Monthly Archives: May 2013

“Rhythm of the Rain”

I am confident our drought has broken. It does not take someone with a Ph.D. in Meteorology to decide that the equivalent of two months’ worth of rain falling within a week has ended fire dangers and pushed the moisture level in the soil down a foot. The 1962 hit by the Cascades referenced in the title deals with a guy whose lady left him. In a way, it reminds me of how we are feeling since it seems summer cruelly has run off and left us stranded. Again. At least the precipitation is not the frozen kind. The Twin Cities area will have many opportunities to get in rhythm because the forecast for the upcoming week leans towards another 2″ – 4″ of rain next week.

Obviously, our weather could be worse. We did not have a mile-wide tornado tear through our town like what happened in Moore, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, St. Paul endured the loss of two children in a mudslide caused by excessive rain and unstable stratigraphy. Rain is good, but too much of a good thing can cause problems. Some people dealt with ice-clogged lakes during the fishing opener. The sun has barely appeared in the past week and outdoor solar lights have limited run times. Some bemoan their waterlogged and muddy gardens. Overall, we are still fortunate because these are inconveniences, not life-altering events.

Everything is growing rapidly, as if the plants know their growing season is shorter. The blossoms are falling off the apple trees, partly because it has been very blustery this month. I did not see any bees, other than one particularly large bumblebee, so my guess is I won’t have apples to pick in September. Daffodils and tulips are mostly done for the season. Irises, lilacs, forget-me-nots, and columbines are in full bloom, the bleeding hearts and jack-in-the-pulpits are close behind, and bird nest building is booming. Bluebirds are occasional visitors, and Lucy would have enjoyed seeing the scarlet tanager in our neighbor’s yard; it was the first one I have ever seen. The May garden photo album has the latest updates for your viewing pleasure.

Today is Suzy’s birthday, so please wish her a happy birthday! Tomorrow (Monday) is Memorial Day in the United States. My cousin, Shari, placed flags at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery and many of my friends take part in Memorial Day remembrances. Thank you to all who take time to remember those who served.

Take some time to remember those who are no longer with us this weekend and how they had enriched your life. Give your loved ones a meaningful hug and be thankful they are still in your life, and that you are still in theirs.

Memorial Day 2013

Lucy’s Memorial Day bouquet

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“Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)”

I have two apple trees in the backyard that are full of white flower buds. The older tree has some open flowers. There are no cherry trees in the neighborhood, although two houses east of me the yard has several flowering crabapples with bright pink flowers. The Twin Cities seeming skipped spring and rushed headlong into summer, so some mambo music is perfect. Perez Prado recorded “Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)” in 1955 as an instrumental and it seemed quite appropriate for today. The weather has provided a mambo beat with a steady drone of thunder and syncopated drumming of raindrops on the porch roof. The only thing missing is “more cowbell” (or at least some cowbell).

Skipping spring is not an exaggeration. One week ago today, the low temperature was 31°F, which just missed tying the record low of 28°F. Within 48 hours, the high temperature set a record high of 98°F. Even though Minnesota is known for extreme weather, going from frostbite to heat stroke in such a short period is unusual. Over 4 inches of rain falling since Thursday has accelerated blooms in the gardens. A cold and snowy April added to the precipitation total. I hope the copious rains also do not create a bumper crop of ticks, mosquitoes, and sandflies. The area is under its first tornado watch, first severe thunderstorm warning, and urban flood watch of the season. Ah, summer in Minnesota. I am positive there will be a push to put a retractable roof on Target Field even though the architects say it can’t be realistically done. The Twins might have to finish their game today wearing scuba gear.

The early blooming flowers and shrubs are done for the season. There were no crocus blooms this year, but the squills and snowdrops were above average, and the forsythia was absolutely loaded with yellow flowers. Tulips, daffodils, the apple trees, and the miniature irises are blooming along with the early blooming white lilac. The purple lilacs are close, and the pink Canadian lilac will bloom from the time the purple lilacs are done in early June until mid-July. It will rebloom in mid-September.

The winter took a toll on some of the plants. The Russian sage, the red twig dogwood, the cottoneaster, a shrub rose, and the Miss Kim Korean lilac did not make it. All had been looking sickly for the past couple years so I was not surprised. The red twig dogwood is replaced by a lilac with white edged purple flowers. I will not replace the cottoneaster, but will plant a knockout rose in its place. The Russian sage gets replaced when the weather dries out.

Gardening has taught me many things through the years. Dealing with adversity, not having total control over the environment, and learning to complete as many tasks as possible because the weather may not cooperate are some of the life lessons. Gardening also gives me an appreciation for the intricacies of nature, the fascination of seeing a startled chirping hummingbird staring me in the face, of watching robins and cardinals tending to their young, of finally seeing bluebirds on a regular basis, and of dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, and moths adding grace and color to the scenery.

So maybe the dahlias will get nailed with an early frost or get shredded by hail before they finish blooming. Maybe torrential rain like today will wash away carefully planted seeds. Perhaps a drought later this season will stunt the apple and raspberry growth or Japanese beetles will cause damage. These are all outside my control although I will take reasonable steps to minimize or mitigate damage. Perseverance is the most important life lesson learned from gardening. Lucy’s determination to overcome gardening adversities helped her in her cancer battle.

The second wave of showers ended, but a particularly strong third wave just hit my area. It is still too early in the day for a rainbow or double rainbow. If the humidity stays this high and the cloud cover to the west breaks up, perhaps this area will be fortunate to see one.

Take the time to give your loved ones a meaningful hug and let them know you care. Please help me wish a happy birthday to cousin Mary, and a happy birthday to Micaela!

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That is why they are called hoot owls

Lucy and I would occasionally hear owls in our neighborhood. Every time we were lucky enough to hear one or more owls, it was in the middle of the night. Last night’s owl solo began at 3:45 am and ended just after 4:00 am. Each species of owl has distinct vocalizations and I am no expert on owls. It took a little digging around at The Owl Pages to figure out my soloist was a Barred Owl, also known as a Hoot Owl. Lucy has a picture of a barred owl taken at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on her desk.

Owl calls in the middle of the night have spawned legends and old wive’s tales in ancient and modern cultures. The recurring theme is that hearing an owl calling at night means an imminent death. Around 46 years ago, a famous novel and subsequent movie titled “I Heard The Owl Call My Name” used a late night owl call to foretell the death of the book’s hero. We never felt an owl call was ominous, just fascinating. If I were to have believed every superstition I have ever heard, I would not have survived past my third birthday.

I am happy for an accurate weather forecast. I put down triazicide this morning to kill Japanese beetle grubs and I needed rain. It has been lightly raining and drizzling for almost two hours. I am done with my remaining gardening tasks. Perhaps I will mow the lawn on Sunday; it looks like it may need it then.

Yesterday I helped Julie and Dave spread 15 cubic yards of dirt. I know I am feeling it today. What is normally a tedious and hard task was fun (but still hard) because we could joke around and talk.

I spent the weekend with them and really enjoyed myself. They have a beautiful cabin and even though the weather was unseasonably cold and the lakes still had ice, there was still time for a lot of activities. Friday night we went to a bar and entered some raffles. When we left, we were money ahead, with steaks for the grill, and won a couple of free drinks. Dave and his brother, Roger, are quite close and their cabins are about a quarter-mile apart. Roger graciously tolerated my quirks while teaching me how to play Pegs and Jokers. There are many ATV trails in the area and we found time to go for a couple short rides. Even going 20 mph in temperatures stuck in the mid 30s was cold. Sunday morning the weather warmed up and the loons were calling. An eagle made several low passes over the cabin while making a chatter call. There is apparently and active nest in the area.

It was a fun weekend and the natural wonders were spectacular. The highlight of the weekend was watching Julie and Dave interact. They love each other and it shows. Their love radiates a special warmth and was quite soothing. It reminded me of how wonderful my time was with Lucy. Maybe the owl from last night was telling me something.

Give your loved ones meaningful hug and enjoy your time with them. Thanks for sticking with me!

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Filed under friends, nature, philosophy, rebuilding, weather

“Edge of Seventeen” (inches of snow)

I was on the on the edge of 17” of snow, though that wasn’t what Stevie Nicks had in mind when she wrote “Edge of Seventeen”. Several days of dire forecasts trumpeting record-breaking snowfall, freezing rain, and other wintery unpleasantness slid about fifteen miles to the south and east of me. My neighbor spent time putting the blade on his Ford Bronco last night. This morning he spent time removing it without using it.

Snowfall amounts ranged from a trace to 18” in a band about 50 miles wide and about 400 miles long. Other than some sloppy flurries, cold wind, and ½” of rain, it would have passed for a late February day. My old home area, Emmons, MN and Lake Mills, IA, picked up close to a foot of snow and saw many crushed trees and downed power lines. Weather forecasts are not 100% accurate, and one person’s good fortune is another person’s misfortune.

Not that winter has fully left the area. Normal temperatures may not visit again until Monday and there is a minor threat of snow Friday and Saturday. After that, I hope this area gets a second chance at a normal spring and that the areas bearing the brunt of get a chance to clear out and clean up. A couple of sunny days will get rid of this round of winter.

The four decent days this week have the snowdrops blooming, daffodils and tulips budding, and the forsythia finally showing flower buds. The red remains of silver maple tree flowers litter many driveways and the tree rats, er, squirrels are becoming fat, happy, and stupid by gnawing near a leaf bud and lapping the maple sap. That also causes sugary drips on driveways and parked cars. Everything is running almost three weeks behind normal. Maybe the growing season will run three weeks later this year.

I replaced my weather station without falling off the roof and only dropped one wrench. Of course, it did necessitate a trip down to get it. Lucy and I shared a strong dislike of ladders. Mine is exacerbated by a mild rupture in my right ear drum with occasionally plays havoc with balance. The top of the roof is about 14 feet above the ground, but an asphalt driveway and a concrete patio increase the likelihood of a hard landing. I’m glad that chore is done for another decade or more.

I hope you are getting the chance to enjoy some pleasant and routine weather. If bad weather affected you, I hope you are safe and any damage was minimal. Life is as uncertain as the weather, so don’t waste an opportunity to give your loved ones a meaningful hug.

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Filed under gardening, music, rebuilding, weather