April 10, 2014 – People to Remember

It is most appropriate to lead off the wonderful people Linda met with Lajos, the minister at our partner church.

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In his trip to Iowa we were able to host him for a meal at our farm.

Linda tagged along on a regional minister’s meeting.

Some spouses waited patiently for the meeting to end.

Here Linda is with Nora, the English teacher at the seminary.

Food

and drink on a girl’s night out with Nora.

Linda also was honored to meet a Bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church.  He’s my kind of guy as he insisted Linda bring a gift of hospitality home with her for me – some pálinka from his own stock – a distilled spirit of fruit juices – the saying in Hungary is “what can be used to prepare jam can also be used to produce pálinka.”

This is Izalda, she and Linda spent some time working together on her English before a big exam.  She passed!  Izalda was very kind taking Linda to the Market, walking around town, and generally begin very cheerful to be around.

This woma,Maria, is one of hte first women to graduate from the Unitarian seminary in Transylvania.

Finally, Linda whooping it up with the students after hours.

lastdinner

I’ll end the time in Transylvania with this photograph of the good-by supper she had in the seminary.

April 9, 2014 – Teaching at the Seminary

One of the primary reasons for Linda’s trip was to teach English to ministers, seminary students, and a high school class.

This is a group of ministers she was able to meet with.  As many churches in Transylvania have partner churches inthe U.S., an effort is made for the ministers to improve their English skills to be able to communicate with their partner church in the U.S.

Here’s Linda in the classroom with some high schoolers.

In the central courtyard there was a human chess game going on with students acting as the chess pieces.

She spent the most time with the students in seminary.

For one assignment, they were split up into groups.

For the final assignment, Linda had them pretend they were coming to the U.S. and present a U.S.-style  service and present it in English.

Oneof Linda’s favorite shots from the trip – with all the students.

April 7, 2014 – Transylvanian Churches

Linda had a chance to visit churches in a few villages.

Unitarian Church in Tortodfalva

The church in Tordatfalva.

Unitarian Church in Transylvania

Linda’s there!

Unitarian Church in Tortodfalva Interior

Here’s an inside view of a “typical” church.  The minister preaches from the raised pulpit, the minister’s wife sits in the box below the pulpit, then men on one side of the church and the women on the other side.

Unitarian Pulpit

The raised pulpit for the minister.

The banner the Ames partner church gave to the Tordatfalva church.

After services in the school, parishoners gather for treats and wine hour (we have coffee hour).

Lajos in another nearby village church.

Transylvanian Church

The interior of yet another church.

The parsonage.

Linda with Tunde, the minister’s wife and the church president and his wife.

chimney cakes

Chimney cakes are a traditional treat in this part of the world.

old ladies eating pastries

Coffee hour is chimney cakes and wine!

snake and dove symbol

Nearly every Tranyslvanian Unitarian church has this imagry of a Dove of Peace standing on top of the world, encircled by the Serpent of Wisdom that is swallowing its own tail, symbolizing the  everlasting cycle of life, and topped with the Crown of King John Sigismund of Transylvania, who issued  issued the Edict of Torda, the first broad decree of religious freedom in the modern history of Europe.

April 6, 2014 – Images from Tordatfalva

Another of the economic enhancements of the villages  is tourism.

This is a small cabin being remodeled for a children’s camp.  You can see some of the timber and frame pieces getting replaced.  The minister insisted they keep the original structure rather than build  new with “modern” 2×4 framing.

This man is the church president in front of another structure with a big bad wolf in the background.

Grape arbors are very common and part of nearly every fence and porch.

bucket and well

Thirsty?

natural spring water

Linda swears by the naturally carbonated spring water.

Finally, her home for her days in the villages.

April 2, 2014 – Transylvanian Agriculture

Linda got a chance to spend a few days near in the Carpathian Mountains and experienced a chance to see some agricultural enterprises while visiting the site of the Ames Unitarian Fellowship’s partner church in Tordotfalva.

Transylvania Beekeepers

The region has an abundance of fruit trees and pastures, so beekeeping is an important enterprise. This couple cares for the bees. The smaller boxes on the top rails are to raise queens to sell.

This is some of the foundation inside the special queen boxes.

bee waterer

This is a homemade bee waterer. Bees need lots of edges to safely land and drink water without having to land on water. This piece of wood has an upside down jar of water and it is positioned over a newly planted apple tree so the water that escapes waters the tree.

plowing with horse

Getting ready to plant potatoes. The villagers still use horses, one of the arguments being, once you buy a tractor, that tractor isn’t able to reproduce itself!

The potato planter follows behind.

The ministers in many of the villages take responsiblity for the economic well-being of the area and often manage many acres of land. Here Lajos shows off one of the orchards.

They have a machine which takes raw apples and converts them into “Naked” brand like apple juice. The apples go in here.

value-added apple product

Here’s another part of the crushing/squeezing.

The screen takes out the big chunks.

The vat pasturizes the juice.

At the end, the juice is squirted into bags that are put into…

boxes, like Americans use to buy wine.

Other fruits like plum can be bottled as well. It’s a great way for the people of the region to take raw fruit and make a value-added, non-perishible product.

March 30, 2014 – Transylvania, Dracula, and Segesvár

For Linda’s two weeks in Transylvania, I might as well start with the most famous (for Americans, at least) of all Transylvanian icons – Dracula. Of course, the “inspiration” for Bram Stoker’s Dracula was, in part “Vlad the Impaler” who lived in this place in the 1400s. Here’s just a line telling what kind of a guy he was from a publication in the 1500s: “He roasted children, whom he fed to their mothers. And (he) cut off the breasts of women, and forced their husbands to eat them. After that, he had them all impaled.”  The city is named Sighisoara or Segesvár (the first is the Romanian name, the second is the Hungarian name; Transylvania was part of Hungary until the borders were redrawn  after WW1 when it became part of Romania).

The fortified city was built in the late 1100s or early 1200s when the King of Hungary invited German craftsmen to settle and defend his kingdom.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

This place is one of the best examples of a preserved  small medieval fortified city.  It is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

The approach to part of the city.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

These buildings are all inside the citadel.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara bastion

Linda in front of one of the bastions – each bastion was occupied by a separate guild where they would practice their craft and be on guard. A guild in medieval times according to Wikipedia is ” an association based on  trades, confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, glass workers, each of whom controlled secrets of traditionally imparted technology, the “arts” or “mysteries” of their crafts. Usually the founders were free independent master craftsmen who hired apprentices.  

March 29, 2014 – Last Year’s Chores

Finally getting a wrap on last fall’s chores that were left unfinished.

squaw creek

Here’s what the pruning of a 60 foot of blackberries looks like!

Other mundane spring chores that aren’t really noticeable by anybody but me include picking th remaining deadfall apples, pruning the fruit trees, picking rocks out of the grass moved by plowing snow, finishing the under deck skirting to keep critters out, cleaning up the dead tomatoes and taking the cages out, moving big rocks and cement blocks lying around to a consolidated neat home, cutting out windbreak trees that were not sold as Christmas trees that were planted 5 feet apart and need to be 20 feet apart when mature, cutting down mulberry trees is fencelines, and best of all, getting the first planting of lettuce, radishes, spinach in the ground.

March 28, 2014 – Thank You Mr. Badger

Not the Wisconsin Badgers, mind you, but the badger who evidently lives a few miles down the road and is an awesome digger! Guess the soil is now unfrozen for this critter to dig out such an impressive pile of dirt.

badger hole

As I needed some black dirt to reinforce some raised beds, this beats digging myself or driving to town to buy some in plastic bags. No lumps. just fine, black topsoil.

March 16, 2014 – Brief Moments On the Lake

While in Waukegan, I took an early morning stroll down to the beach.

squaw creek

This must be one of the most deceptive photos I’ve ever taken.  I’m surprised the photo is so clear, as my hands could only be out of my pockets for a few moments at a time because of the cold.  The temperature was 17 degrees, and the wind was blowing off the lake so hard, you could almost lean forward and not fall fall down.

squaw creek

The odd-shaped rectangular objects are sand-covered ice hunks.

squaw creek

It was a treat to see and hear the lake.  Walking towards the lake, from behind the dunes, my first sense is that of a deep white noise.  Walking closer, the mid-range sounds of individual waves crashing on the beach becomes detectable, finally, crossing over the top of the dunes, the high trebles of the tinkling of the water retreating back into the lake and bouncing ice crystals completes the soundscape.

Oh yeah, and the buffeting wind, howling unobstructed all the way across the lake from somewhere off the upper peninsula of Michigan, meeting my face as the first obstruction it faced in a few hundres miles.

March 15, 2014 – Claire onto Florida with Mock Trial Team

Claire’s Mock Trial team at Macalester College participated in the “super rgionals” near Chicago after advancing at an earlier tournament in the Twin Cities.

squaw creek

Claire at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, IL. It was my first time to see the team in action.  In a nutshell, the team gets details of a court case and present the case before a “judge” – usually a couple of practicing attorneys.  The team has attorneys and witnesses and does not know if they will be prosecuting a case or defending a case.  I was impressed with the poise, presentation, and knowledge of the teams that participated.

squaw creek

Probably not a surprise that the team advances to the National Finals in Orlando in a couple of weeks!  Here, senior captain Claire with the team and coaches show off the hardware!

March 10, 2014 – Ice Breakup on Squaw Creek

While I dropped Martin off at church this evening, I had a couple hours to spend in Ames, so I wandered over to Squaw Creek to check out the river to take advantage of the warm day and extended daylight.

squaw creek

The creek was churning and crashing, sending its winter mantle of ice south.

ice breakup

It was something to witness that only happens once a year and reminded me that yes, I really do live in the north, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.

In the hour or so I was there, the amount of ice dramatically decreased, owing to the temporary nature of the ice out.

Here’s a short video clip of the ice out.

March 9, 2014 – Two, Count ‘Em Two, Signs Spring is Near

Finally!

Tapped a few maple trees today.

The stream in the back pasture willed itself into being today.

Only a couple hours before this, you can see Linda stepped through the snow to get some pussy willows – a few hours later, a couple feet of water appeared, burying her tracks.

But there’s still a lot of snow to melt – in some places the drifts still barely reach over the top of the pasture fence.

And a garden bed is still a long ways from planting.