Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Friday, July 3, 2020

Wilderness Gaffe

It was a canoe trip down the Vermilion River in beautiful northern Minnesota that unfairly ruined my reputation as a skilled outdoorsman. Mr. Science (Gary)  and I had paddled north forty miles from Vermilion Lake to Crane Lake on the Minnesota-Canadian border. 
 There are long quiet stretches of the river that have little current and very few signs of civilization.  In between the quiet water are some  wild rapids and portages with names like  Vermilion Dam, Shively Falls, Everett Rapids, Table Rock Falls, Belgium Fred's rapids, DaCaigny Rapids, Chipmunk Falls, High Falls, the Chute, and the Gorge. Some of these portages are long, but all are well worn. Timber wolves, moose, black bears, beavers, otters, bald eagles and osprey are occasionally sighted. White-tailed deer are common.

Four days of awesome scenery, wildlife and some great fishing had combined to make for a wonderful  late summer outing. During the first three days on the river we had not seen another soul. Then a little incident occured, which when told and retold put my good outdoor  reputation at risk. The river was mostly placid on that fatefull day. It flowed gently through pine forest, and acres of wild rice with an occasional Class I or II rapids. Class I rapids are easy paddling for beginners. Class II means some whitewater which is relatively easy as long as you have the basic skills. Class III means the rapids are runnable for experienced and skilled paddlers. There were a few class III rapids on the Vermillion but we had chosen to portage around all of them. Erring on the side of caution because even though all our camping gear was secured by rope in the canoe, we were not willing to risk getting it all wet. Until the last day that was.
 As my canoeing partner and I stood on a bluff, overlooking a rock strewn whitewater river section of about a quarter of a mile, we made our decision. The water levels were low. It was late summer. This left the river more "technical" than dangerous looking. Lots of maneuvering would be required to safely navigate this stretch which gently curved out of sight to the right. In high water it looked like it would be too dangerous. Now it didn't appear to have any insurmountable problems . We went for it.

After checking to make sure everything was secured properly I took my usual place in the front of the canoe. In a two man white water canoe their are distinct roles to play for the paddlers. The person in the back is the captain of the ship. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. Columbus crossing the uncharted ocean. Choosing the course. Making the big decisions . Left on the river. Right on the river. Eddy turn here. Ferry right there.

 The man in the bow is an ordinary seaman. On his knees leaning forward he takes the short view. With absolute concentration, looking only a few feet ahead he must spot the immediate dangers of rocks, hidden or not, that must be avoided. Seeing that danger, he yells "draw left or draw right," and using a draw stroke turns the front of the canoe away  from disaster. It's a lonely job, fraught with tension, but as they say somebody has to do it. That was my job and I was damn good at it. Especially judging the water as it boiled over hidden rocks. I avoided them instantaneously.

 As we came around the bend of the river there were about 100 yards of rapids before the river spilled into a nice fishy looking pool. I spotted the pool immediately having taken my eye off the rock bed ahead only long enough to notice there was a canoe in the pool and two fisherman busily going about their business. However, the woman in the front was clearly topless. Back to my job, we had covered about half the distance to the pool, when disaster struck. I had navigated between two large but only slightly exposed rocks when we hit a third rock HIDDEN in the flow with a loud bang. Capsizing is always a possibility but in this case we spun 180 degrees and found ourselves traveling the last measure of the rapids going backwards. We entered the the pool in less than elegant fashion. When we had hit the rock I thought I heard someone shout. I turned my head to see where we were headed. Straight towards the young couple who were looking somewhat dumbfounded at our unprofessional approach. The "au naturale" blonde in the bow of the boat was making a panic stricken effort to cover up.
 Laughing at our situation, I was helpless, while my sturdy and somewhat humorless partner had managed to begin turning us away so that at least we would not be colliding with the surprised and innocent bystanders. It was left to me, however, to apologize to these wilderness devotees. The best I could come up with,on the spur of the moment, as we drifted by them was to ask the aforementioned woman, "how's the fishing?" In the years that followed, no matter how my partner told the story, it was always me, who upon seeing the topless canoeist, had lost his concentration. Had failed to attend to his duty. Had almost caused a fatal disaster. All for the sake of a Grecian Goddess of the North Woods. I still deny it all.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Chapter 1 Lily's rescue and naming 2012

Lily's rescue. As you all know now Lily is my house dog. But the story didn't begin that way. It's a story of survival which involves a very young female German Shepherd. First I will introduce the dogs rescuer. Her name is Jewel and she and her husband Steve became very good friends of the Troubirders.... 

Jewel narrates the story "We didn’t want a dog! But, one April morning as I was walking out to get our mail, as I turned, I saw a skinny, dirty German shepherd behind me. I looked at her and asked, “Who are you?” I wasn’t sure if I should be afraid or not. No collar. No sound. No approach. I said, “Sit!” and she sat. I asked my husband, Steve, if. . . and his only words were, “We don’t want a dog.” The next day we still had a dog so it was time to ask around.
Our neighbor at the bottom of Norse Road said he had been watching her for 2 weeks. Every night she would go back to a certain spot by the river, lie down. and wait. No body came. He didn’t want to feed her because he didn’t want a dog.
The second day at our place I gave her some food. She became my dog from that moment on.

Steve said, “Now that YOU have a dog. I think she should stay outside. If anybody comes looking, she’s leaving” When nobody came, we took her to the vet. It was a small investment including a wellness check-up, shots-rabies & dystemper, spading, heartworm, flea and tick medicine and food. Our friends, Ray & Barb Potthoff, have a German shepherd, Baron, and they thought she would be a perfect dog for our farm. They even gave us a little doghouse and they were happy we adopted a German shepherd. They thought maybe our dogs could be friends but our dog wanted nothing to do with other dogs in her space.
Since she came at Eastertime and since she was mostly blond with black, I decided to name her Lily. It took about two weeks but one day when I fed her, she wagged her tail. Lily has been with us for 2 years now. She has a good home, is fed once a day, is not mistreated, and feels safe. She has space to run, she goes to the bathroom way out in the pasture, and lays mostly by the entrance step. She patrols our yard, guards our door, and loves my attention. If I am outside, I am always in her sight.
About 14 years ago, our daughter, Megan, bought a 4-month old black pigmy goat. Three years ago, Megan got married but Geno, her goat, stayed on the farm. Lily, the dog, picks fights with Geno, the goat. They are about the same size but Geno has threatening horns . Lily pursues the battle but Geno mostly walks away from the annoying dog.
Lily’s biggest fault is that she barks at night. Her ears hear all sort of sounds in the woods across the road so she wears a bark collar most nights. There are times when our lives would be easier without a dog but Lily has
wiggled her way into our hearts and she will stay as long as we live here.

As most of you know Steve passed on do to pancreatic cancer and Jewell lives close to her daughter and grandchildren in northern Minnesota. Now it's just me and my best buddy Lily. She's now nearly deaf and so am I. Neither of us chase squirrels up trees any more and take long naps in the afternoon. Obviously  we make a good team and no doubt share memories of those who loved us past.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Introducing Lily-2014-and now a retrospect 6/22/20

Lily's back legs are dragging last with anti-inflammatory spinal medicine. She is a tough old bird and she and I are hanging in there.
Lily came to us because her owners, our friends Steve and Jewel, couldn’t take care of her anymore. Of course, we said right away, we would be happy to take care of her. Still, I was a little apprehensive because Lily was an outside farm dog, not used to being restrained or housebroken. Then, we live in a suburban type neighborhood with neighbors and a busy State highway close by. Unrestrained barking dogs were not in favor here……  Then the weather was well below zero for days on end and Lily did have access to a heated garage at her home farm.  Our garage where Barons  dog house  was located was unheated though it did have a door to a small outside kennel…….  Lily was brought into the house that afternoon, it was ten below.  She took a look around, entered the bedroom and hopped on our bed. “No Lily!” I said. She hopped down. Good start, I thought she knows the word no.

Well, so far, she hasn't barked at all except for the afternoon the fire truck went by. She likes her kennel in the garage with the electric heater blowing and even better in the house when the temps go below zero.  As to hiking with a leash.... no problem. She doesn't pull at all even with Troutbirders leisurely pace.  She is a really mellow dog.  All in all I think this is going to work out just fine....:)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

German Shepard Dogs (GSD's) a retrospect a

Daisy is a country girl. A little older, a lot wiser and more sophisticated. Agile and quick. A real athlete. And not above being a big tease. She belongs to Gary & Bobbi.

Baron.  He lives in suburbia.  He is  tall and somewhat gangly. Kind of awkward at times. Not very worldly.  He loves to chase & go for long hikes. He belongs to the Troutbirders.


She was abandoned, wandered a while but found a farm home with Steve and Jewel.  Now she is contented to guard her new home. She arrived on Easter Sunday.  Naturally her name is Lily. She has befriended Mrs. T who always gives her treats. She is content and very friendly.

For Baron with the extremely cold and snowy weather of late there haven't been many romps in the woods. Even the dogs can’t wait till spring.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Dubuque Arboretum

One of our favorite early fall day trips some years ago now was a destinations is a 3 hour jaunt to nearby Dubuque, Iowa. This Mississippi river town is located in the northeastern corner of the Hawkeye State. Two attractions there that appeal to us are the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium and Americas largest Arboretum and Botanical garden maintained entirely by volunteers.  we joined good friends friends Steve and Jewel, to make  visit to the gardens. The gardens are the home of the American Hosta Society and have a huge collection of those favorites Barb. In addition, there are perennial gardens, wildflower and native prairie gardens, an English garden and many other displays. Take a look.

A favorite place to stop on our return to Minnesota is Breitbach's, the oldest restaurant in Iowa. We were saddened to learn that year that the place had been destroyed by fire for the second time. . Rebuilt again, it lies on a ridge overlooking a beautiful valley a few miles west of the Mississippi. A heartwarming story is that, in spite of great financial difficulties, the place was rebuilt with the help of neighbors from the small community of Balltown, Iowa. We had the buffet. It was excellent as always

Monday, June 8, 2020

Normandy Beaches

All right I will cut right to the chase. In the past I have done several posts on the obnoxious forwarding of material best suited for the garbage can. This was often of a political, historical, racist and stereotypical nature. Granted, some of the forwarded material is innocuous, funny, or even inspiring at times. It was during the period of our preemptive, unjustified, trumped up, and immoral invasion of Iraq that I began gets lots of email denigrating France. It seems the French government had failed to jump on the invasion bandwagon.  For this, the French were denigrated for being ungrateful for America’s role in liberating them from the Nazis. Other besmirches were too numerous to mention. We were advised to drop the name “French fries” and use the term “American fries” among other juvenile responses.
The last time Barb and I were in France I caught up to her overlooking the beaches at Normandy with Pont du Hoc in the distance to our left.
 I had just taken some pictures in the American cemetery. Barb was talking to an American National Park Ranger in uniform. They were discussing invasion strategy. I interrupted the conversation by asking the Ranger "what are you doing here in uniform?" The Ranger replied, "I work here." "How is that?" I asked. "This is American soil. It was given to America by the people of France in honor of the American soldiers who died here to free them from the Nazis." "In this way, she added, the American heroes would be buried on American soil."

a few days late but in memory of D  day

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Pride and Prejudice

It had been a while since I’d digressed from my usual reading tastes.  I did read, in my youth,  a lot of modern American fiction but only occasionally in recent decades.  As the writing of history and biography improved and that of fiction declined my reading interests went along with that change.  It was the phrase a “novel of manners” that recently caught my eye.  Of course, as a child, my mother had often reminded me to “mind my manners” perhaps that was a clue?

I had seen the phrase in reference to the writing of the famous early nineteen century novelist Jane Austin. I also knew that her work had undergone a great swell of interest in recent years with several popular movies and television shows.  Perhaps now was the time to become acquainted.  I checked my Nook and sure enough there was a free download of Austin’s novel Pride and Prejudice.  I took the plunge and downloaded it……

The book was filled with fascinating dialogue to my contemporary American eye.  The language of the English gentry was stultifying, and and cloyinly so, excessively, convolutedly polite. At first I found it quite off putting. Do I really want to read this?  I plunged ahead. I did a little guilty laughing before it dawned on me that I was reading some seriously funny . Perhaps satire?. My wife the English teacher seemed a little put out at my laughing at what was a classic of English literature. Fortunately I kept quiet on that point That encouraged me to go on. Actually I was learning about class consciousness in a time and place far beyond my own experience. The only thing I could compare it too was my enjoyment in reading Mark Twins A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court. 

From that point on I was enjoying my read more and more.    Would the headstrong independent middle class minister’s daughter Lizzy find true love between the rich upper class snob, but truly good man she hated and the glib goldigging loser she was attracted to?  All this was in the face of family and friends who were mostly no help at all.   This was in all compounded by a culture which strongly frowned on marriage between the low and the high born.

This novel is considered one of the greats of English literature. Published in 1813, it's more than just about marriage and manners, it also raises the problem all great novels consider, the search for self. That search, we learn, can take place in the most confined of settings.

Austin forte surely must be exquisite characterization. The novel was full of them. There was too much pride and prejudice   but I found it all most entertaining. Even more remarkable was the fact that Austin accomplished this entertainment in a story without heroes or villains. They were just interesting people with the usual blemishes of the human race.  The plot was somewhat mundane but had more  attention grabbing power than n your usual  daytime soap opera.  There was no big surprise at the end. Still, good job, Jane. Your “novel of manners” was indeed a classic and I liked it. My mom who always stressed minding those manners  would be pleased ……

 Good grief. No wonder she turned him down.  But then they both had a lot to learn.......:)

To read more terrific book reviews, please visit the Book Review Club at Barrie Summy's blog.  (And link to the link below)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Lake Louise

So on a walk to see the early Woodland wildflowers were two females and myself. We were on a trail in Lake Louise state Park located in southeastern Minnesota. On the trail ahead  is Lily, Barb and my rescue dog. Following behind is myself and an unnamed former teaching colleague of mine who also happens to be a long time widow. It's my first date in  more than 50 some years since........... needless to say I'm a little out of practice and probably, maybe especially, on dating protocol. Spotting a small patch of wild Phlox I say"can I take your picture in front of those beautiful flowers?"
"NO!!!!!" is the answer.     Oooops.  I goofed. Handing her my little point-and-shoot camera she had no problem taking my picture among beautiful flowers 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Bank

Today, in a slightly odd juxtaposition, I recieved my Prairie Moon wildflower catalogue and the worst blizzard to hit Minnesota in at least five years arrived. Thus, instead of looking outside my living room window at a total whiteout, I chose to think spring and the next steps in my woodland wildflower restorations. This "project" has evolved slowly. First, there was a new house in the woods, next to our home of thirty plus years. Then walls and pathways were built around and thru the prickly ash and gooseberries in the south woodlot. It took three years for it to look like this.
The next step was to figure out what to do with the east facing bank, next to the road. It was the only semi-sunny spot on the property. Morning sun till noon, then shade and more shade. I consulted the wildflower specialists at Prairie Moon Nursery. They had just the right native wild flower mix for a semi-shady area. . I hacked everything back in the fall and burned the rest. Then the seeds were mixed with sand and scattered and tamped down by foot and hand. Would they stay put or would the melting snow in the spring wash everything down into the ditch? Only time would tell.
I know that one mans weed patch might be another mans treasure but in 2006 I thought this bank lacked quite a bit in the way of color. Neighbors had commented on how much they liked my flower gardens, so I thought they deserved a little better to look at while driving to work.
The spring of 2007 saw the bulbs emerge, planted the fall before, after the burning of the bank.
By midsummer the weeds were as tall and robust and ever. The precious wildflower seedlings? I didn’t have a clue if I had any at all. By midsummer the next step was to weed wack everything back to about four to six inches. This gave the seedlings (if there were any) a fighting chance for survival.

By midsummer 2008 things were looking a little better
The summer of 2008 saw the purple coneflowers appear along with dozens of other varieties.

In 2009 the next step was to begin the restoration of the even larger north wooded area. But that's a story for another post.
And now in the year of our Lord in the year of our Lord May 16th 2020 the Woodland wild  flower garden to the north, the Prairie bank facing the road to the east, the circular purple Prairie cone plot next to the Northwoods in the grassy area and a large mixed flower garden along the property line to the south adjacent to our old house now owned by our neighbors, I am pretty much at rest. With little or no weeding to do on my part the wildflowers beat back their competitors also known as Weeds. This leaves the occasional oak tree seedling to be removed as the Woodland garden has all the shade. This project now complete means that I have about 75% less lawn to mow life is good here on Oak Hill.