March 30, 2014 – Transylvania, Dracula, and Segesvár

For Linda’s two weeks in Transylvania, I might as well start with the most famous (for Americans, at least) of all Transylvanian icons – Dracula. Of course, the “inspiration” for Bram Stoker’s Dracula was, in part “Vlad the Impaler” who lived in this place in the 1400s. Here’s just a line telling what kind of a guy he was from a publication in the 1500s: “He roasted children, whom he fed to their mothers. And (he) cut off the breasts of women, and forced their husbands to eat them. After that, he had them all impaled.”  The city is named Sighisoara or Segesvár (the first is the Romanian name, the second is the Hungarian name; Transylvania was part of Hungary until the borders were redrawn  after WW1 when it became part of Romania).

The fortified city was built in the late 1100s or early 1200s when the King of Hungary invited German craftsmen to settle and defend his kingdom.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

This place is one of the best examples of a preserved  small medieval fortified city.  It is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

The approach to part of the city.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

These buildings are all inside the citadel.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara bastion

Linda in front of one of the bastions – each bastion was occupied by a separate guild where they would practice their craft and be on guard. A guild in medieval times according to Wikipedia is ” an association based on  trades, confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, glass workers, each of whom controlled secrets of traditionally imparted technology, the “arts” or “mysteries” of their crafts. Usually the founders were free independent master craftsmen who hired apprentices.  

March 29, 2014 – Last Year’s Chores

Finally getting a wrap on last fall’s chores that were left unfinished.

squaw creek

Here’s what the pruning of a 60 foot of blackberries looks like!

Other mundane spring chores that aren’t really noticeable by anybody but me include picking th remaining deadfall apples, pruning the fruit trees, picking rocks out of the grass moved by plowing snow, finishing the under deck skirting to keep critters out, cleaning up the dead tomatoes and taking the cages out, moving big rocks and cement blocks lying around to a consolidated neat home, cutting out windbreak trees that were not sold as Christmas trees that were planted 5 feet apart and need to be 20 feet apart when mature, cutting down mulberry trees is fencelines, and best of all, getting the first planting of lettuce, radishes, spinach in the ground.

March 28, 2014 – Thank You Mr. Badger

Not the Wisconsin Badgers, mind you, but the badger who evidently lives a few miles down the road and is an awesome digger! Guess the soil is now unfrozen for this critter to dig out such an impressive pile of dirt.

badger hole

As I needed some black dirt to reinforce some raised beds, this beats digging myself or driving to town to buy some in plastic bags. No lumps. just fine, black topsoil.

March 16, 2014 – Brief Moments On the Lake

While in Waukegan, I took an early morning stroll down to the beach.

squaw creek

This must be one of the most deceptive photos I’ve ever taken.  I’m surprised the photo is so clear, as my hands could only be out of my pockets for a few moments at a time because of the cold.  The temperature was 17 degrees, and the wind was blowing off the lake so hard, you could almost lean forward and not fall fall down.

squaw creek

The odd-shaped rectangular objects are sand-covered ice hunks.

squaw creek

It was a treat to see and hear the lake.  Walking towards the lake, from behind the dunes, my first sense is that of a deep white noise.  Walking closer, the mid-range sounds of individual waves crashing on the beach becomes detectable, finally, crossing over the top of the dunes, the high trebles of the tinkling of the water retreating back into the lake and bouncing ice crystals completes the soundscape.

Oh yeah, and the buffeting wind, howling unobstructed all the way across the lake from somewhere off the upper peninsula of Michigan, meeting my face as the first obstruction it faced in a few hundres miles.

March 15, 2014 – Claire onto Florida with Mock Trial Team

Claire’s Mock Trial team at Macalester College participated in the “super rgionals” near Chicago after advancing at an earlier tournament in the Twin Cities.

squaw creek

Claire at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, IL. It was my first time to see the team in action.  In a nutshell, the team gets details of a court case and present the case before a “judge” – usually a couple of practicing attorneys.  The team has attorneys and witnesses and does not know if they will be prosecuting a case or defending a case.  I was impressed with the poise, presentation, and knowledge of the teams that participated.

squaw creek

Probably not a surprise that the team advances to the National Finals in Orlando in a couple of weeks!  Here, senior captain Claire with the team and coaches show off the hardware!

March 10, 2014 – Ice Breakup on Squaw Creek

While I dropped Martin off at church this evening, I had a couple hours to spend in Ames, so I wandered over to Squaw Creek to check out the river to take advantage of the warm day and extended daylight.

squaw creek

The creek was churning and crashing, sending its winter mantle of ice south.

ice breakup

It was something to witness that only happens once a year and reminded me that yes, I really do live in the north, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.

In the hour or so I was there, the amount of ice dramatically decreased, owing to the temporary nature of the ice out.

Here’s a short video clip of the ice out.

March 9, 2014 – Two, Count ‘Em Two, Signs Spring is Near

Finally!

Tapped a few maple trees today.

The stream in the back pasture willed itself into being today.

Only a couple hours before this, you can see Linda stepped through the snow to get some pussy willows – a few hours later, a couple feet of water appeared, burying her tracks.

But there’s still a lot of snow to melt – in some places the drifts still barely reach over the top of the pasture fence.

And a garden bed is still a long ways from planting.

March 2nd, 2014 – Sigh…

Everybody in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. knows about this winter.  Today the temperature is forecast for a high of -1.  Then -15 tonight.

Martin against the snowbank on the side of the road.

Just as a flashback, this is a picture from February 20, 2012, getting ready to get a few seeds in the ground!  I’d be all for a happy medium between these extremes!