Borrego Springs, CA

Friday, November 30, 2012

Eek! Maybe I made a mistake.

I got a phone call last night that some friends of mine would be passing through the area on their way to Florida.  We made a plan to meet and have lunch today.

IMG_8771Paul and Peggy IMG_5752 IMG_5761

I volunteered a couple of years at Balcones Canyonlands NWR with Paul and Peggy.  They’re from Vermont, and we had a good time working together.  We’ve kept in touch, and I was happy to see them again today.

Paul is an internal medicine doctor and surgeon (I hope I got that title right), and had a few suggestions for me concerning my upcoming surgery. Most importantly, he wrote down several important questions that I should ask my surgeon before having the procedure.  I will take those questions with me the next time I meet with Dr. Brodersen.  

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1322He also suggested that I take these pictures of the entrance to my rig to show the physical therapists at the hospital.  He said it would help them understand my circumstances, upon release from the hospital, so they could train me how I’m going to get in and out of my home.  My challenge now is how to get a paper copy of these pictures to show them since I don’t have a printer. Sad smile  Thanks, Paul.  It sure is nice to have a friend that’s a doctor!

Yesterday afternoon while I was digging the bird feeders out of my basement storage bins, a huge insect flew out of the storage area at me.  Big bugs give me the creeps, and this one took my breath away as I dodged it.  It looked like a gigantic stink bug to me.

IMG_1333 IMG_1331

I went to dump the tanks this evening about 5:00, and there it was again clinging to the inside of the water and dump hook-up door!  It made me think about that assassin type insect out at the Homestead that I took a picture of the other day.  That bug has a painful bite, so this one made me nervous.  I decided to knock it off with my cane, and then I squished it with a board.  Wow!  It did put off quite an odor that just hung in the air.  The thing was almost three inches long.

I’m not sure crunching it was such a good idea.  When I came around to the other side of the rig, I found another one sitting on top of the red Ortho Home Guard Insect spray bottle that can be seen in the pics of the rig entrance steps above. Disappointed smile

Then, when Emma and I came inside for the evening, I could hear the loud droning of some insect dive bombing me inside the rig.  It turned out to be another of these big insects.  I wonder if the odor emitted by the one I squashed attracted others to the area?  I took a deep breath, put on rubber gloves, grabbed a dish rag, and scooped up the bug inside the rig and threw it out the window!  I’m thinking this is definitely not a ‘pink’ job!  Where’s a ‘blue’ man when you need one???  Crying face The whole episode just gave me the shivers.  Guess I’m just a wimp!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Did you ever forget what state you’re living in?

Today was the second of my three days in a row off this week.  Yesterday was cold, dark, and dreary and my scheduled boat ride into the swamp got cancelled due to inclement weather.  So I just hunkered down inside, did laundry, and watched some daytime TV.  It has been years since I’ve had the TV on during the afternoon on a weekday.  Can’t say that I’ve missed anything.

Today, the sun was shining and I had a long list of errands to run about 35 miles away in Kingsland, GA.  First up on the list was to get a much needed haircut.  I really only go to Wal-mart when I have to.  The bigger stores usually have a beauty parlor, so that’s all I did there.  Then it was on to the Publix grocery store.  I’m really liking this store.  What a selection they have!_MG_1323I can’t even guess the last time I had B&M Brown Bread.  When I was growing up, my mother would occasionally buy a can of this tasty bread, and we would slice it and slather cream cheese on it.  I haven’t even seen it in many years in any of the grocery stores I’ve been in.  I had to buy a can, doncha’ know.  Winking smile  Can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow!

Then it was on to do battle with Verizon at one of their stores.  I had stopped there last week to ask what the error message of WMC604 meant.  For the last three weeks or so, I have only very occasionally been able to connect with my Verizon air card.  They told me they couldn’t help me unless I brought in the air card and my laptop.  So I did that today, to no avail.  They still couldn’t figure out what was the matter.  I thought that perhaps I would have normal service in town, but it wouldn’t connect there either.  Eventually they called for Verizon support, and after about 45 minutes, Verizon decided to send me a new 4G air card.  Of course that won’t arrive until next week.  I told them to look at how my usage has dropped to near zero through no fault of my own, and that I did not want to be charged for the days I couldn’t get on-line.  They agreed to eliminate fees until I’m back on line.  (a small victory for the consumer)  Thankfully I have a very slow, but adequate Wifi signal here provided by the refuge for its volunteers.  It only takes about a half hour or so to publish a post with a couple of pictures Disappointed smile.

After getting back home, the phone rang and showed a call from Mississippi.  I thought, “Hooray!  It’s Mayo calling with my surgery appointment.”  I was excited to say the least.  As soon as I answered, the call got dropped.  My cell reception here leaves a lot to be desired.  I called back immediately, and it turned out to be a Dillard’s store.  What???  I’ve never even been in one of their stores.  Then it dawned on me: I’m in Georgia, not Mississippi, and Mayo is in Waycross, GA!  Duh!!  How could I forget what state I was living in?  I don’t know.


One of the other things I did in Kingsland today was to stop at a Lowe’s to purchase one of those shepherd’s crooks thingies to hang my bird feeders on.  In the late afternoon, I pounded it into the ground.


I put it at the edge of my side yard where Emma and I sit outside each afternoon and evening.  So, the Hard Rock Bird CafĂ© is now open on the edge of the woods.  Since the pine trees are about 75’ tall, there aren’t any low branches for me to hang the feeders from.  Hence, I needed one of those crooks.  I’m wagering that I may see and do battle with more squirrels than birds, but let the games begin!  Open-mouthed smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Chesser Island Homestead

_MG_1171 _MG_1153

My assignment for today was to be the docent at the Chesser Island Homestead.  This homestead was built in 1927 by Tom and Iva Chesser.  They were third generation ‘swampers’ farming in the Okefenokee. 

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1320

There is a whole lot of history here that would take pages to go into, so my suggestion is you just come to visit me here to hear the whole story.  I’ll give you a few interesting facts, but there is so much more.

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1319

Tom and Iva raised seven children in this house without any electricity.  They were basically subsistence farmers that raised their own food and hunted the land for deer, bear, alligators and otters.  They had chickens, pigs, and bee hives constructed from hollow cypress logs.  They raised sugar cane to make syrup and harvested sap from the pine trees to produce turpentine to sell for things like flour and cloth that they needed to buy.  I could go on and on…


My job is to sit on the porch in one of the two rockers, and wait for visitors.  I know it’s a tough assignment, but somebody has to do it.  Winking smile  I was there for about six hours today, and only had 16 visitors.  That left me with plenty of time to enjoy the peace and quiet and observe the little nature things going on.


Marching up the front steps’ railing was this formidable looking insect.  It was about two inches long.

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1321

I haven’t had time to investigate what it is, but I’m hoping my friend ‘Bugman’ Jack can figure it out for me.  That oblong area on its abdomen was just iridescent in the sun.


I also had plenty of time to enjoy this fence lizard that was skulking about the stairs.  I think this is a female, and I’ve seen her near the stairs each time I’ve been at the Homestead.

At the end of the afternoon, I sped back to the VC to use the phone to once again check with the hospital in Waycross about my doctor’s December surgery calendar.  I was not surprised to hear that a calendar has not yet been set up.  Baring teeth smile  At least this time, they took my name, birthdate, phone number, surgery request, and promised to call me back as soon as a calendar is developed.  Yeah, right!  I have yet to receive a promised call.  I’ll give them two days, and then I’ll bug them again.  Uf-dah!


                                                                              THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two more days at work

After the fun of working the Chesser Homestead with all of those visitors on Friday, I spent the last two days roving in the morning and working the VC in the afternoon.  There were not near as many visitors as there were on Friday.


Remember when I tried to find a wild turkey to take a picture of on Thanksgiving morning?  Not a bird was to be found anywhere.

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1317

This morning, there were turkeys around almost every bend!  Who said turkeys are dumb?  I thought I could hear them chuckling at me as they went about their business.  Confused smile

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1318

An uncommon bird on this refuge is the house wren, but I found one that couldn’t help scolding me for  passing by. 

IMG_1060 IMG_1057

As I drove next to the borrow ditch that used to have a bridge that led to Chesser Island, a great blue heron was looking for it’s breakfast.  It was in the 30’s when I woke up this morning, so I opted out of taking the open air electric cart for my roving.  Call me chicken, but an enclosed vehicle with heat made my morning more comfortable.


As I neared the homestead, two does crossed the road.  I was the first one on the wildlife drive this morning, and that usually means better wildlife viewing chances.


Thinking about my bird tour on woodpeckers next Saturday, I was happy to find this red-headed woodpecker once again along the route I’ll take.  When I worked the VC this afternoon I found out that Gracie Gooch, the volunteer coordinator, has been notifying local Audubon groups about the tour trying to drum up business for me.  I had figured no one would show up for the tour since it’s kind of early in the morning for folks to show up this far off of the beaten path. 

I guess it has been some time since birding tours have been offered here, if ever, and it was one of the reasons I was asked to come volunteer.  I’m a little more optimistic now that someone might actually come.  We even discussed the possibility that two vans may be needed.  Personally, I think that’s a pipe dream, but it was fun to talk about.

Tomorrow I work out at the Chesser Homestead all day, so my post will probably be about those pioneers tomorrow.  Before I open it up for visitation, my plan is to once again call the Mayo Waycross hospital to try to get a surgery date.  I sure hope they finally have a December surgery calendar set up.

IMG_1036                                                                                THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sometimes, you have to be flexible

Normally my work assignment days on the refuge include a half day in the Visitors Center (VC), and a half day roving.  Today my assignment was for a full day in the VC.  While I normally don’t mind a full day now and then in the VC, I wasn’t looking forward to today.  The flooring here is uneven bumpy chunks of slate.  It plays havoc with my current malady, and I have to do a lot of walking on that surface.

After opening up this morning, a call came in that Kathy would not be able to make it in this morning to man the Chesser Homestead.  She was hoping to get here for the afternoon.  I immediately volunteered to take her place for the morning since we had three people manning the VC.  (Overkill in my opinion since the mornings at this time of the year are very slow.)

Sarah, the Brown Shirt on duty, agreed and let me leave to rove and open the Homestead if needed.  Yahoo!!  I was out of there in a flash.  I had the electric cart, so I slowly made my way down the Swamp Island Drive.  One of the parts I like about roving is talking with visitors along the way, and answering any questions they may have.  People are more willing to talk to you when you’re in the little open air cart. 

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1316

                Couldn’t pass up the chance to take more pitcher plant photos in the early morning light.

I came upon a couple standing outside their car on the side of the Drive.  The husband had a honking big lens on his camera, and was obviously stalking some little birds in the palmetto understory.  He first asked if I was an expert, and then began to describe a bird he had seen after he told me he was a birder.  I told him the bird he was describing was a male common yellowthroat, and then he showed me a picture he had taken and asked what bird it was.  It was a pretty good photo, so I easily identified a chipping sparrow.  Then he quizzed me on the sounds that these two birds made in the winter.  Luckily, I was able to produce some sounds in my identifications that made him say, “Yes, that’s it!”  Phew!  I’m sure glad they were easy questions, and I’ve always added sound effects to my descriptions.  Who me?  It was a fun encounter.


After lunch, I returned to the VC to work the afternoon.  Turns out I had done a NO-NO.  I didn’t have a radio (walkie-talkie) with me this morning.  Art, in charge of interpretive programs, had been trying to get a hold of me all morning to tell me to stay at the Chesser Homestead to be the docent all day.  The refuge gets quite a few visitors the day after Thanksgiving, and the Homestead is very popular.  Without a docent, the visitors can’t go through the house to see what it was like back in 1927 for a pioneer swamper family. 


Needless to say, I hopped back into the cart and floored it back out to the Homestead!  Disappointed smile  I bet I was doing a little over ten miles per hour!  It’s a good thing I got things opened up as I had 72 visitors in three hours.  That’s a lot of people to talk to about the history of the farm.  I was in my element, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Sometimes you have to be flexible, but this time the sudden change in the schedule made my day.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A good turkey of a day

Although chilly, it was a beautiful sunny day as Emma and I emerged from the rig for her first outs.  Since wild turkeys are so abundant on the refuge, I decided we should go for a ride so I could get a picture of this bird on its most prominent day on the calendar.  I’ve seen turkeys everyday I’ve been out on the refuge, so I figured it would be a piece of cake to find them.

Turkey, Gobler, male

You know what they say about the best laid plans…  Not a turkey was to be found this morning.  So, I’m including this stunning photo that I posted last year from the Texas Parks and Wildlife site. 


Since the refuge was closed for the holiday, we were able to drive about knowing we were the only ones on the wildlife drive today.  We took an hour and a half to do the eight miles, and lingered at favorite spots enjoying the peace and quiet.


The deep blue skies, reddish orange of the cypress trees, greens of the pines, and yellows from the deciduous trees presented a beautiful palette  of color to appreciate.  I took time to honor this day of Thanksgiving, and marveled at nature’s gifts that I find all around me.  I continue to remain thankful for the life I am allowed to live.

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1315

Along about 2:00, all of us gathered in the Volunteer Village double-wide trailer for a traditional feast of turkey and all the trimmings.  Fellow volunteers Barb and Barry did most of the work in providing our repast, and I really appreciate all of their work.  It was a delicious meal! 

Afterwards, the men watched football while the women kibitzed.  Near the end of the game we all decided to watch a DVD up in the auditorium of the Visitors Center.  There is a big screen and surround sound that is like being in a movie theater.  Barb’s grandson had a part in the movie, so that added interest to the show.  Well, it was a movie about an infection that was spreading worldwide and killing people including the grandson.  (I can’t remember the name of the movie)  I only lasted about twenty minutes into it, and had to leave.  It was a little too graphic for me.  Sick smile Guess I’m just  ‘The Waltons’ type of movie watcher. 


While I didn’t find a wild turkey that survived to live another day, I was able to find the ‘bluebird of happiness’.  Winking smile  Either would have been appropriate for this Thanksgiving Day…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Knock on Wood”

Nothing much that is exciting is happening in my world right now, so tonight’s blog is just a mix about the ordinary things of the last two days. 


                                                                            Juvenile white ibis

Tonight’s photos are some I’ve taken around the refuge since I arrived.  I actually took no pictures yesterday or today.  Like I said, it’s pretty lack luster around here right now.  I worked yesterday at the VC, and spent some time roving.  I did check things out at the Chesser Homestead since I’m assigned there for a couple of days next week.


                                                             Little blue heron in the swamp.

I did stop in to the VC in the morning to give another call to the Mayo hospital in Waycross to see if a surgery schedule has been set up yet for my doctor in December since they said last week that a calendar should be set up by today.  No luck there.  They said to call back next week.  I ignored that suggestion, called again today, and was told the same thing.  Uf-dah!  I’m anxious to get this surgery over with.  This is literally a pain in the hip!


                                                                          Toothache Grass

It’s believed that toothache grass was used by Native Americans to help out with their dental maladies.  I did read that if you chew the lower stem, it produces numbness.  I wonder if I could rub it on my hip?  Confused smile


The seed head of this plant is pretty distinctive.  I’ve only found one batch of it so far in my wanderings here.  It is native to the coastal wetlands of the southeastern United States.  I recognized it from my times at Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR.


                Mama alligator barely visible.  Very little sun and warmth for her to bask in the last week.

After doing a week and a half’s worth of laundry this morning, I headed into headquarters to submit my bird tour proposal.  They’re slightly formal about these things at this refuge.  I’m pleased to report that my “Knock on Wood” tour was heartily approved by the powers that be.  I’ve heard that this isn’t always the case.  Sarcastic smile  I’m going to gloat a little here and say, “You’re not dealing with an amateur here.”  (shame on me)

Knock on Wood?  Yep, it will be a bird tour highlighting the eight species of woodpeckers that can be found on the refuge including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.  I must admit that I had thought of some other titles for this tour about peckers that weren’t exactly politically correct.  Surprised smile  Can you guess what they were?

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy