Troutbirder II

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Oak Hill Drive

Our now fifteen year old home sits on "Oak Hill." Here, surrounded by magnificent white and burr oaks, I had to give up my sunny gardens. We had divided our property, selling our old house in the open, and building a new one in the adjacent woods. The wooded areas have been gradually converted to shady wildflower gardens. They are now my gardening pride and joy. Still, there was one area I wasn't quite sure what to do with. It was a six foot, east facing bank, on the edge of the woods. Leading down to the ditch along the road, it was a maze of gooseberry bushes, burdock and uncounted weeds. It couldn't be mowed, yet offered a half a day of sunshine. What to do?
 I decided to try and give it a "prairie look" and hoped the morning sunshine would be adequate. In the fall of 2007, I cut back the gooseberries and prickly ash.. Then, that fall, the bank got burned. I had already purchased some native wildflower seeds from Prairie Moon, a local wildflower specialist. Raking the ground, then scattering and tamping the seeds, I hoped the spring melt wouldn't wash them all into the ditch. We had lots of snow that winter.

There was no way for me to tell that spring as to what came up. I couldn't identify the weeds from the flowers. So I waited till the maze reached about 6-8 inches in June and then weed whacked everything down to about 3 inches. Now my precious wildflowers would have a fighting chance. The bulbs I had planted, of course, bloomed that first spring. The rest would have to wait at least another year before blooming.... if they survived!

Two years later, the summer of 2009, purple coneflowers, and woodland phlox made their first appearance.
August 2011: the brown eyed susans put in a not very modest appearance.
The summer of 2015 has seen a cascade of changing color.
Now in the early October the  “ditch bank” the fall asters have joined the show. The smooth asters with their sky blue look and the deep purple of the New England ones dominate the show. The latter with remain blooming till the snow arrives…..
Look close. The bumblebees love the asters too!
What fun!  And the neighbors all toot their horns and wave as they come and go.



Monday, September 28, 2015

The Black Hills (2009)

I didn’t much care for the Black Hills of South Dakota at first. That was in the mid-fifties when I first traveled and camped there with my parents. The Bad Lands were bad, hot and dusty. Wall Drug, famous throughout the land, as a tourist Mecca was just that. Crowded and chintzy. There were junky stores everywhere. And later gambling at Deadwood was not my thing.

For years my brothers and later sons and I zipped on by the Hills on our way to the fabled fly fishing streams of southwestern Montana. No time for traffic jams and tourist traps for us.

And then one Easter vacation in the new century, with a new camper in hand, we, the empty nesters, decided a short trip to the Black Hills would be a just in order. It was a late Easter that year and the weather in Minnesota was mild and sunny. Highs in the mid fifties. We weren’t tenting anymore and the new camper had a furnace. We imagined the crowds wouldn’t be too bad. Heck, I might even try some trout fishing.

We made camping reservations at a place named Custer Mountain Campground. Naturally, it was a mile or two from Custer, South Dakota on the southern edge of the Black Hills. When we arrived the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees. Even more surprising the campground with 60 sites, 4 camper cabins and 5 new luxury cabins had only one other camper.

The owner informed us we were " a little early in the season." After discussing things to do, we took his recommendation to drive the Custer State Park "loop road."
In July and August the road might have hundreds cars checking out the beautiful vistas and wildlife. On this first occasion though it was magical. For hours we had it all to ourselves. There was wildlife everywhere. I fell in love right then and there.

Since then we have made it a habit to visit the fabled Black Hills at least once a year. The joys of retirement living now make it possible for us to pick either spring or fall. The magic never goes away. A couple of years back our son and grandson came up from Colorado to join us for a week of camping.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Exodus from the Alamo

The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth.  Click on Mark Twain above to go to Troutbirder II book reviews

Monday, September 21, 2015


It was August and Mrs. T.  was off playing "bridge."  I decided it was time to deadhead some garden flowers,  when a rare inspiration hit me.  Surprise the lady of the house with some bouquets an
art form I had never tried before. Okay take a look and try to hold back the spontaneous laughing!

Actually after removing the tall Stargazer in the last picture she was quite pleased. I've been wondering if they have a "beginners division" in the county fair next year? Probably not....:)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

In memoriam

Click on the link and wait a bit for it to load. Click again on the control bar below the screen to start.  This presentation in memoriam  of Troutbirders best friend and trusted companion - Baron

To honor  Baron's brothers and sisters, the GSD's who help our soldiers defend the nation.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Martian

Review on Troutbirder II

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Serious Addiction?

It  all began when I was working at one St. Paul's first supermarkets in the late fifties. . I was in high school at the time and my school (Harding) had gone to split shifts due to overcrowding.  Seniors and juniors attended from 7 a.m. to noon.  Afternoons were free until my father decided I had too much slack time on my hands. A carryout boy at the supermarket was my destiny from 1:00 to 9:00 then supper and homework.  My eventual promotion to full time dairy case and frozen food stocker soon followed.  When the guys with the big dairy and frozen food trucks pulled up behind the store I volunteered to help them unload.  The result was two years of free ice cream and other frozen treats for me. I overdosed on it all... mostly ice cream. It isn't that I can't
or won't eat ice cream these fifty years later but now its only rarely. Enough is Enough.

Yes it's Mrs. T with the addiction.  Three hundred and sixty five days a year (or close).  That also counts visits to the "Dairy Queen."  Here we are "imbibing" at a local ice cream shop in Wisconsin...:)

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Heavenly Conversation

I’ve noted more than a few times on this blog my obsession with converting
two acres of lawn here on Oak Hill to sunny plots of native prairie and amongst the trees to woodland wildflowers. And thru the wonders of the internet I recently ran across a heavenly conversation to buttress my hopes…. Photos of our reconfigured "lawn" by Mrs. T.  :)

GOD: to ST. FRANCIS: Francis, ... You know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.
St. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass. GOD: Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy. ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week. GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay? ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags. GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it? ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away. GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away? ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work. ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life. ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
GOD: No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose? ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves. GOD: And where do they get this mulch? ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight? ST. CATHERINE: 'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about.... GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.