Milkweed

Growing up in the country, milkweed was plentiful and easy to recognize.  It was fun to break apart the dried pods and scatter the fluff and seeds about.  My Grandpa probably didn’t appreciate me and my siblings spreading the ‘weed’ in his fields, but I didn’t think about that kind of thing back then.

I still enjoy scattering the seeds . . .

At some point, milkweed became part of the elementary school curriculum – classrooms would observe the monarch chrysalis until the caterpillar emerged and then take it outdoors to eat the leaves from the milkweed they planted on school grounds.

Someone was very hungry!

Hello there, little caterpillar!

While on a road trip with my Mom one day, I remarked at how fragrant the milkweed blossoms are (when I was a kid, I never even knew they had blossoms!) and she said when she was a girl, they used to collect milkweed pods for the war.  What?  What in the world for?  For life preservers.  For what?  For which war?  World War II? It’s not that I didn’t believe my Mom, it’s just that, well, what?

 

Flowers just coming into bloom

Their fragrance reminds me of lilacs

Mom was kind enough to send me a link to an article A Weed Goes To War, And Michigan Provides The Ammunition by Gerald Wykes. It was fascinating to learn that a shortage in ‘kapok,’ the material previously used for flotation devices, led Dr. Boris Berkman to propose to the US Navy that milkweed floss could keep a man afloat for more than a day and a half.

Once the proposal was approved, it fell to schoolchildren to start gathering the pods.  My Mom was one of them – she was seven or eight at the time.  After school she would gather the pods and take them to her teacher when she went to school the next day.  While the article stated that they were paid for gathering the pods, my Mom doesn’t recall any money changing hands.  Instead, she felt a sense of pride that her efforts were helping to win the war.

Can you imagine this fluff keeping you afloat?

There are other uses for milkweed – insulation, cordage, a hypoallergenic filler for pillows, and cleaning up oil spills.  Maybe I will save some of the silky fibers to make myself a little pillow since I don’t have a current need for insulation or oil spill clean up! 

This is just one example of what I don’t know about the plants around me.  It bothers me that I know so little about what was happening in the world less than a hundred years ago, it bothers me that so much of what people used to know is now lost and will not be passed down to future generations, it bothers me that I never really gave this a lot of thought until recently. It bothers me that the population of the monarch butterfly is heading for extinction if we don’t do something to protect their habitat.  

Though I can’t solve everything that’s bothering me, I will keep on spreading those milkweed seeds wherever I can.  How about you? Please leave a comment here, or on Facebook, or email back if you’re subscribed to receive new posts via email.

Bella Rose

She wasn’t even my dog, so I’m not sure why I feel so sad whenever I think about her.  She wasn’t even particularly likable – in fact, she liked less than a handful of people, though I’m oddly grateful and touched to be counted among them. She especially despised children and often looked like she was waiting for just the right moment to take a chunk out of their little ankles. She wasn’t too fond of dogs either.

Bella was a miniature Schnauzer, though she didn’t exactly conform to the breed’s standards.  Her fur was too fluffy, her coloring too light, and her legs a little too short. She was a good watch dog, ever vigilant in case we weren’t aware that there are killers lurking inside the garbage and recycle trucks, the mail truck, the UPS truck, the FedEx truck, and random cars, trucks, and tractors driving down our country road.  She was frightened by storms and spent many nights tucked under the toilet in the bathroom, waiting for it to pass.  She also enjoyed letting herself into the bathroom whenever you were there, just in case you needed some company or wanted to scratch her around the ears. She appreciated belly rubs and would claw you with her front paw if you stopped prematurely.

Yes, I’m sitting on your bed, so?

Bella did not appreciate my efforts to dress her up for the holidays.

Hannah was always optimistic that one day Bella would like her – she tried to play with her almost every day, but was nearly always rebuffed, especially if I or anyone else was watching.  Despite the size difference, Hannah was scared of her and I think it’s safe to say that Bella was the alpha dog. 

Hannah optimistically checking to see if Bella wants to play.  The answer – no.

I snapped this picture in the dark – actual proof that they were sleeping on the same bed.

Despite expensive medication and diligent hospice care, Bella lost her battle with heart disease. It still feels weird not to hear her little nails tapping across the floor, or the scratching sound she made when she was ruffling up all the rugs in the house. The living room seems strangely empty without her bed and it’s so quiet now without her barking.

It seems somewhat foolish to have pets, knowing that they are noisy, messy, hairy, smelly, sometimes downright annoying, and perhaps, worst of all, that we will likely outlive them and deeply grieve the loss.  On the other hand, they love us when we’re unlovable, do silly, ridiculous things to make us laugh, snuggle us when we’re sad, and give us a reason to get up each morning. Rest in peace, Bella – you are missed!

Please take a moment to tell about a special pet in your life – I’d love to hear your stories!

Eating Elephants

An eight day vacation to Arizona resulted in a nine week hiatus from new blog posts.  Despite enjoying a completely different climate and relishing a break from Michigan winter, I didn’t return home refreshed and rested. It didn’t help that we landed in the middle of a snowstorm!

Sahuaro Ranch, Glendale, AZ

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

Breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon, South Rim

March and early April were busy with birthday and other family celebrations and visits, all of which were filled with joy and a certain amount of madness, a direct result of life with little kids.

March Birthday Celebrants

April is also the month that the renewal for the blog happens. First I needed to decide if I was still finding value in writing and sharing my thoughts on random topics, especially in light of what it costs for a three year renewal.  After much thought, I decided to move forward at least for the next three years!  Secondly, the site hadn’t updated since I initially set it up in 2015 and I knew I wanted to give it a facelift.  Back then I had a friend who is a programmer add my logo and change the colors on the site.  Since he wouldn’t let me pay him, I didn’t want to go to the favor bank again and decided to just go all Naked on the Tundra and figure out how to do it myself.  Soooo, turns out it’s really not that hard.  Sure, it took me a couple of hours compared to the ten minutes it would have taken someone who knew what they were doing, but that’s not the point.  The point is that I figured it out! There are still things to tweak and information to update, but I did it!

Often I put things off because they seem too hard, too complicated, too overwhelming. Even though I know you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time, it sometimes requires a lot of self talk for me to take that first bite.  There’s also the fear that once I’ve got that first bite in my mouth, it’s going to taste really bad and I’m going to want to spit it out but then I’d be a quitter, which causes additional feelings of trepidation and guilt.

Do you ever put things off because you’re too afraid or overwhelmed to get started?  How do you make yourself take that first bite?  Please share your experience in the comments or on Facebook.  Oh, and let me know what you think about the new site design.