Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Meating the new year

Been reading and enjoying Terrierman lately, as he is on a roll about food and food fakery.
Lovely stuff there
Plain mallard here
Happy New Year
out there.........................................

Thursday, December 25, 2014


The shortest day of the year found us up in the wolf country and off the grid where time literally stood still during a three day stay. The forest seemed absolutely desolate and devoid of any activity and the meager snow pack rapidly slumped into slush, as warm fog and drizzle shrouded the whole country in gloomy dimness.
No birds came to the feeders. Neither grouse nor hare appeared. No whiskey jacks nor ravens. Not bird call one. Only silence and a wintery mix.
A fitting state of grey for the end of another busy year.
Finally on the third day there was some sign of life written in the snow, as we went for a hike into a little beaver pond not far from the cabin.  Four wolves had emerged onto the trail and gone ahead of us toward the pond, but then peeled off to the northeast as we broke out of the spruces and into the open meadow that surrounded the beavers' labors.
One track of a white tail buck was there and a few from some snowshoe hare. A weasel has crossed the trail as well. But that was the extent of any animal movement.
We had left the dogs in the cabin, suspecting that we might encounter their grey brothers.
Late in the day a great grey owl perched atop an aging aspen.
All was grey save Blondie as a damp Mrs Claus

Monday, December 15, 2014

It was a good year for the grouse

Damn, I have forgotten how good a taste of ruffed grouse can be.

A decent descriptor of pathetic shooting prowess
But then there was never a really good opportunity
At least that's my story
Two shots too far at a bird that flew down the trail center
Two shots at a bird behind the balsam screen
One shot at a too close, weird angled, up and behind the back twister
Perhaps there was no lead in the little shells
Seven birds in the birch and spruce boughs
Craning their necks to decifer a three dog risk
No shooting at the thought of retriever pieces

And then finally a duck gun Hail Mary
driving down the black top
returning from the morning flight
sunburned face and aching shoulders
rowing hard to beat the compition
outboard motor failure
dozing off............

"there's a bird"
"a grouse"
"right there on the shoulder"
"didn't you see it"
"it was right there"
my side
didn't see it
 "you want it"

Twelve gauge and steel number twos
huff and puff a couple hundred yards back up the road ditch
no bird on the shoulder
are you sure there was a bird
go ahead another twenty-five yards
no bird
flush at about fifty
too far?
shoot and miss
pull a lead and shoot again
down like a freakin' shuttle cock!

Between passes and misses
the kill stands at about 5 %
pretty good year for the grouse

Braised grouse:

One grouse lightly shot (one #2 steel center punched)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup reconstituted dried morel mushrooms
dredge: 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon seasoned salt, 1 tablespoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium/ low heat
Split the grouse lengthwise and remove the legs
Dredge the bird heavily in the flour mixture
Drop dredged bird into hot fat and brown for about five minutes, turning once
Reduce heat and add shallots - simmer for two minutes
Add the morels and the excess reconstitution water
Cover and slowly simmer for one hour
check occasionally to avoid bird sticking to bottom of the pan and add water as needed to produce a thick gravy.

All that is left, is to marvel at how incredibly delicious this little bird is- and wonder if the nineteen that got away will be around next season?

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Loons are a fixture of the north country and have attained a revered status here in Minnesota's lake region.  They arrive early in spring, usually showing up on the very day that the ice goes out. After mating, nesting, and rearing one or two offspring, the adults migrate south in September to the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the youngsters don't go with them. Somehow these newly fledged birds cluster in large numbers on the states largest lakes and then fly en mass to their wintering grounds just ahead of freeze up, sometimes not returning for another year and a half. This past fall during the first week of November, I saw hundreds of young-of-the-year loons on Big Winnie. Minnesota has more loons (est. 12,000) than any other state except Alaska.

Not so rarely, loons get into trouble with fishing lines and lures, landing on highways in rainy weather, poisoned by ingesting lead head jigs, and in the case of the story below - missing the bus to get the hell out of here before winter sets in.

Once in awhile the old Curmudgeon actually grins, and this story from the backyard did it, but I fear the young loon faces a steep curve toward recovery. Check this out........... and stay tuned.

Loon Rescue MN - YouTube

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ice notes


the lake makes ice and music at ten degrees this evening
the dogs scamper onto the whitened sheet but are quickly called to shore
five stabs of the spud finds water
only three inches thick, i thought there would be more
the dogs cluster around for a drink of fresh lake water

i add our combined weight

the youngster 88
lassie 60
zane 72
too much for three inches
we'll return another day


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Grip

The long rod water has been tight for less than a week now
and already I'm Jonesin' for a shot of fluidity
Oh its a long dark haul to April
and yearning for lapping waves is pure stupidity
so for now I'll just have to dig these
Stormy Blues

Saturday, November 8, 2014


The spike buck was down in "the gully", a kind of go to spot that funnels deer into a shooting gallery when the bucks are on the make.  Sometimes they run the gully better than other times. The weather was not great - too windy to be much good for a predetermined ambush spot, so I went to the gully late in the day after freezing my ass off near a scrape made by an eight point camera trapped buck.  He never showed for a picture.

The spike buck thought he was being pretty big time. Thrashing a popple sapling and stomping his feet.  He was too busy being a tough guy to notice that I was getting closer each time he put his head down. At a distance of about a hundred yards, the shot was possible, if. The brush was too thick to shoot through, so I watched for what seemed like a long time. Ten minutes maybe.

I could see he had antlers and the body was bulky and brown. He would be a good meat deer. If only he would get out of that brush and into a clear spot. He continued to beat the shit out of the popple sapling. The cross hairs of the rifle scope were on his head as he finally walked a few steps up the side of the gully. Hmmmm - only a spike I see.

Pull it. . . . . . . !

The spike buck folded like an exploding prairie dog in a cloud of pink mist.

There is no catch and release with high powered rifles.

Game over.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


 He's not a dog that will pose for pretty pictures. No drooping dead duck in the mouth, sitting patiently with liquid loving eyes doting upon his master. No, he's about making the retrieve. Stick, rock, hunk of firewood, bird, rabbit, whatever. Fish. He would drag a deer home - no problem.

So keep shootin' boss !

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Grappling with the need to find a word that adequately describes the appearance of the Autumnal forest, I found .....
A word that defines the brilliance of the arboreal landscape
And sounds like the smell of the dead leaves decaying back into the earth.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oh giddy rapture

Despite a daytime high still edging eighty
  local flora and fungi have decided that summer is a goner
   and the time is here to abandon the tired green
     for a cooler, richer color scheme

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer wanes

Rain yesterday in the amount of 0.9 inches
nary the past three weeks
if you don't count the spit in the ocean
that is eleven drops

overnight Lobsters abound
and the first ever Hedgehogs
I spy

Hazelbrush yellows
as the raspberry fruits fall


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A well aimed hammer

 Although politics and the environment are the stuff of my daily work life, I don't write much about it here. However, the last couple of weeks have been partially filled with data reviews and conversations relating to the current debate about the exclusions to the Clean Water Act and whether they should be reconsidered in some near future legislation, either in a revised Act or in some new rule making effort here in Minnesota.  In the course of these conversations, there has been a lot of talk from the more right leaning side of the political spectrum about "regulation" and "over regulation" and how it stifles business, kills jobs and is generally a bad thing for everyone it touches.
I respect that point of view (to a point), but when I have asked for specific examples of the evils of society's rules, at least in the context of environmental regulation, I haven't received an answer that can be debated.  Rather, it appears that people just don't like having to plan ahead and think a little bit beyond the scope of their own lives. Considering the other person, therefore is somehow unnecessary and in the extreme even "un American".

Reading MinnPost this evening, I saw a comment to an article about the Republican hopeful who is running against the Democratic incumbent for US Senate this fall.  The article is about fact checking and how data gets spun, but the comments to the article are where the fun really is at. The commenter provided what I think is lacking in much of our political debate - that we have regulations for good reasons. To me, this is a brilliant piece of context to the debate. And funny. I don't know the writer making the comment, but I appreciate his courage to put this out there. Here it is:

Logan, you raise a good point. There's always talk about regulations being bad without any indication as to *which* regulations. It's important to remember that the regulations were put in place to fix a problem. For example, some idiot dumped the waste from their factory into the stream because there isn't a law saying they can't do it. So a new law gets enacted.

Then they dump the waste into the ground because the new law only mentions streams and then we're back to the races again. We wouldn't need all these regulations if people would simply do what's right for society rather than simply maximizing profits. It's the same problem we've been dealing with for hundreds of years: business owners want to privatize profits and socialize loses. If the pollution drifts downstream into the water supply of the next town, well tough petunias. The company will simply do their best to delay the regulatory process, deny there's an issue, ruin the reputation of the scientists studying the issue, and then declare bankruptcy when all else fails. Oh, but not before voting a big bonus for the company officers while laying off all the employees.

Then the assets are bought up for pennies on the dollars at bankruptcy auction, a new corporation is formed, and they complain about how regulation is such a burden on them. "Gosh," they cry, "we could add so many jobs to your area if only we didn't have the burden of regulation. Won't you please reduce you regulations so we can repeat the above process all over again?
Been there, done that, got the T shirt dipped in asbestos.

Beautiful man, beautiful!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

a few pix from the doldrums

Bachelor loons are using the lake this year because there are no breeders to chase them off. Four five and six are the daily norm. Post card birds.
Rescued from the landfill, a vintage paddleboat (free) has been added to the fleet. Three dogs, an old guy and a bunch of fishing equipment in a weird old tub = absolute mayhem!
Still a male guarding a nest at the end of July. Staggered spawning times would seem a good strategy for success.
 The frog hunter revs it up................

Thursday, July 24, 2014

And the Great Blue Heron shiteth.........................

It started out back in May. The snow had finally come off the barn roof in late April, assembling itself in a massive pile that, on the shady northern side, would not finally disappear until the first of June. As that big glacier melted through the month of May most of the water it produced just percolated straight down into the sandy soils, but some of it moved laterally into the barn floor. It didn't take long until the north side of the barn's interior was a right good quagmire for much of the month, hence the three big overhead doors were wide open, night and day, in an effort to keep the rest of the place from becoming the proverbial sea of mud.

Enter the robins.  Not unusual for birds to nest in the rafters of the barn. Mostly it has been least flycatchers or phoebes, but when a pair of robins moved in and began to set up house, I didn't pay them much attention.
Everything was going along just fine for awhile, the mudline remained close to the north wall, the robins incubated their brood and worked over their share of the insect population, the Piscator puttered around the barn tending his junk and the big snow pile was daily reduced.
Enter the June rains.  One Sunday evening after a weekend of walleye whacking with the boys, I arrived home too tired to properly put away all the gear and park the truck back in the barn, where it resides most of the time. Instead I left it out overnight with the windows down - of course during the night there occured one of those glorious one inch thunderless rainstorms that comprised almost every other day of the month!
In the morning the seats and floor of the old pickup were soaked, so into the barn it went. Truck with open windows in a barn with open doors and high hopes that barn floor and truck upholstery would eventually dessicate. Seemed like a good enough plan.

Enter the robins - again. Why fly outside of a cozy barn to take a crap, when there is a ready made perch in the shape of a truck only half the distance away. The pair or the pair and perhaps seventeen of their friends sat on the rolled down window of the drivers side of the truck and shit inside the vehicle for a week! Grrrrr!

A couple of weeks after the truck was finally clean and dry, I was out on the evening walkabout with the dogs when a I heard a "splat" to my near right.  Before I could look (a stupid reaction) up to see where it came from, another large "splat" hit me right in the bald spot on the top of the head.  Now I don't know the internal body temperature of a crow, but I suspect that it's warmer than mine, because there was a noticeable heat to that well placed bomb. Two crows flushed out of the big silver maple that we were passing under. They might have been laughing. Bastards! I had never pondered the consistency of bird turds before having  to scrub them out of my truck, but here again I found myself  pondering and wiping both the smooth and crunchy aspects out of my hair. Glad I didn't have time to look up.

So a couple of weeks after that, and down at the little landing, Zane flushed a great blue heron out of the cattails and came bounding back with a freshly skewered bullhead. He's a retriever of weird stuff. A bullhead? Come on......
And so maybe it's revenge or maybe I should look up to see if there is a terrific perching branch before leaving the kayak someplace. Or maybe it is good things coming in threes? OK, sure. At least the kayak was turned over.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


After the June rains have passed
and the summer solstice is still a close memory
and all the fruits of the forest are bursting forth
it would seem that the cranial monsters
should be as far away and as impossible to find
as a toad in the night
densely shrouded under the verdant woods
Yet the downward pull persists
and cabin fever turned upside down
is still cabin fever for all that

Monday, July 14, 2014


Waking abruptly from a rare afternoon doze
Spidy senses on high alert
There in the yard stalking omnivorously
Mom and Pop and a couple of downy Sandhill kids

Friday, June 13, 2014

Good things from wetness

Concerning the amount of rainfall in the last thirty days, the mean, median, and/or average crunched from the data, rarely exists in the reality of the now. That would be about 3.5 inches compared to the measured 6.3 inches in my back yard.
"Just Right", I suggest is therefor not a statistical term.
I am channeling Goldilocks all the same.