Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Summer Rumble: Dredge III

In 1854 George Ruble built a dam across the Shellrock River to power a mill. The wandering 521 acre lake was named Fountain Lake.  Albert Lea grew up around it and the much larger natural Albert Lea Lake. We live on a back bay of Fountain Lake, which people often refer to as Edgewater Bay after the local park. Residents of Oakwood know that is patent nonsense because it is obviously Oakwood Bay.

Sediment invariable fills in lakes behind dams, it is just a matter of time. There are a number of streams which flow through farmland and feed Fountain Lake. Farming methods have improved, but there is still a lot of farm soil filling the bottom of the lake making it shallower every year. The bottom mud has been dredged out two times in the past, once in the early 40s and then again in the 1960s. This summer begins Dredge III, and three days ago it begans in Oakwood Bay.

We live where we live because it is wooded, friendly and more or less cut off for the rest of the city. And quiet. I said quiet. Not this summer. The floating mud factory runs every day 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. A continual low rumble. Actually less obstrusive than a train running by because the sound is even and continual. And theoretically could cause insanity.

Monday, May 14, 2018

May 14th - Morning Birds

There was also had a Scarlet Tanager in the white flowering crab. No photos, but it was a marvelous sight to behold. It was a cool morning, the light was off and on ... then it started to sprinkle. Because I am a confirmed wuss I came in to warm my hands around a heavy Buffalo China cup of hot coffee. I really like the last Swainson's covered with tiny water droplets. The Magnolia is technically okay too, though the pose is a little stiff. I tend to prefer photos where the bird looks as if it was interrupted on a mission and is a little embarrassed that it was caught. 

Northen Parula

Magnolia Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Swainson's Thrush

There are other species working the tiny insects in the high oak catkins that will need to come down for a drink and bath later, and I am not satisfied with the Parula and Chestnut-sided pics. Maybe more photographs if the light gets better later in the day. Be well - Gunnar

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Few Warbler Photos

The folks around Minneapolis have reported a Warbler "fallout" the past couple of days - when weather conditions force thousands of migrators down to rest and feed. We have not seen that this year, but here are some photos from the past few days. Actually, Lorna has done much better, with nice views of Magnolia Warblers and a killer photo of a Common Yellowthroat in the forsythia hedge.

Nothing terribly exciting here. First a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, then some "regular" Warblers, and one wet Magnolia Warbler. 


A strange year, still hopeful though. - Gunnar

Friday, May 4, 2018


Fountain Lake is not a natural lake. It was created in 1855 by a dam at the Ruble Mill. Because of farm silt runoff over the years it has tended to fill in with a mud bottom. This summer The City is going to dredge the mud out of Fountain Lake (again) and soon they will be starting almost in front of 1410. I asked Tom Jones where the tailings from the dredging were going to be deposited. His response was very 'off-google'.  
"If you go out to the bath road and look to your right before you get to the good sam road you will see it."  It reminded me of how directions were given back in The Grove where I grew up.
"It is just past where that big oak tree used to be in front of the site where the Sorensons lived before the storm of '47 took all the buildings except the silo and that crazy brick outhouse. Ya know, you remember Einer Sorenson, he was Knute and Bertha Sorenson's oldest - the kid who rode out that storm in the outhouse. For years he drove that old gravel roadgrader the Township bought from Mower County in '39 -  the one with the chip out of the blade so it left a ridge. Ya gotta remember Einer, he sipped Schnapps all day and ya could tell what time of the day he graded the road by how straight that gravel ridge was  And don't get me started about his sister, Lena - the one who ran off with the gypsy violin player. Uff-da, she was a wild one, and a real dish, ya know."
Always good to know where you are in the world - Gunnar

Monday, April 30, 2018

Boulders and Birds

First, the boulders. 25 or 30 years I took it upon myself to rebuild a rock retaining wall on the slope down to the garden. Over time I put a bench guarded by a pair of huge Hosta in front of the wall and the wall disappeared. So here is a shot before the Hostas bury it.

A jigsaw puzzle with very heavy pieces.

Now today's birds. First the Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I never did get a Golden-crowned or a Ruby-crowned showing the red crown feathers.

Then a couple of local birds. House Finches and Cardinals.

And White-throated Sparrows. Nice birds.

And finally today's Warblers. Orange-crowned Warbler, Tennessee, and Yellow-rumped.

There was also a Palm Warbler and a Nashville, but my photos were quite poor. -Gunnar

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Orange-crowned Warblers

Today was our first Warblers of the Spring - a Black and White Warbler, which I think Lorna got photos of, and the Orange-crowned Warbler. This was a little surprising, as we generally expect the Yellow-rumped Warblers to be the first to arrive. The Warblers are all insect eaters. Maybe they were ambushed by the weather? An odd year. 

The Orange-crowned Warbler is a rather drab Warbler - no wing-bars, no markings to speak of, and I have only seen the "orange crown" when it is in a birdbath in Texas where they winter.

The other migrators today were not Warblers, but a Kinglets, tiny birds, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned. Lorna got pics of a Golden-crowned Kinglet earlier. I did not. Again, Lorna managed to get photos of the Ruby-crowned head tuft flaring, but I didn't. The male generally doesn't his ruby red tuft up except when confronting other males or just showing off for a female.

I just didn't catch a good photo. They are small and never stop moving. My poses were all either not quite in focus, or awkward and non-typical poses. My best picture of the day was probably that ass-end shot. *sigh*

Let's just chalk this off to a practice round for the real show in a couple of weeks. - Gunnar

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Why a Stove?

I have ownership in this food heating device.

It started with a leaky faucet in the bathroom. Let the refurbishing begin. Bathroom and kitchen.  And let's have it done while we are south over winter. Eventually we blew through $20,000. Included in the project(s) were two rooms of faucets, sinks, plumbing, lighting, painting, a lot of miscellaneous, and solid-surface countertops. But not a stove.

Our stove was a downdraft vented, dual-fuel range (gas top burners/electric convection oven), a little dated looking, but very functional. While we were in Texas work went on. In the process of lifting the oven out to install countertops and re-installing the oven, "something" happened. We returned from Texas to a beautiful kitchen. But the downdraft venting didn't work. I cannot tell you how many times the fellow returned to fix it. Eventually we figured out it was just this complicated 3-function switch. We found out this was a special switch, not available anywhere since 2015. In the world. People buy whole old Jenn-Air ranges on eBay just to harvest the switch. But what the hell, our range was 22 years old, we would just replace it with a new range. Just pop out the old range and plug in a new one. 

Then it got ugly. Nothing fit; all the venting needed to be redone, the new range wouldn't fit the hole in the brand new countertop, the gas line was in the way, the venting all needed to be redone. Nothing fit. After much cutting, grinding, belt sanding, eventually the range fit the hole in the top. Then began hours of professionals laying on the floor, poking, grunting, swearing. As they left I overheard one to the other, "If my wife ever wants one of those stoves, you just shoot me."

Then this morning it was me on the floor, fighting to get the electronics for the vent fan hooked up. The instructions looked so easy. It wasn't. Eventually I went down to the basement and threw the breaker. We had won.

So pardon me for sharing pictures of our god-damned stove. It looks so innocent. - Gunnar

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Great, Historic Tax-Day Junco Blizzard.

"I am not going to whine about another foot of snow, the second storm in two weeks!" he whined.  It is Minnesota. It's climate change. It is our new reality. Get over it, pick up your shovel and get to work.

Everyone copes in their own way.
We had dinner reservations with Barbara and her cousin Kjell at Crescendo, a local restaurant. Kjell visits from Norway once a year and I am likely the only local man he knows. If the restaurant was open, cancelling was not an option. They were open, which surprised me a little because by that time I-90 had been closed to the west. (You know you are in the Northland when there are entrance gates to close the Interstate on-ramps.) In the words of J.F. this late season storm was "a real calf killer".

On the way to Crescendo we passed a fellow jogging around the lake with his dog. Both coping, not letting a blizzard come between them and their daily run. 

I could not say Crescendo's was crowded, but there were a number of tables of diners. It is a small town. People know each other. The conversations sometimes migrated to other tables. People got up and came over to talk. The entire room sang Happy Birthday twice for different celebrators. Badly, but with much gusto. The lone out-of-town traveler at the table behind us seemed more than a little bemused.

I ordered an old vine Zin for our table. I had a salad and nice wild mushroom pesto ravioli. (The menu indicated that it was "Basil Pesto". Is there other types of pesto?) I passed on dessert. Except for the coffee of course.

This morning, the Juncos are still outside the living room window. I scraped the snow off the table  and threw down a bag of small birdseed, They were eating whatever was on or under the table. I think there may have been fewer birds than yesterday, but still quite a flock.

Through the window

Everyone copes in their own way.
I shoveled a little. Snow shoveling time is like lawn mowing time. It is a time for thinking. And remembering. In this case remembering back to a really bad winter when I was about 12 years old. I had shoveled our walk and the neighbor's, and was back in front of the television (black and white snow with rolling bars). The neighbor next door, P.C. Sorenson, was shoveling his driveway. P.C. was a mover and shaker in our little village - he had been a farmer, but also president of the bank and president-of-the-board of a number of local businesses. He could have paid to have someone shovel his driveway, but he was an old Dane. He didn't get rich throwing his money away. He     shoveled.

Through the window, I glimpsed a shape dropping down. I assumed P.C. had slipped and fallen, but he didn't get up. I ran out to see if he was okay. He wasn't. I called out to Sprankle, the preacher across the street who was also out shoveling. He came running over over and together we tried to get P.C. into the house. He was dead weight. Dead. Weight. Eventually we called the cafe up the street and got help to get him into the house. P.C.'s wife Enola had called the ambulance. P.C. was laid out on the living room floor. Enola put blankets over him because he was cold and she kept wondering what was taking the ambulance so long. I was 12. I knew there was no hurry for an ambulance ... and I knew why Pete was cold.

Today I was exhausted from shoveling the heavy snow. Catching my breathe, I leaned on my shovel remembering P.C. Sorenson. Pete was the first person I saw die - a milestone of sorts. At at the time he died he seemed very old to me, probably even 75 years. I will be 73 in a month.

I took a break.

Coping in my own way - Gunnar

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Round of Bonvicini Madness

My 1948(?) Cambio Corsa Bonvicini is painfully original. "Painful" because it is so original that I am hesitant to do anything that cannot be undone, even if it were to make it look or function better. Go down that slippery slope and eventually it could have disc brakes and indexed shifting. 

The only thing I have done is to replace brake cables and housings, and replace the brake pads with black Koolstops. Notice that all the "upgrades" involve braking. That run down Lanesboro's 20% grade Church Hill from our cottage to the sudden stop sign at the end can be positively terrifying with the less sophisticated brakes of a vintage bicycle. There is a reason they call it "The Hill". (I usually take the back way down, longer, but not suicidal.) The brake levers on the Boni' make it even more interesting. The reach from the handlebar to the lever is extremely long. Either the design was initially poor or the components have bent a bit over time.

Then a few weeks ago some folks on the Classic Rendezvous group list (vintage lightweight bicycle collectors) were discussing the same issue - some advocating bending components with wrenches, or vises and wooden jigs, or filing away material. This bike is old and rare so I am hesitant to start bending around irreplaceable parts. Also the brake body and straps are one piece on these vintage Universal brakes, which limits my options. So I have lived with the "inconvenience".

Then Bob Freeman, a gentleman with a lifetime of real world experience, suggested simply putting a piece of cable housing between the lever and the body. Duh.

Because I moved the lever back quite a bit, the opening looks a little like an open-mouthed frog, but it functions much better. I am looking forward to a few suicide runs down Church Hill this Spring.

            - Gunnar