For at least the past hundred years, the evergreen forest skirting Big Creek at Crossroads has been known as “The Cedars.” The forest is beautiful, though many of the cedar tree trunks are almost completely stripped of their stringy bark.I’ve often watched red squirrels pulling bark from cedars, but this time of year, chickadees and probably other birds have been tugging strips of bark from these trees.
Cedar has a very pleasant odor, but in birds, the sense of smell is not well developed, if it exists at all. So birds are not using the bark as an air freshener. So something else must make cedar desirable. Birds are willing to work for it when they are nesting.
I think back to my high schools days. Some company gave each senior girl a small cedar chest. The intension was that we would all fall in love with the scent and run out to buy a full sized model to use as our “hope chest” in order to store the items which we would need when we married. (Even in my day–this seemed like a pretty antiquated idea.) But cedar did have benefits. Besides smelling marvelous, it protected our woolen sweaters and coats from insect damage.
Researchers speculate that cedar may serve as a natural insect repellant. It seems many birds line their nests with cedar bark to discourage lice, fleas and other vermin. Lining a nest with cedar is much like storing linens in a cedar chest.
In the early days of European settlement, immigrants often arrived in Door County with only a chest or trunk containing all their worldly possessions and with their dreams: dreams of owning land…dreams of educating their children. And as soon several families had carved their farms out of the wilderness (and sometimes before), they formed school districts and began taxing themselves to make it possible for their children to learn English, get good educations, and become successful in their new country.
This week the Door County Historical Society will offer several programs about early rural schools and farm life. On Wednesday, June 9 at 10:00 ,”schoolmarm” Joan Wilkie will hold classes in the the Vignes School. The whole family is welcome to attend this free living history program.
Thursday evening at 6:00 George Evenson will present a talk called Farming at the Turn of the 20th Century in the Vignes School.
Judy Jesse will present Education in the Rural Schools at 2:00 Sunday in the Vignes School. Jesse is a retired Southern Door art teacher who has also served as Coordinator of the Southern Door Archives. She spearheaded the restoration of Southern Door’s historic one-room school house.
Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor supported learning preserve welcoming learners of all ages to programs in science, history and the environment. The Collins Learning Center and the Heritage Village at Big Creek, located at 2041 Michigan in Sturgeon Bay, are open 1:30-3:30 daily and during scheduled activities.