How does your garden grow?

Each year, I find there is always a *star* in my garden. Last year was the year of the poblano pepper. Its bounty continued through late fall. My garden grows thanks to planning — and many whims. Hey, I think I’ll plant corn for popping. Why, yes, let’s grow Cinderella pumpkins and moon flowers. It is always a joy when the whims work and a tad sad when the purposeful sowing results in delicious meals for our ever-present chipmunks.

Truthfully, the critters and I have made peace since the early years when I’d chase bunnies out of my FENCED garden. Now, each spring, I poke around carefully for the anticipated nest of baby bunnies. I do not want to scare the furry babies. I decided to share what I grow and try to outsmart the chipmunks and birds with netting over my in-ground sown seeds.

My best advice? Get a garden journal, do a little planning and make room for impromptu seeds or Farmers Market seedlings. Whatever makes you happy, you should plant. My garden journal features rough sketchings of “planned” plantings and “actual” plantings. I like to reflect on gardening throughout the year and jot down notes about what is going on around the days of sowing and harvests (e.g., heading to Tigers game, trying new tea, just returned from vacation, etc.). Your journal should be a messy, creative outlet and your garden a sanctuary of food, flowers and cheer.

Pretty skunk cabbage

I have developed the habit of hiking along the Lowland trail in Waterloo State Park in early spring. So convenient to my home, the trail always delivers on the first distinct signs of spring with the rising of hardy gold-speckled burgundy claws in the wetlands. Oftentimes, I see this skunk cabbage peaking through early-spring snow. A big thanks to the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) for the reassurance that spring has truly arrived. Soon, the forest bed will be sprinkled with dainty Trilliums and the outstretched green foliage of the skunk cabbage will be overlooked. Not its smell, though! It is a stinker once its leaves unfurl. Even so, I’m a fan because its a harbinger of spring in the woods and the stinky fragrance attracts certain insect pollinators. Learn more here.

Sayonara!

Yesterday, we said goodbye to our third exchange student. Nana was visiting us from Shimizu, Japan, over our spring break, along with two other students and a chaperone. Her visit was in conjunction with a program in our community called the Chelsea-Shimizu Sister Cities exchange program. Last June, my daughter traveled to Shimizu and visited Hiroshima and Sapporo to experience world history, and Japanese culture and community.



Our week was filled with local adventure, including the tradition of painting our town rock, disc golf at Hudson Mills metro park in Dexter and touring the Big House at the University of Michigan. Hosting an exchange student for a week was easy-breezy and so much fun! We hosted a student from the Netherlands for a full school year and a student from Peru for five months.

What I’ve learned from these cultural connections is how brave the teenagers are to travel to a foreign country and immerse in a culture that is completely unknown to them. Nana was eager to try everything — food and experiences. Though we had very little knowledge of her language and she had only slightly more of our language, we communicated. Google Translate was our friend this week, no doubt. Even so, being open, flexible and, most importantly, joyful during the week sharing experiences resulted in a lifetime connection.

Reflecting on our other experiences, I am grateful our family is still connected to our Dutch “daughter.” We are not connected to our Peruvian student, which I regret. I think of her and hope she is living a full, happy life. Each experience was truly unique. I am grateful to the students for being so brave and giving my family the opportunity to grow and learn from them.

Hello, Spring!

signs of spring: allium

No signs of snow here. It’s spring¬† and International Day of Happiness. It’s easy to be happy on the first official day of spring. (Big cozy hugs to those still in the snow.) For me, with the official spring calendar day, I cheerfully say, “Adios, winter!”

The streams are bubbling — bubbles sighted! — along the trail. The brave spring flora are emerging.

A harbinger of spring, my garden alliums have been a longtime favorite; their statuesque beauty always ignites joy. I was so worried their relocation last fall to another garden bed would disrupt their cycle. Worries, begone.  Bring on the happy!

Zany for Zinnias

After settling into our new home 16 years ago, I planned my garden of flowers and veggies. My kitchen window gave me a perfect view of happy, brightly colored flowers. At the first opportunity, I asked my neighbor what she was growing. Beautiful zinnias! My affection for zinnias and annual sowing of the cheerful flowers in prime viewing placement in my garden began. Now zany for zinnias, I buy the seed packets as soon as they pop up in the stores. The Garden Mill was stocked last weekend and I stumbled upon a 10% off seed sale. Sweet. Once any frost concerns are gone, zinnias will be sown.

Mutual rescue, mutual unconditional love

This sweet doggy is 10 today. Moose came into our lives after our previous rescue dog, Libby, passed away from old age. Never in doubt that we would rescue another dog, we kept our eyes out for adoption day opportunities. We found Moose at an adoption Moosie - 10 years oldevent in downtown Pinckney. She was the only rust haired puppy in a litter of mutts, most of which resembled German Shepherds. (We learned mamma was likely a party girl with two suitors.) Her given name of Ginger was apropos, of course. There was something about her sweet eyes and shaky little body that drew us in. She was petrified. We decided to give her a big name of Moose, named for the tiny village amid the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a favorite family destination. Truthfully, we call her Moosie 99% of the time.

Ten years later, and she still has some anxiety around people coming into our home, though she is deeply loyal, loving, vocal, and protective. She loves kids and popcorn. She has no fear of hiking in below freezing temperatures, but has a hard time walking in the heat. Tug of war is her game of choice.

A morning hike after breakfast and a birthday treat from The Brown Basset Baker started her day. Another treat later today, some tug of war, of course, and an off leash run around the yard will wrap up her birthday fun.

Ice is not nice, but nature’s setting prevails

I left my hiking boots in Holland (MI) this weekend, so I had to resort to an old pair that took a beating during my plantar fasciitis days. A bit discouraged, I almost skipped my planned hike. Fortunately, I was determined to walk Moose this morning. The sun was vibrantly beckoning, the morning wIcy trailas a toasty 23 degrees requiring less layers and the doggy and I needed exercise after an indulgent weekend. (Who can resist homemade bread???) We went to our easy access trail system at the Discovery Center and found ourselves the only adventurers this morning. Quickly heading to the Lowland trail, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the trail of ice. Not discouraged, I headed to another trail entry… and another. Unfortunately, the ice was prevalent. Determined to never have another injury in my life, I realized today was not going to be a trail day after all. The lower lip started to fatten and a frown started settling in, but damn that sun was bright and the air’s purity quickly flipped that hint of a frown.

I’ve learned a trick over the years: when I feel discouraged or sad for whatever reason, I quickly say, “I am grateful.” I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful I can walk. I am grateful for nature that surrounds me. I am grateful. Moose and I walked the ice-free drive through the park and basked in the sun’s glow as it shimmered through the trees. I am grateful.