Saturday, May 11, 2013

Journal - last two

     May 8

     Trumpeter swans on the pond last evening and night.  Their honking sounded like they were in the cabin with me, not three hundred yards away.  Whoever named them must have had a tin ear if that's what they thought trumpets sounded like.  No doubt about it they're honkin' birds.  There's only a pair, not the usual flock that passes by in the fall.  Maybe they're going to stay and have babies.  That would be a treat.
    In the growing light before daybreak they began to sound off again.  Enough to get me stumbling to the pond in my underwear to check them out.  Throw in the cawing of the crows, a twitter here and there, and the drilling of woodpeckers working for their breakfast and it was downright deafening.  Can't say for sure if the bird sounds are music to my ears but they tell me all is well in the woods.
     Those same bird noises also greet the dawn in the city.  But so does the beginning of rush hour and the chorus of a million tires on pavement.  I recall coming home from work at four a.m. on Saturday mornings when I was in high school to similar sounds.  Maybe life was simpler back in '64.
     There seems to be only a pair of swans.  I'm hoping it's a mating pair and not a gay couple.  Our state legislature is voting on same sex marriage as I write this and it looks like a real possibility.  As far as I'm concerned that's a good thing.  As far as the swans are concerned I'm pulling for heterosexual and hoping for babies.  Might even be cause enough for a spotting scope.
     I'm thinking of dropping the wilderness canoeing and fishing subtitle from this blog.  Though it was once true and a number of the entries are of those days, it's no longer an accurate description of my topics.  To be sure, I still fish from a canoe and nearly all of my fishing is done in near wilderness locations.  But it ain't the seat of the pants, no way out, forty miles from the nearest road kind of thing that it once was.
     Eventually you catch up with your future.  The end of my brief fling with the real boonies had to eventually arrive.  And it did.  It's just that I was a little slow in admitting it.  Years ago I wrote that once in a while a person finds a hole in time to slip into and live an alternate life for a short while.  But, it seems a lot of things have to line up just right for that to happen and I'm now permanently short a couple of those things.  I'll leave it at that.
     So what this has obviously evolved into is an Old Man Gets a Little Time at the Cabin Now and Then and Maybe Goes Fishing blog.  Not what I want but it beats the pants off of an Old Man Watches the Golf Channel While Eating Pork Rinds and Dies from Prostate Cancer blog.
     These days you can tell you're in the country by the number of dollar stores.  None are in the town we call home.  They're a self sufficient lot here and lean strongly toward home spun businesses. There's a drug store, flooring store, hardware, grocery, bakery, bowling alley, cafe and restaurant, liquor store, etc.  There's even a newspaper.  All in a town of nine hundred.  Used to be three car dealerships, all of them American of course, but GM closed theirs during the Great Recession.
     So when I needed to shop for a brand new, somewhat dated, and way marked down fishing hat I had to drive a ways.  Last year I found one but it was marked four dollars.  Made me want to step outside and recheck the name of the store.  And sure enough, there in small print that I'd taken for bird droppings, with an asterisk up front, read the words "and up - even as high as four dollars."  There I was, holding in my hands, the most expensive thing in the store.  At the moment it's sitting on the table in front of me next to my fly tying vise.
     But, what the hell it was a genuine - I knew it had to be genuine 'cause his name was on the hat in four places - Jeff Foxworthy, Living the Red Neck Life original.  On the front is this stick man with a fishing rod who'd caught himself a tire.  I suspected it to be an attempt at humor but seeing as how I was in a dollar store and Mr. Foxworthy has no problems making fun of the lower classes, it's just possible the stick man is pretty excited to have caught a free, slightly used but still serviceable, tire.
     On top of that, the hat was made in China.  Wasn't that long ago we thought of the Chinese as the Red Menace.  Now we have to think of them as the Redneck Menace.  Times change and I'm not sure if it's for the better.
     Mainly I bought the hat 'cause it's sky blue.  Don't want to scare off any fish unnecessarily so when they look up, they won't notice me because my head will blend in with the background.  That's all well and good but the best part happens when I take it off.  My thin white hair will make the fish think it's starting to cloud up, that maybe a front is moving in and they'd better start chowing down before the temperature drops and the bite will be on.  May not seem like a real possibility to a normal fisherman but, as you can see, I'm not normal.
     I almost gave a thought to fishing off the culvert exiting a small nearby lake that's lost its ice.  Across the road from the lake lies a slough with a stream that sporadically meanders through.  At the moment northern Minnesota is in flood and the slough is a shallow lake.  Prime spawning ground.  The water flowing into it through the culvert is roaring.  If I was a fish I'd be hanging out to the side of the flow to see what kind of food might be shooting by.  Like maybe a weighted streamer thrown by an ancient fiberglass fly rod in the hands of an old fart with time on his hands.
     Like I said, almost.  All I was lacking was the rod, reel, fly, and fishing license.  And there were other things that needed doing that I didn't mind working on.
     By the end of the day all was clean and I had an anally retentive smile on my face.  Clean is good.

     May 9

     The toughest day.  I had it all packed last night.  All that needed to be done was emptying the refrigerator and a final loading of the car.  On the drive home the ice was still on all the lakes I passed.  Lower and blacker for sure but still on.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cabin Journal - first two days

     May 6

     The ice is off Deadman.  That's about it.  Ice on all the rest, shore to shore.  Snow along the roadsides on the shaded embankments.  I don't remember snow this late.  On the Deadman side of the cabin and shed there are still a foot deep piles where it'd slid off the steel roofs.  No leaves, no buds.  Looks late March.  On the upside there's no mosquitos or wood ticks.  By the time it's Spring up here the calendar will say Summer.  'Sposed to rain on Wednesday and that may do the trick.  It might be possible to float a boat come Saturday but it'd be wise to wear a life jacket.  As to the fishing ... good luck.  
     On another upside, the boys from down south ain't coming for three weeks and that's enough time for the post-spawn to be in the past.  Who knows?  Maybe this will be a year to remember for more than the latest ice-out since the glaciers receded.
     A walk of the land tells me there's a big buck occasionally wandering our land.  Crap the size of a caribou's.  Or maybe a six hundred pound bunny.  His would be a rack to find.  Over the years I've looked for antlers with no luck.  Maybe I don't have the eye for it.  I mean they're shaped and colored like branches.  And the forest floor is nothing but branches.  About the time I get my concentration up and into 'seeing the rack', I walk square into an oak.  Then I can't see squat till I straighten out my glasses.  From then on I'm solidly into 'seeing the tree' mode and couldn't find a buck's rack unless I sat on it.
     Nearly seventy above when I drove up in the late afternoon but not so in the cabin.  So cold in there I was expecting to find frost on the nail heads.  Nothing else to do but build a fire.  'Spose I could have toughed it out but there's nearly three cords of dry wood neatly stacked under the spreading shed eaves.  It'll take years to get to it all and by then there'll be more, split, stacked, and dry.  Besides, fire is fun and exciting.
     Tomorrow the plan is to get started on the necessary cleanup.  Put off much longer and the dead flies will be ankle deep.  Also lots of windows that needed a serious washing.  The cabin's not all that big but there are thirty-five window panes, not including the storms on the main rooms.  That's a lot of glass to polish inside and out.  Much easier to write about it.
     If there's time in the afternoon I'll peel some of the Juneberry poles I've collected as they've died.  Cut them to shortened lengths and - what else? - make little trees out of them.  It's a sickness.

May 7

     Whenever I woke up in the night I heard an owl or two working the woods outside.  A little research in the morning told me it was a barred owl, even though I was rooting for a great horned owl.  Turns out that owls also eat bats.  We've got maybe a half dozen bats living under our steel roof.  If the owls ate a few I wouldn't complain.
     I suppose I could learn to live with the infernal scritching of the bats, small brown bats by the way,  as they work their way out to feed in the evening but there's always the fear that their droppings could eventually cause a problem.  Like maybe turn us into vampires.  On the other hand bats eat mosquitos and with all the water around this Spring, there'll be no shortage of them.  In a perfect world the owls would eat the bats, then take over the mosquito job.
     As to the owls, I also read they could be drawn close by simply echoing their whoo - who - who - whooo call.  Or maybe wearing a steel lined mouse hat.
     Today was a work day.  You lock it up in the Fall.  Buttoned up tight as possible but somehow the dust settles down, the flies die, and the windows get dirtier.  So you go at it just like you would with a car, start at the top and clean your way down.  Starting with a couple of makeshift beds up in the addition that had to be stripped and given an old fashioned shaking out.
     My thoughts while doing this run to the days when part of spring cleaning was pulling out the wool rugs and going at them with a carpet beater.  I'm old enough to remember such things but not old enough to have done it.  As to the aging process, I'm no longer on the cutting edge of life but have become a go between who ties generations together.  From the one I didn't live but heard stories of to the one which never knew life prior to the internet.
     A lot of life at the cabin is old fashioned, a throwback to an age that is gone.  The water gets hand pumped, the outhouse is my friend, the wood stove our heat.  Entertainment is radio, reading, writing, maybe some lure tying and time on the water is self-propelled.  Call it being stuck in the '30s without the Depression.  It's a good life.  Maybe not as clean or exciting as the 21st Century and maybe it's only a few days at a time, but I'm happy when up there.
     Windows get washed inside and out.  Furniture moved, corners and underneaths cleaned. Everything gets put back and the center vacuumed.  It's not all that much fun till you get into the swing of the work.  Work is work be it paddling a canoe or washing the dishes.  Get it done, get it done right. Words I heard growing up.
     Truth is I'm no perfectionist.  The cabin is clean but not sterile.  It helps that I'm lazy in a preemptive sense.  Shoes come off in the entry.  Firewood gets checked for vermin before it's brought in.  No sense  dragging in any more dirt than necessary.  Maybe if I lived here, the cabin would get a top to bottom scrubbing now and then.  And if I lived there, I'd sure as hell get it dirtier than I do now and it'd need a top to bottom job now and then.
     Downstairs to the sole, real bedroom.  Same routine.  However, there I hit the first of the original glide-by windows that need to be pulled apart to be fully cleaned.  A pain in the ass for sure but guilt drives me on.  Thank you Sister Eleanor Marie.
     Lunch was late 'cause there was no way in hell I was taking a break till the bedroom was done.
     By two I was outside peeling poles and ripping oak for 'little tree' stock with a smile on my face and an eye on my thighs as the draw knife drew near.  A trip to the clinic would put a damper on my fine time and in serious trouble with my loved ones.  Nothing like getting ten stitches and no sympathy.  I tend to be real careful with hand held, sharpened steel.
     As to making artsy pine trees out of juneberry, something seems innately wrong.  I'd say it's kind of a mock duck thing but don't know what mock duck is.  And I have my doubts whether I can successfully work a round object on a band saw.  Circle and square problem.  I tend to be a right angle kind of guy and the trunk I cut down - dead of course - has more than its share if irregularity.  It sure looked straight enough till I took to peeling it.  Worse comes to worst, juneberry makes fine kindling.
     'Bout the time I got the oak slabs ripped to two by twos I'd run out of gas.  Seems that at age sixty-six my tank ain't as big as it once was.  Time to head inside and throw together dinner.  Then an evening of NPR and reading.  Gierach goes nicely up here.  Laid back, humor and an occasional insight.