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Happy Birthday America and Canada and More
June 27, 2011

From your friends in the United States of America.

Happy Birthday Canada on July 1, 1876.

To my fellow Americans .........

Happy Birthday United States of America on July 4, 1776.

Because July 4th falls on Monday this year, next week's letter will be on Tuesday July 5th.

Thus the Happy Independence day this week.

Short trips are always fun, but it is always good to get back home and sleep in your own bed.

Despite the poor weather conditions and some torrential rains, we had a wonderful and very educational time on our short trip Up North.

From beginning to end of our trip, we learned and had fun.

If you know me, I'm all about learning.

When crossing the Mackinaw Bridge on the way back home, the fog was so thick, you could only see the road right in front of you.

Everyone knows, that the fun of crossing a big bridge is the panoramic view.

Bridge, land and water.

Before we headed north on Monday morning, the Green herons (pictured) popped out for us to enjoy.

If you recall, several weeks ago I showed the face of a sitting Green heron in the spruce trees bordering the yard.

Try as I may, I could never get another picture.

I even climbed on the roof of our home to no avail.

I spotted the egg shells under the trees (pictured above) and could here babies on a regular basis, but could never get a picture.

Then Monday morning, these clumsy looking creatures of feathers and fur (down) appeared.

What a nice way to start the week.

I wouldn't call them fledglings, as they remain in the trees, but they do climb all over.

I've counted three of them, but can only get two at a time in a picture.

As of this writing, they still remain, but now fly short distances and return to the spruce for protection.

I expect them to hang around for several more days before they fledge and still the parents will care for them a few more weeks.

To go from egg to this size in a mere three weeks.

Just one of Creation's many miracles

This is such a treat for us, as we have never experienced any kind of heron nesting so close to our home.

I might add, I'm standing any where from 15 to 40 feet away from them.

Help ....................

I'm being invaded by baby toads.

On Saturday, I counted 11 babies along a 12 foot stretch of border and walkway.

Actually, this is a good thing.

Around six to eight weeks ago, the pond was filled with the sound of toad love and indeed scores of busy toads.

Now I have baby toads all over the place.

I'm talking toads about a half in long ( a bit larger than 1 cm), and dozens of them.

Those that don't become bird food, will continue to grow throughout the year and feed on insects and slugs in my yard and garden.

For most toads, from egg to tadpole to toad (frog) is around eight weeks.

For most frogs that hang around ponds and water, it is usually twice that time.

Indeed, for some frogs, it can be up to eight months or longer.

In some cooler climates, tadpoles winter over (cannot hibernate), and continue to slowly grow.

Much depends on the weather, as warmer weather means a faster growth rate.

Even then, tadpoles and frogs as well as eggs, are always on the menu for some hungry creature.

Fish, birds, turtles, snakes, and even frogs will feed on other frogs.

Add marauding raccoons to that list as well.

It is fun to watch tadpoles turn into frogs and toads, but not always possible in your water gardens.

Sure adults may come and go.

At another house, our water garden was always adopting frogs, but they never stayed.

Still, your water garden may be shallow enough where a masked bandit can gorge on tadpoles and fish.

Many a gardener has complained about herons (Blue, Green and other) wiping out there frogs and prized fish.

It can be frustrating when you attempt to raise fish and frogs and you must be sure you know the pluses and minuses before you start.

Again, shallow water may get too warm and lack oxygen to support these creatures.

Frogs are another one of God's
many amazing creatures..

To go from a creature with water breathing gills to extract oxygen.

To a tweener with both functional lungs and gills.

To a young frog that now has lungs only and stops breathing completely when it hibernates.

It has become a bit of a tradition for me to share some on our trips or short vacations.

This time is no exception

(I probably will share a tad bit a couple more times.)

Yes, we enjoyed ourselves that much.

It is interesting to see flowers in bloom like Lilacs and (pictured) wild columbines that bloomed down here three weeks ago.

Yes, I enjoyed the intoxicating smell of lilacs all over again, and I've never seen before, colonies of columbine Like we saw heading to 'Seul Choix Point Lighthouse' near Gulliver, MI.

Our main reason for the trip, however was to visit a unique zoo in Michigan's western upper peninsula.

Not too far from the small Michigan city on Menominee and the Wisconsin border lies a zoo I never heard of, but Karen saw a couple of programs on NAT. GEO.

(Karen, Yolanda and zoo helper with baby Japanese Snow Macaque monkeys.)

Well, after a drive of more than 420 miles one way we hit pay dirt.

We took our time and stopped off at other spots (like a lighthouse our three).

The weather wasn't friendly at all, but it didn't rain while we were at the zoo.

There is nothing fancy or pretentious about DeYoung Family Zoo, and this makes it special.

Surrounded by natural habitat and indeed, many animals roam in fenced in habitat.

What really makes this zoo special is 'Bud DeYoung' and his family and helpers.

Bud DeYoung (pictured) reminds me of a Michigan version of Steve Irwin the 'Crocodile Hunter'.

He puts on a bit of a show while feeding the animals and all the while, he is teaching.

Yes, you are encouraged to ask questions (which I did).

By the way, all of the animals have names.

What really makes this zoo special,
is the interaction.

Besides the petting zoo, you can pet a rare Mongolian Camel (2 humps) that comes to his name, Kramer.

Where else can you touch a real live hippo?

Wallace is an 18 month old that must be kept in a special hot house.

We learned that...........

Baby Hippos must have a maintained air temperature of 80 degrees or more.

All Hippos secret an oil like substance from all their pores.

The oily concoction prevents infections and keeps the skin moist, preventing sunburns and cracking.

Yes, we got to touch and feel the giant of a baby.

Where else will an owner take time for a special needs person and allow her to feed the hippo?

Picture below (Poor picture quality), but you should get the idea.

Samson, the rare dark maned lion and his two girls that are both pregnant.

The customers get to hold and feed baby monkeys.

Pet baby warthogs, Silver fox, and other animals.

(Yours truly playing with a four month old Pine Martin.)

Kids and adults are allowed to walk baby Siberian tigers, and again we were able to pet them.

Muddy grounds limited me some while pushing a wheelchair, but still a lifetime of memories.

Bud DeYoung promised Yolanda a chance to hold and feed one of the baby tigers, but time and other issues became a factor and we had to leave for our four
hour drive back to St. Ignace, MI.

There are babies born every year for the public to enjoy.

We will be going back, and I encourage all that don't mind a walk in the country (and a drive too) to put DeYoung Zoo on your to see list.

This is what their web site has to say, and they are selling themselves short.

The DeYoung Family Zoo is nestled in the wilderness of the beautiful Upper Peninsula.

This is NOT a big city zoo, step out of the box, away from the concrete jungle and come along on a new journey.

You will love the natural setting filled with amazing animals from around the world.

Large natural habitats, education through hands-on experiences, as well as up close and personal family fun.

Itís all waiting for you at the ..........

DeYoung Family Zoo.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

When you take a risk and step out of the norm, you run the risk and sometimes you fail. But you only fail if you give up.

J Peterman

Part of being human is to take risks.

What great wonders would be missed if we didn't take a risk now and then?

Even learning to ride a bike takes some risks.

Failure is part of growing and learning.

If you are afraid to try, you become more passive and timid.

Timidity is not part of life's plans for you.

Think on this next passage, they are yours for the asking.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Timothy 1:7 NIV

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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