November 25 – Thanksgiving Break

Tuesday was the last day of FYE.  Hooray!  One less class.  In the afternoon Jarrod helped me process the rest of the deer meat.  We ground some burger, prepared another batch of jerky, and cleaned up the rest for freezing.  Whew!  He had brought some of his toys.  We took his paintball gun up to the woods.  It’s a high-end unit, not your bargain basement paintball gun.  I could hit trees at 30 yards, and with no sights.  It was a lot of fun.  Savannah was pretty accurate with it too.  After dinner we played with his Wii.  I had never used one before.  Some of the games were really fun and others were a trial to figure out. 

Wednesday morning I finished up some chainsawing and moving firewood.  Stacey’s Mom and I went down to Hannibal and had lunch with Stacey.  We played tourist afterward, visiting the downtown, Lover’s Leap, Rockcliff mansion, the lighthouse and Cardiff Hill.


Rockcliff mansion, Carolyn at the side door.

Lover’s Leap; the Cardiff Hill Lighthouse.

On Thanksgiving we mostly lounged about the house until noon or so, when we had the feast.  It was traditional turkey with many side dishes.  I ate to the point of near explosion.  I didn’t even have dinner that night.  I think we watched a movie and played Wii a lot that day. 

A flock of cedar waxwings landed in our trees out front.  Sure would like to see them closer to the ground.

On Black Friday, Stacey, Carolyn and Savannah went shopping–not crazy early though.  Jarrod and I went fishing at Lowell’s.  We stopped at the bait shop in La Grange.  Miraculously, he was open again (following the flood) and had minnows.  I thought we were really going to slay some crappie.  We started at the floating dock on the big lake.  A couple hours’ effort yielded not even a bite.  We moved to the catfish pond.  Eventually, Jarrod caught a nice bass.  We were going to go to lunch in Durham.  When I got in the car, I said, “Oh, man.  What’s that smell.  I stepped in dog poo!”  Or words to that effect.  I got out and rubbed it off in the grass as well as I could while Jarrod was cracking up. He said, “Take a picture!”  That hasn’t happened to me in a long time.  The little diner in Durham was closed again, but the grocery/deli was open.  They had photos on a bulletin board of various fish caught and bucks shot.  They had a couple of coyotes and a large brown canid.  I heard the lady tell another guy it was a wolf/coyote hybrid.  I whispered to Lowell, “I’m pretty sure that’s a dog.”  We got gumbo and took it back to Lowell’s.  We got on the pontoon boat and tried all the submerged trees, but couldn’t raise a bite.  At one point a turkey flew across the lake and landed in the trees.  Pretty wild.  It got kind of cold, and around three we quit.  On the way out to Lowell’s we had seen two bald eagles, and on the way home we spooked one that was eating on a roadkill at the North Fabius River bridge near Monticello.  It flew across the road and we almost hit it.  It was a juvenile; its head and tail mottled brown and white. 

We didn’t get skunked, and the guest caught the fish.  A small victory for Lowell and I as guides.

Sunday Jarrod and Carolyn left at about noon.  I ate leftovers and took a nap.  Later I took the muzzleloader out to the Stookey’s.  Rather than climb into the treestand, I sat in the woods in a chair.  It sprinkled on and off–not good for a black powder muzzleloader.  I didn’t see any deer and went home shortly after sunset.  If you go to simpsonizeme.com you can make a Simpson’s character in your own likeness.  Mine looks like this:

I can be a dork in any genre.

Sunday I stayed home while the snow fell.  I got a lot of reading and grading done.  It cost me about two grand, but I couldn’t resist having my glorious image put up in Times Square:

You think maybe I should have combed my hair?

Actually, I made this spoof at a really cool site, Photofunia, which Savannah showed to me.  I made a bunch of others too, some pretty funny.  I’ll spare you the rest except for one…

…because I always wanted to be a Jedi, and this is as close as I’ll get.

Tuesday we got the final itinerary for the Galapagos trip.  It’s completely different from the original plan.  I was a bit miffed, as we won’t be going to an Island I really wanted to see.  Also, we’ll be visiting some of the same places we went last year.  After work I had time to get into the woods for a couple of hours with the muzzle loader.  I didn’t see any deer, or much of anything else.  After the sun went down I saw the crescent moon and Jupiter and Venus in the southwestern skies.  I had missed them the night before, when they came really close to each other.  It was overcast.  They still inspired me enough to get out the camera, tripod, and big lens for some moon shots. 

This one turned out pretty well, even at full resolution.  It’s cold work though.

I discovered on accident that if you overexpose the crescent moon, the dark portion becomes visible, and the crescent looks like it’s on fire!  Adds new meaning to “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”  (Pink Floyd reference)

November 21 – Doe down

Thursday in the Invertebrate Zoology lab we took a good look at our echinoderms.  You can see a lot of a sea urchin through the aquarium glass with a magnifier.  I took a chance and moved a piece of coral to find that one of our brittle stars is still alive.  It’s even regenerating its broken arms. I pulled out a sea cucumber too.  We took long looks at them under the dissecting microscope.

This ugly bug was still alive.  I tried some different lighting techniques to increase depth of field–ring flash this time.

Friday morning I went deer hunting at the Stookey’s.  It’s so close, I didn’t even have to get up early.  On the way there, I saw three deer by the side of the road.  Should have hit one and tagged it.  It was 16 F when I left the house, but the air was so still that I didn’t get very cold.   I sat in the spot where I had cut some wood, which made a partial blind. I had my old teepee blind to cover me from the other angles.  Nothing appeared, except chickadees landing near my head.  I walked down by the pond and saw a deer running.  At first I thought it was going to cross and give me a shot, but it turned out to be running AWAY.  I went home, showered and drove to Quincy.

I had to go observe two different student teachers.  Emily had been my advisee for 4 years (and has appeared here before), while the other I had never met.  When I went to see Emily, I had a big biology book to give her.  But what she really enjoyed was the leopard gecko I delivered.  She had wanted one for about a year.  I had gotten it from another student earlier in the week who just wanted to get rid of it.


Cute and friendly.  These do make good pets.

I went to the Junior High to see the other student, and had just enough time to get lunch–at the student cafeteria!  Well, it was cheap anyway.  Afterward I had a meeting on Main Campus that ate the rest of the afternoon.  On the way home from work I took the La Grange exit, as I wanted to photograph anold barn at sunset.  I have wanted to do so for over a year, and finally hit the timing right.  I’d missed it by 10 minutes the night before.


The sun was still up when these flocks of geese were flying by.  It created one of those moments you see in a Terry Redlin painting.


This is the image I wanted to get, the sun shining through the missing boards, revealing the barn’s age and condition.


After the sunset there were some nice colors in the clouds.

Saturday morning I went out to hunt at Lowell’s.  I had the choice stand.  It was still quite dark when a deer came walking down the fenceline toward me.  I couldn’t tell what it was, and it angled off into the woods.  I had a golden-crowned kinglet in a nearby tree, but it left before I could get my camera ready.  A couple of turkeys passed by at a distance, but that was about it for wildlife.  It was a warmer day, but when the wind picked up it became pretty tough.  I read the rest of Dracula, the original by Bram Stoker.  Classic.  I was about to come down at 10, but the sun came out and warmed me up some.  I stayed another half hour before giving up.
Saturday afternoon I went to hunt at the Stookey’s again.  I hung a stand in a big pine tree on a corner of the pond, commanding a good view of a cut along the powerline and the field behind the house.  I worked up a sweat in the process.  I saw nothing but squirrels, though I heard shots all around the neighborhood.

Sunday morning I was too tired to get up and hunt.  I slept in then took my time reading the paper.  I hauled some firewood from the neighbor’s trimmed trees. 
I loaded the bird feeders and set up my camera with the bazooka lens on a tripod.  The sun was shining in the back yard, yielding more favorable results than in past attempts.  It was mostly the usual suspects.

They’re only house sparrows, but the male has great colors, and the female was so close the feather detail is impressive.


Black-capped chickadee with sunflower seeds.


Pine siskin–the only unusual species this day.

Goldfinch female, looking curious.


White-breasted nuthatch showing some tongue.

Stacey and I went grocery shopping in the early afternoon.  I went out to the Stookey’s place to hunt in the late afternoon.  There was a family of potential buyers there when I arrived.  I couldn’t help them much, and they left.  I put in two more foot pegs and a ratchet strap to stabilize the stand more.  It was fairly warm, with a high of 50.  There was nothing but gray squirrels for the first half hour.  I saw a deer run uphill through the woods not far off.  A short time later a doe came following, but she was walking.  She stopped in an opening and I fired.  She didn’t moved so I shot again.  No result.  I had been trying for a clean neck shot.  I thought maybe I was missing high because she was close, so I aimed lower and farther back before my next shot.  She wheeled, ran around a bit and fell down.  I climbed down from the stand and walked over.  She was still among the living, so I administered the neck shot.  I went back to the stand, got my pack and returned to the deer.  I put on latex gloves, but they fell apart.  Too old!  I gutted her anyway, walked back to the car, and pulled over a yard cart from the Stookey house.  I dragged the deer out of the woods, and loaded her into the cart.  Lowell sure has me spoiled.  I usually call him to come out with the ATV and pick up the deer.  I had to pull the cart out by hand.  Now I know why people have heart attacks doing this.  I left it by the side of the driveway and went back to the car.  I pulled the car up, unrolled some sheet plastic and lifted the carcass into the trunk.  Yup, I hauled a dead deer in the Lil Egg!  Once home, I pulled it out of the trunk.  Savannah and Stacey helped me hang it from the basketball goal.  I hosed it out and rinsed the blood off of the driveway.  After that I had to shovel the ashes out of the furnace and reload it.  After dinner I crashed, exhausted.


This is really redneck, but I’ve done it before.  There’s basically nowhere else to hang a deer at our house.   I still have the nifty stainless steel gambrel my brother Mark made for me. 

If you want to see some awesome photos and have a LOT of time on your hands, go here:
http://www.stlcameraclub.com/mvs/mvs web/sect_1.htm
This is an open competition, with everything from animals to landscapes to portraits.  Note: there are some tasteful nudes included.  That will be a warning to some, an incentive to others.

Monday was a short day at w
ork, as I had no afternoon lab.  I noticed, however, that my saltwater tank had lost significant volume.  It must have developed a leak, as there was dried salt and scum on the floor.  Good thing it didn’t drain completely.  I went to the grocery store to get ingredients for jerky marinade.  While I was there, a lady hit a pickle jar with her cart and it broke on the floor.  I so wanted to announce, “Wet cleanup, aisle two.”  I was really anxious to get home and skin the deer, but could not find the knife I wanted to use.  I thought it was in a little red bag of things that get used only upon success.  I went back to the woods to look for it.  I found the knife I had used to gut the deer (not the same), and the red bag.  But the skinning knife was not in the bag.  I realized it was at home in my backpack.  The skinning went quickly.  The game warden, who lives two houses away, came home.  I thought for sure he’d come over and check out the deer.  He took out the state boat instead.  I had the doe completely naked by the time Savannah got home from school.  I still had plenty of light so I started boning it out.  I set up a rickety card table in the garage and filleted out the meat.  One of my friends stopped by with her two nephews in tow.  They wanted to see the dead deer.  I was nearly done, but I showed them a leg and a kneecap.  One of the boys asked where the brain was.  I said it was in the head at the bottom of the trash can.  “Can I see it?”  I said that’s a pretty serious dissection that I was not prepared to do at the time.  As they were leaving, one of them asked if he could have the foot.  “I want to nail it to my wall.”  I said it would smell pretty bad before too long.  Filleting is  kinda hard on the back, but I finished around the time Stacey got home from work.  I found one of my bullets while skinning.  That’s a first.  I got one batch of meat marinating for jerky. 
Stacey’s Mom and brother Jarrod came to visit.  We’re going to have a family Thanksgiving.

November 13 – Deer season

Thursday during the invertebrate zoology lab we looked around our museum of dead things.  We picked up a few snail shells to give our hermit crabs some housing options.  We washed them out and dropped them in the aquarium.  One was taken up immediately by the first crab to check it out.  The other two were ignored.  While we were watching the antics of the hermit crabs and feeding them, I saw a little piece of rock move where there should have been no living thing.  On further observation, we saw a little worm periodically stretching out, grabbing a piece of gravel, and pulling it back to cover its hole.  The worm came with the “living rock” that was included with my order.  I had thought there was only a lone barnacle and perhaps an encrusting sponge there, but the worm is a welcome bonus.  We have since seen an additional worm and a tiny crab.

Friday I went in to work for some meetings with lawyers.  We got the low down on harassment, FERPA, liability and other issues.  I feel a lot better about going to Ecuador again.  It’s good stuff to know, but it ate 3 hours.  I got a form through the campus mail that I had to fill out before I could register for the SCUBA class.  The irony is that I registered one of my students for the last spot.  In fact, I had talked three of them into taking it, since I was.  And I had tried to get registered before anyone.  That’s funny.  They are going to try to get me added anyway.  Later they increased the maximum class size.  I’m in.

Saturday morning I got up early for the firearms deer season.  It was 34 F.  That’s not terribly cold, but there was a steady 20 mph wind that made things pretty tough up in the tree stand.  I was fairly well dressed for it, but eventually had to get down and walk around to warm up.  I got into another stand for awhile, but didn’t see anything.  After I got too cold there, I went back to my original stand.  I saw two does, and would have shot them if there had been time.  They sneaked up behind me and I couldn’t hear them in the wind.  I couldn’t get the gun up before they ran off.  One ran up the hill toward the catfish pond.  They like to bed there out of the wind.  On my way out, I looked behind the dam of the pond and jumped her out.  She ran down to the lake.  I ran north to cut her off, but she got up into the trees before I could shoot.  It’s lots of fun running in insulated coveralls, heavy boots, and a backpack.  Lowell, John and I went to town for lunch.  We got chili at a charity supper.  It was good, but I had too much.  When we got back to Lowell’s I slept for an hour.  We got back into the woods.  On the way to my stand I saw in the trail what I at first took for a snake.  An 8-inch snake.  With legs.  It was a salamander.  I haven’t seen one in the wild for ten years, and I sure didn’t expect to see one in mid-November. It had been snowing earlier.  It should be deep underground by this time of year. I took out the camera and shot it from every angle.  I couldn’t move too well, so I put it under a tree off the trail. I was warmer on the stand, but didn’t see any deer.  On the way back, I checked the dam of the catfish pond and flushed another doe.  I ran to head this one off too, but it’s hard to shoot a running deer in the woods in dim light.  John had shot a doe.  He had seen some bucks, but too small for our new 4-points-on-a-side regulation.

 

Isn’t he cute?  It appears to be a small-mouthed salamander, Ambystoma texanum.

Sunday morning was another early one.  It was colder, but the wind wasn’t blowing.  I went to my usual stand at Lowell’s.  The squirrels were very busy.  No deer appeared by 9 when my toes began to go numb.  I thought walking around might help.  I went to places that I have known to be bedding areas in the past.  I jumped a fawn out of one.  It quickly escaped.  In a little swale close to the road I flushed three does.  I took a quick shot at one running up the hill, but it was a clean miss.  I went back to the stand.  It was warmer.  I had been hearing shots all morning.  Other people were getting there’s, but not me.  I read a book from my PDA, periodically looking around for game.  The wind was coming up, making it harder to hear.  I gave up at lunch time, went home and crashed.

November 4 – Election Day

Tuesday morning Stacey and I went downtown to vote.  It took a half hour, which was the longest ever since we’ve been here.  In the Ecology lab that afternoon we looked at the scales we collected from the bluegills caught from Lowell’s catfish pond.  With the exception of one extreme outlier, there was a strong correlation between age (as determined by rings on the scales) and the body length of the fish. 
I noticed today that I hadn’t seen the little blue velvet damselfish in the saltwater tank for awhile.  I think it must have croaked and then been rapidly devoured by the ever vigilant hermit crabs.  On the good side, the crayfish in the freshwater tank shed his skin.
Tuesday night we went to an election gathering for our friend, Keri Cottrell, who was running for state representative.  I thought she worked hard and ran a good campaign.  Unfortunately, she lost to the incumbent.  It was interesting to watch the states come up one way or the other in the presidential race, and all the other races described on TV.  Savannah was ecstatic when Obama was declared the winner.  She’s an Obama Mama. 
She says that was the best birthday present.  Wish I had known–we could have saved a lot of money on that iPod.
Wednesday I noticed that my box of dead stuff was missing.  These dead things were preserved squid, crayfish, and starfish, all purchased fresh this year for my invertebrate zoology class.  Sadly, in spite of chasing down all leads, I wasn’t able to locate them.  I was pretty worked up about it.  In our lab Thursday we looked at diagrams instead of dissecting actual specimens.  We spent the rest of the time making notebooks out of reused paper for the Environmental Club to sell.  I finally got a student worker.  She really helped clean up my lab today.

Friday morning I fired up the wood furnace–eleven days earlier than I did last year.  Cold weather was predicted for at least the next week, so I could put it off no longer.  I had already laid in the pine cones and kindling.  It started perfectly and I had it going well before I drove in to work.  I graded some and went to a committee meeting.  That night we went to the play at the high school, Soda Shop Angel.  It’s a story revolving around a 1950s era diner.  Savannah’s been practicing for this thing for months.  Although I had helped her memorize some lines, I never read the whole script.  She lowered our expectations by describing how they had rewritten whole parts of it that didn’t make sense.  And she’s been talking about how underprepared the actors were.  To our surprise, the play was quite good.  Honestly, I thought Savannah was one of the better actors.  Her character, Star, is something of a rebel.  I put a lot of pictures on Facebook already, but I’ll drop a few in here.

I get to see this expression almost every day.
 
The standard Star rebel’s outfit.                             The momentarily adopted mainstream outfit.

Saturday Stacey and I went to help at an ATV run.  It was a charity event, in part to help Stacey’s agency.  Of course, the weather has turned from Indian Summer to Onslaught of Winter since last week.  I wore three and four layers, including insulated coveralls.  Snowflakes did fall.  We set up the canopy for our food sales.  Even with the dome shape, it was difficult to fight the wind.  My job was supposed to be retrieving broken ATVs with a pick-up truck, but I spent most of my time trail-sitting.  I had to direct traffic at a turn in the trail that many riders missed.  There were all kinds of ATVs, from regular 4WD models, to 2WD sport ATVs, a couple of 3-wheelers, a motorcycle, and some UTVs.  One of the most popular new UTVs it the Polaris Ranger RZR.  It’s so cute–looks like a dune buggy.  At >$10,000, it costs more than my car did.  I was at least able to sit in a pick-up truck in relative comfort, while most trail-sitters were thoroughly chilled in the 35 F, blowing air.  By midafternoon most of the riders had been around the course at least twice.  I moved to a spot by a campfire and “The Mudhole.”  There was a guy trying to get out of it.


If two of your buddies aren’t enough to pull you out…

and four of your buddies aren’t enough to extract you…

try to keep your weight forward…

and wait for another ATV to give you a tow!

Finally, I got the call to pick up a dead quad.  It was a little off-brand 200, and its steering had broken.  A woman and I just lifted it into the back of the truck.   Things had kind of wound down when I got back to the registration area.  We took down the canopy.  Stacey and I packed up and went home.  We took a very hot shower, went out for hot food, and came home to the warm basement. 

Sunday morning I noticed in the paper an ATV accident had happened after we left–a rollover.  One was life-flighted, another transported by accident.  It turned out they were OK, or at least had only minor injuries.  We unloaded the truck, and went back to pick up the leftover firewood.  It almost exactly replaced what I’d burned so far.  I graded papers the rest of the morning until I got the call from the guy coming to pick up my old project dune buggy.  This guy already has two nice buggies he built himself.  I’ll be interested to see what he does with these.  I got rid of almost every last part I had.  Anyone need a back seat for a ’72 beetle?  I am OUT of the dune buggy business now.  I still have the gas-powered Cox model we got when we were kids and a Hotwheels Manx.  I moved the boat to the other side of the garage, and put the truck in the side with the overhead door. 

Monday was way too busy.  I wrote an exam for Tuesday, but the copier died after my first complete copy came out.  I had to go to main campus to finish that job.  Now I’m ready for Tuesday morning.