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I’ve recently discovered a new interest – the Monarch Butterfly.  I’ve always admired butterflies and now have a new appreciation for them.  Not only are they stunningly beautiful, but the process they go through from egg to maturity is incredible.  I was able to witness it first hand this past month.

 

My son, Alex, raised Monarchs when he was a kid and as a mom I didn’t have time to really appreciate the process.  Alex continues to have an interest in butterflies and encouraged me to grow milkweed for the Monarchs.  This summer I had several milkweed plants that came up around our patio and instead of pulling them, I let them grow.  All through the summer I watched for the appearance of a Monarch Caterpillar, but none were there…..until about a month ago.

 

As I was taking my dog, Denver, out to the back yard, I stopped to check out the milkweed and was very excited to see it covered with caterpillars.  I immediately told my son about it and he was equally excited.  I decided to bring several in and raise them.

 

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My first Monarch caterpillar

 

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Milkweed with lots of caterpillars (and yes, their ‘frass–another word for poo)

 

I purchased a butterfly enclosure and set up my butterfly house.  Every day I discovered new caterpillars on the milkweed around my home.  I also found milkweed plants in the field behind our house as well as at our cottage.  Eventually I wound up with over 30 caterpillars.  

 

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My Monarch enclosure

 

It was exciting to see them go through all of the phases from egg, to teeny, tiny caterpillars and finally the big, plump ones that were ready to pupate into their chrystallis.  It was a thrill the first time I actually witnessed one shedding it’s last caterpillar skin to become a chrystallis.

 

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Not a great photo, but he’s becoming a chrystallis.

 

Then came the most exciting part…..one of mine reached maturity and I was able to watch the butterfly emerge from the chrystallis.

 

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It’s almost time

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Here he comes

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Almost there…

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There he is. 🙂

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Wings are pumped up and need to dry.

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I got to hold him on my finger

 

After his wings were totally dry, he climbed onto my finger and after a few minutes he took off on his first flight.  He flew across the yard and landed on my Red Honeysuckle.  It was a very exciting and rewarding experience – one that I will get to experience 30+ more times over the next few weeks.

 

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Resting on Red Honeysuckle after is first flight

Butterflies are unbelievably beautiful and I was so happy that I had a hand in helping one reach maturity.  As I get older I seem to be developing a greater appreciation of things in nature.  In my opinion, God was extra creative in creating these beautiful butterflies.

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More about Monarchs (ok, now I’m gonna preach a little bit)

As I began to do research into the Monarch butterfly I learned that their numbers have decreased dramatically over the last 20 years.  There are several factors that have contributed, but I found out that there are two ways we can help the Monarch.  First we can plant milkweed.  That is the sole source of nourishment for the Monarch caterpillars and there is not enough of it.  Second,  if you have the time/desire, you can bring them in from the wild and raise them in a protected environment.  By doing this it protects them from many things that keep them from reaching adulthood – predators, parasites……   If interested in learning more these are some great videos on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=butterfly+mrlundscience

Here is an article about the decreasing numbers of Monarchs.

http://blog.nwf.org/2017/02/new-numbers-show-monarch-butterfly-populations-still-in-trouble/

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful fern fronds uncurling

 

For those of us in the North East, it felt like Spring would never get here.  Just as we would have a glimmer of warmth, we would get another cold snap or a snowfall.  I, for one, was VERY anxious for Spring to arrive and I’m ecstatic that it is finally here. I’m downright giddy with excitement.

 

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Gorgeous PJM blossom

 

I think the arrival of Spring had an even more powerful impact on me this year because of the long wait.  I must have said “This is so exciting!!!” about 20 times as I walked around and saw all of the things that were waking up after the long winter.  I felt like the whole world was breathing and coming alive.

 

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Phlox in its glory

 

We were able to go to our cottage for a quick ovenight get-away and it was refreshing to simply be able to sit on the porch in my rocking chair and enjoy the warm weather.  All winter I’ve been looking out the window and wishing it was warm enough to be out there.

 

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My happy place…in my rocking chair with my feet up on the railing

 

I enjoyed every second of the evening.  First I was treated to many different birds coming to my feeders and was thrilled to see the return of the hummingbirds.  I could hear the sound of the ‘peepers’ from nearby Laurel Lake.  If you don’t know what peepers sound like, listen to this: Peepers   I thoroughly enjoyed the sounds of the woods as night fell.  (except for the buzzing of a few mosquitoes)

 

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Best place to enjoy the morning

 

I fell asleep listing to the night sounds through the open windows and the chirping of birds was the first thing I heard in the morning.  I went right out to the porch and assumed my favorite possition.  It’s the perfect place to watch the birds and hummingbirds as they come for their breakfast.  I even saw a bird I’d never seen before…a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  (pictured below)

 

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak…gorgeous!!!

 

I experienced so many things that I hadn’t been able to do during the LONG winter. I soaked it in and was thankful for every second.  I was also able to experience another spring delight–my husband opened up his out-door kitchen and made me bacon and eggs.  I LOVE Spring!!!

 

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A man enjoying his outdoor kitchen AND making me a scrumptious breakfast.  🙂  

 

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The Beauty of the Orchid

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My husband gave me this orchid as a gift several years ago. We were able to enjoy it for many weeks, but eventually the blossoms faded and fell off. For the next year or so I followed all of the instructions on how to care for an orchid and to get it to bloom again….all to no avail. I was just about to give up and throw it out, but decided to put it outside on my back deck this past summer and see if it survived. I didn’t really water it or give it any special attention. (actually forgot all about it) Much to my surprise, when I looked at it near the end of summer, it was shooting off several new stems that were loaded with buds. I was thrilled to see that my ‘neglect’ paid off.

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First bloom

 

As the nights got colder I brought it in the house and then closely watched the buds as they became swollen and then finally the first flower opened.  One big surprise was that it had been so long since it had bloomed that I had forgotten what color it was.  I was so excited when the first flower appeared and then realized that there were MANY more blossoms to come.  After that first bloom a new flower would open almost every day.  I counted 30+ blossoms total.

 

 

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What a joy to watch the blossoms as they opened

 

I saw the timing of this re-blooming as a gift from God.  My husband was away on a mission trip to Niger, Africa during January and February of this year.  (Don’s blog)  There were some lonely, dreary times in the house all by myself, but seeing the gorgeous blossoms on the table every morning was very uplifting.  Just looking at the orchid reminded me that spring would come again and that thought would put a smile on my face.

 

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Every single flower is stunning

 

Near the beginning of February it finally reached the point where all of the blossoms were open and it was stunning.  I began to wonder if it would still be blooming when my husband returned in early March.  Well, I didn’t need to worry….it’s now mid-March and only 2 of the blossoms have fallen and the rest are still as glorious as when they first opened.  Now my husand is able to enjoy it’s beauty as well.

 

 

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My ‘neglected’ orchid – yes, I did wait a little too long to stake the stems.

 

Shortly after his return home he surprised me with a new orchid.  I’m wondering if the same formula of ‘neglect’ will work on it next year as well?

 

 

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My new orchid.  (This could be the beginning of a collection/addiction. 😉 )

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Wonderland

 

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Cute, little birdhouse on our front porch

 

That first significant snow of the year is always exciting.   For us it was even more wonderful since were able to get away to our little cottage in the woods.  We arrived just as the snow stopped falling.  It was so beautiful to pull in the drive and see everything covered in a blanket of beautiful, white snow.  

 

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First snowfall of the year at Fern Gully

 

As soon as we got unpacked and had a bite of lunch, we headed out for a walk in the woods.  Our dog, Denver, was THRILLED.

 

Denver in the snow

Happy Denver

 

We passed several neighboring cabins along they way and they all looked warm and inviting nestled in their new covering of snow, although they were probably all freezing inside since many of the cabins do not have heat.   I couldn’t resist pulling my phone out to snap a few pictures.

 

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Cabin in the woods

Cabin 2

Don’t you just want to drive down that lane?

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Beautiful cabin surrounded by pines

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Osaga Lodge

 

After passing several cabins we took a trail through the woods.  There is nothing like walking through virgin snow in the forest.  (Michaux State Forest)

 

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Into the woods

 

I’m sure that by February I won’t be quite as thrilled by the snow, but for today it was absolutely breathtaking and I enjoyed it thoroughly!  🙂  It’s a beautiful day in the Michaux State Forest.

Gone in a Flash

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I would have never thought that keys could disappear so quickly.  Warning – if you are squeamish this post might not be for you.  So, back to the story….I’ll bet you’ll never guess how/where they disappeared?   Yes, I flushed my keys down the WC.  Let me explain:

 

Years ago I learned the lesson of not placing valuables in the back pocket of my jeans as my phone took a dive in the potty ….and it never recovered.  I thought things were safe in the front pocket, but I was WRONG.  This particular day, I used the ‘facility’ and midway through the reassembly process I turned around to flush.  At the very instant that I pushed the lever, my keys fell out of the front pocket of my jeans into the swirling water.  In a flash (or should I say flush) they were gone.  Crap.

 

I began yelling, “MY KEYS, MY KEYS, MY KEYS” and my husband came running to see what was wrong – he just shook his head.  Soon he began to try to retrieve the lost keys.  No matter how much ‘snaking’ or ‘fishing’ we tried,  we could not locate the keys.  At that point I began to worry that they had traveled into the pipes and that would result in a huge plumbing repair.

 

We weren’t about to give up that easily.  We didn’t use that toilet or flush any more and the next day my son came over to give it one last try.  He pulled the toilet up from the floor and discovered a round metal object at the bottom of the seal…it was the aromatherapy ball that was attached to my keys! He was able to pull the entire set of keys out completely intact.

 

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The fact that we were actually able to find the keys was the first bit of good luck, but the news gets better.   The key to my car is one of the electronic variety that is very expensive to replace.  My husband took the key fob apart and laid it out in the sun to dry.  Well, we were ecstatic when we put it back together and it worked!

 

Of course the rest of the other keys were scrubbed clean and obviously I replaced the aromatherapy ball with a new one.  Miraculously I had my keys back after having flushed them down the toilet.  Yes, this was one of my more humbling moments in life, but maybe you will learn from my mistake.  Empty ALL of your jean pockets before using the restroom.

 

 

I recently went for a beautiful hike in the Michaux State Forest.  As always I was surrounded by beauty, but this time I noticed something different on the floor of the forest– a wide variety of Fungi.  I don’t think I had realized until that day how many various shapes and colors of mushrooms were in the forest.  I soon began to see a different mushroom around every turn.  Here are just a few:

 

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Unbelievalbe color!!!

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This is more a ‘typical’ color

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BOLD!!

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These little fellas were almost glowing.

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Loving the purple!

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Just plain cute 🙂

 

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I wish the picture was clearer…it was a very ‘fancy’ mushroom.

As I walked along taking pictures of a variety of fungi, I caught sight of my husband ahead of me on the trail and began to chuckle as I thought of the pun…a hike with fungi and a fun guy.  (ok, I’m easily amused. 😉 )

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The ‘fun guy’, my husband 🙂

I guess to be accurate I should say I was hiking with 2 fun guys…one who walked on two legs and one who walked on 4 legs.  Our faithful dog, Denver, was along for the enjoyment.

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It was a day where I was able to appreciate many types of beauty in nature.  Along with the fungi and the fun guys, there were also many other beautiful sights.  I took ALL of them in.

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Just one of the streams we crossed

I LOVE hiking!

Easter Sunrise

It’s the practice of many churches to have a sunrise service on Easter morning.  There is something symbolic and meaningful to see the dawning of a new day and know that it is the day we are celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

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The sun is just rising above the trees.

This year I had a different type of sunrise service.  It was held on the back porch of our cottage and instead of sitting in a pew I was sitting in a rocking chair.  Instead of being all dressed up I was in my pajamas.  🙂 The porch faces South-East and I was able to enjoy a beautiful view of the sun coming up through the trees.

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It’s now daylight.

I sat quietly listening to the birds singing for a while and then decided to listen to a song that seemed appropriate,  Allegri Misere.   I played it on my laptop so I could see the pictures and the words.  It is sung in Latin, but this particular video shows the words in English as well.

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Getting Brighter

For me there are two things which touch my soul and cause me to worship the Creator  –  the sounds of nature and certain music.  As I listened to this worshipful song which was accompanied by the chirping birds I realized that I was hearing two beautiful things which can help my heart and soul to worship God at the same time.

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My Cathedral in the Forest

There are also two places that I feel closest to the creator–in the woods and in a Cathedral.  ( I know, they are vastly different, but they both have a profound affect on me. ) As I was watching the words on the video and the stunning pictures of cathedrals, I realized I was also seeing two things that bring me into a worshipful place.  I literally had my Cathedral in the middle of a forest.

I may not have gone to any ‘official’ sunrise service, but I was able to worship the risen King in a very real way  –  possibly more than if I’d been in an organized service.

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Can’t you FEEL the emotion on her face?

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