Friday, July 30, 2010

Are you a thumper?

I'm not talking about little critters from Bambi here, but watermelons. Do you thump yours to see if they're ripe? Earlier this month when my in-laws came to visit, I bought a small, seedless watermelon. I've never thumped them, mind you, and I've rarely ever gotten a bad melon. This one wasn't bad, but it just wasn't sweet. We ended up tossing it out. Well, my mother-in-law wouldn't let me hear the end of it -- "Did you thump it?" and "You have to thump it!" and "I always thump mine." As I said, I'm not a melon thumper, so I didn't know how to respond. Rick wasn't as reserved, since it's his mom, and told her she was crazy. Later I found out from Nichelle, who works at the market I bought the melon at, that others weren't sweet either. I don't know what to think and maybe the whole lot was just a bad batch.

The other day I was looking up chili peppers in a book we have on produce. I came across the melon section and it said thumping watermelons doesn't do any good. Now, you might be a thumper, and by no means am I trying to make anyone mad here. Maybe it works for you. However, this book said it wasn't an effective way to tell if a melon is ripe. It says the best way is to press on the bottom, or the opposite side that the stem grew on. There's usually a little round area. If the melon is ripe, pushing on that should give in just a tiny bit. It also says to smell it, but I've never been able to pick up on much that way. The skin is so thick and I don't have the nose of a bloodhound, so I don't know what I'm sniffing for. But anyway, since I didn't know if my mother-in-law knew what she was talking about (which she usually doesn't), I felt a little vindicated on being such an idiot for not thumping my watermelon like she always does. Of course, when I looked online, there are tons of articles written on watermelon thumping. Some go into detail about the thump duration, whether its deep or shallow, etc ...

A few nights ago Rick and I were at the market in the produce section. I saw a man wearing what looked like medical scrubs by the watermelons. He picked one up, placed it gently on his shoulder, and then proceeded to thump it a few times. He was very intent on listening and obviously took his watermelon thumping seriously. He finally picked two of them and went about his business. I honestly don't know. Maybe thumping works, but then again, maybe it doesn't. I stood there watching this guy, not knowing whether to laugh or take him seriously. In the process of me standing there like a goon, I bumped into a coconut and it dropped onto the floor, splashing coconut milk on my toes. Serves me right, I guess. I think I'll try the pushing method next time, but who is to say that's effective. As I said, I've bought hundreds of melons in my life and very rarely had a bad one. Some have been better than others, obviously, but I don't know if any amount of thumping, pushing, or sniffing really matters. For all I know, that last watermelon I bought could have been unsweetend from a hundred people thumping the hell out of it!

What do you think?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beary scary ...

It's 2:50am and I can't sleep. Not sure why -- maybe it's too hot. One thing that's on my mind are bears. There's been a lot of bear stories going around these past few days, especially here in Montana. Last Saturday, Jack Hannah, who has a home just down the road from me, was hiking with his family in Glacier National Park when he had a bear encounter. They were on a trail when they came across a grizzly sow and her two cubs. They weren't attacked, but one of the cubs approached Hannah and his family. Jack had to use bear spray to repel the bear cub. He's carried spray for 15 years and this was the first time he's ever had to use it. It took him three sprays before the cub backed off. He was lucky.

Some campers in Cooke City, MT, just outside of Yellowstone, weren't so lucky last night. One person was killed and two others were injured. Officials investigated the campsites and came to the conclusion that they were clean and that everything had been stored properly. They weren't sure why the bear attacked. They've evacuated the campsite and have traps out, hoping to catch the bear if he returns. At my last check, they weren't sure if there was more than one bear or if they were black or grizzly. Most people think grizzlies attack more, but that's not true. I'm pretty sure there are more black bear attacks than grizzlies, simply because there are more black bears.

I've been following some of the pages on Facebook for Yellowstone and Jack Hannah. I probably shouldn't. People make me cuckoo with their stupid comments. Some are ranting about bringing guns into the parks, others are freaking out that people would do that. Others say you should never tent camp in Montana and just stay in hotels. Others simply believe people shouldn't be out in the wilderness at all and they basically get what they deserve if something bad happens. It's true that humans have encroached on the bear's habitat. No one is denying that. But for someone to say people shouldn't be outside enjoying the trails is stupid. At least I think it is. Jack Hannah is actually encouraging people to go out and hike. It's beautiful country. The chance of seeing a bear is far less than people think. Just because there are stories in the news today doesn't mean everyone gets attacked. And, there's a huge difference between a bear sighting, a bear encounter, and a bear attack -- huge difference between all three.

Reading their comments makes my head hurt. One guy posted something about it being a risk you take when camping in the backcountry with bears. Another guy slammed him saying it wasn't backcountry, but a developed campsite. It's that kind of stuff that makes me want to bash my head on the wall. First of all, have any of those people even been to Cooke City, MT? It's like stepping back in time. It's one of those towns you drive through in amazement that people even live there. Last time I was there, I saw a sheriff's car parked on someone's lawn with grass growing up around the tires. The injured campers were taken to a MOTEL to get medical treatment before they could be transferred to a real town. It might not be considered backcountry, as in way back in the wilderness, but it's about as backwards as you can get. It's a very primitive town and I'm sure the campsites are no better. And regarding that guy's comment about the attack being in a developed campsite -- HELLO! Where else would a bear go for an easy meal other than a campsite? Once a bear gets a taste of human food, they'll return to the source. So for that guy to ridicule the other guy for calling the area backcountry was idiotic. This is Montana. Not everywhere is considered backcounty, but it's all considered bear country. There's really no difference, not when it comes to these animals.

People make me crazy sometimes. I'm no bear expert, but I'm learning. I have to with having bears so close. My house is on a mountain in the middle of a forest. We have both black and grizzly bears here. Yes, we've encroached on their habitat, but I personally didn't develop this neighborhood. A native Montanan did. Everyone has simply learned to live with the bears. We don't freak out everytime we see one. We don't run outside with shotguns, nor do we blast them with bear spray. We give them their space and they usually move on. This is their neighborhood too. I'm not anti-gun and I would use one if someone was being attacked and spray wasn't an option. But like I said, there's a huge difference between a bear sighting, a bear encounter, and a bear attack. I prefer to shoot bears with my 400mm camera lens.

Maybe I see things different than others since I live here. I don't think people shouldn't hike or camp in bear country. I personally wouldn't tent camp, but that's just me. I'm thinking more of my kids than myself. It's too risky. I've been within an arms reach of 400+ pound bears, separated only by a glass door, and I've seen how powerful they are. Bearzilla, as I call her, makes my heart skip a few beats at a time. I do think people who hike in bear country should learn what to do and be prepared. Bad things could happen and sometimes there's nothing you can do about that. Jack Hannah was lucky because he was prepared and he knew what to do. If you're asleep in a tent and don't hear a bear coming, there's not much you can do. The bear has the advantage. But with these stories so close to each other, everyone's going to start freaking out. Sightings are rare, encounters are rare, and attacks are even more rare. I mean, think about how many people go hiking or camping who don't have problems. Maybe people should actually take a few minutes to READ all those brochures and signs they get when in bear country. Now there's novel idea, huh? It's like swimming in the ocean. How many people have done that and had a shark attack them? Should we not swim in the ocean because we're encroaching on a shark's habitat? I don't think so. I lived in southern California 40+ years and never once saw a shark in the wild. People just need to use common sense.

Gosh, talk about a rant ... sorry about that. I'll go back to bed now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ghost for Rent

This paranormal ghost story begins when eleven-year-old Wendy Wiles learns her parents are planning to get divorced. Forced to leave her beloved city home for a cheaper country place, Wendy, her mother, and her twelve-year-old brother move to rural Warren, Oregon. On move-in day, Wendy meets a neighbor girl who tells her their quaint country home is haunted. Events proceed quickly as Wendy, her new friend, Jennifer, and Wendy's brother, Mike, see ghostly figures dancing in the woods. Despite Mom's claims that "there's no such thing as ghosts", paranormal events continue to occur in the Wiles' home. Meanwhile, her brother Mike, arch-tease, torments Wendy, claiming he's causing the unusual events. Wendy searches through library records to get to the bottom of the mystery. Finally, with Jennifer's help, Wendy begins to unravel the truth. At last, even Mike can no longer disbelieve and decides to aid Wendy in her search. By the end, the three young sleuths have uncovered an accidental death, a suicide, and a murder.

Ghost for Rent, written by Penny Lockwood, is geared towards middle grade kids. Even though I'm way past that age, I was totally drawn into the story. I don't read many mysteries, more or less paranormal stories, but I enjoyed this one. I really liked the relationship between Wendy and her brother, Mike. He's constantly teasing his sister and I think most kids can relate to that. I know I could, especially since my brother's name is Mike and he did the same sort of thing. Ghost for Rent is only available as an e-book at this time. You can find it for Kindle on Amazon and online at various other locations. At 16,440-words, it's a quick read, taking you about an hour or so. The story length is perfect for reluctant readers or kids just getting into chapter books. Penny tells me there will be a sequel and hopes it comes out as a printed book. I hope so too.

If you'd like to learn more about Penny Lockwood or Ghost for Rent, check out her blog, One Writer's Journey. She does some wonderful interviews with authors of all sorts of genres. She has even been kind enough to blog about my very own Dilly in the past. Thank you, Penny, for letting me post about your book and I apologize for taking so long to do so. I really enjoyed your story and believe we have a similar style of writing. I wish you much success with Ghost for Hire as well as your upcoming books.

Also, don't forget about my contest for The Marshmallow Man. It runs until August 6th, so there's still time to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. I'm really enjoying all of your marshmallow stories!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Marshmallow Man Contest!

Run, run, run, as fast as you can,
You can't catch me, I'm the Marshmallow Man!

I'm sure most of you have heard of that goofy, flat Gingerbread Man and how he ran all over the place trying not to get eaten up by all those shady characters. But ... have you heard of The Marshmallow Man? Written for kids ages 4-8 years, this is a retelling of the classic story, but with all-new hungry characters and an all-new, twisted ending.

I've decided to run a contest for an autographed copy of my third picture book, The Marshmallow Man. There are two ways to enter ...

1. Leave a comment here on my blog telling me something about marshmallows. It can be anything you want to share -- a story, how you like to eat them, a favorite recipe, a childhood memory, etc.

2. For those who have read the book already, you can be entered a second time simply by leaving a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You can give the book as a gift, to your child's school, or keep it for yourself.

Pretty simple, huh? The contest will run for two weeks, ending Friday, August 6, 2010. I'll pick a winner (from a hat) that night and announce it the following Saturday. Please help me spread the word by telling your friends (your kids can enter too!), posting on your blog, on Facebook, etc. And don't forget, the book can be ordered through my website, 4RV Publishing, LLC, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or any bookstore. And finally, I have some fun activities on my website for kids to do, so don't forget about those. Thanks and good luck!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Orange Hawkweed

I'm on a flower kick lately. I can't even drive up my road without wanting to stop and take a picture. I took this one the other day. I kept seeing these, but they were growing in a place I didn't want to stop my car. It was on a blind curve and I would have gotten creamed. I was glad to find the same flowers when we went panning for gold the other day.

I'm pretty sure it's an Orange Hawkweed. I previously had this listed as an Orange Mountain Dandelion, but someone brought it to my attention that it was probably a hawkweed, which is not native to Montana. I'm kind of thinking that the ones I see by my road ARE the dandelions because they look a little different. Anyway, it's still pretty, even if it's just a weed. Thanks to Marilyn for letting me know.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thar's gold in them thar hills!

Have you ever panned for gold? The only time Rick did was at Knott's Berry Farm. It's an amusement park in California. For about twenty bucks, you could pan in a wooden trough looking for gold flakes. As a kid, my mom would never let me do it because it cost too much. Anyway, there's a place just a few hours away from here where you can pan for gold, but it's not a theme park. This is in an actual creek, way up a mountain. It's not even marked, at least not until you're right in the panning area. You're limited to where you can pan, but whatever you find, you can keep.

I was surprised to see how serious some people took it. There were several motorhomes parked up there with trailers filled with equipment. Everything we had read said you could only pan with non-motorized gear, but that didn't stop these guys. They were serious panners. I'm not sure how much they find, but it must be enough to justify them being there with their gear, RVs, generators, and so forth.

We found a quiet campsite near the creek away from everyone. We'd bought some pans on our way up, so we decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, we didn't find anything, but that's not to say there's nothing there. All those guys wouldn't be there if they weren't finding something. We had fun doing it, which is all that matters. I was surprised how interested the boys were in panning. I thought they'd get bored right away and just want to play in the water. They kept at it though -- Rick too. I think he's found a new hobby to do while I sit in the sun and read.

I'm sure we'll go back sometime. It's a fun way to spend the day getting some sun, playing in the water, enjoying a picnic and maybe even, finding gold. It is, however, right smack in the middle of grizzly habitat, so that's one thing you have to consider. It's in the Kootenai National Forest, so it's absolutely beautiful country!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Meet me on the dandelion!

I took this picture the other day on the bike trail. I only spotted the butterfly when I took it, so I was surprised to see the other critters when I got home and looked at the picture closer. I guess this particular dandelion is the happening place for bugs!

I'm not real good at identifying butterflies, but I think this might be an Arctic Fritillary. At least, that's what it looks like to me. Next time I'm at one of the park's bookstores, I'm going to pick up a butterfly field guide. I love the one I have for northwestern wildflowers, so I'm sure I'd get a lot of use out of a butterfly one. I really love butterflies, but they can be tricky to photograph.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Route of the Hiawatha

Yesterday we drove to the Montana/Idaho border to ride on the Route of the Hiawatha Bike Trail. It's an old section of railroad that's no longer used. If you click on the link, you can read all about it as well as watch a really cool video clip. The trail is 13 miles long, but technically it's over 14 because you have to ride through one of the tunnels twice. It's a 1.7% grade, so you can practically coast all the way. At the end there is a shuttle bus service to bring you and your bike back up. Over the trail you traverse through pine forests, travel over 7 high train trestles, and ride through 8 tunnels.

It was an incredible ride. We got there in the early afternoon, so we felt a little rushed at times because we didn't want to miss the last shuttle. If you miss the last bus, the only way to get back to the parking lot would be turning around and doing it all again -- uphill. However, we had a blast and will definitely do it again, hopefully with the girls next time. Here is a picture of the sign, right before the trail begins ...

The very first part of the trail is a tunnel. And, this isn't just ANY tunnel! This one is 1.7 miles in length and there are NO lights inside. It's long, it's cold, and it's darker than dark! Because of this, you can't go on the trail without bike lights and helmets. I wasn't sure how the boys would do in the tunnel, but they did great. The scariest part for me was that there were ditches on both sides near the wall, about a foot wide and filled with water that soaked down from the mountain. It wouldn't be fun if you got too close to the edge and went into that. In addition to the ditches, you have to maneuver through complete darkness and deal with people passing from behind and people coming the other way. Since it was Saturday and a gorgeous day, the trail was packed. However, we never really had a lot of people near us at any time since everyone comes and goes at their own pace. Below is the entrance to the first tunnel. Neil is riding into it and Rick is helping Nathan with his lights. This is the 1.7 mile long tunnel. 1.7 miles doesn't sound that long, but it's different in complete darkness. The shuttle bus brings you back up the trail, but you ride through this tunnel TWICE!

You ride through some amazing wilderness area and some of it was very high up with incredible views. There were wildflowers everywhere. I would have loved to stop and take more pictures, but if I did that, we never would have gotten anywhere and we might still be on the trail. Most of the pictures I took were while I was actually riding my bike. Not exactly safe, but oh well. Here's a picture of everyone riding through the forest ...

This next picture is of one of the train trestles we'd eventually be riding over. Yes, that's it WAY over in the distance. The sky looks white in the picture, but that's just glare. It couldn't have been any bluer and there was hardly a cloud in the sky all day. I think it was in the high 80s most of the time, so you can imagine how good the coolness of the tunnels feels.

Below is a picture of Rick and the boys riding over one of the train trestles. I thought I had gotten a video of them going over one, but I must not have pushed the right button to turn it on. Oh well, maybe next time. I thought I'd really freak out on the trestles, but I was okay just as long as I didn't stop and look over the edge. If you stood on the boardwalks, you could see right through the cracks. Eeek!

Rick took this next picture -- I wasn't brave enough. This was taken from that first trestle I showed you above. This was the longest and highest one. It's 220 feet in the air! Rick was a little braver than I was and took a few pictures looking down. 220 feet is a long way down, especially when you see the tops of pine trees that you know are over a hundred feet tall!

Anyway, it was a fun ride and definitely one we'll do again. You do have to pay to go on the trail and also for the shuttle, but it's not much and worth it. I'd like to get an earlier start next time and not feel so rushed. I believe they're in the process of expanding the trail by 31 miles on the Montana side, so that should be interesting to see what that's like when it's completed. The boys are already asking to go back!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Christmas in July

Now I know what Christmas in July really means. The sky last night was amazing. I couldn't sleep, so I kept getting out of bed to look outside. I probably got more exercise last night getting in and out of bed than I did all day. I wish I'd gotten some pictures, but there was a lot of action here last night. I didn't feel up to fussing with my camera, so I have to settle with this image I snatched online. The action was of the people kind, not wildlife like it normally is. I think there was a fight at our neighbor's house, but the person they took away wasn't anyone we knew. But anyway ...

The star-filled sky was perfectly clear. I sat on my bedroom floor so I could see up as far as possible. Normally, I would have gone on the deck to look, but not last night. Rick was trying to sleep and had been up too late as it was. And, not to mention the bear activity we've had. I probably would have been fine because prior our road was full of police cars, fire trucks, an ambulance, and a tow. However, the stars were shining through the branches of the pine trees. The movement of the trees made them twinkle and they looked like lights on a Christmas tree. It was absolutely beautiful.

We had beautiful, starry nights at my house in California, but it wasn't anything like this. Last July when I was visiting, my mother-in-law said, "Oh, look at the stars!" The sky looked like it always had for me while living in the area. Ojai isn't a big place and the night sky does have a ton of stars sometimes. But suddenly, I realized how different Montana was. We're higher in elevation and there are even less lights to get in the way. The night sky here is nothing short of spectacular and even more in the winter.

It's supposed to be in the 80s again today, so I'm sure the sky will be the same way tonight. Maybe I'll be brave and sit on the deck to enjoy it. Maybe I can get some pictures too, though night photography isn't something I know much about. I guess it wouldn't hurt to try. Hopefully, I won't be eaten alive by mosquitoes, or worse, something bigger. But I tell you, if I hear even one stick snap, I'm coming back inside!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Introducing ... DILLYLAND!

Dilly is one happy, little dude. After all this time, he finally has a website of his very own -- DILLYLAND! If that wasn't enough, it also features a blog, so who knows what the little rat will be saying. I hope you'll check out his site and maybe leave a comment on his blog. You know ... just to let me know it's working and all. I'm sure everyone leaves comments on a rat's blog, right? Also, if you have a picture of your child with Dilly's book, he'd love to put it up in his gallery. It should be fun, especially as the other books come out. Thanks for taking a look!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cold Spaghetti Salad

Do you need something for a picnic or potluck? Or maybe you don't want to mess with a side dish on a hot, summer day. Don't forget about Cold Spaghetti Salad! (Do I sound like a commercial yet?) It goes great with burgers, steak, chicken, even all by itself. If you look online, you'll find that there are a ton of ways to make it. This is how I usually make mine, give or take, depending what I have on hand ...


1 package spaghetti noodles
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 can small black olives
1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
1 jar zesty Italian dressing

All I do for mine is cook the noodles as directed. Then I add the veggies and pour in the dressing. Mix until everything is well coated. You can use green bell peppers or yellow and red to add more color, if you like. I try to chill it overnight for best results. Looking at the recipes online, everyone makes it a different way, from marinating the veggies alone or using cucumbers instead of zucchini. The best part about it is that anything goes -- put in what you like and you have a great side dish.

Dang ... now I'm hungry!

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Flower Pictures

I've been taking a lot of flower pictures lately and decided to add some of the newer ones onto the slide show I made awhile back. I hope you enjoy seeing them. The link on the right has been updated as well. Also, at the very bottom of my blog, I've added my Zazzle store. Some of my newer photographs are featured there as well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Whew ...

I don't know why I'm so tired, but I am. My in-law's arrived last weekend and just left yesterday morning. It's not like we ran around filling every hour of the day, but for some reason I'm really worn out. I didn't go online hardly at all, so now I'm behind with blogs and everything else that's been going on in the world. I need to get caught up. I also had severe back spasms two nights this week, so that was really unusual for me. I've been leaning back on a Shiatsu back massager and I don't know if that's helping or making it worse. I was so sore from it yesterday, but my back feels a little better now.

I hope everyone had a nice 4th of July. We went to the local parade in town and that was a lot of fun. We'd never gone to it since moving here, but I'm sure we'll go again. It wasn't quite as political as the parades were where I grew up. There were a few candidates riding by, but for the most part, it wasn't like what I was used to. The boys collected so much candy that it was almost like Halloween. We decided to skip the fireworks show because they don't start until 11pm and my in-laws were tired. Maybe next year.

Tuesday we went into Glacier and had a picnic lunch by Lake McDonald. My in-laws went into a few of the giftshops and then we headed towards East Glacier. We stopped at Goat Lick and saw a few mountain goats off in the distance. It's hard to get excited about them when they're that far away, since we've been so close to them before. My MIL did not want to go on the Going-To-The-Sun Road though, so we skipped that. It's really high up. Then we went to Two Medicine and let the boys fish for awhile. We had dinner there as well. That place is special to me because it was where I was first inspired to write a children's story. If it wasn't for that campground, I might not have tried to write for kids. The picture of the boys above was taken at a giftshop on our way into the park. We found a cute salt & pepper set with a moose there that matches a wine bottle holder we already have. Now if we could find a moose napkin holder, we'll be all set!

My ILs left the house at 7am yesterday and then I went up to Whitefish with Rick so he could go to the dentist. He's been in a lot of pain with a tooth and finally had a root canal. That took a few hours, so I sat and read. I had found a copy of Night of the Grizzlies finally in one of the giftshops inside Glacier. After his appointment, we ran some more errands before coming home. As soon as we got here, I dove back into that book and read it until I was done. GREAT book! I think books like that should be a must-read for anyone hiking and/or backpacking in grizzly country. Anyway, Rick had to go back to work today, but just for the one day before the weekend starts. I'm hoping to find some energy here sometime so I can get caught up with laundry and try to get things back to normal. It's amazing how much you can get out of a routine when you have visitors. I hope to catch up with blogs as well and see what everyone else has been up to. It's also supposed to be 90 degrees today, so I'm not looking forward to that. I would be if I were out in the kayak, but that won't be happening today.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Day! Happy Day!

My in-laws arrived this morning for a 5-day visit. We (other than Nichelle) haven't seen them since last July when we went down to California to visit. It's nice they are able to come up for awhile. The boys have been playing with their grandpa all day building Legos. They've been having a blast. We call him Bacca because when Nichelle was a baby that's how she said Grandpa. The name just stuck.

Awhile back, my MIL asked me to send her a list from Trader Joe's. We don't have TJ's in Montana and the closest one is in Seattle. That's about an 8-hour drive. Anyway, I printed up the Fearless Flyer from TJ's and checked off a few things for her to buy. I forgot to mention to just get one of everything. I had no idea she'd buy me 4 of everything. Wow! So, I have lots of goodies now -- corn & chili salsa, peanut butter cups, mango tea, jalapeno green olives, red peppers, trail mix, dried fruit, and more. Lots of good stuff! I think I ate nearly half a jar of green olives already. Yum! The corn & chili salsa is really good too.

Not sure what we're doing for the 4th tomorrow -- might go to the parade and maybe see some fireworks. We don't have any big plans for the holiday weekend, but it will be nice just having them home for a visit. I hope you all have a great 4th of July -- be safe!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Night of the Grizzlies

Have any of you read this book? Night of the Grizzlies was written by Jack Olsen. I'm not sure why the sellers on Amazon have the book priced so high. Maybe these are original editions. We see this book everywhere here. It's going to be one of the next ones I buy. Last night Rick and I watched the show on PBS about this story. It's about two different bear attacks that happened inside Glacier National Park in the mid-60s. I believe they were the first bear deaths in the park. This was back when they used to feed the bears and no one knew how dangerous that was. Oddly, the attacks happened almost at the same time, but on two different sides of a mountain. When they killed the bears, they found both of them to be injured. One had a torn foot pad and would have been in constant pain. The other one had glass embedded in its teeth from eating at the garbage piles. They say when a bear is in constant pain like that, they will act aggressively in order to survive.

Anyway, shows like this are a love/hate thing for me. I love watching the bears and I love learning about them, but I also know how much I hate those dreams I have about bears. I have dreams about bears A LOT! We mostly have black bears in our neighborhood. I've heard grizzlies will come around, but usually only if the food source is low. I have yet to see a grizzly near my house, but I know they're just over the hill quite often. I kept telling Rick I was going to dream about bears last night after watching that show. Right before bed, I was standing in the kitchen talking to Rick when he burst out, "Oh my God!" My heart stopped. I turned to look out the windows. Turns out, he was just freaking out about turning the coffee pot on instead of hitting the timer button and the coffee was starting to brew. Talk about a nice way to jump start my adrenaline right before bed -- ugh. Most couples have something sweet on their bedside tables, like flowers or candles. We have bear spray. Nothing says romance like a can of fiery pepper spray!

Well, I did have bear dreams last night, thanks to that movie. They weren't the usual dreams where the bear is wandering around the yard (usually minding its own business) and I'm trying to get the door or windows locked. Last night I dreamt that I was waiting for a bear to show up. That's it, but it felt like I dreamt it all night long. And then to make matters worse ... I'm sitting here on my bed this morning, sipping a cup of coffee. I see something moving down the hill and sure enough -- it's that female bear, Sassy. She stood up on her hind legs and knocked our yellow jacket trap off the tree. Then she sniffed it and started on her way closer to the house. I went on the deck to shoo her away, standing there in my nightgown in the pouring rain. She decided to wander around the neighbor's house and do her rounds. Since it's raining, most everyone's dogs must be inside because I heard no barking. That's really unusual when there is a bear outside. Now that I think about it, I see bears a lot when it's raining. Maybe they know the dogs are inside. It's odd because they've never bothered the yellow jacket traps before. I guess since she's finally tall enough, she wanted to check it out.

Anyway, I've read some good books about bears and bear attacks. Doesn't help my dream situation, but I think it helps to educate myself when we have bears so close. I hope I can find a copy of Night of the Grizzlies this weekend. My ILs are on their way up from CA to visit for a week, so I'm sure we'll be out doing some shopping. If there ever was a silver lining from people being killed by bears, it was because of this story. Soon after these maulings happened, the NPS put a stop to the feed sites. Over time, they learned more and how they can protect not only people, but the bears too. The book should make for some interesting dreams, anyway!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oh, Emerita!

Also known as sand crabs, mole crabs, sand fleas, beach hoppers, and sea pigs. I grew up in southern California, only 20 minutes from the beach, and I always referred to them as sand crabs. As a kid, I would catch them, but that novelty wore off as an adult. It creeps me out to feel them wiggling under my feet. My boys, however, had a blast catching them last summer when we went to CA to visit family. I took this picture of Rick holding one. Here are a few facts about sand crabs, probably more than you care to know ...

  • Sand crabs live under the sand in shallow water.
  • They live about 2-3 years.
  • Females are larger than males.
  • Their antennae is used to collect plankton.
  • Predators are fish and birds -- and kids!
  • They leave a "V" shape in the sand as water recedes.
  • Sand crabs can be in groups of dozens to thousands.
  • Fishermen use them as live bait.
I don't know for sure, but I'm thinking the one in my picture is a female because of how big it is. That little section on the lower part of the sand crab folds down like a tail and sometimes you can see bright orange eggs under the flap. I didn't go looking, to be honest, but if you really want to see what I'm talking about you can click here. Interesting little critters, that's for sure.

Have you ever caught sand crabs?