July 2009


My last My World  Tuesday post had a little about the Indian Slant Village near Mandan,  North Dakota.

This photo is of a lodge pole outside an earth lodge at the village. Apparently these interesting items have to do with spirits and the religion of the Mandan Native Americans.

2009.07.30.SWF.2009-06-12.LodgePole

For the record, before I moved to New Mexico, I compared all skies to “North Dakota” blue.

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures or to find out how to participate in this meme, head to the SkyWatch blog.

The different aspects of the comments of my last post was interesting to me. The comments about the snake surprised me as it was only a small part of the experience. But I liked it, because snakes fascinate me.

No, I do not want to own one and let it slither all over my house. Truth be told, I do not even like to hold them very much. I have a huge irrational phobia of worms, and poor snakes make me nervous because of their worm-like shape–not because they are snakes. I would actually hold a thousand snakes before I would hold a harmless worm, but I prefer to hold neither. (I understand the irrationality of this, but we all have to have some weird quirks.)

So I thought you might like to see the best close-up I have of the snake from the last post.

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

Celeste from Celestial Ramblings thinks it is a Bull Snake.  (It did not hiss, Celeste.)  Now I trust Celeste’s identification completely. She knows her animals; that is her job. But I grew up in Missouri where every brown harmless snake of size is a bull snake and every black one is a black snake. I think I need some reptile education! Or maybe there are lots of types of bull snakes. But probably where I grew up, all brown snakes were called that no matter what they were. (This is not to say no one in Missouri could distinguish between snakes, but let’s be honest. The general population is not that interested in snakes.)

This reminded me of another time I got some good pictures of a snake.

It was Labor Day weekend three years ago. We were hiking at the local extinct volcanoes. Chic was almost five, and Chicklet was almost 2-1/2. This meant Chicklet was riding on Prince Charming’s shoulders. We also had the dog with us, who thankfully seems to have a natural inclination to avoid danger. (I just read about snake training at Damp Dog’s Blog.)

That year there had been a lot of rain beginning in mid-July. By Labor Day, our world was very green (in a desert-y sort of way).  The dirt trail was washed out in several places. We had to be very careful to not fall into crevices in the trail.

Prince Charming was in the lead, then Chic, then me. Suddenly Prince Charming stepped quickly away from the solid trail and fell, breaking through the washed-out part, leaving a giant hole in the trail.

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

Our Storm Cloud, Chicklet was safe, but screaming. This made Chic cry. This made me irritated. I asked why he had not been paying attention or whatever to do that because we had one hysterical and one unhappy girl on our hands now.

He pointed. There, next to the trail, with his footprint only a couple of inches from it, was a rattlesnake.

Can you see the footprint just below the snake on the left of the photo? (click photo to enlarge)

Can you see the footprint just below the snake on the left of the photo? (click photo to enlarge)

He nearly stepped on its tail, which caused it to coil for strike. All hysteria was forgotten by me since I had a new camera. I started getting closer and closer to take pictures. I am not a complete idiot; I made sure I was never close enough that it could reach me if it decided to jump and strike.  But I really did have a good time getting pictures with my worried husband and crying children in the background.

In the end, the snake was tired of us and left. I ran ahead trying to get a better shot, but it was only interested in leaving, as are most snakes I have encountered in my life.

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

Our trip last month took us to North Dakota for a family reunion. Prince Charming and I wanted to plant a letterbox there. We decided to place it in Fort Abraham Lincoln, so it is a good time to show you around as well.

Prince Charming took me to this place a time or two when we were dating. It is an interesting place to go, so I was looking forward to it. I thought our kids would like it, too. It is still interesting and fun, but it is different than it used to be.

For starters, we were met at the entrance by a surly curt park-ranger-type person. This person had red hair. Let it be known that having two red-haired daughters makes me give ANY redhead the benefit of the doubt. She needed more than that. Not only was she far-from-friendly, but she apparently did not tell us everything we needed to know. She did inform us that is would cost us $27 to get in. (The last time I went the only fee was if I wanted to tour a specific thing, which I did not, so it was free entry.)  Prince Charming’s sister was with us which added to the cost, but I could not help but think our carload could spend a week in a National Park for less money. (Turns out after checking online later that the parking fee ($5) was all that was required, but our surly host did not tell us for what we were paying. (I have no problem paying for things like this, but the price seemed unreasonable.)

First we headed to the Blockhouses. I knew the girls would like this because they were in open fields which allowed lots of running, and visitors may go inside and climb to the top.

Blockhouse. Click photo to enlarge.

Blockhouse. (Click photo to enlarge.)

We all enjoyed this except for our poor dog who had no interest whatsoever in climbing the ladder to the top. We eventually carried him up and down.

Interior of blockhouse. This ladder is to the top after climbing a flight of stairs. There is a narrow walkway around the edge between the stairs and the ladder. You can see P. Charming with Chicklet on his shoulders and the unhappy dog's ears. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Interior of blockhouse. This ladder is to the top after climbing a flight of stairs. There is a narrow walkway around the edge between the stairs and the ladder. You can see P. Charming with Chicklet on his shoulders and the unhappy dog's ears. (Click photo to enlarge.)

The view from the top is spectacular. Everyone’s favorite view must be the Missouri River, but one can see miles and miles in any direction. I like the view from the inside, too.

View of the Missouri River from inside the blockhouse. (Click photo to enlarge.)

View of the Missouri River from inside the blockhouse. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Outside there were some holes in the ground were military buildings (barracks, kitchens, etc.) used to be. My girls loved running down the hills the holes made.

Hole in ground left from former military building.

Hole in ground left from former military building.

Before leaving this area we saw a very long snake. I have no idea what it is. (I actually tried to find a way to identify it, but my quick check revealed it would not be simple.) I kept running ahead of it to get close-ups. I got a few, but it was mostly interested in leaving.

Unidentified very long snake. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Unidentified very long snake. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Next we went to the Mandan Indian Slant Village. The Mandan Indians were not nomadic; they were an agricultural community. They built huts into the ground. The ones here are all rebuilt.

Overall view of the Mandan Indian Slant Village. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Overall view of the Mandan Indian Slant Village. (Click photo to enlarge.)

I did not get any good pictures of the insides because our dog was in my charge by now, and he was not interested in going inside. I took him in the first one, and he nearly flipped out.  I have no idea what that was about, but I just sat outside in the shade while the tour continued. (This part was a tour with an interpreter which is part of why the extra fee was required. We could have gotten by with only $5 if we did not go on this tour.) The interpreter was marginally competent (and somewhat surly). (Please understand I am not a complainer and have a good attitude almost all of the time, but this was not one of the times.) There are signs that tell all the information the interpreter gave, so it seemed a bit useless to have him there. However,  I think due to some new signs since the last time I visited that they need the interpreters to be watch dogs. Apparently some visitors have no respect for anything and not only vandalize this area but do other disgusting things to it as well.

Entrance to slant village house. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Entrance to slant village house. (Click photo to enlarge.)

By the time the Fort was built in this area, the Mandan Indians had disappeared.

The last thing we saw, but did not tour (also part of the interpretive fee, but it was much past lunch and we had two young children) was Custer’s house. This is the  reconstructed house in which he lived before his fateful journey to the Battle of Little Big Horn. I really think this would be a worthwhile tour, but I just have never done it yet.

A reconstruction of the house in which Custer lived before The Battle of Little Big Horn. (Click photo to enlarge.)

A reconstruction of the house in which Custer lived before The Battle of Little Big Horn. (Click photo to enlarge.)

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

Note: Due to the expense of getting in this place and the surly gatekeeper, we planted the letterbox outside the Fort.

Since I do two memes a week (My World Tuesday and SkyWatch Friday), I really like to get a post in between them. Since in a week I will be away for about ten days, I decided it was more important than usual this time.

But there was no time. What could I do that was quick?

I checked my “blog fodder” folder. It has not been updated in a very long time. Most of it was actually created before I even started blogging. But there was the perfect thing there.

Last summer I saw this post by David McMahon, Authorblog. It made me think of something that happened to me when I visited Norway in 1993. I was attending the graduation of a cousin, and we spent a few days there before heading to Iceland. (I PROMISE, I will get to the Iceland stories someday.)

We spent a couple of days in Oslo, and my cousins were great tour guides as they had both attended high school in a nearby town. One of our stops was Vigeland Sculpture Park.

This is an amazing place. Everyone needs to visit. We spent a lot of time there taking pictures and being silly part of the time. (I will save that for another post.) This post is about the women sunbathing topless. I was born and bred in the Midwest. I grew up in a town that is known as the buckle of the Bible Belt.  Let’s just say that women sunbathing topless in a public park–not a nude beach–was a bit, uh, different for me. Being a polite sort, I tried to not stare. But I really wanted a picture. Not a GOOD picture. I was much too shy and too “polite” to take a close-up picture. So I saw a vista from a distance and snapped a shot–more for memory’s sake than anything. Because really, unless you KNOW what it is, you would never guess.

2009.07.26-NakedNorway.1

Back in those days I had a lot more spare time than I do now, and I dutifully put all the pictures from that trip in chronological order in a photo album. (Eeek. One of the old, yukky type, and yes, that is where they still are.) This way I could easily show anyone who wanted to see my trip.

When the first person looked at my photo album, she exclaimed when she got to the topless sunbathing picture, “WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU TAKING A PICTURE OF???” I told her it was no big deal. In other countries people seem to be more comfortable with their bodies, and I just took a distant picture of some women sunbathing without tops.

She admonished me to LOOK at the picture. I did. Topless sunbathers.

“NO!” she shreiked. Totally unnoticed by me, even when the pictures were developed, this is the full shot I got.

2009.07.26-NakedNorway

Shockingly to those looking on, I had apparently  rebelled against my “buckle of the Bible Belt” roots, for I did not even bother to photograph the entire statue. Only the “vital” parts of it!

Note: My apologies for the picture quality. This was an actual film print, and I scanned it without whatever great scanning equipment seems to be available for such things these days.

On our trip last month we drove through  Wyoming. I have some connection with that state, and I cannot explain it. It does not look significantly different than North Dakota or South Dakota, but I think it is a little wilder somehow, and I love it. I always say I would love to live there. How we would make a living is another question, but it still has a big draw for me.

I did not take many pictures in Wyoming. I just watched and soaked up the beauty. But this storm was so wonderful I had to get a picture to show my fellow SkyWatchers. Due to its movement and ours, over the course of a couple of hours we were almost fully on three sides of it. The lightning it produced after dark was spectacular (but behind us).

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures or to find out how to participate in this meme, head to the SkyWatch blog.

There are not many types of birds that frequent my back yard on a regular basis.

Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves

What I do get are mourning doves, pigeons (which I have finally given up trying to rid my yard of), hummingbirds, Bullock’s Orioles and House Finches. (This is for the present. The winter mix is a bit different.)

PigeonsThere is also an occasional roadrunner, as well as the occasional hawk which finds the bird feeders a place to find a sure lunch. (The hawk rarely succeeds, but I have seen it score a time or two.)

Roadrunner-I love Roadrunners!

Roadrunner-I love Roadrunners!

By far, the House Finches are the most plentiful birds to frequent our feeders.

Typical of the amount of House Finches swarming around the feeder

Typical of the amount of House Finches swarming around the feeder

Our pets include two cats and a dog. One cat is a bird hunter. I argue with myself over my feeding birds to “lure them in” for my cat to catch. But the fact is that the only ones she catches are House Finches. Why is this? The birds are not very smart. This does not mean that I do not try to deter her, chasing the birds away when I see she is in stalking mode, or trying to save the ones she gets (a couple a week, but the death rate is very low), but sometimes I think they have it coming. (I realize how stupid I am to make such a statement online. If you want to yell at me about animals, go somewhere else. No one loves animals more than I do.)

SirenStalking

This is my bird stalker. A finch is less than two feet from her in front of the green bush.

House Finches eat anything. This includes the hummingbird food and the oriole food. I do not really mind this, but one component of oriole food is grape jelly. Finches to not have the intelligence to eat it delicately, so they get it all over themselves. I have seen them stuck to the feeder (no pictures–when I see this, my first thought is to rescue them), and have seen them bouncing around the yard because grape jelly is all over them.  So I catch them (because they pass out when under stress–also making it easy for the cats to catch them), and give them a bath.

Finch with grape jelly stuck to various parts of its body.

Finch with grape jelly stuck to various parts of its body.

Finch "passed out" so it is no problem for me to catch.

Finch "passed out" so it is no problem for me to catch.

Bathing a finch to get the sticky jelly off of it.

Bathing a finch to get the sticky jelly off of it.

What I have learned in the process of saving all these House Finches this summer is that most of them are babies. Many cannot fly at all. There are no parent birds around. Just babies kicked out to make it on their own in a world of cats and grape jelly. Babies that would not survive if a giant human were not around to rescue them over and over. What are those parent finches thinking???

Then there are the Bullock’s Orioles. Unlike the House Finch youth who appear to get kicked out of the nest before they can even fly, the orioles feed their young when they are fully capable of feeding themselves and fly well. The orioles teach their young where to find food and how to get it.

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding offspring. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding offspring. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding two offspring and showing them how to use the oriole feeder.

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding two offspring and showing them how to use the oriole feeder.

Two young Bullock's Orioles at the oriole feeder where they made complete pigs of themselves.

Two young Bullock's Orioles at the oriole feeder where they made complete pigs of themselves.

So what does this have to do with human parenting?

A couple of weeks ago I was in a staff meeting at my daughter’s school.  When I learned they were extending the school day by half-an-hour, I had to speak up.

Let’s just say I have huge issues with homework. I am not opposed to children bringing home the occasional (infrequent) homework because they did not complete their work in school (largely due to misuse of time) or a project, but schools have our kids for 7 or more hours a day. Tell me why they cannot get work finished then? I do not believe in homework just for the sake of it. Last year my daughter had spelling homework. I begged the teacher to give it to the students at the beginning of the day so they could work on it during their down time at school. This never happened. Most kids have time if they use it wisely. So during this discussion I raised my hand and said I would have to strongly object to homework if the school day were half-an-hour longer.  Her teacher’s response was, “You are the only parent who does not want her children to have homework. Most parents beg for more.”

WHAT????

My incredulity was apparent. The replies were that parents do not know what to do with their children at home, so they want them to have more homework.

So it made me think of the birds.  The House Finches seem to be the type of parents as some of the parents of children in my school. They have babies, send them to school and think their job is over. (Without me, at least twenty House Finch babies would be dead this summer.)

Forgive me if I see myself more as a Bullock’s Oriole parent. I have children, I spend time with them, I teach them things like responsibility and how to act (not that they always do it perfectly). I truthfully love summer and vacations because our schedule is more relaxed and we can do more things. This is not to say that I spend every second with my children.  I NEVER play with my kids. I never have. OK, a little at the park (rare) and games and in the  yard. But not once have I sat down and played dolls or Barbie’s with them. (I would probably have to shoot myself from the boredom.) They do those things on their own. They have lots of play time. But our together time is structured. We practice school subjects. We do crafts and art . Science projects. Exercise. Cook. Read. Once in a great while watch movies. My kids do not watch television at all or have any video games. (They do watch a short educational video daily during my shower.)  During the summer about 2-3 hours per day of my time is spent directly with my kids. The rest of the day they know very well how to entertain themselves.  Why? Because I taught them to do that.

This week's art project. These are "hipps" based on a 4000-year-old Egyptian sculpture. (I use books. I do not come up with this stuff on my own!)

This week's art project. These are "hippos" based on a 4000-year-old Egyptian sculpture. (I use books. I do not come up with this stuff on my own!)

This is not me being self-righteous or condemning parents who parent differently than I do. My choice of activities is personal to our family, but children are not just creatures to be ignored in hopes someone else teaches them (or saves them from the cat). Just don’t ask the school to oversee your children (extra homework) during the after-school hours and vacations. I do not want that for my children or my family. We have plenty to do here without busywork from school.

And I realize that working parents have a different kind of time with their children than I do since I am a stay-at-home mom. But all I can say is that if I were working and had just a couple of hours daily with my children, I would not want them to be doing homework during that time.

Note: This is not an attack on anyone. I know most of my readers with school-age children are amazing parents. This is more about me, my opinions and why I have those opinions.

This week I will show the rest of our time at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead.

After doing some laundry (last week’s post), the girls headed to the stable. Chic was in heaven. She wants a horse more than anything in the world. Chicklet was dubious. (The one time we let her have a pony ride, we got our money back because she did not even last one circle of the ride.)

But all was well. Chic rode a pony while Chicklet rode in a pony cart. And when that was finished, they traded, except Chicklet got a tiny pony just her size. She liked it!

click photo to enlarge

Chic on a pony. Chicklet's was even smaller. (all photos can be clicked for enlargement)

The girls then moved to a big shed which housed farm equipment and many other things. They first learned about twisting hay. (Remember in the book The Long Winter when they had to twist hay to burn to keep warm because the train with coal could not get through the snow and trees are scarce in the Dakotas?) Twisting hay makes it more dense so it burns a little more slowly. But still, it took the pioneers the bigger part of a day to twist hay enough to keep warm.

They also used a machine to take dried corn off a cob and made corn cob dolls. Why people spend money on toys is beyond me. They loved these dolls so much, and realized it would not take a whole lot of effort to make more at home.

Chicklet making her corncob doll

Chicklet making her corncob doll

In this shed they also used an old coffee grinder to grind wheat. They quickly learned that the part of the day that was not used to twist hay would be consumed in grinding wheat, for the output was slim.

Using a coffee grinder to grind wheat. (In about 25 turns, they got a couple of teaspoons of flour.)

Using a coffee grinder to grind wheat. (In about 25 turns, they got a couple of teaspoons of flour.)

Next was rope-making. I think this might have been their favorite.

Chicklet twisting to make her rope while Chic holds it.

Chicklet twisting to make her rope while Chic holds it.

They each got to help the other make their own rope. The ropes were long enough to use for jump ropes.

Their finished rope was heavy and durable.

Their finished rope was heavy and durable.

After this we headed back to the stable where someone had hitched up Skip and Barnum to the covered wagon. Both girls got to “drive” the wagon across the prairie to “school.” This was great fun for all of us except our dog (“Jack” for the day). We hit at a slow time and were the only ones on the wagon.

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The schoolhouse with a wonderful prairie sky behind it.

The schoolhouse with a wonderful prairie sky behind it.

At school, a teacher was there to teach them about school life in Laura’s day. They wore appropriate clothing, pledged allegiance to the flag and wrote on slates. They learned about the kind of lunches that Laura might have brought to school. (A slice of bread with butter, for example.) After school, we headed back to the stable and off to the gift shop where we refrained from spending too much, but it really was a nice gift shop.

Learning about Laura while dressed in pioneer clothes.

Learning about Laura while dressed in pioneer clothes.

On the way out of town, we made sure to get a picture of Silver Lake, which has been drained. We did not have time to go to the twin lakes, Henry and Thompson, but we will definitely return.

Silver Lake is now a slough.

Silver Lake is now a slough.

The last photo is Pa’s gravestone. I include it because it reminds me of letterboxing. We had so much fun visiting all of Laura’s haunts in DeSmet that after the first letterbox we found, we completely forgot about it.  There were clues to three others, and if they were still there, we were within meters of all of them, but until we were driving away, we did not even think of it. This is a really worthwhile place to go. And the fee for the homestead was minimal. Our family of four cost less than $25 to spend as much time as we wanted there.

9.Pa'sGrave

Just a note, at the bottom of these Laura Ingalls Wilder posts, I have noticed links to someone else who is a big fan and has some great posts about this place and others with a  little different perspective and pictures than I have. If you are a fan, it is worth visiting her links!

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

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