April 22

Tuesday began with a violent thunderstorm.  It cleared off during the day, and we even did an solar energy lab.  With a panel on loan from Lowell, we measured the output under different conditions.  We played hackysack while the sun was behind clouds.  Afterward, a couple of students that are also in the plant class wanted to go photograph wildflowers.  We went out into the woods behind campus.  There were lots of spring beauties and toothwort.  A few dogtooth violets and yellow violets added to the mix.  We had fun.  I was doing odd jobs in the back yard when I noticed Kane sniffing around the fish pond.  I went over to have a look, and there was a garter snake under the netting (used to keep out leaves during winter.  I came back later with the camera.  After a couple of shots it struggled to move, but couldn’t seem to.  It was caught in the net, the openings of which were just smaller than the diameter of its body.  I cut him loose with my knife, but he immediately got back into it.  I took the net off the pond, which was due to be done anyway, cut him loose again and turned him loose in the grass.  It’s good to know we have another resident garter snake.  Last year’s was eaten by the neighbor’s mower.  Happy Birthday to my Dad, who turns 75 this day.

Unhappy garter snake, still caught in net.

Wednesday the plant class went to the farm of one of the students.  First we stopped at her Grandma’s house to look at her flowers.  She was so sweet.  Then they pulled a runt piglet out of one of the hog barns.  It made lots of cute grunting and squealing noises.

  
Emily fell in love with it.  Here’s a nice landscape for a change of pace.

We walked around looking for wildflowers and did see a few.  We had to cross the creek at one point.  Liz led the way, and one of her feet slipped in.  Most of us got across OK, but Johanna slipped, or actually, the bank collapsed, soaking her feet and her butt.  She was not happy. 
 
Brent turned over a cow patty, revealing this really cool millipede.  This flower grew at the roadside.  It’s leafy spurge, a horrible weed.



We had planned to ride Liz’s horses afterward, but the students all had to go back for physics class or other obligations.  I was not going to pass up a rare opportunity to ride horses.  In fact, I brought my boots!  She has a diversity of horses, but I was able to ride the 2-year-old Belgian, a draft horse.
 
Me on “Bam Bam”.  Liz takes the saddle off, providing a better sense of scale.  He’s big.


George the fainting goat.  He thinks he’s a dog. 

The goat followed us, as well as two real dogs, on the entire ride.  He was hilarious, and even pants like a dog.  His only difficulty is detour problems and getting out of the way of cars.  Bam Bam was a hoot to ride.  Yet another in my collection of unique (yet legal) experiences.  He’s so young, though, that he is spooked by little things like a deer.  He got a little frisky at one point and threw me off.  Good thing for soft muddy corn fields.  He was well behaved after that, and I even trotted him down the roadside.  Afterward I went to book club, where we had a good discussion.

Thursday morning after I let out Kane I found that the snake had gotten caught in the net by the fish pond again, and it was dead.  I felt really bad about that.  I should have completely removed the net. 
I’ve been participating in NestWatch, a nationwide effort to track bird nesting behavior.  I have three nests in the front yard: house finch, common grackle and mourning dove.  These are not terribly exciting species, but it’s still fun to do.  The grackles had one egg yesterday and three today.  I use a mechanic’s mirror to check the nests, as they’re all about 8 feet off the ground.

 

House finch nest.                                                                  Bleeding hearts in front yard.  Stacey’s favorite.

Friday morning I went turkey hunting out at Lowell’s.  I didn’t hear any gobbling on the property so I set up in the usual spot. I heard a couple of faint gobbles at sunrise across the road.  It read and called periodically.  It began to thunder at about 8, so I packed up and hauled everything back to the car.  I looked around for morel mushrooms, but found none in the usual spots.  A number of wildflowers were in bloom though.  I went in to talk to Lowell for awhile. 

Yellow violet.

Saturday was Canton In Bloom Day.  Stacey and I went downtown and set up our new canopy.  We were right next to Wanaree and Steve.  Stacey’s volunteers sold cakes and raffle tickets.  It was a cold, somewhat windy day.  The canopy was a bit of a challenge to set up the first time, but I really liked it once it was in place.  It held up to the wind well.  They sold all their cakes by the end of the day, and the RC Hummer and a rug were raffled off.  Stacey and I went to garage sales for awhile, and I gave my talk on butterflies at City Hall at 10.  It was well attended, with about 16 people present.  I stayed for the talk on trees by the next guy, Rodney Johns, and learned some things.
Later we listened to the live bluegrass band, The LaDue Mountain Boys, which features my friend Lew Portnoy on guitar.  I went up to the Cedar Falls School to watch the guy fire his civil war cannon, but all he did was put 22 caps in the firing mechanism and pop them off.  I was hoping to capture a big puff of smoke coming out of the barrel.  Afterward I toured the toy museum there, which was fairly impressive.  He has a huge collection.

 
The Coleman canopy, a tribute to Buckminster Fuller.    If you look closely, you’ll see a small puff of smoke in front of the bumper of Herbie the Love Bug.

I mowed the lawn and planted some annual flowers, zinnias and cosmos, to attract butterflies.  I pulled the netting completely off the fish pond.  By then the dead snake had rotted, and I had to yank it out of the net in pieces.  Later Kane found a piece and rolled in it repeatedly.  I had to pull him off of it, and boy did he stink.

Sunday I stayed home, as it was cold and rainy.  I did some small project
s around the house, and “homework” on the computer.  I played around with the macro lens in the yard.

Tulips closed up for the night.   Fiddleneck of growing fern. 
Virginia bluebells.                                                                         Sweetgum trees are leafing out and preparing to flower.

I learned that the tripod really helps with the big macro, presumably because it’s not image stabilized.

I pressure washed the canoe and photographed it.  Yup, it’s going up for sale.  I haven’t used it for two years.

 

Let me see if I can remember all the details.

Osage Canoes (of Lebanon, MO)
17-foot aluminum
Side sponsons (make it very stable)
Oar locks
Attachable seats (great for back support)
Wooden motor mount (never used)
One paddle

I ordered it in olive drab with the fantasy that I might someday use it for duck hunting.  That never happened.  Meanwhile, the paint has been flaking off of the aluminum at a steady pace.  I figured I’d just let it go until it all became plain aluminum.  It survived the tornado with a couple of dents but does not leak.  In fact, it was featured for a time on the Osage Canoes web site as “Tornado Tested.”  Asking price: $500.

Monday afternoon I took my freshman lab class out to Fall Creek, a beautiful natural area.  Many were paranoid about ticks and so forth, but we only saw one.  I kept them longer than some of them probably wanted. Pictures will follow in a special edition!





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