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Posts Tagged ‘Lake Katherine’

img_2732Stuck in between the wonderment of December and the madness of March, February is my least favorite month of the year!

Come February, I am traditionally posting photos of a winter-white landscape, complaining about frigid temperatures, and longing for the color green. I am apt to reread Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “The Long Winter” or pull on my boots and trudge to the “way back” to see what havoc the resident herd of deer have bestowed upon our little acreage. I ceremoniously don my very old, very long, black wool coat with massive hood and scurry out to the mailbox to see what is inside. I keep the coat for just such times for it is as warm as it is voluminous – and it cushions my tush against any tumbles I may take while slipping and sliding here along the Cutoff.

This year has presented itself as a rather mild February; record-breaking, if fact be told. Hereabouts, we love to tout our weather records. We recognize weather-versaries, such as the renowned Valentine’s Day Blizzard, and mark in time the largest snowfall, the most sub-zero days, the most snowfall on sub-zero days, the windchill, the chilblains. (okay, I made the chilblains up).

 A February phenomenon.

We have had this year a string of record-breaking February temperatures. We have had temperatures well over 60 degrees (F) for several days in a row, surpassing temperatures   of 130 some years ago.

We find ourselves wandering about in light jackets – or no jackets at all. People are smiling, lawns are greening, trees are budding and folks are out-and-about picnicking, golfing, and otherwise enjoying the welcome sunshine and warmer air.

So it was that the Antler Man and I took a pleasant Saturday stroll around Lake Katherine. It was so crowded that we had to park the car in the parking lot of a nearby office complex. While parking was a challenge, walking around the lake was not, even with families and strollers, dog walkers and couples both young and not-so enjoying the gifts of nature unusual for a mid-February day.

As we walked about, we heard a flock of Sandhill Cranes, deep in the deep-blue sky, with their distinctive calls amid their great migration. A pair of swans preened in the Lake as a family of turtles sat upon logs sunning close to the shore. Further along the winding path, a single turtle positioned himself out on a fallen branch, balancing his protective shell as a gaggle of geese honked away as if in a traffic jam during rush hour.

So it is that this phenomenal February has risen in rank to one of my favorite months – at least so far this year. I say this knowing that many of you are experiencing much different weather, threatening and disastrous, in fact. Please know that my thoughts and my prayers are with you.

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My thoughts, it seems, have been like these wispy clouds afloat in the deep blue sky. My words catch on the tail of the wind and flit around without landing on a sentence. Here it is, more than a week since my last post and I really cannot say why.

I could blame it on the Queen. Not Elizabeth, who just celebrated a historic milestone. No, it is another English queen who ascended the throne of England at the age of 18 and has captured my attention for the past few weeks.

Victoria.

We are just now viewing this delicious historical drama here in the States. My friends from across the pond, or via other televised means, have already seen this lush period piece. For  those among us who await such treasures on PBS’s Masterpiece, we are just now four or five episodes into the first season of Victoria.

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What drama and  maneuvering and courtly demands led to Victoria and Albert’s wedding – replete with a break in tradition. A white wedding gown! Of course, there is much more to this series, but, I do love a wedding.

Have you been watching Victoria?

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I have also been listening to the audio book of Kate Morton’s “The Secret Keeper”,

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and taking my time lost among the leafy pages of “Meetings With Remarkable Trees” by Thomas Pakenham. This volume first came to my attention at L. Marie’s always fascinating blog, El Space.  Her post on trees and this book can be found here.

The arboreal photographs and elegant essays have been welcome companions during the gloomy days and long nights of this winter and they have left me longing for my   wanderings among the forests and preserves around me. I was at last able to satisfy that longing and take a long walk walk around Lake Katherine and . . .

. . . where I found myself under the surveillance of a goosenecked spy!

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Such things happen when one has her head in the clouds.

Thank you, dear friend and readers, for being so patient with me.

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IMG_3185 - Version 4It was a Goldilocks sort of day; not too hot and not too cold.

It was, in fact,  just about right with a soft breeze and a few wispy clouds, stimulating conversation with kindred gardening spirits and more than a sprinkling of hope for the future following the footsteps of two bright and energetic high school students.

An inquisitive contingency of garden club members began our excursion wandering the grounds of Lake Katherine. I’ve taken you to this nature center and its grounds often, so, I will leave it to your imagination (or a click onto the featured installments you might like), and just tell you that we enjoyed the waterfall and botanical gardens, the nature center and a long walk around the lake. It was a perfect morning for such an outing.

After time for lunch and time to rest our weary feet – for there is always food for the ladies of the garden club, we headed but a few city miles to one of the more innovative high schools in the City of Chicago.

Set on a busy south side corner of Chicago, a high school sits; not unusual in any big city and certainly not unusual in Chicago. The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences is relatively new in structure and occupies land, some 72 acres, that was the last farm in Chicago. It is a fully accredited college preparatory high school with core classes and the usual extra-curricular activities, only this school has cows and horses, grows corn and bushels of vegetables, scattered with farm machinery and students who don Wellies.

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After an informative briefing by staff, we began our tour of the CHSAS. Our docents were two of the most delightful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable women who have ever led me around a high school – and believe me, I’ve toured many-a-high-school in my life. From computer labs, classrooms and library, to the machine tech labs and a barn, they guided us through a high school as rich in academic studies as it is in animal husbandry and horticulture.

We spent some time in the greenhouse where students were tending to seedlings,

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and met some four-legged staff in the barn and pens.

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One of our docents is also a student bee-keeper. These hives were in a courtyard which was teeming with apiary activity.

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We walked along a hallway of honors, common in high schools, but this one had honors from the renowned Chicago Flower and Garden Show, 4H, and US News and World Report.

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This is a remarkable high school whose teachers, staff and students give me (dare I say all of us on the tour?) hope for the future. An emphasis on agricultural sciences is not uncommon in a state that produces corn, soy beans, and pumpkins. What is remarkable is that it sits in a large urban city that was once the” hog butcher of the world”.

I am sorry there aren’t more close-up photos. I was being mindful of not showing students. Instead, I will show you two of my favorite friends.

A day that was just right.
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Here’s Ezra, out on the grassy knoll, having a fun time running around the back acreage, getting all sweaty and exploring our simple life on the Cutoff with his big sister, Kezzie, and cousins Jake and Scott (who shared a great big bag of Thomas the Train and all of Thomas’ friends). The camera “caught” our young lad rounding the wildlife habitat. 

 

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What a busy, long weekend was had; decorating a cake for Papa’s birthday with Auntie Jenny, and “funning” around the backyard,

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and taking a walk at Lake Katherine, then visiting the Plush Horse for big scoops of ice cream. Kezzie shared a small table with another little lass while Ezra dipped into ice cream for the very first time.

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All-in-all, ’twas just plain old fashioned enjoyment with family gathered together, here on the Cutoff.

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DSCN3180We wandered a bit around Lake Katherine, watching the swans preen on their little island, the ducks sunning on a fallen log, and the geese taking turns being first as they maneuvered overhead. It was a crisp, late summer day; more a prelude to fall than a nod to summer. There were several photographers out and about, catching the birds, the slant of the sun on goldenrod, the passage of time with their cameras.

It was a short walk for we had endured a rough week and tired. Walking back, a young couple were seen hanging on to a canoe, each one blaming the other for capsizing. The water is shallow in Lake Katherine, so they were in no danger, except, perhaps on their car ride home as they relived their oaring. We left the blame game to them after offering a hand, he dripping wet, she worried about her lost flip-flop, glad it wasn’t us rising out of the lake.

DSCN3174Dragonflies flitted and bees buzzed around the Autumn Joy Sedum. Can you find the dragonfly? No butterflies, except for the cabbage moths. No butterflies on a late summer day in a park that was about to hold a butterfly festival. I’m hoping it was just this odd summer weather we had. I’m hoping.

A little worse for the wear, we headed for the car, and drove off in search of a plush horse.

We found it!

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An ice cream parlor of fame in Palos Park, it was but a few miles from Lake Katherine.  For the past several years, Tom has been wanting to find The Plush Horse. Now, we have, and it will take real will power to stay away from this enchanting ice cream parlor.

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We each ordered one scoop in a cup, which was good, for a very big scoop it was, and headed outside to a lovely alcove that was perfect for sitting and licking one’s lips over a dish of ice cream. I had one of my summertime favorites, moose tracks, and Tom had black walnut. We ate contentedly while sitting on one of these Adirondack chairs, checking out the bird houses and wind chimes, and enjoying being out in the near perfect day.

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We’ll be back. Yep. We’ll be back. Where to you dip your ice cream cone?

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Lead Glass:GreenThe view outside our windows is an emerald sea these days, from our worn out lawn wearing a freshened suit of moss, to the emerging leaves on trees and bushes. The ferns are unfurling, the lily of the valley showing tiny buds, and the roses are promising blooms sometime soon. I feel a bit like Kermit the Frog, only with a positive spin on the words to the song that helped to make him famous, as I sing out “it is easy being green”.

On a recent walk around Lake Katherine, one of Kermit’s relatives was splashing in the mud,

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and a pair of Mallards became mighty friendly as they waddled over to where Tom and I were bench sitting, begging for a handout. Mrs. Mallard came a-quacking right over to our knees. As tempting as it is, I do not bring morsels of bread to feed geese and ducks as it is not good for them to take food from strangers now, is it?

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Well, I have a bit of list a mile long today, so, I’d best get off of this log I’ve been sitting upon, and get out and about with the day before me, which includes finishing up “Mrs. Queen Takes the Train”, composing the minutes from a meeting I’m charged to do, give the basil sitting on the countertop a home in a pot on the deck, and maybe sit for a spell in the arbor and count my blessings.

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