Sunday, December 10, 2017

Week Ending 10 December 2017

Last weekend's wader count turned up a relatively rare bird - one neither Miss 17 nor I had seen before. So of course this week started with a drive back to the lake! There had been two reports of the bird, one in a section we weren't familiar with but that we knew required a lot of walking, and another at a section we knew well and that involved a more moderate amount of walking. Given the temperatures we opted for the lazy girls' approach to birding, fully expecting to have to return and make the long trek later in the week. But for once luck was with us and we were rewarded with really good views of our first ever Hudsonian Godwit. The only way to definitively identify this bird is to check the colour under its wing and it conveniently lifted its wing so we got a clear view of the black colouration which separates it from a similar looking species.

Tuesday wasn't such a good day since I came down with a mild attack of a long running health problem. Luckily a few hours in bed took care of things and I was able to get up and moving later in the day. Miss 17 spent some time drafting her first ever resignation letter. She's decided she definitely won't return to trampoline and gym coaching next year.

On Wednesday we braved the mall (my least favourite place ever) to tackle some long overdue Christmas shopping. I survived - although not as much shopping was accomplished as I'd hoped.

Thursday's highlight was a bird banding session, the first in a couple of weeks. It was a busy, productive session. A school group arrived for a picnic/sports day in the park and came over to see what we were doing. Miss 17 was given the job of extracting a bird from the net and then banding it in front of the large, inquisitive audience. She was relieved the bird was compliant and not a stroppy, uncooperative one!


Getting ready to put the band on this Greenfinch

This Silvereye doesn't look too impressed!

Normally the birds come to the nets. Sometimes the nets go to the birds.


Friday was a relaxed day at home. We even made a couple of new Christmas decorations. Hopefully we'll make some more this coming week. The kids always made at least one new decoration each year when they were younger and it is a tradition Miss 17 is still keen to continue.

Miss 17 was busy all weekend at a two day course for trampoline judges. She's hoping to move up a level on the judging ladder. The theory and practical tests sounded pretty brutal - over 100 questions for the theory component plus forty different routines to score in the practical section - and a big jump from what was required to gain her current judging qualification. Results should be out before Christmas.



Meanwhile I spent Saturday staffing a stall for our birding group at a local environmental expo. It was the hottest day of the year, and the fans in the hall weren't up to the job - I was in danger of melting into a puddle all day long!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Back to the Classics 2017: The Final Wrap-Up

I've participated in several reading challenges this year. I find them a good way to help me solve the "what should I read next" dilemma, and I enjoy being forced out of my reading rut of mostly reading the same type of book. This is the second year I've participated in the Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Karen from Books and Chocolate . The goal was to read between 6 and 12 books, one for each of the given categories. Now that I've  - finally - posted my final review it's a good time to reflect on what I read for this challenge this year.  And start crossing my fingers since by reading 12 books and posting a review of them all I earn three entries into the prize draw!

1.  A 19th Century Classic - I selected Heart of Darkness for this  but regretted it. For a short novella I found  it slow going and felt the lack of immediacy in the story plus the racist overtones were off-putting

2.A 2oth Century Classic -  I had ambivalent feelings towards Willa Cather's O Pioneers!  I didn't dislike it, even appreciated it, but it didn't really resonate with me or leave a lasting impression.


3.  A classic by a woman author -The Dollmaker by Hariette Simpson Arnow  was definitely the highlight of the classics I read this year. While the grimness of the industrial Detroit setting plus the intricacies of the rural Kentucky dialect stop it being an easy read, it really rewards the reader's effort. It seems to be a little-known gem and one I recommend if you haven't already read it.


4.  A classic in translation. -   Tolstoy's novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich was simple and thought-provoking. The volume I read also included A Confession, but it was too didactic for my taste.


5.  A classic published before 1800 - I read Homer's Odyssey. I wasn't a fan of Odysseus or the perception of him as a hero. But I liked how most of the themes still resonated today.


6.  
An romance classic -The beautifully written Rebecca, with it's lush, detailed descriptions was among my favourite classic reads this year.


7.  A Gothic or horror classic   - This was not my favourite genre but Dracula wasn't as frightening as I'd feared and I loved the capable and resourceful character, Mina.

8.  A classic with a number in the title - Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona is not his finest work, but it is enjoyable in a lighthearted way and it contains many quintessential elements which were developed further in later works.


9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title -  It's sheer unrelenting brutality made  White Fang a tough read, but it is an interesting counterpoint to Landon's better-known The Call of the Wild.


10. 
A classic set in a place you'd like to visit -  In the titular character of  Nicholas Nickleby Dickens created a worthy, but not insufferably perfect, hero whom the reader could root for. While I might like to visit London, the plight of Kate Nickleby added to my conviction that I wouldn't have wanted to live in the London that Dickens portrayed.


11. An award-winning classic  - Pearl Buck's The Good Earth details the rise and fall of a Chinese peasant family. Its universal themes make it worthy of being by anyone who hasn't already done so.

12. A Russian Classic -  Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment was a rich and compelling read. I was glad I overcame my initial hesitation since it wasn't neither as long nor complicated as I'd feared.

Many thanks to Karen for hosting this challenge.

Fortnight Ending 3 December 2017

It's been another relaxed couple of weeks around here. It's also been hot - and heat doesn't really lend itself to energetic productivity. Still there have been a few things of note.


* Miss 17 has finally had her supermarket training and has worked her first couple of shifts. So far she seems to be enjoying it although working six days a week limits what we can do. Still there is only a couple of weeks left in the term and she'll probably resign from her coaching job then.

* We've done lots of birding. Mostly it has just been short trips by ourselves but we did take part in the annual summer wader count. It was the hottest day of the season so far and we were short of volunteers so Miss 17 and I ended up covering a section each to ensure the lake got covered. It meant lots more walking as we had to zigzag back and forth instead of one person walking close to the lake edge and one walking a bit further inland. I've still got blisters on my feet today!



* Miss 17 has started binge watching The Big Bang Theory. I'm not sure what's sparked the interest but I really must watch an episode or two and attempt some Big Juicy Conversations. Unfortunately, they've never been my strong point.



* Her interest in birds took an unexpected turn into the area of wildlife rehabilitation last week. We were out on a birding trip when she heard a lot cheeping coming from a field. Some careful examination (we were on one side of an electric fence and the noise was coming from the other) revealed a very young bird. It didn't even have any real feathers - just pinfeathers. All the advice says to return it to the nest  or to put the bird in a substitute nest (hanging plant basket or plastic container wedged in the fork of a tree) nearby where the parents should find it. Except we had no way of climbing the nearest tree in search of a nest, nor any nest substitutes on us, nor any way of making one. So, despite knowing that the odds were against her, Miss 17 opted to bring him home. She researched best care practises, after checking with a local bird rehabilitator who couldn't take him, and was kept busy feeding her charge every 15 minutes (thankfully night feedings weren't needed). She even pressed Miss 22 and her boyfriend into bird sitting duty when we had to go out once. Sadly the bird didn't make it but Miss 17 was undeterred and said she'd try again if another opportunity presented itself.

* She spent half a day judging at a trampoline competition.  Her new job prevented her judging for the whole day.

* She's been working out at the gym three times a week and seems to have found a good routine with it. She hasn't yet found a good routine for working through Cornell's Handbook of Bird Biology. Progress is a lot slower than I'd expected. I'm debating whether or not to enrol her in the online course that uses the book. It's pretty pricey but there is a good discount available at the moment and birds are her passion. Not sure whether the course would help her work through the text or just be a waste of money. Decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Crime and Punishment

For some reason I was not looking forward to tackling this novel. I had it in my head that it was much longer and less readable than it actually was. The only aspect I struggled with slightly was keeping track of all the characters since everyone seems to go be several names and nicknames  which, since I'm not Russian, was more confusing than say realising that Kate and Katharine were one and the same. Once I got to the end of the book I found a chart listing all the characters and their alternative names. My reading would have been simpler had that chart been at the front !

 Fyodor Dostoevsky has created  an incredibly flawed and complex character in Rodion Raskolnikov. The plot, however,  is relatively straight forward. When we first meet Raskolnikov he is a poor, depressed student who is struggling with a major decision. Turns out that decision is whether or not to commit a murder. Since the novel is called Crime and Punishment I don't think it's giving to much away to say that he decided to go ahead. At the scene of the crime he is interrupted and ends up committing a second murder. He tries to convince himself that the murder was justified  since his victim was a parasite on society, and also  believes he was superior to much of society and thus able if not entitled  to get away without punishment. However, he is driven mad  by guilt and fear of being found out, eventually confesses and is duly punished by society. In confessing and accepting his punishment he is redeemed and reconciled with the rest of society.

I found Crime and Punishment to be a compelling, rich read. It provided an interesting insight into life in St. Petersburg , included a cast of fascinating characters plus many compelling sub-plots and left me with much to think about. I'm glad I overcame my initial hesitance and picked Crime and Punishment for my Russian Classic in the Back to the Classics Challenge 2017 It's definitely one I can see myself rereading in the future.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Week Ending 19 November 2017

A strange week in some ways. Early in the week we thought the sickness had left the house but later in the week both girls had a relapse and felt under the weather again. Miss 17 even ended up coming home from work early one day since she thought she was going to pass out. Funnily enough it was the day she was meant to have her all-day training at the supermarket but they had postponed it. Leaving sick on your first day in a new job would have been a bit awkward.

Despite this the week did have some high points. One of them was a birthday. You may have noticed above that Miss 16 that  has changed into Miss 17.

One of the birthday traditions in our family is getting to select a breakfast cereal. In recent years Miss 17 has selected  muesli. This year  she decided to channel her inner 6 year old. Turns out she's not the only one with an inner six year old since her siblings were happy to partake as well!

Another highlight was bird banding. It was the best session we've had so far and Miss 17 banded more birds than she had in all the previous sessions combined.


This juvenile Starling was one of the trickier birds to band. It kept attaching its claws to awkward places and it needed a sturdier band which Miss 17 struggled to close. Since she broke a couple of bones five years ago her right arm has been noticeably weaker.


A 3+ female Greenfinch.


Checking the Greenfinch's wing. It is the colouration here that lets them determine the age and sex of the bird.

A Bellbird - the first one we've captured. It was blind in one eye.

A baby Fantail. They removed three from the nest, banded them - a tricky job given how tiny they were - and returned them to the nest - while the parents were absent.


We also managed three low-key birding trips - one with our birding group and two by ourselves. Nothing of any special note but it is always nice to get out - lots of baby birds to be seen this time of the year.

The only other thing of note was noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. Mother Nature obviously decided things had been a bit too quiet lately and decided to throw an earthquake our way. Only moderate but enough to have me heading for shelter before it stopped.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Week Ending 12 November 2017

Another very quiet week, partly due to sickness. Mr 19 had been quite sick for most of last week - not ideal since he was supposed to be studying for his university exams this week. Anyway I came down with what seems like a mild dose of what he had early in the week and now both Miss 16 and Miss 22 seem to have succumbed as well. Hopefully they also have mild cases.

In between my brush with sickness and Miss 16's we did manage a couple of things of note. The highlight of the week was undoubtedly banding. We tried out a new site this time and were fairly busy in the first hour before things quietened down. Through observing birds in the area we got some ideas for how to set the nets next time. Hopefully we'll get closer to our goal of 10 birds per hour.

Miss 16 with a Welcome Swallow. It didn't need banding since it was banded last week. It was the first recapture of the project.

Measuring the Welcome Swallow's wing length. It was quite different from when it was captured last week so either the bander  made a mistake then (Miss 16 double checked her measurements given the disparity) or the bird has grown a lot!


Weighing the Welcome Swallow. It looks undignified but it isn't there for long and being head down stops  the bird struggling - and means it is less likely to escape. It wasn't weighed last time so it was good to get the weight now.

Banding a Goldfinch. This one is a male. We caught a female at exactly the same time so assume they are a pair.

Miss 16 and I also took a short road trip. A reading challenge I'm doing this year requires me to read a book that I got on a trip. None of my travels this year have involved buying a book and I was thinking of stretching things a bit by just making a trip to the library. Then I remembered a second hand book barn less than an hour away. So Miss 16 and I took a drive. She came away with a pile of Agatha Christie mysteries while I purchased Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, since it's being performed here early next year and it's one I haven't yet read.

It doesn't look much from the outside but it is packed with reading treasures.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Week Ending 5 November 2017

I've had a very relaxed and chilled-out week which was much appreciated after the busyness of October. I've spent time pottering in the garden and planting some herbs, vegetables and strawberries. I've done plenty of reading (including the latest edition of Home School Life magazine), listened to podcasts (I still enjoy BraveWriter's one), gone for a walk everyday, practised yoga most days, and tried out several new recipes.




Miss 16 has been busier than me - although she hasn't been away from home overnight which is a change from last month. She attended a two day plant identification workshop which will hopefully help with her birding (since certain birds like certain plants, knowing what those plants actually look like will be useful!) as well as in her eventual career (something ecology related and plants are an important part of that) as well as giving her a nationally recognised qualification (although not by one of the universities she's hoping to attend). She also enjoyed a girls' day out with Miss 22, shopping and lunching. Not my idea of a good time at all so I'm glad they can enjoy it together.

We did do one short birding trip together to my favourite spot and were pleased to see a Grey-tailed Tattler which had been spotted a few days earlier. These are classified as vagrants (I think this was only our third ever sighting of this species) so Miss 16 was delighted to discover that an Unusual Bird Report didn't have to be submitted. We got the thrill of an uncommon bird without any of the pesky paperwork!