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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.