Troutbirder II

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017


"When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything." -Black Elk
We left our campground at Blue Mound State Park and headed an hours drive north to visit Pipestone National Monument.

As often happens, when we take the big guy with us, people stop to ask if they may pet him. The comments usually sound something like "wow, I've never seen a German Shepherd that big." Here Mrs T. and Baron stand outside the Visitor Center at the monument. Of course, large dogs aren't allowed inside the museum/center, but Baron got to hike along the trail leading around the quarries.

There we met a man busy at work with the precious stone. He tells us about a summer festival, just concluded, where tribal members from all over the upper midwest participated.
For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone found at this site. These grounds are sacred to many people because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe's smoke carries one's prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today.
Here you can see the thin layer of reddish pipestone lying between the harder quartzite.
 Methods of quarrying have changed little since the process began. Quarrying is a laborious task involving weeks of work with hand tools. Today, only American Indians may continue this tradition here by permit.
A small creek passes through the quarry area. Later, on the trail, we come across an attendant falls.
Baron and I scrambled up the hill to the top of the falls.

All in all it was a great day. We had a nice walk and some interesting history to boot.

Monday, September 18, 2017

In Search of Amelia Earhart & a Solar Eclipse

Join us as we head deep into the Heartland on the way to Atchison, Kansas and the childhood home of Amelia Earhart. She, the pioneer American female pilot, of fame and mystery. Incidentally, on the day we expected to visit the museum dedicated to her memory a total solar eclipse was to be right over our heads at the airport named in her honor.....

Leaving Southeastern Minnesota's Bluff Country, very early on Sunday morning, we headed south into Iowa, lunching in Des Moines.  We were aboard a bus with John Grabko and his  Historical  Adventure & Travel Tours.  
We had taken many trips with John .... always fun and informative.  Arriving in Kansas City, Missouri late in the afternoon we immediately got to tour that cities wonderful WW I museum. It was very well done.
After a short hop the next morning we found ourselves outside the childhood home of Amelia Earhart high on the bluff overlooking the Missouri River as it separates the States of Missouri and Kansas.
Beside the living quarters, one section was filled with all kinds of fascinating memorabilia from Amelia's career. Of course, I questioned the guide about the mystery of her disappearance and presumable death near the Marshalls in the Pacific. No "alternate facts" were supported.
After our tour and before hopping aboard our bus I ran across the street to take a look at "The Big Muddy" and  the new connecting Amelia Earhart Bridge in the distance.
Back on the bus we quickly arrived at the Amelia Earhart airport along with lot of other gawkers.
Fortunately our maroon bus had priority parking in a nearby pasture as Mrs. T. has a folding chair in the foreground, waiting for the big celestial event.
Needless to say your hapless observer was persuaded to leave the shelter of the bus in spite of the scattered rain showers and   intermittent cloud cover all in hope of seeing the great event. I did briefly catch glimpses which apparently qualified me to partake of a small cup of champagne....:) Shortly thereafter we reboarded our bus to follow the trail of Lewis and Clark up the Missouri river valley into the wilderness of Nebraska and Iowa for more adventures. (More on that to come)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Blue Mounds

This vista of Blue Mounds State Park prairie provides you with an idea of what southwest Minnesota might have looked like hundreds of years ago. In 1836 George Catlin, making his way to the Pipestone Quarry described the scene. "There is not a tree or bush to be seen. The grass at our feet changes to blue in the distance like the blue vastness of the ocean. Man feels here, the thrilling sensation of unlimited freedom."

Blue Mounds State Park, located four miles north of Luverne, is one of the largest prairie parks in Minnesota. The park's approximately 1,500 acres of prairie preserves a wide array of rare and common plants and wildlife. A bison herd grazes peacefully on a portion of this prairie. Most of the park's prairie sits atop a massive outcrop of rock known as Sioux quartzite. The rock outcrop slopes gently up from the surrounding countryside but terminates abruptly in a spectacular cliff line. The cliff, one and one-half miles long and at some points 90 feet in height, provides a panoramic view of the countryside and is also used by a number of rock climbers from throughout the Midwest. Miles of hiking and cross country skiing trails take you along the cliffs, around the park's two lakes, into the oak woods, and through the prairie. Here you can experience tall grasses and colorful wildflowers swaying in the wind or witness the power and color of a summer prairie thunderstorm rolling in from the west.

There were outcroppings of rock everywhere, providing evidence of the thin soil on this elevated area. The fence contains the buffalo herd, while to the south and west farmsteads and cornfields stretch to the horizon. Prairie plants like golden rod pop up along the trail outside the fence.

Recent rains have left the occasional puddle and surprisingly I spot some killdeer and a lone lesser yellowlegs.
We camped in this neat park several times over the years.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Our Neighbors

Our neighbors across the street are a friendly family. I must say though, we often keep an eye on them, from our front porch. It's not that they cause trouble or anything. It's just that they had four new kids this summer. I don't know all their names yet, but one of them should definitely be called "peek-a boo." She seems to like to watch us lot.... when not climbing the huge woodpile.
Now we often spend our evenings on the front porch...... watching the goats across the road. There are eleven of them including four kids. The kids romp and chase. They all (including kids) like to butt heads and climb on the various woods piles.
"This is more entertaining than anything on TV these days," once Troutbirder was heard to say. Peek aboo....:)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Merle's Door

Lessons from a freethinking dog indeed. If you are one of those many dog owners who have noticed how amazingly smart and aware your dog is....think again.  The methods and manner of the relationship between Merle and his owner/friend result in something simply amazing and touching as well.  Click on Mark Twain above to jump to Troutbirder II and read more about a wonderful memoir...

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Flutter.... Then A Blizzard

Last week Mrs. T.,  Lily and I were hiking one of our favorite trails in Lake Louise State Park just north of the Iowa border. To our great surprise we saw lots of Monarch butterflies soaring over the prairie. It reminded us of an episode some five years ago in the same area. I'm recycling that story which was published the first week in
September 2012.
   The Baron (my first GSD)
and I were driving along a track on our way to one of my favorite
hiking/birding trails. To the right was a prairie, to the left a long line of shrubs and scrub trees. The flutter of monarch butterflies coming off the
shrubs quickly became evident. The flutter soon began to look like a blizzard of orange & black for the next quarter of a mile.

I fumbled to get my little cheapo camera out of my pocket. I like the camera because it does
fit in my pocket, while the binocs dangle from my neck. The following pics thru the windshield don't come close to doing justice to what I actually saw....but you get the idea.
Like many of
our migrating birds, the monarchs gather in the fall for an epic journey south. My friend, Mr Science (Gary) gives the following succinct explantion.

His blog "Nature Notes" on the flora and fauna of Fillmore County, Minnesota can be found at
I was, perhaps, a little early that year in checking some favorite monarch roosts but the sad fact is their numbers were way down over the long term average. That years drought, especially in the Upper Midwest had a bad effect. These beautiful creatures depend on milkweed. The long term prospects are even bleaker. Loss of habitat is hurting butterflies in the same way as it has our songbirds. Development and agricultural monoculture are very detrimental….

Here's a photo Gary took a few day ago in the same area we had been hiking....
At twilight the Monarchs settle down for the night.  Hopefully we're seeing a resurgence of their numbers this summer....:)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


The neighborhood surrounding our little abode is known as Oak Hill. Naturally, with the exception of a few white pines I planted, it's mainly large mature oak trees. The oaks consist of white, burr and a few reds. They shade and shelter us. On occasion they draw lightening bolts. Overall I love their strength and beauty. Except....

Except for one little thing. Acorns. It's been  a super year for acorns. A few years ago  a friend asked for a few acorns to plant. Zip. I couldn't find a one .... It seems oaks usually produce some seeds most years and occasionally a super abundance or the year when there were none at all here in the upper Midwest.

This year.... well take a look at my deck. Every day for a week now it has looked liked this.

And every day Mrs. T. sweeps it clean. No walking in the back yard with bare feet. Ouch! Was I happy about this situation? No way. Was anybody happy about this situation? I guess so!

Something tells me all the critters here on Oak Hill will be well fed with acorns this winter....:)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dover Beach

Continuing with a few of my favorite poems.  It's not a top ten list of any kind. Just a few of those poems which I remember well because at a certain point in my life they had influence and meaning to me personally.  I started with Percy Bysshe Shelly and Ozymandias. My next choice next was The Testament of a Fisherman by Robert Traver. My next choice is Dover Beach by Mathew Arnold. Click on Mark Twain above to jump to Troutbirder II

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Teeny Weeny Prairie

As I've explained previous posts, when we sold our old house with its expansive sunny flower and vegetable garden and moved next door into a new house in the oak and pine tree woods, there was a big change in what grew and what didn't. I was into nurturing native woodland wildflowers and planting lots of hostas, hydrangea's  and the like.  What not to like. No big lawn to mow and veggie garden to weed.  There was only one problem, in the meantime I had fallen in love with prairies. For that I needed sunshine. Could I find a place on our land that offered enough????

Indeed. There it was a ten foot high bank facing East of our woods.  It got the morning sun and that was it.  Was that enough to create something amenable to native prairie plants?  Take a closer look.
And towering high above Mrs. T. a true native prairie denizen.... The Cup Plant ( type of sunflower). Also to her left some wild phlox. These pictures were taken a few days ago in mid August. July saw an outburst of several types of coneflowers and fall will see an outburst of several kinds of wild asters.
The pictures below are from our friend Gary's restored prairie.  It gets really spectacular when you have several acres to work with....:)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rounding Up The Garden

It all startedwhen we moved next door into the woods to build a new house. I left behind several
beautiful sunny gardens and wildflowers along the back of the house and the adjacent woods. Then there was the vegetable garden.

For decades I supplemented the soil from an active compost pile. The soil became deep rich and loamy. It produced bountiful crops of delicious vegetables. Nothing like home grown is there?

I knew that our new home in the woods next door would require a different gardening approach. Native woodland flowers and other shade growing plants. Surrounded by giant oak trees and white pine there was really no place for a vegetable garden.

I was pointing this all out to Mrs T. Our days of growing, canning and freezing our own crops were over. We would find and patronize local farmers markets. That would be just as good and a lot less work. I especially noted that I would not miss all the hoeing and weeding. Thirty years of that was just about enough!

About that time our friend and neighbor farmer Dick dropped by. He heard Mrs T’s sad story about the end of our vegetable growing days. "Not a problem," he noted generously,
"I have 14 acres of corn on the west side of your woods. Use whatever you need for your garden." Mrs T lit up like a Christmas tree. "Oh how wonderful" she enthused. "Well ah... I’m sort of retiring from that field," I noted cautiously. Getting the "look" I piped down quickly. "Then I’m going to do it," she added..... We were back in the vegetable growing business.

From overhead you can see the emerging corn to the west on the far left. Our house is hidden in the oak trees. The deck faces the setting sun. The plan that developed featured me sitting on the deck, binoculars and adult beverage in hand, offering cogent supervisory assistance, while she worked the garden. Great idea, I thought. That lasted, of course less than a week. I was back to weeding...:(

The garden angel!

Its been 12 years now since that inauspicious beginning. Each year the garden seems to have grown in size. It apparently has a will all of its own. I can’t explain it. The soil is rocky and not very fertile but the weeds seem to grow better than ever. Till this year. I had studied the adjacent corn field very carefully. Fourteen acres and NOT A SINGLE WEED. I asked what the key to this phenomena was? Roundup its called. By mid July I was definitely losing the weed war. I thought .... what the heck I’ll give it a try. One gallon sprayer in hand I attacked the persistent little green intruders. Success. They wilted and died.

It wasn’t till a couple of weeks later that it became apparent that the tomatoes, peppers beans etc. seemed to be in a permanent sulk. Not exactly dead but with leaves curled tightly and not growing any more. Consulting my farmer friend I received the third degree. "Did you hold the sprayer nozzle within two inches of the ground? Was it very windy the day you sprayed.?" Oh oh...
Drift can be a serious problem with herbicides. Apparently one should read the directions on the container.

In light of the semi-wilted state of the national economy, perhaps next winter, when all the garden catalogues arrive, I will revive my argument that stimulating the local farmers markets is the patriotic thing to do.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Opening of Zucchini Season


Subject: Opening of zucchini season in Minnesota