Friday, June 24, 2016

The American Robin. #401

I like birds, birds of prey are my favorites but here around the house, I have Chickadees, Hummers, Grosbeaks and lots of Robins. On occasion I see Eagles or Hawks flying around but here in the forest, that is unusual.

On May 24th I noticed some debris on the patio floor. I'm pretty anal about cleaning so this was somewhat new. I found the culprit, it was a bird that had started building a nest, most likely the day before, in one of my back patio light fixtures.

By the next day it looked finished to me and in the meantime, I found out it was a Robin's nest. I looked up a few facts about the bird. Male and female both make hundreds of trips in a day to carry supplies for the nest, but the female does the building.

Two days later, on the 27th of May (my phone tells me exactly when a photo was taken) the first egg was laid. Most birds lay their eggs in the morning, the Robin is the exception to this rule. It is thought that by laying in the afternoon the Robin has time to eat breakfast... you know the old saying "early bird gets the worm"?

She will generally lay 4 to 6 eggs but only one per day, in the afternoon. She laid the second egg on the 28th of May.

On the 29th of May came the third egg. I didn't shoo her from the nest to take the photos...she won't sit on them to hatch until all are laid, this way the first one won't hatch and become so much bigger its siblings.

May 30th, the fourth and final egg was laid. At this time she started incubating them and I left her alone and only went out to check on the progress when she left the nest to eat.

Ten days later on June 10th, two young Robin's had hatched.

The next day, one more hatched.

By the 13 of June, all the eggs had successfully hatched. It would be disingenuous of me to say they were cute!

Four days later they are already showing signs of developing feathers. 

On the 22nd of June, just 12 days after the first two hatched, they are feathered enough that the mother does not have to sit on them to keep the little ones warm.
During this last 12  days, I saw both parents make hundreds of trips to the nest with worms and whatever, hanging from their beaks.

This reminds me of the 1200 sq ft house I grew up in...pretty crowded in there.

The next morning, June 24 I thought all were laying on each other but after looking closely I see that there are now only two birds in the nest.

Later on the 24th of June, I go to shoot an afternoon picture and surprisingly find no babies in the nest. Those last two from the morning jumped down out of the nest to start their own lives. They won't fly for another 8 to 10 days, they need to build up the wing muscles first. Luck for me the Robins rarely use the same nest twice, but they will start another within days...and more babies. It'll be nice to have my patio back.

As evening came around I spied one of the new babies sitting in a bush on my patio, just feet away from the nest. Some kids have a tough time leaving home.
Even with the inconvenience of not being able to use the patio, I found considerable pleasure in learning about the life cycle of this amazing bird.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Fitbit...365 days later. blog #400

Last year, while taking care of Donna, I did let myself go quite a bit and hit every fast food restaurant between Issaquah and the University of Washington hospital where Donna was for 4 months. After Donna past, I knew some changes were in order. As per my wife's last wishes...move on and get healthy too.

By the middle of May, when my grandson and I went to my niece's wedding, I knew damn well I was overweight, bloated and feeling miserable.

Because of two ceramic artificial joints. six screws and some staples in my right foot I knew running was out. I opted for walking, and walking I did! On Fathers day last year, my son Denny, wife Luara and granddaughter Ashley got me a Fitbit. I'm like "what's a Fitbit"? After explaining that it tracks your steps while walking, I decided to try it out.

I started the Rotary Trail here in Colville while weighing 244 in May. I think by the time I got the Fitbit on June 21, 2015, I may have been down to 240.

I spent many hours talking to a friend named Roxanne, about what foods are good to eat and the portion size, but after that came Europe. For three weeks I figuratively walked my ass off! I would get up hours before my brothers to walk and then sometimes walk in the evening too.

When I came back from Europe I walked in Colorado...

Ran (that may be a slight exaggeration
...more like humped) up the steps at the Red Rock Amphitheater in Denver. (TWICE)!

I then started to incorporate some actual...hiking. This is near Boulder Colorado.

5 months later, after humping through the streets of Europe and San Diego and San Pedro, I have lost over 40 lbs...all the while competing in challenges with my Fitbit friends.

Spending part of the winter in the Palm Springs area certainly made walking easy, the mild weather allowed me to walk and hike nearly every day.

I nearly always had Donna on my mind while walking at first, there were times I'd break down, feeling the hurt of her not being with me...every mile seemed to lessen the emotional load somewhat.

After Palm Springs, I went up to San Luis Obispo for a few weeks of walking. Some of my longest walks were thru the hills overlooking the bay. I believe my longest one-time walk was over 13 miles. I am always aware of the timeline because the dogs are by themselves.

Besides just walking, I am able to honor Donna by following many of the same routes we had done together...this being Pismo Beach Pier.

Back home for the spring I am finding many different walks, some up mountains, some along rivers and many walks on country roads...while waving to passing cars.

This is now my life...walking, walking, walking, walking, walking!

5,900,000 steps in one year!

About 2900 miles in one year!

 Nearly 14,000 one year!

Six pairs of tennis shoes!

Loss of 54 pounds...but now backtracked to only 45 pounds!

Four's been one hell of a year!

To Denny, Laura, and Ashely...thank you very much for my Fitbit.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

ROAD TRIP! Three states and one foreign country in 9 hours.

I woke up this morning and started off on my morning walk, it is around seven miles, and as soon as I hit Fay Hill (overlooking the valley) I knew I had to go back home, pack the car with Carla, dogs, maps and head somewhere with this wonderful weather.

On the way out of Washington, we stopped at Coffin Lake for a photo.

After Coffin Lake photo, we took a short cut to Montana, this route...thru Canada...was the quickest way to my destination. 

This old power plant, that was used for the cement plant in Metaline, was scrubbed when the Boundry Dam and it's cheap power was used. Now the Sullivan Creek will soon run free when the Mill Pond is demolished. 

A few miles down the road is the Box Canyon Dam on the Pend Oreille River. The dam is a "run of the river" dam (which means, little of the river is in storage) and was built in 1955. The trestle was built in 1909.

The destination in mind was Kootenai Falls, Montana, about 160 miles from Colville. The website says 75 feet tall?

A very kind tourist took our photo since I don't do selfies very well.

Video of the falls.

The swinging bridge over the Kootenai River is quite scary. 

Video of us crossing the bridge.

Copeland, Idaho...if you have never heard of the town do not's very, very small, but they had a spot to let the dogs out for a while.

At the Copeland, Idaho stop, they also had a baseball field that looked like it has not been used in the last 10 years, but also an adult swing which Carla took advantage of. Carla said it has been many years since last doing this...I was looking up the nearest emergency room...just in case.

It's so hard to drive past a field of beautiful mustard flowers without stopping and taking a photo.

Three states, one foreign country and 361 miles in 9 hours...just another Sunday road trip for Tom!😀

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The story of "Mystery Meat"

Some of you may think I am bored this Sunday because it's too hot to play outside, but I've had it in my mind to do this blog for a while and now is as good a time as any.

Mystery meat, just what is it? Am I talking about road kill or found a package of unmarked meat? No...

I can't lay claim to the term "mystery meat", that came from someone I was going to buy steaks and cook dinner for them. This person flatly stated they were not going to eat meat from Safeway's Manager's Special bin...calling it mystery meat.

I rather liked the term and use it to this day whenever I'm in the mood for steak.

According to the butcher there really is no mystery at all. They like to put out fresh steaks in the morning and the ones from last night go into the manager's special bin. The butcher also says it will still be good a week from now in my refrigerator. "Besides, it's called aging the beef", he said.

This same USDA Choice Ribeye was $14.99 per lbs yesterday and is now 30% off. Some days I'll score 50% off on Porterhouse steaks. 

When you are retired and trying to live off your Social Security, every little bit helps...thank you Safeway.😀

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The world famous Colville Cross and C on Colville Mountain

The Colville Latin Cross (it has it's own FB page) that overlooks the city, and lit at night, has been a landmark since school children first put it up on city land in 1950 and I should really just say, it's locally famous. About the same time, the school children painted a huge C on the side of the mountain.
While I'm not a real religious person, I have grown fond of seeing both, especially the cross at night.
Today was the day to finally hike it...almost killed me too!

From 8 or 10 miles away the large C is very visible.

The cross has a storied past. As I said, children put the first one up in 1950...made of wooden slats.
It was vandalized in 2001 and the ACLU threatened to sue if it was put back up. 
My journey was to finally climb the mountain and see both the C and the Cross up close.

I parked near the bottom of the trail, at one of the newer cemeteries in town, still decked out in Memorial Day flowers and flags.

Looking back towards town I am starting to kick myself in the ass for not taking a service road, which looked much longer on Google Earth, but also not as steep as some of the trails I am dealing with.

It may have been a nearly 45-degree angle going up the mountain the way I did it...sort of like picking the absolute worst route up Mount Everest. This hike was so much harder than the much longer one I did in my last blog. I don't like to start and stop, but I must have done this 10 or 15 each stop, I kept asking myself "I'm 68 this month, do you feel lucky, punk"?

I think it was Donna pushing me on because the wildflowers were so beautiful the higher I went, and she loved wildflowers.

Right before I got to the top, while cutting through the forest, I came upon a leg bone...most likely a deer. I have seen lots of bones in the forest but these were still I took a quick look around and got the heck away.

It's kind of hard to get a good photo of the huge C on the mountain, at the point where it is painted...more impressive from way down in the city, looking up.

This was not at the top, but halfway up. They look like huge JBL speakers from the 70's, only a hundred times larger. If anyone knows what it is, please let us know?

It is hard to have a mountain top without a microwave relay center, right?

Aw, there it is...the reason I took this horrendous hike.

After it was vandalized in 2001 and threatened with a lawsuit, a family in Loon Laked owned 2 acres right next to the original place of the cross and welcomed an organization to erect the new cross...built with steel slats. 

It's a beautiful view from up here and I am glad I forged ahead to the top and didn't give up, it was so worth it.