Tuesday, June 27, 2006

After a wonderful trip to Idaho, I came back to very sad doings at home.

My first husband, the father of my children, died Sunday.

For anyone interested, son John wrote a beautiful blog entry here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Note: Part of this post was originally posted on Seasons of Violet, December 8, 2003. Additions, including pictures, have been made.

I'm on vacation but I'd still love to read your comments.

Ant Protector Turns Violent
When I was a child, I was a total insect pacifist. Insects were wonderful, had their place in nature, and should not be killed.

At about ten years of age, I founded the "Ant Protectors Club" whose futile mission was to prevent people from stepping on ants. Even through the club had two catchy mottos, I failed in recruiting more members and it was a lonely enterprise.

Ant Protector Club mottos:
How would you like it if somebody stepped on your house?

Don't, don't, don't kill ants 'cause you might need them some day!

I'm still fascinated with the insect world and try not to interfere with nature. However, we live a wooded swamp and some species specific insect warfare has replaced my total insect pacifism.

We believe that our house sits over the world's largest and heartiest ant hill. The ants come into the house from every direction and can be found in every room. We are hesitant to use nuclear force and nothing else seems to work. To keep the population in check we use borax based poison that the ants take back to their nest. It cuts back on the numbers but never completely eliminates the colony as advertised.

These are little ants and they bite. It's amazing how hard a tiny little ant can bite. I do not hesitate to murder the little ant who bites me.

DH Bob is freaked out by spiders. I'm not overly fond of them either. Outdoors we leave them in peace. Once they cross the threshold we assume they've declared war and we whap to kill.

In the fall when it starts to get chilly, the spiders line up outside our door to get into the warmth of the house. I think Bob is whapping before they cross the threshold, but I don't want to know about it.

Other insects are gently removed from the house and put back outdoors. We assume that is where they would rather be and we don't require them to pay for their mistake with their life. The exception is the blood sucking insects. They don't even have to come in the house to get killed.

Mosquitoes are a no-brainer. They get whapped whenever and wherever we can whap them.

In April and May we have blackflies. They hatch in the cold, fast flowing water of the creek that runs through our acreage. Then they bite. They inject a chemical so you can't feel them and they suck on your blood. I'm allergic to their bites and I swell and itch for several weeks after being bitten. Even cortisone doesn't help.

Wood tick on my hand In June and July we have wood ticks. Ticks are slow about finding a place to bite. They like to crawl around on you for a while and select the best spot. It's usually possible to remove them before they initiate their blood feast.

Before ticks start sucking they are flat, hard, and difficult to kill. A good whap doesn't even phase them. After a tick starts sucking blood and bloating up, you don't want to whap them. They explode and splat blood all over and it's very gross. If the tick was not detached before exploding, it is more difficult to detach after exploding.

After fifteen tick seasons, I'm very good at removing embedded ticks. My preferred method is to use the Ticked Off tick remover, but I am capable of doing it with my bare hands if necessary. I read somewhere that ticks hate water, so, bloated or unbloated, I delight in flushing them down the toilet.

Deer fly biting my kneeIn July and August, we have deer flies. Or, as the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University calls them, "little sabres of pain."

They dive onto their victim and immediately CHOMP! Ouch!

The result is a red welt resembling a mosquito bite. The welts don't itch and they don't last long, it's just that initial, painful CHOMP that makes deer flies one of the worse bloodsucking insect pests we have here.

I view them as one of God's annual reminders that we live in a fallen world.

Actual blood was lost and pain suffered to bring you this picture of a deer fly biting my knee. Am I a dedicated blogger, or what?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Note: This post was originally posted on Seasons of Violet, May 24, 2004. Minor changes and/or updates have been made.

I'm on vacation but I'd still love to read your comments.

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 (now fifteen) 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.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

M is for Mom's Birthday
ABC Along Button

Mom This is my Mom. This year we're celebrating her birthday in Idaho where she is meeting her Great-granddaughter Sydeny for the fist time.

Happy Birthday Mom! It's a pleasure to be traveling with you on this special day.

We share the same name, Marguerite Louise. Check out Mom's blog post on how her mother named her. While you're there, wish her a Happy Birthday in her comments.

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. That's because we are both intelligent and both think very differently.

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.
  • Dance!
    (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!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

IdahoToday is packing day and the day to do all those little things that need to be done before leaving home for eight days.

Tomorrow is getting up at 4 am, leaving the house at 5:15 am to pick up my Mom and catch a 7:15 am plane for Idaho from the Kalamazoo airport.

This trip will be the first time Mom has met her Great-Granddaughter Sydney.

If I find time to sit at son John's computer for a few minutes, there will be posts while I'm gone. I have four posts ready to publish including one showing off Mom's birthday socks. Her birthday is Sunday the 18th and we're celebrating with bunch at the Coeur d'Alene Resort.

How time flies. I was looking at my 100 Things About Me and found this entry:

My son and daughter-in-law's first child is due in April, 2005. She will be my second grandchild and I wish we lived closer.
The exact reason I'm headed for Idaho! Sydney is 14 months old now and this is my sixth trip to visit. Trips to Idaho have become an enjoyable habit.

I didn't link the 100 Things because I'm updating them. I'll publish them as a post when they're finished.

Monday, June 12, 2006

L is for Lady Slipper
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Note: This post was originally posted on May 21, 2005 titled Blogging the Bogging.

I couldn't resist repeating it for the L entry in the ABC Along. Hope you don't mind.

Boardwalk going through the wetness of Bishop's BogA beautiful sunny day in May, the perfect time to go admire the orchids in the bog. Luanne and I met at the Westnedge Street entrance.

Bishop's Bog is the largest (145 acres) relic bog in southern Michigan. Since it's in the City of Portage, the Portage Parks Department has provided a 1.75 mile walkway through the bog. I'm glad I don't pay taxes in Portage, but kindly thank those who do.

The walkway is great. It's made of hollow plastic and is somehow suspended on top of the water. When we walked on it, water shoot up through the holes in the plastic in spurts sometimes as high as our heads. We tried to reduce the squirt effect by not walking together. I'm sure it helped a little.

There was slippery mud on part of the walkway. We went slow and careful so as not to end up on our butts - or even worse, on our butts in the water.

Eventually the water with depth turns into very spongy soil, mostly covered with moss. I don't think it was walkable. We didn't try.

Pink Ladys Slipper Orchid in Bishop's BogAbout a half mile into the bog is the Pink Lady Slipper Orchid patch, what we came to see. And we weren't disappointed. We spotted dozens of the beauties, and some were close enough to the walkway so we could see every detail.

We also spotted a few Pitcher Plants, but they were not in bloom. The Pitcher Plants have leaves shaped like a pitcher and they hold water. Insects crawl into the pitcher leaves, get caught by the tiny hairs inside, fall into the water and the plant digests them.

Two Lady Slipper orchids getting ready to bloomMany of the orchids were still in bud stage, not fully bloomed. I thought the pre-bloom was just as pretty as the full bloom.

There is more information, a beautiful orchid picture, and detailed instructions on how to find Bishop's Bog here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Followup on Goat and Dumbbell
The Goat
Head of the nanny goat who lives next doorThe neighbor goat I referred to as Mr. Goat here, is really Miss Goat.

Maybe now that I've insulted her, she'll stay in her own yard.

Doggy Dumbbell
Pappy wishing the dumbbell would disappearI wrote a post here, complete with pictures of woeful looking dogs, about how my two little dogs were flunking dumbbell training at doggy school. Both of them hate the dumbbell in their mouth.

Pappy resisted dumbbell with all his will. When forced, he would get so upset he didn't enjoy the rest of the class. He is otherwise well behaved and eager to please.

Pappy is a rescue dog with major scars. He's at least eight years old. We've had him for almost four years. He didn't have a nice life before he came to live with us and I couldn't justify making him do something he hates just to say he could do it.

Or, as my husband succinctly put it, "We didn't rescue him so we could torture him."

Now when Pappy's class does dumbbell, Pappy happily jumps the hurdle without a dumbbell.

Sunny was making a little better progress than Pappy, but she dropped back to the Intermediate class when she was diagnosed with spondylosis. The class she's in now doesn't do dumbbell.

Sunny has not dropped the dumbbell at my feet asking why we don't do it anymore.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

K is For Kalamazoo Do-Dah Parade

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The first weekend in June (today), Kalamazoo kicks off the downtown summer season with a large outdoor art fair, a Greek festival, and the Do-Dah Parade. The Do-Dah Parade is billed as "a parade of silliness down the main streets of the city", and that it is.

One of the crowd favorites this year was the Briarwood All American Canine Capers starring my Pappy and many of his doggy school friends dressed in patriotic finery and looking pretty silly.

Ramon the poodle all clipped and painted to be patrioticRamon the standard poodle singing the Star Spangled Banner in the staging area.

Gail and Favor before the paradeDoggy teacher Gail and her Australian cattle dog Favor waiting for our turn to take off down the streets of Kalamazoo.

Pappy before the paradePappy is at least eight years old and I was concerned about his ability to walk over a mile on the warm pavement. Plan B was to pick him up and carry him if he started looking weary.

He had a great time and walked the whole way. When it was over, we hustled into the car, turned on the air conditioning and drove to Wendy's where he got his parade reward kiddy hamburger.

Briarwood All American Canine Capers on paradeOut on the parade route Denise led us in some interesting marching maneuvers. The crowd was too busy looking at the dogs to notice what we were doing.

Pappy sleeping upside down in the chairPappy has been sleeping ever since we got home. I had a little nap, too.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Miss Manners, Where Are You?
Vern's goat eating through the fenceOur neighbor's goat wishes he lived at our house. I don't know why. In this picture he is eating our weeds through the fence.

Our big dog Glory hates it when Mr. Goat comes near our property.

Mr. Goat doesn't care what Glory thinks. He will even stand on his hind legs and drape his upper body over the fence to see if he can make Glory bark.

We're trying to teach Glory good manners. She is not allowed to bark at the goat - and she doesn't when we're close enough to scold her. But when she thinks we're not listening, Glory tells Mr. Goat just what she thinks of him.

This is the same goat who caused the big fight last month. He has a big yard. We really wish he would stay in the other side of it.

Now that I've repeatedly called him Mr. Goat, I have to admit I could have been fooled by the goatee. She could be Miss Goat.

Yes, I do know how to tell the difference. I just haven't looked in the right place yet.

Sydney eating pasta with her handsGranddaughter Sydney is learning to enjoy adult food.

She is also learning how to feed herself. She's got the hang of it as long as she doesn't have to use a utensil.

Only two more weeks and I'm headed back to Idaho to give her a big hug and kiss.