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Cactus in Bloom

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Razzle-Berry Pie....

It's mid.... going on late June, and here in Southeast Ohio that means the raspberries are ripe.  I don't know when my love of picking berries began, but I remember one of my first berry-picking experiences.  I was probably 4 years old, give or take a year either way, and my dad pulled me in our Radio Flyer wagon (yeah, one of those with the red wooden side boards) up to the old played-out coal mine.  I'm thinking that he was going to pick blackberries...  they are bigger and seem to be more around.  Anyway, there was a big slag pile (in my memory it's a tall as a house, but I was pretty short)....  and being the adventurous kid I was, I climbed to the top while Daddy was picking berries.  Slag piles are just piles of waste materials from a coal mine, but have sharp edges and is treacherous.  Somewhere up there I slipped and rolled head over heels to the bottom.  Got a big gash on the top of my head.  Daddy always carried one of those huge red bandanna handkerchiefs and he mopped up the blood and then wrapped the handkerchief around my head, tying it under my chin.  Then he headed home with me in the wagon.  My mom was home and while I don't remember this part, I guess she freaked out when she saw us in the yard.  I doubt if anyone even thought of taking me to the doctor...  I can't remember anyone ever getting stitches or even a tetanus shot.  Obviously I lived....  and berry picking is still one of my favorite summer-time things to do.

The raspberries are ripe here now...  
And I've been busy picking!
There is a field across the road from our farm that belongs to a neighbor.  We kept our goats in it for years, but nobody uses it now.  It's getting more overgrown, but I still know where to find the raspberries....  

This gallon ice-cream bucket is just perfect to take berry-picking.  
It takes me a couple times out to get enough for a pie...  it's not like there's a huge patch all growing in the same spot.  But to me, part of the pleasure is walking along the edge of the woods, listening to the birds, occasionally spotting a box turtle...  sometimes scaring up a deer....  and just being there.  

 I wanted to bake a wild raspberry pie for Father's Day...
 It took a couple of afternoons to get enough berries...  and I kinda cheated...  I bought ready-to-bake pie dough from the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  I didn't even skimp on the sugar and real butter....  

On Sunday I baked Bill's pie and we even had some while it was still warm from the oven.

Years ago I'd pick enough berries to makes jellies and jams as well as freeze enough to make several pies.  So far I've picked enough to make 1 more pie, and that will probably be my limit this year.

But while I was out in the field, along the wood's edge, I wondered if kids these days still go out and pick berries?  My own kids did...  somewhere I have a great photo of my two and my friend Judy's two all decked out in jeans, boots, long sleeve shirts and straw hats... ready to ward off ticks, mosquitoes, flies, poison ivy, and if possible, even chiggers!  But that was 45 years ago and times have changed.  Even finding fields where you wouldn't be trespassing and that have berries growing there might be a problem now.  I know... it's easier to go to Kroger's and get frozen berries from the freezer case... or even quicker to stop in the deli and buy an already-baked ready-to-eat berry pie.

But it just doesn't taste the same as one that I've picked the berries and made myself.

That's All For Today!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Baby Birds and More....

No photos of snakes this time....  I did see one snake yesterday.  Not a Black Rat snake, like the other 4 we caught, but a Black Racer.  He/she bolted as soon as it sensed I was within 6' of it and zipped off into the weeds.  He was slimmer, a bit shorter, and his black skin on his back was a deep ebony.  Now get this....  the Black Racer is the official snake of Ohio.  

I wouldn't have known that but my "snake contact" wrote me back when I asked him about having all these snakes at one time.  I used to be really shy and making friends was very difficult for me.  Somewhere along the road of getting older I guess I've gotten over that.  A few years ago I was getting an eye exam here in Athens and somehow the subject of snakes came up.  Seems my opthamologist is also a herpetologist.  Since then I've sent him photos I've taken of snakes in other countries...  or like yesterday, just asked him some snake questions.  It's great to have his help!

Another person I became friends with recently....  I was in Kroger's and my daughter phoned me.  A woman walking by overheard me mention the house in Mexico.  She wandered around waiting for my call to end, then approached me with questions about living in Mexico.  Turns out that while I'd never met her, I know of her husband, who did a lot of photography work for the hospital where I worked.  You might remember that just before we left Mexico I fell and broke the hood and lens cap on my Leica.  Sometimes when you order on-line you just don't get what you really need.  After leaving Kroger's I emailed my new friend and asked her where to go for camera parts/repairs.  She gave me the address of a place in Columbus....  Bill & I drove up this past week...  got a new hood and lens cap.  Didn't have to pay $40 for a Leica brand, but the tech there fitted my camera with a hood and lens cap...  and even a tether so I can't lose it...  all for under $10.  

While I really appreciate Suzie's help, I'm not sure Bill will.....  after talking with the tech a while I kind of fell in love with a Nikon camera that sure would be nice to have.

That's pretty much the gabby part of this blog...  let's get on with the photos...

When we were in Columbus we had to make a stop at the Barnes and Noble...
I don't usually buy hard-bound books, but I just had to have this one...
The author actually lives about 40 miles from here...  she's a writer/author/artist/musician and does a great blog about her birding experiences.  (She's also a speaker at birding conferences and takes folks on birding tours to places like Africa and Costa Rica). I've never met her, but I've been reading her blog for a long time.  I'm just getting started on this book, but already know I love it.

We have our own baby birds here...  No, the robins didn't make it, but I'm sure the bluebirds are busy with their young...  And look what lit on our deck yesterday...
This recently fledged Eastern Phoebe.
It acted like it was surprised to be there...  and it probably was.  I didn't see any siblings, but I do see adult phoebes...  and more often hear them.

My favorite photo yesterday...

This White-breasted Nuthatch has captured one of those dastardly cicadas and will make a nice dinner of it.  Darned insect is nearly as big as the bird!  I wonder if this is a Mama bird and will cram it down a baby's open mouth?  These birds can't keep up with the cicada population, but I'm sure glad to see them try!

Bill's been busy...
Several years ago we had Lazy Daze send us new blinds for our rig.  Never one to waste anything, Bill kept the wooden box (actually, he still had the old blinds stored in the box).  Well, this summer is "clean up and throw away" time.  He took the blinds out of the box and striped them of their metal parts.  The wooden box is now a storage unit above the door of Bill's workshop.  Those yellow things are small bins that hold screws or small parts.  The jars suspended below the box are empty plastic peanut butter jars...  the lids nailed to the wooden box, the jars filled with various parts.  Even the top of the box serves as a shelf for more yellow bins.  He bought the bins at Anderson's for 99c each (before the 10% discount), but other than that, this didn't cost anything.  (We took a load of stuff to the scrap metal place...  got back $27.80)

Bill is still working on the rental, but he gets tired and wants to switch gears now and then, so he spends time organizing his workshop.  We may be here only a week or so (this summer for 3 months) a year, but he wants to find the things he needs to work with.

And...  while he still has some inside stuff in the rental, he started on the outside...
Painting the House...
That's the bathroom window he's painting around.  I'm always amazed at how Bill uses cast-off things.  That window was once a double-pane sliding door.  When we replaced the door in another house, Bill kept it figuring he'd use it some day.  So when we built this house, he turned it on it's side, built a frame and it became a huge window.  The bathroom has a skylight that opens, so there is fresh air available.

I've finally decided to tackle cleaning the carpet and chairs in our motorhome.  We seldom get a chance to vacate the place for a day or so, and now is a great opportunity to get this chore done.

So...  it's back to work....

That's All For Today!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Not For the Squeamish....

We don't do any farming these days...  haven't for going on 20 years now.  But if we're back on the farm for more than a few days each year, we put up bird feeders and try to get some mowing done.

There is a lawn mowing service that keeps the rental lawns under control, but they don't mow clear back here by the barn/house.  We have been mowing the field just below and around the barn at least once during the summer.  This helps keep the mice and other critters from nesting in or around the barn.  Mice are tasty little meals for snakes....  so no mice...  no snakes.

Well....  maybe...

Snakes also like bird eggs and baby birds....  When Bill puts up bird boxes he also puts up predator guards to deter 4 legged...  or no legged....  critters from raiding the nests.

When Bill walked out on the deck of the rental we're working on yesterday, he looked down into the field and saw a black snake working its way towards the barn.  I was inside working, but hurried out when he told me what he saw.

After a small skirmish I had him....
I wish I'd measured him, but he was at least 5' long....  you can see he's coiled around my arm several times.

We have bluebirds and robins both nesting nearby and I'm sure that's what he was after.  Despite having a penchant for baby birds, snakes are really good guys, so I carried him up the road a ways and tossed him over the fence.  We kept our eyes out for his "snake mate" the rest of the evening.

This morning as I walked outside I could hear the robins...  they were terribly upset...  squawking and dive bombing their nest.  This nest is located in what we thought was a safe place from predators.  Bill had built a box-like structure under the 2nd floor deck of the barn house.  It was our cat's entrance to the house...  after dropping into the box, they'd go through the rafters and a series of kitty doors to get into our house.  After we moved out, Bill closed up the entrances, but left the box suspended from the deck bottom as it became a ledge for bird nests.

Well, looking up into the box, I thought I could see the form of a snake up there....  I came over to our motorhome and got my binoculars...  and Bill.  Yep... it's a snake.  Bill put the ladder up against the barn and up I went...

I tossed him onto the ground...  hoping he hadn't already had breakfast.
I was too late....  no baby birds left.
But he was so full he didn't slither way, and I was able to grab him without a struggle.  He's at least a foot shorter than the one we got yesterday.
You might see that I'm wearing gloves this morning...  the snake yesterday managed to bite me a time or two and while not poisonous, those little puncture wounds can get infected.
I made another trip up the road and tossed him over the fence...

We had lunch, I changed back to shorts and a tee and started my blog....

Since then Bill has interrupted my blog progress... twice....

I was writing...  heard Bill...  went out and grabbed another big guy...
You're seeing more of his belly or underside here.  He's darker with a more subtle pattern on top.
Relocated him a mile or so up the road....
Came back and started writing again...

And again...  Hey, Sharon....  come out here....
This one was fairly docile...  no struggle...  until....
Bill tried to spray paint a mark on his back...  (you know, to identify him if he returns)
Well, that didn't work...  an old can of paint...  a wriggly snake.

We took him for a little car ride...  stopped and let him off in a field down the road.

So...  4 snakes all in the same area in less than 24 hours.  
I don't know if they were hibernating in the bottom of the barn where the stalls are or just exactly where they're coming from.  
Bill hasn't seen any evidence of mice in the barn so maybe they've been keeping the rodent population down.

Whatever's going on, I guess I'll be watching where I walk and keeping my gloves close at hand....

I know these are "good guys"...  I just don't like sharing my space with them.

That's All For Today!





Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Keeping Busy....

It's allergy season here in SE Ohio.  When we lived here year-round I sneezed and coughed some but nothing really bad.  Well, returning after an absence of 15 years, my resistance to pollen, honeysuckle, and whatever other stuff is out there seems to have stayed in Mexico.  I just spent 3 days mostly sleeping... when I wasn't blowing my nose, coughing or putting Visine in my itchy eyes.  The worst seems to be over...  just the residual cough and snot (lovely picture, huh?)....  but at least I feel functional again.

Before I add some of my own photos to today's blog, I've just got to show y'all this one...

That's our Great-granddaughter, Evie, right in the middle.  Her ballet class had a recital last weekend (I wish I'd been there)...   Aren't they the cutest little girls you've ever seen!  I love the different reactions to having their photo taken.  Heather, our granddaughter (Evie's Mom) said they got kinda confused so Kaylia just gave everyone the Peace Sign....  I love it!

Okay...  back to the farm...
Bill's been busy on the rental...
The bathroom counter somehow got ruined by the last renter...  it looked very bad so we decided to replace it.  The sink had some chips in it, so as long as Bill was replacing the counter, we bought a new sink as well.  Bill makes this job look easy, but I'd never tackle this kind of thing.  Even using the reciprocal saw takes more strength than I have.  It looks very nice now...  he was able to use the old faucets, they weren't in bad shape.

One thing I like about being here this summer....
Hanging the wash outside on the clothes line...
I don't think this is something most people do anymore.  Lots of reasons...  time involved probably foremost.  Also, who irons anything these days?  While not exactly totally "wrinkle free", I love the way clothes dried outside smell.  Also, many RV parks and other places do not permit clothes lines.  
Those tall posts in the picture aren't huge fence posts.....  the renter in the old farm house put in 10 posts last year and is trying to establish a hops crop.  There are several micro-breweries in town and I think he has a market for his hops.  Right now he's just getting started, so it may take a while to have enough product to sell.

The next 2 photos were taken at the same time...  just from different perspectives...
This buck visited the mineral block around 7:30 yesterday morning.  I think he sensed that he was being watched (my game camera took this shot)...

And he was....
Just at the top of the hill, I was in the motorhome taking his picture...
I couldn't get a clear shot....  between the early morning sun shining brightly on my dirty windows, and the condensation, it just wouldn't focus...
But you can tell he's watching....

I love my game cameras.  Now we have a family of raccoons that visit each night....  They have upped my total photographs to over 3,000 per night.  
Sometimes the deer and raccoons visit at the same time...
If you look close, you can see a 2nd coon in the pan...  just below the deer's tail.  Raccoons were our enemy during our chicken-raising days.  They still can wreak havoc with garbage cans, bird feeders and the such, but so far they have stayed away from our motorhome.

I was filling the bird feeders twice a day, but the Pine Siskins have moved on to their summer home, and even the goldfinch and other seed eaters have slacked off.  I think they are busy tending their nests now.  Bill saw the Robin heading back to her nest this morning with a beak full of worms.  Guess she has babies she's taking care of now.  We have at least one bluebird family... I think they, too, are feeding little ones.

I hear the wrens quite often, but finally caught a quick look at this one yesterday.
I just glanced out the door as I wrote that and see one flitting around in the brush beside the shed.  Maybe she's building a nest closeby?

We had an inch of rain over the weekend, but the weather here has been quite nice.  Bill is nearly finished with the inside of the rental...  now comes the outside painting.  I don't do well on ladders but hope to do my part by painting the deck, railing and steps.

We've been here 10 weeks...  have only 1 appointment to go for Bill's eyes.  I think we ate out once so far...  have barely caught up with family and friends.  I know we keep busy, but where in the world does the time go?


The End!

That's All For Today!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Catchin' Up....

It's been a while since I've written...  heck, I don't even take photos every day now, so I guess things have kind of settled into a routine here.  Sort of....

Bill has had the cataracts removed from both eyes now.  He has one more appointment at the Arena Eye Center in Columbus at the end of June...  that's when he'll have an eye test for a new prescription for his glasses.  It all went well and now he should be able to see the fine hair on a frog or something like that.

I don't know how widespread you readers all are, but here in this part of Ohio we are besieged by the 17 year cicadas.  (I grew up calling them "locusts")  The LOUD ones...  the ones that emerge from the ground and shed their old skin... sit around on everything from your porch furniture to your tomato plants to any bit of vegetation or structure they can find.  If they just sat there it wouldn't be so bad, but they have only a short time to mate before they lay eggs that won't emerge for another 17 years. So the males make this noise with their bellies... it rises and falls...  it gets higher and lower; louder and softer (not much softer)...
These guys were hanging on a tree branch right outside my window yesterday.  As I look out right now there are close to 30 in the same spot.  I don't even bother putting in my hearing aids these days...  I can already hear more noise than I really want to.  Oh well, it will be another 17 years before they emerge again...  I'll be 91 years old then and maybe stone-deaf....

But there are good things to hear as well...
Each year, the Ohio University School of Music presents "The Concert Under the Elms", right on campus, every Wednesday night in June, from 7-8:00 pm.  The first of this season was held last night...
Folks bring their blankets or lawn chairs...  sometimes bring a picnic dinner...  there a lots of kids running around, a few dogs (not running around) and a whole hour of great entertainment.  The band itself is made up of both university and town folks.  The leader is the OU band director, but sometimes they'll also have a guest director.  One week will be a former director of the US Navy Band, who is now a director of the band at another college.  The music is a mix...  
Always starting out with our National Anthem, there might be selections from Broadway shows, or old favorites...  mixing everything from brisk marches to soft classical.  I tried to guess how many folks attended...  estimated that there were close to 300 people enjoying this traditional summer event....  pretty nice, huh?

Bill & I had eaten before we went, but we did stop at a neat place on our way home...
Jackie O's is a local brewery that is located in the old Cheese Barn building.  (the Cheese Barn was a short-lived endeavor of several years past that tried to use local milk to produce cheese).  

I understand Jackie O's also has a restaurant in the downtown area, but we haven't gone there yet.
They make several varieties of beer...  some seasonal...  some types of interesting flavors....
Bill was looking for a stout...  he likes a really dark, strong beer...

That's the bartender.....  filling our growler with Bill's choice.  Look at all those kinds behind the bar...  and maybe those are awards sitting on top.

Dark Apparition
Bill's choice of beer....
Years ago we lived near Socorro, New Mexico which also has a fine micro-brewery.  We bought this growler there and still carry it around with us, hoping to find some good breweries where we can get it filled.  I think it holds 64 oz....  just right for the pizza we're having for dinner tonight.

I check my game cameras every morning.  One camera averages over 1,500 photos a night, the other one nets between 300-500.  Needless to say, I do not save every photo.  
This was one of my favorites...
These two bucks (both with very nice racks!) were greeting each other along the path.  There is no competition for the ladies now so often the bucks will hang together throughout the summer.

And we do get some other critters...
I've had several shots of the possum, (and a few of the neighbor's cat), but this is the first raccoon I've caught on camera.  Bill has our bird feeders and bird boxes well protected with predator guards and so far we've not had any problems with critters being anywhere they shouldn't be.

I did clean up a recliner chair we had stored in the barn...  found a dried snake skin coiled around the springs underneath...  guess that wasn't a big surprise.

Anyway, we've been here 2 months...  the rental we're working on is nearly done inside (then comes the outside painting)...  we still have nearly 3 months before we'll head back to Texas...  then on to Mexico.

Just as an aside...  the owner of the house we're buying in Mexico had some health problems and we didn't close on the expected date....  however, we should close within the week.  Meanwhile, we put the house we have in New Mexico on the market about 3 weeks ago... it got a buyer within the week and we'll close on it in July.  Couldn't ask for much better luck!

Just getting caught up...  I think.

That's All For Today!