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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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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Startin’ to Get Quiet

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It’s gettin’ to be “THAT” time of year. The time of year when the sounds start to change. I know most people think immediately of the visual clues that autumn is upon us. I think of the audio differences.

Hummer Flowers

 The sounds of lawn mowers and weed-whackers have given way to chain-saws and leaf blowers. While the leaves are still on the trees and my hummingbird flowers are at their peak, that the seasons are changing is unmistakable. The acorns are pelting me every time I head into the yard. The sound of them hitting the roof and rolling down always makes me smile. From the sounds of things, the deer and squirrels are going to have plenty to keep them full this year.

 

Another sound that is changing is that of the chipmunks. Gone is the casual play chatter. Now, there’s a definite urgency in their calls and interactions with each other. Soon it will be time for hibernation. Their tunnels must get full for their long naps. The bird and corn feeders are all “fair game” for these little bandits.

 

The change that is the most notable for me is more the lack of a particular sound. It’s one of my favorite sounds and it’s rapidly diminishing. It’s the sound of hummingbirds at play. Since late April, our yard has been a battle ground of competing/playing hummingbirds.

 

Our first to arrive was an adult male who I named “Nelson.” He got that name because he would sit stoically on a particular post guarding his feeder domain from any and all would-be pilferers. He reminded me of the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square.

 

From that point until just a couple of weeks ago, the yard was something akin to the skies over England during the Battle of Britain. There were major and minor skirmishes everywhere. The adult males were always battling for superiority and to claim their territory. The females battled for the best areas in which to nest. Then came the new brood! Much like children, even though there were plenty of feeder ports to go around (we put out 16 feeders – most with 6 ports each), it was only natural that the “kids” would fight over only a few. The sounds of squealing and the whir of wings always sounds to me like the “Ty-fighters” from Star Wars. (I secretly wonder if George Lucas actually taped the sounds of hummingbirds in dives to use for his inspiration.) Now, there are only a few, very large, fat hummingbirds left. When they leave the feeder, the sound and look is much more lumbering. Think C-130 Hercules! The pitch is so much lower as they work to keep their golf-ball-shaped bodies in the air.

 

There is some solace, though, in that the sound of Goldfinches is starting to take over. The seed feeders are filled and hung in place of a few of our nectar feeders (although I always keep at least a couple of nectar feeders going until the snow flies). We’ve had the real pleasure of seeing some more unusual migrants visit these feeders this month (including a gorgeous, male, black-throated blue warbler). Soon it will be almost exclusively the birds of winter.

 

The Chipping Sparrows will give way to American Tree Sparrows. The trees will be full of jays, cardinals, Black-capped chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted nuthatches, and all varieties of woodpeckers. The ground-dwelling White-throated sparrows will come and then continue south. The adorable, Dark-eyed juncos will return for their winter stay.

 

Soon the sounds will be the crunch of leaves and the wind whistling through bare trees. Not too long after that, the almost silence of a snow-covered world. All are special and quite beautiful in their own way, but I must admit to anxiously awaiting, every year, the first true sounds of spring/ summer – the squeals of “my” hummingbirds returning home.

 

Up Next: Cider Mills! Never Knew What I was Missin’

 

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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).

Howell

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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