Saturday, 21 September 2013

Yahoo! The sun returned.

There was fog when I woke up this morning, but the power of the sun with no clouds in the sky soon burned it off.  Hot dog!  I hung out a load of laundry, and then got ready to greet my morning visitors.

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Bridget and John of Travels of John and Bridget….and Fred, finished their camp host volunteer assignment in North Dakota and stopped by for a visit while spending some time in Detroit Lakes.  What a beautiful morning we had for a tour of the refuge.

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My friend, the young bald eagle, was perched as if on cue by the Chippewa Picnic Area.  I parked the refuge truck, and we were able to walk right under its favorite perch without it spooking off.  It only screamed at us a few times.  We even witnessed a small kettle of northern harriers catching a thermal to spiral up over the Otter Tail River so they could attain altitude to continue their migration south. 

IMG_9458It was a stellar morning to be out and about.  We could hear the far off guns of the waterfowl hunters, but we stayed in areas that were closed to hunting.  The trees are just beginning to turn their fall colors, the Chippewa rice harvest is over, and it just felt good to enjoy the scenes without overcast skies and sprinkles.

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I was hoping to see the brilliant reds and oranges of fall leaves before I headed south, but I’m not sure that will happen in the next several days.  I’m scheduled to pull out on Thursday, but tonight I’m a little nervous about my refrigerator.  Even though the freezer says it’s –2*, it doesn’t seem that cold to me, and I’ve suddenly been having trouble with the ice maker.  It’s reminding me of the troubles I had in 2011. 

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During out tour, I spotted this caterpillar.  Isn’t this the one that predicts how long the winter is going to be?   I think the size and place of the brown is supposed to tell the length and severity of the winter, but I just can’t remember.  Can anybody help me with this?

I did want to announce that there was a winner to last night’s little bird identification contest.  While three people came close to identifying the ten species, one person got them all correct.  That person is Brigitta!  She got all ten species correct by guessing white-throated sparrow, ruffed grouse, black-billed cuckoo, brown thrasher, indigo bunting, rose-breasted grosbeak, golden-winged warbler, woodcock, veery, and mourning warbler.  I think Brigitta writes a wonderful blog, but viewing it is by invitation only.  I’ll be getting in contact with her about the little prize.

Tomorrow, I’ll be checking to see how my freezer is doing, and continuing to get ready for departure.  I sure did have a nice visit with John and Bridget, and they are thinking about volunteering here at Tamarac next summer.  Perhaps we’ll meet again?

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, 20 September 2013

Are you ready for a little contest?

I had my scissors ready for cutting this morning as I headed for work.  Last Monday, during the rain, I spent the morning finding good pictures on the internet of 10 different bird species.  The Tamarac Fall Festival will be happening about a week after I leave here, but one of the activities for visitors will be to learn to identify these ten species.  After Janice, the volunteer coordinator, printed my found pictures off, it was my job today to cut all their silhouettes out and then laminate them.  They’ll be posted in trees and grasses at the festival site.  Visitors will be given a pair of binoculars and asked to find these breeding birds of Tamarac at one of the activity stations.

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After I got them all cut out, Janice gave me a run through on how to operate this large laminator.  Most of the laminators I’ve used at other refuges have been little desk top models that are quite easy to use.

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One of the challenges of using this bigger model is its location.  Since the normal office and visitors center has been closed for a year, all of the equipment is crammed into the maintenance buildings.  I won’t go into all the details of operating this thing, but just let me say it was interesting for a vertically challenged individual.

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Janice got the first batch going, and it really took two of us to manage it in a timely manner since it was too high off of the ground, and you couldn’t get behind it to keep the laminate taut as the pictures rolled out.

After lunch, I spent some time trimming all of those birds so they could be used individually.  Not very exciting, but it was something to do on another dismal rainy day.

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                                                      Here’s half of what I ended up with. 

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              And here’s the other half.  (You can ignore that dark chocolate Milky Way on the right Surprised smile)

There are some duplicates, but all in all there are ten species of birds displayed.  So, here’s the little contest.  Can you identify what ten species are represented?  They are all birds that breed on the refuge in the summer, and there aren’t any exotic birds in their midst.  I even have a small prize in mind for the person that can name the most amount of species correctly. 

I know most of you aren’t bird nerds, but if you have a bird guide it shouldn’t be too difficult.  You also have to understand that after seven days of rain, fog, and dreariness, I’m getting a little desperate for blog topics.  Here’s a hint to get you started: the bird in the top center of the first pic is a black-billed cuckoo.

Tomorrow, some fellow bloggers will stop by for a visit, and if the drizzles ever stop I’m hoping to dry my outside rug and pack it away.  Slowly but surely I’m getting things packed up for my departure.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, 19 September 2013

This and that

I was off early this morning to get the new tires on the toad.  I only had to wait about an hour or so, and I was back in business.

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One of the forecasts I read said it would be bright and sunny today.  So much for the weather guessers.  This is Balsam Lake that is a pretty good size, and you can normally see the treed far shore.  I took care of several other chores in town, and then headed back home.

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By the time I got back, it was noon and those sunny skies surely hadn’t shown up yet.  Believe it or not, there are five trumpeter swans and a couple of ducks on this pond.  They’re hard to see, but they’re there just right of center.

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Can you see the visitors center and headquarters through the fog where I was watering the sod last weekend?  I kind of enjoyed this softer view of the refuge.

About a week ago, while I was out checking signs for painting, I came upon some trash at one of the boat launches.  It seems some boaters left a six pack of glass bottles of Miller Lite Beer behind.  Three were empty, one was half full, and two were unopened.  It made me think of Sam Weibel when I saw it.  Winking smile  I don’t drink beer, but I do use it occasionally for beer battered shrimp.  I don’t know of any place where you can just buy one can/bottle of beer, so I put those unopened bottles in my fridge.

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Yesterday, I decided to fix some shrimp, but wasn’t interested in having them in batter.  I just wanted cold cooked shrimp to be dipped in my homemade cocktail sauce that leans heavily on Hellman’s Mayo, a squirt of ketchup, and a scoop of horseradish.  A cookbook I have from the Mississippi Gulf Coast suggests boiling the shrimp briefly in beer for added zest, so I used up one of those bottles of beer.  The shrimp were delicious, but I sure didn’t taste any difference over using boiling water.

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I got an email today from my son, Dan, telling me I hadn’t made my picks yet for this week’s football games.  He’s the one that talked me into joining a fantasy football pool.  I’m not doing very well, but that’s to be expected since I don’t follow football.  It does give us something to chat about weekly though, so it’s worth it to me.  Anyway, that email surprised me since I made my picks yesterday while chatting on the phone with him.  I needed some clarification of the statistics that were showing up on my pick list.  He didn’t know where I was getting these statistics from, since they didn’t show up on his pick list. 

After his email warning, I decided to check it out.  It seems I was making picks on the CBS network as opposed to our football pool, and was competing against four of the top football announcers and analysts.  Ha!  What a hoot!  I hadn’t made any picks in that pool the first two weeks, so I am in 71,400th place.  I don’t know how I ended up in that guessing game.  I finally got back to the right fantasy pool, after writing down my picks from all the ‘analyzing’ I had done.  Open-mouthed smile  I’ll see how that goes.  I’d just like to beat him one week, but I doubt that will happen.

Tomorrow, I’m slated to be the ‘Laminating Queen’ on the refuge after cutting out pictures of birds with a scissors.  Now there’s something to look forward to!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

It’s been a dreary five days

Some rain, some brisk winds, and overcast skies have prevailed for the last five days.  Makes for pretty boring days here.  I worked on the computer for the refuge on Monday, and then spent the last two days doing not much of anything.  It’s a string of days like this that makes me wonder why I write this blog.  There’s really nothing interesting or exciting to report.

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In desperation early this evening, I decided to gather the trash and take it to the dumpster.  Exciting, right?  Well, when I pulled the garbage can out from underneath the sink, I noticed a puddle of water.  Nuts!  So I bent over to check the trap fittings under the kitchen sink.  One was wet, so I tried to tighten it.  I have always had trouble with that ‘Lefty-Loosey, Righty-Tighty’ thing.  Seeing as I was essentially standing up side down, of course I loosened it instead of tightening it. Disappointed smile  You can guess what happened to that little leak.

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                                                                  “She’s spying on us again!”

After taking care of the trash and recyclables, I headed back to the rig to upload a few pictures that I took in back along Flat Lake.  In this pic, I wanted to put the subtitle in a speech bubble emitting out of the mouth of one of the swans.  As some of you know, you can’t do that anymore with Picasa 3.9, so I tried to go to Google+ to edit the picture.  OMG!  That sure didn’t work.  I couldn’t figure out how to even find this picture since it wasn’t in any of the folders that Google+ had decided I had.  It was another one of those tear your hair out situations for me.  Those improved editing options must be there somewhere, but I sure couldn’t find them.  I’m hoping that maybe Rick will do a tutorial on how to get all your pictures into Google+, and tell me how the heck I get pictures there that I want.

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You can see in these photos just how dull and dreary it has been around here.  Tomorrow I’m off to get some new shoes for the toad, and take care of other errands in Detroit Lakes.  The weather guessers have been forecasting sunny skies for several days, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I sure hope they get it right soon.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A good weekend for growing grass

It was a dreary and overcast day when I woke up yesterday with temps in the 40’s, so I waited a while for things to warm up a bit before heading over to the Visitors Center and offices to take care of my watering chores.

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This building has been closed for about a year, totally gutted, and retrofitted for energy efficiency.  This is most of the sod that was laid on Friday.  There’s a lot more sod arriving tomorrow.  My job this week is to soak the sod daily so it gets off to a good start.

_MG_9457If you look closely, you may be able to see one of the two sprinklers that I have.  I’ve been cautioned several times to not allow any of the water to get on the rocks on the side of the building.  The well water around here is very high in iron, and would make all of the rock fascia turn a rusty color.  So, I have to be very careful in the placement of the sprinklers, and move them often.  I didn’t even get too wet trying to dash up and move them as they made their circular spray.

I think you can notice how dismal the sky was.  After a few hours, those skies opened up with rain.  I had brought Emma with me for company, and she doesn’t like rain.  So I gathered her back up and sat in the car with her to see if it was just a passing shower.  Eventually, I headed back to the rig to check the radar. 

It turned out that the rain never stopped until almost 10:00 at night.  As near as I can figure, we had about 2”.   Good for the grass, but pretty boring for me and Emma. 

Eventually the skies cleared this afternoon, but fall temperatures have prevailed.  I was pretty much a lazy bum today, and spent the day in sweats and a tee shirt with the heat on for the morning.

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I did put on shoes and socks of course, because I seldom do anything without them.  Emma spent the afternoon stalking another ground squirrel.  As usual, she was entertained, but unsuccessful.  Can you notice the purple finch that is even closer to her than the squirrel?

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The birds have come to ignore her, and she ignores them.  This is one reason I think she is part terrier rather than a lab.  If it isn’t a hawk or turkey vulture up in the sky, she doesn’t give two craps about birds.  This is the only dog I’ve ever had that regularly watches the sky. 

I’ll be attending the staff meeting tomorrow to see what they want me to do this week.  I’m guessing I’ll be on grass duty until I leave in 11 days.  It’s easier on my shoulder than painting posts, so I’m happy with that.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, 13 September 2013

A matter of priorities

Well I was off this morning to Fargo to take care of several items on my list.  First up was the Breadsmith store where I purchased three loaves as planned.  This time I got the French Peasant Bread (cracked wheat), the regular Rustic Rye (as opposed to the sweeter and darker molasses rye), and another loaf of Patriotic Bread (white bread with blueberries and cranberries).  Making use of my nice big freezer, I’m set in the bread department for about six weeks.  I cut each of the loaves in half, wrap, and freeze.  These loaves are so hearty that a half a loaf generally lasts me a week.

Then it was on to Carol Widman’s Candy Co.  You know I was there to get one pound of sponge candy.  As they box up each order by hand, they make the offer to you to try any other of their candies in the case while you wait.  So, I decided to try their dark chocolate “Chippers”.  I guess they’re kind of famous for their chocolate covered Red River Valley potato chips.  Now I know why.  Couldn’t leave without a half pound of those either.  I’m just doing my part in supporting locally grown and made products!  Winking smile

I made a couple of other stops, and then headed for home.  Along the way, I made a couple of slight detours.  One was to:

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I stopped here sometime in July, and it was jam packed with campers and picnickers for the weekend that were enjoying the trails and swimming available.  It was a lot quieter today.  I stopped at the office to ask about the prairie chicken picture on their entrance sign.  I’ve never seen a greater prairie chicken, and I was wondering if I might have a chance of seeing one next spring when I return.  Prairie chickens establish leks in the spring where the males puff up and display their stuff for the females.  A lot of ‘booming’ by the males goes along with the display.  I’d love to see that!

IMG_9449The prairie within the park and the adjoining state scientific and natural area is judged to be one of the finest and largest remaining tall grass prairie tracts in Minnesota.  I was able to get the phone number for the Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area that is owned by the Nature Conservancy.  They have blinds that you can reserve a spot at in the spring to observe the prairie chicken leks, or booming grounds.  Sounds like a good possibility for me next spring.

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These prairie/plains areas in Minnesota and the Dakotas are known as the pothole region.  Small pothole lakes provide nesting areas for waterfowl.  I stopped at an example of one of these potholes on my way home.

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The pictures really don’t do justice to the beauty of the colors in this landscape.  Before the white man came along, these potholes would have been surrounded by a sea of tall grass prairie.  Now it’s a sea of soy beans, but the September colors were spectacular none the less.

I also stopped for a chocolate malt on the way home.  This time, I asked them to skip the maraschino (sp?) cherry on top, and give me an extra scoop of malt instead.  Yummy!  I also stopped at a local vegetable stand and purchased a spaghetti squash.  I’ve heard they’re very tasty, but I really am not sure what to do with it.  Guess I’ll have to look up some recipes.

As I was pulling back into my site, I got a phone call from a staff member asking if I was available this weekend.  It seems a whole lot of sod was installed at the renovated visitors center today, and would need to be sprinkled this weekend.  I said, “Sure.”  Well, it turned out to be more involved than they first thought.  It will take me several hours each day to accomplish this, and another huge load of sod will be put down on Monday.  It will need to be heavily watered for the next week so it doesn’t die in this dry weather.

So, priorities have changed.  After painting 200 posts, that chore has been put on a back burner.  I’m not exactly sad about that. Thinking smile  I think I’ll take Emma with me tomorrow for my watering duties.  New things to sniff and all that, and no one else will be around since it’s a weekend.  On an even more positive note, I’ll have more time off next week, and a new addition to my resume will be “watching the grass grow!”

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, 12 September 2013

14 days and counting

That’s right.  I’ve only got two more weeks at Tamarac NWR before I hit the road for more southern climes.  This is about the time I start making lists of things I need to accomplish before heading out.  After mowing the weeds all around headquarters and the volunteer rig sites today (the grass is just beginning to green up after such a dry August), I headed to town to take care of some items on my list. 

Town means Detroit Lakes (DL to those in the know Winking smile).  After being here four months, I consider myself one of “those” in the know…  It seems I’m needing some new tires for the toad, so I asked Larry, one of the maintenance guys on the refuge, where he would go for tires.  He sent me to Schultz Garage and Bus Company in DL for an honest evaluation of my needs.  I now have an appointment for getting four new Firestone Tires installed next Thursday.

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While in town, I stopped at the Central Market grocery store for another must have item for my travels.  I’ve recently become enamored by these tasty ginger thins.

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They’re a very thin, crispy ginger cookie that just melts in your mouth as you eat them.  One serving is supposed to be six cookies for only a total of 133 calories.  I’ve always like gingersnaps, but I like these even better.

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There’s also some fun involved in eating them.  “Anna’s Pepperkakor are also known as Swedish wish cookies.  To make a wish, place a cookie on the palm of your hand and tap it gently with your index finger.  If it breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true.  Lycka till!”  Hmm… seems like my journey to Louisiana will be an easy one.  That’s a relief!

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I also decided to live on the wild side, and try some of their chocolate mint thins.  I’ll have to let you know if they’re as tasty as the ginger thins later.

As I’m finishing up this post, the sandhill cranes are giving their wonderful calls outside my rig window.  I don’t see them often here, but I love to listen to them.  I bet they’re roosting in the shallow waters of Flat Lake this evening.

Tomorrow, I’m off for a final trip to Fargo for this year.  On my list, of course, is to get about three loaves of wonderful bread for the freezer from the Breadsmith, a last pound of sponge candy, and maybe, if I time it just right, one last chocolate malt on my way back to the rig.  Culinary delights for sure!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy