Pictures from 2012

Bolivian Trip
Bolivian Trip
Evening Grosbeaks "the clowns"Workbench / North House garden bed constr.
New Foster Puppy just groomedKaren with the first morels Garden growing
oak floor on the loftGreenhouse - lots of blossoms
California Sea Lionsmycophagy demonstration at MAMA fora


29 Dec 2012
Reconstituted Summer. In the middle of summer when I have the food dehydrator going for mushrooms, I often have some excess summer squash that doesn't freeze well, but sliced thinnly drys up to a small volumme. I've found a great use for both in winter soup.

Last Summer's Curried Squash Soup
2 c dried squash
1/2 t cumin seed
1/2 t coriander seed
1 T tumeric
1/4 c instant hummus
1 t chicken boullion powder (optional)
3-5 c water
1/2 c dried mushrooms, soaked in water
Buzz up the dry squash, cumin, and coriander in a blender. One time I used dried puffball and buzzed that up, too. Add the tumeric, hummus, and boullion powder. I use a small whisk to stir the powder into the water. Dice the reconstituted mushrooms and add to the pot.
Simmer over low heat for 15 to 60 minutes and you are ready for lunch; I use our bake oven still hot from last night's fire. A handful of turkey or chicken bits makes it a meal. We have corn tortillas rolled up with it; then you have your basic corn, squash and beans (the hummus).


22 Dec 2012
Winter is back. We're back from the NAMA foray in Santa Cruz. The NAMA foray was great. Lots of huge mushrooms and a different ecosystem to understand. The hosts were good at explaining the coastal climate and mycorhizal hosts there. Speakers included David A. (Mushrooms Demystified) and Gary Lynkoff, both real characters. Karen got to go on a foray with Gary and enjoyed him. Good programs, good forays, nice place to stay in the redwoods. Next one is August in Arkansas Ozarks. We had a couple of good days in Santa Cruz after the foray (Elephant Seals, Sea Lions, Otters, big Redwoods, twisty roads through the mountains).

So now to wrm the house up....


18 Nov 2012
I should be out cutting wood. With the sound system moved up and nice music on, a good cup of coffee, the birds at the feeder, it's very nice to be right here.

We have a new woodpecker--Red-Bellied which we haven't seen here before. She has been at the feeder all week. Sibley's says they cache seeds for the winter; certainly looks like it. Lovely grey-brown bird with a red-orange back of her head; in males, the red goes across the top to the bill. Looks like she may stay.

We survived deer rifle season one more time. Dressing the dogs up in their new orange capes is November chic. A bit worried about wolf trapping; the trappers tend to ignore property rights even though the land is posted for it. Still guns blasting away not too far--all year; an irritation to which I haven't yet adjusted.

Pulled out most of the tomatoes from the greenhouse, although we have a lot ripening yet. The winter sets were getting leggy and needed to be in: kale, broccoli raab, pak choi, arugula, napa cabbage. Transplanted some celery in from the garden which seems to be doing well so far. We had lots of tomatoes and cukes again, and adequate peppers from the greenhouse. In the garden, early cutworms devastated crops and they never came back well; still some soil building to do , too. Kabocha squash did well. I'm learning what works here....

Picked up our pork and lamb from the farmer's butcher. We were out of everything except sausage, so it was time. Need to make time for sausage making soon.

Much of my time has been moving out of our St Paul duplex and now cleaning and painting for new tenants so we can get in the black with that. We are staying in the basement efficiency until we sell (no plans) so we will still be able to see friends and family in the twin cities. Up north in the woods feels like home to us now. Would like to get on with it!

Usually the ground is frozen by now, but has rethawed again right now. We've had a half inch of snow on the ground, but nothing significant yet. The heating season is here, but only small fires unless it's been cloudy for a few days, which it was in early November. Need to get out there and cut some wood for next year!


17 Sep 2012
Flirting with frost. Dug the sweet potatoes today; the earlymunching by a catepillar and short season (for them) resulted in a small crop. That the kabocha squash took over probably didn't help. Took a lot of the basil in and made pesto; had several fresh meals of that on pasta with ripe tomato--excellent. A quarter of one kabocha made plenty and leftovers for two; five or six more to harvest. A dearth of lettuce with the wet, then dry weather, but the chard made up for it. Lots of summer squash (surpirse?) that crowded the carrots and parsnips. The beans got a late start (pesky catepillar) but did OK. Most of the cabbage and broccoli never recovered from the catepillar; need to be a bit quicker with the thuricide and diatomaceous earth.

In the greenhouse, we were awash in cukumbers again, and the tomotoes, though later [shorter daylight due to the trees?] are great. Peppers better this year. Sets for this winter are three weeks old and getting a bit leggy. Need to find a way to interweave the summer and winter crops.

We drove up to North House Folk School last Friday for a couple of mini-courses: intro to spinning and botany:leaves. Find that Duluth has a spinners' group that I may get involved. The Duluth Arts Institute is somehow connected, and that would be good, too.

Busy thinning firs, caging white pines and cedars, and chipping the slash for paths. Thinsking about how the plow will affect the chips......yep, it's just about that time.


27 Aug 2012
Just had my first ripe tomato from the greenhouse. A beedfsteak, a bit distorted and green on top, but remarkably red, ripe, and soft inside. Had half (it was a whopper) in my lunch gaszpacho (lots! of cucumbers) and half in the August saute: zummer squash, green beans, peppers, mushrooms (Hen-of-the-Woods!), onion, garlic, basil....all from the garden or land, with a bit of chorizo we made last winter. A glass or two of red wine, "Exploring Music" on the streamed radio, and dogs and cats to want to be fed just as I want to sit down. The book I'm trying to balance on my lap as I eat is in drip danger, and the Evening Grossbeak juveniles at the bird feeder are competing for my attention. Stimulus loading (not over-). Took the dogs for a bushwack into parts of the woods we haven't been to recently, finding a hedghog mushroom (saute in butter on toast!) and several lobster mushrooms to dry and save. Luscious.

I finished the oak shelf above the countertop today. The tile went on recently. On to doors and drawers. Work to do in the greenhouse watering system, but that will happen soon....

Great to have Ann Borim, her mother, and brother Scottt visit yesterday! Another teacher looking at the impending start of the school year. Need to invite Scott out again; seems a kindred spirit. Nice Family.

Several events at Boulder Lake Environmental Center. Dynamic Forestry class, Master Naturalist reunion, kayaking Boulder Lake. Good to be close and great to be getting involved. I'm aware of being a newcomer.

We have a bear in the area. Haven't seen it yet, though Scott has. Interesting scat in the woods. Still taking the bird feeders in due to the racoon. Say two big (9" diameter) dens dug into the hill to our south on our walk. Racoon or skunk? Bea got off her leash this week and got lightly 'skunked.' This is the time when this years kits are looking for a home. Need to get the fencing around the shop foundation.....

Karen is loading birch cut last year into the wood shop. Should be enough for the winter. Looking at cuttning more for next years this fall and winter. An enjoyable job if you can do it at your own pace. This is the time of year when everything gets lined up to do. Summer is an interuption with high temps and trips, etc. Fall is when you get things done. Time compresses. Moments become precious.


25 Jul 2012
Been a long time. We've been blessed with adequate rainfall, but hot temps; this is a midcontinent climate. If I had to give up one month, it would be July: noisy, hot, buggy. But the screen is on the porch and is mostly bugproof and cooler. We have spent many late afternoons with a snack watching and listening to the Hermit Thrush. Sleeping out some, too, with the barred owls calling.

Major accomplishment was getting the loft oak floor on. So now we can begin moving in earnest. Most of the bookshelves and books are now in the 'library' around the stairs. Karen has done a great job of inventorying them as we shelve them, which leads to many interesting conversations about in which category they might be shelved; still learning how each others' minds work.

In June, the Pine Sisskins disappeared and many more goldfinches showed up. The Grosbeaks hung on for quite awhile, especially one pair, but have moved on. Lots of Purple Finches along with the year-round birds: chickadees, red-breasted nuthatch, and various woodpeckers. We have had to take the feeders in at night to avoid the dogs going balistic in the middle of the night because there is a racoon who can climb the feeder.

Karen picked wild raspberries and we had raspberry syrup this morning. Yum. Oyster mushrooms were very good and we froze and dried a lot. On a foray in western MN I found a beautiful chicken of the woods Laetiporus sulphureus which has been several good meals with some left in the freezer. Just found my first lobster mushroom yesterday. The local group is largely non-functional as most of the 'locals' are would like to know where and what you are finding, but not socially inclined. A couple people I will keep in touch with; maybe later. We are about to take off for a workshop in Maine, first of the two travels we have planned this year. We are taking the most direct route, through Canada. Should be fun.


25 May 2012
What a difference a couple of inches of rain make. Suddenly most things are fully leafed out, which reduces how far I can see through the woods. Views are more closed in. The understory plants will have to hurry to complete their cycle.The fire danger is also reduced.

The Evening Grosbeaks are back and a few Rose-breasted show up. Still herds of Pine Siskins joined by bright lemon yellow goldfinch and their kin. Not as many sparrows this year. The pack of Blue Jays shows up frequently to terrorize most. Visiting hawks, mostly sharp shin and some broad wing foment a panic at the feeder now and then. I want to spend more time out at the shelter where the warblers hang out. The woods are full of ovenbird screams, but evenings bring the hermit thrush song. I prefer the quieter things.

Mycology can be fun. Mushrooming seems to be difficult. I've been trying to get a foray group together with a startling lack of success. On various occasions, either no one is interested or there are no mushrooms. While happy to learn of a new location, most remain reticent to share any. My neighbor found a morel site and actually shared it with us! Very much appreciated. And then this week, the construction equipment went out that way. I'm avoiding going to look. "Look what they done to my song...." Hopefully the oyster mushrooms will be out soon.

I'm trying to convince Karen to do a sister page about what's happening in St Paul. She has another short term job there. We have new tenants. I certainly need to do some maintenance there. No plans to sell soon. We have the fairly massive task of moving out of the second floor into the basement unit with related moving and selling tasks. Should be something interesting there.


13 May 2012
We have crossed over from sorta Winter to sorta Summer. What passes as Spring these days. The Evening Grosbeaks have mostly gone and the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have taken their place. Hummingbirds are back and many goldfinches, white-throated sparrows, chipping sparrows, and others. The poplars leafed out last week and the birches this week. Maples not far behind. Wood anemones and bellwort blooming, and the Clintonia coming up.The Happy Karen picture is with her first morel! Close to home even, but with some help from our neighbors. Guess who is still skunked on morels. .

Got the two garden beds going, one more fallow this year to build up organics (from Stropharia growing on chips). Changed the greenhouse over to summer regime with tomatoes, cukes and peppers. Still eating LOTS of kale. The garlic planted in the greenhouse last fall looks like young corn and the raddicio is bolting. Transplanting rhubarb, horseradish and flowers as I can. We will keep the St Paul garden going this year but need HELP keeping up with it if anyone is interested.

Afternoons in the screen porch are lovely. We've taken to having a snack there in late afternoon. The dogs and one of the cats join us out there. Next up on construction is the oak flooring upstairs. Then we will be in serious moving mode with the 2nd floor in St Paul looking to be rented out at least by Fall.

Busy with a Naturalist Class at Boulder Lake. I could do all the volunteer work I have time for over there. Hope to hike Cloquet Valley State Forest a lot this summer, too. Lots to do!


1 May 2012
So good to have the spring rain today. It was getting dry. I got the seeded things and cool weather sets in the garden yesterday so that the rain today could soak them. That worked! Just about to change the greenhouse over to the summer regime: tomatoes, peppers, and cukes.

Off for another class in a few minutes with the Karen is up here basically full-time now, but off tomorrow to sing in St Paul and get along with our move downstairs.

New birds this week: yellow-bellied sabsuker, white-throated sparrow, chipping sparrow, olive sided flycatcher, broadwing hawk. Wildflowers coming out: wood anenome, strawberry, sedges, white violet.


6 April 2012
The Redpolls are gone and the Purple Finches are back! Evening Grossbeaks are fickle but appearing some days. Heard the first Loon of the year. Sending furious email to organize mushroom forays.

Spent last weekend in and around Grand Marais building a workbench at North House Folk School. Turned out beautifully; shows up my humble workshop. Looking forward to all the wood projects set aside to finish the house.

The garden bed structure is now in place. The Stropharia planting yeilded som mycelia, but waiting to see if we get any mushroom. Regardless, made a chip layer on the new third bed that will at least add organic matter to our clay soitl Sets are growing.

Our new foster Pyr, a 7 month old puppy, is due next week. Should be fun. This should be 'Karen's Dog'. Alwwwys fun to learn their personality. And the rescue function is good, too.

We need rain! Not dire yet, but an inch or two would be good. Here's hoping.....


21 March 2012
Foggy and drizzle this week. A few snowbanks in shaded areas left. Mud season appears to be brief due to less moisture in the soil last fall and this winter. We can use a lot more moisture.

Got the slate in the 'library' (around the stairway) so we can bring up bookshelves. Getting closer. All the tools and materials that were there are living in the utility room (shelves!) and workshop. Have to get plastic off and screening on the porch so we can be out there this year.

Karen is getting to the end of her contract job and will be spending more time up north. We are full of plans about what to do with our time. Headed up to Grand Marais at the end of the month to visit Susan and for the workbench course at North House Folk School. Planning to go to the Salt Lake birding weekend the end of April. We may head east to visit several friends and attend the NEMF. Looking for other invitations.....

The Pine Grosbeaks disappeared last week; different from last year, they were around for most of the winter. A pair of Evening Grosbeaks showed up; haven't seen them since the pond froze. There are more goldfinch and Siskins, the juncos are back, and the Pileated has been around. No mushrooms yet, of course, but planning for spring forays. Our mycology group may also do some projects to document which species of some mushrooms we have in Minnesota.

Garden seedling are poking up in their trays. I could make the transition to the summer greenhouse very soon (sooner than last year). We are awash in greens ready to bolt with the warmer weather and increased sun, so a change is in the offing. One more outside garden bed to literally 'get into shape' this spring as soon as it drys out a bit. Eager to see if the layer of chips inoculated with Stropharia mushroom spawn on the second bed will fruit. Should be a great way to deal with the clay, that and greensand; the mycelium should maker short work of the wood and I can add nitrogen. Still have slash from the birch cut over the winter to chip up and add to the next bed. The deer-dog fence worked very well this winter; now I need to add a shorter fence around the garden proper to keep the dogs off it.

Lots to do this Spring.


11 March 2012
We gave up Bea for adoption today. Kind of sad, but good for her. Looks like a good family. Means we can help another dog who is stuck in between rescue and adoption. Helping these dogs can be frustrating, but usually rewarding when they grow out of their troubles and find a home. Once again, the Great Pyr website is at North Star Great Pyrenees.


24 February 2012
It's snowing again. Yeah! Besides allowing some skiing, we really need the moisture. The cloudy weather does not mean the greenhouse hasn't responded to the increase of sunlight. The fall planted veges are finally taking off: broccoli raab, napa cabbage, and bok choi. The lettuce/mesclun is growing twice as fast as last month. Leek sets for spring are finally coming up; need to start planning for other sets, too. Hurrying to cut a few more trees for future firewood before the sap starts rising. More snow, more sun, lots of activity.

Our solar contractor showed up to finish the hot water system. Need to get going on the rest of the greywater system. Just finished re prioritizing the next 24 tasks for the house . Completing the solar hot water system means I can put shelves in the utility room, so I can move stuff out of the library, so I can finish the floor and move books and bookshelves up north. It is like a game of the card game concentration. Also a lot of cabinet doors and drawers in my future. Many things to 'finish up.'

Got Bolivia pictures from Daniel Winkler, including lots of fungi. We're talking about possibilities of returning, perhaps in conjunction with the astronomy trip we did before, although that is a different time of year.

Orion is edging to the west each clear night when I take the dogs out; galaxy time is almost here, when the part of the sky looking through less of our galaxy is up in the dark part of the night, which means galaxies are more visible. If I had a western horizon sans trees, there are some interesting planets just after sunset.

Lots of birds at the feeder, mostly red polls and pine siskins with lots of pine grosbeaks, lately a few goldfinch, plus the usual chickadees, red breasted and one white breasted nuthatches, hairy and downy woodpecker, and ravens flying over. A couple of immature eagles (bald or golden?), cameo appearances by pileated woodpecker, and a questionable black backed woodpecker (missing bark on dead trees locally might support that). We also saw a new mammal, a long tailed weasel (ermine is the fur) go running with a vole in it's mouth and dart around the yard.

We attended the Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival again. Birds seen there include Ruffed Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Bald Eagle, Rough-legged Hawks (lots!), Great Gray Owls (twice), Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Gray Jay, Blue Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch.


12 February 2012
Cold, sunny Sunday. Thinking about things I want to do.

We've been debating about whether to put 'B' up for adoption or keep her; she's developing into a very nice dog. But there are people waiting to adopt and other Pyrs that need a foster, so we think that's the way to go. Star will need to make another change.

Just back from running down to St Paul to fix a clogged drain that developed into pipe replacement. We've been talking about when to sell the duplex. The real estate market has improved some. Absentee rental management is much less fun. Need to do some minor repairs this summer. We need to sell the duplex to do more interesting things.

Karen's 'trial retirement' while I was gone went too well. Now she wants to make it semi-permanent! Although she's down working for a couple months, it will be quite a change to have us both up here. Need to have her up here long enough.....

My son's and grandaughter's birthdays are this week. Thinking about how we can spend more time together.

One thing that hasn't changed is the length of the ToDo list. Need to be in a good mood to make a new list as it can be a bit daunting. We should have solar hot water next week, which means I need to get serious about finishing the graywater system. Countertops are in and designing doors and drawers. Hope to have time to cut o few more trees to dry for later. Spring things are more than on the horizon.

But right now, it's a sunny Sunday morning, nice music on the radio, fresh coffee, the dogs are happy outside. Things are OK the way they are.


10 February 2012
A couple of years ago, when working along on the house while streaming Australia All Over, a music and call-in, Sunday morning show in Oz). I was pleased enought to send an email talking about the contrast of international culture and building out in the woods. Over two years later, I got a response asking for a couple of paragraphs for their "Tell you why I live where I live" segment. So.....

"You asked me why I live here out in the woods (bush to you, I guess). That gave me pause. There are many easy answers: the beauty, the quiet, the privacy, stellar birding and flight-of-fancy stargazing. But the reason _I_ live here is that it keeps me conscious of my true needs and limits; a kind of physical mindfullness where I can find my center overlapping my livelihood. Watching the fire with dinner from the bake oven is better than TV, and even better knowing it's wood from a tree I knew. It's about place.

"One needs stay fit to live here. Wood to cut and carry, snow to plow and shovel, and always something to build or repair. One avoids the life-bending propaganda (credit cards and advertisements creating a false economic reality) to buy, buy at every turn and in that sense it's a cheaper place to live. Also, I have been blessed to be able to build most of our house myself--for our way of living, not resale. A trip to town is an occasion and well planned. But there are good neighbors just a walk through the woods away (never mind the gun addict banging away every day in the distance). It is far from primitive, with mains electricity and wireless internet streaming programs from Australia being a very nice accompaniment to the work I'm doing that day. So thank you Macca for helping to keep this house in the woods warm. Hope to be back in your wonderful country soon. "


1 February 2012
Just returned from a trip to Bolivia


01 January 2012

Snow falling and so is the temperature. We've seen less than usual (I won't say normal) this winter, so far. Not much is normal in a year when the main people making money are those doing campaign ads with nearly a year to go before the election. So we enjoy listening to good music with good coffee and watchinng the snow fall and the birds stock up from the feeder.....seems more....normal.

The bathroom tile and shower are in; just waiting for the solar hot water system to be completed. The list of major construction items is dwindling. On to kitchen cupboards! Greenhouse systems are working, although growing is very slow with all the clouds. We should have enough wood staying dry in the shop for the winter. Did not yet get as much cut for the future as I'd like, but quite a bit; more to come. We enjoyed taking care of our neighbors horses while they were away. Had very little experience with horses before. They are very social animals. Our new foster dog 'B' is relaxing a bit but still some challenges; she is a pretty girl.

Gene took an interesting workshop on tracking at Boulder Lake ELC. A great place whose sole employee is full of energy. Larry Weber who is a local teacher and participant in the University for Seniors ran the workshop. Not much mushrooming in the winter, but we are starting to get a group who want to go on local forays next year. Gene will soon be headed south to Bolivia for a mycology trip into the rain forest [Check out Madidi] and Karen is lining up friends to visit our home up north while Gene is gone. That will be an extended stay and a venture into the world of the retired.

Our annual holdiay open house in St Paul was again a great time with a lot of our friends. The squash/corn soup was even better and the mushroom pasta a hit. Likely that we will move our main residence up north this year so that may be the last one. One thing we both agree on is that we would like to have done more with friends this year. Look forward to more of that. Maybe some who would enjoy watching the snow and birds with a mug of coffee or mulled wine.

January phenology:
Weather: Cloudy most days, above average temps but two double-digit below zero nights. Dusting of snow, ~ 4" total. Plowed twice just so I could. Birds: Pne Grossbeaks!, Common and Hoary Redpoll, Pine Sisskin, Red Breasted Nuthatch, White Breasted Nuthatch, Black Capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated, Raven. Mammals: White Tailed Deer, Snowshoe Hare, Coyote (heard), Red and Grey Squirrel, Vole, White Footed Mouse


27 November 2011

After a very busy Fall, winter begins in earnest. Can't complain; it has been very clement for most of the last two months, dry mostly but with enough rain to keep the fire hazard down. Still even finding a few fungi to ponder, mostly polypores and lichens. The porch is virtually done; some to finish in the spring and a ramp to build for 2nd Floor access. One more tower to build that will support the ramp and an astronomy platform up top. With the porch and solar collectors, the house has many angles.

Cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking some over-mature birch is partially done. Deep snow will stop that eventually. The updated 'To Do' list is getting shorter but slowly. Keeping the house warm takes time, but is a welcome connection to the place. Makes one conscious of staying healthy.

The deer/dear dog fence is up for Star to be loose and the vermin out. Gates installed. The second garden bed is in place and innoculated with mushroom spawn. This was the pre-requisit to getting a new foster dog, which we did last week: 'B' (ask us why that name) is still anxious but settling down, a small (65#) Pyr/Yellow Lab cross. She follows Star around all day, a substitute for her Mom who went elsewhere. We have a lot of socializing and training to do, although house-training is not an issue. She's learning to walk on a leash (the two of them are cute trotting together) and starting to trust us. She should be a sweet dog for some lucky owner.

Harvested the tomatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and cukes from the greenhouse and installed the winter kale, bok choi, raab, garlic and greens. We had enough to make a nice fresh cuke/tomato salad for our Thanksgiving with Scott and Chris, our neighbors. Repeating myself, but tomatoes and cukes are a greenhouse hit. The sweet potatoes are very good tasting, but hard to get out of the greenhouse bed (deep) and took a lot of space; may try them outdoors next year. It will be time to start leek sets for next year soon. They were quite good both up north and in St Paul. Several great quiches and braised leek for said T-day dinner among other dishes. We also got our half-hog and the two of us made sausage yesterday: italian, chorizo, and bratwurst were very good for the 'sample the sausage' dinner last night. Hopefully, we can get some venison from our neighbors for sausage; a good use for the pork belly slab, in my opinion.

Looking forward to our Holiday Party in a couple of weeks. This may be the last in St Paul as we plan to move into the basement efficiency there. A good place to stay in town while we wait for a chance to sell it. Still many friends and activities there to enjoy and be part. Hope to see everyone there.


27 September 2011

I heard them before I could see them. A V against the pale blue sky and a call that could have been a pteradactyl; sandhill cranes heading south. Frost has been and gone; warm days, comfy nights; just enough moisture to keep the fire danger down. Living in the woods is so much fun in autumn.

The maples are a mass of gold and red against the yellow of the birches and aspens. I had to get the near dying birches flagged for harvest before the leaves are down, and the forecast is wind and rain. Missed that killer picture of the maples today!

The porch is roofed with tarpaper, so I can rush to other tasks needing to be done before freeze-up. The deer/dog fence is going up. The garden bed is shaping up so I can spread chips and Stropharia (garden giant mushroom) for next spring. The winter seedlings are planted in the greenhouse, even though the tomatoes and cukes are still ripening. Who knows about the sweet potatoes; that was and experiment we will learn from when I dig them up. The baby greens in the troughs are coming soon. The greenhouse continues to produce. Brought a 'Care package' up to Grand Marais with us.

Mushrooming has slowed way down. I don't have the right tree species for Fall mushrooms (Hen of the Woods, Chicken of the Woods) but scored some nice Tamarack Jacks while visiting Susan in Grand Marais. Nice to visit because I can hike for fun. Star will take it either work or play.

Piling wood in the shop to finish drying. Got some nice oak from Scott, my neighbor, as I'm a bit short for what I need this winter. If I get the flagged trees cut, I should be OK for next year. But the oak is nice; might get some more. Still haven't fired up the masonary heater this year; passive solar is enough, for now. i'm loving this house, this land, this life.


10 September 2011

A good foray with the Paul Bunyan Club near Backus. Weather has been dry, so we went to a bog and found a chanterelle cousin (Cantherellus tubaeformis) and a couple of boletes, the Tamarac Jack (Suillus gravillei) and another not-so-slippery Jack (S. punctaipes) for edibles. Anna Gerenday was there to do a workshop and we learned a lot about local Lactarius, Innocybe, and others found that day. The workshop was to train the foray leaders in how to approach identification with new 'shroomers. A good time was had by all. Star came along to charm everyone and wind her leash around trees and people. Dinner tonight featured the C. tubaeformis with rice and was very good; froze some, too.

So enough playing. Tomorrow it's back to building the deck! Never mind that this is some of the most gorgeous time of the year (a hard comparison!)


7 September 2011

Autumn hints at things to come. Mid-September is usually decadent here. Many of the pests (six legged and two legged) are gone, the pursuit of the four legged by the two legged is yet to come, and the weather is dry and pleasant. What's a bit of frost when you can see farther in the woods for it.

Mushrooming has slowed down as I don't have chicken-of-the-woods or the like here. Trips for forays are socially productive, but fungally meager due to the sparse rain. I've found enough lobster mushrooms and others to keep me.

Work on the house has been concentrated on the porch/deck off the second floor which is now ready for the roof. Then I can get on to nagging things that need doing indoor. We've started putting wood in the shop/solar kiln to dry for heating. Soon I will have to start cutting down wood for two years from now. Like that connection to mindfulness. Hope it keeps me lucid for another twenty years.

I am reminded of my place in time and life often. Muscle mass is slipping despite working out. Things that were easy to lift a few years ago require some ergonomic preparation now. Not a complaint; rather an acceptance of change. More to come, I'm sure. OK for now.

Karen's contract job is going on beyond wht she expected. I am less driven when she is here. The daily electronic connections are important. Star amd I miss Bess, too. This is a wonderful place to live, but even heaven would have missing loved ones, I'm afraid.

hers's to the autumn...of this year....of life....awaiting what comes next.


23 August 2011

Telluride 'Shroomfest 2011 Trip Report
or Some Shroomers Just Like to Have Fun

I rode and drove 17 hours out to Colorado to attend this national conference. Headliners Paul Stamets, Gary Linkoff and others were certainly well attended. However, I was delighted that many presenters were just regular folks--well, regular for this venue--who did a great job reporting on the soldiering they are doing to make mycoremediation work around the hemisphere. This included afifteen years old reporting on his multi-year research project showing that adding mycorhizal fungi to garden soil helps germination, plant growth, yield, and nutrition of the vegetables; he has other projects in mind. I was fascinated by Larry Weisner and Greg Evans present some of their fungal finds in Bolivia. They do a two week, well appointed eco/work tour in Bolivia for avid amateurs. Also in S.A., not just plain folks presented on mycorediation of crude oil contamination in Ecuador.

Workshops for cultivators were numerous with our own Ty Alchin presenting the first program on the first day. Scott Koch--who we had the pleasure of hanging out with a bit--did a two-session, oysters-on-straw demonstration. Bert Matthews and Graham Steinruck demonstrated sterile tissue culture technique. Our Ron Spinosa made growning oysters on toilet paper look too easy. A cultivators' round table was well attended and interesting.

Mycological science wove through most of the programs, but some were excellent. Michael Beug is a mycotoxin expert, was there for him when Paul Stamets was a grad student, and did a great survey of North American psychoactive mushrooms. Brett Bunyard, a.k.a. Fungi magazine and a Wisconsin mushroomer did a survey of Aminita and talked on fungal chemistry and physiology. I attended a short program on the microscopic world of fungi which was good, but made the MMS special interests group on the topic look pretty sophisticated. Also, several speakers summarized recent hard-science studies of the benefits of psylocybin and other psychoactive myco-products in treating PTSD, end-of-life anxieties, and addictions. For a short time, I wondered if I had wandered into the wrong part of town, but was impressed with the professional handling of these topics.

The art, music and performance art of presenters and vendors brought me back to the peace-loving interpersonal free spirits of the sixties, or what they might have been. Telluride as a community does a wonderful job of relaxing in a tourist economy. No empty storefronts, great restaurants and stores, and a free gandola ride up the ski slopes. Art Goodtimes, the convener of the festival who has a great grey beard and comes to the podium in a wizard's hat is the county commisioner.

Did I mention the mushrooms? Each morning and midday, several forays left for the mountains. Foragins is quite a vertical experience there. Last year was the best in decades, so this being a near normal year dissapointed some. We saw lots of stumps, so my guess is that the interest generated by last year may have resulted in over-harvesting this year. Everyting has its limits. But the people and hiking in the mountains was great in itslef. Always good to get out to see a wider world.

And the fun? Friday and Saturday nights had great music locally. And of course the mushroom costume parade. More than anything, the people--attendees, participants and townspeople--were just very friendly and open. How refreshing!


1 August 2011

Deep summer on the land. The woods are thick with green. Fledgling birds are all over. The tansy and asters are beginning. The greenhouse cucumbers are prolific and tomatoes are coming on strong. Managed to get to a foray near Hackensack and brought back enough chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms for a couple of meals.

We had a lovely weekend. Karen is working in the cities so comes up as much as gas prices allow. We also volunteer with MN Land Trust to monitor a couple of spots around Duluth and got out to do that last weekend. Both places had mushrooms that they allowed us to collect, chanterelles at one and some late oyster mushrooms at the other. The recipe I found for the chanterelles to go with the greek salad I planned turned out wonderfully with a pinot gris Karen brought up. So, we are lapsing ectatic about that when a yearling buck with little antler buttons browses his way across the grass in front of us and lays down twenty feet from us (throught the glass). Didn't seem to be bothered by us, and Star was sleeping, so didn't see him. Fun.

Next morning we managed to get out kayaking on Boulder Lake near us. A fine day with a light breeze and just a few fisherman out. Several other kayaks came out as we came in. Some lounging was done after visiting the neighbors for fresh eggs and having lunch. We even managed to get a few chores that needed doing out of the way.

"Just another slice of daily bread off the loaf of time." - Terry Pratchett


23 July 2011

Bess happy at off-lead
Bess Pictures
We said goodbye to Bess this week. Everyone who met her recently would comment on what a sweet dog she was. Not when we got her; she was very afraid of most everything. Karen had to put her harness on for several weeks, and she had to be re-house trained. We fostered her through NorthStar Great Pyrenees Rescue and had been around a truck stop in Missouri for five months, which may be why the smell of fast food got her attention; well, any food got her attention. And she had several veterinary problems to deal with along the way. After a few months, she settled down. Rub her ears and you had a friend for life (and please don't stop petting). She loved to meet people who would be kind to her.

A walk with the two dogs on a joint leash was comical. Star is much more energetic and would be pulling to go on, while Bess would be getting the full smell of everything along the way. Our running gag was to mimmick her briefly sticking out her tonge when she was happy. She certainly liked to sit and play gaurd dog on any hill that presented itself and her indignant WOOF at any intruder was awesome. The two of them would spend much of the day up north in 'Camp 1', a wooded hillside near our home.

I spent the last several weeks indulging her interests as much as she was able. Always interested in going or following. At the last, she would go as far as she could, usually on the hill above the house, then lay down and seemed to appreciate watching Star and I going farther and coming back.

We will miss her, and remember how peaceful she became.

.....back to the menu

12 July 2011

Deep summer green on the land. Hot, humid days with thungderstorms threatening; cool starlit nights after crepuscular mosquito attacks. Summer on the Land.

Friends have been stopping by to visit and see how things are coming along. Peter and Denise, Susan Scherer, and neighbors Scott and Chris earlier. With summer and a hundgry fox, our source of eggs has shrunk for now. This is not a land one could live off easily. Perhaps that is why folks are often into barter and helping each other. With Karen working more this summer, I'm alone a lot; not a bad thing and enjoyable.

Working on the deck/porch. Fun to be doing carpentry again, using some of my timberframing skills, but slow going. Many projects clamoring for my time and attention.

Tomato and cucumber plants are huge in the greenhouse; small, immature fruit so far. Lots of greens from the outside garden. Can't wait to get the other terrace beds in and soil time I have some 'extra' time. Put together a small group of oyster mushroom recipes as they are doing so well this year.

Bess is so cute when she starts or ends a walk, when the two of them used to joust or play. She will start to prance (like a play bow) then minds her affected leg, and slows down. She still feels like playing anyway. Some days are better than others, but still not at maximum pain pills. As long as she is enjoying.....

A raccoon knocked down a couple of the feeder tubes last night. Will have to start taking it in at night. Saw a fisher under the feeder last week; what weaselness. Hummingbirds are at the feeder again; they have not been as much in evidence with all the wildflowers blooming, which is slowing down now. Tansy and pearly everlasting beginning to bloom. Cinquefoil and Thimbleflower, Bouncing Bette and bright red strawberries.Golden buttercups and purple Heal All. So good to see my friends again.

The Vermillion S.P. Bioblitz was fun! More than seventy species with a small group of three is impressive. Came home with a pound of oyster mushrooms. We are trying to get volunteer status at Warner Nature Center to help Anna Grenaday's project there; should be fun. There also may be a chance of getting involved at the local Environmental Learning Center at Boulder Lake

A nearly full moon shines down on me. A nice cool night. Good to be here.


16 June 2011

Mushrooming and wildflowers have picked up. We have an abundance of spring oyster mushroom Pleurotus populinus. The one-flowered wintergreen is a tiny plant with a nodding flower that I love to see early in the year, but much later than usual this year. Thimbleberry and blackberry, hawkweed, beach pea and others are blooming also.

The summer greenhouse is taking off; the tomatoes are blossoming and cucumbers and sweet potatoes beginning to vine. The first terrace of the outside garden is doing well: lettuce sets from the last of the greenhouse growings, broccoli, cabbage and others getting going. The drystone wall is a challenge with our glacial stones.

The west airlock is down and footings in process for the deck/porch. We should be sleeping ouside again by late August. Rain is slowing that process down right now. Our solar contactor made a visit, so that should happen this summer.

Karen is working a contract job again, so coming up weekends. Both dogs up north. An unwelcome surpise there. We were treating Bess for what was diagnosed as a non-Lymes, tickborne disease, easily treated. Symptoms persisted (limping) and we took her back in to find she has osteosarcoma which gives her a very limited future. So we are working through that. Bess was a rescue dog that had a hard life, but had become a really sweet dog. She loves sitting up in Camp 1, watching and listening. She is spending a lot of time there.


24 May 2011

I don't have adequate pictures for the parade of birds this spring. The Rose-Breasted are sticking around for now at least; the female with her huge pink beak looks like a purple finch female on steroids. Had a flock of Evening Grosbeaks but they traveled on...revise that; as I write, a female Evening joined the male Rose-Breasted on the platform feeder. Chipping and lots more White-throated Sparrows have arrived as well as the Robins and usual summer suspects. I've not spent enough time at the shelter to see the spring warblers; we see them there--a great place for a cup of tea--but not at the feeder and few by the house.

We heard throaty barking in the night close to the house may have been fox; not coyote or wolf which we sometimes hear howling in the winter. Ticks have arrived, but not as many as usual.

Looking for black morels, but haven't found any. A couple early inedibles up: Conocybe and Coprinus, and a small black cup (Plectania) that I wonder how I saw and a false morel. Morels have been slow statewide this year. Waiting for the oysters.

Major change in the greenhouse: moved the survivors outside and planted summer, heat tolerant plants. To do that I needed to get at least the first garden bed in shape involving quite a lot of shovel work. We have a lot of soil building to do, but this should keep us in greens. When we start taking showers or doing laundry, I'll have to finalize the greywater system, but I'm using rainwater for now.

Still waiting for my solar contractor, but he's good and inexpensive. Need to get serious about the porch deck on the west, soon. Done is a null concept.


9 May 2011

Rose Breasted Grosbeaks! Lots of Purple Finches. The tyrant Blue Jays try to monopolize the feeder. Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, Chicikadees, Red-Breasted Nuthatches...year round themselves in among the crowd. All scatter when the Sharp-shin Hawks visit. The first warbler--Pine or Orange-crowned--showed as well as the White-throated Sparrow. Most recent surprise is at least one Lincoln Sparrow. Spring is coming on full tilt.

Karen is just back from her trip to eastern Oregon on the Owyhee River with good, high water. While she was gone, Gene did the Salt Lake MOU trip in western MN, although the high winds and water limited the number if not the variety of birds. Spent the day with friends Mark and Becky Lystig; wonderful birders and a good day.

Gene is working furiously to make plantable space in the garden so that the kale in the greenhouse can be moved to make space for summer crops. Also chipping away at the web of 'to-do's necessary to complete the bathroom tile and shower. Found a steam generator on Craigslist so that the steam shower is on the chart, also. The house is feeling more and more like home.

Collected my first mushroom (not edible) in the garden space. Spring mushrooming forays are in full tilt if we ever get to one. Hey, sounds like spring!



18 April 2011

Winter hasn't let go yet. It mostly melts off the drive, but it is still snowing and some left in the woods. Past mud season, but may get another if the frost goes deep. Impatient enough that I took to collecting polypores thawed out from last year; still a month to fresh mushrooms.

The migrant birds are coming back and leaving. A lot more purple finches and fewer redpolls, return of the dark eyed junkos, tree sparrow, fox sparrow, and recently goldfinch and the first robin. A last glimpse of snow buntings along the road. Sharp-shin and Coopers hawks scattering the birds at the feeder. Lots of waterfowl flying north. The barred owl is hooting, but no hermit thrush yet. Don't remember so many red fox sparrows last year; a dozen around the feeder at one time.

The greenhouse is warming up. Eating lots of fresh greens. Had to take out half the kale (transplanted to St Paul) but still eating a lot of kale. Chard and bok choi is ready to eat. Started garden sets. Got the irrigation system set up on a timer so I can be away.

Working on tiling the bathrooom. Our solar contracor is back in touch, so we may be looking pretty finished around here. The porch is the have-to project for this summer.

Watching the season beautifull.


25 March 2011

First it was Winter, then it wated to be Spring, now it's Winter again...with longer days. Having to vent the greenhouse on sunny days; gets to be 95 degrees easy, which is great for showers.

The noticable progress on the house is getting the slate floor down. A lot of work but, I think, worth it. The plumbing is in place but for a check valve and the kitchen sink. Will be funny not to pump water; hope we continue to keep our water use down. The tile in the bathroom floor and shower is coming up soon. Still looking for my solar contractor to get the collector up and working.

Some of the best time in the year comes up in about a month: late spring before the bugs. I've suggested to several people that is the time to come up to stay in the shelter, but so far, no takers this year.

The sun has set, dinner is over, classical music streaming, and the fire is down to coals. Still need to walk Star a last time. It's OK.


20 February 2011

We returned to the Sax Zim Bog Birding Festival this weekend. Good, as always. Great Grey Owl, Pine Grossbeaks, Redpolls, along with the usual suspects, and a great interaction between adult and juvenile Rough-Legged Hawks. We saw the adult snatch a rodent (seen from across a field); the juvenile managed to harass the adult until it dropped the rodent which it swooped down to catch on the fly and took off. We were tired enough Saturday to bail and head home before the program. However, our bird feeder yielded pine grossbeaks, a Pileated woodpecker, and a Coopers Hawk swooping in within the hour we returned. Why did we go? Oh, yeah, the programs.


8 February 2011

Another beautiful sunny day! 80 degrees in the greenhouse. House is soaking up the sun. All my seedlings are up and transplanted into the greenhouse; still tiny but encouraging. Still cold at night outside, but more sunlight per day, now.

The birds tank up on the sun seed and suet. Our remaining suet from the pig is in a frozen 30 pound box which I will trim for sausage, usually mostly thawed. So.....I found a new use for my chisel and mallet (long time since timberframing); it works remarkably well as the suet remains a bit plastic and peels away from the meat with a small pry of the chisel. The woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees will be happy.

I'm having an interesting time with learning microscope identification of fungi/mushrooms. There is soooo much to learn, but enjoyable. The group is in St Paul, so I have another reason to get down there.


30 January 2011

Still snowing. Running out of place to put it. We get out skiing is beautiful and warms us up. The dogs love it. We have visiting pine grossbeaks, purple finch, redpolls, and the occasional gray jay. Lots of chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, pine sisskins, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and the occasional pileated sighting although we hear them often. Ravens are vocal. Deer and squirrels are cleaning up under the bird feeder.

Karen is working this month, fitting 40 hours into 4 days so she can come up every other weekend; I make it down the alternate weeks, trying to make it short to keep the house warm up north; wood is our pimary heat. I am also learning what works in the greenhouse. Kale is growing slowly and adds to meals; starting greens, napa cabbage and leek sets. Had a leak (not the vegetable kind) in the solar thermal water bag and FarmTek replaced it, but quite a job to swap it out; lost some water. Kept the temp above freezing even the night it was -35 F. with some help from a space heater. When the sun shines, it's fine.

The walk with the dogs the night of -35 was magical: full moon and still, crystaline air, squeaky snow, the dogs laughed at the cold. Good to be alive.


5 January 2011

Happy New Year! December was busy with holidays and making wood for the house. Finally got the oak flooring planed and out of the shop, so I have room to finish drying wood for the heater. Lots of meals from the bake oven. Enjoying our pork and sausage, and eggs from the neighbor.

Also challenged to get the greenhouse working. Still have kale and some herbs growing; this is a test year, I guess. The water bag (solar thermal storage in the back of the greenhouse) was not the right size and developed a leak, soon to be replaced. Our solar contractor has been busy with bigger jobs than ours so that that is a missing piece yet; will eventually provide hot water and backup heat for the greenhouse. So I've been using a space heater on cold nights after cloudy days. When the sun shines, it heats up well and the fan blows hot air under the beds. We've had lots of cloudy days. Sigh. We have been suplementing our meals with greens from the greenhouse. More to come.

Our holiday open house in St Paul was at the cold tail end of a blizzard, but we still had more than twenty guests. Always a joy. We plan to entertain more this winter and to see those we missed. You know how to get in touch with us.

The bird watching has been quite a pastime. Chickadees and red-breasted nutchatches are most frequent, with hairy and downy woodpeckers. Pine siskins are back in force with redpolls and a few pine grossbeaks and purple finches. Just one jay yet in the last month, a former feeder hog. The dogs are very interested in the many red squirrels and bunny and deer tracks with the occasional fox tracks. Fungi are dormant of course, but I hope to get some innoculated logs fruiting soon. Playing with microscope identification in my 'spare' time.

We plan to stick pretty close to home this winter; no big trips planned. Hope to see you soon.