Horny little buggers

I guess they aren’t technically horns, but check out the protrusions on these buggers I found!

Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar
I think this is a Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar
Sword-bearing Conehead
I think this is a Sword-bearing Conehead

I am definitely a live-and-let-live kind of person.  That basically applies to my dealing with creatures as well as people…I think I like critters better, but I am willing to leave people or critters alone to do as they please as long as it doesn’t hurt me or my family.  I don’t think it hurt these guys, though, when I picked them up for a little inspection.

He bit me!
He bit me!

The grasshopper actually sort of hurt me a little…I picked him up and he wandered around on my hands for awhile…and then he bit me!  It wasn’t a big deal, but I saw his tiny mouth reach down and just take a taste!  I didn’t fling him off or mash him but I figured that maybe it was time to set him free!  I know I am sweet and all, but he wasn’t my type!

I think I am a morning person

When I was a kid, I used to get up pretty early…not obscenely early, but pretty early every day of the week.  I always got up well before my brother on weekends as well as weekdays.  Most days I walked out to the living room and leaned up against my Mom on the couch.   I wouldn’t say cuddle exactly…anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of physical contact with other people.  I am not a hugger and I still really dislike even shaking hands with people.  So, I am not a cuddler, but I did enjoy “lean time” with my Mom in the mornings.  Not sure why I am weird that way, but their you are.  Anyhow, both of my parents got up at obscenely early hours for work stuff.  Dad was usually off to work and Mom and I would sort of just chill together.  As I got older, I loved to watch the Today show, and especially Willard Scott.  I still want him to announce my name when I turn 100.

As a younger kid, I watched “Lost in Space” every day.  It came on around 6:30 am and was, of course, black and white.  It was that time period when I was probably most clearly defined as a morning person.  I ate four slices of toast almost every morning and watched that show.  That time is a great morning memory.

I guess from the time I was 18 until…well…now, I was neither here nor there on mornings.  I still am an early riser, but I held no real opinion on mornings.  I guess mornings grew into a warm-neutral.  Recently, though, I have come to really enjoy my early mornings once again.  I get up before 6 am and cook breakfast while Emily is in the shower and the kids are still asleep.  I drink some coffee and read the overnight garbage that my news readers gather.  The house is quiet and so are my thoughts.

Sunrise!

About the time everyone starts to bumble around, I head outside to care for my hens.  The chickens always hear me crack the door and know I am coming with fresh grains or green tomatoes or an apple core or two.  They cluck my way to the coop which is a great help.  My eyes are rarely on my path lately though as the sunrises have been amazing!  I have been treated to some incredible displays the last few weeks.  Timing like that won’t last long, but for right now, it’s just another wonderful part of my morning routine!

Still here…and running!

The end of the sports seasons are near for us…We’ve been full-on since school started.  I am the head coach for the boys soccer team at the local middle school.  Isaac is in the high school band which plays at festivals around the area and at every football game, home or away.  Abigail is running cross-country at the middle school.  Needless to say, we have been running (he he, get it?) and are sort of ready for  things to start to winding-up.

Cross-Country running

In fact, Abigail ran her final cross-country meet, the county championship race yesterday!  Both the boys and girls teams at her middle school won 1st place!  Abigail was not a medalist in the race, but completed a personal record on the course which was super exciting!  I am super proud of her because she has never especially been a runner.  It’s not that she wasn’t a runner…She has just not been a kid that needs to run.

Cross-Country running

In the weeks leading up to the season, she started to run a little according (sort of) to the schedule that her coach sent out to prepare the athletes.  Mostly that didn’t work at all.  She didn’t get that getting in shape was going to be hard and maybe even be a little uncomfortable.  I ran with her a few times and sort of showed her that it’s ok to push and sweat and even be a little sore.  I am no running coach but she sort of “clicked” once she got what it meant to really run and compete and be an athlete.

Cross-Country running
She raced this girls to the end and beat her…it was so exciting!

So, Abigail is a new runner and a lot less experienced than the older girls with whom she ran.  We have decided, though, that she is a runner and that she and I are going to run together through out the year so that when next year’s season comes around, she will already be in a good spot and will be ready to roll!

Cooling down

I am super proud of all of the kids on her team and she has great coaches that are encouraging and genuinely nice and excited for the kids.  So, while I am glad for the running season to be coming to an end, in a way I am sort of bummed too as it brings to an end the excitement of it all.  I suppose Abigail and her middle-aged Dad can always continue to compete…it’s been nice knowing you my friends!

Soccer Thoughts – 2014

This is a busy week as they all have been recently.  I am once again the head coach for the boys’ soccer team at the local middle school.  I coached in previous years, in large part, because Isaac was a player on the team and I enjoyed watching he and his friends play and leading them to do their best.  This year I am coaching just because I enjoy coaching.  I still like to lead the boys to do their best and I certainly don’t mind winning games.  We are currently 6-0-0, a record in which the team and I both share a lot of pride.

It’s a lot different coaching the team without one of my kids playing.  I really enjoy seeing my own kids playing hard and doing their best to work together with friends to win a game. I like seeing how they interact with their friends in a more direct way than one might get from casual interactions.  It’s also a little weird having to be careful to ride the line just right so as to be the adult, but not embarrass my kids too badly.  Without a kid on the team, I still get to see (in this case) young men grow up, learn to work together, and struggle with coolness and girls and parents and all the fun things related to middle school.  I don’t have to worry so much about embarrassing my kids anymore though…that part is pretty cool.  Still, I reprimand  them as they try out their new “adult words” and I try to show them restraint and civility.

Those two things were in danger of being lost in our most recent game, but we all managed to keep it together.  As I mentioned, I like to win with the best of them, but for the life of me, I cannot understand how some coaches and parents absolutely lose their stuff during practices or games.  In our most recent game, the opposing team’s coaches were apparently encouraging dirty play (or at least allowing it) and even resorted to calling one or more of my players names from the sidelines…the coaches were name calling!  It’s unbelievable.  Prior to our game, the girls’ team played a game which ended with the opposing team’s coach being ejected from the game.  I don’t get it!  Anyhow, we won and won well without humiliating the other team or calling them names.

I think one of my favorite things about coaching soccer, with or without a kid on the team, is that I get to make a mark, be it large or small, on a few young men about what it looks like to be an adult.  I am only one of a number of influences on these guys and, indeed,most of them have many very good people around them.  I am just happy to be (hopefully) one more of those positive influences.  I am definitely not fishing for praise…mainly just getting some thoughts out after a frustrating interaction with the other team in our last game.

 

 

Majorette and Band Festival – 2014

Tuesday night was the Majorette and Band Festival where all of the high schools in Kanawha county come to show off their field shows.  We joined several hundred other folks in watching 8 great bands play their very best in the University of Charleston stadium.

Our band
Our band on the field

This is our first year to have a band member on the field and we were super excited for all of the build-up and preparation for this show.  The season started with band camp in August where the entire band went away to set up their marching field show and practice their music.  It’s amazing how fast (a week!), the band came together to produce a really nice show.  Since that time, they practice daily and have refined their show incredibly!

Us with the other bands
Us with the other bands
Video007
Click to play the small version

Here’s a better version if your machine will play it

We are very fortunate to have a really great band director who expects a lot from the kids, and leads them demand a lot from themselves.  Their pride and hard work that the director instilled in them really showed as they  took the field Tuesday.  The band exhibited fantastic precision in marching and delivered as crisp a performance as I’ve ever heard/seen.  They were in synch and smooth and just looked first-class.  I couldn’t be more proud of how these kids performed!

Youtube video with bits from all of the bands

As a special treat, Marshall University’s Marching Thunder performed the finale at the festival and showed the bands at the festival what the next level of play might be for them.  They were great and dynamic and made a lot of sound (in a great way) as you would expect from a good sized university band!

Marshall Marching Thunder
Marshall Marching Thunder – Click to play small version

Here’s a better version if your machine will play it

Among other songs, they played Big Noise from Winnetka, one of the songs that Isaac’s jazz band played last year…both were great renditions…it was a lot of fun to hear the different takes on the same song.  While we were disappointed that our band wasn’t awarded the grand champion trophy, I am so proud of Isaac and his friends and look forward to many more competitions!

We’re in the green

We plant a garden every year…some years it’s good, some years we look forward to the next year.  We used to plant a large garden at Emily’s grandparents’ house.  With all the running around we do, it became unmanageable.  We still love fresh food and you can’t beat the price (although, building up the garden area ain’t cheap…though that was our decision).

Green beans!

So, we built a few raised beds in our back yard and planted them full of stuff.  We started with the largest area built from old railroad ties.  We filled it with peppers, broccoli, onions, tomatoes and potatoes.  About midway through the summer, we added two 8-foot beds to the mix.  You see, we didn’t have any green beans and we absolutely love home-grown green beans.  I think the most we ever canned was 70 quarts one year.  That might have been a bit much but we really enjoy beans.

Our trusty All American pressure canner
Our trusty All American pressure canner

Anyhow, with our decision not to plant a garden at Emily’s grands’ place, we were sort of without when it came to beans…on a chance, we decided to plant green beans in July, hoping to have a small crop by frost.  We harvested a bunch of beans yesterday and had more than a small crop.  Although not a 70-quart crop, we canned 20 pints last night!

Green beans - before and after canning
Green beans – before and after canning

Next year, we will be ready to plant an early spring crop as well as a July crop, hoping to double our return!  It’s so cool that two small rows of seed can make us a bunch of food that we will enjoy until next year!The best part is that they were canned within a few hours of being picked…hard to get any fresher than that!

Follow up to my weight loss

A few months ago, I wrote about changing diet and losing weight.  Today is the 6 month anniversary of that last update so I know you must be dying for another update.  All told, I lost 54 pounds during this process.  It was long and difficult as you might expect.  It wasn’t hard so much because I had to do a lot of physical labor (in fact, I did not exercise one bit) or because I was angry about having to lose weight, but rather because it was a very trying test of my will-power and an amazing illustration of the power of food.

I am talking anecdotally here of course, but I think I was addicted to sugary stuff…not like cocaine addicted, but I sought sugary stuff over other food sources for sure.  I drank a 2-liter of Mountain Dew a day and ate all manner of whatever other crap I felt like, whenever I felt like it.  I am not a dummy…I knew better than to eat so much junk, but it just tasted so good and I craved carbs constantly.  Fruit didn’t really taste good to me.  I only wanted junk.  As I look back on it now, I know my head was addled by something…weight or sugar or both.

Some folks have mentioned that they do not eat as much junk as I did so they do not think they will be able to lose weight, or that it will not be easy.  It wasn’t easy for me either, but I understand what they mean.  Honestly, I needed to be educated about what causes weight loss and weight gain.  Of course, I know there are many medical aspects to weight that some folks suffer, but in the absence of those, I’d bet that if you are overweight, your diet probably is not as healthy as you think.  Lots of bread, whole grain or not, and lots of pasta or potatoes and rice, come to mind as things that may be keeping weight on.  There is a lot to weight gain and “junk” hides in all sorts of ways in a typical menu.

So, here it is 6 months later.  I am within 2-3 pounds of my weight-loss weight, so I am still 50+ pounds down from where I was.  The exciting part is that my blood pressure is down to normal without medication.  The really surprising part is that my cholesterol numbers are all back in line too!  I basically dropped 40 points off of my overall cholesterol number.  My good-cholesterol numbers are good and my bad-cholesterol and triglycerides are normal again!

I still occasionally crave junk food a little, but not often and not bad.  I haven’t touched soda since January of this year.  I only drink water, coffee and hot tea.  Every now and then I will have a cookie or two or a small bowl of ice cream, but it doesn’t mean much to me any more. The cool thing is that fruit and vegetables taste good to me again.  I find myself not drawn to junk but rather to whole foods that I can identify.  I know that sounds like a load of crap, but I discovered plums and almonds.  I love plums and almonds!  I know what a plum and an almond look like!  Who knew they actually taste great?!

When I pick up a 50 pound bag of cat litter, I wondered how I ever even moved around before with the extra weight.  I lost 10 bags of sugar!  That just amazes me when I think about it that way.  Of course, I know my body built up muscle to handle it, but it astounds me how much more pressure I was putting on my joints and my heart.  I am so happy to have dropped the weight and I have found that I can easily keep it off, so long as I just decide to eat what I now know is good.  So, your mileage may vary, but I am pleased with my weight-maintenance plan…

Stuff I’ve seen

I’ve seen things…strange and wonderful things.  Well, I wish it was really that dramatic, but I was just leafing back over some old pics the last few evenings, and I came across a few pics that I thought were cool.  We have been running so much lately with band and cross-country and soccer and work stuff.  It feels like there hasn’t been time to do anything …I almost said fun, but of course, all of that running is fun.  Sometimes it’s pretty easy, though, to lose sight of that.

Yeah fun!

Anyhow, a month or so ago, we were at my parents house visiting.  They like flowers and have a really nice flowerbed out front.  I took a few pics of the crop they had around there.  Pollinators were about gathering what pollen they could.  I love yellow flowers so their Black-eyed Susan’s were exquisite.  Yes, I just said that…shut up.

Black-eyed Susans

Pollen on the flowers

Pollen on the flowers

I was messing in the  bees awhile back and this time of year is interesting.  After spring and summer blooms pass and before fall blooms start, bees and hornets and wasps and yellow jackets all compete for limited resources.  I always see bunches of yellow jackets in particular, “make a go” at the beehives to try and steal a little of the honey they keep inside.  In a healthy hive, the bees keep the yellow jackets away easily.  In one hive box that was empty, but in my apiary, I took a look in to see if any bees or other critters were collecting any of the wax scraps that were about…Imagine my surprise when I saw these lovelies…They were not aggressive so I just put the lid back on and walked away…that’s how I roll.

Waspers!
Waspers!
Wasp larvae and eggs
Wasp eggs
Wasp larvae and eggs
Wasp larvae

I did find another nest in other bee stuff I had at the house and found a really cool looking nest.  It showed all stages of waspers inside…capped brood, larvae, and eggs.  You can kind of see them if you look hard and use your imagination.

This stuff fascinates me…I am always amazed at the wonders that are right under our noses!

Kids these days

Kids these days…You know, kids these days are different than when I was a kid. I had good pals and best friends and we did a lot together and had a lot of fun and all that. Something about kids these days seems different though. I have noticed that these kids share more and better than I remember doing. Sure, we took turns drinking from the garden hose and maybe we traded cookies from our lunch boxes, but Isaac and many of his pals give things to each other freely…and not just little things. They share what’s important to them among each other. I have seen them share money and clothes and electronics and all sorts of things without hesitation. I don’t mean, “here, you can borrow my shirt” kind of stuff, but “here, you can have my shirt.”

I wonder if it comes down to economics of it or if it is a true change in how kids are these days. I grew up in an economically disadvantaged region of PA. Most people there worked very hard to get by and few had a life of plenty. Of course, I had plenty of love and support, but we didn’t have stuff in plenty. I am and was perfectly content with that life, but maybe my growing up was different because of that.  Maybe I didn’t share as freely because I didn’t have as much to share or what I did have was a little more precious to me.  Maybe it was the time and the world and all that.  I don’t have any idea.

Last weekend, Abigail ran in a cross-country meet.  She ran well and came in among the middle of the pack.  I was very happy for her, especially considering she is a new runner and a 6th grader competing among 8th graders.  As the last of the pack was coming in for one of the other races, one boy was obviously struggling to complete the race.  I was so proud to see a number of other runners who had finished their race return back to the lone runner and encourage and support him.  They ran beside him, encouraging him to keep going, that they were there to keep cheering him and that they were proud to run with him.  I don’t know that everyone got a ribbon, but in my eyes, I saw a team of kids that, rather than teasing or bullying, or even just being indifferent, proved that they were champions and that they shared the joy together.

Still running
Still running

I hear people complain about how kids these days feel entitled because everyone gets a ribbon and everyone gets constant praise.  Maybe that can be taken too far and maybe it is taken too far, too often, but honestly, I do not know that I have seen that problem.  If that sort of thing breeds the kind of sharing and concern that I have seen among my kids’ friends, I am all for giving every kid I see a ribbon.

Maybe it’s a different time or maybe I was just a bad friend, but many kids these days simply make me proud and give me hope that it’s all going to be ok…

A late season swarm

There is an old saying in beekeeping…”A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.  A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon.  A swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.”  I am not sure what a swarm in September is worth but I am pretty sure I owe somebody something.

A swarm of bees in the air
A swarm of bees in the air

You see, I got a call over the holiday weekend about a swarm that had just landed at someone’s house.  I sort of had to do a double-take.  Honeybees don’t usually swarm this late.  I figured the homeowner had seen a hornets’ nest or maybe a bunch of wasps or yellow jackets.  Those critters are all pretty common this time of year and I often get calls from people asking me to deal with their “bees”.

A late-season swarm of bees
A late-season swarm of bees

I looked at the picture they sent and sure enough, they had a swarm of honeybees swarming on their gutter.  Now swarm catching is one of my all-time fav-o-rite things to do in beekeeping so I grabbed my stuff and headed over.

Tag-a-long bee!
Tag-a-long bee!

Sure enough, a small swarm had chosen the lucky homeowners and it wasn’t too high off the ground for me to get.  I coaxed the bees into the swarm box that is part of the swarm catching gear that makes my excited trip each time I get a call.  Into the back of the car they went and we all happily headed home!  The bees are currently on my garden wall where they will probably remain through the next few weeks until I can determine if they are worth trying to keep all winter as-is or if I should combine them with another colony.

Getting ready to catch a swarm
Getting ready to catch a swarm

So, what caused them to swarm this late in the season?  Who knows?  Maybe their tree-home was cut or fell down.  Maybe a bear or other creature messed up their place.  I do not know for sure but I think this is my first ever swarm that is worth less than even single fly!

Other bee stuff