Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thrift meets functionality

We found a deal on 4'x6' rag rugs this past weekend (5.99 each) and decided to sew 4 together to make our dining room rug.  The colors are fun and the total price can't be beat.

The seam in the middle is invisible....check it out!

Jennifer tucked the fringe under (in case we want the rugs apart later) and sewed the rugs together with clear, nylon thread.

The middle edge is noticeable but a price we're willing to pay for a $24 8x12 rug!  The fold marks will quickly disappear and already Bob is a fan.  See, she does exist outside of her hiding places. :)

Steve's Grandma's table is coming to our house in a few weeks so that will be a fun piece of history to add to this festive room.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spider Wasps or Cool things to look for outdoors & Book Recommendation

While cleaning up this pile more, Steve discovered these:

He called over to me real quick and we both marveled at these cool homes.  We saved this board from the burn pile of course (all boards are inspected and all critters are removed and placed elsewhere) and I sent the image into (one of my most favorite websites) for identification.  Charley Eiseman commented and I told Steve I felt a bit like a rockstar with such a smart, cool guy commenting on our picture!  Charley and Noah Charney wrote Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates and it's quickly become one of my favorite books.  Find a copy for yourself; it's well worth it!

These homes belong to a spider wasp in the tribe Auplopodini or genus Auplopus.  According to Eiseman and Charney: "Spider wasps (Pompilidae) in the genus Auplopus make thimble-shaped mud cells, about 10 to 15 mm long and 7 to 10 mm wide, often under stones or bark but sometimes in crevices on walls.  Some build their cells in cavities such as the abandoned cells of paper wasp and mud dauber nests.  They stock each cell with just one spider and usually amputate one or more of its legs."  So, the larvae eat the spiders while adult spider wasps feed on nectar and are important pollinators!  Cool stuff.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Refurbished Clothesline

This past weekend we spent a wee bit of time fixing up a clothesline installed by prior residents of our pad.  The lines were slack and the framework wobbly....not too great for hanging heavy laundry.  

Here you can see the end of the line plus some of the trash we cleaned up this fall....

The end of the line again (on the left)...look closely and notice the slack.  The horizontal support acted as a seesaw more than a support.

First we added washers to the already present nuts and bolts then tightened the nuts snuggly.  

We leveled up the top horizontal support...

And added some bracing with scrap lumber found here...

Looks nice eh?

Super smart and handy Steve knew about some special hardware (tensioner and cable clamp) to purchase to make the line snug.  Look at that!

The line is so snug you can hardly see it with the snow and trees, but it's there and ready for use this week!  Jennifer hung the laundry on the line in the basement today since cold temperatures returned, but it doesn't dry nearly as quickly as it does outdoors.  Can't wait for warm sunny days and clothes drying in the balmy breeze!  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Short-eared Owls at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

You'll have to look closely at these photos since we used a point and shoot camera for these pictures, but if you do you will see short-eared owls in each.  (Here's a close up from Wikipedia.) We've never seen short-eared owls before and after many reports this winter we had to go see the ones at Battelle Darby Creek.  Short-eared owls are crepuscular meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk so we went out to the wetlands/fields they prefer around sunset and found them right away.  Exciting!

Here's a short-eared owl perched on vegetation:

One soaring low in the way they do looking for small mammals to capture and eat.

David Allen Sibley says: "Foraging habits and habitat similar to Northern Harrier and the two species often occur together, Short-eared Owl has floppier, somewhat erratic flight, pale patch on primaries, shorter tail, and larger head."

Here two short-eared owls are in flight.  We could clearly hear the high, nasal or wheezy barks given by both sexes as they communicated with one another.

Short-eared owl perched on vegetation...look closely.

One more in flight...

Short-eared owls "roost during much of the day in hidden spots, often on the ground among weeds and grass; at night flies low over fields and marshes."

They will move north soon with much of their summer range in Canada.  We feel lucky to have seen them!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jefferson Salamander...

in the basement!  Yep, that's right.  A few nights ago while doing our evening check for all the cats, we found this super cool Jefferson salamander walking about the basement.  According to James Petranka in Salamanders of the United States and Canada, "The Jefferson salamander inhabits deciduous forests from New England south and southwestward to Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.  Populations are patchily distributed across the landscape and are restricted to sites where suitable breeding ponds occur.  Adults are frequently collected in and around breeding ponds in late winter and early spring, but they largely reside beneath the ground at other times of the year."

We assume this salamander crawled in through our rock foundation as s/he moved about in the soil.  The ephemeral wetlands are filling in the woodlands around our house so we took the salamander out and placed her/him at the forest edge.  Here you can see the salamander crawling quickly into the grass for cover.

What fun! We so love living where salamanders can find their way into our basement!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The diligent trash man....

That's Steve! He took advantage of the 40 degree temps and ice thaw to begin on the trash pile south of our garage.  (Notice the fence in the background.)  Amidst the trash there is loads of good lumber...

carefully put to the side ready for use on the upcoming garden fence construction.

Some of the lumber was rotten so Steve created a winter burn pile.

He also started to remove the falling down, ramshackle privacy fence, notice the remaining 4x4s along the road.  These will be excellent posts for our garden fence, but we need the ground to thaw a bit more before they easily release from the soil. 

Another good work day is called for on this trash pile, but by mid-summer this area will be filled in with wildflowers and trees!  The red and fox squirrels are excitedly raiding the uncovered black walnut caches as I type.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A birthday hike: Mohican State Park

A sunshiny, fairly warm day greeted us for Steve's annual birthday hike.  This year we visited Mohican State Park southeast of Mansfield, Ohio.  We hiked along the clear Clearfork-Mohican River amidst many eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). It's a whimsical sort of place just right for a celebratory hike.

The river gorge is dramatic with steep hillsides bordering the trail.

Winter hiking...


is the best way for us to embrace the cold season.  Sunshine makes for lots of smiles too.

Snow/ice melted in cool formations...

Steve found the sun and hiking so relaxing, he decided to take a nap in the middle of the trail.

 Moss grew in cute little clusters on musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana).

Trees were loved.

The steep hillsides cut off sunshine along certain portions of the river casting a cold look to the cold river.

Along the trail we noticed this old tree with many, many woodpecker holes.  A nice cross section of woodpeckers is represented...small circle holes (downy), larger circle holes (hairy), large rectangular holes (pileated).  There must be a good bit of tasty arthropods living in this tree, or were at one time anyways.  Now those holes provide many wildlife homes no doubt. 

A beautiful river, beckoning us back this summer with our canoe...


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trash to Treasure

We've found many treasures amongst the trash here at Milkweed Meadows and we will occasionally post some of these finds.  One such find was these mugs!

We liked the coffee cups immediately for their color and shape....

then we turned them over and realized they are handmade here in the United States!

What a great find!  They've quickly moved to some of our favorite mugs for coffee/tea time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Favorite Banana Bread

While working on our kitchen project, Jennifer made a couple loaves of bread to sustain us.  The first, How it all Vegan's banana bread made us very happy with our morning coffee.  Jennifer used to make this bread all the time and forgot about it for a few years, but happily rediscovered it this past weekend.  If you have three overripe bananas, here's a delicious recipe to use them up!

Hopefully you can read the picture!  If not, send us a message and we will type in the recipe.

The second loaf was Mother Earth News' No Knead Bread. The crust is beautiful and crusty, but Jennifer found the flavor a bit lacking.  We will continue to play with this recipe and see if we can get more of the yeasty, bread flavor we want.

 Happy bread making!