Squirrels, sunshine and Saturday bliss.

HEADER

We couldn’t have asked for a brighter or more beautiful Saturday, despite the fact that it was only 13 degrees F (-10C) with a “real feel” of -5 degrees F (-20C) and it was windy to boot.  I bundled up in multiple layers, and, with a brand-new bag of peanuts in hand, I set out for the Park.  I figured that Thursday’s rain and mild temps had wiped out the ¼ inch of ice we got the day before, but I wore my hiking boots anyway and was pleased to find I didn’t need them and I got four miles walked today.

Before I left, I tried to get a photo op with Grady and his friend, but I was surprised they didn’t show up … maybe they sleep in on Saturdays.  So much for that idea.  No worries … one or both had stopped by, as evidenced by a trail of peanut shells and redskin chaff they left behind.

I drove to Council Point Park to give the car a run and surprisingly the parking lot was empty.  No diehard walkers today?  So, for the first hour I was there, I had the Park to myself … oh, and about 15 or 20 squirrels too.

Unlike the warmer weather, when Parker meets me in the parking lot, or the beginning of the trail, there was no welcoming committee this morning.  I thought to myself “well, you’ve stayed away since last Sunday and they probably thought you abandoned them.”

Well banish that thought as the first furry friend, came bounding over to see me moments later.  It was none other than Parker, who planted his little body in front of me and looked up as if to say “so, don’t hold back – where are my peanuts?”

CC

For Parker, it’s peanuts first, THEN a photo op and that’s because I’ve indulged him since day one.  But this morning, I got my photo of him taken before he could protest.

DD

Today, there was no carting away of peanuts to hide as he was clearly aware the ground was too frozen to find any long-buried nuts or other treasures squirreled away, long before this deep freeze set in.  About the only place the squirrels could hide peanuts now would be in the large area of mulch that is under the playground equipment in the center of the Park.  I wonder if any of them thought of that?

I gave Parker his treats and I knew he would be in peanut nirvana.  I was carrying a plastic bag on my arm to reach in for peanuts, so I shook it, guaranteed to stir the senses of each and every squirrel who might have missed “The Peanut Lady” as she started on the trail.

I had to laugh, as rattling that bag of peanuts did the trick, and soon at least ten squirrels were beating a path across the soccer field to see me.  I now know that squirrels may have better hearing than eyesight.

The bitter cold temperature and a stiff wind made it difficult to dispense peanuts while trying to take pictures. I had on gloves with liners and they kept getting caught in the camera strap, and jockeying around the bag and keeping it away from all the ground-level shots, while feeding my furry friends was difficult.  I came home with lots of shots of squirrels missing tails and snouts.

These squirrels were chasing one another in this tall tree, two silhouettes on the bare branches against a flawless blue sky.

AA

They saw me and quickly began their long descent to ground level.  Watching them almost made me dizzy as their sharp claws expertly carried them down the bark.

BB

They arrived at the base of the tree, then came racing over as they skidded to a stop and both eyed the pile of nuts placed near my feet.  I was hoping for a photo op of the pair cozying up to my boots, but that didn’t happen.  They each ate a few nuts, then took a few “to go” … only “to go” didn’t work out so well, when one squirrel tried to bury a peanut …

GG

… and quickly realized the ground was too frozen to do that task.  Note the sheepish look on his face, as he wondered if anyone was watching him.  Priceless!

HH

These same two squirrels paused a few moments together, and I got this shot.

JJ

Then they scurried back up the tree to munch contentedly.

EE

FF

By now, the word was out that I was packing peanuts and every squirrel on site was in close proximity.

MM

KK

LL

NN

It was so quiet at the Park that I could hear those squirrels cracking the peanuts with their teeth.  Most of them ate on the ground …

OO

… but others preferred to munch atop a tree branch.

C

B

A

This past two weeks of harsh weather has taken its toll on the Park.  Even the bushes that line the perimeter path have been stripped of their bright-colored berries, no doubt by the birds or squirrels foraging for precious morsels of food.

The Creek was frozen over completely, and, unlike last week when a small, ice-free area near the storm drain permitted the mallards to paddle around freely, today the area was barren and completely devoid of any waterfowl.  Traces of snow that fell last night stayed on top of some of the icy surface.

2

1

5

4

I didn’t even see a single bird flitting around the trees.  How I wish we could fast forward two months when the call of the Red-Winged Blackbird would echo through the reeds and phragmites, tender green leaves would be unfurling and tendrils of ground cover would slowly be filling in the bare spots beneath the trees and bushes.  The ducks would be quacking and the geese would be honking as Spring begins in earnest at Council Point Park.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Friday Frivolity.

friday

Mother Nature has been a bit of a drama queen lately.

Perhaps my favorite meteorologist, Paul Gross, said it best in the first line of today’s forecast:

DETROIT – Last night’s cold front sure created some weather whiplash.

He’s right … it has been two weeks of wacky weather where the temps have been up, then down, then up again … just as erratic as the stock market sometimes.

In the span of a couple of days, we have experienced a 70-degree weather turnaround and just last night we dropped 30 degrees in a matter of hours, with howling winds that whooshed like those that whisked Dorothy and Toto to Kansas.  We’ve endured snow squalls and freezing rain that coated the trees and non-grassy surfaces resulting in tons of accidents and power outages.  And, when nothing has been falling from the sky, the wind was gusting at 30-40 miles per hour.  Are you sure you got that forecast right Mr. Groundhog?

I’ve slipped way behind in my walking efforts, just managing one walk on each of the past two weekends and I hope to remedy those statistics tomorrow, although a quick glance at Accuweather online tells me snow will start up in 55 minutes – sigh.

I’m a weather worrier for sure, so I am happy I trekked to Council Point Park last Sunday and fed the furry fellows.

Grab and go and swoop and swipe.

There’s a lot of grabbing and going and swooping and swiping happening in the ‘hood these days.  Hanging around the house has enabled me to witness such goings-on.   I’ve not been to the Park since last Sunday, due to the wacky weather and Monday I ran errands as I wasn’t sure how long that ice storm would mess up the roads.

I still have my little porch pals, Grady and his friend, who continue to visit daily, and, if I’m not out there early enough to their liking … well, they decide to plant themselves on the porch to wait on me.  One day I just know I’ll get a knock on the door wondering where I am.  Yup, sometimes they make me feel like a slacker.   I usually wait until I’m dressed, except for my coat and boots, before wiggling my hand out the front door to make a “dropping”.  If I peer through the peephole before opening the door, (if the screen door isn’t frosted up), I’ll  find this dynamic duo pacing on the porch steps.  They are wearing the same pained expression that you have, as you keep looking out the door for your pizza delivery guy, imagining him lost in the ‘hood and all that glorious melty cheese dotted with pepperoni just congealing all over the box.  Yup, it’s that same look.

I’ll be watching you.

Grady the Gray Squirrel has trained me well … I just put some peanuts on the porch, a couple on the brick ledge outside the front door and another few on the far ledge.  Okay, I’m a quick study.  I watched you while I was warming up the car in the driveway a weeks ago.  I didn’t miss a beat, and neither did you, as you climbed up the wall lickedy-spilt, then danced along the edge with that prized peanut to nosh on it at the other end of the ledge.  Now I make a SPD, a/k/a “a secret peanut drop” just for you, because the other squirrel is too fat to climb up there.

So, Grady’s got the world by the tail doesn’t he?   He eats his fill on the porch, politely leaves a few peanuts for his pal, then he hones in on the rest of his cache at his leisure.  What Grady doesn’t know is that there are others that covet those peanuts, and I might just have to clue him in on what I have observed while hanging around outside the house, rather than pounding the pavement on my walks.

A female cardinal and a blue jay were similarly trolling for peanuts.  This morning, as I placed the peanuts on the opposite side of the ledge, the female cardinal hurriedly flew past my head and began a flurry of tweets in the big bush where she has her nest. I guess she was saying “hurry, I’m hungry!”  Meanwhile, in my neighbor’s tree, a hungry blue jay, sitting on a tree branch that threatened to topple him in the raucous wind, similarly eyed those peanuts, calling out that well-known and recognizable screech, a noise that the wind carried from his beak to my ears.  I moved faster, feeling a little intimidated by these two.

Grady dear – in deference to you, since you’re so darn cute, I put more peanuts out for them and YOU too, because life is tough and “if you snooze, you lose” so don’t forget that!

I know I was cold walking around outside, my hood pulled over my hat and huddled down in my jacket, mittened hands stuffed in my pockets.  I was checking for missing shingles and looking for trouble, but not wanting to find any.  Nothing was amiss, despite a noise that woke me up from that wind.  I was mindful of those poor birds braving the elements with just their feathers to protect them, so yes, I dug a little deeper into my coat pocket to retrieve the Ziploc bag of peanuts and gifted everyone … a round of peanuts for all!

I left bread for the birds last week during the Polar Vortex.  I always have a package of tortillas on hand in case I run out of bread – they have a very long shelf life.  Well I didn’t run out of bread but the tortillas were past the expiration date, but still okay, so I tore them up for the birds because I pitied them during the Polar Vortex.  Every morning I could hear sparrows huddled together on the back window ledges, their faint tweets in the still early morn– well, my heart just melted.  One small problem though.  Those tortilla tidbits froze to the snow as soon as I scattered them and they were so pale laying on the snow and snow-laden bushes, no birds discovered them.  I don’t blame them – obviously they would like rustic bread, preferably a darker type, like pumpernickel, that they can see in the snow.  I have to find a new kind of bread myself because Meijer grocery store no longer carries my favorite “Dave’s Killer Bread” and all other rustic-type breads just pale in comparison to it.

So the birds ignored the tortilla tidbits and I grumbled every time I saw it, as I figured I’d have to scoop it up come Spring, but alas, when the snow melted, the squirrels ate it.  Thanks guys!

I’ll leave you with this quote:  “All life has just one home, the earth, and we as the dominant species must take care of it.” – Dr. D.D. Sheldrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 46 Comments

Mid-day meandering with the munchkins.

header

I was determined to get down to Council Point Park today, so I waited until 1:00 p.m. to ensure the bulk of the icy patches on the sidewalks and streets had melted.  I looked outside, just prior to suiting up, and there was still some ice, slushy snow and a whole lot of puddles.  I was a wee bit nervous about that ice, so I laced up my lug-soled hiking boots …

xyz next

… and just put on my big-girl panties (photo omitted) and decided I could make it to the Park without wiping out.  I opened a fresh bag of peanuts and took the entire bag with me to pacify my furry pals.

Unbelievably, the weather has really relaxed and it was a balmy 50 degrees F (10 C).  I was ecstatic that the temps warmed up enough to begin our snow and ice meltdown, as it has been one long week, which began with the plumbing debacle and the snow that was falling that night, and kept escalating with the snow, ice and Polar Vortex.  All week I was worrying about my furry fellows at the Park and how they would get nourishment because, between the brutal air and wind-chill temps, coupled with almost 6 inches (15 cm) of snow, then ice, it was a sure bet that they were not digging up their long-buried peanuts anytime soon. There is nothing left at this venue to forage – so what’s a squirrel to do?  If I could have convinced them to come to my house ‘cuz the eatin’s good, I would have, and they could have joined Grady and his pal on the porch, (even though Grady would claim dibs on the brick ledge).

Slip-slidin’ away.

While this may be an awesome Paul Simon tune, it’s not so awesome when slick patches and big puddles hinder your steps, so I quickly switched to walking in the street, where the ice patches were few and far between, and I only had to deal with potholes and a handful of drivers.

I wasn’t even to the cross street when I realized I was overdressed, since, by force of habit, I donned the same amount of layers before heading out.  First the coat zipper came down a smidge, and by the next block, I unzipped it all the way and flung my coat open, like it was Spring or something.  Ah – much better.  I’d have taken off the hat too, but the SW wind was kicking in at about 14 mph so it stayed put.

Water gushed and gurgled through every sewer grate I passed as the melting snow could have resembled a time-lapse photo had I stayed there long enough to capture those images.  Actually, I was not in any great hurry, despite the late hour of my departure, yet I arrived at the Park in my usual twenty minutes.  I gave a cursory glance around to find my pal Parker but didn’t see him.  I hoped the squirrels had not already returned to their nests for the day.  They are usually more active in the morning hours.

There were just a few cars in the lot and the icy patches were easy enough to navigate around.  The test would come once I landed on the perimeter path, because it is never shoveled, brushed or salted – in essence, it is usually an icy/dicey mess and you’re better off walking alongside the path on the grass.  I quickly saw today would be that way.

4

2

9

Yup, the trail was tricky.

As I eased along, the perimeter path was a conglomeration of ice, slush and huge puddles and the ground was saturated with water and mud.   I wondered just how long I’d have to wait for my little buddies to emerge at ground level.  Did I need to shake my bag to announce myself, or was my presence good enough?

My passel of peanut pals did not disappoint and soon I was doling out peanuts to eager and hungry takers and counting noses, including Parker’s, as they danced around my feet.   They got their peanuts and began munching happily.

e

c

b

a

d

i

I gave them a lot of extra peanuts because they ate them right on the spot, though a few of them scurried up to a tree branch to munch, but quickly descended again and came back for a second helping.

h

g

f

As I meandered along, I noticed the Creek was still frozen over in most places.

1

3

It appears the mallards had stayed under the storm drain during the bitter cold, because there was no ice there and a few mallards paddled from underneath that half-moon drain out into the open water.

6

5

The rest walked on the icy Creek surface.

8

7

I would have walked another loop, which is one mile, but I really had to be wary of the ice, so decided to just head for home instead.  I made a couple of pit stops before departing and spread out peanuts on the picnic table …

second to last one

… then dumped out the rest of my bag into the water fountain bowl.

last one

xyx next in line

It was a short walk for a weekend, but I aired my brain out and got some steps in, but, truthfully, this trek was really more about them than me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Fur-get about it!

HEADER.jpg

A long Winter that is.

The word is out and it’s official.  This wintry season is simply not going to hang around as long this year.  Whew!  That sure is a relief, because Winter wore out its welcome in 2018 when the cold, snow and ice were still around in early April.

Now that the Polar Vortex is in the rear view mirror, the sun is getting up earlier and going to bed later, the temps almost feel tropical – what more could we ask for here in Southeast Michigan?

I was overjoyed to hear the world’s most-famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, proclaimed Winter would be short and sweet since he didn’t see his shadow – yay Phil!

More importantly, the ultimate weather authority,  a/k/a Woody, is Michigan’s resident woodchuck weather prognosticator, and she made the same prediction this morning at the Howell Nature Center.  Everyone in Michigan knows that Woody has a better track record than Phil … girls rule sometimes – sorry Phil!

It’s been a very long week of weather worries and woes and that was the best news I’ve heard in a long time!  (By the way, the real meteorologists say Winter won’t linger and Spring will arrive earlier too.)

As for the here and now, well I did not make my trek to the Park this morning.  While I am worried about my furry pals down there, and their inability to dig in the frozen ground to find their stash of peanuts, the streets and sidewalks were a little too slick to walk that mile each way and feel comfortable doing so, even in lug-soled hiking boots.  I didn’t want to drive either, as our street was still slick from Monday’s snowstorm, then freezing rain – they couldn’t salt due to the extremely low temps.  For walking and driving purposes, it really wasn’t the snow that was so bad; it was the freezing rain that put a glaze on everything after the snowfall Monday.  I plan to get to the Park tomorrow – the temperature will be warmer mid-day for sure and hopefully the squirrels have not retired to their respective nests for the day.

Meanwhile, Grady is getting as spoiled as Parker.  I dropped a pile of peanuts under the front porch door stoop before I went to run the car and most were split open and shells littered about once I got outside.  Were there two visitors or one?  I know that for the second day in a row, Grady was standing in the snow looking up at the ledge wistfully.  He cannot walk across the brick ledge anymore as there are piles of snow capped with ice.  I tried to brush them off with a broom, but they are frozen solid.  I told my tiny pal that my arms aren’t long enough to stretch to the other side of the house when I lean out the front door to deliver peanuts, so he has to be patient until I get outside.

Thursday morning I took a cup of steaming hot water outside with me to thaw out the pile of peanuts that had frozen solid after the freezing rain glommed them onto the brick ledge.  I pried them off and laid the “peanutsicle” on top of a bush.  But the next morning I discovered Grady chewed them up – ice and all.  I hope he didn’t break his teeth.  So, I tossed that hot water into the air and watched it turn into ice crystals, just like thousands of people did at the height of the Polar Vortex, only they posted a video of them doing that to social media.

Hopefully no one is watching me chatting with Grady who is actually concealed behind the bush, and not seen from the street, as he waits patiently for me to deliver his peanuts to the ledge.  Then he will scramble up the bricks to retrieve and eat them.  Hmm – do the neighbors think I’m talking to myself?  I do that sometimes, but then again … don’t we all?  Perhaps I need to go back to tying the bandana across my mouth and I can chatter away all I want without my credibility being questioned, not that I care.  Ah well … sometimes it’s nice to march to the beat of a different drum as it keeps life from being too staid and boring.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 53 Comments

We were colder than Mars today!

doll-figures-3015495_960_720 couleur

The weather forecasters and social media have been inundating us with factoids …

dates

… and funny memes about this spate of ugly Winter weather here in the Midwest.

driving advice

Since Monday’s snowstorm is in the rear view mirror now, everyone is focused on “The Big Chill” and, of all the facts and figures I’ve heard about our weather, the biggest giggle was discovering we were colder than Mars today.  Our temps have even dipped lower than the Arctic Circle.  Yikes!  Michigan made the national news today because Hell froze over – oh yes it did.  The temps fell to -12 F (-24 C) in Hell, Michigan, which is a town about 50 miles from where I live.  So, you can no longer use the expression about “when Hell freezes over” …. because it has now happened.

Many Michiganders stayed home today.  No, it wasn’t the blue flu.  Or the regular flu.  It was because schools and organizations by the score elected to close down Monday afternoon for the snowstorm.  Those closures snowballed, (if you’ll pardon the pun), into a massive shutdown due to freezing rain after the storm, black ice Tuesday and then the Polar Vortex that has swept across the U.S. bringing a brutally cold Canadian air mass.  Thanks a lot Canada.

closed due to inclement weather

It’s a sure bet those folks aren’t spending their day enjoying “Pure Michigan” … most people are hunkered down inside and looking out.  I for one am glad to work from home and not have to deal with the bus commute.   I had way too many of those trips in and out of the City of Detroit in extreme cold or blizzard conditions.  I’ve paid my dues, so I’m glad to be home working in my PJs and bunny slippers.

And just who are some of those folks sipping hot chocolate and taking naps on the couch?  They include students from elementary school all the way to university level and their teachers/professors and the schools’ administrative staff members.  Some of the universities were reluctant to close Monday, knowing full well this Polar Vortex coming down the pipeline might necessitate even more days off.  But the students had a rebellion – no, they didn’t protest in front of Old Main on Wayne State University’s campus … they took to Twitter and other social media and shamed WSU into closing down due to the snow and the Polar Vortex, which was already on the way.

wsu

Back when your roving reporter was at Wayne State University, we closed one day for the Blizzard of ’78 … one little old day, and we waited for the school to announce it on the AM all-news radio station.  It was quite the event … a university closing down for the weather.  After all, we weren’t little kids – we knew how to bundle up and walk, heads bent down against the wind, as we trudged from class to class.

Fast forward 41 years.

Our new governor defined our cold spell as “generational” and called for all State agencies to be shut down during the snow storm and brutally cold weather days.  All non-essential workers were sent home … you are familiar with the term “non-essential workers” of course from the recent federal government shutdown.  With a snowstorm and impending “Big Chill” are you happy or sad to know your job and yourself are “non-essential” … talk about wounding the ego and bursting your bubble of importance!

state is closed

The list of cancelled activities and closures rambles on and on – the polar bears may be lovin’ this weather, but if you wanted to watch them cavort in their habitat, better make it another day as the Detroit Zoo was closed today.

The U.S. Postal Service, which features the motto “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” got an asterisk to that motto when Michigan, as well as ten other states, kept their mail carriers at home, saving them traipsing in sub-zero temps today and tomorrow as well.

As the list grew, I wondered why the traffic reporters were still listing the accidents because who could have been left driving on the roads for goodness sake?

The Trudge Report.

 The bright blue sky belied what the real deal was … at a glance, it looked beautiful outside, but the reality was horrid:  it was -6 F (-21 C) and a real feel of -34 F (-36 C) when I suited up to go run the car.  Because the news suggested covering your mouth to avoid damaging your lungs from the extreme cold air, I went outside sporting a bandana that had me looking a little like a cowboy fresh from a long, dusty ride on his horse through the sagebrush in the wild, wild West.

Plumes were drifting out of almost every chimney on the block, occasionally casting curling shadows on the bright-white snow.

I checked for icicles – none – yeah!

I checked if the snow was still on the roof – yes – yeah!  I just discovered yesterday that means your attic insulation is good if the snow hasn’t melted.

I heard a blue jay calling in the distance, perhaps hopeful I’d share some peanuts with him.  I had taken some extra peanuts out with me, so I yanked them from my pocket and wiggled the bag.  But that action did not have the same Pavlovian effect that it does with the squirrels who come bounding over … that blue jay remained elusive.  Momentarily I thought of Parker and his friends and how they would love if I suddenly appeared and jiggled the bag of peanuts, but I reminded myself they were likely huddled in their nests and not down at ground level due to the snow and the cold.  I also wondered what happened to my blue jay from last year.  The endless snow shoveling the Winter of 2017-2018 found me outside nearly every morning.  I would share a few peanuts, which I propped up in the snow on top of a flat Boxwood bush, with a blue jay who was willing to fly down from his high perch and grab them … just as soon as I turned my back.  I’d check back before I came into the house and the peanuts were gone.  Eventually he tired of our ritual – I continued putting out peanuts, but maybe someone was offering better treats and he didn’t return.

The sparrows were huddled close together on the window ledge, not even taking flight when they saw me.  Tomorrow I’ll take some stale bread which I intended to take to the Park birds on Sunday – I’ll place it on top of the bush for them to see like I did with the blue jay.

Happily the car engine turned over thanks to the trickle charger – it has been plugged in continuously when the car is not in use since October of 2015.  I still run it every day in the cold weather, even if I don’t take it out of the garage.

Feasting, but not foraging for frozen goodies

I inspected the porch and found that the peanuts I tossed out before I took 12 minutes to finish getting my outerwear and boots on, were gone, yet, I looked up in the trees, scanning for squirrels (and hawks), but saw none of my furry friends jumping from branch to branch, or running on the utility wires.  That small pile of shells and some redskin chaff from the peanuts told me my furry pals were indeed there – might as well eat them as there’s no use hiding those peanuts as the ground is frozen solid.  Good going guys.

Since I was out there running the car for about 20 minutes, I put more peanuts out.  Grady was no doubt perplexed, because the peanuts placed on the ledge in two places on Monday morning got zapped with the post-snowstorm freezing rain that arrived after dark.  He didn’t return and the snow began in earnest, then the wintry precip.  So, that my dear Grady is what you call  a “peanutsicle” … a mass of peanuts encased in ice.  Just as I had to chip the ice off the mailbox which had sealed shut, I likewise had to pry those peanuts from the ledge.  I laid them on some bushes and tomorrow I’ll bring a cup of hot water with me and try to de-ice those peanuts.  I’ll bet Grady looked at them longingly thinking “Linda – take them apart so I can eat them please!”  Frankly I was surprised Grady (and maybe his pal – I didn’t see either of them) showed up.  I’d have stayed tucked in the warm nest, but you know how it is when your stomach growls.  What Grady really needed was someone to toss a Snickers bar up to the nest so he didn’t need to venture out.

So, I got to wondering if we were hardier kids back in the day.

 On Monday, lots of schools were closed – not just elementary and secondary schools, but some colleges and universities as well.  My first thought was “really?!”  OK, the kids that are bussed to school or have long walks maybe I can see it, but we walked to elementary school with no angst about those snowy morns.  However, trending on Twitter was one local school, Wayne State University, my alma mater.  They were holding out shutting the school while snow swirled and whipped around WSU’s campus.  Soon students converged on Twitter, trying to shame WSU into closing due to the snow and impending cold, disparaging them for staying open.  WSU caved and became one of the 800 schools in Michigan that have been closed since Monday afternoon.

I wandered over to Facebook late on Monday and chatted with my friend Cheryl – we were both attending WSU when the Blizzard of 1978 closed school for a day.  It was unprecedented back in those days and we were both grateful to be spared the long and snowy commute.  So, that raised the question of just how hardy we were back in the day, as teens walking to junior high and the high school.

The junior high and high school were right next to one another, and were a nearly 1 ½ mile trek each way.  I walked every day, except the occasional times, when the neighbor across the street would fire up the old station wagon to take her two high school-aged boys to school.  She and my mom were best friends, but she never called on ugly Winter mornings and asked “would Linda like a ride?”  My mom, feeling that lack of invitation was a little unjust, would park herself behind the living room curtains and I’d stand in the cellarway with my hand on the door knob, ready to bolt out the door, once her station wagon was sufficiently warmed up and the boys came out of the house.  As she pulled out of the snowy driveway, it was my turn to leave the house  and see her “unexpectedly” pulling into the street.  If my timing was impeccable, she’d roll down the window and say “would you like a ride Linda?”  And I’d feign surprise and say “oh, that would be great – thank you for asking me.”  So, yes,  I was spared a snowy trek but those times were few and far between, because kids in those days were considered young and healthy and that 3-mile round trip was good exercise.

Then I decided to tread back in time a little further

Well we were exemplary teens braving the elements to walk to school where we never had school cancelled due to snow or cold, nor a stifling hot June spent in a classroom with not so much as a fan nor a window cracked open … I began to wonder what happened back when I was a wee nipper and in elementary school?

I went directly to the source, the Facebook site for all kids who attended E.A. Orr Public School, an elementary school in Oakville, Ontario that I had attended from 1961-1966.

ea orr

I wondered if my former peers remembered trudging to school on those cold and snowy Winter days without ever getting a snow day.  I posed this question to the alumni of that group that I discovered four years ago:

 

ea orr group question

Well, then a lively discussion ensued which yielded 14 comments which branched out into multiple comments about how we went to school in snow and cold and only one person recalled a snow day where E.A. Orr closed down, but it was after I departed.  Those 14 comments about what brave souls we were venturing forth on our own, eventually dwindled into a lot of side conversations wherein we girls stepped back in time and chatted about jumping rope and playing “elastics” (Chinese jump rope as it is known in the U.S.), our Beatles buttons we proudly pinned to our coat lapels  and other girl stuff circa 1964, give or take a year.  Didn’t our parents worry about us?  No, we trundled along, just a group of neighborhood kids, and our classmates joined us along the way, similarly bundled up in snow pants stuffed into our brown overshoes, mufflers masking our faces, mittens clasping books or homework assignments – no backpacks back in those days.  Our heavy parkas featured fur-trimmed hoods pulled snugly over our woolen toques with their fuzzy pompoms.  We arrived at school where our principal, Mr. Buckley, greeted us, and we were bright-eyed, pink-cheeked and ready to sing “God Save the Queen” and learn the Three Rs, but first we had to peel off those layers of clothing.

This scenario was repeated over and over all through the cold snowy Canadian Winter – not just for school, but for skating, tobogganing and building snow forts.  So, did we have maple syrup running in our veins or perhaps we were just oblivious to the elements back then?

Or maybe the memories fade and tarnish a little through the years, eh?

How low can you go?

No, it’s not a reference to Chubby Checker’s dance “The Limbo” … it is the question asked to Mother Nature.  Here in Michigan we will dip to -16 F (-26 C) and -40 F (-40 C) … -40 is a magical temperature … the same in Fahrenheit as Celsius.

Not to worry, we will do a rapid turnabout and enjoy temps in the 50s come Monday – break out the shorts and flip flops!

big swing in temps

Meanwhile the endless trickle of water in the nearby sink keeps making my eyes get heavy while proofreading this very long post.  The corner cabinet creaks and groans, reminding me that it needs a good coat of furniture polish.  And the frost quakes, those little burst of energy that occur when ice suddenly expands, and creates big booms around the house, have startled me out of this trance to my childhood and teenaged years more than once while compiling this tale.

[Images from Twitter, Click on Detroit and header image by Couleur from Pixabay]

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 104 Comments

Winter woes … well that’s the way it goes.

cocoa.jpg

We’re in the heart of Winter, but Winter does not have my heart … of that you can be sure.

Oh… some of the songs might make you wistful for Winter’s beauty on a snowy night, like Gordon Lightfoot’s pensive “Song For A Winter’s Night” which has always been a personal favorite of mine.

And … the traditional Christmas songs paint a pretty picture of the snow:

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” … Nipping at your nose?  That’s a polite word for freezing your nose off, especially with our forecast slated for Tuesday and Wednesday when we will dip to below -3F (-19C), and a wind chill of -30F (-34C).

“Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh, over the fields we go, laughing all the way.” … Laughing is not the description I’d use to describe the commuters, the outside workers and the shovellers, who will deal with the nearly half-foot of snow coming our way tomorrow.  And did anyone ever ask the horses if they enjoy traipsing in the snow when they could be munching hay in the warm barn?  Just sayin’.

Even the merry little snow globe; it’s pretty to watch the flakes floating down … turn it the other way and the flakes are gone.  If only it was that easy for the snow to disappear.

The Currier and Ives prints on our Christmas cards also paint a pretty picture of the snow and Winter … but, I still don’t embrace this season, and am counting the days until Spring’s arrival … 51 more days, and that’s no guarantee that it’ll feel or look like Spring – last year we still had snow and cold temps at April’s arrival.

But I have digressed bigtime from weaving yesterday’s walk into a blog post.

But … here I go again with my tale about last night.

Last night I was getting ready to write my post on yesterday’s long-awaited walk at Council Point Park.  I had fired up the computer and was dwelling on the impending cold overnight, as we inched toward zero (-17C) and a -8F (-22C) wind chill.  A light dusting of snow was expected as well.  I walked over to the kitchen sink to run the water in each of the double sinks.  I’d been letting it drip all day, but thought it might need some oomph … it had some oomph all right.  I heard a noise and the unmistakable sound of water gushing onto the cupboard floor – the doors were open to direct heat to the pipes so I quickly assessed the situation.  Oh joy … the left sink pipe was hanging down.  I reached underneath and propped it up with my one hand and shut the tap off with my other hand.

Then I said bad words.

Well, that was a quick fix (my actions, not the words), but eventually I had to pull my hand away, and soon the right pipe was similarly hanging down and water was flowing from it onto the cupboard floor.

Yup, I uttered a few more bad words.

I propped up the whole contraption with a thermos bottle and Googled Quint Plumbing, my new go-to place since my multiple plumbing fiascoes in 2017.  I was pretty wound up when I called Mike, the owner, who calmly told me his guy on call had two jobs ahead of me and gave me Bill’s number to see if he could squeeze me into Saturday night’s queue.  Bill was friendly and agreeable and said he’d be here in about an hour and a half and asked what I thought he should stop and get at the shop, in case he did not have it on hand – “was anything broken?” he asked.  I resisted the urge to say “bubblegum” and instead said “plumber’s putty” – the pipes were all new and installed in June 2017.

Bill knocked at the door at 9:55 p.m.  The light dusting of snow that was supposed to start around midnight arrived early and it was snowing like crazy as I opened the door to let him in.  A crust of snow had already collected on the visor of his cap just from walking to the door from his vehicle.   It turned out the seals/gaskets were bad and he had brought new ones and slipped them in and assured me “no putty was needed” … he  applied all the force he had with his channel locks to get everything tightened and let water gush from the tap to assure me it was not leaking.  I was happy and soon he was on his way, thankfully with no more emergencies left on his agenda.

The plumber left at 10:45 p.m.  I’ll bet the neighbors’ tongues were a waggin’ about that one.  Maybe they were asleep.  It was about past my bedtime as well, even though it was a Saturday night.  I was still incredulous about the whole catastrophe, but couldn’t dwell on it for long – I had to get on my hands and knees and try to dry out the cupboard.

Mom’s pearls of wisdom rang in my ears:  “always keep a dishpan under your sink pipes to avoid disaster” – it caught some of the water, but it still leaked out when the pipes just collapsed.  The bigger disaster would have been if the pipes fell apart in the middle of the night and the water was trickling into the cupboard and out onto the floor.

By far, the better part of yesterday was my walk to the Park.

A blog post  was bubbling around in my head about my trip but it had to wait as I lost my zeal for recreating my five miles walked, the resourceful Grady and making peace with Parker and his pals after my long absence from that venue.

Way to go Grady!

It was 8 degrees F (-13C) when I set out for my walk on Saturday morning.  Sure it was bitter cold, but there were no worries … no flurries, no snow or ice … just great walking weather, provided you bundled up.

I donned multiple layers when I headed out, but reluctantly decided to leave behind the camera, as I didn’t want to damage it in the frigid cold.  The thought running through my mind was my late friend Marge telling me “always carry your camera with you – you’ll see that perfect shot and then you won’t be able to capture it.”  I hesitated once again, but left it behind.

All I had to do was grab my coat and lace up my shoes so I reached out the front door and dropped 10 peanuts onto the porch, then hustled to get ready and out the door.

I got outside, and unbelievably, in the space of 8-10 minutes’ time, all but two peanuts remained on the porch and peanut shells littered the porch.  I chuckled to myself thinking “those boys were hungry.”  Since the weather was clear, I backed the car out of the garage to drive to the Park and give it a run.  While the car was warming up, along came Grady, past the car, slinking up the porch steps, where he grabbed a peanut and then he surprised me.  I watched as he scrambled up the bricks and along the brick ledge … he went all the way to the other side of the ledge where he perched as he ate the peanut.

“Well, that a new one on me” I thought.  Was he evading the hawk, or me?  Of course it was the hawk … (at least I think it was).

Was he doing that for my benefit to take note of an alternate feeding spot just for him?  The other squirrel could never get his fat body up there … way to go Grady!

Of course, if I had the camera it would have made a terrific photo for up top of this post …

I made peace with Parker and his pals.

I took a large bag of peanuts with me to make it up to Parker and his pals as I’d been absent from my favorite nature nook for eight days.  As I crossed the parking lot, I shook the plastic bag so they knew I was coming.  Parker was MIA at the parking lot, but came bounding over near the pavilion area where I lavished peanuts and apologies simultaneously.  I got onto the perimeter path and was happy to see there were only the occasional icy patches.  That rain and warmer temps we had on Wednesday afternoon did wonders to clear the asphalt path.

One by one, squirrels started heading out of their nests and scrambling down the trees to ground level.  I gave them each a pile of peanuts, which they eagerly started munching, not hiding, right away.  I figured the ground was first too snowy from the half-foot of snow on Saturday the 19th, then too frozen thereafter to dig for peanuts, so they were starving.   The second time around the “wildlife side” I noted the peanuts were all gone, and only shells remained and a passel of my furry friends were back to greet me.  I indulged them and once again wished for the camera to record them happily munching away.

The Creek was frozen solid and a light covering of snow had drifted on top of the ice.  Not a duck, goose – or even a seagull was in sight, so likely they flew down to the Detroit River, where the current is swift and they could still have access to vegetation beneath the water.

The Park is wearing its desolate look.  Not enough snow to look picturesque, dead leaves rattling on tree branches and the tall, wheat-colored phragmites waving at me in the wind as I strolled by them.

I left the remaining peanuts on the picnic table under the pavilion roof in case I didn’t make it down today … I was glad I did so, as I didn’t get there today, though I planned on it.  We had two inches of snow and it was slick when I went out to run the car.

Before I walked into the house yesterday I put five peanuts on the ledge for Grady to find if he was still out and about.  I looked out later on Saturday and all the peanuts were gone.  He’s a pretty smart cookie that little squirrel … he made sure he climbed up there so I could see him and give him a new spot to put his treats.  The sucker that I am bought into this idea hook, line and sinker.

I walked five loops, and would have gotten in a six-mile walk, but I wanted to avoid shin splints from walking too many miles as I’d not walked in over a week.  Usually when I’m unable to walk in the Winter, I go downstairs on the exercise bike, but it was too cold to be comfortable down there.  I shut the door from the cellarway to the kitchen to keep it warm so it feels like you could hang meat in the basement.

I returned home, keen for a coffee to warm up and cupped my cold hands around the cup as my entire body warmed up slowly.  So, perhaps I made a boo-boo in that I didn’t tote the camera with me, so I’m using one of Jill Wellington’s photos from her Winter collection instead.

[Image from Jill Wellington and Pixabay]

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 107 Comments

Tuesday Musings.

tuesday-musings

I am not musing too much these days – no witty words are escaping my mouth and travelin’ to my fingers as they peck the keyboard.  Nope, if anything is coming out of my mouth, it is a frosty vapor from the frigid temps we have experienced the past three days.  Today, during the dinner hour, freezing rain was on the menu, but tomorrow we’ll be 40 degrees warmer and regular rain all day.  Thursday and Friday we’re back in the deep freeze, so most likely all that rain will freeze on the sidewalks.

I hope Parker and his pals have a shovel to dig through all that snow and ice to access their nuts – better yet, I hope they used sticky notes to help find those peanuts like this squirrel did in this cute vintage commercial:

The big snowfall on Saturday is old hat now.  We ended up with a total of six inches in Saturday’s snow event and that was topped off with the bitter cold.  I’ve been letting all the taps drip, running several small loads of laundry daily to keep the pipes warm and trudging out to run the car for fifteen minutes every morning.  Alas, Old Man Winter has not only settled in, but has his feet up on the hassock and is reading the paper and prepared to settle in for a long visit.  Sigh.

Well, yesterday was a holiday as we know – the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, but it was also “Squirrel Appreciation Day”.  No, I did not make it up and here is a photo to prove it – I saw it on the internet, so it must be so!

squirrel appreciation day (wild birds unlimited)

I felt badly as I let down the crew at the Park, and, though I tried to feed my porch squirrels while I was outside, they did not show up.  I am sure that -15 wind chill kept them snuggled together in their nests for most of the day.  I was relieved to see those peanuts I left tucked under the front stoop were gone this morning when I went out to run the car.  Whew!  I worry about my furry friends, because last week I saw two large Cooper’s Hawks sitting in a tall tree on the cross street.  I happened to be taking the car for a run to the Park Thursday morning since Friday morning snow was predicted.  I saw the pair of hawks while backing out of the driveway.  When one flew off, I quickly followed it.  I watched that hawk alight on a branch and I had a chance to study it.  I had no time to take a picture as my camera was buried under my coat, and I was driving, but I remembered the markings from the encounter with the Cooper’s Hawk and Stubby last Summer – you will recall, I had just fed that squirrel who is missing half his tail, and just as Stubby began to dig into his peanut pile, the hawk swooped down out of nowhere – Stubby ran as fast as those short four legs could carry him and scurried under a picnic table in the pavilion area.

Thursday night I alerted my neighbors, both who have small dogs – one said “I saw a hawk in your yard and ours and the hawk got a squirrel” … well, I had a sick feeling after reading his reply, so Friday morning I abandoned the idea of putting out the peanuts from the front door before I went outside, not wanting to make Grady and his pal “sitting ducks” and I opted instead to feed them when I went outside and wait for them.  So, Friday morning I went outside – a light covering of snow had fallen and there were lots of squirrel paw prints on the porch and steps.

footsteps2

Aww … they knew our routine from all these weeks and were waiting on me and likely thought I forgot them.  No fellas … I didn’t forget you, just trying to be careful and spare your lives.

Before laying any peanuts out, I glanced all around at the tall trees …

tall trees

tall trees1

… luckily I saw no hawks, so I felt comfortable leaving them their treats.

footsteps1

I am savoring those many mornings I stepped out in December and January … like I said in my recent post, sometimes you just have to seize the day.

P.S. – Today is “National Blonde Brownie Day” just in case you’ve had a treacherous ride home and care to whip up a quick batch?

[Image of “Squirrel Appreciation Day” from National Day Calendar]

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 73 Comments