Who’s a Good Girl?

Last weekend Studly Doright went on a motorcycle adventure. He and a group of friends from Tennessee, Virginia, and other locales, converged on the small town of Dillard, Georgia, for a few days of dual sport riding in the mountains.

(For those not acquainted with dual sport riding, it’s fairly self-explanatory. The motorcycles for dual sporting are licensed for street riding, but also equipped for off road trail riding.)

Studly was a late edition to the trip when plans for a different kind of motorcycling tour fell through at almost the last minute. He put all his spare energy into getting his dual sport bike ready. Much farkling* took place in a short amount of time.

I was concerned that he didn’t have the right gear. The group was heading into the Appalachian mountains, and the weather was supposed to take a turn towards winter-like temperatures. Still, he’s a grown man, so I kissed him goodbye and wished him good luck.

Even though the group roughed it during the day, the organizer, G, planned their route to make sure their nights were spent in motels, so they had WiFi service and phone connectivity. I felt better about the trip knowing I could speak to Studly each evening.

He said the mornings were mind numbingly cold, but the warm afternoons made for perfect riding. Every day he had an anecdote for me. My favorite is about a water crossing.

As you might expect, water crossings can be tricky, and no one wants to drop a bike in an ice cold river, for a number of reasons. The group of riders approached a wide river that was flowing at a rapid clip. Swirls and eddies indicated there were rocks of indeterminate size beneath the water.

The first rider made his way across, encountering deep water on his route, so when Studly took his turn next, he veered a couple of yards left of where the other rider had gone. Studly’s route was no better than the first rider’s, and while neither fell into the river, the ride was more harrowing and the water deeper than was comfortable.

(That’s not a picture of Studly, or anyone else we know, but it could’ve been, right?)

Our friend G ventured into the river after Studly, trying to pick out a shallower path with fewer rocks. About midway across he stopped, trying to discern the best way to continue without swamping his bike.

Along about then, a local man and his black Labrador Retriever approached Studly and the first rider. He’d heard them calling back and forth across the river to the remaining riders and wondered if they needed help.

The dog was joyful, as Labs are known to be, and ran boisterously between Studly and the first rider, enjoying the attention and “attagirls!”

When the dog noticed G out in the middle of the river she took off to get some loving from the stranded rider, unerringly leaping and bounding from one point to another without ever getting in water more than three inches deep. She basically gave G, and the remainder of the group, the best path for continuing across the river. They all remained relatively dry, thanks to a dog.

Any doubt about that man’s best friend thing? I should think not.

(Again, not THE dog, but he is standing in water….)

Peace, people!

*Farkle/farkles: An ADV/dual-sport term for gear you’ve added or want to add to your bike, such as more lights, GPS, heated grips and so on. Usage: “I just bought that new KLR 650, so I’ve got to go load up on some farkles before the next ride.” 

Paying Attention

I was just composing what most likely was a brilliant piece on how difficult I’ve found it to stay in the moment for the past week or so. I’ll be standing at my bathroom counter and cannot recall if I’ve already taken my vitamins or if I’ve applied my moisturizer. You know, important stuff.

Right in the middle of this Pulitzer Prize worthy essay I clicked back to make a quick edit and poof! The whole thing disappeared. Five hundred or more words gone.

I tried seeing if they’d paste back in, then I checked to see if my truly wonderful words had been saved as a draft. Nada.

Now the only thing remaining of this awe inspiring post is the title. I guess it says it all. Now, did I take my meds?

Peace, people!

Not the Cosmos

I’m running behind this morning. It’s 7:50 on this Tuesday morning. There’s a dental appointment scheduled at 10 a.m., clear across Tallahassee, and I’m not even close to being ready. In fact, I’m still in bed scrolling through Facebook and wondering what in the world I could post here.

Then, this comes along.

It made me giggle and inspired me to get up and get ready to see the dentist! These teeth aren’t going to clean themselves.

Peace, people.

Long Weekend Recap

Serendipitous. That’s what I’m calling the events of this past weekend. Although, to be honest, not all of the happenings were unplanned, but they were all happy.

Studly Doright left early Thursday morning for a grand adventure in dual sport motorcycling with buddies from Tennessee, Virginia, and various other locales. While I don’t mind time alone, I had no clue how I’d get through the long weekend without going a bit crazy out here at Doright Manor. Fortunately for me, I found ways to fill the time. Unfortunately for you all, I’m going to recount them.

Thursday:

Olli class at FSU. It was the fourth of six on The Parallel Universe of Ants. I take copious notes during these classes even though there’ll be no test, no grades. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Afterwards I had a long lunch at a Tallahassee restaurant before buying some goodies for dinner. I rented a movie on demand (Lion King) and snuggled with Scout on the sofa.

Friday:

This was the day I was most concerned about. No plans, no estate or garage sales on the calendar. Just me and two cats. I did all of the week’s laundry early in the day, and decided to make a run to Target. While I was wandering the aisles a friend, Michelle, texted me, and we chatted back and forth. I told her where I was and she asked if she could join me. Yay!

We browsed Target for awhile, talking more than shopping, then decided to go to lunch. Afterwards we went to a consignment shop and then to a bookstore. We completed the afternoon with a beer at a pizza place. Okay, I had a beer, Michelle had a slice of pizza. We talked and talked. Everyone went home happy.

Saturday:

Several members of the Olli class enjoyed a field trip to Ant Heaven.

https://nananoyz5forme.com/2019/11/02/ant-heaven/

Afterwards I came home and took an epic nap. I hadn’t looked at my email all day, so when I logged on I discovered over 200 messages. Most were easily deleted, but there was one from the Olli group. One of the class members who’d ridden to Ant Heaven with me asked if she’d left her keys in my car.

Immediately I went to the garage and sure enough, her vest with her keys in the pocket was in my backseat. I emailed her. No response. Called and left a message. Nada. Finally I texted her, and she replied soon after. Thank goodness.

In my wild imagination I’d pictured her standing in the Publix parking lot where the group had met that morning. Forlorn and hungry. Shaking her fist at the woman who’d driven off and left her alone to fend for herself. In reality, she had a spare car key and was at a movie when I’d tried calling.

Sunday:

In spite of my long Saturday nap I slept well. Thanks to the time change I lolled about in bed way longer than I normally would. Instead of having my regular breakfast I decided to have brunch at Sweet Pea Cafe, where I enjoyed french toast with fruit, cheese grits, and hash browns. Yum!

Afterwards I returned home and watched football well into the evening. Studly called saying he’d made it safely to his hotel in Dillard, Georgia, and would be home mid afternoon on Monday. I had such a lovely weekend, but I’m ready to see my guy.

Peace, people!

Ant Heaven

(Note: I made the mistake of taking an epic nap after my trip to Ant Heaven and before writing this post; therefore, a great deal of what was learned on the field trip just floated away into nothingness. I used to be so much better at retaining information.)

Normally I’d spend my Saturday morning running around Tallahassee, going to the Farmer’s Market or to estate sales. Today, though, I went on a field trip to a place affectionally dubbed “Ant Heaven” by Dr. Walter Tschinkel, our Olli instructor extraordinaire.

I’m not totally sure where Ant Heaven is, even though I drove my car in a caravan of other Olli participants to the spot. If it were a secret location I’d never be the one to spill the beans.

Soon after our group of a dozen or so arrived at Ant Heaven, Dr. Tschinkel put us to work laying bait trails.

The orange stakes indicate the location of an ant nest, while the pink substance is a mixture of mashed up cookie with a non-toxic pink dye added. Our job was to place the small piles of bait at various distances from the nest and then to observe foraging ants carrying bits of bait back to their respective nests.

Prior to our visit, Dr. Tschinkel had gone to the trouble of raking away much of the detritus (pine needles and leaves) from around several nests so we’d have a better opportunity to watch the ants in action.

Mine is the annoying voice saying, “It might be a carpenter,” which is totally wrong. What it might be is a Harvester ant. I should’ve kept my mouth shut. If I had a penny for all the times that was the case, Bill and Melinda Gates would be borrowing money from me.

As we watched ants foraging for bait Dr. Tschinkel set up the kiln to melt aluminum for casting a nest.

It takes time to heat the aluminum to beyond the melting point, so I wandered around trying not to step on any ants.

This video above is from a Harvester Ant nest. The black bits surrounding the nest, as well as those scattered on top of the nest, are pieces of charcoal. Apparently no one knows why Harvester Ants collect charcoal and mark their nests with it.

One of the critical tools of the professional myrmecologist is a shop vacuum. Seriously. The shop vac is used to clean debris from a nest and even to suction up a large number of ants to take back to the lab for studying.

In the video above, Dr. Tschinkel is using a suction tube to pick up ants as he searches for a fungus garden in the nest of a Northern Fungus Gardening Ant. These ants collect caterpillar droppings and “feed” them to a fungus that the ants tend as nourishment for the super organism that is the colony.

I believe you can see some of the ants suctioned in the picture below; although, these might not be the fungal gardening ants.

Once the aluminum had reached approximately 1,000° C, Dr. Tschinkel began the process of casting.

Now, a lot of work went into this prior to the pouring of aluminum. He had to clean around the nest, (shop vac) and scoop a large amount of sand away from the area. It’s a labor intensive task. Oh, lest any of you worry about loss of ant life, the castings are made from abandoned nests.

This first pour yielded a small casting.

They’re incredible little sculptures.

A second pour produced a larger piece; although, I didn’t get a picture of it for some reason. Both sculptures were sent home with lucky attendees who happened to guess a number Dr. Tschinkel had in mind.

I did get a couple of pieces leftover from previous pours. Generally such pieces are melted for future castings.

One teeny tiny ant (whose name I have forgotten) coats the chambers of its nest with a black seed-like fungus. No one knows why. It’s one of Dr. Tschinkel’s newest research topics, and one of our group members found a nest of the little guys. Dr. Tschinkel excavated one of the chambers and will study it further.

After the excavation we headed back to Tallahassee. I was tired and hungry but not grumpy. After a nice meal at a sushi place I returned to Doright Manor and took a three hour nap!

Ant Heaven was an adventure. I had a great time learning a little bit more about ants, and I’m leaving out incredible stuff here. We’ll blame the nap.

Peace, people!

Fabulous Ant Fact #4

Fire ants aren’t native to North America. Chances are they arrived in the U.S. in nursery stock (trees, etc.), in the 40’s and 50’s.

And, while early on the U.S. government hit the little guys with heavy duty chemicals in a number of eradication campaigns, all that was ultimately accomplished was widespread damage to birds and other wildlife in and near the treated areas. Meanwhile, fire ants continue to thrive. Indeed, the eradication efforts might’ve even aided the insects in their expansion into new territories.

Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, members of our Olli class are heading to a location our instructor, Dr. Walter Tschinkel, calls “ant heaven.” If conditions are right we’ll attempt to make a cast of an ant nest.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having mixed feelings about pouring molten aluminum into a colony of ants. It won’t break my heart if we don’t get to do the casting. I guess I’m an old softie. Sure hope the fire ants remember that next time I accidentally blunder into one of their mounds.

(That’s not my foot pictured below, by the way, but I’ve endured fire ant bites, and they are extremely painful.)

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