Friday, November 30, 2012

New Orleans, a Great Place to Visit!

Pat O'Brien's legendary Hurricane Cocktail
New Orleans is the first leg of my 3 week journey which includes 50 hours of  being stuck in an airplane, nothing to brag about for sure.  I am writing this from the town that Hurricane Katrina devastated in 2005, more than 7 years ago already.  To be honest, I haven't seen much of the effect however the locals say that near the outskirts of the city it's still pretty bad.  For me, I am staying in the luxurious Loews Downtown Hotel, 2 blocks off the water front in downtown New Orleans.  This is an interesting town for sure and at least from my advantage, continues to be a vibrant city worth visiting.  One of the things on my bucket list is to have a genuine Hurricane Cocktail from the famous Pat O'Brien's located in the Historic French Quarter.  A few of my colleagues and I walked from our hotel to the iconic bar, a good mile and a half, sat down and watched the New Orleans Saints/Atlanta Hawks game and had what is best expressed as "everything I imagined it to be!".   This thing is huge and includes 4 shots of quality gold rum, Pat O'Brien's Hurricane Cocktail Mix, crushed ice, and garnished with an orange slice and cherry.  I dare to say it's almost 16 ounces with the crushed ice causing a coat of frost to form on the outside of the glass.  They have an interesting concept, you get charged an extra $3.00 for your drink and if you want it back you have to turn in the glass.  I decided to keep mine and on the way out a guy gives you a cardboard container, their famous beads, and a carrying bag to take the glass with you.  Seeing's how I bought nothing, that glass was going to be mine.  I was able to get it back to the hotel in one piece.  Although I need another glass in my collection of special places I have been like I need a hole in my head, it was something that could not be resisted!

New Orleans water front
The previous night we took a genuine riverboat jazz cruise, complete with a Cajun buffet on a 210 foot paddle wheeler called the Creole Queen.  After sitting down and eating dinner the boat fired up the paddle wheels and we headed down river for an hour before turning around and returning to port.  The Mississippi is certainly different at it's mouth than  it is in Minneapolis.  Deep and muddy, it's reported that the river is over 200 feet deep as it meanders through downtown New Orleans.  You can get an idea of it size by the amount of large ocean going freighters making there way up and down the river.  With the river nearing record lows, there are places near home that you can almost walk across.  I have to admit it was a beautiful site as we came into the dock on the final leg of our cruise.  We leave tomorrow but not before I can get the chance to down some New Orleans fresh oysters and maybe have some gumbo.  It's an exciting place and definitely worth your visit some time.
Coming home on Friday, my wife and I will head to Prairie Du Chen to attend the funeral of my sister-in-law's mother, Violet Heiar.  Her husband Wes was the guy I bought the tractor from, having just seen her a few weeks ago, its a sad day.  Inevitable, it's simply a sign that we are not getting any younger.  I'll be scrambling to get down and back as Sunday will see me on a plane to Hong Kong.  I hope I can get some sleep!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

The Ferguson's home!
It's that time of year again where we give thanks for everything that we are thankful for.  For me it's a pretty easy exercise as I wake up thankful that I woke up and it's simply downhill from there!  The list could go on from family and friends however those that know me understand their importance so there is no need to restate the obvious.  The reality is that I have been waiting to get my tractor home and check out all the fine work that Dick has done in the last 6 weeks.  Knowing there is little time to organize my plow, disc, and brush hawg, the timing was perfect.   Picking her up last Friday night, Saturday was the day to try everything out.  Dick did a great job with the repair as everything works great.  Wanting to move my plow and disc to the back of my property for the winter I hooked up the 2 bottom Moldboard plow and decided to try it out.  Having never plowed before it was pretty interesting as I successfully turned over about 2000 square feet of sandy soil and it was pretty cool.  After putting the plow away next was the disc.  Unfortunately I soon discovered that one of the flanges on the rear right spool bearing had broken off and it didn't work very well.  Unable to locate one on the Internet I will have our machinist we use at work to come up with a solution.  Next was the brush hawg with the intent on chopping the remaining sweet corn stalks in the garden.  After backing it into position I shifted the PTO control to start the shaft turning and a huge bang followed by a large metal piece flying out the side.  Here I had left a huge 1 1/2 inch box wrench on one of the nuts and it flew off not before the blades cut the 12 point box end in half.  That's nothing to sneeze at as it simply chewed up this large wrench.  It did do a great job on the stalks before she was put to rest under a new addition to my pole shed, especially made for it.  Next I attached the blade and spent some time repairing my pole shed driveway for the winter.  Having ordered a new Tractormeter (tachometer) and cable which connects the back of the special alternator to the tractormeter, that was hook up and although it's measures alittle faster RPM then the engine is really running, I finally have all the gauges working.  I did post a picture on a Ferguson forum and one of the guys commented that looking at the droop on the front bumper, the pivot pin and bushing was shot.........really?  After checking it out, he was right and I have another new project for the winter. As you can read, its a blast owning Gramps old tractor and Dick assured me it had plenty of power and I could look forward to years of enjoyment.  
Paul's nice 8 pointer

So this weekend was the Wisconsin deer opener.   People are crazy about deer hunting in Minnesota yet it doesn't hold a candle to back home where everyone participates.  So I will start out with my good friend, Paul Wenaas.  As stated in previous posts, I worked for Paul's dad Victor while growing up in Eleva.  When Paul became old enough to work, he and I switched off on weekends giving each other a break from changing tires and oil. Paul and a number of guys own some prime hunting land north of Strum, WI and is next to another friend, Gary Hageness.  Paul bagged this nice 8 point buck within 15 minutes of the first morning.  They took 4 nice bucks of the property within the first hour.  Back home Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties consistently rate in the top areas of the country for trophy whitetail deer.  It nice to see Paul get this buck, I am sure that it a good distraction to the sad events of the last couple of weeks for him and his family.  The next picture is an absolute whopper!  Don and Dwight Jordan are brothers who live in Hudson WI, both help farm land near Ridgeland WI, south of Barron.  I met Dwight years ago through my cousin Greg, we went deer hunting in

Don Jordan's trophy
Minnesota together.  As well, his brother Don is friends with my brother-in-law Walt, who also live in Hudson.   Dwight helped me get hooked up with Dick, my tractor guy, as we have been talking lately including the story of the big buck on their farm.  Saying it was one of the biggest racks he has seen, on Saturday morning his brother Don dropped him in it's tracks.  Having 13 points the inside spread measured 24.75 inches, it looks dang near like a mule deer.  Dwight stated that they took it into the processor who quickly skinned and caped the deer telling them he wasn't interested in being responsible for the safety of the the huge trophy.  It went to the taxidermist immediately.  I am anxious to see what this deer will score once it's fully dry.  Unfortunately these trophies seem distant in my world of deer hunting yet maybe some day the moon and stars will be aligned.  Hope can be described as  the act of "looking forward to something with desire and reasonable confidence", I'll keep my fingers crossed.

It's 62 degrees out today, not very conducive for making ice.  Reports show a major cool down for next week, just in time for the Ice Fishing Show at the Excel Center in St. Paul starting November 30.  I did get my Clam put together and it's pretty sweet yet there are nuances that still drive me crazy.  I head for New Orleans on the 27th for a 3 day conference with The Transformer Association where I serve as it's president.  We tried to get a Saturday fishing trip out of Venice, Louisiana however my schedule does not allow for any free time.  On Sunday, December 2 I fly to Hong Kong with meetings in Guangdong Province.  My postings will be tight as it could be difficult to find the time, maybe on the airplane as the flight over is 25 hours and the flight back is 20 hours.  That's a long time in a plane!  Sitting in my tree stand for 2 days was great practice.  Don't eat too much turkey now.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Deer Hunting's Done, Let The Temperature Fall!

One of the stands at the edge of the swamp

Often the second weekend of deer hunting can have it's advantages.  There are fewer hunters in the woods, the deer have had a few days to settle back into their patterns, and for me the pressure is off.   More than 60% of the deer harvested are done during the first weekend of hunting so the expectations are not as high for the last 2 days of deer camp.  I hunt about 80 miles north of my home and the weather forecast was originally stated as highs in the upper 50's for Saturday with a cold front coming through on Sunday.  Not wanting to hunt in the rain I decided to pick up Jack's son Ben, drive up to his cabin and hunt Saturday, tear down my stand that evening and drive home.  It was very dark when we got up at 5:00 to get ready to go, a peek outside and the wind was howling from the east, not a good sign.  I always attribute an east wind to rain.  No sooner than I closed the door and the sky let loose.  The rain finally stopped a half hour later yet it stayed a damp mist for the rest of the day.  Although my hunting clothes are Gore Tex, everything was hat, gun, scope, stand, it was a mess.  The upper 50's never materialized and by noon we hit a paltry 37 degrees.  It wasn't that bad however just 80 miles away at home the sky was blue and the temperature was 67 degrees.  We were parked right on the front end of the cold front and about had enough! Just about the time I decided to get off the stand and go in a movement caught my eye.  There had been quite a few shots fired and after seeing a deer driving in, they were obviously moving.  Sure enough a big doe had stepped into my view.  My disadvantage was in the form of trying to get too high in the tree, the tamaracks got a little thick, never the less after cleaning enough moisture off the scope lens I had her in sight.  Just a couple of steps more, I need a better shot and Bang, as I watched a guy in the center stand took a 150 yard poke at her.  She bucked like a bronco, ran 25 yards, I was sure he hit her good.  No dice, she started walking around like nothing happened.  With the opportunity to get another shot I patiently waited until the right moment, squeezed the trigger, and the 2 inch branch 6 feet from my barrel exploded in front of me.............damn!!!  By that time the guy who took the first shot was checking out his success, I got down and told him the story as we walked around looking for any sign.  Wet, frustrated, and the afternoon looked no better I tore down the stand, packed it on my ATV and headed back.  Well, at least I can say that I had my chance which in the end is all I am ever looking for.  I did get plenty of deer meat from my neighbors and friends, as well there is still some left in the freezer.  For sure it was a successful season, not necessarily bountiful but successful.
Light colored inside will be nice!

It is getting colder and ice fishing is just around the corner.  In my ever quest to horse trade and upgrade I dropped off my older Clam Thermal X2 at Bill's for a new 2013 Clam Thermal X2 portable ice shelter.  Weighing in at 135 pounds it's not that portable yet really offers the comforts for fishing those cold days on the lake.  The newer house has a number of features that are really nice.  First is the new pole system.  Nothing wrong with the older system however this on will be much easier to set up and tear down.  The sled/tub that is the base for the house is now double molded and the inside is a very light gray color making it much easier to see things inside the shelter.  I also like the hyfax runner system the new sled has, individual nylon runners that will really protect my investment.  Of course nothing seems to go together as easy as it should as the shelter come completely unassembled.  The first thing is to install the runners, 6 - 50 inch, undrilled pieces with 30 #10 x 1.00 inch screws, washers, and lock-nuts.  After aligning the runners and drilling the holes it was time to attach them to the sled.  I drilled the first hole through the bottom and screwed the supplied hardware together to get a feel for it.  Immediately it was evident that 1 inch screws would stick up through the floor too far, at least in my estimation, causing things to catch every time you wanted to move something.  Deciding to take matters in my own hands I located enough 10-32 x 3/4" truss head screws to make the installation more proper.  Arriving on Tuesday, later that night I tried the first screw.  Immediately the lock-nut bound up and dang near twisted off.  Closer examination found that the nuts were 10-24, something I never even considered.  I have since picked up some 10-32 nuts and am ready to continue.   The real problem is that after a quick assessment the assembly time is going to be around 4 - 5 hours.  Nuts, bolts, brackets, tubes, plastic parts, runners, thermal shell, uffda.  Thank god it will be a few weeks before we get real ice!  This weekend is the first of 2 ice fishing shows in the area and I am anxious to see the new equipment, especially the new reels that I have been talking about for years.  That will be a story for next week.

My tractor mechanic, Dick called and said the Ferguson is finally finished.  The oil leaks are fixed, the radiator has been rebuilt, a rebuilt oil pump has stabilized the oil pressure, new fluids in the motor, transmission, and hydraulic system.  She'll have a new alternator complete with a tach drive in the back to drive the original tachometer (It has been converted from 6 volt generator to 12 volt alternator) with a cable. Just in time to level my pole barn driveway and put away the implements for the year as I don't think I'll have a need for the disc harrow and plow for a while.  With the potatoes dug, the bulbs put away, there's still a lot of work to put everything away for the winter.  It seems like the time continues to fly faster and faster!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Still Waiting

Most of our deer hunting group

Minnesota's Deer Hunting opener started out with a bang (sorry for the lame pun) for our ragtag hunting group.  Sam shot the first buck, followed by a smaller buck, a nice doe that Brett nailed on Saturday while Brennen shot 2 nice does on Sunday to give us a total of 5 deer for the first weekend.  Sam is in the front row on the left and Brennen is the guy just to his right, in the brown shirt, both younger hunters and it's always great to see them successful.  Of course the hardest thing is to get them to actually gut the deer, something they just expect the "elders" to take care of.  Well, not in this group!  You shoot it, you clean it.  These are good lessons in life and it was a blast having them in our deer camp.   One thing that is fun with the kids is their reaction to my traditional Steak ala Kienitz, which I make on Friday night.  Their thoughts about eating a tender steak covered with Tabasco Sauce, Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce, and Pace Hot Salsa was less than enthusiastic.  Once grilled to a tender state of medium rare, one taste changed their minds.  As always, our Friday night steak feast was great success.  Along with our group we have a number if guys that stop by to share in the excitement of the upcoming hunt.

Hanging meat!

Having a full schedule at work meant coming home on Sunday night.  My plans for Monday was to stop by my neighbor Pete's and get his take on the local mayor and city council races for the election on Tuesday.  Stopping at his shed and opening the door, he had a nice buck already skinned and with his brother Tim were starting to butcher it.  Never one to back off from a good session of cutting up deer, I volunteered to come back with my cutting boards, knives, and vacuum packer and help finish the job.  I do enjoy cutting deer and was rewarded by a few packages of tender steaks.   Within 2 hours we had it cut up, steaked out, vacuum packed, including 30 pounds of grind meat.  I am sure that they appreciated the help and I was glad to oblige.  I also met with my friend Mark Applen who was hunting 30 miles east of me and they had 5 deer for 8.  They have a good system, Sunday afternoon is slated for a big butchering party, they skin, butcher, and grind everything before splitting it up amongst the party.  Mark gave me about 5 pounds of grind meat and I will probably make some deer sticks out of my gift. 

I am heading back up this weekend to hunt, it's suppose to be 55 on Saturday before the bottom is to fall out of the temperature with snow and below freezing temperatures.   I get the pleasure of picking up Jack's son Ben Taylor and having him ride up with me.  He's 8 years old and had to make a decision, hunt with dad this weekend or go to a friends birthday party on Saturday.  He wants to be with the big boys, something that we certainly can accommodate!  Ice fishing can't be far away as I'm hoping that this year will not be a repeat of last year's crazy weather.  Dick, the guy who is fixing my tractor, called and confirmed that all of the parts finally came in and it should be close to finishing it up.  It's taken a while but I'm sure it will be well worth the wait.  Things just seem like they are traveling a million miles an hour!