Sunday, August 28, 2016

The next exciting installment

I'll  bet you are just waiting for the next exciting installment of this blog, aren't you? As you probably already guessed excitement is not my middle name. It's not that I don't get excited about things now and then, or that nothing ever happens, but for the most part I'm just trying to get by on a day to day basis.

This past week was busy at work, which left me more tired than usual, although I only needed one after work nap. I got new cross country skis with bindings, boots, and poles yesterday in hopes to get out when the snow starts to ease my S.A.D. issues. They have come a long way since my wooden skis and three pin bindings. At the pre-season deal they were 50% off and maybe I can not gain weight through the winter. Of course, I can only use them on weekends until the days get longer because, you know, the job thing. My knee Doc said it was okay to do this.

Today I was mowing one of the ungrazed pastures mostly to keep the forest at bay. Almost everything (grasses) has gone to seed and clouds of seeds were all around me. I came to a section that had a lot of goldenrod and other flowering plants as well as some deer beds and decided not to mow that part. Besides, there were bees there and I don't need to add to their troubles. I've had to let that section go before because it had bee activity.

Speaking of pollinators, I have been wearing a red bandana on my head while my scalp heals.  If I stand in one place for more than five seconds I get hummingbirds hovering around my head deciding whether or not to shove their beaks into my ears looking for nectar and insects. I would be embarrassed if they found either. Well, wouldn't you? Of course it might tickle as long as they don't puncture my ear drum or something silly. Try to explain THAT to the ER personnel.

This week's "Music in my Head" have been story songs. The Red Clay Ramblers song When the Goldenrod is Blooming Once Again is about a young couple who have to part when the guy has to go off and "seek his fortune in some foreign land." He said he would be back in September (but not which year) and she promised to wait for him and whispered  "I will be yours dear when the golden rod is blooming once again." Years passed by and still she waited for him until one bright September day he came home and they lived happily ever after. I couldn't find it on YouTube, but it's on the Hard Times album.

The other story song is from my favorite Canadian singer, Stan Rogers.  This is a story of the Mary Ellen Carter, a sunken ship that her crew decides to salvage. They feel they owe it to her and do everything possible in the face of adversity to bring her back to the surface. I have loved Stan and his voice since I first heard him back in the late 70's. He started before that, but being south of the border we get things a little late here in the States.  The last verses kind of give you the courage to fight when everything is against you and they go like this:
And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again, rise again—though your heart it be broken
Or life about to end.
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend,
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
Here is the whole thing introduced by a shipwrecked sailor who sang it to stay alive.
 The story is in this article in Wikipedia under this:

Connection to the sinking of the Marine Electric


Sunday, August 21, 2016

I've got the music in me

Music is something I need to survive. Maybe not physically, but mentally for sure. I need to hear it and hum it and feel it. It is nearly constant inside my head even if it is far in the background. Almost like a soundtrack. Sometimes I don't recognize the tunes because they probably don't exist, but mostly it seems familiar.

When I was about 10 years old and in 4th grade I started learning to play trombone and was in school bands for the next six years. I wasn't the best or the worst trombone player in the band, but I enjoyed it mostly. When I was playing in Junior High School we had a band director that always pushed us to compete for a higher chair in our section. I moved up a notch or two, but was never going to make first chair, first trombone (there were third, second, and first trombones and a couple of chairs in each). I was okay with that as I enjoyed playing. The director still pushed us anyway when he wasn't busy yelling at the band for other things. I started to resent all the pressure and yelling and it took the enjoyment out of it for me. I hated to disappoint my parents, but eventually I just couldn't take it anymore and quit.

Fortunately, I had taken up guitar a couple of years earlier with a $30 Sears Silvertone acoustic guitar. It wasn't much of a guitar, but I slowly taught myself a few things with the aid of a couple of Mel Bay guitar books. After I quit trombone I still had a way to make some pretty sounds. The guitar started to fall apart, but my father could see I had a real interest in continuing to play. Even though he occasionally said, as do many parents, "How can you listen to that crap?" he still encouraged me to play. At least he didn't say, "Stop making that racket."

In 1966 he took me to the local musical instrument store and let me pick out the guitar I wanted. I had to have a twelve string because that's what the Byrds and some other folk rock bands played. I had to choose between the Gibson and the Framus. I played both and the Framus sounded better to my ear. They were within $10 of each other in price.

Here it is today.

I loved that guitar and kept learning more stuff, usually playing by ear while listening to the radio. Eventually I could play along with a fair amount of popular songs. I took the guitar to college where I met my best friend Mark who also played. We played together, even in front of audiences (where I am never comfortable) and usually just for ourselves until Mark died in 1995.

When Mark and I were roommates back in the late 70s I went with him to the Homestead Pickin' Parlor where we often shopped for records, music, and instrument accessories. He had saved his money and bought a new 1974 Martin 000-28 which was a sweet sounding guitar. When Eric Clapton went acoustic many years later that was the exact year and model he recorded with. Mark was way ahead of Clapton.

Mark played that guitar for our wedding when the Cooker and I got married and again at another close friend's wedding. When he died he left it to me and I have loved and played and cared for it ever since. I played it at a friend's wedding a few years ago to keep going with the tradition. It needs a new pickguard which I will get for it when I ever get to the Twin Cities again. There is a highly respected luthier there who will do the replacement.

I have a few more guitars, but these two will never leave my possession. While neither is of great monetary value I am a much more sentimental guy than I ought to be and will have them until I die or thereabouts. I need to figure out who to leave them to when the day comes, but until then I still have to keep playing.

The quality of my playing is a lot like the trombone. I'll never be really good, but I'm good enough for me and I still enjoy the hell out of playing. I doubt that will ever change.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Grand Portage

The Powwow and Rendezvous is going on at Grand Portage and Over The Waterfall (the band I play in) got to play for the public in the afternoon and the reenactors in the evening. Dancing is encouraged and one of our long time callers and sometimes musician, Barb, called the evening dances for kids and adults. It was on the lawn of the of the fort while we played from the porch. I wish I would have taken more pictures, but other people did and I will post them as soon as I get them.

The kind folks at the National Monument gave us tickets to go out and see the tall ship Mist of Avalon out of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. It will be one of the ships sailing to Duluth next weekend for the Tall Ships festival.
Because the bay at Grand Portage is shallow we were shuttled out to the ship for  a closer view. The Coast Guard, however, decided the general public should not board due to safety concerns. While you see some brave kids swimming in the warmer bay the deeper water is very cold. I would personally be happy to risk my safety, but I'm not the one stuck with scooping out clumsy tourists.

The Voyageurs were regularly canoeing out to the ship with their packs of fur gained from the winter's trapping activities, re-enacting the trade that was going on in the late 1700's.

Here is the some of the voyageur encampment that can be seen from the lake. Must have been well over one hundred tents.

It was a misty, moisty day with a few light showers, but in the end it cleared up for the evening dance opening with a rainbow over the bay and later illuminated by candle lanterns reminiscent of the time. We, the band, were also in period clothing provided for us if we didn't have our own. I always seem to have troubles with the provided pants, however. They always seem to have strange button configurations that take me a while to figure out which is really annoying when I have to pee, but with practice I get pretty good at it by the end of the day. Hopefully, I will have more pictures soon.

As always, click to embiggen.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pictures of Summer

I've been taking my  camera for walks around the farm and around the neighborhood at the height of summer. It has been a fairly wet year so things are growing well and staying pretty green. One  of the best trades for manure I ever received was last year. Perennials for poop was amazing. Here are a couple.

There is a short road behind the house that accesses some properties, most of which are for sale, but not in high demand, yet. It makes for a nice short walk unless I go off on the spur trails we cut in about twenty years ago when we were still the owners. No wildlife showed up, but a bear  (a small one) left us a sign. So you see the bear often poops in the road and not in the forest. Here is the road and the poop.

There are various plants to see along this road and some are edible.
The lupines have gone to seed.
But the raspberries are still available.
Here is a current bush which can also be seen near civilization.
The Cooker and I took a walk on the Superior Hiking Trail just down the road from the farm. Our intent was to look for chanterelles and lobster mushrooms. We found lots of fungi, but not what we were looking for. We did see this stuff, though.

This is the first Indian pipe I have seen this year. We came to a power line crossing and someone was watching us.
Click to embiggen and look at the center of the picture along the edge of the trees on the right and see if you can see her.

Someone here is looking for food or maybe considering a home.
And there are still some blueberries to be eaten! Look closely!

More evidence of our neighborhood bears. I saw a number of ant hills opened up and there are some other species of critters and birds that will take advantage of a destroyed ant hill.
One of the rare sightings are these tracks. They are cat tracks, but not your house cat type. These are three or four inches across and are likely from a bobcat. They were at least a day old and had been walked over, but these two remained visible.

  You have to look closely.

I stopped by a friend's house for a little while to talk about an upcoming trip he and some friends are making to Europe in about a month. There are six people going, with bicycles, for a six week trip starting in the Czech Republic. How cool is that? This is right near where he lives and what he will be coming back to.

Click on the second one and find the sailboats.

Meanwhile, back on the farm there is work to be done. Time to mow the pastures to keep the woods from encroaching. Some years I don't mow, but I always have to do the edges to keep the trees out. If the fields are full of grasses I will mow them and they will reseed themselves. If there are a lot of wildflowers in bloom I will mostly leave them alone for the bees and other pollinators. A lot of it is timing and conditions and every year things are a little different. Here is my lawn mower.