Monday, July 31, 2006

Hawks on display

HURT HAWKS by Robinson Jeffers
"The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawn ruins it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you
have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying remember him.
I'd sooner , except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implaccable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality."

This is the only poem I know by Robinson Jeffers, but it has troubled me since I first read it. I sense the author's great respect for the hawk and understand how that respect led him to give it *freedom* as he did, but don't know that others would appreciate why it was the proper thing to do. Proper isn't the right word for it, maybe truthful or honest would be a better word. Truthful to the nature of the hawk and all birds of prey. I might even extend that to all predators in similar circumstances.

I feel a deep sense of reverence for birds of prey. For wild birds of prey. For those that are captive, like the Bald Eagle above, I feel pity. Something so great as an eagle, an owl, a Harris' hawk, or even a little kestral is diminished by being held captive. That is a given, I'd guess. Captivity has its' merits, but I question whether what is in the bird's best interest isn't sometimes lost in the name of *education*.

These birds were on display last week at the county fair. Very popular show; this guy brings his act there most years. Usually I stay away because it bothers me so. This year I waited out a thunderstorm in his tent and took some pics and tried to decide if I was just being overly critical. After mulling it over for a few days while Blogger decided if it would let me make this post with pictures (it won't) - I've decided that this guy and his *show* aren't doing right by the birds. The general public loves being able to get so close - within arms reach- and the opportunity (for a few $$$) to be photographed *holding* one of these birds is a big draw. But to anyone who knows anything about them, or who respects them and can recognize the signs of their stress; it is something very far from worthy. Their was no respect or reverence here. Very little in the way of education - all show, no substance.

There are organizations that do this right. I volunteer for one of the best and know its educators to be fierce protectors of the birds in their care. That is how is ought to be.

Note: I apologize for the links to pics on Photobucket, but Blogger just won't load these.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday by the pond

A volunteer in the bog garden.

Fishies playing around in the shallow end of the pond.

Dragonfly whose name I can't come up with. Maybe a blue dasher?

Sweet baby robin, looking for a place to put in for a bath.

Joe Pye Weed blooming in the bog.

I spent the afternoon doing some work around the pond. The heat is causing the usual algae problems in the shallow end of the pond. The water is crystal clear (thanks to the UV light), but the little pebbles that line the beach are covered with slimy algae. I have this contraption called a *Muck Vac* which I use to suck up some of the junk that accumulates in the pebbles, but using it is a nightmare! Whoever thought to combine a vacuum with a garden hose must have been delirious. I spend most of the time fighting with the various hoses and trying to keep some sort of suction going. What isn't sucked out I blast away with the hose. Labor-intensive, but it works and now the rocks are clean and it doesn't look like a swamp out there. For a few days anyway. I trimmed the yellow and brown leaves off of the water-lilies and hacked away at the mint that is taking over the edge. The parrot's feather and water lettuce were reduced by half, but I still have too much of both. They provide a lot of shade for the fish, but do get carried away with themselves!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

My tummy hurts!

Peeper the stray bunny had her spay yesterday. She's feeling much better today and has started eating a little, but is spending most of her time flopped on her side in the litterbox like you see here. She's dug most all of the litter out (and onto the floor, thank you) and pushed the hay up to the opposite end so that she's got a clear spot to flop. She's peeping at me a lot and lunging whenever I put my hands in her cage - poor cranky thing!

I used a new vet this time because my regular vet would have charged a huge amout for the spay (nearly $500.00!!) and this vet spays/neuters for the rescue I adopt from, so I felt I could trust her. Everything went okay, but I think the vet was a little startled with just how stressed out Peeper was by any handling. She quickly checked to see if she was a boy or a girl, listened to her heart, palpated her to check for babies after I told her about Peeper's nesting behavior, and then put her back into the carrier and whisked her away. I returned a few hours later to pick her up, after an hour of frantic unanswered phone calls, to discover that the animal hospital had lost power in the thunderstorm.

Some people might wonder why they should spay/neuter a bunny who lives alone - Peeper is a perfect example. Her hormonal behavior probably would have continued, making her a less than enjoyable pet. The reproductive urge is very strong in rabbits (you know their reputation!) and her nesting, circling, and mounting, plus her cage aggression would have gone on forever. There is also a very high likelihood of uterine cancer in unspayed females. There is a risk to any surgery with a creature as sensitive as a rabbit, but the benefits outweigh the risks associated with the surgery.

So Peeper will be cranky for a few days, but I'll spoil her until she feels better. Then we can go about getting to know one another, without the threat of babies in our future. Thank goodness! Over the next month, as the hormones leave her system, I can expect her to calm down and learn to be a loving house-bunny. Welcome home, Peeper!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Horseshoe cove

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. - Anne Frank

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rained-out rant

So. Our county fair is this week. I LOVE the fair and look forward to it all year long. We decided to go tonight because the weather forecast for the remainder of the week looks awfully hot. Plus, some friends from work were going and my co-worker's daughter was singing in the *talent showcase*. We got there late and I missed my friend's daughter and then this terribly rude woman behind us actually put her hands on me and pulled me down into my seat because I was blocking her view of the stage as I said hello to my friend. I was so angry I nearly spit. At her. Rudeness abounds in NJ whenever you get a bunch of us together in 90 degree heat. Add women who have been paying through the nose for singing lessons for their precious one-of-a-kind daughters and a video camera and you're just asking for a catfight.

Glutton for punishment that I am, I always visit the 4-H bunny tent. I walk around feeling bad for all the overweight bunnies panting in the heat on wire-floored cages without a scrap of hay in front of them. Today at least some had frozen water bottles to keep cool with. I really don't understand the point of the whole thing - the 4-H people won't talk to any of the people streaming by, there is no educational information made available for those who are interested in learning something about rabbits. Nothing but these bunnies laying there like rag dolls. Oh and plenty of signs for bunnies for sale (when the 4-H project is over, of course). Every year I fantasize about setting up an alternative bunny display, with my bunnies in an x-pen with toys and litterboxes, so that people can get to see something other than a bunny in a cage being boring. Can anyone explain the whole 4-H philosophy to me in a way that makes sense? What exactly are they teaching kids in the small animal programs that is socially responsible? I took this pic of a French Lop for Michelle - this big boy was the only one who looked comfortable - notice the *happy feet*.

I have some more pics and ranting to do, but wonder of wonders! Blogger won't let me load anymore pics! Why am I not surprised? Maybe Blogger's trying to tell me that I'm too cranky tonight and should just go to bed.

The fair got rained out tonight - my husband and I stood around in the tractor tent for about an hour waiting for the rain to let up. Hopefully I can get back before the fair ends. I didn't even get to see the pig races or the lumberjack show!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

7/26/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Dutchy cuteness for those of you who have baby bunnies on the brain - not including myself in that lot! These babies were born in a shelter in California and a PetBunny member sent along a link to their "growing up" photos taken by a volunteer foster mom back in April. I saved this pic back then because I thought it was so cute!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A rainbow of blooms

RED blooming maple
ORANGE daylilly
YELLOW "Happy Returns" daylilly
GREEN water lettuce
black and BLUE salvia
INDIGO Rose of Sharon hedge
VIOLET catmint

Monday, July 24, 2006

Chaste tree - Deep Cut Gardens

One day last week I visited a horticultural park nearby to photograph flowers and butterflies. I've spent many hours volunteering in this park as part of my master gardener hours, but haven't really experienced it the way a first-time visitor would. I know many of the nooks and crannies, and where all the nastiest weeds grow, but to wander around with my camera and a few spare hours was a treat. The gardens are pretty diverse and my interest is mostly in the wildest parts of the park where the hands of the horticultural staff or the master gardeners haven't much reached yet. Blogger has fits if I try to load more than two or three photos per post, so I'll share some of the nicer pics from the different gardens on an occasional basis.

I had to call and ask the staff about the shrub in the above photo. From far away it looked like a humungous butterfly bush, but I knew better. The shape of the flowers was similar to a butterfly bush also, but they were formed more like those of a lilac. I got my answer today - it's a Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) - a non-native, but from what I've read seems to be popular in the south and in arid regions of the country. I'd be interested to hear more about it from anyone that is familiar with it. The flowers were covered with bees and small butterflies, I walked round and round a few times to get a look at all the insects that were feeding on it.

I'm awful with skippers, but my handy-dandy naturalist friend says this is probably a Peck's Skipper.

He suggested these might be Delaware or European Skippers. I don't have a clue!

I thought this might be a sootywing, but he says it's a duskywing, either Wild Indigo or Horace's.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Buddy by the bay

Buddy dragged me out to Sandy Hook today because we haven't visited this favorite place in a while. It's nice to walk with him there because when it gets hot we both can take a dip in the bay. Dogs are aren't allowed on most ocean beaches during the summer months to protect beach nesting birds, like terns and plovers. We started out at North Pond, down a path that is well-worn during the Spring because migrant birds congregate here, but now is overgrown with poison ivy and shaded just enough to be a haven for mosquitos. Buddy marched along unfazed by both.

I was anxious to get out to the dunes and pond to see the tree swallows and osprey that nest close there. Along the way, I paused among the beach plums that I photographed in April and saw plenty of fruit, none quite ripe enough for picking. When ready they'll turn a luscious shade of frosty purple, usually in late August or early September. Ever had beach plum jelly? We rested for awhile in the dunes, watching the swallows darting over the pond until finally the biting flies chased us back out to the parking lot.

The park service is in the process of revegetating most of the parking lot at North Pond with native plants and grasses to restore grassland habitat that was lost in other areas of Sandy Hook. The field is blooming with chicory, spotted knapweed, some little-bluestem, and a lot of coneflowers - they're what caught my eye! Hopefully, in the fall, we'll find Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and numerous sparrows in addition to the Goldfinches I found there today.

By this point, Buddy was hot and bored with all the attention I was paying to the flowers and the butterflies. I turned around to find him belly-up in the wildflowers, scratching his back, I guess. Or looking for attention himself. He loves to roll around in the grass like a fool - silly boy!

We headed in the car to Horseshoe Cove, where I was hoping to get some pics of the osprey that nest in the marsh there. First, we had to stop and take a dip in a quiet pool made by the tide. Buddy is not much of a swimmer, he prefers to wade and just get his belly wet.

We walked along to the beach on the bayside and found families fishing and seining the water for tiny little fish. I'm not sure what they do with them, but I know these are the same fish that I've watched terns catch. Tiny little silvery things. We spent a lot of time here, me taking pics and Buddy laying in the surf, cooling off. I watched a group of cormorants on the pilings, waiting out the tide and drying their wings.

I set out to find the osprey and had to drag Buddy from the water. At 11, he doesn't have the stamina he once had, and it was obvious today. Used to be he pulled me along behind him. Today we walked side by side at a leisurely pace and took a minute to photograph this common tern.

We found our way to the marsh, but the osprey platform was too far away for any nice pics. There were 2 almost fully grown youngsters there on the nest, waiting to be fed. Buddy decided the marsh grass was a nice shady place for a nap and settled in while I watched the osprey with my binoculars.

We headed home then, wet and hot and tired. Any visit to Sandy Hook is a good one; the variery of things I saw today made it an especially nice visit. Buddy, I think, was just glad to be home on his bed with the fan blowing on him.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

On birthdays and remembering

Today would have been my dad's 75th birthday - here he is on his 73rd. He fully planned to live to be at least 100 and told us so all the time. There were a lot of things, I guess, that he still wanted to do.

This is probably the only pic I have of my dad sitting in front of a birthday cake, and it's a sad one for me to look at. He looks so frail and sick; I wish I couldn't see his catheter for dialysis poking out of the collar of his shirt. We're standing around him there in the darkness, watching him make his wish before blowing out the candles. I wonder what he wished for on his last birthday.

I'm still at the point where I can't think of my dad without thinking of the burdens of sickness he faced during the last months of his life. I want to be done with this part of remembering. His life was not about being sick and dying - I want to be able to think of all the rest.

I hardly remember my dad ever being sick; until the hospital got a hold of him. We brought him in because his feet and lower legs were swollen and full of sores. The doctors kept talking about cancer and kidney failure and heart problems. All my dad wanted was for the doctors to fix his feet! He told them so and refused most of the tests they wanted.

He was doing pretty well when I first brought him home with me, even though the swelling in his feet and legs never much improved. Within a month he was sick and back in the hospital and on dialysis. Dialysis, at least, took away the swelling, but made him so weak. He refused any treatment for the cancer; always said he wanted to wait until he was stronger. Only, he never got stronger, just weaker and more frail. Then he got shingles, lost his appetite, stopped being himself.

My friend Debbie lost her father early this year. She used to see my dad on his dialysis days when she was at the hospital visiting her own dad. She often told me how good he looked and that she always saw him smiling and concerned with others. That was his way.

There are some happy memories from that time: the way my dog Buddy would greet my dad each morning, tail wagging, when I went in to wake him and my dad's greeting to us, "There's the sunshine"; driving from my brother's to my house with my dad on Thursday nights and passing the horse farms and the one field planted with giant sunflowers; my dad calling the bus that brought him to dialysis the "scat-wagon" (SCAT stands for senior citizen activity transportation); the pretty flowered finger bowl my dad insisted on having his meds served in, otherwise he might not take them; packing a lunch bag on dialysis days with anything my dad might eat, even if it was on the *prohibited* list - sometimes I would add a little love note or a chocolate for him to find.

This is the type of remembering I ought to be doing - it makes me smile to think of these things. My friend Debbie, with the loss of her dad, is a few steps behind me. She is marking the milestones of the first year without her dad. It's so very hard for her, I know. I am anxious to see her get to where she can remember her dad with a smile, rather than tears; but I am hardly there myself.

Template change

Just trying this on for size. What better way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon than trying out a new look?

Let me know if you think it's awful.

Friday, July 21, 2006

iPod meme

From DivaKitty and the Fluffies and perfect on a mindless Friday night after a very looong week at work.

Put your iPod on shuffle and blog the first twenty songs in the shuffle.

1. Don't Be So Hard on Yourself - Luka Bloom
2. Angel - Sara McLachlan
3. Nightingale - Norah Jones
4. The Long Day is Over - Norah Jones
5. Come Away With Me - Norah Jones
6. Forgiveness - Luka Bloom
7. Boondocks - Little Big Town
8. Bring It On Home - Little Big Town
9. Something More - Sugarland
10. Come a Little Closer - Dirks Bentley
11. Rainbow Warrior - Luka Bloom
12. Turn Me On - Norah Jones
13. Blackberry Time - Luka Bloom
14. Lot of Leavin' Left to Do - Dirks Bentley
15. I've Got to See You Again - Norah Jones
16. Days Go By - Keith Urban
17. Home - Michael Buble
18. Your Body is a Wonderland - John Mayer
19. Must Be Doin' Something Right - Billy Currington
20. Pay Me My Money Down - Bruce Springsteen

If anyone would like to play along - have a go at it! I find it really interesting to discover what kind of music people like listening to - always a surprise. My iPod is pretty new so there aren't very many songs on it. The mix is fairly eclectic; quite a bit of Irish alternative and folk music, some country, some jazz, some pop. The last song I downloaded was Bruce's "Pay Me My Money Down" - I love the feel of that song.

I only use my iPod at work when I want to tune out all the chatter around me. It helps me concentrate to not have to overhear everyone's personal phone calls and extended whining sessions. There has been an awful lot of that crap lately and entirely too much foolishness. I'm having flashbacks to when I was teaching kindergarten. Not kidding! Makes me want t0 change careers and pick vegetables for a living.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Memories of Spain

Following my junior year in college I spent the summer in Spain. It occurs to me that the 15 years between that summer and now has passed in a flash! Where does the time go?

I remember being excited to go, but so very scared. I was a Spanish major and my college sponsored the trip in conjunction with the University of Madrid. I had classes four days a week in the mornings and the afternoons and weekends free for travel and sightseeing. Looking through the photo album I made, it seems that I saw very little of the country, outsiide of the areas surrounding Madrid where I lived. This photo taken outside the Plaza de Toros de las Ventas bullring in Madrid is my favorite; I think because it reminds me of my Uncle "Doc" who grew up in Barcelona. Either one of those men could be him. A copy of the poster advertising that Sunday's corrida hangs on my sunporch. Bullfighting is controversial, even in Spain, but I'm glad to have had the experience of seeing a few. I only wish we hadn't bought the cheap seats - the Spanish sun is incredibly strong even late in the day.

We visited an inordinate number of churches, most of them much more ornate than this one in Segovia, a spectacular old town set high on a rocky cliff and surrounded by two rivers. We saw the castle-like Alcazar and the Aqueduct built by the Romans during the 1st century. My most vivid memory from this town is buying a beautiful handmade lace tablecloth for my sister-in-law from a gypsy who tried to steal my camera after I had paid her.

We spent a lot of nights in bars, but we were college students and that's what one does is Spain. The custom is to have a late supper around 10 pm when the sun finally sets and head out for the evening sometime after midnight. This made being in class at 8 am pretty difficult, but I found that by staying up all night I wouldn't oversleep and miss class. I'd go to class and then spend the afternoon sleeping by the pool. I often missed the big meal of the day around 2 pm, so was always hungry. Sundays were my favorite day because the cafeteria at the school was closed and we went to a chain restaurant that served spaghetti (my favorite!) Hungry, but I had a great tan that summer. The pic at left shows us drinking milk and orange juice ;-) shortly before I returned home to NJ. I'm almost as dark as my Spanish friends, but the red-haired girl clearly didn't spend enough time by the pool!

My favorite city was Salamanca, where we spent a weekend and treated ourselves to an expensive hotel with air-conditioning and room service. Quite a treat after dormitory living! Salamanca is a breathtakingly beautiful city, where the quality of light is somehow magical, especially at dusk in the Plaza Mayor; built of a warm golden sandstone. We spent most of our time there, eating and people-watching. Very late in the night I took this photo of people dancing in the middle of the square.

I would love to return someday and see the south of Spain, and the northern regions, and Barcelona. There is so much that I didn't see and a lot of what I saw I couldn't really appreciate because of my youth. Years of summer jobs and my dad's generous nature made the trip possible. I'm still amazed that he let me go. Some day I'll post more about that.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

7/19/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Making a nest, just in case

Peeper (yes, the stray bunny has a name now) has gathered hay for a nest, like you see in the pic above, twice in the two weeks she's been here. On her third or fourth day she pulled out a lot of fur from her belly, which is what bunnies do when birthing is imminent. This pic was taken last Wednesday. The timing is important to me because I'm hoping that the sporadic nature of her nest-building behaviors means that she is just very hormonal and may only be experiencing a false pregnancy. False would be good.

On the advice of an experienced bunny person (thanks Sharon!) I've prepared a place for her nest, just in case. A smallish litterbox lined with a soft fleece, tucked away in the downstairs part of her cage should give her the privacy and safety that she will (hopefully not) need. I've also draped that part of the cage with an old folded curtain so that it is dark and draft free.

When I first made these changes a week ago, like any bunny, she was very curious and pushed and pulled at the fabric and rearranged everything to her liking. Since then she has completely ignored it. Hasn't been in the box or even peed on that soft bit of fabric like most bunnies would have to do.

She is enjoying her twice daily salads and plenty of hay. She is a master of the *dead-lop-flop* and has started to act a little silly; almost dancing sometimes when she is out for play. She is comfortable here and is working her bunny magic on me day by day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dog days

Cicadas are noisy now that the heat of summer is upon us. Hal Borland compares their shrills to "the twanging of a taut and ragged nerve at the peak of a galling summer day, a quiver so painful that you wince a quarter of a mile away". I don't mind their noise so much; as kids we always called them *heat bugs* because their calling coincides with the hottest parts of the day.

I was sitting out on the screened patio this evening having coffee when this one flew into the Rose of Sharon hedge nearby. These are big bugs and so very clumsy in their flying! I'll admit to being a bit afraid of them; as I was taking pics of it I kept repeating over and over, "please don't fly at me... please don't fly at me" - of course I spooked it (and it, me) and it took off out of the hedge and I went in the opposite direction.

A few years ago we inadvertently attracted Cicada- Killer Wasps when we replaced our concrete driveway with pavers. The loose dirt was attractive to these digging wasps and I often watched them as they dragged a cicada into their nest burrows in the loose dirt beside the driveway.

Later I wandered into the garden to pick a few grape tomatoes and some basil and found the shed skin of a cicada nymph on the underside of a tomato leaf. I can remember one summer during my childhood when the willow tree in our backyard was covered with the shed skins of thousands of cicada nymphs. My older brothers terrorized me for all of that summer, tossing the crinkly skins at me and putting them in my hair. Propbably explains why I'm scared of them even now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Heatwave advice

Take a cold shower

Drink plenty of fluids

Find a shady spot for a nap

Take a dip as often as necessary

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mountain mint

This herb is something of a mystery. I purchased it a few years ago at a local native plant nursery because I had read that it was a good plant to attract pollinators. It was labeled only as *mountain mint* and I've not been able to figure out today what variety I have. It looks like it might be short-toothed mountain mint, but I'm not very sure of that.

It's a nondescript plant and doesn't *do* much more than you see in these pics - no big showy flowers here. Just these tiny white ones that seem mostly to attract equally tiny flying insects that I can't identify. It's growing among the swamp milkweed, joe pye weed, and bee balm so it tends to disappear among its more showy neighbors. I like the cool green color of the foliage.

I found quite a few references to the medicinal properties of this plant and one reference stated that it was believed by Native Americans to have strong medicine capable of *reviving the dead*.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"Big Smiles" Hydrangea

I'm not in the mood to fight with Blooger tonight to get it to post more than one pic, so I'm sharing this weird mosaic/hockneyed photo collage I made on Flickr. I've always wanted a lace-cap hydrangea and fell in love when I saw this one; a macrophylla/serrata cross. The larger outer flowers have serrated edges which is what attracted me to it - they start out a pretty lime-green and mature to a soft cream color. It should be gorgeous as it gets larger.

I'm using it to replace the Winterthur Viburnum that I planted last fall that died. I've given up on trying to grow them - the one surviving is struggling; it has hardly put out any leaves this year, but I'm trying to baby it to keep it going. Hopefully I'll be more successful with this shrub - it's planted in moist shade which it should like. We'll see.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Crabbing on the Swimming River

Both my husband and I took the day off from work to go crabbing - I was looking for an excuse to play *hooky* and he offered. It was a beautiful day today - hot, but without the humidity that has been so oppressive all week. Our usual spot to crab is from a little bridge over the Swimming River in Red Bank - further down the river past the railroad bridge you see in the pic this river becomes the Navesink, five miles or so downriver is Sandy Hook Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Crabbing requires little investment or preparation, but is a very repetitive pastime. We set up twenty or so traps across the span of the bridge, excepting the middle part of the bridge where our trap lines would interfere with the boat channel below. I watched and took pictures at this point, rather than handle the bait (fish or raw chicken) - left that yuckiness to my DH and his brother. The rest is easy - check the trap every so often, lifting it from the bottom hand-over-hand, and seeing what you've caught. There is a 4 1/2-inch minimum size, measured point to point across the back and we throw back any females we catch.

The majority of what we caught today were too small to keep, and these little ones usually fall out of the trap as you pull it out of the water. The keepers present somewhat of a challenge to me, as they often just won't be flipped into the bushel basket like a cooperative crab ought to. Instead, they find something to hold onto and won't let go. Shaking the whole trap works, but then you have a crab running around your Teva-sandaled feet. My husband just catches them under his shoe, but he wears steel-toed boots. Crabs can pinch painfully, even drawing blood, and the claws should definitely be avoided!

Here my husband is demonstrating to me the proper technique for holding a crab by the base of one of its swimming appendages called "swimmerets'' or "paddles'' located at the rear of the shell. My husband tells me the big, snapping male blue claws aren't able to reach around and nip a finger this way. Once you have a hold of them and are sure the size is big enough and that it's a male you can then flip it into the basket. Adding a crab into the bushel causes the others to scurry around threateningly - that snapping, lunging mass is no place for your hand! You have to keep the basket in the shade and the crabs moist with a wet towel, but they'll live with proper ventilation for a few hours until you get them home to the pot.

We ended the day with 50 or so keepers for my husband's mom and terrific sunburns. My shoulders and the backs of my knees are red like a lobster - sleeping should be interesting for the next few nights.