along the south to southeastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. 

The story still has a long way to go, (over 50,000 words to write!) but I am now at the point that not only do I know who dies, but also who killed him, and how and why it was done. It may seem silly not to have that all figured out before I start writing, but this is my process, and once I get to this point in the story, things click into place, allowing the rest of the story to come along quickly and more sharply focused.

Since the main characters travel out of town, several new characters must be introduced and fleshed out to help Kristen Matthews and her amateur detective friends solve the mystery. After not being able to work on Leaf Peepers much for the past few months, I'm getting back to work and hope to have everything ready for an early fall release, since the story takes place over Labor Day weekend. This positive feeling is almost identical to the feeling I have when my lenses are in place and helping my peepers see clearly.