Sunday, June 30, 2013

Beautiful start to summer

Snap peas

Weeds and setting sun
After a very wet and cold spring, it seems we are having a nice start to summer.

I'm especially excited about the peas being ripe in the garden and beautiful evening walks around the park.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Riding to volunteer

The first volunteer for the 9:00 shift at Second Harvest Heartland had come from a town 40 miles away.  That's not such a big thing, until you realize he came on bike!  He had a GPS system and even a cup holder for his coffee mug.  Wow.  

We spoke just a bit when he was leaving about the dangers of biking.  He noted to appease his wife somewhat he wore an identifying bracelet.  Thankfully he has yet to be hit by a car, despite several near misses.  What an inspiration!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Corporate volunteerism at work

Kemps.... it's the people.

I met the soon to be CEO of Kemps today while volunteering at Second Harvest Heartland. He was there with a good sized group of employees working away packaging food for families in need, all with great attitudes and smiles on their faces.

Tonight when I went to make an ice cream purchase my experience earlier in the day made my choice much more simple than usual.

Kemps... it's the people!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shrub rose

The roses are in full bloom at the Beltzer Garden located at Bassett Creek Park.  This one is backlit by the early evening sun.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Glistening backdrop for a weed

Glistening water from the pond at Bassett Creek made for a lovely backdrop for this silhouette of a weed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wood Duck and ducklings

Wood Duck and ducklings
This female Wood Duck was riding out the stormy weather this past weekend on a log with her brood of 11 ducklings.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Surviving life's storms

Creek bank reinforced by stones
We were hit by severe weather these past few days in the Twin Cities.  Many inches of rain and strong winds, up to 60 mph, wreaked havoc on the power system and flooded many a basement.  More than a half of a million people were without power over the course of the weekend, twice the number of the previously largest power outage.

As a commissioner for the Bassett Creek Watershed I was pleased to see a recently completed stone creek bank reinforcement project holding fast amidst the raging flood waters.  This effort greatly reduced the erosion that would have otherwise occurred.

Family garden nearby Bassett Creek after the flooding
With my gardening hat on I was thrilled to see a garden, only about 30 yards from Bassett Creek, that had been totally flooded the previous day, still seemingly no worse for the wear a day later.

Our family was without electrical power the last two and half days. However, as I type this blog entry I'm using a gas powered generator that I borrowed from some friends at church.  They also delivered the generator, complete with a full tank of gas.

So, what do these observations have in common?  They speak to ways in which we are more likely to survive some of life's inevitable storms.

Storm damage
First, having your life reinforced, with a firm foundation, like the stones on the the creek banks, keeps one from being swept away when the massive currents come charging. Core values and beliefs can help to anchor us through tough times.

Secondly, when we are well rooted, even when we're seemingly going to be drowned or swept away, we can still survive, and perhaps thrive despite the adverse conditions. A healthy appreciation of our history and heritage can aid us as we seek to ride out the storms. Without such roots our lives may never come fully into fruition.

Lastly, at church yesterday I discovered the power of community to support people in their times of need.  What a wonderful thing it is for people to share of their resources to aid those in need. I certainly do appreciate the generosity of others at a time like this, and I believe that they also feel good about being able to help out.

With global climate change and an increasingly volatile national and world economy, it seems we are all going to experience a multitude of storms throughout our lives.  Let's do what we can to be prepared, and also to help our neighbors as we are able, for we never know when we might also be on the receiving end.

PS  I was thrilled also to be on the giving end this past weekend; raking the yard of an elderly neighbor and sawing up a fallen tree branch for some good friends.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Observing the food chain at Bassett Creek Park

It has been interesting seeing the food chain in action at Bassett Creek Park this past week.

First it was an American Osprey that I captured after it dove down to catch a large goldfish.


Next I observed a Great Blue Heron on the shores of the pond who had captured a small bullhead.  

Finally it was a treat to discover a Baltimore Oriole with a green worm for its chicks.

So it goes, the web of life!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Living with paradox

Hope  you might enjoy the following thoughts from a blog posting @ the Center for Courage and Renewal

Parker Palmer, the Center's founder, noted that when we are able to "live the contradictions", we can hold tensions in ways which are life-giving. 

Zooming out of focus on a flower
Examples include:

Light & Shadow
Alone & Together
Now & Future
Freedom & Discipline
Heartbreak & Hope

Life is full of such complementary contradictions.  Might you think of others?  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


The Canada Geese goslings were looking toward the pond at Bassett Creek one morning when I took this portrait shot.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Carp swirl

The carp in Bassett Creek were in tight formation this past week.  Likely mating?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

SNAP: There but for the grace of God go I

A loud Amen to  and editorial in the StarTribune: Hunger: Our leaders need to feel the pain".  I've been wondering for some time when the common understanding of "There but for the grace of God go I" became "Here go I, by my own bootstraps".

What indeed has caused this shift in attitudes toward the working poor, unemployed, elderly and children?  Was it the advent of freeways that allowed us to bypass poor parts of town, inflammatory shock jocks, snarky social media, declining attendance in places of worship, or perhaps the flight to exurbia and increasingly segregated schools?

It might be a worthwhile exercise for us all to live on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for an extended period of time and see how we do. We might discover $4.50 a day for our nutritional needs isn't an extravagant public expenditure.

But for the grace of God go I.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Teach for America... are they really ready to teach our children?

Having a number of educators in my family I read with interest an editorial on the latest trend of placing uncertified teachers into the classroom, Minnesota teacher unions aren't the problem. With a growing anti-teacher, anti-union sentiment, some are claiming a five-week Teach for America training course can rapidly prepare candidates for the classroom.  As the author, Eva Lockhart, points out, how many of us would hire an accountant who has only had a five-week "Account for America" training course?

Ms. Lockhart summed the challenges facing our schools up pretty well... "there are no quick and easy solutions to the myriad social, economic and educational challenges our students face. Slandering teachers is not the answer and will not help us find one."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fighting desertification and climate change

A fascinating Ted talk by Allan Savory, How to fight desertification and reverse climate change, suggests we should introduce large herds of cattle to the vast areas of bare ground across the world.

In the US it is estimated there were between 30 - 200 million bison on the prairies (American Buffalo: Spirit of a Nation).   Makes me wonder if we might reintroduce buffalo, in a big way, to our prairie regions that have become barren.

It seems that there is some interest by hunters in Montana to reintroducing wild herds of bison, Bringing back bison, but this movement is facing opposition by ranchers.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Climate change and wetter springs

During yesterday's drive down to Luther College, located in Decorah, Iowa, I noticed that many of the farmer's fields in Southern Minnesota had only recently been planted, while others showed no indication of crop growth.  This spring has been so wet it hasn't been afforded farmers a window of opportunity to plant. Many will not be eligible for crop insurance coverage for their corn, since it would have already needed to be planted by now in oder to have a good chance of maturing by fall.

More information about climate change and its impact on agriculture is available from an article by Dr. Gene Takle, Iowa State's Takle addresses USDA on climate change and its effects on agriculture. As a side note, Dr. Takle is a graduate of Luther College and was a national cross country champion while a student there in the 1960's.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The odd duck(ling)

I had to chuckle just a bit at the hen mallard and her ducklings all looking to the right, with the exception of one little ducking in the rear. It seems s/he is swimming to the beat of a different drummer!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Growing too rich from food?

How rich is too rich?  An article in today's StarTribune provides a hint ($10M house ready for wrecker).  A 10 million dollar home, and an architectural masterpiece on Lake Minnetonka, may be torn down to be replaced with an even larger home.  Donald C. MacMillian, one of the heirs of the Cargill company, a worldwide food company, is the buyer behind this possible destruction.  It seems a bit hard to swallow that while we have a dramatic increase in the number of people going hungry in this nation, especially among children, one of the benefactors of a major food company has such vast wealth that he can tear down and replace a 10 million dollar home.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Today is National Get Outdoors Day!

Seems there is a specially designated day for most everything, and today is "National Get Outdoors Day".  Personally I don't think that we should have to make a special deal about such a "no brainer".  What's next... "Take a breath of fresh air day" or perhaps "Don't forget to eat day"?

On a related note, thanks in large part to for the foresight of the early planners, the city of Minneapolis was ranked #1 in the United States for its parks (Minneapolis parks rated best among nation's largest cities).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Baltimore Oriole performance

Baltimore Oriole
While on walks we often hear Baltimore Orioles, who nest at Bassett Creek Park. Earlier this week one brave bird come out and perched on a branch and provided a lovely singing performance.  What an unexpected treat.  So glad to have had a camera along to share this with you.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Canada Geese family

This family of geese was swimming together on one of the ponds at Bassett Creek Park in Crystal, Minnesota.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rejecting senior discounts

One of my mentors, a successful businessman, once commented on how he refused to participate in AARP's senior discount program.  He didn't feel he either needed or deserved a discount.  Now that I'm also eligible I've followed his lead.

My friend's perspective was reinforced in a recent StarTribune editorial, Do America's seniors really need those discounts?.  I've long felt that young families are the most financially stressed segment of our society.  Many have huge college loans and gigantic day care costs. Then when you add food, health care, housing and transportation expenses, combined with starter salaries, it is a wonder more aren't homeless.

While I understand the value of marketing to seniors, who often have considerable disposal income, as a justice issue I don't like it.

I addressed this issue in a blog entry earlier in the year after hearing Lori Eber address this topic,  Boomers: Let's give up our senior discounts.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What to do with buckthorn?

As a "buckthorn buster" I enjoyed reading about a successful project that removed buckthorn from a nature preserve in Anoka, MN ( Anoka preserve is a major proving ground in Minnesota's buckthorn battle). This invasive shrub has come to dominate the understory of many parks and forested areas. One of the challenges with this prolific species is what to do with all of the wood once it has been harvested.

I have discovered one usage, albeit a small one.  I cut buckthorn branches into thin disks and burn peace symbols into these discs for use in the packaging of cards for my PicturingPeace photo card line.

Just for fun I also made some coasters utilizing buckthorn discs.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Early bird gets the worm

The early bird (gosling) gets the worm... and then comes along another and it becomes a free for all!