Sunday, November 19, 2017

Small Town News

News from our local "fishwrap" comes out weekly so most of the news is at least a few days old, but it is still news to most of us unless you hang out with the morning coffee guys at Buck's Hardware or the Superamerica station. Here is a brief synopsis (is that redundant?) of some stories from the Cook County News Herald.

There is a front page story this week about a meeting at the Hovland (population 272) town hall. The story starts out with, " The inside of a Siberian snowball is warmer than the Hovland town hall was on Thursday, November 9th." The blower on the furnace of the uninsulated structure had to be shut down because the blower was too loud to hear the speakers. It was 8F outside and the building cooled rapidly. The main topic of discussion was to determine what, if anything, should be done to save the crumbling Hovland dock. The dock was a hub of community activity after it was built in 1905. The general consensus was to leave it alone rather than gussy it up as a potential tourist attraction which may in turn become an attractive nuisance.

The Grand Marais Municipal Liquor store was quite profitable in 2016 with total sales of $344.4 million. How could a county of just over 5000 people drink so much? That is over $67,000 for every man, woman, and child that reside here and the average income is less than $37,000 per year. We must have a hell of an influx of summer residents and tourists and all they must do for entertainment is drink!

*Dateline: Later. The 344 million is for the entire state of Minnesota. Out local muni did 2.1 million with a $300 and some thousand profit. No wonder the numbers seemed impossible! That is only $420 for every man, woman, and child. Still, a $420 per year booze allowance for a child is a bad sign.  I stand self-corrected.

The Down Memory Lane column is one of my favorites. Since I remember some of the news from 10 and 20 years ago the more interesting perspectives are from 50 and 90 years ago. From 50 years ago, "A color television disappeared from the lobby at the Lutsen Resort last Friday evening. It was the evening before hunting season and there were a considerable number of people about. A night watchman was also on duty." It is my recollection that color television sets of that era were pretty big and hefty and I'll bet that the municipal liquor store was probably having a good year.

From 90 years ago we have these tidbits. "Helen Hedstrom sprained her thumb in physical education last Tuesday morning." Also, " H.O. Toftey has resigned his position as highway maintenance man at Tofte and is now fishing." Finally, "A man from Creech's camp was examined today before Judge A.V. Johnson as to his sanity and found to be insane." Was it the judge's turn to be examined next?

The leader in Buck's Big Buck contest turned in a deer that weighed 275 pounds dressed. That is a very large dead deer. Typically up here there are as many deer taken with vehicles as there are with guns and bows.

Not much of interest in the "Law Enforcement briefs." Mostly dead deer in the road, cell phone misdials, traffic stop warnings given, and lost hunters.

It looks like Joyne's Ben Franklin is having a 20% off sale for Black Friday. Hopefully, more than last summer's leftover clothing will be on sale.

It is early winter now and the skies have taken on "that look" they get as the days shorten. Click to embiggen.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Pottery and Ice

I am back in the potter's studio again this fall. Just got started a couple of weeks ago and while I have 24 hour access to the studio I am unable to get in there more than twice a week for a couple of hours at a time. It is too bad, but that's the way the croissant crumbles. There is a fair amount of activity going on in there as there are several active potters going at it as well as the local food shelf event, Empty Bowls. There were 380 bowls made for that event that are for sale for, I believe, about $10 each. There will be lunch and dinner served (soups, stews, etc.) and bowls for sale tomorrow. All of this happening at one of the local churches. Turnout is expected to be about 450 people which is pretty impressive in a town of 1150 and the additional surrounding area.

Here are some samples of what is laying around the studio now. There are a few pieces of mine in there, but I am hard pressed to pick them out. Most of them are by people with more skill than I have at this time which is fairly awesome. I learn so much from everyone. Just a hint here and there really adds up after a while.

Here are some that are glazed and waiting to be fired.

 Here are some post-firing.
The big lake made for some interesting sculpture a few days ago. The air temperature was well below freezing for a few days, most of the week actually, and thew wind picked up for a while.

If you look closely you may notice some little red things in there. Those are mountain ash berries. Many birds eat those during the winter as they tend to stay on the trees sometimes. Here is a closer shot.
If it should get warm enough for this ice to melt it will be back later for the duration.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

It's Here!

The transition was abrupt. There were still colorful things to see and in a day or two it all changed to monochrome. Last weekend was the first significant snowfall and while it melted along the lakeshore for a few days, the snow has continued a little at a time and accumulated slowly. Once you get a half mile from the lake it doesn't melt.

I left town for a day or two last weekend and waited until later in the morning to leave. I didn't trust the road conditions. Fortunately, the main highway by the lake was only wet and driving wasn't bad although there had already been a couple of storm-related highway fatalities to the south of us.

There is (was) a railroad bridge toward the west end of the county. Over the years several trucks had been just a little too tall to get through it. A couple of months ago it was hit particularly hard. The decision from the Highway Department was to remove the offending section. It hadn't been used for about fifteen years for an actual train, so they shut down the highway for a day or two and with a very long, dirt road detour removed it. It looks different now, like a bridge to nowhere.

I got down to Duluth and while there were still some leaves on some of the trees they were being discouraged by the snow from trying to hold on to autumn.

Two days later I drove back up the shore and found that most of the snow had melted. I could still look up the hill away from the lake to see that there was still snow in the higher elevations. I just had to stop for one quick look at the Split Rock Lighthouse, though.

The snow is supposed to continue today and tomorrow so I guess it is officially winter now. I started wearing my fleece-lined jeans a couple of days ago. Here is what it is like today.

 The good news is that in about seven weeks the days will start getting longer! Woohoo!


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall Projects

About 12 or 14 years ago I built a 24 x 16 pole shed out of used utility poles. It was mostly for hay storage when we were boarding horses in a more serious way and needed additional covered storage. It was built on a budget with many expenses spared. It wasn't pretty, but it was functional. You can never have too much storage space on a farm until you get older and need to thin out your stuff. I added a shed roof to the north side of the building and a short while after Stitch moved in It was determined that a small greenhouse was needed on the south side. Again, every expense was spared. There was very little actual money spent for materials and it showed, but at least it was functional and you could grow food in it for longer than you could if it was outside trying to survive on its own. The door was salvaged from a friend's remodeling project, windows were from old houses and remodel projects around the area. I bought some of the lumber new, but much was salvaged.
It ain't pretty, but it is functional. Then winter happens every year and the snow and ice fall off the roof onto the salvaged storm windows which don't use tempered glass. They break.
Here are the windows that we removed last weekend. Pretty sad.
So I was left with no south wall. A triple wide glass entry door that was being replaced by a local  homeowner came up a couple of months ago on our local ISP site. It was free for the taking, but moving a 106" x 80" door took some doing. My neighbor loaned us himself and his snowmobile trailer (he doesn't actually own any snowmobiles) and we hitched it to our truck and away we went. It was a monster to move, but we did it and brought it home.
Basically, it is three 3' wide insulated glass doors in one large frame. After the removal of the old windows and reframing for the "new" glass we were ready to install it.
Using the tractor to lift it over to where it need to be and with the help of my neighbors, Rich and Heather, and my friend Yvonne, we managed to get it in. No, it didn't go smoothly and we had to raise the top part of the frame because someone (guess who?) measured incorrectly. It was a quick fix and with the strength, determination, and wisdom (thank you friends and neighbors) we got it installed!
I'll seal it up against the weather, put some snowguards on the roof to keep the snow and ice up there until I can remove it safely, and wait until spring to put it back in service. I am really tired now.

In other news, Dakota is back for the winter while his owners  go off to suffer in Arizona until about May. He is an easy horse to deal with and he has spent a lot of time here, so he knows the routines. Yes, his eyes are blue.
Remember the maple tree in the backyard and all its beautiful colored leaves? Here it is today, nearly naked with its leaves on the ground. We know what comes next.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Color and Changes

The colors are going fast, but they all turn at different rates. Some are at their brightest and some have withered and fallen to the ground. Once in a while we get an early version of one of those Edmund Fitzgerald storms that will strip the trees of everything they had.

Some mornings going to work are still pretty nice with the timing of the sunrise.
And then I zoomed in on the Coast Guard Station and Artist's Point. It's about five or six miles away as the crow flies.
 The critters on the farm, both wild and domesticated and some in between are doing their fall thing. The options for them are to eat like there is no tomorrow and hibernate, migrate to somewhere warm, or tough it out. Most seem to go with the latter option.

Red squirrel doing what it does best.
A feral cat that we think is a female has been hanging around for a few months and we have been feeding it lately. She looks ferocious, but will only let me get about ten feet from her before she leaves.
A very colorful bee that matches the trees, but not the corner of the house. If you look closely you'll see that I need to stain the house next spring/summer. It'll take me all winter to get motivated to do that if I get started soon.
A chickadee wondering what the hell I'm looking at.
The mule keeping an eye out for trouble.
A sign that the weather will soon be a bigger factor is that the ships carrying freight are staying closer to the north shore. I caught this one sneaking past me yesterday morning.
As Elephant's Child reminds us, "Clicking on any of the photos will make them embiggen."  If that's what she says, you know it's true. Visit her if you want to see what it is like "down under."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

It's Still Falling and Empty Bowls

We are about at peak color now. The skies are different, the weather is cooler, and the days are shorter. I need to stay aware of my own Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) tendencies and try to stay happy. Time to start using the daylight light fixtures, getting outside and walking, and keeping nutritional needs focused. Trying it without anti-depressants as I find their side effects somewhat, you know, depressing.

Last weekend was the 14th Annual Libra ride. which brings local equines and their human caretakers, especially those who have birthdays around this time, to gather for a ride, competition, and a delicious potluck. The event has been hosted by this farm for those years. This year was delightful and delicious as usual. The ride was down a local county road which is covered in maple trees, followed by an in hand competition in our arena. There were eleven entrants in that. The competitors scored each other and yours truly had to add the scores to determine the winner. Here is some of the group.
Our friend borrowed the Colonel, our faithful mule and with map in hand had some fun convincing him to go through the obstacles.
Ultimately, Stitch was the winner with our little mare "Beezer" as determined by the other competitors. Here they are checking the mailbox.
The food prepared in my home and the food brought by the rest of the participants was wonderfully delicious as always. I didn't need to eat for a couple of days afterward, but I did anyway.

Ahh, the changes. Morning sun last week.
Filtered light on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail just down the road from the farm.
This is a piece of the maple tree next to the house.
October skies.
The harbor entry.
Birches Aspens across the road.
The yard.
Yesterday was a lovely day. I insulated the garage ceiling with cellulose, which is a blown in process, with equipment I borrowed from work. I don't heat the garage, but I like keeping the vehicles cozy in winter. Later in the afternoon I went to town to participate in our local Empty Bowls program which involves some pottery. Since I can easily make a serviceable bowl or two I thought it would be a good idea. You see, about 12% of our county's population needs some or a lot of food assistance to get by in the world. Granted we only have a little over 5000 people spread out in a fairly large area, but they all need to eat. People sign up to help make the bowls, local potters help finish them and later there is a sale of these hundreds of bowls along with a fund raising feed at one of the local churches. Last year was the first time I got involved if only to make a few bowls and eat some tasty food. There were a lot of people signing up to participate, even some from out of the area (how cool is that?). It was my intention to do it again this year, but my bowls would be nicer. So I get a phone call last week from the Art Colony to assist one of the teachers in the session I signed up for. I haven't thrown a pot for six months, but I'm game. I ended up making a few myself, but helped six people, nearly all of whom had never made anything on a potter's wheel, make what I hope will be serviceable bowls! Hannah, the actual qualified potter, was in charge of the hand building pots. It felt good to be useful and teaching is a talent that I never pictured myself having, but it was fun and for a good cause. If you are interested in more information it can be found here and some photos can be found here.

From the drive into town yesterday.
I drive this route at least every weekday and never get tired of it. Happy autumn to you all!