Saturday, December 31, 2011

Old year, new year

Part of me wants to say good riddance to the old year, but I really don't want to rush things along too fast at this age. It's time to take down the holiday desecrations decorations and clean up the mess in anticipation of making another one. We will undress our 9-foot "Christmas" cactus and hope it survives the short days of another winter. Sorry for the picture quality, but you get the idea.

I got to do a few new things this year, like have major surgery (I wouldn't recommend it if you don't have to), and starting this thing, whatever it is/turns out to be. Some terrific bloggers stopped blogging, but some new ones have started. A lot of people died, but even more were born, and the planet is still turning on its axis. So while it seems there were a lot of new things going on, it's still the same old, same old on this tiny planet at the edge of our galaxy in an obscure corner of the universe. In our lifetimes the solar system has been pretty reliable and that is a good thing. Just before sunrise this morning it looked like this out the front door.
  Not much snow for this time of year, but it has been considerably warmer than what used to be "normal".

I am thinking about getting into some competitive napping when the activity level drops off during the day. The competition is tough, though (those words are almost the same) with a dozen cats. Here is what I am up against.
Of course, I have to clear off an area, probably on the sofa, to make a kitty-free zone for myself. I often meet with some resistance, but I am bigger than them, although outnumbered. I could send them to the window to watch the bird feeder. Someday I may start a network of cat entertainment channels which could be scenes out windows. I'll call it CATV. It will have to be a subscription channel as I have to make enough to keep the clowder fed. I better go warm up for the competition. I feel a yawn coming on. Gotta rest up for another year. I hope we all make it through. As Red Green says, "We're all in this together, I'm pullin' for ya."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Another holiday season is upon us and the days are starting to lengthen. Stitch has gone down to St.Paul to visit her family so we opened a couple of presents last night. We are saving the rest for when she gets back on Monday. We have an assortment of decorations on the nine foot high cactus in the living room as well as on our walls and windows. We didn't decorate our "moosemas tree" (moose antler) this year because of space issues, I guess. We don't bring in a tree from outside and stick it inside somewhere as we already track enough of the forest into the house. It would seem as though the only reason to bring an actual tree indoors would be for heat. If I feel the need for the smell of an evergreen I can just step outside and crumble some needles between my frozen fingers. That is if my nostrils haven't frozen shut. Normally I would only be slightly exaggerating the winter conditions, but this year has been unusually warm. Only two mornings below zero. I know the overall picture is bleak, but for my own selfish reasons global warming is a good thing.

I hope you all survive the holiday season intact and that you are aware of the good things in your lives. Whatever it is that you celebrate, I hope you have a joyous happy wonderful time. Not like Bevis the cat who has to put up with untold humiliation.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Real Locals and "Stitch"

Just up the road a piece and at the very edge of the U.S. is a Reservation. It is a beautiful area with thick forest, steep hills, and a beautiful shoreline with islands nearby. There is a casino that is the basic enterprise for the village of about 300 and it is the largest employer in the county. It is called Grand Portage. The Roomie (I need too come up with a better moniker for her) has worked there for six years. I worked there for most of a winter not too long ago. Many of the employees are from the other side of the border as are most of the gamblers. I don't get the gambling thing, but it is fascinating to watch. I worked closely with a couple of the locals whose families had been there for many generations and learned a lot about the culture and history of the village from a more intimate point of view.

I explained to my native friends that my ancestors came over to check out the continent about a thousand years ago. They thought it was nice, but it wasn't their home and they headed back across the sea. My family returned in 1947 to try it again. My brother and I are the only ones still here and we don't have any children. When we are gone this time I don't think the natives will notice.

So the Roomie needs a better moniker. How about Stitch as she does a lot to hold us together here. She has an amazing ability to fix things, but has the decency to seek my approval if the "fix" has anything to do with me. She is considerate in that way. Anyway, back when daylight saving time kicked in again she brought home a piece of paper from work that stated, "When told the reason for daylight savings time the Old Indian said, 'Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.' Free your mind and think". This is the kind of thinking that made Will Rogers (part Cherokee) so popular, well-liked, and understood.

This is Stitch steering one of the dragon boats at the annual races in the harbor.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Update and Solstice

Our little town is still unsettled, but the holiday activities will help it through. Two people are still in the hospital in Duluth, but they will eventually heal physically. The shooter is unlikely to ever see the light of day again and the courthouse, scene of the mayhem, will be reopened on Tuesday. We are not immune to senseless violence, but let's hope we never accept it as normal.

In less than a week we will be in the Winter Solstice, or as it is often referred to "the reason for the season." I don't know exactly how long humans have been aware of the exact date, but I am pretty sure it goes back at least 5000 years. I am not enough of a scholar to remember the dates of construction of Stonehenge, but the people (or aliens for all I know) that built it  (late neolithic or early bronze age) knew when the solstice was. We have a local pageant with theater, puppets, dance, and music to celebrate the return of the light. Christmas as we know it was starting to be celebrated about 1500 years ago at this time of year. Between other religions and old pagan celebrations we end up with a lot of things to celebrate at about this time of year. Everyone has their own beliefs and I certainly have mine (or not), but the return of the light excites me. I do suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and really like being outside on sunny days even with temperatures well below zero. I have to take care of the horses, anyway, so I will be outside. So the frantic pace of human activity at this time of year makes me think that to some extent everyone in the northern hemisphere is fighting off the effects of short days. 

Then my mind starts to wander. I think of hanging out in my cousin's back yard in Bergen....

or those summer projects I'd like to do (isn't that boat finished yet??)...
But then reality strikes and I realize that I just need to make the best of what I am doing now...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Office Christmas parties

Tomorrow night I have to go to the Cooker's "office" Christmas dinner party. The reason I put this in quotes is because it combines All the lawyers in the area. I think it is about 6 or 8.  Actually they are all pretty nice and basically decent people as are their minions staffs. One is even a fellow alumni (undergrad-small Lutheran Midwestern College on a hill). The biggest issue I will have is that we have to be there by six o'clock. I get off work at five, rush home, get cleaned up, and dressed properly (even clean undies - thank you for Margaret Day Murr) and to the resort restaurant by six. That gives me ten to fifteen minutes to turn myself from an honest working guy into a casually sophisticated, well read, confident gentleman who can schmooze with just about anyone about anything. They all know more about the law than I do (gawd, I hope so!), but there will only be a handful of other subjects that I won't be able to converse in intelligently. I have to drive so I won't be drinking any alcohol except maybe a beer with the main course. This means that most of them, except their drivers, will be getting more intelligent and talkative as the night goes on. At least in their viewpoint. Hey, it's a free meal and I might get a few good husband points for socializing with the county sharks. You never know when I might need one.

 UPDATE: There was a shooting at our courthouse today and the county attorney was shot as well as two others. The suspect is in custody. The Life Flight helicopter can't fly because of the weather so they took him to Duluth via ambulance. This is a small community and this sort of thing doesn't happen very often. When it does everyone is affected and we often know the people involved. Attorneys often get a bad rap or poked fun at, as above,  but they are as human as the rest of us and no more bullet proof. Do you know that in the U.S. there are 10,000 gun deaths each year? That is more than one every hour. Anyone can have one or get one and there seems to be an endless supply. The more there are the less people feel safe and then everyone feels they need one to protect themselves against all the others that have one and may flip out at any moment. It is a spiraling, self perpetuating nightmare with no end in sight. What is inherently wrong with our culture?
Needless to say there is no party tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Harry Chapin

My friend Kendra reminded me that I have had an earworm (song stuck in my head) for the last two days. It is Harry Chapin's "Taxi" from 1972. I didn't think it was that long ago, but he died 30 years ago. He was the kind of guy that burned the candle at both ends and gave away all his money. As a social activist, " "He saw hunger and poverty as an insult to America". For his work he received the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously in 1987.
Maybe writing about him and this song will be cathartic and the earworm will go away. I'm not sure I want it to leave just yet and miss the chance to hear it once more. Here is a link to a slightly faster version of the original, but very well done from all those years ago.

When the Cooker gets an earworm it is usually some misheard lyrics like Creedence Clearwater Revival's "There's a Bathroom on the Right", or Hendrix, "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy". Makes for some good humor.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Neighbors and life's celebrations

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It was sunny AND above freezing! A rarity at this time of year. As I was putzing around in the garage I discovered that stretching is even a problem after a six week lay-off. Good grief! It's going to be a while before I can compete with John Henry as a steel drivin' man, unless you count  driving my 1995 Sable to work.

I think life's celebrations can be that cold slap in the face that we need to realize we are at a different stage of life. Birthdays when you are very young, parties as you age, graduations, sometimes followed by weddings and then last night it happened. Retirement parties! And she is younger than me! There have already been some funerals, but that'll be the next very regular thing. I am powerless to change any of it, so I will just gracefully accept it. NOT!

 Here are some of my closest neighbors.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Get back to work! (you goldbrick!)

This week i decided I had better get back to work. My pto was running low and I am feeling pretty good. I started out with a couple of 10 to 5 days and then jumped back into the old 8 to 5 routine. I survived intact and wasn't too tired so I am going to start doing some of the horse feeding and watering chores this weekend. I did give myself a precautionary warning yesterday morning however. I was lying on the sofa (a favorite position) when I reached down to pick up Orange Ruffy, an 8 pound cat. As I put him on my chest for a little pet and purr time, I felt a muscle tighten up in my neck. It was fine by the end of the day, but I take it as a sign not to be too anxious to get back to my normal routine. It's amazing how much physical ability you can lose in six weeks. Let that be a lesson to me!

Yesterday morning it was -4F (-20C) when I went to work. At least it wasn't windy. It hasn't been very cold up to this point and doesn't look like it will be until closer to Christmas. I didn't get to see the eclipse of the moon this morning because it clouded up overnight. Drat!

With the holidays coming I started to look into selling my hordes of gold. One class ring from 1969 (Brandywine Senior High School - go Bulldogs!) and a couple of miscellaneous pieces of yellow metal that I don't know what they are. For a fun research project (I am very curiosity driven. Have I mentioned that?) I thought I would figure out how much my pile is worth and see what all those hundreds, maybe thousands, of gold buyers would give me for it. Most of this week the market price has stayed up in the $1700 per troy ounce (31.1grams) region which makes me want to get out my gold pan when the creeks thaw out. HOWEVER, the gold boys, cash for your precious heirloom company, and their ilk (guaranteed best prices paid! yes-sirree!) tend to pay about HALF of the actual value of the metal. The brick and mortar stores say "don't mail to the other guys", and the mail guys say "don't go to those rip-off brick and mortar guys". They try and confuse people with words like "pennyweight" (1/20 of a Troy ounce or 24 grains, Troy ounce= 480 grains) and Troy weight. However, a gram is a gram is a gram, always, and it takes 31.1 grams for a Troy ounce. The purity of gold is measured in karats, 24k being pure gold, 18k being 75%, and 12k being 50% for example. The other purities are proportional So, a little arithmetic can go a long way when the rip-off artists gold buyers make you an offer. Most of the jewelers will give you a little more and if there are any stones involved they will give you something for them or you can have them back. The gold refiners will usually pay considerably more, as well, but they rarely deal with non-commercial interests like you and me. Also, most web information is self-promoting, not reliable, and it is very difficult to find a disinterested third party review. There you have it.

Time to go out and give the horses a snack and fill their tanks. Here is Draugen and his grand niece Beezer (I'll tell you the story of her name some other time) 
Here is a shot of a couple of Icelandic horses I met while in Iceland (a likely place to meet Icelandic horses).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Cooker and the Roomie went traveling today with a friend. It's an international shopping trip to Thunder Bay, Ontario. I don't know (and probably don't want to) what they do up there, but they obviously have a good time and come back tired carrying exotic Canadian goods. Maybe they'll bring me some Tim Horton donuts. This leaves me a day to call my own, so after making some pancakes and topping them with some locally brewed maple syrup, I took a quick trip to town. After stopping in at the Senior Center to buy some Christmas cookies in support of our local animal rescue organization I bought the local fish wrap (newspaper) to bring home and read. It promptly put me to sleep and into dreamland. When I woke up there were some images of my pre-adulthood floating around in my head and I thought I might share some of those images. This is the man who I named this blog after. He is in his mid forties in this shot.
 This is back in the mid sixties. Of course we all looked pretty good then. Even me!
 Ah, those days of summer past. I must have spent ten or twelve summers at the beach. I forgot to mention that this is on the Delaware Bay, just inside the Atlantic Ocean. So how many of you have actually met someone from Delaware? I spent the first eighteen years of my life there before heading for the center of the continent. I lost my accent pretty quickly so that I would blend in and the locals couldn't tell I was practically an alien. Although when people got to know me they did start to question my planet of origin. I still refuse to tell.

The people at the beach had a pretty good handle on the art of doing nothing. Of course, you must realize that one income was usually enough to take care of a family back then. Sometimes someone would pick up a seasonal or part time job to have a little "mad money", but it wasn't necessary for survival among the working class. Here is a typical weekend afternoon.
 Well it sounds like the girls are home so I better make up some story about all the things I got done while they were gone. I know they won't believe me, but why should they? They always appreciate a good story no matter how much embellishment occurs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back to work and Norway

I have started going back to my day job. I have lost quite a bit of stamina during my recovery, but my mind is still functional, as much as it ever was (I know I shouldn't let my mind wander as it is too small to be out by itself. I had a thought once, but it died of loneliness, etc, etc). I didn't realize that time would go by without me getting too many things accomplished, but I should know that by now. Easing back into work is a funny feeling, but I hope to be able to be back to at least 40 hours/wk in a week or so.

Jena was not aware that I had been to Norway. The first time was back in 1966, the summer I turned fifteen, and it was for a six week vacation. Hanging out with all my teen and younger cousins was a blast and seeing my grandfather for what would probably be the last time was bittersweet. I remember him watching the World Cup and yelling at the TV when he disagreed with a referee's call. He had been born in Iceland in 1896, but had lived most of his life in Bergen (except when he would go to sea for a couple of years at a time). I got to see Trondheim and go to the movies (The Flight of the Phoenix) and, of course, Oslo. One of the neatest places I got to go was a little farm up in the mountains where my father hid from the Nazis. The old farmer and his wife and mother (in her eighties and still pitching hay) had a fjord horse and goats, etc. I didn't get to go back until the mid 1990's and again in 2007. I feel totally comfortable there which triggers the stuff of daydreams, especially if I start looking at some of the pictures I took. Here are a few.   

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Critters, National Seaman's Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the U.S.!
The Critter cam took some interesting photos last night. Usually I leave it in place for a few days, but I wanted to see if the corn would make much difference. It did. There were 61 pictures on the sd card, so I snagged the card out of the camera, brought it in and stuck it in the slot in the side of the TV (I love it when technology is actually good for something) and watched the slide show.
So the first picture is Bambi's aunt and her two kids and below that is  Redd Foxx. The foxes around here are kind of different. Up the street a few doors there is a place that used to farm foxes for their fur. I don't know much about it's demise, but I suspect the expense of raising foxes and killing them for their pelt is a money losing proposition. The owner of the farm had many varieties of coat color from black to white and everything in between. When he went out of business he released the foxes who then bred with the local wild population. I have seen everything from a light golden blonde color to jet black with a silver tip on the tail. I assume that the red coloration is still the dominant trait (that is at least 90% of what we normally see) and will eventually be the only color we see at some point, but it has been about 25 years since the farm and we still see some different colors. As long as they stay away from the Roomie's chickens we will all live in harmony. 

Back in 2007 my brother and I stayed on a farm in Northern Iceland. June 1st is National Seaman's Day and we went out on a boat on  Eyjafjörður toward the island of Hrisey where it seemed many fishing boats and some jet skis (Brrrr!) were out on the water waving and cheering.
Stefan, the owner of the farm where we were staying, brought the three German women that worked on the farm, my brother, and myself to his friend's boat where we had a terrific time on the water about 20 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Here is my brother with the women.
And here is my favorite picture from that day.

I better go now. The Cooker is making some delicious smelling food for dinner. I better see if I can stay out of the way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Salka Valka and deer

I just finished reading Salka Valka yesterday, one of Laxness' earlier novels. It is a story of so many things like poverty, politics, religion, passion, and strength of spirit. Written as two books in the early 1930's it begins with Salka, a tough, independent 11 year old girl, and her mother arriving by ship at an insignificant fishing village somewhere south from where they came. Salka finds work in the local fish processing business and her mother finds Jesus at the Salvation Army. They are dependent on each other for so much, yet very independent in their behavior in day to day living. The dire poverty that encompasses everyone's life in the village is taken as matter of fact with little prospect of improvement. Later in her life Salka does a little better from sheer determination and a bit of financial help and becomes involved in the politics of the day. This is a time when Marxisn (Karl, not Groucho) is giving some hope to the downtrodden of the world and is even making inroads in Iceland. Anything looks good to people who have nothing, but the Icelanders are a practical lot and they do what they need to in order to survive. Salka is looked up to for her determination and strength and is finally able to come to terms with her lifelong attachment to a more worldly man she has known since her arrival in the village. Their love is intense, but his weaknesses will ultimately doom the relationship. The ending is very touching and totally right for her.
This is a book I will have to read again someday to appreciate the nuances of the characters even more. The translation is old and could probably be done somewhat better as the relationships between the characters range from the simple to the very complex showing so much of what it is to be human in a harsh world. I also need to read a good biography of Laxness to better understand how the different phases of his life affected the stories he wrote. I need to thank my roomie for getting the local library to find this book and borrow it from a Big City library. It has been photocopied and rebound and I feel fortunate to have been able to read it as it is rare in the English version.

On a lighter note, I have repositioned our critter cam near our lower pond. Firearms deer season is over now and I got a nice nighttime picture of Bambi and her mother. I am also cheating by putting out a little snack of corn to see what comes by. Just does so far, but the bucks should be a bit less spooky now that no one is shooting at them. Here is a photo from last night.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Indoor plumbing

Kelli, the Cajun Dane ( recently discussed the lesser porcelain goddess, the bidet. It is fairly hilarious for so many reasons, but it got me thinking about plumbing in so many ways. As a highly privileged American, I have had the luxury of indoor plumbing for most of my life, with the exceptions of camping trips as a boy scout and young adult seeking adventures in the more remote places of the western U.S.
When the missus (I'll call her the Cooker) and I left the Big City back in the early 80's to go live in the North woods, we got to experience a more primitive style of plumbing. We moved in June to a cabin/house that was a more or less seasonal dwelling. The pump for the lake water system sat down near the shore and at the first sign of winter (late September) it froze and cracked, never to be useful again. The job of running water was now mine. I got to run down to the lake about 120 feet away with two 5-gallon buckets (balance, ya know) and run back up to the house. This wasn't so bad until about early November when the water started to get a bit firmer. I had an ice chisel and an ice auger and thought I had it figured out. Well, along comes January and the ice is getting a few feet thick as the temperatures hover between -20F and -40F for a week or two at a time. I finally figured out that if I chiseled a basin in the ice to dip the buckets, covered it with Styrofoam and covered that with snow I wouldn't have to work so hard every day for our water. We could get by on about 10 gallons a day if we were frugal. That was enough for the dogs, cats, birds, and us, and a copper kettle on the wood stove with a nice supply of hot water. We could take a sponge bath regularly (standing in a large plastic garbage can) and went out to our neighbor's island for our weekly Saturday night sauna and potluck. We could, until this point, manually flush our indoor toilet. Until the line to the septic tank froze (average frost depth at that location is about five feet). Fortunately, we did have an outhouse, a two-holer no less, that we began to utilize immediately. Going out to the little former ice fishing shack at 30 below was something you had to psych up for. You didn't usually have much time to psych up, though. The miracle of Styrofoam is under rated in such circumstances. Get a nice piece of it to insulate you from where you sit and you are living in the lap of luxury!
When the lake finally thawed out in early May I got a new pump, but the line to the septic was still toast until the ground thawed and the pipe could be fixed, but that is another story.

The Cooker has a really nice grey gelding called Mirage. He came to us from Washington state and lived about five blocks from Bill Gates. I don't think they knew each other, though. He is a terrific trail horse and a real "chick magnet", but that doesn't do my wife any good and would only get me in trouble. Here is a picture of him turning on a dime and leaving change. He was living in British Columbia at the time of this photo.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What about what I want?

I have been getting all fired up to start going back to work and was, in fact, going to go in for a couple of hours today. Thought I might just do one last check with the doc so I left a message. A short time later I got a call back and was told in no uncertain terms, "Absolutely not!" Huh? I feel pretty good, mostly, but they said that is just a result of using robotics on the way in. They said they shredded me up well enough that I can consider starting back around the 28th of this month. I'm thinking they probably know more than me about this sort of thing, so I just better go along with it. Just to humor them. 

Just for something to do, now that I am off the serious pain meds, I went to town to get a few things. Nothing over 10 pounds, mind you. It is a small town and after nearly 30 years in the vicinity I know a few people. It has been at least 3 weeks since I have gone out an made social contact, live and in person, with the outside world. So a forty minute round trip to town took about 2 hours because ya know, you have to be polite and talk to people. I stopped at gossip central Buck's Hardware to get a whisk broom and the latest poop from town. One of the advantages of living ten miles out is that I am not usually part of the news, but know most of those who are. Those who know me already know I am "different". It's a Minnesota euphemism that means weird.

Now it is like I have a time limit. There are many things to read, write, play, but I have limits. I feel the need to make good use of this gift of time, but need to fight off the occasional urge to nap. This friends, is my dilemma.

Time is to slow for those who wait,
 And time is to swift for those who fear,
          Time is too long for those who grieve,
                     And time is too short for those that laugh.
-It's a Beautiful Day

Here is the front yard with some fresh frosting. See the ship heading to Duluth?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Iceland's independence and Laxness

Nina asked about my Danish cousins in the last post and the Icelandic connection to them. Most of that part of my family connection only goes back to the children of my great grandparents in Iceland, but the connection between the two countries is a long one. In a vastly oversimplified nutshell, Iceland was subject to the Norwegian king until about 1380. Then came the Kalmar Union which  united most of what is now Scandinavia, but was sort of dominated by Denmark, and by the mid 1600's Iceland lost pretty much all of its autonomy to Denmark until about 1874 when they were granted home rule. I don't believe they were a fully independent country until around the end of WW2. Lucky for them that they never had much and could never be totally exploited by dominant government. I am being a bit facetious here.

This brings me to something near and dear to my heart,  Halldór Laxness. He writes of the common people of Iceland from a historical fiction point of view. His characters remind me of the "outsider" types from when I read Hermann Hesse's novels as a young man. Professor Batty and Rose give wonderful reviews of his works and I can only nod in agreement with the things they say. Back to the Danish thing. Laxness' book, Iceland's Bell, really gives an interesting view of the Danish dominance in that mid 1600's to mid 1800's time period. Iceland's climate is marginal for subsistence living and periods of cool down are fairly devastating to what little agriculture there is. Life is always difficult in Iceland, but sometimes it is even more so when you get a mini ice age or climate shift. Laxness won the Nobel Prize for his work in 1955. I have read most of his translated works, but some are hard to come by. My roomie felt sorry for me a week or two ago and used her influence at our local library to borrow Salka Valka from one of the Twin Cities libraries. It is a photocopied edition with a new binding and is a bit rare and/or expensive to buy. I'll finish it in the next few days. What a treat!

I must be feeling better to write this much. Went for a walk around the farm and can't believe it is the middle of November. Here is the little trout stream that goes through the farm.

Even the view from the deck isn't bad today. I hope to turn my front yard obelisk into a Runestone someday.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Things I can get away with

I am not supposed to lift more than ten pounds for a month or two. This wouldn't be much of a deal, except that the hay bales weigh about 70. I set things up to be easy to handle without a lot of wrestling so the girls could deal with it and not get hurt. So far so good. Today, our roomie's childhood friend, I'll call her Andie, came up from the big city with her niece for a quick getaway. Now Andie is the energetic, independent, smart and good-looking type of person I adore. I already live with two, so it's just icing on the cake. She drained and cleaned the150 gallon water tank and refilled it with only the slightest coaching from me. I should have tried this sympathy ploy much earlier in life. I could have made great strides in getting everyone else to do things for me. If I had been really good at it I could have gone into politics. I could take credit for lots of things I never actually did.

For those of you in Denmark. I was having a brief memory of my cousin Solveig when I was last there. She gave us her house for a couple of days and she stayed with her daughter nearby. It was beautiful and relaxing and her yard was a garden. Here is a picture of it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Aftermath (I think it was English class)

I think Shakespeare referred to it as being "ripped from nape to chaps" a long time ago. I was shaved from nipples to mid thigh which is about the same distance. Nine days later it feels like I have a porcupine in my pants.

I am finally able to walk out and greet the horses individually. They like the attention and I like the way they smell. I am allowed to carry one flake of hay at a time which adds to my walking and that is supposed to be good for me. My personal horse, Draugen, almost seemed at the edge of sweating today as it is nearly 40F. A continuing tropical heat wave in this nearly sub-arctic climate. I told him and the rest that they were a fine representation of their species and breed. Below is a picture of Draugen as he and I were getting ready to compete in the log skid event. Of course,  this was the breed show in Blue Earth, Minnesota and we were well groomed and ready to show our stuff. He is such an awesome animal.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Professor Batty

I can go no farther in this blog thing without recognizing the most esteemed Professor Batty. I had only heard of blogs and had an idea what they were until after my Scandinavia trip in 2007. After finding the The Iceland Weather Report shortly after the trip I found an interesting comment by The Professor and a link to Flippism is the Key . Here was this guy in the same state who played the same music, guitars, had some same audio components, same age, a bunch of other things in common, and keen interest in things Icelandic. How come I never ran across him when I lived in the same city? The best thing is Batty is very well read, witty, and expresses things in ways I will never be able to. He is just more cultured than me and that gave me some opportunities. He turned me on to Halldor Laxness as well as other Icelandic literature and music. Along with Rose, my personal librarian, I was challenged to read with a more discerning eye and try to fully comprehend all that is in these books. This has been a great ride for me and when I learn to link things better and get permission, I may be able to share some of the Professor's wisdom. So after reading a number of other people's writings and getting inspiration from all I decided I might want to give it a try. I can assure you that there will be no great revelations here, just sharing a few things of this fun life I have been living all these years. Just remember, I ain't dead yet!  

Here are some sheep from the farm Grytubakki near the village of Grenevik.
These noble animals have kept the Icelanders warm and fed for over a thousand years.

Friday, November 4, 2011


So, there I am, a surgical virgin unprobed my medical hands and happy to be that way. Of all the things my father left me, including a sense of personal integrity, helping others, guidance, and numerous other good qualities that I may go into sometime, he also left me a predisposition for prostate cancer. It was just a matter of time, but the time had finally come to get it and deal with it. On Monday they took me into the hospital, used a robot to drill a half dozen holes in me, and extract the nasty little bugger. So now I get to recover for a couple of weeks at home and then gradually resume my normal activities.  It was a hoot getting so much attention in the hospital, but now that I am home, the tough love girls are making me tow the line. The wife stayed in the Big City with me and made sure the daily things were being taken care of. Here on the farm, our roomie/friend, all around good egg or "other wife" as the real one refers to her, took care of the cats, dog, chickens, horses, fish, and the buildings while we were gone. I think I will need to be nice to her for quite some time.

I am doing pretty well now and even walked the hundred yard round trip to the mailbox without much difficulty. I got to do that in my slippers, as we didn't have the 7 inches of snow on the ground that we had last year. I may go visit the horses in a while, but I better stay on my side of the gate just in case they do something silly. I don't move very fast yet.
Two of my longtime favorite bloggers have given up their work this year. Alda of the Iceland Weather Report  and Maria of Iceland Eyes  have called it quits after a lot of output. Both are wonderful photographers and writers and have been an inspiration to me. At least they are still on Facebook, but I don't have a lot of time to spend there. At least I can still check on them when I need a fix.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


This is a story about one of our cats, Orange Mamalady. She is one of the feral females that adopted us when she had kittens. She is a small cat and very feisty with the other cats and an excellent hunter. She is also our "guest cat." Everyone wants to take her home because she is so sweet and affectionate with people. Especially those who are allergic to cats. One morning, about a year ago before anyone else was awake, I got out of the shower, put on my robe and got a cup of coffee. I sat down on the sofa to watch the morning news. I am a guy who likes to relax, so I am sitting there with my cup in hand kind of sprawled across the sofa in nothing but my robe. Out of the corner of my eye I see the little orange cat walking toward me and I assume she is going to jump up on me make herself comfortable and purr herself to sleep as per usual.  What happened next was rather surprising. She apparently saw a one-eyed mouse and proceeded to take a quick swat at it. She was right on the money and I jumped up yelling something, grabbing a napkin and applying direct pressure to the offended appendage which was bleeding profusely. No serious damage was done, but to this day I always put on underwear beneath my robe.

 So, I have to go to the big city tomorrow for some surgery on Monday morning. I should be back on Tuesday, but will have a catheter for a while. I am concerned that there may be tempting things for curious cats to examine and this is why I told this story. I just have to think like a cat to prevent any disaster.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I was going to try and stay away from politics and religion (or lack thereof) in these rantings, but I heard a great turn of a phrase this morning that I had to share. James Carville was going on the way he does in his usual smiley-faced way and giving his slant on the Republican presidential candidate wannabees. When asked about Mitt Romney and his flip flop on so many things, he immediately referred to him as a "serial windsock." His timing and delivery were in top form and coffee came out of my nose I was laughing so hard. Granted, Good Morning America is not much of a news show anymore, but it comes on after the local news when I am out feeding horses so I forget to turn it off. Once in a while something truly wonderful happens in the news to make a memorable morning moment (nice alliteration, huh?). Carville did it today. 

Here is an official picture of Akureyri, Iceland, south of where my grandfather was born. It is about 40 miles south of the Arctic Circle and has been getting dusted with snow a few times in the past week or so. I have only been there once, but hope to go again in late spring. It is a wonderfully hidden gem in the middle of the North Atlantic.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trail cam

The missus bought a trail camera a couple of weeks ago. Mostly we get various deer and the occasional fox. Nearly everywhere we have put it around the farm we get more or less the same results. No moose, coyote, bear, or wolf, but the occasional red squirrel will pose for a shot. The soon to be falling snow will give me a better idea of the more heavily used game trails and general critter hangouts. I definitely need to do some picture taking. Many of the good ones are in my wife's computer. How did that happen?

Just for fun I will post this picture of a beautiful witch in Norway. I know she was trying to lure me to me demise in the thundering waterfall beside her. If my brother hadn't held me back I don't know what would have happened!
I can almost hear her haunting call over the cascading water. Pretty scary stuff for a naive tourist!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We have cats. That's the plural of cat. That means more than one. Two you might think. No, actually its twelve. We are not hoarders. No, really we are not. We started out with just a couple and then tried to tame down a feral cat hanging around the farm. After a few weeks of leaving food out for it, it finally allowed me to touch it with my finger tip on its nose. Our friendship bloomed and as it started staying closer to us it decided to show us her newborn litter of four. Their eyes were still closed, but she trusted us and so did they. We started bringing them in the house at night as winter was approaching with its usual fury. As soon as weaning time came we made the necessary veterinary appointments and got all of them vaccinated and eventually spayed and neutered. This whole scenario played itself out again two years later. Then we lost a couple to predation and one to a vehicle. Then we rescued a couple more. So now we are at twelve. They are entertaining and cuddly and goofy like most cats. Some are bold, some are afraid, and some just don't care one way or the other. There are four litter boxes that get cleaned daily and no shortage of fur. We just look at it as extra protein. I'll post some pictures one of these days. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yesterday was a beautiful late autumn day. The leaves are totally down so when the ladies and I went out for a ride we could see far into the trees. I rode my trusty steed Draugen who carried my sorry carcass for nearly three hours. Since he has his winter coat he got a little sweaty at our 45F temperatures. It was a tough trail with lots of up and down and a lot of roots and rocks with some slippery leaves to keep things interesting. That may be my last ride for a while as I have to have some surgery next Monday. The basic recovery should only be a couple of weeks, but long term may take months. The hardest part is restricting my own activity and relinquishing responsibility to others. After all, no one can do my stuff as well as me, right? Anyway, here's a pic of Draugen and me in the winter.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A few years ago, nearly a year after my father's death, my brother and I took Otto's ashes to Iceland as per his request. I had been working full time and going to school, as well as taking care of the farm, and really didn't have time to learn about Iceland. I left travel details in my brother's capable hands. What I found when we got there was an amazing place. A land of fire and ice, snow-capped mountains, lush green valleys, and a thousand year old legacy of an independent and determined people. These are my ancestors on my father's side of the family. Every now and then I look through the genealogy and try to get familiar with some of the names. Not long ago I found a note in a folder of family papers written to me in my great grandmother's hand. It is not dated, but must have been written within a few years of my birth. Jakobina Jakobsdottir was born in 1868 near Akureyri in north Iceland. It is an area of farms and a few fishing villages anlong the Eyjafjordur. I was happy to be there. Sheep and horses and grassy fields between the mountains and the fjord made me feel comfortable and at home.
If all goes well, we are going back in the spring.

Friday, October 21, 2011


My wife and I have horses. We ride them and drive a couple of them occasionally. They are warm, gentle and brutally honest about their own lives and our presence in them. Understanding them is a life-long process. My wife rides a lot more than I do, but the daily care falls to me. I really like doing it and when I can't, like when I am out of town, I really miss it. Maybe the daily routine is something I need or just the presence of the animals gives me something. Then there is the mule, but he is a story unto himself. What a character he is! I'll save his adventures for another post.

It is interesting that I have absolutely no idea where I am going with this thing. Hopefully, it's about the journey and not the destination.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sooner or Later

I had to do this sometime. I keep reading others, but don't imagine I write as well or have something worthwhile to say. At least I can comment on most if I should so desire.

I found out this evening that a friend had died. We didn't see each other very often as we live on different sides of the border. He was diagnosed with cancer last year. He was fifteen years younger than me, much stronger, and ended every conversation with a smile no matter what direction the conversation had taken. He died over a week ago and I just found out. He fought long and hard and had good support from friends and family, but the damned stuff got him anyway. I really had thought he would make it. He took care of a lot of people and will be greatly missed by those whose lives he touched. Good bye my friend. You will be long remembered.