June 30, 2005 – Martin’s 4!

martin b-day
Today’s the much-anticipated 4th birthday! Martin has been 3 1/2 for a long time and looking forward to this birthday for a long time!
martin b-day
Some of Martin’s favorite gifts were a farm flap book, water table, corn auger, and Thomas the Train DVD.
Emma’s last softball game is tonight – we gave a quick weed to some errant weeds in the newly planted pines, the final coats of paint are on the trailer, and my new glasses are in. I wanted some that were a bit narrower, but alas, the bifocal prescription did not allow. Older and wiser, right?

June 29, 2005 – 8-Track Repair

Today we take a break from the events at High Hopes and give some love to a friend with a unique sideline. “Paul” (his real name) recently sent me this picture of his newly created “State-of-the-art 8-track repair facility” he has set up in one room of his house. 8-track
In addition to this now “ready for business” repair facility, we have been brainstorming via e-mail corollary services he could provide. One is to provide aftermarket 8-track accessories.

grandtorinoLet’s say you’ve got this screaming piece of Detroit from 1974. This Grand Torino is mint and you don’t want to mess with the original equipment. To you, messing with the original equipment would be like painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel beige. The Torino comes equipped with an in-dash 8-track player. The trouble is, you’ve got your 10,000 favorite songs loaded on your ipod.
grandtorinoWhat you need is an 8-track adapter that lets you plug your ipod into the 8-track deck. Paul is your man.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, or just can’t throw away that malfunctioning ABBA, Herb Alpert, or Bread 8-track that you played when you proposed (or were proposed to), Paul is your man. Contact me privately for his contact info as I don’t want to flood his mailbox.

June 28, 2005 – Soul Searching

Throughout the winter, we took a class Saturday mornings entitled “Growing Your Small Market Farm.” The culmination of the class was to write a business plan for your farm operation. Along the way, we formed High Hopes Gardens LLC for legal and financial protection of our non-farm assets, learned a great deal, and met some good people. We began writing a plan for an on-farm store – thinking that we spent too much time driving to and sitting at farmer’s markets and that our time would be better spent selling at retail from our farm – with poultry as one of the main draws.

The poultry processing rules put a kibosh on that aspect, but we still went ahead with a survey to other on-farm stores nationwide and to about 200 local consumers to gather info on profitability factors of on-farm stores and attitudes of local people towards shopping at an on-farm store.

Although not totally discouraging, we realized that it probably wouldn’t work on our location on a gravel road. So although we did lots of research, much of it original, we did not think it would work. We had our on-farm visit from our instructor last Friday and had looked at our schedules and life and found no room for a business. In some ways, Linda is starting a business in getting the sustainable and entrepreneurial program off the ground at school. The time in feeding ourselves, raising the kids, and having two other jobs doesn’t leave a lot of room for new adventures. Another challenge is that if we wanted to take the leap, having about three acres of hilly ground would be hard to replace one off-farm income.

So we’ll not have this immediate expectation of starting quite yet. We’ll look back and see if we’d like to do more long-term crops (christmas trees, nuts, lumber) or just try a short season at market with fruits, flowers and berries, or perhaps off-season hoops.

Deciding to let this drop, if even temporarily does not come easily or without its own angst. We’ll try it on for a while, breathe for a few seconds a day, and see where it brings us.

June 27, 2005 – After the Storm

Tonight’s fun was a thunderstorm that passed by just before sunset. It left us with rainbows and dramatic post-storm skies.
We didn’t get much rain with this storm – we got enough this weekend for a while. The rain must have come so fast that a culvert got washed out on the blacktop just a 1/4 mile from our place. I drove down to see what the progress was since I could hear them working all day. Looks like they just dug a big hole (the roadbed is about 20 feet above the culvert, so to dig down to replace it is lots of digging). I’m glad it rained to calm the dust due to the extra traffic on the road as people drive around the construction. It makes the 3 mile trip to Melbourne 8 miles, with 5 on gravel.

Today we finished the playground by putting the last ground anchors in and the slide. Also got the metal primer paint on the trailer and Linda spent about 4 hours weeding the garden this am.

June 26, 2005 – Summer Colors

Today after lunch, brother Kraig and family left, Linda and Claire went to Iowa City to drop Claire off at a two weeks writer’s workshop, and Grandma Jo took Jill and Emma, so it was the boys most of the day. We mowed some grass, stained the wood for the trailer and sanded the metal to get ready for primer and cooked dinner.

The clematis on the garage is going nuts this year. Here is a view from afar.

…and a closeup.

While I was mowing near dusk, I happened upon some interesting sights. First was this grass laden with yellow pollen. (Allergy sufferers, it must not be quite so beautiful) and then a Great Blue Heron set its wings over the back pasture and swung around a couple of times. I was flattered that the small wet spot we fenced away from the cattle was even being considered by a heron. Later, near dark, I wandered down there and the Heron was roosting in one of the big maple trees on the edge of the pasture.

June 25, 2005 – Des Moines Art Fair

This morning Kraig and I secured and cut the 3/4 plywood to re-do the utility trailer. This afternoon we went to the Des Moines Art Festival.

It was a hot day, and the theme was “Hot for Art.” It’s ranked the 4th best outdoor art show in the nation, attended by nearly 250,000 people. I’ve never known 250,000 people in Des Moines to do anything together but sleep! It’s a nice event.

art fair
The girls at one of the entrances.

art fair
Live music is all over the place, with at least four stages going all the time. Here are roots-rockers Brother Trucker.

art fair
Martin found “Cy” and got a bit of a lift. He handn’t been handled by Cy since he had his baby Cy snowsuit on.

art fairThe Iowa State University Museum had old clothes for kids to try on and play. (Sorry you can’t see Emma’s full length evening gown).

June 24, 2005 – “Sweet 16”

Today is our 16th wedding anniversary. When we were first married (BC – Before Children)we would actually go out of town for a day or two to a Bed and Breakfast. Then it reverted to going out to dinner in town. That stage was followed by card exchange. Now that the kids are getting older, we are back on the upswing, but not yet quite at the travelling out of town stage.

Nonetheless, today was a sweet anniversary as the girls found an old tablecloth left over from our reception, got some candles out, put our wedding picture on the table, put on some classical music, a vase of fresh flowers, and sequestered themselves in another room and served us dinner! They even played the first song at our wedding dance, the Iowa Waltz, to make sure we could still dance.

16th anniversary

June 23, 2005 – Girl’s Road Trip

Grandma and all of her female grandchildren hopped in the car and headed east to Maquoketa Caves and Dubuque.
Since some of the grandkids had not been in Illinois, they drove over the river to Illinois and Wisconsin, to make it a three state road trip.
The entrance to the cave feels good as the cool air rushes out on a hot, humid day.
The trip was not all educational and wholesome. Flarp was a big attraction on the way home. (For the uninitiated, Flarp is the modern-day whoopie cushion, except a skilled practitioner can perfect a much wider range of sounds and cadences than can be coaxed from an ordinary whoopie cushion.)
Flarp causes severe laughter and lots of playacting!

June 22, 2005 – “SilverBall”

Martin has offered a name for the new car – “SilverBall.” It isn’t out of committee yet, but I like it for a number of reasons. Mainly, it adheres to the age-old naming convention of taking a previous name and making something new. When the girls were Martin’s age, they named a car “Golden Car.” Yes, it was gold and was a car. The next car they branched out and named a green Taurus wagon “Pickle.” The old Geo Prizm was named “Snowball” because of its size and shape. So Martin’s name of “SilverBall” honors the original concept of “Golden Car” while keeping the continuity with the previous car “Snowball” in naming the new car SilverBall.”

The girls are out with Grandma in Dubuque and Maquoqueta Caves (or at least that’s what we are led to believe).

Today was a hot one – The starter died on the truck, so I got that in to the shop for replacement and the new car to get a once-over – all it needed was a new belt and alignment. Also made a trip to the dump, picked some cherries, cleaned out and sold the old car (sad to see it go) and more.

June 21, 2005 – Summer Solstice

Today marks the longest day of the year – we now begin our slow fall into winter! We had a potluck and bonfire where people could share a seasonal song, poem, or observation.
Appropriately, it was a hot day and the kids found a way to amuse themselves with water.
water balloon
A bucket full of water balloons awaits the fun!
water balloon
water balloonThe crew soaking wet and happy shows summer!

June 20, 2005 – Storms, Pie, and Cars

Today I drove up to get a new used car in Rochester. I had been searching for about 6 weeks after the Prizm turned 200,000. I grabbed my Coming of Age Mentee Cole and we headed out. We secured the 2002 replacement Prizm and drove home, all the way with a big series of storms about two counties behind us. I have a bit of angst about the car after seeing some of the other ones I could have purchased. The Prizm although reliable to the point of sheer boredom, could not compare with the sporty Civic SI with 5-speed gearshift coming out of the dashboard near steering wheel and chrome instrument panel! But in the end practicality won out.

On the other hand, Linda’s cherry pie sure looks good!

As the storm moved closer it wasn’t terribly impressive, as there was cloudiness ahead of it.
storm 1
The storm moves in.
storm 1
Cousin Jill watches the front moving in.

storm 1
Another shot of Jill to reassure her parents that she is indeed still alive.

June 19, 2005 – First big Flush of Fruit

Today was the first big flush of putting food away. The cherries are beginning and the strawberries are at peak. We’ve got strawberries freezing on cookie sheets, cherries reserved for pie, cherry jam made, cherries drying in the dehydrator, and strawberries left over for eating fresh or waiting for an empty cookie sheet.
strawberry patch
Emma’s helping out in the strawberry patch.
Grandma Jo helped out too!
cherry picking

Martin helped for a short time picking cherries.
cherry picking

Martin examines a cherry.
Later today cousin Jill arrives fro m L.A. and Graunt (combination “adopted”aunt/grandma)arrives from Minneapolis as well.

June 18, 2005 – Decorah, IA

It was time to pick up Claire from music camp at Luther College in Decorah. Here she is with the choir. It must be a blast to sing with this many people!
Grandma Nana came down from Rochester to watch as well.
As the concert was quite long – pushing 4 hours including the bands, jazz bands, orchestra, and choir, Martin and I headed off to a state fish hatchery.
The hatchery is nested in a forest outside of Decorah.
The fish are raised to “full size” and released in the cold-water trout streams in Northeast Iowa. Here’s Martin looking at a tank of rainbow trout.
Very near the hatchery, a stream comes right out of a cliff at the base of a hill. It is really cool to see the water coming out of the earth and starting a stream. I’m guessing the reason the hatchery is there is that they use the very cold water coming out of the earth to raise the trout.
Not many things beat throwing sticks down a cascading waterfall!
We also walked a short ways down the stream and looked and found trout swimming. We watched patiently and quietly while a fly fisherman cast a fly over the top of a fish we were looking at. The fly made about 10 passes before the trout jumped up and ate a different fly (not attached to a fishing line) and swam away. I told Martin that his papa would have really loved to take him fishing here as he spent many days fishing the streams around Decorah.