Polar Vortex, Warm Fall, Flying Squirrels, Horse Manure

Dear Duluth,

Thanks for the polar vortex. First we get a fall so warm it feels like the impending doom it probably is, then we get a nasty cold front with a silly name. Vortex should be the name of my next vacuum cleaner, not our weather.

Three years ago when we moved here we bought an overly large, old house on the hillside, one of those houses people just shouldn’t buy unless they have already won the lottery or own a carpentry business. It was built in 1914 and still had the original insulation, which might be a blend of matted horse dung and asbestos. According to an energy specialist who inspected our place, ours wasn’t the most drafty house he had ever seen, but close. In addition to multiple air-leak points there is no insulation in the walls, which made it easy for the flying squirrels to run up and down and into the attic, we soon found out.

We finally found a recommended contractor who insulated our attic, the most important step. Put a good cap on it, they say. So now our house is like a naked person in a storm with a really good cap. But the squirrels are gone thanks to all the toxic fluff up there now, and we sleep much better.

Yesterday I walked the streets and shore even with the windchill approaching absolute zero, all in order to take a few photographs of who knows what. Winter, in truth, is just getting started. The lake is still liquid and the snow barely there.

Vegan Cooking, Homeless Bill of Rights, City Council

Dear Diary,

I’m not sure why I started this “diary” conceit, but it does put me into a more relaxed, informal mood where I don’t feel the need to pontificate to the masses quite as much. Just write and see what comes.

Wild rice and mushrooms for dinner tonight, along with baked squash. Very seasonal. Back to eating mostly vegan, at least until Christmas gets closer. I have no problem eating vegan, but switching back and forth is not easy and if I want to ensure a good result, it requires a good recipe. Vegan cooking takes more work, at least if you want it to taste good. There’s no real vegan equivalent to roast chicken.

Last night Mary and I attended a City Council meeting in support of a homeless bill of rights. They are mostly in favor. One councilor even said that a homeless person had been living on the roof of his house (he lives in a flat-roofed building). He also said that he helped another person build a structure under a nearby freeway. They all agreed that the bill of rights was just a start to what is needed, namely a comprehensive plan to eliminate homelessness.

Here’s a photo I happen to have of City Hall, on the left, behind the tree…

In other news, well, I’m not going to write about other news. Sometimes it feels worth it, sometimes not.

That Time of Year

Who doesn’t like fall? Well, some people. To them fall is the Sunday of seasons, nice, but still a depressing and even stressful reminder of what is to come. I won’t try to dig too deep into it because that’s where bad writing awaits. Fall is here.

West Duluth

West Duluth comprises the West side of Duluth proper and four or five additional towns that it has absorbed over the years. Very working class, post-industrial, lots of empty storefronts, but also more diverse and more interesting than East Duluth.

Second Time Around

Minnesota is second growth country, with tiny islands of old growth you have to seek out to discover what has been lost due to statewide industrial logging. Even Voyageurs National Park is mostly second growth, marked with “sentinel trees” left on the horizon so loggers didn’t lose their way in the stumpy moonscape. But you can find examples of the various forests that used to cover the state if you are willing to travel. The DNR has a list of some sites, though they leave out a couple near Duluth, including Park Point.

Park Point old growth

The path through the park is a couple miles long but flat, an easy walk, with the Lake to the left and the bay to the right. Keep an eye out for the small poison ivy plants in the sand dunes and you should be fine.


Flowering shrub surrounded by the small three-leaved poison ivy plants of Park Point