June View and Midwest Vacation

I sprained my ankle, so no gardening for me.  It is a chance to post a few pictures from the past few weeks.

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Today’s view from the kitchen window.

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Looks like the squirrel came by for a drink.  I need to move the birdbath into a sunnier location as my chinquapin oak tree grows.

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Digitalis purpurea, foxglove.  This flower is not native, but it is well behaved in my garden and the bees and hummingbirds seem to like it.

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Looking at it from a different angle, the foxglove is on the left.  The grass in the “meadow” is high and the little hickory tree is shooting up. The tall tree in the back is the serviceberry, also called Juneberry.  Since it is June it is time to look for berries, though the weather has been mild, so everything is a bit late.  The raspberries on the right are starting to form.

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The cedar waxwings, who love berries, have been checking the serviceberry tree out.  You can see the berries are not quite ready, though there always might be one or two that can be eaten early.

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In the vegetable garden the clematis started blooming.  The robin came for a little bath in the bottom portion of this birdbath.  I did not get mulch down before I sprained my ankle so there are weeds everywhere.  My doctor said to just “bless the weeds” for the next few weeks while I rest and heal.  I sprained my ankle in the kitchen an hour after returning from our Memorial weekend mini-vacation…  Here are a few pictures from that time.

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Camel rock in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness in southern Illinois.

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We explored a lot of trails, like this trail at Giant City State Park.

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I got a sense of pleasure at seeing a rock pigeon nesting in the rocks instead under an overpass in a city.

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Liriodendron tulipifera – tulip tree in bloom.  There are not too many of these trees in northern Illinois, but they were common as we went south.

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The boardwalk at Heron Pond in the Cache River Wetlands.  Curiosity about this area was what motivated us to make another trip to southern Illinois.  Being on this boardwalk felt magical.  The cypress trees grow up in this swampy pond, where we could hear various birds calling.  It is a pretty wild area, but a great place for biodiversity and a buffer between the south and the north during this time of climate change, where various animals and birds can find habitat.  We did not see any water moccasins, but kept our eyes open and appreciated the boardwalk.

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We did a lot of driving, including on back roads like this.  A Swedish thriller audiobook kept us entertained in between jumping out of the car to explore the next place.

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These may be box turtles mating, or something….  This was at the Oakland Nature Preserve in Carbondale, Illinois.  It was a buggy morning so we were doing a very fast walk through these trails to keep away from the bugs, but we saw quite a few turtles and a lot of native and/or rate plants.  Our hiking boots were caked with mud on this trip.

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On the way home on Sunday we stopped at the Chinook State and Wildlife Area, east of Terre Haute, Indiana.  There were no trails, so we did not stay long, but two different units came to fish while we were there.  We had beautiful warm weather during our trip, but as we headed home the cool, wet weather began to move in again.

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We stopped to see a few of the covered bridges near Rockville, Indiana.

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On the last stretch home to Chicago we stopped to see the bison at Kankakee Sands in northwest Indiana.  Can you see the head of the little calf in the group?  This is a prairie restoration area run by the Nature Conservancy.  We did not want to take the time to go to the bird area, but we were refreshed by the wide open area we saw.  Then back in the car and back to life in the suburbs!

Look At That Bird!

It is bird migration season, so I have been on the lookout for birds.  I even joined in with someone, for the first time, to help on the Bird Count in the forest preserve for the global big day of birding on May 4th, 2019.  Since there are many birds I have never seen before I try to take pictures of the birds I see, if I am able to do so, so I can look them up in a bird book to verify what I have seen or try to identify a bird.  Because of that some of the pictures to follow may not be the best quality, but they are fun for me as I remember the sightings.  I put in a few wild flower pictures in at the end, because I can’t help noticing them when I am in the woods!

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Yellow Warbler

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American Redstart

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Female American Redstart

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Belted Kingfisher

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You can’t see very clearly, but I think this is a black-throated blue warbler.

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Ruby-throated hummingbird.  All the pictures above were taken at McClaughry Springs in the Palos Forest Preserves.

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Up in the woods above McClaughry Springs we saw a flurry of warblers.  This is a pine warbler.  We also black-and-white warblers and palm warblers.

Last weekend we went to Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, where they were having a special birding festival.  We checked out the woods and the feeders there.

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Baltimore Oriole

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Tree swallow

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Rose-breasted grosbeak

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Rose-breasted grosbeak

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We spent a while watching bird banding, which was fascinating.  Here a chipping sparrow is getting banded.  The lady doing this let me release the sparrow when she was finished!

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American goldfinch

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Back in my backyard – the goldfinch is a regular visitor.  You can see how the green plants are shooting up today!

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I noticed a white-throated sparrow pecking around the garden the other day.

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Male northern flicker

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I took this picture in April of the mute swan on her nest at Lake Katherine.  I have not been back to see the cygnets, so I hope they survived.

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We flushed this pileated woodpecker on our walk in the woods yesterday.  This was the best picture Dan got.  When Dan and I walk in the woods he takes the camera and I use my binoculars, so I need to credit him for a number of the bird pictures.

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Jack-in-the-pulpit.   I nearly missed this flower that was off the path in the shade.

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Trillium

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This looks like another kind of trillium.

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Virginia bluebells

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Back in our yard again – This was a bumper year for the “profusion” crabapple.  It was stunning!  It looks like the robins built a nest in it a few days ago, once the blossoms had fallen.  I am curious if they will stay there as it is quite close to the house.  A few years ago this tree lost almost all its leaves, but so far it looks healthy this year.

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Finally, I am a book worm and I loved this book.  It was entertaining and kept me interested and wondering what would happen to each person in the book.

April Blossoms and Greens

Once spring starts you can’t stop it, but today’s snow makes the gardener and garden be patient.  I think most plants should survive with no issues, though I wonder about the blossoms on the serviceberry, American plum tree and crabapple tree, and how that will affect fruiting.

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Blossoms on American plum tree.  The fragrance is wonderful and brings in little bees, red admiral butterflies, and probably lots of other tiny pollinators.  These beautiful flowers make me more forgiving of the suckers the tree throws up in the lawn far and wide.

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Pulling back to see the American plum tree.  There used to be two plums and we cut one back, then we cut off branches on this one, too.  It is a fast grower.

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This is to remind me that snow fell on April 27th!  We also had snow on April 13th.

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Looking at the snow from the kitchen window I can see all the blossoms that have not yet opened on the crabapple tree and hope they will survive.

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Not long ago the red crab apple leaves opened and they gradually turn bronze and green.

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Crabapple earlier this week.

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The kale, collard and lettuce made it fine through the snow on April 14th, so I am hoping that is the case this time.  I held off on planting tomatoes yet…  Notice how big the rhubarb is already!

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I planted 5 rows of various types of lettuce and spinach on April 3rd and they are coming along well.  I need to start thinning some of the lettuce.

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We have had a month or so of various types of daffodils, starting with the mini daffodils.

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Yesterday I was enjoying these white daffodils with the yellow trumpets.  I planted various kinds quite a few years ago and they just keep multiplying.

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Anemones are something I planted a while back that seem to be spreading a little too much.  They are very cheerful next to the daffodils, though.

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Fresh leaves on Viking black chokeberry bush

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We got rid of one of our dying lilacs last year and I replaced it with a fothergilla bush, which really does not provide privacy., though it will get somewhat bigger.  I put in some Miscanthus grass behind it which will provide some quick privacy this year.  Yesterday’s project was weeding and mulching this area, since there are not many plants to cover the ground here yet.

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Close up of fothergilla bush

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I don’t like to use herbicides so I get “weeds” like this pretty violet in the lawn.

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I have a lot of violets in the front lawn, that are pretty now, but I want to encourage the grass to grow, too.  This year I am trying not to think too much about weeds in the lawn, since I know they are good for the insects and bugs, which are the foundation of life on our planet.

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At the woods, at the end of the block, I found some cut-leaved toothwort blooming.  It is at edge of the lot where no mowing is happening.  Yay for spring wildflower diversity!

Bluebird, Sapsucker and Tree Swallows

The yard is slowly greening up and I am doing various early spring chores.  This blog is getting to be more and more about birds, though, as I wander around the nearby forests and grasslands on birding adventures.

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Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis)

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As Dan was taking these bluebird pictures we could actually see the bird singing.  I went to a program on birding by ear at the Sand Ridge Audubon Society on Friday, so now I am noticing bird calls more, though still can’t identify many.

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Male yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius).  I saw my first ever yellow-bellied sapsucker in our yard in the last two weeks and saw another one in the forest preserve yesterday.

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Closer look at yellow-bellied sapsucker

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This is a yellow-bellied sapsucker in our yard a week ago.  It just pecked a hole in our chinquapin oak tree.

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Female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).  The cardinals are nesting in our yard.

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The trail along the slough at the Little Red Schoolhouse yesterday.

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Just to the right of the trail is the slough.

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It looks like the tree swallows are back and have found a home.

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Tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

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I think this is some kind of veery or thrush.

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Another shot of my mystery bird with a white eye ring, and some speckles on the chest.

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Can you see the adult bald eagle with the white head working on a fish lunch?  I watched a few eagles as Sag Slough one day, but I did not have enough zoom to get a clear view all the way across the water.

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Sunset at Orland Grasslands.  I went twice to see if I could find a woodcock, but no luck.  The first time I was in the wrong place and the second time they had completed a prescribed burn, so I am sure the woodcocks had relocated.  Still, I ended up with a gorgeous sunset!

March Birds, Witch-hazel and Crocus

It has been very birdy recently.  We enjoyed the winter birds, and this month have been starting to notice the spring birds, which are much more vocal.  Some will be nesting locally and some will just be migrating through.  I also took a closer look in the yard today to find the first flowers.

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Resident robin resting late in the afternoon in the oak tree.  Where will the nest be this year?

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Another robin picture.  This time in the maple tree next door that is about to flower.

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The male northern cardinal has been singing a lot recently.  This is not a great picture, but you can see the daffodils in the background that are slowly nudging up.

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I love it when the mourning dove visits.

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The vernal witch-hazel has been blooming for a while now.

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The first yellow snow crocus blooms are so cheery.

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I noticed another crocus blooming near the house.  On closer inspection it looks like the rabbit ate the green shoots right off.

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I had noticed this flower from my office window and thought it was an anemone, until I took a closer look today and saw this purple crocus, which I don’t think I planted here….

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One more crocus picture!

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I have been hearing sandhill cranes every day around noon over the past week.  Large flocks of them tend to circle in our area, catching an updraft before moving on.

Our Saturday walks last week and this week have given us a glimpse of quite a few migrating birds.

Little Red Schoolhouse – March 16

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Common mergansers

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Hooded mergansers – a little blurry

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Song sparrow?

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A white-tailed deer on the path watched us as we watched it.

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Ice crystals on the river last week.  Now most ice has melted.

McGinnis Slough – March 23

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The air was filled with the sound of red-winged blackbirds this morning.

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Male northern shoveler.

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The paths around the slough were flooded.  We had worn our winter boots, but still had to head into the thicket to go around the water.  Dan fearlessly pushed through the brush.

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Ring-necked ducks

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Lesser scaup

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Buffleheads

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Mallard couple nesting.  I hope the ducks and geese did not lose eggs in the flooded waters.

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It was a gorgeous sunny morning as we walked down the path in the other direction toward the open water.  We paused to listed to the chickadees and woodpeckers.

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Finally we came to the view where we could see hundred and hundred of ducks.  A muskrat was swimming around in the reeds near us as we listened to the red-winged blackbirds overhead and enjoyed the sun on our backs.

Spring is on the way!

Mid-Winter Images

Here are a few pictures since my last post a month ago.  We are in the middle of winter.  We have warm days that melt the snow, rainy days, and then more snow and lots of cold.  The lakes are frozen.  But the days are getting longer….  Here are a few pictures from the last month.

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Stream flowing at Lake Katherine

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The stream ends in the lake that is kept from freezing with a bubbling fountain.  In the morning the geese and ducks are gathered before flying away for the day.

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Mallard couple

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Walking on the trail around Lake Katherine on February first.

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Grab a book or add one you are finished with to share with the community.

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The alder tree caught my attention today with all the hanging catkins.

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On the alder tree the male catkins are the long thin one.  The mature female catkins look like tiny pine cones.

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The bench reminds us of other times of the year when this is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the magic of the moment.

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One of the problems with hiking this time of year is icy trails.  The show starts to melt on warm days, then freezes up and gets icy.  We ended up on a walk at Cranberry Slough in the forest preserve yesterday where we spent most of the walk on the side of the trail or looking for places to walk that were not icy.  Luckily we made it with no falls.  It ended up being a beautiful walk, though we were looking down at our feet more than usual.

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Another cold Saturday recently took us down this hill with helpful log steps and no ice. In previous years we found it to be a dangerous decent when it was snowy or icy!

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February has brought snow off and on to our yard, along with the polar vortex.

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One day I noticed that a downy woodpecker was completely fluffed up, I guess to keep warm.

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A flock of dark-eyed juncos have been visiting the yard throughout the winter.

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The rabbit visits too.  We also see rabbit footprints in the snow.

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The snow crocuses have been pushing up through the ground since January, though they will need some warmer weather to bloom.  I have seen daffodil shoots too!  It won’t be long now.

January Happenings

We finally got snow in 2019.  It seems more like winter now!

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Today we trimmed the chinquapin oak tree on the left.  Each year we have cut off a few lower branches and this may be the last year to do that.  We will see.  We like to keep some privacy, but don’t want to deal with the mosquitoes in the shade when changing the birdbath water or mowing the lawn under the low branches.

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Shadows on the snow

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Female northern cardinal on a snowy day.

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While I was putting together this post I saw this picture and remembered that we were going to prune back the left side of this American plum tree that is crowding into our yew bushes.  So we just went out and cut that off now.  We keep fighting for sunlight.

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On the last warm day, before the cold and snow, Dan turned the compost pile and mixed up all the very wet stuff, very dry stuff and kitchen scraps, so that it will keep decomposing as soon as we get a little more warmth.

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We smeared some peanut butter on a knot on the crabapple tree and the squirrel is working on it.

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This morning we watched hundreds of Canadian geese on the open waters on Lake Katherine.  We watched one group after another taking off and flying to the east.

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Several groups were landing on the grass nearby for their morning munch.

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A week ago Dan surprised me with a bouquet of roses and chrysanthemums.  We rarely buy flowers at the store these days, but it was a nice treat for January!

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Also, this is the time of year when vendors from work send holiday gifts.  We got one box of chocolates around Thanksgiving and two this week.  I had to take a picture of the beautiful way it was wrapped.

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I sure love chocolate!