Tag Archives: Mississippi River

Of Hail, Snow, Flood, and Lethal Creatures

Doomy doom doom….

Or perhaps not as bad as it sounds.  Wisconsin weather, with a bit of knitting and travel thrown in!

I’ve been mentally working on Sock Camp posts, but at the same time physically fighting off a nasty respiratory virus, which has caused all my energy to go to trying to turn my lungs inside out.  Lots of medicine and time later, I am definitely on the mend, so take up laptop to try to begin to chronicle.  But first, since my last post, lots has happened here!

I had mentioned that storms were predicted soon in my last post, and indeed, the girls got to hear tornado sirens and head into the basement, for just about the first time that they remember doing so (the RockStar does have vague memories of her toddler tornado warning trip to the basement).  One advantage of a laptop and smartphone: one can keep track of the National Weather Service’s updates on what’s going on, as the winds whip up and the lightning crashes and the hail rattles down.

Ah, the hail.

The hailstone going in the freezer

Have a hailstone (or two, or five)

Our garage is a storage area, and my (new) car was thus parked outside, so I winced in the basement as I heard that hail crashing and bouncing and pictured my car in its sights. Amazingly, it’s almost impossible to see the couple areas where the body is ever so slightly rippled. Everything else except my daffodils was fine. I certainly know people who didn’t fare as well, with broken house windows and damaged siding. But no tornado activity was noted in the area (though one had been apparently spotted to our southeast). Thus the area lives up to its reputation and the legendary Native American saying, that no tornado will hit where three rivers meet….

The weather continued bad, but not that bad, through the rest of the week, and I certainly felt bad. Then yesterday, as I started to feel as though I was going to make it, I woke up to this Saturday Sky:

which had already dumped this:

The robins were not amused, let me tell you.

unhappy robin

After I got over my own disgruntlement and worked yesterday, I stopped down by the Mississippi River, which is cresting well into flood stage right about now. Though the snow melted later yesterday, the weather continued blustery, with a cold north wind hurrying the flood waters along.

No viewing the river from THAT viewing platform today.

These rubberneckers were also checking the flood out.

(To give you an idea of the river’s rise, here they also are in happier times two years ago. The brick walkway goes perhaps four or five feet below the river watchers, and the river is some feet below the edge of the walkway.)

waving at sunset

In this picture, you can see the ramp down to the walkway….or part of it, anyway.

Another comparison:

a view downriver a month ago, when the river was already rather high.

and the same view yesterday, with the same trees.

(Fortunately, our cold spring has caused the water level to not be nearly as high as it could have been, thus flooding has been manageable. Also, because my city has preserved the flood plains (they are primarily parks) and some wetlands to soak up the floodwaters, it tends to do better during floods than other communities on the river. Thankfully.)

All of this snow and hail and flood made me remember my time in the Pacific Northwest with fondness….even if it was typical spring weather there (cloudy, cool, on and off rain), or perhaps even more rain than typical. At least there was no snow, or hail, or flooding….

There were lethal creatures, granted. But that was kind of my own fault.


You see, this year’s Sock Camp was called “Camp Jabberwonky”, with an Alice in Wonderland theme. There is always homework; and this year’s was to knit a Jabberwonky. Not a Jabberwocky, mind you, but a Jabberwonky. Details here.

After seeing an old photo of my half-stuffed mermaid (homework from two years ago): I had an idea. I would knit a headless Jabberwonky, after the victorious knitter has beheaded it! Complete with gore….

This required dyeing wool top for the gore (I had some that had proved not so good for spinning, due to still having suint — sheep sweat — in it). It seemed to turn out well!

Simultaneously, I cast on with some Socks that Rock and knit a somewhat fearsome creature (with a picot-edge neck). And was, of course, still working on it when I arrived in Seattle the day before Sock Camp started, to visit my friend Astrid and her husband Greg. In between Astrid’s taking me to see the Nick Cave exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, and an excellent lunch and equally excellent dinner, I knit away. And talked. Astrid being a knitter (and dyer) totally understood and kept me company by knitting herself as we talked; her husband is rather used to it, and accepted Jabberwonk-knitting unflappably! Also, Astrid had some awesome ideas for finishing strategies, and invaluably, had SUPPLIES! (Florists’ wire works better than pipe cleaners. Just FYI.)

On our ferry trip over to Bainbridge island the next day, the last bit of stuffing was stuffed, and my Jabberwonky was complete.

I can’t really say that Jabberwonky enjoyed the sights as we crossed Puget Sound to Bainbridge, since he’s headless and presumably can’t see; but I have to think he enjoyed the fresh air! Or something.

First Saturday Sky of the year

In my philosophical rambling yesterday, I forgot to show you Saturday’s Sky from New Year’s Day.

It was a cold and cloudy sky, as seen from our Riverside Park next to the Mississippi River.

(Cell phone pics, as I didn’t have my camera with me.)

The tiny specks in the upper left of this picture  (you WILL have to embiggen to see)  are eagles; I saw one closer as we were leaving.

There’s still some open water for them and the ducks,

though I don’t know quite what fish (or what else) the eagles eat this time of year.

We were at the park to take down lights from the annual Rotary Lights display, as part of a show choir fundraiser.  See the string of lights below: one of many many that we collected and wound on giant spools, while others dismantled the other parts of the display.

We were quite chilly in the -16 F (-27 C) wind chill

(a gentle zephyr from the south)

but the poor guys in the cherry pickers taking the lights down from the trees had the coldest job.

The Rock Star and I were glad to come home and warm up.

And Citrus was happy to help with that.

Steamin’ down the Mississippi, floatin’ on the Frog Pond

So, I have too many pictures to share from our Riverboat tour of a couple weeks ago, to settle for putting up just the one from the ABC-Along M post. Settle in, a bit, if you have time, for a few more! Then, subsequently, a short tour on the Frog Pond in memory of projects that have gone astray.

I won a dinner cruise for two at a raffle for charity (for children’s advocacy), on the Julia Belle Swain, as I mentioned. She’s a reproduction steamboat, but authentic as far as being a truly steam-powered paddlewheeler. As Lorette mentioned in the comments, she had a song written about her. And she’s beautiful, inside and out.

Julia Belle docked

Lots of gingerbread and interesting details everywhere. (Click to embiggen as desired.)

The bar is gorgeous! Look at the boat’s name carved into the windows.

We left from Riverside Park on a glorious early summer evening

past the Pettibone Beach House on the other side of the river.

The steam powered the big wheels.

We took a two hour trip, downriver first. Under the bridge(s) I mentioned that required the mayfly redesign; once one bridge, now as of recently, two. They look beautiful together.

For most of the way, the riverbanks looked the same way they must have when Mark Twain piloted a steamboat up and down the Mississippi. About which he said:

It is strange how little has been written about the Upper Mississippi. The river below St. Louis has been described time and again, and it is the least interesting part. One can sit on the pilot-house for a few hours and watch the low shores, the ungainly trees and the democratic buzzards, and then one might as well go to bed. One has seen everything there is to see. Along the Upper Mississippi every hour brings something new. There are crowds of odd islands, bluffs, prairies, hills, woods and villages–everything one could desire to amuse the children. Few people every think of going there, however. Dickens, Corbett, Mother Trollope and the other discriminating English people who ‘wrote up’ the country before 1842 had hardly an idea that such a stretch of river scenery existed. Their successors have followed in their footsteps, and as we form our opinions of our country from what other people say of us, of course we ignore the finest part of the Mississippi.
interview in Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1886

The barges may look a little different now, though,

and I don’t think houseboats pulling up to sandbars like this were common in Mark Twain’s day.

The authentic calliope played for us en route: here is the console and the whistles.

(nb: Not playing during picture! I wouldn’t have been so close if so.)

Forest Canopy enjoyed the trip.

As the sun set, it was time for big and small craft to turn towards home port.

And back under the bridges.

What a wonderful evening. If you’re ever in the area….highly recommended!


Much less photogenic will be our brief tour of the Frog Pond.


So, I have started a certain meeting/walking sock 4 times now. The last time you saw it, perhaps, it looked like this:

It’s a very fine sock. It’s just still too small. This is my relative lack of sock experience showing. What worked for me, and was wide enough on a shorter cuff, was too narrow to get on comfortably when I lengthened the leg of the sock to a length suitable for a gentleman.

So: it was too small on 60 stitches size 1s (duh); it was too big on 72 stitches (ditto); it’s still too small on 64 stitches on size 1s (2.25 mm). I’ve now gone up to 68 stitches and size ‘1 1/2’s (2.5 mm). I’m just into the first color repeat, past the cuff, but it’s looking promising with both the stitch count and needle size changing (the fabric is more yielding). I’ll do the sole in size 1s for better durability.

I’m also playing with the stitch pattern. Above is a barred rib; 2 rows k2 p2, 2 rows k. I like it. But I thought I’d experiment and see what happened with 3 rows ribbing (k2p2) and 2 rows stockinette. I thought it might be more elastic, have slightly more of the nature of ribbing than the above. Not enough to see the full effect, but I’ll post a picture when there’s a bit more done. (Do you get a mental block, like I do, when you’ve frogged a project, especially more than one? Sometimes it’s just hard for me to get going on it again….)


This is just NOT going to work.

I had hopes, but it’s not a good venue for this lovely yarn. The way the pattern works, you knit double-stranded k2 p2 ribbing for most of it; for the gathered areas, you temporarily go down to one strand and also work in the round with slipped colorwork, with a second color. There’s a chance this yarn could work with this pattern if you held it together with a coordinating simple second strand, say in green, and then used that plain strand for the colorwork part with the contrast yarn. But in general; no.

So: To the Frog Pond! Rip it, rip it!

This is 150 g of ‘long color repeat’ Duchess from Twisted Fiber Art, which cries out to me to be made into something special. Not just any scarf.

Here’s something I just ran across on Lime & Violet’s Daily Chum. It just might work!

The ANGST (Abiknits No Gauge Swatch Top).

I wouldn’t do it with the different colors, I would just use the lovely hand-dyed yarn and it would ‘V’ visibly automatically with the color changes. The yardage is right, and I could consider using the contrast yarn for the lace edging if I liked the look.

Once again, I’d have to try it to see if I liked it. But it could work.

Or maybe a plain Jane tank top would be best (sigh).

Have you been to the Frog Pond lately?

M is for Mississippi

The Mississippi River, the raison d’être of most of the river towns on its banks, from St. Paul to New Orleans.

This picture was taken last night on a paddlewheel cruise down the Mississippi on the Julia Belle Swain, a beautiful steam-powered riverboat.  Listening to the steam engine chuffing, and the whistle blow, and going past the sandbanks and riverbanks, I could imagine myself in Mark Twain’s time of Life on the Mississippi.

The Mississippi’s headwaters are said to be in Itasca, a name which is a contraction for veritas caput, “true head”, up in the Northern part of Minnesota.  The Preteen and I have (separately) stepped across the Mississippi in a single step!  (Along with many many thousands of Midwesterners.)  From this gorgeous beginning in the North Woods, the Mississippi flows south then passes through and partially divides the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, where I was born (in Minneapolis) and lived for years (both cities). 

The lovely Highway 61 follows the curves of the river as it broadens, and is my preferred travel route.  (My husband refuses to go that way because part of it is two-lane, and almost invariably, for some period of time, you’re stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle.  But I don’t mind so much, when it’s so pretty. )  In the winter, you will see eagles on the way, though I have proved that it is nigh impossible to Kinnear them.  (I keep trying, though.) They especially like the locks and dams where the water doesn’t freeze. 

Part of the Mississippi goes by the name of Lake Pepin, but is just a widening in the river (obviously the French explorers thought it was a lake when they came upon it); famous as the birthplace of waterskiing, and familiar to readers of the Little House books as the vicinity of the first of Laura Ingalls Wilders’ books, Little House in the Big Woods.

Continuing down the Mississippi brings you to La Crosse, the small city I live in, originally a fur trading post.  It grew dramatically during the lumber boom at the turn of the last century, as did so many other river towns, kept in business by the lumber cut upriver and floated downstream.  My house was built in 1891 by a middle-class businessman who owned a laundry downtown, near the banks of the Mississippi, to cater to the needs of the lumbermen who were in town.  (La Crosse was known for beer even then, also, speaking of catering to needs.) 

The Mississippi, giver and means of life in the past, right now is still cresting way downstream, and certainly has caused or contributed to its share of destruction, as all natural forces and features have.   The last big flood of the Mississippi was in 1993 here; there was a smaller one a few years ago.  It happens.  Just like living near the sea or on the beach, that is the down side of living on the river.  (Also the warmer temperatures from being in the river valley, great in the winter, right now? Not so great!)

The river is part and parcel of what this city is, inescapably defined and confined by the Mississippi and by the bluffs of the primordial vast river of the glacial era.   Our downtown is built on the Mississippi; the great riverboats like the Mississippi Queen come up river and stop here in the summers still, just like in the 19th century.  Our biggest park is Riverside Park.  Our Fourth of July celebration coming up next week is Riverfest, and the fireworks are set off over the river (spectacular to watch from a boat).  I can’t see the river from my house for all the trees, though I am just a mile and a half away, except that when the trees are leafless, the sunset light sparkles in the west off the water. But it’s so easy to bike or walk down, especially on these long Northern latitude summer evenings.  And we do.

M is for Mississippi.