Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spring Time Work

one busy spring. 
I've been putting in some time working in the warm room work along with some software practice
and education, but I still have a ways to go on that front.

 We have finished trimming out the last windows and upper wall and are concentrating on just getting everything moved in.

The shelf system worked out well.

Part of the spring work load around here includes:

so maybe it's not all work!

We also had to deal with the fact that our composter is not Pine Martin proof!

He loves to poke his head out to see if the coast is clear.

We did get both boats ready, launched and water tested.

It's been years since I have unwrapped and ran my poor John boat,
it took a bit of work but it now runs great,
this is the year.  I'm either going to fish it or sell it.

The pontoon launched without incident and started right up.
(Thank you Yamaha)

We also replaced 7 windows in the cabin before the bug season. The new windows are wonderful
with larger glass panes, lo-E treatment and very fine screens.

After that we pulled down our winter bird feeder. Limited deck space combined with blocking the view meant it had to go.

Bird feeder loaded up for it's truck ride out to the storage building till next winter.
We received countless hours of enjoyment from the feeder and it's design will continue
to evolve year after year.

Then came the flower gardens.
Last years dirt work included two more large terraced rock gardens along  and a few pockets along the driveway edges suitable for planting, suitable that is with the exception of dirt with color and rocks removed.
Pat worked hard prepping the sites and defining the edges with rocks.

We attended the DFL convention in Duluth the weekend of May 6th and got very lucky to find a Duluth composting site, open on Sunday with a bobcat to load our empty pick-up for the low low  price of $27.00 a yard.
So we are now proud owners of a steaming pile of compost in the back of our truck.

After we  unloaded this pile it was very clear we are at least one truck short of of what we needed so  we planned another trip.

Trip two included plants and another yard of compost.

Pat's new tulips have just bloomed. 

Even the window boxes are done.
 Sorry for the lack of observatory news but life up here is fluid and  dealt with day by day.
Getting things done before the bug' get bad is very important,  as a matter of fact there is a half an hour in the spring and anther in the fall where you can be outside naked without being cold or bite by bugs and last Sunday from 11:00 to 11:30 am was it!
Sorry if you missed it, there's always next year.

One last thing,
 I know I said I would not get political in this blog but I have to brag.
Cook County sends 6 delegates to the District 8 precinct convention and they only have 1/2 votes, so we get a total of 3 votes.
At this convention there was a total of  176  votes, so when one of our delegates wanted to be elected as a delegate to the DFL convention in Charlotte NC I was concerned that our 3 votes couldn't carry it off.
Well the combined efforts from our table campaigning and a great speech from our delegate we are sending Denny Fitzpatrick to the national convention.

Denny and Al Franken

Congratulations Denny!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Short Mud Season, Ice Off & Green House

Well I haven't done anything with the observatory in weeks but I do have a boatload of excuses
 for the lack of progress.

We pretty much got through the mud season in good shape. The snow has been gone for a few weeks and we've had some rain with warm weather, that along with the road work last fall,
kept everything in good shape.

Looking East from our driveway

Moved the track vehicles out to the storage building. I'll pull tracks off next week

Snow completely gone at Observatory

We started up the green house to get a jump on the early spring,
Pat has lot's of plans for her new rock gardens that Dean built last fall.

We taped it to the deck at front door so we enter it from inside the cabin.

The boys are happy with the new square footage 

Already had to re-pot, we might have jumped the gun!

Got back home today and found the lake is open!
Last year this happened on May 5.

Here is the same view as the one in my last post.

Looking East from our dock

Looking West

That's all your getting today and I promise to get back to work on the Observatory.
If there are any readers from the University of Duluth Astronomy Department or even a local geek,
I would love some help or tech support from somebody that knows
software to hardware configuring using Maxim DL Pro.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Company, Snow and Another Bobcat Photo

Sorry for the slow post's and progress with the observatory.
I had some company up for a few days, the kind of company you have visit when your significant other is away on travel. This type of company also needs preparation time before and recovery time after, you know a guys weekend.

Even the cats needed recovery time.

Speaking of cat here is my latest photo of our local bobcat.

Just missed, I'm still figuring the camera aiming out.

Then came the snow.
 We were able to keep our road open  to February 27th, but that's all over now! We have 10" of new snow on top of  the 4" from last week and more on the way, so our road is officially closed and we're now back to running the tracks.

This is the view from our deck over looking the dock which 5 days ago was completely free of snow. 
I'm not  complaining  though,  we really do need the moisture.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bobcat and Wolf Photos

Yesterday afternoon I had a bobcat encounter that lasted around 5 minutes.
I scared the cat off the road driving back home, it jump the ditch and slowly walked into the woods about 75 feet in from the edge of the road.
After looking back at me, it then turned and walked a line parallel with the road heading toward our cabin. I just kept pace with its slow walk for maybe 300 feet and during this time the cat would give me the occasional glance to be sure I wasn't a threat.
Talk about blending in, this animals coloring is perfect! With all the down Maple trees on the forest floor and the light snow cover, I would lose sight for a time, only to find it again by detecting movement,. This was my 2nd best animal sighting ever, surpassed only by the Lynx we saw last winter.
After this encounter I pulled two of the game cameras from around the cabin and placed them out on the road just east of the private land. This area of the road has a lot of wolf and cat tracks with pee spots everywhere.
This morning as I left for town around 6:15, both cameras flashed so I knew they were still working. I kept driving even though the road was covered in wolf shit and I knew there had to be new photos.  I  decided instead to pull them after the meetings.
I got to town about 6:45 and  had my usual breakfast at S.O.B.but found myself still too early for the meeting so I took a drive up the Gunflint Trail. I parked in the Pincushion parking lot overlooking Grand Marais and saw this  wolf walk by!

Clicking might make movie bigger

Pincushion is a cross country ski area that is also lit for night skiing,
A suggestion if you are skiing around there, don't fall behind your group and no matter how bad your leg cramps gets try not to look wounded!
Just kidding, we rarely find skier carcasses in the woods, 
although this might explain all the clothing, boots, ski's and poles we uncover.

Returning to the cabin around 2:00 I stopped and pulled the cards from the game cameras and headed to the Observatory's warm room to look over the photos

(Thanks Berry for ordering the card reader in our computer.)

Well say hello to our local Bobcat

You will want to click on this photo and see it large, 
This photo was time stamped 11:58 am, probably on his way to lunch.

Earlier that morning around 2:00 am the wolf pack moved by as well.

Not sure how many  wolves were in the pack,  but according to the time stamp they were around 5 minutes.  I have the camera set to shoot 3 photos per event with a delay of 1 minute between events so I had a total of 15 photos.
Some shots just show glowing eyes in the background and I'm sure the flash startled them, so tonight I reset one of the camera to shoot more across the road rather than down it.

I've  never really shared Jim's excitement over the game cameras.
The man has 3 of them, a sack of batteries and a solar battery pack along with two A.C. chargers.
He'd place them all over in the summer and I would check them when he was gone but  I  never saw the big attraction.
 Hell, he even had a camera on his dock to find out what was crapping all over it and I have to say I didn't care as long as it was crapping on his dock and not mine.
 Well that attitude changed last fall when we started getting some great deer, moose and wolf photos from a salt lick camera. However when it got cold I pulled them because battery life is so short in the winter.
Now I'm running a battery charging rotation, bought more memory cards so I can just change them out and am enjoying the heck out of this. As a matter of fact it might be tough for Jim to get them back

Friday, February 10, 2012

Deep Water, I'm Well Over My Head Now

I knew from the start I was wading into deep water,
turns out I was wrong.
I now realize I've been floating on the surface of a bottomless lake and 2 weeks ago my boat sank.
It started with a dyslexics person's worst enemy, a 400+ page software manual.
What I've learned  
during this project is when you're a novice at anything
 and you choose to start with advanced gear instead of beginner equipment, the learning curve goes from steep to vertical, or in my case it feels like it's overhanging.
We decided to go with Maxim DL Pro software to run our complete set-up including the telescope, dome rotation, auto focusers, camera, guider camera and image processing.
 Maxims manual is written with the assumption the reader is knowledgeable about astronomy and observatory/telescope set ups, so I spend  a lot of time referring to the glossary to figure out many of terms used in the manual.
My  friend Paul is  helping me  comprehend all this information. Paul and I  are completely opposite in our learning preferences, he likes to research and understand the outcome of clicking a tab, while I click the tab and try to figure out what just happened.
Between the two of us we have had some success! 
The warm room computer now communicates with the telescope, both cameras and the auto focusers, this was the result of a lot of reading, downloading 64 bit drivers, unloading then re-loading some software and what felt like some good luck.
Paul will also be invaluable for setting up our observatory/warm room start-up & shut-down routine and the image calibration check lists that will have to be compiled, posted then followed every evening .
So it might be a while before you see our 1st photo. If we get really stuck I'll be reaching out to an astronomy student in Duluth or making a run to the  Thunder Bay Observatory.

No bobcat photo though, we have over a 1000 photos from the 3 game cameras running 24 hours a day, deers, squirrels, birds, bunnies, vols and mice but no bobcat.  Pat had a sighting within  the last 2 weeks but I think we scared it out from under the cabin. Will keep setting cameras, who knows what we'll see!. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

We Now Have a Bobcat Living Under our Deck

We are down to one very nervous looking squirrel feeding under our bird feeder
since the bobcat moved in. 
We have seen the cat twice, it's den'd up under our deck.Right now there is enough snow that two sides of the deck is bunked up blocking the wind nicely, and the small open end is looking out over the ground under the feeder.
I'm sure the cat has been picking off the squirrels, mice, bunnies and birds that ground feed on the spilled seed. 

We decided to put two of Jim's game cameras out and see if we can't get a few good photos.
First night I set up the cameras, unfortunately one without its SD memory card installed and the other with a  SD card installed but locked so needless to say no photos.
After learning how to unlock the card, I charged the batteries, installed the cards and set them back up for the daylight hours yesterday to make sure I know what I 'm doing.
 I pulled them late that afternoon to check photos and recharge batteries and what I ended  up with is 187 photos of birds and that one nervous squirrel. No bobcat, but at least I'm getting photos now so back out the cameras went for the night shift.

You might want to click this photo (squirrel mug shot)

We awoke around 5:30 am this morning to what appeared to be a super model photo shoot going on in the side yard. Every 60 seconds the camera would take two photos with its flash lighting up our entire cabin with that harsh bright light. As we slowly made our way over to the window we were startled by the large deer head that popped up and stared at us for just a few seconds then dipped back down for more seed, setting off another round of photos.

If you're ever looking for close-up deer head or leg shots let me know!

In this shot you can see the opening under the deck that the bobcat uses to hunt. The red under the deck is a concrete blanket we wrap around the base of our cabin to help insulate so all in all it's a very nice warm place to stage a hunt.

Observatory News

Work continues in both the warm room and observatory,
mostly punch list stuff that I have put off for a while. I also have a friend, Paul ,coming over Wednesday to help me with software comprehension and test running equipment.
We have been getting light snow with lots of wind  the past few days making it hard to open the dome. Pat and I have been going out in the truck at night trying to find clear skies for northern lights with no luck. The first trip we drove Highway 61 half way to the Canadian border, another night up the Gunflint Trail but we just  couldn't get out of the clouds. We have had two well below 0 clear sky nights but have seen nothing in the way of northern lights.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Cook County Blog Has Started

Well last month I promised to stop being political on our observatory blog and to start a Cook County Minnesota blog, 
and it's now up and running and called
We Do Things Different Around Here
 here is the link

This is going to be an open blog that will organically develop with the help and input of others both in and outside of the county.
If you want to become a co- writer, have any suggestions, or have any questions please email me with the link in my profile form on either blog.
Please try your best to stay positive, this blog is looking for constructive out-of-the-box thinking that might help unite not incite.

Observatory news
Bookshelves almost done and the telescope wiring is now complete. We are now heading out onto the lake to look for Northern Lights, should be a great night. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cords, Cables, Connect, Repeat and Bookshelves

 I didn't take the first photo by my Jan 14 deadline but I'm all wired up and very close.
I do remember reading in my research books that I shouldn't short myself
on electrical outlets, but
apparently my reading comprehension skills suck because I'm way short in the outlet department.
Here is the power panel in the observatory with both 110 and 12 volt,
the bundle of cables on the right side are communication cables, it's weird but when I work on the panel
I always feel like someones watching.
This is the wiring at the base of the telescope, USB cables are all powered because of their length,
The observatory also has multiple cameras installed so we can monitor everything from inside the warm room. This is the computer that runs those cameras.

Design work on the bookshelf has gone very well and I'm finally happy.
The 1st shelf just above the monitors is oversize, deep and strong, 
this shelf helps supports the 4 corner shelves, 2 per side.
The right hand corner shelves are temporarily spaced and held up by plastic file boxes 
so I could see them in place.
They will get pulled down, painted and installed this week.

First chance I get to open the dome I'll try running everything from inside the warm room but lately we have been hit with nuisance light and blowing snow.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Back On Track, More Cables & Clean Up Fires

I should say back on tracks.
Last week we had a weather prediction of heavy snow followed by cold temps
so we decided to install the tracks on the 
Rodeo on a 30 degree day instead of below 0 day in deep snow.
Track installation didn't prevent the below 0 weather but did keep the snow fall to around 2".
Even though we still don't need them, at least they're on and being ready just might keep the snow away!
Plus you have to admit this is cool.
Although my neighbors some how think there CJ looks tougher,
 I can say Rodeo is one hell of a lot easier to get into.

Jim and Michele were up over the holidays and I was hoping to run the telescope
but no such luck. Over Christmas I had placed a large order for the cables needed to hook everything together and they hadn't arrived,  so in the interim we loaded a pile of software and drivers along with registering everything.

After receiving the long powered USB cables we routed and pulled them through the conduit between
the observatory and warm room. I then started wiring everything together, guide camera to the CCD camera, CCD camera to the desk top, auto focuser to the desk top, 2 web cams to a lap top, all the power cables for  the cameras, powered USB cables, dome rotation motor and  telescope power.
I was feeling pretty smart right up to figuring out I had forgot the communications cable that runs between the telescope and the computer and it seems that one is important.
(who'd thought)

Just a few of the wires and cables, I'm going to need the big container of zip ties.

We have had enough snow to light our clean up fires
During our dirt work this summer Dean stacked up 4 large burn piles of brush, stumps and dead trees
So over the last few days we have burned 3 of them.  I can't help but think I caused great hardship for all the critters that had made the piles their winter home.

That's all for now
Happy New Years All