Saturday, November 29, 2008

A birthday and a lost tooth

I have posted previously about the arrival of Mr. Attitude into this world seven years ago today. If you weren't following me back in '05, you can read about it here. Suffice it to say, it involved a very fast and exciting thirty minute drive up the freeway, me wondering if I would become one of those roadside mothers. Thank goodness we made it to the hospital barely in time.

We spent the day celebrating Thanksgiving and his birthday (of course) with my aunt and uncle John and Karen, my dad, my grandma, and my uncle LeRoy. All of his gifts were the best kind: cold, hard cash. He took an almost sinister pleasure in counting it. :)

On the way home we stopped at "MegaLoMart" to spend some of his cash and sink some of our own earnings into a gift. His Nintendo DS had long ago given up the ghost so we bought him a new one, and some of his money went towards a new game. We went home and had his dinner request, spaghetti, then I went out to the cabin to chill my feet and check up on the blogging world.

Mr. Attitude came out shortly, all excited. "Mom! I'm losing a tooth!" I looked at him incredulously; I had not even known he was near losing one. But there it was, bent at a 90 degree angle. "We'll go out to the house and take care of it", I said. We went back where it was light and there were things like cotton balls and ice and vodka (for Mom) if we needed them. I had him stand close, open up, then I grasped his tooth to pull and--it was out, just like that. Just a little blood, no reported pain. He was more thrilled than anything. "The tooth fairy's gonna come on my birthday!"

It's hard to tell from this photo, but this was his bottom right second incisor (I think.) His top middle teeth came in last, so I'm suspecting they will go last. And yes, that is spaghetti sauce on his face.

Starflower reminded me that the "tooth fairy" still owes her a few dollars. She also informed me that she knows who the "tooth fairy" is. And Santa. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The weekend has begun!!!

I am very thankful for a lot of things, including the balance of my vacation leave which allows me to take tomorrow off without guilt. All of The Hermit's older kids (my stepkids and associated in-laws) will be coming for ham dinner on Thursday. That's right, ham. Really, who decided you have to have a turkey! Anyway, I have a lot of cleaning and preparing to do.

Monday, November 24, 2008

that moment between

between starry frosty morning
and advancing cloud front heralding gray day
One golden moment
magnified in every ice crystal
caught in tree tops

And in that moment between, as I began the day's journey from home life to work life, below those illuminated tamaracks I heard a flock of...robins. Yes, their calls were unmistakable as they descended on the winterberries. I have seen a lone robin nearby in December, but never a flock this late in the fall.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

first skating day on new ice

It had been a few days since the pond completely froze over, and we had some nights with temperatures in the low teens. I checked the ice Saturday morning, walking cautiously along the edge. From the bubbles I could see in the clear ice, it looked to be at least four inches thick. Perfect. Smooth surface, no heavy snowfall to cause water seepage. Skating before Thanksgiving. It may be the earliest skating since I've kept record here.

Sally likes the pond better in liquid form, but she doesn't mind running around on the ice, shredding wood for me to sweep up later.

Who is this, and what maneuver is she trying to attempt, or trying to recover gracefully from?

I get triple exercise points today; I ran over three miles, then skated for an hour, then acted as catcher for Calvin's late afternoon pitching practice. Zero housekeeping points though; something's gotta give. :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just when you thought the Palin jokes were subsiding

This is no joke, but it's HILARIOUS. I love how the turkey cone is positioned right next to Palin's face. And watch the guy in the background!

It brings to mind this famous scene from "WKRP in Cincinnati"

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

the madness of the November runner

I have gone running twice this week, both evenings when I arrived home earlier than normal from work so there was a little bit of fading light out there for me.

Running in November in Minnesota, especially when you have an 8 to 4:30 job, requires some conquering of demons. First and foremost, there is the ever-increasing cold. Pah. I reminded myself I used to regularly go cross country skiing in similar or colder temperatures. It was 18 degrees on my car thermometer when I turned into the driveway. I have cross country ski bibs that are plenty warm for my legs, and any layering stuff will work. And winter hat and mittens, of course.

Next, there is dark. A formidable demon, considering many of us subconsciously fear the dark. But there is nothing out there, especially where I live, to fear about the dark that is not also present during the day. There isn't even a need for reflective gear; if a car happens to come along the road, an unlikely occurrence, I will have enough advance notice of it to move over if I happen to be running in the middle of the road. I don't really care if they see me or not, and sometimes would prefer that they don't.

A side note to running in the dark: I have an LED head lamp, and I ran with it once, but I ended up putting the light on the back of my head and setting it to flashing. The circle of light I get with a light source is narrowing; letting my eyes get accustomed to darkness enables me to see more overall.

Next, a few lesser demons including wind, precipitation (haven't dealt with it yet), and the overwhelming desire to just curl up in front of the woodstove in a warm blanket (which is stronger than any of the aforementioned!) However, I have surprised myself. Today, on the drive home from work, I talked myself out of running at least twice. When I got home, I sucked it up and ran.

Running has been the best medicine for me. Running makes me strong. I feel better about my body than I have in years, I feel more able to face the cold weather...and somewhere in the twilight, when I am drawing in cold breaths and hearing the testimony of dead grasses in the wind, listening to the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground...that is when I feel alive. That is when I feel both excited and subdued, but nevertheless feeling. That is when I come across moments of clarity, where I feel the presence of a higher power that gives me this strength.

I am thankful for the ability to run.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday shared stuff

I've been trying to incorporate Google Reader into my repertoire of Internet tools. but apparently it doesn't get along too well with my work computer. So until I get that figured out, I hope to periodically post a few items of interest here on Sand Creek Almanac.

The Farmer as Natural Resource Professional

As a fish and/or wildlife manager, one of the first things one learns is that most of one's efforts to protect and maintain habitat and fish and wildlife populations are at the mercy of private land owners--farmers, forest product companies, developers, lake shore owners. Of these, farmers have influence over approximately 58 percent of the total land area in Minnesota. When I was in graduate school, we often saw examples of "farmer as bad guy" in land and watershed management: stream banks eroded by cattle, land tilled right up to the roadside, with no fencelines or other wildlife corridors, ditches washing topsoil and fertilizers into rivers. However, there always have been farmers who practice good land stewardship, and an increasing number are making the connection betweeen the health of the land, sustainable productivity, and wildlife habitat. The above link is about one such farmer, Kent Solberg. Solberg had a somewhat nontraditional route to farming; he grew up in the city, got a degree in wildlife management, and spent years working with various state and federal agencies as a wildlife manager. Now he and his wife raise dairy cattle, pork and eggs on carefully managed pasture on their farm in north central Minnesota. Listen to the linked podcast if you have time; it's about ten minutes long but very informative.

There is also a personal connection, which is why I was happy to find this story this morning. Solberg and The Hermit were buddies in graduate school, he was best man at our wedding, and I worked at the same office with him for several years. We haven't been in touch for a while, but I would like to visit their farm some day.

Choosing to live with less

In these tough economic times, there are a few people who are not feeling the pinch, since they have chosen to get by with what some would call poverty-level income. However, the lives they are living seem to be rich and fulfilling. I was inspired by these stories. And there's another personal connection; the barn dance I played at last week was called by Terrence Smith, who is featured in the article. His passion for music and dancing is contagious.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mr. Cardinal now has a name

He is Stan. After Stan Musial, who I guess played for the Cardinals way back when. Of course, it was Calvin who came up with the name. Stan was there bright and early this morning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

birds and music

Guess who showed up at my feeder this morning?
I know for some of you, cardinals are quite commonplace. But I live at the northernmost edge of their year round range, and they rarely make an appearance here. To see one within days of improving my temporary feeder array was wonderful. He has been hanging around all morning.

This pair of male purple finches showed up on Sunday afternoon. Their color is so exquisite.

As you can probably tell, I have been spending way more time than I should sitting by the wood stove, looking outside. I have a holiday from work (Veteran's Day) and I picked up the banjo at 7:30 this morning. Sitting by the round table, with a cup of coffee and some music in front of me, I lapsed into a state of concentration I rarely achieve while playing, where I am able to play a couple bars of music over and over until my fingers have memorized it. I must have played "Cripple Creek" about 20 times. I need to do this more often.

I had the chance to play music with a few other people Saturday night at our friends' annual barn dance. Since there were two fiddles, a banjo and a mandolin already, I decided to fill in with rhythm on my octave mandolin. That instrument is not exactly a fixture in old time dance music, so I don't know what the others thought of it. I didn't really care either; I was playing the right chords, in tune and tempo, to songs I mostly knew already, sometimes taking liberties with the rhythm. And I was having a great time. Playing for a dance is more relaxed than playing in front of an audience; the people are occupied with dancing, there isn't the give-and-take of solos like there is in bluegrass, and there is plenty of time between tunes, while the caller teaches the next dance, to sip a beer and chat with the other players.

I have to get back and throw another log in the wood stove, and I think my mandolin is calling me now. I need to build up those calluses on my fingers again.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

lazy Saturday afternoon

It's a blustery, snow showery day here in Minnesota. It is also the opening day of deer season; both factors mean it's a good day to stay indoors in front of the wood stove. I have hunted deer here before, but I think if I hunt again it will be with a bow and arrow.

The wind and cold have brought in good numbers of chickadees, goldfinches, and nuthatches (both white and red breasted) to my new temporary feeder setup. The above is the best picture I could manage today; it certainly isn't the nice view that I had with the feeder at the cabin, at least not yet, but I'm glad to see birds. And I am glad to sit in front of a warm wood stove looking out at that view! I was going to finally bring the garbage can with half a fifty pound bag of black sunflower seed to the new house. But when I got to the far side of the cabin I saw that the can was knocked over, and the seed was gone. Deer? Bear? There was a tiny bit of nyjer thistle seed left in that feeder, so I brought it over and hung it in the tree. The Hermit is in town buying more bird seed.

I am still seeing robins in November! These must be the hard core, far north robins. I noticed some of them eating winterberries at the edge of the woods outside my back door.

We finally brought Blue Flame over to be the new house kitty last week. He has settled in nicely and seems to be enjoying his new surroundings. However, he seems to get possessed at times, especially when he walks out on the beams:
(this picture is dying for a clever caption, but I cannot think of one! Ideas?)

I decided if I want to be a musician, I better start acting like one, so my long to-do list is temporarily suspended as I enjoy picking a tune or two in front of the wood stove. Which reminds me...I gotta get back there!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Things just keep getting curioser and curioser

We have a recount situation here in Minnesota. The morning after election night, Senator Norm Coleman (R) was leading challenger Al Franken (D) by just over 700 votes. As of this posting, the gap has narrowed to 236. State law calls for an automatic recount when the difference is less than 0.5%. It is only fair to the voters. But Coleman was declaring himself the victor, and calling for Franken to waive his right to a recount, saying it would cost the taxpayers money.

Am I the only one who smells something fishy here? If the margin were in Franken's favor, would Coleman be so quick to concede? I doubt it. And the fact that the margin has shrunk by about 500 votes, even before the official recount, is interesting.

Who says my vote doesn't count?

Sorry, I'll get back to normal Sand Creek Almanac posting as soon as election excitement has subsided. Or until I see an interesting bird, or get around to posting about the garden or the weather or the house.

UPDATE: This is interesting. I guess one of the 100 vote gains for Franken was due to election judges, in my own county, who "mistakenly" entered "24" instead of "124" for the total votes for Franken in the next township over. That makes me wonder...we entrust our votes to a few, tired officials who crank out the totals. Just how reliable is that, if they can screw 100 voting citizens out of their votes just by a clerical error?

A recount is part of the democratic process, and any politician who argues against it is against justice.

Hello out there?

Has anyone had trouble commenting here in the last couple of days? Floridacracker was having some problems with the new embedded comment feature on his blog, and I started using that feature recently here, so I switched it back.

Or am I just boring blathering on and on about the election?

Speaking of which, thanks Minnesota for voting yes. Your children and grandchildren will thank you for it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

God bless Obama...

...Amen. The people have spoken. let's pray for unity, our nation.

doing my part

Of course, I voted today. I did not vote until the afternoon because my local polling place does not open until ten in the morning. Apparently, no one of the less than two hundred residents of our precinct has complained about the late start.

I walked into the polling place, a Lutheran church in a small town which is actually outside the township where I live. There is no public building in the township where I live. As soon as I walked in, with Starflower because I had to pick her up at the school from piano lessons, the township clerk whispered my name to the woman who kept The Big Book of Voters in XXX Township. I did not know how the township clerk knew me, but I like that a lot better than "what was your name again?" So it turned out I was the last of the six or so voters whose names started with an "S" to show up. The Hermit included. I was handed my ballot, and I actually had to wait for the ballot scanning machine, but otherwise there were maybe six of us in the whole church building at the time.

Starflower was there as I filled out the ovals on my ballot. I tried to explain to her what an amazing privilege this was, and how many parties actually had a candidate for President. There were very few surprise races on the ballot; there were the usual candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District, which I voted on based on personal experience with my job. There were the numerous judge positions, which I refrained from voting for because I knew nothing about any of the candidates. It would be totally unfair for me to flip a coin and vote for someone.

So now we are waiting, with the rest of the state and the nation, to hear the results. God bless us, one and all.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

rebel larches

While most of the other tamaracks have given up the gold, this grove, as it does every year, is hanging in there, some even still green. I can't help but think of Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

It is 5:00 PM now, and the light is dying fast here as we enter the darkest time of the year.