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Planting Days and Wild Flowers

April 18th, 2008

A beautiful day for planting yesterday, but awoke this morning to clouds and a chance of thunderstorms.    I’m usually an early riser, but just after 4:30 this morning my eyes opened wide with the house rattling and the bed shaking for a few seconds.  Sure enough it was a 5.2 quake on the Illinois/Indiana border.  Not often that we feel earthquakes in the midwest. Did you feel it?  The U.S. Geological Survey has an excellent site where you can explore recent earthquakes and report how it felt to you as part of the Community Internet Intensity Map.

We had a lonesome visitor near the pond yesterday morning.  A hen turkey came wandering by for a few minutes before disappearing back into the woods.

Wild turkey hen

We spent the afternoon digging holes and planting apple and pear trees.  If I can keep the deer from eating them, we might have some fruit in a few years.  My right-hand man liked taking his break in the hole he just dug.  Of course the yellow lab wants to come play too!

 Having fun while planting fruit trees

Near the woodpile from last year’s firewood, I noticed many insect borer holes appearing on a few logs. Looking more closely revealed that many Banded Ashborers had emerged.  They feed on dead or dying trees as well as cut logs.  Later a nuthatch came by and had a nice little bug dinner.

Banded Ash Borer

And the wildflowers are really coming along. We discovered a little blooming Dogtooth Violet yesterday.  Which really isn’t in the violet family, but in the lily family.  I learned it first by the name of Trout Lily.  Does anyone know why it’s called that? I don’t, but it’s a pretty little flower.

Trout Lily or Dogtooth Violet

A Bloodroot flower is almost open.

Bloodroot

The Mayapples are almost up and in flower too.  I didn’t find any morels yet, but I’m still looking!  “Dad, why are they called May apples?  Can we eat them?”  “Uh, no, well a little white flower blooms under the umbrella of the leaves, and then it becomes a little fruit, but uh- I don’t know if we can eat it…maybe?  Let’s try and find out later…”  I’m all tired out from planting apple and pear trees and answering questions.  It was a nice day.

Mayapple plants

Kite Flying Lessons

April 10th, 2008

Did you ever fly kites when you were young? Yesterday I remembered how much I enjoyed them. With the winds of spring and warmer weather, flying a kite is a natural thing to do. And I learned that with kite flying, as with life, there are always lessons to be learned.

The kids at school had a kite flying day last week, and our son had a small kite from the store. He came home one day and we took it out to fly. It was great fun for about 10 minutes, at which time he let me have a turn. And then I proceeded to let the handle slip out of my grasp! It was a little kite with not too much string and began floating away. I couldn’t believe it- every time a kite would get away from me as a kid it just drifted softly to the ground. But not this one… it flew away, with me chasing in full run, the handle dancing just out of my reach.

At one point I almost had it and the big, goofy yellow lab runs right in front of me chasing something… he doesn’t know what it is, just that he wants to get whatever I’m chasing. I trip flat over his back, rolling to the ground in knee high grass, watching the kite handle float ever higher, up, up and away. That darn little kite flew skyward over the treetops a quarter mile away, and almost was free! But the handle and string finally caught on a top branch of a towering oak tree.

He wasn’t very happy, but I had to laugh. There it was, far away on the neighbors property stuck at the top of a giant oak tree, still flying in the wind. We walked slowly back to the house. Later it was gone, we didn’t know where. After leaving a message for the neighbors in case they wondered where their new sky ornament came from, we resolved to make another trip to the store for a new kite.

Looking over the fancy kites at the store a few days later, I mentioned that we could try and build our own. Hard to compete with the fancy stuff at the store, but I offered to replace the kite I lost, or that we could build our own kite and I would give him a dollar bill. The same value of the cost of a new one. Being a smart young man he went for the cash and the idea of building our own kite, looking at me doubtfully however.

So I resolved to build a darn kite or else, right then and there. After he came home from school yesterday, we went to work. I found some Pampas Grass sticks hardened enough from last years growth that he had saved (he loves sticks of every sort). I drilled tiny holes in the middle and the ends after finding pieces I could cut so that the joints of the growth were close to the ends for strength. Then I used small loops of wire at the ends as an attachment point for string. Next we tied string from top to bottom, and side to side. The Pampas Grass was just flexible enough to bend without crimping over, at least the second or third time I tried. So with a slight bow lengthwise and across, we then tied string all the way around the outside to complete the frame.

 

Newspaper kite with Pampas Grass frame
And then it was newspaper time! He liked the idea of using the funny papers from the comics section, so we cut and fit several pieces, glueing them over the string and reinforcing the corners. A little more string in the front to make a center loop and almost done!

 

 

 

Funny paper kite with Little Bluestem tailWe made the tail out of old t-shirt pieces tied together in a narrow strip. Voila!About an hour’s work and we were off to try it out. Perhaps damping his expectations, I explained that a newspaper kite might not hold up very well, so if not we’ll just laugh about it, try again and build a new one.

 

 

 

Up near the pasture the wind came up just enough and the kite was flying! Or not. It made loops to the ground and I knew we needed more tail. Having nothing more with us, I looked around for a handy stabilizer and grabbed a fistful of Little Bluestem and pasture grass… why not? And that did the trick- the kite flew beautifully!

Flying the homemade newspaper kite

The smile on his face was worth a million dollars. “Wow! I didn’t really know it would fly!” he says (neither did I!). We had fun with the dogs running all around and the kite dancing in the sky.

Kite flying fun with the dogs

Then after some time of walking around with the kite chasing the wind, it began settling over the trees… “Back up!” I tell him and then “Ahhh!” he yells. He didn’t know how to keep it out of the trees in time. It was promptly stuck in the top of a scrubby tree above some briars.

“Daddy, get it!” he yells, not wanting to lose his kite. Thinking our creation surely was torn, I didn’t relish the idea of climbing through a patch of briars and up a tree. I told him it might be stuck for good, and we probably couldn’t get it down anyway without tearing it. Not a very good choice of words.

And that just made it worse, he was near tears at our predicament. Time to shift perspective… I told him, “Hey- we agreed we would have fun and laugh even if the kite got all smashed up, right?” But he said “No! I want THIS kite!” Being the usually dense father that I am, it took a while before I realized that we (I) lost his other kite last week, and now I was telling him this one was gone too. Maybe he could handle losing one kite, but another one that we just built together? No way.

He then marched by himself into the woods and briars yelling “Ow!”, determined to get it back. “Whoa!” I thought, “he really means it!” And I knew it was time to help him make a rescue attempt. So I marched over too and climbed up a little tree through the briars. After many broken branches and sticker-bush scratches, I reached the kite, only slightly torn, and biting the string with my teeth I finally worked it loose. He was down at the bottom, and I pushed it down to him where he helped pull it gingerly through the tangle where he was standing- success! We exited the thorn bushes with our proud scratches, and he said, “See! I knew we could get it!”   And we flew the kite some more.

Later that evening we talked about a lot of lessons that we learned, most of which involved teamwork, and that you can do just about anything if you really put your mind to it.

With his 7-year old wisdom, he told me that I learned a lesson too, and it was about not giving up when the kite was stuck. I was proud to say yes, it’s good that we can all learn lessons in life no matter how old we are.

Flying the Kite of Fox Haven

He doesn’t know it yet, but that wasn’t really the lesson I learned today. I learned that our son found courage and determination in not giving up. In deciding to go after what he wanted, and without knowing if he could do it himself, he was going to try anyway.

I know there are many more lessons to learn, for both of us, and that’s okay. I was also reminded that just about every moment we live as parents is a teaching moment, whether we know it or not.

Surprise on the Porch

March 25th, 2008

There are always surprises in spring.  You wouldn’t expect one of them to be a snake in the house!  It seems one of the plant containers kept outside in the summer served as a nice little home for a Ring-necked Snake.  We noticed something near the carpet and thought it was a toy left out… but then it started moving!  These are harmless little guys, and quite docile- probably a Prairie Ring-necked Snake.  Of course it doesn’t generate near the excitement of the six foot Black snake I saw last year!  This week we’ll release it outside to find a new home.

Ring-necked Snake in the house

Someone enjoys giving the cats a lot of attention, and that’s okay with Princess.

Princess the cat

A Dog and His Boy

February 11th, 2008

I was working on the computer and some paperwork the other night, with the tv on in the background and my Labrador Retriever laying quietly asleep on the floor. The boy was taking his bath before bedtime and from down the hallway I heard, “Daddy! Daddy! Mommy! Mommy!” So using my holler-through-the-house voice I call back… “What is it…?” And then from the hallway again, the boy’s Mom calls, “Um, I think you need to come here… this is yours to handle!” And I yell back, “Okay, I’m coming…” as I get up wondering what all the fuss is about. And then I notice that the Yellow Lab is not where he was supposed to be. And with growing awareness I realize the Lab had snuck away to play with the boy (and that he loves water).

So guess who was very proud of the fact that he was sharing his bath with the dog? So proud in fact that he didn’t say a word (and closed the bathroom door!) until he was ready for us to see?! Arrgh!

Yellow Lab in bathtub

Well, they both needed a bath I suppose. The pup’s expression was like “Oh, you found me. It’s really nice in here, can’t I stay?! Pleeease?!” By the way, he really likes the “green turtle squirty thing”.

 

Snowy Fun in Winter

February 1st, 2008

We awoke to a snowy landscape, and one of those quiet days when it’s nice to enjoy being at home.  After a big breakfast, I spent a couple hours outside clearing the driveway with the tractor.   With enough wind, we have drifts at various places in the driveway, and I’m thankful the tractor really clears the snow.  As the sun came out came out, we bundled up to enjoy some fun in the snow.

The Yellow Lab had some fun of his own… he loves the snow and ran around in circles as fast as he could, and then ran again for hundreds of yards kicking up the snow.  He was smiling the whole time!

Yellow lab running in the snow

“Look at me!” the boy says, enjoying the powdery snow. We pulled a sled around the property trying out the hills.

Fun in the snow for a young boy

But fresh snow is always good for a snow angel!

Snow Angel

Our Labrador Retriever “pup” is so goofy… and look at him jump!  He leaps into the air and goes crazy chasing snowballs.  Now when you throw a snowball and it lands, well… in the snow, it’s kind of hard to find!  But the dog doesn’t know that- he tries to catch it, then runs in circles looking for it after it squishes into powder!  It’s so funny…

Yellow Lab jumps after snowball in winter

The Basset Hound and Shiba Inu watched the Labrador jumping after snowballs, wondering “What is he doing?!  Do they really taste that good?!”

Basset Hound and Shiba Inu watch the crazy Labrador

There’s something about sunlight and shadows on the snow.  It was a fun day and the landscape was beautiful.

Winter afternoon

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