Monday, June 28, 2004

Fun Times Ahead
I'm spending the next three days with Granddaughter Kimmy.

Tuesday we're going to see Harry Potter and then dine at McDonalds.

Wednesday we're getting on a bus at the crack of dawn and heading to the Brookfield Zoo. We'll be getting back very late.

Thursday we're sleeping in - I hope. When we do get up, we're going to eat a leisurely breakfast and then head off for a day at the pool.

I probably won't have a chance to post again until Friday. Have a great week, everyone.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Last But Not Least
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

1. Who is the last person to make you laugh?
My husband Bob. He just said, "I'm not stubborn." That's the funniest thing I've heard all week.

2. Who is the last person to make you angry or upset?
I am so blessed that there is no anger or upset in my life right now. I get mildly annoyed at a few things and saddened by other things, but not angry or upset.

3. When is the last time you took a leisurely ride or walk?
Five or six times a day I go for a leisurely walk with the dogs on the paths Bob has mowed in the back three acres.

Yesterday I went out for a leisurely walk without the dogs and took the five pictures that appear in the previously post.

4. When is the last time you took a vacation?
The last "get in a plane and go somewhere out of town" type vacation I had was in April 1999 when I went to Las Vegas for son John and Anne's wedding. Hard to believe it's been five years.

I'm a content stay-at-home type of person, although I'm always glad I went somewhere after it happens.

Granddaughter Kimmy and I are taking a day trip to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago next week. The bus leaves at 7 am and returns late that night. It's going to be fun, but more like an endurance test than a vacation.

5. What is the last thing you do before turning in for the night?
I usually read until I fall asleep. It never takes long, even when the book is a good one.

Who is the last person to make you laugh?

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Fritillary on purple cloverBeautiful Day
The weather was just perfect today - sunny and in the 70s (F) with just enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes away.

There were numerous fritillaries flying around. They like the sweet purple clover, one of the many abundant wildflowers in the back three acres.

There haven't been many butterflies this year. An entomologist I met at the Kalamazoo Nature Center said it was because the weather has been too cool and wet.

Swallow nest with six two-week old hatchlings Tree Swallow Nest
The tree swallow young are two weeks old today, and they are looking like miniature swallows. This was the last day to open the nest box without risking them flying out prematurely.

I've been taking pictures for the past week with no success in getting anything that shows the little birds very well. I can hear them chirping as I approach the nest box, but as soon as I open it they dive down and cover their heads.

At the end of my ring finger is a little swallow eye peeking out to give me the evil eye. They just want me to go away so their parents can bring more food.

Dive bombing swallow parent The tree swallow parents weren't happy with me being in the nest box, either. They were both flying in circles dive bombing my head while telling me off with their chatter.

Blackberry patch Blackberry Patch
The back northeast corner of our property is a completely wild and unkept blackberry patch.

There were years when I was employed that I didn't realize it was blackberry season until it was over. This year I've been walking by the patch every day. I've seen the blossoms and I'm watching the berries ripen.

Blackberries starting to ripen Thanks to all the rain we've had this summer it looks like there is going to be a bumper crop of blackberries by the end of next week.

It's my intention to try and beat the birds and wildlife to at least three quarts. The recipes are printed out for Blackberry Crumble, Blackberry Bars, and Blackberry Snack Cake.

Bring on some sunshine and let's get 'um ripened up.

What's your favorite fresh summer produce?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Great Pictures
Lately I've been enjoying The City Birder blog.

Rob blogs about Red-tailed hawks and other wildlife observations around Brookland and New York City. It is interesting reading, but it's the amazing pictures that keep me going back to see more.

Awful Music
Thanks to Cliff's bad influence, I ended up at Worst Country Song Titles.

The list includes 265 romantic titles such as:

  • If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead?

  • Thanks To The Cathouse, I'm In The Doghouse With You

  • You Ain't Much Fun Since I Quit Drinkin'

  • You Done Stomped On my Heart (and You Mashed That Sucker Flat)

  • Your Negligee Has Turned To Flannel Nightgowns

  • Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, Because I'm Kissing You Goodbye
Can you resist going to read the rest of the titles?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

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

What's On your desktop Right Now??
In Microsoft XP land, which is where I live, the "desktop" is the first thing to display when I boot up. (Is it still correct to say "boot up"? I'm an old mainframe person and some of my language needs updating.)

Original violet picture from 2003Wild blue violets are my favorite flower.

That's very high praise for the violets because there are many flowers I love and look forward to seeing each year.

Last May when I bought my first digital camera I was able to catch a few violets still in bloom. The picture on my desktop is this violet picture from May, 2003.

Blogger Idol
It appears Blogger Idol has sunk into the sunset without ever saying good by. There is no new topic this week and no explanation on LivingRoom, the blog that sponsored Blogger Idol.

Participation has been way down. In fact, I didn't write on the last topic, "The Rhythm of Life".

Right now my rhythm of life is adagio as I leisurely transform into something and someone I've never been before. So far it's been a very pleasant experience but I don't know what the end result is going to look like.

Wednesday I had lunch with all my former team members and the few who are still working to complete the decommissioning. We were celebrating with one of the team leaders who has a new job with Pfizer.

It was so good to see everyone again. Listening to everyone talk about what they are doing reminded me how fortunate I was to work with quality people. They have faced their job loss with a positive attitude and taken the opportunity to re-evaluate and improve their life. I'm striving to follow their example.

What picture do you have on your desktop?

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Six little oak trees in the garden Chopping Down Oak Trees

On the left is a Hosta leaf. On the right is a Japanese Painted Fern. In the middle is an oak seedling. In fact, there are at least six oak seedlings in this two foot square area of our yard.

A few years ago we had a bumper crop of acorns and they didn't get raked up. Very bad mistake. I know now that it's very bad to leave acorns laying around where you don't want more oak trees growing.

The oak seedlings are firmly anchored in the ground by the acorn that produced them, so I can't pull them out. The seedling stems are very woody, so I can't hoe them down.

Every day I go out and chop down oak trees for fifteen minutes. I take a container for the fallen trees, a pruning shears, and cut them off as close to the ground as I can get. It is going to be a long project.

Want gmail?
I have three gmail invitations to give away.

Read about gmail here.

If you would like a gmail account, leave a message in the comments. First three readers to ask will get the invites.

Vanity Plates
Last week there was no question from What's On.....Right Now?? The lack of question came at a bad time, because I've been struggling with what to post about the last few weeks.

This week's question from What's On.....Right Now?? is "What's On your 'vanity license plate' (otherwise known as personalized license plate) Right Now??"

I don't have a vanity plate, but desperate for a topic to write about, I decided to look for vanity plates when I ran errands on Thursday. The only two I saw said DANAGRL and GIRLPWR.

I apologize if you thought this topic was going to be interesting.

Have you seen any memorable vanity plates? Do you have one?

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Watch Your Step
Baby Robin in the grassy pathRobin Fledglings Under Foot
Yesterday a nest of robins fledged.

When they first leave the nest they are helpless, still completely dependent on their parents, and not smart enough to be afraid. This is the most dangerous time of their life and mortality is high.

The parents nudge them out of the nest and hide them in the tall grass or the brush. From there the fledglings are taught how to fly and find their own food. Then they're on their own.

This little robin is sitting in the path where we take our dog walks. I'm sure its parents want it better hidden than this. One parent is in a nearby tree squawking as I'm taking the picture. Junior doesn't seem to be upset at all. He wants to be fed.

I'm being very careful where I put my feet for the next few days.

Clump of grass in the fieldBoring Field Shot?
We have many different species of Sparrows that we see around the bird feeder. This time of year they are nesting and most of them nest on the ground.

As I walk the dog walk paths in the field I see them flying up from their ground nests. It usually happens so quickly that I can't tell where they came from.

This morning I saw a Sparrow fly out of the clump of grass shown in the middle of this picture.

Sparrow nest in clump of grassSurprise
After the dogs were back in the house, I grabbed the camera and headed back out to see if I could find the nest.

It's a tidy, neat little grass nest hidden in the center of the grass clump. There are two eggs, white with brownish-gold spots.

I don't know what kind of sparrow nest it is - yet. Hopefully I'll be able to get a good look at one of the parents soon.

The nest is right in the same area where I've spotted two different racer snakes. Racer snakes love eating bird eggs and hatchlings. It will be amazing if any of these eggs turn into adult birds.

Needless to say, I'll be watching this nest now that I know it's there.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Happy Birthday Mom!

Mom's Wedding PictureMom was beautiful then and Mom is beautiful now.

How wonderful that we've had so many years together. May we have many more.

Love you lots, Mom.

Hope your day is very special. See you soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Quiz Time
This is a cute quiz. It's fun to take and there are twelve different outcomes. Give it a try and let me know which Peanuts character you are.

I am Peanut's Character Franklin

You are Franklin!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Second bluebird nest with three eggsBluebirds Nesting Again
The bluebirds continued coming to their nest box after the babies fledged, so I was never sure if it was OK to take the old nest out. Then, they started building a new nest on top of the old nest and I still wasn't sure what to do, so I left it.

I think it might have been a good thing to clean out the nest box. My current theory is that since they wouldn't get their nest box cleaned out if they were using a natural cavity, having a double nest can't be all bad.

The second family of bluebirds is due to hatch about July 1.

Tree swallow nest with three day old hatchlingsBaby Tree Swallows
Best I was able to count, all six eggs hatched. Seeing anything in this nest is very difficult because of all the feathers. The slightest little poof and the feathers are fluttering here and there instead of staying where Mother Swallow wants them.

The hatchlings look healthy and hungry.

The swallow parents fly around and catch insects for themselves and their young. There is no lack of insects at Violet Acres. I told Mother Swallow that I highly recommend the mosquitoes and the deer flies.

The deer flies win the blood sucking insect award for the most painful bite and the hardest to avoid bite. They swoop down on me with their mouths open and chomp. Ouch!

Mystery mothUnknown Moth
Bob spotted this moth as it sat in the window waiting for the rain to stop.

The way it is in the picture, it was about two inches wide. We never saw it with its wings unfolded.

I've been looking online and in my books, but haven't seen anything like it. I don't have a good butterfly/moth guide. Guess that's something I need to get on my Amazon wishlist.

Does anyone know what kind of moth this is?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Happy Birthday!
Sunday Brunch is one year old this week!

Break out the party hats and pop the cork on that bottle of champagne. Let's celebrate!

1. How do you usually celebrate your birthday?
Very low key. We usually go out to eat.

Last year I was seriously dieting, so we got take out and brought it home. For me it's easier to stop eating when I'm eating at home.

I know that doesn't sound like much of a celebration. We're just not very big on celebrating birthdays.
2. Do you ever lie about your age?
No. In fact, I enjoy telling people how old I am because everytime it comes out of my mouth the number surprises me. How in the world did I get to be this old?
3. What is your favorite flavor(s) of cake and ice cream?
There's a wonderful little low fat chocolate cake in the T-Factor Diet book. Because it's low in sugar, the chocolate flavor is seriously rich. I like any good chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream.

When I'm not eating the ice cream with cake, Bubblegum is my favorite ice cream flavor.
4. Have you ever completely forgotten the birthday of a family member or friend?
This happened a lot when I was younger. Now I'm pretty disciplined about it. The last family birthday I forgot was daughter-in-law Anne. Her birthday is early January and it seems like by the time I catch my breath after the holidays, I'm late for her birthday. Sorry Anne. I think I've mastered it now.
5. What was the most memorable birthday party you've attended?
Two years ago Mom had a lovely family birthday party at the Black Swan hosted by my brother Dave. Aside from the wonderful food, it was memorable because all of my siblings were there together, something that rarely happens.

And, someone remembered to take pictures. I treasure them and now intend to share.

My mom and my brother. Mom and Dave

Brother Dave is a world famous trumpet maker. Dave's website tells the story.

Since he travels all over the world as part of his profession, he was able to pull off hosting this dinner in a style I can't imagine I would have been able to duplicate if it had been left to me.

My Mom and my female siblingsMom and The Sisters

First, I just have to say that Mom's mouth does NOT look like this. Check out the picture above and the picture below for the way Mom really looks. Sometimes the camera just catches us at a weird moment. Maybe she was in the middle of saying something?

That's Mom in the back row next to me. Since this was taken two summers ago, this was before I lost 40 pounds. I sure didn't lose any weight at this dinner.

In the front row is Sister Carrie on the left and Sister Doris on the right.

Carrie teaches piano in North Carolina and is well know on Seasons of Violet for all the amusing comments she leaves on my posts. She is my most faithful commenter and I love her for it.

I was an only child for almost five years before Doris was born - but I love her anyway. She is a very talented business person. Everytime I try to describe what she does, I get corrected. So here is her company's website.

Mom is an artist. That's one of her paintings in the background.

The four generations of LouisesThe Four Louises

Here is Mom with a real Mom smile. This time it's little Kimmy who was caught with a strange look on her face.

The four generations pictured here all share the middle name Louise.

That's me, Marguerite Louise, peeking over Mom's shoulder. The beautiful woman on my left is my daughter Heather Louise, mother of Kimberly Louise, and granddaughter of the elder Marguerite Louise known as Mom and sometimes Monette.

The four generations of LouisesThe Husbands

My DH (Dear Husband) Bob is on the left and Doris's DH John is on the right. It just didn't feel right not to include them in this photo album.
Mom has another birthday on Friday. Sister Doris and Husband John will be here from Virginia to help celebrate. I'm looking forward to a partial family get together and celebration.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Cancelled Field Trip
Tonight was the evening of the three hour Kalamazoo Nature Center field trip at Bishop's Bog. I was both looking forward to it and dreading it.

I was looking forward to it because we were going to be taught by Emma Pitcher, a local naturalist celebrity, author, and presenter. She's very knowledgeable and I was expecting a fascinating three hours of instruction.

I was dreading it because of the same reasons it got cancelled.

  • The bog is under a foot of water because of all the recent rain.
  • It is very hot and muggy today. To go outside results in sweat, even if you don't exert yourself.
  • There are severe storm warnings for this evening and tonight.
When the Nature Center called to tell me the field trip was cancelled, they also mentioned that Emma is 88 years old.

I understand why Emma didn't want to spend three hours walking around in a steamy flooded bog. I'm almost thirty years her junior and I didn't want to do it today, either. But I wasn't going to be the first one to back out.

Shrek II
If you're going to go see Shrek II, be sure and stay for a very special ending after the credits are done.

When Kimmy and I went last Saturday, we were the only ones still in the theatre when the credits were done - except for the cleaning crew who were wishing we would get out of the way. Kimmy was nervously trying to get me to leave. She didn't believe there was more to see. After all, what does Grandma know?

As she approaches that wonderful age when young people know everything I'm sure to know less and less. Something to look forward to.

Campanula Poscharskyana
Campanula Poscharskyana

I love the bright blue flowers on this Campanula. It likes living at Violet Acres and it's multiplied so we have pockets of it here and there all over the property.

It's a ground hugging, trailing plant which solves the flopping problem I've had with the erect Campanulas.

One of my favorite perennials.

Missing Bloggers
Two of my favorite bloggers have stopped updating their blogs. Kelee, Knitting Princess Warrior and Leslie the Sockotic have both left blogging for other - hopefully good - things that are going on in their lives.

I have reluctantly removed their links from my sidebar.

I wish them well with whatever they're doing. I'll check in once in a while to see if they've started posting again.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Tree swallow nest with six eggs and lots of feathers
Tree Swallow Nest
What an amazing collection of feathers! What a beautiful nest!

The female is still sitting on the six eggs. They are a week overdue to hatch and I'm hoping it is just because of the cold weather we had last week. It's been warm for the past few days, so maybe there will be some hatchlings soon.

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

A description of our Citizen Science assignment is here.

This morning we spent two hours in the fields and woods of the Kalamazoo Nature Center identifying plants. Most of the spring wild flowers are finished now and there really isn't much in bloom. Just having leaves makes identification difficult, so going was slow.

The highlight of the morning was when I grabbed a largish plant at the edge of the path and it turned out to be nettle. That identification was easy. How many plants can set a whole hand throbbing and tingling? I really need to be more careful.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Briarwood Dogs Do the Doo Dah
The Doo Dah Parade is a parade of silliness that goes through downtown Kalamazoo Michigan the first Saturday in June.

This year Briarwood Dog Training marched as the Briarwood Beach Bums.

Sunny is not fond of loud noises and crowds, so Pappy and I left her home and had fun without her.

Here are the promised pictures. These were all taken in the staging area before we started.

Pappy in the staging area.Pappy was a good sport about wearing the Doggles, shirt, and hat.

We had to practice wearing the glasses.

At first he wanted them off! We worked on it for over a week and he got resigned to wearing them. I told him that after the parade he never had to wear them again. Anyone want to buy a slightly used pair of Doggles?

Benson in the staging area.Benson is a Newfoundland puppy. Pappy just met Benson two weeks ago and they've become friends. Pappy doesn't seem to care that Benson is a giant. Scary.

Newfies are known for their drooling. Benson's bib says "Drool is Cool".

I think Benson is cool.

Gracie in the staging area.Gracie is another of Pappy's friends from doggy school.

Looking at Gracie is always good for a smile, even when she's not dressed for the beach.

Favor in the staging area.Favor is trainer Gail's cattledog puppy. He's about six months old and getting ready for his first parade.

There are more amusing Briarwood beach bums in a Picturetrail album along with a few pictures of the group marching down the street. If these pictures made you chuckle, go take a look at the rest of the dogs.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Doo Dah
I'm getting many hits for people looking for information on the Kalamazoo Doo Dah Parade. (According to the parade web site it's spelled Do Dah Parade.)

So, if that's what you are looking for, go here.

Pappy and I have been busy practicing our marching with the Briarwood Beach Bums. Sixteen dogs are going to be in sunglasses and assorted Hawaii beach wear. If you're in the Kalamazoo area, you don't want to miss this parade.

The weather is supposed to be perfect - about 75 F and clear. We're looking forward to being completely silly and having a good time.

Yes, there will be pictures.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I Was Too Quick
I get viruses in my email. Some days I get more than one virus. My Norton 2003 Antivirus software is very important to me.

A few months ago during the big sasser virus scare, I decided I needed a firewall in addition to my Norton. Zone Alarm was highly recommended and free, so I downloaded version 4.5 and installed it. It worked great.

Last week I had a window pop up telling me that Zone Alarm 5.0 was ready for me to download for even greater security. Since I wasn't too busy that day, I downloaded it and installed it, thereby breaking one of my cardinal rules of life: Never be among the first to install a new version of software.

Over the weekend I noticed that I was getting viruses in my mailbox and the Norton window was not popping up saying it took care of them. My incoming email was not getting scanned and my outgoing email was not getting scanned. Very bad.

Today I went to the Zone Alarm website and found that they are having major problems with their new version 5.0 working with major virus protection packages. The fix - uninstall 5.0 and reinstall 4.5.

And, next time don't be in such a hurry.

I Was Too Slow
It's been so cold and rainy that I haven't monitored the nest boxes as often as I would like. It's better for the eggs and birds if the boxes stay shut in weather like this.

It wasn't until this morning that I verified beyond a doubt that the nest in the slotted box was a house sparrow nest, and one of the eggs had hatched. I left it and came back to the house. I don't wince at throwing out sparrow eggs, but killing a baby bird goes against the grain.

According to the North American Bluebird Society

"It is the responsibility of every nest box trail operator to ensure that no house sparrows fledge from their boxes. It is better to have no nest box than to have one which fledges sparrows."
I forced myself to remember the carnage I found a few years ago when a house sparrow killed and beheaded a beautiful male bluebird in order to claim the bluebird's nest box. This evening I went back to the nest box, removed the sparrow nest with two hatchlings, and set it on the ground for the blue racer's dinner. It had to be done.

House Sparrows Are Not Real Sparrows
The common sparrow that we call house sparrow or English sparrow is not really a sparrow at all. It's a member of the weaver finch family. They were brought to this country from England in 1853 and have agressively displaced many native songbirds.

There are twenty species of real sparrows in Michigan. At Violet Acres we have chipping sparrows, song sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, and probably others. They are beautiful little birds with a happy song. I love seeing them. And, if I were to see their nest, I would protect it.