Birds

I didn’t spend a lot of time outside today. It was cold, I was busy, and it’s too dark now to see anything.

We had the owner of Harvest Solar Energy out today to look at our attic and figure out what it will cost to put in a solar attic fan, a radiant barrier and some more insulation.

On my way home from work today, I saw some birds sitting on a wire. I didn’t have my camera with me, so I couldn’t get a picture (plus I was driving by at 60 mph), but they looked sort of like this:

____,,,,_,_,_,,,_,_,,_,_,_,,____,____

The weather has gotten cold today. The forecasts are talking about a chance of snow. I don’t like snow, but it’s so dry around here right now that I’ll take whatever I can get.

If it snows, I will take some pictures.

Emily

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Projects

I spent most of this evening working on a mural painting project at Paintmaster, a body shop on Route 66 here in Tulsa. It’s not quite finished, but it’s getting closer. It’s been slow going, partly because I’ve been busy with other projects and haven’t had time to work on it as much as I’d like, and partly because I ran into some problems with the paint not wanting to cover the wall surface right.

Anyway, here are pictures of the work in progress:

1. Before I started:

Before

2. Here are the oil company logos before I outlined them with black paint marker:

During 1

3. And after I outlined them. I’m always amazed at what a difference the outlines make. The images look cleaner and stand out more with the outlines.

During 2

4. Here’s another example of paint marker making a huge difference. Look at this sign in the first picture, and then look at it here. White paint markers are awesome for making images of neon signs look more realistic:

After detail

5. And here’s how it looked by the time I finished up tonight. Still lots of work to do, obviously — there will be a car on that road, the shield will say “Route 66,” and I’m going to add in the Paintmaster logo in the lower right-hand corner, among other things — but it’s looking much closer to being finished:

After

And here’s a project I did a while back, at the behest of my friend Jane, who was tired of looking at the worn, weathered condition of the old Shoe Tree sign in Stroud. When I asked the owners if I could paint a new sign for them, they asked me to do something a little fancier. This design was their suggestion:

Shoe Tree

I do a lot of stuff like this on the Mother Road, just for fun. Hopefully it helps the businesses a little bit.

Emily

River trail

Ron and I took a walk along the river this afternoon. Here are some of the things we saw:

1. Somebody’s house. Two somebodies’ houses, actually.

Nests

2. Ducks. I love ducks. Look at those beautiful mallard drakes, with the dark green feathers on their heads. Lovely creatures.

Ducks

3. A big flock of gulls. Some guy was sitting on the bank, throwing bread or something into the water for the birds to eat. We saw about a kajillion of them out there. They were splashing into the water after the food and circling around, waiting for him to throw another piece. I didn’t think I’d gotten much, but I came up with a few decent shots. Here they are:

Gulls and ducks
You can see the ducks puttering around among the seagulls here.

Two gulls
These two were about to take off after swooping down into the water for a snack.

Big flock
This is just a tiny part of the flock.

Near-miss
I think these guys need an air traffic controller. We watched them fly in front of each other and try to land at the same time and just about crash into each other umpteen times.

Flying gulls
If I’d had a bigger lens, I could have gotten an even better shot, but I think this one is pretty decent.

4. Sunset. I played with the camera to try to do that sparkly-twinkly-diamond thing with the reflections on the water. There was too much light to speed up the ISO enough to get a great effect, but you can see a few twinkles in this picture. The second one was a failed attempt that still turned out sort of pretty, I thought.

Twinkle

Sunset

Hope you had a chance to get out and enjoy your day, wherever you are. I don’t know how long this pretty weather will last, but I’ll take 70 degrees in January for as long as I can get it.

Emily

Three miles of geese and gossip

What a great morning. My friend Suzanne and I hit the River Parks trail this morning for a three-mile jog. Neither of us had run in a while, so we went at an easy pace and walked a couple of times to keep from wearing ourselves out. I wasn’t as out of shape as I’d feared, although I’m glad we were only doing three miles.

The weather was just about perfect — a little chilly at the start, but with long sleeves and gloves, we were plenty warm enough by the time we got moving. The Arkansas River was beautiful, with the sun sparkling on the ripples in the water, and we saw umpteen Canada geese out there, gliding along in the water in graceful formations and flying above our heads and gathering on the river bank to talk about whatever it is geese talk about. Lovely creatures.

A Bonaparte’s gull drifted along on the breeze as we were crossing the river on Southwest Boulevard, and an Eastern fox squirrel went scurrying along a branch above us on Riverside. We saw bright red berries all over the ground at one point, although for the life of me, I couldn’t find their source. The pansies were blooming at Suzanne’s, and there were a couple of bushes — a holly and something else — putting out little red berries.

My Southern Illinois Natural Events Calendar, which I bought in Makanda over Christmas, says to listen for spring peepers and Western chorus frogs on warmer evenings beginning Jan. 11. That’s about a month earlier than the date the WHTC lists for chorus frogs, but I’ll start paying attention anyway. Tulsa is just slightly south of Makanda — we’re basically in the same planting zone — so the timing of our natural events should be the same or perhaps a few days ahead of Makanda’s. Of course, as Ron correctly points out, if we don’t get some rain, we’re not going to hear any frogs singing.

While I wait for the rain and the frogs, I’ll just keep enjoying the birds and the squirrels and the lovely temperatures.

Beautiful weather, living things all around, and a good friend running beside me … is there a better way to spend a Saturday morning?

Emily

Athena in Red Fork

The most amazing thing happened tonight. When I got off work this evening, I met up with an MIT student named Anne who is doing her master’s thesis about community development on Route 66, or something like that. We cruised 66 to the Rock Cafe in Stroud.

I didn’t think I’d be a whole lot of help on the whole community development thing, since she was dealing with a lot of city planners and stuff, and all of my Route 66 projects have been grassroots-type things — painting historic signs at Vernelle’s Motel and the Vega Motel, writing letters and attending public meetings to save the Boots Motel and the El Vado Motel, etc., etc., etc. — but I figured maybe I’d be useful for background information about the road or whatever.

When we got to Depew, we got out to look at some of the murals in town, and I ran into my friend Linda, who owns Spangler’s Grocery. As we started telling Anne how we spent our summer, I realized that our project, which had the mayor and the local business owners and a bunch of Route 66 activists all working side-by-side, was a primo example of a small-scale community development project hinging on cooperation among stakeholders.

Anne and I had a good time on 66, and when we got back into Tulsa, we stopped by the house so she could see Red Fork and I could let my dogs out. As we left to head back downtown so I could drop her off at her hotel, I pulled up to the stop sign a couple of blocks from the house, and a big ol’ bird flew low and fast across the street in front of my car. At first glance, Anne thought it was an eagle, and I thought it was a hawk. As it came to a stop on a wire just next to the street light, we realized it was an enormous owl.

Anne got very excited and went scrambling for her camera to try to get a picture of it, which she is planning to e-mail me later.

I’m not sure what kind it was, but my best guess is that it was a barred owl. It definitely wasn’t a barn owl, it didn’t have ear tufts like a great horned owl, it was much too big (and way too far east) for a burrowing owl, and it had too much brown on it for a snowy owl.

Whatever it was, it was beautiful, and I was really glad Anne got to see it. I owe her one for giving me a reason to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right moment to see that magnificent bird. I don’t know whether it was male or female, but the former English teacher in me just can’t resist naming it Athena.

I’m going to pay closer attention to small objects I find on the ground, now that I know we have owls in the neighborhood. It would be cool to find an owl pellet or two.

My sister-in-law cracked me up this summer when she and my little brother got started talking about her fascination with owl pellets. (I think they used to dissect them in gifted class or something.) Oliver was just sitting next to his bride at the dinner table, gazing at her with an expression of utter worship, as she gleefully told us all about how she’d discovered an owl pellet, dissected it, and discovered tiny bones in it.

I had to laugh.

She didn’t know it at the time, but Ashley earned my eternal respect with that little riff. You have to love a girl who is so interested in science and nature that it never occurs to her that owl pellets could be gross or icky or anything but utterly fascinating. In that moment, she confirmed for me that my little brother had, indeed, married a nerd of the highest order … and I mean that as a sincere and affectionate compliment.

If I find an owl pellet, I might just save it and take it with me the next time I head home for a visit so Ashley can dissect it with me. 🙂

Emily,
ubernerd and proud of it

Too cool.

I found something cool on the City Farmer Web site today. They have posted videos about various aspects of urban agriculture. You can download the videos for free and watch them on your iPod or your computer.

Video subjects include several aspects of composting; vermiculture; and winter gardening using a cold frame. I haven’t watched the movies yet, but I’m especially looking forward to seeing the one on vermiculture.

I had a very small but very successful worm bin under the kitchen sink in the apartment Ron and I lived in right after we got married. (Thank God I had the good sense to marry a farm boy. A lesser man might have had some second thoughts if he’d walked in one evening to find his new bride sitting on the kitchen floor, tending a plastic shoebox full of worms. Ron just asked what I was doing, said, “You think it’ll work?” and asked me if I’d mind handing him a beer, since I was blocking his path to the refrigerator.)

I used the compost to feed the herbs I kept in pots on my balcony. When I got a house, I built a bigger worm bin … which promptly failed. I’ve made several attempts at vermicomposting since then but have never had as much luck with subsequent bins as I did with that first little experimental composter. Maybe I’ll try one more time … with a tiny little bin like that one I had six years ago.

I really want a Can O’ Worms, but I don’t really have space for it in the kitchen just at the moment.

However, I do have a three-drawer plastic cabinet I bought a few years ago to sort small amounts of recyclable materials. When I got a bigger recycling bin, I cleaned the cabinet and used it as a nightstand. When I got a bed with shelves built into the headboard, the plastic cabinet/recycler/nightstand went into the closet, where it has been sitting dormant, full of stuff I never use, ever since.

I think if I get out my cordless drill and put some drainage holes in the top two drawers, I can make a pretty nice three-story worm bin similar to a Can O’ Worms that will collect compost tea in the bottom and produce rich compost in the top. I’ll have to dink with the design a little bit to make it work, but I believe I can come up with something pretty good without spending a whole lot of money. I will probably see the owner of Worm Solutions at our Route 66 Association meeting later this month. I should call him and see if he’ll bring some redworms to the meeting for me so I don’t have to drive all the way to Yukon to pick them up. I only need about a half-pound to start with, because this is not going to be a very big bin. For some reason, the bait shops I’ve checked with around here don’t have redworms. I don’t know why. I guess Oklahoma fish don’t like red wigglers.

I’ll let you know how that project goes.

If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, consider resolving to do something positive for the environment this year. I made that resolution in 2000, and it’s been part of my lifestyle ever since. It’s kind of fun once you get started. And you don’t have to keep worms under your kitchen sink … although I highly recommend it if you’re into that sort of thing. 🙂

Emily

Slow day

Too much time cooped up indoors today — I was at work later than usual, and then I had a project to work on, and then I was in a meeting for part of the evening.

When I got home, I went outside looking for something new in the yard, but I didn’t find much. The Waterman and Hill-Traveler’s Companion says this is “Twelfth Night — animals speak tonight.” I didn’t hear them, although a little while ago, Scout did sit next to me, sending telepathic messages that said, “Share your dinner with the terrier. Let the terrier lick that bowl. Feed the terrier….”

It’s been warm lately, but this evening has gotten a little chilly. I wish it would rain. We really need the moisture. It clouded up once this afternoon, but nothing happened. Maybe I should wash the car. 😉

I’m looking forward to a good weekend. First thing Saturday morning, I’m jogging along the Arkansas River with a friend. I imagine I’ll have plenty to report when I get back; I always see all sorts of critters along the river trail.

In the meantime, here’s a photo I shot in the front yard the other day. I don’t know exactly what kind of evergreen this is, but it’s putting out quite a few pinecones:

Pinecones

Emily

Sustainability on a shoestring