Saturday, August 25, 2007

Camping at Erie, PA

Here are some pics from our camping trip to Erie, PA. Alisa was invited to speak at a purple martin conference there, which is why we went--otherwise I can't imagine we would have picked this place to visit. Erie is a pretty ordinary town, but right at the downtown waterfront is a gorgeous little oasis of a state park--Presque Isle--a penisula jutting out of the urban zone into Lake Erie, with miles of beaches, hiking trails, picnic spots and a few playgrounds. Lots of purple martins too (we saw another roost). So, Gramma and Grandpa E met us there, driving 9 hrs from Chicago, they stayed in a hotel. We stayed 20 miles north at a quiet private campground on the shores of the lake. It was great swimming in a northern lake again, felt familiar since growing up on fresh water--a lot different from the ocean and the sound here in NC. Everyday we would wake up, get organized, eat breakfast and head out to meet the grandparents, we'd stay out all day and drive back to camp at about 9 or 10 and just fall into bed. We had one campfire while we were there, on our very last night, and we ate out every night, so we never cooked on an open fire. But it was nice sleeping in the outdoors--weather was cool and good for snoozing. So, one day we went to the Erie Zoo (very nice!), next day the state park for swimming, sandcastles and a purple martin picnic/roost viewing, 3rd day Alisa gave her talk while Ami and G&G E went to the children's museum (she loved it). The day we left the campground it was pouring down rain and we had to disassemble the campsite in the downpour (luckily we could do most of it under cover of a roofed picnic area. Driving home the entire state of PA all the way into MD was blanketed in stormclouds as we trudged along through 400 miles of rain rain rain. But we made it. Ami said it was "good to be home."

Ami on the shores of Lake Erie.

Noah doing one of his favorite things of late: tree hugging....

G&G E building sandcastles with Ami.

Chris and Noah cracking the whip.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"Purple Martins Majesty" newspaper article

We had a couple of reporters out recently to show them the roost--they ran a great article on it. Here's a link:

Hugs! We're goin' on a trip.....

We are headed to Pennsylvania for a week. Going camping on the shores of Lake Erie. Hopefully right on the sandy beach. Grandpa and Grandma Esposito are meeting us there. They'll be staying at a nearby hotel. We will be going to Presque Isle State Park, hiking, swimming in the lake. Also, maybe a waterpark for the kids, and check out a bit of Amish country perhaps? We'll see how it goes. Alisa is going to be speaking at a Purple Martin conference at an environmental center there; we will be watching martins fly in to thier roost at the state park, and probably attending a purple martin festival. So, we'll be back with pictures! I'll post em here when we return.

Monday, August 6, 2007

House and Butterfly Garden

Here is our house, and you can see the martin houses that are in the side yard near the pond. The martins are all gone--just a few visitors lately. The pond is really low now--we need more rain! Each year Chris plants a butterfly garden, including lots of milkweed, butterfly bushes, zinnias and cleome.

I love the banana trees he grows. Fools me into thinking I am living in Costa Rica or somewhere more interesting!

Here is the focus of all the planting and hard work. Lots and lots of monarch butterflies. The milkweed plants are huge and there are a ton on them all around the property and they get munched down to the roots. See the giant caterpillar on the milkweed to the right? And that butterfly to the left has just emerged from it's chyrsalis and is getting ready for flight. Last year we had hundreds of coccoons all around the place, and they got a late start. This year they are here early, so we should have a banner year. Amelie loves running around counting them and showing her friends all the worms and butterflies.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Noah Stats

Taken from on online message board:

Baby's name: Noah Shenton
Baby's age: 19 months
Baby's weight and height: I don't know his height! He is in 95th %ile though. And he weighs 30 lbs.
What size clothes, shoes, diapers does your baby wear? Size 2-3T, size 7 shoe, medium fuzzibunz cloth, and size 5 disposible.
Are you starting to think about potty training yet? Thinking, yes. Doing, no. He is showing signs of readiness to learn, but not to the point I think he'd be quickly successful now.
How many teeth does your baby have? 8 completely in, and 4 molars poking through. OUCH!
What is your baby's favorite food? Bread, milk, eggs (eggies--his word, not mine), watermelon and cantelope. He gets his bread and milk as treats after he eats his proteins and greens. Oh cookies are a favorite too (kee-koo? kee-coo? yeah? yeah? kee-koo?)
How is your baby sleeping? How many naps? He sleeps 12 hrs at night and takes a 3 hr naps everyday. It is awesome!
Does your baby have a lovey? Not really. He likes to sleep with a stuffed animal, though he is not picky about which one. Typically we choose his Charlie Brown, Gonzo, and Snoopy.
What's the newest thing your baby is doing?
Going to the refrigerator, getting out the gallon of milk and handing it to me so I'll fill his sippy cup. He is too smart. Also taking off his diaper and running away. And he has a shoe-fetish. Always with the shoes--on and off and on and off!
Is your baby talking yet?
He says Ami, ball, no, this, out, Elmo, light, shoe, oh no, all gone, balloon, doggie, kitty, nay (horse), baa (sheep), moo (cow) and many many others. He says "I love you," "dada car all gone," "oh no ball all gone," etc...
What is your baby's favorite toy?
He is nuts about anything with wheels. Trucks, wagons, baby carraiges, whatever. He points out cars like he sees each one with fresh eyes. Like its a miracle of existence. Laow! Laow! (hasn't mastered his C or R sounds yet, but dang it--thats a car! WOW!)
What is your baby's favorite summer activity?
Running in the sand on the beach and splashing in the water. Thankfully eating chicken poop has faded into memory....
Are you thinking about another baby yet?
She'll be here in about 3.5 months.

Boat Trip: Purple Martin Madness

So taking care of purple martins is a big part of what we do here on Rabbit Run Lane. This year we had 105 pairs nest with us, and they produced about 525 eggs, of which 490 hatched, of which 475 baby birds fledged. We had quite a season this year, and Ami and her friends helped out quite a bit, checking nests, counting eggs and holding nestlings.

When the birds leave our yard it becomes quite silent, but we make up for it by visiting our nearby bridge roost, which consists of 100,000 martins from the coastal plain area, including our own. The sound of the birds coming in the roost over water is deafening. Recently we took a sunset boat trip where Amelie and Noah first experienced those 100,000 birds in flight all around them.

Noah knows what martins are, when they are flying overhead he points to the martins and "flaps his wings." Amelie was pointing out all the nice motorists who were obeying the new speed limit, and driving slowly on the bridge to avoid hitting and killing the birds. So now she understands what her mom is doing when I have to leave home to go "save the martins!"

Painting the Playhouse

Chris, being the handy-man, super-dad that he is, created this area in our backyard which includes a swingset, awesome ropeswing, huge sandbox and playhouse. The kids and thier friends have a great time out there. The playhouse had been sitting in plain wood and looking rather boring for a while, so Chris and Ami livened it up together with painted flowers, vines, clouds and a sun. It's a work in progress....

A Handful of Chickens

Recently we added about 25 new chickens to our flock (Eqyptians, Italian Anconas, Spanish white-faced, blue egg-laying Arucaunas and chocolate egg-layers called cuckoo marans). They arrived by mail just a few days old, and the latest pastime here is chasing them around thier pen and snuggling with them.

Here is Noey with his favorite chick, whom he calls "Who-who," because this bird has a beak malformation that makes him look like an owl or a falcon.

And here is Ami with her favorite new rooster, Danny. We adopted him from a family who loved him dearly but feared for his mental health because he only had 2 females to keep him "company." He is very tame and loveable, but also a bit feisty with his hackles and spurs raised when Ami reaches out to pick him up. He is a partridge bantam so he's very tiny, and couldn't hurt a flea even if he tried (although he doesn't seem to know that).


Upon returning home from our most recent "wild beach" trip, we discovered that one of the 5 turkey eggs in the incubator was just minutes away from hatching. We could hear the baby in there peeping frantically, and could see it's wet body struggling to push and kick the egg cap off it's back. Ami held the struggling chick in her hand and patiently waited until POP! went the egg and out came the turkey. :o)

The camera flashed just in time to catch the look of amazement on her face. The turkey baby is happily following it's mother around now, along with the other 10 of it's siblings (including the other 4 that were in the incubator). Ami says she will never forget the day the turkey hatched right in her hand...

The Wild Beach

Amelie calls the ocean, "the Wild Beach." Compared to our secluded Sound beach, the ocean has "wild" waves crashing on shore and it's easy to get knocked over, so one of us always has to take the kids out slowly, holding hands or carrying them.

Wave-jumping is always fun, and Chris likes going there because the big waves are great for body-surfing.

Favorite activities while at the wild beach: sand-castle construction, digging and running in trenches, spying crabs, and flying kites.

The Woodpecker Beach

Our Private Beach

Well, not really, but no one ever goes there. We call it the woodpecker beach because there are endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers living there. Its about 15 minutes from our house. The kids love it because the water is so shallow so they can go far from shore and still be standing just waist deep. Ami says she loves the beach there because it's so fun to look for things that wash up on shore: smooth peices of driftwood, clamshells, feathers, fishscales, beetles, all that good stuff. We even went on a long walk down the deserted shore to find a dolphin that had stranded nearby....
It's quiet and peaceful, we hardly see a boat go by, and the shoreline is wild and studded with submerged cypress stumps and trees. Eagles and osprey fly by with talons full of fish. We took some friends recently and had a great time swimming, chasing crabs, collecting freshwater clams, and we threw a line or two in attempting (unsuccessfully) to catch some perch for dinner.

Fourth Of July

We went camping at Green Acres Campground (about an hour away) on the Fourth of July. The kids had a great time playing with friends, swimming in the pool, playing games and taking a very patriotic hay-ride. Here they are dressed up and ready to go.