Back in Louisiana – Birding in the Wetlands

I’ll be back sometime in the future about our new home in New Mexico. Right now Sam and I are on the road again back home visiting in Louisiana. While Sam has been spending a week of music classes at the Louisiana Folk Roots Music Festival, I decided to head “down the bayou” and visit with my wetlands friend Wendy (

Wendy and I met quite a few years back while we were both on the yearly Bayou LaFourche paddle. We discovered a lot of common interests and the fact that she had written a children’s book on wetlands loss in Louisiana. Before we both knew it, we were in touch often and she came to my second grade class and read her book to my students during a Louisiana Wetlands theme I was teaching.

After catching up on our lives and getting a tour of her new house that is under construction, we headed out on her pontoon boat to the marsh and swamp near her home. Imagine how nice it is being out on the water in only a few minutes after leaving your house!

The day is mostly overcast with the sun trying to peak through a few holes in the clouds. It’s a warm day but with the wind blowing on a moving boat, it felt a bit cool. On our way out through canals and Lake De Cade we pass camps, oyster boats, airboats, tugs, parked oil platforms and the native plants and birds.

Wendy slows to a crawl as we enter a canal to head into the swamp. We float by swamp lilies, Common Moorhen, gators and redfish breaking the surface of the water.


The marsh gives way fairly quickly to a waterway lined with large cypress trees draped in spanish moss. The newly emerged bright green cypress needles contrast with the silvery grey of the moss. The place has a magical feel to it. Up ahead are a small flock of Snowy Egrets fishing from the knobby knees of the cypress.

I can’t come up with the words to describe this small section of swamp so I will let a few pictures do it for me…

Around a bend a dock an old camp comes into view. Wendy tells me that this used to be a small community. The camp that is in front of us is still in use. It’s owners come out to hunt and fish. Yes, the only want to get here is via boat!

Wendy tells me she has permission to use the camp so we pull up to the dock and have a look around. Bird songs fill the air. We sit down to snack and watch the skies. It’s not long before we’re seeing small birds fly back and forth across the water. Closer looks reveal Prothonotory Warblers, Vireos (that remain unidentified), Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Grackles, Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice.

The beautiful Prothonotory is sometimes called the Swamp Canary because of its preference for swampy habitat, beautiful song and bright color.

As we sit and enjoy we hear the “Who-Cooks-For-You” hoot of the Barred Owl. We hear a male and female calling back and forth to each other with the calls coming closer and closer to each other. We know they finally meet when both calls come from the same space in the trees. A few minutes later we watch two large brown shapes silently fly across the water to the other side of the canal. Wendy and I smile at the opportunity to view this not so often seen raptor. We get the opportunity to see these birds again when they fly back across the water towards where they originally came from. We see where they perch in the trees. Both of us snap pictures. The pictures I got were of the owl turned away from us. Hopefully Wendy got a picture of one looking at us. You’ll have to check her blog to see if she did!


 Wendy and I moved back and forth between fishing, taking photos and watching for birds. We watched every little movement in the trees. Wendy yells out “I see a Painted Bunting!”. She grabs my binoculars and gets a quick look before the small, colorful bird flies across the water to a tree closer to us. She hands me the binoculars and I get a quick look before the bird flies off again. I have been wanting to see this bird for years with no luck. It’s not commonly seen in Louisiana – only during migration. Even during migration it’s hard to see because of its shyness.

Other sightings included a racoon climbing a tree across from us and small alligators sunning on logs.

We finally decide to head back. We slowly motor down the canal passing more birds like the Little Blue Heron.

We head towards the marina where we grab a bite to eat. We leave the marina as a big black cloud heads our way and make it back to the dock just as it’s starting to rain. What an enjoyable day with wonderful friend! Wendy’s tours are available to anyone visiting the area. Check out her website:

A New Home

It has been many months since I have done a post. I promise at some point soon to update with what has been going on. Most of your know that Sam and I are now living in a permanent dwelling in NM!

More coincidences in our searching…

For the last few weeks we have been putting more hours in on our property search. It seems strange that something we never really set out to do (find a piece of property) is taking up so much of our time and thought.

This time our search took us to Ely, MN where we had initially planned on just enjoying the area. After picking up a local real estate guide, we were off again looking at cabins and acreage – this time near the Canadian border!

More and more strange coincidences are happening all along the way…..

Let me go back where the last post left off. We haven’t taken any steps towards purchasing the log cabin we found sitting on the side of the road – waiting to be moved. We found out the price was fifty thousand dollars plus the price of moving it – which is an infinite sum – depending on where it was to be moved.

We found beginning our search around Ely that we could not find lake front property that we coud afford. Prices run around a thousand a foot for lakefront within 20 miles or so of Ely. On top of that taxes are about 3 times that of non lakeshore property.

We discovered the next best thing – lake VIEW property with a deeded access to the water. These were much cheaper but a lot harder to find. We found quite a few lake view properties but only a few with deeded access to water. This way we could still put up a dock and canoe right from our residence.

We started getting choosier in our details. We’re not in a hurry so why buy anything unless it’s just right? We want a south facing lot (for solar use), on a lake or river adjoining BWCA access, a vew of something pleasant and within our price range – which is not very high. We also wanted property that would allow us to park our trailer for as long as we chose.

We found a few things we liked but not in the price range we wanted. Not finding what we wanted for sale, Sam took matters into his own hands. Finding a few lots on a lake we liked but finding them not advertised for sale, Sam knocked on the door of a neighbors house and asked if they knew about the owners of the property. “Lars” was very friendly and helpful with all he knew – which was a lot! After a lengthy conversation with Lars and his wife we discover that his wife has a niece that lives in Baton Rouge. Sam, who lived all of his life in the BR area, asks who the parents are. It ends up being a person that Sam worked with for over 10 years. Small world or just a coincidence?

The couple suggests a real estate agent that we should talk to, to find out more about the property adjoining them. We decide that we should talk with her after seeing her name on many of the signs of the property we’ve looked at.

The real estate agency we look at is run by a couple – Jan and Gary Erchul. We are warmly welcomed by them when we walk in the office. After some friendly chatting, we find out that Gary grew up in Soudan, which is where my grandparents lived and my mom grew up. Gary’s dad also worked in the Soudan iron mine – probably right along side of my grandfather. He knew my mom and her sister. This coincidence was probably just small town stuff that I’m not used to.

They recommended a few pieces of property that we should look at. One being a 4 acre lot on the top of a hill overlooking a lake that bordered the BWCA. Right after we left the office, we headed out to see it. The lot is a gorgeous daisy covered piece of property with a beautiful lake view – but no lake access. It sits less tha a quarter of a mile from Fall Lake but there is no way to access it. We love the feel of the place and decide that it’s a definite possibility – especially because of the reasonable price.

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On the way out of the driveway we spy a “For Sale by Owner” sign on a driveway and decide to take a look. Lakeshore property with a small cabin – just what we like but we figure it’s too expensive but decide to get out and look. Next thing we know we hear some shouting “Hello”. We look down the hill below us and see a couple walking their dog. We find out they are the owners and own several thousand feet of shoreline on the lake. They have 2 pieces for sale. We don’t look at the cabin but find the property with a south facing sandy shoreline (which is very unusual) beautiful. Of course, we can’t afford it but look anyway. They also show us a beautiful 3 acre piece they have for sale.

We end up in their house talking about more than just property. We find out that they travel during the winter in a small RV. They have visited Baja and the southwest extensively. I am fascinated by the sea turtle shell, whale bones and other artifacts they have displayed in and out of their house. We leave them at dark with the promise of getting together again sometime soon to talk some more. They would make wonderful neighbors!

We also met a couple and their 2 daughters that are friends of some friends of mine in LA. They have been living in Ely part time for the last several years. We call them up and meet them for dinner and a paddle on their beautiful private section of a lake. They have wonderful lakeview acre with deeded access to the water! (See post White Iron Lake Paddle at ) I had so much in common with Kris that I felt she was a mirror image of me. We look nothing alike but we had so much in common it felt strange.

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On our way home from Ely, we decided to look at a few properties along the way. One reasonably priced piece led us to another. A river front resort had gone out of business a few years back and the place had been broken up and put up for sale. Each individual cabin was for sale. There was the lodge itself for only 89,000! This place would be great except for the huge size. It could be broken up into smaller rooms but that would add to the cost.

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Then there was a 2 acre lot with 3 cabins on it. Only one cabin had a bathroom – the other two were just one room. These three cabins can be had for a steal also. This place was super in every way except for location. It is over 30 miles from Ely and over 80 from Duluth. Not really a destination in my mind…..but it’s still in the consideration pile.

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The latest coincidence was yesterday when we were washing clothes at a laundromat in Duluth. Another lady that arrived the same time we did struck up a conversation with us. We came to find out that she and her husband lived on a lake an hour north of Duluth during the summer. It was a lake I had been wanting to go visit since I had found a few inexpensive cabins on it in a real estate guide.

She tells us that the property is old family property and is one of the few on the lake. She says they have decided to sell a piece of this property but aren’t going to list it with an agent because they want to be choosy about who it goes to. She describes the kind of people they want and went on to talk about how they have solar power and are thinking of wind generating. After talking more she says we are just the kind of people they are looking for as neighbors and invites us up to look at the property. Just another strange coincidence or ???

After we left the laundromat, Sam asked me how far the lake was from that cabin we found on the side of the road. It’s really not all that far – so maybe it’s a possible home for that wonderful cabin on the side of the road?

I will keep you updated on what happens next…

We’re at it again!

We are at the property searching again! Since I moved from Duluth in ’79, I’ve always dreamed of having a summer home on a lake in northern MN. Perhaps that time is coming soon?

Because we wanted to see a local earth berm home, one coincidence after another is taking place. We discovered the earth berm home was for sale so called the listing agent about the price and if we could see it. The very next day we had an appointment. The house did nothing for us – it seemed very ordinary but the “on the ball” agent had a few other pieces of property that we just might want to look at.

We did. One that interested us the most was an older log cabin on a lake with several out buildings. I’m sorry but I didn’t take any pictures. We really liked the place. It had a lot of character but it would have needed a lot of work before it would have been move in ready. We’re still contemplating it. We haven’t given it a definite no – yet.

On our way back home from looking at that cabin we stopped for lunch at a local bar and grill. This sent us down a highway we hadn’t been down before. The country side is beautiful this time of year with fields filled with daisies, indian paintbrush and buttercups. Just as we rounded a turn, on the left hand side of the road stood an impressive two story log home built with huge logs!

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Sam abruptly pulled over to the side of the road. We both quickly jump out of the truck and climb up the hill to get a bigger look at the home which is carefully set on top of several steel guiders. From the looks of it, this massive log house had been moved to this location quite awhile ago.

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Sam lept up on the steel girder and peaked in the front window. “It’s really nice and modern inside.” he said. He then tried the front door. It was open! He walked in and told me to join him inside. I slowly walked inside not knowing if we should be inside or not. I loved what I saw…

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 While it wasn’t very large as far as number of rooms went, what was there was really nice.

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Closer inspection showed that the ceramic tile in the kitchen would need replacing, and because of the moving of the building, everything would need to be chinked up again. It would also need a whole new complete roof.

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Sam dialed the numbers on the front of the building. One number was disconnected. A man on the other told us to call the third number. The third number was a voice mail.

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We called up the real estate agent we had met with earlier and he knew the whole story behind the home. The house was built by a friend of his (too many coincidences). His friend decided he wanted a bigger, nicer home on his Fish Lake lot so he had the house moved. The mover was the one who bought the house and moved it to it’s current location. It has been sitting there for a year and a half.

We’re still waiting to hear how much they want for this beautiful chunk of trees. If it’s a reasonable price – we may be looking for a piece of lake property somewhere closeby! Stand by for another post when we find out more information.

The Cat Man of Key West

No trip to Key West is complete without experiencing the Cat Man’s trained housecat show. The Cat Man has been been performing at Mallory Square for many years. He’s becoming a Key West institution. I first watched him perform about 8 years ago. I couldn’t wait to see him again.


Just before sunset, Dominique and his cats entertains throngs of onlookers with his heavy french accent, comical movements and his maniacle laugh. You might think that this is just another street performer – at least until he released his housecats. His brood of cats follow his commands such as leaping from one stool to another and jumping through a ring of fire.




Dominique came to Key West from Montreal in 1984. He found homes for many of the islands stray cats and discovered he had a talent for training the feline creatures.




The cats seem to be in it for more than the treats they receive. It’s like they welcome him as one of their own.


The finale of the show is where Dominique runs around with each of his cats clinging onto his shirt.


On your next visit to Key West – don’t miss the show – it’s purr-fectly entertaining!

You just never know…

Florida is the land of snowbirds. We normally don’t like big, crowded campgrounds. It seemed we were going to have a hard time finding the kind of campgrounds we normally like to stay at. I knew we wouldn’t have a hard time finding those little out of the way places in the pandhandle but as we moved further south, I saw that I was going to work at finding the kind of places we liked.


Ocala National Forest ended up being one of the best places to find a little out of the way campgrounds with very few people. We paid anywhere from $4 a night to $20 a night for nice private campsites. Probably our favorite places in cluded the northern part of the NF. There were plenty of lakes for fishing and trails for hiking or biking. The downside of staying there was no communication with the outside world unless you took a drive to a nearby town. Cell towers were just too far away.


We saw lots of wildlife. We were treated to a pair of Sandhill Cranes on Delancey Lake. Every evening they would land near our trailer and walk around calling to each other. They did not seem to mind me getting close enough to get some great pictures.



Sam and Dave had no trouble finding places to fish. I had no trouble finding places to hike. It seemed there was so many trails that weren’t on the map – all for me to explore. I enjoyed walking along on sections of the Florida Trail. Juniper Creek provided us with a fun paddle. We ended up doing it 3 times.


Our stay in Everglades National Park was enjoyable with Long Pine Key Campground being our favorite. Again we were out of communication range but there was plenty of wildlife, paddling, hiking and biking to keep us busy.

When we decided to head north because the days were beginning to get hot and the bugs were multiplying. I began my search for a place to stay around a wildlife conservation area where the endangered Snail Kite was known to be reliably sighted. I found a little out of the way place on Blue Cypress Lake called Mel’s Fish Camp. I was surprised to find out that they offered free camping on a “pretty little lake”. It took some searching via the internet to find this place and it was worth it!


You can’t expect much for free and that is true about this place. I talked to the manager of the county park the day before. We arrived to find the camping area was a narrow grass slit along a ditch and a gravel road.









What was so fantastic about this place was the wildlife! Daily we sat under our awning and watched the show. The ditch was filled with alligators, fish, all kinds of wading birds, raccoons, snakes, owls, hawks, osprey – you name it! We never knew what we were going to see next. Osprey with fish in their talons flew over nonstop.


We caught sight of a snail kite in the nearby conservation area but Sam and Dave didn’t get to fish because of the high winds that plagued us the whole time we were there. The lake being only 8 feet deep kicked up some pretty high waves from the gale force winds.


Besides a bait and tackle shop, the park rents out overnight cabins and manages a boat ramp. I recommend this place for anyone who wants a little, out of the way place to see a part of old Florida.



Oh, I spied this sign on the road into the park. You don’t think it’s the same Yanni I think it is, do you?


You just never know…?


I have spent a large amount of time in the last few weeks uploading a majority of my pictures to a Picasa photo album. Click on this link to see my photos: 

There are 2 pages of photos so don’t forget to click on the link at the bottom of the first page to see the rest of the photos. I’ve uploaded photos from the last 2 + years. It would probably take too long for you to sit down and look at all of them.

I will be adding new pictures as I take them. Both Sam and I seem to have a hard time keeping up with blog work. I find uploading the pictures from an adventure easier than writing about it. Hopefully you’ll get the gist of what we’re doing from the photos.

I’m still in the process of finding old photos that I know I have somewhere in this trailer…….to finish putting them up for you to see. Still missing are photos from my old computer and from our climb on Mt. Khatahdin. I just hope I haven’t lost too many in the process of all our moving.

The Fruit of the Land

One of the perks of visiting Florida in the springtime is that luscious fruits are ready for the picking! Of course strawberries are ripe this time of year. But best of all have been the oranges, grapefruits and loquats.

We stayed with friends of Sam’s near Dundee, FL. They live in the middle of an orange grove with a few grapefruit trees mixed in for good measure. While we had seen other orange groves heavily laden with fruit, the trees in this area had already been picked. I was informed that any of the oranges still on the tree would be going to waste. So, I spent a few minutes gleaning the oranges from these trees. They weren’t the prettiest oranges but I was sure they would taste







I had 3 grocery bags full of oranges and grapefruits. I planned on making some juice from them since I wouldn’t be able to eat them all. After washing and cutting in half I put the juicer to work.




The juice isn’t as sweet as I’ve gotten from Louisiana oranges but it is still better than anything you can buy in the grocery store.


The next treat was a loquat tree right on our campsite at Ortona Lock Corp of Engineer Campground near Lake Okeechobee. I didn’t know it was anything you could eat till I saw that all the campground workers would stop every time they came by this site. Loquat has to be one of the best fruits I’ve ever tasted! The grackles love them too. I’m going to have to figure a way to pick the ones higher up before they get them all.



A Shuttle Launch

We had to try twice to see the shuttle take off but it was worth it! The first try to on Wednesday. We left our camp near Dundee, FL with friend Dave’s motorhome fully stocked with food and wine. We were set to make a day out of it! We arrived in Titusville a few hours later and found a spot in a park along the road. No sooner had we set up when we received the word that the shuttle launch was scrubbed – due to a leaky fuel valve.



We met our paddling/hiking friend Philip that moved from LA since he lived not too far away. It was a perfect day. The sky was clear blue and there was a nice breeze off the water.


Since we had drive a few hours, we decided to just make a picnic of the day. We made turkey burgers and sat around to talk for a few hours.

Sunday we prepared to watch the launch again. This time we arrived later. Sam and I had spent the weekend back in LA attending Sam’s son’s wedding. We flew into Tampa that morning, drove to our camp near Dundee and then drove over to Titusville arriving just a few hours before the launch was set to begin. Philip arrive there earlier and saved us a spot.

Again, we grilled our dinner – veggie burgers and sat around to talk until just before the launch was to begin. Sam got a connection on his HAM radio so that we could hear directly from NASA what was going on.


The crowds reminded me of a conservative Mardi Gras. The streets were lined with people who had set up mini camps. Everyone was well behaved and quieter………quieter than crowds at a Mardi Gras parade.


We found a spot along the bank of the Indian River – directly across from where the shuttle was to launch. We were about 12 miles away.




The rest needs no words…. It was totally one of the thrills of my life to watch the shuttle take off. The time of day (right at sunset) was probably the best time to see it. The way the clouds from the trail of the shuttle formed and the way the sunlight hit the clouds high in the atmosphere made for beauty beyond words.











You can see more pictures under my photo II link. There is also a video via this link:

People Watching – Not What You Think!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a bird in a cage or a fish in an aquarium? You know – people stopping by to stare at you all day long. Please excuse the photo quality of these pictures. Taking pictures through the window doesn’t produce the best quality photos.

Well, we’re camped at a forest service campground with narrow campsites. Our trailer just fits up against the trees and bushes. The windows on our trailer have a metallic coating designed to reflect the sun and heat. From the outside they look like mirrors.


We had been here for 2 days with no problem from the local wildlife. All of a sudden this morning a cardinal couple  have taken up a real attraction to our trailer! Yes, I know it’s spring time and with that brings breeding season. While I’ve enjoyed this morning being stared at in close quarters by this couple, I’m also concerned about the female. Since she has spent the last 4 hours fighting that image in the window, she’s not eating or finding a nesting spot. Or maybe she’s already found that nesting spot and is just trying to get rid of that competing female!


It’s interesting how the male has done very little fighting to his competitor. Isn’t the male supposed to be the one who protects the nest?

In the process of staring at me and fighting at the unwanted bird couple, other birds have been attracted to the windows also. Joining in the look have been a catbird and a yellow rumped warbler. This really has provided me better looks than any bird feeder has.

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The female has tired herself out this morning. She fights for several minutes and then sits and stares and breathes heavily. I thought she’d wear herself out but thankfully some pouring down rain has stopped her for the moment. Since we’ll be here for 4 more days, I hope she’ll either find another nesting spot or leave the bird in the window alone.