Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So long 2008! Hello 2009!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy, Prosperous and Safe New Year!

I've grown indifferent to the hoopla associated with the whole New Year's Eve thing. I stopped staying up solely to view the dropping of the lighted ball at Times Square about 20 years ago. (I did stay up to watch the clock tick over to the year 2000. Partly because of the world-wide celebrations that were televised at that time.)

I was never a party person. Large crowds give me a stomach full of butterflies. Mildly phobic? Perhaps. I just feel uncomfortable when there are lots of people around. Even a visit to the mall can be problematic unless I focus only upon my immediate surroundings. Go to the movies? HA! I can manage a sporting even where I'm focusing upon the field or the court and just a few of the fans around me but going to the concession stand will have me in a sweat.

Small picnic parties outdoors, a couple or two over for dinner, affairs where I can isolate myself with a few good friends...those are the types of parties I enjoy. (Although a couple of beers/ales will help me get through the trials of meeting new people in tight quarters.)

So I'll sit here and watch my football bowl games and turn in well before the midnight hour arrives. May you have a safe and enjoyable evening.

Return to normal at the Aerie

Sunday, Terry took the kids back to NJ to catch a plane for Chicago out of Newark Airport--which they did on Monday. Terry returned to the Aerie Monday. The kids (Rick and Sandy) will visit with her parents and family in Chicago until the 6th or 7th. They then will catch a train back to the west coast.

On Sunday the temperature here at the Aerie was over 50 degrees. We had hours of sunshine on aptly named Sunday and more on Monday (although the temperature did start to fall on that day). Tuesday we had more sunshine but winds out of the northwest soon brought clouds and the temperatures fell even more. Tuesday night the clouds thickened and this morning we got two to three inches of very light snow with temperatures topping out at 16 or 17 degrees. The snow stopped shortly after noon and the sun came out briefly. As soon as it set, however, the temperatures fell still more. It’s currently 9 degrees and it will go lower overnight.

I got my workout shoveling the driveway. It was easy to do as the snow was both light and not very deep. By being in constant motion and using the shovel like a plow, I was able to finish the job in about 90 minutes.

We’ll have some sun and some snow flurries with temperatures hovering around the norms for the next week. Things aren't clear as to how much if any accumulation we are likely to get but the best chance will come on Friday night into Saturday. The wind will be whipping the powder off the fields that line the road, however, so drifts will be a concern for anyone driving in the Northern Tier for a couple of days.

The good news is that we will be getting a little more daylight each and every day from now until June 21st. I like daylight. Lack of daylight makes me SAD.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

College Bowls Update

The day after Christmas my prognosticator was still broken as seen by Florida Atlantic defeating Central Michigan 24-21 but I’ve gotten it fixed since then.

In fact though I started the 34-game bowl season with a mere 1-7 record, I’ve reeled off 6 straight correct picks to get back to .500. Luckily, I’m not picking against a spread because several of my winners didn’t cover the spread.

I picked West Virginia to defeat North Carolina and they did—by a single point 31-30 in one very exciting game.

I had Florida State over Wisconsin and I thought it might be a blowout. It was as FSU rolled 42-13 as the FSU defense scored more points than the Badgers' offense (14 points came off fumble returns).

I figured Cal's Golden Bears would spank Miami on the west coast by more than the 24-17 they managed.

And that Louisiana Tech would triumph (24-17) over Northern Illinois down in Shreveport should not have been a surprise to anyone.

Rutgers made me sweat a bit as the NC State quarterback (Russell Wilson) did a fine job in the first half. Thank goodness Teel and Co. came out to play in the second half and NC State’s Wilson did not (injured knee). RU pulled it out coming from behind in the fourth quarter for the first time since 2006. The final: 29-23.

Who would have expected Northwestern to play Missouri as tough as they did last night? The Wildcats played the Tigers to a draw in regulation but finally succumbed 30-23 in OT.

So with 14 games played I’ve got a 7-7 record in picking the winners. Not great, but after starting 1 and 7 not bad either. And it seems that I'm doing as well as some "professionals" at ESPN.

(It irks me no end that they still 1-mispronounce "Rutgers" There is a "t" in the middle gentlemen! There is no "d" and, for crying out loud, there's definitely not a "gg"! "Rut-gers" Got it? 2-call it the "University of Rutgers" when it is "Rutgers University." 3- at one point immediately after the game said they had just seen NC State win! Okay, both teams wore red and white uniforms but still.... The birth place of college football and it still gets treated like Rodney Dangerfield: No respect.)

There are twenty more games to go with the bulk (13) of those in the next three days.

BTW. If you're keeping track based upon Conference affiliation...The Big East is currently 3-0 with South Florida, West Virginia and Rutgers winners in their games. We still have Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Cincinnati coming up. (Six of eight teams were bowl eligible with only Louisville and Syracuse staying home.)

Dispose of coffee grinds appropriately

The careless disposal of coffee grinds may result in squirrelly squirrels.

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Big visitor at the Aerie

This morning the winds were blowing about the Aerie and the birds were still visiting the feeders, The Black-capped Chickadees in particular, were coming in in droves. Then we heard the distinctive cackling call of a Pileated Woodpecker a short distance down the hill. (Think Woody Woodpecker. Woody was modeled on either the Pileated or the Ivory Bill. Both birds are about the size of a crow.)

Terry got all excited when she saw one alight in a pine tree on the edge of the yard. Just as I got it in sight, it flew down the driveway ad landed at the very tippy-top of the sumac that is along one side. It was pecking at the sumac fruit at the very top of the plant as it swayed to and fro in the wind. As I looked, a second Pileated joined the first and it became obvious that we had a male and female on the sumac.

I grabbed my camera, put on the zoom lens and got out on the deck to take some pictures. It wasn't easy! With the branches of the sumac swaying as much as 18 inches back and forth, and being mere spindles against a backdrop of a dark pine, trying to focus on the birds was tough. The female flew off as soon as I turned the corner of the house. The male stayed on and I snapped half a dozen pictures. Only one was remotely in focus.

Pileated Woodpecker

There's plenty of dead wood in the forest above the Aerie for these big, chisel-beaked birds. We hear them frequently. We see them much less.

Weigh in Saturday (Not!)

It's Saturday and I'm supposed to get on the scale and make a report.

Not today. And probably not for a couple of weeks.

We've got company and the food has been too plentiful and too good to pass.

Suffice to say that, were I to step on the scale today it might very well protest thus, "One at a time, damn it!"

And the weather stinks. If it's not raining, it's icing over. If it's not icing over, it's thawing and muddy as hell.

Christmas Eve it was fist icy, then rainy then windy--40 mph worth of wind--first from the south then the north. Christmas morning the wind continued and the temperature plummeted from the 40s into the 20s and stayed there all day. The morning had snow flurries but the driveway was a sheet of ice (from packed and partially melted snow). The day after (Friday, the 26th) it was cloudy, misty and clammy all day. The only good thing about Friday was the lack of wind. But that was rectified over night. The winds returned this morning and the ceiling has settled at around 2000 feet. I may have mentioned that the Aerie is at 2100 feet. Those who are good at math will see that we are sitting in the midst (mist?) of the cloud cover. At least the temperatures have moved up close to 40 again so the ice in the drive is swiftly breaking up.

I could do with a couple of days where it's "mostly sunny" instead of "mostly cloudy."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

College Bowls

Who were those guys in black and gold that played against Hawaii last night? Couldn't have been Notre Dame--these guys looked competent! I mean, 49-21 is a real beat down especially since it was 49-14 with 3 minutes to go in the third quarter and it was essentially a home game for Hawaii. Clausen threw for 5 TDs? isn't that more than he threw for all year? Or does it just seem like it? Sheesh! Charlie Weis may never come back down to the field again.

It's a good thing I haven't given up my day job to become a college football prognosticator. There have been seven bowl games played so far and I've gotten a grand total of ONE (1) of them right! (Thank you South Florida!) Okay, it took overtime for Ole Miss to beat my pick Troy 30-27, and TCU beat Boise State by just one freakin' point 17-16, and Colorado State needed 285 yards gained by Gartrell Johnson (he got another 90 yards receiving for a total of 375 yards) to beat Fresno State 40-35, I still had the wrong team in six of the seven games played.

Navy got sunk by Wake Forest 29-19 and BYU got taken down by Arizona 31-21.

I'd feel really bad about the 1-6 record except 1) I'm not in any pool and 2) my buddy Mark is 2-5 and he's the only person with whom I have any wager(s).

There's still a heck of a lot of football to be played and 27 more picks. (Mark and I differ on six more games.) Here's hoping I don't end up with just a 5 and 29 record. Here's the post with all my picks in case you wish to place bets on the teams I picked against.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And now for something a little different

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Counted cross-stitched ornament by Terry.

Another needlepoint (counted x-stitch) ornament by Terry.

I'll be heading into New Jersey in just a bit to spend Christmas Eve with my sister and her family and then Christmas Day with my daughter and Mother-In-Law before bringing my son and his fiancee out to the Aerie for a few days.

[UPDATE: 10:00 AM No I won't! There's an Ice Storm Warning out for all of Tioga County, PA It says we could get between 1/4 and 1/2 inch of ice within the next three to four hours before things switch over to all rain. The same system is currently over I-80 and Route 15 north of Williamsport--the direction I would have to go to get to NJ from the Aerie. I am not crazy enough to go driving over some very hilly terrain on ice slicked roads. And I don't care that I've got 4-wheel drive on the Tundra. It's not worth a damn on ice. So it'll be just me and the cats for Christmas Eve and morning. I'm working on teaching Chester how to tackle ole St. Nick when he shows up.]

May you and yours enjoy a very Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Theo Spark: Diary of a Snow Shoveler.....#links#links

From Seattle to Boston there are lots of folks who can relate to this little gem!

Theo Spark: Diary of a Snow Shoveler.....#links#links

Cat Behavior

I have to say that the cats have been very well behaved with the Christmas tree all set up. Aside from drinking some of the water from the stand and maybe chewing on a piece of tinsel or two, they have shown remarkable constraint. Julie has seen a tree before but for Chester and Shadow this is something new. Shadow has a habit of chewing on plants (and plastic) while Chester likes shiny sparkly things in general. I had visions of them really doing a job on the tinsel and ornaments. Perhaps if they weren't all cloth ornaments they would be more interested.

Oh, and Chester and Shadow are back to normal today. Like a pair of preteen siblings, they've been fluctuating between arguing and ignoring one another.

Yet More Ornaments

Here are a couple more tree ornaments Terry has put together over the years.

This one's a sorta quilted star.

A smocked bell done up in shades of peach.

An example of embroidered work.

Yesterday's cold

So just how cold was it yesterday?

Cold enough that Shadow permitted Chester to cuddle up to her on the couch. She even did some cleaning of his ears. He, in turn pushed his head into her belly like he wanted to nurse. Shadow would have none of that, however, and growled a warning that he needed to cut that sh*t out! He did and they stayed cuddled for quite some time.

The remarkable thing about this is they are brother and sister and behave like such all the time. That means Shadow is always screeching at Chester even if all he has done is look at her cross-eyed. Oh, sometimes he deserves a good screeching and caterwauling such as when Shadow just wants to sleep and he wants to play tag or wrestle a little, but more often than not it's just Chester being curious as to what Shadow's doing.

So yesterday's cold was not quite the cataclysmic event that would bring cats and dogs together, but it did bring this brother and sister pair to a tentative peace.

Monday, December 22, 2008

He's coming!

Are YOU ready?

NORAD Tracks Santa on Christmas Eve.

"...the careless feel of a bit of steel..."

"... burns like a red-hot spit?" (R. W. Service "The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill"

Well, it's not exactly 69 below, but it is pretty darn cold out there this morning.

As befits the first full day of Winter and one of the shortest day of the year, today is colder than a well digger's tootsies. The wind howled all night out of the northwest and the thermometer read a mere 0.9 degrees at 7:30 AM. It had been as low as minus 0.8 degrees an hour earlier. The "good" news is the sky is clear and we should get some sunshine today. Of course that clear sky is one of the reasons it's so dang cold. No blanket of clouds to keep the heat in over night.

I ventured out to replenish the tray bird feeders and scatter some seed on the ground for those who prefer that form of feeding and I could feel the icy fingers of the wind attempting to get through the zipper of my coat. When I came back in the house my glasses fogged up instantly and I had to remove them. No worry about the cats trying to sneak outside--they ran the other way as soon as I opened the door to get back in. No dummies they!

I heard the snow plow/cinder truck go up and down the hill a little bit ago so I guess I'll have to go out and dig the frozen crap from the end of the driveway before I can head down to the post office. Before I do that, however, I believe I will need another big mug of hot coffee.

PS: I blame global warming.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weigh in Sunday

Now that wasn't as bad as I expected. In fact, it was pretty good.

I stepped on the scale this morning and it didn't scream at me. The reading was 219 pounds which is down one from last week. Any decrease is a good decrease.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weigh in Saturday (NOT)

Got sidetracked with snow shoveling and then going out to bird watch.(Christmas Count)

Maybe tomorrow morning I'll step on the scale. Until then...

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

It's not supposed to be doing that!

Guess what, it's snowing this morning--again. Nothing in the forecasts from Accu-Hunch (as good a name as any...and family friendly, too) or (that's not a misspelling) yet it's snowing.

I feel like I'm trapped in a snow globe.

(Ya gotta laugh. It's too early in the season--winter starts tomorrow, fer cryin' out loud--for cabin fever.)


The local TV weather quack just said, "We're not looking for any snow this morning."

Well, Sherlock, it's looking for you! It's don't have to farookin' look for it fer cryin' out loud!

Friday, December 19, 2008


AccuWeather (AccuHunch to some) lived up to its past reputation and got it wrong! The storm switched over to sleet and freezing rain (it was supposed to stay snow) and ended at around 3 o'clock this afternoon. As a result we only received about 6 inches.

Now that's not to say they will be wrong on storm 2 (Sunday) or storm 3 (next Wednesday). They may be wrong right now about those storms but I will give them some leeway as they are several days away from reaching here. But this storm...well they got it wrong from last night to this morning (started several hours after they said it would last night) and from this morning to this afternoon as to when it finished (sooner than expected and, therefore, with less accumulation).

Sometimes I think it would be nice to me a weatherman where your accuracy need only be of the ballpark variety, close counts and if you hit .275 you're a star.

"Oh the weather outside is frightful..."

Woke up this morning at 7 AM and there was absolutely nothing going on outside. As I ate by Cheerios (Honey Nut) at the table, I spied a flock of turkeys rushing to the bird feeders. Unfortunately they saw Terry come to the window when I alerted her to their approach and ran into the woods just as quickly. Later four old Toms came to the feeders from a different direction.

At 7:45 AM you could see the snow moving toward the Aerie from across the valley and by 8 AM flakes had started to fall. I donned my boots and coat and rushed down to the post office to get send out some mail and pick up ours and got back by 8:45.

It's now 10:45 and there's 2-3 inches of fresh powder on the deck. Let's take a look at the forecast...Sh*t! They've extended the warning to 11 PM tonight and increased the expected accumulations to 8-11 inches (up one from yesterday). AccuWeather's maps are a wee bit different but in the same ball park.

And they're showing another storm coming on Sunday/Sunday night following damn near the same path although there's some chance it might, just might slip a tiny bit further north and only add 3-6 inches to what's on the ground.

And then there's the one forecast for the 24th....

Well, I did say I liked the changing seasons and would never consider retiring to someplace like Florida. Anyway, snow beats the crap out of having to sit through hurricanes, 100 degree summer days with 110% relative humidity, and fire ants and such.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Songs of Deer Hunting

Dudley and his son have gone deer hunting in the North Country of Texas. So I dug up these videos for him to enjoy. Of course, he probably won't see them unless he has wi-fi access at the motel, but it's the thought that counts.

The group is Da-Yoopers.

First we have every hunter's dream trophy:

The 30-Point Buck

And then there's a song about the mysteries of deer camp, specifically what happens during

The Second Week of Deer Camp

Happy Happy Joy Joy (NOT!)

It sounds like they've remove the ice from our local storm warning at any rate. Of course, without the ice, we'll have more snow! They now say 7 to 10 inches are likely by late Friday evening. (The Aerie is just to the southeast of Mansfield at an elevation of 2100 feet. Snow amounts increase with elevation. We still have quite a bit on the ground while the valley has seen most of the fields melt clear.)





(Emphasis added.)

Those yobs in State College want snow sooo badly they moan and groan that they will only be getting an inch or two followed by some sleet. They can come up here and do some shoveling and/or walk behind the snow thrower for an hour.

Hey, at least I'll get to try out my new modified V-tail snowshoes. My Alaskan snow shoes (long, narrow with a sizable tail) are up in the Bolt Hole. Those are made of wood and rawhide. I was going to get a pair made by the same company (Faber) up in Canada but the wooden modified V-tail cost nearly twice what a similar pair from Sportsman's Guide in aluminum and plastic cost me and they didn't have metal cleats to assist going up and down steep, icy terrain--an important consideration here on my sloping property. Maybe next time I'll get the pretty ones.

Bald Eagles at Hammond Lake

Saturday the Tiadaghton Audubon Society is going to be doing its Christmas Bird Count. Terry and I are supposed to go over to Ives Run recreation area on Hammond lake and Crooked Creek to do our counting of species and individuals. The weather is not looking real great. Anywhere from 7 to 10 inches of snow are forecast for Friday and Friday night. It's not likely the Corps of Engineers will have cleared the road into the area let alone that we will be able to navigate some of the roads that are not maintained during the winter. (Even with a 4-wheel drive truck, I'm not crazy.)

I went over there this morning to see what was about and found the roads and parking lots cleared to the ground. I'm sure they won't be that way on Saturday. The Lake is still lowered although there seemed to be a bit more water than the last time I was there. Much of the water in the lake is frozen over and only Crooked Creek and the waters at its mouth seem to be open.

And sitting in a tree looking over the open water were a pair of mature Bald Eagles. Whether they were there because it afforded an excellent perch from which to fish, or scavenge any dead thing that floated by, or because from there they could hunt a Canada Goose from the huge flock gathered on the ice and exposed bars on the other side of the open water channel, I don't know. I drove past and turned around before stopping the truck and taking out my camera. The Eagles didn't move. I snapped several pictures from inside the truck (motor off to eliminate vibrations) and then stepped out of the truck to take some more. That's when the Eagles started paying attention to me. One turned its head to eye me and later shifted on the branch to look face me more directly. And I was a good two hundred yards away.

Bald Eagles at Hammond Lake

(No, not the jet, That's SST.
And not the 60s radical student group either. Thats SDS.)

Last evening, just as the sun was starting to set behind the western hills, I looked out at the bird feeders and spotted something on the ground. My first thought was that it was a Dark-eyed Junco for it was slate gray, but then I noticed it lacked a bird's tail and it certainly wasn't behaving like a bird. I knew what it was immediately: a Northern Short-tailed Shrew, Blarina brevicauda. It was interesting to see it out and about during the day on top of the snow. You can sometimes see the tunnels they make beneath the surface of the snow and, perhaps, this one was trying to dig under the surface but it was too icy and too thin for much success. One thing is certain, this shrew is not a nocturnal critter. Its metabolism runs too high for it to go wasting daylight in hiding and sleep. It needs food and lots of it to stay alive. It must have been famished to risk going out where even a Blue Jay could make a quick meal out of it.

It wasn't moving about much and I thought it might be ill. I grabbed the camera and ventured forth to photograph the little mammal before a wandering feral feline or an avian predator ended what ever it was doing permanently. As I approached I could see that while it looked motionless from a distance, its front paws were digging frantically in the snow beneath the tray feeder. What it hoped to find there, I have no idea. The ground is pretty frozen and, to the best of my knowledge, the shrews eat meat not sunflower seeds. After all, why else would they have poison glands and saliva if not to subdue another animal?

Short-tailed Shrew

I managed to snap the one photo and then reached out to touch the critter hoping to get a better view.(Mean, really, how much do you want to see a shrew's butt? I was hoping for little, black, beady eyes and maybe a hissing snarl showing lots of sharp teeth with their reddish coloring. something vicious would be the ticket!)

Well! It might have been acting sluggish as it dug in the snow but my touch lit a fire under it! It scampered off into the rocks, zig-zagging as it went over the snow's surface, dove beneath one rock which had an edge levered up to create a miniature cave, and that was that.

More Ornaments

Here are a couple more examples of the ornaments on our Christmas tree.

The first is a smocked ball in shades of purple and green on white.

Then we have a needlepoint representation of a Poinsettia that was done on a paper backing.

And finally (at least for today) we have an acorn--in plaid--in what I guess you might say is a version of quilting an/or applique. I really like the way the cloth "scales" drape over the form on this one. (Of course, I also like the red/green/black plaid!)


funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more puppies

It's a cat's life.

The cats have been remarkably good about having a tree in the living area. Only Julie had ever seen such a thing before but all three are pretty much ignoring far.

They were even good about all the fuss when we were setting it up and decorating the tree. Chester did get interested when we were testing the lights, however. The dragging cord and general plasticy nature of the wire coating had his attention for a short time. He inspected them closely and then forgot all about them. Perhaps if they were blinkers....

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals (This is not Chester...but it could have been.)

During the actual hanging of ornaments and such Chester merely slept on the Christmas stockings and the other two disappeared to where ever they go when the play Tallulah Bankhead and just want to be alone. Shadow has since realized there is now a source of water to be found beneath the lowest bows. And Julie has tasted (and probably swallowed) several strands of tinsel. But other than that, they have only cast glances in the general direction of the tree. Which is good.

The sleigh bells jingle and ...

"It's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together
With you!"

In yesterday's post "Blah! Humbug!" the Rev. Paul left a comment that read in part " Could be worse, though - heavy snows, ice storms, power outages." All I can say is thanks a lot Rev.! Someone must have over heard cause here's the forecast for tonight and tomorrow:

(This from the site.)

Winter Storm Watch for Tioga County, PA
from 4 am EST, Fri., Dec. 19, 2008 until 6 pm EST, Fri., Dec. 19, 2008

Issued by The National Weather Service
State College, PA
5:01 am EST, Thu., Dec. 18, 2008






And here's the forecast for the next 36 hours:

Not to be outdone, the AccuWeather crew have a little more detail on the accumulations.

Please note the accumulation totals at the top of that graphic. That's 15.7 inches followed by winds gusting in to the 40 mph range. At least they took the 0.4 inches of ice out of the local forecast. That's going to happen to the south of us near I-80.

I believe AccuWeather is headquartered in State College, PA. They have, from time to time bemoaned the lack of snow fall in the area. They all should be happy as all get out based upon their long range forecast which shows nothing but snow, snow, snow through New Year's Day. The storm highlighted here is just the first of three heading our way. Should be fun!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tree Ornaments

I mentioned that we decorated this year's tree using only handmade ornaments, most of which Terry made. There are about 100 ornaments nestled in the branches of our tree and Terry says she counted only about ten that she did not do. These ten came as gifts from others in exchanges at her clubs, from relatives (Jessica and Ruthann), or were purchased from folks in her clubs.

The ninety or so that Terry did are almost evenly split between those which have some form of embroidery and those that are smocked.

Embroidered ornamental sachet.
(counted cross-stitch)

Smocked Christmas Ball in Red and Green.

Needlepoint Angel on canvas.

Did someone say Elf Bowling?

Sure 'nough!

(Man, if that isn't annoying, nothing is!)

If you really want to play the game, you can download various permutations of this game at this link. Unfortunately, it cannot be played on line and there is no version for Macs.

Blah! Humbug!

Yesterday, when we went tree shopping, the temperatures were in the upper 30s/low 40s. There was an occasional rain shower but nothing much. After dark, the temperatures dropped into the 20s and some wind driven sleet arrived followed by snow. That didn't amount to much either as we only had about an inch of white stuff on the ground this morning.

The temperatures have slowly crept into the low 30s today but the ceiling is right around 2000 feet meaning we've been ensconced in a cloud bank for much of the day. There's no precipitation to speak of.... I mean, if it were to precipitate, it would have to fall out of the clouds, right? And we are, well, IN the clouds so anything that were to fall would be...if you'd pardon the expression...beneath us.

So, it's just a foggy, raw, dreary day at the Aerie.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tree

This is our third Christmas in the Aerie but the first time we have had a Christmas tree.

The first year we had just moved in and were still putting finishing touches on the interior. In fact, we didn't really have a certificate of occupancy form the building inspector, but since his assistant was our contractor's son and he was one doing the finishing touches....

The second year, Rick was in Guyana and we went to New Jersey to celebrate with the Mom-in-Law, Jessica, and my sister's family.

This year, Rick and Sandy (fiancee) will be coming east from Eugene, OR. They are taking the train to Chicago and then flying into Newark on Sunday. They will stay in NJ for a couple of days and Terry and I will join them there for Christmas Eve at my sister's and Christmas Day at Terry's Mom's. We'll then drag them to the Aerie for a couple of days. Then they'll hop a flight out of Newark on December 29th for Chicago to celebrate the New Year with Sandy's parents before heading back to Eugene. (Or, at least I think that's what's going to happen. I get treated like a mushroom, if you know what I mean.)

So, any way you look at it, we will have company for Christmas. That means we have to have a tree.

We picked up a nice tree (Balsam Fir) from a tree farm west of here (Zimmer Century Tree Farm). They drilled the base to fit the stand and also to display the trees in their small lot. We could have gone out into the larger fields to select and cut our own, but the ground was muddy from the melting snow and I preferred the easy method of pointing and saying, "We'll take that one."

Terry, at 4' 11" ("And a half!" she shouts.) stands next to our Christmas tree.

The tree stands about 11 feet tall and was selected for its relatively narrow physique as well as its height. It fits in rather nicely to the left of the fireplace.(Which will, of course, not be lit for the next two to two-and-a-half weeks regardless how cold it gets.)

Terry s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s to hang one more ornament.

The tree was a challenge to decorate. We have never had one as tall as this. The ceilings in our Morristown house were low enough that I could touch them if I stood on my tiptoes...about 7 1/2 feet. Now we have a huge cathedral ceiling and the sky's the limit! Well, maybe not the sky, but pretty far up there anyway. To get the lights and decorations on the tree required the use of a step ladder. And I must say, Terry did a damn fine job, too!

Decorated tree next to the fireplace.
How convenient for Santa! (Or the Hogfather. whichever.)

All the decorations we (okay, Terry) hung this year were hand made. They are either smocked or embroidered. Terry estimates 85-90% were done by her. The balance were done either by Jessica, members of Terry's smocking and embroidery clubs and acquired in an exchange of gifts, or purchased from other smockers/embroiderers.

Between the Franklin Mint and Hallmark, we still have enough ornaments for two or three more trees. But not this year.

(Actually, I helped with the lights and some of the higher decorations. Even with the step ladder she had trouble reaching the tip top branches cause she's got short arms.)

Bah! Humbug!

Christmas carols have been playing in the mall and at Wally World ever since Halloween. They form a fitting background for the mad shopping that goes on this time of year and most are pretty innocuous. The Chipmunks, however are annoying as all get out. Yeah, their carols are cute the first time you hear them and perhaps they are tolerable the next four or five times, but when you hear them for the 20th or 30th time…well, action must be taken. And so, in celebration of Alvin, Theodore and Simon’s 50th Christmas, I present:

Chipmunks Roasting on An Open Fire

(Boldly stolen from Theo who had it first.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More birds at the feeders

About the time the NY Jets were marching for their first TD in today's game against the Buffalo Bills, I looked out the kitchen window and noticed we had some dinner guests out by the bird feeders. That's not so unusual but these could have been dinner guests of a different sort.

Wild turkeys are becoming frequent visitors again. A couple of days ago a flock of 15 or 16 marched up the hill without stopping. Yesterday a group of 10 or 12 came over to the feeders but, not finding the snow depth to their liking, they moved on. Today's group, apparently all old Toms based upon their long beards, were happy that I had shoveled some of the snow and scattered seed for the Juncos and Mourning Doves. They also spent some time scratching under the feeders for seeds that had been buried in the ice. They hung around for quite awhile--until Terry sneezed in her sewing room. Then they meandered off into the woods.

Wild Turkeys under the feeders.

The long beards (feather growths on their chests that hang down) indicate that these are some pretty old Toms.

Turkeys are not the only game birds to approach the Aerie's feeders.

Mourning Doves are also abundant at the feeders. Most of them feed on the ground or on the deck where the tray feeder has no roof over it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nicest redneck email that I have read!!!

I just got this in an email from a cousin who's moved to Florida from New Jersey. Seems a lot of folks do that when the retire...or when winter comes on.

We have enjoyed the redneck jokes for years. It's time to take a reflective look at the core beliefs of a culture that values home, family, country and God. If I had to stand before a dozen terrorists who threaten my life, I'd choose a half dozen or so rednecks to back me up. Tire irons, squirrel guns and grit -- that's what rednecks are made of. I hope I am one of those. If you feel the same, pass this on to your redneck friends. Ya'll know who ya' are!!

You might be a redneck if: It never occurred to you to be offended
by the phrase, 'One nation, under God.'

You might be a redneck if: You've never protested about seeing the
10 Commandments posted in public places.

You might be a redneck if: You still say 'Christmas' instead of
'Winter Festival.'

You might be a redneck if: You bow your head when someone prays.

You might be a redneck if: You stand and place your hand over your
heart when they play the National Anthem.

You might be a redneck if: You treat our armed forces veterans with
great respect, and always have.

You might be a redneck if: You've never burned an American flag, nor
intend to.

You might be a redneck if: You know what you believe and you aren't
afraid to say so, no matter who is listening.

You might be a redneck if: You respect your elders and raised your
kids to do the same.

You might be a redneck if: You'd give your last dollar to a friend.

First real snow of the winter.

Friday morning we woke up to our first real snowfall of the winter. The total overnight was between 6 and 8 inches of snow on top of a small layer of ice and ice pellets. We had had small snowfalls--up to 3 inches--previously, but this was the first one for which I had to use the snow thrower.

Standard snowy forest scene from the side porch looking west-northwest.

The bird feeders all had white caps and many of the seed shoots were clogged with snow and ice. I had to scrape the snow away to allow the birds to access the seeds.

The front deck was covered with snow as were the two Adirondack chairs we have out there. I really should have brought these into the basement before the winter weather struck. They are, however, stained and sealed so they should be alright.

This won't be the last snow storm of the season...heck, winter hasn't officially begun! Friday night's full moon and all the snowy goodness certainly made the world bright at 3 AM when the moon shone in the bedroom window!

Cat Fight!!

Occasionally, Chester has to show Shadow and Julie who's the boss. It will usually start with him slowly approaching one or the other until they can no longer ignore him and then they will start to growl deep in their throats and either strike back or light out running.

Friday evening, Chester started out after his sister(?). [She may be either a full blooded sister or a step sister having a different mother. Two females--one feral and one domestic but in the same yard--both giving birth the same day presumably having been knocked up by the same wandering tom.-ed.] He approached and she growled and started walking away. He lunged and tackled her and all hell broke loose. Spitting, screeching, howling Shadow broke free after a minute or two and raced around the living area with Chester in hot pursuit.

Shadow rounded the kitchen island, leaped to the counter top, to the refrigerator, to the pantry top and up to the beam that is her refuge in a storm. Chester stopped dead in his tracks on the floor in front of the counter. At 17+ pounds, he hasn't been jumping too high lately.

He looked at the height of the counter and screwed up his butt and leaped skyward landing with all the grace associated with a bull in a china shop. The first step accomplished he now looked at the even higher refrigerator top. And jumped to that. Now he had only short leaps to the pantry and then the beam and he could have at Shadow again.

But he didn't do it. Oh, he jumped up onto the beam--but not in the nook Shadow was in. He went to the one next to her and just lay there. While she hissed and growled her contempt, he seemed to be enjoying the view. He has eyed this perch from the stepps but could not figure out how to leap from the steps to the beam. (Secondary beams--floor joists really--block the path unless you've got a vine and the dexterity of Tarzan.)

Shadow (left) is joined by Chester (right). (Click to enlarge.)

I think he really enjoyed having climbed that high and was excited about having done so. Just look at his eyes. (And look at the oh-shit-there-goes-the-neighborhood glare Shadow is giving!)

Weigh in Saturday

Here we are again.

Another Saturday and I'm supposed to report that I've lost weight by studiously avoiding all snacks, fast food, calorie laden potatoes and fried foods while exercising religiously. Right!

I'm up another pound from last week. That's to 220, for those keeping track. I'm certainly considering not doing so for a bit.

I've had a sharp pain in my left hip all week. It made walking behind the snow thrower yesterday shear agony. As a result, I've stayed in the cabin almost the entire week. The most exercise I got (aside from the one day walking the thrower) was carrying logs in to the fireplace. I didn't go out to do any hunting and today marks the final day of the PA rifle season. No venison in the freezer this year...yet. There's still a late flintlock season and I may get the energy to go out for that. (Although I haven't fired my flintlock this year at all.)

Daylight hours and minutes are shrinking to their nadir. The temperatures are dropping too. Snow now covers the fields and woods making walking difficult and soggy. And like the bears, all I want to do is but on a layer of fat and hibernate. (Actually, the hibernate part might be good. Bears lose a lot of weight over their stints in the den. Now if I could only sleep until April...nah, Chester would never allow that.)

Well, I did get another set of snowshoes for around the Aerie and Tioga State Forest is near by and there are lots of rails-to-trails places in the county where I'm sure there are not going to be any bicyclists. Maybe I'll get the energy to get out after all. A couple of hours a week should prove beneficial to burning calories.

Me like hockey! (NOT)

This one is for Wyatt at SYLG.

Avian Visitors

On Thursday afternoon when the snow was just starting to fall we had many, many birds at the feeders. They have maintained their presence now that everything is under a blanket of six to eight inches of white stuff.

Here are a few of the pictures I took from the deck on Thursday.

Goldfinches have been present in large numbers. They tend to hog the feeders and squabble with the other birds--and one another.

White-breasted Nuthatches generally arrive alone or with one or two others at most. They will climb down the trees and telephone poles--head first, of course--swoop in to steal a seed or a nip of suet and then dart back to the woods.

Downy Woodpeckers also come in on their own or with one or two others. They will hit the suet and, on occasion, the sunflower seeds in the hanging feeders.

Another bird that's present in large numbers is the Dark-eyed Junco. We have mostly the Slate-colored variety around the Aerie but will sometimes see the dusky brown ones as well. They prefer to feed on the ground or the tray feeders. Seldom will they land on one of the perch feeders as they like to scratch for their food.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snowy Day at the Aerie

We got between six and eight inches of fresh snow during the night at the Aerie. Enough that I cranked up the snow thrower to clear the driveway instead of using the shovel. It took me close to two hours to get the driveway and parking area in front of the garage cleared. While I did that, Terry used the snow shovel to clear the deck.

I couldn't help but notice that sometime early this morning...probably about the time that Chester was waking us up at 6:30 AM...a deer helped itself to the cracked corn I had in the bird feeder. It then went around the back of the house and moseyed on down the driveway and across the road. Of course, I never saw the deer, just its tracks in the snow. I know they were from early this morning because there was very little fresh snow in the imprints.

It's still overcast with the temperature hovering around 28 to 30 degrees and a small flurry occurs now and then but nothing serious is predicted. The radio even mentions that we might have temperatures rising to around 40 degrees in a couple of days. That won't be enough to get rid of all the snow, especially where I've now piled it and packed it, but the driveway could well be cleared down to bare ground come Monday.

With the fresh snow comes an influx of birds. There are dozens of Dark-eyed Juncos, Goldfinches and Black-capped Chickadees hitting the feeders along with a few Pine Siskins, White-breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Morning Doves, Tufted Titmice, one or two Purple Finches and Downy Woodpeckers. The Ravens are having fun flying over head chattering to one another. I really am amazed at the variety of calls, clicks, chortles and warbles the Raven can make. And I thought I heard a Red-tailed Hawk and Piliated Woodpecker earlier while I was clearing snow.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's Bowl Season in the College Ranks.

I’ve been chided by my buddy Mark for providing all sorts of poll data and who’s-playing-who information but not making any real picks. I’ve made my feelings known a few times such as when I would wonder about why a certain team might be playing…at all (Hello Idaho, North Texas and, of course, Washington!), but I’ve not come right out and said who I thought would win in head to head competition.

There are some pretty good matchups in the non-BCS games. The bowl selectors have tried to match teams up in such a way as to give the fan a good game. That said there are some selections that will just make you go, “Huh?”

Why are Notre Dame and Kentucky in this list at all? I know they were both 6 and 6 and that that is all that you need to be bowl eligible, but really now…. Notre Dame beat how many teams with a winning record? One. Navy was 8-4.

And Kentucky finished dead last in the SEC East with a 2-6 conference record. They won their first four (non-conference) games and lost their last three. The final one to Tennessee, a team that was 3-5 in the SEC and 5-7 overall.

Hawaii is not much better. They finished 7-6, 5-3 in the Western Athletic Conference. Good thing for the Rainbow Warriors that they get to play at home…against Notre Dame.

Enough of that. Here's how I see the bowls shaping up. [UPDATE: I inadvertantly left off two games that are to be played on Dec. 20: The Eagle Bank Bowl (Navy vs Wake Forest) and the New Mexico Bowl (Colorado State vs Fresno State) in my original post. Here's the revised format:

Non-BCS Bowl games: (The * indicates the favored team according to on Dec. 9th.)

DateBowlTVTimeMatchupMy Pick
Dec. 20EagleBankESPN 11:00 AM Wake Forest* (7-5) vs. Navy (8-4)Navy
Dec. 20New MexicoESPN 2:30 PM Colorado State (6-6) vs.Fresno State* (7-5)Fresno State
Dec. 20St. PetersburgESPN2 4:30 PM Memphis (6-6) vs.
South Florida* (7-5)
South Florida
Dec. 20Las VegasESPN8:00 PMBYU (10-2) vs.
Arizona* (7-5)
Dec. 21New OrleansESPN8:00 PMSouthern Miss (6-6) vs.
Troy* (8-4)
Dec. 23PoinsettiaESPN8:00 PMBoise State (12-0) vs.
Texas Christian* (10-2)
Boise State
Dec. 24HawaiiESPN8:00 PMHawaii* (7-6) vs.
Notre Dame (6-6)
Dec. 26Motor CityESPN7:30 PMFlorida Atlantic (6-6) vs.
Central Michigan* (8-4)
Central Michigan
Dec. 27Meineke Car CareESPN1:00 PMWest Virginia (8-4) vs.
North Carolina* (8-4)
West Virginia
Dec. 27Champs SportsESPN4:30 PMWisconsin (7-5) vs.
Florida State* (8-4)
Florida State
Dec. 27EmeraldESPN 8:00 PMMiami (Fla.) (7-5) vs.
California* (8-4)
Dec. 28IndependenceESPN8:00 PMNorthern Illinois* (6-6) vs.
Louisiana Tech (7-5)
Louisiana Tech
Dec. 29Papajohns.comESPN3:00 PMNorth Carolina St. (6-6) vs.
Rutgers* (7-5)
Dec. 29AlamoESPN8:00 PMMissouri* (9-4) vs.
Northwestern (9-3)
Dec. 30HumanitarianESPN24:30 PMMaryland (7-5) vs.
Dec. 30TexasNFL Net8:00 PMRice* (9-3) vs.
Western Michigan (9-3)
Dec. 30HolidayESPN8:00 PMOklahoma State* (9-3) vs.
Oregon (9-3)
Oklahoma State
Dec. 31Armed ForcesESPN12:30 PMHouston* (7-5) vs.
Air Force (8-4)
Dec. 31SunCBS2:00 PMOregon State* (8-4) vs.
Pittsburgh (9-3)
Dec. 31Music CityESPN3:30 PMBoston College* (9-4) vs.
Vanderbilt (6-6)
Boston College
Dec. 31InsightNFL Net5:30 PMKansas* (7-5) vs.
Minnesota (7-5)
Dec. 31Chick-fil-AESPN7:30 PMLSU (7-5) vs.
Georgia Tech* (9-3)
Georgia Tech
Jan. 1OutbackESPN11:00 AMSouth Carolina (7-5) vs.
Iowa* (8-4)
Jan. 1Capital OneABC1:00 PMGeorgia* (9-3) vs.
Michigan State (9-3)
Jan. 1GatorCBS1:00 PMClemson*(7-5) vs.
Nebraska (8-4)
Jan. 2CottonFOX2:00 PMMississippi (8-4) vs.
Texas Tech* (11-1)
Texas Tech
Jan. 2Liberty
ESPN5:00 PMKentucky (6-6) vs.
East Carolina* (9-4)
East Carolina
Jan. 3InternationalESPN2NoonBuffalo (8-5) vs.
Connecticut* (7-5)
Jan. 6GMACESPN8:00 PMTulsa (10-3) vs.
Ball State* (12-1)
Ball State

Now for the BCS bowl Games:

Regardless of how you feel about Oklahoma being here instead of Texas, let's face it: they are the best team out there right now. The Sooners should dominate both sides of the ball and will make the Florida Gators look like the Geico Gecko.

And as for Texas? Just two words: Poor Buckeyes!

DateBowlTVTimeMatchupMy Pick
Jan. 1RoseABC5:00 PMPenn State (11-1) vs.
Southern California* (11-1)
Southern Cal
Jan. 1OrangeFOX8:30 PMVirginia Tech (9-4) vs.
Cincinnati* (11-2)
Jan. 2SugarFOX8:00 PMUtah (12-0) vs.
Alabama* (12-1)
Jan. 5FiestaFOX8:00 PMOhio State (10-2) vs.
Texas* (11-1)
Jan. 8 BCS Title GameFOX8:00 PM No. 1 Oklahoma (12-1) vs.
No. 2 Florida* (12-1)

So there you have it. My picks for the 2008-2009 Bowl Season. Tell me where I went wrong.

Moose Hunting

Sometimes it is difficult to get close enough to a moose to get a shot.

And sometimes it is not that difficult at all.

And once you’ve taken your shot, it might be a good idea to 1) run like hell or 2) get behind a really big tree.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Windy night and day at the Aerie

I was going to comment about the continuous wind here at the Aerie (one of the reasons there is a planned wind farm for the ridge above and to the east of us) but then I was looking at the blogs over at AccuWeather and saw this headline from the Mt. Washington observatory: 122 MPH Wind Gust and Record Breaking Cold!

I would have to say that he wins.

Our winds were only in the 20-30 mph range and the temperature never fell much below 20 degrees. And that was an improvement over the 8 degrees or so we had yesterday morning.

Global warming indeed!

UPDATE: I took a ride up the top of the ridge and through sections of the Tioga State Forest. There was virtually no wind up there compared to what we have just 150-200 feet from the top of the ridge. And since the wind is coming from the southwest--which is where the ridge is as it runs from the northwest to the southeast--I don't get it. We should be on the lee side of the ridge and protected from the wind.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Aerie Lazy Day(s)

The winds kicked up over night and, after a very light dusting of snow, the sky cleared. The result was a very frigid day. The high was only 23 degrees while the low was 12. The winds made it feel a lot colder.

I did go out hunting yesterday but only stayed out for a couple of hours. I walked the southwestern property line, stopping to sit for a half hour or more at a time at several points, but saw no deer and no new deer tracks.

There were very few sounds of gun fire off in the distance. The guys from Lancaster who have a camp down the hill are gone. The guys from New Jersey who have a camp up the hill are also gone--probably back to NJ for Saturday's opening day of firearms season.

I built a fire in the fireplace yesterday when it became obvious that the afternoon temperatures were not going to get above the freezing mark. With the double walled fire box and air circulating fan (it pulls air from the basement, circulates it around the firebox, and then blows it out into the first floor living area) raised the house temperature from around 63 degrees to 70 degrees. The fire was allowed to burn down over night, but when the temperatures today proved to be even colder than yesterday, I built another fire around 2 PM and will be adding some more logs between now (5:30 PM) and around 10 PM.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Weigh in Saturday

Up another pound this week to 219. (Terry claims it's due to evening/football snacks and ice cream and I'll not deny that diagnosis.)

I spent three days out in the cold attempting to tag a deer. I guess all the shivering didn't have an impact on weight loss. You would think the need to burn calories to keep the core temperature up would produce some loss. Or maybe the exposure to the cold has caused the body to lay on some insulation. week, perhaps, I'll have more positive (or should that be negative?) news to report.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I spent the day with Didius Falco

It was a mere 18 degrees and snowing this morning and although both of those conditions changed soon after I got out of bed at 7 AM, I opted to stay in today. It did warm up to 30 degrees--briefly, and it did stop snowing--for most of the day.

Instead of going outside, I did some reading. I picked up a couple of Lindsy Davis mysteries at the library last week along with a few Bernard Cornwell novels. I've only managed to read one of the Davis books (I've nearly finished the second and have a third on the night stand). If I can stay off the internet, these historical mysteries and novels are like popcorn or potato chips: pour some into a bowl and you will find your hand going into that bowl and up to your mouth in a steady rhythm. The bowl is empty in short order. Once I crack the cover of one of the Davis mysteries or the Cornwell novels, the book will be done in about 8-10 hours. (I'm no speed reader. I do manage about 30-40 pages an hour, however.)

The Cornwell books I borrowed were three from the Saxon Chronicles Series. I had read The Last Kingdom a month ago and these would finish the four book series. I wanted to read some of the Richard Sharpe stories--I had read books one and two of that series last month, also--but the library was missing the third and fifth of the Sharpe books as well as several books from later in the series, so I thought I might pass on Sharpe for a bit.

Tomorrow, I will be heading out early in the morning. I'll stuff my feet in plastic bags (as a commenter suggested a few days ago and as Mark has told me he does). I may need to as the morning temperature is likely to be around 15 degrees. I was hoping that, being Saturday, it might be another active day on the part of other hunters. After all, those who had to go back to work or school on Tuesday would have the chance to return to the field. But the cold weather may cause some of them to reconsider. Already, the hunting camp next door is empty. The members have apparently returned to their Lancaster homes.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

RU is having it's way with Louisville tonight

Rutgers is finishing its regular season tonight against Louisville. Last year the Scarlet Knights jumped out to a big lead down in Kentucky and lost in the last seconds 41-38.

Tonight they are playing On The Banks. And Mike Teel is having a great evening. He has hit 17 of 22 for 343 yards and 6 TDs---in the first half. And RU scored another on the ground. Tim Brown has caught 4 passes for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tiquan Underwood also has 4 catches for 67 yards and 2 TDs. Then there's Shamar Graves: 3 catches, 45 yards, 1 TD; Dennis Campbell: 3 catches, 33 yards, 1 TD. The Star receiver all year, Kenny Britt has only one catch for one yard, but he has also made an appearance on defense and made one tackle to end the half.

From the passing numbers, you might think RU has virtually no rushing yards. You would be wrong. Jourdan Brooks has only carried 4 times but he has 80 yards. (And if he didn't wear his hair so long, he might be running still!) Kenny Britt has two carries on ends around and has picked up 33 yards and scored one TD.

Listening to Coach Schiano's comments as they went into the locker room, there will be no let up in the second half. We'll see if The Cardinals can come up with any answers.

UPDATE: Final score was Rutgers 63-Louisville 14. Teel finished the game 21 of 26 with 447 yards and 7 touchdowns. He came out of the game near the end of the third quarter. Jourdan Brooks had 124 yards on 11 carries and Joe Martinek killed time in the third and fourth quarters with 18 carries for 57 net yards.

The entire story of the school and NCAA records set and so forth can be found here and here.

If they had played just a little better in the first six games of the season, when they were 1-5, they could be Big East Champs. This is a team that lost to Navy by 2 points, Cincinnati by 3 and West Virginia by 7. But, instead of 10-2 they are 7-5. They are going bowling for the fourth straight year, however. And if you're a Rutgers fan, you have to love that.

(Non) Hunting

No hunting today and probably none tomorrow. The wind howled all night (again) and it was raining a bit this morning but that's not the main reason I didn't go out. When it's starting to become a chore, it's not fun any more. Maybe Saturday, I'll feel up to going out and sitting again. There should be more folks afield and perhaps that will get some deer moving about. Meanwhile, by staying out of my woods, they might feel safer in wandering about.

The weather today? Like I said it was raining this morning and managed to reach about 40 degrees at noon. Then it started dropping pretty quickly so it was about 25 degrees by 8 PM. It will be close to 20 degrees in the morning and only 35 or so as a high tomorrow--with flurries. Then it's colder on Friday night and Saturday.

Cat Break

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Three cheers for Xerox!

I just received this from a former colleague:

If you go to this web site, you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq . You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services.

How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! It is FREE and it only takes a second.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these? Whether you are for or against the war, our soldiers over there need to know we are behind them.

This takes just 10 seconds and it's a wonderful way to say thank you. Please take the time and please take the time to pass it on for others to do. We can never say enough thank you.

Thanks for taking to time to support our military!

I hustled on over there and sent a couple of cards with appropriate messages. Why don't you click on the link and do the same?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

PA deer season (Rifle) day 3

I got up early this morning to get some hot breakfast before going out to try my luck again. Terry got up to make me some oatmeal while the coffee brewed and I got my warm clothes on. The temperature at 6:30 AM was just 20 degrees but the forecasters promised it would rise to 40--but I wasn't going to take their word for it. Long johns, heavy bib coveralls with fleece lining, four layers from t-shirt out to heavy jacket and safety orange vest; I thought I was ready for the cold.

The back part of our property is on a steep slope--the northeast slope. It's the last area to even see the sun. And, despite the cloudless sky, today was no different. The sun didn't reach where I sat until near noon and by then my toes were blocks of ice inside my boots. They are insulated--just not enough. They (the boots and toes) are warm enough when I'm moving but when I try to sit still for any length of time.... They say when your feet are cold to put on a hat. I reckon I would need one hell of a hat--with wolf fur lining and all--to keep my feet warm.

Oh, and while the wind did die down for about an hour or so starting at 1 PM, it blew pretty steadily at around 5 to 10 mph the rest of the time.

And I didn't see a deer. I saw turkeys, red and gray squirrels, a chipmunk, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, ravens, blue jays, and many more small birds, but no deer.

There were some shots but nothing closer than half to three quarters of a mile away.

Thoroughly depressed at the lack of deer, I headed back to the house around 3 PM. When I got back I just had to check the thermometer because I thought for sure the weather gurus had gotten it wrong. But no, the maximum temperature was 41 degrees at 2:30 PM. Of course, that was on the side porch and the sun was shining on it at the time, but still, it did record 41 degrees.

I did go and install my makeshift ladder hanger and hoisted the extension ladders up under the deck so the day wasn't a total waste..... WHAT AM I SAYING?! A day in the woods hunting is NEVER a wasted day! (Especially if you are still employed.)

Tomorrow morning is supposed to be either snowy changing to rain or just plain snowy. I think I'll bundle up and sit on the porch.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ladder Storage Project

In the last post I mentioned purchasing some hardware for a project. I've two long extension ladders that I need to store out of the way. They are both 16 footers so even when collapsed, they are just a tad over 8 feet long making them too long to go into the shed (even if there were room!). I could hang them on the inside wall of the garage just below the windows but two ladders would have to go on a single set of hangers and then they would stick out a bit too far for comfort even if the little yellow Aveo is the only vehicle in there.

Instead, I think I will hang them under the deck from the deck floor joists. One end of the hanging mechanism will be a fixed bracket and the other end will be a rope and pulley system. The bottom of the joists are about 9 feet in the air leaving plenty of room to suspend the ladders beneath them and still leave 8 feet of head room. I'll be able to insert the one end of the ladders into the fixed bracket and then raise the other using the rope and pulley. I'll mount a pair of cleats on one of the 6" x 6" support posts to tie the rope to once the ladder has been raised.

It shouldn't take long to complete the installation of the fixed hanger which I pieced together this evening from some 1" x 3" rough sawn lumber that served as separators of the logs in our building kit. (I've got lots of those!) The pulleys will go up with equal speed as they will get hung from screw hooks. All I need is about an hour to do the job. As the ladders are currently sitting on the ground under the deck, this arrangement should get them out of the way and provide a little more protection to them.

PA deer season (Rifle) day 2

I don't know if it was sitting in the cold wind yesterday afternoon or the disappointment of the missed chance, but when I heard the wind howling this morning (15-20 miles per hour with substantial gusts) I just lost all interest in going outside today. It didn't help that I felt a bit under the weather.

From the lack of rifle shots in the valley below and absolutely none for the hillsides above (south) or to the west, it didn't sound like I missed much. The deer don't take long to educate. It's a true instance of being quick to learn or being dead.

I lay on the couch all day dozing and reading but just around 4 PM I drove down to Wally World to get some hardware for a project I've got in mind. There were a few trucks parked along side the road and I could see a few hunters set up on the edges of fields but nothing like the numbers there were yesterday, I'm sure. I did see a couple of living deer too. Two big doe and what I would say was a yearling were waiting to cross the road in an area where there were no hunters visible.

I'll probably be in bed before 9 PM tonight and will definitely get out tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be a little better with sunshine and temps nearing 40 degrees (never got above freezing today). The winds will ease off too, according to the folks. I'll be prepared to spend all day if that's what it takes.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Opening day of PA deer season (Rifle)

Opening day for PA rifle deer season.

Rain poured down all night and it was still falling when I woke up at 6 AM so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. Chester was having none of that, however, so I go up, got dressed and fed the cats.

The rain stopped falling around 7 AM and there was a hint of blue skies by 8 AM. Outside I could hear other hunters taking shots and got the itch to see what might be in my backyard.

I had my act together and was out the door by 8:45. I walked up our second driveway (it's a two lot parcel of 17 acres total) being careful to step where there was no snow. Still, I was less than 30 yards from the house when I heard snow crunching off to my right--up wind of me. I froze and peeked through the young pines and beeches. A deer was paralleling my course at an angle to intercept the driveway just 15 feet ahead of me. And it had horns. Just not enough horns. In NY or NJ my hunt would have been over, but PA requires 3 points on at least one side of the antlers and this looked to be a simple spike. I had the safety off and the rifle on my shoulder looking through the scope but could not see any forks on the antlers which were at times hidden by the deer's ears. It froze when it reached the driveway as if to pause long enough to look both ways before crossing. That's when it saw me and i said, "Boo" in a quiet voice. It took two bounds in the woods paralleling the driveway and then burst out on to the drive heading away from me. I can't say it was terribly spooked because it kept its tail down. I watched as it disappeared up the drive and still couldn't make out more than spikes. Ten minutes later there was a shot from the neighboring property in the direction deer took. Perhaps that person didn't see any horns--or didn't care that this buck was not legal. I doubt there was second deer in the area. I did not investigate.

I found a spot to put my stool and sat down for the morning. At noon an second, larger buck came up the hill about 100 yards to my left heading right to left. I could clearly see at least three points on its left antler but there were an awful lot of small beeches off in that direction. I followed the buck with my rifle on my shoulder just hoping to get a clear lane in which to shoot. When I thought I had one, I squeezed the trigger. I knew right away that I had missed. The deer just didn't act like it had been hit and, since I was shooting toward a rather steep hillside and the echo reverberated off that slope, the deer was confused as to where the shot came from. I reloaded and hoped for a second chance a little further along the still walking deer's path. It came in a narrow lane between the tree trunks and I missed again. I walked over to check that there was no blood on the snow and to follow the track up the hill a short way to see where it went. I heard another shot from the same area as earlier--which was right in line with the deer's trail.

Later in the day, I saw a large deer bound across a small, semi-pen field at the bottom of the hill and into some pines on the other side. The deer was close to two hundred yards away from me and it was impossible to tell if it had horns or not. I had no chance for a shot anyway.

And so ended my opening day of the Pennsylvania deer season.

Three deer seen: two bucks fr sure; one legal; two missed shots.

Others were shooting all around me for much of the morning. Things slacked off considerably after the noon hour. Many were single shots (dead deer?), some were double (maybe a dead deer?) and a few...well, let's just say it sounded like one or two were spray-and-pray.