Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Gearing Up for Green Up

On Tuesday, I joined some neighbors and friends to help unload trees for the Gunflint Green Up weekend. We met up at the Seagull Guard Station and waited for the truck to arrive and for the work to begin. It wasn't long before a large roll-off trailer opened up to reveal this view of tree seedlings. Thousands of little red pines, waiting to be unloaded, and soon to be planted into our neck of the woods.

We got to work, forming a line of workers, similar to a bucket brigade. While two fellows unloaded, we passed them down the line, and then they were placed on to the ground in a shady area.

Somewhere along the way of their journey from nursery to the Gunflint Trail, they encountered snow. That added a fair amount of weight to each styrofoam flat. Since we had temps near fifty today, I'm hoping that it melted the snow off of them, and warmed them up a bit for Saturday's planting.

Tomorrow I am going to town to pick up our own batch of trees, courtesy of Hedstrom's Lumber company. Next week, we'll be planting in our backyard, then chasing the deer away so they do not eat the tender little trees. I think that the deer consider them to be like baby lettuces, a feast just waiting for them. We try to make up for the deer activity by countering with sheer numbers. I don't know who is ahead, but we'll keep on trying.

The ice is still with us....If it hadn't gotten so cold and snowy last weekend, it might have been a better picture by now. Even the smaller lakes are hanging on tight. We will keep you posted here on the progress. It might not seem like it, but melting is occuring even when the temps are cool. I can hear sounds from the ice, especially where snowmelt is running off from the shore. That's warm water flowing into the lake, and that is helping. We're getting there.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Woodpeckers Everywhere!

Wood peckers are in abundance lately. While out feeding the donkeys one morning, Greg saw a pileated woodpecker up near the pasture. When I stepped out on the back porch, I saw one fly overhead, and then heard it call to another. Greg also saw a downy, one of the smallest woodpeckers, working on the wood of the bell tower. This little guy joins the big red-headed woodpecker that came home with us from Montana a few years ago. That large one lives year-round on the side of the tower. The fellow who makes him and all of his relatives has a woodshop in the small town of Ryegate . Greg read about this man in a book about the things one finds on the back roads, and he wanted to stop by to buy a woodpecker from him. His name is Earl, and his woodpecker cutouts are fairly distinct. After purchasing our first one, we traveled on and began to notice that several other folks had done the same. Those red-headed cutouts were spotted on homes, barns and fences within several miles of this small town.

On subsequent trips out west, we�ve stopped and purchased two other woodpeckers from Earl. These, too, have migrated back to Minnesota with us, and have found new homes. When Greg saw the downy woodpecker on the bell tower, he knew that Earl�s bird wouldn�t mind sharing the territory.

Another bird of the same family that I watch for each year is the yellow-bellied sapsucker. Just saying that name out loud is fun! For several years, one of these little guys would make his way back to Heston�s Lodge, and would start to peck on an old piece of plywood that was nailed to a tree. That plywood served as the back board for a thermometer that eventually broke and fell off the tree. The board remained, and that yellow-bellied sapsucker loved to tackle it as a personal project each spring. I would first notice it by the sound it makes when pecking�.It starts off with a regular cadence, but then peters out with an irregular pattern. For that reason, it is easy for my mind to recognize it, even when I am not actively listening for it. Sometime in the last year, the board finally got pulled off of the tree. I think that I heard the bird the other day, but I have yet to see it. I guess we should have left that board in place for a while longer. If for no other reason, it served the purpose of letting me spot my annual sapsucker.

If At First You Don't Succeed....

...try and try again to have spring come. I've lost count as to which attempt at spring we are on. One friend on Saturday night said that he was trying to adjust to his third winter in six months. This one really does seem endless, but in true Minnesota fashion, we can always find someplace that had it worse. When I talked to Paul on Saturday, he said that they had received between six and twelve inches in western Minnesota. Makes our dusting look great. I think the most challenging part was to see it snowing so often over the weekend. The ground melted most of it through the day, but it was getting difficult to remain cheerful while seeing so many flakes in the air.

We did have some honest-to-goodness seasonal weather a week ago, enough so to prompt us to take a picnic up to the end of the trail. The snow didn't let us drive the full campground loop, but we were able to walk into a site and enjoy our favorite picnic foods. We will be there this coming weekend, too, as this is the area that we have been assigned for planting trees during the Gunflint Green-Up. Greg has been planting trees since I first met him, and our kids have grown up knowing that each year, they will have a quota of trees to plant on our property. It's been very satisfying to see these trees grow up. We look forward to planting in the forest, this time around, and then to watching these trees in years to come.

A trip to Trail's End wouldn't be complete without a hike in to check on the river. It was roaring! The recent snow and rains have brought lots of run-off water to the river, and it is a fun sight to see. We watched for walleyes swimming upstream to spawn, but didn't find any. A few ducks were swimming at the mouth of the river, where a large area was ice-free.

This is a shot of the river from April of 2007, when Greg and I went up there. I still had a walking cast on my foot, so I didn't do much hiking around. The water level was down last year, so Greg was able to do a lot of rock-hopping on the river.

And finally, a view from April of 2006.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Is it for you travel alone?

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I read now an interesting article where a male-traveller tells about so many good things that is possible to learn if travelling alown. Between these things are responsability, self-reliance, indipendence, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual growth, care for their own self, learns how to love itself...

Maybe I'm not right and my friends-males that read this blog will not agree with me, but I think it can be written only by a male, this list. Because female have to learn all this without travelling. Maybe I'm not right.

I had to travel alown all my life and do it mostly alown today too. Because my husband has not interest for this. So from my experience traveling alown is sad. First. A partner can give you necessary help in some cases (one goes to ask for information, other remains with a car in a place where it's unpossible to leave a car, for example). Finally, for a woman it can be dangerous (in some cases a simple presence of a man nearby can protect from bad conseguences).

Travelling alone is good too. You can do what you want, plan your trip without problems related on other person. ecc ecc
But if you do it always, it's sad.
My opinion.

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Smoldering Trestle

Well, here it is eleven months later, and the Ham Lake Fire is still burning. Just a small part, but it will become worrisome if it isn't out by summer. There is an old railroad trestle that the Pigeon River Lumber Company built by laying logs across a ravine, just northeast of Bridal Falls. It was perhaps 200 feet long and 15 to 20 feet high. Just solid logs. They spread gravel on it to fill the gaps, then laid ties and tracks. Most of the track was later pulled up, maybe to be used again, or maybe just scrapped. I don't know, but I remember hiking there as a kid, and seeing some pieces of track near the south end. The trestle has served mostly as a snowmobile trail in recent years.

Then, last May, it caught fire. Smoldered, mostly. And it smolders still. Parts of it will jump into flame now and again. We visited it several times this winter and it was fun to see the plumes of steam and smoke amongst all the snow. Even the gravel was hot. The U. S. Forest Service finally decided they would blow it up to get at the hot spots. It seemed to help some, but it's still not out.
Recently, our neighbor John and I took our ski-doos down to check out how it looked all blown up. It looks mostly the same. But there were some exposed areas of burning log that perfectly resembled small ovens. Two days later, with these ovens in mind, Barb and I rode back to the trestle with a pack of bratwurst.

When we arrived, the sky was full of ravens and eagles. There was a kill just to the west, and the birds were pretty intent on cleaning it up. Two of the eagles chased each other, chirping and whooshing by. Every so often, the lower one would flip onto its back, talons extended. Then they would seperate and come back together. Eventually, they tired of this and lit on trees to contemplate their meal, or maybe just to rest.

We hiked across the trestle. After carving some forked sticks, we roasted up several brats until they blistered, then stood around the smoking trestle enjoying our lunch. Because of this stubborn remnant, the Ham Lake Fire is the longest burning wildfire in Minnesota's history.

It was also one of the coolest places to have a weenie-roast I'll ever see.

Friday, 18 April 2008

It's an Otter's Life

The possibility of a March blizzard that I mentioned last month ended up to be an April one....actually two. On Sunday, April 6, Greg measured a total of eighteen inches of new snowfall. The following Friday, April 11, we got five more inches. Naturally we ask ourselves, where was this in February? Nonetheless, we are always happy for the added moisture. This meant that we were still in the firm grip of winter, and so there was still time for snow-related activities. Here is an account of one of Greg's recent adventures:

We have a neighbor down the lake whom I've known for 35 years. We were young teenagers when we first met, at a homeowners' picnic. John challenged me to a rock skipping contest within four minutes of being introduced. In the winter, we would go sledding, climbing the steepest and longest hills that we could find, and then racing to the bottom. We'd do this over and over, trying to run the other off the trail. It was always the same with skiing, too, and sledding behind pick-up trucks.

John is always game for an adventure, and one day last week, he asked if I wanted to take the snow machines out for an evening ride through the 18" of wet snow that had just fallen. I agreed, and after two hours of riding and exploring, we found ourselves standing on the Enzenhauer Bridge. We washed down some cashews with winter ale, while watching an otter work its way toward us. The river was mostly frozen over, but there were plenty of holes where you could see the dark water rushing past. The otter ran a little, then tobboganned on its belly toward one of the holes, and slid smoothly into the current. He popped up at the next hole, periscoped his head in our direction, slid over to another hole, and down into the water again. His sleek body briefly passed through the hole right beneath us. We moved to the other side of the bridge in time to see him climb out and make his way to the next hole, and on and on until he was out of sight down river.

It's something otters seem to really enjoy. I have seen their tracks while grooming ski trails: a few footprints on the level, then sliding tracks all the way down and around some of the switchbacks on the West End Trail. Another time I watched as two otters trudged up a bank on Lanktree Lake, slid down, trudged up, slid down, again and again, like kids on a playground slide.

John would probably tell you that an otter's outlook on life is a good thing to aspire to.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Tip's And Tipping Tips

I was surprized to red this article in

The story begins with you sitting in a cafe in Tokio and preparing to "leaving a healthy 20 percent tip".
I did not know a right word for this practice but it's interesting to understand this other rule to know if you visit other countries. Here are some qoters from the article:
Tipping in Japan and many other Asian countries is simply not a way of life. In fact, it's usually regarded as a vulgar display of wealth and a disregard for the culture. The same can be true in Europe and Latin America ... though not always. And in the United States, of course, tipping is expected (and sometimes demanded).

The expectation is to tip not only big but also often, from the kid handing you a Venti coffee at Starbucks to the multiple hotel hands that rush to open doors, carry bags, and offer an escort to the hotel room. (in US)

If you're taking a taxi in Chile or New Zealand, for example, the driver won't give you the evil eye if you don't tip -- it's not expected

In many European countries, this charge averages 10 percent, but it's usually included in the price of a meal. If it is, then do as the European do, and leave a few extra coins or round up the bill... And if you're heading to Fiji, Malaysia, or South Korea, be aware that no tip is required in restaurants.
I don't know about the high cost places in Italy, but in the normal life I rarely see that somebody wants a tip.
In bar you can lieve coins to the barist or put them in a special piggy bank -you can, but it's not obligatory and nobody will say you anything if you did not do it.
In some restaurants you can find 1 euro for service in the bill, but not in all of them.
There are sooooo many bars and different pizzerias and similar now, that they are happy if they have somebody that comes to eat there.

The only place where you will be forced to give tip is the toilet. Specially those in autostrada, McDonalds and similar. If you have not coins, don't go there. In autostrada look for t in filling station, not in Autogril. And be careful, there are persons that want money for parking.

Most parkings in the cities have illegal persons that want money. It's better to pay. For you, for your car and sometimes for your life. If you have not 2-3 euro to give him for place (sometimes less) it's better if you look for other parking.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Bideford Park

Time to get out in the sunshine again. My children had friends round this afternoon so I loaded them all in the car and took them down to Bideford because a) it really is the best park around and b) its the only park with a Hockings Ice Cream Van right outside!

There are two children's play areas (the one shown says for 4-8 year olds on the gate but it didn't stop the older ones from going in) and they all ran wildly from one to the other to play leaving me out of breath somewhere in between the two trying to keep up. There are slides outside the play areas, grassy banks to roll down, the fort and cannons to play on, and thats without even going near the paddling pool mentioned in a previous post - it was too cold for that today.

When they'd exhausted themselves we found a sheltered spot to eat our ice-creams in. Yum, the first one of the year, now I know summer is on its way!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The Gnome Reserve

Out in the middle of nowhere, between West Putford and Bradworthy you will find The Gnome Reserve. Started 30 years ago in the owners garden the gnomes have grown and grown in number and the publicity likewise. �2.95 will get you entry, �2.50 for children. It seems a little over priced to me for what is essentially a walk round someones garden, but the children seemed to like the hour we spent in the spring sunshine.

One area of the 4 acre grounds is the designated gnome reserve where over 1000 gnomes live and can be seen engaged in activities such as the traditional fishing, to playing instruments, flying helicopters and even going to the toilet. To enter this area visitors are encouraged to wear the 'almost compulsory' gnome hats that can be picked up in the admissions area. My oldest daughter asked, "Do you think she washes the hats?" I should state at this point that I was quite prepared to leave my oldest daughter at home, thinking that this was not the place a teenager would be interested in, but as soon as she found out where we were going she was dead keen to come too. Who would have thought?
The other part of the grounds was the wild flower garden. We were given a quiz to answer as we went around which involved counting fairies amongst other things. There are not so many of these, but we had fun counting, although we seemed to count more than there actually were.
We stayed for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. The children had fun playing on the grass. Then we made our way back home. I went today with my dad and was glad he came along, not just for the company but also to give directions. It's not the easiest place in the world to find. Watch out for little gnomes pointing the way planted in the hedgerows on white card.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Lambing at Kipscombe Farm

We ventured out today on possibly THE coldest day of the year to visit Kipscombe Farm. This is a National Trust property and, as a working farm, was open only for today as a free event.

We met in a car park on Exmoor (the lady I booked with over the phone gave me the grid reference but we found it more by luck than judgement, having been given only the vague direction that it was just outside Lynmouth) and climbed out of the car into a howling northly wind that made the outside temperature feel artic. Our guide led us down into a valley that was a tiny bit more sheltered, but only a tiny bit as the farm was built overlooking the sea. It did ofter fantastic views of the Bristol Channel and over into Wales, you could even see the snow on the Brecon Beacons.

Our tour took us into the sheep barn where we met the farmer who was very informative about the ins and outs of breeding and lambing sheep. He had been up at three that morning as several lambs were being born then. We were lured here today by the guidebook's promise that it may be possible to witness lambs being born whilst on the farm. The farmer showed us a sheep he thought might be about to lamb, but nothing transpired so we continued the tour, looking into the cow shed and walking over the fields to see more sheep and thier newly born lambs, becoming ever more frozen as the minutes ticked by.

Back in the sheep barn the children were allowed to hold some of the lambs that had been born that morning, which they loved, although my littlest one was quite surprised at how heavy they were. Another sheep went into labour and was ushered into her own private pen - with about twenty onlookers all holding thier breath. We waited, and waited.... Sheep labour, it appears, it akin to human labour, it just goes on and on. So eventually we could stand the cold no longer and decided to give up and head for somewhere out of the weather serving hot chocolates.

It was a shame, all of us wanted to see the sheep have its lamb, but the elements defeated us. If only they'd served hot drinks we might just have made it. Six hours and later my nose is only just returning to normal.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Traditional Italian Meal

If you visit my blog "Animals as Friends" you read my reports from agricultural show in Bastia Umbra ( A Mann And A Bull, Italian Cattle Breeds and will come others)

Now, here I wanted to tell you about one traditional Italian course.

Italians from North and Sud can love one other as Kosovo and Serbia, but there is a thing that unites all parts of Italy better as Garibaldi. And it's "Pan'ino". One of the best it's ingredients is "Porch'etta". What mean these words you can see on my photos and you'll not need explanations.

"Panino" you can buy in many little shops every day. Workers eat them during their morning-break. There are special shops that sell only "panino" and there are auto-shops that come in the squares only on Sundays. Here, in our zone, people go very often in these places after or during Sunday-evening family-walk. It's a part of this walk.

You can choose what you want in your "panino". Normally it means a piece of meat, fried on the grill, and vegetables. Hamburger, sausage or "porchetta" as meat. The vendor prepares panino for your eyes: warms bread, fries meat, adds vegetables and sauce, wraps it in the paper -and your meal is redy. You need only to ad a drink.

The best "porchetta" I've ever ate was always in this show. I think they prepare it once a year and when this show takes part, "porchetta" is very fresh. When you eat it in other months, it's more dry. But I like it fresh, with "juise". Practically it's boiled pork meat. Made in a special way.

There were not much other food manufacturers (hope it's the right word) this year. Here you see cheese, cooked meats and sausages.