Troutbirder II

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nuts!

I think the squirrels should be doing well this winter as we had a world record acorn crop this year. Daily sweeping of the deck produced bucketfulls of the fruit. I slipped several times and almost fell in the back yard filling the bird feeders. Worse than ice, I thought at the time. And the ricochet shots off the roof in the middle of the night were more than a little annoying. Still we love our white and burr oak trees. Almost as much as our beloved butternut..... The Juglans cinerea. It has distinctive ridged and furrowed bark. It produces drooping clusters of sweet nuts which are used in baking. It grows to 40' to 60', 35'-50' spread. This tree grows at a slow growth rate but was already mature when we bought our first home on Oak Hill. Although it does best in full sun, our butternut still did well surrounded by white oak trees. The fruit is a tapered. oblong, 1 ½"-2 ½" fruit covered with sticky hairs which encloses a brown, corrugated, thick, 1"-1 ½" shell that terminates in a point. The oval kernel is tender with sweet, oily, buttery flavor. The butternut or white walnut is one of the hardiest nut trees, A North American native, the nut has a rich, buttery flavor used in baking, confections, and eating fresh. The attractive, light golden wood is used for paneling and furniture. Its nuts are valuable as food for deer, squirrels, and birds. And so early that fall I raked together the fallen nuts and placed them on the sun deck to air and dry. A few weeks later they were placed in a basket and left on the deck for further airing. My intention was to shell them around Thanksgiving time.Imagine my surprise when I checked on them later to find that every single one had disappeared! Who would sink so low as to take such an item from a person who had carefully gathered the harvest for the winter? I was appalled. I figured that the perpetrators had brought a box and dumped my treasure into it, leaving the basket as a sick reminder of their crime. To say I was ticked would be somewhat of an understatement. Reporting the loss of my nuts to the police or the insurance company didn’t seem to be the way I wanted to go either (he chuckles to himself). So life goes on and their were many other fall chores to finish. One task was to cut down a dead quaking aspen which loomed over my garden. Chain saw in hand I headed out into the woods. The tree was about 60 feet tall. Now aspen is a very soft wood but after I notched it and made the final base cut, it went down very quickly. Rather too quickly, I thought, until I realized the tree was hollow. And there to my huge surprise was the mother load of butternuts. All safely stored away for the winter. How sweet it was! I’m not a revengeful person at heart but property rights must be respected and these nuts were mine!
Well, as they say, "all’s well that ends well." I used the vise in my workshop to crack open the nuts. They were so sweet. Not holding a grudge, I made sure the squirrels were well fed that winter with corn and sunflower seeds. Sadly though, the butternut tree is gone now. The people who bought our house next door to our new one in the woods, sawed it down. Apparently raking up the butternuts was too much bother.
And so leaving the feeders well stocked, we prepare to leave sub-arctic Minnesota for the desert. There the grandchildren await the arrival of Santa Claus. And we hope "warm family times" await all our blogging friends wherever you are located this holiday season.
Troutbirder and Mrs. T.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Arrived Last Night

As I stepped outside, this somewhat cold and dreary morning, winter had arrived on Oak Hill overnight. Greetings winter! I'll let Baron outside to romp. My own snow romping days are over. But content, I'll start up the snow blower to clear the driveway. Go back inside for some hot chocolate. And watch the bird feeders from my easy chair while starting a new book. Each season to its own rhythms here in the northland.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turks Cap Lily - Not!

Lilium Superbum - The Turks Cap Lily


There are lessons to be learned in just about all phases of life. History, or in this case botany, can teach that. Keeping an open mind might be one such lesson. Take the case of the elusive Turks Cap Lily. Wildflowers like birds can have "local" names. Thats why both are scientifically identified by latin names. Some time back I posted some wildflower pictures and identified one of them, found in a native prairie preserve, as a "Turks Cap Lily." Every one around here called these wildflowers Turks Caps, so I was absolutely certainly positive that's what they were. Thats why when several commenters gently informed that they were Michigan Lilies I replied that they were seriously mistaken. The ideological rigidity of todays politics come to mind doesn't it?






Michigan Lily



Lilium michiganense is an attractive plant that adapts well to flower gardens. The Michigan Lily can be distinguished from Lilium superbum (Turk's Cap Lily) as follows: 1) the former species has a more northern distribution in Illinois, 2) the anthers of the former are ½" or less, while the anthers of the latter species are ½" or longer, 3) the former has yellow bulbs, while the latter has white bulbs, 4) the tips of the tepals of the former curve backward toward the base of the flower, while in the latter species they curve backward considerably beyond the base of the flower, and 5) specimens of the latter species may have a conspicuous 6-pointed green star at the base of the flower, although it is not always present. Somehow I'd been unaware of the difference. Oops!


Today, I wish I could remember the names of the people I'd self righteously "corrected" by email. I'd send them a belated apology. Or maybe the title of this post might catch their eye... but I doubt it. In any case, let's all try to keep more of an open mind..... I'm working on it..... :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Those Were The Days

You can tell by the vintage of the school bus that the people in this picture must be pretty old by now. This is second grade, Mounds Park Elementary school, St. Paul, Minnesota. That's Troutbirder in the front row, right hand corner, with the little beanie cap on.... jeez mom how could you? My cousin Terry had sent me a notice of an Elementary School reunion and I guess it sent my brain cells off on a jog through memory lane....




There is Miss Amblers Kindergarten class down by the old wishing rock. My 1st cousin Prudy is front row far left and I'm back row center with the the suspenders. Obviously my mother was a fashion maven. Of course, I was first born so according to the psychologists got all the good stuff. Miss Ambler had been my fathers kindergarten teacher. Other names I remember were Miss Heim, Miss Holmen, Miss Searle, Miss Ahlstrom, and Miss Dahlquist. Plainly female teachers were not allowed to marry in those days. Yes, I walked six blocks to school, uphill both ways, as Bill Cosby says. Those were the days my friends, we thought they'd never end....





Here's a few more fashionista pictures from the "40's."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beautiful Tundra Swans

Mr. Science and I headed down to the "Big River", the Mississippi, yesterday for a day of birding. There, the Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for millions of migratiing waterfowl each fall. We did, however, have a special target in mind. Migrating from their summer breeding grounds in the northern Arctic, tens of thousands of beautiful large white birds, wend there way south to stop, rest, and refuel on the Mississippi River near Brownsville, Minnesota. They pause here, usually for a few weeks, before turning southeast, heading for their wintering grounds on Chesapeake Bay. They are the beautiful Tundra Swans.





Here, on a backwater near Weaver, we see hundreds of swans and ducks. In the distance, beyond the screen of trees, a barge is moving down the main channel of the river. With Wisconsin in the distance, perhaps a mile away, we can see many more. Sometimes, huge "rafts" of these birds seem to turn the entire river white. When we step out of car, the sound of their vocalizations is almost deafening. Some are even close enough to us to get a picture. On occasion a few fly over us, but I'm not a skilled enough photographer to get a decent picture. Another wonder can occur; on some visits I've counted well over several hundred Bald Eagles. If the sun is out and thermals rise above the bluffs, we can see them "kettle." They form a spiral rising almost out of sight. Late migrating white pelicans also use this river highway. Awkward looking on the ground, they are magnificent soaring aloft as they head south to the Gulf.


With the construction of the lock and dam system on the river in the 1930's, many of the natural aspects of the river have changed. One of these is the wave action of the increased open spaces. Many islands have disappeared. Because of this many of the plants and tubers the swans fed on have also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. Here you can see one of the many artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies. Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers!


I took a video with my little point and shoot camera, I wanted to let you hear the swans. I estimated their were about 5,000 in the immediate area. There have been well over 100,000 during peak weeks of the migration. Unfortunately, Blogger didn't like it.
Darn!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Petrified Forest National Park - Arizona

We were a little ahead of schedule on our three day drive to visit the grandchildren in the Phoenix area. Thus, it was convenient to make an afternoon stop a the Petriefied Forest National Park, straddling I-40 in the northeastern part of the State. Here, 250 million years ago, a vast floodplain was crossed by many streams, surrounded by stately conifers, ferns and other plants and inhabited by crocodile-like reptiles, giants amphibians and the occasional dinosauer. Eventually, as the climate and continents changed and moved, a mix of silt, mud and volcanic ash buried logs, cut off oxygen and slowed the logs decay. Thru a complex "substitution" process, they were convered to silica and then quartz. They became logs of stone.


















The history of the area was the typical story of discovery, amazement, exploitation, vandalism and eventual preservation of the remains. The rescue of parts of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest began in 1906 with President Theodore Roosevelt and culminated in 1970 with Congresses approval of the National Park. We took an 18 mile "auto tour" through the Park. Come on along and take a look.....


Ace photographer Barb working The Painted Desert.












Stark, yet majestically beautiful in its own way, is what I thought.........




Thursday, November 10, 2011

Investigative Analysis

See the preceding post for the evidence. Careful analysis of the photograph of the victims injury reveals some important clues. The fact that the injury is located on the back of the leg as opposed to the front or side suggests he was hit from the behind but did not fall. Most revealing however, is the description of the abrasions themselves. They definitely appear to be tread marks. A bicycle tire immediately comes to mind. The medical authority did not report any other injuries so we hypothesize the following: Troutbirder was hit in the back of the leg by an out of control/or inattentive fellow byciclist. He, somehow managed to maintain control and was not flung from his own bike. A common misdemeanor occured, which in the driving world, is known as "tailgating." A highly dangerous habit common to many forms of propulsion......

Troutbirder: "Yes it's true. I was "rear ended" on a steep downgrade. Apparently, I wasn't going fast enough for the speedos who seem to think it's all a race. Another concern is the fact that when I took up biking years ago it was common for people to warn you when approaching or passing from behind. "On your left" or "coming up" were common phrases." No more.....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

CSI


CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is an American crime drama investigation series which premiered on CBS on Oct 6, 2000. Wildly popular around the world, it has drawn as many a 74 million viewers and spun off numerous look alikes. The investigators use physical evidence to solve grisly murders in this unusually graphic drama. The series mixes deduction, gritty subject matter and character-driven drama. Troutbirder, hereby, submits the following photographic (physical) evidence so that you might test your own investigative skills. See if you too can determine the nature and legality of the crime commited. Place your analysis in the comment section.

Case 213 Location - Somwhere between Harmony and Preston in Bluff Country. Trauma - Contusions on the back of Mr. Troutbirders right leg. The victim was later treated by authorized medical personnel. He was released from care with non life threatening injuries. Photograph taken on July 16th 2011.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wile E. Coyote

On our recent visit to my son and his family in Phoenix, Arizona, I had a flashback to the favorite cartoon of my misspent youth. It was The Roadrunner. Due to the kind generosity of Tony’s in-laws, Jack and Barb, we got to stay in their winter home in the Mesa area. Right on fairway number 2 as it were {Sunset view from the patio}



The day in question we had noted the neighborhood was overrun with long eared jack rabbits. They were everywhere. We had also visited a local arboretum with Tony, Kari and the grandchildren . There I managed to add a roadrunner to my "life list" of birds.
Exhausted, we slept in the next day and just as the sun was coming up, I heard a siren going by along with a series of loud howls and yips. This was a familiar scenario because at home my big GSD Baron does this whenever the fire engine goes by. Half awake I thought I was home until Mrs. T poked me in the ribs mumbling "what’s that?" Grabbing my camera I rushed outside on the patio to see a pack of coyotes emerge from between the house and the neighbors. They were headed out onto the golf course, presumably after the ever-present jackrabbits or maybe even an elusive roadrunner. Arizona. There’s some wild things going on down there!