Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Here and there..bear, wood and weather.

After the little bear left last night we had four large raccoons come to feast on the seed that the birds and squirrels (and I guess the bear) spilled onto the ground. I say "little bear" because it's about the size of a St. Bernard and maybe weighs less than a full gown adult St. Bernard would weigh. It barely left any tracks in the garden soil I had turned over and raked last week. Of course, the rain may have packed that soil down some, but the depressions of its paws were barely discernible. The same bear came back again this evening looking to score on sunflower seeds. I had pulled most of the feeders inside, however and the bear went away empty mawed when I shone the million watt flashlight at it. That's another indicator that it's not the same bear as we've had the last two years. Not only is it 1/2 the size, but last year's visitor cared less that I would shine a light at him. he kept right on eating and seemed to enjoy being in the spotlight. It could be worse. At least it's not a sow and a couple of cubs coming to the feeders....yet.

I did some more work on the wooden quilt block today. I had cut all the strips and glued them up yesterday. Today I cut all the little triangles, squares and diamonds for the corner fill blocks. I had to cut some twice because I didn't see the measurement and made a stupid assumption. (Yeah, I know what they say about assuming things.) Then I had to make another series of cuts when I proved to be brain dead. I was cutting triangles before lunch and I resumed cutting triangles after lunch even though I should have been cutting diamonds. Finally, I cut the glued up strips from Monday into so many new strips.

Everything got its edges rounded over using the 1/8 inch round-over router bit and then the new strips got glued up into large diamonds. That's another story of near frustration. I had all the pieces. I had the plans and the pattern the pieces were supposed to go in. I laid everything out dry and immediately realized something was very, very wrong. I was so mad I could have spit and my vision was clouded by anger. I just couldn't see what the heck was wrong. I had followed the assembly diagram on the plans exactly...I even checked twice to make sure. I finally had to call in a fresh set of eyes and asked Terry to take a look and see if she could figure out what was wrong. It took her a few minutes. First she confirmed I had done exactly what the plans said I should have do. Then she looked at the full sized diagram of the finished product. That's when a little light went off and we started shuffling the strips around. The plans had the assembly diagram bassakwards.

Once the shuffle was completed, I glued the strips up to form 8 large diamonds. And then cut the two pieces of plywood for the backerboard, traced the pattern onto the top piece of plywood and glued the two plywood sheets together to provide a strong surface for the oak, walnut and cherry to be glued to tomorrow.

The weather here was great today (even though I spent most of the day in the workshop). We started off overcast and only in the upper 20s but the sun emerged and burned off the cloud cover by 10 AM. The rest of the day was bright and very warm with a high right around 60 degrees. This won't last long, however. Tomorrow is April and April is known for its showers. We should get some tomorrow and tomorrow night, and again on Friday. Much of what's coming our way is the rain from the Mississippi and Missouri Valleys. Luckily (?), by the time it reaches us, the amount of moisture in the system will have been reduced greatly and we will only get around 3/4 of an inch of rain.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Here and there..Random thoughts

Terry was down at the New Jersey Shore from Friday until late last night. (Have to be careful when I say Jersey Shore around these parts of north central PA. There's a town of that name just a short hop down Route 15 and a jog to the southwest from Williamsport. It can get confusing at times.) She drove east to meet with some friends from the SAGA group at one of the women's home just north of Seaside. There were something like 8 or 9 women there for the three days and two nights, all with just one bathroom. The two dogs one woman brought had it easy. The backyard is fenced.

I don't know how much stitching they got done, but Terry says there was a lot of eating and gabbing going on. Even the rain wasn't much of a deterrant to having a good time.

Me? I stayed home with the cats and watched the weather go from lovely spring time warm and sunny (Friday) to chilly and raw wintery with a threat of ice and/or snow flurries (Sunday into Monday). I also watched the bird feeders get raided by a couple of raccoons (Friday and Sunday nights); an oppossum (Saturday night when Julie led me on a wild goose chase outside when she slipped between my legs. She ran after a rabbit, hid under the car and then ran back to the door to demand to be let in while I chased her. The oppossum cowered against the retaining wall and watched.); and a small black bear (Sunday night and again tonight). Other than that, the weekend was a bust. The long day out on Thursday to go up to Montezuma caught up with me and I felt like doing nothing but sleep on Sunday. Sort of like the RU women did against Purdue in the first half as they lost in the sweet sixteen round of the NCAA tournament.

Major League Baseball is still a week away but the Mets will be heading north soon to play two games at their new ballpark. They did open Citi Park yesterday for a college game and the reports of the new facility are very positive. (Although the price factor may still keep me away. Binghamton (AA) and Buffalo (AAA) are just as far away (or a lot closer in the case of Binghamton and a heck of a lot cheaper.)

And trout season starts in New York State on Wednesday, April 1. An appropriate day as it so often finds anglers standing in frigid water as snow flurries fall around them and they try to coax hatchery raised fish (which taste like cardboard, in my opinion) to take a worm of fly when they've been raised on pellets of liver and such. I've got my NY license but I think I'll wait until I get back up to the Bolt Hole. The streams around there hold native trout and although they are small, their pink flesh is as sweet as cherries. It will be a week or two before trout season opens here in PA and I've yet to get my license--maybe tomorrow. I never used last years license, but this year I WILL wet a line.

I started another quilted wooden square in the workshop today. Using the techniques I learned on the last one, I got all the strips cut today and four out of five groups glued up. (Short a couple of clamps or I would have had them all glued up this afternoon. I may even go down and pull the clamps from the first to glue up this last batch before I go to bed.) This square uses not only the walnut and oak of the last one but also cherry. There's not a lot of difference in the color of the oak and cherry, but the wood grain is very different. The color difference may be more pronounced once a finish is applied. I did swipe the two with a damp cloth and saw that the cherry was slightly darker when wet in comparison to the oak.

The rain we had yesterday was from a front that swept through from the west. The breeze that was ahead of it blew from the south and brough some nice warm temperatures on Friday and Saturday. Once the front moved past, however, the winds switched around to blow out of the north. The temperature last night dropped from 37 degrees at 1 AM to 28 degrees at 8 AM. It stayed in the mid to low 30s all day with a leaden overcast sky. The wind was quite brisk with gusts up to 35-40 mph. The bird feeders were swinging back and forth all day. Things should be better tomorrow. The winds are supposed to deminish and the sun is supposed to shine. I've started to take all the forecasts with a grain of salt. At times I want to shout, "I'm from Missouri! Show me!"

Could be worse, of course. The folks in Fargo are battling floods AND blizzards simultaniously. Alaska is shoveling snow and volcanic ash.

Polotics...Bah, humbug on 'em all!

If GM hadn't packaged Onstar! into their vehicles, I would have bought a Silverado instead of a Tundra. Sure, Onstar! is free...for the first year. After that it costs between $150 and $300 a year depending upon the level of service you want. I didn't want any--I can read a map and have a cell phone--but would have been stuck with the dinky antenna or a hole in the roof of the cab. I wonder how many others walk out of the dealership after doing the math. Still, I feel the government had no business bailing GM and Chrysler out using my tax money. They should have been allowed/forced to declare bankruptcy. It would have hurt like hell for around six months while things got sorted out, but the companies could have come back stronger with a new set of work rules for their union partners. Right now, I've only heard of the company being restructured, nothing about the union.

The Secretary of State visits the shrine of the Lady of Guadalupe and doesn't know/learn about the history before the visit. She then proceeds to make some really, really stupid comments ("Who painted it?" "You have a nice Virgin there.") The Vice President thanks the President of Spain for the help they gave in Iraq when the curretn President of Spain pulled his troops from the field immediately after being sworn in this rendering zero assistance. Great foreign policy team we've got. Hope they can handle the G20 summit in London. Then again there will be 500 folks going to assist President Obama in hammering out deals. Heck of a committee. I believe President Clinton deployed smaller invasion forces. What can go wrong? Stay tuned to FoxNews to find out, 'cause those other channels won't tell you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gotta agree with the headline

'Dumbest criminal' nabbed in cop convention holdup
HARRISBURG, Pa. – A retired police chief said he was robbed by "probably the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania," at a police officers' convention on Friday morning. John Comparetto said as he came out of a stall in the men's room, a man pointed a gun in his face and demanded money. There were 300 narcotics officers from Pennsylvania and Ohio at the gathering.

Some people just do not go around with their eyes open it seems. What a maroon!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another Archbishop, another fool

What is it with these Archbishops anyway? Do churches run on the Peter Principle?

President Obama got a little unexpected flattery from Archbishop Demetrios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States.

Listing a series of challenges Obama will need to deal with as president, Demetrios predicted: Demetrios to Obama: "Following the brilliant example of Alexander the Great...you will be able to cut the Gordian knot of these unresolved issues."

Alexander the Great? Really?

Another looney at the top

With great power comes great responsibility, the saying goes. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that those in positions of power, particularly in politics and religion need not necessarily be very intelligent.

A headline in the Daily Mail Online:

God won't protect humanity from environmental 'doomsday', warns Archbishop

This was in reference to the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking specifically about Climate Change. From what I can gather, he is saying that God wants us to pull ourselves back from the brink of Global Warming disasters for the sake of the poorest among us (Bangladesh and the island nation of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean are mentioned).

denying the reality of global warming was 'precisely the opposite of reasonable' in the face of rising sea levels and the need to understand how this was affected by rising temperatures.

Setting out the Christian argument for preserving the environment, Dr Williams attacked an 'unintelligent' and 'ungodly' view of the natural world.

He said intelligent life was not the 'triumphant imposition' of human will upon a 'defeated natural order,' but the 'reasoned discovery' of how we live in such a way as not to destroy a balance in the natural order.

Perhaps there's a teensy, tiny touch of hubris here in that the Archbishop's seems to believe that we mortal beings could muck up God's magnificent creation and that He needs our services to put it back together.

I like the comment at the above link:

Recently the Vicar looked over my garden wall and said "! isn't it amazing what we can do with a little help from God " I replied " you should have seen it when he had it all to himself" This Arch is a NUTTER.

Still winter

As I've written, I traveled up to the Bolt Hole this past weekend to do a little burning. I also said that the burning of brush was safe because there was still a great deal of snow on the ground.

The broad expanse of the fields behind the garage and barn were still knee deep in snow. Some parts of the lawn were closer to chest deep because they were the recipient of blown/plowed snow. Some areas, like under the pine on the right, were bare because the tree blocks the snow fall and traps some heat.

The snow in the foreground is a mere 18 inches.
That in the bank in front of the garage was close to 48 inches.

In other parts of the front yard, the blower/plow left snow banks in the shade that will be there well into April. But the blower and plow also made it possible to drive the Tundra right up to the cabin's front door and/or over to the garage and barn.

This snow bank, nestled in the shade all day long,
will probably be here until at least Earth Day (April 20).

Thank goodness for snow plows and blowers! Snow/ice between
the garage and barn is a compacted 36-48 inches.

The pile of brush to be burned on Sunday was about 40-50 yards behind the barn. It measured about 10 feet high and 15-20 feet across. Of course, the height measurement is only an approximation as there was--in spots--three feet of hard packed, icy snow around the perimeter of the pile.

Mark sets a torch to the brush pile.

We burned all day and even added brush from freshly felled Scotch pines to the blaze as well as brush from other piles nearby (when we could free it from the ice and snow). By next morning this is what was left:

Much of the pile is gone but the edge is still frozen in the snow.

The small stuff is frozen in the snow. It's quite a step down to the bottom of the pit.
The larger pine branches didn't burn. Too much space between them?

The fire was unable to burn all the brush. Some was embedded in the ice and snow and was still in ice and snow on Monday morning. The fire did leave a hole in the snow, the bottom of which was some 2-3 feet below the edge of the pit. Surprisingly, while the fresh pine needles would roar into flames once they caught, the pine branches over a few inches in diameter resisted something fierce. We had a few "trunks" that were 5-6 inches in diameter and they hardly would burn at all. When learning fire safety they tell you about fuel, heat and air. In the case of this particular pile, I think we had too much air when the smaller branches were turned to ash and the heat was escaping without consuming the wood. A single log standing alone, even if it has glowing embers on it, will not burn for long. But put two of 'em side by side like a couple of young lovers spooning in bed and it's "Baby, come on light my fire!" Obviously, there's more burning that needs to be done. Damn shame we didn't have a pig to roast.

Oh, one more thing. Releasing all that CO2 into the atmosphere didn't do a damn bit of good. The high temperature in the sunshine on Sunday was 34 degrees. Monday morning at 7 AM it was just 6 degrees...on March 23rd.

Photos from Montezuma NWR (Part 3)

There were lots of Ring-billed Gulls present on the pools and, being somewhat blase about this very common bird (roughly 99% of the gulls on the waters around Tioga County, PA are Ring-billed Gulls), we didn't spend much time looking them over for anything unusual. That being said, one group of gulls stood out like a sore thumb--and for good reason. They were NOT Ring-bills. One small group of Great Black-backed Gulls was sitting on the edge of one of the ditches.

Greater Black-backed Gull

Another common bird that we paid little attention to was the Mallard. However, I couldn't resist snapping this picture of a pair on the edge of one of the ditches. Notice the band on the leg of the hen.

Pair of Mallards

Out among the ducks in the pond were Tundra Swans, Green- and Blue-winged Teal, Black Ducks, Pintail, American Widgeons, Coots, Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, Redheaded Ducks and more. But in close to the shore or in the shallow mudflats were several other species.

Redhead and Shoveler in the flats

Ring-billed Ducks

The Montezuma Complex has a variety of habitats that will draw many different species of birds. This being our first visit, we concentrated on the Wildlife Refuge and the abundant waterfowl there, but we did scout out the Montezuma Audubon Center and the Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area (NY DEC) for future visits. The latter brags about the presence of nesting Sandhill Cranes which we did not see. The Howland Island area of the DEC property looks especially promising as a birding site during the spring and summer although access is by foot only and will require further scouting.

Photos from Montezuma NWR (Part 2)

The refuge has a 3 mile long drive with several places you can stop and get out of your vehicle to set up spotting scopes and digiscoping equipment. You can, of course stop anywhere along the road but should remain in your vehicle so as not to disturb the birds overly much. With the wind blowing as strongly as it was, we only got out once to go to the one photo blind. It was located on the north end of the pond and many small ducks were rafted up in front of it. Of course, they all fled as we approached the blind and did not return while we were inside. A few Canada Geese were the only birds to approach the shore while we were in the blind and it looked like they had no choice in the matter as the wind blew them to the shore.

Canada Goose from the photo blind.

Despite the wind and the wariness of the birds (they would start to swim or fly away as soon as we stopped for any length of time), we were still able to get some good photos from the cover of the truck. Gary took a lot more photos than I did since I was also driving.

A flight of ducks and geese spooked by a vehicle ahead of us
on the driving loop. (NYS Thruway in the background.)

The wind kept most of the smaller birds out of sight although we did hear Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds in the marsh grasses that lined the road and pools.

A Red-winged Blackbird claimed his territory in the reeds.

Photos from Montezuma NWR (Part 1)

When we first arrived at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge there were no Snow Geese on the main pond. However, soon after 9 AM flock after flock arrived from the fields where they must have been getting their morning meal and landed in the middle of the open water. With the wind blowing strongly out of the south, this proved to be a poor choice of a resting area for them. The wind was creating a chop on the water that got stronger and stronger as you moved away from the south shore. After noon, the geese, being larger in body than the ducks, figured this out and moved toward the south end of the pond.

There's an observation platform and tower on that south end and Gary and I took advantage of the platform to get some photographs.
Gary with his digiscoping equipment on the observation platform.

There were several thousand Snow Geese in attendance and even more were landing as we watched.

A small sample of the Snow Geese present on the main pond.
This represents about 10% of the total.

Among all the white bodies were many, many blue morphs of the Snow Geese. These were formerly called Blue Geese and were, at one time, thought to be a separate species. They are now known to be a color variation which can, in some populations, be very abundant.

Two Blue Geese among the white Snow Geese.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Montezuma Birding

Very early this morning I met Gary down in Mansfield and we drove up to the Montezuma NWR Complex to do some birding. Some photos from the day will follow as soon as I edit them. Meanwhile, here is the report I just field with eBird:

Location: Montezuma NWR--Auto Loop
Observation date: 3/25/09

Notes: Very, clear, cold (35 degrees) and windy (from the south at 20-25 MPH) at the start. The temperature rose as the cloud cover increased and the wind subsided. At first there were no Snow Geese on the main pond but around 9 AM they started arriving from the fields. Thousands of them eventually settled on the water as flock after flock showed up all morning.

Number of species: 35

Snow Goose X
Canada Goose X
Tundra Swan X
American Wigeon X
American Black Duck X
Mallard X
Blue-winged Teal X
Northern Shoveler X
Northern Pintail X
Green-winged Teal (American) X
Canvasback X
Redhead X
Ring-necked Duck X
Bufflehead X
Common Merganser X
Great Blue Heron X
Turkey Vulture X
Bald Eagle X
Red-tailed Hawk X
Rough-legged Hawk X
American Kestrel X
American Coot X
Killdeer X
Ring-billed Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Downy Woodpecker X
American Crow X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Song Sparrow X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

A long drive and a long day but it was worth it for all the water fowl species to be seen. It was too wind and too chilly to do much walking. Even standing in the photo blind which cut the wind considerably was tough to do for more than 10 minutes. (All the ducks vacated the area right in front of the blind as we walked out to it anyway.)

We also scouted out the Northern Montezuma Complex, which is a NYS Wildlife Management Area, and the Montezuma Audubon Center. We'll be back in mid to late April when some of the forest birds start to arrive (and the temperature warms up) to walk some trails.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Because my kids grew up with both

carmen sandiego
see more Lol Celebs

Montezuma NWR

As I mentioned, I swung over to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge on my way back to PA today. I was disappointed that they have the Visitors' Center/gift shop closed from Oct 31 thru April 1 due to lack of volunteers/staff I suppose. What's worse, there's no pamphlets available or even a map on site of the entire Montezuma Complex. As a result, I was flying blind and missed out on visiting the NYS North Montezuma Wildlife Management Area and the Audubon Center. (Well, the last was closed on Monday anyway.)

Still, I enjoyed my visit despite the strong, cold wind that was blowing out of the north. There were thousands of Snow Geese on the main pond as well as Canvasbacks, Canada Geese, American Coots, American Widgeons, Shovelers, and more. I got to see an immature Bald Eagle fighting with a mature adult as they flew over the Snow Geese.... Man! Did that upset the Geese and send them roiling about!

Anyway, now I have an idea of what to expect and know where the Refuge is located.

Oh, and the trip down Route 14 to Elmira is far prettier than the one down Route 13. Route 14 follows the western shore of Seneca Lake and is bordered by vineyards virtually from Geneva in the north to Watkins Glen in the south. I'll be taking Terry up that way for some wine tasting some day. Lots and lots of wine to taste!

Okay, I took a few pictures of the birds on the pond but am unhappy with the results the Sony Alpha and 300x lens produced. Perhaps on Wednesday, with the digiscoping setup I can do better. Anyway, here's the list I filed this evening with eBird:

Location: Montezuma NWR--Auto Loop
Observation date: 3/23/09
Notes: 5K Snow Geese including some Blue versions.
1 mat. Bald Eagle and 1 im. BE had fight over main pool spooking the Snow Geese.
Many hundreds of Tundra Swans, Ring-necked Ducks and Shovelers.
Quite the variety of water fowl.

Clear, windy and cold day (34-36 degrees).
Number of species: 19

Snow Goose X
Canada Goose X
Tundra Swan X
American Wigeon X
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler X
Northern Pintail X
Ring-necked Duck X
Lesser Scaup X
Common Merganser X
Great Blue Heron X
Bald Eagle X
Red-tailed Hawk X
American Coot X
Ring-billed Gull X
Mourning Dove X
American Crow X
Song Sparrow X
Red-winged Blackbird X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Bolt Hole clean-up.

I drove up to the Bolt Hole on Saturday morning. A gorgeous day with the sun shinning brightly and nary a cloud in the sky. Of course the temperatures were still pretty low (high of 36 on Saturday and 34 on Sunday) but with the sun shinning it felt a good deal warmer.

The goal was to burn, baby burn! Mark and I had several huge piles of brush accumulated from the clearing of the apples. Honeysuckle, Scotch pine, poplar and even some scraggly cherry trees had been trimmed or felled to open up the old apple orchard during phases 1 and 2. With the snow still up to two feet deep, this is the ideal time to torch this stuff. There's little need to worry about the fire spreading through the grass or into the scrub nearby and all the water you need to control the beast is a shovel full away. So, with permit obtained from the forest rangers (and personally delivered to our door!) and phone call to the local fire department to alert them to our intentions, that is exactly what we did on Sunday.

Sunday morning was overcast with some snow flurries but very little wind. The morning temperature was in the 20s which helped firm up the snow and make walking on the surface possible. The option, sinking knee deep at times or wearing snowshoes, was not conducive to working from 8 AM until after 6 PM. Mark started the fire using an old gallon of gas that had nearly become sludge to soak some rags which were then thrust into the pile of debris. It took some doing because everything was frozen but the brush caught and things went pretty smoothly after that.

Temperatures only ran up into the mid 30s once the sun came out but with the work and the fire to keep us warm, it was a chore NOT to get sweaty.

As the fire burned, we trimmed some of the apple trees that had grown leggy under the Scotch pines and then Mark felled some of the pines as well to increase the air circulation and sunlight reaching the apple trees. That slash got dragged tot he fire and fed the flames.

There was no danger of the fire spreading. As it burned it created a pit a foot or more deep in the frozen soil so that the fire was contained in a circle of snow and ice that was, in spots almost three feet deep. The edges of the brush pile didn't even burn because of being encased in ice.

We wanted to drag some stuff from some smaller brush piles but were foiled by the snow and ice that locked the branches in place. Even using a pair of loppers to free the tips proved futile as there were always more under the branch that were frozen solid.

Things did get a bit more difficult as the sun came out around noon and started to soften the snow. You had to watch were you walked or end up going knee deep when you least expected to. Trust me on this, having one foot suddenly go south on you can really put a strain on your thighs and back.

This morning (Monday) I'll be packing up and heading back to PA. But along the way, I'll make a stop at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. This will be something of a scouting trip as I've never been there before. My birding buddy, Gary, and I will be heading back there on Wednesday if there are any interesting birds about. He's never been there either.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Best laid plans, yadda, yadda....

I had intended to drive up to the Bolt Hole this morning for a couple of days of look-see and maintenance but....

I took the Tundra up the mountain to see what conditions the roads were in up there. They have limited to no winter maintenance and are usually pretty muddy right about now. The first leg wasn't bad (the limited maintenance part) but then I started to find mud that was 6 to 12 inches deep and the rear end started to fishtail. Then, without my having done anything, the ABS light came on, and the 4Hi and the VSC off lights started blinking. All while the vehicle was still in 2WD. Not good. I finished my circuit trying to get the lights to go back to normal by stopping, selecting 4Hi and even 4Lo and then going back to 2WD but had no luck.

When I got back to the Aerie, I checked the owner's manual and it said that the blinking 4Hi and VSC off lights might indicate a problem with the brakes and that I should get the vehicle serviced ASAP. I had it in the shop for an oil change and a 28-point inspection just 10 days ago.

So, this morning bright and early, I went down to Mansfield and washed all the mud off the truck paying special attention to the front wheels and when the lights were still blinking, called the dealer's service department. This afternoon they tied the entire thing to the ABS sensor having gone kablooie. Parts are on order and should be in their hands on Monday.

I asked if it was safe to drive and was told, "Sure, if you don't mind those blinking lights and have no need of 4-wheel drive." (It won't switch to either 4Hi or 4Lo under the current conditions.)

I'm still going up to the Bolt Hole tomorrow morning for a couple of days. There's no snow int he forecast and the road is paved right to my yard. I'll just have to be cautious about driving on the lawn to get to the front door. It can get real muddy when all that snow melts.

I'm told there's a good chance the yard will be down to bare grass where it had been plowed/blown clear but to expect 20-30 inches of snow in the fields and woods.

Could be worse, it's -11 degrees in Nome and there are still a slew of mushers on the trail. (Only 28 of 57 have completed their trek as I type.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Guess who came for dinner

Our friendly neighborhood Sharp-shinned Hawk stopped by to see what he could pick out for lunch. We had noticed a significant decline in bird activity and wondered why before Terry saw this guy perched atop the shepherd's crook that holds two of our bird feeders.

When this position didn't yield any "guests" to the table, he moved back about two feet into the edge of the trees to take up a roost at the exact same spot as last year; a spot from which he was successful in capturing a meal on several occasions.

And when that still did not produce any fresh meat, he hopped on over to the corner of the deck. (Undoubtedly, he could see the small birds flitting to the feeders on the deck from across the yard and wanted to put himself into an intercept position.)
Then he moved over to the metal hanger from which the stick feeder is suspended.

From this vantage point, he probably was unsure just why no little birds came to the feeders.

Finally, the hawk moved to the other end of the deck (passing over the tray feeder, rounding the corner of the house to the front door and returning to a corner post) from which it could survey the length of the deck and the woods to the north and west.

When there was a decided abundance of caution on the part of the small birds, the hawk moved on without a meal.

About Terry's Aveo...

Well there goes the balance of the tax refund!

The little yellow vehicle went in to have an oil and filter change and to have a general check-up. Terry was complaining of a little shimmy and some rough handling.

The verdict was that it needs four new tires, new rear suspension, and an alignment. The tires have been a P-I-T-A because they are an odd size. When they needed replacement, there was a limited (and expensive) selection. I say "have been" because that is not the case any more. Apparently there are more and more cars with that size tire out there and they are needing new tires. As a result, more companies are making that size and the price has come down while the miles they are rated for has increased. Cooper Tire now has an all season tire for $115 each that is rated to 60K miles. (Compare that to the 20K miles for $175 each we got the last time. And those took three or four days for our mechanic to obtain. The Cooper tires will be there tomorrow.)

Terry may have avoided needing the alignment/tires if she had avoided the curb down in Savannah. A right good thumping along the sidewalls/tires will put all sorts of things out of alignment.

Oh, well. This is the first major repair this vehicle has needed. What is galling, however, is that it has just reached 50K miles on the odometer and this is the last month of our payments to GMAC. Just as I was thinking about the savings of $230 a month in loan payments....

Weekly Bird Walk, March 19, 2009

I woke up this morning at 6:15 AM to the sound of water dripping in the down spout outside the bedroom window and thought, "Crap! I guess there'll be no birding today." I rolled over to try and get back to sleep but then first Chester went off and then the radio/alarm so Terry and I got up anyway. That's when I noticed that the woods looked a wee bit whiter than they had been when we went to sleep. "Shit! It snowed!" I thought. Well, it had snowed but not much. The outside temperature was 36 degrees and there was no snow on the lawn where the sun had warmed the earth yesterday. The snow was confined to the leaf litter and the deck. It wasn't even raining, the water in the downspout was melt water from the snow on the roof.

Checking weather.com, the radar showed the front and the associated line of showers had cleared the area and things should improve quickly, especially in the area we were going birding. As a result, we got into our vehicles, dropped Terry's Aveo off at the service station for a checkup and headed west to rendezvous with whoever else was going to show up in Ansonia.

It turned out that the only other person who showed up was Gary. He arrived 15 minutes before we did (we stopped to pick up breakfast at Mickey-D's) and had already spotted 10 species. It didn't take me long to catch up. Although I never did see the kinglet he had seen, but then he never saw the meadowlark I just happened to catch as it landed in the field across from the parking area.

It was foggy and only 36 degrees when we started but there was very little wind. Within an hour, the sun had lifted above the ridge to the south and all the fog had burned off, the temperature rose to 45 degrees and there were scads of Turkey Vultures riding the thermals. But not one hawk...go figure. These were the first vultures I have seen this spring.

While we did not get to see any hawks, there was one glider that we were surprised and pleased to spot. A Golden Eagle passed directly over head at a low enough altitude for us to be sure of its identity.

As for the rest of our walk:
Location: Rails-to-trails Ansonia East
Observation date: 3/19/09
Notes: Cold front moved through the night before and the morning was still foggy with rain having just stopped. No wind. Sun burned off the fog and temperatures rose from 35-36 degrees to 42-43 degrees in just the two hours we were out.
Fairly large number of Turkey Vultures heading north.
One large mixed flight of Canada Geese and Tundra Swans.

Number of species: 28

Canada Goose X
Tundra Swan X
Wood Duck X
Bufflehead X
Common Merganser (North American) X
Turkey Vulture X
Golden Eagle X
Mourning Dove X
Belted Kingfisher X
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Downy Woodpecker X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Common Raven X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Carolina Wren X
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Fox Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Eastern Meadowlark X
Common Grackle X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Oh, and there was no snow on the ground AT ALL below 2000 feet. (The Aerie is 2100 feet above sea level this week. If Al Gore is right it may be less next week.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Late evening report.

In case you missed it, Lance Mackey won the Iditarod Sled Dog Race today in a time of a little over 9 days and 20 hours. It's the third consecutive year he has won "The Last Great Race" and he did so in a grand fashion being over 7 1/2 hours ahead of his nearest rival. Mackey started the race with 16 dogs and 15 of them finished the race. (The one dog that was dropped along the way just wasn't having fun and didn't have his heart in the race, according to one report I read.)

Like most Iditarod races, this one is far from over, however. There were still 56 mushers and their teams on the trail after Mackey checked into Nome and the race won't be over until the last one either crosses the finish line or withdraws from the competition. Now, however, it's no longer a competition against their fellow mushers, it's far more personal than that. Truth be told for all but a few at the top, this race is always a personal challenge rather than anything else. It seems you battle Mother Nature and yourself far more than the other teams.

Did some digging this afternoon and got four more wheelbarrows of mostly clay out of the cut bank out back. It's almost enough for the large raised bed. If I can get three or four more I'll be happy.

I also took one wheelbarrow of compost and spread it over a 6' x 6' raised bed near the bird feeders. We had four zucchini plants in there last year and, while they produced some squash, the dense clay loam lacked organic material to provide necessary nutrients and texture. Between the compost and some grass clippings I put in there at the end of last fall, and the five bags of top soil I've set aside for this bed, I'm hoping to get a little more from the cucumbers I'm planning for this spot.

I quit working around three because we had a visitor. A local contractor was brought over by Adam (our contractor's son and the assistant building inspector) to show him what we did in constructing the Aerie. Matt's been hired to build a log home just over the mountain. He's done stick construction before but has not done a log home. The folks he's building for chose a kit from Kuhn's Brothers so it's not exactly the same as our Beaver Mountain home, but it will have some similarities.

After Adam and Matt left, Terry and I had our dinner and then went to Wellsboro for the monthly meeting of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society where tonight's speaker gave a presentation on land management. We heard some good ideas and got the contact number for a regional forester. I do believe I will be making a call in a week or so to have a sit down discussion about these 17 acres.

Tomorrow morning, if it's not raining--did I mention it started to rain this afternoon? Thunder and lightening and everything. But it didn't last. Anyway, IF it's not raining in the morning, we are going birding on the bike trail that parallels Marsh Creek on the west side of Wellsboro. We'll be starting on the western end near Ansonia and walking east. They've covered parts of this on bicycle last summer, but I was elsewhere at the time so this is a new area for me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Been Busy

I hope all ye lads and lassies had a glorious St. Patty's Day.

While the weather was fantastic here at the Aerie (again!), we are still looking down the mountain at brown and not green fields. Hey! At least they aren't white!

Yesterday I raked some of the leaves from the yard where they had drifted up into the corners of the foundation and the hillside behind the house. There's still quite a bit drifted up here and there but the really large piles are gone now. I searched the hillside where we planted bulbs last fall but they haven't begun to sprout yet. However, there are a few bulbs coming up in the raised bed up front where they were planted in behind the strawberries. I also spent some time picking stones from the flower bed that runs along the driveway. The stones got there from the driveway during the process of blowing/shoveling snow. Terry spent the day up in Big Flats, NY at an EGA (Embroiders' Guild of America) meeting and then doing some shopping for today's corned beef and cabbage dinner.

We received our federal tax refund in the mail yesterday. It's always nice of the government to return the money you loaned it during the year. Too bad they forgot the interest...again.

Today we stopped down at the bank to put most of it into our savings account to help pay the property taxes up at the Bolt Hole that will be due next month. Heh, easy come, easy go. We kept a little out to help stimulate the local economy. While we need an area rug for the bedroom (it's amazing how little noise a solid pine floor will block) we spent our money today at Agway where they had a 10% off sale this week. We purchased four 50lb bags of black oils sunflower seeds for the birdies, 30 bags of top soil (40lbs each) for the beds, half a pound of onion sets (trial size since I've never had much luck with onions), and packets of cucumber, zucchini, beans, lettuce, marigolds (deer and rabbit deterrent) and other vegetable and herb seeds.

This afternoon we tried to get some additional fill soil for the large raised bed from the bank cut directly behind the house. We haven't had any rain in several days yet the soil on the cut was extremely wet and, being a clay/stone mix of approximately 50-50 proportion, did not screen very well. Even worse, it got wetter as I dug down. I guess it should not have been a surprise since this cut is at the bottom of a long slope. All the snow melt is probably still in that soil. Three wheelbarrows full were about all we could get before calling it quits.

I turned the shovel on the compost heap in hopes of getting soil out of there and found it much easier. Except, deep inside the compost--which hadn't been touched since last fall when we dumped apple cores and tomato skins from our canning operations--were thick, solid chunks of ice. At first I thought they were stones, but then I unearthed one that was almost as clear as the ice cubes in the freezer. Aside from the ice--which I left exposed to the sun and air--the compost will end up in the raised bed tomorrow along with three of four more wheelbarrows of screened soil from the cut.

Also tomorrow--while Terry goes off to get a check-up and blood work--I will turn the soil in the beds in preparation of planting the onion sets. I'll hold off getting any seeds started indoors fro a few more weeks. There is some snow yet in the 15-day forecast at AccuHunch and the last frost here may not occur until late May/early June.

In any case, it was good to be outdoors (with a hat on!) and getting my hands dirty again. There's something about the aroma of wet earth in the spring that just raises the spirits.

I stood outside and watched the sun sink behind the hills to the west and listened to the robins, red-wing blackbirds, cardinals and other birds. But I didn't hear the one I wanted to hear. There was no "peent" from the woodcock. Any day now, I expect to hear one either in the field on the other side of the road or just on the other side of the property. They've been there each of the last two years, the only two we've been here and the fields are perfect for their mating flights. I'm sure to hear them up at the Bolt Hole as soon as the snow mostly melts, but I really want to hear one here. Soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Beautiful Weekend!

The temperatures reached into the 60s both Saturday and Sunday with bright sunny skies both days. A couple more degrees and I would have been opening the doors to let in the fresh air. The low Saturday morning was around 13 degrees but it only fell to 32 degrees over night. Virtually no wind either day and what there was came out of the south.

I spent most of Saturday outside trying to burn a locust stump that was left over from the construction of this log home. I burned poplar, birch, maple and oak branches and saplings up to 4 inches in diameter for nearly seven hours trying to get the massive stump to burn. The stump is leaning at a 45 degree angle and the fire I built was directly beneath the four feet of tree trunk. All I managed to do was burn off the bark and blacken the trunk. I might have gotten as far as one inch into the two-and-one-half feet thick trunk...on the side directly above the flames but that's about it. Damn locust is as good as steel. In fact, I might as well have been trying to burn a steel I-beam using a cigarette lighter.

Perhaps that durability is one of the reasons why there's a house down the hill that has a fence made of the upturned stumps. They will not rot either. Oh, one locust may get heart rot and become hollow enough for black ants to move in, but the surrounding wood Will. Not. Rot.

The only thing I managed to really burn (beside the branches) was the top of my head. It did get warm and, fool that I am, I took my knitted cap off without replacing it with a ball cap. I didn't get too sunburned but enough to know I should remember my hat next time.

There were lots of geese and a few swans flying north most of the afternoon. There must have been eight or nine skeins of geese, all in V-formation heading as close to due north as you would get following a compass. Each group varied between 50 and 150 birds, but most were right around 75. There was a constant chatter from the geese. Of course, when you fly in a V-formation, there can be only one leader...everybody else becomes a backseat driver and complains about the view ahead, which is occupies in part by half a goose's ass. The swans made much less noise and what they did have to say was slightly higher pitched.

Today (Sunday) was a day of rest. Not because of the sunburn, just because I ached a bit from hauling wood, using the bow saw to cut it up and watching over the fire all day.

We should be seeing a changing of the guard as far as the birds are concerned. The waterfowl have already begun passing through as I've noted earlier and Red-winged Blackbirds and Robins have arrived to stake out territories. Goldfinches are beginning to resemble their name again. The Pine Siskins are still here, however, and they need to get a move on! Lots of pairs of Red-tailed Hawks around and about but I've yet to see my first Turkey Vulture of the year.

Dear President Obama

This came over the transom from my sister. I can neither vouch for its authenticity nor even the existence of Mr. Delong. I do, however agree with the sentiments 110%.

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for helping my neighbors with their mortgage payments. You know the ones down the street who in the good times refinanced their house several times and bought SUVs, ATVs, RVs, a pool, a big screen, two Wave Runners and a Harley. But I was wondering, since I am paying my mortgage and theirs, could you arrange for me to borrow the Harley now and then?



P.S. They also need help with their credit cards, when do you want me to start making those payments?

P.P.S. I almost forgot - they didn't file their income tax return this year.

Should I go ahead and file for them or will you be appointing them to cabinet posts?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pileated Woodpecker

I mentioned that I came upon a Pileated Woodpecker over at Cowenesque Lake yesterday afternoon. It was chiseling away at the base of some white pines near the parking are for the Mosquito Trail off the northwest corner of the lake. It was difficult to get the camera to focus upon the bird because it was so low down at the base of the trees and some shrubbery kept getting in the way. Luckily we are now in the digital age and the cost of developing film and the prayers required to yield a positive outcome are no longer needed. I took 15 pictures as quickly as I could and hoped the camera's auto focus would get on the bird on more than one occasion. It did. Twice.

Pileated Work Site

There were several 2 inch wide, 3 inch long oval holes cut into the pines. As you can see, the brush in the foreground made photographing the bird a challenge. It (the bird) is over on the right behind the shrubs.

Pileated Woodpecker

The bird was so intent upon its work that I could move around pretty freely as long as I did so slowly. I got to within 15 feet of the bird and shot picture after picture.

Pileated Woodpecker

Of the 15 pictures these were the only three that were worth keeping. Either the camera would focus on the brush and not the bird or the damn bird would duck behind the tree just as I pushed the button or it would start hammering away at the tree. Even on the sports action setting, the camera was not fast enough to freeze the head movement.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Birding on my own and by truck

I went up to the lakes this afternoon to see how much open water there is. The answer is
"Not much!"

Cowenesque Lake is nearly completely ice. Only the far western end were the river runs into the lake is open but that proved to be a hot bed of water fowl activity. Canada Geese and Tundra Swans were there in pretty large numbers. The geese, however, are already pairing up for the spring nesting season while the swans will be heading north with the next thaw. Pintail (Long-tailed) Ducks and Mallards were also abundant. There were smaller ducks I could not postively ID further out than my binoculars could reach. They may have been Green-winged Teal based upon two that I flushed (but couldn't get a positive ID on) just as I walked down to the lake.

I only stayed for a short time as there was a pretty stiff wind and some snow flurries. Here's the species list for the half hour I was there:

Canada Goose X
Tundra Swan X
Mallard X
Northern Pintail X
Ring-necked Pheasant X
Pileated Woodpecker X
American Crow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
American Robin X
Song Sparrow X

The Pileated was hammering at the base of a white pine right where I parked the truck. It let me walk to within 15 feet of where it was working and walk away without flushing. It didn't take off until I started the engine.

I also stopped at The Muck off Route 287 to see what was up. Again I didn't stay long as there was a cold, stiff breeze and only a little open water near the blind. A half hour produced several Wood Duck, Tundra Swans and Canada Geese. There were also some Hooded Mergansers right in front of the blind. (They left as I approached or I would have felt bad about leaving my camera in the truck.) here's the list from The Muck:

Canada Goose X
Tundra Swan X
Wood Duck X
Mallard X
Hooded Merganser X
Red-tailed Hawk X
Mourning Dove X
American Crow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X

From The Muck, I drove up Rt. 287 to the Rail Road Grade Trail that leads to Ives Run Recreation Area. I drove slowly along the RRGT and then around the shore of Hammond Lake. Crooked Creek (the major feeder run for Hammond Lake) was ice free but also bird free. There were a few species along the side of the road including a Ruffed Grouse, but not many individuals or species.

The lake itself was mostly frozen although there was open water near the inlet and along the north shore where the sun hits hardest and the water is shallow. The lake was drawn down last fall and most of that north shore was mud flat. Now the lake is filling and that area is flooded. Perhaps that's the reason it is open water. There were hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls flying over that open water. There were also 75-100 Tundra Swans taking advantage of the water. On the ice there were American Crows and three immature Bald Eagles. Canada Geese and Mallards were abundant and there were many smaller water fowl that I could not get a handle on from the boat launch area. If I had my spotting scope I might have had better luck. Anyway, here's the list from 45 minutes along the RRGT and Hammond Lake:

Canada Goose X
Tundra Swan X
Mallard X
Ruffed Grouse X
Bald Eagle X
Ring-billed Gull X
Mourning Dove X
Downy Woodpecker X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X

Approximately 25 different species in all. Not a bad afternoon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I mentioned that on Monday we had a most unusual bird land upon our tray feeder on the deck: A Sharp-shinned Hawk

They are usually not the type of bird you would associate with sunflower seeds and, in fact, it did not seem at all interested in them. Why it landed on the feeder and not in the trees around the yard is a bit of a mystery.

We had one last year that landed and sat for hours in the trees above the feeders on the side of the house. It would just sit there and terrorize the smaller birds. Perhaps this was the same bird for it landed in the same spot when it left the front deck. We saw it yesterday afternoon and again today. It's presence might explain why the small bird population has suddenly thinned considerably. While we haven't seen it actually capture a bird this year, we did witness at least three kills last year. (Little puffs of feathers scattered to the wind as the small hawk sped off into the woods was good enough evidence, but I once saw it land on a log and begin tearing the bird it had caught apart.)

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Now, if I could only do something about the possums and, now, raccoons that have taken to eating my sunflower seeds I might be able to make a 50lb bag last more than 10 days.

Yes, the possum has returned several times. It even brought a friend along one evening. As for the raccoons, they always bring friends along. While the possums don't seem to climb to get seed off the trays or out of the feeders, the raccoons are accomplished second story men. They even have the burglars' masks to prove it. I was hoping to be able to wait until around March 17th before I had to bring the feeders in every night--I figured that might be about when the bears would start getting active--however, if the 'coons are going to start showing up nightly, I guess we'll have to start bringing the feeders in sooner. Tonight we had both possum (scrounging and rooting around beneath the feeders) and raccoons (climbing on the deck rail to get at teh tray and stick feeder as well as the pole to get at one of the larger hanging feeders).

Best made plans...

I will need to delay/postpone my travel up to the Bolt Hole. There's some banking business that Terry and I need to take care of on Friday. I might or might not get up there Friday evening (DST can come in useful occasionally).

On the other hand, I managed to get the Tundra cared for yesterday afternoon. It was the 15K mile oil change and inspection. Everything was just fine in the 28-point inspection that was performed so I'm good for the next 5K miles. That should take me to around the Summer Solstice on June 21. Hey, I've this long drive out to Eugene, OR coming up in May and that's good for about 5K all by itself.

BTW, I believe the weather honchos messed up on the amount of rain we were to get over night. No way did we get as much as the 1.25 inches or more they forecast. We did get some pretty strong winds, however. These came out of the south this morning but have switched to the northwest if the cloud movement is to e believed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bird Walk results

When we planned this walk last weekend, the forecast was for a sunny morning and temperatures reaching 50 degrees before clouds and rain moved in. HA! It was a raw, overcast 34 degrees when we started our walk at 8:30 AM. Six hardy souls turned out for our first walk of the season. And our results weren't all that bad!

A flock of Tundra Swans flew over and several skeins of Canada Geese flew past as well.

Location: Rails-to-Trails Rt 287 W (parking at the end of Butler Road)
Observation date: 3/10/09
Notes: A raw overcast day with the temperature just above freezing (34-37 degrees). Still, there were many birds working to establish territories. Cardinals in particular were very vocal.
Number of species: 25

Canada Goose X
Tundra Swan X
Wood Duck X
Mallard X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Downy Woodpecker X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Carolina Wren X
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
Cedar Waxwing X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Rusty Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird X
Pine Siskin X
American Goldfinch X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Our fearless leader, Gary, had European Starlings on his list but not the Rock Pigeons. There are farm fields on either side of the trail at the start. The Pigeons were flying about when Terry and I arrived. I missed seeing the Starlings but have no doubt they were among the Red-winged Blackbirds and the Rusty Blackbirds which were flocking together around some of the stubble fields which had large puddles in them.

We had 2 inches of rain between Sunday and Monday. The forecast is for an additional 1-1.75 inches tonight and tomorrow. Needless to say, this will produce stream and river flooding. Most are already bank full and the ground is still frozen beneath the surface and will not absorb much water right now.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Terry's returned

Terry successfully returned to the Aerie Sunday afternoon despite having to drive in the rain for the last 200+ miles. That's essentially from the southern border of PA all the way home.

She had stayed with her friend in southern Virginia from Friday until Sunday morning and reports that there was more snow visible in Virginia than there was around here.

Calling her cousin in Sumter, SC when she got home, she learned that it was 70°F there and then learned it was near 60°F in southern Virginia. It was a mere 40°F here at the Aerie. All the clouds and rain kept the temperature from rising any further. Today it rained even harder while the winds came out of the north and the temperature did not get much above 35°F.

Terry said she had a productive time with the SAGA executive board in Savannah, a grand time with her relatives in Sumter, and a wonderful visit with her friend in Virginia.

Aunt Nancy down in Sumter sent a box of double-decker chocolate Moon Pies. She's such a sweetie! Terry also brought me a box of chocolate covered graham crackers. With all this plus Terry's cooking to look forward to, I had better start getting outside more. Luckily, we've a birdwalk planned for tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. We may be pushing things a bit, but the weather is supposed to be clearing overnight and the morning will be nice. The afternoon promises to deteriorate quickly into more rain and wind that will only subside on Wednesday. (Up north this may be snow.)

We had a surprise visitor on the tray feeder on the deck today: a Sharp-shinned Hawk. It was just sitting there on the feeder looking at the sunflower seeds and staring around for the other birds. It almost looked stunned but I had not heard the thud associated with a bird that large smacking into the glass on the end of the house. I took quite a few pictures and will see about posting them tomorrow. The hawk came back later and perched on the branch on the side of the yard where it (or one like it) had perched many times last winter. I welcome a bird-eating hawk like the sharp-shinned to the area. Perhaps it can slow down the consumption of sunflower seeds. I bought two 50lb. bags on February 28th. One of those bags is now empty and the other has a huge dent made in it already.

Tomorrow afternoon I've got an appointment to have the Tundra looked at for its 15K check-up/oil change.

Now that Terry's home to take care of the cats, I'm free to do some traveling of my own. Thursday, I'm heading up to the Bolt Hole to see how it survived the winter--so far, for, up there it's not over until the woodcock sings--and sometimes even he's a bit early. I my have to chip a lot of ice away from my front door. Mark got some of the worst out of the way this past weekend after some folks (The Rabbit Hunters--see below) reported the front door was being buckled by ice.

I'll also bring my shotgun with me for Sunday is the last day of rabbit season and there are quite a few running around the place. There are eight or so guys (The Rabbit Hunters) who have a few beagles and who have permission to hunt my property. They will be up there on Saturday. I may just post myself along the road and wait to see if the dogs are successful at running a hare through the area I can cover.

That is all.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The value of a Catholic education and a #2 pencil:

(More from my elder cousin in Tampa)

Little Susie was not the best student in Catholic School ...
Usually she slept through the class.

One day her teacher, a Nun, called on her while she was sleeping.

'Tell me Susie, who created the universe?'

When Susie didn't stir, little Johnny who was her friend sitting behind her, took his pencil and jabbed her in the rear.

'God Almighty!' shouted Susie.

The Nun said, 'Very good' and continued teaching her class.

A little later the Nun asked Susie, 'Who is our Lord and Savior?'

But Susie didn't stir from her slumber. Once again, Johnny came to her rescue and stuck her in the butt.

'Jesus Christ!!!' shouted Susie.

And the Nun once again said, 'Very good,' and Susie fell back asleep.

The Nun asked her a third question...'What did Eve say to Adam after she had her twenty-third child?'

Again, Johnny came to the rescue. This time Susie jumped up and shouted, 'If you stick that damn thing in me one more time, I'll break it in half!'

The Nun fainted!

Thoughts on aging

THis came over the transom from my older cousin down in Tampa area. It's alleged to be one of George Carlin's Absolutely Brilliant routines. (At least the first half. The rest--on how to stay young--was part of the original email and I've left it intact.

George Carlin's Views on Aging

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

"How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

"How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16!
And then the greatest day of your life . . . you become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT !

You get into your 80s and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; "I Was JUST 92."

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"

May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height.
Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay "them."

2. Keep only cheerful friends . The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer , crafts, gardening , whatever. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud . Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music , plants, hobbies , whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health : If it is good, preserve it . If it is unstable,improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9 Don't take guilt trips . Take a trip to the mall , even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10.Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away..

Insights from Going Postal

Terry Pratchett's Going Postal, a Disc World novel of 2004:

Moist von Lipwig, con man extraordinaire, has been caught, condemned to die and hanged under his nom-de-con "Albert Spangler" in Disc World's greatest city, Ankh-Morpork. He has been given the task of revamping and revitalizing the Postal Service by Ankh-Morpork's supreme ruler Lord Vetinari, The Patrician. For Moist, it's a do-or-die (again and for real) situation.

Moist doesn't take to the task at first, especially when he inspects the main post office and discovers its total state of decrepitude. His first night on the job he thinks:

...I'm some poor bastard who's the victim of some stupid...experiment. What a place! What a situation! What kind of a man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of the government? Apart from, say, the average voter?

Which just about sums up our current situation here in the US of A.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

Let a smile be your umbrella! Enjoy!

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Global Warming ain’t what it used to be

From Watts Up With That? we learn that Lake Superior is freezing over. Something it historically does every 20 years or so, to be sure, but the last time it froze over was 2003 so that makes it a tad unusual for it to have done so again so soon.

Checking the satellite data it seems that every one of the Great Lakes is pretty much frozen over except Lake Ontario.

The Aerie is at the tail end of the lake effect snow from Lake Erie. The Lake, having been frozen for some time now has failed to supply the moisture for the usual lake effect snows. That coupled with short but intense warming spells mixed with rain from the south has caused virtually all the snow cover around here to disappear.

The Bolt Hole is an entirely different story! It is located down wind of Lake Ontario (the one that didn't freeze) and, therefore, has had an abundance of snow this year. Mark tells be there's still three feet of snow on the ground in the fields and maybe four in the woods. When there's been a warm spell or rain, it has served only to pack the stuff down into a denser, icier mass that is even more resistant to melting.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Odds and ends

Not much happening the last two days. I ran my errands and got my supplies yesterday so I could finish the woodworking project this morning.

I spent some of yesterday doing some maintenance on the power tools. The disc sander is a little wobbly. (I could not manage to get the darn thing off to check the set screw sitting properly. I'll have to try again.) And the table saw had a problem with one of the belt guides. The allen screw that holds it tightly to the shaft had come lose so it sqweeled like a banshee on start-up. That's been fixed and the motor got a few drops of 3-in-1 oil to keep it running smoothly. The rest of Thursday afternoon and evening was spent reading more Terry Prachet. (I finished Monstrous Regiment--again and am now reading Going Postal. I've come across a couple of excellent quotes in the latter that I want to share in a future post. And I'm only up to page 50!)

This morning I took the square out of the clamps and applied two coats of spray verathane. Man, doe tat make the contrasting colors of the oak and walnut stand out! Then ran over to Wellsboro to return one of Terry's library books. Back at the Aerie I spent much of the afternoon scanning more slides of days of yore. I first started taking slides in 1970. and have scanned about 1/10 of all I've got so far. Call it 650 slides completed, another oh, about 5500 to go. I could be doing this for a looooong time. At least I am finding I have, indeed, some pictures of people. And they are (mostly) labeled as to who they are.

Yesterday (Thursday) morning it was all of 24°F at 7 AM it later rose to over 50°F. This morning it dropped only to 34°F at 3 AM and rose steadily until it got to 60°F at 3 PM. Despite a forecast calling for scattered showers and intermittent rain (over half an inch according to AccuHunch), we got no rain at the Aerie and had several hours of bright sunshine that helped boost the temperature this afternoon.

I'm going to be positive and say Spring is definiely right around the corner! I think I even heard some bird song that was territorial as opposed to simple chatter. Any day now I expect to hear the song of an American Robin. Any day now....any day...a..n..y..d..a..y.....

Terry called this afternoon to say she made it to her friends home at the south end of Cheasapeake Bay in Virginia. They're about half way from Sumter, SC to the Aerie. She'll spend the next two days there talking stitching and stuff before getting back on the road to head home.

Tommorow is the start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Anchorage. The race can be as short as 10 days or as long as forever. The trail has lots of snow this year (maybe too much in some locales) so it could be interesting to follow.

With major league baseball several weeks away yet and the Rutgers men's basketball team a dismal 1-16 in the Big East and out of it, and the women's team having dropped out of the Top 25 completely with a very mediocre showing, the Iditarod might be the only show in town that holds any interest for me. (Forget pro basketball and/or hockey, they are not my cup of tea. Although hockey can get my attention if there's real skating/scoring/solid goal work. I don't think much of
the fights.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

More Birdy Pics

White-breasted Nuthatches look very dapper. They are always on the move, however. They pick up a seed and flit away to the trees to indulge. Their movement as they go down the side of a tree resembles a climber repelling down a rocky cliff: a short, jerky, controlled fall. The only time I've seen them stationary for any length of time is when the Blue Jays give a warning squawk. Every other bird beats it for the woods, but the Nuthatch (usually hanging upside down on the side of a tree) will freeze.

"So many to choose from."

Woodworking 103 (4)

I'm nearly done with the wall hanging piece I began two weeks ago. I think it's come along real well, but, as the person putting it all together, I know there are flaws. So many little pieces to cut at an angle and so many edges that needed to be glued...being off by even 1/32 of an inch or a degree of angle can lead to a multiplying of the error on a piece that measures 21 inches on a side.

The wider pieces of walnut that separate the central star from the triangles and corner squares had to be individually cut and sanded to fit. The band saw and bench disk/belt sander really came in handy for that even if the sanding produced a great deal of fine dust.

The only things left to do: apply a final ribbon of 1/8 inch thick walnut around the edges (already cut to width and sanded) and a final finish of spray-on verathane. I'll get the ribbon done tomorrow morning and the verathane will be applied the next day unless there's going to be rain. (If the humidity is too high the stuff will take a long time to dry.)

I've got the materials for two more quilted pieces similar to this one and now that I know what to look for/be careful of they should be relatively easy to do.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

More Birdy Pics

I spotted five tom turkeys approaching the bird feeders Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, they spotted Julie sitting in the window staring out at them and stopped their approach. They opted to head on down the hill instead. The turkeys tend to stay closer to open field down in the valley when the snow starts accumulating. There's a better chance down there for the wind to sweep the soft stuff away and leave an icy coat to walk on. Plus there's a fair shot at some warm eats when the farmer spreads manure from his honey wagon. Yum, yum!

We had a small flock of turkeys come through during our January thaw (remember that weekend?) and before that the last time we had any turkeys around was Sunday after the fall turkey season ended.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker continues to show up on a daily basis. Terry and I are pretty sure its an adult female so we've started calling her "Winnie Woodpecker."(That was Woody's girlfriend's name.) She almost always comes in to face the house so nearly all my shots are head on. Trust me, darling, it is not your best side!

And squirrels! You turn away from the window early in the morning and turn back and there's another one every damn time! There were 14 gray squirrels chowing down this morning to the disappointment of all the feathered flock. The squirrels don't actually attack the birds, they just take up valuable feeder space--not to mention lots of sunflower seeds. The little birds just back off and wait. Only the Blue Jays seem to want to contest their "right" to free food.

One new visitor this winter was a Common Grackle. With no real short grass fields nearby (there area few abandoned pasture fields that are really overgrown) ours is not their typical habitat. This one showed up two days in a row and I'm wondering if he's going to be a regular as long as the cold lasts.

Grackle's always seemed to be a bit of a bully bird to me. They've got that bright yellow eye and a drooping eyebrow that gives them a squint. The way they walk can best be described as a swagger. You can almost see them throwing their shoulders forward with each measured step. And they are dressed in the equivalent of a tux with tails. A nice shiny, satiny, iridescent tux that reminds me of shark skin.

Yesterday afternoon, the birds were raising a ruckus but no one seemed to be feeding. Then I spotted the reason:

One of several cats that roam by from time to time. None of them seem to have collars and I haven't pinpointed which neighbors own which cat. All look healthy enough. Only the stripped orange Tom (and believe me when he walks away from you it is obvious that he is a Tom!) looks to have been in any altercations. (Probably tried to get to friendly with a porcupine!) None will allow me to get within ten yards of them. I've never seen them take a bird, but I have seen one trot away with a squirrel and another with a chipmunk.

My three cats stay in side and watch. They love the deck feeders and the big glass wall onto the deck. Sometimes they will even forget their sister-brother animosity to enjoy the birds. Here's Shadow and Chester sitting side by side.

Normally Shadow won't let her brother this close unless she's really, really sleepy. Then, if she's already bedded down, she might allow him to creep up on the same chair she's already occupying--maybe. A moment after I put the camera down, Chester was allowed to lick her ear! (Considering all cats are Ferengi, this is tantamount to incest!)

Well, that's enough for this post. I don't want things to get out of hand. I've more pictures to put up a little latter.