Borrego Springs, CA

Friday, August 30, 2013

A culinary road trip?

Early yesterday morning Emma and I headed out for my a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,MN, for my sometimes annual physical check up.  After several frustrating moments the night before trying to upload the latest maps on my GPS, I was successful and it took me on a slightly different route this time to Rochester.  I guess the upload was worth it as it scooted me around all the construction that is going on in the Twin Cities.

By about 3:00 I arrived at my oldest son Dan’s home, and was surprised to find his wife, Crystal, home.  She has been touring the country most of the summer as a sort of expeditor for a famous singing group.  I wish I could remember their name, but it’s The ‘something’ Brothers.  I hate it when I draw a blank like that.  I’m not familiar with them, but that’s not surprising.  It just came to me that it might be the Jonas Brothers?

Anyway, she is often gone from home pursuing her career.  She is quite a good cook, so this road trip may have more of a culinary trend to it than a medical one.


Here’s what Crystal whipped up for dinner last night.  Tasty pork loin on a bed of couscous with with roasted green beans and eggplant.  I love it when somebody else cooks, and I’ve never had couscous before.  Made me kind of feel like I was visiting the Food Network channel.  In love


The multi-talented Crystal with her hubby, Daniel.

I was headed for the Mayo Clinic early this morning without breakfast for my annual check-up.  The Mayo satellite clinic that I go to is about 20 miles away.  That’s where my family doctor, DR. K., that I’ve dealt with for over 15 years, practices.  Even though I tried to get an appointment with her more than a month ago, they said she was not available.  Instead I was scheduled with some young doctor I didn’t know.  I wasn’t thrilled with that since I’d then have to go through all of my history and explain my lifestyle of the past seven years.

It seems Dr. K. is serving in a more supervisory capacity these days with training in new doctors in their residency years.  Imagine my surprise when Dr. K. stepped into the examination room and said, “Judy, how is life going in the motorhome?”  I was thrilled, and we got right down to the nitty-gritty.  I was poked, prodded, got a pneumonia vaccine, had blood drawn for the usual tests, and was on my way in short order.

Then of course, it was off to the Gonda Building at The Mayo Clinic in downtown Rochester for my mammogram.  They’ve streamlined things there as well, and I was in and out in less than a half hour.  I’ve been checked out and given the go ahead to continue living! 


Late this afternoon, Crystal and I met Dan at the Chau Noodle Restaurant.  I’ve never eaten Vietnamese food before, so this was another culinary first for me.


We started off with Vietnamese spring rolls as an appetizer.  They are wrapped in rice paper, totally edible, and come with a sauce that we used a spoon to drizzle through the middle of the spring roll since we were sharing the sauce bowl.  (Crystal is the one with experience here to teach me about this cuisine.)


For the main course, Daniel and I shared an order of PHO TAI.  It’s a beef soup with rice noodles, lemon grass, cilantro, green onions, and thinly sliced beef.  On the side is a plate of fresh basil leaves, bean sprouts, jalapeno peppers and line slices that can be added as you like to the soup.  I, of course, skipped the peppers.  The serving was enormous, and I can’t imagine one person eating this whole huge bowl.  Both of us ate our fill, and still had a quart to take home.  There were also sauces to dip the beef slices into. 

For me, my first impression was that the broth was delicious.  There was a taste, though, that I really didn’t care for.  I eventually figured out that it was the lemon grass.  If I could have this dish without the lemon grass, I would really like it.

This post is getting rather long, but I wanted to mention what I’ll be doing this evening and tomorrow morning.

_MG_9188Remember the furry “Three Musketeers” from my last visit here in July?  Yes, from left to right that’s Buddy, Georgie Girl, and Emma.  I like to think of them as the two young lunatics and one calm old dog.  I’m babysitting them all tonight while Crystal and Dan have a night on the town together.  They will return tomorrow.  I’m thinking this may be more challenging than grandchildren!  Wish me luck…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Another 19 posts painted today

A couple of days ago, my blogger virtual friend Merikay wrote about Re-Learning to See.  It got me thinking.  I always try to see the little details around me during my days, but a reminder to stop, and look, and wonder, is always welcome.  So as I headed out to paint my 19 posts for the day, I kept that in mind.  I hope you enjoy what I found today.


There was a pretty heavy fog around this morning as a result of the rain last night, and the abnormally high temps and humidity.  I just had to stop the truck and admire these delicate spider webs that were made so visible by the foggy dew.  Each of us creatures on earth make our own way through this world, but what beauty and symmetry I observed in the high branches.  Yep, it was one of those times to stop, and look, and wonder…  Of course, the guy in the Speedy Delivery van gave me on odd look, and probably didn’t appreciate me stopping in the middle of the road with my door open.  Disappointed smile

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After I finished my first four posts in the blazing hot sun, I headed across the street to paint the more shaded gate posts for the River Road Trail.  The gate was bordered on each side by large boulders left by the glaciers in times long past.  But I just had to wonder about these bluish lichens that were living on the boulders.  I sure wished I had my friend Jack’s macro lens when I took these shots.


When you are out painting posts by yourself for six hours a day, you have a lot of time to ponder things.  This sign made me ponder.  Do you see what’s wrong with this picture?


Yeah, some idiot with a shotgun decided to take a blast at this sign that designates a handicapped accessible fishing pier.  What’s up with that?  Can anyone explain to me why some people think it’s so macho to shoot at signs?  In my mind it ranks right up there with throwing your trash out your vehicle window.  However, I’d like you all to notice the beautiful stain job on the sign posts!  Open-mouthed smile

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I tried to identify the wild flowers in tonight’s post, but after consulting my Minnesota wildflower book I’m still not sure.

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I’m hoping the guru of Minnesota wildflowers, and fellow blogger that writes Far Side of Fifty, will help me out here. 


I also found some little red berries ripening.  They looked luscious, but since I don’t know what they are, I wasn’t about to taste them no matter how much I was tempted.

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So, it was a day observing and enjoying the little things in life as I made my way through painting today’s 19 posts.  Thanks, Merikay, for the reminder.

Since I’m leaving on Thursday for a weekend down in Rochester for my Mayo Clinic appointments, I decided to do a load of laundry tonight in preparation.  I figured I’d just hang the clothes out on the line tonight, and they’d dry tomorrow during this continued hot spell.  What I didn’t count on was hanging the clothes out just at dusk.  Uff-da!  I was reminded in a very short time that the mosquitoes are still here in full force at dusk, and I was wearing shorts.  You can guess the results.  I have to quit now to scratch my legs!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back in the saddle again

Yep, it was post painting time for me once again this morning after the staff meeting that lasted better than an hour.  The temps are up, the humidity is up, but I’m on a mission to paint all of these posts before I leave here next month.  When I can leave first thing in the morning, I generally get 20 various posts painted before I fizzle out. 


By the time I got out of the meeting, gathered my supplies, and gassed up the refuge truck, it was 10:00 o’clock today.  That didn’t bode well for reaching a 20 post average.

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Of course I always bring my cameras along, and that meant I had a nice view of this young bald eagle today near the Chippewa picnic area. 


A couple of weeks ago, this youngster’s constant screeching for food about drove me nuts for three hours as I painted all of the posts around the picnic area.  I was happy to see today that it has finally fledged off of the nearby nest, and wasn’t quite so vocal.  At this stage in their life, they probably weigh more than their adult parents.  It has a lot of learning to do in the next 4-5 years.  I wish it well, and hope it learns its lessons well enough to be one of the survivors.

I only got 11 posts painted today before I had to return to the rig for a fresh set of clothes.  It was into the 90’s by noon, and with the humidity and stillness of the air, my clothes were soaked through with perspiration (I’ve been told ladies don’t say sweat Winking smile). 


After lunch, I made my weekly circuit of the refuge roads to restock all of the brochures in the kiosks.  It always amazes me how many brochures are taken each week.  I think lots more people visit this refuge than gets recorded.  I’m pleased to know that, buy it still surprises me since we’re a bit off the beaten track.

I found another pair of trumpeter swans with two rather young surviving signets today.  It’s almost September, so I hope they have enough time to grow up and move on by the time the lakes start to freeze. 

There’s a severe thunderstorm watch posted for tonight.  Emma and I just got back into the rig from outside before the skies opened up.  With as dry as it has been, I hope we get a good easy rain tonight.  With the skies rumbling away, I put Emma in her thunder shirt.  It sure seems to help her quit that constant pacing that drives me up the wall.  All the noise from the thunder made me remember what my mother told me when I was little.  She said all that noise was people bowling up in heaven.  I guess the fall bowling leagues have started…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Just melting away here

When I got back from running to town on Friday, the temps had risen into the 90’s.  I thought perhaps we were done with those hot humid days up here for this year, but the heat wave is supposed to continue until at least Thursday.  It’s not cooling down enough for my tastes at night either.

So, I’ve pretty much spent the weekend indoors with the AC on.  Yesterday morning, Steve was scheduled to pull out of here and begin his journey to the Pacific Northwest.  As he was hooking up his toad, I mentioned that the wind seemed kind of strong.  He headed out anyway.  Personally, I would have sat still for another day.  The winds ended up being gale force, and some of my outside furniture and a rug took flight during one of the tremendous gusts.  I never even considered putting out my big awning to shade the rig.  It would have ended up in Canada, I think.  I even pulled in my small awnings over two of the windows on the driver’s side of the rig.  The wind was that strong all day.

Then, this morning, about 5:00, a real thunder buster rolled through out of the northwest.  Made me sit up and take notice in bed.  Thankfully it didn’t last too long, but the winds as that little front moved through really got things rocking.  It was really more noise and wind than productive rain, but of course I had accidentally left the driver’s side window open on the car.  Sad smile  The seat was quite wet and covered with pine needles that had flown in.

Since it was going to be too hot for me to do any sightseeing this weekend, I decided to do some cooking instead.  I have some favorite recipes, but they make enough for a family.  With my travels beginning in about a month, I thought I’d get some dinners frozen for driving days on the road.

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I seldom if ever put recipes on this blog, but this casserole is so tasty and easy, I thought some of you ladies might like to try it.


1 10 oz. can of chunk white chicken, drained

4 cups frozen broccoli cuts (I use one bunch of fresh broccoli tops)

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

3/4 cup mayonnaise (don’t be using Miracle Whip, now. Winking smile)

1  teaspoon of lemon juice (I didn’t have any, so put in a squirt of wine instead)

1 teaspoon of curry powder

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I love cheese, so I probably use a cup)

Bread crumbs

Layer broccoli in a 7”X11” baking dish.  Top with chicken.  (Since I also love mushrooms, I also add a layer of drained whole button mushrooms)  In a separate bowl, combine soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and curry powder.  Spread the soup mixture evenly over the layers.  Finish by sprinkling the cheese on top and adding a light coating of bread crumbs.  Cover and bake at 350* for one hour.  If desired, place under broiler until lightly browned.

Now, I only have a convection oven in the rig so I baked it for 55 minutes.  I probably should have only baked it for 45-50 minutes, but I like the crusty part on the edges.  I also serve it over brown rice, spaghetti noodles, or even toast.  I think it’s hard not to go back for seconds, but I controlled myself…

The plan today was to make some pork stir fry chow Mein, but I just wasn’t in the mood.  So instead I just boiled up some fresh shrimp, put them on ice, and enjoyed them in this heat with some fresh sliced tomatoes.


About the only other thing I did this weekend is to get started reading this book.  I’m finding it quite enjoyable.  It helps if you’re interested in birds, but you don’t have to be an expert by any means to read it.  I’ve decided to quit reading it for now so I can take it along next weekend to read while I’m waiting for my Mayo Clinic appointments.  Women’s Day and Sports Illustrated don’t do anything for me in waiting rooms.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, August 23, 2013

A busy couple of days

Yesterday morning, I once again got ready to lead the “Refuge Excursion Tour”.  In the past, no one has shown up to take the tour on the days I’ve been assigned.  However, I was happily surprised to find three people show up for the excursion yesterday!  I was back in my element of imparting information about the history and purpose of Tamarac NWR.  I had a grand time telling them about how this refuge came about, and the work of the CCC Camp that was located here as the refuge was established back in 1938.

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We also visited the Chippewa (Ojibwa) burial ground and spirit houses that are located on the refuge.  The holes in the burial structures are where the spirits of the deceased left the area on their four day journey.  The first day was spent traveling the prairies, then on to the plains.  The third day they spent traveling over the mountains, and on the fourth day, they entered their happy hunting grounds.  I assume that since the spirits of the dead have long ago left, the Chippewa do not maintain these burial sites.

When the white man came to inhabit the area, logging of white and red pines was king.  The harvested logs were floated down the Otter Tail River, and evidence of the Roller Dam Site is near the burial ground.  I then took them on a back road trail in hopes of spotting a wolf, but we didn’t have any luck there.

In the afternoon, I went back to Gary Lee’s Collisions Repair shop, and finally got my driver’s side door handle fixed on the toad.  What a relief it has been not to have to crawl over the seats to open the door.


The Tamarac annual Volunteer Picnic was happening for dinner yesterday.  This is a celebration of the work all of the volunteers do for the refuge.  RV resident and local volunteers are honored for their contributions to making this a welcoming refuge.  With 400 volunteer hours here, I took in quite a haul of thank you items.


Among them is this book written by Kenn Kaufman.  He is well known in birding circles for publishing his field guides to North American Birds.  I’m thinking this will be an interesting read.


But I think my favorite award is going to be this  small Leatherman Tool on a US Fish and Wildlife Service keychain.  It’s very reminiscent of a small Swiss Army Knife I once had.  Lots of little pull-out tools in the handles, and it folds up into a compact little rectangle.

This morning, it was time to do a couple of loads of laundry and hang them out.  A trip to town for groceries was also in order.  Have you ever come home from the grocery store with something in your bags that you didn’t purchase, and was possibly from the person ahead of you in line at the checkout?

IMG_9382Well, this was my little bonus today upon emptying my bags.  Can’t you just imagine me with red and black painted nails?  I can’t even remember the last time I used nail polish, and it certainly wasn’t black and red!  And Minnesota Twins decals?  Spare me, please…  What the heck was I going to do with this?  Then I remembered that my son Andy’s wife, Kelly, is a died in the wool Twins fan.  Aha!  I’ll be heading down to Rochester for my every other year physical at the Mayo Clinic next week, so I think I’ll surprise her with this little gift. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How do you spell ‘relief’?

With the weather guessers saying temps were going to be in the 90’s today, I set my alarm for a pre-dawn wake up so I could get out painting those posts in the cool (?) of the morning.  It was muggy and warm as I headed out to try to finish up the posts along Bruce Boulevard.


As I stopped for this photo along the way, I wondered if any color would show up in the fogginess, and it didn’t.  I didn’t change this photo to black and white in Picasa; this is what it actually looked like this morning.  Kind of eerie.  My goal was to get 20 posts painted before the temps became too oppressive, and I almost made it.


With the heavy water laden air, not many birds were moving about.  I spotted this young bald eagle perched on a dead tree waiting for things to dry out.


This is not the best picture, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit to see if I could determine the bird’s age.  I think this is one of the youngsters from this year’s hatch of bald eagles.  If you look real closely, you might see the the stripe of yellow/orange along the back edge of its mandibles (beak parts).  This area is called the cere, and is a wax-like swollen area at the base of the bill.  Many young birds have this characteristic.  So, that’s why I think this bird hatched this year. 

At one point, as I was busily painting away, staff member Gina pulled in behind me at the Egg Lake access and needed to get in.  As I approached her vehicle, my glasses fell apart and one lens popped out in my hand.  Did you ever try to fix your glasses without having a second pair to see them with?  Impossible!  Apparently the screw holding the lens in had come out.  Gina was able to give it a temporary fix by twisting a long staple through the screw hole, so I continued along my way.


I disturbed this walking stick at one of the gates I was painting.  I tried to look up what kind it was, but didn’t have any luck.

Just as I was finishing up post #19, the lens popped out of my glasses once again.  That meant I had to search around in the weeds for it with only one eye.  Disappointed smile

After finally finding it, I decided that was it for me today.  A trip to the Wal-Mart in Detroit Lakes was on the docket for this afternoon.  They fixed it lickety split, and while there I decided to get my hairs cut.  After  a stop to get some wine, I headed home.  By this time, the temps had risen to 97*!  That’s hot for northern Minnesota.

I was more than happy to hang up my keys when I got back and enjoy the AC.  Only problem was, the refuge keys I’ve been issued were not in my pocket.  Whenever I leave the refuge I put those keys in my pocket in case I have to unlock the gate to the compound after the worker bees have gone home for the day.  Uh-oh!  I’ve never lost a set of keys I’ve been issued.  I searched the rig from top to bottom, but I was sure I had taken them with me this afternoon.  I even checked my painting pants pocket to no avail.  Could they be in the Wal-Mart or liquor store parking lot?  I was beside myself, but there seemed nothing to do about it.

I fed Emma her supper, and went outside to sit with her for a while in the 95* temperature.  As a last resort, I decided to check the car.  Viola!  There were the keys laying in the driver’s bucket seat.  Some people spell relief R-O-L-A-I-D-S, but I spell it KEYS-IN-HAND!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, August 19, 2013

Had a REAL blast the other day

Do you remember that annoying ditty called “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”?  Well, I’ve been singing it in my head all day.  I’ve changed the lyrics a bit, but sing along with me now:

♫ ♪ “71 Painted Posts are done,

         71 Painted Posts,

         Take one down, and pass it around,

         Only 200 more Painted Posts to go…” ♪ ♫

Of course, I’m only guessing about the 200 posts to go, it could well be more than that, but you get the idea.  With the temps rising to the 90’s this week, I find myself about wiped out by 1:00.  Then it’s time to hop in the truck, turn the AC on high, and find some other chore to do. 

In one of my former lives, I was a math teacher, and have always been plagued with counting things automatically.  Whether it’s counting how many steps up a fire tower or how many shrimp I’m peeling and deveining, my mind goes into calculator mode and tics them off.  It drives me crazy sometimes, but that’s how I know I’ve already painted exactly 71 posts.  Some have been big and fat, and some have been not so big and skinny, but they all register in the left side of my brain somehow.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about something that I experienced last week before Gypsy arrived for a visit that I didn’t get a chance to post (as in publish) about.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Manager (RM), up from Minneapolis/St. Paul, came to visit to kick off and observe the Rocket Netting Regional Training that was occurring here.  Apparently, RM’s don’t actually visit individual refuges that often, so it was a big deal.  Everything was buffed and polished, and mowed, etc. around the refuge so he would be favorably impressed.  Seems he’s visited here about four times in the last couple of years so I guess he likes this refuge.  Do you think he noticed my beautifully painted posts?  I don't know smile I doubt it!

I was more interested in watching the rocket netting demonstration, than worrying about the big wig. 


     We all truck pooled to an area over the hill on the banks of Flat Lake for the demonstration.

_MG_9317Rocket nets are often used to capture large numbers of waterfowl for banding purposes.  A long mist net is laid out with ropes attached to explosive rockets for the capture.  I’ve used finer mist nets and bow traps during my bird banding days, but never used rocket nets.


This is Wayne, one of the biologists, loading the explosives into the rocket.  Behind him is the large net.


Ideally, ducks are baited to come to the area behind the three posts to feed on corn in a concentrated area.


Everyone hides in a blind about 50 yards away before dawn.  When the ducks come to feed, the rockets are set off at the best moment.


The plan is for the net to fly over the ducks and contain them underneath so they can be captured and banded.


After the person in charge of the operation checks to be sure all rockets have gone off, and it is safe, everyone runs to the netting area to get the ducks out and processed as quickly as possible.  Many refuges in the north of the country have quotas of waterfowl they need to band each year.  It is a way of managing waterfowl numbers at an optimum number.  Hunters report the bands from birds they’ve taken, and this is what helps determine daily hunting limits on various species. It is one way of insuring that North American waterfowl do not go the way of the passenger pigeon.

I’ve always been a John Wayne movie fan, and have probably seen just about every movie he was ever in.  One of them, in the 1960’s, was “Hatari!”  Anyone else remember that?  In it, he portrayed the owner of a company in Africa that captured animals for shipment to zoos world wide.  They had a problem filling an order for monkeys, and Red Buttons came up with an idea of using a rocket net to trap a large number of them.  Watching this demonstration brought that movie to mind.  Isn’t it strange where your head goes with certain experiences?  So that was my REAL blast, and some of it was from the past…

I leave you tonight with a peek at what I hope is to come in about a month:

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Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy