Well, we survived the coldest week this area's seen since the last century (1996 to be exact). On our way to work yesterday morning, the truck thermometer registered -30 degrees! But yesterday's "official" low was -26. This morning when we left the house to do our weekly grocery shopping and errands, the temperature was almost 20 degrees (above zero!) -- it's amazing what a difference 50 degrees makes!
We're all surviving the Manpower "work reduction" at work with everyone pitching in all over the place. Mr. Johnson's "official" request to use me as additional help in his extremely short-handed work area was denied--the PO that pays me is not the same PO that pays his Manpower employees. Well, I'm sorry, but that's a load of BS as far as I'm concerned.....and I'm not going to stand my and watch my husband stress out when I can do something about it! So my solution has been to get as much work done in my area in the mornings and then I go down and help him out for a couple of hours after lunch. The job was fairly quick and easy to learn ("so easy a monkey could do it" according to the always complimentary Mr. Johnson!). I'm happy that I'm able to help out and he's relieved that they're keeping up with the workload pretty well. (His manager showed up unexpectedly the other day while I was down there working, but when Mr. Johnson called to admit what was going on, the manager's response was "I don't know what you're talking about, because I didn't see a thing." Whew, what a relief!)
The biggest problem with this whole process is that we're going in to work later and therefore getting home almost an hour later than what I'm used to, so I'm having a really hard time getting stuff done anymore. It seems like I've barely gotten home and it's 5:00 and time to start supper. And because I'm really not used to working quite so hard, I'm generally asleep on the couch by 8:30 (or maybe I can blame it on the cold weather?) Anyway, my blogging activities have suffered, so this is going to be an extra long post, just in case I don't have a chance to get another one ready in the next week.
Does anybody out there have some good pellet ID skillz? I found these two in one of my ground feeder trays this afternoon. The biggest one is about as big around as my index finger and they appear to be made up of mainly seeds and seed shells. I'm pretty sure the possums are not responsible for these because it's been too cold lately for them to venture out. I sometimes see the crows sitting and picking seeds from this tray. Does anyone know whether crows will cough up a pellet?
Here's a look at the bigger pellet broken in half. There's a whole sunflower heart in there along with all the other partial stuff. I always associate pellets with owls, but owls don't eat seeds, do they? Another backyard mystery......
Here's a fun picture. I bought this big mineral block for the deer that visit my backyard. Of course, the deer have shown no interest in it whatsoever, but the birds really seem to like it. It's not unusual to see sparrows and juncos perched on top picking at it, but I was surpised to see this Red-Bellied Woodpecker clinging to the side and pecking at it also. (See all those sticks in the background? I started trimming my apple trees a couple weeks ago and just threw the trimmings on the ground until the snow melts. The bunnies are really enjoying chewing on these as you can see from the lighter colored portions where they've nibbled all the bark off.)
I got a nice e-mail from Julie (October Eves blog) yesterday wondering if I had any good book recommendations and here are a couple I've enjoyed lately. If you're interested in reading another good book about life in Alaska, check out Heather Lende's "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name," about daily life and residents in Haines, Alaska. If you were a fan of the "Northern Exposure" TV series a few years back, then you will definitely enjoy this book.
I'm currently reading "In Beauty May She Walk" by Leslie Mass. This is Leslie's story about hiking the Appalachian Trail at age 60. I'm really enjoying this book. Hiking the entire AT is not for sissies or slackers and it's interesting to read about her experiences during this hike. I'm not sure I could do it--her descriptions of the trail sound very similar to some of the trails I hike getting to my deer hunting stands and imagining myself hiking those trails with a 45-pound backpack all day long seems pretty overwhelming. But I truly admire the fact that she's an older woman and taking on the physical and mental challenge of this hike and sharing it with the rest of us.
As soon as I'm finished with "In Beauty May She Walk," the story of "Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat" is waiting for me. This was another recommendation from Amazon and I can't wait to start it! (Cute cover, don't you think?)
My birdJam software was delivered a couple weeks ago. I also ordered a little external speaker with a rechargable battery that I can just plug my iPod into if I want to play the birdsongs for someone else or to try attracting birds in the field. Unfortunately, everything's still sitting in the box on my desk until I find some time to sit down and read the instructions for loading everything onto my iPod.
Here's a fun picture of Sophie enjoying some afternoon sun on the couch. I think she was half asleep and didn't even realize I was taking a picture of her.
I'm about half done knitting Sophie's sweater -- I got some dirty looks this past week when it was so cold and she was wishing she could wear it! I'm not going to have enough yarn to finish it, so I'll have to check sometime this week and see if I can buy another skein that's close to matching this dye lot.
I've finished a couple of other projects in the last couple weeks also (one of my New Year's resolutions was to finish at least 2 "old" projects every month). Here's that stupid scarf I've been working on for 4 years! I do not like this scarf and forced myself to finally finish it. I hope the person I was knitting it for still wants it! After I got it washed and hung up to dry, I noticed an "irregularity" in the pattern that made me dislike this scarf even more. (If you click on this picture to enlarge it, you may be able to notice the irregularity also, but if you don't, then that makes me feel better!)
I finished this afghan too. It's huge and very warm and I hope to donate it to an elderly couple in Rochester whose home burned to the ground last Thursday.
I also want to send special congratulations along to two of my blogging friends: Troutbirder and Richard (At the Water). In the January/February issue of Minnesota Birding that just arrived in my mailbox today, I was pleasantly surprised to see that both of them had bird photos published. Way to go, guys!
Well, that's pretty much all that's been going on in my life for the last week. I hope you're all staying warm and for all you folks in the eastern U.S. who are still shivering, I want to assure you that warmer weather IS on the way!