Category Archives: birds

Memories of Grandma-Part 1

We all have memories from our childhood of what a grandma is. The type of grandmother I am is nothing like what my grandmothers were. Grandmas like them no longer exist.

My grandmothers were of the era where women stayed home, and when at home wore a full apron. They were excellent cooks and always made sure they fed everyone who visited.  When you walked in the door, they were always happy to see you.

That is where the similarities in my two grandmother’s end. They were each special in their own way, but so very different.

My Maternal Grandmother

Grace DeVries Hilts was born May 3, 1899 and grew up one of 10 children. Her parents and some of her siblings were born in the Netherlands. Grandma was born in Jamestown, Michigan. Her mother died shortly after childbirth and her father married the family housekeeper.

Grandma did not get along with her stepmother and married the first man who asked her. She was 18 years old on August 11, 1917 when she took her wedding vows to Ralph Hilts in Hershey Michigan.

I have fond memories of my grandfather, but his stature in life was far below what my grandmother’s had been. I’m sure the early years of their marriage were most likely difficult.

Grandpa was a hardworking man and together they built a life, raising two boys and later my mother. When my mother was born her brothers were already 19 and 23.  

My grandmother was 61 years old when I was born and she became my babysitter. Both my parents were employed full time in Traverse City, and because of the distance from their home in town to the farm, I essentially lived with my grandparents the first 2-3 years of my life.

My parents would drop me off at the farm on Sunday night, visit me on Wednesday evening, and pick me up on Friday night. Because of the time I spent at their home, I developed a very close bond with my grandparents, especially my grandmother.

Memories of things that were part of my life as a toddler have stayed with me for life.

Front Porch Sitting

My love of large front porches probably started with Grandma. I remember sitting on the large farm house porch as the sun was going down. We would watch children playing across the street, but we never talked to them, and they never came over.

The people across the street lived in a large barn and were referred to as “the cherry pickers.” I now realize they were Mexican migrant workers. They would arrive in Traverse City every summer to harvest the cherries.

We also sat on that porch during the day, and Grandma would give me the glass saltshaker off the kitchen table. She told me that if I could sneak up on a bird and get salt on its tail that it would not be able to fly.

Oh, how I tried to get salt on those tails, but I never accomplished that task. I wonder how much salt I put on Grandma’s front lawn. Thinking back Grandma must have found it quite entertaining to watch me try to tiptoe up on a bird, knowing perfectly well that the bird was far more keen then my young mind realized.

Doing Laundry

My grandmother had a ringer washer. Once the clothes had been washed and rinsed, each item had to be run through a ringer to squeeze the water out before being hung on the clothes line to dry.

My most vibrant memory of that machine is when my younger sister stuck her arm in the ringer, and it sucked her arm in and got stuck. Carol screamed and my mother slammed her hand down on a quick release, popping the ringer open. I’m not sure who was more scared, my sister who was stuck or me watching the entire scenario.

When the clothes were washed and rung out, they were carried out to hang on the wash line. I had my own little laundry basket and clothes pins.

A low wash line was strung for me at the end between two poles. That is where I had the task of hanging small items such as wash clothes. A very important task for a two year old.

Down on the Farm

It was a farm and chores had to be done. I remember going into the hen house with my grandmother and taking the eggs out from under the chickens.

I also remember she let me carry the egg basket back into the house – that was gutsy!  I guess when the eggs are available daily if I broke a few it was no big deal. 

We also fed the chickens. I’m not sure what Grandma gave them, but I remember it was in a pan and she would throw it over the top of what to me seemed like a super high fence. For years I wondered how she did that, but now realize it probably wasn’t as high my memory makes it out to be.

Grandma had a few rows of raspberry bushes, and I could go out and pick all the raspberries I wanted to eat. To this day I love fresh raspberries. I wonder if I got my love of other fresh fruit and vegetables from my time with my grandparents.

At night we would call the cows. I can still here her saying “Come Bessy, Come Bessy, Come Bessy Come.”  The next thing you would see is the cows walking over the hill and heading to the fence where we stood.

  • With Grandma Pre-Christmas 1961
  • Grandma with my Mother and cousins
  • Grandma and Grandpa
  • My maternal and paternal grandparents on my parent's wedding day
  • My grandma in 1982 - 83 years old
  • Grandma, I am standing and my sister is on the pony
  • My high school graduation in 1978 with my two grandmothers
  • Grandma in November 1964 - 65 years old
  • Grandma and her son/my uncle, Lee Hilts
  • With Grandma on my wedding day, September 12, 1981 - she was 82

Going to Get the Paper

While memories of my grandfather are not as strong, there was one daily activity I loved, and that was going to get the paper. He had to drive to a small store or gas station to pick it up.

This was before seat belts and car seats were used. I remember sitting in the center of the front seat, and as we drove he would let me push all the buttons on the radio. Then when we got to the store, I could look inside a chest freezer and pick out an ice cream or Popsicle. A simple routine that holds fond memories.

I also liked walking the garden with him when he would pick the tomato worms off the plants and drop them into a can. I don’t know what was in the can, but it couldn’t have been good because they died.

Another memory of my grandfather is being in his garage with him. He kept beer out there, tucked behind his toolboxes. He would pull one out and pop it open to drink it.

Thinking back that is the only place I ever saw him drink anything alcoholic. Beer was never kept in the house. My grandmother did not drink at all, so I don’t know if she opposed having it in the house or if he simply did that out of respect for her.

The Move From the Farm

As they aged my grandparents sold the farm. Even though we weren’t there often, they had kept a pony for my sister and I to ride when we visited. That would be no more.

They moved into two-story home on a smaller piece of property when I was a child. It was next to a cherry orchard. It was from there that I first saw the automatic cherry pickers.

I still remember the disappointment I felt seeing that machine violently shake the tree so the cherry’s would fall. I felt bad that the Mexican cherry pickers would no longer be climbing the trees with their buckets to harvest the crops.

While living in that house my grandfather passed away. I was in 9th grade when he died, and Grandma would move again. She moved to a house next to my aunt and uncle’s home.

Grandma didn’t drive, so I’m sure this made things more convenient for her, plus it was a ranch style, so easier to navigate. It did have one wonderful feature, a mini orchard behind it filled with an assortment of sour cherry, sweet cherry, plum and peach trees. A fruit lovers paradise!

Habits I learned and Things I Didn’t Learn

My mother always said I have traits of my grandmother that I probably acquired while living with her. One of those was the fact that I don’t easily share my feelings. I keep things to myself.  I think over the years I have become more open, but I still walk a cautious line in that area.

I used to do a lot of embroidery, and I now have my grandmother’s embroidery basket. I remember my mother saying I make my stitches just like Grandma, tiny and precise.

One thing I didn’t learn and wish I had is how to tat. Grandma put tatting on the edge of everything she embroidered. Dresser scarves and pillow cases all were edged with tatting.

When it came to cooking, Grandma made the best beef and noodles. I never learned how. I remember my mother making it one time and I told her they weren’t as good as Grandma’s. She never made them again. I wish I knew how Grandma made them.

If I Could Go Back

If I could go back and spend just one more day with Grandma, what a wonderful day it would be. I would get up and not get dressed, just so I could hear her say one more time “get your duds on.” 

I would enjoy watching her cook breakfast. I don’t know how she could prepare a full serving plate of over-easy eggs, never breaking a yoke going into the pan or onto the plate.

I would sit in the kitchen and observe her laying an antique curling iron over the stove burner to warm it up before curling her hair so we could go to town. Of course she would change into her “going to town dress” because a house dress wasn’t proper. Once we got home she would immediately change out of that dress and back into her house dress, placing a full apron over it.

I would enjoy the orange slice candies out of the candy dish on the coffee table. They are still one of my favorite candies. I would also grab a couple Windmill Cookies from the depression glass cookie jar that sat on the end of the kitchen table.

My foot would quietly work the peddle on her sewing machine up and down, amazed that she used to sew clothing on that old treadle machine. My mother said when I was little Grandma could look at me, take a piece of fabric and freehand cut a dress, sew it, and it would fit me perfectly.

I would sit and watch the goldfish inside the glass fishbowl that sits in a wobbly, antique metal fishbowl stand next to her chair. She enjoyed sitting and watching them.

At the end of the day Grandma and I would sit on the front porch as the sun goes down. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning, red sky at night, sailor’s delight.

I would watch Grandma standing in the drive waving as I backed down the drive, one last time.

Grandma died on February 11, 1988, one month after my son was born. I have always regretted not making the drive north so she could see her great-grandson prior to her death. Grandma’s health had been deteriorating following a stroke. My mother said she thought Grandma held just on long enough to know that I and my son, Patrick, were fine.

I hope you enjoyed reading about memories of my maternal grandmother. Watch for my upcoming Memories of Grandma–Part 2, which is about the memories I have of my paternal Grandma, Louse Elizabeth Lautner King.

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Filed under birds, children, Family, farm, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Loved by Wildlife

While I have only been living in an RV for a little over a month, Paul has been enjoying this life for a year now and has shared some wildlife dilemmas he has encountered.   Depending on where in the story you are, the experiences can be perceived as frustrating or funny, possible even fearful and confusing for the creatures involved.

The first incident was when Paul was staying in a campsite and continuously heard something running back and forth on the top of his motor home.  He could not figure out what any creature would find so entertaining as to scamper back and forth, but didn’t really give it much thought.

Then one day a fellow campground tenant asked Paul if he realized that a squirrel had built a nest on the top of his slide.  Now this is a sheltered location, as the slide has a built in canopy over it.  Paul got up on a ladder and looked at the top of the slide.  The nest was positioned in the middle of the slide, and he could tell it was about two feet wide and no idea how deep.  Now how to reach it?

Paul had a long-handled squeegee and decided that would do the trick.  Standing on the top of the ladder he reached the squeegee in as far as possible and pulled the nest toward him, letting it fall to the ground.  He repeated this process several times until as much of the nest as he could reach fell to the ground.  He then moved the latter to the other end of the slide and repeated the process.

After he had removed the nest one of the observers mentioned that when it fell to the ground baby squirrels had run away from it.  One of the campground workers when and got a shovel and scooped up all the nest debris and disposed of it elsewhere.    Now the question was, how had the squirrel gotten up onto the roof of the motor home, as there were no trees nearby.  Paul heard the sound on his roof again and went out to observe.

The squirrel was climbing up and down the ladder on the back of his RV.  He said the mother squirrel looked to be in a big of a panic, running back and forth, looking all over as if to say “where is my home?”  and “where are my babies?”   Despite the fact that the nest had to be removed for him to bring the slide in and move to the next location, I had to feel sorry for the poor mother squirrel who thought she had built a safe haven for her little family and it was now missing.

Now we move to fluttered friends.   A nest with eggs was found on one of the support arms for one of the slides and was removed, then on at least two other occasions birds built nests on the lower portion of the slides.   One bird was unintentionally suicidal.  As we were getting ready to leave after the jeep was parked less than 48 hours a bird had built a nest on the top of his front passenger side tire — and it was tightly muddied to the tire!   It was removed before we drove off.  Can you imagine the shock of all those birds who had found what they considered an ideal place to construct their homes, only to return and have them totally gone.

This makes me wonder, why is this RV and Jeep so loved by wildlife?   With trees nearby why select a man-made object over nature?    It will be interesting to see what other creatures may be attracted to our motor home as we traverse the U.S. and Canada.

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Filed under backyard, birds, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, travel

Don’t Overlook Life’s Small Joys

Quotes have a way of making you think, of getting you to take a step back and analyze things.  If you have been a reader of my blog for a while then you know that quotes frequently pop up as a topic for my blogs.  When life is especially stressful applying the thoughts in this simple quote I found can bring peace to an overly processed world.

Watch a sunrise once a year…..there is something absolutely beautiful about getting out of bed and watching the sun peak over the horizon in the morning.  This is especially true if you are near a body of water.  It is a refreshingly positive way to start the day.  Sunsets are beautiful as well, but if it has been a while since you’ve watched the sun rise, set the alarm and partake in the experience.   Refreshing!

Put marshmallows in your hot chocolate……this seems so ordinary.  So “take off the chill” normal happening in fall or winter.  Then it occurred to me that as I got older I would make a cup of instant hot chocolate, but somewhere along the line I stopped dropping in the marshmallows.  Forgo the whipped cream that has become commonplace, or worse the “naked” chocolate without any fattening additives, and go back to your youth.  Enjoy a few marshmallows melting in your hot chocolate.  Yummy!

Lie on your back and look at the stars…..remember being a child, laying on the ground and looking up at the stars, amazed at the pure beauty and wonder of them.  What a peaceful way to enjoy the nighttime sky.  So many of us live in the city hustle and bustle where there are always lights and we forget to look up at the beauty of the night sky.   As you are walking into your house after dark take the time to look up and enjoy glimmer of the moon and stars above you.  Heavenly!

Never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on…..being that I haven’t owned a coffee table in about thirty-seven years, I can’t say too much in this area.  I think this message has more to do with being comfortable your own home.   My parents always had a coffee table which held things like coasters, display pieces such as an antique photo viewer, or large coffee table books, but never a person’s feet!   As I prepare to downsize and move I am considering re-purposing my mother’s Lane cedar chest (the old fashioned hope chest) into a coffee table.  It would be convenient for storing afghans in the living room and could serve dual purpose as a coffee table.  Of course having owned reclining couches for several years, the idea of a coffee table may be defunct if I continue with that type of furniture.  At the same time the idea of a traditional couch with a table in front has its appeal.  Comfy!

Never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline…..to me this says experience life, be adventurous.  While some of us may be able to climb onto and jump on a trampoline, others may not have the physical ability to do so.  Don’t let small limitations hold you back from what you can do.   Go forth and try new things, take risks.  Live life to the fullest and never pass up the opportunity to try something new.  Exhilarating!

Don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for big ones…..this is something way too many of us do, especially when young and career oriented, which often overlaps with the time-filled days of raising children.  We get our mind set on not just keeping up with, but also exceeding “the Jones’s,” and in doing so miss out on a lot of life’s simple pleasures.   If you find yourself caught up in the rush-rush lifestyle a good way to rejuvenate is to take a walk with a child, or better yet spend an afternoon with one.  They will take you on an adventure of all the things you have forgotten to enjoy.  The pleasure of blowing bubbles, watching a butterfly, gathering stones from a beach, stomping in mud puddles, gathering fall leaves, the smell of flowers, the rustle of the wind in the trees, the joy of watching birds, or even playing with your shadow.  Relaxing!

I hope each of you reading this will take the time to do not only these things, but others that will bring you peace of mind and relaxation from the every day stresses of life.

Watch a Sunrise Once a Year

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, backyard, birds, children, Coping, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, flowers, habit, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spring, summer, winter

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

Husband, Marsh, and Porta-Potty Challenges

Before heading onto the  boardwalk of Magee Marsh Ron and I made a pit-stop at the gift shop area.  Because hours are spent walking the boardwalk, taking pictures and observing birds I made a trip to the porta-potty while Ron headed to the gift shop.  The difference, this year I was prepared for the porta-potty challenge, at least I thought I was.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan
Copyright 2015

Last year I pulled out a sheet of toilet paper and notice a “shadow” on it, and turning it over discovered a huge black bug on the backside that scared the crap out of me (well, not literally), causing me to throw the toilet paper on the floor.  This year I pulled out a strip of paper and checked it over very carefully.  I was happy to find it bug-free.  I then watched a small spider come down from the ceiling and land on my purse, which I had carefully hung on the sanitizer dispenser.  Of course the dropping of the spider led me to look up, where I spotted a large spider on the ceiling.  Does the Magee Marsh porta-potty dislike me?  Can’t I use it without a bug problem coming up?  Apparently not.  The sacrifices of a photographer who needs to utilize the facilities before heading out to capture some bird shots.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan
Copyright 2015

I exit the porta-potty and enter to gift-shop where my husband, Ron, had gone.  He is standing in the check-out line when he sees me come in the door and immediately says “would you like a T-Shirt?”

He is purchasing a large poster and a T-shirt.  Where does he plan to put the poster?  We have no available wall space left.  His answer “I’ll take something down.”

Great!  I wonder what item gets demoted for the promotion of poster showing the various types of Warblers.  Time will tell, because he’ll have to get it framed first.  Now the T-shirt, whenever I see a new one of those come into the house or in his hands to purchase I just laugh.  Why?  Because the man could probably wear a different T-shirt for the next 90-120 days before having to do laundry.  Granted a few of them may be showing their wear, have paint on them or a few holes, but for the most part they are good, nothing wrong with them T-shirts from various places and festivities.  However, we would not want him to feel deprived of a Bird Week shirt from Magee Marsh, so the purchase was made.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Magee Marsh is located in Ohio and is a great place for photographers and bird watchers. It is where Warblers gather each spring before flying over Lake Erie on their migration north in the spring.  Unfortunately we were a bit early and there weren’t many birds at the location yet.  It was a nice, warm day on the boardwalk, and if you look around you can usually find things to photograph, such as moss growing on a log, or a turtle sunning himself in the sun.

There are two kinds of people you find at the Marsh this time of year.  The photographers, like Ron and I, with our camera’s and large lenses to capture photographs or the true bird watchers who are carrying bird books, check lists, and binoculars.  Both are friendly groups, so a nice mixture to share space with.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

About half way around the marsh my bad ankle started causing me problems, with pain shooting from the ankle up to the knee.  We were almost at the end when my wonderful husband did his best to take my mind off the sore, swollen and throbbing ankle.  As I was standing with my back to him, sore foot off the ground and one hand holding the boardwalk rail for balance, Ron swung his camera around to take a photograph of a bird up in a tree.  Sounds simple and uneventful, doesn’t it?  Only one glitch, in the process he clobbers me in the back of the head with his 150-500mm lens,  I hear an “oops” and he is off and shooting.  Luckily the head only hurt for a few minutes after I hobbled my way to the end of the boardwalk and sat down on a bench to wait for him to finish.

We get in the car, and as we start to roll down the long exit road from the Marsh I look at him and say “For future reference, hitting me in the back of the head with your camera lens did not draw my attention away from my sore ankle.”

Ron has it duly noted, but makes no guarantees it won’t happen again.  Such is life with a photographer, the shot must come first, but as I am also a photographer I understand the process.

Photographs by Grace Grogan are available for sale on Fine Art America.

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Filed under birds, bugs, nature, Photography

Chicken Coop Captive

Bundled up in insulated overalls and a winter jacket, Lucinda lifts the gallon size bucket.  The water sloshes back and forth as she trudges across the yard, head bent down against the bitter cold and wind.  The walls of the chicken coop provide little refuge from the cold as she pours water into containers for the chickens.

WHAMP!  The entire building shakes as the door to the coop slams shut, dropping the latch closed in the process.  Lucinda tries to open the door and realizes she is trapped.  Chicken coop doors latch from the outside, not the inside.

Lucinda peers out the window toward her house.  Andrew is inside watching the football game on TV.  Surely he will realize she is gone longer than usual and come looking for her….or will he?  It is a good game and he isn’t likely to leave his chair until it is over.  This could be a long wait, the game isn’t due to end for over an hour.  Chicken - Crazy Chicken Lady

Thankful she had at least put on warm clothes, Lucinda contemplates her options as a captive in a chicken coop.  There is the small hatch door that the chickens go in and out.  Maybe she could slip out of the coop that way.  It could be kind of tricky.  Should she go feet first or head first?  Slide out on her stomach or on her back?  So many decisions when planning an escape.

Of course the size of the hatch could prove a challenge.  What if she gets partway out and gets stuck?    How long would she have to remain there, wedged half in/half out of the coop before Andrew discovered her?  Would the two of them be able to free her?  Would they have to call and wait for a rescue team?

If a rescue team has to be called, would the local news pick it up on a scanner and arrive to capture the live story of the chicken coop captive.  Good grief, would she ever live such a news story down?  The stupidity of the human race is always great for human interest articles.  Maybe the hatch escape idea isn’t such a great one after all.  Maybe some good solid female bonding with a brood of chickens is the better option.

WHAMP!  A blast of arctic air somehow managed to dislodge the latch and blew the door back open.  FREEDOM!  Lucinda decided to make a break for it.  After all, the opportunity might be short lived.  The chickens were  quite hospitable during her short visit, but the idea of an extended stay was not on her list of things to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Closing the door firmly behind her as she enters the warmth of their home,  Lucinda looks at her husband, still relaxing in front of the TV.  Didn’t he realize she had been gone longer than normal?  How long would he have waited before coming to check on her?

Andrew contemplated Lucinda ‘s experience as a chicken coop captive before he responded “Oh, I would of figured out something was wrong when the chicken (for dinner) was done and you were not back inside.”

Chicken Coop - Miss Him Sometimes.Typical man, the brain goes to food and a growling stomach would have finally keyed him into the fact that his wife was missing in action.  Better not go out to tend the chickens immediately after consuming a meal, the wait for a rescue could take hours!

Safety Tips for Chicken Coop Care:
1.  Wear insulated outer wear to protect yourself from the elements.
2.  Carry a cell phone to call for assistance as needed.
3.  Go at a time when your husband may become hungry and realize you are missing.
4.  Make sure you tell your friends and family about any mishaps so they can later share your story with others.

This is based on a true story, names of the couple have been changed to protect their privacy. 

 

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Filed under backyard, birds, Family, farm

Uninhabited and Unconnected

This past weekend I had the fun of staying on an uninhabited island with my sister and two female cousins. It is a unique experience, something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.

There is something about being away from everything and unconnected from the world — no TV, no radio, no telephone (cell phones only worked down by the water, not in the lodge), no electricity, no indoor plumbing except for non-consumable water at the kitchen sink, no air conditioning, no street lights, no cars, no other humans on a 263 acre island.  There is an operating lighthouse and you may see ships and other boats passing in the distance  on Lake Huron.   It is a peaceful existence.

Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island. Photo by Grace Grogan

Our journey began at a boat dock in Alpena, Michigan.  It is there that Captain Mike met us.  He loaded our luggage and coolers packed with food for the weekend onto a boat and transported us 2-1/2 miles out to Middle Island.   The Middle Island Keepers’ Lodge where we stayed is a former U.S. Coast Guard foghorn building that has been transformed into a beautiful and comfortable lodge.   The lodge is a 2/3 mile walk from the boat dock down a trail through the woods.  Captain Mike loads up and transports all luggage to the lodge for you.  If you are unable to make the walk you can hitch a ride in the small 4-wheel vehicle he keeps there for providing luggage transport.

Walking from the boat dock to the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking from the boat dock to the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ready to begin our adventure in true fashion, we all elected to make the walk.  On the journey we walked past a more rustic cabin that is also available for rent on the island, and another trail that leads down to where there is a sinkhole in Lake Huron.  The trail to the lodge is peaceful and quiet, the perfect beginning to our weekend.   Once everyone has arrived at the lodge and the luggage is unloaded Captain Mike gives a tour of the lodge and shows everyone how to operate the propane lighting inside the lodge and the propane heated shower out on the deck.    While we get settled in Captain Mike goes out to cut and deliver firewood to the campfire area down on the beach.    Captain Mike then leaves us on the island and will return on Sunday to provide us with the opportunity to tour and climb the lighthouse before transporting us back to the mainland.

The dining area of the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The dining area of the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

The lodge is roomy and comfortable with a large modern kitchen.  The range and refrigerator/freezer are powered by propane.  There is running water in the sink that can be used for washing dishes, bottled water is provided for human consumption.  The sink and shower water is pumped in from Lake Huron.  A comfortable dining area, a couch and two chairs, plus a bar area with four stools provides plenty of seating.

In the main area there are propane wall-mounted lights.  A small free-standing fireplace is there for use in cooler months, but there was no need to use it during our stay.  Large windows, a front door, back door and sliding door provide plenty of cross ventilation to keep the cabin comfortable.   For families there is a loft accessible by ladder that holds another table and chairs, a single bed and bunk beds, making this an ideal family retreat.  For eating and socializing there is a picnic table on the grass out the “back” door, a table and four chairs on the back deck, and a bench and washline on the main entrance deck where the shower is located.  Even the porta-potty just off the main deck area is clean and contains a battery operated light for nighttime use.

Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach. Photo by Grace Grogan

As the golden hour approached we ventured down to the beach and fire pit area to light a fire and watch the sunset.  The beaches here are not sand, they are covered in limestone/shale rock.  As we watch the sunset over Lake Huron we notice that a huge flock of seagulls nest on a strip of land that juts out into the lake, and they periodically take off in large groups for a moment before once again landing on their nesting area.

As night falls we are able to watch the lighthouse come to life, with its beacon reflecting into the water.   Without the distortion of city lights the sky is pitch black and the stars are crystal clear.  A beautiful sight.    Our flashlights came in handy making the walk back up from the fire pit to our lodge.   When you are used to always having some form of unnatural lighting around it is amazing how absolutely pitch black nighttime is.

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

You may think you sleep soundly, but when there is absolutely no sound except the distant sound of waves on the beach you learn how soundly you really can sleep.  I live on a state highway and am used to sleeping with the sounds of cars going by off and on all night, plus the vibration of ships going up and down the river and the occasional sound of their fog horns.  On Middle Island when you go to bed and there is no sound.  Quietness envelopes you into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Our first night on the island we stayed up late socializing, but Saturday night we made sure we went to bed at the reasonable hour of midnight and set an alarm to watch the sunrise Sunday morning over Lake Huron.  I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but that was a beautiful and peaceful sight as well.  The sun rose at approximately 6:08 am and there was only one lone sailboat out on the water at that time of morning.   A sight definitely worth rousting yourself out of bed early for.

Sunrise over Lake Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunrise over Lake Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

What do you do on an uninhabited island?  Spend time talking to people, really talking without the interference of tv, computers and text messaging.  Read a book or the newspaper articles that Captain Mike keeps on hand that tell about the island and special events that have happened there.  A small selection of games, puzzle books, and cards are on hand.  Read the journal books that people have written notes in talking about their stay on the island.  Everyone loves the time they have spent on the island and there are repeat visitors who have made journal entries over the years during each visit.  One thing is certain, everyone enjoys their time spent on Middle Island.  That was one of our Sunday activities, each of us wrote our own short paragraph about our stay on the island, and it was fun to read each entry.  Although the majority of our time was spent together as a group, our thoughts and experience the things that inspired us about the island, varied slightly.

Walking the trails on Middle Island.  Photo by Grace Groan

Walking the trails on Middle Island. Photo by Grace Groan

If you are physically able to do so do not miss out on walking the trail on the island.  Allow about four hours and take a water bottle with you.  If you have any physical challenges a walking stick or in my case, a cane are also important…and don’t forget to take your camera.  This is mostly a walk through the woods, but there are areas were Lake Huron is visible, and you will encounter nature in various aspects.  I personally could have done without walking my face into a few spider webs, or the large daddy-long-legged spider that I noticed crawling on my chest, but those things are minor compared to the beauty of nature experienced throughout the walk.  Huge butterflies, live snails, and spiders spinning webs were some of the things viewed.  The sound of birds singing up in the trees provided beautiful background music.  We were told that there are several deer on the island and did see their tracks but were not lucky enough to encounter any.  Nature has its own way of creating unique beauty, from gnarled upturned tree roots to wild daisies trying to take over the pathway. There was always something to capture our attention.

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

Had someone told me I could survive and enjoy life without tv, radio, internet/computer, telephone, motorized transportation, electricity and indoor plumbing I would have questioned the intelligence of their statement.  What I found is that when eliminated from my life for the weekend I did not miss them.  A stay on Middle Island is the perfect getaway.  We are used to being connected at all times, we operate on a schedule and are always checking our watches, crowding activities into our busy lives.  A weekend on Middle Island eliminates those things from your life.  From Friday afternoon to the time Captain Mike picks you up on Sunday you are free to relax, not pay attention to time or schedules and enjoy the beauty of nature as it was created.  We all left certain that we will return again some day.

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, exploration, Family, friendship, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, Photography, travel, vacation

Magee Marsh Bird Trail

Photo by Grace Grogan

Entrance to the Bird Trail – Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

This little bird spent a lot of time hopping from tree to tree, keeping all entertained with his antics. Photo by Grace Grogan

This past weekend my husband and I decided to drive to Magee Marsh in Ohio to take photographs of birds.   Located on the southern side of Lake Erie, this is where North American Warblers gather during their spring migration, making it a prime spot for both bird enthusiasts and photographers.  People travel from all over the United States and other parts of the world to visit during the prime migration time, which is the last weekend of April thru Mid May.  A birding festival is held during the highest point of migration.   We visited after the festival had ended, but there were still a large number of bird watchers and photographers visiting and we were able to enjoy both the sound of the birds “singing” and the ability to capture them on camera from various points along the boardwalk.

Photo by Grace Grogan

Sitting on a limb enjoying the sunshine and showing off his plumage. It was almost as if he knew I was taking many photographs of him. Photo by Grace Grogan

Although the boardwalk is only about a mile long, Ron and I spent approximately six hours making the walk.  In addition to the birds there are also other items of photographic interest, as this is a nature preserve and nature holds its own beauty.  There are two distinct differences between the photographers and the bird watchers.  Photographers are obviously carrying cameras, often with huge lenses and on tripods.  Their primary focus is to capture hundreds of shots of the birds which they will later sort through, choosing the best and identifying them as they do their photo processing.  The bird enthusiast are usually carrying binoculars, bird books and note pads in which they meticulously record the birds as they see them.   While you will see some bird watchers with cameras, I don’t recall seeing any photographers with binoculars, as your camera and lens serve the same purpose.   Because bird enthusiasts are used to spotting these small creatures they were a handy resource, a groups of bird watchers with their binoculars all pointed in the same direction

Photo by Grace Grogan

Taken from the top of the viewing platform. Photo by Grace Grogan

generally meant a good place to direct your camera lens as well.

The Magee Marsh boardwalk is well maintained, with periodic benches where you can rest if needed.  There is also a raised viewing platform and other side trails you can take for additional viewing.  The birds are frequently quite close to the boardwalk, so even with a small camera lens or point-and-shoot camera you have a good chance of capturing a nice photograph.  Camera’s click in rapid succession, people scribble notes on their pads of paper, and everyone enjoys the view.  Photographers and Birders are friendly, enthusiastic groups of people.

If you haven’t been to Magee Marsh and love nature, birds, or photography, this should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

Photography by Grace Grogan

Photography by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Peek-a-Boo!  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Peek-a-Boo! Photograph by Grace Grogan

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Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me.  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me. Photograph by Grace Grogan

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Filed under birds, friendship, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, travel, Uncategorized, Writing

WILD WEATHER PAST AND PRESENT

0441 Eagle in Nest-1

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

Ice Jam, photo by Grace Grogan

Ice Jam, photo by Grace Grogan

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

 

This past winter the United States experienced some wild weather, as have other parts of the world.  Here in the thumb of Michigan the ice coverage on the water resulted in a large number of eagles being seen on the river to the extent that they were written about in local newspapers.  The ice on the great lakes will help raise water tables that have been low for years while it has negatively affected the shipping industry as the ice cutters were unable to keep the shipping channels clear.  Bitter cold, snow and ice were encountered at unusual levels all across the country.

I recently watched a special on TV that dealt with the affects of global warming, the melting glaciers, and claimed this wild weather may be our new normal and may become worse.  Flooding, mud slides, earthquakes, hurricanes, could all progressively increase as the glaciers melt and our earth adjusts to the changes.  While I don’t discount scientific studies or the fact that industry and resulting pollution contribute to the changes, I also know that wild weather has been going on for centuries, prior to when modern industry existed.  Our ancestors encountered it without the modern means of communication to provide them with warnings or obtain assistance.  No telephones, automobiles,  or satellites, just the surprise of whatever happened and human determination to rebuild their lives after disaster.

It was April 12, 1934 when the weather observatory in Mount Washington, New Hampshire recorded a wind speed of 231 mph, but it was all the way back on January 22, 1885 when the temperature dropped to 50 degrees below zero at that same location.  Fifty below zero was also recorded in East Portal, Utah on January 5, 1913.  That was when the primary means of travel was horse and buggy and homes and homes were heated by fireplace or wood burning stoves.   Imagine traveling in an unheated carriage or having to go out and gather wood to heat your home in those temperatures.   Over the years bone-freezing temperatures have made their mark on history.    The coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states was 70 below zero in Rogers Pass, Montana on January 20, 1954, but Prospect Creek, Alaska sets the record for the coldest temperature in the United States with 80 below zero on January 23, 1971.

Extreme temperatures on the positive side have also occurred in history.  It was way back on July 10, 1913 that Death Valley National Park was the world’s hottest place at 134 degrees.   It was surprising to learn that Fort Yukon, Alaska was 100 degrees on June 27, 1915.  There were several dates in the mid 1930’s that cities in the U.S. recorded temperatures at 118 degrees or higher, but it was way back on July 20, 1898 and August 10, 1898 that the towns of Prineville and Pendleton, Oregon reached 119 degrees.  As if that wasn’t hot enough on its own, that was before air conditioning or even electric fans.  Combined with the suits that men wore or the long sleeved, high-necked dresses with multiple layers of underclothing that women wore and you can only imagine how horribly uncomfortable it must have been for everyone.

Temperature certainly impacts our lives on a daily basis, but natural disasters have also occurred throughout history and at times when the modern warning systems, means of communicating a need for help or quick and easy transportation did not exist.   Imagine living in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in May 1889 and the fear, devastation and horrendous work of clean up after ten inches of rain fell in under 24 hours causing a dam to break.  Try to envision a 30-foot high wall of water traveling 40 mph  towards town and the residents unaware of what was bearing down on them.  That day more than 2,200 people were killed.  Just the need to get that many bodies buried before disease and the stench of decay set in would have been emotionally and physically exhausting.

If you ever visit Galveston, Texas you can tour the Moody Mansion, the only building left intact after a category 4 hurricane struck the island town on September 8, 1900.  With winds reaching 130 to 140 miles per hour and a storm surge of 15.7 feet hitting the island where elevation was only 8.7 feet, the hurricane destroyed 3,600 buildings and killed between 6,000 to 8,000 people, including 90 children from St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum.   Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson brings the story of this attack by nature to life.

We watched what we considered to be unusual winter storm weather move across the United States this year.  In some ways history was repeating itself, but with our modern technology we were able to avoid the disastrous results such weather caused in the past.  It was March 11 and March 12, 1888 that 40-50″ of snow fell on Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York resulting in the death of over 400 people and causing 200 ships at sea to sink.   On  February 11, 1899 snow fell beginning in Florida all the way up the eastern seaboard, in one day dumping 20″ of snow in Washington DC and 34″ in New Jersey.    The book The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin is a gripping tale of the blizzard that took place on January 12, 1888 in the Dakota Territory and Nebraska.   The storm came up fast and unexpectedly, dropping temperatures from above freezing to a 40 below windchill and leaving adults and school children stranded and lost, sometimes only a few feet from shelter.  A total of 235 people died in that storm.  Those who live in the Blue Water Area of Michigan are familiar with the Storm of 1913.  This blizzard, called a White Hurricane, took place on the great lakes November 7, 1913 sinking ships and killing many.

We now have exited winter and are approaching the season for tornadoes.  Hopefully history will not repeat itself with more natural disasters such as the May 7, 1840 tornado that hit Natchez, Mississippi killing 317 people.  There was no warning system of TV, radio, internet to warn those in its path.  There were 317 reported deaths from the tornado, but slaves were not counted and so the death toll was likely much higher.   St. Louis Missouri had a massive tornado rip through the downtown area on May 27, 1896 killing 255 people and injury about 1,000 others.  Over 8,800 buildings were damaged or destroyed.  St. Louis also experienced another massive hit on September 29, 1927 when a tornado tore apart more than 200 city blocks in a period of about four minutes.    The deadliest tornado in the United States took place on March 18, 1925 covering between 219 to 234 miles and leaving 695 dead and 2,027 injured.   This tornado traveled from southeastern Mississippi through the southern portion of Illinois and then into southwestern Indiana.  The tornado lasted for over three and a half hours with an average width of 3/4 of a mile and a speed of approximately 62 miles an hour and destroying approximately 15,000 homes that were in its path.

Looking back in history it is easy to determine that the wild weather of today may be of extreme proportions, but it is not new to this decade.  Massive storms have been happening for centuries and people have been enduring the hardships of destruction and recovery throughout history.   Wild weather can be found in the past, present and most likely will continue in the future.

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Filed under birds, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, Uncategorized, Writing

DELIGHTFULLY DRAB

Here in Saint Clair County the weather has reached that delightfully drab level where the temperatures are of a moderate level, the snow has melted, the trees are bare of leaves and the grass is a lovely blah beige.   This past Sunday my husband and I went for a walk at the Lake Saint Clair Nature Center.  While the average walker will find no purpose in hauling a camera into such a lackluster location, photographers abound and are always on the lookout for something to capture.

Leaves and shells captured in ice on a pond.

Leaf and shells captured in ice on a pond.

When out for a stroll watch anyone with a camera, they will draw your attention to the small, unusual, and difficult to find items of beauty in nature where there appears to be nothing.  Moss on a tree, items floating in water, leaves curled on stumps, reflections in the water, or an unusual curve of a tree stump are all items that can be captured and enjoyed.    Look up, look down, look left, look right, and don’t forget to turn around and look behind you.  Just a few steps one way or the other can open up possibilities.

Red Wing Blackbird strolls down a twig floating on on the water.

Red Wing Blackbird strolls down a twig floating on on the water.

While strolling over a foot bridge I leaned over the rail and looked down.  That is where I found the leaves and shells trapped in a piece of ice that remained on the water.    The majority of people walking over the bridge that day likely missed what I saw because it required leaning over the rail.  Small treasures can be found in the most unusual places.

Watch for movement in the water.  Although I didn’t move fast enough to capture the muskrat swimming in the water on my camera he was there.  I could hear the frogs croaking away in the marsh but couldn’t find them.  A red wing blackbird was happily moving down a small twig floating in the water, and while it is likely he was searching for food the impression was that it was amazed by its own reflection in the water.  Being mating season male birds were also calling out and ruffling their feathers in display, attempting to attract females.  Birds were also easy among old weeds on the waters edge.  Walk quietly and enjoy the moment.

Reflections in Nature

Reflections in Nature

Although the bare trees do not appear to be attractive at first glance, don’t underestimate their appeal.  Look up and notice the unusual displays bare branches create against the sky.    Watch how they reflect in the water and the interesting angles those reflections create.  Beauty is found in unexpected places, you just have to look for it.

It is so easy to walk by beauty and never realize it is there.  Remember that even if if you have walked that path numerous times, changes happen in nature constantly and new things can be found daily, often within a few minutes or hours.

Ice Patterns

Ice Patterns

A frozen trail of water is melting, and as it does patterns form in the remaining ice.  Look at them, notice their unusual beauty, their uniqueness.  Enjoy what is there today for tomorrow the movements of nature may take it away, and you will have missed the moment.  Learn to walk with a photographers eye and you will catch the beauty of nature that can be found in the delightfully drab.

 

               I welcome your thoughts and comments on this and all previous posts

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Filed under birds, Lake St. Clair, Life is a Melting Pot, nature center, Photography, spring, Uncategorized, Writing