In Response to Last Week’s Events

I tend to not get involved in the death of celebrities.  It’s easy to think that because we see them online, on television, or in movies that we somehow understand them….or that we have some sort of gained insight into their personal lives.  The majority of us know nothing about them, no matter how much we would like to think otherwise.  Life happens to everyone, and it effects everyone differently.  No one’s story is the same as anothers, and everyone has a right to their personal privacy and story.

I won’t say that I took the news of Anthony Bourdain’s hard, after all I don’t know him.  What I do know, is that I just kept having the thought…..”Shit, we’ve really lost someone great.”  Even if I take the extreme liberty of feeling like I know him, have something in common with him….it’s only because I spent time working in a variety of less than stellar restaurants growing up, and I had grand visions of cooking professionally.  On that same note, I could claim the same of Paula Dean, Wolfgang Puck, or Gordan Ramsey.  I don’t want to claim the similarity with them though…..I wanted to smoke, drink, and be a generally snarky, tell it like it is asshole, in a kitchen somewhere with Anthony.  He seemed like such a wealth of culinary information, but not in a polished, perfect for tv sort of way.

So I went home after work last Friday, ordered myself one of the last remaining copies of his cookbook off Amazon, and when it arrives I’ll make something delicious.

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The sudden loss of two celebrities last week, Anthony and Kate Spade, really got me thinking about my own mental struggles, and the blog I wrote about it.  I will leave you with this….it’s always okay to reach out if you just aren’t feeling quite right….but maybe we should all start checking on our friends and family more.  The strong doesn’t always have the strength they project outward, and the happy doesn’t always feel the internal joy that its easy to assume they must possess.

Life’s a Garden…Eat It!

It’s that time of year again….time to plant some delicious veggies, water daily, and wait for the magic to happen!  This year was a much more enjoyable planting season since we didn’t have to dig out and dispose of sod first!  Plus, it’s much easier to break up soil that’s been tilled once already.

I decided that last year’s layout wasn’t a great use of space.  It just felt like we had a ton of open dirt.  I know you aren’t supposed to crowd plants, but I like the idea of knowing where my food comes from.  Doesn’t get much fresher than the backyard!  A little reorganization was due this year to really optimize our veggie producing potential.  Last year we grew-

  • 3 Spaghetti Squash Plants
  • 2 Rows of Green Beans
  • 1 Full Sized Tomato Plants — Cherokee Purple
  • 2 Cherry Tomato Pants — Indigo Rose Variety
  • 3 Pepper Plants — 2 Banana Peppers, Cajun Bell
  • 3 Kohlrabi
  • 2 Patio Pots of Herbs — Basil, Thyme, and Oregano
  • 1 Patio Pot of Lettuce Mix and Kale (Kept at an anti bunny nibbling height)

This year we have planted

  • 3 Spaghetti Squash Plants
  • 2 Rows of Green Beans (They are being eaten alive by bugs, we might not get beans)
  • 2 Full Sized Tomato Plants — Cherokee Purple and Siberian Prince
  • 2 Cherry Tomato Plants — Chocolate Sprinkle and Yellow Cherry
  • 2 Rows of Snap Peas
  • 4 Kohlrabi
  • 3 Peppers — Orange Bell, Giant Marconi, and Anaheim
  • A smattering of White Onions (In the direct sight line of the bunnies, so fingers crossed)
  • 2 Patio Pots of Herbs — Basil Blend, Thyme, Oregano, Cilantro
  • 1 Patio Pot of Lettuce Mix, Kale, and Arugula (Still at an anti-bunny height!)

We did do some rotating, tomatoes down to the side with the sprinkler system leak since they enjoy lots of water, and beans and peas over to the dryer side of the garden.  The only veggie that didn’t move locations are the squash.  Since the mowing is hired out by my HOA, if the squash head towards the rocks I can keep them from getting mowed to death by the high school boys the lawn company hires.

 

SO MANY PLANTS!

Ugh….I’m just so excited!  Also feeling slightly antsy.  I would really like to be able to walk out to the garden and pick fresh tomatoes and herbs for a caprese salad, but alas….we aren’t there yet.  The herbs have started growing enough that we can pluck some, so in the meantime we will just have to settle for store bought tomatoes to go with our fresh basil, thyme, and oregano.  In addition to the classic Italian trio, we also decided to try some Cilantro.  We make a ton of tacos and salsas, so it seemed like it would be a good addition to our fresh herb collection.  Our cilantro has since grown into a small tree…..so yesterday I decided to chop it off and whip up some taco deliciousness!  So good and so easy….which was ideal cuz I had furniture to refinish and naps to take yesterday!  Something about a cool breeze coming through the window just makes me wanna curl under a blanket and nap on the couch….so that’s what I did!  But, I’ll put my flung together recipe below….just in time for TACO TUESDAY!!!!!

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Lime and Cilantro Pork Tacos

  • 1 lb Pork Roast
  • 1 Medium Onion, Sliced Thin
  • 1 Bottle Corona
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, Smashed
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder and Cumin
  • 0.5-1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper (Spice to what you like!)
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • Zest of 1 Lime
  • Juice of 2 Limes
  • Salt and Pepper

Create a bed on the bottom of your crock pot with the onion slices, add the pork, and then top with the spices, zest, juice, and beer.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  I flipped mine halfway through so the top half could get some loving, but only because I happened to be home….otherwise just let it go all day.

Shred and get ready to enjoy!  I like my tacos with some fresh onion, fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado, and maybe another little squeeze of lime!  I will caution….these are saucy!  Next time I whip these up I might toss the meat into a skillet and cook it a little bit to try and thicken the sauce and crisp up the edges of the meat.  However, I will say, these are totally delicious right outta the crock pot, just make sure you eat over a plate!

Also, I grabbed myself a new iPhone 8 this weekend, so hopefully these pictures are looking premium!

 

Memorial Day Catch Up

I feel like I’ve been running around like a crazy person lately, and the blog has sorta suffered.  The Engineer and I were gone every weekend in May, so the weeks have mostly been spent trying to catch up on things you normally get done over the weekend.

Scout and I have been home alone since last night.  I was doing Memorial Day/ Family Reunion things with my Momma’s side of the family, and The Engineer went to Nebraska to spend time with his family.  Scout a Roo and I got home late last night and proceeded to do our favorite single girl activity…..fall asleep on the couch together watching Netflix! It’s been a busy morning of laundry, cleaning, working out, and sunning like geckos waiting for The Engineer to get home.  It feels good to finally feel caught up on the day to day activities of just keeping a house in order.

I’ve probably forgotten to share a few adventures alone the way.  Last week, The Engineer and I managed to start our grill on fire….so that was something.  Technically, the grease trays underneath the grill started on fire, but it soon lead to the thermometer maxing out on the grill and thick black smoke started rolling through the neighborhood.  I’m sure our neighbors thought we were crazy as we sat and watched it for a couple minutes.  I was unaware that the trays were as full as they are, so I thought it might just burn itself out quickly…..that wasn’t the case!  The Engineer unhooked the propane tank while I tossed some water down into the trays.  I know that water+grease fire is supposed to be an avoided activity, but something had to be done before the house and/or stupid shrub that I hate started on fire!  The shrub on fire would have been fine….I want it gone anyway, but it touches the house so removal by grease fire is a less than ideal means to an end.  All is well that ends well I suppose and the house and the grill have lived to see another day.  Actually, we don’t even know if the grill still works….that’s tonight’s dinner plan though.  I guess if it doesn’t work hopefully someone has some good Memorial Day sales happening!

I didn’t end up filling my turkey tag this Spring.  Our last weekend got rained out.  Well actually, we were in the field as the thunderstorm started rolling in.  I thought it was maybe best that we didn’t sit out in lawn chairs in a blind during a storm.  Besides, turkeys aren’t likely to leave their tree roosts when it’s storming, so we probably would have sat there in the storm for no reason anyway.  Also they had moved their roosts further back into the thick trees than the morning we were set up right under them, so all in all in just wasn’t a great morning.  In talking to people who are much better and more successful at turkey hunting, it just wasn’t a great season I don’t think.  The weather was either storming, blizzarding, or blazing hot…..all make for less than stellar hunting.  I feel like we’ve learned some things, and anytime you spend in the field is bound to make you a better hunting eventually.  When fall rolls around I’ll try again!  In the meantime, we’ve cleaned out a spot in the garage for me to set up my target bag, so I’ll be getting plenty of practice time in!

Hopefully everyone is having a great day off, but please remember why we have the holiday weekend in the first place.  It’s easy to get caught up with friends, family, great weather, and drinks, but the bravery and sacrifices of many are the real reason to celebrate.

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Operation Thunder Chicken: Feel the Thunder

The Engineer and I had the opportunity to hunt a gorgeous, heavily wooded piece of private farm land last weekend that belongs to family friends.  We had never been to the property before, so we went Saturday afternoon to get a feel for the lay of the land.  It was miserably hot out, the ticks were swarming, and we heard not a single cluck, gobble, or yelp.

We were feeling rather defeated about the whole situation when on the way out we spotted a turkey across a dried up creek bed.  Too far away to take a shot, especially with my backpack on and an awkward bag of decoys falling all over the place.  The difference between public land, heavily hunted turkeys and mostly left to themselves private land turkeys became very clear when instead of sounding alarms and sprinting off…..this turkey just sorta wandered into a thicker wooded area all while continuing to pick for snacks along the way.

A hot and sweaty trudge up a hillside lead us back to the farmhouse on the property.  Just as I crested the top, I turned South to look out over the view of the valley and the Missouri River in the distance.  My picturesque view was jolted back to reality when 3 turkeys went flying out of a cedar tree probably 50 yards away.  The birds were clearly in the area, we just needed a better plan and some luck!

I’m not a morning person, and 4:30 comes real early.  Small consolation is that it’s no longer freezing outside, so you can actually sit around comfortably, even when it’s dark outside.  We drove out to the farm and wandered down to the place we had seen the turkeys the afternoon before.  Mostly unbeknownst to us, we set up right in the middle of the turkeys roosting lair!  Do you know what it’s like to listen to a far off group of roosted birds gobble in the distance, and then to hear  deafeningly loud gobbles that can only mean you’re almost directly below the flock?!?!  It’s amazing!  It will send chills of excitement all down your spine, and you will finally understand why they call it “Spring Thunder”!  Imagine the video below, but with more gobbles and much closer…..up in a tree and slightly to your left about 40 yards away!

Ugh, I so wish The Engineer and I were the kind of people who filmed our hunts.  But we aren’t, and mostly we are still trying to learn how to hunt turkeys.  I just wish I even had some audio to share about how amazing the gobbling was the other morning.  Alright….back to the turkeys.

Loud flapping sounds  and rapid clucks soon signaled the descent of the birds from their nighttime roosts.  The Engineer was sitting to my left, and had a clear view of the flock as they regrouped near the top of a small hill.  I looked out the blind to my right in time to see a single bird fly down about 40 yards away from the blind.  We called and waited as two hens from the left and the single bird from the right joined up together straight out from the blind about 30 yards.  I have sat in the blind with an arrow nocked every time we’ve been out, but I’ve never had a reason to clip my release onto my string, but these birds were finally giving me a reason!  The lone bird ended up being a jake, or young male bird, and he would have been legal to shoot.  The problem was, he was so small…..even smaller than the two hens, that by the time we could 100% tell he was a jake…..I didn’t have a clear shot.

At the time we didn’t worry too much about not taking a shot at the jake……there were 4 large, puffed up tom turkeys on the crest of the hill, and we were determined to move them towards us!  No reason to shoot a young, small bird when there are bigger and better options on the hill!  We were sure that our calling and our decoys would bring the big guys down the hill.  After all, we could hear them drumming, which research has told me is a good sign.  It’s breeding time after all, and no self respecting tom is gonna let his ladies get stolen by another bird.

We didn’t budget the toms down the hill, but we did aggravate the lead hen.  Slowly, a group of at least half a dozen hens pecked and walked past the blind out at about 30 yards.  Taking up the rear end of the train was the lead hen….I think.  In any case, she was the only bird to acknowledge our decoys, and she was none to pleased about it.  She trotted on over to our hen decoy and proceeded to get all up in her face, and annoyed with our decoys general presence.  If it was fall and hens were in season…..she would have been an awesome hen to take.  8 yard easy, straight on shot.  However fall it is not.  Honestly I could have taken several hens that morning, but hens aren’t what we were after…..especially with the promise of big toms!

Now after sitting down and going over everything that happened that morning it occurs to me that the turkeys around here maybe haven’t started breeding yet.  If they had, I just can’t fathom that all those toms would have just let all those ladies walk away from them.  It had all seemed to promising.  My research had told me that it was almost always fine if you attracted the hens towards you, as the toms were almost certain to follow……not these South Dakota toms I guess!  It might have eventually come together for us, but a distant, yet all together too close for turkey comfort, shotgun blast sent the toms running up and over the hill crest away from us.  The private farm land abuts a large area of public hunting land, so I’m hoping that our morning was at least ruined by someone else’s success! The hens had already disappeared up into the thicker timber, and it would have been worthless to chase them anyway.

We sat in the blind and called, hearing gobbles off from behind the hill, but the birds never did reappear into our view.  Knowing the the shotgun had probably ruined the hope of the birds moving back out into the open for several hours, we decided to leave the blind and do a bit of walking.  We could always hear gobbles, but for every yard we closed, the toms moved away at least a yard.  In the end, we packed up our gear and headed back to town with nothing more than a few large turkey feathers and a story of our first real encounter with a flock.  I won’t soon forget the feeling of listening to birds all around me and feeling potential and hope like I’ve never felt while sitting in the blind.  It was worth all the icky ticks to watch the level of sass displayed by that hen while she was investigating our decoy.  It seems like every time The Engineer and I head out to the fields, we get a little bit closer to filling my tag.  However, the end of the season is looming, so I’m hoping all the pieces fall together for us soon!

#OperationThunderChicken: The Journey Continues

This is the second weekend that The Engineer and I have had good weather and headed out to the turkey fields for Spring Archery Season!  Now I know basically nothing about turkey hunting, and The Engineer doesn’t know a ton either, but we’ve picked up some random tips from friends and my google skills.  The general consensus is that the weather has simply been too cold for mating to begin.  They don’t work off our calendar.  It doesn’t matter to them at all that the state has decided the season starts on April 7th…..if they aren’t ready to mate they just aren’t ready.  If they aren’t ready to mate, they are less likely to respond to calls because they are just busy doing other turkey things…..whatever it is turkeys do during the day.  We have been consistently seeing some birds on some public land about half an hour South of the house.  It’s easy enough to drive down after work a couple nights a week to keep tabs on the flock.  Of course, public land means that we aren’t always the only ones driving down in an attempt to score a bird!  But, it’s our land and we are working with what we’ve got!

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I bought that male decoy….The Wimpy Jake….and I’m hoping for big things from him!

Last weekend we woke up bright and early Saturday morning to rain.  Rain might be good for covering your noise, but when it’s still only in the low 40’s and neither The Engineer nor myself have rain gear…..going to sit in a blind in the rain isn’t our idea of a good time.  We ran some errands and I organized the kitchen and bathroom cabinets while we waited for the sun to come out and the ground to dry up a little bit.  We went out and did a bit more scouting Saturday evening.  There is a larger section of public land closer to home, but we couldn’t find any signs of life there.  I walked down to one of the fields at the bottom of a valley and couldn’t even hear any chirping birds…..it was oddly creepy.  We did head down to our reliable sighting spot, and there were two males in the distance getting all puffed up and circling each other.  They were quite in the distance……binocular distance…. but it was very cool to see none the less!

Sunday morning we were in the blind to see the sunrise.  Sadly, unlike our fall experience where we heard the turkeys all morning…..we heard almost nothing!  One very, very distance hen but then nothing after that at all.  Well…..we did hear a shotgun about an after after sunrise…..which mostly ended our dreams of morning success.  Public land can be a competitive place, especially around highly populated areas.  I’m grateful for the option to go sit on land that I “own” as a tax payer, but those areas are hard to come by when 90% of the state is privately owned.  It’s not as romantic as living in one of the Western states where large swatches of the land are open to public use, and you can walk deep into wilderness without seeing or hearing another person.

What we did see Sunday morning were deer, and honestly that’s pretty exciting in and of itself.  To get a small herd of deer to wandering into a clearing 50 yards from your blind and then just stand and look at you is pretty exciting.  Over the course of the 4ish hours we were out in the field, we saw 6 deer….one group of 5 and 1 single doe.  We also had some acoustic tunes provided curtesy of a woodpecker and a mostly dead tree limb.  We’ve also seen a ton of pheasants driving to and fro on all the gravel roads in the area, and I think The Engineer has been formulating some fall pheasant hunting strategies.  Sadly, there were no turkeys to be had.

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Last night though we had a promising, albeit gross sign, that the weather is shifting in the direction of Spring.  I had ticks crawling on my hands as we were sitting in the blind!  EWWWWW gross, gross, gross!!!!!

I know that bugs, critters, and all manner of insects are part of spending time in the outdoors, and I have grown to really like spending quiet mornings and evenings in the blind watching nature.  However, ticks don’t seem to serve much purpose other than spreading disease.  I remember running around on my Grandparent’s farm as a child, coming in the house, and feeling ticks crawling up my legs and into my ears.  It didn’t bother me anymore than having an ant crawl on me would bother me now.  I guess ignorance really is bliss.  Childhood me knew nothing about the illness and disease they carried.  I guess those days are over and gone.

We stripped off all our outer clothes in the garage, and I spend most of the rest of last night making The Engineer check for ticks on all our clothes, checking any other places they could possibly be hanging out, and feeling phantom ticks walking on me.  He keeps assuring me that there are none in the house, none that he can find in the garage, and if anything they are in his truck……. That last one is doing nothing to make me feel better about the situation, but he assures me that this is just part of the whole hunting experience.

The Engineer thought he was so funny last night….probably mostly because the ticks were leaving him alone!

Along with the gross creepy crawlies last night, came our first real up close and personal turkey interaction!  A lone hen went walking on by about 15 feet from the blind.  She didn’t even know we were sitting there!  Well…..maybe she did know, but she certainly didn’t act like she cared!  Spring season is male only so we just got to enjoy watching her walk along the creek bottom.  The other reason I’m somewhat convinced that mating hasn’t started around here yet is because she totally ignored our decoys.  Generally hens move towards toms to mate, but she just walked right on past them.  It could be that she was too busy eating to notice…..which more power to you girl!  You get those yummy tick snacks!

We had hoped to head back out this morning, however we woke up to howling winds.  Not only do arrows not fly very well in very windy conditions…..it becomes a bit challenging to keep the blind on the ground.  Last night it was gusty enough to we’d occasionally have to grab the sides of the blinds and hold it down.  Having a blind blow off the top of you really ruins the element of surprise!  I’m hoping that the winds calm down later today, and maybe we can head out to the fields and get one on his way to bed.  It’s such a beautiful day out, it’s a shame it has to be so windy.  Worse comes to worse I guess we can take Scout a Roo on a walk over to the duck pond.  It appears that our cute resident duck couple survived the blizzard and Scout really enjoys keeping tabs on all the ducks and geese on the pond!

I saw this video this morning and it gave The Engineer and I a good laugh.  This is probably as close to turkey hunting that I’m going to get today with the wind the way it is.  I guess I should maybe round up all our camo from the garage and throw it in the washing machine……drown the ticks!  Since writing I’m starting to feel more phantom bugs, so maybe I should also go give myself a good scrubbing.  Also, in case you’re curious….The Engineer and I are maybe a blend of Mr. Impatient and The Over Caller…..although not nearly as bad as the video!  It’s easier than you think to go a big hog wild on the calls.  One minute in the blind feels like 10 regular minutes!

UPGRADES!!

We are only a couple weeks into the spring turkey season, and The Engineer and I have been scouting, planning, and working for a turkey on some local public land.  It’s hard work, but we’ve seen some cool things while out and about on our adventures together.  I want to share all our fun discoveries and strategies, but I don’t want to blast you with daily upgrades, so I need to figure out a good organization for all the fun.  Fingers crossed one of these times out I get an arrow into a big ‘ol thunder chicken!

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The Engineer….can’t hear me yell from one room away….hears distance gobbles from far away counties!

In the meantime I thought I’d share some fun news!

I bought my domain!

Actually, I was hoping that it would get rid of the wordpress part of the web address, but it didn’t.  It did however get rid of the ads so now you don’t have to deal with strange ads while you’re trying to enjoy the adventures!  Overall I was really hoping that the upgrade would be more exciting, but it’s still an exciting step forward for me!  The upgrade did let me change the background color though so I swapped out the weird green/grey/baby poop color for something a big more festive!

 

Bringing on the Weather

For the first time in what seems like forever, The Engineer and I are home for the weekend.  There is a ton of stuff I was looking forward to doing this weekend, and I had big plans.  It’s Spring turkey season, so I really wanted to get some friend time in.  I have some furniture that needs to be refinished, and the loft needs to be organized into The Engineer’s man cave.  Currently up there its just a hot mess of things that need to be put away or are waiting to be unpacked after the move.

But then the blizzard came, and instead of working on furniture in the garage, we took a nap and watched Netflix.  I did briefly perk up to notice our development being plowed.  It seemed like a slightly futile effort as it was still snowing and blowing quite a bit yesterday afternoon.  Everything was supposed to end last night around 10, but I woke up to more snow and wind this morning.  Thankfully, everything has stopped now and it has gotten a bit warmer…..for now anyway.

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Ahhhhh Midwest weather…..#thebest!

If staying at home during a blizzard isn’t your thing, you can do like The Engineer and I did last night and attend the annual Ducks Unlimited Banquet with some friends.  All day long I thought for sure the event would be cancelled, everything else in the state and surrounding states was closed, cancelled, or postponed….but I guess duck people are a different breed.  I should have known when they changed the name of the Facebook event notification to “Snow Party” that there weren’t going to let Mother Nature push them around.  So, against the advice of the city, state, and everything our parents told us growing up about being out in winter storms, we threw the big scoop shovel in the back of the truck and headed out.  Now it’s only 10ish miles between our house and where the event was being held, but those weren’t 10 in town miles…..they were 10 out of town highway miles on roads that they county gave up plowing 8 hours beforehand.

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Perfect weather for a nice country drive!

The roads weren’t as bad as we had anticipated them being, and all things considered the visibility was actually very good.  We all made it to and from the event without incident.  The real tragedy of the night was that The Engineer and I came home without any new treasures.  No guns, no commemorative prints or decoys….not even at hat!  I did snag some turkey calls, but that doesn’t technically count as they weren’t my raffle win.  Our friends won them and re-gifted them to me as they don’t go out turkey hunting.  I had never been to the banquet, and I have to say it was way more involved than I imagined.  Once you’re there and see all the food, raffle prizes, people, and planning involved in the event, it makes sense why they decided to press on despite the weather.  It is all for the ducks after all!

Worse than the thought of us making a quick drive through the blizzard is the thought of the blizzards effects on livestock and wildlife.  Late Spring or early Fall blizzards are typically more deadly than just your ordinary Winter blizzard.  They usually begin with freezing rain and sleet and then progress into heavy blowing snow that sticks and builds up thanks to the base layer of moisture.  A few years ago, cattle herds in the Western part of the state were decimated by an early Winter storm.  This time of year, a storm of this quality and magnitude can be even worse.  Many farmers and ranchers are already done calving for the year, and the reality is that calves just aren’t designed to withstand this kind of weather.  If an adult herd can’t make it through a storm, the little babes don’t stand a very good chance.

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Photo by Bryce Tevelad

This is the reality that we live with in the Midwest.  Mother Nature isn’t kind and doesn’t care if you think you’ve planned out calving or planting perfectly.  Around here she can change on a dime, and it can leave farmers and ranchers scrambling to provide safety and shelter for their herds and hoping that their crops aren’t destroyed.  Beyond domestic livestock, birds who migrated back North are sometimes trapped in weather they try and avoid.  Any nests that have already been laid probably didn’t survive the cold and wet the last few nights have brought to the area.  The reality is that not every Spring baby will survive into Summer.  The farmer who took the picture above reported to the local news that though they saved the calf in the picture, they did loose one last night.  I’m sure that calf wasn’t the only babe lost to the storm, but hopefully the numbers statewide aren’t anywhere near the 100,000 that was the estimated loss during the 2013 storm.

It was an odd irony for me last night at the Ducks Unlimted banquet.  I couldn’t help thinking and worrying about a little duck couple that have made their home on my development’s pond this Spring.  The Engineer assured me that since they are always out wandering the development as a couple that they probably haven’t laid any eggs yet, so here’s to hoping that’s the case.  Hopefully they found a warm, dryish spot in the reeds out of the wind to weather the storm.