Archive | February 2017

Grass Flip-Flops Brings Summer to Winter

When it’s cold outside and there’s snow on the grass… These grass-lined flip-flops sure bring back memories of summer.
wp-image-242543188jpg.jpg

Brrr! Only about 4 more months till summer… Sigh.

wp-1486843816516.jpg

PS – (Added to post much later than above was originally written) To a keen eye or another Midwesterner… This photo was clearly taken over a month ago, back when there was actually snow on the ground. True. It’s been floating in my ‘Scheduled’ folder for awhile. I almost thought about pushing it off yet again, until there was some snow on the ground to exaggerate my point of needing these grass-lined flip-flops… After checking the forecast for the next few months… I feel there’s very little hope in seeing any decent amount of snow the rest of this winter. Oh. so. NOT. sad!!!! Seems we may have an early spring. I sure hope so. Toes crossed!

© Ilex ~Midwestern Plant Girl

 

What the Lack of Great Lakes Ice Coverage Means

Us Midwestern folk are enjoying a mild winter so far. I don’t know of anyone that is complaining… well maybe the snowmobilers, skiers and snowman builders are. ☃
I thought this post was an interesting read about how this warm weather is effecting the Great Lakes. Please go read the full post at upnorthreader.com!

THE UP NORTH READER

To call it a mild winter would be putting it, well, mildly.

As our current mid-winter warmup rolls on, those in the upper Midwest are either rejoicing at the unseasonable temperatures or are dreading the impact that it will have on the outdoor industries—namely skiing, sledding and snowmobiling. But what effect, we should wonder, will it have on Michigan’s most precious natural resource: the freshwater of the Great Lakes.

To date, the ice coverage on the Great Lakes is only eight percent, according to MLive. One year ago that figure was up at 23 percent, and two years ago at 80 percent. The record for least ice coverage on the Great Lakes since the scientific monitoring began in 1973 is 9.5 percent (2002).

Virtually all of the ice coverage that exists currently resides in various bays, such as Little Traverse Bay, Black Bay and Green Bay, with a…

View original post 413 more words

The Crab Apple ~ Malus Species

Like many heralds of spring, crab apples explode with color upon the dreary backdrop of April.  For a tree that can grow in almost all 50 states, there are not many other species that can offer the colors, shapes and sizes the crab offers. It also has three season interest (as seen below), with blooms in spring, beautiful green (or red) foliage in summer, along with berries for winter. Fall is usually uneventful, as fall color is unknown to this tree.

Crab apples are loved by many of our wildlife friends.

  • The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of many moths and butterflies.
  • The flowers provide an important source of early pollen and nectar for insects, particularly honeybees.
  • The fruit is eaten by birds including cardinals, robins, thrushes and finches.
  • Mammals, including mice, raccoons, vole and squirrels also eat crab apple fruit.

Although all of the blooms are similar shaped, they come in a plethora of colors, buds that bloom to another color and different bloom times. Crabs can grow from 5′ – 50′ feet, but on average, stay between 15′ to 25′ feet range. This makes them a great choice for under wires or a street tree, along with the fact they are salt tolerant. Varieties can vary from columnar, weeping, spreading, vase-shaped to pyramidal which allows them to be planted almost anywhere. Click here for my favorite ‘cheat sheet’ (It’s a PDF) on crabs, which shows size, shape, bloom and berry colors, along with other great info.

image    image    image

Sadly, there are many things lurking out there to attack crabs. Although many of the new varieties are resistant to one or more disease; scab, fireblight, leaf spot, rusts are among the top killers of crabs. Buying a resistant variety is the key to longevity.

Although the fruits are very tart, they are plentiful and able to be turned into jellies and jams quite easily, due to their high pectin. Here’s how you can do it!

A Makah Legend

The Indians who live on the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State used to tell stories, not about one Changer, but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives, who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When the world was very young, there were no people on the Earth. There were no birds or animals, either. There was nothing but grass and sand and creatures that were neither animals nor people but had some of the traits of people and some of the traits of animals.

Then the two brothers of the Sun and the Moon came to the Earth. Their names were Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, which means “The Two-Men-Who- Changed- Things.” They came to make the Earth ready for a new race of people, the Indians. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called all the creatures to them. Some they changed to animals and birds. Some they changed to trees and smaller plants.

Among them was a bad thief. He was always stealing food from creatures who were fishermen and hunters. The Two-Men-Who- Changed-Things transformed him into Seal. They shortened his arms and tied his legs so that only his feet could move. Then they threw Seal into the Ocean and said to him, “Now you will have to catch your own fish if you are to have anything to eat.”

One of the creatures was a great fisherman. He was always on the rocks or was wading with his long fishing spear. He kept it ready to thrust into some fish. He always wore a little cape, round and white over his shoulders. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Great Blue Heron. The cape became the white feathers around the neck of Great Blue Heron. The long fishing spear became his sharp pointed bill.

Another creature was both a fisherman and a thief. He had stolen a necklace of shells. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Kingfisher. The necklace of shells was turned into a ring of feathers around Kingfisher’s neck. He is still a fisherman. He watches the water, and when he sees a fish, he dives headfirst with a splash into the water.

Two creatures had huge appetites. They devoured everything they could find. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed one of them into Raven. They transformed his wife into Crow. Both Raven and Crow were given strong beaks so that they could tear their food. Raven croaks “Cr-r-ruck!” and Crow answers with a loud “Cah! Cah!”

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called Bluejay’s son to them and asked, “Which do you wish to be–a bird or a fish?”

“I don’t want to be either,” he answered.

“Then we will transform you into Mink. You will live on land. You will eat the fish you can catch from the water or can pick up on the shore. ”

Then the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things remembered that the new people would need wood for many things.

They called one of the creatures to them and said “The Indians will want tough wood to make bows with. They will want tough wood to make wedges with, so that they can split logs. You are tough and strong. We will change you into the yew tree.”

They called some little creatures to them. “The new people will need many slender, straight shoots for arrows. You will be the arrowwood. You will be white with many blossoms in early summer.”

They called a big, fat creature to them. “The Indians will need big trunks with soft wood so that they can make canoes. You will be the cedar trees. The Indians will make many things from your bark and from your roots.”

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things knew that the Indians would need wood for fuel. So they called an old creature to them. “You are old, and your heart is dry. You will make good kindling, for your grease has turned hard and will make pitch. You will be the spruce tree. When you grow old, you will always make dry wood that will be good for fires.”

To another creature they said, “You shall be the hemlock. Your bark will be good for tanning hides. Your branches will be used in the sweat lodges.”

A creature with a cross temper they changed into a crab apple tree, saying, “You shall always bear sour fruit.”

Another creature they changed into the wild cherry tree, so that the new people would have fruit and could use the cherry bark for medicine.

A thin, tough creature they changed into the alder tree, so that the new people would have hard wood for their canoe paddles.

Thus the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things got the world ready for the new people who were to come. They made the world as it was when the Indians lived in it.

 

*** Did you like this post? I have more coming that show trees in all of their seasons. Stay tuned!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Toy Hauler Mailbox: When Good Things Come From Bad

We live in a somewhat rural area, where there are no sidewalks and our mailboxes are at the street. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived with this situation. In the past, I had a walking mailperson, who dropped mail in my house-attached box.

In the past few years, I’ve become an Amazon.com addict, along with many other online stores and the amount of package deliveries have spiked to epic levels. I do have a wooden bench near my door that is under an eave for those large boxes, however some of the smaller ones still got jammed into the small mailbox, ultimately bending or breaking something. Frowny face to the mail carrier!! No Duncan Doughnut’s gift card for you!!

Along with USPS (United States Post Office), I also get deliveries from UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, and other carriers. Only the USPS can deliver items INSIDE my mailbox, the rest get placed on my bench. Here’s a tid-bit for you; Did you know it is a federal offense to steal mail (anything delivered by USPS, in or out of mailbox), however only a misdemeanor to steal packages delivered by carriers other than USPS? This is why smart-ass thieves tend to steal packages off stoops over cracking into mailboxes. Either way, I’d hope the Karma train takes care of these thieves!

We’ve been talking about making our mailbox into a travel trailer for years. However, the timing was never good to start the project, along with the fact we still had a working mailbox… Until a week ago.

My neighbor is slowly dying. I can’t recall the disease that is killing him, however it’s a reaction from a drug he took years ago. He is unable to eat because of reoccurring sores in his mouth and in a lot of pain from a previous neck injury. He’s on liquid morphine and has hospice folks coming by often. One day last week, he got into a large argument with his wife, and amazingly was able to get out of the house and behind the wheel of his truck. I was actually writing on my laptop, overlooking my yard and mailbox when it happened. BLAM! Mailbox up! Mailbox down! Neighbor back-up and off mailbox, neighbor drive forward and continue down the street.

I ran out there immediately and called his wife, as I knew he shouldn’t be driving. She told me the police were already in route, so there was not much else for me to do, but to pick up the many pieces of my mailbox. Not more than 10 minutes later, I watched the mailperson drive by, looking at the mailbox-less post, and continued on. Um, you could have knocked on my door and delivered my mail! But no. The mail carrier just carried on.

I was able to Jerry-rig a close replica of my mailbox with what was left of the box, some bungee cords and duct tape. It doesn’t really close, however it would work for the interim.https://youtu.be/sZnhtojtUYc

Meanwhile, we decided it was time to make out new mailbox, technically a ‘toy-hauler’, and impress our neighborhood with our skills ;^D

  • First, we started by ordering a LARGE (24″ long x 12″ wide x 15″ tall), gray mailbox from Amazon.com. In the future, we hope this allows for less squished packages.
  • Hubby painted on the windows, doors and details.
  • He then made the gas tanks out of PVC.
  • The bumper and hitch are made from copper and painted black.
  • The wheels came from a toy truck and painted silver instead of the yellow rims it came with.
  • The spare tire (also made from PVC) and the faux awning were then attached.
  • We found little reflectors online to create the taillights and side lighting.
  • Finally, we found a place that made little license plates for our address number. Yes, it’s a bit out of proportion, but we wanted it to be seen from a distance.

In the end, I’m really impressed at the turn-out of this project! I think it’s so cute!! If I recall correctly, without time and labor, material cost us about $85.00.

Ironically, my hubby sent a pix of this to his boss, who then posted it on his FB page, bragging about what a creative employee he has. Many of his friends responded back positively and even asked if his employee could make other mailboxes like fire engines and race cars! How cool is that?! Hubby has already been trying to figure out how to make mini hoses and Mars lights….

    

*PS – No one besides my mailbox was harmed by my neighbor. The sheriff found him parked on the side of the road, around the corner. Whew!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Enjoying the Climate Roller Coaster!

This is kinda crazy weather for February in the Midwest. In my experience, when Mother Nature teases us with a week like this in the middle of winter… She will generally rain down a hellion’s dose of rag-ass on us during April – May. I know. Just try to schedule outdoor construction for a living!=-O
Granted, things have started early and hung on to transition right into summer. It was as recent as 2012, when I had lilacs blooming on April 13, instead of the average time of late May.

I hope that we have another 2012, I’m ready for it =-)

Finding Peace

noose

Peace

My head reels with the stinging pain of last night’s events.

Thoughts of you caused me to become disobedient.

At least this time it was a strong dose of alcohol.

You always said I would forever be your babydoll.

I remember a time when you loved with such passion.

You said no woman you’ve loved would fair in comparison.

The adoration you gave me was overwhelming.

I didn’t see the wound inside you festering.

I’ll never forget your white boy face and deep brown eyes.

Mystic, somber pools of emotion that terrifies.

Something behind them obsessed your heart and inner soul.

I felt myself helplessly falling onto a black hole.

I often think back to what you said pushed you to the edge.

That even a mere glance of me was your sole privilege.

Your possessiveness and insults made me such a wreck.

I saw the love in your heart through the marks on my neck.

I tried to leave but you wouldn’t pardon my release.

Hunting me down wherever I went to find inner peace.

You thought you couldn’t exist without having me.

There was no way in your mine I’d ever be free.

I finally decided I had to end this fate.

The pain and suffering wouldn’t let me hesitate.

I still feel your haunting stare upon me behind the shadows.

But at least I know it was coming from the gallows.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

 

Squirrel McDonald’s 

It’s another dreary day here in the Midwest. The clear, bright, new windows we had installed don’t make it look any more friendly outside. It’s February… In Illinois… what do I expect?

Although the day is dreary, I do enjoy watching the gray squirrels taking care of business in the front yard. There are many spruce and large trees in my area, which allows for a large population of these furry, funny entertainers.

February is an exciting time in a gray squirrel’s life… It’s MATING SEASON! Woo hoo! Time to frolic, play, tease, fight, love, share, chase, eat and all other forms of craziness!! You can easily identify the sexes without seeing their undercarriages during this time. The female is in the lead, with a dominate male directly behind here, if there are any other following in line, they are young, subordinate males… waiting for their chance.

Males will fight for dominance when there are no females around to chase. You’ll hear the “Chu-chu-chu” noise or see the squirrel stomping its feet and swishing its tail as a form of war dance! To adorable.

**Click here to learn how smart squirrels are**

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I have many bird feeders and perch areas to feed the wildlife at work. At my home, not so much. I do have a suet holder and otherwise, I only toss ‘left overs’ out to the wildlife I share my space with. Left overs can vary from bread to nuts to fruit to seeds, nothing I think is dangerous to the wildlife, nor anything I want out there that attracts unwanted wildlife, like skunks or ‘possoms. All approved items get thrown on the front lawn at dawn. The front lawn is devoid of crazy Border Collies and if thrown out at dawn, all trace of food will be gone by mid-day, thus won’t be attracting any nightlife creatures of the stinky variety.

As I know I might catch some flack from feeding the wildlife anything but proper foods… I did consult the ALL KNOWING INTERNET to back or deflate my decision to give my furries bread. Seems there are as many pro’s as con’s out there for feeding any type of wildlife (ducks, birds, squirrels…) bread. In my opinion, and how I try to live my life (mostly)… It’s all about moderation. Going to McDonald’s twice a year isn’t going to kill you, in the same as giving wildlife bread will kill them. I don’t share it that often and they seem to enjoy their Squirrel McDonald’s!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

 

Juvenile Male Cardinal ~ Cardinalis cardinalis

Happy Valentines Day!

I though today would be a great day to write about cardinals.

Cardinals are monogamous birds whose relationships with their spouses are harmonious, romantic and musical. The male and female sing duets, calling similar songs to each other. Native American lore says if a cardinal crosses your path or attracts your attention, and you’re single, there may be a romantic relationship in your near future. If you’re already in a relationship, you may experience renewed romance and courtship. If you or your partner have been unfaithful, monogamy is the cardinal’s message

     

Cardinals make a distinct ‘chirp’, that my ears pick-up quickly. I was home writing posts, when I heard the call. This little guy was under the suet puck I have hanging from a shepherd’s hook. Mr. Squirrel was up on the puck, gobbling and dropping a lot of crumbs. Perfect situation for Mr. Cardinal! I crept up to the window and looked down, hoping not to spook him. The cardinals at work are very skittish. Any movement at all has them flying off. This guy here had no fear. As long as the crumbs rain down on him, he was happy and not worried about who looked at him.

Cardinalis cardinalis is what’s called a tautonym: zoological names of species consisting of two identical words (the generic name and the specific name have the same spelling). Such names are allowed in zoology, however not in botany. Clearly, like I’ve said before, botanist’s are EVIL!!! Click here to see the long list of tautonyms available from the Wiki. Some of my favorites: Bison bison, Chinchilla chinchilla, Iguana iguana, Gorilla gorilla. 😉

My gift to you on Valentine’s day; a romantic Native American legend.

The Red Bird

A Choctaw Legend

Once, when time was not quite old enough to be counted, there lived a beautiful Indian maiden. This was a special maiden. She could do all the work that needed to be done to keep her lodge in order and to satisfy her mate. But this maiden did not have what she longed for — her mate. As she sat under the large tree one day, she heard the Red Bird.

“Red Bird, is it so strange for me to wish to have someone to care for, who will care for me?” asked the maiden. “If it is not so strange, why have I not found that one meant for me?”

The Red Bird had no answer for the Indian maiden, but he sat and listened to her because he could hear the lonely in her voice. Every morning for the passing of seven suns, the Red Bird came and listened to the maiden’s story. As each day passed, the loneliness felt by the maiden began to fill the Red Bird.

One day in the Red Bird’s far travels, he came to a handsome Indian brave. The brave saw the Red Bird and called him to him. As he began to talk, the Red Bird felt the loneliness in his voice that the maiden had shown. Soon the Red Bird began to see that these two lonely people had the same wish, to find another who would love and care for them as they would care for their mate.

On the fifth day of listening to the brave, the Red Bird became as a bird that is sick. The brave became concerned, for the Red Bird had become his friend. As the brave walked toward him, the Red Bird began hopping, leading the brave to the lodge of the Indian maiden. Because the brave was wanting to see if the Red Bird was alright, he did not notice that he was going from his home. The Red Bird saw the Indian maiden sitting outside of her lodge and when he came very close to where he knew the brave would then see the Indian maiden, he flew away. The brave saw the Indian maiden and realized that he had wandered far from his home. He went to the Indian maiden to ask where he was.

The Red Bird sat in the tree and watched the brave and the maiden. At first the brave was shy and the maiden would not talk, but they soon were talking and laughing like old friends.

Red Bird saw this and thought it was good. He had done as he could and now it would be up to the brave and the maiden. As Red Bird flew to his home he thought of how Great Spirit had known that someday the two would find each other. Now it was good, thought Red Bird, that maiden had someone who would see for her and brave had someone that would hear for him and that they finally had someone who would care.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl