Imagine this…. 500 carrier pigeons in one place. Near a corn field. Raised and raced by a lovely man by the name of Reed. Now imagine that once they are born in that location, they will forever be able to find their way back after they are about 6 weeks old. Drive the one of the birds south to Georgia 600 miles and once released, it will appear in that same backyard in Michigan where it hatched. Crazy, right?
We had the lucky chance to visit this magical place! While we were there, we saw hundreds of birds both flying and in very spacious houses, experienced holding birds that were born that day to pigeons that were adults! It was soooo cool! We also watched Reed put bands on the freshly hatched chicks (5 days old) that will stay on their leg permanently. Any older and the bands wouldn’t fit. Before we left that peaceful place, we took a pit stop in his garage to see some racing birds that evidently can do some pretty cool flips and dives in the air!
How do they bring messages back and forth, you ask? Well, they only fly home, not back and forth. We learned that carrier pigeons were exchanged in boxes long ago (and can still be used this way today if you don’t have email ;0) ) between 2 people or communities. Each person would take the other persons bird(s) home with them and wait until they needed to send a message. Then they would attach a message to its leg and release the bird and, you guessed it, home it flew – to it’s original birth place. It really is INCREDIBLE!
A special thank you to Reed for sharing his lifelong hobby of raising carrier pigeons. For a family of birders this was a super exciting opportunity we won’t forget!!
So many people think of Memorial Day as a 3 day weekend or a reason to get out the grill. It’s the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. For those people who have loved ones who have died in service to our country, this is a day of memory. For one day in the year to publicly (or not publicly) share their loss, for the rest of us, it should be a day to remember the sacrifices made on our behalf by Americans defending our country & Constitution.
For the weeks before Memorial Day as we drive past cemeteries, there are flags waving in the wind. I had always noticed them, but didn’t think of how they all got there. Now we know.
Recently, we were invited by Craig and Tammy Postma to honor veterans of our country by putting flags on graves at a nearby cemetery, where Craig is the Sexton. There was a list of names. Hands full of flags and a beautiful evening to assist us with our efforts. We walked isle by isle, noticing headstones from so long ago, and those more recent. Some had known stories, some were left to imagine. We talked about which war these honored soldiers would have fought in and offered our gratitude for their service.
For those reading this post, please join our family in taking a ew moments at your gathering this Monday to sit in silence and reflect on those who have lost loved ones to war. At our table on this Memorial Day we will sit together in a country that remains free because of them and offer our deep gratitude, peace and healing, and of course the ultimate wish of peace between humankind.
To Craig and Tammy, thank you for offering this chance to join you for such a meaningful experience!
A coin left on a headstone let’s the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect. Leaving a penny means you visited. A nickel means that you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together. If you served with the soldier, you leave a dime. A quarter is very significant because it means that you were there when that soldier was killed.
The last few months of this school year we are focusing on longer term projects. They are more complicated and involve many different areas of study. Math, engineering, culture, history, language, materials and research.
Here was our first of this kind. It was a World Village. We’ll share the assignment as we were presented it in case you’d like to use it for your own, modified or not.
It started last spring at the end of school and it all began with a simple question we asked our Mom and Dad…”Could we get chickens?” It made sense because we already hatched many birds before, and we wanted some of our own. So we went to city hall to see if it was okay, we assumed it would be because a few people already had chickens in their own backyard, but it turned out, we couldn’t. There was an ordinance against it, so we decided to begin a Civics Project and began ‘hatching’ a plan for action – we were hoping to change that ordinance!
Month 1 and 2. First we did a whole lot of research on other ordinances in towns near us and across the State of Michigan. We took a closer look at chicken behavior and population density in the cities that allowed backyard chickens to create a suggested ordinance. We learned that most towns have renewable 1 year permits with restrictions on roosters, locations and how many hens you could keep. We wrote a suggested ordinance to bring to our fair city of Douglas for consideration in addition to a petition we had residence who were in support of it sign. That took us to about June.
Month 3. I think it was July when it was presented to the City Council. They moved it on for input and a vote from the Planning Commission. Now, there’s something worth noting about these meetings. They start at 7:00 at night. The room has 56 chairs in total, and the process and people are very formal during their chats about life in the city of Douglas. An interesting fact: The City of Douglas is legally called “The City of the Village of Douglas”. Hmmm. Not super catchy, but it gives us advantages of a city but can still call ourselves a village.
Month 4, 5, 6 & 7. By now, we’ve gone to every Planning Commission meeting and we’ve observed a lot! Each month we went, we thought – “this is IT – a final draft will be voted on”! But then there were more changes. More discussion. More questions. How many feet from a neighbors house should they be allowed? How many hens are too many? What about disease? Maybe neighbors should be allowed to reject someone next to them getting the little feathered ladies. What about predators? The questions went on and on. Lisa, the zoning administrator rewrote the ordinance each month adding and subtracting restrictions as the meetings came and went. Respect Lisa, respect!
Month 8. III’m dreaming of a… brown christmas. Still not approved but at least this idea was still moving along. More details worked out, more restrictions added. The problem was, at this point, we no longer qualified to have chickens on our property!! With a deep sigh and a feeling of defeat, Mom went to that meeting alone to say thank you for all the hard work, but that there were so many restrictions, (even though we live on over an acre and a half of land!), there was nowhere to put a coop without violating the rules the Planning Commission put in place. I guess it was then that members of the Commission decided that it was too restrictive and amended the restriction of ‘backyard’ to allowing them in the ‘side yard’ in certain conditions. One more change for Lisa, and we were back in the chicken game! We’re beginning to learn just how long it can take to change a law, and now we’ve gotten glimpse into an average adult’s life. Also, respect.
Months 9 & 10. Welcome to January 2018! Well, they did it! After the Planning Commission’s final vote to recommend passed 4 in favor, 3 not, it was sent straight back to City Council where they made a few minor changes and then was voted on, (drum roll please!) they all said yes and no objections! YEESSS!!!!!!! We were so excited we danced right out the door, laid in the freezing snow in the middle of the sidewalk crying and laughing! Now it’s February and we will be able to get the very first permit as soon as it is drafted!!! We decided on hatching Bantams, mini versions of regular chickens and our friend Eddie has gifted us his old chicken coop. AAAAAH!! SOOOO HAPPY!!!!
Okay, so here’s the review. It took a total of 11 months and still counting, Olive and I are each one year older, the ordinance is FOUR pages long and it’s a one year trial, with a maximum of 5 permits granted. The planning commission gained a new person, we got a new Mayor (with cool hair and an upbeat personality!). But as an experience, we thought it was certinly our longest ongoing project but one of the best for sure! We promise to give y’all an update when we got the whole set up rolling but in the meantime, a Mt. Everest sized thank you to Lisa, the Planning Commission and the City Council for all their effort in making it possible for new feathered friends to be part of our family!!
We’ll take you on our many adventures to come. Stay tuned!
The past 3 weeks we have been learning all about leaves. We took a course at the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland, Michigan with 2 naturalists to learn more about leaf and tree identification.
The first week we focused on flowers (aster family).
We started a journal y identifying parts of a flower and then headed out to the trails to collect finger size specimens. We found things like golden rod, New England Aster, Queen Ane’s Lace and much, much more! Back in the classroom, we taped the flower samples and added detailed information about their family and locations next to them to catalog everything we found. We also were given a guide booklet of the families of flowers and trees to keep, much to our delight! The next week was… Trees!
This was an interesting day. We learned about leaf types and took our knowledge along with an identification list on a tree scavenger hunt. We learned about the parts of a leaf like the midrib and the veins, alternating and opposite leaf patterns, lobes, teeth and what a whole leaf shape looked like. As a group we paired up to see if we could name the trees on the preserve. That is tricky business!!
The 3rd week, we focused on seeds and dispersal. Once we were out on the trail, we learned about milkweed, witch-hazel, dogweed. Once dogwood dries up, the seeds are projected out of their casing, shooting up to 5 feet in distance! If you are in a really quiet room, you can hear a very distinct popping sound when they erupt! Seeds can disperse via flight (think dandelions), water (think coconuts), poop (think berries) and attachment (think burrs). Often it is one of these methods of transport that aids in non-native plants becoming invasive like, Autumn Olive (aww, poor Olive).
We learned a lot! A funny thing about our particular group – they were obsessed with milkweed seeds and were throwing fistfuls of them everywhere to watch them fly. At least the Monarchs next year will appreciate their enthusiasm! Time for me to ‘leaf’ now. :0)
Mike is the Editor and co-founder of our local Newspaper, the Local Observer. We are working on a civics project to round out the school year (keep your eyes out for our newest adventure coming soon!) and we wanted to know more about how the press is involved in every day life in America.
We were impressed with how brave he is! It was hard to believe how daring reporters have to be and the lengths he goes to get the truth and all the perspectives of a story!! Until this week, we had no idea that a reporter is like a secret agent.
He has lived and worked in many places. We were happy to have had the chance to meet him! A special thanks to Mike for lunch and taking the time to talk with us about his job!
Yesterday, we went to a STEAM exhibit at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. It showcases some of the work by Sarah and Jon Vanderbeek of Sweet Spot Studio. In the room there were many dinosaur toys, cars and airplanes, and many work-in-progress toys. The intent of the exhibit was to show the development process and how Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) work together to bring products to life. In the middle of the room, stood a giant word, STEAM and on it was a obstical course for a large orange ball, which once you turned a wheel the ball traveled down a ramp, through a loopy loop, up another ramp, around a large M, down through a large tube and using air under high pressure, rolling across a trigger which made a small foam rocket shoot to the ceiling! Finally, the ball rolled back where it originally started. We did this several times yipping and jumping up and down every single time! It was SO fun!!
Although fun, we only saw gender specific toys, so we would’ve appreciated just a touch of diversity! As you might know from our blog posts, we love science and building and art and math, so this was the perfect exhibition for us!