Saturday, February 16, 2019

Being Caribou - Book Review

Being Caribou - Five Months on Foot with a Caribou Herd by Karsten Heuer is one of the books that I wanted to read this year that is focused on animals and nature.

This is a short book that is heavy on photos which I enjoyed. I learned a lot about this particular caribou herd of more than 100,000 that treks thousands of miles each year in Alaska. The caribou go through icy rivers, high mountain ranges, and passes that are snow-covered.

They come across grizzly bears, human hunters, insects, and wolves. However, out of all of these predators, the worst one, it seems, are millions of bloodthirsty mosquitos and biting flies. Once the insects hatch in the spring, the caribou make a fast-retreat back to their summer region.

The reason for this long migration to thee Arctic National Wildlife Refuge each year is that the females give birth to their babies. The peacefulness of the area and absence of the insects in the early-Spring helps the calves gain strength and prepare for a challenging year ahead.

This is the only area in the caribou's range where a certain kind of protein-rich cotton grass grows. The mothers, who are trying to produce milk for the calves, depend on this grass.

The author and his wife are the only humans to become part of this caribou herd. They followed them, set up their tent, and slept in the same area that the caribou lived. It gave them - as well as the reader - insight into the lives of these fascinating animals.

One thing that was amazing about the calves is that within five minutes of being born, a calf can take its first steps. Within 30 minutes, it walks smoothly. But the end of its first day, it can run, jump, and play with the other calves.

Another thing I learned was that the calves and mothers play games together to form a strong bond. The mothers grunt and the calves bleat over about a ten-day period; and they practice those sounds often so that they know one another. How well they learn and respond to each other's calls will determine whether the calves survive.

I wish there were more books written like this about different wild animals. Learning about them in their environment and not harming them lifts my spirits.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

My Favorite Photos - January 2019

These are my favorite photos from January. It's hard to believe the month went by so quickly.

We started the month out by going out to eat at the Chinese restaurant to celebrate the New Year. The year started out better than last year when we didn't have water thanks to the line freezing between the well and house. So, we had good reason to celebrate this hear: we had water!!

On Janaury 11th-12th, we went to the Mid-Winter District Conventions for the Lions. The girls came with since they are involved with the Leo Club. The theme was Italy, so the club president got hats for them to wear. Someone dressed up as a Lion and walked around all evening. 

On the 12th, we made a few fleece tied blankets that will be donated to children with cancer. Pediatric cancer is one of the key issues that the Lions are interested in.

On January 14th, Olivia needed a photo of herself to use with a wildlife group she is involved with through 4-H. Cooper sat nicely next to her for the photo. He looks big in the photo, but he's only about 68 pounds.

My friend, Yoshiko, sent me this hat from Japan. It came at the perfect time because the temperature started going down during the middle to the end of the month. This was a typical look for most of January when I went outside. The west pasture is behind me.

On the 17th of January, there was a beautiful sunset. If you look closely, there's an ice pillar (the ray of light that goes from the horizon to the clouds).

The next day, it was Olivia's birthday. She and I get up early, so she wasn't expecting anyone else to be up for her birthday breakfast. While she was outside taking care of the horses, I told Sophia and Paige they should get up quickly and surprise her. They came downstairs and sat at the table. When she came in, they yelled, "Surprise!" Needless to say, Olivia was pleasantly surprised.

For her birthday, Olivia wanted to see the new Bell Museum and Planetarium. The dioramas from the old museum were transferred to the new ones, and the glass was between the public and dioramas was improved. You can't even tell it is there in photos which is nice. 

The wood duck in the tree reminded me of my dad and how he loved putting the wood duck house by the lake each Spring. We had a lot of wood ducks raise families in the house throughout the years. It was always a joy to see them.

There was a wall of squares at the museum that Olivia stood by. I can't believe she's already 16 years old. Time went by way too quickly!

This is a close-up of the wall.

Another diorama was of sandhill cranes. I had never heard or seen a sandhill crane before moving to the farm. Now, each year - late Spring to early-Fall - I hear and see these beautiful birds.

After going through the museum, we saw a show in the planetarium. I haven't been in one since I was a kid. There used to be a planetarium in the downtown Minneapolis Public Library. It was closed and now the Bell Museum built one when they built their new museum.

It was interesting learning about dark matter (which I had never heard of) and seeing some of the constellations that are visible now in the winter sky.

Before the show, the screen in the planetarium was lavender, so that's why the photo of the girls is lavender.

We all enjoyed birthday cake after Olivia blew out the candles.

Sophia was having fun with the tissue-paper decorations. There were 16 flowers - 4 large light-blue ones and 12 little navy blue ones that were hung from the ceiling.

On January 23rd, Olivia and I took a tour with a group from the arts center to see the current exhibit at the Walker Art Center. Olivia is standing by a large piece that is collaged.

We had some extra time after the tour, so went outside to walk around the Sculpture Garden.

We saw the spoon bridge and cherry plus the blue rooster. The former sculpture is one that's been around for a long time; and when we used to visit the Sculpture Garden when the girls were younger, they would go close to it and watch the spray come out of the cherry stem.

There was a sculpture that was new (or at least new to us since we hadn't been to the Walker in many years).

The next day, January 24th, I got a couple pieces back from the kiln at the art center. I was so happy with the colors of the glazes. There are actually only two glazes. The blue in the middle is the color that you get when the two glazes on the outer sides overlap.

The is another piece that I made using the same glazes.

I made another piece that is ready to be fired. It is a tracing of my hand that I cut out and decorated with three different stamps in a random pattern. The hand sign means, "I love you." It will be fired and ready or glazing when I go back to class on February 7th.

On the 26th, I taught a class about Chinese New Year and the 4-H Global Connections project to eight youth who were at a Winter Workshop Day. Olivia helped me set up which I appreciated. She and the other kids in the class are choosing which Chinese candies they want to try.

Sophia was at the Winter Workshop teaching Cloverbuds (5-7 year olds) about how to make a kite. She had fun teaching them, and the kids were happy with what they created.

That evening, there were fireworks at the community center. Sophia wanted to see them since she has missed the 4th of July fireworks for the past two years because of being at the Take Action Camp in Arizona.

It was about 8 degrees out, so we bundled up to watch the fireworks.

There were ones that were low to the ground that went off and others that were higher in the sky.

We both had a great time watching the fireworks...though our hands got a bit cold since we had to take one glove off to take photos and video.

My favorite colors were the blue and silver ones.

By the end of the month - January 31st - I completed the first blocks for a Mystery Quilt that I am doing with the Minnesota Quilters. Each month, they give directions for one part of the quilt. This month, it was using three different colors to create a tri-color block. The little blocks with two colors are leftovers. They can be used either to incorporate into the back of the quilt or for another project.

As I look at the other people who are posting photos of their finished blocks, it looks like I'm cutting my wrong. I don't know how people are cutting them so they get the yellow section to meet exactly at the corners. (You need to trim the larger block down to a smaller size.) I may have a rather odd-looking quilt by the time I'm done. At least it will be colorful.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay - Review

I read the book How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay by Gen and Kelly Tanabe since Sophia is in the process of applying for scholarships as she prepares to head to college in Fall 2019.

There were many examples of strong essays and interview questions. However, they are unique to the person who wrote them, so they aren't things to write down to remember.

There were some tips that I thought would be helpful or general insight that I found interesting:

- Check out The Ultimate Scholarship Book that has scholarships based on field of study, ethnicity, hobbies, talents, etc.
- Sell the scholarship committee on the things that you have done outside the academic area.
- Find a unique topic - what point of view of life experience can you share that is unique?
- What's the underlying question. For example, "Why do you want to study business?" means "Why do you want to study business, and why are you the best future business person we should gift with our hard-earned money?"
- Be passionate about what you've done.
- Give specific examples - not just general statements.
- Expand on your accomplishments. Give details about what was actually involved with the role you did.
- Show positive energy. If you are writing about a problem, present some solutions.
- Even if it takes a long time to fill out applications and write essays, think of it as being paid $500 an hour if you win.
- Use your essay to craft a story showing why you are a unique candidate. Include personal experiences, lessons learned, and how you are trying to improve yourself.
- Give specific examples of leadership, special talents, obstacles, or community service.
- Make sure the essay fits into the values that the foundation/business cares about.
- Go deeper and beyond what is in your application.
- Paint a picture of yourself (briefly), and then explain where you're going and how you're going to get there.
- When talking about leadership, focus on the specifics of what you did in a particular role (e.g, writing an article for the paper, soliciting donations, overseeing volunteers, contacting people).