Friday, October 14, 2011

Short-eared Owl


Dan was driving around the pasture looking for Sirecia Lespedeza when he spotted this owl either hiding or nesting in the grass.  Owls are difficult to identify because they are so often heard rather than seen.  It’s hard to say if this one was migrating or still hanging around with the buzzards. 

Our Audubon Guide indicates this is a Short-eared Owl.  Here is some of what is said about this species.

Habitat:  marshes, open grasslands, prairies; open country during migration.

Range:  Breeds from Alaska across Canada south locally to California, Kansas and New Jersey.  Winteres in southern part of breeding range.

Often seen in late afternoon as it begins to move about in preparation for a night of hunting.

This is an exciting addition to our list of local birds.  When describing the short-eared owl, the Audubon Guide mentioned the very short ear tufts are rarely visible.  I think we have a tuft sighting as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



Fatwood,  lighter knots, lightard, fat lighter or lightwood.  These are only a few names for the resin filled wood used to start fires for centuries.  According to various sources on the internet, fatwood is cut from stumps or heartwood of dead pines.  When the trees die, the sap or resin concentrates at the tree’s base

It helps to remember highly flammable pine tar and turpentine is most often made from the sap of pine trees.  It would make sense that if these resins were concentrated that wood would burn easy and hot.

Actually, neither Dan nor I had heard of fatwood until we saw our kids use it as fireplace starter.  Even though we know it works well, we use pinecones and pine needles gathered each fall.

Last week Tractor Supply had a small bag of fatwood for $6 so we decided to give it a try.  It worked great on our recent trip.  For sure we will be using it for a quick outdoor campfire and probably will use it more than we think to start a fire in the stove this winter.   It doesn’t take much and it doesn’t make a mess.

As to how it got it’s name, there seems to be no real answer.  Some suggest it is because it sizzles when started or from using a mixture of animal fat and wood as a fire starter.  If anyone knows, feel free to set the record straight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Big but not the Harvest

The moon was beautiful tonight as it peeked up above the eastern horizon.  I thought it was the harvest moon so had the tripod out ready to get the ultimate picture. 

After taking about 20 pictures, none too good, I found out the harvest moon is the one closest to the autumn equinox.  This year the harvest moon was in September. 

Here is my best attempt at photographing the non-harvest moon.  


Identifiable,  but not much character.  F5.6--1/40 sec

Here is another shot that isn’t nearly as clear, but much more interesting.

IMG_2701f16--6 sec exposure time.

I’ve seen some excellent photos of the moon rising.  It’s a hard shot, at least I think so.  I’ll keep trying. 

Fall in Southern Illinois

Sunday morning means breakfast at Lyndee’s in Hermann with Ray and Carole.  (By the way, this little home-owned restaurant is listed right up there with the wineries for a visit while in Hermann.  Good food with a friendly local touch.)   Then off to Illinois.

We visited southern Illinois  in May, 2008, but for some reason I did not post pictures at that time.  We did not revisit the Shawnee National Forest Garden of the Gods or Pomona Bridge this time but here are two pictures from our spring visit.







We should have gone back because looking at these pictures,  I can imagine how beautiful it would be with the fall leaves.



I actually got ahead of myself talking about the Shawnee National Forest.  First, getting there.

It is a short drive from Hermann wine country to St. Genevieve, Missouri, an early French city on the Mississippi river.  St. Gen, as the locals call it,  would be a place to enjoy a leisurely ride around the historical area on bikes, which we did not bring this time.  Definitely a reason to go back.

Instead we headed to the ferry, one of the few still operating on the Mississippi.  I almost got the fees in the picture.  It was $12 one way, not bad I didn’t think.



After the ferry ride, it’s a short drive, maybe 30 minutes, to Murphysboro and the Shawnee Wine trail.   

This picture is deceiving.  Shawnee wine trail is very organized with detailed  maps available on line.     

IMG_2661 This part of southern Illinois has dense forest.  There were many places where it was like driving through a red, yellow tunnel as we curved around to our favorite Pomona Winery.

We specifically wanted Pomona’s Apple wine.  We like it with fish and during the Holidays.  After tasting and visiting with the friendly owners, we load up our wine and head back.  But, before leaving the winery, we marvel again at the brickwork used in landscaping.

I like the Mississippi River.  So, we lingered along the River Road on the return trip.  The bridge at Chester is almost as exciting as the ferry ride.  The Illinois Welcome Center has a perfect place for a snack right at the entrance to the bridge.


So, here we are, as usual, driving in Missouri  with darkness approaching and no place to park for the night.  Then, out of nowhere, we see a sign,  Hahn State Park, a park I  overlooked in my State Park Book.  It is located near Bonne Terra and not far from St. Genevieve. 

We backed into a spot, fixed a bite for our evening meal and went to bed.  What a surprise this morning.  Big, tall trees with lovely fall colors. 

IMG_2683 - Copy_edited-1 

We walked around the campground, exploring the small stream and visiting about the area with a local couple camping nearby.  Then it was off for home. 

We were gone 3 1/2 days, saw lots of fall color, tasted wine, but not while driving what ended up to be nearly 1,000 miles.  This is a trip we’ll do again. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Beautiful day on the Wine Trail

Adam Puchta Winery is one of the oldest on the Missouri Wine Trail. This year some of the wineries here are adding modern names and blends, but Adam Puchta Winery's traditional wines are still some of our favorite. Our first visit this morning there set the mark for a day of good conversation, food and, of course, wine.

A member of the Almond Tree Winery's family is a chef in St Louis. His meal did not disappoint.

In the past, we've been able to slip into the Hermann City campground even though we didn't have a reservation. There is no way this year. It is packed with tents--even a teepee. The whole scene was colorful and certainly everyone was having a good time, but no place for us.

Even though the city park by the river says no overnight parking or camping, the local authority we talked to said we could stay here. Hoping to get a good night's sleep. Seems there is a train about every half hour. Hopefully, the city has a no whistle ordinance after midnight and the Octoberfest celebrations which recently have included firecrackers settle down soon.