Butterfly Diary 2020, #1

Swallowtail butterfly in a chrysalis case

A swallowtail friend in the chrysalis case last Wednesday. Dow Gardens had to close the Butterflies in Bloom exhibit to the public through April 5, so I’ll be dribbling out the photos I took on the only volunteer shift I was able to get in. Gardens staffers are tending the insects in case the Gardens and Conservatory can reopen for the last two scheduled weeks of butterflies.

Pet Pics, 031317 edition


Daryl winding around Abbey this afternoon.

When Daryl joined us just over two years ago, he weighed 7.7 pounds, had just been diagnosed as FIV positive and had some of his collar and belly fur trimmed off because he was so matted from spending the first 10 months of his life outdoors. At his checkup last week, he was pronounced in perfect health and weighed 15.3 pounds.

If you are considering adopting an FIV-positive cat, feel free to contact me.

The last of 2016

Reindeer lying in snow

A tiny maple tree growing out of the base of a birch tree

^ A tiny maple tree grows out of the base of the birch tree in our front yard. [Oct. 31, 2016]

As 2016 ticks and dribbles and fades away, here are some photos I had lurking: pets, plants and more.

Three purple vases with flowers against a purple wall



Usually on Goodwill visits I’m after clothes, but I often end up scanning the pots and vases. This trio of narrow purple vases had to come home with me. The flowers are portions of a bouquet from Kroger. [Oct. 24, 2016]

View out a sliding glass door onto a balcony

^ Unseasonably warm temperatures meant I had the office door open on Nov. 1.

View of woods in fog

^ Opening day of firearm deer season in Michigan may be the closest thing we have to an unofficial state holiday. This is at 8:57 a.m., nearly two hours after the start of shooting light, but the fog still made sighting whitetails a challenge. This is the view directly in front of me. [Nov. 15, 2016]


^ Hours between deer sightings mean plenty of time to look around … or down. This moss with trumpet-shaped protrusions was inside where my ground blind sat. [Nov. 15, 2016]

Sunset in the woods

^ Light in the woods dies early. The view to my right at 4:12 p.m. [Nov. 15, 2016]

Sunset silhouette in the woods

^ The view to my left at 4:14 p.m. The silhouette in the bottom center is my ground blind with open windows. [Nov. 15, 2016]

Squirrel drinking water from a red glass bowl

^ Our definition of pets broadly includes what we call “yard pets,” animals we provide for without trying to domesticate. The balcony includes one or more dishes of fresh water year round. When it is freezing out, I keep two spares just inside the door and rotate as needed, which can be every hour. [Nov. 16, 2016]

Maggie and Abbey lying in a doorway

^ Can’t find the dogs? They’re probably lying in a doorway. [Nov. 29, 2016]

Sticky note reading "Oh hello there"


Once our children got older and their Christmas presents more expensive and fewer, I started sending them on hunts with clues to find the final gifts. They’re 22 and 23 and I still do it. When I went looking for sticky notes to write the clues and puzzle words on, I found that my son had left a note on the pad. I stuck it to the mirror because it makes me happy. [Dec. 24, 2016]

Reindeer lying in snow

^ My favorite thing about Christmas here in Bay City, Michigan, is the reindeer at the Nate and Mary Ida Doan Santa House. Other places have reindeer for short visits, but ours have their own barn and can be visited during the hours the Santa House is closed. [Dec. 21, 2016]

A reindeer with one antler

^ This reindeer is smaller than a whitetail deer and has only one antler, with the darker portion curving forward. [Dec.21, 2016]

Say hello to our little friends

bee with face in raspberry blossom

bee with face in raspberry blossom

Some of the most helpful residents of our yard are too plentiful to name or even number: the bees who keep our raspberry patch humming.

We rarely see honeybees. We sometimes see a tiny bee we have yet to identify. Most of our friends are bumblebees, but they are quite docile. Sometimes early in the morning we catch them sleeping on the leaves, which we find quite cute.

raspberry patch

This is the raspberry patch we share. We moved here four Februarys ago and brought a few dozen mature plants with us. Despite pruning and periodically giving plants away, we still have little to no space between bushes, and must carefully lift branches to move through and pick berries. This isn’t so bad, though, because we have to lift branches to check underneath for berries anyway; we just have to be careful of breakage as we walk between. As we do this, the bees ignore us or simply fly to one of the many other bushes.

bags of berries in the freezerThis is what happens to the berries right now: straight into the freezer.

First they get spread out on a plate (or a baking sheet if there are a lot that day), so they freeze separately. If you dump them into a container without doing this, you will get one giant clump of berry.

When the individual berries have frozen, they go into Ziploc gallon freezer bags. Sometime this winter they  probably will become another batch of wine, but this fall we are doing hard apple cider first.

Next summer I hope to begin beekeeping. In the meantime, we are happy to share our raspberries with our bee friends.

bee flying in raspberry bush


Watcher Watched

dog in window

dog in window

On September 12 I had time to kill in Depot Town in Ypsilanti, Michigan, while my kids had job interviews. The sun was beating down so I moved to a wide shaded alley with benches and historic signs. From there I could watch people in both the main street and the alley, and after a while I looked up and saw that I wasn’t the only one people watching.