Monday, March 31, 2008

Eh Part 2

Monday's storm:

It is at this point that the Minnesotans go totally crazy.

Tuesday morning aftermath:

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wendell's Weaknesses Part 2


I hope you are all doing well on this spring Saturday!

Critters in the News:

Did our ancestors leave Africa earlier than we thought?

New critters found in Antarctica!

The mystery of squid beaks - and a possible application for human medical care.

As illustrated in my previous Wendell's Weaknesses post, I do have some problems with household stuff. Today's entry stems from a horticultural project I started back in January. In that cold, desperate month, I decided to plant some seeds indoors, which included cilantro, mint and basil. After making some threats to HS and BS, children of the mint farmer The Carrot Queen, regarding my mint production rivaling theirs, eventually I had to call the Queen herself for some germination advice. Because my seeds weren't growing.


I replanted the remaining mint seeds a few months ago:

See the tiny seedling in the front?!

I also took some morning glory seeds from the plant outside my sis-in-law AB's front door, and planted them concurrently with the mint seeds:


There was one success story from January, however:


Observe the tiny cilantro/coriander plants!

In this similar photo, you can see the successful growth of a little nectarine tree I planted from a pit a year ago!


This week things turned around for the mint and morning glory pots, however. Unfortunately, I buried the little mint seedling while watering the plant and couldn't find it again:


But, check out the morning glory pot!


The January basil was a total wash, so I got sneaky last weekend and purchased this at the grocery store:



(Can you see my curly hair coming down the front of the pot?!)

But, several days later:

Maybe the greenhouse sprayed something to kill the basil roots and it's not my fault the plant is fading. Right?

Moving outdoors, my West Coast Cousin, Senor R, has been blogging about his various blooming daffodils, azalea and other plants. This is what's appearing outside of our apartment building:



But the front yard looks like this:


Have a good week!

Seed happy,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Critters of Colorado

Hello everyone, Happy Easter!

Did you get snow this weekend? It's been a weird return to winter pigging out and staying in all weekend, compared to the bike riding and long runs that R and I spent time doing LAST weekend.

So, as our trip to Colorado is nearly a month gone, I will reflect one last time about some of the non-Minnesotan critters we saw there. In Golden we spotted a strange black and white bird. Upon doing some research with K and JH, we figured out it was a Black Billed Magpie!


These Corvids, or members of the crow family, live from Alaska down to Oklahoma. They're about 18 inches long, with their long tails accounting for about half that length.

Pica hudsonia pairs live together year-round, and March through July is breeding season. While the female bird only incubates her four to eight eggs for 16 to 18 days, the magpies spend up to 50 days building their nest! Measuring 48 to 90 inches across, magpie nests are hooded and feature several side entrances. Hawks and owls sometimes steal magpie nests for their own use!


Magpies enjoy eating a variety of foods, including carrion, bugs, fruit, nuts and seeds. They have a reputation from stealing baby birds from nests, as well as snatching food from other birds. Magpies also will alight on big animals like moose and deer to pick wood ticks from their coats. The black billed magpies will often hoard the live ticks in a hiding place, which backfires as the bugs are still alive and escape from the hiding spot!


I hope you've learned a little about these lovely birds! Apparently their winter territory includes Western Minnesota, so maybe we'll see some soon after all.

On our mountain drive to Salida, several mule deer ambled across the road in front of our car! They seemed quite nonchalant about the danger. The funniest sighting was when JB and JF were driving us to the hot springs; about 20 deer were surrounding a church and eating the shrubbery! Unfortunately we didn't have our camera.

Here is my deer entry from my old site, circa 11/16/2005:

This weekend my sister A and I were chatting about deer. Sis A said, "Wendell, just write that the deer are running crazy all over the place." (She hit one last month). Her sweetie TG [now husband] was there and he mentioned a friend of his had been in Texas hunting something called "Axis deer". You know my interest was piqued!

So, back to deer. Scientists believe that deer moved down from the Arctic Circle about four million years ago, populating the warmer southern regions of Europe, Asia and North America. These animals are members of the Order Artiodactyla, or "even-toed ungulates", (even though some peccaries have three toes?) This order includes the aforementioned peccaries, piggies, cows, antelope and deer.

The most widespread species in the US is the whitetail deer, Odocoileus virginianus. There are 30 subspecies and eight different varieties of deer in the Americas.

I'm sure you've seen the whitetail deer, hopefully not running in front of your vehicle! They are tan to reddish or grayish tan, with white undersides. And of course, the white tail, which becomes visible when a startled deer lifts it, or while running away from an enemy.

Most often you will see deer at dusk or before sunrise. During the day they usually bed down and rest, and then awaken to feed through the night. They will also lie down to rest and chew cud in the night.

Whitetails are known to eat up to 500 varieties of plants in the US. Depending on their habitats, deer will either graze on grasses or forage for leaves and bark; usually a combination of both. In food-rich habitats, deer won't travel far, but obviously will have a larger home range if nourishment is scarce. It requires seven deer to eat as much as one cow.

Whitetails have antlers, which act as protection, a way to mark their territory, and as a fighting tool for the rut! Apparently antler production is related to TESTICULAR ACTIVITY! (Yes!) In the spring, male deer aren't sexually active, and antlers form. As the sexual glands grow during the summer, the antlers harden and lose their velvet. After the bucks mate, the antlers fall off. (My parents then try to find these "sheds".)

Contrary to popular belief, the amount of points on a deer's antlers does not show the age of the animal. Instead, antler size is mostly determined by how much food the deer eats through the spring and summer. (Although older deer will have thicker antler bases.) The best way to determine the age of the deer is by examining their teeth. Apparently antler size is affected by geography (and I wonder if that's related to nutrition too?)

Also whitetail antler size is usually larger if my Dad and his hunting buddies (which includes the S family, my uncles and cousins, and two of my sisters) are shooting them! We have five 10-pointers in our living room at home. At Christmas my Dad likes to hang jewelry for my Mom from the deer antlers! This has included diamond earrings, necklaces, and even her wedding ring after he'd replaced the long lost diamond!

Ok, back to the nooky! The rut takes place from Sept. to early Dec., depending on the climate of the region. The bucks necks swell, and they start fighting to win the doe's attention. The gestation period for deer is seven months, and the doe will hide the newborn fawn for ten days to two weeks, returning throughout the day to nurse it. The spots on the fawn are designed to help it remain invisible in the dappled sunlight of forest underbrush. Eventually the fawn will start walking more strongly and follow her around. Occasionally deer will mate in their first year of life, if food is abundant, but most often lovemaking occurs at the two year mark.

Mule Deer.jpg
Mule deer (Ococoileus hemionus) are also found in the United States. It seems they prefer more southern and western climates. These large-eared deer sort of hop along, and leave four footprints at once! Mulies and whitetails can interbreed, and these hybrids most resemble whitetails. A variety of mule deer is the blacktailed deer. Here is a male muley; note the black tipped ears.

Now on to T's Axis deer. It's true! In 1932 axis deer (Cerus axix) were imported from India to Texas! In their native land they are referred to as chital. These large deer are spotted even in adulthood, have three spikes on their antlers (with one being much longer than the other two) and have a dark stripe running down their spotted backs!

As you can see, axis deer resemble elk, and like that species, bugle during mating displays. Unlike mule deer and whitetails, axis deer mate throughout the year, and males shed their antlers accordingly. Even so, most babies are born between January and April.

So there is your refresher course on deer! R and I did spot some antelope on our drive back, but, I don't want to make your brain explode with too much information!

Hope your weeks start off smoovly!


Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Colorado Part II

Yee haw! Happy Friday, dudes.

I hope you have all had a good week. It seems Spring Fever has hit Minneapolis, although I guess we get the most snow in March, so we'll see what happens!

As you might remember from my last vacation entry, R and I were about to leave Golden, Colorado. The trip was a snowy one through the passes, and we drove near the Red Rocks Amphitheater and saw some beautiful scenery. We were heading south to visit sister JB and future bro JF in Salida.

Side Note: The "S" on the mountain glowed white at night, and alternated with the outline of a red heart. JB hates the signs! I loved them, though.

JB and JF are starting a guest hostel in Salida!


We chillaxed Tuesday night and saw the town. JB and JF know so many people already. There is a real sense of community and camaraderie in Salida. On Wednesday we were going to Monarch Mountain to ski and snowboard! Here is a webcam near one of the lifts!

I've only skied three times in the last twelve years, but ski design has advanced a lot since then, making it easier for beginners, and I feel somewhat confident. It was really crazy to be on a real mountain, however! Monarch was very beautiful, and other than biffing it and not being able to put my skis back on (for a while) it was really fun. Our cardiovascular endurance suffered from the altitude, though! We decided not to bring our camera, but did pay a photographer for this photo:


After skiing, JB and I checked out the local thrift store, where I scored a work out tank for ten cents! Then we checked out one of the many hot springs in the area. It was fun to soak in the clothing-optional, 95 degree pool! We wore swimsuits, but there were two women soaking with us in the nude. It was amazing to watch the sun set across the valley while enjoying a natural hot tub! I especially loved the geothermically heated creek, which was lined with strange green plants.

Too soon, however, it was time for R and I to return to Minnesota.



Gotta love a buffalo sculpture!

One of JF and JB's housemates has this ADORABLE puppy:

I hope you enjoyed these photos! Next I'll present a few creatures we saw in Colorado!


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spotted tonight:

The first
of the year!

CO update tomorrow!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Colorado Part I

Hello everyone!

I hope March has started out smoovly for you. Is it my imagination or are the buds on the trees looking more prominent? (CG, whom SH and I joined yesterday to see the Minnesota Roller Girls, said it was just my imagination!)

Shout outs to pan flute player PG, upon her acceptance to the U of MN for her doctorate!

R and I have returned from our Colorado vacation, obviously. It was a great time! We left last Saturday, the 1st.

Highlights of I35 and I80 in MN and IA:
* Tons of windmills
* Brick silos

It turns out Saturday was the warmest day of our trip. As we entered Nebraska I started sweating to death; it was 65 degrees outside! We enjoyed some Subway out on the grass.

Nebraska features:
* Beauty
* Thousands of cranes, both in the air and in the fields.

Colorado features:
* It was dark, we couldn't observe any beauty. Somehow we got to 5,000 feet above sea level, however.


It was great to see KH and finally meet her hubby, JH! (In front of the Coors factory!)

JH has a fancy camera!

The warm weather abated and it snowed on Sunday. KH, R and I went shopping. Here we are in front of the mall.

Then we drove to the hills.
(The sign in the background warned us there were cougars in the area!)

The four of us played trivia at a local restaurant in Golden. Our team was in third place for a while! R and JH knew things like presidential history, world capitals and the Federal Reserve Bank. KH and I knew things like the Romantic period in music, and what song was from "Les Miserables". We didn't win though.

R and I took a nature walk in the hills.

We spotted the western bunny!
(Actually I think it is an Eastern Cottontail.)

If you touch a cactus it might poke you. You heard it here first!

Also, these yucca plants were really spiky.

We searched for goats, thwarted perhaps by the adjacent State Trooper school, where drivers appeared to be whipping shitties while driving in reverse.
co state trooper


Could it be...a sign of the wild goater?!

After that high altitude hike, we needed to rest with K and J's doggies!
R and Roo D.

Keku and I!

The cuteness of Keku is better exhibited in this picture:

We took a tour of the Coors factory:

Thankfully, goats were represented in Coors advertising:


Before R and I left Golden, we decided to drive up the mountain to see Buffalo Bill's grave.


It was certainly a scenic and quiet resting place; except for the howling winds that day!


The crazy thing was that the road up the mountain was super steep, with tons of sharp corners (duh) and cyclists were winding their way up alongside our car! And zooming down, as well. As beautiful as the mountains were, I am a little scared of driving up there. It seems the possibility of a violent death is much higher!

Here is another photo of Golden. It is weird to consider that these mountains and buttes used to be at the bottom of the ocean!


Stay tuned for stories from the rest of our trip!