Family Time

My daughter was the surprise for Dan’s retirement/Father’s Day family get-together. She flew in from Texas with one grandbaby just in time for the Central Valley’s big heat wave. We escaped the heat for awhile yesterday by driving  to El Dorado National Forest to hang out with Matt and Kaleena until they got off work at 6 p.m.

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Matt and Kaleena both work for the Forest Service and are based at different parts of the same facility. Matt is in charge of the helicopter.

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We walked out to the helipad for a tour.

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Note the effect of the King Fire from a few years ago.

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Kasen seems to be a fan.

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Chris was studying the instrument panel to decide if he should move some of the switches around.

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I think he restrained himself.

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Kasen seemed ready to try.

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My three kids and one grandkid. (Kirby stayed home with Dad in Texas.)

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Kaleena works on the other side of the compound.IMG_0290

Matt goes to fires in the helicopter and Kaleena drives this truck.

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Here is her view from up high.

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The official fire danger may have been low but they have been on nearby fires already the day after we were there Kaleena and her crew left for the Angeles National Forest.

 

A Lot of Random Stuff This Week

Can you believe that it is going to be over 100 degrees by the weekend …IMG_0163

…and  just four days ago it was in the 60’s-70’s with a thunderstorms…IMG_0164

…and hail?

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The morning of the storm, when it was bright and sunny out I saw that a big branch of this weeping willow had broken during the night–not storm related. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but where that big space is with sun shining through–that is where the branch was.

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The sheep made quick work of the leaves up to the height they could reach.

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Big event–my husband retired last week. I was worried that he would wear out his end of the couch, but after getting over a bad cold, he’s been outside spending time doing Stuff That Needs Doing.IMG_0191-2

One of those things is cutting tree branches that block the view from the driveway.

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In the sheep world, we’re getting ready to go to Black Sheep Gathering next week, so that means halter breaking lambs. A few Farm Club members have come over to help. That sheep is not hurt or dead. She is just protesting.

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This is a blurry photo of the back of a ram lamb’s head. What it shows is two horns on the right that are growing close together. Ideally Jacob sheep have symmetrical, balanced horns. I’ll wait and see how that 5th horn is going to grow out.

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I put a 40-yard warp on the Schacht loom and cut off 12 baby blankets. There are more to go but I needed to get some of these done. That reminds me I need to contact someone who ordered pink blankets.

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New items in the shop and on the website soon. These just came–Schacht flick carder, tapestry beater, and weaving cards.

I wanted to finish the warp on the AVL. The computer that is attached to it decided to update itself. This is a PC and everything else I do is on a Mac. I don’t remember the PC world at all.

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This message had me really frustrated. I can’t weave on that loom if I can’t get the computer and the loom to talk to each other. With trial and error I finally got it going again, but I have no faith that it will work when I turn it on the next time.

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So I stayed out there at the loom until I finished that warp so that at least I have some time to work with it if there is another problem.

Shadow Pictures

Right now I’m sitting at my desk with one Border Collie (Rusty) at my feet under the desk and the other behind the chair. Ginny has never been gun shy or afraid of things in the sky but this thunderstorm has her rattled too. Rusty is terrified. So I left the loom where I was weaving and I’ll wait it out with them. We don’t often have thunderstorms here.

I had planned to write this blog post about our walk Across the Road in yesterday’s sunshine.

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Guess who with something in her mouth?

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Ginny watches the Ball and Rusty watches Ginny.

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Ginny constantly drops the ball in the water but this year she gets herself. Last year I was fishing it out for her.

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I don’t say much about Maggie because she usually wanders ahead and does her own thing out of range of the camera. I called her over to get a photo.

 

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The late afternoon sun gives light to other subjects as well.

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Ginny found a ball that we lost at some point in the tall grass. Now the grass is gone and she saw it in a dried tractor track. It’s a good thing because the ball on the right isn’t in very good shape at this point.

MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 7 Continued – The End

That last post was really long but I have so many photos that I wanted to include. The day wasn’t over when we left Assateague Island. We had a mission ahead of us.

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Dona took this photo before we left California. You pass this sign on Highway 50 entering Sacramento from the west. We figured that if there was a sign for Maryland at this end of Highway 50 then there would be a sign at the other end too, so we drove to Ocean City.

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We parked and started walking to find our sign. The beach and the Atlantic Ocean are just past the Boardwalk, so we have to go the other direction.

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We were on the right track. We hadn’t seen any sign coming into town, but it didn’t take us too long to realize that we’d been facing the wrong direction to notice a sign meant for west-bound travelers.

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A sign of interest, but not the one we were looking for.

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A gorgeous old building.

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We found it!

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Mission accomplished.

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We still had time in the parking meter so walked back to the Boardwalk. Do you remember the photo in the last post of this area 10 miles to the north of the Assateague National Seashore? What a far cry from the beach and the dunes. The beach here is just to the right of those light poles.

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We stopped at a memorial to fire fighters…IMG_9662

…and reflected on the world. Then it was time for ice cream.

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We found Dumser’s Dairyland. It was late in the day and we didn’t need to eat another meal out. We had plenty of food to use up back at the house because we weren’t going to be able to take it with us. But before heading to the house we drove a few miles south to the town of Snow Hill. Kathleen had heard that it was an interesting place to see. Snow Hill was founded in 1642 (you can’t say that on the West Coast) on the Pocomoke River. Although there was a disastrous fire in 1893 there are still pre-Revolutionary War structures in the town. We did not search out the various buildings but did a random, meandering tour through the old part of town and I found references to some of the ones I photographed later.

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The Governor John Walter Smith House, a Queen Anne Victorian, built about 1889.

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United Presbyterian Church, build in 1889.

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River House Inn, built in the 1860’s.

That was it for adventure. Back to our house, clean up, pack up, and get ready to leave for home in the morning.

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This is the house were we stayed the last couple of nights in Maryland.

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We got on the road and I was navigating. Oops! Delaware? Right, I hadn’t paid attention that we’d be entering another state. I don’t think you get to count it as a visit unless you actually get out of the car though.

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The rest of this is rather anti-climactic after this fabulous trip. Just photos taken while driving riding. Beautiful rural countryside.

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Big round bales. You don’t see those around here.

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More big barns.

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There’s a Maryland sign that I don’t think I got when entering the first time…at least not from the plane.

That’s it. Back to California. We had an adventure to be remembered for a long time. We didn’t do any one thing that was all that adventurous, but Actually Doing It was the important thing. And spending this time with each other was a treasure.

MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 7 – Ponies!

It’s been almost a month since we started embarked on this trip so I guess I’ve had extended enjoyment while organizing photos and thinking about the blog posts.  I don’t know how many people really read my posts, but there have been some who have asked “what about the ponies?”

Day 6 was spent learning about Fort McHenry and exploring Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad. We spent a comfortable night at our AirB&B in Berlin and got on the road in time to get to the Assateague Island National Seashore…  DSC_1017

…when the Visitor Center opened. The area is managed jointly by the National Park Service and Maryland Park Service.

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Assateague Island is a barrier island that is 37 miles long and separated from the mainland by Chincoteague Bay and Sinepuxent Bay. The northern two thirds is in Maryland and the southern one third is part of Virginia. If you were a horse-crazy girl once then what you know about these islands is that there are wild ponies living there, made famous by Marguerite Henry’s book, Misty of Chincoteague.  We had come to find the ponies.

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Only part of  the island is accessible on a paved road that connects campgrounds and trails. We hadn’t gone far when we found them. Ponies!

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Just pretend that you don’t know that they were in a parking lot near the bathrooms. Signs everywhere warn people to leave the ponies alone and don’t offer food. It’s the same kind of warnings that you read in Yellowstone about not feeding bears and packing food away. People are kicked and bitten by ponies and the ponies are hit by cars when they get used to people offering food.

These ponies didn’t seem to be going anywhere soon…

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…so we walked to the beach.

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We had made it to the Atlantic.

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That is Ocean City, about 10 miles north. Can you see the ferris wheel and the amusement park in the middle of the photo? What a contrast when looking from the National Seashore.

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The barrier islands are “among the most dynamic landforms on earth”. There is constant change. Assateague Island is moving west, at an accelerated rate after jetties were constructed near Ocean City in the 1930s.  At one time Assateague Island was to be developed, and in the 1950s a 15-mile road was created on the Maryland side of the island. A hurricane in 1962 wiped out structures and covered the road, and legislation in 1965 created the National Seashore.

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The ponies are most likely descendants of horses that were brought to the island 300 years ago by farmers who took advantage of the natural “corral” made of water. Farmers were required to pay taxes on their livestock and by turning them loose on the island, they could avoid the tax. I usually try to be scientifically accurate about what I write, but there is some artistic license here. The documentation from the Park Service says that genetically these are HORSES, not PONIES. The small stature is a result of years of adaptation to a diet of abundant, but nutrient-poor salt-marsh grasses.

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Sorry. I will continue to call them ponies while I’m talking about our visit. They are used to paparazzi. We were lucky to be visiting in the off-season and on a weekday. There were very few people around. It would have been a very different scene if the parking lots and roads were full.

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The ponies wandered off and we drove on to find more.

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This looked like a very old pony at an empty campground. The Maryland ponies are managed as wildlife are. From the brochure, “While action may be taken to end the suffering of a gravely ill, seriously injured, or dying horse, no measure are taken to prolong the lives of Maryland’s wild horses. As with other species of Assateague wildlife, horses that are sick or weak do not survive.” The population is controlled using a non-hormonal, non-invasive vaccine, administered by a dart, to prevent pregnancy. With this method the birth rate has been lowered to fewer than ten foals each year which maintains the population at under 125 horses.

A fence that separates the Maryland and  Virginia herds. The Virginia herd is privately owned and produces 60-90 foals each year. The foals are sold at auction after the annual swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island and the proceeds go to veterinary care, the fire department, and various charities. There are week-long festivities around this event and you can see videos at this link.

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There are three nature walk trails through the marsh, the forest, and the dunes. We started with the marsh trail.

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We spotted this osprey that had caught a fish.

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We watched for quite awhile while it circled, still carrying it’s fish.

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Diamondback terrapins.

American Oystercatcher-Laughing Gull

Two laughing gulls and an American oystercatcher…

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…who was not welcome.

Short billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher.

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We drove down another road…

 

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…where we saw a group of people gathered. From my Yellowstone experience (people stopping in the road when wildlife is spotted), I figured that that meant Ponies!

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This group was a little more picturesque, being “in the wild” instead of “in the parking lot”.

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There was a Pony Patrol volunteer with that group of people answering questions and making sure that ponies aren’t harassed.

We drove to the next trail–the forest nature trail.

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Loblolly pines are the dominate forest species.

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Poison ivy.

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At the end of that trail we saw the same group of ponies, but from a different view. Notice the paddle-boarders in the marsh. What a great way to see the marsh and the ponies.

One more interesting pony fact: “The Assateague horses drink over twice the amount of water that domesticated horses will due to their salty food supply. All that drinking combined with a high salt diet contributes to their bloated appearance.”

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We drove to the Dune Nature Trail.

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Chris needed some beach time so Kathleen and I walked the trail while Chris enjoyed the beach, albeit a bit cold and windy.

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Remember the road that I said was built in the 1950s? Part of it is still visible.

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As we left the park we were faced with that age-old question.

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“Why does the pony cross the road?”

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Because the grass is greener?

This was another full day (and a very full blog post) but there is more Maryland scenery. That will be another post.

 

MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 6 – Harriet Tubman NHP

On Day 6 of our adventure we spent the first part of the day at Ft. McHenry National Monument. Then we headed for Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad in Dorchester County, Maryland. Maryland landscape-17

I commented in the last post that there is a lot of water in Maryland!

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At this time Chris was driving and we didn’t know until we got here that driving across bridges is not one of her favorite things.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge

This is a 4-mile bridge across Chesapeake Bay.

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Kathleen gave moral support from the back seat. Chris did just fine.

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I rode shotgun trying to figure out where we were going and not wanting to miss any photo ops. It turns out that our Visitor Center was not on this map because it is brand new.

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The Visitor Center is co-managed by the State of Maryland and the Park Service. To fully experience the Underground Railroad site you can follow a driving tour 223 miles through Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. There is written and digital documentation to explain the sites along the way. But we didn’t know that when we made this plan. So we ended up seeing only a fraction of what is actually part of the Underground Railroad Byway.

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The exhibits in the Visitor Center gave us a good understanding of Harriet Tubman’s life and the heroism that she showed in escaping slavery and then returning many times to rescue over 70 family members and friends.

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A chilling quote that describes some of the anguish inflicted by one person on another.

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At the last stop in the Visitor Center there is a video with modern era commentary about human rights and the fact that we still struggle.

Blackwater River

After leaving the Visitor Center we followed the Driving Tour map for a short way on our way to picking up Interstate 50. We drove through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, largely unchanged from the time when Harriet Tubman lived in the area.

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There are signs along the way.

Bucktown

This is the Bucktown Store, closed when we drove by. Harriet was in this store when the shopkeeper threw a 2-pound weight at a slave who was fleeing the store, but instead hit Harriet, nearly killing her.

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The one-lane, wooden Bestpitch Ferry Bridge at the site of a former ferry landing. Agricultural and timber products were transported on rafts.

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Harriet’s knowledge of the waterways and survival in the marshes aided her in escape and rescuing others.

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We inadvertently left the documented byway and followed country roads toward the Nanticoke River where we would turn north to pick up I-50.

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I wish I knew what that very tall grass was on the side of the road.

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Modern farming. We saw a lot of these huge long barns and decided that they were probably chicken houses. Agriculture is Maryland’s largest commercial industry and livestock, particularly broilers (5-12 week old chickens), followed by dairy, are the leading products.

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Drive-by photography.

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Vienna

This house is in the town of Vienna where we joined up with I-50.

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This “beachy” comfortable house near the town of Berlin was to be our headquarters for the next two nights. Look familiar? Chris and Kathleen figuring out where to go for dinner. They found a seafood restaurant and I had salmon, grits, and sweet potato fries. Southern dining. I hadn’t realized until this trip how close to “The South” Maryland is.

Our first day of site seeing took us to Harpers Ferry and  immersion in Civil War era politics and strife. We had a wonderful diversion at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival during the weekend. Then we saw Gettysburg and were immersed in Civil War history for a day. Fort McHenry took us back into history, focusing on another war and also learning about the Fort’s role during the Civil War as well. Learning about the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman emphasized this sobering and grim part of U.S. history known as slavery. Maybe it’s like reading the newspaper–most of what makes “news” is not happy. These episodes of history depict the desire for power  and the struggle of those being oppressed.

I was ready to see PONIES! That will be tomorrow.