Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Health, wealth, and happiness to you all in 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nature Notes: Coyote Snow


Just when I thought I had run out of things to talk about for Nature Notes, this shows up. A coyote, A.K.A. prairie wolf, is suddenly hunting in my back yard every day, making the rounds from the woods to the pond to the pasture.

It comes alarmingly close to the house, and doesn't seem fearful at all about being so near people. They say coyotes will not attack anything larger than they are, but this guy is still intimidating. He's almost as big as a German Shepherd, and those eyes do not look friendly.

Above is a video of the coyote hunting a mouse in the pasture. Coyotes apparently eat a LOT of mice, and help keep down their numbers. It was pretty far away, so you'll see the action better if you click the lower right corner of the video to make it bigger. We were listening to Prairie Home Companion at the time, in case you're wondering what the background music is.

Coyote Snow

He looks kinda cute with snow on his nose, doesn't he? And he's wearing a gorgeous fur coat.

There's a sense of both awe and fear, seeing something so wild and dangerous just outside. I am thrilled to be living where such a thing can be. But I am also pretty happy about having good sturdy doors between us.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hallmark Moment

Christmas at our house includes a lot of traditions. One of them is presenting my kids with an ornament for the tree that represents something that happened that year, or something important to them at that time of their lives.

There's a Spiderman for the year my younger son spent most of his time in a Spidey costume and perfected climbing the walls. A karate figure for the year he got his black belt. Santa reaching for the stars when he got accepted at college.

The older son, who was born to fly, gets one of the Hallmark airplane series every year. There's a robot for the year he was into robotics competition, a violin for the year he got first chair ... well. You get the idea. Most years they get more than one, so it has accumulated into quite a collection. Putting them on the tree and sharing the memories each one brings has always been a treasured event.

So it came as a bittersweet moment this week when the older son showed up with a box and asked for his ornaments. He's putting up his first tree in his own home, and it was always the intent that the kids' collections would go with them when the time came.

We brought up the bin and sorted through, this one is yours, this is your brother's - do you remember when we went to the lake? You made this one in kindergarten. This set came for you from your grandmother, and I know she'd want you to have them.

I was touched to see how much the ornaments meant to him. And I love the thought that they will always bring back happy times for him. That was the intent all along. But it was really hard to see them go.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nature Notes: Out After Dark

Winter Moon

There was an amazing full moon this week. Did you notice? When I came off the highway exit on the way home it was hanging there right in front of me, as if it had been waiting to surprise me. I parked in the garage and went straight out to the back field to walk around a bit before it got dark. It was gorgeous.

So when the hubby suggested a few hours later that we go for a walk in the moonlight, I nearly said no. Partly, I had just done that; partly, I had other things I thought I had to do; partly, his idea of "a walk" usually includes a scramble through the brambles, not something I particularly enjoy in the dark. Or ever. He promised to stick to the mowed parts and to stay out of the woods.

And I am so glad we went. The moonlight was incredible, so bright that everything cast long shadows and we could clearly see the trees around the pond reflected in the water. Stars winked in and out between the clouds. Far in the distance, we could hear the lonely sound of a train passing in the night.

Walk in the Moonlight

I just had to go back out with my camera to try to capture some of the magic. I had a lot of fun out there alone, drinking in the night and experimenting with shutter speeds and apertures. None of the photos really turned out well. Still, I think I salvaged a few. If I can get them to upload, I'll post them this weekend.

I suppose there's a lesson here: Always go with Yes.

Visit Nature Notes for more adventures in the great outdoors.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Paint Update

First of all, thanks a million for the suggestions and sympathy about the paint problem on my front door.

I took the paint back to Lowe's, where the high school age kid behind the counter listened to my tale with a vacant expression and said, "Huh. That's weird." Long silence. I suggested "we" call Valspar. She rummaged around, found a number and handed it to me. I left. I know a lost cause when I see one.

I called the number for Valspar and reached a real live person on the first ring at 6:30 in the evening. He spoke English. He knew about paint. How cool is that?

I described the problem, and he explained what happened. Bottom line: I'm screwed.

On the paint can it says, among other things, to paint only when the surface and air temperatures are 50 to 90 degrees. I knew that. That's why we took the door down and painted it in the nice, heated wood shop out back.

What the can did not say was that it has to stay at that temperature for at least 24 hours. We hung it back up the same day and let it freeze overnight. Paint Guy didn't really explain why that causes the chalking, but he did say it is going to keep right on doing that no matter how often I wipe it off.

The solution is to sand it down and repaint it, and to let it cure at the proper temperature. He recommended waiting for spring.

So. Dang.