Sunday, August 31, 2008

What the hell?

What the hell is wrong with the folks who broadcast news/weather on TV?

Flipping dials just now (okay, pushing buttons) I went to NBC, ABC and the Weather Channel at the 6:30 PM. In each instance there was a team of broadcasters on the ground in New Orleans all saying the same thing, "This place is looking like a ghost town."

Well perhaps it's because the people who live there have learned a lesson from Katrina. It certainly seems Mayor Naggin learned something.

There's a mandatory evacuation in progress so what the F*CK are you jerkwads doing on the streets of the city. Especially, as one of them announced, the storm is moving more quickly than predicted. (That's going to bring it on shore early Monday morning...less than 12 hours away. On the other hand, it will not have time to strengthen beyond the Category 3 it has already reached.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

A little house cleaning

I've been so busy doing next to nothing that I failed to notice that one fine blogger has moved her abode. I met this fine lady at the blogger get together back in May and never linked her old site for some reason.

I didn't get to talk with her much during the meet but she had a really cool camera and was taking lots of pictures. Visiting her site, I found even more lovely pictures...especially after her vacation to area she clearly loves.

Anyway, her new home is now listed on the sidebar to the right. It's called Seaweed Chronicles.

(In looking around I'm not sure she moved all her photos to albums on the side or not so here's a link to her old site Shamrocketship just in case.)

Did I mention...

...that it's just me and the three cats for the next two weeks?

At least Chester is not quite this aggressive as the spokescat with the morning wake-up call as this:

more animals

Still, I'll be keeping the bedroom door closed.

All alone am I...except for 3 cats

Terry and I awoke during the night to the sound of heavy rains as yet more remnants of Fay passed through the area. It had drizzled off and on most of yesterday and continued into the evening. After we got out of bed to the tune of Chester's plaintive pleas, we checked the weather and the bulk of the rain had excited to the east. This was good news as Terry was to be on the road to Cincinnati this morning. She's heading to Louisville for an Embroiderer's Guild of America convention that starts on Sunday.

Unfortunately for me, I stayed behind to mind the cats and see if I can get any work done on building another raised bed for next summer's planned gardens.

Terry wasn't gone more than an hour when the drizzle and mist returned accompanied by some stiff, cold (not chilly--cold!) winds. The hillsides are shrouded in clouds and the drizzle won't let up. Them temperature has not risen above 62 degrees and I half hope the cloud cover holds or we might have an overnight low in the very low 40s. It's supposed to warm up during the week, but then again, it was supposed to stop raining and be in the low 70s today.

So Terry's on her way to Louisville with a stop outside Cincinnati tonight. From there she'll be heading to NJ to pick up her Mom to go to a military reunion in Gettysburg. (Dad belonged to this group and even after his passing Mom has continued to attend their annual gatherings. This, however, may be their last as so many of the Polar Bears have passed away or are too infirm to attend.) Most of the fellows still around are in their mid to late 80s.

Just me and the three cats for two weeks.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Top 25+ going into Week 1

The start of the season always means teams are equally undefeated and unscored upon. But after the first week only half the teams are undefeated and many fewer are unscored upon.

Some of those which lose will be found in the lofty perches of the Top 25.
According to the AP Writers’ Poll the teams currently in that position are:
(Numbers in parentheses are for the Coaches Poll and Poll respectively. I'm not making any predictions after the Michigan vs Appalachian State debacle in last year's week one.)

1 Georgia (1/2) hosts Georgia Southern (Div II)

2 Ohio State (3/1) hosts Youngstown State (Div II)

3 Southern California (2/4) at Virginia

4 Oklahoma (4/3) hosts Chattanooga (Div II)

5 Florida (5/6) hosts Hawaii

6 Missouri (7/5) hosts #20 Illinois

7 LSU (6/8) hosts Appalachian State (Div II)

8 West Virginia (8/7) hosts Villanova (Div II)

9 Clemson (9/9) hosts #24 Alabama

10 Auburn (11/11) hosts Louisiana-Monroe

11 Texas (10/10) hosts Florida Atlantic

12 Texas Tech (14/13) hosts Eastern Washington (Div II)

13 Wisconsin (12/14) hosts Akron

14 Kansas (13/12) hosts Florida International

15 Arizona State (16/16) hosts Northern Arizona (Div II)

16 Brigham Young (17/15) hosts Northern Iowa (Div II)

17 Virginia Tech (15/17) at East Carolina

18 Tennessee (18/18) at UCLA

19 South Florida (21/23) hosts Tennessee-Martin (Div II)

20 Illinois (19/20) at # 6 Missouri

21 Oregon (20/ 22) hosts Washington

22 Penn State (22/21) hosts Coastal Carolina (Div III)

23 Wake Forest (23/19) at Baylor

24 Alabama (NR/25) at #9 Clemson

25 Pittsburgh (NR/NR) hosts Bowling Green

NR Michigan (24/NR) hosts Utah
NR Fresno State (25/24) at Rutgers

Note how many of these top 25 teams are playing at home...against Div II (or Div III...Coastal Carolina? Joe Pa what are you doing?) competition. There are only two games pitting top 25s against one another: 20 Illinois (19/20) at # 6 Missouri and 24 Alabama (NR/25) at #9 Clemson.

I'm looking forward to the Fresno State at Rutgers game. (RU is favored by 5.5.) It will go a long way to making or breaking each team's season. A win in this game will tell a lot about where the teams are physically and mentally. A loss could well doom the team to also rans. Sounds harsh, but that's the name of the game. Neither team should be worried about offense, despite losing their #1 rusher to the NFL. Defense will tell in this game.

Bottom trolling

As I was saying, the college football season opens tonight. (In fact, by the time I get to post this, it will have been well underway. Four games were slated to kick-off at 7:00 PM and another bunch start at 7:30 PM more at 8:00 PM and one at 9:00 PM. All times EDT.)

That means the silliness with Top 25 Polls has started. There are three major polls out there (four if you count the BCS which doesn't kick in until later in the season): The AP Poll (allegedly from knowledgeable and fair writers), The Coaches Poll, and the Poll which uses the first two and then throws their own curves in here and there to rank all 120 Div FBS teams. (It’s always fun to look at the complete rankings from time to time and see just who ranks as the worst. Currently the cellar dwellers, along with last year’s final ranking and record, are:

111 Middle Tennessee 102 , 5-7
112 UAB 112, 2-10
113 Western Kentucky 99, 7-5
114 Northern Illinois 113, 2-10
115 Army 109, 3-9
116 Eastern Michigan 93, 4-8
117 Idaho 120, 1-11
118 North Texas 115, 2-10
119 Utah State 111, 2-10
120 Florida International 119, 1-11

You will note that several of these teams were at the bottom at the end of last season. I know for a fact that if I went back five or six years Idaho would appear down here in every single one of those years. I think you have to go back to pre-2000 for a winning season at Idaho.

It’s just sad to see Army listed down here….again.

The only real “new comers” to the list are #113 Western Kentucky and # 116 Eastern Michigan. I’m not sure how the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers got ranked last year in the 99th slot with a 7-5 record unless it was due to the fact they played many Division II schools in their first transition year into Division I. They open this season against Indiana.

The Eastern Michigan Eagles are opening against the Division II Indiana State. A team that was 1-11 last year in the Missouri Valley Conference.

If you are a graduate or student at any one of these institutions and a football condolences.

(For what it's worth, my son holds a degree from Idaho. He enrolled there in 2002 and graduated in 2007 with one year in Iraq courtesy of the Marines. At least he didn't have to watch the Vandals play that year too. A guy can take only so much suffering.)

Holy Crow! I almost forgot....

Tonight is the start of the college football season! Yeah!

I’m looking forward to seeing if my Scarlet Knights can get passed the Ray Rice and put together a decent year. If Mike Teel, Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood can connect frequently enough it will open the ground game for RBs Mason Robinson and Kordell Young (who missed most of last season due to injury).

The Knights lack the experience and depth on the line to compete with West Virginia and make a run for the Big East title but I’m hoping they can end up ahead of tough Pittsburgh, South Florida and Cincinnati squads. Connecticut and Louisville (!? How the mighty have fallen. And quickly too!) seem to need rebuilding and Syracuse—well—they are not the Syracuse of 30 years ago. Here’s hoping they are not the Syracuse of the last two years.

There’s a lot of jaw wagging out there about the best conferences as bulletin boards and such are full of people who are…well, full of it. Some say the PAC 10 is best. Some argue for the SEC or ACC. And some pick the Big 10. Although, with Ohio State’s showing the last two championships and the quality of play among many of the other members –ahem, Michigan—the number of folks in the latter group, i.e. Big 10 supporters, has dwindled.

One thing is consistent, however, and that is the Big East gets treated worst than Rodney Dangerfield (you see this in the polls too) and that is just plain and simple wrong. A quick glance at the post season play the last two years would and should provide ample evidence the quality of play occurring on the fields of the Big East. I can’t find the numbers at the moment but over the last two years I believe the Big East is something like 10-1 in bowl games. I’ll concede that the bowl matchups are done in a peculiar way to introduce what folks think of as parity and thus provide a competitive game or in the name of drawing fans to attend and party in the host city, but that just proves my point. In the last two years those who matched up the teams felt the Big East wasn’t quite as good as it turned out to be. Big East teams beat up on their opponents with fairly good regularity.

I will also concede that the Big East took a huge hit when three teams deserted for the ACC (Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College) and they have yet to find competitive opponents in the non-conference games that they were forced to schedule as a result, but that will soon change. The cause of the scheduling difficulty was the timing. Most schools arrange their non-conference games years in advance and were locked in when the Big East as it now is came calling. Ironically, the Big East’s success on the field may make it difficult for them to schedule competitive teams seeking to pad their won-loss record. Better to take a chance with a Division II school like, oh, say Appalachian State. (How’d that work out for you Michigan?)

I’ll be looking forward to lots of Big East victories in the next four or five weeks as they teams take on non-conference opponents.

Anyway… College football starts tonight and by Tuesday, half the teams that play will be losers and half will be undefeated.

Party Unity

At least they all seem to agree on something.

This is something else! If it is not a McCain ad, it should be.

(From HotAir via Instapundit and Ann Althouse)

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

No, no pictures of them, but they are everywhere today. I've three feeders out and each is about 10 yards from the other. One is on the front porch, one on the side porch and the third is on the edge of the lawn. We've had 5 or 6 hummers for about a month now and I supposed the population bump was the result of fledglings joining mom and pop at the feeders along, perhaps with a few aunts and uncles. With today's cold temperatures and drizzly conditions, activity at the feeders has skyrocketed. Watching them zoom back and froth chasing one another from feeder to feeder and perch to perch can make you dizzy. There have to be far more than six little birds out there. At times there are five swarming about one feeder and, since it's impossible to see all three feeders at once, I'm sure there are more at the other feeders. Even when I have two feeders within my field of view and can clearly see six birds at once, there's a good chance there are more in the trees, on the telephone wire or at the third feeder I can't see.

I wonder if some of the activity isn't from new south-bound birds dropping by to get stoked up on sugar water. Perhaps they can hear the whir of their brothers' wings on a supersonic wavelength and home in on the sound expecting to find food nearby.

If it stays cool like this (the temp has dropped another degree to 56 degrees), they'll take the first burst of wind heading south and disappear. Last year all the hummers were gone by the end of September.

There and back again

It was a rather uneventful trip up to the Bolt Hole and back after I had the trailer inspected.

The Tundra handled the load with ease, although it did require twice as much fuel than it would coming back without the load. (10 mpg vs 19 mpg)

The trailer tracks very nicely and I only have to be sure of remembering to swing a little wide on the sharp turns of an intersection.

And backing up? Pshaw! A snap! The handling was extremely responsive and, with my hand on the bottom of the steering wheel so that when it went left the back of the trailer did too, I was able to back the trailer into the barn in one pass. And considering that requires backing from across the street, through the gate and then, perhaps to the left about 15-20 yards as I move across the lawn (which may be 30-35 yards wide at this point, I feel quite proud of my handling this task with only the aide of the truck's mirrors and a pair of belt-on mirror extensions. It seems the Tundra's standard mirrors are a bit wider than the Silverado's were. I can almost get by using them alone but the extensions make it even better and I can see the back corner of the trailer.

Having parked and unhitched the trailer by 4:30 PM I looked around the yard and realized the grass didn't need cutting so I decided to head back to the Aerie rather than sack out for the night. And that's what I did.

I stopped along the way to pick up my NY hunting/fishing license for the coming season and to do some window shopping. Having to drop $280 for a non-resident all-round sportsman's tag and a bear tag (despite having to pay some $3500 in county and school taxes) I decided to hold off on any purchases.

I got to listen to the Mets' game for much of the ride home. I always find it amazing that I can pick up WFAN as I drive through Cortland and Ithaca in the evening hours. I got back to the Aerie just as the Mets went ahead 6-3 in the 8th inning and quickly tuned in the game on the radio. (I usually "watch" the game on the Gameday play-by-play available on the Mets'' website.) For once the bullpen didn't blow it. Man, Delgado has been HOT!!!

Anyway, I'm glad I decided to drive back last night because this morning we were awakened by the sound of rain falling gently outside. As late as Monday, the forecast was that the remnants of Fay wouldn't reach here until late today but she arrived early. The rain isn't heavy by any means but that doesn't really matter. A light misting on a well used road can be almost as dangerous as a heavy downpour. The oils and grease from passing cars and trucks rises to the surface and makes them pretty slick. And once off the paved road...well, clay and water make for some very slippery mud. If I had stayed overnight, I would have had to contend with those conditions on the way home.

Speaking of the weather...the temperature is currently 57 degrees outside. On August 28. It is effing cold out for August. And this rain is coming from the south? I did my part yesterday folks. Nearly 500 miles in a 5.7L V-8 pickup and half of it was while towing a trailer!!! We're talking serious carbon foot print here. So where the hell is my global warming?!? I'm going to go get another cup of HOT coffee.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Odds and ends

Damn Mets! Build a 7 run lead and you should win. To lose 8-7 in 13 innings is piss poor. I didn't stay up for the final four innings. When the Phils tied it in the ninth, I called it quits. I was actually surprised it went that long when I checked this morning. At least Heilman pitched effectively as he produced 3 innings of shutout ball.

It's been so cool at nigh that we have been sleeping without the fans going in the bedroom. The outside temp has been in the upper 40s/low 50s each of the last three mornings. Without the fans, we can hear the birds start demanding their seed ration and the dog down the hill barking at some critter in the fields. Both had me awake this morning before Chester's tummy alarm went off and he started caterwauling at 6:15.

Terry is running around this AM getting ready to go to a shindig up on Keuka Lake. I think it's an EGA thing. I'm trying to get the energy to put together an overnight bag since I probably won't get to the Bolt Hole with the trailer until around 3 this afternoon. Don't know that I want to turn around a drive home this evening. In any event, I'll bring the laptop with me so I can check the news, sports and weather. I might even have something to blog about. Hey things happen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Slow day at the Aerie

Been a slow day today. Terry and I met with a financial adviser today to finish up some paperwork that will take our 403b accounts and roll them over to a different--and hopefully--more responsive institution. In my case it consolidates two accounts into one and for Terry it gets her's away from the federal government program she was in and into one with real human beings to talk to.

Then she picked up her little Aveo at the garage. The one tire had picked up a nail somewhere and that was causing a slow air leak. As for the rattle she felt in the steering wheel...Ryan said they removed about 10 pounds of mud from each wheel and that seemed to do the trick.

I arranged to take the trailer in to get it inspected tomorrow morning at 10 AM and I'll then head directly up to the Bolt Hole to drop it off. (I am assuming it passes. I still don't know exactly what they inspect. NJ doesn't inspect trailers. And even in PA if it's less than 7000 lb gross weight, it can be inspected every 5 years instead of every year. My trailer weighs in at 7500 lbs. so it's got to go every year.)

Terry made another zucchini pie that was more a souffle than anything else. I liked this light and easy version. Even so, I have to wonder if eating one and sometimes two meals a day containing zucchini isn't my punishment for putting 8 plants in the ground.

Oh well. Terry leaves for Louisville this Friday and the zucchini plants will be on the compost heap by Saturday. The sad thing is, this is the best zucchini I have ever grown! The vine borers have left them alone because there is no vine (these are bush plants). The rabbits and deer have left them alone as have the raccoons, skunks, bears (if you forget the one that sat upon a plant--without damaging it!), and possums. These zucchini plants have thrived with little or no encouragement besides an occasional watering and one dose of manure tea very early on. I'll almost be sad to pull them up.

Well, the trailer is hitched up to the Tundra and all is in readiness for the morrow. I'll be heading to bed as soon as the Mets' game is over.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Now what was I doing?

My fishing/hunting buddy just sent me this via email

Looking For My Wallet And Car Keys

I think it's terribly appropriate as I approach my 59th B-day on September 17.


Terry and I drove up to Horseheads and the Arnot Mall area this morning after we dropped her car at the garage for a check-up. (Terry's leaving for Louisville, KY and an EGA convention this Friday and we wanted to make sure her little yellow Aveo was in tip top shape. Especially since it will be carrying her to Atlanta in early October for SAGA's national convention.)

She had some stuff to get at Michael's (a 8 1/2'" x 11" frame) and Staples (a shipping box) neither of which was available in the proper size at Wal-Mart. I wanted to see about getting some landscape timbers at Lowe's. I'll need about 30 of them for two projects I've got planned. One is an 8' x 16' raised bed and the other is a border for the stone under the deck and by the walk out of the basement.

She got the stuff she needed but I didn't get the timbers. Lowe's usually has excellent quality lumber but the three pallets of landscape timbers they had in stock looked like sh*t. If they weren't bent and warped enough to be used as skis, then they were under-sized and almost round poles instead of the flat-faced timbers I expected.

I didn't come away empty handed, however. Not with all those man toys around. I did get three heavy duty extension cords/power strips for the workshop. Right now I have to unplug one power tool to use another. Placed conveniently around the room, I'll be able to leave the tools plugged in so if I go from the chop saw to the table saw to the drill press, I won't have to be constantly plugging and unplugging the tools from the single outlet extension cord. Then I'll be able to build a real work bench and several stations for the mortiser, belt/disk sander and get down to some serious wood working right after hunting season ends.

I also picked up some 10' ratchet type cargo straps so I can stop using rope to tie things down in the bed of the truck. (I know, I know...I should have down that a long time ago while we were moving all sorts of furniture from NJ to NY to PA.)

We got the latest Old Farmer's Almanac and, having read the headlines on the cover about global cooling, picked up three boxes of fire starter sticks (the fat wood from the center of yellow pine). I bought two boxes for up in the Bolt Hole last year and they beat using twigs and newspaper to start a fire 10 ways from Sunday. I sent Terry to get some for the Aerie in November and she couldn't find them anywhere.

Finally, I got another pair of heavy duty gloves. Almost every pair I've got now has holes in the fingers from picking up and tossing rocks all summer. If I have any left hand gloves that are still intact, I'll save them for raspberry and blackberry picking next summer. I use the gloved hand to lift and move the thorny canes before I c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y reach in to harvest a ripe berry. I still get scratched forearms but at least I can reach those berries hidden in the center of the thicket.

I'll check the price and quality of the timbers at the local hardware store in Mansfield tomorrow. I bought the last batch there and they were in pretty good condition. If they aren't too expensive, I'll go for 30 or so.

Turf war in Wyckoff, NJ.

Feisty puppy scares off 3 bears in NJ back yard

A 15-pound cocker spaniel-poodle mix named Pawlee scared off a mother bear and her two cubs Sunday morning after they strayed into his owners' back yard.

“Pawlee”, heh? Wasn’t there an enforcer named Paulie on The Sopranos? Yeah, a real tough guy…but sorta weird, too.

First a cat in West Milford trees a bear in 2006 and now a cockapoo in Wyckoff. Don't mess with the innocent looking pets in NJ. They can be the most dangerous of all.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Family News Flash!!!

Number One (and only) Son, Rick, just called to say, "Hi!" as he is wont to do every Sunday.

He dropped this little tidbit on us. He and Sandy are engaged to be married. They are out in Eugene, OR. She is a third year law student (born and raised in Chicago of good Polish/Slavic stock). He is a certified arborist working for a tree removal/landscaping company.

When do you want the wedding? "Either someday (next summer) or Sunday (Vegas, baby!)."

What's the ring like? "Still being made."

Democratic Party Surrenders

The Democratic Party is apparently being run much like any public school. (Appropriate considering how much the NEA and FTA are into the Dems and vice versa.) The Party set up primary election rules that absolutely must be followed “or else!” but then, a state or two didn’t follow the rules. The party boldly announced that they will be punished for their temerity in accordance with the rules as they were established. But then the states whined and threatened and fetched their parents in and declared that if the punishment isn’t lifted there would be hell to pay.

Today the Democratic Party, true to its best traditions, surrendered. Oh, not to any foreign power. No, no! They surrendered to Michigan and Florida.

Dems give Michigan and Florida full voting rights

Worst. Cartoonist. Ever.

did you read today's (Sunday's) Doonesbury comic strip? It still appears in many papers on the comics page although it really should be on the editorial page. Both the Williamsport Sun Gazette and the Elmira Star Gazette carry Mr. Trudeau's editorial.

Today this left-leaning (if it leaned any further, it would fall down) piece that is occasionally humorous hit upon the theme of President Bush being the "Worst. President. Ever." (Yes, he used the single word sentences to drive home his point.)

It angered me at first that Trudeau would harp upon such a falsehood. Especially with the Democrat Convention this week featuring such luminaries as Presidents Carter and Clinton.

Mr. Carter, lest we forget led an administration that saw the US embassy staff in Iran held hostage for months while he did nothing but whine. He also led the US economy into a real recession with double digit inflation and interest rates. And, of course, we should remember long lines at gas stations because of the OPEC nations withholding of oil. Since retiring from office, Mr. Carter has hopped around the world searching for a platform from which his criticism of the USA can be made. Usually this entails cozying up to leftist dictators.

And Mr. Clinton was impeached. Not for having sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, but for lying about it. He oversaw the weakening of the US military to the joy of our enemies while at the same time commanding strikes in Somalia and the Balkans. Like Carter, Clinton kissed up to the Palestinians to get them to sign a peace accord, the Oslo Accords, which lasted about as long as it took for the signatures to dry. There was Travelgate, White Water and the Marc Rich pardon. And the Lincoln Bedroom might as well have been a luxury suite at the Hyatt considering how it was rented out to the highest contributor. Such dignity while in the Oval Office!

So I guess the likes of G. B. Trudeau need to repeat the "Worst. President. Ever." meme often and with vigor in the hopes that someone, somewhere may believe that it is true and will forget the actions and character of the last two Presidents who had a (D) after their names.

3:00 AM

The ridiculousness of a 3 AM text message from Obama to his supporters telling them that he has chosen Biden for a running mate has some folks upset.

Some didn't like the fact that the main stream media seemed to know the evening before when they (the text recipients) were supposed to get an exclusive.

Some don't like the fact that they were awakened at 3 AM by their cell phones ringing.

Others just aren't happy The One chose an old white guy whose been in the Senate for ever.

To all of them I would say, remember who has shown the most support of Obama during this primary run. What time was it in Germany when the call went out? There's a six hour time difference making it 9 AM in the land where 200K allegedly showed up to hear The One speak.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama/Biden '08?

I've been trying to stay away from the Presidential politics but I'm finding it more and more difficult.

Don Surber says that Fox News Channel won’t air this ad because it upsets people to consider who Barack Obama calls friends.

Perhaps it is time to start upsetting people. With friends like this, Obama shouldn’t even be in the Senate, let alone running for the Presidency.
(And that doesn’t even take into account Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, or the rest of the Chicago machine and everyone under the bus.)

The McCain folks were quick to pick up on Obama’s choice of Biden for VP. And they played dirty. They used direct quotes from Biden.

Ed Morrisey on the timing of the text message announcement:
I’m not sure a political campaign could possibly screw up a running-mate announcement as badly as Team Obama. The e-mail message that the world awaited for days finally came — at 4:50 am ET.

Michelle Malkin says It’s Smarmy and Smirky ‘08!

If this was such a great choice, why announce it very late Friday night/early Saturday morning? This is the time when all bad news is usually announced because newsrooms are undermanned and because no one is going to be paying attention come Saturday morning.

Also, Peggy Noonan wrote this week in the Wall Street Journal about why Barack Obama seems to be falling in recent polls:
They're Paying Attention Now.

Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot. The man hasn’t been declared the official candidate yet. That might happen next week at the convention in Denver. Might not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Well, the deer got all those rose buds I talked about the other day. Terry noticed they were nipped off this morning as she went to harvest more zucchini from the garden.

Monday night I thought I heard a deer huffing outside but couldn't spot one even with the million candle power light. Flower buds are like candy to deer. Concentrated energy.


At least I won't have to do much pruning. I will have to see about a small fence tall enough to prevent a repeat next year.

Company at the Aerie

Yesterday, Terry and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary and were lucky enough to have company to help us do so. My fishing/hunting buddy and Terry's cousin, Joe, and his wife, Pat, stopped by for the night as they made the circuit from NJ-Catskills-Niagara Falls-and back to NJ.

The two of them are great people and it's always a pleasure to just kick back and relax with them around. This being their first visit to the Aerie, however, we didn't relax much! After a tour of our home, we gave them an auto tour of the county as we went over to Wellsboro, Leonard Harris State Park (The Grand Canyon of PA), and up Route 287 to Hammond-Tioga Lakes and the Corps of Engineers facility before returning to the Aerie via Route 15 and Mansfield.

Joe was born on Terry's 5th birthday so they've always had a "connection" as she figured he was a present. He was into hunting long before I begged him to show me the ropes and help me get started. He and I have been going to Quebec to fish out of Ceasar's Lodge for over 15 years. They have three kids and our two are about the same age as their two oldest. They have become grandparents as their eldest has been married for two years and has a little girl. Joe will be retiring next June/July and they will then be looking to move out of NJ to southwest Virginia. Pat is an RN and will continue to work part time wherever they end up.

We ate and drank and talked for the balance of the night, generally enjoying the comfort that comes with being around good friends.

They just left and I miss them already.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fay is coming to Disney World

I'm glad I don't have plans to be in Orlando this week...or Tampa or St. Pete or just about anywhere in Florida.

I've friends and family in the Tampa area and almost due east over near the Cape. Here's hoping they stay safe.

Fidgitty Frittelaries

Walking about the yard yesterday while snapping pictures, I spotted this one orange butterfly (one of the many frittilaries) sitting upon a flat stone sunning itself--or maybe it was advertising as a streetwalker does.

Moments after I took that picture of the frittilary flapping its wings and posturing upon the stone, a second one showed up and a short and--I imagine--suggestive dance took place with the first leading the second around the stone before taking off for the field of goldenrod and bergamont. It reminded me of the newsreels of Gypsy ROse Lee dancing for LBJ--lots of shaking and wagging and fan/wing waving.

I suppose they went off to make little fritillary caterpillars or something.

More Bird Pics from Sunday morning.

Sunday morning while standing on the deck getting buzzed by the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, I also took pictures of some of the other visitors to the feeding area. Using the digiscoping equipment (Nikon Fieldscope ED III and Nikon Coolpix P1) I was able to capture some of the larger visitors who were willing to sit still long enough. The smaller ones (Tufted Titmouse, Chipping Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker) were either too quick for me--zooming in for a seed and disappearing into the trees before I could focus, or just too doggone jittery for a good picture. Others, like the American Robin and Eastern Towhee stayed too far afield for me to get them in the scope before they moved on.

An immature Northern Cardinal. You can tell it's an immature by the spikey, bright red Mohawk it is sporting. (Actually, the gray on the back and mottled white breast help too.) This is probably a male (again the Mohawk is prominent) and he'll be bright red in a couple of weeks.

Another immature bird. This time it's a Blue Jay. Man, that's a face only a mother could love! Lucky for this bird, it will sport much brighter and colorful facial feathers in a week or two. Male or female? Only a member of the opposite sex could be sure!

That immature Blue Jay was accompanied by at least one adult.

Several (okay, make that over a dozen) Mourning Doves have found the yard a good place to pick up a free meal from the spilled seed. Unfortunately, several have fallen prey to the local semi-feral cats who like to stake out our feeders for a (nearly) free meal.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A rose by any other name....

Last spring, Terry and I were down at the Agway when we noticed some Sub-Zero Roses on sale.

Well, we had already pounded some holes into our clay and rock mixture of a yard, but this plant didn't look like it need much more than a little hole so we bought it. It was only about $10 and Terry likes roses. It didn't take much to chisel out a one-and -a-half-gallon hole, pour in some peat moss and potting soil and plant the little twig of a rose bush in the sun.

Well, by golly, something went right. It started to grow! And then it started to put out flower buds. Three of them to be exact. And then in early July the roses opened. They were gorgeous but all too soon they were gone and I thought we would have to prune and wait till next year for more flowers.

Curiously, despite Japanese beetles all over the raspberry bushes and the blackberry canes (next year there will be traps!), there didn't seem to be any attacking our little rose bush. The leaves were unmarked and glossy green signs of a very healthy plant.

A little over a week ago we noticed another batch of blossoms appearing on the little bush which still stands less than 2 feet tall. There are now seven buds in various stages of maturity.

Goldenrod and Yellow Jackets

I mentioned that the goldenrod was about to burst into bloom a week or so ago. Well, some of it has.

This is one of the most undeservedly maligned plants out there. Everyone believes it is responsible for the hay fever (runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.) which really begins to affect people about the same time as these yellow flowers appear. In reality, it is not the goldenrod that is the cause. Another plant, one with non-descript green flower that blooms at the same time: ragweed.

I used to be terribly allergic to grass, tree and especially ragweed pollen. From mid-August to October I would be one messed up person. And then it would start all over in mid-April when the trees would start blooming. I have undergone desensitization shots to reduce the problem to almost nothing. Still, when it's time to pull ragweed from the garden up north, I don my long sleeve shirt and leather gloves because if any part of the plant touches bare skin....

I used to be allergic to bee and wasp stings, too, but a long series of shots fixed that problem and I no longer have to face the possibility of sudden death should I run into a yellow jacket (a type of wasp) or fifty.

The goldenrod flower blooms just when many flowers have faded and its many florets supply pollen and nectar for insects well into the fall. In fact, while milkweed plants and flowers may fuel the Monarch Butterfly's caterpillar and young adult, it is the goldenrod in one form or another that sees that it can migrate south in the fall.

These may not be my favorite insects (Yellow Jackets) but this is one of the busier fueling stations in the yard right now.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

I wonder, has anyone has ever been gored to death by a hummingbird?

I could ask by friend Joyce out there in Colorado on the Front Range just north of the Air Force Academy. Last time we visited her, she had 8 large hummingbird feeders arranged on her deck rail. Each had 6 or so feeding stations and every one of them had a waiting line. Yeah, she has a hummingbird infestation every summer that sees her go through several hundreds of pounds of sugar. And some of her little friends will land on your finger to sup.

Last year I was thrilled to have a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nesting somewhere nearby and visiting the feeders every day. There was one male and a female whom he would not allow to feed. He just kept chasing her away from the feeders every time he spotted her there. So I put up two more feeders to keep them separated. And it worked. They would feed maybe ten yards apart.

This summer started off the same way. One male staking out a territory and a female who seemed happy enough to mate and take orders. Then there was at least one more male and one more female as the feeders were supplemented by the wild bergamont, raspberries, blackberries, roses, and the perennials we planted.

With 7 or 8 little hummers in the yard, I've only managed to spot one adult male. The rest, like this one, are either females or young of the year that have not attained adult plumage yet.

This afternoon, I took my life in my hands and sat on the deck to watch the aerial display as humming birds zipped here and there chasing one another away from the feeders either in territorial fights or just for the heck of it. There were at least 7 or 8 zooming back and forth from the front deck to the woods; perching on the electrical wire or the hanging baskets; hovering a foot in front of my face; and chattering all the while. I got exhausted just watching them.

Several times I thought a bird flew so close that it went between my face and my eyeglasses. Or, barring that, in one ear and out the other.

Even when eating they keep the engine revved up.

Every now and then a truce would be declared and they would stop at the feeders to refuel.

Truce or no truce, a bird's got to be on the lookout for a sneak attack!

Soon the little guys and gals will need all the muscle they are building and energy they are storing as they will make one of the great migrations to the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and beyond to the Yucatan.

Blackberry Jam

I went up the hill this afternoon and picked blackberries. I had been out there last Friday for about an hour and picked about three pints. But I had been rushed and was keeping my eye on the time since I had to drive the Tundra in to get it serviced and inspected. Today I had all the time in the world and came back with two quarts of blackberries. That was more than enough to make four and a half pints of blackberry jam. Which I did.

I was a little afraid the stuff wouldn't set up properly as three of the pint jars were very, very liquid even after quite a time out of the water bath. I began to think the pectin might have been a tad too old. But then I recalled it had worked fine with the blueberries. Eventually, the jam set and solidified nicely once it reached room temperature. Unfortunately, the seeds from the crushed blackberries separated and floated toward the top so the first couple of tablespoons out of those slow setting pints will be chock full of small seeds. Maybe next time I'll go through the trouble of running the mash through a jelly bag and make jelly instead of jam.

I now have 8 pints of blueberry jam and 4 1/2 pints of blackberry jam in the larder. And that's not counting the quart bags of blueberries in the freezer or all those zucchini breads stacked up in there like so many bricks.

Now I go in search of fresh peaches. And tomatoes. And then apples!

The Birdchaser: BIADD

The Birdchaser: BIADD

The above site has a diagnosis for what ails many an avid birder. BIADD = Bird Induced Attention Deficit Disorder.

And I am a sufferer (?) of this ailment.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Crafton Street Block Party

This morning Terry and I manned a table for the Tiadaghton Audubon Society at The Second Annual Crafton Street Block Party over in Wellsboro. Actually, it was our table and chairs and a couple of our bird houses and pamphlets. The feeders and bluebird houses were supplied by other donors.

This was the second year they have run this particular event (sponsored by the Artisans Shoppe) and it was pretty well attended for a small scale event. The weather, at least, cooperated with nice comfortable temperatures and lots of sunshine. There were several vendors from nearby stores, lots of free food from local venues, a Cub Scout Pack had its Pinewood Derby materials on display, youth cheerleaders, live music, local country radio coverage (KC101.5), an animal shelter presence with lots of cute kitties and several well-behaved dogs, prize drawings, and more.

I took a few pictures but got wrapped up in several discussions and missed some of the best activities.

Youth Cheerleaders perform
Several dozen young girls performed cheers to start the day.

Musical entertainment
Soon afterward, a band began playing an eclectic mixture of country and rock from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. They were surprisingly good.

People were wandering through all morning and into the early afternoon (when we were relieved by other members of TAS). Some brought their kids out for a nice walk through the town of Wellsboro and onto our little street. Others came by walking their dogs. At least one woman had some stranger pets that she brought out to enjoy the sunshine.

Pets out for a stroll
A beautiful green Amazonian parrot (of the Piratical persuasion) and a lovely green iguana of a matching shade.

Terry and I had a good time and enjoyed talking to those who stopped to look at our bird houses and feeders.

Zucchini Pie

I goofed back in the early days of summer and put 8 zucchini plants in the ground. They were sold in a four pack and the little, itsy, bitsy plants looked so delicate I felt it was necessary to put them all in the ground--just in case one or two didn't make it. Little did I know that these were genetically altered zucchini designed to take over the world.

Every plant survived--despite the presence of rabbits, deer, ground hog and bear. (One has survived being sat upon by the bear.) NONE have even been nibbled upon by any mammal, bird, insect, or worm. The four plants in the raised bed in the open--where there is plenty of sun light have grown to huge proportions despite having been planted in pairs. (I did separate the other pairs so as to have four individual plants with space in between.)

We have kept ahead of the plants by harvesting zucchini fruit when they are around 6 inches in length and certainly no longer than 8 inches. All tolled, we have probably harvested 36 of the little green tubes.

We have eaten them grilled, Italian-style with tomato sauce, as stir fry, and simply sliced and boiled. Terry has shredded cup after cup and turned them into zucchini breads which now are filling the freezer despite half a dozen having been gifted to others and even shipped to our son in Eugene, OR.

And then there was the Zucchini Pie. Seeking something "different," Terry asked around and one of the gals at Curves offered this faux Apple Pie option.

Zucchini Pie
From the Kitchen of Toni Bixby


4 cups of Zucchini (peeled, seeds removed and cubed)
1 1/4 cup Sugar
1/3 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Apple Pie Spice
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Corn Starch (add a little water for thickening)
(Options: 1 cup Raisins, 1/2 cup Walnuts)


Mix sugar, salt, and spice with the zucchini. (Add the raisins and walnuts at this time.)
Add lemon juice.
Cook until the zucchini is soft.
When done, mix the corn starch and water for thickening agent and add it to the mixture.
Cook until thickened.
Pour into a pie crust of your choice and bake at 400° F for 30 minutes.

Smells and tastes just like apple pie. Looks a little like a mince meat pie.
Do it up ala mode with some French vanilla ice cream and enjoy.
(Sorry about not having any pictures. We ate it too fast!)

Next year I'll only put in 4 zucchini plants!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday morning walk

Terry and I turned out to be the only two who showed up for our bird walk this morning. Between injuries, emergencies and prior commitments...well, no one else was there. We did have a fairly productive day, too. We started at the north end of the rails-to-trails path that runs from Wellsboro down t Jersey Shore. After parking at the terminus on Barber Road and waiting for others to arrive, we walked south on the trail about one mile to where it crosses the creek and then walked back. We started in the fog but that soon was burned off and the sun came out. There was no wind--or rain to speak of. The temperature soon climbed from a low of around 60 degrees to a high of 72 as we returned to our vehicle. There was fruit on many of the trees along the way, including a relatively large cherry tree, several crab apples, lots of what looked like elderberries and many others. The birds really liked the fruit.

Here's the list of what we saw:

Location: Rails-to-Trails Rt 287 W
Observation date: 8/15/08
Number of species: 36

Green Heron X
Turkey Vulture X
Cooper's Hawk X
Red-tailed Hawk X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Ruby-throated Hummingbird X
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Downy Woodpecker X
Hairy Woodpecker X
Northern Flicker X
Least Flycatcher X
Eastern Phoebe X
Warbling Vireo X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
House Wren X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Cedar Waxwing X
Yellow Warbler X
American Redstart X
Common Yellowthroat X
Eastern Towhee X
Chipping Sparrow X
Savannah Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Northern Cardinal X
Rose-breasted Grosbeak X
Indigo Bunting X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
American Goldfinch X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some more chores at the Aerie

Lovely summer day here at the Aerie (after the morning fog burned off). The sun was shinning and the temperature hovered in the mid-70s most of the afternoon.

I spent the morning cutting the grass and then picking blackberries. It amazing how many there were on the canes along the upper driveway. That's what happens when you ignore them for a week and there's lots of rain.

After lunch I went and got the Tundra serviced. It's about 10 months old and needed its 10K service. I also had the dealer do the PA inspection thing while I was there. The dealer is a little over an hour away and it took an hour and a half to do the work so I was gone for most of the afternoon sitting in the "lounge" at the dealer's.

Rain is supposed to return tomorrow--which is a bummer since we are supposed to be going birding in the morning. Hopefully, the 50% chance of showers will mean the other half of the county gets rained on and we don't.

There's a street fair in Wellsboro on Saturday and I volunteered to set up and man a table for the Tiadaghton Audubon Society starting at 10:30 AM. The forecast for Saturday is excellent and here's hoping it stays that way.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back at the Aerie

As might be surmised by my willingness to post three pictures of the hawk, I arrived safely back at the Aerie this afternoon. Towing the trailer was a breeze and the Tundra performed marvelously. Although it did gulp the gasoline down like a drunk on a weekend bender! Just around 10 MPG with the "Tow/Haul" switch engaged, a truck bed full of wood and soil, and a 27' travel trailer in tow. At least the price of that gas is coming down. It was $4.07 at the Chittenango service area on the NYS Thruway and just $3.76 at the Gulf station at the intersection of Routes 14 & 6 in Troy, PA. A little over a month ago it would have been $4.30+ and $4.10.

Hauling the trailer up the hill to the Aerie was a hoot. I had to stop right at the driveway because a survey crew member was standing at the end of the driveway. (They're doing survey work for the wind towers they're supposed to be putting up on top of the ridge.) Once stopped, I spun my wheels a bit to pull a little further up the dirt road before I could back into the drive. I struggled with the backing up part a little. It would be easier with A- a smaller trailer, B- without an audience (survey crew), C- a straighter driveway (mine has a short dogleg at the end before it arcs gently into the clearing in front of the garage), and D- a road that didn't slope at an angle of between thirty and forty degrees.

Anyway, I managed to get the trailer backed in the driveway, wheel chocks in place, and unhooked from the Tundra without a major incident. Of course, it's not level since the driveway slopes just a wee bit, but I don't plan on sleeping in the trailer while it's in the driveway. I could have backed it up onto the grass where it would have been level, but I just planted that grass earlier this summer and it is growing too nicely to run over it with the trailer/truck combo any time soon.

Now, if only the papers from PennDot would get here so I can get the trailer inspected.

Red-shouldered Hawk at the Bolt Hole

So, as I mentioned yesterday, there was a hawk upon the electric wires outside the Bolt Hole in the morning and it seemed quite tame. At least it allowed me to go inside and get my camera and then come back and snap some pictures of it. It stayed in one place merely looking at me as I approached closer and closer. It wasn’t until I was nearly beneath it that it flew off.
Red-shouldered Hawk

Terry and I were looking at these pictures and comparing the photos in Sibley’s and we agree that it appears to be a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The place where it was perched is directly over a dirt road that has tall grasses/weeds on the south side and thick trees (apple, fir, pine) and brush (honey suckle, rugosa rose) on the north. Immediately on the other side of the trees and brush is the lawn. There are plenty of small critters, snakes and birds for this larger predator to eat.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bolt Hole Weather and Chores

There was a little more rain over night but the weather quacks got a third day in a row correct. While the morning started off looking a little iffy, the sun burned through the clouds and shone brightly for most of the day. There was one little boomer that past over around 2 PM but it only provided 15 minutes of rain before it hightailed it eastward.

Yeah, I burned a couple of logs in the big wood stove here at the Bolt Hole last night. The Temperature was around 45 degrees at 8 PM and with the rain all day, it felt quite cold in the cabin even with the windows all closed. Naturally, the fire soon made it too hot inside and I had to go to sleep with the door to the deck cracked open and under just the sheet. I did wake up later to pull the comforter up, however. It was barely 45 degrees when I came down to breakfast at 7 AM and it never got much above 65 even with the sunshine.

I had a curious hawk sitting on the power line over the road this morning. It kept looking at me as I looked at it. It talked quietly to it and moved slowly as it continued to sit there. I told it to stay put and got my camera out of the house and snapped some pics. It allowed me to almost walk underneath its perch before flying off. I'll post one or two of the better pictures tomorrow when I get back to the Aerie. Trying to do so here at the Bolt Hole while on dial-up would just take too long.

Needless to say, I was able to get the ATV out and move about a face cord of firewood into the attached woodshed from the stacks in the field. Ticked off a bunch of snakes too. I probably spotted 8 or 10 of the little devils. Mostly garter snakes but there was one red-bellied snake in the wood pile that I kept chasing from log to log. Every time I picked one up it was underneath. Stupid snake kept stopping just one log down and of course that was the next to be picked up. It finally ran out of room when I got to the bottom level and then it slithered off under the next pile.

There was also one larger snake sunning itself next to the garage that I only caught a glimpse of before it slithered under the raspberry bushes. It was more of a brown color and quite chubby. Certainly not a garter snake as it had no yellow stripes down its back. I failed to catch a glimpse of its head so I can't be sure that it wasn't a copperhead. (If the head is triangular or wedge shaped it's a good indication that the damn thing is poisonous.) With no idea of what it might have been I let it go its own way.

I also loaded two ATV loads onto the truck to take back to the Aerie. It's good, seasoned cherry for the most part with a little birch and red maple thrown in the mix. It will burn nicely in the fireplace come the cold winter months.

After the wood (and two big tubs of topsoil) was loaded into the truck, I got down to the business of hooking up the travel trailer for a trip down to the Aerie. PA requires all trailers over 7000 pounds be inspected annually. The 27' travel trailer weighs in at around 7500 pounds. I sent off the registration over a week ago so it should be back from PennDot soon. There's no sense making a separate trip up to get the trailer when there is room in the driveway to park it until I decide to come back up. (Early bear season in NY starts on September 13 this year so I might be back in a month.)

This will be the first time I've towed the trailer with the Tundra and I'm interested in seeing how it handles the load of wood, soil and trailer. I know that with the Silverado my MPGs went way down when I was towing.

There you have it. I'll have a little packing to do in the morning and a little cleanup after breakfast but I should be on the road by 9 or 9:30. Hopefully they will be done stoning the road, Mark said it took him close to 40 minutes to travel the last 6 miles around noon today because of the trucks, rollers, etc. Could get interesting with the trailer in tow.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another rainy cold day at the Bolt Hole

I woke this morning to a near 45 degree temperature and it hasn't gotten much better. The temperature outside reads a mere 55 at 1:30 in the afternoon. And the rain has been nearly continuous as well. The thunderstorms just keep rolling overhead. There was one boomer that, while not right over me--thank goodness, still rattled the old cabin to it's core.

This makes the second day in a row the weather quacks have gotten it right. Amazing!

I've once more had to postpone any outdoor activity but the place has gotten a much needed vacuuming and general cleaning.

There's hope that there will be some nice conditions coming tomorrow morning but they aren't supposed to last so if they do appear I'll have to work fast to get the things done that need doing.

Meanwhile it's more crossword puzzles and naps. I am thinking about building a fire if things don't warm up soon. It would also take some of the rawness out of the air.

It's so bad outside that I had a mouse or two in the house last evening. There hasn't been a house mouse in months. And it's not because the place is tight. If I ever had a build up of gas or anything inside I don't think I would have to worry. There are so many little openings that it would dissipate long before it came to any danger levels. I set out four Victor snap traps and caught one white-footed deer mouse over night. The traps will stay out until I have to leave later this week.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Morning Rain

It might be a first. The weather dudes got it right. They called for rain late in the night and sure enough it started to sprinkle around 4 AM. And then--as they predicted--it continued though much of the morning. We even had some thunder in the distance to go along with some heavier precipitation. Then, just as suddenly, it stopped raining and the sun came out for a couple of hours. Now there's a threatening sky in the distance and it may--or may not--rain again this afternoon. If it holds off, I may have to go out and do some of the chores I've planned as the chances of precip tomorrow and Tuesday are still bouncing around the 50-50 mark.

The temperature for August 10th is a remarkable 65 degrees (when the sun is out). That's a wee bit low for the southern Adirondacks.

UPDATE: It's 4 PM and there's more thunder and rain. I believe I'll go take a nap if I can. The sound of rain on a tin roof can be deafening.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

At the Bolt Hole

I enjoyed a nice leisurely ride up to the Bolt Hole this morning (after dumping yet another 0.25 inches of rain out of the Aerie's rain gauge). The sun was shinning and the air was cool when I arrived. It's supposed to get even cooler yet we'll have thunderstorms and possibly hail tonight and tomorrow.

As soon as I pulled into the yard and unloaded the truck, I got the lawn mower going and cut the grass. It was a good 8 inches high in some spots and that forced me to go slow. I kept my eye on the critters in that thick stuff and noticed lots of black crickets but no grasshoppers. Last year it was just the opposite, there were grasshoppers all over the place. There were also three garter snakes, a couple of toads, a wood frog, a leopard frog and one dead bullfrog at the entrance to a burrow under the back of the garage. Lots of cedar waxwings flitted around the yard as the honeysuckle are loaded with red berries and the cherry trees are also full of fruit. There were two hummingbirds going after the phlox in the garden as well as the spiders in the spiderwebs round about. Dragonflies cruised the air above the lawn and picked off the deer flies and occasional black fly. I came across several balls of grass that were probably home to voles, but they were all empty wen I ran over them.

It took me just over three hours to finish the cutting at which time I went inside to fix dinner and turned on the TV just in time to see the Angles rack up an 8 spot on the Yankees to win 11-4. One thing that Tim McGarver said that was amazing was that the home run Vladimir Guerrero hit to start the big rally was his 105th home run on the first pitch. Now Vlad has hit a lot of home runs but hit 105 on the first pitch thrown to him in a plate appearance is astounding.

Well, if the weather quacks have got this forecast correct (I know, what are the odds?), I should have an easy day of it tomorrow. It will be too wet to be shuttling wood from the pile to the storage shed and too wet to go walk in the woods. Sounds like a day for naps, crossword puzzles and maybe a little Olympic action.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Off to the Bolt Hole

I'll be heading up to the Bolt Hole in the Adirondacks for a couple of days. The grass needs cutting, firewood needs storing, I need to see about moving the travel trailer back to PA for inspection, yada, yada, yada.

If things go according to plan (and the weather doesn't sink me) I should be there only until Wednesday before making my way back to the Aerie.

I've already got a date in Wellsboro on Saturday the 16th, so I can't be delayed more than a day or so.

Rain report

As I mentioned, the Aerie had 0.12 inches of rain this morning. That was on top of 0.14 that fell last night. In addition, we had another 0.18 inches this afternoon--some of which fell as the sun was shining.

Currently the sun is shinning brightly and there are only a few picturesque cumulus clouds are present. And the temperature has risen to 66°F!

There's still the possibility of a shower or two overnight. According to the weather quacks. I'm thinking of hanging a weather rock out in the yard. It would give a better idea of what the weather is than either or

UPDATE: Well, that didn't last long. A few minutes after I posted about the lovely cumulus clouds, they all pushed to the south and a thick dark gray cloud cover took over and hid the sun. And now (6:45 PM) it is raining again.

(Call me slow, but I just noticed that the time stamp does not use Daylight Savings Time and thus, instead of 6:05 PM this post was listed as having originally appeared at 5:06 PM. That makes a difference when considering the rapid change in weather conditions noted in the update.)

UPDATE 2: Doh! Not 15 minutes and the sun is out and the rain has stopped. Time for a rock.

Birding at Hammond Lake

Terry and I went birding this morning at Ive’s Run/Hammond Lake with a large group (9) from Tiadaghton Audubon Society. I was out there just last week but there have been major changes. The lake has been drawn down nearly 5 feet and vast mud flats are now exposed on the western end. This may have been done with the intention of removing some debris that has clogged the channels or so as to work on the dam/spillway. Whatever the reason, the flats have created excellent habitat for many wading birds.

Location: Ive's Run-Crooked Creek
Observation date: 8/8/08
Notes: Hammond Lake has been drawn down several feet exposing wide mud flats on the western end. Swallows, sandpipers, yellowlegs and plovers are using these to good advantage.

The morning started out clear and still but a cool wind out of the northwest brought dark clouds and eventually rain. The temperatures never got abouve 60 degrees F all morning.
Number of species: 33

Canada Goose X
Mallard X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron X
Green Heron X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey X
Bald Eagle X
Semipalmated Plover X
Killdeer X
Spotted Sandpiper X
Greater Yellowlegs X
Lesser Yellowlegs X
Semipalmated Sandpiper X
Least Sandpiper X
Ring-billed Gull X
Mourning Dove X
Belted Kingfisher X
Least Flycatcher X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Cliff Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Cedar Waxwing X
Common Yellowthroat X
Song Sparrow X
Northern Cardinal X
Rose-breasted Grosbeak X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Weather eventually caused us to pack it in and shortly afterward the sky opened and the rains came. When we got back to the Aerie at 11:30 AM, Terry and I found it had rained 0.12 inches since we had left at 6:30 AM. We had missed most of that being some 15 miles away. No sooner did we get in the house than the rain arrived—again. It poured quite heavily for an hour, stopped, and then rained again for forty-five minutes. It looks like that could be the pattern for the rest of the day.

Oh, and the “high” temperature for the day has been 62°F at 12:30 PM. The fans are all off and the windows are mostly closed. Long sleeves or even a sweater are the rule for the day.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Finished hillside bed

This morning I went back to work on raising the wall and mixing the soil. There was rain in the forecast and I wanted to get done before it arrived.

I first spread a tarp on the ground above the bed and shoveled all the screened soil out of the bed. Then I laid a layer of landscaper’s cloth on the bottom of the bed and up the inside of the stone wall being sure there was enough on each end to wrap up the stone there as well. Once the cloth was in place, I shoveled enough soil back in to hold it in place. Next I added three bags of composted cow manure with humus and raked that out to mix with some of the soil. Then another layer of soil was added. Then half the 3 cubic feet of peat moss got shoveled on and raked in. Then came more soil, more peat moss, more soil and the last two bags of composted cow manure and finally the last of the soil. All the while, I was raising the stone wall a layer at a time and sending Terry to find some appropriate rocks for the back ledge of the bed. When all was done, I placed some of the left over hay from the lawn project on top to keep the clay from baking in the sun or washing away in a real heavy rain.

Finished bed

Another look

The best thing is that if I decide to build another bed up the slope. I should be able to use the top level of the back wall as the bottom edge of the wall. (It wouldn’t be part of the bottom row, I would put the new wall back into the slope so it just overlaps the edge of the stones already in place..)

Anyway, I do have lots of stone left which will be used on the next plant bed that will be built. This one will be done with a minimum of digging because the telephone/TV/computer line runs beneath the soil somewhere in the vicinity. It will go just to the right-foreground of this telephone pole. (A remnant of the previous owners wind mill project I believe.) I’ll have to do something to beat the weeds back. That won’t be easy as there’s a good sized multiflora rose sitting front and center and those things have got thorns to rival the blackberry canes.

The next area.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Raised bed at the Aerie

I spent all day outside working to create one raised bed out of the hillside next to the stairs I carved into the slope. And I do mean all day. I started slightly after 8 AM when I finished my second cup of coffee and worked until just before 8 PM this evening. While the sun was warm (it reached 81° F just before 5 PM), there was a constant breeze blowing that kept things reasonable. Even so, I sweat like a stuck pig and took a fluid break every two hours; 20 oz. of Gatorade at 10 and 2, water at lunch and again at 4 in the afternoon. I had a beer with dinner at 5:30 and another liter of water at 8 PM when I quit for the day. Tylenol (extra strength) was also applied when I started, at lunch and again with dinner. When I finish loading this I believe I will take a wee dram of Glenlivet and then hit the showers and bed (with more Tylenol!).

This is what the area looked like yesterday before I laid a shovel and Johnson bar to it.

The area to be worked.

As you can see, there’s a considerable slope to the hill. I intended to cut into that slope and make two tiers each about 5 feet wide and 12-15 feet along the contour of the slope. Once I got into the task, however, two things became apparent: 1) If I built the second, higher tier, you couldn’t really harvest anything from it without leaning over and down the slope or stepping in the bed itself. Hat is not an ideal situation in that by leaning over you would have a tendency to fall down the hill and by stepping in the bed you would compact the soil and kill off the roots of the vegetables growing here. 2) It would be a bloody lot of work to construct and would take more stones than I have on hand.

Here’s the pile of rocks I hauled out of the woods yesterday and the day before using the hand truck and the wheelbarrow. It was actually easier to use the wheelbarrow because of the sides on the barrow. The stones could only be stacked one column and about 2 ½ feet high on the hand truck and, despite having two wheels, the hand truck was more difficult to move down the old logging road.

Wall stones from the woods

This is the pile of rocks I picked up last week on the second driveway up the hill. I hauled them out to the driveway and then took the Explorer up there to bring them down to the Aerie.

Wall Stones from up the hill

Here you can see the bed as it looked at noon. It is carved out of the hillside and is approximately 5 feet wide. (That’s the size of the rake.)

Bed is marked out and "grass" removed.

By dinner, I had sifted and screened nearly all the soil in the bed down to a depth of about 18 inches in the back and 2-3 inches in the front. The larger (bigger than a quarter) and rounder stones got discarded.

Discarded stone from the screening process

(Those are 6x6 timbers forming a rectangle approximately 2’ x 3’ and those stones all came from the screened soil of this one bed.)

Those that were really large or even just 9-10 inches across got set aside for use on the retaining wall. The small stones were saved to be used as a bed for the stone wall. And there were plenty of stones!

Just before quitting time.

Nearly finished screening

My good friends the poor-man's backhoe (long-handled shovel and rake) and Johnson bar (the tall, skinny, black iron bar that weighs 16 pounds and has a chisel point on one end) which did the bulk of the work today breaking up and prying stones out of the clay soil.

I saved the first two wheelbarrows of screened dirt on a tarp and after that dumped the screened soil back into the trench as I worked. The trench is now full except for those two wheelbarrows of soil. They will go in after I build the wall to the finished height. That’s tomorrow’s job—along with mixing in some soil enhancers.

This is fill soil from the hillside, besides stones, it is almost exclusively clay. It needs organics in the worst way to improve its water holding capacity and aeration. To that end, I’ll be mixing in 6 bags of composted cow manure (with humus) and 3 cubic feet of peat moss. I’ll cover with mulch for the winter and it will be ready in the spring to plant some vegetables in this little stretch. Square foot gardening here we come!

If this project doesn't kill me, I'll be in great shape for the deer season!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More chores

I feel like I've been working on a rock gang lately. I spent the morning (8:00 AM 'til 12:30 PM) hauling more rocks out of the woods and moving smaller rocks and limbs about to create a terraced effect in the woods themselves. I figure I've got enough rocks now to start building the retaining walls I want for raised beds. As always I have to take into account the power line ant he transformer that's atop one of the poles outside. The garden space has to be arranged so the power crew can get in here with a cherry picker if something happens to that garbage can up there.

The construction will begin tomorrow.

After lunch I went out and did battle with the blackberry canes again and came back bloodied but victorious. I had a quart of the suckers and now have enough in the freezer to make some blackberry jam.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tioga County Fair

After lunch back at the Aerie, Terry and I decided to go over to the Tioga County Fair.

Tioga County is not one of the most densely populated counties in the state. There are just over 41,000 people residing within its borders approximately 36 per square mile. Outside of Mansfield, a college town, and Wellsboro, the county seat, there are no real towns. Crossroads and villages at those crossroads, yes. Towns? No. (Mansfield and especially Wellsboro make up for the missing urban centers, however. The 1890s weekend in Mansfield celebrates the first college football game to be played at night with activities from Thursday through Sunday. last year, however, they did it without the football game. The university dropped the sport. Rumor has it a smaller, scaled back football program will return. The Dicken's Christmas spectacular held at Wellsboro every Christmas season is a huge gala.) Terry and I smile every time we drive down Main Street in Wellsboro past the movie theater that boast it is the best in the county. Heck, it's the ONLY one in the county.

As you might suspect, there's a lot of agriculture within the county and that's what I expected to see on display.

Today was the first day of the County Fair. We were curious to see what might be on hand. None of the rides were in operation when we got there at 2 PM. They wouldn't start until after 5 PM. We planned to be long gone before that, after all, we had blueberry jam to make.

We wandered around the animal barns admiring the working oxen named Brooks and Dunn as well as photos of their proteges Big and Rich. This Brooks and Dunn would not look good in tight jeans. Hauling timber out of a forest or pulling stumps? They could do that. And they clearly had the muscles to do so.

There were two handsome looking mules in the pen next door. The printout reminded folks that a mule is sired by and ass and born of a horse--and retains the worst qualities of each, but these two looked like they could pull a cart or a plow all day long--if they wanted to.

Sheep of every hue were in abundance. As were goats. There were pigs aplenty as well.

The 4-H kids were all over as well. Some led goats about the show ring and we watched for a while. Others had young heifers and sheep that were getting baths and a combing to look their best for the judges.

One of the buildings held the crafts and Terry was interested in seeing what they had. Lots of quilts and photographs. Some sewing projects and a few beading projects, baskets, etc. Interestingly enough, one of my friends granddaughters (aged 12) had two pieces that won prizes. One was a quilt that I saw her working on with her grandmother and the other was an embroidered horse blanket for grandma's Arabian. Another acquaintance, Gary's wife also had two quilts that won awards. One in particular was very lovely. Gary's son also got a prize for a photo of a House Wren that he submitted. (I looked but didn't see anything of Gary's there.)

No one from Terry's Embroidery Guild entered anything. All said the security at the fair was non-existent and from what we saw today, they were probably correct on that issue.

I was impresed with the number of gardening entries. Fruits and vegetables of all sorts were on display and some looked pretty darn good! There were also flowers on display. Some were cut flower arrangements and others were potted flowers. All loked wonderful.

There were a couple of booths set up for produce. A couple selling maple syrup and its products drew us over to purchase some maple based barbeque sauce will taste good on salmon, and some maple crunchies will be good on vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

There were lots of the usual food booths, wings, dogs, cotton candy, barbeque beef, funnel cakes.... All were jsut starting up and some weren't ready to serve yeet. As a rsult we missed out on our Mr. Sticky walnut sticky bun. (If you haven't had a Mr. Sticky's sticky bun, you've never had a real sticky bun! He's out of Williamsport and is local but if you're every in the area... The Black Swan in Mansfield serves them up. Otherwise you have to go to Williamsport or hope to run into his concession trailer at a fair like this.) We had to settle for a funnel cake instead. You can't go to a county fair and not eat something.

They do have evening programs and shows as well as the usual carnival rides and games. We just werent' going to stick around for them. As it was, we spent a bit over two hours roaming around the animal barns and the display buildings before we headed home to make our own jam.

Blueberry Pickin'

Terry and I went blueberry pickin' this morning at Murphy's Farm just west of Mansfield. It's a pick-youself operation although they do have some quarts for sale at $4 each.

The place is at the top of the hill and faces south with a gorgeous view. We arrived early and there were still several people there already. It was still cool and yet the sun was warming our backs as we worked. Being a Monday, there were lots and lots of ripe berries on the bushes and we only traveled about ten yards down our respective rows (about 10 plants in all). We picked for just one hour and each filled our bucket. I have to say it was nice to be able to pick berries without a thought of thorns and stickers. I feel like I gave a pint of blood picking raspberries and blackberries. I may have to invest in a kevlar jacket. Plus it was a whole lot easier than hauling stone out of the woods.

When we checked out, we had a nice talk with Deb Murphy who was manning the scales and cash register. The cost was $1.40 per pound and we each had over four pounds f blueberries. According to Ms. Murphy it takes, on average, 1 1/2 pounds to make a quart. So by picking them ourselves, we got them for half price over the going rate in the stores.

I asked her about the time it took to get her place in operation and she said that from the time they first put the bushes in it took around 6-7 years before they had a crop large enough to open for a u-pick business. Every January they start pruning the bushes. They take out half of the new growth and half of the old growth. It may take them all of January and February to get all their plants pruned properly. And they may have to dig the snow out of the way to do the job. She says they really, really hate that part! But the work they put in has yielded a beautiful blueberry farm. Their bushes cover about 2 acres and they are constantly adding plants. I could see five or six relatively new rows as well as the odd plant here and there where an old plant had to be replaced.

Ms. Murphy says that they will still be open daily until around the 19th of August. After that it will be Saturdays only until the berries are gone. I may go back again later this week.

We put 3 quarts of berries in the freezer (for pancakes, buckle and muffins), one quart in the fridge (for cereal), and the rest (3 quarts) we made into Blueberry Jam--7+ pints of it. (That's 7 quarts for a little over $12 and a little sweat equity.)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Aerie Chore Report.

I spent the better part of the day hauling flat stones out of the woods using the hand truck. before I could bring them out I had to first move them down the hillside to the trail where the hand truck could be used. Last time I moved stones up the hill to the driveway on the adjacent lot. Today it was a matter of getting them down to the old logging road at the base of the hill. I figure that leaves lots of rocks in the middle of the woods that I can take either up or down.

While walking about in the woods I carried my loppers with me and knocked down a good deal of dead wood. I made not so neat piles of the branches and logs across the slope of the hill in the hopes of slowing down erosion. (There really isn't very much erosion except in two little gullies that carry rain water and snow melt from the upper driveway into the woods. I laid some of the branches across these in several places as little check dams.)

After six hours traipsing in the woods and tossing stones around I'm sore from the bottom of my feet to the lower part of my back. (I sure could have used a couple of discus throwers or shot putters!)

I did take some time off immediately after lunch to go and pick some blackberries. I managed a little over a quart just from the bushes along the driveway and power line right of way. Now I've almost enough to make some blackberry jelly as soon as Terry can get some cheesecloth to act as a strainer. (I'd be happy with jam but Terry complains about the seeds getting stuck between her teeth, so jelly it is.)

And I'm taking tomorrow off from the stone work as Terry and I go pick some blueberries in the morning. Then we'll go over to the Tioga County Fair in the afternoon.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Gardening report from the Aerie

Terry and I woke up this morning to the sound of thunder and rain at 4 AM. It continued on through 8 AM and then the clouds in the sky opened into puffy cumulus with the sun shining between. By then the rain gauge held 0.35 inches and you could hear the zucchini sucking up the moisture and growing larger by the second.

We had planned on going over the hill to a commercial blueberry enterprise where you can pick your own for $1.40 a quart. A couple of hours with the two of us picking should get us plenty of berries for some blueberry jam. The rain forced us to change our mind. We'll go on Monday morning instead. (They are not open on Sunday.)

Terry went out with a knife in hand around 9 AM and I thought she meant those zucchini plants harm but she only cut off three of the largest zukes and brought them inside. We now have eight or nine, six to seven inchers on the counter. Terry declared today a zucchini free day and we hate none at all.

I spent some time walking about the yard picking up small stones and plotting where I want to built some more raised beds. Terry has declared our first two beds successes based solely upon the production of the zucchini and the herbs. I have to agree with her. Although we had very high mortality from the strawberry plants I put in, the ones that survived are suddenly putting out runners and there may be many, many more plants come next spring. The only real failures have been the bulbs and corms I put in the ground. neither the ones along the driveway nor the ones back by the bird feeders sprouted. I blame the quality of the bulbs and corms more than the way they were planted or handled. We need to get some daffodil bulbs for this fall.

Back to the future raised beds. I picked out two large beds and one smaller one positioned so none of them will interfere with a work crew from the power company if they have to bring a truck in to deal with the transformer on the pole outside. And I've already started to think about the vegetables and perennial flowers that will go in them. Some will be ordered as seed and others as plants--most likely from Burpee's catalogs.

Before I can start building the raised beds however, I will need more flatties. So, if there's no rain I'll be prowling the woods tomorrow morning picking up some more one to one-and-a-half foot square rocks. They shouldn't be hard to find. It's the hauling out that will be a treat!

More pictures to share from the Aerie

So, yesterday I was shooting pictures like crazy off the back deck as I tried to get used to the new camera. Some of them were terrible as the subjects (birds, chipmunks, squirrels and bunnies twitched or fluttered at the wrong moment. Others I could crop and otherwise alter to make semi-decent photos.

And what’s the point of taking photos if you’re not going to show them to anyone!

After a hiatus of several weeks, the gray squirrels have started to reappear at the feeders. During the last week, only one has been a regular visitor and it has plenty of brown highlights. (A second, grayer, squirrel was here with this one this morning.)


With all the tall weeds (bergamont, goldenrod, multiflora rose, etc.) around the edge of the lawn area and with all the clover in the lawn we have our share of Eastern Cottontails. This young fella showed up the beginning of the week. He’s really tiny compared to the adults. This is likely his first full week away from his momma.

Very young Cottontail

Chipping Sparrows are among the smallest of the sparrow world. And among the noisiest. Usually they will feed on the ground or on the platform feeders and leave the perches on the other feeders for the larger birds. This one just couldn’t wait for someone to knock seed to the ground.

Chipping sparrow

Over on the tray feeder we had a female Purple Finch.

Female Purple Finch

And over in the “garden” atop one of the poles supporting the Climatis we had this little guy:

Eastern Wood-peewee

When a flycatcher keeps its mouth shut, it can be difficult to ID correctly. With no eye ring visible, no tail flick as it sat there, no shading of pale yellow or rouge of brown along the flanks and no crest atop its head, and based upon its small size, I’m calling this one an Eastern Wood-Peewee. (Although, with the light breast and returning to the same perch after catching a fly, it could be an Alder Flycatcher.)

(Flycatchers and sparrows are the bane of my existence! Oh and some of the small shorebirds. The devil is in the details.)