Borrego Springs, CA

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cranes don’t know it’s leap year

March 1 usually signals the beginning of the breeding season for Mississippi sandhill cranes.  So what happens when there is a leap year and an extra day in February?  The cranes ignore it and just carry on as usual.  That extra day this year happened to land on a Wednesday, which meant we had one last crane tour to conduct for the season.  We had a small, but enjoyable, group of visitors for the tour including the man who is the voice for McGruff, the police crime fighting dog. 


We were able to find 11 cranes for them to observe, along with a good view of the two young eagles.  I’m thinking it won’t be long before these youngsters start flapping their wings and the next thing you know, they’ll be fledging.

_MG_6423Then, on the way back to headquarters, we encountered this water moccasin snake on the side of one of the refuge roads.  This snake had attitude!  As we moved to the opposite edge of the road to pass it, it reared up and snapped open its mouth as we passed.  It was successful in sending us on our way.  Winking smile

In the afternoon, all of the volunteers went along with Doug to visit several areas on, and adjacent to, the refuge.  Several volunteers had never seen the eagle’s nest, and we got quite a show.  While the mother eagle was perched in a nearby snag, the father swooped in with a big fish to feed the ever hungry offspring. _MG_6444Then we went to the Western Jackson County Water Treatment Plant that is surrounded by refuge lands.  Diana and I will be leading refuge tours beginning next Wednesday that differ from the crane tours.  This will be a tour that includes birds other than cranes (which will be nesting) and whatever wildflowers are blooming.  We wanted to check out the treatment plant for a possible destination to include in the tour.  While there, we spotted a pair of cranes working the fields surrounding the ponds.  Tomorrow we will let the biologists know the colors of their leg bands.

I’m sure just about all of you know that in addition to being leap year, today is also Sadie Hawkin’s  Day.  That means I have the opportunity to propose to the man of my dreams today!  Sorry to say, I have to report that I haven’t found a likely candidate.  Sad smile But on the bright side, I’ve got four more years to investigate possibilities.  LOL!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mississippi Taco

I think I’ve beaten down my cold, so when Diana emailed me last night about a cooking class today, I said, sign me up!   I had an appointment for an oil change and tire rotation for the toad this morning at 10:30, but it was on the way to the 12:00 cooking class in Gulfport.  By the time we finished with the car, it was obvious that we were going to be late for the class.  We got a phone call asking when we thought we’d arrive.  They didn’t want to start without us.  Wow!  How cool is that?


If any of you have ever watched Emeril Live, you will have an idea of how this class operated.  Just like on Emeril, we ladies were seated around the cooking area so we could all see what was going on, and provided with a recipe so we could follow along as the chef prepared the meal.  It was quite intimate with only twelve of us participating.


Chef Julian Brunt was very open to any questions.  The Mississippi Taco was his own creation.  That cast iron frying pan that he used was handed down from his grandmother to his mother to him to use in his cooking.  You just can’t beat a well seasoned cast iron pan for frying.

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Chef Brunt began by sautéing some diced Bay St. Louis Italian sausage in the frying pan.  After it was cooked, he removed the sausage and added red onion and garlic to the pan, which after about ten minutes was added to the sausage.  Then it was time to fry the shrimp in the same pan.  The shrimp had been marinated over night in the Valentine hot sauce.  (this made my taste buds cringe, but it turned out great)  He admonished us that shrimp only needs to cook a very short time in a hot pan to reach perfection.  Absolutely no more than three minutes!  The secret seems to be to use small amounts of shrimp at a time.66 MS Sandhill Crane NWR 201226Next, he stepped over to a second deep pan of hot oil and quickly fried up separate handfuls of Julienned sweet potatoes.  Then it was time to assemble the tacos.  He also had a bowl of cole slaw that he had prepared ahead of time.  First down on the tortilla was a scoop of the sausage and onions, then the shrimp, then the cole slaw, and finally the sweet potato crisps.


                                           Here’s the final product.  Just roll it up and bite into it. 

_MG_6409I’m thinking Diana was pleasantly surprised with this culinary masterpiece.  Open-mouthed smile  I’ve always really enjoyed cooking and trying new recipes, but my culinary ambition has fallen by the wayside since I’ve been on the road.  This was a real invigorating shot in the arm for me today.  Diana and I even chipped in and bought Chef Brunt’s cookbook to share.  This is certainly the best way to learn about regional cooking.  I’ll be signing up for the class on crab cakes in April for sure.

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We were so inspired by today’s class that we stopped at Desporte & Son’s Seafood Market to purchase some Gulf shrimp.  I got the peeled headless shrimp, and Diana got the large head on shrimp.  Her shrimp turned out to be much larger than mine, so next time I’ll buy the large head on shrimp, and she’ll teach me how to behead them.  Disappointed smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, February 27, 2012

Responding to some ‘Cave Dwellings’ comments

A couple of friends of mine out there in blogland are Donna and Dennis (aka Mcgyver) of the Cave Dwellings.  I haven’t met them in person yet, but it’s one of my desires to do so.  Donna often leaves comments on my posts, and I would like to respond to two of them that she has left recently. 

Back in January she asked, McGyver just asked me, "What kind of credentials do you have to have to do your job?"..It's obvious you are a teacher, and you know sooo much about the birds, plants and wildlife..Did you just learn that? Did you get your Masters in Biology??”  No, I do not have my bachelor’s or master’s in biology.  I’ve just had a life long interest in this area.  My credentials include many years in the education field, and that certainly helps with conducting tours.  I’m at ease with speaking in front of groups.  I also spent 20 years as a federally licensed bird bander, so couple that with a willingness to introduce others to the wonders of the natural world, and there you have my essence. 

As for volunteering at National Wildlife Refuges, in general, no special skills are required.  All of us volunteers find our own niche.  Every volunteer that I have worked with has had a vast background in a wide variety of areas.  NWRs strive to place their volunteers in positions that take into account their varying strengths.  My opinion is that Donna would be a hoot working with kids.  Her sense of humor would knock their socks off!

Speaking of socks, that brings me to the comment that Donna left on yesterday’s post.  It's very smart to listen when your body is talking...I always end up getting sick after I overdo and do lots of days running after my ass to catch up...Put something in the crockpot, take a nice hot shower, put on one of your ensembles, (come on, Judy, I KNOW you have one), get a nice glass of red wine, plunk down in your recliner and watch an old movie...Do that 2 days in a row and it will recharge your batteries.


Now in the RV blog world, Donna is the queen of ensembles!  Winking smile I can hardly imagine competing with this fashion star.  But, I decided to take her advice and give it the old college try.


I guess I’m an ensemble person in training.  No flashy socks or lighthouse sweatshirts in my wardrobe yet.  However, I would like to point out that I do have snazzy Mickey Mouse and Pluto lounging pants.  My footwear is beaded moose hide moccasins with beaver trim made by the First Nation People of Canada, and the fleece jacket that I got in the Yukon that’s keeping me warm, has a grizzly bear head embossed on it.  No fancy wine glass here either.  Just an insulated mug since I like my wine on the rocks.  I think I got the recliner right, though, and I’ll be watching another installment of the mini-series Centennial tonight.  I think that qualifies as an old movie.  I’m feeling a lot better already!

Okay ladies, can we start an ensemble parade?  I double dog dare you to participate.  Smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reaching my limit :(

The past nine days have been a real whirlwind for me.  After doing a crane tour a week ago Saturday and working the VC, I headed to Gulfport to pick up my daughter and grandgirl from the airport.  We had a busy and wonderful visit for several days.  Then on Tuesday, my friends Colin and Denise arrived from England for a day on the refuge.  Wednesday after work, Marti and Paul Dahl pulled in for a visit that night, and a tour on Thursday. 


I worked the VC on Friday, and did another tour on Saturday, and worked the VC in the afternoon.  On the morning tour we saw a few cranes, and I was able to get this close up of the eagle with one of its young.  The other youngster was down in the nest eating the food its parent had brought.  Coolest thing about this encounter is that we could hear the young ones begging for food.

Friday is when I had the first inklings of catching the cold my daughter and grandgirl had shared with me.


Then, right after sunset last night Peggy and Paul (good friends and fellow volunteers) pulled in with their rig for an overnight stay.  Since John and Diana, Peggy and Paul, and I have all volunteered together at Balcones Canyonlands NWR a couple of times, we all went out for a late dinner last night.  This morning I showed them around the Visitor’s Center for a while.  They had to soon leave for a destination in Florida. 

After running a few errands in town this afternoon, I sat down outside in my rocker with Emma and that’s when it hit me.  I was pooped!  I decided that I had reached my limit.  I’m still battling the onslaught of the cold, but I think I’m winning. 

Hardest thing for me to do this evening was to send an email to someone named Mary that had read my blog and asked for a tour on Tuesday.  I had to bow out of that commitment.  I need a couple of days to recuperate, catch up on neglected chores, and just relax before working again on Wednesday.  She has been most gracious and understanding.  I really feel bad about backing out of that, but sometimes you just have to put your own health and well being first.  I believe this is a difficult thing for many women to realize. 

I wouldn’t change one minute of the last nine days (except for the cold), and thoroughly enjoyed my time with family and good friends.  Guess I just need a little down time before revving up the social engines again.  Winking smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, February 24, 2012

I sneezed twice today

To most people, two sneezes spaced out over an afternoon would not be a noteworthy occurrence.  However, in my world, it could be a sign.  I often have sneezing attacks in the evening that include about twenty or so sneezes in a row.  I don’t think those little attacks have anything to do with the rig, as I’ve had them for years no matter where I am or what I might be living in.  As for the two isolated sneezes I had today, let me digress a little.

 IMG_6284Last weekend my friends, and fellow volunteers, Diana and John attended a couple of Mardi Gras parades.  They got out all the beads that they caught from the parades to pose for a family portrait with their dog Buffy.  (I wanted to post a picture of Diana so you’ll know who I’ll be working with, and mentioning in my posts, for the next couple of months)


This happened while my daughter, Robyn, and grandgirl Avery were visiting.  It seemed only fitting that we also got a portrait.  (Avery was napping at the time)  Emma wore the beads, but her expression seems to be one of disgust for me asking her to wear those beads.  Annoyed

Anyway, so what does all this have to do with two sneezes?  Well, both Robyn and Avery had congestion and coughing while they were here from colds.  I believe the normal time for contracting a cold is about a week after exposure to the germs, and it’s been just about that long.  And many of you know about the close confinement and sharing of most everything in a motorhome.  The noteworthy part of all of this is that I haven’t had a cold since 2003!  Yep, I can remember the last time I had a cold. 

I probably would have ignored those two sneezes, but this evening I have a funny feeling in my nose and throat, and that’s not a good thing.  Aw shucks!  This is not the way I wanted to remember their visit.  I don’t have time to get sick.  I’ve got my Mentholatum, Puffs, and chicken noodle soup all ready just in case, but I’m hoping it’s just a figment of my imagination.  I don't know smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A bouquet of flowers and dinner?

Yes, it’s true.


Late yesterday afternoon, I was presented with this bouquet of flowers as my new friends and fellow bloggers arrived for an overnight stay at the refuge.


Paul and Marti Dahl, of R Sanity RV Adventures fame, took me up on an invitation to stop over on their way to Florida.  We have been following each other’s blogs for quite some time.  Many of you know how cool it is to put real faces to cyber friends.  After the flowers, Paul said they would take me out for dinner since they knew I was a ‘cheap date’.  Winking smile  Well, we had a marvelous dining experience at Tiki’s in Gautier, MS, and jabbered the evening away. 

This morning, Diana and I took them on a back roads tour of the refuge, and were able to spot 23 cranes! 


At one point along the way, I asked Diana to stop the vehicle because I had spotted the first new pitcher plant of the year.  In my experience, the pitcher plants send up their blooms first before the actual pitchers form, but there was this green pitcher standing up amongst the dried out remnants from last year.  That’s about a month earlier than last year.


The tour was a success, and we all had a great time getting to know each other better.  Good times, good laughs, and only one little glitch.  You see, after Paul retired and they were waiting for their house to sell, he wiled away some of his time by washing and waxing his rig.  He mentioned that he enjoyed doing this, and I immediately told him that I’d be happy to offer up my rig for him to wash and wax so he could be happy.  He responded that if our paths ever crossed, he would be happy to make my rig all spiffy.  Well, guess what?  Our paths crossed, and my rig is still dirty!  Something about the impending birth of another grandchild, yadda, yadda, yadda… Open-mouthed smile  Guess I’ll have to catch up with them again at a more opportune time!  Thanks for the flowers, dinner, and memories Marti and Paul.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A fine feathered day

I was ‘up and at em’ getting ready for another crane tour this morning.


I took my camera with me for Emma’s first outs hoping to get an extraordinary sunrise photo like I got last year with the early morning rays streaming through the foggy savannah.  It was a nice sunrise, but not exactly  gorgeous.  It is better to view any sunrise, however, rather than the alternative.  Disappointed smile

_MG_6327 _MG_6326

The fog and heavy dew did make all of the thousands of spider webs more visible though.  The work involved in creating these webs never ceases to amaze me.

We had a pretty good group of folks for the tour this morning.  As usual, two people didn’t show up or call to cancel.  Frustrating, once again, as we had four people on the waiting list for the tour. 


As I’ve explained before, it’s getting harder and harder to find cranes as we near the breeding season.  I’m afraid seeing as many as 32 cranes in a day is history for this year.  We did see a group of five cranes flying away, and this small group that didn’t immediately take flight.  I included this picture tonight to demonstrate the difference between Mississippi Sandhill Cranes and the visiting migratory Greater Sandhill Cranes that are common in places like Michigan and Wisconsin.

The three cranes on the right are the Mississippi’s.  If you look closely, you can see three things about them that are different from the Greater Sandhill.  They are slightly smaller, are a darker gray color, and they all have colored leg bands on them. 

_MG_6339 _MG_6343Of course, we had to check on the bald eagle nest, and today, both adults were perched on a dead tree behind the nest.  We also got to see both heads of the young ones peeking out of the nest.  It’s always a thrill to see these magnificent birds.

Later, Diana and I took a drive over to our sister refuge, Grand Bay NWR, so Diana would know what we are talking about when we recommend that our visitors take a drive over there.

_MG_6348 _MG_6352

While out at the boat launch on this refuge, we found a great blue heron having a bit of a bad hair day on the fishing pier.  He was rather stoic about the brisk winds.

It’s getting late, so I’ll leave for tomorrow how I got a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and was taken out for a scrumptious seafood dinner…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you tomorrow,  Judy

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Visitors from ‘across the pond’

While Robyn was here, she wanted to see the Mississippi Sandhill Cranes, so we all went for a tour of the refuge yesterday morning.  Avery, of course, couldn’t care less about such a thing being only four years old.  It’s getting harder and harder to find the cranes as we get closer to the end of the month and the beginning of their breeding season.  Luckily, we were able to finally see some.

Monday afternoon, all of the volunteers got together to have a cook out.  Avery was feeling a little more comfortable with all these strangers by the afternoon.  After all, most of us are grandparents, so you know it was a friendly atmosphere.  As the sun set, I drove Robyn and Avery to a motel in Biloxi right across from the airport.  They had a very early morning flight out today, and had decided to spend the night there rather than having to get Avery up at four in the morning for the drive into the airport.  Just as my mother used to, I get choked up at these partings.  It was a short, but wonderful visit.


Then early this morning, Colin and Denise arrived for a tour of the refuge.  I’ve volunteered with Colin several times in the past at Anahuac NWR.  He is a citizen of England, and has volunteered at Anahuac for about three months a year for the last nine years.  His trip to the US was strictly for birding this time, and he brought his wife, Denise, along.  It was great to finally meet her.  As you can see, she is seriously into photo taking, and we did get a few opportunities for her to get some shots of the cranes.  It seems that Colin travels all over the globe to pursue his birding passion.  I’m sure glad I could deliver this morning.  Smile  I’d also like to thank them for treating me to lunch!


After lunch, I was feeling pretty worn out from all the excitement and goings on of the last five days, and way behind in doing my laundry.  So I threw a load into the Splendide, and Emma and I relaxed outside for the afternoon.


I did some trimming underneath one of the bird feeders for better viewing, and it wasn’t long before this brown thrasher stopped by to scratch in the debris of the forest floor.  It was 3:00 before I could put the load of wash out on the line, and the jeans and a few other items didn’t dry.  Since there’s no rain in tonight’s forecast, I’ve decided to just let them hang overnight.  Tomorrow, I’ll get another load going before I do the tour.  Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s back to work I go.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, February 19, 2012

“Gramma Bell, I want to see the sea and build a sandcastle!”

That’s a pretty big order for a Gramma to produce, so I guess it’s a good thing I’m staying near the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  I picked up Robyn and Avery at the Gulfport/Biloxi airport last night in the middle of a torrential downpour.  We made it back to the rig in the rain, had something to eat, and then Avery about passed out from exhaustion.  It had been a big, long day for a four year old.  Two different plane rides, and then a drive in the dark to Gramma’s house.


Both Avery and Emma are early risers, so we were off before 8:00 this morning to hike the rather soggy Dee’s Trail.  One of us was lucky enough not to get our shoes wet after the 2.5” of rain yesterday.


After going out to lunch with the rest of the volunteers for a shrimp po’boy (which was Robyn’s request), we headed for the Biloxi beaches so I could grant Avery her wish. 

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                                                  I got to show her the sea, and her mother…


                                                        got to help her build a sandcastle. 


Avery is one of those children that really gets into her ‘work’.  She doesn’t care how down and dirty she gets.  My kind of girl!


When she was only 15 months old, her mother referred to her as a Relocation Specialist.  She would move dirt, rocks, sticks, etc., from one place to another without abandon.  She hasn’t given up that hobby.  There was a stiff chilly wind blowing, but Avery felt compelled to do her best to relocate as much sand as possible.  Smile

We postponed our hotdog cookout until tomorrow hoping for less wind and warmer temperatures.  What a joy it was this evening to listen to the two of them taking a shower together in the RV.  And what a shock it was for them to step out of the shower into the chilly air whisking past them up and out the ceiling fan that is turned on during showers to help remove the moisture in the rig from the hot showers.  Ha, ha!

‘Emma the Gog’ is doing a pretty good job of behaving herself, and little Avery is doing a pretty good job of trying to tease her.  It’s about par for two four year olds…


                                                                               THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy