Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Heard A Barred Owl Last Night

I tottered off to bed last night with a cold. Darkness settled all around me till I heard the soft call of a Barred Owl around ten o'clock. "For sounds in winter nights, and often in winter days, I heard the forlorn but melodious note of a hooting owl indefinitely far; such a sound as the frozen earth would yield if struck with a suitable plectrum, the very lingua vernacula of Walden Wood, and quite familiar to me at last, though I never saw the bird while it was making it." Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist When I reawoke this morning I remembered that call and wondered what the message had been. Looking out the window into the backyard I knew. Friend owl had been announcing the coming of winter overnight.

Each season has its own rhythms. For me winter is the time of repose. I set aside the energies of the outdoor life and enjoy nature from a warmer view. My reading chair, a warm blanket, and a stack of books waiting their turn.

Of course their are some outdoor duties. The sidewalk has to be shoveled, the driveway plowed and Miss Lily taken for her walk.

Thoughts of gardening, birding, fishing, photography, hiking and camping will lay dormant till cabin fever sets in, usually about January 1st!
It's 9.00 a.m. and the road is plowed already. People have to get to work. Not me though.
I trudge back into the house to look for my reading glasses. There is something to be said for being retired. The driveway can wait.

Seriously Lily. You don't want to go outside until I shovel the sidewalk?
Once again, Mrs. T. to the rescue....:)

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Last of the Presidents Men

Click on Mark Twain above to book review on Troutbirder II

Monday, November 16, 2015

Oak Wilt

When we bought our first home in Bluff Country it was located in a large woods about a mile out of town.  Our home built adjacent to a major State highway had a gravel road entering the woods behind us. There were just a couple of homes on that gravel road. It was called Oak Hill and our little three acre plot had dozens of those magnificent trees. They were mostly white oak with some Burr and a few Reds mixed in. Now, fifty some years later there are about 40 homes in the woods and far fewer oak trees. Something call oak wilt has been taking its toll in recent years. It has proven very difficult to stop....
Oak wilt is a fungal disease that can quickly kill an oak tree.  Symtoms vary by tree species but generally consist of leaf discoloration, wilt, defoliation and death. The fungus is spread from diseased to healthy trees by insect vectors or via connections between tree roots. Management of the disease consists mainly of preventing infection by avoiding tree wounds and removing diseased trees. Chemical and roots cutting methods are marginally effective in most cases. Oak wilt is an important disease of oak for timber production and of oak trees in urban areas.

With my trusty chainsaw I have removed several dead oaks over the years, but this year saw six large ones succumb to the disease. It was a removal job beyond my capacity this fall due to the size of the trees and my mid August shoulder surgery. The professionals had to be called in. Take a look at an unhappy day in my backyard several weeks ago.....:(


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Harvest Time

We live in rural southeastern Minnesota surrounded by corn, soybeans and friendly people. Both Mrs. T an I taught in the local high school when the majority of our students grew up on family farms. Today the farms are bigger, fewer and farther between. Smaller families and fewer farms mean declining school enrollment and hard times for small towns beyond easy driving distance to growing regional centers like Rochester with Mayo Clinic and IBM. Now retired we still follow the rhythms of the farming way of life among our neighbors and friends.  Spring  planting came early in 2015 with just the right amount of rain.  Summer followed the same pattern and with an early harvest the
reports are of record crops and yields. Its not always that way though and bad years are also known.
Take  2009 for example. It was  harvest time and me and my camera were invited to ride along with our  friend and neighbor. Except it rained and it rained  and the sun never appeared. Dick was smiling but it was kind of forced. The soybeans were waiting week after week and if they couldn’t be picked soon all kinds of problems would ensue. When the moisture content is too high the elevators won’t accept the crop. The beans will begin to fall off the plants or mold will set in. Drying is not a good option because of not only the great expense but the beans will shatter reducing their value. Then it began to snow, compounding the whole situation. Even for Minnesota, this is not normal weather for October. As the month turned to November, our most unpredictable weather time, it slowly improved.
Corn harvest should be beginning and all the local farmers were working furiously to catch up. The first fields being picked showed corn moisture at 35%. Fifteen or lower is the standard or drying is required. The price for propane is higher than ever and now shortages are being reported in Bluff Country and south into Iowa.. Farmers must stop the corn harvest with their hopper bins full until propane can be obtained.

It’s a beautiful November day when the phone rings and I hurry over to join Dick for the afternoon aboard the big combine. I never cease to be amazed at all the complicated technology. Satellites guide the machine, and screen and dials show vital information. Sometimes riding high above the field, looking out the vast windshield I can’t help but feeling that I’m riding along with Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.This whole operation can be somewhat mesmerizing. Fortunately, other than taking an occasional picture, I don't have to keep particularly alert. The words about "spacious skies and amber waves of grain" keep running through my mind. Well, this grain is golden and its helps to feed and fuel the world.

Sometime later Dick has a combination frown & puzzled look. "Do you hear something", he asks. "Lots of noise," is the best I can come up with. He shuts down the machine and climbs out. I follow. Its turns out that one belt among many has twisted and is in danger of coming off the pulley. Its not a big deal yet but needs to be realigned before something worse happens. I twist and hold it, while Dick goes to the other side and slowly turns the pulley with a large bar. "Watch you fingers," I’m warned. Farming is still one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. All is well and we’re back in the cab. There is some good news. The screens are showing what Dick says are "the highest yields ever." I’m surprised because much of the spring and early summer had been unseasonably cold. Everyone is surprised apparently. That’s farming though. Bigger, more efficient, higher costs, unpredictable markets and risk. "Kind of like Los Vegas," I ventured. Dick smiled, with a kind of wistful look, and shook his head only once. He didn’t say anything but I could almost hear him thinking..."damn right."
It's evening now and time for me to go. Great grandpa Bob is also calling it a day. He is "retired" now and at eighty-five only works the day shift. Sharon will be bringing supper out to the guys. They will continue the work on into the night. Probably not all night. though.. maybe ten or midnight. Then again tomorrow. First chores, then back to the fields for the harvest. So it goes here in the Corn Belt. Just another day on the the family farm.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Cooking The Sportsman's Harvest

Click on picture of Mark Twain above  to jump Troutbirders review of this fascinating cookbook.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Lost Forty SNA

The Lost 40 SNA (Scientific & Natural Area)  owes its name to a surveying slip back in 1882. This site includes a narrow peninsula extending from a large upland esker (a glacial landform). The peninsula is flanked by a black spruce and tamarack bog on one side, and a willow and alder marsh on the other.
The area contains 30 acres of white pine-red pine forest and 20 acres of spruce-fir forest. The virgin old-growth white pine-red pine forest is considered to be the most significant old-growth white pine-red pine stand outside of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area (BWWCA) and Itasca State Park. Red pine 240-250 years old can be found on the site. Minnesota's state red pine "Big Tree Champion" is found here and is 120 feet tall with a circumference of 115 inches.
On our recent trip into Northern Minnesota we were lucky enough to visit this gem of a virgin forest. Take a look....
And then there was John Latimer. He was our intrepid phenologist (a person who studies and keeps track of cycles in nature) who with nearly every step on our hike through the woods, identified interesting plants and animals,  while telling  interesting facts about them all. Here is John taking a break from all the questions were all were asking him.
He is a staff member of KAXE radio in Grand Rapids, MN. Below is a link to some of the North Woods topics he has written about....

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Last Hero - A Life of Henry Aaron

Click on the picture of Mark Twain above to jump to Troutbirders book review blog. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Logging Camp

The Forest History Center is  located in Grand Rapids, MN.  The center focuses on displaying the historical and cultural impact that out forests have had on people and the community. Historically, logging was a large economic driver, presently there is a large use of Minnesota forests for recreational purposes. The center allows visitors to see this changing relationship through exhibits, films, tours, historical reenactments, and other educational and recreational programs. It is one of 26 sites operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. We are most familiar with the site at Forestville which is only a few miles from our home in southeastern (Bluff Country) Minnesota.
   The museum was great but the highlight of our visit was  the recreated logging camp where  the blacksmith, saw filer, bull cook, clerk and lumberjacks were all in character and hard at work.  We saw  draft horses demonstrate feats of strength during cross-hauling and jammer shows as lumberjacks load logs onto skids. Unfortunately we "witnessed" a serious accident during this dangerous work.  All enacted with appropriate seriousness and inappropriate hilarity.   Take a look!
Mrs. T. eyes up a golf cart for a ride down to the logging camp. I suggest it's only a block away down hill and besides golf carts hadn't been invented yet in the early 1890's....
We walk down the hill following the crowd.
The first log building of the camp and then around the bend at
first shouting and then a SCREAM!

OMG! As they were loading those huge logs on the skid, one came off
and crushed a young man "flatter than a pancake.!
Cookie, who feeds over 60 hungry men three meals a day, was as shocked as anyone. Later,  I had a chance to ask here if these kinds of accidents happened frequently. "No," she said , but it is dangerous work and well....
On a more positive note the Belgian work horses were both handsome and very strong. Two remain working in the camp and more than twenty were out with the logging crews, we were told.
Later, Mrs. T. gets up close and personal.
And the visit concludes with music and a chat a logger who just happened to have a guitar.
Yes it smelled in the "bunkhouse" with 30 men's underwear but the music was sweet....:)
What fun!