Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lighting a candle on Christmas Eve

I was told by a good friend that it helps to light a candle to remember someone you have lost.  I am not a candle type of person but I really like ice luminaries.   

To be truthful I like all kinds of lights.
So I dedicate these luminaries to my Mom, Maggie Drew,
who died last year on the day after Christmas.
I will always love you Mom.

 You are right Melissa,  I do feel better.  Thanks for the hugs.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saving Seeds 2013 and Bees

Dear Jeni and Mary,

It has been a really good year for seeds so I have lots that I have been saving.   This reminds me of when I first started saving seeds.  Dad was the one who taught me when I was about 7 or so.  I remember he had planted Four o'clocks along the edge of our property that ran along our 'driveway'.  (There was never a car in that tiny garage because we didn't have one.  Mom told me that there was lots of newspaper in it because Dad was a Scout leader and his group had a paper drive that drove as far as our garage and then died.  Heh.)

But I digress.  Four o'clocks were planted along the driveway and Dad showed me how to collect the seeds from the plant and I have loved Four o'clocks and seed collecting ever since.
Nancy and a Four o'clock seed.
Scarlet Runner bean seeds...so pretty.  Purple and Black the size of large Lima's.
No it isn't a seed.  It is Alice examining a few of Jim's giant carrots.
I faintly remember buying this morning glory at Bergeson's.  I bet it
is a hybrid and won't have viable seed.  Drat.
There are poppy seeds back here you know.
So I have been out in the garden looking for seeds.  It has been sort of busy out there because the bees are in a feeding frenzy.  They did this last year too.  Maybe it is because it was a drought.  Maybe it is because of all the other problems bees have been having.  One thing is for certain you don't want to get between a bee and the grape jelly I have been trying to feed to the migrating Orioles. 
I finally resorted to plates of grape jelly out in the yard so the bees would hopefully leave the bird feeders in the garden alone.
One of three plates.
The second plate.  These are dessert size, about 7 inches.
The last plate.  This one has been out for a while and has some fresh jelly and
some dried up jelly from earlier days also.
The bees were quite happy with the plates but like the jelly in the garden too.  I can go right up to the plates or the jelly feeder and add to them. The bees don't bother me.  They are focused on the food.   There are at least 3 kinds of bees.  Even my untrained eye can tell them apart.  I wish someone who knows about bee's would tell me why this is happening? If anyone knows a bee specialist ask them for me.

Well that is all for now.  It rained all morning and it still raining. No more seed collecting today.

PS if you want some morning glory seeds let me know.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Monarchs and Moths

Dear Mary and Jeni,
Happy to have a Sphinx Moth on my finger.
Photo by Sharon Watson
On Tuesday I went to visit Sharon, a birding friend who showed my her lovely yard and pond and many areas set up for the birds.  I was especially impressed by the dead snags she had set up for woodpeckers. I would love to do that here.  I have warned Jim.  

She also let me release a Sphinx moth she had caught the night before. I was so enamored to be close to it that I couldn't bring myself to poke it away after it had warmed up.   

Spurge Hawk Moths chowing down
Sharon also shared some caterpillars with me.  So after the  monarchs fly away I will still have some 'cats' to take care of.
First Monarch hatch of 2013.
Then this morning (8/21) the first of my 6 surviving monarchs hatched.  One more is darkening and should not be long now.
The first monarch gathering strength on a Zinnia 8/21.
8/25, the last of 6 monarch hatched successfully this morning.  I sure hope they make it all the way South and back.  None of them stayed around in the garden to nectar.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Vintage Hankie 'quilt'

My first vintage hankie quilt
Dear Jeni and Mary,
Earlier this summer I had a really fun Saturday at Faye's Henhouse Quilt shop.  Faye had Barbara Nicholson teach a class on quilting.

Barb is a long arm quilter and she has been quilting vintage tablecloths for quite a few years now.  I remember the first time I saw one of her quilted tablecloths.  I was blown away by how beautiful it was!

Her class was a mini version of her tablecloth quilts using vintage hankies.  It was so much fun!  I got out my 1971 Bernina 831 (the cheap version of the 830) and cleaned her up and went to town on my hankie.  It was fun because you really did not have to worry about your design.  The hankie had already decided that for you.

After class I had to go home and look at all my vintage tablecloths.  You wouldn't believe how many I have collected over the years.  All I have to do now is decide which one to quilt....and then quilt it.

Here is the hankie all framed and ready to hang on the wall.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Finally Monarchs

A sure sign of hatching success, Monarch caterpillar poop.
I usually see my first Monarch butterfly in the first two weeks of June. It has been a very bad year for them this year and I had given up hope. Then last Saturday the 20th I saw the first one of the year.  On Monday when I was visited by some birders (Sharon and Corey and Linda) I spent more time out on the road and we saw 6, maybe 8, maybe the same ones several times.

I started looking for eggs. None in the garden so I had to expand my search.  I went out to the road and looked.  On Friday the 26th I found some.  I finally figured out that the monarchs are laying eggs but not on the mature plants.  They seem to only be laying eggs on the young milkweed. If it was 8 to 14 inches tall I found eggs.  Nothing high enough to make it comfortable searching.  I have to bend down low to find them.

The tall mature blooming plants had nary an egg on them.  I came in with 10 eggs for sure and two that I was unsure about.  Then I found one more the next day.  So far 7 little caterpillars are hatched.   YAY!
caterpillar and egg.
When I first bring in the eggs I put them in a glad or tupperware container with a lid. Once they hatch they get moved, with their little slice of milkweed, into a larger container. In this case an ice cream pail with a lid of cotton cheese cloth for air to pass through.  I usually have to double it or more to keep the kids inside.

Seven caterpillars in the ice cream pail with some young tender leaves.
When they grow a little more they will get to go into the big popup Caterpillar house.  It is  much more convenient for them and me. Also I can put the milkweed in a covered vase so I don't have the leaves wilting all over the bottom of the case.

As you can imagine this sort of takes over the kitchen counter for a few weeks.  But when they hatch it is so worth it.

Update: First caterpillar changes to a chrysalis 8/11/13
This morning one of the chrysalises was black and I could see the orange wings.  I was pretty sure it would open so I was keeping an eye on it.  Not enough of an eye though.  This is what I saw when I looked at it 30 minutes later.  It must have been opening the last time I looked at it. Maybe I need new glasses.
Update number 2,  8/21/13.  Five to go :-)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

First Say's Phoebe in Traill County North Dakota

Dear Jeni and Mary,
On Monday, 7/22, Sharon Watson and Linda and her son Corey Ellingson were out here to look at the Say's Phoebe that is nesting on top of a light fixture on the second story of my house above the east deck.

Today, Wednesday,  I sat on that east deck and took this video of the soon to be fledglings getting a lovely bug.  I think those babies are out of here soon.
4 babies, really!
Adult Say's Phoebe on the ground.  Really, there in the grass.
Having lunch on July 14th.
 Then I took to the yard.  I wandered around and looked at the old tree that has been at the back of the yard since I moved here 24.5 years ago.  The back of it has several large dead branches on it that have large nesting holes in it.  I wonder who.  Maybe the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker?
Sapsucker holes in one of the Maples.  Yes one of the ones Jim dared to 'trim'.
Sharon and Corey toured the property and told me what was a possibility and what they heard and saw (that I had never heard or seen).  My birding universe is expanding.   According to Sharon I must get up earlier.  Sigh.  Those of you related to me know that is not my favorite thing to do.

Anyway, while they were here we saw the Say's and had a good look at an Eastern Wood Peewee.  (I would never have identified it alone)  We saw a Cooper's Hawk flying down the lane and overhead.  We also heard Red Eyed Vireo's for about 1/2 hour as we walked down the lane, and I was shown the holes made by a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker in my Maple trees.  After they left I wandered out to the meadow and annoyed a Bobolink until it came up to shoo me away.  (no camera with me of course)  All yard firsts for me.  I figure anything within sight of my house is my yard.

I was told I had many Clay colored Sparrows which I have never 'officially' seen, but probably looked at many times.  I think I have a picture of one from this morning as well.
So is this a Clay Colored Sparrow?
How about this one?  It is perched by the pond.
Finally a nice Robin posed for me.  I had to put the picture up even though the back-lighting makes ID impossible, for me anyway.
And a Robin.  It was just a nice picture.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Back at the farm

The garden, a work in progress, on 5/29/13, in the rain.
Dear Mary and Jeni,
We have been back at the farm for almost a month now and have had a busy four weeks.  I have energy this year.  In July it will be three years since I had my transplant.  July 19th to be precise.  It has taken me this long to get my energy back.  Not because of the operation but because it took a long time for my kidney function to get over about 30 percent.  This year I am finally feeling really good again and poor Jim has had to work like a sled dog following all my orders.

I decided that we should try some raised garden beds this year so off I went to Menard's to buy some cedar two-by's for the sides.  Luckily I also bought some more finch feeders and some meal-worms for my birds.  Once I got back Jim had to get to work cutting down some 4x4 posts from the old porch for the corner braces and then he had to cut the 2x6's and 2x8's to the exact length I needed.   His ancient jigsaw did the job.
The garden before much happened, including quack grass.
The first raised bed in place.
The second raised bed ready for filling.
It wasn't enough for me to make the beds.  Then I insisted we sieve the dirt.
The Sieve ready for filling the raised bed. It doesn't show
but the dirt to the right of the bed is piled higher than the bed.
We had plenty of dirt from the 24 years we have been gardening here.  Somehow the beds had big piles of extra matter, all of it full of quack grass.  So we put hardware cloth across the top and poured the dirt through it.   We added a bag of peat from Bergeson's Nursery and 1/2 a bag of cow manure to each 4'x8' bed.

About this time mother nature threw me a curve.  I am a birder and each Spring I anticipate the Orioles, Catbirds, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks  and Hummers that return and nest in my garden.  I  had been watching the North Dakota Bird Alert hotline and knew that soon they would return.  Several male Orioles had been by scouting their summer nesting Territory and I had seen a male Rose Breasted Grosbeak- but then the migration exploded.   

Early in the morning of Sunday the 19th a big storm went through and a fall-out of migrating birds happened.  I woke up to a garden full of 60 plus male and female Orchard and Northern Orioles, many Grosbeaks, several hundred Pine Siskins, American Goldfinch and some happy surprises.  A fallout is great for the birders but very hard on the birds who have been driven to the ground by bad weather and hunger.  

Those birds were starving!  It was cold and rainy for three more days.   There were no blooming plants and no bugs.  I went through 8 pounds of grape jelly the first day, Sunday.  Then I went through 12 pounds the second day, adding in the meal-worms that I had never fed before.  Then I stopped counting.
Wet Oriole asks "Where's the jelly?"
This is what happens when it rains on your jelly plate.
Those of you who know your LBB's, Is this a Vireo? If so
can you tell me which one?
Female Rose breasted Grosbeak, 2 male Baltimore Orioles, a female,
and maybe a Vireo.
Finches and Orioles fighting for food.
Every finch feeder, thistle or sunflowers, was mobbed like this.  I had 6 finch feeders plus two other hanging platforms and two ground feeders.  After a while I just poured the seed on the ground.   I began by using small sauce dishes but graduated to the plate the second day.
I put jelly out everywhere.  On the east deck, in the path, on the North deck.
Oriole scares off the Scarlet Tanager.
I was very happy to see the second Scarlet Tanager I have seen in my 24 years here on the farm.  He was attracted to the meal-worms as was the (maybe) Vireo.  I also had more humming birds than I have ever had at one time.  I saw six at once.  My previous high was three, after nesting.
The hummers were also fighting at the feeders.

The two beds in, filled and mostly planted-after the fallout!

One of the 6 or more hummers.
On the fourth day the sun came out and the birds slowly resumed their migration.  The ones who usually stay here stayed, or wandered home.  The rest went on up North.   After about a week life became calm again.  We finished the raised beds and started clearing the quack out of the border.
Resting under the umbrella.
I started potting up some annuals.
Verbena and wave petunia. The petunia is not blooming yet, but soon!
 And then yesterday another rare one came in.  I think it is a female Indigo bunting but it could also be a Blue Grosbeak.  The males are easy, the females less so.   I couldn't tell.   I am going to have to do a little more studying.
Blue mystery bird, suspected female Indigo Bunting.
So that is all for now.  Just wanted to keep you up to date.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A new bicycle

This is the fourth bicycle I have had.  My first was a Raleigh.  It was a black 3-speed.  I was 9 or 10.  I had it for many years and have no idea what happened to it.
Next I got a 10 speed Gitane.  It was red and beautiful and French.  I took French in high school and loved anything French at the time.  It got left behind when I married in 1970 and retrieved in 1976 when the marriage broke up.   Breaking Away was my favorite movie and I biked everywhere because I didn't own a car.
My third bicycle was purchased in my 30's.  It was a Ross and again it was black.  It was a 12 speed and I was again on the cutting edge of cool because it was a mountain bike when everyone else still had those skinny tires.
So I had two bicycles then.  The cool Ross and the sexy Gitane.
This last fall I took the Ross to Minneapolis and my brother had a friend fix it up, but my body is not right for that style of bike anymore.  I haven't really ridden bikes since the late 1980's.  I bought a car when I turned 40 and the bikes were lonely and now my body doesn't like all it's weight on the wrists.

So my brother gave the gallant Ross away to a man who refurbishes bikes for low income kids and I have looked for a new bike ever since.

Bikes today are way different than I remember.  My main problem is the pedals.  If you want to coast down a hill the pedals keep turning.  It would be impossible to stand up because you always have to pedal.  And if you stop and the pedals are in the wrong position for a good start you can't kick them backwards to fix them.  JeezOPete!  I was not happy.  I wondered if I was too old for a bike now.

Then I came back home to North Dakota and wandered in the the Hardware Hank to get some birdseed and I saw her.  They let me ride her around the store.  Heh.  Now I have my fourth bike.  I have not named her yet but she is hot pink and black and white.  I am not longer cool because she is a HUFFY.  Now as a younger cooler biker I scorned the Huffy riders out there.  No longer though.   This is the perfect bike for a woman of a certain age. And I am certainly that age.  I sit up straight which is good for my back and my weight is on my biggest asset.  The handles are up in front of me and the seat is wide and comfy.  I am a Huffy convert.
Today I bought her a lovely shiny chrome bell to warn the deer that I am coming down the road.   Wave if you see me!

If you have a name suggestion let me know.  Right now I am thinking she is Betty, but I am not sure that name is pink enough.


PS,  Guess what I just discovered?
 "In 1882 George P. Huffman, owner of the Davis Sewing Machine Company, oversaw the production of the first Davis Sewing Machine bicycle, manufactured in Dayton, Ohio."   No wonder this is the perfect bike for me.  hahahahahahahaha  More info in the Huffy link above.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Fond Farewell to Margaret (Maggie) Elliot Drew


Margaret (Maggie) Elliot Drew passed away peacefully at the family home Dec. 26th, 2012.


Born May 17th, 1919 in Alma, MI, to Therese and Moses C. Elliot, she attended school and college in her home town (Alma College, class of 1940).  
The "Secret Silly Six" - Maggie's gang at Alma College.  Maggie is far left.   

Maggie's nickname in the WACs was "Red."

She came of age at the eve of World War II and joined the WACs.  As a trained teacher, she was sent to Karachi, India to teach instrument flying to pilots who only knew how to fly “by the seat of their pants.”  She taught them to use radar so they could fly over the mountains when it was cloudy.

Mom and Dad at Crystal MI on their honeymoon.
She married Bruce A. Drew in 1948 while both were attending Wayne State University in Detroit on the GI Bill; they raised 6 children together.

   Nancy, Mary Jo, Jeni, Jon, Chris (not pictured: Timmy)and Prancer (or Dancer) in Nancy's lap.

      Maggie was known for many things; most prominently her deep commitment to world peace.  She worked at the American Friends Service Committee during the Vietnam era, assisting young men to obtain Conscientious Objector status.   She was a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and edited their Metro Newsletter for many years.  As a member of WILPF, she organized Mothers’ Day protests of ELF transmitter facilities in Wisconsin, where she had the courage to be arrested three times, and twice went to jail for her beliefs.  

Maggie at an ELF protest in Wisconsin.
  She was a founding member, with her husband Bruce, of the Linden Hills Co-op in Mpls.

Bruce and Maggie at the Co-op on 43rd Ave. So in Linden Hills
In later years, she was a member of Veterans for Peace.

Many thanks to the unknown journalist who took this picture of Bruce & Maggie.
"Constant Vigilance"
Maggie and Bruce taught their children to love each other, to laugh out loud, and to play a mean game of cards.  Maggie's rule was “constant vigilance” and her preferred strategy was to win every hand.  After becoming legally blind, she held the cards an inch from her eyes to play.  When you heard her say, “Heh, heh,” you knew it was all over.

Maggie was preceded in death by her parents; 3 siblings: Gertrude (Becker) Estes, Josephine Wright, and Charles Bernard (Bud) Elliot; also two sons: Timothy in 1965, and Christopher in 2012.  

She is survived by Bruce, her husband of 64 years, at the family home; her children: Nancy Drew (Jim Erickson) of Clifford, ND, Jeni Dawson (Rob) of Fort Nelson, BC;, Jon Drew (E) of Minnetonka, Mary Drew Powers (Brian) of Missoula, MT, and daughter-in-law Deb Drew of Chicago; three grandchildren: Ben Darrow (Amanda), Paul Darrow (Liz), and Christy Blankenship; and by three great-grandchildren: Dresdon Darrow, Bijou Margaret Darrow, and Ruby Jo Darrow; by her closest nephew Mike Wright (Michael Knock), and nephews and nieces, friends and neighbors too numerous to mention.

Thanksgiving 2011
    Maggie donated her body to the University of Minnesota; a memorial is planned for later in the year.
    In lieu of flowers, please donate in Maggie’s name to the local branch of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom:  Minnesota Metro Branch WILPF, PO Box 14752, Minneapolis MN 55414-0752 or you may email the treasurer, Leslie Rendl, at alteravista@usfamily.net.

We love you, Mom.
Do you have a story or memory of Maggie?  Feel free to add it to the comment section.