Family – Emma

August 8, 2015 – Canoe Beauty!

A few years ago I “accidentally” found a wood strip canoe for sale on Craigslist. I was actually trying to sell a canoe, not buy one.

But I found homemade this strip canoe that had been sitting in a shed for over 20 years, protected from weather and UV light. It was love at first sight.

After a bit of rigamarole to get it licensed (many thanks to the mother of the owner for handling all the paperwork), we finally got it out on the water.

It is a work of art – here is some of the detail inside the canoe. I think it would look great on a lake near a cabin someday!

July 10, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – At Camp

This post collects photos from around the campsites.

Emma enjoying the night after arriving at Cherokee Lake.

Mom making pancakes stylin’ her Meadville-Lombard swag (sunglasses).

Plenty of time for hanging out in the hammock gazing at the wilderness.

frost lake

Incredible beach at Frost Lake. Decidedly not frosty on this uncharacteristically hot day. The sand on this beach is a stark contrast to the surrounding rock. Amazingly, you could walk out probably 200 yards or more before it reached four feet deep.

frost lake, frost lake sand beach

The beach with the A+ campsite on the rocky point at the end of the beach. Imagine having this beach all to yourself all day!

Hanging out waiting for dinner.

Martin on KP duty.

The nightly ritual of hanging the food back out of the reach of (most) bears.

young woman around fire

Finally, at the end of the day, some time around the fire.


July 9, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – On the Lake

Rather than a day-by-day account of the trip, I thought I’d break it up into themes. First up is “on the lake.”

cherokee creek

The intriguing Cherokee Creek – it narrowed and became more boggy as you approached the portage. Lots of great bog plants along the way.

Sometimes there’s paddling out in the open lake.

Other times it’s more of a river.

Or a narrower river.

cherokee creek

And even places just wide enough for a canoe to pass. (But no matter how narrow, beats carrying the canoe around.)

woman paddling canoe

Another hearty stern paddler.

cherokee lake

Looking south from a campsite perch on the northern edge of Cherokee Lake.

cherokee lake

Looking south from a campsite perch on the southern edge of Cherokee Lake.

May 17, 2015 – Linda’s Graduation from Meadville-Lombard Seminary

A few shots from the joyful graduation from seminary in Chicago (four years in the making).

The whole fam, together for the first time in about 9 months.

The class, both honorary and real graduates.

Linda and the kids.

The spousal duo.

The dinner for the graduates the night before graduation.

First UU Chicago, home of graduation. A bit more “churchy” than many other UU buildings – this one is 175 year old and is in Hyde Park.

The inside of the church.

Linda happily in the procession.

With her major professor. Congrats to Linda!

May 16, 2015 – A Trip to Chicago

A weekend in Chicago to celebrate Linda’s graduation, but first a little distraction.

The hotels downtown where$500-$900 a night, so we rented a condo in the West Loop. This is the view from the window at night.

and by day.

One stop was the Art Institute. Something for everyone – medieval armor.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte never goes out of style!

Linda and Water Lillies.

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.


January 18, 2014 – A Night on the Town

The Maintence Shop on the Iowa State Campus has brought the best upcoming acts for 40 years. Last night we saw the latest in a series of great shows in the small intimate setting. This time, it was the Lone Bellow.

Mark and Linda before the show.

We “double dated” with Emma and Jacob.

The Lone Bellow was a rare group that could alternately get the crowd amped up and vice-versa, could command complete silence, depending on the song. In the second song of the evening, the lead singer broke a guitar string and relayed a story he hoped not to share. At a show in Chicago last night, his guitar was ripped off. Now a guitar is a pretty initmate thing to a musician. He was playing his spare guitar, and now was down to 5 strings. Of course, the opening artist hopped up and offered his acoustic guitar – and he used it and a few songs later the roadie had restrung his guitar.

Instead of being angry, he said, he had to think that the guitar was going to lead to some great song that comes from the person who stole it. A nice, optimistic spin on the heartbreaking loss. At any rate, a video of the band follows.

September 22, 2013 – Fillin’ the Freezer

Emma played the good daughter when she said she’d come home from school Sunday afternoon to help us move 40-some chickens from outside to the freezer.  It certainly kept the line moving much faster than it otherwise would have.  Linda and Emma cut up all but about 10 of them for parts for quicker meals than a whole roasting chicken, but we left a few to roast or BBQ whole.

The plucker does an amazing job of taking the feathers off.  A just-plucked chicken must be the model for a rubber chicken!

It’s nice to know where the chicken we eat comes from and have a year’s worth of chicken in the freezer.  Especially now that the U.S. made it ok to sell chicken processed in China in the U.S. without having to reveal county-of-origin labeling laws.

August 19, 2013 – First Day of School (almost)

I dropped Emma off at Iowa State today.

Even though school doesn’t start until next Monday, there are things to attend to, like setting up the room, getting books in order, trying out for Marching Band, and going through orientation.

She’s staying in Martin Hall (easy for little brother to remember).  She’s got everything she needs, her purse and a box chock full of peaches!  Let the adventure begin!

July 14, 2013 – Checking up on the Girls

By chance, we stayed within a few miles of our daughters’ summer workplace.  In fact, we could see the wind turbine at their camp from the balcony of our room!

The girls at Wolf Ridge looking inland (the opposite view looks over Lake Superior).

Self-portrait family shot.

Le Voyageur room at Wolf Ridge.

The small indoor climbing tower. I still think it’s great the girls wanted to work together this summer.

Here’s a view of our B&B cabin from the river. I’m standing on a rock island in the river and wasn’t quite high enough to see all the water over the rocks.

Linda and the “morning pages.”

One of the magical pools below the Inn.

Although we didn’t get a chance to use it, there was a fanciful wood-fired sauna! As if Dr. Suess wasn’t Finnish!

May 28, 2013 – Emma at Accelerated Freefall Iowa!

For a graduation present, we thought it would be good to throw Emma out of an airplane a couple of miles above the earth! Cynics among you may view this as a way to avoid paying for college, but the guide she tandemed with is a colleague of Linda’s, so we knew he would treat his precious cargo appropriately.

Getting ready.  A purple jump suit is perfect!

Gaining altitude.

The moment of truth!

Head first out of the plane.  I wonder if it feels like birth is like?

Upside down, looking up for a while.

Freefall with the storms moved off to the east.




I can fly! Flap harder!

Getting closer you can see all the ponding in the farm fields.

Chute deploys.

Back to terra firma, almost.


Back to the soggy ground at the Boone airport.

May 25, 2013 – High School is Over!

Graduation 2013.  And Emma couldn’t have had any more symbols behind her name!

The one that’s most indicative of Emma is the one designating “Silver Cord” recipients, for those students with more than 100 hours of community service per year of high school.

Emma was also selected as a commencement speaker. Since the school is about half minority students (yes, in the middle of Iowa there is a school where there is such diversity), she presented a speech with a Hispanic friend.

Emma being a boss at the podium.

The ceremony was one most will not forget.  During the ceremony, which included a storm that pushed the local river to a record flood level, the sound of the civil defense sirens filled the gym.  As the principal was giving instructions to seek shelter from the storm, the policeman on duty alerted him that the sirens were for a flood warning, not a tornado, so the ceremony continued until… the power went out. And about 15 minutes later the lights came back on.

By the time the ceremony finally ended, the storm had passed and we could gather for a photo.

May 16, 2013 – Emma Competes at State Track Meet

Emma’s 4×800 team qualified for the state track meet.

Here’s the team overlooking the famed “blue oval” at Drake University, home of the Drake Relays and the 2013 NCAA Track and Field Championships. Now she can say she’s run on the same track as Bruce Jenner, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Frank Shorter, and Gwen Torrence!

Emma ran a PB (personal best) for her leg of the relay, a great way to go out of her high school career.

April 15, 2013 – Emma State Champion – Check!

Emma said one of her goals in high school was to be on a state championship team.  Today, her team won the Iowa Envirothon championship.  The photo and story below are from a press release from the school.  Emma’s contribution was to envision a rotational grazing plan for 186 acres of pasture.

Marshalltown High School is once again the state Envirothon champion.

MHS Team 1, comprised of juniors Abby Snyder, Adam Willman and Ilene Finn and seniors Joe Metzger and Emma Runquist placed first at the state contest Monday, April 15, at Springbrook State Park in Guthrie Center. The team placed first in Wildife and Oral Presentation categories, placing overall ahead of Des Moines FFA by 3.75 points.

The title earns them a trip to the North American championship this summer in Bozeman, Montana.

Sixteen teams competed at the state competition, and about 60 teams competed at statewide regional competitions. The contest consisted of four outdoor stations covering forestry, wildlife, soils, and aquatics as well as a 15-minute oral presentation on this year’s current issue of range-land management.


March 1, 2013 – Visiting Gustavus Adolphus and Luther College

It’s been a busy couple of weekends wrapping up Emma’s college selection activities. Last weekend is was off to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and this week at Gustavus Adolphus college in St. Peter Minnesota. It is hard not to compare the events since they were so close together in time.

Emma will not make her decision (and it is her decision), until she gets the final aid offers from the schools still on her list – Iowa State, Luther, Gustavus, and St. Olaf. Since she has a strong interest in science and music, it seemed like Lutheran schools on hills fit the bill!

For full disclosure, I have many reasons for liking her decision whatever it may be.
Iowa State – Both Linda and I are alums, Linda with her Ph.D. and me with my M.A.

St. Olaf – Of all the schools we visited, I’m most impressed with the visit experience and facilities.

Luther – All of our kids (Martin this year) have spent numerous weeks at the summer music camp there and the trout streams are a bonus!

Gustavus – Important folks from my younger days, including Marianne K, whose house I lived in during college, and Annette Boman, outstanding friend, scientist, and mother who was taken from us much too early were Gusties, decades apart.

The visit to Luther exceeded my expectations.  Emma was invited there for “Scholar Days” to interview for the school’s “Imagine Fellowship.”  The day did a great job of “showing” us the school rather than “telling” us about it.  The day of the usual sessions was interspersed with heartwarming musical performances by the students.  Emma was able to visit the cadaver lab and attend a session on the physiology of running, while I went to a more traditional session on study abroad and a presentation in the planetarium by a physics instructor.  Students and faculty were front and center throughout the day, and perhaps the most brilliant stroke was our discovery that at the assigned seats for lunch, all the prospective students at our table were all high school XC runners AND thinking about pre-health professions.  Wow, everybody here is just like me!

At Gustavus, Emma was interviewing for the highest academic scholarship.  It was a more traditional visit day, with more “telling” than “showing” with perhaps the lowlight of the visit a talk by the college President, Jack Ohle.  Part of his remarks included telling us about the Gustavus “brand” along with the focus groups and process that went into creating the “brand.”  Suddenly, I felt like I had been reduced to a pawn in an advertising contest.  Like that of a carbonated beverage or political campaign, the message was finely crafted to be what I wanted to hear, at least until the current brand doesn’t work and it is “re-branded.”  Be that as it may, the school is also full of dedicated staff and faculty along with engaging students (in my eyes much more important to care and nurture those important elements, rather than “branding.”). One of the highlights for Emma was when I dragged her to a table with a couple of staff members from a session I had attended and we had an engaging conversation about current social justice issues.

Now Emma waits by the mailbox for the rest of her information to make her decision.  She’s eager to know what next year brings to her!



February 1, 2013 – Baked Alaska!

It’s cold and hard to do much outside, so what better  than throw some ice cream in the oven at 425 degrees.

Martin and Emma made a Baked Alaska recently.  This the finished product, seconds before slicing it open.

First step is to make a cake, throw it in the freezer, then top it with ice cream.

Then as quickly as you can, cover it with a thick coating of meringue.

Finally, throw it into the oven to cook the meringue. Voila!  The ice cream in the middle remains frozen and the dish that sounds impossible comes out of the oven!

December 1, 2012 – Emma’s Days at Drake Honor Band

Emma spent all day Friday and Saturday rehearsing for an honor band at Drake University.

The music was spectacular (Emma is in first row 2nd from left).  There were nice selections and top-notch players from across the state.

After the show, it was off to a Vietnamese restaurant to top off the evening.

October 23, 2012 – Emma’s XC Season Wraps Up

Even thought she battled through a number of injuries, Emma’s X-C season ended tonight.  She was happy to letter and be elected a captain of the team.

I know this shot is from track, but it’s a teaser of what some of her graduation pictures will be – this one is in the track stands with the roundhouse in the distance.  I love this photo as it captures Emma’s track season of disappointment and determination.

October 20, 2012 – Emma at World Food Prize

After attending the Iowa World Food Prize symposium at Iowa State for students in Iowa, Emma was selected to be part of the Global Youth Institute as part of the World Food Prize activities.  Emma had a great few days where she was able to rub elbows with many global leaders working on food issues.  Her roommate was from Tanzania, she had lunch with the Mexican Undersecretary of Agriculture, and listened to many discussions and approaches to solving world hunger.

At the culmination of the youth portion of the conference, the students are broken up into groups of about 10, present their research papers to each other and an expert panel. In Emma’s case the panel included the grand-daughter of Normal Borlaug, currently serving at Texas A & M, and Dr. Surinder Vasal, 2000 World Food Prize Laureate.  After presenting their papers and answering question from the panel an other students, the students are tasked to find themes that run through the papers and come up with a three-minute presentation to the assembled students, their teachers, former Laureates and other international scientists and researchers.  They also select a spokesperson to speak on behalf of the group.  Not surprising to me, Emma’s gentle leadership led her to the podium to speak.

Emma with another student from her school that also was selected to speak for her group (not surprising as she is a veteran of two national speech competitions!)

Finally Emma greatly appreciated the words of this year’s laureate, Daniel Hillel, pioneer of micro drip irrigation (who refused monetary reward for his systems, designs, or techniques).  Emma called him a “Lovable Grandpa.”  Here are just a few comments from his address:

“My joy at receiving this award is tempered by the realization that the work it recognizes is far from complete. Despite all obstacles, there are already hopeful signs of progress. We must build upon and enhance these beginning in the interest of insuring long term harmony of the community of life in our one and only planet.”

“The Midwest is the breadbasket for the United States, for North America and it is in many ways the breadbasket of the world. It’s helping to feed the world and yet there is room for improvement. We must be concerned over our resources, the proper use of resources, the sustainable use of resources, the cooperative use of resources. We share the atmosphere, we share the oceans, we share water resources. We share the future of the world.”

For over 40 years, Dr. Hillel has sounded the alarm that climate change could reduce the amount of rainfall in already dry environments – warning of possible food shortages while developing innovations that help to feed a growing population.

October 7th, 2012 – Chickens to the Freezer

Today we were grateful most of our chickens made it safely to maturity (unlike the 10 turkeys this year who all perished by deformed leg problems, storm, or dog).

Martin hauls the chickens to the killing cones, where I deftly make a cut on the side of the neck where they bleed out.

Next, it’s a few dips in about 150 degree water. The chickens are ready to scald when wing feathers pull out easily.

The chickens before the plucker spins.

About 30 seconds later, most of the feathers are gone.

Then the chickens go to a different pair of hands for cleaning and later cutting up into meal-sized portions.  I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly fun day, but it is rewarding have control of the chickens from chick to freezer  – knowing how they’ve lived and been processed.

September 1, 2012 – Emma’s Healthy!

Emma’s healthy for once!  Between stubborn ankle problems and fighting a concussion, her previous track and cross-country seasons have been incomplete.

This year she’s on the starting line, happy to be running varsity.

This week-end’s meet was at Central College in Pella, a good excuse to stop at the bakery for some Dutch letters!

August 19, 2012 – Last Day at the Aquatic Center

Today was the last day of the season at the aquatic center as school starts this week.

I thought I better get a shot of Emma at one of her posts, before the summer ends.  Here she’s at top of the high tube slide.

Just a few minutes after this shot, the pool was closed due to the impending thunderstorm.

August 10, 2012 – Emma’s Running Pals

Emma hosted her Cross-Country team to a sleepover.

Here’s part of the team, some couldn’t make it and others arrived after dark.

One of the beauties of living in the country is the outrageous bonfires that happen fairly regularly.

It was a good week for Emma – last Saturday was particularly eventful – she finished 2nd at a 5k run and later in the afternoon made her first rescue at the pool – an 8-yr old boy went off the slide into the deep end of the pool and couldn’t swim.  Emma fished him out to earn her keep for the summer!

July 26, 2012 – Emma’s Time in Chicago!

Linda’s not been the only one in Chicago this month!

Emma downtown on a bit of free time.

Any guesses where this is?

How about now? Of course, it’s the Bean at Millenium Park.

Emma was part of the High School Leadership Institute, sponsored by Wartburg College.  Here’s the group, with high school students and their mentors and staff.  They first did a service project in Chicago at an inner-city school where they conducted day camp activities.  Emma was struck at how much the kids just wanted to hang on her and tell her about their lives.  After a couple of days in Chicago, it was back to campus.

Wining and dining (ok, just dining) the students back on campus.

The week was worth three college credits.  However, the credit is not awarded until the student performs a community service project.  Emma proposed school-age musicians visit the Iowa Veterans Home and perform.  She thought it would be a win-win for the students to get performance experience and the residents to get some entertainment.  But even more important to Emma was that performing would not be the only component of the program, but to work in time for inter-generational conversation between the residents and students.

July 21, 2012 – Out with the Old, in with the New

Although it is taking a bit of time, the collision adjuster from Allstate did make a fair valuation of the totalled 1996 Outback.  The amount we were promised ended up being $54 more than we originally purchased the car for four years ago.  I was looking for a replacement that was small and with 4WD to give me a bit more peace of mind when Emma drives to school in winter.

This Honda CR-V we found with a private party in Cedar Rapids fit the bill.

The previous owners looked us up on the blog (you’d hate to sell your beloved Honda to just anyone, you know!)!   They were also a bit surprised that our teen-age girl was proficient with a 5-speed.  You go farm Girl Emma!

July 14, 2012 – Subey Takes a Hit for Emma

Emma was on her way to work on Thursday, when she was proceeding through the first stop light in Marshalltown.  An on-coming driver tried to make a left turn in front of her.  The airbags deployed and some kind passersby stopped and took care of Emma until the police and EMTs arrived.  Emma was checked at the scene, thanked by the paramedics for wearing her seat belt and not in need of hospitalization.  She was worried later in the evening when a headache did not go away with medicine, much like her previous concussion symptoms.  We took her to urgent care that evening and she checked out fine at that time, now just is dealing with the usual stiffness and soreness.

The other driver was hospitalized and as the policeman said in the newspaper article, the other party was at fault. The picture comes from that article.  A quote from the officer at the scene was not very comforting to parents “The fact that they are not dead is an indicator that they weren’t speeding.”  I’ve been loving on Emma since the accident, stops at the ice cream store and catching up on movies.

July 1, 2012 – Badlands

The final stop on the trip was the badlands.

Emma in the magnitude that is the Badlands.

This is for Claire.  We have an old black and white photo from the same place, but I can’t locate it at the moment.

On the ladder on the Notch trail.

Emma taking the ladder.

Emma taking the ladder in years gone by.

A bit of the terrain of the trail.

It is a rather ethereal landscape, much like what walking on the moon might be like (sans the spacesuits).

At the end of the trail.

Yes, it was hot!


June 30, 2012 – Jewel Cave and Harney Peak

Since Wind Cave was such a hit, we decided to go see Jewel Cave as well.  Jewel is the 2nd longest cave in the world.

jewel cave

Since the caves are so close together, people often wonder about the differences between Jewel Cave and Wind Cave.  Wind Cave has the cool blow hole and seems more intimate – the passages are narrower and you seem more like you are in a cave.  In Jewel Cave, the passageways are much larger, most of the hike is on aluminum walkways, so you feel more distant and it’s a bit noisier, but the formation are much more varied and interesting than in Wind Cave.

jewel cave

This is from of one of the “wet” rooms in Jewel Cave.

jewel cave

More funky formations.

Then it was off for lunch and a hike starting at Sylvan Lake.  Let’s just say there was a great difference in attendance between visiting in March and the weekend before the 4th.  So, off to the trails to leave all the people behind.

Here’s our designated vacationers – we are now on 17 straight years of summer vacation!

Linda on the “trail” up the mountain.

More “trail” up to the peak.

A look down the trail, from near the top.

cathedral spires

Finally, nearing the top, the Cathedral Spires come into view.

In the distance is Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota, at 7242 feet.  This photo also shows the extreme fire danger, her it looks like about more than half of the trees are dead.  It won’t take much of a spark to light the place up.  It’s easy to see why the fire danger is “explosive” now and even outdoor smoking and BBQ grills are prohibited.

I happened on one of the most intriguing creatures I’ve ever seen on this giant thistle blossom.  It’s a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth. It was as though some genetic engineers mixed up moth, bee, and hummingbird DNA and this was the result. It was only a bit smaller than a hummingbird, it flew like a hummingbird, but looked like a giant bee or a moth. It also had a very long proboscis.

June 29, 2012 – Devil’s Tower

Universally acclaimed as one of the best hikes of the trip was the Red Beds trail around Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.

Here’s a good-looking family in front of the exposed batholith.

This year’s vacation group shot, for the first time in about 15 years, not in Northern Minnesota.

The visitor center and parking lot were very crowded – so we took the road less traveled and instead of taking the 1 mile hike around the base, we took the longer three mile hike around the red beds trail.

The trail starts off in a pine forest – very welcome shade on a 97 degree day.

Eventually the trail opened up to some meadows.

There were wonderful vistas looking out over the Wyoming landscape and Belle Fourche river valley below.

At one point the trail dropped into the “desert” as the kids called the exposed red beds that is the trail’s namesake.

Up from the red beds, the trail traversed through an area that had been burned.

Martin taking a look at the imposing rock near the end of the trail.

A well-deserved break near the end of the trail.

I hadn’t noticed this strange object in the sky when I took this photo and didn’t see it until I arrived home!

All in all, the trail had great diversity of landforms, and on this trip we were the 1%.  We only saw one other hiker on the trail. So we were in the 1% of people who left the visitor center!

June 28, 2012 – Mt Rushmore and Wind Cave

We made the All-American visit to Mount Rushmore – almost like a constitutional requirement when visiting the Black Hills. But I sure wish someone would tell me if the cost of entering in a car is a tax or a penalty for not walking in by foot.

It is a nice public space, much like a monument in Washington DC.

mount rushmore, mount rushmore flags

You travel through stone pillars with flags from each of the states.  There are usually four flags per pillar – if I had to be picky, I would have had each flag on its own pillar and make the walk longer.

The obligatory Rushmore replacement photo featuring Emma.

The same place as a toddler.

The obligatory photo featuring Martin!

Finally, the obligatory Rushmore ice cream.

The next visit was to Wind Cave, the 5th longest cave inthe world, named for the wind that blows through it. On the natural entrance – a hole only about as big as your head, the air is either blowing out or sucking in. This photo shows off the cave’s most prominent feature – boxwork.

More boxwork – this cave contains about 95% of the world’s known cave boxwork formation. It was nice to go underground for a bit to escape the heat.

Some more delicate cave features.

June 26, 2012 – Road Trip!

Family vacation is here!  Family vacation is here!  We’re on our way to experience the West.  Our first stop is in Chamberlain South Dakota.

On the banks of the Missouri River, we stretch our legs after a long afternoon and early evening drive.

When heading west on I-90, I consider crossing the Missouri river to signify the beginning of the West.  After crossing the river, farm fields are rare and open range becomes predominant.

June 23, 2012 – Thanks to Legion Auxiliary for Emma’s Week at Girl’s State

Along with one other young woman from her school, Emma was selected to attend Girl’s State by Marshalltown Legion Auxiliary Unit #46.  The unit pays for Emma’s week there and we thank them for the opportunity they gave Emma to help learn and practice government and leadership.   Girls state is basically an election cycle in a week – girls run for office, discuss issues and pass legislation.

Emma deep in study as she readies to give a campaign speech or speak to legislative issues.  Emma was elected to her city council and county board of supervisors.

Here’s Emma with some of her peeps for the week – some members of her town.

The inauguration features all the girls in a mass choral performance.  Can you find Emma?

How about now?

The girls caused quite a spectacle when they crossed Lincoln Way in Ames on the way to the inauguration.

June 7, 2012 – Someone Else’s Canoe Trip

While Martin and I were bumming around northern Minnesota, the girls and a couple of brother-friends were on a canoe trip.

I offered help, only as asked as Claire gets all things packed for the trip.

Aa beautiful day to hit the water paddling.

Emma, at the stern in her element.

Claire portaging the canoe between lakes.

All settled in at the campsite.

Creative cooling as always when camping – why not put some dried fruit and nuts in the biscuits?

Pump, pump, pump that water through the water purifier.

Some of the crew at the head of a portage.

The whole crew having a snack near the end of the day.  I take it as an encouraging sign that the bugs are not so bad to allow shorts.  I’m sure it must have been a great trip for the kids to manage successfully without parental guidance for five days in the wilderness.

June 1, 2012 – Dropping Off the Girls in the BWCAW

For better or worse, we agreed to allow Claire and Emma go on their first longer canoe trip (without parents) with a couple of friends who happen to be brothers and do not have BWCA experience.  I used it as an opportunity to see them off and get them up and back.  Since it’s about a 10 hour drive, we stayed for a night before the trip and after the trip at Kawishiwi Lodge where we have spent many summers.

I’ve recently received complaints about the lack of pictures of me on the blog.  Here’s one at Lake One on the night of our arrival.

And one of Martin as well.

The crew the last night before heading into the wilderness.

The group just moments before they headed off down Moose Lake for points east and north.

April 30, 2012 – Emma at World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute

Emma was selected to attend the Iowa Youth Institute sponsored by the World Food Prize.  She worked diligently on a paper regarding water security in Jordan.

Here’s a link to the story for more details. Many luminaries attended,including the President of Iowa State, CEO of Pioneer, and Governor Branstad.  Most everyone except the Governor stayed on course in addressing the youth except the Governor couldn’t help but make his pitch for Lean Textured Beef whatever.

April 29, 2012 – The Prom Goes on Forever…

It’s a tradition in Marshalltown to have a band concert the day after prom.

On the downside, the kids are wiped out after staying up through the after-prom party.  On the upside, everyone gets to wear their prom gear for another formal event!

March 8, 2012 – A Capital Day: Three Capitols, Three Barnes Women

Our family had three Capitols covered today – Iowa, Minnesota, and the nation’s Capitol!  Linda was in D.C.,  Emma in the statehouse in Des Moines, and had it been a normal day, Claire in the Minnesota Capitol at her internship in the Governor’s office (but Claire had to skip work to go to Chicago for Mock Trial Super-Regionals)!

Emma was up at 4:45 am to get ready for her day.  She’s part of the Iowa Valley Leadership, a group of about 25 people who “believe that community vitality depends upon individuals who commit to learn about critical local issues and engage in influencing change.”  It was a combination education and lobby day at the Statehouse.

At the International Women’s Day event in D.C., Linda and Bonnie Campbell were the Iowans in attendance.  They spent most of the day visiting the offices of Congressmen Steve King and Tom Latham and Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley.  Many Iowans will remember Bonnie as state Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate.  Time magazine named her one of the 25 most influential people in America in 1997.  Linda and Bonnie had a great day together swapping yarns.

January 3, 2012 – Year In Review

It’s time for a year=end review of some of my favorite moments and photos of 2011.

Kids and baby animals are hard to beat.

Extremes in any domain are interesting.

Martin’s new found love and interest in cooking gave us many great meals.

The promise of a neat spring garden always brings hope.

Linda’s wild look in the White House captures a moment.

“Walking the Talk”

Claire as a professional at her work post in DC.

Dad and Martin up on the North Shore of Minnesota.

Martin’s initiative to carry a big pack, rather cheerfully over 3.5 miles of portages.

Emma exploring new foods in Boston.

Taking care of some of our own responsibly-grown meat.

Visiting with women farmers from around the world at our farm.

The majesty and scale of the new wind turbine farm just south of our farm.

Finally, after 20 some odd years (who’s counting, exactly) the love of my life shining a little light of hers.

December 30, 2011 – Emma at Citrus Bowl

The Bobcat Band has spent the last couple of years raising money for a bowl trip. This year they went to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl. The following photo came from another band parent.

No doubt I’ll have more on Emma’s trip when she returns with her camera.

December 23, 2011 – Christmas Chaos

More than anything, family Christmas gatherings seem to be more chaos management than Silent Night. I won’t pull out the smiling children in front of a Christmas Tree now (that may be coming later).

This photo captures much in its ordinariness.  People gather around the appetizers in the kitchen while Martin receives instruction from his uncles regarding sound effect production.

Middle child often gets left out of family publications, so to make it up to her, I found her doing dishes while her siblings were off playing and having fun.  Great Christmas memories for Emma, for sure!

November 15, 2011 – At a Wind Turbine Work Site

After seeing the turbine blades lifted in a dramatic night-time maneuver, we thought we’d go check out one not quite built to get a scale of these turbines.

Inside wind turbine towere

The towers are made of three sections. This is the bottom of a yet unattached top tower section.

Here’s the top of the same (third) section – not much room for a person to squeeze through.

wind turbine blades

Emma with 2/3 of the tower built, along with the blade assembly still on the ground.

October 1, 2011 – Emma’s Homecoming

It’s homecoming week and today is the dance.

Here’s Emma goofing off with her date.  The local paper endeared themselves to the entire high school by reprinting a previous year’s homecoming article and only updating the homecoming court names and photos.  The article was complete with quotes from a previous principal, talk about moving the parade indoors because of rain (it was clear an in the 70s and 80s all week), and had the wrong theme.  So the writer and editor both let that onw slip by.

one year ago…”Emma Visits River Museum”

September 24, 2011 – A Sweet Day

Today was  honey extraction day.  As GJ says, it’s all about separation today.  First, you separate the supers from the hive and therefore separate the bees from their honey.  Then you separate the individual frames from the supers.

Then you separate the beeswax from the frames.  Emma with the heated knife and gj with a wax scraper.

Then you separate the honey from the frames in the extractor.

Then you filter out all the bee parts and remaining wax from the honey.

A final look at Emma with a nice frame.  We ended up with about 15 gallons of honey from two hives.  Shortly after the aerial jockeys sprayed around our farm, the hive at our place ha greatly reduced activity.  After the bees died, the wax moths took over and there was no honey – but the two hives at another location adjacent to about 15 acres of prairie, did very well.

one year ago…”U of M Public Relations Disaster”

August 27, 2011 – Putting Tomaotes Up

Today was a long-anticipated day. Last year, we only had enough tomatoes to can seven quarts (it was a good thing we had canned 89 the previous year and had enough left over to get us through). This looks like a great tomato year. It was wet to get them going, hotter than blazes in July, now bone dry in August (avoids bacterial wilt and fungus).

Martin with the first sweep through the garden of the year looking for ‘maters.

A bushel of Romas waiting to be skinned and peeled.

To enable safe boiling water canning of tomatoes, we add 2 tbsp of lemon juice and a tsp of salt for taste.

We throw the tomatoes in boiling water until their skins crack and then put them in cold water to cool.

Then cut out the stem and slip the skins off.

Take about 1/6 of the tomatoes and crush them and bring them to boil, then slowly add the rest (no need to crush).  After all the tomatoes are added, bring to a boil and boil for five minutes.

Put in cans and boil for 50 minutes.  Today’s haul was 28 quarts of tomatoes.  Seems like a lot, but it’s only about two jars a month.  These are a staple in our cuisine.  Love them as the base of a minestrone soup and an essential part of red hot dish!

one year ago…”Ag Incubator Ribbon Cutting!”

August 12, 2011 – Putting Away the Apples

We’ve been working at preserving the early Williams Pride apples. It’s a wonderfully tart and sweet apple that ripens this time of year.

teen with apples, bushel of apples

So far, from just one tree, we’ve put up 18 quarts of apple pie filling, and numerous bags of dehydrated apples, and eight gallons of frozen sliced apples, awaiting another later variety to make applesauce next month. There’s still a good number of apples left on the tree for more applesauce fixins. Oh yeah, I also found some blueberries at the store for 99 cents a box, so since we missed out on the berries up north, froze about half and canned the other half.

But by far, the best concoction is the apple pie filling. It’s a bit of a hassle to make, but all Linda has to do is make a crust, pour in the filling and bake. Great for potlucks and last minute desserts with little fuss.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #220″

August 8, 2011 – Emma Returns from Boston

While we were in the Boundary Water, Emma had a much different experience – in and around Boston.

She was a youth leader on a church trip to Boston, to the roots of the Unitarian Universalists and founding fathers (many of them both!). This is the first Universalist church in the US, in Gloucester.

They visited some historical sites important to the beginnings of the church in the US.

They also took in other historical sites, like the with this guide on the Freedom Trail – evidently, if he had to choose, he would choose Emma!

They lounged in the fountains at Frog Pond in Boston Common, bordered by Beacon Street, and next to UU headquarters.

They enjoyed a high-speed, choppy ocean whale-watching (and barf watch as well).

A visit and swim in Walden Pond was also on the agenda.

Finally, who could turn down this wonderful seafood pizza in Boston?

one year ago…”House Progress”

July 15, 2011 – Dock Life

A large part of our life on vacation revolves around sitting on the dock.

Emma and Kate greet canoers on their journey.

It’s pretty much a law of the universe that the smallest person gets thrown off the dock.

Dock jumping hardly ever goes out of style.

Neighbors one cabin down fish near sunset.

Our travel compatriots relax on the dock – our cabin is straight up behind the dock.

A view of the dock facing out to the lake.

one year ago…”BWCA Day 1″

June 27, 2011 – Emma Visits St. Olaf

Emma’s 2nd college visit was to St. Olaf in Northfield, MN.

buntrock commons

It was very kind of them to put up a banner to welcome Emma to the visit day!

St Olaf Dining Hall

I can totally see how this dining hall might be decorated like the Great Hall in Harry Potter.

St. Olaf Lunch

I’m thinking it might be worthwhile to go back to college for four years, just to get meals like this every day.

Regents Hall Atrium

The Regents Science hall is one of the most impressive college campus buildings I’ve ever seen. It’s Leed certified and has abundant natural light. This is one of the corner atriums.

Regents Rooftop Garden

It has rooftop access to look out over the surrounding countryside and sit for a spell.

classic college building

In addition to the new buildings, it’s got some older ones to maintain the character of the place.

stained glass hockey stick, st olaf stained glass hockey stick

Rumor has it the yellow object in the center and middle of the stained glass behind the alter in the chapel is a hockey stick. Way to go Oles!

An amazingly relaxing place to sit is under the wind chime carillon.

Just a bit of the sound from the structure.

one year ago…”On-Farm Chicken Processing”

June 25, 2011 – Emma At Dorian Music Camp

One of Emma’s favorite weeks of the year is Dorian Music Camp at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.  Nestled in the driftless landscape of trees, streams, hills and forests, it makes a great setting.

She has a week to concentrate on music and hang out with other kids with similar interests.

Dad cleaned up pretty good after being on the trout stream in the morning!

one year ago…”Cherries to Food”

May 14, 2011 – Emma’s College Visits Begin – Gustavus

As the last few days have been cold, wet and miserable, it’s nice to get out and start Emma’s college search. It was off to St. Peter Minnesota to Gustavus Adolphus today. Although she’s not sure what she’d exactly like to pursue, it seems most likely that some science-related pursuit with a side of music are in order. So, the list of colleges to look at is slightly different than the first daughter’s.

Almost as soon as we stepped out of the car, Emma was very happy to see a fire pit with comfy Adirondack chairs!  She appreciated having these chairs sprinkled throughout campus.

More Emma on campus, after a lunch.

The view from campus down towards St Peter and the Minnesota River valley. We have a few more Lutheran colleges on hills to visit (Luther and St. Olaf) among others over the next few months before getting serious with one and starting to date one.

one year ago…”Closing Out the School Year”

April 30, 2011 – Emma’s Week: NHS and Prom

It was a good week or so for Emma.  She knocked 45 seconds off her personal best in the 3000 meter, she was inducted into the National Honor Society and last (but probably not least in her eyes), prom evening.

Here she is with all her peeps before prom.  As we told her, although the theme of the evening was “Oh What a Night” it certainly wasn’t meant to exactly follow Frankie Valli’s lyrics:

“Oh, what a night, Hypnotizing, mesmerizing me.
She was everything I dreamed she’d be.
Sweet surrender, what a night!”

We advised that there be no sweet surrender, but a fun night with her friends, prom theme be da$$ed!

one year ago…”Takes a While for the Old Guys”

February 16, 2011 – Farm Fixture April Has Chased Last Rabbit

Today was the day every pet owner dreads – having to willingly drive to the vet to put a long-time pet away. April had slowly given up the will to live, not eating as much, then not eating at all, not drinking water, and finally the last two days, not moving from her comfortable place in the hay in the barn. So it was time.

April had been on the farm before Martin was born.  The girls were three and five when we retrieved April from the shelter.

For 14 years, April has been part of the backdrop to the farm.

She took seriously her animal guarding duties.  Whenever we packed up livestock, she spent the night close by, instead of in her usual spot.

In her younger days, she accompanied us to cut a Christmas tree.  We’re guessing she was a mix of Golden Retriever and Collie.  We called her our Marilyn Monroe dog.  She was laid back and non-barking – things I prize in a a dog!

Like everyone, she had her faults and quirks – the biggest one was her terror of thunderstorms.  When she was young, she was caught in a hailstorm, and rather than seeking shelter, she ran around in the hailstones – some big enough to break windows in the house.  After that, she would stop at nothing to get into the house during thunderstorms.  She destroyed two doors, before we learned to call her into the house when storms were coming and put up steel doors, so she couldn’t hurt herself or the doors if a storm came when we weren’t home.

It was a good life on the farm – sunshine and children to play with.

April always insisted on being part of the first day of school photos.

Everyone in the family had a chance to say goodbye to April.  Last night,  Claire even did when we put the phone up to April’s ear so Claire could say good-bye and April could hear her voice one last time.

Each child in this world, if they are lucky, only gets one good dog to grow up with.  For our kids, we can thank April for being that special dog that they shared their childhood with.  Thanks April.

one year ago…”Sheep Bagging Up”

February 5, 2011 – Emma at Iowa State Honor Band

Emma’s recently received some unwanted attention on the blog, now it’s time for something she might be a little more excited to share! Emma spent most of Friday and Saturday at the Cyclone honor band festival, playing with outstanding high school musicians from throughout the state.

It’s always reassuring to see a group of young adults with focus, working on something that requires commitment and no short cuts.

one year ago…”New Tiller”

February 4, 2011 – Emma Buries the Subaru!

Sorry, no pictures of the scene, I was at work when everything went down. Imagine this – a country road, a squad car with lights flashing, a mother mad at you for venturing out without a hat and mittens, and another neighbor there with a pickup plowing a path out and then towing you out. I’m sure it wasn’t Emma’s best trip to school.

The storm had left drifts on the road, but one lane had been plowed. At the first hill a hundred yards or so from our place, the story goes, Emma drove into the banks as to avoid a car that may or may not be cresting the hill at the same time. She ended up burying the car in a big drift. Now, I saw the gleam in her eyes when she arrive home a few days earlier and marveled at the ease of driving through the drifts on the way home from school shortly after the storm hit. So, if she’s anything like her father, the drifts on the hill may have been an attractive nuisance and called her name. But all’s well that ends well, she was only a few hundred feet from home and was retrieved in short order, although not with fanfare and blinking cop car lights for ambiance!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #194″

January 1, 2011 – Goodbye to 2010

I thought I’d begin the year with some of my favorite photos from the last year.

We’ll lead with the “barn dogs” one cold December morning.

Here’s a shot you can only get once a year – frost on a zinnia.

Linda Barnes

As a storm passed, we had great mammatus clouds overhead.

It’s really quite remote and quiet where we’re at – a reminder on a cold winter morning.

baby lamb and boy

There’s also a continual cycle of life on the farm.

Things can change in a hurry – a day firing the maple syrup stove turns nasty, so in goes the stove into the shed – improvisation is always a great quality to have.

Garlic – we were lucky to get it out during the wet early summer.

More invention on the farm – this time Martin’s cat feeding station.

ag incuabator, MCC susutainable agricultgure

After many years of angst and fundraising, the ribbon cutting for the ag incubator building at MCC happened this year.

cherry pie

Linda’s pies and fruit from the farm – a combination to die for!.

Devils Lake

A great lunch spot at Devil’s Lake Wisconsin.

Baptism Falls, Tettegouche

Finally, the kids at perhaps one of the world’s best outdoor playgrounds – Baptism Falls along the coast of Lake Superior.

one year ago…”Looking Back on 2009″

December 26, 2010 – How to Make a Boy and Girl Happy

Martin brought me the nicest moment of the Christmas season.  He had his mind on earning a Mindstorms robot like they use in First Lego League.  He had proven it was no flash in the pan by his practices with the team multiple times a week before and after school.  We had made an agreement that if he could save half the money, we’d chip in the other half.  We figured by summer, he’d have his share saved up.

Well, he had this nice Christmas surprise.  About five minutes later he disappears and comes back and slaps a wad of crinkly bills in my hand.  I ask him what it was for, and he said it was to help pay for the robot with the $50 he had saved up so far.  I explained that this was a gift and he could use his money for something else.

Emma had also proved herself worthy of a flute the next step up for her hard work and devotion in mastering the flute.

one year ago…”New Kitchen Floor”

December 5, 2010 – Lambs off to the Freezer

Today, we brought four lambs on the first step on the way to the freezer.

These guys and more are already have an appointment at the locker.

Emma and sheep loading don’t always get along well. Many years ago, when she was perhaps too small to help, we backed the pickup truck to the barn and posted Linda on one side of the tailgate and Emma on the other side, while I tried to move the sheep into the back of the truck. We told her that her job was to “be the wall” and prevent sheep from jumping off of the edge of the tailgate (the truck had a topper). Well, when one decided to skeedaddle out of the truck, it saw her as the path of least resistance, so as the lamb escaped under her legs, she grabbed on and held on as the sheep ran away, dragging Emma behind until we told her to let go.

During the loading experience today – don’t let the docile little faces of the sheep in the trailer fool you. Emma and I were tag-teaming one into the trailer, she had the front legs, and I on the back legs (the thought was that I would have the heavy end). Well, the sheep butted Em in the head and there’s a sudden rush of tears and vivid red blood on the dusting of white snow on the ground – just a few feet away from where the turkeys were butchered a few weeks ago. It was a bit of an unsettling feeling, to say the least. As Linda rushed over to attend to Emma on the way she said, “There goes the sheep profits” thinking Emma’s nose was all busted up and in need of an ER visit. But the story has a happy ending as no major damage was done, but once again, Emma found a way to get out of loading the rest of the sheep!

one year ago…”Gift Box Assembly”

November 21, 2010 – Three Generations of Chicken Cleaners

We’ve been waiting for the time and weather, mainly the time, to magically turn our old laying hens into chicken broth and stewing hens. With forecast for very cold weather on tap, and a foggy and mostly drizzle free day in the upper 40’s, today was the day. We’ll have to take whatever we get on Wednesday – turkey day.

Here’s three generations of chicken knowledge lined up taking care of their end of the processing line. We fairly easily put 25 in the freezers today.

one year ago…”Morning Wake-Up”

October 31, 2010 – Happy Halloween Recital

Martin decided it was time to be a mad scientist for Halloween.

Although, truth be told, he looks a bit more like someone in one of the British Invasion bands in this photo.

OK, now he’s got the mad scientist look down.

Ready to go gather the candy with a famous French artist!

Emma and Martin also had a recital today – Martin on the piano and Emma on the flute.

one year ago…”Happy Halloween”

October 23, 2010 – Emma’s Very Belated Birthday Bash

Through a series of unfortunate events (mainly marching band competitions), we were not able to throw Emma’s birthday party until this weekend.  We started the event at a relatively new pizza place in Ames, Vesuvius wood-fired pizza.  If you like thin-crust, wood-cooked pizza with an emphasis on ingredients other than mozzarella cheese, it’s a great place to go

She wanted to do something different with her friends, so it was off the the ice rink.

Although no Olympic hockey players or figure skaters were discovered, they had a good time and all came back uninjured.

one year ago…”Late October Potatoes”

October 22, 2010 – Getting Garlic in the Ground

Well, it’s that time of year again – time to get garlic in the ground. The last time I used the tractor, it was running really rough, almost to the point of conking out. The first check was the inline fuel filter, so today I went to get a replacement, put it in and it ran better, but still not very well – at any rate, I hustled to take of the tiller and put on the potato digger to make trenches for the garlic.

Then it was time to enlist help of the children to plant.  First, they are “de-cloving” the garlic.

Then, drop it in the ground.  We usually put a couple of rows in one trench.  Today we got about  500 feet of row in the ground.  Wet weather was bearing down upon us, thus the urgency to get them in the ground.  Now, I need to become more familiar with the fuel system of the tractor before snow flies!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #181″

October 1, 2010 – Emma Visits River Museum

Emma recently visited the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque with her Envirothon team.  She was gone a couple of days, so could really see and do many things.

They had free run of the museum after hours, which they greatly enjoyed.

You can never have too much instant ocean!

They did some stream biological assessments – here trying to chase minnows and fish into a net.  They also set up fish traps on the Mississippi and were able to catch some monster northern pike and walleyes which was a thrill for Emma!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #179″

September 18, 2010 – Emma Homecoming

OK, so this post is mainly for grandmothers out there and has nothing to do with farming (no bad jokes about this farmer’s daughter!).  It was homecoming weekend and Emma was happy to get all dressed up with her gaggle of friends and go to the homecoming dance.

Ready for dinner at a friend’s house.

The group of girls and their friends/dates.

one year ago…”Scientific American Warns Biotech Companies”

September 5, 2010 – Emma’s Car

Some of the best money we ever spent was to buy this old Subaru Outback.  We always said it was Emma’s car, even when Claire got to drive it for high school.  Now she’s at an urban college and doesn’t need a car, so Emma finally gets the car she’s been waiting for years to drive.  Thanks to Claire for not crashing or otherwise destroying the car (although she did leave three bags of room debris we’ll have to deal with).

Emma has already taken to auto care by waxing the car for the first time in many years.  Here’s to small, sure footed cars to keep Emma safe this winter.

one year ago…”Tomatoes Finally Arrive in Bulk”

August 7, 2010 – Children of the Corn?

Emma (and one parent) woke up early Saturday morning to enter a 5k race.  It was Ethan’s Tractor Race, held in conjunction with and old-tyme tractor and equipment show.  The race is in honor of the young son of her driver’s ed teacher who passed away at a very young age to cancer.  The proceeds go to a scholarship fund, so that makes the run even more rewarding.

Here’s Emma about 3/4 of the way through the race.

one year ago…”Tillage Radishes”

August 4, 2010 – Getting Ready for State Fair-like Event

There are many traditional contests at the Iowa State Fair, so to get ready, we have an entry for the longest continuous apple peel. I’m not sure they still, have the contest, but it’s fun to practice. (It’s also a bit of a sneak peak of the new siding, nearing completion on the east side of the house).

The Williams Pride apples are ripe, so we are in the first round of drying apples and freezing some for making applesauce when other varieties get ripe later in the season.

one year ago…”College Visits”

July 17, 2010 – On the Big Water

We drove down the winding and scenic highway 1 from Ely to Lake Superior one day.

shovel point

This is a view of Shovel Point from near the mouth of the Baptism River.

kids on lake superior

The water in Lake Superior is uncharacteristically warm this year – the surface temperature this time of year is usually 39 degrees, but this year it is 59 degrees!

boy at shovel point

Rocks, water, boy – a winning combination!

Emma practices her stone skipping.

baptism river mouth

A view a bit up the hill of the scene of the previous photos.

one year ago…”Rain, Rain”

July 16, 2010 – BWCA Day 2

The promised threat of rain held off overnight, so we remained dry.

What a nice place for a mother and child to sit and watch the world wake up.

Of course, a cup of coffee in the morning helps.  It was refreshing to wear a sweatshirt when back home the weather was in the upper 90’s!

boy fishing

Martin at the scene of his first catch with his new fishing pole.

largemouth bass

Dad with the largest catch of the week – a catch and release largemouth bass – a bit of a rarity in this neck of the woods as smallmouth bass dominate the rocky shorelines.

teenagers paddling

The road home turned first blustery, then rainy, they thunderstorm.

portage puddle

By the time we arrived at the portage between Lakes One and Two, the raindrops got bigger.

wet portage

They finally gave us a good soaking.  We ended up huddled at the end of the portage for about an hour while the electrical storm passed by.  Of course, you could have easily predicted the only lightning storm of the week would pass by when we were out far away from the cabin.

one year ago…”International Wolf Center”

July 15, 2010 – BWCA Day 1

With the oldest two girls absent from our party this year, we were all able to make a foray into the BWCA.

Entering Lake Three

Here Emma rides the helm with her friend.  They shared a canoe and paddled with strength and confidence.

Two People in Canoe

Mike and Lori take a break in a narrows along the way to the campsite.

Lake Three Campsite

On Lake Three, near the portage to Horseshoe Lake, sits this wonderful island campsite – here’s the view from the water.

Lake Three Campsite

Here’s the view from the land.  This site offered lots of nice rocks, plentiful tent sites, and nice overlooks of the lake.

The crew assembled for a quick lunch upon landing.

One of the nice overlooks on the site.

Emma and Kate cooking their own gourmet wilderness meal!

hang food pack

And finally, a great tree to hide the food pack away from reach of hungry bears!

one year ago…”Touring Soudan Underground Mine”

July 13, 2010 – On the Water

A great part about vacation is quiet water activity.

boy in kayak

There are no boats making wakes, no buzzing jetskis, so the lakes are great for kids to swim across, fish, or kayak.

teenager in kayak

Emma paddling back from the beach via the water route instead of the shore path.

boy on dock

Most years the biggest fish is caught off the dock – not true this year – but it’s worth a try!

Dock jumping never goes out of style!

Nor does sitting on the dock with a book and refreshing beverage.

one year ago…”Something Fishy”

June 25, 2010 – Cherries to Food

It’s time to “do something” with the cherries. First thing is to pit them.

Pitting is the worst part of the job, but we added another pitter, so two people can work at once. At this moment it doesn’t look like the kids were suffering too much! These cherries are destined for jam and cherry pie filling.  I’ve come to love eating them off the tree, the sweet and tart must just be all full of great healthy compounds!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #168″

June 22, 2010 – Father’s Day

For father’s day, everybody helped with garage deconstruction for a few hours.  Although it’s not a traditional gift, it beats sweaters, socks, or a tie!

Great progress was made – the trailer was filled with shingles -we almost got the whole roof stripped and started ripping off the siding as well.  Soon the eyesore will be gone.  Another day with rain – hard to keep berries and the like from molding.

one year ago…”Septic Day 1″

June 21, 2010 – Summer Tradition

It’s become somewhat of a tradition to send our kids to Luther College in Decorah for a week in the summer for Dorian Music camp.

This was Emma’s first year in the high school group, and by all reports, she had a great time in the mass choir, band, and drama classes. It was definitely a treat to listen to the bands and choir.

She roomed with a friend from her high school and came home very satisfied, but not so well rested!

one year ago…”Rain, Rain”

May 19, 2010 – Jazzed Up

This week was the spring jazz concert.  Emma wanted to play in jazz band, but there’s not many parts for flute, so she picked up saxophone to play in jazz band.

But the director featured her as a flute soloist one song.

It was also Claire’s last high school music event – here she is at the keyboard in jazz band warming up before the show.  It’s a toss-up to me whether I enjoy the spring jazz concert or indoor marching band program the best.

one year ago…no post

April 20, 2010 – Emma on the Track

Emma’s taken up track this year.  She mostly runs the 3000, 1500 and 800.

She banged up her ankle early in the season (at home), so has been playing catch-up all year.

Even with the bum ankle, she’s still a blur passing by.  We’re hoping she has the running genes of my cross-country All-American brother and not the genes of her 9th grade track drop-out!

one year ago…”Shiitake’s Return”

January 4, 2010 – Emma’s 2nd Wood Project

You may remember the beautiful cutting board Emma made as her first big wood shop project.  Her next project was to replace the fiberboard white shelf above the sink that had seen its better days.  She was very reluctant, if unwilling to be photographed with the shelf.

But ol’ Dad pulled one of the oldest tricks out of the book and captured her in the mirror! The shelf, of course, turned out well with nice details like routed edges and solid wood construction.

one year ago…”Old Machine Shed Demolition Begins”

January 1, 2010 – Looking Back on 2009

Seems like everyone puts together some kind of year-in-review (and some decades in review this year). I’m not ambitious enough to sort through the last decade, but I will take a shot at the year in review. So without much further ado – the things we’ll remember most about 2009 in no particular order:

  1. This year culminated in some serious progress in outbuilding renovation, most notably, the refurbished hog barn which resulted in an added bonus as the overhanging shelter turned into a nice sheltered place to butcher turkeys on a cold and snowy November afternoon.  An old machine shed was partially demolished and rebuilt, with clear panel tops to let light in. This was a first as it was the first partial building implosion on the farm. In addition, three of four sides of the barn were repainted.
  2. The money targeted for a new garage/siding instead went into a hole in the ground in the form of a new septic system.  The old one was particularly hackneyed, in that it was a small tank (500 gallons) that flowed through an old cistern, and finally to one field tile.  I’m glad that it started acting up in spring rather than in the dead of winter.
  3. The wind continued to be a popular topic – we hosted a PFI field day, I presented a number of times regarding the turbine, we gathered some press on, a feature article in the local paper, and was awarded a grant to defray the costs of erecting another turbine to act as a small wind demonstration site.  We are encouraged that there is such interest in renewable energy and self-reliance.
  4. Linda was flattered to be a finalist for the position of Endowed Chair of Sustainable Agriculture and Local Food Systems at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.  After a couple of days of intense interviews for Linda, we had a chance to do some relaxation around Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.  The college ended up not filling the position, so we’re not sure if they didn’t like any of the candidates or had budget problems.
  5. Linda also had the honor to be invited to be the keynote speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Prairie Star Annual Meeting, held in Duluth, MN this year.  The theme was “Our Blue Boat Home” and Linda was rewarded with a standing ovation from the 300 or so in attendance.
  6. We endured the rainiest vacation week in our 17 years or so of visiting Northern Minnesota.  The first day and a half were warm and sunny, and then, rain, fog, mist, and cold set in.  On the upside, it was some of the best fishing we’ve ever had.
  7. This growing season was notable for the cool summer and long growing season.  We had our first pears and hazelnuts.  We were eating lettuce from the garden up to Dec 6th!
  8. We had the joy to watch Emma seemingly effortlessly switch schools and enter high school as a Freshman.  Emma loves her new friends, band, and basketball. She had an exceptional travel year, with a school trip to Washington DC, and a church trip to Boston.  Both Linda and I wish we were as content and happy as she is when we were in high school.
  9. Claire’s last year at home were full of honors – from earning a trip to the national debate championships in Alabama, to participation in the World Food Prize Symposium.  College searches started in earnest – we appreciate the energy and motivation Claire devotes to her future studies.
  10. Finally, Martin is at age and has a temperament that makes him excited about exploring the world.  With his enthusiasm after reading about it in some books, he and dad tapped maple trees in the yard and made maple syrup.  Martin remains joyful and helpful boy, fully engaged in life.

one year ago…”Burning up the New Year”

December 2, 2009 – Emma’s Woodworking

Emma made a replacement in-counter cutting board for the house.  When we bought the house the pull-out board was in bad shape, so we just threw it out and used smaller counter-top cutting boards until Emma asked us what we wanted her to make in her wood shop class.  Without thinking long at all, we suggested a cutting board.

Here she is with the completed project.  Emma’s hutzpah comes through in this class as she is the only girl in wood shop class.

one year ago…”Bounce”

November 28, 2009 – Emma on the Hardwoods

Emma switched school districts this year to attend a larger school with more opportunities.  She’s getting into the swing of things with a new basketball team.  She plays on the 9th grade team and also has been getting a minutes on JV.

Here, Emma listens to the coach during a TO.

#50 is starting to be a presence in the post.  The 9th grade team has already equaled last year’s season win total in the first two games of this year!  In this JV game, Emma tied for high scoring honors on the team and also contributed three assists.  She’s just a model of health and happiness after the games and practices – she glows a little bit like Rudolph!

one year ago…”Thanksgiving”

November 6, 2009 – New Layers

We were alerted to someone who had brooded more heavy breed  layers than they could accommodate, so we bought 20 pullets just about ready to lay.  We’ll put some of our older hens in the freezer for stewing.

The girls bringing the pullets into the chicken coop.

speckled sussex chicken

One of the more interesting pullets is this Speckled Sussex hen.

band chickens

Each year we band the new chicks with colored zip ties and write the color an year on the wall inside the chicken coop.  So all of this year’s new hens are green, last year’s hens were red, and before that white.  It’s simple and it works well.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #140″

October 21, 2009 – Garlic Planting

When the girls got home from school, I decided it was time to make a rush to get some garlic in the ground.  Garlic is a great crop as it doesn’t need to be put in the ground in the spring.

The garlic cloves, recently separated from their bulbs.

The girls planting a furrow of garlic.  We ended up getting four rows in before the rain started (and is supposed remain for a couple days).  So, if they didn’t get in today, it would probably be at least another week before they got planted.

one year ago…”Mortgage Meltdown and More”

October 2, 2009 – Applesauce Day

I’ll spare you the details of the processing, but today might be a record canning day at high hopes!  The girls spent about three hours peeling apples, and we had some bags of apples in the freezer from earlier maturing trees. We made nine canner’s worth of applesauce.  Apples take a while to cook into sauce, so nine batches is a good day’s output.

You’ll notice that the applesauce is red – we had a bunch of frozen strawberries, frozen cherries, and plenty of raspberries.  So, the applesauce is mixed with those fruits – it is tasty!  The total put up for the day is 28 quart jars, 35 pint jars, and 32 1/2 pint jars which are great for lunches.  All in all, it’s the equivalent of about 53 quarts of applesauce.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), there are still lots of apples left on the trees!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #135″

September 25, 2009 – Photo Friday “the Face”

Photo Friday is a weekly photo challenge that offers up a theme and people post photos about that theme. I’m an intermittent participant, depending on the theme and what’s going on at the farm. This week’s theme is “the face” and my entry this week is one of pure joy from Emma on a whale watching boat in the Atlantic.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #134″

September 19, 2009 – Joint Birthday Parties

Since this is, in theory, Claire’s last birthday at home, the girls decided to have a joint birthday party this year.  Their choice was to each invite 10 friends for an evening of  fun like only high hopes gardens can provide.  The night started out with a taco bar under the tent shelter, adorned with lights for atmosphere later in the night.

Emma moves through the food line.

One of Claire’s gifts was creatively wrapped – there was an exterior layer of tin foil and duct tape, a layer of birthday wrap, a layer of saran wrap, another layer of wrapping paper, followed by a final interior layer of duct tape!

Claire also got a real experience as one gift.  A friend brought some monarch butterflies and tagging materials and showed Claire how to tag Monarch butterflies and release them to fly to Mexico, where her friend had seen the overwintering place last winter.

After some hearty games of capture the flag over the farmstead, it was time for a big bonfire.  Happy 15th and 17th!

one year ago…”Emma’s Birthday Event”

August 20, 2009 – First Day of School

This year the kids all got on the same bus the first day of school!

Although this isn’t the typical portrait, it does show life waiting for the bus circa 2009.  Oldest daughter texting someone.  Young, skinny, boy huddles up trying to stay warm on the unseasonably cool August morning and middle daughter does well to withhold judgment on either of her siblings

Here’s the traditional picture – the girls insist on having April in the picture since she has wandered into so many in the past.

one year ago…”Peach Basket”

August 15, 2009 – Atlantic Whale Watching

More guest blogging from Emma…

I had the opportunity to go to the marine sanctuary outside of Boston to look for whales. We were fortunate enough to see around 6 whales.

A boat that was the exact same kind as the one we took.

The boat ride was very windy and I let down my hair and enjoyed the wind in my hair and the salt spray on my face.

We were lucky enough to see several whales feeding. The birds surround them and pick off fish that rise to the surface. The whales swim under the surface around the ocean and scare the fish to the top and get them there.

We had a truly beautiful sunset while on the boat ride. A humpback whale was kind enough to pose for this shot.

We were farther out enough not to see the city in the sunset.  A parting shot from the boat.

one year ago…”Gun Safety”

August 14, 2009 – New England Dining

Emma’s blogging again today…

While we were in Salem and Boston, we had the chance to eat some really great seafood and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. A little restaurant I really enjoyed was a little seafood place with lots of open air places with a view of the sea. I went for lunch and I liked it so much, I went back for dinner the same day.

Fried clams for lunch.

A devoured plate of mussels. A favorite with the group.

Very delicious spring rolls in a mango sauce. Not exactly seafood, but good all the same.

While at the seafood restaurant,  I tried several new things including lobster, swordfish, and mussels. My personal favorite was the swordfish.

Following a long standing tradition of getting a “vermonster” on the last night, We got three. In less than ten minutes, all there were clean and washed. That’s approximately 60 scopes of ice cream, 16 ladles of hot fudge,  at least 2 containers of whipped cream, a jar of sprinkles, 12 cookies,  and 16 toppings including; gummy bears, bananas, Oreo cookies, and many others. It was, needless to say, very filling. A sweet end to and even better trip.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #128″

August 13, 2009 – Emma Hits Walden Pond

We also went to Walden Pond. It was where Henry David Thoreau chose to live for two years of his life.  He chose to live out of society to see what it was like.

Where his cabin used to be. All that’s left is a pile of stones.

A view from the hiking trail from the beach to the cabin. A very worthwhile walk.  It reminded me a lot of the boundary waters in northern Minnesota because of the lake and the types of trees around it.

And of course, you have to go swimming. The water was some of the clearest water I have ever seen.

one year ago…”What to do with Peaches?”

August 12, 2009 – Emma Around Boston

Emma is guest blogging today and the next few days…

My coming of age youth  group of 27 youth went to Boston recently. We spent a week around the Boston area learning about Unitarian Universalist history and touring around.  It was definitely in the top three best trips I’ve been on.

Paul Revere and Old North church.

The oldest organ in Boston, inside Old North Church.

These represent fallen soldiers in the war memorial garden.

We toured the house where Little Women was written. I never knew how many famous  people the Alcottt’s knew.

The now beautiful site of the very first battle of the revolutionary war.

one year ago…”More Fruit”

July 31, 2009 – Midwest Living Photo Shoot

Thursday and Friday a crew from Midwest Living magazine descended on the farm.

At a photo shoot like this, they leave very little to chance, including bringing their own potted sunflowers.

They also bring various hard good props (in case we don’t have enough junky old stuff lying around)!

On Friday, they started at sunrise. Martin was game.  His only complaint was the rare near-record July 31 cold – he’s in a short sleeve shirt and others are wearing jackets

Martin was accompanied by a female model who also came in to participate in the shoot.

On the farm, you never know when you’ll be surprised by some animal, in this case, an early-rising hen to the delight of the kids.

The photographers checking out the shots in the living room later in the day.

Next it was Emma’s turn.  Her job was to water the sunflowers!

The crew setting up for another shot.  The people who came were extremely good to work with.  They worked well with the children and took wandering dogs, chickens, and the like all in stride.  Martin and Emma made money as models and high hopes did get a site fee as well.  Kudos to the Midwest Living folks for making a good shoot.  So look for us in an issue of Midwest Living next summer.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #126″

July 17, 2009 – Rain, Rain

I put the following pictures up as a warning to anyone thinking of coming to Kawishiwi Lodge or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area – don’t visit here!  The glossy, sunny pictures are only part of the story – rain, mosquitoes, and wind await you (I don’t want this area to be overrun with tourists)!

This is pretty much the view most of the week – intermittent rain showers followed by a period of just wind without rain showers.

On one foray out, Martin is in the bow and Emma hunches over in the middle of the canoe to stay dry.

The temperatures the 2nd half of the week struggled to reach 55 degrees. On a foray out to an island for lunch, Martin seeks shelter of a rock against the wind and balsam tree against the rain to eat his lunch.

Did I mention the mosquitoes?  Here’s Claire’s solution to keeping the bugs at bay.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #124″

July 15, 2009 – Touring Tower Soudan Underground Mine

When it rains, it’s time to do some touristy indoor things, or in this case, underground tours.  The Tower-Soudan underground mine is now a state park and you go down the original mineshaft about a half-mile underground.

Here Martin plays with a toy model of the elevator shafts that show how the two shafts counterbalance each other.

Here’s an OSHA-approved open pulley and belt in the crushing room (not operational since the 1960’s)!

Donning hard hats, we’re ready to go down the shaft. Instead of the historical mining tour, we took the science/physics tour this time.  The mine is an ideal place for some types of experiments since the half-mile of overhead rock shields out many particles.

Here is one of the main rooms in the physics lab.  The large hexagonal thing near the center is the The MINOS (Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search) Far Detector is a 6,000 ton particle tracking device that is observing neutrinos sent from Fermilab, which is near Chicago.  MINOS tries to precisely determine mass differences among neutrinos, 3 of the 12 fundamental building blocks of matter.

Another experiment is The CDMS 2 (Cryogenic Dark Matter Search) Detector that seeks traces of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) that might comprise a significant fraction of Dark Matter. This baby is cold – at 0.02 degrees kelvin, about -460.  We all knew it could get cold in northern Minnesota, but -460?

One of the most fascinating objects is the mural on the right that depicts humanity’s search for the building blocks of matter.  It is so bizarre to see a large mural a half-mile underground.

one year ago…”Willow Nursery on Track”

June 20, 2009 – Emma’s First 5k

Since school got out, Emma has been steadfast about running every day. There’s a tractor path that runs a mile through the fields over to a neighbor’s, so she doesn’t have to run on the roads. The Rose Festival in State Center was today and Emma ran in her first 5k.

She ran hard and finished in 2nd place in her first 5k.  Now she’s really raised the bar for future events!

one year ago…”Visitors from Afar”

June 13, 2009 – Emma at Dorian Music Camp at Luther College

This last week, Emma was at Dorian music camp at Luther College in Decorah.  She has been practicing faithfully and it paid off for her as she earned second chair.

Here she is after the performance.  The concerts are wonderful – there are choir, jazz band, orchestra, and concert band performances.  In addition to practicing for the concert six hours each day, there are other classes – one that Emma was unsure of, but that she enjoyed, was a modern ballet dance class.  As a parent, it is rewarding to be able to expose your children to excellence in their craft and watch them explore new endeavors.

Both grandmas came to watch the concert as well.

one year ago…”Statewide Flooding”

May 22, 2009 – Chimenia

The cousins from Minneapolis came down for Memorial Day weekend.

That means it’s time to take out the chimenia once again.  We burned wood from some dead branches we cut up after using the chain saw, tractor loader, and two brothers to get down.

The chimenia is great for roasting marshmallows to a golden brown (check out Emma’s).  I like the chimenia since it is portable, it can be moved around the yard, depending on the wind and not leave a burned spot on the ground.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #119″

February 16, 2009 – Tank’s a Mommy

Tank finally had her lambs. She had triplets – each of them seems very vigourous. The previous triplet birth last week, we eventually lost the runt of the batch, but we’re hopeful about these three.

These seem to have perhaps a Romanoff or other Daddy ram as they have more curly fur than their barnmates. After a few more days alone, we’ll finally get all the ewes and lambs together in one spot.

one year ago…”Thinking Ahead to Spring”

February 5, 2008 – First Lambs Arrive!

The first lambs arrived today! Linda found them probably about a half-hour after they were born – what looks like triplet ewe-lambs!

Two of them are good-sized, but one is small.

“Baby,” the smallest one, took a turn downhill about an hour after birth.  She looked dead. We brought her into the house, put her on a heating pad, tubed her (put a tube down her throat to get some milk in her to get her kick-started).

A short while later, she showed signs of wanting to live again, and once she was strong enough to stand up, she’s better off with Mom, to get the important colostrum, so she headed back out to the barn. Thank goodness the cold weather broke and the night is only supposed to get down into the 20’s and in the 40’s most of the next 5 days.

one year ago…”Ordering Seeds”

January 21, 2009 – Emma at State Honor Band

Emma was selected to participate in an honor band day at Simpson College yesterday.

The group practiced all day and played a concert in the evening.  The first time the band played together, Emma thought, “Wow, this sounds really good.”  And she was right – take the top players from around the state and throw them together and it indeed does sound good and it gives the kids a chance to meet and hear great middle school players from around the state.

As long as we are on kids for the day, Martin won the character of the month honor from his class of the “Caring” pillar.  Good job Martin!

one year ago…”Snowbanks”

December 26, 2008 – Day after Christmas On the Beach!

Here we are on the beach!  Off the photo to the right is a lifeguard stand that says “No Lifeguard on Duty.”  We went out into the lake nonetheless.

After we left Grandpa Dave’s we stopped by a nearby lake to run around before the four hour trip home. It’s always dicey driving across the Midwest in December.  On Christmas Eve Day we left, but barely got out as the winds were howling at 40 mph and we needed the tractor to clear the driveway and wait for the plow to come to escape the drifts.

The way home was warm (it was 58 in Des Moines today, only 1 degree cooler than Phoenix!) but as we headed south, we ran into near zero visibility in the dense fog.

one year ago…”Winter Visitors”

December 13, 2008 – Lumberjacking Christmas Tree

[begin rant] There are few things I maintain a fundamentalist attitude about – Christmas trees are one.  I know all the arguments for artificial trees and some of them have merit (I live in a small apartment, I’m unable to go get a tree because of age or disability), but convenience is one I just don’t buy!

If once a year it’s too much of a bother to select a tree and clean up the needles, then why not dispense with other Christmas items as well?  Exchange cash instead of gifts – it would be much more convenient not to go shopping and wrapping.  Buy Christmas cookies at the store instead of homemade – that would be more convenient.  I just think the trees, which are one of the oldest holiday traditions, get the short stick.  [end rant].

The selection process is the longest part of the Christmas tree experience.

Heave-ho and out of the Christmas tree farm goes the tree.  This may be the last year we have to drive to get a Christmas tree.  Now that we are growing our own, next year our trees may be large enough for us to cut our own home-grown tree.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #99″

November 28, 2008 – Thanksgiving

We motored up to Rochester for Thanksgiving. Mom ended up with a houseful – about 20 folks all together.

This photo reveals some of the day’s elements – Emma counted 13 different desserts, cousin brought a great selection of microbrews from Madison, we brought a turkey and cousins got to run around like maniacs.  Lots of time to catch up and eat well!

one year ago…”I Never Wait Until the Last Minute ; ) “.

November 16, 2008 – Pulling Glads

Even though it was a cold, blustery day, it was time to get the gladiolas out of the garden.  It’s always a cold blustery day when the glads come up.  This year Emma was drafted to help.

Poor April doesn’t know she was caught unceremoniously squatting in this photo.

Emma shows off a couple of glad bulbs.  Many people just buy new each year, but we dig ours up as we increase our supply as the bulbs often multiply.  After a few days in the house, we’ll pull last year’s shriveled bulb off the bottom of these, wipe the dirt off, make sure they are dry, and put them in the basement for the winter.  If we were really ambitious, we could pull the little round bulbs off and grow those up too, but we’ll just let those go.

one year ago…”Making Money the Old Fashioned Way”.

October 20, 2008 – Garlic Planting

Today was a “must plant” garlic day.  The weather is forecast for a turn to the very wet and cold and I’m not sure it would dry out before November.  The last few weekend’s “free time” has been spent scraping and painting the house.

This year we are working with another farmer who sells garlic to Wheatsfield Co-op in Ames and he anticipates a much larger demand for garlic after the co-op moves into a much larger building next year.  We bought some of the garlic that he markets and we will grow it and he will market it.  It’s a tiny conenction in a local food network as a number of other farmers are participating in this informal arrangement.

The first job is to remove all the cloves from the garlic.

The second job is to recruit some help to plant the garlic.

The tractor is priceless in making the trenches to plant the garlic – digging the trenches used to be backbreaking work before. Here the kids get down to planting.  I’ll mulch the rows sometime in the next few weeks.

one year ago…”Final Thoughts on Mexican Immersion”.

October 12, 2008 – House Painting

We had hoped to get new siding on the house relatively soon, but it is no longer in the budget, so the overdue house painting begins.  Keep your fingers crossed that it is the last time to paint the house.  It is much easier than the last time because there is new siding on the 3rd floor and new soffits on the main house.

In this photo the left side has the first coat while Emma works on scraping the the other side (and you can see she is doing a fine job!  Linda is painting the porch.  We probably won’t be able to get the whole house done before cold weather sets in, but we’ll at least try to get most of two sides done.

one year ago…”Mexico City”.

September 28, 2008 – Octemberfest Parade

This is the obligatory town celebration weekend of the year for Marshalltown, called “Octemberfest.”

Here the drum major of the Bobcat marching band leads them town main street.

Have you ever soon a better group of tubas?

The clarinet section leader keeps the players in line!

Emma’s school at West Marshall recently revived their marching band and participated this year.

Emma and some other 8th graders walk behind the high school band – their official title “Band Aids” and their job was to help load equipment etc.

one year ago…”Duct Tape Homecoming Dress”.

September 22, 2008 – Apple Peeling, 2008 Style

The latest round of apple-peeling was assigned to the girls and they approached it 2008 style.

They dragged out an extension cord, a clock radio that has an IPod docking station and an IPod player to help pass the time.  I much prefer the IPod in the docking station to the earbuds, even if that means I can hear music that I might not have picked.  Got to keep the help happy, productive, and talking to each other!

one year ago…”Marshall County Sheriff “takes out” Martin”.

September 19, 2008 – Emma’s Birthday Event

Both the young ladies in our family celebrated birthdays this week.  Emma’s choice of a party is encapsulated below.

Good friends, a fire in the chimenia, a tent to sleep in all together, and a long night of fire watching and talking.  A bonus was the new mini-horse cart that the girls got for their birthday, along with the harness tack.  They had fun pulling each other around, to heck with the horse!

one year ago…”Banquet Flowers”.

August 30, 2008 – Honey Extraction

Today was honey extraction day.

Martin, GJ, and Linda donned their beekeeper’s suits and robbed the honey.  Here Martin helps smoke out the bees before GJ takes off a super.

A beautiful frame full of honey.

The newest addition to the honey extraction process is an electric uncapping knife – it worked spendidly removing the wax tops from the frames.

Emma shows off an uncapped frame, ready for the extractor.

We use a manual extractor, just put in four frames and turn the hand crank, wait for it to stop spinning, flip the frames around and repeat the spin.

Martin’s job is to run the honey gate at the bottom of the extractor to filter the honey through a couple of filters.  It’s always a hot job as the room should be 85-95 degrees to allow the honey to flow more freely through the extraction process.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #86″

August 18, 2008 – 1st Day of School for Emma & Martin

Today was the first day of school for Emma and Martin.

If you ask me, August 18, is too early to go back to school, especially with a school that has some buildings that are not air conditioned and we’ve been let out in August in the past for “heat days.”

We’ve lucked out lately as the weather has turned normal and dry..

one year ago…”First Big Canning Day of the Year”

August 4, 2008 – Oppressive Weather

The last few days have been off the charts as far as uncomfortable weather is concerned.

Here’s a screen capture from the Weather Underground showing the conditions on Sunday afternoon – the temperature is not unusual, but the 0 mph wind with a 81 degree dewpoint is off the charts.  I tried to look up the highest all-time dewpoint in Iowa as I can not remember it ever over 80 before. I didn’t find the Iowa record, but I did find the highest dewpoint in 102 years in Minnesota was 81. I’m assuming it wouldn’t be much different in Iowa because southern Minnesota is practically Iowa as far as landscape and crops.

Here’s the chart that lists human comfort and dewpoints:

Dew Point    Human Perception
>75°F              Extremely uncomfortable, oppressive
70 – 74°F        Very humid, quite uncomfortable
65 – 69°F        Somewhat uncomfortable for most people at upper edge
60 – 64°F        OK for most, but all perceive the humidity at upper edge
55 – 59°F        Comfortable
50 – 54°F        Very comfortable
<49°F             A bit dry for some

Many people wonder why the Midwest can be more humid than the coasts and tropics – how exactly does warm, moist gulf air increase in moisture after traveling 1,000 miles?  The answer is corn.  At this time of year, corn transpires enormous quantities of water through its leaves.  Even in the weather forecaster discussion, the evapotranspiration of corn is factored into the weather forecast during the height of evapotranspiration season.

I’ve been working in the basement the last few days, adding insulation to the sill plates and under the floor below an unheated basement room.

one year ago…”Gourd Tunnel”

July 22, 2008 – Hosting Costa Ricans at High Hopes

As part of the Costa Rican exchange, after our visit to Costa Rica agricultural sites this past February, the Ticos are now visiting Iowa and it is our turn to reciprocate for the warm welcome we received.

The stage is set for dinner and dancing – it turned out to be a perfect July evening – in the 70’s with a dry north breeze.

Here’s the group that is visting Iowa.  Four of the members of the group we met in Costa Rica, the others are new to us.

Here “Lonna and the Pretty Good Band” start the evening off right after a dinner of iowa sweet corn, watermelon, hot dogs, rice and beans, and strawberry, apple, and cherry crisps and cobblers from fruit from the farm.

Lonna, the caller, started us out easy in a circle dance.  Despite the language barrier for some dancers, they would quickly catch on the the steps and as music and dancing are a universal language, there was much laughter and levity.

Whoo! The circle comes together!

Annie, our neighborhood piano tuner and musician arranged the band for us.

Lonna did the calling for the dancers.

Swing your partner.

Heel to toe and ’round again.  Emma kicks off her shoes and enjoys a dance.

Martin was very popular with the ladies and danced every dance in good form.

As the band played into the evening, the shadows fell as the music went on.

For those of you with Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer, you can click the icon above to see 15 seconds of the dancing with Ticos, complete with music!

one year ago…”Dilly Beans”

July 11, 2008 – Young Girls and Moms Overnight

The last few years we’ve been sending a crew of four for an overnight and two long days away from the cabin.  This year it was the moms and younger girls who set out. It seems more to the way of the wilderness to go with a smaller party, rather than dragging 9 people on one outing.

Canoes all packed, ready to embark on the trip.

The portage is where the young girls show their mettle – here Kate is carrying the Duluth Pack from one lake to the next over a trail.  This was the first year that Emma carried the canoe by herself on a portage as well!

Trip leaders extraordinaire Linda and Lori congratulate themselves on raising girls to the helpful portage age.

Emma readies the bear tree rock – ready to heave it over a high branch to store the food pack high off the ground and away from hungry black bears.

Once camp is set, it’s time to relax and take in some sunshine and solitude.

Morning comes early sleeping on the ground, but having other grounds along perks up the morning.

The channel between Lake Two and Lake Three (there are evidently so many lakes, they grew tired of naming them, or ran out of names).

A morning paddle break and consulting the maps for progress on the journey back to the cabin.

A new canoe this year for Kate and Lori to paddle – along with our black Bell – they were dubbed salt and pepper on the trip, even though ours is named “leech.”

Linda at the helm, maneuvering the canoe back home.

one year ago…”Soudan Underground Mine Tour”

July 8, 2008 – Swimming and Biking in the Northwoods

Swimming is by far one of the highlights of the trip for the kids.

By the boathouse is a dock that is high off the water and most excellent for jumping into the lake both backwards…

and frontwards…

and with a goofy look on your face. The kids enjoy hours jumping into the water here.

I dragged Emma away from the lake long enough for a tortuous bike ride over the boulders, loose rock, and gravel of an old logging road that leads right from the cabin. We biked miles and never came to the end.

Some of the hills were very steep and Emma and I both took turns losing our grip on the trail near the bottom of steep hills that curved at the bottom.  We both came up uninjured.

The wild strawberries weren’t quite as large as the ones back home, but sure tasted good back deep in the woods on the bike ride.

one year ago…”Road Trip!”

July 7, 2008 – Settling in at Kawishiwi Lodge

Yesterday was a big travel day – 10 hours in the van to Kawishiwi Lodge only a few miles south of Canada, literally at the end of the road near Ely, MN.  We like the place as it is the only resort that sits on a BWCA Wilderness lake and therefore are no motorboats, jet skis, or even air traffic over the area.  The kids can swim in the lake and canoe without worrying about propellers or wakes.

Everyone thought the minivan is as sporty as it can look with the black canoe up on top.

Emma is eager with anticipation as she helps unload the canoe from the top of the van.

Here’s home for most of the week.

Cabin 10 has been our home the past few years since the kids grew up and it was harder to share a cabin with another family.

Linda unpacks the food inside the cabin.  Most of the lumber is cut and sawn right at the resort at the resort’s own sawmill.

one year ago…”Garlic Harvest Begins”

June 28, 2008 – Des Moines Art Festival

Since Aunti Julie was here this weekend, we went to the Des Moines Art Fair.

Here Martin is amazed by a contraption that moves balls around a series of loops, falls, twists and turns.

You might recognize this guy from the July 21st Wind Turbine Dedication – one week at high hopes gardens, the next at the art fair!

The neices and nephew with auntie!

Linda seldom sees something that strikes her fancy – this artist, Mark Orr, had a series of ravens bearing keys in their mouths and Linda could not resist!  Here she is with the artist.

Here is the raven on its new perch in the living room near the front door.  One of the symbolisms of the raven and the key is the opening of doors and the welcoming of positive change into our lives.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #78″

June 27, 2008 – Chickens Need Rethinking

The loss of our local chicken locker threw us for a loop this year.  Instead of driving 20 minutes away and taking the chickens with us when we left, the closest other locker is an hour and 20 minutes away and we needed to take two trips, once to drop them off, then another to pick them up the next day.

The chicken raising business is perhaps the riskiest and least profitable enterprise we do.  Feed went up 25%, butchering cost doubled, and we used $70 in gas just to drop off and pick up the chickens at the locker.  I dropped them off on Wednesday and because of the longer trip to locker than usual and heat while we were waiting in line to start, we started losing chickens waiting in line.  I think we lost seven of the largest ones as they are most prone to overheat. Another person waiting with us had the same problem, but we were able to move about 50 of her chickens from her horse trailer to the empty box of the pickup.

The next episode was when Linda picked them up the next day – a storm had moved through the town before Linda arrived and power was out at the locker.  The locker owner understandably did not want to open the locker doors with the power off, because he wanted to keep as much cold in the locker while the power was off.  So more waiting while waiting for power to be restored.

We dropped about half the frozen chickens off with customers and kept the rest as a 50-50 mix between frozen and fresh for ourselves.  So this morning Linda and Emma worked on cutting up the chickens in meal-sized portions for quick winter meals.

We’ve been debating doing on-farm butchering, and the cost associated with the locker, the gas to drive there and the eight hours of time driving and waiting at the locker (not counting waiting for power to be restored) push us to think about that direction.

one year ago…”Milestones”

June 15, 2008 – Emma At ISU Basketball Camp

Emma got a break from basement pumping for three days (it finally stopped late last night) and went to Ames for Iowa State Women’s basketball camp.

Here’s Emma with some teammates from her school and head coach Bill Fennelly – one of the most beloved and successful coaches in the country – Bill’s got a .707 winning percentage, his team drew more fans last year than the University of Iowa MEN’s team and has made the post-season 11 of his 13 years at ISU. A new athletic director came in a few years ago and fired the men’s basketball coach, fired the football coach, and gave Coach a lifetime contract!

Here’s Emma with one of her position coaches for the week – Toccara Ross, one of the post players for ISU. Her other coach was Nicky Weiben. Does Emma look happy!

Emma is tall, but next to 6′ 4″ Jocelyn Anderson, she has some growing to do! Emma had a great time and looks forward to a exhibiting a whole new bag of tricks next season.

one year ago…”It’s hot, must be haymaking time”

June 8, 2007 – I’m Crying Uncle Now – More Storms

OK, Uncle. I said it. Anyone listening who can do something about it? This morning was the third time huddled in the basement for storms this week (and would have been four for me as I wished I was in the basement when stopped along the road during another fierce storm on Tuesday).

Some years we never have to take shelter in the basement, but three times this week alone! I beginning to wonder about the logic that if we attacked Iraq because they might have had weapons of mass destruction, might we also pretend that global climate change might be real and do something about it? The last year has been killer here – first the huge ice storm a year ago March, then the winter that never ended and brought storm upon storm, and now this spring that looks like in many places will top the summer of 93 floods and has brought record amounts of tornadoes.

Today’s damage photos consist of a partial collapse in the wind at Leon’s feed mill in Melbourne – 3 miles away. The debris broke a gas line and forced evacuation of the surrounding neighborhood for a while.

Also, about two miles away, this is all that is left of a construction trailer. It used to rest on the blocks in the foreground. Earlier in the week it blew over in a storm and they put it back up – but this morning it was ripped to pieces.

But I’m saving the worst for last – our basement. It started leaking about 9:30 this morning and I stayed home from church to deal with it. It was uneventful as flooded basements go until another round of storms knocked out power for about a half-hour. This is only the 2nd time in 11 years we’ve had any water in the basement. About 12 hours later, we’ll still pumping and it could be a long night – another downpour moved through in the afternoon – we’ve got two floor drains and they are both accumulating water, so we’ve got two pumps going. We seldom have water as the house is on the crest of a hill.

As if that isn’t enough – something is out of whack on the turbine. Our installer was out in a matter of hours after getting the call that it was acting funky. It was too windy to drop the turbine when he was out here to look at it (45 mph gusts), so he’ll bring another one with him this week and either fix the one that is not working correctly or put up a new one. Not sure what’s wrong – perhaps it’s out of balance as it strongly vibrates -perhaps some debris hit the blades in one of the storms – we’ll know more later this week.

one year ago…”Strawberry Season”

June 7, 2008 – A Rare Storm-Free Day

Today was a rare storm-free day. It was windy so it was a great day to fly kites.

Martin and Emma lay on the ground as their kites soar above. For me, it was a big outside work day – continuing to haul storm debris and getting some of the thistles mowed down in the back pasture before they bud out. Linda wondered why I was so driven and I replied it was the first day in a long time that I had a day to work.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #75″

June 6, 2008 – More Girl Skills

A little bit ago, Emma learned to change oil, now her job is to change a tire. It isn’t exactly an intuitive thing, so we had her change one at home under Dad supervision.

We had her find where all the parts were hidden (and helped me verify that they were all there on the “new” car). Here Emma raises the car up with the jack.

Loosening the tire nuts is always the most difficult part and these needed a little extension to break them loose.

Finally, the tire comes off – we put the spare on just to make sure it held air and we put everything back. We’ve driven a bit since Emma did this and no wheels fell off, which is much better than the guys at the local Wal-Mart auto shop. A local mechanic said he’s heard of five vehicles fresh out of the Wal-Mart garage that didn’t have the tires on right and they fell off while people were driving away, sometimes at highway speeds. Fortunately no one was injured.

one year ago…”Corn Transfer”

May 28, 2008 – New Car for the Girls!

I’ve been looking for a few months for a car for the girls to drive (very soon I hope!) and finally found one that looked like a good deal! I thought I’d use it as an opportunity to get a 4wd vehicle as we don’t have any all-wheel drive cars, and sure could use one on occasion (like all of last winter). My top choice was a Subaru Outback as they are all-wheel drive and get 30 mpg on the highway and will be easy for the girls to maneuver.

This 1996 model was purchased from Rochester Ford within the budget and I have 7 days to check it out.

one year ago…”Memorial Day 2007″

May 23, 2008 – Oil Change Girl

Ok, farm girls need many skills! One of group of skills consists of basic mechanical and maintenance tasks.

It was time to have Emma do her first oil change. An oil change is a big step in a young teen’s life, if nothing else, to get to do something very few of her classmates have done. Here she is grasping the oil drain plug while she watches the old oil pour out of the oil pan.

The oil filter coming off is always messy!

Finally adding the new oil. We even let Emma try to work the clutch in the yard a few times to get ready to drive in a few years!

one year ago…”Gearing Up for Soap Making”

May 18, 2008 – A Stroll in the Park

One of our favorite parks in central Iowa is Ledges State Park, just a bit west of Ames. The landscape is very rugged where Peas Creek goes through a small canyon on the way to the Des Moines river.

The creek has a mostly sandy bottom, and seldom gets over waist-deep, so it is great for kids to hike down along the cliffs and winding course of the creek.

The swallows were swarming like something out of a Hitchcock movie on this cliff face, where if you look closely, can see a number of nests below the first ledge from the top.

The road crosses over the creek at numerous places, and there are “steps” to walk across if you don’t want to get wet feet. Martin was a bit hesitant to jump, so takes the 4-wheel approach to crossing (stop wondering why his pants wear out at the knees!). In the warm days of summer, kids stand on these blocks and urge the cars to drive through quickly, as to make a big splash and douse them with water.

Closer by the river, this pole marks the high-water marks over the years. The top placard, of course, represents the water level during the legendary Midwestern floods of 1993. Linda and I went canoeing in those waters and passed very near this pole in our canoe.

one year ago…”Garden in Full Swing”

May 17, 2008 – First 80 Degree Day in 6 Months

Today it reached 80 degrees for the first time in about six months. The first 80 degree day is usually in mid-April, not mid-May. It was like a blast furnace, along with a 30 mph wind – clothes on the line dried in about 15 minutes, much faster than the dryer.

We got six lambs today – here’s three of them, appreciative of the lush grass, so appreciative that the one on the right is leaving a fertilizer deposit!

The starts look good – they are outside hardening off before getting planted – here is a flat of celosia.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #72″

April 16, 2008 – Milo and Fern

We’ve been anxiously awaiting Nellie’s first birthing experience as first timers can have problems until they figure it out. Paullina gave birth 2 1/2 weeks ago. Here are Milo and Fern – a girl and boy. They are very small but seem like they might be ok. Nellie has an “oh shi#*” look in her eyes, but seems to be licking the kids and murmering to them in the proper goat way.

Here they are a few hours after birth, Fern on the left, Milo on the right.

Compared to their barn mate Solo (being held by Emma) they are shrimps. Solo was born 17 days ago and was not a multiple birth and so he looks like a giant.
one year ago…”New Driveway Gravel”

April 8, 2008 – In the Bag

I have another scrounging success story.  I saw bags like this giant bulk bag outside a local feed mill.  It looked like they were throwing them away.  They were, so I picked up a few.  I think they are called spout bags.  These bags carried one ton of dried whey.

You may notice the round cut-out on the bottom of the bag – there is a sleeve that a sheet of hard black plastic slips into, as to regulate product pouring out of the bottom of the bag (or not, if it remains closed).  The bags have heavy duty straps on top (after all, the bag held 2,000 pounds of whey) and a couple of straps and fabric to enclose the tops of the bags.  They are envisioned to be used for storing the corn cobs we have lying around and they’ll be good to store and transport wood chips for future tree planting.  All I need are a couple of forks to attach to the loader bucket and I’ll be able to easily move them.  The price is right!
one year ago…”Easter Day”

March 23, 2008 – Happy Easter

Happy Easter from our house to yours.

Here are the kids in front of the completed lamb cake.  Some smartie pants dropped some raisins at the side of the cake opposite the head!

I remember this gizmo as a kid, but can’t remember the name.  Anyone?  It is magnetized and the blue bunny spins around the outer and inner edges of the metal wand continuously if you have the knack.

one year ago…”Guest Lecture”

March 22, 2008 – Snow…

Last night we got a light dusting of snow – enough to make everything white again.

It all melted in a day, but was still a bit of a bummer on Easter Weekend.  To the north, there was up to 10 inches of snow, so I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

It was a good day to make and frost the lamb cake – Nana was down and led the charge on the Easter goodies.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #64″

February 19, 2008 – Things Are Better for Our Kids!

As parents, we’d like our kids to have it as good or better than we did as kids.  While going through some old photos, we ran across this photo of the champions of the Danny Hauer Tournament Feb 15, 1973. So this week is the 35th anniversary of that team!

Everybody in my family seems to think that #22 isn’t exactly stylin’!  Hey, I’m not the only one who is wearing black socks, but I am perhaps most ready to fjord across a stream without getting my shorts wet!

Here’s a photo of the offspring of #22 35 years later.  I think most people would agree, Emma has it going on much more so than her father, at least on the basketball court!

one year ago…”I’m Melting”

January 5, 2008 – Rain in the Desert

The unseasonal weather held off until our last day.  Rain. I was tempted to stay in the house and read or just be lazy, but I ended up walking over to Cathedral Rock to see if the rain brought another mood to the landscape.

Here’s a wet prickly pear cactus with drops of water – a welcome event.

The kids spent some time in the hot tub in the back yard – they used the umbrella usually used for sun as a rain umbrella.

Cathedral Rock in the rain.

The beginnings of dry washes filling up with water.

It was such a neat time to see the water cascading off the red rocks, that I called the kids on the cell phone and told them to walk down to meet me.  They, too got to have a good time – we just followed one dry wash up the mountain and came down another, exploring all the ephemeral pools and small waterfalls.

The whole family, dressed in various clothes depending on age and sensibilities – from Martin in his winter coat to Emma in a T-shirt!

one year ago…

January 4, 2008 – Hanging Around Sedona

After a bit of driving the last few days, today we stuck to Sedona to look around.  Our first stop was Red Rock Crossing, which was just around Cathedral Rock from our house, but about a 20 minute drive by car because there just aren’t that many roads, and only one crosses Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona.

The first treasures we came upon were a group of rock cairns down by the creek.  Originally constructed for trail markers in remote areas, they seem to pop up in many places, and once you see one, you want to make one yourself.  Soon a village of cairns appears.  But not to worry – the next big rain will knock them all down and the cycle will repeat itself – we like to think of it as biodegradable folk art!

Here the kids start building their own.

Martin ponders, well, I’m not sure what he is pondering, but it looks like a good place to do it!

Here’s our entire group – it was fun to have both grandmas join us on this trip.

You might remember Emma up in a tree at Sunset Crater a few days ago – here she is at it again (with Martin in training behind her!)

Later in the day we hiked up Long Canyon trail and Emma found another tree over a dry wash.

one year ago…

January 3, 2008 – The Grand Canyon

No trip to Northern Arizona would be complete without a look-see inside the Grand Canyon!

This is the view from the south room near the Desert View observation station. With an elevation of 7,000 feet, the rim of the canyon is not warm in January, but the crowds are not so overwhelming.

Oh, the horrors of the abyss!

We even saw some obligitory wildlife, including this cow elk along the road to Hermit’s Rest.

I don’t get to post many photos of Linda and I unless we’re on vacation, so here’s another one.  This was my third trip to the canyon – a few years ago with Linda and back in college on a geology field trip we hiked to the bottom.  To this day, the orange I ate upon getting back to the top was the most flavorful and delightful “meal” I’ve ever enjoyed!

one year ago…

January 2, 2008 – Cathedral Rock, Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot

Linda and I started the day with a pre-breakfast hike to Cathedral Rock.

The trail to the top was very steep and we elected to go back for breakfast rather than go to the top!

The earth-colored arrow shows the location of the house we rented for the week – on the Back-o-Beyond road, with stunning views of Cathedral Rock.

We drove south today to visit Montezuma’s Castle, another ruin of cliff-dwellers.

Linda and sis yak it up with the park ranger.

The view from another ruin – this time from the top of Tuzigoot National Monument.

Emma and Nana through a window of the ruin.

Mark and Linda at the top of Tuzigoot.

one year ago…

January 1, 2008 – Paint in a Petrified New Year!

Today was another day along the new Route 66, I-40 in Northern Arizona.

The first stop was Walnut Canyon, site of more ruins of cliff-dwellers (visible in the distance just above Emma’s elbow).  The trail to the ruins was closed by a recent large rockslide and boulders.  The national parks geo-hazard team was on the way to assess the possible remedies.  I asked the ranger why wouldn’t they just dynamite the trail clear?  Evidently, they think that blowing stuff up might damage the ruins in the canyon, either from the blast or continuing journey of the house-sized boulders further down the canyon!  So we were limited to the rim trail.

Next stop was the Painted Desert National Park.

These badlands are brightly colored and a delight to the eye.

Nana and Emma and Martin pose in front of the Painted Desert Inn, now a National Landmark.  When the building was originally built, the walls were composed of pieces of petrified wood.  A later renovation covered the original walls with a layer of earth-colored abode – but they were mindful to leave one section unplastered in adobe so the original could still be viewed.

The badlands really vary in colors from many shades of red to grays and blues.

Finally, a six year old’s dream playground – petrified logs as old as dinosaurs! Here Martin contemplates the series of geological events that had to happen to bring these fossilized logs to the surface.

Martin and Emma pose on “Old Faithful” the largest petrified log in the park.

A cross section reveals a galaxy of colors.  In brief, the petrified wood was formed when big trees fell in a huge river and washed down to the delta.  All the leaves and branches were stripped away on the tumbling journey.  They came to rest and were buried by more mud and the final, necessary piece was a layer of ash from a distant volcano.  Then, through time the minerals from the ash and mud above replaced the cellulose one cell at a time.  The petrified logs were then uplifted and the surroundings washed away to be revealed 225 million years later.
one year ago…

December 31, 2007 – Oak Creek Canyon, Sunset Crater & Wupatki

The day dawned clear, crisp and cold.

The first stop was Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon. A great natural playground of water, red rocks, deep pools, and smooth red rocks.

Another view of Oak Creek.

Fifteen miles upstream is the top of the canyon wall. Oak Creek is at the bottom of the canyon.

At a Coconino Forest Overlook there were artisans selling their wares. In the middle of the picture, Emma is trying to decide what to buy.

North of Flagstaff is Sunset Crater National Monument. This is the cinder cone of a volcanic eruption “only” 1000 years ago. It’s a little like Hawaii in the winter!

A few pioneer trees have started to grow in the ash. Emma decides to climb up for a better view!

The other direction from Sunset Crater is this view of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest point in Arizona at 12,000+ feet just north of Flagstaff.

These are the biggest ruins at Wupatki National Monument. It was the biggest structure for about 50 miles around at the time of the eruptions at Sunset Crater.

This is another ruin near the Wupatki ruin, the Wukoki Pueblo. These were occupied in the 1100s – about the same time as the Crusades in Europe, to give some Western Civilization context. We had a hard time thinking about living in these dry, windy treeless areas as a home camp.

A shot of some happy travelers at the end of a good, long, day!
one year ago…

December 30, 2007 – Superstition Mountains

Today was a travel day – Des Moines to Phoenix via Chicago. Since most of our time will be spent in northern Arizona and when the kids think of the Arizona desert, they think of the Sonoran Desert, land of giant Sugaro cactus. So we ventured immediately to Lost Dutchman State Park, just east of Phoenix to view the Sonoran Desert.

I think this is a small Sugaro cactus Marty is hiding behind. The kid is so excited for this trip!

Marty and Emma pose by some mature Sugaro cactus in front of the Superstition Mountains.

Emma examines a plant very unlike any near to her home – a jumping cholla – looking very fuzzy this time of year. After a quick late lunch and grocery shopping stop, we headed to our lodging in Sedona.
one year ago…

December 25, 2007 – Animals out on Christmas Day!

Before a hearty Christmas meal, we hit a trail to do some skiing.

Here’s something you don’t see every day – Martin losing his balance upon seeing a cow crossing an old railroad trestle!

In addition to the cows we saw earlier, this friendly white dog found the girls and accompanied them for the trip. The dog followed us all the way to the van and looked longingly at us as we drove away. At least he had some Christmas companions for part of the day!

The girls and I went out for a moonlight walk across the fields.  The fields are mostly all ice, with the recent snow all in drifts along fence rows and in our yard!  The night was calm and we trudged around for a mile or so to places we usually never go, and when I got back home, started playing around with the new camera – here’s a shot of a snowdrift in front of the hog barn.
one year ago…

November 3, 2007 – Child Labor!

Today was another milestone on the hog barn project.  The roof was finished today!

But, oh, the agony, as the girls complained when they were “invited” to help by cleaning up the waste from torn-off roof from the ground and sort the asphalt shingles into the trailer for the landfill and wood into the loader bucket for the burn pile.  But to their credit, they did.

one year ago…

September 14, 2007 – I Never Said “Over My Dead Body!”

This might look like the girls are out on the road taking the dog for a walk.  But it is a moment Emma thought would never come – the day a horse came to the farm!

The person we bought it from (The Jolly Rancher) preferred not to turn around her horse trailer in our yard, but was kind enough to bring it to the beginning of the gravel road, 1/3 mile away – so the girls got to walk/run the horse home!

The horse is a 6 month-old miniature horse named “Chelsea.”  She won’t get too much bigger.  We saw some at the Iowa State Fair pulling carts and Dad softened from his hard line of “no horse ever on this farm” to “I could see having one of those for the girls to train to pull a cart.”  The upside is they don’t eat much and aren’t as dangerous as a full-size horse.  So here’s Chelsea, the latest addition to high hopes gardens.

one year ago…

August 22, 2007 – Dog Agility

Emma loves her dog – Maizie.

Here she is working with Maizie on some dog agility maneuvers.  For a little dog, she can really jump – she can regularly clear the top level of the jump.  She’s now about two and starting to settle down a bit and learning what it takes to be a good dog here.  A couple of rounds of dog obedience lessons, some videos from “dog whisperer” Cesar Millan, and she’s on her way – not there yet, but much closer than a year ago. 

one year ago…

August 20, 2007 – 1st Day of School for 2

Today is the first day of school for Martin and Emma!  It’s time for a different schedule around the farm now, although with Claire not starting until next week, it will not be all at once shock.  Now, I need to think of what the most pressing jobs around the farm will be.

It was much easier putting Martin on the bus this year with a year under his belt.

Martin and Emma pose for the traditional first day of school photo.

one year ago…

August 18, 2007 – First Big Canning Day of the Year

Today was the first big canning day of the season. Â  We had made a few batches of jam earlier, but this is the first time we rolled out the stainless steel counter and old cooktop from the house and set up in the shed, since there was a chance of rain and it was hot out in the sun.

All the “stuff” ready to go. It beats making the big mess in the kitchen.

Martin got the jars ready for tomatoes – he measured out the lemon juice (for acidification to allow boiling water canning instead of pressure canning).  He also measured out the salt for the jars as well – stylistically decked out in his “Bob the Builder” apron! Can we can it, yes we can!

Emma’s job is to help blanch the tomatoes to get the skins off before making the crushed tomatoes.

Finally, the afternoon’s haul – 24 quarts of tomatoes, a few jars of blackberries and raspberries, along with the frozen beans.

one year ago…

July 14, 2007 – Random Shots from Claire

The pictures today are courtesy of Claire – a few shots she took over the week.

Here I am in what we affectionately call “Lake One and a Half” a small body of water between the two portages that connect from Lake One to Lake Two.

Pure bliss for a six-year old is throwing rocks and sand without anybody telling you to stop!

It seems we spend a good amount of our day on the docks – reading, fishing, or swimming.  Yes, you can fish all around the lake and get skunked and then come home and catch walleyes off the dock while reading a book!

All the kids like to go to the big dock near the boathouse and jump into the water.

one year ago…

June 16, 2007 – All Dressed Up (Kind of)

Today we had the pleasure to attend the wedding of one of the faithful blog readers.  Congratulations to both of you!  It was an outdoor wedding overlooking a lake, so it was a nice setting.  Special commendation to the groom for enduring the 90 degree day in the black tux!  I’ve often heard the advice to newlyweds “Never go to bed angry.”  I’d like to amend that slightly to be “Never go to bed without telling your spouse what you are angry about.”  So much for the unsolicited marital advice!  Now go have a great life!

It’s hard to know exactly what to wear for an outdoor wedding on a hot day, so here are the kids after the ceremony.

Our anniversary is coming up in a few days – 18 years this June.

one year ago…

June 15, 2007 – It’s Hot, Must be Haymaking Time!

Now that the temps are in the 90’s – that means just one thing – it must be time to make hay!  We were invited to help at Two Friends Farm this weekend.

How’s this for a date?  Sitting on an empty hay rack after the unloading 100 or so bales is a good rest.

Starting out a new rack after one was under our belts.

Even Emma and Claire were enthused about helping and took their turns on top of the racks.  It’s great to now have kids old enough to handle a bale of hay.  We figured we handled about 8 1/2 tons this afternoon.
one year ago…

June 12, 2007 – Workin’ on the Farm

On Monday, it was a bit of rare day that all of us were home!  We set everyone out with a job. 

It’s Emma’s summer to learn to paint.  She wants to paint a side of the barn, so we are starting her out on an easier painting task, the north side of the hog barn, which doesn’t require much ladder work. Here, she is scraping off some of the old paint.  There’s really not much left and we sprayed it with water first to keep down the dust.

Claire is assuming more of the mowing duties on the farm.  While the regular mower is in for repair, she gets to use the old lawn tractor.

Linda gives me a boost in the attic, completing some of the insulation in the east dormer.

one year ago…

June 10, 2007 – Fathers and Daughters

Emma spent the last three days in Ames at the Iowa State Women’s basketball camp. Â I was struck how she and her campmates all tended to share a similar physique and posture. It was not a place for overweight teen-agers!

Emma had a great time playing with others who want to improve their game, got to meet the ISU women players and coaches, and as a bonus, her team at the camp won all their games.  Coach Fennelly urged them all to practice and read this summer.

Emma morphed from a player in the morning to a dancer in the evening. Â Sunday night was a father-daughter dance in State Center and I was able to take two daughters dancing!

Claire and Dad shake it up out on the floor. Â  It was a fun evening, we left with sweaty bodies, flush faces, and a promise of more dancing!

one year ago…

June 6, 2007 – Corn Transfer

Lots of little projects were completed today.  In getting ready for a couple of tons of chicken food to be delivered, we had some leftover corn from the corn-burning stove season in the gravity wagon that we needed to move to make room for the chicken feed.  The gravity wagon is the easiest to get a few buckets of feed at a time with, so we transferred it to a different wagon. 
Here, Emma is controlling the door to fill the bucket (we don’t have a corn auger)

Loading it in the tractor bucket – about 15 buckets per scoop.

Finally, dumping it into another wagon.
one year ago…

May 14th, 2007 – Emma’s New Fun

It was a good week for Emma.  In her own words, she now has “two new sweet rides.”

The neighbors bought a new pony and want someone to help keep it used to having riders, so Emma is obliging.  Here she is with Casey.

She’s also shot up in height, so she needed a new bike and is tall enough for an adult bike, so she was happy to see her new bike!
one year ago…

April 1, 2007 – Seder Dinner

Tonight we attended a Seder dinner. Its an enjoyable, thought-provoking meal/ceremony.

Here Emma displays the Seder Plate. It contains

  • Charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, wine and spices, symbolizes the mortar the Jewish slaves made in their building for the Egyptians.
  • Celery as a substitute for Zeroa, a roasted shankbone symbolic of the Paschal lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice in Temple days.
  • Baytzah, a hard-boiled egg, symbolizes the festival sacrifice brought in the days of the Temple. Some interpret this as a symbol of mourning for the Temples as the sacrifices were no longer offered after the Temples were destroyed.
  • Karpas, generally parsley or a potato, is dipped in salt water to represent tears. The custom of serving karpas dates back to the 1st and 2nd centuries when formal meal began by passing around vegetables.
  • Maror is bitter herbs. Horseradish root or prepared horseradish is generally used. Maror represents the bitter life of the Israelites during the time of their enslavement in Egypt.
  • Chazeret is a bitter vegetable. Celery or lettuce can be used. Those who do not put chazeret on their Seder Plate sometimes put a dish of salt water in its place.

  • Martin was good with the Charoset and Matzoh ball soup, and not as keen on the bitter herbs and horseradish.

    one year ago…

    March 30, 2007 – Mushroom “Planting”

    Today was the second time we “planted” shitaake mushrooms in logs. The logs we did last year have not yet fruited, but the time-frame is usually 12-18 months, so we are still waiting.

    This a log before the process starts. The ideal log is about 3-8 inches thick and about 40 inches long. Oak is the best, but most non-conifers work fine. Harvest logs while dormant. We had a good supply that broke off in ice storm.

    The first step is to drill holes in lines about 6 inches apart and in rows 2 inches apart.

    We ordered spawn on wooden dowels that are pounded into the drilled holes.

    The final step is to seal each plug and the ends of the logs with wax, to preserve moisture.

    Here’s a completed log. The last step for a while is to stack the logs in a shady, moist spot until they start fruiting in 12-18 months.

    one year ago…

    March 25, 2007 – Ice Storm Cleanup

    Another task that had been weighing heavy was the messy yard from the ice storm. We had done some of the cleanup, but today, took three hay wagon loads and a couple of truckloads of branches to the burn pile.  It reached 80 degrees today, but with a strong wind!

    All five of us worked and it was much faster than a solo effort. Claire’s comment about the afternoon was “even though I didn’t want to, it feels good to work.”

    There is a problem with the old Farmall Cub – it started to smoke around the fan belts, so we turned it off and pushed it into the shed.  We’ll investigate the problem some other day. 

    one year ago…

    March 20, 2007 – Life and Death on the Farm

    Sometime last night, Paullina gave birth to two kids. The boy has the waddles, like his daddy, Sugar. These kids are a Nubian/Alpine mix.

    Here’s Emma holding the boy with under the watchful eye of Paullina. Sadly, we lost the girl kid. We have some pens made up of cattle panels in the barn and one of the panels wasn’t entirely secured and some time during the day it fell down and the kid happened to be underneath it when it fell and it died. It’s one of those things that just wrenches your gut to see that dead nearly newborn kid.

    Then you go through all the what-ifs? What if the panel hadn’t fell? What if the kid hadn’t been underneath it, what if it happened on one of the 5 days a week someone was home all day instead of one of the 2 days everyone is gone? And so it goes. Not a happy on the farm day.

    In the evening, as neither of us has not yet seen an opera and a touring company was presenting the Marriage of Figaro at Stephens Auditorium in Ames, we were able to go both see our first opera. We both enjoyed it – like most things it was much better live than recorded.

    one year ago…

    March 18, 2007 – Back to the Farm

    Now that vacation is over, it’s back to work!  One of the first orders of business is to clean up the mess from the ice storm.  The snow is almost all gone and the branches are released from the grip of the snow and ice.

    Maple sap tastes sweet right out of the tree!  Here Emma finds a weeping maple and tries to catch the tasty drops.  We all started picking up near the back pasture gate.

    This big limb was the first order of business as it blocks access to the pasture and the burn piles.  All of us pitched in to drag the branches and limbs away and cut up the limb so we could start cleaning up the rest of the yard another day, but be able to use the wagons and tractor to transport the limbs. But today was devoted to clearing this area.

    one year ago…

    February 16, 2007 – The Cast

    Emma has been working hard on a school play entitled “Big Bad” which puts the Big Bad Wolf on trial supported with a cast of characters including little red riding hood, the three pigs, and Little Miss Muffet.

    Linda has been in Manhattan (Kansas, not the island) the last few days presenting at a conference.  She reports that in spite of the snow there and en route, spring is on the way as they saw large flocks of migrating snow geese flying north.  Back at the farm, I saw the first robin of the year. I hope the animals know something, because it sure still looks, feels, and smells like the dead of winter out there.

      one year ago…

    February 10, 2007 – Newer Wheels Arrive

    Well, I had to go to West Salem Wisconsin to get the vehicle and right deal I wanted on a van, but now it is home!  West Salem is just outside LaCrosse, WI, not too far from Rochester, so it was a quick visit with Nana and a vehicle purchase.  It’s a 2006 Kia Sedona with 13,000 miles.  It’s a no-frills model, no DVD player, not automatic sliding doors, just a basic van.  In the end, the long warranty, safest minivan ever manufactured and high reliability sold us.  Is guess the true verdict won’t be known for a few years yet.

    Martin loves controlling the heat and fan in the rear of the van, Emma loves being able to recline her own seat, and Claire doesn’t even want to think about driving this new of a vehicle!
    one year ago…

    January 22, 2007 – Skiing at Last

    The recent snow lets the kids get out their winter toys and number 1 on the list are the cross-country skis. There’s lots of country to cross out here.

    The girls even found a pair of their old skis for Martin to use.  Emma got new skis for Christmas 2005 and this is the first time she’s been able to use them.

    December 27, 2006 – Fencing Me In

    Now that the cows are gone, the tree-destroying job has evidently been passed onto the rabbits. I noticed some chewing around the base of the trees, particularly the maples. So, now we are starting to put chicken wire around some of the trees.

    Today the girls made the cages, pounded the stakes in, and protected 17 trees. More to do tomorrow!

    one year ago…

    November 24, 2006 – Working off the Feast

    There’s nice park nestled within the city limits of Rochester, MN called Quarry Hill. There are ponds, nature center, old quarry relics, caves, lots of fossils, and a huge unmarked cemetery.

    Not many November 24 days when shirtsleeves are appropriate attire in Minnesota! Here are the kids after the hike up to the top of the quarry. It stopped producing in the 1950’s.

    There are also many caves – some of the bigger ones which were used by the state hospital for food storage from the 1880’s to the the 1940’s. There’s a big field within the park where the state hospital buried patients who died. There are over 2,000 people buried in the field, without markers. They were buried until 1965 when the hospital closed. There are efforts to mark the gravesites appropriately.

    There’s also a great 20 acre Oak Savanna on the highest point overlooking the city.

    October 31, 2006 – Halloween

    Happy Halloween, I guess. It’s a late at work night for me, so I missed the festivities. Martin was excited to be a fireman, complete with blue rain boots. Emma was her favorite witch, and Claire, too old to T & T was, if I recall, a “fairy queen, lumberjack” I fear she’s been watching too much Monty Python lately.

    This “year ago entry” was particularly popular!

    one year ago…

    October 8, 2006 – Corn Wagons Filled

    Today is supposed to be the last nice day for a while. Claire and I went on a walk to combat hunger for church and the rest of the gang met some friends for a walk in the woods and picnic. We eventually caught up with them.

    Today was also the day our corn wagons were loaded. We dragged them out to the corn field and the neighbor filled them up right from the combine. Now, we have enough to heat the house through the winter. It’s a lot of dinking around in the shed to shuffle wagons and equipment in/out and backed into the best spot for winter.

    September 23, 2006 – Octemberfest 2006

    This weekend is Marshalltown’s town festival weekend – Octemberfest.

    I like this picture from the parade, shot away from the action, as everyone awaits the next entry. Times like this, Marshalltown looks like an old-style midwestern county seat.

    This was kind of a creepy entry – a black horse-drawn hurse buggy with glass sides to allow viewing of the body. To finish it off, the buggy is pulled by a team of horses draped with black netting.

    Finally, here’s our Claire, somewhere in the middle of this row of the Bobcat Marching band. It looks like this photo caught the band demonstrating nearly perfect foot work!

    September 22, 2006 – Photo Friday – “Girl”

    This week’s Photo Friday Contest theme is “Girl.” It was REALLY hard to choose my favorite girl picture. I think this one shows a girl (Emma) in the middle of the golden age of girlhood, age 11.

    Today was the first planning meeting for the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) conference to be held in Marshalltown in February. I’m sure more will follow!

    August 26, 2006 – Putting Food By and By

    As today was the Memorial for Mildred Grimes, we weren’t able to go to market. I’m glad we went to the service – it was very beautiful. We were, however left with many tomatoes, beans, and raspberries to “use or lose.” Linda and Emma canned 21 quarts of tomatoes.

    We’ve got our old kitchen countertop on wheels and old gas stove on a propane tank, so we can keep the mess out of the house.

    Claire and I dug more potatoes. I had a crabby and happy picture of Claire, and chose the happy picture this time.

    August 23, 2006 – The World Swallows Martin

    Here’s the world opening up its mouth to swallow up my little boy!

    Like all of us, he was very brave in starting his whole new world. So many questions – how do I act, who will be my friends, what will I eat, can I do it? For Martin, it is just the beginning of those questions. Now, once again, I to have to face the same questions with my new spaces and time.

    I missed the little guy more than I envisioned today. I’m kind of moping around with a feeling of loss. He was a constant companion for five years at home. I’m sure I’ll get over it – he won’t look back and eventually I will adjust to the stunning silence, lack of questions, and absence imaginative play. I hope he manages to keep that alive, despite of school and its attendant structure and conformity.

    I for one, have to learn how to do something for more than 30 minutes at a time! With Martin, he would help, but had a 5-year old’s attention span. The good news was there is always something new to do. Given the variables of season, weather, and Martin, the nearly unlimited choices narrowed to a few. Now one of the variables is gone. We’ll see how dad adjusts!

    August 12, 2006 – At the Market

    Linda had a late morning wedding (one of her ag students) in Tama, so it was up the Martin, Emma and I to man the market booth (Claire went with Linda).

    It was a pretty good market day as those things go. Emma alone sold $30 worth of dog treats and cookies.

    We did have an abundance of plums this week and had made a bunch of plum jam and bought more than a few home unsold, which we are now canning in earnest.

    I told Martin he would get a quarter for each jar of jam he sold. We had some samples on bread and his job was to ask people if they’d like to try a sample. He was very hesitant to start. But even I was a bit taken aback when he asked a young woman if she wanted to try a sample. She did and responded politely that it was good. Then, out of nowhere, he says – “Well, if you like it, then you should buy a jar.” She did.

    July 30, 2006 – Taste Highlight of the Summer

    Our new peach trees are just giving their first few fruits this year. There are very few things that taste better than a warm, even hot, ripe peach picked right off the tree and devoured! Truly a taste highlight of the garden this year.

    Yea, it’s still hot.

    It’s also very dry – last week some storms rolled through, we got 1/3 inch which we felt grateful for, but just 12 miles south, they got 3.2 inches. In June, 0.1″ of rain fell, in July we had 1.5″ when we were gone and .33 last week, so in the growing season that we normally receive about 8 inches of rain, we’re at less than 2 inches.

    July 22, 2006 – Here We Go Again

    Today a package arrived in the morning. Any ideas what could come in a package like this?

    There’s holes in the boxes, the post office calls us to pick it up at 7:00 am, even though it is regular post, not express.

    It’s round 2 of baby chicks! It’s sure easier to brood chicks in July than in March. Cousin Jill from California was amazed the chicks come through the mail.

    July 17, 2006 – Harvest Day

    It’s amazing what grows in a week or so. Today was a big harvest day despite the sweltering heat. How hot was it you ask? When I got out of the car, my glasses fogged up at the blast of warm humid air.

    But there were things to do – pulling some more of the garlic was high on the list.

    We did this first thing in the morning, but it was still hot.

    Martin with the day’s digging. The girls were sent out in the afternoon to pick beans. They came back with a 5 gallon bucket and a grocery bag full!

    I think the looks on their faces portray the joy of picking beans! We also had a bunch of raspberries to pick, and a big secondary blush of broccoli.

    In the evening, since it was so hot and the supers were near full, Joanne extracted honey.

    A frame dripping with honey.

    Turning the extractor and draining the honey.

    Finally, the raw honey in a 5 gallon bucket. All in all, a good day at the farm!

    July 15, 2006 – Last Day

    The 12 hour ride home commenced this morning. It was a tense ride home as it was very hot, the wind was howling, and with the canoe on the van making us a high profile vehicle, it required many stops to find the best way to have the canoe tied down to make it sturdy and not create an annoying humming sound of the straps.

    Yesterday’s shot of all the girls on the dock.

    The dock in front of the cabin provided the most entertaining moment of the week. You’ll notice the wheels at the end of the dock. The girls were all sitting at the end of the dock, with their feet hanging in the water. I went out to see them and that was enough weight to tip the teeter totter and dunk the girls in the lake, while we all frantically backpedalled to right the see-saw. The screams and scrambling were great amusement to those on land. Since we “live” on the dock, it was strange that it took that long to happen.

    I leave with one final view of the lake from the shore near the cabin.

    July 12, 2006 – On the Lake

    We have a lot of fun on the lake. The name of the lake is Lake One, it is connected to Lake Two, Lake Three, and Lake Four. I guess there were so many lakes in Minnesota, they got tired of coming up with names.

    One fun thing is boating – here Martin is in a rubber raft with a new found friend.

    Here are the four girls on the day trip we take to a more remote island on part of the lake for lunch.

    The greatest fun is jumping off the dock into the lake.

    Out in the middle of the lake is a giant boulder that lurks just below the surface. Here are the girls standing on the boulder.

    June 30, 2006 – Martin/Daddy Matching Tractors!

    Today is Martin’s 5th birthday. Many of his loved ones went together to get him a battery-powered scoop tractor, just like dad’s!

    He’s having great fun helping around the farm – moving mulch, carrying tools, straw, or whatever else needs to be hauled.

    He has not yet mastered the art of backing up with a trailer – maybe another day.

    We also got for more lambs today.

    Here’s Emma with one of the lambs. Now we have a total of six.

    June 27, 2006 – Early Summer Garden/Musings

    It’s now officially early summer. Here’s a view at some of the garden.

    It’s much easier to focus on what’s going wrong or not according to some plan, so today, I celebrate the things that are on track.

    I suppose we’ve all got those mental lists of things to do – fix that, organize those photos, clean that. But amongst all those things, kids get raised, good work gets done, and the world is improved little bit by bit.

    I’m paraphrasing a quote I heard a few days ago – I think it was attributed to an old Cherokee saying:

    “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”

    This goes along with a magazine my mother dropped off this weekend that I had not yet seen – here is the philosophy of Countryside magazine:

    “It’s not a single idea, but many ideas and attitudes, including a reverence for nature and a preference for country life; a desire for maximum self-reliance and creative leisure; a concern for family nurture and community cohesion; a belief that the primary reward of work should be well-being rather than money…and a taste for the plain and functional.”

    These are eerily like our wedding vows (we celebrated 17 years last Saturday). I like to think of it as our mission statement as a couple – I like to re-read them at least once a year to see how we are doing. So here are the thoughts that were read at our wedding – our wishes for ourselves concerning our marriage and life 17 years ago.

    “First of all, we wish for you a love that makes both of you better people, that continues to give you joy and zest for living, that provides you with energy to face the responsibilities of life.

    We wish for you a home–not a place of stone and wood, but an island of serenity in a frenzied world. We hope that this home is not just a place of private joy and retreat, but rather serves as a sacred place wherein the values of your life are generated and upheld, We hope that your home stands as a symbol of humans living together in love and peace, seeking truth and demanding social justice. We hope that your home encompasses the beauty of nature–that it has within it the elements of simplicity, exuberance, beauty, silence, color, and a concordance with the rhythms of life. We wish for you a home with books and poetry and music–a home with all the things that represent the highest strivings of men and women.

    We wish for you children–children who will not be mere reflections of yourselves, but will learn from you your best traits and will go forth to re-create the values you shall have instilled in them. We hope that you will give your children the freedom to find their own way, that you will stand aside when it is time for them to seek their personal destinies. But we hope you will pass on to your children the concept of family, not as an economic unit but as a transcendent force which brings people close in time of joy and in time of need.

    Finally, we wish that at the end of your lives you will be able to say these two things to each other: Because you have loved me, you have given me faith in myself; and because I have seen the good in you, I have received from you a faith in humanity.”

    So how are we doing regarding the children finding their own way?

    I’m not sure I would have selected “Bob the Builder” underwear as a hat – but so be it!

    June 24, 2006 – We Saw Rain!

    We went to Des Moines this afternoon and drove through sheets of driving rain. However, the rain at our place is more like the desert “1 inch rainfall” – drops 1 inch apart.

    Here’s the view of the day’s heaviest rainfall – the drops evaporate before they can wash the dust off the back window of the van.
    The chickens are nearing their final flight into the freezer.

    They are enjoying the sunny days. Today the girls stocked up on baking materials for farmers market, getting sugar and flour in 25 lb bags!
    Nana came down for an early birthday party for Martin and made dirt cake in the back of a toy dump truck – very popular!

    June 4, 2006 – Inland from the Lake

    On the way home, we stopped at Jay Cooke State Park. It is a spectacular park, relatively unknown compared to the other parks north of Duluth.

    Martin couldn’t get enough “rock climbing” either on rock slopes or rock walls.

    The railroad trestle behind the young woman is now a bike trail – part of the Munger Trail.

    The St Louis River spills through rock cascades and falls. They’ve set up extreme kayaking through this portion of the river. For all you river freaks, the rapids are rated Class V in high water, which is right under Class VI (Niagra Falls).

    Leisurely rock throwing is under-rated.

    As is the “4th of July” throwing handfuls of rocks up all at once. We spent some time perfecting the art of rock skipping. I believe no childhood is complete without learning and practicing this art.

    The trillium were in bloom along the trails and the light was just right!

    June 3, 2006 – Superior Day

    We had a great time on Lake Superior this weekend. We had a family graduation in a nearby town, so made the most out of our too short 7 hour (one-way) drive. When we arrived, it was hot, so we headed down to Park Point.

    Park Point, on the tip of the lake, is the longest baymouth sand spit bar in the world, about 10 miles long and about 500 feet wide. It’s a great place on a warm day (a bit of a rarity on Lake Superior).

    It’s the simplest elements that make for great fun.



    Water on body rolled with sand.

    Here are the kids down at Canal Park and the Aerial Lift Bridge at Canal Park in Duluth. This is a fun bridge, as any time a boat comes in, the middle of the bridge lifts up. This is the bridge to drive over to get to Park Point.

    May 21, 2006 – Travel Bug

    Last summer Emma took a GPS class and part of the class was to hide a “travel bug” with instructions and an ID tag. For her travel bug, she appropriately chose a VW Bug. She hid the bug, logged onto the geo caching web site and left the coordinates along with instructions where she wanted the bug to go. She chose her bug to go to North Carolina, then the Boundary Waters near Ely, MN. She logged in to check the progress this weekend, and found a picture someone had posted of her bug on the North Carolina Coast!

    So now it will head back to Minnesota. Each time someone finds it, they move it closer to its next destination. The person who finds it, goes to the web site, logs that they found it, perhaps takes a picture of it, and hides it further down the road and leaves the GPS coordinates for the next person to find.
    Emma hid the bug June 17, 2005 in Central Iowa, since then, it has traveled the following circuitous path on its journey from Iowa -> North Carolina – > Minnesota:

    Iowa (3 stops)
    Minnesota (1 stop)
    Missouri (2 stops)
    Nebraska (2 stops)
    Iowa (4 stops)
    Pennsylvania (9 stops)
    New Jersey (1 stop)
    North Carolina (1 stop)
    New York (1 stop)
    You can track the progress of the Yellow Bug at the Geo Caching Web site.

    April 24, 2006 – Boys and Their Toys!

    Today was a day long in coming – the arrival of a scoop tractor to high hopes! Isn’t it a beauty? It’s a 1967 John Deere 2510 with a nearly new Westendorf loader, a category 2 three point hitch, and wide front end. I’d been looking at tractors for a while and finally found this one. The arrival of a tractor ranks in importance somewhere between a new car and new house.

    The next three pictures are a story of three photographers. The picture above was taken by Emma.

    Mark took this picture.

    Here’s Martin’s picture! As a young boy, he made sure to get all tractor and cut the people off the top!

    I’m excited about the tractor for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my back. Lots less lifting and moving of heavy things with the back. Able to move a big bale when the time comes. Many folks made the tractor possible – “financing” by Grandma Jo, pre-sale inspection by Linda’s Uncle Wayne, and finally driving the beast home by Two Friends Farm. Curiously, the tractor was for sale about 16 miles away alongside Hwy 330. As we were driving it home, Claire was coming home from Des Moines with her TAG teacher, Grandma Jo and her partner for History Day competition at the State Historical Center in Des Moines and they passed us and waved wildly!

    Also got five new apple trees grafted from the old near-dead tree in our yard onto new rootstocks courtesy of Two Friends farm. I just put them in the garden for this year to get established. It’s a very early apple – mid-July and makes great sauce and is in the right season to make raspberry-applesauce.

    April 23, 2006 – American Gothic – High Hopes Style

    Emma and Martin pose their version of American Gothic. The load of straw they are standing in was thrown from the 2nd story of the barn into the truck by just Martin and Emma. We found out after the fact that Emma invited Martin to jump from the 2nd story door into the truck filled with hay. They are now clear that is not a good idea! With this load of straw, now all the new berries are tucked in.

    Got a little more planting finished today – about four varieties of zinnias, some beans and cosmos – along with a little more lettuce and radishes. The peach trees are showing a few blossoms and cherries are just beginning.

    April 22, 2006 – Mystery

    Today we had some friends over and one the games this group of kids play is “mystery.” They dress up and we have to guess who is who. Quite frankly, Martin is usually fairly easy to guess. Here he is in one of the get-ups today.
    There was a wonderful moment when Linda and I took a break from planting the north garden – there was Martin, Emma, two dogs and a blanket under the white pines, reading and looking at books. Today we got the peas, some turnips, the rest of the blackberries in.

    April 12, 2006 – Flamer!

    Late today, the wind finally stopped blowing enough to try out the borrowed flame weeder.

    Here, I am trying to fry the border between the sod and the new raspberry patch before the new berries are planted. I’m not too sure how it will work on grass, I imagine it will need a few treatments. Hey, who says organic gardening isn’t thrilling. The thing sounds like a jet plane and you don’t need a big budget Hollywood action movie to use a flamethrower! Many people use them to knock down young weeds before their crop germinates or in the case of corn, even after the corn has germinated. I also got some cardboard and mulch spread on part of a garden and weeded around some of last year’s Christmas trees.

    Martin and Linda work on the raised beds in the herb garden. If you look behind them, you can see I also started putting in the patio blocks around the future raised beds.

    Finally, here is another shot of spring – this shows last year’s cranberries along with this year’s new growth.

    March 27, 2006 – Destination Imagination

    Today was a gloomy, brown, drizzly day. The kind of day to get inside work done. It was a good day to go watch Emma. This morning Emma’s Destination Imagination team competed in the State Finals at Grinnell College.

    They have practiced for months after school and advanced from the regional competition in Ankeny while we were in Santa Fe.

    Here’s a part of the skit where the TV broadcasters present the news and weather for Paris.

    Here, the judges ask questions and congratulate the team on its performance.

    February 27, 2006 – Kids

    Well, after being gone for a few days, it’s time for a fresh look at the kids.
    Claire has a new doo and grows up more each day!

    Emma’s last basketball game was Saturday and today she picked up the bat.

    Martin, is, just Martin – wearing his favorite pair of mismatched boots, maybe, just maybe on the right foot today (or not).

    Had the first grilling of the season today. Got the mulch unloaded from the truck and hauled some brush to the burn pile. Ordered an incubator so we can raise our own laying hens and some red and Ladino clover, and trefoil for a little frost overseeding in the pasture.

    February 26, 2006 – Replacement Composter Done

    I drove home this morning, so after unpacking and the like, didn’t have too much time for farming, other than taking a walk around the farm with Linda looking at it with slightly new eyes, finishing the household composter, and getting a small load of mulch from the pallet plant.

    I tired of driving on the interstate on the way home, so I got off at hwy 20 and started zipping south and east on county roads for diversion. I was really struck with two things – all the hog confinements and the rural poverty. I don’t know if it just looks worse in this brown season – or if it was the contrast between the overflowing life of the conference attendees and their hope for a self-directed future and the run-down and abandoned farmsteads. It made me sad that forces have run so many off the land and that an alternative exists that many have yet to try/are unable to try.

    January 21, 2006 – Little Things

    This morning I went to Emma’s basketball games in Collins. They dropped two games, but played very strong defense. Not like Iowa State. Had a 4 point lead and the ball with 2 minutes to go and a freshman forward who has not attempted a three point shot all year decides that is the best time to launch one. Well, he misses, the other team hits a couple of threes to close out the game and wins the game in OT.

    Emma and Martin have been playing with trains for hours the past few days.

    The girls got a very nice “hand me down” PC from one of Linda’s co-workers – flat screen monitor, CD burner/DVD player 1.3 processor. That was very nice!

    I got the rest of stage one of attic tear-out completed today. Was a lot of laying on the floor under the eaves and tearing boards out.

    January 15, 2006 – Emma’s Quilt

    Today was a heatwave – 56 degrees! Almost finished pruning the raspberries and Linda got the goat hooves trimmed.

    Over break, Emma and Linda worked on a quilt.

    Here’s Emma doing a bit of guest blogging on what she did to make the quilt:
    First mom and I chose the main fabric. Then we cut it out into triangles, after that we matched up two colors. Then I sewed them together. Next we decided on a pattern, two zig-zags. After that I went to work sewing all of them into part of a quilt. Then we went to get the edge and back. Once again I sewed it on. Next we put bedding between the back and front. See the little yarn like things? That is what holds the whole thing together. I really like it because it’s nice and fuzzy!

    January 2, 2006 – No Fun Project

    Getting the attic cleared out to begin work on the dormer is no fun! We usually like to get one fairly big project done over New Year’s (tile a bathroom or something like that). This year, we had smaller projects – Linda and Emma sewed a quilt, Linda and Claire made jammies, I made more room in the corn crib, and we worked on the attic – this requires sorting, washing clothes, old memorabilia, moving furniture, deciding what stays/goes and if it stays – where?

    While we were doing this, the kids made a band out of tinker toys, complete with guitar, mike stands and keyboards.
    tinker toy band

    December 4, 2005 – Hike to the Past

    This afternoon in the 2 degree heat, the kids and I headed out to the nearly forgotten town of Capron. We took a couple of sleds and two dogs.

    Today, Capron is nothing more than a grove of trees about a half-mile nearly due west of our farm – in the middle of a section.

    Here the kids are perched on part of the remaining railroad grade with our farm over their right shoulder. (I love the meandering paths in the snow.)
    Our neighbor has a railroad schedule that shows Capron as one of the stops of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad if I’m not mistaken. I can’t find anything about Capron on Google except for listings of Iowa towns, and there is very little in the history of Marshall County book about it.

    This old sign is about all that’s visible of the place in the snow. It was an invigorating walk in the weather, but Claire is now stewing a story in her head about it.
    It is strange to visit past human settlements. Strange to imagine being able to hop on a train less than a half mile from our farm at the turn of the century and get to Chicago. Now we have to drive over an hour and a half to get to a train station!

    November 22, 2005 – We Have a Winner!

    Today Emma found out she won a poster contest for a drug education campaign encouraging kids to avoid drugs and alcohol! Here’s her tie-dye style winning poster.

    Here she is showing the poster to her classmates at a party at a bowling alley celebrating their graduation (don’t look too close at the beer poster on the wall!)

    November 12, 2005 – Blowing in the Wind

    Lots of weather in the neighborhood today. So far, we were spared the worst of it. Just very strong, persistent winds.
    The girls leaning into the wind on the front porch, trying to see if the wind will keep them up as they fall forward.

    Early this evening brought tornadoes to central Iowa. I’m not sure how long this link will last, but it is a link of a stupid guy filming a tornado as it rips through his town. The storm also forced the evacuation of the football stadium in Ames for the ISU-Colorado football game. Claire says it is a good omen to have the tornado whistles blowing for a cyclone home game. The game is still going at blogtime, so we won’t know for a while yet. That’s how football games should be played – out in the weather, tornadoes dancing around and incredible winds – all without a roof.

    November 7, 2005 – Lulled Asleep?

    It was another day 20 degrees above normal. Morning was work and errands and this afternoon could do some “farming” outside. The weather has lulled me, but the calendar says Nov 7, so I started getting the farmstead ready for winter – took in some of the electric netting fence and rigged up a hanging holder (to keep mice out of it in the winter), cleaned up gardens some.

    More does came over to visit Billy goat today. After school, Emma helped me put pound the 2×4’s on the roof of the old machine shed. I like to string the 2×4’s across the roof before putting the steel roofing on. It gives the steel something firm and reliable to attach to and it offers me safer footing on the roof. I’m using giant spikes to get through the asphalt and old cedar shingles to find the rafters. It’s about 50-50 whether I hit a rafter and it’s helpful to have a pair of eyes in the building to see if the nail was off right or left.

    Emma did that with great cheer, despite having stuff falling from inside the building – including something she caught in her eye. She did have a good day, as her new flute arrived today.


    October 19, 2005 – Goodbye to Blue

    After a period of decision-making and talking to animal rescue league and our vet, we decided to put Blue down. He had bitten Martin in the face, bitten a neighbor who fed the pets when we were out of town a few weeks ago and nipped at Martin again after we brought chickens back from the locker.

    We got Blue from the animal rescue league this spring and he was Emma’s dog. Here’s a picture from one of his first days at high hopes.
    She trained him to stop jumping on people, took him to obedience classes and taught him dog agility.

    It became painfully obvious to us that doing the easy thing would be to do what so many others do to pets – dump him off in another town, bring him back to the rescue league and not tell anybody about the biting or make up a story to Emma that we did return him to the rescue league. It’s just too bad the the right thing involves a lot of pain and heartbreak.

    Emma said it right – it’s not fair to lose two dogs in one year. I agree.

    October 16, 2005 – On the Beach

    Today Emma is the guest writer of the high hopes blog.

    This was our second day at the beach. We rented a six person bike for two hours and got hot and went swimming. Our cousin Jill didn’t want to swim but she did anyway.

    I can’t tell you in words how much fun it is to visit a place like CA. The first day we went to the beach I got under a wave six times! The next time, I was better.

    On the first day we walked about a mile and a half to get lunch. The next day we walked less to get breakfast with one of Aunt Kathy’s friends. Every meal we had there was very filling and yummy!

    Well here all three of us are going down to the ocean for a dip.


    If you have ever been body surfing you know the thrill when the wave comes and decides what happens next.


    Here I am again, getting used to the water. Brrr!

    This is a very nice picture of some shells and Claire.

    October 12, 2005 – Aftermath

    Today was poultry to meat day. Here is the aftermath of the trip to the locker. The day starts early – I rolled out of bed about 3:30 am and headed to the locker – the birds were loaded the night before. It was a restless night. Like the first night the chicks arrive, the last night is stressful. I was tossing and turning, wondering if the new system would work. I decided to put all the chickens in the new trailer instead of in the pickup. That way there is one “dirty” vehicle and one “clean” vehicle to take them home in. I had reservations at the first restless toss – I stacked the cages three high, with solid trailer sides on two sides and more cages on the others. What if there wasn’t enough air and they all suffocated? What if the few loose turkeys got crushed by a shifting load of cages? Thankfully, there was no loss and all made it ok.
    Here’s the biggest turkey:

    This is what a 35 lb bronze-breasted turkey looks like! Linda cut this up into many, many meals. It was also Emma’s turn to try her hand at learning how to cut up a chicken.

    Emma was a quick learner and cut up her first one nearly flawlessly! After the turkey, this chicken looked like a cornish game hen.

    October 10, 2005 – Grant Wood Exhibit

    Yesterday we visited the Grant Wood exhibit at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

    The girls waiting between activities in the museum lobby.
    Any cultural understanding of Iowa and the Midwest would include the work and life of Grant Wood, most famous for “American Gothic” the most-parodied painting in the American canon.
    I do not particularly count that as one of my favorites. Quite independently and most interestingly each member of our family (except Martin) chose the same piece as our favorite – the appraisal.
    This photo is from an art site and does not show the detail – come visit and you can see a reproduction on our wall!
    This painting shows a farm woman and a city woman about to sell/buy a chicken. We love the detail of the safety pin holding the farm woman’s coat shut, the fancy purse of the city woman, and their appraisal of each other in negotiating a price. Perhaps as chicken growers ourselves, we can relate!
    Grant Wood was nurtured and worked most of his life in Cedar Rapids. A director of a funeral home offered him studio space above his carriage house.

    This is the carriage house today – only about 3 blocks from the museum. It is a good show – as the 100th anniversary of the Museum, many of the pieces are on loan from the Chicago Art Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art and so on. The exhibit runs until December 4th and any fans of Art or Iowa History would enjoy the chance to see all the pieces together.

    October 9, 2005 – Point Redemption

    Each year, the kids earn “points.” They earn points randomly for doing an extra job cheerfully or helping out without being asked. The points can be applied for smaller or larger “prizes.” They’ve elected to go for the big prizes (usually a night at a hotel with a pool). This year we combined the point rewards with a number of other events.
    Claire was honored at a ceremony at the University of Iowa honoring the top 1% of Iowa students, and Mom, Emma, and Martin visited the Science Station in Cedar Rapids.

    Emma cranking up the skyward wave machine.

    It’s hard not to like a dinosaur when you are four. Tomorrow look for the pictures from the Grant Wood exhibit.

    September 19, 2005 – Cover Girls!

    Here’s the cover of the insert section of Sunday’s Marshalltown paper. marshalltimes

    Don’t those chicks look cute! The writer found us via our web site/blog and wanted a local story about chickens. He came out, took a few pictures and talked to us a while and did a good job on the reporting.

    There are lots of color pictures in the story as well. As if this wasn’t enough, the front page of the paper had another article about the Sustainable and Entrepreneurial program at MCC.

    September 17, 2005 – Birthday Girls

    Claire and Emma have birthdays just one day apart this Friday and Saturday.
    Claire lifts her birthday present aloft – tickets to her first big concert – Paul McCartney in October. She also was not allowed to have pierced ears until she was a teen, so that was the first thing she did on her birthday.
    Emma also got a concert ticket and more durable headphones.
    Emma Birthday

    Here’s Emma before her birthday cake!

    September 11, 2005 – Day of Rest

    We finally had a day of rest more or less. The heat continues, so after church, we went to the beach for some swimming/playing in the sand.
    Without fail, it seems like this is the last week of summer and prolonged 90’s with cooler weather the following week into Fall. Two times we’ve gone into the hospital and brought children into the world (September 16 and September 17) and both times when we went in it was hot, and when we left, it was cool. I am looking forward to the cooler fall weather, but we thought we should take advantage of the hot day today.

    September 10, 2005 – Game Day and Chicken Coop

    Hawkeye faithful can go back to the store and return the “IS Who” t-shirts after mighty the Iowa Hawkeyes fell to the Iowa State Cyclones 23-3. Here are the girls with their game day attire.

    But much more important than the game, was Grandpa Dave’s complete rewiring of the chicken coop, including complete tear-out of existing wires and fixtures. We added a fuse box, outlets, and lights to a side that had no lights. Now after-dark egg-gathering will not require as much angst. In addition, we will have an additional place to brood chicks.


    August 25, 2005 – Shiny Bus

    Today is the first day of school for Claire (8th)and Emma (5th).

    first day school

    It’s always an exciting day for them to start the year. Emma was one of those sad kids without proper shoes. Her shoes disassembled during the school day – so there she is, first day of school (when your shoes should be new) without shoes that work. We had purchased new ones for Claire the night before.

    A brand new shiny school bus brought them to school.

    new bus

    Martin said he wanted to go to school with the girls, but Mom told him he’d have to learn his ABCs before he could go, so he then rattled them off for Mom.

    August 18, 2005 – Got Goat?

    Pictures don’t get more goaty than this! Here’s Paullina standing up against the lower half of the barn door.

    Number One and Number Two are growing up nicely. They suffered the fate many of us face of being born male.

    I promised more milking pictures. Here they are.

    Hand milking is a long lost art. Here another human gets passed down this basic farmsteading skill.

    August 14, 2005 – Iowa State Fair

    Today was the annual pilgrimage to the Iowa State Fair, now rated one of the top 10 places to visit for a family vacation along with the Grand Canyon, Colorado Rockies, and seven other places I can’t remember. Today, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

    Here’s Claire on the mezannine of the Agriculture Building. Just over her left shoulder in a refrigerated case is the
    life-size butter cow.

    The best way to see the fair is on the skyglider floating above the fair.

    Among the many agricultural curiosities at the fair are the big bull, big sow, big sheep, etc. Here’s this year’s big bull, weighing in at a shade under 3,000 pounds.

    Today was Wells Fargo day at the fair, so we had a free concert by Jo Dee Messina.

    Here are a couple of “Fair Girls.”


    Garrison Kellior of the Prairie Home Companion, spoke with the winner of a 4-H family research project. He was spellbounding talking about the project and weaving his own stories into the talk. He’s a quick wit!

    August 6, 2005 – Taking the Bad with the Good

    All in all, it has been one of those “full” days. I don’t mean full in the sense of lots of activities, but full of many meaningful and interesting moments. The day started at 6:00 am getting ready for Farmer’s Market. We wanted to try Grinnell’s market. It was also the day to pick up Emma from 4H camp.

    The truck was all loaded for market, running just a tad behind schedule, but still ok. Linda was going to market, and I to get Emma and the truck steering column locked up. The wheels were turned sharply when the truck was turned off and the key would not turn the truck over, nor would the steering wheel move. I’ve had this happen before, but it was relatively quick to turn hard on the wheel to make it break loose. We tried over and over and started to feel hopeless about a truck full of produce and flowers and immobilized.

    In desperation, I got out an old logging chain (forged in Duluth, MN) and tried pulling the truck with the tractor to try to break the impasse. On the second try it worked. Linda had a good day at market – sold all the flowers, lots of garlic and nobody complained about the prices!

    It was good to see Emma again and learn of her week at camp. We had a sheep (Beatrice see blog entry for her arrival) that seemed a bit listless yesterday and when we got home from the morning activities, she was dead. She showed no signs of bloat or diarrhea, just went down. So we spent some time digging a hole to bury her. I’ve come to accept that death is a part of raising livestock, but it’s never easy.

    The rest of the day we put up some more sweet corn (last of the season) and picked and peeled the remaining apples from the first three apple trees to ripen. We just peeled and cut up the apples and froze them to make applesauce in bulk at a later time. We did get a 92 inch continuous apple peel!
    On our way back from the camp we stopped in at “Mousehole Days” in Melbourne to drop the key off to the new lawnmower for my lawnmower guy and fire chief to look it over and haul it home for me. Martin got the chance to sit in the firetruck and blow the fire truck siren!

    August 6, 2005 – Special Bonus Emma Update

    Today Emma returned from a week at 4-H Camp and writes this blog entry. “I spent the last week in 4H camp and had a blast!
    4h camp
    This is a picture of all the “everything campers” and I am on the end.
    4h camp
    One day we got to herd the horses and feed them. The brown one was really fat because it was really friendly.
    4h camp
    This is the high ropes course. I did the vertical log and thats a log leaning against a tree and you had to climb up it. I also did the post man walk where you walk on one rope and hold onto two ropes about 20 feet off the ground. One kid sat on the log for 30 minutes. We did a climbing towers and I got up about 30 feet off the ground.
    4h camp
    This is when we were sampling pioneer camp and my friend and I set up the tent and slept in it.
    There was this one guy and he would wait for you outside the bathroom door and take pictures when you came out. My friend came up with the name “Papparazi Dude” for him. My counselor and cabin mates were really nice. The boys were annoying. We had three campfires and they were fun. We had one dance and more Papparazi dude pictures. We went on a creek walk and covered ourselves in mud. We went swimming for 5 hours one say it was awesome. I want to go back next year.

    July 21, 2005 – Lake Superior/Emma Search & Rescue

    We started the day off with a lunch on the shore of Lake Superior. Of, course, swimming was part of the deal.

    The water’s a bit colder, but still fun to wait for the waves.
    After lunch we hiked the 1.5 mile path up the Baptism River to the High Falls, the highest waterfalls in Minnesota.

    Dad and Martin hiking across the river. Martin earned a t-shirt of his choice by walking the entire way – there and back. We all wished we could walk one mile less than our age in an afternoon!

    We had a bit of a project, building a dam across the river – you can see we got about 15 feet of rock dam built before it was time to go. It’s never too early to embed a love for civil engineering in a child.

    On the way back, Emma was separated from the group, and at a fork on the trail, headed on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail, instead of the trail back to Lake Superior. Linda, Martin and I were the last ones out and when we got back, the rest of the party said – where’s Emma?

    So, Linda and I drove up highway 1 where the Lake Superior Trail crossed the road, Mike and Lori, retraced our steps, and Grandma stayed at the vehicles with the rest of the kids. It’s rather unnerving, walking through the woods, calling out your lost child’s name. We made it back to the falls with no sign of Emma. All the things that run through your mind – she fell in the river, fell off a high place, was abducted, or just dazed and confused and lost. Near the falls, we talked to a party that had seen a young girl in a swim suit go up over the falls, to the footbridge, with another party. That trail, went to another campground, so I took that trail, gave Linda the keys to the van, she went back to the ranger station, and I continued on to the Tetteguche trailhead.

    Emma was found shortly after we left – she said the trail suddenly climbed up a steep stone stairway before coming to a big rock outcrop and she knew it was the wrong way. So she turned back, took the other fork, and found her way back to the lake. There were some moments of apprehension for daughter and parents!

    July 9th, 2005 – Work and Play

    Today was a morning/evening of work and afternoon of play. This morning we weeded the Christmas trees and part of the garden.

    Kids helping to weed.

    The foreground of this garden is gladiolus and dark red are amaranth.

    The kids also peeled all the apples for applesauce. Today we just peeled and froze them to make the sauce another day.
    Then in the afternoon it was off to the aquatic center.

    Martin enjoying the splash.

    Michael and Emma moving down the waterslide.

    Grandma provided birthday cake and ice cream and toppings for an early celebration.

    July 6, 2005 – Softball Winds Down

    Emma’s softball season winds down. Tonight was the first tournament game. I was very pleased with her coach and team. There were 22 players, and each person, big or small, played the same amount. Unfortunatley, there are too many coaches out there who don’t respect each member of the team and only play their favorites, even at the elementary level.
    Emma up to bat.
    Ouch! Sore foot after taking a pitch on the foot.

    A few miles towards town, there is an army of 7 bulldozers mowing down a hill. I’m not sure what they are up to. Preparing a building site or making 2 acres of corn field? I can’t believe 7 bulldozers working for days to “make” 2-3 acres of crop ground could even be close to economical? I’ll keep you posted.

    July 4th, 2005 – Legalize Freedom!

    Last week at the Art Festival I saw a “Legalize Freedom” t-shirt. I don’t usually get on my soapbox, but the recent Supreme Court decision that now allows the government to take over private property and give it to to private developers pretty much puts an end to the concept of private property rights. Wal-Mart or any other business wants a new store – all they need to do is get the city to condemn your property. Used to be they had to pay you enough to make you want to leave, not just fair market value as this ruling allows. Again, property could only be condemned for public things like roads and hospitals. Now land developers can take over under “eminent domain.”

    For a neat twist, check out the efforts to build the “Lost Libery Hotel” on Justice Souter’s property in New Hampshire!

    July 3, 2005 – Quick Trip to Iowa City

    Claire was available for visiting from 8-12 this morning, so we all piled in the van and made the trip to see her. I think she was glad to see all of us. We walked around a bit and went out for brunch. Here are Emma and Claire at the place Claire wrote one of her assignments – to watch people in the pedestrian mall and then write a story about them. She wrote about some kids playing in this fountain.

    After we arrived home, it was lawn mowing afternoon and the Guiness Book of World Record tall amaranth curator came out to check his crop in our garden. Also continued work on the trailer and it’s about time for the Sunday night homemade pizza and movie night.

    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 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 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 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 16, 2005 – “I Live With my Food”

    The other day I was offering Emma “encouragement” via peer pressure by showing the young girls at Sugar Creek Farm butchering chickens. I explained it was part of knowing where your food comes from and having skills that may some day come in handy. (In a related topic, we all know that girls like guys that have skills.) She countered, “I know where my food comes from, Dad, I LIVE with my food.” And you know what – she’s right. She lives with turkeys, chickens, lambs, fruits, vegetable, berries, and a milk goat. She’s got a pretty good idea where everything comes from and the season you can get it.

    Tonight was another episode of room cleaning. I’d say we are about 75% done. They need a new bookcase and to sort through some clothes – but the worse is over. The most disgusting find in Emma’s room was a small chuck of dried up pizza under her dresser.

    A co-worker said I should check out the brand new $8,000 Kia with 100,000 mile warranty and guaranteed $4,000 trade-in. I could get into a new car for $4,000. Sounding too good to be true, I checked out the web site and found out many of the things I have come to expect in a car (radio, carpeting, Air Conditioning) are not included in that price. So, it’s back to the classifieds.

    June 15, 2005 – Obedience School

    Tonight was the last obedience school for Blue and Emma. Here they are practicing “stay.” obedienceBlue has a ways to go, but has improved greatly. He still isn’t his exuberant self after his injury last weekend, but is perking up. Here is the proud doggy and master.

    Today was one of those days that I was running all day, but have to think what really was accomplished – See how your day compares to a “Day in the Life.”
    7:30 – empty dishwasher and do dishes
    7:45 – bring Linda to school for her three-day farm tour and Emma to her “Kids in college” where she is learning about GPS systems and geo-caching, Japan, and qualities of talented and gifted kids. (I haven’t had good luck parlaying this into a portable home GPS system as a “learning tool” for the kids.)
    8:30 – fold laundry and mismatched socks
    9:00 – Cruise the internet for 5-speed, light-colored civics, corollas and prizms
    9:30 – Do chores
    10:00 – Pay bills
    10:45 – Check work e-mail
    11:30 – Run over to neighbors to get chore instructions and visit
    12:15 – Lunch with Marty
    1:00 – General clutter pick-up while waiting (unsuccessfully) for Martin to nap – he’s getting to the in-between nap/no nap time.
    1:20 – Go to town to get pea-sized rocks for the sandbox under the platform on Martin’s playground and other farm-store/Menards stuff
    2:15 – Pick up Emma from her event
    2:30 – Distribute rocks in the playgound
    2:45 – Change oil on Snowball and Blizzard
    3:30 – Begin the process of cleaning Emma’s room
    5:30 – Go to obedience school
    6:30 – Buy underbed storage boxes for the room cleanup
    7:00 – Wrap up the farmstead (put away stuff dragged out during day and start chores
    7:30 – Get Martin treat, read stories, and tuck for night
    8:15 – Resume Emma room cleaning
    10:15 – Begin Blog
    10:30 – Finish chores and hit the hay

    I guess three trips to town really kind of mess with the flow of the day.

    May 20, 2005 – Dog Agility

    Emma has been taking Blue, our Australian Shepherd, to dog obedience classes and today got the dog jump apparatus out for the first time. It was a bit of a milestone since it was the first time she has used the equipment since Frankie, our Shetland Collie died unexpectedly. She started Blue jumping over the lowest rung, and moved up to the top, exclaiming, “Blue’s a natural!”


    Blue is a very fast and strong dog, so this jumping is no sweat for him, even the highest rung. Got a bunch of tomatoes and peppers planted in the straw that will become next year’s raspberries. All the cages are up and the plants are ready to

    May 8, 2005 – Pine Lake II

    Half the day was at the lake. Wonderful sand castles were built…
    sand castle

    canoeing on the lake…

    girls in canoe
    and boys hanging on the beach… boys on beach

    The coolest thing in dad’s eyes was a snake suspended on a branch of a sunken tree out in the lake.


    It was a good weekend with lots of talk about the future of sustainable agriculture and ecology as attendees at this week-end’s getaway are highly engaged in the discussion at large.

    Dana Jackson, Associate Director of the Land Stewardship Project gave the keynote address at the Upper Midwest Organic Conference this year.

    Dana and Laura are co-authors of The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems to Ecosystems a book that supports progressive farming practices as providing great environmental benefits.

    Laura’s husband Kamyar Enshayen works on local food initiates in Iowa, including leading the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign in Black Hawk County.

    James Pritchard, environmental historian, author of A Green and Permanent Land: Ecology and Agriculture in the 20th Century and along with his wife, Diane Debinski wrote a field guide to Butterflies of the Yellowstone region.

    Matt Liebman studies crop/livestock/soil interactions.

    His wife, Laura Merrick works on historical forest and land use projects and is one of America’s finest squash breeders!

    As for us, we’ve got this blog, a few acres, and a few animals.

    May 6, 2005 – Loaded for Bear

    We’re off (mostly) for a weekend in a cabin at Pine Lake State Park. The kids and I are heading out after school, but Linda has commencement and a speaking engagement tomorrow morning, so she won’t be joining us until then.

    It seems like you need the same stuff whether you go for a weekend or a week. Here we are, all ready to go! Packing is always such a delight (but you’d never know it from these smiling faces).van loaded

    April 30, 2005 – When will Spring Come Back?

    Another freeze last night – record low on this date was 33 until last night’s 31. Most of the day was in the 40’s and windy again. Got two tanks full of water distributed so all the pine trees got watered. We use water off the roof of the barn that goes into a big tank.
    water tank
    Here’s Emma helping water the trees out in the field.
    emma watering

    We got just a few more things planted in the garden before the wind sucked the energy out of us.

    Girls went to a a dog show in the morning and earned money for their 4-H club by scooping doggy-do from the show rings. This evening some friends from the farm class came over and vaccinated and turned the boys into no chance of being daddies.

    April 11 – Goat Girls and Spiderman

    Here’s today’s rainy day shot from in the barn of the the two goats and a couple of kids.
    goats and girls

    The girls learned about the not-so-cute part of goat husbandry today. As every parent knows, newborns have a predictable, if not variable excrement pattern. The first “discharges” are tarry and black, and once they start nursing, the semi-solid yellow follows. Well, shall we say the goats don’t have good “clearance” and much of the yellow stuff ends up stuck on the little guys. But other than that, they’ve been faithfully monitoring to make sure they are getting enough milk and getting the hang of nursing.

    This morning there was a break in the rain, so “Spiderman” (a.k.a. Martin) and “Green Man” (a.k.a. Dad) went to work. We planted 11 more potted chestnuts and seeded and covered the mudhole with marsh seeds. Today’s rain has been just perfect (so far) that it hasn’t washed away the seeds. Spiderman was very good at fetching trees, putting empty buckets back on the wagon, and putting the empty containers back as well. Spiderman and Green Man actually worked faster than Green Man could have worked himself. Martin is fascinated with Spiderman, – I’m not sure where he came into contact with Spiderman, but according to Martin, he is half good and half bad. His Mom was a spider and his Dad was a Dad.

    April 2, 2005 – Planting Time

    I went to class this morning and noticed some folks must have had enough accounting as the attendance was thinner than usual! Brought the truck so got another load of free mulch. The tiller worked like a champ today – did all gardens without a bolt breaking, tines gettting wrapped in garbage, or belt breaking. Then potatoes, onions, and the first round of chard and carrots found their way it the ground. Here’s team potato at work:


    Emma enjoyed getting the bike out today as well. Oh yeah, I forgot Claire is i Washington D.C. for a class trip. No fair – When I was her age, I got to go to St. Paul for an afternoon!

    March 20, 2005 – Seed Starting

    Today was the first day of spring and it was warm enough to do all the seed starting outside. It was much better than doing it in the house – all the mess stayed outside. Linda supervised the soil mixing, which was earnestly performed by Martin and Emma.

    seed starting

    The chickens are laying like nuts – we were down to 6 eggs a day in January, but yesterday we got 40, including a goose egg. I don’t think we have many more chickens than that.

    This morning we folded and sealed the last of the surveys.


    After church, the 4H dog agility team came over and built the jumps etc. for future training. Then good friends Steve and Sally brought over a traditional Irish meal of Irish Soda Bread, corned beef, cabbage, potates, carrots, and bread pudding.


    March 10, 2005 – Martin Finds a Friend

    Another town day. I awoke to freezing drizzle and slick roads this morning. About half-way to work the freezing rain stopped. At least the rain and snow was a good setting for the seeds sown yesterday.

    Tonight was Emma’s school concert. There was a pony-tailed three-year old redhead sitting in front of us in the bleachers in the gym. Marty sat next to her and they started a conversation. I didn’t catch all of it, but they started talking about what “schools” they went to and it quickly went to a three-year old facial distortion contest. Martin must have thought he found a kindred spirit when the little girl tugged on the skin by her eyes to reveal the part of the eye, not usually seen except by eye surgeons. Then they pulled lips (their own) and stuck out tongues. A good time was had by all and the fun ended all too soon as the concert wrapped up.

    February 16, 2005 – Wet Boots Continued

    A few days ago I mentioned the girls went to the “pond.” Today, I was cleaning out the mudroom and found the boots weighed about three times their normal weight. Now some of the weight was mud on the outside, but the majority was the wet liners.

    It must be a curse and a blessing to be aided by foresight. A person with foresight would know that the next time the boots were worn, they would still be wet after staying in a room that is around freezing for a number of days. Of course, having this knowledge would require action. But in this case, sister 2 did indeed make an intervening trip and did have the experience of putting on the wet boots – the answer – wear your sister’s boots. When asked about the wet boots and what she thought would happen the next time she wanted to wear boots, she said she still had a dry pair at school!