Wednesday, February 25, 2009

emerging from winter

(I am going to go ahead and publish this as is and will edit it a bit later. I figure that you can forgive me because at least I am getting this on the blog.)

I know that technically it will still be winter for a long time, but today I got another small taste of spring. I even wore sandals to church tonight. I don't know if you remember this post about my daughter and socks, but I know that she got this allergy from me. My feet were thrilled to be out of socks.

Anyhow, I have tons of things that I need to tell you all, but I am going to go back two weeks for this one when I drug my family out of bed at an ungodly hour to head up the river. We were going on an expedition and we had such fun.

Our area here has a huge number of American Bald Eagles that winter along the river. They come down to avoid starving while their own lakes have frozen over and fish are very hard to find on a frozen lake. The river doesn't freeze over very easy and even when some areas freeze over the traffic on the river especially around the locks keeps water flowing. I have heard that when much of the riven is frozen you can see dozens around the dam and locks catching fish. In order to do that though you need to go out in the absolute freezing cold and sit and wait. Sounds like fun no?

So, I woke up my family and put a bag full of snacks in the car and packed up the winter gear and the camera and the Boy's telescope and the Boy's binoculars and we set out with coffee in hand.

I had picked a day when our entire family could go and when they had some fun things going on near the locks and dam. They were going to have a Master's of the Sky show with birds from the local bird sanctuary and they were supposed to have a hot air balloon ride and they had tours of the locks and dam and trolley tours to see many of the Eagles in the area.

We showed up at the crack of dawn on the river because that is when Eagles and most birds are the most active. I really wanted to see them fishing on the river and I knew that would require us to be up early enough to drive the 45 minutes to see them fish at dawn. We made it just after dawn and drove over to a small island on the river. We parked our car and hopped out to see this.

I know that it doesn't look that exciting to the naked eye and my pictures do not do this justice because our lighting was poor and I only have the one basic lens for my camera, but if you look over at those trees you can see four Bald Eagles in those trees. They would fly around and swoop down and grab fish and take it back to the trees to eat. They would soar and chatter to each other. I will be honest and let you know that I was excited about this trip and when we saw them right there sitting in the trees I was very excited, but when I heard the Eagles calling to each other and doing the chatter type noises that they make, I was just beaming. You see I am a bit of an Eagle nut... but really that is another post. When I heard them calling to each other as they flew around, I got all bug eyed and looked at John and about squealed, "OH! I never thought I would hear that in real life!!!" There was another young couple that was stopped there watching the Eagles and I knew that at that point they thought I was a total nut case. I really didn't care.

So, we watched them there for quite a while and I took tons of pictures but most of them are worthless because the lighting had much to be desired and my lens just didn't remotely cut it.

I did get to watch this trio in the tree as the lowest one was eating a large fish. All three of these guys are adults. They actually don't get their white head until they are about five years old and we saw many, many juveniles. I was fun for me to guess how old they were by their markings. Do you see how easy it is to entertain me?!

I will spare you the other pictures as they were equally impressive, but we drove down the road a ways and found another young eagle dining on the side of the river. I hopped out of my car, but he took off as soon as he heard us. When I walked down to the side of the river I found a HUGE dead fish. It was about the size of my six year old. I am sure he was munching some nice washed up fish for lunch. I missed seeing him up close, but as we are really their only predator, it is best that he is scared.

We went to the locks and dam for our show after we did breakfast at McDonald's in town and we were not disappointed in that show at all! It was amazing! They flew these birds right over our heads and our show was the only one not sold out that day. I suspect that most people didn't want to get up as early as we did, but I think that they probably missed out on much Eagle action by getting up later.

This was the first bird that they brought out. He is a Harris Hawk and he was gorgeous! You could actually feel his wings as he flew over us. We had to remain seated as they are trained to fly to people who were standing. They would walk the birds around so we could see them really up close.

This was a vulture from Africa. I am sure he had a better name then that but I couldn't remember. Do you know why they don't have feathers on their heads? It is so they don't end up covered in the dead animal they are eating every time they stick their heads in a carcass. Nice eh?

A Great Horned Owl. Doesn't he look noble? And smart? I thought he was so exquisite. Regardless he is not very bright. Two thirds of his head is eyes... so guess what the remaining one third is. Yup. His small brain. We still love him though!

This is a sweet Barn Owl. I think they are so cuddly looking and soft. I am sure that their beaks and talons are not friendly but they are my favorite of the owls easily.

This is an American Kestrel. He is a Falcon actually, but I think he is the cutest falcon. We are supposed to have these around here, but I haven't seen any in the wild yet. Hopefully we will before we move. They can hover in place which is amazing to me. This little boy was only a year old and so he didn't completely listen to his workers and he did perch for a little bit on the one wire in the tent. It was sweet, but thankfully he didn't perch on me! In this picture she was talking about how to tell the boy Kestrels from the girls.

They brought in the Bald Eagle at the end of the show and this is how she entered the tent. She was trying to get her balance and she came in with wings flapping. I heard a very audible gasp from right behind me. My husband had never seen a Bald Eagle in person like this and she was huge! The girls are bigger then the boys and Patriot was a sight to behold.

She scared me only slightly when she looked at me like this. Yikes.

Patriot was brought to the bird sanctuary when she was a young Eaglet twelve years ago. She hadn't fledged yet and the nest that she was in was knocked down by a wind storm. It fell in the water and her two siblings drowned. When she was found she was very sick and had pneumonia. Her lungs were permanently damaged and though she is healthy in every other way she would not be able to survive in the wild.

Their size is amazing. Look at her talons. She is sitting on the hand of a grown woman with large heavy leather gloves on. Amazing.

After this show we went on a tour of the locks and dam.

This would be the youngest Eagle watcher in the family standing on the locks. She really needs her own binoculars. Maybe in her Easter basket? Maybe I will get a pair in my Easter basket too!

This was the view down the river from the Lock and Dam. It was so very overcast.

After that tour we went on our trolley tour and we were able to see an older abandoned Eagle nest and we were able to see this fellow fairly close up.

He took off shortly after this picture and flew back towards the river. If you looked around there you never knew where you were going to see an Eagle.

We watched an Eagle soaring just below the locks with the gulls. Here he is right in dead center. It looks like he may have been fishing but maybe he was just having fun.

We went home after the trolley ride and we took naps before we headed to church that night.

If you are interested in checking out the source of my fascination with Bald Eagles go ahead and look at these Eagle Web Cams. We watch several of the nests but our favorite nest is at Pelican Harbor. We know these Eagles by tag numbers as well as by name. We know the eaglets they have had in the past few years and we do get a huge kick out of watching them on the computer. If you have any questions let me know!

Now... time for bed!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

dear sun, I miss you. can you come out to play?

My life has consisted of either snow or rain the past couple of weeks.

My back yard looked like this last week and this week it is one huge mud hole. It is amazing and I am wondering how many baths my dog can handle in one week.

The problem is that my gardener's heart is stirring. I have been thinking about this and that and I have been trying to figure out if I will go ahead and put in raised beds here to put in my veggies here at home this year, or will I forge ahead again with the gardening co-op out at the farm? Big decisions you know.

I will be honest with you all. I could easily skip this time of year. Every year. I do not enjoy winter. I desperately need to feel the sun hit my face and I think my garden preparations are really just signifying that I am yearning for summer in a major way.

Although the top picture of mine is attractive and I think it is pretty cool. I would much rather see this one below.

This one was taken at the Botanical Gardens this last summer.

This was one of My Son's sunflowers from this last summer. He planted them along side the house and they grew in a nice tall waving line. He loved them and I am sure they will make a return appearance this summer. I miss them. I miss them waving at me as I walk past.

This is a badly composed picture, but I don't care. I like that my lavender went ahead and took center stage. She stepped right up and told people how it was going to be and what things were going to be like. She bloomed hard all summer and made my day many, many days. I would go out and sit beside the lavender and run my hands through it and just smile.

I didn't save any of the blooms. I didn't cut them and do anything with them. I let them go and enjoyed them while I could. Now I am wishing that I had some remnant of that smell. I say this as I look out on the cold mud in my yard. I wish I had a remnant of that summer day. A feeling of warmth. A scent of sweet purple summer. A look of lushness.
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Monday, February 9, 2009


I have no words to introduce this link I am giving you.

I give you simply:

ali's african adventures.

Grab a tissue or two.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

picasa play

So, lately I have been playing more and more with doing basic editing in Picasa. I have to say that at times I am surprised what you can do with such a simple and um... free program.

This top picture is a picture of my lovely dog Liberty. Now, I have lamented over what a pain it is to take pictures of her in the past, so I was VERY pleased when I got this shot. The top one is straight out of the camera. I took this picture in the morning light as it reflected off of the deep snow. Because she is so dark usually her features are hard to make out, but the reflection of the gorgeous morning light on the snow and the light as it shone on her made for a great picture of my dog. You can even see her eyes here which are usually lost in her very dark chocolate brown fur.

I liked the picture so much that I had to play with it. The shot just below here is after I played with it a bit. So, I took it and I used the tint option (under effects) and I went down a bit on how much color I wanted to show through. Then I went ahead and added a very small bit of sunny yellow color to the picture. Then I added a bit of glow and finally I cranked up my fill light a small amount to get the washed out and ethereal look here.

Now, I like both pictures, I really don't think I have a preference in either and it was fun to do.

This shot is of me.

I was playing around taking some self portraits cause I was getting my hair cut and was thinking of going really short. I didn't, so this shot isn't really all that pertinent anymore, but I had fun editing it. I ended up doing basically the same thing to this, but I also cropped it down in a fun way.

Whenever I edit pictures of myself and I see them so large on my screen I am always shocked at the number of freckles I have. It always startles me. I suppose I just don't pay attention when I see myself in the mirror? I don't know. Anyways, if you can't afford the photoshop, don't quite give up on free. There is TONS you can do with the free program Picasa.

This by the way, doesn't mean that I am not going to be getting photoshop, it just means that I have fun trying to see what I can do for free. The one thing that is really lacking in Picasa that I want is the ability to raise and lower individual colors better and the layering abilities. I am sure that there are more, but some of that you can even get around using the other functions on Picasa.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

shaving spelling words write off the list

On a recent post, one of my great blog friends, Sneaky Momma, commented that when she taught school they would write their spelling words in shaving cream. Now, I will admit that I have had the kids write their words in many, many ways and I have heard of the shaving cream deal more then once, but I had yet to try it. That was all the inspiration I needed. The shaving cream was coming up soon!

The idea is to make writing a fun thing and honestly that isn't always easy. One of the problems is that when you make something fun it takes longer. That is just Murphy's law. I think nearly every time I make spelling fun it takes longer, BUT does it really? My kids learn the words better. There is no whining. It is an adventure. They LOVE it. So is it worth it? Yes. BUT... anytime you do something that really makes school downright squealing-out-loud-fun, you had better think ahead and change your normal schedule and do that squealing last. Trust me.

The shaving cream brought squeals from my kids just like I knew it would. It was super distracting for anyone else in the room trying to learn and they just loved it!

I put down the fabric cutting mat on the table. By the way, if you happen to do most of your homeschooling on the kitchen table like I do, these little puppies will save your table and your sanity. They take the beating and my wood table top doesn't have to. Lovely little guys. You can pick them up at your local sewing shop. We then propped up the spelling list and got the cookie sheet that we use for magnets out and covered it with the good stuff.

This was our poison of choice. It is what John uses every morning to shave his face and because of this the kids were worried that he would not be happy that we were using it. I told them that I would just get Daddy more.

This is what it looked like early on. My kids are not at all afriad to get dirty or messy or anything, but this did confuse my son momentarily and he actually wrote one word in the shaving cream and then washed it off his hands to start the second one. I told him to get over it. He did.

What a beautiful clean slate for writing on! Wahoo! Like fresh snow!

What this looks like with a word written in it. Much fun!

Of course, stuff like this was inevitable and you gotta roll with the punches. At least he wasn't flinging it on the walls!

On a side note, would you look at those teeth coming in?! Yikes! He is growing up.

Then things like this started happening. At least it washes out right? And really it is just like soap. He covered his arms in it and got it on his shirt and pants.

Most of my pictures of The Girl using this have her face in the picture, so I decided to just show The Boy, but here she is having a blast with it too. Like her mountains? She was trying to figure out if these were mountains which side she would want to slide down. The Boy helped her figure it out. Majorly important stuff here.

They had such fun and so did I. This was simple clean fun.

Try it out yourself!

(Oh, and if you are one of my many OCD friends then you can wait until summer comes and do this outside. They will love it and then you can hose them down before they come inside, just take some deep breathes and you can do it! )

Monday, February 2, 2009


We had a visitor to our yard today. The Boy looked out and saw this good size friend on the playset right over the swing. That would be about 15ft from our back door. This is not a picture I took, unfortunately, (I couldn't get to my camera in time) but is just like our new friend. The only problem is we are now pretty sure that our new friend has visited before. He seems to really like to visit our other very small sparrow friends who we feed daily.

He didn't get to feed in our backyard today, but he has in the past. We were in awe of our visitor and will call him Cooper now whenever we see him because he is a magnificent Coopers Hawk.

I will try to snap some pictures of him when I can to show you all our new buddy. Hopefully he doesn't eat all the sparrow friends though!

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