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.