Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stroke update

Over six months has passed since my stroke and the use of my right leg has returned to normal. The only remaining effect is a very slight imbalance when I get tired or careless. I have been out snowshoeing two or three times this winter and have spent many hours cutting wood and stock piling it.  I am very thankful that I have survived and recovered fully from this experience.

I was recently asked what I would like to do with the balance of my life and with little hesitation I replied that I would like to write.

Having said that I have to admit that my posts to this blog have diminished considerably. The main reason was probably because I had a very limited following and I believed the blog was not well received.

At this time I have seven followers. I have to accept the fact that while this may never be a popular blog that is no reason not to continue to keep posting. Since I enjoy writing that is reason enough to continue.

I am presently working on a new post I plan to call "Wilderness Rendezvous" which records a canoe trip into the wilderness north of Kenora, Ontario in May of 1968. The color photographs will make up for any of the shortcomings of the story.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Getting Older

Most of the time the years slide by and it takes a special event to get our attention that the clock is ticking. I have said on a number of occasions that the only good thing about getting old is that it happens to everyone.

A week before my 80th birthday I had an event that got my attention.  I had a stroke.

I woke up one morning and my right leg felt like it was asleep.  I had difficulty walking and my foot seemed to have forgotten how to operate. My day was filled with events that required my attention so I just charged ahead and limped through it, thinking that things would soon return to normal.

By the end of the day the limp had not gone away and I was getting very tired of dragging the leg around and making excuses that I had hurt my foot.  I was too busy to take the situation seriously.
My plan was not to worry about it because a good night's sleep would resolve this minor problem.

The next morning nothing had changed, so off I went to the local hospital. I will not bore you with all the events that took place but within a short time I was in an ambulance and heading 160 miles south to Fargo.

The drive to Fargo gave me lots of time to think and appreciate that my life might be about to change.
The first worry was that I might never walk normaly again.  My speech was not affected so I seemed to be thinking and talking in my normal manner and that was encouraging.

I began to rationalize that this was not an especially unusual event, considering I was soon to be 80 years of age. It was not unreasonable to think that strokes were part of the scenario of old age. I was in no way panicked or depressed.  I was also not in any pain nor discomfort.

As long as things did not get any worse I was resolved to accept the limp and be thankful I could still talk and think in a normal manner. I planned to just take each day that lay ahead with a good attitude.

By now, most people reading this, and especially young people, will move on to a more interesting topic. This seems to be a normal attitude. This is such a boring topic. One has a tendency to believe this will never happen to me.It might be said that I had the same attitude. I'll deal with it if/when it happens.

Once in the hospital events take charge of your life and you are swept along as a simple observer.
Tests and more tests. Lots of questions and examinations. The hospital environment quickly teaches you that you are no longer in control.  You have to just grin and bear it.

By the second day I was starting to learn that I had had a minor stroke and it had taken place in my brain at the top of my head. Apparently a location that controls my legs. My right foot acted as if it was asleep and the leg was not very cooperative.

By the third day my foot seemed to be more cooperative and I was informed it was because the swelling at the stroke site was going down and things were improving.  I was encouraged to think that there was a good chance that in the months that lay ahead my foot and leg should improve.

On the third day I was allowed to go home and scheduled to receive physical therapy at my local hospital. During the drive home north, I felt I had been very lucky and my future looked much brighter than on the ambulance ride south.

Back home I took it easy and had lots of time to think. I was not very active and when I did get out of bed I had to use a cane. I felt very insecure as my sense of balance was very poor.

In the months that followed I learned what exercises that would help me regain my strength in my foot and leg. Spending most of my time lying in bed gives the mind lots of time to reflect.  I soon realized that having the right attitude dealing with the rest of my life needed serious consideration.

On the ninth day after the stroke I attended my 80th birthday party, which had been planned and organized prior to the stroke and used a cane. It took place at a small local bar and in excess of forty people attended. I got a lot of birthday cards and drink tokens and in fact went home with over 70 wooden nickels. We provided food and a good time was had by all.

Most of the people that attended had heard that I had suffered a stroke but had no details on the seriousness of my condition.  I found it interesting that just about everyone I spoke with had the habit of looking at my mouth when I talked.  It did not take me very long to realize that because most stroke victims experienced some difficulty when talking, my friends were watching how I talked in an effort to determine if I had suffered a speech impairment.

Eventually I took the inspections in stride but on occasion I was seriously tempted to talk funny and pretend things were worse that they were. I resisted the urge in case I tempted the fates.

It was not long before I learned that using my push lawnmore to cut our extensive lawn was better than doing the suggested daily exercises. The push handle gave me stability and the walking slowly built up the muscles in my right foot and leg.  In the weeks and months that followed my foot worked more smoothly and my stride improved greatly.

As I write this I am now three months beyond the event and I walk with a very slight limp which I expect will soon completely disappear. What I am left with is a rather bothersome lack of balance.
I have fallen three times, all when indoors, and only once, during the first event, did I go over backwards and hit my head on the carpet. I was left with a sore neck for a month or so and got off lightly.  I am much more careful and find the situation improving.

I had been advised that it was possible I could suffer another stroke in the three months following my first stroke.  I have now passed that milestone and feel confident that I will soon be able to return to what I would call my normal life's routine.

One thing the experience has done is make me appreciate each day that follows and it helps me to try and make each day count.  My present goal or plan is to sneak up on the age of 90 by staying active and healthy.

I hope to be more active in adding regularly to this blog.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Old Barns and Cupolas

On a recent road trip through the south central part of our county I endeavored to find and photograph the last of the old barns and fancy cupolas. In almost every case the house is empty and the farm abandoned, while the barn is in a sad state of disrepair.
Perched high above the farm yard sits the barn cupola.  They came in a variety of shapes and sizes. In the beginning they were all made of wood and hauled to the roof peak during the final stage of construction. Carpenter took some pride in finishing the barn with a unique cupola which included an arrow weather vane which always started out pointed north. Strong winds and winter storms made it a challenge to keep the arrow pointed north. The fanciest ones also indicated the four main directons of the compass with the letters N, E, W, S.
Sometime during the 1940's and 50's they began to appear in all metal construction and were factory made. This limited the variety of the designs but they did get a little more fancy, while the metal increased their life considerably.
During the active life of the barn the top of the weather vane was decorated by a typical rooster, farm animal or a special design such as a sailboat.
As the farms were abandoned these decorations were either shot down by vandals or removed for safe keeping.  It is unusual to see one still in place today.
Note this unusual pair, each with four letters of the compass.
If you have any knowledge of any existing barn cupolas, particularly ones with a weather vane, contact me and I will try to take some photos.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Life expectancy in 2015

I took a few self portraits today. I plan to change my profile portraits on-line and keep up with the ravages of  time. It is too late to make any drastic changes.  I must just accept what I look like and concentrate with staying healthy and active.

When I was born back in July 1935 in Canada I believe my life expectancy was under 70 years. In less than five months I will be 80 years old and have a life expectancy of 87, up one year from my my previous calculation.  One of the good things about becoming a very senior member of society is that your life expectancy stays apace. So that's not a bad eightieth birthday present.

My present goal is to press on to at least 90 years of age.  I will endeavor to maintain my blog on a regular basis and try to increase my followers. They increased by one this January so I now have a total of four. I do not endeavor to reach a large number of people just for the sake of the numbers. However a steady increase would indicate my blog content is on the right track.

Perhaps I might even receive a few comments from readers to just prove they exist.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Uncle Eric's house

When I first came to this area of Kittson County, MN some thirty five years ago I tried to buy some land where I could build a house.  For a brief moment in time I tried to buy the nine acres of land that Uncle Eric's house sat on, but it was not for sale. I was not related to Eric but the house was always referred to by others as Uncle Eric's.

 The house sat forlornly on the edge of the riverbank woods at least a half mile from the nearest road. It had been built in the early 1900's so it was over fifty years old during my first visit. Erick was a farm laborer and worked mainly at farms in the area and at the same time tended his few acres. For a couple of the early years it seems he had his deaf sister living with him and they communicated by sign language.

The house was vacant when I first saw it and remained that way ever since.  Uncle Eric and his sister died at least fifty years ago and the little house has faced time and weather alone and in silence ever since. With the farm field on one side and the river behind it, access to the site was difficult but it could be seen briefly through the trees from the high side of the river a half mile away.

During the period of time I have lived in the county I have watched many a house and barn demolished by so called progress. Many other died a slow death from a broken back caused by snow loads in winter.  Others were burned and the remains buried.  Recently I realized that Uncle Eric's place was not going to last much longer so I grabbed my camera and the snowshoes and headed out.

This river photo was taken near the road closest to the house which lies in the distant tree line on the farthest side of the field.  The house sits in the trees to the left of the opening you can see in the woods on the sky line. The river swings wide to the left in a half circle and passes behind the house.
The snow was deep so the first challenge was to get down the steep river bank in the foreground and onto the frozen river. We had experienced a number of very cold nights before there was much snow on the ice so I was confident that the ice was thick and safe.

The second challenge after crossing the river was to get up the steep river bank on the far side. Once I was up the deep snow on the bank I passed through the old gate opening and started my trek to the distant house. My snowshoe track can just barely be seen to the left of the fallen tree seen in the photo. The nearest residence is at least a half mile away as the crow flies.
The close-up photo of the house shows it was a story and a half with a lean-to on the right hand side. The front door is missing along with the steps. Only one pane of glass remains unbroken. Notice it had a solid brick chimney.  The old weather grey siding shows very little of what remains from the original coat of white paint.
The photo from the rear of the house indicates it was a small home and the winter snow loads over the course of many years has broken its back. The final collapse is only a winter or two away. (The following winter it gave up the fight and was crushed flat by snow.
The last pane of glass is doing its best to hold the snow back, but its too late. Even the trees around the house have died.
The trip back across the field and river bank was uneventful but the struggle up the river bank was a trial. Later I realized the effort was worthwhile when I learned the little old house was down.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mystery tracks in the snow.

On a recent snowshoe outing in our woods in Northwestern Minnesota I came across a track in the fresh fallen snow.  As I stood there looking at it I was unable to think of what kind of animal would make such a track.
The track was continuous and had a half round shape as if it had been made by a fat snake. I rarely see a track that I cannot identify because there is a limited amount of wildlife in my woods, especial in the winter.

With my curiosity aroused I started to follow the track and then noticed a couple more of the same type. After a short walk I came to what I realized was the beginning of the tracks and took another photo. ( See next photo below)

This spot was very helpful because it indicated that some type of bird had landed in the snow. The
   Photo shows that the bird approached from the left and marks of it two feet can be seen to the left     of the hole in the snow, showing where it landed. This hole was deeper than the rest of the tracks. A bird when landing sets its wings and makes a downward beat to slow the decent. The long marks in the snow to the left of the landing hole shows where the edge of the left wing touched the snow. Five distinct marks show where the wing tip feathers made a light mark.

The imprint and track showed me it was a large bird and had to be a Ruff Grouse as at least six presently reside in these woods. In normal winter conditions a Ruff Grouse walks on the surface of the snow with ease, and rarely sinks in more than an inch.  This bird was sinking in at least six inches and was having to push forward with its chest to make any forward movement in the soft snow and this resulted in the unusual tracks.

The third photo shows the landing site of another grouse that came from the direction at the top of the photo.  Again the marks of the feet can be seen at the tope of the photo while the wing tip feather marks are seen on the left side of the photo.  As the birds wade off, they sink so low in the snow that the bottom parts of the folded wings leave drag marks in the snow.

Once I felt satisfied that the tracks were left by Ruff Grouse I tried to understand why these birds were sinking so deep on the snow.  As I  thought back to the beginning of our recent weather I believed I had the answer

A few days ago we received two or three inches of light fluffy snow the slowly fell during the night and early morning. This was followed later in the day by strong winds that ranged from thirty to forty five miles an hour and created a ground blizzard across our region.

The winds stripped the loose snow off the fields until it was airborne and blown in vast clouds across the landscape.  Where ever the winds blew across wooded areas the winds were slowed and the snow settled in the woods. As the storm drew to a close the winds died down and these vast clouds of snow settled gently in the protected woods.

The ground blizzard resulted in the top five or six inches of newly deposited snow to be so light and fluffy it would not support the grouse and they sank chest deep and had to struggle to move about.
The fact that the grouse experienced a mild fall and were rather fat and heavy contributed to their problem.

The mystery of the strange tracks in the snow was solved.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Beginnings

I last posted to this blog March 15th 2011 and that makes it almost four years ago.  I find the length of that gap hard to believe.  There were many reasons, but mainly I seemed to just get too busy and let everyday life run me.  Since today is the first day of a brand new year I thought that it was a good excuse to restart my blog and my reflections on life past, present and future.

Another excuse is the fact that I purchased a new camera and have a great urge to get out and photograph the county around me and test the new features it provides. I bought a Kodak PixPro AZ521 with a 52X lens.

 Last, but not least, I have to consider that I could  be running out of time.In six months, give or take a day, I will reach my eightieth birthday. I hardly need more incentive to contribute something worthwhile to my blog.

To test the camera I headed for the north branch of the Two river a few miles away. The snow was only a few inches deep so it was not difficult to get about. It was a bright sunny day and right away I found I had a problem. The new camera does not have the usual view finder.  This camera is fitted with the new three inch LCD screen.  The bright sunlight made it very difficult for me to compose my pictures.  Keep in mind that I have owned a camera since I was fourteen years old and they all had a view finder. I have no choice but to adapt and learn how to use the new screen. I did a little research when I got home and discovered that I could increase the light intensity on the screen and bumped it up to the highest setting.  I will see if that makes a difference on my next outing.

The following photo shows the Two River a few miles northeast of Lancaster.  I have canoed it a couple of times in the past.  The land the river flows through is very flat farmland but the river has cut a decent channel through the terrain with the result it is very scenic from the seat of a canoe.

One of the main features of the camera that attracted me was the zoom lens.  To test it out I found the remains of an old log barn and took a couple of shots that show the log construction and the grain in the wood.  The photos were taken from some distance away and not with the close-up feature.  

I believe this barn was built very close to a hundred years ago and the roof has already been ripped off.  The balance of the building will soon be destroyed. you will notice that the corner construction of the walls was not built in the typical log fashion where the logs were cut and stacked to overlap the lower row and stick out six to ten inches.  In this example the ends of the logs were cut off even with the face of the wall.

The photo of the gray wood from the old window makes me think of the great number of rain storms and snow storms it has experienced.  How many times did the old farmer look out through this window to check the weather before beating his way through the snow drift to the safety of his home.

As I left the old abandoned farm site a Ring-necked Pheasant flew across the yard in front of me. As I fumbled with my camera settings a second one left the shelter of the woods a few seconds later.  They are the first ones I have seen locally in at least ten years when they were more plentiful. Our milder winters will increase the odds of their survival.  As I drove away I was disappointed that I missed the chance to test the camera on a flying peasant.

Note that at one time the cracks and holes in the wall were filled with mud or cement and little of it remains.