Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day, the Landfill, and Bearclaw Pond

About a dozen kids petitioned City Hall to leave the landfill open over the Labor Day weekend. Or at least unlocked.

I sympathize with them. I used to go fishing in Bearclaw Pond myself.

That was before people built houses on the track between Bearclaw Pond and Durbin's Pond, and re-named it Waterview Lane. Then one of the Baums built a place on west 9th, overlooking Hinkley Creek. Within a few years they had neighbors, all the way to Center Avenue.

That left Bearclaw Pond blocked in by lawns, Fisk Implement, and the landfill.

Fisk Implement has a sturdy fence, and a touchy alarm system, ever since someone towed a harrow away, back in 1996.

The people living around Bearclaw Pond don't particularly like kids trooping across their lawns.

Last year, Loonfoot Falls put a fence around the landfill, and started enforcing the rule about staying out unless you worked there, or were dumping something.

The kids didn't like that. As young fisherman Alex Johnson said, "it's like they don't want anybody in there." Alex doesn't see why the landfill should be off limits. "We don't mess around, much," he explained.

City Hall says that they don't have a choice. The city's insurance company has rules about access to places like landfills.

Alex says he understands City Hall's position, but won't give up.

"Maybe we can make a path along the side of the landfill, or get one of those people to let us cross their yard," he told me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Loonfoot Falls' Backyard Butterfly Preserves

There's very little grass in some Loonfoot Falls back yards. Colorful splatters of wildflowers and milkweed have replaced the neatly-trimmed lawns of over a dozen houses.

And that's just the way the owners want it.

They're members of the Asclepias Society, an organization dedicated to giving monarch butterflies a place to stay and raise a family at the summer end of their migration. The Asclepias Society was founded in 2000 by Samuel H. Robins, chief entomologist at the Minnesota Institute for Scientific Studies.

That was the year when the monarch butterfly became Minnesota's state butterfly.

The Asclepias Society gets its name from the scientific name for milkweed, a plant that young monarchs munch before turning into the orange-and-black adults.

A member of the Loonfoot Falls chapter, Howard Leland, said, "I thought it sounded crazy at first. You know: making your back yard into a butterfly preserve?" He decided to try planting wild flowers and milkweed in his back yard in 2005. After four summers with the Asclepias Society, the only part of his back yard not covered with flowers and milkweed is a path to the garage.

"It's great," Mr. Leland said. "Those wildflowers pretty much take care of themselves, and watching the butterflies beats most of what's on television."

This year's monarchs are either already on their way south, or soon will be. Mr. Leland and his fellow-Asclepiasans want to make sure that when another generation returns next year, they'll find plenty of butterfly-friendly back yards in Loonfoot Falls.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Protecting the Squirrely Way of Life in Loonfoot Falls

Once, squirrels in Loonfoot Falls were able to run from Mosquito Flats to the fairgrounds, from the Belvedere-Union-Grand Hotel to Oak Grove Park, without setting foot on the ground, or in a tree.

Those days are gone.

Like so many towns, Loonfoot Falls has been burying its utilities. Overhead telephone and power lines have, over the years, been replaced by underground cables. Loonfoot Falls' Utilities Department has pointed out the advantages: greater reliability and safety.

Safety for the human population, perhaps: but not for the squirrels. These furry citizens are now forced, in many neighborhoods, to cross streets by leaping from one tree's outermost branches to another, or risk life and pelt in a mad dash across the pavement.

Concerned citizens have banded together to form the Society for the Preservation of Overhead Squirrel Highways. Members of SPOSH are gathering petitions, in an effort to prevent Loonfoot Falls' remaining power and telephone poles, and the lines connecting them, from going the way of the steam railroad.

Anastasia Anderson, founder and president of SPOSH, hopes to have enough signatures to put a 'save the poles' referendum on the local election ballots, later this year.

"We aren't against underground cables: We just want to make sure that our squirrely neighbors have a safe way to cross the street," Anderson explained. "Under the SPOSH proposal, as overhead lines are replaced with underground cable, squirrel-friendly lines will be strung between poles, providing safe transit over the streets, and preserving a tradition of inter-species cooperation."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette Announces New Green Computers

The Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette has gone green. Last Friday, this newspaper replaced its old computers with new Frisco-Shamrock Envirowarp low-emission/high-efficiency units.

Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette energy-saving new computers are now connected through a Vacnet Local Area Network. The staff is looking forward to easier sharing of information, after a short learning curve.

-Stan Parks, IT Consultant

Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette Back Online

Thank you for you patience. The Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette has been unable to get updates posted for the last few days.

The LFCG apologizes, and hopes that you will enjoy timely updates from now on.

-Stan Parks, IT Consultant

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Love This Place: I Really Do

That's me, as sketched at my desk by one of my co-workers yesterday afternoon.

My office at the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette is part of the upstairs coffee room.

In the summer, it's a little on the warm side. Air conditioning is a luxury which wasn't extended past the editorial room, at the front of the second floor.

Yesterday, though, was one of those days when it's about ninety in the shade. No clouds. No wind to disturb the serene contemplations of a fly which sat on the coffee room windowsill. The room was warm: a soft, enfolding warmth which gently discouraged, rather than forbade, strenuous activity.

The offices were quiet, except for the sonorous droning of the fan behind my chair.

I sat, gazing now at my computer's screen, then at the contemplative fly, and beyond,: to the azure abyss in which, perhaps, I would find inspiration for this week's column. And, throughout this journey of the mind from a blank screen toward infinity, the fan droned.

I fell asleep.

Candace Kane, the advertising assistant, drew that sketch during coffee break. I have to admit that she caught the moment quite well. My boss, Mr. Johnson, agreed.

Then he and I had a serious talk. I get to keep my job, and my office. Mr. Johnson says he'll see about getting air conditioning into the rest of the second floor. I believe him. We had our talk in the coffee room, after the break, and it hadn't gotten any cooler.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Grimm County Fair 2008

I've got a soft spot in my heart for the Grimm County Fair. Each year, visitors to Loonfoot Falls immerse themselves in a cultural tradition that spans more than a century. Then, at the end of the day, some discover that it's not a good idea to park next to a "NO PARKING" sign.

The county fair is a place for healthy competition: Judges hand out blue ribbons for jams and preserves, quilts, and digital art, like "Kenningward," one of this year's Honorable Mentions; People see who's best at handling a team of draft horses, raising llamas, or driving in a demolition derby.

"Kenningward," Honorable Mention, Grimm County Fair Digital Art 2008

It's an educational experience, too. This year, the Grimm County Reptile and Amphibian Restoration Effort (RARE) booth let fairgoers get up close and personal with salamanders, lizards, and grass snakes. RARE's spokesperson, Mindy Kleinsdorp, explained that her assemblage of things that wriggle, slither, and hiss should "show people how important it is to keep our woods and wetlands safe for wildlife."

She made me give back a grass snake that had found its way into my pocket.

It sounds corny, but the Grimm County Fair is a family event. Between a demolition derby, art show, farm implement displays and the midway, there's something for just about everyone.

Minnesota's summer heat, together with the spinning, whirling, bouncing rides on the midway, make a person really appreciate the varieties of fresh-squeezed lemonade. And, of course, standards like corn dogs, cheese curds, and Otto's unforgettable Deep Fried Chocolate Pork Rinds.
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