The Farmer in the…

Who hasn’t at some point heard the classic children’s song and wondered “What’s a dell?” 

Well, that moment happened for my four-year-old son the other night. Naturally he turned to his ever knowledgeable dad and asked the question. I deftly fielded his inquiry, described the features of a dell, and even provided him with a reference point in our neighborhood that is dell-like. No doubt he’ll wow his mother and sisters with his knowledge the next time they walk there. 

It was a proud parental moment, but then I had a moment of doubt. Did I really know what a dell was? Had I led my son astray? Years from now, would he confidently raise his hand in middle school social studies and provide my description of a dell only to have his teacher and classmates mock him for his obviously wrong answer?! 

Thankfully, a quick search of the interwebs confirmed my definition, and all of my fear and self-doubt had been for naught. Fatherly crisis averted!

In case you’re wondering, you can find the textbook definition a dell (ok, Wikipedia definition), and even a picture here.

Until next time readers!

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Living Simply

We strive to live simply in our house. I say strive because sometimes living simply isn’t quite so simple nowadays, and sometimes we just don’t succeed at keeping things as simple as we’d like.

    Our house is often messy and cluttered, but we’re getting better, and with a gaggle of kids and a dog running around there’s going to be a certain amount of mess. I’m sure if we were minimalists our house would be cleaner, but with little kids comes a certain amount of “stuff” and we’re (mostly) ok with that. We’re willing to accept the mess that comes from all that “stuff” because we’re pretty anti-tech when it comes to our kids. As much as I hate that there are Legos all over my son’s room, I’ll take that over him staring at a tablet playing Minecraft for hours. 

    Recently, I found myself on a restless Friday night with a sleeping wife on the couch watching a documentary about minimalism on Netflix. (I know, I know, I better chill out on this wild lifestyle I lead!) Anyway, it’s worth a watch, but the basic gist isn’t some crazy idea that you have to sell off all your possessions and buy a tiny house, but instead to not let “things” dominate your life. 

    That’s an important message in today’s world, and one that the wife and I find ourselves trying to live by and instill in our kids. Like I said, it’s not always easy, but I think as long as we’re making the effort, we’re succeeding. 

    Right? At least a little? E for effort maybe? #notanexpert

    Tech No?

    We’ve been pretty tech-averse in our house for awhile, that is until Christmas when welcomed a brand new Amazon Echo into our lives. 

    We’ve had it for five months now and I can’t really say that it’s changed our lives or anything (ok, maybe there are a few more impromptu dance parties than before), but it’s been a semi-helpful addition at least. 

    Need some soothing classical music when the kids are nuts? No problemo.
    Need a quick weather report? Got you covered.

    Have no idea what the family schedule looks like today? Just ask!

    Am I worried about the NSA spying on me? Nope. I’m probably more worried about Amazon and Google getting together to form SkyNet and an army of Terminators, but I think as long as we keep Asimov’s rules in order we’ll all be just fine with our new friend Alexa.

    Flying

    I probably travel more than most, but my hotel points and frequent flier miles tell me I’m nowhere near road warrior status. One thing I can say though is that I never get tired of flying! Maybe not all the annoyances of getting through the airport, packing myself into the plane like a sardine, or having to hurry for a connecting flight, but there’s plenty to appreciate also.

    The actual act of flying along and looking out the window and seeing a high-altitude view of the world.

    Seeing random clouds in the distance and the torrents of rain pouring out of them while we fly through endless sunshine.

    Arriving in a new place and seeing it on approach for the first time. Conversely, I also love arriving home, or another familiar place, and being able to pick out landmarks from the air.

    Writing this makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to have these experiences. Air travel has become more and more accessible worldwide, but there are still many people who will never set foot on an airplane. To be among those who get to experience flight makes me extremely blessed, and I’m thankful for it.

    Aliens!

    Although they may look otherworldly, they’re not aliens. They’re called tomato hornworms, they ARE disgusting, and they are a scourge on my tomatoes this year.

    Where did they come from? What are they? Why my tomatoes? What did I do to deserve this?!

    It turns out that they are the larval stage of the hummingbird moth. Had I known this I would have swatted those suckers when I saw them flitting around the garden earlier this year, but they were pretty cool looking, and as many people do, we initially mistook them for actual hummingbirds!

    What’s a guy to do about these little terrors? Well it turns out that unless I want to douse my tomatoes in insecticide (no thanks!) picking them off is the best I can do. Their natural predators are wasps, (unfortunately I killed all the wasps around the house earlier in the summer!) and ladybugs. Although I’d love to see a boatload of ladybugs battle it out for supremacy against the hornworm hoard, I don’t know if that’s a great option this late in the game. I’ll just have to stay vigilant and keep checking daily for more signs of these monsters.

    The only upside here is that my kids LOVE playing with them. They were so excited coming home from Costco today because they wanted to go outside to “check on their babies” that I had picked and put in their bucket this morning. They’re outside right now as I type this poking and prodding and doing who knows what to them. It’s fun to see them excited about nature and animals and exploring their curiosity about things, and as long as they’re nowhere near my tomatoes I’m happy to let them go to town!

    If summer comes and goes without me blogging about it, does it make a sound?

    Suddenly I looked up and it was September. Summer flew by, and boy was it a hot one here in Northern Virginia. We had more 90+ degree days here than last year, and frankly I hate the heat and humidity, so to say that it limited my desire to be outside for extended periods would be an understatement! I didn’t hike, paddle, fish, or anything else nearly as much as I would have liked, but such is life.

    The summer wasn’t a total waste by any stretch of the imagination. Probably the highlight of the summer was having the chance to visit St. Thomas where I checked off a bucket-list item by snorkeling around a coral reef with sea turtles! If you have the chance, I highly recommend it.

    I’ll try to be back with more posts on a much more regular basis. I still have several posts in various levels of draft status so hopefully this is the start of T&T’s rebirth this fall.

    Jim

    Nature in Your Own Backyard

    It’s been a crazy month so far and it’s left me with little time for managing the blog, so I hope you haven’t missed me too much!

    Late Spring and early summer have had the critters out and about, and we’ve been pretty lucky here at the ol’ suburban homestead to have some friendly creature visitors. I guess that’s what happens when you buy the lot that backs up to the woods!

    Robins Under the Deck
    So it’s not bats in the belfry, but still pretty fun. Mr. And Mrs. Robin decided to make the underside of our deck their home. I noticed it last month, and a few weeks ago saw these eggs in there.
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    The kids loved to peek up there to see the eggs, and I tried to give the nest as much space as possible to not stress them out, but unfortunately I discovered last week that the nest had been abandoned and there was no sign of the eggs. That led me to believe that perhaps our next visitor, or one of his friends, had something to do with the disappearance since there wasn’t even a fleck of broken shell in the nest.

    “Hey daddy, there’s a snake right there.”
    Said my son calmly as he pointed at the four-foot Eastern Rat Snake in our front flower bed.

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    I am by no means a snake expert, but a quick look at our visitor told me he wasn’t venomous or a threat as long as we gave him some space. I of course backed that up with a quick search of the interwebs, and once it was clear that it wasn’t going to eat any of the kids we actually had a fun time watching our new friend slither around back and off into the woods.

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    My wife was decidedly less amused when she later saw another snake lounging on our back patio while she was out there with the kids one morning. However, we have haven’t seen any since, which lends credence to my theory that they may have come for a little snack at the robins’ nest.

    “What the heck is THAT?!”
    Is what I said when walked out onto the patio, looked at the stairs leading up to the deck, and saw this:
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    Easily one of the bigger winged insects I’ve seen! I took this picture fully terrified that this guy was going to attack me like Mothra going after Godzilla. However, once I consulted the trusty interwebs, I discovered that this is a Luna Moth, and they only fly at night. I’ll pause for a second to let you contemplate the thought of one of these things landing on your face while you sit on your patio at night…
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    Now that you’ve thought that through hopefully you can move on and appreciate how cool looking this thing is! The kids never really got to that point though, because apparently dad’s reassurances that it wouldn’t fly during the day couldn’t make them want to get anywhere near him.

    That’s all for now, and I’ll try to get back on schedule here.

    Cheers everyone!

    Some Humor

    Came across this one and couldn’t pass it up!

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    I’ve encountered over half of these. Not sure what I’d do if confronted with the other four, but I probably wouldn’t do anything on this list. Except for the one you’ll read about below.

    Geese
    Yeah, they can be pretty aggressive when you get near a nest. Just keep moving!

    Wasps
    Although the wasps weren’t the size of geese I’ve seen some big ones. One time swimming at a lake in New Hampshire with friends we were climbing up a rock face out of the water and our dogs came down to greet us. In the process they stirred up some nasty black wasps that quickly dive bombed us! One of them stung me, and it hurt like heck so I jumped back into the water without hesitation. Needless to say I found an alternate route out of the water, and the welt on my arm stuck around for a couple days.

    Snakes
    I generally just avoid them and give them a wide berth. Can’t say that I recommend the balloon approach.

    Spiders
    If you don’t want to burn everything, the bottom of your boot, sneaker, or flip flop work well also.

    Cats
    I may have once punted a cat, and by “may have” I mean I definitely did. Walking the dog one evening about nine years ago, and this thing came at us out of nowhere! The dog naturally cowered behind me as the cat charged. She took a claw to the face, and I took one to the calf. Left with no other choice, I went with the punt. Can’t recall what kind of distance I got, but it’s a valid technique!

    Tuesday Tips: 17 May 2016

    This is the first installment of a new feature here at T&T. On Tuesdays I’ll post a quick and easy tip that I’ve learned, used, or stashed away for future use. This week’s topic, how to manuever your recreational kayak or canoe through a random rapid or wave.

    Picture this, you’re out for a leisurely paddle on the river in your canoe or kayak. You come around a bend and find yourself face to face with a couple of downed trees that are channeling the water into a small rapid. We’re not talking whitewater here, but enough to swamp you if you’re careless and hit it the wrong way.

    Assuming that you’re not going to exit the river and portage around the rapid, and you can see a clear channel through, the best thing you can do here is to line yourself up and paddle straight through the rough patch. Your instinct might be to approach slowly, but momentum is your friend here. If you keep up your momentum you’re controlling where your boat goes and the river does not. If you have to make a slight course correction by dipping your blade into the water for a rudder stroke that’s fine, but ideally you want to use some power strokes to propel yourself in the right direction.

    The same holds true on open water if you encounter the wake from a speedboat or other larger vessel. Turn yourself perpendicular to the approaching wake, paddle strongly into it, and punch through. If you’ve got the space, and are feeling playful, you can even paddle away from the wake to take a little ride. Again, momentum is your friend here because it will keep you in control rather than the water, and it will keep you from turning parallel with the wake and potentially swamping your boat.

    That’s all for now!

    Cheers!

    Enough is enough!

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    We’ve been stuck in an extended stretch of rainy weather here. Over two weeks straight of measurable precipitation every day. My lawn has been barely manageable, my flower beds needed to be planted and mulched, and frankly I just wanted to be able to take our new canoe for a spin out on the lake!

    Well Friday afternoon the weather finally broke and the sun came out. The kids wanted to take the canoe out as badly as I did so it was pretty easy to convince me to head out for an early evening paddle. They were awesome, and it was nice to have both older kids out with me and have some leg room instead of cramming myself and one kid into the kayak! My only mistake, using a standard canoe paddle instead of my kayak paddle. Life would have been alot easier with two paddle blades.

    This morning we awoke to an odd sight… The sun was shining through our windows! We took advantage and got the last of our flowers planted out front. The two older kids helped a little while their little sister toddled around, then they lost interest and decided that toys and wagon rides up and down the block were more entertaining than dad. Even if dad was giving them carte-blanche to dig in the dirt.

    This afternoon we tried to go to the kid’s festival in Winchester’s Old Town section, but clouds were looming, and as soon as we arrived the sky opened up once again. By this point we’re accustomed to having wet weather gear just laying around the van so we whipped out some umbrellas, jackets, and ponchos, and soldiered on. Most of the fun stuff was a no-go in the rain so we ducked into an ice cream shop in Old Town, ate our ice cream and then invited ourselves over to our friends’ new house outside of town. We gave them a heads-up, but fortunately they’re the kind of friends that you can just sort of show up and always expect a warm welcome. We hung out awhile, and after the sky cleared up, took the kids on a little adventure down to the creek along the back edge of the property. The kids loved tromping through the woods (as most kids do), splashing sticks around in the creek (again, a kid standard), and hunting for turtles and toads (childhood trifecta!). Of course all of this was followed by a thorough tick check before heading inside to clean up, relax, and eat some pizza before heading home.

    I guess I can’t complain too much about the rain. Come July, I’ll likely be complaining about temps in the 90s and a complete lack of rain killing my grass, but for now I’ll take advantage of the little breaks in the rain to get outside. I don’t know how people in Seattle do it!

    Cheers!