Saturday, October 24, 2009

running on a carpet of golden needles

I went for a beautiful 5.2 mile run this morning. For various reasons, most of them probably no more than lame excuses, I had not run for more than a month. No time. Sick. Raining, cold weather. Snow. I know that physically I go through a very real transition from summer to fall. For a couple of weeks when temperatures get below freezing overnight, and especially if clouds dominate the day, the thought of going outside and subjecting myself to physical exertion seems, well...unthinkable. But this is much better than the state I was in a couple of years ago, where the thought of any physical exertion any time of year was, well...unthinkable. Can I tell you all of the wonderful things running has done for me?

My usual route goes from my driveway north on our road a half mile, then taking a right turn down a dead end road that continues a little over two miles east, then coming back. It's a gorgeous route any time of year, fairly level and covering mixed woods, wetlands, and open fields, with Sand Creek and a tributary along much of the way. But today my view was accented by the gold of tamaracks, which are in their full fall glory. One stretch of road has a dense tamarack forest on either side, and yesterday's wind had brought down a carpet of golden needles on the road.

The above photo is the view out my back door. Glorious! But back to my run...I was worried about the effects of not having run for a few weeks. But my legs just flew on their own, it seemed so effortless. So effortless, in fact, that on the way back I took my pulse and decided I must be getting too good at running at a snail's pace, I was barely in "the zone". I increased my pace off and on for the remainder of the run, pushing myself towards breathless. I returned home exhilarated.

The blue sky is fleeting. We are looking at more rain starting tonight. The tamarack gold will probably not last much longer, just as the birch, aspen, and even some of the oak leaves have quietly released to the forest floor. The nights are getting longer and darker, and a rocking chair and a wool blanket near the wood stove are looking better all the time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A philosophical discussion with Mr. Attitude

Reposted from Facebook, for all you technophobes out there who think dial phones are still the standard of communication. ;) I still believe there is room for both Blogger and Facebook. Obviously the proprietor of The Ethereal Garage doesn't think so. Too bad for everyone. ;)

Son#2: Mom, what is real?

Me, getting philosophical: The present moment. The past is memory, the future is uncertain.

Son#2: So if I hit you in the head, a moment later it wouldn't be real?

Me: resolving to never have philosophical discussions with a kid whom even his piano teacher calls "Mr. Attitude." :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

ubiquitous attitude

Starflower informed me today that her and Mr. Attitude's piano teacher, the school band director, has, independent of any knowledge of this blog, dubbed him "Mr. Attitude!"

Friday, October 16, 2009

sandhill staging

In a field about six miles south of my house, an amazing meeting is going on:

The sandhill cranes found this particular location desirable for all the reasons cranes like: plentiful food (from recently harvested corn fields), grassy fields, and marshes nearby.

It is worth noting that in my lifetime, sandhill cranes have gone from being a nearly extirpated oddity in Minnesota to a yearly spectacle. Kind of like bald eagles in that regard. I am so fortunate to have a pair of them nesting in the swamp near my home every year.

I left work early today and took a special drive just to see the cranes. On the way I noticed the tamaracks are turning golden, a sure sign of the end days of fall.


Yesterday may have been the first time ever that I bought a six pack of beer just for its label. I'm not normally a big fan of brown ale, but who could resist the saw whet owl?

I've been hearing barred and great horned owls lately, and even saw a great horned owl being mobbed by crows the other morning. Bald eagles must be migrating through; I have been seeing two or three of them a day! The sightings and sounds almost make up for the dismal dark wet snowy weather we've been having.

The kids have a mini break school yesterday and today for the annual Minnesota teachers' union convention. I wish I could be sleeping in this morning!

CORRECTION/UPDATE: OMG, I'm a pretty bad birder if I can't even properly identify an owl on a beer label! I checked my Sibley's tonight, just to be sure, and wouldn't you know it, that is a BOREAL owl, not a saw whet! Of course, I have seen neither of them in real life, but they are both pretty darn cute.

As long as I'm updating, I might as well say I saw a pair of trumpeter swans flying near the Kettle River this morning on my way to work. And stay tuned for sandhill cranes, lots of them...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Minnesota fall colors

I am so not ready for white. And if the behavior of the juvenile members of this household today is any indication, we're in for a LONG winter indoors. Sigh.

I did see some amazing sights today on my way home from some errands in town: a flock of 50+ ravens and one bald eagle (must have been some great road kill!), and a couple large flocks of sandhill cranes resting in a marsh and a pasture.

This snow has completely sucked out whatever motivation I had to do things today. I'm even thinking a nap sounds good right about now.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


This afternoon, after the nail-bitingly wonderful ball game last night, I wasn't quite ready to sit in the school parking lot and listen to the beginning of the Twins/Yankees playoff game. It was sunny and in the fifties and not raining, as it has so often lately, and part of me was missing engaging in any form of exercise for the last couple of weeks. So I drove to a trail I had been to once before, last spring or maybe even before that. It's a snowmobile trail on state park land that is not heavily advertised or used when there is no snow. It winds downhill, across a couple dry ravines leading to the Kettle River, then uphill again. Off the beaten trail I had heard there was a creek that cut through some rock outcrops, but the last time I was there I did not know where to get off the trail. I'm a sucker for water and rock outcrops, so I was determined to find the creek this time.

I had half an hour to wander, so I quickly covered the half mile or so of marked trail. The tree canopy, mostly aspen and birch with some maple, was a brilliant, other-worldly shade of gold. I saw a scattered pile of feathers that looked like they once belonged to a goshawk or Cooper's hawk. I saw a large mushroom being consumed by a slug.

When I got to where I had to leave the beaten trail, I briefly considered the wisdom of what I was about to do. There was a chance I could get lost in the woods. However, the sun was out, I could hear the freeway from where I was, so I had a pretty good sense of direction. That, and the slope of the river valley was a good landmark.

I wandered downhill through some light undergrowth, and soon I found the stream and some sandstone outcrops. Unfortunately, I checked my iPod clock and realized I had about ten minutes to get back to the car and get to the school, directly across the river from where I was, to pick up Calvin. So I reluctantly saved serious rock exploration and meditation for another day. And I found my way back to the trail easily.

I saw my first rough legged hawk of the fall on the way home. Once I was home I headed out to the garden to gather green tomatoes. It's supposed to get pretty cold tomorrow night and I hope to bring in what I can before it freezes too hard. On my way out to the garden I heard a great horned owl; I had heard one early this morning too. I had not heard one since maybe last spring.

I picked two buckets of tomatoes, but there are still plenty more out there. I also picked a box of tomatillos. Strangely enough, I had my best crop of them in several years. Even stranger, after I had brought them in, Calvin, who did not know I had been out picking them, asked me if I could make some salsa verde this year! He has developed quite a taste for salsa lately, and he told me he loves salsa verde. I should have enough for four or five pints, which I suspect will go quickly. :)

The air is crisp, the multicolored landscape beautiful, and I wish it could stay like this for about two months longer.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


They did it!!! From 3 games back just 4 GAMES AGO, they won the AL Central Division title!!! And they did it in classic fashion, 12 innings in front of 54,000 loud fans in the Metrodome, where the last Twins game was supposed to have been yesterday. And they did it in twelve hard fought innings, which left me EXHAUSTED!

Nothing will ever surprise me, ever again. And I will NEVER give up!!!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

rainy night ramblings

There's a fire in the wood stove, the rain is tapping (not pounding, not really tapping either...I can't find a good word for the sound rain makes) on the steel roof, supper is on the stove, and I have managed to find a time when the computer is not occupied by preteens. So I'm long overdue for one of my stream of consciousness, "thinking out loud" category posts, in which I attempt to say a little about a lot. Here goes.

The Hermit saw something that must have been hilarious today: Whiter Biter, our alpha tom cat, chasing an otter! Knowing Whiter Biter, he was probably trying to mate with it. Tomcats...

We closed out a record warm September with the season's first heavy frost Tuesday night. It got down to 29 degrees here, which is enough, we found out, to freeze tomatoes under mini hoop houses covered in plastic. The tomatoes that were directly under row cover fabric fared much better. Either way, we were blessed with an extra two weeks or so before frost, which wasn't quite enough to make up for the painfully slow growth and ripening of my tomatoes this year. As usual. I didn't get them in until the latter half of June, but still I was counting on varieties listed as under 80 days to actually produce ripe tomatoes within 90 days. I had some luck, with Stupice, Glacier, Yellow Pear, and a couple Black Cherry, but the rest were still in various stages of greenness. I really must look into a greenhouse if I expect to grow tomatoes here.

Growing tomatoes here is kind of like following Twins baseball. The odds are stacked against them (tomatoes and Twins), but still they show just enough promise in September to stay in the running. By the time the first hard frost (or late series with Detroit, the first place team) rolls around, you wish them the best, but are ready for them to just be out of playoff contention so you can relax a little and look forward to next year. Tonight the Twins still theoretically have a chance, but the stars have to be lined up perfectly. About the chance my tomatoes under the row covers have of ripening. Go Twins. Go Tomatoes.

Calvin is on his way home from an away football game tonight. I'm not that dedicated of a football parent that I would drive to a school 30 miles away to watch a game in the 50 degree rain. The Hermit is picking him up at the school. But last night Calvin casually asked me, "When do you think I'll have a girlfriend?" I stammered for a minute, thinking of what to say, then replied that when the time was ready, he was such a smart, fun, good looking guy I was sure the girls would be after him. Well, I guess they already are. Apparently he has been communicating with a girl, mostly via text messaging, who is a friend of a cousin of a girl in his class. Or something like that. Anyway, he wanted to know if he could go to her homecoming dance with her; her mom would drive. I asked what school she went to, and he wasn't really sure. He tried to put me on the phone with her mom last night, but I wasn't ready to be put on the spot like that. I have decided there are too many unknowns to even consider letting him go to the dance, not the least of which is the inherent nature of seventh graders to look unkindly on outsiders.

I am SO not ready for this!

Mr. Attitude is practicing his piano lesson now, and being interrupted by Whiter Biter (the otter chaser) who somehow sneaked inside. Mr. Attitude requested piano lessons this year because he wants to play drums in band when he gets to fifth grade, and you need at least two years of piano to be a percussionist (like Starflower). The piano teacher is the school band director, who is probably the best liked, most dedicated teacher in the whole school. I am glad my kids have these musical opportunities; after all, band was my big thing in high school, and music is a life long all around good thing. We can't live without it.

Speaking of music, I checked out Steve Martin's banjo album, The Crow, from the library. Yes, THAT Steve Martin, wild and crazy guy. Can he ever play the five string! Most of the songs on the album are original compositions, and his life long love of the banjo comes through in every one. Makes me want to sign off the computer and pick up my Deering Goodtime, if I can find the finger picks...kittens have been making them disappear from the table recently...

I was going to go further and deeper, covering topics like scientific skepticism, the meaning of life, and classical Western herbalism, but those all deserve their own posts soon when these ever lengthening nights find me with more time to ponder...that is, if I can get my preteens off the computer...