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Monday, November 30, 2015

November 2015


I bottled the Alaska Amber Ale that I started last month.  I didn't even know what that's supposed to taste like, but it sounded good.  After the primary fermentation it certainly smelled good.  I was finally able to use my new bottle washer and bottle tree.  I got to taste it on Thanksgiving, and it was fine.  I racked the apple wine, and it's looking good too.

One day Stacey and I took the dogs down to the Levee Walk.  I had the sisters yoked with harnesses, pulling me on a longboard.  I hadn't set up my action cam, but I shot some spontaneous video with my phone that turned out OK.  Here's the edited video:

https://youtu.be/OPBZESwhVWQ

I missed one night of agility class because of a horrendous storm that came through.  I feel lucky that it didn't drop a big tree on my fence.  Some branches fell in the back yard.

A week later the big old willow tree in the back yard, which I call the Whomping Willow (see Harry Potter), finally fell down.  It's been rotten for years, and bits of it have been falling off over time, but the main part of the trunk fell during some high winds.  At least no people or dogs were hurt.  Now I'll have to cut it up.

All our dogs were groomed, one week after the other.  For some reason, I had to go back to my office after picking up each one, so they got to visit students and colleagues.  I found out that it's primarily men in hats that Miss Kitty doesn't like.  She was perfectly nice to everyone else.

We had a delayed Thanksgiving, but Stacey put together a fine meal.  We had Lowell, as well as Savannah and Josh over.  Lowell finally got to meet Savannah and Josh's dogs.  He's always been a lover of German shepherds.  It's a bit crazy having 6 dogs in the house though.  We watched Guardians of the Galaxy after dinner.

Since we rehomed the cat, the dogs are now obsessed with squirrels.  The dogs are always looking out the windows for them. They do visit the yard occasionally.  When I see them on the ground, I let the dogs out to give chase.  I figure that statistically they're eventually going to catch one.  They've come close a couple of times.

I built an A frame and teeter totter for Isabel's agility training, as I think I've mentioned here before.  I had taken some photographs along the way.  I combined them with some text and published two instructables you can see here:

A frame: http://www.instructables.com/id/Dog-agility-A-frame/

Teeter: http://www.instructables.com/id/Dog-agility-teeter-totter/

To my surprise they were both chosen as features on the site.  Then I found out they're having an Animal Innovations contest, and I entered them.  If you're a member, you can vote for them.

It has not been a good month for photography.  It has been the dead season between fall and winter.  Most of the images below are of the dogs.









Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 2015

So we did go to the Mutt Strut in Quincy, taking all of our dogs.  I ran the 5K with the Sisters of Chaos.  I was under the impression that the point of it was to run with your dogs, but it turned out that I was the only one running with dogs.  Of course, there were only about 8 people in the 5K.  I didn't feel that great, and I didn't run the whole time.  Indigo kept stopping to greet every person and dog along the way, which provided me with numerous opportunities to rest.  At least we weren't last. We got some freebies from the vendors and had a nice talk with our groomer Tammy at the Dipity Dog table.  It was great socialization for the sisters, as there were dozens of dogs and people to meet.  The sisters caught the attention of the reporter for KHQA, who shot some footage of them.  It showed up in their coverage of the event on the news.

http://khqa.com/news/local/the-force-was-strong-at-21st-annual-mutt-strut

Stacey did the 5K walk with Miss Kitty and Gretchen ("the old bitches.")  Gretchen pooped 4 times. She didn't want to walk the whole way.  Kitty had some trouble with all the people.  We were tired and went home.  All the dogs were crashed most of the day.  Even ten days later my knees still hurt.  My training runs were neither numerous nor long enough.  I think I'll stick to cycling for a long time.

We went camping in Battle of Athens State Historic Site over the midterm break.  It's a small park with a surprisingly large campground.  Their claim to fame is that it is the site of the northernmost battle of the Civil War west of the Mississippi River.  There is still a hole remaining from a cannonball that went through one of the houses.  At one time a thriving community of 500 when river traffic ruled (on the Des Moines), it is now a ghost town with only a few buildings remaining.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and had the whole place to ourselves.  It was eerily quiet and empty, but that was nice.  I took a little bike ride just to explore the place.  There isn't really much to see or do there.  We kept wondering who would come there to camp, other than deer hunters and re-enacters.  A few other campers trickled in on Friday.  It was a nice place to walk the dogs.  The gentle slopes of the asphalt roadways were perfect for skateboarding, and I had all the dogs pulling me (no more than two at a time) during various outings.  It was the first time Miss Kitty did any significant pulling, and even broke into a gallop on a downhill.  The sisters seemed to have it figured out on our last ride.  There was a nice picnic area with a playground.  We took the dogs down there and I put Isabel through her paces on the playground.  First, up on a platform, and she got a treat, across a walkway and through a tube for another treat, and down a slide and a final treat.  I was impressed with her performance.  Then we turned loose Gretchen and she ran through all the obstacles at a blazing speed, without stopping, all for just one treat at the end.  We were a bit stunned. I guess she showed us what she can do!

I fished the small lake one afternoon, but I didn't put much effort into it.  I went up and down one side, just on foot, and only used two lures. I got one bite from a small bass, and that was all.  I had some good photo opportunities in the morning when a low-level fog lay over the fields.  There's a 2 mile hiking trail that I intended to walk with the dogs, but never got around to it.  I neglected to mention that we had some electrical problems when we first arrived, and we almost left after the first 5 minutes, but I managed to get things figured out.  We left Sunday morning and over the next week I got the RV winterized.  Sadly, that was our last planned trip of the year.

Stacey went to a conference in Springfield, MO.  I happened to be making my sandwich for lunch when she was headed out.  She asked me to get the door for her, and when I returned my two slices of bread were missing from the counter.  One half of one was remaining as Isabel chewed on it.  Clever beast.  I had to run some errands one day while she was gone.  I put Isabel in the car for company and went back in the house to get something.  When I came back out I saw a pale, furry blur whiz past the front door.  Wondering how she'd gotten out, I ran, screaming, "Isabel, Isabel!"  I rounded the corner of my neighbor's house to see a light brown pit bull looking back at me.  Not Isabel.  It continued on its way.  When I got back to the car, Isabel was still in it.

The camera club photographed our local footrace, the Canton Carnivore.  It was an exceptionally cold day.  I was fairly bundled up, and had remembered to bring a chair so I could sit at the start/finish line to shoot the runners.  The winner finished in a crazy short time, and a little boy finished third.  Perhaps the most interesting point was a young lady crossed the finish line, walked over to the ditch and puked up some gatorade.  I didn't photograph that.  During the kids dash a little girl fell flat on her face.  She got back up and kept going, but I saw on her return that she was crying.  A friend was there to comfort her, but she kept saying, "It wasn't fair!"  I felt pretty badly for her. A couple of my shots ended up in the newspaper.

My class did Stream Team, even though I thought I was going to have to delay it.  High winds were predicted.  They made such a big deal out of it on the TV news that I didn't even take my boots to work.  It never got that bad, so we went.  The weather was pretty nice, except for the swarming ladybugs, which are bad this year.  There were even some live frogs, crayfish, muscles and darters in a nearby backwater.  We saw a lot of hellgrammites in our samples, which is uncommon.  The next day I took the Environmental Science class out to Lowell's.  We buried some artificial bumble nests, then hiked around the place.  We had a little cookout afterward, and even had some time to fish.

I should have known it would be a hard day when I stepped in a little dog poo with my left foot, walked out into the yard to wipe it on the grass then stepped in an enormous one with my right foot. I had 4 different vehicles due for an oil change at about the same time, and NAPA was having a sale, so I went down to Elder's to get my oil and filters.  I took Isabel with me and learned that she is scared of children.  A little girl, maybe 2 years old, frightened the poop out of her, literally.  Ironically, the girl's name was Isabella.  I started with the C-max, which I had never done before.  Right away, I found that Ford clearly does not want the owner to change the oil.  There is no indication in the manual of the location of the filter or drain plug. The underside of the engine compartment is covered in a fibrous shroud, so you can't just look.  I had to jack up the front end, put it on stands, and remove the shroud -- 8 screws with a star drive.  The car has probably only had two or three previous oil changes, but someone had managed to round off the head of the drain bolt already.  Probably the same person who tightened so much that I had to use a hammer on my wrench to break it loose.  And Ford designed it so that you can't put a ratchet wrench on it--there's a nearby frame member that impinges.  The oil came out so fast that it overshot the catch pan I had put under it.  A similar mess was made by the filter.  Finally done, I reassembled it all.  Fortunately, I had some leftover kitty litter to absorb the oil.

Oh, did I mention we rehomed our cat?  One of my friends in the Garden club wanted him, so we gave him up.  Our house is a lot more peaceful without the dogs constantly hunting him.

I walked Indigo down to pick up the truck.  We stopped at Orscheln's for supplies.  She was good with all the customers and staff.  I don't drive the truck very often, so it's been a long time since I changed the oil.  While I was sliding around on the creeper underneath it, some grit fell in my eye (even though I wear glasses). I rinsed my eye out in the kitchen sink, but I think I still got a minor corneal abrasion.  I finished the truck and really didn't want to work any more, but I still had the Li'l Egg to do.  I took Miss Kitty with me down to pick up the car and bring it back to the house.  I wore goggles over my glasses to avoid further injury.  It was still hard to get through that oil change.  Gretchen got to with me to return the Egg.  So all the dogs got to go on an adventure.  Gretchen got the bonus, as I went to Blue Heron Orchard to get some apple cider to make wine.

After a two-week break, Isabel is back at agility class and doing extremely well.  She can do all the obstacles now, and is less distracted by the other people and dogs.  I'm working on an A-frame for her, which I made from an old pair of interior doors and some hinges.  I made the traction cleats from pallet wood.  At some point I will probably spend money on agility equipment, but I haven't yet.  Stacey will be taking Indigo to therapy dog class soon, so stay tuned.

I have been making wine for over 20 years.  According to my log book, my first fermentation began on 9/19/1995, and it turned out OK.  I have made several undrinkable wines (pumpkin, crabapple, persimmon) over the years, but most vintages have been quite palatable, and some even qualified as "very tasty."  Going over my records, I see that I've made about 22 fermentations.  Many were from actual grapes, including reds, whites and even sparkling wine (champagne) once. We used to have a large grape arbor that produced a good crop about every other year.  A lot of fruits have worked well for me, including peach, pear, apricot, and now apple.  The blackberry/raspberry wines have all turned out well.  I even completed one "kit" wine, a Shiraz, that I picked up cheap at a garage sale.  Normally, I go for real fruits, partly because kits are expensive. I have parts of two or three people's wine-making kits that I ended up with over the years, and last spring I obtained a huge collection of wine- and beer-making gear for a song.  You could say I'm equipped.  The irony is that I hardly drink any of it.  I usually give bottles of wine as gifts.

I also make beer.  That I drink myself.  I started a homebrew of Alaskan Pale Ale last week, but I must have had the wine-making bug in me.  I bought 5 gallons of organic apple cider from Blue Heron Orchard on Friday night.  For the first time ever, I made a starter yeast from a quart of cider: added sugar and yeast nutrient, boiled, let cool to 80 F, and pitched the yeast.  In the morning it was a great foaming solution.  This gives the yeast a head start.  Meanwhile, all the cider had warmed up to room temperature (from refrigerator cold).  Mixed them all together and my 22nd fermentation has begun.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

September 2015

I went to a Scientific Illustration Workshop for Stream Team in Jefferson City.  Half of it was a review of invertebrate identification.  I didn't think I needed that part, but I apparently did.  We learned some good basics of scientific illustration, at least for creatures in a certain size range. I think I can adapt it for use in my classes, which was my goal from the beginning.

Stacey and I decided to do the Mutt Strut in Quincy, which is coming up shortly.  I've been running to train for it.  I still don't like running.  It still hurts and is generally unpleasant.  At least the dogs like it.  I have benefited from the overall good feeling of being in a little better shape.  It's been a while.

I've been taking Isabel to agility classes at the Quincy Kennel Club.  It has been enlightening.  She is physically capable of doing all the obstacles, as she is fast and agile.  We have been practicing many skills, such as basic obedience and jumping since she took up residence in our house last winter.  She's also one of the smartest  dogs I've ever seen, capable of learning in one or two trials.  Her problem is her great shyness.  At the first class, before the first obstacle, she pooped on the floor.  At the second class, she was doing great until I hooked her lead on one of the poles, which made a big noise and cause the apparatus to move.  Then she refused to go over the jumps.  We must attribute that one to operator error.  I was extremely careful in the third class not to make any mistakes.  She did great on almost everything except the A frame, which was new.  At the fifth class she had mastered enough obstacles and overcome shyness enough to complete several obstacles, and in the end we ran a short course: weave poles, A frame, tire, wait table, dog walk, and tunnel.  I think it was the first time she revealed her potential.  I was very happy with her performance.  She has also become less shy around people, often greeting them upon first meeting.

We have practiced in part by stopping at various playgrounds and running her through the tunnels and up and down steps, swinging bridges, and whatever they had.  I think that was good preparation.  We have been jumping through a hula hoop for a long time.  That's our substitute for a tire. I have cobbled together a poor man's agility course in my yard.  I use my loading ramps and archery block target for a dog walk.  I have various poles that I run from the trees to the fence in the back yard for bar jumps.  I had some fiberglass electric fence posts that I placed in an array for weave poles.  I was using my step ladder for hind foot awareness, but I don't think it's necessary any more.  I found a 2x10 that was an old bed rail and made it into a teeter totter.  I made the base by carving a log with my chainsaw.  We haven't tried using it yet. We'll wait until it is introduced in class, as I know it's a difficult one and I don't want to screw up her introduction to it.

I spent an afternoon with my friends the Gonnerman's while they launched a series of model rockets.  This has been one of Chris's hobbies for a long time.  He leads a 4H group, and they do launches a couple of times a year.  I was invited to be a photographer.  I got a few good shots and enjoyed the launch.  I haven't seen it done since I was a kid.  There was quite the diverse array of rockets.  One was almost lost, but later recovered.  One was damaged on impact, but overall there were few malfunctions or problems.  The monarchs were migrating like crazy and there was a bald eagle soaring high above our field for part of the time.

I gave a talk at the local Catholic High School (QND) on Costa Rica, and the next day gave one for POLIS, which is mostly retired folks.  There is a dramatic difference between the audiences.  When you crack a joke for high schoolers, they all go nuts and never want to quiet down.  Seniors will laugh, but recover quickly so that the speaker can continue.

In other dog news, we got Indigo over her illness.   We were relieved when she was diagnosed with a bad case of intestinal worms (hookworms and nematodes). This was welcome news because it's an easy cure. We had fought her affliction for three weeks, with misdiagnoses of garbage gut, pancreatitis, and others. She had been hospitalized once, and we were considering exploratory surgery. Finally, a fecal smear turned up large numbers of worm eggs (a previous one was negative). She also had a bump below her ear that we thought could be cancer, but turned out to be an abscess. Let us be thankful!  The abscess has since drained and been treated with antibiotics.  It is now hard to find any remnant of it.  Indigo is just as spunky as ever she was.  Stacey is considering training her to be a therapy dog.  She is great with people, she just needs to learn some special obedience behaviors.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

September 2015 Pedaler's Jamboree Iowa

Well, the training rides were done, the RV was packed, the Lil Egg was hitched, and the bikes were on the racks: it was time to go up to the Pedaler's Jamboree Iowa. Daughter Savannah, Nephew Racin and I headed out at midmorning and got lunch at a Casey's in some small town. We stopped at Bicycle World in West Des Moines to check in and get our registration packets. Savannah got a nice pair of bike shorts, though the padding is so thick she says it's like wearing a diaper. The GPS took us right to the Greene County Fairgrounds, and a man in a golf cart directed us to our campsite. We had to park it parallel rather than backing in to get the RV level. We played frisbee for awhile, and Savannah cooked up some spaghetti for dinner.

We got up the next morning, I brewed the coffee and Savannah cooked up some eggs. We donned our team jerseys, which I had designed well in advance.  The pocket has the Coelho family cattle brand, and the back has an image of a running rabbit with the brand on its flank.  That image I copied from Savannah's tattoo. We packed everything we would need into the Lil Egg (pet name for my Toyota Echo) and drove an hour to Waukee. The parking lot by Mickey's Irish Pub was packed with bike-laden cars. We got the bikes off the racks, took a selfie for the road, and off we went. This section of the Raccoon River Trail was smooth, flat and recently paved. We hadn't gone far when I saw a red fox run into a bean field. We had gotten a bit of a late start, so we cruised through the first stop, Dallas Center, and pedaled on to Minburn. Both Racin and Savannah had seat problems, but I had brought a set of allen wrenches for just such an occasion. We got their seats adjusted properly and there were no further complaints. We heard a bit of music at Minburn, had a beer and ate all the dried apples I had brought. The area in front of the stage was paved and they were renting out roller skates. One lady skating around was really good. Savannah noticed a guy with a little white schnauzer that resembled our Gretchen. He was named Max, and he was plenty friendly.

There were lots of tandems and a few trailers. I liked the trailer that was home-made from a radio flyer wagon. A lot of people had amplified music on their bikes. The most impressive was a big tube speaker one guy had mounted under his rear rack. It was loud, distortion free, and blasting classic rock. We didn't have any music, so we made our own.  Well, Racin and I came up with three verses of a song about the Ped Jam.  It's still a work in progress.  There were a few people in costume, including a guy in an old motorcycle helmet with horns on the front. We had lunch in Perry, where the pulled pork sandwiches were delicious. We ran into Mike Denehy, who is the creator of this bike tour. He remembered me from my work on the Big Bam. I think this tour was going a lot better. He thought they had about 1200 registered riders.

 It had been relatively cool in the morning, but it got hot in the afternoon. We skipped Dawson and went right on to Cooper after a brief rest. Molly Gene One Whoaman Band was playing. She created a lot of sound with just an electric guitar and a foot pedal drum kit. Very passionate. We watched the Decadent Nation show. They were pretty good, except their lead singer could not hit the high notes. We noticed some other groups that had made their own jerseys. One was "Team Bad Decision Pants". There was an image of a guy peeing, as seen from behind. Then at the bottom of the jersey was a butt crack. Another was "Team Chemical Dependency", with a 3D image of a molecule on the back. I thought it was ethanol at first glance, but the guy said it was lactic acid. I said, "Well, they're both anaerobic end products." Our own Team Coelho jerseys got a few favorable comments.

The last leg of the ride had some interesting bridges, where Racin insisted on doing wheelies on the lips of them. I saw a few monarchs, but not as many as I expected for this time of year.  There were lots of flowers in bloom, like morning glories, various sunflowers and black-eyed susans. There were some slight grades, but after a final northward turn, we had some lengthy downhills, in the shade with the wind at our backs. That was a nice break for our fatigued legs.

We got in to Jefferson at about 5.  I got into the RV, cranked up the air conditioning, and downed a gatorade.  We had time to check out the venue and get some dinner. I had Jamaican jerked chicken sandwich, and it was quite good. Racin had some nachos that looked really good. I took a nap while Savannah took a shower, then we walked over to the concert. I had brought some bag chairs in the RV, and a big lounger for myself. We set them on the green where we were close enough for a good view but far enough away that it was not too loud. The first band was Dirtfoot, a Louisiana band. They were basically a rock band, except they had one guy on electric banjo, another on stand-up bass, and a trombone player. Most of their songs were upbeat and really catchy, so I bought their CD.

The second artist was That1guy. He's hard to describe, but absolutely unforgettable. He has an instrument of his own creation, the Magic Pipe, which has two necks and sets of strings. He could bow it, pluck it, slap it, or hit it with a drumstick. There were also some pedals built into it. He had some other drum pedals that he could hit with his feet to create the beat. His songs were weird, but very enjoyable. The crowd was eating it up. His CDs sold out during his first song. He did some magic tricks with cards, played with sock puppets, and did an entire song on an electrified boot. His chit chat between, and sometimes during, songs was entertaining as well.  If you ever get a chance to see him, don't miss it.

The last band was Euforquestra, which was essentially a vintage soul-funk group, and they were damned good.  They had a horn section, a percussionist on timbales and congas, a regular drummer, a keyboardist, a bass and a dynamite electric guitar player.  I knew I liked them with their first tune, an upbeat instrumental.  We enjoyed their show, but by the time they were done, we were very tired.  We heard their encore as we walked back to the RV.  I took a shower and slept well.

We got up kind of late.  Racin and Savannah were sunburnt.  All of us had sore legs and aching behinds.  We decided the better part of valor was discretion, so rather than ride the second day of the tour, we would go home.  We got a hearty pancake breakfast from the veterans at the fairgrounds.  Then we packed up and headed out.  We had to put all the bikes inside the RV.  We drove the hour back to Waukee.  We saw a pheasant fly across the road, which kind of made my day.  We picked up the Lil Egg.  Savannah helped me hook it up again, and we were headed for home.  Racin slept through all of that. It's just as well we didn't ride, as we would have had about a 20-knot headwind the whole way.  We had lunch in Oskaloosa.  Apparently, farmers in the area are up in arms about the possibility of a new airport, which would take farm land by eminent domain.  There are hand-painted signs all along the highway.  We got into Canton at about 3, unloaded and parted company.

For Racin and Savannah, the 46 miles we biked was a personal best. For me, it was the fulfillment of a plan I had been cooking up since the Missouri Ped Jam back in May.  There were many contingencies to prepare for, and I think I covered them all.  Mission accomplished.  We're already looking forward to next May and the Missouri Pedaler's Jamboree.




Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August 2015

We started the month out with a quick camping trip to Wakonda State Park.  We couldn't get our favorite site, and had to settle for one that wasn't very level, and too close to the mosquito-producing swamp.  Nonetheless, we had a good time.  The dogs were constantly entertaining, and enjoyed many walks through the park.  I took one good bike ride, though the best part of the trail was closed.  I suspect the heavy rains had made the road too swampy in places.  I got 15 miles in, which was pretty much my goal. I saw lots of wildlife--butterflies and birds, in particular. I always see a cuckoo there, for some reason.  I took the skateboard out and had the sisters pull me around, as well as taking some rides by myself.

The next weekend we went for a longer trip to Keosauqua, Iowa, where we had camped last year.  I took two good bike rides, 20 and 22 miles.  A tremendous diversity of butterflies appeared on the latter ride, mostly puddling on the gravel roads: monarch, viceroy, black and giant swallowtails, cabbage white, various sulfurs, pearl crescent, many red-spotted purples and uncountable hackberry emperors.  I found a 2-mile bicycle trail in town, part of which was a rail-to-trail.  We also found that they had recently constructed a small (and exceedingly cute) band shell in a park on their riverfront, something we'd like to do in Canton.  I figured out that Isabel and Gretchen are the best pullers, and had them draft me on the skateboard.  It worked out well.  Stacey bought a blackberry pie at the Dutchmen's Store in Cantril.  Every night I drove down to Misty's to get some soft serve ice cream.  The combination gave us a heavenly dessert.

Aug 15 Kayaking the Salt
I jumped at the chance to kayak the Salt River, as it had been on my list for a long time (part of my quest to kayak all of northeast Missouri's streams).  I was asked by my fellow photographers Jim & Marcia Lewellen.  Jim grew up in the area, knew its history and lore, and I knew that would make the trip special.  We shuttled our kayaks using Jim's Jeep with a trailer and my pick-up truck.  We dropped my truck at the take-out, an obscure site known as the Cincinnati Road Access, and drove to the put-in, the Spillway Recreation Area.

This site is just below the Clarence Cannon Dam which forms Mark Twain Reservoir.  The flow on the Salt depends on how much water the Army Corps of Engineers is letting out of the dam.  This day the flow was strong, which would make for some good current.  Most of the streams in this area have slow current, at least when they're safe to float.  It was a nice change to be carried along.  Fish were jumping in the foamy water downstream from the dam, and Double-crested Cormorants were taking full advantage of them.  Fishermen in bass boats were patrolling the shores  as well.  I tried fishing myself a bit on the way down, but had no luck.

Other birds we saw included Bald eagle, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  Butterflies were abundant, especially Giant Swallowtail, Monarch, Red-spotted Purple, Eastern Comma, Common Buckeye, Pearl Crescent, Eastern Tailed Blue, and the rare American Snout.  Wildflowers were in bloom, including various sunflowers, cup plants, morning glories, swamp milkweed and the bright red cardinal flowers.  The real bonus wildlife we saw were three river otters that crossed in front of us at some distance.  I took some photographs, but as I was digging out my long lens, for greater magnification, they dove under the surface and we never saw them again.

The water level was a bit too high.  There were no exposed gravel bars, which would have provided a break for our legs and rear ends.  It would have been nice to take a swim as well, since it was a sunny, blazing hot day.  A greater disappointment was that Jim knew where some Indian pictographs were located up on the bluffs, but we had no place to safely land and hike up to look at them.  The stream is very scenic, having very few signs of human use.  Power lines cross in one spot, and there are a couple of cabins on the bank.  Otherwise, it is heavily tree-covered, green and beautiful.  We completed the 7 mile stretch in 2.5 hours, averaging 3 mph.

When we were done we went to the little dam at Bluffs Recreation Area. The Reregulation Dam is there, and the water was pouring out of it in a torrent.  There was only one guy fishing.  There was a little eddy on each side of the strong current coming out of the gates, and the silver carp were jumping there.  I tried to get some shots of them flying, but it was harder than I thought, at least to get a good one.  You could even see them swimming through the shallows at times.  We had an interesting time driving home, as Jim's kayak racks kept falling off of his trailer.

Back to work
After a summer that was filled with work and play, it was time to go back to the office.  The semester is shaping up to be a good one.  I'm teaching Marine Biology for only the second time, and it feels fresh.  I get to teach Tropical Ecology later in the semester.  My classes are relatively small, and the students are mostly familiar ones.

Savannah had bought us tickets to the Alice Cooper concert for my birthday, and we drove out to Indianapolis to cross that off our bucket list. Alice gave a killer show.  Though he's 67, he could have been 27 with the way he sounded and moved.  He had the guillotine, the giant Frankenstein monster and a few other show tricks.  Motley Crue gave a good show too.  I'm not a huge fan of Tommy Lee, but he brought his A game for this concert. We stayed at Jarrod and Becky's and enjoyed the hospitality.  The next day I picked up a Yakima bike rack from a Craigslist ad for the Lil Egg while I was in the big city.  Jarrod treated us to an excellent lunch at Squealer's, a barbecue place.

Bike ride on 8/23
I took a training ride in Lewis County via 16, F, E and 81 (locals will understand). I saw a nice little buck on the 7-hill road.  He was still in his red summer coat.  I saw an eagle much later.  The only traffic consisted of Amish buggies as they went to church.  I stopped on the bridge over the Wyaconda to photograph the river and waited for a buggy to pass.  As the horse trotted onto the bridge, it began to bounce up and down.  This was not an imaginary oscillation, it was like inches of displacement.  I got off of it before the next buggy came.  Bridges can fail due to resonant vibration. Scary!  I stopped at Savannah's house just as she arrived, and got to play with her dogs, Max and Roman. When I got back to Canton I only had about 25 miles done and I wanted 30.  Even though my legs were already burning, I rode downtown and added a few more miles.  I had to ride up the big hill on the way home and my legs were shot by the time I was done.  At least I made the 30 mile goal.

Bridge lighting
The Canton Camera Club met on 8/22 for dinner and to photograph the long-awaited lighting of the Bayview Bridge in Quincy.  The fireworks were pretty good, and even the lighting on the bridge was better than I expected.

Bike ride on 8/30
Racin and I took a training ride to Wakonda State Park.  We saw a red fox on the way.  There were many butterflies on the way, and we had a good opportunity to examine the difference between monarchs and viceroys.  The dirt track trail at the park was dry and smooth, unlike the last time I was there.  I caught a glimpse of a snake, but it got away before I could identify it.  It was a nice cool day, overcast at first, with no wind.  On the way back, Racin hit some gravel and took a header.  He emerged unscathed, but his front derailleur had turned.  By luck, I had just the right tool to fix it.  When we got back to Canton, we didn't have enough miles in.  We puttered around the riverfront for awhile, and ended up with the above-goal 32 miles total.

We've been nursing Indigo through a case of pancreatitis.  It has not been fun, as digestive products come out of both ends.  For one stretch she did not hold down food for 24 hours.  We think we have it beaten now, but it was very stressful and challenging.

Here's an animated GIF of Savannah getting some attention from Indigo.
From August 2015

Photos should appear in a slide show below.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

July 2015

July 2
Took a bike ride all around Canton.  Found a big patch of purple milkweed.  Saw a woodchuck.  Ran some errands.

July 3
Went to Lowell's.  Fished two rounds and caught several bass, first three were large.  Replaced mulch in the goose nest, throwing out three unhatched eggs.  One exploded in the water.  Moved the next to the middle of the lake.
Cut down some trees at the home site, hauled brush and sprayed a lot of poison ivy.  Returned home very tired.

July 6
I went down to the levee because it hadn't rained in several days.  The fields had dried out and I was able to recover all of my lost arrows from the recent bowfishing outings.  Unexpectedly, I saw quite a few fish in the diverted Dead Dog Creek. An idea began to develop: I had kayaked that creek before, and I really wanted to shoot a fish from my kayak.  I went home and began preparing.  Put all the bowfishing stuff in my kayak crate and added a few other things I thought I might need, like a gaff and a fish whacker (small baseball bat).  I packed some food, gatorade and water, loaded the kayak in my truck and went down to the river.  The alternative launch site was blocked so I had to launch at the proper launch ramp.  That meant a longer paddle on the river before I got into the creek, but I suppose the workout was good for me.  Plus, on the way I found a boat cushion hung up on some driftwood.  I paddled slowly into the creek, but didn't see anything for awhile.  I saw then that I was spooking some fish.  I was stalking a common carp in the weeds when a gar suddenly appeared right next to the boat, so I drilled him.  Success!  I continued along the creek, spooking a lot of fish.  I learned that I needed to stay on the right side of the waterway because, as a right-hander, it is natural to shoot to the left.  I let the wind push me along when possible, or paddled a bit and coasted slowly as long as I could.  Finally, I figured out that if I turned around with my knees in the seat, facing backward, I could sit up on my knees, and get a better view and and easier draw of the bow.  I could put the bow on the crate, paddle the kayak backwards, and lay the paddle down when a shot presented.

Suddenly, a couple of Asian carp drifted by on my left.  I shot one right through the head. I used the fishwhacker to make sure he didn't recover.  I knew there were a lot of fish around a culvert that drains the refuge, so I waited there a bit.  I shot a common carp (I think) but it got off before I could pull the arrow back in.  I paddled all the way down to Route B, but before I got there I spotted a common carp rooting around the bank.  I set up the perfect drift, drew my bow and took the shot when I reached the right distance.  I drilled him through the side and, man, he fought hard.  When I got him to the side of the boat I gaffed him, which was fortunate because the arrow pulled out at the same time.  He measured 23 inches, which is a decent size.  I had been having trouble with common carp, as their thick scales were preventing my arrow from penetrating very far and I hadn't been able to land one.  I had modified the current arrow by cutting down the barbs.  I think it did help.  The best part was that I had turned on my video camera (mounted to the bow) before the shot, and this was the first time I was able to capture the entire sequence.

I shot no more on the way back down the creek, presumably because the fish were fairly spooked.  I could have shot a lot more gar, but they are among few natives in this group.  I turned up the Fenway canal and paddled down it awhile, but didn't see much.  I turned around at the fence indicating the end of the Army Corps property. I hadn't gone far when I spotted a big-scaled fish rooting around the bank.  By this time my knees were killing me, so I was sitting in the kayak in the conventional fashion. I hit the fish and it exploded out of the water.  I think it was a buffalo, but it got off the arrow so I was unable to examine it.  I'll check the video for confirmation. At one point, a frog jumped off the bank next to me.  That reminded me that bullfrogs were in season, and archery is a legal means to take them.  Not much later I spotted a frog on the bank.  It didn't look that big, but I was very close so I decided to shoot.  It was sitting on rocks and I didn't want to break my arrow so I shortened my draw a bit.  I hit it dead center, and when it jumped, it looked much bigger.  i got him in the boat and whacked his head.  I put him in the hull to make sure he didn't jump out.  I saw a couple more, but one was too small, and the other got away while I was positioning the kayak.

I took one more trip up the creek but got no more fish.  They were very spooky and I didn't get even a decent look at one, except when the silver carp spooked and jumped out of the water.  One did that right next to me and scared me thoroughly. I paddled back to the launch ramp and went home. I got the frog cleaned, unpacked, got the kayak put away and showered before Savannah came over to visit.  I sauteed the frog legs the next day for lunch.  They were delicious.

July 10
I went out to Lowell's again, but rather than work, we fished.  Things started out a bit slow, then the fish started biting--at least for me.  I ended up catching twenty-something largemouth bass and five crappies.  5 of the bass were lunkers, not the common foot-longers.  The biggest was 17 inches, which makes it about three pounds.  We put the smallest of the bass into the catfish pond to knock down the bluegill population.  I filleted the foot-longers, the crappies and the two bluegill that Lowell had caught.  The lunkers went back into the lake so we can catch them again after they grow bigger.  This was the perfect preliminary to my birthday when...

July 11
We went to St. Louis with the NCCC team.  Our first stop was the Zoo, which hadn't changed much since I was there last, except that the insectarium and the penguin exhibit are now free.  They remodeled the entrance as well, and landscaped it with native plants.  From there we spit into two groups.  Stacey took a couple of them to the art museum, while I took the larger group to the City Museum.  The place defies description, so I suggest you click on the link to learn about it.  It's a dream come true for children, with lots of places to climb around in.  It's all made of recycled stuff and built in an old warehouse.  I didn't expect it to be so neat looking.  There are lots of tile mosaics, carvings and other elements that give it a fantastical look.  I crawled through lots of caves, tubes and cages with people thirty years younger than me.  We met up with the other group at an Imo's pizza (which did not impress me much) then went on to the Gateway Arch.  Stacey and I had been in it recently so we waited outside and swatted mosquitos.  The drive home was uneventful until we got to Hannibal, when it began to rain.  It really got interesting between Palmyra and Taylor, when it poured down so hard that I had to slow down to a crawl just to see the road.  We had three inches in the rain gauge from that one day.

 July 13
We were having a going-away dinner with the NCCC team at the Christian Church. A big storm moved in and we watched it for awhile.  When the wind came up, we went indoors.  Then the rain hit and the electricity went out.  We ate pizza by candle light.  By the time Stacey and I got home, we had power.  Quincy was hit really hard, with trees down all over and a lot of houses and cars squished.  QU was closed for a few days and lots of people had no electricity for a long time.  It was a mess.  I spent the next several days cutting firewood from downed trees. It was a good workout.  I got Racin to help me one day.  Geez, we almost died from the heat.

July 23 Bowfishing
I took the kayak out for a bowfishing experiment.  The fields were dry, but the canals were full, so I headed up the Fenway canal.  I shot a bullfrog right away, and was happy with that, but I didn't see a shootable fish for quite a way.  After that they became abundant, however.  The common carp were lolling in the shallows.  The Asian carp were suspended in the center of the canal.  Though the water was murky, their white lips and eyes made pale, ghostly faces as they hung near the surface, constantly pumping water into their mouths and out their gills.  These made easy targets, as I was able to glide in very close to them.  I ended up with 14 Asian carp, 3 common carp and two bullfrogs.  At the end a bunch of silver carp were jumping near the bridge.  I tried to shoot them, but it's really hard.  There is so little time to draw and aim before they disappear below the surface.  I got some good video though, as they jumped over and even into my boat. I had to wash the kayak thoroughly to get all the blood and slime off.

July 24 Friday
I met Racin at the Quincy airport that night to pick up his Mom and Dad, my brother Mike and sister-in-law Cindy.  So began the week of adventure.

July 25 Saturday
We went to Hannibal for a Luau to benefit Stacey's agency.  Savannah and Racin came with us.  There was a whole, roasted pig, and it did taste good.  There was live music, and we danced to the classic rock. Savannah won hula hoop contest by a large margin and won a pencil. I entered the limbo contest but didn't make it far.  It was a fun night.

July 26 Sunday
Mike, Cindy and Racin went to see his room and stuff.

July 27 Monday
We went to Nauvoo to see all the tourist attractions, which I'd never done.  We liked the blacksmith best.  We all got a ring made from a horseshoe nail.  We also saw the tinsmith shop and the Browning Museum.

July 28 Tuesday
Quincy, Went to see the Kroc Center with Racin.

July 29 Wed
Mike did S10 maintenance,  then we worked on the Honda CT-70.

July 30 Thursday
We went to Hannibal, saw the lighthouse, Molly Brown and Mark Twain museums, and Lover's Leap. Went BBQ dinner.

July 31 Friday
We had breakfast for lunch at the 18 Wheeler, then to the airport to send them off.

Photos below.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June 2015

It has been a most eventful, and drenching, month.

One highlight was kayaking the Wyaconda River again, this time with my nephew Racin.  This was his first float of a stream in a kayak.  At 10 miles, it is a good introduction to the sport.  There was relatively high water, and so none of the usual pulling through shallows.  Instead, there were some fun rapids.  It happened to be a cool, overcast day as well.  We saw eagles and their nest, swallows, turkeys, wood ducks, deer, and a cuckoo.  On a gravel bar I found a nice coral fossil, while Racin picked up a cool geode.  Some flowers were in bloom and the gnarled trees on the banks were interesting.  When we rounded the corner into the Mississippi River, it was into the teeth of the wind.  Said wind was in opposition to the current, resulting in whitecaps on the water.  Some jumping Asian carp added to the excitement.  We had lunch at the Riverfront diner.  At this writing, the rainfall has caused the Wyaconda River to come up so much that it is not safe to float it.

One Saturday Stacey and I took the dogs down to the dog park in Hannibal.  Though there were wet spots on the greens, the dogs had fun.  There's a partial agility course there, and I was able to get Isabel to run through the tube, jump through the hoop, and jump over the bar.  Gretchen layed down in a big mud puddle.

I've had some good days of insect photography.  There was a huge bloom of Great Spangled Fritillaries this year.  Though I'm not sure I have the definitive photo yet, I am at least inching closer.  The dragonflies have been really abundant, and I got a great sequence for the Spangled Skimmer: male, female, both mating, and female ovipositing.

I spent a day at Henry Sever Conservation Area with the LaGrange Garden Club.  It was the first time I'd been there without fishing the lake.  We got a tour by our member and conservation biologist John Pinkowski.  I learned some new plants and some new quail habitat strategies.

One evening I was invited by my friend John to fish a lake that holds some big bass.  I get this opportunity a couple times a summer.  It's my best chance of landing a 5-lb bass all year.  I didn't catch one that big, but it was great just hanging out with John and Steve.  The bonus was at sunset when Steve set some corn on his squirrel feeders and the flying squirrels came sailing in.  I got some decent photos of them, using flash, of course.

I've been out to Lowell's a couple of times to begin cutting firewood and do some fishing.  The fishing has been good, and the average size of bass seems to be going up.  I loaded the trailer with firewood and my truck got stuck in the mud, in spite of 4-wheel drive.  Lowell pulled me out with his tractor.  Things got more interesting on the way home.  I saw smoke in the rear view mirror and pulled over.  The trailer was overloaded and the tires were rubbing the fenders.  I drove to the nearby Baptist Church's big parking lot, and a tire blew on the way.  I got it changed, but the spare was low on air, and I didn't think I'd make it home.  I called Lowell, who I knew was out mowing, and Bob, who came pretty quickly.  I put as much wood as I could in the bed of the truck, drove back to Lowell's, dropped the trailer there and went home.

The next time out was when we took the NCCC team fishing.  These are Americorps volunteers in their early 20s.  I had replaced the bad tire.  We put more of the wood in the bed of the truck and hauled the trailer home without mishap.  I did some work on it after that.  The NCCC kids had a good time fishing.  The fish were really biting, and I think everyone caught at least one.  We grilled hot dogs and had a nice bonfire.  As Racin and I were driving home a huge thunderstorm was moving in.  We had great views of the storm front and lightning on the way home, but were spared any difficulty.

Big BAM finally came to town.  The first bicycle across Missouri tour was held, and Canton was to be the last stop.  I am not only on the Canton Tourism Commission, I was the Project Leader for local arrangements for BAM. We have been planning this since last fall.  I had designed a really cool finish line at the riverfront, where people could dip their wheel in the Mississippi, see their friends cross, then walk over our levee walk to the venue with the beer garden, vendor area and bandstand.  Nothing happened the way we planned.  Heavy rains had flooded many of the area roads.  The cyclists would have had to ride 160 miles (instead of 80) to make it to Canton, so the tour organizers bused them all in.  Of course, those who were able just went home from the previous stop (Kirksville).  Most of the people who had vehicles parked in Canton just went home.  That left us with the handful that had to stay in Canton until the bus left the next morning.  Rain was forecast for pretty much all day, so we canceled all the vendors.  The bandstand that had been ordered didn't have a roof, so we couldn't have the concert in the planned lot.  Stacey saved the day by agreeing to have the bands play in the Lewis Street Playhouse.  I was kept busy running errands (fetching allen wrenches, storing people's bikes in my garage, etc.)  Some bicyclists did come, and locals as well.  We didn't exactly fill the playhouse, but it was a good show.  Racin and I particularly liked this group called Clockwork from St. Louis.  The next day, we went around and picked up trash.  There wasn't much.  There had been a lot more when we cleaned up the lot earlier in the week.  The conservation area, where the finish line was supposed to be, was under water by then.

The only upside to all the rainfall has been that the flooded fields have produced excellent bowfishing, as big fish from the Mississippi River (Asian, common and grass carp, gar, buffalo) swim out into the shallows for food and spawning grounds. One of my students had set a personal best, shooting 41 in a single day.  He's hardcore.  I shot a few Asian carp on my first few outings, but I had some technical difficulties.  I stopped at Butch's in Palmyra to get a new bowstring and arrow.  I still use my old Bear Grizzly recurve.  I bought it for $35 when I was about 17.  It turns out they still make it.  It sells for $339 at Cabela's.  I took Racin out for a little while.  I don't think he'd seen bowfishing before.  I shot one pretty quickly, which was exciting.  We watched a gar swim to the shore right in front of us.  It was slurping beetle larvae off the surface.  There were also lots of baby gar in the water.  They're so damned cute. I went out a few more times, had more technical difficulties, but still pulled out an 11-fish day.  I rigged up my action cam on my bow, but I never landed a fish while it was running.  The batteries were dead while I had my best run of luck. So my "greatest hits" video can be no better than two fish that were hit but not hauled in.

We've had a photo show on display at the Keokuk library all month.  This was our third year of this event.  It's fun and we all eat dinner together on the opening night.  We took our photos down on the 30th and had dinner again.
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Once the school year was done I started getting things fixed, one of which was my boat.  It wasn't cheap, but now it runs and I can sell it more easily.  It is on consignment at J&J Marine in Quincy.  I also got the Honda 70 fixed.  I was going to use it to run around town during Big BAM, but that didn't work out.  I haven't had much opportunity to ride my big motorcycle either.  Too much rain.  The dogs get filthy almost immediately after each bath, and every time we let them out we have to wipe 16 feet when we let them in.  Still, it's a challenge to keep the house, especially the floors, clean.

Please FOLLOW my blog by clicking on the appropriate button (should be up and to the right).  Just noticed today I had NO followers, and that's depressing.  Most people read it when I publish it on Facebook.




Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May 2015

May went by like a whirlwind.  The semester wound down and I kept taking my class out for birding.  We saw a lot of nice species, like Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Scarlet Tanager.  It was one of the best years ever for Vertebrate Field Biology.  Finals week was hairy, with numbers of students taking exams early or late for various reasons.  Graduation day came and the year was finally over.

Racin and I took time between exams for salvage operations.  We scavenged materials from campus dumpsters thrown out by students in a hurry to move out.  He got a lot of stuff to outfit his new dorm room.

It seems like I should have endless days with nothing scheduled, but things just keep taking up my time.  Stacey had to go to Columbia one day for a training, so I went along for the ride.  I spent the time in Bass Pro Shop.  I had crazy number of points on my credit card, which allowed me a small shopping spree.  I got a nice reel and a fishfinder for my kayak.

Stacey, Savannah and I went back to Columbia for the Pedaler's Jamboree on Memorial Day weekend.  We parked the RV at a campground in Boonville and spent Friday night there.  Saturday morning Savannah and I took the Egg with our bikes to Columbia and parked in a parking garage.  We reassembled our bikes and began the Pedaler's Jamboree.  There were a lot of people at the start.  We're not used to riding in crowds!  The MKT trail was beautiful, following a small stream through town and covered by a tunnel of overarching trees.  At the turn onto the Katy Trail was the first band, an acoustic trio.  We listened for a while, then went on our way.

We were already seeing some interesting people.  I hardly know where to start.  There was team NumbNutz, with their green jersey's featuring a drunken Mr. Peanut and their fright wigs.  There were people in party hats, one pulling a trailer that was blasting music from an amp.  Actually, lots of people were playing music, but one guy, apparently an engineer, had a microphone set up so he could sing karaoke while biking.  Team turtle had matching jerseys and a turtle plush toy attached to the top of each helmet. Silly hats and costumes abounded.One guy was in full hipster mode, with a tweed jacket, pants and matching fedora.

I had worn a biking jersey that I've had for years, made by Primal Ware.  It features an insect with a moustache and wings coming out of its head.  I got a lot of compliments on it.  Then I hear a guy coming up behind me and he starts saying, "Bzzzzz."  I thought he was just commenting on my shirt, then I looked over and he was riding a bee bicycle.  It was an old near-junker and they had made a big bee head to mount on the handlebars and an abdomen on the rear.  It was pretty cool.  His partner had a similar affair in the form of a tiger.

Katfish Katy's was the first place we could actually buy beer.  We got our first taste of Bur Oak,a local craft brew.  Savannah had the wheat and I had the IPA.  Delicious.  We watched a one-man-band namned AJ Gaither, and he was really good.  He had a home-made, 4-string electric cigar box guitar.  A little farther down the trail I overheard some people talking about a "big tree."  We could see it a short way down a side road so we went down and took some photos.  Later we learned that not only is it the State Champion Bur Oak, but it is the one featured on the beer can!

We made other stops at Rocheport and New Franklin.  Some of the bands were really good, like Tyrannosaurus Chicken.  The only dull part was the second-to-last leg of the trip, a long, flat straight path through the corn fields that never seemed to end. The whole trail was rather flat, except for a few levees we had to cross.  That is, until the end, when we crossed the Missouri River at Boonville over a big bridge.  We came to the end of the ride and there were food vendors and more strange people.  We at burgers and hung around until the first band started.  They weren't that great and we did not bring seats so it was rather uncomfortable on the grass.  We decided to head out after the band finished.  Sadly, it was almost all uphill to the campground and it was killing us.  We both had really sore butts by the end.  I think 32 miles might have been a personal best for Savannah.  When we got back to the RV we just crashed.

The next day we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some more Augie's Barbecue Sauce, which features a lovely German Shepherd on the label.  It's made in Boonville and probably available nowhere else.  Sadly, we could not find Bur Oak Beer.

I found out that they're having another Pedaler's Jamboree in Iowa.  It's a similar type of event, but the mileage is longer.  We have begun training.

Link to Pedaler's Jamboree photos and videos:
https://goo.gl/photos/4Ei2qXPgSXRPnWCE8

May wildlife photos:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 2015

Easter gave us a 4-day weekend.  Racin came over and we spent some time on photography and getting my old boat out of mothballs.  The weather was nice and the dogs stayed outside a lot.  Savannah came over for Easter lunch and brought her German Shepherd puppy Max.  Isabel played with him very nicely after a brief re-acquaintance period.

We'd been having problems with the oven.  It would not turn off unless we unplugged it, so Stacey took the Easter food down to the at-that-time vacant Jamison apartment to cook.  She needed the stovetop at home so I plugged in the range before Racin and I went out for a photo expedition.  She called as we were returning.  Apparently, the oven had turned on as soon as I'd plugged it in, filling the house with smoke.  We ventilated the house and unplugged it again.  Replacing the circuit board later fixed it.

We had a nice weekend camping at Wakonda State Park for our anniversary.  We got into the upper campground this time, which has big camp sites right on the water.  The fishing wasn't that great, but all the dogs got swimming lessons.  The Sisters of Chaos did very well, swimming out into the shallows for treats.  Gretchen did her usual act of attacking the lake, and Miss Kitty refused to get in.  All but Kitty also got kayak rides, which they apparently enjoyed.

I went fishing out at Lowell's mostly to collect enough fish to stock my future pond.  The bite was red hot, with the crappie and bluegill hitting hard on plastic grubs.  I called Racin to come out and join us.   We put about 20 bluegills and 10 bass in my pond, while Lowell kept the crappie for a future fish fry.  We returned two days later and the bite was still good.  We were using live bait, and some of the bluegills were deeply hooked and had to be filleted.  Lowell feeds the fish in this pond, mostly for the catfish, but the bluegills also benefit, and have grown quite large.

I went morel hunting three or four times out at Lowell's, and visited the spots that had produced really well in the past. I came up empty every time, except for one false morel that I left right there.  I want to train one of the dogs to hunt mushrooms, but I needed a mushroom to train her with.  Fortunately, one of my students obtained several and gave me one.  Lessons have commenced. I've never trained a dog to scent before, so this should be an adventure.  Too bad I have to wait a year to try her out.  I have been training Isabel to jump for awhile.  I had Racin shoot some photos as I had her jumping outside.  She sure is nimble.

We had a Dog Day at QU, with area law enforcement agencies bringing their K9 units to demonstrate drug sniffing, article search, and bitework.  I love that word: bitework.  The guy in the bite suit was a big dude, but the dogs still got to him, even through the suit.  He had bruises and broken skin on his upper arm.  It was a fun event.  I learned a lot and got some good photographs.

I've had a glorious time in Vertebrate Field Biology.  We've seen a lot of species this semester, and there's been a surprise 'bonus bird' at almost every location.  We've seen more warblers than probably any previous class, including the Northern Parula, a life bird for me.  I took a couple of my students to do stream team.  It was warm, but we found a lot of bugs in the stream.  It was a good afternoon out.

In other news: Savannah and Josh have gotten a second dog, another German Shepherd Puppy.  There are only two weeks left in the semester.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

March 2015

My buddy Chuck once said something like, "Whenever I get a chance to load up on sweet water, I take it."  I should have remembered that on Thursday of Spring Break.  We went out to Wakonda State Park.  The water at the camp sites was still turned off for the winter, so I took the Minnie Winnie back to the ranger station to fill up.  Upon my return (and hooking everything back up), Stacey started dinner.  The water came out of the faucet orange with rust.  We must have been the first to use the water spigot this year.  I went back in the morning to see if it was perhaps running clear (after 30 gallons that were now in the RV), but it was still rusty.  I dumped the water and we went home.  At least it was a successful experiment in taking all the dogs camping for one night.  I flushed the system with clean water from home.  Lesson learned!

We were also disappointed to learn that a mining company has just built a huge apparatus directly across the lake from the campground.  It's ugly and will almost certainly be noisy when in operation.  What a sad turn of events for an otherwise lovely park.

With the addition of dogs to our pack, especially the very active Sisters of Chaos, the back yard has taken a beating.  The changing of the seasons and the action of many dog feet have created massive bare spaces, which become mud when it rains.  Any grass seeds I plant would also be trampled, hence, I fenced the back yard temporarily in half.  I'm keeping them off of the north side, which I have cleared and seeded.  Once it recovers, I'll switch them and try to get the south side recovered as well.  We call this strategy rotational trampling.  They still have plenty of room to run, and I've gotten some good photos of them frolicking.

Racin and I took a day out of our spring break to go out and shoot clays.  Lowell graciously provided the venue.  I hadn't done this in many years.  My shotgun technique was rusty, but I climbed up my learning curve quickly.  Racin got to work out his 12 gauge.  We also did a short bike ride around Canton, which was a nice, gentle break-in to our legs for the season.

I've been taking my class around to different places.  South Park has provided the best photography of birds.  At one point there were over 50 mallards there, plus some bonus ducks like a pair of canvasbacks.  Winter has broken, and we are enjoying the sight of more migrant birds coming through.

One up side to the time change is that sometimes I leave for work before sunrise, and I can take a few minutes to photograph it.  The River and the waterfowl can make for some interesting results.  I had some success with this last year, and got a couple of more good ones recently.

The apricot wine that Savannah and I started last fall was finally ready, so I bottled it one day.  It turned out to be fairly tasty.

I gave two talks this month, one for the Gardener's Palette, a new venue for me.  My talk was well received (Landscaping for birds), and I learned a lot from other talks.  The other was for POLIS, the educational series for seniors, where I talked about wildlife a Costa Rica.  It was very light, mostly showing photos of animals.

We went to Indiana to celebrate Stacey's Mom's birthday.  I won't give away her age, but it was a significant multiple of 10.  We took the RV, pulling the Lil Egg.  Savannah and the 4 dogs came along.  The drive out was not too difficult.  We parked the RV in Krystal's spacious yard, and had water and electricity hooked up shortly.  The night turned out really cold, and the water hose froze.  The expanding ice broke the nice water filter that I had gotten from our friend Aaron when he sold his 5th wheel.  I had a 5-gallon water carrier that I used to partly fill the tank.  Later we found out Krystal's well water has a lot of iron in it, making it undrinkable and blocking the aerators with iron filings.  So it was another adventure in water problems.

I stayed with the dogs while the ladies got haircuts and manicures.  I hung out with the dogs in the RV, reading and playing charango.  We went out to dinner at a nice place in Brownsburg, Boulder Creek.  I sat next to Jule, the exchange student from Germany, who was interesting to talk to.  I shot the sunrise on Sunday morning, and we went to have breakfast with Stacey's Dad and stepmom.  The dogs got to run in their back yard, which they thoroughly enjoyed, having been kept on leads or in the RV for the previous 2 days.  The drive back was painful, as it was windy the whole way, and rainy part of the way.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

February 2015 -- hard winter

Winter returned with a vengeance after a mild period.  We ended up burning all of our wood for the year.  If not for the time we were in England, when the house was running on gas, we would have run out too soon.  I scooped out all the bark and dirt from the old dog kennel where we keep our firewood and put actual dogs in it, at least for a few hours, one day.

With the cold weather the birds have been hitting our feeders hard.  I figured out that some of them would come to the feeder even if I were standing nearby.  So I stood out there and photographed birds close-up, and with no intervening window glass.  The results are nice and crisp.  One day while driving into work there was an enormous flock of snow geese landing in the fields near West Quincy.  I pulled over and took some photos.  There must have been hundreds of thousands.  I also learned where the Trumpeter swans hang out, and got some shots of them flying in.

Having these dogs is like living with a cast of cartoon characters.  They're always cracking us up with their antics.  They are also, without exception, quite affectionate.  We love them to bits.  Still, they come with challenges.  Every one has been to the vet in the past month.  First, Kitty.  She was peeing pink, which I diagnosed as a urinary tract infection.  They gave her antibiotics, which made her vomit and poop constantly, poor thing.  She threw up at 1 a.m. on a Sunday, and I found some large, active nematodes in her partially digested food.  So everybody got dewormed and heartworm tested.  They also took her off the antibiotics.  The sisters were spayed, and Isabel had her hernia repaired while they were at it--all on their first birthday.  Gretchen had her teeth cleaned and an epulus removed.  They're all good now, but it has been trying.

It's been the automobile shuffle here, as I bought a 2014 Ford C-max hybrid.  I enjoy its high-tech features.  I kept the Lil Egg to be towed by the RV when we're camping.  Meanwhile, Savannah bought a used Jeep Liberty so I sold the Taurus she has been driving for the past several years.  So I had no net change in number of vehicles.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

January 2015 -- London and Scotland

The day finally arrived for our trip to London.  Though I was to be a faculty chaperone on this one, I had bought a spot for Stacey for our anniversary last year.  I keep saying that it counts for at least two anniversary gifts.  So we loaded up the Lil Egg on New Year's Day and the radio quit before we got out of the driveway.  We listened to my phone's music the whole way.  We found our group of students at the airport in Chicago, checked in, and after the usual waiting about, flew away across the Atlantic.  I tried to sleep a bit, but I also watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  A little boy behind me was kicking my seat the whole way.

We met Megan Boccardi, History prof. and group leader of the trip, at Heathrow airport, and we all took a train into London.  We checked into the hotel and took the tube downtown.  We saw some of the sights there, like Big Ben and The Eye.  The students took lots of pictures.  That night we went back for a turn in The Eye, which is a giant Ferris wheel.  Each car is a big enclosed bubble, so that the weather is not a factor.  It gives you a good view of the city, which is pretty at night.

Saturday is market day at Portobello Road, so that's where we went.  I don't think I bought anything, but Stacey picked up a few gifts.  It's just neat to see everything.  It rained most of the time.

The next day we took a guided walking tour of the downtown sights.  It was supposed to be two hours, but ended up being four. So we got our money's worth, but it was quite a walk. Stacey's pedometer recorded over 19000 steps. We learned a lot and saw a lot, including things I had not seen/learned last year, like Florence Nightingale's Museum.  We had lunch at a quaint pub, where I had Shepherd's Pie and the first of many ales. That night we went to Picadilly Circus, which is kind of like Times Square.  There are some cool stores and the big screens on the buildings are bright and colorful.

Monday we went to the Tower of London.  This time I got to see the store of arms.  They had lots of cool suits of armor, even for horses, and Henry VIII's armor from the fat period of his career.  There were some huge swords too.  I know they're just ceremonial, but they had to be the inspiration for the insanely long ones used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  We got a boat ride up and down the Thames that day to get us back and forth.  We toured the Tower Bridge at night, which was neat.  The new transparent floor section on top is kind of scary, as it's a long way down.  I enjoyed seeing the old engine room, which they used to raise and lower the center section.

Tuesday morning we toured Churchill's War Rooms.  They're interesting, but I'd seen them last year.  I got out a little early, so I quickly walked around the path in Regent's Park and photographed every bird I saw.  We had the afternoon to ourselves, and Stacey and I chose to go to the Zoo.  We took the tube to the correct station, but could not find the right bus to take us around the park to the Zoo entrance.  We walked instead, which would have been OK if it had not been raining.  Again.  The great thing was that there was no one else at the zoo!  No lines or hassles.  It is quite a nice zoo, and I saw some things that were new to me.

Wednesday was our bus trip to Stonehenge.  A lot had changed since last year.  They had put up some huts that would have been typical of the period, and a fake stone on a cart that you could try to push.  We stopped at Avebury, which has an even larger stone circle than Stonehenge, though the stones are unfinished.  It's so big that there are several buildings within the circle, including a pub.  Within the pub is a well, into which it is thought one of the previous owners had thrown his wife.  We stopped by Oxford for a brief tour.  Stacey and I ate at the Brown Cafe, but after looking around the place I realized it was owned by some Portuguese guys.  They were a little surprised when I said, "Muito obrigado" on the way out.  Oxford University was old, traditional, cold and damp.  Our University President went there.  I can't imagine a place more different from UC Riverside, where I attended.

Thursday morning we went to St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millenium Bridge. We stopped at Twinings to stock up on tea, and had lunch at the Old Bank of England (now a pub). Our afternoon was free.  Stacey and I went to the Natural History Museum.  It was really impressive, containing things you just don't see everywhere, like collections from Darwin and Wallace, and one of the few Archaopteryx fossils. The fossils in general were awesome.  They had a whole wall of Plesiosaurs, and some of the American megafauna, like a ground sloth.  The taxidermic mounts of the extinct birds is always a bit depressing.

Friday morning we left early for Kings Cross Station, met our guide and caught the train to Scotland.  Stacey and I actually glimpsed of Hadrian's Wall on the way.  When we got to Edinburgh we got on a bus for a short tour of the city.  Our guide Robin played the bagpipes at Holyrood House.  We went to our lodging, which was a Bed & Breakfast that was not exactly in the center of town.

Saturday was our bus tour of Scotland.  There had been a fairly serious storm, with high winds, and it had knocked out the electricity to the castle that we were supposed to tour.  Consequently, we spent all day on the bus, with short stops at various places.  Of course, we had an hour to burn in a small town on the shores of Loch Ness, but there was very little to see or do there.  We went down to take our photo by the Loch and it was blowing sleet harder than I've ever seen.  My eyes were burning from the tiny balls of ice pinging off my face.  We saw the Three Sisters mountains as well as Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain. We caught a glimpse of the castle used by the French taunters in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I kind of fell in love with all the sheep.  They look so pastoral on the green hillsides.  I saw about three life birds, including the Crested Tit, Chaffinch, and Hooded Crow.

Sunday morning Stacey and I walked all the way to Edinburgh Castle to take the tour.  Again, it was raining, and hardly anyone was there.  The big cannon, Mons Meg, was one of my favorite sights, and it was cool to see the Stone of Destiny, just as I remembered it from that episode of The Highlander.  We got back on the train and returned to London.

We got up early Monday morning and took the express to Heathrow.  Two little girls were sitting behind me on the plane.  They kicked my seat all the way back to the USA.  I watched a few movies, but couldn't get much sleep.  We were late getting in, so we ended up having to drive in Chicago rush hour traffic.  In the dark.  After being up for 16 hours.  Eventually, we found our way out of the city.  Some of the students were unable to catch the Amtrak, and we gave one a ride back to Keokuk, which was on the way home anyway.  We got in late after being up about 24 hours.  We were sure happy to see our puppies again.