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Spring Training
February 23, 2009

WE'RE #2, WE'RE #2.

Not yet, but getting closer.

After this past weekend's snow, we are inching closer to that #2 spot on the all time snow list for the snowiest winters in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.

We need a couple more inches to hit that 108" mark. The record here is 144 inches, set back in the witer of 1951/1952.

I know, some of you are laughing at me, but others may be impressed by those totals.

Here's a scary thought. Some areas in the Upper Peninsula have well over 50 inches still on the ground.

Can you imagine, walking out your door and having more than 4 feet of snow staring at you.

Many areas in the Great Lakes region have seen record or near record snowfalls this year.

Yes, winter was back for a few days.

At least for some of us.

I can understand why my southern friends would be upset.

Not to mention friends in the southwest ans along some of the Pacific regions.

You have this nice winter gear, and you get to use it maybe for I couple of weeks?

Now on the other hand, my winter gear ( coat, gloves, stocking cap, shovel etc.) is getting a work out.

So much so, that I'm going to need a new shovel for next winter.

I'd be upset too if I had spent money or had gifts of all this cool stuff and rarely had a chance to wear it or use it.

No wonder you folks in the South and other regions are ready to get outside to dig and plant.

You have nothing else to do.

Life can be a real drag at times.

My Amaryllis are starting to bloom now.

I purposely plant them late so I have some needed color this time of year.

I will have blooms for the next month.

I like that.

Days continue to grow longer and though the weather can't decide what time of year it is.

The birds know, however.

So much is dictated on the length of day, not the air temperatures or weather conditions.

Sure the weather may slow them down some, but its the length of day says it is time to move or get romantic.

Some of the birds that remain all year are singing more and more.

Migration is a happening thing as well.

I saw my first Red-winged blackbird this past week.

I saw a robin as well, but that could have been a winter carryover.

Feeder activity has been variable.

Certain times of the day are busy, while other times my stations look like a ghost town.

When the weather is nasty,(like this past weekend when the barometer dropped) I can still bank on having lots of activity.

This will continue for a while yet.

As mentioned, Spring migration is going on.

Keep your eyes peeled for visitors.

Karen's mom and our oldest daughter stop by most Friday evenings.

Of course my two young grandsons come as well.

Keet is glued to my side throughout much of the visit, She feels so insecure around little kids.

Ziggy the poodle could care less.

Again, breeds of dogs and personalities come into play.

The life of our fur kids.

Last week's letter more than stirred the pot.

I was praised.

I was verbally castigated a few times.

Several of you showed support.

And some even canceled the letter altogether.

Which is great.........................

We all have our thoughts and opinions and that makes things more interesting, don't you think?

It's when we have closed minds....................

Hopefully, we can agree to disagree and remain friends.

Hopefully, we can still learn from each other.

What is really important about these newsletters besides you, is our wildlife and habitats.

If we are good stewards, practice healthy habits, there will be less worries and more enjoyment for us and our future.

By taking care of our planet, it will inturn take care of us.

Through it all, we gained more readers then were lost.

Any way, no matter what your thoughts and or feelings are,

Thank You so much for your time.

Welcome new readers and do stick around.

If you have a thought or comment feel free to write. Even if it to just say hi and letting me know where you are from.

I always answer back.

The time and emotions involved in last week letter warrants a light newsletter for this week.

Don't you think?


To the topic at hand.

Spring Training

I like using that metaphor for gardening this time of year.

Why not, it works.

"Spring Training."

Headline news of steroid use and multi-million dollar contracts.


Its spring training for your favorite baseball team.

High performance, professional athletes head to warm spots to loosen and train muscles for the long season ahead of them.

Visit the team trianer, whirlpools, messages, Nothing but the best.

Spring training is a time for ball players to sharpen their skills.

This also holds true for you and me, but I don't think you have a trainer.

I know I don't.

The average guy or gal.

The weekend warrior, or in this case, the hobby gardener.

Yes, we need a spring training too.

We need to stretch and strengthen our muscles.

We need to limber up and NOT over do it.

Especially the first few times out in your yard and garden.

You've been there haven't you?

You did to much and re-discovered muscles you forgot you had.

A strained or pulled muscle.

Sore joints.

Getting out of bed the next morning when your body is screaming at you.

I played a lot of sports when I was younger.

I thought I was in pretty good shape at the time, but after that first day of practice......

There were those muscles I didn't know I had or forgot about.

We use our joints and muscles everyday, but when we use them in a different motion, movement or tension, that's all it takes to set you back a few days.

Now as we get more youth challenged, it is more difficult to get into playing or in this case, gardening shape.

Take it easy and don't rush things.

Do things in moderation.

Work yourself into gardening shape.

This is good advice, not only for you physically, but wise advice for your lawns and gardens as well.

Lay off the plant food right out of the gate.

Don't be in such a big hurry to walk around and dig, especially if your soil is wet.

Take some time now to go over your tools.

Sharpen blades if they need sharpening.

Break out the WD40.

Lube up your joints, er I mean lube up your tools.

Put a nice shine on things.

Take inventory.

Is everything in working order or need of repair?

Is everything there?

Did you loan something out and didn't get it back?

Maybe get your lawn mower in tip top shape.

A dull blade will tear, not cut your grass.

Damaged grass blades are an invitation to fungus (air borne and all around us).

Torn grass blades take longer to heal over, a sharp blade makes a nice cut that heals over faster.

Don't forget to change filters and oil.

If you have a push reel mower, make sure to lube all the joints to make for easy pushing.

Better yet, plan on reducing your lawn area.

Lawns are the biggest waste of time, energy, water and money.

My lawn has shrunk a lot over the years.

If I could, I would reduce even more of it.

Here is another reason to go slow.

If your soil is wet or damp, stay off and please don't dig in it.

Often we make that decision to get a jump on our gardening and work in damp soil.

Big Mistake.

Damp soil compacts when we walk and play in it.

There is all sorts of techinal mumbo-jumbo I will not bore you with right now, just know to stay off.

Compact soil cannot hold oxygen that is needed for plant roots to breathe.

Compact soil results in shallow and poor root growth.

Root growth required to carry food, water and yes oxygen.

Damp, compact soil can also result in root rot and other problems.

What you need to do is wait for the soil to dry out some.

If you can take a handful of dirt, squeeze it and have it crumble in your hand, it is dry enough to work.

If your handful of dirt remains in a clump, put it back and walk away.

As your soil dries, you can shovel and fluff it up (lots of air pockets for oxygen and water).

Another advantage living up here.

My ground is frozen solid, so I don't have to worry about that.

I only have to work on the honey do list.

Oh, walking on your garden beds and lawn can also compact your soil.

Weather changes happen fast this time of year, but remember.......

The calendar says it is still winter.

I think I'll get ready to do some seed preparation myself.

Maybe work the pitcher for a walk or settle for a base hit.

More games are won with walks and base hits than they are with home runs.

Home runs get the headlines, but the little things you do win the game or in this case give you the winning edge.

That winning edge starts with practice.

Be sure to start slow and take care of yourself and your habitats.

Limber up and stretch.

Be sure you have the proper gear and attitude.

Baseball season is a marothon, not a sprint.

Gardening is a long season as well.

Make sure you are there to enjoy the first pitch, or should I say flower, butterfly or hummingbird.

And make sure you are still going strong after the blooms have faded, the last fruit has been picked, the last Monarch has flitted by and your hummingbirds have left once again.

Spring training helps us physically and mentally to go the long haul.

Not to many things beat preperation, even when it comes to gardening.

That's it for now,

A light letter as promised.

Do stay off your wet soil.

If you get the urge to go out and play, resist until the soil is dry enough to work.

Don't be in a big hurry to remove leaf and twig litter left from last fall.

That litter offers nesting material for birds.

Under that litter are scores of meals to provide your birds, toads and other wildlife.

The leaf litter decays into a rich humus for your flowers and gardens.

"Gardening for Wildlife" is easier and less costly than conventional gardening.

It is also much more enjoyable.

Until next time my friend.

Here is your positive qoute for the week.

Trials, temptations, disappointments -- all these are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fibre of a character, but strengthen it. Every conquered temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.

James Buckham

Now that is a powerful statement.

Instead of sitting there and saying woe is me, you look at the trials. temptations ans disappointments straight in the eye.

You don't wish for them, but when they come you stand tall and take on the challenges with strength and courage.

You know that each time you stand tall and win, you are a better person for it.

You become stronger and build an inner faith and strength.

You build a character that you know will endure and help with the next curve that life throws your way.

But now, you've been practicing and you hit the curve-ball out of the park.

Now you really stand tall.

Its not always easy, but anything thats builds shouldn't be easy.

You can look in the mirror and see a conqueror and that brings a smile to your face.

Doesn't that make you feel good?

Now you stand tall, strong and with confidence.

Your smile grows.

Now it is time to share your inner strength and that makes you smile all the more.

That's right, get out there with your smile and share it with others.

Smile and strangers and if nothing else,

You will confuse them.

You have nobel faith and strength in yourself and it shows.

Now share it with the world around you.

I believe in you, now you must believe in you.

Until next time my friend.

"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 recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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