Monday, July 27, 2009

Cruisin' for a Cause

Sunday, July 26th turned out to be a perfect day for a 112-mile motorcycle rally to benefit Rochester's Ronald McDonald House. There was over 1000 bikes participating in this rally and here's what we saw at the RCTC parking lot as bikers from around the region gathered to register for this ride.

There were four stops on the ride and each community rolled out the red carpet and shut off their downtowns just for the bikers. Here's the scene in the little town of Millville, MN.

Next stop was Pine Island, MN. It was a great chance to see lots of different bikes and also ride some roads and visit some towns we normally don't take the time to see each summer.

Here's me and my friend Sharon from work. You can't read it very well because her little flag bracket covers it, but her license plate says BKRMOM!

Here's me and Mr. Johnson in our "leathers."
I wore my my special keyhole-cleavage revealing top (cuz you really can't be a true biker chick without showing a little boob, right?) Needless to say there were many more biker chicks showing ALOT more boob than this and all's I ended up with was a nasty little sunburned circle right in the middle of my chest!

Here are a couple of pretty custom bikes I saw.

The H-D's definitely outnumbered all of the other bikes at this rally!

Here's a short video I captured as some of the bikers were leaving Pine Island.

This rally raised over $125,000 for the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester. You can also see the coverage from our local TV news by going to this link (click on the title "Cruisin' for a cause" with a little video camera icon next to it)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Let the weekend begin.....

We had some big thunderstorms in the area yesterday. In the town where my Mom and Dad live, the roof was blown off the local cafe -- a not-so-pleasant surprise for the customers in the dining room enjoying the noon special. Fortunately, there was no damage at Mom and Dad's house. The storms moved through fast but here's a picture I took from our driveway of the last line of storms moving into Iowa around suppertime. Wow, I love seeing the towering thunderstorm clouds (as long as they're not heading towards me!)

We had an unexpected visitor show up in the backyard for afternoon snacks today! I'm always amazed at how their summer fur is so completely different from their winter coat. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see this old doe has quite a few scars -- I suppose from running through the woods and hitting all kinds of branches, fences, etc.

She was hearing or seeing something farther down in the yard......I don't know what it was, but it sure got her attention!

I did some work in the vegetable gardens this afternoon. The squash, zucchini and tomatoes are humongous and I had to trim some of the branches and vines out of that garden so the plants could get more sunlight. The other veggie garden got some attention too and I pulled out all of the lettuce, onions and beets. Except for a few smaller ones, these onions are all quite nice. There are so many though that I may have to put some in the dehydrator to make sure they don't spoil. The beet crop was mighty disappointing. I'd like to try replanting some more seeds, but I'm guessing it's probably too late in the season for that. (There's a couple small golden zucchini I picked too.)
The weather's been so cool and predicted to remain so into the next week, so I'm going to replant some leaf lettuce and more peas too.

I finally got my rain barrels set up today. I read in a Birds & Blooms magazine about one gentleman who used garbage barrels as a less expensive substitute for those +$100 rain barrels sold in home & garden stores, so I bought a couple of 50 gallon Rubbermaid garbage barrels and some downspout adaptor tubes. I installed them this afternoon on both ends of the garage where the downspouts are closer to the ground and I have level surfaces to set the barrels.
It looks like kind of a "Rube Goldberg" set-up, but I think it's good enough for who it's for and both of these together cost me way less than $100, so I'm happy.

Not much else going on with me. Tomorrow we'll be riding with some friends in the motorcycle "Cruise for Kids" benefitting our local Ronald McDonald House. The weather forecast sounds perfect and we're looking forward to a fun day. I'll take my camera and see if I can get any interesting pictures to share with you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Now Open - Monarch Ranch 2009

As one of my Master Naturalist projects this summer, I'm volunteering at Quarry Hill Nature Center on Wednesday nights collecting data on the numbers of monarch eggs and caterpillars for the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, sponsored by the University of Minnesota.

I'm learning some new things about monarch caterpillars and tonight I brought home these two fourth and fifth instar caterpillars to put in my new monarch ranch. I gave them some fresh milkweed leaves and they're happily munching away.

The monarch activity (and all butterfly activity in general) seems much slower this year than previous years and just this past week, I finally saw several monarch butterflies flitting around my backyard. Since I was adding these two monarch caterpillars to my ranch, I decided to check some of the milkweed in my own backyard after I got home to see if I could find anything and was lucky enough to find these 6 eggs.
I will wait until they hatch and grow a little bit and then add these caterpillars to my monarch ranch. This will be a good start for what I hope will be another successful season of raising, tagging and releasing monarch butterflies in my backyard (aka, Monarch Waystation 1515).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ruthie & Sophie's Not-So-Excellent Adventure

The subtitle of this post is:

"The #1 thing you and your dog DO NOT want to experience at 3:00 AM!"

(see photo below)
In the almost 30 years we've been married, we've had three German-Shorthaired Pointers and although we've had some close calls with "Black & White Kittycats," not one dog has ever gotten "sprayed" until this morning. I put Sophie out and didn't notice the skunk at the side of the house, but of course, she spotted it right away and took off in hot pursuit. She wouldn't come back when I called and I didn't have my slippers on to go and chase her. Of course I was in a panic and by the time I finally found the spotlight and my slippers, she was on her way back--rubbing her face on the ground and with her paws--you all have probably seen enough TV shows to know that's definitely not a good sign!!

When I walked over to her, I knew right away that her encounter with her first skunk ended badly! PEEYEW what a stink! Fortunately for all of us, Wal-Mart is less than 10 minutes away and open 24 hours, so I threw on some clothes and made a run for the emergency clean-up supplies. The helpful greeter told me about the skunk shampoo they had over in the pet aisle and I purchased some tomato juice too (just in case the shampoo didn't work). Mr. Johnson kept Sophie company while she was stuck in her kennel until I got back. Turns out she only got sprayed in the face, but I'm amazed at how truly stinky that skunk smell is--our whole house just reeks--especially the basement where Sophie's kennel is (the kennel is now sitting outside with the hopes that some fresh air and sunshine will help the smell dissipate).

Poor Sophie--knowing how she is when chasing the other little critters in our backyard, I bet she actually bit down on that skunk. Can you imagine how awful that must taste? I had her in the tub for over an hour, but couldn't get all the smell off her face for fear of getting the shampoo or tomato juice in her eyes, so I got some deodorizing wipes that I hope will work if I wipe her face frequently enough. I also picked up some room odor absorbers that I hope will help eliminate the smell in the house. If anyone else has had this experience and has some good tips to share, I'd be more than happy to hear them. In the meantime, if you come to visit me, I won't be offended if you walk in the house and say, "what's that smell??"

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rare "Bird" Sighting

You all know that airports are good places to see rare birds, right? Well, this weekend Rochester International Airport is the best place in the Upper Midwest to spot the "Aluminum Overcast," an extremely rare B-17 Flying Fortress, or "war bird" as some people like to call them.

I've been anxiously waiting for today ever since I saw a news item in last weekend's paper saying there was going to be a B-17 visiting Rochester this weekend. Shortly after I got home from work this morning, I heard the plane flying (that's one of the advantages of living close to the airport!)

I grabbed my camera and binoculars and hopped in the car to head over to a spot that I know is close to the runway; with a strong wind from the northwest, I knew they would have to use that runway for landing. I was the first person there, but it wasn't long before some other folks with cameras showed up too. While we waited and chatted for a short time, the "Aluminum Overcast" finally appeared on the horizon. As it circled around to approach the runway, we knew we were all in the perfect spot for the plane to fly right over us.

Check out this awesome video I was able to film......didn't I tell you it was the perfect spot!

To find out more about this fantastic piece of flying history, please click on the following link:

B-17G Flying Fortress "Aluminum Overcast"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Backyard Surprise

When we got home from a motorcycle ride this evening, we were greeted by the sound of several seriously distraught robins chirping in the yard. I've heard these chirps before and usually when I walk out in the yard to investigate the source of the distress, invariably a Cooper's Hawk will fly out of one of the evergreen trees. That's exactly what I was expecting tonight, but no Coop flew out from anywhere. When I turned to walk back to the house, I spotted what was making those robins so upset, right there on top of my martin pole!
Holy Crap! How cool is that?!?

The robins stayed close, but none of them were brave enough to tangle with a hawk this size. I was amazed the hawk just sat there while I had enough time to go and get Mr. Johnson and my camera, and even crept up closer to it for more pictures.

Finally the hawk flew down into the yard near one of the many streaked gopher holes we have out there. Again, I was able to use some evergreens as cover to creep closer for another picture. Needless to say, the gophers were nowhere to be seen, but the hawk stood there long enough for me to get one more picture. Don't you just love those fluffy feather pantaloons?
I know that Red-Tailed Hawks are one of our most common raptors, but I never get tired of seeing them. But seeing one of them--up close and in my own backyard--is one of those amazing and wondrous events that I will never forget!

Here's a short movie too. I wanted you to be able to hear all the robins chirping in the background. (sorry it's a little shaky......I was pretty excited!)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

30 Chemo Caps in 30 Days -- Can She Do It?

I decided to keep a visual record of the progress on my 30-day chemo cap challenge. Every day I finish a cap, I'll post a picture, so you can track my progress (or lack of it!). I've found some more new patterns, so I'll have a good variety of styles. (I'm sure this is going to be way easier than a 30-day/30-pound weight loss challenge!!)

Day 17 - July 24, 2009
13 Hats to go

Day 16 - July 23, 2009
14 Hats to go

Day 15 - July 22, 2009
Halfway to the goal with this cap
#15 completed.

Day 14 - July 21, 2009
I got 2 hats done this day, so I'm caught up &
almost to the halfway point with hats 13 & 14!

Day 13 - July 20, 2009
18 Hats to go

Day 12 - July 19, 2009
I was unable to get a hat
done on Saturday, so now I'm
one behind (19 hats to go)

Day 10 - July 17, 2009
One-Third of my goal completed
and 20 more hats to go

Day 9 - July 16, 2009
21 to go!

Day 8 - July 15, 2009
22 to go!
I love this hat!! I'm going to make one for myself once I finish this 30-day challenge.

Day 7 - July 14, 2009
23 to go!
There's a little eyelet lace pattern in the middle band on this hat, but the tweedy textured yarn doesn't show it very well.

Day 6 - July 13, 2009
24 to go!
I decided to make a few hats in "guy" colors too. This camouflage colored yarn really blends in with the leafy background, doesn't it?

Day 5 - July 12, 2009
25 to go!

Day 4 - July 11, 2009
26 to go!
I hope the "bumpiness" of these stitches flattens out a little once it's been washed.

Day 3 - July 10, 2009
27 to go!
(I didn't have enough pink yarn for the entire cap, but fortunately, I found a small ball of the pastel variegated with some pink that matched perfectly--I really like the way this one turned out)

Day 2 - July 9, 2009
28 to go!

Day 1 - July 8, 2009
29 to go!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Miscellaneous Stuff & Some Knitting

I got an e-mail notice from the owner of my LYS (local yarn shoppe) this afternoon saying she had just given away the last chemo cap and it was time for us to make some more. The challenge thrown out to us rabid knitters was 30 caps in 30 days and I've decided to accept the challenge. So in order to get my 30 caps done, I'm going to have to take a little break from blogging (and probably Facebook too) and concentrate on this knitting challenge and also some other home and garden activities. Before my break though, I'll share some of the miscellaneous stuff and knitting that has been occupying my time these past couple weeks.

We moved the deer hunting ladder stand last weekend in anticipation of the upcoming archery deer season opener. (Actually we had to move it off some private property where our hunting privileges have recently been revoked.) Anyway, Mr. Johnson had this tree in mind and the ladder stand worked perfectly there. In this picture, he's cutting off a large grapevine that's grown up on this tree. This is a perfect spot right at the intersection of two heavily used deer trails, plus not much underbrush in the woods, so it should be good for birding if the deer activity is slow.

I picked the first zucchini from our garden. They have a somewhat stunted shape, but were very tasty nonetheless. There are plenty of blossoms and more little zucchinis on my two plants. I like this golden variety because they're easy to spot (not like the green ones that sometimes grow to the size of a baseball bat because you couldn't see them under a leaf!)

I'm finally starting to see more juvenile birds around the yard. Here's a cute little cardinal who visited the birdbath on Sunday afternoon.

This juvenile Red-Bellied Woodpecker easily figured out how to get inside the cage to the suet log. This is the first one of these youngsters I've seen this summer too. The adults have also been noticeably absent from my backyard--although they were regular visitors during winter and spring.

And now on to the knitting projects. I've been looking for this book ever since I saw it on another knitting blog and last week I found it at Michael's. There are so many cute patterns in here, so I also picked up three balls of cotton yarn to try some of the designs out.

I don't think I have to tell you what this design is.......

This butterfly turned out really cute too.


Leaping Frog


I'm still working on the square lace shawl, but have finally gotten to the edging. Here's what I've managed to complete this week for the edging. I know this shawl will be much more impressive once it's all blocked out. I'm still not liking this pattern very much--the written instructions aren't very clear and I wonder if the person who wrote it was a really experienced knitter or expected only advanced knitters would be working on it. I've spent plenty of time re-reading sections and scratching my head trying to figure out what she's doing. The real challenge will come when I get to the first corner with my lace edging, but I'm hoping that once I'm there the written instructions will make perfect sense and the chart will correspond exactly to the number of stitches I'm working (I would hate to give up now that I'm almost done!)

I've also been whipping up some of these "coffee cup sweaters." Aren't they cute? And a good way to use up some of my leftover yarn scraps.

Here's a couple more pairs of the knitted half-mitts I've finally finished too. I love the colors in this self-striping yarn.

This color is called Pink Camouflage. (I honestly don't quite get the pink camouflage thing......but I thought the colors knitted up rather cute for these half-mitts.)

Most of these knitted items are destined for my Etsy shop, which is in desperate need of restocking, so between knitting chemo caps, watching birds, pulling weeds and all the other fun stuff going on around here, I hope to get the Etsy shop "shelves" full again.

I'll be checking in with occasional posts when I can and hoping to stay caught up with everyone's activities. In the meantime, I hope you all have an enjoyable summer!