Monday, September 29, 2014

9 Draft Horses in-Hand Really Speed the Plow. Holy Percheron.

You've read about our neighbor and friend Lisa before.  She's a back to nature, tread lightly on the earth, sustainable ag farmer, horsewoman and a great advocate of doing things the old fashioned way.

Lisa and business partner Mike were in northern Minnesota last weekend for the annual Draft Horse round up.  More than 120 of these massive beasts assembled with owners and handlers, and put on a remarkable show for the 1000+ fans in the stands.

What you see here is Mike and NINE -- you read it right: 9 -- Shires and Percheron, harnessed in the same rig, pulling a plow and busting clods like nobody's business.  The fans freaked!

Imagine what kind of horse whisperer it takes to command so many tons of horseflesh?  I'm humble and cautious around even a single horse -- just think about nine.

And the prize for most ambitious team, and most courageous handler, goes to .....

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Love, Love Love Colum McCann's "Trans Atlantic."

I just finished reading this superb book. I did not know author McCann before - what a pity. Trans Atlantic is mesmerizing and uplifting, educational and unforgettable. A tour de force, or however they say the word in Gaelic!! 

In the National Book Award–winning Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann thrilled readers with a marvelous high-wire act of fiction that The New York Times Book Review called “an emotional tour de force.” Now McCann demonstrates once again why he is one of the most acclaimed and essential authors of his generation with a soaring novel that spans continents, leaps centuries, and unites a cast of deftly rendered characters, both real and imagined.
Newfoundland, 1919. Two aviators—Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown—set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War.
Dublin, 1845 and ’46. On an international lecture tour in support of his subversive autobiography, Frederick Douglass finds the Irish people sympathetic to the abolitionist cause—despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave.
New York, 1998. Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion.
These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.
The most mature work yet from an incomparable storyteller, TransAtlantic is a profound meditation on identity and history in a wide world that grows somehow smaller and more wondrous with each passing year.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book Case, Wayzata, MN to Close 10/18.

I learned to my great sorrow today that Wayzata, MN independent retailer "Book Case" is closing its doors next month.

Owner Charlie Leonard and his team of book sellers (call them advisers, confidantes, mentors, title-pickers, etc.) have been a breath of fresh air in retailing.

With great personal service, an infectious passion for books, author events in-store, and a "frequent buyer club" where tallies were kept manually in a green metal index card box, the Book Case business model was the way books should always have been sold and celebrated.

But times have changed.  We all know the story. Rents rise. National chains move into the independent's market.  E-readers steal share. Plus, you can buy on Amazon for less than the independent can sell it to you, and deliver it overnight.  All with the click of a mouse.

Nancy and I will miss Charlie's Angels (and his Devils).   We want to say "thanks" for the years of exemplary customer service,  the chance to get to know you sellers on a personal basis, and for a selection of titles that never disappointed.

Indeed, just this afternoon, I bought two books after plopping down in a cozy leather wing chair to read a few pages of each:  the novel "Quesadillas,"  by Mexican author Juan Pablo Villalobos; and then "Family Life," by Akhil Sharma.

With gratitude, you all, and very best of luck in the next chapter of your lives.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Now Dancer, Prancer + Blitzen: Be Good Boys.

Wellllllll, the big Shires aren't exactly named after Christmas reindeer, but our neighbor Lisa loves her work horses as much as any kid who believes in Jolly Old Saint Nick loves his Rudolph.

These big guys earn their keep.  Lisa is a committed sustainable farmer. She uses the Shires (there's a Percheron in her four-in-hand, not pictured) to plow, hay, pull wagons, and other chores that her forbears may have done a century-plus ago.

It's impressive to watch our neighbor in action.   More than a little humbling and awe-inspiring to know that a 110 lb. horsewoman can handle 6000-plus pounds of steeds.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Boys, Painting the (up) Town !!

Across the parking lot of the Dunn Bros. coffee shop on Lake Street in Uptown, there's another building whose visual appeal is nteresting to me.  Painted the most satisfying color of, what  ...... toffee?  ochre? mustard? butter scotch? -- whatever hue -- I like this one a lot.  AND, I enjoyed meeting the painters the other evening -- updating the signs, rehanging them, plus finding a minute to pose for the Velo Ventures blog-cam.

In return I asked the guys if I could bring them something from Dunn's.  Of course, they replied:  one hot coffee, medium roast, in a medium size cup, with ½ and ½ and a couple of sugars.

And an iced skinny mocha, on the rocks.   

Tasty experience, I hope, for my boys at work in the hot afternoon sun.  And fun for me to get to know the neighborhood a little better.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Blinding, Sunny, Post-Rain Drop Highway 6.

Minnesota sunshine appeared last evening out of nowhere.  It was there just as abruptly as the summer storm had made its appearance only hours earlier.  Out the door I go, making sure to tuck a camera into my front pocket.
I had a hunch I'd discover a photo opp, likely an interaction between raindrops, bright sunshine, an empty Highway 6, and the fauna and flora of early Fall 2014.

My KIA Sportage pulled off the road and parked in a neighbor's driveway. I held the SONY digi up to my eye, and when I couldn't make out even the slightest image on the view screen I squeezed off a few shots, what-the-hell like. What you see above is one of them.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mains, Valves and Velos - St. Louis Park, MN

Saw these monster water mains as I was riding the Cedar Lake Regional Trail in St. Louis Park today. Major construction has been going on along Hwy 100 for some time now; valves and pipes no doubt are part of the scene. You can tell that the Giant Expressway foldy isn't much of a giant size-wise, but my velo is absolutely dwarfed by new infrastructure installation.  Too bad I couldn't have filled my water bottle while I had stopped to snap the foto.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Damned Big, Distinctive Dahlia.

Award-winning photographer John Ratzloff shot Damned Big and Distinctive Dahlia fotos the other day.  Locale was in a neighbor's garden here in Medina, MN.  Image above, in unusual black + white, really stuns and awes.  Great lensmanship, John!

Poppina does NOT need training wheels on this TREK.

One of our neighbors here in Medina was selling his son's starter TREK - training wheels and helmet included.  

Price was reasonable and the seller could not have been a nicer guy.  

Poppina and I knew we'd have an endless flow of small people visiting us, and could always use a little bike for the grand kids. So we withdrew some cash from the cookie jar, paid a visit to our neighbor Jeff last Sunday, and came home with this special prize.

I persuaded my wife to hop on the velo so I could take a pic.  And while I think she looks pretty awesome on this machine, she really doesn't need the training wheels!  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Classic "mukluk" boots, hand-made in Ely, MN.

We stopped in at Patty Steger's shop in Ely to try on a pair of "mukluk" winter boots.  Handmade in Ely, from patterns first cut by Native Americans hundreds of years ago, the boots are warm, durable and ever so stylish!  While we decided against a purchase at this time, we did get a good look at the inside of Patty's store, and present a peek here for the enjoyment of followers of Poppy's Velo Ventures.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ely, MN - Lunch, Awesome Dessert at Chocolate Moose.

I think we've posted recently that Jason was back in Minnesota this summer.  Part work session in Ely, MN at the Will Steger Center, and part visit to Mom and me in the 'Cities,  there was lots of action on the ground, and it built up quite an appetite in us all.

When Poppina and I drove the five hours from Long Lake to Ely to pick up Jason, we stopped for lunch -- and a massively good dessert -- at Chocolate Moose on Main Street, Ely.  And while we can't remember what we had for a main course, the pie a la mode is unforgettable -- and so recorded for all time here on the Poppy Blog.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Westport Cops Seize Criminal Humvee, use now as Squad Car.

How do you keep a police budget in line? While the municipality gains an impressive cruiser in the process? Do what Westport, CT did - impound a Hummer from some bad guys, then use it as a squad car. 

I saw this beast on static display at a neighborhood block party not long ago.  Officers deployed the H2 as deterrent to rowdy behavior, no doubt; in part the car's appearance showed taxpayers how prudently the force was operating.

Exactly how the seizure went down was not revealed, and neighbors who slid in behind the wheel were more interested in the wheels than who used to own them. 

Cool Beanz, Westport.   Love that Hummer!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

From Duluth: Poppina Poses on Moose Throne.

Walking, shopping, and hanging out  along Duluth's main drag not long ago, Jason and I persuaded Mom to cozy up to the Moose Throne, sit for a spell, and pose for this pic.  

Poppina has not seen this post yet -- she may ask Poppy to replace it soon  :-)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bell Helmet Wings + Froggy-Woggy Boomerang.

Some velo dude with a sense of humor -- and an assist from a flying green reptile -- attached a
Frog-er-Rang to his Bell helmet. I suspect he hoped this unorthodox device would add 10% to his top speed while reducing his energy output by a greater amount.

Does it work? Who knows?  I left the froggy-woggy scene not long after taking this shot in Mystic, CT. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ken, Conor, their pal, Seth + John Maynard Keynes.

My neighbor and good buddy Ken Weir, on the left in this foto, and I get together at Harvest Moon co-op on a regular basis.

We chat about politics, literature, religion, family, kids, travel, and Ken's remarkable passion for the game of squash.

The chap in the middle is Ken's son Conor, a financial services pro in Long Beach, CA (unlike Dad, who is a retired physician here in the Twin Cities).

Young Weir gets to town to see the folks not nearly as much as he'd like.  So we "include" him in our salon and, boy, does the lad carry his weight.  I remember Conor explaining Keynesian Economic Theory. I was dazzled + humbled by his his grasp of the topic, not to mention his ability to explain it all so clearly.

For a guy who doesn't always make the check book balance, there's much more for me to learn.

PS - next time YOU are in Harvest Moon, and the guys are yakking about worldly matters, please come join in. Pour a  cuppa joe, pull up a chair, and tell us how high you think the Alibaba IPO will go.