Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wandering Wheels Trip (Part One)

February 2 - Day Two

First, here's how the radar looks this morning at about 8:30 a.m. Vero Beach is calling for a 60% chance of showers and they're in the vicinity, though not right where the ride is slated to begin. It looks to be a little stormy to the west and also off over the Atlantic. Let's hope the guy's ride is drier as the day wears on.
It wasn't yesterday!

Here's a close-up shot of Bob taken during the ride. He doesn't look like a happy camper! It's bad enough to peddle nearly 50 miles but to do it in the rain has got to be miserable.

Once the group arrived at Vero Beach Kamp, some time to dry out has begun. Here's a shot of the Rec Room with wet rain gear spread about. This is warm and sunny Florida?

Along the ride, Bob said this picture was taken to show what the conditions were like. In a word: miserable! There's nothing like being wet, tired and hungry and having an endless stretch of highway up ahead.

The group stopped at the McLarty Treasure Museum (part of the Sebastian Inlet State Park) to enjoy the exhibits of treasures from the Atocha. My uncle, Charlie Boyer, talked with Kip Wagner (originally from Miamisburg) when he was in Florida many decades ago and bought a Spanish coin). He didn't have enough money along when he was on vacation but conducted the transaction later by mail.

Today they'll be traveling from Vero Beach to Fort Pierce along Highway A1A. It'll be a shorter day - just 30 miles - and they'll spend tonight at the Northside Christian Fellowship.

February 1- Day One

This first day of the bike trip was from Cocoa Beach to the Sebastian area, via Highway A1A. Bob and Mike will spend the night at the Vero Beach Kamp, Inc. The day's distance was planned at 40 - 47 miles.
Here is the entire trip plotted on a Google map. The total distance is planned at 395 miles in 10 days.

Here (below) is a map of just todays' trip.

And here (below) is the NWS radar at 9:33 a.m., a little more than 1.5 hours into the trip. No doubt it started on a wet note!

January 31 (later):

Bob sent three additional pictures this evening. The first (below) is of a pelican on the pier at Cocoa Beach.

And here's his biking partner, "Big Mike", on the pier. The pelican is on the right.

Finally, Bob sent a shot of the pier itself. He signed off last night by saying he had to be up early for a meeting on Monday morning, between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and that the group would begin pedaling south at about 8 a.m.

January 31 -

Bob arrived in Cocoa Beach Florida last night just after 9 p.m. and text-messaged that all was well after the 16 hour trip from Ohio. He drove through quite an active snow/ice storm in Kentucky and Tennessee and had his speed lowered due to the conditions.

He's there as part of a Wandering Wheels bicycle trip from Cocoa Beach (02/01) to Key West (02/10). I'll post a few pictures and comments here as I receive them from him. This post will be updated so newer information will appear at the top as older dates get pushed lower on the page. When the page is long enough, I'll add another "part" to the blog.

This shot is of the beach, apparently near the motel (Comfort Inn) where they're staying. It's just 61 at 3 p.m. and it looks like rain is moving in.

Here's a shot of where they're staying and the Wandering Wheels truck in the parking lot.

Another view of the beach. Looks prettier than Ohio even if it is a bit cool and cloudy. What will the week ahead hold for the two of them? Check back and see.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Stars In Ice

I haven't visited the Farmersville-Jackson Twp. Pond in a while and thought I'd drive over and take a walk around it late this afternoon. I found it frozen as I expected but not quite so solidly as I thought. The northeast section has snow blown across it and it's noticeably whiter than the rest. Elsewhere the ice is clear and thin.

These cattails on the northern end of the pond are brown and blasted by the cold winter wind. I've recorded a low of -8 this season (01/10) so there's been ample opportunity to do some damage. That, though, is the only sub-zero reading I've had. We had two nights (01/03 and 01/13) where we bottomed out at +1.
The ice closest to the shore is thin and nearly open, owing to the sun "heating" the sandy bottom only inches away.
But what I want you to look at in the photo above, is the "star" formations in the background. They mottle the surface in great numbers. What are they?

This "star", near the northwestern edge of the pond, is a good example. This one is a foot or more across. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say children have thrown rocks onto the thin ice and caused it to fracture in pretty patterns. Perhaps the direction of the tendrils is the same as the direction of the toss?

And yet, somehow, that doesn't seem quite a satisfactory answer. Did tossed rocks, instead, not break through the ice but sit there and warm the surface in the same way as the sandy bottom? Are the tendrils fracture lines that filled with water and expanded for the same reason?

Or is it something else entirely? I saw no rocks lying on the surface. And I remember these well from other years. In any case, we have our very own "stars in ice" and a mystery, indeed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pinehaven Pot Pie

What's Pinehaven Pot Pie? Well, it's vegetarian, that's for sure!
We've found that we often want something for lunch that we can sink our teeth into, something that's hot and tasty, something that's easy to make, something with some stick-to-your-ribness.
Vegetarian pot pie, as far as we've found, is only available at health food stores. The usual grocers carry plenty of pot pies, but they're all beef, turkey or chicken. Those of you who know us know that that will never do.

So I suggested to Mom that she buy a commercial pie crust and use that as the dough to fill a pot pie of her own making. She used the Pet Deep Dish Pie Crust and thawed it out and rolled it into small pieces of dough that would fit in two Pyrex (oven-ready) bowls. She placed a piece of dough in the bottom of the bowl with enough left over to overflow the side.
Filling? She used frozen mixed vegetables, southern style hash browns, chopped onions, some mushroom soup thinned with milk and a small can of drained mushrooms (pieces and stems). Each vegetable was cooked in the usual way before adding it into the pie crust.
She "dotted" the mixture with butter, salt and peppered to taste and then covered with more of the pie crust. The excess dough from the bottom was crimped to the top in the usual fashion. A package of frozen pie crust (top and bottom) will provide enough dough to make two pot pies in a cereal-sized bowl.
She baked the pies for about 40 minutes and 375 degrees.
Delicious! A nice, easy hot meal. A good way, in fact, to use leftovers.
And what about the small piece of leftover dough? She made an apple tart. She just took the dough, fashioned it into a bowl, added applesauce, cinnamon and sugar and baked it like she'd bake a traditional apple pie. So we had main course and dessert, too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Sun Goes Down

It was another cold January night in Farmersville. I recorded a low of +1 and the day, though it warmed to freezing (the first since December 31), was 11 degrees below normal. Global warming, indeed!
In fact, we have been below normal every day of this new month.

After taking Dad to his urologist (we're going to try it again with the catheter; it's been in for seven weeks as of yesterday), I pulled into the driveway just as the sun was commencing to set. Of course I cannot stand it if I don't have a camera handy so it was a quick trip up the stairs to my bedroom and now, Canon in hand, I was ready to walk about the yard.
This shot (above) was taken from the driveway looking at the sunset at about 5:15 p.m.. I purposely placed the sycamore tree between me and the sun to get the glare off the lens and to get a nice shadow streaking my way. Do you think with that crystal blue sky that we might be in for another cold night? The warm glow of the sun, however, does give us reason to hope. There's even spring in that blessed ray.

In the back yard, I stood near the northwest corner of the barn and shot this picture through the row of pines. I carefully planted these 23 years ago when they were mere slips. Each tree - mostly Scotch Pines - were no more than a foot long. When one or two died during the past two decades, I bought other pines to fill in. Now there's a few nice Blue Spruce to give us some variety and color.

Finally, another shot across the back yard but this from near the corner of the garage. You're looking at the same pines as in the last shot, just from farther away and from a different angle.
Now you can see the full meaning of Pinehaven ... a home within the pines.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Downy or Hairy?

Downy or Hairy Woodpecker? Which is it? Does it make any difference?
As near as I can tell, this is a Downy; the difference is mostly the "short, stubby bill". And yet when I see pictures of a Hairy, I don't see that the bill is any longer.

I would also venture that this is a male due to the red patch on the nape. But I'm not even sure of that; I'd say the patch is more on the head than the neck. Ah, it is all so confusing.

This wide-angle shot is of the bird enjoying suet at our feeder near the bay window in the kitchen. It is a good spot to pull up a stool ... and wait. This guy has been around so long that he shows no fear of us at all. I can be washing the dishes or even talking to Mom or Dad, and he dines just the same as if I'm not there.
So if it is a Downy - Picoides pubescens - or not, let me enjoy the bird for what he brings to my life. I often lie awake worrying about creatures such as these. Are they bedded down in a tree cavity, free of the wind and snow? My own bed feels not as warm thinking of them clinging to a wind-blown limb.
I worry for the tracks in the snow when morning comes. Today, passing the creek near the corner of our road, I saw erratic lines of tracks across the snow-topped ice. What hunts on such cold nights?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's COLD Outside!

Living here in the midwest, temperatures can go a little crazy after the passage of an Arctic cold front. Much of the United States is suffering this bitter blast of cold so we are sharing in the misery and the cost.
Last night I noticed that the National Weather Service was "chasing the forecast" low. Early in the day they said +8. By bedtime it was +2. And when I woke up during the night they had lowered it to -2.

How cold did we get? -8! Actually, my two electronic display units both read -3.8 but I happened to be up at 2 a.m. to check the pipes and the very same display read -7. Go figure! When I read out the data collector, it showed a low of -8 at 3:16 a.m. and that agrees with what I saw just an hour earlier.
The trees have adhering to them feathers of frost and the picture above shows a maple on our south lawn festooned with white. This spot is where seeds would have hung in the fall. The feathers of ice are really quite substantial ... and lovely. It is a wholly different scene from last evening. The air has been wrung dry of moisture.

When I walked out to S. Clayton Road to pick up the Sunday newspaper, I enjoyed this view of the "old Shell farm" across from us (east). The trees in the background are feathery white and they provide a pleasant backdrop to the dilapidated barn. The cut soybean field lies buried in snow (well, just about 3").

And Pinehaven herself? She's warm and snug thanks to the heat pump. Of course at these temperatures the heat pump itself does little but calls upon the backup electrical heat for warmth. We have the house set at 68 (last winter we set it at 64) due to Dad being ill. We are spending far more money but the advantage is comfort and it something we won't forgo this year,

This is a view of our backyard. There isn't too much snow on the ground but our attention has turned upward to the lovely trees anyway. Later there will be a breeze, I suspect, and the feathers of ice will fall down like a snowstorm. As I type this at 10 a.m., the temperature has already risen to +14. So there is hope we'll save a few cents yet!
But who could give up this lovely view for a few cents?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Falling on Pines

Finally a nice snow. I stood at the second floor window watching the snow fall on the pines in the distance and reached for my camera. I only shot for about 20 seconds ... just enough for the feel of the scene. If you'd like to see the video, click here.
This is a familiar scene to you blog readers with the henhouse, the woodpile and the meadow beyond. It is a favorite view of mine and one I see every time I go down the steps from my second floor bedroom. It's the first outside view I see each day and one I wholly cherish.

We regularly have Downy and Hairy woodpeckers at our suet - not to mention cardinals, titmice and a smaller contingent of birds - but I've seen a number of times in the past week a large (10" or so) Red-bellied woodpecker feed there, too. Trouble is, every time he landed, I never had the camera handy or else scared him away when I did.
Today, probably owing to his increased hunger because of the snow, he was skittish but he stayed. This first shot (below) was taken through the kitchen window. I was standing near our wood butcher block, quite some distance away from the glass.

The bird's head is as soft as velvet and when the sun shines, so does his head. It is almost startling in its color, a reddish orange. Contrast the white and black feathers of his body and this is one spectacular bird.
By the way, this is a male, owing to the red crown and nape (back of the neck). Though the name is "red-bellied", the red patch which is found on his lower abdomen is hard to see under all but the best of circumstances. In the next picture, you can see it a bit.

He hung there and fed as I took several shots, walking ever closer. I think in the shot above he's spied me and isn't too happy about the intrusion.

But the suet is too good to resist and he goes back to nibbling the fat through the wire mesh.
While I was taking pictures, he'd occasionally give a low "chucking" sound, almost a sound of contentment rather than of alarm.
Why do we feed the birds? Because of days like this.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jack Frost's Work

The year is newly-minted and starting on a frigid note. We bottomed out at 11 degrees and Jack Frost went to work on some of our windows, converting humidity to exquisite etchings on the outside of the glass.
This shot is through the north window in Mom's bedroom, looking towards the woodpile and meadow. It's perhaps the coldest window in the house, exposed to the northwest winter wind. This morning there were beautiful feathery lines etched across the pane that almost took my breath away. Nature's artist is not proud, lays his lines thinking no one will see. And then I walk by to place a receipt in the desk and his hidden work is revealed.

Take a closer look at the icy thread through the middle of the pane. It is feathery as an ostrich's tail, intricate and pure as the snow from which it formed, threaded upon invisible nuclei that adhered themselves to the glass in the grandest of fashions.

Why should we pay to see man's artwork when nature draws such grand themes? This is the artist that draws me to his canvas.