Tag Archives: nature

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

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

Happiness is…

love-is-side-by-sideI may be dating myself, but back in the 1970’s there were cute cartoon images, often portrayed by a little chubby couple, and quotes of “Love is…”  I was thinking of them the other day and it got me to wondering, what if we applied that formula to  happiness?  What makes a person happy?

I started jotting down things that make me happy.  There are so many simple things in life that bring pleasure.  I  suggest you make your own happy list.  You will realize how many wonderful things there are that bring joy to you every day.


Happiness is…

…a long weekend
…a cup of coffee and a good book
…a child’s laughter
…the smell of freshly mowed grasshappiness-is-a-family-vacation
…getting together with family
…a sunny day
…a day shooting pictures
…good friends
…the smell of lilacs
…a day scrapbooking
…time with grandchildren
…art fairs and craft shows
…children in costume yelling trick-or-treat
…singing and dancing to the radio
…planning a trip
…visiting somewhere you have never been
…traditions
…a warm summer day
…an old-fashioned country fair
… listening to a child’s viewpoint on life
…kettle korn popcorn and caramel apples
…time with your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, significant other
…the glow of a fireplace
…creating Easter baskets and watching the kids go through them
…the beauty of freshly fallen snow
…carnations
…watching a parade
…the sound of water along the shore
…snuggling under a warm blankethappiness-is-a-warm-blanket
…front porch sitting
…handwritten letters
…peanut butter on a spoon
…walking a nature trail
…relaxing in a hot tub
…the glow of a Christmas tree
…historical and cultural events
…memories
…discovering and learning about your ancestors
…doing RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness)
…unexpected surprises
…a feeling of accomplishment
…seeing my byline on writings
…writing, writing, writing

This isn’t the end.  The more I think, the more I realize a lot of things make me happy, bring a smile to my face.  I hope you have lots of things to put on your own “Happiness Is… ” list.

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Filed under communication, Discoveries, exploration, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, time

Peaceful, Relaxing, Happy

Everyone needs a favorite spot close to home.  A place that makes them feel peaceful, relaxed, and happy.  I actually have several that are anywhere from about two minutes to 20 minutes from my house.  Places I go just because I enjoy being there.

St. Clair Board Walk.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

St. Clair Board Walk. Photo by Grace Grogan.

My favorite spot is the boardwalk in St. Clair.  It is the world’s longest freshwater boardwalk and overlooks the St. Clair River, the world’s busiest shipping channel.  More freighters go down the St. Clair River than the Panama and Suez canals combined.  The water is a beautiful blue, and across the river is Canada.

I love the boardwalk in both summer and winter.  The summer months you can view freighters, boaters, kayaks, jet skiers, kids jumping off the boardwalk into the river, and the beautiful park it is located in.   Winter is also special, with freighters moving though the frigid waters amongst ice floats, Christmas garland strung on the rail, and the snow covered walkway and park.

St. Clair Boardwalk.  Photo by Grace Grogan

St. Clair Boardwalk. Photo by Grace Grogan

My second favorite spot is the Thomas Edison Parkway.  This is where you will find a walkway along the St. Clair River and Lake Huron where they meet under the Blue Water Bridge.  A perfect viewing spot for freighters and boaters traveling along the channel.   If you are feeling energetic you can walk from the International Flag Plaza just north of the Blue Water Bridge south into Pine Grove Park where the Huron Lightship Museum is located.

In addition to those two favorites I also enjoy Lighthouse Beach.  The beach is located on Lake Huron and offers views of the Blue Water Bridge and the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Michigan.

Lake Huron as seen from International Flag Plaza.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Lake Huron as seen from International Flag Plaza. Photo by Grace Grogan

Fort Gratiot County Park is also located on Lake Huron and includes a path through a small wooded area, a boardwalk lets you walk out onto the beach close to the pavilions without actually walking in the sand, and of course the beach itself.  You will also find the 1971 Tunnel Explosion Memorial in this park, a construction accident that claimed the lives of 22 men.

Blue Water Bridge in Winter.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Blue Water Bridge in Winter. Photo by Grace Grogan

Kettelwell Pond in Fort Gratiot is a great spot for viewing birds, turtles and other wildlife.  The pond has a paved walkway all the way around it with benches placed periodically for sitting back and enjoying nature.  This is a peaceful place good for a leisurely stroll, but is also popular with people who enjoy jogging the path.

DSC_0063

Turtles in Kettelwell Pond. Photo by Grace Grogan

These are only my favorite spots here in the Blue Water area.  There are so many, too many, to go into detail on.  You may also find me on the river walks in Marine City or Algonac, at Chrysler Beach in Marysville, Lakeside Beach in Port Huron, or Desmond Landing in Port Huron,   So much water, so many relaxing spots.

I hope each of you has, or finds, a spot to relax.  Somewhere that is peaceful, relaxing, and makes you feel happy.

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Filed under Blue Water Area, Life is a Melting Pot

Photo Seminar and Seven Ponds Nature Center

A couple weeks ago my husband, Ron, and I attended the Seven Ponds Nature Center Photo Expo.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and we had the opportunity to take classes and enjoy taking photographs at the nature center.  We split up, taking separate classes to fit our own personal interests and so we could share information from as many sources as possible.

Class subjects we participated in included Travel Photography, Subject Elements and Composition in Nature, Night/Low Light Photography, and Shades of Gray (visualizing your photograph in black and white when shooting).  Extended and overlapping break times allowed us to meet up and eat lunch together in the car before once again splitting up.  We even walked areas of the nature center separately, which is sometimes beneficial so that our photographs are not all alike or of the exact same subjects.

There were several drawings for door prizes and Ron was the lucky winner of a $50 gift certificate to Camera Mart in Pontiac — a place that we frequent.  While at the seminar we purchased a new mono-pod for Ron and a new tri-pod that converts to a mono-pod for me.  I had been having trouble with my tripod and the Benro dealer informed me it could be sent in and re-worked/repaired at no charge by using his name from the seminar.  Needless to say I was very pleased to hear that, and Camera Mart handled getting that sent in for me.

Nature photography is something we both enjoy.  Everyone taking a walk in a wooded area or nature center should always have some form of camera available to capture the things that make those walks beautiful to you.  Take the time to look and enjoy the small things.  There are times I have taken walks with others who are not photographers, and they traverse the area much faster than I, because I am spotting and photographing many subjects that they never see.   I’m including some pictures taken the day of the seminar at Seven Ponds Nature Center.

~~ ALL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN BY GRACE GROGAN ~~
~~COPYRIGHT 2015 GRACE GROGAN.~~

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot, nature, Photography

Trilium Trek

          The trillium is a delicate, small, wildflower that blooms in the spring.  They can be found in white, pink, red, and the very rare painted variety.  Since 1980 the only sightings of the painted trillium in Michigan have all been within a 30 mile area of St. Clair County.
          Knowing that they were in bloom, my husband, Ron, and I went out on a search for painted trillium a couple weeks ago.  They are located in a wooded nature area.  Although I have not used bug spray in years, when you open the car door and the mosquitoes are coming inside you know precaution is needed.
          When you haven’t used bug spray in a while, there are a few pointers to remember.
          1.  When misting your face make sure you keep your mouth shut — that stuff does not taste good!
          2.  Spaying the majority of your body does not prevent mosquitoes from finding the spot you missed.
          3.  You will find out you forgot to spray an area at a most inopportune moment, such as when bent over taking a photograph and one decides to bite you on the backside through your jeans.
          4.  Evidence of a poor spray job may not become evident for hours, such as when you look in the mirror and realize the small section on the back of your arm from you elbow to wrist is covered in mosquito bites — 27 of them to be exact.
          Not that I’m admitting to any of the above, but knowledge does come from experience.  Of course a pain-endured labor does have its just rewards.  We found all three kinds of trillions, a slug, a toad, and a few other items to photograph.  A pleasant morning photographing nature.

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Filed under bugs, flowers, nature, Photography

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

In a Squirrel’s Mind

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2014.

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2014.

I was sitting at my desk this morning when I looked up to see a young squirrel hopping across my front yard and up onto a raised bed surrounding our tree.  He then perched on the wall for a moment, turning his head looking around before he scampered up the tree and onto a bottom limb,  Mr. Squirrel then sat on the limb, facing the road, watching traffic go by.

What was his reason for going to the tree and stopping first on the wall and then sitting on the branch?  What was the purpose of this observation?  Was he looking for someone, meaning another squirrel?  Was he contemplating the safety of venturing out and crossing the road?    Was he just enjoying the morning view, something to do for a moment?

After a few minutes he scampered back down the tree and without hesitation hopped off the raised flower bed, onto the lawn and ran back from the direction in which he had originally come.    What was his next destination?  Why was he going there?

We will never know what was going on in that squirrel’s mind.  What his purpose or goals were at the moment.  In our hectic, fast-paced world it is relaxing to contemplate for a moment what is going on in the mind of an animal that appears to take action that in some form or another had a purpose, we just don’t know what that purpose was.

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Filed under backyard, environmental, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature

Blog Bonus – Spiders

Spider tipping hatThis is a Blog Bonus – a posting that is not on my normal schedule, a little something extra.  In my last post  They’re Back I talked about the return of the spiders to my front porch, something I am not thrilled with.  My 3-year old grandson, Corbin and 8-year old grandson, Austin, seem to view the event differently.  Corbin thought they were spiderman, and Austin thought I had a “cute little spider” and they both stood on the porch the other night when the spiders were out and said goodbye to the spiders before leaving.  Guess it is all in perspective.  I would love to say goodbye to the spiders, but on a permanent basis and it would be them leaving, not me.

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Filed under backyard, bugs, children, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spiders, spring