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Saturday, August 30, 2014

September 2014: new semester, new year

It's been awhile since my last blog. It's hard to remember the events of what is now last summer.  Savannah and I were going to kayak the Wyaconda River one day.  I had watched the forecast very closely, and it stated there would be no rain until late in the day.  We hadn't been on the river long before it began to sprinkle.  Right about when we got to the Highway 61 bridge, there was a spectacular lightning strike directly in front of us.  We pulled the kayaks out under the bridge and called for help.  Fortunately, our friend Rhonda was able to come and get us.  She even knew the landowner, and we were able to drive out easily.

One Sunday I took some boy scouts (and Joe, Rhonda's husband) out to Deer Ridge Conservation Area.  I taught them a little compass navigation while we rode mountain bikes around on the gravel roads.  It was a good ride.  The place was thick with butterflies, especially Red-spotted Purples.  We got into some mud while looking for an old graveyard, and enjoyed a low-water crossing.

I've gotten some decent insect photography lately, as the bloom of butterflies and other species has continued.  Great Golden Digger Wasps have been nectaring at a shrub at North Campus, which sas provided me with some opportunities to shoot this normally difficult species.  I still think it's one of the most beautiful wasps.  Entomology class has begun, which also provides lots of insect photo opps.

Just before classes began, my brother Mike and his son Racin drove out from California.  It wasn't just a visit, as Racin was enrolling as a freshman at QU.  His mother Cindy joined us by flying out.  We had some work to do getting Racin moved in and settled, but we had some time to goof off as well. They attended the Canton Camera Club meeting, where I gave a brief presentation on Shannon County.  We visited Hannibal, and had dinner at Angelini's in Keokuk.  Mike and I worked on my old Honda 70s.  We put a new carburetor on one, and I think it runs better now than it has in 30 years.  We got some assembly done on another, which was significant progress. Racin and I did some jamming on guitars, which is always fun.

Before you know it, their visit was over, and we had to drop Mike and Cindy at the airport.  Then it was back to business as usual, with my classes beginning that week.  It is kind of fun that, though I no longer have Savannah dropping by my office, Racin does nearly every day.

Savannah stops by the house more than she used to, sometimes to do laundry, but sometimes for fun. She helped me bottle beer last week. We have lunch fairly often and do yard work together.

I went out to Lowell's one day with great aspirations.  Our first major task was to take down a row of 18 dead pine trees.  In theory, it should have been easy: just fell all the trees, dropping them to the north.  The branches were so dense, and reaching to the ground, that the first two would hardly fall at all.  We had to pull them out of the row with the tractor and chains.  Once we had those out, I was able to fell them like dominoes.  Except, of course, that most of them were leaning the wrong way.  The small ones I pushed over by hand (big mistake, hurt my back), the bigger ones Lowell pushed over with the tractor.  It was hot, dirty work.  The undergrowth held lots of poison ivy.  By the end I was covered in burrs, and ultimately found 4 ticks on myself.  The purpose of our clearing these dead trees was, surprisingly, not for firewood.  Old, dead pine has almost no caloric value.  Instead, we were clearing the site for...

...wait for it...

...my dream house.  Stacey and I used to enjoy living the country life back in Illinois, and we've decided to do it again.  With nothing strongly tying us to Canton -- Savannah's out of school and we're off the fire department -- we started looking at rural homes.  When I mentioned this to Lowell, he graciously offered to sell us a few acres on the corner of his place.  Though the old homestead is still there, it is in poor condition, and we'll be building something new.  We've been planning and plotting. Cutting down these trees was the first real progress we've made. We will be getting the site surveyed soon.  Next, I'll be spraying all the poison ivy.  It will be a long and perhaps difficult journey, but will fulfill a desire I've had for quite a long time.  Stay tuned.