Thursday, December 30, 2010

Birding Time Again!

While most folks think of a nice relaxing Christmas break, lots of crazies are gearing up the the annual Christmas Bird Counts. Here's the deal.

Over 100 years ago, somebody said, "Let's see how many birds there are in the world." And thus began the Audubon Society's Annual Bird Count Census. It's organized now, as opposed to folks just running around the countyside yelling out, "Six creepers!" and stuff like that. We now have Count Circles--areas that are deemed to be birdily important or just plain fun (like the Rudolph Ohio Count--get it--Christmas count????) NW Ohio has several very important count circles. The North Coast, aka northern Ohio along Lake Erie, is a Big Time Birding Area. The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is there, along with Magee Marsh State Wildlife Refuge, East Harbor State Park, Maumee Bay State Park, and the Crane Creek area. We, of the Oak Openings, are west of the Lake, having been left behind by the ancient Lakes Whittelsey and Warren. And though it sounds like there is lots of land left on the lake, don't be fooled. Most of the marshland/wetland is gone. Conservation, as usual, was too little too late. But I digress.

Back to count circles. A point is picked and a circle with a diameter of 15 miles is drawn on the map around that point. Ta-daa, a count circle. Teams of birders go out on a given day, from mid-December to early January, and count all the birds they can find. We count species and number of individual birds--it's a census.

NW Ohio has several count circles: the Toledo, the Islands, the Refuge, blah blah blah, and the Big One: The Grand Rapids/Waterville Count. The other name for this one is the Oak Openings Count. Birders spend their holidays scoping out where the good stuff is, and I ain't talking candy canes here. Maybe Sandhill Cranes, though. With or without this rotten head cold, I'll head out with my fellow birders for a day full of chickadees, titmices, hawks, and who-knows-what else on Sunday.

Kidding aside for a moment, this is an incredibly important chunk of research. Because of the longevity of the counts, we can use this citizen science for important longitudinal studies, not only of a given species, but of trends. For example, the trend toward having more boreal species in more southernly locales was among the first research-based evidence of global climate change.

Now back to the funny stuff. Oh, wait, I'm all out of funny stuff--the head cold does that. Anywho, there are birders all over the place scoping out what may or may not be here, and any rarities that turn up a week before or after Count day are tallied, so it all counts.

But here's where I need your help. Yes you! Fill your bird feeders, and if you live inside the Oaks Count circle, check your feeder on Sunday to see what and how many of the whats are there. Email or text me, so we can add your numbers to our tally. It really is important.

And if you don't live in my count circle, contact your local Audubon Society to see if there are still counts going on in your neck of the woods. Really, get out there and get birding.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho,More Quilting Time~~ I wish!

After getting 11 pairs of jammie bottoms made and delivered for some of my grand-nieces and nephews, and 6 little felt ho-ho-ho oh-oh-oh banners for the grown-up girls done, I can now think about the next project.

Hmmmmm, the Badlands quilt needs a backing, quilting, and binding. IOW, the hard part. I'll shelve that for a while. Then there's FTD's Log Cabin quilt. I can't think of my self as a quilter yet, since I haven't done some of the basics--like a log cabin quilt. That is a repetitive process, and I think I could multi-task that one with other stuff. DD will get a quilt with hobo signs on it. I found a wonderful book at the Greybull WY quilt shop last fall which I'll use for his. Lesee, also on the list, the YNP postcard quilt, which will take a bit more creativity than I can muster at the moment, and several "quilt-by-number" things (as my cutie SIL calls them) that are easy, but take a chunk of time with no interruptions. So which will it be? Or I could win a give-away and add to the stash! Ya-hoo--now there's an idea with merit!

So here's my plan. Enter a quilt stash give-away contest. Lots of bloggers do this somehow--you know, the bloggers that actually make some dough off their blogs. That sounds like work to me. I guess I need to post a pic here from another blog. (Now I'll probably get tagged or something weird.) Then I write a "Queen for a Day" story about why I need more stash.
Well duh. Doesn't everybody need more stash? (Actually, I don't. I'm trying to live leaner--for our space considerations, financial considerations, and well, just for living leaner. But a girl's gotta quilt! Need more material--need stuff for the quilt-by-numbers projects, for the postcard project, and DD's hobo quilt. So, okay, here's a shout out for freebies!)

Oh wait, what a ditz! I'm supposed to write about what happened on our Christmas Eve. Wait, I did that--remember the 11 pairs of jammies and 6 felt banners? Now I remember what I did on Christmas Eve. I had promised myself 2.5 months ago that I wouldn't be at the machine on Christmas Ever--or worse, Christmas Day. Well, my bad. At least I was done on Christmas Eve. And wrapping is a snap around here, since I've been using cloth bags for like um, 20 years or so. Soooooo much beautiful Christmas material, and so few walls for any more quilts. So I make bags of all sizes for wrapping. Sew the bottom and sides, fold down a hem on the top, done. No lining, no finishing seams, no even bothering to change thread color. Cripes, the kids just yank the bags off anyways, so why worry about the details. The family thinks I should make them and sell them, but even with on-sale material, the cost/price/hassle ratio just isn't there. Then it would be work, not fun. See a theme here? So anywho, a nice big, new chunk o' fat quarters would just about round out my stash. Just about. . . . . :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Home Tour

We had a nice turnout for the 3rd Annual Whitehouse Community Library Holiday Home Tour last Sunday. Numbers were a little bit down, I think, from past years. In part, it was due to the weather. We finally got some snow and of course it started right at 1 pm when the tour started and by 2 it was really coming down. At our house, we took turns shoveling the front steps.

We not only got the house decorated nicely, but it forced us to get several much needed fix-it/do it projects done. Since we didn't exactly finish the house 15 years ago when we finally moved in, we're now faced with repairs and finishing all at the same time. Among the 'do it' jobs were painting all the closet doors (only one left to do--the pocket door on the pantry), putting up a hand rail on the basement stairs, and trimming the bathtubs. Tom got them all up, now they all need to be painted. I hid several of the ickier looking trims with old woolen Pendelton coats. Yep, buffalo plaid was my decorating scheme. Among the repair jobs was to rebuild the bottom two basement steps. When we had the new floor with hot water heat added, the steps ended up being the wrong height. He made a new set and they look terrific and work terrifically.

And now that the Tour is over, and the house is clean and decorated, I actually got to spend some time sewing up jammie bottoms for the great nieces/nephews. 5 pairs down, 6 to go. I stumbled upon the world's easiest, one piece pattern so I can do one pair in less than an hour. Since the kids will all outgrown these jammies in a month or two, I really whipped through them--no pinked or finished seams, etc., etc.. If only I had some elastic here. Oh well, guess I'll have to make another trip to the fabric shop. After all, I used up my first coupon, and have one that's only good for the weekend. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Things I Wasn't Planning

I'm a list maker. When I make a list the item at the top is always: Make List. Then I get the satisfaction of crossing at least one thing off my list when I'm done.

My list for today included: Make List. Make meatloaf for supper. Email Home Tour map to print shop. Go to Library~~pick up wreaths and take to Invite!. Get check and gift certificates for Home Tour. Go to Print shop and pick up maps. Because of the Tour, I have time-specific things for Friday and Saturday, making today's list pretty important to get through.

Here's the abridged list: Re-decorate the Tree. See rest of list.

At 5 a.m. this morning, DD came into our room and said, "Mom, a bunch of your old special ornaments got broken. The tree fell down. Oh, and there's water all over the carpet." Had his list stopped at 'tree fell down', I'd have gone back to sleep. But DH and I both shot out of bed at the one about the water.


For me decorating the tree is a process. We always get a live tree from our friends~~Rhoades Christmas Tree Farm in Whitehouse. FTD's Scout troop helps out cutting and lugging trees for the customers and in return the owner makes a generous donation to the troop. DH and FTD have spent Sunday mornings in December over there for the past 4 or 5 years. This year, FTD didn't sign up for a shift working, but we did go pick out our tree. Much to my surprise and delight, both boys actively helped out picking just the right one. We have criteria: can't be a pokey tree. Can't be any taller than DH can reach. Must be fat, but not too fat to fit in the family room. Since our home is on the Whitehouse Library Home Tour this year, I gave the boys the option of putting a ginormous tree in the living room~~a good 12 footer, or a regular one where we always do. I was sure they'd go for ginormous. Again to my surprise, they want it where it's always supposed to be. How sweet.

We slayed the tree and brought it home last Sunday. It went up easily and this year we didn't prune much off the bottom, since there won't be many presents under it. And the boys got an actual chuckle when I told them that they both asked for stuff like video games, which take up no room at all. They both laughed and got my point. (Verra verra unusual that.)

We let the tree stretch out it's branches for a day or two and then put on the lights. Then the pretty little angel on top. Then the snowmen garland, then the red bead garland, and then the ornaments, all of which is done over a couple of days.

This year I decided to do something super special, partly for the home tour, but mostly because the boys would get it~~I got the ornaments from my Mom and Dad's out. I showed them the Woolworth and Shiny Brite boxes and told them which were Dad's special ornaments and which were Mom's. The boys haven't had a knock-down-drag-out fight in the house for a long time, and I figured the ornaments would be safe this year. So much for best laid plans of mice and men.

I don't have time to grieve over the loss of a dozen or so glass bulbs. There will be time for that when I pack the boxes away in January. But grieve I will. For a part of my childhood that's gone, for the ever present grief of missing parents and especially the boys' grandparents, and partly for my life now which never, ever goes as planned.