Friday, August 31, 2007

Aahh! College football has begun.

I woke up this morning enjoying the RU victory and to 53 degrees outside. The former was a symbolic message that Autumn is approaching while the latter was much more physical.

Anyway, I went on line to see what other teams had done last night and what might be on tap for this weekend. What I found was the usual mismatches of opening weekend. Good teams try to get off on the right foot by scheduling nonconference games that are not much more than scrimmages. Weak, unknown teams schedule the big boys hoping to pocket some cash and maybe, just maybe, pull off an upset. It almost never happens but, hey, you can't win it if your not in it, as the saying goes.

Here are some of the Field of Dreams scheduled games for opening week.

#1 ranked USC opens the season against IDAHO? Talk about your mismatches. Idaho has struggled for the last 5-10 years to eek out a winning season. They have a new coach and almost no offense and precious little defense.

Last year’s National Champions and this year ranked # 6, Florida opens against Western Kentucky, a virtual unknown as this is their first year playing 1-A. Although the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky have been competitive in the 1-AA scene having winning records in each of the last eleven seasons. But to start their stint in 1-A against the defending National Champs seems a bit of an overreach.

Everybody seems to want an easy first game.

In the Big East:
#10 ranked Louisville whipped Murray State 73-10.
#16 ranked Rutgers beat Buffalo 38-3. (Not as lopsided as I would have liked.)
Cincinnati beat up on Southeast Missouri State by a score of 59-3.

Elsewhere Thursday night:
#2 LSU sank Mississippi State 45-0.
#24 Boise State grilled Weber State 56-7.

Saturday’s schedule has more than a few games involving ranked teams that should be lopsided.

#3 West Virginia should have a very successful home opener against Western Michigan.

Appalachian State visits #5 Michigan and I’m pretty sure they’re bearing gifts.

The Mean Green of North Texas will need lots of help on their visit to #8 Oklahoma who should score Sooner and oftener.

#9 Virginia Tech should have an easy time hosting East Carolina.

Florida International visits Happy Valley and #17 Penn State. (Joe Pa has learned a few things about scheduling in his years as coach.)

#21 Arkansas hosts the Troy Trojans who will need to watch The 300 over and over again to get inspired. (Just forget all that dying stuff, okay?)

Northern Colorado Bears get to go to #24 Hawaii, which would be a good thing in December when it gets really cold in Northern Colorado.

The Montana State Bobcats make the trip to #25 Texas A&M where they should get declawed. It’s going to be a long ride home.

In the Big East:

The Pitt Panthers host much weaker Eastern Michigan and should win handily.

South Florida host the Elon Phoenix? Who, or what, is ELON?

Connecticut is on the road to Duke but should be able to easily overcome the Blue Devils since this isn’t basketball.

Syracuse Orange should get squeezed by the Washington Huskies even though they’re playing in the Carrier Dome. The ‘Cuse managed to find an opening day opponent that’s stronger than they are. Actually that’s a near 50-50 proposition as has the Orange at 71 out of 120 teams playing 1-A ball.

Let the games begin.

RU, Rice Roll Buffalo 38-3

Rutgers R.small

Indications of great expectations: The Scarlet Knights lead 28-0 at the half against Buffalo. (Yeah, it’s only Buffalo.) Rice has two TDs on the ground and Tiquan Underwood has two long TDs on passes by Teel. Still, Coach Schiano is not happy. Missed TD pass by Teel, fumble by Rice and “not tackling like our guys should be tackling.” RU also had a missed FG by Ito from 40 yards out. “We need to play our game,” he says.

Early in the second half, Buffalo is forced to go on 4th and 2 on the 12 yard line and fail on a pass into the end zone. RU takes over and goes on offense.

Jeremy Ito missed a second field goal from 54 yards out with 6 minutes to go in the third quarter.

Buffalo gets a FG to prevent the shutout. RU still leads 28-3 but nothing midway through the third quarter will make Schiano any happier as RU didn’t come out an dominate its weaker rival as it should have.

But then a couple of passes (putting Teel over 300 yards for the game) and a long run (41 yards) by Ray Rice (number 3 for the game) and RU goes up 35-3. And there’s still the fourth quarter to play.

38 yard field goal by Ito makes it 38-3 with about 6 minutes in the game.

Mike Teel finished with 16 of 23, 328 yards passing for two TDs and no interceptions.

Ray Rice ended the night with 25 carries, 184 yards, and 3 TDs. He is just 16 yards shy of becoming the #1 rusher in Rutgers history in this, his 26th career game. He also has 28 career TDs. (He did lose one fumble, however.)

Tiquan Underwood caught 10 passes for 248 yards (a school single game record) and 2 TDs.

Jeremy Ito made only one of three attempts on field goals but converted all five extra points.

The second and third team offense and defense were on the field for most of the fourth quarter.

(Governor Corzine was wise enough to show up 10 minutes after kickoff. Sure, he missed two RU Ray Rice scores, but then again he didn’t get introduced early and booed.)

Final score is RU 38, Buffalo 3

The complete story and stats are here.
Next up for RU will be Navy. They play Friday night, September 7 at RU.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


A line of thunderstorms just swept through with the promise of heavy rain. As luck would have it--again--a gap between the storms passed over the Aerie meaning we got almost nothing. The gauge reads 1/10 th of an inch. We desperately need rain all over Tioga County (we're. like, 7 inches below the norm for the year). While Tioga and Cowanesque Lakes are bank full, Hammond is still nearly 24 inches down. I'm pretty sure that may now be by design, however. With two of the three lakes full, they'll need somewhere to put the water from one of the many hurricanes that we're supposed to get this year, right?

Birding report

Only Gary and I showed up for the weekly birding outing of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society this morning. Everybody else had other things to do such as doctor's appointments, teaching, and travel.

This week we went to the west end of Cowanesque Lake, another Corps of Engineers' impoundment in northern Tioga County. We parked at the western most end of the Moccasin Trail and walked from their to the Route 49 overpass and then around the town of Nelson's recreation area.

The day started on a bit of a sour note since it was quite foggy and gray making it difficult to see birds and to ID their colors wen we did spot one, but, as usually happens, the fog burned off and we saw more and more species. It was good to see that the lake has risen considerably since the beginning of the summer. Undoubtedly, last weeks heavy rainfall helped quite a bit.

Here's the results of our walk as I recorded them:

Location: W. Cowanesque Lake
Observation date: 8/30/07
Notes: Foggy and warm to start then just very warm and muggy. No wind.
Number of species: 32

Double-crested Cormorant 9
Great Blue Heron 4
Green Heron 1
Osprey 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Ring-billed Gull 2
Caspian Tern 1
Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 3
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 6
Common Raven 1
Barn Swallow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1
House Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 6
American Robin 12
Gray Catbird 5
European Starling 50
Cedar Waxwing 18
Common Yellowthroat 1
Song Sparrow 3
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 100
Baltimore Oriole 2
American Goldfinch 7

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Everybody's on the road but me.

Terry hits the road tomorrow to head west to Peoria, Illinois to visit her second cousin for a few days. Then it’s back to Chicago for the Embroiderers’ Guild of America (EGA) National Convention. While in Chicago, she will also have dinner with our nephew, Brian.

She’ll be gone for 10 days or so. Just me, the cats, and the birds (and squirrels, chipmunks, cottontails, and…) at the Aerie ‘til she returns.

Meanwhile, daughter Jessica is heading to Atlanta, GA on Thursday to attend Dragon*Con. Looking at the list of authors and actors scheduled as guests/participants, I wouldn’t mind being there myself if it weren’t for two things” 1) It’s in Atlanta where it’s pretty freakin’ hazy, hot, and humid in late August and 2)The crowds of silly costumed people (one of which will be my daughter). I HATE the three Hs and get very antsy around crowds of more than 20 people. (Which is kinda nuts for a former teacher. But, hey, to teach for 32 years you have to be just a little nuts.)

And, of course, Rick is in Guyana until next July.

Everybody is somewhere else while I’m right here.
Actually, I might just pack the cats up and go up to the Bolt Hole for a few days—but after the holiday weekend. By then I should have the raised bed finished and perhaps even the painting of the basement done.

Some photo's of yesterday's work

I snapped a couple of pics of the things I did yesterday around the Aerie...just so you can see I wasn't kidding.

Small wall
The short retaining wall on the west end of the deck has gotten most of its back fill.

Back filled long wall
Compacting of the soil in the filled area after last week's heavy rain required more wheelbarrows full of fill.

From the other end
The area slopes down toward where I'm standing in this photo and some erosion of the fill took place. That was another reason to add more dirt.

First raised bed
You can see the U-shape of the bed with the redbud in the center. You can also see I have a lot of churning up to do yet before the second row of timbers and fill can be added. (Timbers are 8-foot and 4-foot long.)

Stones, Just pickin' up stones.
Some of the stones/rocks/boulders from just 16 square feet of the area I want to use for raised beds.

So that's how I spent my Monday afternoon. And, with all the stones in the raised bed area, how I'll be spending several days to come.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Moving more dirt.

I spent a goodly portion of this afternoon moving more dirt. The soil behind the big retaining wall had settled with the more than two inches of rain we had last week so I moved some more dirt to top it off and bring the level closer to that of the driveway. The small retaining wall on the other side of the deck had received no fill yet so another dozen wheelbarrows of dirt went there.

Once those areas had gotten their fill, it was time to think of the raised beds for the garden/flowers. Terry and I had picked up 16 landscaping timbers on Saturday with the idea of building a U-shaped bed with the redbud tree in the center of the U. Since there be rocks in that there soil where the bed is to go, the U will not be symmetrical. One side will be 4'x8' and the other will be 8'x8'. A 4'x4' section will bridge the two and form the center of the U. I cut a couple of timbers for the 4' lengths and laid all the first course out where It would fit around the tree and the monster rocks I knew I couldn't move. After diner, I grabbed my big, 16 lb., black iron bar with the wedge on one end and the tamper on the other (I like to call it a Johnson bar) and started lifting and dropping that wedge end into the soil where the timbers would go. I hit rocks. Most were small but there were occasional monsters. I got one out that measures about 16"x16" and was a good 5 or 6 inches thick. Once I levered that beast out of the ground I started trying to loosen all the soil with in the bed area. It's a combination of stone and clay and with out being loosened, any water passing through the fill dirt I place on top will not soak down any further but would pool up making the fill soil mud and probably killing any plants we put into the beds. One hour of lifting and dropping the Johnson bar, prying up more--if somewhat smaller--stones, bending over to pick those stones out of the loosened soil...and I was pooped. I got about 16 square feet loosened out of the 112 square feet of the bed. This is not going to be easy. I almost hope I run into some more large stones like the one I mentioned earlier.

At least if it gets too hot, I can always go into the basement and paint the now sanded walls.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"The Trouble With Islam"

Oh boy! You have got to listen to this clip about "The Trouble With Islam" as described by a British comedian.

(Seen first at Right, Wing-Nut!)

Who turned off the heat?!

After near 90 degrees and 85% relative humidity yesterday that made sweat pour off your brow if you even thought about doing anything physical, a swift moving cold front with attendant T-storms swept through here last evening and lowered everything. The line of storms had a few very intense cells and a couple of gaps. One of the biggest cells moved through the Elmira-to-Ithaca corridor along Route 13 and I figure those folks got hammered for about the third or fourth day in a row. Meanwhile, the Aerie was lined up with one of the gaps and we got just 1/10th of an inch of rain. There was a nice light show to the north of us, however.

This morning we awoke to 60 degrees and about 50% humidity--very comfortable. It's supposed to be like this for two days and then get slightly warmer for a day or two before getting positively cold on Thursday after another front moves through. (The Weather Channel forecasts a low Thursday night of 48 degrees and highs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of just 71-72. Bring it on!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tornado or Downburst wrecks havoc
at the Bolt Hole

My buddy Mark just called to tell me all Hell broke loose around the Bolt Hole last night and this morning. Severe T-storms kept waking him up during the night. Every lightening strike during the night caused sparks to shoot from his electrical outlets.(I wonder if any of the appliances I had plugged in survived the power surges.) He heard tree tops snapping all night and then again this morning a fierce wind ripped through the area. An ancient cherry tree that stood next to my gate was broken off some ten feet above the ground. Four or five trees were knocked down in Mark's 100-yard long driveway, severing his power line. He said that he watched tree tops (mostly from poplars or aspens) go flying overhead: 30, 40, or 50 feet overhead.

More trees were toppled between his camp and Harry's, which sits on top of the hill a quarter mile to the east. So many trees that when Mark and Harry (who lives relatively nearby) started to walk Harry's driveway, they couldn't see the camp until they were nearly on top of it. Luckily there was no damage to any of our buildings.

Mark says there are hundreds of trees down; either snapped off or uprooted. Power is out until at least Wednesday or Thursday. Work crews will have to replace several telephone poles and clear downed trees before they can turn the juice back on again.

No official word yet as to whether this was a tornado or a "mere" downburst.

Mark will be sending me some pictures when he can get out of there tomorrow.

Meanwhile another severe storm is currently pushing its way between Elmira and Ithaca and over to Cortland, NY on I-81. And yet one more little group of T-storms is sweeping between the Aerie and Elmira.

UPDATE: News this morning was saying it was a "mesocyclone" that started near Rome, NY and "bounced" across Oneida and Herkimer counties into southern Hamilton county.

Gonna be a hot one today.

Weather guys on TV predict the real temperatures will get as high as 94 or 95 today but with the humidity it will feel like it's over 100 degrees here at the Aerie. Wha' happened? Earlier this week Terry was complaining it was too cold and she was contemplating turning the heat on.

For that reason, I believe I will NOT be doing any shoveling today. If I get the energy to do any work at all, it will be in the basement where the temp is seldom above 68 degrees even though we have no AC. Or I just might get in the truck and go pick up some materials. (At least the truck has AC.)

Energy...Need more coffee. See ya.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rain, we had some--need more.

I got back to the Aerie yesterday to learn that there had been two plus inches of rain between Monday and Thursday. (I had none up at the Bolt Hole until I was leaving Thursday afternoon when some quick moving but very heavy thunderstorms swept in.) In all of July we had just 1.9 inches and here we got more in three days. And there's more forecast for tomorrow. Of course if it's like today's scattered T-storms (one past to the north and another to the south after heading right towards us from the west),we'll get nothing on our side of the hill while there will be floods all around us. We could use all we get since this area is between 4 and 5 inches below normal to this point of the summer.

Some of the soil behind my retaining wall washed down, which wasn't a surprise as I hadn't gotten any sort of mulch one the surface. The rain also packed the earth down some so I'll have to use the wheelbarrow some more to fill in the fill.

Of course the heat moved up from the south just as I returned from the north so any work I do will be in 85 to 90 degree work. Manana.

Kinda cute and geeky at the same time


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Well, it wasn't a shutout after all.

I very nearly concluded a shutout of the wasps at the Bolt Hole over the past few days. In fact, I did manage to nearly wipe out the wasp nest I posted a photo of earlier. Only a few stragglers were seen by me and Mark as we worked on the garage today. They wold zoom in to the barn and then right back out. Their bright yellow and black striped bodies were easy to spot against the dark shadows of the barn's interior.

It was the second string that got me around noon today. We (Mark and I) were going to put some plywood over rotting, leaking windows on the west side of the garage. I had climbed the step ladder to screw the initial piece in place but had to hammer a stray nail out of the way first. it was then that I heard the loud buzz of a nest inside the garage wall with an entrance in the opposite corner of the window. You can reasonably assume I got off the ladder ASAP! Even then I was unscathed.

When things quieted down, I thought it might be safe to work on the other window. WRONG! No sooner had I moved the ladder and climbed up it than there was a very sharp jab behind my left ear. I swatted--and killed--the little martyr, and then got off the ladder again. Score one for the insect world. (The sting still hurts some 10 hours after it occurred, but, thanks to the allergy shots I wrote about, I was able to walk away without the need of medical attention.) I still had one can of Spectricide spray left and so I counter attacked, soaking the corner of the window as best I could before packing up my tools and calling it a day. I didn't stick around to see if the spray did any good or not.

These were not the same species of wasps as those that built the paper nest in the barn. These were about the same size (1/2 to 5/8 inches long) but were nearly all black with just a bit of pale yellow on their abdomen. I believe they may also build paper nest for, if I remember correctly, they had a small one some years ago under the Bolt Hole's second story deck. I got stung then, too, when I stepped out on the deck and the vibrations of my feet on the deck floor pissed them off.

When I get back up to the Bolt Hole (I'm back at the PA Aerie now) and get around to covering the windows, you can be assured I'll use a long pole to rap sharply on the window sill first to see if anyone is home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Adirondack birding

Between visits to the barn to keep tabs on the wasps, I took a little walk in the woods to do some birding. There wasn’t a whole lot to see—besides trees. Things have been so dry in the area there are no mud puddles and most of the birds seem to be homing in ton either the berries in the fields around the cabin or the creeks. Anyway, here’s the list I generated from my little jaunt:

Location: Bolt Hole
Observation date: 8/21/07
Notes: Extremely dry conditions. Many birds congregated at the creek pool behind an old beaver dam. Dense understory made some visual observations nearly impossible.
Number of species: 10

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 3
Black-capped Chickadee 17
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Wood Thrush 2
Cedar Waxwing 11
Yellow-rumped Warbler 7
Common Yellowthroat 2

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

[BTW: While it's been sunny here all day, Terry reports the Aerie has had over 2 inches of rain. And the hummingbirds, gold finches and chickadees are eating like they'll have to swim around for a week so they better stock up.]

Round Two

I checked on the wasp nest several times today and found a considerable number of the little pests hard at work trying to repair the tiny little bit that was still clinging to the rafter inthe barn. So I went down to Lowe's to pick up two more cans of spray.

Tonight, after the sun went down and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees to just under 50, I donned my protective cloathing, tucked my shirt in my pants and my pants into my boots, grabbed the flashlight and one of the cans of spray and gave it to 'em again. This Spectracide spray is great! From over 20 feet away I soaked the little paper that was left and coated nearly every wasp with a lethal dose of chemical. I saw them drop to the ground still writhing and attempting to sting. With any sort of luck this will have been the knock out punch. I should be able to comfortably work in and around the barn tomorrow without worrying that the "buzz" I hear is anything but the hummingbirds that are still around.

Allergy Shots

I mentioned in a previous post about the Wasps’ Nest that I was thankful for having had my allergy shots. Let me explain a bit about that.

When I was a toddler growing up in Hawthorne, New Jersey, we used to frolic under the sprinkler on hot summer’s days. With no air conditioning, it was one of the few ways to cool off when the temperature and humidity would become unbearable. Mom would get us into our bathing suits (or sometimes just strip us down to our underwear) and hook up the hose to the oscillating sprinkler and for half an hour or so we would run beneath the frigid water until we had goose bumps over every inch of our bodies.

Somewhere, sometime along all this fun, I stepped on a bee that was probably gathering pollen from the clover in the lawn and got stung. No big deal at the time, the sting hurt briefly and a tiny swelling like that of a mosquito bite appeared. Life went on.

A short time later, maybe the next summer, we were repeating that childhood fun when I got stung again. This time it was a big deal. Instead of a tiny, inconspicuous bump, I started to swell up like the Michellin Man and went into anaphalactic shock. Mom called the family doctor who rushed to the house and administered a life saving shot. I’ve always been told that if he had been ten minutes late, I would have died. I had developed a sever allergy to bee venom after that first sting. At the time, there was nothing else he could do except to say, “Don’t get stung again!”

And I didn’t for a long time. When I was around nine, we moved from Hawthorne to Oakland on Yawpo Avenue just up the hill from the center of town and the abandoned academy with its old riding stables, overgrown fields, fences and woodlands trails. I would wonder those trails for years and never had a problem. But the fences proved my downfall.

One day several of my friends and I were walking one of the old trails taking a shortcut through the fields and, as boys will do, picking up rocks and throwing them at the fence that ran alongside the trail. We would throw as hard as we could just to hear the loud “thwack” the stones would make as they hit the old picket fence. Unbeknownst to us, there was a bees nest on the other side of the fence and they weren’t happy about the stones. Of course I was the only one stung. Several times.

We made it back up the hill to home to report to my Mom and she hustled us off to our new GP across town. He gave me a shot in his office and proceeded to tell my Mom that it might be a good idea if I were to be given a desensitizing series of shots to prevent future emergencies. Medical science had developed a means by which one’s allergy could be reversed. It meant getting several years worth of shots to build up an immunity to bee venom. Sounded good to me!

And so it began. At first, I would get a tiny amount of bee venom every week or so in the good doctor’s office and they would watch for any severe reaction before sending me home. Then, after the reaction became negligible, there was an increase in the strength of the venom and the shots would occur every two weeks. Another increase in the potency and the shots were every four weeks. This went on for about three years. Finally, the doctor pronounced me “cured” of my allergy but still cautioned against waging war on bees.

Many years went by before I got to test the “cure.” About ten years after the last shot, I was doing some research for my Masters Degree when I stepped in (or too damn near) a yellow jackets’ ground nest. Now, yellow jackets aren’t actually bees, they’re wasps but they are as mean as the Africanized Killer Bees. Luckily, they are more territorial than Killer Bees and will give up pursuit after just a few dozen yards.

At the time, I was live trapping mice along the medians of interstate highways. My car was parked on the shoulder of the road with a sign posted in the window stating why it was there and where I was. This day, after being stung a dozen or more times, I got out of the woods to see a state trooper parked behind my car. It was the only time in two years of research that a trooper stopped to check my car. I walked up to the trooper’s car and explained who I was, what I was doing and that I had just been stung numerous times and wasn’t sure if I would have a reaction or not. I asked if I could sit with him for a while—just in case. (We were 15 minutes from a major hospital and I told him to get me to the ER ASAP if I should start to foam at the mouth or something.) We sat and chatted for a bit and when nothing except a tiny tingling sensation appeared to have been the result of all the hits I took, we parted company. I drove to a friends house, who was only five minutes from Morristown Memorial Hospital and we repeated the wait-and-see routine over ice tea. After and hour or so, I felt comfortable enough to drive home convinced that the “cure” had worked.

Since that day, I’ve been stung several times with less reaction than I get from a black fly bite. And every time I do, I thank that Oakland doctor for all those shots he gave me.

A year or so after the Median Massacre, I went to an allergy specialist to see what else I was allergic to and what he might be able to do for me. The test results produced a fairly thick volume of positives. Some I was aware of, such as animal dander, ragweed pollen, insect bites (mosquitoes, deer flies, etc.), and some that surprised me (chocolate and caffeine?). I proceeded to get desensitized to some of the worst (the pollen and insect bites for instance) and ignored nearly all the others, as they had never been a problem for me. I would get six shots in my arms at every visit to the doctor’s office for nearly three years. Now I feel almost nothing from the occasional mosquito and deer fly bites where before I would have an itchy lump the size of a marble. And as for pollen, I seldom have a problem with itchy eyes, runny nose and the like, unless it’s a very, very bad season—and that’s usually in the spring with all the different trees.

I probably should see about getting shots for animal dander, what with the cats and all, but the over the counter pills seem to do the trick and since most of them are available in generic form they’re not that expensive. Besides, I've heard that while there is a shot for dogs, cats, rebellious indepedent as ever, have no such shot.

Oh, and somewhere along the way I have seemed to have lost my allergy to poison ivy. But that may have been a self-induced immunization. I used to get it all the time. Just looking at those three glossy leaves would make me break out in a blistery rash that required bathing in pink calamine lotion. Then, one day when I was about 18-years old, while fishing bare-chested along the Ramapo River along the NY-NJ border, I slipped and fell into a patch of poison ivy. (It was either the ivy or a drop into the river some ten feet below.) While the next two weeks were Hell, I haven’t seriously had a case since. And I’ve done everything but roll in the stuff.

As I said before: Thank God for allergy shots. Worth every penny, needle prick and more.

So far, So good.

This morning at 4 AM I donned a heavy coat, hat, and leather gauntlets do battle with the evil empire’s death star, a.k.a. the wasps’ nest, that had invaded my barn.

Actually, I began with a short sortie last evening just after dark. Around 8:45 PM I girt my loins with battle raiment and grabbed the can of jet spray for wasps and hornets that Mark had found in his shed. With flashlight in hand, I stepped into the door of the barn, located the enemy about 20 feet overhead and let ‘em have it! I soaked the paper nest as best I could before retreating as some wasps were starting to zoom out the door (along with a bat or two). I stepped out into the yard which I had illuminated with the three floodlights mounted above the garage door and realized the wasps were attacking the bright, warm lights. I quickly turned off my flashlight and snuck across the yard and back into the house.

No stings. So far, so good.

I awoke at 3:30 AM just knowing: IT Was Time. Aside from the three lights above the garage door, only the stars illuminated the yard. The first quarter moon had already set. It was 40 degrees and the enemy’s weakness was a tendency to be lethargic in cool/cold temperatures.

I grabbed the 24-foot long poke pruner with the curved saw blade at the business end and headed for the barn. I stopped in the doorway and checked out the hive with my flashlight. It looked a bit soaked and there were no black and yellow striped warriors/workers crawling about. Looked good.

With the pole pruner and flashlight gripped tightly, I reached up to the rafter, laid the blade along the wood, and PULLED. Close to 95% of the hive crashed to the ground. I grabbed the jet spray and let loose with the remainder of the liquid ammo soaking as much of the nest as possible. Wasps were crawling all over the damaged paper nest but few had flown past me. I took a 5-gallon plastic bucket—with a lid—and a snow shovel. Dropped the bucket over the nest, slide the shovel under the hive, turned the whole thing over and clamped the cover on the bucket. Dozens of wasps could be seen writhing on the ground as the chemical agent in the jet spray did its thing.

As I withdrew to the yard, I could hear a few wasps banging on the floodlights. Once again, they had assumed the bright and shiny lights were the enemy. I putt my tools in the garage and flicked the switch to turn off the lights. They had done their job: serving as decoys while I made my attack.

My watched said it was 4:30 AM as I walked across the yard relishing the idea of a nice hot cup of coffee.

Not one sting. THAT is a good days work and the day had just begun. When the sun climbs above the hill, I’ll have to do a complete assessment of my mission.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oh boy, this'll be fun! (NOT)

I drove up to the Bolt Hole this morning and met my buddy Mark. He did a hell of a joob stacking the firewood and we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 16 face cords for the winter.

While we were in the yard schmoozing he told me to go look in the barn. Here’s what I found:
Wasp Nest
A Wasps’ Nest

Yeah, it deserves the capitals. The Thing is almost a foot in diameter and is perched on the inside roof of my barn. It wasn't there a week and a half ago. As I stood in the doorway, the wasps/hornets were zipping past to add even more to this monstrosity. Sure am glad I've had my allergy shots. I'm going to try and take this sucker out with some spray and a loooong pole as soon as it gets dark.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chores again

I did get some work done outside today. Hauled another 15 wheelbarrows of soil to the one retaining wall. I'll see how it settles after we get some rain (hopefully tomorrow) and then decide if I need to bring any more to that area.

i also hauled some "flatties", pieces of slate from around the edge of the yard to build up some end walls on both retaining walls and threw a couple of wheelbarrows of stone behind the short one.

Two hours seemed like enough to me after the long day yesterday and when ten or twenty drops fell from a passing cloud, I packed it in.

I'm planning on heading up to the Bolt Hole tomorrow for a couple of days. I've a few chores up there that need doing and some things in storage int he garage I want to bring down to PA. Checking the weather, it seems to have been just as cold up there as here--and just as dry. The rain forecast for PA is not supposed to reach there, however, it's sliding to the southeast. There are some afternoon T-storms in the forecast so I'll have to work around them as I move firewood around and cut the grass. Just hope I don't have to light any fires in the stoves. it's too damn early for that!

Global Warming?

You know, maybe NEWSWEEK got it right...back in 1975. This morning was a tad warmer than yesterday's 46 degrees. Because we were blanketed by clouds (that produced no rain, damn them) it didn't drop below 55. Then again, because we remained on the north side of the cloud bank all day (and still didn't receive any rain, damn it) it never got much above 65 degrees. Could be another Ice Age on the way folks, I'm telling ya!


That's the number that belongs in front of "Anniversary."

Today marks Terry's and my 35th wedding anniversary. We were introduced to one another by my former freshman roommate at Rutgers University back in 1970 when we were seniors at the then College of Agriculture and Environmental Science. She had been an Aggie all along, one of the few females then admitted to Rutgers (as opposed to Douglas), while I had drifted from Biological Science to Chemistry to Environmental Science (with some teaching classes my senior year). We were all on the committee formed to discuss the transition from CAES to Cook College when Bill Clark (now Dr. Bill Clark of Ames, Iowa), knowing we had quite a few things in common, introduced us. You might say it was love at first sight.

We all graduated in the spring of '71. Clark went west to get his Master's and finally Doctorate degrees in Wildlife Biology. Terry stayed at CAES to get her Master's in Environmental Science. I went to Montclair to get a Teaching Certificate. Terry and I got engaged and then married on August 19, 1972.

It's been a hell of a ride since then. We still have many things in common such as our reading habits and love for travel and nature, but have also developed our own interests (mine in the outdoors hunting and fishing, hers in the area of needlecraft as a member and officer in the Smocking Arts Guild of America and Embroiders' Guild of America).

We have produced two great, if slightly weird, children: Jessica, now 27, and Rick who is 24, who share our reading habit and love for road trips and the outdoors. Jess is a talented musician with a degree in Music Education, loves computers and works in the Apple Store. She has also developed remarkable skills in knitting, sewing and other hand crafts that parallel her mother's talents. Rick is...well, unique: Eagle Scout, Marine Reservist who has seen time in Iraq, chef, interested in nearly everything. Last Mother's Day he called from the trail as he hiked in the Grand Tetons with a friend from the University of Idaho. Three days later he was ringing our doorbell at the Aerie after having dropped many of his belongings in Baltimore. He never mentioned this in his phone call. Currently he is in Guyana with WorldTeach.

Seldom dull, our life together has been fantastic so far and promises to continue to be so for many years to come.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back to the Chores

My sister and her husband left around 10 AM this morning to return to their home in NJ. Al 9my brother-in-law) has an over-50 bowling tournament to participate in on Sunday. He’s more than a pretty fair kegler and I wish him well.

Last night we had a blue norther swept through with winds of 40 miles per hour and just a sprinkling of rain. (We had only 0.1 inch in the gauge this morning.) The front also brought substantially cooler temperatures. Around 10 PM on Friday night we could actually watch the temperature fall some 15 degrees. This morning at 7 AM the outdoor temperature was just 46 degrees while the indoor temp was just 64. Further, the breeze was still quite brisk and the air was very, very dry so it felt even cooler. Perfect working weather.

As soon as Ruthann and Al left, I started out on my earth moving project. I intend to move the 16 cubic yards of earth that were delivered the other day to the space behind the retaining walls and into raised beds. This sandy loam soil will provide an excellent base for perennials along the driveway and for garden vegetables next spring. (That is, if we can keep the raccoons and other critters away from them!)

When the soil was delivered, the driver asked Terry if we had a backhoe to move it to where we needed it. HA! I’ve got the back, a rake, a shovel and a wheelbarrow and I'm not afraid to use them. I donned my work gloves and grabbed the tools of ignorance and went to work.

Tools of ignorance?
The tools of ignorance.

While some might call this “work”, and I won’t argue with them, I prefer to think of it as “practical physical therapy.” Instead of doing some silly exercises prescribed by a doctor or therapist, the steady shoveling, pushing of the wheelbarrow, and raking out of the soil, not only exercises your arms, legs and lower back, but it accomplishes something.

In this instance, I worked from 10 AM until 5:30 PM to move around 8 cubic yards of soil from this pile:
About 8 cubic yards of fill remain.

To this deep trench behind the 20-foot long retaining wall.
Almost completed fill project.
Almost completed fill project. (2)

The entrance to the house is now substantially safer to approach (before there was a two to three foot drop to the bottom of the trench and even more before the wall was erected) and there is now some soil in which to plant some shade tolerant perennials.

I’m not quite done with this particular area yet, however. I figure it will take another 12 to 15 wheelbarrow loads to raise the soil level up to the level of the driveway.

On the opposite side of the walkout basement is a second but much smaller retaining wall. That area will also require some stone and soil fill behind it even though it is under the deck and not likely to be a good place for plantings.

So my work is cut out for tomorrow. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 wheelbarrow loads of soil and stone will get moved. The raised beds will just have to wait until I can get some landscaping timbers or pressure treated 2x6 lumber and some re-bar.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tomorrow's chore

Tomorrow, after my Lil Sis leaves to head back to NJ, I will have the task of moving some more stone behind the retaining walls and then...

One, big, farookin' pile of dirt.

...this huge pile of dirt will have to be moved to fill in the remainder of the volume behind the walls. And, although the angle doesn't prove it, it is a huge pile. As reference, the white pipes in the background are 10 feet long and that yellow/green bucket is for kitty litter, measures about 8 inches wide, 16 inches long and 16 inches high, and holds about five gallons. When Terry, who is 4' 10" stands next to it, the dirt pile is higher than she is tall.

With luck, I'll be able to get a foot or two of dirt in there and still have some left over for raised beds. (Which I still need to construct.)

Company gets the tour

My sister and her husband came out to the Aerie last night and we spent the day doing a tour of Tioga county today. After breakfast at Grandma's Kitchen in Mansfield we drove up to Tioga and Hammond Lakes to look at the job the Corps of Engineers did in the name of flood control and recreation.
Tioga Lake Dam
Tioga Lake Dam viewed from the overlook outside the town of Tioga.

Tioga Lake
Tioga Lake viewed from the overlook.

Hammond Lake
Hammond Lake viewed from the overlook.

Water levels in both lakes are quite low, perhaps two or even three feet below normal, due to the lack of rain we have had this year.

We also drove to the west end of Hammond Lake to show them the Ives Run Recreational facility with its several boat launches, many campgrounds and lovely picnic facilities.

From there we continued southwest on Route 287 to The Muck (also known as State Game Lands 313) to show them the bird watching blind maintained by the Tiadaghton Audubon Society .
View north from the blind
A view north from the blind at The Muck.

Then it was over to Darling Run on Pine Creek and to Leonard Harrison State Park to get a look at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

View North from Leonard Harris State Park
The view north from the overlook at Leonard Harrison State Park.

View South from Leonard Harrison State Park
The view south from the overlook at Leonard Harrison State Park.

Next we drove into Wellsboro for lunch at the Historic Wellsboro Diner and a little shopping along the main street in town.

That was enough for the day. It was back to the Aerie.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Oh, boy!

While I was out birding this morning, Terry stayed home to take delivery of a huge load of top soil. It's currently sitting in th ward covered with tarps (protection against the forecast rain) and looking ominously like work.

I'll need to use the shovel and wheelbarrow to fill the areas behind the retaining wall first with some stone and then with the top soil. Anything left over will go into raised beds I still have to construct.

Oh joy!

Thursday Birding report

Went out this morning to do some birding with the boys and girls from the Tiadaghton Audubon Society. We went up to the Fire Tower on the north side of Mansfield, also known as State Game Lands 37. Of course there ain't no fire tower there any more, just a microwave cell phone tower but it's still a nice place to go for a ramble (if you don't mind the steep climb back to the parking lot). There were eight of us up there and only Gary and I had been there before. Things were actually a bit disappointing as far as the birds were concerned. They must have missed the memo about our outing or something. Perhaps they didn't like the very dry conditions at the top of the 2400 foot mountain in the oak-hickory forest. Even the food plots planted for game birds and mammals didn't hold much attraction when you can't wash down your seed breakfast. We did find a couple of spots where there were numerous individual birds but most of them were from the same species so our species count was quite low.

Anyway, here's the report:

Location: Fire Tower
Observation date: 8/16/07
Notes: Overcast to start but clearing with breeze. Temps in the 70s. Wind out of the SSW.
Number of species: 19

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 4
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 19
Black-capped Chickadee 11
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Gray Catbird 5
Cedar Waxwing 16
Chestnut-sided Warbler 3
Black-throated Blue Warbler 3
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Yellow-throated Warbler 2
American Redstart 1
Eastern Towhee 5
Chipping Sparrow 8
Song Sparrow 4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Indigo Bunting 2
American Goldfinch 3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I lied.

Instead of completely relaxing today, Terry and I went over to Sears and bought a lawn mower for the Aerie. I figured it was about time to cut the "grass" that had been growing. Most of it is really weeds of the pasture variety but with fall around the corner I'm sort of hoping that the grass will start to take over and fill in the blank areas. Don seeded it last fall and covered the whole yard with hay straw and a surprising amount of grass did grow on the clay/rock fill--at least enough to slow erosion on the sloping lawn area. Now all we need is some rain to water the grasses that are there.

I'm sure the nightly rabbits will be surprised to find their salad in much shorter supply when the come out in an hour or two.

On our way back, we stopped and arranged to have a dump truck load of what passes for top soil to be delivered to fill in behind the retaining wall and to, hopefully, fill a raised bed or two for garden flowers and vegetables.

National Relaxation Day

I am informed by GuyK of CHARMING, JUST CHARMING, that today is National Relaxation Day. After the hard labor I performed earlier this week, I'm not even going to question his accuracy. Rather, I'm taking the rest of the bloody week off. My back and knees need to recuperate from the heavy lifting of blocks and bending over to stain that I put them through. Tomorrow morning is birding time and then my sister and her husband will be here for a couple of days starting Thursday evening.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Deck Staining--Done

As I said this morning, it was deck staining day at the Aerie. However, before the stain could be applied the deck had to be cleaned of all the sunflower hills and thistle seed the birds have scattered upon it since December. Unfortunately, even though the deck boards were butted up against each other when we laid the deck, some shrinkage did occur and gaps opened up between boards--gaps which were just perfect for thistle seeds and sunflower hills to become trapped. I tried blowing them out with the leaf blower attachment of my shop vac but that didn’t work. Then I tried vacuuming them out using the shop vac and that didn’t work. Finally I resorted to one of man’s ancient tools…

A stick with a nail in it.

Yeah, it’s a stick with a nail in it.

I got down on my knees and scraped the cracks to get the grunge out. And it worked—mostly. What came out looked very much what you might expect to see at the bottom of a Styrofoam cup at a Skoal convention. I mean, it just wasn’t real pretty.

Seed grunge.

See. I’ll either have to move the feeders off the deck or get the birds a spittoon.

Anyway, I would scrape then vacuum and then scrape and vacuum some more until I decided I had gotten all that I was going to get and the rest could stay there and rot for I care.

The Deck before staining.

This is my little friend Mr. Shop Vac enjoying his day in the sun. This portion of the deck measures 10 feet wide by 34 feet long. There’s another 10’ by 20’ portion under the covered porch around the corner from where I took this photo.

It was just after noon when I decided it was time to start staining if I intended to finish this job today.

Me staining the deck.

The stain was Olympic Maximum Naturaltone Cedar. I think the dark tone really adds something to the deck. (Don’t let the glare off my pate distract you from the dark, rich color of the deck. And I did put a hat on soon after this was taken so as to prevent my brain from completely frying.) I stained three boards at a time from end to end hoping to keep the edges wet as I worked and thereby prevent any overlap from showing. It mostly worked.

I even talked Terry into doing some of the staining.

Terry staining the deck.

Sure, she only did three boards, but I really, really needed a break. (I was going to stain her into the corner but somebody had to finish cooking dinner.)

So there you have the story of how I spent my day. Yeah, I did finish but by the time I did (7 PM) the shadows were quite long and I thought I would hold off on taking a photo until tomorrow.

Now, if you will excuse me, I think I’ll go take a couple of pain pills and muscle relaxants for my back, a hot shower for the rest of me, and then hit the sack. I’m bushed!

More chores today

Damn, I thought retirement was supposed to mean less work! Since I "retired" I've been busting my hump. First to prep the NJ home for sale, then to build the Aerie, next to cut and split firewood for the Bolt Hole, finishing off the basement, starting the landscaping with the retaining walls, and today to stain the deck (had to let the pressure treated wood "age" before the stain could be applied). The list just seems to keep getting longer and longer.

At least today I won't be hauling 85 pound blocks or shoveling stone. No, instead I'll be on my knees (ouch) brushing on stain. I'll take a couple of before and after shots and post them later.

Monday, August 13, 2007

More retaining wall

Yesterday being Sunday, I took the day off from working on the retaining wall(s) and went birding instead.

Today I went back to work and spent six hours moving concrete block to complete one retaining wall and build a second, smaller wall. I hadn't intended to build the second wall but after altering the plans for the first wall, I had 30 or so blocks left over. (I decided not to built the larger wall even taller and so had two full rows of 15 blocks each left.) Despite temperatures only in the 70s, perspiration flowed freely. The job is done, however, and does look rather nice. As an added bonus, the four pallets that held the stone are now relegated to the scrap heap (actually, they'll go up to the Bolt Hole to stack firewood upon) and the piles of stone are rapidly diminishing.

With no rain in the forecast for a couple of days, tomorrow will be time to stain the deck.

Red Skelton explains the Pledge of Allegience

I just happened to go to look at a Red Skelton skit and came across this:

I believe we do not think enough about our blessings as citizens of this country and that those who see only the bad in everything would love to remove those blessings--and our rights--for the sake of domineering central power.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Some bird pics

I took my digiscoping equipment over to Ives Run this morning to see if I could get any decent pictures. Ives Run, on Hammond Lake, is where we went Birding on Thursday and had some excellent views of Great Blue Herons, Ospreys and Bald Eagles as well as numerous smaller birds. Today the big guys weren't quite as cooperative. The Great Blues took off as soon as I was within a hundred yards and the Ospreys and Eagles stayed 150 to 200 yards from me. I tried using the zoom function on the camera, but mixed with the field scope it was too much to hope for. I did get two or three pictures of the Osprey that weren't too bad but there were none of the immature bald eagle that are worth even showing.

Still, I did get 17-18 shots of a very cooperative Green Heron that fished from a rock/log just 20 yards from the fishing pier.

Green Heron 16 8-12-07

Green Heron 11 8-12-07

And there were several Greater Yellowlegs wading in the water that gave me some nice silhouettes.

G. Yellowlegs 2 8-12-07

So the day wasn't a total waste.

Here's one of an Osprey taken using the zoom function on the camera. You can see why I wasn't thrilled about it.

Osprey 2 8-12-07

I think it was just a little too far for the focus to narrow in on the bird. Oh well, live and learn.

One good thing about digital photography, you get osee your mistakes quickly and they don't really cost you a bundle to have them developed.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This "settled science,"...
I do not think it means what you think it means

Sheesh, first NASA has to quietly correct its temperature data because Climate Audit's Steve McIntyre, a British mathematician discovered serious flaws in methods and results and now
Douglas J. Keenan, a former Morgan Stanley arbitrageur and current independent mathematical researcher, identified "fabrications" in such studies that suggest a "marked lack of integrity in some important work on global warming that is relied upon by the IPCC" and that "the insignificance of urbanization effects on temperature measurements has not been established as reliably as the IPCC assessment report assumes."
(Emphasis belongs to Noel Shepherd of NewsBusters who has the entire story: UN Climate Panel Accused of Possible Research Fraud)

Seems that two reports that focused upon the temperature data of China, and that were used in the UN study, claim to have used temperature stations with clear histories of not having been moved or relocated. Unfortunately, 49 of the 84 stations used in the two studies have no such history. This alone makes the use of their data unreliable. Oops.

It’s really nice that all this science is “settled.” I wonder if the massive rush to push the Anthropomorphic Global Warming cart down everyone’s throat was so we couldn’t see there were no horses (data) pulling it along.

(To use another metaphor: It’s starting to look like the Emperor really doesn’t have any clothes at all.)

Via Classical Values where there is also a link to some problems with other data sets…in Russia, and elsewhere.

Retaining Wall

Well, I’ve nearly completed the retaining wall project that I started on Wednesday. The only thing holding me back right now are the cutting of the cap rocks (hammer and chisel work) and the need to get the approval of The Boss before I put the finishing touches on the wall. (She’s at one of her many needlecraft club meetings.)

Let me walk you through the project as it stands right now. We had need for a twenty foot long retaining wall that would separate the yard area under the deck from the driveway. The driveway and the main entrance to the house are some 6 to 7 feet above the ground area that we walk out on as we exit the basement. By putting the retaining wall in, we would have a relatively flat area adjacent to the driveway and right in front of the front door that could be used for plantings. The wall would also stop the erosion from the current bank

We looked around at different products and decided to go with a concrete block from Versa-Lok.

Versa-Lock stone for the wall.

There are three pallets of full size blocks. (Each block weighs 85 pounds.) The fourth pallet contains half blocks and the cap blocks.

Versa-Lock stone for the wall

We chose Versa-Lok because it uses solid concrete block held together by pegs. There's no need to fill any voids as you go along and there's no mortar to mix and apply. If, somewhere down the road, we don't like the look, we can simply (HA!) take the wall apart one block at a time.

The wall site.

The supplier delivered the Versa-Lok blocks, a couple of ton of stone and one ton of crushed aggregate on August 2nd.

Laying out the wall

String (for a straight line), pressure treated 2x6 (for retaining the compactible crushed stone base), a heavy bar to break up the stony soil, some hand tools (shovel and rake) and the ability and will to apply lots of muscle are all it took to get started.

We started Wednesday, August 8, by digging out a trench where the wall was going to be. Actually, since the bank was there, we only needed to support one side of the trench with 2x6 pressure treated lumber. We filled that trench with the crushed aggregate and Terry compacted it with a large wooden tamper. As she compacted the stone, she also made sure the surface was level. That is most important because if the first row of block isn’t level and straight then the entire wall will be unstable. We took our time making sure the first row was right.

Once the base was compacted and level, I hauled the block over and we laid the first row down. Each block is 16” long, 12” deep and 8” high. Did I mention that each one weighs 85 pounds? The second row began with a half block so the vertical joints would be staggered. The second row, and each successive one, sits back about ¾ of an inch so the wall actually leans into the bank. Each block is held in place with four plastic pegs that are driven through holes in the concrete and wedge into grooves in the block below. With two rows in place, I placed the PVC drain pipe in the trench behind the wall and made sure it slanted the way I wanted the water to flow. I then shoveled gravel over, under and around it to keep it in place.

We finished up on Wednesday with just two rows of block in place but felt we had made a good beginning. We went birding on Thursday morning and got back to work that afternoon, laying three more rows of block and putting stone behind to bring the gravel level to the top of the five rows we now had in place.

Friday was a cold, wet, foggy day so I gave my back a rest.

Saturday morning I laid the plastic mesh atop the gravel and row five before putting row six in place. The mesh is supposed to tie the wall into the gravel/soil behind it making it more difficult for the wall to come tumbling down. (But at 85 pounds each and leaning into the bank, that’s unlikely except for the tallest of walls.)

When I had row six in place, I shoveled more gravel on top of the mesh. Just a few inches however, as we will be putting soil in on top of that so we can have some plants to landscape the entranceway. Because of the slanted nature of the driveway, row six was two blocks shorter than the previous five, In fact, with every additional row, there would be fewer blocks needed as I stepped the top of the wall upward toward the front door.

It’s a good thing, too. Row six was already 48 inches above the ground (8” per row) and it was going to get more and more difficult to get the full sized blocks to the top of the wall. By the time I got the last row (number 10) in place, I felt like I was competing for “The World’s Strongest Man”. You might have seen it. The pull tractor trailers and lift incredible weights of unusual shapes and sizes. In one event they have to lift huge, round stones and place them on pedestals. Each pedestal is higher than the last and they have to lift five stones in place. Well, that’s what it felt like to me as I lifted those 85 pound blocks higher and higher.

Anyway, here are a few shots of the nearly finished wall.

Nearly finished.

Nearly finished retaining wall.

In this shot, you can see how the wall leans into the hill. (Or it would be a hill if we had soil behind the wall.)

Here’s a better shot that shows all the gravel behind the wall as well as the lean.

Nearly finished retaining wall

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sound and fury signifying...

I'm talking of the weather dopes on TV and internet. Yesterday they were calling for between 0.75 to 1.5 inches of much needed rain overnight. This morning the rain gauge showed just 0.15 inches.

It's still overcast (I think, the fog has closed in about the Aerie so I can barely see the trees 50 yards from the porch) but the chance for rain has pretty much passed us by. I'll take the opportunity to rest my back from the strain of constructing the retaining wall, however, and will instead do some sanding of the spackling Adam did in the basement yesterday. One more coat along the major seams and the walls down there will be ready for paint.

Just checked the forecast for the next ten days on No more than 30% chance of rain through Sunday...August 19. Highs to be around 80 degrees and lows in the mid to upper 50s. (We are usually 5 degrees cooler on the highs at our 2100 foot elevation.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Birding in the fog

As I mentioned yesterday, we went out birding this morning over at Ives Run on Hammond Lake. Our goal was shorebirds since the lake is down considerably due to the lack of rainfall over the last three or four months. Gary had reported several different sandpipers and even some plovers in attendance. But the morning fog hampered our ability to scan much of the shoreline even with our spotting scopes. Still, we had a very nice day and tallied over 40 species. (Gary always seems to get one or two more than I do but then I only list what I personally see/hear and he tallies the groups' results.) The highlights of the trip for me were several. There were a great many great blue herons along the shore that we could see. There was an immature bald eagle on oneo f the exposed islands feeding on a fish ad an adult that flew overhead. And there were ospreys in abundance. I only listed three but there may have been more and two of those we saw were carrying sizable fish while keening overhead as if to brag about their catches. After a couple of hours on the lake shore we went up the road to the gamelands and came upon a host of robins, indigo buntings and other birds feeding on berries and seeds. We even spotted a black and white warbler that had strayed far from his normal habitat and was in a shrub in the middle of the field. Anyway, here is the result of our walk (as I recorded it):

Location: Ive's Run
Observation date: 8/9/07
Notes: Morning fog finally cleared around 9AM
Number of species: 41

Canada Goose 30
Mallard 1
Common Merganser 10
Great Blue Heron 7
Green Heron 2
Osprey 4
Bald Eagle 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 2
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Lesser Yellowlegs 3
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Ring-billed Gull 1
Mourning Dove 4
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3
Belted Kingfisher 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 8
Cliff Swallow 6
Barn Swallow 18
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Robin 12
Gray Catbird 3
Brown Thrasher 1
Cedar Waxwing 2
Yellow Warbler 3
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Song Sparrow 9
Northern Cardinal 3
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5
Indigo Bunting 10
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 3
Baltimore Oriole 1
American Goldfinch 9

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Mets 4, Braves 3

I would personally like to hold Mister Billy Wagner by his ankles over a scorpion pit.

After a near perfect month of July for which he received an award, he comes in tonight in the top of the ninth inning with the Mets leading by just one slim run.

Lead-off hitter Chipper Jones singles. One on no outs.
Mark Teixeira singles moving C. Jones to second. Two on no outs and the lead looks positively razor thin.
Chris Woodword comes up as a pinch hitter and walks on five pitches. At this point Wagner has thrown 11 pitches with just four of them counting as strikes (and two of those became singles). Bases are loaded and there are still no outs. Jeff Francoeur is coming to the plate.At this point I would settle for a tie score if they could get a double play.

But then something magic happens.

Wagner gets Francoeur to ground to David Wright at third who throws home to force Chipper Jones. The bases are still loaded but there is one out and no one has scored.

Oh, oh. Andruw Jones is coming to the plate. But wait! He hits into a game ending double play! Second baseman Luis Castillo to shortstop Jose Reyes to first baseman Carlos Delgado! Three outs and no one scores! The Mets win 4-3!

Like I said Wagner is a great closer---but I still want to hold him over that scorpion pit!

Back to work!
Or: Working my back!

Started the retaining wall today. (Of course! It's one of the hottest days of the summer.) I got two and a half rows of blocks up and hould have the first 5 rows up by tomorrow night. (I'm going birding in the morning.)

After those first five rows, things get stepped back every two rows so there are fewer blocks per row. (The first five have 15 blocks each.) I will probably finish on Friday if the rains don't interrupt my work.

It's actually going up quite easily. As with any construction project the key is to make sure everything starts off level and plumb. I, therefore, had to be sure to get the packed fine stone level for the first row. Once that was done (with help from Terry) it's been a snap. Except that each block weighs a ton! (Okay, 85 pounds.) At least with the hand truck I can move two blocks from the pallets to the wall at a time and get them in place and I don't have to carry them across the yard by hand.

I'll be posting some before and after photos on Friday.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Drought...No..Rain...No Drought

So, I'm driving over to Lowe's to pick up some materials to work on the retaining wall and stain for the deck and I hear on the radio that Gov. Rendell has issued a drought warning for much of the state. homeowners are asked to go easy on the water usage, etc. although reservoirs are in pretty good shape. There's some concern for the corn crop, yada, yada, yada. (I'm thinking to myself that while I have a well, as I have mentioned, I wouldn't mind a little more rain to replenish the the ground water supply upon which I depend.)

As might be expected, at around 3 o'clock this afternoon, it starts to rain. The forecast is for some pretty heavy thunderstorms tonight and scattered T-storms tomorrow and tomorrow night. Timing is everything.

Unfortunately, the rain that is moving through won't do much to lower the temperatures for the rest of the week. If we're lucky, we'll get back down into the 70s for the weekend. Until then it'll be the mid to upper 80s by day with night time lows in the high 60's or low 70s.

UPDATE: As of 9 AM Wednesday morning the rain gauge held 1.15 inches. There's still a chance for some T-storms this morning before it clears away...until Friday.

Monday, August 06, 2007

He’s off! Again!

Well, I just got a call from Rick. He’s at JFK Airport waiting to meet the folks from WorldTeach. They will have a brief meeting at 8:30 or 9:00 and then prepare to board their planes to wherever they might be going. His flight to Georgetown, Guyana is scheduled for departure around 1 AM.

We did a little running around this morning taking care of some last minute business before his mother drove him into JFK (about a five hour ride). She’ll stay with her mother tonight and drive back to the Aerie tomorrow morning.

I’m always amazed at the choices Rick makes. He chose to join the Marine Reserves out of high school instead of going through ROTC while in college. Yeah, it cost him some time—one year to basic and MOS training and then another to his deployment to Iraq—but it more than paid for his education and, as a result, he’s got himself a nice little nest egg that he has invested and that is growing quite well, thank you. He finished at the University of Idaho in six years despite the two that were spent with the Marines. He chose to work with the inner city yout’ of Baltimore instead of in the forests of the Northwest or New England and has offers from Baltimore for full time employment when he comes back—if he wants it. He’s looking at internships for forest studies and/or arboretums as a possibility. But the big question will be: “Where?” Or will he come back with new ideas and want to pursue a teaching career? Right now the world is his oyster and his options are unlimited.

Fools rush in….

Despite the hue and cry from the environmental cabal that global warming will doom the earth (a “fact” that is widely disputed—remember when Greenland was, well, green just 1000 years ago?) and that it is man-made greenhouse gases fueling the climate catastrophe at our very door (another widely disputed claim since fluctuations in the sun’s output are conveniently overlooked by the doom-and-gloomers), there are good reasons to tread slowly and lightly as we approach a solution to this “problem.”

For one, we should remember all the experts and doom-sayers prior to the year 2000 who warned us to stock up on food, water and other essentials because the infrastructure of society was going to collapse at midnight, December 31, 1999 when all the major computer systems were going to crash due to the Millenium Bug. Remember that? Didn’t happen.

Or how about those who are still warning us about Avian Flu. Still waiting for that one to happen too and it’s been what, four years or more. (In this case, however, I will grant the preparations for the potential pandemic are quite positive. The warning first went out: “In 2003, world-renowned virologist Robert Webster published an article titled "The world is teetering on the edge of a pandemic that could kill a large fraction of the human population" in American Scientist. He called for adequate resources to fight what he sees as a major world threat to possibly billions of lives.[3]” Since then only 313 cases and 191 deaths have been confirmed as due to Avian Flu.)

Sure bad things could have happened as the calendar turned from 1999 to 2000, but they didn’t. There may still be a pandemic of Avian Flu but not likely anywhere except in third world countries where sanitation is a problem. In either case, the preparations and actions of those concerned didn’t have sweeping effects upon the economy. (Again there were exceptions. Many schemers made a pretty penny by playing to the fears of the gullible in late 1999.)

But now, we have this proposal from members of the US Senate.
Congress is expected to consider climate legislation this fall that would fight global warming. Many businesses worry the U.S. economy would suffer under a measure to impose tough mandatory cuts in emissions.

One proposal, introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, would gradually reduce total U.S. emissions by the year 2050 to 60 percent below 1990 levels.

The bill would require companies to report their yearly greenhouse gas emissions and submit a matching number of government-issued allowances to equal the emissions spewed. Companies that emit more would have to buy allowances from cleaner companies that produce fewer emissions.

Oh, it sounds just so…peachy! Let’s cut back on our CO2 emissions to help save the Earth! Forget the coal burning plants being built daily in China. Forget the energy needs of people in Africa and India struggling to pull themselves out of poverty. Forget that the US is the only developed country to reduce its emissions since the Kyoto Accord was signed by all of Europe. Yeah, forget all that. The US will cut its emissions to “60 percent below 1990 levels” and everything will be just fine.

Not quite:
However, the proposal would cut into the U.S. economy and raise gasoline and other energy prices paid by consumers, according to an analysis of the legislation by the Energy Information Administration.

The legislation "increases the cost of using energy, which reduces real economic output, reduces purchasing power, and lowers aggregate demand for goods and services," the EIA said.

With companies trying to meet the shrinking emissions levels, U.S. economic output would be $533 billion lower over the 2009 to 2030 time period, the agency said.

Yeah, let’s do this and then we can be on a level of economic “prosperity” matched by, well, China, Africa and India.

We’re already seeing an increase in food prices as we rush willy-nilly into corn based ethanol production, what’s a 10% to 20% increase in fuel cost over present levels due to this emissions reduction scheme when we’ll already see an increase due to the use of ethanol.

Then there’s the $16 Billion tax the House is proposing on the Big Oil (to be paid by each and every consumer) to fund the alternative fuels search. (I know the article says “tax incentives” are being moved from Big Oil, but it’s the same thing as taxing them $16 Billion more. Why didn’t they take the money from the farm subsidies since they have now created an incentive to grow more corn and drive the corn prices higher?

Keep going Senators and Congressmen. Keep adding more weight to the anchor you’ve forged to place about the economy. Both of these acts are "feel-good" legislations that will do little to help the American consumer and a great deal to smack the average wallet a mighty blow.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Prodigal stops for a brief (very brief!) visit

Rick, showed up at the Aerie this afternoon after completing his stint with the inner city yuot’ of Baltimore. He could have been here yesterday but decided to stop off in southeast PA to visit with some friends and then in NJ to see his Grandma. He only stopped to drop off his belongings and get some legal papers taken care of before he hops a plane to Guyana in South America for 11 months with WorldTeach.
He’s headed to a small village near the former Jonestown. There he’ll teach math to high school students. It’s a one year commitment that he researched on his own and provides quite a contrast to the six years in the Marine Reserves (including a stint in Iraq) and 4+ years at the University of Idaho. (His student time was interrupted by basic and MOS training plus the one-year Marine call up/deployment, but he graduated within 6 years of graduating high school.)

We all thought his flight out of JFK was to be Tuesday night/Wednesday morning at around 1 AM, but we were wrong. In checking over his papers, Rick discovered the flight was Monday night/Tuesday Morning at 1 AM. So we’ll have to do some serious running around on Monday morning to see a notary and transfer title of his vehicle to me so I can register it in PA (current tags are those of Idaho), complete the paper work to grant me power of attorney over his affairs, and run to the bank for travelers’ checks, before driving the five hours to his Grandma’s in NJ for dinner and then on to JFK.

The most difficult thing about getting all this done is that it's the weekend. The important places will be closed on Sunday (bank, notary) and it will have to all be crushed into a few hours Monday morning.

He was joking about not being used to this quick turnaround between assignments. He’s much more accustomed to the military (and to a certain extent, academic) hurry up and wait routine. Luck for him Sunday will be a day of enforced rest.

How It All Began

Terry just sent his little clip to me via e-mail that explains How It All Began. (The internet and DOT Comdom that is.)

How I spend my week

Okay, it was only a four day week, but still…

As mentioned in the two previous posts, I was up at the Bolt Hole from Tuesday through Friday. The temperatures were only in the 80s according to the thermometers on the porch, but the humidity must have been around the 90% level. So, of course, I was there to do some very physical labor, namely cutting and hauling wood, splitting wood and, finally, cutting grass.

When I got there, I found two very impressive stacks of wood that Mark had already split and laid up.

Mark's stacks 01
The stack is approximately 6 feet tall and 24 feet long. Logs were cut about 18-20 inches long so each stack is that deep/thick.

Mark's stacks 02
The green tarp on the right covers some well seasoned dead wood ready to burn.

I needed to make a similar contribution to our effort.
First task was to haul the previously cut wood out of the forest (and cut some of the downed logs in the process). That, plus rebuilding portions of the trail to get the ATV over some treacherous spots, took much of Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday. I worked 50 minutes to an hour and drank about a quart of water every hour. Perspiration was literally pouring off me whether I was in the shade or not.
Mark's stacks 04 plus some of the rounds I hauled
Here’s another view of Mark’s stacks with the ATV (Yamaha ProHauler) and some of the rounds I had hauled out of the forest.

All day Wednesday was spent cutting and hauling rounds of tree trunks from the forest. By Wednesday evening I had a sizable stack of rounds hauled out of the forest and ready for splitting.

My haul of rounds
It took most of Wednesday to haul all these rounds up and get them ready for splitting. The pile was about 10’ x 12’ by 3’ consisting of maple and beech.

Starting at 8:30 AM on Thursday and working until 5:30 PM with an hour+ break mid-day, I reduced the stack of rounds to this:
The split wood from the rounds.
Split wood ready for stacking
Not too shabby. I figure it will come close to matching Mark’s stacks. I left it for Mark to stack since I still had to cut the lawn and then get back to PA Friday afternoon.

Friday was just as hot and humid with thunder booming in the distance. I quick stepped my way behind the lawnmower and managed to get the entire think done in two hours fifteen minutes. Then it was time to take a nice cold shower, pack up, climb into my air conditioned truck and drive the 4 hours to PA.

Despite drinking over a gallon and a half of water a day, I still dropped 5 pounds. I’m sure some of it will reappear as I relax over the weekend but then, next week it’s retaining wall time!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Oh, my aching back...

...and legs and arms....

So yesterday morning I got the hydrolic log splitter out of the garage and set up to reduce the rounds of former trees into much smaller pieces so they could spend some time drying before winter gets here. Let me say that the 25-ton Yard Machine splitter was one of the BEST purchases I ever made. It's gotten some serious use the last three years from both Mark and myself and has successfully reduced cherry, maple and beech to firewood for both our cabins. Mark spends much more time at his place during the winter than I do and burns close to 8 face cords of wood each year. I'll go through 2 maybe 3 face cords during the hunting season and the few extended weekends I come up to enjoy the snow and solitude. (Hey, maybe there won't be much need for that solitude stuff now that I'm out of NJ and into north-central PA where it's pretty darn secluded to start with.)

Anyway, I set up around 8:30 AM and worked until 1 PM when the sun and heat started to get to me. By then I was two-thirds through the stack of blocks but it was the easy two-thirds. I took an extended lunch break during the heat of the day to get off my feet, have something to eat and drink, and then checked the cameras. (Ho hum, lots of pictures of our "Teddy" bear who has taken possesion of the feed pile but a few of a spike buck who snuck in while "Teddy" went on walk about. Got a couple of raccoons and a fox, too. Not bad for one night.)

I got back to work around 2:30 and went at it for three more hours before finishing the last splitable round and put the splitter away. There is one heck of pile of split maple and beech laying in the yard now, but I'll leave it for Mark to stack for air drying. (I'll post some pictures when I get back to PA. Nothing but dial-up service at the Bolt Hole.)

The maple was pretty easy to run through the splitter as many of the rounds were from a tree that was either hollow (real easy split) or a bit punky in the center (also easy splitting but the center is nearly worthless as fuel). The beech, however, was a b*tch! The grain is straight but really doesn't split that way when wet. The inner fibers cling to one another with a mean spirit. You had to run the splitter all the way through the chunk and even then beat the two pieces apart. Of course much of what I did in the afternoon was the beech. Should make good firewood once it dries out, though.

Today, I've got to cut the grass before/between thunderstorms. It will give me a chance ot stretch some of the stiffness out of my legs and back. I use a walk behind push type power mower and have about two or two-and-a-half acres of relatively flat lawn to cut. It' should take about two-and-a-half to three hours to finish. THen it's shower, pack up and head back to the Aerie.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sweat equity

So, yeasterday morning I drove the four hours from the Aerie to the Bolt Hole in my lovely air conditioned truck. When I arrived I found that Mark had split and stacked one hell of a lot of firewood. There were two stacks approximately six feet hist and 24 feet long each containing split cherry, maple and beech. And that was just from the trees he cut down.

i changed into my work clothes and fired up the ATV to haul out some of the blocked up trunks I had cut. After three hours of hard labor, I was soaked. I had drunk two quarts of water and had probably sweated out that and more. I had made a sizable stack of blocks for myself but had lots more to block up and haul out. I called it a day knowing I would have to work a full 8 hours on Wednesday to get the rest out of the woods and up to the splitting area.

Wednesday morning dawned clear as could be and promised to be a scortcher. And it kept its promise. The forecast was for around 90 degrees and while it never got that hot (I don't think it broke 85) it was hot enough when your doing the kind of physical labor I was doing. All day long I was hoisting blocks of maple and beech that probably weighed in at around 50-75 pounds onto the back of the ATV and hauling them out of the woods. When I wasn't lifting, I was cutting. I had dropped two trunks that I hadn't gotten cut when Mark and I Were working together about two weeks ago and they had to be blocked up before I hauled them out. Again, I worked at a reasonable pace trying to take a 10 minute break every hour and drank lots of fluids. I even took a "siesta" to go and check the game cameras we have in the woods. i worked from 8 in the morning untiil 5:30 in the afternoon to finish the bulk of the job. All that's left are some limbs that are less than five inches in diameter and therefore need not be split. They are stacked tee-pee style against the trunks of trees to await another day.

Tomorrow I'll get the hydraulic splitter out and reduce the size of my blocks into burnable faggots of wood. As it promises to be another hot day, I will comfort myself with lots of water and the thought that when this wood goes into the wood burning stove it might be as low as -10 degrees outside.

Oh, BTW, Terry called this evening to say the stone and block for the retaining wall at the Aerie will be delivered tomorrow. And each one of those blocks weighs in at 85 pounds.