Monday, September 19, 2016

Rocks and Water

"Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth. Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world." - Archie Medes

A month ago this was a weedy, overgrown slope bisected by a rotting picket fence. I been workin' on it. Some of the rocks I hauled over from Lanesboro, some were already onsite, likely transported from near Maude Koevnig's shack in Spring Valley, as all of the local rocks here are granite erratics left from the last glacier - more or less round and hard to build with without mortar. A number of the rocks I used are fairly substantial, probably weigh as much or more than I do. Keep in mind I am 71 years old, so they required more brains than brawn and some of Archie's carefully applied leverage. Still, for two or three weeks I ached continually.

Below the rocks to the south (your right) there is an existing small livestock watering tank which I had sunk halfway into the ground five years ago as my "water feature" - a bit of a sad joke. This one ain't no joke. There is a pump in the old tank which lifts the water up in a flexible pipe to the base of a large yew shrub, where it spills down a mini ravine, over a waterfall into a small pool which then drains under a large rock back into the tank - and so begins its aquatic journey once again.

The little ravine proved to be problematic. The pool has a heavy pool liner and originally the stream did too. Because of the transition to the wide, heavy rocks without real sides to hide the liner I just couldn't get it watertight. Eventually I tore it out and built a watertight channel out of concrete pavers and edgers, all neatly glued and caulked, then camouflaged as best as I could with rocks and plants. It may be a little too straight, but overall I am quite pleased with the appearance.

The pump was pushing too much water and looked like a mini Niagara, so I installed a diverter valve in the pipe to recirculate some of the water within the tank instead of pumping it up the hill. Now with a turn of a valve I can double or triple the volume. For now, this seems to be about the right scale for the little garden.

Some of the plants may look a little bedraggled right now. Keep in mind, 'tis the season to be bedraggled, and they have all been transplanted from elsewhere in the garden within the past week. I "harvested" the sheet moss from the shade on the north side of the Forsythia hedge. Eventually I hope to have a mist/drip system on the branch of the overhanging shrub and the whole section of the garden will be pretty mossy, the birds will like it, and it should help replenish the water lost to evaporation. After a year or two of tweaking and letting the plants and moss get established and growing in I think it will look relatively natural. There is a continuation of the garden toward the viewer down to the Growlery walkway, but it is hard to get far enough away from it to get a good shot. Whatever, it looks good. I think.

Take care, be well, 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The "B" Stem Bolt

This photo has nothing to do with anything, other than I like it, and the bike under the smoker has a bit of the same feel as my Bonvicini.

The bolt is one of those little details only I care about. Sorting through the million billion zillion photos of Bonvicinis on the internet (there are only a few photos, a handful of this bike and one shot of another mid 1950s Bonvicini). I noticed in the earlier photographs of this bicycle the stem bolt had a "B" on it. For a time the bike had been equipped with upright bars and in converting the bars back and forth apparently the bolt was been misplaced. In an exchange with the seller I commented that it was a shame the bolt had been lost. He replied that he thought he might still have it somewhere and if he had it he would send it to me. He did and he did. 

I kind of have a bicycle storage issue here in Oakwood so the bike has migrated to our house in Lanesboro. This weekend we were there entertaining (?) our friends Mark and Jane Stonich and while there I took the opportunity to reunite the bike and bolt. Looks pretty damned good I'd say. 

And goodbye to Todd Peterson, a friend for an interrupted 50 years, who died this week. Toad was a good man and a good friend. And a considerate, organized person who had a list of people to be contacted in case of his demise. Thank you Anita for the grim note. 

Take care and be well - and make a list. - Gunnar

Sunday, July 31, 2016

M. Bonvicini - Ready to Roll

This bicycle is amazing for it's age. It is generally in original condition so any changes had to be done with a very light hand. The cable housings were mis-matched, not critical, but the front was also cracked. Italian eBay coughed up a set of vintage dark green which seem to look pretty good. I also switched to righthand front brake and lefthand rear brake control. I believe this may be the "Italian style" - whatever, it is the way all my bikes are set up and I am intent on riding this horse. 

Riding, which brings to mind the brake pads. They were three different brands, and all as hard as stone. They squealed like a banshee, but did very little in the way of stopping my forward motion. Fortunately the Koolstop Weinmann style fit the holders pretty closely, so now at least I have functional brakes. 

The bars had the Gaslo caps mounted over the top of the wraps then trimmed with blue tape. Also, the reproduction Vittoria brake hoods covered up the brake cable adjusters. Not wrong, just not what I wanted for function. When I removed the hoods and fabric bar wrap there were "tracks" where the original tape had been, so I simply followed these when I re-wrapped the bars and brakes. 

Some would argue for saving the petrified grease and rust. I don't. I cleaned the brakes and stripped the worst of the rust from the stem and bottle cage. The bottle is a reproduction and the wood covered cork came out of a vintage pill bottle in my grandfather's fishing tackle box. Maybe not bicycle period correct, but I like it. A lot.

I happened to have a set of well-used Ballila toeclips and I came up with a set of sufficiently weathered Binda straps.

I am looking forward to riding this one around the lake ..... even as I remain shiftless.

Be well, - Gunnar

Monday, July 18, 2016

House On a Pipe

I had a couple of low pink climbing roses from the Canadian Explorer series - forgot the name years ago. They were planted fifteen or twenty years ago, way too close to Arborvitaes ... which unexpectedly continued growing. The roses were not thriving in the shade and roots, but still they lived and bloomed - sort of. I decided to give them a renewed chance on life. This morning I grubbed out some Siberian irises to make room, and pulled the birdhouse and the old wire fencing up and laid them carefully on the walk so I would not damage the house.

After I transplanting the roses I thought I could just stick the pole and house back in the ground between the roses, but became obvious it was going to require a mallet to drive it down. I grabbed a drill to remove the screws holding the birdhouse so I could get a wack at the pole 
.... and that's when the mother wren finally flew out, finally pushed over the edge by that damned humanoid fool, and she seemed a bit put out - even angry. Who knew the songbirds could swear?

Enough harassment and damage done to last a full wren year, I quietly backed off and Jenny returned, scolding and glaring knives at me as she went back in the house to tend her eggs. Damned humans, what do they know of the work of tending eggs and raising a brood.

I'll pound the pole down more securely in a month or so, after the wrens give me permission.

- Gunnar Berg

Monday, June 20, 2016

Growlery Garden: Late June

This posting is as much for me as it is for you - just so I don't forget what I need to do.

First a shot of the front garden walk to the new mailbox. 

Below, the old stone steps down to the Growlery Garden. They are real ankle busters, so I may put a fence, a false gate, at the top to force people down the other entrance so I don't get my ass sued.

This view toward the lake was taken a week ago. The roses on the fence and the peonies are about gone now. This is a good year to cut them back to a couple of feet tall and gain control of the bramble jungle again.

 I am less and less obsessed with flowers and more with foliage color. But if I am going to have flowers, make it worthwhile - big gross peonies, hardy climbing roses with clematis crawling through them, a handful of small irises, and a shitload of modern daylilies. Well, I guess that is a lot of flowers.

What kind of obsessive person would try to match the color of the plants to the pots? Me.  I bought the Coleus in the terra cotta pots because I thought they would look good - not flashy like most Coleus, just kinda ....pot-like. Honestly, I like them, but I'm not certain I like them with the other blue-greenness.  They are portable I suppose. 

The Krossa Regal hostas in the pale green glazed pots are the plants I overwintered and then forgot in the basement. They seem to have shaken off my lapse of memory pretty well. I actually fertilized them. My soil is pretty good so I do not fertilize the plants other than a very occasional top dressing if I need to get rid of compost. Personally, except for a things that are going to live in pots, I think that feeding perennials artificial fertilizer is vastly overrated, mostly by the garden supply people. Too much fertilizer will result in a abundant of soft foliage and fewer flowers - in my opinion. My garden was originally half of a tennis court (the neighbors own the other half). The soil was a little sketchy when I started 25 or 30 years ago. I dug in sand for drainage and when I divide and move plants maybe throw a little compost in the hole if I remember to. Some years I chop up the oak leaves in the Fall and cover the garden with them. Oak leaves are supposed too acid. Maybe. Seems to work for me. 

More pots, one on either side of the birdbath with the same dark blue glaze. Of course by now they have disappeared under the plants. Lorna bought the Dusty Miller plants on sale the other day, less than five bucks for two 4-packs. Next year the brick edge and the base of the birdbath will be buried under a silvery plant cloud. Also I am going to move another Husker Red penstemon (the white cloud on  the left) to the right side to balance it. I am obviously not one for rigid formality, but I like balance, especially across walkways. The plants do not have to be the same variety, but they should carry the same visual weight. 

Looks like it'll be another beautiful day. Be well - Gunnar

Monday, June 6, 2016

Wood Duck Cam

I should build more Wood Duck boxes. I think the primary limiter on Wood Ducks is nesting opportunities. Sometimes two pair even share boxes. "Our" Wood Ducks have hatched and gone, but the Nelsons around the corner recently put up a new box with a camera.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

M. Bonvicini

This exceptionally rare bicycle was for sale on eBay for less than a day. Bicycles are meant to be ridden; how does an obviously well ridden one survive for 65 years? I did a little digging around and found only two examples of M. Bonvicini (and one was this bike), still there is a M. Bonvicini headbadge and seatpost clamp. ??? It was either made by someone (Luigi Ganna?) for an exclusive shop, or by a master (M. Bonvicini?) who built bicycles for the trade, for other builders. As a friend said, "this underlines the issue of who-made-what in good old Italia."  Whoever made it it is a jewel, a well preserved jewel that should not have too much of its vintage grime removed.

Following is the eBay description:
1940s Campagnolo Cambio-Corsa race bike badged "M. Bonvicini." 57cm square: 57cm c-c seat-tube; 57cm c-c top-tube; 59cm to the very top of the seat-tube to the point below the seat-tube-clamp for the seat-post. Three notable things about this bike. 
First it is, as far as I can tell from my reasonably long experience with Cambio bikes, it's completely original in every way except for the following: rims, tires, spokes; it has new cloth bar-tape and reproduction brake-lever hoods. That's it though. Everything else? Fully original. 
Second, the frame shows many sweet details including the dark-green panels, the lovely head-badge and the chrome ends and lugs with pinstriping throughout still intact. The chrome is in miraculously excellent condition. Someone took good care of this bike. Note also the very cool spring-loaded top-pump-peg, I've never seen one before. Also note the pump is painted to match the bike, from the period. 
Third, this bike was shown recently in the Concours at Eroica California and won 2nd Place in the Pre-1950 Category.

The reason the eBay listing is no longer valid is that the bicycle now belongs to me. - Gunnar

Friday, May 27, 2016


Over time we tend to get top heavy

Then we get hit by a stiff wind  

And we need some outside support.

That's life.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


I am going to let my garden blog go dormant. Too many more fun things to do and I just don't care enough.

This morning I took a couple of pictures of irises. When I first started perennial gardening 45 years ago (jeez) I grew irises like my mother grew - Tall Bearded Irises. They were tall monsters and had huge, frilly blossoms. The were too big for a vase and they tended to flop over in the garden. Pointless plants in my opinion. Hell, most perennial plants bloom for a week or two. I have gotten to the point that, with a very few exceptions, the foliage has to justify the plant, flowers are just a pleasant bonus. If you want color either buy a couple of trays of annuals or paint the sidewalk pink. Eventually I discovered the small species irises and found the Miniature Tall Bearded Irises and Intermediate Irises. They are not spectacular as individuals plants, but they work well as a group. I bought a sampler collection of few years ago with a lot of different colors - a few years? Likely 25. Over time I have composted or given away most of them. For maximum impact in the garden a lot of one or two varieties simply works better than a pallet full of color blotches scattered about. I think I'm down to three or four varieties, plus a couple of early species. 

The purple is nice if there isn't too much of it. It tends to form a vase of leaves filled with flowers. It lives in the lower garden because the entry garden is mostly green, the color doesn't work play well up there.

The yellow is part a curving row that snakes through the hostas of the entry garden. The yellow works in the green garden because let's face it, yellow and green are the same color - it is just a matter of degree - how much blue do you want to mixed in your yellows. 

A quick word about Siberian Irises. I have a number of them. They don't like me, they don't like my pH and they want to be fed and watered too much. Sally Chesterman took some from the compost heap a couple of days ago. I'm digging out more if anyone wants some. They are all modern hybrids, some white, some blues and even lavender - quite lovely if they are living in moist compost enhanced soil.

-  Gunnar

Monday, May 16, 2016


"Tryin' mighty hard to look like Gary Cooper".

"Tryin' mighty hard to look like Ron Cooper".

May you have green leaves, fragrant flowers and sunshine days, - Gunnar

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Let There Be Light(s)

LED lights from SOMA. Not for every bike, but seem right on this one.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mixte Lugs

This is a copy of an ad that appeared in the 1948 French Bicycle Trade Directory, "Botin du Cycle. It is advertising a set of lugs (the red tube jointing sockets) to be used in constructing a "mixte" - a step through frame. Nervex was the dominate manufacturer of the pressed steel lugs that ruled the bicycle industry. They were made of two pieces of pressed steel welded together. The lug was rough, particularily the joint, and they required a lot of hand filing. Investment cast lugs came out and Nervez and pressed steel were history. Of course time moved on and now any lug is rare except on custom high end steel bikes.

When Velo Orange decided to sell bicycle frames, Lorna's mixte was a prototype, and when the smoke cleared I ended up with a couple of mixte lugs in a bottom drawer. Now years later I purchased an old man's bike, a manly sized Ron Cooper mixte, and it's interesting to see the raw lugs compared to a finished bike.

Take care, Gunnar