Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bald Eagle

It rained in the morning, but the day cleared a bit in the afternoon. I went to Como Park to see what sort of landscaping changes are being done this year. The city fathers are planting a lot of trees - many are red maples - to replace the trees that were blown down by the big windstorm two years ago. They seem to do this tree planting every year, but they don't always do a very good job of keeping them watered and thus the survival rate is not high enough.

There were a lot of birds in the park - a red-winged blackbird, mallards, black ducks of some ilk, and the usual array of robbins and grackles. But for the first time that I can remember, I encountered a bald eagle. It was sitting on a branch next to the lake, looking for prey, I assume. It remained there long enough for me to take several photos, this being the best.

The walk around the park took a couple of hours. It's a big park. The butterfly garden is just beginning to show colors of spring flowers. These pretty yellow ones were the most colorful of the lot. It was a little windy, maybe too windy to ride a bike, but for hiking around in the great outside, it was very comfortable.

And there was tennis tonight at Wooddale with the hardcore girls. This was our last night of the indoor season, because USTA women's doubles conflicts with our Thursday slot. Jerry is still out of action, so Pat was a sub. After a couple of close sets the hardcore ladies wanted to play together to get ready for USTA matches, where they play as doubles partners. Pat and I said we'd be glad to play a set. So we did. They promptly won the first two games and things looked bad for the male gender, but we were able to rally and right the ship and eventually eked out a win. But it was another good competitive set and a good end to the indoor season.

Then I went to Yang's for Chinese food.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rained out

It was a rainy day, some may say "a rest day." No tennis, no tooling around on a bicycle. Instead I edited a photo of flowers from yesterday to brighten the grayness of the day.

The Flu

A flea and a fly had the flu
were infected so what could they do
"let us fly" said the flea
"let us flee" sad the fly
but they lived through the scourge of the flu.

[After a poem "Fly" by Ogden Nash]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Short Bike Trek

I had a second consecutive day off from the tennis wars, so it was time for my first bike ride since three I took with Santini in Florida in February. I pumped up the tires, cleared the old data from the computer, and got ready to roll. I stayed in the neighborhood, visiting areas that I have walked to all spring, but now I did it at a faster pace. The trees below are at Linwood Park and show the current state of leaf development. The sky was blue and the temperature a nice brisk 62. My biking season is back in gear.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Two Guvs

It was a kind of brisk day although it did rally to get into the 60's. The Prairie Princess had the day off from her government job, so she organized two of her co-workers to take a bike trip. She decided they would take the Cannon Falls trail from Cannon Falls to Red Wing and back. I suggested that it was way too long for this early in the season, and possibly too chilly. She reminded me that she is 26 and hardcore. So she borrowed my sun glasses and off she went.

I had lunch with some old Cray friends and then went to the state capitol to check out the work ethic of our state leaders, who are currently in session. I watched some debates and voting on amendments in the House chambers. There was a tie vote on one of the amendments having to do with state funding of abortions. That was exciting, but the Speaker broke the tie and and they went on to other details. I had seen enough and went looking for the portraits of my favorite governors. Every governor since statehood has had his portrait painted and hung in the capitol. I have heard that they are now out of room and don't have a place for T. Paw, our current head honcho. He's got another year and a half before this term ends, so they may figure out a place to hang him.

This is Jesse Ventura's portrait, filling the last available spot. He seems to have his hand on a statue of Rodin's Thinker. Jesse liked to think of himself as the thinker. I remember him as The Body.

And Rudy Perpich, the Iron Range guv. He's the only one the former guvs who insisted that his wife be included in the portrait. He maintained that Lola was a big part of his success as a politician and governor.

So the Princess came home tonight. She and the other two women did the 40 miles to Red Wing and back, stopping along the way to photograph wild flowers. She claimed that she did not feel tired and the weather was plenty warm enough along the way. I think she should take her chain saw along the next time she takes the Cannon Trail and wipe out some buck thorn on the way.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Borrowed Prairie Chicken Images

The Prairie Princess borrowed Herb's fancy camera to take these fancy photos of her trip to view the Prairie chicken mating ritual up by Moorhead. She posted these on her Facebook account. I went to look at them but one must belong to Facebook to get to them. I borrowed copies from Herb's iPhoto files, edited a little and am posting these three photos. It seems all legal and proper. I'm not sure who has copyright to the photos, but I'm giving credit to the main photographer - the Prairie Princess. The first is of the self same PP, posed in front of the giant sculpture of a prairie chicken (in full throat) in Rothsay, Minnesota. Folk sculpture is one of my favorite subjects over my blogging days.

These are the real thing - two real male prairie chickens engaged in the territorial conflict prior to finding a female to engage in the mating dance on the prairie. The distinctive mating song is, of course, absent.

And flowers. The state flower of South Dakota is the Pasque flower. Photo by PP. Pasque refers to Passover and Easter, the time of year when the flower blooms. It's also known as the prairie crocus, wind flower and Easter Flower. It was used as a medicinal plant by the native Americans.

It rained today in Minnesota. It was a hard rain, and it came down even harder a couple of times while I was playing tennis at Fort Snelling. It was very loud in in the bubble, so loud that the sound of racket hitting ball was completely drowned out. It made the game change some. It is amazing how much one relies on sound to judge the velocity of a struck ball and thus its trajectory. We finished two sets that would have been impossible outside in the Minnesota monsoon.

And because of the rain, I borrowed these photos from the Princess.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lock and Dam

A nice March spring day in April found me in Minneapolis again. I like Minnehaha Park, so I trekked around it for a couple of hours after the morning tennis test. This is the lock and dam under the Ford Bridge from a spot in the park. Later in the year the tree foliage will make this view disappear, but it was there today. Incidentally, the Minneapolis park board should do something about its buck thorn problem.

I borrowed a satellite view from Google maps to show where the photo was shot. The river, as is usually the case on this blog, was the mighty Mississippi. Minnehaha Falls and the creek to the river are also well depicted. As well as the soon to be closed Ford Plant on the east side of the river, where they have made pick-up trucks for many years.

And there was the tennis. There were two substitute players today bcause regulars were nursing infirmities, but the tennis was crisp and generally competitive. We finished two sets and were well into a third before time expired. It was my fourth consecutive day of tennis ball smacking. I had a short nap this afternoon.

Friday, April 24, 2009


There were two cardinals sitting in the tree outside my window this evening - male and a female. Cardinals are pretty birds and sort of bloggable. I thought I could sneak up on them and get a good photo. So I was wrong. This is the best one I got, but it has been massaged by iPhoto to concentrate on the male as he streaked away from the beast with the camera. Herb says it's kind of arty, so I'm going with it.

This is the original that I edited to get to the above photo. It is really hard to tell that the blur is indeed a cardinal, but I swear that it is.

The tennis part of the day was spent at Fort Snelling again. The crowd there is thinning out as the days get warmer and the sun stays out into late afternoon. We played a long first set, filled with long deuce, ad in, deuce, ad out sequences. It was a fun set and good exercise. We managed only four games the second set, after swapping partners, and quit, as time elapsed at 2-2, deuce. I came home and napped. I have two more dates with tennis madness the next two days before a day off. I love that game.

The Prairie Princess is home tonight. She's playing Final Fantasy 12 and waiting for Herb to come home from a concert. He rode his bike there, so it's not far off, but he'll be doing some night biking coming home.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Saints vs Wolves

It was outright hot today. The first 80 degree day was accompanied by a strong wind, which, I guess, is blowing the warm air out of here tomorrow. Herb and I went to Linwood to see if the prairie grass restoration area on the side hill had been burned. There is a flag at the playground and it was showing the effect of the wind. I am happy that my tennis playing today was confined to indoors at Wooddale. The grass had been burned, or at least partially and the area burned was noticeably greener than the other spaces.

Kids baseball has begun at Linwood. These guys are maybe 10 years old, but they have some quite colorful uniforms. The Saints are in yellow, the guys in blue are the Wolves. [I now notice that none of the Wolves are pictured. They're all off in right field. Sorry.] They were warming up before their game and seemed to be enjoying the warm day, and to a lesser extent, the wind. I didn't stay for the action, but I've seen kids' baseball before, and know that it is mainly of interest to the players families. As it should be.

I played mixed doubles at Wooddale in the evening. I don't have photos, but it was fun, competitive tennis, we played two complete sets, and no one got hurt. It's hard to ask for much more than that on the first day of 80 degree weather for the year.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

It was Earth Day today, and a beautiful day, to boot. I decided to check out Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and see what the prairie restorers have done lately. The trees are still pretty bare, but there is no doubt that the burn crews have been out to burn the old grass on the resurging prairie. Where they burned, the grass is green and lush. The sanctuary is next to the railroad yards and affords a nice view of downtown Saintly City. The view under this big old tree was too nice to pass up.

I found lots of birds. A couple of geese were hanging around Carver's Cave when I arrived so I took their picture. They were pretty tame and remained on their perch while I walked to the end of the park where the fence between the park and the railroad yard ends. On the other side of the fence there was evidence of someone living in the railroad yard. They left their very orange blanket on the ground for the day.

Later this afternoon, I played some outdoor tennis with the usual guys. It was about 60 degrees and a very light wind at Marie Park. We played a couple of sets and worked on getting used to the wind and the sun - necessary evils when you're outside.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Whiskey was a fine horse

Today was the second warmest day of 2009. My car thermometer registered 67, but the TV weather guys were reporting a couple of degrees less. My maple tree in the backyard is beginning to sprout leaves. They are still in the bud stage, but soon they'll be shading the grass and the fresh new pots of prairie grass that PP seeded yesterday. The buds look good against a blue, blue sky.

So I took my act to Fort Snelling and had a trek around Pike Island. The bridge to Pike is accessible, because the mighty Mississippi has receded a bit. The hike around the island is about four miles, and there is plenty of mud on the trails yet. In some places the mud is the trail. I spotted a herd of white-tailed deer flouncing through the mostly bare trees, but they were too fast and too distant to warrant a photo. Maybe next time.

An interesting side story is this grave for a horse named Whiskey near the Fort Snelling Visitor Center at the top of the bluff. It is surrounded by a short white picket fence.

This is what the Minnesota History Center web site has to say about Whiskey:
"U.S. Cavalry horse Whiskey was buried on the fort's grounds in 1943. The trick-performing horse was a popular resident of the fort from the 1920s until his death. Labeled a renegade when he arrived in 1921, Whiskey soon came to the attention of Lt. William Hazelrigg, who spotted the horse's uncanny intelligence. Whiskey was the top horse of the Fort Snelling Blacks polo team and he and Hazelrigg performed widely, including at the Minnesota State Fair. In 1936, at age 25, he was officially retired and lived out his life in leisure in the fort's old cavalry stables with his old performing partners, mules Nat and Snelling. Whiskey's remains, which were in the path of the new light-rail system, were moved to a new location near the Fort Snelling Visitor Center in 2002. Ironically, this location is near the long-gone stables where Whiskey spent his last years."

Who knew that Fort Snelling had a polo team????

Monday, April 13, 2009

April is the cruelest month

I've procrastinated enough. Today, a cloudy day in Minnesota, just a day from the deadline, I finished the dreaded 1040 two-step. There are actually many more than two steps, and I volunteered to do taxes for PP, who, most readers know, spent part of last year in Japan. This means that I gained familiarity with a form known as 2555-EZ. The struggle is done and I have emerged without scars - not a victory, but the task is done. I'll be making a stop at the Post Office tomorrow to deposit the envelopes into the system. The envelopes will be checkless this year - a victory.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Crocus Pocus

It's getting more springlike, and, I might add, it's about time. The crocus bed just outside my back door has come to life. These little lavender cuties just poked their heads above the dirt in the last few days. The arrival of the crocuses is a harbinger of the season to come.

It was Easter today. The Prairie Princess is here to spend the day and to play some Super Mario on the Wii. And we went out for Thai food - not a Christian delicacy, but pretty tasty.

This morning Herb and I went out and hit some tennis balls. I was reminded that guys in their twenties are much quicker than guys in their 60's. We played for a little over an hour in temperatures ranging from 49 to 56 - normally below my requisite tennis temperature, but good enough in April in Minnesota.

PP laughed out loud when I referred to one of Herb's friends as "top drawer", a term I have used in the past to describe a classy individual. It's a term that has apparently been dropped from the acceptable language lexicon. Too bad, because it has a certain old-fashioned charm.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


It was the first day in a long time when the temperature rose to the historical average temperature for the date. It was a nice sunny day. I decided to trek over to the Mississippi River. A student from St Thomas, an Eagle Scout from Eveleth, went missing a couple of days ago and his last known location was by river. He had been drinking and apparently just disappeared. I talked to a St Paul cop about the search and did some free lance searching of my own. The authorities brought in helicopters and boats on the river, but so far, to no avail. They're still looking tonight. I took a picture of the big river near the terminus of Summit Avenue from the top of the bluff. It's a pretty, but dangerous river.

I played tennis again tonight at Wooddale - mixed doubles with the hard core girls. Jerry is out with injury, but with Pat G. playing, the competition was indeed hard core. We managed three sets of tennis, and no one got hurt.

Tomorrow is the 26th birthday of the Prairie Princess. How is that possible? Just yesterday, in a figurative sense, she was playing with her My Little Pony toy horses. Now she wields a chain saw for the Minnesota Conservation Corps.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Yellow on the inside, white outside. Eggs?

The color yellow is not prevalent in Minnesota's April, especially on the first of the month. And that's no fool's joke. But St Paul has the Spring Flower Show at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory over in Como Park. The weather outside was dreary. We suffered some more snow fall, so, in hopes of finding the theme day color - and psychic healing - I took a trip to the Flower Show. These are indoor plants, obviously, but ones that will be growing outside here in the not so distant future. The yellow tulips are growing next to the reflecting pool in the Sunken Garden.

These seem to be daffodils of some ilk against the rock ledge. Amazingly, the predominant color in the show is yellow. There were some whites and reds and oranges, too, but mainly the theme color.
To show what outside was like today, I carefully composed(?) the next photo of the reflecting pool outside the Conservatory building. You can see the fringe of white - snow - on the lawn.

April in the Saintly city. I wonder what the cows are doing over on Cleveland Avenue. And the Tulip Festival can't be that far off either.