Saturday, April 30, 2016

Big smile on her 76th

Her son made her lunch and gave her a birthday cake, and got a big grin from Katie's good friend M'liss in the bargain.

Friday, April 29, 2016

It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood

It's been an angry three days up until now, blood pressure rising, head spinning dizzy spells. Constant cold clouds, no sun, no outdoors; episode with the cable company, two days of negotiating with the phone company's representatives in Belize trying to fix something they haven't been trained to do so they take you through the looking glass like their cook book says. Won't bore you, you've been there, degrading, depressing experiences.
But today sunshine returned and then a breakthrough with the phone company, a day on the links, a drink with an old friend, and all is forgiven. Give us a call on the working phone, happy to share. It's all good again.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Replacement citrus

Just in time for Mother's Day, Hai has replaced Mom's California orange tree with another citrus, this time a mandarin orange. It's got a good start, looks healthy so far, and we hope will thrive in her memory.
Thanks, Hai!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Old nest?

Alas, Mom's Menifee Orange Tree didn't make it, it got some kind of disease, so Hai took it out today.. . and then this object fell out of its branches. Hai thinks it is a hummingbird nest. What say you?
(The quarter didn't fall out. Hai added that for comparison purposes.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

No, it's not the Morton Salt girl

Tom brought the papers and carried the garbage at the height of the deluge today. Our everyday hero.
It rained and poured this morning, great weather for ducks. We're catching up for the relatively light moisture levels during March, should be close to normal precip. Looking good for a blooming May.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Purple hue added to Wrecking Crew performance

Bald heads predominated in last night's Wrecking Crew revue, with a climactic tribute to the Purple One.
The Fabulous Armadillos delivered a stunning tribute to Prince last night as the finale to their sold-out Chanhassen production reviewing the work of the legendary Wrecking Crew. After two days of “Purple Rain” we were ready for something different, but this grizzled gang of rock veterans put their hearts to an emotional arrangement of the iconic song and brought the house down.
Vocal arranger Bill Scherer and guitar slinger Paul Diethelm went off the worn chart to draw new blood in a lengthy rendition worthy of the late master's memory and fittingly presented just down the road from Paisley Park -- where Doves Cry and mourners still gather.

The Wrecking Crew was an informal group of talented LA studio musicians called upon for decades to anonymously provide production-quality background for hundreds of tracks backing the Beach Boys, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Herb Alpert, Sonny and Cher, the Monkees, Elvis, and many, many more. Last night's mature audience knew all the songs as the versatile, talented Armadillos took us on a history tour of the mundane, the familiar and the sublime. "Wichita Lineman," with its punchy bass, or the melancholic "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" may have been our favorites. Go see the Armadillos if you get a chance, senior rock at its finest.
The Fireside Room now provides an intimate, comfortable venue for these ear-splitting musical treats, in the 70s the room was the romping stomping Bronco Bar, where rock bands ruled nightly. . . and Stan’s brother Steve had an unlikely part-time gig as a bouncer -- armed, badged and deputized by the sheriff of Carver County.

Now there's a trip down Memory Lane.
Our gang. Sorry about the unfortunate cropping, Kathleen, but it's only rock and roll.
And thanks for getting us these seats.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A fleeting memory of Prince

We lived for many years near the artist known as Prince, not too far away from his famed Paisley Park studios in Chanhassen.

Never met the man. Stories abounded about early morning sightings on his little motorcycle, or the best route past his guard shack, or about the sound inversions during early morning parties at the studio that had resulted in disturbance of the peace complaints from 20 miles away.

We enjoyed the association, the mythology, but never did meet the man. We toured the studio when it was new, but never got invited to any exclusive late night events. We enjoyed his music as well as his quirky loyalty to his Minneapolis roots.
We got close once. Long before the TSA took control of the concourses at MSP, we were picking up a friend coming in from LA. Our gate area was unusually crowded that Sunday evening and a courtesy go-cart was parked in front of the gangway.
Soon we learned what all the hubbub was about. Our local celebrity was returning from the coast. Our lasting vision will always be of that airport courtesy cart rushing past us at top speed, the The Little Prince crumpled up on its rear-facing seat like so much baggage.  Tires squealing, the Prince clinging for dear life, he quickly escaped the people who had come to love him --- then disappeared into the night. 
We’ll truly miss having Prince around. . . even though we never met.
Rest In Purple

Canadian sunset on Rainy Lake

Photo by Wayne Kasich
Wayne Kasich posted this gem from his dock on the northern border last night.

Monday, April 18, 2016

New mailboxes numbered

Here's a project rife with opportunity for error. The residents' association will be getting all new mailboxes and the task of sticking addresses to the mailbox fronts has fallen to a resident senior not known for his steady hand or acumen with numerology. No matter, full steam ahead, the numbers were purchased and application is underway. Anyone who has applied tabs to a license plate knows the drill. You have one chance to peel off the back, center it, press it on and then it is stuck for good.
Fortunately the project has proceeded with perfection, each number carefully placed in exactly the right spot.

Developer installs fish condos.

Photo courtesy Greg Klein
The turtles are taking full advantage of their newly-launched island in the association pond. This weekend the minnows and fish got their turn. A small crowd of onlookers and photographers gathered at water's edge to witness the grand immersion of a 12-unit fish condo, designed to provide some refuge from snappers, diving mergansers, herons and pine martens.
We don't know the carrying capacity of the island.
It's still floating. Some are dinner plate sized.
The stacked irrigation tubes, zip-tied by Emily and her Grandpa, were anchored to a rusty chunk of steel from a Ford transmission and plopped into five feet of water. It's not going anywhere.
There are as many as 15 turtles gathering now on sunny days. We'll never know how many fish are using the condo, but we trust they'll find it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

New setup

Seated in the center of the kayak, the operator works foot pedals that flap blades beneath the craft.
The new electric motor is in the upright position at stern. The battery weighs 23 pounds.
Mature male California Sea Lions are typically eight feet long and weigh 700 pounds. This came as a bit of a shock to our intrepid ocean kayak explorer, out on the shakedown cruise of his replacement kayak this weekend in San Diego Bay. Hai Dang had a two-person Hobie, but traded for a one-man fishing setup. (above)

Photo: California Sea Grant
He has added a small battery-powered motor to augment the leg-powered arrangement that provides primary propulsion. Joining him on the cruise were two massive, intelligent sea creatures, who show little fear of human encroachment on their territory. Sea Lions outweigh Hai's kayak by a good 500 pounds. No worries. They're not that playful.

"I always thought they were much smaller," Hai said. "More like three feet or so."

That would be the harbor seals in the Como Park Zoo, Hai.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Too nice to stay in

We picked out our treats at Martha's in Dundas this morning, but it was just too nice to eat our quiches, savories, sweet rolls and cream cheese indoors. We took the food and dishes, forks and cups across the street to the little park beside the Cannon River and enjoyed the first picnic of the year.
An added benefit was that Jennifer's labradoodle Willie got to join us. It was a tad windy. Eventually the temps got to 81. A beautiful spring day... and we got home in time to see the Twins win their second in a row.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A patient, loyal man

Section 122, Row 10, Seat 5
The Minnesota Twins haven't won a baseball game since the season started. Oh Fer Nine. Yup.
No matter, diehard fan Pat Minelli proudly displays his e-tickets. He'll be there for Saturday's game against the Angels. Moreover, he thinks he'll bring them the first win.
"Teams go into slumps all the time and nobody thinks anything of it," Pat rationalized out loud over a Bud Light at today's employee departure party. "It's just that this slump comes at the beginning of the season. And we're not the only one. Atlanta hasn't won anything yet either."
OK Pat. Enjoy the game. Kathleen thinks you're wonderful. She's still a fan too.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spring has sprung

Early chives, lower left, already greening up the banks. Need spreading.

We didn't even have time to get the island launched.

We spread a new black fabric liner over the artificial pond island last night, figuring jet black would absorb radiation and prove a warming enticement to cold-blooded creatures.  Sure enough, this morning as the sun began fulfilling a promised 72 degree day, our first turtle of the season clawed its way aboard, raising its head high after a winter buried in mud.

Must feel good. Still shy and skittish, though, the turtle dived back into the deep when our nesting mallard drake swooped over. They'll share nice soon enough.

Lots to do today. Hope to get the waterfall pump started and the fish condo anchored and the island positioned and early chives transplanted and a round of golf. . .

Ain't spring wonderful?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


With a stretch of warm weather on the horizon, our landscape crews fired up the leaf blowers and started the annual spring cleanup. . . setting the stage for what may be the biggest coincidence of the year so far.
Meet Al Cardwell. "I'm glad to get back into this line work," he smiled after introducing himself today, "I've been working on an oil rig the past five years."
"Oh yeah? North Dakota?
"I have family near Watford City."
"Watford? You're from Watford? I know Watford City. I drilled in the Keene area."
"You're kidding.  I'm not from Watford, actually. I'm from Minnesota. I have cousins in Keene, but it is such a small town I didn't think you'd know the name. I used to work on their farm during summers."
"Are you kidding? I know Keene like the back of my hand."
And so began an animated conversation about the Rolfsrud Ranch, Demmick Lake, and other western North Dakota landmarks over the Bakken Shale.
No, Al didn't drill on Grandma and Grandpa's land, somebody else did. . . but he could have. He knows about the bitter winters, the crowds and traffic jams, and having his rig shot at by locals not happy with the intrusions brought by the oil companies.
Yeah, small world, we agreed, as he fired up the leaf blower again.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Burning down the house

Even firefighters can be mesmerized by a roaring fire. Training done, these men paused to watch
the old corner ranch house reduced to embers.
Every time we come home, we pass a house at the intersection of County Roads 78 and 79, but no more. The Shakopee Fire Department, after practicing there for weeks, finally burned it down during their weekly Saturday morning training exercise. We're not sure what happens next at this busy corner, some say the school is going to put in some athletic fields. But that's just hearsay, something you'll never see here.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Duane "Farmer" Bartos

Duane, far right
One of the Big Boys we looked up to in our one-room Country School was Duane Bartos. Barnyard strong, intelligent, boisterous and possibly teacher's pet, he sat in the row of big desks on the other side of the room in a plaid flannel shirt and was too much older for a second-grader to get to know. But he was kind, and never to be feared.

You can look up a memory or two of Duane on this blog if you put his name in the search box above. Duane died yesterday, his sister Lorlee is our age and our pal, and she let us know about it. Today she sent along this obituary, which is a much better read than most and worthy of this good man.

Duane John Bartos, 72, of Roberts, WI passed away unexpectedly, despite his battle with cancer, on April 7, 2016.

Duane grew up on the family farm, with his rambunctious siblings, in Alexandria, MN and attended the University of Minnesota. In 1969, he married Barb Amdahl and they eventually moved to Roberts to start raising their family. Duane continued to work in the Cities as a mechanic. He was a twenty-four year member of the National Guards and proud to be so. He served as cook and enjoyed all the hassle that went with it, although he probably gave as much as he got. In his later years, he started doing the major cooking at home and could really make killer good gravy, chili, anything that he could experiment with his own seasonings. Unfortunately it was after the kids had all left home so they missed out on most of it, except for left-overs. He loved watching football, wrestling, and DWTS on TV, but he was an even bigger reader. He always had a book in the car in case he had time to kill. Depending on the season, he looked forward to going to the races or playing cards. His other big love was gardening and cutting wood, he was happy when he was working outside. This last summer he lost the "corn in the garden" battle with the squirrels but was planning how to outsmart them this year. Duane also really enjoyed his travels to foreign countries and their rich, diverse histories.

Duane is survived by his loving family: wife Barb, children Bart (Tim) wife Julianne, Tamara husband Kent, and Chris, and the most special people in the world to him, his granddaughters Kaitlyn and Mackenzie. Also survived by the aforementioned rambunctious siblings: LuAnn Schrader, Lorlee Bartos, MaryJo Bartos, and Stephen (Doreen) Bartos. Duane was preceded in death by his parents John and Clara Bartos and brother-in-law Dick Schrader.

Duane, we love you and we will always miss you, but no, you can not have the remote.

A Memorial service will be 12pm (noon) Wednesday April 13th at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home; 520 So. 11th Street in Hudson. Private interment with full military honors provided by the New Richmond American Legion Post will be in the Warren Cemetery in Roberts. Visitation will be on Tuesday from 5 until 8pm at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home of Hudson as well as one hour prior to the service at O'Connell's Wednesday morning.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Finally, it's Solveig's turn

Move over, Seagram's.
Bob Suel is our only customer who enjoys having a gin and tonic -- and then only in the good old summertime. So Stan's sister Solveig's thoughtful gift of Solveig Gin has perched unopened on the family bar for quite some time now.

Solveig spotted the distinctive bottle on a road trip in Minnesota and was so taken by the label that she bought a fifth for her host, who sadly has but a mere line of carpentry tools with his name on them. Solveig Gin is the first release from Far North Spirits, a craft distillery located on a fourth generation working family farm in northwestern Minnesota.

Although rushing the summer drinking season somewhat, Bob gamely presided over the grand opening of the gift bottle this afternoon, as he settled in for a comprehensive after-work chat and samples of Kathleen's fresh home-baked coffee cake.

Ice, Canada Dry tonic water and Solveig Gin stirred in a tall glass. Bob sipped, swished and gave his immediate blessing -- soon requesting another round. A fresh, clean taste, he said. When asked for more a more in-depth description, Bob paused.

Family friend and Gin Critic Bob Suel

So Stan read: "Offering a nose of citrus, pine cones, and a hint of lavender, Solveig combines a creamy entry with an almost ethereal lightness on the palate. Complex and concentrated in the glass after twenty-four hours of air, the gin shows exceptional balance in the mid-palate, with added flavors of thyme and coriander. The finish is rich, persistent, and almost cool, with lingering notes of black olives and fresh grain."

"Yeah," replied Bob. "What he said!"

So here's to yah, Solveig!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Neighborhood night

John and Mary, Kathleen and Stan, Tom
Between snowbirds spread from Florida to Arizona and spring cleaning responsibilities, attendance was a bit slim at tonight's neighborhood gathering for April. Nonetheless, fun was had by all, with Kathleen making one of her first public appearances since her unfortunate face plant. Tom, who's working his busy tax business these days, had our waitress take a photo to transmit to his good wife who is staying at the family condo in Florida. In turn, she replied with a gorgeous photo of tonight's sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
Well played, Sandy.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Condominium developer

Fish condo project complete.
Reducing slime and muck in the pond meant reducing plant materials that allow the production of the elements that create algae and other micro plants that cloud the water. That in turn decreased the amount of cover for the fish, which in turn created an opportunity for another permanent resident, our snapping turtle, who took full advantage of the situation.

Tightening the zip ties
In an attempt to restore some balance to this little world, yesterday the caretakers set about to build a five-story condominium to give the fish a fighting chance, a place to hide that wouldn't create oxygen depleting algae.

Midway through the project,
a check with the Inspector.
A trip to Lowe's for 20 feet of drain tile and 200 zip ties provided material for an afternoon project. When the water warms, we'll tie it to an anchor and sink the fish condo and invite the renters. No snappers allowed.

Ready for sinking under the water. Only little turtles and fish can swim inside, no monsters.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Oh, by the way

Hai in his Virtual Office over the Pacific Ocean.
He solves technical problems for the newspaper company from remote locations.

So excited was he to report landing a 50 pound ocean sea bass near San Diego, Hai forgot to report what some might consider the actual highlight of the day. Photos of his huge catch were duly posted here a couple of days ago. But there are no photographs of a stunning event that had occurred earlier in his voyage: A grey whale gently breeched not 20 feet from his bobbing kayak. This amazing detail emerged in a telephone conversation today, he had forgotten the thrilling experience when it was replaced by another: the giant sea bass that took his hook and exhausted him during a half-hour battle.
File photo courtesy
Next time, he says, he'll stow a waterproof camera and get a closeup of the friendly grey monster. (Hopefully, this isn't a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The whales are regular visitors to this area.)
Best of luck, Capt. Ahab.

And no, this really happened. It's not an April Fools joke.