Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring is here!

The American Robins (Turdus migratorius) have returned in great numbers. My mom and dad's yard was covered in these red breasts. Their return along with the bloom of the Jonquils are a sure sign spring has arrived regardless of the date.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Brody for a visit

A big, beautiful grandson came down for a visit. He is glad to get out of the snow for a while. Look at those big blue eyes.

Time for First Meetings!

Uncle Alex meets nephew Brayden.

Cousins Brayden and Brody hangout for a while.

Candy had to investigate the baby invasion.

Uncle Alex entertaining nephew Brody.
The gang was all here (or mostly here). As for me and Debbie all of our children (3) and grandchildren (2) were here today. It was a blast with the babies. Even Great uncle Andy showed up bearing gifts of food and drinks. Everyone was so happy. It was a truly good day.

Science Fair

Two HSU students (Daniel and Luke) helped judge the science fair projects.
Sean presenting bad weather.

My presentation.

I have been so busy lately preparing for this weekend full of activities that I have neglected my blogging. To begin with Adam, Justine, and Brody arrived safely last night (Thank God), which coincided with the middle school science fair that I had volunteered myself and Sean to present at. I was in one room doing a presentation on "genetically modified crops (Frankenfoods)," while Sean was in the next room doing a presentation on "severe weather" with cool video clips of tornadoes. However, the competition was tough since we were up against the Game and Fish and Corp of Engineers with their snakes, raptors, and trailer-size aquarium full of fish. Mid-America museum was also presenting. It worked like a three-ring circus. We all did back-to-back presentations in different rooms at the same time. The kids and their parents could choose two presentations to attend-- it was their choice which two to attend.

The science fair projects were being judged during the presentations. I had brought two of my best college students to participate in the judging. They are great guys and did a really good job.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NO bake cake!

It is no secret I do not like to cook. My poor family has suffered through years of convenience meals. However I have found 1 kind of cake I like to make, diaper cakes. The first one I made was for my niece, Dee. I have enjoyed making them ever since. I made a couple for Tabitha's showers and I just finished one this morning for a women at church who is having a C-section this morning. This one has wash cloth roses and baby toiletries on it. I thought I would share some of the pictures with you.

Tabitha's diaper cake for her baby shower at North Bryant Church

Tabitha's diaper cake for her shower with DeRoche Missionary Baptist Church

Monday, February 16, 2009

Brody says Hi!

I received a short video from Adam. Brody is really getting big. According to Adam's reports he is crawling now and likes to spend time feeding his Cheerios to the dog. We can't wait to see them. They should be arriving in Arkansas for a short visit on the 25th of this month.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sea gulls on Lake DeGray?

Debbie and I went to the lake for just a few minutes to look for birds to photograph. What a surprise it was to see an entire flock of ring-billed seagulls (Larus delawarensis) having a feeding frenzy between the boat ramps at Caddo Drive and Arlie Moore. I can remember seeing one lone seagull every once and a while on the lake, but not in numbers like this! There must have been a dozen gulls. I haven't seen this many gulls at one time since leaving New England.

Spring is springing

The hyacinths are making their presence known in spectacular fashion. The tulips are shooting up everywhere and the temperature is rising. This time of year makes the brutal summers in Arkansas worth it. I have to hurry and get a tree this week to plant in honor of my newest grandson's arrival; I think I will try to find a Redbud tree for Brayden. Brody's tree was planted last year, it is a Crabapple and it is looking fine. The tulip tree planted in memory of Sean and Tabitha's wedding is looking good as well.

New Bird

Well, I spotted another new bird in the backyard. It is getting warmer and new birds should be appearing, although this birds is very common in Arkansas year round. It is a Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus); note the red on its belly. I saw this great blue heron in a pond on the way home from church, but we were pretty far away so the picture is not that great.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Day with Ann and Herschel

As Troy blogged earlier he and his brother spent Saturday morning putting out the first part of a garden for Troy's dad. We had a pleasant day together. Sean and Tabitha brought Brayden down to introduce him to his great grandparents and his great anunt and great uncle. Of course as with any Bray get together there was food. We worked, visited, ate, and played with Brayden. Here is just a few highlights from the day.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bad Weather Coming!

Debbie got a good shot of the ring around the moon tonight. Folklore says it is an indication of bad weather to come. In fact, the number of stars inside the ring is equal to the number of days before the bad weather arrives. There were no stars in the ring tonight so be prepared for bad weather tomorrow!

Farming for Father

"How do we do this?"

Gary tilling with the John Deere.

Tilling the soil further where the beds are going to be made.

Gary working on starting the 1946 model tractor used to make the beds.

If you knew anything about my father, you would know he loves to garden (vegetable not flowers) and he is very, very good at it. His father was a truck farmer and my Dad grew up farming. So after 20 years of being in the US Air Force and living in base housing, Dad went "nuts" the year he retired and we moved to Bismarck. It seemed like we plowed up every square inch of the 7 acres that came with the house he bought for us. What land was not used for gardening was used for a chicken pen and fruit trees. Needless to say, those first few years me and my brothers were busy helping Dad convert that place into a small farm.

Well, as many of you know Dad has cancer and this looked to be the first year he was not going to be able to make a garden. I couldn't bear the thought of Dad not having a garden and neither could my brother, Gary. With our sister, Annette taking on the nearly daily chore of taking Dad to the doctor, pharmacy, store, etc., Gary and I thought we could at least make a garden so Dad could watch it grow and hopefully, get something to eat out of it. So began the odyssey. Tractors had to be worked on and the old garden tilled before we could make beds and plant anything. Dad did not feel like leaving his chair/bed, so we were back and forth asking questions as we encountered one problem after another. But Gary got the tractors going and I got the walk-behind tiller running. So we were ready for battle.

Farming II

Too much grass. Gary is wondering if he needs to do more tilling.
Preparing the beds.

Time for a "farmer" pose. Note: I am following in my grandfather's tradition of not buttoning the side of my overalls. Or maybe I can't button my overalls!

Fertilizing the beds before planting.

Once everything was tilled, we needed to make and fertilize the beds. I hope the fertilizing helps given that it was $14 a bag. All in all, we prepared 4 rows and planted onions, radishes, turnip greens, potatoes, and cabbage. We need to at least make back our $33 investment in seed, bulbs, and fertilizer.

Farming III

After fertilizing the beds came the fun part. We found a Georgia stock plow, took the winged sweep off of it and put on a narrower solid sweep before chaining the whole thing behind my Uncle Kenneth's 4wheeler. As the pictures indicate, it was a bit unsteady to start with until I got the hang of it. The plow wanted to pull to the left and then to the right. Finally, we got the chain the right length and in the center of the stock after which things went more smoothly.

Believe it or not, I have plowed with a mule. Once the corn got up knee high, Dad would let me plow it out using Grandpa's mule, Frank. Even though there were tractors around and available (my uncle had one), Dad and Grandpa always used a mule. One time grandpa had a mule name Jim that was startled by a backfiring car and he took off running with the plow and my Dad still in tow. Dad actually suffered a concussion and that was the last time he plowed with the plow lines completely around his waist. Yes, I can still hear my grandpa yelling "gee" and "haw" behind the mule, particularly on family tater digging day. All the families (Dad's brothers and sisters) planted potatoes together in the same field and on a given day all the aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered together to dig taters. Actually grandpa and the plow dug up the potatoes, we just picked them up and carried them out of the field.

6th grade visit

On friday the middle school children I work with came to the university for a visit and tour. They began the day with a planetarium show, which is always a big hit. Next, I took them on a tour of my genetics lab. As usual the kids were excited and full of questions. After showing them everything in my lab, I took them up to our resident zoologist (Dr. T) so he could show them around his lab. I knew it would be a big hit given the number of live snakes, turtles, and salamanders as well as the thousands of stuffed and preserved specimens. Well, needless to say, time ran out before the questions did. And before I knew it they were back on the bus heading back home. I will see them again at the end of the month during their science fair.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Time to go home

Brayden was born on Friday, January 30, 2009. Tabitha was released from the hospital on Sunday, February 1 and I was anxious for their arrival. Troy had dropped me off at their house after church Sunday morning so I could spend some time and hopefully help out some with getting use to having a new baby in the house. It is amazing to me how everything has come full circle as far as the "right" way to handle having a baby around. According to my mother I was raised on the strict instructions of Dr. Spock where you had lots of structured times for feeding, sleeping, bathing, etc. When Tabitha was a baby it was "well known" Dr. Spock was not so smart and it was better to let the baby decide when to eat, sleep, etc. So I found it quite comical when one of Tabitha's friends who just had a baby visited her in the hospital and told her of the strict feeding/sleeping schedule they were suppose to have for their little one. My personal opinion (which is quite worthless) is every mom, dad, and baby have to come to their own rhythm. It took a while, the first few days at home were a real trial. Sean and Tabitha hung in their and continued to do whatever was necessary to try to make the little guy happy. Hopefully now that he seems to have somewhat of an idea of how to nurse his feeding time will be more comforting to both mom and baby also helping him to sleep better so mom and dad can get some rest too. The first day or so was a real marathon and I can say with confidance Sean and Tabitha will be great parents. I am so thankful I was able to spend the time with them. I left for home last night and I already miss them. I don't know who needed our time together more them or me. I tend to think I needed to be there more than they needed the help so I am thankful they let me be a part of this wonderful yet trying few days. Here are a few pictures of me with Brayden when he actually slept.