Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Congratulations Twins...

...for a great season. You were in it to the end. And being beaten 0-1 in a one game playoff is nothing to be ashamed of. See you next year!

And thank you Joe Nathan for all the great saves. I wear #36 proudly!

My "Show Me The ATV Nature Writing Challenge"

I'm feeling feisty tonight. So I was just thinking, how many miles of trails and acres of land in our Minnesota State Forests are now open to all terrain vehicles, through a process that virtually ignored the input from wildlife and fisheries biologists?

And what chance does a walking ruffed grouse hunter have against those who pass him/her on a state forest trail on an ATV, leaving a cloud of smoke and a ruined day behind?

And how many of these ATV riders claim that "We enjoy getting out and seeing nature on our rides!"

So here is the challenge I have for you: Much of our nature writing heritage has come from people who have hiked and paddled the wilderness, developing a reverence and respect for the land in the silent moments of community. But if ATV riders get such a kick out of connecting with nature, should not some thought-provoking writing come out of those experiences as well? Would that not be some justification for the destruction of land that occurs when motorized recreation becomes the norm? Do ATV riders pause for contemplation as they roar through the old growth forest?

Please, anyone, if you have any links to nature writing by those who choose to experience nature in a gasoline powered off trail vehicle, especially in Minnesota, please let me know.

And by the way, this writing does not represent the opinion of any employer I may have at the present time. Really, it doesn't. Believe me.

P.S. Welcome ATV listservers! I understand you scour the Internet looking for anyone who may disagree with you, and then gang up on them. Well, sorry, that's not tolerated here. I have a thick skin, I can take it, but I will only keep comments that address what it is that I am asking for here, or that further an intelligent discourse. And, will one of you be so kind as to forward me the original message that was posted to your group? My address is on the sidebar. And by the way, you're making my blog a hotter commodity by boosting my hit count.


Drive-by birding, 9-30

When I leave work in the evening, there are very few things that would make me want to do a U-turn. Home is where the heart is, and my time is very precious there.

But today, I nearly screeched my brakes as I caught a spectacular sight in a hayfield.

I had never seen so many sandhill cranes in one place! Counting from the picture, there were close to forty of them.

I had thought the sandhills were long gone by now. Maybe these came from further north in Canada.

The leaves on the trees in the background are deceptively green; everywhere else the forest is now aglow with orange and scarlet, crimson and yellow.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Life is sweet. And sad. And lovely. And uneasy.

Tonight was the kind of warm September evening you just want to sit out on the steps with a beer and watch the light change in the tops of the pine trees.

I am sad for the loss of a kitten, and sadder that I perhaps could have prevented it. And perplexed that, while we have a multitude of cats and kittens here, I suddenly don't want them, at least most of them. A few have won their way into my heart. Whiter Biter is on my lap right now, impairing my blogging process with his kisses.

I wanted to go to a concert tonight, to see one of my favorite bands, Vasen (imagine two little dots above the "a", I don't know how to make them), all the way from Sweden. But I just could not make that long drive to the city for a couple hours of music. So maybe I'll make my own music in a little while.

I won't be watching the Presidential debate tonight. There are more upbeat things to watch (Twins vs. Royals, although after last night I'm not sure if I'm ready for another whole game!), and anyway I've decided in my heart which candidate I think holds more hope for a troubled nation, so I would be watching maliciously, looking for every fault in the other candidate. And perhaps I don't want to watch because I can't stand the idea that the future of our nation is at stake, and sometimes I just want to dissociate myself from civilization.

But then, as I was driving to work, I found a flock of ravens and two young eagles that took my breath away with their flight. I am beholden to them, for making me realize there is joy in spite of everything else.

So there I am. Hopefully there will be much house blogging this weekend. Have a great one, everyone.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

So. freaking. sweet!

The Twins. swept. the Chicago White Sox.

Half. game. ahead.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The famous Hermit, and his famous dog

I didn't want to let the cat out of the bag, but Sunday morning The Hermit had a visit with Doug Smith, outdoors reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Today there was a full page feature article on The Hermit, including pictures with Hope the hyper idiot Brittany whom I guess is a pretty good bird dog after all. The article focuses on The Hermit's work as a ruffed grouse biologist, and can be found here. Congratulations Hermit!

new house kitty

We had a good year for kittens around here. Too good. So good, I'll have to find homes for a few of them. But this lucky kitty does not need to worry; its new home will be with us, in the house, as soon as it's ready. Cuteness has its advantages. May I present to you... "Evil Junior".

How could something so cute and innocent be called Evil? We're trying to think of a better name (suggestions are welcome), but this kitty is the newest offspring of the matriarch of the whole kitty clan around here, a tenacious old feline we have dubbed "Evil Calico". EC is not cuddly, not nice, barely even approachable. But she certainly possesses cat wisdom, and in a strange way I admire her for it. She had not had any kittens for a while, and I did not know she had had a litter this year until suddenly one day I saw this little calico crawl out from under the cook shed. "Oh my, it's Evil Junior!" I exclaimed. The name has stuck, so far.

If you have been a longtime reader you may recall I had another house cat, a part flame point Siamese. For all I know I may still have it, but Blue Flame has been missing for a week now. He got out of the cabin one day, and must have had a bit of wanderlust. Unfortunately, Blue Flame is not blessed with much feline wisdom, or strength or agility, and there are predators around here.

I feel like I should be more bothered by Blue Flame's absence, but I must admit, for all his Siameseness, I was never particularly attached to him. His father was presumably Puffball, whom I still miss. But Blue Flame never filled Puffball's place. He just didn't have much personality. So whatever will be will be. And I still have Whiter Biter, who definitely has personality, even if he likes to wander around outside.

Evil Junior is not quite ready to be alone in the new house, and I need to take her to the vet and take care of the conjunctivitis that every kitten seems to have at one point or another, but she seems to know already that she is "The Chosen One".

Sad update: I hate to have to write this. We lost Evil Junior this morning. I totally take responsibility; there are just too many dangers outside and I should have brought her inside to keep her safe.

I'm through with outdoor cats.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

basil harvest

It is one of those achingly beautiful September days where you never want autumn to end. The day is sunny and warm, but you are reminded of the chill in the air last night and the fire in the wood stove that felt just right.

I have not gone more than a mile away from this place this weekend. I could have, but sometimes it just feels good to stay close to home and get things done. I organized the garage on Saturday and hauled a bunch of plastic storage bins in to the new house where they will stay, full of winter jackets and clothes and books.

Today I washed dishes, then decided to cut the stems of cinnamon and lime basil before frost got to them. They smelled so good I decided to dry them in the new house on this antique dresser we bought second or third or fourth hand. We now have several such dressers, courtesy of Craigslist. Then I cut the tops off the garlic cloves and put them up in the cook shed. I don't think I have as big of a harvest this year as last year, and I will have to order garlic to plant.

My tomatoes are still ripening on their own schedule, half of them cracked and rotten by the time they ripen. One of these years...But at least I have garlic, and onions, and carrots and turnips. Anyone know any delicious turnip recipes?

We got skunked last night. I heard something scratching around outside, and this morning our yard is aromatic. The Hermit saw a dead skunk on the road near our driveway; I wonder if it was the one.

I think I'll put a spaghetti squash in the oven to cook for dinner. I didn't grow it, and I've never had it, but I just want to try it out in case I might want to grow it next year. Or try growing it, anyway.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm a fool for baseball

The Twins just beat the Tampa Bay Rays, I think the final score was 11-8. I think my kids were kind of embarrassed as I jumped and shouted during the top of the 9th inning, when the Twins pulled ahead, and the bottom of the 9th inning, when my hero Joe Nathan was pitching. I think I made a scene of myself. I didn't even notice when Sally ripped my boxer shorts. Oh well, Nathan is worth it. And so is the rest of the team. They'll just keep pushing for the title until the end.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

sleeping arrangements

It has been an interesting few nights here, since I woke up Sunday morning nearly on the floor. Our king size air mattress had somehow sprung leaks in both sides in the middle of the night. The Hermit went to sleep on the futon; I used up the rest of the air to keep myself afloat until morning. Sunday morning I spent some time trying to locate the problem(s), and sealed up what I thought were all of the holes.

Sunday night = more deflation. First it was just one side (the bed has two air chambers that can be unzipped for twin beds), so I moved around to the good side while the Hermit again went downstairs to the futon. About two hours later, I gradually gained consciousness in the midst of one of my lucid verbal dreams; a state where I have all kinds of prose, poetry, and even song lyrics flying through my head. It's a trip, I tell you. I just wish I could write some of the stuff down. No I don't; I'd just scare myself. Anyway, I was on the floor. Again. I laid there in a stupor for a while, trying to figure things out, then I headed downstairs to give Calvin's new recliner a try. The Hermit had gotten it on Craigslist, along with two twin beds. I could not get the recliner to recline as much as I wanted, so finally we folded out the futon. I finished the full moon night in a fitful sleep full of more dreams, more vivid action (think a cheap action thriller movie), less verbal. Still a trip.

We had every good intention of finally moving our queen mattress over and getting our bed set up, but face it, Monday and Tuesday evenings both of us were pretty wiped out tired. The Hermit slept in Mr. Attitude's bed, I slept on the futon with Mr. Attitude, and even Calvin last night. Talk about a future Oedipus complex...anyway, I decided the futon is good for one night, then the novelty wears off and you realize you are indeed sleeping on about two inches of stuffing that cushions you a little. My back and arms ache. And those stupid dreams...maybe it's the full moon...

So imagine my joy when I arrived home tonight and found our bed, completely set up with mattress, in Mr. Attitude's upstairs bedroom. I will sleep well tonight, hopefully without dreams, or at least with ones that don't leave me waking up in terror or mental confusion.

Moving in is such a trip!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

autumn impressions

The sun is rising perceptibly later each day as the last days of summer give way to autumn. The fog that shrouded the full moon all night softens the early morning landscape.

Birches started giving up yellow leaves some time in the last week or two; now the maples flash scarlet here and there, a preview, a teaser.

In the road ditches, ferns stand crumpled and brown from frost. Goldenrods and blazing star are a whispered hush of their former hues, while asters give one last show of white and blue and purple.

The skies are full of activity as migrant birds make their way south. Among the golden leaves of the birch outside my window, warblers blend in with their muted yellows as they glean insects. Raucous threads of Canada geese ripple through the air. Sandhill cranes trumpet in their ancient voice, unseen as they soar with the thermals or rest and feed in fields.

Days fly by as I go about my human activities. I just want to pause, to gather in every moment of a golden September day so I can feel the warmth on my face on some gray winter day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blogger visit #4 to Sand Creek

I have had the pleasure of having three bloggers visit me here at Sand Creek this past year: Lynne and RuthieJ (who arrived on the same day in February), and Heidi (who only lives less than five miles away, and whom I had the pleasure to see the other day with her beautiful family at the organic store in town). Today I was thrilled to add a fourth blogger to this life list of sorts.

Greg, aka the dharma bum, from The Dharma Blog, was perhaps the first Minnesota blogger I started following on a regular basis. His tales of fly fishing and canoe paddling and life are always well written and leave me with a longing for adventure. He has been a regular commenter here since the first year I started blogging, and I am going on four years now.

Greg e-mailed me earlier this week, saying he had a job-related retreat at the Audubon Center of the North Woods this weekend, and could he perhaps stop by afterwards on Sunday afternoon? Sand Creek is within thirty miles of the center. Why yes, of course! Although I'm not exactly a social butterfly, I enjoy visitors here, especially ones I feel I already know through heartfelt blog posts and comments.

On this rainy afternoon, our land still draining from an inch of rain yesterday, Greg parked his car out front, not wanting to risk the ominous looking puddles that loomed in the drive to the house. I don't blame him. I met him halfway on the driveway, and it was like greeting an old friend. I showed him around, and we had a beer and chatted, along with The Hermit, around the (unlit) wood stove. If it hadn't been raining, I had planned on maybe a walk out to the pond, to Sand Creek, to all the places that I have blogged about. But just talking was enjoyable enough for today.

I am always amazed at the connections I have made through blogging, across the country, around the world. Yes, it is sometimes awkward when you meet a blogger in real life, because somehow you feel you know them already, so there's this introductory chitchat that does not need to happen, but yet you need to fill in a few details. And hopefully you come away with a real life connection. And we all need as many friends as we can get. Thanks Greg, friend, for driving out of your way to my little corner of the world today.

Friday, September 12, 2008

cosmic rewards

So I haven't been too excited about running lately. Especially during the week when I have to get the kids to the bus, which has thankfully been coming later, about 6:40 instead of 6:32. We are on the far end of a long bus route. Add to that the fact that the days are getting shorter, and in two weeks I will be driving the kids out to the end of the driveway in the dark.

But today after the kids got on the bus, I went for a run. I have to keep reminding myself: Fifteen pounds! And there's more where that came from! Really, otherwise I'm just torturing myself.

Anyway, after I ran to the end of the road and back, 1.2 miles, I got into my car, which was at the end of the driveway on account of bringing the kids out there for the bus. I turned the key, and a very familiar song came on over the stereo. It was Sam Bush's 9 minute live version of "Same Old River", the one that features solos by Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas. One of my absolute favorite recordings ever. And it was on the radio, not on the CD, which I did happen to have in my car. Sweet! I got in the car just after Jerry Douglas tore it up on a solo and just before Sam Bush proved why he is the King of Newgrass with a huge mandolin solo.

I consider this a musical blessing, a sign that I did the right thing by running this morning.

And, I will be calling in a pledge to this radio station, the only station I can count on to play the music I like!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Azamat the Toad

Biggest. toad. ever.

(so much for an enlightened, thoughtfully written post!)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Deb's decision

I decided today that I am not a fisheries biologist. I am a writer.

From my childhood, I have always shown a talent and interest in writing. I was published at age eight, without my permission, when my grandma sent a few of my Haiku poems, which I had scribbled on a tablet, to The Lutheran Digest.

Sunset brings evening
Small stars twinkle in the night
Country rests in peace

In fifth grade, we had a substitute one day. She assigned us to write a poem about fall. Here was my response:

Autumn Song

The wind is the conductor
The fiddles are the leaves
Bright tubas are the wheat heads
Tied in golden sheaves

An oak tree and its leaves above
are one great big bassoon
Pumpkins are the kettle drums
The color of the moon

And in the great big sky above
the great big fields of corn
the moon, it plays its own sweet notes
just like a big French horn

It was the best poem I've ever written. I went on to write A-earning essays in college, though I majored in biology, which required little in the way of writing. If I had it to do over, I would have been an English major. But is it too late to change course?

I think not. I intend to devote every moment of my spare time to becoming the writer and musician I know I am. I have even set a goal of making a career change within five years. My current career, with all of its amenities, does not satisfy my soul. I need to do more than just count fish and plants.

I had one encouraging message that helped me in this decision. Joy, my high school classmate, valedictorian, yearbook editor and sister in law to my best friend in high school, contacted me recently through LinkedIn, a networking site. She said she reads my blog occasionally and thinks I'm an excellent writer. Wow! Thanks Joy, I'm a junkie for stuff like that. :)

So, expect to see more thoughtful writing here in the future. I've lapsed at that, while we've been devoting our energies into house finishing and all.

Monday, September 08, 2008

the culprit

This is the guy that stung me. Anyone have any ideas as to identity? Sorry about the blurriness; I'm really beginning to dislike my Canon Powershot A520's macro focus. Or could it be user error? Naahhh...

Update: Why didn't I think of Googling before I posted, rather than after? It appears to be an Io moth, and now I realize I have seen many adults on my cook shed screen door this summer.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

beware of caterpillar

Now here's something totally unexpected- I was stung by a caterpillar today. Really, it was as bad as any bee sting I've ever had. I didn't even know we had stinging caterpillars here in Minnesota.

I was harvesting my onions, in a bed that I had let get pretty weedy. In fact, my whole garden is like that this year. I spent too much time on other stuff, like laying slate tile and nailing floors I guess. But still I had a good crop of onions, even if it was hard to find them amongst the clover and sorrel. I would plunge my hand into the weeds until I found an onion top somewhere. In the midst of doing this I suddenly felt as if I had brushed against a thistle or something sharp on my left ring finger. I peered into the bed; no thistles. I felt a burning, stinging sensation growing in my finger. I looked again, and there was this bristly looking caterpillar hanging on some clover.

At this point I would normally show a photo, and I did take several, but I think my camera's USB cable is kaput. I tried to download a picture for last night's post, but it didn't work.

Luckily I am not deathly allergic to insect stings, although I guess a reaction can develop at any time in one's life so any sting should be a cause for concern. I put some Benadryl gel on the sting, which was visible as a few raised white patches on my finger. Later I noticed all of my fingers were kind of puffy, so I wondered if that wasn't part of the reaction. I took a Benadryl capsule and went out to dig potatoes. Halfway through digging I started feeling the spaced out buzz, and it's a wonder that I finished the job and hauled in maybe 50 pounds of potatoes. Oh, right, you're not supposed to drink a beer when you're on Benadryl.

I did get in a decent harvest of onions and potatoes, and I even discovered a pepper plant loaded with long skinny green peppers. Now if I could only remember what kind of peppers I planted. I'm terrible that way, I'll even have to go back through my email and find my potato order to see which kind of red potato it was that produced more than any other potato, and find out what kind of yellow potato not to order next year because I like my potatoes bigger than golf balls.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Tonight, for the first time, we lit a fire in the new wood stove in the new house. This is a huge moment. Somehow, a house isn't a home without a hearth, especially around here where we'll be heating for half the year. It was a thrill to see the smoke rising out of the chimney.

The Hermit has been wheeling and dealing on Craigslist, and managed to trade a huge pile of foam board insulation that we didn't need, for three cords of oak wood, which we do need. Combined with the four cords of mixed hardwoods we bought locally, and the approximate two cords we have on hand after we started heating with propane last year, we should be all set to heat through the winter.

There is something so genuine about heating with wood. I appreciated the ease of the propane heater last winter, but there is nothing like radiant wood heat. Our new house is designed around the wood stove as central heating source, which I suspect will serve us nicely in the future. I can even cook on it if I have to.

In other news, I saw two things that made me gasp in awe on my way to work this morning. One was a buck white tailed deer; I saw the sunlight glisten through the velvet on his antlers. He had to be at least eight or ten points, as if I had to reduce his rack to a score. Anyway, he was magnificent in the morning sunlight, and the biggest buck I've ever seen. The other was an eagle, swooping down to try to get some roadkill on the Kettle River bridge. It flew about twenty feet above my car. Awesome.