Critters

We seem to be running around a lot lately but I can’t tell you much of anything that we have done that was either interesting or productive.  I guess that’s just how things are nowadays.  As a reprieve from the apparent chaos in our lives, I thought I would take a few pics of the critters around our place…some of which I care for, some of which I do not.

My Chickens

Of course, the chickens are as crazy as always.  They are laying eggs but it is pretty haphazard.  I get at least one egg per day and sometimes 4.  I never get 2 green eggs a day as I should be though so either one of my Easter-eggers is not laying at all or they alternate pretty wildly.  I figure I’ll let Spring kick in a little farther before I worry too much about it.  Neither Easter-egger seems to be having any problems so I don’t think they are egg-bound or anything like that.  I figure it might be light or cold related.

My Chickens My Chickens

My favorite bird is Fezzik.  She’s a nut but super loyal to me.  She runs to me every day and demands to be petted, even if for half a minute.  The other birds, except Houdini, will tolerate petting, but Fezzik demands it.  The kids feel trepidation as they get cornered by her looking for a quick pet.  Maybe it’s good to keep them on their toes!

Bee poop
Bee poop

I looked in on the bees a few weeks ago when we had a really nice day.  Everyone had come out for a quick poop and stretch of the wings.  I’ll look in again in the next week or so and get a better sense of how this Spring and Summer will progress.  It was a super cold and slightly longer than usual Winter this year so this might be interesting.  I suppose the bears are out of hibernation now and still no evidence of one coming by to look at the hives makes me happy.  I know there are bears near my ridge so let’s hope they don’t like the electric fence!

Honeybees

I didn’t order any bees this year.  I had to many last year and it was more work than I wanted.  I plan to just focus on keeping these colonies healthy and hopefully productive.  I will definitely re-queen in the early Fall to ensure healthy stock going into next Fall.

Our new squirrel

We have a new guest around the house too.  We used to have a neighbor who collected cats.  By “collected” I mean bring home and turn loose in the neighborhood.  She didn’t care for them and get them fixed.  She has since moved away and the population thinned significantly.  Only two of the original 20 or so remain.  With only 2 outside cats wandering around, our squirrel and bird populations have finally started to recover.  I guess I like most creatures and have a live-and-let-live attitude about even the ones I don’t like.  But especially, I like to watch squirrels wander around doing squirrelly things.  I caught this guy munching a hickory nut watching me get ready to take a drive.  Two separate times he watched me.  The second time I got within 3 feet of him.  Maybe the nuts he was chewing was especially tasty.  For his sake, I hope he recognizes that although I am friendly, the remaining two cats might not be as pleasant!

Spring flowers
Also Spring!

Some old high school pics

I have had some family time lately and it has set me about reminiscing a little.  I generally don’t have the memory ability to get too sentimental but I discovered a few pics that brought back funny memories…

When I was in 11th grade (I think), My Spanish club took a trip to Cancun, Mexico …my first time on a commercial jet.  We had a wonderful and quirky Spanish teach named Marion Hull.  I suspect she was in her mid to late 60s when she came to our school.  She was probably one of the funnest teachers I ever had and we learned a lot to boot!  The year prior to the trip, we planned our adventure and started fund-raising like I had never done before.  She was such a determined leader and desperately wanted our group from small-town-Pennsylvania to get out and see even a bit of the world.  After much work, a group of 15 or so students headed to Mexico.  Below is one of the pictures that highlights the fashion that was apparently in style in the late 1980s…although it is possible that I was never in style…anyhow…

Me in Cancun Mexico
Me in Cancun Mexico

I found a huge stash of pics but most of them were junk…you know, before digital pics and all.  We had a lot of fun and somehow, Mrs. Hull returned us all home to the United States in one piece.  There are many stories to tell, but I am not sure I am ready for the world to know most of those.  A few that stand out though…we stayed in a hotel in the city rather than on the beach.  It wasn’t much but I think Mrs Hull knew it would be hard to justify an education trip to Cancun with beach-front accommodations.  Anyhow, near our hotel was a market where they sold Coke (no Pepsi) and various junk food.  I think I lived on dry Frosted Flakes.  In my memory, those were the best snack ever!  I know I bought several boxes just for myself.  It just hit the spot!

The other fun story that comes to mind is the music…my friend and roommate for the trip brought a tape player and one cassette.  It wasn’t a full cassette, but rather a single of the Guns-N-Roses’ song Patience.  It’s a great song once or twice…maybe even a hundred times.  Since music was so important to us as high schoolers, we had it on all of the time…after 10 billion plays, we all sort of got sick of that song!

Senior trip to Washington DC
Senior trip to Washington DC

I also found this picture of our senior class trip to Washington D.C.  You probably remember when panoramic photographs were a big deal and required a special camera.  The story goes that the photographer needed a runner – a guy to be in the photo when the camera started moving and at the end so he knew when to stop.  The runner literally ran from one side to the other while the camera panned.  I figure it was really just a gimmick but I am glad I have this picture anyhow.  I can’t believe how different I looked back in high school…can you find me?

Senior trip to Washington DC

Second from right in the back row…that’s me

From the waist up I look somewhat normal but then I look down at the short-shorts and black shoes…gee whiz what was I thinking?!

Anyhow, I am so glad I found these old pics and have had a lot of fun remembering the nonsense that went on during both of those trips.  I don’t keep in touch with most of my old friends, but I suppose a few may see this and get a few laughs!

 

He’d probably chuckle…

As I posted last week, my Uncle Bill with whom I was very close, passed.  He was not a young man, but his passing was still somewhat unexpected.  My aunt called the morning before he passed and told me the progression of things as they happened over night.  I immediately packed and headed for Erie, PA where he had been life-flighted.  In my home town where they also lived, there is no hospital.  The closest hospital is a half an hour away but is not really equipped for anything serious.

Uncle Bill

Anyhow, as I left WV, the weather was mostly ok, but I knew it was supposed to be bad as I traveled north.  Somewhere in the middle of PA, the weather turned from ok to total junk.  It started raining and then the rain froze.  I had a good cake of ice on my windshield and all over the car.  I knew I would not make it to Erie as the weather is always bad in Erie due to the lake effect snow they always get.  It had snowed 8-10 inches before the freezing rain so the situation was pretty bad.

Uncle Bill

I aborted the push north and headed to my hometown…where the weather was also terrible.  The roads were terribly icy and the snow was 2 or so feet deep…and now covered with ice.  My mom who was also in WV followed me in to their place.  We had to hit “the facilities” as soon as we got there.  Mom tried to turn on the lights but they didn’t come on.  I checked the breaker box and discovered water running through the panel.  That of course had tripped some of the breakers.  It also provided a serious hazard as far as I could tell.  Having jumped in the car in a hurry, I hadn’t packed adequate snow gear and my parents’ ladders were in WV…and besides, I am no expert on water in the breaker box.  My Mom called a local handyman who immediately came out and, with a torch, melted the ice dam off of the roof above the panel box.  The ice was at least 10 inches thick under a foot of snow.  It’s a wonder there weren’t worse problems.

Uncle Bill

As the repair man tried to leave, he got incredibly stuck in the deep snow which we hadn’t yet plowed off.  After digging and pushing for at least 30 minutes, he broke free.  He basically floored it kicking snow and slush all over me as I pushed him up onto some pine branches we had cut so he could get traction.  Not having winter gear, I was a complete mess…soaked to the bone.

Uncle Bill

We were exhausted from everything so ate quickly and went to bed.  The next morning, we headed to the hospital in Erie where we made it just in time to say our good-byes.  It was very difficult to say goodbye and even more painful to watch my Aunt as they were probably the most closely knit couple I know.

Uncle Bill

When we made it back to Tionesta, I followed the footsteps of the repairman from the night before.  I got my Subaru stuck up to the tops of the tires.  Luckily, my brother arrived later int he day with his Jeep.  With a little work, he was able to yank my car out of the snow.  I have always been pretty stupid with what I expect my Subaru to do and it has always excelled in stupid situations…deep snow/ice/slush was just too much for it I guess.  It was too much for about any car that didn’t have knobby tires I think!

Uncle Bill

We spent a few more days with my parents, brother and sister-in-law and my aunt reminiscing, talking, and drinking a few beers in my uncle’s honor.  It was a good time considering the situation.  The night before I was to return to WV, I returned my aunt to her house.  She walked in to find no heat.  It was still pretty cold…single digit temps at night so that wasn’t going to work for her.  She called a furnace company who would send a guy to help.  Like everything up there, the company was an hour and a half away.  His ETA was 1am.  I actually had a really good opportunity to spend time with just my aunt until he came.  We talked and remembered and talked some more.  It was good.  The repair guy came at 1 and by 2am had her patched through until he could get parts.  I returned to my parents’ home but still woke up at 7 am for my return trip to WV.  That sort of sucked.  I had a thermos and an insulated cup of coffee so I had plenty of “fuel” for the return trip.

Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill

You might be thinking that it seems like a lot went wrong on an already stressful and sad trip…you’d be right.  It wasn’t much fun in many ways.  In other ways, though, it was just the sort of craziness on which my Uncle thrived.  He was generally happy and laughed a lot…about everything.  Crap happened and he chuckled about it.  Good stuff happened and he chuckled about it.  While all of this stuff kept piling on,  I kept thinking about how he always responded to things in life that just happened.  In a way, it was the perfect way to mourn his passing.   I chuckled as things heaped on.  That’s how Uncle Bill would have handled it….

My Uncle Bill

William S. “Bill” Flick, age 81, of Tionesta, PA, died on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Erie, PA. He was born June 2, 1933, in Tionesta, son of the late Frank and Ruth (Seigworth) Flick.

William S Flick

Bill proudly served in the US Army in Panama before being honorably discharged in September 1955 after two years of service. He returned home where he was employed by Struthers Wells of Titusville, PA, sold insurance for United Republic, worked in Quality Control for Tionesta Sand & Gravel, and served Forest County as a Deputy Sheriff. He was a member and Past Master of Olive Lodge #557 F&AM of Tionesta, the Coudersport Consistory, and the Shriners.

He was Methodist by faith.

Bill enjoyed tournament bridge, hunting, fishing, and spending time with his family.

On June 30, 1962 in Coudersport, PA he married Laura Marie (Patterson) Flick, who survives. In addition to his wife he is survived by two brothers, Donald Flick and his wife Shirley of Beaver Falls, PA; Virgil Flick and his wife Jane of Tionesta; three sisters, Helen Sweet of New Castle, PA; Betty Bowen of Tionesta; and Doris Tucker, also of Tionesta. Additionally, he is survived by his beloved nephews Warren and Garth Patterson as well as several other nieces and nephews.

Friends will be received on Saturday, March 14, 2015 at the Tionesta United Methodist Church from 10 am until 11 am. A memorial service will be conducted at 11 with Associate Pastor Jeffrey Foor, officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of the Norman J. Wimer Funeral Home of Tionesta.

A Masonic memorial service will be held at 10 am on Saturday, March 14 at the church as well.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Wounded Warriors Project (P.O. Box 758517 Topeka, Kansas 66675), St Jude’s Children’s Hospital (501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105) or to the charity of one’s choice.

Making truffles

In town, there is a business called “Uncork and Create“.  I’ll make up some of the history but mostly, it started as a place where an artist walks a group of people through doing a painting…everyone does the same painting with their own unique touches.  Wine and snacks are welcome and it’s a fairly social gathering.  They have since branched out from painting into all sorts of cooking/food classes.

Uncork and Create
Uncork and Create

Uncork and Create

Emily got me a gift certificate to go to one of their classes for Christmas.  I am no cook, but I do like wine and sweets, so when I saw that they were offering a class on making chocolate truffles, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to give the place a try!

Truffle making supplies
Truffle making supplies

My class was offered on Valentine’s Day so taking it was either a really good idea or a really bad idea.  I figured that if I arrived home with a pile of homemade truffles for my Valentine, I would be off the hook.

Making truffles
Making truffles

Making truffles

They have a local chef prepare a few easy recipes and we dug in with ingredients and kitcheny tools and stuff needed to make our recipes.  The chef was a fun woman who was easy going and clearly enjoyed what she was doing.  She teased and played and taught us some tricks for proper chocolate coating.  There were a number of ingredients she brought so we could customize our truffles also.  Several couples attended so I was at the “singles table”.  We all agreed to customize our truffles with Grand Marnier orange liqueur.  We tasted it and decided it wasn’t flavorful enough so we added more…and more.  Well, you get the idea.

Making truffles

Making truffles

Once the truffle ganache is mixed, we had to refrigerate it so it would set up…chef came to our table after a bit and asked us how much hooch we had added to our mix…it turns out our mix was slow to set up…ooops!  It wasn’t that much was it?

Finished truffles
The finished product
Finished truffles
My doggie bag!

We finally got everything pulled together and made some really delicious truffles.  I guess they aren’t as beautiful as I had hoped but for my first go at it, I was pleased.  I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed my time at the event.  I won’t be able to make these things too often though or I’ll either be three sheets to the wind or overweight!

Our new driver

We are pleased to introduce the newest driver in our house!  Isaac passed his learner’s permit test yesterday.   As soon as I got home from work, he bounced into the kitchen, license in hand.  Of course, I knew he wanted to go drive.  I suspect he had planned on my tossing him the keys and saying “let’s go.”

New Driver

Although he has driven many times out at the executive deer stand, he had not driven at any real speed with opposing 2 ton hunks of rolling metal coming at him.  Instead, I drove him to a nearby neighborhood with flat straight streets.  He was a mix of excited and nervous…and so was I honestly.

He got into the driver’s seat and we went over the “make it go forward” checklist.  Isaac tended to hug the white line as we drove house, cars, and mailboxes.    Of course, he was still a little jerky with the gas pedal and the steering but he was very cautious and seemed to take it seriously enough to satisfy my nerves a little.  I guess we drove for 40 minutes and had a lot of fun.

Probably my favorite part of the trip happened at the end of our drive.  There is a church near our house where I asked Isaac to pull in so I could take us home.  Our road is steep and windy and has a blind crest.  We weren’t ready for that yet.  Anyhow, we pulled into the parking lot and miscommunicated where we were going to park.  Isaac got it between the parking lines so all was fine, but I suppose it looked funny to the older couple sitting in the car across the parking bumper from us.  The look on their face was, at first, one of slight confusion with our antics.  As soon as Isaac and I got out and switched seats, they got big goofy grins on their faces.  It was obvious…we were practicing driving.  In response to their big goofy grins, I grinned right back and nodded my head.  I suspect they said a quick prayer for both me and them as, that night, a new driver was unleashed on the road!

Squeak Stick

It seems like we have been involved with a lot of musical stuff lately in our house.  The kids have had band stuff pretty regularly since Christmas.  They played holiday concerts and, this week, are trying out for “All-County” band which is a band comprised of the best players in the county as determined during a blind audition.

Scaredy cat
Scaredy cat

All of that involves a good bit of practicing pieces and trying new things.  What has been especially fun is when Abigail (flute), Isaac (tenor sax) and I (clarinet) all get to playing at the same time, we can make a powerful lot of noise in the house.  It might be a pleasing noise if we played the same song, or even complementary songs, but that is never the case.

Scaredy cat

Isaac is the most experienced player and has the loudest instrument, by far.  He plays complex pieces and often plays them very loudly.  Abigail is playing very well also and her range is fairly high pitched.  Finally, on my “squeak stick”, I have a good range between high and low but I am not a great player yet.  I just changed reeds so I actually squeak a lot trying to get used to the new feel.  All three of us together makes for quite a…performance I am sure.

Another Scaredy cat
Another Scaredy cat

We practice every evening (or at least 5/7 days) for 30-60 minutes.  During that time, Emily holes up in the bedroom where the cats take cover.  They literally tremble in fear under the bed covers or wrapped up in Emily’s robe.  I don’t think of myself as a particularly cruel person, but there is some sort of special pleasure in seeing the cats respond as they do.  I do not know if it is the volume or the tone, or just the squeaks, but the mere sight of our instruments, especially my clarinet, sends them running for cover!

Solo and Ensemble

It seems like things have been pretty slow around our place lately but we remain busy with stuff…some of the stuff I can identify, while other things are less clearly identified.  Anyhow, last weekend, we had the pleasure of hearing Isaac and a small group of his fellow band members play at the Solo and Ensemble ratings at WV State University.

Ensemble Performance #1

Ensemble Performance #1 (lower quality)

This ratings event is not a head-to-head competition per se, but the bands compete for highest ratings.  It is possible for multiple bands to have the highest ratings so no one gets trophies or certificates exactly although I suspect there is a good opportunity for bragging rights involved.  Individual students can perform solos and small groups can perform as ensembles.  Isaac’s school had a representation in both areas.

Ensemble Performance #2

Ensemble Performance #2 (lower quality)

We took videos of the two performances in which Isaac was involved.  We didn’t have an opportunity to hear other performances as a lot of people shuffle in and out, but I am so proud of these shows and am certain that there was much greatness to be heard from the other groups from our school as well as other schools in the region.  I don’t know how many groups played exactly, but I would guess around 50!  That’s a beautiful thing, I think, for the arts to be so well represented!  Yeah band!

An apple a day…well…

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? I have literally been eating an apple a day for awhile now. I also eat a couple of other pieces of fruit every day so I am fully fruited. I typically have 2-4 pieces of fresh fruit a day and mostly I have remained healthy for months. Unfortunately, I must have been one banana short this weekend as I ended up with the flu.

hGinger brandy for what ails you!

I am a big baby when it comes to sore throats and fevers. So, the flu, having both components, really knocks me out. I can usually whiskey-away a sore throat but coupled with a fever, I was down and out. Probably the worst part is that I didn’t get to go to work on the most important of all holidays, Groundhog Day! My coworkers were not properly evangelized. Alas, I was stuck in bed moaning like a dying brontosaurus. Of course, Phil predicted 6 more weeks of winter. I know it’s hard for people to hear that, but Phil doesn’t just preach what people want to hear…he predicts weather accurately regardless of our wants!

Abigail had the flu a few weeks ago, and, like her, I got tamiflu early and it knocked it out pretty quickly.  I drank lots of water and slept some until the tamiflu perked me up saved me from the misery. Finally, my fever broke early Monday and I am mostly back to normal now. I’ll keep on eating apples, but dear friends, it must take more than one apple a day to keep the flu away!

A midwinter break

For many creatures out in the great wild, winter is a potentially life-threatening period.  Heck, for me it sometimes feels that way.  Anyhow, many mammals hibernate and some creatures otherwise adapt their behavior to just make it through.  Honeybees are like that.  Winter is a time to just survive.  Honeybees are cold blooded so cannot self-regulate their temperature.  Individually, they would freeze to death quickly if exposed to the cold of winter.  Luckily bees live in community and work together to keep the inside of their hive warm through the winter.

Honeybees in winter

Honeybees progress through various job functions between hatching and becoming field workers that collect pollen and nectar.  Some bees clean honeycomb cells, others guard the hive from intruders and others take care of the queen.  Researchers have discovered a previously unknown job in the hive.  There are “heater bees” whose job it is to keep the hive warm in fall, winter and spring when temperatures are low.  Basically, they can vibrate their abdomen or…get this…decouple their wings from their wing muscles so they can vibrate those muscles without having fluttering wings flying around all over the place in a cramped hive.  Muscular vibrations cause friction which causes heat.  Beekeepers have always known that bees somehow vibrate in a hive to keep warm, but the discovery that there is a class of workers who can detach their wing muscles to manage heat is new.

Honeybees in winter

So, last week we had a few nice days.  As I have mentioned before, bees don’t poop inside the hive (as long as it is a healthy hive and they don’t have nosema…bee dysentery).  They still eat honey through the winter as they need the energy to keep warm…food in means they still make waste…but they hold it…until nice days like last week.  I wandered down to the apiary to see how the bees were faring….to see if they were surviving the winter.  If things aren’t just right, bees can starve to death, freeze to death, or otherwise disease to death.  On nice days, I like to take a look to see how many colonies are flying…warm sunny days guarantee the bees will head out to poop!  I love to see them out on these kinds of days as they are generally pretty docile and seem to enjoy landing on me to gain a little warmth.  Sure, they can sting, but they rarely do.

Honeybees in winter

So, friends, the bees look pretty good so far this winter.  We are nowhere done with winter and many hard days are yet ahead, but this is a good sign for the midpoint of winter in the apiary!

More bee stuff