Archive for July 2011

Sweaty Corn And Strawbales

Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:05 am
By: Doug Lund
11 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

When I step out of the house and my glasses fog over it’s too &%$#@ hot and humid.

When the only time I care to venture out of my air conditioned comfort zone is to do my required yard chores or go to the grocery store, then I want to blame somebody. I could stand there and shake my sweaty fist at the heavens but my faith is already on shaky enough ground that I don’t need to further anger the Almighty. So, I called up Brian Karstens who is not only a Keloland meteorologist but an agri-scientist too. He has confirmed my suspicions that this excessive summer-fun-robbing humidity is the FARMER’S fault!  

strawbale corn

Okay, okay…those weren’t Brian’s exact words but he did say that all the corn being grown these days does contribute to higher humidity’s. He says corn, especially during the tasseling period is working so hard to create ears that it’s sending a lot of water vapor into the atmosphere. “The corn is SWEATING?” I asked. “Yup, that’s one way of putting it and because there is so much more corn in the area, dew points rise and the chance of storms increases.” But, Brian says, nobody’s quite figured out yet exactly how MUCH difference it makes.   “So when the corn is all tasseled out the humidity will go down and my golf game will get better?” I asked.  “Ah..yes..and no,” he said.

Well, the corn must have taken a rest last Sunday because it was one of those rare summer days you dream about; low 80’s and breathable air. We called up our friends, Denny and Joanie, and went for a ride in the convertible. 

strawbale painter

In the ten years since Don South and his wife, Susie, created Strawbale Winery just north of Sioux Falls, he’s been after me to come check it out. We decided to do just that on Sunday. It was a great choice..long overdue. I brought my camera along.  

 

Bales of straw were actually used as materials for constructing and insulating the winery. It keeps the building cool and provides a cool name.

Bales of straw were actually used as materials for constructing and insulating the winery. It keeps the building cool and provides a cool name.

 

 

Mathew DeRiso (Mat D) was Sunday's Front Porch musical entertainment . What a wonderful voice!

Mathew DeRiso (Mat D) was Sunday's Front Porch musical entertainment . What a wonderful voice!

Strawbale is open for tasting and tours year round but there are special events throughout the summer including Thursday evenings and Sangria Sundays which include music, arts and crafts plus, of course, the wines. Strawbale grows most of its own grapes on the property. It also offers all kinds of fruit blends using South Dakota grown rhubarb, chokecherries, apples, raspberries etc.

Strawbale is open for tasting and tours year round but there are special events throughout the summer including Thursday evenings and Sangria Sundays which include music, arts and crafts plus, of course, the wines. Strawbale grows most of its own grapes on the property. It also offers all kinds of fruit blends using South Dakota grown rhubarb, chokecherries, apples, raspberries etc.

Don South never gets tired of visiting with guests who come to Strawbale. It's just a friendly laid back atmosphere where chickens and cats roam free.

Don South never gets tired of visiting with guests who come to Strawbale. It's just a friendly laid back atmosphere where chickens and cats roam free.

Here, Linda, Joanie and Denny offer a toast to the South's for making our Strawbale Sunday so special.

Here, Linda, Joanie and Denny offer a toast to the South's for making our Strawbale Sunday so special.

For more information on coming events at Strawbale Winery and directions on how to get there click on the following website: http://www.strawbalewinery.com/

Just a couple more thoughts about corn: I’m still waiting to sample this year’s batch of locally grown sweet corn; late because of all the spring rain. I’d put up with all the humidity they emit in the field just to sit at a table containing a platter of freshly picked and boiled ears..plenty of butter and salt..then feasting my way to paradise on those tender, sweet creamy kernels of golden goodness.

I love the way fellow sweet corn aficionado, Garrison Keillor, describes it in verse:

 O that fresh sweet corn that the Lord sent down
So we know how heaven will be,
No grief, no tears, just the young golden ears
Plenty for you and for me.
Though the road be hard and deep is the night
And the future we cannot see
Take my hand, dear Lord, and I’ll be all right
If you’ll save a few ears for me.

Lost In Space

Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 11:23 am
By: Doug Lund
13 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

I know exactly where I was when the very first Space Shuttle, Columbia, completed its mission April 14th, 1981. I was sitting with a friend in the Red Lantern bar, right next to Kelo, looking at a TV set with one eye and at my brand new Casio quartz digital musical alarm watch with the other. In order to test its accuracy, I had started the timer two days earlier exactly at the moment the NASA guy said “We have liftoff.” I set the alarm to go off the moment Columbia was scheduled to touch down. Sure enough, as soon as the spacecraft’s wheels hit the runway, my new watch burst into an electronic version of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” I don’t remember what impressed me more: the successful mission of this latest American adventure in space or the fact that the Japanese could build such an amazing inexpensive timepiece.

shuttle

I wasn’t wearing a watch; in fact, I wasn’t even awake to witness the last Space Shuttle land at twilight Thursday morning in Florida. It was apparently a pretty emotional moment for all those connected with the Shuttle program over the last three decades. It brings to close an era in American space flight filled with incredible discoveries and achievements but also a pair of terrible tragedies which cost the lives of 14 astronauts. Now, it’s anybody’s guess if America will have a manned space program ever again. Oh, the president says this is just a lull; that we’ll be exploring Mars or some asteroid within the next 15 to 20 years. Well, not really. We don’t even have a solid plan in place for deep space missions. Americans will continue to go back and forth to the space station orbiting the earth, but they’ll now have to hitch a ride with the Russians.

I’ve always found the idea of manned space exploration to be, in the words of Mr. Spock, “fascinating” but if the Shuttle program has taught us anything, it can be boring as hell too. Unless there are serious life-threatening problems, the Shuttle missions have, for the most part, been like watching the UPS truck show up at your front door. There’s nothing romantic or exciting about hauling a bunch of food and supplies up to the Space Station and returning with a couple of wobbly kneed astronauts who’ve been up there floating around for months doing god, knows what in the name of research. I, for one, am not too upset that NASA is parking our fleet of high level delivery trucks. It’ll be up to private business or other countries to do the heavy lifting from now on.

The other important thing that we’ve learned about space travel in the last thirty years is that it will never really be possible to one day board a Star Trek-type ship and venture off to other galaxies, boldly going where no man..correction..no ONE has gone before. First of all we haven’t figured out this whole space-time continuum business. Mars is just 45 million miles from earth and yet it takes 8 minutes at the speed of light to get a radio signal there and back.

 We’d have to zip along at many times the speed of light just to get out of our own galaxy which is one of billions of other galaxies. Even if we could go that fast, Einstein proved that time won’t be the same here on earth as it would be for those bopping around the universe. So, no phoning home from the Vega System to make sure the wife doesn’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. She’ll have been dead for a few thousand years.

By now, you’ve figured out that I’m no scientist but I do watch a lot of TV and have been especially intrigued with the series, “Through the Wormhole” narrated by Morgan Freeman on the Science Channel. It actually deals with the seemingly insurmountable problems of deep space exploration by humans; how to achieve such speeds, how to sustain life aboard a starship, how would earthlings ever stay in touch? The series also looks at the possibility of a 4th dimension; alternate realities which, on the surface, seem as far fetched as the fact there are as many stars in the universe as grains of sand in all the oceans and deserts of earth. I get a headache just thinking about it.

Humans have always been driven by the desire to explore the unknown. I just wonder if, considering what we already know about the limits of space travel, there is anything out there that Americans can get excited about enough to invest in again.

Thanks to the robot rovers, we had thousands of close-up views of Mars.  Is it really worth spending billions of dollars on an 18 month-long manned mission to the red planet just to confirm what we already know; there aren’t any Martians up there.

I’m afraid we’re at the point where we just might have to be content letting the aliens come to visit us first.

Arrivals And Departures

Posted: Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 11:15 am
By: Doug Lund
1 Comment | Trackback Bookmark and Share

As I’m writing this, our desert daughter, Christy, is jetting her way home from Phoenix at a speed of 555 miles an hour. It was 107 degrees when her plane lifted off but if she’s expecting any relief from the scorching Arizona sun, wait until she touches down here and gets a load of our 100 degrees.. plus some chest-grabbing humidity to go along with it. She’s here for a week and it’ll be fun to have her around again but she might be anxious to go back where at least the heat is dry.

UPDATE: Had to stop writing because she called from the airport after having arrived EARLY aboard Allegiant which is notorious for taking its sweet time departing Phoenix for that Sioux Falls flight.

A couple of the beautiful women in my life, Linda and Christy

A couple of the beautiful women in my life, Linda and Christy

The following week, Son, James returns home from California; in part to see us, of course, but mainly to reunite with all his Lincoln High School classmates from 1981 who’ve been fasting and praying for months trying to shed a few pounds or buying and applying the most expensive wrinkle removal creams in hopes of denying that nature has changed them at all in the last 30 years. James doesn’t have to get too worked up about such things, he’s a lot like his mom;  the passage of time just doesn’t seem to have the same affect on them as the rest of us.   The week after Jim leaves, Linda and I put our host and hostess hats on for a return trip to Alaska courtesy of Keloland and Holiday Vacations.

 alaska screen grab

This will be our third tour there so, even though it’s our largest state, we’re getting to know our way around which will be helpful when those Keloland folks who signed up to travel with us have questions about such things as moose, mountains and sled dogs.  This tour and the upcoming one to New England in late September are both sell-outs which we’re so grateful for and could mean more travel adventures to come.

**********************************************************************

 My cousin Bud Sluter departed this earth a few days ago at a hospice in Oregon.  He has been doing battle with the cancer monster for several years denying him victory time and time again but this go-round the demon would not be denied. Bud was well trained to be a fighter. He served 34 years in the U.S. Army beginning when World War II broke out. That’s when he met his wife, Carol, who was also in the service.

Bud and Carol; the early years

Bud and Carol; the early years

 In their 66 years together, Bud and Carol raised six children. They bought their first motorhome two decades ago after Bud retired. They’ve been vagabonds ever since offering their services as volunteers wherever their travels took them. To be honest, I really didn’t know Bud. He was the son of my dad’s oldest sister, Mable. By the time I was born, he was grown and gone. Ten years ago, we met up at my brother’s house in New Jersey and spent a most enjoyable day talking about our similar  upbringing in Volga from the perspective of  different generations. Bud and Carol spent winters in Phoenix which is where Linda and I started meeting up with them at their home on wheels each January. We shared lots of wine and loads of laughs. These gatherings were not only fun  but really informative for me as Bud and Carol had a wealth of information about other family members who were strangers to me. Sad.. because I had so many more questions for you Bud.

But and Carol Sluter Sweethearts and Sweet people

But and Carol Sluter Sweethearts and Sweet people

R.I.P. Cuz

The Lincoln Legacy Final Chapter (Maybe)

Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 10:16 am
By: Doug Lund
8 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Long time readers of these meanderings are more than familiar with the continuing saga of my 1990 Lincoln Town Car, fondly called White Lightnin’. In her 19years of faithful service, I witnessed, and recounted here, several examples of how she miraculously healed herself from numerous ailments including a leaky air suspension system and power steering unit, erratic heater, radio and power windows. All of these things magically started working again after I began making inquiries to sell or junk her out. It was as if White Lightnin’ KNEW that I wasn’t about to spend any more money on her so if she was to remain a viable contributor to our transportation needs, the car would have to self medicate. This lasted for two years but then last Fall the heater, which would always spring to life after I slid the control bars back and forth a few times, refused to respond. “I can’t drive you in the winter if you won’t warm it up in here,” I said. (Yes, I did sometimes talk to her.) But, she was apparently still mad over having to suffer the indignity of being converted into a leaf hauler each November.

She never got over this indignity

She never got over this indignity

So, with a heavy heart, I made the chilly drive out to Nordstrom’s; half expecting the heater to kick-on just as I pulled into the drive-way. But not this time. I accepted my 30 pieces of silver from Doug Abeln of Nordstrom’s who saw I had my camera along to chronicle the sad event. He asked if I’d like a picture of White Lightnin’ actually going into the crusher. I said no and gave my old rusty friend one final love tap and headed for home.

Parting..such sweet sorrow

Parting..such sweet sorrow

That would be the last time I’d ever see her..or WOULD IT??

YouTube Preview Image

Out of the blue this week, Doug sent me photos of the old girl but gave no explanation as to why she hadn’t been crushed as flat as Roseanne Barr’s singing voice. She had become a DONOR and lives on by providing her vital parts and thereby giving new life to other ancient Lincolns!

white lightning parted out front

white lightning parted out inside

white lightning parted out rear & left side

Go ahead and mock me if you will…but anyone who has ever named a car or believe your vehicles do indeed have personalities..will understand how proud I am of White Lightnin’ at this very moment.

The Buzz On Buzzards

Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 8:36 am
By: Doug Lund
7 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

So this buzzard carrying two dead raccoons tries to board an airplane but was stopped by a flight attendant who said, “Sorry sir, only one carrion per passenger.” (pa-dum-pum)

 buzzard ugly close up

In 2005, my friend, Bernie Hunhoff, over at South Dakota Magazine, wrote a short story about the much maligned Turkey Vulture extolling some of its virtues such as…well, I can’t remember what virtues this horrid looking creature possesses. But Bernie did point out a few and also mentioned that a group of them is called a “Venue” and when they’re flying in a circle, that’s called a “Kettle.”  

You’re going to have a hard time convincing me or anybody else who has worked at Keloland Television over the last 15 years, to say anything positive about these big black buzzards. Why? Well, here’s the comment I wrote to Bernie’s article:    A few years ago, a “venue” of turkey vultures, apparently seeking loftier goals in life, flew into town and decided to perch atop our 200 foot television tower behind the KELO studios. Somehow, through buzzardese or whatever method of communication they use,  word got around and we now have “kettles” by the hundreds circling the tower and holding family reunions perched upon the steel crossbars and antenna mounts throughout the summer.

buzzards circling tower kelo frz.

buzzards on tower kelo frz

It’s apparently a perfect spot to relax from a hard days soaring and scavenging. They chat, I suppose, about the lovely view and the tasty meal of gaseous road kill they’ve enjoyed.  Then nature takes its course and, almost in unison, they release their digested material in such huge amounts that it can be picked up on the Keloland Live Doppler radar.

buzzards kelo freeze looking down

 It rains down onto our vehicles parked in the lot below giving them a nauseating polka dot appearance. The droppings are so acidic they must be washed off quickly before burning holes in the paint. Depending on which way the wind is blowing and the velocity, the entire lot and anything on it is vulnerable to this baptism of buzzard poop.  Angry vehicle owners have volunteered to shoot these polluting pests with a .22 rifle but that idea was nixed for safety reasons. So was a plan to hoist up some dead squirrels laced with enough poison to take ‘em all out.  Come to find out, though, that someone, who obviously never had to live around these messy raptors, managed to get them on a protected species list so the only option remaining is to try scare them off the tower.

buzzard kelo freeze flying from tower

Our engineers actually got a speaker up there and pumped punk rock music through it full blast. The big birds fluttered a bit but then started getting into the rhythm. The Episcopalians attending church next door, however, did not.. so in the interest of ecumenical harmony, the speakers went silent.

When workers were making their annual tower inspection and changing burned out Christmas bulbs, (that illuminate the structure from Thanksgiving to New Years Day) they installed a “clapping” device on top that’s controlled by a 200 foot long rope. It makes a heck of a racket when pulled from below and at first the buzzards exploded off the tower in fear. But they eventually got used to that too and when they’d hear the clap, clap, clap it only seemed to startle them enough to prematurely release more polka dot making material toward the vehicles below.

The last attempt (that I know of) at ridding the tower of turkey vultures was three years ago when our chief engineer read about some success with hanging , what amounted to, buzzard decoys from the tower. Two fake birds were suspended by a wire. The idea was that when the real vultures approached and saw their comrades in distress, they’d fear suffering the same fate and fly on.

buzzard decoy frz

 It turns out, though, that not only do turkey vultures have a world class sense of smell; they have excellent vision too and weren’t fooled one bit by the phonies.

So, just like the swallows return to Capistrano each spring, you can always tell the buzzards have come back to the Keloland tower by all the happy car wash owners in town and when you notice Keloland employees carrying open umbrellas to and from work even on a sunny day.

Afterglow Of The 4th.

Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm
By: Doug Lund
4 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Well, that was simply the nicest 4th of July I can remember in a lifetime that’s included 65 of um.

The weekend began on a rather ominous note, though.

The weather was so nice Saturday I suggested to Linda that we take a spin in the Camaro with the top down. We tooled around town for a while and then I got a hakerin’ for Nutty’s which not only offers a million or so varieties of cold brewed beverages on tap but also is the last bastion of bars that still passes out free salted-in-the-shell peanuts by the barrel full and encourages customers to just chuck said shells right on the floor. We grabbed a big cup of nuts, placed our order then sat down in the open-air section of Nutty’s where a lovely gentle breeze was blowing. Everything was just perfect until we got up to leave and both forgot the little step that separates the two bar levels. Linda was leading the way and didn’t see the little row of Christmas lights on the floor placed there to mark the change in elevation. It’s a horrible sensation to be walking along and all of a sudden your foot goes out and it’s like stepping off a cliff. In this case, the cliff was only about four inches high but enough to send Linda cascading downward. There might have been a period in my younger quicker-reaction-time-days when I could have nobly reached out and caught her safely in my arms but all I could do here was watch in slow motion as she collapsed to the floor in a heap with only discarded peanut shells to cushion her fall. The waiter and I did manage to get her upright and she adamantly tried to convince us that she was alright; more embarrassed than injured. But after we got to the car it was clear from her skinned knees, throbbing toe and aching wrist that she had not escaped entirely unscathed. They all began to morph into a lovely deep shade of purple and blue before my very eyes. So Linda is now sporting a wrist brace and has her broken big toe taped up to the “little piggy that stayed home.”  No we didn’t over imbibe and no we’re not suing..just making a mental note for next time that Nutty’s is a split level establishment.

The really wonderful part of the weekend was just sitting around a table with family on the beautifully shaded backyard patio at our daughter Patty’s house. With the water feature gurgling away in the background, we sipped wine and munched on the always delicious Keg fried chicken. We were also pleasantly surprised by a delightful Moroccan dish prepared by granddaughter, Allison, who just returned from spending 6 months in Europe. It was lovely seeing her eyes light up as she recalled all the magical places she’d been and people she’s met.

L to R Linda (she's hiding the black wrist bracket on her left arm) daughter, Patty, Me, Son-in-Law, Joe and daughter, Suzan. Joe and I are firm believers that during a friendly argument over movies, talking louder makes us more convincing.

L to R Linda (she's hiding the black wrist bracket on her left arm) daughter, Patty, Me, Son-in-Law, Joe and daughter, Suzan. Joe and I are firm believers that during a friendly argument over movies, talking louder makes us more convincing.

 

Later, we were treated to a modest but thrilling curbside fireworks show put on by the grandchildren. The chicken must have been really good. I look full.

Later, we were treated to a modest but thrilling curbside fireworks show put on by the grandchildren. The chicken must have been really good. I look full.

 

Allison prepares to turn the send the neighborhood into a colorful fog with smoke bombs.

Allison prepares to send great billows of colorful fog into the neighborhood with her supply of smoke bombs.

Michael found firecrackers that explode on dry land or in water. Perfect for sending cans with a little pop left inside, soaring into the heavens. Okay, ten feet tops.

Michael found firecrackers that explode on dry land or in water. Perfect for sending cans with a little pop left inside, soaring into the heavens. Okay, ten feet tops.

Zoey tries to muster up a wee bit of excitement over some little string poppers which don't deliver much on danger or thrills even if you're nine.

Zoey tries to muster up a wee bit of excitement over some little string poppers which don't deliver much on danger or thrills even if you're nine.

The Lund 4th of July celebration concluded with just enough light left in the day for one game of  bean bag toss. Then, after a bit of a struggle, Michael and Suzan finally managed to get wood ignited in the fire pit so the roasting of marshmallows and making of smores could begin.

There’s just something  about a fine day such as this sitting around  the flames of a friendly fire surrounded by people you love and those who think you’re okay too, that is so totally American and satisfies the depths of your soul. 

Now, before I break into a verse of  Kumbaya, I’ll close with one other observation: If it’s against the law to shoot fireworks within the city limits of Sioux Falls the jails wouldn’t have been big enough to hold all the criminals running wild last night in our neighborhood alone…including us, I suppose. So, thanks Sioux Falls police for, just this once, maybe looking the other way and not being too tough on us. It’s the American Way.

To Air Is Human

Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011 at 10:36 am
By: Doug Lund
8 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Sure.. no sooner am I convinced that Summer is going to take the whole summer off this year, along comes a day like Thursday when mercury in the thermometer shoots up like Old Faithful and sends everyone scrambling to find an air conditioner to hug. So what do I do on this brain boiling hot afternoon? Like an idiot, I decided to fire up the lawn mower. It had to be done. We have company coming and the grass was getting tall enough to bale. Usually, Linda is home when I mow and I can see her peaking out the windows from time to time keeping an eye on my progress. She also has her cell phone at the ready in case she spots me lying in a heap on the lawn and needs to call 911.  But Linda was out of town spending the day with her mom so I was extra careful to pace myself and not keel over from heat exhaustion.  Other than being unable to see because of all the sweat dripping into my eyes the chore was completed without incident and I finished my next assignment (making out checks to pay the bills) inside the house sitting down with an ice cold beer in my hand and frigid air from an A/C register blowing on my legs.

As much as I’ve grown to despise extreme heat (mid 90’s or higher) I just don’t remember having a big problem with it in my youth. Oh, I recall hot days, of course, but we had no choice but to deal with it; find some shade or a body of water because nobody had air conditioned cars or houses. I think a couple of the stores downtown, like Tupper Pharmacy, were air conditioned but you could only hang out there for so long before being asked to leave. None of us boys ever wore short pants either. Blue jeans with a three inch cuff was the uniform of the day winter AND summer. .

In the fifties, my wealthy aunt Clara and her husband, Larry would motor up from Chicago during the summer to spend a few days with family in South Dakota. They always drove fancy new Cadillacs which were equipped with the latest devices to keep them cool on their long journey. The first one I remember looked like this.

 air cond window 2

The Thermador Car Cooler resembled  a canister vacuum cleaner hooked to the passenger window. It had a reservoir that held about a gallon of water which evaporated when the car was in motion cooling the inside. It would need to be refilled about every 100 miles. Some models had a fan that forced air through the cooler tube even when the vehicle wasn’t moving.

Then one year Aunt Clara drove up in a car with “factory” air that looked like this:

air cond plastic

These early air conditioning units were mounted in the trunk and had clear plastic vent tubes projecting into the vehicle cabin blasting cold air on the back of passenger’s necks. Scoops were mounted atop the rear fenders to ram outside air into the unit.

Funny, I don’t think they ever offered me a ride in their car so I, too, could experience the refreshing effects of this man-made cooling breeze on a dusty dry hot Dakota day.  Perhaps they thought it best not to spoil me with pleasures that were beyond my poor parents’ financial power to duplicate. Better not expose the boy to caviar when his palate is content with pickled herring.

I always loved Clara and Larry’s visits, though. Not only did they bring presents for us boys but, like most city folks, they both enjoyed a cocktail before dinner (supper) and insisted that mom and dad share in this tradition for the duration of their stay. Larry would say, “Harry, it looks like the sun is over the yardarm, can I fix you and Gladys a highball?” “Sure,” my dad would say and off Larry would go to get a leather case out of the Caddie’s trunk and a big bottle of ginger ale. Mom had already filled the ice cube tray with fresh water in anticipation of this ritual. Then Larry reached into the leather case and pulled out a brown bottle with the word Seagrams and a big red letter 7 on the label. He’d carefully measure out a shot of the golden liquid into a little silver cup he also had in the case and pour it into an ice filled glass. After topping it off with the ginger ale, he’d give the concoction a stir with a silver wand also from the case.

They never had more than one or two but sure enjoyed the experience and there seemed to be more laughter than usual coming from the kitchen as mom and her sister fixed supper.

I remember once, finding a nearly empty Seagrams bottle they’d left and mom had tucked way back in the cupboard. I took a sip and nearly gagged.  But, like caviar and air conditioning, I eventually learned to appreciate the finer things in life; occasionally to excess. Thanks Aunt Clara and Uncle Larry.