June 28, 2020

Hikes and Boats

Hikes and Boats
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 28, 2020

2020 has been a crazy year, but there's been many positives to our situation as well.  We've been doing more hikes and boat rides this summer than I can remember we've done in many years.  The dog has been ecstatic to have so many opportunities to exercise.

We've also been blessed with some really nice weather which makes getting outside so much more pleasant than when the weather sucks.  I guess that's probably stating the obvious though.

One of my favorite things about Minnesota is the sheer number of parks available to explore.  I think we could go hiking every weekend for decades and never hit the same park twice.  

Having so many beautiful lakes nearby is a significant plus as well.

We stopped by the Prior Lake fishing pier on a recent hike and saw this sign about common fish in Prior Lake.  I found that to be pretty neat.

On Friday night, we thought it was time to visit Charlie's on Prior again.  Since it's now by reservation only we found ourselves having to eat pretty early to be able to get in for the night.

Luke was out of town, but Avery, Miss Sheri, and I had a nice time having dinner by the water.

On Saturday, we invited our good friends, Jen & Dan Walters, out for a kid-free boat ride.  We thought it would be fun to just have some parent time for awhile.

Of course we had to drag them out to Mud Bay to check out some hot Heron on Heron nesting action.  I don't think they were nearly as excited to see it as I was.

We also saw a mama and baby soft-shell turtle, but I don't think that was very thrilling for anyone either.

Everyone did perk up a bit when we stumbled across the Prior Lake Association and their ice cream sandwich giveaway.  All it takes is some free ice cream to get everyone all worked up again.

When we got to Candy Cove, Jen decided to get into it with some cranky Canadian Geese.  They were being pretty aggressive and I heard quite a bit of hissing taking place.  I think some of it was even coming from the birds!

June 21, 2020

Happy Father's Day 2020

Happy Father's Day 2020
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 21, 2020

Summer is just flying by in Minnesota.  Hard to believe the 4th of July is only 2 weeks away.  We have been enjoying ourselves getting out on the lake as much as we can and taking lots of hikes through the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

We're still being pretty cautious with Grandma Linda.  She still won't come in our house, but we do enjoy her visits on our porch where we sit apart from each other and tell stories to one another.  The stories mostly don't make any sense.

On Tuesday, we went on a boat ride with our good friends, the Korkowskis.  The temperatures were in the nineties so it was a pleasant time to go jump in the lake.

We saw a lot of unique wildlife this week which we're always excited to photograph.  This is a spiny soft-shell turtle which is somewhat common in Minnesota, but we still don't get to see them very often.  Which is why I went out of my way to see this one up close even though not everyone thought that was a great idea.

I thought babies were more of a springtime thing, but we saw a bunch of baby animals this week including one of our favorites, an albino squirrel baby.  I have no idea why they keep reproducing in our neighborhood, but I guess here's proof of another generation to entertain us.

These two little fellas surprised us while we were on our regular walk several times this week.  It seemed like they fell from their nest, but we saw them repeatedly near the same tree so they must be ready to move out on their own.  The gentleman who owned the house where we saw them said they were baby green herons and this is the 4th summer they've been in his tree so the family must like that neighborhood.  In any case, we found them to be pretty cute little scamps.

We also saw plenty of baby birds getting ready to leave the nest on the big nesting tree in mud bay on Prior Lake.  I always screw up my identifications, but I'm pretty certain these are great white egrets.

I'm also pretty confident these are baby blue herons.  Miss Sheri and I really like their fuzzy black hair.  They look like little toupees.

I'm not quite as confident on what these are, but my best guess is some kind of cormorant.  I'm sure one of you bird geniuses will correct me if I'm wrong.

This one has me stuck, though.  I find him to be very cute and my first thought was a wood-duck, but my google searching doesn't seem to match and I'm not finding anything similar by searching for his various colors.  I'm going to just say he's a black beaked, white faced, brown duck and call it good.

Happy Father's Day to all you great dads out there!

June 14, 2020

Exploring Murphy-Hanrehan Park

Exploring Murphy-Hanrehan Park
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 14, 2020

Minnesota re-opened restaurants for indoor eating this weekend.  We still choose to eat out at the patio when given the opportunity, though.  It's still kind of scary going in public buildings!

We've been doing all sorts of walking lately.  The dog doesn't know what to do with all the extra attention.  He's going to be totally lost if things ever do get back to normal.

On Thursday night, we went to a pool party hosted by our good friends, The Korkowski Family.  Good food, good friends, and a nice pool make for a pretty fun summer's eve!

This crew has the tendency to get a little rowdy, but usually my wife keeps me in check enough to be a good boy.  Usually.

I have driven by Murphy-Hanrehan Park for many, many years but have never stopped by to check out it's trails.  We decided to bring that streak to an end this weekend.

We drug Blue along even though he has been getting walked way too much lately.  He doesn't seem to mind.

We had a very aggressive crayfish try to stop us on the path.  He held up his little claws like he meant serious business.  I stooped down to take pictures and video of him and he eventually backed down and slithered off into the pond.  He looked delicious.

We didn't see many other critters along our walk, but I did catch a glimpse at this frog.  Unfortunately, he refused to engage with me.

On Sunday, we decided to re-visit Murphy-Hanrehan Park again, this time planning to meet with the Korkowskis.  They are old pros at this park so we looked forward to following their lead through the woods.

They told us about this scary troll bridge we'd have to cross and that it was infested with snakes.  I ran ahead on the bridge to capture some photos of the snakes, but the trolls must not have let them out for the day yet so I didn't see any.  Dang trolls.

Luke has been requesting to go fishing lately, so when we arrived home I asked him to go down to the lake and cast out a couple lines.

I didn't expect to catch anything, but we actually pulled out a few in pretty short order.

We ended up having quite a bit of fun in the hour or so we tried it, so I think we will do it again soon.  Some day, we may even have to get brave enough to actually clean a few and cook them!

Update on Luke - June 10, 2020

Great news!! We just heard from the doctors and the nodule that they were concerned about in Luke's liver is benign. It's the same kind that has tricked us 2 times previously. Thank you so much to all of you who were praying for him and sending positive thoughts his way! 2020 is starting to really look up for us!! 

 Longtime followers of my blog may recollect our history with albino squirrels. Ever since our boys were born with heart conditions, we've been seeing albino squirrels in our yard. They have always seemed to show up during times of stress when we were preparing for a surgery or the results of a test. This has been a consistent phenomenon for 20 years across 2 different houses in 2 different cities. I had never seen an albino squirrel in my life before my boys were born. Well, we have been waiting for the results of Luke's biopsy the past 2 days and I kept thinking in the back of my head, it sure would be nice to see an albino squirrel to make me feel better. It didn't happen. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t seen any for months. We received a message from the doctor at about 3:15pm today. While we were all celebrating the news, I told Sheri Swank and Luke Swank about my concerns about not seeing one and said guess it didn't happen this time. Bizarrely enough, no more than 5 minutes later, Sheri yelled at me that an albino squirrel was across the street in our neighbor's yard. I grabbed my camera and snapped this picture. Thank God for Miracles!!!

June 7, 2020

It's Finally Starting To Feel Like Summer

It's Finally Starting To Feel Like Summer
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 7, 2020

Please say a prayer for Luke or send positive thoughts his way.  He had a check-up at the Mayo Clinic this past week and one of the nodules on his liver has grown enough since his last visit to catch the doctor's eye.  He feels it should be investigated to be sure it's OK.  He's had this happen before as can be seen here and here. The first two went well and the doctor seems confident this one will be nothing bad also.  All his blood work and other signs look very good.   That being said, over the past 20 years every time we've had to face a scary test or surgery with one of our sons, I've always asked my friends and family for prayers and positive thoughts so here I go again.  Thanks in advance!

Every week it feels like we are getting one step closer to normal.  This week, Minnesota allowed restaurants to re-open for outside dining and we participated on Friday evening.  We had to call for reservations and they had our table 6 feet away from other tables, but other than that it was like it was before quarantine.  Better yet, our governor just announced we can re-open restaurants for indoor dining starting this Wednesday.  We look forward to the day when we won't have any restrictions at all.

On Tuesday night, it was warm enough to go boating and actually be able to start swimming again.  The water was still a bit chilly, but I endured.

Candy Cove was a bit mellow for such a nice day, but it was later on a Tuesday so I guess all the party people must have been partied out.  I'm sure they will be back over the weekend.

We saw our first loon of the year.  This little dickens did not sit still long enough to capture decent photos.  He got skittish and dove under water for a minute or so and then would pop up far away.  By the time we were able to get him back in focus, he dove down again.  We'll do better next time.

The geese have been actively building their flocks in our neighborhood.  We rode too close to some on the bike path by accident and the dad started hissing and almost charged at us before we were able to resume our ride.  Vicious little suckers.

We were able to get out for another game of golf this weekend, but unfortunately my game hasn't magically improved since last time.  As a matter of fact, I think I'm getting worse with practice.  The rest of my family seems to be getting better each time, though, so we have that going for us.

Quarantine has been helpful for our puzzle habit.  We recently completed this 1000 piece masterpiece of beer bottles.  It's kind of weird how obsessed I get with finishing puzzles once we get them started.  All we end up doing is taking them apart again so I'm not entirely sure of the point, but I still really enjoy it for some reason.