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Monday, July 2, 2018

Google issues

I am having issues with Google that make it difficult for me to communicate and write this blog. My local ISP is making us migrate our email accounts to Google's servers which, while it is doable, adds another unnecessary step to accomplish something that has been relatively simple. I know how to get email notifications for blog comments, but the levels of passwords, administrators, etc. is getting annoying.

My day job is also extremely busy and frustrating at this time of year and won't settle down until after Labor Day. I have reduced my presence on Facebook considerably, but have not yet sworn off it altogether. Finding time to read all your terrific blogs has even been difficult, but I will try to keep doing that. I want to stay in the community, but I need a little less obligation at this point.

I guess what I am trying not to say is that I think I need a break from this endeavor, such as it is. For how long, I don't know. Maybe a week, a month, I just don't know. Hopefully, I will do some interesting things and have something to write about in the near future, something to energize me.  Music is my fall back, but even that is getting difficult to find time for.

Not to worry, though, I just need a rest. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, "I'll be back."

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Wooden Boat Show

This weekend was the Wooden Boat Show and Summer Solstice Festival at North House Folk School. I hadn't been in a few years and needed to see what was new. It was a nice day to be by the lake as it was mostly sunny and cool. The activities are too many to list, but check out the link f you so desire.

The first thing I did was to check out the music which was being performed by Tom and Caleb. Tom is one of the fiddle players in the band I play in and I didn't even know Caleb played as I know him from other pursuits. They played perfect background tunes.
Our dance caller, Barb (on the right), is here with her twin sister appreciating the music.
There were exhibitors who are also teachers at the school. Everything from wooden toys, spoon carving, various other types of wood carving, weaving, felting, basket making, gunsmithing, metal forging, and wood turning.



 Then there are the boats. Kayaks, canoes, sailboats, rafts, runabouts, and some that may be undefinable, but they all float. Some for sale and others just for display.

Mark Hansen, founder of the school, has been working on an "Old Man's Pleasure Boat". I have stopped by his house a couple of times in the past few weeks to see the progress. It isn't done yet and he still needs to get the masts and sails on it, but he does have a little outboard motor in the meantime. It is two matched canoes and the rigging style used by the Polynesians to lash it all together. It is like Kon-Tiki meets the Boundary Waters. He is just going to use square sails attached to a couple of black spruce masts he has at home in the driveway.
Here are some of the other boats.


There were some lectures going on as well as a silent auction so there were not always a lot of people outside.

Of Course, when you get a bunch of older seafaring men and women around you get tales of bravery, adventure, and downright stupidity as told by those who may or may not have been involved. Nothing like sitting around a fire to bring out those stories.
The Solstice Pageant was in the evening and too late in the day for my level of energy. I will no doubt hear stories about how it went from those who were there and probably some who were not. That's small town living for you. For those of you on the north side of the equator the days will start to ever-so-slowly shorten now as those in the southern hemisphere can welcome back the light. Funny how it happens every year about this time.



Sunday, June 17, 2018

Of guitars and moose

Today I went to visit my friend Dave who lives up the Gunflint Trail, a 63 mile dead end road that goes into the edges of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park. Dave and his wife, Nancy, own Hungry Jack Outfitters on Hungry Jack Lake. Nancy is a fabulous artist and she and Dave have owned the outfitting business for about 28 years. I have known them even longer than that. Dave also has some talents other than his business savvy. One of my personal favorite things is that he is a fine luthier. There's that word again. He builds custom stringed instruments, mostly guitars, as well as doing repairs and alterations on them.

Today I got to watch him install a pickup in an acoustic guitar. It was a  little scary watching him use a drill on an acoustic instrument as it would make me very nervous. It was to enlarge one hole and add two tiny ones.
This is Dave gluing the transducers to the bottom of the bridgeplate.

Here is a pic looking into a mirror inside the guitar after the three transducers (pickups) have been glued into place.
A short while later he plugged the guitar into an old amplifier and listened to the results. It sounded the same, only louder, which was the goal. Now it can be used with a P.A. system or an amplifier when needed.

It was time for Dave to get back to his other business and time for me to head back down the trail, so I took a couple more pics of his shop with some parts in the works and some nice chunks of wood for his craft.

About ten miles into my thirty mile return trip I had a pleasant surprise in the road ahead of me. A cow and calf and not of the bovine persuasion. It was a mama moose and her several week old offspring! They forgot to use their traffic signals, but we managed to let them ease back into the forest where they might be a little safer. Although bears and wolves might keep them on their toes, er...hooves.

They were moving and so was I so I apologize for the quality of the photos. And don't let the perspective throw you. Mama's ears are about 7 feet above the road. Click to embiggen.

Today is one of those days that makes me appreciate where I live. About 250 miles south of us in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul they have something they call an "Excessive Heat Warning." High temperatures and high humidity give them a heat index of 98 to 103 degrees which sounds pretty awful. At Dave's house this afternoon and on the farm it was about 70 or 72 degrees. When I went to town along the lake it was 55. Almost warm enough for a long sleeved shirt. Much better.





Sunday, June 10, 2018

Return to the Ivory Tower

Last weekend I went out of town to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota for my 45th college reunion to go hang out with people I have known since we were eighteen or nineteen years old. Not all of us are even alive anymore! There were some nice meals and presentations, but just hanging out with old friends was the best part. There were still some old haunts that we were able to visit as most of us seem to be ambulatory still.

There are some new buildings, all done with the same limestone facade of most of the other buildings with only a couple of exceptions. The exceptions being some of the original ones when the college was young (the school was founded in 1874). They have been well maintained and are still in use today. I even had a few classes in Old Main. As always, click on the pic to embiggen.
The old Steensland Library still stands, too.
The limestone walls of the other buildings can be imposing, but modern bike racks take the edge off of serious.
That picture is by what turns out to be the chapel. I always thought it was the math building because of the big "plus" symbol on top. I wasn't much into math.

The trees have gotten bigger, but the green spaces have been gussied up a bit with landscaping, memorial bell towers, and possibly functional sculpture.


Now that they sell beer and wine on campus (a very recent update) we didn't have to leave as much, but we went to into town a few times anyway.

The bullet holes in a few buildings left from the days of the Jesse James /Cole Younger raid (1876) are still visible. One of the stores in that building sells vinegar now.
There was a small gathering of local entrepreneurs selling their wares in Bridge Square.
The Cannon River flows through town and on for about thirty or forty miles before emptying into the Mississippi.

Mostly I hung out with these two Bozos, Jim and Greg.
We walked through the Arboretum (or "the arb") at Carleton College on the other side of town. There are some nice trails that go along some of the feeder streams as well as the Cannon.

Then it got close to leaving time again. We had stayed in one of the dorms and here we are heading to one last breakfast in the snazzy new eating facility.
Then we had to say goodbye to some more old friends (old is starting to be the operative word here) before heading back home. Good-bye Donna and Kathy!
At least I see Jim and Greg in between these things. Next time it will be the fiftieth for those of us who are still on this side of the dirt. I really hope that will be all of us, but realistically it won't be.

Until we meet again, old friends!










Monday, May 28, 2018

Must be summer!

I can tell because everything is green and the bugs have come out of their winter hiding places. The temperatures are staying above freezing and even though our last frost date is mid June we are unlikely to get that cool according to the long range forecasts.

Sometimes we see specific things that tell us it is summer. For example the Cooker (my spouse) took her horse out for a ride in the woods today and came across a couple of bares. They were very white, apparently just out of hibernation, and were probably just as startled as the Cooker and her horse. They must have bought one of the small acreages behind us where we built horse trails over twenty years ago. Apparently they didn't read the fine print that mentions the trail easements. It'll all work out.

Vinny the feral cat has made a new friend on the deck and is quite happy with the company. here he is with his new friend. The Cooker used to paint things on rocks and we still have some.
He has let me brush him now and seems to enjoy it. If he didn't I suspect I wouldn't be able to type this with my hands wrapped in bandages. Despite the look he has in this picture he is getting quite affectionate. Next move is to start getting him used to being picked up.

Remember the warblers from last week? The Cooker and Stitch went and identified about ten more species than what I did. So we had about fifteen species of warblers around the ponds over last weekend. This week we had an errant visitor of the avian persuasion. We seem to get these now and then and usually they are way outside of their usual areas. This time it is a cattle egret in breeding colors. They are much more common to the Southeastern U.S., but they rarely range this close to the Canadian border. He wasn't willing to let me get very close so I had to use a long lens. The photo isn't nearly as sharp as I would like, but it will have to do.
He seemed to be all alone.

I also restrung my 12-string guitar this morning and cleaned and oiled the fretboard. That took a couple of hours as I took my time and listened to some music while doing it. At least I didn't take a break to get up and dance. My father, Otto, bought it for me for Christmas in 1966. It is showing it's age, but I still love the sound that comes out of it.


  It is a short work week for me this week so I am hopeful I will have something to say by next weekend. At least the weather is nice.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Warbler watching

The warblers have just returned following one of the first laws of nature; where there is something to eat there is something to eat it. In this case it is bugs hatching around the ponds. They are not the type of bugs that bug humans, yet. Those will be hatching soon enough.

Most of these birds have migrated from somewhere south of here. Some as far as South America so it stands to reason that they are hungry. Before the leaves have completely unfurled it gives me a chance to see them for long periods of time, often as much as two seconds. These are not lazy or immobile critters. Trying to photograph them is beyond challenging, but every year I try. I got a few passable pics this time of the 1.5 bazillion that I attempted to take. They are so beautiful and colorful that I am still smiling through my frustration.

Here we go for a walk by the ponds.

This is a Black-throated Green Warbler.
This is a Yellow-rumped warbler. They used to be called Myrtle warbler. This one is covering up its yellow rump at the moment. Must be shy and may explain the name change.
I apologize for the blur, but these little suckers really move around! I believe this is a Canada warbler. Probably in a hurry to continue north to his home.
This is a Yellow warbler. It sure is bright in the sunlight!
This is a Redstart. They seem to be some of the more numerous warblers along with the Yellow-rumped.

 In lowering my eyes a bit I notice one of the other denizens of the ponds, a painted turtle. I think we have two of these. I am not sure if it is an Eastern, Western, or Midland version. Maybe one of you knows.
These were all taken  by the upper pond. When leaving I saw something on the other side of the lower pond. It was a Lesser Yellowlegs.
It can be so much fun living in a place with several different habitats out my front door. All these birds are just one aspect of it and there is so much I don't see. There were several other bird species that I couldn't identify or photograph. My respect for wildlife photographers always grows when I realize how much effort goes into a good photograph of the natural world.

 The fiddlehead ferns are also popping up. Might have to saute some for dinner. As always, click on the pictures to embiggen.






Sunday, May 13, 2018

Bumpkin goes to the city

A short one this week.

I was down in the Twin Cities for a few days this week to accompany my brother while he had some surgery done on his parathyroid gland. They removed a little something (adenoma) which used to be a three day stay. Now when someone has it done they go in in the morning and come out in the afternoon.

About sixty years ago, when I was six or seven years old, I was showing my brother how to use a grass whip when he walked behind me as I swung it. I cut his throat, missing his jugular vein by about a quarter of an inch.  I didn't stop crying until he came home and I could be sure he wasn't dead. He still has a scar. The deadly tool looks like like this.

 I asked if the surgeon was going to finish the job I had started all those years ago. It turns out they have to cut lower by the base of his neck. So now he has an additional scar on his neck. The good thing is that they fixed the problem and didn't accidentally cut the nerves to his vocal chords which would have left him speechless. Literally. I guess it's about a one in fifty chance or a one in three hundred chance depending on who you ask. While those are not the kind of odds good for gambling they are a little worrisome in this case.
When I left him he still had a sore throat, but was feeling good otherwise. 
I did get away for a few hours and went around to some local music stores to pick up some strings and supplies for one of my habits. When one proprietor asked if he could help me I asked about that old Gibson J-45 hanging on the wall. "Would you like to play it?" "Sure!" So I did. It was a 1947 model that had been stained reddish back in the 60s, but also looked like Willie Nelson had played it for a while. In other words it was well used. It had been maintained and was in good playing order, however, despite a few pinholes in the top and some repairs. It was actually a delight to play and sounded wonderful. Had it been in nicer condition it would have been valued at about twice what it was which was about $5000. Here is what a pristine version looks like.
Image result for vintage gibson j 45 image 
So that was the week that was. My brother is well and I am back on the farm with the wife (The Cooker), the roommate (Stitch), the horses, the cats, the chickens and whatever else wanders in.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Language camp

When you go off to camp for a while many people think of a kids summer camp with swimming and playing. This camp can be like that for the kids who attend in the summer, but focusing on a foreign language. In this case Norwegian.

Some of you who have hung around here on occasion might remember that I have gone to camp a few previous times. It has gotten to be a habit. The teachers and students have gotten to be friends in many cases.


This year I was assigned to the farthest cabin, Tromsø, which is on the other side of the Arctic Circle as you can see by the post. Reminding us of the location this year was the lake was still frozen. It is a week later now and it is probably about ice free by now. As of yesterday some of our local lakes still have 16 to 20 inches of ice on them, but it is pulling away from shore and should be thawed for next weekend's fishing opener. We hope.


This year I got to meet a guy named Jerry who has a radio show on a couple of Northern Minnesota stations. He specializes in Bluegrass, but is quite attuned to other genres as well. One of our teachers, Arna, also has a radio program on Two Harbors radio called Nordic Roots. She is also a singer and musician as are a number of other campers and teachers. Needless to say some of our learning comes in the way of songs as well as stories and poetry.  Here are some pics of the entertainment from the Saturday night banquet.










This year our classes stayed in one place and the teachers moved around which was a great way to give different perspectives and methods for learning. When grammar discussions got dry we would turn to stories and in one case, tongue twisters. They are difficult enough in English, but a good training device when learning another language. The end result is that I am hoping to be proficient by the time I die. Or at least to the point where my cousins don't automatically switch to English when they see me coming.

My roommate Jeff and I walked to Sweden and Finland in less than an hour round trip. The Concordia Language Villages teach fifteen languages at all levels so there are many villages around the lake of which Skogfjorden, the Norwegian village, is the oldest. 





One of our other cabin mates apologized to Jeff for the glare off his bald head. Not to be outdone I removed my hat. Jeff exclaimed, "If you two put your heads heads together and focus you could start a fire!" This is Jeff. He has lots of hair.

 I kept hoping the ice would go away, but it didn't. Where water flowed into the lake over a beaver dam and under a footbridge it was beginning to recede. It was nice to observe the process and watch spring slowly gaining on the past winter.

Time to head home and back to work. I bid another fond farewell to Skogfjorden and hope to go again next year.