Keep your eyes open for sure signs of spring in the Northland. Here’s one!

NOTE TO READERS: We are going to take a week or so off, and will resume posting your stories and pictures next week. Keep ’em coming, please. And in the meantime, enjoy the spring; it’s finally here (and the mosquitoes aren’t, yet). Count our blessings!

Our theater of seasons
Or: Where we live

Dr. Chrysanthemum: “Subject: A sign of the times, April 22, 2018.

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“A man, wearing shorts, carrying an ice auger across Lake Johanna.”

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: What I Learned About Snowstorms.

“Two rules of thumb I accumulated about snowfalls:

“1. In January 1969, my aunt said that, when snow starts out with big floppy flakes, it never amounts to much. When it starts out with tiny flakes, you may get a little or a lot of snow. I have not seen this contradicted. And our recent snow-inspired shutdown fit this rule.

“2. When the crocuses started coming up on the south side of my parents’ house, there might be one more snow that made me worry about them. But I don’t remember more than one such snow per year.

“We no longer have that house — and gosh knows if the crocuses are still there — but BBers report that crocuses are rising.

“Go, Spring!”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede has been out and about throughout the past week, in the front yard and the back. He reports:

“Tuesday’s icicle that fell from the eave that afternoon looked like this by Thursday morning. Progress!

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“The back-yard snow was starting to look like my skin on parts of my aging body — aging snow!

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“My deck snow had mostly puckery snow, too, except for this one strip that was still young-looking.

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“I did enjoy my back-yard neighbor’s roof line. I thought it more striking than the usual dark shingles.

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“And I was puzzled by the rows of lumps that developed in the front yard and wondered what would cause the snow to do this. I had never seen this before.

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“Seems there is something new to see almost every day.

“Some of my plants in the front gardens had started to sprout before last weekend’s big snow. I wondered how they would fare.

“Fortunately, the snow insulated these sprouts from the freezing weather that came with and after the snow. Now that the snow is melting, I was eager to see how they fared.

“I was very happy to find them eagerly sprouting, stronger than ever.

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“I also had some clear ground to walk on near my one maple tree, so I checked the branches and found many, many buds like these getting ready to do their thing.

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“Spring may have been slowed, but the pent-up growth power is very evident. What a relief!

“With Sunday’s really lovely and welcome weather, enough snow had melted that I could access the back yard and check the gardens there.

“I found several clusters of rhubarb sprouts eagerly pushing up, snow or no snow. Some had some yellow leafy-like parts emerging from the red sprouts.

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“There was some seed fluff left in the milkweed seed pods, giving me hope for more plants sprouting with continued warmth.

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“Some of the purple coneflower seed heads were very full.

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“Some had fed some of the birds.

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“I was glad to see they were of some use. I hope the birds keep feasting on them if those seeds are still a good source of food after the winter.

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“I learned that most of these seeds my not be viable for producing more plants. I am hoping to expand the number of plants, since they are so well used by bees and butterflies.”

Al B of Hartland: “Someone told me that the seasons were too long. He was talking about the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB, but he could have been talking about winter.

“Tom Lehrer said: ‘Bad weather always looks worse through a window.’ I like his songs, but he was wrong there.

“Shakespeare wrote: ‘April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.’ He was wrong this year.

“I heard a hawk, but it was a blue jay. Blue jays commonly mimic the calls of red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks.

“I watched downy and hairy woodpeckers. Despite their similar appearances, they aren’t closely related. The downy usually nests before the larger hairy does.

“I spotted a meadowlark — not sure if it was eastern or western. Some pioneers likened a meadowlark to quail, as they had similar builds and walks, plus that distinctive flight of quick fluttering wings followed by a short sail through the air. This earned them the nickname ‘marsh quail.’

“Song sparrows and cardinals were the latest visitors to the feeders. Their appetites work long hours.

“Each time I look out the window, I’m amazed at what I see. A fox squirrel watched everything. Every day is a parade to a squirrel and to nuts like me.”

Everyone’s a (food) critic!
Or: The Permanent Maternal Record (responsorial)

Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “Subject: Canned cat food? No, thanks . . . had enough.

“In the memoir from Tim Torkildson printed in the April 20th BBOnward, in which he voices his distaste for tunafish casserole, he also refers to the smell and taste of canned cat food. As I read it, I wondered if he had actually tasted canned cat food. You see, I did taste the stuff, not too long ago — inadvertently, as this post by me to my Facebook page reflects (the actual name of Norton’s dad was changed, to protect the innocent):

“‘For those of you who have wondered what that stinky canned cat food tastes like, I can answer the question. My morning routine includes me taking a spoonful of a honey, cinnamon, ginger mix AND giving the cats some of their Fancy Feast Seafood Classic Pate canned cat food. I leave the unwashed spoon from the cat food on the stove so that when Beagle Norton gets back from his walk with his dad, he (Norton — not his dad) can lick the spoon which always has a little cat food stuck to it. This morning I was a little foggy and picked up the spoon, thought it was from my honey mixture and stuck it in my mouth. Surprisingly, for the way that canned cat food smells, it doesn’t have much of a taste. Or maybe I spit it out so fast that the taste didn’t kick in.’

“I should add that I love tuna casserole and just might have to make some soon. I make mine with homemade white sauce, to which I add a little cheddar cheese. It’s delicious!”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We are as certain as we can be that someone will ask for a recipe. So: Recipe?

Clowning around (responsorial)

IGHGrampa (“pratfall artist): “Speaking of pratfalls:

“I did one Tuesday. But it wasn’t for comedic effect. I fell on the ice and hurt myself.

“Leaving the Mall of America after my walk, I slipped on the ice in the parking ramp. It was a patch of frozen meltwater. I went down — Bang! Before I knew it, I was down, groaning and cussing.

“I fell on my right side. My right elbow was hurt worse. Later, at the clinic, an X-ray showed a chipped bone. The doc said it will take about six weeks to heal. My right hip didn’t hurt much at first, but now it hurts. It feels like I got a pulled groin muscle.
Oh, ow! It all hurts! You all be careful.

“Speaking of pratfalls, here are some Buster Keaton stunts.

“Seeing some of these, I can’t help but think he must have had a death wish.”

BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: That’s the one wish we know will come true.

 

Everyone’s a copy editor!
Headline Division

Rusty of St. Paul has been thinking: “The Minnesota Wild hockey club went north to Winnipeg three times in recent days. The Jets swept all three up there, and now the Wild’s season is over.

“As disappointing as this series was, the Pioneer Press sports-page headline was a letdown: ‘EPIC FAIL.’

“Mine? ‘CANADA DRY!'”

See world

A close encounter of the natural kind, reported by Jim Shumaker of New Richmond, Wisconsin: “I caught a few photos of otters in Burnett County this morning.

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“I hope your viewers enjoy!”

Life as we know it
Or: An American boyhood

Tim Torildson remembers: “As a boy, I ran in a mob whenever I roamed farther than a few blocks from home. Not a cohesive gang or pack, mind you, but a random gathering of neighborhood boys who had drifted together by chance on a summer afternoon, and then by consensus decided to go on an illicit adventure — an adventure our parents would not have approved of if we had asked them. The idea was that we would alibi each other when the inevitable third-degree took place at home that night — a plan that always fell apart when some sniveling quisling ratted us out for the price of an extra piece of lemon meringue pie. (OK — so it was me, all right? Can I help it if my mom made an exquisite lemon meringue pie?)

“Forbidden places to explore included the gutted bottle factory across the tracks down on Elm Street Southeast; several derelict warehouses off 15th Avenue Southeast, down by Van Cleve Park; the trashy ramshackle and partially abandoned row houses on Nicollet Island in the middle of the Mississippi; and, most exotic of all, ‘The Swamp.’

“If you walked due east on Fairmont Avenue Southeast to the top of the slight hill it ran up, you could survey a fetching vista that included grain silos, rusted abandoned railroad tracks, graveled washboard roads, stands of pin oak, and boggy water meadows filled with cattails stretching endlessly off to the east. This is what we called The Swamp — a wonderful terra incognita that our parents warned us was full of desperate fugitives, bushmasters, fetid storm drains, sluggish channels of raw sewage, and foul heaps of discarded junk: a veritable Land of Mordor.

“One golden summer day in the year 1961, a mob consisting of myself, Wayne Matsuura, Butchy Hogley, Randy Mikelson, Don Lockwood, Junior Kryjava (who had six toes on his left foot), and one or two other hangers-on drifted down Fairmont towards The Swamp. Our intent was to find an appropriate patch of drainage ditch for a cattail fight. It was blazing hot, so we stopped along the way at a pipe in the side of an elevated, disused railroad siding that dripped cold spring water to refresh ourselves (we hoped it was spring water — there was a tin cup on a chain next to it) before continuing on towards the water meadows. There was no such thing as individual water bottles back then; and keeping hydrated was a concept as foreign to us as Brinkmanship. Occasionally a Burlington Northern Railroad truck came hurtling down the washboard road, raising a veil of reddish brown haze, but otherwise we had the entire landscape to ourselves, as if in a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode where everybody else on Earth has vanished. Mourning doves made their curious sobs in the pin oaks, but otherwise it was a silent world we wandered through.

“The milkweed pods were bursting open, and we debated, for the umpteenth time, whether or not milkweed sap had been used to make rubber tires during World War II. Junior swore up and down that it was true and that his dad still had a set of milkweed-sap tires in his garage. Wayne and Randy were frankly unconvinced. Me, I just gathered up the milkweed seeds and fluff to stuff in my pockets, with the vague notion of making myself a milkweed pillow when I got home.

“We finally reached a tall stand of cattails and immediately waded into the muck to snap the stalks off and whomp each other senseless with the cattail heads. This was a cattail fight. When we finished, we were covered in slight bruises, and our hair and clothes were embedded with cattail fur. Just then Randy spotted a painted turtle scuttling for cover and made a dive for it. He held up his prize, announcing he was taking it home as a pet. Overwhelmed with a Clyde Beatty bring-’em-back-alive determination to do the same, the rest of us wallowed deeper into the gumbo to find turtles and salamanders in gratifying abundance

“Walking back home with our captives, we looked like a Swamp Thing convention.

“There was no use in equivocating when we got home; even our simpleton brains realized we couldn’t deny the reeking and slimy evidence we trailed into the presence of our despairing mothers. But we had pet turtles now! That made the tongue lashing and scrubbing down just about worth it.

“In my case, I had snagged a particularly robust specimen — about the size of a dinner plate. Now I needed somewhere to keep it. My mother was unreasonably against my putting it in the bathtub. It’s not like we NEEDED to take baths, I tried to point out to her. The garden hose would be just as effective, and quicker, too. But she remained obdurate. So I took Turtle-saurus (as I had named him) out to the garage for a look-see. And there, like the Holy Grail, stood my dad’s shiny new aluminum Hamm’s beer cooler, just waiting to be turned into an aquatic homeland.

“I used the garden hose to fill it, threw in some grass clippings and a few bricks from old Mrs. Henderson’s crumbling outdoor barbecue — and Turtle-saurus now had his own watery domain. Of course, I had no idea what to feed him. I thought maybe the grass clippings would do.

“But it was a moot point. When dad got home that evening, he had a bag of ice and a paper sack full of bottled beer for his cooler.

“I will not detail the ugly scene that followed when he discovered his cooler had been hijacked by a member of the Testudines family. Suffice it to say that Turtle-saurus was remanded back into the wild by a grim-faced man claiming to be my father — who at the time appeared to think that children, especially small boys, should each be impaled on a Pixy Stix and left to rot in the August sun.”

Life as we don’t know it (responsorial)
Or: Know thyself! Including: Oh, and was her face red!

DebK of Rosemount: “I am not much of a cook, but I am an enthusiastic trier of recipes, which accounts for my being, like OTD from NSP, a regular viewer of (PBS) cooking shows and frequent witness to the ‘TV magic’ OTD describes.

“However, while I yield to no one in my devotion to Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, my favorite cooking show is not a British TV program, but a Danish Oscar-winning film —with subtitles, no less. That film, ‘Babette’s Feast,’ contains the most lavish display of culinary hocus-pocus I have ever beheld. And our initial viewing of it — in the company of our holiest friends — precipitated one of the greatest humiliations of my married life.

“Since I get real pleasure from kitchen experimentation, we generally entertain by having friends over for dinner. Taxman would argue that there’s precious little ‘entertainment’ involved — only varying degrees of ‘putting on the dog’ (labor-intensive gussying up of the premises), followed eventually by mass intake of food and beverage. Still, because we’re careful to invite folks with the requisite character traits — healthy appetites and gastronomic derring-do — things usually go well enough to pave the way for return visits to our table. Only when we vary the formula are we apt to run into difficulty, as we did when we ended an evening with the Count and Countess of Lucca not with dessert but with the viewing of ‘Babette’s Feast.’

“The four of us were mesmerized, I thought, by the film’s powerful allegorical treatment of the Eucharistic banquet. It turns out, however, that Taxman’s keen focus on Babette’s culinary exertions — almost effortlessly producing over an open hearth a multi-course, gourmet extravaganza — had nothing to do with things theological. At the film’s conclusion, as the rest of us were remarking on how Babette’s sacrificial gift paralleled Christ’s, Taxman contributed his primary take-away: ‘How come, when Babette makes a fancy dinner, there’s no yelling and swearing?’”

Band Name of the Day: Nuts Like Us

Law Firm of the Day: Groaning & Cussing

Website of the Day, from Double Bogey Mike (and we will accept “iconic,” in this case):

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