Thursday, April 30, 2015

Happy Birthday to M'liss

The Outback Steakhouse in Bloomington hosted a rousing birthday celebration for M'liss Switzer tonight, a little surprise cooked up by Chuck, her husband of 52 years.
Poems were read, songs were sung, gifts passed and a cake presented and eaten. Among the gifts was a lifetime supply of playing cards for Kathleen's poker chum, the decks were accumulated from the poker room cast-offs, they give two free used decks to a customer at each visit.

Oops. Dock not done, more to do

What looked like a finished project on Rainy Lake to us, isn't.
Wayne writes:
Hope all goes well on the reconnect.
The dock isn't quite finished. I have some threaded rod to install on the old section yet for completion of the leveling. The new cribs are 5" higher and we are now lowering the original portion to that level. Then the 124 planks get screwed on, then 125 feet of 2x10 fascia and a 2x4 rail to tie boats up to. I have 10 pounds of construction screws to accomplish that. We are off the project until next Monday. I have raking, tree trimming and dump runs to make and no good brother-in-law (Ed) has painting to complete.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

No phone, no tv, no internet

The cable is near the surface, simple matter of splicing it, then putting it back to be cut again.
Stan's heart sank as he surveyed the damage. This should be a simple matter, but not in our New World. This simple mistake would become an ordeal.
The guy who came to pump out our septic tank today accidentally cut through the coaxial cable buried just under the sod by the cable company in 2001, severing our slim connection to the outside world, and underscoring how foolish it is to bundle with Comcast or anybody else. (Is there anybody else?)

In the Old World a cut cable would be no big thing, you call the guy and he comes and splices it back together and charges you $50 bucks or so. Or you might just do it yourself.
That's not how it works in the New World, which is why Stan asked Kathleen to handle this… she also handles the septic tank negotiations. Stan prepared himself a nice lunch in the time it took Kathleen to arrange for a repair window of tomorrow between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
To do it, Kathleen got all her numbers together (address, account no. phone no. social security last four, etc.) but when the robot that you have to talk to asked her why she called, she plainly stated "We have a cut cable." Of course the robot figured that that meant we wanted to cut the cable and so it asked "Do you want to cancel your service?" which is probably a good idea, but not today. Our cable bill has creeped up to $2,180 a year now and we have no idea why.
Eventually she was talking to somebody who isn't from around here who comforted her in a nice accent with classic doublespeak that there would be no charge for repairing the cable. . . just the service charge of $50 to $70. Fair enough, the septic guy who cut the cable said he'd pay for it.
So how are we informing you that our cable has been cut so we won't be answering the house phone but you can send us an email?
No, we didn't go to Starbucks or McDonald's for a free ride on their wifi. And even though we are in the vaunted Xfinity hotspot and should be able to get a free ride without leaving the house, the connection process is just too complex and human memory intensive to run their gauntlet, even though Comcast believes "It has never been easier."
No, we jumped onto the neighbor's internet wifi, which will work just fine until we get ours back. We made a cell phone call to them and we were on in seconds. Now THAT was easy.

Itchy? Too bad.

When Birdie had her dental work done the other day, the vet shaved a spot on her leg for an IV, exposing some skin. Birdie insists on taking care of it in the traditional way, by licking the dickens out of it, thereby preventing the regrowth of hair on the site. Yesterday we put a cone on her to keep her away from it. She looked so pathetic that today we're trying something else -- Emily's baby sock.

All done in IFalls

That's Canada on the far side.

Wayne's Rainy Lake dock is done, ready for whatever ice, wind and flood nature can throw against it.
Let's get the boat out and go fishing.
The cribs have been rebuilt and the far one, the one with rocks gathered 100 years ago (see photo at right) and no longer needed, has been taken apart and repurposed, stone by stone.
The framework is held against the ice and waves by a bed of fieldstone and rocks.
The new dock looks good. Nice and level.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

We bring winnings to Canterbury

Ruby came to work at the newspaper office when Stan hired her in 1987. She's still there. We invited Ruby and her husband, Jim, to our "special" place for breakfast today and there was plenty of catching up to do. Jim and Kathleen patiently listened as their spouses enthused over Old Times.

Don's research papers.
Their last name is pronounced (not spelled) "winnings," so after a big breakfast we brought Ruby and Jim upstairs to cheer and bring some luck to our friend Don, laboring at his usual post in the Canterbury Park Race Book. It worked. As we departed after a nice long visit, a grinning Don quipped: "Thanks for coming. You've just saved me $40."
Sure enough, we had chatted right through two races that Don had intended to bet on, and he had picked losers in both.
Sometimes not losing is as good as winning.
Footnote: "You mean you told Ruby only that we were going to a 'special' place for breakfast?" a horrified Kathleen asked. "They're going to dress up, thinking we're driving to some place nice. You should call her."
"Don't worry," Stan assured her. "Ruby has known me for a long time."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I'll have a cherry freezie; no, make that a raspberry pushup

Photo by Melissa Blethen
The best toy is still a cardboard box. Our granddaughter Emily converted her Flikr scooter into a neighborhood Good Humor Ice Cream Van today. Use your imagination and you can hear the chimes.
Emily will be nine on Friday.

Trumpet vine sent on its way

With the paint now dried on the trellis, the potted trumpet vine has been introduced to its new location in sunny southern California. Stan designed the project while staying there this winter, and the hope is that the fast-growing vine will have completely overtaken the trellis by late fall. We'll see.
Note that the client nudged the container inward toward the trellis, forcing the main trunk to bend and match the curve. Nice touch.
The trumpet is invasive and aggressive, we hope our plan will keep it under control. Regular pruning and persistent training will be the key.
The bright flowers are said to attract hummingbirds. One has already been reported exploring this new arrangement, even before the plant had been transplanted into the square container.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Exposed roots

There's no nutrition between a board and a plastic sheet so these roots plunge deeper, seeking sustenance.
Our new favorite ground cover is the chive, the smallest species of the onion genus. It's one tough, persistent plant. It's the first bright green thing we see in the spring and the last green in the fall.
We planted a small cup of chive in our herb garden 10 years ago, thinking it might be nice to go out and chop a handful for scrambled eggs now and then.
Well, the chive have taken over the hillside and we're now joining in and encouraging them to root everywhere as an easy-peasy ground cover. They squeeze out competing weeds and, it is said, their oniony fragrance discourages insects. In midsummer they bloom with bright blue flowers and they easily propagate themselves by air-borne seed and by their extensive invasive root system. (photo at right)
So what's not to like?
In the photo above, insistent chive roots have pushed themselves between a landscape log and a black plastic weed barrier. We're rebuilding the bed and when we pulled off the board it exposed this vibrant early spring root system. As a reward for this particularly outstanding effort, this batch of chives is being transplanted to a favored position, where they can be indulged in a bed of rich, black loam.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dave Chase -- a good man, the perfect partner

On this day at Creeksbend a couple years ago, Stan and Dave were joined by Stan's brother Steve, far left.
He was the perfect partner for a temperamental, impatient, excitable golfer. His calm demeanor, his patient and positive outlook, kept the day in balance and made every round a relaxed, enjoyable outing. In the 10 years that Stan partnered with Dave, mostly on 2-for-1 Tuesdays at Creeksbend, he can't remember a single negative outburst -- no matter how unfortunate the shot, how frustrating the missed putt. And there were plenty of opportunities.
We celebrated our anniversaries
together one year: Their 42nd,
our 31st.
The persistent pair was now looking forward to yet another season of mediocre golf. Stan always drove the cart so he could talk directly into Dave's good ear. Stan also knew about the nitro tucked in Dave's right front pocket and had been instructed what to do with it if his partner ever went down. Dave had had a heart attack many years ago, but he kept himself in great shape, even standing on his head for long periods, so Stan didn't worry about him much.
The quality of golf maybe wasn't so great, but the conversation was. Always something new, something interesting going on. Plenty to look forward to. Business plans, stuff to fix. The joys of marriage. Advice to trade. Shared history. Grandchildren. Problems to solve. In short, a good, reliable friendship.
Dave was with his wife Jane at their winter home in Mesa when Stan sent the last email. The weather was unusually warm in Minnesota. The golf courses were opening in March this year. "Shall I get us a tee time?" Stan emailed. "Better hold off," came Dave's reply. "I will be back on April 20."
Another email came this afternoon. It was from Jane.
Dave died in Mesa on Saturday, it said. He was 71.
Stan and Kathleen have been friends to the Chases since they moved into their new Chaska home next door in 1982. We raised our families on Sunshine Circle, we "watched" their swimming pool while they vacationed. We lost touch for a while -- then caught up again when they moved to a Shakopee townhouse a while back.
Last January, while we wintered in Phoenix, they treated us to lunch at a club near their Mesa home. It would be the last time we would sit down with Dave. As usual, he was the magnanimous, generous, kindly host, a good man whose memory we will cherish and whose steady, calming influence we shall certainly miss.

In January, Dave and Jane treated us to lunch at their Mesa clubhouse.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

International Falls dock strike idles workers

The dock now spans three of the cribs. One more to go. Too cold today.
News from The North, where Wayne's boat dock rebuild appears to be making good headway. Labor strife looms. 
Wayne writes:
There has been another work stoppage. My no good brother-in-law said he won't work because of the blowing snow and 28 degrees.  
When warmer weather comes, Mary Ann will use the cement mixer parked by the sauna to repair a retaining wall.
(The portable cement mixer was a birthday gift to his wife two years ago. "Nothing's too good for that woman," Wayne says.)

Hillside cleanup continues despite the crappy day

Landscape fabric stapled in strips to the sidehill, done by 11 a.m. despite serious wind gusts
If you wait for ideal working conditions in Minnesota, you'll never get anything done.
The wind was gusting, it was cold and cloudy and son-of-gun, it was even snowing ice crystals now and then too. We ignored the example of idle International Falls homeowner Wayne Kasich and his striking dock worker, (see story above) and piled on a few layers of jeans, sweats and scarves then headed out into what should have been just another lost day.
What ever is he doing
out there?
We're cleaning up and mulching the side of the pond; some years the rugged bank has been mostly a thistle patch, a willow infestation, cattail hollow or just an embarrassment. In order to get the algae and debris out of the pond for the past year we've worked to reduce the amount of nutrition and weeds surrounding it. Presently we're sanitizing the edges and rebuilding the ecology. Starting over, kinda.
The other day we dug into Matt's pole barn near here and found an assortment of stub ends of vinyl and landscape fabric as well as a few hundred rusty landscape staples amongst his treasures. (Some day the pickers from the cable tv show are going to drive up in their van and Matt will be a star. He's got a ton of good stuff buried in there.)
We also bought a pickup load of western cedar chips and dumped them on a tarp by the mailbox in preparation for The Big Day. Two cubic yards, the landscape woman said, then slammed that Bobcat hard into the pile four times to fill our eight-foot box. $94.
That was it for expenses, the rest was labor. Today was the culmination of about two weeks of tugging stones in place and throwing dirt, but we're now in the home stretch. Here's the morning and afternoon views on a day that rightfully should have been spent indoors watching tv and looking out the window hoping for a better day.

By 4 p.m. much of the mulch was in place. Still a pile on top by the mailbox. Beer time. Finish tomorrow.
The lover's bench could use a coat of paint. What color?

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Poem For Lorlee's Dad


He almost  skipped
    a once in a lifetime trip
      to Switzerland
           it would interfere
             with planting
               his spring garden.

In his farmer's soul
    my Dad knew
       we are given
         finite springs

Once a spring
    is gone
      it and its potential
        can’t be reclaimed

Though like his springs
    he is gone
      that wisdom
        and urgency
          live in me

As my own
  springs flit by
    I do my best
       to make
         each one

I do it for me

I do it
  in his

In my mind’s eye
   I see him

----by Lorlee Bartos, Spring 2015
Flowers by Lorlee. . . blooming near the adjacent Texas highway department right-of-way she also cultivates.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Last race

Bobby, Kathleen and Don -- St. Paul natives
Rain fell softly on the Canterbury Park infield this morning as the regulars at the Third Floor Race Book quietly reminisced about their long-time pal Robert Lang.
Back then neither one knew it, but Kathleen graduated with Bobby in the same big class at St. Paul Central, a happy discovery both would make many years later.
We often enjoyed friendly banter with Bobby and friends while these gentlemen of leisure studied the Racing Form and the possibilities of the day's thoroughbred races simulcast to flashing monitors mounted above their private table overlooking the home stretch.
Bobby died of a heart attack two days ago, and when we dropped by The Book this morning to look in on the regulars, Don gestured glumly over to the empty chair and said "He's gone."
The races run on as ever, horses will win, place and show as usual, but the little circle on the Third Floor is smaller today, another player has crossed the finish.
He's in the Winner's Circle now, and we'll miss him.

File photo by Stan Rolfsrud

Friday, April 17, 2015

Breakfast rounds

Photos by Stan Rolfsrud
Zorro is midway between a heavy winter overcoat and a smart red summer outfit.
Zorro (which means Fox in Spanish) looked disappointed 
 after getting no warm breakfast today.
Zorro, our neighborhood red fox, circled the pond twice hunting for mice and any other opportunities this morning. He's a bit scruffy, his winter coat is molting in rags, but spring time's abundance will have him in a smart red tunic before long.
Zorro searched everywhere this morning, around the dry waterfall (above), in Kathleen's empty flower pots, in the bushes and under the deck, but found nothing for breakfast. He trotted off after about five minutes in an irregular gait, he's clearly stepped into something.
We hope he doesn't find the eggs when our mallard pair eventually hide their nest, but we're not optimistic. This old cunning fox is pretty thorough.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Since high school.. .

When high school seniors Mark and Karen decided to get married, it set our small town buzzing. They were Stan's classmates and close friends and even he wondered at the chances for success for such a young couple. Last week Mark and Karen celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary! Congratulations to the high school sweethearts, you showed us all, we wish you many more happy years together.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Working hand in glove

Count the stitches. The dressing came off today. There's been no pain. You can still see the autograph from D.M.
Pork chops, baked potato, salad. Stan opened the cokes.
When Kathleen was checking out after her carpal tunnel release surgery on Monday, the discharge nurse solemnly told Stan that he would now be taking care of Kathleen during her recuperation, and that, among other things, he'd be washing the dishes for weeks, or until Kathleen said she was ready.
Then Stan's sister wrote him to opine that Stan should be preparing breakfasts in bed, doing the dishes, making meals and doing anything else Kathleen desired for the next near term.
Three hours after surgery on Monday, Stan drove over to Lowe's, went directly to the paint department and got a $5 bag full of blue latex gloves.
Things immediately got back to normal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sandy's croci inspire season opener

John, Carla, Mary, Barry, Tom, Sandy, Greg, Phyllis
The first flowers of spring burst in front of the Story front door this week and it was enough to bring out the neighborhood for the first tarmac party of the year. Despite the April 14 date, professional tax preparers Sandy and Tom were celebrating springtime rituals with the Abbey Point neighbors tonight, confident that tardy clients can just file for an extension. Topics at tonight's tarmac included a possible cruise through the Panama Canal, the acquisition of an allergy-free poodle, a visit to the new micro-brewery near Valleyfair, the usual surgeries and repairs to an aging population, the Amsterdam Red Light District ("those ladies in the window aren't selling pressure cookers"), and the much-anticipated arrival of new neighbors tomorrow. What a night!
Absent tonight were Mina and Joe, and the Florida snowbirds who have yet to make a northern appearance, as well as Lisa and Vance, who still have real jobs but are inspired by their neighbors to make an end to them and join the rest at the first opportunity.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Carpal tunnel surgery over in a twinkle, all good

Pre-Op. The surgeon came in, indicated where the cut would be, and initialed his work, D.M.
Post-Op. Dr. Dan Marek with a fully-awake patient
in recovery. (The photo has been
cropped as a courtesy to the patient.)

At 2:30 p.m. today they wheeled Kathleen into the surgical suite for a carpal tunnel release operation to relieve numbness in her right hand. At 3:40 p.m. they wheeled Kathleen out the front door of the 212 Medical Center in Chaska where Stan was parked, and he drove her home.
She was a bit light-headed, they knocked her out briefly with the drug made famous by Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers, something we can't pronounce and certainly can't spell.
Her surgeon was quick and competent and gives us an excellent prognosis for a good result, confident as the operation was routine and had no surprises. So it's all good and we're grateful and look forward to a good recovery.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Don't rock the island, we're already over the limit

Backs turned like solar panels to maximize the energy, the turtles seemed oblivious to the duck pair.
A mallard drake and hen squeezed onto our floating island this afternoon, finding space amongst the eleven or more turtles already sunning there.
The island has proved a popular spot since we launched it in the pond behind our house last fall, perhaps because it affords a little protection from predation.
It also provides a nice vantage point to watch the humans watching them.

No one fell in, just the dang level. Yeow.

Wayne and an unidentified helper on top of the crib pause to fish out the spirit level from the lake bottom.
A helpful soul took this photo from the shoreline.
Northwoods Wayne continues the epic battle to rebuild his ravaged Rainy Lake dock. Today he sent this photo of the progress and another of himself, clad in chest-high waders, dipping to his armpit, fishing off the bottom of the fresh-thawed waters in the northern-most reaches of our nation's borderland.
Turns out it was his spirit level, a precision instrument used to make the piles of rocks and timbers appear to be flat and straight, that somehow slipped from the grasp and had to be retrieved from the icy depths.
Work continues. Stay dry, Wayne. (Ain't retirement grand?)

Looks level enough. Couldn't you just eyeball it?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Formerly known as the guest walk-in closet

We made a cutting board from the sink cut-out. Now we need a set of gin su knives. Chop chop.
With the installation of the dishwasher, the kitchen-in-a-closet is complete. We can cook on a toaster oven, induction plate, microwave or outside barbecue… or we can go out to eat. . . or take advantage of the "neighbor" on the other side of the wall in this long-term guest unit. The fridge and pantry face the sink, behind the camera.
Next fall we'll take a look at upgrading the bedroom.
We're taking the summer off.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Final project

The arch over the patio entrance frames the blue San Jacinto Mountains forty miles away. Bougainvillea are planned for this second trellis, it's the final project before we go home to pay taxes and take the summer off. This project needs to be completed today and it's getting hot out there.

Update: We got it done.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Work stoppage at Wayne's dock project

As the ice recedes on Rainy Lake on the Canada border, spring chores have begun for Wayne, our intrepid Northland retiree/handyman. This week's challenge has been rebuilding the dock. Ice, high water and wind have ravaged Wayne's cozy harbor on the lake and he's in the midst of a bold struggle -- again -- with nature's caprice. Here's today's report:

"Yesterday we got the 20 foot long picks (borrowed from a painter friend) over to the crib and nailed 12 inch spikes on one Tamarac log to even things out before boring 5/8" holes for the threaded rods. The cribbing will be bolted together. Not just for strength but for ease of leveling things out for the stringers.

"The hardest part was putting an arm in the water to get a washer and nut started under the freezing water.

"Today there was a work stoppage. My volunteer brother-in-law, a low-cost experienced builder, refused to work. Something about the last night's snowfall. We are going to be in the
50's for the next three days. My goal is to get the two cribs finished and ready for stringers before we head to Rochester on Sunday."

When Wayne talks about cribs, he means those rock baskets that form supports for the dock. We have no
idea what he means when has says "20 foot picks."

Monday, April 06, 2015

Grout complete, needs trim and caulk

Here's a look at the subway tile and gray grout we finished today. The microwave will slip into the upper left opening. We installed LED lights, one over the sink, one under the cabinet, that switch at the doorway. Note the blue evening light at the window. The LEDs are a warm white. The plugs are 20 amp, GFI.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Melissa's adopted family in Mazatlan

We think this is Melissa with her
namesake. We have no idea what the
hand signs are. We hope they are not gang signs.:)
Our eldest daughter Melissa is vacationing with her adopted family in Mazatlan. Years ago when she first got her timeshare at a condominium there, she met a taxi driver and his big family. She got to know them and would invite them to come over for a swim in the pool, etc. Eventually, when another child came, her adopted family named her "Melissa."
Over the years the friendship has grown and she's come quite close to them. Melissa, who has no great means herself, has been able to help out the family, sending gifts, hand-me-downs, and doing whatever she can to make their lives better.
Now her daughter Emily comes along for this almost annual holiday to Mazatlan. That's where they are now and Missy reports that Emily is having a blast, doesn't want to hang out at the hotel with all its amenities, preferring the rough accommodations and joining in the family fun.
Missy is particularly pleased that Emily is using her Spanish. Emily goes to Spanish Immersion in Eden Prairie, but her mother doesn't hear her using her language as much as she'd like.
Now Emily (who has no siblings) is yakking away in Spanish with her pals, making the most of her second language, all the while broadening her understanding of life's realities.
So soon their holiday will be over, we're sure they've had a wonderful time enjoying their second family.
We're very proud of both of them.

Is this really the best photo of your adopted family that you could muster, Melissa?