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Hooded Mergansers

Monday, May 28, 2012

Grand Old Man of Nature

Way back...  back in the dark ages of my life, probably before the invention of the wheel, I was a "stay-at-home-mom".  I read voraciously...  and most of the books I read were about nature, being outdoors, and living close to the land.  I read Thoreau...  I read books by John Muir and John Burroughs....  Aldo Leopold....  I read Edwin Way Teale......  Edward Abbey was one of my favorites.  The list goes on and on....


Shortly after I turned 30 I enrolled at the community college in the Recreation and Wildlife program.  I wanted to be a naturralist.  I thrived!  Entomology, Ornithology, Field Biology, Forestry....  I loved it!  


Since I was a "non-traditional" student (over 25 years of age) I could skip the required classes like English, Math etc and take only the classes I wanted.  I planned to pick those all up later.


Well, later never came. My life took some unexpected turns and I dropped out of college and got a full-time job which I ended up working at for 20 years.


My love of the outdoors never diminished.  Early 1982 I met Bill who also had a great love of nature and the outdoors.  It's no wonder we fit in so well as volunteers at National Wildlife Refuges.


We are currently visiting our daughter and family who live in the Hudson River Valley.  Yesterday Donna asked me if I'd like to hike to Slabsides, which is the cabin John Burroughs built in 1895. John Burroughs was a naturalist and an essayist.  He was a teacher as well, and eventually also a bank examiner.  But, he is best remembered because of his interest and influence as a conservationist.  He was friends with Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and John Muir...  all men who were aware of the need to preserve our land.


 That's me...  standing on the porch of Slabsides...

It's been so many years since I read about John Burroughs...  about the train excursions that he and his friends would take up the Hudson River to see what wildflowers were blooming or what birds had migrated, that it never occurred to me that this place would be only about 10 miles north of where my daughter lives now.


 Side view of the cabin John and his son Julius built in 1895...


The cabin is only open to the public once a year....  on John Burrough's birthday
So here's the peeping toms...   Bill & Donna looking in the window

The cabin and the land it's built on are now an Historical Site.  There are trails leading to some of the places that John Burroughs cherished....
 The swamp or bog has a boardwalk so you can easily walk across it....

 There are numerous waterfalls....  and with last night's rain, they are bountiful!

 A lot of water means a lot of wildlife...

  The ponds were still today...  we didn't see any birds...

 Donna and Glenn....  at the top of Julius Rock

 The flags were still blooming alongside the cabin...  gorgeous blue!

 We came across some wildlife...  including this little toad...

 The Squawroot was prolific here...  I hadn't seen squawroot in years!


 And this frog was at the edge of one of the ponds...

(Warning.... Snake ahead)

One of my favorites...  this 4' black snake seems to be the keeper of the cabin these days.


And here's Bill & me....  at the end of our hike.

John Burroughs died in 1921, but his legacy lives on in his writings and in his conservationist views.  He is known as "The Grand Old Man of Nature".  I felt in awe to be able to walk the paths that he once walked.  

I am so happy that our daughter and son-in-law took us on this adventure today.  Thank you, Donna and Glenn!

That's All For Today...


Friday, May 25, 2012

Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey...

Gonna Set My Heart at Ease...
Gonna Make a Sentimental Journey
To Renew Old Memories...


Just like that old Ella Fitzgerald song, we're on a sentimental journey.


For us, this means visiting family and our former home.  Before we became full-time RVers over 11 years ago, we lived on a small farm in SE Ohio and family that didn't live close often visited us.
Here's our place as it is today.  It's rented now and has been since we left.  The house is also part barn...  the lowest level opens to the back.  We raised dairy goats and their stalls were in the bottom level (lower left).  Now Bill's tractor and some other equipment is stored there. The next level, ground level in the front (upper left) shows the "garage" door and also shows steps leading up to our living area.  This floor now is our storage area for all those material things we have kept.  It used to be Bill's workshop, feed and hay storage and general utility area.  We lived on the top floor...  24'X39'.....  936 square feet.  Probably doesn't sound like a lot of space to most people, but our kids were grown and gone when we built this house and we had plenty of room.  The deck wrapped around 3 sides...  the view from the ceiling to floor windows was fabulous.  Now the gardens are gone...  the renters don't hang bird feeders....  all the fencing for the goats is gone.  When we decided to rent the place we took out the wood-burning stoves and replaced them with a "real" heat-pump type furnace (it even has air conditioning!)...  and replaced our compost toilet with a flush toilet. 


Sometimes I'm asked if I miss the place...  I guess the answer to that is kind of complicated....

The Farmer's Market
No visit back home is complete without going to the Farmer's Market.  This market has been written up in many periodicals and tourist books.  It's without a doubt one of the best in the nation.  Started over 30 years ago it has very strict regulations concerning what a vendor can sell.  All produce must be grown locally...  you'll never see bananas or mangoes here...  but you'll see all varieties of cheeses, meats (including bison and sometimes ostrich), flowers, vegetables and fruits as well as bakeries, specialty foods and just on and on and on.  No crafts are permitted, but one Saturday a month, another huge section is opened up for local arts and crafts.  You'll see (and hear) various people playing music or doing other "sidewalk" entertainment.


We sold goat cheese, veggies, flowers and various jams, jellies and other gourmet foods at the market for 18 years.  Bill was president of the market for about 6 years, stepping down when we left the area.  When we walk through the market now we often run into old friends....  it's always good to see them again.  That, in itself is a Sentimental Journey.


Bill was born and raised in New Mexico...  came to Ohio for a job after getting out of college.  He'd already been in the Air Force for 4 years; was married with 2 daughters.  His sister still lives in NM.


I was born and raised in Ohio...  got married; had a son and a daughter.  Neither of our first marriages worked out.  We met when we were 40 years old and our kids were nearly grown.  We've been together over 30 years now...  our kids have grown kids...  in fact, 2 of our daughters are now grandmothers.  My brother and sister live in my old hometown...

My brother, Daniel Wallace and me...
My sister, Cynthia Love...  looking for a geocache
(yes, she found it!)

And...
The Three of Us
We're all Septuagenarians now...
Guess we've made it a long way down memory lane....

My son also lives in Ohio...
 Here we are....  me and my favorite son, Danny Cain
Danny recently bought this old Miata to fix up....  that's Bill in the background...  along with some of Danny's other toys.

Too quickly we left Ohio.  This journey we traveled pretty much in the fast lane...  in Ohio less than a week, then on to Michigan...
Our grandson, Matthew, wife Mandy and our great-grandson, Caleb.  

Caleb just turned 1 year old a few days before we visited.  He's such a happy baby and a real delight.  We never know when our next visit will be so every minute is special.

From Michigan it's back into Ohio...  northern Ohio...  up near Cleveland...  our granddaughter, Heather lives there.
 That's me, Heather holding our great-granddaughter Evie, and Bill.  Evie was 8 months old the day before we arrived.  Weighing in at just under 20 pounds, she's a wriggly handful!  She'd just cut another tooth, but even at that, she was such a joy to hold.
Grandpa Bill and Evangeline

All too soon we headed east again... to Pennsylvania.  To a suburb of Pittsburgh to daughter Michelle's house.  Richard, her husband, was in Omaha this week.  His job takes him away frequently.
Our grandson Jared, Bill and daughter Michelle.
Michelle is Matthew's mom....  they make frequent trips to Michigan to see Caleb.  Jared just turned 21....  was disappointed that he didn't get carded when he bought his first beer.  Funny thing is, he doesn't even like beer...  just wanted to prove he is old enough.  Oh...  to be that young again!

Our last stop on this journey...  our daughter Donna lives about 90 miles north of NYC in the Hudson Valley.  As I write this, I can see the Hudson River flowing past less than a mile below us.


Glenn, Donna's husband, is retired from the Army, but now works at his old job at West Point as a civilian.  He had to work yesterday, so couldn't go with us down to the city to visit our granddaughter, Megan.
Megan teaches a learning disabilities class in Spanish Harlem.  Here she, and her mom Donna  (our daughter) are checking out a pair of running shoes Megan just bought.  Donna is also the mom of Heather and grandmother to Evie.
Megan, and her guy Jeff, live in an apartment really close to Central Park in NYC.  Jeff took this picture of us as we were walking through the park.


We left our daughter Celeste and granddaughter Natalie in Glen Rose, TX not quite 2 weeks ago, on May 12.  Since then we've visited with all the kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.  Even visited with my siblings.  What a great journey we've been on!


The last verse of that song goes like this....


Never thought my heart would be so yearny,
Why did I decide to roam?
Gotta take that Sentimental Journey,
Sentimental Journey Home.


After Memorial Day weekend, Bill & I will leave NY and head on to Maine, where we'll volunteer at Aroostook NWR for the summer. We have been "roaming" for over a decade now, but are fortunate that our journeys often bring us back to family, friends and familiar faces. 


That's All For Today....




Wednesday, May 16, 2012

1,227 miles later.....

We left Texas Saturday morning....
Said our goodbyes....  Here's Bill and daughter, Celeste.  Our rig has been parked in Celeste's yard off and on since December.  We went down to the Valley (McAllen area) for the month of January and to Costa Rica for the month of April...  took our rig to the Valley but left it here in April.  Anyway, kind of like the song says...  Winter's Almost Gone...  Summer's Comin' On...  Look like it's Time to travel on....




We headed up to Ft Worth...  around the south side to avoid both Ft Worth and Dallas, and caught up with I30 on the east side of Dallas...  headed to Texarkana...  and points east...

Out of Texas... in Arkansas...  up along the west side of the Mississippi River into Missouri, across the River to Illinois...  Indiana...  down to Louisville, KY.....  then up to Cincinnati... and across to Athens, Ohio...  my hometown.


The terrain changes...  the flat Texas desert-type land with oaks and cedars change to a large variety of hardwoods.  Tall white and red oaks; sycamores; cottonwoods; ash, elm, black gum, sweet gum, beech, birch...  oh...  just on and on.  The wildflowers change...  no more Mexican blanket; no more prickly pear cactus... now we are seeing Queen Anne's Lace, Common  day lilies, some fleabane and other daisy-like flowers.  It's still too early for most of the eastern wildflowers to be in bloom, but OH!  is it ever GREEN here!!!


That's  The Next Exit  on the left, and a road atlas on the right.  The Garmin Nuvi is on the dash....  How in the world did we ever find our way anywhere before all these conveniences?


When we're just traveling from Point A to Point B we drive on the interstates and stay overnight at Wal-Marts.  
Since we're heading East, this must be a sunrise...  but after a few days (and nights) on the road, it tends to all run together.


We're not "speedy" travelers...  anything over 200 miles a day is a long day for us.  On Saturday we drove 300 miles, Sunday was 369 miles; Monday 326 miles and Tuesday 232 miles.  We tend to leave early...  usually around 7am...  stop at Roadside Rests...  stop for a long lunch and maybe a quick nap...  and by 4pm are ready to stop for the night.  Bill sets the cruise control for 55 MPH.....  even though the speed limit may be 60, 65, or sometimes 70 mph, there are always enough lanes that we don't hold up traffic.


I don't drive the rig...  I have and I can...  but I'd rather not.


We get back to Athens once, sometimes twice, a year, but haven't lived there since 2001.    I had lived in Athens Co all my life before that time, and my son, my brother and sister all live there.  Athens Co. is in southeast Ohio...  the foothills of the Appalachians.  Rt 32, the road crosses from Cincinnati, Oh to Athens changes from flat to rolling hills.  


I start getting excited as I see familiar roadside sights....
I always look for this little guy...  sitting on a fence post... welcoming anyone who cares to wave back.  Of course I always wave....  afterall, I'm only about 50 miles from "home"...  (he's been there for years...  I still haven't gotten a decent picture of him...)


WooooHooooo!
We're getting there!
Into the home stretch!!!

We don't live in "our" house anymore.  It's been rented out since 2001.  But before we left to Full-Time, Bill put in an RV pad with a dump station and hook-up at the edge of the woods.
It doesn't take us long to settle in.  Even while we're hooking everything up, we are treated to the flute-like songs of the wood thrush.  I say I don't bird by ear, but the familiar calls of the bluejay, wren, cardinal, titmouse and even the indigo bunting are music to my ears.  

Today Bill saw a bluebird...  looks like he's got a nest in one of the many bird houses that Bill has erected on the property.  I have a hummingbird feeder and a thistle feeder out...  the Ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species we get here.  We are happy to see these birds again.

I've made some phone calls...  sent some e-mails....  already have plans to see my family and friends.  Tonight we'll go out to dinner with my sibs and son.  Our time here will be short...  long enough to visit some, get our mail delivered and get caught up on a few things with the rentals.  

The time will go fast...

Too fast, sometimes....

But, we'll enjoy it to the max while we're here!

That's All For Today....








Friday, May 11, 2012

Manana does not mean "tomorrow"

We have found that "manana" really means...  "not today"


I'm kind of a black and white kind of person...  gray areas are hard for me to understand ...  and sometimes hard to accept.  I can't tell you how many times I've read a street sign that says something like "Really Fantastic Museum...  Turn Here" and even shows an arrow.  I turn...  only to find out that I've turned a street or two too early.


When I'm geocaching, I really expect that cache to be located at ground zero.


Maybe it's because I did payroll and accounts payable for so many years...  balancing bank statements of over a million dollars to the penny each month was fun and actually kind of satisfying.  I'm just that kind of person....


We had plans yesterday that included picking up mower tires in Stephenville...  about 25 miles down the road.  We'd dropped them off last week to be filled with foam (no more flats on the mower!)...  and were told we could pick them up on Thursday.  Yesterday was Thursday so in the late afternoon, off we went.  Got there...  not done...  be ready tomorrow.


Blogs should have a few pictures...  this has nothing to do with my "main" topic...  But it's so colorful I figured I'd just include it....
 Here's dinner...  lamb and veggie kabobs...  been marinating all day...  ready for the grill....


Okay..  back to the topic...  so today we'll head back to Stephenville to pick them up.

Bill started to fix the wiring on the tow vehicle yesterday...  we've had some problems with the turn signal not working.  Bill can fix anything!  Well, it turns out that it's a little more complicated.  He fixed the problem on the rig's end...  but it seems the wiring for our tow lights on our little Scion needs replaced...  

So...   while we were in Stephenville, we stopped at a NAPA store and he bought a long length of new wire.



 Off the grill...   and ready to eat!


We had originally thought we'd be leaving our daughter's place today...  that the mower would be "lawn-ready" for her again, and that the rig would be "road-ready"...

Not so....  manana...

I retired over 16 years ago...  probably one of the hardest adjustments I made was to NOT live on a schedule.  Oh, I still wear a wristwatch...  I'm never late for an appointment...  I haven't missed a flight or anything.  But Bill & I both have become very flexible in our daily life.  As long as it doesn't inconvenience someone else, we're up for change... even if it means putting the dinner I have ready in the fridge and going out to eat with friends at a moment's notice.  We've arrived at a volunteer job expecting to do one thing and then find we'll be doing something totally different. We're flexible....

Bill's out working on the lights as I write...  we'll drive down to pick up the tires after lunch.So we're not leaving Texas today...  manana....

Maybe....




This dinner didn't have to wait another day...  we scarfed it down as soon as it came off the grilll...

And there are no leftovers for manana...

That's all for Today...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Skip This Post...

if you're looking for interesting and exciting...


It's just not here today....


We're still here in Texas...   still doing "housekeeping" chores, which have absolutely nothing to do with cleaning the rig...  more like calling insurance companies, getting parts for our daughter's water pump and (Bill) installing them, filling deer feeders, buying a few bottles of wine (me)...  and just stuff in general.


We pick up the mower tires on Thursday, and have more or less projected Friday as our "get out of town" date.  (Cynthia, don't carve this in stone....  it's subject to change)...


Someone asked me recently what camera I use...  well, I use two cameras...  My Canon EOS Rebel is my "big" camera...  I have 3 lenses for it...  the 18-55, an 80-200, and a 70-300.  I never use the 80-200 and should sell it or something.  The 18-55 lens is excellent for flowers, bees etc (I bet a macro would do better...), but most often I use it with the 70-300 lens to shoot those birds that are way up in the trees.  This lens has an image stabilizer, which makes it possible for me to use it without using a tripod.


I'll be the first to admit that this camera is a lot smarter than I am.  I do not know how to use it to it's fullest capacity.  I use it mostly on automatic.  I paid over $350 to take a class from Jerry Groff at the Bosque del Apache NWR so I could learn more, but...  that was a real bust!  The class was only about going out on the refuge and getting in the right position to shoot the cranes.  Heck, I'd been doing that since 2001!  That wasn't what I needed.  I wrote a letter to the refuge but didn't get so much as a reply...  so much for that!


Okay, moving on....  I also use my little Canon PowerShot SX230.  This little guy has a 14Xzoom lens, fits in my shirt pocket, isn't heavy...  takes really good shots.  It's limitations are of course "distance"....  meaning it doesn't do well with that hawk that's across the field...  also it doesn't do very well with close-ups.  It has a whole range of settings...  some I use... some I don't know how.


It's the one I carry around to museums, churches and places I'd like to be somewhat discreet...


The both have their place...  I love them both.  The only thing about the little Canon is that it doesn't have a "viewfinder".  Most cameras just don't have that anymore.  I really miss that because it's hard for me to see the screen when I'm outside.  


A really bad picture of the Desert Willow tree in flower... 

You can see that my little Canon has trouble getting a good focus on close-up shots...

Just a word about the Desert Willow...
I first encountered this tree in New Mexico.  I was just fascinated because the flowers look like orchids.  I haven't done any research on it, so don't know if it's native.

Today, while out geocaching, we came across this tree.  So it grows in Texas as well.  It's a really beautiful tree and I was happy to come across it again.

As I started out...  not anything exciting today.  One thing though... if any of you volunteer at a NWR...  and receive a stipend...  could you let me know if this is a taxable "wage" now?  In other words, do you receive a 1099 at the end of the year?

I'd sure appreciate any input on this subject.

That's All For Today....



Sunday, May 6, 2012

Just Checking In....

Greetings!  Not much going on here.  We had thought we'd head for Ohio about mid-week, but as often happens, plans get changed.  We're still at Glen Rose, TX.  Our son-in-law is currently working in Nigeria and will be away for a few more months.  Our daughter works full-time so Bill is trying to get some maintenance done before we head out.  Even things like getting a flat tire on the lawn mower fixed can be time consuming.  He replaced the pump on the water feature this morning.  Bill is one of those people who can do anything...  even if it's electric, plumbing, automotive or woodworking!  We always tell the kids to have a list ready when we come for a visit...  

I forgot to show you the newest member of the family here.  

Introducing..... Frankenstein...
Our granddaughter works at the nearest Lowe's.  A feral cat had kittens next to the dumpster in the back.  Mama cat apparently tried to move the kittens and 2 got left behind.
Natalie rescued this one...  someone else took the other.
Of course he's a feisty little guy... hisses, spits, bites and claws!  He's already been to the Vet...  got his first shots etc.  I think the next trip there he gets tested for feline leukemia.
He's quite a bit tamer now and not nearly as skittish.  The family cat doesn't like him, but the 2 dogs have gotten used to him.  In fact, Rylie, the little mop-like dog plays with him - even tries to drag him around.  Frankie doesn't seem to mind...  actually, I think he gives as well as he gets!

The wildflowers that were blooming when we left at the end of March have long since died off.  Now, the first week in May, a whole array of different species are in bloom.
This yucca is past its prime, but is still an outstanding plant.  I've found out that in this climate you just don't wait for tomorrow to take photos of flowers...  the nearly 100 degree temps do not encourage a long blooming season!

Even the prickly pear cactus flowers last only a short time.  









My Peterson Field Guide to Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers hasn't been much help when I try to identify some of these flowers.  I can get the family ....  but often can't pinpoint the exact species or sub-species.  I wish my Newcomb's Wildflower Guide covered more than the eastern US.


One Flower I'm sure you'll all recognize is...
Sunflowers!
Okay, so these are made of metal...  Celeste has some really cute lawn ornaments and is always adding to her collection.  
She has a huge lawn but I have no doubt that one day she'll have the whole thing totally landscaped to suit her!

There were a whole lot of new geocaches hidden in the Granbury area in the month we were away.  Yesterday I headed into town to see what I could find.

I actually ran into 4 other cachers ....  we were all looking for the same caches.  I met "Tubby the Clown"....
I don't know what her "real" name is, but she told me she's a professional clown and often performs at local functions.  
I don't really keep up with new geocache stuff, but she told me that now there are "challenges".    And there is a challenge posted locally...  have Tubby the Clown make a balloon animal for you, get your picture taken with it (and her)...  and when you post it you get credit for this challenge.

Well, never let it be said that I'd pass up a challenge..
The above picture is me and Tubby holding a little green balloon turtle that she made.

How cute is that!

I did find 5 of the new caches yesterday...  Maybe before we leave I'll get out to go caching again.

I haven't seen many birds...  did see a roadrunner a couple of times, and a wild turkey twice...  We're hoping that the painted buntings come through before we leave.  

The martin house remains empty...  not sure about the bluebird houses....  

So...  no bird pictures this time. 

Tomorrow we plan to drive to the Cabela's in Ft Worth..  also the Barnes & Noble...

It will be a busy week...

That's All For Today.....



Friday, May 4, 2012

Back in the Groove...

Greetings!  It's taken a couple of days to catch up on everything...  laundry wasn't too bad because I had the washer in the house in Costa Rica and so never got far behind.

Mexican Blanket - Glen Rose, Texas


Mail took a while longer...  Our mailing address is the Escapees mail service in Livingston, TX and that service includes their sorting out the junk mail and only sending on first class stuff.  Nearly everything we have is paid automatically every month, but we do receive hard copies in the mail of credit card and bank statements.  I still haven't recorded expenses on Quicken yet...  because....


Since my computer crashed while we were in Costa Rica I don't have Quicken re-installed yet.  The computer guy there put in a new hard drive, said my data on the crashed one was still on it. Now, maybe it was just the language problem, but we took my laptop to the computer shop we use in Granbury, TX to get the old data put on...  they tell me that they can't do it...  that there's some kind of problem with the hard drive that crashed their computer.  I'll admit right now that I haven't been good about backing up my computer.  We did back up Quicken just before we left, but nothing else.  So most everything is gone...  as well as all the pictures I took for the first 2 weeks we were in Costa Rica.


Mexican Blanket Flower

We had turned our phone off while we were out of the country...  checked our messages upon our return.  Several from Express Scripts telling me my prescriptions are due to be refilled, a couple miscellaneous calls...  and...  a call from our CPA asking us to call him ....  seems the IRS has a problem with our 2010 tax return.  

YIKES!  We're still trying to get this figured out, but apparently the stipend we received from Fish & Wildlife in 2010 was taxable...  but since we never received a 1099 or W2 we never reported it.  Guess this will work out eventually....

And then another thing that needs taken care of....

We have been full-time RVers for going on 12 years now.  We never changed our place of residence from Ohio although we are there only a few days each year.

It's time...  and we are planning to become Texas residents.  So, yesterday we went to the Div of Motor Vehicles to see what all is required there. Bill has a CDL and has read that some of the regulations have changed since he got that.  Then there's insurance... for our motorhome and our vehicle.  And there's vehicle inspections....  

And there is a sequence you have to work with because you need one thing done before you can do another....

More Mexican Blanket Flowers

Of course the line at the DMV is long...  we're only about 6 or 7 people back when we get there, but it still takes over an hour to get to the front.  And... sure enough...  the clerk put up her "Sorry, I'm closed" sign just as it's our turn.  But we did get a clerk who was knowledgeable and pleasant....  

We probably won't get this resident change done until we come back in the fall.  Next week we'll be heading east...  to visit family in Ohio, then on to Maine for the summer....

There are a lot of other "housekeeping" chores that we have to do before heading out....  

I'm sure we'll get them done...  
It just takes time....

I know a lot of people carry bird feeders with them when they travel. We have limited space in our bays, so I'm always looking for ways to store things more efficiently...  I found this bird feeder at Tractor Supply yesterday...



A collapsible bird feeder!
How Cool is THAT!

It says it's squirrel resistant...  wonder how it hold up under bear attack?

One last picture before I close...
The prickly pear cactus are blooming here and they are gorgeous!  It's hard to get too close because there are so many and are so close together.  But they are just so lovely!

Guess we need to head out and get some more errands done...

That's All For Today...