Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Day......

I wish all of you a great Easter Sunday.  Thanks for stopping by my post today.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

What's with the seagulls?

We visited Lake Saylorville on Saturday.  The Des Moines River that feeds into the lake is about six miles east from where we live, but to go see the lake we have to travel about fifteen miles south of here.

The normal seagulls that frequent the lake area and also farm fields were all working the overflow river below the dam. The low amount of water coming through the overflow spout was creating a  great foam on the surface of the water.

All around the lake the edges of the water have thawed but out in the middle there is still ice. When I looked out on the ice I saw this white flock of birds. The grouping of the seagulls on the ice seems strange to see unless they are actually migrating seagulls.  In a couple of more days that ice won't be there and their rest will be over and done.

Two other areas below the dam also had flocks of the gulls standing around or floating together.  I have seen this in Minnesota before but they would be grouped on small islands where they were raising chicks.  Rookeries I believe is what they call the hatching areas.  These groups were not doing anything special except hanging out together.  I may be wrong about the migration idea but it does seem strange to see them all together in a flock like this unless they were in a migratory cycle.  I might add that I was disappointed that the birds weren't white pelicans.  The pelican does migrate through this lake area and I usually don't have the camera with me when we see them.

The neighbor had us over to the dam looking for bald eagles.  Some of her relatives had seen a large number of them hanging around in the trees along the lake and on the shore just a few days ago.  We did see some and I will share the photos on the next blog as well as on my photo a day blog. Bring your magnifying glass with you when I post the photos that I took.

We don't see the American Bald Eagle in our area very often but we had seen  one along the roadside a few miles west of us just recently.  We have seen large groups of them along the Des Moines River while driving through the east Des Moines area.

The photo above is a view of the dam for Saylorville Lake.  As you can see it could use a lot more water in it that what you see here.  Two years ago it was filled to the top of these rocks when the rains were in excess.

More photos to come from our one day outing at the lake.  Thanks for stopping by today.  Have a great Saturday.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Plant Swapping......

I originally planted these sanseveria plants in the low bonsai type planter.  They were small and it looked good with the rock arrangement that I had. The have become too big and I wanted them out of there.  A friend at school asked if I wanted some small cactus and I agreed to take them if she would take this overgrown mess.  She was glad to get them.  I may try to plant the cactus into the low planter along with my rocks.  I had a very difficult time getting the plants out of there as the roots had grown into the drainage screen.  It made a big mess while trying to dislodge the roots.

I showed this photo to you earlier but I wanted to add to the story.  The woman was so pleased to have the framed items of her father and mother delivered to her door. She really liked the larger third one with the pictures of her and her three sisters.  My wife had drawn them from young pictures of them and Bonnie was so touched to see the finished drawing in the frame.  I asked her if her sisters were still living and she replied that they were not.  Bonnie was the youngest in the family and she was the only one left.  She will certainly enjoy seeing these drawings on her wall.

I have made changes on the frame today, so I am not done with this project.  I have taken a lot of photos of the processes and the final job with the progress shots will be coming soon.  We are headed to look for Bald Eagles this afternoon per request of our neighbor lady.  I do hope we see something as she has talked about others spotting them over by the river and she wants to take pictures. It is 63 degrees today which is going to make it a good day to be out and looking for flying objects.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday's Things.........

I was concerned that I had lost this plant.  It was a gift and I really had not seen it in bloom for a long time.  It is the ruffled edged red flower that is really a great color.

The second red flowering violet has smooth edged petals.  The leaf structure is similar but the color of the leaves are different.  I was also happy to see this blooming as both plants barely survived my die off of a majority of my collection.  I now hover over them and test their soil to see the moisture content at pretty regular routines of Mondays and Fridays.  If the soil  is cool it is still damp and doesn't need to be watered.

The town water has seemed to correct itself as the turnover from an old water plant to the new one must have required heavy chemicals to assure safe but awful tasting water.  I will fetch my water from the rain barrel now that it has warmed up enough to keep it from being a solid ice cube in the barrel.

I am home again today so I have to get work done on this one frame job.  I am collecting photos of the steps that it is taking to get there,  Once you see the finished job you will understand that my time and talent were being strained.  The maple frame is needing a finish of clear coat on it and I may get to it today.  The difficulties of the mat creation are being solved one step at a time.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the middle of the week.......

It looks like  I can rake my leaves pretty soon.  The tulips are coming up even thought our temps were in the freezing again last night.

These daffodil sprouts were pretty stiff this morning with ice coating them.  It is on the west side of the house and the sun hasn't warmed them up for the day.

This rose bush looks great.  It survived the drought last summer and it hasn't look this good since I transplanted here a few years back.  It is very much alive and maybe I can get some decent blooms from it.

This kids from Chicago gave us this wreath and it is still green.  I looked at it and it must have been dipped into a product to coat the piece so they won't dry out.  I have heard of the product that they use to protect live evergreens in the winter but this is really well preserved. I just took it down today with some Christmas lights that hung around it.  I hope the Christmas season is over and I wasn't too early taking it down.

Not working today so I am getting odd jobs caught up.  I have a frame that is finished and now have to face the creating of the mat.  When I show you what I am doing to make it you will understand why I am dreading it.  I know I can do it but I sure am not anxious to start creating it.

Thanks for stopping by my place today.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Photo overload.........not!

He has been around now for a month and a few days and already the files are becoming full of the photos of the first grandson.  With cell phones taking shots the new photos arrive every few days in the email.  It is so great!

I did create a separate folder for AJ as it will just keep things simple rather than bury his shots among the dogs and the cats and the trees and the antiques and everything else.  I have a feeling we won't see him as often as we would like but we will have the shots of the growth changes on a pretty regular basis.

The tomato see that was two years old seem to shoot right up out of the soil.  I have too many plants and will thin them as time goes on.  I don't want many plants so I will share them with who ever is willing to take them.

I hurried to finish the planting and as you can see I have too many that are also too close together.  I will probably just pinch away the excess and keep them stronger that way.  We have warmer weather coming now and maybe even some rain.  Farmers are wanting to get into the fields soon but that isn't going to happen until it warms up and it dries out the soil.

Thanks for stopping in today.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Armoire Cabinet........

My son and his wife live in an older neighbor hood of houses, 70's, era.  Because of that my daughter in law was able to pick up wonderful pieces of furniture for their home on Craig's List.  People are selling out to go south, going to nursing homes or divorces, whatever, are causing people to put up good furniture on the List. Many of them just want an easy way to empty their house. Having people pick it out on the net and then someone comes and takes it away for them makes life simpler.

The cabinet above was claimed to be a British piece and I have yet to research it, but it is a wonderful piece of furniture.  It looks like burl walnut on the panels and the other wood remains a mystery to me.  I really didn't have a chance to investigate the inside wood or even the undersides of the drawers, like they do on Antique Roadshow, but it does appear to be an older piece. My daughter in law bought also a complete '30s dining room set with chairs as well as their living room couch and chair, all on Craig's List.  I guess it does matter where you are located to have a good stock to choose from on the net.

I am a high school English instructor today.  It is the upperclassmen classes so it will be a good day.  There were a lot of people gone in the school today and they could have used another four people for subs.  I don't know if the weather curtailed their getting home from their weekend trips or if they are all sick.  I am subbing for a teacher who is taking 15 students to State Speech today.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

In Progress.........

I will show you some clues of a frame job that I am doing for a customer.  It does involve this maple frame and will include the basketball material that is on the cover of the Spalding folder. As I progress through this one I will share the results.  I would like to be done with it by next weekend.  I do go back to work tomorrow in a high school English classroom.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dog Show........

Nap time for Barney on a cold spring day.

Where is my mom?  Why did she go upstairs and leave down here all alone?

One more shot for all of my fans.  

Thanks for stopping by today.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Heading north........

The Canadian gesse have been moving around the past three weeks.  Some will actually head north while others were just moving in flocks to find feed in the corn fields.

We have a lot of birds that migrate through here in spring and the past two days we have had grackles and red winged blackbirds gathering in our trees.  The red wings really make a neat sound as they make their distinctive calls in large numbers. It really is noisy to have them all chattering at the same time.  The grackles are also very noisy as they chatter back and forth.  We actually had two trees full of these birds so it was in stereo.

We saw a lot of small bird migrations while traveling to Chicago on Saturday.  They are too hard to identify when they are so small.  Some years we do have the pelicans fly through and land in the Lake Saylorville area.  We see them more in the fall than we do in the spring.

Tomato plants are coming up in my east window.  The soil is pretty rugged in condition but they are tough and came up anyway.  I had wet frozen soil from a flower box and it really didn't thaw out into the loose soil condition.  Once they are all up I may have to take a pointed tool and cultivate them to  loosen up the hard dried out dirt.

It is Thursday and the sun is shining brightly.  We ran a few errands yesterday and today we will taking the neighbor to visit a new Walmart in Boone, Iowa.  She likes company when she shops and we usually stop to eat before we return home.  KFC is close by and I am sure she is going to asked to go to that establishment.  We actually drive to Boone by taking country roads up through timbered areas and farmland.  Many times we see geese, turkey and sometimes deer in the road or along the roadside.  It isn't windy today so the windchill will be nil and it might even be pleasant to get outside. We are sitting at 14 degrees F. right now and I believe we will get to 30 degrees today.

Thanks for stopping in today.  I wish you all well.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Our first robin is looking up at the berries on the spreading juniper bush. He was the one that was joined by cedar waxwings yesterday. Most of the snow left yesterday but we are at close to 0 degrees this morning. Our American Robin is really a thrush and someone was in a hurry a couple of hundred years ago to call it a robin because it's orange breast is the same color of the robin in Europe. Whatever person who confused them does seem to cause confusion among the alliances of the world.  I looked it up one more time to be sure I knew exactly what I was talking about.  I feel somewhat betrayed by all my teachers that made us color this bird every year on paper with crayons and they didn't give us the true facts about the bird,  just like the tooth fairy story.  The teachers of old also called it robin red breast which confuses children ans it is very much orange in color.

Outside it is very cold but spring is suppose to be here.  The only things that react to the longer days of light are my violets.  This  violet has shot up new buds in the last two days.

This is spring break week at school so I am getting a lot of odd jobs taken care of during the time off. I had another doctor's appointment and that was a good visit with no problems.  I have tomato seeds that have sprouted up some leaves already.  I do have a Christmas wreath to take down along with my deer decorations.  It will have to warm up more before I go out to do that.  The weather seems to be sporadically affecting everyone in different ways this year.  We were actually 81 degrees last year at this time.  It as been a long winter and I do hope things straighten out in Iowa.  More rain would be nice but no more cold weather is necessary.   Thanks for stopping by today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesdays Things......

We were surprised to see that we had received an inch or more of snow during the night.  The sun is shining brightly and the shadows are so deep blue in the white snow

We were surprised also to see five or more cedar waxwings outside our door.  They were sitting in the juniper bush eating bluish berries.  On my Photo a Day I have two great photos that I was able to capture of them.  I also captured a photo of the first robin that I saw.  My neighbor lady says she saw one two days ago.  I just wasn't keeping a good eye out for them I guess.

I like catching these shots that turn out to tell a story.  The sparrow is watching all the other birds and two feeders waiting for an opening in which to fly to get more seed.

Thanks for stopping in today.

Monday, March 18, 2013


It takes about six hours to get to Chicago from our home in central Iowa.  We made the trip five years ago when our son was married.  We had major flooding issues in Iowa at the time and the interstate was shut down.  We  had to drive almost two hours north of home and then travel across our state ending at Dubuque, Iowa.  Then we had to turn south again to make it to I-80.  It is about four hours from the Mississippi River bridge until we make it to Arlington Heights, Illinois.  No flooding this time so we made good time getting there.

The interstate that heads north of Chicago is lined with many office buildings. They are big but not too beautiful.

At a distance you can see a nicely designed towering building.  It doesn't look tall in the photo but it is. Its structure reminds me of the one tall building we have in Des Moines that it 96 stories tall.  The down town area, which we did not visit, is fill will a lot of big buildings.  My son gets on a train and rides it forty minutes to work each morning to the downtown area.

The real reason we went to Chicago is because of the little guy in the yellow baby sleeper.  A.J. is now three weeks old and we were able to see him for the first time. My tall son Andy is the proudest father with his first child and I am so glad for he and his wife.

My wife and our daughter in law Patricia are seen here with the little bundle.  Needless to say A.J. did have his grandma or grandpa holding him most of time we were there.

The kids live in a 70's split level house which they have fixed up to create a beautiful home. They had finished with all the remodeling about the time the next project of having a baby came into being. I will share some about the house in later blogs and I suppose you might see more pictures of the grandson too.  We only took 84 snaps while we were over there.  Our son Andy is just as camera crazy as his mom and dad, so he sent home a thumb drive of a few hundred more pictures to see.

We had an inch and a half of snow drop during the night.  It was sort of a surprise and yet they hinted of blizzards happening in northern Iowa last night.  We were on the thin tail of that storm so we won't suffer much.  Thanks for stopping by today.

Friday, March 15, 2013

1968.........and now.

It was my senior year.  It was 1968 and I was sent outside to take some shots of our school building.  I was on the yearbook staff and a coeditor. The Murray High School sits on a hill and I went out to see if I could take anything interesting. This photo I took ended up on the front and back in papers of the book. I snapped about six of them and this was the only good one for us to use.

All the years I attended there the front yard always seemed to be a neglected area.  At the bottom of the hill from the school were soft maple trees. Big and bulky keeping one from seeing the school. A few weathered barberry bushes barely survived.  To the right of the school were two very old weathered cedar trees.    They shaded out the grass so it was bare dirt all around them and if you tried to run under them during wet weather you got you shoes very muddy.

The going trend at the time was to take out the very high set of windows, full of fixed window panes.  The glass block thing seemed to be an improvement as the windows were very cold. I believe I was in third grade when they changed them.  My dad was on the school board the year they decided to do it.  I remember going with my parents to see the work in progress during the summer. If you were in a building with all the glass blocks, it actually was just as cold and in the winter frost developed on the blocks.


When I returned for a thirtieth class reunion back in '98 , I noticed that the windows had been replaced again with insulated panels and probably modern double paned glass windows.

The last time I was on the site of the school, I was pleased to see that someone down there figured out how to landscape the building. It is a great improvement.

Strange memories that I remember from going to school while being outside the front of the building are diverse.  One memory is a girl named Sandy Jones, who proceeded to pick the red berries off of the barberry bushes and place them neatly in a box.  She did strange things like that as one day she brought to school a neatly arranged box of maple leave seeds that she had collected at home.

Another memory that remains was that I saw for the first time, pictures of the bodies in the Jewish concentration camps.  Gary Dugger brought his dad's war photos to school and shared them out on that sidewalk during recess.

One other memory, on a more pleasant note, was being when younger friends and I  watched three teen aged girls that were dancing the jitterbug out on the sidewalk.  The  must have been in sixth grade and those of us watching them do that strange dance were third graders.  They had the can  cans on and that seemed like a strange thing to wear under your skirt and also wearing them to school.  It was really strange because there was no music to dance to as transistor radios had not been invented yet.

It was another non-working day for me today.  The teachers can't be gone the day before a vacation so there was perfect attendance of the staff and an absence of the substitute teachers.  We will take a drive tomorrow and I will report back on our wonderful adventure.  Thanks for stopping by today.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday's Things........

The view outside this window has actually improved since the photo was shot. The Thanksgiving cactus seems to be enjoying the bright light and it is cooler sitting in this window.  I guess I will never repot it as it loves the hard dry soil that it is in.

The begonias have been my best bloomers and here again is another shot of them.

This is a creative mug that I made for an example for the art students to see when I was teaching art.
It reminds me of a candle that I had during college.  He was called Freddie Ferd.  The beak of the bird was the whole length of his body with little eyes poking out at the top.

I am a science teacher today in the middle school classroom.  I am giving test in all of the classes which is a good thing.  They have busy work to do after they finish taking the test so it keeps them all pretty occupied.

 Warmer weather is a good thing and we are having it.  Our lake near here as well as all our streams and rivers are filled up.  It hasn't soaked in much so the runoff has been good for the waterways.  Lake Saylorville, a man made lake, is at its normal level now.  We do have snow predicted again for Monday.  All of our storms seem to hit on Mondays.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I am ducking my duties today at blogging.  I don't have much to say and if I did it would be grumpy sounding.  I made this duck as an example for my students to be inspired in making a small clay  item that could be held in the hand.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Day Off.......

I spent the day finishing the framing of some of my wife's commissioned portraits. Since school was canceled I had to work in the gallery most of the day yesterday. I did get the framing done.

The woman on the bottom left is the one who commissioned the works.  She is in her 80's now so we believe that she and her sisters were in their 20's at the time.  My wife had various  old candid shots to work from in order to create the sister's portraits.

Bonnie is the name of the woman who had the worked done and these tow are of here parents.  Bonnie now looks like her mother as she has become older.

A common sight in our neighborhood of the cars that were sitting outside the past two days.  I am in the special education room today, following a young man to classes. It is the beginning of the last nine weeks of school today.  The school year has gone fast.  Spring break is next week so that will stretch the end of school to be in late May.

Thanks for stopping by today.