Monday, May 14, 2012

Cranbrook Annual Spring Plant Sale

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year... the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxilary Spring Plant Sale.  Shopping at this sale has been my own sweet little tradition...possibly almost since I moved to the B/B/B/B area (Beverly Hills/Birmingham/Bloomfield/Bingham Farms).  I certainly remember shopping there with two little darling tagalongs in 2003.  They used to have a section in the Native Plants/Wildflowers area where you could pick up a pot of native plants for each child you brought with you and I felt lucky I had two with me then!

It's a one-of-a-kind sale in a one-of-a-kind environment, with the wonderful volunteers of the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxilary staffing the sale.  They have all sorts of plants available - perennials (often donated by the volunteers or grown in the greenhouses), herbs and vegetable plants (started in the greenhouses), succulents, annuals, and other garden items. All of those things are quite lovely and just what you would expect at any other plant sale (and a great way for the auxilary to raise money), but not reason enough to drag your two small daughters with you (at 4 years and 1.5 years of age).  The Native Plant section of the sale IS that good though!

(It's also good enough to have you risk being late - or actually be quite late -  picking up your children from preschool or kindergarten for several years in a row.  It's good enough that if you are bald and not feeling great from your 2nd chemo infusion that you would beg your husband to go in your place.  It's also good enough that you might, like I did last year, take your 5th grader out of the school in the morning to have her join you on your excursion.  It's SO good, that even if you mostly quite like your new job, you might just contemplate quitting it so you could be at the sale when it opens at 10am.)

Did I say I love the Native Plant section?  I love waiting in line with all of the other die-hard gardeners, listening to them plot as to what they want to grab first.  I love seeing all of the people in line with their friends who share their gardening fervor (haven't found my friend yet...I think I am growing them right now in my home though).  I love the fact that the volunteers spend hours and hours in the cold wet springtime saving our state's native wildflowers from building sites, and then come back all dirty to pot them up for the sale.  I love having a chance to buy and tend these native plants in our yard (s - I moved them with me when I came to this house!...left a few for posterity).

I'll be sad to not be in line right at 10am, but am most definitely planning to spend some of my afternoon there tomorrow.  I may even pick up a 6th grader early from school, and convince my loving and wonderful husband to drive the soccer carpool for me so I can peruse for longer!  I'll let you know what I select!

For now, here are some pics:

First: my garden buddy in 2004...a year after her first sale

Here are my two garden buddies in 2006!

Trillium, in 2007

Moved to the new is 2011

This year!  You can see how much further along everything is after the warm's only 2 days later.  The trillium are all pinky...the Solomon's Seal are in their glory.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Before and After...or should I say Before and Now? Because I'm never done...

What is a garden blog without pictures?  I love before and after pictures.
These pictures show the front of my house in May (or April) of 2007, and then today.  In my haste to post them I didn't take the time to finish mulching before taking the picture today, so you will notice my mulch doesn't match yet.  I'm using the free mulch from "the city" this year - provided by SOCCRA and free for the taking.  My dear husband bought me a trailer so I can transport as much mulch and compost as a girl could want :)

In April of 2007, the mulch in front of our home hid probably a ton of river stones, which I had to remove by hand and transport to another location in my yard.  THAT WAS A HORRIBLE JOB.  I also had to haul in a bunch of compost as there was no good soil under the rock (also I was excavating probably 4-5 inches deep of rock so it left holes.)  I planted 4 Annabelle Hydrangea under the old dining room window, with a few varieties of hosta in front).  The red Maple in front of the hydrangeas makes it pretty difficult to grow anything there - such shallow roots!  Also I need to continually move those hostas as the hydrangea a) have grown but more importantly b) lean quite a bit away from the wall to try to get a little light!  I'd move those too, but don't feel like fighting with the maple roots.

So there we have it...our first Before/After...I'll work on taking better photos/getting better light next time!

Looking for an awesome Michigan gardening blog

I used to be an avid blog reader.  Before facebook, and twitter, it was such a fun way to peer into the lives of other real, live, regular people.  Social media so rapidly evolved, though, that a person no longer needed to wade through oceans of text to quench her curiosity. The other (larger) problem was that those other live, real people became not so regular when they became famous and maybe even a little bit wealthy from what they were doing. I disliked wading through plugs for their books and the videos of their appearances at Blog(her).

Blog reading does maintain a slight appeal for me, though - for those nights right before bed when I don't feel like jumping into a good book that might keep me up WAY past my bedtime, for their timeliness, and mostly, for their quick burst of either wit or pretty pictures!  I'm done with the mommy bloggers, though - they're either too famous, too young (not them...their kids...I just got started a little early with all that mom business), or too depressing with their divorce tales for me.  All of my breast cancer blogging friends have either died or moved on past breast cancer.  I'm not at all interested in improving my home these days as I want to spend all my time outside and also don't feel like bleeding away money, the chicken farmers are all more successful than me at keeping their hens alive (!) or they have no problem killing them (!), and the Detroit blogger is maybe a little too anti-suburbia for my tastes.

It leaves me with only one kind of blog to satisfy my blog-reading desires - garden blogs...I've looked and I've looked but haven't quite found one to make me swoon (yet).  I'm happy to take any suggestions and to clean out and repopulate my bloglines feed (my awesome sister will be of good use for this, I feel sure).  But until then, I think it may just be time for me to blog again.  It seems like the easiest way to find things in the blogosphere is to become part of it, and to make it one of my hobbies again.

With 1.7 acres in a Zone 6a garden that is constantly calling for me, it may not be the easiest hobby to take up...but I'm going to give it a try!  If anything, I'll log a lot of walking miles as I do all my blogging on the treadmill...Wish me luck :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Loves and losses...and chickens

I could be the worst chicken owner in the history of chicken owners...that is the only explanation for what has occurred at my suburban chicken compound.  My poor cute birds - of the 8 of them we started with, 6 of them are lying in graves dug by their chicken mama (me).  It's heartbreaking!

Looking back, I'm not sure I would have done things much differently, though.  My dear husband and I have always sort of jumped straight into things without a lot of preparation, and muddled our way through until everything straightened itself out.  19 years ago, we met each other, lost our minds, threw everything else to the wind, and basically became the family we are today - no caution, no preparation (like how to kindly extricate ourselves from our current relationships), no thought.  We cleaned up all the messes we made as we went along (or didn't).  We've basically repeated this pattern together ever since - we randomly adopted a cat, foolishly I fell in love with a second cat, he adopted a dog with no warning, I brought home a rabbit from the vet office where I worked one day.  We bought every house we had fairly impulsively, and craziest of all, we started a family accidentally.

This pattern WORKS for us.  I'm a mess of a person - a whirlwind, all complicated and prone to depressive episodes as well as moments of crazy joy and rapture.  He's a cozy guy - very internal and quiet with only  rare fits of activity.  If I put too much thought into something in advance, I lose all confidence in myself to be able to execute anything.  He has the confidence, but usually not the ambition.  And so, most of what we have accomplished we have begun by falling into something together (involving no previous thought, or activation of the fear factor on my part).

We've done pretty well!  Our surprise wedding was beautiful, despite minimal preparation.  My surprise motherhood has somehow produced three magnificent children who are so much more confident, beautiful, and smart than their mother.  Our first darling pets were loving, wonderful creatures that blessed our lives.  So why would we think our chicken adventure would be anything other than a success?


When I was pregnant with Emma, I was young, depressed - having just made a decision that I couldn't even begin to rationalize or even understand (to keep the baby, to give up my dream to go to vet school, and to instantly marry my long-term boyfriend), and basically alone in my mothering adventure.  My mother had died 14 years before, and I stubbornly refused to accept anyone else into her place.  If I couldn't have my own mother, I wouldn't have any substitute mother.  Luckily, I had no one clamoring to fill her shoes, because I would have summarily dismissed her in a heartbeat.  So I was preparing to raise a baby with absolutely no instinct, no support, and no information.  On top of that, my battles with depression over the years had led to my inability to maintain any of my friendships.  I was left with only the few brave girls who could love me despite my inability to reach out, and my dear sisters (all of whom were not close to baby-rearing ages).

We learned how to breastfeed...just the two of us (Me + Emma) - through books and trial and error.  We learned how to do everything that way, actually - and I, the woman who cried when trying to figure out what a "onesie" was, became a mother with the help of my dear baby daughter.  I pieced together lots of information and learned to trust myself, a little.

I figured having chickens would be the same way.  Like breastfeeding, chicken-keeping was something my grandparents and parents had not done, but for generations before that, chicken-keeping was not rare - it was passed down from family to family as a method of nourishing their children.  If so many people could do it, and HAD done it, then why couldn't I?


So, when my husband whimsically suggested that we get chickens (after reading an article in Psychology Today on a flight home from Las Vegas), of course I jumped straight in.  We had a successful report card full of impulsive decisions done well.  I had chicken pictures pasted in my little journal of garden inspiration from way back in 2002!  We read a little on the internet, called a nearby farm and had a long conversation with the farmer, and decided to pop into the car to get ourselves some baby chicks.


Things you should not believe when told (I have learned all of this the hard way!):
  1. Chickens are easy!
  2. Chickens will live for 8-9 years, no problem.
  3. You don't need to worm chickens.
  4. You will get used to the idea that some of them will die.
Things I have learned:
  1. Chickens are not easy in the dead of winter or in high summer!  Think frozen waterers and the fear of them overheating...lots of worry during those times.  They are also not easy when they are sick - too few resources for caring for them in suburbia (can't find a chicken vet in Southeastern Michigan to save my life...can't pay someone to help me, even if I wanted to). 
  2. It is hard to judge a chicken's possible longevity if the farm they come from culls their birds after their 2nd laying season. Keeping chickens as "pets with egg benefits" is different from keeping them as a crop.
  3. There is a whole science to raising chickens - medicating them/not medicating them, giving them supplements, feeding them.  If you've raised rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, etc. - this is harder!
  4. When you have hand raised your chicken, it "talks" to you, follows you around your yard, it will be very sad to say goodbye.  Even if she only cost 3.50 at the start of it all.

And so, what do I think?  I think chicken-keeping is NOT for everybody.  I barely think I can stand it for myself - the loss of one of my birds hurts every time.  Luckily my children and husband are not as attached to the chickens as I am (with the exception of Emma); if it were as hard for them as it was for me we'd have to stop!

I'm not sure I'm ready to give it up, though...I've learned so much - chicken anatomy, how to dose cattle anti-coccidial drugs for chickens, chicken behavior - and I relish the opportunities to learn more.  On top of that, I'm so attached to my little garden buddies.  There is nothing like having little buddies following you around in the yard while you are working.

For now, the plan is to stick with what we've got, and what we're left with is our two strongest birds - Margaret (the boss) and Annie Lennox, her constant little shadow.  February or March would be the best time to get some extra girls to grow and to add to our coop (gives enough time for the babies to grow and bond with us - who am I kidding, me - and 6 whole months outside after they get their big girl feathers to acclimate to the climate and to winter).  However, we have vacation plans for April which might mean no chickens for us in March.  Should something happen to Margaret and Annie Lennox in the meantime, I might be too broken up to start over!  OR...I could revamp my whole regime and start anew.  We'll see.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    What a week!

    Last week was filled with sickies and also achievements!
    • We got news that Katie has been invited to take the 4th year mid-year test for Math...big news as she is a 3rd grader!
    • Katie then proceded to vomit all Tuesday night, be sick still on Wednesday, went to the doctor and was diagnosed with strep throat on Thursday, missed school on Friday!
    • Emma took 2nd place for Starry Starry Night at the district Science Olympiad...and helped her team to take 4th overall with good performances in her other two events.
    • When we got home, we found her Math Placement letter for next year...she is skipping two levels for next year, and will be placed in 7/8 math (Pre-Algebra) as a 6th grader!
    • She then proceded to vomit all over Somerset Mall after a shopping trip and visit to California Pizza Kitchen with her Dad (she's a very very messy vomitter.)
    • Nathan learned to ride a two-wheeler!  His first attempt didn't go well, as he threw his helmet, Bill kicked it, he yelled at Bill, Bill yelled back, he stormed in the house crying...but he did well with his loving mother the next day!  (Mom is not necessarily more patient than Dad...but we make a very awesome parenting team.  When one of us utterly loses it, the other one is ready to perform the patient parent act!)
    • I have recently taken up spinning at our gym (mid-January) and yesterday joined some fundraiser for Team in Training.  I rode 80+ miles yesterday in one sitting!  So funny that I used to absolutely hate biking and now I can do it for 3 hours and 80+ miles after a couple of months.  I don't look it yet, though!
    • Biggest Pam accomplishment - my lenten resolution.  I decided to give up candies, cookies, cakes, ice creams, mochas from Starbucks, and Diet Coke - all things that crawled into my diet as I became miserable and suffering with each subsequent death.  I thought I wouldn't last a day...but I have!  Pretty good for someone who felt she absolutely couldn't do it...and considering 1/3 of my daily calories was probably made up of this garbage.  I do give myself Sundays off (switched it for Saturday this week as Science Olympiad tired me out and I had a coffee at Tim Hortons...and then delicious dessert made by my aunt that night).  That is NOT to say that I don't have many bad habits still...but I am gradually learning that maybe I will be able to control myself one day.  It is an accomplishment for me to eat regular food instead of all of that sugar daily.  Now I have to undo some of the damage I did with all of that disordered grieving/eating...but all in good time.  It's horrible that you can cause so much damage in a day...and then many many days...but the reversal process is probably 5-6 times as long as it took to cause that damage!

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Chicken owner for one whole year!!!!!!!!

    On March 14th, I celebrated my first anniversary of being a chicken owner!  The girls (Margaret, Annie Lennox, Annabelle, Alan Trammell, and Princess Snow White - my favorite) and I celebrated with a long day outside in the warming weather.  Yesterday I spruced up their coop - cleaned and swept it, aired it out, took out a few of the things I had used to winterize it.  And last night was the first night they had no heat lamp on in a LONG LONG TIME.  Bill wanted to try a new watering contraption he created after dark, but when I went back to open up the coop they were so snoozy and cozy without the light I only got the teeniest cooing back at my voice.  I implored him to leave them alone to their first totally dark and cozy sleep in awhile.  What a nice anniversary week they are having!

    I feel compelled to exclaim to the world that I am firmly in love with my chickens.  I don't see an end to my chicken-ownership...ever.  They are adorable, useful, friendly, sweet, amusing pets.  Off to water them!!!!

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011


    I don't ever need a New Year to spout off a resolution or two...seems like I am always grasping at new ideas that will help me be more productive, a better parent, to feel more fulfilled, to lose those extra 10 lbs, to make a difference in the world.  When the New Year rolls around and the stores, and magazines, and newspapers, and the whole internet are filled with ways to inspire people to change their lives for the better, it just about sets me over the edge.  It's too much!  I'm ready to change all things at once ANYWAY, and then to have all of this inspiration around me just makes me schizophrenic with wants and needs to do better, be better, etc.

    Well, except for the fact that about 75% of the time I'm miserable because I lost my little precious shadow and can't be inspired to even feel a glimmer of hope about things...but it feels too maudlin to go over and over how much I miss my precious pooch here.  The stupid writers of all of those dog books have already done it - what makes my grief over my dog any better or more poignant than theirs?  It should suffice for me to say that I am miserable and that I am doing my best (yet again) to function despite an annoyingly large amount of grief.

    I suppose the state of Grief is a good state for me to be in, as a parent, because it numbs all of my desires to do more, to prove myself, to be better and to be accomplished.  I "wasted" our entire Christmas break watching movies and playing computer games with my children.  I'm not at all interested in changing the world or helping other people these days - I'd rather play hide and seek with my kids, or do craft projects with them, or cuddle up with them.  Did I sign up to help with that?  Oh, sorry, I have a commitment that evening (read: shopping with my daughter and making up voices for the stuffed animal I bought her).

    Alas, other than wondering if it is even worth it to try to be enthusiastic about life and all of it's possibilities this year, I'll be lucky if I accomplish ANYTHING in 2011 (except for missing all the dead people and animals, and also really missing that feeling when we all were young and enthusiastic about life).   What a funny resolution that would be - I resolve to not accomplish anything in 2011!