Saturday, October 20, 2018

A trip to anywhere south of here

I suppose you don’t believe that I really am back. Well, I had a little getaway, some of which I will share with you all. I also have this “problem” of the first world sort. I have too much vacation time built up. I am only allowed to carry over 200 hours of PTO (paid time off) and I am well above that. Otherwise I will forfeit it; at least that is the threat. So I took this week off and traveled a bit in order to visit some old friends and watch autumn all over again. I got down to the southeastern part of Iowa, Iowa City, where I lived for a couple of years back in the mid 1970s. 

Before leaving I asked a friend who is from a small town in Iowa if she thought anything might have changed. She basically said, “It’s Iowa. Nothing ever changes.” While that may be true of the many small rural towns there, Iowa City is a dynamic university town with constant growth and change. The street names were recognizable to me, but they didn’t look at all like I remembered. The houses I had lived in were still there, but updated and the university hospital where I worked was unbelievably huge and complex. Several buildings had been added and the old ones added on to. I was lost wandering around the area, but as I said, the street names were the same so I was never that lost. 

The Iowa River was high and nearly over the dam into the spillway and as much of the upper Midwest there was a bit too much water everywhere and the harvest has been delayed. Along with lower prices and less access to international markets (thank you Donald of Orange) the agricultural sector, the people who grow the food we eat, are hurting. This is never a good thing. 

I opted to head over toward the Mississippi for part of the return trip for a look as I hadn’t been along there for quite a few years, either. It is still quite lovely and fascinating in so many ways. It is a major shipping route and bird migration route and just damned pretty, too.   

I am afraid that all the leaves at home have dropped from the trees so the forest looks like a jumble of vertical sticks, but at least I got to have another week of colors for myself. Now we have to brace for the next phase. When I lived in the Middle Atlantic States it seemed as though autumn lasted a few months. Here we are lucky to get a whole month in before the inevitable change to winter. This may be an exaggeration as my memories and observations are subject to my own prejudices, but it sure seems like it’s not much of an exaggeration.    Click the pics to embiggen.

 That's me on the right.

 Corn still in the field.

 Strawberry Point, Iowa. The strawberry is about fifteen feet tall.

 The Mississippi isn't at flood stage, but it is getting there. Fortunately, it has been a dry week.

 Some bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the river.

 The river is a major flyway for migratory birds. There were hawks and eagles in the sky and various waterfowl on the river. This is a swan, but I saw numerous species of ducks and some pelicans, too.

  It was worth it just to see all the colors again before coming home.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

I'm back!

It has been a long time. Definitely longer than I had planned, but then you know how plans go. I figured the reason for this is that there was too much to do and I don’t do most of it as fast as I used to. I did manage to do some of the same seasonal things I do most summers like taking in the local Arts Festival, Rendezvous Days at Grand Portage, and the Hymers Fair just up the road in Ontario.
The biggest issue is my job. I am getting past the age where most people retire and I am working overtime nearly every day. It’s good for the paycheck, but bad for the energy level. I have been pooped out more than I want to be and, quite frankly, I am tired of being tired. But enough whining.
Here is a pictographic account of the last few months. Click on the pic to embiggen.

Do you remember Vinny? He was the feral cat I originally thought was a female when I first saw him (he has forgiven me for that) and after a year of getting him comfortable with humans I finally did what needed to be done. When he wasn’t paying attention I stuffed him in a cat carrier and hauled him to the vet. I wasn’t sure how he would react, but I tried to do the gentlest thing I could when we got there.  He was scared, but he stayed in my arms on the exam table. After a quick test for Feline Leukemia came back negative he was off to surgery for a neutering and a repair of an infected cat bite he got quite some time ago.  A few hours later he was on his way home to an isolated kennel in the bedroom.  This wouldn’t be unusual except that Vinny has never been indoors. He stayed curled up in a ball, groggy and fearful, until I coaxed him out (physically pulled him out) and cradled him for a bit. After doing that a bit more during the day he was okay with it. A little trepidatious, but adapting quickly. We are a couple of weeks out now and he is starting to come out into the rest of the house.  He sleeps in the bed and seems to be adapting to the life of an indoor cat. No more standoffs with wild critters, miserable weather, or doing his bit to decimate the local bird population. He is sweet and adds little cost and time to the rest of the herd now that his vet bills are nearly done.  Here he is being a lazy indoor cat.
I am hopeful that life has settled down a bit and I can be back to once a week posts or whenever, but I kind of missed doing this. If there are any of you still interested. I'll probably do it whether you are or not, but maybe I can play around a bit more. See you all soon!

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.