Sunday, May 29, 2011

Painted Turtle

Although I am not 100 percent positive, I believe this is an Eastern Painted Turtle.  I saw it headed across a field probably between a small water stream nearby and a larger body of water in the direction it was headed.  While walking near it, I noted that any time I wanted to get a photo from a different angle it was nearly impossible to do that.  As I attempted to walk around it, the turtle kept changing direction always keeping me behind it.  After walking it around in circles two or three times, I walked away from it, and it headed away in the same direction I originally saw it going.  I obviously did not measure it, but I would estimate its shell at about ten inches long and seven inches wide.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sightings Today

This is Mama Deer.
This is her yearling Fawn.

This is the two of them together.

This is Funny Bunny.

This is Millard and Dillard Mallard.
Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cemetery Visit

My sisters, Rosalee and Lori, drove from the Syracuse area to the hinterlands of St. Lawrence County to decorate some family graves on Wednesday, May 25th.  I thought people who are unable to get here might be interested in what they looked like.
The first photo is our mother’s mother’s stone.
The next photo is of our parents’ grave markers.

Third is our oldest brother Lloyd (Bert) and his wife Regina (Gina).
Fourth is our brother Lawrence’s wife Patricia (Pat).
Fifth is our sister Mary who died in 1953 at age 22.
Sixth is our brother Robert (Bob).
Seventh is our brother Ronald (Ron).
Eighth is our brother Delbert (Dell) who died while in the service of our country.
Ninth is our sister Dixie, died at age 2.
Tenth is our brother Alford (Fred).
Eleventh is Ron’s son Victor.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Lilac Day

While riding my ATV through a field I spotted a pair of deer.  I snapped a quick photo, and it is easy to tell they had also spotted me.  The one on the left is stomping a front foot, a sure sign of nervousness.
In the next photo it can be seen they decided to move along.  The tail flag is not up though, so they are not really scared, just prudent.
When I returned to my home my granddaughter, Meg, was mowing my lawn.  It surely looks much better now.  Across the road my nephew Bernard and family have their washing hung out to dry.  Yes, there are yet families that love that fresh sunshine smell and feel to their washing.
I thought you might like to smell the lilacs.  I love the odor.  When I was a youth a lot of families planted lilacs next to the outhouse.
Here’s some more of them with the last of the apple blossoms in the rear tree.  This is Doc’s shade tree.
The brat stuck her tongue out at me.


In the previous article I mentioned the hard physical labor involved in parts of the process of haying on a dairy farm in the 1940s.  It surely was difficult manual labor, and, as would be expected, it caused one to sweat profusely.  Although sweating undoubtedly cooled the body, it also caused one to lose necessary body fluid.
This is when switchem came to save the day.  Sometime during a hard afternoon my mother would make some and deliver it to the men and boys laboring in the hot afternoon sun.  I can remember what a great relief it was to drink all that we wanted of our home-made soda.
Our family always called it switchem, but in later years I have learned it was known elsewhere as switchel (in various spellings), apparently an old German recipe, in various forms.  It seems that the ginger within it warmed the stomach, allowing the drinker to absorb larger quantities than if drinking cold water.
We boys drank it because we were thirsty, and it tasted good.
My mother’s recipe went like this:
¼ cup vinegar
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp ginger
2 qts water
Stir it up and you got it.  However there are variations to this recipe that can be located by cruising the web.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Snapping Turtle

As we were brought up on a dairy farm our family all knew what a good day’s work was.  Seven days a week we boys were awakened at six in the morning to begin milking the dairy.  In summer, after milking, the cattle were turned out to pasture and remained there until evening milking at six.
On July fourth, if the weather permitted, my father always began haying.  The first day the mower was used to trim grass around the buildings to make sure it was in good working order for the summer.  The next day we began haying in earnest.  Several acres of hay would be mowed and left to cure and dry for a day or two.  Then it had to be raked into windrows ready for the baler, that is in the time period I’m writing about.  At the time our Allis Chalmers baler baled round bales that weighed nearly 100 pounds each.  These were dropped on the ground and loaded on wagons with manual labor.  Once a wagon was full it was towed to the barn, the bales were sent into a hay mow by elevator, and then each had to be carefully placed in the mow.  On a hot summer day, that loading could be difficult at best, and as the day wore on it got harder, and if anyone thought that was tiring they just hadn’t spent an afternoon in that pressure cooker of a hay mow.  Mowing 100 pound bales under a hot steel roof, for several hours with only short breaks, will surely separate the men from the boys.
Once the haying was done for the day we broke for supper, and then it was time for the evening milking.  Somewhere around 7-7:30 pm we finished for the day.  Then, nearly every evening, we headed for the gravel pit.  Full of ground water, it was like a small lake to us, and nothing is more refreshing than swimming in a gravel pit to a country boy.  On one occasion, when I was about eleven or twelve, my brothers Ron and Dell, as well as myself were indulging in this pastime when we discovered a snapping turtle of a goodly size.  It was around fourteen inches long and maybe ten wide, and had the disposition of a pit bulldog.  As we had driven a farm tractor the mile and a half to the gravel pit, we decided to wrap a chain around the turtle and have it walk home.  The turtle, of course, could not begin to keep up with that tractor so we merely dragged it home through the grass along the side of the road.
Once we got it home we built a leather harness for it and tied it to a stake in the yard with a chain.  For a couple of days all went well until my father discovered this monster in our midst.  He told us this thing was not a pet and that we should get rid of it.  We got the turtle to chomp onto an old broom handle and we chopped its head off with an axe.  We then dug a hole a couple of feet deep and buried both parts of the said turtle.  Turtles, and snakes, have muscles that continue to flex long after their host is dead, and so it was that the next morning that turtle was back on the surface, apparently having continued to move through the night.
For a long time I had nightmares over that turtle coming back to life after having been decapitated.

Garter Snake

While at the local beaver pond Thursday I spotted this bit of drama.  A garter snake had found a dead frog which was in a rather dried decomposed state, but yet seemed appropriate food, so it proceeded to ingest its good fortune.  With the frog in its mouth about half way, the snake could neither crawl away or finish its dinner any faster than nature would allow.

This, of course, left the snake vulnerable to any attacker.  However, it still had spunk enough left to face this large intruder and make a show of resistance even though the frog in reality prevented it from any form of attack.  After about ten minutes it worked the frog slowly through its throat, into its stomach, and crawled away to digest its dinner.
A few minutes later I wandered into this serene setting where mama and her yearling twins were making their way calmly along a ditch bank.
Knowing where they would next show I went that way, and sure enough they came over the bank fairly closely in front of me.  They stopped long enough for a quick photo.  We looked each other over for a few seconds before they wandered on their way unperturbed.

Indian River

Friday I was near Philadelphia, New York paying my respects at my grandfather’s grave.  As I crossed over the Indian River on the Sandy Hollow Road I couldn’t help but stop to take a shot of this very photogenic falls on the river.  The water endlessly tumbles down over the rocks before spilling southward into the pond.
From the other side of the road bridge this is the view as the river continues southerly.  A few miles away it turns and heads back northeastward, but there is no prettier spot on the river than this, at least not that I know of.
Later Friday evening, right at sunset, I snapped this photo at my local beaver pond.  I thought it very pretty and serene, but there is a bonus beaver nearly in the center of the photo if you look for it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Iva Standish Calkins

Iva was the daughter of Winnifred Lawton daughter of Lyman Lawton, descendent of Thomas, the original Lawton immigrant in Rhode Island in 1638/9.  Not only was she something like a tenth cousin to me, she was also a dear friend developed through genealogy studies via United States Postal Service.  Iva was a schoolteacher throughout most of her adult life.  At times she penned stories of her childhood as well as her teaching years.
Wash day was a hard day for mother.  Water had to be carried to the house, put in a boiler on the stove and heated.  The white clothes were boiled.  The wash tubs were placed on a fold-out frame that held two tubs with a wringer between.  Mother scrubbed one article at a time in the sudsy water, put it through the wringer and into the rinse water that had some bluing in it.  From the rinse the clothes went to the clothes line---winter or summer.  They finished drying in the house.
After six years on the Jenks farm another move was necessary.  This time we moved to a forty acre farm which years before had belonged to my grandparents Lyman and Sarah Lawton.  They raised apples and peaches.  The apple trees were still there.  I believe I was told that they carried water from a spring at the foot of a big hill near Cedar Creek.  We had a well near the house and pumped the water by hand for household use.  The horses were watered at the neighbor’s water tank.  The cows went down a winding path to the creek for clear spring water.  That ended in a loss as one day my pet cow Buttercup fell down the hill and broke so many bones she had to be butchered.  My dad got about twenty dollars out of her from the butcher shop.  This was another sad day for me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Things Not Often Seen

Things sometime happen quickly, and that is the case here.  My wife told me there was an Amish coming down the road with an unusual load.  I looked once, looked again, and then grabbed my camera.  This is the first Amish house trailer I’ve ever seen.  The really unusual part is that huge hummingbird feeder.  That’s what happens when you shoot quickly through the window.  This fellow builds these buildings to be used as lawn storage sheds, and this is apparently a delivery to someone.
I expect that nearly everyone has heard of a waterhole.  However I think maybe not too many have seen one like this.  It is somewhat hard to determine exactly what that spot in the water really is, but let me assure you it is a water hole.  The beaver have the sluice pipe under the roadway nearly completely blocked off, but not entirely.  Therefore water is yet discharging through it, but at a slower volume than would be normal.  Due to heavy rains the past few days the pond water level has risen faster than it can discharge.  Now the pipe is underwater, but yet flowing.  So, like a sink draining, the water is going down into the pipe which is visible underwater, creating a hole in the water.
Because the water level has risen in the pond there is a spillover into the farmer’s meadow causing this small pond to form.  I doubt the farmer is going to like this so I fear for the beaver’s abode if it remains long enough for him to see it.  I hope for the best, but fear for the worst.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Creature Existence

As I entered my farmer neighbor’s field this evening I soon spotted a pair of deer.  I took a long range photo of them that it is difficult to even see them so there is no reason to add it here.  Within seconds of that, I then spotted a small black animal crossing the field.  As I approached it I saw that it was a porcupine.  Although it was not really willing to pose for a portrait I managed to get a few hurried shots of it.  Then on to the pond.
The beaver at the pond, for whatever reason, have shifted their plans.  It appears they are going to abandon their dam.  The water level on the south side of the farm road has dropped possibly 5 inches.  The dam seems intact, but the fact remains that the water level is lowering, thus the dam is leaking, and not being repaired.  At the same time the sluice pipe under the road is being blocked separating the two sides of the road.  This photo is of Bucky, with twig in mouth, swimming to the plugged sluice pipe to add a little more building material to his dam job.
While waiting to see what Bucky Beaver had in mind next I saw a muskrat, probably searching for dinner for the brood of four kits I know they have.  He swam off into the murky waters, to return no more while I was there.
I left the pond, proceeding toward my home, but traveling in the general direction where I had seen the pair of deer earlier.  Soon I had them in sight again, but this time they were a bit more willing to have their photo taken.  Although very fidgety and nervous, they remained in sight for two or three minutes as I kept slowly nearing them, all the time snapping photos.  These I know to be a pair of yearling sibling fawns from last year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wildlife Today

In mid-afternoon I rode through meadow and farm just to be outside and doing something.  I proceeded to the Beaver Pond and shut off the engine.  Perfect.  I could see no buildings, roads, or any close proximity to other people.  Sitting on the ATV quietly taking in all that was within my hearing and vision I became aware of bullfrogs croaking their song of lust for female companionship.  First one, and then another would burst forth with their booming voice of need for propagation of their species.
While listening to this cacophony I also became aware of a most raucous bunch of cawing from a murder of crows a few hundred yards away.  A murder is the correct name for a group of crows, but in this instance that’s what they sounded like, one of them was getting slain and the rest didn’t like it.  As I looked in that direction I could see them flying around in profusion, all the time getting more and more noisy.  As I continued to take note I could see other crows flying in from different directions.  It seemed like some sort of a party and all were invited to attend.  As suddenly as it had started, soon individuals were flying away again, and it grew quieter again until silence reigned.
I left the pond area and slowly drove back toward home.  I was moving the ATV at just about walking speed.  I neared a farm ditch bulldozed two or three years ago.  As I turned a bend I spotted a pair of ducks in the ditch water.  I tried, but as usual, I wasn’t really close enough to them to get nice photos.  It appears to me to be a pair of mallards.  Hopefully they will nest at that location for future photo ops.
Still further along, and back on my own property, I ran across Peter Cottontail.  He sat long enough for three photos before he decided it was better to be somewhere else.  I know him to have a mate there, but I didn’t see it on this occasion.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wood Duck

I drove to the pond and shut off the engine.  For a few moments quiet surrounded me.  Then not too far away I heard the wha weeeee of a red wing blackbird.  I’ve known most of my life that they like to nest near water, and apparently there was to be a resident pair, at least, here this summer.
A few moments later, in the clear evening air, I could hear the faint, lonely whistle of a train slowly proceeding northeastward progressing from Brockville toward Prescott, Ontario, Canada.  Although I am located in the United States it is only about five or six miles from my home to Prescott, as the crow flies that is.
In the meantime a bullfrog had began its dull, deep harumph, over and over, as it advertised for a mate.  I’m reasonably sure, in bullfrog jargon, it was telling the world how great it was.
Serenity, solitude, quietness of human activity, was the name of the game.  Then from the corner of my eye I caught some movement over to my left.  I peered in that direction to spot a figure gliding across the water’s surface.  Was it Bucky Beaver, or was it an adult muskrat?  At first it was hard to tell, but as it came nearer it was neither.  It was a duck swimming quietly in my direction trying to determine if I were friend or foe.  I began to snap photos of my new-found friend in hopes I would later be able to identify the species.  I know little about waterfowl.
With a point and shoot camera, it is difficult to obtain clear shots, at least for me it is.  I managed to get good enough shots to determine that this is a male wood duck, at least I think it is.  With darkness approaching, I restarted my ATV and drove ever so slowly back to my home, hoping for something further to pop up in the way of wildlife, but no such luck this day.  Still, this was a good evening ride.  A little quiet can go a long way to recharge my old batteries sometimes.

Eastern Diamondback

My wife and I bought a new 10’ X 50” house trailer during the early months of 1962.  It was huge when compared to the 1953 8’ X 35’ Champion house trailer we had been living in.  We set the new trailer up on a large front corner lot in Cox’s Trailer Court at 9842 103rd St on the western outskirts of Jacksonville, Florida.  103rd St continued on west and ended near the gate to Cecil Field Naval Air Station where I was attached to VF-174 a Navy Fighter/Training Squadron.  At the time NAS Cecil was the largest Navy jet aircraft base on the east coast of the United states.  Today it has been abandoned by the Navy and the State of Florida owns it, I believe.
Anyway, at the time we lived at that address there was a small home next door, to the west.  It was right next door to our trailer.  The couple who lived there, and I do not recall their names, had two young boys, maybe six or eight years old.  Each day they came home on a school bus.  The parents both worked away from home.  The father didn’t arrive for quite some time each day, but the mother would get home about 15 minutes later than the boys.  The boys were locked out of their home for that short period each weekday afternoon.  Although we had no official status, we had an agreement with the parents to keep and eye on the kids for that brief period each day.
One bright sunny afternoon the kids got off the school bus, as they did every day.  They picked up a football and began to toss it around between them.  My wife and I were within our home only a short distance from them.  Soon I heard one of them say something about a snake.  I ran to where the two boys were looking at it from a short distance away, and recognized it as an Eastern Diamondback.  I instructed the boys to watch where it went if it moved, but not to go near it.  It was coiled in an attack mode, and making no effort to move away.  I rushed to my home, grabbed a .22 rifle and some bullets, and returned to the snake’s location.  I shot the snake.  I had often heard that they traveled in pairs, so I looked around and sure enough a few feet away was another which I also quickly dispatched.
When stretched out they were each about four feet long, not huge, but big enough.  It was just luck that the boy had spotted the snake as he played, and not gotten too close to it, or possibly even stepped on it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Sunday, May 1st, I was looking out my window for no particular reason.  It was merely what I was doing, when I couldn’t help but notice this bright colored fellow eating from the tray on the front porch.  With his coloration he sort of stands out against a mostly green background.

A little later this more drab appearing lady appeared.  She is the female half of the pair of newly-weds.  Soon they will be sharing a little nest in their own private tree.
Today, Monday the 2nd, I traveled to the nearby beaver pond.  Shortly after my arrival I heard a mewing sound, much like a kitten.  Looking in the direction of the sound I spied a very young muskrat swimming about, apparently searching for its parents.
It stopped for a few moments to chow down on some succulent grass, and allowed me to shoot a photo or two.
Then, like the Cheshire Cat, it was gone, but left only ripples to let you know it had been there.
Waiting a few more minutes as the rain came softly falling was productive in that a short time later Bucky Beaver showed up.  It was apparently a work day for him as he had a twig in his mouth as he swam toward the sluice beneath the roadway.  After he entered I could hear the ends of the stick hitting the ribs of the pipe.  Moments later he was swimming away again never having left the pipe on the other end.  I wonder if he is building a dam within the pipe to raise the water level on one side of the road to a higher level than the other.  I guess that would be a split level home.
On my return trip to my home I spotted these dandelions.  They are the first I’ve seen this year.