Sunday, December 8, 2019

Bats in the Belfry ... Cats in the Attic

Life never stays boring around here!  A few weeks ago I started hearing noise in the ceiling ... movement type noises! At first I though it might be something on the roof or even from next door as sound can do strange things.

After hearing it a few more times, I asked Geoffrey to listen for it and we soon found if we made any noise in the bedroom, there would be NO noise up there. So ... logic dictated that we apparently had something alive up in the ceiling space, I dread to call it an attic as my concept of attics is old fashioned and you can get in them easily and walk around. Here it is the space between the ceilings and the roof.

After a few days to develop certainty, we decided we better find someone who knows about wildlife where it shouldn't be. Geoff and I are too old and handicapped and chubby to get up there and look ourselves! We soon had Jason of TruTech Wildlife Removal coming out to check on our noises. A large outfit with a local office.

Jason has lots of experience with raccoons and squirrels and other sorts of mammalian intruders but what he found was new to him: kittens! Three of them to be exact, tucked away in the edges of the bedroom ceiling crawl space. We pretty much knew right away who had deposited them there as a black calico female frequents our backyard and when last seen had obviously recently had kittens.

The picture to the left is not her but looks a lot like her.

We were immediately relieved that it was not one or more squirrels. Some of them live in the trees in our backyard but I really did not want them in my attic! Jason tried to catch the kittens but was afraid of hurting them and had trouble trying to get to them.

He finally decided to try warning them off and put male raccoon scent up in the attic space.It took a few days to be sure but the mommy cat apparently took her babies elsewhere. Whether it was the general disturbance of being discovered or the raccoon scent we don't know but a couple of days later, all was quiet up there.

Jason and his assistant returned and disinfected etc the attic area and then cemented shut all the entry points so we can relax about the possibility of squirrels.

Don't know where the mommy cat took her babies and have yet to find out which house she really lives at but we don't think she is a feral cat.

Roomba bits and pieces and other stuff

To start with, I must say that getting Geoff the Roomba was a brilliant idea. Once things settled down a little and they got used to each other, my floors get cleaned on a regular basis. One does end up talking to it like to a small child, one cannot help it and sometimes I have to laugh when I hear Geoff talking to it in another room.

Geoff insists it follows him around and when it is scheduled to do the living room and our offices he brings it in here to spend time with mommy because it tends to stay in his office and not even come in here. We have even been reduced to shutting the office door and trapping it in here so it will clean my office!

Overheard the other day, Geoff, in the bedroom, says “I know, you need to go home and get charged.” and gently picks it up and carries it to its charger/home. It does needs to work on finding the way home.

Things have been relatively quiet recently. I did manage to burn my wrist on the oven rack. I forget what I was cooking, one of those things that insists on being turned over halfway through I think. The burn was worse than usual so I figured I better see if we had any burn ointment around to put on it.

Poking through the first aid collection in the bathroom I came across some packets of Burn Free, a burn gel we had had in the RV. They had spent a couple of years in there and suffered through the kind of heat we get in there when its parked so instead of a gel it was a liquid! But, it was all we seemed to have so I dribbled it over the burn.

Instant relief! In spite of having overheated while sitting for ages in the RV, this stuff worked! I'm not one to particularly brag on a product but this one I figured I should share about. Most household burns are so minimal a few minutes in cold water or such works fine but sometimes you need more and this stuff is it! The next day I ordered more of it to keep in our various first aid kits!

My entire life I have had black thumbs not green ones ... probably all of my fingers as well. I have tried more gardens than any reasonable person would attempt and had little to no luck. The large fern we had in front of the house even died, following into death the azaleas that had flanked it. The azaleas down around the mailbox do just fine so I figure there is a radius to me black death thumb.

Recently I spotted the cutest little air plant and holder at our local grocery store from LiveTrendsDesign. I couldn't resist and told myself that maybe an air plant would be an exception and actually survive. One year my sister sent me a Christmas Cactus and it lived for a few months even so maybe ...

It was not to be. Air plants must be stubborn tough little things because it held out for weeks and weeks and then whoops ... it looked sort of gray and well, dead. I looked online and tried soaking it and a couple of other suggestions with no luck.

On another front, as Geoff puts it, the snowbirds have arrived, in this case he refers to the Canadian Geese. In face, our pond behind the house seems to have exploded with flocks of egrets and cranes of various colors, geese and who knows what else. I can tell which ones are geese but after that, Florida has a gazillion different water wading birds! The pond over near Publix used to draw most of them to its east bank where they would bask in the afternoon sun but construction has disturbed that landing spot so they seem to have taken to our ponds instead.

And just in case anyone is wondering how my hat collection is doing (probably not), there are around 70 to 80 of them hanging out in my closet. Shortly before our last trip I ordered an NCIS hat since I am a fan of the show.

After we got back I sent for a Black Rifle Coffee Company hat choosing this one since I had none in the light blue and I find I tend to wear them more often with the mesh back, a bit cooler in Florida than the solid hats.

Why Black Rifle Coffee Company? BRCC first off is very supportive of veterans and first responders and actually not only hires returning veterans but is veteran owned and operated. Their coffee is excellent and only the fact that I am a tea drinker keeps me from buying their coffee. Most of all, their attitude and Youtube videos are a riot. I don't use the coffee but I can support them by buying other stuff there.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

HIdden Inside ... Part 2

This one is going to be mostly pictures. I carted the geode stuff out to the garage as the first thing most of the instructions I read tell you is do it somewhere you don't care if it gets damaged like Geoff's tool bench out in the garage. He's already got cardboard on top of it (an unfolded cardboard box) and I added a small cutting board lest you think I don't care if we damage his tool bench! (By the way, the cutting board ended up splitting in two then three pieces!)

On go the goggles and now the search for a chisel which Geoff thought he had a good one but all we can find is a tiny one ... oh well, one works with whatcha got.

We start with the original geode I got back at Wall Drug and Geoffrey snaps on his gloves ... his gloves? Definitely he and I have different ways of doing things. I tend to plunge right in more careless of self I guess. Whereas he dons all the protective gear he might possibly be in need of.

Okay, now we're ready. The original geode is on the cutting board and the tiny chisel aimed at what looks like a weak spot and part of a possible crack. Tap ... tap ... tap ... wait a minute I think we need a Wham! more than a tap. I wish I could just snatch up the hammer and give the stupid geode a whack but old age and arthritis have combined to weaken my right hand and wrist to where they are really useless for this kind of thing.

It's cracking! He did it! It falls in pieces - two main pieces, one little one and a bunch of shreds.

That geode had a nice thin outer shell and was not too much trouble to crack open. We now started on the others with less luck getting two more opened of the twelve we have. One of these had babies inside ... okay, what would you call it? It opened to a nice lining of quartz but also had a number of small round crystals, loose and unattached.

The other was a small one that came apart into three pieces.

Of course, a good workman blames his tools (that's not how it goes?) and off Geoff goes to the nearby Ace Hardware to get a better chisel.

We got two more opened both with difficulty but they finally yielded to the new chisel. The two more to try I had chosen because they were different colors on the outside. They weren't as light as the earlier ones but didn't seem quite as solid as the rest of the unopened.

The original geode is in front, a pale one on the right and reddish on the left

The two above shown with the original both were more nodules than hollow. A 'nodule' is a geode that is filled inside without the open areas common to geodes. The grayish one is what I personally call stupid looking but it is interesting in that although mostly filled with the clear quartz common to many geodes, there is a small area in the middle that has not yet filled in leaving a small hole more easily seen on the half on the right side of the photo below.

The reddish stone on the left in the picture of three turned out to be a full fledged nodule with rock filling most of the cavity and an interesting arc of quartz curving around like a comet with a tail. This one I think I will have polished when I can find someone who does that kind of thing.

So here I sit at my rocky desk with six opened geodes and five or six unopened ones still out in the garage. Not sure how long they will stay unopened, they are of various sizes and all are rather heavy so are probably filled on the inside,  a couple of them are quite small.

I have reassured Geoffrey that I have no interest in becoming a rock hound or whatever the term is for a geode chaser. It has been truly interesting following this trail and looking inside some rocks but enough is enough and except for getting that one rock (well, the two halves) polished, they'll become part of my shelves and gather dust with the rest of my treasures.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Hidden Inside ... Part 1

Inside of a rock! Hey it's a strange world, why shouldn't there be interesting insides to some rocks, in particular geodes. Okay, that probably brings up two questions, why did we end up on this topic? and what is a geode anyway? Recently we returned from a trip to South Dakota, Wyoming and points in between, the subject matter of the last ten posts actually.

Mammoth and slice for it to stand on
At one of those stops, Wall Drug to be exact, I bought some geodes. I should say more geodes as I had bought some in the past, opened and polished ones to be sure. Why not? They're pretty. The first I got I think was a slice of one that I got to be perfect to set the carved wooden wolf figure on. I got the wolf two or three years ago at the Rockwell museum which features western art, located in Corning, New York, of all places but have now forgotten where I got the slice to put it on, probably out west on that same trip.

Some where I got a pair of bookends and at Wall Drug I had gotten another figure, a mammoth,  and a slice to put it on, as well as a small opened geode shown in the photo below next to my computer mouse for a size reference.

Some smart merchandiser put a basket full of potential geodes right out there where no one can miss it ... you know those last minute impulsive purchase displays? So of course at the last minute I added an unopened geode to my purchase ... at least I remembered to put the little promo bit with it. It says "Break Your Own Geode? and gives brief directions on how to break it open and then adds "there's no way to tell what's inside a geode until you break it apart - but that's the most exciting part!"
An unopened geode ... looks sort of stupid doesn't it?

I then tucked it all away along with the other souvenirs forgetting all about it until we were home again. Once I caught up on things here at home though I approached Geoffrey about our opening our very own geode. I started to say he did not react well ... but that is not it, more he reacted in his usual paranoid imaging of bits of rock shard everywhere in our eyes and probably cutting us to pieces! So time for me to research it online and provide him with some comforting online instructions and youtube videos.

The bookends which are actually a type of geode called a nodule as it is completely filled

First of course is to find out more exactly what a geode is ... they are actually interesting acts of nature and come in all sizes from really really tiny to huge boulders! There seem to be lots of people about there that like finding them and cracking them open. Geodes are basically hollow rounded rocks in which often lovely crystals have formed. The holes in  the interior usually appear because gasses have been trapped in bubbles in the rock. Then water enters carrying dissolved minerals which eventually form inward growing crystals, usually in millions of years!

Online Links:

Between my reading and Geoffrey's paranoia I ended up ordering a rock hammer and, to protect my eyes, goggles. Of course while I was at it I got the goggles that come in a kit with ten more geodes. Hey, it was labeled National Geographic, I figured it should be good. Then I got distracted by a set of two jumbo geodes, unopened, and added those to me order. Good old Amazon Prime, one day free shipping!

Next step ... Part 2 ... we'll open at least one. Geoff promises we can do it tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Homeward Bound

It rained off and on all night at the park ... we had arrived late in the rain and simply plugged in and soon gone to bed. We unplugged and left early in the morning ... wet but not raining at the moment anyway. 

Heading west on I-40 it was hills, fog and even mountains. I keep thinking we've finally driven out of the rain and then mist appears on the windshield turning into rain .. again. 

After a stop in Russellville, Arkansas for fuel and then in New Albany, Mississippi, for a late lunch/early dinner at a Captain D's, we headed on I-40 for Memphis where we picked up I-22 for Birmingham, Alabama, crossing into Alabama a little after 4, finding sunshine and enough sun to cause shadows! 

We know we are getting closer to home, Troy, Alabama, has a Publix! We finally stopped for the night, boondocking at a rest area just north of Dothan, Alabama. I think if we had been just a little closer Geoff would have kept driving to get home. We left the rest area just after six in the morning local time. Soon we were on I-10 headed east, stopping at Exit 192 for breakfast and fuel. We arrived home by 2:30 pm. 

When Geoff gets on that homeward leg he just keeps plugging along meanwhile, I sit in the passenger seat and try to at least make notes about what I see although deciphering these notes once I get home can get interesting. Like, what is the notation "" ? At least looking it up online can give me a clue ...

Aahhh ... I must have seen one of their interesting looking trucks. Fish Wagon is a pond stocking company, loading fish at the hatchery and delivering them to people with ponds! I knew ponds and lakes were often stocked with fish but never thought about how! Fish Wagon's website says they handle catfish, bass, carp, bluegill, koi, and other species. 

Cooling towers ... what is that about? Oh, now I remember, I think it was in Alabama driving through some mountains ... at least twice we saw what seemed like smoke rising in the distance but a few more turns and we can see enough of the base of the tower to know what it is.

Now all we had to do was unload our stuff and get the RV toilet fixed ... again! This time we decided to keep Wolf in our driveway for a day or two and take off everything and get it sorted out. I know we were carrying around things we had ended up not wanting or needing ... sort of a spring cleaning for Wolf. 

We also got an appointment made for Wolf to get his plumbing fixed! Good thing we stopped to do that, it is busy season apparently and the soonest we could get an appointment was three weeks away! So Wolf is resting in his den and tomorrow goes to the repair place. Has anyone mentioned that RV's can be money pits?

Monday, October 14, 2019

Pea Ridge

After slogging through Nebraska and Iowa we made it to Platte City, Missouri, not far from Kansas City, where we had to hunt down the Basswood Resort. The location for it was wrong in my gps but Geoffrey's came up with a different address and Voila! there it was. Leaving the next morning we slogged through Kansas City on a rainy messy Sunday morning, stopping at a Flying J in Peculiar, Missouri, to fuel up and have breakfast at the Dennys that was part of it. Luckily the rain let up while we were there.

Crossing the Missouri/Arkansas line early in the afternoon we were soon at Pea Ridge National Military Park which is up in the northwest corner of Arkansas. We turn ed into the park and drove up the access road and nearly had a heart attack when we saw the road blocked off with a Road Closed sign! Looking more carefully, we saw this just blocked off the rest of the road but the Visitor Center and Park itself was quite accessible over to the left.

It was close to 3 in the afternoon and we were of two minds, find somewhere nearby to stay or visit the park and then move on towards home which at this end of the trip had its attractions! The first thing we did when we got in the Visitor Center was ask the lady ranger behind the desk about the hours ... the Visitor Center itself would close at 4:30, adding that a 30 minutes film about the battle would start in their little theater in about ten minutes giving us a little time before and after to visit the museum area.

She then told us that the loop road around the battlefield was not only easily driveable even by our RV but the various stops and overlooks along the way were as well and that that area was open until dusk. Perfect! We did as she suggested and watched the movie about the battle which was excellent, very informative with enough detail to be interesting to grownups but not over the heads of most children.The small museum was also excellent and gave a good bit of detail about the participants and the battle itself that added to rather than repeated what had been in the film.

The Battle of Pea Ridge took place in and around Telegraph Road, built in 1838, the village of Leetown, and the Elkhorn tavern. The loop road follows Telegraph Road around the fields. The first overlook actually refers to the earlier Trail of Tears when thousands of Cherokee were driven west.
The next stop was a signboard telling about how the village of Leetown served as a hospital for the wounded of both sides.

This was followed by a stop with another signboard about the temporary city-like Union battle camp that had once stood there, the nerve center for the Union army during the two day battle which took place March 7 and 8 of 1862. Nothing is there now but empty fields and forests but a little imagination triggered by the images from the film and the signboards and one can picture hundreds of men camped, preparing for war.

City of Soldiers - imagine them in the field shown above

The primary figures were General Samuel Ryan Curtis for the Union troops and Major General Earl Van Dorn, commander of the Confederate's Army of the West.

Both were assisted by excellent competent senior officers several of whom on the Confederate side were killed or wounded including Confederate Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch whose death was shortly followed by that of his second in command James McIntosh in a charge to recover McCulloch's body. Next in command, Colonel Louis Hebert, was killed in the same charge and the Confederates were essentially leaderless on the field.
Confederate commander Major General Earl Van Dorn had the appearance of the romantic southerner many of us picture from movies and books. He was originally from Tennessee, more recently Texas.

He had fought in the Mexican-American War and went on be defeated again at the Second Battle of Corinth and was subsequently removed form command.

His end certainly falls on the romantic side of things as in May of 1863 he was killed at his headquarters by a doctor who claimed Van Dorn had been carrying on with his wife!

Fighting had also centered around the Elkhorn Tavern and it was here on the second day that the Confederate troops, separated by hours from their artillery train, was defeated and in spite of their superiority of numbers, lost the battle.

If you get anywhere close to this area and have any interest in the Civil War, we suggest you visit here, first watching the film and visiting the museum and then driving around the battlefield loop.

We left Pea Ridge after a most interesting visit buoyed by knowing that with the earlier visit to Mount Rushmore and this visit to Pea Ridge we had filled in the two stops that we had had to cut off earlier trips.

From here we went to nearby Ft Smith-Alma RV Park, arriving after hours for the first time in all our travels!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Water Water Everywhere

Near the beginning of this trip I mentioned running into signs of flooding when we reached northwestern Missouri and southwestern Iowa and said then the flooding would get its own blog later … well, here it is.

The Missouri Valley and particularly Mills county in southwestern Iowa were hard hit in the floods in the Midwest back in March and end of May. Even now in September there were still ponds in the fields and flood damage visible on the land and the roads. This standing water had been there since the spring floods.

Surrounded billboard through Geoff's window

In the second blog for this trip I mentioned splashing our way out of the Onawa KOA at Blue Lake and the tornadoes in Sioux Falls and stopping for lunch in Mitchell. That was on September 11th and we didn’t find out until later that night there was flooding in Mitchell and I-90 had been closed between Sioux Falls and Mitchell, the very road we had just traveled. The Onawa KOA had not itself flooded either earlier in the year or in September but the area closures had hit it hard. The Kennebec KOA on the other hand had flooded earlier in the year but although we had more rain, did not flood while we were there.

Flooded fields ... still flooded months later
The rain, flooding, and closures around the 12th were short lived but kept the rivers high and the ground soaked. The flooding in and around Houston, Texas, from Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda occupied the news and once we were out of the area, we heard little about the Iowa region.

I-29 closed north of Council Bluffs - online image

By September 20th we were passing back through the area. Coming in on I-80, we cut across south of Omaha on Highway 2 reaching I-29 around Exit 10. Unknowingly we thus stayed away from the closures just north of us in Council Bluffs and northwards on I-29. The rain had continued in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa, off and on through September which filled the creeks and rivers flowing south into the Missouri.

Highway 2 - trying to repair the damage
They were working on the road and bridges across the Missouri and surrounding lands even though it was a Saturday and when we got to the truck stops just before the interstate, parts of the truck stop were blocked off and closed due to the damage earlier in the year.

House surrounded by flood waters
We finally got on I-29 headed south. There we passed flooded fields, collapsed silos, closed exits, waterlines on buildings, and a lot of water where it should not be. 

Note the waterlines on the buildings, two waterlines on each, where none should be
Earlier this year we’d seen images from the flooding there but when you see these scenes on tv they are some how distanced, maybe because we see so many disaster images there. I know the news had showed us flood waters in and around buildings and closed roads disappearing into the water but when you drive along the highway and see a building with the waterlines on it … when you see houses surrounded by water … ponds in the middle of crops … when you see all this with your own eyes, in person, it makes an impression. I will never see it on tv again without feeling it as well!

More rain, where it is not needed!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Putting Down Roots

This next part of the trip is something I have really been looking forward to. On our first trip in Wolf back in 2016, we spent some time in Encampment, Wyoming, where my grandmother (my father's mother) Willa Haggarty was born. This trip was cut short the very next day when our windshield was pelted with rocks.

Willa Haggarty's mother, Edith Crow, was born in Howard County, Nebraska, in 1878. Just five years before that her grandfather Mathias Crow had come to Nebraska with his family including his son Jonathan to homestead, claiming free land from the government. Well, not quite free as there were fees involved in the process but basically you moved on to the land, did improvements like a house, barn, fences, and then lived on and farmed the land for five years, less for Union veterans such as Jonathan, and then file your Final Proof and obtain title to the land.

Mathias and Jonathan started in Ohio and moved first to Illinois and then Iowa before coming to Spring Creek in Howard County, Nebraska, to try their hand at homesteading. Mathias, his son Jonathan, and Dillon Haworth, husband of Mathias's daughter Jane, all began the process of claiming homesteads. In April of 1873 a late and unexpected blizzard set in and Dillon, Jane, and their two little girls, Gracie and Eva Pearl, tried to reach better shelter than their unfinished dugout. Only little Eva survived.

The area in which the Crow families homesteaded is north of present day Grand Island which itself is north of I-80. We weren't headed for Spring Creek but were trying to find places in central Nebraska that would give us the feel for what homesteading there would have been like. I had found several potential museums starting in Gothenburg, west of Grand Island, which listed the Gothenburg Historical Museum as well as a Pony Express Station and a Sod House Museum although the latter was listed as closed and for sale.

Although we spotted where the Sod House Museum was right as we got off the interstate, we headed first for the Gothenburg Historical Museum. Although small and clearly run just by volunteers, the ladies were friendly and helpful including getting me and the walker up the stairs. This is a sweet little museum focused primarily on the history of the immediate area. It is just around the corner from the Pony Express Station and both can be visited in one stop.

By the time we were done at the historical museum, it was lunch time so we stopped at a local fast food chain called Runza. It looked different than the usual, the parking lot was big enough for Wolf and we were hungry - a trifecta. They carried the usual burgers and chicken and salads and also their specialty, the Runza, a cocoon of dough enveloping a cooked mixture of ground beef and cabbage. I had to try that! Mine also had swiss cheese and mushroom. Excellent! Florida should have some of these places!

From there we headed back to the interstate and the Sod House Museum. Tucked behind a gas station there at the exit was a big red barn and a for sale sign. But if you get out of your vehicle and walk over to the side of the barn, in a meadow back behind it is an old sod house. It's definitely showing the signs of age and neglect but I suppose in some ways that makes it more real.

I would have liked to have been able to go inside it and gotten a feel for the size ... in his homestead filings Jonathan describes the home he has built as being 16 x 20 feet in size with one door and two windows and that it has been his exclusive home and that of his family of a wife and five children from the 22nd of April in 1873 through the 26th of October 1874. He states he has cultivated about 15 acres of the land and built a sod stable 12 x 20 feet and set out and has growing about 250 fruit and 50 forest trees.

Imagine seven people living in 320 square feet! Even though five of them were children and much time was spent outdoors, try blocking out a space that size, then imagine beds, table, chairs or benches, a stove, a fireplace and seven people! And then remember that this is not unusual, many families lived in spaces this size, some in less.

Some were larger, Jonathan's father Mathias says his house was dugout and lumber, 14 x 45 feet with 4 rooms, 2 doors, and 6 windows, although remember that Mathias' family was on the whole young adults and teenagers with the youngest being Laura, known as Dallas, born in 1865. Older children meaning more help in building and more need for space. The home probably had a room for the boys, a room for the girls and one for the parents.

From here we headed for Lexington, Nebraska, and the Dawson County Historical Museum, a larger building with more room to grow. They have taken a large space and built movable dividing walls to  make a hallway of three walled rooms displaying different groupings of objects ... hard to explain but excellent results. With the movable walls they can adjust the size of each 'room' to suit the display.

Here in their gift shop I picked up a book title "Sod House Memories" and flipped it open right to a page about the blizzard that had killed Dillon, Jane, and little Gracie. A definite keeper, besides, every purchase in a gift shop helps support the place.

Next on our list was Pioneer Village in Minden which is heavily advertised and online looked quite interesting but when we got there (not such a short drive off the interstate as advertised) it looked neglected and dilapidated. The parking was minimal and not RV friendly or paved and the buildings looked small and difficult for mobility impaired access. It's possible we missed something good but we were tired and annoyed at what we saw so far so we said f--- it and headed back north towards the interstate.

When we got there the entrance to I-80 eastbound was closed! We had to take the back roads back to the last exit, Kearney, to find somewhere to stay the night. We stayed at the Kearney RV Park, a nice little park just off the interstate. We later found out there had been a fiery accident closing the eastbound side of the interstate between two exits. The accident involved five cars and two semi's killing at least three people. If we had not made the otherwise wasted digression to Pioneer Village, we might have been in the middle of it!

News photo of accident we might have been in!