Tuesday, June 29, 2010

P is for Perfect

It was a perfect first Monday of vacation.

I spent the first six hours working in my vegetable garden, ignoring the occasional drizzle and overcast clouds. I didn't get too hot, nor did I get sunburned. The bugs left me alone, too.

We're down to the last four kohlrabi plants; sure is tasty this year. I pulled the bolted spinach and lettuce rows and fed some to the goat and composted the rest. I tilled and weeded and raked and weeded some more. I thinned out the sweet corn and pruned the tomato vines.

Joren, the Dill Pickle Maniac, planted cucumbers next to the dill. We're hopeful that the growing season will be good and long like it was last summer. We lost the first cukes to an early May freeze and failed to get them reseeded in a timely fashion. We planted with a prayer. I threw in another row of carrots and some scallions. I think we'll try some fall spinach, lettuce, and peas this year. We'll get one really nice crop of peas tonight. Yum.

The best news of the garden is that there is ZERO evidence of any rabbit penetration of the new fence. So I was quite cheerful getting grubby in the garden. Oh, and the Zucchini thing has begun :) Local friends, consider yourself warned!

The finish to the perfect day was a cruise on the Mighty Mississippi with Tom and Beth in their new boat, the Regal Eagle. After putting in with no problems at the public landing in Red Wing, Tom docked the boat at the Harbor Bar like he'd been docking boats all his life. We picked up Capt. Steve-the-Lumberjack and Princess Kathy and off we went to look at Lake Pepin.

It was a peaceful night on the river; lousy with Bald Eagles perched here, there, and everywhere. The river is flowing high and fast and was quite warm. I couldn't resist taking a dip in Lake Pepin. Sunset was captivating and after dropping Steve and Kathy back at the Harbor Bar, Beth backed in the trailer and Tom got the boat on the trailer on his first attempt. No marital screaming, no arguments. Dale and I were quite impressed. These proud new boat owners have the makings of River Rat written all over their behavior.

Welcome to the Mighty Mississipp'!

(And THANK YOU, Tom and Beth, for the delightful ride and an excellent kick-off to our vacation.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

P is for Picture

My good friend Peggy taught me a wonderful technique for commentary on an adventure. When we took her son on a spring break expedition with us she required that we return him with a "Picture of the Day" to share the story of his adventure. We had great fun discerning and posing or choosing the POTD, as it came to be called, for each of the 10 days we were traveling across the plains to Colorado and eventually Arizona. My favorite photo of that trip is three middle school boys standing solemnly in swim trunks in a hotel shower.

Today was my first day of vacation. I slept away the first part of the day and putzed around my porch and backyard for the afternoon. The most exciting activity of the day is represented below in what I will call the POTD. The way I intend to handle this on the B's Backyard Blog will be for you to submit your captions using the comments feature. Eventually I'll offer a comment, too, providing an accounting of the image. So here's the first Picture of the Day feature. I can't wait to read your captions!

Friday, June 25, 2010

S is for Severe

I was down in Des Moines for a couple days for work enjoying beautiful weather, when I could escape the over-air conditioned meeting space. I hopped in the car around 6:30 pm tonight to return home and begin my two weeks of vacation.

It was one of those brilliant blue sunny evenings in the long days of summer. But wait, is that a cloud bank to the north? Looks slightly suspicious but awfully far away. No worries.

An hour into my drive north it began to look ominous. At 7:41 pm I had confirmation in the form of a text message from my oldest son, Arthur.

"All hell has broke loose"

"Where are you?" I texted back. (Yes, observant reader - texting and driving. Very bad habit. Definitely unsafe. Don't know if it's illegal in Iowa . . .) "Like tornado s##t? Or thunderstorms?" I continued.

"Wanamakers, like some of the heaviest rain and wind i have ever seen." he texted back.

I started flipping around the radio to try and pick up local weather when I tripped across the nasty Severe Weather Noise broadcast when there's a warning. It sounded like a Minnesota station, even though I was almost to Mason City, just south of Albert Lea, Minnesota, on I35. They were talking about tornadoes on the ground near Waldorf and heading for Freeborn County.

My GPS doesn't do counties and panning out didn't reveal Waldorf, so I kept driving. And it kept looking worse. And I TEXTED again to Dale this time asking him where is Freeborn County.

"Albert lee" was his disappointing response.

"S##t" I texted back.

I was driving right into it. So I stayed tuned to the two guys on a country station in Austin, Minnesota, near my in-laws farm, and payed close attention to their truly excellent storm-tracking. I pulled off in Mason City and enjoyed a late supper and reading in the midst of three busloads of teenagers from Chaska, Minnesota, on their first food stop while heading for a church camp in Colorado. I kept waiting for the rain to start, and the sun kept shining as it set, and the big nasty looking cloud kept sliding kind of east-ish . . . . so I hopped back in the car and tuned my trusty weather trackers back in.

They were very impressed with the lightning that was dancing around Austin and warned those of us near Norwood that the nasty PURPLE eye of the storm was passing over Norwood. "TAKE SHELTER, NOW," they urged.

Where the hell is Norwood, I wondered. . . .

Ummm, it's slightly east of I35 between Mason City and Albert Lea.

My car, even with traction control engaged, was pushed onto the shoulder in a combined hydroplane, straight-line wind moment that set my heart racing and my teeth clenched as tightly as my hands were gripping the steering wheel. They warned that hail would follow. I flipped on my flashers and slowed to 30 MPH looking for an overpass under which I could take refuge.

Upon reaching home safely after 11 pm (90 minutes of severe weather delays) and telling my exciting story, my godson reprimanded me for taking refuge under an overpass.

Those aren't safe. The winds get messed up and magnified and more deaths happen as a result, he claimed, with a fair amount of authority.

So I did what we Clark/Skovs do. I looked it up.

FYI - hiding under an overpass or bridge during hail is recommended by several internet sites including State Farm, my insurance company. But Luke is right about avoiding them in tornadoes as they can magnify the wind. So in the dark when you can't see a tornado but you can detect hail, you get to make a choice and hope for the best.

Tonight, I chose wisely.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

B is for BAD Boat

Yes, I'm back, due to popular demand from my fans and a burning desire to blog again.

I really wanted to make this first new post all about my wonderful new garden.  But it was hot and muggy outside and I didn't want to hang out in my backyard tonight. I was too excited that my boat was ready to float and so off we went.

Kind of. . .

Many issues presented themselves as we made a not-so-quick departure from the backyard off to the boat launch. I will refrain from boring you with the details of my daily dilemma in motivating males (all three with whom I live) to action. Eventually my husband and two young-adult-college-age-still-resident-in-my-home-sons all convened at the Hastings public boat launch to splash my beloved boat for her shakedown cruise.

I nixed that launch site due to crappy maintenance on the part of the City of Hastings (down to one lane, cement eroded, many large rocks decorating the shore) and high water creating significant current and hiding submerged obstacles in muddy water. Besides, I hate all the No Wake zones it takes to get to real water. So off to the public landing in Prescott on the Wisconsin side of the mouth of the St. Croix River we went.

Arthur and Joren were in training mode, eagerly trying to gain approval so that they might use the boat on their own this summer without parental supervision. Things went very smoothly and we were headed downriver in a matter of minutes having departed from the convenience of a well-maintained, if not free, public boat launch with the luxury of a dock.

Dale and I were situated in the bow with Joren in command as our pilot. I texted Princess Kathy and River Rat Lumberjack Steve as we cruised below the bluff where their picturesque house is perched. And then the first ominous sound became evident as the boat lurched, ever so slightly.

"Joren, slow down. Dale, take over and turn around."

We continued to lose power as we turned back upriver, crossing our fingers and texting Princess Kathy with mile-marker by mile-marker updates as to our progress, We were kicking out a big, illegal wake as we entered the Prescott No Wake Zone. Just as we spotted Kathy's River Rat hubby the motor finally died.

Damn! This is swift current. Paddle boys, PADDLE!

We managed to get an assist on a private dock between the gas dock and a big Gibson houseboat about 100 yards down river from the public landing where we began our journey.

Dependable Steve came to my rescue, again. This poor man has had to help me off the river so many times I'm embarrassed to even count. Then again, he has also blown his share of motors and even managed to imagine a clever stainless steel propeller heist in the midst of pulling my pathetic boat off a wing damn last summer! So perhaps rescuing me is good for him.

Anyway, many thanks to Captain Steve and Princess Kathy for their amazing availability in a river crisis. The damn boat is in the driveway and Dale and I quickly shifted to Plan B.

It was a truly lovely night for a motorcycle ride.