So many of us who live on the lake know very little about our lake neighbors. I thought it would be interesting to learn more about our neighbors. So I am starting this series of posts of interviews with our lake dwelling neighbors. I am starting with some neighbors who know a lot of us around the lake. . . Don and Mary Kussmann.
Don and Mary Kussmann bought their lake house in 2007. They recently sold their main home in Chicago and have moved to the lake full time.
I asked Don how they became acquainted with Lake of the Woods. Remember those little cabins that used to be on the south side of the lake? Well Don and Mary found them on the internet and rented there for two seasons. They liked the lake so much that they decided to buy a place for their summer get-a-way!
One unexpected surprise they experienced was the many spiders who share our lake houses with us! Mary says they also had a learning curve with their well and septic system (which they did not have in Chicago).
Don is a retired firefighter; Mary is retired from Citibank. Other family members who live in their household include Bo, their German shepherd . Don walks with Bo (and his kong) several times a day and Bo now knows all the neighbors!
Don belongs to the Chicago Fire Fighters Union. Since moving to Decatur Mary has joined the Decatur Study Club, which has been in existence in Decatur for 50+ years. She has become the publicity photographer for this group. (If you are interested in joining the Study Club contact Mary at email@example.com). Mary also volunteers for Van Buren County Senior Services . She will be teaching a class in digital photography this month and will be the roving photographer at the Senior Services picnic this month. Mary also joined the Van Buren and Berrien Counties genealogic societies.
Don and Mary both have concerns about the health and cleanliness of the lake. Mary hopes our lake will not have big problems with invasive species. Another concern is boaters who ignore the "No Wake" signs. Mary adds, "It is usually visitors to the lake. I believe people who live on the lake respect it."
I asked them about their favorite restaurants in the area. Don said he really enjoys the monthly breakfasts and the special events at the VFW ("the prime rib dinner is to die for"). Mary likes the baked goods from Tea Pot Dome. They both like meals at La Cantina in Paw Paw and breakfast at the Hard Times Cafe in Decatur.
Don says this lake area has everything here that he needs. He tells his friends in Chicago this lake is peaceful and quiet, super clean, and has great fishing and boating. He likes the friendliness of the people. He especially likes that when on the lake people will stop to help when needed. (I have experienced this myself, having been stranded on the lake two times in the past. People stopped and towed me in to shore!) Mary likes the community feel. She can sit out with her neighbors or boat around and stop to visit lake neighbors. Mary also likes visiting Fat Cat Books in Paw Paw and she told me about an undiscovered place she really enjoyed, the Van Buren County Museum in Hartford.
There was an article in the Fall 2015 Michigan magazine titled "Our Inland Lakes and Septic Tanks". We all know and are concerned about the health of our lake. We also know that septic tanks, when not functioning properly can cause more weeds and contamination of the lake water. Septic systems have been common as a way to manage waste since development on inland lakes began. Here are some excerpts from the article:
"Septic systems have four main components consisting of a pipe from the residence, a septic tank or reservoir, a drainage field, and the surrounding soils. On ideal soil types, microbes in the soil are able to decompose nutrients and reduce the probability of groundwater contamination.However, the land around many lakes in Michigan contain soils that are not suitable for septic systems. Soils that are not very permeable, prone to saturation or ponding and have mucks, exist around many lakes and residences with septic systems."
"Typical septic tank effluents are rich in nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, chlorides, fecal coliform, sulfates, and carbon (Cantor and Knox, 1985). Phosphorus and nitrogen have long been identified as the key causes of nuisance aquatic plant and algae growth in inland lakes. Although phosphorus is often the limiting growth factor for aquatic plant growth, nitrogen is often more mobile in the groundwater and thus is found in abundance in the groundwater."
"Thus, land use activities such as failing septic systems may not only affect aquatic plant biomass and algal biomass, but also the composition and species richness of aquatic plant communities."
"What You Can Do For Your Lake
The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) offers excellent educational resources and reference materials that riparians can use to care for their septic systems. To learn more about septic systems and how to care for them, visit the website: http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/septic/."
Be aware of the water quality in our lake and report any unusual vegetation immediately!
Also, maintain your septic tank and keep it in good operating condition!
I would like to give everyone some updates from PLM our weed management company. PLM is coming out to our lake this Friday 8/5/2016 to address some Starry Stonewort that is located in a channel opening over by where the fireworks are set up on 4th of July. It would also help if people kept boat motor traffic to a minimum when going in that channel opening in the lake. Even though Starry Stonewort is already spread on our lake, and is being kept under control, we do not want to spread anymore of this grass-like form of algae.
Bob Richter, LOWIA