Who are we? We are our stories.

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Christmas Story.

The only Christmas Eve I have ever been away from family was when I was a callow youth of twenty years. I had been drafted into the United States Army and sent to Hanau, Germany. Because it was Christmas Eve duty had been light, even festive, with shared packages of food and even liquor passed in Battalion Headquarters where I worked. 

Half a dozen of us, the 23rd Engineer S-3 Section, went to the Mien Kit for a Christmas Eve meal. The Mien Kit was a local pub/restaurant run by a couple who's daughter had married an American. They catered mostly to young soldiers away from home and treated all of us as their own. The owner was Karl. I do not know his wife's actual name. Karl called her "Schatz", German for "girlfriend" or "sweetie". And that is what we all called her.  

After closing, Karl broke out the good cognac and we shared German Christmas treats and drinks with the couple. Jeff Gilchrist, who in his previous life had been a lounge singer, started singing Christmas songs, and loosened by drink, we joined him. 

The Mien Kit was a few blocks from our barracks at the Hessen Homburg Kaserne. Karl gave us a couple of more bottles and sent us on our way which was through a residential area. Jeff determined we should be caroling. In the state we were in that seemed liked a really good idea. So any poor German with lights still on was blessed by the singing of half a dozen really, really drunk G.I.s. And bless their hearts a number of them invited us in for more treats and another round. 

Eventually, very, very late, we stumbled in, collapsed on our cots and I drifted off to the echoing sound of Jeff Gilchrist singing in a restroom stall - crying, still singing Little Town of Bethlehem between his vomiting retches.  
Christmas Day was tough. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Peter Mooney On the Cottage Wall

I posted this on Facebook, but that is fleeting, so for my own sake I am cross-posting it here.

An old bicycle, this is a French style American touring bicycle, with the frame built by an expat Englishman, painted by Chris Kvale (an old Norwegian. ;-). And built up with Italian components by ... myself.

For the folks who think a bicycle is a device to get efficently from point A to point B, or an exercise machine, let's talk.

After spending hours, days, months on eBay and other obscure sites, with the help of friends I assembled a bike's worth of components, mostly 'new old stock', some old. some new new - mostly Italian manufactured by Tullio Campagnolo. I then stripped off the protective anodized finish with nasty chemicals and polished the hell out of them. Then I masked off the areas I did not want painted on the seatpost, cranks and fenders.

I saved the fully chromed frame from a bastardized flatbar "townbike". It had areas of rust and light pitting so I sanded and filled the bad parts and masked off the chrome rear triangle, front and seat lugs and cable guides. Then off to the painter Chris Kvale, who etched the chrome, applied filler, sanded, sprayed it with primer, sanded, more primer and then eventually the finish color. He then sprayed a clearcoat, applied the transfers, and hit it with another clear coat, sanded, another clearcoat, more sanding, until you cannot feel the decals with your hands. (That paint job is worth a lot of complete bicycles.)

Dan Lestrud built the wheelset (Rigida rims, early Phil hubs) and I assembled the bicycle drivetrain, brakes, shiny bits, vintage French Luxor lights and handlebars - and laced leather covering on the handlebars and toe clips.

Sometime when you have more time we can talk abut the goat-leather trimmed canvas "bicycle luggage" made in France by Veronica Durrant.

Yep, an old bike. - Gunnar

Monday, December 3, 2018

OakWooD Garden: Snow, Party, More Snow

OakWooD Garden: Snow, Party, More Snow:  Here are some photos that Lorna took in the garden this afternoon. We got the first blast of snow yesterday, then ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Liberal Elitest Food And the Salton Sea

I found this unposted story the other day..
We were in a booth at the Blue Onion with our friends Brian and Jutta Plath, drinking craft beer (and red wine with ice for Jutta), eating charro bean soup (most meals in The Valley begin with charro bean soup, ordered or not), flat breads, dips or wraps, most covered or filled with pesto, goat cheese, shrimp, humus, etc - eating fine things that my friend Bill once called "liberal elitist food" .... as if that was a pejorative. 
Brian is a hail-fellow-well-met (just wanted to use that one). His wife Jutta is a native of Frankfurt, and has a kiss of a German accent. Our conversation turned to stories of trips and vacations gone bad. Brian began his tale of woe, with Jutta expounding and correcting. 
They were birding the Salton Sea. It had been raining and they were excited to finally be out looking for birds along narrow clay maintenance roads. Jutta: "I told him not to go down that road, but he wouldn't listen! He never listens." Brian said the road was so slippery the truck would slide sideways even when they weren't moving. Of course they ended up in the ditch. (And recorded it.)

Brian took out his cell phone and found the number of the local AAA tow service. They just said, "We don't go out there." What? "We won't go out there for any amount of money." Jutta: "I told him we shouldn't be out there." After calling all potential tow services it appeared their only option was walking out, then going back for the truck later when the road was dry. Jutta: "Every step we took our shoes got heavier and heavier from the clay. It took us forever to get to a house." 
They walked for hours until they came upon a shack out in the middle of nowhere. They could hear activity through the open screen door, but no one came to the door when they knocked, so they stood and hollered. Eventually a nervous looking man with a gun came to the door. No one EVER came to their door out there. 
After an offer of a substantial amount of money, the fella led them around back to an open garage where there was an old 4-wheel drive truck with huge tractor tires - a mud-buggy. It turned the man's job had been turning valves to manipulate water levels and the truck was probably the only way out of there after heavy rains. He put a battery in it and strung an extension cord to the shed to charge it enough to crank the engine. And then it was out of gas. They had to siphon gas out of a barrel.
Then the guy said, "My wife is gone, so my kids will have to come along." So the Samaritan for hire, Brian, Jutta and three kids all wedged into a glorified pickup and headed out into maze of mud roads to find the truck. They had lost their bearing walking out and couldn't tell him where it was so they followed the footprints out to the truck. He hooked on, pulled it out and towed them until they reached decent roads.  

A tale as I remember it being told to me.

On Flying Dogs and Owls

We sleep with our heads to an open window. Years ago I removed the bed headboard to allow soft summer breezes and the lullaby of evening sounds to lull us to sleep. When we first moved to Oakwood 30 years ago we drifted off to the soft whinney of Screech Owls. 

Then the more entertaining Barred Owls moved in. This did not bode well for the little Screech Owls. They either moved on or became lunch. More likely the latter.

About 10 years ago I built the most owlish birdhouse I could come up with. It turned out to be unexpectedly heavy. Unexpectedly? It is 2' x 2' x 3' high, constructed of recycled 3/4" redwood. It took all my engineery expertise - cables and cams, levers and ladders, pulleys and ropes, to get it ratched up with a rusty old come-a-long into the big Bur Oak. And it looks for all the world like a doghouse for flying canines. This photo was taken the day I put it up. Over the years since then it has weathered in nicely and has become part of the oak tree ... but it has never, ever housed owls.

Last night we heard a Great Horned Owl. It is not as vocally entertaining as the Barred Owls, but its voice carries much more authority.

I hear the owl call my name ... again.  - Gunnar

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

End Of Fall Migration?

Best Fall bird migration ever. My friend Paul was a week long guest from British Columbia, joined at week's end by Carolee. Paul and I photographed 21 species of Warblers in our garden over the week, including the first Townsend's photo-documented in the state and a Lawrence's on the same day. And we drank a LOT of craft beer, splitting each can between us, but still potentially affecting some of the end of the day photos. 

Golden-winged Warbler

Lawrence's Warbler 

This gives us 29 Warbler species I.D.'d in our 30 years in Oakwood. Splitting (or not splitting?) hairs, my friend Brian (aka Brain) will not concede our hybrid Lawrence's Warbler as a count species, so we are now tied with him for the yard total of 28 Warbler species (possibly high statewide?). As he and Jutta have left Minnesota for a permanent RV and winter Texan lifestyle, I only need one more Warbler to be able to retire, hang up the bins, and lay down in the dirt of the garden dirt undefeated - not that it is a competition. An afterthought, if that Lawrence's had shown up in Brian's yard, he damned straight would have counted it. ever photographed in the state (avoiding western forest-fire smoke?). Brian, now Coach Brian, feels that our next best hope is a Prothonotary Warbler: so when Spring comes we will be glue-eyed to the trees and water seeking one very bright yellow Warbler.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I'll post more photos eventutally; if only because it is a convenient way to retrieve migration bird dates.

Y'all be well - Gunnar

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Fall Warblers: 08-30-2018

The birds were not continual today - breaks of a couple of hours of nothing then a mixed flock would arrive for half an hour or more and we got actvity. First Northern Parula of the season. There were two or three other species that I didn't get good shots of, but nothing unusual.

- Gunnar

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Back Home

We spent the weekend at the cottage in Lanesboro and arrived home to Oakwood in mid-afternoon. I went down the the garden and sat for a while to hopefully take some photos of migrating warblers. There was not of a much of variety nor quantity of birds, but here are a few of today's shots.

Not much. I do what I can. - Gunnar

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Warblers Arrive on Schedule

The Fall migration of Warblers arrived over the night and spent the late morning resting and splashing in our little creek. There were mostly Blackburnians and Chestnut-sided with a scattering of Canadas and Black & Whites. Mostly Warbler photos with a couple of others thrown in for a little variety.

- Gunnar