Who are we? We are our stories.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Quick Kvale Shot

Merry Christmas. Here is a picture of my Chris Kvale with the recent Ely Rodriguez made bags and the Cody Davis bicycle stand.

And a Happy New Year.

We are gathering and organizing our clothing and optics to hit the road for the Lower Rio Grands Valley on January 1, 2017 for a couple of months. We have to get back in early March because Lorna is going to Costa Rica with birder yoga women friends. Categories and sub-categories: friends, women, yoginis, birders.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bicycle Stand

I have a couple of bicycles displayed at our weekend home. "Displayed" is a bit of a reach. One is a literal wall-hanger, another one or two are just leaning against the wall. Most bicycle stands are functional, but pretty utilitarian in appearance, so when I saw a wooden one on Etsy it caught my eye. It didn't seem very practical or functional, but it got me thinking so I contacted Cody Davis at Woody's Fenders who has made a couple of sets of fenders for me. My initial thought was to just put a couple of legs on a a fender. Cody made a couple of prototypes, which revealed some issues. 

The stand I had seen on the internet just had rear legs. Cody found that no matter where he put a single set of legs the stand was unstable. The stand above is the first really functional stand he came up with.

While it functions quite well I didn't care for the downhill stance of the bike, so I moved the legs two inches fore and aft which dropped the rear wheel down to ground level. Maybe the rear legs could be shortened a little, but that was not a quick option.

If you are interested in a stand you contact Cody at Woody's Fenders.

Be safe, Gunnar

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Last Rose

The curse, "May you live in interesting times". No problem here. It's been a slow week in Oakwood Park.

The weather has been classic clear autumn sunshine this past week. One late morning a few days ago I took a break from some inconsequential tasks in the garden, starting to put things to bed, and went up to the house for my 14th cup of coffee. There was knock and I was surprised to see the hulking figure of J.F. at the door. Surprised, as J.F. never telegraphs his arrival - he just shows up unexpectedly at the door on his way to or from Rapid City. "I checked the Growlery first. You are a trusting soul, an open door, your camera on a chair and a Filson vest! hanging on the hook outside."  "Yeah, its Oakwood." We left the Growlery door open, the vest still on the hook to guard the place and went to the Elbow Room for lunch - eating hamburgers and speaking thoughts that need to be spoken, things that only people who have known each other for half a century can truly understand - talk of children, relationships, ailments, and death. 

This water feature thing in the garden has really worked out me, even better than I thought it would and the birds seem to really like it. Today my friend Christy came over. He said he had stopped by the other day. He assumed I was around because from the street he could could see the Filson hanging on the peg. He said he came down to the Growlery looking for me, but I wasn't around, so he just sat on the bench in the sunshine for half an hour enjoying the little waterfall. He said he contemplated stealing the vest when he left, but feared the consequences. A wise choice.

Somehow today between his place and ours Christy misplaced his old lab, Cricket, who apparently went for a walkabout. Christy isn't very mobile these days so I was in charge of dog retrieval. I covered all of Oakwood. No luck. When I got back to Christy with the bad news, he said someone found her and left a phone message. Because of his hearing, or lack thereof, he couldn't decipher it. I was able to hear it better. Spencer, a kid down the street, was holding the runaway for us to pick up. God, that Cricket is a great dog. And Spencer a great kid.

The end of the season in Oakwood, time for the last flower pictures. The roses are expected, usually the last to go - the iris is a bit of an outlier. It was supposed to bloom in early summer. Maybe it did and still had extra energy to spend, or maybe its timing is just off. 

A red rose is always classic and beautiful, but I like the wilted, tattered symbolic end of summer rose clinging to an old rusty fence even better. These are for Todd Peterson, who at the end could only walk to the coffee shop and back, but still always taking and sharing photographs of every flower along his path. Toad died on August 8th.

Enjoy the roses while you can, -Gunnar

Monday, October 10, 2016

More Rock Garden Birds

Today I put a new top on a little outdoor table. After I finished it I sat down beside it in an old chair, armed with my binoculars, a cigar, a glass of beer, and of course my camera in my lap. The chair is sited looking directly down (up?) the little stream cut into the new rock garden. The birds seem to enjoy the enclosure of the ravine, which has surprised me a little, thinking they would want to be able to see approaching predators rather than hiding. 

House Finch

White-throated Sparrow

Red-breasted Nuthatch
The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a surprise. A migrant from the far north, I have seen a handful of them this year - the first time in decades. Apparently their food supply up north is in short supply forcing them further south than normal.

Take care - Gunnar

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Bird Canyon?

I previously posted some photos of this feature. It all started with a visit this Spring to the Hvoslef WMA east of Preston, Minnesota when we came upon a spring running into the South Branch of the Root River. It was beautiful. The sound was wonderful. The thought percolated in my mind as I was building the new steps to the deck. I decided I could build a spring in my garden in Oakwood for my pleasure and to attract more birds the garden. Birds. I imagined birds playing in the waterfall, splashing in the pool. I built the pool with various levels for the different sized birds.

And so 100+ hours later I have a spring spilling into a pool .... a pool which the birds pretty much ignore. They seem to prefer splashing in the 1/4" deep rivulet in the mini canyon.

Be well, - Gunnar

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 few months 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, 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