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!


February Heatwave

To say it’s been warm in Iowa the last few days is an understatement.  This is a heatwave!  I feel like it’s the end of April and I need to be out in the garden.  Iowa weather is very tricky.  It will probably snow next week.  Harmon is sure enjoying his first steps–literally–outside the past two days.  He was wary at first, but quickly took off & wandered aimlessly (or maybe not?) all over the yard.  He is still unsteady on his feet & fell over as much as he remained upright.  We discovered he is afraid of the dogs up close, would like to catch one of the cats, & doesn’t really care about the chickens up close, either.  

He’s telling me all about the rooster crowing in this photo.This is Louisa.  One of our favorite chickens at the moment.

On Saturday we headed east to the Mississippi River in Davenport for an Iowa Young Birders trip on Credit Island.  Lots of Ring-billed Gulls & Bald Eagles.June found many gull feathers + she was wearing her new spring jacket resplendent with flying gulls so she wanted her photo taken in front of a large flock of gulls hanging out on the ice.I’m posing, Mama, snap the photo!

Harmon’s first time on a swing!

Later we swung by the University of Iowa to pick up Harmon’s godmother (& cousin) Miss Bailey for lunch at our favorite place Sutliff Bridge & Tavern.  I’ve blogged about Sutliff several times over the years.Quizzing June on her bird knowledge.Harmon is generally very very wary of people other than his mama & Coralee, but he took to Bailey straight off!  So sweet! ❤Happy Weekend Warmth!

Yarn Along a western road


Guess what?  I won the lottery!!!  Ok, no, I didn’t, something even better happened!  I–at long long last–finished Harmon’s Wee Envelope!  A good deal of car knitting this past Monday & Tuesday did the trick!  I even got the 65 million ends woven in so now all it needs is four buttons & Harmon will be ready for his (month-late) six-month photo session this Saturday with my western bestie Mia!  The hotel I am staying at is literally 50 yards from a yarn shop (how divine is that???!), so hopefully I can find buttons worthy of the ridiculous amount of time it took me to finish this sweater.  As soon as I tied off the last end yesterday afternoon, I cast on immediately for Coralee’s birthday gift (another thing I’m a month behind on)–Storyteller Hoodie in some scrumptious Madelinetosh.  I also continue to read the biography of Rachel Carson this week–I’m roughly halfway through now & just got an email from the library stating the book is due back tomorrow…& I’m out of renewals…story of my literary life!

Joining in with Ginny from the road.

Prairie Fire!

We drove north to Crumbacher Wildlife Area in Buchanan County last night to attend a controlled prairie burn.  The burn was ignited at dusk, just after 7PM, & took almost two hours to burn.  Prior to the burn, air temperature was around 41’F, relative humidity was 61.2%, and the highest recorded wind gust came in at 6mph.  Ranger Mike Van Raden told the assembled group (which included our family, a local reporter, Buchanan County Naturalist Sondra Cabell, Executive Director Dan Cohen, 2 park techs & 1 other ranger) the weather conditions were on the parameters of what he’d like for a burn, but doable.  Why so few people attended this AMAZING event, I have no clue…Iowa is not boring, people!  You just have to seek out the opportunities!  Anyway, off my soapbox.IMG_3378[1]Burn began in the back (south edge) of this reconstructed prairie which is to the east of the wetland pond.

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; wetland pond at dusk

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; fire started slower than expected

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; Coralee & Merritt’s view from down in the prairie about to be burned

IMG_3396[1]June was not impressed.  Harmon was not, either, & kept moaning/fussing in the carrier.  June collected a bunch of sticks & old seed pods which are still in the back of the Suburban.  Shortly after I took this photo & the next one, June, Harmon, & I hiked back to the Suburban.  June said the fire looked like lava & that she “knows what lava looks like because I watch Wild Kratts.”  She yelled at me that lava is scary; however, she clearly was not scared.  I think she was just plain old COLD.  IMG_3397[1]I accidentally had my HDR on when I took these photos–makes it more dramatic, I guess.  If you are on a laptop or PC, click on this photo–it’s way better viewed in a larger size.IMG_3398[1]Hangin’ in the ‘burb.  Wishin’ I was at the burn!  Thankfully, I could still see it from where we parked, but it wasn’t the same as being “right there” like Brian & the older kids experienced.  #fifthtrimester #preschooler

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; fire getting going now!

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; using a drip torch

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; using a drip torch

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie, Merritt Bodeker & Ranger Mike Van Raden

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; Merritt Bodeker & Ranger Mike Van Raden, hanging out, just feeling’ the BURN

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie fire

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie fire

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie fire

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie fire; kids were able to be right up next to the fire line–so cool!

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie fire

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie fire

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; Sondra Cabell (Naturalist) & local newspaper reporter

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; local reporter & Sondra Cabell (sidenote–Merritt keeps telling us he’s going to be “famous” because the reporter took his photo, ha!)

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie: Sondra Cabell & Dan Cohen (Exec. Dir.)

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Crumbacher Prairie; Sondra Cabell & Dan Cohen

IMG_3391[1]A natural masterpiece.  High five, Nature!

Cars out on the road were slowing down & parking once the fire really took off & darkness descended.  It was like lining up for Christmas lights, only a million times better.  #takebacktheprairies

Lately…{photo heavy}

This is basically a post where I throw everything-but-the-kitchen-sink in because I cannot find the time to blog (or shower) lately without Harmon wailing at me.  He learned to really holler last week Monday–I mean holler at me (us) with purpose, but also coo at us with purpose & babble loudly at us.  It is actually quite awesome, but as he is still not napping much, either, blogging time is nonexistent.  This large dump of photos is about the equivalent of four or five posts I planned to write–so here’s your second “photo-heavy” warning! IMG_3239[1]
Our dogs found a rabbit nest near our compost pile (which is roughly 20-30 yards from their kennels) & obliterated it.  They, along with our cat Socks, killed several of the bunnies.  Coincidentally, we also found a dead adult rabbit in one of our gutter drainage hoses this week (drowned, apparently, in the deluge we received), so perhaps that was the mother.  In any case, this bunny was in Sock’s mouth.  It is in good shape now & Coralee plans to release it today or tomorrow, down the drive from our homestead (away from our dogs/cats).  It may seem really small, but it is the right size to be able to survive on its own, hoping it does.

I have no time to cook/bake lately…again, Harmon is so cute, isn’t he?  Ha!  I am trying to make really easy dinners.  Last night was leftover ham, Irish Soda Bread, hardboiled eggs, cheese, fruit, etc.  I ate way too much.Our new cat Prairie (born July 2015–adopted in late summer after I accidentally ran over our female cat, Pepper) was injured by something this week.  Big puncture wound in the back of his back right leg.  This photo is from before the injury.  Racked up a huge vet bill having him treated for it.  He is improving, thankfully.IMG_3252[1]Ferdie, our goose, is molting again.








IMG_3261[1]Girls being goofy.


IMG_3262[1]Birding at the bus stop.

Harmon tagged along a few weeks ago while Coralee monitored one of our Bald Eagle nests.Hard to discern in this photo, but there is an eagle on the nest!
How Harmon birds when it’s freezing & the wind is blowing like a freight train.  Seems to happen a lot in Iowa.IMG_3267Bird blind at Ham Marsh in Buchanan County.  We saw two Sandhill Cranes on the edge of the prairie pond here–they were bugling very loudly, we could hear them as we came down the trail.  Impressive!
Harmon nursing in a bird blind for the first time. #milestone

ⒸCoralee Bodeker

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Brown Creeper

Lately we’ve done a lot of neat things, I must admit, but it sure takes a lot more planning with Harmon in tow.

Lately is good.  Hope your lately is good, too!

Weekend with Bernie

This blog is about four little Iowans, so I’m thinking it’s safe to say readers realize I live in Iowa.  As an Iowa transplant (Wisconsinite by birth!) I am all caught up as of late in the crazy that is the presidential nomination season.  Coralee, Brian, Harmon and I went to see Bernie Sanders speak on Saturday in Manchester, Iowa.  None of us has actually ever attended a single campaign event EVER.  I find that pathetic as I take voting very very seriously.  So, despite the fact we have a slightly colicky 8 week old, I was determined to see at least one candidate in the flesh speak this go-around.  I’m not endorsing anyone yet, but I’m leaning towards Bernie.  I think. I don’t know!  My mind changes by the minute.  Hopefully I’ll figure it out before I caucus tomorrow night (with Harmon in tow, could be very interesting).  Here’s an explanation of the Iowa caucus in case you’ve ever wondered what in the blazes it is we do here every two years (yes, two).  Happy Caucus Eve!
This afternoon Brian and I went for a hike around our property with June and Harmon.  June led the way & she is a really good navigator!  Took us to all her “haunts” such as the place where “the owl killed the bird” (we think it was one of our neighbor’s farm ducks, yikes!).  The weather was quite warm, but breezy.  There is supposedly a giant snowstorm on the way scheduled to hit Monday evening late…I’ll believe it when I see it! 
 Not sure what the face I’m making is all about!  Harmon did really well bundled up in his Tula.

 I visited our filthy chicken run (by way of wading through the muddy moat) to check out Coralee’s show chicken for Fair this year. This is Frost all grown up and all filthy!  She is going to be a lesson in patience for Coralee keeping those feathers of hers constantly cleaned and groomed come the Benton County Fair in July…but Coralee’s definitely a thoughtful, purposeful, deliberate person like her Daddy, so I have no doubt she’ll do great!

Not much left in the slop bucket for you, Frost!

Hope you enjoyed your weekend!

UPDATE: I did indeed caucus for Bernie, but, unfortunately, in my precinct of roughly 70ish folks, Bernie only carried enough votes for 1 state convention delegate to Hillary’s 3.  The lone person that wanted to caucus for O’Malley went with Hillary almost instantly.  My county overall went Hillary.  The statistical tie between the two candidates overall in Iowa, however, is quite exciting!  I definitely think my vote mattered & the race is on!  In terms of the blizzard bearing down on Iowa, Storm Kayla is proving a flop where I live.  We might get an inch or two of snow and then rain after that…bother.

Caucusing in a school library.



Birds, Butterflies, & Treehouses :: A Saturday Well-Spent

(This post is a trifle late to print.)

A couple weekends ago–on July 11th–we had planned to spend the day in central Iowa on an Iowa Young Birders trip, but the trip was cancelled due to stormy weather. We were already packed up, in the car, & on the road when we got the cancellation call & since we’d already blocked the whole day out for the trip, we figured we’d head west anyway.

First stop–a birding spot in the southern part of our county (Benton) that Coralee & I have been meaning to visit for several months. Officially it’s called the Iowa River Corridor Central Wildlife Management Area-Hwy 21 Access. It’s a large hodge-podge swath of various public lands cobbled together along the river, surrounded by agricultural fields.  We picked up a fantastic county bird–Dickcissel.  It looks a lot like an Eastern Meadowlark, but smaller and more sparrow-like.  We counted 5 separate individuals & all were singing loudly & beautifully near the road.  Photos below were digiscoped by Coralee through binoculars, so a bit blurry.


We had planned to eat lunch in Ames, Iowa (home of Iowa State University) at the Great Plains Sauce & Dough Co.–one of the first places Brian & I went on a date together in the spring of 2000.  The kids do not particularly like the pizza nor the atmosphere & always roll their eyes when we dine there (about once a year), but, hey, we were young & fun once, too!  We arrived in Ames a bit early for lunch, so went over to ISU’s Reiman Gardens.  The butterfly house was the highlight of the stop without a doubt.  June LOVES butterflies & could have lived in the building, I’m sure.





We then toured the outside gardens for about an hour.  The kids loved the current exhibit–InTREEguing TREEhouses.  According to the website, visitors can “[e]xperience the beauty of the natural world from a new perspective with this interactive outdoor display featuring treehouses scattered throughout Reiman Gardens. Each playhouse showcases the talents of local architects and artists, and are inspired by a unique cultural or social event.”IMG_5079[1]


World’s Largest CONCRETE Gnome!


Our favorite treehouse–The Aviary.  It featured several pieces of artwork designed to resemble the real nests of various bird species.



Before we departed the Gardens, we checked out the butterfly/moth incubator.  June was entranced.IMG_5158[1]


Our last stop was the site of the planned Iowa Young Birders trip.  We didn’t get much chance to bird here due to the insane heat & humidty by mid-afternoon & also the proximity to June’s naptime.  It appears to be an excellent birding hotspot, we’ll have to visit again with more time (& less heat!).IMG_5160[1]

I think we made the most of a day interrupted! 🙂