Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Wishes

You all know the last few months have been difficult for me with the sudden passing of my Mom. Yesterday would have been Mom and Dad's 69th wedding anniversary so needless to say they've been on my mind a lot. Of course I miss them both terribly but I'm also finding myself thinking about what they gave me. So very much of who and what I am came from their teaching and example.

We always had a cabin growing up where I was the one filling my pockets with rocks and feathers. One of my favorite memories is going on "rock walks" with my Dad. After I'd filled my pockets Dad would fill his. Dad was the one to show me bird nests what he called "wild canary" feathers. He made me a little wooden box with a screen front to catch frogs and bugs. Mom would sit for hours with me by the water's edge so I could catch crayfish and minnows. She never squealed when I brought home snakes or spiders.

Mom and Dad always respected my need for solitary time- I've always be comfortable to be alone. They encouraged me to buy my own house and travel. I didn't get married until I was 32 and they helped me be self-reliant and confident.

Moving on to a new year and a new season of my life without my parents, I realize that I will carry them with me every step of the way. I am grateful for my past and excited about my future.

I wish you all a healthy and peaceful New Year, with surprises and new birds around every bend in the road.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Stupid Road Trip

I was hoping to have some great stories of wonderful birds to share tonight. I was hoping to be able to post beautiful pictures. Art and I packed the truck this morning. Boots, hats and gloves, extra socks. Camera and back-up camera. Binoculars, field guide, Birdjam. Hand warmers. Insulated mugs and a thermos of hot coffee. Stop for gas and we're on our way-
Hasty Brook here we come!!
We'd made it about fifty miles on the freeway when we heard a thunk. A bad sound. The power steering went out, the heat turned off and the check engine light came on. Art managed to pull the truck off the freeway to the first exit and into a gas station. He knew before he even opened the hood that it was the serpentine belt. We found an open auto parts store half a mile away that had the part and limped over there. Seventy five dollars (cha-ching!) later we had the belt and tools he needed. Handy Art fixed the problem in the Checker Auto Parts parking lot. Art was so pleased, and it was only 10AM so we turned around and got back on the road headed Up North.
Hasty Brook here we come!!
We weren't on the freeway more than a few miles when I started to hear a flappity-hissy sound. Art said "Oh, that's just the belt seating itself". Moments later gray smoke was trailing us and the power steering went out again. Please-oh-please maybe the belt just came loose. Nope. The water pump was shot and antifreeze was spraying all over. Now we had to call a tow! While we were freezing waiting for the wrecker Art called Checker again and luckily they had a new water pump to fit the truck. (I'm grateful for cell phones!) Finally the tow guy showed up and loaded the pickup. I stuffed myself in the back seat of the tow truck for the SIX MILE tow north to the next exit and then back to Checker Auto. Six miles = $120!!!!! (cha-ching!!)
Art's brother lives 45 minutes away and he drove over to help him replace the water pump ($80 cha-ching!!). At around 2PM they were done. After another $75 (cha-ching!!) for tools, sealant, antifreeze and paper shop towels (they cleaned up after themselves very thoroughly) we were ready to go. The guys were cold and hungry and had worked so hard, we needed to stop for food before getting back on the road. White Castle was two doors down and that's what they wanted. I've heard about White Castle hamburgers but don't remember ever tasting them. Well, now I have tasted a "slider"- one bite was enough. Check that off my life "to do" list. It was awful, really awful! The little burgers were wet and gooey. The bun stuck to my fingers. The onions were clear and colorless and slimy. The meat(?) was wafer thin and gray!! Ugh!!
It was too late to go on to Hasty Brook so Art suggested we check out Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge a few miles away. Surely there would be birds waiting for us. It was really pretty there. The skies were quite overcast but there was lots of fresh, clean snow. For two hours Art drove slowly through the refuge, stopping patiently when ever I thought I saw something. Trying to keep the conversation cheerful during our 5 MPH, two hour refuge drive, Art reminded me that this wildlife area is a favorite body dumping ground for Twin Cities murderers. NEAT.
We saw:
one pheasant
two ruffed grouse
one blue jay
That's it.
Eight hours,
$350 (not counting gasoline)
four birds,
no pictures.
I had such high hopes of visiting my Hasty Brook. I wanted to see cool birds. It just wasn't meant to be. We picked up pizzas on the way home. Oh well, we're all home, safe and sound and the pizza was terrific. It could have been worse!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Just You and Me

It's been nuts around here. I've worked all three shifts in the last seven days. Art and his brother were gone Sunday through late Wednesday, driving to Las Vegas and back to pick up a '72(?) Camero. Art's brother rebuilds cars. Luckily, before he left on this cross-country jaunt, Art took a day off work so we could get the bulk of the kids' Christmas shopping done. Molly and I finally went to put the artificial tree up last weekend only to find that most of the cheesy plastic pins that held the branches on were broken. So a quick trip to Menards found us lugging home a new fake tree. I am sooo not in the spirit. No baking this year. Thank heaven for Costco! One stop shopping for all your entertaining needs!
Running last minute errands today I saw three deer and a beautiful red fox along the freeway near home. And then I saw these two beautiful hawks. It must be time for them to be pairing up all ready. None of the wild birds or animals I saw cared that people were racing around them. I doubt the world looked to be spinning crazily to them. Their lives are driven simply by their instincts. Maybe it's the season, or my turning 50, or the loss of my Mom, but I've been thinking a lot lately about how I want to live. I'd like a simpler life. That's a frequently heard expression these days. It's hard for me to let go and unclutter. I tend to hang on to worries as much as I do things. I really want to lighten the load and purge my house of STUFF. Knowing my habbit of fizzling, maybe I should set the goal small- a bag or two a week. There are several charities in our area that come to the house for pick-ups. Maybe someone else would find value or use in the things that I feel are closing in around me.
Letting go of the worries will be harder. Fretting over how things are compaired to how they "should be" is a major stumbling block for me. One of Mom's favorite expressions was "Pick up a rosary- it will help you let go". Well, I'm taking her advice, working on my faith and bringing some peace back into my life.
I wish you all peaceful hearts in this Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Are you looking for a good laugh?
My fourteen year old daughter sent me the link to I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER and I haven't stopped laughing yet.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Seven Random Things

I just remembered that Nature Woman tagged me a couple of days ago for a "Seven Random Things" meme.
Here are the rules:
The rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Hmmm... Here's what I came up with:
1. I am a Medical Technologist and part of my job is to draw blood for legal blood alcohol levels for law enforcement agencies. A few times a year I receive subpoenas to testify in court. I just got one for next month. Yuck.
2. I always have a rosary in my pocket or in my purse.
3. My fingers are double jointed. My thumbs can bend backward at a 90 degree angle.
4. I can't stand to scoop corn starch out of the box. I can feel a squeak like fingernails on a black board.
5. I have a serious addiction to Caribou latte, extra hot, no foam.
6. I love Costco. It used to be that I couldn't get out of Target without spending $100. Now it's Costco.
7. My favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla. Actually, vanilla is the only flavor I like.
Since most everyone I know has been tagged all ready, I'm going to refrain from tagging anyone else. Feel free to join in if you want to!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Sax Zim Bog Birding Festival

Hello Friends! I wasn't sure if I remembered how to put a post together with photos, it's been a while. I've been reading all of your blogs and occasionally commenting, but it's taken a bit to find the energy to write a post. But now I have something to tell you all that I'm really excited about. I'm signed up for a birding festival in northern Minnesota in February. It's the Sax Zim Bog Birding Festival. This is its first year for a formal festival and it sounds terrific. The dates are February 14-16. I'm especially excited that Ruthie, the Nature Knitter will be driving up here from Rochester to the Twin Cities to pick me up and we'll be carpooling on up to Duluth. There will be two evening programs that sound wonderful. One of the speakers is Laura Erickson, an ornithologist and a gifted birder from here in Minnesota. I had the honor of meeting her last January when I went on a birding trip with the Duluth Audubon group. I'll be bringing along my copies of the books that she has written 101 Ways to Help Birds and For the Birds: An Uncommon Guide (Appointment With Nature) - I'd love to have them signed.

I'll be hoping to see another Great Gray Owl. This is one of the many GGO's I was fortunate to see in northern Minnesota during the irruption winter in 2004/2005. I wrote about it in this post Great Gray Owls for Susan. I wrote it trying to entice her and Laura up here to the frozen northland to see these amazing birds.

Maybe we'll be lucky and see another Northern Hawk Owl like this one biting the head off a vole.

I might wish to see another Snowy Owl, but even if I don't, seeing this one last winter in Duluth was pure magic.

The other evening speaker is Dave Benson, a naturalist and writer from Duluth who is the author of a new book Owls of the North: a Naturalist's Handbook. The book looks great and I hope to buy it there.

Here's the brochure description of the field trip Ruthie and I have signed up for:

Sax-Zim Bog/Duluth Harbor Area: We will meet in the parking lot at 6:00 a.m. to get organized and leave by 6:30 a.m. We will start the day by looking for Great Gray Owls at dawn and then concentrate on Sharp-tailed Grouse, Northern Hawk Owl, American Three-toed & Black-backed Woodpeckers, Northern Shrike, Boreal Chickadee, Red & White-winged Crossbills, Common & Hoary Redpolls, Evening & Pine Grosbeaks, Snow Bunting and other winter bird residents. After lunch we will head down to the Duluth harbor to look for some possibilities like Harlequin Duck, Gyrfalcon, Thayer’s Gull, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, and Snowy Owl. If there is time look for Bohemian Waxwings.

I'll be happy with any or all of these birds listed. I'd like to add a Gray Jay to the list. As many times as I've been Up North in the winter, I've never seen a Gray Jay.

Any of the rest of you want to come up? I'll pick you up at the airport and provide trasportation to the winter wonderland of northern Minnesota!

Will there be life birds that you won't find anywhere else? YES!!!

Will it be fun? YES!!! (maybe even too much fun!)

Will it be cold? Well, OK, it will be cold- but- you CAN handle it! I'll even provide the hand warmers and hot drinks. And cookies. And banana bread- I make really good banana bread with and without mini-chocolate chips.
I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Hendrickson who worked very hard with the people of the Sax Zim Bog area to get this festival up and running.