Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Renitas new personal record, an oversize black drum

Imagine catching a fish that is one third of the size of your boat. Imagine the large fish pulling your boat even though you have two anchors down. Further imagine a fish that nearly spools your reel which is loaded with one hundred and fifty yards of twenty-pound test braid. Oh, and you have a small net…. Last week Renita had caught a twenty-nine inch black drum, her salt water personal best, (although she had caught a forty inch northern and a thirty inch walleye in fresh water). It was only a matter of time before she finally hooked into a monster black drum, one over thirty inches. Her time was yesterday as we fished/kayaked a local bay. She had cast her shrimp near the end of pilings left over from a hurricane destroyed pier. It sat there for a while and then slowly started to move. She was using a number three/ought circle hook under a slip boober, and as the fish moved it hooked itself, (You don’t want to set the hook when using circle hooks).
The fish took off on a long run which didn’t stop. There’s not much you can do with a large fish until it stops its run, hoping it doesn’t spool your reel. Luckily the fish stopped it run. It had settled in deeper water and Renita started to gain line. I had our kayaks connected and anchored but the ten foot boats had been pulled off our spot. Reeling down and then pulling her rod tip up she gained a foot and then another. The fish took off on another short run before it again stopped and she was able to start the process all over again. Now we both wondered if the line would hold, if the pole would break, or if the fish would find a snag, forcing her to break it off, (much of the bottom here is covered with sharp oyster reefs with areas of sand and mud). Gaining more line, the fish decided to try another tactic as it headed towards the nearest barnacle covered pilings. Putting more pressure on the fish and at the last minute, Renita was able to turn it and it swam into open water. The final part of the fight was to bring the fish to the boat, where it tried another tactic, snagging the line on our anchor ropes.
As the fish swam around us, both of our kayaks were twirling like a pair of whirling dervishes. Now it was a question of who would tire first, her or the fish. The bobber appeared and we spotted the fish near my kayak. Knowing that I had to head the fish I was able to slip the net partway down the fish and hoist it besides my yak! It was picture time and Renita kept it in the water while I snapped several photos. She passed the net to me, and I lifted the fish into my kayak, nearly swamping my boat. Trying to straighten out the fish, I measured it. It was still curved, and it measured over thirty-five inches, a twenty two plus pound fish. Texas has a slot limit for black drum. To keep one, it must measure from twenty to thirty inches. One fish over fifty-four inches can also be kept. This ensures the brood stock remains for reproduction. The fish immediately swam down, a great release! We fished some more and ended up catching four black drum and one speckled trout, (mine were the smallest ones. Which Renita pointed out as she told her fish story). I felt proud for her after the outstanding job she had done catching the big fish! Well done Renita! Clear skies

Friday, November 25, 2022

Renita's new personal best, a large black drum!

One of the things that has been missing from our blog is a fishing story. That is no longer the case as the weather has finally cooperated. Wednesday the wind calmed down, the temperature warmed up, and it finally quit raining, so Renita and I decided to head out to one of our favorite spots.
As we reached the parking lot, we saw that the fishing pier was full of people! Not only that they were fishing where we liked to fish. Still, we were able to find a spot. Baiting our hooks with live shrimp, we watched as others caught fish after fish and soon Renita had a nice one on, a nineteen -inch sheepshead, (for our freshwater friends this is an ocean fish. It fights like a bluegill, but her fish was about four pounds).
It was my turn next but after netting the fish I goofed up and let the fish jump from the net into the water. I finally caught another one and added it to the stringer. Our stringer was away from everyone and so as I fumbled with the fish a fisherman ran over to me and said, “Your wife has a big fish on and needs help!” It turns out she had yelled for help, but I had removed my hearing aids and didn’t hear her. The fish had made a run under the pier and was on the other side. Her drag was set light and she could not gain any line. Now I thought it was a big sheepshead but when she finally got it to the net it turned out to be a large black drum! Measuring the large fish, it was 29.5 inches, we were able to keep it as the slot limit here is 20-30 inches in length. It is the largest black drum she has ever caught! She fought it expertly and managed to keep it from wrapping around the barnacle encrusted pilings. Well done! We weren’t the only ones catching fish, others were also catching sheepshead, and speckled trout. One lady was catching trout on almost every cast. I put a jig on and caught several myself, but they were sixteen and a half inches in length, (the slot size here is seventeen to twenty-three inches) so we returned them to the water.
Meanwhile Renita caught another keeper sheepshead and missed several more. I also missed and lost fish, I think I had too large a hook. To add to our problems, I had left all the leaders I had tied up back at the rv park. The fish finally quit biting, it was a good thing, as our bucket was barely large enough for our five keepers. It had been a crazy two hours and we were out of bait, (we had only bought a pint of live shrimp). Not far from us another group caught and landed a forty plus inch black drum, (probably a forty five pound fish). It was a huge fish and they released it after they took pictures. The oversize fish are the spawing population and you can only keep one over fifty-four inches). After cleaning our fish, the final question was how to cook them for dinner. Should we coat them with beer batter, sauté them in a lemon cream sauce, or bake them in a parmesan crusted coating? This time beer batter won out. The fish were so large that we only cooked one sheepshead, two fillets, and we could barely eat all of that! Clear skies She has caught larger redfish, a thirty inch walleye, and a forty inch northern, but this was her largest black drum. I can't wait to see what happens when she hooks into a giant black drum while in her kayak, (we always put out our anchors to keep from being drug out to sea!

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Red Shouldered Hawk and the Houston Gem and Mineral Show

Yesterday, our friend Jane knocked on our door. She told us there was a large hawk perched on a post next door. Assembling our camera, with the Sigma 150-600 mm lens, I followed her out and after help I finally spotted the beautiful bird.
We were sure it was a red shouldered hawk, and while we have taken pictures of one before, we have never had one pose so close for so long. It repeatedly turned it’s head giving us profile after profile and looked at us face on. Moving to another spot, we used their truck to hold the camera steady and continued to take more images. Dave asked me if I had taken enough and laughed when I said I had only snapped a little over one hundred pictures< In one photo I caught the hawk blinking.
Instead of an upper and lower eyelid they have a third eyelid called a nictating membrane. It keeps their eye moist and clean, like we do. In some birds it also protects the eye and allows them to see when they are underwater, (like a kingfisher).
The wind was blowing strong and at one point almost blew the bird off its perch. It’s feathers had been puffed up, it’s a cold forty five here, and so it decided to take off for a better spot.
I forgot to zoom out as it got antsy and so my flight pictures were not the best but still the detail was great! We also traveled to Houston to see our cousin Angie and her husband Pete. We stayed with them and attended to the Houston Gem and Mineral Show. Pete is a retired geologist and also collects specimens so we all enjoyed the show and made purchases.
Checking out all the booths/tables, we found several rocks we did not yet have. One type of Jasper is called a Dalmatian jasper, another a fossiliferous crinoid marble,
and a third was a black nephrite jade from Australia, (the Australian Jade was given to us by Angie who had found it while cleaning out her Dad’s house).
We also looked for a pectolite called larimar, which is only found in the Dominican Republic.
Its an expensive rock and has multiple hardness areas making it difficult to cut. Not finding any rough we broke down and bought five, very expensive cabochons, (they will probably end up as Christmas presents and will not be sold). Besides rocks we went out to eat including at a place that advertised the World’s best chicken fried steak, (I still think the one I ate in Hondo, Texas is the best)! As always we had a wonderful time with Angie and Pete, thanks for the invite! Clear skies

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Fishing, Birding, and High Humidty

Upon arrival at the rv park, we were greeted by friends and during happy hour our friend John, invited me to join him and two others to go fishing. He has a large boat, and his plans were to go to the North Jetty, ( I have never fished the end of the North Jetty). There, the target was large redfish. Launching at Aransas Pass we quickly made it to the jetty and arrived to see a large number of other fishing boats. Most were equipped with a trolling motor, that had an anchor lock where the boat would automatically hold in a set spot, (it does an amazing job and prevents being swamped as large boats pass nearby. (anchoring with a set anchor is extremely dangerous as a large wave a can flood and sink a boat. (This happened to a friend of mine several years ago but luckily he was pulled from the water by another boat. His boat sunk).
As soon as we arrived we saw several boats fighting large redfish. Most were caught and then safely released. It didn’t take long before our friend Bob hooked up to his own redfish. I helped to net it and it was a slot limit fish, (the slot limit for redfish is from 20 to 28 inches. Soon after the bite stopped, and John decided to move to another location. Two other spots were also not producing so John headed to one of his favorite places. Arriving at the next spot, I caught a small redfish and then another! Before long everyone was catching fish. Making another cast I hooked a larger fish only to discover it was a legal flounder! It went into the live well! It was only the third legal flounder I have caught in all the years we have been wintering in Texas.
On my next cast I caught a keeper sheepshead, also a good eating fish. The bite quit as fast as it had started and so we headed back to the dock. I had plans for the flounder and while we normally share the fish we catch, I told everyone that they could have the sheepshead but the flounder was all mine, (I filleted it and stuffed it with shrimp, oh my)!
A few days later Renita and I decided to head over to the Lamar Peninsula, looking for whooping cranes. We didn’t see any but there were other birds to photograph, and Renita caught an argument between an osprey and a great blue heron. The heron won and retained its perch, going back to sleep. Other birds we spotted included a northern shrike, cardinal, an eastern peewee, a flying rosette spoonbill, and a small flock of sandhill cranes. Of course, there was large funeral of vultures, including both turkey and black/Florida.
Our next stop was at Goose Island State Park. We first stopped at an elevated walkway where we watched several scissored tail flycatchers catching and then eating their lunch.
A huge spider waited on its web but no flies were caught and so it ignored us and stayed motionless.
Walking out on the fishing pier we talked to several fisherpersons, none of whom were catching any fish. As we walked along the pier,
Renita spotted a Moon Jellyfish, (also called cabbage head by some locals), and managed to get great shots of it as it jetted its was through the water, (we don’t know what the red fringe means).
The wind picked up and we decided to head to our rig. The rest the week we caught up on our chores, which included caulking two leaking windows, stopping a pesky sink leak and cleaning our kayaks. Now we have been waiting for the wind to go down along with the temperature and humidity. Clear skies

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Warkentin House, Newton, Kansas

The Warkentin house is a classic example of a Victorian Mansion. It was constructed by Ken Warkentin who had immigrated from Ukraine He realized that Kansas was a perfect place to grow a Ukrainian type of wheat.
Encouraging others to immigrate and raise this special type of wheat, which he would then grind in his newly built grist mill, his fortune soon grew. Adding storage bins he soon had the money he needed to build a mansion in Newton, Kansas.
The mansion covers 17,420 square feet and opened in1886 even though it was not finished until 1887. It reminds us of the Futon Mansion in Fulton, Texas in that the Warkentin Mansion is filled with innovations, exquisite furniture, and was built with imported carpenters from England and other countries.
The mansion was expanded in 1890 by building more rooms to the rear of the mansion. A special garage/stable was built with an inside platform that rotated so that they could drive their buggy, and later cars, straight into the covered garage. Then after rotating, it would allow them to drive straight out to the road, (their first car did not have a reverse).
The tour was led by an excellent guide who was probably the most knowledgeable expert on the structure. It was a special tour as, the place was closed on Friday, but she agreed to take us on a private showing.
The furniture was constructed from walnut and other woods with numerous examples of feathering in the grain. The floor was constructed of a mosaic of individual wood pieces in a pattern typically seen in English homes.
They raised a family in their house before they went to Europe, where the father died of an accidental shooting while riding in a train car. His wife never remarried and spent the rest of her time using the mansion as a place for nurses to stay, besides volunteering in the Rest home near the mansion.
As we toured the museum, many of the couple’s finest clothes have been preserved. The mansion is on the list of National Historic Places. There is so much to see that my blog does not do it justice. A special thanks to our friends Bob and Nancy who set up the tour and showed us another facet of one of the jewels of Newton, Kansas. Clear skies

Friday, October 28, 2022

Working Glass at the Karg Glass Works, Wichita, Kansas

Last April we traveled to Kansas, and while there our friends Bob and Nancy took us to the Karg Glass Works, near Wichita. There we learned that you could take a class on glass blowing and participate in the process of making a glass ornament and a heart shaped paperweight.
We thought it would be fun to investigate a different art medium and so when we returned this fall, we signed up for the class. Nancy and her cousins husband Mark, (a retired custom jewelry designer), also signed up for the classes, and we met at the glass works.
We were all nervous about working near one-thousand-degree molten glass, but we shouldn’t have as our glass master, NIc Dickin, warned us about the different parts of the foundry and wisely did not trust us near the molten glass blobs, (I was nervous about getting burned). Our participation was to pick the colors, watch the process, and blow through a tube to expand the material while it was being shaped.
We had already picked the colors and Nic showed us the cold glass fragments that would be melted into the molten material. Collecting a blob of molten glass, he spun it into a cylindrical shape before rolling it on a steel table with the glass colors. He then reheated the glass, spun it again and inserted it into a mold which gave the preform glass its ridges.
Next, he had us move to a spot where we would blow into the tube, (blow don’t inhale), as he manipulated it into the desired form, (either a heart or an ornament).
Adding a stem, the final step was to place the work into an annealing oven where it would cool to room temperature, about five days of slowly dropping temperatures. These finished pieces were not like the small works you see made at fairs.
The first series of images were taken while making an ornament and the second series were of making the heart shapes paperweight. This first image is of some of our glass master’s work. His work and others from around the country were for sale in the large gallery. The last two images are of my finished pieces, (we also got a glass disc made from excess glass and of course I had to wire wrap it into a piece of jewelry!
Watching the whole process mad us all appreciate the work of glass masters, and our teacher Nic Dickin, did a great job of explaining everything he was doing. Now if we can only get the finished unbroken art glass back to Wyoming!
We all enjoyed the class.
It would be fun to work molten glass but I simply don’t have the time as our time is consumed by our lapidary and jewelry making, (we take the rough rock, cut it, polish it on diamond grinding six wheels, and finally wire wrap it with sterling silver or 14k gold filled wire, being retired we are so busy that we have little time to rest.) Clear skies

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Driving to Kansas

Massive computer problems......It’s always a little sad when we leave our place in Wyoming, but friends and good times await. The timing was perfect this year, as no major snowstorm was approaching and instead, we hit the peak of the golden aspens. It was the perfect fall colors, (the maples have already lost their leaves, but the aspens were at their best. Crossing Salt Pass, Renita took picture after picture of the color. It’s not like the colors of the Midwest, but the gold contrast nicely with the lodgepoles, ponderosas, and other evergreens. Too soon we were crossing the Red Desert and the trees were replaced by sage brush flats. We did not spot any wild horses, but there were lots of antelope.
The next day we drove to North Platte. The days drive was on Interstate 80 and north of Elk Mountain, a spot where you often see winter pictures of snowbound cars and trucks. From there you cross the highest pass of any interstate just east of Laramie.
The next day we passed the World’s largest ball of twine and nearing our friend’s home in Newton, Kansas. We stopped for lunch at Rock City Park. The park is a private park and the rocks are large boulders made of aeoline cross bedded sandstones.
The different layers are typical of ancient sand dunes are quite a bit different from alluvial sand deposits, (river sands form a distinctly different pattern, called a herringbone pattern). The wind was rally gusting, so we quickly ate lunch and left for the short drive to Bob and Nancy’s house. Arriving, with the usual warm greetings, we unwound by taking a walk. Nancy had made reservations for us at the Karg Glass works. Nancy, Mark, and I had decided to take the class and make a couple of objects from the molten glass, but that’s the next post! Clear skies