That’s All Folks

I’ve come to the end of the line for this blog – eleven years filled with 2,815 posts. It may be repurposed into something new, but this segment is over with this post.

Let’s look at the big picture – the tagline for the blog which never changed:


By any account, the farmstead is revived. Twenty years of updates and improvements to the house and outbuildings make it ready to face the beginning of its second century with a new growing family. Outbuildings on the line between restore or tear down, restored. Totally new infrastructure above and below ground. Electricity derived from nature itself. But most importantly, three children raised in an atmosphere of unsupervised wandering, creativity, and hard work, with the self-confidence to travel the wilderness, or live in Iceland or Australia without knowing a soul before traveling there.

So yes, the farm has been good to us, and us to it.

Can we just bask in the glow of one of the final sunsets on the farm?

Gaze one last time at the wide open spaces and spectacular skies?

I thought I’d look back to one of the first posts to see what I wrote. Following is the second blog post, Valentine’s day in 2005.

The kids couldn’t wait to go back in the pasture and check out the “pond.” All three came back with varying depths of soaked jeans, mudstreaked faces, and wet boots. The remaining snow and warmth (in the upper 40’s) has made a quagmire.

Completed an outdoor counter/drainer out of cast-off materials today. Part of a vintage 70’s harvest gold accent countertop from our kitchen remodel, a couple of metal old refrigerator shelves, and wood salvaged from the original farmhouse for the frame. The outdoor counter will be useful in washing and cleaning vegetables outdoors.

Also wrapped up some seed ordering. Lost my Peaceful Valley catalog, but was able to use their website www. to order some beneficial insect plant and pasture improvement mixes.

That seems a fitting end as well – it speaks to three of the biggest themes of our time here – raising kids, readying the house for the next century, and raising food.

I’ll leave you with a song. This one by Jimmy LaFave. It’s been a theme song of ours over the last four years as we readied to leave. But instead of the song being about a girl, it’s about leaving Iowa – at least in our heads. The chorus is below and a link to the recording follows.

There’s a car outside
And there’s a road
There’s a time to stay
And a time to rock and roll
You’ve been a real good friend
But I’m on my way
If I don’t see you real soon
I’ll see you down the road someday

See you down the road someday – maybe 1300 miles down the road in New Hampshire.

June 12, 2016 – Thanks for Your Support! Auction Day

Auction day! The worst case scenario did not happen. There was not a thunderstorm or rain and the weather was less hot than previous days. These photos are credited to Neighbor Nancy.

Gathered around the auctioneer.

Cars in the yard and lined up on the road past the top of the hill.

More stuff we don’t have to move!

Auctioneer Fred Van Metre in the red hat. Fred did a good job for us.

Martin on auction day sampling from the food wagon.

More folks looking for treasures.

We all look on as our stuff changes hands.

The view from the pergola.

Can’t give this man enough credit – good neighbor Don. Brought his loader tractor over and helped folks load up heavy stuff.

Our first couple of life-long neighbors and friends.

The sad looking eyes on the JD 2510 say it all as we depart from the farm.

June 11, 2016 – Getting Ready for Sale Day and Reminisces

I didn’t do this post justice, so it is time for a “do-over.” This will be the 2nd to last post for this blog, Now that I’ve had some time and distance, the enormity of it all is more apparent.  Nearly 20 years of “stuff” off to the highest bidder. The auctioneer came out on Friday and got most of it set up. Since there was a 0 percent chance of rain, we were good to go – until about midnight Friday night when frequent lightning approached. So, armed with tarps and car headlights, we covered as much as we could. It was a fretful and rather restless night as round after round of rain pelted most of our farm-related belongings set out in the yard.

This is the remains of the boxes that were rendered useless by the all night rain – about 2 inches worth that fell.

And of course, it was a nice Iowa summer day!

At any rate, here are some photos of the auction all ready to go. As kind of a farewell, I’m going to do a bit of “what strikes Mark about the photo” for each.

Aah, Silverball, the 2002 Prizm with over 250,000 miles. Trusty commuter car and freedom for Claire and Emma for school and at summer camp. All the bikes that have not been used much since the move to a gravel road. The motorized John Deere tractor that Martin loved and hauled garden produce and other things in his own loader bucket. And the mini-horse cart that was never pulled by a horse, but was pulled by people.

What strikes me about this photo is the familiarity of the shadows on the ground. I’ve come to know the patterns of the shadows throughout the days and the seasons on the farm. A way of becoming closer to a place through observation. The tiller and single plow were great labor-savers in planting garlic and preparing beds for planting.

The bees – livestock you really don’t “own.” I think of the challenges we had on our farm due to the pervasive ground and aerial spraying around our place. We finally gave up. Our best hives were at another farm that had acres of native prairie and a buffer from the spray.

On nearly any acreage, the time allotted to mowing can be substantial. Here is the collection of mowers form years gone by. A milestone for the kids was the first time they were allowed to mow using the riding mowers.

I see the barn here. The signature outbuilding on the property. In the time we lived there, seven barns within two miles of us were destroyed. This barn is something that will soon be rare on an Iowa farm.

I think of my father in this photo. I see an old woodstove he had in a previous house, a utility trailer of his that I rebuilt, and an old boat and motor that had set idle for 20 years after plying the waters of Minnesota for my entire youth.

Raising chickens comes to mind here. The portable grain bin and old cages used to transport the chickens to the locker before we butchered them ourselves. Gonna miss those meat birds in the freezer.

The old corn crib. I love the new white roof. All the outbuildings but the barn had bad to non-existent roofs. I remember being up on the roof and calling Linda on the cell phone to come out and lift up another section, then return to the house to mind the young children until I had that piece screwed in and call again for the next piece.

This is a collection of old things I didn’t use much, save the blade for plowing snow. I am grateful we planted the maple tree for shade for the animals in the cement area. Amazing how fast it grows (or how old I am)!

I see the struggling peach trees in the back of this photo. Peaches are iffy in this part of the country, but we usually got a couple of good years from each tree, which was worth it. I also remember watching tornadoes coming out of the clouds a few miles south of here.

The piles of old dimensional lumber to the right are from the original house on the property (the mortgage company almost didn’t let us buy the property with such a hazardous building). But we took it apart board by board and had lumber whenever we needed it.

I think of friend and neighbor Nancy in this photo – the dragonfly vase she found for us. This symbolizes all the “stuff” you can’t take with you, but the significance of the relationships can never be lost.

Unfinished business.  That could be said for many of the photos. There is always something else to do on the farm. I see an industrial size light fixture that was never mounted in the machine shed here.
The “lumberyard” built into one side of the corn crib, with lumber from a disassembled garage.

The tractors. There is something about driving and using an old tractor. I was lucky enough to have a classic 1947 Farmall Cub and a 1960’s era John Deere 2510 with a loader bucket. I could attach tillers, blades, and plows. On a small farm, the loader is incredibly useful.

Here’s a collection of mostly hand tools. This hearkens to thinking about the market garden work we did. It was great for the girls to see crops from planting to selling at market. This will be the second to last post on the high hopes gardens section of the blog.

May 30 2016 – The Flume

While Linda was off doing “minister stuff” Martin and I took to some exploring.
pemi bridge

We are headed to the flume, a natural gorge, 25 minutes from Plymouth. Here is a bridge along the way.


The falls at the top of the flume.

top of flume falls

The crazy fun walkway that leads through the gorge. This walkway is removed every winter so it is not destroyed by ice.



blueberry flowers

Blueberries in bloom.

The view from somewhere near the middle of the mountain.

sentinel bridge

The Sentinel bridge on the Flume trail.

boy hanging on bridge

Maaahtin on the bridge.

mount liberty, george washington profile

A view of Mount Liberty. If you squint, you can see George Washington in repose as the mountain.

crawford notch

Up the road a piece at Crawford Notch.

May 24, 2016 – Quincy Bog

While we were in Plymouth for candidating week, we often awoke at 5:30 am. Rather than staring at the ceiling, we often went for a short morning hike.

coffee in bog

Coffee in hand, we arrive at Quincy Bog, just a few minutes from the hotel.

quincy bog

It’s an interesting area of wetland, bog, and wildlife. We saw many spring flowers, lady slippers, and one evening Martin and I saw one of the beavers that live here, including a great tail slap on the water.

bog boardwalk

There are many boardwalks that cut through the trail, giving you access to territory you would not normally be able to walk to.

And no, the bugs were not bad at all (perhaps the early morning chill helped).

We’re Going!

The search is over (well almost)! Linda has been called by the Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Plymouth, NH as their ministerial candidate. We will travel to Plymouth in about a month when Linda will get a chance to preach a couple of sermons, meet the congregation, and then a vote will be held whether to affirm her as the new minster.


The church building is about 30 years old and looks like a church you might expect in the White Mountain region of New Hampshire. The round turret with the high windows gives light in the center of the sanctuary.


This is a picture of the new religious education expansion wing in the back of the church.

Plymouth is about an hour and 45 minutes from Boston, about an hour and a half from coast of Maine, and a couple hours to the Adirondacks. The ski resorts in the White Mountains (and highest point in New England) start about 10 minutes away, as is the northern edge of the Lakes region of New Hampshire.  Plymouth is also home to a state university.


Now all we have to do is sell a farm and find a place to live.


October 5, 2015 – Final Day NY->VT->NH

It’s not hard to travel through a number of states in the NE.

On the ferry across Lake Champlain, as is the case most of the time, a Subaru is ahead of us.

Near Plymouth, NH is Squam Lake.

Looks a lot like Northern Minnesota, in fact, it is the same rock formation as the North Shore of MN.

The view from our cabin window the morning before heading back to Boston to catch a flight back home.

October 4, 2015 – Whiteface Mountain/Lake Placid

Can you say windy? It felt almost dangerously windy on top of Whiteface Mountain.

We cheated and took the leisurely drive up Whiteface Mountain instead of hiking 10 miles, but still had to climb up the last 300 feet.

Not that the last 300 feet was a superhighway, but there were rails.

It was a different season on top of the mountain than in the valley.

Fall becomes winter.

The view looking southeast.

Obligatory selfie on summit.

With Lake Placid behind her, Linda is stunned to find out Team USA defeats the Soviet Union 4-3!

Back down, the light from the heavens shines down on Linda.

Taking her pose in a BWCA-like campsite along a lake. Scroll down to see what Linda’s looking at.

Another lake, about a 480 rod portage from the nearest road.

October 3, 2015 – Adirondacks Day 2

Another day devoted to hiking in the morning and driving in the afternoon.

Yet another “pond” along a trail.

Another view of the pond.

Another pond on a different trail.

A mountain stream showing its fall colors.

Some planty stuff for the flora lovers.

Forr Emma – a gazebo roof gone wild with lichens and moss.

Finally at our resting place for the night, an old fashioned 1 bedroom Adirondack cabin.

October 2, 2015 – Adirondacks Day 1

After a couple of days in Boston and fortunately missing the hurricane that was a possibility for the coast, it was off to greater New England. First day was in the SE Adirondacks in a cabin on Brant Lake near Lake George.

Linda dutifully signing in the trail log book in case we don’t come out, they know the names of the bodies.

Someone ahead of us had a sense of humor – you’ll see a presidential candidate with the final destination cut off the picture – the White House.

The forest here is spacious and open for the most part.

This was the steepest hike of the trip – about 1400 feet elevation gain – pretty much always up without any switchbacks.

A wonderful mushroom that looked edible, but since we did not have a mycologist aboard, let it be.

October 1, 2015 – Baahston

Finally the day has arrived for Linda to make the pilgrimage to Boston appear before the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee to get the green, yellow, or red light to apply for positions as a minister.

We hoped entering on the Red Line was not an ominous sign, nor the downpour which closed down the red line shortly after we exited.

Later, we met up with another of Linda’s fellow seminarians. In the background is a spot on the Freedom Trail – King’s Chapel – the oldest Unitarian Church in the U.S. Another night we did attend services there as well.

Evidently the forbearers of the American democracy did not feel compelled to use particularly religious symbols on their tombstones as this motif was the most common in the graveyards that included the Revere’s and John Hancock among others.

Linda as she happily exits the MFC interview with a green light to move ahead!

August 15, 2015 – Gus Sent Me

Had a chance to see the bro’s band this weekend.

They played at the “Pallet Party” in North Oslo MN.

The paryt has evolved over the years – from a bunch of marines getting together once a year, to a two day blowout with live music, lots of food, beverages, fires, and more.

The band with namesake Gus – a black bulldog.

Gus enjoying the limelight. The band was named following a wedding reception where the bride and groom could only afford a short list of open bar patrons, so the close friends and family who went to the bar and said “Gus sent me” got free drinks.

Brother Kraig on lead vocals.

Sister Julie checking out the dairy bulk cooler with assorted beverage.  Was good to see the siblings and get an earful of Gus Sent Me!