Sunday, February 18, 2018

Eagles - Nature Journal Entry

We have been seeing eagles more this week which has been exciting. On Valentine's Day, there were two eagles circling above us and towards the river in Osceola (Wisconsin). They would flap their wings periodically and then just glide in circles. I could watch eagles all day with their graceful movements.

On Saturday morning, Sophia and I were headed to Forest Lake and saw an eagle and crow on the side of the road eating a dead deer. I had to turn around.

Slowly drove on the side of the road and stayed a fair distance away. Nonetheless, it was still too close for the eagle, so it flew off with its feather-covered legs hanging down. They look like feathered pantaloons to me.

The eagle circled back across the highway and found a branch to perch on. It had a great view of the deer, so I knew that after we left it would fly back down and finish eating.

What surprised me was that the crow and eagle were able to peacefully co-exist while eating together. Neither was bothered by the other one which was interesting to see.

Yesterday afternoon, I went through my file about eagles and cut out photos that I had from magazines - like National Geographic.

Put these into my nature journal and wrote about seeing the eagles.

Also wrote some facts that I found interesting. For example:

- A bald eagle's nest may reach 10 feet across and 20 feet deep! I had no idea they were that big. That's literally almost the height of our home. That's huge!

-  Most raptors can't fly with a load more than 305 of their own body weight. So, about 3-4 pounds would be the max for an eagle.

- A female's wingspan in 6'7" - 7'6" and a male's wingspan is 6' - 7'1".

- The average weight of an eagle is about 10-14 pounds.

- More than 90% of birds stay with partners until they die. At that time, they look for another mate.

- By mid- to late-February, the eggs are laid.

- The beak color moves to a clean yellow bill by the fourth year. Sometimes it may take longer.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Chinese New Year 2018 - The Year of the Dog

Chinese New Year was February 16th this year. It's the Year of the Dog.

Our original plans were to have a Chinese meal at home that evening. However, Cooper and Danny got into a rather scary fight that changed the course of the evening.

Both the dogs are fine. However, both - who view themselves as Alpha dogs within their own small packs - need to be less testy to one another. We had made a lot of progress during the past year with the adoption and then introduction of Danny and Scooby to Aspen and Cooper. Although there have been times when they bark at one another - it was nothing like what happened on Friday night.

Thankfully, no blood was shed. Danny was shaking and quite frightened after the encounter. The dogs are now temporarily separated from one another until we feel like they can be okay with one another again.

So...with that being said, we postponed our Chinese New Year dinner until Saturday evening. I had purchased a variety of items from the store and cooked everything. It was a lot easier than trying to prepare the items on my own.

We had vegetarian eggrolls, chicken dumplings, vegetable fried rice, and beef and broccoli stir fry.

Danny joined us for dinner. It was safer for him to be on Sophia's lap - especially with food around.

It was nice - and simple - way to celebrate Chinese New Year. Wish there were activities locally to celebrate Chinese New Year, but there aren't. It would be fun to go somewhere next year that celebrates the holiday so we can see a Lion Dance, have Dim Sum, and enjoy other activities.

Cooling Aromatherapy for Hot Weather and Hot Flashes

When I was going to Arizona last July, I had wanted to find an aromatherapy blend that would help with overheating. I looked on Pinterest and found some essential oil blends for hot flashes which I thought would be somewhat like being in 120 degree weather in Arizona.

I found a blend on Camp Wander called "Dash the Hot Flash Spray" which had a nice blend of essential oils that I like: lavender, geranium, bergamot, and peppermint. There's clary sage in it too, though I don't use it that often.

I never got around to making the spray before I left, but still wanted to try it because it seemed like a nice blend of oils. I'll be going to Las Vegas this summer for a convention and the weather is supposed to be hot there as well. I'll be bringing the spray with me this time to use when I'm outside in the heat.

To make the spray, you'll need:

8 ounces alcohol-free witch hazel
4 drops bergamot essential oil
4 drops geranium essential oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops clary sage essential oil
2 drops peppermint essential oil

Once you have the ingredients and supplies, simply add all of the ingredients to a spray bottle.

To use, shake well and spritz lightly on your face, chest, and neck when you feel the heat.

Another blend I have used from Shanti Aromatherapy uses Lavender, Peppermint, Clary Sage, and Pink Grapefruit. I'm not sure how many drops to use of each one, but probably a similar amount as above would yield a nice scented spray.

10 drops lavender essential oil
4 drops peppermint essential oil
4 drops clary sage essential oil
4 drops pink grapefruit essential oil

Friday, February 16, 2018

Outdoor Mom's Journal - February

During our outdoor time this week we went....exploring around the yard and down the street. Not too far from home since it was only 15 degrees with a biting wind; and I wasn't wearing a hat or gloves.

Started in the backyard and looked at the barn which needs some repairs and a fresh coat of paint.

Someone was looking out the window at me. Hoss was curious as to what I was doing.

Some of the trees took a beating this winter. Will need to have limbs and branches cut off and trimmed to woodstove length so we can run the wood through the log splitter this Spring.

There was evidence of rabbits all around the backyard. In fact, I saw one in the pasture running from brush pile to brush pile today. It was a rather large rabbit and it was running quite fast. The brush piles clearly serve an important purpose for them.

There are still no leaves on the trees yet. Have a while before that happens.

The playhouse and hobby shed also need some repairs and painting this Spring and Summer. I think the bushes need to be cut as well. They look overgrown from this angle.

I took a closer look at the evergreens along the east side of the backyard. Was surprised to see that one tree, in particular, has brown needles where the new growth is which isn't good. Will need to have someone come out and look at that the Spring.

The evergreens are a variety of types so the tops all look different from one another.

The apple tree is starting to get buds. I was very surprised because the weather has been so chilly.

Along the driveway, the squirrels have been stripping the pinecones to their cores. These cores are littering the driveway.

Little bits of pinecones also are all over the driveway.

This is one of the biggest trees on our farm. It's next to the driveway. It's on its last leg, unfortunately. Each time I pull into the driveway, I can see a hint of light through the trunk. The birds and animals have hollowed out quite a bit of it. It will be sad to see this majestic tree come down.

I crossed the road and found a trail of some sort leading from the road into the cornfield. Have no idea what animals the tracks belong to - perhaps a rabbit that was there a long time ago?

These tracks below were much closer together and larger. They are essentially in a straight line and lead far into the field. They're relatively big - but they look like they have been there for a while so the opening of each track may have expanded slightly as the days pass (which is common).

On the website Questions and Answers, a library patron had come in asking about tracks that looked similar to the ones I saw below. They were fair size tracks that went in a straight line.

"Tracking & the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Signs by Paul Rezendes includes both photographs and drawings of animal tracks. Browsing through the book, we read that there are different kinds of patterns. The “domestic dog is a double- or indirect-registering animal (p.178).” The red fox has a regular walking pattern, going in almost a straight line. It is a direct-registering animal. The walking gait of the red fox “is usually a straight, precise, narrow line of tracks (p.179),” and the accompanying drawing bears that out. This is because the fox walks with the hind foot directly on top of the track of the front one.

"Using the Key to Tracks in The Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks by Olaus J. Murie and Mark Elbroch, the shape resembles those of the weasel, the coyote, and the red fox. The weasel track is a bit small, measuring less than 2 inches. The coyote and red fox are both much closer matches. The coyote has a print of 2 ¼ to 3 ½ inches long. The red fox’s is between 1 7/8 and 2 7/8 inches. The coyote trail through snow (p. 163) shows the tracks in a straight line, but they are spaced 14 to 15 inches apart."

My other favorite tree is in the west pasture. It's silhouette was back-lit by the setting sun.

The tree's branches and limbs look so beautiful against the blue and cream-color sky.

There's a set of birch trees in a clump along the fence line. I like how they grow up and outwards from a central point.

On the way back, I noticed a bunch of tracks leading from the road to a culvert.

Going closer to the culvert, there was a clear path leading in and out of the den.

I'm not sure what kind of animal is living in the culvert, but it's something of substantial size.  There are four paw prints together in each group. I have no idea what animal left the tracks.

Coming back to the driveway, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the west side of the driveway has grown in with brush/shrubs. This used to be very open when we moved here in 1995. We've let it go partly for privacy and partly for animals to have some shelter.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) can you tell the difference between a trumpeter swan and a tundra swan in flight?

According to the Sibley Guide, "[The} trumpeter has [a] thicker neck that droops noticeably at [the] base; [the] tundra has [a] straighter neck that narrows before [the] head. [The] trumpeter seems to have slightly broader wings, more rounded wingtips, slower wingbeats, and wings slightly more cupped/arched when gliding. [The] tundra tends to [its] hold wings flat, but much depends on the glide angle."

The Trumpeter Swan Society had this drawing that shows the difference in size between the birds:

Based on that information, Sophia, Olivia, and I saw a trumpeter swan flying northeast towards the St. Croix River when we were driving on Valentine's Day. They are such beautiful birds.

Now I'm wondering why it was flying by itself. Normally we see them in pairs or big flocks.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting...still frozen here.

Nothing can be planted and harvested yet. I planted a couple of beds of strawberries in the fall using the growths from existing plants.

It will be interesting to see how many of the plants grow. If they do, we'll have to fence off the gardens since last year the rabbits ate many of the plants. In other garden, we struggled with the grackles eating the fruit.

There were rabbit tracks all over the raised beds leading from the wooded area.

I added nature journal pages about...turkeys on February 16th. I did a two-page spread because I found some images in a file I had of a turkey with spread-out feathers which I liked. It reminded me of the turkeys we had here who liked to display their feathers...especially Stuart. He was a great turkey.

Also did a two-page spread about eagles. We've been seeing them returning to the area this week which has been exciting.

Saw two on Valentine's Day circling in the air above us; and another one today on the side of the road eating a dead deer. A crow was with the eagle and they were peacefully co-existing and eating together which I thought was interesting. 

I am reading...
Flights of Fancy still. I'm almost done. The book looks at various birds and their history, myths, and other stories about them. Most the birds are from Europe. It would be more interesting if the majority of birds related to the U.S. and were commonly seen here.

I am dreaming about...the flower bulbs I planted this past Fall. I'm hoping that the squirrels and voles didn't get to them and that there will be more flowers this fall. It's always a surprise what comes up each year. If the bulbs haven't been monkeyed around with, there should be quite a few red and purple ones around the pine tree outside the kitchen window. Last year, many red ones came up which was so pretty.

Looking forward to the lilies as well. They were so tall and fragrant - and created such a beautiful scent each time we walked into the backyard from the driveway.

A photo I would like to share...One thing I'm looking forward to in a few weeks will be that the ice will have melted on the driveway.

For the majority of the season, we've been walking and driving on ice. 

Thank you to Barb the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the idea of doing an Outdoor Mom's Journal.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day 2017

Valentine's Day this year was one that required some improvising. In the past, I have decorated the windows with window stars and had handmade embroidered felt bags filled with goodies for everyone.

This year, the bin I keep all the Valentine's Day items in was inaccessible since the hobby door had a significant amount of ice in front of it. If I were about 4 inches wide, I could have gotten into the hobby shed. No such luck this year.

So, I used what we had on hand: a pink tablecloth from my parents, placemats that we've had for many years, and white lunch bags to hold small gifts.

For breakfast we had egg strata. It was a new recipe I've wanted to try. It was good, though some more eggs/milk would have been good. Also got a strawberry Danish because not everyone eats egg bakes.

Made a smoothie with frozen strawberries and raspberries mixed with cranberry juice, honey, and strawberry yogurt. It was good. We used to have smoothies a lot and then stopped making them for some reason. May have to revisit making smoothies again.

Got the girls each some candies, lotion, a candle, and necklace. Olivia got a 500-piece puzzle and Sophia  got some eye shadow.

Also gave them flavored pockies and dip (an Asian treat). They had not had the dip version before so they were excited to try something new.

We went to Joanns and Michaels to get supplies for the One Stop Donation Drop and jewelry making respectively.

Headed to the co-op and got some sushi, a sustainable beverage that Sophia wanted to try, and some organic candies that Olivia wanted to dry.

In the afternoon, we helped at a Valentine's Day party at the nursing home. "Elvis" made an appearance which the seniors enjoyed.

The girls and I served Valentine's Day cookies and punch to the residents who were there. Also brought the treats to residents who stayed in their rooms. They were pleasantly surprised.

When we came home, I made dinner and set the table.

We had stuffed Italian shells (a mixture of ground beef, mozzarella cheese, parsley, onions, and mushrooms) that were covered with spaghetti sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese.

There were breadsticks too.

Sophia made the desserts. She made little lava cakes that were topped with whipped cream. This isn't a great photo because the cakes were still hot when they were served, so the whipped cream melted almost immediately once it was put on the cake. The cakes tasted AMAZING! Super delicious!

 She also made swan cream puffs.

On the body of the swan (on the inside) is a chocolate base topped with homemade whipping cream. They were delicate and very tasty.

She even made a special dessert for Olivia: a chocolate mousse inside a chocolate container.

Needless to say, Olivia was very happy to have her own dessert.

It was a nice Valentine's Day; and one that was filled with a variety of things to eat and do. 

All the Light There Was - Book Review

During January I read All the Light There Was by Nancy Kricorian. Although it took a few chapters for me to get into the book and become invested in it, it became a book I didn't want to put down.

Basically, it's a story of an Armenian family's struggle to survive the Nazi occupation of Paris in the 1940s.  Like many other Armenians who survived the genocide in their homeland, the Pegorian family came to Paris to build a new life.

The main character, 14 year old Maral Pegorian, is living with her family in Paris on the day that the Nazis march down the rue de Belleville.

The adults immediately set about gathering food and provisions, knowing that deprivation is inevitable. Throughout the story, there is a lack of supplies and a variety of nourishing food for families. Turnips become a mainstay of meals.

The Pegorian children (Maral and her brother Missak) and their close friend (Zaven) aim to find ways to resist their oppressors. Some ways are known to others, while others are more secretive.

Eventually, Zaven flees with his brother Barkev to avoid conscription. This puts a tremendous stress on the Zaven and Barkev's family as it does Maral's family since they are all so close to one another.

Zaven makes a brief reappearance and Maral and he privately "get married" and exchange red yarn rings. Although initially after that there are signs that Zaven and Barkev are well (but in hiding), eventually all indications that they are around cease which is even more anxiety-provoking.

After many months, Barkev returns - appearing gaunt and having the appearance of an old man. He shares what happened to Zaven and then gives Maral the yarn ring that Zaven had held onto and wanted returned to her.

Barkev and Maral end up marrying one another. Their life pales in comparison to others; and Barkev remains traumatized and depressed about the experience he and Zaven went through.

The story was an engaging and  sobering looks into the effects of war - particularly WWII and the concentration camps - on families. Although the subject matter is intense, it is a part of world history that bears remembering.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Black History Month - History, Risk Taking, Art, and Poetry

One of the files I had for homeschooling is for Black History Month. I was looking through it and found some interesting things:

Underground Railroad

- Harriet Tubman made 19 trips on the secret tails and paths to the South, liberating 300 captives from slaveholders. She was so successful that a reward of $40,000 ws posted for her capture. After the Civil War, she founded two schools, worked for women's rights, and opened a home for the elderly.

- The Underground Railroad was a vast network of byways, barns, churches, and homes that stretched from Delaware to what would become Nebraska, from Minnesota to New York, and even into Canada, Mexico, and Caribbean.

- It is existed in every state north of the border slave states and had a particularly extensive network in the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
~ Langston Hughes ~

Clock Making

- As a slave, Peter Hill learned clock making from his owner. But after gaining freedom in 1785, Mr. Hill opened his own shop in Burlington, New Jersey. Several of his beautiful clocks still stand in homes or museums today.

Because candles were used at night, Mr. Hill painted the clock face white. Telling time was easier on a white surface than on a brass or silver one.

One of his clocks is at the National Museum of American History.

Know that love has chosen you
To live his crucial purposes.
Know that love has chosen you.
~ Robert Hayden ~ 

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was a professional baseball player who became the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues in the 20th century. He had nine values:

Doing what you know is the right thing even when it is hard to do.

Staying focused on a plan even though the path to its end may be difficult.

Working with other people toward a common goal.

Working toward a goal and continuing to move forward even though you face obstacles or barriers.

Sticking to your values, regardless of what others think you should do.

Making a contribution that improves the lives of others.

Treating all people fairly, no matter who they are.

Making a promise and following through on it.

Doing the  best that you possibly can.

I hear a single music
in us, one note
dancing us through the
singular moving world
~ Lucille Clifton ~ 

Sojourner Truth

She was born in 1797 and died in 1883. She freed herself from slavery, traveled around the United States preaching and speaking out against slavery, had a book published about her during her lifetime, and purchased and sold her own land.

She knew what
she was and so
was capable
of anything
could imagine.
~ Rita Dove ~

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Volunteering for 2018

As the year is progressing, I've been thinking about what I want to do in terms of volunteering. Some goals that I have for volunteering are to:

- Continue volunteering at the nursing home at least twice a month. Help with activities and/or meet one-on-one with residents who need encouragement and someone to listen to them.

Sophia with one of the residents who is 104 years old.

- Continue volunteering at the humane society while Sophia plays the harp. Provide one-on-one time with the dogs who we spend time with during the music therapy sessions.

Sophia playing the harp while Olivia pets a dog.

- Co-lead the Leo Club; and help oversee or encourage the teens' participation in 1-2 service projects or activities per month.

- Be the membership chairperson for the Lions Club until June 2018. See at that time if I'm nominated to continue in that role.

- Be a board member for the Lions Club Foundation until June 2018. See at that time if my term is renewed or that finishes the appointment.

- Conduct at least two membership/service events for the Lions Club.

January's service event with the Lions Club.

- Explore ideas that the Leo Club could do. Some ideas:

   => Have the Minnesota Search and Rescue Dog Association do a free demonstration. They can do a video presentation or an instructional class on the use of search dogs. Their contact number is 763-427-1212.

    => Do a shoe drive for Soles4Souls. There are even trips that can be taken to third-world countries to distribute the shoes which would be very rewarding. (Maybe that's more of a long-term family goals than it is a Leo Club goal.)

     => Deliver new books at a nearby hospital for the children who happen to be there on Christmas. Donate to a general hospital (rather than children's hospital which gets many donations around the holidays).