2013 Snapshot

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Sitting under our Christmas branch and thinking of you! 

We work seven days a week all year and love every minute, with just one regret:
That we don't write to or see family and friends often enough.

This page is for you, our friends and family.

2013 Highlights:

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Janet builds snow-things. Neighbor kids help. They especially love painting the snow sculptures with food coloring.
Below: Janet snow-painting with MacKenzie Moore, Owen Eichholz and John Eichholz.

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Above: We had lots of snow to use this year. One of the storms gave us enough to make a long snow dragon, green with orange wings. (It lacks the detail we hoped for. On the day we piled the snow it was good for packing, when we came back the next day to fine-tune and paint it was so cold the snow wouldn't pack. Ah well! We painted it anyway!)
(See other snow sculpture, including our snow lions.)

We still garden at the Detroit Zoo. 27 years now. (See our zoo crew's in-season action.)

Below: In January we meet there with our group of regular volunteers to clean and sharpen tools. We teach the new people how-to, then everyone parties and works on their own tools.


We're boarding friend Beaufort Cranford's musk turtle, Darwin. The neighborhood kids love to scour our yard for insects and worms, then drop them in to watch Darwin in action.

Below: Darwin stalks, then chomps a cricket. He's an awesome hunter.

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In February, son Cory's daughter Elizabeth turned one. The whole world came to her house to celebrate her birthday. 90 people -- although that included 20-some toddlers. Most guests were local, but our daughter Sonja and fiance Cam (Cameron Fryer) came from Guelph. It was a blast watching her open her gifts.

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Janet sits Elizabeth ("E", we say) on Mondays and Thursdays. (We have only one chance in time to do this and we are NOT letting it slip by. After working seven days  for almost 30 years Janet's taking a weekend... on Mondays and Thursdays!) Steven drops in whenever he can.

Below: E and Janet camp out under a sheet-draped table, and Steven drives the kitchen-chair-school bus full of E and her dolls.

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When Cory & Stacey took a vacation to Ireland, Sonja came to town to watch E. (It was reading week in the U of Toronto semester, so she had no classes to teach.)

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E is very social and it's great fun to take her visiting.
Below, left, laughing with our friend Betty Grady.

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When we're at home there is often a bit of pandemonium because neighbor kids are welcome in our house and yard. They poke around the pond, make clubhouse spaces in the garden and do art projects at the kitchen table. One day while Janet was doing maintenance at an out of town garden (the Diane Allan yard; yes we do still garden for a living; for those stories just surf elsewhere on our site) Steven texted from home to say, "Wish you were here! The kids found the costume chest and are putting on plays." We love it. There is nothing better than seeing through kids' eyes, unless maybe it's connecting kids and nature.

Above, right: D'Licia McNeal and Dakarione Talley dress up for a play. (A pirate was involved, too, but the plot was a bit beyond Steven's following.)

Below, left: That's Elizabeth with the wheelbarrow Darl & Debi Slentz gave her.

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Above, right: Sarah Delidow, D'Lacia McNeal and D'Licia McNeal discover that tadpoles like to nibble at their fingers.



We still write about gardening, here on our website, for the Michigan Gardener magazine and occasional other publications. (Trying to find a publisher for our pruning book but not having much luck. The business has changed and books heavy on photos are harder than ever to sell to publishers.) This year we had the joy of working with our friend Burdette Chapman as we interviewed 16 gardeners over the age of 75 about how to simplify garden work. Burdette, who turned 88 this year, still gardens every day from April to November and says, "I just can't wait for the sun to come up so I can get out there."

3Labs2549s.jpgDogs are still important members of our family. Our current two black labs are (Yippee)Kiyo and (Carra)Mia. They become three when we take them to Camp Labrador Guelph, or Sonja & Cam's Cally comes for a stay at Camp Labrador Waterford.

We've worked this year on a special writing project, our second book for Elizabeth. This one is about her neighborhood and will introduce her to maps. Janet wanted an aerial shot of E's house for the book, and thought it might be had from the top of the spruce in the back yard.

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What she came down with was a good view but not quite what we wanted... we're trying to think who we know who can do a flyover with a camera. (Yes, we know we could just steal a GoogleMap view!)

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In the book we'll have photos from all over the neighborhood, of places E likes to visit such as a neighbor's frog pond and Thomas the turtle.

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Life's not life without downs as well as ups. The spring was one of the worst ever for working gardeners, frozen right through April so we were out of work until suddenly it was May. In May we must move at hyper-speed even in a normal year -- this year we had twice the work to do in the same one month of billable hours..


So we were exhausted and very broke when at the end of June the house flooded.

The last flood was nine years ago. The house had been dry for 25 years until construction a half mile uphill changed that for us and about 15 other homes. Back then, we worked hard with the township and drain commission and also established household damage reduction protocols from all we learned from 3 floods in 5 years.

We'd grown lax during the 9 dry years, so far too many important and precious things were in harm's way when 5 inches of rain fell in under an hour. Worse, we weren't home to operate the flood gate we'd constructed. So we could only sand bag after the water had begun flowing, just to limit how much got into the house.

Clean up was so much work. Full time for three weeks just to restore basic operations. Even if insurance covered losses (it doesn't) how could it compensate the loss of all our handmade Christmas ornaments, or the Barry Smith print of Pandora (right) that watched over so many foosball games 35, 40 years ago? This flood took a lot more out of us than the others.

The good news? We're still here! And the house was only damaged, not swept away. We will get over it.

Below: After a flood, everything else goes on hold until you've sopped up all the water, washed and bleached everything. Yet even in the midst of days-on-end drudgery, the wonder of life is there to be seen. Notice what's on the edge of our bucket? A young preying mantis.

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Some of the kids in the neighborhood were flood victims, too, but they still kept discovering and enjoying. D'Lacia McNeal brought us a newly emerged cicada, and also fished a dragonfly larva out of the pond. (Here drawing screams from her sister  D'Licia, cousin Rany'ah Brown and friend McKenzie Moore.)




  Just get back on that horse and ride.
  Right, Elizabeth? If we gallop hard
  we can certainly jump over the lake!







Sonja and Cam
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  got married on a gorgeous fall day. 
 The wedding was only one part of
 a phenomenal 3-day party.


Their guests filled the Guelph Curling Club on Friday night, where captains Cam and Cory tried to lead the clueless rabble in a tournament. (Harder than you might think to slide a heavy stone on smooth ice. In Janet's group, of 8 rocks launched only 2 even made it the whole distance to the far end of the lane!)

At the curling club. Note Antoinette Nwandu's "Oh, sure!" reaction (center background) to what Cory and Cam are telling us we'll be doing.

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On Saturday the wedding included bagpipers leading the family in to the hall, one out of four male guests dressed in formal kilts, and a ceilidh (Scottish Highland dancing, pronounced KAYlee). On Sunday Cam and Sonja opened their house and we all enjoyed the fruit of their two years' hard work in interior renovations, deck building and landscaping.

Macunovi7_101313s.jpgAll the Macunovich "kids" were there for the wedding... such staunch supporters! Sonja calls us "The Macunovi."










Back to work...

In November we spoke to the Baltimore Master Gardener Association. It's our habit to vacation and sight see as we can on lecture trips, so we planned the drive to include stops at the National Arboretum and Longwood Gardens, and maybe catch Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. We've often done as much in 2 days and 3 nights...

...This time everything fell through: Arboretum closed midweek due to the government sequester; no rooms at the inns near Longwood; Fallingwater closed just one day of the week -- our day. So we went to the National Zoo, which we loved 30 years ago and more now. Particularly thrilling, the orangutans, who climb tower to tower on cables 50 feet over visitor walkways.

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We also caught Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh and were so glad we did. They completed a big expansion since we lectured there 10 years ago. It's awesome even in winter.



Red velvet wrap-up

In fall each year after we close the gardens we tend, Steven finishes six months of beard growing and dons his good clothes to do that other work he loves. He sits regularly at The Rochester Village Mall and also hires out for parties -- call us if you have kids who deserve a really special experience.



He IS Santa. We hear frequently from people who've brought their kids to him at the mall for 4 years, 7 years, who say, 'Thank you for the love you so obviously bring to this. Every year has been very special for our kids.'.

This year Sonja and Cory each held a party for friends' kids. There Steven reigned while Janet ran an ornament making workshop. So we've begun to replace some of the sweet homemade decorations lost in the flood.

Oooo, Santa please bring me new boots!



This Christmas we begin new traditions. Steven's mom, Dolly, passed away last November and so in 2012 we helped as before at the final Christmas brunch-for-50. This year we had Cory, Stacey and Elizabeth over for Christmas Eve dinner as we put up our Christmas branch (a different tree species each year, this year a river birch). On Christmas we spent a quiet and very happy day at home, and walking in the woods with the dogs.


For New Year's we'll be with Diane and Allan, where there's yard work to be done as Diane prepares to retire and put the house up for sale. Maybe we'll drive to Las Vegas for the Big Night, or maybe we'll just drink Margaritas and watch the sunset over the San Bernardino Mountains behind the house. Who knows? We only know we love this life, love all of you, and are resolved this New Year to stay in better touch with you.