Solace at the Lake

Yesterday, we headed north, up Interstate 35 to Duluth and points to the north. I winterized the beehives that are north of Duluth, and then we headed east to highway 61.  Through Two Harbors, we arrived at Gooseberry Falls State Park. The park is almost always empty during the winter months; the occasional hiker or random snowshoer might be seen.

The sky was overcast and there was a brisk wind off the lake.  The lake, particularly during the winter, gives me solace – at least for a moment.

Sounds of Winter: Walking on snow, jingling of our dog’s tags, and the rush of Lake Superior.


At the old homestead, in Proctor, we had a fence.  It ran, on the east, from the front corner of house – parallel to the front face of the house – to the property line.  A ninety-degree angle at the property line, and the fence ran up hill to the edge of the driveway.  A similar configuration of fence was on the westerly side of the property and house.  The fence was constructed of eight-feet long sections of lumber; the rails and stiles of each panel came together into a butt joint.  We stretched and stapled welded wire to the wood frame.

In back of the yard, directly in from of the driveway and from garage to the property line, we had a wood slat privacy fence; we also had a solid wood set of gates.

Our neighbor, across the alley from us, was a cantankerous curmudgeon.  There is nothing wrong with being a curmudgeon, there is nothing wrong with being a cantankerous curmudgeon, but he also happened to be a busybody.

I often thought of him as Jimmy Stewart’s character in Hitchcock’s Rear Window.  He was always sitting in his window; he was constantly aware of any motion or activity outside his window.  He would comment after the fact about the comings and goings of our house.  “I see you brought home some groceries two nights ago – about 6:00 pm; where do you go shopping?”

When it became apparent to him that we were putting up a privacy fence, albeit a short privacy fence across the back of the yard in front of the driveway, he got decidedly cranky.  “You know, Alex, a neighbor might take it the wrong way, you know, with you walling off your yard and all.”

I asked him if he had ever read North of Boston by Robert Frost.  I went on to say that there was a poem in this book called, “Mending Wall”, with the line “Good fences make good neighbors.”  Neighbor gave an half-annoyed, half-inquisitive “Who?”

The privacy fence went up, and the prickliness of the neighbor eventually subsided to his everyday-normal-baseline prickliness.

It worked very well.  It limited the snooping of those behind our yard, and helped block our view of our vehicles and whatever other random heaps of stuff we may have had in the driveway.

Now, in St. Paul, we have a bit more space.  In Proctor, we fenced off half of our little-under a quarter-acre and that included a house in that footprint, as well.  At the new place, we have over an acre.  The main yard area goes from the road in the front, past the house and a couple hundred feet (~ 60 meters) back where it meets the wooded area of our property.  From the edge of this yard-clearing, to the property line is another hundred feet (~ 30 meters).  This area is heavily wooded and has a diverse collections of flora and fauna.

After returning from Boston, at the beginning of October, we started to sink fence posts.  Work, fleeting day late and school got in the way of working on the fence during the week, so, each weekend, weather depending, we put in time.

Two sets of weekends, and the posts were in the ground.  We would start on fence panels.

The constructions of the panels was identical to those we used at the old place. The only exception would be size; the panels are a foot and a half taller.  Melissa eventual plans for a coonhound; coonhounds like to climb.

A weekend here, a single Saturday there, the panels went together.  Hugging the slope of the ground where needed; we put a pair of five feet wide gates at the front of the yard to drive a vehicle into the yard.  The gates are set at a 5° slope to match the ground.

A third of the way through the fence project, it snowed and briefly became cold.  We were almost certain the remainder of the fence would have to wait until spring.  Luckily, the weather turned nice, and we were back in action.

With the help of Melissa’s dad (throughout the project, actually), a really nice Saturday, and some extra long electrical extension cords to reach the back of the property from the house, we finished up the fence.  The hounds were released and ran and ran and ran for the remainder of the afternoon after we finished.

During the construction of the fence, we got to know our neighbors a little better; they came to see the fence and chat.  Very nice people, but we will need time to find out if our good, new fence will result in good neighbors.



We periodically travel to dog shows.  At the beginning of October, it was a national (international participation, though) dog show in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts.  Toward the end of October, there was a show in South Dakota.

We packed up the hound transport vehicle, and headed west early on a Sunday morning.  Traveling west and west into the prairies of the eastern Dakotas always has a sort of romanticism for me.  The prairies are windswept with endless farms and lonely islands of trees surrounding farm houses.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was our destination.  Hound Eveleth (Eve) was to be showed.  Shows are generally interesting; there are great looking dogs and often, delightful people watching.

The wind was stiff in Sioux Falls, but it lacked that bite that would arrive later in the fall.

Melissa was conversing with her fellow hound-people – I was looking up information on a little hole-in-wall outpost 30 minutes off the main thoroughfare of southern Minnesota: Pipestone National Monument.

Pipestone National Monument, in Pipestone, Minnesota, is where, you may have guessed, pipestone can be found.

Pipestone, or otherwise known as catlinite (named after George Catlin, the purported first white man to visit the area in the 1830s), is a metamorphosed mudstone and is the second softest rock in the world.  Indigenous people of the upper midwest and North America, used the quarries where Pipestone National Monument is now located to obtain the stone to make ceremonial smoking pipes.  Wikipedia, surprisingly, (at the time of this writing) does not cover much beyond the making of peace pipes out of pipestone by Native Americans and a bit about Catlin.  Using Google, I was able to find an article by Ernest L. Berg written in April 1938 and published in American Mineralogy (volume 23, no. 4, p. 258-268) titled, Notes on catlinite and the Sioux quartzite.

Getting to the monument was relatively uneventful; it is in farm country and it was after harvest time.  There were small patches of snow here and there on the shadow-side of road ditches.

We drove into the city of Pipestone; we took a left on this street, drove past the large piles of grain, and then another left down that road.

Arriving at the monument site, it seemed very strange to be so close to these quarries that had been used by indigenous people for a very long time prior to Europeans arriving in North America.


Hershey’s Chocolate – A Digression

Earlier today, I was out in the back of our property; we have an old garage, an old, rotting pile of wood, and a fire-pit, among other things.  I had a nice fire going in fire-pit; even though the logs are very much to the point of crumbling, they still burn quite nicely.

Our nieces and their mother stopped by the house at one point.  The girls came running out to the back to see the fire.  I tossed another log on.  The nieces kept asking if we have any chocolate bars, graham crackers and marshmallows.  They wanted to make s’mores.

Luckily, unknown to the two of them, Melissa, my wife, was out and about and was bringing back those three different ingredients.

I shifted the red embers to make a nice place to toast marshmallows.  I pulled

the pack of chocolate bars out; Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.  I realized that something was slightly different with the packaging.  I had noticed this before, but it had not really registered.  The bars were wrapped in a plastic film.

Maybe it is because it is November, and as a youngster, November meant deer hunting.  Deer hunting meant staying in Side Lake, MN, traveling to Angora, MN via the Dean Forest road, eating lukewarm beef stew from a Stanley widemouth thermos, and having a Hershey’s bar after the stew.  The Hershey’s bars were packaged with a paper wrapper and under the paper, wrapping the

This lack of foil and paper around the chocolate bar was slightly disturbing; it seemed wrong that Hershey’s would have meddled with such a simple, yet classic packaging.

Upon a little bit of Internet sleuthing, it turns out that Hershey’s discontinued the foil-and-paper in 2003.  Apparently, I have not been paying attention to what is in vogue for candy packaging for nearly the last ten years.  Further reading revealed that by beloved foil and paper wrapper had less than a twenty year run.  Starting in 1984, the foil replaced a white glassine inner paper.  So much for “tradition.”  I was how long the godawful plastic film will be in use before it, too, is replaced with something more obnoxious.

On a tradition + chocolate note, a book I read a couple years ago comes to mind: Chocolate Wars, by Deborah Cadbury.  It is a fascinating look at the capitalistic world of chocolate oligopolies over a 150 year period.