Friday, August 29, 2014

White Pine County Fair-2014

 White Pine County Fair is held in mid-August each year, usually right after school starts for us (which makes it a little challenging!). I took the kids in Friday to enter projects (it's a very short fair, just Friday to Sunday).  In the evening we went to the delicious Cattlewoman's BBQ and stayed for the dance. The kids had a super time dancing.

The next morning we got to the fair just in time to see the cousins showing their steers. They've put a lot of time and energy into raising these steers, so it was cool seeing how well they've done.

At 10 am they opened the exhibit hall doors, and Desert Boy couldn't wait to see how he had done on his projects. We had had a talk beforehand about ribbons, and he had decided he wanted Grand Champion. I told him very few grand champions were awarded, so he shouldn't expect one as this was only the second year he had entered projects in the fair, and only the best of the best got grand champions. His various arts and crafts projects (string art, pottery, legos, wall hangings) won blue and red ribbons.

Then we went over to look at how his photos had done, and were astounded to see that he had won both Grand and Reserve Grand Champion ribbons for the children's division! He was so stoked! I won a Reserve Grand Champion for one of my night sky photos, so I was delighted. Desert Boy made sure to let me know that he had beat me. I guess he might be a wee bit competitive.

Later we wandered around the booths, buying food, doing activities, and chatting.

Desert Girl was very excited to see Smokey Bear.

We went back over to the animals and watched rabbit and chicken judging, something I had never seen before. I learned that market rabbits are supposed to weigh 3 to 5 pounds each, and since there are three of them, they are all supposed to be the same size. These white ones won Grand Champion. While we were watching, I got into a conversation with the lady next to me about chickens, and one thing led to another (keep reading!).

 Another highlight of the fair was the climbing wall. I asked the climbing wall guy how he went to events, and he said he had to pay to take the climbing wall to the bigger events, but for small ones like the fair, they paid him to come. Plus he charged money for the climbers, so he has a pretty good business. Desert Boy loved scampering up.

I had to take a turn too. And one wall even had a timer so you could see how fast you went up. (Now who's being competitive? ha)

We had to stay until Sunday afternoon to pick up our projects. What sweetened the wait was that we had bought the grand champion rooster and a couple hens. Yahoo, we're back to having chickens! 

Hopefully we will be more successful keeping these chickens away from predators and maybe even get an egg someday! For now, we sure like hearing the cock-a-doodle-doos every morning and watching the birds.

We're already setting aside the kids' artwork for next year's fair. That makes it so much easier when it comes time to look for entries. They love it, too, when I tell them something they created might be good enough to enter in the fair.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

White Pine Public Museum, Ely, Nevada

One of our favorite places to stop at when we go to Ely, Nevada is the White Pine Public Museum. The museum front isn't very large and there's no parking lot, so it's easy to miss, but it's right on main street at 2000 Aultman Ave., so you don't even have to go out of your way. One of the things we like best about it is that every time we see something different. There are so many details that you can't absorb them all in just one visit, especially if you have fast-moving kids with you. 

When we had family visit in July, it was the perfect time to stop in. 

The museum advertises its Cave Bear. And it is spectacular.
Two bear skeletons were found in a local cave, which sure shows that the fauna in the area was quite a bit different! The giant short-faced bear  (Arctodus simus) was quite a bit larger than today's grizzly bears. The museum shows a model of one of the cave bears. 

 Near the cave bear was one of the kids' favorite exhibits, an interactive paleontology table where they could uncover part of an ichthyosaur, Nevada's state fossil.

This little guy really liked the video of explosions at the mine.

And Desert Girl pointed to an animal case and said, "I know crows."

Then it was time to head outside to the one-room school house from Baker, Nevada.

The kids thought it was great fun to pretend they were in school. Well, for about five minutes.

We checked out the Cherry Creek depot, the old caboose, and this massive mining car.

Some of the exhibits aren't too impressive, like these old, rusty wheelbarrows. You can never have too many, right? (I think the museum has seven.) I guess it's hard to turn down donations.

Outside by the beautiful mural, the kids spent some time in jail.

The museum doesn't have the most up-to-date, techno gadgety exhibits, but it is a lot of fun. Entrance is by donation and hours are variable (but it's usually open in the middle of the day on weekends and some weekdays). You can learn more at the White Pine Public Museum website.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 Nevada Bat Blitz

The Nevada Department of Wildlife holds an annual Bat Blitz to survey bats in an area. This year it was centered at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, and I was delighted to be able to attend. In order to handle the bats, you have to get rabies shots, three of them, which I did. They are very similar to the regular flu shot.

Our first night was rained out, so we didn't get to put up the mist nets, but the second night we did, right where we were camping, at Hobart Reservoir. We had some triple high mist nets, which were very interesting to set up and see how they worked. The particular net below stretched across the reservoir outlet. After we set them up, we closed the nets (tied them shut) so that birds wouldn't fly into them.

Once it got dark, we opened the nets and waited. The nets I was at didn't catch anything, but the one at the outlet did quite well, and a couple bats were brought to our group so we could take a closer look.

The folks from NDOW were impressive with all their bat knowledge. I tried to soak up as much information as I could, such as how to tell an adult from a juvenile by shining your light through the wing.

With our nets still not catching anything, I wandered over to the other group, where I found a net caught in the net and biologists working to untangle it.

They were so kind and let me do the workup for the bat, which included checking its gender and age. I ran through a dichotomous key to figure out what it was.

We also weighed and measured it.

It was a lot of fun, and even though I was worried about staying up late, sugar and caffeine did the trick.

The next day we went on a pika training up near the Mount Rose summit. I had never been in this area and was fascinated with the different trees and plants. The western part of Nevada is so different than the eastern part!

A few folks saw pika, and although I saw some movement, I can't say I definitively saw one. I did see pika scat and haystacks, piles of cut grass that they eat during the winter. I guess I'll have to go back!

The next night we were looking for our next site when Bryan caught a rubber boa, which Meg is showing off below. It's a rare sighting.

Then we put up nets and waited for it to get dark. Right after sunset we caught a bunch of bats, but then it tapered off. I got some practice freeing bats from the net.

The moon rose and was quite bright. We also watched some distant thunderstorms.

Since the bats were slow, we played around a bit with long exposures and painting. If you can't find a bat, make one!

Just a handful of folks who were at Bat Blitz 2014. It was a great experience, and I'm very thankful to all the biologists who shared their knowledge.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Birthday Party Treasure Hunt

 I love it when a good party comes together! In this case it was Desert Boy's friend, Ava. Her mom had a great idea--a treasure hunt around town. Every time she announced the clue, the kids took off sprinting.

They paused long enough for a lineup and a photo.

But then they were off again after seeing the next clue.

It was a hot afternoon, so we paused for a drinking stop. Some of the kids discovered a puddle. I kinda thought I knew what would happen next.

And I was right!

By this time the photo stops were not well tolerated.

The kids were delighted to get to the water spigot in the playground. Some of the kids thought it was great to take off their shirts.

Desert Girl didn't mind drenching herself.

They eventually reached the treasure chest, where they found cool hats and sunglasses.
It was a great time. Happy Birthday, Ava!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Desert Survivor's Get-Out-And-Camp Challenge Check-in

Hi, are you taking Desert Survivor's Get-Out-And-Camp Challenge? If you missed the post, click on the link to learn a few details of the name-how-many nights you want to camp and then just-go-and-do-it challenge.

We decided we would camp out 12 nights this year, and last weekend we added nights 7 and 8. They were great, at Cave Lake State Park near Ely. The kids love it because it's close to the lake. I love it because they have hot showers! I also had some fun with night photography.

Reflections in the lake
Night sky over the campsite
 Actually, stranger than the UFOs were the numerous lights along the lake edge. What were people doing? I decided to investigate.

What I found is that a bunch of teenagers were crawdading. They could easily see the crawdads with their flashlights close to shore, and then they netted them. One group had a bucketful!

The next night they were out again (under the Milky Way--what a blessing to have such dark skies!). We decided to join them.

The kids caught a few all on their own (I was busy taking photos). So when Desert Boy told me he was soaked up to mid-chest, I gave a big sigh and expected to run back to the tent. Nope, he wanted to keep catching more. I think there's something very strong in our genetic code to keep hunting and gathering!

Here's some of their catch:

Since I had no intention to cook any, we gave them to the teenagers (who I believe were planning on eating them.)

 Staying out to crawdad meant that the skies had darkened quite a bit, and the Milky Way really popped.

One of the trickiest parts of photographing the night sky are all the airplanes and the resulting airplane trails they leave. I'm starting to learn how to remove them in post-processing, as well as some other tricks, but it's a steep learning curve.

Nevertheless, it's fun experimenting with some different photographic techniques. And it's fun to go unplugged and just enjoy the scenery around us.

So there you have it, go out and camp! There's still plenty of time to begin and finish the challenge. Fall camping features cooler nights and gorgeous changing colors.
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