Spring view

Spring view
A View From Our Deck

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Severe June Thunderstorm

Yesterday was an exciting and scary day.  I always write about our Wisconsin snowstorms, but I don't usually write about thunderstorms.  It started out as a normal day.  We did have a rain storm a few days ago as a result of unseasonable 90 degree temperatures, but yesterday was nice.  The temperatures were in the upper 70's.  The weather forecast mentioned a chance of thunderstorms, but we didn't take them too seriously.  Our television stations are from Green Bay, Wisconsin which is two hours away from us.  Even though we are in their viewing area, the weather is usually very different from what they predict.  At 1:00pm my husband headed down to the Senior Center to play Sheepshead.  He plays cards on Wednesdays.  I always take that time in the afternoon to do a project.  It isn't that he stands in my way, but I always get more done when he is gone.   I decided to clean my wood floors.  I was moving furniture and working away, when suddenly it started to sprinkle.  Then within seconds a huge wall of rain came through with high winds.  It got very dark.  There weren't any tornado sirens, but I went downstairs just in case.  It sounded like a low tone constant thunder sound.  We are surrounded by big trees and I thought if one blows down, it will come right through the roof.   I texted my daughters to warn them of the storm coming.  It was moving East, and we were getting it first.   I learned my granddaughter had taken her brothers for ice cream in a neighboring town.  Fortunately she saw the weather was taking a turn and got back just as the bad weather hit.  She hasn't had her license that long, and I worried about her driving in torrential rains. We were very lucky and didn't have any damage, so I relaxed.  I checked the rain gauge, and we got 1 1/4 inch in a very short period of time.

When my husband returned home, he said there were trees down all over town.  Being the old people we are, we went for a ride.  One of our neighbors had a tree down and a half mile down the road many trees were down and uprooted.  

This large tree is down in our neighbors yard.

This big tree was pulled right out of the ground.

This tree barely missed this house.  A small part of the porch was taken out.

I think you get the idea.  A lot of cleanup is going to happen during the next few days.  We aren't alone.  The entire northeast part of Wisconsin has similar stories.  Fortunately I haven't heard of any injuries or deaths.  Property can be repaired and replaced but people can't.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wisconsin's State Bird

Anyone who lives in our part of the world, which is Wisconsin USA, has had experiences with the robin.  They are a very common bird, and they don't use very good sense when they are building their nests.  Most of us have had a robin nest almost everywhere.  They put them on outside lights, ledges, on eavetroughs, in trees and my latest experience in a hanging flower pot.  I hadn't even noticed her building the nest until I took the plant down to water it.  Lo and behold, there was a perfect nest with one oddly shaped egg in it.   The next day there were two eggs and then the next day there were three eggs.  All of the eggs looked cone shaped.

She laid a total of four eggs.  She sat on them patiently for two weeks.  Since the basket was hanging right outside our front door, she did get upset every time we opened the door.  We could come into the house but not go out the door without a big fuss.

On May 29th I checked the basket and found three of the eggs had hatched.  One had not but I didn't know if it was just a little behind the others.

In a couple days this is what I saw.  There is no sign of the unhatched egg, but I wasn't able to count how many babies there were.  It looked like three, but I wasn't sure.  If there were three, then I wondered if mama robin had removed the unhatched egg.

These are 3-4 day old baby robins.

Robins grow so fast.  Four days later the robins were starting to get feathers and had grown a lot,

8 day old baby robins

They grew very quickly and in ten days they were starting to grow out of the nest.  Mama was very protective and really didn't like us at all.  She would circle around, and she would make as much as noise as she could.

These robins are ten days old.

All this feeding and squawking has taken it's toll on mama.  She looks skinny, dazed and tired.  I guess it even happens in the bird kingdom.

Both the parents feed the young ones.

On Saturday morning I walked out the door.  There perched on the edge of the nest was one of the babies.  I don't know if I scared it out of the nest or if it was ready, but it jumped off.

This little one sat in the grass for a while and then took off.

The other two robins (yes, there are two left) waited until Sunday morning to leave.

When I took the plant down to remove the nest, there was the unhatched egg.  It was cracked.

I think it is amazing.  I have seen dozens of robin nests and baby robins, but I never realized that it takes less than a month for a female robin to lay eggs and raise the babies to full grown.  No wonder there are so many robins around, but even so we still get a thrill each Spring when we see our first robin of the year.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Hatching Praying Mantis

There are so many things I have learned since having grandchildren.  I have learned that it's a very different world from the one I grew up in or even the world my children grew up in.  I have learned that kids start going to school when they are just babies and learn to read in kindergarten or before.  We went to kindergarten half days and learned some of the letters.  I think everyone spends way too much time looking at little screens and not enough time outside.  I have gotten into the technology age myself and I have learned a lot about computers and phones, but I didn't know about clearing the history on my phone to save the battery until the kids told me.   I don't know a lot but I can navigate as much as I need to.   Sometimes I wish I could just go back to a time without all this information.  My brain is full.    I can't even imagine what things will be like in the next 10 years.

My youngest grandson is the exception.  He mostly wants to be outside or creating something new.  He can't wait to come out to our house and slog around in the swamp.  I have written about a lot of his interests.  For a couple years now his mom has ordered butterfly larvae and they watched them develop into butterflies.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2015/06/painted-lady-butterflies.html

This year they ordered Praying Mantis egg cases.   They put the egg case in the net habitat they used to raise the butterflies.

A Praying Mantis egg case.

They waited six weeks for the eggs to hatch.  Then one day, there were hundreds of little Praying Mantises crawling around.

The plan is to release them in the garden after they have grown for a while.  I imagine most of them will get eaten by birds and bigger insects, but it was fun to see them hatch.  I took a few home.  I thought I would try to raise them to adult size which is 2-4 inches.  I found out they have to eat fruit flies or aphids.  I have no idea how to catch a fruit fly.  I found some little ants and put them in with the mantis.  They get into their praying position but I haven't seen them eat yet.  I have a feeling they may not make it, but time will tell.  I started with five and now I have two.  I think they may be eating each other.

I can't even imagine what my grandson will want to hatch out next, but I'm sure it will be interesting.

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 2017

I haven't blogged for more than three weeks, so I guess I am overdue.  My husband got a very miserable virus or infection three weeks ago.  He was given a course of antibiotics for bronchitis and a sinus infection.  We weren't sure if that was necessary or if it was a virus that needed to run its course.  He felt somewhat better from the medication but the coughing continued.  Last week he got a steroid which seems to be helping.  The weather is getting gorgeous, and it's too nice to stuck inside not feeling well.  We did manage a two hour trip to my parents gravesite and to an old country cemetery near City Point Wisconsin where my great grandparents are buried.  Putting flowers on the graves were very important to my parents and so we try to honor that tradition.  It was a quick trip but we made the effort, coughing most of the way. 

The month of May is always a busy time.  Our grandkids are finishing up the school year so all the concerts and end of year activities are happening.  We did miss a few things but went to those we could.

Sam our middle grandchild was in a middle school play.  His name was Jeeves and he played a butler.

Serious Sam still in character.

Taking a final bow.

He doesn't know what to think of his sister hugging him.  Suspicion is on his face.

Jack was next.  He participated in a Poetry in Motion activity.  The day it was scheduled we had rain and since it was being done outside, it had to be rescheduled.  We didn't see it in person but were able to view a video.  His poem was about football.

Then there was Ewan in a Gallery Walk.  Ewan is in 1st grade.  His classmates and he had to pick a topic from nature.  They researched it, made a book about it and presented the information to parents and grandparents.  It is such a good experience to get these kids comfortable with public speaking at such a young age.  I never did get comfortable with it.  The first time I had to speak in front of a group was in 10th grade speech class.  I did a terrible job.  

Our two older grandchildren have also been busy with end of the year activities, and both have been practicing driving.  Melissa is finished with her driver's education instructions and will be taking her driver's test in a couple weeks.  Dylan hasn't started the behind the wheel instruction but has been practicing.  He is loving driving his parents Mustang.  

Besides the kids activities, there is a lot of other things going on this time of year.  I walked in a 5K for Cancer.  That was a happy day for me especially being able to visit the survivor tent.  We celebrated Mother's Day, our youngest daughters birthday, and our other daughter's wedding anniversary.   We also attended a high school graduation party for a friend. 

All the Spring flowers are in full bloom as well as the fruit trees and bushes.  It is a beautiful time of the year.

Blackberry bushes in bloom.

The birds are busy either sitting on eggs or feeding their babies.

Robins nesting in my fuschia plant.

Bluebird eggs

Today we had a chubby possum in the yard.  I wonder if she is pregnant because she looks larger than most.  I recently learned that possums eat ticks so I was happy to see this one nosing through the yard.  We have a lot of ticks this year so these possums are welcome to all the ticks they can eat.

Another exciting thing happened.  While sitting out on our deck, I heard an unusual sound.  It was loud and kind of a screech.  I looked up and saw a whooping crane fly over head.  It was being very vocal and I'm not sure why he was so loud.  Perhaps he was letting other cranes know that he was close by.

The turtles are coming up in the yard to lay eggs, the bullfrogs are croaking day and night, and new baby fawns will be showing up any day now.  It is an exciting time of year and one of the best reasons we live in Wisconsin.  After a long winter, Spring makes everything better (hopefully).

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Necessity Really is the Mother of Invention

A few days ago a friend reminded me of a recipe I had blogged about several years ago.  I had forgotten all about it.  It was called Crockpot Lasagna.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/09/crockpot-lasagna.html

Not knowing what to make for dinner, I thought I would make the lasagna.  I was sure I had all the ingredients on hand.  I got out the crockpot and began.  I went to the freezer and got out a container of browned ground beef and unthawed it.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/10/different-technique-for-browning-ground.html  I went to the cupboard for a jar of spaghetti sauce.  There wasn't any so I settled for a jar of Butternut Squash pasta sauce.

I poured a cup of the sauce into the bottom of the pot.  The next step was to layer dry lasagna noodles on top of the sauce.  Then came the cottage cheese.  Oops!  No cottage cheese.  Well, that wasn't going to stop me.  I would just make some.  Making cottage cheese isn't that hard.  You heat a half gallon of milk to 120 degrees.  The recipe uses a gallon of milk, but I cut the recipe in half and used a half gallon. Slowly pour distilled vinegar into the milk and cover it with a lid for 30 minutes.  Then strain the whey out.  There is a lot of whey.  When the whey is out, rinse the vinegar out under cool water and drain.  You then add a little half and half with some sea salt to the curds to make it creamier.  Lightly stir and you have cottage cheese with no extra additives.  Here is the Alton Brown recipe I used.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/quick-cottage-cheese-recipe

I put the cottage cheese layer into the crockpot.  The next layer was shredded mozzarella cheese. This was getting ridiculous.  I didn't have any shredded mozzarella cheese either, but I did have some string cheese.  So I unwrapped twelve string cheese sticks and shredded them.  It worked fine.  I got about 3 1/2 cups of shredded cheese from twelve pieces of cheese.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of cheese so I have some left over for something else.

I finished off the recipe and turned on the crockpot.  It actually turned out really well.  So necessity is the mother of invention even though I didn't invent anything but I did improvise.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Happiness Is

Everyday my husband posts on Facebook what makes him happy.  It is something he does to remind himself and all of us that there is always something to be happy about.  Even on days that aren't that positive, he comes up with something.  This past weekend he lost his wedding ring for the second time.  The first time we found it in some lawn clippings.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2015/04/the-lost-ring.html  We haven't found it this time. He had the ring for almost 49 years so it was sad to lose it, but rather than dwell on it, he went and bought an inexpensive replacement because the ring represented our long marriage, and the symbol of the ring is important to him.  If a miracle happens and we find the ring that would be wonderful, but until then he has a ring.  I think that is what prompted his latest "happiness is" statement.  He was happy about being frugal.  I didn't understand at first, but realized he could have bought an expensive replacement wedding band but chose a plain stainless steel band instead.

I guess we are a good match because I am also frugal.  I never understood why people are obsessed with making more and more money.  Money doesn't buy happiness.  I can get just as full on a $5 burger as I can on a $50 steak.  I can get just as much light from a thrift store floor lamp as I could from a $5000 chandelier.  I guess I like nice things but the thrill is not having them but finding the bargain.  I don't do that so much anymore.  We have way too much stuff, but once in a while it's fun to go to garage sales, thrift stores or find a really good sale.

Last weekend my daughter's in-laws invited us to go to some city wide garage sales.  It sounded like fun, although I couldn't think of a thing I needed.  I took a little cash and headed out early in the morning.  I was very selective but ended up with a few treasures and I only spent $10.25.

The first thing I found was a greek yogurt maker.  I have one from many years ago, but this was brand new and had some fantastic features.  All you do is heat the milk, add yogurt culture and set the timer. When the yogurt is finished, a stainer was included to strain out the whey.   I found the exact yogurt maker on the product's website for $49.99, but I only paid $3.

Another thing we do is use a water pitcher with a filter to filter water.  We have well water and a refrigerator filter, but I like the filter pitchers of water to make coffee and iced tea.  The Brita filters are quite expensive. They are usually $4 to $5 per filter.  I found a unopened package of three for $3 or a dollar a piece.

Another good deal I found was a piece of Mexican pottery.  I like some of the Mexican pottery ducks and birds and have gotten good deals on a few in the past.  This time I found a cute owl. They were selling a whole box of owl related items for $10.  I asked if I could buy just one item from the box, and they sold it to me for $1.  I looked it up when we got home, and they sell for around $25.

I found a table to put on my porch.  It was painted with a cabin and a moose.  The legs look like canoe paddles.  Even if it only holds up for a season or two, it was worth $3.  I also got a 25 cent hard cover book.  There were so many awesome things I could have purchased, but I didn't.

It was a fun way to spend the day.  Now if that darn wedding ring would appear that would be great.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In Search Of Camp Corbin

Today we were out and about.  We went on a little adventure around Marquette county looking for Barn Quilt blocks.  I don't know if they are popular in other parts of the United States, but here in Wisconsin we have a lot of them.  Large quilt designs are painted on exterior wood squares and are hung on barns or other buildings.  Some are quite simple and others are elaborate.  Shawano county in Wisconsin has over 300 barn quilts and is a tourist destination. This will be a future adventure.  Some are so beautiful.  There are even geocaching games involving Barn quilts.   http://www.shawanocountry.com/barn-quiltstours/about-barn-quilts/

This was a simple basket pattern

This pattern is called the Lone Star.  It is pretty fancy.

Working our way back home we took a little detour through the back roads.  We found ourselves on a road that we were quite familiar with.  It sparked a memory from 1973.  We hadn't thought about it for years, but 44 years ago my husband and I managed a summer church camp.  My husband was a teacher.  Teachers never made a ton of money.  In fact, he started teaching in 1969 for $5,000 a year.  Even then that was a pretty small wage, so he always worked at a summer job.  We never took vacations because he always worked.  He cooked cans of peas at the canning factory, worked on a summer maintenance crew for years and did whatever crappy job he could find, although he did pass on selling encyclopedias.  In 1973 we applied to manage a Presbyterian Church Camp between Packwaukee and Montello Wisconsin.  It was called Camp Corbin.  We got the job and moved into a very old trailer home in the woods with our oldest daughter, who was only 19 months old at the time, and our dog.  Our job was to do repairs, mow, provide firewood, collect money from families using the campground, take campers and canoes to a nearby stream and provide groceries for the church groups and their counselors.  Every week a new group of young people would come from churches all around the state.  It was a very rustic tent camping situation and all their meals were cooked outdoors.  Each day we would bring them the groceries necessary to make their meals.  We had to travel to Portage, Wisconsin every week to purchase a huge amount of food.  We went to a special meat market in Montello that sold Brakebush chickens.  These were the days before the Brakebush name was well known.  We even had to travel to Princeton to get surplus commodities like cheese and flour which were provided by the state for this type of camp.  Who would have thought that 30 years later, we would live in Princeton, WI.  We didn't like the town that much back then, but it has grown on us. 

The area has changed a lot and the camp is long gone.  While trying to find the entrance into the old camp, we came across a hiking trail.  We pulled in to check out the map.  There was a short trail to the Page Creek Marsh.  On the map we saw that it lead to lakes on the camp property.   In 1986 we went back to find Camp Corbin and were able to drive back to the lake and saw some of the old campsites.  At that time we even saw the rusty old trailer we lived in.  At 26 feet long the trailer was smaller than many of today's campers.  It was sitting in the woods abandoned for many years.

This is the trailer we lived in during the summer of 1973.  This picture was taken 13 years later.

Wanting to see how close we could get to familiar land, we grabbed our water and my camera and headed down the trail.

The three lakes on this map were part of the camp.

We could tell that the path was not well traveled and was need of maintenance.  There were a lot of downed trees and over growth, but it was easy enough to maneuver.  It was so calm and beautiful.  There is a smell of earth, leaves and sweetness in the Spring woods that I can't really describe.  It just soothes the soul.

A lot of birch trees

No leaves yet so we could easily see the squirrels nest.

The marker posts which marked the trail had fallen over.

When we finally reached the creek, we saw that the bridge was out, and we couldn't go any further.  It was disappointing but hopefully some day the bridge will be repaired and we will be able to cross the water.

We returned to the car and headed home.  We stopped for gas in Montello, and I noticed two ticks crawling on my husbands shirt.  Fortunately we always carry a roll of duct tape in the car.  I tore off a piece and entombed the ticks in duct tape.  I have no problem ending the life of those little critters.  We got home and took a hot shower just in case there were more and then washed all our clothes.

I notice on the map that there may be an alternative route on the other side of the creek.  Some day we will spray up with repellent and try the secondary trail.  This trail looks like it goes to the larger lake in which we swam.  Yes, 44 years ago I actually wore a swimming suit and wore shorts.  That was probably the last time.  I don't know if the old camp is part of this conservancy or if it is privately owned.  Wouldn't it be something if we would find that old trailer again?