Borrego Springs, CA

Monday, December 31, 2012

Jumped another hurdle today

Today was the big day to have my pre-surgery physical exam and testing to determine if I really would get a new hip next week.  It’s been about two months in the planning, but I’m happy to report that I passed!  Because of the doctor changing hospitals and all of the delays, I was feeling the surgery was never going to happen.  I hate these kind of days.

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Tonight’s photos are from my roving time yesterday on the refuge.  Dew on a young longleaf pine.

I was pretty calm until I got about five miles away from my first appointment.  I could feel my blood pressure rising as I neared the orthopedic office.  I’m sure some of you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when dealing with doctors and nurses.  I wish it wasn’t so.


It took about an hour to go through that initial exam, and then I was sent off to the Mayo hospital for further testing.  Each person I talked to asked the same questions, but I was prepared for that. 


I figured I would be poked and prodded, and I was.  Blood draws, urine sample, and an EKG were done.  There was one test, however, that took me by surprise.

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                                               Hermit Thrush in the understory.

At one point, a nurse took a long wooden Q-tip to swab my nostrils.  I’ve never had that done before.  I was told it was to check to see if I had a staph infection.  The thing that popped into my mind as she did it was that old insult “Up your nose with a rubber hose!”  Nyah-Nyah

I also met with the anesthesiologist, and he assured me that I would be in La La land next Tuesday.  The distance between different tests at the hospital was daunting.  I was thrilled when they plopped me in a wheel chair and took me from place to place.  When it was all done, they even wheeled me out to my car.  You can’t imagine the amount of pain that saved me from.  I was very thankful.

By the time I left, my blood pressure was down to normal again.  It should be fine until that drive into the hospital next Tuesday…Disappointed smile  I will be so happy to get this done and over with!

IMG_1529                                                                                  THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another Christmas Bird Count is history

I set my alarm last night, and was up before the crack of dawn this morning to prepare for my umpteenth Christmas Bird Count (CBC) this morning. I opted out of driving to Folkston for a pre-count meeting at 6:15, and just met the group I would be counting with on the refuge a little after 7:00.  This would be the first time I would do a CBC from a boat rather than by car or on foot.  (on foot was out for me this year)

Before we headed out into the real swamp, we had a few stops to make to try to find some red-cockaded woodpeckers.  Even though it was raining, we were able to find nine of these rare little birds between two  locations.  Cool beans! 


There were four members in our group today.  Our leader was Art, a supervisory ranger, who was spending his last day before retirement getting paid to watch and count birds.  What a way to end a career!  He would be piloting our boat.  Besides the two of us, there was a woman who had done the CBC on the refuge in a boat for years and years, and a brand new staff member to the refuge.  Since Art was driving the boat, he asked who would be the recorder for our count.  The new staff member stated she was coming to take pictures.  Okay, so I volunteered to be recorder. 

To answer a commenter’s question, we identify and count every different species we see while we are out and record how many of each species are seen.  With four observers, my job was to keep track of every sighting that was called out.  That certainly didn’t leave me much time for photography.  I really didn’t mind though, since the damp dreary conditions didn’t make for stunning photos anyway, and I’ve always enjoyed the excitement and challenge of trying to find every bird possible and documenting it.


Even with the iffy weather, we weren’t the only ones on the water.  We ran into several groups of canoers/kayakers that were plying the waters in the Federally designated Wilderness Area.  It amazes me how many people secure advance reservations to paddle these wilderness areas and camp for several nights at designated sites no matter what time of year it is. 

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We stopped for lunch at the Roundtop camping platform for our only pit stop of the day.  It was quite a challenge for me to literally crawl out of the boat to get on the platform.  I needed all the help that was offered to accomplish that, but nature’s call made it mandatory. Disappointed smile  Carol, our more elderly counter, must have a bladder of steel as she never once got out of the boat during our long trip.


We covered well over twenty miles in our travels through the swamp today, and despite the weather, it was a productive bird day in the Suwannee Canal and in the Chase and Chesser watery prairies.  Sure beat doing the CBCs I used to do in cold and snowy upstate New York!  Not that it was balmy here.  I had on many layers including my winter coat, gloves, winter hat, and an outer layer of wind/rain pants. 

It was ten hours before I returned to the rig.  Emma was thrilled when I immediately took her out, and we soon had the arrival of new neighbors.  Another volunteer couple drove in.  I think I’ll head to bed early tonight.  I’m pooped, and I have to work tomorrow.


                                                                                  THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, December 28, 2012

Time marches on


                                                         My oldest, Daniel, and his dog, Buddy.

Forty years ago today, I welcomed my first bundle of joy into this world.  It was a struggle getting him birthed for a tax deduction as 1972 drew to a close, but I got it done.  Confused smile  At that time, they kept new mothers and their babies in the hospital for several days, and I even had a dinner with Champagne on New Year’s Eve that year.

Where in the world does the time go?  I can’t believe that I have a child that is 40 years old.  Seems that it confirms that I really am an old fart.  Surprised smile  How did that happen??  I need a few minutes to recuperate from that realization…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A getting ready day

There are two experiences looming on my horizon, and my day off today was spent getting ready for both.  As usual, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish for the day and I actually got most of them done.  Most immediately, I will be participating in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Saturday.  I have been email corresponding with the local organizer, and verified that the only counting I could do this year is from the seat of a boat.  Hikes on trails are out for me right now. 


Tonight’s photos are from a recent visit to the ‘secret’ pond on a chilly morning.  Instead of finding three sandhill cranes in the field around the pond, there were eight.  They were all trumpeting away while feeding as I approached and shut off the motor.

There are forms to fill out, and others to take along for this official bird count.  I’m actually quite thrilled to be doing the count out on the water.  Any time I can get out on the swamp is a bonus experience for me.  The weather forecast for Saturday is for an 80% chance of rain in the morning with beginning temperatures in the 30’s, so I’ve gathered many layers of clothing to wear along with my rain coat and rain pants.  We will be out for the entire day from dawn to dusk, so we’ll need to be prepared for cold wet conditions in the boat.  I’ll be getting my lunch and snacks ready tomorrow.

IMG_1460         With all that trumpeting going on, it wasn’t long before other cranes came in to join the group.

The other experience looming is, of course, my surgery.  I had two things on my list concerning that today.  First up was arranging for a kennel for Emma for two to three weeks.  I was able to get her reservations in a local home/kennel where the dogs have house time in addition to time in kennels.  There is a large fenced yard, and the woman running the kennel (the ‘Dog Lady of Folkston’) has several boxers of her own.  She assured me there would be plenty of play time for Emma with herself and some of her dogs. 


                                             More arrivals, and more trumpeting conversations.

Next week, Emma and I will travel to her house for a meet and greet to acclimate Emma to the place.   I didn’t get a chance to tell the woman that Emma is happy to go with anyone, anywhere.  Separation anxiety is not something she is plagued with. Eye rolling smile  I don’t think she would care one way or the other if I ever returned to pick her up.  That’s just the way she is.


After chatting for a while, the whole flock decided to head off for greener pastures with a cacophony of sound.

Second thing on the surgery list was to make a trial journey to Waycross, GA, so I’ll know where I’m going next Monday for my pre-surgery appointments, and to find the hospital.  ‘Jack–in–the-Box’ took me on a very interesting route, but I do believe it was the fastest one to get there.  It’s about 45 miles from the rig, so certainly closer than Jacksonville, FL.  It was very obvious to me that this is a Mayo Clinic operation.  I didn’t get out of the car, but I’m comfortable and glad I made the trip.


I’ll be nervous enough as it is with Monday morning.  Doctor’s visits just naturally raise my blood pressure.  I thought perhaps knowing the route and where to park might calm me down a bit.  Probably won’t work, but one can always hope. Disappointed smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Didn’t really sleep in on Christmas Day.  I was providing the baked ham for our Volunteer Village Christmas Dinner here at Okefenokee.  I got the ham ready by scoring it to put in the cloves, and pat the brown sugar on it Monday afternoon, so it was easy to just slide it into the oven in the morning.  The holiday dinner would be shared by 12 volunteers, staff, and friends.  Santa’s gift to me on this day was a visit from two folks that many of you may know and follow.


Fellow recent fulltimers and bloggers, Erin and Mui joined us for our meal.  Erin writes the Two to Travel Phaeton’s Journey.  Since they were spending some time near Jacksonville, Florida, I emailed her and invited them to join us.  Knowing that they were early risers, I suggested they arrive at the refuge in the morning so I could give them a tour before dinner.  The refuge was closed for the holiday, so we had the whole place to ourselves.  I believe they had a good time visiting the Chesser Homestead.

Eventually, all 12 people showed up for dinner, and the food was everything it should be.  What a grand time we had.  I just wish I had asked Erin and Mui more about their trips to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands.  I hate it when the constant pain from my hip means I’m just not on top of things like I want to be.  Sad smile

As I was sitting outside early this morning with Emma for her first outs, apparently the incoming storm knocked out the electricity to the village.  I waited a while, and then cranked up the generator just before the skies really opened up.  It was more than three hours before power was restored, so the genny got a good workout for the month.

My second present for Christmas came in the mail today.  I normally only get mail delivery Monday through Friday, since the gates to the compound are closed on the weekends.  Well, because of the holiday, we haven’t had open gaits since last Friday.


Along with a Netflix disk, I received my annual calendar from my brother Carl.  He chooses pics from my posts of the previous year, and fashions a hanging calendar for me each year.  Each month I get to reminisce about happenings in the not too distant past.  Cool beans!  I look forward to its arrival each year.

Tomorrow I’ll take the calendar into the VC to use a hole punch so I can hang it on my fridge.  Then I need to line up the kennel for Emma to stay at while I have my surgery and begin recuperating.


Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Twelve Days of Christmas

Most of us are familiar with the holiday tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  You know the one with the 12 Drummers drumming, 11 Pipers piping, 10 Lords-a-leaping, 9 Ladies dancing, 8 Maids-a-milking, 7 Swans-a-swimming, 6 Geese-a-laying, 5 Golden Rings…, 4 Calling birds, 3 French hens, 2 Turtle doves, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.  Well, as I’ve been doing my roving time on the refuge, this tune popped into my head and my mind went-a-whirling.  So, for this special night, I give you my rendition.  Most of the photos were taken on Okefenokee NWR, but I had to beef up some pics with photos from Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR, Malheur NWR, and Balcones Canyonlands NWR. 

If I were techie enough, I’d provide the music in the background, but you know I’m not.  So, I hope you’ll sing along with me on the last verse of the song, and have as much fun as I did composing it.

                                   ♫ ♪ “ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY REFUGES GAVE TO ME: 

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                                                                12 WOODPECKERS DRUMMING


                                                                        11 HERONS FISHING


                                                                      10 LIZARDS-A-LEAPING

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                                                                 9 BUTTERFLIES FLUTTERING

12 Days of Christmas

                                                                           8 OWLS-A-HOOTING

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                                                                 7 ALLIGATORS SWIMMING

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                                                                       6 FROGS-A-CROAKING

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                                                                       5… GOLDEN… SUNSETS…

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                                                                     4 MOCKINGBIRDS,

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                                                                          3 PILES OF SCAT,


                                                                    2 WHITE-WINGED DOVES,


                                                     AND A RARE PECKER ON A PINE TREE… ♪ ♫

                                                     Come on, try singing it; it really is fun! Open-mouthed smile

                                          MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!



Saturday, December 22, 2012

A lesson learned for a young boy?

It was a chilly 29* this morning as I took Emma for her first outs.  I was sure glad I had dumped the tanks last night and left the grey water valve open so I could leave the kitchen water faucet dripping overnight so the water hose wouldn’t freeze up my water supply.  That worked, and I’ll be doing the same thing tonight as it is forecasted to be even colder.

My workday today consisted of roving in the morning, and working the VC in the afternoon.  I had the refuge vehicle heat pumping away as I slowly drove the Swamp Island Wildlife Drive first thing.  I keep the windows down as I move along so I can hear as well as see what might be out and about along the drive.  As you might guess, there weren’t any visitors to talk to, but being the first one on the drive for the day does increase the chances of seeing wildlife in my opinion.


I heard that familiar ‘chip’ that made me step on the brakes and turn the engine off.  Sure enough, an endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) was working one of the longleaf pines right outside the passenger’s window.  Its feathers were pretty fluffed up to ward off the cold.


This bird was traveling amongst the pines by itself.  I’m wondering if maybe it will be one of the birds that the refuge biologist will capture and move to an area to find a mate.  He gets to try to play matchmaker with lone birds.  RCWs often move around in family groups, and being an endangered species, steps are taken to help them find their true love.  I’m hoping that when I can ambulate more normally that I might be able to help out with this work.


Too soon, for me, it was time for lunch and then my stint in the VC.  You know I’d much rather be outside.  I did catch a view of this red-headed woodpecker as I was pulling in to park outside the VC.

It was pretty slow until a group of 37 young boys and their chaperones descended on the visitors center.  They had been out canoeing the swamp for several hours.  I had thought they were possibly a Boy Scout troop, but later found out it was a church group outing.  It’s kind of like a flash flood when a group this large flows into the VC all at once.  They dashed around the exhibits for a while, and then all went in to view the 14 minute video about the swamp in the auditorium.  I was working alone at that time, so couldn’t monitor everything at the same time as setting up the video.

After the video, they went out to board their bus to go visit the Homestead before it closed.  That is until one of the older chaperones came in with a young boy in tow, and told him to tell me what he had done.  The boy, about 8 or so I’d guess, gave me a five dollar bill, and said he took it from the donation box.  Uh Oh.  I called for the brown shirt on duty and asked her what she wanted to do about it.  She just stood there, so I turned to the boy and asked him what gave him the right to take money that someone had donated to save the swamp.  Of course, he had no answer, but he did hang his head and begin to shake.  The brown shirt then told him he could be arrested for stealing.  I asked him if he was sorry for what he had done, and then told him to put the money back where he had found it. 

I also told him that the best thing he had done was to admit to taking the money, and returning it.  Tears were coursing down his face as he left.  I sure hope that young lad learned a lesson today…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, December 21, 2012

Found a place to move to

Yesterday morning it was sunny and warm, but a storm was forecasted to arrive in the late afternoon/early evening.  Oddly enough, the weather guessers were right for a change.  At 2:00, all the volunteers and several staff members loaded up into the big van and headed for Waycross, GA.  That’s where the north entrance to the Okefenokee NWR is.  That entrance is run by a private concessionaire, and we were visiting to experience their holiday lighting.  Tonight’s photos are from that visit.

IMG_1420To begin with, we all started down the swamp boardwalk on the way to the elevated observation tower.  The folks in the entrance store said it was a quarter mile walk to the tower.  I figured if I took my time, I could do it, and I sure wanted to see the views from up in the air of the swamp.


Well I’m here to tell you that it is more than a quarter mile walk down a boardwalk.  See those stairs at the end of the bridge over the water?  I think just getting there was a quarter mile, and the tower was nowhere in sight.  My hip was already killing me; I looked at those stairs and thought of all the stairs going up and down the tower.  Yep, I had to pack it in and quit.  I’ll have to wait until spring to enjoy that trail!


I gingerly made my way back, but stopped often to enjoy the reflections in the watery swamp as the storm clouds and haziness rolled in.  This may just be the headwaters of the Suwannee River that weaves its way down into Florida.

_MG_1429I finally plunked myself down at a picnic table near the food concession stand.  As I rested, I looked skyward and a whole bunch of vultures began to circle.  I shook my fist and told them I wasn’t dead yet!  Steaming mad  They all began to descend, but in reality I believe they were just looking for good roosting spots to use to weather the incoming storm.  Those trees in the bottom of the pic already harbored around a dozen black and turkey vultures at 4:30 in the afternoon.


We all had tickets for a ride on the Miss Suwannee train to view the Christmas Light Display in the swamp at 6:00 pm.  As a light rain began, the train boarding whistle blew early hastening us to head out a.s.a.p. in hopes of avoiding the worst of the storm. (No refunds on tickets for bad weather.)  I had just finished a burger at the concession stand, but the workers had thankfully saved a seat up front for me in the first car so I wouldn’t have to walk so far. 

We started out in the dark just as the skies really opened up.  It was a delightful half hour ride through the dark swamp.  I was very impressed with the amount of lighted displays along the way.  There were
Christmas carols playing as we rode, and I sat back on the bench to just enjoy the experience.  Until…the train hit a curve that tilted us a bit, and all the rain water rushed down a groove at the back of the seat and quickly made me sit up and take attention as the cold water soaked into my backside! Surprised smile  Those clammy wet jeans never did dry out until this morning.

I worked the VC this morning, and roved in the afternoon.  It only got into the low 50’s today with very brisk cold winds.  Not many visitors today, and I can’t blame them for not coming.  During the afternoon, I took a little time to once again talk to the folks at Okefenokee Pastimes.  This is a campground/cabin/guide service establishment that is located right at the east entrance to Okefenokee NWR.  It’s only about five miles from where I’m now parked. 

I had spoken to them about staying there for my recovery last month just after my doctor appointment at Mayo.  At that time, they told me they only allowed people to stay a maximum of one week in their campground.  As things have worked out over time, they are making an exception for me, and I will be moving over there shortly before my surgery date.  I am very relieved.  While they seem to have lots of rules for their campers, the place is exceptionally clean, safe, and very well run.  There’s even a handicapped shower stool/seat in the immaculately clean shower room.  The price is $25/night or $150/week.  I can live with that. 

My other choices in the area that I investigated may be cheaper, but I would not be as comfortable at those  locations.  One was  RV sites located between two railroad tracks!  Sam may have loved that deal, but not me, for sure!  70 trains a day go though Folkston.  Well, I have rambled on enough tonight.  Guess I’d better quit.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy