A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Arizona - Pleasure - A Trip to Biosphere 2

August 17, 2012

I let myself sleep in a bit, had a filling breakfast and decided to head to Biosphere 2 to do a little learning and exploration. It was monsoon season in Arizona, so the day was hazy and a little rainy, but it was still a great drive. I just never tire of the scenery there.

As I made my way to the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains to see the Biosphere, I stopped for a few shots of one of my favorite memories of Arizona, grazing open range cattle.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Arizona - Business and Pleasure

August 16, 2012

The drive from Phoenix to Tucson isn't terribly long, but it is scenic. I stopped at a rest area to get my camera out.   While there, I noted the way they had constructed concrete walk paths in the area of the rest stop that highlighted local vegetation for visitors. I was tempted to wander and walk a bit, but worried a bit about doing so while traveling alone, and was rather anxious to get checked into my hotel in Tucson.

I thought there might be some places I would want to get pictures of along the way.  This was true, but there was rarely a good place to stop. I made it a point to just really enjoy the drive instead. I noted groves of trees, but struggled to identify them.  A sign gave me a clue at the edge of one grove "Pecan Wood for Sale."  Aha! How cool! I didn't even know pecans grew in Arizona. There were irrigated fields of lush green growth that looked a lot like potatoes, but that didn't make sense to me. As it turns out, Arizona does produce a fair amount of potatoes, but these fields were more likely cotton. Once again, I did not know that this was one of their crops. As a matter of fact, it's one of their top three crops (1. Lettuce 2. Cotton 3. Hay)?! I guess I always thought Arizona to be too arid for agriculture. Boy was I wrong!
I was concerned about getting checked into my hotel because there had been quite an issue with getting it booked. I used Priceline, as I have many times before. I was thrilled to land a Sheraton for such a reasonable price and counted myself lucky.  Then I started reading reviews (at the prompting of my Dad).  Then I spoke with someone who had actually stayed there. All accounts were saying this was a very bad choice for me to be travelling alone and that I would not be pleased with the condition of the hotel.  I was faced with an expensive decision.  I could either wait and see how bad it really was, or book another hotel and eat the cost of the first.  Since I named my own price, neither Priceline nor Sheraton was willing to work with me about the condition of the hotel, claiming it had earned its star rating and it was my loss.  I chose to err on the side of safety and comfort, booking a room at the Doubletree Reid Park.  I am SO glad.  It was absolutely outstanding.  The accommodations were great, the place was beautiful and the staff was over the top great.  Even though the ordeal cost me a small fortune, I think I chose wisely.  More importantly, I learned a very valuable lesson.  Just book something decent and pay the price.  As long as I book with the hotel directly, I have some recourse if it does not meet my expectations (not the case with Priceline).

I arrived, checked in, settled my things into my room and gave my Dad a call.  We had talked about potentially having dinner together, and I had arrived in town a little sooner than I had originally expected.  He indicated that he had just started preparing dinner and I should just come on over then.  I was taken back a little and a touch nervous.  It had been 12 years or more since we last saw one another, so I don't think that was out of line. I was still dressed from the day in the office, but I just headed out to begin our visit.

When I arrived, he was waiting for me outside the gate of his apartment complex with another fellow. The other man held a camera and captured our first moments seeing one another (that was pretty cool). I learned that the man with the camera was my Dad's nutty neighbor Rebel.

We went inside and I finally got the chance to meet the lady in my Dad's life, Miss Barbara.  She was so excited to see me, she hugged me right away.  It was like we'd known each other for years. I sat next to her on the couch and after a few minutes of conversation it hit me, she's blind!  She stood and walked so well to greet me that it didn't dawn on me until she was sharing with me about learning to cook again and about all the ways my Dad has been helping her. Boy did I feel silly!  She's a marvelous lady, with a lot of love in her heart for my Dad (and me, even though we'd never met before that evening).

I had sent a package ahead of my visit so that they could sample some of the canned goodies that I have been putting up. I asked if it had arrived yet. We walked to his post box and there it was. It was fun to open it and go through the contents with Dad and Barbara. We had a great meal together and visited for several hours. I finally decided to call it a day sometime after 10. It had been a very long day, beginning with time in the office, a long drive and then culminating in a big visit.

I had plans for some relaxation and sightseeing for my time in Tucson, beginning the next day, so a good night's rest was important!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Arizona - Business Trip #2

August 14-16, 2012

My second launch trip for work took me to Mesa, Arizona.  When I learned of it, I asked Boss Lady for permission to stay on after the business portion of the trip for a little personal time.  My Dad lives in Arizona and it seemed like a great chance to have a long overdue visit to catch up with him.  She was, of course, in favor of it.  As it turned out, the rental car was cheaper for the week anyway, instead of just the three days we were there for the launch.

Having lived in Arizona, I remember what a beautiful state it is and how spectacular the sunsets can be. We were not disappointed. Here is the sunset we enjoyed on the way to our hotel after arriving.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Road Trip to Virginia Days 3 and 4 - Barbeque and Luray Caverns

August 3 and 4, 2012

Having arrived late at night, we decided on a low key morning at home. I had some sewing to do for a gift basket order that needed to be sent, so my sewing machine made the trip with us and I spent a relaxed morning working with it.

Some of our favorite clients (not that we should have favorites, but hey!) offered to have a little gathering for us so we could finally meet some more of them in person. We brought sweetcorn and cantaloupe from Michigan and a big gift basket of canned goods for our hosts.  They provided an awesome spread of food, grilling chicken along with our corn and other treats.  We had an absolutely wonderful time visiting with everyone and getting to know them.  We ate and then as the evening cooled a bit, we retired to sit poolside to chat some more.  As we sat, we heard a pack of coyotes yip and howl which generated a bit of excitement.  Their home is set in a "subdivision" of sorts, backing up to some rather wild landscape just into West Virginia from Virginia.  If it hadn't been for the lengthy drive back to Virginia to Shane's mom's, we would have continued to stay and chat deeper into the night.  We sure hated to leave when we were having such a good time, but so it goes. It was some time after midnight when we arrived "home" and fell into bed.

The next morning (Day 4), I finished the basket and readied it for shipment (special thanks to my spectacular Mom-In-Law-to-be who took care of the final baking I needed, the night before while we partied the night away). We had settled on spending the day with family, but weren't sure what we were going to do until the notion struck us to visit Luray Caverns. It was a pricey stop, but OH SO worth it!  Gracious, was that an awesome experience. Mom-In-Law-to-be was not feeling well from the ride, so she stayed above ground while we explored below.  Our good camera took sub-par pictures, but my silly little iPhone shined in the strange and difficult lighting of the cave.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Road Trip to Virginia Day 2 - Skyline Drive (Big Meadows - It's really about the deer!)

We had been on the road most of the day, but there was at least one stop we wanted to make on Skyline Drive and we heard it was worth the effort to get there.  After leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway, we jetted west to another highway and made our way north with more speed than we could attain on the byways.  We made the jog back in to the mountains about a third of the way into the path and headed north to our scenic stop of choice and recommendation - Big Meadows.  Our dear friends, the Ackers, shared with us what a cool place it was, telling us that there were tons and tons of deer in the field all the time and what a great stop it would be to take the family.  We had to check it out!

Just after paying our park entry fee and getting on with our drive, we encountered our second bear for the day.  It was lumbering slowly across the road when a motorcyclist got impatient, passed a car on the shoulder and startled the bear.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Scenic Drive From the Perspective of an Inquisitive Six Year Old

We gave Lexi a digital camera of her own to record our journey for the day.  We thought it would be great to see what she saw and might also keep her entertained on a painfully long drive for a six year old girl with an active mind.  It was outstanding!  She loved it!

We set a few expectations before letting her go with the camera though:
1.  Don't turn it on and off a lot, nor leave it on all the time, as there was no spare battery.  It has to plug in to charge, so when the battery went dead, that would be the end of her photo journey.
2.  Keep the wrist strap tight on her wrist for safety.
3.  Have fun and take pictures that would make her happy and help her remember her trip.

Here is a sampling of her photographs from the day (I have asked her to caption the ones she has something to say about.  The photos are hers, so shall the captions be. There were quite a few blurry shots and totally pointless shots of sky and haze, etc., and what fun would there be in posting those, so I have edited them out (mostly).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Road Trip to Virginia Day 2 - The Blue Ridge Parkway

August 2, 2012

We let ourselves sleep in just a bit, since we were on vacation, but got ourselves moving at a reasonable hour so as not to miss out on any of the sights we were planning on seeing.  We packed up most of our things, grabbed some complimentary breakfast and went back to our room to finish up and load the car.  (Let's face it, we all needed to go potty before a long car ride anyway!) As we "gathered our things" (ahem) we discovered that we had no running water.  A call to the front desk found that they were doing some repairs and the water would be off for a couple of hours.  I asked where my 6 year old was supposed to go potty and the desk clerk said, "I guess you'll have to find a restroom somewhere else."  Nice.  We meandered around the area and finally found a spot for us all to take care of business, but not without a lot of grumbling and whining. :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Road trip to Virginia, Day 1

August 1, 2012

Shane was fortunate to have Monday and Tuesday off so he could pack for himself and Lexi, but I had to work and was unable to get much done until Tuesday after work and some errands...So he headed to bed early and I stayed up to finish readying myself and the animals for our departure.  He intended to drive and I would just sleep the first leg through Ohio anyway.  Our plan was to leave at 4:00am, but we overslept a smidge and left the house about 5:00 instead.  We stopped for breakfast around 8:30 in Groveport, Ohio and got back on the road.  Our first scheduled destination was in Charleston, WV for lunch with a client of Shane's.  We arrived at his office a little earlier than he had planned for us, at 11:30 instead of 12:00.  He was in the middle of a client meeting, so we relaxed and hung out until he was ready to grab a bite to eat.  Mr. E and his awesome staffer Miss J took us to a great spot to show us some of the local color the city had to offer, a restaurant called Tricky Fish.  It had a really eclectic mix of menu items and was delicious!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A trip to Ohio leads to healthy meals

April 30, the chicks I ordered were hatching, so Mom and I made a day trip out of picking them up. The hatchery we ordered from was located in Polk, Ohio. I ordered 25 Cornish x Rocks for meat, 12 laying pullet chicks and Mom chose 8 layers to begin her backyard flock. Our route would take us near Milan, Ohio, so we made it a point to stop there along the way to get a few pictures and drop off my first travel bug in a geocache.

The town was adorable, quaint and even smaller than our Milan, Michigan. We wandered around, looking for a "hitchhiker" for the travel bug. I assumed that since Milan, Ohio is Thomas Edison's birthplace, there would be keychains or something with the name of the town on it available. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Father's Day Tradition

tra·di·tion [truh-dish-uhn] (From Dictionary.com)
1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs,information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice
2. something that is handed down
3. a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting
4. a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices.
5. a customary or characteristic method or manner

Kiddie Sundae and JUNIOR Peanut Butter Cup
Family traditions are important. In most cases, they create loads of great memories and give us things to look forward to. For Father's day each year, we go to The Parlour in Jackson for lunch and a ridiculously huge portion of ice cream goodness. It used to be known as the Jackson All Star Dairy, and was a great memory from Shane's childhood. His grandparents had a beautiful place in Manitou Beach they affectionately called "The Ponderosa." Often, on trips to see them, Shane's family would make a point to visit Jackson All Star Dairy for treats. We began taking Lexi out there when she was just 3 and haven't missed a year since. Granted, she's only 6 now, but it still qualifies as our tradition!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tales from my first business trip

When I got word I would finally get to travel for work, I was ecstatic!  I have pined over going for more than a year now and I have finally reached the point in my training and the necessity in my department for it to begin.  The dates were set and the decision was made... I was off to Kansas.  Nervous but excited, I toted my bag into work on Tuesday morning and went through my day until it was time to head to the airport.  I rode with my boss, I will call her BL for the sake of anonymity (I affectionately call her Boss Lady - but only very occasionally), who left her car in the parking structure of the terminal in Detroit devoted entirely to Delta (this will be important later...).  We made our way through security, meeting up with one of the managing partners at the same time.  The three of us headed for the Delta Sky Club for a cocktail before our flight.  I had never had the opportunity so it was nice to do so.  We had snacks, drinks and good conversation until it was time to board.  The plan was to fly in, work with the client and her team for two days and fly out on Thursday night.  We would return late, so I would stay with my boss in her home and return to the office on Friday morning to complete our training with the new client and her team.  Yeah.  That was the plan.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lavender, not just a nice shade of purple!

Lavender is a lovely scented herb, floral, and clean smelling.  The ancient Greeks and Romans highly favored it for a variety of uses.  Its name comes from the Latin word lavare, which means "to wash."  Uses include: dried flowers for arrangements, tea, baking, jellies, moth repellent, relief of stress and anxiety, and even relief of joint pain, to name a few. :-)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Welcome home, honey(bees)!

I was super sad to hear that the hives at Zilke Vegetable Farm did not make it through the winter.  The good news is that Vicki has absolutely no intention of giving up on them.  She placed an order for three new colonies of bees to get three hives up and running once again this year.  I begged to be a part of the hiving for a couple of reasons.   First, I have had a totally irrational fear of bees that has been almost uncontrollable.  I am embarrassed by the way they've made me shake and run as though they were going to eat me alive.  As totally non-threatening as honey bees are, they terrified me.  I've wanted to get over that so I don't teach Lexi to be a crazy person over insects.  Second, I am a firm believer in documenting things that we are involved in (obviously, since I am always writing about it here...)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Our first FTF!

Since our upgrade to Premium Member status, I have been tormented daily with seeing new caches posting in our area that we can not go search for because we have to go to work!  It's crazy how making a living can get in the way of all the fun! :-)  I have wanted so badly to be the first to find on a cache, but there are a few groups who tend to "hog" all the first to finds in the area.  It is fabulous these folks have the time to spend caching every day, but it becomes frustrating for those of us who seemingly never have a chance because we are racing those who are retired and have the free time.

Our first FTF!  Find #111 4/26/12
Recently, Shane and I had to spend a day working from home to take our car into the shop for maintenance.  We have two cars, but the one is much less reliable to make the trip all the way to the office than our daily driver.  It is used for short trips only.  We dropped off the car needing service at the dealership and headed home, with one quick stop on the way...

I noticed a whole series of hides by one team, and thought we might just have a shot at one of them if we caught it quickly.  The cache listing was published less than an hour before we made the grab, and it was located right on our way home.  We were so excited to be logging our first FTF, we practically sprinted down the trail to the GZ!  Shane made the find fairly quickly, so I logged our smiley and we headed home to get to work for the day.  It was an exciting, albeit quick, detour on our short trip.  It was tempting to try for a couple more in the same series, as it appeared no one else was out and about yet, but we made the responsible decision to get started with our work day promptly instead.

What a great way to start a day, with success, right off the bat!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Take me home

#108's awesome camo
On our way home from our 5 cache day, we noticed a cache that was recently placed in a park not far from our house.  We pass it everyday, twice a day, going to and from work and hadn't noticed its placement just a week or so before.  In it, there was a travel bug that was headed to its final destination, which happened to be Tecumseh, my hometown.  I made puppy dog eyes at Shane and he agreed to stop, even though it was cold and getting dark fast. We ran (literally) into the park to try to make the find before we lost daylight.  We were hugely unsuccessful.  I was so disappointed, since I so desperately wanted to take the TB to its home and deliver it to its goal.

We had stepped right over it
Shane, being the real trooper he is, agreed to get up with me in the morning to try again.  I woke with the chickens, so to speak, and greeted him with coffee to get him going.  We went back to the park and, after quite a hunt, he made the find.  It was brilliantly camouflaged and we suspect we likely stepped on it without knowing the night before, given its location.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Opening Soon!

May 19, 2012!!!
Being good friends with the farmers who run a farm stand is such a blessing. I get inside access to planting, playing in the dirt and information. I have been anxiously anticipating them setting an opening date and was finally given an approximate date, May 19!!!! I won't hold them to it though as weather and other circumstances really dictate the date, but I wouldn't be heartbroken if they were open already! :-) They are feeling better prepared this year and ready to open earlier as a result. Make the time to stop out to see them on Carpenter Road in Milan, just North of US-23, on the east side of the road.  I guarantee you will want to go back, again and again.

Vibrant, delicious lettuce
growing strong
The lettuce has been coming for quite some time, stored turnips from last season have come and gone through the weekly farmers market at Original Gravity Brewery (every Wednesday 5-7pm - with Happy Hour being extended for market hours), and lots of wonderful new things are in the ground and growing along already!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Afternoon with a view

As always, be aware, this post may contain spoilers. In most cases, we try to keep things vague and non-specific, but occasionally there may be pictures or descriptors that give some secrets away.

Saturday, April 21, was an afternoon that just begged to clear our minds and spend some time together outside.  How could we resist?  We ran some errands and stopped at a park right behind the grocery store we found ourselves shopping at.  There were a couple hides in the park, so we figured, why not?

As we walked past the playground and picnic areas, we encountered this manhole cover.  Since Lexi was with her mom, Shane decided to take the obligatory bow in her honor.  It was fantastic!  I am guessing there were a few folks wondering what he was up to that day.  :-)  (It was totally worth it to bring Lexi with us in spirit.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Another milestone, 100!

Easter is one of the holidays we alternate with Lexi's mom, so we were excited to have her this year.  She arrived in the morning, searched for the eggs the Easter Bunny had left around the house for her, and even stumbled upon a basket of goodies as well.  :-)

Easy grab for #99
Since we weren't having a big elaborate meal for the holiday, we decided to go out and hit our milestone of 100 caches found as a family before returning home for homemade pizza - Lexi's favorite meal to help prepare. We headed for Tecumseh and let her make a quick grab for our #99.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A little pick me up

As always, be aware, this post may contain spoilers.  In most cases, we try to keep things vague and non-specific, but occasionally there may be pictures or descriptors that give some secrets away.  That said, enjoy the read about what was intended to be a quick trip out to lift my mood!

#82 was found near this area
Friday, April 6, we were off work for Good Friday, and I found my self in a bit of a funk. I couldn't seem to get my mood to match the gorgeous day outdoors, so Shane suggested we go out and grab a few caches as that always seems to fix it!
Geocaching offers me an escape from whatever is worrying me at the time.  If work is tough, or money is tight, it all melts away when we are out in nature on the hunt. We see beautiful places, we clear our heads and life finds some perspective. This day was precisely what I needed!  We started out near home with a guardrail find and discovered a serene piece of road that was therapy for the soul. There were remnants of some sort of structure, and a beautiful bit of the Saline River to admire from the road.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Frank and Beans!!!!

Once Josh got bitten by the geocaching bug, there was no stopping him.  After the 19 cache adventure, he wanted to get out for more. I had a couple of errands I had to run but knew that with Josh taking the day to get some errands run himself, there had to be a little caching in the day. After setting up his account the night before, where he used name made from his nicknames from his youth, we hit the road with the monkey for a little more "treasure hunting". The group consisted with two-thirds of the Unlikely Family and the newest member of the group, Ralph J. Beans.
View photo 1.JPG in slide show
Find #77

I needed to head to the local hardware store to gather some ideas for a project I am working on, so I checked the app on my phone to see if there were some caches in the area. Sure enough, right next to the store we were headed to there was a cache.  That was where we were going to start.  The GPS showed where the location for   You Silly Skirt Lifters are the Lowest was, but as we hit the zone, we had trouble finding it.  We searched some places where a cache normally would be hidden; there was a hollowed out tree nearby, a couple of light poles with "skirts", even a pine tree.  None of the tricks I had learned from past caches helped find this one.  Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A short trip out, er, um, April Fools!

As always, spoiler alert!

Looking back to April 1...
After a marvelous time with family, Lexi asked those who could to join us for a little geocaching so she could share her love and skill for it with them.  Unfortunately, most everyone had pressing plans, with the exception of her "Uncle Joshy."  He had expressed interest earlier in the day, so after a little clean up at the party, we headed out to see if we could show Josh how to cache.  We figured we would catch a few smileys and he would want to head home before it got too late in the evening.  After all, we didn't set out until after 3:00 in the afternoon...

#58, finally!
Conveniently, there was a cache hidden right outside our picnic location.  We had made an attempt on it before, without luck.  In fact, we had met a nice man and his two delightful daughters one evening while they were making an attempt on the same cache.  They were newer to caching than we were, and very excited.  We exchanged information and we shared with them our blog so they could follow along our journeys.  I am excited to say they have started a blog of their own,  Adventures in Geocaching, which you will see in Our Favorite Blogs to Visit list to the right of this post as well.  I encourage anyone who is excited about caching to follow them too.  They actually found the hide outside the brewery before we did - Go Cache Kids!  On this day, we made the find with a brand new cacher in tow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

One sweet haul and one heck of a good time! A lesson in life and the evolution of Ball jars (in part)

Saturday, I got a quick text from my dear friend saying, "Five boxes of used canning jars at an auction - 25 jars, many blue, per box - $5 each.  SCORE!!" This was followed by "Come see them!" How could I resist?

I went right over and while she washed, I did a preliminary sort. When I went home for the evening, I printed out some of the resources I have found on the history of the Ball brand and their logo, to take back with me on Sunday. Armed with information, we set about identifying what treasures were in her haul, and to determine an actual count. My preliminary sort from the day before was helpful here, as I had grouped by color and similar logos to try to separate time frames of production. When we were confident we had them all ordered chronologically, we began cataloging the inventory and photographing each style for reference. There was a marvelous mix of blue and clear Ball, aqua and clear Atlas, lavender and clear Kerr, as well as several other interesting fruit jars and miscellaneous jars produced by Ball and Atlas for commercial purposes (these originally came with food in them from the grocery store - pasta sauce, commercially canned fruit. etc.). The commercial jars were labeled with the actual product label, so the jar manufacturer was molded quietly into the bottoms of these jars.

Chronological lineup
I spent the entire day (from noon-ish to 7pm or so) with Vicki, organizing, cataloging, and all-around appreciating these beautiful and historic gems. We learned together about some of the history of the company, associated patents and government regulations, all of which shaped the history of this line of fruit/canning jars. We lined them up for a "family" photo and Vicki took a video of the progression.

Aside from the learning and productivity we experienced all afternoon, the greatest gift was not that she sent me home with some beautiful jars to add to my collection (although it was extremely generous and is unbelievably appreciated), but the amazing gift of friendship. We got to know each other better and had what we decided was a proper, soul-feeding Sunday afternoon. As humans, we all need a day now and then that recharges our being and revitalizes our spirit. This was the sort of day we had. We bonded, shared, laughed and let go of the stresses of the workweek together. It was, I believe, the greatest gift that can be shared between friends. I made sure to tell her how  much it meant to me and how blessed I am to call such a lovely person my friend. Everyone should be so lucky!

Enough with the mushy stuff. Let me cover some of the history we pieced together. Please keep in mind, this is the assembled history of only those jars she acquired in the lot. It is in NO WAY a complete reference, nor am I an expert in any way. All dates are approximate, as there was often overlap and ambiguity as to when the molds were removed from production and new ones were introduced. I will list the major resources from which I gleaned my information and I highly recommend anyone interested go check out the information for themselves. That said, here is what we learned:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Happy 6th Birthday little monkey!

Miss Alexis turned 6 on March 27, which was a Tuesday.  We couldn't do much that evening since we get home so late and it was a school night.  We asked her where she wanted to have dinner, if she could choose anywhere; she chose Mario's, our family favorite Mexican place.  Of course, we treated her to ice cream after at the Spotted Cow.  It was a great evening as a family, but not much in the way of celebration and bedtime comes so fast on work nights!

With the weather being as nice as it has been, we decided a picnic would be great.  She could play on a big playground structure, we could eat and visit and celebrate her six solid years as a great kid.  There would be cake too!  Along came Sunday, and with it did NOT come warm, sunny weather.  In fact it was damp and quite cool...not very conducive to picnicking.  The only back up location we could think of that was kid friendly that would allow us to bring the picnic indoors (food and all) was OG.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A shot at redemption

With a bit of time to kill on a Saturday, what do you suppose we turned to?  I will tell you - redeeming ourselves.  We have been unable to find one cache in particular on more than one occasion so we decided to make a quick trip out and try to find it again. This cache is a micro (small but not tiny) that is supposedly hidden in plain sight, but cleverly so.  After a great deal of searching, confusion and walking in circles,we came up empty handed once again.  We will have to take another shot at redeeming ourselves another day, I guess. We didn't want to simply go home with tails tucked in failure, so we decided to attempt another to end on a high note.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More after work fun

As always, this post may contain spoilers!

#51, first in a parking structure
Hitting a milestone like #50 didn't slow us down.  On the contrary, we were even more excited to get back out there.  On lunch, I decided to check the area around the office for caches, and, what do you know!? There was one located in the parking structure adjacent to our office building. I told Shane about it and we decided to make a quick trip over to locate it before it was time to get back into our day of meetings.  We had never located one in a parking structure before, so we weren't sure of the hide technique.  Being multilevel, we found ourselves searching several floors once we pinned down which side it was on (thanks to the satellite imagery on the app for our phones).  Shane made the find without too much trouble and we were logging another smiley.  There was a trackable inside this particular hide, but it had a huge laminated photo hitchhiker that would have been difficult to place in another cache, so we passed on it.  It was neat to score a find on lunch and leads me to think that we may have to plan a little picnic lunch caching later in the season.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Preserving the wild - Wild Violet Jelly

Just a weed, but so tasty!

I simply can't believe I didn't write about this last year the first time I made it.  If I did, I sure can't find the post now.  Wild Violet jelly is such a unique and short seasoned treat.  I read about it last spring and decided I had to try it. I just went out and picked the required two cups Saturday morning for a new batch this year.  I hope to make several.  

Since I have had some interest in folks purchasing some of my canned and homemade goods, I am trying to think outside the box and include in my canning some less-than-common items that may appeal to those looking for something different for themselves, or for a gift.  If nothing else, this is a cute novelty item.  It doesn't have to be though, it's actually quite tasty.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A nice round number, like 50!

After being so close to our 50th find, we couldn't wait to go out and hit our first milestone! March 18, we headed out with just that goal in mind.  We didn't have a lot of time, so we got right to it to get the two finds we needed.  We found yet another local park we never knew existed, and wandered in to check things out.  There were some teenagers that acted very suspiciously when we arrived who made haste in departing at the same time.  Maybe I am getting old, but A LOT more people behave suspiciously to me than what I used to see. However, in my defense, it is also in the news a lot more than in the past as well. :-)

#49 just waiting for Shane!
With all the rain we have had this season, the trails were pretty muddy and soft.  When we realized how far off the path the cache was hidden, Shane decided to grab it himself while we waited on higher ground.  It was tucked under a log and just waiting for him.

This one was one we had saved for some time, as it had the requirement of swapping out ONLY dinosaur prizes.  We had to wait until we found one in another cache to move to this one before we could hunt it.  Today was the day!

St. Patty's Day hunt for treasure

Find #43
As always, WARNING, this post may contain spoilers.  I do my best to conceal the actual location and name of caches to keep from giving too much away, but beware as you read on: :-)

Shane was presented with the opportunity to golf with a coworker from his department St. Patty's Day morning.  OF course, he jumped at the chance.  He rarely spends time "out with the guys" like that, so I was all for it.  I had some errands to run, including a manicure appointment, so I just took the little monkey with me and started the day.  When we were done with our nails, we ran a couple more errands and Lexi thought it would be a good idea to do some "treasure hunting" until Daddy was done "playing with his friends." :-)  Sure do love that little girl!  I agreed, so we headed out.
I spotted one that I thought would be an easy park and grab for Lexi, so we drove up to this light post. I was wrong.  It was not at the base like I expected.  We couldn't find it quickly, so we took a few minutes for a bathroom break and returned to take a second look. With more careful inspection, we found it in that metal box that was hanging on the side of the pole, in a magnetic key holder.  Sneaky! We logged our find and moved to a less populated area to avoid the prying eyes of "muggles."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just a fun Friday

Another beautiful day greeted us on March 16.  Lexi had a half day of school, so Shane picked her up and spent the day with her until I could get out of work.  They washed the car, ran an errand or two and set out to log a couple smileys.  They discovered a sweet little natural area nestled between office complexes and searched for the cache that was supposed to be hidden there.

Lexi really enjoyed the opportunity to sit and admire the view.  It was a marshy area with lots of "locals" (ducks, geese and other critters).

#35 - It was all her!
They searched for quite some time with no luck, so they decided to move on to another hunt and to come back with me in tow to help out.  Lexi's special skills came in handy at the next stop.  It was in a place that required a small person to maneuver over some rocks UNDER a sign.  She was extremely excited to make the find herself.  Find #35 goes to her!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A little jaunt after work

Shane meets regularly with Lexi's mom so that they can work together on cohesive parenting in two households.  This often happens on one of our evenings which means that the little monkey and I get to hang out for a while, to let them talk business.  March 13 was one of those meeting dates and it happened to be a particularly lovely afternoon, so we decided to grab a few caches.

The first park we navigated to was gated off and closed for one reason or another, so we headed out to another in hopes of finding some success. As we pulled in, I recognized it as one we had been to a few years ago when Shane and I first started dating.  It's a nice park and appeared to have several caches ready for a hunt!

Friday, March 30, 2012

We had no idea how special the Photo Scavenger Hunt would become

One of Lexi's photos, very nice!
We were invited to take part in a Photo Scavenger Hunt the first week of March and I got very excited about it.  I love anything that involves a creative hunt and I love taking pictures, so I couldn't wait to get our list and start thinking about how we were going to get pictures of all the objects.  The rules were pretty simple, establish a team, get creative pictures of team members with the determined objects, have fun. (Okay, they were more defined than that, but you get the idea.)  The list came out at 9am on Saturday March 3 and we were off to the races.  We technically had a whole week to get our pictures taken and submitted, but we hoped to finish as quickly as possible since we only have Lexi half of every week.  

Bottlebrush tree in bloom
First, we tried to link each object to a song title or lyrics to act out.  That proved harder than we thought.  We abandoned that idea for sheer creativity and fun with our pictures. As we looked over the list, Shane told me, I've got that one, when we read "Flower."  I had a manicure appointment around lunch time with Lexi, so I figured he'd show up with flowers and do something cute.  Wrong.  He picked us up from the appointment and, no flowers.  We drove for a little while, but no flowers.  He told me to just trust him, he had it covered, but we needed to hurry because the photo was time sensitive. Time sensitive flowers?  What?  Okaaayy......

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mild March weather in Michigan makes for great times outdoors

The title sounds a bit like a headline, but nevertheless, it's true. We have had a remarkably mild March.  The whole winter was much more mild than any I have ever lived to see so far, for that matter.  What this has meant for us is that we have gotten to feed the need to Geocache even more.  I suspect we will likely stop going quite so often when the weather gets really warm, as we will then be busy in the garden, and the bugs will likely give us cause to stop visiting so many remote locations.  Mosquitoes here breed and multiply with great fervor, so they tend to discourage much time spent in overgrown and moist areas like many we have been visiting as of late.  After about 3 weeks off the geocaching trail, we made our first night time find (cache #21 for us) on 3/9/12.  It was an easy park and grab, part of a series we are familiar with, so we knew right where to look to pick it up.  Even so, it was fun to log our first night time find.  It made us all want to try caching similar hunts at night again soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Geocaching: at it again in 2012

#14 was tucked under a log
This entry will share with you finds #14 through #20 for our Geocaching Team - Unlikely Family. If you want to read about the first 13 finds, you can do so here. Warning:  This post may contain spoilers if you haven't been out to this location yet, so please be aware before reading further! :-)

The bug bit us to geocache again in February.  The weather was mild and we were sad we hadn't done more of it last year.  So, we started thinking about where we could go as a family and walk around outdoors to cache for an afternoon.  On February 12, 2012, we got ourselves packed up with pencils, the camera, the toy/trinket exchange bag and bundled up to head out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What to do when not in the garden, canning or sewing? Geocache!

Last year, we picked up a new hobby that we have recently fallen back in love with.  It's called geocaching.  What is it, you ask?

Cache #1, surprisingly hard to find
From www.geocaching.com:

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

There are some rules for geocaching though: 
(Again taken directly from www.geocaching.com)

Lexi loves exchanging toys!
1. If you take something from the geocache (or "cache"), leave something of equal or greater value.
2. Write about your find in the cache logbook.
3. Log your experience at www.geocaching.com.

I encourage anyone who is curious to go to the website and check it out. There is a ton of information there for the learning! BEWARE! You will want to get out your unused GPS and get hunting before you know it! Once you begin, you won't want to quit!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Closing up for the season

After an unusual season with respect to weather, the time had come in our region to put the farms and gardens to bed for a winter's rest.  Our garden was spent, since the frost has sealed its fate, and we wereequally ready to rest until we begin preparing for the next season in the coldest part of winter.  

Our dear friends, the Zilke's, had labored with love, determination and sheer guts for many months to deliver the freshest, healthiest produce to their CSA members and patrons of the farm stand.  The time had come for them to close the big white doors on the barn and spend some time recharging their batteries.  Just as the farm needs to spend some time resting and recharging for the next season, so do its caretakers.  

S, the little one and I had the high privilege of spending much of their last day at the farm stand with them, while they buttoned things up and made the final preparations to take a break. We spent time harvesting sunflower heads to salt and roast later (another post to come),  husking a truckload of popcorn, cleaning up at the stand and helping them ready it for their absence. 

It was a cold day, and it got less pleasant as the day went on.  It was as if Mother Nature were saying, "It's okay.  You can rest now.  I've got it from here."  As the day neared its close, it began "snowing."  It wasn't real snow, with fluffy flakes, but a hard, frozen pellet like snow that made it clear we no longer needed to be outdoors.  The message was heartily received. 

Bound for Florida with nearly a solid month of rest and relaxation as their only obligation, these hard-working and deserving farmers were ready when this day came.

Tom and Vicki made the final decision and, together, flipped the sign that held their hours to reveal a new message: