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May 2, 2018

Since getting a new camera a year ago, I've saved it mostly for event (musical) photos, as the telephoto lens isn't as good as my old camera.  But close in, like with birds feeding out the porch window, it's excellent.  Oregon junco:

It helps to use the photo editing features provided with Windows 10...

One can't go for a walk up on the ridge these days without an iconic view of Spirit Lake:

It does help to move a bit this way and that to block some of the new more ostentatious cabins...

May 4th
I had to go into Spokane today to pick up one of our cars that had broken an axle during a slow U-turn, and it was so nice I stopped at the downtown falls area.  The main Spokane Falls is tamed by a dam, so it looks like a wall of water going over the top in the springtime.  Above the main falls is this one that probably more resembles the original, although it has remnants of the Spokane World's Fair (and the older clock tower from the train station) in the background...


May 6
We revisited Hunt Creek Falls today.  The falls had other visitors when we arrived, so we hiked upstream from the falls, full of lovely small cataracts...

My imagination often gets the best of me, so I call this one the Dragon Surfer...


The falls is much more impressive than this looks--even at a very short exposure time the water is blurred from churning...

May 8
Here are some of our songs from last weekend's Showcase The Covered Wagon Rolls Right Along
Don't you see that train?
Kiss me quick and go away
The Trouble is...

Tumbleweeds group:
A little further in the hole


The cherries and pears are blossoming, and the apples will follow soon...


This photo could almost be from the 1950's--I'd guess the buckets and the cart I made from a bike trailer would be the main disqualifiers...


And here's a turkey vulture vultching, as Snoopy used to do...


May 11
We walked on the other side of Spirit Lake yesterday, offering this iconic view:
The snowy peak is Mt. Spokane, with its ski runs.  There are probably 100 cabins on the lake, but from this view they aren't obvious...

Here's a flower from the walk, called prairie smoke, a geum that makes fluffy seed carriers...


And here's a pygmy nuthatch from our feeder.  We've got chickadees, robins, and song sparrows nesting in our yard, and a dozen species have come to our feeder...


This photo is more artistic but less good for identification....

May 15here's a pair of goldfinches from the feeder recently

 
May 23


meadowlark



Virginia waterleaf (Northfield--we have dwarf waterleaf in Idaho)

indigo bunting Carleton Arboretum
I've been on my semiannual visit to my family in Minnesota, and today was the start of the 23 hours of driving that it takes to make the trip...  Google helped show me that there are several alternate routes that are roughly as quick as the one I've mostly taken, so I decided to revisit my mother's family farm in Ortonville Minnesota, in passing at least...  Yesterday in Northfield I'd talked to someone from Ortonville that had a hard time placing it from my description, gleaned from when I was about 10 and got to spend a few days there by myself...  Anyway I remembered it as west of Ortonville on US 12... 
The trip started about 4 a.m. (which in my own time zone is 2 a.m.) driving through the dark with occasional storm flashes on the horizon.  As I approached Ortonville, I got stuck behind a school bus, so I snapped a couple photos of the granite rocks on the other side of the road which are the area's claim to fame, as they are great material for memorial monuments...  It started raining, so I already had decided at most I'd snap a photo of the old farm, to compare with my childhood memories. (I'd previously had revised versions of my historical realty from visiting the old home in Brookings (tiny, tiny yard! How could I have thought it was large?)

and on the way out last week I tried to find our lake cabin on Lake Poinsett (found the area, convinced myself it was gone, although my brother said later he'd found some of the evidence of the footings he'd helped pour under a redone cabin).

yellow headed blackbird, Lake Poinsett

View of Lake Poinsett (compare to Spirit Lake Idaho photos for why I prefer Idaho)

Great Egret, near Lake Poinsett.
Back to the grandparents' farm...  I remember it as a small white house with a red barn behind, an orchard to the side, and a couple of buildings beside the orchard, including a windup victrola which I played a foxtrot on once...  There was a small field between the house and the highway, and across the highway were the smooth granite hills, which I was allowed to go over and wander around when visiting...
Anyway, I drove out the way I thought it was, and discovered it immediately turned from Ortonville MN to Big Stone City SD without a farm or a rocky hill.  Puzzled, I turned around and verified I'd not missed it, and decided to give up and head west again.  But I thought I'd call my mother to say I'd nearly gotten there, and thought to ask her if she remembered where the farm was.  "Yes, it's east of town.  West is Big Stone City and Millbank."  This is my mother with memory issues, who also beat me at Scrabble and cribbage, and could count a cribbage hand as quickly as I... (Back to the grandparents--grandpa had emphysema, but loved to play Scrabble, and I played with him and other relatives a few times...)  I inadvertantly snapped a photo of the granite hills while stopped behind a school bus, possibly across from the farm:

There were no bushes or trees of any size on the rocks in my youth...

northern shovellers, Minnesota

US 12 is a lovely way to go west.  The first half of the South Dakota portion is a divided 4 lane, largely empty, and the second half is 2 lane but also empty...
I think you get a better feel for the geography without the other 2 lanes blocking your view, and the brief slowings for the small towns on the route are a welcome diversion...  I stopped to get gas in Bowdle, and naturally enquired as to the pronunciation of the name.  "Is it Bowdle (as in bowling)"  I asked.  "Bowdle." As in "bow to your partner."  It's possible they would have answered with the opposite out of a sense of humor or spite, but I think that's correct.  Then an older guy started asking about my trip, eager for something besides the wet weather to talk about...
One thing the federal highways are short on are rest areas, but Butters and I were happy if there was a space he could run free for a bit.  We hit the jackpot at Lake Gascoyne (near Scranton ND), a beat up shore park with no one there but interesting birds..


blue winged teal, Lake Gascoyne


N. Dakota badlands north of US 12 dark storm in background
After Bowdle there was a lot of S. Dakota, and a bit of N. Dakota, including a hint of the badlands the Dakotas share...  Then in Montana the buttes and washes were prevalent and bright green for the few weeks of the year they are wet enough... 


(American Avocets, Lake Gascoyne)
 
In central Montana I began to plan where to get gas, because one sign mentioned there was none available for the next 86 miles (I've had other shaky moments about having enough gas in this area previously.)
I decided to get gas in Forsythe Montana.  As I neared Forsythe, there was a major storm in the area, and I arrived just after the storm ended.  Aside from gas, I really needed to use the bathroom, which clouded my judgement a bit...  I apparently turned too early or late in town and went through it without seeing a gas station.  Arriving at the on ramp, I got on hoping for another town with gas or another exit... 
After a roadside pitstop to allow me to think rationally again,
I started calculating if there was enough gas to get to either Hardin or Billings...  Nope, neither, but the Billings route was freeway where hopefully help would be more available.  I did think there might be another town with gas though. 
I turned on the radio and soon there was the irritating EHH EHH EHH like a modem from hell letting us know of an emergency notice.  The Billings weather service said there was a powerful storm with quarter sized hail proceeding north (towards me) from Hardin for the next hour...  I could see the dark mass ahead on the freeway... 
Then there was the exit for  Hyssham, where gas was said to be available.  I drove the mile or two into town, and was delighted to find a gas station open...  When I pulled in there was a small car across the pumps and the manager was coming out to ask if they needed assistance.  At the same time a local woman came over overing $5 for gas, figuring this person needed it.  I'd obviously gotten in on the tail end of something--the person had apparently been there for a long time..  The person in the care took offense at the proffered money, and drove away...
After gassing I mentioned about the severe weather alert and asked if there was a restaurant in town.  "Not any more," she said... "Except the bar has pizza." I wanted to delay going into the path of the storm, and thought I could eat to take some time off...  So I drove downtown. 
Outside one of the two bars was a gray muzzled golden retriever, so I parked in the shade for Butters, and ordered a pizza.  While it was baking I walked Butters up the block of Main Street.  He growled at the buffalo and then again at the settlers in front of the wonderful historically registered theater...
On the way back to the bar a woman in a pick up pulled up to show me her two retrievers, one of which was related to the one at the bar... (Which reminds me of the doggie pool party we had in Hardin on our way out, with 3 golden retrievers and two with others with hybrid vigor)

Hyssham historic theater.  Butters barked at the buffalo, then at the settlers.  The bar people report their dog finally registered the mastodon and barked at it also.
The bar owners told me the road to Hardin was being repaired, and reported to be "very bad."  But I'd finished my supper and the warning was supposedly over, so we took to the road again.  As I approached the turn off to Hardin, a dark anvil of cloud hung over the exit, with an elephant trunk extended in front (pretty sure it was a funnel cloud).  I'd met the storm I'd tried to avoid!  I thought about getting under the underpass, since quarter sized hail was predicted, but the exit let to an overpass, and no cover in sight...  (it was so dark from the storm that my camera refused to take a photo of it)  As I drove through the storm, I held my head up high, and I wasn't afraid of  whatever the broadway musical said next....  Sheets of  water covered the road, and the wipers on high only allowed driving at about 30, since the road was mostly obscured.  But I managed to work through the storm without hail.  And the construction wasn't much of delay, and I saw a new cool bird:


Turns out to be a sandhill crane...

May 28
I've started taking photos of bumble bees to assist in a study of their range and frequency, so expect more photos like this, only featuring the bee:

I'm still a rank amateur at identifying species, using the simplified diagrams on the webpage that don't match up with my photos.  But this is a redbelted  bumble bee, according to the entomologist...
   It's our rhododendron in full bloom...
Books
The Planet Masters by Allen Wold.  An oldie but goodie SF book I'd read years ago and reread after buying from the library sales books...  A rather second amendment loving look at possible future worlds...

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