Friday, March 30, 2012

Minnesota early spring flowers

The flowers are out early this year. I've previously posted photos of crocuses from various yards in the neighborhood. There are some wild flowers that are blooming in this warmest of all Minnesota Marches. I found these at Crosby Farm park and they were thriving in this early season. These blue flowers, I think, based on an internet image search are wood squills or sometimes called siberian squill. These are also growing in lawns in my part of the city.

These yellow flowers are marsh marigolds. They grow in wetlands and this case very near Upper Lake.

It was a cooler day than it has been lately, but the weekend promises to set some warmth records. Sunday temps may hit 80+ degrees. I guess we're going to stay on this pattern for a while yet.

There was tennis again today. This time at Fort Snelling. I tried some different tactics to retain some energy into the later part of the session - mainly bringing an energy bar with me and eating it after the first set. It seemed to work reasonably well, so I'm going to go with it again tomorrow.

I hope everyone has a lottery ticket for the MegaMillions drawing tonight. I understand that the prize is set at 640 million dollars. I have a ticket, because you can't win without one.  Lightening could strike, although I'm certainly not counting on it.  I just hope that someone I know wins so that I can pester them to share the bounty. [Just kidding.]

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crosby Farm Park trail

After spending much of the morning fighting with tax forms, I took a walk down by the river to clear my head and to get ready for Thursday night tennis. It was about 55 and sunny, so a really nice day in March especially for a stroll in the woods. There weren't many folk about - a runner, a biker, a couple of mushroom hunters, and the guy from the Mosquito Control District testing for larva in Upper Lake. It's been dry, so I hope there weren't many mosquitoes getting ready to emerge from their winter sleep.

The river is low, but also ice free. The trees are beginning to green up, but their leaves do not yet obscure the view of the river.

A trail by the big river. The river is just off to the right. I spent about an hour moseying along the path and then went home for another shot at tax forms. I still have about two weeks before I need to mail them, but it's nice to be near the end of this annual task.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Marjorie McNeely Spring Flower Show

For a March day it was pretty warm and not a trifle windy. The GFTNC was in town, so we decided to take in the spring flower show at the Como Conservatory. It's spring break for some of the schools around, but the attendance at the Sunken Garden wasn't too over whelming. The flowers are always bright and colorful for the shows. This year it seems like the tulips are passed their prime, much like the ones outside. They seem to have been fooled by the early spring and some were about to drop some of their petals. The flower show would then be a stem show, I guess.

I managed to get a photo of a nearly empty of humanity garden. The room also smelled like a very good perfume. Spring flowers at the Conservatory are a treat while we wait for the outside ones to bloom.

Nice flowers in the display.

Some red flowers in the Sunken Garden.

"Play Days", a 1925 sculpture by Harriet Frishmuth, has graced the sunken garden for a good number of years. Earlier this spring they removed it to be cleaned and otherwise restored. They did a good job and now the copper tarnish is gone and they added a protective coat of some kind to keep the tarnish from returning too soon.

"Crest of the Wave," another Harriet Frishmuth sculpture stands in an interior area of the Conservatory. It has yet to be restored, but it seems to have used the same model for its creation.

The show was very impressive and we followed up the visit to the Sunken Garden with a walk around Lake Como. The ice is completely out and the mallards have returned from Ollie's Pond to begin again the circle of life in this city lake.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Winnie the Pooh-less

The GFTNC is in town for the weekend and we decided on a nice spring day to take a walk in the flood plain. At this time last year there were no paths open down there by the two rivers. The water was just too high and the park was closed. This year is a much different year. The paths are open to Pike Island and they are all dry. So we circled the big island on foot - a long, but pleasant trek. Maybe three miles or so.

We walked by this tree that looks like the home of Winnie the Pooh in Three Mile Wood, but there was no bear to be seen. At one time I took a photo of the tree and it was inhabited by the Daughter of Norway. Today she was in the small town of Ås, Norway, not far from Oslo. I talked to her later in the day and she's doing fine and probably misses some of the nature sites in Minnesota.

The gift shop at Ft Snelling State Park in the flood plain is now equipped with solar panels. There seems to be quite a few installations of solar panels going up lately. I think I'll be on the lookout for the new ones as they appear.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Checking In

It's Saturday and the really nice weather continues. It's been a unique March, warm and sunny most of the time. This, I guess, is the upside of global warming. I'm not complaining, just noting. The trees outside the front door are budding furiously, like they know that it's going to freeze again and they want to get some leaves out there before it freezes back into winter. The tree in the center is an ash tree, one of those ash trees that are likely to succumb to the Emerald Ash beetle. The city has started to cut down even healthy ash trees in anticipation of the coming plague. I plan to enjoy the ashes until they pass from this street like the elms did back in the 1970's.

The grass is greener than any March that I can remember. The back yard is ready for some maintenance, maybe some raking and then a tomato plant or two. It seems too early to get too excited about lawn mowing.

I played some tennis this morning at Wooddale. I think we could have gone outside for the session, but we have permanent time inside, and what the heck, there's no wind in there - the FunZone, they call it. We had two competitive sets, topped by a 7-6 set decided by a seven-point tiebreaker just before our time ran out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The snow is gone

Almost all the snow in this part of the state has melted - ten days above 75 usually will do that, even in March. I was able to find just a trace of snowy ice over by Minnehaha Falls this afternoon. If you look closely to the left of the water falls there is a patch of lonely looking snow.

I like to take a walk in the middle of the day, and today, after a hard rain overnight, it seemed like a good idea to see how much water was falling off the edge of the falls. It was quite a torrent, and quite a bit more than last time I was there when it was nearly dry. I walked all the way down to the Mississippi and back to watch the creek as it flowed inside its banks. The big river is dirty this time of year. It seems to pick up muck and garbage as it flows because of the higher water caused by the melting snow. The greening of the vegetation is beginning, but it's a long ways from the raging greens of May.

 The creek on the way to the Mississippi River.

More tennis tomorrow. My three days of rest are nearly done.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The day after the ides of March

The strangely warm March continues. Today broke a high temperature record for March 16 by 7 degrees, reaching 79 in the Saintly City. And tomorrow promises more of the same for St Patty's Day, a big event in St Paul where there is a big parade and nearly everyone claims at least some Irish ancestry.  I'm not complaining about the warmth yet. If this is indeed global warming, this part of it is welcome in these parts.

Because it was a really nice day, and because the girl from the north country (GFTNC) was in town, we took the opportunity to circumnavigate Como Lake. We were joined by a large number of the diverse population of the Capitol City. The lake has not lost quite all of its ice, but what's left in the central part of the lake is really just slush with maybe a few chunks. The ice out date is very near at hand.

There is a new feature at Como Park, a charging station for electric cars. It's solar powered and thus will not be connected to the grid. The charge is free for any electric cars in the area in need of a charge, paid for by the tax payers of St Paul. No need to thank me. You are welcome. I guess the idea is to encourage people from a fair distance to come to Como without fear of running out of juice for the ride home. I'll be watching after it opens (next week sometime) to see if it's being put to use.

There is some cycling content in today's blog. As we were walking near the pavilion, I noticed an object about 50 feet from shore. After some examination, it appears to be a bike seat. It doesn't seem to have a bike attached to the seat, but I could be wrong. I wasn't about to walk out onto the ice to see what's attached.

Does it or does it not look like a bike seat?

Not bicycling but at least cycling content. It was a nice enough day to attract a guy on a unicycle to come out and repeatedly circle the lake. He was getting exercise or maybe just showing off, but it was a nice addition to a good people watching day by the lake.

And I played some tennis inside today at Ft. Snelling with three other codgers. There are indications that we may be moving the game outside next week, but only if this string of beautiful warm days continues into next Wednesday. The weather creatures seem to think that it is well within the realm of possibility.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Day after Pie Day

I'm sorry to admit that I forgot completely about π day (pie day). March 14 has come and gone without so much as a slice of key lime or apple crunch pie filling my pie hole (π hole??). I am truly sorry.

 It's too early for this, but the crocuses refused to stay in the ground when there is this much warmth in the atmosphere. These were sticking their heads up in one of my neighbors lawns, unaware that it is still only the ides of March. "Beware," says I.

It was down to about 63 degrees as a high temperature today, mostly because we had some clouds, but the weekend promises to be another set of record breakers.

 The walk around the neighborhood revealed some other blooms, too. There were even some purplish crocuses raising their heads through the dried leaves.

These tennis players were playing outside for the first time of the season. At least it's the first time I saw anyone smacking balls at the Linwood tennis courts since sometime last October.

I, myself, went inside for tennis today at Wooddale. Since we play at 6:30, we needed the artificial lights much more than the heating system in this most strange March. I played two and a fraction of mixed doubles, splitting the sets and enjoying the opportunity to compete an this very appealing activity - especially for a guy who was born during World War II.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Old dogs, no new tricks

It's rainy today. Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. Actually the skein of really nice days has been invigorating, and the weather guys promise that it'll continue tomorrow through the end of the week or longer.

Yesterday was nicer. I was able to visit Banning State Park near Sandstone. The Pengilly Woman (PW) and I arrived at the park in the afternoon and walked along the Kettle River and associated rapids. She brought along her Beagle, Maggie, an old dog who needs no new tricks. The snow was still in evidence, but the park trails were slushy and sometimes muddy. The wildlife that I almost always see at Ft Snelling State Park, namely white tailed deer, were not to be seen. The skies were clear and even that far north the temperatures got to 66. A most unusual day in an unusual winter(?).

Banning's main attractions are the rapids and a waterfall that attract kayakers in the summer, and an old abandoned stone quarry.

PW's dog, Maggie, is a 16 years old beagle. That's a seriously old dog. The oldest dog ever authenticated, at least according to Wikipedia, was Bluey, a 29 year 5 month old Australian cattle dog.  Beagles usually live to about 13.3 years, so Maggie is doing very well.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Deer me, it was more than 63

It was supposed to be warm today. Fifty-nine the weather geeks were predicting. When all the winnings were counted it actually topped out at 66 here in the Saintly City, beating the all time record for high temperature on March 10 by five degrees. It's just weather, but it has been warm all winter and this is the cherry on the cake. After Saturday morning tennis at Wooddale, I came home and had some lunch. Unky Herb was around, but he had other plans and when I suggested a walk at Pike Island to try to get some deer photos, he demurred. It was too nice a day to miss a walk in the woods and try to track down the large deer herd that infests the island in the Mississippi River below Fort Snelling. So I took my telephoto lens and went for a hike. Unsurprisingly, I was not the only person with the same idea. It was as crowded a day as I've seen in that state park - families and couples, and a few guys with big lenses hunting the deer.

As I walked along one of the hiking trails on Pike Island I encountered two young women headed for the northern tip. They stopped me and asked where Pike Island was, and I had to tell them that were on it and had been for about half a mile. They were pleased and continued north.

The deer herd is pretty numerous in the park. There were two different groups that I encountered, both had as many as fifteen deer walking together and munching on dry vegetation. They were not easily spooked today either. I guess with that many people in the park and none with firearms they weren't frightened for their lives. I was able to get quite close to both groups and snapped off 111 photos. I have edited quite a few into oblivion, but a few turned out pretty well. I liked especially a pair of deer who were staying together - perhaps mates. The buck had only half of his antler rack still on his head, but he still looked reasonably majestic. I stood on a muddy trail and took about 60 photos of their interactions.

As I watched the doe came close to the buck and she nuzzled his neck and his ear. Perhaps it was a grooming move, but it looked like real affection. Here is the best photo of the doe seemingly getting affectionate.

They walked along together and I caught them looking to the left in unison.

It was a nice day and a nice adventure on the island. It was comparable to another day that I blogged about in November when I was nearly run over by a buck in a hurry.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spring springs early

My car thermometer registered 59 degrees this afternoon in the Saintly City. The mild winter has seemingly given way to an early mild spring. It's a little early to declare spring, but it's tempting. I walked over to Linwood Park this morning before the warmest part of the day. There was still some snow on the ground, but by tomorrow it is likely to be all liquid.

I'm back from my visit to the Sunshine State and am getting used to being home again. My normal tennis routine begins again tomorrow and I'm ready to play again. It's been a week since my two matches in Spring Hill with the old coach, and I'm feeling strong - even without wind behind me. I'm curious to see if the other geezers have recovered from their various injuries and infirmities, and whether they are back on the courts. Tomorrow is a Fort Snelling day.

 Proof that I actually play some tennis. That's me, TT, hitting a forehand in Spring Hill last Wednesday.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Baseball's Back

We went to the Twin's first spring training baseball game today in Fort Myers. The Twins were playing against the team that trains in Port Charlotte, the Tampa Bay Rays. It was 83 degrees in Fort Myers at game time and the announcer also announced the temperature in the Twin Cities, 24 degrees and snowing, he said. We had good seats in the shade and high enough up to have a good view. I took a photo of the first pitch below. Carl Pavanno was pitching, Joe Mauer was catching and Justin Morneau was the first baseman. Both Joe and Justin got a hit and an RBI before leaving in about the fifth inning to be replaced by second team players. It was spring training and thus doesn't really count, but it was nice to see the high-buck stars back on the field together. The Twins won handily 7-3.

Nishioka had a triple and scored twice after entering the game as a replacement at shortstop.

 It must be spring. Baseball is back.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spanish Moss

After we mailed a large box of pine cones back to Minnesota via the USPS, we had a mosey through the ribbon park along the Peace River, or maybe it's Charlotte Harbor. It has been upgraded in the last couple of years and this year I discovered quite a number of artistically painted park benches. Park benches have been a theme on occasion in this blog and Santini's blog, so I took some photos to tide me over on slow days. One of the better ones is pictured at the end of this blog entry. There was good-natured talk between Santini, PW and I as we sauntered along the park trails. At one point PW expressed a wish to be pictured as taller than Santini and since she is about six inches shorter, it took a little camera magic, but I think we got 'er done with this shot.

There is a lot of Spanish moss in the park, and I picked out one which is especially resplendent and took a photo. Spanish moss is not often seen in Minnesota forests, if at all. Here is some Spanish moss hanging from a compliant tree.

And this is one of those really nicely painted benches at the ribbon park along the Peace River.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Peace River Wildlife Center vs Electricity

It was a warm day today in southwest Florida - 83 degrees and no sign of snow drifts, and since we were in the need of a less cluttered day, we waited until the afternoon and took a drive to Punta Gorda and the Peace River Nature Center. It was also theme day for bloggers who care about that sort of thing and the theme "electricity" seemed a little boring, but I looked for some way to connect Juan Ponce de Leon, raptors and mangroves to electricity and came up dry. Nonetheless there were some interesting sights to be seen. This gray heron was  perched on the roof of the raptor center minding his own business as we meandered by. I think he represents pretty well the kind of birds that reside at the raptor center. They mostly have injured birds that are healing from wounds, but there are other smaller creatures and birds - pelicans, terns and even a possum on a tread mill. Not much electric about any of that.

Back at the house of Santini there are flowers and other beautiful bloggable things having very little to do with electricity. For instance, a beautifully hued hibiscus from Santini's neighbor.

The sunsets are really nice here nearly every day. Again, not electric, but very pretty.   Another beautiful Florida sunset from a couple of days ago.

There will be baseball pictures again soon. We're going to see the opening game of spring training on Saturday - Twins vs. Rays at Hammond Stadium in Fort Meyers. I'm hoping to see both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau on the field at the same time - a rare occurrence in last year's unfortunate season.