Stopping for Turkeys

img_5676

Your standard work day. Did some good work, offered my knowledge and labor, learned some things. Heading south toward home. Near Burlington, some traffic. Not bad, considering, but not quick. The traffic loosened as I moved south into more rural territory. Then the car in front of me braked, more quickly than for just a turn off the main road.

It was turkeys. A whole gaggle of them crossing the road. Well, not a gaggle. That’s geese. You could call it a flock. They are birds. Call it a rafter. Seriously. A group of turkeys is called a rafter. Once upon a time it was a raft, I guess. Then it got colloquialized.

Anyway, this rafter crossed the road. There were eight or nine of them. Or ten. I maybe didn’t see all of them. The majority of them ambled from west to east and blended into the trees. Three of them hung out on the other side, pecking at the grass. Cars started moving again.

Turkeys have made a comeback in recent decades. They once were booted entirely out of Vermont, but they came back. Now they are everywhere in the state. Still, it isn’t every day that one must pause in one’s vehicle to let them waddle across the byway. Lucky me today.

Advertisements

Water this Summer

IMG_5235

High water on the Winooski River

I was planning to continue working on staining the house siding today. That wasn’t going to happen. I got up early enough. It was not raining, but it was going to rain. I didn’t want wet stain to get rained on. I would have had to stain it again. So I held off. Good thing. The rain came down.

It came down in sheets. Not for long, mind you, but in that short time we got a lot of rain, tossed around by strong winds. The forecast called for rain throughout the day and we got a few more bursts like that. Staining will have to wait.

I was away for a good chunk of June. My son and I were in New Hampshire last week. My wife was home and reported heavy rain, enough to flood our road, which I have never seen. Three inches of water fell in as many hours. That was mid-week.

My son and I came home on Saturday. As we headed west to Vermont it started to rain. It was a hard rain, so hard we slowed to a crawl it was so difficult to see. Once the rain let up a bit we kept going, slow but steady. We passed route 25A and I considered heading across that way, but decided to try 25C, farther north. But shortly after we turned onto that road we encountered a ROAD CLOSED sign. Maybe we should have taken 25A after all, I thought.

But at 25A we found a couple of rescue vehicles blocking the road. They were not there when we had passed the first time. I asked the man there if the road was blocked due to flooding. “I don’t think you’ll float,” he said, looking at our van, before adding that several other roads were closed. That was good information. Hopping onto the wifi at the store down the road (no cell service to be had), we chose a long route around. It took about three extra hours to get home that day.

I did get started on staining the house this week. We had a few days of sun. Yesterday I had to stop early. A thunderstorm moved in. I’ll get it done over time. I have some summer left. Water is high now. The ground is saturated. With more heavy rain like this, we might get more flooding. I hope we don’t get too much.

 

Snapper

Laying Eggs

This snapping turtle was laying eggs a few days ago. Good for you, turtle. Procreate! I’m all for those cute little buggers popping out of the sand and wiggling their way toward a new life trying to avoid things like raccoons and crows, who only want to eat them for breakfast.  This turtle, however, was depositing its potential offspring right on the side of the road.  Cars are whizzing by and its just hanging out there, popping out unformed youngsters.

Honestly, I’m not sure why turtles have been around for millions of years, or why they live to be, like, 100. Granted, we have pretty much destroyed any hope of any other creatures, aside from the ones we eat, surviving at all on this mess of a planet, but come on, turtle, how about my driveway at least? Those speeding high schoolers won’t slow down for you if they don’t slow down for the rain soaked muddy turn. That most humans don’t live to be 100 makes sense to me.

I’ll have to watch out for those little guys in however long it takes for snapping turtle eggs to hatch. I’ll even move them to safer locales, too, as long as it isn’t when school gets out.

Oh Canada

Le Biodome

Le Biodome

How Do We Get to the Metro Station?

How Do We Get to the Metro Station?

We took a trip up to Montreal the other day.  It was just a day trip.  That is a benefit to living here.  We can zip and cross the border and be in a large city in a few hours.  The idea was to expose our children to the city and to some things they just won’t see in their typical days.  It took about three hours to get up there.  The border crossing on the way there was cake.  They are pretty laid back in Canada.  A few questions, a peek at our ID (we all have passports now) and off we went to the great white north.

We went first to the Biodome.  This place is pretty amazing.  It hosts several ecosystems, complete with plants, animals and birds.  Capybara, monkeys, beaver, penguins, lemurs–there is a lot to see.  That would make the trip worthwhile in itself but we were not there long.  The children lasted less than an hour inside.  So we split for the city center.  Signs are in French and getting on the Metro isn’t intuitive.  We asked for directions and paid in US cash.  We had meant to get Canadian dollars but never got around to it.  They took it, as seems to always be the case.  Since the US dollar is worth 1.15 Canadian right now, why not?

The Metro was probably the best part of the trip.  Our kids had never ridden a subway before so they got a good slice of city public transportation–lots of people, a musician, the fun of figuring out which stop is yours.  Once we got off at McGill, we wondered for a bit.  Montreal off was showing off its urbanity and we walked through it a bit before stopping at a shop to buy candy and toothpaste.  We covered the bases.

And then we headed back.  We were in the car more than we were out of it, but we were happy with our trip.   Seeing the bridge over the Saint Lawrence River, driving through tunnels, reading road signs in French, they all added to the experience.  Unlike Customs on the way into Canada, where we waited about ten minutes and were greeted with a smile, we waited maybe 45 minutes to talk to Mr. Stern Face at US Customs.  But he did let us pass unmolested.

The children were tuckered by the time we got home.  And hungry.  After a late dinner we headed right to bed.  We dreamed of living in a big city, and woke up to celebrate the birthday of our own nation.  It does have some major issues, and isn’t as progressive and free as Canada, but overall, this nation of ours is a great place to live for most people.  If only we could get the health care thing down, we might be as hip as our northern neighbor.  One can hope.

When Forgetting Pays Off

 

Visual of the Elusive Critter

Visual of the Elusive Critter

 

Last weekend I drove down to New Hampshire.  When I left on Friday I grabbed two things to pop into a mailbox, one of which was a DVD from Netflix to be returned.  I figured I would pass a mailbox at some point.  I picked up a friend to ride together and, once we got conversing, I totally forgot about the mail.  We arrived at our destination and I had to leave a random object (in this case a tin of mints) in front of the steering wheel to remind me to find a mailbox on the way home.

The tin of mints did its job.  It reminded me that I had left the mail under the seat and dutifully took it out to mail on the way home.  Since my friend and I rode home together again, however, I repeated my forgetfulness on the return journey.  I got home and the mail was still in my possession.  I dropped it in the mailbox to be picked up by our carrier the next day.  It was Sunday.

We had been watching the Indiana Jones series–four in a row was the plan.  We had watched the first three and the most recent, from last year, was on our itinerary for that Sunday.  The children fell asleep and I noticed that the disc I thought was the one we wanted was sealed in its return envelope.  I figured we had sealed it up by mistake and realized that it was the third movie.  I had put the wrong one in the mailbox.  At this point I was thinking how glad I was not to have found a mailbox it after all.  I would have sent away the film we were hoping to see.

So I headed down our long driveway to the mailbox.  It wasn’t dark yet, but it was getting there.  My wife had cut the lawn earlier in the day and I noticed a dark smudge on the edge of the driveway where the grass was newly clipped.  I wondered if she had run over something–some bark or old leaves or some plastic bag type item.  As I got right up to it, however, I realized that it was nothing that the lawnmower had mangled.  It was a snipe.

I had never seen a snipe, but I had seen photographs, and I had seen woodcocks, which look similar.  It is a small bird with a long thin beak, colored to blend in to the grass and about the size of a robin.  I have heard snipes many times and, to be honest, I have seen them in flight, way up against the dim sky.  They have a funky mating display in the spring where they make eerie low whistling noises at the tail ends of the day.  They are either hiding in the grass or too difficult to see clearly, since they fly typically when the light is low.

So I was pretty ecstatic to see one of these puppies.  But it was not alone.  It had a mottled chick, fuzzy and still next to it.  I walked right up to them and they did not move.  Obviously they were working under the camouflage principal–Don’t move and no one will see us since we look just like everything around us.  Good theory, but since they were on the nipped grass, it wasn’t working so well.  I watched them for a while before continuing to the mailbox.

I assumed they would split when I returned but they were still there.  I watched them again for a while and they did not move.  I felt like I would stress them out so I split.  Then I thought I might get a photo, so I dropped the red envelope, picked up my camera and headed back down the driveway.  My spouse was on the phone so she missed out.  It was still there, so I took a couple of poor photos, getting as close as I dared and zooming in with our lame zoom lens as close as it would go.  I took four photographs, all of which, how to say this simply, suck.

By the time my wife was off the phone and tried to find our avian friends, they had decided to find some taller grass.  She was out of luck.  I would say at least I had the photos, but they were not much help.  So the lessons here:

  1. It is OK to forget things sometimes as forgetting may lead one in a direction that offers treasure
  2. Take time to look around
  3. Tell your wife to get off the phone if you see a snipe and its chick hanging out right next to the driveway without moving
  4. Get a better camera

Father’s Day is coming up.  Maybe I will drop some hints about that camera.  The movie, by the way–Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull–was pretty good.  They managed to bring our hero back as a much older man in a believable and fun way.  The story itself may not have been believable but hey, it’s just a movie.

Wind and Rain

Apparently a tornado hit Vermont this past Saturday.  That doesn’t happen all that often–once every couple of years or so.  Of course, the next week there were reports of tornadoes in Florida.  That is a little more common, I guess.  Hopefully we won’t have any twisters around these parts for a couple of years.  As odds go, we won’t.

Today wasn’t twister weather but it was windy.  Way windy.  More than one friend reported that the interstate was treacherous.  Driving myself today I experienced the strong winds.  It was two hands on the wheel driving for sure.

On the way to school it was a little less windy.  I said to my son that it would be a good time to fly a kite.  He then said that he would be flying kites with the other children at school.  He was convinced that they would, even though they don’t have a good spot for that activity.  After school he reported that no kites were flown, but the wind did knock him out of the sandbox and he “fell down hard right here” as he pointed to his hip.  Plus wind blew sand in his eyes.  He recovered nicely.

I made the mistake of leaving a mini propane bottle on the back deck this morning.  It blew off the deck sometime today and landed on a rock.  It got dented.  That doesn’t seem safe.  No harm done so far, however.  Just in case we have an explosion, I moved it to the other side of the house.  Safety first and all that.

It did rain today, quite hard at times.  I did not water the garden because of the rain, but with the wind drying things out in between showers, the beds probably didn’t get much hydration.  There is always tomorrow.  I’m not going out there now.  A tree might fall on me.  That would be unfortunate.  How would I read books to the children from outside, pinned under a tree?  How would I finish the beer I started?  How could I finish my crossword puzzle, what with rain spoiling the pages?

I’m telling you, this weather is rough.  A guy needs to be careful with this wind and rain.  The children and I spotted a bright orange oriole in the apple tree this morning.  It was our first of the season.  I hope it and it’s kin are careful out there.  I wouldn’t want it to be our last sighting.  That, too, would be unfortunate.

GPS in the Dark

For Christmas my parents gave me a GPS unit. It is almost the same one that they have, maybe one version newer. My dad has been pretty into it since he got it and I guess he thought it might come in handy for me as well. I used it this afternoon and evening to drive down to the New Hampshire coast. It served me well.

Typically, if I drive somewhere I have never been, I get directions. I like to figure out where I am headed, to the last turn, before I start the car. But this time I did not do that. I had meant to, but just never got around to it. I was planning to rent a car to head down to save some cash for my organization (cheaper to pay the rental company than to reimburse me for mileage on my own car) so I used the new toy to get me there as I wasn’t sure where it was. That worked great.

Once I had the rental car I sat in the parking lot waiting for satellite connection. It took me a bit to find the location I was headed on the little black box, but once I did I was off down the interstate. Then it told me to just go on that road for 144 miles. Not much action there.

The thing has a lovely woman’s voice. She tells me where to turn right when I need to know. She is just so friendly, that GPS lass. Of course, her confidence can be deceptive. Once, when the family was headed out on an adventure together, the unit seemed to think we were a little off from where we actually were. According to that thing we were driving through rivers and buildings, but she just kept telling us to turn left or right.

It got dark as I headed down, on my own except for the lass, and I dutifully followed her directions. I turned where she told me to turn and ended up at a darkened building. It turns out that was the country club, not the hotel, so I rejiggered and turned about and after half a mile found the right spot.

I am not a huge fan of driving in the dark, especially in unknown locales, but I did manage to find my way, even without getting directions first. I was a little hesitant, and I don’t know that I’d go without a backup plan every time, but it worked. As I walked from my car to the main entrance to the hotel, I ran into a friend who is also attending the conference for which I drove all those hours. She said this: “I don’t know how I got here; I just kept on going and managed to find the place.”

Sounds about right to me.