The western half of Michigan close to Lake Michigan is a great fruit and vegetable growing area for the midwest. The rain and moisture from the lake are a natural watering can for the entire region. Many years ago my grandparents used to take trips up to this area to pick blueberries, raspberries, cherries and other types of fruit and vegetables which my great grandmother and grandmother would can for year round enjoyment.
It had been a long time since Sue and I had been to any of the Pick Your Own places, so we decided to spend a little time on our journey back to Chicago to pick up a couple of pounds of these sweet little delights. When you first get there you check in to receive a bag or box to carry around to collect the blueberries, are told which areas you can pick in, and then have at it. We spent probably about 45 mintues picking and after about 3 pounds picked and probably about another 1/4 pound eaten called it an afternoon.
The rates during the summer of 2009 were $1.50 per pound. Blueberry picking season runs from about right after the 4th of July to the end of August. Times are from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily.
When you are out on the lake in Chicago and watch a sunset you are looking west over the city skyscrapers and towards the western suburbs where my wife and I reside. However if you curve around Northern Indiana and go about 100 miles you will find yourself on the Eastern Shore of Lake Michigan and since the lake is much longer north/south then east/west there are many locations along the shoreline to catch a Lake Michigan sunset.
Since Michigan is in the Eastern Time Zone and Chicago is in the Central Time Zone is stays lighter much longer. These 2 pictures were taken around 9:05 p.m. and since we hadn't eaten since 1:00 p.m. we didn't stay for the full sunset effect. So the pictures we both took show sunset about 10 minutes before the sun dipped into the cool Lake Michigan waters.
Each summer, the city hosts free outdoor concerts at Riverfront Park on Water Street, overlooking the Black River. All concerts begin at 7:00 PM and last until approximately 8:30 PM on Thursdays. Parking is located nearby and concert-goers should bring lawn chairs or blankets.
The downtown shopping district is 2-3 blocks long, there are stores selling antiques, books, jewelry and clothing, even a store devoted solely to blueberries. There are also a few restaurants on this street, we didn't check any of them out since we had already had lunch and it was too early for dinner. Clementine's at 500 Phoenix Street had a long line outside, should we go back we might give it a try.
Since we were there in the beginning of October, quite a few of the businesses had scarecrow decorations out for a contest.
This was the 2nd time we've been to the Cranberry Festival at DeGrandchamp Farms, the 1st time we found it by accident while driving through Michigan to see the fall leaf colors, this time it was our destination. It was chilly on our 1st visit and there were no more than 2 or 3 people besides us but crank up the weather to 90 degrees in early October and everyone is out looking to enjoy!
There were so many people this year that we had to wait around 1/2 hour for the hayride that took us out to the cranberry fields where we got to see how they dry harvest cranberries, the method for the ones that go in the plastic bags to buy at the store, and how they wet harvest the rest, the ones that go into making cranberry preserves and cranberry sauce.
After browsing through the store, you can see how the cranberries are further processed, they go through two machines that test their color, shape and "bounce", the ones that make it through are reviewed by several employees and then sent on for packing.
DeGrandchamp Farms is also a blueberry farm, you can visit in the summer and pick your own blueberries or browse in their store for ready picked blueberries.
For some more pictures of the cranberry harvesting process, please see my travelogue.
A lot of the towns along the western coast of Lake Michigan have become summer beach resorts for people from Chicago and elsewhere and it's easy to see why South Haven is one of them, there's a beautiful sand beach which extends so far that you think you can walk to Canada. There were quite a few people laying on the beach for October, I suspect that in the summer there are quite a few more people on their summer vacation spread out along this stretch of beach.
You can expect to pay to park during the season from around Memorial Day-Labor Day, since we were there in October parking was free in the lots near the beach.