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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Esoteric Tools

Confession: I smoke cigars in the Growlery. 

As I sit sucking a roll of smoldering weeds do I think heavy thoughts? Well, maybe sometimes, but mostly it's just reading, admiring the lines of an old bicycle, designing gardens, or admiring objects and wondering, "How the hell did they make that?". Process. I made my living designing "stuff". Sometimes it was from materials like plastic or aluminum, but the overwhelming majority was steel. The president of our company accurately referred to us as "just a bunch of metal benders". 

These are cigar tools, a lighter and a multi-tool for cutting, trimming and poking cigars. Both are made in Italy by Xikar. The lighter is graceful, feels good in the hand, and is efficient - squeeze it and a flame leaps out of a small hole in the end. The cutter is 3/16" x 2" folded. As an old metal bender I recognize a nice piece of design and amazing manufacturing skills.

Tobacco cutters?

Lit 'em up! - Gunnar B.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Return To Hvoslev

With Johann Hvoslev's 56 observation notebooks compiled in the second half of the late 1800s, plus modern wildlife management studies, this might be the most documented parcel of wild land in the state of Minnesota. It is surprising that a number of local residents do not seem to know that it even exists. After we found a few morels in our Lanesboro lawn, Frank Wright mentioned that there might be morels at Hvoslev, so Lorna and I went back to search.

We alternately idled the truck and walked the road looking for fungus and birds. There was not much of either, but it was a great day to be out.

Lorna in the Skunk Cabbage
Flood plain

Plum blossoms
Beaver dam. 

The high point of the morning was hiking up a beautiful abandoned lane.

It was a cool dewy morning, but it was sunny and rapidly warming. As we hiked up the trail we began to hear moving water, so I was expecting to round a bend and see rapids. We didn't, we saw a pair of Canada Geese guarding a small pool which was fed by a rill spilling out of a narrow side ravine. 

 A short scramble up the little ravine revealed springs - clear, cold water flowing out of black holes in the hillside, threading over moss covered rocks, weaving together to become a rivulet which tumbles down to add to the flow of South Branch of the Root River.

This is one of those unexpected moments that a photograph simply cannot capture - the movement, the sound, the coolness of the air. You just have to climb over and under fallen trees, slip and slide up that grassy path yourself and be suddenly be ambushed by the scene. I am so glad we were. (Did I mention that everything is very, very green and clean right now?)

 Hvoslev is one of those little places on earth that one could be very easy to fall in love with. I am well on my way.

 - Gunnar