Category Archives: Nature

Power’s Out

I think it’s fair to say, now that it’s officially over, that the summer was unsettling to say the least.  It didn’t help that I tried to blow up the neighborhood.

I was sitting in my bedroom that morning, working on a file, when I heard a bang and saw a flash in the hallway out of the corner of my eye.  And the power immediately went out.  I rushed to the back of the house and although I could smell a little lingering smoke, I couldn’t see anything.  When I went downstairs and out to the backyard, all the other neighbors were out as well, checking to see what had happened; everyone had experienced the same thing, hearing the bang and seeing the flash.  Everything looked ok – no power lines down, no big blackened patches on garage roofs or yards.  And the smoke smell dissipated pretty quickly, so we texted the power company and wandered back inside our respective houses.

The power company showed up about an hour later.  I saw the lineman up at the power box two houses down; the power came on for about 10 seconds and then there was another bang and flash.  And again, the power left us.  Since I was standing in my backroom watching the power guy, I saw exactly where the flash came from – the power lines at the back of my yard.  It gave me a sick feeling, quickly totting up the various worse-case scenarios.  The power guy must have seen it as well; he headed straight for my garage roof, I headed for the backyard.  After about 10 minutes of poking around with a long pole, he headed back to the line to reinstate the power.  This time it stayed on.

I couldn’t resist going to talk to him and was rewarded with a tale of exactly what had happened.  A branch had broken on one of my trees, but instead of falling into the yard, it had tipped over and connected two power lines, one at the top and one at the bottom of the branch.  That caused the first burst.  When the power was restored the first time, the branch was still in place, so it connected and exploded again.  After he poked the branch with the pole, it fell into the yard; with no more connection, no more issue.   It’s hard to see in the photo above, but the branch is all blackened and many of the leaves are dry and burnt.  I was so relieved that it hadn’t been anything horrible and/or expensive to repair, I fessed up to all the neighbors that my tree was the guilty party.

When was the last time you had to have a repair person to your place?

San Diego Surprise!

When YA and I went to San Diego last month, the second attraction on our list was the San Diego Zoo.  The zoo has a great reputation and YA has wanted to go there for years.

It was hot that day (although not as hot as the day before at the Safari Park) and due to covid, none of the zoo shuttles were running.  Like the Park, the zoo is built on the hills of San Diego, with different regions of the world represented in their own areas.  And like we did at the park, YA and I covered the whole thing during our day there.

Our first surprise was the North Sulawesi Babirusa.  Never heard of it?  Neither had we!  The last time I encountered an animal new to me was 20+ years ago on my first trip to Africa.  In Kenya I saw an okapi – a large deer that looks like a cross between a horse and a zebra.   Babirusa means “pig deer” Malaysian and have daunting looking teeth and the males also have remarkably dangerous looking upper tusks.   We didn’t see any baby babirusa but if you look online, they are very cute.

We got our second surprise about an hour later in the Africa Rocks section of the zoo.  We came upon a large empty enclosure with a sign that said “Fossa” – another animal that neither YA nor I had ever heard of.  One of the zoo employees told us that they had just cleaned the enclosure and would be putting out “lunch” for the fossa in a minute, so we stayed.  She put food all over the space so the fossa would “hunt” for it.  If you’ve every thought about what the result of a dog and cat union would be, the fossa is it.  Or maybe dog, cat and weasel?  It was beautiful with a long, luxuriant tale and looked like it would be quite a proficient hunter.  Their natural home is Madagascar and apparently they are able to bring down even the largest lemur species.

It was a great day and we were both happy to have made the acquaintance of two new animals that we had never encountered before.

Have you learned anything new lately?

Chez Abattoir

I’m starting to feel like our animals are staging their own production of Sweeney Todd around here.

Guinevere is fast.  Really fast.  No squirrels yet but she’s way into double digits with rabbits and chipmunks.  Last week when I called her in at the end of the night, she wouldn’t come.  I looked out into the yard and saw a large furry lump that Guinevere was clearly guarding.  It looked too big to be a rabbit so I slowly made my way out.  It was a possum.  It didn’t look alive but then I remembered that old phrase “playing possum” and wondered if maybe it was really alive.  YA was out at that point and we managed to catch Guinevere and take her inside.  YA stayed in the yard (taking pictures) and within a minute the possum had raised its head and looked around.  Within 20 minutes it had moved to the very back of the yard.  In the morning, before we let the dog out, we checked and the possum was gone.  We figure that it wasn’t injured, but putting on a good show to throw the dog off.

Nimue is also on the rampage.  It’s that time of year when mice try to find a warmer spot (apparently a mouse can get in a hole that is half the size of a dime) and this year is not exception.  Like most cats, Nimue isn’t even remotely interested in the mice after she’s chased them around and then killed them, but it does mean that I’ve come downstairs in the morning to find the little lifeless bodies – several of them in the last week.  Unfortunately, when the cat gets busy during the night, the dog thinks she needs to go down to see what fun is being had without her.  Then there is barking and some mess making.  The last couple of nights, we’ve put up the gate at the top of the stairs to keep the dog from joining the mayhem.

Usually the mouse situation is a short term issue… in a couple of weeks, the mice will have found a warmer spot and the cat will stop leaving us little gifts. The backyard?  It will remain an abattoir as long as Guinevere on guard!

What’s the last musical you’ve seen?

Yard Signage

There are quite a few fairy gardens on the various paths that I walk each day.  Some at the edges of the sidewalk, two different ones in big pots, one on a tree trunk.  My favorite though is a large one near Lake Harriet that wraps around the bushes along the front sidewalk.  It has just about everything you can imagine including a teeny tiny yard side for Black Lives Matter (in the upper right corner).  As you probably can figure, I think this is charming.

I come by my love of yard signs naturally.  My folks usually always had a sign up for some candidate or other at election time.  The year my dad was the campaign manager for a friend running for city council, one whole side of our yard (that faced the busier street) was lined with them.  They even let me put up a “No Nukes” sign when I was in college, although our house at that point was at the end of a cul de sac so I’m sure the sign didn’t get seen by too many people.

I’ve been thinking about adding a yard sign for my presidential favorite almost every morning when I’m walking the dog, but then I get back to the house and promptly forget about it.  After seeing the little fairy garden yard sign, I sent myself an email to remind me, then drove up to Northern Sun (I love them – I was SO happy when I realized that I had moved to the city where their store is located!) and picked up my sign, which is now in my yard, along with my BLM sign.  Somehow having two signs feels quite natural – guess I’ll have to find another sign after the election so I will still have two!

Are you a yard sign person?  Or a fairy garden fancier?

Snippets That Stick

Today’s post comes to us from our Ben

I was talking with a friend the other day and we were talking history of our area and I made the comment that I am always surprised to see in older photos how few trees were in the area. I tend to think, in the terms of Laura Ingalls Wilder, of the men clearing the fields of trees and making room. So to see these old photos and there simply are not any trees for hundreds of acres.

 

And my friend says “yes, Minnesota was Oak Savannah, so clumps of oaks, but really, not much else”. And I thought oh yeah, I guess I must have learned that in middle school, US history, or Geography, or a visit to the nature center, or something. But I forgot. And then he simply says “It was Oak Savannah” and now it’s stuck.

Isn’t that interesting how we can learn something in school but it won’t stick and then 23 years later someone says “Big pointed bars are called ‘drift pins’” and there it is. Stuck in your brain.

People say “lefty loosey, righty tighty” and I’ve never been able to make that work. I just know you turn it this way to put it on and that way to take it off. Lefty?? From the top of my fingers or bottom?? That just makes me think too hard.

What’s stuck in your brain?

The Little Bridge

Yesterday Guinevere and I turned right where we normally turn left.  It was just a half a block later that I noticed a path peeking out between the trees with stairs heading down toward Minnehaha Creek.  I was pretty sure where the path would lead so we took the path.  After just a bit, I could see the bottom of the steps; there was a rainbow-painted bridge across the creek that I had never realized was there.  The steps were completed embowered (I love that word) by a little forest of trees and the creek gurgles nicely as you walk over the bridge.

For several years I avoided using rainbows.  It’s hard when something becomes a symbol for a movement; you’ve never sure how your use of that symbol will be interpreted.  And not just rainbows but the symbol of the rainbow bridge!  But I’ve found that I’m craving rainbows the last couple of months – for me, they give me hope and bring me beauty.  I’ve made lots of rainbow-themed cards over the summer and added some rainbow stamps and dies to my collection.

So I was very happy to see the little rainbow bridge.  I think that Guinevere and I will visit the path and the bridge often in the future!

If you had a symbol for your life, what would you choose?

Freeze Warning

The earliest 28° frost/freeze where we live can occur any time between late August to late September. Last Friday, the National Weather Service warned us that a killing freeze/frost could occur Monday and Tuesday nights, September 7 and 8. That is pretty early,  and all the signs were indicative of this calamity.

On Sunday, Husband and I harvested all the chard, green and red New Mexico peppers, red sweet peppers, and  any tomato that showed any inclination of ripening indoors. (Tomatoes that have been subjected to a frost when they are still on the vine should not be canned. It produces some enzyme that is contrary to safe canning.) That meant a trip to several  local liquor stores to get boxes for ripening tomatoes, as well as a search for canning jars. (There are no canning jars to be had in our town now, as everyone was scrambling to save their garden produce, too. )

We spent Monday figuring out how to maximize the canning jars and lids we still had, and to cook up  a couple dozen chili peppers for enchilada sauce. We covered bean poles with comforters and blankets, and also covered  pepper plants  and  cantelopes with old table cloths and a large tarp. So much for a restful Labor Day Weekend.

Tuesday morning dawned with frost covered roofs and droopy tomato plants. Similar cold temperatures are predicted for Tuesday evening, so we will leave everything covered until Wednesday. By then, warmer evening temperatures are predicted.

When has the weather changed your plans?

 

109 in Escondido

The number one attraction on our to-do list in San Diego was the Safari Park.  I had been there about 20 years ago, but as is typical of my travels, I didn’t get a long tour – just the back of a truck to feed giraffes.  While this was a fabulous experience, I had always hoped to get back for a thorough visit.

It was a 40-minute transfer up to Escondido and we had our ride scheduled so we would get there right at opening as the website had said that it was “first come, first served”.  We didn’t need to worry – the pandemic has definitely changed people’s leisure habits – it wasn’t crowded.  In fact, as the day wore on, there were fewer and fewer visitors.

The park is like a zoo, except fewer animals with larger habitats, separated into different areas: Gorilla Forest, Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley, Tiger Trail, etc.  Due to covid-19, all the various tours by safari van and truck were cancelled, so we were faced with getting through the whole park in one day.

We started with the Tiger Trail and that’s where we met the first of the volunteers stationed around the park to answer questions.  These are my favorite people; it’s always fun to ask questions and chat about the animals and the park.  The tiger in the photo is Rakan, a two-year old Sumatran tiger.  He came to the safari park when he was five-months old from the Smithsonian Zoo, after his mother aggressively rejected him.  For the entire time we stood and talked to the volunteer, Rakan laid majestically behind very thick glass, as if it was his turn for the photo op.  YA snapped this great photo.

As the day wore on, YA started to complain about the heat.  I was quite hot as well, but I thought it was probably just all the walking around.  I had looked at the San Diego forecast that morning – high of 85.  Well, turns out that when you drive 45 minutes north of San Diego, towards the mountains and desert, the high is a bit higher.  In fact, at 2 p.m., the temperature was registering at 109.  Yikes.  And the safari park is NOT built on a flat land.  I know that for every up we had a down, but by the afternoon, it felt like all we did was climb up!  We went through a lot of diet pop and water but powered through; who knows if either of us will ever get back to the park.  The other areas we really enjoyed were Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley and Gorilla Forest.  I suppose it’s not a surprise that there were great volunteers at all those locations.

It was a great day and I don’t think either of us have ever appreciated how cool 85 degrees feels after you’ve walked all over a safari park in over 100!

What animal do you like to visit at the zoo?

A Return to Normal

The weather guy in the Fargo Forum announced this week that we were soon to return to our “normal” weather  pattern of ten months of wind.  July and August are typically the least windy months here on the northern Plains. Oh yay! I can hardly wait for the wind to start blowing!

Our weather shifted abruptly on Thursday morning when we had a torrential rain storm with no wind or hail. It had been hot and dry for weeks. Now it is muddy. Tonight, lows in the 40’s are expected.  The birds are flocking.  Autumn is coming. It seemed like summer would never end. Now I wonder where it went so quickly.

I wonder what we will return to, weather-wise and society-wise, when things return to “normal”. The header photo is of the normal or Gaussian curve.

What are the typical weather patterns you remember when you were growing up?  What do you want “normal” to be like in your life come January?

 

 

Seeing Stars

Today marks the anniversary in 1609 of Galileo demonstrating his telescope to the Venetian Senate.  Imagine what they must have experienced looking through it. I wonder how they wrapped their minds around what they saw and what they thought they knew about the universe? I hope he demonstrated it at night so they could really see the stars.

What are your favorite Heavenly objects? Have you ever seen stars?