Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I was very distracted by being off work, that's my excuse. I forgot to post the "after the storms" pictures from right after the previous post, so here they are now. Some very interesting lighting effects in the western sky! Presented without additional comment.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Well, that was exciting.

Last night in and around Topeka, in fact pretty much all over NE KS, there was excitement. For me, it was the first time in my life I have ever gotten pictures of actual funnel clouds. We were lucky here--the tornadoes were mostly weak and not well organized. There was some hail damage, more on that later. In the meantime, views from the Blackbird Espresso Cafe, where Rich and I were joshing about the non-Rapture when the sirens sounded. Topeka was lucky; Reading, KS, in Lyon County, was not.

Before the storms, the sky to the south was blue with white clouds. Note the wind from the SW, though.

To the north, a whole different picture.

Unsettled skies.

Mammatus clouds, just a line of them against the blue and white. This is one of the most odd cloud formations I've ever taken a picture of, and one of the most interesting. Almost like an abstract of some kind.

View of the approaching storms looking to the northwest from the back door of the Blackbird.

Hail in front of the front door of the Bird. Rich's car was out there, but this hail was fairly small and he didn't get any damage. The hail was larger at my house, but my car didn't take any damage, either. Kathy wasn't quite so lucky; she was parked downtown while at work and her car is full of dents from golf ball sized hail.

Back at the back door again, and yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is a funnel cloud. This one did not connect with the ground, and was coming from Auburn, SW of Topeka, and paseed south and east of us.

Another little straggle of a funnel. This was definitely a multiple-vortex storm.

It was frustrating being in the city with the view blocked by buildings and trees; but then again, it was raining and hailing and thundering and so forth, so I wouldn't have been wanting to stand out in the open somewhere either. Besides, we didn't really know at this point how strong these storms were going to get, or not.

Another small, weak funnel.

Very dramatic, very strange clouds, around to the front of the Bird again.

Just incredibly strange and wonderful.

Ah, and look--off to the ESE, there is the funnel from the other side now.

This is the shot everyone likes. You can see how feathery and light the funnel looks, but it's definitely a tornado. An EF-0 according to the NWS.

This was the size of the hail at the house, where the only damage noted was a lot of twigs and leaves littering the area around the trees, and some unhappy-looking iris and peonies. We were so lucky.

Tonight I am sad for Joplin, MO as well as Reading, KS. Joplin was hit by a mile-wide tornado right through the center of the city this evening, with massive damage and some unknown amount of loss of life.

It's Spring, and that means pretty flowers, baby birds, and terror in the skies.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kaw River State Park

There is a new-ish state park in Topeka, up north of the old Menniger Hospital grounds and next to Cedar Crest. So far there isn't much there but trails in the woods and a couple of parking lots, and a boat ramp down by the river.

It was pretty chilly today, but I have been wanting to see this area, so Rich and I went out there and took the winding, hilly road to the river's edge. By the way, do not attempt this road if it's been snowing or is at all icy--they had to close it at times last winter because people were getting stuck or sliding off it.

There are some interesting-looking things in the woods, but I wasn't up to trail walking today, so here's the river.

Apparently if you put your boat in the Kaw you have to carefully clean and inspect it when you take it out. I knew about zebra mussels being a real problem, but I don't know anything about the fish here.

The mighty, or mighty slow, Kaw, with a typical sandbar. I don't have many pictures of the river, which is sort of strange considering I live fairly close to it.

The view downriver. There is a sandbar that's been there so long it's covered with trees, so is more like an island.

Trees, river, etc.

The most exciting find of the chilly riverbank day was another bird! This is a Spotted Sandpiper, and was the only bird we saw along the riverbank. A nice conclusion to the trip. I'll have to return to this location when the weather, and the light, are a bit more amenable.

May I show you some flowers?

Wood Sorrel. A tiny little weed that has a sharp, sour taste and pretty little yellow flowers. We used to eat it all the time when we were kids. Some people called it sheep sorrel or sheep sours or sheep showers, which I can't figure out, but it's all the same tasty little plant.

The little Monarda plant I was given at the Aiken Prairie last June has grown to about 2 feet tall, and spread out, and is overtaking the plant marker I used to signal its safety zone. I think it will bloom in June or July, and I can hardly wait to see it.

This is the sage that Bob, who used to mow our yard, gave me a few years ago. He said it was from California. It's not the smudging type of sage, and doesn't quite taste like the usual culinary sage, but it's pretty and the bees love it.

A close-up of the sage flowers.

Another chilly day but I'm still OK with that. I'm hoping for fewer clouds tomorrow though; the Moon is full and I want to take Her picture.

May I introduce you to...

All these birds were at Gage Park yesterday. I love water bird babies!

A family swim.

Picnic in the grass.

Wood ducks! I was delighted to find these at Gage Park. This is the closest I've ever gotten to wood ducks.

The little ones swam so fast I couldn't really get any of them in good focus.

And there was a yellow-crowned night heron stalking the fish and frogs. I didn't see him catch anything, though. Thanks to Joe Harrington for the ID of the heron.

The grackles were not very patiently waiting for us to finish our picnic so they could see what we left them.

It was chilly yesterday in the park, and chilly again today, but I'm loving it. I'll take these temps over the 90s anytime!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

My mother's high school graduation picture from 1941. Thanks, Mom, for the house full of books and music and conversation, and for not excluding us from any of that. Thanks for making us look up and learn things for ourselves rather than spoonfeeding us answers. Thanks for not murdering any of us when we were teenagers, though sometimes it must have been tempting. And thanks for being cranky, cantakerous, opinionated and fearlessly outspoken. Especially fearlessly outspoken.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Just-Before-May Flowers

Iris. The iris and the rose were my mother's favorite flowers. She loved many others, but the iris especially held a special place in her heart.

She even hybridized her own one year, a complicated process I barely remember since I was still in childhood's self-absorbed cocoon. I have no idea what happened to those iris when the family moved from Plains, Kansas, and that's a shame now. I wonder if any still grow there.

These, acquired from a friend of a friend several years ago, are not those special family iris, but are growing in our back yard in Topeka now. They are always this early, and bloomed the other day on April 30, May Eve. So mayhap they are indeed May flowers. I always love to see these because then it is indisputably Spring.

Though you might not have guessed it was Spring by the temperatures last night. Indeed, we had nights during the Winter that I believe were warmer than that. But it won't be that way for long. It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May! Be merry, dance, sing, laugh and grow!