Tag Archives: Daily life

Waiting on Spring

Spring is slow to arrive this year.  We finally got outside yesterday afternoon to work in the yard a bit and to roast some hot dogs in our fire pit.
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My mini-greenhouses are waiting patiently for some warmer temps to get the seeds going.  I peeked in them and saw that the kale seeds have already sprouted!

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The chickens enjoyed their first day outside free-ranging.

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Our vegetable garden is a sad sight.  Last year we were already in the garden tilling by mid-March.
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The frost has not gone out of the ground yet, so in addition to the remaining snow,  standing water is scattered all over the grounds.
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Everything is brown and drab.

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Wildlife is on the move though.  We noticed hundreds of robins out in our hayfield and in the trees over the weekend. Geese were honking down by the river and a few flew right through the yard headed in that direction.

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We also noticed some strange-looking birds down by the river.  I didn’t have my telephoto lens on the camera, so I snapped a few photos and zoomed in on the images once I uploaded them to the computer.  It took me some time searching through images to identify these crazy looking birds, but I finally did…Hooded Merganser. We have never seen them around here, or at least we have never noticed them before.

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The bird identification site had this to say about the Hooded Merganser:

“Hooded” is something of an understatement for this extravagantly crested little duck. Adult males are a sight to behold, with sharp black-and-white patterns set off by chestnut flanks. Females get their own distinctive elegance from their cinnamon crest. Hooded Mergansers are fairly common on small ponds and rivers, where they dive for fish, crayfish, and other food, seizing it in their thin, serrated bills. They nest in tree cavities; the ducklings depart with a bold leap to the forest floor when only one day old.

So, although we are impatiently waiting on spring around here, there are still some interesting things going on…if you take the time to notice them.
Lynell
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Maiden Voyage

We have lived on the river for over a decade now and have a very good understanding of its unpredictable nature.  Sometimes it is completely flooded in the spring for weeks on end.  Other times, like this year, there is no flooding and the transition from winter to summer is uneventful.

Heavy summer rains can also cause it to rise unexpectedly and flood during the hottest months of summer.  During those types of summers, we are not able to go down and enjoy the river much at all.  I’m a little freaked out by the power of a flooded river and have always forbade my children from going near it in those conditions.

We have often talked about getting some kayaks or a canoe to explore the river beyond just walking along its bank on our property.  During some of the summers when the water has been low, we have actually walked in the water a ways up-stream to explore.  The kids have also navigated it a little aboard our oldest son’s scow boat creation, but that was pretty labor intensive and they never really went that far.

With the early spring and low water levels (remember, we haven’t even had a real winter here in Minnesota), we decided to finally take the plunge and buy some kayaks to explore this winding river.  We took them out on our maiden voyage this weekend.

We decided to head upstream first to see how difficult it was to paddle against the current.  Floating downstream first, only to discover it was impossible to navigate upstream, seemed like a bad idea.

Keep in mind it was April 1st yesterday here in Minnesota.  The sun was shining and the temperature was in the 60’s.  Crazy.

We bought two single kayaks and one double.  That way, the kids can each have their own vessel to maneuver, and theoretically it will prevent them from bickering and blaming each other when they go floating into a tree or slam into the river bank.

The double kayak works out well for me because I can just sit back and enjoy the scenery while Jesse paddles, or, I can blame him when we get off course.

We were all real excited about the new kayaks and about being on the river.  It is something we have talked about for so long and yesterday we were finally doing it!

The river has a lot of fallen trees in its winding path.  Most of the time you can navigate around them, but sometimes you have to get out on to the river bank and go around.

After going upstream quite a ways, which was new territory for us, we ran into a tree jam that we weren’t able to navigate through with the double kayak (the kids managed to push themselves through with the singles).  We decided to head back downstream since we were just out for a leisurely afternoon paddle to explore.

Going downstream is a breeze.  Paddling is only required to keep the kayak on course.

In a few weeks, the river will look much different as the leaves fill out and form a canopy.  And then, the mosquitoes will hatch…and the whole experience will become very different. We will have to figure out how to deal with that aspect when the time comes.

After our maiden voyage on the river, we were very pleased that we finally decided to buy some kayaks.  We are hoping that was just the first of many lazy weekend days spent together paddling along the river.

Lynell

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Blown Away by 2012

Winter finally arrived here in Minnesota last night.  It snowed a few inches before midnight and the wind continued to intensify all evening.  Throughout the night, the wind howled and sometimes rattled our bedroom windows.

We woke up this morning to a very windy and gusty 2012.

With sustained winds of over 30 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph, we are under a wind advisory.

The high winds are not unique to Minnesota, as much of the Midwest is experiencing the whipping wind.  It is forecasted to continue through Monday for much of the country.

Thankfully, the temperatures are not our typical January frigid ones.  Although I usually complain a lot about Minnesota winters, I actually don’t mind finally having some snow on the ground.  I will be just fine however, if our usual cold temperatures never show up.

The good news is that it is already January 1st, and no matter what happens, winter here in Minnesota is going to seem shorter than usual because of the mild fall we have enjoyed.  And because of that, 2012 is already looking good to me!

Happy New Year!

Lynell

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A Field of Ice

We were enjoying warmer spring-like temperatures a week ago here in Minnesota and our ridiculously large piles of snow finally started melting.  All that melting snow meant that a LOT of water was trying to make its way from our hay-field down towards the river.

The water was still backed up in the field when the temperatures plunged to below freezing once again over this past week.  As a result, our hay-field turned into a giant ice rink.  With a free day on the calendar yesterday, the kids decided to take advantage of the ice.

They grabbed their ice skates, some hockey sticks and a tennis ball and headed out to the hay-field.

With their boots in place to mark the goal area, it wasn’t long before they had a lively game of hockey going on.

None of my kids are hockey players, but I think they do pretty well on the ice for only getting their skates on a couple of times a year.

I thought they were a little crazy at first when they decided to head out to play on the ice.  The latest winter storm was rolling in and the wind was really whipping out of the east.

I was freezing when I went out to take pictures of them.  As I glanced out the window later, I noticed they had taken their jackets off and were skating around in sweatshirts!  These kids are hardy Minnesotans!

Sofie was trying to figure out what we were all doing out in the hay-field.  She went out to watch the kids play and when I showed up to take pictures she looked over at me inquisitively.

Everyone eventually came inside to warm up and enjoy our Sunday brunch.

The predicted snow finally started to arrive in the afternoon and the kids talked their dad into going out on the ice before the snow covered it up.

I went out to take pictures again.  I didn’t last long.  I’m a Minnesota girl, but am definitely not as hardy as my husband and kids.

Each year around this time, I tell myself that I am better suited to live where it is always warm and they have palm trees and sandy beaches.  I always get over it…you have to when you live here.

It snowed the rest of the day and through most of today.  We now have about a foot of fresh snow!  The recent teasing of a spring thaw is just a distant memory, as we are now buried in snow once again.   And so is the ice rink in the hay-field.

Hockey in the hay-field.  I never would have imagined…

Lynell

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Filed under Daily life, Kids

Out the Kitchen Window

It’s that time of year where the temperatures have plunged to the sub-zero range and taken us hostage indoors.  There is not a lot going on around the farm and not a lot to write about either.  I have wandered outside a few times with my camera looking for something interesting to take photos of, only to feel disappointed by the drab colors and lack of life everywhere I look.  It exists in such contrast to spring and summer when this place is bursting with life and the possibilities seem endless.

Yesterday, I was standing at the kitchen sink after arriving home from driving my daughter to orchestra when I glanced up and noticed this pileated woodpecker out in the crabapple tree.

Ah!  A sign of life!

I fumbled through my camera bag to get my new telephoto lens to snap some close-up pictures.

By the time I got the telephoto lens on the camera, I only had time for a few shots before he flew away back into the woods. I am disappointed that the pictures did not turn out very sharp.  It was a good reminder to slow down, get the settings and focus right, and not rushing just to snap a picture.

Even though the pictures did not turn out that great, I was nonetheless thrilled to see this unique bird up close.  They really are large birds, about the same size as a crow. I think they have a prehistoric look to them, maybe a bit like a pterodactyl.

And while I have trudged around outdoors recently in search of something interesting to photograph, it turns out that the remaining fruit on the crabapple tree right outside my kitchen window is providing some of the best winter subjects.  Even better is that in the dead of winter, there are signs of life around here.  You just have to be paying attention.

Hope it is warmer where you are.

Lynell

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Snow Bird

Yesterday I noticed a robin in the crabapple tree just outside our kitchen window.  I was a little puzzled because I thought robins migrated south in the winter.  The bird seemed out-of-place in this frozen land, but I assumed that it must surely be on its way south sometime very soon.

We had a “major weather event” here in Minnesota starting Friday evening and continuing through today with lots of accumulating snow and strong winds.

The snow kept falling all day long and by this evening we had somewhere around a foot of fluffy new snow!

While making breakfast in the kitchen this morning, I looked out the window and was shocked to see that poor little robin back in the crabapple tree.  Braving the snow storm, it was hopping around the tree and eating the crabapples.

Worried that there was something wrong with this bird that was still around Minnesota at this time of year and in these conditions, I did a quick internet search to see if it was “normal” for a robin not to migrate south.

I was surprised to read that robins apparently do not always leave in the winter, especially if there is a food source like crabapples or berries to sustain them.

They keep themselves warm with thicker feathers and by shivering.

So, I guess this robin has decided to stick around this winter and snack on the crabapples on our tree.

The robin will be doing a lot of shivering tonight, as temperatures are predicted to plunge to -15° F.  Tomorrow does not look much better with a high of 3° F and wind chills of -35° F.  Poor little thing!

As I sit inside tonight with my kids, playing games and enjoying a warm and cozy fire, I am glad very glad that I am not that robin.  And if I were, I would never be crazy enough to stick around this state through the winter…even if there were some crabapples nearby.

Cozy and warm in Minnesota,

Lynell

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If She Only Knew…

Our dog Sofie is a Golden Retriever, a hunting dog.  She lives to go bird hunting in the fall.  Every time the boys get out the guns and their blaze orange vests, Sofie runs to the back of the truck and waits to get in.  She whines and she paces.

We often take her on walks down the road from our house and if there is a pheasant anywhere in the vicinity, she manages to pick up their scent.  If she is not on the leash, she takes off and inevitably flushes them out of the tall grass.  If she is on the leash, she pulls, tugs and whines for the opportunity to find the bird.

A few Easters ago, we had family over to our house for dinner and an egg hunt.  After dinner we walked around outside, showing the family the various projects we were working on.  To our surprise, a rooster pheasant flew out of the hayfield right towards us and landed a short distance away on the driveway.  Before we could even react, Sofie had spotted the bird and took off after it.  The pheasant took flight and headed for the woods.  Sofie took off in that direction and our oldest went after her.

None of us are sure what exactly happened over in the woods, but unfortunately the pheasant did not survive the ordeal.  Our son saw her disappear over the river bank and she eventually came back up proudly carrying the pheasant in her mouth.  It was a victory for her.  This is, after all, what she is supposed to do, right?  Well, not exactly, especially when it is not hunting season.

Knowing her love of tracking down and “catching” pheasants, imagine my mixed emotions when I glanced out our back living room windows today while working on my computer and saw this…

A rooster pheasant right in our back yard!  I knew Sofie was outside somewhere and I hoped that the bird would go unnoticed by her.

The pheasant seemed unconcerned about predators as it waddled its way through the snow.

I grabbed my camera and started to take pictures.  He looked so stunning with his vibrantly colored feathers against the bright white snow.  He continued to make his way across the back of the house and up along the side.  I started to get nervous for his safety as he moved closer to the house because I suspected that Sofie was on the front porch.

Something eventually spooked the bird however, and he took flight.  As beautiful as these birds are on the ground, they are even more magnificent when airborne.

Once the rooster was safely in the air, I turned to look out the window for the dog.  This is what I saw…

Sofie was fast asleep on the front porch, enjoying the sun, with her beloved deer leg that she salvaged out of the woods nearby.  She had absolutely no clue that this bird, her absolute favorite critter to hunt, had wandered so dangerously close to her.

She must have sensed my presence, or heard the snapping of the camera through the window, because she popped her head up to look at me.

“What?”

“Ha,” I thought to myself.  “If you only knew.”

Our cat Tiger, on the other hand, he could care less about what is outside during the day.  Especially when the sun is shining and he is laying on the back of a comfy chair inside the house.

His only concern was the noise I was making with the camera.

I was annoying him.

He was tired.

He yawned…

And then he tried to ignore me and get back to sleep in the sunshine.

It’s just another day in the country.

Lynell

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Filed under Animals, Daily life