Friday, May 30, 2014

Birds on the brain today for these two

Greg Johnson joined another old Cardinal today for a casual round at Creeksbend near New Prague, finishing in 3.5 hours. . . and with most of the balls that they started out with.
A good partner will retrieve your ball without
complaint, even from 15 rows deep in a cornfield.
Part of the time was spent listening to the birds in this rural setting along a meandering creek. Greg is an accomplished birder and can identify many species by sight and sound. . . and he does so for the edification of his appreciative partner, from time to time, which gives a quality feel to an otherwise ordinary day in Paradise. (Hear that witchety, witchety, witchety call? That's a Common Yellow-throat, Greg says confidently. You could identify one by its black face, but you'll never see one, he adds. They're very shy. That's a Bluebird flitting by, no it's a Swallow.)
Later, Greg enjoyed a birdie of another sort, carding a 3 on the notorious double-fairway Par 4, No. 12. His tee shot went into a hazard, he took a penalty, then whacked his third shot 160 yards uphill onto the elevated green . . . where it rolled on into the cup, demonstrating that you may be down, but you're never out in this funny game.
Nice Bird, Greg!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Preserva Wood

Photo by Katie Rolfsrud
Those owning cedar decks know they also own a constant struggle with the forces of nature, no more so than on the south side of a building where freeze/thaw, rain/shine, heat and humidity challenge the planks on a daily basis.
Billions are spent buying products, potions and magic elixirs to slow this aging process, we've made our contributions over the years to the Olympic company and whomever owns Thompson's Water Seal. Our latest application was recommended to us by a noted West Coast preservationist, so it must be good. It is relatively new to the market, branded Preserva Wood.
We hope it will, doubt that it will for very long, but for $25 a gallon we have only the most reasonable of expectations.
The product went on easily, they recommend a pad, not a roller. The hardest part is finding the proper weather window: You need three warm dry days before applying, a dry day to apply, then another dry day for curing. That may be an ordinary set of circumstances to our West Coast consultant (Sosie) but we got lucky this week with a burst of reliably regular weather.
It's a beautiful day. Would be nice to spend it out on the deck. Oh well. Rain Saturday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Mysterious Disappearance of the Fourth Fledge

Nobody knows where the fourth sibling went. No clues anywhere. Once there were four, now just three fledges crowd the robin's nest. Our vet had given us his expert opinion: prepare for tragedy, the weak one will probably get pushed out by the others. We had hoped for better from our larger than usual family of close-knit brothers and sisters. We prefer to think nothing nefarious occurred while we weren't looking, and none of the survivors will say anything -- although that one on the right does have a rather guilty, smug look.
Perhaps, Stan's brother Virg conjectured tonight over cocktails, the eldest matured early and just flew away and is now out pulling worms on his own, or maybe the littlest is still hidden under the others' fluff. A nice thought to have, considering the alternative.
Virg's older sister Solveig doesn't think so. One of the boys must have done it, she says.

Kayak on the Kickapoo

The family kayak plied the Kickapoo River in Wisconsin this weekend. Jennifer reports a fabulous float, twisting and turning through gorgeous scenery at a rapid spring-time pace. This was no idle ride, our intrepid paddler stayed alert, dodging trees and rocks for seven hours before coming out.
The picturesque river runs through a unique "driftless zone" in western Wisconsin, meaning retreating glaciers never got a chance to level out the land -- leaving untouched glorious vertical scenery unusual in prairie states.
Jennifer said seven hours was a bit more than she'd planned for her first outing of the year. Tired but happy, she enjoyed the weekend with good friends in Wisconsin.
Wikipedia footnote: The Kickapoo River is a 126-mile-long tributary of the Wisconsin River in the state of Wisconsin. It is named for the Kickapoo Indians who occupied Wisconsin before the influx of white settlers in the early 19th century.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Midtown Exchange

Katie and her brother Dan, Steve with his aunt Sosie
Stan got an assist to the elevator after a long day from
his accommodating party host Dan.
The sunny 12th Floor Community Room plaza at Steve and Dan's Lake Street condo was the perfect spot today to trade stories and have a really nice visit with our Midtown Men.
We enjoyed a buffet luncheon at the nearby Abbott Hospital --- the Global Market in Steve and Dan's building was shut down. We got an update on Steve's film music composition career (the French bought the Christmas movie) and Dan kept us current with the Twins score by tuning his transistor radio. (Remember those?)
We spent an enjoyable Memorial Day getting all caught up with the news from Midtown.

A treetop view of Powderhorn Park from the party room.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

R.I.P Rick Brown

Kentucky Derby Day 2014 -- some of the gang held Katie's hand for Good Luck.
It's the last time ever we saw Rick, he's on the far right, next to his buddy Bert.
A single red rose laid over a racing form foretold grim news at the Canterbury Third Floor Race Book. Regulars knew the rose marked the place where Rick Brown always sits, studying the odds, measuring the possibilities, and picking the best horses from the nation's stock of racing thoroughbreds.  He always sat there laughing and arguing with colleagues in bantering rounds of raucous bully, building loyal bonds with a surprisingly large group of friends. They're all a bit superstitious, habitual, ritualized, repetitive at the third floor book. Maybe that's why he always sat in the same place, it seems so.
The chair was empty today.
The brotherhood was clearly shaken, quietly sharing details and stories and thoughts of their departed buddy, remarking how much they miss him already, certain he can never be replaced at their round table.
Posted in 2010
We don't know Rick well; met him by chance when we dropped in to harass our old family friend, Don Kieger, usually on fall and winter Sunday mornings over the past few years. The old gang of regulars is always in position, betting and winning and losing and lying, and Rick was right there with them, a polite, unassuming gentleman with a wry smile and a quick wit. Thinking back, he actually sort of classed up the joint somewhat, which, of course, was never much of a reach in this sweatshirt and jeans crowd.
His omni-present baseball caps revealed some of what we know: A New York Yankees fan, a broker with Oppenheimer Funds. Brown, 70, died with little warning on May 20. There's a Memorial Remembrance for him tonight in the Resident's Association Party Room near his son's home.
Rest in Peace, Rick Brown. They're going to miss you a lot upstairs, the regulars will, as they sit carefully choosing the best horses beside an empty chair.

We posted this photo of Rick and some of his mates on Oct. 2, 2011. Same chair.
The story was about family friend Don Kieger, far right, or Katie's classmate Bob, next to Rick.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Birthday Birdfeeder

Spread the word now.
Kathleen's always been a natural bird feeder, so it wasn't too hard to get the right birthday present this year. We don't have any reachable tree limbs near enough to the house, so after dark last night, Stan surreptitiously added a copper-top post with a sturdy hanger to the back deck. When Kathleen awoke on her birthday, she opened her peepers, looked out the window, and there it was.
It's filled with a thistle seed mix now, and we're already attracting the littlest ones. . . which is what we like the most.
Starlings are dominating our suet feeder around the corner right now; they're a flock bird, we're told, and they will eventually move on. Fine with us.
Happy Birthday today to Kathleen. . . and Bob Dylan.

Everybody be nice now

What's a poor mother to do?
According to the experts, our four baby robins are more than the usual hatch. We're so proud. Now we're doing our best to stay out of the way as Mr. and Mrs. Robin flit back and forth with nutritious snacks for their fledges, packed in the nest cheek to jowl.
Birdie was out back just minding her own business this morning and then sensed something was going on a couple of feet above her in the bush. We ushered her back indoors promptly. A couple of weeks ago Birdie found a mouse outside and went into a point. We're so proud.

Friday, May 23, 2014

It was a Great Day to be 94!

Mom chose this cake. . .
a house favorite.
Mom's birthday party was in the back yard at Kell today, with residents and friends and family gathered to laugh and celebrate 94 years and going strong. There were two other 94-year-olds seated at the outdoor table, but Mom still felt extra special today, feted as she was with a gorgeous quilt that arrived from Iowa, and Marcia's famous strawberry cake with the surprise inside.

NOT Mom's birthday ponies.
Sosie is here from California, she supplied the balloons, hats and darn near came up with a birthday pony too. There had been a few fanciful discussions about hiring a harpist for Mom, or an organ grinder and monkey, or just a party dog, so when a couple of horses happened to show up on Kell Avenue, some thought they had been ordered for Mom's Big Day.
Dozens of cards from well-wishers around the country, but mostly from Alexandria, were sprinkled about. Jill has been opening and reading them with Mom for days now.
Joyful voices mingled with typical suburban back yard springtime sounds-- the neighbor was running his weed whip and the birds were chirping, as if to say welcome to warm weather, it's going to be a great year.
Happy Birthday Mom!
Some of the gang at Mom's Big Day. Here's Sosie, Mom, Marcia, Katie, Lillian, Mildred, Jill and Curt.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kathleen's jury awards $10,000,000 to plaintiff today

Kathleen served on a mock jury at the Wm. Mitchell College of Law today, just for the fun of it. While most people do their best to avoid jury duty, it has always been Kathleen's not-so-secret wish to serve on one. She was called once, but dismissed, much to her chagrin.
Judge Kathleen Gearin, a retired judge, volunteers to
run the mock jury at Wm. Mitchelll. She overruled
every objection today.
So when our neighbor, John Gerken, mentioned that he had served as a volunteer juror for the law school practice court, Kathleen said she would like to do that too. John said that could be arranged, and got her an invitation to join the fun in the jury room.
Kathleen and John departed bright and early, (or as John, an ex-flight controller, likes to say: "Wheels Up at 7:10") and drove to Wm Mitchell, which is in the same building that once housed Kathleen's freshman high school, Our Lady of Peace. It's just down the street from the Governor's Mansion on Summit Avenue in Kathleen's beloved St. Paul.
John Gerken, Jury Foreman
and Kathleen's excellent
driver to St. Paul.
Kathleen said it was fun. Four lawyers and a real judge presented a civil case involving a woman who took two steps into the street and was hit by a van, and thrown 15 feet. Who was at fault? The woman said she had a green light. Van driver said he had a green light when he entered the intersection, then it turned to yellow.
The woman had brain damage, but recovered and has a permanent impairment and left her job as CEO of a Fortune 500 company,  where she made $200,000 a year. She takes medication and is always fearful of another seizure.
The delivery man had been drinking, but wasn't drunk, according to Kathleen's notes.
The jury deliberated for a half hour (John got elected foreman) in a bugged room, with the student lawyers listening in. A consensus award of $10,000,000 was given to the plaintiff, a Mrs. Helen Darngood.
Our juror is back home with stories to tell. She had fun and would love doing it again.

Fleeting Days of Glory

whose last known position is somewhere in the Southwest quadrant of the U.S., they're out there pulling a camper, casually enjoying the scenery.
Hurry home. Your flowering crab is in full bloom. Gorgeous. Needs to be seen to be appreciated. Photo not adequate. Neighbors enjoying it from the tarmac. Ooohs and Aahs abound. Available viewing time shortening. That is all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Smile, they're taking pictures from the sky today!

 Come to Daddy.
Just when we thought it just couldn't get any more exciting on Abbey Point, they kick it up another level!
Sounding like a swarm of angry bees, a quadcopter drone hovered over the quiet neighborhood today, taking pictures from high in the sky over by Deb's place, and creating a bit of a stir down below.
Carla and her Dad came out of the house to see what was up. No one said "It's a bird, it's plane. . ." but they could have.
Carla and her Dad were advised
to step inside if they didn't
want to be in the movie.
Deb is selling her house, so her realtor contracted with a drone operator to take pictures of her place to use as a sales aid. It's what they do now. Used to be you would simply buy an ad in the local paper, add a fuzzy black and white photo, and wait for the phone to ring. No more. Too boring. And NOT sexy.
Now you must haul half your stuff out of the house to a storage locker then get decorators to make your place look like somebody else lives there. Once it's all primped and teased up, you photograph the inside of the house and get videos from the sky, then build it a web site. Sort of like taking your house to the prom.
We didn't ask if he'd let us try it.
You can thank HGTV for this state of affairs.
The drone operator said he's been making movies for realtors for a couple of years now.
(With all this technology you'd think the housing slump would have been over long ago.)
His little camera drone has four propellers and he stood over by the mailboxes telling it what to do with a joy stick strapped to his belly.
"Ever crash one?" we asked, after waving him over to the house. No, he answered politely, he's never crashed. He's always careful, practices a lot, asks permission first and obeys the FFA regulations.
We don't know for sure, but the drone he held up looked a lot like one the internet called a DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quad-copter with high definition camera and a 3 Axis Gimbal. They retail around $1400, which is cheaper than an adult racing go-kart.
The unit on the right is For Sale.
You can read about it. . . or just wait for the movie.
Think of the fun you could have zipping over the neighborhood instead of around it! Be the first on the block to surprise your neighbor napping in his back yard. . . or peep into his window and catch him off guard!
Here's the ad appearing on their web site:
"This is the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter. This ready to fly drone includes an integrated HD camera and high quality 3-axis gimbal and a 5200mAh LiPo Battery as standard equipment. The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ was developed to provide a simple to set up and super easy to fly drone that delivers professional results. This is a true flying camera system that allows you to shoot fully stabilized video from the sky, right out of the box.
"A built-in high precision 3-axis camera stabilization system provides smooth footage, offering creative freedom in the sky with fewer limitations. The integrated GPS auto-pilot system offers position holding, altitude lock and stable hovering, giving you constant stable flight so you can worry less about flying and more about getting that epic shot!"

Father's Day is coming.

This drone doesn't have enough lift to deliver packages.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Yes, they're tulips

These gorgeous yellow blooms inviting you in to Hai's back yard don't look much like tulips, but they are. They spring from bulbs and familiar greenery and they were first up this year, lending fresh inspiration as the busy gardener reworks the mulch and rebuilds the pathways in this zero-maintenance masterpiece. This is not your ordinary garden and this is not your ordinary tulip. It is, forgive us, a Hai-bryd.

Syttende Mai et al

Erik, Shana
Anja, Milla
It's been 200 years since the Norwegians got their Constitution so it was a weekend of celebration for those who follow such things --- which would include Stan's sister Linda and her family. Adding to the excitement was her granddaughter Anja's first grade piano recital (performed flawlessly, Grandma says), then of course a parade and all the folderol made for a fabulous family weekend.

How many Norwegians does it take to  . . .
fill Mindekirchen in Minneapolis.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Two down, two to go

Photo by Emily Blethen
Grandpa! Grandpa! Two of them have hatched! Come see!
Sure enough, two of our four robin eggs hatched this afternoon, with the fledglings still but fuzzy globs beside the two laggards. We hurried downstairs for a quick closeup look, Emily nervously keeping an eye on the mother robin a few yards away.
"She won't peck you, Emily, really, she's just concerned that we're getting too close, so we'll leave now."
Emily got a Flicker for her eighth birthday May 1 and brought it along today for a romp on the tarmac.
We found the fragile remains of an eggshell a few feet away.

We're back

That's a ziploc of smoked trout in Wayne's hand.
Wayne helped guide the Beaver into the Ft. Frances airport from the co-pilot's position. Stan flew First Class with the 55-gallon fuel drums.

Not every island has a name.

Friday, May 16, 2014

On the way Up North . . .

We always look at the Frank Lloyd Wright service station in Cloquet, Minnesota, but we never stop and buy gasoline there. It is better when the traffic light is on red so we can get a longer look at it. Some day we'll stop in. Not today though.

Serial killer on the loose in Minnesota?

They found 17 skulls and one Visa Card in a soupy mix at the bottom of a cistern in Red Wing. BCA agents battle the stench by smearing Vapo-rub under their noses before pulling up more evidence. Janice Williams from Cannon Falls, a missing Dakota Technical College student, could be the freshest victim. The suspect may live in Lake City.
Mayhem in Minnesota? Nope. Just the latest John Sandford novel, "Field of Prey," another gripping whodunit that kept Kathleen up way past bed time last night. She devours all of Sandford's stuff. Says she loves the local flavor.
Sandford's (and Kathleen's) favorite detective is off vacationing in New Mexico and not available to help with this grisly crime scene. His name is Virgil.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Meanwhile, in sunny Arizona

Our neighbors, Tom and Sandy, are touring the Southwest in this rig. They sent this photo and message today:

Stayed last night in Catalina State Park, Tucson. Took a walk in the desert this morning. Campsite photo attached.

Sounds like all is well. We know it is warmer there. High was 95 today in Tucson. Tomorrow 100. Would be a blessed relief from the cold to be there for a bit. Good travels, gang! We get 70s soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wounded Eagle

Photos by Stan Rolfsrud
Dozens of opportunistic bald eagles circled a known spawning pool this afternoon. The visitors watched as the eagles winged up and away from the intruding boaters . . . except for one. . . who walked with an awkward gait up the river bank. Odd, thought the boatmen. Why not fly with the others? Perhaps it was jealously guarding a new kill too heavy to lift, the tenderfoot suggested.
Later, homeward bound from an inspection tour of the spring melt spilling over a nearby waterfall, the pair spotted the eagle again, now perched on a heavy branch near the water. Closer observation revealed that the bird must have suffered some kind of mishap, but was still able to clumsily flop from branch to branch, then coldly eyeball the interlopers.
A few quick photos and the eagle was left alone with great hope that whatever ails this magnificent creature will soon heal and it will once again soar with the others over the Ontario wilderness.

Ice Harvest

Stormy weather loomed over the campsite. It had cleared by the time the ice harvesters returned.
Ice sheet has shrunk to 2.4 miles from the outpost.
Summer solstice is but 30 days away. At this latitude, nights become very short and the heavy sheet ice, which just days ago covered the lake, is retreating at an astonishing rate; the closest formation shrinking to a location over two miles south and disappearing fast.
Keeping the staff at the Ontario Wildlife Observation Outpost (OWOO) adequately iced has become a challenge for those charged with the maintenance and supply of this primitive subsistence operation living in close harmony with natural forces.
With the season's ice source rapidly shrinking, Ice Ranger Wayne Kasich loaded empty coolers, a gathering net and a photographer this afternoon, then headed southward at full throttle.
A sudden winter squall momentarily pelted the party with sleet before they arrived at the Crow Rock inlet to begin harvesting at the edge of the formation.
Wayne went right to work scooping the pristine Ontario product into waiting coolers, sorting out the finest of crystal shards from the ordinary frozen chunks.