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Woodpeckers

DrJim, at the Every Blade of Grass blog, posted an interesting article on the appearance of a Northern Flicker Woodpecker in their yard in northern Colorado. Since we have our share of woodpeckers here in mid-central Arizona, I thought I would post about them. We see mostly Gila Woodpeckers but occasionally see Gilded Flickers too.

Gila Woodpeckers in Mesquite Tree Gilded Flicker and House Finch on the Backyard Feeder Gila Woodpecker on the Saguaro

Images: Woodpeckers - Click on any image to enlarge. Left and right images credit me. Center image credit Damsel

The image at the left shows a Gila Woodpecker couple in/on the mesquite tree directly across the road in front of our house. We have been seeing them having activity there since march or so. The image in the center is of a Gilded Flicker flushing a House Finch off of our backyard feeder. On the right is the male of another Gila Woodpecker couple perched adjacent to their hole in our big saguaro by the garage. We just noticed woodpecker activity in the saguaro over the past month.

One of the most interesting things to us in our retirement home is the desert wildlife. We are in a semi-rural area where these critters abound. Just this morning, we observed a Gambel’s Quail pair and their five or six little offspring on the retention wall behind the RV Drive as we were eating breakfast. Unfortunately, by the time the cameras came out, the birds were elsewhere. Maybe another time.

We haven’t been really good about regular blogging lately, but between the two of us, we get some really good photos of our desert wildlife and I think we might resume putting some of those up from time to time. Plus, it is springtime and Flowers are in bloom. Damsel has a bunch of those that we should share.

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Beltane - A Celtic Cross Quarter

beltane3.jpgThis 5th of May, 2021, Damsel and I have decided to skip the traditional “Cinco de Mayo” and celebrate “Beltane” instead. The Cross-Quarter day (midway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice) of Beltane, an ancient Celtic day of importance, occurs on May 5th this year according to the “Grand Octal Clock” which can be seen at the Archaeoastronomy.com website.

So, to celebrate the Celtic First Day of the Summer Season, we will be preparing a traditional Irish dinner of Corned Beef and Cabbage along with some boiled vegetables. I know, we just had that on March 17th for St. Patrick’s Day, but we like to have this meal more than once a year.

I discussed our Irish Ancestry in a post on St. Patrick’s Day last year. I also have English, Welsh, Scottish and some other mixed Northern European heritage along with a couple of Italians and one Choctaw great6th grandmother. Doing the math, that Indian ancestor qualifies me for Native American heritage benefits four times greater than Senator Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren. Of course, I wouldn’t do that - I’m not a Democrat.

So, since neither Damsel nor I have any Hispanic Genealogy, we will probably be more inclined to celebrate Beltane than Cinco de Mayo in the future on May the 5th. That being said, we will still, of course, indulge in Tex/Mex Cuisine from time to time.

Happy (Insert Your Preferred 3/5 Celebration Here) to you!

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Remembering Kate on Her Birthday

Morro Rock

We remember our Mom, Kate, on more occasions than just her birthday, but today she would have turned 101. She passed from us in September of 2013 and we still miss her.

The image above is of Morro Rock in the California town of Morro Bay. It’s a charming place to visit and the rock is where Kate wanted her cremains to be distributed. We can’t see the rock without thinking about Kate. She always told us how much she loved that place on the Pacific Coast west of San Luis Obispo, CA.

Image courtesy of Damsel taken 24 July 2009 at Morro Bay. Click on the image to enlarge.

Out of respect for our Mom, we will refrain from inserting a rant here about the liberal slimes running the show out in K-Stan these days and how we are reluctant to visit in person.

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Another New Camera Lens

SL1 w/New 250mm LensI posted here before about acquiring a 400mm telephoto lens for my little Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and that lens is worth every dime I spent on it. The only drawback is its size and weight when you want to go out into the desert to capture a few photos of critters. It is a bit clunky lugging it around on a walk up the road or for other events where you might want to get photos of subjects that may be dozens of yards away or perhaps more than that.

Image - Camera with the new EF-S 55-250mm Zoom Lens attached. Click on the image to enlarge.

The SL1, when I purchased it in 2014, shipped with the standard 18-55mm lens and an additional 75-300mm telephoto lens, neither of which were of really decent quality. The latter, after a couple of years, developed an autofocus intermittency and had to be scrapped. Plus, in 2019, we replaced the stock lens with a superior quality 18-135mm lens.

So, the bottom line is that I wanted a lightweight intermediate zoom lens for those times that I mentioned above. So far, since I received the new lens last Thursday, I am pleased with its performance. I took the cactus wren photo today at a range of about 35 feet and the lunar photo last Friday during the full February “Snow Moon.” I cropped both images down from the full-frame size to enhance the subjects. Click on either image to enlarge. I am especially pleased with the sharpness of the mountains and craters on the moon which is not bad for an intermediate telephoto lens.

Cactus Wren on Saguaro Snow Moon

I other news, I renewed my expired AZ Driver’s License yesterday. The expiration was covered by an extension due to the pandemic, but that extension ran out at the end of February, so I drove to the MVD and got my renewal. I should get the new license by mail in a week or two.

In other other news, our COVID-19 vaccines have not yet arrived in our area. There are two venues in town through which we can be vaccinated but neither on-line registration is yet available. We’re both eligible for the vaccines by virtue of age.

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38th Annual Toyz 4 Totz Cruise and Car Show

Damsel and I went to our usual first Sunday of December event which is the Cops Who Care and Remember When Cruise Wickenburg Run for the benefit of local kids at Christmas (see poster below). We packed in a couple of unwrapped toys to donate to the cause even though we didn’t participate in the cruise. We consider it a photo op and an enjoyable trek down memory lane.

As usual, Damsel took a lot of photos but these three caught my eye to post here today. There were several Jeeps (Mfg. Willys) on display at the show. The first two images below are of a very clean (and new-looking) Jeep. I recall driving the Navy version of one of these for the Division I served in at NAS Point Mugu in the early 1960s and this one reminded me of that vehicle.

Clean Jeep Front View Clean Jeep Interior Modified Jeep

Well, as you can see, the third image is of a slightly modified Jeep. I didn’t get to talk to the owner, but the card in the window said it had a “blown big 8 cylinder block” for the engine. I had an urge to ask him to start it up so I could hear the unmuffled sounds of the eight chromed exhaust ports. I resisted and was satisfied to have the photo of the beast. Click on any image above to enlarge.

cops38th.jpg

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Thanksgiving Day 2020

Smoked Turkey BreastDamsel and I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. We plan to celebrate with a feast consisting of Smoked Turkey Breast with Gravy, Cornbread Dressing, Cranberry Sauce, Brussels Sprouts, Green Bean Casserole and Pumpkin Parfait Dessert. A feast indeed.

Image: Smoked and Sliced Turkey Breast. Click on the image to enlarge.

The image is from our 2018 Thanksgiving Dinner. We expect the same results today.

Since we are both on low carbohydrate and low-sodium diets, the dishes mentioned above are prepared using reduced salt and Keto® friendly ingredients. The turkey breasts are commercially-available such as Jennie-O™ or Butterball™ brands. They come frozen in a pop-in-the-oven plastic bag. We open the bag and discard the accompanying gravy packet. We rinse off all the coatings on the breast and soak in clear water to remove the brine. After applying our own poultry seasonings, we pop it into the smoker and set it to cook slowly over the next few hours.

As I write this, I can smell the smoker doing its thing out on the patio just behind the office where I sit. We are looking forward to today’s feasting. We will be thanking the Lord and asking Him to bless the feast, our country and all those celebrating this day of thanks. We wish all of you a festive and Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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Cataract Surgery Report

Lens ImplantIn August and then again in October, I had eye surgeries to replace aging lens elements in my eyes with artificial implants designed to eliminate cataracts and to correct visual acuity.

Image: Lens Implant similar to those now in my eyes. Alcon© AcrySof™ Click to enlarge.

My guess is that millions have had their cataracts replaced but this is my story and observations. The surgery is quick and painless with perhaps a small amount of discomfort that quickly abates afterward.

In my case, as I grew older, I became nearsighted and had to wear glasses to fly, drive and do anything that required distance acuity. I removed the glasses to read and work with things close-up. Kind of a pain in the ass without bifocals, and I hated bifocals so I did without. This was before progressive lenses were available.

After a while I wore a contact lens in one eye only so I could see distance, but the uncorrected eye was perfect for reading and working on the computer at home and work. No glasses other than shades were involved. This technique is called “monovision” with one eye corrected for distance and the other used for close work.

Then, about 23 years ago, I had Lasik® surgery to fix my right eye only in order to eliminate the need for a contact lens. Still monovision, but now independent of corrective lenses. I had glasses made for driving where the correction fixed the nearsighted eye and corrected for astigmatism in both eyes. I eventually added progressive corrections so I could seamlessly switch between the distance view and the instrument panel or GPS. That was the status quo up to the surgeries this year.

The left eye surgery was a standard lens replacement while the right eye was a bit more complex, which I will describe below. After the left eye was fixed, one of the first things I noticed was a rather pronounced difference in color perception between the fixed eye and the unfixed eye. With the left eye, white looked white and with the right eye, white looked yellow-ish. Blues were vivid in the left eye and dull with the right eye. I guess I underestimated how big an effect that cataracts have on your vision.

I mentioned that the replacement surgery in the right eye was more complex. When I had Lasik® in that eye I had no idea that it would affect the cataract surgery in that the cornea became distorted. To correct the cornea problem, a second procedure was needed. Before the lens replacement process, they put me under a machine that made contact with the cornea and fired several laser blasts to reshape it. Immediately after that the lens replacement took place with an additional measurement to determine which lens power to use. The surgeon then selected the proper power and completed the surgery.

All the follow up appointments with the ophthalmologist went well. I was now seeing 20/20 with the right eye and the left eye was suitable for close work and reading. This month, I ordered two pairs of prescription glasses - one pair of shades with progressive lenses for driving and daytime outdoor use and another single-vision clear pair for watching TV and other night time use.

Damsel and I were out the last couple of evenings watching the ISS fly over. As a bonus, the crescent Moon, Jupiter and Saturn were gathering together in the southwestern sky in a gorgeous asterism. And Stars! So many Stars all now brightly focused and brilliant. I can SEE!

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