Some things that happened in 2016

Garlic is ready!


We all live by narrative, every day and every minute of our lives. Narrative is the human way of working through a chaotic and unforgiving world bent on reducing our bodies to malodorous catabolic molecules.
- E.O. Wilson, Intro to The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2001

Have only one rule: Be your wild, courageous, brilliant self every single day. No matter what. May you never fail to express all of the wild and wondrous things you are.
- Leigh Standley


17 Dec 2016
The below zero days and snow are upon us. My task list includes bringing in wood, cleaning the snow off greenhouse and solar collector, shoveling a bit, and plowing us out. Things that us older folks tend to avoid. I admit to embracing them to stoke my internal furnace. The warm pleasure of an evening fire and using the bakeoven provide some balance.

Just pulled the last tomatoes from the greenhouse; let them go way long. We have an abundance of cabbage, brussel sprouts, carrots, and kabocha squash staying cool in the greenhouse. The chard, celery, parsley, and herbs moved in pots clutter the space a bit. November-December is the challenge for the greenhouse as it can be cold but cloudy. A little sun warms it right up and heats the big bag of water that keeps it pretty well; a small electric heater on a thermostat keeps things from freezing on the really cold nights. I didn't get raab and arugula sets planted soon enough and they are struggling now (sigh); reseeded but it could be February before they have enough sun to get any size. We have the last few tomatoes and peppers ripening on the table. Still looking forward to sausage-making and bacon smoking; we got our pork for the year and getting lamb soon. Using up the last bits of last year's meat with 'creative' recipes. The first batch of sauerkraut has been ready for awhile. Way lots of veggies in the freezer and lots of dried and frozen mushrooms. Truly a season of abundance.

A few weeks ago we lost a very good friend. Our dog Star has been struggling with an adrenal tumor for almost a year, retaining some joy for her and us. Thankfully, no great pain for her, she stopped eating and drinking, wanted to lay out on her hill in the yard; very stoic and a model for how to die. That evening it was threatening cold drizzle, so I carried her in next to us as we ate dinner; at the end of the meal when was gone and we toasted her life with us. We fostered her from NSGPC when she was six months old, our first dog. After adopting her, she excelled in training and was always a great companion.

We recently returned from a trip to Santa Cruz, CA for a foray at a site we like; their rainy season; good programs. On the way, we visited our friends who run Milliaire Winery in Murphys and toured the Central Valley including a couple of wildlife refuges (what's left of what the whole valley once was). Met some good people. We had help from our neighbors, the Frisbys but the house took a long time to warm up on our return. Thankful we are willing to cope with some variation to make a life out here.


03 Dec 2016
Strange weather. We had a few inches of snow, mostly melted now. Easier on our woodpile than anticipated.

We got a truckload of oak firewood together with our great neighbor. Cutting, splitting and stacking that for next year. Most 'before the snow flies' tasks done. "It's a good life as long as you are healthy."

We are off for trips to California and New Zealand this winter. Bucket lists pale in comparison. We had a great Thanksday with a turkey breast in the bakeoven. Still a few tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse. Better peppers than ever now harvested. A log inoculated with shiitake three years ago decided to bear after soaking; a dozen nice mushrooms for eating, gifts, and drying.

Hope you are in a place where hope is a reality.


19 Oct 2016
Suddenly one can see 'through' the woods again...the underbrush and leaves have fallen. Temps are cooler but still now hard frost forecast for the next couple nights.

Got out to cut that big maple that was ready to rot; some nice fire wood for a couple years from now. Also innoculated the stump and some logs with Herecium (Sweet Comb mushroom), again a couple years to wait. Many mushrooms this fall, edibles including hedgehogs, lobsters, honeys, ivory waxy caps and some aborted entoloma from Boulder; lots dried and frozen for this winter. The garden is still going strong with cabbage, beets, brussel sprouts,leeks, and greens still out there; squash and carrots are harvested. Waiting for the last few tomatoes to ripen before supplanting them with the winter regime (kale, raab, greens) in the greenhoues.

Karen is busy with University for Seniors classes, choir and DSSOC, and vestry. So we're getting into town often in this busy time of year with many things to do before freeze-up. Got up on the roof to clean the chimney which is kind of fun. This year's wood is moved into the shop to stay dry. Not going to get to transplanting tree the spring, I guess.

Gene attended the meeting of the local Head-of-the-Lake chapter of MN Naturalists at Boulder and co-led a great mushroom walk; fun had by all. Also took on managing the Paul Bunyan Mushroom club website using Wordpress not just typing the html like this website.

No fires yet this Fall; good on the wood supply but looking forward to meals in the bakeoven. We're looking at a week of cooler, cloudy weather so that's likely to change soon.


22 Sep 2016
Sunny morning in the northwoods! I should be out storing wood for this winter.... Garden is looking the best ever with a moist summer and fewer pests. Mushrooms have been prolific. We are all (mostly) healthy and happy.

Early September was forays for Gene: Cable WI joint MN/WI foray which is the 2017 NAMA Foray site. Found black trumpets in WI with our friend Elizabeth and had a great meal of them on returning home. The second week was this year's NAMA foray in Front Royal VA. Karen flew and Gene drove out, catching the Illinois Myco Soc meeting north of Chicago on the way, and MI and Toronto forays on the return. The latter was near Algonquin Park in Ontario, an area I've been wanting to explore. Good people and mushrooms. Just after NAMA, we visited Jan and Frank, friends in WV from former times in MN; great hosts at their home in the mountains. After almost two weeks away, being home was welcome.

Finished up our Minnesota Land Trust monitoring visiting with great new owners of one of the properties. Work at Boulder Lake ELC is on for Saturday and Oct 2 with MN Master Naturalists Head of the Lake chapter. Next week Gene volunteers at Cloquet Forestry Conservation Education Days; ten groups of fifth graders from area schools at my "Lost in the Woods" station; always energizing and fun.

We saw Karen's oncologist Monday for results of her latest CAT scan. Again, they were negative! No tumors. He was pleased enough with the results - Karen will have been in remission from her cancer since December, 2015 - that he does not need to see another CAT scan until March, 2017. She has responded so well to the two drugs she took for several months that he is now starting to talk in terms of years of survival in remission, rather than months. It was great news and we are planning trips for 2017! Late May and October are the times to come visit ere (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?).


04 Sep 2016
A busy fall season demands our attention. Karen begins choir and DSSOC practice for choral performance. Gene is off to foray with local and continental mycological meetings. And the greenhouse needs to be turned over for the winter regime. At least we are healthy! Our priorities have been bent and mangled, but we still are committed to our northwoods lifestyle. The last year has been a lesson from hell. Doing our planned activities is a gift from heaven. The mushrooms are cooperating, More hedgehog mushrooms than ever seen. The rain has brought us cabbage, beets, squash, carrots and other crops beyond expectations. Karen and Gene are healthy and active. Praise!


20 July 2016
We lost only a couple of trees with a wind storm that took out a lot of big trees just a couple of miles from us. Karen was home and lost electricity for most of a day. Gene was on the vacation to Machu Piccu and Galapagos that both were supposed to be on if not for needed medical care. The fireworks were disgusting as usual near the 4th, the mosquitoes were vicious, and summer people noisy. July is my favorite month to be somewhere else.

Picked our first ripe tomato last night. Have had cucumbers for a couple weeks, and we're picking summer squash, celery, and chard.

This Spring was productive for morels and oyster mushrooms. A couple of Lactarius in the woods, but mostly Russulas I don't care for. Gene got out to Boulder Lake ELC a couple times to extend the fungal inventory. Seem to have difficulty interesting anyone else. Guess I'm just weird.

On to August....


21 June 2016
The morels finally came through. And the oysters. So what's for dinner besides mushrooms? The garden meanies were not quite as hard on the cabbagey things this year; garden is looking pretty good. Got a few dozen more white pines transplanted and caged. Some of the first trees we planted have outgrown their cages; looking good!

Gene's gotten back into swimming in prep for a trip that includes snorkeling; feels good. Karen continues with some health issues, but is much better, thank you, and enjoying early summer in the woods. Early June, we traveled up to the Gunflint for a nice visit with Susan and took in a North House botany class (good, but lots of rain). Gene was able to bounce to the city for MMS and people there. Otherwise, sticking pretty close to home. A good place to be.


24 May 2016
Went from snow flying to brown and fire hazard to T-storms and hot and buggy in a couple of weeks. Got most of the garden in; just started harvesting the garlic, replacing it with peppers and cukes. Tomatoes went in a couple weeks ago in the greenhouse. Cabbage yesterday out in the garden. Found just one morel, but a couple other non-edible cuties.

Karen had a great trip on a Med cruise with wine club folks. Have the pictures, but no story yet...


28 Apr 2016
Okay, so the plow is off the truck. Forecast has no freezing temps any more. The recent rains only returned mud season for a couple of days. The clothes dried on the line instead of freeze drying to finish inside. I hate to say it but ..... I think it's Spring! Pretty light time as I write at 8 pm.

The greenhouse is turned over: the raab pulled out, a few tomatoes put in (waiting for really warm to put in cucumbers and peppers). The garden beds are cleaned up, the rock retaining walls rebuilt where necessary....waiting for warm weather to plant. Many white pine seedlings ready to move when there will be rain for them. Sure there are ticks out there although I haven't seen any. Ah, Spring in northern MN.


24 Apr 2016
My plow is still on the truck...northern MN outlook. If we don't get too much rain, mud season should be ebbing. Dug a bunch of white pine seedlings to replant yesterday that were in the wrong place. Garden is cleaned up but not even thinking of putting anything in yet. Pulled out the winter crops in the greenhouse and have tomato sets waiting for a bit more sun/heat there.

Still a month before we look for morels. I'm now the Great Lakes Region trustee for NAMA and hope to do some trips visiting other clubs this summer. Life continues to be interesting.


24 Mar 2016
A long time since posting here. Karen and I have both had our challenges and are now back to 'normal.' "I've always wanted to be normal, but lately I've come to the realization that this is it." So life is filled with the 'normal' stuff of seasonal birds showing up at the feeder (redpolls and siskins _finally_ showed up in Feb/Mar), greenhouse being productive (broccoli raab anyone?), and Karen getting back to singing at church and DSSOC. Star has taken ill and we can't seem to identify what is going on; better recently. Bea is coming into her own and happy as well as weird (clothesline phobia). We are looking mud season in the face, that period between frozen and firm that challenges each late winter. Gene is taking on regional rep responsibilities for North American Mycological Association (NAMA) and plans to travel the Great Lakes region clubs this spring. Karen is active with Sugarloaf Cove board education committee activities. Yep. Life as 'normal.'


24 Jul 2015
Back from our travels. Catch the report of Haida Gwaii The raspberry plants and other plants kinda got away from us this year; weed whip needs repair, too. We're in the heat of the summer, my least favorite time. Mushrooming is thin...a few Russulas and Leccinum. Bumblebees thought my outside bakeoven makes a great nesting place; as they are on hard times, I plan to wait until Fall to remove the nest. Many projects present themselves, and here I am on the computer. Hmmmmm.

Flowers in front of the house have been a great progression this year from Pasque flower to Daffodil to poppies to Iris and now Bergamot and purple coneflowers. Mostly things that don't taste good to deer. In the garden, turnips are going great although the carrots pretty much failed. Slugs got a lot, too. We came home to lovely lettuce and radicchio and the first cucumber and tomato are ready for dinner tonight. We have our share of health issues right now, but are both doing well. Enjoying our life in the woods.


5 Jun 2015
Jump forward in time to full leaves, moderate temperatures, and lots of growing plants. We had a nocturnal visit not noticed by us that flattened our bird feeder platform; likely a bear. The feeders were inside (racoons) except the hummingbird feeder which wasn't touched. Other wildlife sightings include a puma who ran across the road near us in late May, and Karen saw a wolf farther south. Birds took awhile to change over; the siskins and redpolls stuck aroung through most of May, as did the Evening Grosbeaks (a few still around) and Rosebreasted Grosbeaks. Thirty seven species noted in May this year, without the warblers who don't come to the feeders. Very few Goldfinch yet. Each year is different.

We had a dry spell in April and the greehnouse rainwater cistern went dry; we rarely have enough gray water to get us through for long. I was able to siphon enough from the settelment tank on the main cistern to get us through. Wasn't even close on the main cistern. But plentiful rains came with May. As did some freezing temps that got our cabbage sets. Gene's had some medical difficulties so that Karen has done the heavy lifting on most of the planting this spring. Doing well now with the greenhouse in tomatoes, cukes, and soon peppers and everything in the garden except squash and beans. No wine caps yet and I'm not seeing much white mycelium; another fungus may have invaded. We're just finishing up the garlic and tomatoes from last year, so that lasted well. The garlic crop looks smaller this year and is ready to harvest in the greenhouse already; go figure.

We're still trying to sell the duplex down in St Paul to simplify our lives. We relented and hired a realtor, but a very good one. Hope to have that resolved this year.

So with a lot of projects on hold, it's mostly watching summer come to the woods. Not too shabby.


29 Mar 2015
After losing most of our snow, today we have a thin covering of the white, wet stuff. Fun to watch the big flakes come down when they will likely be gone by tomorrow. Still lots of frost in the ground even if I've been eyeing the garden wistfully but, hey, it March! yet. Most of the little white pine volunteers we marked with pink flagging last fall made it through the winter un-nipped by the deer; they are waiting for us to move them to a more humanly appropriate place when the ground has warmed and the air is still cool. And hopefully wet. Some concerns this year with so little snow pack of fire danger before it greens up. Today should help.

Karen has been off galavanting in the Caribbean
gallivant: vb to go about in search of pleasure; gad about; perhaps whimsical modification of gallant.
More about that later.

Sets are started for summer crops except the cabbagey things which are quick. Afraid my attempt to start milkweed is unlikely due to just learning they need vernalization (winter/cold period). Raab is sprouting as it should; many nice meals. The chard potted up from last year's garden that survived, but did not grow through the winter is now happily putting out leaves...and sprouts soon I'm sure. Garlic is small due to the cloudy winter, but growing. Survivor leeks (small ones from last year's garden planted in the greenhouse) are growing micely and will need to be harvested as soon as they show evidence of scapes (flower sprouts). Survivor kale (three years old now) is growing and sprouting in the greenhouse; I try to keep them trimmed but that's a lot of kale.

Made some progress (there's a weasel word!) on the cabinetry. China cupboard got done February/March, and the lower cabinet doors begun; The design using recycled oak flooring won out. Still a lot of work to finnish those in a slow process; but sorta fun. Spent some time this winter dreaming summer building projects into possible existence: astronomy tower, shelter for backhoe,.....

With warmer weather coming on, also thinking about the transition from cooking/baking in the masonry heater to the outdoor bakeove which is now ready for action. Looking forward to learning how to use it. Another innovation this winter resulted from a gift of kefir from neighbor Chris Frisby; we know make 'kefir cheese' instead of buying cottage cheese for the dogs and us. It is also a good buttermilk substitute in pancakes, bread, soup and such. Our stored and frozen vegetables are holding out well, and cabbage, leeks and carrots stored admirably in the greenhouse this winter. Curing the onions, garlic, and squash in the greenhouse worked well before storing in the pantry. We have sausage, pork, and lamb in the freezer yet. Still lots of good food.

Kind of feeling a vernal Thanksgiving.


17 Mar 2015
Snow is nearly gone. Been sitting out in the lawn chairs and on the screen porch. Went for a week without a fire. But I don't plan to put away the shovel or plow yet.

Four deer sauntered into our front clearing, 30 feet from where we were sitting inside: 2 dows and 2 yearlings, wee think. Deer haven't been this close to the house in months. They stopped and looked at us and moved slowly on; they all looked healthy and plump; not like last year. There's lots of browse now in the woods--no snow and too early for summer grasses. Later, we saw one down & yearling walk by again. They check out the spillage under the bird feeder.

Our house has been 'on the market' with a good realator for several weeks now, with several showings. Hoping..... A sale would mean a flurry of activity for us, but most has been done already. Happy/sad. A lot of good things are like that.


12 Feb 2015
Happy Birthdays Luna and Peter!

Sunny day! Yeah! Although the temps are double digits below zero, the house warms up nicely. Karen is off to walk the dogs at Boulder Lake EC. Curry for supper is in the bakeoven. Kinda nice here.

Trip report for the Bolivia trip is posted.


26 Jan 2015
" thoughts are scattered and its cloudy...."

We could really use some sun! Plants are holding on in the greenhouse but not growing. Karen worked in the cities, and went to Florida with sister Sue more.... So the dogs, cats, and Gene held down the house in the woods. Looks like we have enough wood to make it till Spring. But I'm a short-timer, too. Leaving for Bolivia for another fungal jungal trip.

Very peaceful here.....