Sunday, April 29, 2012


It was a wet weekend in St Paul, so after some rousing end of season tennis at Wooddale, I took a road trip north. The clouds and rain ended near Forest Lake and the clouds went away further north, so that the sky in Pengilly was half and half, and also kind of attractive. This photo was snapped in the late afternoon on a walk for exercise and fun on the Mesabi bike trail.

Today's weather was a little brisk, but in an attractive way, with the sun peeking through a cloud cover at least occasionally. The photo shows a creek in the woods near Swan Lake. The leaves are several weeks behind the ones in the Saintly City. And the lilacs (not shown) are barely pushing leaves out through the branches.  The blossoms are weeks away.  The green grass has begun to sprout and grow, but spring up north is still just a puppy.

This is the famous Chateau St Michel in Pengilly, Minnesota. The proprietor, the Pengilly Woman (PW) stands beneath the sign.  It's a place to buy some first rate knitted scarves and a line of photo greeting cards.  Apparently we've gone into business together as suggested by some of my gentle readers.  Now we need a web site and perhaps a catalog of goodies.  And customers.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rainbow Race

The chives are vigorous and very, very green. They sit at the corner of the native grass garden left to me to tend by the Prairie Princess.  They like the cool spring days and get a head start on most of the other plants.  It was a cool day, and a day that portends a possible snow event.  Ideal for chives, I surmise.

In Oslo yesterday 40,000 Norwegians gathered to sing a song that the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Breivik, claimed was Marxist propaganda. They gathered in the square, many with roses in hand, and later marched to the court room where Breivik was being tried for his crimes.  Lillebjorn Nilsen, who translated the song into Norwegian, led the 40,000 people strong crowd in the singing.  It's a Pete Seeger song, "Rainbow Race", and was quite moving to watch and listen.  In your face, Anders Breivik.

The song.  A news article about the event.

Pete Seeger singing "Rainbow Race"

Oslo Harbor last December.  It's close to the place where the event took place, but the season is obviously changed from mid-winter to spring.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lilacs, Still Blooming

I'm trying to get away with three straight days of lilac pictures. It's a short season for lilacs, so I'm pretty sure this can't go on very much longer. I spent much of this bright sun shiny day outdoors doing spring maintenance tasks in PP's native grass garden and the yard in general. The yard looks better and I'm ready to start thinking about planting something in the dirt. It's too early for most veggies, and the weather creatures have predicted slushy snow for Saturday. I hope they're wrong, but after all this is still the North Star State. Maybe I'll just plant flowers this year.

After an active day outside, I went to Wooddale for Thursday night mixed doubles. The permanent time slot is about to expire, but then outdoor season begins in earnest. Jerry and the regular hard core girls were there and we had two pretty good sets and a seven point tiebreaker to end the evening.

 The place that I played tennis tonight, the Fun Zone.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More lilacs

One of the nicest days of the year thus far. Warm enough to play outdoors tennis and also to don some shorts and mow the lawn.

 Before the tennis session at Marie, I stopped by the lilac bush to inhale that lilac perfume. The butterfly that was sucking nectar yesterday - or his cousin - was back supping on the blossoms. Today I managed to get the macro lens to work and got up close and personal.

Incidentally, I remember the lilac bush in Coleraine in our yard there while I was a mere child. I remember the fragrance and the blossoms, and I remember using the leaves of the bush as pseudo money in some of our childish games. There are fond memories connected to lilacs.

After tennis and a short sit down, I decided that I needed to do some yard work. The lawn already needs to be mowed and the various flower and native grass locations needed to be cleared of last year's growth. So I mowed the backyard for the first time of the year. It was sweat inducing, but also pretty satisfying to watch the blades of grass yield to the mower.

 And thus a freshly mowed lawn.

I'm thinking about using my photos and starting a greeting card business with an enterprising woman, if one can be found.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Catching Up

I've been out of blogging mode for a week or so, therefore I'm going to try to catch up with a few of what I think are my better photos. The lilacs in my back yard are in full bloom and are being enjoyed by a single hungry butterfly. They are about a month ahead of last year's schedule which admittedly was a bit late. I blogged with a lilac photo last year on May 23. The arrival of the lilacs is always a welcome time in the spring.

I spent much of last week in the northern part of the state. After the snow melted - about Tuesday- PW and I went on a drive along the North Shore of Lake Superior, partly to visit the spot where we had our high school class trip in 1961. I was hoping to recognize some of the landmarks and to remember the music of the time, music that was played over and over on the Lutsen jukebox. I brought the music with me on iTunes: Ricky Nelson singing "Travelin' Man" and "Hello, Mary Lou." While we walked around the property we encountered a small herd of deer. I was able to get a photo of the white tailed deer cautiously grazing at Lutsen Resort while we stood and watched.

We decided to go to some of the various state parks in the area.  PW promised that we could see the Devil's Kettle, a very curious feature of the Brule River.  The river branches in a part of the rapids and one of the branches disappears into a pothole and just goes away.  They've looked for the outlet of the stream, but haven't yet found it.  Unfortunately the water was pretty high and it overflowed the pothole enough that the disappearance of the water was not particularly obvious.  There are photos elsewhere on the web which depict the falls when the water is in less abundant supply.

This is Upper Falls not far from the Devil's Kettle in the Brule River in Judge C.R Magney State Park south of Hovland, Minnesota.  The volume of water seems pretty large.

We also spent a little time in Hovland, a tiny community north of Grand Marais, where I spent a couple of years as a toddler in the 1940's.  As expected, I didn't recognize a single landmark there, nor did we buy any smoked ciscos from any of the stores in the area - an oversight which I plan to correct next time I'm in the area.

We also visited Cascade River State Park.  It was a cloudy day, in fact it rained most of the morning, so we were very much alone in the park - except for some animals and maybe a park ranger or two.   This is a fairly dramatic rapids running through a gorge in the Cascade River in Cascade River State Park.

The Temperance River goes under highway 61 a few miles south of Lutsen. The rapids through the gorge are part of one of the six state parks along the north shore of Lake Superior, north of Two Harbors.

Back in the big city we paid a visit to one of my favorite Minneapolis sites: Minnehaha Falls, this time on an April morning, atime when it's in sunlight.

Following the creek down towards the river is always a nice trek.  It was a sunny day and the water was flowing, albeit a bit low for a spring flow, especially compared to last year's flood.  The animals have been active, including a family of beavers.  I caught tree reflections in a beaver dam in Minnehaha Creek on its meander below the falls to the Mississippi.

I guess that means I'm pretty well caught up with my postings, so I can try to get back to a more normal frequency.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A soft sell

The weird weather season continues. This is one of the reasons I don't live in the northern regions of Minnesota. When it flurries in St Paul, seven inches of snow falls on the Iron Range. While it makes the vistas very pretty, it also makes travel and most forms of exercise quite difficult. By Wednesday this new snow fall will have melted and will be flowing into the lakes and rivers of the region. And for a couple of days, at least, the threat of grass fires will be very close to nil. These snow covered trees stand near Swan Lake in Pengilly. I think they could be considered native vegetation. They look pretty comfortable with a white robe of snow.

Cars buried by the seven inches of overnight snow. The snow also took out the internet and cable TV for a couple of hours this morning, but all is back to normal now.

Yesterday PW and I went to Keewatin to visit some property that she owns there. On the way out of town, on a crisp spring day we saw a group of three seven or eight year old kids with a stand selling something. I'm familiar with kids selling kool-aid at stands. Unky Herb and the Prairie Princess did that very thing at about the same age. Keewatin is a small town - maybe 1500 residents - and there is very little traffic through the town, especially on the side street where the stand stood. I think that they probably had not had a single sale since they set up the stand. PW thought they may be selling hot chocolate or some other consumable, and she likes to encourage entrepreneur activities in kids, so she suggested that we stop. She went to talk to them and after a few minutes came back to the car with a purchase. It turns out that they were selling water balloons. Mini water balloons. For three dollars she was able to buy a bagful of them. A dollar for each kid and a chance for each to go home with a buck and to get out of the cold. Money probably well spent.

Mini water balloons. Car keys for scale. I'm not sure what she plans to do with them. I think maybe she'll make a center piece for her book club meeting.

Tomorrow is the national day of paying the government what we think we owe in taxes. Mine are in and I await confirmation that I indeed agree with the government as to the amount that consists of my share of the cost of running this large country. I wish good calculating to those still in the throes of the process.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pengilly Golf Course

It was a beautiful day on the Iron Range, so the PW and I went for a walk on the golf course. I didn't play golf or even swing a club, but it was nice to see the green grass on the fairways and greens. Green greens, there's a concept. And the club had some quite interesting benches to add to the collection of sporadically displayed benches on this blog. The course is only nine holes so there were only about nine benches. This one was on the tee at the second hole.

Another bench, about the seventh hole.

And then there was this sign where the golf carts have just crossed a creek. "Scatter." Just advice, I suspect.

It was a day in the seventies even this far north, but the weather creatures promise snow on Monday. The rascals.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Cruelest Month

"April is the cruelest month." Or at least that's what T.S. Eliot wrote in "The Wasteland" and today was another example. After the tease of a very warm March, this Friday the thirteenth of April was raw and windy. It started out with such promise, but turned to rain and dank. I took this photo of a blooming crab apple tree yesterday at Linwood Park when it was sunny.  At least these blossoms haven't been visibly harmed by the two straight days of morning frost.

But after stumbling though the morning and having a healthy lunch of turkey burger and home made soup, at least I had tennis with the geezers to occupy the afternoon. We played later than normal to allow one the guys, who had to teach a class, to be able to play, otherwise we would have been down to just three geezers. We played inside at Fort Snelling, so we weren't much affected by the wind and rain. We wedged two pretty good quality sets into the ninety minutes on Court eight - 6-2, 5-7. As we left the courts we saw the women tennis teams from St Kate's and Hamline begin a scheduled match that had apparently been moved inside. I didn't recognize the Hamline uniform colors right away, not until I read the name on the shirts. The old college colors from my days on the men's team were cherry and gray, and now they are a kind of cranberry and another version of gray. Also, their uniforms are a lot nicer than what we wore for matches. We had polo shirts. I guess the extra money for tuition to attend that institution must go for something. Why not better threads for the teams? [The tuition when I started there in 1961 was $700 a year]

More of "The Wasteland":

"APRIL is the cruellest month,
breeding Lilacs out of the dead land,
mixing Memory and desire,
stirring Dull roots with spring rain."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kite eating tree

A second straight day of morning freeze didn't seem to faze most of the area flowers and plants. These daffodils, early bloomers, continue to bloom.

I took an early evening walk around Linwood Park. The park was busy with walkers and frisbee players enjoying the cool April sunlight. This view encompasses not one, but two, kite eating trees at Linwood. I guess the last few windy days got quite a few kiters out to the park, I guess to feed the hungry trees.

It was a tennis day inside at Fort Snelling. It's been interesting as Tennis Dennis tries to return to the court after a bout with a detached retina. He's doing pretty well and healing pretty fast for a guy just past 70. We, the geezers, played a couple of 6-3 sets of pretty good doubles. I guess he exemplifies my feeling that you have to keep playing, even if your body complains about it, because if you don't, you'll rue the day you quit. And I don't want to rue the day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wind chill returns

After a March like the one we had, it seemed inevitable that we'd get some cold weather, too. Today was a part of Mother Nature's revenge. While it did get to 43 degrees in St Paul, we had to suffer through some sub freezing weather overnight and a return of wind chill here in tundra city. After waiting out the cold, I decided to have a walk over by the park and see if I could get a photo of the second of two solar collector/chargers there.  This one is next to McMurray Athletic Fields and appears ready to use.  I think you would need a car with the correct electrical connections and probably a credit card.  I haven't seen a car using the charger as of yet, but it's purported to be a free service.

A closer view at the business end of the solar charger.

After a walk through the park, looking for frost damage and finding none, I walked towards the zoo and conservatory.  There are some daffodils blooming outside, but they are puny compared to the  fragrant flowers inside the glass building.  The current flower show at Marjorie McNeeley Conservatory is still the spring flower show, but they've changed the flowers to these.

One of the white lilies in the Sunken Garden at the far end in the photo above.

Earlier in the day I noticed a couple of parking spots for Nice Ride Minnesota, a project to supply temporary bikes for use in my part of town. There was a station at Lexington and Grand, another at Kowalskis and a third at Macalester College.  With these you do need a subscription ($65 for the year or $6 a day) and a credit card for I.D.  You can check a bike out for 30 minutes at a time for no extra charge.  I didn't get a photo, but maybe next time.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring retreats

We've had amazing weather all year, so I guess it's okay to get a little cold and wind. I walked around Como this afternoon, in the "heat" of the day. It was 45 with a wind chill in the teens. But the sun was out sporadically and the trees continued to blossom. This little tree in the photo is a recent planting and has almost purple blossoms. If it freezes in the next couple of days, as the weather creatures predict, it'll be interesting to see what happens to the blossoms. There's always something to wonder about.

It's the April birthday season. So many birthdays, so little time. Happy birthday to anyone I forgot to congratulate. I know Unky Herb and the Prairie Princess gained another notch in their age, as did some others who are less likely to want attention drawn to the event.

Spring outdoor tennis has not yet erupted. At least in my schedule. I still have indoor permanent court time until May, but given a day in the 70's, I think I'll be outside hitting forehands and backhands.