Sunday, February 13, 2011


Just a filler post. I'll get back to this blog one of these days.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Remembering Harry

Harry B. Paulson, Sr. died on Wednesday, January 6.

Harry lived in the house behind mine. His obituary ends with this line:
Harry will be missed for many things but most notably his feistiness and zest for life.

Sounds about right.

Not long after we moved here, when Harry was a spry fellow in his early eighties, he locked himself out of his house. There was no getting in the first floor without breaking a window. But perhaps one of the second-story windows was open, if just a little. We put a ladder against the porch roof, and I climbed up to check the windows.

To my surprise, Harry climbed up right behind me. All the windows were closed. We tried to slip a thin piece of metal through the meeting rails of a bedroom window, hoping to open the clamshell sash lock. No luck.

We ended up using my cordless drill to drill a hole through the lower rail of the top sash, and then used a bent coat hanger to unfasten the clamshell. The window slid open easily, and Harry climbed in.

Rest in Peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silent Night

With 9 or 10 inches on the ground already, and another 6 predicted to fall overnight, it should be a silent night.

Except for when the plows roll through.

snow plow

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dear Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola holiday bottle

Dear Coca-Cola,

To you, this holiday bottle is probably just a fun novelty item. To teachers, however, this is a cheap (and unbreakable) alternative to a round-bottom flask, suitable for young children.

I like to use these bottles as lenses. Filled with water and held at arm's length, they produce images like this one.

Bottle lens

In a darkened room, one can shoot a laser beam through the water-filled bottle and observe the refraction.

Last year, I bought two before they were gone from the shelves at my local WalMart. This year, I got a dozen.

Here's hoping that these will be released again next year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Against the snow

Astilbe in the snow

Not the best photo, but I like the stark contrast that these astilbe create against the snow.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Last of the tomatoes

Tonight I used the last of my tomatoes. Picked a couple of weeks ago, before our first frost, they finished ripening inside. While they aren't as good as vine-ripened tomatoes picked in their prime, the 'Garden Peach' and 'Red Figs' tasted pretty good in the black bean chili I made tonight.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Insult to Injury

I realize that in Minnesota, we can't count on the growing season lasting any longer than baseball's regular season. But just as the Twins had a thrilling run in September, Summer pulled out all the stops and gave us a warmer than usual September.

On the last weekend in the season, the Twins tied the Tigers to force a playoff, and then won a thrilling one-game playoff to win their division. I wasn't counting on warm temperatures through Halloween, but it was easy to imagine that we'd ease into autumn.

It wasn't bad enough that the Twins lost three in a row to the Yankees; we got a hard frost in the middle of that sad series, and measurable snow the day after the third loss.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Learning from the Masters

One of these years, I'm going to sign up for the Master Gardener program at the U. Until then, I think I've found a pretty good alternative. I've been volunteering to help Master Gardeners with their community gardening projects in my neighborhood.

It started a couple of years ago when I agreed to help clear a ditch to make way for a raingarden. Working alongside a couple of Master Gardeners, I learned to identify buckthorn and some other weedy trees. Better yet, I got my hands on a Weed Wrench. It's a great tool -- very effective, and fun to use. It's a bit pricey for something I need for a few hours, once or twice a year, but one the local Master Gardeners has one that she loans to people in the neighborhood.

Since then, I've helped with three or four other ongoing projects. For a little sweat and time, I've learned a lot about container gardening, native prairie plants, trees, insect pests, rain gardens, and edible weeds.

If you are free at noon on Sunday, September 13 and you want to learn about natives, consider helping with the Friends of Horton Park as they work on their native wildflower gardens.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Spotted a hummingbird zipping around my garden. First time I've seen one this season. It took a hit off some bee balm before dashing off.

Robins, with their young 'uns in tow, are raiding the serviceberry shrub and following me around whenever I water.

Goldfinches are becoming regular visitors, nibbling at the coneflower seeds. Coneflower is also known as annual bachelor button. It's hard to believe that they can light on a bendy coneflower stem without pulling the whole stem to the ground, but they manage. I'd love to get a photo, but without an SLR, a big zoom lens, and a bird blind, I don't think I can get close enough to the goldfinches.

Latin names for the plants, just because: Monarda, Amelanchier, and Centaurea cyanus.

UPDATE: Managed to get a photo.
Goldfinch feeding on cornflower

Saturday, July 11, 2009

panhandlers with 'tude

Three young women were camped out in the center boulevard at the intersection of Franklin and Cedar Avenues in Minneapolis this afternoon. Unlike most Twin Cities panhandlers, their faces didn't bear the wear and tear of decades of addiction.

While two lounged in the shade of a small tree, one held a hand-lettered sign which read:

If you voted for OBAMA, you owe me some CHANGE.

I regret that I left my camera at home.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Insect Artists

This is about as good as it gets with insect pests: neatly nibbling interesting designs on an unwanted plant.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mary Schier's most recent post, I've learned that these leaves were cut by leafcutter bees. That should be easy to remember.

Here are a couple more articles about leafcutter bees: one written by an entomologist and one with some great photos.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


First monarch butterfly passing through my garden.