Friday, May 30, 2014

One hundred days of blog posts!

I've posted every day for 100 days!  Yay!  When I started I thought I'd make it a week, two weeks, maybe a month, and that I'd never find enough things to write about.  Surprise, surprise!  Good thing I made it to 100 today because tomorrow I may be someplace where there is no wifi, or I can get creative just with my iPhone.  We'll see...

Today's been a busy one from morning to night.  Breakfast at The Port with friends, then home for more mowing--we have a LOT of yard!  Leann spent much of the day trimming around the apple & cherry trees in the orchard, and resetting fencing around some of the smaller trees to keep the deer from chewing off the ends of the branches.  And I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture, because the orchard is BEAUTIFUL!  But next week the apple blossoms should pop, so there will be lots of photos then!

And today our dirt was delivered!
It looks like a lot, but we're going to have help getting it moved to the raised beds.  Leann did load some up in our Ranger UTV--"Cammie"--and moved it to our new 3-level flower bed.  We ordered it online from Home Depot, but we're still not sure what we'll plant in it.  Herbs, for sure, but something else, too.
Having "Cammie" around has been so helpful for hauling stuff around here, and we have fun going back on our trails, too.  Cammie came as a gift from Leann's Mom & Dad a couple years ago.  We had never seriously thought about getting one, but her Dad thought we needed one.  I guess he was right, because we're using it all the time!
A little more dirt and this will be ready to add some plants.
So we spent most of today outside--out in the grass, in the orchard, and late this afternoon we took Cammie up into the meadow on our trails, even going all the way back to the far corner of our property--first time it was dry enough to go all the way.  No trees down over the trails from winter!  So that's a lot of time in the trees, long grass, and the negative consequence of all that "woods" time is...

...yes, wood ticks.  As soon as you sit still for a minute, a faint feeling of movement lets you know you have a wood tick somewhere on you.  These are only about 1/4 inch in size and aren't the more dangerous deer ticks--about the size of the head of a pin.  I've only had this one tonight, but I still feel kind of...itchy!

Happy 100 days!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bread, bluebirds, and taking a break with friends

What with goldfinches, orioles, indigo buntings, and rose-breasted grosbeaks, you'd think we would be satisfied in the bird department.  But a couple kinds were still missing--bluebirds and wrens.  Today was the day for bluebirds though.  They were back today checking out our variety of possible bluebird houses to see if any would suit them this year, and chatting to each other up on the power lines.

And we got some more gardening done today.  The old silo pit from when this was a real farm is a great place for a variety of plants.  Since it already had some milkweeds growing in it, today we adding more of the milkweed seeds that we had "vernalized" back in April.  The seeds have been layered in wet paper towels and kept in the refrigerator until today when they all got planted.  We were pleased to see that none of them had rotted, so maybe it will work and they'll grow!  We also put in some tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and the rest of the Monarch Waystation seeds--zinnias, coneflowers, Indian blankets and a couple others. Still to be planted are the scarlet sage plants that we seeded back in April.  They are still so little and spindly that I question whether they have any future at all!

And just as we finished that project, our friends stopped by with some little flowering tree saplings that they received from an Arbor Day donation.  We sat out on our front porch and watched the bluebirds and the world go by for a little while.  It was a beautiful day!  And we shared some slices of our homemade white bread!?!

The subject of bread machines came up because it was their bread machine bread a couple weeks ago that caused us to think it would be fun to have one.  The bread machine arrived ( last Friday and I tried the first loaf on Saturday.  It was a recipe with rosemary, olive oil--nothing very complicated, but it was lumpy, tasteless and AWFUL!  But there was a lot going on and I couldn't troubleshoot the problem right then.  Yesterday I finally tried it again, but I made the basic, boring white bread.

The crust is a little "crusty" but I'm encouraged to try it again, maybe with a little more exciting list of ingredients!  

Mowing the lawn took up the rest of our day.  By Sunday night we realized that neither of our riding lawn mowers--new or old--were working right.  So our angel-mechanic fixed them both up again and delivered them today.  Leann used the "new-to-us" mower, but she may be the only one to use that.  I think she thinks it's too complicated for me to use.  So I used my tried and true and trusty old one and mowed again what had just been mowed last Saturday.
All those feet of snow this winter must have put lots of good stuff in the ground to grow some powerfully thick grass!

Tomorrow our truckload of composted dirt comes.  Finally!  More to plant!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Compost, cherry blossoms, forget-me-nots...and bones

After our day away yesterday, we felt like we had to hit the grounding running this morning.  Our first task this morning, however, was doing tech support to help Leann's sister get some pictures on her Caring Bridge site.  It's tricky to try to help someone over the phone without being able to see their screen...frustration on both ends of the phone call.  But we got it done!  Starting a Caring Bridge site has been so great for Kristi as she deals with her cancer, and chemo, and all of the stresses that go with that.  It's been a great way to keep her friends and relatives up on what's going on with her.  If you know Kristi or would like to wish her well on her site, please email me and I'll get you the info you need.

So back to the yard work and gardening.  Leann used some composite boards she got from her other sister and made this second compost bin.
Now we can start moving compost from the old one to the new, revealing the "black gold" in the bottom of the old one.  We hope...

Next, we made a trip through the orchard where we saw the trees had tiny beginnings of leaves, with blossoms soon to break through.  And then we saw this...
...the first cherry blossoms.  If you looked at all the buds that will soon open up, you'd think that tree would eventually be LOADED with cherries.  Somehow it never works that way, though.  It would be great if we could keep the temps up above freezing from here on out.  If the blossoms freeze, then no fruit, which was what happened to all our apples and cherries two years ago.  

A couple weeks ago I mentioned in a post that the forget-me-nots would be coming up in our ravine soon.  Well, soon is now and there are blue forget-me-nots all over.  

Unfortunately, they are so little that they don't show up in pictures very well.  I love all the shades of green!

Forget-me-nots and dandelions - that's spring to me!  After the dandelions turn into the stems with seed fluff, I'm not as interested in them!

Hidden in all this long grass and forget-me-nots are some of the rocks that form the outline of the labyrinth we made last fall.  I was going to try mowing the labyrinth for the first time--it's going to be tricky, I'm afraid--but I was reminded that we can't mow the forget-me-nots!  

And finally, the bones.  I looked down and saw this -- part of the jawbone of a deer.  You just have to wonder how things like that show up without the rest of the bones.  And not far from this is the feather evidence of a couple of turkeys.  Hard winter!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An indigo surprise

The day is a blur from driving 200 miles to Leann's hometown in central Minnesota, and back home tonight, for the funeral of a member of her extended family.  

But what's clear is our memory of this indigo bunting that appeared on our bird feeder this morning before we left.  What a surprise to look up and see that!  

We made it a quick trip today because we are going back this weekend for a nephew's wedding happening in the same family.  Sometimes things just don't happen according to anyone's plan.

Short blog...tired!  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Toto, we MUST be in Kansas NOW!

Toto, we must be in Kansas, or anywhere it gets hot, because it certainly didn't feel like Memorial Day in northern Wisconsin today!

Memorial Day here is usually chilly, often rainy, and not the best weather as a summer holidays go.  And I know that sometime last February I may have said I would never complain about warm weather again.  It would just be nice to have one week, tops, between shutting down our heating system and thinking we needed to have the AC on.  And since it WAS just a couple days ago that I finally shut down our geothermal heat, I refused to turn on the air today...even though at last check this afternoon it showed 84˚ IN our house.  Complain, complain, I know.  Never satisfied.

But it was Memorial Day so we went to the cemetery to take care of the geraniums on my parents' and grandparents' graves.  I think I'm one of the last people who use real flowers rather than plastic in the hanging baskets.  But the deer don't seem to bother them, and all it takes is a jug of water once a week to keep them looking nice.

All of the graves of veterans have the medallion next to the marker showing in which war the person served.  And for Memorial Day they add a flag to the medallion.  Then at 11am the American Legion squad, along with the high school band, comes for a short ceremony.  We didn't make it there today, but the picture below is from last never changes very much from year to year.   

This group--American Legion and band--does the same ceremony in three other cemeteries in the course of the morning--Cornucopia, Herbster and Orienta.  Part of the ceremony is to read the names of those buried in that cemetery who served in any of our country's wars since the town was formed.  I heard today that there is only one person still living here in town who served in World War II.

So, we officially feel like it's summer!  Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Quarry Beach fun and let's "Just Dance"

It may be a record for us up here, but we had the first "beach-y" trip to Quarry Beach today, May 25, Memorial Day weekend.  Leann's nephew was satisfied just playing in the sand, but as you can see, some people are in swimming - Lake Superior, May 25 (again), temperature still below 40˚!  Makes my bones ache just thinking about it!  That white stuff in the water is pollen, not ice.  The ice is further down the beach!

After dinner tonight I turned on the Wii, put in the "Just Dance" game and we watched our future dancer rock out!  We had recently watched a video of him in his class music program, and I just knew Wii dancing was going to be the game for him!  He's a natural!  I always have to concentrate on either what the arms OR the feet are doing; he was able to do both and collect lots of points!

What a beautiful day!  I think the temperature got above 80 for the first time and it was a perfect summer day.  Tomorrow is the Memorial Day observance at the cemetery, remembering those from our town, no longer living, who have served in the Armed Forces in past years.  Maybe the rain will hold off until later in the day!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

All day - just going from one thing to the next

Today is Saturday, so it's Dump Day, of course.  A quick trip to the marina and we found that the circle drive was so full of people and cars with boats, that it was almost too crowded to get through.  So the holiday weekend has begun and the fishermen are out on the lake!  It's one of those days when it's 70˚ up at our house and 46˚ down at The Lake, 2 miles away.  You can just feel the cold air from the lake colliding with the warm air coming up from the south.

We put in a few more hours this morning painting the Town Hall pavilion, adding more Town Hall Green to the posts and trim.  We left about noon, but we hear that the painting continued until about 6pm tonight.  That old wood just sucks up the paint, and they had to go buy two more gallons of white paint.  It should be done soon!

Then home to wait for our guests - Leann's Mom, two sisters and nephew.  But first I made a new batch of our granola, seen below.  Oatmeal, slivered almonds, coconut, dried cherries, cranberries, apricots, and honey to bring it all together.  Tastes great with yogurt and all ready for summer guests!
Homemade granola out of the oven and cooling
Leann's family came in her sister's pickup pulling a trailer loaded with a new (to us) riding mower and a new (for real) snowblower for next winter.  No more little city-sized snowblower! Next year we'll be able to make paths all over the farm!  But let's not think about snow anymore for a while.

Then, to our surprise, while using the new mower in our orchard, Leann's sister came back carrying something in her hand.  Morel mushrooms! (we think...)  We have NEVER seen morels ANYWHERE here in Port Wing.  Then they went back to look for more, and found another one.  They weren't very fresh, so we're going to dry them a little and crumble them under the tree where they were found.  Maybe the spores will make more for next that we know they can be found here!

We finished off the night with a campfire and s'mores out in our newly-mown back yard, a gathering that lasted until long after dark.  While we watched the fire, we heard all kinds of "night sounds" - cows bellering on the neighbor's farm, frogs "peeping" in the woods, some kind of wild animal with a high, shrill distressed bark, and even some sirens - kind of a rare sound up here, but maybe not so rare on a big holiday weekend like this.

It was a full day.  We'll see what we can find for fun tomorrow!

Friday, May 23, 2014

The tourists are coming. The tourists are here!

What a great day!  Starting with breakfast with friends at The Port, we filled the rest of the day with Port Wing clean-up projects and tonight we are pleasantly worn out!

On the way home from the restaurant, we noticed that friends J & J were putting up our recently repainted arrow signs.  They look great (in our opinion, of course).  Only one more needs lettering before we put that one up.  We finished off the project by painting the frame white, and it all calls out to tourists saying, "Look at me!" The remaining sign says "Port Wing Marina," but then today we came up with another sign we still need to make.  It will say something like, "Beach & Pier Access."  Otherwise people driving through don't realize we have this great beach just a mile down the road!

When that was done, we moved on to the big project of the day--painting the pavilion next to the Town Hall.  Here's a before:
We were given permission to change the look a little by painting more of the trim green.  Actually, the color is called "Town Hall Green," not the official name, I'm sure.  I know I had a lot of Town Hall Green on my hands, arms and even face by the time we got home this afternoon.
The white gables still have to be painted and also more of the green, but we might get it all done tomorrow.  Here's how it looks so far:
See? The white still has to be painted, but then it will look great!

And here's a picture update.  Remember the field of narcissus/daffodils?  Here's how it looks now:

And, alas, we still have ice in the harbor.  I was talking with our septic guy today and he had been fishing Lake Superior this week.  Water temperature was 36˚!  I don't think that's prime fishing conditions; swimming might happen in July...or August...

But today the air temp was 70 or above, so maybe more days like today can make this ice disappear!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

First harvest and a beautiful day of gardening

Now we can look out our windows and see flowers again!
They just need to grow a little.  We still need to fill in with some more, but we made a good start today.  Flowers on the front porch and back, cherry tomatoes in pots on the deck, and veggies over by the red shed (a.k.a. sugar shack in another season).  Over there we planted more tomatoes, white and red radishes, yellow squash, sunflowers along the west side, and we're trying some seeds for herbs that were packaged in 1996.  Just an experiment...can anything grow from old seeds?  Not heirloom, just old.

And the big news today is that the road weight restrictions are off as of noon tomorrow, so our load of compost/dirt for our raised beds is going to be delivered tomorrow afternoon!  Yes!  So we'll have to fit more gardening in with our other project downtown tomorrow - painting the pavilion next to the Town Hall.  It's not a huge job - three gables painted white and a whole bunch of supporting posts to be painted forest green.  I'm happy there are posts to paint because I won't be up on ladders doing gables.  All part of the "spiff up the town" project.  Pictures to come tomorrow, I'm sure.

And finally, our first (surprise) harvest - asparagus!  It's a surprise because we had no hopes for the pitiful little plants we put in last year and some asparagus seeds we planted last year in the base of the old silo pit.  To our surprise, both the pitiful plants and the seeds grew and produced this year!
Put together with some other vegetables and we had stir-fry tonight!  And I guess we also harvested rhubarb today, but that was a given for spring in the north.  So I made a rhubarb/strawberry crisp tonight.  Yum!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Birdbrains or Mary Moments

This year our yard is just teeming with birds, especially the last few days.  I'm not sure why it would be different this year than last, but perhaps the cooler temperatures are keeping them around here rather than going on north.  We have 4 pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks, DOZENS of goldfinches, purple finches, 8-10 blue jays that maybe just hatched(?), the orioles, and all varieties of little brown birds.  All of those goldfinches streaking back and forth from the feeders to the trees is really something to see.  

And I could never accuse them of being "bird brains," because that's what I was--twice--last weekend.  But first I had to look up the origin of "bird brains,"
"A bird brain is an individual who seems to have difficulty focusing on the events that are occurring in the immediate area, or to participate in them in any logical manner. Sometimes used as a designation for someone who is esteemed to be somewhat stupid or ignorant, this idiom can also refer to someone who is known to exhibit a short attention span, especially as is relates to carrying on a conversation. A bird brain is often considered flighty and may even be thought of as slightly self-centered, owing to the sudden tangents that may take place during an attempt at conversations. 
The exact origin of the English saying is lost to history. While references in the literature and media during the 20th century made ample use of the phrase, there are those who trace the origins back several centuries. In general, the term is thought to be applicable whenever an individual exhibits some of the aspects associated with birds, such as quickly landing in an area, jumping about and then just as quickly taking off for another destination. The reference has to do with the small size of a bird’s brain, indicating that the human who is identified with this label is operating on little to no brain power." 
My first lack-of-focus moment happened just after we got back in the car after stopping at the Belvidere Oasis on the Illinois Tollway.  "Where's my phone?"  It wasn't anywhere--not in pockets, purse, car console, nowhere.  I tried to remember what I was going to have to do to "Find my phone" and knew I'd have to get on my computer someplace that had Wifi to wipe it--erase all content.  Luckily it's easy to get off and back on the tollway there, so we got off and parked by a gas station.  I got out of the car, looked all over the front seat, and then under the seat--there it was!  After it was all over, I was compared to a rabid dog when things like that happen.  It could be an apt comparison.

The next "rabid" event happened up the road in Medford, Wisconsin after we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the McDonald's.  I went back out to the car, put my seatbelt on, waited for Leann...and I didn't have my purse!  And I knew I had it in there because I had paid our bill!

Now, this is an occurrence that happens way too often in my dreams, or should I say nightmares.  I think the nightmares all started back in 1997 when my purse was stolen from our car at a nature area in Richfield, MN.  Within an hour, whoever stole it had opened a charge account at a nearby store and charged $1500 worth of merchandise, wrote multiple checks from my checkbook, and then went on to do other identity-stealing activities that followed me for the next three years.  So, it definitely left its mark on me.  And it's happened so often in my dreams, that while dreaming it I actually question whether I'm awake or not, hoping I'm just dreaming.

Good thing I was in Medford, Wisconsin and not...other places.  I zoomed back into the restaurant, and my purse was still there on the bench where I left it.  Whew!

I have spent some time the last couple of days since it happened trying to find something to blame it on--low blood sugar, tired from traveling--anything besides having "difficulty focusing on the events that are occurring in the immediate area," or being bird-brained!  Unfortunately, from now on, happenings like this, no matter whom they happen to, will now be "Mary Moments."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Icebergs, soggy trails and foggy evenings

When I made my trip down to the harbor today, I was surprised to see this iceberg island covered with seagulls!  I couldn't zoom as close as I wanted, but I think you can tell it's a pretty big chunk of ice!  Then my thoughts went to whether the birds were some variety of Arctic tern that took a wrong "turn" and ended up on our ice island.  (JK) Pretty cool, I thought.

Ice along the beach - it's going to be hard to wade this summer...
And earlier today, I saw this website (below) of pictures of other icebergs taken this past weekend.  These were taken over in the Bayfield area and are really quite beautiful. If you'd like to see more, just click on the link in the caption area.
In my quest to get my 10,000 steps every day, I went for a walk up into the fields behind our house.  I should have worn boots!  All the rain showers we've had lately create lots of little streams and puddles, making walking a challenge.  I don't know when we'll be able to drive Cammie, our Ranger utility vehicle, up there.  (Cammie - because it's camo-decorated.)  Here are some pictures:
The dead-looking trees are apple trees with blossoms and buds still hidden.  Hoping for a great apple year this year!

Leann put this mailbox up on our trails for people to leave notes on their walks.  But right now the trails are all pretty soggy like the picture.  Maybe if/when the frost finally goes out.

 After my meeting tonight, I still needed 3000 more steps, so I took off up our road...into the fog...kind of a Stephen King adventure.  The picture below is looking toward our house, so I just needed to head for the light...
And I got all my steps for today!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Orioles, wild flowers and red squirrel remorse

Now that spring finally got started, it seems like it's "bustin' out all over." (Thank you, Rodgers & Hammerstein!)  All our birds from last week are still here this week only in higher numbers.  But today we had a new surprise!
Meet Mrs. Baltimore Oriole.  Mr. was around, too, but not when I had my camera.  He's much brighter...of course.  Last week we put out this dish with jelly in it because we've heard it attracts orioles.  And...success!  I haven't seen an oriole around here for a long time!

And the wildflowers are also waking up.  We were surprised to see lots of trilliums in our woods this morning, but, alas, no camera.  I had better luck on my rather misty walk today -- wild strawberries, pussytoes, and marsh marigolds, also called cowslips.

Wild strawberries

Pussytoes (I should have zoomed in a little more, but they look like little cat feet.)
This bunch of marsh marigolds is right along our driveway.  Leann dug them up from someplace years ago and planted them in the marshy ditch by the driveway.  They come back every year but it must not be the IDEAL spot, because the bunch never gets much bigger.

And now for my remorse, the red squirrel variety.  Tonight I went to my Feedly blogroll and there was Laura Erickson's blog, Laura's Birding Blog.  Laura Erickson is an expert on birds and kind of a favorite daughter-in-law of our town, and she often comes back for various birding purposes. Her mother-in-law, Helen, now some past 90, was a major force in all kinds of community organizations, especially church and museum, when she was in her best days...which was really until just a year or so ago.   Anyway, in Laura's blog she discusses her attempt to eradicate an insect infestation on one of her orchids, and goes on to ponder other beings that we call pests, questioning our right to fight pests and the possible consequences, as with the passenger pigeons.

Since we were gone several days, one of my first tasks this morning was to fill the bird feeders for all our bird friends.  But who should show up for the filled feeder but a little red squirrel.  He hangs upside down, clinging to the "squirrel-proof" feeder with his little toes, and sucks in the sunflower seeds from the tray.  With gray squirrels, we can always go to the window, pound on it, maybe even open the window and yell, and they run away.  This little red squirrel had no fear.  I was looking around for something to toss at him.  I finally tried a handful of tongue depressors, one at a time - we somehow have a box of them leftover from a school project, I'm sure.  Turns out tongue depressors are way too light and, also, I can't throw very well.  Next weapon was an old ski pole.  I thought I would stand inside the screen-less window and just whack at the deck floor and scare him.  Again, no fear.  So finally I took my ski pole outside and actually walked up to him and whacked at him...a little.  And he ran away down the ravine, but was back with a vengeance later in the afternoon.

So now, thanks to Laura and my friend who also heard my squirrel story tonight, I'm feeling remorseful.  After all, what's a few sunflower seeds??

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ten and a half hours and worlds apart

After one last breakfast together this morning at the Pancake House, we left South Bend and headed west --to the airport in Chicago for some and a 10 1/2 hour car trip north for us. In my role as navigator and tech engineer (iPhone maps and things), I looked down for all of two seconds and missed the sign for the detour from the Indiana Turnpike over to I-294 which would take us AROUND Chicago.  So we soon realized that we were going THROUGH downtown Chicago.  But since it was Sunday, that wasn't so bad.  Luckily no White Sox game today!

This time we bought an I-Pass so we could zoom right through all of the toll booths in Illinois and Indiana without having to pay the toll operator or stuff money in the machine.  Somehow the toll charges have grown over the years.  I think I remember 25 or 50 cents back in the day.  This time our first toll (before we got the I-Pass) was $2.80!  Gotta love Illinois!

And now all those hours later we are home again and we're back in the land of bears...

...and ice. (Still, but at least it's warmer than when we left.)

Always good to be home!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A big day for Ellen and all of us

Back in 2006, Ellen was getting ready to graduate from the University of Minnesota with majors in sociology and history and with a minor in Chinese.  It seemed out of nowhere one day that she was offered a graduate student position at the University of Notre Dame that included funding for her to earn both her Master's and PhD degrees.  So began our seven year connection to Notre Dame!  We have all the t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies; we've watched Rudy whenever we saw it was on TV or video; we are loyal fans of ND football games and watch them on NBC every Saturday when they are broadcast; and, of course, there were several trips down to Notre Dame to visit.  Who knew this would ever happen?

And today with Ellen's graduation we'll close the door on that "parent" connection we had to Notre Dame as Ellen opens the door to her life as a Notre Dame alumna.  This afternoon we took one last walk around campus, looking for photo op locations and also seeing some of the sights one more time.

I made Ellen stand in the middle of Notre Dame Avenue with the Golden Dome, located on top of the Main Building (that's what they call it), in the background.  Except for that one car, it was safe for all concerned.

Here she is emulating Knute Rockne's stance by his statue outside of the football stadium.  Knute was smiling and so was she.

Visible from the football stadium is this mural of the Jesus, known as "Touchdown Jesus," on the wall of the Hesburgh Library.  Here's what Wikipedia says about Touchdown Jesus:
The stadium is known for its view of "Touchdown Jesus", a nickname given to the large mural entitled The Word of Life byMillard Sheets of the resurrected Jesus.[6] Installed in 1964 on the Hesburgh Library, the mosaic wall looms over the stadium, mirroring the raised arms of a referee signifying a touchdown. The expansion of the stadium in the late 1990s partially obscured the view of the mural from the playing field. The Word of Life mural was a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Howard V. Phalin of Winnetka, Illinois.
And a close-up.

And here are Sara & Ellen, our two "Doctor" daughters.  As I said up above, who knew this would ever happen??