August 16, 2014 – Farm Aerial

Here’s a shot of most of the farm from the air. It looks so much smaller when you are not in the midst of a pasture, near a tree, or facing a row of vegetables and weeds.

Things that jump out at me are all the visible changes since the first farm aerial shot we have.  All the white roofs on outbuildings are new. All of the trees less than 60 feet tall or so are new.  The garden beds in strips are new.  The wind turbine is new.  The mowed labyrinth in the pasture is new. There are also a few things missing – old decrepit buildings, many trees that blew down in storms or were cut down.  It is fun to look and see a different perspective on progress.

August 3, 2014 – Catching up

After returning home after an absence of longer than a week, you get an appreciation of all the things that you do, even though you feel like you are never caught up.  Seeing what the farm looks like with a week of inattention brings home how much really does get done.


Garlic was ready to pull.

Onions wer ready to pull.

Sunflowers went wild.

And we finally got around to introducing Martin to firearms training – one of the many rural skills that have eluded him to date.

August 1, 2014 – Niagara!

Since we were only 90 miles from Niagara Falls, we decided we could get there on a weekday at the time it opens to beat the crowds.

Falling water always seems to put a smile on your face.

It was refreshing to see vast quantities of clear water thundering over the falls.

Of course we took at the boat tour and this was about as close as you could get a picture before the mist and water covered the camera lens.  It was rather ethereal to be in the middle of this mist with falls thundering down around you in a half circle.

And we had to take the boardwalk down to the bottom of the falls.

Enroute down to the base of the falls.

Hardly ever a picture of Dad, so here ya go.

Standing in the “Cave of the Winds” at the base of the falls – feeling and looking for all practical purposes the middle of a hurricane.

More reveling in the tumbling water.

A look down from a bit up.  Yeah, it’s touristy. But it’s also the highlight of the trip for a 13 year old boy!

July 31, 2014 – Roger Tory Peterson Institute

This was a day to explore out of Chautaqua a bit.

One stop was Allegany State Park, New York’s biggest state park.

Spent some time hiking through the rolling hills and fungi season was in full swing in the high-canopied forest.  This critter, known as ghost plant, Indian pipe, or corpse plant, is actually a herbaceous plant and not a fungus. The park was nice, but seemed to be devoid of many vistas. I’m used to climbing/hiking up and getting rewarded with a vista, but this forest was so dense that the routes I chose did not afford any vistas. Nevertheless it was nice to get out for a long walk.

Another stop was the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.  Many of  you, like me have the Peterson’s Field Guide to the birds. This place had many of his original drawings and memorabilia, including a half-finished plate from an upcoming publication. Even at a young age, he was attracted to nature. At age eight, he asked for and got a special permit from the chief of police to be out after curfew to collect moths! A teacher early on recognized his artistic and cataloguing talents and encouraged him.

A couple of guys!

July 30, 2014 – More from Chautaqua

Martin tried the Boys and Girls club at Chautaqua.

Here’s one of the gyms.  We were disappointed with the day camp. The duration was only 5 hours a day and it was very unstructured and not programmed nearly as well as the adult programs.  We abandoned the camp and attended other events inside and outside Chautaqua that were more rewarding.

Our front porch is the equivalent of the dock at a cabin.

Hanging out on the porch was a good place to chat and eat dinner.

This is the Hall of Philosophy where most of the lectures in the inter-faith studies were held for her class from Meadville-Lombard.  The broad range of speakers and faith traditions made it a good place for such a class.

Lake Chautaqua is a 17 mile long lake that is along the Institute.

July 29, 2014 – Music and More

There are so many chances to see music and attend lectures.

Perhaps my favorite event was a radio show, much like Mountain Stage or World Cafe, called Rolling Hills Radio.  This episode featured an alt-country band called The Farewell Drifters on the left, a stunning singer songwriter that I’d compare to Patty Griffin named Liz Longley on the right who had one of the most poignant moments of the week when she sat down in front of the piano and sang a song called “Unraveling” about her grandmother’s descent into Alzheimers. She also had a few bad boyfriend songs to lighten things up.  The other musical act (center) was a local teacher who won the inaugural Grammy for best musical educator.

The big events were held in an outdoor amphitheater. It was rather nice to be covered by a roof, but be able to see outside and in the evening feel the cool air descend down into the amphitheater.

Photos were generally not allowed during performances, but I took one while the in-house symphony was warming up.  This was a unique seat as we could sit behind the stage, in what was the choir loft, and actually read the notes on the score of the players ahead of us and see the conductor’s expressions and instructions during the performance.

Other performances I enjoyed included the Charlotte Ballet, in residence for the summer who delivered four pieces that showed a wide range of dance – first a performance with loud “club” music.  The second was a multi-media integrating photos of the civil rights era, along with speeches from the era, and the dancers using six chairs with their dance representing the sit-ins of the 60′s.  The third act was a classical piece. Finally, and experimental debut piece called “Environment” which among other things featured a dancer in a huge white piece of fabric probably 20 feet on a side that other dancers could fluff, roll in, and do a variety of other expressive actions.

Another night was Bruce Hornsby opening for jazz great Pat Metheny.

The opening night was an ambitious stage performance called Go West that interlaced historical speeches from the time of western settlement, pieces of poetry from modern poets like Langston Hughes ,and songs from Neil Young, along with classic Aaron Copland, and bits of musicals like Music man and scenes from an opera, along with a scene from the movie Paint your Wagon. Of course, there are many lectures throughout the week with world-renowned speakers.  Each week has a theme, and this week was Brazil as a Rising Superpower.  But not all lectures were on that subject, here Grover Norquist founder of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax reform speaks.  Grover is an interesting fellow with wide-ranging positions like opposing all tax hikes, but advocating for immigration reform to allow more immigrants into the U.S. and prison reform to reduce the number of Americans in prison, while serving on the board of the NRA and GOProud, a conservative advocacy group for gay, lesbian, and transgendered.  His wife is Muslim and he also co-founded the Islamic Free Market Institute.

One of the more interesting tours was of the Massey Organ – the worlds’s largest outdoor organ.  We had a tour of the bowels of the organ.  This shot is of the top of the organ.  We traveled below to the air handling and had a view up to the tree story tall pipes and the long snaking bass pipes as well.

July 28, 2014 – Chatauq-what?

We are set for a week at the Chatauqua Institute in Upstate NY.  Linda is attending an interfaith religions class and Martin and I couldn’t say no to tagging along.  It’s hard to explain exactly what the place is like.  Here is what historian and author David McCullough says about it: ‘There is no place like it. No resort. No spa. Not anywhere else in the country or anywhere else in the world – it is at once a summer encampment and a small town, a college campus, an arts colony, a music festival, a religious retreat and the village square.”

More later, but here’s a quick walk around.

Our lodging for the week – the second floor had two bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen for the week. Most of the streets were fairly steep on the way down to the lake.

A typical scene at Chautaqua – lots of walkable streets and Victorian homes – most with prominent porches, typically on all levels of the houses.

The square consisted of a library, places to eat, post office, bookstore and shops.

Out of our price range is the Atheneum Hotel on the grounds, overlooking the lake.

One of the four beaches on the grounds along the lake.

July 12, 2014 – Getaway Day 2

We absolutely lucked out and got a great campsite at Split Rock State Park.  We happened to walk in just after a cancellation came in for one of the sites that you use a cart to haul all your stuff in, far away from other sites.

The dining room was ok.

But the view from the living room was spectacular, overlooking the lake and the lighthouse.

We headed down the hill to explore the lakeshore.

I’ve got the whole lighthouse in my hand…

This is a rather unfortunate composition of me against the lighthouse – Minnesota’s most photographed place, perhaps has never quite had this vantage point.

It was a wonderful night with the moonrise.  Can’t decide if the close-up, middle, or wide angle views are my favorite, so all follow.


July 11, 2014 – Dad and Kid Getaway Day 1

Heading North for a rare weekend with all three kids.  Might be the last time in a long time they are all together, except for a day before Claire leaves for Iceland.



Since we had some extra time, we stopped at one of those places we always drive by on the way up north, Moose Lake State Park Agate and and Geologic Center.  After ogling the agates in the display, it was time for some impromptu swimming. Martin decided it was time to try the experimental sand hair exfoliate.

Next it was off to Jay Cooke State Park, just south of Duluth – another one of those drive-by parks that often gets missed on the way up the North Shore.  It is one of Minnesota’s truly under-appreciated parks.

The St Louis River battles through strongly tilted slate beds as it runs into Lake Superior.

A broader view of the valley, downstream from the park.

A closer look at the tilted slate beds.

We lucked onto a primo camp site – not too close to other sites, with a nice rock backdrop.

The swinging bridge is replaced after the floods of 2012.

Martin gazes into what we called the “cauldron of doom” where the river drops into a maelstrom of water and foam.


The forest along the river near the highway bridge.


July 6, 2014 – Mother Nature’s Fireworks and Funnels, Oh My!

Once again, dramatic skies in the neighborhood.

midwest storm

Looking to the tornado-spawning clouds to the south before sunset.

midwest storm

Same place as the sun set. This is the same tornado-spawning cloud as in the earlier picture.

barn and storm cloud

Clouds and the barn.

farm building and storm cloud

Clouds and the hog barn.  This cloud made tornadoes by Tama.

funnel rock creek

A view of the tornado near rock creek park in Jasper county. No wind here, and only a sprinkle of rain.

June 20, 2014 – Seems Like a Rerun

Every few days it seems a storm rolls through.

This is looking east in the late afternoon, with some funky rays streaming up (or down?).

The back pasture is lush (and mostly thistle-free).

More passing clouds over the barn.

This is the first year we’ve had deer problems – here’s one of them we scared out of the back pasture on on her way away somewhere else.

A look across the fields to the west after the storm.

Martin *was* building a tree fort in this grouping of basswoods when one of the three limbs of the just-started fort came down.

June 8, 2014 – A Walk Around the Back Pasture

Today was a good day to get things done on the farm. It was only about 70 degrees, Linda offered to take Martin to Decorah for his music camp, so I was left to catch up on all those things that never seem to get done. But first a break as we check out the back pasture.

This wonderful little pond was just a black dirt mudhole when we moved in. We fenced it off, planted some wet prairie/marsh seeds, and now it does its part to clean water as it runs off the neighboring fields before heading down to the gulf.

blue flag iris

One of the beauties is this blue flag iris.


The pond gives us great evening sounds, among other things – we can fall asleep to the sounds of the frogs and toads in their little home. Today, however, I was in for a surprise when I scared up a snapping turtle about the size of a dinner plate.

The alleyway of trees we planted in the middle of the pasture are close to creating yet another micro-environment on the farm. The walnuts, bur oaks, and black cherry are really starting to take off.

June 1, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 3

Day three is only a few hours in the morning before the long drive back home.

beaver river

However, the Beaver River called as we drove over the bridge on highway 61, so we stepped out for a closer look.

north shore river

I love the minty green of the trees sneaking out of the fog.

Yet another perspective.

gooseberry falls

Finally one more look at Gooseberry middle falls after a night of rain.

gooseberry lower falls

Gooseberry lower falls.

Finally, Mark and Linda selfie.

I was struck with the stark contrast between a story on my phone with my location and experience this morning.  While enjoying the clear waters and parks of Minnesota, I read that the governor of Iowa had cut $9 million dollars from the state parks and outdoors budget and $11 million dollars from the clean water budget, despite being passed by both parties in the state house. Of course, there is enough money to give $110 million to a private company to build a fertilizer plant.