HUBBARD LAKE - In the distance, District Forester Andrew Beebe could see a downpour shattering the surface of Hubbard Lake as he reached over his head to pick a cluster of berries off a tree. Nearby his client, an 84-year-old resident, was gripping a walker as the skies darkened. The man swore the tree was in bloom and wondered what it was.
But there was only time to dash to an open garage as the rain began to slam down. Inside, the 25-year-old Ann Arbor native told long-time resident Earl Norton what the flowers were. They actually were clusters of green berries produced by the Littleleaf Linden tree, also known as basswood.
"That's what my son said," Norton replied. "He said it's basswood."
Regardless, Norton was glad to have company. His wife had died several years ago and he sometimes got lonely.
Once the storm lifted, Beebe gave Norton a warm goodbye and headed to another assignment.
"My job is to go out to anybody who has questions about their forest," Beebe said.
To reach Alcona/Iosco District Forester Andrew Beebe, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Schedule a service call at 335-1056.
Just three weeks into the job, Beebe has been attempting to find his way around Alcona and Iosco counties where he is stationed as part of the Conservation District Forestry Assistance Program. He's learned that GPS doesn't always provide the right directions. He's learned that he has to spend his evenings reading so he can improve his abilities to diagnose tree diseases. He also has learned that sometimes people who are lonely call with a question.
"The most attractive part of this job is to help people," Beebe said.
His overall mission is to help property owners to manage a sustainable and healthy forest.
Beebe replaces former district forester John St. Pierre, who took a job with another agency.
Beebe has dual degrees in forestry, and wildlife ecology and management from Michigan Technical University. He's peeled the bark off of dying ash trees to count larvae. He's waded through swamps and wetlands because he loves them. And he's learned how to operate all kinds of equipment, including tractors, Bobcats and chainsaws.
During his time at Michigan Tech, he also met his future wife, Sunshine Love, who completed the same degree in wildlife management. Together, they hope some day to work their way into forestry restoration.
"We like the idea of where we can do the most good," said Love, who joined him when he visited Norton's property.
An assignment earlier in the day was more typical of the services Beebe offers as a forester. A husband and wife near Curran had heard oak wilt was in the area and were worried about their 80-acre stand of red and white oaks. Leaves on their white oak trees had splotches.
"If it was oak wilt, they would have lost everything within a couple of weeks to a couple of years," Beebe said.
However, he looked at the leaves, checked with a supervisor and assured them the blotches were from a fungus infection called oak anthracnos, which is far less dangerous.
"It's an infection that occurs during moist, cool springs," he said, describing Northeast Michigan conditions in March and April that have continued into summer.
Beebe and his wife will continue to spend as much time as they can outdoors in all conditions improving their knowledge and working on projects. So far, their career choice has taken them through the wilds of Wisconsin, Ohio, South Dakota, Kentucky and Minnesota, where they have made jokes about fighting off ticks and mosquitoes.
But Northeast Michigan is different and is Beebe's first as a professional forester.
"The job itself has been pretty overwhelming, getting a handle on it," Beebe said. "But the area - it's just beautiful."
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.