Thursday, August 27, 2020

Wishful Thinking – Travel and Family

There is no doubt what Laurie and I would like to be doing this September…but Covid-19 has changed our normal September routine for the year.  We’d love to  head out on a road trip and tie the trip to family visits along the way.  Colorado and Utah had been our goal but that will have to wait until sometime in 2021. 

In lieu of the real thing, we’ll just have to imagine that we’re spending time with our family from Omaha.  I’m using their smartly planned early summer family trip to South Dakota for our virtual adventure. 

Love this photo of grandsons David III and Emmett Lee in the wilds of South Dakota...but I do have a question for David III.  In all the photos from this trip when he's posing with Emmett Lee, why were David's eyes closed!?

Credit for all of these photos goes to Amy, our daughter-in-law and mother of our 2 terrific grandsons… Kudos to David II for his great trip plan!

I’d used a few photos from the family trip before, showing the cabin where they stayed in Custer State Park…and the buffalo that were literally on their doorstep.  In addition to the state park, they also visited Mount Rushmore.  We can imagine their trip since Laurie and I have spent time in both areas.

Laurie and I love wildlife and Custer State Park is loaded with a variety of critters… The first photo is of a female Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep and of course the second picture features a more than cute baby… The sheep in western South Dakota are the easternmost examples of these animals in the wild. 

Two hundred years ago, it is estimated that there were as many as 200,000 big horn sheep in the western USA.  Their numbers sharply declined until the mid-1930s when the Boy Scouts of America and other entities started efforts to preserve and expand the herds.  At this point, the conservation status of these attractive wild sheep is listed as being of ‘Least Concern’. 

Cute little rodents aren’t they?  Prairie dogs are named for their habitat and warning call…which is similar to a dog’s bark.  These highly social animals live in large colonies and collections of prairie dog families can span hundreds of acres.  Members of a family group inhabit the same territory and they are referred to as ‘coteries’. 

Ecologists consider prairie dogs to be a keystone species.  They are the primary diet for black-footed ferrets, the swift fox, golden eagle, red tailed hawks, badgers, coyotes and the ferruginous hawk.  Golden-mantled ground squirrels, mountain plovers and burrowing owls rely on prairie dog burrows for nesting areas.  Bison, pronghorn and mule deer favor grazing on the same land used by these rodents. It should be noted that the removal of prairie dogs causes the spread of brush which prevents the growth of grasses and damages grazing lands for livestock.

Nevertheless, prairie dogs are frequently thought of as pests and they’re exterminated from agricultural lands to prevent crop damage.  Expanding human populations have also reduced their numbers.  For many years, it was thought that horses were often injured by stepping in holes and tunnels dug by prairie dogs.  This myth has since been disproven…

Amy also captured this photo of a female mule deer.  These deer are indigenous to western North America and they are named for their ears…which are large like those of a mule.

Mule deer are only found on the western portion of the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the American southwest as well as along the West Coast of North America.  White-tail deer, which populate the Eastern United States can also be found around western South Dakota…overlapping the range of the mule deer.  The most noticeable differences between white-tailed and mule deer are ear size, tail color and antler configuration.  Mule deer also tend to be larger.

Sweet!  Wait a minute!  Isn’t this a baby burro?  Yes it is!  A small herd of burros have roamed Custer State Park for almost a century.  They were originally used as pack animals for visitors to the park.  When the trips using burros ended, the working burros (donkeys) were released into the wild and they’ve roamed the park ever since.  FYI, a burro is a donkey but it’s referred to as a burro when it’s feral…roaming wild. 

The little herd of burros is commonly seen along the park’s 18-mile wildlife loop.  They are uncommonly friendly and they’ve learned to beg.  They are very popular with tourists.  Given the risks posed by automobiles, predators and rattlesnakes, the little herd is fairly stable…at around 15 animals.  Perhaps it’s now at 16 with this latest addition to the family!

This is a Pronghorn, an even-toed hoofed mammal that is indigenous to western and central North America stretching from Canada down into Mexico.  It looks like an antelope but instead, it is the only surviving member of its own family ‘Antilocapridae’.  

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the pronghorn was very abundant in the region of the Plains Indians and the area occupied by the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Plateau.  It was hunted as a principal food source and it also featured prominently in Native American mythology and oral history.

The pronghorn is the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere.  It can run at 35 miles per hour for 4 miles, 42 miles per hour for 1 mile and 55 miles per hours for a half mile.  It is the second fastest land animal in the world, second only to the African cheetah…but it can sustain high speeds far longer than cheetahs.  Evolutionary experts have suggested that the pronghorn developed this speed due to an evolutionary need to escape from now-extinct predators such as the American Cheetah.  The pronghorn’s speed greatly exceeds any existing North American predators. 

How cute!  This newly born buffalo/bison calf was being encouraged by his mom to get its footing…  The ability to run is critical to its survival in these parts as coyotes and cougars roam the region looking for easy prey. 

FYI, other notable mammals inhabiting Custer State Park include elk, river otters and mountain goats along with aforementioned mule deer, white deer, Rocky Mountain sheep, prairie dogs and pronghorns. 

Why not scratch against a nice boulder or a big tree?  When you weigh more than a ton and you’re as big as this bison bull is, you can scratch on pretty much whatever and wherever you want!  He really seemed to be enjoying that nice picnic table…

Custer State Park is home to as many as 1,500 free roaming bison/American buffalo.  There are so many bison living here that the park has an annual roundup and auction each September.  Up to 1,000 of the bison are rounded up and several hundred are sold at auction.  This is done to ensure that the remaining rangeland can support the remaining animals.  As many as 10,000 people attend these events…

The American bison or buffalo once roamed North American in huge herds.  They ranged from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and east to the Atlantic seaboard…as far north as New York and as far south as Georgia.  There were so many bison in North America that the trails or traces they hammered out over the centuries were followed by both Native Americans and pioneers.  A well-known example is the Cumberland Gap through the Blue Ridge Mountains to upper Kentucky. 

In the late 1700s, there were more than 60,000,000 bison in North America.  Through hunting and introduced diseases from domestic cattle, the herds were decimated.  In roughly 100 years, (1889), the species was down to just 541 animals.  Today, thanks to ongoing preservation efforts there are approximately 31,000 wild bison across the continent. 

Just a couple more photos…

This is our soon to be 17 year old grandson Emmett Lee.  He looks great posing on that boulder with the lake behind him!  His big disappointment this year are the limits on sports.  He loves basketball, track and football.  He’s a junior in high school this fall and he’s still growing…

David III is our oldest grandson.  He loves the camera… David will be 20 this December and he just started his sophomore year at New York University in Manhattan.  It will be a strange school year with a lot of virtual learning, social distancing and masks.  He started out by being quarantined in his room/apartment for 10 days as Nebraska was deemed a high risk state by New York authorities.

That’s about it for now!  We enjoyed seeing the wildlife at Custer State Park as well as our ‘virtual’ visit with our grandsons.  We hope to be back on the road by the middle of 2021…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, August 24, 2020

Yet another Food Post (II)

Back to my pandemic related food focused posts…dining at home, keeping it simple, while consuming both take out and prepared food items and avoiding waste.  Sometimes we even eat healthy!  Minimal clean-up is an ancillary goal as well.

Note: All Omaha Steak products noted in this post were gifted to me either for Father’s Day or my birthday back in July.  Sure keeps costs down!

We’d had mac ‘n cheese for dinner one night…with baby peas and sections of all Omaha Steak’s all beef hot dogs all mixed in.  It was only natural that I’d have to warm up some leftovers in a frying pan before adding a couple of easy-over eggs and Tabasco for a great breakfast!

This meal started out basically healthy… Both of our salads included fresh mixed greens and cucumbers with Laurie adding some parmesan cheese and a balsamic dressing to finish hers off.  I used a not as healthy Marie’s creamy Asiago Peppercorn to top mine.

For our entrĂ©e, we reverted back to our childhood!  We’d purchased a family size box of Stouffer’s Creamed Chipped Beef…a true old time classic. 

Classically, creamed chipped beef is served over toast or a plain slice of bread but some folks serve it over rice or potatoes.  We chose the traditional bread.  The only difference between Laurie’s plate and mine are the red dots from my Tabasco sauce…

We both had fond memories of this creamy treat!  The first appearance of a creamed chipped beef recipe may have been in the 1910 Manual for US Army Cooks.  It was listed as “stewed, chipped beef” and it featured 15 lbs. of beef to feed 60 men.  In the military it is colloquially referred to as “s--t on a shingle”.   It is found on many menus as a breakfast staple in the Northeastern United States.  

For another meal Laurie lightly breaded and baked a couple of thick pork chops that we’d purchased at Costco.  We sided it with some quick microwavable packages of frozen squash and potatoes au gratin from Omaha Steaks.

The pork chops were a bit too done for Laurie’s taste but I was happy.  The squash was just OK but those Omaha Steaks’ au gratin potatoes were very nice indeed.

This was some garlic toast that we had recently with some grilled BBQ pork steaks.  It was from the frozen food section of our local Food Lion grocery store…but then Laurie kicked it up a notch with some cheese.  Not just any cheese, but rather almost a whole 5 oz. container of Stella ‘freshly shredded’ cheese.  It was a blend of parmesan, asiago and Romano cheeses.  Yum!

Time for take out!  We called Z Fish House in Loudon Tennessee a full day in advance to ensure that we could have what Laurie wanted for dinner.  This was the result... Laurie loves lobster!  Her dinner consisted of 2 lobster rolls (grilled buns) and a large serving of potato salad. 

She was happy with her choice although these lobster rolls were really a lobster salad sandwich.  Her preference would be chunks of lobster with melted butter on a grilled bun.  She did enjoy the potato salad too over a few days.

Both of our meals came with these nice little corn muffins.  We saved them for later.  They served as a dessert with Amish butter and either strawberry or peach jam.  Very nice…

For my dinner from Z Fish House, I’d ordered the fried shrimp.  There were 6 nice large shrimp and they were excellent!  For my side I’d chosen white rice.  What I didn’t know is that the white rice came with red beans that were loaded with pieces of country ham.  I mixed the rice and beans and it was like a second course…worthy as a meal of its own!

Z Fish House is located at 846 Mulberry Street in Loudon Tennessee.  Due to the pandemic, they are only open on Thursday and Friday from 11 AM until 8 PM and on Saturday from Noon until 8 PM.  Phone: 865-657-6200.  They are on Facebook at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Thursday, August 20, 2020

An Economic Dichotomy – Booming Businesses in a Pandemic

We live in a semi-cocoon here in East Tennessee.  The Covid-19 pandemic rages around us and we’ve had 815 confirmed cases with ‘only’ 3 deaths in Loudon County.  Not too bad when you consider that probably 8,000 plus folks who live just in our community are retired and fairly vulnerable.  Also consider that neither the state nor the county have mask mandates. Nearby Knox County does have a mask requirement…

Of course we all know what the pandemic has done to the economy!  Millions of people have lost their jobs.  Many businesses are closing forever.  Others are just scraping by… Food banks are overwhelmed, renters are in danger of eviction and people are behind in their mortgage payments.

And yet there is an economic boom of sorts here in our neighborhood!

I had “assumed” that with millions of people filing for unemployment and an economy in free-fall, the burgeoning spate of homebuilding in our ungated community would go into a quick downward spiral…

Apparently, I’m no economist!  This new home was just started across the street and about a block down from us in the last few weeks.  The foundation is in place as is an all too ubiquitous porta potty! 

One new house wouldn’t prove much… This lot was just cleared for a new home a week ago.  It’s on a street behind us at the back of a house just 2 lots up from our home.

Our street isn’t very long…perhaps 4 or 5 blocks one way and a short 2 blocks the other way.  The first photo shows the beginnings of another new build at the end of our street and the second photo is of a new house nearing completion just across the street from the new home start up!

If you still think that perhaps the previously pictured new homes near us were just a coincidence, here is another flock of homes at various stages of completion along an adjacent street in our neighborhood.

Here is one more home nearing completion.  One fact is obvious.  Home builders and construction crews in our area are not out of work and it appears that they won’t be anytime soon.

Just to finish our tour, these 4 other new homes are located on yet another street in our neighborhood.  Fact: All 14 homes shown above are located within no more than a half mile of our home…and most are within a quarter mile in actual distance.  We still have a patch of woods on one side of our house, its still wooded across the street from us and we have a tiny bit of woods right behind our home.

The main portion of our community stretches along 9.5 miles of Tellico Lake and adjacent property.  Another large section is located a few miles away in Monroe County.  New home construction is happening everywhere!  The last numbers I recall showed that over 180 homes were being built…

What factors figure into our continuing building boom?  Obviously some of the homes were committed to and funded before the economic downturn.  I can only guess that people who were contemplating retirement and who had the financial wherewithal to do so…just decided to call it quits and relocate somewhere where the environment was pleasant and the cost of living was low.

On the other hand…the business news today proves that I just don’t understand the economy!  To quote: “Housing starts in July rose 22.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 1.5 million.  Permits rose sharply for both single and multi-family dwellings”.

All of the home construction in our area got me thinking… I recalled driving past Tellico West and noting something of interest in this down economy.  This industrial park is managed by the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency.  Its home to several large companies and those companies employ roughly 3,000 employees when business is good

I remembered seeing a number of help wanted signs, and they’d been up for months.  We stopped by and Laurie snapped these photos… The first one is a Yamaha Jet Boats help wanted sign.  The second is a view of just a small part of the finished watercraft at the factory waiting to be delivered.

Master Craft’s boatbuilding operation is in the same industrial park along the shores of Tellico Lake.  They are hiring as well!  Mastercraft also had a 'now hiring' sign out by the entrance to the industrial park...but so did Randstad (a recruiting company), JTEKT (an automotive supplier) and DHL (a global logistics and shipping company).  The only shortage around here seems to be job applicants...

I didn’t see a help wanted sign for Sea Ray but I checked on-line and they are trying to fill positions as well.  This plant manufactures Sea Ray and Lund sports boats and sports cruisers. 

While driving through the area, we also noted a sign for Great Lakes Boat Tops…which is also located in the Tellico West Industrial Park.  They’re trying to fill a number of positions in their plant too!

Who can afford a boat in such an economic downturn?  Apparently those who are still working, who have the money and who are looking for something to do that is relatively safe in that families and friends can enjoy the outdoors and stay ‘socially distanced’.  With most types of travel off limits, boating is a booming business.

Other businesses are booming too!  Home renovation projects, either by professionals or as do it yourself projects include such items as pools, decks, home gyms, saunas, home offices and landscaping, are bucking the economic trends.  So is the recreational vehicle industry.  Dealers have consistently reported strong demand for rentals and sales of new and used RVs as families and would be travelers look for options that minimize their risk of catching Covid-19.  Other industries doing well include makers of cleaning/sanitizing products, video gaming, exercise equipment, streaming video services and of course, group communications services such as Stack and Zoom.

I’m guessing that once we get back to ‘normal’, whatever and whenever that is, there may be a lot of used boats and RVs available for very reasonable prices… Time will tell.

In the meantime…


That’s all for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, August 17, 2020

Yet Another Food Posting…

Let’s face it… With the pandemic, even though we’re just eating 2 meals a day, food and its consumption is a notable event every day.  Not so much for Laurie but definitely for me!

We actually went to a local coffee shop the other day.  Our old 2005 Avalon had a tire with a nail in it so we took it to Matlock Tire Service and Tire Repair in Lenoir City Tennessee.  Apparently everyone else in town had issues as well.  We were told that there would be quite a delay before they’d get to my car…so Laurie and I headed out for coffee and a snack. She'd followed me in her car to the tire place.

Ugly Mug in Lenoir City is one of 3 in operation across Tennessee.  Other stores are in Nashville and Memphis.  All of Ugly Mug’s coffee blends include between 10% and 100% Fair Trade coffee beans.  Roasting is done in Memphis.  Nothing goes to waste…by products from the grinding process are used as mulch or fertilizer and the burlap bags are used for moisture retention and weed control in gardens.  They even have a contract with some immigrants from Burundi who make purses from the sacks, selling them on line or in-store.

We hadn’t had breakfast so I was happy to see that our local Ugly Mug served pastries, breakfast sandwiches and lunch items as well!  Laurie had a slice of Lemon Pound Cake and I had a breakfast sandwich…Texas toast with egg, bacon and cheese.  She loved her pound cake but my sandwich was pretty average.  The coffee was excellent!  

(FYI, the tables were well spaced with an outdoor option available and the staff all wore masks...a must for us these days.  No masks on the staff in any restaurant and we don't patronize it!)

Ugly Mug in Lenoir City Tennessee is located at 108 ‘B’ Street, right off of Broadway/US 11/Lee Highway.  Phone: 865-816-6355.  They are on Facebook at

Another day at home and another test of a prepared frozen food item.  In this case, on impulse I bought a box of Sea Pak frozen Budweiser Beer Battered Shrimp with tangy citrus sauce for dipping.   

Sea Pak offers at least 24 different products although most (about 21) do involve different styles of shrimp preparation.  Other offerings include battered calamari, beer battered cod and breaded clam strips…

There were plenty of shrimp in the box…16 in all.  There were enough of them that this ‘appetizer’ ended up being most of our dinner one evening.  The problem was that it was all about the batter…and although the shrimp were decent sized, they were lost in the breading.  I would try the cod the next time though…

FYI…I ended up using the tangy citrus sauce as jam with peanut butter on toast.  Waste not, want not!

To view the range of products available from Sea Pak, you can just go to

Remember that Vienna Beef Italian Style (Spicy) Sliced Beef and Gravy that I’d received as a birthday gift?  Well, there was 2 lbs. of sliced beef and there was no way we could have eaten it all in one sitting.  So one morning I heated up the remainder of this goodness…and piled it on top of a nice bun.  Given the spicy Italian seasoning, I decided that over-easy eggs wouldn’t be the best idea.  I didn’t have the nerve to give it a try.  It was still a great breakfast though!

Yes…sometimes we do eat relatively healthy.  This was my plate just showing off my nice portion of salmon one evening.  It came from a box containing 6 pre-seasoned and frozen salmon filets.  Thaw overnight and then follow the instructions.  I didn’t get the brand name but it was a Costco purchase.

Squash is heathy isn’t it?  This bowl of goodness originated with a large butternut squash that Laurie baked…with pepper, butter and brown sugar!  When it was done in the oven, she scooped it out and added a tad more butter and brown sugar.  Still healthy?  It was damned good!

Now this was Laurie’s dinner plate complete with her salmon filet, lemon and a nice serving of that tasty squash.  The problem is that there was a lot of squash and it didn’t sound too good as a leftover… So, with relatively little assistance from Laurie, I ‘had’ to finish off the rest of that big bowl of squash!

Some time ago Laurie had prepared Chicken Florentine.  Like many other prepared meals, we added our own extras, enhancing the final product.  In this case, Laurie started with a bag of Bertolli frozen Chicken Florentine…then added a container of fresh spinach, extra chicken (from leftovers), red pepper flakes, black pepper and a bit more Alfredo sauce…and voila…dinner!

It makes too much food for us to consume at one sitting so once again, I ‘had to’ deal with leftovers.  For breakfast one morning I heated up the remaining  Chicken Florentine in a frying pan with a bit of butter and parmesan.

Then of course, I fried up a couple of easy-over eggs and topped the whole thing with Tabasco!  It was a great breakfast…the yolks working very nicely with the Alfredo sauce, chicken and spinach.  It was a good start to my day!

That’s it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit in these challenging times!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave