February 28

   Wednesday a week ago:  What the hail?!  We had torrential rain and it hailed for awhile.  It cleared up in time for my afternoon lab, but it was still very cold.  We took a short field trip and saw only 7 bird species, none of them new.  One of my students fell down and got covered in mud.

   I had brought in our gecko to use in class.  I was taping it for a peer review and had really set up the old dog-and-pony show.  The recorder stopped after 5 minutes, so that was a waste.  

   That night we had thunderstorms.  Hard to sleep through that.  Thursday we had high winds that knocked down signs and trees all over.  I set up to tape my morning class, again bringing in extra props and giving my best lecture ever.  When I played it back, the recording had no sound.  I gave up.

   Friday was meetings and meetings.  

   Saturday morning I got up at quarter to five, and with brief preparation, left for St. Louis.  It snowed for a good way down there, but there was no appreciable accumulation.  I found the place for the photography seminar with no trouble.  It was by a national-level speaker, Nancy Rotenberg.  Missouri Nature and Environmental Photographers only does this every other year.  The talk was basically, Zen in the Art of Photography, which had a lot of appeal for me.  I met a lot of photography maniacs and learned a few things from them.  I was invited to go to dinner afterward with the speaker.  We ate at an Italian restaurant, Cicero’s, which was very good.  I got to know a couple of the members.  Very nice people, no bad attitudes.  Our waitress was a white girl with dreadlocks, which is always a bit strange.  I just wonder how, if ever, she washes them.  I went to Pacific, MO after that and stayed at the disComfort Inn.  Very tired.  The next day I stopped at Shaw Gardens and took a little hike.  It was really cold and not much was moving.  I didn’t stay long.  

   The plan was to meet the other guys for fishing at Lake Taneycomo in Branson.  I drove down interstate 44, which should have been easy, but it was windy and hilly, not a good combination for the Li’l Egg.  Missouri is such a strange and wonderful place.  About every other exit had an adult bookstore.  However, there were also frequent billboards with variations of the message “Pornography Destroys.”  No wonder I’m such a wreck.  About 10 a.m. I was hoping to stop and get some coffee.  I missed an opportunity for a Hardee’s through inattention.  Then I saw a sign for Panera Bread.  Gourmet coffee!  I exited and followed the sign that said 3/4 mile.  I went two miles and turned around.  I was looking hard both ways and didn’t see it.  I continued down the highway, and stopped for an Arby’s.  The one in Quincy has fancy coffee.  I found the place and walked up to the door, only to find it locked.  Closed on Sunday mornings.  I was reduced to seeking the nearby McDonald’s for their rotgut coffee.  

   I stopped at a Taco Bell in Springfield just before I reached the original Bass Pro Shops store.  This is “The Mothership”, with the wildlife museum and lots of other extras.  I dropped off a couple of reels at the repair center and browsed the catalog outlet store for bargains.  I found a pair of hiking shoes.  After all the discounts, I think I paid about 1/3 their original price.  They are extremely comfortable, well designed and constructed. I had never heard of Garmont before, but it turns out they are a serious Italian outdoor footwear company.  If you want to see the slickest web site I think I’ve ever seen, visit them (http://www.garmont.com/eng.html).  I think they didn’t sell because they were so damned ugly.  Orange accents never go over well in shoes.  I also got a pair of fishing pants for cheap, and a set of bunny-thumping blunt arrowheads at the main store.  Then it was on the road again to Branson.  I checked in at Trout Hollow Lodge (http://www.trouthollow.com), and went down to the dock to fish.  It had been a couple of years since I was there, and I couldn’t remember exactly the rig we had used to catch trout.  I tried a medium sized bullet weight ahead of about a #6 baitholder hook covered with three balls of Powerbait.  We hadn’t caught any off the dock last time, so I wasn’t very optimistic.  However, before too long, I had one on.  Naturally, I forgot to photograph it until I had put it back in the lake, but I didn’t forget with the second one.  I had another before the rest of the group got there.   
   After they arrived and unpacked we went down and fished for an hour or so.  I caught four more, and Lowell caught a couple.  Here’s the evidence.


We had dinner at the Farmhouse Restaurant, as we did for EVERY meal while we were there.  Must be a thousand restaurants in Branson and we have to use the same one each time.  Food’s good, anyway.  

   Monday morning we got out on the river in our rented pontoon boats, motored upstream and began the drift.  The upper dam was letting lots of water through (and presumably making lots of electricity), which created quite a stiff current.  I wasn’t having much luck at first, but started hitting them good once I got the hang of it.  I caught 17 fish in the morning, including a couple of rainbows around 14 inches, and my only brown trout.  I didn’t measure it, but am certain it was bigger than 14, but less than the required 20 inches.
   I bemoaned our lack of a net in our boat because when I lip-grabbed this guy, I found that browns of this size have really big, pointy teeth!


   After lunch the current had slowed way down.  I only caught three fish all afternoon.  Lowell had the hot hand, and was reeling in one after another.  We saved the big ones and cleaned them.  The limit is 4, so we were fairly selective.  Turns out they plant about 50,000 fish per month.  No wonder there are so many!  The limit has gone down from 5 to 4, but the size has gone up a lot.  They used to be about 8-10 inches on average.  This time they were averaging 11 or 12 inches.

   Sunday morning the current was running high, and my technique was, once again, effective.  I caught 20 more fish.  Lowell and I saved the big ‘uns for the fillet knife.  We hit the road, and Lowell rode with me back to Canton.  Everybody stopped at a certain buffet for lunch.  It was a great trip, not only for the fishing, but for the fellowship as well.  I have to say a little about everyone who went.



   Carl Schmidt is the guy in the foreground.  He’s either a rebel, or he can’t read.  Carl and I enjoy exchanging barbs, but it’s all in good fun.  He’s a great storyteller, which makes him good to have on a trip like this.  He’s probably the most gung-ho for fishing.  When everyone else was done on Monday night, he and Jim Behn (background) stayed on the dock and kept fishing.



   I had never met Jim Behn before, though he lives in Canton. Here he’s holding a nice brown trout.  He’s pretty quiet, and an accountant.  On the first morning he caught about the f
irst 3 fish.  I noticed he was using a little lift-drop action on his rod.  After I copied his method, I started killing them.  Later I learned he had taken half a year off from work and hiked the entire Appalachian trail.  This is the accomplishment of a true man.  I quizzed him about this at some length.  My estimation of him went up by about 5 notches.  
   Lowell I spend a lot of time with and write about in this blog nearly every week, but he still shows new sides to his character.  We were roommates at Trout Hollow.  The first night someone had left the bathroom light on.  He said, “Do you think we should shut the door to keep the light out?”  I said, “No, they’ll turn it off in a minute, and you might not want to provide any resistance to the diffusion of air.”  Immediately, I followed with a large eruption of gas.  I died laughing, but was more impressed that Lowell didn’t kick me out of the room.  That’s tolerance.
   I have known Jim Upchurch for years, but never spent much time with him.  Turns out he’s a pretty mellow guy.  He has some interesting stories to tell as well, in his own soft-spoken way.  One of the things his business does is to write technical manuals.  “Clean the machine with a greasy rat” will now be a classic.   Here he is, apparently the new spokesmodel for Trout Hollow.

   Tom Wiltshire was the Master of Ceremonies for this event, and began the tradition a few years ago.  He’s an accomplished fisherman, and very tolerant of my antics, even when I called his vehicle the Ford Foreplay or Foreskin.  [It’s actually a Freestyle].   Sorry, Tom, no picture!
   Joe Dieker is also a skilled fisherman.  In fact, he taught me how to use a baitcasting outfit, which is now my preference.  I copied his Slug-go method for bass when subtle presentations are required, and it has been deadly.  He added considerable life to our little party, getting in little wisecracks every now and then. 

Here’s Dieker, in a very cool hat.

   If you were paying attention, you noticed that we had two Jims and two Joes on the trip.  I said we shouldn’t allow two guys with the same name on the same boat.  Too confusing.

   I took advantage of the very people-tolerant Great Blue Herons all along the lake, photographing them at every opportunity.   


Lots of them were standing around like this.


With much practice, I managed to get a few in flight.


I don’t get many mammals, so I couldn’t pass up this woodchuck.  I said to him, “Punxatawney Phil is a liar!”

   Wednesday (this morning) I had to take Savannah to the orthodontist.  I dropped her off, went to the office, fed the fish, watered plants and returned.  She bore the good news that the braces come off in just a few weeks.  Much rejoicing followed.  I’ll rejoice more when they’re all paid for.  We made an obligatory stop at Hardees; breakfast for her, second breakfast for me, and I took her back to school.
   I spent the rest of the morning doing paperwork, writing this, and catching up on email.  I spent the afternoon cutting yet another truckload of wood.  I cut until I noticed a pool of oil on the ground.  The cap for my bar and chain oil reservoir had fallen out.  With some hunting I found it.  It’s a good thing I stopped then, as I had the largest load I’ve ever hauled with the truck.  I worried about getting stuck in the field, but it was just dry enough.  Once home, I fired the wood furnace and cut up the longer logs.  We’re heating with wood again.  
   While I was gone, Savannah started track season.  With new shoes, she developed new blisters, so she’s hobbling around.  Stacey had an early morning fire one day, and spent a few days recovering from that.  We are all glad to return to life as normal. 

February 20

Tuesday was the last of the four day weekend.  I cleaned house, emptied the ashes out of the wood furnace, and worked on the glass cabinet doors I had salvaged.  I ran some errands downtown.  In the afternoon I went down and took pictures by the river.  I thought I was out of luck until I saw the ducks downstream. 


I caught this one as it splashed down.

I watched this eagle circle three or four times.


It finally caught a small fish.


It made one pass at the trees, circled around a second time, and landed.  I saw the little fish immediately fall out of the tree and hit the ground.  I laughed and thought I heard the eagle say, “Shit!”


Ducks are always stealing fish from each other, and size matters.  Here, the canvasback drake seems to be saying to the goldeneye hen, “I WILL take your fish.”  He did.


That night Savannah went to the last home basketball games.  I installed a new keyboard in my laptop.  This blog was brought to you by the letter “F”,  which has made a triumphant return.

The brutal cold has passed, and we’re having the great meltdown.  It’s good to get rid of the ice and snow, but my back porch is turning into Lake Coelho.  I have a serious drainage problem back there.   At least with the higher temperatures, we’re burning a lot less wood.

The duck watching has been so good in Canton that I brought my class to see them.  Ultimately, we saw all the species I wanted to see, including canvasbacks, ringnecks, and buffleheads, plus some bonus birds.  A kingfisher put in an appearance, then above the dam we saw a pelican standing on the ice and flapping its wings.  I spotted a white lump on the ice above the lock.  We went up to check it out.  It was a dead pelican–a little creepy.  We drove along the river by the campground on the way out, and stopped to look at some scaup.  I kept hearing quacks, then I saw some more goldeneyes farther out.  there were two males and a female between them.  The males were performing their courtship behavior.  They start with head turning, side to side, followed by rearing the head back, flaring the head feathers, quacking, and finally kicking some water backwards with the feet.  They were brilliantly illuminated by the sun.  It was quite a spectacle.  I told the students to remember the scene, as they might not ever see it again.  My only regret was not having my camera handy to record it.

I hosted my book club that night.  I gave a little tour of the woodburning heating system.  I think we had a record turnout, certainly the most I’ve had at my house.  We had a lively discussion.  Stacey went to the fire department and Savannah went to choir practice and church, returning with a dirty spot on her head (Ash Wednesday). 

Thursday afternoon I went down to the river to try to capture on film (or memory card) what I had missed the day before.

The end of a pelican.


The drake Common Goldeneye on the right is rearing back as part of the courtship display.  The female, left, is ignoring him.

There was a bunch of males surrounding two females.  All the males were displaying.  I caught some of it on video.  Have to figure out if I can get that on here.  OK, I got it, but you probably have to go to the original blog to see it (http://joesblog.showmejoe.com/).  MPG files should play on any computer.  Here are the sex videos:

One drake makes one display.
Several drakes display.

If you listen closely you can hear some quacks. 

It started raining Saturday morning, and kept it up pretty hard all day.  Saturday afternoon I went with Lowell and Savannah to the last home QU basketball games.  I love senior night.  The women’s team lost, unfortunately, which I think puts them out of the playoffs.  Savannah got a free T shirt and rally towel.  There’s a guy on the men’s team who played 4 years and never scored any points.  That’s dedication.  They started him, as well as the other seniors, but he didn’t get a shot.  It was a tight game, and very exciting, with a couple of slams by our high-jumping guy.  At the end we had a pretty big lead, and the other team was fouling us on every possession.  So with one minute left the coach put the guy in who’s never scored.  They fouled him, he went to the line, and missed both shots.  I think everyone in the arena knew what was going on.  It was disappointing.  But on the next possession they fouled him again, he went to the line and made them both.  The crowd went crazy.  Afterward we went to the big Chinese buffet.  Savannah had frog legs, but wouldn’t try the sushi.  
   Stacey called during dinner and said she had a severe migraine.  On the way home I figured I’d be driving back to Quincy to the emergency room.  But her drugs had taken effect and she was in the sleep of recovery.  When Savannah I went downstairs to let the dogs in we discovered the basement was wet.  I wouldn’t say flooded, but there was a half-inch of water in places.  Worst of all, it had soaked through the carpet on the finished side.  I thought perhaps the water had come in under the door, but that area was dry.  Savannah actually led us to the source of the problem by asking why it wasn’t going out the floor drain.  That’s because it was coming from the floor drain.  Outside I found that the outflow pipe had frozen up.  The water coming in the perf pipe that surrounds the house had backed up into the basement.  I used my spud bar (from ice fishing) to chip out the ice plug, which must have been 2 feet deep, from the pipe, and it all came gushing out.  We took the big wet/dry vac and the carpet cleaner and sucked up as much as we could from the carpets.

Sunday morning we were back at it again.  We blew the circuit breaker a couple of times.  We attacked the unfinished side of the basement too, throwing out old boxes and rugs, and mopping up the excess water.  We set up a bunch of fans to help dry things out.  Now we have condensation all over the insides of our windows.  The basement has that unique musty odor for now. 

When carpet gets wet in this way, it sets up a large-scale chromatography experiment.  The solvent (water) carries the solutes (dirt) through the medium (carpet) along its leading edge.  The water dries, leaving a large, lovely stain.  Savannah and I worked on it repeatedly with the carpet cleaner, but some areas remain stubborn. 

Tuesday morning brought us a fresh dose of cat vomit on the dining room floor.  Stacey suggested I examine it before she cleaned it up, as it might have parasites in it.  Sure enough, it contained some of the biggest nematodes I’ve seen.  I saved them for the vet, if necessary, and perhaps for the collection that I use in Invertebrate Zoology class.  We picked up some cat wormer that day. 

February 15

Monday night it started snowing.  By Tuesday morning we were in full blizzard mode.  Savannah got a snow day from school.  We watched the TV until it was time to leave, but QU was never announced as closed.  We took our time driving, thankful for the Tracker’s 4WD.  There were a number of vehicles in the ditch already.  When we got to my office, the building was locked, and the guy shoveling snow said the University was closed.  Dang!  I could have stayed home.  So I went with Stacey to her office.  I had brought my camera to loan to a friend, so I took a number of artsy pictures around Chaddock of various snow-covered objects.  I didn’t have boots or gloves, so it was gonzo photography.  The wind was blowing the snow, and the drifts were deep. After I got back to Stacey’s office I noticed my cell phone was missing from my hip.  I did the grocery shopping.  We went to lunch, then I went back to my office for a bit of actual work.   I looked around the outside for my phone, but didn’t see it.  Not surprising, as there was deep snow everywhere.  We went home in the middle of the afternoon, but the roads still weren’t entirely clear.  More vehicles in the ditch.  Stacey called 911 because some of the vehicles still had people in them.

The building where Stacey works.

Wednesday Savannah had another snow day, but we adults had to go to work.  The roads were fairly clear, but there was another Tracker in the ditch, which was somewhat cautionary.  About half way to Quincy, the car started to fishtail.  The snow had compacted into two tracks of ice in the right lane.  I recovered and moved to the left lane, with a healthy new respect for the conditions.  Just before our exit there was a semi jackknifed on the side.  After we passed it we could see that the cab was crushed.  Before we got to West Quincy there was a minivan overturned in the median.  It must have happened minutes before, as the emergency vehicles were just arriving.  We learned later that our friend Nancy, a nurse, had stopped to administer first aid to the driver and his pregnant wife.  Stacey told me to look through the snow at North Campus because she had had a dream that it fell off when I got out of the car.  Right.  I thought it was likely out at Chaddock somewhere.  I got a loaner phone from my local dealer until I could find my old one.  I didn’t want to take my field class out into the snow, so we went to the local pet stores.  They loved it.  There’s a new place I had never been to that has mostly salt water stuff. 

Thursday it was -1.3 when I got up.  When I arrived at work I noticed a familiar black clip sticking up out of the snow.  Using our ice scraper, I chipped my phone out of the snow bank, where it had been run over, probably numerous times, by our shuttle bus.  The clip broke and the antenna was broken off.  The screen was funny colors and didn’t look right at all.  I cleaned it up and dried it off, but it wouldn’t power up.  When I got it home and plugged it in, the screen looked like a pane of glass that had been punched right in the middle.  The lights were on, but no one was home.

Friday it was -5.6 when I got up.  It’s supposed to warm up from here on out.  I went in to work for just one meeting.  At least I learned some things.  When I got home I went down and took a bunch of pictures of ducks and eagles.  The sun was shining, so I had better light.  I ran some errands and bought a new phone.  It’s much like my old one, only without the camera.  I got it used, because unless you’re getting a new contract, you pay full price for a new cell phone.  I had to enter all the contacts by hand, since my old phone was dead.  At least I can use the old chargers and battery.  


Eagle catches a big lunch.


Canvasback hen takes a somewhat smaller lunch.


Canvasback drake takes a big stretch.


A scaup shows off his colors.  Best pic of the bunch.



Carolina wren checks out the suet feeder.

Savannah spent the night at a friend’s.  It began snowing that evening. 

Saturday morning Stacey and I went out to breakfast, a treat we had not enjoyed for a long time.   I shoveled the couple of inches of snow we got.  Stacey went to class.  Lowell and I went to the hunting and fishing show in Quincy.  We agreed that it was the worst ever.  It only took up half the convention center, and consisted mostly of trucks, ATVs and boats.  We were about to go, but then a talk (on boat safety) was supposed to begin then, so we stayed to get our money’s worth.  We were the only ones to show up.  The guy sat and gave us a lecture on life jacket use and various drowning issues.  So fun.  We went to my office, fed the fish and watered the seeds in the greenhouse.  Three of my student’s seeds have germinated.  Whoopee!
Once home I took a much needed nap, then went down to the river to take more pictures.  The ducks were not cooperating, but I did get a new species–common merganser.


Ringneck drake.


Goldeneye hen.



Look closely and you’ll see a leg band on the eagle.


Little sparrow landed next to the car and gave me the best pic of the day.

Another Sunday, another…woodcutting day!  The real challenge was whether I would be able to get in and out of the field with all the snow on the ground.  Actually, before that I had to change a flat tire on the truck, which I presumably got while driving through the field last time.  I got two truckloads out of one hickory tree, and there’s still plenty of it left.  I think I’ll leave the 4-foot diameter trunk alone.  There was a lovely rimefrost on the bushes when I arrived, but I didn’t have my camera and it all melted off quickly. 
I went down to the river for more photography.  The ducks weren’t really cooperating.  I did get an eagle tearing apart a fish in plain view, but the best shots came when it took off. 


Gizzard shad tastes best chunky style.  And rare.


3, 2, 1 – take off!

I had Monday off, so I ran errands.  Got the tire fixed at the tire shop, got a cup of coffee and ran into my heating contractor.  He showed me the wood furnace he uses to heat his building downtown.  It’s three times the size of mine and eats vastly more wood.  That was some good perspective for me.  I got my chains sharpened down at George’s.  His chainsaw got crushed when a tree he was cutting turned instead of falling properly.  I picked up some green wood down at the brush dump and hauled it home.  I cut that up, plus some left over from the day before and stacked it all.

Later I returned to the ever-fruitful brush dump. From an old shelving unit I salvaged the glass doors, hopefully for picture frames, and the 1×12 pine shelves for bird houses. Score!  Also stopped by the river for more photography.  I believe I saw the first flock of pelicans of the year come in.


Drake bufflehead.


Canvasback coming in for a landing, fish in bill.

February 8


Wednesday I took my class to the Lock and Dam in Quincy.  We saw oodles of eagles, and some other birds.  It was wicked cold, of course.  On the way back we stopped at the Veterans’ Home, where they have a “deer park.”  There were lots of mammals and birds there, wild and domestic.  I went to a meeting on main campus in the afternoon.  I was early…by a week.  I had an hour to burn, so I went to stock up on coffee at TJ Maxx.  I went to book club and ate soup with about half the group beforehand.  It was a good discussion.

Thursday morning a student came in to work on her bird study skin, but I hadn’t thawed it.  I microwaved it for 30 s, which was too long.  Overdone, it smelled like boiled chicken.  As she was trying to finish it, the head and one wing fell off. 

I have never before had a day filled with nothing but meetings.  Friday was the first.  School of Eductation, student teacher observation, my division, Community of Practice, and Greener QU.  Made for a full day.  There is an article on Big Bend National Park in the recednt National Geographic.  Great story and pictures.  I read it during one of the meetings.

Saturday was the QU ski trip.  It must be about 4 years since I skied last.  I got a free ride as a faculty chaperone.  I pulled out my twenty-year-old downhill boots for it.  It’s a long bus ride there, but they showed movies.  Right after we arrived I saw the ski patrol working on some guy in the middle of a slope.  I thought they were training at first, but it was for real.  At least it wasn’t one of ours.  Later I was going down one of the expert slopes, caught an edge and wiped out.  After righting myself, I couldn’t get my boot back in the ski.  That’s when I found that the toe of my boot was missing.  In fact, both of my boots were pretty much shattered.  I guess 20-y-old plastic gets a little brittle.  I walked down the rest of the way, took the lift up the hill, and got a new set of rental boots.  I threw my old trusty boots in the trash.  They were shedding chunks of plastic everywhere I walked.  It was nearly the coldest day of skiing I’ve ever had, short of about every trip to Eldora I ever took in Colorado.  Temperatures had to be in the single digits, and the snow was super squeaky.  I had to go back to my locker for more layers.  I had never used an MP3 player while skiing, and it was rather enjoyable.  I had loaded the full complement of E.L.O. hits.  Hearing “Mr. Blue Sky” while an incredible sunset was in progress and I was gliding down a gentle hill was really cool.  I also wore a helmet for the first time.  I didn’t care if I stood out like a dork, but it turned out a lot of people were wearing helmets.  A long bus ride back to QU, a half-hour drive home, and I was in bed at 1 A.M.
   And what I had to look forward to on Sunday? More wood cutting!  The bitter cold temperatures of the past week had resulted in the rapid consumption of the two pick-up loads of last Sunday, so I collected an equivalent amount this week.  It’s getting harder though, as I’ve cut out all the logs on the edge of the brush pile.  Now I have to climb in to the center and throw the logs out.  In the afternoon, I took some photos down by the river.  Diving ducks are hanging around now. 


Scaup.

Canvasback eats fish.

Sleeping with eyes open.

Turkeys in a corn field.

Ringneck.



February 1

Almost a year ago I volunteered to be an amphibian monitor for Missouri.  I figured I could use it in my class.  So I find out I have to learn to identify frogs and toads by their calls.  I figure, no problem.  I already know a few, and I just have to learn a few more.   Turns out there are about 20, and many of them sound very similar.  Last December I listen to the reference CD, write some notes and take the practice quiz.  The format is difficult: there can be anywhere from 1 to 5 species in the recording, and each time you have all 20 to choose from.  I take the real quiz online and score 63, only two points from passing.  I figure I’ll take it again and pass easy.  I don’t get back to it until this week.   On my first attempt I score a 20.  Ouch!  I saw where I had confused a couple of species, take it again right away and get a 62.  STILL just short of passing.  One more time.  The computer hangs with only 4 questions left and I can’t finish.  I try again on Thursday, the browser hangs about halfway through, but this time the site remember where I left off and I finish with a passing score.  Whew!  That was humbling.  Here’s the response:




“Missouri: Till Plains


Your detection index is: 73

Congratulations, you have achieved a detection index of 73. NAAMP requests that its participants obtain a 65 or greater and you have achieved this goal. Thank you for taking the quiz and for your participation in NAAMP. “

One thing that helped was plugging my headphones into the computer speaker so I could get more volume.  Often there are spring peepers in the background that you can’t hear easily.   Now I’m having dreams about frog calls.  Our ice maker sounds like a pickerel frog.

We’ve been getting light snow, just a dusting.  We’re supposed to have overnight lows around zero or -1 this week.  Ice fishing time!

Saturday was Canton Eagle Day.  It was really cold and windy, which is excellent for eagle activity.  The river is mostly iced over except below the dam.  The eagles are concentrated around the dam and are feeding constantly to keep up with the cold.  Unfortunately, these are not good conditions for people.  I had only 5 show up for my talk in the lock house, even though it’s heated building.  They got even fewer down in the park, where we had spotting scopes set up for eagle observations.  The only good news I guess, is that some of the organizers bought T-shirts from my Cafe Press shop. 

My favorite juvenile red-tailed hawk was sitting on the Do Not Enter sign.


Gizzard shad taste good.  I guess eagles don’t mind the bones.


Comin’ in for a landing.

Sunday morning when I got up the thermometer read 0.0.  I took a picture of it, but you’ve probably seen enough of my thermometer already.  By 9:00 it had warmed up to 3, so I went out to cut firewood.  I was out of wood dry enough to burn, but I figured my neighbor’s giant brush pile was a year old, and at least partly seasoned.  After all, I had burned 3 pick-up loads of the stuff already.  I got two loads cut and stacked, and after considerable effort, I did get the stuff to burn, and hot (see below).   Meanwhile, Stacey and Savannah were at their respective churches.  In the afternoon, Stacey had a fire call (carbon monoxide), then a Fire Dept. meeting.  I took a nap and watched the QU basketball game, which I had recorded Saturday night.  We won again!

Lowell came over.  We watched the Colts walk all over the Bears.  We were all rooting for the Colts anyway, except for Savannah, who switched from the Bears to the Colts about halfway through.  And she was BORN in Indianapolis!

Meanwhile, in Lewistown a valve broke off a LARGE propane tank.  They had to call a conference of all the fire chiefs in the county.  They evacuated the entire town.  They closed the road, so Lowell had to take a roundabout way home.  At the same time, they had a structure fire in a different part of town.  Stacey followed the action on her pager, and helped direct people to places to spend the night.   It took a couple of days to drain it all off.

I took Lowell out to show him the wood furnace, and water was blurping out the vent on top.  It was boiling over because the damper was stuck open.  Oops!  I’ve learned to keep it very clean and lubricated. 

In my class Monday we planted our prairie seeds in trays.  We put the trays in the greenhouse.  Now we cross our fingers.  I discovered the greenhouse was whitewashed on the inside.  No wonder it never came off, even after several years.  I rubbed off a bunch of it, but still have much to do.

Monday night Savannah and I went to the high school basketball games.  We won both.