Outdoor band concert

It’s the season of band!  Well. it seems like it anyhow.  Last night, Isaac played in 2 separate concerts.  First, the George Washington High School band played their final concert together as the 2015 band last night.  Seniors are hitting the road so this was a nice opportunity for them to get together one last time as a group and play a killer concert.

GWHS Band
GWHS Band

I think what made it especially nice was that it was outside and that the weather was perfect!  We enjoyed their music as always and especially liked the opportunity for a little vitamin D!

Don't look...it's Dad
Don’t look…it’s Dad

Like any good kid, Isaac refused to look up at his parents so I sort of had to sneak a few pics.  Meh. I’m good with that.  More excellent were the selections they played…of course, it was outside with my cell phone sitting on metal bleachers where kids played and adults shifted about so please excuse the extraneous noises:

Visions Of Flight
America The Beautiful
American Folk Rhapsody
Desert Patrol
Rough Riders
Loch Lomond

After that concert, a number of the high school band members ran over to the middle school which was performing their annual arts showcase. The middle school jazz band director had arranged with a few former-middle-school-jazz-band-now-high-school-band members to return to perform in an alumni jazz band as part of the larger concert…and of course, they were great!

Sesame Street
In The mood
Hey Jude
Lean On Me

Tonight we celebrate the end of high school band season with a banquet. After that, we have one middle school band concert, a banquet and an end of the year trip. It’s been a little wild around our neck of the woods lately, but I am so proud of my kids in particular and the entire bands in which they both play as well!

George Washington Band Concert

I have mentioned many times that the kids are both very involved with band in their schools.  Band means many things to different people but I never ceased to be amazed at how incredible these kids play and how truly kind and awesome the majority of our band kinds are.

Isaac at the GW Band concert
Isaac at the GW Band concert

Isaac’s high school band played their spring concert this week at the Clay Center in Charleston.  Truly, Charleston is fortunate to have such an amazing performance hall.  And even more fortunate is that our high school has the opportunity to play in the same hall as the WV Symphony.  It’s a high-class, beautiful location!

The GW Band
The GW Band

Synergies
Shepherds Hey
Belgian Paratroopers
Stella Maris
Korean Folk song
Chanson de l’adieu
Trieste
(click above to listen)

Isaac was principle chair for his instrument, the tenor sax.  I am very proud as you might imagine.  His band-mates all seem to be very driven and really respect their band director.  He’s a serious man, and demands excellence from these kids and absolutely gets it.  I think the kids very much respect him for helping them to see how great they can be.  I am very pleased with his ability to inspire the band to play as he does.  It’s clear he loves the music and the kids and that’s just perfect in my mind!

Cool pic outside the Clay Center
Cool pic outside the Clay Center…Venus (I think) in the night sky also

So friends, I know that these may take a bit to download, but if you find the time or the inclination, please enjoy the music from the George Washington High School Spring Concert – 2015!

Laying workers

Quite a title, I know, but that’s what it’s called in the beekeeping world.  This weekend, I looked into my colonies and added honey supers as necessary in preparation for the honey flow which starts soon in WV.  I mostly found good colonies with healthy queens, good worker build-up, plenty of eggs and larvae, etc.  In one hive, I found a problem though.

Healthy honeybees on comb
Healthy honeybees on comb

Sometimes, when a hive loses its queen, the infertile female worker bees sort of change into queen-wannabees.  Every hive needs a queen to survive as she is the one which controls the mood of the hive, ensures future bees and generally runs the show.  When a colony goes queen-less, all of that falls apart.  Something in a number of worker bees triggers and they begin to sort of convert into queen bees.  These infertile bees are called laying workers.  Their bodies begin producing eggs.  Since the aren’t really queens though, they cannot fertilize the eggs and something is just not right about how they roll…they don’t know how to properly lay eggs like a real queen would.

A healthy brood pattern
A healthy brood pattern…can you find the queen in this pic?  She’s there!

Instead of laying a single fertile egg in the center of each honeycomb, laying workers lay multiple eggs in the honeycomb, on the honeycomb walls, heck, sort of everywhere.  If the eggs develop into anything, they would turn into male drone bees but in most cases, they are just junk and signal the end of a hive.

Multiple eggs in the honeycomb cells from laying workers
Multiple eggs in the honeycomb cells from laying workers..there should be single little white eggs in each cell

Some beekeepers used to say that they could save the non-laying workers by shaking all of the bees out of the hive at some distance, say 500 yards, from the original location.  The idea was that, like a typical real laying queen, laying workers would not really fly and so would die where they were shaken out (queens can fly…when they breed in their first week or so after emerging from a queen cell and when they swarm…in both ).  Non-laying bees would return to the hive where the beekeeper could install a new fertile queen.

A healthy queen
A healthy queen…look for the longer body…this queen is darker than the surrounding workers

Research has shown that it doesn’t really work that way though…or not consistently.  I prefer to shake the bees out and remove the actual hive from the location where it once stood.  Any bees that return have to either transition into a nearby hive that will not tolerate laying workers or die where their old hive stood.  It’s a harsh reality I suppose but the only viable solution in my yard.  Sometimes it happens which is a drag, but I am pleased that I have a good number of healthy hives that will hopefully produce  a lot of good honey…if the predicted frost tomorrow doesn’t kill all of the nectar-producing blooms!

More bee stuff

Run for it!

My, my, it’s been awhile since we last talked!  Lots of things have been going down around here lately and it’s time for us to catch up!

About 10 days ago, Abigail and I ran in our first 5k race.  She’s run a good bit before as a member of her middle school’s cross-country team.  For middle school, cross-country races are a little less than 3k so 5k was a bit of a stretch from her previous experience, but we were excited to run.  Well, we were excited to run until the morning of the race.  This race was on a Saturday and we had to be there a bit before 9am…her enthusiasm waned with my “wake up holler” at 7am.

Ready to run!

Anyhow, we got to the track.  Being an old hand at running races, Abigail sort of played it cool waiting for the race to start.  I was pretty wound up as I haven’t ever run in a race of any sort before!  I wasn’t sure if I would embarrass my self or, in my excitement, expend all of my energy up front…would my nerves get to me?  Gosh, am I an adult or not?  I should be able to be calm about this but it just wasn’t happening on race day.

We walked a quick lap around the track to warm up our legs a little before the race.  We have been training together and I have typically run faster and farther than Abigail so we decided that if I was feeling it, we would not  try to run together…I could go ahead of her if I could.

So we lined up, jittery and excited and waited for the gun.  I was surprised but they actually used a starter gun rather than a whistle or horn or something.  That was really cool!  My first race and I got a starter gun!  With the shot, we took off and I was feeling good.  I ditched Abigail after a quarter mile or so (don’t judge me) and kept on plowing.  Abigail and I talked about how she runs cross-country.  She sees a person ahead of her…decides to catch and pass them and then looks for the next person.  It’s run one pass at a time.  I decided to do the same.  It was a good strategy as I found plenty of people around me that I could pass.

Pre-race selfie!
Pre-race selfie!

I won’t recount every step but I had a good race and finished in 27:30 which was pretty cool.  Overall, I finished in 17th place out of 115 or so racers.  That was really cool for my ego (which typically needs no encouragement).  I started walking back through the course and found Abigail and finished the rest of the race with her trying to encourage her to keep pushing.  It was a great time as far as I am concerned.

After the race, I am pretty well hooked.  We had been training for a few weeks before the race and now are running a 5k three times per week around the local track.  After some discussion, we have identified a few problems with Abigail’s breathing strategy.  By fixing that, she is running much stronger now so we are getting ready for our next race in a few weeks!  It’s a really cool opportunity to be able to run with Abigail and to have a really awesome thing about which we can talk and plan.  We have just decided to run for it!

The best of Spring

I have long disliked winter, but without winter, I guess I wouldn’t have perspective to properly enjoy the best of all seasons, spring.  It’s hard to beat that special color of purpley-red that hints on the trees before any other colors show.  And the fresh green of newly forming buds and leaves is like none other.  And probably my favorite of all natural spring things is the look and especially the smell of new daffodils.  I wish I could find a way to bottle the clean smell that is daffodil.  If someone made daffodil perfume, I would wear it myself!

Daffodils

Well, maybe not…

Anyhow, I also love to hear the spring peepers, tiny frogs that call all night in the spring looking for love I suppose.  Winter gets awful lonely after all!  I happened to be out in early March and was able to hear the first peep-frogs of the season.  That sound is almost as special as the smell of daffodils.  Both generate sort of emotional responses in me.

Well, maybe not…

Spring Peep-frogs in March (click)

But still, I really like both.  Among unnatural things, I also find a few favorites in spring!  From December 26th until Easter, there is a chance that one will find Cadbury cream eggs.  I love Cadbury eggs…almost as much as bacon and Hank Williams, Sr.  The problem, of course, is that they don’t really last long enough.  Their growing season, so to speak, is only 3 months at best.  A depraved Cadbury egg lover like me has to resort to ridiculous measures in order to survive from Easter until December 26…I stock up like a mad man!  The other day, I took a picture of my stash at the office…I have a similar stash at home as well.  While this probably won’t last until next season, it will set me well on my way!

My Stash of Cadbury Eggs!!!

And finally, and I know there are haters…I present my other spring-time favorite, black licorice jelly beans.  I know we are a rare breed, but I love black jelly beans.  I got some mediocre ones at the store this year, but truly good ones are hard to find but so worth the hunt!

Black jelly beans!

With all of these wonderful spring things, I don’t even mind my allergies when they flare up a little…and I don’t mind watching my son mow the yard.  Spring is so worth it!

Last non-teen year

Last week Abigail turned 12.  That makes this the last year without a teen in the house.  I guess some people have bad teen-years experiences but we have had a great time with Isaac and Abigail at every age.  It is shaping up to look like the teenage years will be great for Abigail as well.

Birthday dinner!
Birthday dinner!

She has all sorts of  things that interest her.  She is a budding flutist and made the all-county band as a 6th grader.  She thinks she is the only 6th grader in the entire band.  And to boot, she is 9th chair out of 22…as a sixth grader!  I couldn’t be more proud!

Abigail's Birthday...with her great grandmother!
Abigail’s Birthday…with her great grandmother!

She loves to read and challenges my paychecks to keep up with her appetite for books.  Of course, I know it is money well spent and the library always seems to be behind her so we just go for it and buy both printed and kindle books.  I figure if nothing else, I could insulate our house with all of the books we have laying around.

As bad as legos are in some people’s houses, markers seem to be that bad in our house.  It seems like I am always stepping or sitting on a marker or colored pencil.  Abigail loves to draw and creates all sorts of scenes and drawings.  She labors and fusses over her work and tweaks it until she feels like it is done.  She has a cool perspective on the world and it’s fun to see it unfold through her work.

Abigail and her brother
Abigail and her brother

Abigail is also a budding runner.  It’s fun to run with her…sometimes…she complains about getting started but has a period during our runs where she seems to enjoy it.  Warming up is ok and the first mile or so is ok.  It’s pretty hard to call what comes next “ok” but I like to run with her anyhow.  She ran cross-country last year and enjoyed it mostly.  Over the winter she got out of shape so she and I are running every week now in an attempt to get her ready for the season in the fall.  We get a little father-daughter bonding time at the least so I like that!

Anyhow, please help me wish Abigail a happy birthday even if it is a little late!  She’s a great kid and is on her way to being a decent adult!

Mellencamp

Last weekend, Emily and I had the opportunity to see John Mellencamp in concert.  Like about everyone who grew up in the 80s, we really enjoy his music and had great memories of the “glory days” in school when his music meant so much to us.

We stopped and actually had good BBQ...a rarity outside the South
We stopped and actually had good BBQ…a rarity outside the South

We did a ricochet trip to Charlotte, NC…we basically drove in, heard the concert, spent the night and returned the next morning.  Maybe it was a bit like our care-free time of growing up…or more likely my cheapskate kicking in so we didn’t have to pay for another night at a hotel.

A pig...eating pig
A pig…eating pig

Anyhow, the concert was in a mid-sized arena…maybe 5-6k people attended.  At first, we were the youngest people there which sort of surprised me.   Soon enough though we were in a sea of people of all ages.  Mellencamp is 63 and has been playing for a long time so I guess his music has appeal across many years though I am sure his most famous period was when I was a teenager.

Ready for the concert
Ready for the concert

John puts on a good old-fashioned rock-and-roll show.  It’s not full of flames and lights and dancing all over stage, but it’s loud enough and his songs are just plain awesome!  He mostly played his famous songs, Jack and Diane, Hurts So Good, Small Town, and Authority Song.  Emily, not being a true fan apparently, had never heard of his absolute best song, Rain on the Scarecrow.  I know it is probably not as well known as many of his others so I was surprised (and nearly brought to tears…except I don’t cry), when he fired up that song during the concert!  It was fantastic!

With my sweetie...
With my sweetie…

On stage with him, he had a fantastic violinist and another musician who played “everything else” including piano, accordion and harmonica.  It was sort of classic Mellencamp sounds but I guess I never really thought about what went into his music.  I loved it!

Mellencamp stage
Mellencamp stage

Unlike many current musicians, John Mellencamp sounded great live and pretty much exactly like he does on his produced versions (geez…I struggled with what to say there…cassettes, LPs, mp3s…he’s been around for it all!)  I was a little surprised when he lit up a cigarette on stage, but I guess that’s an 80s throwback thing too maybe.

I almost forgot…the concert  was opened by Carlene Carter which seemed like a huge surprise as she is most definitely in the  style of her mother and grandmother…i.e. older style country.  I really enjoyed her songs and singing as well, but it was a surprise.  We later found out that she and John and working together on a project so it did make sense…her opening was a nice bonus!

Friends, if you are a child of the 80s and get the opportunity to hear John Mellencamp, buy some tickets and enjoy an fun evening!  Sing as loud as you can and take your kids so they can be thoroughly embarrassed…but show them how rock and roll was meant to be done!

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….