Friday, April 29, 2016

Trip Planning.

I've been busy planning a lot of trips for this summer and fall. These in addition to Terry's two conventions/seminars for SAGA and EGA--both of which take place in the Virginia this year; in Hampton Roads, VA and Alexandria, VA respectively.

First, Terry and I will be traveling south next week to visit relatives in North and South Carolina as well as Weeki Wachee, FL. We'll also do a quick sightseeing tour of St. Augustine, FL; a stop over in Charleston, SC; and drive both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive on the way home. We''ll be staying with family members much of the time. Yes, they know that already!

The second will be a three to four day trip to the Cape May area--before Memorial Day and the usual Jersey Shore (never "the beach!") madness revs up.

Third is a brief trip out to Long Grove, IL (north of Chicago) to visit with Rick, Sandy, and Chelsea as they will be in to visit Sandy's parents for a week.

Fourth (for me) will be a trip to Clova, Quebec in mid June to do some fishing for pike and walleye with Joe at a remote cabin off Goin Reservoir. (Reserved and eagerly awaited!)

Our fifth trip will be a longish one in July as we plan to trailer to Acadia National Park, ME; the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick; then back to Gorham, NH; and Alexandria Bay, NY. Three weeks on the road. Reservations have been made for those places we'll be staying more than one night but the one night stops still have to be booked or we'll take our chances calling ahead as we travel.

Nothing is planned for August, but we may have the trailer out to visit some of the fine state parks here in Pennsylvania. There will also be time for rebuilding several of the garden beds where dry rot has taken out the landscape timbers I used, oh, nine (!) years ago.

Sixth on the list will be a solo affair with Terry heading to Hampton Roads, VA in the second half of September for her SAGA Convention.

Seventh--and as yet unplanned completely will be a solo excursion for me to Portland, OR and Anaheim, CA to visit with the kids. That should take the first three weeks in October. I might fit in a day birding at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge at the north end of the Great Salt Lake. Maybe even stop in American Canyon, CA and visit with family there. I could even get down to San Diego to visit friends Ellie and Wayne. Who knows?

The eighth and final will be another solo trip for Terry the final week in October into November to Alexandria, VA for her EGA Seminar.

I love the act of planning these trips. Pouring over the maps and trying to figure out what we would like to do and where we will stay. Mapquest is a help but so is the Good Sam Club trip planner. the only thing they lack, as far as I can tell, is a function that lets me tell them I want to go from point A to point B but want to travel just 300 miles (with the trailer) or 750 miles (by vehicle) a day, where's my stops?

My kids and wife will tell you I will plot a course in minute detail (Eisenhower's crew planning D-Day had nothing on me!) but will toss those plans after the first day or two on the road. Unless, that is, we have to make reservations at some of the more popular spots. Even then, there are always new roads to explore, shortcuts to take, and all manner of unexpected sights to see along the way.

Then it'll be time to rest a bit, do some hunting, entertain for Thanksgiving and hibernate.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Waging War!

Saw the first carpenter bee (wood bee) of the season bouncing off the windows of the deck and searching for a likely spot to bore a hole--just as they have done ever since we've been here. So, instead of pulling out the Spectracide Wasp & Hornet spray as I've done in the past, I put out the two traps I built. Mounted one on each side of the front deck in the hopes that I'll catch the darn bees before they start excavating tunnels in the soffet--again.

I found the spray to be a killer IF I could hit the bee but that's the problem.
  1. The bees are difficult to hit on the wing. 
  2. The spray does NOT reach out to 25-feet as advertised when you aim upwards. (And then some of the mist falls back on me!)
  3. The spray is not effective n a windy day--and we get lots of those!
  4. I am not on "guard duty" full time.
The boxes are there 24/7, will not cover me with a poisonous mist and generally are more eco-friendly. 

They are nothing more than a couple of plywood boxes with a couple of smallish holes drilled slanting upward on each side and a larger hole on the bottom to which a Mason jar is attached. I simply lashed them to the extending ends of the logs rather than do any drilling/nailing into the house.

The idea is the bees enter the small holes, get confused and exit through the larger hole into the jar where they die. A friend in Tennessee a number of folks online seem to have success with them so we'll put them to the test here at the Aerie.

I may also add some faux hornets nests made from paper bags stuffed with plastic bags/Styrofoam to the underside of the covered porch and deck to scare the bees away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I'm a b-a-d Boy.

Forgive me Father for I have sinned.

It's been over two weeks since I last posted. It's not that I've been terribly busy or anything, I just have been spending my time reading Facebook and, well, you know how that works. "I'll just take a quick glance..." and five hours goes by.

Since my last post, we have had the heaviest snowfall of the season: about 4 inches fell on Saturday April 9th. That was followed by a weekend of 75+ degree weather on April 15-18.

One bird walk was freezing (April 2), one was snowed out (April 9) and one was fantastic (April 16).

Terry and I have been planning our Spring and Summer travels:

  • First up is a trip down to Weeki Wachee, Florida with stops along the way to visit relatives in North and South Carolina. We'll also do some sightseeing at St. Augustine as well as drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive on the way home.
  • Second will be a quick trip to Cape May, NJ sometime in late May.
  • Third will be another quick trip. This one to the west to visit Rick, Sandy and Chelsea when the come to visit Sandy's parents north of Chicago.
  • Then I will be going north to fish in Northern Quebec with Joe M.
  • Finally, and this is the big one, Terry and I will take the travel trailer on the road to visit the coast of Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia before returning via Alexandria Bay (NY) and the Thousand Islands. I've been spending some time planning this one--and need to get on the phone to start making reservations. 

All if that will get us home by the end of July. But we'll still be getting around the state to some of the great state parks in the north, west and southwest corner of the Pennsylvania.

Terry will, of course, be doing some traveling of her own come fall. This time, however, she'll be a bit closer to home as both the SAGA and EGA conventions are in the east this year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I'm A Lumberjack and I'm Okay...
well pretty good...
and lucky.

I put any construction/building plans on hold for a few days and did some destruction instead. Actually, I cut down some trees. I've been meaning to do so for a while and the winds finally died down enough that I felt I had a fair chance to drop these trees where I wanted.

So much for my "fair chance" as everything seemed to go foul on me from the start. 

A white birch that had partially snapped about 8 feet off the ground (it was still attached) had it's crown hung up on a small maple. Even when I cut the stump of the birch, it refused to let go. No amount of cutting, or pulling on the hanging remnant of the birch could persuade it to let go. I had no choice but to cut down the maple as well. I ran ropes from the maple to a large oak and from the birch to a pine forming a 90 degree restraint that I hoped would prevent the trees from falling on the wood pile or worse the house. The did protect the house, but the tops of both three landed on the wood pile. Luckily they did no damage as it was just the uppermost twigs that landed on the stack of wood. The two together didn't yield more than a weeks worth of firewood, but it's good firewood. Birch lights easily and burns nicely, and the maple produces lots of heat. (I might even make a birdhouse or two from the birch or peel some of the bark to apply to the sides of a birdhouse.)

I had my eye on a couple of locust trees that shade the garden a a few white ash trees that need to come down before they get attacked by borers. None threaten the house, but I wanted them out any way.

The first locust I attacked, was a short distance downhill from the main garden bed. (That will be a future project as the landscape timers on it and the onion/strawberry/herb garden are rapidly decaying after nine years.) I hoped to drop it next to the garden, but it had a mind of it's own and landed on the chicken wire fence instead. Some minor damage there, but nothing too serious. I had thought to save some of the straighter sections of the locust for either fence posts or something else, but decided to chuck that idea and proceeded to cut it into fireplace lengths. It will burn...eventually. Takes a hot fire (see birch and maple above) to get it going but once it starts burning, it gives off plenty of heat. Got a pretty big brush pile from the smaller limbs and branches that will serve as home for some lucky critters.It's even got armor protection from the thorns the smaller locust branches bear. (I've got a few scratches from them and the wild rose bushes growing in that area to prove how formidable that protection will be against a cat or fox.

I went on to look at a second, larger locust that obscures the view to the west and sheds copious amounts of seeds in the direction of the garden, bit had second thoughts when I realized how large the trunk was. Actually I should say "trunks" as the thing divides into three about 3 feet off the ground. I couldn't decide 1) where to cut it first or 2) which direction(s) it would go. It can wait.

On to the first white ash. Slight bend to the trunk, branches pretty evenly distributed...should be easy to make it go where I want it to go. HA! I wanted it to fall south across the trail and made my notch on that side almost half way through the trunk. BUT, as I started making my felling cut, and got about a third of the way to the center, the damn tree sat down on my chainsaw! IT wanted to fall north!

I scratched my head and walked back to the garage to get the second chainsaw. (There was no room for wedges.) If it wanted to fall north, then, by golly, I was going to let it. I carefully cut out the back of the notch and the tree fell with about 1/4 inch of wood between the two saw blades. I should say MOST of the tree fell. One large section above a split I hadn't noticed got hung up...on the large locust I had though about taking down.

By cutting off three foot sections one at a time, I was finally able to get the hung up portion of the ash to come to earth. I then spent the better portion of the afternoon cutting the trunk and larger branches into fireplace lengths and stacking it at the edge of the trail. There's enough wood there to get us through a month of cold weather once it's split and dried. Luckily, there doesn't seem to be any sap rising in the ash yet. At least nothing was showing up at the cut end of the trunk as it would with either birch or maple. (Ash burns really, really good. almost as good as maple.) Got a sizable brush pile from that slash too.

So there you have it. The best laid plans oft go astray.
And it's going to take my aching body a day or two to recuperate.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Back to the Drawing Board

So much for the gate being the answer to the bear incursions on the deck.

Last night I heard some rattling of the gate around 11:30 PM and came down to see if it had held them out. No, all four were on the deck checking out the tray feeder (empty) and the places where the stick feeders hang (empty). I flipped on the deck lights and watched as all four (Mom and her three cubs--very large cubs) went over the gate using the corner post like a pole dancer on Friday night. 

They ARE determined!  After several unsuccessful forays on the deck, you'd think they'd figure out it's NOT a food source any more. But, as Terry told me, it's on their rounds and therefore must be checked.