Troutbirder II

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

Monday, April 26, 2010


This post is the official notice of my retirement from vegetable gardening. Actually it's more of an final admission of defeat. I surrender. Yes, the weeds have finally won. Forty-five years of relentless conflict and they have totally worn me down. I quit. That's it.

It had all began those many years ago. Just married, we rented a small house in the country. The landlord said there was a small plot I could use for a garden in the back yard. Although being a totally naive big city boy in the ways of gardening, I thought "what the heck why not.With the encouragement of my new bride I planted a few crops. Some proved to be quite successfull. Others were, shall we say, a little unusual. Like the J-hooked onions that came up. Actually they weren't a new variety.... I had planted them all upside down. Or the rhubarb seedlings I had nurtured.... they turned out to be an ugly weed called burdock. Oh yes, I couldn't tell the crops from the weeds at first. And there were always plenty of the later. They were relentless.
Then there was the garden in the country where we bought our first house on three acres. The garden there grew and grew in size. I dug it all out by hand. Apparently rototillers hadn't been invented yet. The weeds followed me there as well. And I added to that crop by fertillizing with fresh horse manure from a neighboring farm. It turned out horses eat a lot of weeds and the seeds remain viable to spread new generations of their kind.

Yet each winter, looking out upon the bleak landscape, hope would spring eternal. A fresh start. A new garden. I became a true gardener.

Once upon returning from flyfishing trip to Montana with my brother I found all the carrots gone. It seems my volunteer garden substitute, Mrs T, had weeded them all out. Apparently she hadn't realized that weeds generally don't grow in neat rows. And the blistered hands from hoeing. And the frustration. In more recent years each time we left to spend a few weeks with the grandchildren in far away Colorado, I would meticulously remove every visible weed before we left. Then return to find the enemy everywhere overpowering my hapless little seedlings.

I had tried everything in addition to sweat equity. Newpapers, mulch, even old carpets. Last year my frustration turned to desperation. I had learned from a resident "master gardener" that weed seeds can lie dormant in the soil for hundreds of years, only to spring to life upon exposure to light and moisture. Finally I had deserted my every moral and guideing principles. I turned to something called ROUNDUP.
It worked. With a minimum of effort it killed all the weeds, as well as stunting all my tomatoes, peppers, beans etc. In addition I was contributing to the degredation of the environment. What a disaster. Embarrased, humbled, even looking guilty in front of my gardening friends, I resolved then and there to leave the field of battle. Finis. The End.
p.s. Life goes on though. My big native wildflower project continues. More trees, shrubs and flowers have been planted. There is less grass to mow. More birds and big and small creatures of the woods to enjoy. It is truely a labor of love for me. Each year I see fewer and fewer of those pesky weeds. I don't miss them at all. btw.... we'll be visiting lots of farmers market this summer for those delicious home grown veggies. And it doesn't hurt at all that the Amish ladies bake wonderful pies. Life is good.

Foot note: My woodland flower gardens.

Monday, April 19, 2010


We were on our way to babysit in Colorado a few weeks ago. Our halfway overnight is usually at Grand Island Nebraska in the Platte river valley. Arriving a little early and having had supper already, we opted for a short jaunt along the river. The result was amazing as hundred of thousands of sandhills cranes were seen everywhere in the fields along the river. They seemed especially partial to picked cornfields. From here, after feeding and resting for a bit they would eventually head north as far as Canada and even Eastern Siberia.

As the sun began to set, we came to a bridge over the Platte. After parking, I walked up on the bridge and noticed flocks of birds, coming from all directions to settle in for the night. What a sight!

There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature--the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.--Rachel Carson

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Flowers In Florida?

I've been out this week shooting spring wildflower pictures. The woods come alive with them over the next few weeks here in Bluff Country. This morning, I realized we had a bunch of wildflower pictures from Florida that Mrs. T took recently. The problem is, while I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on native wildflowers here........I don't have a clue as to what any of the following plants are in Florida. Suggestions are more than welcome! Click on pictures for more detail.

Picture A

Picture B

Picture C

Picture D

Picture E

Picture F

Picture G

Picture H

Picture I

Picture J

Wildflowers - "these are a few of my favorite things." And then I don't feel so sad.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Creatures Of The Everglades

Sorry for the delay in posting more Florida pics. It seems returning from our babysitting duties in Colorado we lost a transmission on our new Buick in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, i.e. Western Nebraska. Since it was days for a fix i.e. getting parts from Omaha etc. we opted for a rent a car to get back to Minnesota. Of course, now I'll have to go back! Grrrr.... In the meantime on with the show!

Besides visiting Ding Darling and Corkscrew, we took some hikes in State Parks and boat rides into the Everglades. The abundance of nature was everywhere. Here are a few of the creatures we saw along the way.
Walking a trail along a channel we came up a manatee lying near the bank. It scooted away quickly in spite of it's great size and weight. Grown-up manatees are about 10 feet long and weigh about 1,200 pounds. Florida manatees do not live in the same place all year. When it is warm, they move into the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico to eat sea grasses. In winter, the manatees must move to a spring, a place where warm water (72 degrees) comes up out of the ground and makes a river. The manatees stay there all winter long. Sometimes, the food runs out before winter is over.Florida Manatees are an Endangered Species, numbering only about 2,000 in total. One of their biggest dangers is being hit by careless speedboaters.
Needless to say, alligators didn't appear to be in short supply.

The Florida Red-bellied turtle was found everywhere in fresh water swamps

The brown anole is a highly invasive lizard spreading throughout the southeast. Often on the ground, they are athletic creatures that run fast, and jump many times their length. They can also climb straight up almost any surface at blinding speed. The brown anole gets used to humans and can be studied at close range.
Our boat ride, into the Ten Thousand Islands part of the Everglades National Park, gave us the opportunity to see dolphins and numerous nesting Ospreys.
Since we live in Minnesota's (The Land Of Ten Thousand Lakes) only county without a lake, the opportunity to see shorebirds like the Black Necked Stilt was highly appreciated.
Speaking of unusual creatures in the Everglades, nightime saw several appear at a local hotspot, the Boop sisters, Betty and Barb. A good time was had by all.... :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Corkscrew Swamp

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is owned and operated by the National Audubon Society. I would rate it on a par with the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Since the wildlife refuge is on an island it attracts enormous amounts of waterfowl and shorebirds. The sanctuary is on the mainland and has several different ecosystems. Thus there are a large variety of plants, animals and birds. Come on along as we take a look at some of highlights of our visit to Corkscrew. We followed a 2.25 mile boardwalk. At a slow walking pace it should take you about 2 hours. We took between 5 or 6 hours which would be a clue as to how many interesting sights there were and the number of photos we took. It was early and very few people were around yet. An almost eerie feeling settled over us as we headed into a forested swamp. An occasional bird call sounded in the distance, then we heard something akin to a roaring bellow. Is that an alligator we all wondered? We didn't know for sure. What else could sound that big and dangerous?
"OMG! There's one right next to the board walk!" "Not to worry dear, he's headed the other way." Actually, I think gators and cats have a lot in common. They seem to sleep a lot.

We soon entered a drier more wide open area and birds began to appear all around us.

A red shouldered hawk An almost hidden Barred Owl.
And later, an Eastern Screech owl that blended in so well, people couldn't see him even after I pointed him out to passersby.

You will have to look even closer to spot the next fellow. It was a limpkin, blending into the grasses in the swamp.
Far easier to spot were the painted buntings. As a matter of fact we saw four of them. Leaning over the railing people would stop to see what I was looking at and then pronounce it to be a fake..... till it moved. "Oh my," was a typical reaction. Or, "it looks like it was pained by an artist." All I could think of was "WOW!"
There were other birds and beautiful plants and flowers, butterflies and strange insects and amphibians. I think to best describe Corkscrew, I would say it was a place of enchantment. At least it was to me. Perhaps I can talk Mrs. T into going back there again some day.