Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Great Blue Heron

Yesterday I thought I might try a new approach to photography.  Rather than simply focusing on wildlife and nature scenes at Bassett Creek Park, I decided to throw my camera in a carrier bag and take it with on a bike ride, covering a course I had run earlier in the day. I was hoping I might possibly see the Wood Duck and pair of Blue Jays I discovered on my run.

Less than a block after taking off on my bike I discovered this Great Blue Heron on the shores of one of the ponds at Bassett Creek Park.  I rode the rest of my scenic five mile running route, but didn't find anything nearly as interesting to shoot.

So, once again, this experience supported my theory that one of the best place to find beauty is close to home.

Monday, April 29, 2013

State funding for community gardening

Victory-Peace Garden
I was disappointed to learn of opposition to state funding of community gardening, Are community gardens good for the public health or a wast of taxpayer money? I've been a part of organizing one of these gardens funded in part though a small SHIP grant.  Not only is our garden helping to teach future gardeners through the 4-H program, it is also helping to annually provide healthy vegetables to recipients at a local food shelf. The Victory-Peace garden has already donated nearly 500 pounds worth of food to people in need. Hardly "frivolous" state funding.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Great Blue Heron in Weeping Willow Tree

Great Blue Heron in Willow Tree
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yesterday morning while on a walk around the park I noticed the beautiful silhouette of a Great Blue Heron perched in a Willow Tree by a pond at Bassett Creek Park.

Just the day before I was thrilled to spot a Black-crowned Night Heron on a branch above Bassett Creek.  With a late spring the leaves aren't yet out on the trees, making for great bird watching.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tree with snow
Yesterday was Arbor Day. It reminded me of a sage old saying, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best however is today!"

Did you know that trees really help with the absorption of storm water?  In addition to absorbing water through their roots they also slow the incoming water as it works its way through the tree's canopy.

Other benefits to trees include cleaning the air, providing oxygen, reducing erosion, enhancing property values, cooling streets and homes, conserving energy and saving water.  Trees and greenery can also provide a calming effect, which the Good Lord knows we seem to be needing more and more every day!  You can learn more about the value of trees from iTree.

In honor of Arbor Day…

If you’re a Republican, you might want to plant a black walnut tree. After maturing they can fetch up to $5,000.

If you’re a Democrat, why not allow a Spanish Oak to take root, preferably one looking to immigrate to a new land.

Independent? Nobody’s going to tell you what tree to plant.

Communist Party members can gather with their comrades and discuss what tree the government ought to plant for them.

It doesn’t matter much which type of tree a Socialist plants, so long as it is on common ground.

Libertarians should plant whatever tree makes them personally happy.

Lastly, Green Party members can simply nurture and hug the trees they’ve no doubt already planted.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Single issue voters

Bassett Creek
I had a chance to experience first had what it must be like for politicians to deal with constituents who are single issue voters. As a volunteer commissioner with the Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission (BCWMC) I went out to speak with a gathering of residents of a lake in the watershed.  My goal was to engage them in a visioning exercise to help develop goals for the watershed for the next 10 year plan.

I soon discovered there was one thing, and one thing only on the minds of most of the 40 or so participants in the room.  They wanted the weir on their lake to be a variable one, so tha
t the lake level could be elevated to a higher level in the spring, in order to reduce its dramatic lowering later in the summer.

Sadly, it seems that the primary driver for this drop in the lake level is likely the result of global climate change, something which we can not easily remedy.  I also noted to the group that should they withhold water for their lake it would impact those of us downstream.  That didn't seem to be of much concern...

I must say that despite my inability to personally make this change for them, the group was for the most part well mannered, with some of the more vocal participants thanking me for coming out to speak/listen to them.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Benefits of singing in a choir

Did you know that a study of 70 college students found that choir rehearsal was related to a reduction in anxiety and negative moods?  That finding, and more, was reported in the scientific journal Psychology of Music and in a PSYPOST article.

As someone who's been a part of a numbers of choirs since high school, I an attest to the benefits.  Choir members can not only enjoy being a part of making great music, but they're also often fun social gathers.  As a tenor I must confess to telling more than my share of bass jokes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making money in the prison industry

Unbelievable though it may sound, prisons are big business in the United States of America.  Just recently the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) announced a special dividend to shareholders of $675 million dollars. (CCA board of directors authorizes special dividend of $675 million).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earth Day clean-up

Sample of some of the garbage collected
Took and hour to do some clean-up around the pond  yesterday. I quickly filled four plus bags with styrofoam, plastic bottles, etc. I'm ashamed of my species. What does one say about all this mess to the waterfowl, fish and plants... or to the future generations that will inherit this planet? Hard to explain why people are still drinking beverages from plastic bottles and styrofoam cups that provide them with momentary comfort, yet can remain as trash in the environment almost indefinitely. We can do better than this!

Out of curiosity I looked up alternatives to styrofoam cups on the internet.  Here's one option that I found, no doubt there are many better other alternatives out there too.... Repurpose Compostables.  My favorite options for tea or coffee are a real ceramic mug or insulated traffic mug for travel.  

A multitude of reusable water containers are also available as alternatives to the all too popular throw away plastic bottles.  My current favorite transportable way to drink water is with a stainless steel cylinder.  A drinking glass still works pretty darn good too!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013!

Today is Earth Day!  An Earth Day 2013 website encourages citizens to communicate through sharing photos of the impact of climate change in their regions.

Having heard from a climate scientist this past year I recall him mentioning that they predict that springs will be wetter while summers and falls become drier.  This is evidenced in the trend of flooding which has been occurring in Minnesota and North Dakota's Red River Valley. You can read about this ton Minnesota Public Radio's News website, Flood trends are troublesome for Fargo-Moorhead.
Rubbish on the pond
More rubbish on the pond

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cattails, ice and reflection

The morning sun and ice on the pond created a dramatic look yesterday morning.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Snowing on my garden!

Raised-bed cloches
We had about 8" of snow fall recently.  Earlier in the week I planted seeds in my raised-bed cloches.  I'm hoping that with warmer and sunnier days ahead I'll still be able to get at least a little jump on the gardening.  I've also got a few planters with seedlings under lights that were planted a few weeks ago.  At least they're lookin' good.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Gulls in the park

Ring-billed Gull
 A flock of gulls have been hanging out at the pond at Basset Creek Park.  They are feasting on dead carp and other fish that didn't make it though the long cold winter.  Being a shallow pond I think makes it more difficult for the fish to survive when the ice gets thick.
Gull munching on fish
Ring-billed Gull

Thursday, April 18, 2013

US Senate fails to pass any gun control laws

Among many other things, I'm beyond puzzled as to why there is such opposition to requiring a background check on ALL gun purchases within the United States.  Perhaps there are many fearful gun zealots that don't think they couldn't pass the screening?  Or it could be that they fear the National Rife Association?

Clearly some of these votes to restrict access to guns, assault rifles and large ammunition clips would not stop ALL of the gun violence, which epidemic in this country.  However if it could even slow it down just a hair it would be a move in the right direction.  Simply adding more guns to an already violent nation isn't the answer. Too often "good guys" do bad or stupid things.  

Learn more about yesterday's voting by visiting How the Senate gun control amendments fared c/o the Washington Post. As Senator Gabrielle Giffords noted "It's clear to me that if members of the U.S. Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the U.S. Senate."

Emboldened by the National Rifle Association's victory rumor has it a new media campaign has begun, sponsored by the combined forces of the NGA (National Grenade Association) and the NBA (National Bomb Association)....

Rifles are for Wimps: Go BIG or go Home

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waterfowl visitors

Pair of Hooded Mergansers, Canada Goose and Seagull
Blue-winged Teal (background) and Mallards (foreground)
Common Goldeneye (left), Sea Gull (center) and Crow (right)

There are quite a number of interesting waterfowl stopping the pond at Bassett Creek Park during their migrations.
Wood Duck couples

The Wood Ducks and Mallards are year-round residents.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Back yard visitors

Buck and does
A White-tailed buck and three does visited our back yard yesterday.  They seemed to be looking for someplace safe to hang out and perhaps grab a bite to eat.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Beauty on a walk to the store

Despite a cold driving rain yesterday I decided to walk to the grocery store  to pick up an ingredient that I needed for making supper.  When I was checking out the cashier said I looked as if I had been rafting.

It actually was a pretty and refreshing mile hike.  I wore a raincoat over my light winter jacket to stay fairly dry and warm.

Brought the camera along in a carrier bag to snap a few shots in route.  

Spring is in no hurry to arrive this year!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Thoughts on the growing economic divide

Perhaps there is no shame in being wealthy.  But how about when one's personal or corporate wealth is shielded from taxes in a foreign country or by numerous tax loopholes?  How about when corporations lay off employees, often creating great stress on those still remaining, simply to maximize shareholder value?  What about when the average CEO makes 360 times their average worker's salaries?  Lastly, what do you think about the growing numbers of people who are working full time but are unable to raise a family, or have health care coverage on their meager wages?

Bill Moyers expounds on the growing gap between the "haves" and "have nots" in his essay "The United States of Inequity."  Mr. Moyer's sums up his observation of the current situation in the United States... “A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government, while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality.”

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Juvenile American Bald Eagle and Red-winged Blackbird
Spotting a juvenile American Bald Eagle in the park I grabbed my camera to see if I might happen to get a shot. Much to my surprised as it flew from its perch it was tailed by a Red-winged Blackbird.  These blackbirds are very territorial and will chase away seemingly any sized bird from their home region.  I've seen them on more than one occasion chase away Great Blue Herons.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Robin in the snow

Yesterday we had blowing snow for much of the morning.  This robin, along with a couple of dozen of its friends, enjoyed crab apples, despite the inclement weather.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Canada Geese couple

Canada Geese
Canada Geese are those somewhat rare birds that mate for life.  How about that?

Canada Goose

As you can see, ice still on the pond.  Just got the update from our gas company, we were a full 20 degrees colder this past month than we were a year ago.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Blanketed garden

Seeing where the snow coverage is still lingering it appears we may not have our vegetable garden in the warmest or sunniest part of our yard. It is far better to plant on a south facing slope than a north facing one.

Raised-bed cloche
I'm hoping however to get a jump start with the three raised-bed cloches that I built last fall.  A few adjustments were needed to get the plastic sheeting to hold fast.  Duct tape was involved ;-)  Instructions on building a raised-bed cloche are on an earlier blog posting, Building a raised-bed cloche.

I've got some seeds already starting to sprout.  I can't wait to get some veggies planted!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Still waiting for spring

Robins waiting for spring

Wow, this winter is hanging on much longer than recent winters.  As  you can see, it's not looking all that spring like at the park.

Mallard couple
It has been a bit more challenging than I anticipated to enjoy bike riding every day of April, as a part of the 30 days of biking challenge.  Yesterday I rode to the library to drop off a book and then to the post office to mail a letter.  There was a pretty strong cold breeze carrying a light snowfall.  At least the roads were clear of snow.  Quite honestly it wasn't all that bad facing the elements head on.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Water and Ice at Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

A nearby look at the falls

I honestly didn't notice the "Danger Keep Out" sign until after I managed to get some close ups of the falls.  I even hiked behind the falls to explore the view.