May 24 – Let’s Move a Prairie

Thursday after my last final was the appointed time to move our North Campus prairie.  It was planted about a year ago in the center of the circle drive on 18th street, and we had to move it to the center square between all of the buildings.  Several of my students showed up, as extra credit was involved.  I’d like to think that most of them are dedicated enough that they would have come anyway.  Did I mention it was raining?  Hard.  The whole time.  We had rain gear, but still ended up covered in mud, sweaty and tired.  It was much harder than I thought it was going to be.  Even though we had gotten a John Deer Gator from the groundskeeper, which helped a lot, it was back-breaking work.  There were a lot more plants than I remembered.  Some were already blooming.  At least we didn’t have to water them!  We had already prepared the new site by spraying it with Round-up the week before.  My volunteers were Jenn Zimmerman, Barb O’Dear, Kassidy Shuman, Leo Bistak and Shawn Murr. 

Monday I had to go in for a meeting with a student and lunch with the School of Education (at the Pier, yum!).  Afterward I thought I’d move a couple of plants that we’d missed on Thursday.  Actually, I had left behind a bunch of primroses because we had so many of them.  Many were now in bloom, with big yellow flowers.  So it was pretty obvious that these should go.  As I began to inspect further, I found more and more plants to move.  So that ended up being a bigger job than I thought as well.  Only now it was hot and humid.  Having no Gator, I hauled the plants in buckets.  I had a pretty good sweat going by the time I was done.   Our secretary Amy did all the watering, for which I was thankful.  Some of the plants still looked great and were even blooming after being moved last Thursday, but most looked wilted from the transplant shock.  I’m hoping for a little rain to get them through the week.  I had a nice ride home on the motorcycle anyway.  I wasn’t able to take any pics of the flowers, so here are some birds from the back yard.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, female
First ruby-throated hummingbird of the year. Northern Flicker
Pair of mourning doves Northern Cardinal, male

May 24 – Graduations

Savannah graduated from high school this weekend.  It was a grand affair.  Stacey was with a tour group in Nashville for much of the week, which left me to prepare for our out-of-town guests.  I had a few finals, but was not terribly pressed for time.  I went to the student awards ceremony, which was predictably too long.  Mostly it was the same students over and over getting the awards.  Savannah did get some good awards (Art, National Honor Society) and high dollar scholarships (St. Anthony of Padua, QU Tuition Remission Grant). 

Savannah receives an award from Mr. Lillard, who finally pronounced her name correctly

Relatives from Indiana came pouring in: Phil and Rhonda Nicholas, Carolyn Nicholas, Jarrod Nicholas and his girlfriend Becky Fahnstock, and Shilo and John Whetstone.Graduation was Friday night, conveniently down the street at Culver-Stockton College.  The ceremony had two songs, three speeches, a video and the presentation of diplomas.  It was one of the best high school graduations I’ve ever been to.  Afterward we had a reception at our house.  A lot of people showed up.  We had a variety of snacks and drinks.

The Canton R-V High School
Class of 2010. 
Savannah is third from right in front row.
Presentation of
the diploma.
After receiving her
diploma, Savannah gave a
carnation to family members.
Proud parents and the
surprised graduate.

Saturday I took John and Phil fishing at Lowell’s.  The fishing was great, but only for me.  I caught 10 bass, and no one else caught any in two rounds of the lake.  We went up to the catfish pond and John caught some bluegills.  The catfish never turned on, but at least the day wasn’t a total loss.  Meanwhile, the ladies all went to Quincy shopping, except for Carolyn, who had gone back to Indiana.  She had brought me a pet vinegaroon, which I loved, of course.  Sunday I went to the QU graduation while everyone else went to Hannibal to the Mark Twain Cave. Phil and Rhonda headed home to Indiana.   I think it was the longest ceremony I’ve had to attend in my six years at QU.  I went to my student Brent’s house afterward for his graduation party.  It was very nice to finally meet his family.  Brent is one of my proteges.  He has a job as a park ranger.  Someone asked what his duties are.  I said, “To hide pick-a-nick baskets from Boo Boo!” in my best Yogi Bear voice. 

We had big family breakfasts and dinners during the visit.  Gretchen was a big hit with almost everyone.  We took the kids down to see the river front and all the many Canton points of interest (ha ha).  Jarrod and John had brought wrist rockets (sling shots).  I got out mine and my ammo, set up cans in the back yard, and Monday morning we had target practice.  Sadly, everyone had to leave that day.  It was a lovely time, and I enjoyed it. 

Savannah walks
Gretchen in the back yard.

May 17 – End of the semester

Thursday afternoon I was in a meeting on the second floor when we heard a lot of strange noise from outside.  We looked out the window and saw two pit bulls attacking a lady’s small dog.  The woman had been knocked down.  Fortunately, two huge students, presumably football players, ran over and pulled the pit bulls off.  A fellow faculty called 911 and animal control came over and picked them up.  It was a scary moment.

Friday we had good weather and I rode the motorcycle to Quincy.  I stopped at the waterfall I had seen last week and photographed it from numerous angles.  It was a difficult subject as part was in shade and part in sun.  When I got to my office I went out and photographed some trees.  I was grading a student’s plant portfolio and I noticed pretty quickly that all of her images were slightly out of focus and loaded with heavy pixel noise.  I checked the camera she had used and it was set on ISO 1600.  No wonder all her pics were crappy.  It’s too bad, as many would have been otherwise very nice.

I took the plant field class to the natural area that Leo and I had discovered last week.  It was just loaded with wildflowers. 

Green Dragon: a wildflower I’ve been looking for about 6 years. Close-up of the flower.
Star of Bethlehem Picturesque stump.
Strange gall. Bumblebee in white beardtongue.


White-crowned sparrow–by Savannah.

Honda Shadow at waterfall. Just the waterfall.
Tulip poplar in bloom at QU North Campus. Colorful fly.

Click through for larger versions.

May 10 – Spring bird count

Many of our back yard flowers are in bloom.

One of the last of the wild geraniums.                                 Locust tree.  It would be a great year to have bees and make black locust honey.

Dwarf larkspur                                     Ants tending their leafhoppers, which function like cows.  A little drama played out in the leaf of a cup plant.

Our pet tadpoles in the fish pond (which currently has no fish).

I took the plant field class to a new site, owned by an alum.

It was nostalgic for me to see her new bee hives.             Female common green darner ovipositing.

Male common whitetail by her pond.                                   Female ovipositing.

Unknown fly under perfect lighting.                                        Cranefly.  Note the green eyes.

Nearby barn.

Dung beetle I found on the back porch.

Savannah and Matt at the prom.

Saturday was the spring bird count.  I went to Leo’s house at 8 a.m.  It was cold all day.  We saw plenty of birds, but no life birds for me.  We did finally wee wild turkeys, which we hope for every time we go out.

White-crowned sparrows were in abundance.                Orioles we mostly heard up in the trees, but this one put in an

A rare brown thrasher in the back yard.

American goldfinches are in their breeding plumage, and unbelievably bright.    Northern Cardinal framed in leaves.
As usual, there are more pics online if you click through (and they’re bigger).

Brown-headed cowbirds: male displaying to female.      Baltimore oriole: comes to our jelly feeder.

White-crowned sparrows in the yard–a first.                       Ninebark in bloom.

I had gone down to the river one morning and seen some minnows jumping.  I retrieved fishing gear from home in hopes that there was a white bass run.  No such luck.  I think a few skipjack herring were busting the minnows, but I couldn’t get even one of them to bite.  Efforts were more productive at Lowell’s on Sunday, as I caught a dozen largemouth bass, including one 15.5 inches.  Two crappie were a bonus.

May 3 – more wildflowers and bugs

I took my plant class to the Burton Cave Nature Preserve.  It’s near Quincy, but not many people know about it.  I used maps to get there, but it was difficult.  One of the students was driving her little Honda, and the last road was little more than a muddy track.  It turned out to be a bonanza of spring wildflowers, nearly as good as Fall Creek. 

Trillium was in abundance.

We’ve been seeing Red Admirals fairly frequently.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit.  They were huge in there.

Strange purple bracket fungus.

I know this one is edible, but I can’t remember its name.  Looks like a pancake.

The common, local, terrestrial snail.

Devil’s Urn, Urnula craterium.  It’s a common spring cup fungus.

We never did find the darn cave.  Next time I’ll go with someone who knows the place.  We saw a snake, but it was just another red-sided garter.  As we were walking along, one student asked, “Could we find mushrooms here?”  I looked down and at that moment spotted a morel.  I said, “Yes, we can!”  I found one more a few minutes later, but that was it. 

Wednesday the Environmental class went out to Lowell’s.  We put up some bird nest “boxes” that were not actually boxes but hollow logs I had scavenged last summer.  We hung them on posts Lowell had already put up out in a meadow.

This skipper was sunning itself.

These are the flower buds of fragrant sumac.  They’re fuzzy.

Another tiger beetle.  I can’t resist them.

Most of the students left when we were done, but Shawn stayed and we fished one round of the lake.  I think I caught two bass and missed 3 other bites.  Lowell caught a bluegill.  We hunted mushrooms after that, but all I found was a couple of rotten ones.  I picked three ticks off my back and neck later. 

Thursday the plant class went to Quinsippi Island.  There’s mostly silver maples and cottonwoods there, but we did see a few new plants.

This common green darner was taking a rest.

They cleared all the trees from the front of the light house.  Now its easy to see and photograph from the south end of the island.

Saturday we went to Quincy for plant sales and garage sales.  We got a few good plants.  I’m probably the only one who bought horsetail ferns, but I love the things and hope I can get them to grow in the wet part of the yard.  We were looking through the garage sales in the classified ads in the paper, and found one that listed “Poo bedding.”  I sure hope they meant “Winnie the Pooh bedding.” We got some good deals at the garage sales.  I picked up a Kenwood CD changer that I thought would plug into the Taurus, but it won’t.  It only cost me $1.  I got a wine concentrate kit (a shiraz) for $5.  The cheapest one I found online was $80.  I won’t start it until the pear wine is done.  The pear is the strongest fermentation I’ve had in years.  We went to the grand opening of the Petco.  Gretchen had fun meeting people, but she still had bad manners with some dogs.  She got down and practically cowered in front of a little toddler.  I was amazed.  Normally she puts her front feet up on people.  The toddler touched her hair and stuff.  It was cute.  We bought an insane amount of toys.

Sunday we stayed home and did yard work.  We planted the plants we had gotten on Saturday.  I went around and weeded as much as I could.  There were a lot of new bush honeysuckle seedlings coming up.  I took some downed branches to the brush dump and brought back a full load of firewood.  I found there also a nice wooden fishing rod rack.  Too bad it only holds 8 rods.  For those who don’t know me, that’s not nearly enough.  I thought I was all done in the yard when I realized I still had to mow the lawn.  I was almost done with the front part when I heard (over the roar of the mower and my earplugs) a squeal as a car pulled over to the side of the road.  I thought sure they’d had a blowout.  But when the guy got out he said they didn’t.  I went over to look.  The outer tie rod end had come off it’s ball, leaving the right wheel unsteerable.  Good thing it didn’t happen on the highway at 65 mph.  I got out my crowbar and turned the wheel with it so they could back up and get off the road more.  Then I thought maybe I could get the tie bar back on the ball at least temporarily.  It took two attempts, but I had the guy turn the steering wheel until the ball and cap were aligned, and I knocked the cap down on to the ball with the crowbar.  I followed them down to senior housing and it held.  At least they didn’t have to get a tow on a Sunday.