Friday, March 31, 2017

Third 'Birthday'

Three years ago today with few regrets I left Royal Oak leaving behind my fantastic garden and home for my new life in Michigan's Thumb. My new home is a third the size of my R.O. home which is great because I can manage it better.

There's been an enormous amount of work to do to start my new garden here under harsher conditions and poor soil. I bought my property in either late 2011 or early 2012 - can't remember, don't care. It already had a habitable pole barn which I could spend time in during construction. The first thing we had done was rehabbing the interior of half of the pole barn putting in a shower/bath, a kitchenette, a large great room, and a fenced dog yard. It's a great place and made my early visits with dogs possible. Brian Howard, my architect, made plans for my small "double-wide" new home and we started building in 2013. It took months for inspections and finally I told them I was moving in, ready or not, in 2014. I wanted to be here for my early April birthday. So on April Fools' Day 2014, this became "home". As Judy said, "There's no place like home." Three amazing years.

Last year I finished the pole barn with insulation, windows, door, garage door, and new interior siding. Then we added a new front door to the house. (Until my former house sold, some thngs had to be put on the back burner. The journey with Daren Ives and Brian has been the adventure of a lifetime. I love what they've done for me over many years.

Clicking on photos enlarges them.

Although they have never been enemies, I Ching and Kata have never been best friends. They are both old now and, I think, heat from warm furry bodies has made them friendlier.

This is the first year for catkins on my hazlenuts. The question: Will the flowers survive and produce nuts and if so, will the mice get them before I do if the flowers survive late frosts. It will be fun watching and waiting.

There are eight houses, well really 6 houses and two cottages here. My home is on a "U-shaped" private drive with five homes but only two year round residents, to the north are three more homes, one year round resident. So I rarely see anyone in the fall, winter and spring. My nearest grocery store is fifteen minutes away but the best ones are half an hour away. I love the country driving. On a typical trip most of the year I see only two or three cars along the road into "town". The "big" town has two stoplights; the two smaller towns have one stoplight each.

I suspect this is a merlin or a sparrow hawk or a peregrine at the top of a tall cottonwood tree. He was serenading a female somewhere. I feed the birds in the winter. Some of those birds in their turn feed larger ones.

This summer will be my fourth one here and I'm expecting bigger things in the garden: - you know the old saying regarding perennials? Sleep, creep, leap. Meaning the first year planted the perennials are busy putting down roots and don't show much, is any, above ground activity. The second year the above ground portions are a little bigger but still rather disappointingly small. The third year they take off. I'm hoping. Before moving I divided many of my large perennials in my old garden and brought them here; fortunately most of the plants I brought made it although they did suffer shell shock from the poorer soil and the dividing and transplanting. A few of my favorite plants did not make it. Onward and upward. I've always said that plants have to be tough to survive in my garden. My dogs would make short work of them if they weren't strong and that's just how it is.

Even though we've had a lousy March, the birds are getting ready for nesting. Cardinals don't normally visit my suet feeders which are much loved by various woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches. Today the female cardinal was stocking up on fat, which I suspect her body is using to make eggs, The goldfinch males have almost finishing moulting into mating plumage. So even though it feels nothing like spring, the birds just know it's right around the corner here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Refresh Time

What makes for a great photo? I don't know. I'm just happy when my shots are in focus. I liked the recent sunrise shot below. Clicking on photos enlarges them,

Many birds are returning now. Last week I saw turkey vultures, robins, cedar waxwings, red-winged blackbirds, etc. It's so good to have them back here. The robins have even eaten a few of the viburnum berries which surprised me.

Normally winter aconites have flowered as early as mid February even here but not this year when they just now showed up along with a few species crocus, some spring irises, and even the small, over-wintering, ground-cover sedums look nice to me now.

I was able to work in the west forest along the northern edge twice last week removing overgrown red twig dogwoods, grapevines, Russian olives, and trimming up some of the spruce and pines by removing dead lower branches, Yesterday withing a few minutes I could feel the cold weather arrive back yet again while I was finishing up. It looks like we'll have cold and rain today, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Someone asked me if I minded. Nope. Not at all. That gives me a chance to rest up between bouts of gardening activity! Also have books to read and some discs of Game of Thrones to watch and they are really enjoying. I have finally found the perfect spot for my Ikea rocking-chair - facing west by the stone fireplace overlooking the pole barn and the northern forest.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Cedar Waxwings

The cedar waxwings are back to Vinland! Each year at about this time they return and devour the berries of the wild Viburnums which have been waiting to be eaten since last summer. I suspect the wait and the repeated winter freezings and thawings somehow makes them taste better. The birds that remain here all winter ignore the berries! Clicking on photos enlarges them.

Last week we got the first real snow here since late December - I think. It was especially pretty because we knew it wouldn't last long. A couple of years ago Lake Huron was virtually frozen over completely. Last year and this year we had open water all winter.

Around this time of the year ice chunks, probably from Lake Superior, pass by on their way to the Atlantic Ocean. Two recently got stuck on the gravely bottom just slightly off shore. The smaller one may not look very large but, as we all know, the majority of an iceberg is hidden underwater and - the small one was as big as my house.

While I was writing this post I noticed some deer had wandered out onto the second and larger iceberg. There must have been a snow bridge to the shore allowing them entrance. They wandered out to the end and just stared into the distance. Wonderful. Amazing. I snapped a few photos. I had no idea the iceberg was that large. These shots only show the tip which is about 20% of the berg. I couldn't fit the who iceberg in the photo. (It's the berg shown in the last of the above shots soon after it arrived here.) It's flattened out considerably now because of the warmer air this past weekend. Look at how small the deer look in the photo below.

Gorgeous Sunrises

And Clivia of course. I've never had this kind of luck with their flowers. They flower three of four times a year and I don't do anything special. They like it here - - - too.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Nine year old Icelandic Sheepdog Totty's play bow stimulates litter sister Pila's play response. These siblings love to play - - but sometimes they forget it's "play". I watch and call them in before things get serious.

We're expecting a big storm over Lake Huron and it's coming from the east; most of our weather here comes from the northwest. March is behaving more like January or February - - - and they were behaving more like March. Climate change. Clicking on photos enlarges them.

One of the issues with getting older is that your body starts to fail  in many ways, subtle and not so subtle. Last Friday I had some tooth pain which didn't go away. By Sunday I was ready to end it all! Unfortunately my dentist was out of town; he called in a prescription for pain but all pharmacies here are closed on Sundays! Monday I went to Sandusky to pick up my Motrin.  This morning I went to see him. Tooth/cap/previous root canal/. Newly dead nerves require are the culprit.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Cold Weekend 3-11-2017

Cabin Fever! Winter has most definitely returned to the Thumb. The temps are hovering near zero - Farenheit. The dogs don't actually want to stay outside for long! My mini-pond has thawed, frozen, thawed, and frozen again. The fish and frogs must be confused. Clicking on photos enlarges them.

Producers of maple syrup are unhappy: when the temps rise in the winter the sap starts to flow from the roots up to the buds and they start to swell. That first rush of sap is sweet, high in sugar. Returning cold temps stop the flow mid-stream. When temps next rise, the sap has less sugar and is bitter and therefore not good for making syrup. Climate change may make real maple syrup a thing of the past or a luxury item for the rich.

Over 800,000 people lost power in the Detroit area because of the winds from last Wednesday''s wind storm. Many have had power restored but about 250,000 are still without electricity. One wonders how this could happen? Can nothing be done to secure our lines? Rhetorical.

Speaking of trees, my large ash tree that had partially fallen over in a windstorm back in late December-ish was finally cut down, sections of trunk left on the ground to return to the soil. And then last week, three days after the ash was finally sectioned, during the storm another dead tree, this time an aspen, was blown partially over. It's as tall but not as big so I think I can do that one by myself but it's precipitously leaning over a farm fence and the bluff. Could be interesting. I have lost an amazing number of trees since relocating.

I have been looking for a mate for Kit but have been disappointingly discouraged. I'll trudge on.

Spectacular sunrises still lift my mid-winter blahs every morning. Even when it's overcast, Lake Huron is 'mecurically' beautiful (below).

The sunsets (below) are nice here too but I rarely notice them. Before this latest reappearance on winter there were several days I was able to work on clearing out the overgrown Russian olives (autumn olives) on the land west of the pole barn - aka 'Sans Souci'. It's slow going but I'm not in a rush. I'm thinking that when things warm up, I may plant some small rhododendrons, which are supposed to be unappealing to deer, in small clearings amongst the pines and spruce trees in that west forest. Nothing ventured, eh?

I watched a special about something and saw this shot of Sutro tower in San Fran and was pleasantly reminded of Wayne Quinn's painting of same. A gift that I didn't appreciate at the time. I'm so sorry. Guess I wasn't ready then. Am now.