Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Love Lights A Tree

Even though my little point and shoot camera wasn’t up to the job, the recent Love Lights A Tree ceremony in Spring Valley was very impressive. As a crowd of friends and supporters watched, our friend Steve did the job of honorary tree lighter on the giant tree next to the tourist information center.  A large number of named luminaries surrounded the tree and were labeled with the names of people lost, survivors and currently battling cancer.
As a two time cancer survivor (cervical and breast) Mrs. T had a candle in her honor and as well as many for Steve who is currently taking on pancreatic. Here is Steve and wife Jewel along with the Troutbirders Ray and Barb having a sidewalk lunch a few years ago in the port city of St. Malo, Brittany France. Those were the days my friends….

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Tale Of Two Ears


When my faithful hunter and companion Muffy had to be put down due to kidney failure, Mrs. T and I decided she would be our last dog. I had stepped back from upland game and duck hunting and we planned to travel a lot upon our retirements. Good plan. Maybe not. After years of having hunting dogs we missed those loyal companions. A year later we decided to take the step. After some skepticism on her part, my view for a companion/guard dog prevailed. It was to be a GSD (German Shepherd Dog). His name was Baron. It was a whole different ballgame from my hunting dogs. He proved to be very intelligent but also very willfull. I thought well he is German. Stubborn comes naturally. The fact that I spoiled him rotten didn't help either.

Having no previous experience with German Shepherds, I was a little slow on the uptake. It was several months before I realized something wasn't right. It was his ears. They drooped. Consulting the internet, I found out that six months was about the time they would standup. "Ok," I thought. Patience is a virtue.

We visited our sons family in Colorado that summer. There Baron met Hercules. They had a great time playing together. Time passed. Mrs T. thought droopy ears were "cute". I didn't think so.

 
 
 
Finally, at about six months, they reached what I called the half-mast stage. More months passed with no improvement. I consulted our vet. I consulted the lady who did dog training and had three German Shepherds. Desperate, I consulted the internet. There were many suggestions. Many were "hairbrained." I chose curlers. I bought a pack, some tape and maybe memory failing me some glue. His ears were going to stand up or else!!!!

And the next morning, prepared to begin his  "treatment," I let him out from his kennel into the snow for his morning romp. He ran off to do his business and upon returning sat down proudly in front of me in the snow. There it was. He had done it all on his own.
 
 

Baron. Loyal friend. Guard dog. Explorer. Hiking companion. And member of the pack.

 

 

 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tundra Swans


A crowd people were gathered along a new overlook in Minnesota, near the Iowa border, south of Brownsville. Across the Father Of Waters, clouded in mist, lay Wisconsin.
 
As Mrs T and I parked along the highway,  we heard a rather loud and strange sound emanating from the river.  It was a kind of  of excited yet friendly conversation among some visitors from the tundra far to the north.
Here, we were to witness a world class event in the world of natural  wonders. Coming from the arctic , in their tens of thousand, along the Mississippi river, tundra swans had stopped to refuel and rest, before continuing their journey to Chesapeake Bay, far to the southeast.



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 also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds, by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. The artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies. It’s not entirely safe for the ducks and swans who gather here though as hundreds of bald eagles cruise overhead  along the river as well.  They are always on the lookout for an easy lunch.

The new overlook provides a safe place for people to turn out to see and photograph the swans.   Previously people would park along the shoulder endangering themselves and passing vehicles. Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers. We make an annual trip along the river to see this amazing sight. It never grows old.  Thanks Mother Nature!

And Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Flying Swans from Mr. Sciences "Nature Notes."
 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Prairie Flowers

We live in Bluff Country. An unglaciated disected portion of southeastern Minnesota filled with valleys, hills, farms, small towns and most importantly beautiful spring fed trout streams. Only a short distance to our west, the prarie begins sweeping  across southcentral and southwestern Minnesota, all the way to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mostly cornfields now, here and therelie a few vestages of the original prairie.....


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Time In Between


It was mid November. The land was quiet waiting for winter. The campground was closed till spring. The Park Rangers and campers and tourists were nowhere to be seen. The lake had a thin layer of ice now and the beach lay silent, neatly raked and smooth. The horse trails were empty and there was no need to keep Baron close and tightly leashed. He could romp and race following his nose wherever it led.          Over a century and a half  Minnesotas tall grass prairies and wetlands had largely disappeared. . Except for in a few special places like this. I was in Lake Louise State Park where the woods and wetlands and even the prairie still remained for a man and his faithful dog to take a hike. There was not an animal to be seen that day. Perhaps most of the birds were long gone to warmer climes. The feeling was almost spectral. And yet, it was beautiful in its own special way. A break between the prairie colors of fall and winter on its way. Baron wants to run but I'll walk slowly. He always checks to see that I'm not too far behind..

An Indian Summer Day On The Prairie
(IN THE BEGINNING)
The sun is a huntress young, The sun is a red, red joy, The sun is an indian girl, Of the tribe of the Illinois.

MID-MORNING) The sun is a smouldering fire, That creeps through the high gray plain,And leaves not a bush of cloud To blossom with flowers of rain.
(NOON) The sun is a wounded deer, That treads pale grass in the skies, Shaking his golden horns, Flashing his baleful eyes.
SUNSET)The sun is an eagle old, There in the windless west. Atop of the spirit-cliffs He builds him a crimson nest.
Vachel Lindsay

Hey Boss! They locked up the bathroom for the winter. Now what are you going to do?  We'll head home, Baron. Winter is coming.....

 

 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Trust Your Dog

Long ago and not so far away I was an upland game and waterfowl hunter.  Before, that is, my     knee  went bad and I switched to hunting birds with a camera and a notebook, it was a sport I thoroughly enjoyed. I owned a series of highly trained hunting dogs long before Baron, my GSD, arrived on the scene. Chessie was the name of our second dog. She was a full-blooded Chesapeake Bay retriever. Stockier and more broad-chested than Labs and Goldens, she had short, curly and somewhat oily hair. Chessie absolutely love being in the water. Cold didn't faze her at all. In other words, Chessapeakes are the perfect waterfowl retrieving machines.

This morning, as Baron lay beside me and I looked out the window on a cold and dreary day my thoughts drifted back to the times when wonderful hunting dog companions led me through the fields, sloughs and around farm ponds. Come on along with me….
Picture of Chessie as a puppy.

On one  particular day though, I was pheasant hunting. Chess   was   about eighteen months old and   in her first year of hunting. She  had already proven herself ready, willing, and able to retrieve ducks. Pheasants though would, perhaps, be another matter. That game bird required steely nerves and a good nose. I left school as quickly as I could getting out the back door that late afternoon. It was less than 2 miles to one of my favorite sloughs.There was a little creek running through about 30 acres of grassland and cover. Chessie started sniffing the ground right away. We had walked in for about 5 minutes when the first rooster flushed. It was a tough crossing shot. BANG!
Hey... sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. The bird dropped into the grass about forty yards away. Chessie was right after it. I followed on the run. I watched    her    circle a bit and then head off to the creek. She went right in the water. "Well what can you expect from a water dog," I thought. At that point, I decided it was up to me to find the bird. I searched for ten minutes. Then I called the dog. She came reluctantly. I got down on all fours and putting my nose to the ground showed her the proper technique. No interest on her part whatsoever. Maybe a little amused smile though. Then she raced back to the creek The stream was about two feet wide there. It had a bank of about the same height, where it had cut through the meadow. Still in the water, Chess seemed particularly interested in this one spot. I thought, "do you suppose" and bent over to look down into the water. Nothing. Then, I lay on my stomach for a closer look. Reaching down, I parted the grass hanging over the bank and there it was..... a large hole in the bank. Mmmmm. The dog, now emboldened, began a low growl and put her head closer for a look. It was obviously some kind of den. Maybe a beaver? Or what?

Now, at this point, one must consider common sense. Reaching into a den without knowing what one might encounter there raises some serious questions. To put into perspective what happened next, one must also take in account  several factors. The age of the hunter for one thing. How young, foolish and determined is he? How much faith does he have in a puppy who has never tracked a bird before? Well, as my uncle Walt often said, "Ve gets too soon alt unt too late schmart." The answer, dear reader, is that I reached into the dark, hoping to find feathers and not sharp teeth! My lucky day, it was feathers. Live and kicking feathers on a very smart pheasant. After doing what you have to do, I gave the bird to Chess to carry a bit . Then we began hunting again till dark sent us back home For the next ten years Chessie proved to be a wonderful hunter-companion. She was the best! I had learned on that first day in the field to trust her judgement implicitly. Here she is with a late season pheasant in the snow.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bucolic

A few bucolic scenes from  Bluff Country.....   Pictures courtesy of ace local photographer Mrs. T.
Definition of BUCOLIC
1: of or relating to shepherds or herdsmen : pastoral
2 a: relating to or typical of rural life

Monday, November 5, 2012

Retired Teachers


So what do teachers do upon retirement?   Here, our friend Jewel, a former middle school colleague of mine, has  uplifting moments on the bucket of a front end loader.  She is on her way up to some eaves on one of her and Steves farm buildings that need painting.  Mrs. T, also a retired teacher, took these photos. Her  focus these days seems to be more along the lines of keeping Troutbirders “Honey Do List” up to date….

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Lady Bunnys Slippers


In 1972 we were staying at a lake cabin near Grand Rapids, Minnesota. A local nursery had Showy Pink Ladyslippers for sale. They are Minnesota's State Flower. I bought two. Fortunately that summer the DNR's "Conservation Volunteer" magazine had an article on how to build a small artifical bog. The plan basically showed digging a pit, lining it with plastic, filling it in with equal parts of soil and peat. Then planting your orchids. The picture above shows what it looked like when completed. The orchids took hold, were carefully nurtured and slowly, very slowly gradually increased in number and size. 
 
These gems were the pride of my rapidly growing flower gardens. They stood along the fence in the backyard shaded by our mighty oak trees. By 2003, the year we built our new house in the woods, they had increased to several dozen beautiful specimens. As part of our contract in selling our old house, the new owners agreed that I could take any plants with me, as they were not interested in gardening. Limited time and physical stamina (I was helping build the house that summer) meant only a few could be moved next door. Naturally, the native orchids were the first priority. A new bog was built in the North Woods and the transplantation was accomplished with much trepidation. 
 That winter I began to evolve the plans for both the North and South shady gardens. I worried about my lady slippers. The Showy Pinks were hopefully safe in their new bog and the Large Yellows had been placed bareroot in the South Woods.
Only time would tell.... native orchids are notoriously difficult to transplant.  What a relief when spring revealed that all the native orchids had survived their abrupt move without a hitch.  Things were going well when we left in late spring for a camping trip to the Blue Ridge in Virginia. We had a great time touring Gettysburg battlefield, Washington DC, Williamsburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. Upon our return to Minnesota though, we found that disaster had struck.  I had failed to poke enough hole's in the bottom of the bog's liner. Heavy rains had filled the bog during our absence turning it into a lake. Half the Showy Pinks were drowned. The survivors looked pretty sick but I hoped for the best.  Slowly they began to revive. There were about ten survivors.
 Previously that spring my visiting grandson, who was just a toddler then, had spotted "the Easter Bunny" hopping about the yard. The bunny was a visitor from the neighbors rabbit hutch.  It was July and I was checking things out in the North Woods.
Several white rabbits were scampering off across Oak Hill Drive returning to their home. I found all the Showy Pinks nipped off at ground level. Each and every one never to return. The Easter Bunnies are no longer on my list of favorite animals.   Since then I have looked in various catalogues for replacements. At one hundred dollars a plant I can't justify replacing them . Since they are now being replicated by laboratory means and as the price is slowly declining, the day will come. In the meantime, I admire my large yellow ladyslippers which continue to do well….