Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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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.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The year was 1948

The year was 1948. We're at the intersection of Hudson Road and Earl Street on the East Side of St. Paul, Minnesota. One block behind the photographer, who is facing south, is the apartment where my parents and I lived during World War II. In 1946 we had moved upstairs into my grandparents house,  which lay about 7 blocks straight
 south on the bluff high above the Mississippi River. The Hudson Road proceeded east less than a quarter mile where it reached the edge of the city, then  turning into U.S. Highway #12 as it went on to, naturally, Hudson, Wisc.  To the right in the photo was a Rexall Drugstore and Johnson Bros. grocery. In the mid fifties that grocery store was rebuilt a little further east as a "supermarket" and provided me my first job when I was in high school.  
I'm not sure what this building was on the southeast corner of the intersection.  I do remember though riding the streetcar line into downtown St. Paul.  After several years living with my grandparents we moved to a brand new house on Point Douglas Road about 5 blocks east of this intersection.  At a rather young age I was allowed to take the streetcar downtown to the big public library. You can see it coming down the track heading onto the turn west on Hudson  At the downtown library  I would meet my Aunt Pearl who worked at the First National Bank and  always took me to Bridgemans for a malt before we headed headed home to the Daytons Bluff on the streetcar. I forgot to mention that around the corner from the drugstore lay two of my favorite places, Bastas bakery where I became addicted to Bismarks mygrandpa brought meand the Mound theater where Saturday matinees for a dime were a big attraction.
And then it all changed. Everything.  Hudson Road became a four lane divided highway U.S. #12 cutting through the east side.  Eventually it became part of the Eisenhower Interstate highway system.  Half of the cozy little neighborhood  commecial area was demolished.  It's on the left with the movie theater in the foreground as you face east towards Chicago and points beyond. Our new house was over that first dip in the distance.
Here is a much more recent view of the same intersection.  I hardly recognize the city and neighborhood I grew up in anymore.  The road, now freeway,  still heads east from this point thru mile after mile of suburbs and over 3 million plus people who now live in the metropolitan Twin City area.  We've lived for almost 50 years one hundred miles to the south in rural Minnesota where Mrs T and I taught school and raised a family. We both grew up in St. Paul and have fond memories of those days long ago before the freeways made suburbia possible and changed everything.....

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Limestone Cliffs

Mrs T. and I had taken our GSD Lily for a hike along a small trout stream and below one of the many limestone cliffs here in Bluff Country.

The spot was very familiar to me as I had often accompanied my friend Mr. Sciences 8th grade Earth Science classes on field trips to this area.  Perhaps you can picture two orange busloads of kids piling out, notebooks in hand and then being  told to
estimate the height of the cliff, the rate of the water flow and to look for fossils.  Although as the American History and Geography teacher this geology stuff wasn't my area of expertise I'd been along on these outings enough with Mr. Science to know the answer to some of the questions. Such as "you people don't imagine this little  dinky creek carved out this huge cliff do you?"  I had to make sure I wasn't nodding my head and thereby giving away the answer.

The same question was often posed as we stood  on the bluffs more than three hundred feet above the Mississippi River and gazed across the great valley towards Wisconsin several miles to the east.   "You think that little river way down there carved out this huge valley" Mr. Science asked again.   Of course NOT common sense would say.   But after hearing him explain the melting of the great ice sheets to the north at the end of the last ice age and the mighty flood that followed it seemed very possible indeed. 
On Barn Bluff near Red Wing, Minnesota

Far below is Lake Pepin  a widening of the Mississippi River.  Photo taken from Frontenac State Park with Wisconsin in the distance.

Gary (Mr. Science) studying rocks......