Having the Blues Can be Good!

I got introduced to air shows at a very early age. Perhaps that was foreshadowing that, one day, I would be in aviation. Daddy always loved airplanes. My brother was in Army aviation until he retired, and is now a civilian contractor with the Army. Jim has been in aviation his entire working career. I guess it was destined.

One of Our Planes in HI

One of the great things about working for Kalitta Air (and there are many) is that every year, around the middle of July, there is a big air show at Willow Run Airport (Thunder Over Michigan). Check it out on the web, if you like.


Our headquarters (where I work) is also at Willow Run. For several days prior to the show (held Saturday and Sunday), the exhibitors fly in. It’s not at all unusual to see World War II-vintage aircraft (P-51 Mustangs, F-4U Corsairs, B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-24 Liberators, and B-25 Mitchells, and others). Every “odd” year, there is an extra, added attraction…the Blue Angels (the Navy’s flight demonstration team)!

Practice Day 1

The “Boss,” the Blue Angels’ Commanding Officer must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron. “Boss” flies the Number 1 jet. Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with strict qualifications are eligible to fly the other jets. Generally, Numbers 1 through 4 are the core team and Numbers 5 and 6 are the soloists. Marine Corps pilots fly “Fat Albert” the C-130T Hercules. If you’ve never seen Fat Albert do a JATO (Jet-Assisted Take Off), you would never believe that a big aircraft like that can take off so fast and with such a steep ascent! It’s so cool!

Practice Day 1

You can’t imagine how hard it can be to try to work with the sound of the Blue Angels overhead. Our view (since we’re on the airport) is terrific! We are right inside the “Flight Box.” This is the area of flight which is just away from the official spectator area (for safety-sake) in which all the stunts are done. Those guys just scream overhead.

Families Enjoy Practice

Last Thursday and Friday, were their practice days. Most of the photos I’ve attached to this post were taken by one of our employees (and a friend of mine), Bernadette Kearns. As you can see by one of the photos, people have their families come watch the practices. The photos were taken right from outside our hanger. What fun for everyone!

The Whole Team

If there’s ever an air show near you in which the Blue Angels will be taking part, GO! They really put on a terrific performance. It will take your breath away…I promise!

Up Next: BEAR!!!!

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Farmers’ Markets (Howell)

I previously wrote, farmers’ markets are a way of life in our part of Michigan. Most run from May through the beginning of October. There are a few (e.g., Ann Arbor) that have winter markets, but those will be the subject of a later blog (or two).


Livingston Cty Court House

 Where the Ann Arbor market is covered and in a dedicated area, the Howell Farmers’ market (held on Sundays) is held on the streets around the courthouse (Howell is the county-seat for Livingston County, MI).

Dog-friendly! LOVE IT!

The Howell farmers’ market is much smaller than the Brighton or the Ann Arbor markets – which can be a good thing. It’s a very laid back, family- and pet-friendly venue.

There are wonderful stands with people selling eggs from their own free-range chickens and excellent baked goods (Czech bakery and Polish bakery – YUMMMM)! You can find home-made soaps, sauces, maple syrup and other maple products. The variety is surprising considering the smaller size of the market.

Flower Sellers

Due to our late spring (cold weather and very wet conditions into June), the vegetables haven’t really started to mature. The early season crops (garlic, radishes, onions, early beans, blueberries, raspberries, some cherries) are starting to show up. The flower-sellers are having a good year with lots of potted plants starting to be at their best now.

Later in the summer (within the next three or four weeks), there will be wonderful ‘maters, peaches, apples, sweet corn, and a great variety of other veggies and fruit. (I’ll discuss Michigan produce versus that from other states in a later blog. You may be surprised – I was!)

The craftspeople are also on hand. On any given Sunday,  you can find beautiful, hand-turned wooden bowls, wooden toys, hand-crafted jewelry, and many different varieties of clothing. There is usually a gentleman who sharpens knives. Frequently, there are people selling interesting yard-art.

Jim & Friend

You just never know what you’ll see. It’s so much fun! The people-watching is sometimes the best part! Just take a look at the photo. That’s Jim with a Pink Cockatoo (aka Major Mitchell’s/ Leadbeater’s). The owner was walking down the street with the bird on his arm. Being bird-lovers, we naturally stopped to see the bird. Recognizing fans, the gentleman just stuck the bird on Jim’s arm. Must say the bird loves to show off. Just look at the raised crest and wings!

This is why I enjoy the Howell market so much! It’s so relaxed and there’s always something new to enjoy. The sellers are all neighbors and they seem to be enjoying themselves as much as the rest of us. It’s like a friendly, neighborly get-together where you can, incidentally, buy some really good stuff!




Up Next: When the Blues are a GOOD thing

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Drawing a Crowd (The Wonder of a White-eared)

In August of 2005, we had a completely unexpected guest. Not only was this guest unexpected at our house, it’s exceeding rare anywhere in the entire United States. This story has been written up in several places, but maybe you haven’t heard it. If you have, please feel free to check out one of my other posts. The rest of y’all…here goes.

On the afternoon of 18 August 2005, I was checking feeders – both seed and nectar – in our front yard. As I passed one of the nectar feeders, I noticed a very unusual hummingbird. It immediately struck me that this gave all appearances of a White-eared Hummingbird.

We had made trips to Southeast Arizonato observe non-Ruby-throated hummingbirds. Even there, we had not seen a White-eared Hummingbird, so I thought I was seeing things when one was right in front of me, at a feeder in my yard. I ran into the house and told Jim that I thought there was a White-eared Hummingbird at our feeder. Of course, he was certain that I’d lost my mind. We grabbed our binoculars and walked out the front door to our porch.


Very soon thereafter, the bird returned to the feeder which was no more than 10 feet away. The bird perched on the feeder and fed leisurely. At this point, Jim was also sure that this was absolutely not a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. We called a close friend and avid birder (John) who lives within a few minute drive. We also called Allen Chartier. (You may remember his name from an earlier post about banding. He’s the local bander and true hummingbird expert.) John arrived quite quickly and was also fairly certain that the bird was, indeed, a White-eared Hummingbird. John had his camera and video equipment, so he started taking photos and filming the bird. We got Allen on the telephone and described fieldmarks and behaviors. Not being in the yard to see the bird, Allen was, understandably, reluctant to rule out other possibilities. John also put out calls to several other birders who would be interested in seeing this unusual bird.


At this point, a couple of other local birders were watching the bird as we put out a rapid email on listservs that we had an unusual bird in our yard and that all birders who wished to come were welcome.

The bird remained and actively fed until nightfall. Everyone left with promises to return early the next morning. John went home and sent quicktime video and downloaded photos to Allen. After watching the video and seeing the photographs, Allen was also convinced that the bird was a White-eared Hummingbird. The news quickly got out to birders and the next day (August 19), we hosted close to 200 birders at varying times. Many had cameras and video equipment. The bird started feeding just at dawn and remained in the vicinity all day. Every individual who came to see the bird on the 19th was lucky enough to get some very good looks.

On the morning of Saturday, August 20, a few very early birders were able to see the bird at dawn when it fed very actively. Unfortunately, a large thunder/rain storm rolled into the area which lasted for a couple of hours. The White-eared did not reappear after the storm even though many people waited for several hours in hopes that it would reappear.

It was a wonderful experience hosting such a rare bird. It seemed like great irony that we had attempted to see White-eared in Arizona – to no avail – only to have one grace our yard in Michigan. We found out later that there had only been one confirmed sighting east of the Mississippi River which was in Biloxi, MS after a hurricane. The furthest north one had ever been confirmed was in Colorado. We’ll never know how on earth this one bird got so lost. Even more remarkable to me was that she (it’s thought that it was a female) showed up in a place where she would be recognized.

We had a wonderful time meeting so many really wonderful people who came to see the bird from all over the country. There were people from as far away as New York state and Minnesota. We tried to have everyone sign a guest list. Everyone was respectful of the neighbors (parking so as not to block any access), our property, and the boundaries set to avoid frightening the bird away. Our neighbor children even set up a lemonade stand! It was a true party atmosphere in a hushed kind of way. I brought out lawn chairs so that those who might not be able to stand for long periods of  time could see this wrong-way bird.

I doubt we’ll ever have another rarity. If we do, you can bet your boots I’ll make the same calls and get the word out. It’s the kind of “party” I love to host.

Up Next:  Howell Farmers’ Market

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In Praise of Rescue Dogs (Back to One)

We no longer have any of our initial pack. They’ve all gone to the Rainbow Bridge. They each, in their own exceedingly special way, gave us so much love and devotion. We miss them all. We wouldn’t have traded our rescue kids for any amount of money.

The first of our furkids to leave us was Blizzard. I’m not going to go into the long, sad story. What I am going to tell you is that after a few months, we decided to adopt again. By that point, we were living in Michigan. Once again, my friend Janet happened upon a  young, male, white GSD named Chief. I’m sure I will be able to talk about Chief at a later date. We just lost our boy to cancer on July 3rd. It’s still way too fresh to talk about, but I will one day.

Syd as an 80 lb lapdog

Now we have Sydney! Sydney came to us not too long after Liesel went to the “bridge.” Friends had seen a classified ad in a local paper looking for a home for a female German Shepherd Dog. We went to meet her. What a beautiful dog! Our only concerns were how she would fit in with Chief and Guinevere and, even more concerning, how was her health? Since she didn’t come through a rescue organization, we had to rely on the previous owner’s records. The vet records were available. On the negative side, her medical health had not been kept up over the past year. We had her tested for heartworm. If she’d been positive, we couldn’t have kept her. Luckily for us all, she was negative. We brought her home and had our vet update all her vaccinations. She went on heartworm preventative, immediately.

Sydney was a joiner. Again, it was a good thing as the other two were completely bonded. Guinevere and Chief had recently lost their “sister” Liesel, and were ready to accept another pack member. The three got along beautifully.

Syd definitely has her baggage that we’re working on. She really hates going to the vet. She’s so afraid! We have to sedate her and have her wear a muzzle. We learned, her previous owner would pin her to the ground with his body to have her vetted. No wonder she’s a basket of nerves.

Sydney’s slowly – yet surely – making progress. When she first came home with us, she really didn’t trust me very much. It seemed pretty obvious that some woman had really treated her poorly. Now, she’s a whole different girl with me. No more snarling or snapping when I got too much into her “zone.” It’s taken time, but patience and love has bridged the gap. These were not things we had to deal with when our dogs came through rescue.

We will, undoubtedly, adopt another dog in the near future.Sydney is missing her friends and would love a new “brother.” It will be imperative, however, that the new family member be submissive. Syd is a very dominant girl, now. We will be going through rescue – no doubt about it. There are so many wonderful dogs and agencies…

You just can not beat rescue! In general, you will get a healthy dog (up-to-date on vaccinations, and heartworm negative) who has already been neutered (except VERY young dogs) and housebroken. They’ve already been through foster care where many of their “demons” have been exorcised. The foster parents can help you to know your dog’s personality and you’ll know what to expect before they come into your home.

It will still be up to you to take care of your new friend. It’s so worth it! You’ve helped save a life. In turn (if you’re anything like me), having these wonderful beings in your life will help to save you. We save their lives – they save our humanity. I think we get the best part of the deal.

Up Next: Drawing a Crowd (The Wonder of a White-eared)

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In Praise of Rescue Dogs (Adding to the Pack)

Cheyenne had joined our family (which consisted of Jim and  me, along with 2 cats). She was such a wonderful addition, but we felt like she needed a dog. Seriously, she needed a friend. Jim’s schedule had changed and we were both working day-shifts. Cheyenne was by herself for hours at a time. We  really felt badly for her as she was such a social dog. So, back we went to  rescue.

It just so happened that they had a lovely, white German  Shepherd Dog who had also gone through treatment for heartworm and come out the other side. His situation was completely different. He’d been left by his former (so-called) people tied to a tree with no food or water when they left  town. Luckily, neighbors saw this and called the humane association who called the rescue. That’s how we came to have Blizzard (who was named Clorox – really – at the time) come to visit. He and Cheyenne hit it off immediately and our little pack was formed – or so we thought at the time.

I must mention here that most rescue dogs will arrive with  some kind of “baggage.” Cheyenne really had never been misused or mistreated as such, but she’d been heartworm positive. Blizzard, sadly, had been very mistreated. His trust levels were nil. However, with lots of loving reinforcement, his life turned into one happy day after another. That’s the secret – with any dog – give them lots of love, consistency, and reason to trust. They’ll give you back the love and trust tenfold!

Blizzard and Cheyenne were quite a team. They really did seem to need each other. They both loved to ride in the car, go for walks on  mountain trails (we were in Georgia at the time and there were lots of wonderful trails to explore) and just relax at home with their people.

After that, we decided to try our hand at fostering.

Our first attempt went beautifully! Into our lives came a sweet, abandoned, young female shepherd. She was so thrilled to be cared for that she’d wag her tail into walls so hard that it would bleed. Poor girl! It seemed to me that she’d never had a bit of human kindness. She was a sponge for affection. She even loved the cats! It didn’t take any time at all for her to find her forever home. It felt so wonderful to help save another wonderful dog. We decided that we could continue to foster.

The next two “fosters” became the third and fourth permanent members of our pack. Guinevere and Liesel are talked about (at length) in
earlier posts (Saying Farewell 1 & 2).

Up Next: In Praise of Rescue Dogs (Back to One)

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In Praise of Rescue Dogs (Part 1)

This post is about rescue dogs. I’m not talking about dogs who rescue people (although… well, I’ll go into that later) in the classic sense of search and rescue. Those are fine animals who have saved countless lives (9/11, earthquakes, floods, etc.) What I’m talking about are dogs that come to be beloved family pets after they have been adopted from shelters or from rescue organizations.

Way back in the mid-1990’s, my husband, Jim, was working nights for Northwest Airlines. Being home alone (especially living next to a graveyard) was starting to bother me a little. I wanted company. We had cats, but I really didn’t think that they would be much of a deterrent. So we decided to start thinking about getting a dog.

Our first thought was Great Dane. We went to a couple of specialty shows and I must say these gentle giants were really wonderful. Then I started reading…Maximum lifespan (at that time) was around age 7 or 8? Nope, knew that wasn’t for me. Then I started talking to my friend  from work, Janet Barwick. She was integrally involved with Atlanta German Shepherd Rescue. She thought she had “just the dog” for us as first-time German Shepherd Dog owners.

The more Janet told me about Cheyenne, the more she sounded like a perfect match. Cheyenne (who would later be nicknamed, Sissy) was about 2 or 3 years old. She had been with the rescue long enough to be successfully treated for heartworms. Her previous people had gotten her first as a puppy and then she’d been passed on to friends and family until such time as she landed with someone whose son turned out to have allergies. Cheyenne went to rescue. They tested her and found the heartworms, but she was such a sweetheart that they took the chance and the expense of treating her.

Jim and I drove to the veterinarian’s practice where Cheyenne had been while going through her treatment. She’d been fostered long enough to know that she was a very polite girl with no vices (no problems with anything – even cats). We met her and I fell in total love with her. As you can see in the photos, why would I not! She was such a beautiful, sweet, well-behaved girl.

We signed the papers, agreed to have our home checked for appropriateness, and adopted our first dog. Cheyenne was Jim’s first dog – ever! I’d had dachshunds while growing up, but the only German Shepherd Dog I’d ever known well was my cousin’s fabulous girl, Pagan, who hiked the Appalachian Trail with him every year.

Cheyenne was such a perfect dog, it was like she’d always been there. I was a little over-protective at first, but didn’t need to be. Cheyenne already knew all the rules.

That’s the thing about dogs from rescue – especially the non-puppy ones – they’ve already started learning the ropes. Either their previous owners (or, more likely, the foster parents) have already taken care of the housebreaking, initial training, and learning how each dog relates to other dogs, cats, and kids. When you bring home a dog from a rescue organization, you have a whole lot of your questions already answered.

Coming next: In Praise of Rescue Dogs (Part II)

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Coming Soon!

Just a quick note to my blog-friends that I will be posting a new blog post very soon (probably tomorrow). Sadly, we lost our darling Chief last Sunday (July 3). I haven’t been up to writing much. However, he and our other “fur-kids” will be the topic of the next few posts – In Praise of Rescue Dogs.

Thanks for hanging in!