A Wing and A Prayer

IMG_20150419_080413Fifteen years ago we moved into this beaten down home. We knew the home would need a lot of TLC, time, and money, and in truth, it has taken all three.

For instance, when we first took up residence, the yard was a bare landscape, with only two pine trees in the back and lots of thistle in the flower bed (yes, one flower bed).  Surrounding the property was a broken down fence made up of picket, wire mesh, and another layer of picket.  The grass was spotty, gravel was used as landscaping cover, and a 12-foot tall street light (an ACTUAL street light) was shining brightly in the middle of the back yard.

After a decade and a half of hard work, planting more than two dozen bushes and 18 varieties of trees, we now have a beautiful oasis, perfect for hosting parties on beautiful spring days, sitting quietly in warm the evening shade, or sipping coffee in the cool shade of the early morning.

The change in plantings has also created a sanctuary for wildlife.  We now have squirrels raiding the feeder on a regular basis and bunnies munching on dewy clover.  We also can now enjoy for more than 30 species of birds of every shape and size: From speeding Hummingbirds to lazy Turkey Vultures.  From scolding Blue Jays to a comical pair of Mallards (named Fred and Ethel). From opportunistic Brown-headed Cow Birds to deadly silent Coopers Hawk.  Each one finds it’s place in the proverbial pecking order.

Beyond the visitors to the yard, we now have families taking up residence in Austin’s Acre.  This year, brooding pairs include House Sparrows, Robins, Grackles, Carolina Wrens, Mourning Doves, and a very loud and nervous pair of Chickadee. And as spring quickly turns to summer, I can only marvel at the wonderful wildlife that calls our yard their home. It is only possible because we took the time to turn the barren back yard into a heavenly hideaway for my aviary friends.

The Color of Spring

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps the most powerful aspect of changing seasons from winter to spring is the burst of color.  Sure, warmer temperatures are nice.  Of course, singing birds add a song to the air.  Yes, growing plants are better than bare branches.  But with spring’s arrival, there is a celebration of color, a parade of pigment, a hoopla of hues.

Reds, blues and greens burst forth where just weeks before there was nothing more than dark browns and grays.

Violet, magenta and yellow expand and blossom with each passing day, replacing a blah background of winter’s sad colorless world.

Of course, with the color comes the work.  However, mowing a few times a week is a small price to pay to have a carpet of green grass return from the dead.  Trimming back expanding branches is no burden when I can spend the evenings lounging in the shade of the Maple’s verdant canopy.  Pulling some weeds in the garden beds is a price well-paid for the beauty of daffodils and tulips that spot the landscape with color.

The rainbow of color never ends in this season I love.  And I am so very grateful.

It’s Spring Again

20140423_182444-PANOLet’s be honest:  It was a really long winter.

Record-breaking snowfall.  Teeth-chatterinly cold.  An unending deep-freeze.  A ever-lasting blast of ice.

It was beginning to feel as if the season of would never end.  Even as the spring daffodils poked their delicate flowers out of the ground and the tulips began to bud, another dose of snow hit Central Indiana with one-last attempt to make its presence known.

Yet, spring eventually poked through: The trees push out new leaves.  The grass turns brilliant green and thick.  The birds collect nesting materials and proclaim the arrival of warmth from high atop spruce perches.  It is glorious.

It is finally spring.  The long winter is over.  We should celebrate.

Day 191 – Let’s Be Honest

This was a good week, besides the fact I learned my cholesterol is high, my triglycerides are elevated and my sugar is borderline.  I was able to spend time with very good friends.  I was able to share an evening with my mother and father.  I was privileged to help my son work on his apartment.

It was packed but great.  I simply didn’t get time to sit down at the computer and tell you about it.

But here are some shots of my week that might help tell the tail.

And I promise to do better next week in keeping you up-to-date with the Journey.

For now, just know that I’m taking cholesterol meds, Niacin and fish oil.  I’m watching my intake better and eating fewer candy from the bowl in the office across the hall.  Oh ya.  I’m a health nut.

Day 24 – The Damn Water Feature

2013.03.17I have been working on a water feature in the corner of my patio for the past five years.  Every spring I tear out the old, broken equipment and liner and start over.

I draw up plans, I buy equipment, I move rocks, I shovel dirt.  I evaluate the flow, the sound and the visual.  Often, I start over with a new plan in an effort to create that perfect look and sound.

My hope is that some day I will be done.  The day will come when it is the perfect addition to my back yard oasis.  But I doubt it. I suspect that this will be a work in progress as long as I have a pump and a bucket and a pile of stone.  If I was honest, the process is as much fun as the final goal.

This is also true about my body and mind.  This Journey to 50 is very much the same.  I watch my calories, track my activity, change my pattern and habit and within a few days realize that I need to make some other minor alterations to get it just right:  Ride the bike more.  Walk the dog farther.  Eat less ice cream and more green vegetables.

It is a never ending program.  Of course, there is an end-goal, but getting there is most of the battle.  Today I weighed in a 207.2.  That’s not down much from last week.  But my goal is 1/2  a pound a week.  So not much is better than none at all.

Some day I will have the perfect water feature.  Some day I’ll have a better body and mind.  Each require constant assessment and maintenance.  Each demand appreciation for the process.

The White House Buzz

Perhaps the only bees on the plant to have Secret Service Protection.
Perhaps the only bees on the planet to have Secret Service Protection.

My friend, Mac loves bees.  He worries about them in extreme cold.  He frets about them in extreme heat.  He puts out pans of water for them to drink in the summer.  He is frequently called upon to gather wild swarms and is happy to give them a good home whenever possible.  Mac has many, many hives and ensures that each one is located is a place that will provide optimum pollen and plenty of resources to keep them happy all season long.

Because of Mac’s attention to detail, he produces some of the finest honey I’ve ever tasted.  Actually, the bees produce it, not my friend…he just puts it in jars.

The White House Bee Hive
Positioned just alongside the White House Garden, these bees are in the perfect location to hear the latest buzz on happenings in and around the capital.

Mac has opened my eyes to the wide world of bee keeping.  That is probably why I was so excited when I found a bee hive in a most unusual place this past week.

We all know about Mrs. Obama’s garden and while visiting the White House, I saw many people stand at the fence and pose for pictures with the garden in the background.  What they may have missed was the Bee Hive that is positioned in the shade of several trees just a few yards away.  I had no idea that the Obama administration supported bees and was fascinated by the numerous articles and videos that explain this new addition to the White House property.

It seems that this past year, while providing pollination to Mrs. Obama’s garden and the many flowers surrounding the area, the bees were also able to provide over 175 lbs of honey to the White House Kitchen.  That is a lot of honey!

And while I am no apiculturist or even an economist, I’m thinking that the White House may have found a way to reduce the deficit.  At nearly $10 a jar and a few more hives, we could lick (pun intended) this budget problem that is all the buzz (yes, pun intended again) around our nation’s capital.

Put that bee in your bonnet!