Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Sunday Fieldtrip
The Kalamazoo Nature Center Citizen Scientist plant identification field trip was a success. We were out in the field about four hours with our two enthusiastic naturalist guides, Dan and Tyler. The weather cooperated. A couple of times it looked like it was going to rain, but it didn't. We still need rain.

Dan started the session by passing out compasses and giving us a lesson in how to use them. I was completely confused by the arrows and spinning housing and degrees.

It was obvious that I underestimated what was needed when I bought my little dollar compass ball. Back to the drawing board.

Picture of field guide and compass
Practice Better Help Me
Yesterday I bought a compass like the Nature Center uses, found some compass lessons on the internet, and started working with it. Like most things, this can be learned with practice.

I'm sure it can. I'm practicing.

I'm also practicing using the keys in my field guide to identify flowering plants in the field at Violet Acres. It's a start on learning the botany vocabulary and building a little confidence before I go out to do plant inventory for the first time.

Picture of Pappy after haircut
Pappy's Haircut
Last year Pappy had "hot spots". Hot spots are rapidly spreading, very painful raw sores on the skin.

The vet suggested we might want to do a spring haircut toward the end of April to help prevent hot spots this year. Yesterday was the day.

I was concerned that the groomer would cut off too much. Instead, I think she may not have cut off enough.

He looks very different without his full coat. But still handsome.

Picture of Glory rolling on her back
Labs Just Want to Smell Gross
Glory, our big lab mix, also had a bath at the groomers yesterday. Now she is working on getting the proper scent back into her coat.

Rolling in the field is a good start, but she won't be happy until she goes next door and adds some odeur le cheval (horse manure) and takes a swim in a stagnant pond.

Mom's Socks Are Done
Yesterday I delivered Mom's handknit blue Opal Lollipop socks. She had them on her feet all posed for a picture when the batteries in my camera decided they were too tired to work anymore. Darn! No picture for now, but I do plan on getting one soon.

Blogger Idol Update
Darren at LivingRoom has decided to switch Blogger Idol to a biweekly schedule. This week is the second week for the Spirituality topic, which I'm skipping. He's asking for topics.

Any Blogger Idol Topic suggestions?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Do It Yourself
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

Would you be able to do these things yourself or have someone do it for you?

1. Fix a flat tire.

Change it or actually fix it?

Whichever it is, I want someone strong who knows what they're doing to do it for me.

2. Fix a tear or make alterations to clothing.
I can do this. When I was very young I earned money doing alterations.

3. Unclog a severely plugged up sink or toilet.
Oh my. This is husband material for sure! Especially the toilet.

4. Change the oil in your car.
I'm sure I could do this if someone showed me how. However, I pay to have it done. They check the air in my tires, top off all my fluids, change the oil, and give the car a quick wash. It costs about $20 and takes less than a half hour. They do the work and I get to sit in the waiting room and read USA Today.

Why would I want to do my own oil change?

5. Put together an unassembled toy or piece of furniture out of the box.
Oh yes. I can do this. I have done this. I would rather not.

The last things I purchased, assembled, and erected were the four bluebird nestboxes complete with poles and baffles.

What's the last thing you assembled?

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Saturday Sum Up
The fascinating Saturday feature where I respond to comments from recent Seasons of Violet posts, and sometimes pose a question of my own.

Comment from Leslie -
You are NOT a Nature Nerd, but, rather, an Environmental Enthusiast!

Humm. Environmental Enthusiast does sound more politically correct than Nature Nerd.

If I'm an Environmental Enthusiast does that mean I have to vote for Ralph Nadar?

Comment from Carrie -
I have often thought that the concepts "North, South, East, West" were made-up by those in power in an effort to confuse people like me into thinking there were such actual directions.

Carrie is my youngest sister. We share the lack of a directional gene.

We have a middle sister who claims she is even incapable of handling left and right. I believe her.

In order to do field work, I'm trying to compensate for this directional handicap by using logic, a compass, and lots of muttering to myself.

Any helpful hints from the audience?

Comment from Monette -
I would always prefer to wear a pair of the Marguerite socks around the apartment, but I don't want to wear them out!

Wear them! They won't wear out. There are some of my earlier sock knitting efforts that I've been trying to wear out for several years now. They appear to be indestructable.

I would much rather hear that someone wore out a pair of my socks than to hear that someone is saving them for what? Please wear them!

And, if you do manage to wear out a pair of socks I'll be more than happy to knit more.

Your blue Opal Lollipop socks are almost done. What color do you want the next pair to be?

Question from What's On.....Right Now??
What's On your keychain Right Now??

Picture of Weight Watcher key chain
A 10.

You have to know that it's a 10 because it's not obvious. The fat solid oval is the one and the circle part is the zero.

This keychain is the Weight Watchers award for losing ten percent of my starting weight. I ended up losing twenty percent of my starting weight.

I'm happily maintaining the thirty-five pounds lost last year in Weight Watchers. I feel so much better I don't ever want any of it back again.

What's on your keychain?

Picture of bluebird nest with 5 eggs
Bluebird Eggs
Five bluebird eggs in the nestbox!

The last egg was laid on April 22. The expected hatching date is two weeks from then on Thursday, May 6.

The mother bluebird likes to peek out the nest box hole when I approach. She's a spunky little thing and I have to admit I'm fond of her.

I'm not so idealistic to think the five eggs are going to result in five beautiful bluebirds. Nature is nature, and there are many predators around to feast on those eggs and/or the bluebird parents.

Approximately half the eggs from monitored boxes result in a successful fledgling. I've done my best to provide a clean and protected nest box. Now we'll see what happens next.

Picture of west lot after fire
DH Bob burns the oak leaves I'm raking up.

Usually I tell him when I think it's too windy, he tells me not to worry because he knows what he's doing, and I worry anyway and try to leave him alone to get the job done.

Thursday night it was barely windy. Before leaving for doggy school I asked him to burn the pile I had raked up.

He did. He felt so safe that he left the fire and took the dogs for a walk on the back three acres.

How could he not feel safe when his worrying wife declared it so?

When he came back, the fire had spread into the west wooded lot and he had an emergency on his hands. Fortunately someone passing by stopped to help him and he didn't have to call the fire department.

Picture of primroses after fire
I came home from doggy school to find the plants in the west shade garden looking wilted and singed.

First thought was that at least I wouldn't have to rake this area now. Not true. The fire danced along the top layer of dry leaves and left the layers of wet leaves below.

It still needs to be raked and now the leaves have an ugly layer of ash on top of them.

This picture is the same primroses that were so colorful in the April 21 post. They will live to bloom again - just not this spring.

Picture of violets after fire
The main blue violet patch is in an area that only gets a light scattering of oak leaves. The fire passed on both sides of it, but didn't go through the violets.

It's been a very dry April. We need rain.

The weather forecast looks like we may get that needed rain during our three hour flower identification field trip tomorrow. I'll try hard not to complain if that's what happens.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Top 5 3 Blogger Idol Posts for Week 14
This weeks Blogger Idol topic is 'Spirituality'. Since there are only fifteen entries, I picked a Top 3 instead of a Top 5.

A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

  • \_Cliff Between the Lines_/. Murder is Not Enough.
    Spirituality is a personal thing. This is a brutally personal thing.

  • Tim Samoff. So Much for Coffee.
    I don't want to give away the plot so I'm not going to comment other than to say it's a nice entry.

  • Silent Tribute. Two Slant Trees.
    As usual, Jess is funny and serious at the same time. Makes for good reading.

Words Spoken Aloud is not a Blogger Idol entry. It is a very powerful and convicting short post on how we treat ourselves.

Even if you choose to skip all the Blogger Idol entries on 'Spirituality', check out Words Spoken Aloud and then be kind to yourself.

Which one is your favorite?

Bluebird Report
Mama bluebird is laying an egg a day.

The bluebird nest has five beautiful blue eggs now.

Six is the upper limit, so she must be done or almost done. I'll try to get a picture before the weekend.

Nature Nerd
(I wrote about the Engaging Citizens in Science Program here.)

Last night was the instructional class for the plant identification group of Engaging Citizens in Science. Two naturalist/biologists taught fifteen participants everything we need to know to identify plants in the wild. They were very enthusiastic, knowledgeable young men and provided a very thorough education. We received plenty of assurance that we weren't expected to remember everything presented and that their goal was to get us excited to learn more.

I got the feeling I was in the minority with my lack of expertise, so I appreciated their assurances. And I am excited to learn more and challenge myself with the plant identification as well the physical activity required for the information gathering.

This morning I ordered three field guides from Amazon and then went shopping for a hat, a fanny pack big enough for water and my camera, and a compass.

My lack of sense of direction and fear of getting lost were the original reason I decided to learn to use a compass. Last night I learned that I would be recording directions as part of my record keeping. Examples: "north side of the hill", "west side of the trees".

Those who know me have good reason to be skeptical of my ability to pull this off. Up, down, and sometimes left and right are the extent of my current directional abilities.

The compass is hanging from my pedometer strap, a permanent part of my clothing. I'll be playing with it every time I take the dogs for a walk until I get comfortable using it.

To complete the nature nerd look, I have a X10 loupe on a cord to wear around my neck.

I think I'm ready for our group field outing on Sunday afternoon. Before I go out by myself I'm going to need a backpack to replace the fanny pack since I'll be carrying field guides, logging sheets, maps, and sketching material in addition to the rest.

And my cell phone. I'm not going out in the woods alone without my cell phone!

What are you doing to challenge yourself?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Oak Leaf Blues Continued
Explanation of Oak Leaf raking is here.

Last week ended with several days of very strong winds making raking impossible. The wind delivered more sticks to pick up and blew oak leaves into previously raked areas.

The wind might have been forgiven if it had delivered the rain the gloomy sky kept promising.

The trees are on the verge of leafing out. Perennials are emerging from the ground. One good rain and lower Michigan is going to be green again.

Picture of hosta leaf buds
Watch Your Step
Everything is above ground now. Most of the plants are just showing their leaf sprouts, like the hostas in this picture.

Violet Acres has hundreds of hostas. They are shade loving, do well in our sandy soil, and the hummingbirds love them.

In some of the thickly wooded areas, we grow them in place of grass. Of course the wooded areas are the same areas where I'm raking oak leaves.

I'm trying not to panic as I see plants poking their new leaves through unraked oak leaves. As I rake the brown oak leaves onto the tarp, I'm seeing pieces of green where I've accidently ripped off a new spring leaf.

Any tendency to perfectionism has to be ignored. I just keep raking as carefully as possible and with care about where I'm stepping.

Picture of epimedium in bloom
By the road in the center of the front yard is a big old oak tree. Underneath, thriving in the dry and shady soil, is a large patch of epimedium groundcover. The little yellow flowers emerge in the spring before the new leaves. They rise on delicate stems above last year's foliage.

In a few days, the new epimedium leaves emerge and cover the flowers, making a very pretty and effective groundcover in a place where it's difficult to grow anything.

An effective groundcover is one that is thick enough to prevent weeds growing through it.

Because the old leaves don't die down in the winter, they work as a trap for the oak leaves. In order not to hurt the flowers, I pick oak leaves out of the epimedium patch by hand. Sigh. Nothing is perfect.

Each year I wonder what would happen if I mowed this patch down in the fall so I could rake it? By fall, I've completely forgotten about trying it.

Picture of primulas
Primulas in the Oak Leaves
These are the same plants that were pictured in the April 12 post. They don't seem to mind at all that they are going to be among the last to be raked out of the oak leaves. They just keep growing and blooming.

Once I get the gardens cleared out and organized, I want to plant more of these.

Picture of first blooming violets in April
First Violets of Spring
When I'm weeding, I always try to leave the violet seedlings so Violet Acres will have more violets each year.

The violets are easy to grow. We've reached critical mass where they are seeding themselves all over the property. A gardener who wanted a tidy patch or a violet free lawn would hate them.

We have white violets and blue violets. The blue are my favorite.

Note on Blogger Idol Week 14
This weeks theme is 'Spirituality'.

I spent a lot of time yesterday writing my entry. When it was done, I didn't like it.

I seem to be unable to write about spirituality without sounding full of myself. I think I'm just going to skip this week.

There will still be a Top 5 list toward the end of the week.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. Which television series do you think had the best final episode?

I'm not a TV watcher. I don't recall ever watching the final episode of a series.

2. Do you own something that you really should throw away but can't part with?
Do I have to admit to this?

In the basement is a Leading Edge (IBM clone) 286 PC with
  • 512 K RAM
  • 30M harddrive
  • 12 inch monochrome monitor
  • MS-DOS
  • 5 1/4 inch floppy drive

So why am I keeping this? I have no idea. Guess it's time to toss it.

3. Would you be willing to spend a night alone in a house that is supposedly haunted?

Life is full of unavoidable stress. So why might I want to spend the night alone in a haunted house?

4. Go back to your childhood ... What did you want to be when you grew up?
An inventor.

As it turned out, I did become an inventor in a very practical fashion. I became a computer programmer and systems analyst and had the pleasure of writing code and/or designing systems to make people's jobs easier.

5. What do you need to make your favorite pizza?
Dieters aren't allowed to have a favorite pizza - but I do anyway.

It takes thick crust, garlic, extra cheese, sausage, onions, and mushrooms.

Do you have any completely obsolete electronics in your home?

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Saturday Sum Up
There were many interesting comments this week, even some from people who have never commented before. Thank you for leaving a message. I love to get comments and to know you were here.

I picked Granddaughter Kimmy up after school on Friday and we had a great time together. Friday evening we went swimming. The weather was so beautiful that we ate dinner outdoors at Taco Bell. Then we went to bed and yacked for on hour before she finally fell asleep.

Today we made chocolate chip cookies, wove potholders, took walks, played with the dogs, ate lunch at McDonald's, and went to a movie, Ella Enchanted. We were going to go out to dinner after the movie, but we were so full of popcorn neither of us wanted to eat another thing.

We were both a little disappointed that the bluebird house tenants haven't laid an egg in their new nest yet. Maybe it will happen next week.

I'm tired but happy. My Granddaughter is a very special young lady and I love spending time with her.

Question from What's On.....Right Now??
What's On Your Feet Right Now??

Picture of my feet with hand knit socks on them
I almost always wear my lace up shoes, but tonight I'm down to my socks.

These are some old handknit socks made from Socka cotton in a ribbon and bows ribbing pattern. Very comfy.

What do you wear on your feet around the house after a busy day?

Top 5 Blogger Idol Posts for Week 13
Here are five entries that spoke to me. A different five may speak to you.

A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

  • Lypton Village. Blogging Tips.
    A wonderful photo essay on how to have a successful blog. Fun to see even if you don't blog.

  • Silent Tribute. Blogging Tips..
    If it's your blog, you can talk about toe fungus if you want to. Other helpful hints, as well.

  • Tim Samoff. Blogging In 6 Easy Steps.
    What to do if you want to start blogging. More comprehensive than the post I wrote. If you're thinking of starting a blog, don't miss it.

  • Spare Change. 13 Blog Tips.
    There should never be more bog tips than months in the year. Therefore, we need thirteen months in the year.

  • Bibb's Revenge. Be Sure to Tip your Blogger .
    This is stuff everyone needs to know, even if they're not a blogger.

Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, April 15, 2004


Picture of round lieaf hepatica in April
These delicate little woodland flowers are grown close to the door so I will remember to uncover them in the early spring. They are one of the first plants to get the oak leaves removed.

The blossoms pop up out of the ground in early April and remain curled up and closed just waiting for a beautiful warm, sunny day so they can display their beauty. We had such a day yesterday and today.

The leaves in the picture are the leaves from last year. This year's leaves won't appear until the hepatica is done blooming.

Hepatica grow wild in the Beech/Maple woods of the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Here at Violet Acres they were planted from nursery stock. They are happy here as long as they get a little help pushing aside the oak leaves.

The Dogless Walk in the Park
Sometimes I am just too conscientious, too intent on following the rules.

Last night was a community walk in a public park. Since the weather was beautiful and I'm working on increasing my steps per day, what could be more perfect?

Or was it perfect?

There was information on the internet and an article in the paper. Neither mentioned how long the walk was going to be. A pretty important piece of information to leave out. It wasn't worth driving 20 miles to walk a half mile. I'm not capable of walking more than two miles. I needed to know.

When I wrote to the email contact to ask how long the route was going to be, I also asked if I could bring my dogs.

The reply came back:

"Portage parks allows dogs on leashes except during high density traffic. This will be a lot of people in a small space (trail). A dog could be a safety hazard as we expect lots of children and older people to walk with us."
Makes sense. I can appreciate that dogs might be a hazard.

Mom and I showed up at the park a half hour before the main event stepped off. And guess what we saw?

Dogs, dogs, and more dogs! No one was turning them away. No one was asking that they stay out of the way. There was not a single hint that dogs weren't welcome.

I mentioned to another walker how I was told dogs weren't allowed. She looked at me like I was daft.

"Dogs always walk in this park," she said.

I was so annoyed - annoyed at myself for asking.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Blogger Idol, Week 13
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Each Sunday (Australian time) Darren announces a theme for the week. We have three days to work that theme into a blog post. We post the entry in our own blog and leave a link in Darren's blog so we can read what each other wrote.

If you want to read the other entries, the links are here. blogger_idol-1.gif

I will read as many of the entries as possible. Later in the week I will list five entries of note.

This weeks theme is 'Blog Tips'.

Blogging is Free. Why Not Give it a Try?
As you can tell by looking Seasons of Violet is a very basic blog. I feel very inadequate to give blogging tips to bloggers. Instead I'm going to talk to those of you who don't have a blog.

Do you think you might like to have a blog? Not sure? Intrigued?

Give it a try! There is nothing to lose but a little time, and once you try it you may be surprised by the pleasure it adds to your life.

Here are the steps for a total novice to start a completely free blog. No charge. No hassle. No problem.

  1. Go to the library and check out Biz Stone's book Blogging. You don't need this book if you know some basic html, but it's a great reference for a beginner blogger and you may decide to buy your own copy. I did.

  2. Go to Blogger and sign up. It's easy and free. You'll have a basic blog in ten minutes or less.

  3. Your Blogger signup will include an opportunity to have your new blog hosted at Blog*Spot. Even if your ISP provides web space, go with Blog*Spot. It works together with Blogger to make a very user friendly duo.

  4. Go to Haloscan and register for free commenting. It's easier than you ever dreamed. Anyone who knows how to cut and paste can install comments in their Blogger Blog without a hassle.

  5. Decide how many times a week you want to post and set a goal for yourself. My goal is a minimum of three times a week.

  6. Write something. Instead of writing email to your friends about the interesting things going on in your life, write it to your blog. If you write it, readers will come.

  7. Once you are up and posting, hints for increasing your readership are here.

Anyone going to give it a try?

Monday, April 12, 2004

Nagging Primroses (Rake me! Rake me!)

Picture of primroses poking up through the oak leaves
These primroses are in an area I obviously haven't reached yet in the seemingly endless spring oak leaf clean up. They poke through the oak leaves that most of the other plants find impenetrable. There isn't much color in the yard yet, so they are very obvious with their bright blossoms.

I have to remind myself to stick to the raking plan and not run over to rake the primrose patch. There are other, more delicate plants under oak leaves that need to be cleaned out first.

Wouldn't it be fun, though, to rake in a spot where something so pretty is already blooming?

Nagging Knitting (Work on me! Work on me!)

Picture of Opal Lollipop little shell socks in process
I've decided to skip the Broadripple knitalong. The time isn't right. I don't have the right yarn, I don't love the pattern, and I have other knitting projects on the brain. Maybe someday I'll try another knitalong, but not now.

This weekend I started a pair of blue Opal Lollipops for Mom. The cuff is a shell lace ribbing and they're turning out to be very pretty. I knit a lot this weekend and both cuffs are more than half done.

I'm also working on the April pair of CIC socks and a short sleeve cotton blend sweater for myself.

That's more knitting projects than I like to have going at once. When I have more than two things on the needles, they all start screaming at me for attention and I end up not being able to relax and enjoy what I'm working on.

We won't talk about the Candle Flame Shawl that needs the ends woven in (ugh) and needs to be blocked. It's sitting in the bedroom sending nagging thoughts my way because I started three new projects instead of doing the last few things necessary to get it done.

Is it better to be disciplined with hobby projects or to relax and go with the flow?

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Let's Go Shopping!
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. How often do you go grocery shopping?

DH Bob usually does the grocery shopping. We don't have a set schedule. It happens when we run out of something we don't want to be without.

2. What is the last thing you bought for yourself?
Yesterday I ordered two skeins of Lorna's Laces sock yarn in a colorway called "Flame", variegated shades of red.

The resulting socks are going to be for Kimmy, but the pleasure of knitting them will be mine.

3. What do you like shopping for most often?
Like shopping? I dislike shopping and treat it like a chore that needs to be done to keep life running smoothly. Online shopping is one of the greatest things that ever happened for me.

My favorite thing to shop for is sock yarn.

4. Are you an impulse shopper?
Hardly ever.

In the 80's I went out to buy a lawn mower and came home hours later with a Tercel 4 wheel drive station wagon from the Toyota dealership. It's still a family joke that you can't send Marguerite out to buy a lawnmower.

No one can argue about the wisdom of the purchase, however. That little car ran and ran and ran for over a decade. It was a sad day when we drove it to the junkyard. It was still running, but the body was almost completely rusted out and the doors wouldn't stay shut.

5. What is the last item you purchased?
Friday DH Bob and I bought an HP digital scanner. This is our first scanner and we're both looking forward to using it often.

Watch out family! Now I can scan old pictures and post them on Seasons of Violet and Picturetrail.

Any suggestions on neat things to do with our new scanner?

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Saturday Sum Up
The fascinating Saturday feature where I respond to comments from recent Seasons of Violet posts, and sometimes pose a question of my own.

Question from KeLee -
Do you always get your Opal socks to match so nicely or was it just luck?

For me part of the fun of knitting self patterning yarn is the challenge of getting the socks to match.

I divide the skein of Opal into two balls before I start knitting. That way I can start both socks on the same color band and knit both socks at the same time. Must be I knit with a consistent tension because, yes, so far the socks have always matched.

Three Questions from Monette -
Do I detect the round entry in their (the bluebird) box?
Your new eyes are working well. The nest is in a nest box with a hole, not a slot.
Have you noticed activity in the slotted boxes?
The bluebirds like to perch on top of the slotted box and poop on it.
Were there trumpeter swans at the Bird sanctuary?

Picture of Trumpeter Swan at Kellogg Bird Sanctuary
Yes and I got a nice picture of one of them.

We didn't see a nest. Maybe its too early in the spring for swans to nest.

Biologists at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary are working to reintroduce native populations of the trumpeter swan back to the wild in the U.S. Midwest.

Comment from Vaire -
My experience has been, that the garter stitch edging stays up if the leg of the sock is snug enough.

So nice to hear from Vaire. I lost track of her when she moved to Sweden.

Check out her blog, The Innocent Abroad, for some beautiful pictures of Stockholm and a report on her new life.

Question from John -
Aren't a bog and a fen basically the same thing?

Yes, they are both a type of freshwater peatland.

A bog receives its nutrients from the atmosphere (ombrotrophic). Because of its lack of minerals, a bog is more acidic than a fen and has less plant life.

A fen receives it's nutrients from the ground water (minerotrophic). Because of the minerals in the ground water, a fen is usually neutral or even slightly alkaline and has a much wider variety of plant life. Some fens are even wooded.

Thanks for the prodding. I'd been wondering the same thing and needed to look it up.

You didn't think I would just know the answer to that, did you?

Question from What's On...Right Now -
What's On your outside thermometer Right Now?

48 degrees F, 9 degrees C, and overcast. That's about as warm as it's going to get today. According to the National Weather service, this weather is going to last until at least Wednesday.

We will have frost at night and highs around 50 in the daytime with occasional rain and possibly snow.

Where are you and what's the daytime temperature? Come on. Make me jealous!

Friday, April 09, 2004

Nature is Calling
Yesterday I signed up for a Kalamazoo Nature Center program Engaging Citizens in Science.

There were many interesting topics to choose from. I selected Plants.

First is a two hour intensive classroom study of plant anatomy and plant communities with a naturalist and a botanist. That happens April 21.

Second is a three hour field trip to practice our new plant identification skills. That happens April 25.

As part of the Plant program, there are two additional three hour field trips, one to a bog and one to a fen.

After the education, I'm supposedly ready to survey plant populations on land protected by the Kalamazoo Nature Center and the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. And I owe them a minimum of fifteen hours of just that.

My plan from the very start of my unemployment was no new commitments for a year. Just relax, enjoy, catch up, and see where the Lord leads me.

DH Bob said he thought that plan would last two months. It lasted four. But this commitment is only for about thirty hours. It's a test. I'm going to try on this biologist/naturalist shoe and see if it fits.

This is not completely off the wall for me. I have a BS degree in Biomedical Science. My emphasis was on microbiology, but the degree includes a number of biology classes, including botany.

I do have a few concerns, although not with the main task of plant identification.

First concern, I have no sense of direction. It's not just poor, it doesn't exist.

I was so concerned about this that I called and talked to one of the naturalists before I signed up for the project. She very kindly assured me that getting lost is a valid concern. She also offered several good suggestions and assured me it wasn't a show stopper.

I really don't want special consideration. I'm thinking that it's about time I put some work into learning to find my way around. Step one will be to get a compass and learn how to use it. Then, I'll make sure my cell phone is handy and charged up before I head out.

Second concern is my physical condition. It could be so much better. Another area where I need to get to work and see what's possible. This project would have been physically impossible before I lost weight. Now it's possible but challenging.

That's what all this is about. A new challenge. I'm excited. Even if it turns out to be one of the worse ideas I ever had, I will have learned something new about what I want to do - or not do - with the rest of my life.

Top 5 Blogger Idol Posts for Week 12
Here are five entries that spoke to me. A different five may speak to you.

A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

  • Skywalking. Idol for the Birds...
    Have you ever heard of The Degree Confluence Project? The variety of interests of the human race never cease to amaze me.

  • Uptown Girl. Breakfast At Grandma's.
    Loving memories of time spent with Grandma.

  • Random Ramblings of Ryan. Hungry Birds Flock Together As Well.
    Great picture.

  • Tim Samoff. Opening Day.
    Men who go to chilly sporting events with bare painted chests have to be a breed of their own.

  • The Green Man. Birds of a Feather.
    The musings of a man trying to understand women. I don't think he succeeded.

Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Blogger Idol, Week 12
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Each Sunday (Australian time) Darren announces a theme for the week. (Darren was late this week, and so am I.) We have three days to work that theme into a blog post. We post the entry in our own blog and leave a link in Darren's blog so we can read what each other wrote.

If you want to read the other entries, the links are here. blogger_idol-1.gif

I will read as many of the entries as possible. Later in the week I will list five entries of note.

This weeks theme is 'Birds of a Feather Flock Together'.

When Birds Get Together

Picture of Nest in bluebird house
It's spring break! So granddaughter Kimmy and I had the fun of a midweek overnight and day together.

One of the first things she wanted to do was to check the bluebird houses we put up when she was visiting three weeks ago. And she wasn't disappointed.

The bluebirds of a blue feather - who have obviously been together - have been busy nest building.

Looks like they're almost ready for some egg laying.

Picture of mother goose leaving her nest
In the afternoon we stopped off at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary to check out the water birds.

The Canada geese are ahead of the bluebirds in their spring nest building and egg laying.

The geese of a feather - who have obviously been together - have their nest filled with eggs.

So, where is mother goose going?

Picture of Kimmy feeding the geese
She's going to get some corn from Kimmy.

She'll be back on the nest soon.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Knitting Stuff

Picture of purple Opal Magic socks
My Opal Magic socks in purple are finally done and off the needles. They are a very basic 60 stitch pattern with wide (k5 p1) ribs down the cuff and the instep and an eleven stitch stockinette panel down the front and the back. They fit great. The Opal yarn is self patterning with the colors, so Opal socks don't require a fancy stitch pattern.

Seems like it took forever to finish the socks because I was working on the CIC Candleflame Shawl at the same time. The shawl is done now except for weaving in a few yarn ends and blocking. The blocking is going to be a challenge because the shawl is so large. I plan to cover the extra bed with a plastic shower curtain so the shawl blocking needs to wait until after Kimmy spends the night on Tuesday.

Winter is over. I'm coming out of hibernation and looking for something a little more challenging to knit. I've joined the Broadripple Knitalong on Yahoo. Broadripple is the name of the sock pattern. A knitalong is where everyone knits the same pattern, sends email about their knitting to the group, and shows pictures of their project to each other as they go along.

I've never done a cyber knitalong before so this will be a trial to see if it's something I enjoy. As of this afternoon there are 160 knitters signed up to knit a Broadripple by May 30. There's so much email from the group I had to route it off into its own folder. I haven't started to look at the pictures yet.

So far I haven't decided what type of yarn to use. There are several choices. The top of the Broadripple socks is a garter stitch pattern instead of a ribbing. Without ribbing, I have some concern that the resulting socks may not stay up. I hate baggy socks. I'd like to knit them for Mom, but I especially don't want to use the pretty blue Opal Inspiration that's tagged for her next pair of socks if the socks aren't going to stay up.

May all my problems be so minor.

Are you planning a spring project?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

All Work and No Play
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

My answers are past tense because I joined the ranks of George W's unemployed in January, 2004.

1. What is the longest you've held a job?

Eighteen years as a computer professional in the pharmaceutical industry. Started out as a COBOL programmer and ended up as the Translation Technical Lead in Application Integration Services.

Information Technology job titles are designed to be incomprehensible. It's OK if you just think of me as a senior computer programmer/analyst.

2. Do you like your job?
I liked my job very much. If I had taken a test to find the perfect job to fit my strengths and interests, the results would have described the job I had.

3. Do you get along with your co-workers?
I had wonderful coworkers so it was easy to get along with them. We are keeping in touch and supporting each other as we adjust to life after Pfizer.

In my profession, getting along and working together was just as important as being technically competent. I always considered getting along with my coworkers to be part of what I was getting paid to do.

4. Have you ever been fired?
Not exactly. In April, 2003 my company, Pharmacia, was acquired by Pfizer. Pfizer performs my job function in New Jersey. Most of the Pharmacia computer professionals working in Kalamazoo either moved to the East Coast or were "severed".

Even though it was all done as humanely as possible, it was still a difficult thing to go through.

5. Are your work hours during the day, evening or do they vary?
Until the last six years of my career, I was subject to the dreaded "night calls".

It always found it very stressful to wake up out of a sound sleep to identify and fix problems.

What is the most stressful part of your job?

Saturday, April 03, 2004

New Link Added to Sidebar
The North American Bluebird Society is a non-profit conservation, education and research organization, to promote the recovery of bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting bird species.

I'm not a member - yet.

Nest Box Update
(Previous bluebird post explaining and showing a slotted nest box is here.)

West pair, front box, slotted - No activity.
West Pair, rear box, standard hole - No activity inside. Bluebird pair frequently sitting on top.

East pair, front box, slotted - No activity.
East pair, rear box, standard hole - Few blades of grass in bottom. Could be the start of a nest.

I've seen the bluebird couple sitting on a nest box every day this week. All but once they have selected the traditional box and not the safer nest box with the slot.

My former employer had nest box trails on campus. For several years I volunteered to help monitor the corporate bluebird trails. They were very successful.

Success is measured by number of fledglings of desirable species. We had bluebirds, chickadees, and swallows. Most of the young were banded by the Kalamazoo Nature Center so we could see that the birds and their offspring would come back year after year.

I learned a lot about establishing and monitoring bluebird nest boxes working in this program. And seeing the baby birds was so rewarding.

The nest boxes are erected in pairs of two with fourteen feet between the two boxes. Two bluebird couples will not nest that close to each other. It leaves a box for the other species of cavity nesting birds to nest and it provides a way to test out different types of nest boxes.

Bluebird eggs and hatchlings are prone to predation by snakes (they slither up the pole) and raccoons. Bluebird adults are subject to violent murder by English sparrows. I didn't believe this until I saw the results myself. Since then I've delighted in removing English sparrow nests from the nest boxes and smashing the eggs.

Ornithologists are always coming up with new nest box designs engineered to be safer from predators - like my two experimental slotted boxes. Unfortunately, the bluebirds always seem to prefer the traditional nest boxes and ignore the safer designs. It appears the bluebirds at Violet Acres are no exception.

Violet Acres usually has nesting tree swallows in one box, but swallows won't nest in the slotted box. If the bluebirds select the nest box with the hole, there won't be a box for the swallows.

I have a feeling I'm going to be replacing those slotted boxes with traditional boxes next spring.

Saturday Sum Up
The fascinating Saturday feature where I respond to comments from recent Seasons of Violet posts, and sometimes pose a question of my own.

Question from KeLee -
The daffodils are beautiful. Are you saying that they grow wild? Also I can't believe how early they are blooming.

Sorry for the confusion and thanks for asking for the clarification.

Daffodils don't grow wild here. Darn!

The daffodils in the picture were planted about ten years ago. They come up every year to brighten the early spring.

They are called February Gold, a very small, early blooming species. Nothing in Michigan blooms in February, but the very hardy February Golds try to flower as early as possible each year. I love watching for the spot of yellow in the otherwise brown landscape.

The standard full size traditional daffodils are not blooming yet in my shady, oak leaf covered yard. They usually bloom the second week in April.

Question from What's On...Right Now -
What's On your favorite 'recently viewed movies' list Right Now?

To be truthful, there are no recently viewed movies. When I was employed and never had enough time for everything I preferred reading. Now that I'm unemployed, it occurs to me that it might be nice to watch a few movies. But I haven't done it yet.

Granddaughter Kimmy is about to remedy that situation. She quizzed me about my willingness to take her to a movie and was excited that I was willing and able. I believe Shrek II is in my future.

Any other G or PG movie suggestions?

Anything else you'd like to know?

Friday, April 02, 2004

Top 5 Blogger Idol Posts for Week 11
For my Top 5 List this week I selected entries that tickled my funny bone. Each one is a different type of humor. Several have serious lessons woven in with the laughs. They're all worth a read.

A different five may speak to you. A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

  • \_Cliff Between the Lines_/. The Important Questions.
    Funny and sobering. Very entertaining, too. Don't miss it.

  • Spare Change. Sung to the tune of There She Is....
    Bryan answered all the questions, linking common humorous themes as he went along. He says he spent way to much time on this. I'm glad he did.

  • Silent Tribute. We Will Assimilate You ...
    Jess gets a little serious, but it's all done in fun. I'm guessing she won't be entering any beauty pageants soon. Excellent entry.

  • Codswallop and Flapdoodle. Blogger Page Ant.
    Downright silly. Giggle, giggle.

  • November 31st. Here she is...
    An insight into the workings of the Fleet Home Medical Products Miss USA Pageant. It's not bathroom humor. Very funny.

Which one is your favorite?