Sunday, May 30, 2004

Rise and Shine!
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. What time do you normally wake up?
Between six and eight, usually about seven.
2. Do you wake with or without an alarm clock?
It depends. Do you consider dozens of singing birds an alarm clock? How about a dog that is whining to go out?

When I have to be somewhere in the morning, I always set the alarm so I can be sure I won't oversleep. Usually I wake up before it goes off. One of the many wonderful things about being unemployed is not hearing an alarm clock every morning.
3. Name the one thing you must have immediately to start your day.
Coffee. DH Bob makes coffee for me. I stagger up, pour it in my favorite mug, nuke it, and climb back into bed to drink it and wake up to the day.

Sometimes the dogs have to go out before I drink my coffee. We make those walks short and purposeful. On beautiful mornings I take the coffee with me on the dog walk.
4. How long after you wake up do you turn on your computer?
Normally I turn on my computer and read email, check blog comments, and read my favorite comic strips while I'm eating breakfast.
5. Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. Do you eat breakfast every day?
Washed grapes in the colander
Yes. It's part of my diet routine.

I eat two Weight Watcher's points worth of Kashi Good Friends cereal and one point worth of fruit, usually seedless red grapes. Also, I start drinking my first 24 ounce bottle of water.

The grapes are my favorite fruit to eat because - remember I'm eating while I'm online - they're not messy. I can pop them in my mouth one at a time without dribbling fruit juice on my hands and keyboard. And they taste good.

I measure the grapes out before I start eating them so I know when to stop eating them. One cup of grapes is one point.

What do you like to eat for breakfast?

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Saturday Morning Stroll
The weather is back to cold and wet. Before it started raining this morning I took a walk out back in the field to take some pictures.

Yellow warbler in nesting tree. I see this yellow warbler everyday. It is nesting in a small tree on the field side of the creek.

The yellow warblers are cute litte birds, only five inches long. They are very brave about staying in their tree while I walk around it.

This is a new bird for me. I wasn't sure what it was until I took this picture and used the bird book to identify it.

Next, I headed back to the far corner of our property to look for a fawn.

The past two mornings I've seen a deer jump the fence and head into the woods, but not far. I could hear her snorting while we finished our walk. She may have a fawn close by and I thought I might be able to find it and get a picture. No luck.

The does hide their young fawns in the daytime and leave them for hours at a time. I've never found a fawn on the ground, but I know others who have. They say the fawns are so well camouflaged you could step on them before you see them. I was very careful where I stepped.

The weeds, brush, and fallen branches and trees are very dense in that corner of the field. It would be easy to miss a little fawn. If the doe is back tomorrow morning, I'll give it another try.

Since the weather has been so wet and I know the bluebirds have fledged, I haven't opened the nest boxes in a week. This morning I hiked across the field to check on the swallow nest and was shocked to find a nest in the slotted box. The nest had very tall sides and was made with grass, dark feathers, and animal fur. When I reached my hand in to check for eggs, it was surprisingly warm inside, so I closed the nest box up quickly to keep the heat in.

The camera batteries were dead, so I didn't get a picture of the speckled eggs in the nest. I'll have a picture as soon as the weather permits.

What kind of nest is it? I'm not sure. It's a little too tidy to be a house sparrow nest, and I was told/sold that house sparrows don't go into the slotted nest boxes.

It could be a chickadee nest, but the eggs looked a little large to be a chickadee. So I have a mystery to solve if it will only warm up a little and stop raining.

As for the tree swallow nest in the box with the hole, it has six beautiful eggs due to hatch this weekend. The tree swallows hatch naked - no feathers. I'm not going to open their box again until the weather gets over 70 F or they've had time to grow some feathers, whichever comes first.

Friday, May 28, 2004

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

Comment from Monette -
Congratulations on so well expressing your love of nature and "home".

Thanks Mom.

Unfortunately Darren who runs Blogger Idol changed servers this week and the Blogger Idol links haven't worked since I posted my entry. I wasn't able to add my entry to the list and I haven't been able to see the list of other entries. I won't be doing a Top 5 list this week unless he gets it fixed soon.

Is there anyone out there who can see the Blogger Idol links at LivingRoom?

Comment from Marsha -
I would love to live in a place like that.

Comment from Carrie -
Some of your photos look like Monet paintings!

I do love it here, but it's far from perfection. The digital camera is great for showing what I want to show and leaving out the rest.

It doesn't show the tons of oak leaves that need raking, sticks that fall endlessly from the trees, oak tree seedlings that are anchored in the ground with acorns, ants, black flies, ticks, and mosquitoes. Then there are the power outages, the moss growing on the roof, the lichens growing on the brick, and the endless assault of hornets who want to build their structures on the house.

One summer I ran over a bumblebee nest with the lawn mower. Fortunately bumblebees are stupid. They go for body heat and the lawn mower was warm. The bulk of the swarm attacked the lawn mower, which I conveniently left for them while I was running for the house. I only got stung once.

Have you ever had a nasty bee or wasp encounter?

Comment from Jan in Sydney Australia -
Send us some rain please.

Comment from Carrie in North Carolina -
I'm with Jan, please send rain.

What I'd really like to do is save some of the rain for later in the summer when I know it will be very dry here and we will be wishing for it.

Today the sun is shining and it's not raining. I've been out working in the yard and enjoying the beautiful weather. DH Bob mowed the paths out back. By the time the next thunderstorm arrives we will be happy to have a reason to sit indoors. The yard work never ends here, especially in the wet spring when the weeds grow faster than the desired plants.

Hope everyone else gets the rain they need soon.

Question from What's On.....Right Now??
What's On your 'favorite summertime snacks' list Right Now??
My favorite summertime snack happens in June when the strawberries ripen in Michigan. Fresh Michigan strawberries over Bisquick shortcake biscuits. The strawberries are mashed up so that the juice soaks into the biscuits and the result is heavenly.

Last spring I did not make strawberry shortcake. It was just too much to ask of my diet. This year I will make it, count the points, and eat it with enthusiasm. I can hardly wait and strawberry time is almost here.

What's your favorite summer treat?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Rain Woes
This is the twenty-first day in a row that it has rained. We've had everything from light drizzle to pounding downpours with high winds. Some areas are flooded. Michigan farmers are getting seriously concerned about getting their crops planted.

Today it's cloudy with light, occasional rain. It's only 58 degrees F/14 degrees C. Some sun would really cheer things up.

Pappy in the puddle in the pathThe dogs and I go out for walks between rains, but it isn't pleasant. The paths are partially under water. We have very sandy, porous soil. Usually any standing water is gone in a few hours, but there has just been too much rain. To add to the wetness, the paths haven't been mowed because it has been too wet and we didn't want to disturb or mow over the fledgling bluebirds.

The bluebird house is empty, but I haven't seen the fledglings. Since they fledged, probably Saturday or Sunday, it's been cold and very rainy. I hope they're hunkered down somewhere safe and warm.

Monday morning it was cloudy but not raining, so the two Citizen Scientists went to the Nature Center to do plant inventory. We learned that it is possible to get wet even when it's not raining. Our feet were sloshing around in our shoes and it was all very cold and unpleasant. We lasted an hour and went home to change clothes and warm up.

The weather forecast for the rest of the week is rain. The weather forecast for this coming Memorial Day weekend is thunderstorms.

This afternoon I did a little shopping. Everyone was talking about the rain and how they wish it would just go away.

I've been feeling down this week. No reason. I'm blaming it on the weather. I stopped at the library and got five no-brainer books to read. When I was employed, I read to relax and escape. Since I've been unemployed, I haven't read much fiction at all.

When it comes to books, I have no will power. Once I start reading I keep reading and real life becomes an annoyance until I'm done with the book. It will be interesting to see if that changes now that I have a more relaxed lifestyle.

I stopped at a garden center and bought some new garden tools. Then I stopped at a Greenhouse and picked up a flat of impatients, a flat of torenia clown mix, and a hanging pot of non-stop begonias. Impatients love it here. This will be a first time trial run for the torenia. They're pretty little things. I hope I can make them happy enough so they blossom all summer, but I'm not going to work too hard at it. If they aren't happy, they won't be invited back.

Michigan people love to talk about the weather. How's the weather where you are? (Please be sure to tell us where that is.)

Monday, May 24, 2004

Blogger Idol, Topic 16
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Biweekly Darren announces a theme for the two week period. We have almost two weeks 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. At the end of the two weeks I will list five entries of note.

This weeks theme is 'Home'.

When I was a child I fell in love with nature. My two favorite books were the Golden Book of Birds and Golden Book of Insects.

We lived in a small town. There was very little diversity in the urban ecology. I dreamed of seeing the real birds and bugs instead of just pictures.

I remember one childhood evening when a rarely seen hummingbird visited the flowers while we were playing. I wanted the other kids to be still so I could watch, but I was the only one interested and the hummer quickly went elsewhere.

Picture of hummer at the feedMany of my childhood dreams of seeing nature have come true since DH Bob and I moved to a home in rural SW Michigan thirteen years ago.

Now the hummingbirds buzz us at the window if we don't keep their feeder filled.

We have so many hummingbirds in the summer it is hard to remember when they were new and novel. They are part of our life now. We share our home with them.

Picture of canopy over the roadOur home is five acres on a narrow dirt road in a swampy woods. The road has a canopy of trees overhead. The leaves are so thick in the summer that a light rain never gets the road wet.

There are various types of wild violets growing on our land. I encourage them to multiply and I call our property Violet Acres.

There is usually something new and interesting going on at Violet Acres. This spring we have a pair of yellow crested flycatchers. I think they are nesting in the woods across the road. They come over into our front yard to catch insects for their young family. I see flashes of yellow going across the window and occasionally they perch where we can see their beauty.

Picture of front yardIn our neighborhood, no one cares if the lawn is mowed. In fact, no one cares if we even have a lawn. This picture was taken out the front window.

The front of our home is planted very informally in ferns, hostas, lily-of-the-valley, Solomon's seal, and other wild flowers that grow in the shade.

There are cement stepping stones that go around in a large circle. I like to go out, walk around on them, and see everything green and growing.

Picture of pondViolet Acres is narrow and long. The front two acres is mostly wooded except for the spring fed pond and the small brick house where we live.

The pond is for the wildlife. It houses small fish, water snakes, snapping turtles, and muskrats. Kingfishers and herons come to find dinner. Deer come to drink.

This time of year the frogs are so loud at night that sometimes it's hard to get to sleep. I lay there and listen to them calling for a mate and wonder over my good fortune to have a home in such a beautiful and noisy place.

Picture of Glory in the streamThe front two acres and the back three acres are divided by a fast running stream.

Glory the lab mix, Queen of Violet Acres, loves to wade in the stream. This mystifies the two little dogs. They prefer to stay dry at all times and always stare at Glory in amazement as she splashes around and climbs out soaking wet.

The back three acres has some woods, but is mostly open field that we let grow natural, complete with a few large brush piles to shelter the wildlife. This is where the nest box birds raise their babies and Pappy the Papillon, Prince of Violet Acres, meets up with his blue racer snake friends.

On the property next to ours there is an oak forest, so this field is what naturalists call an "edge" area. It's perfect for seeing a variety of birds and wildlife.

Today we learned that our neighbor has seen a mink. I'll be watching for it. Something new to love about my home at Violet Acres.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

My Favorite Things
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. What is your favorite color?

Favorite color for what? It depends. My favorite color is purple violet, the exact color and intensity of the violets that bloom in the side yard in the spring.

Would I want the whole world to be that color? No, it would be awful.

Would I want a car that color? No, I don't think so.

Do I wear purple clothing? I have some, but not an excessive amount. Purple clothing could never have the same color quality as the living purple in the violets.

Am I too analytical to deal with questions like this? Yes, I think so.
2. What is your favorite piece of clothing?
My five pocket denim jeans.

Oh how I love it that I can wear jeans everyday now that I'm unemployed. I hook my pedometer on that little fifth pocket in the morning and I'm ready for the world. Or at least my little corner of the world.
3. Where is your favorite place to eat out?
Here's another question with dozens of answers. I've worked hard to change my habits and demote eating to an unimportant part of my life. I've lost over thirty-five pounds and eating is no longer one of my great pleasures.

Hum. I still haven't answered the question, have I?

When I can't stand one more low fat meal and I want to give myself a fast food treat, I pick up a nacho supreme from Taco Bell and enjoy every last molecule of it. 10 points. Yum.
4. What is your favorite meal?
Assuming I could actually eat all this, which I can't, my favorite meal would be standing rib roast (pink in the middle), mashed potatoes, hot homemade bread to sop up the meat juice, corn on the cob smeared with butter, and cream bulee for dessert.

Did I forget to mention the wonderful salad? No, I didn't forget. There isn't any.
5. What is your favorite sport or recreational game?
Everything is relative. If there aren't any sports I like, can I still have a favorite of those I don't care about?

My favorite sport to watch is track and field. I used to follow it very closely and knew all the names. I haven't kept up with it and I don't know the current competitors.

I am completely, one-hundred percent unathletic. If I had to play a recreational game, I would pick croquet. Does anyone ever play croquet anymore?
What is your favorite fantasy meal?

Friday, May 21, 2004

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

This feature was previously published on Saturday and called Saturday Sum Up.

Question from Sparrow -
What does the slot box look like?
My March 27 post shows both nest boxes, the traditional one with the hole and the slotted.

The slotted boxes are supposed to be safer for the bluebirds because the English sparrows won't go in them. My bluebirds don't go in them either.

The English sparrows are very violent and will peck the heads off the bluebirds when the sparrows want to claim the bluebird nestbox.

Question from Sparrow -
What is the half orange propped on?
There is a little spike that sticks up at the joint and the half orange is impaled on it.

Comment from Carrie -
He (Carrie's cat) must have gotten too close to her (a mockingbird) nest at some point and she (the mockingbird) has never forgotten it!
Do birds have a memory? It seems that they do.

Every year we have hummingbirds that know right where the feeder was last year. If they arrive after their long migration and the feeder isn't out and waiting for them, they buzz the window to let us know they are here and they want a drink.

Do you have any stories of birds who remember?

Question from What's On.....Right Now??
What's On your 'I always put this off' list Right Now??
What a question! There are many possible answers, but few I want to talk about.

Here are three things I have been putting off that are going to be addressed very soon.
  • The layout for this blog. In general I like it, so don't expect any major changes. Especially no changes to hot pink or orange color schemes with flashing graphics.

    I do want to make Seasons of Violet more attractive and add a few things here and there. It will happen.

  • Exercise. I'm feeling so much more energetic now that I've lost weight, but everything I do results in sore muscles. Since I want to do more of the things I'm doing instead of less, I need to do some strength training. It's so easy to put that off.

  • Get to the greenhouse and buy some annuals to plant. I was going to do it this past week but used the rain as an excuse to put it off. The average last frost date in SW Michigan is May 15, so it's time to get them in the ground.

What's one thing that you're putting off?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Citizen Scientist At Work
The post that tells what Citizen Science is all about is here.

This is the dashboard id that goes in the car when we're parked in an area where someone might wonder what a car is doing there.

Picture of Citizen Science car sign
Monday was my first Citizen Science solo field trip, except it wasn't solo. I met a very pleasant lady at our first class and it turns out that she also is concerned about going out alone and getting lost. We decided to try working together.

If Monday was any indication, it's going to work great.

We met at the gate, had no trouble using the map to pick out our route for the day, and away we went. We identified many of the plants in bloom along the trail. The obvious needs to be recorded so we will recognize the rarer and less obvious plants when we come across them.

We've been assigned a very diverse half mile square with an old field, upland shrubland, pine plantation, hardwood forest, emerging swamp, a source pond, and a stream.

All these different environments occur because long ago glaciers cut through the area creating an esker. An esker is a narrow, steep-sided ridge of irregular stratified sediment shoved up by the glacier ice. Most eskers are straight, but ours meanders.

What this means in plain English is that we have high areas, low areas, and steep banks to climb up and down.

The Nature Center has asked us to "get off the trails and explore". We will do that after we have more confidence in plant identification and finding our way back to our cars.

We've also been told we have the endangered eastern massasauga rattle snake in our assigned area. We were given instructions on what to do if we see one and/or get bitten. First and most important, get a picture! If bitten, drink a lot of water, hold the bitten part as low as possible, and get back to the Nature Center for treatment.

Massasaugas are very shy and will leave us alone if we leave them alone. We need to be aware of where we're walking and sitting. Unfortunately, I get all wrapped up in what I'm doing and don't even think about rattle snakes when I'm out in nature. I need to work on that.

More Snakes
Twice now Pappy has found a blue racer in the field where we walk numerous times a day. Pappy thinks he wants to play with the snake and starts dancing around and lunging at it. The snake is curled up flicking its tongue in and out trying to tell Pappy that snakes don't play with dogs. I hurry and get Pappy out of the area as quickly as possible.

The blue racers are a large, beautiful snake. They are becoming endangered because of loss of environment and lack of human tolerance for their presence. I'm thrilled that they are living and thriving at Violet Acres. I'm not thrilled that one of my little dogs thinks he wants to play with them.

Both racer sightings have been in the vicinity of the occupied bluebird house. The racers would climb the pole, go right in the hole and eat the young birds if the pole wasn't protected by a baffle. Heavy duty pole greasing also keeps predators out.

Picture of bluebirds at two weeks old
Final Bluebird Picture
Yuk! Nature isn't always as pretty as we might like to think.

The bluebird chicks are two weeks old and only a few days from leaving the nest. They are exercising their rapidly developing wings and pooping all over the inside of the birdhouse.

This is the last time I will open the nest box for fear they will fly away before their time. In a few days I hope to walk out into the field and see seven bluebirds sitting on the power line.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Head to Toe Fashion
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. Is your hair its natural color right now and do you wear your hair long or short?

The natural color of my hair is a reddish brown. The current color of my hair is reddish brown with about 60% gray. I'm not using hair color, so I can't figure out where all this gray is coming from . . .

I would call my hair short. It could be - and has been - much shorter.

2. Shirts: long sleeves or short?
Depends on the weather and the bugs. When it's below 70(F) degrees, I'm in long sleeves.

This is black fly season and I am one of their favorite spring meals. When I go outside, I wear long sleeves and long pants with rubber bands on the bottom even when it's hot.

For those of you fortunate enough not to know about black flies, they bite and suck blood. One of their favorite munching spots is up my pantleg right at the top of my socks. That's the reason I wear the rubber bands.

3. Do you wear a belt?
I hate wearing belts. I ignore their existence. When I get a belt as part of a new piece of clothing, I throw it out.

4. Tell me about your favorite bottom wear (pants/jeans/shorts/skirts).
Five pocket, indigo denim, 100% cotton blue jeans. My favorites are from Land's End.

I've been buying the "relaxed fit" (just a touch more ease in the hips and thighs) for years. After losing a few more pounds (38 total), I'm finding my new size 10 relaxed fit are baggy. I'm looking forward to owning a pair of size 10 "natural fit" (a comfortable, body-skimming fit) by the end of next week.

5. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
I'm not going to get up and count. I know I have shoes I never wear anymore since I became unemployed.

I'm very pragmatic when it comes to shoes. I'm guessing I have about ten pair in the closet.

The shoes I wear everyday are New Balance 810 walking shoes in black. I'm on my fifth pair with no complaints.

What's your favorite summer attire?

Picture of Kimmy and the 10 day old bluebirds
Satisfied Smile
Granddaughter Kimmy finally gets to see and touch the baby bluebirds in the nest box she helped buy, assemble, and erect.

The babies were all huddled together sleeping, so they don't show up very well in this picture.

According to the North American Bluebird Society the nestbox needs to stay shut after day thirteen or the chicks might fly from the box prematurely. Day thirteen is Tuesday, May 18. I'll try to get one more good picture before then.

Picture of tree swallow nest with three eggs
Tree Swallow Nest Box
Three eggs as of Saturday, May 15. Swallows usually lay four to six eggs, one a day, so it is likely there will be at least one more.

Tree swallows line their nests with white feathers, sometimes flying a long way to find them. My lucky birds only have to go next door where the neighbor keeps chickens.

If the number of white feathers is any indication of probability of success - and I read once that it is - this should be a very successful nest.

Orioles Are Too Busy to Visit Now
The orioles have stopped coming to eat the oranges. I see occasional flashes of orange in the tree tops where they are busy nest building and egg laying.

According to some of the posters in the Google bird group feeding Welches grape jelly along with the oranges will keep the orioles coming back for the grape jelly during nesting season.

I put out some Smuckers grape jelly a few days ago and the orioles are ignoring it. Either it's the wrong brand or I got it out too late for them to notice.

There seem to be some very knowledgeable bird people in the Google bird group. I asked why the birds ignored the slotted bird houses for the houses with the traditional holes. The reply:

"Problem is you gave them a choice between the regular round entrance and the slotted entrance. If you'd provided the slotted only, they most likely would've nested in them."
I am not going to all slotted boxes. The swallows won't nest in them, and I enjoy having the swallows as well as the bluebirds.

I'm going to do more research on the slotted boxes before I ditch them, but I think they're goners for next year.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Top 5 Blogger Idol Posts for Topic 15
A complete list of entries is here: blogger_idol-1.gif

Unfortunately moving Blogger Idol to a two week rotation didn't increase participation. What we lacked in quantity, we made up for in quality. Here are my five favorites from the list.

  • \_Cliff Between the Lines_/. Le Tresor.
    The secret in the cathedral at Chartres, France.

  • Erich at Eyecant. Keeping Secrets Alive.
    A poem. I like it.

  • Fat Eye For the Skinny Guy. How To Tell If Your Entire Life Is Just One Big Bad-Ass Secret.
    We should all ask ourselves these questions.

  • Silent Tribute. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
    Several secrets revealed in this post. Most important, Jess will tell you what happened to your missing socks.

  • The Perpetual Melee. Secret Pictures.
    A four photo picture essay. Very cute.
Which one is your favorite?

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 Marsha -
In the photo it (the morel) looks quite large, but in actuality, how large is the average Morel and can you describe the taste?
The morels in our yard grow between 3 and 5 inches tall. The one in the picture is four inches tall.

I can't describe the taste. To me, there isn't much taste.

Morels are traditionally cooked with lots of butter and my theory is that the butter gives them the good taste people rave about. I guess I'm just a heathen when it comes to delicate mushroom tastes.

There is a black variety which I read is more tasty than the tan variety. That wouldn't be hard.

I've never had the black variety so I don't know what they taste like.

If you go here, it will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about morels. Or maybe I've all ready succeeded in doing that.

Comment from Judith -
I have always wondered why the church, in general, is so against alcohol. They always drank wine in the bible, at weddings and festivities.
Our Lord's first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding where the guests had already drunk everything available.

Personally I seldom care to have a drink, only on special occasions. I would like to have real wine at communion as I believe that's what Jesus commanded.

The internet has been a blessing to me - to meet other Christians who love the Lord with all their hearts and actually have the initiative and intelligence to question some of the things that are taught in church.

Comment from Angie -
I love the bird photos! Those are wonderful. What a great way to share your spring!
Thank you!

I've been a little concerned about posting so many bird pictures. There hasn't been much feedback. Hopefully that's just because there isn't much to say about them.

When I named this blog Seasons of Violet, I was thinking more about the seasons of life.

For spring at least, Seasons of Violet has turned into a nature blog. That's what is going on in my life right now.

Are you tired of seeing bird pictures?

Question from What's On.....Right Now??
What's On your 'OOOPS' (why did I do that???) list Right Now??
I started a summer sweater out of Lion Brand Cottonease. It's an experiment to try knitting in sleeves with a sleeve cap from the top down.

It's an 'OOOPS' because I don't like knitting with cotton and cotton blend. This yarn is like knitting with bailing twine. I knew better. I really did.

I'm knitting in the round and have about six inches done. It's going to take fourteen inches to get to the underarm.

Every time I pick it up to knit a few rows, I say, "I will never buy cotton yarn again." Maybe by the time this thing is done, I will have learned my lesson.

What's on your 'OOOPS' list right now?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What a Beautiful Spring
Yesterday I had lunch with a friend - another severed Pfizer employee. She left with over twenty-five years of service.

We both agreed that this is the most beautiful spring ever because we've had time to see it and enjoy it.

Friend mentioned that she's had lunch with some other former workmates, and they are bored.

I know that many people expected me to be bored not working. Not even close. There's a wonderful, interesting world outside of the office and I still have a long reserve list of things I want to do. Life is good.

This is the time of year for baby birds.

Picture of baby bluebirds at 1 week
Feed Me! Feed Me!
The bluebirds are a week old today.

Their wings are developing and their eyes are partly open. It's amazing how fast they are changing.

Picture of robin fledgling from the side
I'm a Big Bird Now
The robin's nest on the north east side of the house was empty this morning. The little ones are out and about for flying lessons.

This one is sitting in a Rose of Sharon bush right under the nest. He let me take plenty of pictures. Either he flunked the flying lesson or he hasn't had his turn yet.

Picture of robin fledgling from the front
The robins are members of the thrush family. All thrushes have spots on their chest. The robins only have the spots while they are very young. Then their chest turns a pretty reddish orange color.

Male and female robins look identical. I guess as long as the robins can tell the difference, we don't need to know.

Check out the white baby fuzz that's still sticking out of the top of this bird's head.

Picture of swallow nest ready for eggs
And In Another Nest Box . .
The second nest box with the hole (and not the slot), is being used by some tree swallows. They have been building their nest for the past week and now it's lined with feathers and ready for eggs.

The swallows vigorously defend their nest. When I walk over on that side of the field, they dive bomb me and chatter. Then their relatives join them.

When I first started to monitor nest boxes at work, the swallow dive bombing was scary. I've never had one actually fly into me, but they've come close. I've learned to count on their reluctance to actually make contact.

Have you ever been afraid of a bird?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Picture of baby robins in nest
Baby Birds Everywhere
We have robins and robin nests everywhere.

This one is on the northeast corner of the house. The youngsters look healthy, happy, and ready to fly away.

When the young are this developed, I try to stay away from the nest. If I get too close they will get frightened and fly out onto the ground.

Picture of four day old baby bluebirds in nest
For the same reason, I won't be opening the bluebird box after Friday.

In this picture, taken yesterday, the bluebird chicks are four - five days old. All five eggs resulted in a new little bluebird.

Mom and Dad are both kept busy delivering food. Sometimes I sit about thirty feet away and watch them come and go from the box.

The kids are all looking well fed and healthy. Good job Mom and Dad!

Picture of female oriole
Equal Time for the Female
DH Bob took this nice picture of the female oriole.

The quest for a good picture even inspired him to wash the window.

Now I just need to make sure there is something interesting to photograph out all the windows. That sounds like much more fun than washing them myself.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Blogger Idol, Topic 15
Blogger Idol is the brainchild of Darren at LivingRoom.

Biweekly Darren announces a theme for the two week period. We have almost two weeks 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. At the end of the two weeks I will list five entries of note.

This theme for this round is 'Secrets'.

Wine, Women, and Casting Lots
For the past ten years I've attended a conservative Bible Church. It's been a great place to get exposed to the entire Bible and I'm grateful for the teaching I have received there.

I believe the Bible is the key to the meaning of life. I also believe that most, if not all, churches ignore parts of the Bible they don't care to address.

I've got a secret. Actually three secrets. I can tell them to my readers, but please don't tell the church I attend. They wouldn't listen, anyway.

Contrary to what the church has tried to teach me, God uses wine, women, and casting lots for His purposes.

For the sake of brevity, I'm only going to provide one notable example of each.

Wine. At the Last Supper, Jesus Himself commanded us to drink wine "In remembrance of me" until He returns.

My church reads this scripture, reminds us that communion is one of the two mandatory ordinances of the church, and then serves us grape juice.

Women. God used Deborah mightily as a respected judge, a leader, and a warrior.

The sons of Israel came to her for judgment as she sat underneath a palm tree.

Israel was in captivity and Deborah lead them into battle against the Canaanites to win their freedom.

My church allows women to be church secretaries. If you are female and your spiritual gifts run toward planning, leadership, or administration, you are allowed to type the church bulletin.

Women are also allowed to lead "women's ministries" and teach young children in Sunday School.

Casting lots. When the disciples needed to replace Judas to bring their number back to twelve, they prayed and then they cast lots to select Matthias.

This story intrigues me. I've not heard of casting lots being done in any modern church. Why not? God didn't object and He gave them an answer.

Am I going to try it? I'll keep that a secret.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

My Mom

Picture of Mom

I want to celebrate Mother's Day by giving bloggy thanks and honor to my mother.

Though we're very different in our interests, our politics, and our religion, we're also very alike in many ways.

We enjoy each other's company and acknowledge that an intelligent person may think differently than we do.

The differences make life interesting. I learned that from my mother.

Something else I learned from watching my mother live her life:

There will be bad times. Really bad times.
Sometimes they get worse before they get better.
When the bad times happen, you do what you need to do for as long as you need to do it.
Knowing there will be bad times makes the good times all the sweeter.
Good times or bad times, life is rarely dull.
A few other important things I learned from my mother:
Keep growing.
Keep learning new things.
Stay interested in the world.
(Actually, she's the only one of us who dances. But the general concept of "keep moving" is something I learned from mom.)
Thank you, Mom! I love you lots!

And to all moms, Happy Mother's Day!

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 Monette (about my bad back) -
You'll be getting a lot of good advice.
Yes, and it was all appreciated in the spirit it was given.

Please don't assume I am just suffering without medical attention. I have annual bone scans and my back is being well monitored by the medical profession. I don't like to go on about it, and I certainly don't care to make it the focus of my life.

Occasionally I get over confident and overdo. That's what I did. I'm going to try and avoid doing it again. At least not soon.

At the moment, all is well with my back. At least as well as it is going to get.

Comment from Carrie -
Please keep us posted -- I have high hopes for the bluebird offspring...
It's been cold and rainy the last few days so I haven't wanted to open the nest box and see what is going on. Or, I should say, I have wanted to open the nest box but I haven't done so because I thought it might not be good for the hatchlings.

Every indication is that things are going well. Mom is still peeking out the hole at me. Dad is flying in with food and entering the box with it. I assume he is feeding the babies.

Question from Carrie -
The outfits (for the Doo Dah Parade) sound cute...are YOU wearing a grass skirt?
Human Briarwood Beach Bums are wearing Hawaiian shirts in our choice of loud pattern along with bright green baseball hats with the Briarwood Logo on the front.

So far there has been no directive on what to wear on the lower part of our bodies. I'm leaning toward wearing jeans - not a grass skirt.

Anyone know a good online source for loud Hawaiian shirts?

Question from What's On.....Right Now??
What's On your favorite games list Right Now??
My favorite game is Spider that came with Microsoft XP. I have to limit the number of times I allow myself to play in a day or I would sit and play the day away. (How's that for a lame hobby, Carrie?)

I play on the "medium" difficulty setting where I'm able to win about 28% of the games.

Occasionally I switch to the "difficult" setting, but I've never won at that level.

Favorite game to play with Kimmy is Uno.

Favorite game to play with the dogs is "tug".

Any other good game recommendations for an eight year old?

Followup to the Candleflame Shawl Post
Things are back to normal at the Post Office. The Candleflame Shawl and four pair of socks are on their way to the CIC collection site.

Every time I see that shawl picture I smile. First, because the shawl is finally done. Second, because my new size 10 jeans are baggy in the back! I had no idea they were looking so loose.

Maybe it's time to try a size 8?

Friday, May 07, 2004

Picture of finished candleflame shawl for CICFarewell to the Candleflame Shawl
The CandleFlame Shawl for CIC caregivers is done, blocked, and packed in a box with four pair of socks.

It almost got sent to the CIC collection site this afternoon. I drove to Paw Paw and carried the box into the dark post office.

"Sorry we can't help you. The power is off all over town. Try bringing the package back in the morning."

Want to Knit This Pattern?
The Candleflame Shawl Pattern is available for free on the internet.

It has several critical errors in the instructions. If you want to knit it, you can contact me in the comments for the corrections identified by the CIC List.

Doo Dah 2004
The first weekend in June is the Kalamazoo Doo Dah Parade, a parade of silliness down the main streets of the city.

Last year Briarwood Dog Training marched as the "Poop Patrol". The two Advanced Hobby classes did drills and skits with dogs and pooper scoopers. Pappy hadn't made it to the advanced class yet, so only Sunny marched in the parade.

This year Briarwood is entering the Doo Dah Parade as the "Briarwood Beach Bums". Once again we're going to march with our dogs doing skits and drills along the way. The dogs are going to be wearing sun glasses along with other beach attire.

This afternoon I stopped at Bark's Fifth Avenue and bought Pappy a pair of Doggles, the sunglasses for dogs. Then I went to another pet store and bought him a tie dyed muscle shirt that says "Beach Bum" on it.

No pictures yet, but you won't be spared.

Sunny may get a pair of bright yellow Doggles and a grass skirt. She doesn't have them yet because I'm seriously thinking of just marching with Pappy. Pappy enjoys crowds and noise. Sunny doesn't. But she doesn't like to be left out, either.

What's a mother to do?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Picture of bluebird on nest
I've become very fond of mother bluebird.

When I walk out into the back field she peeks out the hole to see who is approaching. Then she pops back down on the nest and wishes I would go away.

When monitoring bluebird houses it's customary to knock on the house before opening it. That gives the bird a chance to fly off so the eggs can be counted.

I always know when this peeking bluebird is sitting in the nest box, so I only monitor when she's out taking a break. Hope she appreciates that.

There are still five eggs. If I've counted the days right, the eggs should be hatching tomorrow, May 6.

Picture of male oriole
New Arrival
A pair of orioles arrived from Central America yesterday. They are looking lean and hungry after their trip. Since they were expected, I had their food ready for them.

For a week or so, they will hang around the house and eat the oranges we put out.

Once they start serious egg laying and baby feeding they stay high up in the tree tops and switch to an insect diet. Then all we get to see is an occasional flash of orange.

I have oranges out on both sides of the house. This picture of the male was taken through the kitchen window.

They sing while they're eating, so it's easy to know when and where to look out and see them. What a treat. I'm so glad to be home this spring and have time to enjoy the return of the orioles.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

No Lack of Morels Here

Picture of the morel we had for breakfast
In this part of the country people go crazy in the spring hunt for the elusive morel mushroom.

Morel patches are jealously guarded and kept secret year after year. There are websites with morel lore, morel recipes, morel pictures, morel spotting updates (not with exact locations) and morel jokes.

We were handed our morel patch along with our mortgage. After a late April - early May rain the morels magically appear underneath three very old apple trees on the north side of the house.

We have never been part of the morel mania but we acknowledge our patch as something special. We celebrate that specialness by eating them.

This four inch beauty is the very morel I picked and used in our Sunday morning omelet. Yum.

Have you ever eaten morels?

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Hands Off the Keyboard!
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

The instructions: Slowly raise your hands and take one step back. Oh darn, then you couldn't type your entry. This week's post is about things you do when you're not at the computer. So ... I don't want to see any of your answers computer related. M'kay!?

1. Do you have any hobbies or special talents?

I'm going to stick with hobbies and not go into special talents - or lack of special talents. It seems to be my fate to do many things reasonable well but nothing with a special talent.

Back to the question.

Here are current, non-computer related hobbies that I spend more than four hours a week pursuing:
  • Knitting - Is a hobby I use to relax and produce wonderful cozy colorful socks for myself and people I love who want them.
  • Dog training - Is a hobby I started by accident. When Sunny was a puppy I had thoughts of using her as a volunteer visitation dog at nursing homes so we signed up for a basic puppy obedience class. It turned out that Sunny did not have the right temperament to be a visitation dog, but we both enjoyed doggy school so much that we've been going together almost three years now. Pappy loves it even more than Sunny, so I spend four hours a week in "Hobby Advanced" class plus the time we spend at home working on our skills.
  • Nature - Plants, birds, insects, and even reptiles and amphibians.

2. If time and money weren't limiting you, is there a hobby that you don't do now that you would want to start?
I had to reject writing several of my top answers because Digital photography and editing break the non-computer related rule.

If I was very rich, I would buy the beautiful untouched land around this area that is rapidly being turned into subdivisions and shopping areas.

3. What clubs/organizations/unions/et cetera do you belong to? (Remember it can't be computer related.)
I'm an introvert. I've learned that I'm not much of a club/organization person. The list is short.

4. Is there a hobby you think is absolutely lame and you would never do? (Except perhaps under duress.)
Yes, but I will not offend the good people who do it by saying what it is.

By definition a hobby is "a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation".

As long as it is legal, isn't hurting anyone, and serves the purpose of relaxation, it isn't lame no matter how lame it may seem to another person.

5. Is there a hobby you've done in the past but cannot/don't do now because of limitations or certain circumstances?
I used to be a good seamstress. I don't do it now because I don't have room in this small house for all the equipment. On occasion I'm tempted to go out and buy a sewing machine. If I wait a few hours, the urge passes. (If I really wanted to have a sewing machine, I would get one.)

I used to make stone jewelry. Then, I turned it into a business. In my experience, once a hobby becomes a business it has stress, projects, and deadlines just like any business. It is no longer relaxing and therefore, by definition, no longer a hobby.

It took almost ten years for this lesson to sink in. I had a day job to supply stress. I didn't need a hobby to supply stress. I donated everything to charity and never looked back.

If you had unlimited energy, time, and money, what hobby would you choose?

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Lack of Posts
I've been down and out in bed with a bad back.

You know it's bad when I don't post and I haven't even read most of my email.

I'm getting better. Be back to posting soon.