Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cuddly they're not!

I've said it before and I'm sayin' it again-I am scared of bears! I lay total blame on nature shows. I can remember from an early age watching Marlin Perkins go on about bears and recently there are tons of shows that warn all about naughty bear behavior. Even with my bear-terror, I still watch. Oh, yes, I've even watched ALL the episodes of that crazy dude who lived with them! Excuse me...BOTH crazy dudes who live/lived with bears. (One got eaten) I have yet to come across the show titled, "When Bears Give Back Rubs". Maybe if there was a show like that I wouldn't worry so much, but all the shows I've found are more like, "When Bears Rip Your Face Off!" I still remember the show where a bear-attack survivor recalled the noise the bear's claws made as they drug across her skull. In fact, that is the exact noise I hear when I see a bear. It doesn't matter what kind of barrier is in between me and the bear, my brain goes directly to the image of that bear getting to me and making that noise. The imagination is an awful, awesome thing!

Well, you can guess or may already know from either a Facebook post or three or a frantic phone call, that about a week and a half ago I had myself a bear encounter! It started like lots of things start in our house-Kiwi was barking at something. Kiwi barks at all kinds of stuff...roving dogs, wind, TV dogs, cars coming up the dive, Luna and our Halloween yard signs. I have learned what barks are real and what are "wolf" barks. This particular afternoon I heard a really-real bark coming from our little dog and decided that since I needed a sweater so that I could keep scrapbooking, I would investigate. I came into the computer room and Kiwi was sitting on the bed looking out the front so I looked out too. Saw nothing. Zip. Then I turned from the front window to scold Kiwi for making me look at nothing, and there it was. A bear. Just outside the side window. This part of the house sits higher than the ground where the bear was so I felt confident to lean in towards the window to get a better look and then I noticed that my one bear cub was actually three bear cubs and their mama sitting just outside the window. After hearing "the noise" in my head, I backed away from the window, did a little "holy crap, holy crap" dance and grabbed my handy camera. Immediately I started snapping away!

This is the first photo I took. This is almost the exact spot where Ginger drags me every time she has to go potty. (Not anymore!) The bears started moving down the side of the house, away from the road and towards the woods. Now, I am starting to follow them moving from window to window. The house levels off and by the time I would have been at the back of the house I would not have had a nice height advantage, so I chickened out and instead of following them down the side of the house, I veered off a bit and went to the big window in the dining room. Big bay window with a great view and no screen to mess up my photos. Here stands me in the window snapping photos.

In the last photo you can see one cub hiding in the woods. Well, mama sent them in there because a couple of times my camera flashed and she noticed it. She actually was standing up on her back feet looking around for where I was. Do you have any idea how stinkin' scared I was? I probably wet myself at one point-not sure! But after a few minutes of looking for me, she didn't spot me so she gave the "all clear" for the cubs to come out and for some unknown reason I decided to go into our bedroom where I would be the closest to where the bears were in the yard. (Take a deep breath with me here, 'cause I was freaking out!) Once there I noticed that mama was holding one of her front paws funny and when I looked closer, I saw that it was all mangled and bent in. (If you follow me on FB, then you now know that it MUST have been her mangled 4-toed foot print in the snow on my front porch days earlier!!) I am still taking photos as you can see, but not exactly from a "front-row" seat. I stood almost to the door, not getting too close all the while trying to figure out my exit strategy if they decided to come on in through a window! Also trying to figure out just how many indoor critters I could scoop up and run with!

They now start to lope down the side of the house, going back the way they came. I have to keep pace to take the last few parting shots.

If the time record on my photos is accurate my bear encountered lasted a total of 5 minutes. To me is seemed much, much longer. I have no desire to see bears. My life is not any happier or richer for this encounter. Well, if pressed, it makes for a good story. But, heck! I'm an average storyteller, I could easily make something up if I wanted to. Charles, on the other hand, is rabid about wanting to see bears in the yard. If anyone is keeping score...Total bear encounter in the new house-for me: 2; for Charles : 0. He is pretty upset about this. Do NOT ask me what he did the other evening in a cornfield with a flashlight! Him and is desire to see a bear. Maybe I should TiVo one of those bear shows for him. A healthy fear is a good thing...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy and sad day.

It may not be widely known, but I LOVE bats! I think they are so cute, even the creepy ones! One of my goals in life is to actually get to hold a bat. We have bats living either in or near our barn and at night I can sit on the porch and watch them fly around at dusk. In fact, the barn light attracts huge bugs that they come to eat! It is kind-of funny, but when the bats come out Charles goes into the house. He really doesn't like it when they buzz around his head!
Yesterday we were in Williamsport for some Whim So Doodle business and were looking for something to do. Charles investigated some events on line before we left and found a cave to explore. He contacted them and found out that on Sunday (today) they were running the last "flashlight tour of the cave" of the season. In fact, the man told us, it is a BAT CAVE with hundreds of bats to view in their hibernation state. We were all in for that. So this morning we drove two hours to the Woodward Cave with our flashlights in hand.

So, the happy part of the visit was getting to explore a totally dark cave using our flashlights to hunt for sleeping bats on the cave ceilings. What a blast! There were six different species of bats inside and from the information of our guide he said that this cave is the hibernation spot for over 4,000 bats! We didn't see that many, but we did see hundreds-Little Brown Bats, Indiana Bats and Small Footed Bats are the only ones that I can remember. We got to walk through the cave that at some points was so low that if you were not watching, you could bump into the bats hanging down! What a trip. About 3 bats in total fluttered around, a few of them opened their eyes, but mostly they were just chillin'. Literally! The cave stays at a constant temperature of 48 degrees. The cave was wet and drippy, narrow in some spots and cavernous in others. It was an amazing visit.

Amazing also because we were there on a special day. This was the last day this cave would be open for the season. In fact, it will probably be the last time that bats in these large numbers will be around. There is a disease that is effecting the North American bat population called White-Nose Fungus. It is estimated to wipe out 90-100% of our bat population. This is a fungus that was brought over on the equipment of someone that was returning home from exploring caves in Europe. The European bats are not effected by this fungus that grows on the muzzle, wings and ears of hibernating bats. The poor bats get irritated by the itching and this pulls them out of hibernation early, which is in winter time when their food source is scarce. So these little bats are roused out of hibernation, need to go eat earlier than usual, find no food and starve to death. In an effort to stop the spread, the government has already closed down caves and mines to visitors, only allowing a handful of commercial caves to continue to operate. It is a very sad day to realize we are on the cusp of losing these wonderful little creatures. If you want to read more information, here is a good article from Scientific American.

I was glad for the opportunity to visit a bat cave and I will be thinking good thoughts so that something will be created to help these little creatures survive!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Snow...and more snow!

I don't think it stopped snowing at all last night and this morning when I woke up it was like a giant blanket of white was laid on the ground. There are not patches of green grass showing through at all. The snow is still coming down and I just wish I could figure out how to capture it actually falling on my camera. But alas, I am a point and shoot kind of girl!
Luna was hysterical this morning. We both went outside and I made some big foot holes in the snow on the back porch. She thought that some critter had made those holes and she would "stalk" the hole then pounce in it to see what was inside. She would jump from hole to hole until she was sure nothing worth eating was in there! What a nut.

Luna "hole hunting"!

Luna dreaming of hunting in the snow.

The side of our house. The snow falling here is just so pretty. I wish it showed up better.

View from the back porch.

The new landscape of the front yard.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My first (real) snow encounter!

To say that I have never seen snow wouldn't be true. I've seen snow two times before today. The first time I saw snow was in January 1977 when I was at Wilton Manors Elementary school (south Florida) and we witnessed white flakes floating to the ground. Not much happened. They melted as soon as they hit the ground or your hand. It was such a phenomenon that the school sent us home for the day! The second time I saw snow was May of 2006 when on a business trip to Utah one of the lovely dudes from Paper Wizard drove me up a mountain to let me see snow on the ground. He felt sorry for the Florida girl who had never experienced snow. Well, melt-ey flakes and melt-ey mounds on the ground were NOTHING to what I experienced today. My first REAL snow day!!
Yesterday the weather folk reported that most of PA would be cold and rainy. BUT that those in the northern part of PA, up in the mountains could be hit with some early snowfall. I posted to FB that I was waiting for snow. When I woke up today to 30 degree weather, there was no snow. As I was getting dressed, I was sitting on in my bedroom when I noticed something moving outside. It was snow! I ran outside with damp hair, socks only and my camera. It was just like the fluffy flakes I remember from the 70's. It melted right away. But this was still fun stuff, so I danced a little jig, snapped a few photos and came in to call everyone I know! (OK-I'll admit that I am a dork!) After about 1 hour, I noticed that it was falling faster and there was more of it. As the afternoon progressed, the snow was covering the whole yard, my car, the steps, all the trees and brush...everything. I just kept running in and out with my camera all day long. I wanted a very good photo record of my first day!
When Charles got home, we headed to supper and a trip to Walmart (I needed to shop and was afraid to drive alone). The temps were dropping so I made sure to wear the appropriate layers! Underoos and all! What was super cool was driving home. It is pretty dark up here, so we drive with the high beams on so the snow looks like it is flying right at the car. It is a cool effect! We are supposed to get 4-10 inches of snowfall between today and Saturday. Not enough for a snow dude, but plenty to get this Florida girl all hyped up!

A fern on the front porch throughout the day.

My car at the end of the day.

The ever dropping thermometer!

Oh! The dogs hated it!

The foot print of mystery on our front porch! Spooky...

Master of the art of layers!

For today I am really enjoying the seasons and all the new adventures it is bringing this Florida native! I know that I may change my tune come February and March, but I am going to relish this wonder while it is here!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Then & Than

Pet peeve alert! Please only read on if you have a healthy sense of humor and/or are not easily offended by grammar lessons. Oh! And please remember this is the pet peeve of a person who couldn't spell her way out of a bag, but is on a first name basis with spell check!

THEN & THAN. The difference? Only one tiny little letter. Well. One tiny little letter and the DEFINITION!! I hear nails on a chalkboard when I see or read these words interchanged so often!

Then is used in reference to time. You would use this word when you are talking about a sequence of events or placing one event in time relative to another. The word then can also be used in a context similar to using “in that case.”

Than is used in reference to comparisons. You would use this word when you are talking about the characteristics of one noun in relation to the same characteristics of another noun.

All you have to do is write two sentences using the correct usage of each word! Now back to FB to play along!

Note: The above post is meant only for entertainment purposes and is in no way to imply that I am a wordsmith, perfect, don't ever misspell words or use incorrect grammar myself.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Look what we found!

Charles found this old, abandoned cemetery on a drive along a country road awhile ago and driving home from fellowship this afternoon, we decided to visit. Here is what we discovered.

This is the view from the road.

One of the first markers we encountered after a small hike up the hill. (Aged 38 years)

A lot of the markers were really tiny. Some were not carved out in a traditional shape. Some were just smoothed out rocks. Some were tucked between two trees.

Charles brushes away some debris so we can read the inscription.

Walking around I kept stepping in or almost stepping in groundhog holes. Some of the holes were right over the area. Charles joked that he wanted to see a groundhog pop out of it's hole with a bone in it's mouth.


This beat up flag was the only evidence that someone had been back in there in many, many years. It does show that people still do remember their kin.

Charles said that I really shouldn't go into the fenced off part, but it was rusted away in some parts, a huge rock had bent up another and some of the fence was just plain ol' I don't listen too well. But I DO know the rule that when you visit a cemetery you cannot go without leaving a token for the occupants. So I was bringing home some leftover pumpkin biscuits and I shared them in thanks for letting us visit.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Random fall photos

Hey y'all! Here are some random fall photos for those of you who want to see the changes. Enjoy!

Charles walking Kiwi on the side of our house. A lot of the trees here were blown bare with the heavy winds on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Caramel Apple Pie I made for our 15th anniversary supper. Used apples from a local farmer.

One of the "cow-bors" (what I call our cow neighbors) just up the street from us.

Ginger in a pile of leaves.

Our place up the hill. Notice our "backyard"-a wall of trees!

The old farmhouse next door.

On my way home from WalMart.

Just turning on our road, another view of the old farmhouse.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter & Parmesean

I just created this on the fly from seeing other recipes in the past, so I didn't write down exact measurements but I'm gonna do my best to remember how I made this.

1 butternut squash

Split in half and put in baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, nutmeg,curry powder and a bit of brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until tender. Scrap out flesh, put in bowl and mush all up. There were a few small chunks still in there.

1/2 of large onion
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (I used the pre-roasted, from the jar)
1 tbsp. (real) butter

Chop onion. Melt butter over medium-high heat and cook onions & garlic until slightly brown. Add to squash.

1/2 cup fat free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 eggs

Add the above three to squash mixture and set aside.

1 package of won ton wrappers

Lay out one won ton square and add a teaspoon of squash to center. Wet all four sides of square with water and lay another won ton wrapper on top. Repeat until all done. Really smooch the two pieces together. If a bit oozes out now, it is ok. I used the tines of a fork to go around the edges to really seal the seams! I had a cookie sheet that I laid the raviolis in while I finished the rest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water with salt and a bit of oil to a boil. Cook the ravioli three at a time in the water. They are a bit big and will tend to stick together. Lift each ravioli out individually and drain. Transfer to a cookie sheet & cover with foil until ready to eat. These suckers really wanted to stick together!

3/4 of a stick of (real) butter

Put butter in pan (you can use the same pan you cooked the onions in without cleaning it!) over medium-high heat. Heat until the butter turns brown.

1 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Add the above two to the butter. (Do not add salt!) Season if you like with a bit of pepper and a pinch or two of nutmeg.

The sauce is super rich, so a little goes a long way on the ravioli. Hope it turns out as good for you as it did for me! Let me know...

The Apple & Cheese Festival

When we were considering the move to PA I did tons of Internet research on the area. What I found was that they had tons of festivals happening in the fall, so I made a list of "Things To Do in PA". On the top of my "must do" list was the Apple & Cheese Festival. It was last weekend and we had a blast. We have been kind-of disappointed that all of these festivals do not allow you to bring your dogs. Florida was really good about that! The dogs would have really loved this one, the weather was perfect-not too chilly and there would have been many treats snuck to them!
The festival was held on an old farmhouse. We knew this would be a big one when we saw that they had about 15 people working just the parking area! Once inside we found all kinds of homey demonstrations like broom making, blacksmith, apple pressing and more. There was an old one-room school house and the actual farmhouse that you could tour.

Then there were TONS of vendors. They were selling tons of crafts-lots of wood carving, fabric crafts and one booth that was knitting and felting. BUT the real joy was all the food vendors. Not only were there the lunch stuff like Philly cheese steaks and BBQ sandwiches there was grilled portobello and crab cakes! Very yummy. There were also booths that sold homemade pies, fudge, maple flavored cotton candy, caramel apples, local honey and so much more. THEN there were the wineries and local cheese makers! Who-boy! Those cheeses were mighty good. We bought mostly cheese and have been eating cheese every day since. It was our first time to sample cheese curds. Had NO idea what they were, but they were very fresh and mild tasting.

We stood in a long line for the "famous" Apple Dumpling Gang apple dumplings a'la mode! Well worth the wait and shortly after we got ours, they had to shut down 'cause they ran out! They were made by a local church and were fantastic!

This festival was held in Canton, which is about 35-40 minutes from our place. For me the best part of the festival was running into people we know! How cool is that? We ran into two people from Charles' work, two gals from Night & Day Cafe and a lady I met at the antique store in Mansfield. That makes me feel so great to see a familiar face and to get to stop and chit chat. When I first got up here I would see that happening all the time. People just seemed to know each other and would talk in lines at the store, on the sidewalks, at events...I thought folks were just so friendly and couldn't wait for that to be us! Well! We now know folks and stop and chat! I'm lovin' it!