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.
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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.
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
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
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.
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
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.)
E is very social and it's great fun to take her visiting.
Below, left, laughing with our friend Betty Grady.
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.
Above, right: Sarah Delidow, D'Lacia McNeal and D'Licia
McNeal discover that tadpoles like to nibble at their
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
Dogs 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Just get back on that horse and ride.
Right, Elizabeth? If we gallop hard
we can certainly jump over the lake!
Sonja and Cam
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.
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.
All the Macunovich "kids" were there for the
wedding... such staunch supporters! Sonja calls us "The
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
...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.
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.