Picture this …

I have a remarkable tale to share as we creep ever closer to Christmas Day.

As most of you know, I have no siblings, so thus I became the lucky keeper of the family albums where some vintage photographs are from the 1920s. Back in 2017, I spent Thanksgiving weekend digitizing hundreds of sepia-tinted, black-and-white and color photos chronicling years of family, friends and travel. It was time well spent, because prior to that long weekend, if I wanted to peruse those albums, I had to dig through multiple boxes in the bottom of a seldom-used clothes closet, where they were stacked alongside scrapbooks, school yearbooks and other mementos. Not only was retrieving the albums a laborious task, but the more-recent photo albums had begun falling apart, their bindings pulling away from the plastic-overlay pages. The photo albums from years before were still intact, as photos had been placed in gummed photo corners with tissue overlays separating the pages. I love having this treasure trove of memories just a few mouse clicks away and I’ve been able to use these images in blog posts as well. I have some more photos post-1990s in a shoebox which I forgot about, so that will be a future digitizing project.

Here’s something to ponder – as an only child, with no family members left, what if there were no photos of me as a youngster? I’m sure my parents would have told me that I had mousy-brown, stick-straight hair, (except on special occasions when it was set on pin curls for church, or holidays, or school photos and I often looked like I stuck my finger in an electric socket). There were “the real homely years” like when I got cat-eye glasses on my 7th birthday …

… then braces on my teeth when I was 20 years old. This may be the only photo of me smiling with my metal mouth.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to wonder about what I looked like because Mom, with her Baby Brownie camera and my father with his Leica 35mm camera, captured countless images and filled those album pages with photos of their little girl.

But what if you never saw your childhood pictures until you were grown with children, or even grandchildren, of your own?

Our neighbors and good family friends are long gone, both having passed away over a decade ago. They had four children, like stair steps – just a year or two apart. Money was tight in those days with four children. The man of the house worked and like most women in the 1950s and 1960s, the woman of the house was a stay-at-home mom. Because they were the same age, my mom would tell me, in their near-daily telephone chats, topics ranged from recipes, household remedies, their offspring or goings-on in the neighborhood, and, because both women were frugal, having grown up in the Depression era, they often discussed how that event impacted them as youngsters.

However, unlike my parents who documented my formative years and beyond with their respective cameras, our neighbors got a Kodak Instamatic camera, one roll of film and a package of flashbulbs and each Christmas they posed their four youngsters in front of the Christmas tree. Snap – one shot. Then the camera was tucked away until the following Christmas.

Some followers of this blog may never have used anything but a digital camera or phone to record images. So, it may be difficult to imagine taking photos, sending the film off to Kodak’s processing facility in New York and waiting weeks for those glossy prints to be returned. It wasn’t cheap either and you’d kick yourself for each photo that was blurred or a boo-boo. That was how it was for many years, then one-hour photo processing took over and picture-taking was suddenly revolutionized. Now, of course, the digital age of photography is here to stay.

Back to the story I wanted to tell you

So, when the roll of film was finally finished, the photos were never developed, but instead the camera was returned for safekeeping in a bureau drawer. Why? Weren’t they curious and wanted to ooh and aah over how their little darlings had grown through the years? One will never know their mindset.

Fast forward a few decades, the kids were long gone, having raised families of their own and they returned to clear out their childhood home after their parents’ deaths in order to put the house up for sale. In doing so, drawers were opened and contents examined. The Kodak camera was discovered and the roll of film processed. The integrity of the film was good despite its age. So, imagine four adults crowded around those photos, seeing their youthful, smiling faces in identical poses each year in front of the Christmas tree. Their parents were never in the photos, just them. I’m sure there were tears in their eyes.

I’ll make this a Throwback Thursday post … here are some of my favorite Christmas photos through the years. My parents similarly had me pose by the Christmas tree or touching it lightly with one hand (in the Summertime, it was standing next to the car.)

Taking photos is easier than ever now. I hope you capture some special memories with loved ones this holiday season.

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Glad I don’t wear these to walk!  #Wordless Wednesday  #Reached my goal with no elfin magic needed!

#Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

[Image from Pinterest]

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Season’s Eatings!!

Today’s post was originally intended to be a Wordless Wednesday giggle about sharing the love with my furry and feathered friends. But instead, it morphed into a regular post, thanks to two enterprising Eastern Gray Squirrels, who made it their business to eat or hide a baker’s dozen of whole walnuts all on their very own.

So that feat begs the question: “where were all the other walnut eaters?” Walnuts are always a big draw for the squirrels and, admittedly, it was not the prettiest of mornings, cold and gray – so perhaps the others remained tucked in their respective nests? The photos below may look like it’s just one squirrel, but I assure you it was a piggy PAIR of furry friends that showed up, took inventory of the goodies, then swiveled their heads around searching for other treat eaters and discovered nary a one. So, as I stood there, camera in hand, taking in the scene, I imagined the gears clicking in their respective tiny heads … “woo hoo, no one’s here, just us … so let’s go for it!”

And so they did. The pair scurried back and forth, alternately noshing, burying or otherwise hauling their prized walnuts away, perhaps for the family, or maybe a snack later.

You all know humans who hog the goodies, whether it’s a tray of cookies, or chips and dip, skillfully positioning themself in a corner where they may feast gorge to their heart’s desire. We had someone at the law firm years ago who fit that very description. “E” was always the first on the scene to stake a claim (many claims) on whatever eats, treats or sweets were laid out on the kitchen table, especially around the holidays, when employees baked and brought in treats galore to share with coworkers. Yep, “E” had the audacity to feast, plus grab a napkin and stuff his pockets for later. He’d stake out my office and when I left it, he ran over to the candy dishes of chocolates I always put out at any of the holidays throughout the year. I’d hear about it from others and besides, there were telltale signs like empty wrappers on the floor, or on my desk … even thrown into the candy dish! Bad etiquette there for sure! Sometimes “E” would be in such a hurry, he dropped foil-wrapped chocolates on the carpet … nice, real nice. So this duo kinda reminded me of “E” and his antics.

Of course during this great walnut heist, there was the occasional appreciative sniff of a cranberry, or a pecan or almond, but those were second-string treats to be enjoyed later, kind of like dessert.

“Hmm – what’s this? I’ll investigate later.”

As mentioned, the walnuts were the primo prize. These are a few of my favorite shots.

“Oh, there’s two walnuts left – how did I miss ’em before?”
“Off I go to bury this one for Christmas Day.”
“I don’t need no stinkin’ nutcracker to eat walnuts, just my two front teeth!”

Next was the smorgasbord of nuts to nosh on. There was a pause to glance at the array of goodies, including the birdseed bells and suet; those treats were for the Jays, Cardinals and if Rex, the Red-Bellied Woodpecker happened by.

Stepping in the suet is bad form, akin to double dippin’ your chip.
“I dunno, but this seed bell piques my interest … peanuts first though.”

Peanuts were a safe bet and could be taken “to go” so they became #2 in this feeding frenzy.

[Sniff, sniff] … “I want the freshest and biggest ones!”
“Peanuts rule!”
“I’m gonna bury a few for when Linda doesn’t show up.”
“I love peanuts but I’m getting full. Burp!”

All this munchkin mischief took place at the Safe Haven Tree, so named for the weeping branches tickling the ground that surround the trunk like a natural fortress. Those rigid tree branches help keep predators like swooping hawks at bay. But, I also put treats under the pavilion area on a picnic table, and, by the time I left on this particular day as snowflakes began a’flyin’, the goodies remained untouched. I’m pretty sure these gray squirrels checked this location out too.

Treats and trail mix waiting to be claimed by hungry critters.
Goodies galore – who will get them after I leave?

I intended to return the following day (Sunday) and inspect and photograph what remained of the goodies, but Mother Nature interceded with freezing rain, so I passed on that excursion. By the time I returned to Council Point Park on Monday morning, the squirrels had decimated the set-up and very little remained of these holiday treats, just a few inverted suet dishes which I assume were not up to snuff with the squirrels’ palate. The birds would not be strong enough to flip the suet dishes, so I had to do so.

I hope you are similarly feasting on holiday treats, maybe more calorie laden than these.

Today’s goodies.

Posted in Christmas, holiday, nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 49 Comments

Christmas cheer at Heritage Park.  #Wordless Wednesday  #Bulbs and baubles  #O Christmas Tree

#Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #Wordless Wednesday, nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 31 Comments

Fall foliage foray.

Colorful leaves were the highlight of this Sunday stroll at Heritage Park. I really hesitated to use “Halloween excursion” as this post’s title since we are now immersed in the Christmas holiday season, but this trip did indeed happen on Halloween.

I had been monitoring the foliage colors on the Facebook site “Heritage Park Photo of the Day” and it looked like the red, orange and gold of those gorgeous Maple trees were finally at peak.

We’d had a solid day of rain Friday, then scattered rain most of Saturday, thus no walk for me either day. So I began my morning by hustling down to Council Point Park to feed the squirrels and birds. Those peanut eaters were eager to see me, especially the squirrels which scurried over for a meet-and-greet-and-eat as quickly as I could get the peanuts out of the bag. Yep, I got it – two days away while all of my furry friends were trying to sock away peanuts for Winter, so where the heck was The Peanut Lady? I did two loops (two miles) and chatted with fellow walker Joann, then hightailed it to Heritage Park.

Any port, er … pond in a storm.

Due to the recent rains, I certainly was NOT surprised to see the makeshift “pond” was still a draw for the Heritage Park waterfowl. Some Mallards were still napping on the fringes of the “pond” or paddling around and the Canada Geese were enjoying their morning swim or grazing nearby …

…then a few crossed the road, holding up production, to join their dry brethren who declined a chilly water splash. There was a passel of them, but these were pulling up the rear.

The sun made for pretty reflections, just like the last time, of the church.

Me and mud don’t mix.

I knew any of the big parks would be a soggy mess and I hoped the “pond” would be the only low spot that collected water, but that was not the case. There were many large pools of water on the asphalt path …

… forcing me to walk on the muddy grass – check out my shoes.

And, as my heavy walking shoes sank into the muddy grass and brown goo oozed up, I was thinking “oh dear God, please don’t let this be liquefied goose poop!!”

I gritted my teeth with a grimace that I’m sure mirrored that of this teddy bear pumpkin near the covered bridge.

I found a patch of clean, wet grass that seemed to be minus mud and/or goose poop, and, using a curb like a boot scraper, mercifully those shoe soles were almost pristine again. Whew!

I decided no straying over near Coan Lake. Nope, I was not a fan of mud puddles nor mud pies as a kid and I still am not.

By the time I finished taking photos at the “pond” the sun was in full force and from the parking lot the colorful leaves seemed to take on a glow.

Some leaves still had raindrops.

One of the reasons I love Fall is the colorful leaves and trees ablaze in orangey tones – they were plentiful that day.

There was an event two days before called “Hallow-Palooza” and it was celebrated despite a driving rain. I saw the photos on the Facebook site Saturday and there were a lot of Halloween touches here and there, so I hoped the décor was left intact. I was especially interested if I could photograph “Skelly” the Taylor Historical Society’s resident skeleton, who is often artfully posed in various historical buildings for special park events. Skelly was adorned with a costume in this FB post but he was definitely MIA on my visit.

But one of Skelly’s cousins was peeking out the old Log Cabin at me.

Here is more Halloween decor at Heritage Park, the Petting Farm and Botanical Gardens.

The Petting Farm had some eerie sounds blaring from their barn loudspeaker and some cute decorations.

The Conservatory & Botanical Gardens had removed about 90% of their potted flowers, so it was a bit bare minus the tropical plants which are overwintered at volunteer’s homes and returned to this venue in the Spring. There were a few rose bushes still blooming though – this was one.

At last year’s Autumn visit there were gourds of every variety tucked amongst the flowers …this time, all that remained for harvest season were these mini pumpkins on a garland.

It was a perfect day for a Sunday stroll at one of my favorite parks. I added 4 ½ more miles to my early morning two miles, so 6½ miles for the day. I returned to Heritage Park the first weekend of December to get some shots of the holiday décor and those photos will be this week’s Wordless Wednesday post.

Posted in Halloween, nature, Seasons, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , , , | 73 Comments

As kids, we called each wisp a “Santa Claus” and captured them to make a wish.  #Wordless Wednesday #Milkweed seeds

#Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

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Walk for the Wild

I saw this 5K event advertised on one of the park sites I follow on Twitter. After signing up, I gleaned a few factoids which I’m going to pepper throughout this post, like this one: did you know there is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most metropolitan areas?

I participated in this virtual 5K event on Saturday, October 9th. As you can see from the header image, although I had from October 9th through October 16th to participate, since Mother Nature’s wily ways had wrecked several planned weekend excursions already, that day’s weather was sunny, albeit hot, so off I went on day #1 of the event.

To say it was hot was an understatement. As previously mentioned in another post, our weather folks had cleverly coined our unusual heat wave as “Augtober” or “Octoaster” – it was 15 degrees above normal in the morning. I left the house in short sleeves and before I would return home, having walked a whopping 7.4 miles altogether, the weather was downright sultry. It was 72 degrees F (22C) when I reached the car to drive home in the early afternoon.

I stopped at Council Point Park earlier that morning to walk and I did that one-mile loop to feed my furry and feathered friends. I knew I would plan on being gone at least four or five hours, as I wasn’t trying to win any accolades for my speed in completing the 5K, especially as I planned to meander along, taking some photos and dealing with the heat.

This 5K was in conjunction with National Wildlife Refuge Week.

When I registered for this 5K, I had to designate the wildlife refuge where I would participate. There are 500 such wildlife refuges across the nation. I chose the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (DRIWF)/Humbug Marsh in Trenton, Michigan. I have been there several times since it opened in October 2020. There was a suggested route to complete the 5K (3.2 miles), but I knew I would likely double it to bulk up my miles.

I parked and headed toward the Visitor Center to see if any notices about this event were posted. There were a few signs, including this one about the starting point and another regarding distances.

First you needed to hike down to the end of the Korneffel Fishing Pier. I took this photo to show how the walkway seemingly goes on forever – it is a whopping 700 feet (213 meters) long and juts out into the western Trenton Channel.

From the very edge of the pier, I noticed many dark-colored birds in a few trees. There were 28 birds to be exact. My interest was piqued and initially I couldn’t tell what type of birds they were. Were they Crows? Turkey Vultures? I zoomed in and recognized the profiles and hooked beaks as Double-Crested Cormorants and confirmed it as one took flight.

Traversing the Monguagon Delta.

I’ve posted about this DRIWR venue multiple times, but focused more on the nature aspect, rather than where the venue is located. The Fishing Pier and the Old Growth Forest are picturesque, but the Delta area is close to busy Jefferson Avenue with a view of an industrial plant and down by the Pier you will glimpse the not-so-picturesque, twin smokestacks rising from the Trenton Channel Power Plant.

The DRIWR is not unique in this regard. There are actually 101 urban national wildlife refuges where natural green spaces allow finned, feathered or furry wildlife to thrive amongst urban and industrial areas.

I usually have some luck getting a few photos at the Delta and today was no different. From the walkway I saw several Great Egrets, but only this one was close enough for a photo …

… and I got one shot of this Great Blue Heron before I spooked him and he took off screeching.

This Painted Turtle was lazing on a huge rock in the warm sun.

Happy to have had a few wildlife encounters and coupled with the hot sun, I knew it was time to make my way to Humbug Marsh, the 410-acre wetland and shady, 300+ year-old forest, BUT that leg of my 5K walk was halted for about an hour due to some unanticipated drama.

Drama at the DRIWR.

I had noticed the delivery van from the local Wild Birds Unlimited store parked in the lot. I know the owner as he was my HVAC service tech for many years, before he retired from that line of work and bought a WBU franchise. He and his wife run the Woodhaven, Michigan WBU. He made several runs to my home to deliver bags of peanuts and hummingbird feeders/paraphernalia during the early part of the pandemic. I decided to keep my eyes peeled for Phil and Therese on my excursion.

Suddenly, there was a cacophony of barking dogs and the sound seemed to be originating from the forest area. On the back patio of the Visitor Center, a group of people stood gazing into the forest and talking animatedly amongst themselves. What in the world? Your Roving Reporter had to investigate.

I could see birdhouses on the table. Phil must have another one of his seminars on bird feeding that he conducts at various parks. But where was the teacher? Hmm. I went to join the group and learned that during Phil’s class, they heard barking and yelps. It seems there was a woman walking two pit bulls and one of the pit bulls attacked another woman’s small dog. The bully bulldog went for the smaller dog’s face and injured it, plus bit its hip. It turns out the person who saved the day was Phil, who heard the commotion, grabbed a bottle of water he had handy, dumped it on the pit bull’s head, then pulled the pit bull off the smaller dog. Yikes! Phil was lucky he didn’t get bitten. Suddenly, along with the others in the group, I watched in horror as the woman with the injured dog was crying and while I did not see her dogs face, I did see it was limping badly and I saw the blood on its fur. Phil gave interviews to the police and soon a fire truck and EMS arrived to check on the small dog’s owner. I chatted with Phil briefly – he was visibly shaken and said the owner of the two pit bulls left the area before first responders arrived. I left to keep plugging away at this 5K in the almost-oppressive heat and turned around to take a picture of Phil at the seminar.

I resumed my trek by heading to Humbug Marsh.

I returned to the suggested 5K route, the Orange Trail, then the Green Trail. Here are a few shots around the Old Growth Forest. Our Summer-like Fall caused our leaf colors to turn and fall in late October, so there were no peak colors to observe.

We’d had significant rain, so many of the raised walkways were flooded, including near the murky-looking Vernal Spring Pool.

The pathways were full of gravel, walnuts, acorns and a few crispy leaves that crunched and crackled under my feet. I kept watching the path for Eastern Fox Snakes which are known to be in the area and I also looked for beach roses which were supposed to be at this venue – I saw neither.

As I was leaving the forest area, I chatted it up with one of the uniformed park rangers who was putting out more signage for the Walk for the Wild event and the weather came up. He said “’scuse me ma’am” as he darted into the shade of an information kiosk and removed his ranger hat. He said “if I’d have known it would have been this hot, I’ve have worn my shorts!”

Here is the finishing sign.

October 9th happened to be Global Big Day, the second ebird.org day for counting birds in 2021, so I was counting birds along with miles walked. I saw Seagulls – nothing unusual there, but the 28 Cormorants were something special, as were the 21 Killdeer making a huge noise buzzing around nearby – no pictures of them as I’d tucked my camera away already. I submitted my finds to the ebird.org site as you see below.

There was some fun swag – a tee-shirt, plus a bib you could design yourself. The finishing medal is heavy and has a powerful message on the back.

I got 7.4 miles done that day and the walk seemed as long as this post. Thanks for sticking with it if you’re still here – I know it was wordy and picture laden, but I didn’t want to leave out anything!

Posted in 5K events, birds, nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , , | 82 Comments

Brrr!  Break out the down … December is here! #Wordless Wednesday

#Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #WildlifeWednesday, #Wordless Wednesday, nature, Seasons, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , , , | 54 Comments

Take a deep breath and enjoy the blooms and butterflies.

Did you have a hectic holiday? Well, let’s instill a little peace into your day shall we?

I was wordy last week. It seems I had a lot to say – whew! Before I transition to Autumn, Winter and holiday posts, here are some images to remind you that it is a mere 203 days until Summer 2022 – sigh!

So … how did this walk, which happened on a hot August morning, keep getting pushed aside? Time flies, it seems. The frost is on the pumpkin and snow has graced our landscape whether we want it or not, so let’s think warm thoughts.

I took these photos while bopping around the Botanical Gardens amongst the lovely blooms and butterflies. Okay, lots of blooms, but just one butterfly, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Unbelievably, with the exception of a few Plain Jane Cabbage Whites, I saw no butterflies in 2021. Chock it up to the wacky weather I guess.

“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Harvest time in the ‘hood and at your home.

On a picture-perfect Pure Michigan morning, I decided to forego my trip to the Park and stroll through the ‘hood capturing images of harvest décor to use for this American Thanksgiving post. While strollin’, I was trollin’ for scarecrows.

The last few years, my Thanksgiving posts were a scenario where scarecrows gathered for a holiday feast. In 2019 I told you how those sweet ragamuffins tackled Turkey Day and last year I even gave those guys and gals a moniker and a voice. But, at the risk of repeating myself, I’ll forego that ritual this year and just concentrate on presenting the cutest in the crowd instead.

I’ve always had an affinity for scarecrows. Their whimsical appearance always give me a smile when I see them, from their silly and often-lopsided grins, wispy straw “hair” to the cute costumes with the stuffing poking out their dresses or britches. But scarecrows aren’t scary –that’s a misnomer. If they’re supposed to scare the crows away, I don’t see it … even when they resemble a crow themselves.

The best of the bunch, (in my humble opinion of course), are below.

So … if you’ve scrolled down this far, it’s time to celebrate harvest time in the ‘hood. This homeowner always creates a display featuring his handmade scarecrow surrounded by lots of harvest time goodies. It was the first stop I made.

For the homeowners who piled huge pumpkins atop straw bales …

… I am sure most weren’t fit to use for carving fancy-schmancy jack-o’- lanterns …

… or making pumpkin pie, as the Fall heat wave would have surely pureed the guts of those gourds.

Folks may enjoy their turkey and trimmings today, but will be sure to save room for a slice (or two) of pumpkin pie. It seems this mischievous munchkin also loves pumpkin … behold the chunks he has chomped in this pumpkin.

He was gnawing at it when I happened by. “Oh good – this will be a cute picture” I thought. But he took his pumpkin chunk “to go” running lickety-split up the nearest tree. I said “you can come back down dear – it’s not MY pumpkin!” But he taunted me and stayed up top – who could resist taking a photo of this angelic-looking face?

Whether you’re a nibbler like our little buddy here, or you gobble ‘til you wobble, enjoy the day. Click here for a special Thanksgiving greeting.

Posted in holiday, Thanksgiving, Harvest time,, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 68 Comments