Troutbirder II

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hiking the New Bike Trail

Baron and I have been doing a lot of hiking on the new Spring Valley bike trail this fall. Well... its not exactly a bike trail yet but a work in progress. The grading, graveling, bridges, tree planting and underpass are now complete. Spring will see the trail blacktopped and then the bikers will have smooth sailing. Come on along on a "composite" hike from early August to just last week. Baron will lead the way.

Bridge construction going on here. Several bulldozers were also in action as a path was cleared and leveled.

Two bridges were built over the creek as the trail passed from one side to another. Land issues made this necessary.

Along the way we see the "trout farm" eagles nest. I was initially worried that the trail might come too close to the nest but upon seeing the route close hand I don't believe that it does.

Here is a cattle "overpass" constructed so that the cows can cross the trail without being run into by bikers or vice versa.

Inside the culvert some swallows have already taken up residence. They were already gone so I'm not sure what kind they were. Probably barn.

The trail now has two layers of gravel, smoothed and packed, preparatory to blacktopping

The trail basically follows Spring Valley Creek, one of Bluff Countries fine trout streams. I'm sure with the arrival of hordes of bikers (including me) my exclusive franchise to the trout in this stream will be lost. Oh well.

As we came around a bend I heard that special fall sound of migrating geese. Honk! Honk! Honk! Baron and I ducked down in the grass and they landed across the creek in a pasture. Mr Baron von Curious wanted to go investigate but I held him close. My Chesapeaks would have gone crazy in this circumstance.

And I had given up goose hunting several years ago. My instincts kicked in and I was able to "shoot" a few with my camera. Wow!

Fall hiking with the Baron. Not too bad!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Minnesota - Wisconsin Architecture Compared

It seems that on my previous post of our recent trip to Milwaukee, a former resident (ncmountainwoman)commented upon the local name for the Mitchell Park Domes. They are known as the "Polish Bra." Not to be outdone by any present or former Wisconsinites, I give you the Grand Meadow, Minnesota public school. Known locally here as the "boob" school you can plainly see that they are larger and more colorfull. I rest my case.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lost In The Jungle

I ate too much that first night in Milwaukee. Wienerschnitzel and Amber Bock. Upon returning to the motel, we found the room at 85 degrees, since the furnace had just been turned on. Windows open, tossing and turning, I finally dozed off. The aquarium at the Discovery Center had been very nice. Later, somehow, I found myself surrounded by a wet warm clammy feeling. I heard running water and opened my eyes. Now, standing next to a bench there were huge trees and flowers everywhere. A small pond in front of me. I heard strange bird calls.

Looking down into the water I saw sunfish. No! It can't be. They had razorlike little teeth. Pirhanna's!

A small waterfall trickled down the rocks across the way. At the base, looking very hungry, were

a pair of white lions. White lions?

I backed warily away and stumbled up a small path through the jungle. There were flowers everywhere. I wondered if I was being followed.

"Time to wake up dear." Then I remembered, we had visited the Mitchell Conservatory. They had three glass domes. One for seasonal flowers, one for the desert. And one for the TROPICS. Of course!
Later, on the way back home to Minnesota, we stopped to take a look at the world famous Horicon Marsh. The largest fresh water marsh in the U.S., in the fall it is a stopover point for thousands of migrating waterfowl. Unfortunately, the day was very cold and very windy, with the birds well hunkered down. A long way from the tropics I would say. Brrrrr. Winter is coming to the Upper Midwest.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Wisconsin On Wisconsin

We recently spent a few days in Wisconsin with out friends John and Joanne. The idea was to take in some museums in Milwaukee and field test some German cuisine and beer. On the way down we stopped in Mineral Point to see a great little railroad museum. The town is noted for many artists of various crafts and Pendarvis. Pendarvis is the remnants from the era of lead mining. Thousands of Cornish miners worked the mines in the nineteenth century and built their homes from limestone and wood. Platteville Wisconsin and Galena in Illinois(the home of U.S. Grant) have similar histories.

In New England they call these type of add-on homes "stitchers." There the house is expanded all the way to the barn.

We also saw large flocks of migrating sandhill cranes who were feeding in cornfields, adjacent to the highways. This was the greatest number of these magnificent birds I had seen in several years. We previously saw hundreds of thousands along the Platte River in Central Nebraska in 2006.

Friday, October 31, 2008


At Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. Halfway through Act III, Scene 2, the character Asa Trenchard (the title role), played that night by Harry Hawk, utters a line considered one of the play's funniest:
"Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal—you sockdologizing old man-trap..." Fortunately, beautiful Mantrap lake in Northern Minnesota has no connection to the sad event that happened in Fords theatre that day. Instead, the name derives from the fact that a boater may be easily trapped (lost) in the myriad channels and bays of this large lake. I have been fishing there each fall since I retired. The first few years I went tenting, with my buddy Muffy, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Then more recently in the camper with Mrs. Troutbirder and our good friends Gary and Rosie. A nearby German restaurant is an evening treat.

The campground has forty very nice wooded campsights (no electricity though), and two concrete ramps. It was first recommended to me by son Tony, who had worked at the Boy Scout camp at nearby Battle Axe lake.

The ladies, not always interested in the fishing end of things, seemed to enjoy just "cruising" the lake.

Every twist and turn in the lake brought a new and beautiful vista.

I must say the fishing was great from the beginning. The lake is noted for huge muskies and northern pike.

This past year the fishing wasn't as great as usual. That's why the old saw goes "they call it fishing not catching."
Still you can tell from a certain smile that Troutbirder had a great time anyway.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Flower Garden Terrorists

Relax folks. This is not a rant trying to scare you into voting for any particular candidate. It's more in the vein of frustration over a pest I've fought a losing battle against for a number of years now. The HATED Northern Corn Rootworm beetle. This is their story.

I've pretty much given up on flowers that require a lot of sun or bloom in late summer. The first reason is that the yard surrounding our new house has a lot of oak trees. The second reason is that the El Qaida of the cornfields emerges in late August to do its dirty work on my flower gardens. I do, however, have a few sunny spots, such as the circle garden I planted with zinnias this year.
Northern Corn Rootworm beetle
Biology: In general, the female lays eggs in the soil which hatch into larvae. Corn fields are especially preferred. All the larvae feed on roots and other organic materials in the soil. Eventually, the larvae pupate, emerge as adults and begin eating the corn silks. Northern corn rootworm adults also feed on reproductive tissues of the corn plant, but rarely feed on corn leaves. Northern corn rootworm adults are more likely than western corn rootworm adults to abandon corn and seek pollen or flowers of other plants as corn matures (Wright).
In plain language, from the corn field they can migrate into your garden and begin looking for other victims. The Beetle just likes to nestle in your blooms chomping away at the petals!
Control: Atrazine and a variety of other chemicals is used to control the pest in the fields. However, a narrow band is sprayed, which protects the roots but leaves much of the soil available for rootworm reproduction. For the nearby gardener this means a future horde will be ready, willing and able to attack in late summer and early fall.

I know a picture is worth a thousand words but the one I took of my zinnia patch last week is just too ugly to foist on anyone. The flowers were utterly destroyed and even the buds of newly emerging flowers are under attack. In years long past, I tried to counter-attack with chemicals. Even on a daily basis that proved largely ineffective. Today, I am of the opinion that there are just too many chemicals (especially for agricultural purposes) in our environment anyway. That's a subject for another time though.