Monday, May 2, 2016

A Wood Duck Morning

It has been cool, overcast and rainy the past week. It is Monday morning, a new day, a new week and a new month. It is time to start over. The sun is out, the sky is blue, and the lake is a mirror. What more could a man ask for?

Wood Ducks.

As most mornings, there are a two or three pair sitting in the oaks. They are still in their egg laying phase, laying one egg a day until they have a clutch, then they will begin brooding them so they all hatch at the same time. We have one nesting box, as do both of our neighbors, and there are more boxes around the bend on the north shore. Apparently there are not enough boxes as there are two females laying eggs in our box. I do not understand the dynamics of that, but I suppose it works. The parents do not have to feed the ducklings, they just lead them to the water and paddle around with them as they eat. We have half a dozen large oaks along the shore. As the ducks do not seem to be territorial in regards to their nesting boxes, I guess I have some carpentry in my future. 

You can lead a duck to water ... Gunnar B.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hvoslev In Spring

Fillmore County is drained by a web of trout streams. About 5 miles east and south of Preston the Hvoslev wma is a 240 acre jewel tucked in a small wooded valley which embraces a stretch of the South Branch of the Root River. All you "wormers" take heed, this is flyfishing church, and like any trout water worth the name, this is a stream for artificial flies, catch and release only. 
"It was into this setting that Johan Hvoslef—a Norwegian immigrant fresh from medical school in Chicago moved in 1876. He observed nature here for 44 years, filling 56 notebooks with accounts of his daily activities, world events, local weather, birds, and plants. Among the notations: 
“August 3, 1896. I saw an Ectopistes migratorius (passenger pigeon) near Ole Bendikson's. This was the last wild pigeon I ever saw.” 
After Hvoslef's death in 1920, his wife presented the diaries to what is now the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota."

We took the risk.
Good road, but a truck road.

Mini island.

Water over the bridge.

Spring fed.


Enjoy the water, be well - Gunnar

Thursday, April 21, 2016


This week I spent a couple of days at the ophthalmology department at the Mayo Clinic. There were about 50 people sitting in the outside waiting room. There were people from all over, women in saris, women in burkas, pink wrinkled old men with Scandinavian accents, people quietly mumbling to each other in various languages. The only thing the majority of us had in common was that we were old human beings that could not see well. Sitting there it struck me that eyes are very complicated high tech devices that given enough time, tend to fail. A generation or two ago we would all be blind or well on our way.

Over two days there was a lot of sitting in waiting rooms. I didn't actually eavesdrop, but out of boredom I listened in to a lot of conversations. I happen to overheard a exchange between three apparent strangers that seemed to be involve a question of bird identification. Birds? I quietly sidled over, sat down beside them, and whipped out my shiny new cell phone, all loaded up with iBird Pro. After settling the bird I.D. issue we introduced ourselves - a gentleman from southeast Minnesota, and a mother/daughter team from Faribault, and me. The daughter, a lass of maybe 50 years, said her mother could identify all the birds in North America. That sounded almost like a challenge so I scrolled through a few Flicker photos on the cell. Ah, the Gray-crowned Yellowthroat photo I took at Estero Llano last year! - an ABA code 4 wanderer from Mexico, a certain winner. "I'll give you a hundred bucks if you can identify this one." She leaned forward and peered at the image on the cellphone for a long time. Then, "That's a Gray-crowned Yellowthroat isn't it?" I was stunned, damned gob-smacked. "Ah, ah, I guess I owe you a hundred dollars". She burst out laughing, "The photo has a label at the bottom!" 

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
It went on and on - scans, people injecting dyes into me, more scans, point-blank blinding lights in my eyes, "Look up, now up and left, now left,..." etc. Different techs, different doctors; different tests. Again and again and again. The evidence was starting to mount up, it wasn't looking good, but no one was talking. "When Dr. Bakri has analyzed the results of all the tests she will talk to you." Dr. Bakri is the head of ophthalmology and we have a bit of a history. She lased (lasered?) 14 retinal tears for me six years ago, setting a bit of a record. Through that we had time to talk and get to know each other a little. 

As it turned out my eye issue didn't work out too well. A have a tear ("a break") across my macula which causes a warp in my vision ... and because of my previously compromised retina, it is not operable. By the time she had dropped that news on me I was pretty much expecting it.

After our formal discussions she asked me if I was still birding. I replied that I was. "One eyed birdwatchers, that's what spotting scopes are for." Today I ordered a new spotting scope. 

Enjoy your sunsets while you are able - Gunnar

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Worth Brewing Snug


1. a small, comfortable room in a pub or inn offering intimate seating for only a few persons .

In this case, a small room tucked back in the corner of the Worth Brewing tap room. It is quiet, furnished with oriental carpet, three antique loveseats, and a small table with a couple of cafe chairs - decorated with carefully placed beer advertising signs and stained glass.

Evening in the Worth Brewing snug with Anne and Dave Bonnerup. 

 Peter Ausenhus doing brewmaster
I began the evening with a Short Trip IPA, this batch made with Amarillo, Chinook and finished with El Dorado hops. It is a good enough beer, but a little low on the IBUs for my taste. For round two (or was it three?) I fell back to the Field Trip IPA, and also had my growler filled with that. It is a seriously good, balanced IPA, just under 6% with somewhat moderate IBUs. 

Good company, good beer, good pizza. - Gunnar

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ron Cooper Mixte: Done

Done - unless, if and when, new paint and decals. The old decals had no clearcoat and were so flaky I just wiped them off with the edge of a credit card. I do have a new set, but I'll hold them until I decide whether to have it repainted, paint it myself, or simply leave it and ride it. For now, ride it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring. 25 years ago I planted a few bulbs in the grass. Now the grass is half gone, but the bulbs spread more every year. When they die back in late Spring I just take the dry leaves with seed heads and throw them in bare spots.

There were still a couple of Loons way out on the bay this morning. Lorna was chasing and may have a couple of photos. 

We counted nine Wood Ducks in the willow tree and in the water below this morning - so there are likely at least five pair nesting on this stretch of the Oakwood shoreline. Later there was a female sitting on the roof of a nesting box, checking it out to make certain it is duckish enough and peeping her approval to the male who was perched higher in the oak. He has NO input. The photos are through window glass at distance. They are very spooky birds now when they are comparing nesting options; any door opening or head appearing and they are just gone. 
Lorna says there are three nesting boxes on the north side of our round peninsula. That makes about half a dozen boxes in Oakwood which is the limiter on populaation.  I suppose I should make a few more various bird boxes before next year.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Existential Dread and Honey Cakes

Lanesboro has a quirky streak. Case in point, the Commonweal Theatre's 19th Annual Ibsen Festival coming up on April 15-17. This used to be held in the dead of winter, which seemed appropriate for the morose old Norwegian, but a couple of years it was cancelled due to weather, so it evolved into a dark, brooding celebration of Spring and tax day. 
SKIEN, NORWAY: Arts Council Norway today unveiled ambitious plans for Ibsen Verden (Ibsen World), a 25-acre theme park celebrating the dramatist considered by many to be the father of modern drama, in the town where he was born in 1828. Scheduled to open in the spring of 2017 (the 150th anniversary of the premiere of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt), the park will offer attendees of all ages a chance to experience the author’s signature blend of piercing social critique and free-floating existential dread in a fun and interactive environment surrounded by southern Norway’s lush lakes and waterways. 
Lorna and Henrik
“Until now, visitors seeking a quintessentially ‘Ibsen’ experience in Norway had few options,” said Gunhild Molvik, interim director of Arts Council Norway. “At last, Ibsen Verden will offer the playwright’s diehard fans and casual theatre goers alike a distinctive and direct reckoning with the stark psychological naturalism that undergirds Western dramaturgy as we know it. And we’ll be sure that the park’s cafés will serve delicious honey cakes, Ibsen’s favorite sweet.” 
Unique attractions planned for Ibsen Verden include a haunted house, inspired by the divisive dramaGhosts, which visitors can exit only via a lethal morphine injection, and a Hedda Gabler shooting gallery in which participants are forced to contemplate the futility of human striving in the vicinity of a loaded weapon. The Master Builder Pavilion, sponsored by Nokia, will offer a free “master class” on brooding over doomed but deeply symbolic structures, with practical take-home tips like the best materials for sky castles.
And no Ibsen experience would be complete without a cathartic door-slamming exhibit, in honor of the stunning climax of A Doll’s House, or Dr. Stockmann’s Water Report, a hair-raising raft excursion through a contaminated lagoon. Park planners aren’t overlooking youngsters in their plans, promising such thrilling rides as Peer Gynt’s Troll Trap and Little Eyolf’s Rat Race. 
Previously, Molvik pointed out, Henrik-hungry tourists could only hobnob with dusty scholars at the Ibsen Centre in Oslo; browse through assorted barns at the Telemark Musuem in Venstøp, the farming community where Ibsen spent his tortured adolescence; or trek to the aptly named Grimstad to contemplate the playwright’s miserable years as a pharmacist’s assistant in a harbor town. Added Molvik in an aside, “Or they could see one of his plays, I guess.”
Be happy, but not too happy - Gunnar

Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Lens

Actually its only new to me, a 150-500mm F/5-6.3 Sigma zoom, and frankly I don't know how to drive it yet. So far it has become obvious that I can't stand too close to the subject, and I have to hold the camera steady. The squirrel was the first shot taken through the Growlery window. Got a bit of depth of field issue. ;-)

 Yesterday we made our first trip to our Laneboro cottage to turn the heat up and water back on. It was drizzly, but we picked up fallen branches on the front lawn and I took photos of the flowers popping up through the grass and the daffodils budding out in what was at one time Stella's perennial garden. The perennials are long gone, except for peonies and the flowering bulbs.

Stay dry - Gunnar

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Snowed Last Night

Pictures taken through the window before I went out to attack the snow. A foot, give or take. My foray was suspect. The snowplow had earlier made two passes up and down the alley, leaving a two foot pile the length of the driveway. The snow was deep enough, heavy enough, that the snowblower bogged down.  As did my shovel.

Getting more and more tired, beaten to my knees by the damned snow, I considered my childhood next door neighbor, P. C. Sorenson - Grandpa Pete to me. When I was about 12 years old he died at the operating end of a snow shovel. It was the first time I had confronted death firsthand. I have made it nearly 71 years. I quit shoveling. 

We can get the truck out, get to the mailbox, receive company and take deliveries. Good enough for now.

The following were taken at noon from the high deck after a morning of playing in the snow with shovels and snowblowers. Sun's out.

Pace yourself - Gunnar

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Crocus, Brick, and Moss

The snow is completely gone (again), but they are predicting possibly a foot more today. It is a big storm front, but monitoring the NOAA radar it looks as if it may slide us by about an 1/8th of a mile to the north. That is cutting it a bit close and may simply be wishful thinking, but hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Yesterday I took a stroll about the estate and grabbed some images:

The mild winter bodes well for the Tree Peonies. These plants have marvelous blossoms and foliage, but they are woody shrubs rather than herbaceous perennials and sometimes they show their displeasure with our Zone 4 winters by dying back or withholding some of their blossoms. Most years there are a few dead branches and shriveled buds in Spring; not this year, but a late hard frost may still set them back.

The pathway bricks are from the Interstate Power chimney. It was built 300 feet tall in 1922 at a time when dealing with air pollution meant putting it up into the sky as high as possible to send it to their downwind neighbors. The chimney was razed in '79 and eventually over time some of the bricks migrated to my garden paths. 1922? That means that the man who made my bricks was likely born well before 1900. I think about that every time I notice the brick on the lower left. At one time dirt and moss collected in the fingerdips (not a proper word, so I made one). I carefully considered whether he would want moss growing in his little signature mistakes. I cleaned them out. Neatly.

Bunny raisins.

I love the emerald lushness of moss and the wabi-sabi look of mossy mortared brickway walks. I have a neighbor who bemoans her moss and fights it to the death with chemical poisons. For me if the pH and sunlight are right, the moss is right. I never use any weed killer (except for Canada Thistles) nor do anything to encourage grass to grow. The resulting "lawn" may look rough, but various creatures seem to appreciate it and they make my life fuller, something that a trimmed grass mono-culture never could. Anyway, back to my moss - I will "harvest" some of the moss from the wasteland edges of the property, put it in a blender with buttermilk, and pour the resulting green bryophytic soup over some of the newer paths where moss has been slow to take hold. The resulting brickways will make you want to walk barefoot, just so that sensation is not completely wasted on children. 

May your moss be lush - Gunnar

Saturday, March 19, 2016


When we pulled into Oakwood there was no snow on the ground. I cleaned out the Woodduck box and filled the bird feeders. It took about 15 minutes before the birds knew and they were back as if we had never been gone. Our birdseed is a convenience, but not a necessity, particularly in a winter as mild as the past one.

The ice was out of the lake for the second earliest date since the late 1800s. There are rumors that the woodducks have already arrived, although personally I have not seen them. I am afraid with the early ice-out we may have missed the loons and northern ducks migrating through. 

Then it snowed, not a lot; not enough to stick on the streets and sidewalks - but enough to remind us that we were back home. The Rio Grande Valley was nice, but it could never be home. Oakwood is home.

We are having a "Name the Flamingo" contest. Big prize. 
- Gunnar