Tag Archives: Outdoors

Easter Hike | Argyle Lake State Park

by Jim and Melanie

Our family gathered for a potluck dinner on Easter at a country church in Illinois. On Saturday, we drove down to the area from our home in Iowa. It took a little more than two hours. In the area is a state park called Argyle Lake. It had been many years since either of us visited the park. We decided to spend part of the nice day hiking. We chose a trailhead near the dam.

The 1700 acre park, with a 93 acre lake, was established in 1948 by the state of Illinois. The site was formerly known as Argyle Hollow. It served as a stage coach stop on the line between Galena and Beardstown, IL. The hollow was also home to many drift coal mines dug into the hillsides. The park today suffers from neglect by the state. Their lack of funds is obvious. The trails we hiked really needed attention. Tick spray with DEET was a necessary precaution, given the brush impeding on the trail.

One trail bordered the lake. We encountered this pair of Canada Geese sitting on a branch.

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Screens For Car Windows

by Jim and Melanie

We have a car that will fit a 3″ thick foam mattress in the back with the passenger seats down. When we drive to Yellowstone National Park this summer, we’ll use that mattress for sleeping if a motel isn’t available. We aren’t campers and won’t likely do that often.

If we do sleep in the back, we will want windows open a few inches for ventilation without letting mosquitoes and other insects into the car. Ready made screens for car windows are available. We thought it would be easy to make our own the way many other people have done. Here is how we did it.

Newsprint paper was placed over the driver side window. With a marker we traced the window outline and marked where the metal of the car body met the glass. Some fiberglass screen mesh placed over the outline let us cut the mesh to size as seen here on our kitchen counter. Two mesh screens were cut. One for the driver side. The other for the passenger side.

We ordered 50 small very strong neodymium magnets to tape every few inches around the perimeter of the mesh. The magnets cost $12 from here and measured 1/4″ by 1/8″ seen here next to a coin. They are very strong. Keep them away from valuables.

  

We used Gaffer tape to attach the magnets to the mesh. Gaffer tape has a cloth backing and good adhesive. The cloth backing will avoid scratching the paint finish on the car.

Pieces of tape about 1.5″ long were cut from the roll then turned over. The magnet was placed one quarter of the way along the adhesive backing. The tape was placed halfway under the mesh and folded over on itself. Firm pressure was applied to assure a very good bond. This short video shows the technique.

Here is a completed screen with all the magnets around the perimeter. It is attached to the metal door to the garage to make it more visible. Notice the firm click of the magnet at the end.

Attachment to the car is quite easy as demonstrated below. Small adjustments of the magnets help to make a tight fit to the car surface so insects can’t get in. Removal is easy.

 

Tips

Arrange the magnet, tape, and mesh layers so the tape is the only layer between the car metal and the magnet. That gets the magnet as close as possible to the metal for a stronger grip.

Don’t roll the window down all the way. The screen is not bear, raccoon, crow, or squirrel proof.

Burls

I noticed two huge burls on this big old oak tree during a recent walk. They are at least 18″ (~0.5m) across. They are on city park land and should be safe. They are valuable wood and can be made into beautiful objects.

As I walked farther, it occurred to me I had a very tenuous connection to another burl. Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives was born in southeast Illinois. I was born in Illinois. He attended Eastern Illinois University not far from his birthplace. I attended EIU. He dropped out. Sixty years later a university building was named after the school’s most famous dropout. I graduated with a master’s degree in physics education. No buildings were named after me.

His brother Clarence Estie Ives farmed only a few miles from our home farm in western Illinois. He is buried in a cemetery I passed many times as a youth.

 

Buttonweed | Velvetleaf | Annual Weed

Do you recognize this seed pod? It is from the annual weed I always called Buttonweed. By late summer the plant forms these characteristic pods. Each vertical segment contains from 2-9 seeds. It is 1 inch across. Later they split open for seed dispersal. Notice the many hairs.

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Buttonweed5

It is a member of the mallow family. The plant Abutilon theophrasti is native to China and India. It was used as a fiber crop in China since 2000 BC. The stem has long fibers suitable for cord, rope, binder twine, fishing nets, coarse cloth, paper and a caulk for boats (Mitich 1991; Spencer 1984). The seeds are edible.

It was apparently introduced to North America before the 1700s. Records show it was cultivated along the east coast for its fiber content. It is now widespread in the croplands of the U.S. and Canada and is considered a weed pest. It was one of the targeted weeds Dad told us to not miss when we walked the soybean fields in the summer.

Known for its ability to thrive in disturbed soils, it grows in the worst of conditions. Here are two examples I found in weedy patches by the trail. Buttonweed2

Buttonweed1

The leaves are heart shaped with a point at the end. They and the stem are covered with fine hairs. Even the seeds have a fine hairs. The seeds are very durable. They can pass through the gut of animals unharmed. They can remain viable up to 50 years before germination.

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Ledges State Park | Ups and Downs

by Jim and Melanie

A sea covered the midwest region of North America about 300 million years ago, eventually forming a deep layer of sandstone in what is now central Iowa. Several past glacial eras carved out diverse landforms across the state. Between 12,000-14,000 years ago, a lobe of ice pushed south from the northern plains and stopped near present day Des Moines. Melting and runoff carved out steep canyons in the sandstone bedrock below, forming what is today Ledges State Park. It is one of Iowa’s favorite parks offering hikes with elevation changes of 150 feet in several places. This topographic map illustrates the rugged terrain. Many people think of Iowa as flat farmland. Most of Iowa isn’t flat.

LedgesTopo

USGS | The National Map

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Tacoma WA | Favorite Places

We visited Tacoma in August to see our son. He lives a few blocks from Commencement Bay. The bay is visible from his windows, as is Mt. Rainier. We enjoyed a wide variety of sights and activities. We spent several evenings at a city waterfront park enjoying the view of the bay and some ships. See the arrow on this map.

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More highlights here…Enjoy

Wear Your Helmet

by Jim and Melanie

It was a little past 7 pm. Dinner was finished. The three of us decided to go to the waterfront park for the evening to enjoy the bay and watch people.

“I rode 65+ miles yesterday morning with the bicycle group. My legs are tired from that hard ride. I could use a slow ride to stretch and relax. You two go ahead to the park and find a bench in the usual place. I’ll follow up and meet you a few minutes later on my bicycle.”

We drove down the steep hill to the waterfront. I could see him farther back in the distance in the rear-view mirror going slowly down the rough streets. We reached the parking area and crossed the street to get onto the walkway. It was a beautiful evening. Many people and some other bikers were out. Cars were going along the street, some entering and leaving driveways to restaurants. One car leaving in front of us backed up a few feet to allow us to walk past. We waved our thanks.

We were perhaps 20 feet past that driveway when we heard a strange crashing noise behind us. A bicyclist was sprawled face down on the pavement where we had just walked. He was not moving. The car that allowed us to pass was still sitting there, waiting to see what he would do. Then the realization hit us. That was our son on the pavement!

What happened next?

The Day We Met | 7-8-1980

It was hot that July. I was attending summer school to earn my master’s degree. I sat down to lunch in the dorm cafeteria next to Dan, my resident assistant. Almost immediately, Dan asked if I had met Melanie sitting at the other end of the table. Oh, I had seen her walk through the cafeteria several times. I had definitely noticed her. We exchanged greetings and ate lunch.

Melanie and I got better acquainted quickly. I won’t go into detail except to say it got even hotter that July. Then, the darnedest thing happened. The AC in my dorm broke. I had to find a cooler place to study. I wondered if Melanie would let me study with her. Lucky for me, she was okay with that. What a great summer that was.

Now it is 35 years later. To celebrate the day we met, we decided to do two things. In the morning we visited the National Czeck & Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, IA. It had suffered a devastating flood in 2008 sitting next to the Cedar River. By 2012, it was moved and raised and re-opened. Details are in a video in the link above. We had lunch nearby in the old Czeck Village at the Meat Market and Cafe. What great food it was.

After lunch we drove 15 miles through the rolling Iowa countryside to the town of Solon. We changed into hiking shoes and shorts for a brisk hike through the woods, prairie restorations, and along the shore of Lake MacBride. It was good to get out and walk off some of the food from our delicious lunch. Here are a few highlights of the scenes along the way.

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