Cider Mills! Never Knew What I Was Missin’

Just the other day, I was asked about cider mills. As I have a new bunch of readers (THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Welcome! Please feel free to comment), I thought I’d reblog this post from 2011. Hard to believe it’s been three years since I first posted this.

Colmel's Blog

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Ahhhhhh, Autumn! What is it about the first leaf turning that sends me into a frenzy? Maybe it’s because I had such a deprived childhood. Okay, by deprived I mean that, while growing up in Florida sounds like heaven to so many, the only colored leaves we ever saw were in photographs or cut from construction paper. So the change in the air, the change in the sound and the vision of a colored leaf just sets off all my happiness whistles.

 

Apple time! The other bell…

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THAT Time of Year

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The Great Zenyatta and her 2013 Colt Photo by Alys Emson/Lane’s End

The Great Zenyatta and her 2013 Colt
Photo by Alys Emson/Lane’s End

This is the time of year that I have always loved the most. Sure, I love seeing the world start to turn green again (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) after a long winter. This was a particularly cold and snowy winter. That’s not what I’m referring to, however. What really gets my juices going is that this is the time of year that the new baby thoroughbreds start arriving. It’s also the time of year when those lucky, very few who own superiorly-talented, 3-year-old thoroughbreds can almost see themselves holding the Kentucky Derby trophy. It is a season of hope. As the first Saturday in May gets closer and closer, dreams get bigger and bigger.

Churchill Downs Photo from kentuckytourism.com

Churchill Downs
Photo from kentuckytourism.com

I’ve been there. No, we certainly never owned a Kentucky Derby winner, but we have owned and bred thoroughbreds. I know the anticipation of every new baby. With every glance, you wonder, “Are you the one?” Numbers are certainly not in your favor – you realize this – as there are approximately 30,000 new thoroughbred foals born in the United States every year. The likelihood that one in your pasture will be the next Derby winner is even lessened in that excellent candidates are also born all around the world. With transportation today (something I also know a little about), a thoroughbred foaled anywhere can be entered in the Kentucky Derby as long as they are a bona-fide three-year-old. It doesn’t stop you from dreaming, though. The next “big” horse has to come from somewhere. Why not yours? Sure, the lions’ share of the eventual Derby winners come from older-line, established farms and families, but not all. If there’s one thing I learned in the horse business, it’s that there are no guarantees; well, other than that you will spend quite a lot of money and that it will bring you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

 

Let me tell you a little about our foray into the world of thoroughbreds.

Nashua - The Kentucky Horse

Nashua – The Kentucky Horse

Swaps - The California "Invader"

Of course, I was one of those horse-crazy little girls who never outgrew that “stage.” There are members of my family who will swear that I was vaccinated with the horse-racing bug when I was born in Kentucky. That may be true. Some of my earliest memories involve horses. When I was just a little baby, my parents put me into a basket on the back of a big, black horse. They’ve always said I couldn’t possibly remember that, but I do. I also remember trying to come up with names for contests run by a tobacco company in the 1950s to “name the thoroughbred and win it”. My dad dutifully wrote down the names I liked and sent them in. The first Derby winner that I have a memory of was Swaps. I was very, very little (almost 2), but my parents always watched the Derby. It seems surreal to me that I have any memory of that other than my parents being astounded that a “California horse” could beat the best from the Bluegrass. Years later, I actually got to “meet” Nashua, the horse that everyone expected to win. The next year was a big one for Florida (where I grew up)! Needles from Ocala won. Our first broodmare was actually purchased from one of Needles’ owners. I’m getting ahead of myself!

Needles - Winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby Photo from: thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com

Needles – Winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby
Photo from: thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com

All my childhood, I asked for horses for Christmas and birthdays. My dad wouldn’t relent because he said that the upkeep would be too expensive. I never understood, but bided my time and took riding lessons every week. Later in life, I owned an off-the-track thoroughbred many years after his racing career. That didn’t end well (he was badly injured in a freak pasture accident and had to be euthanized.) Perhaps I should have taken that as an omen, but I never stopped loving horses – especially the thoroughbred.

 

Our breeding and racing business started innocently enough. We had been to Kentucky on a vacation. During that time, we had visited Claiborne farm and I actually got to meet, rub, and generally fawn all over Secretariat. I’m going to have a post coming up solely about the great, big, red horse.

Secretariat at Claiborne Farm

Secretariat at Claiborne Farm

Not long after that, Jim had a coworker who owned thoroughbreds out west. He “said” he’d done okay breeding and racing them and that it was a lot of fun. In hindsight, it is almost funny to remember that he had a mare he wanted to sell. We lived in Georgia at the time. Georgia did not then, and still does not, have pari-mutuel racing. There are, however, some very beautiful horse farms there, and there was racing right over the border in Alabama.

Mark Yother - Dear Friend and Mentor

Mark Yother – Dear Friend and Mentor

We met a wonderful man who had a horse farm (thoroughbreds and appendix quarter horses). He had been around racing (both flat and steeplechase) for many years. We had determined that, if we were to own a mare, we would like to keep her with him. We trusted him to give us good care and, mostly, great advice. Mark Yother was the consummate gentleman and horseman. I’ve talked about Mark, at length, in a post I published this time last year.

 

Mark went with us to take a look at the mare that Jim’s coworker had for sale. We had already enlisted the services of a local equine veterinarian who told us that the mare was “clean,” and that she should be able to get in-foal (pregnant). He never mentioned anything out of the norm as far as the mare was concerned. Mark took a good look at her, walked her around a little, and came back to our truck. He told us she was dead lame. No wonder the fella wanted to sell her. She probably could have been able to carry a foal, but why buy a lame horse when there were horses to be purchased that had better bloodlines, already in-foal, and perfectly sound.

Keeneland Sales - Lexington, Kentucky Photo from Keeneland.com

Keeneland Sales – Lexington, Kentucky
Photo from Keeneland.com

That was the first, but certainly not the last, bit of great advice we got. In retrospect, it’s a wonder we continued on with the idea of getting into the thoroughbred business. We were thoroughly bitten by the bug. We immediately ordered catalogs for upcoming sales in Lexington. We really didn’t think our pocketbook would purchase a mare from those catalogs, but we wanted to start educating ourselves on the bloodlines we liked and learn how the sales work. In the late 1980s, many top farms were dispersing their breeding stock. We saw some of the most famous mares of the day go through the sales ring. It was at the breeding stock sales in Lexington that we saw the great Lady’s Secret (Secretariat’s gorgeous, amazing, gray daughter) and Sacahuista. We also determined that Kentucky was not going to be the place where we would be able to purchase an in-foal mare that fit the pedigree profile we had determined we were looking for in a price range that we could afford.

Lady's Secret Photo by the incomparable Barbara Livingston

Lady’s Secret
Photo by the incomparable Barbara Livingston

Up Next: Going to the Ocala Sales

 

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When A Bird in the Hand…

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I know I’ve kvetched about the winters here in Michigan ad nauseum. There are, however, a whole lot of fun things to do. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing in the winter is visiting Kensington Metropark.

 

For those of you who have never been to this part of Michigan, a ‘metropark’ is an area set aside for recreation. One can either pay a small fee on a daily basis, or purchase a yearly pass. Kensington is one of the largest parks in the Detroit metro area. There are lots of things to in the park, including bicycling, running, dog-walking, fishing (ice fishing in the winter), boating, sailing, picnicking, and, winter tobogganing/sledding.

Ice Fishermen Enjoying the Sunny Day

Ice Fishermen Enjoying the Sunny Day

 

A Lady & Her Dog Out for a Walk

A Lady & Her Dog Out for a Walk

Here some folks enjoying the cross-country skiing trails (there are miles and miles of them).

Cross-Country Skiing - a Big Favorite at Kensington

Cross-Country Skiing – a Big Favorite at Kensington

Cross-Country Skiing at Kensington

Cross-Country Skiing at Kensington

Here are some photos of children (big and small) having a wonderful time sledding in Kensington.

A Dad & His Boys Out for a Slide

A Dad & His Boys Out for a Slide

A Wolverine Fan Gets His Slide On

A Wolverine Fan Gets His Slide On

 

Lots of Fun!

Lots of Fun!

My favorite activity in Kensington is birding. This is where Jim and I first realized that birding is a passion we can share.

A Bird (Chickadee) in The Hand

A Bird (Chickadee) in The Hand

For many years, people have been feeding the wild birds at Kensington’s Nature Center. Eventually, the birds got very used to people having seed to share. Now, especially in the winter, the small birds will come right down to your hands and eat out of them.

 

A Tufted Titmouse Gets a Peanut

A Tufted Titmouse Gets a Peanut

The first time I came to Kensington with my sister-in-law, she introduced me to the joy of hand feeding the birds. She was very interested in birding at the time and knew my love of birds. She also knew I would be charmed by the birds eating out of my hands. We were still living in Georgia at the time, so I knew this would be a place I would enjoy coming back to. Little did I know that I would one day be living within just a very few miles.

A Black-Capped Chickadee In for His Landing

A Black-Capped Chickadee In for His Landing

Next!

Next!

 

A Downy on My Shoulder

A Downy on My Shoulder

Here are some photos of the next generation of “bird feeders” in Kensington.

Birding's Next Generation

Birding’s Next Generation

While most of the birds that look to be fed are tiny (chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, even woodpeckers), here are the latest trying to get into the act. One piece of advice, DON’T attempt to hand-feed the Sandhill Cranes. Those bills are really big and sharp. The birds can also be somewhat aggressive. I was completely shocked that these birds stayed through the winter. Sandhills are common here from Spring through mid-Autumn, but they always migrate to Florida and points south during the winter (not unlike a large number of humans).

Did Someone Say Food?

Did Someone Say Food?

This Sure Isn't Florida. It's COLD here!

This Sure Isn’t Florida. It’s COLD here!

 

I hope you enjoyed our photos. If you are ever in the Detroit metropolitan area, try to make a trip out to Kensington. The birds are here year-round, and they are always happy to be fed.

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Blue Heron Rookery

If you’re here in the summer, these nests will be full of Blue Herons. It’s quite a site.

 

Up Next: Isn’t Worth THESE in the Bush

 

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There’s A BEAR in My Yard!

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Got your attention, didn’t I? Actually, yes, there is a Bear in my yard. It’s my adorable 2 ½ year old German Shepherd Dog, Bear. With all the attention given to the weather and things to do in the snow, I thought it only fair to give Bear equal time.

 

Bear in my Yard

Bear in my Yard

You Talkin' About Me?

You Talkin’ About Me?

Bear loves the snow! The only thing Bear likes more than running in the snow is chasing squirrels in the snow. That’s an activity I haven’t mentioned before – squirrel chasing. There’s a certain joy in watching a dog plow through the snow after a furry-tailed rodent. Sure, it’s not a ‘personal’ activity, per se; it’s a spectator sport. Considering the fact that I always have about 14 bird feeders full at any one time, there is no shortage of targets. I tried really hard to get a photo of Bear in flight after a squirrel.

Squirrel!

Squirrel!

In case you’re wondering about the tail…yes, he was born with one. In March of last year, he and Sydney were playing. They would play chase and he would slow down just a little to let her almost catch up to him. I used to laugh at him when he would do that. It was just as though he was saying, “Nah, nah, nah! You can’t catch me_e” in the way that all children do. He always got away unscathed.  Well…almost always. This time, though, he slowed down just at the wrong time and Sydney caught the tip of his tail. Without going into gory de-tail (oh, I made a pun), no matter how we tried to save his tail, he just wouldn’t leave it alone long enough to heal. After several surgeries (and weeks in the ‘cone of shame’) to remove just one more bone, we agreed that he would have to have it bobbed.

I am PITIFUL!

I am PITIFUL!

To this day, I’m still trying to get used to it, but everyone who meets him says it “fits” his personality. If there’s a benefit to it, it might be that items on my shelves and tables are now a whole lot safer.

Did He Go That Way?

Did He Go That Way?

When Bear isn’t chasing squirrels or annoying Sydney, he can be a downright awesome buddy. He likes to sit next to my chair when I’m here. I often wonder if he’d like to put in his ‘two-cents-worth.’

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I think he may know that I’m writing about him.

Dogs 002 

I’d love to hear about your special buddy! Please share him or her in the “Comments” section.

Up Next:  A Bird in the Hand…

 

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Atlanta in the Spring

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Ah…… Atlanta in the Spring!

You probably remember that I’m a “southern” girl. I lived my whole life (well, except for a 6-month period of college study in London – which is another story, all together) in the south. From January 1981 until August 2003, I lived in the Atlanta area. I always loved Atlanta in the Spring. There are SO many flowers! It’s one of those areas that gets the best of it all.


Yes, you have to replant tulips annually because it really doesn’t get cold enough – long enough for them, but the daffodils seem to get enough winter to thrive.


Then there are the azaleas!!!

 
 


Add to that white and pink dogwoods, Bradford pears, redbuds, peaches, weeping cherry, rhododendrons, camellias, and assorted flowering shrubs, vines and ground covers.

Atlanta reminds me of a southern belle who puts on her best frilly dress every spring. While we get a beautiful Spring in Michigan, it’s spread out over a much more protracted period. It’s more sedate and subdued (although more anticipated due to the normal winters). Atlanta jumps right in your face and says, “Here I am! Aren’t I gorgeous?”

I miss Atlanta’s Springs.

Up Next: Hail to the Chief

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Spring Sprang!

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

What a weird and wacky year 2012 has been, thus far. Here in Michigan, we are usually still under a blanket of snow, or it’s (at least) melting away. This year, we’ve already surpassed 85 degrees.

 

Winter 2011/2012 was extraordinarily warm. We had little snow this winter. Before anyone misunderstands, I am in no way complaining. Sadly, it’s been unprofitable for the folks who run ski resorts, make their living from snowmobiling, or run snow-removal companies which are all big business in Michigan. Personally, though, I don’t miss all that snow. I didn’t get to take photos of myself trying to snow-shoe (and the inevitable face-plant). I have plenty to blog about without embarrassing myself – at least on purpose.

 

Spring came to our home almost two months early this year. Sure, the calendar said it was time, but that’s never been a factor in the nine springs we have spent here. The trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennial flowers are all starting to leaf out and flower. I thought I’d take some quick photos and share them as this is the most riotous blooming in our yard, yet.

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I was actually too late to catch the first bloomers. The Siberian Squill and Crocus caught me totally off-guard. The Bellflowers/Forsythia have surpassed any previous year by a huge margin. I’ve seen many of these which have been trimmed into nice, civilized shapes. That’s just not “us.” We love the spiky, untamed, natural look in our yard. We make a special effort to garden for wildlife (and it works if you’ve seen earlier posts about the deer and other critters in the yard).

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ImageThe cherry shrubs are so pretty this year, also. (These do bear small fruit, but they aren’t for human consumption)

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Image

 

The first of our wood hyacinths have started blooming.

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Even the redbud trees have started budding out!

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The wood poppy by our front steps is full of bright yellow flowers.

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The first primroses are waking up.

 

The temperatures this morning brought frost warnings. Tomorrow morning, especially, will be back to more “normal,” and we have freeze warnings, but I’m hopeful that this is one last “hurrah” for Jack Frost.

 

Up Next: More Springtime Flowers – Daffodils and Tulips and Iris – Oh, My!

 

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