June 23 – It’s Like a Heat Wave…

Tuesday I did yet another dirty job of the summer–scraping the sooty crud from the inside of the wood furnace.  Since this is essentially bathing in carcinogens, I wore a face mask, goggles, hat and gloves.  The scraping goes pretty quickly.  This is the third year, so I have it down now.  Coating the inside with motor oil (to prevent rust) is always a treat.  When done, I was about as filthy as I ever get.  To the shower!  I threw my shirt and the mask away.  I hung around the house waiting for the door company and the mechanic to call.  Our internet was down, so I played a lot of video games and accomplished very little.  It’s been hot as heck out, so I was fine staying indoors.  Savannah worked at the pool all afternoon, and came home pretty tired.  They finally finished my truck at quarter to five.  I had Savannah drive me down to get it.  This is the second A/C unit that I’ve had to replace in that vehicle, which I hardly ever drive. 

Wednesday I cleaned up from the storm. There were a lot of small branches down, especially in my neighbor’s yard.  She’s on vacation.  I cut up a black locust branch that fell down.  One stick fell in the old dog kennel and put a hole right in the middle of the new tarp I had hung over the lawn mower.  Clearly, God wants me to have a wet ass.  I hauled the branches down to the brush dump and brought back some firewood.  Savannah helped by chopping limbs with the machete.  I went back for another load later, and found several hollow logs.  I saved these for my fall Environmental Science class.  One had an old bird’s nest in it, under which I found a huge beetle grub.

I love the way you can see the tracheae radiating out from the last spiracle.  Later the gecko ate it.

I chainsawed the rest of the logs, took them home and stacked them.  It was way stinkin’ hot.  In the afternoon the dude came to fix our sliding glass door, which has felt like it was rolling on gravel for about a year.  Turns out the rollers were just gummed up with stuff, specifically, cat hair.  MR. BOOTS!  As if I needed another reason to dislike that cat.  He barfed on my side of the bed the other day–a big, double barf with a mouse in each one.
I did yet another dirty job too, repainting the nerf bars on my truck.  They were getting pretty rusty.  I didn’t know, though, that they had rusted all the way through in a couple of places.  I pulled out the angle grinder, which I hadn’t used in a couple of years, and attached the wire wheel.  I got through most of one nerf bar before the angle grinder crapped out.  The housing cracked.  “Chicago Industrial.  Made in China.”  Shoulda known.  I did the other side with a scraper, wire brush and steel wool.  I taped off everything that could be hit by overspray, primed and painted both sides.  It turned out pretty well.  I’ll probably keep them until they fall off.
In the evening we went to a swim meet.  It was the first we have attended this year.  Savannah nearly won the 100 freestyle.  I was shocked.  She’s never even threatened in that race before.  She led much of the way and lost by a whisker at the end.  In breast stroke, she was dominant, as usual.  I was trying out this little video camera I borrowed and filmed the race.  I whipped up a little video and uploaded it to YouTube.  I already posted it on Facebook, but for those who aren’t connected with that, you can find it here:

Savannah’s Race

Friday morning I went out into the backyard with my telephoto lens and extension tubes.  It gives you the magnification plus the ability to get close–like a giant macro lens.  I’d heard some guys talking about it at the last MoNEP meeting, and thought I’d give it a try.  It works, but it’s all manual focus, and vibration is a big problem.  I had to use the 10-s timer to get decent results. 

Great shot of an ugly fly.

Long-legged fly (not a mosquito).

I thought I really had something with this blue mosquito on a yellow flower.  I never quite got the combination of angle and focus I wanted though.

I went down to the brush dump to photograph the swallows that were coming in to gather mud.  First I was shooting from the window of my car, but later found I could hide behind a branch and get pretty close. 

Here’s mud in your eye!  Or beak.

After that I drove down by the river.  There was a great blue heron standing on the big concrete piling, and it didn’t fly away when I pulled up.  It was backlit, so I adjusted the exposure compensation to get the subject brighter. 

Northern water snake, not happy to see me.                                   GBH, panting and looking very hot.

After lunch I went out to the house of the lady who offered to donate her prairie garden to us.  After a look around, I found there wasn’t much of it left.  I dug up what was useful and put it in the truck.  She had a small pond that was loaded with dragonflies.  I took about a hundred photos, but since I had  the exposure compensation too high, most of them didn’t come out. 

On a hot day, everyone’s obelisking.

When I got home I went back down to the brush dump and brought home a few more logs I had seen there. It was still really hot out.  I’m getting close to filling all the racks I need to get through next winter.
I took a shower and hid indoors for the rest of the day.

Friday I loaded all the plants in the truck and went to North Campus.  The lawn area I had sprayed with Round-Up was pretty dead.  Leo was there and we spread the plants out more or less where we wanted them to be.  I used the long-handled bulb planter to plunge the appropriate number of holes around the pots.  It was getting warm quickly.  We sweated like madmen.  Good thing there’s a drinking fountain right inside.  Laura and Brian (AKA Mojo) showed up and we commenced with the planting.  It went pretty quickly.  Just our luck, we chose a day when there was a massive emergence of Japanese beetles.  They were more interested in sex than they were in eating my plants.  After we had it all planted (probably 150 plants), I got out the hose and hooked it up to the outdoor faucet.  They had given me a handle to open the special valve, but the faucet side was stripped out.  We filled buckets from the sink in my office and hauled them out to water all the plants.  That was a pain.  Brian got the faucet working with a pair of pliers, but we were nearly done by then, and our hose was too short.  Afterward I went with Laura and Brian to Panera for lunch.  It was good.  Hy-Vee had their plants at 40% off.  I picked up a couple of butterfly bushes and wildflowers.  When I got home I unpacked, put the truck away, and crashed.
Saturday we went to a few garage sales, but didn’t buy much.  We
did the grocery shopping and went home. 
Sunday morning it was nice and cool.  I sat out on the back porch, drank coffee and read the newspaper.  Quite pleasant.  Stacey and I went to Quincy.  Our first stop was the Midsummer Arts Faire.  There were some good booths this year.  I bought Stacey a necklace with a snake.  We ate lunch at Hy Vee, then went to Best Buy to get a new TV for the bedroom.  The last one is not quite dead, but somewhat demon haunted.  After you turn it off, it turns itself back on.  Creepy.  Savannah now has that one in her room.  We got a 26″ flat screen.  HD is a new thing for us.  Very nice.  We stopped at North Campus and watered the prairie.  It needed it.  Actually, Stacey did most of the watering while I caught as many of the Japanese beetles as I could.  It was not only pest control, it was food for our geckos, which love them. 

Monday I did office work at home.  Exams written, reports filed.  Check.  I vacuumed all the vehicles out and checked oil.  The girls saw a mouse in the basement last night.  I have now set traps.  This just proves that Boots is useless.

June 18 – Dragonfly season

Wednesday morning I went into the back yard.  It was still quite moist, and everything was covered in dew. 

Stacey’s lilies finally opened.

I love the little droplets on this dill plant.

I never get tired of these iridescent flies.  The dew drops are a bonus.

This spherical droplet was acting like a magnifying glass in the morning light.

Another fly with droplets.

Afterward, I went in to the office.  I met with a group of YMCA day camp kids.  First, I gave them the short talk on butterflies.  I handed out all the binoculars I had, and we went outside for a short hike.  We saw two species. the spring azure and the ubiquitous clouded sulfur.  They seemed to be pretty well behaved kids.  I ran some errands around town, then picked up some Round Up and a backpack sprayer from our groundskeeper.  We will prepare for a prairie!  Stacey had a party for Bead for Life, which helps Ugandan women.  She sold some jewelry, but not as many people showed up as we expected.  I played cashier.  Savannah had her first swim meet of the summer.  She took first in breast stroke, but we don’t know much more beyond that.

Thursday I went out to Lowell’s.  It’s been awhile, as the rain has not relented in awhile.  It was cool and pleasant when we started–overcast with a breeze.  I was using spinnerbaits, as usual.  We didn’t catch a lot, but they were bigger than usual.  Lowell and I both caught 16-inch bass.  I caught another that was 13, I think, and a total of 4 bass.  I also caught a nice crappie of 13 inches.  One more inch would have gotten me a master angler award for that species.  We went to lunch in Ewing, and came back for one more round of the lake.  The clouds had cleared off, and it was a lot hotter.  Worse, the fish weren’t biting.  We drove around a bit and tried the catfish pond.  Lowell caught a decent crappie.  I hooked a good bass next to the dock, but it got off.  I got distracted photographing dragonflies.  I passed a couple of spotted fawns on the way home, but they ran back into the woods.

The jade clubtail.

I think this is the first red-eared slider I’ve documented at Lowell’s.

Eastern amberwing and jade clubtail.

A blue dasher performing some extreme obelisking.  His tail is pointed toward the sun.

I took a nice nap when I got home, but was awakened by a tick crawling on my side.  At least it hadn’t bitten me.  When Savannah came home we went down to Capps to switch cell phones again.  We both wore the same T shirt, too!  She got a refund on the difference in cost of the two phones and bought us pizza for dinner at Primo’s. 

Friday morning I got to work on finishing the tinting of the windows of the Lil Egg.  I felt like I was starting to get on top of the learning curve.  Note: trying to remove an embedded hair only makes things worse.  Then I started on the rear window.  It absolutely does NOT work as illustrated.  Even with the narrow strips of film, the compound curve causes wrinkles to appear, no matter how many times I took it off and reset it.  And the next strip adheres to the first, causing it to partially come off, and undoing all the bubble removal you just did.  I had to stop and get ready to go to Quincy, and even threw away one of the strips I’d cut.  Much cursing was involved.

I got to QU just in time for the program planning session of RAP, where we register new students.  My registration cases consisted of two easy ones and two difficult ones.  Best of all, I got word that the grant money for our prairie finally came in.  After RAP I went to my office for a bit.  It was sprinkling when I arrived, but it soon broke into a very intense storm.  While in my office, I pondered what to do.  I was planning to go to my scuba instructor’s pool, but lightning was not conducive to that.  I covered myself with a large trash bag and ran for the car.  I thought the door was unlocked.  NOT.  By the time I got it unlocked and myself in the driver’s seat, I was soaked.  I was more worried about the lightning.  In just a minute or two, the rain stopped.  Wish I had waited!  The storm was worse than I thought.  The streets were partly flooded, as the storm drains were overwhelmed.  I had to make a U turn on 18th for a downed power line, and two others for downed trees in various places.  I checked the other Hy Vee for prairie plants, but they didn’t have any.  A lot of their potted shrubs were knocked over.  I stopped by the Jade Orchid to see Wanaree, who I hadn’t run into in a while. 

Saturday morning we hit a couple of garage sales before heading to Quincy in the truck.  We stopped at the farmer’s market and bought a watermelon.  At Hy Vee, I bought all the native prairie plants they had, about 93 of them.  We went to North Campus and I sprayed the prairie-to-be with Round-Up.  One of my students stopped by.  He was the life of the party on the last Galapagos trip.  He’s going into the Navy Seals.  Wow!  We ate lunch at Dairy Queen and hit a couple more garage sales on the way home.  I got a Kelty tent for $2.  The poles are broken, but it looks as though it was used only once.  I went out into the prairie (and the heat!) and took some photos with the macro lens. 

Damselfly sunning itself on a flower bud.

Lone droplet.  Cacti in bloom.

Early instar grasshoppers are so funny.  They look as though they’re cross-eyed and have antennae a few sizes too big.

Another green sweat bee, approached by a hoverfly.

Face to face with the green sweat bee.

Lookin’ at the world through fly’s eyes.

I’m still working on the ideal photo of the red-banded leafhopper and the iridescent fly.  These are inching closer.


Flying united.

Crab spider–not usually found outside of a flower.   Mosquito larva in our rain bucket.  I fed it to our fish.

So you can see that the prairie is a garden of delights.  OK, creepy delights.  I
put the ant lion out on the porch in the sun, focused the camera on his pit with the tripod, and threw in an ant.  Predation ensued.  I took about a hundred shots to record the sequence of events, but I’ll show just one here.  It will make a great visual for a talk someday.

The head and jaws of the ant lion are lower left.  The ant is scrambling to get out of the pit.  She was eventually caught and eaten. 

Sunday morning the rain put a damper on my bike ride plans.  I stayed home and read the paper.  I’ve been drinking the Coelho’s Gold coffee.  It’s really quite good.  It’s relatively mild, and doesn’t have any strange aftertastes.  I spent most of the day indoors relaxing.  We played some new video games we got for cheap at a garage sale.  Savannah got me an ice cream cake and several small gifts for Father’s Day.  One was an old hand saw she had painted with a landscape.  That’s pretty cool.

Monday it rained like mad early–another bike ride lost.  I took the truck in to have the A/C looked at again.  It just won’t make cold.  I rode my bike back home, as I had carried it in the back of the truck.  I spent much of the morning sweeping and pressure washing the house.  I also used the pressure washer to flush the gutter of the awning.  After that I was soaked and filthy.  After lunch I did odd jobs, such as switching out the bedroom TV, which is behaving bizarrely, e.g., not shutting off.  Actually, turning itself back on after I’ve shut it off.  In the evening I went to my scuba instructor’s house to do some pool work.  I went down and up three times, very slowly, and didn’t have any problems.  So I guess I’m ready for the open water dive again.  I’ll try not to barf next time.

June 9 – Bugs ahoy!

Tuesday I got up fairly early and went for the first bike ride of the summer.  My injured knee finally recovered and the weather cooperated.  It seemed easy going at first, but I think I had a tail wind.  There wasn’t much in bloom, but at least there were a few butterflies.  I got home at 9, and Savannah was not yet out of bed.  She’s been sick.  Fortunately, she hasn’t had to work the last couple of days. 

Eastern Comma, early form

Clouded sulfur.

The bright green color of this bee caught my attention.  later I noticed its lovely blue eyes.

Statue of St. Francis at QU main campus.

Wednesday I finished scanning all the photo albums, including Savannah’s.  Plenty of blackmail material there–naked baby pics and such.  It was the classic trip down memory lane for me, just seeing all the old photos.  In the afternoon we went to our local cell phone store to work out a new plan, as we will need nationwide service.  I swear the damn cell phone companies have thought of every way to screw you.  Don’t get me started.  We spent an hour there, and still didn’t get a definitive answer.  Savannah went to work at the pool that night, even though she was still a little ill.

Thursday it rained on and off all day, so there wasn’t anything I could get done outside.  I got the bugs out of the refrigerator and worked out the macro lens.  I found I get better image quality without the extension tubes, even though I lose some magnification.  After lunch Savannah I went to Monticello to register her car.  We had to accept new license plates, but I’m not sure why.  I couldn’t get one screw out of the front plate on her car and had to cut it with a hacksaw, after giving up on other sorts of efforts.

The ant lion larva, Myrmeleon immaculatus, I think.

The real Jaws.

From what I could tell online, this is the mining bee, Anthophora abrupta.

Friday it finally didn’t rain.  I started by mowing the lawn, which was fairly overdue.  I did the string trimming too.  I took a gate off the old dog kennel so I could pull the lawnmower in there and park it on the concrete pad.  I took a newer piece of tarp and strung it at an angle over the mower.  I’m tired of getting wet butt every time I mow.  I proceeded to the rental house and cut another large branch off the boxelder maple.  I hauled the brush down and picked up a load of firewood, mostly big stuff.  I took that home, chainsawed the long thin ones, and split the short wide ones (slices of trunk).  There was a hollow log with a carpenter ant nest in it.  I tried knocking them out onto the middle of the street, but there seemed to be no end to them.  I put that one back in the truck for later disposal.  I raked the yard where I had felled the branch (just one left now), and hauled the small amount of brush away.  After lunch Savannah and I went down to swap phones at the cell phone place.  I went straight to the brush dump again and pulled out a bunch more logs.  Someone had cut down a mighty large tree.  I chainsawed some and split some others until I had a good truckload.  There’s still some left that I may go back for another day.  I took the stuff home and stacked it.  While I was unloading, Joe LaCount stopped by and showed me a jar with a very large spider in it.  It was Dolomedes, the fishing spider, and the largest type we have in this area.  I borrowed it for photography purposes.

It’s about four inches maximum from foot to foot.

Saturday we went garage saling.  We ended up going all the way to LaBelle, but we did get some good deals.  While we were there, some guy ran his car into a tree and had to be life-flighted out.  We got off to an early start, and while driving through Canton we saw a doe walk across the street.  Casually.  I think she lives here in town.  We went grocery shopping and did odd jobs around the house.

Sunday morning I worked on unclogging the bathroom sink.  It’s been running slowly for a long time.  Two bottles of Drano have failed to make an impact.  I disassembled the trap and ran my snake (the metal kind) down all the way.  When I pulled it out there was a little hairball on it and I figured that would do the trick.  But when I reassembled the trap, the flow was still slow.  I took it apart again, ran the snake down and gave it a good long rotation.  I pulled out a little more hair and sludge, but still the sink would not drain.  I figured the problem was upstream.  I took apart the stopper assembly and found the whole area plugged with greasy wads of hair.  Yuck!  At least that solved the problem.  From there I went to the brush dump.  I had pulled some logs out and chainsawed them when Joe LaCount showed up.  He helped me load some logs and we BSed for awhile.  Someone had left fish carcasses down there.  It’s going to smell very bad very soon.  While I was stacking wood I picked up a big carpenter ant and gave it to the ant lion.  The lion had no trouble capturing the ant.  Savannah thought that was cool.  I had fed the spider a beetle the night before, but it showed no interest.  In the morning there were fragments of the beetle in the bottom of the cage.  We have a small petting zoo on the counter now, a slightly scary petting zoo.

Monday I went to my office and ran errands all over Quincy.  I totally forgot to put out this blog on its usual day.  Tuesday morning I installed window tinting on my truck.  I had bought a roll of film and the installation kit with the special tools.  It even came with a miniDVD showing how to do it.  Of course, the guy in the video has done a thousand of them and does every procedure flawlessly.  My results differed somewhat.  The first requirement is a dust-free environment.  Who has that?  My garage still has dog hair floating about.   I found it necessary to curse much more than the video guy.  My tint job was imperfect, but adequate for vehicles that are 10 years old.  I got the truck done and had enough left over to do one window of the Lil Egg.  That looks cool.  One tinted window.  I’ll get some more film and finish it off this week.

That afternoon I drove down to St. Louis for the MONEP meeting.  The speaker was the Missouri Department of Conservation staff photographer who does most of the work for their magazine, Missouri Conservationist.  Of course, I his images are amazing.  I learned some things too (use manual focus to get eyes in focus, shoot in raw, if a subject is workable, keep working it).  I’m not going out at 3 a.m. in subzero temperatures to get the shot, as he has done.  I drove home afterward, which wasn’t bad.  I got home at 11:30.

June 3 – More rain

Tuesday I went in to my office and got a lot of little stuff done.  I took a walk to the 18th Street bridge over the railroad tracks to find out what had made burrows I had seen there a month ago.  Turns out it was bees.  Now I have to catch one and figure out what they are.  There are also a lot of nice ant lion pits there.  A storm was moving in so I got out and ran my errands.  I picked up some crickets and mice at the pet store.  I also got a new light for the aquarium.  It’s kind of a black light–makes our living room look like an opium den.  It rained like mad all the way home.

This female common whitetail was sunning as the storm approached, or trying to.

Wednesday I helped Stacey load some stuff donated to her thrift store.  It nearly filled the back of the truck.  I changed the oil on the Taurus and Echo.  I got a new shepherd’s hook from Orscheln’s and rehung my bird feeders.  I also got an ax handle to go with an old double-bladed head I had gotten at a garage sale.  Of course, I had to modify the handle to get it to fit.  I needed my draw knife, which only took a half hour to find.  After I had the handle solidly affixed and the blade sharpened. I used it to fell a small black locust that had died in the back yard.  The experience was about what I expected: difficult and exhausting.  I spent the rest of the afternoon as a vidiot, playing both Guitar Hero and Wii Fit.

Thursday was chainsaw day.  First I cut up the tree in the back yard.  I took the butt log and chopped it into sections to make bird houses according to plans in my new book.  I didn’t finish them, but got all the chainsaw work done.  Second, I began chopping down a boxelder maple at the rental house.  It’s half dead and constantly shedding branches.  I hauled two loads of brush to the brush dump, and a small load of firewood home.  It still has the two largest branches intact.  While I was hauling brush I went down to the river.  I saw some minnows and fish jumping.  After the chainsawing was done I took my rods down there and tried the usual spots.  I caught the world’s smallest white bass.  I was about to leave, then I decided I should try the spot across the canal in the lee of the lock wall, where I’d seen some activity earlier.  It wasn’t long before I had a bite, and I knew it wasn’t a white bass.  It turned out to be a foot-long flathead catfish.  That kind of made my day.  I turned him loose.  I kept fishing and hooked a large fish which turned out to be a smallmouth buffalo.  Haven’t caught one of those in many years.  Finally, I caught a white bass of keeper size.  I didn’t have a stringer, so I put him in the bed of the truck and drove home.  I dropped him in a rain barrel in the back yard, looking nearly dead.  I grabbed more stuff and headed back down to the river.  I only caught two more small white bass.  Two guys encroached on my spot too.  Things had really slowed down and I went home.  I was pretty exhausted anyway.
I didn’t have my camera when I saw a deer standing in the grass down by the tracks or when the train went by that had the big fins from the wind generators they make in Iowa.  At one point when I went in the house for something I heard a fairly serious ambulance call over Stacey’s pager.  I saw the life flight chopper heading back for Quincy not long afterward.  We learned later an Amish boy had been run over by a wagon.  He didn’t survive.
When Savannah got home she was looking at some birds in the back yard when she exclaimed, “Hey, there’s a fish in that bucket!”  I filleted it later.

Friday morning I went back to the same spot, but there was a barge locking through.  I thought I’d wait until it passed, but the pushboat stayed there, churning up the water forever.  The fish weren’t biting.  I moved to some different spots and found one where the minnows were thick.  I caught a small largemouth bass there.  Looked like the same one I caught last week.  I gave up and went home.  I had a headache from the previous day’s efforts.  Savannah and I were watching a documentary and we both fell asleep.  I felt better afterward, but still didn’t accomplish much the rest of the day.  I discovered the stand-up freezer wouldn’t shut properly.  Our appliance guy came over, twisted the door a bit, and told me to defrost it.  Whew! No need to buy a new one.  He didn’t even charge us for a service call. 

Saturday it rained hard, at least in the morning.  We went garage saling, but didn’t get a lot of stuff.  I got some decent picture frames.  Stacey got a pot holder weaver for 25 cents.  It kept her entertained for the rest of the weekend.  Sunday morning we defrosted the freezer.  We threw out a bunch of stuff.  There was an awful lot of ice in there, which made it take several hours to thaw.  Now it’s much less crowded in there.  I got inspired and began scanning all my photo albums.  It goes fairly fast, but I have so many of them.  I don’t take the photos out of the pages, so I get multiple photos done with each scan, and I haven’t had too much trouble with reflections.  Now all my old stuff will be digitally archived.  Savannah had to work at Orscheln’s most of the day, then a shift at the pool in the evening.  It struck me that at one job, her primary task is to yell at people, and at the other she is not allowed to.  One problem she has is that, being young, attractive and female, she gets hit on by creepazoids that come in the store.  It’s hard to be polite and say, “Get lost!”