Saturday, February 27, 2016

Jamaica sunshine

One week ago, Bruce and I left home at 1 am and drove to Omaha under a full moon to catch a flight to Jamaica, by way of Charlotte NC. Our spirits were high, we were meeting two of our favorite people there, Jean and John, for 6 fun filled days. By 3 pm, on the seemingly never ending bus ride to the resort, exhausted and starving, I would have given anything to be back home! But after a burger for Bruce and jerk chicken for me, fries and some booze, we revived and set out to find our com- padres.

The resort was beautiful, winding paths everywhere, several buildings, it's a wonder you can find anyone but there they were!! Hugs all around, exchanging travel war stories, who had the worst trip and a little more booze disguised in fruity drinks and it was all forgotten. 

And then we ate, hung out on the beach and ate some more, that was pretty much how the vacation was and we all loved it. Bruce, Jean and John did venture off the resort Tuesday morning for a golf game.

I felt a little crabby that day... I laid on the beach and watched these young men net fish right next to the swimming area.

The seagulls were watching also....

"Diving, Diving!"

He came up empty but had a nice bath.

Some catamaraners were much more brave than I as they sailed out into the ocean depths. 

Back at the resort the waves crashed onto the rocks. I'm hoping the people on the catamaran use caution when coming back.

Where there is food, there are begging birds, this diamond tail blackbird is trying to guilt me into sharing my fries.

And this one was caught red handed, so to speak, filching Splenda packets from the tables in the main dining room.

Bruce is resting after his hard morning on the golf course....

.....and ready to party that night.....

....when the hard working people at the resort transformed the beach into an evening buffet, where we ate, and ate and ate some more.

But the highlight of the evening were the goat races, I was just hoping this goat jockey wasn't going to 'bounce' out of her dress top.

The guys were a little more competitive but the white goat won again.

These party animals were having a great night, perhaps a little alcohol was involved?

This day we were all slugs, we found the best place on the beach, under a big tree so most of us were completely shaded from the daytime sun. Those of us who weren't completely shaded, paid the price with a painful sunburn and we know who we are, don't we, John?

We were joined by this man and his guitar, John refrained from making a song request, "Can you play Far, Far Away?"

We were plied with drinks, Bruce and John were enjoying their Jamaican Smiles.....(no, John's straw is not up Bruce's nose!)

.....that were served with a genuine Jamaican smile.

This is a double handful of female sea urchins that washed into the swimming area, a young Jamaican water sports employee was kept busy snorkeling and scraping them off the ocean floor and returning them to the other side of the rocks. The females aren't so bad to step on, their spines are not so sticky but the black males are extremely painful.

We didn't ALWAYS frequent the grill with the burgers and jerk chicken, a couple of nights we dressed up and ate at the finer restaurants, this was Moonstone, for Italian. Jean and I both ordered the shrimp fettuccine and were highly satisfied but the guys ordered the grilled salmon and they were stiffed!! Three or four tiny bites, a small potato and a few springs of grilled veggies left them both craving more food and eyeing the neighboring table's mostly uneaten pepperoni pizza. They asked the waitress if they could get a pizza but it was too late so the other diner offered the rest of his. It took little encouraging and the pizza was gone. 

The funniest part of the evening was dessert, Bruce ordered cannelloni, Jean and I ordered tiramisu, I had never tasted it. Before it came, Jean and I were given another special dessert, two pieces of chocolate torte that I had admired from afar that was being served to a private party.

Before we finished this, the waitress showed up with three plates of a cone shaped dessert, filled with something and served on plates dressed up with chocolate drizzles. As she placed one in front of Bruce, she said, "This is your cannelloni," and she placed the other two in front of Jean and I and said, "This is your tiramisu!" 

She was young and seemed rather nervous so we saved our laughter until she was gone.

So I have still never tasted tiramisu.  

We decided to take an excursion out on the glass bottom boat, as I was peering through the ageing  bottom I wondered how often they silicon-ed the glass! We saw this monster resort, 7 floors, at least 16,000 rooms, not my kind of place.

Our tour guide told us this is the Jamaican Walmart.

There were a lot of things to do around the resort if you chose to, one morning they had 60's and 70's music trivia out on the beach, Bruce and John kicked butt!! Bruce walked away with the prize, a colorful wooden fish carved by one of the locals.

The last night we ate in the main dining room and after they had trivia in several different categories, thinly disguised as musical chairs. To answer the trivial question, you had to be seated in a chair by the stage. The first question was, "Who lives at 221 B Baker St?" Before I even knew what I was doing, I bolted out of my chair, around the table in front of me and slid into their chair. "Sherlock Holmes."

CORRECT! I was given a token.

I got the second question, I was up 2 tokens.

Then it got interesting, some very competitive men showed up and it was a horse race for the chair. I was not dressed appropriately, a skirt and sandals with slick soles on a tile floor spelled disaster. I bounced off a big guy and ended up crashing on my knees so decided to give up the battle while I could still walk.   

Our last morning was spent walking the resort and taking some last minute photos, this is one of the cabanas that we were too cheap to book, $50 a day on up depending on the amenities that came with it.

One last look at our beach, "Goodbye beach, I hope we meet again."

We were all flying back to Charlotte together, our bus arrived about 11 am for a 3:35 departure. We had a great bus driver, he told us so much about the island and the people, the hour long trip flew by and we were at the airport dis-embarking. Bruce and I were first in line to check our baggage and get our boarding passes inspected, then headed through to the security check point. Just as I was ready to load my belongings into one of the tubs, my heart stopped. "Bruce, I left my camera on the bus!" All I heard was, "Oh, Julie!" I grabbed my passport and boarding pass from him and ran to the nearest desk. It took about 45 minutes, several phone calls and some extremely caring and helpful employees and my camera was found and returned to the airport, I cried as I hugged the little girl who helped me. Bruce was still waiting at the security checkpoint, I was stuck behind some people but as soon as he looked up, I raised the camera in triumph and he smiled, it was such a relief.

We all bid each other goodbye, not knowing how the connection would be in Charlotte, we ended up saying goodbye twice more as we went through customs and then again at the baggage pickup. Bruce and I arrived in Omaha around 10 pm and home at 1 am.

I opened the garage door to greet Mollie and Murphy, Mollie cried and cried, she was so happy we were home, it makes me feel bad about leaving her. In the house, Zoe was tearing around, not stopping to say "Hi!" and Clyde was very vocal, telling us everything that went on while we were away. Both cats slept with us, making sure we didn't slip out in the wee hours of the morning again.

In the kitchen we were greeted with a soaked rug in the sink and towels covering the floor in front of it. What the Hey? We checked under the sink for a leak but it was dry, I opened the door to the dishwasher and there was water in the bottom. HUH?? There was no note so I added the soaked towels to the rug in the sink, put more down on the still wet floor and went to bed.

Jaylene called in the morning to shed some light on the mystery, she came in the house the day before and stepped on the very wet rug. She checked under the sink, it was dry and then Tim opened the dishwasher door and water poured out! What a revolting development! They didn't know what to think either so just mopped up the mess as best they could. I started the dishwasher and then shut it off, the standing water drained and no more has shown up, a conundrum indeed.

I hate it when they have trouble but it could always be worse, such as the time one of my old cats died on their watch and another when it was a calf in the pasture. So a little water is no big deal, we just need to find out what caused this little inconvenience and remember to shut the water off to it when we leave!

Bruce was up early to haul manure while the ground was still frozen, I not so early and puttered around, doing laundry and putting things away. It was a gorgeous day, 66 degrees this afternoon! In February! In Iowa! But wait, Tuesday is bringing more snow, but we shall live for today. And today Bruce, Mollie and Murphy and I drove the gator to the pond to check things out. The bees were out flying and sunbathing on the roof, they probably thought they were in Jamaica. The geese are back, the ponds are all full and no dead fish that we could see.

Life is very good indeed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

February Thaw

Just two weeks ago this was the sight from our house porch, another blizzard was blowing through and we were getting darned sick and tired of snow!

But if you don't like the weather in Iowa, stick around, it will change quickly, today we are melting, rapidly. Especially if you went to our basement, which won't happen in this lifetime, no one goes to my basement! (Especially now with the small creeks running through it.)

From the snow bank in the bottom left to the lake that is our pasture. It makes life tough for the industrious beaver living down by the bridge, his home keeps getting flooded but he doesn't let that deter him. He just keeps gnawing away at the trees, retreating to high ground when it floods.

The backyard pond is nearly free of the snow that covered it, I can see the fish on the bottom but there was one floater I had to fish off the surface. I was holding the camera in one hand and using a shovel to lift him out when I lost my footing and fell back into the snow. Mollie and Murphy were ecstatic and bounded toward me to 'help.' I was able to scramble to my feet before they mugged me and the camera.

The chickens are free ranging once again, happy to be out of the coop, scoffing at the snow under foot.

Muddy footprints are all over, ours, the dogs and the chickens.

The best thing about the February thaw was at the pond, the bees are out and about! They are crawling in and out of the entrance hole, pooping all over the roof, doing some winter cleaning. They are holding little bee funerals for those who have expired in the hive, carrying the dead bodies out into the remaining snow. It was a great sight to see.

But there is never a February thaw like one in sunny Jamaica.....

....or beautiful Kauai....

....or the gorgeous Dreams resort in Mexico where Bruce was Todd French's best man at his wedding.


Maybe we will do that again someday......

Monday, February 22, 2016

The long days of winter....

Winter is spent mostly indoors, at least for me - and Clyde - and Zoe - and Ghost, other than the household chores and ever nasty chore of keeping Clyde's litter box clean, there isn't a lot to do. I'm on the treadclimber 30 minutes a day, 30 L-O-N-G minutes followed by much gasping and swearing I'm never doing it again and then I do it again, then a shower, it still leaves a lot of minutes in the day.

I take a lot of photos and they are scattered throughout my Nikon site and now Picasa and I'm making an attempt to get more organized. When I'm searching for a particular photo, I don't want to have to go through over 600 folders, I want it to magically appear with a single (or two) word.

It's a job and after awhile my head starts spinning so I have to quit and take it up another day. During my search, I always come across photos that I just like and don't really have a place for them so this is 'some of my favorite photos' blog.

Bruce took this one of Clyde and I, it's typical of a cat, nothing you are doing could be as important as holding him on my lap.

I could be researching a cure for halitosis.

I could be googling some long lost relative.

I could be entering an online contest to win a million dollars.

"Not important," Clyde says, "Hold me."

So I do.

This is Herbert, my favorite rooster of all time. Herbert is a Salmon Favarolle, he and I met at the Clay County Fair and it was love at first sight, at least on my part. He was in a cage in the poultry building with a 'For Sale' sign and a phone number. I was almost rooster-less, if you didn't count Stuart, a little sawed off Cochin rooster who was shunned by the big hens. I dialed the phone number and finally reached a young man who lived just north of Spencer and was willing to part with Herbert for a mere $25 and the deal was made.

I had to wait until the fair was over to bring him home, Herbert had lived his entire life of 6 months in a cage so he didn't quite know what to do when I set him on the grass outside the coop. He ran a little ways, then back to me, shuffled his feet and looked up as though to ask, "Is that alright?"

"Yes, Herbert, that is perfectly alright."

He was a very nerdy rooster, that was why I named him Herbert. He was quite the gentleman with the ladies, if they weren't in the mood, well, he wasn't going to force the issue. It took a long time for him to assert his dominance over Stuart, it was quite the battle but Herbert persevered. What I loved about him was his gentleness, he was never mean to me, unlike Foghorn Leghorn who attacked me at every turn.

Herbert was no dummy, one winter day he found himself on a chunk of ice and couldn't walk, when I called his name he answered so I could rescue him. Herbert lived to the ripe old age of 4 and died in the coop with his ladies in attendance.

These were our twin boys, Smitty, right and Spike, I rescued them, along with their sister, from a car wash in Cherokee when their mother was killed in the street. I found a home for the sister but Smitty and Spike were here to stay. They have since both gone to kitty heaven but they were quite the pair.

It's nearly calving season on the farm, this is a newborn baby, testing out his legs.....

....a day later, scrubbed clean by his mother, sporting his own ear tag.

"C'mon, Ma, enough is enough."
Bruce shucking sweet corn for dinner on the front porch, with a little help from Barbara and Diana, the Buff Orpingtons. 

It's summertime and a family picnic at Leo's Pond, where the time honored tradition of throwing rocks across the water. Levi first has a warmup dance to get ready, look at those moves!

Zoe, the eternal optimist.....

"The birds will come to the feeder, won't they?"
This is how you keep warm in the winter...

....find some cats to cuddle up with, hopefully at least three.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Those Wascally Wabbits!!

I used to love rabbits, I raised several babies - not any more! We have an over supply of rabbits and not enough food so they are decimating my bushes and trees!

The Service Berry in front of the chicken coop.

One of the Iowa peach trees I've been pruning and watering the last few summers, trying to get it to grow, darn it, grow....

.....and the other, this certainly won't do them any good.

One of several viburnums that are bearing the wrath of the wabbits.

But the final straw was this apple tree I just planted last summer, sob!

That did it, this is WAR! I found I did have a couple weapons named Murphy and Mollie....

"Did I do good? Huh? HUH?"

Yes, Mollie, you did very good.

Dogs - 2 but the wabbits were still winning. I couldn't sleep one night and was downstairs, I looked out the living room window, the dog house is 5 feet away and 10 feet away from it were at least 6 wabbits!! I went to the front door, opening it oh so carefully, and, in a stage whisper, yelled, "Mollie, Murphy!" In a louder whisper, "MOLLIE, MURPHY!"

They rolled out of the dog house, the wascally wabbits took off for destinations unknown, and the dogs never even saw them. Instead they came up on the porch, "What do you want, boss?"

"Get the wabbits!"

They look hopefully around, "Wabbits? I don't see any wabbits."

"They are out there, go find them!"

So they make a half- hearted run across the yard, looking all around but no wabbits are found and soon they went back to bed.

I was still up later, looked out and the front yard was swarming with wabbits!!


Dogs - 0, those wascally wabbits lived to see another day, dang it.