Entries to Win Afghan

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Contest Day - Win an Ad for a Month

Honestly... I must be getting old, or just way too busy! I made a mistake in the puzzle, but it is now fixed. If you couldn't make the words make sense, you are not losing your mind. I am.

I've added an example. This isn't as hard as I think some of you are trying to make it. I've probably explained it poorly.

This is a two-part contest, because the first part is quite easy. Anyone who solves the Laddergram will get a text link in the text of the post where I announce winners. The winner of the monthly banner will need to complete an extra task.

Are you familiar with Laddergrams? Answer the clues for each numbered space. Answer 2 is made from answer 1 with one letter removed, and the rest (usually) rearranged. Put the discarded letter in the left hand square. Answer 3 is made from answer 2 the same way. Put that discarded letter in the right hand square. Start over with clues 4-6, 7-9, etc. When you are done the discarded letters will vertically spell the answer to the puzzle.

laddergram example

The clue for this puzzle is "You hear a lot of this during March Madness."


You can enlarge the puzzle to make it easier to see if you right click and choose view image.

If you want to be in the running for the banner ad you must solve the puzzle (just a two word phrase), AND write a short essay using all 12 words from the numbered hints.

Submit the two word phrase and (if you want to be considered for the banner ad) a short essay to jhy@t-one.net before midnight Eastern Daylight Time, Saturday, April 3.

If you like puzzles, and want more of them, you can order two booklets from Books Leaving Footprints

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Moods of My Backyard


photo label

I love to watch how the light and vegetation changes in my back yard. There was a hard frost last night, but the sun warmed things quickly in the morning. The frost burned off in this interesting pattern of stripes today.

See links below for some of the other moods of my backyard.

Wow, how did we get to the end of the month already? I'll have a fun little game for you tomorrow!

See The Fog is Lifting
See Frost, No Fog
See Fog and Frost
See So Not Ready for my favorite foggy back yard

Sporangium- Red and Green

red moss

I hate to confess it, but I don't know diddly-squat about mosses. One of these days... but it's going to mean another new vocabulary. How about just one new word, and pretty colors? Mosses reproduce by spores (like yeast), and the spores are released from the structures called sporangia. Those are the little containers at the ends of the stalks you see growing up from mosses.

red moss

I like this one a lot. It brightens up the bare spots out back- in full sun.
green moss

This patch is growing in the woods, in more shade.
green moss

I love how bright it was with the afternoon light on it.
red mossgreenmoss

If you compare them side by side, you can see how totally different the sporangia are. And that's all I know about these mosses!

See Log Terrarium with Moss
See Winter Rainbow I

Monday, March 29, 2010

Writing March 26-29

I worked on titles for series of e-books which will have groups of my essays and "Get Off the Couch" columns. I hope to have a couple of these ready for sale in the next month.

Wrote two items for Shared Reviews:
Adams Receipt Book Works for Rent or General Use
Track Your Finances in a Spreadsheet- It's Easy

Wrote one article for Associated Content:
Can Modern Batteries Really Explode?

I wrote a humorous poem to enter in the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Finally, I am almost done with the next draft page of Moose in Boots. It's a detailed one, so it's going slowly.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trail Work

NCT trailhead

Did you ever wonder how trails get marked so that people can find them? Often it's due to the efforts of volunteers. This is almost exclusively true on National Scenic Trails like my favorite, the North Country Trail. I personally maintain a section, and I went to work on it some today. That means that I took a hand saw, clippers, scraper, and a jar of the official blazing paint. This is what the trail looks like just as you leave this road. The next blaze is a blue mark on a tree. Can you find it?
blue trail blaze

The picture was too small to really see it. But when you are standing at that post, you can easily see it. That's the point... to be able to see just one more blaze from the one you are at. The paint blazes last quite well. The official paint is oil based, so it's a really messy job. I keep a set of old clothes to wear just for this. You have to first scrape the outer bark (not damaging the live tissue of the tree) to make a smooth place for the paint to adhere. You always get bark in your face and eyes. Then paint the blaze, making nice square corners, 2 inches by 6 inches.
blue trail blaze

This is how you know when to turn. The top blaze is offset in the direction of the turn, left in this case. I didn't finish my section today. I haven't touched up the blazing in a few years, and it's going to take a few trips to get it all done. I also cut out a couple of fallen trees. If there are any big ones, I let the chain saw crew know, but I got the ones today with a bow saw.

Blazing is really messy and nasty work. I kept it up for 2.5 hours today, and that was plenty. My right shoulder is bad, and it was telling me it had had enough. But I like knowing that people can easily find the trail.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

On Lost Lake


swans dabbling

I decided to back up and share a couple more pictures from my hike at Ludington State Park last weekend. These white objects were seen on Lost Lake, which is a portion of the larger Hamlin Lake. It's considered "lost" because it is almost completely cut off from the larger lake, connected by a couple of channels. Floating plastic bags? Buoys?
swans dabbling

Oh, hello! It's one of our local big birds, the mute swan. These birds have become almost the signature bird of the Ludington area, yet they aren't a North American native. The swans that are native to this area are the trumpeters and tundra swans. We have them too, but not as many, except during migration times.
mute swans

Here is one of the ways you can recognize the difference. The mute swans have the gracefully curved necks so familiar to bathroom decals! Trumpeters and tundras carry their necks straight up and down.
mute swanFinally, the mute swans have an orange beak; on the others it's black.

And mute swans are... mute. Trumpeters are NOT. They can be very noisy. The day that Ellen and I kayaked through a flock of them they honked and honked for a long time as they all flew away.

Thanks for all the neat comments about the fern lesson. I'll definitely be showing you some more easy stuff about ferns this spring.

See Kayaking on November 21! to see the trumpeter swans flying
See I Never Would Have Seen These If... for another picture of a mute swan

Friday, March 26, 2010

Birds This Spring

bird in apple tree

I was thinking about doing a list of the birds I've seen or heard in my backyard so far this spring anyway, and just in time to make the list, the meadowlark showed up! Can you see it. Let's go in closer.

bird in apple tree

It, and two friends, flew in to this apple tree. I had to take the telephoto all the way out to improve on it.

Here is my backyard list for March, the good and the bad:
  • Crows
  • Starlings
  • Robins
  • Bluebirds
  • Red-wing blackbirds
  • Cardinal
  • Ovenbird
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-tail Hawk
  • Goldfinch
  • Meadowlark
  • Chickadees


Here's the best one of the meadowlark.

See Meadowlark- A Glimpse

Promo for North Country Cache

Spent most of the day getting ready for tax appointment tomorrow. Ugh. But I adapted a PowerPoint to YouTube for promoting my book. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Fern You Almost Know

Now that you know the Intermediate Wood Fern, the Spinulose Fern is just an easy step away.

key to dryopteris intermedia, intermediate wood fernHere's the fern from yesterday, Dryopteris intermedia, the Intermediate Wood Fern, again. Remember that it's evergreen through most winters, has a broad triangular blade, it is thrice divided, and that the second pinnule from the rachis is longer than the first. Just got here? Take a look at yesterday's post. BUt it's not too tough. In the picture the "sub-leaflets" noted by the yellow arrows are longer than those with the red arrows.

key to Dryopteris spinulosa, Dryopteris carthusiana, spinulose wood fernNow here is a closeup of the same section of the Spinulose Wood Fern. For UK readers, it's your Narrow Buckler Fern. Its Latin name is either Dryopteris spinulosa or Dryopteris carthusiana, depending on whom you ask.

Spinulose means spiny. That name seems to come from the pointed teeth on the pinnules. "Carthusiana" comes either from the name of the village in France where it was first collected, and/or from the botanist Johan Friedrich Cartheuser.

It has almost all of the same superficial characteristics of the Intermediate Wood Fern. They are in the same Genus (Dryopteris) so that makes sense. Here's the most obvious difference. The pinnule closest to the rachis is longest. The one with the red arrow is longer than the one with the yellow.

Now you know! This picture was taken a year ago, at Letchworth State Park of New York. But it is seen here in Michigan too. I just don't have a local picture yet.

See I Need Green Really Bad

Writing March 22-25

I haven't managed to do as much as I needed to the past few days, but here's what I accomplished:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Need Green Really Bad!

photo label

OK, if the green stuff isn't going to come to me, I'll just have to go find some. Here's a common fern that stays green under the snow all winter. Here it is again.
photo label

These happen to be near the creek in the cemetery, but it will grow most anywhere in the woods. In fact, it is a Wood Fern, Dryopteris intermedia. I've been working hard the last few years to learn more of the ferns. Dryopteris is an easy name to remember when you take it apart. Drys is the same root as is druid and dryad- from the Greek for woods. Pteris just means fern.

Another key thing about wood ferns is that they are "thrice divided." That means that 1. there is a leaf, the blade- the large overall triangular shape outlined in red below. 2. The leaves have leaflets, pinnae- the small triangular divisions outlined in yellow. 3. Each pinnae has another division called a pinnule, in blue. The stem of a fern is called the rachis where the pinnae are, and the stipe between the blade and the base of the plant.
photo label

There are a lot more things to learn about ferns, but this is an easy one, so that's all we need for now. (And for a while... I haven't really gotten beyond the easy ones yet!) Wood ferns grow from a central location in a cluster. You can see that below, where I cleared the dead leaves away.
photo label

I didn't get as good a picture as I should have of the next feature, but you can see that the stipe is very long. In fact it can be 1/3 the length of the blade.
photo label
photo labelFinally, here is the way that you will know that it is Intermediate Wood Fern. On the lowest set of pinnae, the second pinnule from the rachis is longer than the first pinnule. In other words the pinnules marked with yellow arrows are longer than the ones marked in red.

Perhaps this sounds too confusing. But I've discovered that there are a few that are REALLY easy to recognize, and some are even common. This one is both, making it simple to spot. And once you know even a few, then when you see one that isn't on your "Oh, I know that" list, you can go try to look it up.

See (Late) Winter Rainbows II for a long shot of a Spinulose Wood Fern which looks very similar.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bright Green for Spring

green stink bug on ground

I wanted green, I got green! Well, a little bit anyway. I was walking on the cemetery road and this little guy was quite obvious against the bare dirt. Have a closer look.

green stink bug on ground

Do you know what it is? I knew that it was a member of the Hemiptera order- the true bugs. How did I know that? Well, their shape is distinctive. The "shield" on the back, the triangular scutellum, and the wings that cross over each other make them quite recognizable. Even when the rest of them looks different those parts just yell "Hemiptera." Remember this one, the Western conifer seed bug? Can you see those similarities?

True bugs have piercing and sucking mouth parts- for sucking plant juices. They can "bite" (pierce and suck) humans, but most don't. It looked to me like the shape of (true) bug known as a "stink bug" but I decided to pick it up anyway, which I did.

green stink bug

It did not cover me with any stinky fluids. I handled it a lot, trying to get pictures of the underside. So when I got home, I did some more research and here is what I found. It is a "green stink bug," so maybe I was just lucky that it didn't feel threatened. They are usually found in woodlands, and this section of the cemetery is heavily wooded.

green stink bug

This one seems to have yellow edges. Apparently the edge can be yellow, red, orange, or white. And the color depends on the temperature at which the bug developed. All of these colors are present on the second instar (insects can have amazing changes in body shapes and colors as they "grow"- you knew this- think about butterflies). I've never seen that except in pictures, so that will be something fun to watch for.

green stink bug

This is my favorite shot. Insects are amazing! I did get the pages set so you can see more of the pictures at a larger size.

See Leptoglossus occidentalis for the western conifer bug
See Red Planet for amazing pictures of the instar

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today- Brown, Tomorrow- Green


Here's a quick, easy game. Can you find the butterfly? You can make the picture larger. Don't cheat! Try to find it before you scroll down.

While you are looking, I'll tell you a little bit about what you are looking for. This is one of the very earliest spring butterflies to be seen in the Great Lakes region. It was fluttering around today, and I sure didn't think that I would catch its picture. Well, it's not a great picture.

Did you find it? Here's the closer shot I managed to catch, but the focus isn't good.

mourning cloak butterfly

The mourning cloak is a "tortoiseshell butterfly." The edges of its wings almost look ragged. Its scientific name is Nymphalis antiopa. The book says that the first set of legs in this genus are stunted, making them look like they have only 4 legs. I'll have to watch for that.

mourning cloak butterfly

By far the best picture I have was taken last May in Minnesota. And, sadly, this one was killed by a car. But you can see how pretty the pattern is, even though it is mostly brown. OK... did you find where it was hiding in the first picture?

mourning cloak butterfly

Tomorrow- I did find something green! Unless something else spectacular shows up... think bright green!

See Geometer