Nature Archives

A good drive spoiled

I have always enjoyed the leisurely, winding drive down the one mile stretch of Winnequah Road between Schluter and Bridge.

There are no stops and the scenery and beautiful homes have a calming effect each day as I leave and re-enter Monona. It’s unique for a neighborhood to have a mile long stop-free road.

Oh, wait. Did I say no stops? As of Tuesday there are two new stop signs on this stretch of road.

Monona Doug and his commenters are having a lively debate about it and I’ll leave the specifics to them. For me, the stop signs make for a good drive spoiled and I hope other alternatives to the stop signs will be considered. I’m all for safety and discouraging speeding.

Twice I’ve almost run the stop sign at Maywood and Winnequah because it’s hard to see and I’m not used to it yet. I’ve watched others blow right through the intersection.

This one mile drive still has its merits, however, even if it’s not as Zen-like due to the stop signs.

What I like most about the drive is all the flower beds right along the curb.

One of these days I should take a walk along this stretch of Winnequah and takes some proper photos of these flowers and post them. Here’s one I took today in the rain that isn’t very good but will give you somewhat of a sense of what I mean:

Winnequah Rd flowers

Many of the homeowners have flower beds like these along the road and I think this is a generous thing. Rather than keep their flowers close to their houses like most of us do, they share them with us, making the drive all the more scenic.

I’m told the ordinances require that one has to leave 18″ between the curb and your landscaping. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not but I do know that if city officials ever insisted on removing these flowers, that would upset me more than the stop signs. :-)

Take a spring walk through Monona

Here are a few photos of spring trees in Monona:




Well, well, well

No sooner did I write that I was anxious for the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles than I heard their song a few hours later. They’ve officially arrived in Monona!

So my Baltiomore Oriole feeder is up and I put strawberry jelly and orange wedges in it.

They prefer grape jelly but that will have to wait until the next trip to the store.

I’m not yet to the point where I’ll make a grocery store trip just for the birds…although if that’s what it would take to make the white-throated sparrows visit here, I would do so in a heartbeat.

The white-throated sparrows didn’t stop by Monona this year on their way up north like they always do every April.  I even went to the prairie area in the arboretum, a spot they favor, but I couldn’t find any there either. Oh the rejection. :(

Thank you note to the ducks

Dear Mama Duck and Papa Duck,

Thank you for spending all of Saturday in our backyard.

Every spring a pair of ducks spends time in our backyard for a day or two and my youngest daughters were delighted that you chose to be our duck guests this year.

I especially want to thank you for helping me see our sandbox with new eyes. It’s always full of water because the kids never remember to put the top back on it and it always makes me frustrated to look at that.

But the girls were so delighted when they saw mama duck swimming in the sandbox on Saturday! It turns out our sandbox is an accidental duck pond. Pretty cool.

I was not permitted to go into the backyard and mow while you were here. This gave me some much-needed rest, so thank you for that. We noticed that the long grass gave you a cozy place to sleep on Saturday night.

There was much excited conversation about mama duck’s condition on Saturday. “Look at how she waddles! She’s fatter than papa duck! I bet she will lay eggs here!” I hope the bird food they delivered to you at regular intervals was satisfactory. You were the highlight of their day. Even PBS Kids or Little House on the Prairie episodes on YouTube wouldn’t have pulled them away.

One of my daughters read out loud to both of you on Saturday and it brought back memories of how this daughter sang our duck guests to sleep one evening a few years ago. She woke up in the morning and ran to the window and was overcome with joy that the ducks were still sleeping in that same spot. This memory made me misty-eyed. Thank you for that as well.

Another memory: one year, on Easter, a pair of ducks crossed Winnequah Road to get to our yard. Mama duck was hit by a car and my oldest daughters (who were young then) were heartbroken and we delivered mama duck to the animal hospital. They were unable to save her.

So please be careful out there!

The white-throated sparrows did not visit Monona this year like they do every spring. I’ve not seen the Baltimore Orioles yet (they arrive in early May) and am anxious for their arrival. So thank you for being reliable and maintaining your annual tradition with us.

We really hope you enjoyed your visit here. Please feel free to visit again any time.

Kindest Regards,

The Ashland Family

P. S. My youngest daughter just said, “I really wish mama duck had lay her eggs here.” I know you view our backyard as a bed and breakfast rather than a home, but if you ever want to bring your babies here for a visit, she’d be thrilled.

This time of year I like to imagine what it would be like if everyone let their yards turn purple like mine is right now.

There’s the creeping charlie in bloom in the front yard (you’ll also see redbud tree blossoms, which are more purple than red, which is fine with me):


And the wild violets in bloom in the backyard:


I guess I can’t help but speak up for the purple weeds because they are free, low-maintenance, and don’t grow as fast or as tall as grass so need less frequent mowing. And when you do mow you get to experience the fresh fragrance of the violets.

But I suppose I should find it embarrassing to post photos of the weeds in my yard, especially when I have nice flower gardens in my front yard.

So to end this post with some semblance of normality, here’s a photo of some intentional purple, in the form of phlox, in my front yard:


An early morning lawn mowing debate

The sound of a mower cutting through the lawn reaches into the windows, drowning out the sound of birds. It’s spring.

I have always viewed the sound of a neighbor’s mower in two ways–a small comfort for a season I enjoy and the tiny urging that my own lawn must be mowed.

At 50 I have become one of those men who pays too much attention to their lawn.  Not that it always shows.

But this is not six in the evening when a meal awaits the family at the end of a long day.  It is six in the morning and one of our nieghbors is mowing their lawn– LOUD!

For some this is a grumpy start to the day.  While some assert that it is not such a bad way to wake up others claim it is TOO EARLY TO MOW THE LAWN!

In the wake of this lawn debate I am silent because I have been guilty of mowing earlier than nine in the morning once or twice.  I have never been brave enough to mow at six in the morning.

From my kitchen window I marveled at the guts it took to do it.  Part of me had to hold back from going out myself to join the culprit.

But no worries–my family would tie me to a chair before they let that happen.

I cause enough shame to our teenagers mowing and raking in sandals, socks and shorts.

Not to mention that I often shovel at two or three in the morning when only a fox moving down the center of Winnequah Road keeps me company.  I will NOT be allowed to have us known as the house that mows at six in the morning!

But as the debate went on I began to wonder about those loud blowers of snow that begin to sound around six  on winter mornings.  Are they any worse than a mower at that time in the spring?

And I wonder which was louder… the early morning lawn mower or our debate about it?

By seven-thirty as we all were leaving the house the debate was over.  Our neighbor who mowed at six in the morning was forgotten by all–but me.  I could not help but think as I left the driveway how great his lawn looked at the start of a spring day.

Do you think he signed up for swimming lessons?

Of course this reminds me of that old “A duck walks into a bar” joke. Here’s a video that is a fun take on that joke, using a lemonade stand instead of a bar. A teenager made this video using drawings he made in Paint and it’s very popular on YouTube (well over 7 million views) and my kids like it too:

Photo credit: Tom Mulroe

So who else struggled with allergies this past week?

On Monday I was temporarily disabled due to the high maple pollen count.

A Facebook friend of mine described it perfectly in her status message:

It doesn’t help that the pollen makes me feel like someone slipped a roofie into my coffee. Cripes. Today is supposed to be a writing day but I feel so loopy I’m afraid all I might be able to produce is hallucinogenic intellectual waste material. Ah, Spring.

Monday was supposed to be a writing day for me too but I could barely read the project specs through my watery eyes.

So in my allergy haze I went to the UW Credit Union ATM machine to make a deposit. I had all I could do to punch the right buttons.

Of course I entered the wrong numbers for my deposit amount and had to walk forlornly into the credit union to talk to a clerk about it.

“I’m not usually such an idiot,” I tried to assure her (and myself) and blamed my allergies. She was very sympathetic and gave me her card and told me the problem would be resolved.

Then I went to the Olbrich Gardens gift shop to buy some local honey (from a rose garden in Monroe) so as to alleviate my allergy symptoms.

I had run out of honey about a month ago and foolishly didn’t stock up before allergy season hit me like a train carrying 10 tons of roofie.

My eyes were watering so hard I looked like a woman in the throes of grief. It was very humbling to have no control over my appearance while out in public.

The clerk kindly didn’t make small talk or ask questions as I drenched my sleeve with the water pouring out of my eyes.

Then I went on my way to start chugging honey. I’ve been fine since then.

A spoonful or two of  local honey per day helps inoculate you against seasonal allergies if you’re consistent with taking it.

All I can say is that the maple leaves better give forth splendid color this fall as a trade off for making us suffer in mid-April.

And if you have to go out in public in an allergic haze, you can’t beat Monona.

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