Sunday, February 18, 2018


Every once in a while someone comes into my life that forces me to consider other forces at play. If I were a religious person I could say something like, "It's God's doing," or something like that. I seriously doubt that something omnipotent would waste its time with my petty curiosity when there are so many serious problems in the world that need immediate attention.

After a hiatus of several years from the music group I play with, Over The Waterfall,  I needed to come back and play. I have walked away from music for periods as long as a year without even touching an instrument (although I sing in the car a lot) I always come back. The band has existed for at least 25 years in one form or another. When I started to play with them again there was this "new" guy in the band and a few of the veterans. About a year and a half ago we were practicing in my garage and toward the end of the practice Erik, our Irish flute and penny whistle player notices my father's old license plate from Delaware that I had on the wall (part of my "garage chic" decor)  and asks me, "Are you from Delaware?"
"Me, too!"
"Which part?"
"Me, too!"
"Where did you go to high school?"
"Me, too!!"
I went over to my record shelf (lots of old vinyl LPs) and pulled out my 1969 senior yearbook, the "Azurean," and opened it up. It turns out that we had some of the same teachers, but 18 years apart. Erik was also in the high school jazz band, the Brandywine Blazers, which added to his musical credibility. Many, if not most, of the musicians in that group went on to be at least semi professional musicians. They had some serious talent. Erik also plays saxophone and a few other instruments.

It also turns out that Erik was born the summer I graduated. In fact he lived one block from my girlfriend's house and I probably heard him crying at that distance. His father worked for the same company and at the same location as my father and where I was working that summer. That was 48 years ago so now he is all grown up and has a lovely family of his own and only lives a couple of miles from me. He is a teacher by profession, but plays in several musical groups around the area and is another gem in our community.

In all these years since I left the East Coast I have rarely run into anyone from Delaware let alone someone from the same high school and even then with someone with whom I had so much in common. Coincidence? I guess so.
Here he is playing Celtic music with one of our fiddle players at one of our local venues. Now I need to figure out how to upload music from a cd to blogger and then you can hear something.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


You may remember the feral cat I mentioned a few months ago. He was hanging around the farm and showing interest in seeing how the other half live.  I wasn't sure at that time if it was male or female. I am still not 100 percent certain, but I believe he's a male. He isn't pregnant and he has a rather large ruff and looks kinda like a male. He still won't let me examine him close up and he is too hairy to see any external indications of his gender, but I am pretty sure.

We have made his life easier and while he is still more comfortable outdoors we have provided food water and shelter for him. He appreciates this and does rub against my legs and likes to have his head scratched, but is still shy about a lot of things. He is pretty sure a camera is a device used to maim and torture small animals. When I go to take his picture he tends to hide. Being a wild cat he is pretty good at that.
You are probably wondering how I came to call him Vinny. If you notice in the pictures his left ear is only about half there. I imagine it froze at some time in the past which lets me also know he is at least a year old. He may be five or ten for that matter, but he is a mature cat who has seen at least one winter. I named him after Vincent Van Gogh because of the ear thing.

I don't know what he does or where he goes all day, but he is here in the morning and evening waiting for food. I have seen him in the morning coming out of the shelter we have for him on the deck. He knows how to stay safe and that's a good thing. I have heard foxes barking nearby and saw one in the pasture yesterday. It is their breeding season. I also saw a large, healthy looking fisher about a mile down the road the other day. They are fierce predators and will eat cats and have been known to eat porcupines. They don't have many, if any, other critters to fear.
I think Vinny will be safe if he stays near us.

Meanwhile it is still cold and every night for the last couple of weeks has been well below zero. The days are starting to warm up a bit with the longer day length and stronger sunlight. Here is a shot from the deck yesterday. The first few miles of the lake is open water, but you can see the ice pack out toward the horizon. The wind is sending it over to Michigan and Wisconsin. They can have it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Let's Go Skiing!

Sunday was a lovely day. By lovely I mean the temperatures were in the twenties, there was very little wind, and there was no precipitation. A rare kind of day in January in the boreal forest of northeastern Minnesota. Since it was Sunday I also didn't have to be at my day job, just do a few things around the farm. The load of hay that we got on Thursday was all put away by Saturday afternoon, so I had a few hours of my own to enjoy on Sunday when I had recovered from the hay party.

I headed up the Gunflint Trail for a few miles and stopped at George Washington Pines to take a nice loop trail that is fairly flat for my first time on skis this winter.
I doubt that George Washington actually skied here unless he was getting acclimated to the winter for his Delaware River crossing, but they named it after him anyway.

I was the only vehicle in the parking lot and had the forest to myself which was kind of nice unless I got seriously injured and froze to death. I took my trusty TracFone which is what I used to take these pictures. I wanted to be sure I documented my demise for posterity.

Out on the trail I went. After about a quarter mile I ran across this by the side of the trail.
I wondered if the squirrels did it and if they ever take down their Christmas decorations. The trail was in good shape. As a multi use trail people can bring their dogs, go snowshoeing, or try skijoring if their dog is willing to drag them around.
There is a small lake just a few yards off the trail, but I decided not to venture out on it even though the ice is probably thick enough to drive on.
Then there are the pines. There is a stand of red pines that was planted, some about about a hundred years ago, after the earlier logging had taken everything available. They are coming along nicely, but I think they are protected now. Here are a few of them.
The trail was fast and there are just a few good downhill runs, but nothing too serious, and I managed to stay on my feet the whole time! My skis brought me safely back to the parking lot where three more vehicles had arrived and I said hello to an acquaintance and her dog before heading home.
Now I feel pretty confident about my replacement knees, too. It is supposed to be nice again this coming weekend. I wonder which trails I should try?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Return of the wayward pants - Update

About three and a half years ago we heard that there was a new resident in town ,about our age, who found herself recently petless. We were heavy on our feline quota and decided we could lighten our burden and help her out at the same time. It was a tough decision, but we decided to let two of our kitties try a different living situation.

Orange Mamalaid and Princess Puffy Pants were chosen after a very analytical process. After three days Mamalaid still hadn't come out of hiding in her new home, but Pants was adapting well to being a spoiled cat with no competition from ten others.

A few days ago I got a call from the woman who adopted her. She has a small active dog now and is about to get another puppy. Puffy Pants can tolerate dogs as long as she is left alone, but if provoked she will cut open an offending nose into three or four equal slices without hesitation. Most dogs learn this quickly, but puppies, not so much.

Saturday afternoon the Cooker and I went to bring her home. She is now purring in my lap as I try to write this which is kind of awkward, but after years of practice and constant editing of typos I can do it. Sort of.

Pants is back with only one new face to get used to since she and the other eight all knew each other before. Still a bit of hissing and growling, but no blood has been drawn, mine or anyone else's. So far. Here she is in all her fluffy glory.   

Welcome home Princess Puffy Pants!

Sunday, January 7, 2018


I am not much of a housekeeper. I have always taken the phrase, "An immaculate house is the sign of a misspent life," seriously. Oh sure, I vacuum weekly, do dishes daily, clean the cat boxes daily, clean cat barf as it happens or as it is discovered, laundry on weekends, but deep cleaning is a rarity. Especially the downstairs office and craft area. We all have levels of tolerance for filth and I really don't know how I compare to the rest of the world. Having animals inside and outside makes me think I can tolerate more of a mess than most, but at some point I can't stand it anymore and have to do something about it. In an ideal world that would be to call a cleaning or housekeeping service. When I have felt wealthier I have actually done that, but usually I don't feel like I can really afford it. Besides I would have to clean the place before a crew came in to keep from being embarrassed about living like this. I get builders magazines at work and the pictures from the latest designs in homes never look like anyone actually lives there. Everything is bare bones. I have seen homes like that, but I couldn't live in one and keep it like that for any length of time. Just too sterile.

The Cooker has an audit coming up for a client (she's a bookkeeper for income) and that happens in the downstairs office area. We knew this was coming up so we started last weekend. Heavy duty dusting and mopping happened last week. To prep for that a lot of stuff had to be moved and gone through. As long as that is happening a lot of "archives" turn up. Old photo albums get dusted off and everything gets taken apart, wiped down, admired, wondered about, and sometimes thrown out. Walls cleaned, paintings dusted, and the trophy walleye even got a fairly detailed cleaning without breaking the fins.

I even got to reorganize my photography, music, office stuff, photo albums, and other miscellaneous things that all got individually cleaned and put where I can see and find them again. A few things turned up that I had wondered about for some time. I should try and get rid of more things, but I need to get over my sentimentality a bit more.

The place is nearly presentable now. I also know that the first two thirds of my life I have accumulated things and now that I am well into the last third I need to get rid of things. Maybe I'll get serious about that in the Spring. Gotta go clean cat boxes now.  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

The holidays are about over for now and it has been cold. How cold? It was so cold that Pamela Anderson was downgraded from "hot" to "tepid". Football fans were actually ordering hot chocolate at the games. Scotsman started wearing pants. I used the snowblower on the floors instead of the vacuum this week.

Really, it wasn't all that cold. About -22F (-30C) was it, but the winds would howl for a couple of days at a time which really did hurt any exposed skin. As little was exposed as possible, but we still had to feed the horses, make sure they had water, and put them in the barn at night which entails cleaning it up the next day and getting it ready again. That meant being outside for an hour or two each day.

The birds at the feeders were pretty well fluffed up to stay warm. Here is a chickadee with a fluffed up look in order to better insulate against the elements.
The lake is still open as long as the surface stays above freezing. The cold, dry air forces evaporation into a roiling cloud of steam that looks like this.

When the temperature is about 10F the steam rises much more slowly and nearby ships are still easily visible.
Shipping season won't end for a couple of weeks yet, but the ships going by on the really cold days  take on a ghostly appearance when cruising through the steam.
Hopefully, at some point this month it will get above freezing for a couple of days before taking the plunge back down. The days are getting longer now and tomorrow night is a full moon, known as the wolf moon to the indigenous people here. The meaning can go either way to determine if it is a good thing or not. I'll let you all do that research if you wish to.
I haven't seen or heard much of the local wolves for a bit, but lately I have had little desire to stand outside listening for any length of time or going for a hike to look for tracks. Maybe when it warms up a little.

Then there is the calendar issue. I was finally getting pretty good at knowing and writing 2017 correctly and consistently when all of a sudden they go and change it again. It takes me a little longer each year to get used to it and practice until I get it right and then it changes once again. I wish they could just pick a year and stay with it, but no, they can't put all those calendar makers out of work. That must be the reason, right? What else could it be? Maybe someone smarter than me could figure out a compromise.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

My grandfather's car

My Grandpa John was the grandfather I knew best as he was alive and on this side of the ocean when I was a youngster. He was my grandmother's third husband (unheard of except in Hollywood) and they had gotten married in the late 1940s. He was a good man, kind and generous and I don't ever remember an angry word coming from him. He was retired the whole time I knew him so he was always around when I would jump on the train and head for Baltimore. Sometimes I would go with my younger brother and sometimes my parents would drive down for the weekend, but we went there often. It was only a couple of hours drive from Wilmington.

Grandpa John was an avid gardener/landscaper and it showed around the property. The house was modern colonial, but modeled after the actual colonial era homes in the neighborhood. Some of them were nearly 200 years old at that time. I spent time there playing with the neighborhood kids, building model cars, playing chopsticks on the baby grand piano, and playing with my grandfather's old U.S. Navy radio that had been salvaged from a ship after WW2.

One of the most fun things I would do with my grandfather was to go the bakery (Silber's for the world's best cheesecake, but I think it's gone now) or take a drive down to the Baltimore harbor or Washington D.C. for the day and hang out at the Smithsonian. I would look at the dinosaurs, geology displays, aviation displays in the various museums there. It was easy to spend days in awe at all the wonders that were on display there. We went there in style, too.

We would take my Grandpa John's Mercedes down there and put the top down if it was nice. It was just a two seater from the early 50s and way cool even for a 10 year old kid. The interior was leather and the radio had at least twelve bands, I'm pretty sure. I do remember picking up Radio Moscow when I was allowed to play with it. That car had so much class that it even smelled classy. I think it was the leather which was the only leather auto interior I had experienced at that point. The dashboard was walnut. Not a stick on woodgrain decal, but real, polished walnut. It was gorgeous! The door handles were on the front of the doors and they were hinged at the back. The fenders curved like Marilyn Monroe's hips and when we went zooming by we did get some looks. Grandpa John would have it gone through and repainted every couple of years and it was always clean and pristine.

As I turned into a teenager I started to have daydreams about that car. The kind of unrealistic fantasies that a teenage boy might have about automobiles. Surfing music had brought songs about cars to the top of the heap of popular music at the time. They never replaced love songs, but they came close. My fantasy was that my grandfather would give me the car when I turned sixteen. By this time my hormones had kicked in causing all the usual angst and confusion about life and my grandparents were talking about moving to Florida permanently. They had a place down at Pompano beach that I had been to a couple of times and were likely to make the move pretty soon. When I was fifteen Grandpa John sold it. I was crushed, but of course I couldn't show that because if I had told anyone about my fantasy they would have fallen over laughing. I kept it to myself, but it was worse than any girl could have done to me at that stage of my life. I was crushed on the inside, but went on as if my teenage dreams had never happened.

I am not sure anymore, but I believe it was an early 1950s Mercedes 220 cabriolet. It was gorgeous and was one of my first loves. 

Here we are in 1961, surf fishing in Florida. I was ten and my grandfather was a bit over 60.
And once more, just because.
These are very rare, but I found a few out there on the interwebs, just to see if I could. In pristine and restored condition they are valued at between $140,000 and $240,000 if you can find one for sale. At least I got to experience such a classic at one time in my life, both my grandfather and his car.