Embracing the four seasons at Council Point Park.

The Winter Solstice arrives today at 5:02 a.m., just as this post is publishing. As my long-time followers know, Winter is my least-favorite season. I dislike driving in the ice and snow just as much as I dislike walking in it. Once it is icy and dicey on our City streets and sidewalks, the same conditions are usually found on the perimeter path at my favorite nature nook. This curtails my walking regimen immensely as you might imagine. I really don’t mind the cold, and, since I took the bus to Downtown Detroit for over three decades, I have amassed a collection of woolen hats, warm wraps, mitts and gloves, plus lug-soled boots. As long as it is clear and dry outside, off I go to walk at the Park.

If you don’t like the weather in Michigan, wait five minutes

The first Christmas Day I walked at Council Point Park, back in 2013, we had a pop-up snow squall on my second time around the perimeter path. Earlier that morning, people lamented on social media about our lack of fresh snow to add a little Christmas ambiance. I was the opposite of these folks as I was overjoyed no additional snow had fallen, since it had been slick and slippery at the Park the last time I had walked there. It’s no joy having to step around layers of snow and ice on the pathway, so I figured this was Mother Nature’s little gift to me.

But, soon into my walk, I realized I had been a tad overconfident about the wiles of Mother Nature. The sky quickly darkened and I remember looking up and thinking “well, that’s a snow sky if I’ve ever seen one.” Mere minutes later, enormous snowflakes began to fall then swirl around my feet. In a heartbeat, the huge snowflakes began to slicken up the path and I couldn’t see what icy patches were beneath, so I cut across the grassy “donut area” to head for home. Home is just one mile away, but the snow was flying furiously by then and snowflakes had drifted and deposited heaps of the white stuff on the streets and sidewalks. Additionally, a stiff wind had blown up and I struggled to keep my balance as the gusts buffeted me. My parka hood insisted on flipping backward, and, unbelievably, by the time I reached home, snow had glommed onto every crease or crevice of my parka and the hood was filled with snow.

That was the longest walk home ever! I brushed off all the snow and with a nose as red as a cherry, (just like Santa and also my parka), I hustled into the house, grumbling all the way. “What just happened here?” I asked of no one in particular. I was sure a mere half-hour before I was enjoying my walk and working up an appetite for an early Christmas dinner and here I was with a saturated coat and hat, plus numb from my nose to my toes.

We’ve been fairly lucky so far in November and December, except for the November 30th snowstorm where the snow melted in a few days and last Wednesday’s minor accumulation blip. I wish we could remain unscathed by wintry weather the remainder of this season, but two mild Winters in a row likely won’t happen.

A year of seasons.

Once before I captured four images, one for each season, of the identical fork in the road, er … beginning of the walking path. This was the collage I made back in 2017.

I always start off on the right side, as it runs parallel to the Creek, has the most trees, thus many squirrels and birds. I prefer going in this direction, though it really doesn’t matter, however, when going to the left, I sneak up on Harry the Heron when he’s fishing and he freaks out more than usual. Here are the photos taken to mark each season in this new decade. I would have liked a photo with lots of dandelions for my Spring picture, but dandelion season happened the month the Park was closed due to COVID (May 1st through June 2nd).

Just ten more days until 2020 comes to a close … we all can’t wait!

Posted in nature, Seasons, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 28 Comments

Please indulge me as I reminisce about Christmas past.

It seems like the holiday season is the perfect time for reflections, especially in 2020, which will likely go down in history as the year with an asterisk.

Social media lit up like a Christmas tree back in October when we learned the perennial Peanuts favorite “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” was not going to appear on network TV for the first time since its debut on October 27, 1966.

People were aghast – what a letdown! They knew their children would be disappointed too, especially in a year that was already fraught with frustration. After all, not everyone has cable, nor streams their entertainment. I’ve not turned on the TV in almost eleven years since I cancelled my cable.

I was already a “big kid” when the first Peanuts TV special aired.

There have been many Christmas specials for kids over the years. In 1965, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which was based on Charles Schultz’ comic strip characters, made its debut. I was nine years old and I don’t recall watching it, but we still lived in Canada at that time, so perhaps it was not shown on our network stations.

But I sure remember the TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.

Growing up, we had a ritual during the school year. After dinner on school nights, I sat at the kitchen table to do my homework. With the exception of National Geographic specials or a nature show, every night my after-homework routine was a bath, hop into my PJs, then off to bed.

There was only ONE Christmas special that my folks permitted me to stray from that rigid weeknight routine and that was the annual airing of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I was no stranger to the characters in this wonderful children’s story, having read the book many times and I even had a bright-red, 45 rpm vinyl record that I got to play on Mommy and Daddy’s record player (with supervision of course). Gene Autry’s 1949 recording will always be the best version of this song in my opinion.

The movie “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” debuted in 1964 and because this was an era before VCRs, DVD players, streaming or cable TV, if I was going to watch this animated show live, there had to be an exception to all the rigid rules and regs in the Schaub household. So, one time a year we had an easy dinner that night … sometimes even a Swanson’s TV dinner, a rare treat in our house since Mom was all about having a hot, home-cooked dinner on the table seven nights a week. Homework was done and checked, then I ran into the living room to park my bum in front of the TV set. In the photo above, I am sitting next to the TV, my baby picture displayed on top of the console and the “Reader’s Digest Abridged Version” volumes on a shelf beneath it.

With rapt attention I watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while Mommy and Daddy read the newspaper, except periodically I would hear my mom humming to the song “Silver and Gold” by Burl Ives or I’d hear an off-key rendition of the title song coming from the kitchen.

Even when I got older, I continued that ritual of watching “Rudolph” for many years and began including “Frosty the Snowman” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as my go-to movies for getting into the Christmas spirit, even if I was cramming for exams in college, or had other events swirling around in my life. This was “must-see TV” long before that phrase was coined.

My folks loved the grown-up Christmas TV specials – I guess I did too.

It was a one-TV household for many years with a black-and-white set in a wooden console that took up residence in the living room. Saturday nights during the holiday season, there were specials featuring crooners like Andy Williams, Perry Como and Dean Martin. My parents never missed one of those shows. We would crowd around the TV to watch the singers, clad in heavy ski sweaters, with plastic snow twinkling down in the background and pretty young women clustered all about. We’d be munching on “Nuts-and-Bolts” a snack mix Mom always made during the holiday season. I searched to see if “Nuts and Bolts” was just a salty snack in the Schaub household, but it seems it is a “Canadian thing” … you probably know it as “Chex Mix” or “Doo Dads” here in the States. Mom made a batch for my dad, garlicky like he enjoyed it and a plain version for us. So we munched and crunched away while enjoying the annual holiday specials.

Flash forward a few decades or so.

Television viewing habits at the Schaub household sure changed circa 1989 when the first VCR was brought into the house. Suddenly I could tape my favorite holiday shows to watch them anytime. Because I’m a saver, not a thrower, I still have that original VCR tape where I put a sticky note on the box … maybe some of you have never seen a VCR tape?

Wow … now I could transport myself back to being a kid again by watching my favorite holiday shows anytime I wanted!

Then Mom surprised me by ordering the boxed set of “Rudolph” and “Frosty” (my all-time personal favorites) from Blockbuster Video one year for Christmas.

Sadly, I’ve not seen those shows in ages … in fact, I not only stopped watching TV but unplugged the TV set. Perhaps these two shows are just the ticket to garner a few smiles in this extraordinary and certainly forgettable year. I know the story lines by heart and the songs as well. Heck, I could probably recite some of the conversations had by Rudolph and Clarice, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius, even the roar of Bumble, as well as the chatter between Frosty and Wendy. I must confess there are portions of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” I know by memory too. I laugh at myself as I’ve never watched the classics “White Christmas” or “Miracle on 34th Street” to completion, but I make no apologies for this holiday faux pas.

Taking a nostalgic trip down memory lane is a chance to remember the good times … surely simpler times and chock full of fun memories. There is joy in the journey, whether it is walking along a path or revisiting the past.

Posted in Christmas, Memories | Tagged , , | 79 Comments

Bulbs and baubles. #Wordless Wednesday

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

Posted in #Wordless Wednesday, holiday | Tagged , | 27 Comments

Sharin’ the love and a little …

… trail mix.

As you know from prior posts, I met my walking goal (1,255 miles/2,020 kilometers) on November 29th. That was the earliest ever for me and I really pushed myself over Thanksgiving holiday weekend, since I had time for four leisurely walks and the weather was clear and dry. I even incorporated a 10K virtual walk into the mix.

On that long trek on November 29th I walked seven miles/11 kilometers, so I figured it was the perfect time to take some pictures of my furry and feathered friends at the Safe Haven Tree since I would be going ‘round and ‘round repeatedly on the walking loop, and, thus could monitor them enjoying their treats with both my eyes and the camera.

I decided to add a special treat to pique the peanut pals’ interest.

Believe me … I thought long and hard how to provide peanuts to the furry and feathered pals over our harsh Michigan Winter, especially with the picnic tables in the pavilion area gone and Cooper’s Hawks lurking. Safety-wise I had already trained the squirrels since October to look for food beneath the Safe Haven Tree. With that step accomplished, next I needed to keep them interested by putting the food up higher when the snow began a’ flyin’. So I crept under the tree to take pictures of the branches so I could study the photos to see what feeder(s) worked best. My solution was to buy two feeders: a small suet/treat dish and a wooden platform feeder, both to be hung under the tree and secured so the critters would not knock them down.

But I had to start out small

… until they were used to seeing the dish and what it was used for. Then later, once the snow began in earnest, I’d bring the larger, wooden platform feeder and fill it with peanuts and use this smaller feeder for seeds or suet. Satisfied, I had it all figured out, I even mentioned my plan to Arnie and Joe, two others who also have been doling out peanuts to the squirrels. As an incentive to visit the new feeder, I filled it with trail mix. Yes, it was healthy for them – I shared some of mine I’d just made up that morning.

I bought hanging hooks and a chain as I wasn’t sure what would work better to suspend the two feeders from different tree branches. Well, the hanger hooks didn’t work as I knocked against the hook and the whole set-up fell down, spilling trail mix onto the ground.

No worries … it wouldn’t go to waste. In fact a couple of Blue Jays positioned themselves in a nearby tree, eager for me to move on, so they could move in and get some nuts and berries.

I had also brought along a small bird feeder chain, that luckily I bought when I got the feeders. I wrapped it around the tree, secured the feeder and clicked the hook shut – it was good and secure. No bored squirrels or birds would be messing with this feeder and it would stay put (or so I thought).

I had even brought extra trail mix along, so I refilled the blue feeder to the top, then stood back and took photos of the set-up under the tree from two different angles.

By now, a few squirrels had positioned themselves nearby, anxious to get first dibs on the peanuts, when they heard me jiggling the cellophane wrapper. This rattling of the wrapper is a ritual that would be the same as me ringing the dinner bell for the critters.

I scattered the peanuts, then grabbed the camera. I was looking for a shot of a Cardinal or two to go into this post. I was hopeful when Mister Cardinal and his Missus were early guests and landed on the nearby chain-link fence, even before I had time to unpack all the goodies. Obviously I took too long, so off they went in search of grubs, never to return.

Patience was a virtue to those furry and feathered pals who endured the wait and they all hurried over when I stepped away to resume my walk.

The Jay showed an interest in the trail mix. I guess it was easier to grab a cashew, than have to take a peanut up to the branch, hold it in your foot and stab the shell with your beak, just to retrieve the nut.

Parker surveyed the trail mix. I could imagine the thought bubble “Hmm, do I want a carrot or tomato Goldfish cracker or a cashew?” He checked out all the snacks, but moved on.

That’s because Parker thought this was newfangled stuff – he preferred peanuts and wondered why I was wasting his time; trail mix is for hikers, not squirrels in his humble opinion.

Puff knew exactly what he wanted and opted for a peanut from the get-go.

As did Fluff who is pictured up top.

On my last lap, most of peanuts had disappeared from under the tree, but as alluded to above, the peanuts would not be the only thing to disappear.

After multiple trips around the Figure-8 walking loops, always with my camera in hand, and more peanuts dispensed as necessary, I was surprised the squirrels and birds had not yet tried the goodies in the feeder, although I had witnessed the woodpecker as he inched up the tree for a look-see. Eventually Rex settled on a peanut in the shell instead.

I headed for home. I knew I likely would not return until Friday, if not Saturday, as the weather folks predicted about a half-foot of snow arriving the next day (instead, we had 3 1/2 inches which subsequently melted in the warm temps).

When I finally returned to the Park Friday morning, I had a Ziploc bag filled with more trail mix and black oiler sunflower seeds for the blue dish. I was eager to see if they ate what I left Sunday.

To my surprise, the chain had been removed from the tree and the empty dish had been thrown on the ground, but not under the tree. Obviously the squirrels and birds had not removed the chain, nor taken it. I was irritated, but put the blue feeder beneath the tree and emptied the contents of the Ziploc bag into it and spread out some peanuts.

I continued on my walk and decided the feeder could stay on the ground for good now. However, a few days later, the blue feeder was the next item to go missing. I scanned the grass and pathway and it was nowhere to be found. There will be one more post with the blue dish before it went MIA. The wooden platform feeder will NOT be going to the Park and hopefully the snow does not pile up too much under the tree. It is not my memorial tree, but given the fact that the tree looks unkempt and unloved, I’m pretty sure the owners are not regular visitors to the Park and therefore had nothing to do with this. My solution may be I must tramp down the snow so peanuts don’t disappear into the snow when scattered on top.

The moral of the story is … sometimes ideas are better left in your brain or on paper.

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , | 41 Comments

It was serendipity.

A week ago today I visited with an old friend. While it is certainly not unusual to reconnect with seemingly long-lost friends on social media, or by happenstance, I must state that this telephone encounter was with a friend with whom I had not communicated since 1978! (Perhaps some of you were not even born then!)

Because there is always a back story

I have known people that have kept in touch with classmates from high school, roommates from college, even former coworkers; these were folks with shared experiences and their friendships endured through the years. I must admit I have often lamented that our group of six girls, once thick as thieves during the last two years of high school, never kept in touch through the decades. The six of us only gathered three times after high school. Sure, we promised to stand up in each other’s weddings, or name our firstborns after each other, (a feat not as difficult as it sounds because three of our group of six were named “Linda”), but we lost touch. What went wrong?

We had many good times those last two years of high school. Here is a picture of the six of us dressed up like the Roarin’ 20s for our Millionaires Party during senior year.

Back left to right: Diane P., Sheila H., Linda S., Linda W.
Front left to right: Linda V. and Rosemary G.

We had 613 students in our Lincoln Park High School Class of ’73. After the graduation ceremony at Cobo Hall, June 13, 1973, we hightailed it back to the high school in Sheila’s dad’s gold Montego with paint scrawls and scribbles proclaiming “free at last” and “Class of ’73” then we gathered with classmates one last time for the All Night Party.

As I recall, we hung out together that night, said goodbye the next morning, but then real life intervened that Summer. Suddenly we were thrust into the workforce: three of us quickly found permanent jobs and the remaining three would begin college in the Fall but had part-time jobs.

I think it was then that we began to lose touch.

The gathering – Christmas 1973.

Through the years
We all will be together
If the fates allow …
~ lyrics from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

(Please click here to hear the song.) This song has always made me feel a little sad.

Of the six of us, Sheila was the only one who left home, when she began the pharmacy program at Ferris State in Big Rapids, Michigan. Sheila was homesick for family and friends. I used to get a phone call every Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m., (her time period to use the dorm phone), until she made friends and acclimated to campus life. Sheila was anxious to get together at the Christmas holidays while she was home on break, so we settled in for an evening at a venue where we had gathered so often in our high school years – Rosemary’s house. We quickly caught up with each other’s lives and exchanged Christmas presents while enjoying a little wine.

Left to right: Linda W., Diane P. and Sheila H.
Left to right: Diane P., Rose G., Linda S., Linda V.

Christmas passed and we got back to our respective lives and only got together at Rosemary’s wedding in January of 1976. We must’ve chatted it up at the reception, though I don’t really recall any meaningful conversation. Were there Christmas cards, birthday cards or phone calls? I simply don’t recall, but life was a blur for me as I was busy with college, working on the school newspaper, involved in student government and I worked weekends and all school breaks at the diner. In 1978, one of us reached out and thought to suggest a get-together, so we had a five-year reunion. A lot had transpired in our respective lives the past five years. Because we spent so many high school evenings going out for dinner and a show, we decided to recreate that pastime. But the evening fell short of duplicating those long-gone evenings, circa 1971-1973, because the movie theatre was crowded and we ended up sitting singly in different rows. We followed the movie up with dinner at a Chinese restaurant and called it a night rather early as I recall. Though we were inseparable at one time, the evening seemed stilted. That was the last time we would gather.

Liz, a legal secretary/friend that I used to run into at Starbucks from time to time, was a former neighbor of Sheila’s and one day she told me she had sad news: Liz had learned from her parents that Sheila and her husband Phil had both passed away from cancer, six months apart, in 2007. That’s was the only news I had heard about my friends. None appeared to be on Facebook. None of us went to class reunions. I ran into Diane a couple of years ago at the grocery store but she was preoccupied with her grandchildren, so the encounter was brief. She recognized me; I didn’t recognize her until she said “Hey Linda, do you remember me – Diane?”

And then this happened.

Reach out and touch someone

Years ago AT&T telephone company had a series of commercials about reaching out and touching someone on the telephone. Today, we FaceTime one another, or are immersed in an age of Zoom for hook-ups with family, friends and co-workers. Now, more and more people are giving up the landline phone to rely on their smartphones or VoIP (internet telephone). Me – well I’ve kept the landline as I use it for work, especially the speakerphone. I may like the landline, but NOT the ton of robo/spammy calls, sometimes up to 20 per day, despite having registered years ago on the Do Not Call Phone Spam List. They don’t ring a couple of times and stop, but instead, ring incessantly from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays, but rarely on the weekends. The calls have gotten so annoying, that as I log onto my computer for work, I turn off the phone’s ringer and rely on the flashing red bar to alert me to an incoming call.

These junk calls range from out-of-town numbers from all states, to local calls with my own area code; yes, sneaky spammers have been doing that last trick for several years now. I don’t have an answering machine and I refuse to answer any of those calls. 

But then this one call piqued my interest.

Last Friday morning, I turned on the computer and simultaneously went to shut the phone ringer off. Just then a call came in. I glanced at the number, assuming it was my boss. The caller I.D. told me it was from Linda V. (I’ll eliminate Linda’s last name and of course her number for privacy purposes.) I did a double-take. It was a local prefix, and, for a split-second I wondered if I should pick up, but decided not to as I had a busy work day ahead, so I jotted down the number to do a little research later.

Because the internet knows WAY too much about all of us, a few minutes’ research, a half-dozen keystrokes and Google helped me learn that yes it was Linda and the phone number matched her former and current address and even gave her age.

That night, after dinner, I called the number and got an answering machine message. I took a deep breath and announced: “Hi Linda V – it’s Linda Schaub and I’m returning your call.” I babbled a little about just how many junk calls I get and never pick up any, but how her name/number piqued my interest.

A few minutes later Linda called me back, we had a little back and forth … after all, what do you say after 42 years? The initial “how ya doing?” was quickly dispensed with, then Linda announced she never called me – it was just a junk call and, unbelievably, Linda said she had received a spam call from her own home phone number in the past!

Well we spoke for four hours and Linda’s phone battery began to give out, just as my voice was similarly starting to crack a little from overuse. I don’t talk that much in a week and certainly not for four straight hours.

The takeaway … well, I learned that Linda V is a “dust-if-your-must” kinda gal, just like me. Of course I mentioned my blog, walking, plus meeting my walking goal one month early, then learned that Linda, recently retired from a career in nursing, had embarked on a walking regimen in August and also likes to walk in local parks. Who knows, maybe we even crossed paths and didn’t recognize one another?! I did forget to ask if she likes feeding the squirrels … that topic will be the next time we chat I guess.

I know that the year 2020 has brought a new normal and a host of weird and wacky events, the likes we’d never dreamed about, but I had to share this unbelievable tale of two telephones and two Lindas with you.

[Serendipity header image from Pinterest]

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 73 Comments

Rex is snazzy in his red “cap” … just like Santa! #Wordless Wednesday #Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker

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

Posted in #WildlifeWednesday, #Wordless Wednesday, nature | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

The Safe Haven Tree.

We all agree that 2020 is like no other year, unless, of course, you were around for the 1918 influenza pandemic, but let’s not go there.

It is nine months since “lockdown” and “social distancing” suddenly infiltrated our vocabulary and in mid-March, the words “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19” kicked election news headlines to the curb.

Everyone needs a safe haven.

Due to COVID-19, family quality time sure took on a new meaning in 2020. Suddenly, whole families hunkered down and huddled together after many workplaces closed, schools were shuttered and schedules got scrambled. Patience wore thin as COVID jail prevailed and it was not quite warm enough to head outdoors for some much-needed space alone. Men and women were lucky if they already had a man cave or she shed in place, thus giving them a respite from the family. Sadly, domestic woes and volatile relationships in the confines of the home, day after day, led some to leave and seek a safe haven. And here we are again – round two, with surging stats and Winter weather on the horizon. Sigh.

Our little critters need a safe haven to shelter as well.

I do “get” the predator-prey cycle of life and that every critter must eat to survive, but yes, ol’ bleeding heart me has difficulty grasping that concept.

Though I feel a tug at my heartstrings every time I walk out the door with no furry or feathered friends to beg for peanuts here at the house, I’ve not written about the demise of my merry band of squirrels and Blue Jays and Cardinals which I fed for three years … that is until the Cooper’s Hawk decided that, one by one, each would become his meal and they disappeared. I didn’t see any of the six (two gray squirrels, two black squirrels and two Fox squirrels) though I put out peanuts – evidently, the birds were enjoying them. Then the birds also didn’t show up – the peanuts were still there later in the day. So, after a few weeks, I sent a message to my neighbor to ask if he’d seen Grady the gray squirrel and his mate/buddy, both which begged incessantly and I was told “didn’t you know there was a Cooper’s Hawk eyeing them from the big tree across the street?” That simple statement about their demise just cut me like a knife. “No, I didn’t know that” was my answer and I instantly felt sick. They livened up my mornings on those bleak and gray Winter days and I filled my blog with pictures and stories of them and their antics. How I wish I knew as I’d have stopped feeding them to encourage them to go away, maybe to a safer neighborhood.

This Summer when the Cooper’s Hawks begin to circle overhead at Council Point Park, I vowed it would not happen again. What could I do – I’m not there 24/7/365. Then I saw a hawk go after a black squirrel twice … I chased it away one time, just before the final swoop and the second time, another squirrel sounded the panic alarm, thus thwarting the attack.

Obviously I can’t count noses every time I go to this Park to ensure each of my furry pals is present and accounted for, but I decided back in October, I had to find a way to protect them from this enemy as best I could.

So, I created a safe haven for them.

There are many trees at Council Point Park and, as you know, approximately 60 of them are memorial trees, with special plaques placed at the base in a loved one’s memory. When I first started walking here, I tried to get a tree for my mom, but I was told they no longer were doing memorial trees.

I’ve passed this Weeping Mulberry tree for years and even referred to it as “Cousin Itt” from the Addams Family TV show. My neighbor has the same tree, though it has routinely been pruned – this one has not been pruned and its branches almost graze the ground. Unlike a Weeping Willow with soft and bendable branches, this tree has hard branches, a quality not lost on me, since in the Summer months the tree looks a little wild – a mess of leaves and maybe even a place that youngsters would use to play hide-and-seek.

I decided the dense foliage and hard branches would be perfect to shelter the squirrels, if only I could train them to go under the tree to eat their peanuts, away from the Cooper’s Hawks who would not readily want to go crashing into the hard, drooping branches and risk injuring themselves just to make a meal of my furry friends.

In the past I’ve herded the squirrels and birds to the picnic table for the Winter when storms were brewing or freezing rain and snow were on the way. I would leave extra food for them. Seed bells, trays of sunflower seeds, suet cakes and lots of peanuts lured them under the pavilion, away from predators and the food stayed dry. But, this year, the picnic tables were removed in early October instead of remaining in place all year around.

So what the HECK did Linda do for her furry pals?

I Googled all over looking to find some information about the person on this memorial stone, Stella M. Heck, but found nothing.

Since I sought a refuge for the squirrels, I decided to dump abundant peanuts under this tree. Could I train my furry friends to stay put while eating, then scamper back to their trees or nests without being preyed upon?

For the most part, yes – I did.

The Weeping Mulberry is featured up top and, in October, this is how it looked when the leaves began turning gold.

Usually, the squirrels see me toting the bag of peanuts and are on high alert and either come rushing over to dance around my feet like Parker, or simply hang back, but study my every move to see where the peanuts are going and to anticipate if I will stay and be in their way. They are savvy and likewise the Blue Jays similarly plan how they will snatch a peanut.

I made a point of waiting until a few squirrels had gathered, then after a load of peanuts were strewn beneath the Safe Haven Tree, I stepped aside to watch. I finally had to leave to get ready for work and the cache of nuts went untouched – that was the first time. I tried again – no luck, but the third time was the charm as the expression goes.

Puff was the first of the furry bunch to figure it out. In short order, a few times he was waiting under this canopy of leaves and descended the tree to see what I’d left.

It was all good, then the remaining leaves dropped and blew away after several windstorms in November. So, did I have to go back to the drawing board and find a Plan “B” or could the Safe Haven Tree still work as a feeding frenzy shelter for my furry pals?

Well, without leaves you see how badly the tree needs a good pruning and admittedly, there are a few gaps.

But, those branches that nearly sweep the ground DO offer some protection.

Now that the leaves are gone, it’s easier to read Stella Heck’s memorial marker.

Over the past six weeks or so, I’ve studied the situation and rarely do the squirrels stay on the ground – instead, they zoom up the tree and eat the peanut there, then return to the ground for another peanut. Occasionally, they head off to bury one … I can’t control that. I refuse to think about them crossing the large expanse of grass in the middle of the walking loop, clearly exposed to the Cooper’s Hawk.

Here are a few of my furry friends noshing nuts.

Of course the display of nuts is not lost on the Jays …

… and I’ve had a few cardinals swooping down, but no pictures of them yet.

Lastly, the Red-Bellied woodpecker is “all in” for goodies as well.

Buoyed that I had achieved the desired outcome, I decided to take this feeding concept to the next step and bought a small suet feeder and a wooden platform feeder to hang on the tree branch for when snow covers the ground. I hung the small blue suet feeder last Sunday and filled it with some cashews and dried fruit, but knew I would not make it back for a few days due to the impending snowstorm. I secured the feeder to a branch with a chain used for hanging feeders and clipped it to the feeder. When I returned to the Park after the snow and ice had cleared, the chain had been removed and the suet feeder was on the ground away from the tree. The critters didn’t unhook the chain, so I’m not bringing the second feeder. For now, we have a Plan “B” – when the flurries fly in earnest and snow settles in, we’ll put Plan “C” into place – likely me stomping down the snow around under the tree and laying the peanuts there. Stay tuned!

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It’s all about the numbers sometimes …

… and November was a month of mind-numbing numbers.

Most of us soon grew weary of endless remarks about counts and recounts because the vote tallies were wrong. Here in Michigan we were immersed in that kerfuffle as well. But those ballot numbers (or lack thereof) just paled in comparison to the real numbers, i.e., the sad stats that we read or heard about daily with more and more people getting COVID-19, or succumbing to it. If I were to include the current stats in this post while I am writing it, sadly, the numbers would be obsolete when the post publishes this morning at 5:00 a.m.

Some states gratefully welcomed turning the calendar page to December, after the most-active Atlantic hurricane season on record, with a whopping 13 hurricanes and countless storms in 2020.

On Thanksgiving Eve, our local weather forecasters began ominous predictions of a snowstorm on the Monday after the holiday. The numbers were all over the map – the early forecasts were for a half-foot of the white stuff and maybe as much as a foot of snow in the northern suburbs. I mulled over that weather forecast and since we are already in this La Niña weather pattern, which is being touted as a Winter with lots of precip, I figured I’d do my best to meet my goal sooner, rather than later.

This is the earliest I’ve ever finished my year-end walking goal, but we had four clear, dry, snow-and-ice-free days, so I made my best effort and finished on November 29th and did a post to crow about it.

It turns out I was prophetic about my walking regimen – especially for this week. Believe me when I say I’m not complaining, but the weather folks only kinda-sorta got that forecast correct. We got just 3 ½ inches of snow, with some ice layered in between for good measure. I am not a fan of walking on slick snow or icy patches on streets and sidewalks in the ‘hood. That scenario gives me cause to pause my walking regimen, despite my good intentions to walk in the Winter and feed my furry and feathered friends at my favorite nature nook. Since the streets were not plowed or salted and some sidewalks not shoveled, it looked a little treacherous for walking, even in lug-soled hiking boots. Lucky for me, (and the peanut eaters), the sun melted most of the ice and snow on the streets, so I hope to get down to the Park this morning

I sure haven’t been a stranger at Council Point Park lately.

I walked all four days of the holiday weekend at that venue, partly because I exhausted myself going to some of my favorite parks in October and through November, plus a new one that I’ve never been to before, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and Humbug Marsh. That’s a mouthful isn’t it?! I also know how Michigan weather can turn ugly in a heartbeat. After all, just a few weekends ago we basked in 70F (21C) temps and 36 hours later, we woke up to a trace of snow.

Walking at my other favorite venues has been hindered this last quarter of the year. Grosse Ile’s free bridge has been down since May and was scheduled to open again this month. But engineers discovered soil erosion under the bridge and have therefore closed the bridge for another year. The toll bridge is jammed with Island inhabitants and visitors, so Grosse Ile is off limits for me until the Fall of 2021. (Besides, I’m not going to pay a $5.00 round trip toll just to go on a walk and take pictures.)

Also, one of my favorite go-to walking spots, Heritage Park, has been off limits lately. That park is hosting a Christmas light show event called “The Blizzard of Oz” and they fenced off Coan Lake and the historical village in early November. The light show event continues through mid-January, so I won’t be visiting there for a glimpse of waterfowl by the covered bridge on frozen Coan Lake.

Additionally, the famous West Mound Church, built in 1882 and moved to Heritage Park’s historical village one century later, had a huge fire on November 3rd. There is significant damage to the outside and it nearly gutted this vintage church and its popular Little Wedding Chapel.

Dingell Park, one of my favorite Detroit River boardwalk venues, especially in February when the Bald Eagles fish from the ice floes, was on the receiving end of a car that crashed through the boardwalk railing, when a driver had a medical emergency and zoomed through the parking lot, over the boardwalk railing and right into the River; it is still cordoned off.

Pictures, pictures … and more pictures.

My computer’s picture files are groaning with photos to share in upcoming blog posts. I took a quick minute to view them over the long holiday, but was overwhelmed with just how many shots I had, so will have to sort them into posts in the coming weeks. Unbelievably, I still have some photos taken this Summer to share.

The pandemic may have slowed life down a few notches, but I continued walking and kept taking a slew of photos.

Last Sunday at the Park I really “stepped up” my game.

I walked seven miles last Sunday, doling out peanuts like there was no tomorrow, while telling warning my furry and feathered friends, the happy recipients of my offerings, that there would be a snow storm, so “eat hardy and take some up to your nests, don’t bury ‘em!” Do you think I had any influence on them?

It was a delightful day as I meandered around. I stopped to chat with Arnie and Carol, out for their morning walk.

And, after a Summer of trading greetings and quips about the peanut eaters with the fellow on the bike who once suggested peanuts were tolls to enter the Park, we stopped and chatted. When I told him I was chasing after my yearly goal and my 2020 mission was 1,255 miles (2,020 kilometers) and I would make it happen that day, he told me his goal was 3,000 miles on his bike by November 30th. Because of the impending snow storm, this was Joe’s last day to reach 3,000 miles biked in 2020. Here he is as he rode off for his last lap around the Park.

Well, sometimes it is all about the miles isn’t it?

I often wonder just how many miles I’ve walked at Council Point Park – hmm.

Tributes and remembrances.

I passed by this memorial tree and wished “happy belated birthday” to Bill Lee.

How sad to have your birth date and death date in such close proximity. It must be difficult for his family members as these two dates arrive.

Now I don’t know William “Bill” Lee and I tried Googling for an obituary notice to learn more about this gentleman to no avail. Unfortunately William/Bill Lee is a common name. But I can tell you that he was loved. His family left this heartfelt message under his memorial tree.

Bill Lee’s family has planted “Hens and Chicks” around the tree. Seeing these short and stubby plants reminds me of my grandmother who always had Hens and Chicks in her backyard garden.

Interestingly, Bill’s tree had a wasp nest hanging precariously off one branch the last month or so.

The busy wasps’ paper nest was small compared to the gargantuan wasp nest that I saw on the other side of the Park this Summer and featured in a blog post. In fact, unlike the last wasp nest, I never noticed it until the tree was bare and I took the photo above. But Sunday when I glanced up, the nest was gone, perhaps ripped away by one of many windstorms we had in November.

In an effort to gain more steps and because my peanuts were dwindling and I didn’t want to disappoint any peanut pals, I walked at the second loop, which is a little boring. I decided to count memorial trees. I’ve often spotlighted several trees and the people memorialized by their special trees at this Park. Well I counted 60 memorial trees altogether in this Park; however, some were memorial plaques but missing the trees – oops. That was not uncommon. Since I began walking here in 2013, a few trees have split in half and some still stand, but are dead. The City was going to plant a tree to honor fellow walker/beloved coach and teacher Mike Chiola, but it has not happened yet to my knowledge. You might remember, I did this post on Mike, a very special walker.

We have a memorial tree for the classmates in our high school graduating class who are no longer with us.

And one classmate in particular, Dave Ward, was a fireman who lost his battle to cancer in 1999; he has his own special tree.

On that final trip around last Sunday

I dared to venture back to Loop #1 to tender the rest of my peanuts. It was such a gorgeous day that the Park had more people out and about and I took photos of the miscellaneous and sundry critters, some which you already have met, like Fluff, Parker and Puff.

There were waterfowl aplenty and the ducks enjoyed some tidbits of bread from this couple, but the geese seemed to miss the freebies.

Peanuts lured a few Jays down from the trees, as a woodpecker checked out the goods as well.

Harry the Heron agreed to pose, albeit across the Ecorse Creek.

I didn’t see seven swans a swimming … would seven geese a swimming be okay instead?

I know this Robin was confused by the warm temps … is it Spring and worm time? I wish it was Springtime too Mr. Robin.

I finally made my way back to the car, and drove home. I checked the pedometer – not bad. Amazingly, raking and bagging leaves added another mile to my final tally. Never discount how many steps you take in one day just walking around your house, up and down the stairs, doing yard work, or meandering around running errands. They all add up … I’ll keep tallying those steps until year end and do a final total then about the feat of my feet!

[Header image of numbers is from Pixabay]

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Well this is sNOw fun! #Wordless Wednesday #Hope the squirrels remember where they buried their peanuts!

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

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I wore out my shoes (and myself too)!

I walked my socks off this weekend and pushed myself to the max, including Thursday when I did my first 10K walk, albeit virtually. More about that event when I get the shirt and finishing medal. On Thanksgiving Day, the weather folks first hinted at that dreaded, four-letter-word “snow” beginning today, lasting into tomorrow and up to a possible four to eight inches of the white stuff. I figured I’d pick up the pace and just get it done as I was fairly close to my goal. I walked so many laps at the Park Sunday, I ran out of peanuts and had to walk in the boring walking loop away from my furry and feathered pals. It’s similar to running out of Halloween candy and you shut the porch light so no one comes to the door. I’ll write about today’s trek in a separate post also. I have walked 1,255 miles (2,020 kilometers) so far in 2020. This goal was chosen as the amount of kilometers mirrored the year … who knew 2020 would be so abysmal though?

I savored this day which was sunny and very mild and I walked endlessly. I swear I need retreads on my shoes as you can see here …

… or perhaps just break in the pair that are waiting in the wings?

You might not think there’s much difference in these slippers, er my current shoes, versus my new shoes, until you see them side by side.

The old shoes will be kept for next year’s yard work. I’ll keep walking when I can and weather permitting to see how many more miles I will rack up in 2020. Onward and upward!

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