Who are we? We are our stories.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Christmas With the Old Norwegian

Lorna and I were spending Christmas with my daughter Adena and her wife Nicole in the Cooper neighborhood of Longfellow in Minneapolis. It is a pleasant neighborhood on the buffs above the Mississippi gorge - a good neighborhood for walking with or without a dog for an excuse. A fifteen minute walk south of their 1925 bungalow is the Seven Oaks Oval, a two acre 35 foot deep wooded sinkhole in the middle of a ring of classic craftsman homes.

While we were in the neighborhood I knocked on the door of an old friend to wish him a Merry Christmas. Chris Kvale answered the door and invited me in. We caught up on backyard birds, music, politics, and the status of his bicycle frame shop, which was severely damaged by fire-fighting water during the rioting following the George Floyd killing. 

Chris stepped out of the house to greet my family who were across the street trying to locate two hooting Barred Owls in The Oval. I followed Chris and pulled the door closed behind me. It latched with an audible *clack*. Locked. We tried the back door. I had locked a man out of his own home and the neighbor with the spare key was out of town. Marcia was going to be gone for hours. Chris used my phone a number of times, but she did not answer.

Given our dilemma and limited options, I gave Chris my jacket and we walked  back to Add and Nick's home ... where we ate cookies,  drank wine and visited. I learned that Chris's friend had originally manufactured his sheet metal paint spray booth several decades earlier. It was first assembled for use in a basement shop, later in two other shop locations. That same friend will be reassembling it one more (last?) time in Chris's shop in the Vine Arts Building. On Monday, after 19 months of forced early retirement (at age 76) Chris Kvale will be begin reassembling his shop, to again build fine bicycle frames to classical music and greet friends for conversation and a day's end drink.

After a couple of hours of "wisiting", Marcia eventually called. She was home, wondering where he was. So Addy took the Old Norwegian back home to a waiting Christmas dinner. 

The Old Dane,

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Saturday, December 18, 2021


This is the bank in Hartland, 12 miles up the road. Of course some houses are in similar condition, but no one was killed or seriously injured. 
It was one hell of a storm. 60 degrees on a December afternoon in Minnesota should have been a warning that all was not right with the world. The barometric pressure dropped like a ... like a ... like a metaphor. Then it broke loose, unleashing the winds of hell, gusts to 80 mph and straight steady winds, 60 mph+ all night. Not gusts, just steady blowing, blowing until something breaks, wind. 

I am proud of the old house. The 100 year-old lady creaked, moaned, begged for mercy, but stayed upright. Because of wind noise we slept, or tried to sleep, tucked into the corner room behind Steve Hamburg's new basement walls. I had watched the walls going up (and down), thinking it was overbuilt to fill concrete blocks with more concrete and steel re-rod down to footings four feet in the ground. 

Then it was reassuring. 

- Gunnar 

As I lay in bed, wind tired and worn, drifting through the hallway between half-asleep and half-awake, a song drifted in, "When death comes a knocking will God open the door?" 

And for some reason, the Four Horsemen came riding through the dream mist: "Death? Pestilence? Famine? Death? ... or was it Margadant, Grinley, Hurst, Westrum, Berg? No, that's five."

"Oh yeah, that's right, Dock became a Republican"... as I drifted off. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Stone Blind Horses

There are some saints that have been forgotten 
Like most of my drunken prayers 
They say there’s a heaven somewhere above the yonder 
Where there’s no more crosses to bear 

Now there’s ghosts along the highways 
And there’s storms out on the seas 
My only hope is somewhere in that heaven 
Someone says a prayer for me 

I been riding stone blind horses 
Never seen a reason to believe 
Hey sweet Genevieve say a prayer for me 
For wild young cowboys, old drunks, paramours and thieves 

The high slurred whistle of a redwing blackbird 
Sounds like he’s singing 'oh that I might die' 
It’s a song for those who have fallen 
Unrepentant with no more alibis

By Ray Wylie Hubbard, 
From the album The Ruffian's Misfortune. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

I must have posted a dozen entries regarding this damned old bicycle. I have moved on. If you need more, here are more photos that I took within the past week. 

Thank you for your patience.
- Gunnar

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Old House at 1410 Oakwood

Our home began life in 1907 as a 12' x 16' hunting shack. The town grew out and eventually ate Oakwood Park. Duck hunting and pan fishing were replaced by water skiing, wave runners and other cursed petroleum powered water sports.

Over time at least five one room additions were made to the old shack at 1410 - and it is still a small roomed modest home. Even the stairs down to the lower walkout level are in their third location. 1410 is drafty, wobbly and wonky, but we love it and continuing the tradition, we continue to pour money into remodeling and keeping it dry and upright.

By chance, my close friend Chesterman grew up at 1410 and he sent me this photograph of his childhood home. It is barely
recognizable. Even the terrain has changed with stone retaining walls and such (and a growlery and water feature).
Over the years the house has had walls moved and removed, a new kitchen and bathrooms, new mechanicals - been re-sided with cedar tongue-in-groove and shakes, all the windows replaced, a couple with doors accessing a lattice covered 16' x 42' deck. In hindsight, moneywise, little of this made sense, but it has been our home for 35 years and it is where our heart is.

Circles and cycles - far end, John Chesterman heading the table at his childhood home. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Rocks and Water

Likely last warm day of the year ... so like most sane people, I moved rocks. 

As I said in my previous posting, wild rocks can be hard to herd - difficult to make them behave. I placed, replaced, adjusted, readjusted the rocks ... then stepped back to look and did it all over again maybe 47 times.

This is what I finally ended up with - sketched in the potential waterfall. I have the water shut off and the reservoir tank drained for the season so we will have to wait for Spring to see what it actually looks like functioning.

Is it a river flowing out of the northern boreal forest dropping off the Precambrian bedrock escarpment into a deep eroded runnel stream, falling off a spectacular shoreline cliff into the cold waters of Gitchigumi over centuries to seep deep into a subterranean aquifer?

Or is it a rinky-dink rock garden rivulet draining into a concealed 40 gallon galvanized cow tank with a plastic lift pump? 

Either way - circles and cycles. 

Next, black landscape foam adhesive to anchor the smaller rocks, hard pack a mix of wet dirt and moss into the cracks. Then plant a low growing grassy carex, Pennsylvania Sedge, and maybe some Blue-eyed Grass on the "headlands." 

"Give me a lever long enough, a place to stand, and I will move the world."  - Archie Medes
"Moving rocks so you don't have to," - Gunnar Berg

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Waterfall - After Spring Migration?

I have been looking for low, flat weathered rocks of the correct color while at our other home in Lanesboro. Not much luck. I then realized I have enough rocks although they are 6" thick. I was imagining a 6" waterfall as it is now. Hell, why not a 12" waterfall - more of a statement instead of a trickle. 

Here is a sketch of my planned upper falls. Of course it will only vaguely resemble this. It is tough herding wild rocks because they tend to have a mind of their own. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

A Mountain Stream

Welcome, you are probably the few who would understand this, comprehend the insanity. This is a top view of the top portion of our water feature stream. The water use to squirt illogically from between and under a rock pile in the water course. Now it originates from snow melt high in the mountains - on the upper left under the yew bush. It flows down a narrow canyon to the cliff edge and drops in a picturesque tourist favorite 5" waterfall.

Actually the water recycles in from the reserve tank in a flexible pipe right before it falls into the existing water course - which is currently filled with oak leaves. Also I need to spread the fake stream width just a little - jack the rocks apart a bit before the stream falls over the edge, and next Spring plant some giant doug firs on the mountain slopes. Or a few stonecrop sedums.

Obsessively yours, 

Friday, October 8, 2021

"Birder 2, this is Birder 1, over."

When we are birding and separated, communication is often an issue. Silence being golden, hollering, whistling and pointing has proven to be less than satisfactory. I shopped around for electronic attention getters - buzzers, whistles, etc. I finally settled on these little walkie-talkies for $32 a pair. Really little more than toys, the reviewers complained about lack of range, which shouldn't be an issue for us. 

Now we have to review our radio protocol. "Breaker, breaker, good buddie? ", or the more formal military radio protocol, "Birder 1, this is Birder 2"? 

The only downside so far is that white and blue really ain't birder colors, but they missed the market niche and olive drab isn't an option. 

Birder 1: over, and out.  

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Spotted Towhee

I have seen an Eastern Towhee in our yard once thirty years ago. Towhees are about as dressed up as a sparrow can get, so when a pair showed up today I was excited, snapping photos with one hand, calling Lorna on the cell with the other. Fixated on the male😖, I got some nice shots, as did Lorna.

(Addendum: This has proven to be an out of range Spotted Towhee.)

Lucky boy, 

New Birding Venue

When the spring or fall Warbler migration hits I like to sit down by the Growlery to take photos. Lorna prefers looking down from the high deck steps. This fall she began sitting on the deck walkway outside our bedroom door. This puts her eye level and very near birds in the trees above the water and gives her a close top view of the stream. 

She was squatting down, shooting between the deck uprights, which was awkward and a potential back killer. So her husband, a retired designer and general putzer, made a discreet gate - virtually invisible, kid and dog friendly when closed and latched. The view below is of the gate closed. What gate you ask?

Below, the view with the gate open. She has a low camping chair and now her view of the trees and stream below are unobstructed. 

If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy. 
- handy Gunnar 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Labor Day Birds

 Labor Day. Many of the family young bucks labored on resurfacing our driveway while I putzed in the garden. Technically our neighbor Tim may not be family, but he is in the true sense. He has stood up in family weddings and is there when we need him. As the project wounded down he came down to collect his pay - two beers. As we talked I took photos and identified the birds for him. Here are some of them, including a first of season Cape May Warbler.

Cape May

- Gunnar

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Raining Warblers (and a Vireo or two)

A small number of the hundreds of photos I took on 8/25/2021 at the water feature of 1410 in the Oakwood neighborhood of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Yellow-throated Vireo

Spring Warbler migration progress can be monitored online by the satellite images. Fall is difficult to know exactly when they will come through, but I believe more consistent for us year to year. In Spring they seem to be in a nervous hurry to get to breeding grounds. Some years they catch a front and blow right over us. In Fall they seem maybe a little more laid back, just resting, feeding, moving on down the line to the tropics. Nothing  scientific, just a feeling I get watching them. 

- Gunnar