Thursday, February 28, 2019

Outdoor Mom's Journal - February 2019

During our outdoor time this month we see the migrating swans and geese in Monticello. There are literally thousands of waterfowl at an open area in the Mississippi River.

The sound is almost deafening with so many birds in one area. There is someone who feeds them each day in the morning; and Olivia and I were able to see the tail-end of the feeding which was fun.

At home, I went outside when I heard rustling near the fence under the pine trees on the east side of the backyard. I'm glad I did: it was a pheasant who was having trouble getting up and over the fence. There is so much snow and not enough clearance, so it is more challenging for them to get up in the air and clear the fence.

Check out the wing marks on the snow. I think they are so pretty!


The most inspiring thing we experienced was...watching from inside a snowstorm and then going outside to see the impact that wind and snow had on trees and bushes.

It kind of reminds me of a tornado or summer storm when leaves and twigs are scattered all around. The only difference is that in the winter, we see pine needles, twigs, and seed pods that fall off the trees.

I also enjoyed watching and photographing the birds on February 20th at the feeder by the bedroom window. There were lots of cardinals.

The black-capped chickadees loved eating the peanuts.

The cardinals kept coming to the feeder and eating the sunflower seeds.

Cooper loved watching the birds.

The birds would crack open the seeds and the snow would often go flying from their beaks.

On the 25th, it was fun to watch a group of pheasants that have been hanging around our driveway. I put out cracked corn for them and they scratch just like chickens. The female (on the left) was doing a lot of scratching and finding corn. Then the male (on the right) came up to see what was there. You can tell she's annoyed that he's wanting to eat what she uncovered.

The male then started kicking up snow and looking for corn.

The pheasants spent time in the driveway and walked along the pathways I shoveled for them in the front yard. I can tell the pathways make it so much easier for them to get around safely and find food.

On the 25th, I saw a white-crowned sparrow. I was surprised to see it at this time of the year.

On the 26th, there were some robins in the apple tree eating the crabapples. I can't imagine that they taste good, but the robins were choosing to eat them versus coming to the feeder and eat seeds.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...why some dogs do well in the winter weather and snow, and other dogs struggle. Cooper is one of our dogs who loves the winter. He'll stick his head into the snow and look for activity near the grass. He reminds me of a fox looking for a rabbit or mouse.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting...nothing. It's hard to think of planting when the farm looks like this:

And icicles are coming off the roof:


They are really bad this year and we are going to have to hire someone to melt them so we don't get damage inside our home.

That being said, I am thinking that this year I will need to plant more flowers and get the backyard sodded since it is all torn up. Since we are planning on having Sophia's graduation party here, there will be a lot of work to do to make it look presentable. 

I added nature journal pages about...what I observe each day, the types of birds that I am seeing, and goals that I want to accomplish. I'm adding color to each of the pages which makes them look better than just the single-color illustrations that are in the nature journal now.

I am reading...
The Budget. It's an Amish-Mennonite newspaper and has reports from various communities throughout the country and world. It's interesting to read about how winter affects people, and how the weather this winter is significantly different than past years.

I am dreaming about…days when we aren't struggling to get through the snow. This year we have had a huge amount of snow and we literally are having difficulty finding a place to put it each time there is a new snowfall.

The pathways are narrow which makes it hard for the dogs to be able to run and explore when they go outside. The wind often is so strong that it blows the snow into the pathways, making for another outdoor time of shoveling to create paths.

This is the view from the barn to the house. Next year I really need to make sure that the snowblower is working. It would make creating this path so much easier. The shoveling is a real back-breaker on some days - especially when the wind blows and packs down the snow.

A photo I would like to share...this male pheasant was finding some unusual spots to perch one day. He picked the electric wire - something I had never seen a pheasant do! He also was hanging out in the apple tree. His coloring helped him blend into the branches on the tree.

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.