Category Archives: summer

Does nature know when school starts?

Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan.  The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal.  For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.

Then it became the last week of August.  The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess.  You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots.  Why?  Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.

Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school?  Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now?  How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?

I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops.  The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.

Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.  My statement thank teachers

A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule.  What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.

The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made.   The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days.  Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.

So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus.  We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school.   The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session.  Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, education, exploration, Family, farm, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, parents, school, summer, time, Weather

A Child’s Viewpoint

I recently had the pleasure of watching my grandchildren for a day.  Time with a 2-1/2 year old, 6 year old and 11 year old always brings a few laughs and simple pleasures.

The simple days, when at six years of age it is a tragedy when your younger sister won’t share her goldfish crackers.  Really?  She only has a couple dozen out of an entire bag, not like there aren’t more to put into a separate bowl for him.   The world is once again at peace, all thanks to a few crackers shaped like fish.

Why is it at 2-1/2 years of age you are capable of stripping all clothing off a doll more than a dozen times a day, but can never get them back on.  Of course once the doll is naked it must be dressed, but Grandma must do that.  The doll is dressed, life is good, until thirty minutes later when that doll is once again, for some unknown reason, naked.  And the hours pass by….

Planning for my future residence, Corbin (age 6) “It would be neat if you had a really big house with a space ship on top.”

Why, I ask, would I want a house with a space ship on the top of it.  The answer, according to Corbin, is simple.  “Because it would be cool!”

Okay, so there you go.  My retirement home floor plans are being laid out now.

When you don’t know how to respond to certain announcements, such as Austin (age 11), “Gunther is dead.”

Austin has autism, so comprehension is sometimes difficult, and he had just been dropped off after spending the weekend at his dad’s house, so with the same seriousness in which he expressed this loss I asked “who is Gunther?”

I received a very straight-faced, serious answer, “He is a Zombie.”

Sorry, I had nothing after that.  I guess the death of a zombie, or the creation of a zombie due to death, has a greater impact on some than it does on me.

Prior to the kids coming over and knowing I would have just Corbin and Alexandria for lunch I checked with my daughter to see what the best food choices would be and planned accordingly.    I had purchased the family size Velveeta Shells and Cheese, and let’s face it, as a general rule Mac & Cheese is a kid favorite.  Apparently sometimes this is not the case.

As he sits down to eat Corbin looks at the food and says “I don’t like macaroni and cheese.”

I responded that yes he does, his mother told me he eats it all the time.

Corbin — “Not today, I’m six and sometimes we don’t like things.”

Imagine that!  I thought six year olds were always logical and cooperative.  Guess I got that wrong.

Blowing bubbles, that wonderful outside activity that all children love to do.  The problem is Alexandria (2-1/2) simply doesn’t understand that it would be preferable if I moved the wand away from my body before she attempted to blow the bubbles right back at me.  Of course that is a toss-up with the other option of letting her hold the wand herself and trying to convince her that if she didn’t put her mouth on the wand to blow, she wouldn’t get the icky tasting soap on her tongue.  The results aren’t in on whether more bubble soap made it into the air as bubbles or if more ended up on our bodies due to Alex’s still to be perfected bubble-blowing technique.

Then there is the issue of cleanliness.  When I informed Corbin that he is supposed to flush and wash his hands after using the bathroom he said “you know, I washed my hands yesterday.”

Good to know, can we do it today as well please.  Of course this goes along with the request he wash his hands and him turning them back and forth saying “they aren’t dirty.”

Girls in that regard are so much easier.  I can say “Alex your face is dirty, let’s wash it.” and she comes and stands beside me waiting to get cleaned up.

A day with children is always entertaining, enlightening, and just plain fun.  Blocks, cars, trains, slides, bubbles, a messed up floor filled with toys.  Cracker crumbs, candy, spilled water, and more.  As the day wears on electronic pads filled with games are great for keeping children from killing each other off and/or driving an adult insane.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, Coping, Discoveries, exploration, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, play, summer, time

LIFE IS FUN

          Life is fun — the things you take in stride, the things that flip you out.  Sometimes neither make sense which is what keeps life hopping with laughs — the weird idiosyncrasies of each an every personality that make it unique.
         I am like most females, I like cute little things like kittens and bunny rabbits.  I have learned to tolerate spiders on my front porch, but anywhere else I want them demolished.  I don’t freak out over most rodents, but I am reasonably cautious and don’t want them invading territory they shouldn’t.
          That leads me to my Sunday encounters.  I went outside to mow the lawn.  I was putting gas in the rider, which is backed up to my house.  Suddenly there is this flash of movement from the area behind the mower.  Something jumps out and naturally I jump with it.
Life is Fun
          Now you have to admit, when you are not expecting it those cotton-tailed bunny rabbits can be pretty ferocious looking when they are scampering out from a hidden spot and making a mad-dash across your lawn.  Once I realized what it was I decided it was safe to proceed with my plan of mowing the lawn.  I am here to tell about it, no further attacks.
          I was riding the mower along a fence line where the ground angles, so you have to stay close and battle any tree or bush limbs hanging over.  As I am traversing the path I apparently disturbed a black hornet or wasp (I can’t tell the difference) and he was flying around and at me.  I do not like those creatures, they are not nice!  To keep him away I automatically swatted at him, which I had to do twice before he finally left.  Then the mind does weird things…what if he goes to get his friends and gangs up on me?  What can I say, I grew up when all the “killer bee” movies were out.  Luckily I didn’t have to relive any movies, he stayed away.
          So I turn the corner in the front yard and bump!  I drive through a weird depression or hole that hasn’t been there before.  I have no idea what it was, and I did not get off to inspect, but of course I wondered…was it from a snake, a gofer, a mole?  Who knows.  I’m not going to ponder the possibility.  Hmmmm, could that be the reason I decided not to rake this week?
          So now that I’ve been blasted by bunnies, hassled by hornets and bungled by bumps the rest of the week should be a breeze.  What other creatures could possibly invade my personal space?  A spider.
           I was driving my car down the road and get a glimpse of something.  It was a very tiny, microscopic spider strolling along the inside of my windshield.   Now I must say that compared to the ones that typically live on my front porch, this one was so tiny it almost isn’t worth mentioning.  However I feel the need to point out that not only did I not flip out, but I just shrugged my shoulders and went “oh well” and let him enjoy his stroll.  Attempting to kill a spider when driving down the road is probably not recommended.  As I am writing this I do have one thought though.  I let him remain inside my car….what if he grows?  That is a thought I do not want.  Hopefully it gets hot and he dies of heat exhaustion before that happens.
     So as you are going through your day and encountering the various creatures of the wild, laugh at your own goofy, stupid, exuberant reactions to things and let the good times roll.

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Filed under backyard, bugs, Coping, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, habit, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spiders, summer

My Life is a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama

Murphy's Law - one line quoteAfter reading that title you are probably going huh?   If you think about it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Murphy’s Law — if anything can go wrong it will.  Comedy — finding the humor in anything and everything.  Drama — something serious and/or with conflict.  Put those altogether and what do you have?  My life this past week.

Picture Lucille Ball, Home Improvement, and Grace Under Fire all wrapped into one and you’re probably coming close.  Of course it all didn’t seem comical at the time, there were some pretty good moments of stress, but overall you just have to roll with the punches.

Monday actually started the week off pretty good.  I was busy at work, but afterwards spent a nice evening at home.  Maybe that should have been an indication that all good things must come to an end.

Tuesday evening about 7 pm my phone rings.  “What are you doing?”

“I’m in Rochester at a my Freelance Writer’s meeting, why?”

“Oh shoot, that won’t work.  We were on our way to Ann Arbor and Rob’s car just died on us, we’re in Detroit, but you’re too far away.  We’ll call his mom.”

My daughter, her three young children and her boyfriend, stranded more than an hour from where I was.  I wasn’t really familiar with the area they broke down in, but let’s face it, stranded in Detroit is not a good thing.  She is 32 and capable of handling things on her own, but as a mother and grandmother you worry.  I received a text that Rob’s aunt, who lives in Detroit, went and picked them up right away because the area they were in was a bad section.  Rob’s mother was on the way to pick them up from the aunt’s house and transport them back home.  At least I knew they were safe.

Before they left the vehicle the first time Rob told Carrie to gather up absolutely everything out of the inside of the car, and she was smart enough to even empty the glove box so there was no revealing information about their residence or anything left.  When the aunt took Rob back to the vehicle an hour later it had been trashed – windshield smashed, battery stolen, and inside destroyed.  He popped the trunk and retrieved the diapers and other items they had just purchased and left the vehicle there overnight.  Not worth repairing, the next day they borrowed a friend’s car hauler and towed it to the junk yard, where they got a whopping $168 for it.  Now he is looking for something used, affordable and able to transport him and kids.  In the meantime he is driving my single-cab pickup truck my husband used to use for scrapping.

Caroline came to my house and picked up my extra car, a Ford Fiesta, later that night to borrow because her SUV was in the shop.  Wednesday afternoon I get a call,  “Mom, your car has no oil in it!”

“What do you mean it has no oil?   I just had it changed two weeks ago, drove it home from the dealership and it has been sitting in the drive ever since.”

“The oil lights came on and it made a funny sound, I pulled over and checked the oil, there is nothing in it.”

I called the dealership, they didn’t think it made sense but said not to drive it, they would send a tow truck.  I called my daughter to let her know what was happening.  Okay, moment of emotional breakdown here — my daughter’s SUV was at the dealership having repair work done on it for the third time, which was the reason she borrowed my car after her boyfriend’s car died, my Ford Fiesta she was borrowing is now being towed, my 2-year old granddaughter was at a day care approximately 25 miles from home, my daughter was going to be without any vehicle except for my pickup truck.  It wasn’t looking good, two adults each with jobs in totally different areas, three young children and down to a single cab pickup they were borrowing from me.

Her voice cracked, “Mom, I have no car to drive.”

I took a deep breath to hold it together.  “Where is Alex’s day care center?  If needed I’ll  leave work early and go pick her up.  Am I on the list?”

Stress, Stress, Stress.

The good news — my daughter’s SUV was done and ready for pickup by the time she and the tow truck arrived at the dealership.  The next morning I received a call that my car was fine, they forgot to hit the reset button when doing the oil change and the synthetic oil is clear so it can not be seen.  My daughter had put a quart of oil into it, thinking it was empty, so it was now over filled.  The dealership flushed it out and re-filled, no charge to me.

Thursday I get a call from my daughter’s boyfriend, “Was there a warranty on the brakes for the pickup when Ron had them done?”

“I don’t think Ron had the brakes done, and if he did I have no idea where he had them put on.”

As it turns out, the pickup, which is used mainly for gathering and hauling metal scrap, went quickly from the brakes seeming fine to showing they needed to be changed.  How bad?  Rob pulled into a shop to look into purchasing a set and before he could do that one fell off.  It had rusted off!  He purchased brakes, borrowed tools and changed that particular one right there in the parking lot.  The other one he did later that evening at home.  Good to go, maybe?

The next day Rob was driving the truck about 60 mph when the hood suddenly pops open, comes back and hits the windshield.  The hood latch had rusted through and given out, so now a new hood and new windshield are needed.  They are on a junkyard search for a hood.  Windshield will get replaced.  Did I mention I had just purchased new plates/tabs for that vehicle on Wednesday and this happened one day later?  Ever feel like your life is moving as if you’re on a steep hill standing on sheer ice?

What the heck, might as well finish off my Thursday mowing the lawn, which is on a riding mower so old it is Montgomery Ward brand.  No grass catcher, so it always leaves a nice trail of mowed grass and doesn’t get super close to the garden borders and fence so a lot of areas that always need to be trimmed, but not enough time to do that all in one night.   Hence I finish off my Thursday with a mowed lawn containing rows of mowed grass heaps and a fringe of long grass along all the raised borders, fence, etc.  plus other areas that the rider can’t go into that are still long because they must be done with either a push mower or weed wacker.  Just call my lawn Hillbilly Haven.

So I’ve verbally dealt with brake endangerment and/or replacement, the mowing of a lawn, and decide to take a well deserved rest in the hot tub.  I wear my new bathing suit, one of those tankinis.  Normally I’m a one-piece wearer, but I figured the look of a one-piece, convenience of a two piece, what could go wrong?  Little did I know.  Removal of a bathing suit top in a dressing room v. when it is wet are two different things.  When wet the back of the top feels like it is suctioned to my body and won’t let go.  So here I am in my bathroom trying desperately to extract myself from a bathing suit top that seems to be attached to my body with glue and I’m trying to figure out how to raise the back for removal without destroying the thing.   I can only imagine I must have looked like a really bad contortionist trying to remove myself from the grips of spandex.  I was about ready to break a sweat when I finally got that thing to let go of me.

Friday, sweet Friday.  Buried at work so I stay until 8 pm getting things done, run home and grab a quick dinner than head up to boat night — a huge event in Port Huron every year.  It is the downtown party on the eve of the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race.  Upon my arrival I decided to “go live” on Facebook for the first time ever.  Shouldn’t that come with an instruction manual?  Watching the video later it was pretty comical.  I thought I was pausing the “live” part but apparently I wasn’t.  We have the phone being moved erratically, complete darkness when I put it into my pocket for a short period of time. and a view of everyone’s feet walking around.  Guess I should have looked around for an 8-year old to give me instruction before publishing that lovely documentary.

I arrive home from Boat Night about 11:00 pm.  As I’m walking into the house I feel something hit my head.  Hopefully not a spider — they tend to inhabit my front porch at night.  I walk into the bathroom and there on my head is a lime green creature.  It resembles a grasshopper with very long skinny legs and antennae.   I grab a tissue and try to grab it, but miss.  It must fly.  I located it on the wall behind me.  It doesn’t hop, it crawls.  Rather bizarre creature.  Guess I should have taken a picture, but at that particular moment I didn’t think of it.   I grab it in the tissue, throw it in the toilet, and flush.  End of bug….or not.  The next morning I go into that bathroom and guess what — the green bug is dead but floating in the toilet.  I use the facilities, flush and walk away.  A few hours later I go in to again to use the facilities and everything flushed down the toilet, but the green bug is back and floating in the bowl.   This happened at least three times.  It was the dead bug that wouldn’t go…it was haunting me!

Saturday went well, probably because I stayed inside doing paperwork all day.  Not too much tragedy when one is firmly planted in a chair — except when you sit too long and the tendon in your left arm tightens up and your foot falls asleep.  I must say the advantage of living alone when you are hobbling along on a foot that is asleep while trying to straighten and shake out your left arm is that no one is there to witness or video the moment.   I had the movements of a monster in a horror film.

Sunday, sweet relaxing Sunday, a day of rest and leisure.  Who am I kidding, my Sunday was far from that.   I spent several hours doing paperwork, then went outside to work on weed-wacking and raking the lawn.  Well, the batteries for the weed wacker only run about 30 minutes each, and one for some reason died after about 15 minutes, so didn’t get a lot done.   I still have a lot of fringe around the edges of my lawn.

It has been so hot I decided to see if some tree branches that fell in the spring and didn’t get cut up were dry enough I could break them into pieces to put in a lawn/leaf bag for collection.  They were, so there I was He-Woman breaking those limbs down with my small, garden-gloved hands and shoving them into the lawn/leaf bag.  Some of the larger ones required a bit more, so I would stand on one end and bend the other end up toward me attempting to break it off.  Only lost my balance a couple times but with some wild karate chop maneuvers managed to regain my balance and stay on my feet.  Poked myself in the stomach with the end of a branch once, and didn’t scream when I almost grabbed a spider off the ground.  Maybe there is hope for me yet.

So I’ve wacked the weeds, bagged the branches, and now I’m ready to gather the grass.  I like hot weather but it is no fun when trying to rake and sweat is running off your forehead and into your eyes, which makes your eyes sting.  By the time I got to the backyard I wanted to get it all into one bag and be done with it.  It was one very full paper lawn and leaf bag.  No room to roll the top over.  I pushed the grass down as much as I could, but it still was full right to the top.  It wasn’t heavy to carry from the backyard to the end of the drive, but it was awkward because I had to be careful so I didn’t trip and spill it.  Hopefully no one was watching as I did a waddle-walk with the bag gripped between my hands in front of me as I walked the length of the drive.

I decided to sweep off my front porch.  Spiders come out at night, so I am constantly sweeping and/or spraying away the webs.  I’m walking along, sweeping the porch and walked right into one of those fine spider webs you can’t see, all over my face.  Ugghh!  It feels like you have this sticky substance on your face and you just want it off.  There I am, wiping my face with my hands frantically trying to get this web substance off me.   Why in the world must spiders build there webs where people intend to walk?  Can’t they stay away from houses and leave us humans alone?  Apparently not.

Those aren’t all the things that went wrong during my week.  I’ve only blessed you with the highlights.  So how did I get through a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week without falling apart or killing someone?    I look for the humor in each situation.

Picture a favorite comedy show character and/or show….I Love Lucy, Tim the Tool Man, Grace Under Fire, Sienfeld, or any other show.  Picture the main character in one of the above situations.   When reality is not reality but a comedy show it is funny.  When you’re having one of those weeks and living the reality, look for the humor in each  situation.  Try to relax, go with the flow.  It won’t be a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week every week.  At least I hope not!

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Filed under Activities, backyard, bugs, Cleaning, Coping, home, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, spiders, summer, Weather, work

Childhood Cravings

I was grocery shopping recently and had a craving for a childhood snack — graham crackers with frosting on them.  I purchased the box of crackers and grabbed what I thought was standard chocolate frosting.  Imagine my delight when I popped open that little container and discovered chocolate mint — double yum!

That got me to thinking about some of the simple things from my childhood that kids today don’t have the opportunity to experience.   Back when I was a child life was more simple.  Summer was spent playing outside.  There weren’t any arranged play-dates set up by parents, we weren’t in day care centers, and our parents did not have us participating in scheduled activities.  childhood - chinese jump rope

We got up in the morning and walked or rode our bike to a friend’s house, rang the doorbell and asked if they could come out and play.  When was the last time a child did that?  Today’s children probably wouldn’t know how.   We didn’t have video games, cell phones, ipads, or any of the other technology that kids today rely on.  So what did we do with our time?  We had fun!

A field behind the house could be trampled down into “rooms” in which we could roll out our baby carriages and play house.  We would lay on our backs and look at the clouds, making determinations on what they looked like.  We played Ring-Around-The-Rosie, Duck-Duck-Goose, Mother May I, Red Rover Red Rover, Tag, Kick-the-Can, and hide-and-go-seek.

We only had three TV channels, and cartoons were a Saturday morning specialty.  Every kid sat in front of the TV watching their favorites.  Between Saturdays we had our comic books to read.   My girlfriend and I would put our comic books into the saddle baskets of our bikes, then read our comic books as we rode our bikes down the street no-handed….and we weren’t even wearing helmets!

childhood - jacksWe would sit on the porch playing jacks.  At one time I was able to handle pick-ups of 20 jacks at a time.  We played a lot.  Do kids play jacks anymore?  Are they even available to purchase?  Ours were tiny metal jacks with a small red ball.    What about hula hoops and pogo sticks?  With a swing of the hips your hula hoop could be forced up to the neck or down to the knees and back to the waste.  Regular jump rope, Chinese jump rope, and hop scotch kept us busy.

I lived in a small town.  We would ride our bikes downtown and go to the library and the dime store.  I did a lot of reading.  Nancy Drew was my favorite, and so was Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie as I got older.   We bought pop in glass bottles out of a vending machine.  Everyone chewed Bazooka bubble gum, and we all loved the little tiny comics that came inside.  Gum wrappers were used to make chains…what we did with those chains I don’t remember.

We looked for 4-leaf clovers.  Flower petals were pulled off one-by-one saying “he loves me, he loves me not.”  Dandelions were held under the chin to see if your chin shone yellow, but I don’t remember why.  If we found a dandelion gone to seed, a “wisher,” we were thrilled….but our father wasn’t if he saw us blowing those seeds out into the lawn.

childhood - pogo stickBack then most people did not have air conditioning.  Windows were open, fans were used.  One strong childhood summer memory does not involve me but my father.  He would mow the lawn and then afterward watch the ball game on TV.  One of my favorite scents and sounds of summer is the combination of fresh mowed grass and a baseball ball game on the TV or radio.

What are some of your childhood memories?  No matter how old or young you are, if you are an adult I am sure things have changed since your childhood.   Do you have childhood cravings?  Do you wish your children and/or grandchildren could experience life as it once was, not as it is now?

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Filed under Activities, backyard, children, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, flowers, freindship, friends, friendship, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, play, reality, summer, time

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

Caffeine Addicted Ants

Saturday morning I was standing at my kitchen counter when a small ant walked by…just one, strolling along nice as you please.  Well he was, until I ended his tiny little life.  I wondered where he came from but didn’t give it much thought and went on with my day.

That evening I saw three ants on the counter.  What the heck!  I don’t have any open food, nothing to attract them.  Just who do they think they are invading my kitchen, and for what purpose?  It isn’t as if I have a feast laid out for the taking.  More like starvation mode when it comes to open food availability.  Yet there they were.  Were, as in past tense, I ended their lives abruptly.

Easter Sunday and the troops have gathered.  A little march of several ants daintily prancing across the back edge of my counter.  Time for major action.  I get out the bottle of Clorox Cleanup, their lives and trails are about to come to a chemically abrupt halt.  I plan to start my cleanup where I saw them.  They’re gone!  Where did they go?  Did they some how have a sixth sense about what my plans were and went into hiding?

Not to be deterred I started at that end of the counter and began my chemically enhanced assault on their chosen trail.   I began a clean and search mission to determine what was attracting them.  My first thought was the catch trays on the toaster.  Nope, no ants there, but they are now clean and empty.  They weren’t attempting to invade my candy dish of Werther’s Originals, nor were they near my dish of York Peppermint Patties.  These ants obviously don’t have a sweet tooth.

I’m working my way across the counter, moving things, spraying with Clorox Clean-up and wiping everything down.  The smell of the bleach in the product should help to deter the ants, at least for a small while.   I haven’t seen a single one as I’m cleaning.  Where did they go?

Then I move the coffee maker to spray the counter underneath it.  Wow!  Numerous ants under the machine happily milling around.  When I had a pot of coffee run over there must have been some on the bottom of the machine when I moved it back into place, and it had created a dried puddle of coffee on the counter.  That is where the ants were congregated.

I would have never suspected ants to be congregated in mass proportions under a coffee machine.  Is it the coffee they are attracted to, or the caffeine?  They were not inside the coffee grounds, only under the machine.  How were they consuming or transporting that sticky residue?  Does the caffeine give them a nice burst of energy like it does some humans?  One thing I do not want is ants operating on high energy in my house. Ant drinking coffee

Those ants experienced a very sudden chemical bomb delivered via spray bottle filled with Clorox Clean-up.  If anyone feels sympathy for them, it was a very quick death so suffering would have been minimal and death instantaneous.  In fact the ants died much faster than the removal of the stain.  As difficult as it was to clean up, I can’t imagine how those ants were getting any benefit from it.

The good news is I have not seen a single ant since Easter morning.  Either I have killed them all off (as if I really believe that), or they no longer have a purpose in traversing my counter.  Of course they could be lying in wait, hoping for another coffee run-over.

Summer hasn’t even started yet, so I doubt I will be lucky enough not to see those pesky little critters again.  When I do the first place I will check is the coffee maker, chemical bomb in hand, ready to inflict mass destruction on their invasive little bodies.   I think a killer instinct in me has emerged.

 

 

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Filed under bugs, Cleaning, death, Discoveries, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, spring, summer

Being Obstinate

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Float Down Photo Copyright Grace Grogan

I am by nature a fairly easy going person, except when you challenge what I think is right, at which point I can become very obstinate.  This is the case with an article I just submitted to our local paper, The Times Herald.  St. Clair County has an “unofficial” yearly event called Float Down, which will take place this Sunday.

This is an event where people disembark from Lakeside Beach in Port Huron using rafts, floats, etc. and take with them beverages, snacks, and more for the 7 mile float down the St. Clair River to Chrysler Beach in Marysville.  This is an all-day event, the river is rapid, and even though the event is “unofficial” shipping traffic is generally slowed and/or stopped for several hours that day for safety reasons and the Coast Guard is on hand to carry out any necessary rescues.

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Float Down.  Photo Copyright Grace Grogan.

There are over 5,000+ participants in the float down, and it grows larger and larger every year.  In my opinion the participation increases because of the publicity it gets…not so much the positive publicity, but the negative.  The U.S. Coast Guard encourages people not to participate because it is a safety risk.  The officials of Marysville where the float ends keep trying to make it difficult for people to exit at their city by closing down roads and making it difficult for people got get picked up and exit the area quickly after floating.  Last year because they closed the road where people exit some floaters were stranded near a local restaurant until 10:00 pm.

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Float Down.  Photo Copyright Grace Grogan.

This is where my good-natured, always balanced Libra personality takes a turn and I become obstinate.  I am an opinion columnist for our local paper so I just submitted a column about the negative attitude of the City of Marysville’s mayor.  I said I hope all 5,000+ float all the way to Chrysler Beach just because of the mayor’s attitude.   I think the City’s negative attitude is why the float down has grown so large in the past few years.  Who doesn’t want to participate in an event that has a bit of controversy and provides a unique chance at one day of fun per year?  I know I do.  I may be babysitting my granddaughter this year so my daughter can float, but in a future year I will participate in a float down.  The Mayor of Marysville’s attitude has guaranteed that!

 

 

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Filed under Blue Water Area, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, Family, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, play, summer

What is a Vacation?

You may consider my title a strange question, but I think it is worth exploring.  I was recently reading a posting from my Facebook memories feed about the planning of my itinerary for a trip my husband and I were planning to go on.  One of the comments on the post was that I needed to relax, it was a vacation.  That got me thinking, what is a vacation?Vacation - go someplace you have never been

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a vacation is a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.  That sounds simple enough, but is it?    People vacation in a wide range of ways, and the trick is to find people who like to travel and relax in the same manner you do.  It also may mean you need to make adjustments to the way you travel in order to accommodate everyone’s desires and interests.

My husband, Ron, and I always traveled with an itinerary.  I read tourist books and mapped out our trips.  I knew what we were doing each and every day, and quite frequently we were up with an alarm clock to make sure we arrived at places when they opened to get a jump on the day.  That is how our kids grew up.    There were many people that thought we were nuts, but then those same people would say “wow, you saw/did a lot on your trip.”  Well yes, that is the result of planning and being on the go.

We would hear people talk about their vacations, traveling somewhere and then spending a good portion of their time sitting around a pool, or on the beach, sleeping in late and doing a lot of nothing.  People would go camping and spend the majority of their time sitting around the campground, chatting with other campers, sitting around bonfires, etc.  When Ron and I heard vacations such as those being described we would think “how boring.”

Vacation - Life is a TripSo which is the proper vacation?  They both are.  A vacation should be whatever you want it to be.  Do what makes the days fun-filled and relaxing for you and your travel companions.   People are unique and everyone has their own set of needs.  What is good for you may drive me bonkers; what is right for me may leave you feeling stressed and exhausted.

Then I started wondering how my vacation plans may be affected by the fact that my husband has passed and I am now alone.  Ron was always a morning person — his feet hit the floor and he was off and running.  I like to get up and see and do a lot, but I frequently start my day at a slower pace than he liked.    I think I will find a balance for myself that is similar to what I have always done, but maybe a bit more relaxed.  Whatever I end up doing, it will be the same.  It will be different.  It will be me.  That is what a vacation should be.

 

 

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Filed under Cleaning, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, play, summer, travel, vacation

Doing the Michigan Dance

Yes, this past couple weeks we have been going through the steps of what I am going to term the Michigan Dance.  What is it?  If you live here you should know, it is the back and forth, two steps forward, one step back, motion of our weather.

We have had a bitter, cold winter with plenty of snow.  Then 2-3 weeks ago the weather warmed up.  The sun was shinning, people started getting out and riding bikes, walking paths, cleaning yards and other spring activities.  Our grass has turned green and the trees and bushes have started to bud out.  Spring has arrived — or has it?

Weather - sunburn and frostbite in same weekA couple days ago the temperature dropped, winds picked up, and it was cold again.  Not freezing, but cold enough that some people went back to wearing winter coats.  This morning when I got up there was a skiff of snow on the ground.  Not massive proportions, and I assume by midday it will all be gone, but the point is, it is there.  We are on the one-step back motion of the Michigan Dance.

I am tired of winter, tired of the cold.  I want spring to hit us full-force and move into a heat-blasting summer.  I want to move this Michigan Dance from a slow moving waltz to a fast-paced polka and spin forward around the dance floor several times in a row.  Is that too much to ask?

What am I thinking….I live in Michigan.  Nothing is predictable, especially the weather.  Two steps forward, one step back.

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Filed under spring, summer, Weather