Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anticipation and Annoyance

As the sun peaked into the bedroom this morning, I stirred with excitement and anticipation of the eclipse today. While many are getting tired of the hype it is getting, I'm not. This solar eclipse is another reminder of the power that nature has. Plus, how cool is it that it is going to be dark in the middle of the day.

Eclipse shadows on the sidewalk.
That's the beginning of a post I wrote yesterday. I was very excited with anticipation of the solar eclipse that was going to happen. After that beginning, I was going to develop a theme of how anticipation is sometimes the best part of an event. Yesterday may have been an exception to that as I was totally awed by watching the sun disappear.

However as I sat down to finish this morning, I just got over the whole eclipse thing. It went from being awe inspiring to annoying. What did that for me? When I first started the computer, one of my news feeds reported that Sarah Jessica Parker said that the eclipse was a life changing experience for her. Good for her. She seems to be a nice enough person and that's sounds important for her. But I don't care. That little item took away from my "after the eclipse glow." I guess that it because the reporting had gone away from the actual event to inventing news about how celebrities felt about the event.

So I need an attitude adjustment. I need to be annoyed with the "news" and remember how excited I truly was with yesterday's celestial events.  I viewed the eclipse at home with Ward and Theo and we had no parties or no special refreshments, just solar glasses and clouds that parted enough times to give us several views of the disappearing sun. Although we didn't experience a total eclipse (we had 82% coverage), it was magical all the same.

That's what I need to remember and my ramblings here have helped with that. Thanks for listening.

Note: I guess I'm avoiding the real subject here--the state of the news today. Don't get me started on that anger-inducing subject because I'm smiling about the eclipse again and I don't want to ruin it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Thankful Sunday--August 8, 2017

I am thankful for creative people. 

Recently, I've seen several things that have caught my fancy and made me smile. There are some pretty creative people out there thinking up these things. For these creative minds and what they produce, I am thankful.

Here are a few of them.

The summer reading theme this year at our library is "Build a Better World". We have gone with the building theme in several ways and here is one of them.  Various staff and volunteers built an igloo from milk jugs. It is big enough that most adults can stand up inside. The kids love it in there and the adults are grunting a bit as they crawl in and out (me included).

The inside is my favorite part of the igloo. The milk jug lids give it an unexpected look.

My son, Theo, and I recently took a walk through a marsh where we found this fun bench. It's a little hard to make out the details, but notice the ripples on the seat and the two duck bottoms above them. It looks like the ducks are diving underwater. Very cute.

Here's the creative part. When we looked under the bench, we saw the heads of the two diving ducks. That was definitely a fun discovery.

Last weekend, my niece got married and had an outdoor reception. She decided it would probably be too hot for cake, so she had cookies instead. They were all made by another very creative aunt of hers. Everyone especially smiled at these bride and groom sugar cookies she made.

She also made some very elaborate cookies that had to be slowly baked in a spring form mold. They were very impressive and tasty. Some of you out there probably know the name for these German cookies. I can't remember it.

Now I'm going to toot my own horn. This is something that I made for a storytime about elephants. Remember the song, Five little elephants went out to play, Out on a spider's web one day...? I used this for that song. What I'm happy about is this was very simple to assemble, and I was able to use things I had around the house. The base, where the pink elephants are, is a ice holder from the freezer we no longer use. The spider's web is on an old piece of foam core we had and it is friction fitted to the base with an piece of packing Styrofoam we got with our new freezer. I was very pleased that it was light weight and very stable. I didn't actually have the elephants laying around. They are puppy chew toys I ordered. I am going to donate them to a shelter when I'm done.

A volunteer sunflower on my deck. Wasn't I creative to happen to have a planter below the birdfeeder, to give the dropped birdseed a place to sprout? :) As usually happens with volunteer plants, this one is doing much better than the sunflowers I formally planted.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Piece of Local History

Remember the school house at the end of one of our recent hikes? After two years of good intentions, we actually got to see inside. We scheduled a hike there last Sunday--one of only a few afternoons a year that it's open. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you put something on the calendar.

The one room school was built in 1893 and served the surrounding rural, farming area. Eventually, they started to bus kids to schools in town and closed it in 1935. BTW, the buses were horse drawn buggies. At the time of restoration, they were able to get several oral histories of what the school was like in the 1920's and the school was restored to that time period.

Two very knowledgeable volunteers led the informal tour. You could tell that they were passionate about history and made the tour interesting for both the young and old. They were especially good with the kids who were fascinated with the chalk board and the school bell. We enjoyed not only learning about the school, but the history of the surrounding area also.

Here are a few pictures of our visit.

The school was nicknamed the Froggy Hollow School because of all the frogs you could hear from the creek in front of the school. The school also served as a community center. 

The school had to have a minimum of 12 pupils for the county to support it. Attendance was usually somewhere between 20--30 students which would have made this room a lot more crowded than what you see here.

Typical school day. What I found interesting was this was the same exact recess schedule I had in first grade. 

If you can read through the reflections, you see that this pledge is different than the one we say today. You don't see the "under God" which is currently getting a lot of buzz, but there was another change that I hadn't realized.  In 1923 "my flag" changed to "the flag of United States of America" so it would not be confusing to the large influx of immigrants. Actually, the pledge has fairly complex history, that's worth a read if you're interested in that kind of thing.

Unlike today, learning cursive writing was an important lesson. When the students were working on that, the teaches blocked the windows on one side of the room so the hand with the pencil in it (always the right one) would not cast a shadow on the paper. That way you could see clearly to do your best. 

During this time period, there were separate schools for the blacks and whites. The kids eyes got big as the guide told them that when books became tattered in the white schools, they were sent to the black schools for their textbooks.

Does anyone else remember one of these? The teacher used it to draw lines on the blackboard for music and writing lessons.

We had a nice afternoon with a pleasant walk and an interesting visit to the school. However, it did feel a little strange to tour a school from almost a century ago and find some things there that I also had in school. I know I get older every year, but I'm not quite that old yet. :)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Thankful Sunday--July 30, 2017

I am thankful for new discoveries.

You have probably figured out by now that I like to take hikes. Yesterday, Ward and I discovered another place close by to do this. It was at a park that we had driven by many times but never noticed until a friend told us about it.
We found a restored caboose at the end of the trail.

In the morning when there was a break in the rain, Ward and I took off to explore the park. It was an all purpose park with paved walking paths, a dog park, sports fields, and tennis courts. But the best part of it for us was the Rail to Trail trail that ran through it. In case you haven't heard of them, rail trails are old, unused railroad tracks that have been converted into trails for walking, biking, and sometimes horseback riding.

The trail ran through steep, rocky hills with lush vegetation and was very peaceful. We didn't have a map, so we just hiked along wondering where the trail was going to go. And guess what? It ended at an old railroad depot. If either of us had been thinking, we might have figured that out. But I'm glad we didn't because our Ah-ha moment was fun even though we felt a little silly.

Not surprisingly, the old depot was in the middle of the historic part of town and presented all kinds of future possibilities. Walking into town to get spots for the town's parades and fireworks. Taking a walk into town for browsing old shops or having lunch. A pleasant hike, then exploring the town's historic buildings.

So for this new discovery and all of the possibilities it holds, I am thankful.

Below are a few pictures for our walk.

Some places you could see the old rails still in place.

There were benches along the way, as well as, plenty of outcroppings of rock. 

With ferns growing out of some of them.

There were several kinds of wildflowers blooming.

And a rabbit who was not very afraid of us.

At the end of the trail was this railroad depot and caboose. Today the depot houses several shops.

And there were historic signs where we learned a little more about our new community.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Exploding Trees and Baby Robins

The thunder roared
The lightning flashed
A tree fell down
And a fence got smashed.

I think by now that you have probably figured out that we had a tree hit by lightning last Monday. Thankfully, there were no fires, no trees on houses, and no one was hurt, but it was exciting all the same.

It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon and I was engrossed in a book. Earlier we had had a brief rain storm that didn't amount to much. Soon, the sun was coming back out and it looked like everything was clearing. All that was left were a few rumblings in distance.

Then all at once there was a bright flash--hurt your eyes kind of bright flash--and the loudest crack of thunder I had ever heard--simultaneously. No counting seconds between this thunder and lightning to see how far away the storm was. It was on top of us. I sprung out of my chair to see what had happened with a huge surge of adrenaline and a rapidly beating heart. I knew there had to be a lightning strike somewhere close.

Meanwhile, Theo, who was in the basement, came upstairs and asked what was going on up here. He heard the crack and said then lights went out in his room. At the same time, he also felt a tingle go up his arm. We then looked to see if something were on fire because we smelled an electrical burning smell. Luckily, we found no fire.  While we were searching, the neighbor came over to tell us that one of our trees had been hit by lightning. So now I knew where it hit.

Later, we started to understand more of what had happened. Although the lightning technically didn't strike our house, it certainly affected our house. First it totally fried our telephone, internet, and cable service so we were without those for a couple of days. When that got fixed, we figured out that our TV was fried, too. When we tried to move another TV into the spot, we figured out that there were additional problems that hadn't been fixed. We have to have someone out again to take a look at that.

In the meantime, I thought my hair dryer was broken, but it turns the circuit I had it plugged into, didn't work anymore. Luckily Ward was able to fix that with some rewiring. However, today we found another circuit that is also not working along with the fan on our radon remediation system. I'll start calling tomorrow to find people to come fix the latest problems we found. This lightning strike is the gift that just keeps on giving as our neighbor had his TV system fried also.

The tree is definitely not going to survive this, so we've started to get estimates on taking it down. I hope we're done finding the damage and we can just concentrate on fixing things.

Here's the take away from all of this. The lightning seemed to come out of nowhere. The storm was not close. I had always heard that you need to be careful because lightning can strike as far away as ten miles from a storm but I've not always paid attention to that warning. I've seen that happen now for myself and I'm going to be more careful. I encourage you to, also.

As for the baby robins, since I last talked to you, I've seen the robin eggs hatch, the babies grow and leave the nest. It all seemed to happen so fast. Apparently, it was. Robins leave the nest almost a week sooner than wrens and bluebirds--the birds I'm more familiar with. Watching the baby robins has been exciting, but in an entirely different way than the lightning strike. And that's good because I have had quite my fill of excitement for the week.

Here are a few pictures of the recent happenings.

After the lightning strike, the top of the tree was just gone. Most of the branches landed fairly close, but the bark that blew off was strewn farther afield.

The tree used to be twice this tall.

Some of the branches were charred from the heat.

On other fronts, we watched the progression of some baby robins. When we last saw them, they were still in the egg.

They were born on July 10.

One short week later, they had most of their feathers.

Two days later, they were out of the nest. I actually saw this one leave. It really couldn't fly although it was trying. It awkwardly hopped along flapping it's wings and occasionally got its feet off the ground.

It was really still just a baby.

And its mother was watching close by.

So that's the excitement recently. Also, I've taken on some extra projects at work that are going to have me pretty busy during the next month. But I hope to check in then and again.

Until next time...