Thursday, May 30, 2019

Bird woes

It's tough being a bird.

Here's a batch of robins, nesting in the rafters of our barn awning. Notice all the beaks of the hungry babies pointing upward.

Between meals, the babies lounged in their home.

After stuffing a beak with some insect delicacy...

...the mama often fluffed herself up and sat over the babies to keep them warm in the cool morning temperatures.

A couple days after taking these photos, a mob of magpies descended and raided the nest. It's now deserted. Nuts.

Meanwhile in the garden, I knew I had killdeer nesting somewhere. I've watched the adults court and mate, but couldn't find their nest. I always like knowing where it is so I don't accidentally step on it.

A few days ago, I finally found it while weeding the corn beds. A female hung around nearby...

...and finally settled down on her nest.

After I finished weeding, I walked over to see the nest. Hmmm. Just one egg. Killdeer usually hatch four. I looked forward to watching as the female laid the remainder of her clutch.

But the next day, the single egg was still there ... and the mother was gone. I think what I saw was the tail-end of her nest being raided by some predator. So -- no baby killdeer in the garden this year.

Sigh. Yes, it's tough being a bird sometimes.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A brush with history

Older Daughter called yesterday (Monday). As you might recall, she works as a nanny in New Jersey, and frequently on weekends will travel down to Virginia to visit her friend GG. She was on her way back from that visit when she called to chat. I put her on speaker phone so Don could hear the conversation as well.

During our phone call, she related an interesting anecdote. On Sunday morning, she and GG were going to go do something after church, so they drove in separately from GG's parents, with the idea everyone would meet up at church. During the drive, Older Daughter noticed a LOT of police officers around; and whenever they drove under an overpass, they noticed crowds of people on the bridges, with flags and banners. What was going on?

But they didn't think much about it. They got to church and reserved some seats for GG's parents -- who never showed up, even though they only left the house five minutes after Older Daughter and GG. Where could they be?

Eventually, halfway through church, GG got a text from her parents saying the highway -- the same four-lane highway Older Daughter had just driven five minutes ahead -- was now CLOSED for some huge event that would shortly take place. All within that five-minute time gap. What event would close a four-lane highway?

"Rolling Thunder," Don called from the other room.

Rolling Thunder, it seems, is a massive -- as in, hundreds of thousands of participants -- motorcycle rally consisting of veterans and veteran supporters which descends on Washington D.C. every Memorial Day weekend. I'd never really paid attention to it before because I'm not into motorcycles, but it's been going on for years and years and years. According to their website, "All [participants] are united in the cause to bring full accountability for the Prisoners Of War-Missing In Action (POW/MIA) of all wars, reminding the government, the media and the public by our watchwords: 'We Will Not Forget.'"

Wow. Just ... wow.

This would explain the extra law enforcement presence Older Daughter and GG saw, as well as the crowds of people lining the overpasses.

Now for an interesting "rest of the story." Apparently this was anticipated to be Rolling Thunder's final ride into Washington D.C., citing expenses and harassment. According to the New York Post, reasons to discontinue the rally included "the Pentagon Security Police/Washington Police officials continued lack of cooperation, increased harassment to our supporters and sponsors. ... Rolling Thunder is poised to keep losing money on the rally due to demands from the Pentagon for extra security, among other issues."

But President Trump threw in his support, and now it looks like the rally will continue. "Good for Trump," said Younger Daughter, when Don relayed that information.

I told Older Daughter she just had a faint brush with history.

Roll on, Rolling Thunder. What an awesome spectacle.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I'd like to draw your attention to a set of remarkable photos taken a few years ago by a reader (Katie) and her husband, who were formerly stationed in Germany. Katie learned that Don's uncle, Donald Sowers, who was killed in World War II, was buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in Liege, Belgium. She and her family visited the cemetery and sent these photos.

Just recently a reader named Kathy left the following moving comment on that blog post which I wanted to share:

I searched for 2 years to find my mother's first husband Harold Norris, killed 4/4/44 @ 2:04 PM over Romania. I received a photo of his grave from Belgium and walked over to my mother's home and said, "Mom where is Harold buried?" She said, "New Jersey". I said, "Mom, sit down, we need to talk."

Her mouth dropped open when she learned that her first husband was buried in Belgium! He has been there for (then) 65 years. All I started with was his purple heart, his name and service number. It has lead me down a path filled with new compassionate friends and a new understanding of the word sacrifice. Harold was an airman, navigator and top turret gunner. His plane the Miasis Dragon was shot down after delivering a fatal blow to an oil refinery in Bucharest Romania. The plane was hit at the waist by a land-to-air missile. The plane nose dipped, the pilot pulled it up, then it went nose-over-tail to the earth in a fireball. 4 crew were "carbonized" and were buried together in one grave by Romanian Monks. Later, in 1949, with dental records my mother provided, the US was able to locate his remains from the others and he was buried for the 9th and final time in Ardennes. The other 3 airmen are still together buried in the US.

One of the beautiful things I noticed was that each man's life is symbolized with a marble cross. They all worked and sacrificed as a group and from above, all of their individual crosses make up a larger cross. This collective larger cross can only be seen by people in airplanes and God. 3/5ths of the graves hold the remains from airmen who lost their is to those who fly that the larger cross is visible...a beautiful way to honor them.

The other thing I learned in 2010: the people of Belgium, France and other countries meet and honor our heroes. At Ardennes in 2010, there was approximately 100,000 people present, not many were from the USA. It seems that in life, we considered these men to belong to us, but in their death, the European people consider that these men belong to them, whom they thank and honor every year. Most graves have been adopted. Harold's grave was adopted many years ago and now the lady who adopted his grave is teaching her young grand daughter to care for it. She obviously does not want her grand daughter to forget the gratitude she has for the men who lost their lives saving hers.

I wrote to a man who was age 7 when the bombs were falling on to his town. He was scared and saw more than a 7 year old should see. He remembers the American forces and he remembers liberation. For those who know what happened, who saw the cruelty and oppression, who had no hope, our US Military saved them, their children and their grand children. The maximum gift was given, freedom was restored at a great price, those receiving the gift are grateful....and other airmen and God can see their collective cross, a memorial for their sacrifice, from the air. This has put many things in perspective for me...I hope it will for you too. --Kathy


A mighty "thank you" to our past and present veterans, whose sacrifices too many of us are willing to overlook, dismiss, or forget.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

29th anniversary

Today is our 29th anniversary! These years have passed in a flash!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

May flowers

The wildflowers are close to peaking in our neck of the woods. Over the last few days, I've photographed what's currently blooming.

Arrow-leafed balsam root, a large showy flower that likes sunny south slopes.

Arnica, a shade-loving flower, which blooms about the same time as the balsam root.

Nine-leaf biscuit root. It tends to favor rocky south-facing slopes:


Not sure what this one is. I feel I should know it, but it escapes me at the moment. Thoughts?

Mock orange.

Ponderosa pine.

Woodland star.

Checker lily.

Wild strawberry.


And of course...

Just some of the colors of spring around here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Thank you!

A few days ago I posted a link to Lehman's featuring an interview with survivalist Britt Ahart.

This morning Mr. Ahart and I received an email from the VP of Marketing at Lehman's: "The story on Britt has been viewed over 500 times in the past few days – that’s great traffic!"

Much of that traffic can be attributed to you, dear readers. Thank you!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Am I dead or alive?

Here's a new twist on an old scam:

To whom it may concern,

I know this letter may come to you as a surprise one but, i want you to read carefully. This day, one Mrs. Helena Smith came to my office to let us know that you are DEAD as a result of stage 4 Cancer, and before your death, you instructed her to come for the claim of your funds that you abandoned with the delivery agent at the airport and later was deposited with the issuing Barclays Bank here in United Kingdom . Here comes the big question....

(i) Did you authorize Mrs. Helena Smith to come for your claim?
(ii) Are you truly Dead OR Alive?
If (NO) you are hereby advice as a matter of urgency to reconfirm the details of this message within 24hours, hence your funds shall be wired into her account without any more delay.
Lastly, you are advice to reconfirm the details of this message and get back immediately with these information's below..

1.Full name:......................... ....
2.Direct telephone number:....................
3.Address:.................... ..........
4.Your personal identification to enable us confirm you are not dead.

This information's above must be provided for reconfirmation to enable us process your payment to you, hence, your funds will be remited/wired into her account as already provided to this management.
We wait for your urgent response today. You need to act very fast, because if this bank wait for your urgent reply within three working days and did not received any message from you, you will be consider dead, and your funds will be transfer to Mrs. Helena Smith.

Here is an account provided by Mrs. Helena Smith to this bank, are you also the one who ask her to provide this bank account to us?

Washington Mutual Bank
2075 S. Victoria Ave
Ventura, CA 93003
800 788-7000
Acct. name: Mrs. Natasha Jombosco.
Type: Checking
ABA # 322271627
Acct # 1951204345

This message demand urgent attention, the bank is waiting to hear from you, do call this below direct number:

Best Regard's,
Bank Manager: Mr. John Willshire
Address: 1 Churchill Pl, Canary Wharf, London E14 5HP, UK.
Phone: +44 345 734 5344


Bwahahaha gasp chortle guffaw.....

Friday, May 17, 2019

Sweet spring things

A couple of recent "sweet spring things."

Reader Natokadn sent photos of a pretty little filly her horse just had:

All together now: "Awww...."

Then a few days ago, I heard the rumble of a ATV coming up our driveway, driven by a neighbor with his 13-year-old daughter. The daughter jumped off and handed me a little crafted bouquet bearing the motif "Happy spring":

Then she jumped back behind her dad and off they went to visit another neighbor and hand out a little more sunshine.

All together now: "Awww...."

Happy spring.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Interview with an amazing guy

As many of you know, I write blog posts for Lehman's. One of the privileges of this position is being able to interview some truly remarkable people.

A couple weeks ago I interviewed an amazing fellow named Britt Ahart, a survivalist who puts every other survivalist to shame. This guy has spent months living off the land in Patagonia and Mongolia and ... well ... go read the interview.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Can you see the stars?

Last month, an article came out indicating only 1 in 50 people can see the stars "as Nature intended" due to light pollution. The article focused on the population in the U.K., a smaller and more crowded place than the U.S.

But America has more than its share of star blindness. Many years ago I visited Chicago, and one of my most distinct memories of that huge city is what the night sky looked like. Nothing was visible -- not a single star -- and the only celestial body I could see was the moon. The rest of the sky was blackish-orange from the glow of the streetlights.

Sadly, many people simply don't know what they're missing in the night sky.

As an example, consider what happened after the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake, which knocked out power in and around Los Angeles. The quake struck during the pre-dawn hours, and people went pouring out into the streets -- only to freak at the frightening "giant silvery cloud" overhead.

Calls poured into various emergency centers, with residents being assured they were merely seeing the Milky Way (evidently for the first time).

According to this article, "More than 80 percent of the world and more than 99 percent of the U.S. and European populations live under light-polluted skies. And according to the world atlas of artificial sky luminance, the Milky Way is hidden from more than one-third of humankind, including 60 percent of Europeans and nearly 80 percent of North Americans."

(Translation: 80 percent of North Americans are urban.)

In an effort to reclaim the night sky, a group called the Dark Sky Association is working with some cities to implement lighting systems that cast lights downward only, rather than everywhere. I sincerely hope it helps.

Ironically, the rapid spread of energy-efficient LED lighting is resulting in more light pollution, not less. The earth's artificially lit outdoor area is growing by 2.2 percent per year, with a total radiance growth of 1.8 percent per year. Why? Because they're so cheap and energy efficient, buildings are being encrusted with LED screens and lights when they weren't before, resulting in far more light pollution.

Can you see the stars where you live? I hope so, because there's no better testimony to Psalm 19:1: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."