The End






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White Pine



White Pine. I found two of them growing behind the house, back in the brush, and it was obvious they were leaning toward the light, desperate to capture the sun. They were about four years old, three feet tall, and an inch in diameter. I moved them out into the open front yard where they get sunlight. They are about twelve years old in this picture. With plenty of rain, and fertilizer, they add eighteen inches in twelve months. We’ve had a lot of rain this spring.


The picture above is dated 2010. The weather was much dryer that year and the greenery shows it; mostly weeds. The grass does very poorly without rain. The two little white pine are barely visible.  Most years the summer drought started early in June and continued until late fall.

I bought twenty-five more seedlings, planting them around my two and a half acres. I think I have about ten, maybe twelve that survived. Some were covered up in tall grass and the lawn mower got them.

Trees are surprisingly fragile things; susceptible to weather damage, and in this case White Pine Blight, a fungus infection. You have to trim off the lower branches to prevent the blight. The fungus spends part of its lifecycle on current bushes, and I thought it was said on Raspberries. Now I can’t find the cite. You can have berries, or white pine, but not both. The wild berry bushes I have don’t produce fruit, so they get ripped up. With water and fertilizer, I could probably get berries, but I would rather have the trees.


The tree on the right is a red pine, I’ve been told, and is a feeding station for a sapsucker that has nearly killed the tree. The two next larger pine, are the two white pine moved from the back to the sunlight in the front. The smaller are seedlings now about five years old or so. Part of the reason for trees in the front is the summer sunlight makes the front yard an oven. The hottest days of the summer warm the house to an uncomfortable degree. Most often the summer high is mid eighties, but there are years when one hundred degrees last about ten days, and that is misery as we are acclimated to a temperature range from thirty below zero to around sixty above on the Fahrenheit scale.  As I write this, the current outdoor temperature is forty five degrees. We have had a lot of rain this month. Every day, every night, rain. Heavy rain at times. The White Pine are growing like weeds. The Cedar tree in the middle image is reaching close to the power line, the high voltage distribution line. What the previous owners were thinking when they planted the White Cedar beneath the power line is difficult to guess.


Posted in Trees, Pine, White Pine

Earth Rise


This is a NASA image taken by Apollo Astronauts. When the space program was first expanded, it was said that everything NASA learned would be in the public domain. Now, after many years, we learn that research data is the property of the Primary Investigator doing the research. I don’t know if NASA holds copyright to any of these images, or if the astronaut/photographer can claim copyright. This image comes in various versions, taken by different astronauts on different missions. I don’t remember which on this is.

This image invokes many feelings as I imagine living in a tiny capsule, or in a small tin can, or crowded and cramped living quarters on a moon base. I so much want to go to the moon, to Mars, to distant planets and have always wanted to travel in space since I was in grade school.

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Hauling Limestone

Bulk Carrier unloading limestone.


This is a Great Lakes Freighter, a self-unloading bulk carrier. Marquette, Michigan is a major port for iron ore with a major iron ore mine nearby. Freighters like this one, bring in limestone (called flux stone by the iron smelters), and haul Taconite pellets (Iron Ore) out. They also bring in coal for two power generating plants, and coal for the open pit mine. The mine mixes the limestone, with the ore, to concentrate the ore, and produce what it called Taconite pellets. The limestone mixes with impurities in the ore during the smelting process, combines with silicon, and floats to the top of the pool of liquid iron.  


This is a 42 wheeler, gross vehicle weight is 160,000 pounds. The rear trailer (called a pup) is a full trailer with a fifth wheel and a draw bar which connects to the lead trailer, (called a lead), which is a semi-trailer and connects to the truck tractor with a fifth wheel on the truck giving three degrees of articulation. You will learn how to back this rig up. There is a remote control locking mechanism that will lock the fifth wheel on the pup, leaving you with two degrees of articulation. You get good at backing up or you don’t work.  The truck has an eighteen-speed manual transmission, and you will use every gear in that tranny, except for low-low gear. There are hills to climb, and descend, and there is an upgrade at the mine that will drag you down to a complete stop if you don’t shift gears correctly, and a second upgrade at the ski hill that is equally as steep a climb. If you screw it up, you will use that compound low gear and everyone will laugh at you if they are not stuck behind you cursing you for making them wait. Worst case, you have to get the mine loader operator to pull you up the hill.


Somebody had the bright idea of organizing a bicycle road race, and brought in racers from all over the country, and routed the race up that same ski hill while we were working. We had to climb that hill in low range, with some imbecile on a bicycle inches away from sudden death, riding alongside the truck. The day that President Bush came to visit, I refused to work. Which turned out ok because the Secret Service shut the operation down for that day. No oversize, over weight trucks on the road when the President is in town.

During the summer months, we hauled twice what the mine needed, called ‘stockpiling’ because the bulk carriers don’t operate when the lakes are frozen over in the winter. We hauled limestone half way to the mine where there was a rock quarry operation that had space to store the several hundred thousand tons of limestone that we hauled in. During winter months, we hauled those tons of limestone the remaining distance to the mine.

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Red Neck Art


I’ve been working on categorizing my photo library; some of which goes back to the sixties. Family related images, I want to keep. More modern stuff from the early years of digital imaging looks terrible by high definition standards.

I have always been interested in photography, and have a few amateur shots that are quality shots for an amateur. Perhaps a professional might find critical details to be substandard.

When the bug hit me again, I had to have a new camera, and once I had the new camera in hand, I had to learn how to use it. This explains the two-hundred, or so, shots of a yellow tulip.  After about fifty or so of the same imaged repeated over and over again, I was ready to scream, and started doing block deletes. If it was a yellow tulip it was deleted.

Then I thought to post this one image, and explain why there were two-hundred images of a yellow tulip.


Excruciatingly boring technical details follow; skip if you are not interested in photography.

First, proper exposure. In the days of film, post processing in the dark room could save a poorly exposed negative. In fact, then, as now, post production often takes a nice picture and makes it extraordinary. In the modern digital age, correcting exposure is a simple mouse click on a symbol (if only you can remember which one).

Second, proper exposure is determined by shutter speed and aperture. Depth of field (focus) is determined by focal length and aperture. A long lens (300mm) gives a very nice degree of magnification, and a wide-open aperture gives a very shallow depth of field where only a small part of the image is in focus.

(See the bird)


Stopping down the lens, to something like F8-F11 gives greater depth of field; more of the image is in focus, and it corrects for any focusing error by the photographer. My eyesight is getting bad, and getting focus right takes special effort. Even with auto focus camera and lens, the camera might not focus on what you want. I’ve had to reject images where the camera focused on a branch in the foreground, not the wild creature in the back ground that was the intended center of interest in the image. Also, you can’t see the LCD display in bright sunlight, so you don’t know you have a bad shot until you get inside.

Closing the aperture down means slowing the shutter speed; go too far and you get fuzzy images because of ‘camera shake.’  You need a tripod, and not a cheap one. I have seen ‘camera shake’ with the camera on a tripod and the 300mm lens. You need the higher shutter speed, and the open aperture, and you have to check the auto focus.

Now you begin to see the long list of things that can go wrong: exposure, shutter speed, aperture, focus, composition. Lighting is a whole ‘nuther topic. Professionals write books just on lighting.

So just get an average, mid-range, point and shoot and don’t worry about the technical details. Sure, you can do that. Concentrate on composition, and being ready for snap shots. Watch your background, and move around. Get to know your tools, and practice. Lots of practice, like two-hundred shots of a yellow tulip.

Thunderstorm moving in. Power could go out at any moment.




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Stormy Weather


Storm front moving in. Rain to the west with cold air behind it. Temperatures will be twenty-five degrees cooler tomorrow.

I have a story idea that has stalled. It was intended to be a Romeo and Juliet story. Two alien creatures fall in love, two families, politics. The set up was easy, but writing about the families and politics is hard work, and I’m a lazy person.

Two other story ideas have also bogged down. One, a computer wizard hears voices in his head. The other, a guy wakes up in bed with an alien and can’t remember how it happened, but he is now married to the alien. It’s a riff on a Jack Lemon movie, “How to Murder Your Wife” where he wakes up in bed with a strange woman who speaks only Italian. She was friends of the bride; Jack Lemon’s character was friends of the groom. They both drink too much and get one of those quickie Las Vegas marriages. It was a good movie.

 I made the alien creature a bear like creature that uses computers to communicate, and that idea just doesn’t work. I thought the contrast between a human and an alien would make the story interesting. Instead, it makes it unbelievable.

I’m not much of an author. My stories write themselves. I’m just a stenographer. They usually start with a character and a situation, and life happens.

My photos are simple things I see around me. Light, is an amazing thing, especially in the fall, and winter. I’ve been documenting some of my brush clearing work. When I first moved into this residence, the forest grew right up to the house, mere feet away. Several trees loomed over the place, and trees grow old and fall down; close enough that they were a fire hazard. They were big enough to do great damage to the building when they fall if they fell onto the building, so I had a neighbor come in and cut them down. He took out enough saleable logs to make some money and split it with me. I was more than happy. Then I spent the next year clearing the underbrush. I don’t like an unmanaged woodlot. There are diseases and insect pests that cause damage. It was a surprise to learn just how difficult it is to grow healthy trees. Foresters put their entire working life into growing one generation of quality trees. I’m trying to grow some white pine, and have a series of images showing their growth. I’m not sure how many people are interested in watching trees grow. I’m also not sure how many people want to see a series of images of an old man clearing brush with hand tools. I’ve been working on it a long time and didn’t think to document the work, so I don’t have much from the very early days. It started seventeen years ago.

There is some surprising new economic activity going on. A new shopping mall in the city, a forested property just up the road was logged off. Logging is big business up here.

Thanksgiving dinner

This guy, or a relative, strolled across the yard yesterday afternoon. I didn’t see him soon enough to get the camera out. This picture is from one of the first years I lived here. The neighbor lady was feeding them for a time. I think she stopped doing that and turkeys have been rare except for the new guy yesterday. He is living in the neighborhood; saw him last summer. He doesn’t like it when I’m outside. He’s pretty wary, and knows how to hide. He knows about sight lines, and how to disappear into the brush. Hiding inside the brush, you can still see anything out in the open because there are holes you can peek through. Out in the open, looking at the brush, you can’t see anything hiding, all you see are the bushes.

I’m pretty sure I spooked a deer yesterday. There was a lot of splashing in the water behind the house when I went out to clear brush. If it was little bambi from down thread, he is grown up now. I spooked him once late at night and heard him run off. Then he ‘barked’, and I’m not kidding. It was a sound I have never heard before, but it was similar to a bark, a warning to other deer to watch out.





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Rock Removal



Another metaphor

Tired of mowing around yet another obstruction, the mind says, “That rock has to go.” It becomes a matter of will; grim determination to remove an obstacle. It starts with a simple test; is it possible to get underneath an edge. Then it becomes ‘Is it possible to gain a bit of purchase,’ and then ‘can it be moved.’ Once you have determined that the rock can be moved, then it becomes a matter of will. It can be moved, it will be moved.  

You dig out around the rock, looking for an edge. You get a lever under the edge, and a fulcrum under the lever and you move the rock an inch. You put blocking under the rock and reposition the lever and fulcrum. The results are now known. It will be moved, however long it takes. Inch by inch, the rock will be raised up out of the hole. Once out of the hole, the movement, by inches, continues. Raise up one edge, until vertical, push past the vertical, the rock rolls over and moves a foot. Repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

Take another case; the stone can not be moved. Well then, it must be reduced in size; cracked, broken into pieces, and the pieces moved.

In my Wolf Hunter books, when I write about ‘pounding rocks,’ this is part of what I’m talking about. “Dry stone,” the Wikipedia calls it, and they use examples from England and Scotland. Machu Picchu was what I had in mind; fitted stone, hammered into a matching surface, one stone to another, fitted so closely that no mortar is needed. No tools, just stones, human muscle, and determination.


Copyright by Skandia Recluse 2017. Photo by Skandia Recluse


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