Friday, April 11, 2014

More Sandhill Cranes

I hope anyone who reads my blogs will forgive me for writing another post on the Sandhill Crane.  We are very fortunate to live in an area that has a lot of Sandhill Cranes.  I feel fortunate, but others don't like them at all.  They are very loud with a trumpeting sound that starts early in the morning and can go late into the night.  They hang out in marshes and wetlands, but they also hang out in farmers cornfields.  They eat all the corn that was left behind during the previous years picking.   In the Spring before planting season that is fine, but sometimes they eat the corn after it has been planted.  The farmers have measures to scare them off, but it doesn't always work.  When they gather in huge groups they can do major damage.  Despite all the complaints, I think they are beautiful and elegant.  Of course, I don't make a living growing crops.  I may feel different then.

Sandhill Cranes are usually a grayish color but they rub sand on their feathers for more camouflage.  

Today were traveling down a country road near our home.  In fact, it goes right past the area where the team of Operation Migration sets up their camp.  For those who aren't familiar with Operation Migration, I wrote about it a few times.  It is the group who trains and helps young Whooping Cranes migrate with the help of ultralight aircraft.

The eight young Whooping Cranes who were raised here in 2013 and wintered in Florida are on their way back.  Hopefully they will return to the same area they were raised in.  I also hope that I can see them at some point, if only from a distance.  People are encouraged not to approach these beautiful birds at any time.  In the meantime, I am posting some photos of the Sandhill Cranes I took today.  I have blogged about the Sandhill Cranes many times, but I get a thrill every time I see them.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Life Is Not Always Smooth Sailing

The full moon isn't until next week, but you wouldn't know it around here.  We live in this old log cabin with a wonderful setting, but everything doesn't always run smoothly.  We have a septic system which requires having a sump pump in our lower level.  Any water used downstairs goes into a storage tank, and it is pumped up and out to the septic tank.  Last weekend we heard a terrible noise.   We thought it was our dishwasher, but then followed the noise downstairs.  It was the sump pump.  We called our plumber, but he was on vacation.  He suggested that we could call someone else, but we have not had good luck with a few workers we have hired in the past.  We decided to wait for the plumber to return.  As a result, we can't use any water downstairs.  That means I can't do laundry for the week, and we only have one bathroom for the three of us.  Hopefully, when he returns, it will be an easy repair.

Then Tuesday night, I got a call from my daughter.  Our youngest grandson had a 103 degree fever and a cough.  She wondered if I could stay with him Wednesday.  That wasn't a problem.  I arrived at 8:00 am.  Ewan was feeling a little better, but the dog had diarrhea.  Oh goody, goody.  I was worried, but the day went well.  The only incident happened when I was trying to get Ewan to take a nap.  Piper had an accident in the living room which gave me the opportunity to get a stool sample for the vet.  See, everything happens for a reason.  I collected the sample, and put it outside on the back porch.

Spiderman Ewan with dress shoes on.

While upstairs, Ewan didn't want to sleep.  He just turned four and he insists that he never ever gets tired and doesn't need to nap.  As I was laying down with him, he got up to go to the bathroom.  I waited for him and after a while I heard the toilet flush and the water in the sink run.  When he came back, he went directly into his closet.  He pulled out his black dress shoes.  He put them on (on the wrong foot), and I asked him if he was going to tie them.  He said "I just learned how to wipe my own butt, but I haven't learned to tie my shoes yet."

Being with a four year old is so much fun.  They say the cutest things.  Earlier Ewan was telling me all about Gorilla's.  He said that the Daddy Gorilla had metal on his back.  He meant that he was a silverback gorilla.  To him silver equals metal.  I hate to see all these little ones grow up.

As far as the puppy, she has a bacterial infection.  After my daughter got home, she took the sample I collected out to the vet.  That wasn't as easy as it sounded either.  Apparently the baggie of doo doo blew off the back porch, and my daughter couldn't find it.  Then she spotted it in the driveway.  It had blown off the porch, and she had run over it with the car.  So she had to put the broken bag in another bag.   Yucky as it was, she managed to get it tested.

Today everything was back to normal.  I woke up with a headache because I hadn't had enough coffee yesterday, but as soon as I had my first cup, the headache went away.  Ok, I'm addicted and I know it.  Hopefully when the full moon actually does appear, we won't have any more minor problems to deal with. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tapioca Pudding

A couple days ago I asked my Dad if there was anything he was hungry for.  He said he didn't get hungry at his age.  Of course he doesn't.  He grazes all day long.  It is amazing that he doesn't weigh a lot more than he does.  He told me that I hadn't made rice pudding or tapioca pudding for a long time.  I used to make him rice pudding every week.  I told him that he got sick of eating the rice pudding, but in reality it was me who got sick of making it.  Even though the pressure cooker recipe couldn't be easier. I blogged that recipe  Rice Pudding.

If you are interested, I made another pressure cooker version recently and it was even easier.

You just melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the pressure cooker and add 3 cups of milk.  Set it to Brown and let the milk come to a boil.  Then stir in 1 cup of long grain uncooked rice.  Cover and set the pressure cooker on low for 15 minutes.  Let the pressure release naturally.  It usually takes about 15 minutes.  Remove the cover and stir in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla.  You can add raisins if you choose.  No more cooking, just stir and serve.

 I don't think I ever made tapioca pudding for Dad.  My husband can't stand the thought of it.  He told me when we first got married that tapioca pudding was the pudding with those little fish eyes in it.  As a result of that statement, I never tried to make it.  I remembered that I had a bag of small pearl tapioca that I purchased at a local discount grocery store.  It was $1.00 and I was going to grind it up to use in a gluten free recipe.  I took the bag from the cupboard and the directions said to soak it overnight.  The rest of the recipe required a lot of monkeying around.  It had to be cooked and then egg whites had to be whipped and folded in.  I looked around and found a much easier method.  It actually turned out wonderful for my first attempt.

Tapioca Pudding

3 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (soaked overnight in a cup of water) or 1/2 cup quick cooking tapioca
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Drain the water off the tapioca that has been soaked and stir together with the milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat to low and stir for five more minutes.

Gradually add a cup or so of the hot mixture to the two beaten eggs.  To do this, you have to slowly stir in a couple tablespoons of the hot mixture at a time.  This warms up the eggs gradually without cooking them.  When it is incorporated, then stir back into the rest of the tapioca and mix well.  Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook for two more minutes.  The mixture will become thick.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.

Pour it into individual dishes or a bowl and put it into the refrigerator.  I put plastic wrap on top to keep a skin from forming.  When I served it, it was a little thick from the refrigerator so I warmed it for 30 seconds in the microwave.  It would be a perfect consistency if served at room temperature.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cleaning Up The Trumpet Vines

Last summer I wrote about how our Trumpet Vine had taken over the yard.  It is a beautiful plant if it is confined, but it can be very invasive if let to grow uncontrolled.  The Invasive Trumpet Vine

As part of our Spring cleanup, we dug out many many trumpet vine plants from our perennial flower garden.  It was easier to do it now rather than during the active growing season.  After we burned off the garden, it was easy to see the trumpet plants.  The burned off area charred the plants, but the fire wasn't hot enough to eliminate the plants.

The plants had gotten quite large.

You can see how these plants can take over.  These are the roots.  They are very large and strong.

Now that we have eliminated all the trumpet shoots, we will be able to control their growth this summer.  Hopefully that will give the other plants more room to grow.

Beautiful Trumpet Vine
*Update:  It's been two years since we did this cleanup.  Digging out the roots does not work.  The Trumpet plants continued to grow and have almost taken over.  They are beautiful plants and the hummingbirds love the flowers, but I suggest planting them alone in an open area.  This way the new shoots can be mowed off and kept under control. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Great Day To Clean Up The Sunflower Seed Hulls

The Pussy willows at my daughter's house.

Today was the warmest day since I don't remember when.  I imagine it was some time last November.  Being a person who likes cooler weather, it wouldn't have to get much warmer for me to be content.  Because it was so nice and here in Wisconsin you never know what the next day will bring, we decided to continue with some more yard cleanup projects.  For anyone who reads this blog, you know we feed the birds an unbelievable amount of seed.  We feed all year long, but over the winter months the shells from the sunflower seeds accumulate.

The ground under the bird feeders are solid shells from the eaten sunflower seeds.

Today they were all thawed out and dry, so it was time to remove them.  Usually my husband just takes a rake and a shovel to get the job done.  This year he had a bright idea.  Why not take the shop vacuum and vacuum them up.  So he did.

He started out raking.

Then out came the shop vac.

Now lets make it even easier, why not sit down and vacuum.

Was it working?

Dad the supervisor had to come over to check if there was a problem.

A wheelbarrow full of hulls.

The vacuum had to be emptied quite often and was taking quite a while.  Finally my husband got up off his chair, put away the vacuum and finished the job the normal way.  He used a snow shovel and a rake. When the snow is gone, the snow shovel is still useful to use as a dust pan.  It works great.

A snow shovel and a rake makes the job go fast.

Now the only thing left is to dump the pile of sunflower hulls in the woods.  There is still some good eating in there for the birds and the squirrels.  Nothing goes to waste.  Then it will slowly compost into some nice soil.

Big pile of sunflower hulls sitting in the woods.

April 6, 2014, it is 63 degrees at 2:00pm.