Monday, May 13, 2024

Aurora

The Sun is currently in a very active state. There are an increased number of sun spots, as observed with telescopes (and much more sophisticated instruments and satellites by NASA), that are putting off explosions of particles. Whereas these spots are somewhat cooler than the rest of the sun, they are more subject to fluctuations in the magnetic field of the sun, resulting in the explosions. These are called coronal mass ejections (CME). The sun rotates as all bodies in our solar system do. In this way, some of these hot spots turn into our firing zone. If a CME happens at just the right time, these charged particles are shot at the Earth, to arrive a couple days later. Our magnetic field protects the Earth, directing these particles towards the poles. The particles interact with our upper atmosphere, exciting the gasses into a plasma state, that glows. We call this the Aurora Borealis in the Northern Hemisphere (Aurora Australis in the Southern Hemisphere), and it is a common sky feature for those living in the far Northern and Southern latitudes.  However, if a storm is particularly energetic, the sheer mass of the particles in the atmosphere can cause the aurora to be observed much farther from the poles.

On Friday 5/10/2024 a very powerful storm reached the Earth. There are many apps out in the internet world to track and be alerted about impending auroral activity. Just because the conditions are favorable does not mean there will be observed aurora. The dancing storms are fickle! However, on Friday evening the Kp-index hit a 9!! That is insane! Most storms I have seen any sky activity from are in the 6 to 7 range. There are other parameters that help to determine if aurora is go/no-go. On Friday, all indicators were in the GO range. 
   

And how BEAUTIFUL it turned out!!



To the naked eye, I could only see what looked like increased light pillars. However, a camera set to night mode captures the colors. Fortunately for me, I had just purchased a brand new cell phone that has night mode capabilities. My previous cell camera did not have this feature. There was a previous strong solar storm on March 23, 2023, which Rich and I were at home for and there was a clear sky (not an often line-up for us) where we saw the white (to our eyes) plasma dance around the sky, pulsating high into the zenith of the sky arch. We captured a couple pictures, but nothing spectacular. This time we both had cameras to capture images for memory.



Here is a link to a very nice article that fully explains what an aurora is. The various colors are the different gasses that are excited by the charged solar particles. Green is usually Oxygen. Purple, blue and pink are Nitrogen. This is happening very high in the atmosphere, some 80 miles or so. 



I have had a front row observation to only one other extraordinary storm in my life. Based on historical data, and my memory of the event at the time, that must have been the storm of July 27, 2004. That was during my previous life, with my first husband, in Wisconsin. I remember the storm being so strong we laid out on the lawn on a blanket in our very rural and dark sky home. The white plasma plumes flashed actively and quickly and repeatedly across the sky all night long. 





There are some times I don't fully appreciate living as far North as I do now. It can be very cold in the winter, and the snow and ice annoying at times, but because of my location I have a greater chance than much of the continental US to see aurora when a strong storm occurs. For that, I don't mind where I live. 



Tuesday, April 30, 2024

2024 Goats

This blog entry is presented in Reverse Order (redrO esreveR)!!

I timed the breeding of this year's goat births in two rounds, with one well before we would go out of town to chase the eclipse, and the second well after we had returned. As the second round has gotten underway in late April, I realized I hadn't blogged about any of the goats at all yet. Sure, I had posted on Facebook, but that is not a lasting memory for me, as this blog is.  So, if you are reading this, feel free to skip down to the bottom for the beginning. What follows right after this paragraph is the second round, and it will be updated as I have updates . . . of which there should be at least THREE, because as of the beginning of May I still have three mammas that I am expecting to give birth at some point in the next few weeks.

ROUND TWO

On Saturday 4/27, when I was absolutely not expecting a birth, Fuzzy had her two boys while I was away from home. By the time I got home and looked in on her, both kids were cleaned up, dry and fluffy, and had found the "milk bar" and had filled up. Fuzzy is a really good mom, and has given me many nice kids.


Fuzzy is one of my medium-sized goats who gives me a lot of milk. She was bred to a new Nigerian Dwarf buck that I acquired last year. Because there were four pregnant mammas in the large pen inside my pole shed I moved her into her own apartment now that she has her kids. She's a very protective mamma, so this keeps her from being a terror to the other mammas waiting to give birth.


Two days later I was able to get good pictures of these two boys.


A close-up of the black/white buckling.


His brother.


He's a very colorful boy!



Four days later Cashew would have three kids, two big bucklings and a single doeling, but when I realized she had kidded and went out to check on her, the doeling was found dead. I don't know if she was stillborn, or died after birth. I did try to stimulate her and clear her airway and blow some air into her, but she was rather chilled, so I think quite gone when I found her. The two boys are robust guys doing very well.



One day later, on Thursday, Winnie had two dainty doelings. That evening I had Rich set up an additional chamber to move Cashew out of the large pen and into her own separate apartment, as she was being a bully to everyone. Her two bucklings were rather precocious and would toddle around, sometimes approaching the two other mammas in the big pen. When Cashew would notice this she would charge over and attack the other mamma, who was not doing anything wrong. I was concerned she might trample these two tiny girls, so separate quarters it is. Thankfully, Rich is on the lookoug all the time for extra kennel panels, so we have many to spare for quick set up.


Winnie's daughters are noisy little girls!


One mamma left! It's Stevie, and she's a first time mamma. 


ROUND ONE

I had planned to have a first set of births to begin about mid March. I usually don't have babies this early as I worry about the cold, but we got the moms tucked away into the pole shed long before they were expecting, and there were two heat lamps to keep babies warm. Our winter had also been mostly snow-free. I had bred Harley and her sister Quinn, as well as Biscotti all to Funfetti, a buck out of Fuzzy and the now long-gone Norvus, the full Nubian I had for awhile. Funfetti had the Nubian ears and passed them on to all the kids.

Around late January Biscotti miscarried three kids. Upon looking at my records I guess I should not have bred her as she was 10 years old. After that she continued to decompensate, and I decided at the beginning of March to harvest her for our friend, Kongmo, before she died on her own. Our friend from Africa does not mind old goats and helps me keep my herd at a manageable population. His family enjoys the meat.

On 3/19, very early in the morning, Quinn went into labor and delivered twins. The birth went super smooth, and I just sat back and watched. She had a small black doeling, and a much larger multi-colored buckling.  


Here is Rich the next day holding the doeling out of Quinn.



I'm holding the buckling out of Quinn.


You can see his pretty colors. I may be tempted to keep him for a sire, as I have mostly been working for a medium-sized goat, bigger than the Nigerian Dwarf, but not quite as big as a Nubian. I have been selecting for milk quantity. The Nigerians I have just don't produce a lot of milk. Several of my crossed goats produce much more.


Four days later, on 3/23, Harley gave birth to a single doeling. However, because she was under the influence of pre-birth oxytocin after her sister kidded, she bonded not only to her singleton, but to her sister's two kids as well. This is unusual as mamma goats will usually only care for their own kids, butting away sometimes violently any other kids that don't smell like their own. Strangely, she seems to think all three are hers, which has led to her producing a good quantity of milk. Her sister ended up with a lopsided udder.


This is Harley's single doeling.


As of April 13 I started milk sharing with the kids. This is done by separating the kids from their moms the night before. They are placed inside a large dog kennel but still in the chamber by their moms so no one stresses out about being separated. They can see each other, just not nurse. This is done for about 12 hours from the time I plan to milk, usually at 9 am, then milking moms in the morning before putting them back together for the day. By this time the kids are starting to eat solid food, and are just fine to go overnight without milk. 


As of the writing of this blog entry it is now 6 weeks later. Here are pictures of the first batch of kids. It is time for them to get their first CD&T vaccinations. I've moved them to the outside pen, and recently I have been letting them out during the day to go with their moms into the pasture and start nibbling the new grass. 

Quinn's Buckling. Isn't he pretty!


The two doelings. Harley's singleton at the top, Quinn's little black girl below.
Oh, and a random chicken!




Friday, April 12, 2024

Great American Eclipse Take Two 2024

On August 20, 2017 Rich and I were able to chase the first Great American Eclipse. We caught the shadow in Nebraska. I was aware there would be another eclipse crossing America in 2024. It has been on my calendar for all this time. I requested Priority Vacation at work last year, long before the knowledge of the impending repeat eclipse became a regular part of the American psyche. This one would cross Texas, and I have a sister that lives in the path of totality. As it turns out, I was on medical leave, so even though my Priority Vacation was approved, I was free to chase this eclipse as well. We did find it, but not in Texas.  


The Path


As always, when I want to get out of town with my guy, we hire the services of Double D Pet and House Sitting. In other words, my best friend Darla Dandre, who takes wonderful care of my critters. Her job was made that much easier as I am down a dog, and because of my medical leave/post surgery status, I don't have a hawk or any rats to take care of. I had planned the goat breeding this Spring so no mammas would be expecting any babies while we were on this trip. It would be a mostly relaxing house sit for her.


We hit the road on Saturday, April 6, early afternoon, with the initial goal of my niece Erica's home, who lives in Bloomington, Illinois. The original plan was to push all the way to Texas, and spend the entire trip there, but I had been tracking the forecasted cloud cover over the entire eclipse path, and Texas was looking strangely, dismally cloudy.


A week leading up to our departure day I was tracking the cloud cover potential. All of Texas was looking like a poor option. I wanted to SEE this thing. My target became narrowed down to SW Illinois or SE Missouri. On Sunday evening I settled with Poplar Bluff in Southeast Missouri. This would also optimize our journey afterwards, as my sister who lives outside Springfield, Missouri had opened her home to Rich and I to stay the night on Monday. An eclipse destination in Missouri would make that trip shorter after the eclipse.

We would arrive and spend all Sunday with my niece and her family, having a very pleasant visit, to include lots of naughty food. On Sunday morning Erica and I went to the grocery store, but while out picked up a small box of Krispy Kreme donuts, which I don't have anywhere near me. Hey! It was only a 6 count, of which I only had 2. We did share with our husbands. That evening we had pizza, and HBO Max. I've always been the irresponsible Aunt!
  

That evening, before it got dark, we took a family shot for this blog, as our plan was to be up at 2 in the morning to hit the road. The plan did go off without a hitch, with us hitting the road about 2:30 am.


Erica saw us out the door with coffee for me. Rich showed his enthusiasm for getting up and on the road at 2:30 am.


While at my niece's home, I was able to pick up this little cute guy. My niece is running for a County Board seat on the Democratic ticket. She is also handy at crochet. I had previously given a donation for her campaign and won this cute little donkey. Our trip gave me the opportunity to pick him up. Wish my niece luck! She is very engaged in her community, and I think she would make a great addition to the Board. She's previously been volunteering for another Democrat on the Board, so she knows what the job entails.


We would drive through a very foggy morning to our destination. I truly did not know what kind of traffic, if any, we would encounter. As it turns out, it was an easy drive the entire way. I had selected a rather large park just North of the town, with the added amenity of a public restroom. When we arrived I was not surprised to see others had also selected this park, but there was still plenty of places to park and set up. 

This map below indicates the path of totality in the range I was working to narrow down a choice. Where I picked is not that far from Cape Gerardeau. 


This is a sky view of the park.


Entrance to the park.


Arrival at the park. Lots of parking available at 9 am!


I would set up my simple little telescope, and then settle in for the long wait, for it would be hours before the eclipse would begin. My dermatologist would be happy to know I DID put sun screen on, and wore my hat and did put on my sweater after this picture was taken.


As we set up, more people arrived and also unloaded and assembled gear. At one point a drone went flying over all of us, circling around and taking pictures of the carnival-like atmosphere as we all waited for the sky show.


My simple little scope was found for me by Rich on an auction a couple years ago. It did come with all the users manuals and such. I, however, have not taken the time to figure out how to make it use its internal computer to locate things in the sky. Instead, I just manually found the sun, then moved my scope with the sun's movement, requiring me to pay close attention at all times to make these adjustments. The speed of the Earth's turn really is fast, and objects will move out of the field of view quite quickly. Once lost, it is also not easy to track down something even as large as the sun into a telescope's viewing window, especially if you are using a solar filter so you don't fry your eyes. I was also slipping an adapter for my phone on and off frequently to take pictures of the progress of the eclipse once it got started. My equipment was rather rudimentary, but I did get some fun shots for my own memories.


Some people, to include our neighbor, have very fancy, expensive equipment!


As we got close to totality, and once the sun was fully eclipsed, there were other targets in the sky that would become visible. Venus was absolutely unmistakable. Jupiter was also seen up and to the left, however I did not witness anything else with my own eyes. There is a comet in our sky right now (12P/Pons-Brooks), but even at full dark it is not visible to the eye.


Safety First as we wait for Totality.


This is the video that Rich took of the entire pass. It really is interesting how dark it gets in the shadow.


A quick selfie during totality.


This is one of the nicest pictures Rich took with his DSL Camera. Those red spots below and to the right are called solar prominences. Taken off the NASA website they are explained as follows:

"The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas comprised of electrically charged hydrogen and helium. The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma."


Below is a very ham-fisted time lapse I put together from the pictures I was taking every few minutes of the progress of the eclipse. 


The video below is what I consider the most interesting of all that I took. It starts during totality, and then enters the "diamond ring" phase as the eclipse ends. You can hear people cheering afterwards. Keep in mind, I am manually adjusting the view down into the eyepiece, which is why the vision circle bounces around. Hey, I don't have several thousand dollars I care to invest into a real telescope, when most nights in Minnesota are cloudy!


I had made a pin-hole sign that I had used to take pictures along our journey (see pictures above). I had used a hole punch, which turned out to not be small enough with an actual eclipse. Because I had time to work quickly on it, I taped a piece of paper over the sign I had made and punched tiny holes for each larger hole, resulting in a successful pin-hole sign. Each tiny shadow revealed the progress of the eclipse.


I had also taken regular pictures of a thermometer to track the drop in temperature which occurs with an eclipse. The warmest I had seen it at was 84 degrees. The coolest was 70, so a change of 14 degrees.


Afterwards, one of our fellow eclipse watchers was kind enough to take our picture. We did the same for them. It was quite a party-like atmosphere. Having done this before, we came prepared and just waited out the rush of people packing up and leaving. We had a full picnic lunch in the car, although at this point in the park we only enjoyed drinks. Once the crowds had thinned out, we did visit the bathroom, then moved the car into the town of Poplar Bluff, and found a shady spot, which turned out to be a parking lot next to one of their schools. Many schools in the path of totality were closed for the day, as kids would be way too distracted by the events of the eclipse to do any productive learning. There we waited a further hour and made some sandwiches for ourselves. 


We then set out on the journey to my sister Jennefer and her husband Jim's home just outside Springfield. We stayed the night, met the cute kitten she rescued from off the side of the road, were given delicious home-made quiche in the morning, totally forgot to take pictures, then continued our journey to visit Janet and her family in Texas.


When we got to the Metroplex it was rush hour, but most people were heading the opposite direction. We would catch and take the inner loop, I635, around and to the South, as Janet lives in Waxahachie. In my adult life I have lived in Ft. Worth (specifically Benbrook from 1986 - 1988) and then in Dallas (specifically Addison from 1990 to 1995). The area has grown by leaps and bounds since that time (29 years!!) There are now two additional major loops/Toll Roads around the North end of those Cities.  The entire area is suburbia, and traffic, and just Too Many People. I'm glad I no longer live there! 


The last time we drove through in 2021 on our way to release Wyvern back to the wild in Corpus Christi, Rich turned over the wheel to me to drive through the Metroplex. This time he just continued driving. I thought about having a little fun with him when we were way North still and with no traffic to speak of. The traffic would pick up, substantially! We do run into just a little traffic in Minnesota if we drive up to the Twin Cities, and happen to be there during rush hour, but normally we can plan to avoid that. My guy did just fine, with the three GPS systems giving us conflicting information on which exits to take.




We would arrive to Janet's new home in Waxahachie in the later evening. She's been there for about two years. She had really been looking forward to having both sisters visit for the eclipse, but as previously indicated, I had to adjust my plans to actually find a clear sky. She did have clouds on the day of the eclipse, but for them all, fortunately, the clouds parted just enough at totality for them to enjoy the spectacle. She did gift me a nice shirt, and a magnet for my refrigerator (and some other nice gifts). We would then spend a couple of rain-soaked days with them. 


Rosie (in the front) and Piper Jane (back), Janet's beloved pups, were kind enough to let Rich and I use the Guest Room, which is really their Doggy Day Room.


The time of our brief visit was also during the Spring blooming of Texas Bluebonnets. We did go driving to see some, but it was raining "cats & dogs", so we did not get any nice pictures of our own. I went back and stole a few pictures from off Janet's Facebook page. Turns out she stole these herself from someone else. Ah well, lots of "sharing" going on here. Rich and I would also have a pretty major allergy attack, with lots of sneezing and stuffy/runny noses. It took several days and our needing to return home to clear that up.




On the full day we spent as guests in my oldest sister's home, she treated me to a fancy Tea Room lunch. The place is called Uniquely Yours Village, which had the cafe, then a curio shop, and a high-end clothing store. It was all very fancy, frilly, lacy, flowery and quaint. It was nice to share it with my sister. The only thing better would have been if my other sister could have been with us.


We had sweet tea, finger sandwiches, a spinach and berry salad in a china cup, and some very nice broth soup. Janet has shared this kind of lunch with her girls. It sounded like fun, so I asked her if we could do it when I visited. 


See! I have "proper form".  Pinky up!!  😁




After lunch, and poking around the other two businesses at the Village, we went down the road to the Collin Street Bakery. It's a "Texas Thang"! They sell cookies and pastry, but are known for their fruit cakes, which are not cheap! I did buy a small one to take home. 


Much later that day we joined up with the rest of Janet's family to go out for wood-fired pizza. Rich and Andy, Janet's husband, had gone that day to view a Civil War exhibit at the Pearce Museum at Navarro College, also in Corsicana. For some reason they didn't want to go to the Tea Room with us ladies. Janet's youngest daughter, Emily, got married last year to her husband Steven. This was the first opportunity we had to meet him. Her oldest daughter dropped by the house prior to us going to dinner so we could see her, but she had choir practice so could not join us. It was nice catching up with this branch of my family. I don't get to see them all very often.


The following morning, Thursday, we would be up early and headed out on the road to get home. My house sitter had another job she would have to get to on early Saturday morning, so we needed to get home. It would be about a 14+ hour journey with just straight driving, but we did take short breaks. In Kansas City we were still able to find a Whataburger, which is usually a Texas icon. It must be moving North. We were actually in a neighborhood that Rich recognized, as he went to DeVry University there in 1985. He didn't drive by the school, which probably looks different anyway given the time that has passed, almost 40 years. We are not Spring Chickens!!


It would be nice to say our journey home was uneventful, but we did run into a little complication. Just South of Des Moines our rental car started alerting us to a pressure leak in the back right tire. We tried putting air in and keep going to see if it was just a fluke, but after awhile the pressure leaked low again. We did find another stop where we bought some Fix-a-Flat, but once put inside the tire, we heard a leak out the back side, and then saw this huge slice in the tire. We must have hit some kind of road hazard that sliced it so badly. Certainly, the roads in Oklahoma and Kansas were crap, but there must have been something sharp we ran over. Rich changed it to the spare donut, and we tried to resume our journey.

The donut required 60 psi, but the station we were at only went to 35. I looked on my Gas Buddy App and saw there was a Loves Truck Stop about 10 miles down the road. Once there, the air service allowed us to inflate to about 58 psi, which was good enough. Unfortunately, for safety, Rich decided to only travel no faster than 60 mph to get home. Iowa is a very long and boring drive when you can only go 60 mph! We would not get home until about 2 in the morning. 


Rich was supposed to go to work that Friday morning, but with only 2 hours of sleep I insisted he be "sick". We would catch up on our rest and get up in the morning. The rental car was returned before noon, and I would go on to find out that they are going to hold me responsible for the tire (not surprised), however as of this writing I still don't know how much they are going to charge me for it.

We took my friend, Darla, out for breakfast, then back home to settle in after our week away, laundry, and all that nonsense.

Overall, a really nice trip, but it was a LOT of driving, even if I was only a passenger for the trip. Thank You Rich for doing all the chauffeur work! Texas reminded me that I am glad I no longer live there, on many different fronts that I will not air my opinions on here.  

There are usually several eclipses, total/partial/lunar that occur on the Earth somewhere every year, usually over water. No total eclipse will cross over the United States again until 2045. If you want to see them, you have to travel. We got lucky to have these shows in our back yard these last few years.