International Zebra Day is observed every year on January 31. With their natural environment diminishing and increasing human development, these gentle animals are in danger. When habitats are threatened, animals, too, become endangered. International Zebra Day is all about raising awareness and what you can do to help in the conservation of this animal. Zebras are mostly found on the African continent, in the semi-desert areas of Kenya and Ethiopia, and the hilly areas of Namibia, Angola, and South Africa. You can easily identify a zebra by its unique black and white stripes.
Today it has been 19 years ago, I immigrated to the United States of America. I remember sitting with Katelynn (she was a little less than 4 months old) in my arms in O’Hare (Chicago International Airport), and I had only 22 US pennies in my pants pockets. I was very excited, but also a little bit scared. Because I did not know what the future would bring to us. While Kevin was calling his parents in NC, I looked out the window at the skyline of Chicago. I was thinking to myself: “Omg, what have I done, now? I’m over 4,000 miles away from home, with no money in my pockets, and no job lined up. I just hope, everything will work out alright!” Kevin was working long days and went to school at night. In the meantime, I took care of the baby. Better work came with Kevin’s education. About 18 months after my immigration, we could afford a small house in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas.
Now 19 years later, having a house full of kids, dogs, cats, a backyard, and a car, in Connecticut, I still have “no money” in my pockets. After the bills are paid, there is usually not much left. I learned there are a lot of great people in both places, my home and my home of choice. I traveled all over the US to enjoy the different mentality and hospitality of these states. I also enjoyed the landscapes this country provides to all of us. Here, I look back to close to two decades of a great journey. Now I’m excited to see, what the next 19 years will have in store for me and my family.
People frequently like to ask me this question: “But you do get the chance to get home and visit family and friends quite often, don’t you?” I have to disappoint y’all. I came here and never went back. And I never regretted my decision, either.
Atop the most southerly hill in a chain known as the Seven Sisters, William Hooker Gillette, noted actor, director, and playwright, built this one hundred and eighty-four-acre estate, the Seventh Sister. The focal point of his effort was a twenty-four-room mansion reminiscent of a medieval castle. The woodwork within the castle is hand-hewn southern white oak. Of the forty-seven doors within the structure, there are no two exactly the same. And each door has a handsome external latch intricately carved of wood. Even the Castle’s furnishings are indications of Gillette’s inspirations. The built-in couches, a movable table on tracks, and light switches of carved wood all point to his creative genius.
Since Kevin and I went to the Devil’s Hopyard State Park, we went to Gillette’s Castle State Park as well. Since they are about 15 minutes apart, and we were in this area already, mind as well we visit it. We arrived at the castle and noticed, that it is under construction. Which is okay with me. At least I know, where part of our taxes goes. And the castle needs to be maintained for future visits. During our visit, we found out that the castle was built with local fieldstones, which are supported by a steel framework. This gives the Gillette castle a Medieval look. Mr. Gillette also built a three-mile narrow gauge railroad. While the Castle sits in New London County, the biggest portion of the State Park is in Middlesex County.
William Hooker Gillette was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1853. His father, Francis Gillette was a U.S. Senator. William Gillette visited numerous colleges including Trinity, Yale, Harvard, etc. But he never received a degree. In 1916 Gillette had his most famous role for his portrayal of “Sherlock Holmes”. He passed away, due to a pulmonary hemorrhage, in 1937 at the age of 83 in Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1919, the former State Park and Forest Commission obtained an 860-acre parcel located in the Millington section of Haddam. The principal feature of the park, Chapman Falls drops more than sixty feet over a series of steps in a Scotland Schist stone formation. The falls also once powered “Beebe’s Mills” named after the original owner. The mills operated until the mid-1890s.
A search for the origin of the name “Devil’s Hopyard” reveals a wide variety of different stories; none of them are verifiable and all are likely to be more fiction than fact. One of the most popular of these stories is about a man named Dibble, who had a garden for growing hops used in the brewing of beer. It seems that through usage, Dibble’s Hopyard became Devil’s Hopyard. There are records of several farmers having hopyards in the area, but there is no mention of a landowner named Dibble. However, Dibble might have been a tenant.
Another tale focuses on the potholes near the falls, which are some of the finest examples of pothole stone formations in this section of the country. Perfectly cylindrical, they range from inches to several feet in diameter and depth. These potholes were formed by stones moved downstream by the current and trapped in an eddy where the stone was spun around and around, wearing a depression in the rock. When the rock wore itself down, another would catch it in the same hole and enlarge it. We know this now, but to the early settlers, the potholes were a great mystery that they tried to explain with references to the supernatural. They thought the Devil had passed by the falls, accidentally getting his tail wet. This made him so mad he burned holes in the stones with his hooves as he bounded away.
Kevin and I drove to the Devil’s Hopyard State Park by East Haddam. I wanted to see Chapman Falls. The weather was great. We had 50℉/10℃. And there were a lot of people hiking with their kids and dogs. I believe there was also a small photo group in the park. Kevin and I hiked the short Chapman Falls Loop Trail. Some areas were a little muddy. Due to the fact, we had rain and snow last week, I can see the Eight Mile River flooding its shores. This time of year is still the best time to go hiking in these state parks. Once Spring arrives a lot more locals will come out, and tourists will be all over the place. We can’t blame them. It is a beautiful State Park.
In 1851, Eli Terry built a dam on the Pequabuck River to supply water power for a new factory, the Terryville Manufacturing Company. Located on Canal Street, the shop made clocks and clock parts. Water from the pond was diverted down a canal to turn a water wheel that generated 35 horsepower at full speed. In 1864, the factory became the Eagle Bit and Buckle Company, manufacturers of harness bits and buckles for the Union Army during the Civil War. Eventually, locks for mailbag pouches were made here. Later a sawmill occupied the site, and by 1908, it was a woodturning plant.
Dutch iris (Iris × hollandica) is a hybrid bulbous iris. Its name does not reflect its place of origin but rather the Dutch people who hybridized it. Iris xiphium, the parent species associated with the Dutch iris comes from Spain and Portugal. The 3- to 4-inch flowers are usually multi-colored. Blue, bluish-purple, white, bronze, rose, gold and yellow are the most common colors.
Today, the whole continent celebrates Australia Day. It marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip, in 1788.
Western scrub-jays have long tails and small bills. The head, wings, and tail are blue, the back is brown, the underside is gray to tan, and the throat is white. Unlike the Steller’s jay and the blue jays, they do not have a crest. Western scrub jays include several subspecies that live along the Pacific coast and in the interior West. The Pacific coastal group has a distinct blue collar and is brighter in color than those of the interior West. They also have beaks that are short and hooked for eating acorns, while interior scrub jays have longer, more pointed beaks for extracting pine nuts from pinecones. Their behavior can be bold and inquisitive, and their calls can be loud and raucous, although the jays of the interior tend to be quieter, and their calls are lower-pitched than those of the coast. Western scrub jays are about 11.5 inches (29 centimeters) in length and have a wingspan of just over 15 inches (38 centimeters).
Originally Kevin and I planned to hike the Orenaug Park Trail in Woodbury. But we couldn’t find the entrance to the park. So, we went down to the Trolley Bed Trail. There we followed Stone Brook to the Woodbury Reservoir. Even with temperatures in the mid-30s and snow in the forecast, it was a comfortable hike.
Originally a creation by Christy Hargrove, National Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21 is a day to learn about and celebrate the world’s cutest rodents. Here’s the thing about squirrels: some people hate them and say that they’re an “invasive species.” But can those people leap across a space ten times the length of their body? Didn’t think so.
Penguin Awareness Day is observed on January 20 every year and while we are certainly aware of how adorable these flightless birds are, the dwindling number of penguins needs more attention. The rapidly shrinking population of penguins every year goes mostly unnoticed because their natural habitat is usually where humans don’t live. Penguin Awareness Day is a great initiative to raise awareness on this crucial matter, and also enjoy fun penguin-themed activities.
In mid-January of 2013, we weren’t expecting snow that day. Even FOX4’s Head Meteorologist, Dan Henry, said what a surprise it was getting snow. But in Texas, the weather is possible and very unpredictable. It can say light rain on the radar. And then we end up with snow the following morning. The birds were all fluffed up to stay warm in the cold breeze. Katelynn liked it. She didn’t have to school and could play with her little sister in the snow that day.
National Winnie the Pooh Day on January 18th commemorates author A.A. Milne’s birthday in 1882. He brought the adorable, honey-loving bear to life in his stories, which also featured his son, Christopher Robin.
Milne’s lovable Pooh Bear, as he was fondly called, is a fictional bear inspired by a black bear named Winnie. Winnie lived at the London Zoo during World War I. The author’s son, Christopher Robin, would visit the bear often and named his own teddy bear after her and a swan named Pooh. This friendship inspired a collection of books starting with When We Were Young in 1924. E.H. Shepard beautifully illustrated the books. Their adventures took them and millions of children through the Hundred Acre Woods. Each character played a unique role in the books. Whether the wisdom of Owl or Rabbit lead the group awry or a celebration ensued, the story’s characters became beloved around the world.
In the 1960s, Disney bought the rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh characters dropping the hyphen from Pooh’s name. The illustrations were a bit different, too. Milne’s stories have been translated into over 50 languages and are considered classic children’s stories today.
This animal’s true name is the American bison, but most people call them buffalo. Bison are the largest terrestrial animal in North America. They can stand up to six feet (1.8 meters) tall. A male can weigh upwards of a ton (900 kilograms), and a female can weigh about 900 pounds (400 kilograms). Along with their formidable size, bison have several unique traits that help to identify them. One of the most noticeable is the hump on their shoulders. Another characteristic is their deep brown fur, which can grow very long, especially around the face and head. Bison also grow long beards and manes. The head of a bison is very large with a thick skull. Bison fight by crashing their heads or horns together. Both male and female bison have short, curved, black horns, which can grow to two feet (0.6 meters) long.
Before human intervention, bison once ranged over much of North America, including central Canada and most of the interior United States. The only places free of bison were along the coasts and deserts. Today bison are only wild in national parks, state parks, and reserves. Your best chance of seeing wild bison is to visit Yellowstone National Park in the USA or Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. American bison like open plains, savannas, and grasslands. Despite their immense size, bison still have to worry about predators. Buffalo calves can easily become the prey of a wolf pack or grizzly bear.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys I have a dream today.and white girls as sisters and brothers.
Martin Luther King, Jr. ~ Minister, Civil Rights Activist ~ Washington, D.C. 08-28-1963
In the Summer of 2017, we visited Niagara Falls to meet up with Kevin’s former High School friends. Kevin and I had our daughters with us, and Jackie had her daughter, born in the same months and year as Sara. Kevin, the girls, and I had a room at the now Niagara Inn (I can’t remember the old name of the motel. It is on my tongue, but I can’t spit it out.). Jackie, Lisa, and Bella visited us at the hotel after hanging out at Oppenheim Country Park. Sara and Bella were standing in the motel’s hallway. And all of a sudden, Jackie said: “Girls, stand right this way. I want to shoot a photo.” When I looked up, I started laughing and said: “That’s a re-enacted scene of Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’. Even the Exit sign fits perfectly into the picture.”
Now, Jackie sends us the photo on the yearly anniversary, reminding us we need to see them again in Niagara Falls. And I read this book for the second time after I read it first in the Winter of 2020. Thank goodness, we are only six hours instead of two-and-a-half days away from Niagara Falls, now. What a relaxing evening to laugh my butt off, when the book reminded me of the photo in Niagara Falls, again. 😂👭📚
At the turn of the century, this was the site of the Diamond Match Company. Scenic waterfalls are at the northwest end of the Park on the Eight Mile River. The Larkin Bridle Trail is nearby. Southford Falls was established as a state park in 1932 and has 169 acres.
Temperatures near the freezing point, a chilly wind, and some snowflakes won’t stop Kevin and me from a hike in January. We are good to go as long as we are bundled up and the trails are not icy. Last weekend, we decided we hike in Southford Falls State Park. Mainly, I wanted to see the falls close to the parking lot. But we went further down the trail before the fallen trees stopped us in our tracks. There we’ve noticed, bigger snowflakes coming down. Before it got too messy, Kevin and I went back up the trail. I captured a few more photos And then we warmed up in the car. Winter weather is cold in Connecticut. However, we don’t have to deal with the bugs in the Winter season.
The garden pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana) is a hybrid, one of whose parents is V. tricolor, which is a weed of European grainfields, the other parents being V. lutea and V. altaica. The tufted pansy, or horned viola (V. cornuta), is the parent of numerous forms of bedding pansies. The wild pansy (V. tricolor), also known as Johnny-jump-up, heartsease, and love-in-idleness, has been widely naturalized in North America. The flowers of this form are usually purple and yellow and less than 2 cm (0.8 inches) across.
Male flame skimmers are known for their entirely red or dark orange body, which includes eyes, legs, and even wing veins. Females are usually a medium or darker brown with some thin, yellow markings. This type of skimmer varies in size but is generally measured between two and three inches long. These naiads are known for being rather large and chubby-looking due to their rounded abdomen. They are covered with hair but, unlike most young dragonflies, they lack hooks or spines.
Every time, we visit the State Fair of Texas we can’t miss out on the Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park. The girls love to see the flowers outdoors and the Butterfly House. This year, they had a special treat for Katelynn at their expo: Snakes, spiders, and bugs. Katelynn loves all these creepy crawlies. There were some venomous snakes and hairy-legged spiders. Not to forget to mention the cockroaches. Thank goodness, they have been locked in their terrariums. I like them much better when there is a protective glass between those critters and me.
For over 100 years, bobbleheads have been entertaining and fascinating fans and collectors. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, too. Bobbleheads commemorate iconic teams, movies, and cartoon characters. Individually, they represent some of our most exciting athletes or thrilling television and movie characters.
Early bobbleheads, known as bobbers or nodders, developed in Germany. They took root in the United States pop culture in the 1950s and 60s. Bobbleheads resurged in the late 1990s when professional sports teams began using them as promotional items. Today, as toys and collectibles, bobbleheads continue to amuse and captivate us.
The frost and snow of Winter tighten their grip on the sleeping landscape. The nights are long, and food sources are scarce. In times past, the wolves would hunt around the village’s edge to look for scraps.
The January Full Moon is about protection. This could be anything from checking the batteries in the smoke detector to working on setting better boundaries. It is also a time to look at our habits and limits and adjust those things that do not serve us anymore.
I miss those warmer January days in North Texas. Don’t get me wrong, Texas can have some cold Winter days. But on a lot of days, it was warm enough to sit on the backyard deck to enjoy wildlife feeding on berries, and watch the clouds go by in the sky. It also was easier to photograph the birds in the trees, in January and February. There was no leaf to obstruct the view.
The North American Elk is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in its native range of North America and Central and East Asia. The word “elk” originally referred to the European variety of the moose, Alces alces, but was transferred to Cervus canadensis by North American colonists. The name “wapiti” is sometimes used for Cervus canadensis, which derives from a Shawnee and Cree word meaning “white rump”.
Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitats, feeding on grasses, plants, leaves, and bark. Male elk have large antlers which they shed each year. Males also engage in ritualized mating behaviors during the rut, including posturing, antler wrestling (sparring), and bugling, a loud series of vocalizations that establishes dominance over other males and attracts females. Although it is currently native to North America and central/eastern Asia, it had a much broader distribution in the past. Populations were present across Eurasia into Western Europe during the Late Pleistocene and survived into the early Holocene in southern Sweden and the Alps; the extinct Merriam’s elk subspecies ranged into Mexico. The elk have adapted well to countries where it has been introduced, including Argentina and New Zealand. Its adaptability may threaten endemic species and the ecosystems into which it has been submitted.
We walked on the fairgrounds to look at some sculptures and go to the Texas Discovery Gardens. Big Tex celebrated his 60th Anniversary at the State Fair of Texas. Unfortunately, 13 days later he burned down to his frame. He had an electrical short in his wiring, which moved his jaw. It was a sad day in Dallas’ History. The following year, he was rebuilt.
On Christmas, Santa put a fish tank under the tree. Sara wanted a fish for so long. And Santa was positive, Sara is old enough to take care of a pet fish. But she had to do some research and get the fish herself. After reading books on fish and purchasing a pump, a filter, a heater, and some other important knick-knacks to get the water chlorine-free and circle it through, she purchased her fish today. First, she thought about getting a guppy. But she wanted something a little bit bigger, which would fit in her 5-gallon tank. She looked at the bettas. And one got her attention due to its colors. It is a Premium Male Betta Butterfly. And he’s so adorable. Sara gave him the name Neico.
So, now we can say we officially have a zoo: two dogs, four cats, and a fish. Joshua wanted Neico for dinner already. Can we blame him? There is nothing better for a cat than fresh “sushi”. He went nuts over that fish. Joshua is now banned from Sara’s room. She doesn’t want to come home from school one day, and Neico is gone.
Change has been constant throughout the 100-year history of this piece of countryside. Where once a shared landscape of farmland and woodland dominated, a campus of higher education overtook them and ruled the property for nine decades. But it too, like the farms and fields before it, lapsed into disuse allowing the woodland to reassert itself and provide us with the landscape we enjoy today.
Since it was a beautiful day, Kevin, Sara, and I went hiking in Camp Columbia State Park for New Year’s Day. It was chilly a little bit. But we bundled up. We took the Camp Columbia Tower Trail, which is a short (0.6 miles/1 km roundtrip) trail. When Kevin, Sara, and I climbed the stairs of the tower, we had a nice view of the Camp Colombia State Forest. I can only imagine, how beautiful the view will be in Autumn again. While Kevin went down the steps and looked up some history about the Instrument House, which is now a ruin, and the tower, I had to get Sara down again. The outer staircase gave her some anxiety. Once she was on the ground and away from the tower, she did fine again.