Plymouth Ice Festival

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After a year with virtually no snow (winter 2011/2012) – or even much cold, we in Southeastern Michigan are truly getting paid back by ‘old man Winter.’ We’ve seen the coldest temperatures in at least four years, and the return of snow. The photos below show our yard during the holidays.

Snow from our back deck

Snow from our back deck

 

Our "Bird Pond" out front

Our “Bird Pond” out front

I think the Trees Look Beautiful!

I think the Trees Look Beautiful!

Winter can have its fun side. Michigan has the most miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the United States. That activity is definitely on my “bucket list.” I understand that there are inns and restaurants that are strategically built along certain of the larger, more traveled trails. That sounds like fun to me! There are other activities like ice fishing, skiing (cross country, mostly; but there are also several ski ‘mountains’ in the state), snowshoeing, and skating.

Plymouth Ice Festival 2013

Plymouth Ice Festival 2013

One of the prettiest spectacles every year is the Plymouth Ice Festival. It is held in the pretty town of Plymouth (imagine that), Michigan which is in the Detroit Metropolitan area. The Ice Festival is held on the third weekend of every January.  This year we visited on Saturday. The weather was unusually warm (into the 40s). Normally, that would be welcome in a year where we’ve already had temperatures below zero Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, those temperatures are not so welcome when you are carving and displaying ice sculptures.

Ice Sculpture

Ice Sculpture

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Ice Carving Dear to My Heart

Ice Carving Dear to My Heart

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The festival encompasses the entire village, but the main display area is in the town square. This is where the competition takes place. There are teams from local universities. For example, the team below is from the University of Michigan (GO BLUE)!

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Local businesses sponsor carvers, also. In some instances, they are placed in the square for judging. In other cases, they are displayed outside the local business. One of the most interesting displays was the ‘Ice Bar’ outside a local restaurant.

Sponsored by Local Grocery Chain

Sponsored by Local Grocery Chain

In Front of Shop

In Front of Shop

 

Poor Owl was Melting

Poor Owl was Melting

Gingerbread "Sculpture"

Gingerbread “Sculpture”

Svedka Ice Bar

Svedka Ice Bar

One of the few artists who probably didn’t mind the temperatures was this fellow who was using his chainsaw to carve wood. I really liked his work. The photos below show some of his sculptures. What do you think?  There are some excellent chainsaw sculptors in our region. We actually have two works by an artist from Mikado, Michigan at our home. I’ll show you those in a later post.

All Carvers Didn't Work in Ice

All Carvers Didn’t Work in Ice

 

Great wood work

Great wood work

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Crane

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Fish & Turtle

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Owl in Progress

Up Next:  More Michigan Winter Fun

 

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The Joy (?) of Snow

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!)

 

I’m going to start this post off with a reminder. I was born, raised, and lived my entire life in the south (well, except for 6 months of college in England). My entire childhood was spent in St. Petersburg, Florida. I went to one elementary school (Harris Elementary grades 1-6), one junior high school (Meadowlawn grades 7-9), and one high school (Northeast grades 10-12).

 

I’m not saying my early life was deprived – far from it – it’s just that palm trees and live oaks look the same in January as they do in June. Seasons just don’t happen the same as they do in more northerly climes. Our “spring” flowers were photos. Autumn leaves were cut from construction paper. Snowflakes? Well, they were made from paper doilies.

 

I remember that it actually SNOWED one day when I was in elementary school. All the teachers released all the kids to run around in the recess yard. We were trying to catch the little flakes on our tongues. That was the first and only time I saw snow until I was much older, while on a trip to North Carolina.

 

Fast forward to 1981 – Atlanta. I lived in the Atlanta area until 2003. I adore Atlanta! There’s are so many reasons why (proximity to family, the ability to start to be in my mountains in a matter of only a little over an hour, etc.) One of the most exciting things about living in the Atlanta area is that there are four distinct seasons there. Yes, there was even the occasional snow. Of course, snow there usually falls, looks pretty for a couple of hours and then is gone. It was very rare to get enough snow to build a snowman or to make snow angels.

 

Since August of 2003, I’ve lived in Michigan. Michigan still leads the country in lack of employment; but, if there’s one thing there is NO shortage of, it’s snow! I remember when we used to come up for visits – almost always at Thanksgiving. I’d ask my dear mother-in-law if there was going to be snow. She’d laugh at me and say, “hopefully not!” I’d be disappointed. I couldn’t understand why she would not want snow. As I said, I live here now. I understand.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Snow can be a very beautiful thing! The silence of the air after a heavy snow is amazing. If you get lucky enough to get a bright, blue, sunny day while the snow is on the ground, it’s gorgeous. I especially like the very, very cold snows. The flakes are smaller, lighter and they sparkle like millions of tiny diamonds in the trees, shrubs, and on the ground. Every turn of your head brings thousands of prisms into sight.

My dear, departed Chief

 

There are lots of things to do in the snow. One can actually make a for-real snowman! Snow angels stay there until more snow covers them up. The dogs love to play in it. There’s snowmobiling. Each year, I say we just have to give that a try – maybe we will this year. People cross-country ski. There are even a few hills where downhill skiing is also possible. I even own a pair of snowshoes! (More about snowshoeing in a later post.) There are even a few people who mush (dog sled) on the paths behind our house! I know lots of people who await the snow with the same excited anticipation every year.

 

So, why do I now understand why my late mother-in-law hoped there wouldn’t be snow at Thanksgiving? Because I know the “flip side” of snow. Lets go one-by-one.

 

Driving – For some unknown reason, people who have driven in snow for years and years all of the sudden become terrified rookies. Every year! I just don’t understand. Usually, the salt trucks are out well ahead of the main traffic periods. The road can be almost completely clear, yet folks will crawl along as though the entire route is covered with black ice. Now, THAT is a real menace. You do have to be careful around black ice. For those of you who are uninitiated, black ice is when the pavement gets a light covering of ice that you can’t see until you’re right on it. Traction goes out the window, so don’t try to brake while on it. I foresee another whole blog on the joys of transportation…

 

Walking – There’s just something about gamboling around in snow up to your knees. It can be lots of fun – until you get tired – and tired you will get. The energy expenditure to move around with the extra resistance is not to be taken lightly. Then you’re wet and cold up to your knees. You can barely feel your feet. Your goose-bumps have goose-bumps. Then there are the icy patches on walks, drives and stairs. Vigilance!

 

Shoveling Snow – Every year, there are reports of people having heart attacks while shoveling snow. There really is a “right” way to do it. I have learned this, but it still can be taxing. I know how to clear the snow without twisting my back. I know to push the snow – which is better than trying to pick it up. Shoveling snow can also be lots of fun! Yes, it can. It’s a riot when one of your dogs (in this case, Sydney) likes to bite at the snow and the shovel. She has managed to turn snow shoveling into a game. As you can see from the photo, Sydney really loves this game.

 

Clearing the Drive – This is Jim’s job. We do have a very good snow-blower, but it’s still quite a chore. As you can see, our drive is pretty long. It’s also somewhat steep. Jim does a great job, though. He’s understandably exhausted when it’s done. These photos show it’s not a chore to be taken lightly.

 

Is Spring Ever Coming? – Sometime every year (usually around March), one begins to wonder if Spring will ever come. Sad thing is that you pretty much have to wait until Mothers’ Day. Yes, opening day of baseball season has frequently been snowed out. That’s the absolute worst part about snow. It gets really OLD! Old snow is black, oily and totally yucky. That’s the only word I can think of that truly expresses how old snow looks. I always thought that surely it would still be white and soft as we live pretty much in the woods. Nope. It still gets covered with dirt and soot. It’s nothing as nasty as the snow on the streets, but it does get dirty. Bird seed (and other birdy things), tree soot, smoke from chimneys, all cover the snow.

 

Rereading this makes me sound like a chronic complainer. I really am not. I love seasons and have always wanted to live someplace that has four distinct seasons. We do have four distinct seasons. Spring is beautiful, summer doesn’t get too hot, and autumn is ablaze with amazing color. All three of these usually have hummingbirds in them, too! It’s just that winter – here – lasts almost six months. The other three seasons have to get squeezed into the remaining six.

 

Ah heck, maybe I’ll just go snowmobiling…

 

Up Next: Christmas!

 

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A Southern Belle in the Wolverines’ Court (with apologies to Mark Twain)

Another year of being in Michigan is upon us, and it amazes me that we’ve been here almost 8 years (August). At first, I truly felt like a red fish swimming in a blue-fish pond. My accent is different, the food I always ate was different, I knew next-to-nothing about winter, and I knew virtually no one here. Then I started meeting and getting to know people. I realized that I could be happy here as long as I realized that good people are good people no matter where they are, (and there are a**holes everywhere, too (LOL)). I think part of the bond between people up here is the shared misery of winter. This past one was a DOOZY! (See photo) 

Not that there isn’t quite a bit to do here in the winter… There’s drinking (okay, so that’s not a full-time occupation), snowmobiling (which I DO plan to do this next winter – but watch, there won’t be any snow. Is that bad?!?) There’s also skiing (forget that – I’m way to uncoordinated for that) and snowshoes. I can do the snowshoe thing if I remember that I need poles. Otherwise, it’s a face-plant – which I’ve done.

One day we do intend to move to our ~30 acres in TN, but while we’re here, I’m making the absolute best of it.

It’s hummingbird season at our house, and it’s my favorite time of year. The little guys showed up a little early this year (amazing as our winter was much longer, colder, and wetter than normal). Usually, they will arrive, stay for a few days, and then move on. This makes way for those who show up and stay. This year, though, they all showed up and decided to stay. We have many more birds at this time of year than in years past. Perhaps it’s due to more feeders than before or that there seem to be fewer bees on the feeders. Our first banding session is being planned for next week. It will be interesting to see how many we can band and how many are returnees.

 Another species that we’re seeing many more of this year is Baltimore Orioles. (This is the male in the photo. The female is usually almost uniformly yellow-orange.)

These gorgeous birds have all but taken over our yard. We must have close to 20 (males and females, inclusive). They will empty a hummingbird feeder in no time, flat, so I purchased three dedicated feeders that hold oranges, grape jelly, and nectar, too. I found that they much prefer the grape jelly, so I offer that and the oranges. The nectar I save for the hummingbirds.

 Here is the photo of the feeder I’ve found that works amazingly well. It’s been so successful, I’ve bought one for my sister-in-law, Kathy, and for a coworker. I’m so glad that I found these as they are easy to clean, and they offer everything a hungry oriole wants.

 

Next time, “Hummers in Michigan!” Photos and results of our first banding session in our yard for the year.

Coming soon – more info on area Farmers’ Markets, festivals, and fun!

Coming later this summer – a trip to the UP (that’s Upper Peninsula– part of the state completely unattached to the LP Lower Peninsula – to those of you from down south).

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!