Happy Saturday morning all:

Weekly wisdom from deep in the north woods:

“Have you thought that if legs were not joined in the middle you could not ride a bicycle. Legs is wonderful. If you think about it there is a reason for everything.” ~ Alphonse (one of our north woods everyman Claire’s good friends)

Alphonse appears to be a simple person, he’s not. Actually he’s somewhat of a grizzled little north woods gnome who wears rubbers as his only footwear. Whenever a group of guys are ‘jawing’ by the General Store he’ll suddenly materialize in their midst and join the discussion by blurting out something that has little or nothing to do with the discussion – one of his ‘blurtings’ is this week’s wisdom.

The wisdom comes into play when I tell you that only this week Paul and Dia both bought bicycles – fat tired (as in wheel not as in spirit). Couple that occurrence with the fact that bro Pieter acquired himself a Dutch bicycle about a year ago (also fat tired), and that, Adrianne, posted a Father’s Day greeting on Facebook showing our kids with me and……yup, you guessed it…….my old touring bike. Alphonse is brilliant!

Well, well, enough now. First some hot coffee – mug full – and then let the Ramblings begin.

Solstice (summer) – came and went a day ago – it was a rare “split” solstice. We celebrated (sort off) by doing tappas at our place; and it was a wild and woolly time – especially the weather. A nor’-easter blew in and pretty soon we had sheets of rain and three-foot whitecaps, causing the boats to bounce and pound against the dock. Meanwhile, an event that was originally meant to be outside on the screened-in porch – (after all it is now summer) was hastily adjusted to something celebrated indoors with the heat on.

So, here we are. Every day there is a major new governmental problem-du-jeur (for those not certain; I am referring to some international or department’s dose of serious “stinky-poo”). And then, out of the clear blue, our president makes a speech in Germany and pounds on, of all things; climate change (jaw-dropping, especially considering that there’s been no temperature change for the past 15-years)

Meanwhile, here in the north woods, summer is running a month behind. Nearly every morning our ritual is to turn on the heat. In place of a bowl of cold cereal Marcia and I look at each other to see who’s going to make a hot platter of bannock. Fleece jackets and sweaters have been getting a severe workout. Three in the morning and the yodeling of complaining Loons wakes us up.

100_1524Anyway, the tappas were a huge success. We had about twelve or so tasty bits. And the winning tappa, by popular acclaim (mine), was..…..(drum roll)……..the zucchini pancakes with parsley. In the desert category it had to be Marlene’s shot-glasses filled with chocolate mouse and whipped cream. Marcia’s, made from scratch, flat breads with a variety of toppings, including the blazingly hot Olive Muffalata, got honorable mention. Lastly, special honors must go to the Peruvian Pickled Asparagus.

Cabin diving – took place this week. With the winter frost now out of the ground came the time to deal with the frost heave. I thought that all the effort of building a French-drain would have solved the problem, but Mother Nature gave notice of who exactly is in charge. Rains, black flies, and mosquitoes slowed down my efforts, but finally came the time to make the necessary adjustments.

Twelve-ton hydraulic jack in hand I crawled underneath. Much creaking as the cabin shifted (luckily it shifted upward since I was underneath). Marcia kept checking the level’s bubble and the adjustment of the doors. Three piers re-shimmed and an afternoon later the cabin was where it should be.

Then it was the porch’s turn. This was a bit easier since I had access to a 5-ton farmer’s handy jack which allows for one whole side of the deck to be lifted at one time. Another afternoon of shimming and adjusting and I had the porch level. The next trick will be to be able to make a fist without straining my fingers.

Hypermiling – Those of you who are regular readers of these Ramblings might have noticed (ok, maybe you hadn’t) that lately I’ve talked a bit about driving our little Deux Chevaux around these parts. Last weekend we again ventured forth, leaving what I refer to as our “Circle of Comfort” (CoC). The CoC in reality is a three mile outer limit which just happens to include the optimum distance needed to partake in socialization (i.e. tool borrowing/exchanging), Happy Hour, making phone calls, and Internet related events. This has been our unmarked but understood maximum/optimum driving range, our CoC.

So, here we’ve taken, within a single month, our second regional tour. Since we’ve now become quite familiar being and absolutely ‘free’ with our Deux Chevaux’s open-road behavior it crossed my mind to pop Marcia the question; “do you want to see how many trips we can make between Northern Comfort and T-town on a single fill-up?” Of course this was unbeknownst to her since I was about to introduce her to the fine art of hypermiling as a preferred method of travel. Since I wasn’t sure how Marcia would react I decided to hold back and stay quiet.

For those not in the know, hypermilers are known for their Zen-like driving behavior. They’ll ease away from a stop sign merely on the car’s idlme and went a day ago.ing power, ‘accelerating’ to an optimum speed of 16 or so miles per hour in maybe a mile or more. Whenever possible, free-wheel (aka coast) down even the merest of grades. Start coasting as soon as a traffic light is spotted with the hope that no brake pedal ever needs to be depressed. And, in the north woods it could be quite possible to experiment with drafting behind a fully loaded logging truck [on second thought, riding behind a chip truck would probably work better]. The ultimate goal? Believe it or not, think about extending the mpg ten-fold…maybe even better. With those numbers we should be able to manage all of our travels during the summer season on just one fill-up. The thought is magical.

And think, for Marcia there is hardly anyone about in these parts to worry about. After all heaven forbid that a non-Zen neighbor should happen to spot us practicing our new-found skill-set while driving about.

Animal planet – This week thousands of Smallmouth Bass fry emerged from their nest of pebbles. For a couple of weeks daddy Smallmouth dutifully guarded over their nest making certain that all eggs would be safe. Now his job is done and he can go about the business of eating one or two before they scatter.

100_1520Marcia’s veggie garden looks as good as it’s ever done. Probably in no small part to the dampness we’re experiencing. Listening to Marcia explain what all varieties of goodness she’s got going it’s; heritage this and heritage that. Every so often I do catch a word I understand; kale, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, you know what us guys can comprehend.

Alongside the highway is a smallish pond. Finally the hundreds of bull-frogs that reside there have found their voice. It’s a choral feast which, I presume, no lady bull-frog cannot help but swoon over.

The cold and wet spring has the, previously mentioned, additional benefit of—Mosquitoes. I believe it was Claire who once complained about the critters being way too thick by alluding to the fact that all one had to do to make a sandwich is slap two slices of bread together.

Fini – Make it a great week everyone. I’m going to post this and then we’re off to the Amish farmer’s market and an auction held at T-town’s Curling/hocky rink.


From the Archives
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:
“Possessions are usually diminished by possession.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Even with the A/C cranking away I woke up hot after going to bed after midnight and then sleeping for barely five hours.

Yes, we’re experiencing our normal hot, sticky, muggy mid-August weather pattern, and this should not occur during the month of June. The better news is that for the first time in memory I am in no hurry for my morning coffee. This is because I still taste the BenRiach single cask strength Scotch Whisky from last night—it’s the new love in my life. More on that a bit later.

This week it’s been ‘people appreciation’ week. All the highlight events of the week have revolved around people. I guess that is how it should be.

A couple of days ago little brother Art, sis-in-law Jolene, and their brood of three spent the day with us. In the state for a wedding, and having come across from Murrieta California, they felt it was just too opportune not to make time for a visit.

Talking some time back he and I agreed it was a wonderful time for all the cousins to also re-acquaint and therefore this quickly turned into a deck party/dinner for eighteen. Marcia swung into high gear by creating what seemed like a small van load of Shish Kebabs. I managed to load the grill up a few times over. Hint, for desert there are few things which will beat grilled pineapple drizzled with Canadian Maple Syrup.

Their two oldest are studying on Track and Field scholarships and had to get their runs in. The site of choice was our nearby Spring Grove cemetery. Aside from being the nation’s second largest cemetery it is also a leading world-class arboretum. Rolling hills, lakes and small forests all interconnected by miles of paved paths circling around and about made for the perfect place to put in their miles.

It is amazing what kids spot. They, of course, managed a visit by the graveside of my parents, their grandparents. More importantly they took note of special statues put up in honor of differing groups; babies who died shortly after birth, Civil War casualties and veterans, even a small special cove with a statute of thanks for those who gave their bodies to medical science.

By the end of the evening little Vai was absolutely over stimulated with all the attention she received. Right before they left I saw daddy Tevita holding her and laughing away. Here was Vai, sounding like a Gatling gun; “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da”—breath— “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da”, and over, and over. I think she must have slept well.

Last night was our neighborhood progressive “Pub Crawl”. House #1 was a beer tasting with a focus on locally produced beers, hot dogs, and about 20 toppings. My favorite was the grilled hot peppers. House #2 was Sangria on the front porch. Marcia took note that even the evening breezes didn’t slow down my ability to sweat profusely. House #3 was a back-yard event complete with pumping salsa music. Of course the drink of choice was the Mojito complete with a live mint plant with leaves for the picking.

Then came house #4, a poolside Scotch whisky tasting. While bag-pipe music was playing, our hosts, dressed in their respective clan kilts, led us through a discussion of five differing whiskies; two blends and three single malts cask strength varieties.

I have always loved a Glenlivit served “neat”. However, last night I was introduced to a new world. First was a very light, almost cooling, 12 year old The Balvenie Doublewood, which I think great for summertime. But then! Then I was introduced to a 1994 BenRiach. As a child I have some very vague memories of my early days in the Netherlands when, on occasion, our living room stove would be fired by peat that had been carved from some local bogs rather than the normal shovel of coal. Fresh peat has a very distinct smell. This drink immediately transported me back to those days with the smell of that fresh peat and the taste of licorice and spices. It was stunning. It was wonderful!

I love my Scotch

Couple all of this surrounded by neighbors and friends and you have one of those “seldom” type of evenings.

Make it a great week-end, especially you fathers. Then make the rest of the week equally great. And Nick—please don’t go camping, comprende?



6/20/2009 07:45:00 AM

One Response to “Tappas, bannock and a dive”
  1. Pieter pastoor Says:

    I noticed the little giant

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