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Gleaning Wisdom and Strength From My Elders

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Role models have been important to me throughout my life, and at this part of my life, I really appreciate having people leading the way for leading life to the fullest no matter what their age, their health, or their physical limitations.

My grandmother was the first person I recognized as someone who set a path for what aging can look like -not getting old and frail, but living vibrantly. She was the person who raised my mother to be a gardener, who in turn raised me to be a gardener. I remember many summers working with my grandmother in her gardens, precious and lasting memories.

Vera continued to be active throughout her life. Even after a series of strokes, she lived in her own home, cooked her own meals, stayed active in church and in her garden club and went out to listen to music with her friends. She lived that way up to the last two weeks of her life, when at 96, she succumbed to melanoma. Her last two weeks were spent in Hospice, where she had a lovely view of their gardens and bird feeding stations which she kept very close track of.

My father was another one of my role models. Dad was also someone who lived life to the fullest. He did not get to enjoy his life on this earth as long as my grandmother, but he was bright, involved, and active throughout his life. At 84, Dad was still painting, mentoring artists, playing music, he was treasurer of the Ex POW organization, walking 3 - 5 miles, playing music, etc. All this while he was undergoing grueling treatment for lung cancer which later spread to his brain. During his treatment, he was the one who brought a sense of humor and a dignity and humanity with him that was uplifting to the technicians and doctors who treated him. Dad was full of life and humor right up until a couple of days before he died - for the duration of his conscious existence in this world.

My Aunt Yve is still with us, and today it is she that I would like to celebrate.

(Yve with Dad during his last autumn)

She was the next in line of Dad's 7 siblings, and I was always very close to her. I love my parents, but they had a very rocky relationship, and Yve would take me in when things got to wild at home. She did not have a lot of money - she worked in the garment industry in NYC and just got by. But she loved the ballet and would find every opportunity to take me to performances of the Bolshoi Ballet, the New York Ballet,and the Royal Ballet to see such great dancers as Nureyev, Baryshnikov, and Margot Fonteyn. What she could afford was standing room tickets, and we would watch the ballets together, standing at the back of the theater, totally enraptured with the ballet.

She loved to travel and spent her younger years living in different places around the world, such as Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Turkey. At 84, she still loves to travel, but not as far as she used to. Last year, she was coming to Ohio to visit her sisters and fell at the Cincinnati airport, breaking both legs. Since she lives in a 3 story walk up in Philly, she was not able to return home and had to stay with Aunt Carol for a few months. As she was getting back to walking, she fell and broke her wrist. At that point I brought her here to stay with me for a bit. (Stella, of course, was overjoyed with this arrangement.)

About 8 years ago, she developed breast cancer, had a lumpectomy, and radiation treatments. Unfortunately, she developed complications from the radiation which took her a while to recover from. When her breast cancer came back, she decided not to treat her cancer with traditional treatments and now it has progressed into her bones, probably contributing to why they were breaking.

Yve is okay with her cancer. She has lived well into her eighties and is still going strong. She tells me that she does not want to treat her cancer, does not want to spend time thinking about her cancer, or to let it limit her or color the way she lives her life. She says that she has led a very rich life and is still leading one, that eventually she will leave this world, so why fight the cancer with treatments that will make her sick and not give her that many years anyway.

Meanwhile, she is still working with ceramics and loving it. She has been focused on birdbaths recently, and has been trying to make one for each of the people who are important in her life. Since she has become less physically strong, she has had to limit the size of the ceramic pieces she creates but she is still loving her work with clay and glaze.

This is the birdbath she made for me in 2009, right before her airport accident. The bowl she made many years ago.

She just completed this birdbath for my sister.

I know people will have different ideas about cancer treatment, but I am proud of my aunt's self knowledge, love of quality of life, strength, and determination. I love it that she does not let her cancer define who she is or what she can do. I wish there was a treatment that would cure her cancer without making her so miserable that she cannot enjoy her life, a treatment that would giver her another 10 - 15 years, but she does not wish for that at all. She wishes to leave this earth strong and in her own way, and although I want her here longer, I really love her for that.

I feel so lucky and honored to have had, and to still have in my life, people who don't let age or illness define or limit them from living life to the fullest. They pave the way to keeping my strength, creativity, humor and personal integrity through the trials of life.

I only hope that I can be such a positive and powerful inspiration for those who follow my steps.

I want to end this blog with a pitch for breast cancer screening and The Breast Cancer Site.

The link below will take you to The Breast Cancer Site where you can click daily to contribute to free mammograms for women who cannot afford them. It costs you nothing, as it is paid for by corporate sponsors.

My mother 's breast cancer was diagnosed early , which was then able to be successfully treated. Two years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her remaining breast, and again was treated successfully. I worry about the current trend away from routine mammograms because I believe that my mother's breast cancer was able to be cured because of early detection. I encourage women, especially those of us with high risk factors, to get routine screenings. And I encourage both women and men to support free mammograms for women who cannot afford the screening by visiting the Breast Cancer Site and clicking the Free Mammogram button.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    You have been blessed being brought up with such wonderful role models. Being artisitic is such a great thing and shiring the passion is better. Ours is music.

My dad is my hero.

On the breast cancer thing, 5 of 11 "girls" in my immediate family had been hit. We take ANY CHANGES and routine mamos seriously in my family!

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WATERMELLEN 4/15/2010 9:19PM

    Fascinating blog -- your aunt is a remarkable woman who helped you when you needed her. And now you are able to help her: so seldom we get to "pay it back" -- Her attitude towards breast cancer treatment at this age and stage of her life is one that can only be respected: breast cancer treatment (I'm a survivor) is not fun, and if I were her age and had a recurrence, I might (depending upon other circumstances) make the same decision. However, I applaud your support of mammograms for women who can't afford them: with Obama's health care initiatives, perhaps a Canadian type system will evolve . . . emoticon
I was beyond grateful for the care I received when I needed it.

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    What a wonderful way to honor your aunt! I respect her decision to forgo treatments that will reduce the quality of her life. My sister is a breast cancer survivor due to early detection and I applaud your support of the Breast Cancer Site. I am involved with the Sister Study for breast cancer through the NIH.

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MARY1313 4/15/2010 3:18PM

    CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!!!! that is for your classy Aunt. I would be just like her and not treat it either. What a great thing to share your special family members with us. I love that about you, that you have opened the doors of your heart and life to us all! you are a very loved and special Sparkie!

Thanks for the link! I didn't know it existed and will add it to my daily clicks.


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PENNYAN45 4/15/2010 12:56PM

    You are fortunate to have such inspirational people in your family - who throughout your life have provided you with so many great role models to follow. Also, you must realize that you carry in your genes the seeds of many of those admirable qualities.

Thanks for sharing some of their stories with us.

emoticon emoticon emoticon

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PATRICIAANN46 4/15/2010 11:04AM

  Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog. I, too, have been blessed with many strong and inspirational role models from my family. I could totally appreciate each of your family members as mine were very similar in their strength and conviction. I only hope that I will continue in their footsteps. emoticon

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STARLASUE 4/15/2010 7:30AM

    Touching blog. Thanks for sharing your family with us. I do like the pic of Stella being a lap puppy with Aunt Yve. LOL

All three of these folks sound like they are worthy mentors and wisdom keepers/sharers.

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SCOOTER4263 4/15/2010 5:27AM

    Beautiful. Inspirational. Many thinks for sharing this lovely story.

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CLEVAGAL 4/15/2010 2:25AM

    Wow, what a woman. I love the way you write about Yve. I think that living her life the way it is is admirable and shows real strength and faith, go Yve. I think I will have to write about my mother in my daily blog one of these days. Cleva xxx emoticon

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JUST_TRI_IT 4/15/2010 1:46AM

    Each of the generations that has raised you have given you such a pleasant perspective on life. Very heart-warming :)


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KBUCKMASH 4/15/2010 1:45AM

    Now we know where the heart you have for teaching comes from. You have truly been blessed with role models who had/have big hearts and knew how to share them.

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0309COOKIE 4/15/2010 12:54AM

    It was nice reading about your family. I remember you mentioning a birdbath that was made by an aunt in a previous blog. It is very pretty. Loved the picture of your aunt with Stella. So cute. This blog brought back memories of some of my relatives who are no longer with me that were important to me too.

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LUVSBULLDOGS 4/14/2010 11:48PM

    She's a marvel.

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THEUPS1 4/14/2010 11:15PM

    Sounds like you've been blessed with a wonderful family!! Thank you for sharing about them!!!

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Chicken Check-In

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This is just a quick chicken update, not a 'real' blog. I'm posting some pics for my chicken loving friends, then I'm off to work.

Denty is thriving. That is Denty on the left.

The stripes on the barred rocks are getting more distinct.

This is a New Hampshire red rooster I am raising for a friend.

Baby Huey already watches over his flock - it is so cute to watch him be a rooster already. He is one of my favorites, so I hope he doesn't turn into a fierce aggressive rooster. Australorps are supposed to be a docile breed, so I am hoping keeping my fingers crossed.

Have a great Wednesday!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FEROCIOUS_T 4/18/2010 8:38AM

    Hi, I came across your Spark page by accident and have to tell you - I am SOOO ready to start raising chickens! It's something I've been talking about for years, just can't seem to take the next steps to start. Thanks for the great pics and I love the coop!


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    Thank you for the pictures! It is so much fun to watch them grow!

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SCOOTER4263 4/15/2010 5:29AM

    They're so ... CUTE! And fluffy!

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HEALTHYDIANAMB 4/14/2010 11:58PM

    Hi Chris,omg they are growing so fast,what are you feeding these little darlings? Thankyou for sharing these pictures of them,they are adorable! Huey the Rooster,at such a young age! I don't think he will be aggressive as he is being raised by humans. The Silverlace Wyondotte rooster is so mean,we got him when he was 6months old and I don't think Prince Caspian was raised by humans. He freaks me out,if you turn your back he will charge you at full speed ahead and run into your back of your legs and will not back down.Our other Polish cross rooster named Chrome was hand raised as his momma left him when he was hatching and he could not walk so he was handled and well spoiled,it's funny he still limps and he chases P-Caspian away and PC does not put up a fight and goes away! Chickens pecking order,lol! Diana emoticon

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PUDLECRAZY 4/14/2010 9:44PM

    Thank you for all of your comments.

I have a special fondness for Denty because Denty was hatched from the egg that was so severely damaged. Survivor against the odds.

For my chicken loving friends, there is a chicken team - Backyard Chickens.

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W82GOWHEE 4/14/2010 9:39PM

    My Black Australorp rooster is a sweetheart--I'll bet your little one will be too.

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WATERMELLEN 4/14/2010 8:33PM

    Bawwwk bawwwk bawkbawk!!

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CLEVAGAL 4/14/2010 7:33PM

    GO DENTY!!!!! He has a great story! Cleva xxx emoticon

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    Oooooh! We need a chicken team! I have four RIR hens that I love to pieces! Super cute! emoticon

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ETWOLIE 4/14/2010 6:01PM

    I enjoyed your pictures, they are too cute!

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AMBERROGUE 4/14/2010 2:15PM

    Awww! Baby animals are so cute!!

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0309COOKIE 4/14/2010 1:19PM

    Oh, they are just so adorable!

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MARY1313 4/14/2010 12:44PM

    Oh they are just gorgeous! thanks for chicken fix!!!


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AQUAJANE 4/14/2010 12:39PM

    Thanks for the pix and update. I'm glad your clutch is of many breeds.

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OLDERDANDRT 4/14/2010 11:08AM

    They are all so cute, but Denty......lo-o-okin' go-o-od!!!! I really enjoy these updates and I've never had any previous dealings of any kind with peeps! And that rooster!!! WooHoo!! What a handsome fella looking after his girls!! Great!

emoticon emoticon,


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FICTIONRUNNER 4/14/2010 9:34AM

    They are beautiful. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

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GRNISHADE 4/14/2010 9:08AM

    I have two Australorpes and they are both sweeties! My girls had so much fun out on the grass Sunday...

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STARLASUE 4/14/2010 8:06AM

    How cool is that? Thanks for the pics.

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NAKIOMA 4/14/2010 6:26AM

    Quite a collection - they are really beautiful.............

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Can Anything be TOO Cute?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One of the Younger Group parents brought in quail eggs to hatch in the Younger Group room. Both the eggs and the babies are charming. The ones that have hatched are the Japanese quail. They are from the speckled eggs. The white eggs are from Bob-White quail. Their incubation period is a little longer. These babies were just hatched today.

The babies stayed in the incubator until they dried.

Once they were dry, they moved to their nice toasty brooder box.

Night night little peeps!

As for me, my life has returned to its hectic pace. I have not even taken the time to track my exercise or nutrition. I really want to get back to that aspect of SP, as I think it is very beneficial and motivating, however, I've been so busy that I feel lucky to get home cooked meals and exercise in. Since I would rather do that than spend time recording, the tracking is what has had to give. I don't feel bad about it, but sometimes I muse about those spark points down the drain. emoticon

I am trying to check in on people's blogs as well. I really enjoy reading your blogs and wish I could check in on everyone every day. Ah well, summer will be here and my time will less crunched.

Meanwhile, the spring musical, the end of the year camping trip, and general school activities, plus gardening, taking care of the baby chicks, walking Stella, getting my exercise, and playing music are the things my life is most focused on. Not a bad thing, at all - no complaints here, but there are only so many hours in a day!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BIRDBRAIN222 4/15/2010 8:07PM

    They are so cute! I have been dying to get some button quail. I checked out the BYC site, but I can't have chickens where I live. I tried to talk the hubby into moving, but he didn't go for it.

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WATERMELLEN 4/14/2010 8:31PM

    Well, selfishly I know -- I'm so glad that you make time to blog with such remarkable images. Your students must be very lucky indeed!

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STARLASUE 4/14/2010 8:10AM

    AWWWWWWW they are lovely.

I am with you on the time thing. I need to get back on the tracking too and blogging. This past two weeks have just been whirlwinds!

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MARY1313 4/13/2010 10:00PM

    awww! don't feel bad about not logging food and exercise, you know what to do and you're doing it! glad you take time to share your life with us!!!


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SILVERWITCH59 4/13/2010 9:31PM

    awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww to cute :)

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SIRIRADHA 4/13/2010 9:29PM

    Thank you, thank you for those darling pictures! I've got an overwhelming desire to go cuddle something. NOW! Oh look! There's DH coming in the back door!!

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SCOOTER4263 4/13/2010 8:59PM

    Can anything be too cute? I don't know, but if it can. those guys are definitely in the running.

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LUVSBULLDOGS 4/13/2010 7:48PM

    We have quail in the yard. They aren't nesting yet.

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OLDERDANDRT 4/13/2010 4:23PM

    Sweet little peeps!! Quail, huh? Just as cute as the others!! Glad all is well for you!! Maybe you'[ll get back to tracking in a little while once school is out! Have a great week!! I love your blogs and your pictures!!



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CATHYGETSFIT 4/13/2010 4:19PM

    Can you say AWWW?? They are so cute and adorable!! Sounds like you're busy but doing well!


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Teaching and Organic Gardening

Monday, April 12, 2010

Does gardening belong in the curriculum? You betcha!

The children learn so much! It is a non-competitive cooperative venture. They have to work together to decide on what plants to grow, to dig the soil, to start the seeds, water the garden, hoe the weeds, and tend the plants. They research what kinds of plants grow well together, when to plant, what the best soil conditions for each plant are, which insects are beneficial, and how to attract those insects to the garden.

They get fresh air and exercise preparing and tending to the garden, become much more interested in the food they eat, and learn to experiment with and love new vegetables. They learn to compost and pay close attention to food wastage. They are engaged with their environment and become more aware of human impact, both positive and negative.

These photos are from last year's garden.

The children built and painted the sign for their garden, and painted the picket fence around it.

The bathtub in the background is their strawberry bed. Flowers are planted around the garden not only for beauty, but also to attract beneficial insects.

The children do the planning and most of the work - the teachers just facilitate with any help or guidance that is necessary. Last year the children wanted to have a pumpkin patch attached to the main garden.

The earlier children become aware of food, the benefits of growing and eating fresh (organic) food, the more likely they are to establish an appreciation for and lifelong love of fresh and healthy food. They also get the benefit of productive outdoor exercise and the personal gratification that comes with it.

This garden was designed, planted, and tended by 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade children.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 4/14/2010 8:28PM

    Our children had their own garden when they were small: one big hit was a scarlet runner bean teepee (made of bamboo poles). They loved their pumpkin patch, too -- harvested for Halowe'en. And it was a race as to whether the racoons would get the sweet corn before we did . .. . happy memories!

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CATHYGETSFIT 4/13/2010 4:02PM

    Wow! That's great that they're learning at such a young age about the food they eat and where it comes from!! I love the picket fence and the sign too. You gave me a great idea with the bath tub. When we bought our property we found a tub that the people we bought the property from had hauled onto the property. They never got their house built like they had planned because he broke his back hauling the cast iron enamel coated tub onto the property himself. Anyway, to make a long story short I will be using that tub to plant some flowers or something else in! I wish all students had teachers like you and Meowmama!

emoticon emoticon emoticon


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MARY1313 4/13/2010 1:35PM

    Wow there are so many teaching possibilities in doing this! You are just one of the best teachers I have ever been exposed too! Your "kids" will remember you all their lives!!!


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STARLASUE 4/13/2010 8:14AM

    Fantastic. You are giving those kids experiences that they will remember for a lifetime as well as skills and compassion that will take them far.

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CLEVAGAL 4/13/2010 4:31AM

    I remember how excited the children used to get when the fruits and vegies actually appeared, They seemed to get more excited about that then harvest. I am are talking about pre schoolers though. Cleva xxx emoticon

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MISTYBLUE23 4/12/2010 11:43PM

    A garden provides food we can eat, children are the garden of the future together it makes for a wonderful vision that all will not be lost giving hope to a future where some will understand the nurturing of seed and water kindness and understanding. People you contribute to this should be told how wonderful they are and be thanked as but a seed seems so insignificant yet hold the bounty of life awaiting to bloom and serve us. children and gardens represent hope thankyou.. emoticon

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KRITTERKEEPERS 4/12/2010 11:37PM

    emoticon I wish my children had teachers such as you when they were in school!

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KBUCKMASH 4/12/2010 11:31PM

    You and the other teachers are to be rewarded for the extra mile you go to have on hands experiences. Wish more schools and teachers realized everything can not be learned from books.

Comment edited on: 4/12/2010 11:37:30 PM

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MEOWMAMA3 4/12/2010 10:42PM

    Awesome! Maybe we can set up some garden pen pals? Like everything they do here, this is thrown together by the powers that be at the last minute.
Hopefully there will be a garden...there will be a garden...there will be a garden...!

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    Great blog my friend. emoticon

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PUDLECRAZY 4/12/2010 10:23PM

    The soil has been prepared and a new layer of mulch has been laid down. The children have selected what to plant and have started their seedlings. This year's garden is under way.

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MEOWMAMA3 4/12/2010 10:20PM

    Great job kids and teacher!!
Excellent blog and right on time!
Good to have an expert consultant to advise on our new school gardening adventure. I've done worm bin composting but never any full scale gardening with kids. There's a vacant wooded lot adjacent to our school that we're going to use. We're also recycling Tidy Cats litter pails into containers for an area in front of the school that's got horrible soil. Are you familiar with :

Great site. Do you have a school garden this year? emoticon

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B2B2BA 4/12/2010 10:14PM

    I can't agree with you more about showing kids where food actually comes from. I never thought about that part of gardening when I started but now my boys, at 5 and 3, know that vegetables come from our garden and that we have to take good care of the plants if we want to eat. They are waiting for the peas to grow so that they can eat them right off the vine. Hope I get some to freeze but not likely--they really love the peas!

How wonderful that you show kids where food really comes from and that they can grow it themselves.


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Woods Walk 2 - Not All of the Beauty is About Blooms.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sometimes the beauty is about contrasts, soft and hard, bright and dark, fluid and static. Sometimes it is about texture and age.

I love the intrepid nature of ferns. They can survive in the shallowest of soil, cutting their niche out of rocks.

This limestone was once the ocean's floor. Shellfish, horn coral, trilobites, and other sea animals live here, died, and have been transformed into this rugged home to plants and animals. I love finding the occasional trilobite fossil on my walks; but mollusks and coral are more commonly found.

This is the 'yellow' spring for which our town is named. There is a lot of iron in the water; the source of the orange red color. The water is pure and cold, but has a distinct iron flavor to it. At one point in the history of the town, , back in the 1800's, there was a healing spa (and nudist colony) in what is now the nature preserve. The water was thought to have healing powers. And our town, well, it always has been a little unique

I love the texture of the fungus against the log..

And the layers of flora; tree, moss, hepatica..

And do we call the pulpits blooms?

Life is about contrasts, enigmas. the yin and the yang. The delicate has great strength, and what appears unyielding can be broken down by the softest of beings. There is a power to being delicate, and even the rigid can bend. Old supports the new, and new helps revitalize the old. Our weakest points can be our strengths, and our strengths can impede our progress.

These old limestone cliffs and this newly emerging life have wonderful lessons to teach. I love to listen to their stories.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 4/14/2010 8:30PM

    Your mind works in ways I find familiar and comforting as well as refreshing. And the images are beautiful.

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STARLASUE 4/14/2010 8:25AM

    Thanks so much for a glimpse of your walk!

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LORIAPO 4/12/2010 10:58PM

    "Old supports the new, and new helps revitalize the old. Our weakest points can be our strengths, and out strengths can impede our progress."


Such wisdom in these words.... and something to ponder.

Thank you for the beautiful pictures and the wonderful way that you have of putting all your thoughts, like magic; into words for an awesome blog!


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SKINNYROBIN100 4/12/2010 8:51PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon WOW!!! You have a great talent with camera and writing!! I loved it! Thank you! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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OLDERDANDRT 4/12/2010 4:02PM

    Wow, what a wonderful place to walk and I'm jealous that you know the names of all the beauties you survey!!! You also have such a beautiful way with words!!
Thank you for these fabulous pics and narration from your walks. I feel like (almost) I was right there with you.
Really love the Jack in the Pulpit!!



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GRNISHADE 4/12/2010 2:50PM

    Beautiful pics! Are those pitcher plants (carnivores)?

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KBUCKMASH 4/12/2010 5:28AM

    Thank you so much for sharing nature's beauty with those of us who not have the luck of living near an area like yours. Am truly amazed at the number of different flowers you were able to find in bloom.

May your week be a beautiful as your nature walk was.

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CLEVAGAL 4/11/2010 11:15PM

    Sometimes reading and looking at your blogs are like a breath of fresh air!!! Cleva xxx emoticon

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LAURIES_PLACE 4/11/2010 11:08PM

  Amazing, because you and I tend to look at the same things. By that I mean the beauty of one or two flowers, ferns, the details, ferns, a cloudy sky, and did I mention ferns? I would love to have a shade garden of ferns and wild flowers, the tiny ones, the ones you find singly or in a group of two or three. Certainly it would not be the kind of garden people passing by would notice, but there is such a peace in the greenery and surprises of bloom and color.

The spring is beautiful. I am certain there were and still are things that could be healed by it. The iron would be good for women of child bearing years, and there are undoubtedly other minerals in the springs as well. I lived on a farm many years ago, and there were springs there, too. The well water was the tastiest water I have ever had, and it was also a health farm at one time. I know while we were there we suffered no illnesses at all, not even a cold.

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LUVSBULLDOGS 4/11/2010 10:56PM

    Great. You're a good photographer.

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0309COOKIE 4/11/2010 10:42PM

    Another great blog. I especially enjoyed the ferns.

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W82GOWHEE 4/11/2010 9:56PM

    Thank you for this beautiful blog--these are wondrous things I love too!


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