Sunday, September 30, 2007

Trail Camera Highlights

I finally had the time to go out with Rick and check how many pictures we had on the trail camera near our deer hunting area. It's been out there since Sept. 16 and since I haven't showed Rick how it works yet (he's a good deer hunter, but stumped by technological stuff--except the TV and DVD remote) I still need to make the trip out there to open the camera, reset the picture counter, and exchange the compactflash card.

There weren't as many pictures on there as I thought there would be for the 2 week time period, but still a fair amount of activity. This area is kind of a crossroads for 3 distinct deer trails and right on the edge of their big cornfield feeding area. The deer using the trail most frequently are mostly does and fawns, but we did get pictures of a couple different bucks.

This small one (looks like a 6-pointer)

And this really nice large bodied 10-pointer

Who we thought looked very similar to this nice 8-pointer we got a picture of last year
Could it be the same buck? Note the time these photographs were taken. These big deer are smart and you very seldom see them in the daylight. We got pictures of 8 or 9 different bucks on the camera last year and never saw any of those bucks while we were out hunting.

You can see by the times printed on the pictures that these deer are moving around at all different times of the day and night.

Isn't it cool the way their eyes reflect the flash of the camera? It reminds me of "turn around bright eyes" from that old Bonnie Tyler music video for "Total Eclipse of the Heart." (remember that one?)

I've saved my favorite picture for last. See this little fawn and notice the few remaining spots on its flanks and shoulders? Now look at its posture....ears pricked forward and looking down toward something that's captured its attention. Follow the direction its looking towards.... Yup, right there in the bottom right corner of the picture.....showdown with a raccoon! I wish I had been there in person to see that! I wonder who ran away first? Looks like a pretty darn big raccoon!

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Butterfly Post

Well, I made it to the end of the quarter. This morning I got up at 2:30 to get to work by 3:30 in order to accomodate my suppliers in Italy, Czechoslovakia and Thailand. Long story short, I was out of work around 1:30 with 14 hours of OT in addition to my regular 40 for the week, but it's done. And what a great day to get home early.

I let the dogs out to run around. Sophie took off like a shot and finally came back and dashed into the house to eat her supper. As I was feeding them I noticed a horrible odor down in the shop and couldn't figure out where it was coming from, so I'm walking around sniffing and trying to figure out what stinks so bad and I finally figure's Sophie! No wonder she was gone so long, it takes a little while to find and roll in enough black, gooey raccoon poop to coat this dog's entire chin and neck! Emergency bath time. Sometimes my dogs are so gross!

Now it's time to enjoy myself on this warm, sunny afternoon by capturing some photographic images of all the butterflies that are still taking advantage of all the blooming flowers and other nectar sources in my yard.

On one of my yellowjacket traps, a very tattered mourning cloak and red admiral take advantage of whatever they can get out of this unusual nectar source.

A little later I found another mourning cloak in a little bit better condition dining at the same nectar source.

There were some sulphurs flying around also and sampling the variety of asters out in the wildflower garden.

Clouded Sulphur - Male

Clouded Sulphur - Female

Cabbage White

How about this Painted Lady? They're beautiful with their wings opened....

but I think the back side of their wings are also quite striking.

Here's a Red Admiral (with a little chunk missing out of its bottom wing)

There were also a few monarchs flying around also and I managed to net and tag another wild monarch.

While I was out there I noticed that my American Holly bushes are really loaded with red berries this year. I hope the birds enjoy these berries during the coming winter.

My highbush cranberries look like they're ready to be picked too and since I've got all next week off, that would be a perfect time to try another jelly recipe, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dad Gets an Award

Last night was the Annual Meeting and awards presentation for our Southeast Minnesota Chapter of the American Red Cross.
This meeting was originally scheduled for August, but then all the bad floods happened in our area and the chapter was too busy responding to this disaster, so the meeting was rescheduled for a month later.

Melanie introduces a photo presentation of the relief efforts our chapter provided after the floods.

Here's a little background: Dad used to be the Chairman of the Board of Directors for our chapter and during his tenure, he recruited me as a board member. I served on the board with Dad for a few years and also participated in some other volunteer activities at the chapter during that time. I got to know some of the staff pretty well and it's nice for me to stop by the chapter office and see them every once in a while (even though I don't have free time to volunteer anymore).

Melanie (who is the Executive Director of the chapter) called me a while ago to tell me they were going to present Dad with an award at the annual meeting and could I please make sure that I convinced the "parental units" to attend without divulging the surprise. I did tell Mom, since she's the person who would have to do most of the convincing.

It was an enjoyable meeting (they served BIG pieces of pie and decaf coffee and I was able to knit almost the entire time). It was good to be reminded of the Red Cross purpose and services in our area and beyond, plus fun to see some familiar faces and visit with old friends.

There were many awards given out and then it was time for Dad's award.

Here's Dad with some of the other award recipients.

The award he received is the "Lois Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award." Lois was the Executive Director of the chapter for many years and Dad worked closely with her and the chapter on many projects during his tenure with the board. However, Lois reminded us of many other things Dad did for the Red Cross over the years, including teaching many adult and kids first aid classes, and organizing disaster response guidelines for Fillmore County (many more which I can't remember just now).

So Lois is reading all this stuff about Dad and then finally gets to the point where she says, "and the Lois Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award goes to....Chuck Kaun!" Dad looked so surprised! I patted him on the back and said, "didn't you figure out what she was getting around to, Dad?"
(Sorry Lois that I didn't get a better picture than this!)

Mom and I were so happy he had agreed to come to the meeting. Dad was funny, he said, "now I know why Mom told me to put a tie on."

It was great to see Dad recognized for all his hard work over the years, even though he didn't think it was hard at the time. That's just Dad....he enjoys helping others and if he can do a little teaching along the way, that's even better.
Here Lois is explaining that they would be getting a new award since Dad's name had been spelled wrong and they didn't find that out till the awards were unpacked for the presentation yesterday afternoon.

And the other thing I found out while I was at this meeting last night is that Mom and Dad are being honored this weekend as the Grand Marshals for the Fall Fest Celebration going on in my hometown. "Geez, Mom, you should tell me this stuff in advance," I said. "Well, I wanted you to be surprised when you saw it in the newspaper," was her response.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

First Day of Autumn

September 24 - the first full day of autumn and it was a humid 84 degrees outside. I sincerely hope this was the last day for 2007 that I had to run the air conditioner!

This is the post I would have done yesterday if we hadn't gotten that severe thunderstorm with lots of lightning last night!

There was lot of monarch butterfly activity in my wildflower garden late in the afternoon, so I decided to try and catch some for tagging since I have quite a few unused tags left yet from the monarch ranch. I managed to catch and tag only 2, but spent some enjoyable time around the wildflower garden (despite the heat and those really tiny black bugs with a painful bite).

I have so many asters blooming in beautiful colors in this garden and that's what the monarchs were there for (the bumble and honey bees love these flowers too).
The asters are mostly in shades of pink and purple. (I'm glad I took these photos yesterday because the wind and rain last night really battered some of the blossoms.)

They grow profusely throughout the garden and it's nice to have all this color late in the season when most of the other flowers are done blooming.

There are still some other flowers blooming too: Brown-Eyed Susan

One Purple Coneflower (amongst the already dead ones where finches have begun eating the seeds)

There's lots of bird activity in the wildflower garden--mostly goldfinches, but I believe I also saw the Eastern subspecies of the Orange-Crowned Warbler (according to what I read in my Stokes Field Guide to Warblers). This little bird is very similar in size and appearance to the goldfinches right now in their drab olive-colored plumage. I spotted this little warbler in amongst the stems of the purple coneflowers. According to the Stokes Field Guide, they "feed mostly low in underbrush, weedy fields, and understory." I also noticed this little bird had a split whitish eye-ring. There were no other wingbars or distinguishing features. Of course, I didn't have the camera with me and when I ran into the house to get it, by the time I got back the bird had disappeared. (I spotted it again this afternoon, but still no camera for a photograph.)

Our apple trees are so weighted down with apples that some of the branches are dragging on the ground. The apples on the south and west side of the trees are much redder from getting the sun all the time. (you can see here how red they are with branches hanging right down into the asters)
These apples are huge and quite delicious. We've been sharing one for lunch each day and I picked a bunch for one of my co-workers.
this is not a trick photograph--some of the apples are actually this big!

I still saw a couple of hummingbirds at the nectar feeders yesterday, but since the storms blew through the weather has cooled down considerably and no hummingbirds have been seen yet today. According to the nature diary I have kept since 2002, the next 10 days or so are when the last hummingbirds are seen and by the 29th, I may begin seeing juncos coming back for the winter.

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This is a picture of a deer "Bed & Breakfast" we discovered near our deer hunting area. It's between the cornfield and the woods and all the grass is flattened because this is where the deer bed down after eating in the cornfield. There are lots of does and fawns in this area and it's an nice sheltered spot for them--away from the road and no people living nearby.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy Anniversary To Us

Today is our 28th wedding anniversary. Where has the time gone?

It seems like only a couple years ago and it's funny how so many of the details of that day are clear in my memory, especially when I can't seem to remember some of the stuff I did last week (short-term is the first to go, right?)

It's always fun to look back at these pictures and see how much everyone has changed.

I had a hard time finding the wedding photo album and finally was able to locate it in the bottom of a box in our "storm shelter" room under the stairs. We haven't used this room recently, so I was surprised to find that things were quite damp in this room and the photo album (in addition to some other items) was kind of musty smelling and the back cover of the album was covered with mold. (Looks like I have another item to add to my "To Do" list for when I'm on vacation the week after next.)

We both had to work today because of the EOQ demands, so we're just going out to supper tonight at the Macaroni Grill (not sure if this restaurant is a nationwide or just Minnesota chain, but it's been quite good on previous visits).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Middle Name Game

Last week, I was tagged by Jayne at Journey Through Grace to play the middle name game. The name of the game is to:

List one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don't have a middle name, use the name you would have liked to have had. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog post containing your middle name game facts. At the end of your blog post you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

My middle name is Elizabeth, and it's taken me several days to come up with something for each letter, so here goes....

E is for everyone I have met through blogging

L is for learning, because I have learned so many new things this summer

I is for I/O moth, a beautiful moth I had the privilege to see and photograph earlier this summer

Z is for zinnia, a colorful flower I have to remember to plant next summer for butterflies and hummingbirds

A is for amazement, which is one of the emotions I feel when a hummingbird sits on my finger

B is for birds and blogging, two things that enrich my life every day

E is for environment, something I try to continue to improve every day

T is for thankfulness, for the many blessings I have in my life

H is for happiness, which I have an abundance of in my life

Now I'm supposed to tag as many people as there are letters in my middle name, but I'm only going to tag 3:

Lynne at HastyBrook

Nina at Nature Remains, and

Trixie at Trixie's View

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What's on My Knitting Needles

In October, I'll be teaching a two-part class on knitted mittens. This is going to be a basic mitten, but based on some feedback from a student in one of my hat classes, our mitten is going to have a pointed top rather than the rounded top found in most mittens (because that's how your hand is shaped, right?)

Here's one of the mittens started with stitches for the thumb on a holder.

I don't like doing thumbs very well, so they always get done last. I have to get this pair done pretty soon, so I can deliver it to the knitting shop so students know what they're signing up for. I'm also going to teach them about "half-mitts" and fingerless gloves. Half-mitts are just what the name implies--half a mitten which stops just above the knuckles, but you don't have to knit in the half-fingers like a fingerless glove. I have several pairs of these and they're really nice in the wintertime--especially if you work in a chilly office (like I do) but you need your fingers free for work.

I found a bunch of dishcloth patterns a few weeks ago on a really cool website called Dishcloth Boutique. There are patterns for knitted and crocheted dishcloths. I have a bunch of cotton yarn in my "stash" and decided that I would try and get a few dishcloths knitted up so we could start using them instead of paper napkins at the dinner table. I thought this was a pretty good idea for several reasons: I could use up some yarn to make space for storing more yarn, I would get to try lots of new patterns, and I would eliminate more trash by not throwing away paper napkins anymore. A "win-win" any way you look at it!


Everyday in my e-mail in-box, I receive the Knitting Daily e-mail from Interweave Press. I also subscribe to their Interweave Knits magazine and they publish many other fine knitting pattern books which I own. In the daily e-mail about 10 days ago, they interviewed Mags Kandis who designed the "Modern Quilt Wrap" for Folk Style, the newest pattern book published by Interweave Press.

Here's the picture of the "Modern Quilt Wrap." Isn't it beautiful? I really liked the design, but thought to myself, "that looks really difficult and so many ends to weave in!" They had the pattern included in the e-mail, but I didn't even take the time to look at it because I thought it would be just too much work.

About a week after that e-mail, I was looking over at Martie's blog and saw that she had actually started working on the quilt wrap herself and was doing it a bit narrower (more like a scarf). Well, after seeing what Martie had done, I was so inspired, I decided to take a second look at this pattern. The instructions listed it as "easy." "Come on, Ruthie," I told myself, "you should be able to handle this without any problem."

So I printed out the pattern and started looking through my yarn stash again and came upon a couple of kits I had purchased years ago (one for multicolored socks and the other for multicolored vests). The only thing I ever did with these kits was to wind the hanks of yarn into balls and it's been languishing in the yarn cupboard ever since. The yarn colors were perfect for this design and I started it last Friday night.

It really is a very simple pattern--you start with this L-shaped thing on your needle and with a decrease on each side of the center, your L-shape gradually decreases into a square. I've been weaving in the ends as I go, so will not even have to deal with too many tails once the project is completed. I've been trying to do one section every couple days or so, and it's quite enjoyable to see my progress and how the colors work together.

Here's the front side (see how it's turning into a square from the "L" shape?)

And here's the backside (I usually don't cut the yarn tails off till after everything's finished and I wash it).

Now that the sun is going down by 7:30, I have much more time in the evening for knitting. (Although I did spend a few minutes with a hummingbird perched on my finger tonight after supper--no amount of knitting can even come close to the joy I get from those little birds!)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thanks Mon@rch!

Remember this picture?

This is Tom (aka Mon@arch) showing off the little jar of grape jelly I sent him last week (did you notice his hat?) Being a truly grateful person, he posted that very nice entry on his blog and in his e-mail thank you, mentioned that he was going to send me something in return. "Really, Tom you don't have to do that," was my response. To which he replied, "it's not that big of a deal," along with this statement, "It's nothing special and just think of it as you being one of the team! BTW: Young Naturalist J did the logo design." So now, I'm really wondering what will arrive in my mailbox this week.

Today, when we got home, my Spousal Unit handed me the little corrugated box from our mailbox and here's what was inside:

Now how cool is that? How did Mon@arch know I like caps? And that I needed a special cap for birdwatching trips? Thanks Tom, I love it!

I have a small cap collection--special caps that I've received as gifts, collected from my travels or have a special significance (like my blood donor cap which bears my "gallons donated" pins). There are summer caps, winter caps, hunting caps, and grubby, sweat-stained everyday caps (not pictured!)
I almost always wear a cap anywhere I go on the weekend--eliminates the need to do anything with my hair! But if anyone were to ask, I would always say it was for sun protection.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The View From The Woods

Today was our archery deer hunting opener and it was pretty chilly! We had a hard frost last night and there was ice on the birdbath this morning when we left. We got all our gear ready last night and you can be sure my long underwear was the first thing on this morning.

We left the house around 5 AM and it's about a 25 minute drive to where we hunt. It was a really nice calm morning, so we could hear the owls hooting as we walked to our hunting stands in total darkness. Thank goodness for those little lights that go on your head! The Spousal Unit got to his stand first, so I took off on my own to my stand farther down in the woods. Last year we utilized the little reflective tacks to mark trees along the trail we use to get to the stands. This has been a lifesaver for me as I tend to lose my sense of direction even with the headlamp. These little reflective tacks shine like a beacon for my headlamp enabling me to get to my stand with no trouble.

Of course, by the time I get there, no matter how chilly it is, I've gotten warm enough from the hike that I have to wait for my eyeglasses to un-steam before I climb the ladder to my stand. Once I get up to my stand, I hook up my safety vest to the tree and I'm ready to sit and wait for the sun to rise and deer to appear.

I really enjoy sitting on my stand in the dark and listening to all the sounds of the woods. Today I heard both the Barred Owl and the Great-Horned Owl. And I can always count on hearing some type of heated verbal dispute between raccoons. Today I also heard a strange sort of barking noise and wondered if it was a fox? The first songbird to start singing this morning was the cardinal, followed shortly thereafter by a bluejay. There is also a pair of Bald Eagles where we hunt, so I got to hear their calls this morning too. And the best thing of all is that my stand is close to the edge of a bluff just above the river, so the background to all of these noises is the river running over the rocks below. It's very peaceful and beautiful and some days I imagine how wonderful it would be to have a house in this woods.

This is sunrise from my deer stand.

Once the sun comes up the grey squirrels wake up and boy, are they busy leaping from tree to tree.

And burying or digging up acorns and other squirrel snacks.

These squirrels in the woods, with their chubby little bodies and beautiful, luxurious furry tails, are much healthier looking than the squirrels that come to raid birdseed in my yard. And they make as much noise as a herd of elephants! There aren't too many dry leaves on the ground yet, but once the leaves start to fall, all their scurrying drives us crazy because we can't tell whether it's a deer or a squirrel.

This morning I saw a large doe with two fawns who were still covered with lots of spots. They were quite a way from where I was sitting--too far even for a photograph. She must have had these babies quite late in the spring, and it was fun to see them trotting along behind her.

It was finally time to leave for home about 9 AM. Now that the sun is up, I can show you some of what I see in this woods around my deer stand.

Here's my stand--it's about 13 feet up in this tree. I wear a safety vest because I have a tendency to nod off once in a while and I've heard horrible stories about people who fall from their stands while sleeping and don't want to become a statistic. What if I fell and broke my arm and couldn't knit???

A few leaves are starting to change and drop. This area is mostly maple trees and it should be quite beautiful in a week or two.
How about these neat little shelf fungi growing inside the hole in the bottom of this tree?

Here are some broken pieces of (clam?) shell along the trail in the woods. I wonder if a raccoon brought it up from the river?

Here's the trail I have to hike to the top of--you probably can't tell how steep it is, but I never get to the top without having to stop and catch my breath partway up.

Here's the view from the top of the trail looking back towards where my stand is. The leaves are all really green yet, but I'm sure this morning's frost will hasten their changeover to fall colors.

Here's my Spousal Unit in his stand (look way at the top of the picture). This is a new location for a stand this year and he was really happy with it after sitting there this morning.

And here's me modeling the latest in scent-control camouflage for the well-dressed woman bow-hunter!