Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Word of Mouth!

Last spring we had a power outage. After some investigation by the Electric Company, they announced that the main breaker of ours needed to be replaced. 

I called the guy that did the construction work and also had added outlets in the basement so we could plug in a freezer. 

He came out looked at the box and then said he'd get back to me. I texted him 3 weeks later and he said he'd get back to me. In July he came out with the Electric Company while we were gone. He'd told me he would do that. When we got back from Rich's appointments, I saw where they parked and left tracks.


I never heard from the Electrician again.

The power stayed on after that so basically I let things drop and didn't think about it. Then when the plumber was out fixing the sink for me I asked him casually if he knew of any electricians I could call to fix my main breaker. The plumber wrote the name and number of a fellow called Dan on the back of an envelope and handed it to me. He told me that Dan didn't like new construction jobs, he was a Fix-It Guy.

With the sudden warm weather we started losing power intermittently again. So I called Dan the Fix-It Guy. I left a message and then figured like anything else, it would be days or he'd never call back.

Ten minutes later he called back and told me he'd be right out. He opened the box and showed me the issue. The box was 40+ years old and the frost heave had probably moved the wires just enough to cause an issue. He snapped the box shut and said he'd get the parts and fix it. It would take him a two or three days.

I was floored. Wait....what? Whut???
An electrician who in this day and age would/could actually do work? 

As it happened we had a week of rain, sleet, cold, winds, snow, and nasty weather. But our electric problems got worse. Half the house would go out, then come back. I ended up unplugging the Fire Stick as it would blink off and on and reset multiple times. I checked the breakers and nothing had tripped.

I was beside myself all weekend with worry. Monday morning I texted Dan the Fix-It Guy and told him about the odd electric behavior. Would it cause a fire?

I got an answer in 10 minutes. 

"I'll be out this morning after I make some calls and rearrange my schedule."

An hour later he was tearing things apart and working. He showed me the wires that had burnt on their ends and the thingy [I forget the technical name] that was melted. His comment was, well, it is 40ish years old, time to give it a face lift. He smiled and explained quietly what he was going to do.

I asked him if I would have a fire from all of this. He said most likely the fire would have been in the breaker box. 

I left him to it.

He checked on a few other things for me and was done in 2 hours.

He even took time to explain to Rich what he had done when Rich stepped out on the porch.

Dan works solo, he broke off from another company to be his own boss. He says he doesn't advertise but uses Word of Mouth. 

He was amazing and kind. Just like the plumber that had come out this winter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

What IS that????


I am a solo hiker most of the time. One of the places I go is into a mile square of uninhabited land with two valleys, a few caves and two streams. One of the hikes to my favorite rock shelter and ice cave is a 3 mile round trip from my back door. 

The valleys typically do not have cell service. This is my neighbor's land held in a family trust. The only time there are humans on it now is during deer hunting season and perhaps turkey season.

The one brother who farmed the land died in an accident involving an old John Deere 5 wheel UTV. The guy that was with him survived and tried to call 911. He couldn't get reception. Of course that was 2005, however my phone dings often and tells me a message "No Voice Service Available" when I am in the valleys.
I've been riding solo or exploring this land by foot since 1997. 

With my last check up and some tests done, I was dx'd with severe osteoporosis [I don't feel it!] and there was a question about an anxiety attack I'd had. Was it anxiety or A-Fib or something else. I was required to wear a heart monitor for two weeks. 

The monitor showed that I had a normal heart with no issues. 

So my doctor asked me if I was still hiking solo in isolated areas. I told her yes. She asked that I not go anywhere without cell phone coverage and always lay out a path and let someone know by calling them when I leave and when I get back.

I rolled my eyes at her and sighed. 

I read the book last year called When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine LarGay on the Appalachian Trail. She had a locator device that she never activated because needed to be synced with her cell phone and her husband said it was complicated, so she left it with him. In short, had Geraldine had her PLB activated, she wouldn't have died.

So I had been considering a PLB for a while and had been doing comparisons and reading reviews. I didn't want a fancy gadget so I settled on PLB1 rescueME. Just flip up the antennae and push the button.

I admit it. I won't likely change my hiking habits in the near future. I am a wanderer and explorer. I'm comfortable out there. I'm at ease. 

This is just a safety device that would help me in case I got into a scenario where I needed to be rescued. It won't protect me and it won't save me from an injury. 

I do generally write down my intentions on a pad of paper and leave it in the vehicle when I am at the Reserve or other places. I practice safety when I hike. But things can happen. And I don't always stick with my plans. 

When I opened the box and held it up for hubby to see he asked me:

What IS that?

I replied in the simplest terms I could.

"Honey, it is my Help Me I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up! device!"

This may sound a bit like overkill to some folks but think about it. I don't have someone to go with me 95% of the time. I admit it, I am older and perhaps no wiser. But if I really get into a situation, I don't have to depend on cell service. And that is worth it to me.

Monday, March 28, 2022

All in a Sunday

All week the weather has been pretty darned yucky. Perhaps I got the March blahs?

That beautiful weather we had last weekend spoiled me for the weather we had this past week. Sure I went out and played in the rain one day, but snow and sleet mixed on and off for the rest of the week was just too much bleh for me. The winds howled and icky stuff came down from the grey sky. [How's that for a weather summary?]

I thought a quick trip on Sunday morning to the KVR Ponds would be a great way to chill out after crummy weather.

It was 15 degrees when I walked from the Visitor Center down the steps and over the rock blocks to the valley. I didn't hear much noise. Last time I'd visited during the warm weather, every bird was making a racket. The red wing black birds had been swarming the area.

It was pretty quiet considering that the KVR website had said things were picking up at the ponds early this week. After the past two days of freezing temps the ponds had ice on them again.

Pond Ice:

However, I did find signs of the coming spring.

Pussy Willows:

I found a couple of new spots to 'spy' on the birds, but still was far enough off not to bother them. 

Geese and Sandhill Cranes:

I heard some cranes coming and tried to do a panning motion to catch them in flight. I didn't do so well, but I tried.

Flying Cranes:

Next I saw a group of 10 soaring Turkey Buzzards. Uffdah, they are back which means they will compete with the Eagles for food. 

I was so tickled to see and then get a decent shot of a female cardinal on the way back to the car. I like this shot better than the photos I've gotten of them at our feeder and pine trees.

Female Cardinal:

The biggest surprise was when I thought I saw a Bluejay then I realized it was a Kingfisher! This is the second time in my life I've seen these guys, but I've never really looked before.


I did see Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese and they were hiding on the far side of the pond in the marsh grasses.

Charlie was happy to see me when I got home....and the other half was doing his morning nap. He says he has to nap to have energy to have lunch.

Charlie was a nag all afternoon. He wanted to get out and hike.

I finally relented and off we went. Charlie was tracking something in the woods and kept stopping to sniff and then chase the scent on the ground as if he were some sort of tracking dog. I only wish I could share in his sense of smell and figure out what it was he was chasing.

He had a lot of pent up energy and I just followed him through the woods.

He did end up leading me to a neat spot with some mossy logs that had more cool lichen on them.

But that is for another time.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Having an abstract day

This is called a Mandelbulb Fractal. Fun, creative, frustrating and bizarre way to come up with something purely abstract.

Some of these folks that have mastered this program have had their work featured in Guardians of the Galaxy and funky album covers.

I've sold two abstract pieces in all of my time doing these. Not that I advertised, but that folks just thought it strange and weird enough that they wanted one piece on their wall.

I could get lost for hours in Mandelbulb 3D or JWildfire just creating fractals and enjoying what appears.
I tried Bryce 7 but never got along with it much. I sure don't have the skills to work through Blender and some of the other creative programs out there.


Below is purely a random flame I played with the colors and then just it render. It's not meant to be anything other than just doodling with the program. 

The Clone Nursery

Then there is a composite of fractal Flames which I edited in PaintshopPro. 

No names just pretty colors and patterns.

Some days are meant for just messing around and exploring anything not related to the weather or the news.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Rainy day Squatching

March is a tough month in a few ways. The cold rainy days are dismal yet we watch outside with anticipation. Hoping to see that first crocus or daffodil to poke up out of the ground.

Yesterday I found earth worms on the porch, so the ground has had enough frost come out so the worms could come up!

The Robins were happy and full of song when I did chores, as were the other birds. The mushy part of the driveway was a bit firmer so there was that.

When hubby got ready for his morning nap, I told him that I was going to go out and look for raindrops. He chuckled and gave me that look. 

"It's raining. There are your raindrops."

Me: "Yes, well, maybe I can see how good my water resistant coat and pants are!"

He made a comment about it being wet and cold and shook his head.

Charlie was all in on this. He keeps an eye on things when I'm down near the ground looking for interesting mosses. Of course he is surveying the area for killer chipmunks, or squirrels.

The briars looked like they were decorated with raindrops hanging on their thorny branches.

I thought it was neat that I could see the trees above them reflected in the water droplet. 

I did some hunting around and found some bubbles in the creek. I shot this which wouldn't be possible on a sunny day.
A multiple selfie with me waving at the bubbles.

A closer look:

I was looking for some mosses on a log that I know hold tiny water droplets. 

There was Squatch trying out his bark raft. He looked a bit wet!

Apparently it was time for his spring shower.

He definitely got wet!

The rain started to get heavier so I decided to head home. My water resistant lined pants were getting pretty damp but I was still warm. My jacket was starting to take on a bit of moisture.

Charlie was soaked, but his heavy undercoat was warm and dry.

I hung up my wet things to dry and toweled off Charlie. We got back before hubby awakened and snuggled in on the couch with a book.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Just Squatching

I have a fairly large to do list but I tossed it aside yesterday afternoon when the temperatures were so pleasant I could NOT be inside. The weather for the rest of the week is supposed to be a bit dull, dreary, and wet. I figured the to-do list could wait for indoor weather.

As Charlie and I got ready to go, hubby asked what I was going to do, where was I going?

I replied: I'm going Squatching.

I got that look and then dug into my pocket and showed him Squatch.

I pulled out the little card that came with Squatch and read it out loud to him again. He shook his head as he searched for an old Western on Tubi. 

Sometimes I carry things in my pockets when I take walks. It adds a bit of fun if an idea pops into my head while Charlie and I are hiking.

The woods are rather dull looking right now, so I like to look at moss and lichen that give off colors in the rather bland landscape.

I decided to walk along the banks of the creek and look for color.

I found a part of a hickory nut and stuck it in my pocket. I wasn't sure what I'd do with it, but an idea was forming.

The creek was back to its low flow and I saw a log stuck against a rock. And an idea hit me.

What if Squatch floated downstream on the log? Why would he be doing that? What is he searching for?

Maybe he is looking for a place to stay.

Caves are okay, but they can get cold in the winter time. Maybe it would be a nice cool spot in the summer when it is hot. After all a Squatch is pretty hairy.

If it rains, he might need a hat. A Hickory Shell fits just perfectly.

Hmmm, how about a Squatch Hut?  Sticks, grass, rocks and greens to lay on! Nice!

Very Cozy...

I will leave it at that.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Spring Surprises

Symplocarpus foetidus

aka Skunk Cabbage!

I had never heard of Skunk Cabbage until I moved to this area. I'm sure they can be found in forests near damp places around the state. Now I search for them every year to see how early the present themselves.

The earliest I've found them has been March 18th. The latest I found them just coming up was around April 15th.

The Common Powderhorn Lichen seemed revived with the moisture from the rain and melting snow.

Everything is mostly brownish and muddy right now so the lichen and moss are the colorful items in the woods.

I just love the name of this. Snakeskin Liverwort. It looks like dragon skin but grows mixed in with mosses. It is hard to spot too.

And then there was another surprise in my mailbox. I opened the box and found a mass of bubble wrap and I thought that as pretty funny. Perhaps someone thought I needed more for a suit of armor.

I unwrapped the bubble wrap and found a small figure that came with a card describing it.

Into the Woods

Keep calm, stay wild
and squatch on.
Get lost in the woods
and have some fun!

Enjoy your journey,
one step at a time.
Believe in yourself,
everything will be fine.

I have a new pal to journey with. I showed it to hubby who just shook his head and laughed when I explained it.

Then I told him I was going 'Squatching'. 

I think that is a perfect made up word for what I love to do, explore the forest.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Birds of all kinds

I'm not much of a 'birder' but I am beginning to understand the fun in it. Taking photographs of birds in their natural environment is harder than it seems. 

Grackles~~ Correction!
These are Starlings!

As annoying as these birds are, I found out that they eat insects and all sorts of bugs. So maybe they aren't as bad as all that. I wish they'd stay out of the shed though.

These were on our dead pine tree this morning.

We have a lot of crows around here and I've started to observe them. This bunch is making a new nest.

One landed on a locust tree near our house and I watched it as it tried to literally yank a branch off the tree.

Not sure if you can see that it is still hanging on to the branch above and is doing this maneuver in an upside down fashion yet still maintaining its balance.

Interesting. Can they tell which twigs are dead? The crow took three tries at it and then flew off.

I thought I'd take a chance and head out to Kickapoo Valley Reserve to see if any birds had come to the ponds since last week. 

I was rewarded by Redwing Black birds singing and the echo of swans, Sandhill Cranes, and geese from down in the ponds. 

It was a muddy trek, but worth it. 

Canada Geese

They sure can make noise! And I got to practice shooting them in flight and panning at the same time. 

11 seconds of angry birds...

I headed around the back way to the second pond. I was hoping to be able to find a good spot to watch the birds.

Midway across the pond there were Geese, Swans, Sandhill Cranes, and some crows walking about on the ice [not in the photo].

This pair of swans were building a nest.

Thanks for that link Aurora!
Their bills were all black when I blew up the photo. I think that means they are Trumpeter Swans.

Below is the swan building her nest. I was watching from the blind and trying to hold that long lens perfectly still was a bit hard.

She picks up sticks and whatnot from around her and drops it on her nest!
How cool is that?
16 seconds of nest building

On my way back to the car I found this guy serenading me on a tree next to old 131 trail.

Redwing Blackbird

This evening while doing chores, I saw a Blue Bird again. I sure hope they build their nest in the cavity by Sven's pen.

And tomorrow? We could get snow and rain. No one is quite sure where it will happen yet.

Just Dance Instead

I had plans to sneak out to the Reserve and look for some birdies. Instead, let's just say things didn't work out for me to go check out the ponds.

I got pretty grumpy. And I wanted to have a temper tantrum. I really did. But it wasn't anyone's fault that things didn't work out. The day was absolutely gorgeous, so I went out to the forest garden with Charlie and did some clean up. The ground is still frozen under the leaves and sticks. 

That didn't make me Un-grumpy so I decided to try a different tactic.

I decided to take out my camera and go enjoy some sunshine. 

I took my Smart Phone and tuned it into Pandora and donned my little wireless earbuds. Pavlov Stellar's Booty Swing came on and my feet couldn't help but start to dance.

I am glad I live in a secluded area. Imagine seeing me dancing to a tune no one else could hear. My husband once told me that my dancing actually looks like I'm having the Vapors or some sort of Seizure.

I went in with my goat and we danced to tunes only I could hear. Sven was happy to have someone to play with. 

I found myself laughing at his silly reactions to my absolute horrible moves. Laughter led to smiles, smiles led to happiness and suddenly that Grumpy lady disappeared.

I left Sven's pen and went out to wander about with my camera. The sunshine felt fantastic and I decided to make the best of the afternoon anyway.

I thought I'd experiment at trying to catch a bird in flight. I'm still working on that skill, but at least I got to see Robins.

And those annoying Grackles.

My beautiful red head walked out of the woods to watch me. Perhaps Sunshine had seen my awkward dancing.

Maybe goofy dancing with a goat is a cure for stress. It sure helped me.