Mystery Solved

Back in June, I wrote a post (here’s the link to it) about how our back yard has been regularly visited by some mystery animal that has been digging fairly large holes in the lawn.

One day last week, I was having trouble sleeping, so I went downstairs to make a sandwich.  It was about 2:00 am, and while making the sandwich I noticed some movement in the backyard. Taking a look out the window, I saw a slinky white and gray animal, which seemed to be about two feet long, very close to the ground, digging in the lawn.  In the darkness, it had an eerie ghostly look to it as it dug in the lawn.  It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but from the color and the distinctive long tail, I’m fairly certain that it was an opossum.   After about five minutes or so, it wandered away, under a bush and then probably under the fence.

Opossums dig in the dirt to look for grubs and any other bugs to eat.  They may hiss and bare their teeth, but they’re harmless overall.  I’ve never seen one in the wild, and I didn’t know that New Hampshire was anywhere near their range so I was surprised to see it.

A few years ago, a photo of a “Found Cat – Not Very Friendly” poster circulated on the internet.  The poster included a photo of an opossum in a cage, which the person who found had thought was a not very friendly cat.

It was too dark to get a photo, especially since I only had my smart phone with me which doesn’t take very good photos with low light anyway.  So if anyone doesn’t know what an Opossum looks like, here’s  a stand in from Mr. C’s hand puppet collection.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

This week’s photo challenge is “Abandoned”, so here are a few photos of abandoned things we’ve found in our travels around New England.

On older farms you’re most likely going to find an old abandoned tractor.  Or maybe it’ll get fixed once the parts arrive at the store.

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If you look around in the forest long enough, you will also most likely find old stone walls.  Evidence of how the land was formerly used as a farm years ago.

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In the forest, you’ll also find empty nests is you look closely.   Looks like Mr. C has found an old woodpecker nest!

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Thank you, David Attenborough

Mr. C has a cold.  I have a cold too.     It’s not really that bad of a cold, but still we’re tired of being sick, tired of being inside, and maybe just tired.   After a few days of this, Mr. C really could use some extra sleep during the day.  I could too.  But there’s no chance of a nap for Mr. C, or for me either,  when there’s Legos to play with.

So what works to get him to get some rest when reading a book doesn’t work ?   The soothing tones of nature documentary host David Attenborough.   It just takes a few minutes of him whispering about the importance of being quiet when trying to get a good look at a rare bird to get Mr. C to fall asleep.   Here he is sneaking up on a Lyrebird.   Shhh….. be very quiet… move slowly… as we walk slowly over to the nest.. and then we fall asleep……..Zzzzzzzzzz……

So thank you, David Attenborough.  Mr. C and I have learned a lot about animals, birds, and plants by watching your programs, and we have gotten some well needed sleep too.

Martha’s Vineyard Ag Fair

For anyone who might think that Martha’s Vineyard is strictly for the jet setting media and political celebrity set, there is the annual Agricultural Fair. One of the oldest in the country, held every year for the past 152 years. Sitting a bit closer to the Gulf Stream, the island has a somewhat nicer climate than mainland Massachusetts, so it has a long farming history, that is still going strong today. The farms on the island do take full advantage of the free spending tourists by charging a premium for their local produce, such as $8.50 a pound for locally grown tomatoes.

Here’s Mr. C near the lamb pens. Not sure if he was allowed to pet the lambs, but there wasn’t much that would stop him. And yes, that’s a plaid hat with a stripped shirt. Dad dressed him that morning.

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I remember going to fairs like this when I was a kid. Most will have a large area for judging a variety of farm animals, an area for judging baked goods, crafts, artwork and photography, and a ‘Midway’ with a few rides and games, as well as a variety of bad for you food. What’s nice about the MV fair is that a lot of the food vendors are local, not just a group of carts brought in with the rides to sell fired dough and hot dogs. The local food vendors are usually easy to spot as they have hand lettered signs, usually including info on how long they have been exhibiting at the fair. They will often give a portion of their profits to a local charity too. So you can get some yummy local food and support a good cause as well. It’s still mostly “bad for you fair food”, but at least it tastes much better than usual. And “Bad for you food” is pretty much what the fair is for anyway. When I was a kid, I was usually more interested in the animals and food than in the rides, and since Mr. C seems to be a clone of me, that’s what he seems to be interested in as well.

Here’s one of the chickens, ready for review by the panel of judges. If you ever wondered which chicken was the “Lord of the Chickens”, here she is. Her name is “Russel”.

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Last year, Mr. C loved this farm pulley demonstration area. It’s an area set up in back of a barn to show kids how various pulley systems work. I took the same exact photo last year. Maybe this will be a family tradition. We’ll have a photo of him lifting this weight every year, with a variety of somewhat embarrassing outfits in each one, until he gets to be a surly teen and refuses to do it. Of course, I can’t seem to find last year’s photo at the moment.

“Feel my muscles!!” he said.

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The tractor pull. I think this was the ‘antique tractor’ pull as each tractor seemed to be older than me. I think the winning tractor pulled a sled with 1,500 pounds in weights on it. Nice to know that the old things still can work. When we arrived home, Mr. C re-enacted the tractor pull using little tractors that he made out of Legos.

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A wood chopping competition. Mr. C re-enacted the wood chopping competition at home using sticks.

 

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A sheep shearing demonstration. Hmm… Mr. C always seems to be able to make his way to the front of any crowd.

 

 

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He did manage to get to a few rides, but mostly, he was excited to see some animals…and eat a lot of bad food.

I’m already thinking about what kind of outfit he’ll wear next year.

 

 

Lost in the Seattle Zoo

Seattle Zoo Security Employee:   “How old is the missing person ?”

Ms. J:  “He’s 47”

Zoo Employee; “Oh…. Ok”

On our recent trip to Seattle we spent an afternoon at the Seattle Zoo.  It’s a much larger zoo than I had expected.  There are large exhibits for elephants, lions, monkeys, birds, a large area devoted to the mammals of the Pacific Northwest, and beautiful zoo architecture throughout. I saw very little of it though.   After about an hour into our visit I got lost.

While we were at the meerkat exhibit, I saw one of those information poles with arrows pointing to a number of other things in the area.  Arrows pointing to where the elephants, lions, birds, food, and rest rooms could be found.  I decided that going to the rest room would be a good idea so I told Ms. J: “I’ll be right back, I’m just going to run over to the rest room.”    At least that’s what I thought I said.  Maybe I was in such a rush that I said it while I was starting to do my run to the rest room, so maybe she didn’t hear me.  What she heard was “I’m going to the restroom”. It will soon become apparent why I  then proceeded to get lost in the zoo for the next two hours.

I had assumed that since everything else on the info pole was nearby, then the rest room must be nearby too.   That turned out to be incorrect.  The restroom the info pole was referring to was all the way at the entrance of the park, about a 1/4 mile away.  Maybe less, I’m not sure, it seemed like a long run to me at the time.  Or it might have just seemed far, because by then, I really did have use the rest room.  So, as I was passing everything else mentioned on the various arrows; elephants, lions, food court, I started to wonder where this bathroom was supposed to be.   After running through what seemed like the whole park, I finally found it, and realized that I was back where we started, at the entrance.

When I exited, I ran back to where we parted, at the meerkat exhibit.  Ms. J and Mr. C were not there.  So I waited, and read all about meerkats, and took a picture of them, and watched them run around their enclosure.  I started to get concerned after about ten minutes.  Took out my cell phone and saw that I had no coverage.  So, I decided to go back to the entrance area.  Maybe they had followed me and thought I was going to meet them there.  I waited around at the vast entrance plaza for a few minutes and started to wonder if they were back at the meerkat exhibit.  So I went back there and wondered why we didn’t have an emergency meet up area planned.   Because we have cell phones, that’s why.

Yes, meerkats, I’m back.  Please stop laughing at me.

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When I was a kid, my parents always told me to stay where I was if I got lost.  That always seemed like sound advice.  So maybe it would be a good idea to stay here at the meerkats since that was the last place we were all together.  So I stayed with my new friends, the meerkats.  Did you know that the meerkats are native to the Kalahari Desert regions of Botswana, Namibia, and SouthAfrica.  They have sentries that help to protect their burrows by making calls if a predator approaches. They are very social, with burrows having long histories of meerkat families living in them.  Yes, all very interesting, and all this and more I learned while reading about them at the Seattle zoo over the next hour and a half.  I started to recognize some of them after awhile.

Maybe they went over to see the lion cubs ?  J mentioned that she wanted to see them.  Hmmm… not there.  Maybe they’re back at the entrance.  Now back to the meerkats.

It continued like this for an embarrassingly long time so I went over to a large map of the zoo and decided to plan my next move.  When I turned  around a zoo security man sitting in an SUV called out to me “Does your name happen to be Peter?”   I’m sure that the zoo security had given my disappearance a low priority considering how concerned he looked.   After confirming, to his surprise, that neither my cell phone had service, and that he could not call Ms. J on her cell phone either, he told me where they were and I ran to meet them.  Yes, even though he was in an SUV, I was not offered a ride.  So for the unknown number of times, back to the entrance area I went.

They met me back at the entrance, where we immediately decided to start having a designated meet up spot when we go on one of these outings.  They had been at the entrance area pretty much the whole time.  Seems as though it’s just such a large area that I missed them and they missed me in my journey back and forth between the meerkats and the entrance.

We also discovered that while my parents favored the ‘Stay Put’ plan when lost, her parents favored the ‘Go back to the entrance’ plan.  A plan that I’m not about to disagree with, but one which I had never heard of.  Luckily it was just me who was lost and not Mr. C.

We then went back into town for a delicious meal, and since I had more than my share of exercise for the day, I fell asleep within minutes of returning to the hotel.

A Unique Birthday Gift

A few days ago Ms. J was explaining to Mr. C what decoupage was.  How to cut out pictures from an old magazine, spread some decoupage goo over the back, and then stick them onto something, such as a box, and then seal it up with an added layer of the decoupage goo.   She showed him a small  box she had made years ago.  It’s covered with things she had picked up during a trip to Greece, such as ticket stubs and sections of maps.  He seemed only mildly interested, but as soon as she was done with the story  he quickly went on to playing Legos.

I’ve been trying to get him excited about the upcoming birthday of Ms. J lately.  Taking him along to look for gifts, telling him how many days away it is, what the birthday plans are.   He’s been getting more and more excited about it, and today he said he wanted to decoupage something to give to her.  I was surprised that he remembered it, considering how interested he seemed.  ( I suppose anyone else would not have known that he was saying “decoupage”,  but I’m trained in translating ‘3 Year Old’, so I could figure it out.)   He was probably playing it cool the whole time, trying not to let Mommy know that he thought it would be a great idea to make something like that for her birthday.

First, we flipped through the pages of an old ‘National Geographic’ magazine.  “Old” is relative regarding National Geographics here,  since I have some boxes of issues dating back to the 1960’s.  This one was from 2010, an issue devoted to animals.  Penguins, lions, zebras, elephants, bugs, birds, plants.  Hard to decide, but he picked one out.

He cut out the photo, and picked out the thing that he wanted to decoupage it to.

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Glue was applied with a large brush.  Most of it ended up on the back of the cut out photo, some ended up in my hair and on my pants, and on his nose too.  Some might have ended up on the back of one of the cats too.    It was then allowed to dry and a sealing layer was applied to the top.

And this is what we ended up with.    Yes, this is  a “Crasher Squirrel” light switch plate.  I was surprised to find that this squirrel has his own Wikipedia page.

I trimmed the edges and cut out the slot for the light switch.    So once we get it wrapped up, we will have a Crasher Squirrel light switch plate ready for the big Birthday party.

“Mommy will love this!”  he said

Maybe I should start an account for him on Etsy.com

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An Appreciation

One unexpected thing I’ve found with blogging is how much you can learn about places around the world that you may not have thought too much about.  Being an East Coast person, I have often been guilty of ignoring the vast majority of the country beyond the coast.    S0 when I came across  The (Urban-Wildlife) Interface blog,  based in Ferndale, Arkansas.

The focus of the blog is the animal and plant life of the area.   I have to admit that I was surprised by the variety of wildlife in the area, as well as the quality of the photography presented by the blogger.   I’ve been following the blog for about a year now, occasionally leaving a comment, most of which I’m sure are along the lines of “Wow, how did you get that photo?”

Last week this blogger passed on the WordPress Family award to me, (to me at the old blog),  which considering the quality of the comments I’ve left kind of surprised me.  Part of the award is to pass the nomination on to 11 other bloggers.  Since I’ve done a few of these awards recently, I’m sorry to say that I’m out of people to nominate.  Guess I should follow more blogs!

But what I will do is to say that I’ve learned a lot about the Southeast from reading this blog, especially about the scope and variety of plant and animal life there.  I’ve also been inspired to try my hand at photographing wildlife as well.  So if you have an interest in photography or even the slightest interest in Natural History, check out this blog!

As an example, here’s a hawk that my son and I saw recently.   Not at all up to the standard of Ferndale, Arkansas,  but I did my best with what I had at the time,  an Iphone.

We were on our way into our local library, when Mr. C heard the sound of the hawk whooshing into the trees above us.  As the local squirrels went completely insane, I carefully considered the options available to me on the Iphone, (basically none), and took the photo.  OK, this is one of about 20 photos I took, 19 were either of a big blur, or were of the tangle of vines and branches, leaving me with one OK shot.  Oh, well, I’ll keep trying.

At least Mr. C had a good story to tell at pre-school the next day.  And a photo emailed to his teacher too to help tell the story.

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