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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This is my first blog post since GoDaddy shut down all QuickBlog accounts.  I imported all of my old blogs into WordPress here:  However, I have decided to use blogger for my new blogs, as it integrates with other Google products better, and seems to be very powerful.  

After Costa Rica, it was back to work.  Though I was running a couple of online classes, most of my daylight hours were spent working on houses.  My tenants of 5 years moved out of my rental house,  Savannah's place still needed some fixes, and our home always needs something.  Nonetheless, I did get out for some photography in my yard, as well as periodic trips to Lowell's and elsewhere.  
Remi, AKA Waddles, perched majestically on the neighbor's waterfall.  

One day I drove out to a friend's place in the country, and carried my camera and telephoto lens in my lap.  Near the Wyaconda River I saw a red fox on the roadside.  Taking advantage of my car's manual transmission, I coasted up to it and got a few shots off.  I would have gotten closer, but another car spooked it away.
It has something unidentifiable in its mouth.  

Stacey and I took a nice camping trip to Mark Twain Lake.  Aside from the lack of cell service, the campground was very nice, heavily wooded.  We were present during a tremendous bloom of butterflies.  I photographed 9 species of butterflies within one hour: 
Common Wood-Nymph
Little Wood-Satyr
Spring Azure
Hackberry Emperor
Eastern Comma
Red Admiral
Great Spangled Fritillary
Mourning Cloak
Hickory Hairstreak

Some years we have a dearth of butterflies, but this year is outstanding, especially for Great Spangled Fritillary.
GSF on milkweed at Lowell's catfish pond.

The rainfall has also been welcome for our wildflowers.  The little prairie in our backyard has bloomed beautifully, with many species flowering at different times through the summer.
Purple Coneflower

Click to examine all images from June.

The only science I attempted this summer was to spend a day with Mike Irwin recording locations of periodical cicadas.  This year was the re-emergence of the same brood we had mapped in 1997.  We were both amazed by how fast the time had gone. We spent a couple of hours playing guitars too.

Stacey and I did another weekend camping trip to Wakonda State Park.  We have now identified the ideal site in the Boulder Lake campground - #1.  It is isolated from all other sites by woods, and out of site of the playground.  The dogs bark a lot less.  I took my new mountain bike (a 29er) for it's first real off-road ride.  I video recorded the ride, and came across a feeding deer that didn't notice me for a few minutes.  I also tried having both dogs tow me on the skateboard.  Surprisingly, I wasn't injured or killed.  I only had to jump off once when Gretchen crossed too close in front.  Her contribution to towing is significant!  

I always take my camera when fishing at Lowell's, as there is almost always something interesting to see.  On the first of July, it was this large bird.
Great Horned Owl

More recently, Stacey and I took a longer trip to Shannon County, MO, well known as one of the most beautiful regions in the state.  In the heart of the Ozarks, home of the Current (very popular for float trips) and the Jacks Fork Rivers, it holds many interesting sites.  We camped at the Jacks Fork Canoe Rental and Campground, which had excellent location, but run-down facilities.  You can't be choosy on 4th of July weekend on short notice.  It was well positioned, such that I was able to take to kayak trips on the Jack's Fork without much difficulty.  It is a lovely stream with gin clear water.  You can see the fish on the bottom.  I didn't catch any fish, in spite of my best efforts, but I did get to round up about 19 Coors Light cans that came bobbing down the stream.  I took a bike ride that turned out to be quite eventful, but, sadly, not recorded.  The first 3 miles had brutal uphills, and scary downhills on gravel.  I was holding onto my phone while trying to make sure I was on the right road and took a spill at the bottom of one.  It had just rained, creating lots of low water crossings, which I find fun.  The route took me along the Jacks Fork for a bit, along bluffs with little caves where I came across a flock of turkeys in the road.  After Alley Spring, I took the paved road back, but the hills were still killers.  I've been chased by a lot of dogs in my biking career, but never by a pack of six.  I don't know that I've ever been more certain that I was going to be bitten.  I thought I could outrun them, but there wasn't enough left in my legs for that.  I yelled at them and lifted my legs away from their snarling mouths.  Fortunately, they gave up before long.  We enjoyed a massive emergence of alate ants in the campground.  These are new queens and males with wings.  I got some good video and stills, as well as collecting voucher specimens.  I'm sure the other campers were not as amused as I was.  We had a storm one night. We were glad to be snug in our RV, as I'm sure the tent campers were suffering.  We woke up with an Easy-up in our yard.  We took a number of short drives to see the sites, such as Round Spring, Alley Spring and, my favorite, Blue Spring.

It's really that blue.

Alley Spring Mill
Alley Spring, HDR

Diving from the bridge is illegal...
Pipevine swallowtail at Blue Spring.
Upon our return, I was displeased to find that a tree had fallen on my fence.  Again.  For those keeping score, that was the third time.  It was the exact same place as the last one. In addition, one of our Black locust trees had fallen in the yard.  I spent a day chainsawing and clearing brush instead of what I had planned to do.  Shortly thereafter, we had a new roof put on the house.  Though the previous layer of shingles was only 10 years old, they were badly worn and we were getting leaks in the house.  We got red steel this time.  I think the house looks like a barn.  We had it installed by an Amish guy named Harley.  
One day I was mowing down at Chateau Jamison (Savannah's house) and moved a piece of black plastic and saw something move.  At first I thought it was a toad going down its burrow, but a closer look showed that it was a salamander.  I haven't seen one in Lewis County for years.  Incredibly, we found two more under a board.  She has an infestation.  They are tiger salamanders, which are common, but still quite interesting.
Ambystoma tigrinum

For my birthday we went to the Lewis County Fair.  I got a sweet Lemon shake-up and a jalapeno corn dog from Jamie's stand.  We stopped at the petting zoo, run by our veterinarians.  Savannah and Hannah showed up,  They even sat through the demolition derby with us.  The second heat was pretty good.  We stayed for a little of the live band (Mad Hoss Jackson) before heading home.  Savannah stayed later, and got her car stuck in the mud.  Fortunately, a guy with a skid-steer pushed her out the next day.

Click to see July photos.

One day I got a call from a friend who had an overproducing apricot tree. I was free and Savannah wanted to come along so we went over and picked several gallons.  We dehydrated some and made the rest into wine.  Well, it will be wine in a few months anyway.  

If I'm home in the morning and reading or something upstairs, Big Guy likes to go outside about every 10 minutes.  This is how he lets me know.

From July 2014