Monday, March 31, 2008

Award Time

Thank you dear Miss Meggie for giving me the Excellent Blog Award. Now it's time for me to "pay it forward."

The rules are:

By accepting this Excellent Blog Award, you agree to award it to 10 more people whose blogs you find Excellent Award worthy.

You can give it to as many people as you want but please award at least 10. You deserve this!

Feel free to recognize blogs that have already received this award.

Mary at Mary's View - she makes me smile even when I'm having a crappy day

Barefoot Gardener - she proves that humor can make even her most frustrating daily events bearable (P.S. there's a house for sale in our neighborhood!!)

Larry - for sharing his excellent weekly birding adventures

Robin (Bumblebee) - for sharing gardening advice and pics of all the great flower shows that I'll probably never make it to

Ruth (Body, Soul and Spirit) - for great posts that always give me something to think about (and she shared great recipes too!

Tom (Mon@rch)- because I learn so much from his posts

Jayne (Journey Through Grace) - the best bird photos -- and mostly all in her own backyard!

Jennifer - whose posts inspire me to look closer at everything I see in the woods

Loribird - the queen of multi-taskers: mom, student, knitter, nature lover, blogger, etc.

Lisa (at Greenbow) - livin' the good life and gardening in Indiana!

Thanks everyone for sharing your great blogs - hope you enjoy sharing this award!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trying to find the routine again

Many thanks to all of you, dear blogging friends for your kinds words and sympathy after the loss of our dear Daisy. I guess all of us who have beloved pets know what kind of pain goes along with their loss and also the treasured memories we have of them to help us get through the painful parts.

We're swamped at work again with end-of-the-quarter activity and I think it's maybe a good thing that I'm too busy during the day to think about missing Daisy. It's a little harder when we get home, but at least Sophie is still there to console us. She doesn't seem to be missing Daisy too much yet, maybe she's still expecting to have her come back with the vet (like after Daisy had her dental surgery). For now she seems to be happy that she gets to lick off all the supper dishes and doesn't have to share anything with Daisy. I have noticed that Penny (our kitty) does seem to be missing Daisy though, even though they didn't seem to interact much, they would frequently sleep side by side. It's certainly going to be an adjustment time for all of us.

We seem to be seeing more signs of spring around here, so I finally got my garden seed order ready and the seeds from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa arrived yesterday. I also purchased a few packets of seeds locally and later this afternoon, I plan to get some of them planted in the little starter pots.

Not pictured are the yellow onion sets for the garden and Yukon Gold potatoes that I plan to try growing in garbage cans.

Now that I see all the seeds laid out here, I'm thinking I may have gotten a little overly ambitious about being able to take care of all of these this summer! It certainly will be a colorful garden though if my crops are successful.

I also got an e-mail message yesterday that my my Envirocycle Compost Tumbler has been shipped!

Here's the view out my dining room window this afternoon--grackles aplenty! Looks like they also emptied Mr. Cardinal's little tube feeder today while I was at work too. But did you happen to notice the most notable thing in this picture? No snow on the ground! HOORAY!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Good-bye Dear Old Doggie

RJ's Princess Daisy
4/12/93 - 3/25/08

We had to have our dear ol' Daisy put to sleep this afternoon. She's been declining over the last few months, but it had become more pronounced in the last couple weeks. Today when we got home from work, she came outside and then after a few moments of confusion, she collapsed on the sidewalk. We got her back up and steady enough on her legs to come back in the house and eat her supper. She seemed OK for a little while, but then her weakness and disorientation seemed to come back again. Her heart was beating so fast you could hardly distinguish the individual beats. Thankfully, I was able to get hold of the vet and she was able to rearrange her schedule to come out and euthanize Daisy for us. Mr. Johnson and I held Daisy in our arms as she went peacefully to sleep. To say that we're devastated would be an understatement. We knew this day was coming, but there's really no way to prepare for it. We loved her very much and we're thankful for all the good years and fun times we had with her.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Miscellaneous Monday

I hope everyone had a very happy Easter. We went down to Mom & Dad's where we ate lots of yummy things and had a good time with family and friends.

Sunday was a noteworthy bird day for me because I finally saw a fox sparrow in my yard. It was scratching around under my big Scotch pine where I've got seed sprinkled on the ground (but nowhere near any of the brush piles I carefully constructed last fall). I managed to take a couple of really poor pictures out the kitchen window.

I did get good looks through the binoculars though to confirm that it was truly a Fox Sparrow.
Many thanks to Richard over in Atwater, MN, who has graciously allowed me to use this nice, clear photo he took of a Fox Sparrow so you can see what to look for when one of these shows up in your yard.

Here are also a couple of poor pictures of another female Red-Winged Blackbird I saw over the weekend. She had so much orange on her face and throat that at first I thought it might be a Varied Thrush.
After consulting my field guides, I decided it must be a female Red-Wing because there was just too much streaking on her breast and no other orange coloration on any part of her body. (I was pretty excited for a couple minutes though, because I've never seen a Varied Thrush.)

I finally got some pictures of my crow with the crippled foot. I first noticed this crow limping around in the yard late last fall. It took me a while to actually see why it had such trouble walking.
As you can see in these pictures, its left foot is completely turned under and almost like a fist. The crow is actually walking much better than it used to and I saw it perch for a little bit on the edge of my ground feeder tray. I'm not sure what happened because it appears all its toes are still there.

And last on my list of noteworthy bird items is that I was able to locate an Bald Eagle nest about 2 miles from our house. We have seen eagles flying around the area all winter and in the local Audubon Society newsletter, there was an article saying the DNR had documented an active eagle nest in the area. When I stopped in at Wild Birds Unlimited to pick up some seed today, the owner told me they had seen the nest too, so I watched for it on the way home from work and sure enough, I finally found it too!

I talked Mr. Johnson into driving me over there after supper and I was able to take a couple of pictures. This nest is visible from Highway 63 (the main north/south highway into and out of Rochester). There is a little service drive that was put in several years ago for a (not yet developed) strip mall that we were able to drive up and get some pictures from the car.

Here's the big nest up in the top of the tree. Once the leaves are back on the trees this nest won't be visible anymore.

Here you can just see Mrs. Eagle's head as she's sitting on the nest.

While we were watching, Mr. Eagle flew over to a nearby tree, but it was getting dark and I just couldn't get a good picture. I'll try and get back over there maybe early on the weekend to see if I can get some better pictures when the sun is shining on the nest. Hopefully her nest will be successful and we will be treated to the sight of young eagles all summer.

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like.......


The weather guys were only half right and boy, are we thankful for that! We've got about 3-4 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground but that's nowhere near the 5-10 inches they were predicting when we went to work early this morning. It snowed pretty hard for most of the morning, but by 1:00 it was pretty much done. We had one more burst of snow between 3:00 and 4:00 and then it finally stopped. The roads are wet and sloppy, but no real travel problems. We're not even going to shovel this stuff because temps are probably going to be warm enough tomorrow to melt most everything off.

Here are some pictures of the birds that were in the backyard when we got back from grocery shopping earlier this evening.

A fairly large flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds stopped by. Here are a couple of females and a male picking on some of the bunnies corncobs. I like to see the females; you don't see them very often at the feeders once their nesting territories have been established.

Here's another large group of males enjoying the birdseed in the tray feeder. I'm glad I cleaned all the snow out and refilled these trays when I got home from work.

There were also bunches of robins in the backyard. Last weekend when I saw my first robins, I took the last two buckets of old apples from the basement and dumped them out on the ground. Fortunately, for these robins, they were able to find some of these apples that had been buried under today's snow.

Robins aren't really keen on eating birdseed, but we did have a customer at Wild Birds Unlimited who put out shelled sunflower seeds for his robins and they loved that. Robins also really love mealworms. I think tomorrow morning I'll take one of my tray feeders and put out some treats for the robins to tide them over until the snow has all melted. Then they can go back to digging around in the backyard for their own treats.

Here's a little video of a bunch of robins who were taking advantage of some of the dried-up crabapples still left on my tree from last summer. I still have a couple of highbush cranberries with fruit on the branches, but they must not be as tempting or tasty as crabapples. Maybe the cedar waxwings will like the cranberries when they come back.....

Here's a little treat I picked up for my squirrels at the grocery store.

There was a shopping cart full of clearance priced (99 cents per pound!) Brazil nuts and pecans left over from Christmas (there's 6.4 pounds in these 2 bags). That's a heckuva deal because 2 weeks ago when I bought some of these nuts they were still $3.29 per pound. I just couldn't pass this up and I know my squirrels will be so happy!

(Update: when I was taking some of these pecans out for the squirrels this morning, I decided they were so nice that maybe I'd just better save a few back and make a nice pecan pie for Mr. Johnson.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I hope the weather guys are wrong this time....

I really like purple, but not on this map!

(too bad this isn't some sort of bad April Fool's joke)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Getting Ready to Garden

We got some distressing news while watching the local news tonight--3 dreaded words were uttered by the weatherman: Winter Storm Watch! Starting tomorrow evening (yes, the first day of spring) and extending all the way till Friday evening, we may see up to half a foot of snow.

OK, enough of that depressing crap, because today it was in the mid-40's and sunny, a perfectly lovely day for the middle of March in Minnesota.

I'm starting to get excited about planning my vegetable garden for this year. I'm planning to add another 12 X 12 raised bed in order to plant more varieties of vegetables. So as long as I was planning that, I went ahead and placed my on-line seed order from the Seed Savers Exchange 2008 catalog.

Their seeds are a little more expensive than at my local stores, but they're local (Decorah, Iowa) and I'm planning to try starting some extra plants and see if I can sell them reasonably to some of my co-workers. I've already got my little "seedling greenhouse" kit and some potting mix, so next week once my seeds arrive, I'll be starting broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

Penny inspects and approves my gardening supplies.

I also want to try planting the "garbage can potatoes" that Robin at Bumblebee posted about last summer. I sent Robin a quick e-mail to see if there might be a good time to call her and ask more questions about this project, and it turned out that she needed a diversion from what she was working on and it was a perfect time for her to talk a while. We had a fun chat about vegetable gardening, dogs, and other things. I hope someday we will be able to meet in person, but on the phone she sounded exactly as I imagined she would.

I did pick up this neat tool for weeding a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately, it's not self-propelled, but hopefully it will make my weeding job less strenuous and eliminate some of the time spent down on my knees.

But what I'm really happy about are my new purple polka-dotted boots!
Aren't they cute? It's a good thing my garden is behind the house. At least I won't have to worry about people seeing me traipsing around the backyard in my PJs and wearing these boots on my early morning trips to the garden and bird-feeder filling.

I also ordered my new compost tumbler this afternoon, so I'm almost ready for gardening season when it finally does arrive. Now I just have to get that raised bed assembled and call for a truckload of black dirt to fill it with, plus 3 garbage cans for potatoes. (And there you have it, Robin.....I think I'm almost at that $64 tomato level!)

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Blogging Support Team

As I sit at my computer getting ready to post here's what I see on either side of my chair.......

Sophie on my left

Daisy on my right

I love my doggies and they return their devotion to me with constant monitoring of my movements. There aren't many places in the house that I can't go and they don't follow me.

Only one more spring bird arrival in my backyard to report: the Red-Winged Blackbird. We got a light dusting of snow today but it's all melted now. Once our robins arrive, they usually get snowed on 3 times before spring really takes hold. Only two more snows to go......

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hello Spring!

OK, here it is.....photographic confirmation of the arrival of spring in my backyard:
Yup, my robins are back! (words cannot even describe how happy this makes me)

There were two in my crabapple tree and one even visited the birdbath on the deck. He must have been here last year because he seemed pretty comfortable in these surroundings.

The weatherman is predicting a sunny weekend with highs in the mid-30's for both days. Even the predictions of possible "significant accumulation" of snow for Monday can't diminish my enthusiasm for the next two days of spring-like weather.

Oh yeah, I had a common grackle at my feeders today also. The huge flocks of them drive me nuts in the summer, but the first one is still a welcome sign of spring. I'll keep you posted on the arrival of other spring birds this weekend.....I'm sure there are going to be more!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Word Cloud

When I was catching up on my blog reading today, I found this interesting little item over at Laura's blog: the word cloud. Those clever folks at Snap Shirts take the information about you and your blog and compile it into a word cloud showing many of the most commonly used words in your blog with the size of the words based on their frequency of use. This was fun and here's how mine turned out:

It's kind of neat to see which words stand out for my birding and nature blog. And see how big "knitting" is? (almost as big as "birds" and "birding") Fun stuff plus it's an easy and quick post for those days when you don't have any other ideas ready to go. Thanks Laura, for posting and sharing this link.

Want to make a word cloud too? Click on this link.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Deer & Turkey Expo

I'm playing catch-up this week, so I'm going back to Saturday to talk about our visit to the Minnesota Deer & Turkey Expo over in Owatonna, Minnesota. (there will be some hunting references in this post, so if you're not a fan of hunting you will want to skip this post)

This was a pretty big show and had many interesting seminars mostly relating to deer and turkey hunting. Mr. Johnson had a list of seminars he wanted to attend. Here's a picture of him studying his schedule to determine where his next seminar was being held.
There were a lot of guys in camouflage jackets at this expo. I have a real hard time at events like this because I'll be walking along and then start talking to the guy in camo right behind me, only to turn around and find it's a complete stranger and not Mr. Johnson at all!

I was anxious to hear my friend Michele (you remember--chickie mama from last week?) give her talk about her Arctic bowhunting adventure from last spring. Michele does a lot of bowhunting all over North America and she's also a huge advocate for getting more women and children into bowhunting. When I started bowhunting, she was the first woman bowhunter I had ever met. She was so helpful and supportive of my efforts. It was one thing for me to have a guy teach me how to shoot a bow or learn about deer and their habits in the woods, but I truly think when it comes down to actually "shooting" that deer, women look at in a totally different way than men do. Anyway, before I digress any further, I need to get back on track here.

Michele is on the Mathews Bow Company Pro Staff. Here's a picture of us together.

Here's a picture of Michele preparing for her talk.
There were several younger kids there and it gave Michele a chance to talk to the kids and emphasize to their parents about how the future of hunting is in the hands of parents and other adults who will take the time to share this experience in a positive way with kids.

Here are some pictures Michele shared from her Arctic bowhunting adventure.

They had to travel across the pack ice on these big sleds.

Some of the trip also involved travel with dogsleds. Michele is a big dog lover, so she had lots of pictures of these hard working dogs.

Here's one of the little tents they slept in. I just kind of shook my head and chuckled when Michele shared this story, because I'm definitely a wussy compared to her (fair weather and above freezing is about the only weather I hunt in!)

Another benefit of attending this show was that we found some really great new chairs to sit on while we're turkey hunting from the blind. Dean Redmann of Innovating Dreams, LLC has invented the Comfort Hunter chair.

We met Dean at this show and he showed us all the great features of his neat little chair: folds up and is easy to carry like a backpack, adjustable legs, an adjustable seat that swivels, and sturdy enough to support a full-figured woman like me, but the thing that really sold me--it reclines! So if the turkeys are a no-show during my hunting season, at least I won't have to relax on the ground this year (like last year).

This is a really neat little chair and I can see it going along with me on birding hikes too--wouldn't this be so much nicer than sitting on the ground or a stump? And how about that reclining feature for hawk watching?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Signs of Spring

Whew, I'm really having a hard time adjusting to this Daylight Savings Time! How about you? It usually takes me about a month to get back into the normal routine. I'm looking back on my first year of blogging and trying to figure out how I got so many posts done last year. I guess I need to work on my time management skills a little bit.

So anyway, my mom reported in an e-mail late this afternoon that she has bunches of robins at her house. Wow, that's so exciting! Maybe I will see some in my neighborhood soon. In the nature diary that I keep, red-winged blackbirds and common grackles have shown up in my backyard during this time period. I have yet to see any of those birds this year. We've still got about 6 inches of snow on the ground in most places--some places are much deeper while the ground is starting to show in other places.

Here's a nice picture I took this evening a little before 7:00 PM.

There are two special things about this picture: 1) the temperature - still at 40 degrees (down from our high of around 45 this afternoon) and 2) it's still light enough outside to take a picture without using flash or switching to the "night scene" mode on my camera.

It was a beautiful spring-like day today--a day where we only had to wear a "jacket" outside instead of a "coat." You might think that sounds like a goofy definition of a nice day, but here in Minnesota, there's definitely a difference! (and the record cold of last weekend makes us appreciate nice days like this even more)

Here's another little sign of spring in my possum is visiting again. Here are a couple pictures I took of her on Sunday afternoon.

And this evening as she was trying to escape from me and my camera.

She had been cleaning up birdseed under this big pine tree and I decided to take some old apples out as a treat for her to munch on. She's still moving pretty darn slow and I watched her climb into the tree as I walked across the yard. I circled the tree looking high into the branches and then finally found her out on the edge of this lowest branch. I think she was pretending not to see me!

I really like her little pink feet and the way her long tail curls around the tree limb. (I don't know for sure that this possum is a female, I'm just saying she is because she's not very big--about the same size as my kitty.)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to my Blog.....1 year old today!

On March 6th of 2007, I posted my first blog entry. You can see it here. No title, a couple pictures and only a few lines of text. I was a complete Blogger idiot! I was inspired by reading Julie's blogs (can't even remember how I discovered her blog in the first place, only know that it was during a boring day at work and I had no other real work to keep me busy). My main reason for starting my blog was to keep my family members entertained and so they could keep tabs on what I was up to (since I'm not very good at calling on the phone or other normal ways most people use to stay in touch).

Looking back to a year ago, I had no idea what challenges, opportunities, knowledge, and new friendships blogging would bring to me. But here I am one year later, still pecking away. I am now (mostly) proficient at posting, adding pictures and even downloading movies. Overcoming the initial frustration of figuring out what I can do with Blogger and getting around its "quirks" has been enough to keep me challenged and wanting to learn more.

An added benefit has been getting my mom involved in my blog too. My friends have become her friends and I'm so thankful she's enjoying this and becoming more familiar and proficient in her computer skills. One of these days, I need to go down to her house and spend a couple of intensive hours giving her some Blogger lessons and getting her a Google ID so she doesn't have to post "anonymous" comments anymore. Maybe I should find out if she would like access privileges so she can be a guest blogger for me.....

Thanks blogging friends for sharing this past year with me and I look forward to spending the next year with you!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Six Word Memoir

Knitting and Nature Rock My World

Mary C. tagged me the other day in this post for the six word memoir, inspired by Hemingway, who once bet ten dollars that he could sum up his life in six words. He came up with: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Here are the meme rules:

1. Write your own six word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4. Tag five more blogs with links.
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

I have to say it was a little bit challenging to sum up my life in six words, but I think this pretty much covers it. And in the interest of helping this meme travel farther across the blogosphere, I wish to "tag" these five blogging friends: Lynne at Hasty Brook, Beth in Maine, April in Canada, Maud in Finland, and Robin in Maryland. Good Luck Friends!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

No Reminders Needed!

I really wasn't looking forward to 2008 for the simple reason that this is the year I will be reaching the dreaded half-century mark. Since Mr. Johnson already passed that milestone last year, he never misses an opportunity to remind me that soon I will be as old as him too!

As he was walking up the driveway from the mailbox this afternoon, he couldn't contain his cries of glee while waving the envelope containing this at me:

Come on AARP, give me a freakin' birthday's months away yet!

I saved this offensive little piece of mail only long enough to scan for this blog post and then it went into the fireplace.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Unbelievably Cute!

My friend (and bow-hunting mentor) Michele sent an e-mail note yesterday afternoon with pictures of her new chicks. I wrote back and asked Michele if she would let me include these pictures and story as a post in my blog and she agreed. In fact, she sent me even more pictures!

Are they not the cutest little fluffballs?
I'm amazed at all the different colors! Here are species she received: Silver Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, White Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorps, Speckled Sussex, Delaware, Columbian Wyandotte's, Partridge Rocks, Barred Rocks, and Araucanas.

I thought these baby chick pictures were cute, but as I continued to scroll down through the pictures, the story got really interesting..... Michele had also included some photos of the chicks and her cat, BOY.
Who needs a heatlamp when you've got a kitty to snuggle with?

Here's what Michele says about these: "Just a few more pictures of my cat BOY and the baby chicks. A good kitty as long as I'm there." Talk about Cute Overload. Have you ever seen anything like this in your entire life?

And this is not the first time BOY has been a chick foster are some other pictures Michele took in 2005.

And the really amazing thing is that it's a lifelong friendship. Here's BOY with Zha-Zha (one of the 2005 chicks all grown up into a pretty little hen).
I would dearly love to get some chickens for our place here. Michele's advice is to get 4-6 hens but no roosters (because they will drive the neighbors crazy). I'm not too worried about my neighbors, but a rooster might drive my dog Sophie crazy. Her chickens are free range and she says they eat tons of bugs in her yard. Now I just have to convince Mr. Johnson about how nice it would be to have some chickens of our own!

Thanks Michele for sharing allowing me share your story and pictures in my blog.