Yarn Along (not much knitting, new chicks, cat-chasing, old favorites renewed, & life changes)

I cannot seem to find much time to knit these days, which is a shame because my anxiety could sure use the medicine that is knitting.  Harmon caught a bug from one of my daycare girls & has thus been very clingy, very feverish, & plain old grouchy the last couple days.  I attempted to knit last night after he fell asleep, but he woke up practically the minute I picked up the needles, so, yeah, yarn along this week isn’t much of a yarn along.

Our chicks hatched!  Well, one egg out of five hatched.  Three were apparently not fertilized & the Cochin egg quit developing after only a few days.  So we hatched one lonely Iowa Blue chick & bought four Barred Rock chicks to keep him or her-Lucky Penny-company.  I do not like Barred Rocks at all–the roosters are nasty–but there were no other chicks available at our local feed store small enough to join our day-old chick.Harmon is not exactly enamored with the chicks–unlike June who bounds out of bed in the morning in order to play with the chicks.  He will air kiss the chicks when asked…

…but then he tries to shoo the chicks away.

Chasing the hens around the yard, however, is great fun for Harmon.

Until he sees something else…

Not now, Turken…

…there’s a kitty in the yard!  Too bad you’re allergic, Harmon, because you sure do love the cats around here.

I got out June’s old beanie–my original June Belle (pattern available for free on ravelry).  The brim is a soft fuzzy Malabrigo & the main cap is a super duper squishy Cormo from White Barn Sheep & Wool.  I love this cap, reminds me of many happy days spent with my baby girl June…


I have given notice to my daycare girls’ parents that I will be done with childcare at the end of June & my anxiety levels are lessening the closer we creep to that time…I will therefore be (fingers crossed!) reopening my etsy shop by the end of summer with some June Belle beanies for sale & another pattern I’ve been dreaming about designing for years, so I hope you will all join me for that release in late summer!  I’m also considering using my teaching license in a virtual capacity this fall & I continue to edit my father’s book.

I hope I can be a better mama to my own four children with this change in vocation…I’ve been extremely impatient & short with all of them for far too long, much MUCH more so on the days I babysit.  It’s hard work being responsible for someone else’s babies!  Kudos to those who successfully and lovingly run in-home daycares for years…I’ve spent the last 4.5 years watching someone else’s precious souls, but it’s definitely time to move on…perhaps this change will enable more “yarn” in my future “yarn along” posts!

Happy Yarning to all my knitting friends out there!  Joining in with Martha!

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Spring Strolls…sometimes in a snowsuit

We were taking many spring strolls up until about a week ago…when the spring weather suddenly took a turn backwards & has been trying to reenter winter.  No snow, thank goodness, but it’s been too cold, much too WINDY, too rainy, too too yucky.  Uploading these photos this morning is making me miss spring…in May.

Weird Iowa/Midwest/Middle Lands weather is all I can say.

Harmon found a stick on this pre-Earth Day hike that he & I took one afternoon during the week before second naptime.  I found this picture-perfect patch of purple violets growing down by our creek under a still-dormant walnut tree.  Spirits were instantly lifted.  Made me very much appreciate my muddy slice of Iowa heaven…I reminded myself not every part of our property is covered in mud or chicken poo. 😉

The perfect capture!

Baby-bombed!

Hobbit hiking.

June, Harmon, & I took a separate hike one day after school while everyone else was at Coralee’s soccer game.

Mom, enough photos!

It was absolutely NOT cold enough for a snowsuit during this hike!  Harmon, however, is in love with his snowsuit & thinks if we put him in it he will automatically be allowed outside.  Snowsuit=outside time.  Smart one, that hobbit!

I hope we’re strolling into a stretch of better spring weather this week…no snowsuits required.

How’s the spring weather on your patch of earth?

3:30AM!

Coralee, Harmon, & I began last Saturday morning around 3:30AM.  (I think Harmon actually woke up closer to 3:50AM.)  Coralee was registered to attend an Iowa Young Birders event to count Sandhill Cranes with Bremer County Conservation as part of the Annual Midwest Crane Count along with over 1,000 other volunteers throughout the Midwest.  Unfortunately, we got word Thursday evening the trip was cancelled due to most of the young birder registrants being either sick or cancelling for other reasons.  But we are tough birders, the Bodekers, so Coralee & I decided to go anyway & emailed the Bremer County Naturalist ourselves Friday morning.  She sent us directions to a fire number on the southern boundary of Sweet Marsh State Wildlife Management Area.  We were to meet up with a seasoned crane-count volunteer at 5:30AM the next morning.  The drive would take us over an hour & I had no idea where it was, hence the 3:30AM wake up.

I made much coffee at 3:30AM.

This is Sweet Marsh closer to 6:30AM (I think sunrise was officially a bit after 6:40AM on Saturday).  The gravel on the right leads to the dike which is where Coralee was officially placed as a counter.  Marsh is to the left of the dike.

We were in site 2.

The count takes place every year around this time in roughly 90 counties in an effort to survey both Sandhill & Whooping Crane numbers.  Whooping Cranes are endangered, Sandhills are not, but both are equally beautiful & worthy of protection in my opinion.

Harmon slept most of the drive north from our house, woke up screaming when we arrived to the parking lot on the edge of the Marsh, in the PITCH BLACK, then fell asleep again about 10 minutes after Coralee took off to count (nursing to the rescue).  The count officially took place from 5:30-7:30AM.  We arrived at 5:20AM to the lot.  The other volunteer arrived shortly after.  It was a bit awkward to get out of the car and approach her in the dark…I worried I would spook her or she wouldn’t actually be who I thought she was…although, I figured, who else would be out here in the middle of nowhere at this hour…she turned out to be an amazing count companion for Coralee.  She is a teacher (a Talented & Gifted teacher like me) and extremely personable.  Coralee took off down the dike with her, binoculars & clipboard in hand, to count cranes (by sight and/or by sound) at promptly 5:30AM.  I tried for a selfie with Harmon when he woke up in order to document something, apparently his nose itched. 😉

Later, once the sun rose, Harmon listened to the countless geese honking in the Marsh just beyond the car’s windows.

Then he looked at books.

He also ate an almond butter sandwich & spilled water all over the car.  At least it wasn’t coffee.

Coralee & her count companion saw three Sandhill Cranes, heard none, which is apparently strange.  We are not sure how many in total were submitted from the entire count site yet, but last year our site submitted 63.  Coralee & I definitely want to visit Sweet Marsh again in the next several weeks to bird.  It is amazing habitat amidst a sea of corn.  I didn’t see much from the car, obviously, but upon leaving we spotted a Sandhill Crane flying low near the Marsh, so at least I added my FOY Sandhill Crane to my 2017 birding list.

Brian, Merritt, & June were at Merritt’s first soccer game of the spring season on Saturday morning.  Upon arriving home later, Coralee & I ate an early lunch & then went to bed.  I think Harmon & I slept for over two hours.  Good napping & good birding.

Edited to add: Numbers are in–64 this year!!!  One more than 2016!

Iowa Blues: New Coop Tenants

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There’s new birds at the Bodeker Coop this week.  We bought a quartet (1 rooster + 3 hens) of chickens this past Saturday for Merritt to show as a 4H Poultry project this summer (his current chickens are not working out for various reasons).  A neighbor down the road has been breeding Iowa Blue chickens for about three years in a bid to help restore the breed back to a sustainable population (along with several other breeders in and around Iowa).  The Iowa Blue chicken almost went extinct by the mid-1980s, but luckily one of the founders of Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa began working to bring the breed back from just one remaining flock.  The Iowa Blue dates back to the early 1920s in Northeast Iowa.  It is a very hardy breed–withstands both the horrible high humidity levels of our summers & the sub-zero windchills of our winters rather easily.  Iowa Blues are quite large chickens, good layers, & the hens, I’ve read, can be extremely broody.  Our three hens are not quite laying yet, but should be soon.  We’ve got them sequestered for now away from our other chickens for both their safety & the health of our flock.xzjj65971

This is the rooster.  He’s got some comb damage from abuse by other chickens at the old farm.  Hopefully we’ll get that sorted out.wpls09671

This breed is not actually blue, but from afar the hens are supposed to look blue-grey, hence the name.
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I think they’re quite lovely.  We named the hens varying forms of the color blue–we’ve got Periwinkle, Celeste, & Sapphire.  Sapphire is June’s chicken & she chose the name from a list of blue color names.egrg17971

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June & Sapphire.  She’s very excited to have another chicken to call her own.

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We let the hens run around in our hibernating garden yesterday afternoon.img_87021

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I thought these seeds were pretty hanging in our woods.  The pods almost sparkled.

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Prairie the cat snoozing in the garage.

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On our walk back from the bus stop yesterday we found another blue bird…an Eastern Bluebird!  There are actually quite a few bluebirds wintering in Iowa every year, but this is the first one in our yard this year.

For more information on the Iowa Blue chicken, check out this pdf book by Curt Burroughs & courtesy of the Iowa Blue Chicken Club.

Yarn Along {Stripey Balloon Pants FO & in-Action!}

I think I’ve knit this pattern out of my system now, at long last.  Maybe it’s the heatwave we’ve been experiencing these past few days here in Iowa, but I’m ready to move on-finally!!!-from woolly baby pants.  Harmon wore his new stripey version all day yesterday.  We were out & about a lot running many errands, buying a Speed Queen washing machine, chauffeuring Coralee to & from homeschool co-op classes & Band, hanging at two different coffee shops (yikes!), running down the sidewalks in town screaming (Harmon did that!), shrieking very shrilly at the library when it was time to put books away (again, Harmon, but I can see how you may have thought that was me-ha!), & then falling asleep in the car on the way home at 2PM because that’s a long day (I reiterate, that was Harmon falling asleep…I had a Venti-sized coffee at noon so I was wide-awake).  The Balloon Baby Pants held up great all day & did not sag out like the first pair so I’m glad I knit the smaller size with smaller needles this go.  Harmon is just such a peanut!  He is 14.75 months and this is the 5-8 MONTH size on US 2 needles with sportweight yarns.  Babies/toddlers definitely come in all sizes!

Harmon sure does LOVE books as of late.  Especially books about chickens or cats or peek-a-boo.

Joining in with Ginny.

Artwork Auction for Conservation: The American Kestrel

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“Vanishing in Plain Sight” by Coralee Bodeker

This is a “guest” blog post from my eldest, Coralee.  She writes a semi-monthly essay/column titled “A Prairie Girl’s Notebook” for both our local county conservation newsletter & for her email list of readers.  She’s been writing/illustrating the column since the fall of 2013 (when she began her homeschooling).  This particular essay is about a North American bird species–the American Kestrel, one of her [& my] favorites.  If you’d like to own a high-quality canvas print of the above drawing of an American Kestrel [with his second foot tucked up into his feathers–she gets asked about his “one foot” a lot], be sure to read to the very end of the post today!  Thank you!

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A Prairie Girl’s Notebook, Issue 23

January 5, 2017

Kestrels, An Iowa Legacy

A few years ago, a short drive down my gravel road would yield at least one, if not two, American Kestrels perched on a power line or hovering mid-air above the grassy ditch. These vibrantly colored, miniature falcons peppered the roadsides, diving into ditches whenever a car passed. Today, Iowa still hosts a breeding and wintering population of American Kestrels, but I have begun to count myself lucky to drive past a mere one kestrel per week rather than the daily sightings. This same scarcity has been occurring across the state; anecdotally, many birders are noticing fewer and fewer American Kestrels in their local areas, while hard data from formal Hawkwatch sites illustrates a steady decline. Scientists and raptor counters at Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County (Iowa’s only full-time Hawkwatch site) have recorded an overall downward trend in migrating American Kestrel populations for the past decade.  In our neighboring state, the Illinois Beach State Park Hawkwatch has recorded similar data trends. To put this in perspective, despite a considerable rise in contributing datasets, Bird Studies Canada also shows a downward drift in American Kestrel numbers since the 1950s and a recent nosedive spanning the past decade—Bird Studies Canada draws these numbers from a bank of over 7.6 million North American bird surveys including Hawkwatch counts, annual Christmas Bird Counts, FeederWatch reports, eBird surveys, and breeding bird surveys, to name a few. The decline in the American Kestrel population has been slowly looming, but it wasn’t until last fall that I truly noticed the scarcity in my own area. No breeding pairs nested near my neighbor’s prairie last summer for the first time in at least eight years.

Possibly the biggest hazard for American Kestrels to overcome today is the loss of their precious habitat. The once large expanses of pastures and prairies sufficient to sustain hunting American Kestrels have been crammed into roadside ditches as more and more land in Iowa is converted to farming.  More importantly, however, their nesting sites are being diminished. American Kestrels normally nest in dead trees on the edges of open grassland, but these trees are being removed (for a variety of reasons) and local American Kestrels are scattering to the wind. This species has more recently tried moving into towns and out of the rural areas in an effort to overcome habitat loss, but in towns American Kestrels face the threat of larger birds of prey, specifically the Cooper’s Hawk which will eat a kestrel.

A further danger facing American Kestrels is a decline in flying insect populations, which kestrels depend on to feed their young. A few years ago, when Iowans filled their cars up with gas they routinely wiped down their windshields to clean off the copious amounts of smashed bugs, but today many Iowans are finding the need for a Casey’s squeegee quite unnecessary.  I hadn’t given this conundrum much thought until rather recently when I obtained my learner’s permit to drive.  A disturbing example of how an often-overlooked animal can disappear literally before our eyes.

With fewer Kestrels around my home, I wonder what has happened to their daring aerial displays, their hunting chases and jaw-dropping turns and dives I’m so used to watching? What has happened to the American Kestrels that once lined the roads and swooped out over the fields as cars passed? Did these birds simply disappear over the horizon to some distant state? Will the same thing happen to the American Kestrel that has already happened to so many other North American raptors, suddenly plummeting off the population charts like the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Osprey did so many years ago (albeit for other reasons)? Or will insightful, smart, compassionate people step in to save the American Kestrel before that last-hour collapse?  My hope is we can help the American Kestrel in time.  Iowa needs American Kestrels like we need the prairies and clean water.  This is Iowa.  This is our legacy.

 ‘A Prairie Girl’s Notebook’ is inspired by ‘A Naturalist’s Notebook’ penned by John Schmitt & found in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Living Bird journal.

If you would like to own a high-quality 12-inchX16-inch canvas print of the American Kestrel I drew for this essay and support American Kestrel conservation and research at the same time, PLEASE consider participating in my eBay auction (an eBay account is required in order to bid).  All proceeds from the auction will be split evenly between the Pottawattamie Conservation Foundation (funds earmarked for the Hitchcock Hawkwatch) and also The Peregrine Fund’s American Kestrel Partnership which works to advance conservation of the American Kestrel.  The auction runs for seven days and can be found using this web address: https://tinyurl.com/jfkf42c

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Canvas up for auction.

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Entry on the American Kestrel from Coralee’s Field Notebook.

References

Chi, Dora.  “Tracking Kestrels One Feather at a Time.”  Audubon.  National Audubon Society, 18 Aug. 2016, http://www.audubon.org/news/tracking-kestrels-one-feather-time.  5 Jan. 2017.

Davis, Kate.  American Kestrel: Pint-Sized Predator.  Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2014.

HawkCount.  Hawk Migration Association of North America, www.hawkcount.org.  Accessed 5 Jan 2017.

NatureCounts.  Bird Studies Canada, http://www.bsc-eoc.org/birdmon/default/main.jsp3. Accessed 5 Jan. 2017.

Toll, Jerry.  Iowa Young Birders Trip to Hitchcock Hawk Watch/Hitchcock Nature Area, 24 Sept. 2016, Hitchcock Nature Center, IA.  Address.