My thoughts on life

Chobe Boat Ride and Game Drive

This morning we had a private boat tour of the Chobe River. It covered the same area as our group boat tour two nights ago but in a much smaller boat and we were able to get closer to some animals.

The highlights of this morning were seeing a family of baboons baking in the sun with little ones playing all around them, an angry hippo who shook his gaping mouth at us as we passed (the only animal encounter so far that made me nervous), and seeing a massive crocodile sunning on the beach.

This evening we went on our final game drive at Chobe, our only land safari here. As promised it was teeming with elephants! We got up close and personal with a couple families. We were actually so close that I couldn’t take pictures with my zoom lens. Thankfully Ethan could back me up with a wide angle.

Tonight we also saw more kudu, impala, hippos (some within a few feet of the vehicle), giraffe, baboon, and an enormous herd of buffalo. We passed through the buffalo herd and were surrounded for awhile.

Tomorrow we take a charter flight to the Okavango Delta where we’ll be staying for three nights at Pom Pom Camp. I’m looking forward to all we have to see there!

Private Boat Ride

Chobe Game Drive

June 9, 2016 Uncategorized

Chobe and Victoria Falls

With much sadness, we left Kirkman’s on the 6th and spent the night in Johannesburg, decompressing. We got to bed early and “slept in” until 7. We then caught a flight to the kasane airport in Botswana (for real this time) and checked in to Chobe Bush Lodge. The internet isn’t as good here, hence the break in updates.

Last night we went on a boat tour of the Chobe River and saw many elephants — huge numbers of them — in and out of the water, eating, drinking, play fighting, and socializing. It was amazing! We also saw hippo, giraffe, crocodile, buffalo, antelope, and all kinds of birds. The sunset on the river was also gorgeous.

Today we took a day trip to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. I’m not huge on landmarks and landscape but the falls were very beautiful. Definitely worth the trip. We walked the length the falls in the morning. About half of the walk was so wet from spray and mist that it was like being in a driving rain, but the sun was out above us. After lunch we walked the drier half again, and saw the most intense rainbow I’ve ever witnessed.

Last game drive at Kirkman’s

Victoria Falls

Chobe Bush Lodge

Chobe River Boat Cruise

June 8, 2016 Travel

Last Night at Kirkman’s Kamp

I spent the last two days busy busy busy with game drives and eating. Each day we have a game drive at 6am, breakfast around 9, lunch at 1, tea/evening game drive at 3, and dinner at 7.

Yesterday’s morning drive was really amazing. First we watched some African wild dog who had just made a kill and followed them quickly for several miles while they ran with chunks of antelope in their mouths. They’re really cool creatures and highly endangered so it was a rare sight. Next we happened upon some lions who were sunning in some grass. That pride had been missing from the park for about a month and our guide was very relieved to see them. After awhile they all got up, bumped heads, and began walking toward a distant herd of buffalo. To everyone’s great surprise, the pride of 7 lions took down two buffalo right in front of us. Our guide has been doing this for about ten years and he said this is only the sixth kill has witnessed so it was extremely lucky we got to see it.

In the afternoon we saw elephants, including one solitary elephant who had a trunk injury about nine years ago and lost a third her trunk. She was with her first baby and was unusually friendly, she brought her baby very close to the vehicle and we got a good look at both of them! Later we watched a leopard with a wounded foot have a stare down with a kudu and saw a bunch of giraffe and elephants grazing.

At the game drives today we saw more of everything, plus hippo and white rhino. This afternoon we also visited the lion pride who had taken down the buffalo. They were all laying around sleeping with huge, bloated bellies. They looked like they couldn’t move if they tried. The carcass was mostly gone and there were dozens of vultures in trees just waiting for the lions to leave so they could get the last scraps.

Before lunch today, Ethan and I went on a private wilderness walk with a guide. We got to walk through game trails for over an hour and learned about various plants, animals, insects, even the geography of the area. We also saw some smaller animals we normally don’t see on the game drives.

All in all the last two days have been amazing! I’m sad that tomorrow is our last morning here and then we fly back to Johannesburg for one night before moving to Chobe reserve. With any luck tomorrow morning’s game drive will be wonderful.

Morning Game Drive, June 4th
Evening Game Drive, June 4th
Morning Game Drive, June 5th
Evening Game Drive, June 5th

June 5, 2016 Travel

Arriving at Kirkman’s Kamp

Last night I was really tired and geographically confused. Thankfully that did not stop us from boarding a plane this morning and getting to Kirkman’s.

I’ve never been somewhere where staff waited on me hand and foot, so it’s a little hard to get used to. We had our first meal earlier and it was delicious, with our personal butler (what?!) tending to us.

We just got back from our first game drive. We saw water buffalo, warthog, giraffe, hippo, several varieties of antelope, countless birds, and a pack of hyenas hoping a leopard treed above would drop his dinner. The hyenas were literally right beside our vehicle!

I’m looking forward to dinner, sleep, and getting up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to go on another drive.

Photos from our first game drive

June 3, 2016 Travel


We survived our 15 hour flight from Atlanta and are checked into our hotel. Tomorrow we’re heading to Kirkman’s Kamp near Skukuza, South Africa where we’re staying until the 6th.

Right now we’re really tired from our flights and trying to stay up to adjust to the time difference (it’s 8pm here). I’m really excited to get to Botswana and see everything there is to see.

June 2, 2016 Uncategorized

Hot Compost

To try and get the garden beds productive as soon as possible, I researched hot composting. With hot composting you get your compost pile as hot as possible and turn it frequently — every 2 to 4 days — to get fully composted organic matter in a matter of weeks instead of months.

I got a compost thermometer and combined some grass clippings, kitchen scraps and all of the soiled bedding from the duck shed into a pile. A few days after I built the pile, the temperature peaked around 120° F and each time I turned it after that, it was getting to around 110° before starting to fall again.

On Wednesday I turned the pile again, and it only got up to a measly 101° after a couple days. There is quite a bit of uncomposted material still in the pile, so the internet told me I need to add more nitrogen. Cheap sources of nitrogen are: urine, manure, and brewed coffee grounds.

Since I live in a city where you can almost literally see a starbucks no matter where you’re standing, Ethan and I took a tour of several coffee shops and were able to acquire about 5 gallons of coffee grounds. As an aside, we stopped at Foxy Lady Cafe, which is a Bikini Barista place, and the barista that answered the drive through window in a lacy thong and bra said sorry, no, they don’t save their coffee grounds. I’m not entirely certain they actually serve coffee there.

We mixed the grounds in on Saturday while turning the pile again, and today the pile is up to a whopping 130°!

August 10, 2015 Gardening

Killing Weeds Without Chemicals

I planned a new layout for the garden that Ethan and I will implement in the coming years. That’s not a typo. It will probably take us years to get the garden where I want it. I expect that by Winter we’ll have one new bed prepared and the three existing beds can be enriched enough so that next Spring we can use all four for planting.

A rough sketch of my plan for the garden.

A rough sketch of my plan for the garden.

The first step to preparing a new bed is to eliminate the existing weeds, and step two is amending the soil enough so something will thrive rather than survive. Continue reading →

August 2, 2015 Gardening ,

Dead Soil

Ethan and I have been working on getting the garden that came with our house into a usable state. Not only was it completely overgrown with weeds and grass that is taller than me, it seems the soil is totally dead.

Koralik Tomato

Koralik Cherry Tomato

Between the two of us we have dug up three small beds, each about 4 feet by 20 feet. We haven’t gotten much of a harvest from them so far, only some tomatoes and spinach last year, and some more spinach, arugula and radishes this year. I say the soil is dead because it has terrible texture and barely holds moisture. I spent an hour or so digging an edge around one of the beds to keep the weeds down, trenching 25 – 30 feet, several inches deep the whole way. In that time, I did not encounter a single worm.

Gill's All Purpose Tomato

Gill’s All Purpose Tomato

We’ve been working to amend the soil in hopes that we’ll get more out of the garden this fall and next year. So far we’ve amended one bed where we currently have tomatoes planted, but we only top-dressed the area because the tomatoes had already gone in the ground (oops). We added the rest of the compost to another bed where Ethan planted some brussels sprouts, and possibly something else… but the ducks ate them all.

I started another large compost pile mostly from duck bedding and kitchen scraps, plus weeds we’ve pulled from the tomato bed. Unlike all of our previous composting, I’m trying a hot compost method and acquired a compost thermometer. We’re about a week and a half, and two full turns in. So far so good. It will be a few more weeks before we know how well it worked.



We’re also trying ‘green manure’ to speed up the amendment process. Last weekend we planted buckwheat in the bed of failed brussels sprouts. It started sprouting yesterday and is coming up with a vengeance. I’m excited to till it under in a couple of months and get that soil ready to go for next spring.

I can only speculate about how the soil got in this condition. The only thing we can figure is that the previous gardeners just used lots of chemical fertilizers and never added any plant material or other amendments to the garden. It seems impossible that in just a few years of being left to the weeds that healthy soil would end up like this. It will take many years, but hopefully we’ll be able to get it back to a respectable condition.

July 30, 2015 Gardening

Ducks, Part 1



Last Spring Ethan and I purchased four ducklings, intending to raise them for slug eating so that our garden could stand a chance against the ravenous hoard of unstoppable slimy invaders. We acquired two muscovies and two khaki campbells. We put the four of them in a box with a heat lamp, some food and water, and watched them grow. Not knowing their sex or personalities, we named them Zero, One, Two, and Three in order of size.

Continue reading →

June 22, 2015 Pets, Uncategorized

Adventures In Running

When I don’t have an event to train for, I find myself running in a very unstructured way, and not running as frequently as I’d like. To combat this, I signed up for the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon this August. I set up a training plan in RunKeeper and now I have set days and distances to run.

In Minneapolis I lived a couple blocks from a really large trail system that branched in many directions near my home. I could start from the same place for all of my runs and plan long or short runs that took me out and back or in a loop, with very few street intersections to deal with. The only feature not offered by those trails was variety in running surface or terrain. It was all paved, and virtually flat. I could run over 12 miles without a single hill, especially if you don’t count freeway overpasses.

Now that I’m in Olympia, I’ve got plenty of terrain! In a quarter mile I can get the same elevation climb I’d achieve in a 5K in Minneapolis. It’s a new challenge for me, and one that I’d been looking forward to. I’m also enjoying it now that I’ve had a chance to try it out. What I don’t have is a giant trail network a few short blocks from my home. There is a biking trail that is great for running about half a mile from my house, which is nice, but it’s also paved and relatively flat. Boo. If I run on the shoulder in the opposite direction of the trail, I can get some great hill runs in, but I’m also running on the shoulder of a moderately busy road and it’s still paved.

With  my recent training regime, running on the one trail over and over again has gotten pretty repetitive. I thought I’d scope out a nearby park and go for a run there. The first thing I found was the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Trail, and since  it’s only $3 for up to 4 people, Ethan and I headed there this morning to take a slow run down the boardwalk. Sadly, right after we paid admission, we saw the “No Jogging” sign. Since we were already there, we did take a nice 4 mile walk around the park and saw some wildlife. It was nice, but now I’m set to go run on the same biking trail again. I’ll have to keep looking for the elusive nearby unpaved trails.

May 10, 2014 Fitness, Running , ,