Friday, April 29, 2011

The Relationship

Are little black ants required for your Peony blooms to open?  
 It's funny because I have never seen these ants in my yard until the flowers showed up this year.  I asked Cari about it and she said she figured the ants would show up.  Anytime she has ever seen a Peony it had the black ants climbing on the blooms.  In fact, there is a tale that the ants are required for the tightly wrapped buds to open.
In fact, the ants are not required.  You can have beautiful flowers without the ants, but the two have a very special relationship.  The ants are actually eating a sugary coating on the flowers.  At the same time the ants help protect the plant from other insects.

I'm thinking about starting a special relationship between these ants and my roses.  Those roses seem to attract more insects and problems than blooms.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WNC Nature Center

Where is the Giraffe?  Where is the elephant?
You won't find those creatures in this park.  The Western North Carolina Nature Center is all about featuring plants and animals that can be found in this area.   Guess what, there aren't any giraffes to be found out in the Pisgah forest.

But you can find a Gray Wolf.
You can also find a black bear at the park.
One thing I learned is that the moment a black bear climbs a tree your cameras memory card starts to get filled up. . . quickly.

Randy and I decided that the white tail deer in a neighboring pen must have a deal with the bears.  As the bear command your attention by climbing a tree and rubbing his butt on it, the deer are behind you escaping the park!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Egg 2011

Easter festivities started on Easter Eve with egg coloring.  

On Sunday morning, Randy and I continued our tradition of getting up early and heading to the sunrise service downtown.  We sang a few hymns and heard a great message as the sun came up on a beautiful morning.

After leaving town we headed home for breakfast before heading back out to church services.  This is all leading up to the kids' favorite Easter tradition of the family photo.  They may not love taking the photos, but they know it's coming.  This year we made sure we weren't staring into the sun but the challenge of having five people look in the same direction with a smile still existed.

I was really happy with the results of our photo this year.  The kids were really happy we achieved it with minimal takes.
     Umm... . not quite the look I was going for:
This is more like it:
 Don't worry, because the day wasn't over yet.   We still had Easter egg hunts and a great dinner with friends.   Then, and only then, would we be fully deprived of our Easter nap.

We had such a good day that I totally forgot to eat any of those colored eggs we made.  I guess Easter isn't really over yet.  

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Happy Easter.  After you've had your fun hunting eggs and filling baskets, be sure to take some time to think about what Easter really is about.  There wouldn't be ANY Christians without Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A New Adventure : The Video

Video of our adventure on the Art Loeb trail near the entrance to Shining Rock Wilderness.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A New Adventure!

After a year and a half of talking about backpacking and negotiating a trip, I finally got Cari to go with me.  Cari is a great hiker and the hiking part didn't bother her one bit.  As we planned this trip and talked about the details of backpacking the fact of carrying a pack didn't bother her at all.  Throughout the years we've done plenty of tent camping and she has no problem sleeping on the ground in a tent.  The part that was holding her back was the fact that nobody has placed bathrooms in the wilderness.  

But for ME, she said she'd overlook that and at least try backpacking one time.  

On Saturday we headed up to North Carolina and made a quick stop at the Pisgah ranger station.  They had a bathroom there and I wanted to buy a map.  From there we headed over to one of my favorite hiking areas, the Art Loeb Trail at Black Balsm Knob.  The severe weather had just passed through on Friday night and there was almost nobody on the trail Saturday morning.  
Once we got to the top we started to realize what a windy day in the mountains was all about.  This is the kind of wind where a gust will knock you on your butt.  At one peak, we turned and tried to walk against the wind and it  was nearly impossible.  Even with the strong winds, the sun was out and the temperatures were good for hiking.  

We had lunch on the side of the mountain, leaning against a warm rock.  It was awesome.  We made our way to the beginning of the Shining Rock Wilderness area and talked about our options.  Fires are prohibited in the wilderness area so we decided to stay just outside of the border.  We found a small stand of trees and some tall bushes to put our tent against but the wind still pushed hard at its sides.  

As the sun went down the wind seemed to pick up intensity.  Through the mountains you could hear the gusts rushing toward you.  A few seconds later the cold air would hit you hard.  We had a small camp fire going, but it wasn't enough to battle the cold winds.  We heated up rocks in the fire and then held them in our laps for warmth.  Still not enough heat.  We finally surrendered to the weather and found shelter in our tent.  At 6:30pm it was bed time.  

As we had packed and planned this trip, we planned for rain, but failed to prepare properly for the cold.  We were both freezing.  I was disappointed in myself for this misjudgment.  After 18 months of trying to get her on the trail with me, she was facing some pretty harsh conditions.  This wasn't the "relaxing by the fire" type of camp I had hoped for.  This was "go to bed at 6:30pm and try to survive" camping.  "She'll never go again", I thought to myself.  All through the evening, Cari kept a smile on her face and we had a great time dealing with problems together.  

Saturday night I would woke up and heard the freight train sound of the wind rushing through the mountains almost nonstop.  
In the morning we woke up to a white landscape.  It hadn't snowed, but frost covered the ground, the tent, and the tree tops.  Normally, I am up early while backpacking and this trip wasn't any different.  Normally, I get right to work tearing down the tent and getting packed up.  On this trip, I stayed in the tent until late morning when the sun was higher in the sky and warming the earth.  

After we got packed up and started moving it didn't feel quite as cold.  We had a nice walk back toward the car and I was excited to hear Cari say she would be happy to join me again sometime.  Her only stipulation was that next time it would be much warmer.  I agreed.  We had both suffered since the sun went down Saturday evening.  Cari also said she would be planning our very next get-away and it would be in a climate controlled hotel.

When I find something that I love, like backpacking, it's made so much better when I can share it with the person I love, Cari.  We had a great time and I can't wait to go with her again.
Eighteen months of telling her bathrooms are over rated was totally worth it, even if she never believed me. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lunch in Edgefield

Another day working far from home and another amazing historical lunch.  Recently, I told you about having lunch in Aiken.  I was able to go back to Aiken a week later and I decided this time to have my lunch on my way home.  This gave me the chance to stop in Edgefield, SC for lunch.  There is a lot of history in Edgefield and an hour lunch isn't sufficient to even begin exploring.  I made it over to the cemetery of  First Baptist where I knew several people of importance to South Carolina are buried.

This cemetery has a different look to it and I quickly explored the large area as I looked for a specific gave.
Edgefield is the home of ten South Carolina Governors and several of them are buried here.  I was searching for a specific Governor.  Way over in the back section of the cemetery I saw a tall white pillar and I knew that it was the one I was looking for.  It had been placed much more recently then the others.
This is the grave of Senator Strom Thurmond.  The oldest Senator to have served in the US Senate and the longest serving member of the US Senate.  He served as a Senator from South Carolina from 1954 until 2003.  
If you are interested in the achievements and history of the Senator, a quick search on the internets will give you all the information you need. It's really incredible.  Just a few notable things that stuck out to me are the fact that he stepped down as a judge to join the army and fight in WW2.  During the war he was a part of the battle of Normandy.  Later, he served as a Governor in South Carolina.  The list of service and accomplishments go on, but I won't detail those here.  Just know that this is a man that spent his life serving his country.  

After finding this grave and spending a few quiet minutes near it, lunch was over and I was back on the road.  Add Edgefield to the list of places I need to spend more time exploring. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Driver

Please get out of my way.  My video from driving home on Friday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

History In a Can

I recently went to Aiken, SC for work.  I had never been there before and decided to use the voice activation on my Droid to navigate down there.  "Navigate to Aiken South Carolina", I said.  The screen worked out my request and responded with what it heard, "Navigate to A Can South Carolina".  Yeah.  Navigate me to "a can".   I ended up navigating to a nearby town and then looking at the map for the answer.

Once I arrived I quickly realized that Aiken, South Carolina is one of the most beautiful cities in this state.  The downtown streets are divided with massive green spaces and trees.  It really felt like I was driving through a park through most of town.  For my lunch break, I decided to head back into town and take a short walking tour.

I parked at St. Johns Methodist church and walked around the property for a few minutes before crossing the street to Aiken First Baptist church.  Both churches had some really interesting history that I was able to pick up quickly.

St. Johns was built in 1964 and placed on the location of the old churches cemetery.  The persons buried there were reburied and a plaque was placed on the side of the building listing those people.  The marble plaque on the building talked about building a church in troubled times (the initial church was built around the time of the Civil War) and that God will withstand all of this.

Over at the Baptist church the first thing that got my attention was a small cemetery in the back of the building.  I recognized the small white stones as civil war era veterans.  Around the front side of the church I noticed another cemetery that was right up against the building.  More grave markers listed soldiers from the 1860's.  Something that I have never noticed anywhere else is that both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried here.   The Baptist church has an enormous entrance on the street.  Huge columns greeted me as I walked around to the front.  It's an awesome building.

I didn't make it much farther than the churches and one or two nearby blocks before my hour was up, but I already know that I want to make another trip back to "A Can" on my own time to explore this historical and beautiful city.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Fun Filled Saturday

Saturday started early with the alarm going off before seven.  The day had begun.  Ready, set, GO!

We were off to a pancake breakfast put on by the Lions club.  The breakfast featured pancakes bigger than your face!

Immediatly following breakfast we went all the way across town (3 blocks) to the rec center for a volleyball tournament.  I know I poked fun at the intense game of volleyball a few weeks ago, but I had a great time watching our girls stomp their way to second place today.

Instead of going home after the tournament we made our way across town (3 blocks) to the airport for the fly-in event that also featured a car show. There was a good size crowd at the airport and a lot of activity on the runway. A constant stream of small planes took off and landed on the runway taking people for short rides. In addition, two helicopters offered rides to a long line of paying customers. I checked my wallet, counted my five family members, and decided not to pay out $25 each for a five minute plane ride.  Instead we had fun standing on the side of the runway watching the planes come and go.

We stuck around long enough that the kids became bored. By now it was 2 pm and we were ready for a break. After a short break, Brenna and I headed outside to jump on the trampoline.  This kid won't stop today!  A brief thunderstorm came through the area late in the day while we were still outside.  Why run and hide when you could be playing soccer in the rain?

With everyone fully wore out I'm ready for a night on the couch with Cari and I watching Nascar.

Let's hope tomorrow isn't this packed, I'm not sure how long I can keep up this pace.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Nothing Radio

With twenty radio stations at my finger tips, how many are worth listening to at any given moment?   My video:

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

You Have a What in Your Where?

A co-worker called out sick last week.  He showed back up to work the next day but he looked to be in a great deal of pain.  This is a guy that normally jumps right in and helps with any project but on the day following his absense he was begging for a desk job.  For this blog, let's call him David.

By lunch time David was turning pale and his face showed the pain he was dealing with.  I asked him if he was about to give birth and he said he wishes it was that easy.  He has kidney stones.  I cringed.

I've never had kidney stones but anyone that I've ever talked to about it starts crying.  I got scared and David told me that drinking a lot of water will help reduce the chances of getting the jagged stones that he is plagued with. I immediately filled my water bottle.

He went home sick at lunch time.  Then he went to the hospital.

Over the weekend he went back to the hospital.  He decided to have surgery to have it removed.  It only took me a few seconds to think about how that procedure might work.   Then I went and drank some more water.

On Monday my co-worker came back and I asked if he was feeling better.  David said he had surgery but the surgeon couldn't reach it and David was still waiting to pass the stones.  "What the *@&$ ??!!!", I said.  "They went in to get it and left without it?"  I drank some more water.

Then he said they put a stint in to help the stone pass easier.  I cringe writing this . . .  ugh.  my eyes. . . tears. . . OMG.  I'll be right back, getting more water. . . .

I've given him the lightest of light duty work for the next couple of days and I told him I wouldn't be able to talk to him about it anymore because talking about it brings me to my knees and makes me want to vomit.

A female coworker heard what we were talking about and she said she heard it's about as painful as childbirth is for a woman.  Really?  Are babies born with jagged edges that cut and scratch their way out as they try and escape your body?

Either way, I'm scared.  I think it's time for another glass of water.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Pick Me

My daughters decided they wanted to bring the garden inside to show me how pretty the flowers are.
If you want to see the tulips, you're in the garden, you're looking in the wrong place.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Now Hiring!

With my new job, I don't seem to have as much time to sit down and keep this blog going like I have been doing for the past seven years.

I've come up with a few options on how to continue the blog and keep the dust from collecting on Duck Notes.

Option one: I could post less frequently.  Perhaps twice a week would be a pace I could keep up with.
Option two: Write a half blog every other day forcing you to come back to read the second half a few days later.

But the option that I decided to go with is. . .

Option three:  Hire a writer.  I'm now taking applications for someone that wants to blog about my life.

The ideal candidate will posses the following skills:

  • know (some of) the English language
  • be willing to share embarrassing moments (note: peeing in the garden is not an acceptable blog story)
  • have the ability to turn half conceived ideas into half written blogs

In addition, the selected Duck Notes writer will have the following job requirements:

  • Cut my grass 1x per week.  - This is the time some of the best blog ideas originate.
  • Watch my kids 2x per week. - This is the best way to get great photos for the blog.  
  • Cook dinner 3x per week.    - Doesn't really help blogging, but still required.


  • quality time with my kids
  • lots of practice cooking
  • a calendar 

Please include a sample blog with your application.