Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I am not going out tonight. Not that I had anywhere to go, but my cold is still making me feel very curmudgeonly and unsociable. The kids are all away, at least for a couple hours, but my celebration instinct is not kicking in. I just want to crawl under the covers with Bloof the cat. But I have to pick kids 2 and 3 up at the end of the driveway when our pastor neighbors bring them home from the church celebration.

Despite all that, I still think New Year's Day is one of my favorite holidays. Kind of laid back, no big family get togethers planned, just a day off to reflect on the old year and make plans for the new. And a lot of planning I have to do! I want to grow more food than ever before, landscape the new house yard for perfect bird refuge and feeders, and get my running back on track to lose 20 more pounds and feel even better than I do now. That was my greatest accomplishment of 2008: running. Well, that and moving into the new house, but I feel like a new person.

So tomorrow I think I will take some time and go driving where they saw the snowy owl and boreal chickadee in the Christmas bird count. I may not end up seeing anything, but I may see something priceless. Life is kind of that way. You just never know, and you always have to be ready.

Happy New Year, everyone. I am so thankful for the friends I have made through this blog, and yes that means the ones I have not yet met. You all are special to me!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bird count results, and armchair birding

The sky was a dazzling blue, the weather windy and cold (high around 20 F) and the gravel roads slick with ice. Typical conditions for a Christmas bird count in northern Minnesota. I spent the day working the northwest quarter of our count circle with Jim and Steve; this was our third year doing the count together and they were great company as usual.

The day started off slowly, with only three species seen during the first hour. I think the wind kept most birds from moving around much. But things picked up, and by sunset we had tallied 24 species. Highlights included northern shrike, American tree sparrow, mourning dove (unusual in winter here), purple finch, ruffed grouse, snow bunting, and one bald eagle soaring high in the sky. Since we were not doing the area near my house, as we had in the last two years, I got to see some back roads and beautiful country that I hadn't been to before.

But strangely enough, the highlight for me was not a bird sighting, but a sheep sighting. That's right, sheep. We pulled into a farmstead where Steve had remembered counting English (house) sparrows a few years back. I normally don't go out of my way to see house sparrows, but anything to add another species to the list! As we drove up the drive, I saw a few cows and a pen of sheep, a couple white ones and a few brown ones with thick winter wool coats. Then something clicked in my head...the brown sheep reminded me of the ones we used to have...the name at the front of the driveway, a common surname, which was the name of the Lutheran pastor in town...who adopted our sheep last year...HEY, SOME OF THESE ARE MY OLD SHEEP! I recognized one we used to call Cotton Top, a brown sheep with a white patch on top of her head.

The pastor/farmer was not home, unfortunately. I would have liked to talk with him, thank him for taking care of our sheep, and talk gardening. There were vegetables everywhere in the porch of the old farmhouse. It looked like an interesting place.

By the way, we did count several English sparrows there.

I was suffering from a mild cold that day, just a slight annoyance if anything. But as soon as I arrived home, misery set in. Chills, aches, and a nose that would not quit. I think being out in the cold wind may have done it. So today I took a sick day from work, which is good because it is snowing hard and I'm sure the roads are bad. It's a good day to curl up in a rocking chair in front of the wood stove. And a great day for feeder watching; so far I have seen black capped chickadees, goldfinches, red breasted and white breasted nuthatches, and a hairy woodpecker.

That's just at the feeder. I had to go outside for something, and I heard a large flock of birds calling as they landed in the tops of the pines. Crossbills! We were hoping to see crossbills yesterday, but no luck, and now here they are! I didn't get a good look at them, nor am I experienced at distinguishing their calls, but as I learned yesterday, red crossbills are more likely to land in pines; white winged crossbills prefer spruces. So they are probably red crossbills.

As if that weren't enough, a northern shrike was perched in the birch tree above my feeders for a few minutes. I had never seen one so close!

I'm headed back to the hearth and feeders. There are still a few hours of daylight left.

UPDATE- I just saw the totals for the whole Pine County count. 34 total species, including one snowy owl and one boreal chickadee!

And, The Hermit saw a raptor flying over the swamp behind the house. I barely got a look, thought it might be a rough legged hawk, but he said it was flying like an owl....Hmmmm...I guess if I hear a great horned owl tonight, like I have recently, it would still count. And I saw one lonely pine siskin hanging out with the goldfinches.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

It's CBC time again!

Tomorrow I am taking the day off of work to again participate in the Pine County Christmas Bird Count. This will be my third year, and if all goes well I will be spending the day with some old birding friends. I haven't seen many birds this winter; no pine or evening grosbeaks, and only one rough legged hawk so far. But anything can happen with a bunch of devoted birders scouring the area, and I have still been seeing robins lately. :) I did see a bald eagle perched atop a tamarack today, I suppose technically that would count. It was magnificent. I also had dreams about golden eagles; they probably would not count except maybe as a sign?

And in other unrelated news, I checked my standings on Nature Blog Network and was surprised to see this blog at number 84! I am surprised I am even in the top 100. Thanks, whoever stops in here!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

passive solar

Here is my favorite place to roost: a rocking chair in front of the wood stove, on the slate floor.

When we designed this place from a description we saw in a book from the library, one of our first considerations was alignment with the sun. We wanted to take full advantage of that low horizon sunlight that sometimes appears on a winter's day, for both light and heat. We also wanted to place the wood stove, the main source of heat, as close to the center of the house as possible, not backed up against some wall somewhere, so it would heat most of the house evenly.

We have now had the opportunity to put our design to the test of subzero weather, and overall things are functioning quite well. I admit there have been some times when some parts of the house were chilly, and the wood stove has barely kept up. We bought two stand alone radiator-type electric heaters for the family room and Calvin's bedroom, and they have helped (although I'm scared to check out my latest electric bill online!) But then again, we don't have the extra insulation of flooring and drywall in many areas of the house yet, nor is the skirting around the base of the house complete. I think these elements could make a difference.

So many houses around here appear to be just dropped on a piece of land without any basic consideration for how they blend in, nor how heating and cooling could be augmented naturally. I can feel the difference a sunny day makes in the house, and Bloof the cat seems to appreciate it as well.

Actually, this photo was taken a week or so ago. Today we have not seen the sun, but the temperature is hovering around 30 degrees, relatively mild.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas greetings

Wishing you all the best of the season and happiness in the new year.
(hey, isn't that Jim?)

We're enjoying our first Christmas in the new house. This is our biggest tree ever, as usual an evergreen cut from the large selection of trees on our land. The Hermit thought this white pine looked a bit Charlie Brown-ish, but I think it looks magnificent with the lights. And he can just go out there in 0 degree weather and 2 foot deep snow and find a better one if he wants! :)

Speaking of Charlie Brown, I bought myself a couple of Christmas presents on iTunes. I got the soundtrack from "A Charlie Brown Christmas". It's "gotta have" Christmas music around here. I also got Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' "Jingle All The Way". It is fast becoming my favorite Christmas album. Their version of "Twelve Days of Christmas" is pure genius; only the Flecktones would have thought of playing each of the twelve verses in a different key, time signature, and musical style. The whole album is pure musical joy.

And, this just happens to be my 1000th post!

Monday, December 22, 2008

winterscape

We have made it through the longest night of the year; it will be a while before the increasing day length will be even noticeable. Until then, I think hibernation is a good idea; why is it not more socially acceptable in these northern climes?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The new seed catalogs are in!

And if you have never been a customer of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I suggest you order their catalog. It's vegetable porn for a Minnesota gardener in midwinter! They have expanded to a wide, 124 page format which includes gorgeous full page color photos of selected varieties. No centerfolds, though. ;)

I really admire Baker Creek's owner and founder, Jeremiath Gettle. At the age of 28, he has established a seed company that is willing to take on the Goliaths of the industry. He openly opposes genetically modified seeds, searches the world for traditional (but unique to many Americans) vegetable varieties, and hosts educational events at the company's headquarters near Mansfield, Missouri. I hope to make it there for one of their festivals some day.

But if you're not into full color vegetable porn and prefer to just read about things, I suggest Fedco Seeds. They are another company that has pledged to not buy from companies that offer genetically modified seeds. Their catalog is in plain black and white, a few lovely illustrations but no glossy photos, and if you're my age or higher you may need to invest in reading glasses to read the small type. But they offer excellent seed varieties along with some witty commentary.

ho ho the mistletoe

...you want to kiss me under THAT?!

That is mistletoe as we see it here in The Frozen State. Mistletoe is a small, nondescript parasitic plant that makes the branches of its host grow all funny. Like this tamarack.

I stayed home today, having endured the previous night with a stomach bug that also made me ache and gave me the chills. Fun. I was under every wool blanket in the house and still shivering at one point. I am feeling better now. I went for a drive this afternoon, hoping to see some great gray owls or something. Of course, when you go looking for them, they're not there. I did see and hear the robins that are STILL hanging around our woods.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We may have a northern owl irruption here

The Hermit: Guess what I saw today?

Me: Umm, what?

The Hermit: I saw a flock of about twenty turkeys, about a mile from home. And guess what else?

Me: Oh please, don't tell me you saw a snowy owl. (I would have had homicidal thoughts)

The Hermit: No, I saw THREE great gray owls! They were being mobbed by crows.

Me: (trying to cover up for even more intense homicidal thoughts) No, really? Where?

The Hermit: Between Bruno and Willow River (on County Road 43 in Pine County).

Me: Grrr...(insanely jealous, but overjoyed)

I don't question his ID; he and I saw plenty of them together during the Great Irruption of '05, so he obviously knows his owls.

And, looking at the Minnesota Ornithologist's Union website, I am confused. I no longer know how to post sightings to the listserv. Help, anyone?

Of course this means the Pine County Christmas Bird Count, less than two weeks from today, could be interesting.

Cold snap

Our snowfall, which totaled about a foot or so, was glazed over by a light layer of freezing rain, then the temperatures dropped quickly so the high temperature yesterday was below zero. The temperature on my car thermometer read -21 this morning, so our more pessimistic outdoor thermometer was probably closer to -25. I missed driving the kids out to the school bus because, despite the car's warming up for ten minutes, the back doors were still frozen shut.

Despite the cold, the first bird I heard calling from the woods this morning was an American robin!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

School is closed!

Due to the blizzard, school in the East Central District has been canceled tomorrow. I will be taking the day off work to be with the kids.

YEE-HAW! I love school closings! :)

the Bloof

Blue Flame (aka Bloof, Boofy...poor confused thing is never called by the same name twice) has been enjoying the luxury of being our house kitty for a while now. Long time readers may recall when Bloof was just a kitten. His eyes are still that blue.

This is Bloof's favorite chair; close enough to the heat source, soft, and allowing a view of the great outdoors. He is camped out there today as we endure a blizzard and 8-10" of snow thus far.

Bloof's favorite activity is making sure I do not sleep in too late on weekends.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chick pix

It is relatively mild here today, around 30 degrees and cloudy. Of course, mild and cloudy means snow is on the way. We're under a winter storm warning. But I was able to get some outdoor chores done, and we brought the younger kids into town (Calvin was away playing basketball) to see Santa and go for the annual horse drawn wagon ride through town. Yes, the town is so small and quiet that you can take a wagon load of kids around without traffic issues.

One of the chores I did was to put up the suet feeder, finally. We get as much suet as we want from the local farmer who raised the beef that is in our freezer. It's not neatly rendered into little squares, but it is cheap and the chickadees like it. They were on it right away. I hope the woodpeckers hear the word and come around soon.

By the way, in the top picture, that is perhaps the only picture I have ever posted of the cabin we lived in before this summer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

mostly wordless

I'm recycling this photo from around this time last year. More snow then maybe, but otherwise it's the same, the dark days of December. The part of my brain that puts words together coherently seems to be hibernating...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

room reclamation

You don't want to see a "before" picture. Believe me. And I don't know what those mystery circles are on the picture. My camera lens cover does not close any more. Maybe that has something to do with it.

This is the someday master bedroom of the new house. Ever since we have had some semblance of a roof on this place, this room has been the unofficial tool room, cluttered with all kinds of construction debris. That was fine when we didn't actually live in the house, but lately it has been annoying, at least to me. I kept seeing all the junk on the floor, and I think every time I did it jangled my nerves a little bit. Something had to be done, and the time was now.

After I spent half an hour in the quonset quasi garage digging out the Christmas decorations this morning, I decided to tackle the mess head on. By 2:00 or so, I could see the floor, everything was in its place, and it was looking nice! I moved two plastic shelving units out from the cabin, one for tools and stuff and one for clothes. It's amazing how reclaiming a few square yards of floor space can adjust your entire perception of space in the house. I think I might even do yoga in there, since it's too darn cold and windy to even think about running, and we have a couple inches of snow.

Just picture this room with a finished pine floor, some calming color of paint on the walls, and a cozy bed. Maybe next year. Right now I'll settle for a workable drain to our graywater septic tank.

In other news, Stan (Musial) the cardinal is still around, usually showing up early in the morning. I don't think he likes our feeder though; the bottom tray broke off and he doesn't like sitting at one of the perches picking seeds out. I'll have to find some way to replace the bottom tray.

Otherwise, I'm in the December dark days blogging blahs. I still have to figure out how to configure the laptop so I can blog in the new house; otherwise I have to come out to the "office" in the chilly cabin.

Monday, December 01, 2008

drive carefully, everyone

This morning on my way to work, about a mile from my exit on the brief stretch of freeway I drive, I noticed flashing lights up ahead. I slowed down and pulled into the left lane, wondering if I would be able to get on to my exit.

Before I even saw anything, I knew it wasn't good. The sheer number of emergency vehicles, the lane closure, and even a couple snowplows (not plowing snow, I think they were there just for traffic control) suggested tragedy. When I saw the two vehicles involved, my heart sank. A small pickup, front end obliterated. A compact car, wrecked.

All morning I kept checking online news reports. About half an hour ago I found the first report: two dead. Head on collision. Young woman lost control of the car, crossed the median and struck the pickup truck, killing the 50 year old male driver. It happened about 45 minutes before I drove by. The freeway was in good driving condition.

Sometimes it seems like my daily commute is an automatic act. I forget what an incredible land speed 70 mph actually is. Humans were not meant to travel so fast. I may think I'm in control, but my life is in the hands of every other driver out there...so be careful.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A birthday and a lost tooth

I have posted previously about the arrival of Mr. Attitude into this world seven years ago today. If you weren't following me back in '05, you can read about it here. Suffice it to say, it involved a very fast and exciting thirty minute drive up the freeway, me wondering if I would become one of those roadside mothers. Thank goodness we made it to the hospital barely in time.

We spent the day celebrating Thanksgiving and his birthday (of course) with my aunt and uncle John and Karen, my dad, my grandma, and my uncle LeRoy. All of his gifts were the best kind: cold, hard cash. He took an almost sinister pleasure in counting it. :)

On the way home we stopped at "MegaLoMart" to spend some of his cash and sink some of our own earnings into a gift. His Nintendo DS had long ago given up the ghost so we bought him a new one, and some of his money went towards a new game. We went home and had his dinner request, spaghetti, then I went out to the cabin to chill my feet and check up on the blogging world.

Mr. Attitude came out shortly, all excited. "Mom! I'm losing a tooth!" I looked at him incredulously; I had not even known he was near losing one. But there it was, bent at a 90 degree angle. "We'll go out to the house and take care of it", I said. We went back where it was light and there were things like cotton balls and ice and vodka (for Mom) if we needed them. I had him stand close, open up, then I grasped his tooth to pull and--it was out, just like that. Just a little blood, no reported pain. He was more thrilled than anything. "The tooth fairy's gonna come on my birthday!"

It's hard to tell from this photo, but this was his bottom right second incisor (I think.) His top middle teeth came in last, so I'm suspecting they will go last. And yes, that is spaghetti sauce on his face.

Starflower reminded me that the "tooth fairy" still owes her a few dollars. She also informed me that she knows who the "tooth fairy" is. And Santa. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The weekend has begun!!!

I am very thankful for a lot of things, including the balance of my vacation leave which allows me to take tomorrow off without guilt. All of The Hermit's older kids (my stepkids and associated in-laws) will be coming for ham dinner on Thursday. That's right, ham. Really, who decided you have to have a turkey! Anyway, I have a lot of cleaning and preparing to do.

Monday, November 24, 2008

that moment between


between starry frosty morning
and advancing cloud front heralding gray day
One golden moment
magnified in every ice crystal
caught in tree tops

And in that moment between, as I began the day's journey from home life to work life, below those illuminated tamaracks I heard a flock of...robins. Yes, their calls were unmistakable as they descended on the winterberries. I have seen a lone robin nearby in December, but never a flock this late in the fall.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

first skating day on new ice

It had been a few days since the pond completely froze over, and we had some nights with temperatures in the low teens. I checked the ice Saturday morning, walking cautiously along the edge. From the bubbles I could see in the clear ice, it looked to be at least four inches thick. Perfect. Smooth surface, no heavy snowfall to cause water seepage. Skating before Thanksgiving. It may be the earliest skating since I've kept record here.

Sally likes the pond better in liquid form, but she doesn't mind running around on the ice, shredding wood for me to sweep up later.

Who is this, and what maneuver is she trying to attempt, or trying to recover gracefully from?

I get triple exercise points today; I ran over three miles, then skated for an hour, then acted as catcher for Calvin's late afternoon pitching practice. Zero housekeeping points though; something's gotta give. :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just when you thought the Palin jokes were subsiding

This is no joke, but it's HILARIOUS. I love how the turkey cone is positioned right next to Palin's face. And watch the guy in the background!



It brings to mind this famous scene from "WKRP in Cincinnati"


Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

the madness of the November runner

I have gone running twice this week, both evenings when I arrived home earlier than normal from work so there was a little bit of fading light out there for me.

Running in November in Minnesota, especially when you have an 8 to 4:30 job, requires some conquering of demons. First and foremost, there is the ever-increasing cold. Pah. I reminded myself I used to regularly go cross country skiing in similar or colder temperatures. It was 18 degrees on my car thermometer when I turned into the driveway. I have cross country ski bibs that are plenty warm for my legs, and any layering stuff will work. And winter hat and mittens, of course.

Next, there is dark. A formidable demon, considering many of us subconsciously fear the dark. But there is nothing out there, especially where I live, to fear about the dark that is not also present during the day. There isn't even a need for reflective gear; if a car happens to come along the road, an unlikely occurrence, I will have enough advance notice of it to move over if I happen to be running in the middle of the road. I don't really care if they see me or not, and sometimes would prefer that they don't.

A side note to running in the dark: I have an LED head lamp, and I ran with it once, but I ended up putting the light on the back of my head and setting it to flashing. The circle of light I get with a light source is narrowing; letting my eyes get accustomed to darkness enables me to see more overall.

Next, a few lesser demons including wind, precipitation (haven't dealt with it yet), and the overwhelming desire to just curl up in front of the woodstove in a warm blanket (which is stronger than any of the aforementioned!) However, I have surprised myself. Today, on the drive home from work, I talked myself out of running at least twice. When I got home, I sucked it up and ran.

Running has been the best medicine for me. Running makes me strong. I feel better about my body than I have in years, I feel more able to face the cold weather...and somewhere in the twilight, when I am drawing in cold breaths and hearing the testimony of dead grasses in the wind, listening to the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground...that is when I feel alive. That is when I feel both excited and subdued, but nevertheless feeling. That is when I come across moments of clarity, where I feel the presence of a higher power that gives me this strength.

I am thankful for the ability to run.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday shared stuff

I've been trying to incorporate Google Reader into my repertoire of Internet tools. but apparently it doesn't get along too well with my work computer. So until I get that figured out, I hope to periodically post a few items of interest here on Sand Creek Almanac.

The Farmer as Natural Resource Professional

As a fish and/or wildlife manager, one of the first things one learns is that most of one's efforts to protect and maintain habitat and fish and wildlife populations are at the mercy of private land owners--farmers, forest product companies, developers, lake shore owners. Of these, farmers have influence over approximately 58 percent of the total land area in Minnesota. When I was in graduate school, we often saw examples of "farmer as bad guy" in land and watershed management: stream banks eroded by cattle, land tilled right up to the roadside, with no fencelines or other wildlife corridors, ditches washing topsoil and fertilizers into rivers. However, there always have been farmers who practice good land stewardship, and an increasing number are making the connection betweeen the health of the land, sustainable productivity, and wildlife habitat. The above link is about one such farmer, Kent Solberg. Solberg had a somewhat nontraditional route to farming; he grew up in the city, got a degree in wildlife management, and spent years working with various state and federal agencies as a wildlife manager. Now he and his wife raise dairy cattle, pork and eggs on carefully managed pasture on their farm in north central Minnesota. Listen to the linked podcast if you have time; it's about ten minutes long but very informative.

There is also a personal connection, which is why I was happy to find this story this morning. Solberg and The Hermit were buddies in graduate school, he was best man at our wedding, and I worked at the same office with him for several years. We haven't been in touch for a while, but I would like to visit their farm some day.

Choosing to live with less

In these tough economic times, there are a few people who are not feeling the pinch, since they have chosen to get by with what some would call poverty-level income. However, the lives they are living seem to be rich and fulfilling. I was inspired by these stories. And there's another personal connection; the barn dance I played at last week was called by Terrence Smith, who is featured in the article. His passion for music and dancing is contagious.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mr. Cardinal now has a name

He is Stan. After Stan Musial, who I guess played for the Cardinals way back when. Of course, it was Calvin who came up with the name. Stan was there bright and early this morning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

birds and music

Guess who showed up at my feeder this morning?
I know for some of you, cardinals are quite commonplace. But I live at the northernmost edge of their year round range, and they rarely make an appearance here. To see one within days of improving my temporary feeder array was wonderful. He has been hanging around all morning.

This pair of male purple finches showed up on Sunday afternoon. Their color is so exquisite.

As you can probably tell, I have been spending way more time than I should sitting by the wood stove, looking outside. I have a holiday from work (Veteran's Day) and I picked up the banjo at 7:30 this morning. Sitting by the round table, with a cup of coffee and some music in front of me, I lapsed into a state of concentration I rarely achieve while playing, where I am able to play a couple bars of music over and over until my fingers have memorized it. I must have played "Cripple Creek" about 20 times. I need to do this more often.

I had the chance to play music with a few other people Saturday night at our friends' annual barn dance. Since there were two fiddles, a banjo and a mandolin already, I decided to fill in with rhythm on my octave mandolin. That instrument is not exactly a fixture in old time dance music, so I don't know what the others thought of it. I didn't really care either; I was playing the right chords, in tune and tempo, to songs I mostly knew already, sometimes taking liberties with the rhythm. And I was having a great time. Playing for a dance is more relaxed than playing in front of an audience; the people are occupied with dancing, there isn't the give-and-take of solos like there is in bluegrass, and there is plenty of time between tunes, while the caller teaches the next dance, to sip a beer and chat with the other players.

I have to get back and throw another log in the wood stove, and I think my mandolin is calling me now. I need to build up those calluses on my fingers again.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

lazy Saturday afternoon

It's a blustery, snow showery day here in Minnesota. It is also the opening day of deer season; both factors mean it's a good day to stay indoors in front of the wood stove. I have hunted deer here before, but I think if I hunt again it will be with a bow and arrow.

The wind and cold have brought in good numbers of chickadees, goldfinches, and nuthatches (both white and red breasted) to my new temporary feeder setup. The above is the best picture I could manage today; it certainly isn't the nice view that I had with the feeder at the cabin, at least not yet, but I'm glad to see birds. And I am glad to sit in front of a warm wood stove looking out at that view! I was going to finally bring the garbage can with half a fifty pound bag of black sunflower seed to the new house. But when I got to the far side of the cabin I saw that the can was knocked over, and the seed was gone. Deer? Bear? There was a tiny bit of nyjer thistle seed left in that feeder, so I brought it over and hung it in the tree. The Hermit is in town buying more bird seed.

I am still seeing robins in November! These must be the hard core, far north robins. I noticed some of them eating winterberries at the edge of the woods outside my back door.

We finally brought Blue Flame over to be the new house kitty last week. He has settled in nicely and seems to be enjoying his new surroundings. However, he seems to get possessed at times, especially when he walks out on the beams:
(this picture is dying for a clever caption, but I cannot think of one! Ideas?)

I decided if I want to be a musician, I better start acting like one, so my long to-do list is temporarily suspended as I enjoy picking a tune or two in front of the wood stove. Which reminds me...I gotta get back there!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Things just keep getting curioser and curioser

We have a recount situation here in Minnesota. The morning after election night, Senator Norm Coleman (R) was leading challenger Al Franken (D) by just over 700 votes. As of this posting, the gap has narrowed to 236. State law calls for an automatic recount when the difference is less than 0.5%. It is only fair to the voters. But Coleman was declaring himself the victor, and calling for Franken to waive his right to a recount, saying it would cost the taxpayers money.

Am I the only one who smells something fishy here? If the margin were in Franken's favor, would Coleman be so quick to concede? I doubt it. And the fact that the margin has shrunk by about 500 votes, even before the official recount, is interesting.

Who says my vote doesn't count?

Sorry, I'll get back to normal Sand Creek Almanac posting as soon as election excitement has subsided. Or until I see an interesting bird, or get around to posting about the garden or the weather or the house.

UPDATE: This is interesting. I guess one of the 100 vote gains for Franken was due to election judges, in my own county, who "mistakenly" entered "24" instead of "124" for the total votes for Franken in the next township over. That makes me wonder...we entrust our votes to a few, tired officials who crank out the totals. Just how reliable is that, if they can screw 100 voting citizens out of their votes just by a clerical error?

A recount is part of the democratic process, and any politician who argues against it is against justice.

Hello out there?

Has anyone had trouble commenting here in the last couple of days? Floridacracker was having some problems with the new embedded comment feature on his blog, and I started using that feature recently here, so I switched it back.

Or am I just boring blathering on and on about the election?

Speaking of which, thanks Minnesota for voting yes. Your children and grandchildren will thank you for it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

God bless Obama...

...Amen. The people have spoken. let's pray for unity, our nation.

doing my part

Of course, I voted today. I did not vote until the afternoon because my local polling place does not open until ten in the morning. Apparently, no one of the less than two hundred residents of our precinct has complained about the late start.

I walked into the polling place, a Lutheran church in a small town which is actually outside the township where I live. There is no public building in the township where I live. As soon as I walked in, with Starflower because I had to pick her up at the school from piano lessons, the township clerk whispered my name to the woman who kept The Big Book of Voters in XXX Township. I did not know how the township clerk knew me, but I like that a lot better than "what was your name again?" So it turned out I was the last of the six or so voters whose names started with an "S" to show up. The Hermit included. I was handed my ballot, and I actually had to wait for the ballot scanning machine, but otherwise there were maybe six of us in the whole church building at the time.

Starflower was there as I filled out the ovals on my ballot. I tried to explain to her what an amazing privilege this was, and how many parties actually had a candidate for President. There were very few surprise races on the ballot; there were the usual candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District, which I voted on based on personal experience with my job. There were the numerous judge positions, which I refrained from voting for because I knew nothing about any of the candidates. It would be totally unfair for me to flip a coin and vote for someone.

So now we are waiting, with the rest of the state and the nation, to hear the results. God bless us, one and all.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

rebel larches

While most of the other tamaracks have given up the gold, this grove, as it does every year, is hanging in there, some even still green. I can't help but think of Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light


It is 5:00 PM now, and the light is dying fast here as we enter the darkest time of the year.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

practice

Let's forget about politics for a while. Time for a little baseball. (By the way, congrats Phillies, even though I was kind of rooting for the Rays.)

A little rough on the delivery...

Could work on the release...

Mmmm...that one's in there...

Oops... a little high...or is that a slider?

STeeRike Three!!!

May I present to you an aspiring Major League pitcher. He tries to explain to me the difference between a slider and a curve ball and a fast ball. It's all in how he holds the ball, how many fingers against how many seams in the ball. Go for it, Calvin. He sure is an inspiration to me; if I only went after my banjo or mandolin with that much intensity and dedication!

I might add, it's a good thing that baseball is so white. We have lost a few this year in the grass and brush!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

more thoughts on Vote Yes Minnesota

As Election Day approaches, debate over Minnesota's proposed Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment has intensified. Dennis Anderson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who once wrote a scathing article about why arts should not be included in a dedicated funding amendment, offers a good discussion of how the amendment would work and rebuts some of the most common criticisms of the amendment.

One of the themes that appears over and over in letters to the editor opposing the amendment is that the outdoors, and the arts, are for special interest groups only, and these special interests should compete with other causes--schools, transportation, health care--for appropriations from the Legislature, and not create a source of dedicated funding just for hunters and theater-goers' pet projects.

Is our society really so distanced from nature, and from the arts, that they are now seen as just choices on a menu? Does a generation or so of us really think that the outdoors is only for those who are "into" outdoor recreation, and the arts are just another diversion like golf or NASCAR?

Our ecosystem, and art--essentially a witness to our humanity--are NOT special interests. We need them whether we consciously realize it or not. They are essential to our survival and our identity.

As I mentioned above, there was initially intense disagreement about putting the environment and the arts together on one amendment. Even now Anderson seems to dismiss the arts part only as something that was politically necessary to include. But the environment and the arts are not two separate entities, and most journalists covering this issue fail to realize this. Greg at The Dharma Blog posted eloquently on this topic back in February 2007, a year before the Legislature approved putting the amendment on the ballot. To sum it up:


It has been useful for me to remind myself that the way I feel while standing before one of the Minneapolis Institute of Art's Van Goghs is not much different than the way I feel while paddling my canoe down the St. Croix River.


It is interesting that this feeling, this "stillness" as Greg describes it, is increasingly being found to be vital to our health. Richard Louv, author of the bestseller Last Child in the Woods and founder of the Children and Nature Network, tracks an ever-growing list of research showing the mental and physical benefits of interaction with nature, particularly with children. Lists and links to research can be found on the Network's website. A quick Google search of "fine arts health" provided more links than I had time to look at. There is a growing industry of arts consultants who specialize in working with health care facilities to design environments that have been proven to promote healing in hospital patients.

Maybe if people were more connected with nature and the arts in the first place, the overall health of the population would improve. There would be less obesity, less chronic degenerative disease, less depression. This would lead to fewer medical procedures, fewer prescriptions, fewer hospital stays with their inherent risks, and greatly reduced health care costs. I can't think of a single person that would be opposed to that! The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment could, in the long term, potentially generate more in health care savings than it takes in in revenue.

I sincerely hope this amendment gets passed, and that in addition to some desperately needed environmental restoration projects, and restoration of diminishing public support for the arts, a good portion of the money will be spent on initiatives that aim to reconnect people, especially children, with art and nature.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Getting ready for w...wi...win...oh, I can't say it yet

Today was Turtle Freedom Day. The six painted turtles, which the kids had caught on various occasions and which we had kept in the aquarium in the cabin all summer, needed to prepare for overwintering in the pond. We found last year it's not good for a turtle's shell if it is kept in an aquarium over winter.

The turtles seemed unfazed by the cool water of the pond; they all scrambled happily into the water to be wild turtles once again. That is, until they are caught next summer on some turtle catching expedition.

Of course, any time there is a walk to the pond, there is Sally. And a few recollections of the summer's good days at the pond. Note the water level; it's as high as it gets.

I got a bit of work done in the garden, including mulching my blueberry plants, above, with a generous helping of pine needles from the white pine near the bed. I have never done that before, but it's supposed to be good. I also brought some newly unearthed rocks and arranged them to start the edge of what may be my lingonberry bed next year.

I have been digging in some of my garden beds, trying to remove the thick layer of weeds before winter. I have six beds done; I don't think I will get to all 21 by freeze up. But anything I do is more than I did last year.

I kept pausing to look at the tamaracks behind the house. Their golden needles were especially beautiful against the sapphire blue sky. But weather is an ever changing thing here in Minnesota, and tomorrow promises to be cloudy, rainy, gloomy, even perhaps snowy?

NO!!!!! I'm not ready for this!!!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

politics not getting in the way of life

I had a big political rant planned. In a nutshell, I'm tired of single-issue voters, or those who will allow a campaign sign in their yard for a candidate they approve just because of party affiliation. Or a single issue. Or whatever. We have a practically non-existent race here in the 8th Congressional District of Minnesota, and the one who seeks to unseat the incumbent just has not proven to me that he is even remotely qualified to represent all of northern Minnesota. Just look at his political vision, if any, here.

Yet, I have seen signs for this candidate widely distributed in this area. In front of abandoned farmsteads and soccer fields, for one. If I were a soccer mom, I would be outraged. But when a sign for this candidate is posted in front of a residence, I can't help but wonder why the resident agreed to the implied endorsement. I have three political signs in front of my home, visible to the perhaps twenty vehicles that pass by our road daily. We chose them carefully, not just because some party rep came around and asked if they could post signs in our yard. I thought about the candidates or issues I was endorsing. I wonder if anyone with a sign for the Republican candidate for 8th Congressional District of MN looked any further than "Pro-life. Anti-gay, Pro-2nd Amendment rights."

Also, would a candidate of this caliber adequately represent those of us in his constituency whose views maybe opposed his? I don't know. I don't know this about any candidate who runs on one or two issues and claims to have strong beliefs.

Okay, I maybe got my political rant in regardless. Anyway, today I saw three eagles perched in a tree near a hayfield where I have recently seen many sandhill cranes. And I went out of my way to see snow buntings, which The Hermit called me earlier to report had arrived. I was rewarded by seeing one flock.

At home, we had a good crop of winterberries this year.
The tamaracks are a lovely gold.
We have horses again. This is Shiloh.

And, here is our future egg supply.

I tried to get the pictures to post big, like I usually do, but it isn't working tonight.

Peace.

Oh, speaking of peace, someone in the vicinity of where I work decided that my "War is not the answer" bumper sticker, which reflects my hard-to-categorize religious beliefs, was somewhat offensive enough to black out the "not" with a piece of electrical tape. Unfortunately, I suspect first one or more of my coworkers, but it could also have been one of the school bus drivers in the town where my office is located; we share a building. While harmless shenanigans are the norm where I work, I find it reprehensible that someone would go so far as to interfere with my free speech. Peace, indeed.

Okay, so politics are getting in the way of life. Dang it.

Peace, again. And while I'm on a tangent, I saw a beautifully kept 1971 Volkswagen Bus at the laundromat today. I was so intrigued by it, my normally shy self pulled into the laundromat and asked the guy who was sitting outside if that was his Bus. He said yes, and I said it was beautiful. We used to have one like that. Long story. It made my day to see such a well kept relic of the 1970's.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How could I have forgotten the cranes?

I saw them! A huge flock, maybe twenty or so, last Thursday. I thought they were all long gone. But I think they might be, now.

Whiter Biter the ever loving cat is hanging on me now, doing everything possible to make sure this post does not work. What does he have against cranes? Blue Flame, my other cabin cat, has decided to go on another hermitage under the cabin. Oh well, he will come out when he's hungry enough.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Big Manitou Falls mini road trip

Did you know that the highest waterfall in Wisconsin (165 feet), and the fourth highest waterfall in the United States east of the Mississippi River, is less than thirty miles from Sand Creek?

Neither did I, until recently. Wisconsin keeps her secrets well.

I have a confession to make: I am a geology nerd. I won a 4-H purple ribbon at the 1984 Minnesota State Fair with my rock collection. So I am always on the lookout for geological oddities. Rock outcrops fascinate me; it is as if we are given a glimpse into the ancient history of this little piece of earth we call home.

My home on Sand Creek lies within a half mile of a geological hot spot called the Douglas Fault. About 500 million years ago, the continent started splitting apart along a line that stretches from Superior, Wisconsin to the Twin Cities, maybe even more. It stopped, eventually, and we have not had any earthquakes to speak of lately, but there is an ancient basalt bedrock juxtaposed against a more recent sandstone bedrock. If we drilled a deep well we would be going through sandstone; the nice little rock outcrop a mile and a half to the east is basalt.

I was doing a little Internet research on the Douglas Fault recently, and I found out that Wisconsin has two state parks with waterfalls that are there due to the Douglas Fault. And one of them, Pattison State Park, was less than an hour's drive away. So today the kids had a holiday from school due to the annual teacher's convention, and I was due for a self-imposed holiday from work. The weather was nice, so I tore the kids away from Wii Major League Baseball 2007 for a while, and off we went.

The Black River, source of this water grandeur, arises about fifteen miles northeast of my home in a bog; hence the water is very dark stained from the interaction of acid and plant tissue. The falls is a very short walk from the parking lot. The view is limited to a couple of places, however, and there is no way to get to the bottom of the gorge. That was fine with me. I didn't get any memorable pictures of the falls, due in part to camera movement caused by a very excited Labrador on one of her rare big days out with the family.

We took a half mile hiking trail down to the bottom of the gorge, downstream from the falls. The kids settled easily into the throwing rocks thing. If you look beyond Calvin, you can see that the bedrock cliffs here are sandstone, not the basalt that the waterfall was tumbling over.

There were some amazing white pines along the trail, although I am proud to say I don't think any one of them was bigger than some of the pines we have here on our 40 acres. They are impressive though.


Although I very much enjoyed our destination, I think the kids and I enjoyed the journey as much, if not more. We traveled through some very back country roads that went through Holyoke, Minnesota, a town immortalized in a song by a band I really like, The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. One of the nephews lives in Holyoke, and I'm pretty sure we passed by his house. There are not that many houses in Holyoke.

Not that much later we passed through Foxboro, Wisconsin. This is it.


I wonder about the history, if there is one, of this town that maybe never was.

After the falls we drove on up to Superior, which was only thirteen miles away. We laughed at how there was a bar every half mile down Wisconsin 35. I told the kids "We're in Wisconsin now, that's why we sometimes drive to The Shack on Sunday!" In fact, I was driving to The Shack to pick up some Summit Scandia beer that was on sale. 3.99 a six. I was thinking of how, if I knew where the Barack Obama campaign headquarters was in Duluth, I would pick up a sign or something. Then, a curious thing happened. The kids wanted to drive back home through Foxboro, so in turning around and driving through downtown Superior I happened to drive right by the Obama Superior headquarters. So I stopped in, made a nominal donation, and got my sign. Which is now at the end of my driveway, next to the Franken and Vote Yes.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. The natural beauty that surrounds this place where I live never fails to amaze me.

Edited to add: Here is a view of the entire waterfall. When I was posting this last night, for some reason I didn't think this photo was "good enough". But I decided I could not post about this magnificent falls without showing the bottom half, which is a more sheer vertical drop.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A little fall color for you

Those are "my" crabapple trees, which technically aren't mine. Some farmer planted this row of them a long time ago, when they still had hopes of making a life here. While the giant spruce still remains, the house, the barn, are long gone. Aspens are growing through the blown-off roof of a tin shed. Our neighbors still hay some of the 120 acres, but it is otherwise vacant. I still may harvest some of the abundant fruit for jelly. In my spare time. Which I have so much of these days.

The colors are changing by the hour as leaves fall. Maples and birches have pretty much given up, while aspens are glowing gold and tamaracks are starting to turn.

In a couple of weeks, too soon, it will be stark gray branches. But the crabapples will hang on to feed Bohemian waxwings in the middle of winter.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

kitchen moving day

Sally is kind of bewildered by this whole thing. She has never lived in a house with a kitchen.

And neither have I, for almost six years.

As I am typing this, our dinner, baked macaroni and cheese, is in the new oven in the new house. We weren't planning on moving the kitchen to the new house just yet, but yesterday we ran out of propane in the cook shed. I had just gotten our dinner of egg rolls and pizza rolls (Bad mom! Convenience food!) heated up when I realized the stove was not cranking out any more heat. I was negligent in not noting when we last bought propane for the cook shed; a 100 pound cylinder usually lasts 4 months or longer.

Big dilemma. Do we buy more propane until we get the wiring and stuff ready to cook in the new house, or do we go for the change? The answer seemed obvious to me. I was tired of hiking over to the cook shed and making two or three trips to haul meals over. And, paying for propane when we had a like new electric range sitting there in the new house was folly. So we went for the change. Luckily our friend and handyman Chris was available to help out.

We moved the refrigerator too. It took me over two hours to clean it, but I was not going to have anything less than a sparkling clean refrigerator in my house! I will never thaw wrapped beef in the refrigerator without a pan under it again.

Obviously, there is much work left to do in my kitchen. But tonight I feel like a queen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

autumn roadshow

The lighting was not the best for photos today, but I had to at least show a glimpse of the peak of fall color around here. Overnight the aspens turned golden, and the maples are losing leaves already. The Hermit told me even the tamaracks are turning, which means fall color is on the downward slide.

Wind and Rain, please pause and let me bask in the beauty of one more glorious day before you do your necessary work on the leaves. They fall without your help anyway.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Unconnected for a day

Our broadband connection was out at work today. Since I was the only one in the office for most of the day I juggled calls between our Internet provider and our department IT guy. I'm glad the IT guy volunteered to talk to the support staff at the Internet provider, because I really don't know anything about this voodoo. They finally pinpointed the problem to the router(isn't that a woodcrafting tool for making edges and signs?) and hopefully we will have a new one in place tomorrow.

I felt lost. I had projects to work on that did not require connection with the outside world, but being connected has become an integral part of my normal work day when I am in the office. I think back to ten years ago, when dialup was a new thing at the office and most of us weren't on GroupWise. So much has changed. Now I would rather email than make a phone call any day.

But mostly I missed browsing blogs. I don't want to stay out here in the chilly cabin for too long, so I won't catch up tonight. Hopefully I'll be connected some time tomorrow.

And, in other notes, please don't ever buy Shurfine brand Italian sausage. All three of my kids and I independently came up with the conclusion that it tastes like what cow excrement smells like. Really. I was looking forward to a good dinner, and it turned to crap. Most of the sausage got fed to the outside cats, who are hungry enough to not care what the stuff they are eating tastes like. Of course, I'll be calling the store tomorrow. I hate doing that, wish me luck!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

quiet house

Not much in the way of house finishing or other useful business got done here at Sand Creek this weekend. I did wash two weeks' worth of dishes, but that's just maintenance work. The Hermit and I, excited as we are about moving in to the new house, are a bit weary of all the "essential" work that still needs to be done before winter, of having people, friends though they may be, over several days a week to wire, insulate, stack wood, etc. Our bank account is also weary. If I've learned one thing in a pay-as-you-go building project, it is this: Electrical wiring is not cheap, even when you don't contract out the job.

We did, however, have an unexpected night where it was just me and The Hermit (well, and Sally) in the new house. My stepson and his girlfriend and her son spent the afternoon and asked the kids over to their house for the night. They live about 70 miles south of here, on the outskirts of the cities. So there we were, the two (three) of us rattling around in this big new house, not quite knowing what to do with ourselves! We ended up watching a movie about Babe Ruth that we had rented from Netflix for Calvin, of course. It was good.

This morning we woke up on our own leisurely schedule, and after a hearty breakfast of ham and eggs and kale and onions I did a triple header on music: mandolin, flute, and banjo! There are so many times when I pick up an instrument only to find no inspiration to play, to explore, to practice a line over and over until I get it down. This was, happily, not one of them. I decided how I sound on a particular instrument is not related so much as to how long it had been since I last picked up the instrument (mandolin was probably a good 4 months or more), but more to my state of mind when I do finally pick it up. My state of mind was perfect for music this morning. The weather helped; after a glorious blue-sky fall day yesterday it was cloudy, cool, and windy, threatening rain. All the more reason to stay indoors in front of a warm fire with a favorite instrument.

The Hermit unfortunately had to leave after noon for a business event he has been dreading. I was left alone in the silence of the house for about an hour before I had to drive to pick up the kids. It was peaceful, and restless at the same time. The first thing I did was vacuum the new wool rug on the living room floor. Go figure. I did get some good banjo sounds in after I settled down. I had never been alone in that house before!

The drive to The Outskirts was rainy and full of weekend traffic on their way back, but I listened to Greg Brown's "Covenant" and "Milk of the Moon" CD's. Greg Brown is perfect music for fall.

My computer is still in the old cabin, which is minimally heated. I am off to sit in front of the wood stove, to be with my children and feel the love on this rainy October night.

Friday, October 03, 2008

two cat night

I have two cats on my lap right now, as I search for existential meaning in the blog world.

Is there anything more sweet?

an Aldo Leopold quote to ponder

"It would appear, in short, that the rudimentary grades of outdoor recreation consume their resource-base; the higher grades, at least to a degree, create their own satisfactions with little or no attrition of land or life. It is the expansion of transport without a corresponding growth of perception that threatens us with qualitative bankruptcy of the recreational process. Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind."

from "Conservation Esthetic", date unknown

Thursday, October 02, 2008

the prodigal cat, and other weirdness

Blue Flame is still alive and well. The kids lured him from underneath the cabin a couple of days ago. He had likely not ventured from that spot since he went missing a week and a half ago. He is in the cabin now, about five pounds lighter and I had to cut a massive cat dreadlock from his back. But he is still as sweet and stupid as ever.

There are frost advisories for tonight, but they are all to the south of here. Go figure. I covered up three tomato beds and one pepper/eggplant bed in the vain hopes that they will still produce a viable harvest. I need to give it up already.

I made the mistake of walking by the crabapple trees yesterday, their branches loaded with rosy red fruit, and I started thinking...maybe it's time I did a batch of jelly again. Or that liqueur. So I may be a kitchen warrior this weekend.

And my kitchen may finally get the change of venue in the next couple of weeks. The electrical inspector gave the okey-dokey today, so the first priority is insulating, then completing the outlets, then moving the fridge and workbench countertop and connecting the range and hood, and I'll be cooking in the new house! Right now it's a real pain, the cook shed is many steps away from the house, especially if it's raining. And I hate going off by myself to cook. Then again, going off by myself is nice sometimes. I get to listen to whatever music I want.

I had a huge spike in hits on my Site Meter today, due to a post that almost slipped away unnoticed about ATV's. Apparently it got noticed by someone who posted a link on an ATV group listserv, and I got a couple of comments. I will have more to say in a future post, but I couldn't help but notice what a defensive bunch they are. I never really got the answer I was seeking. Oh well, Dan from Payne Hollow provided some comic relief. Thanks.

Finally, I have gone political, as you can see from my sidebar. I listened to an Obama speech from LaCrosse, Wisconsin yesterday and it was electrifying. He spoke to everything I believe is wrong with this country, and what he would do about it. The best part was when he spoke about education, how he wanted results but didn't want the teachers to teach for the tests. He wants kids to learn art and music too. Amen! And as for the Vote Yes Minnesota, we have the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment that would add a 3/8ths percent sales tax devoted to clean water and outdoor and cultural heritage, with all the proper citizen oversight. How could that be a losing proposition? Those kinds of things just won't get funded otherwise.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Congratulations Twins...

...for a great season. You were in it to the end. And being beaten 0-1 in a one game playoff is nothing to be ashamed of. See you next year!

And thank you Joe Nathan for all the great saves. I wear #36 proudly!

My "Show Me The ATV Nature Writing Challenge"

I'm feeling feisty tonight. So I was just thinking, how many miles of trails and acres of land in our Minnesota State Forests are now open to all terrain vehicles, through a process that virtually ignored the input from wildlife and fisheries biologists?

And what chance does a walking ruffed grouse hunter have against those who pass him/her on a state forest trail on an ATV, leaving a cloud of smoke and a ruined day behind?

And how many of these ATV riders claim that "We enjoy getting out and seeing nature on our rides!"

So here is the challenge I have for you: Much of our nature writing heritage has come from people who have hiked and paddled the wilderness, developing a reverence and respect for the land in the silent moments of community. But if ATV riders get such a kick out of connecting with nature, should not some thought-provoking writing come out of those experiences as well? Would that not be some justification for the destruction of land that occurs when motorized recreation becomes the norm? Do ATV riders pause for contemplation as they roar through the old growth forest?

Please, anyone, if you have any links to nature writing by those who choose to experience nature in a gasoline powered off trail vehicle, especially in Minnesota, please let me know.

And by the way, this writing does not represent the opinion of any employer I may have at the present time. Really, it doesn't. Believe me.

P.S. Welcome ATV listservers! I understand you scour the Internet looking for anyone who may disagree with you, and then gang up on them. Well, sorry, that's not tolerated here. I have a thick skin, I can take it, but I will only keep comments that address what it is that I am asking for here, or that further an intelligent discourse. And, will one of you be so kind as to forward me the original message that was posted to your group? My address is on the sidebar. And by the way, you're making my blog a hotter commodity by boosting my hit count.

Cheers.

Drive-by birding, 9-30

When I leave work in the evening, there are very few things that would make me want to do a U-turn. Home is where the heart is, and my time is very precious there.

But today, I nearly screeched my brakes as I caught a spectacular sight in a hayfield.

I had never seen so many sandhill cranes in one place! Counting from the picture, there were close to forty of them.

I had thought the sandhills were long gone by now. Maybe these came from further north in Canada.

The leaves on the trees in the background are deceptively green; everywhere else the forest is now aglow with orange and scarlet, crimson and yellow.