Family – All

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.

July 18, 2010 – At the Waterfall

The final photos from the trip are from Tettegouche State Park.

baptism river sign

The primary feature of the park is the Baptism River and its journey to Lake Superior.

superior hiking trail sign

Part of the Superior Hiking Trail goes through the park.

Lake Superior Lookout

We took a slight detour and hiked up to this overlook along the trail.  Martin was a good sport and enjoyed looking back at the lake and knowing he had hiked from the water’s edge up to this point.  He put seven miles on his feet on this hike.

high falls on baptism river

The reward is the high falls of the Baptism River.  It is an enchanting place with a big pool below the cascading waterfalls.  For July, the falls had a pretty good flow.

Swimming in the pool is a great thrill among the sound of the crashing water and the spray from the falls.

As the week draws to a close, a group shot.  Emma commented that this was the first time she really missed her sister!

one year ago…”Final Day of Vacation”

May 30, 2010 – OK, We’re Almost Done with Claire

OK, I promise, we’re almost through with Claire posts for a while, but when your baby graduates from high school, it’s best to note it in this Dad’s “Online Scrapbooking” as others have referred to this blog.

Sp there she is, all done with high school!  As her achievements have been previously chronicled, I’ll leave them be for now.  But she did have one last high school honor – she was selected to address the audience at the graduation ceremony.  We were far away, it was hot, and the parameters of the speech left little room for outlandish creativity (aka duct tape school dresses), it is put here only for those relatives who are very interested, the rest of you can wait for tomorrow’s post.

one year ago…”Martin Planting”

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”

July 12, 2008 – Rainy End to Vacation

The last few days of the trip were more rain than sun.

The high the last full day was supposed to be 80 degrees, but it struggled to reach 60.

A little rain doesn’t stop the kids from going outside – otherwise it’s time to snuggle up to a board game or deck of cards and be thankful we’re not in a tent in an all-day rain.

The sunset brought a ray of clearing on the last evening.

The final official vacation act is a stop at the Tower Cafe, amazingly enough, located in Tower, MN for a final breakfast on the way back home.  The cross-winds were strong on the way home, so with the canoe on top of the van, we couldn’t truck along at 70 mph, so it was a slower-than-usual trip home, but as trips home from vacation go now that the kids are older, it wasn’t even close to the longest ride home.

one year ago…”BWCA Trip”

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″

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…

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…

April 14, 2007 – Finally a Day!

Today, we finally had a day that wasn’t cold or snowy! We were able to get a few things done outside. GJ dressed up a crowd to do some bee work.  She brought her stepson from CA and a friend visiting from Fiji.

Here is the crew and, of course, the youngest one gets to hold the fire!

Marty leads the procession down to the hive.

Smoking the hive to settle the bees before lifting off the lid.

Yeah!  There’s still bees inside (that’s no longer something taken for granted).

More hive work. (I’m not sure what’s going on today!)

Linda got the first few things in the ground, although most of the garden is still to wet to work.

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.

January 21, 2007 – Snow At Last

We finally have a blanket of white after a winter of brown. The last week we’ve had two snowfalls. Just enough to warrant trying out the tractor with the blade for clearing snow.

It sure beats shoveling! I’ve still got some learning to do with the equipment, but right now it is a novel activity. This snow was folled by still and warm – not the usual howling wind, so it is once again nice to be outside.

one year ago…

January 20, 2006 – 90th Birthday Bash!

Today we celebrated our 90th birthday!  I recently turned 45 and Linda turned 45 a while back, so we added them together, threw in a seven piece live band, cooked a turkey and invited guests to bring a dish to share.

To our surprise, everyone on the guest list was able to come. The band is the Blue Moon Players from Ames, and for you public radio listeners, Curt Snook is playing the fiddle.  We won the band at a church auction and they drove out for the gig.  Linda and I got to dance the first song at our wedding dance, the Iowa Waltz and a good time was had by all!

one year ago…

January 6, 2007 – Cooking for a Chef

It’s usually nice to bring a potluck item to a dinner, but tonight’s dinner was bit more daunting as one of the invitees spent a gig as Paul Newman’s personal chef. It was a diverse crowd – including folks from Japan and France. What to bring? Linda decided on a winter vegetables – braised cabbage with beet and apple. It was a fun evening.

Martin ended up with the trinket from the traditional Epiphany King Cake (a cake with a small trinket inside, and the person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations.) For his part, Martin donned a home-made paper crown decorated liberally with glitter and got to pick his queen, and in an upset pick, chose Claire over Mom.

He took his responsibility seriously and insisted on wearing the crown to church and a basketball game the next day.

one year ago…

December 29, 2006 – Photo Friday “Best of 2006”

This week’s Photo Friday Contest theme is “Best of 2006.” Here’s a few shots that generated the most comments on the blog this year.

Marty befriends a fledgling just out of the nest by finding and feeding it worms.

A foggy spring morning just before the trellised raspberries begin to leaf out.

A brave young Kindergartener’s first day on the bus.

An egg getting candled to look for cracks.

one year ago…

December 22, 2006 – Post-Solstice

Twenty-two hours after lighting the fire and a day-long drizzle, the solstice fire is not yet totally extinguished!

The biggest logs are still burning – helped by a change in wind direction. This was the warmest Solstice ever, and the first for a long time that didn’t have snow. A few years ago, there was such a snowstorm that I wasn’t even able to drive the car all the way home that evening- had to leave it on the blacktop road as the gravel was impassable.

one year ago…

December 21, 2006 – Winter Solstice

Today is the darkest day of the year – made dark even so much more so by the heavy overcast and fog. From here on until June 22, the day length gets longer. This was the most rewarding Solstice fire ever – mainly due to the fact that it had been raining for two days and the wood was very wet. I acquired a few extra gallons of fuel oil, anticipating the trouble, and even with 5 gallons, it barely started – but once it did, it was a spectacular fire!

We gathered around with candles and were amazed with the height and thousands of sparks flying out of the fire.

The fire was followed with a potluck meal. The house is lit only with white Christmas lights throughout – no regular lighting and it does turn into a rather magical place. We reckon about 75 people showed up, braving the drive in the night-time fog – a little bit fewer than previous years, but still a good turnout.

one year ago…

December 6, 2006 – Rudolph

Tonight was the elementary school’s Christmas program. It was a milestone of sorts for us. It was the first time in 5 seasons we could sit and watch the program without caring for a baby, entertaining a toddler, or trying to keep a preschooler still for the program as Martin was on stage rather than in our laps or bouncing around between us.

Here he is with some of his classmates after the show!

one year ago…

December 5, 2006 – Winter Through a Child’s Eyes

Every once in a while it’s nice to have a child around to remind me of the important things. We had a very light flurry of snow and Martin was so excited for the snow.

He went outside and even though there wasn’t enough to sled, make snow angels, or make a fort – there was enough to try to catch a flake on his tongue. He had a blast for five minutes, enjoyed what there was and went on with his life.

I’m dreading the sub-zero windchills and lack of real snow and he’s out there laughing and catching snowflakes on his tongue.

one year ago…

November 28, 2006 – Blast from the Past!

We were rummaging through some deep storage the other day and Claire ran across this newspaper featuring her father’s photo on the front page!

It shows me with the trophy for the “Ugliest Truck Contest” at the Central Iowa Fair in 2002. I inherited this truck many years ago from my father and it had over 200,000 miles on original engine, clutch, and transmission before it died.

Here’s what the photo caption in the paper says: ” Mark Runquist of Melbourne earned a dubious honor on Saturday afternoon at the Central Iowa Fair with his winning entry in the “ugliest truck” contest. Runquist brought his 1984 Mazda to the competition. His truck comes complete with corn stalks growing in the bed. He was awarded a trophy that looked a lot better than his vehicle.”

one year ago…no entry

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.

November 11, 2006 – Game Day

A fairly unscheduled Saturday led to a serious spat of house cleaning in the morning. In the evening, the Marshalltown pep band played at the Iowa State basketball game in Ames.

See Claire?

After the game, she posed on the court after the 68-40 victory.

Another milestone of first – the first dormer side was sided today and I keep plugging along with the insulation.

one year ago…

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 21, 2006 – Cracking the Code!

Today was the seasonal clean out the closet and drawers day to replace summer with winter clothes. Martin and Linda found a “Dick and Jane” book in Martin’s room and all of his letter sounding at school finally clicked as he began reading today! Some people vividly remember the day they first cracked the code.

I will remember the gusto upon which Martin read:

Look, Jane, Look.
See Baby
Oh, oh, oh.
Funny, funny Baby.

He is very enthusiastic and brings life to the rather bland words on the page.
one year ago…

October 15, 2006 – Soap

Today was another day to revive an ancient, somewhat forgotten task – making soap from scratch – in this case rendered beef and pork fat, lye, and goat milk. The folks from Morning Sun farm came over to finish what we had started a few months ago when the fat was rendered.

Everybody looks pleased to finally see the soap being poured into the mold without any lye burns. In 6 weeks we’ll be able to test out this batch.

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.

October 7, 2006 – An Unscheduled Saturday

Finally a Saturday with nothing scheduled (except getting Claire to town at 6:45 am to head to the state marching band competition in Fort Dodge). Otherwise it was a rather mundane day of house cleaning and trim staining and finishing.

October 6, 2006 – Shrinking our Footprint

At some point it becomes necessary to quit complaining and just take care of your own house. Even if the Federal government doesn’t see the value in taking care of the house we depend on to live (earth), doesn’t mean that we as citizens have to go along. After my discovery at the renewable energy fair, just how inefficient some of our appliances are, this week three new appliances were delivered – a new chest freezer, fridge, and front-load washer. Although it’s never a good time to fork out cash for new ones, with three kids at home, our energy use will never be at a higher use, so the quicker we act, the more we save.

Martin’s new favorite pasttime is watching the clothes spin around through the door. He must have spent 20 minutes watching the first load – and with the controls on the front, he can now reach the buttons to start the washer – it’s never too early to get the young man excited about doing laundry!

October 3, 2006 – Martin Shows “Character”

Martin’s Kindergarten teacher called us last week and let us know that we should come to a school assembly today to watch Martin as he was recognized in front of the school as a representative from his class as showing outstanding respect.

It’s kind of a mystery to us how he interacts at school – I’d love to view from a hidden camera to watch his interactions. After raising for five years, I really wonder what he’s like when I’m not around. It looks like he’s doing well!

October 1, 2006 – Slow Food

Today the good people at Two Friends Farm hosted an unofficial Slow Food gathering. Here’s a brief description of the movement lifted directly from their web site.

Slow Food U.S.A. is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating the food traditions of North America. From the spice of Cajun cooking to the purity of the organic movement; from animal breeds and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables to handcrafted wine and beer, farmhouse cheeses and other artisanal products; these foods are a part of our cultural identity. They reflect generations of commitment to the land and devotion to the processes that yield the greatest achievements in taste. These foods, and the communities that produce and depend on them, are constantly at risk of succumbing to the effects of the fast life, which manifests itself through the industrialization and standardization of our food supply and degradation of our farmland. By reviving the pleasures of the table, and using our tastebuds as our guides, Slow Food U.S.A. believes that our food heritage can be saved.

There was a great mix of folks – organic farmers, owners of Marshalltown’s only white tablecloth restaurant, recent immigrants, jambalya-toting former Lake Charles LA residents, a doctorate student in snake biology among others!

This is what it’s all about – if only manners didn’t prevent us from eating with such gusto!

September 30, 2006 – Kid Weekend

This weekend is kid-time. I volunteered to be a bus chaperone for the Urbandale Band contest. We left home at 2:00 pm and arrived back shortly after midnight. The Bobcat band earned 2nd place in the 4A contest.

Claire in action, playing some part of the soundtrack from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It pleases her father, a former sousaphone player in marching band, to see her out strutting her stuff.

September 26, 2006 – Friends Across the Field

Today is a “Meet a Neighbor” day. Nancy lives to the northwest of us. In the winter, the sun sets over their house (from our perspective). We share many things with Nancy, mainly a zest for life and courage to pursue non-mainstream lives.

I’m a little bit late with this entry as the piece she is holding is from her just-ended show at the local art gallery entitled “Perspective is Everything” which was a group of assemblages – sculptures of sorts, made from thrown away or kitschy objects that tell a story or provide a view of the world or a small part of it.

This is one of the assemblages that was in the show, “on loan” from high hopes gardens. Those of you who know us, will see objects that somehow symbolize us. This one rests in our china hutch in the living room.

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!

September 19, 2006 – Family Poet

Here’s Claire’s thoughts on the threat of frost tonight.

The summer labor, under the burning sun
beating down, warming and browning our shoulders and the land
has nearly come to an end.

The tediousness of an extravagant crop,
all summer plucking the fruits from the vines
again and again,
to the point of insanity
where you honestly want to set the luscious fruitful gardens ablaze
and stand and relish the leaping flames devouring your precious
but exhausted plants.

But then the cold comes,
a bitter chill, and then they seem more precious. Out
to pick more of the never-ending supply before the crop is wiped out by winter winds.

Out to pick the fruits
    Out to cover the pumpkins
         Out to harvest the last bits
of the garden that you thought you despised – for its bounty
but found in reality, you love.

September 18, 2006 – Birthday Weekend

Both the girls turned a year older this weekend – their birthdays are only a day apart (and two years). Claire got a new desk to do homework on and Emma a digital camera, so expect more pictures like the thunderheads from Emma. Claire had some friends out for pizza, and they went to the football game to watch the marching band and then they had a slumber party. Emma will take a bunch of friends cosmic bowling next weekend.

Who would have guessed years ago that Linda, Claire, and Emma would go to a football game and I would stay home!

September 11, 2006 – 5 Years

Does anybody remember it’s been five years since the Twin Towers came down? (kidding!) I’m not sure the best way to commemorate the occasion. I didn’t have a connection to anyone who died that day and am skeptical of politicians who try to use it to promote their own agendas.

I remember vividly that we had a rare fall trip planned to Kawishiwi Lodge, in northern Minnesota, a few miles from the Canadian Border. Our week there started a few days after 9-11, when there was still a great deal of uncertainty and disbelief in the air.

It was a great place to be – to connect back to basic things – trees, water, and family and far enough away from everything to lift some of the veil of uncertainty away for a while.

We stumbled across a description of our kids that week written by someone else this summer. Each cabin has a journal where guests can record their thoughts and experiences for the future guests to see. We usually stayed in the same cabin until we switched this year to an adjacent cabin. We remember an older couple staying in that cabin the week of 9-11 and hoping our young and boisterous children were not ruining this older couple’s peaceful week in the wilderness.

Imagine our surprise when Claire was reading through all the comments and figured out the comments written in the journal were about her five years ago! The sentiments were very sweet, the couple remarked about current events, juxtaposed with the joyful sounds and actions of the children next door, who they evidently eyed with gratefullness at their joy and happiness at a time when the adults were not. It was rather sweet to think of this couple getting joy from our kids, when we thought they might be annoyed!

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 21, 2006 – Last Martin-Daddy Day!

I still can’t believe this day is here. Most MWFs since Martin was born were “Martin-Daddy” days. Today was the last one as he starts Kindergarten on Wednesday. I’m not sure what it means to him or me with him gone each weekday at school. He was my constant companion and helper for the last five years. He has shown a great willingness and aptitude for helping on the farm.

I sensed that he too knew today was the start of a new adventure for both of us. One way this expressed itself was that he made two lists:

One list was things that Daddy wanted to do. The other list was things that Martin wanted to do. He carried the lists around all day and if you look closely, you can see he crossed a few things off the lists.

Martin wanted to put together the baking rack that was in pieces in the barn.

Dad wanted to get the leftover tomatoes from Market canned – 7 quarts and 7 pints. There were more things on the list, but that’s just one from each of our lists.

August 15, 2006 – State Fair Grooming

Livestock grooming is serious business at the fair. I thought this might be good for Thingamajig Thursday, but the name is written on it!

This is a blow dryer for cows! This was a common appliance down this row of calf contestants.

The handlers are spraying, blowing, and trimming this calf before the judging. If farming doesn’t work out for these lads, they could always start a salon!
After the downpour, we found ourselves in the DNR building and Linda found this new accessory.

It’s a small fox snake.

August 14, 2006 – Fair 4H Projects

These are some of my favorite projects (that I’d like to copy) from the 4H building at the state fair. These are all from high school and younger 4Hers.

This arbor seat would look great in the garden. I wish I would have thought of this before building my walk-through arbor.

I like this barn-shaped shelf to display toy tractors.

I remember seeing these a long time ago, but not recently. We’ve been struggling with the best way to put a sign up for high hopes gardens, and I think this is it!

This entry wins in my re-purpose a broken item – it’s an old broken metal bar-b-q, with the main part removed and the framework reworked with weatherproof decking for a bar-b-q-buddy.

This was a creative re-use of an old claw-foot tub – it has been refashioned into a love seat. Martin wanted to crawl in and lay down. It would be great for sleeping through tornadoes in!
Finally, a quick update from the farm. Another 1.25 inches of rain fell yesterday, so we are up to over 3 inches in the last week – more than June and July combined.

We had a few leftover plums, so ended up with 21 quarts of canned plums. Martin poked the skins with a fork and packed them in the jars and had great fun doing it.

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 24, 2006 – News from the Farm

Among other things, today was onion and potato harvest day.

We pulled all the onions. It wasn’t the best year for onions, as they weren’t all very big – the white variety did best this year.

We pulled about 1/4 of the potatoes and Martin was excited to haul a load from the garden to the drying spot with his tractor wagon. The red potatoes dried down first. Like the garlic, we seeded buckwheat where the onions used to be.

I also spent some part of the day hauling scaffolding – three sections from Morning Sun Farm and two sections rented from a scaffolding company in Des Moines.

I’m always scheming what to build next – the latest idea is an outdoor brick or adobe oven to cook breads and dry fruits and veggies and cook an occasional pizza. I’m about to start the research process and my number on question is can the clay-based horno type ovens last in this alternating humid/cold climate? Keep ya posted.

July 23, 2006 – Linda’s Pies Strike Again!

Today, we got a few more rows of crops planted. Earlier in the week I got the first buckwheat planted following some garlic. The lack of rain has hit again, I started watering the new brambles again. We had about 1/10 of one inch in June – we had over an inch the week we were on vacation, and none since then and the grass is browning up again.

We dropped Emma off at 4H camp near Boone, where she has a week of water camp. She looked a little sad to see us go, but will have a great time.

We attended a fundraiser for Denise O’Brien, candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

I’m usually very careful (hesitant) to put up yard signs for political candidates, but since we know Denise, will make an exception, since we know her. She has worked tirelessly for agriculture for 30 years and we’re thrilled that an organinc farmer is in the running for secretary of Agriculture in Iowa!

There was a local food “contest” as part of the gathering and Linda’s Apple Pie (with apples picked from our tree this morning) was voted “best of show” and she won the grand prize – a food basket containing wine, dried tomatoes, bar-b-q sauce, and vegetables! It reminded me of the time – I think our first year here, she entered some pies in the Melbourne summer celebration pie contest – she brought a cream and fruit pie and won both categories. We’re sitting at the table and all the white-haired ladies are buzzing “who’s Linda Barnes? who’s Linda Barnes?” I’m not sure who she displaced as pie champ, but it was a good introduction to the community.

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 19, 2006 – Bubbles!

Today Claire substituted dish soap for dishwasher soap in the dishwasher.

She was surprised at the results and that there was that much difference between the types of soaps. They tried many methods of cleanup, and scooping up the bubbles and into the sink was the best strategy.

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 16, 2006 – Story Corps Interview

Today I interviewed Linda for posterity’s sake in the mobile recording booth for the Story Corps project. Now, her story, at least up to age 45, will be archived in the Library of Congress!

The interview was about 40 minutes long, and recorded in the airstream trailer pictured above and photo pilfered from the Story Corps web site (I forgot my camera) and we left with a CD of the interview.

We played it for the girls on the way home. They were surprised to learn some things about their mother they never knew. Some day I may get around to putting it on the website, but not today. Today was a bit of a pick-up and put away day. Still lots to do – haven’t even started on the gardens yet. Wouldn’t you know the belt on my mower broke (the belt on the back-up broke last week), so it’s another trip to the JD dealer.

After the interview it was off to Morning Sun farm to pick up the 5 goats that we farmed out to the goat resort. It takes good people to take up milking of 2 goats for eight days!

I’ll back up and fill in the last week of missing entries soon.

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.

July 11, 2006 – Away from the Lake

We make sure to take in some of the fun away from the lake. Blueberries are abundant.

We went out three mornings and got enough to make blueberry, muffins, blueberry cobbler, blueberry pancakes, make one batch of jam and 17 jars of canned berries – great for pancakes.

Even when we leave the farm, we bring the canning kettle!

On one of the trails near the cabin, an Osprey has made a nest.

We also drag the bikes along to ride around camp and on the logging trails.

July 10, 2006 – Vacation Food

We take turns cooking with the other family we go with, so no one person has to worry about cooking all the time and we get different meals than usual.

Martin loves to help cook, and here he is helping crack eggs for breakfast.

Smores are a traditional dinner time snack and Emma is our master marshmallow roaster.

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 23, 2006 – StoryCorps

Perhaps some have you have heard about StoryCorps, the oral history project modeled after the WPA oral histories of the 1930s. There are two mobile recording studios that travel the country, and Ames, Ia is one of the stops. A friend alerted us to the stop is Ames, as I never imagined it would stop so close. By the time we got to the web site to register, there was one time left in the three weeks it would be there and we would be home – 5:30 Sunday July 16.

I’m going to interview Linda and to keep it somewhat spontaneous, not give her a list of specific questions, but themes and topics instead. The recordings will all go to the Library of Congress. Imagine hearing a history of someone in your family or the same place you live from 80 or more years ago.

June 20, 2006 – Shh, Don’t Tell the Chickens it’s Not Raining!

I found a new way to convince the chickens to go inside the night-time shelter other than shooing by hand or with sticks – virtual thunderstorms!

I just spray the hose into the air and as the “rain” comes down, they scurry into the shelter. No more convincing chickens it’s time to go inside. It works like a champ.

June 13, 2006 – Martin Behind the Camera

I gave Martin the camera the other day and let him click away. Here’s a few of his photos.

We’ve got an old granary that was dragged out into the pasture – this is a piece of metal that was tacked on the corner at one time that the wind has seen fit to detach.
One of his favorite subjects is the “scoop tractor.”

I think one of dozens of pictures of the tractor will be sufficient!
There’s hardly ever pictures of the cameraman so Martin took this picture of me.

June 12, 2006 – Berry Moon

Last night’s full moon was also known as the “Berry Moon” in times gone by. I’ll vouch for that!

Today was strawberry day. This was the biggest one day harvest from the patch so far this season. This strawberry season we’ve made canned strawberry sauce, froze whole berries, made jam (strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb). About the only thing left are fresh strawberry margaritas!

June 9, 2006 – “Arbor” Day

Today we celebrated Linda’s birthday since it is the last evening we’ll all be together before her birthday (Monday). She hinted at wanting an arbor, so this morning, Martin and I set at it. To make it a real farm arbor, I used cattle panels on the side where the cheesy, fragile lattice is usually put.

Here the arbor is moved to position.

At rest in the perennial garden.

June 7, 2006 – Strawberries/Attic Building Continues

The strawberries are here!

Linda is being diligent about getting the fruit in. Claire made strawberry shortcake from scratch for dinner and the rest are destined for the freezer.
Today was a bit of clean-up in the wake of re-roofing. It is now very hot up there since there are no windows to open. I moved all the boxes and cleaned up all the nails, dust, bits of wood and asphalt shingles that fell down inside during the re-roof. We had about a dozen sheets of plywood left over and I moved them from the hay rack to the barn and finished hauling the branches that were trimmed to the burn pile.

Spent most of the rest of the day behind a paint brush.

Here’s Claire a couple of days ago, wiping the stain on the floorboards and window and door trim. Since it was hot and dry – it was a good day to throw a finish on the trim and beadboard for the attic. We’re on our 17th day in a row of above average temps and the grass is finally starting to turn brown. I’ve got two hay racks full of freshly finished boards.

June 6, 2006 – Recognition

It’s not always good to get your name in the newspaper, but here’s what the Marshalltown newspaper reported about me (a shorted version was in Sunday’s Des Moines Register).

“Mark Runquist has been voted Wholesome Harvest’s Board Member of the Year for 2005. Runquist has provided exceptional leadership along with his strategy, writing, and negotiation skills, the company said. He visited Japan where he represented Wholesome Harvest on a trade mission along with Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture and other state agricultural leaders. Wholesome Harvest is appreciative to be receiving Runquist’s advice as a Board Member Emeritus after his recent retirement from the board. He farms in Marshall County and is an award winning writer.”

There you have it – proof not to believe everything you read!

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 24, 2006 – “Moma” Robin

Yesterday I wrote about the abundant living and dead fledglings – today I caught Martin playing moma robin!

If you look closely, you may be able to see the worm he found for the robin dangling above the bird’s mouth. After he fed it 3-4 worms, we put the bird in the compost bin so it was safe from dogs and had plenty of food. The real moma robin found it and took over feeding from Martin.

We have separation of duties at the farm today – Linda takes care of manure and I take care of dead bodies. Today was clean out half the chicken coop day. It was easier with the tractor as we positioned the bucket by the door and Linda could just throw it an and wet it down all at once before taking it to the compost pile. It was lawn mowing day – got some more weeding done and some ground dug up for a new raised bed.

The first flower bouquets are in the house – the iris are in full bloom.

May 19, 2006 – Cirque du Soleil

Tonight Linda and I had an escape, we went to see the Cirque du Soleil road show, Delerium in Des Moines. It’s hard to describe the show – merging acrobatics, dance, broadway, art, lights, all addressing the limits of human potential. But if you went to see it, you’d probably have a different interpretation. The following photos are linked from the show’s website (no cameras allowed).

The stage was a runway the length of the arena, with a veil pulled over (literally and figuratively) which allowed projections to be superimposed over the performers. This woman looking at the live performer, morphed from a beautiful young woman to a beautiful old woman, finally dissolving into the floor. It was an interesting medium, not quite film, not quite theatre.

Again, here is a performer suspended with a giant ball within the projection veils.

This woman came up through the floor, had a long dress. Then the dress was pulled out to the length of the stage and dancers were under it, visible by their shadows under the dress only.

Then the dress was made into a tent.
It is a great show!

May 9, 2006 – Piano

Today was a day we had been putting off for some time – replacing the family piano with a new one. The piano we have was handed down from Linda’s grandmother. It was the first piece of furniture she got after being married. It had followed her from Des Moines, to Phoenix, to Minneapolis and finally back near home, some 80 or so years later.

Every time the tuner came he warned us that the tuning pegs were not holding and that it would not stay in tune very long. He was right, but we just kept getting it tuned, hoping that perhaps after years of “untuned” a few repetitions of tuning would convince it to remember to hold a tune.

Eventually, though, the cost of tuning and perpetual out-of tune notes, led us down the road to a new digital piano.
We did not just want to “throw it away” so I disassembled it.

Here is the picture of inquisitiveness as Martin becomes fascinated by discovering the linkage between striking the key and watching the hammers move.

I was surprised to see the hammer mechanism lift out in one piece.

We have some plans for the salvaged pieces. The keys are all removed, the front piece that holds the music and the keyboard cover with the logo will all be re-purposed into something new. Stay tuned to see what becomes of its new life. Our neighborhood lover of antiquities/artist has taken the rest and will repurpose the parts into new creations as well. Losing a piece of family history is somewhat lessened by keeping part of it and giving parts to others who appreciate them. Much like the bison and American Indian.

The following pictures speak for themselves. I’m struck by the intricacies of the details of the piano – the hand-penciled numbers of the keys, the texture of the felt, and the symmetry of the strings.

One of the most stirring sounds is that of the strings and soundboard, unfettered of the dampers. The sound of the resonance of the strings being struck in sequence sounded like the end of the universe – a perfect sound of all sounds of the audible music range, with the low vibrating sounds lasting longest and vibrating imperceptibly into nothingness.

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 17, 2006 – Fence Repair

Neighbors Don and Phyllis came over today to check the fencelines after winter. They cruise around the pasture in this nifty ATV. Martin was lucky enough to get a ride for part of the trip.

We had just a few places to shore up along the farmstead.

Here’s a place where a corner post wrapped in woven wire cracked at ground level.

After I pulled all the fencing staples, Martin singlehandedly drove it down to the burn pile, dumped it, and pushed the empty cart up the hill!

Here’s the fix. Now, I know replacing a wooden post with a steel one is not generally good practice – Don did offer to come put a new wooden post in, but this entire fence needs to be reconfigured, but the steel post was an 8 footer, and it leans on a couple of feet of cement at the base, so I tried to cheat a little. By the end of the day, the cows were over.
In continuing signs of spring, the “automatic waterer” for the chicken coop was hooked up (a 55 gallon barrel of water outside, hosed into the coop), the fence between the shed and barn put up and the last of this round of R-board stub wall pieces cut and pushed up in the attic.

April 15, 2006 – Easter Weekend

Here’s a picture of Martin with his Nana showing off the lamb cake he helped make. Because he’s a boy, because he’s nearly five, he’s proudly pointing to a part of the lamb cake that usually isn’t decorated.

It was another 80 degree day with a high wind warning, so it was hard to keep down the straw I just put down on the garden. It was another batch of soap making and some protoypes for candle packaging crate creation.

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.

April 5, 2006 – A Great Day to be Born!

Today started out well enough. In the morning Martin and I took care of some small things – we pulled out some fenceposts to move to make way for the new trees. Martin could pull them out, drag them, and lean them along another fence once I used the fence puller to get them nearly all the way out.
Then we mowed the strip where the new trees are to go.

We uncovered the garlic from the winter straw.

We unwrapped the winter wrap from the peach trees.

We got out the ladder and cut some of the middle-sized pines to a single leader on top. We added some chicken wire to the bottom of some cattle panels so the chickens couldn’t get to the new trees.

Right before lunch, we went to check on Blaze, and this is what we saw!

Blaze had given birth to triplets sometime between 10ish and 11:30. She was a dutiful mother and was licking the kids with conviction. One is very small and was not able to get up for a few hours. Although it is windy, it got up to 70 degrees today, so it was a good day to be born.

Then the UPS truck comes with the trees I was expecting Friday. So, after getting everything ready for planting, I went to State Center to get taxes signed off and pick up the girls from school so they could see the kids sooner and help with planting.

The sound of the girl’s shouts of glee when they looked in the barn and saw the kids was worth a lot of mid-winter chores and then some!
After playing with the kids for a while – Emma tenderly and confidently picking up the runt and easing the kid’s mouth into its mother’s teat was very nurturing. Blaze had all boys. Last year we had 2 boys. If you count Martin, that’s 6 straight males conceived on the farm!

Linda got home a bit early and it was great to see all five of us working to get the trees planted before dark/evening thunderstorms. Claire liked to dig holes, Emma liked to plant, Martin liked looking for worms and the rest was just hauling water and digging more holes. Eventually, Claire went in and cooked dinner for us as we finished. We finished by planting four more peach trees that came with the firs. We still have the mulching left, but all the trees are in the ground. The skies opened up minutes after getting back to the shed. More good karma.

Linda and I had a good 45 seconds of bliss as we were alone on a corner of the farm, looking down a couple rows of orchard, beyond that two full rows of conifer on the north edge stretching to the end of the property. To the right were the windbreak trees we planted when we moved in reaching 10-15 feet, and a distant view of shiny white new roof on the corn crib. After the new life, delightful experience of all of us pulling together to get more trees planted, we were able to remove ourselves from the never-ending “to-dos” and could simply enjoy what we’ve done since we arrived on the farm. 45 seconds of bliss, plus the sounds of the girls seeing the kids is enough to keep us going another year. It’s the kind of day that deserves a Morning Sun home brew from brewmaster Mike. Today is a good enough day to open one!

March 31, 2006 – Jr. Beekeeper

Martin has shown a great affinity towards the bees and seems to understand and play out the different roles of the different kinds of bees in a hive. Grandma Jo wanted to make sure he was comfortable around the bees – here he is in his new beekeeper’s suit that arrived today.

I’m guessing he’ll be the only beekeeper at Halloween next year.

We missed out on all the severe windstorms last night, but got a good downpour. Since it is not forecast to be below freezing through the entire forecast period and it was very windy today, I took the cover off the cold frame (purchased at Theisens a few days ago.)

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.

March 25, 2006 – Seeding the Universe With Chickens

Today we had a visit from the good people at Gracious Acres. They put up a brand new chicken coop in the past few days and were ready for some hens. Our hens have been outproducing our egg demand, so they came over to get a half dozen. That’s two more than we were seeded with nine years ago when we moved here and had an empty coop and no clue what to do with chickens. We’ve now sent (live) chickens to two states!

Martin had a great time as one his his “classmates” came to his farm and he was able to show his farm.

The fun begins as the chicken round-up begins.

The chickens safely tucked away in the truck are ready to go.

I’m not sure how to caption this one – other than what more could a little boy want than a little girl who has a big truck!

March 3, 2006 – Tree Pruning

Today, a few more trees were pruned. I’ll take the easy way and lead with the kid before showing the before and after pictures! After I crawled up this tree to prune it, Martin wanted to try, so here is the little monkey up the tree.

The following pictures show a before and after of a small apple tree.

Now a bigger apple tree before and after pruning:

Tree pruning is as much an art as a science and it is a task I enjoy. I follow some pretty simple rules:
1) Cut damaged branches out first
2 )Cut branches that are crossing/rubbing
3) Cut branches that grow straight up
4) Cut branches to allow light and air circulation in tree

I generally am not afraid to cut out 1/4 or more of the branches out if the tree needs it.

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 11, 2006 – Composter Built

Today, Martin and I finished building the small animal composter!

We used treated 2×4 and welded wire (we got on closeout at a store that went out of business last fall) to make the sides and some old roofing I found under the corn crib for the roof.

This shows a closer shot of one of the sides of the composter. The part facing up is the outside of the composter.


This shows a closer shot of one of the sides of the composter. The part facing up with the wire attached shows the inside of the composter.


Here’s a bit of detail on how the sides go together – with a section of electrical conduit and some screw-in eyes. This makes it really easy to move or take one side off to fill it up.


Here’s the final product. A great project – Marty helped by standing on the rolled wire while I got one side tacked down and helped hand me screws, etc. as I needed them. I’m hopeful this will save me a lot of digging in the coming years. Here’s a link to the original sheep composter that was the inspiration for this one.

Next, we need to make a new household composter because the “temporary” one we built the first month we moved in 9 years ago is starting to rot.

February 6, 2006 – Ankles

Last week Claire rolled her ankle playing in the barn. Of course, doctor’s hours were over, so a trip to the ER was in the cards. Today we brought her to the orthopedic Dr. in Ames for a look. She is still walking on crutches. Doc says no bones are broken and she will start physical therapy later this week. She was in good company as Lindsey Medders, ISU women’s basketball star was in for the same thing.

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 18, 2006 – Making Room for the Good Stuff

Today we went to the locker to pick up a hog and half a deer. I’m eager to try the hog as it is the first Berkshire we have tried – an old breed bred for flavor. One of Linda’s former students raises a few hogs and loves to deer hunt, so we are beneficiaries of more local food!

As putting the meat away involved some freezer consolidation, (we have two big chest freezers for all our treasures) I just went ahead and defrosted one using the rapid defrost method with hot water to get the ice pieces to slide off the walls. Here’s Martin holding a prize piece of ice from the defrosting!
The other night we had our first beef from our friends at Sugar Creek Farm. We had a roast and it was very good and topped it with homemade horseradish from the good people at Morning Sun Farm – send your thoughts and prayers to Morning Sun today and the next few days as one of its residents undergoes surgery and three weeks following of low activity.

January 17, 2006 – Claire’s Jammies


Claire is guest blogging today.
These are the pajamas I made with Mom over Christmas break. We took a while deciding on the right fabric, but when we finally did, it was perfect. We cut out the pattern pieces, pinned them to the fabric, and then cut out the fabric. We next had to sew the top, which got a little bit complicated after a while. After we finished that, we sewed the pants, which turned out to be much easier than the shirt. The final step was to put ribbon around the pant and shirt openings and a bow on the top to recognize which was front. The result was a pair of overlarge, but very comfortable pajamas. (Thanks Mom!)
Check out my blog at
It is not a farm blog like this one. It’s random thoughts on stuff and a collection of dumb things said by me and my friends.

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 14, 2006 – “White Angel” Arrives

This weekend Marty and I went up to Rochester to help my mom figure out and buy her next car, after her car went over 4 lanes of traffic and into two ditches en route to Minneapolis. We looked for cars, and I had her pegged for a sedan, but she fell head over heels for a Honda Odyssey.odyysey

Martin gets first crack at naming vehicles and his suggestion for this one was “white angel-banejell.” So Nana just dropped the “banejell” off the end, which Martin thought was the best part of the name. He played with Auntie Julie all day and had a good time.

January 8, 2006 – Guardian Angels

My mom has been collecting angels for decades, and evidently one was with her this weekend. She was traveling from Rochester to the Twin Cities for a grand-daughter’s birthday.

The car hit a patch of ice and she was in the far right lane of a 4-lane divided highway and slid across both lanes of the northbound lanes, through the center median, across two southbound lanes, and ended up in the far ditch.

Miraculously she is ok and now faces the pleasant task of working with insurance and car repair.

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 30, 2005 – ICE MONSTER!

Martin received a DVD of very old Superman cartoons. The quality is reminiscent of Ed Wood low-budget “b grade” horror movies. But the stories are simple (monsters vs Superman) and the outcome predictable – perfect for a 4 year old.

Martin has taken to the “ice monster” episode where a giant monster encased in a giant glass refrigerator at a museum predictably fails, the temperature warms, the monster escapes and wreaks havoc until Superman appears. Martin also got some sponge pills that “grow” into dinosaurs when soaked in water for a while.


Martin has taken to freezing the sponge dinosaurs in a dixie cup and waiting until the ice melts around his monster and releases it from its icy suspended animation.

December 26, 2005 – Time with Family

We were able to get away and spend some nice time with family in Rochester and the Twin Cities. This is the Barnes crew in Plymouth.
From the “out of the mouth of babes’ department, while we were passing by an elk farm, Martin tries to impress us with his holiday and animal classification skills by saying “Those (the elk) are cousins of the reindeer, cantelopes are too.”

December 21, 2005- Party on the Farm!

We’re now over the daylight hump – the days get longer and the mid-winter is passed. We help it along with a giant bonfire and party.
solstice bonfire

Throughout the year, all the trees than get blown down, old boards from cleaning outbuildings get thrown on the burn pile in the pasture, to be lit on the longest night of the year. We have an open invitation for folks from church and around the neighborhood to come for the fire and bring a dish to share for potluck. We’re not quite sure, but there must have been about 110 people, give or take. Folks really seem to enjoy coming out. We make ice luminaries, the house is only lit with Christmas lights, and despite cramming over 100 people in the house, people return year after year.

December 13, 2005 – Baby’s 14th Christmas

After we decorated the tree, Claire found the “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament.
13th christmas

Claire thought it was time for an update, so she made another hand-made ornament. 13th christmas

Putting up the Christmas tree has always been a test of marital commitment. From the selection of the tree all through the tottering placement of the tree in the house. The tree initially stayed up for two days this year, before a crash awoke me at 2:00 am. I thought the window on the corn stove may have shattered or a window broke from the gutter filled with ice. A drowsy reconnaissance downstairs revealed the windows and stove were all intact, but I didn’t notice the Christmas tree prone on the floor until coming down for breakfast. Of course, by that time, the water in the stand had a good, long time to soak into the early gifts. (Another reason not to get the wrapping done too early!)

November 23, 2005 – Good Neighbor/Unrelated Tragedy

During the big storm about a week ago, we lost one of the posts of the clothesline. Now, we use the clothesline a lot and this fact must not be lost on our neighbor. He noticed the line was not upright and just happened to be driving by with his tractor and post hole digger attached and stopped by to dig a new hole.

It saves a lot of time with the hand post-hole digger!

He told us a story of a 35 year old man who borrowed someone else’s tractor and post hole digger and went out himself to put in a new fence line just last week in the northern part of Marshall county. The next day, the tractor was found, with the post hole digger still spinning, and the man found dead about 100 yards away, missing his arm at the shoulder. I just hate to think of it.

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 13, 2005 – Sunday Dinner

We had a splendid dinner tonight.

Wende and Joe from Wholesome Harvest hosted a dinner with Katherine DiMatteo, keynote speaker for the Iowa Organic Conference and head of the Organic Trade Association (she’s holding the pork). We were also able to give Katherine a tour of our farm. Next to her is Robert Karp, director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, and Wende.

Fred Kirschenmann, now Distinguished Fellow and former director of the Leopold Center along with Linda and Mike and Joe from Wholesome Harvest.

It was an evening of transition for many of the people there – Fred being forced to resign from director of the Leopold Center, Robert in the process of leaving PFI to his next adventure, Katherine leaving the OTA, and even myself, leaving the board of Wholesome Harvest at the end of this year. As usual, we attempted to solve many of the world’s problems, but since many of us have been working on those problems for decades, we didn’t come away with all of them solved, but we were able to share some good ideas with each other for some new food for thought. And of course, the food was tremendous.

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 28, 2005 – Green Machines

Our neighbor has finished up all his harvesting and brought some equipment over to store in our shed. Here’s Marty getting a ride in the tractor.

Today my Nikon digital camera went on the fritz. I bought the first one new and it had this problem, so I bought the same model used off ebay and it worked for a few months before developing the same problem. I guess Nikon digitals don’t share the lineage of their 35 mm SLR predecessors. So I will be without photos until the new camera arrives. I really want the Canon that accepts lenses from my old SLR, but the budget called for an inexpensive point and shoot.

October 27, 2005 – Lad from Liverpool

It’s not often that one of the Beatles stops in Iowa to play a song or two, but tonight Paul McCartney was in town and we brought the girls. It must be hard to select just 2 1/2 hours of songs from the Beatles/Wings library. A good time was had by all. What struck me is how many of the songs are just a part of everyday life and how the ladies must still go nuts for those puppy-dog eyes!
sir paul

I still remember (for no good real reason) as a college student driving from a lake in Northern Wisconsin late at night with two guys (let’s call them “Mike” and “Tommy”) and for some reason we had the tape recorder on taping a variety show of sorts while we traveled. For some reason that made sense at the time, there is a particular painful version of “Hey Jude” with the three of the harmonally-challenged guys singing along. If I recall, the playback revealed the “na-na-nas” were particularly painful. I’ll have you all know that singing along 20 years later with 18,000 or more people, the “na-na-nas” sounded much better with my mature voice!

As far as a concert experience, the songs were all played pretty true to the originals – to my ears, the later Beatles and Wings songs (Band in the Run, Jet, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) lent themselves much better to the stage than the earlier Beatles tunes. “Let it Be” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” worked well as stripped-down versions. I would have preferred more improvisation and letting the two young guitarists loose, but nonetheless, it was a show to remember.

October 25, 2005 – New Puppy for the Farm

After our experience with Blue and the confidence Emma has gained in dog training, we now have a new puppy. Her name was Missy, but nobody really cares for that name, so we are thinking of a new name. We were leaning towards Maizzie, but when Martin says that it comes out like Macey. So we’ll decide tomorrow and get on with it. We got her from the animal rescue league – she is about 4 months old and a mixed breed that contains some spaniel.

October 21, 2005 – RoundTuit Work

Today was a day of “RoundTuit” work. Stuff that needs to get done, but never bubbles up to the top of the list. One of today’s tasks was taking a flat wheel off an old cattle chute (last fall we dragged it out of the corn crib to make way for the basketball court, flat tire and all). We took the wheel off and brought it to town to get a new old tire put on it.
Here’s Marty jacking it higher as we get ready to put the new tire on.
lug nuts
As Marty learns the next steps in replacing a tire, he demonstrates tightening up the lug luts.

I’m thinking of converting it to a mulch storer/hauler as there will be lots of that in the coming years.

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 15, 2005 – Travel and the Cousin’s Residence

I, Claire, am blogging today.

We left for California from the Des Moines airport at 12:45, after sleeping in and enjoying it because we knew everyone else was at school learning stuff we had no clue how to do, but were going to do it anyway. What a thrill.

Our first flight went from Des Moines to the gigantic complex Denver airport. Along with the complimentary beverages, we got a small snack mix called ‘Fiesta Mix’ It was an interesting combination of sesame sticks, soy nuts, and stale pretzels mixed with barbeque flavored sauce. We had a little time to kill at the airport, so we walked around and then sat at our gate. The next flight took us to Orange County, California at the John Wayne Airport. Almost right away we saw Aunt Kathy and Jill waiting for us at the gate.

We got our luggage and went to their house in Coto De Caza. It was a large, airy house. The three of us slept (well, we didn’t sleep most of the time) in Jill’s room. That evening we enjoyed ourselves playing computer, watching TV, learning how to play Texas Hold Em’, and enjoying a delicious meal cooked by Aunt Kathy and Grandma Jo. The next morning, we enjoyed another delicious meal before heading out to our hotel and spa.
The hotel was the fanciest place I have ever been. There were at least five different buildings and large courtyards filled with palm trees, fountains, pools, and three differnt temperatures of jacuzzis.

October 14, 2005 – California Bound

The girls are bound for California this morning to visit Linda’s sister, who has invited them out to commemorate their daughter’s 13th birthday. They’ll return late Monday night with the camera and stories.

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.

October 7, 2005 – Jammin’ Me

If there was a South by Southwest music festival for pre-schoolers, is there any doubt that this dude would be on the main stage? He plays a mean harmonica and and has a sense of style like no other. Marty and Mom even started their little combo, with Mom tickling the ivories and Marty on the mouth harp.

October 2, 2005 – Sunday?

It didn’t seem much like a Sunday today. I awoke early and went out to the trees planted this spring to get ready for winter. Then it was to Ames for church, dinner at Grandma Jo’s, a trip to the farm store going out of business (the employees seemed to have little, if any motivation to help – after all, what’s the store going to do – fire them?) and waiting a long time to get loaded up – a quick load of free wood chips scavenged from the pallet company, and another trip to Ames for Claire’s Coming of Age Boston trip reprise.

September 23, 2005 – Childhood Heroes!

Today Martin and Grandma Jo journeyed to Boone to see Thomas the Tank Engine live in person! It was a very big day for Martin and a highly anticipated day.
Martin gets to see Thomas close up but notices he doesn’t talk to him.
The steering wheel is really on the caboose and Martin is really steering the train.
Sir Toppem Hat

Martin meets up with Sir Toppem Hatt.

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 15, 2005 – “Better than Bach”

Yesterday Martin was pounding on the walls of the metal machine shed while I was moving the electric fence around. I walked by and he said with assurance “This is nicer than Bach.” Not sure that I heard him correctly or that he knew what he was saying, I asked him “What’s Bach?” Martin replied, “Bach is pretty music.” So there you go – music is all in the ears and imagination of the beholder!

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 27, 2005 – New Market and Tomato-RAMA

This spring we reserved a space at the farmer’s market section of the local energy cooperative’s annual meeting and fair. We were regretting it after the good market in Grinnell. The market was indeed rather lousy – it was twice as long and we sold a third as much.
The event was very nice though. I won a door prize of a $25.00 credit on my next electric bill. Martin got to ride up 55 feet to as high as the co-ops “lofty” could reach! Dad forgot his camera, so here’s a copy of a Polaroid they took before he went up. He’s got “hard hat” in hand and safety harness on.

We had lots of produce left over, so we went nuts canning – we canned over 30 quarts of tomatoes.
I also completed selling some things on e-bay – mainly things that were broken or in auction boxes I didn’t want – got nearly 100 dollars, led by a DeWalt drill, charger and battery that didn’t work for 34 dollars!

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 17, 2005 – Joy!

Martin enjoying a wild swing from his sister.
Today was full of odds and ends – changing oil and plugs on the mower, picking up chicken food and setting up the brooding room (chicks may come in mail tomorrow or Friday), canning tomatoes, and so on…

This week we have a visitor for “country mouse/city mouse exchange. Tonight she helped milk the new goat.
goat milk

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 11, 2005 – Claire’s Trip Part II

Claire is guest blogging again for part two.

When we were in Salem, we went on a working replica of a ship called Friendship of Salem. It was captured in the War of 1812.
Five of us went on the ship and toured it. It had a deck with all the working ropes, and a place underneath that had sleeping quarters, storage, and tools for navigation. It was very interesting. After that we went wading in the Atlantic Ocean (there were no waves due to the fact that it was a harbor).
The next day we went to Glouchester. We saw the first Universalist Church that was built as a Universalist Church. We walked around the streets and then went to lunch. Our group ate at a little cafe. We met up as a group and rode the bus to the beach. We had fun swimming, making sand castles, body surfing, and burying each other.

These are a few of the middleschoolers, Thomas and Alex, being buried. I was buried but for obvious reasons I could not take a picture of myself as I was completely buried.
That night we had a talent show back at the Salem church. There was music, jokes, magic tricks, skits, art, poetry, and stage combat. It was a lot of fun.
The next morning we packed up and went to Walden’s Pond. This is where my camera’s memory card got full so the only picture I have is of the parking lot.

I was surprised to find out that you could actually swim in this beautiful place. It was a lot bigger than I imagined. I thought it would be marshy, small, muddy, and unpleasant to swim in. Basically I thought of your typical Iowa farm pond. Anyway, it was the most clean water I have ever swam in. It was clear, clean, and fresh. After that we journeyed to Concord to dine and then walked to Louisa May Alcott’s house. It was beautiful and most of the stuff was original. We left Concord and returned to the E&P house.

Sunday was our final day in Boston. In the morning, we attended Arlington Street Church. It was a very nice service, and they had good snacks afterward. Banana cake with whipped cream :) We changed and took the Subway to Harvard Square, where we again divided into groups. I ended up in a group with four boys (in case you were wondering their names were Sarek, Dylan, Rory, and Alex). We ate at a really nice pizza/Italian place. Later, we found one of those photo booth things and somehow we all fit in the tiny contraption. Unfortunately, the machine was talking in some foreign language none of us could understand, so I, the one in the front, starting pushing random buttons and eventually it spit out a picture. It was the one where Sarek was hitting Rory on the head with a pop bottle, Dylan was taking up half of the picture, and I was sitting in the front looking squished. Perfect. It was really us.

On the way home on the bus, we had fun watching five movies a day, playing with duct tape, socializing loudly, and rearranging ourselves in new seats. We got caught in traffic south of Chicago and went fifteen miles in an hour and a half. It turned out that the air conditioning on the bus only worked when it was moving fast, so we were frying. We arrived home late on the ninth, about ten. It was a great trip, one of the best so far.

August 10, 2005 – Claire’s Trip Part I

Claire is guest blogging today.

I just returned from a trip to Boston, Salem, and other places in that area of Massachusetts with this year and last year’s Coming of Age groups. We rode a charter bus, and left early August first. We drove for twelve hours and made it to the eastern border of Ohio. We stayed at a church there, and drove for another twelve hours the next day to Boston. On the bus, we mainly watched movies (about four a day), slept, and talked. The first day we spent in Boston, we went to the Unitarian Universalist Association Headquarters and toured it. We walked the Freedom Trail and saw King’s Chapel, Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, and other significant historical sites including the Massachusetts state capital.

After we walked the Freedom Trail, we returned to the Quincy Street Market, where we divided into groups for shopping and eating dinner. We watched street performers, magicians and acrobats, and went to a wide variety of shops. Even though it was a shopping area, like most of Boston it had a few historical statues and such thrown in.

The next day we journeyed to Salem, where we spent three nights in the Universalist church. We went to the witch dungeon museum, pirate museum, a ghost tour of Salem, and the harbor, where we toured a ship and waded in the Atlantic.
On this trip, I think our group became really tight, and the relationship was very much like that of a large family with twenty-two kids. It was like we were all siblings. The rest of the trip will be continued in another addition of this fine blog (good job with it dad!). Now can I have my own?

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.

August 5, 2005 – Farm Picnic

Linda’s Uncle Ralph and his family was in town from Montana. (In some interesting linguistic development, when referring to Ralph and his family, the term “Ralphs” is used. Not Ralph and Mary Jane or Ralph’s family, or Smith’s, but “Ralphs.” So as long as Ralphs were here, the whole local grandma Jo side of the family came, including “Waynes” and many cousins, totaling about 21 for dinner.
We have had so many family gatherings at Waynes, it was nice to host for a change. (Although I still have a way to go before we have the pond, beach, zip line etc.)
Uncle Ralph relaxing in the Adirondack.
Here’s now the middle generation of the family now that all the grandparents have passed away.
A nice shot of Waynes.


The newest generation – a group of four year olds acting goofy in the playground.

August 4, 2005 – Ouch!


Today’s unscheduled event was a trip to the emergency room from 8-11 pm. Martin was “helping” with chores and noticed that Blue was eating out of April’s dog dish. Being a justice-minded individual, he tied to drag Blue away from the dish and Blue nipped him in the cheek. It was “should we stay or should we go?” to the doc. We decided to err on the side of caution and the doc said it was good we came in since dog bites are prone to infection. He didn’t need stitches, but has the steri-strips keeping the cut together.

The most ironic part of the day was that hours before the incident, I got an e-mail from Wholesome Harvest asking to take pictures of mr photogenic Marty in the pasture with the animals! There goes the modeling career!

August 2, 2005 – Girls Gone (not wild)

Both Claire and Emma are gone this week on separate adventures. Claire is now in Boston with her UU youth group on a religious heritage trip. She’ll be gone about 10 days, walk the Freedom Trail, visit some of the first UU churches in America, visit Walden Pond, Salem, and sleep in a lot of church basements. Tonight was a Shakespeare in the Park.

Emma is in Madrid (Iowa, not Spain) at 4H camp. She has had a long time away from home, but she is good friends with two of her cabin mates and knows two others, so hopefully it will be a fun week for her.

July 30, 2005 – More Corn

I have not yet mentioned Emma’s return home. She was very homesick (you may have seen some recent comments from her at late hours of the night communicating with us when she was a way and sleepless at night). She is home for a couple of days before going to 4-H camp.

Yesterday, we set up the outdoor kitchen and got about 25 bags of corn frozen.

We had a little help from my mom who helped husk and my sister, who brought all the kids in town to see a movie! I also tried freezing some onions. I have not tried it yet and am curious as we had some onions that were damaged or had soft spots that would not store.

July 22, 2005 – Solitude (well, almost)

Although the time at the cabin is filled with activity – there are a few moments of solitude. Just past sunset, I dragged Claire off for a walk. Her reluctance soon waned as we walked down a trail and took a turn off through the brush. We encountered an animal trail and ended up in a spongey bog at the headwaters of a small lake, with a stream meandering through it. Our expressed purpose was to look for moose, but we did not see any. Claire appreciated the sparseness, strangeness, and solitude, even with the bugs. She commented that she doubted there were too many people ever in that bog, let alone wearing pajamas.

Another time of solitude was when I had a chance to fish in the middle of a riffle, with water pouring out on both sides, the fish in the boiling water less than 10 feet from my feet.

One night, just after sunsset we were out on the dock when a pack of timber wolves started howling. Martin’s eyes got very large and he burrowed into his mother.

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 19, 2005 – Blueberries

It is a good year for blueberries in the northwoods. Always the foragers, we brought our canning kettle and canning jars and canned and froze blueberries (can’t get the farmers out of us, I guess). Grandma Jo even made a fresh blueberry cobbler.

The berries were particularly luscious this year. We went out a couple of times and got about 3 gallons of berries. My grandfather, Walter, was an avid blueberry picker, who did not live too far from where we were. I find comfort in the spongy, sphagnum places the biggest berries grow.

July 18, 2005 – Fish

Fishing is another fun part of the trip. This year Martin, set up with a bobber and worm, caught his first fish, from hooking to reeling in, from the dock.

Just watch, I can do this.

Wow – I did it myself!

The big fish of the week award goes to Claire for reeling in this northern pike. She dethrones her father, whose three year big fish streak was broken.

July 17, 2005 – In the Canoe

One of the things we like best about this place is the fact that no motorized craft are allowed. It is the one time a year (so far) we get to play with our indulgence, our Bell canoe, lovingly named “leech.” It should last us our lives, as the canoes are works of art that are built for a lifetime.
bell canoe
The canoe is a composite hull, using Kevlar for lightness and graphite for strength, thus the black color, and wooden trim and seats for beauty. It is 18.5 feet long and only weighs 57 pounds and handles like no other.
bell canoe
The view from the bow!
bell canoe
Linda heartily paddling from the stern on the way back from a fishing voyage.

July 11, 2005 – Vacation Preparations

The annual pilgrimage to Northern Minnesota looms. It’s a full-time job getting the farm and the family ready for the 9 days away. There’s house-sitters to find (live-in this year so all of you planning on rustling sheep, you’re out of luck).

So today was spent jockeying vehicles to and from the shop, getting all sorts of animal feed, getting gardens weeded, continued work on making the trailer and van “trailable” and continued packing. For some reason, Martin is pumped to go to Kawishiwi (It’s a lousy website for a great place). He’s been a great help dragging stuff to the hay wagon that is serving as the staging area for the stuff. We’re excited away – the cabin is at the end of the road in northern Minnesota, just a few miles from Canada.

Today Linda spent most of the day at the Leopold Center for a food systems meeting and to learn about the Farmer’s Diner, a new model of diner that takes as its premise, the best food is that which is closest to the diner. They buy most of their food from local farmers. They are working on financing for establishing franchises across the country.

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 8, 2005 – Claire’s Back and Linn St. Market

Today was Claire’s “graduation” from her two weeks at U of I. The director told us that they were the youngest that the university recruited and each has a $1,000 scholarship should they enroll at Iowa. I wonder if Iowa State will match it and add 10%?
Claire after the closing ceremony.

We “had” to go Prairie Lights bookstore where one of Claire’s favorite night-time events was a book reading.

This morning we decided to try to move some stuff at Linn Street Market – a place where local farmers can sell their goods year-round at an indoor venue by renting market space. We brought in some raspberries, flowers, and the first apples of the season.

Linda creating her magic in the barn arranging the flowers. We also vacuum-packed the first few carrots of the year and threw them in the freezer.

July 7, 2005 – Back in Black?

Tomorrow Claire returns from what Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen half-jokingly refers to as the “People’s Republic of Johnson County” due to the county’s political bent. Looking into my crystal ball, I’m not sure what to expect after picking up our daughter from 2 weeks in Iowa City. Perhaps something like this?
acdc As long as she doesn’t bring Angus Young home, we should be able to deal with whatever comes our way.

We’re debating if and what market to visit tomorrow/saturday. We’ve got flowers a-plenty and some raspberries and the first garlic, but we also need to harvest the first round of carrots and keep on the weeding, and I’m on the road for 1/2 a day.

Cousin Michael is visiting from New York (we go coast-to-coast here at high hopes – cousins from California one week, New York the next). I’ll try to get some pictures on tomorrow of Michael on the farm.

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 5, 2005 – Knee-High By 4th of July

I don’t know where the saying came from that advises corn should be knee-high by the 4th of July. Maybe it was from northern Minnesota where I grew up and you were lucky enough to get a corn crop, maybe it is just a catchy, rhyming phrase that was valid before hybrid vigor. Around these parts, you’d be awfully worried if the corn was only knee-high, no matter how tall you were.
Martin as a measuring stick.
Where’s Waldo? (a.k.a. Martin)

We’ve had requests for some of Claire’s writings from Writer’s Workshop Camp. Here is a short piece tangentially related to agriculture. She has spent the most time and e-mail on a fantasy piece, yet unfinished, but this one will have to do for now.
It is entitled “The Wheat of Gold” inspired by two paintings in the University gallery.

The cattle were softly lowing, like some soft lullaby in the bright nighttime moonlight. Softly singing in the dark, lulling the little ones to sleep as they were comforted by a soothing, restful sound. Continuing through the night till the last had fallen into a deep nighttime doze.
But Marianne was not asleep. She was out under the full, intense silver moon. The golden crop of wheat had to be harvested before the rain came, but when the wheat was yet in its prime.
She continued working along with her husband to help tie the bundles of wheat scattered along the grassy field like stars across the sky. Shining up with a luminescent glow from above and below Marianne. The gold below, and diamonds above.
They had made a lot of progress, in the few short days they had been working. About half the hay was standing elevated above the flowing green grass, tall and strong, like the sturdy little house that had lived in since they were married, ten years ago. It stood out against the bright moonlight and just setting her eyes on the wheat made her swell with pride and she was gratified for the wonderful hard working husband she had.
The next morning Fredrick woke up in the early hours of the morning. He looked over at his peacefully sleeping wife and then got out of bed. Today they were going to have help for the final push to finish the wheat. The farmers in the area had this unspoken agreement that whenever one needed help with something they’d help. It was a wonderful little system and worked very nicely.
Fredrick peeked in the loft and saw his children, three boys and two girls, sleeping calmly with looks of tranquility and serenity on their faces. His oldest was nine, and the youngest still under a year, and sleeping in the room with Marianne. They had six children. There were originally two sets of twins but three years ago, Patrick who was at the time six, got lost in the fatal, waving grasses of the Kansas prairie. They found his body numerous days later, several miles from the settlement. It had been a heart breaking experience and he was so grateful he hadn’t lost more then one.
That afternoon, they were almost done with the hay, thanks to the neighbors and friends who had turned out to help. Marianne had never worked so hard in her life. There was barely any time to cook dinner. But no one seemed to care much what it tasted like, although they all said it was the finest they’d ever had in a long time. Suddenly she saw a dark shadow spread across the field next to the grove of cool green arching trees they were working near. She quickly looked up to find the source of the shadow. What she saw chilled her to the core. Her very soul was shivering even though the hot sticky sweat was pouring off her body droplets at a time. Huge black and gray clouds were churning with a decisiveness that no one could comprehend. The last time she had seen clouds like that was when she was visiting her aunt before she was married, and her aunt taught one thing she never forgot. The signs of a tornado.
As she thought of this, the wind picked up and she could feel the gusts of hair whipping through her hair and skirt as if they wanted to tear her up and leave her barren and disheveled.
She found Fredrick. He was the only one who could console her at times like these. As she got there, he was standing there, solemnly looking up at the sky. “There’s a tornado coming,” she shouted at him over the blustery gusts of wind. He answered inaudibly and she couldn’t hear him, but she could read his lips. He knew too. “Go get the children in the cellar,” he said. This time audibly. She ran toward the house and got the kids. She explained to them as she grabbed their little hands and lead them to the cellar. Then, once they were safe, she went and got baby Kate and took her to the basement.
She grabbed some food out of the once cozy kitchen that was now shaking with the force of the wind. By the time she reached the cellar, all of the men and women who had been helping her were in there safe. She got in and securely latched the trapdoor and waited.
An hour later, it was safe. Fredrick heaved himself out of the cellar and stared around at the vast emptiness before him. It was gone. It was all gone. The house, the barn, the fields were destroyed. They said their farewells to their friends, and then walked around the landscape that was once a beautiful haven to them. They could find nothing. They went to the fields. And in the middle, was one beautiful, heavenly, golden bundle of wheat. They walked up to it and started crying. And then sobbing, and through the tears, they knew nothing could tear them apart and as long as they had each other, they had everything. He put his arms around his wife and kids and they just stood there, for a long time.

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 30, 2005 – Martin’s 4!

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

June 25, 2005 – Des Moines Art Fair

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

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

art fair
The girls at one of the entrances.

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

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

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

June 24, 2005 – “Sweet 16”

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

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

16th anniversary

June 23, 2005 – Girl’s Road Trip

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

June 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 18, 2005 – Decorah, IA

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

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.

June 12, 2005 – Happy Birthday Linda/Claire Gone

Today is someone’s 44th. No jokes about the fire marshall and the birthday cake, but the cake did look rather porpupinish.
Today Linda also led the service at church – in a day or so, I will add her message to the web site so you can all see.
I spent a good part of the day driving to Decorah and back to bring Claire to Dorian Music Camp at Luther College.
Claire attended last year and loved it – I think it is great for her to immerse herself in music – something that you can never quite perfect. Last year, a highlight of the camp was a walk to the Whippy Dip, so we stopped off on the way for this picture.

June 9, 2005 – A Father’s Touch

Yesterday I began the painful process (especially when a tack goes into a foot!) of “assisting” Claire to clean her room. We started strong in the closet, whipping out a garbage bag in no time. The cleaning was called because of the late hour. Today, to her credit, she spent another 4 hours cleaning while I was at work. To her eye, it was clean! However, a father’s eagle eye discovered yet unclean parts of the room.

This was the scene behind the dresser. A similar scene was repeated behind a wicker storage unit. Perhaps some time, we’ll have an “eye-spy” contest to see who can name the most objects in the picture! All told, 5 bags of garbage were hauled out. For all the garbologists out there, the contents of the garbage included old candy, many school papers, old tins, tissues, broken hair clips, and old greeting cards. The best find was the cell phone that Claire “lost” the last week of school. At any rate, Claire is to be commended for making room for a whole new crop of detritus in the future.

June 5, 2005 – Memorial Service

When I finally decided where I would go to undergrad college (Florida State or University of Minnesota-Duluth; I’m not to sure most people would choose Northern Minesota over Florida, but I did 😉 the dorms were already full, so I was looking for off-campus housing. There was this house with 3 guys looking for a 4th, and there was this house with a nice Lutheran family that rented out a room on the third floor. My mother, in her no doubt motherly instincts, sensed that the house with the Lutherans would be better than a house with three 18 year olds (and she was probably right!) I only protested briefly as Mom said she’d only pay for housing if I lived in the house with the family and that I could look for a different place the following year.

It turns out that I lived there for all 4 years of college, made lifelong friends (including Mike and Lori whose cabin we stayed at on the way up), learned about Lutheran food groups, and was led to Linda, and eventually blessed with Claire, Emma, and Martin. To this day, I still keep in touch with each member of the family.

I hadn’t seen Dean for probably 4 years – he had Parkinson’s and kept requiring more care resources. Dean was all about making the world a better place – from his job working with students, to his work establishing a multi-denominational outreach to those less fortunate in Duluth. From the memorial service, one verse sticks out as a principle that helped Dean define his life – “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto Me.”

Before the funeral we had a few minutes to spare, so we went to Chester Bowl which wasn’t too far from where the house was.

Here’s Martin looking at the ski jump his father used to climb at night to look at the lake and city.

Like most Duluthians, we’re not afraid to head down to the water in our dress clothes and do a little bushwacking (Martin and Linda both ended up with mud on their shirts/hose.


June 5, 2005 – At the Lake Along the Way

I received the e-mail from Marianne Saturday saying that Dean had passed away and the funeral was Sunday (the next day) in Duluth. We had arranged to move a piano that some folks had kindly borrowed to us back to their grandchild in Des Moines, so as soon as we moved that without incident, we arranged care for the girls and hopped in the van with Martin for the 7 hour drive up north.

We stayed at Mike and Lori’s cabin a short ways out of Duluth. We arrived after dark – it was a dark, rainy, foggy night. The next morning was nicer, so we got the first real maiden voyage in the new pontoon boat.

It was a nice interlude on the way up.

May 25, 2005 – Playground

This is one of those well-meaning projects that drags on and on. Last year we thought it would be great to get Martin a playground with a swing, slide, tower, and monkey bars. So last June 30, he got the playground in a box – a stretch for a 2 year old to make the jump from the box of hardware and lumber to a playground. Picking up the lumber was the most weight the truck ever hauled – I was worried something would break the whole way home. We got some of the pieces together fairly quickly – it was the landing pad that took forever – it was neither fun nor ever a top priority to dig out a 20×30 area six inches deep to place the wood chips (I’ve come to learn to make things at ground level, rather than build up).

At any rate, it was about 3/4 dug out by the time the ground froze last winter and this spring is a big gardening and planting time, but I want to have it up by his birthday THIS YEAR. So a burst of digging this weekend and the better part of a day today got the landscape fabric spread, wooden border put in, and wood chips spread. We built most of the tower today.

We were in a bit of a quandary trying to tip the tower up with only dad and Martin. We gambled and won that we could pull it up with the tractor and a chain (the possibilities were the tower would just drag on the ground and not lift up, the tower would lift up and promptly keep going to tip back the other way). The good outcome happened, it lifted and did not tip toward us from the momentum of tipping up. Martin spent most of the day with me, fetching screws, talking non-stop, and asking for the slide to be put up. He seems genuinely excited and must sense it is finally coming together.

May 22, 2005 – Wonderful Quilt Keepsake!

Claire is guest blogging (again).
Today we all went out to eat with Molly and her daughter, Erin, after church. Molly gave me a quilt that she made for me as a Coming of Age present. It’s a beautiful quilt that has a lot of meaning to me. She also typed up what it symbolizes. I will share some of what it said.

“As I made this quilt, I knew I wanted to make it with many levels of understanding. Like a ruby, she is indeed a woman of multifaceted dimensions and strengths. Claire and I learned together about colors and the symbolism color provides humans in their art and psyche. Let me explain the design of each side of this quilt.
How could I not start in the center with math? I used a pattern called Harmonic Convergence based on the Fibbonacci seguence (addition of one half, one, one and a half, two and a half….always adding two together to get the next.

Strips of fabrics blend the blues of air and water, greens of plants and growth, purples of royalty and prairie-clover intermingling as they do in life.
The outer border of this quilt is heavy with the tie-dye purples and blocks of color. The bright spirals of vivid color intersect the main and border sections of the quilt. Often called life spirals, these ancient symbols add a uniqueness all their own. These silks came from shops of London specially to add to Claire’s quilt.

The reverse side of the quilt is made of blocks using various colors in the log cabin pattern.

Added to this element, Claire’s love of turtles takes form.”

In the middle, Molly put a block that says “Take flight Ruby Skipper, the journey has begun. Grasp the holiness in everyday and know you’ll find your way.”

Molly has been a great mentor. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for this precious gift that I’ll treasure always.

May 21, 2005 – Ruby Skipper

ruby skipper
Claire is guest blogging.
Tonight we had the final ceremony for Coming of Age(COA). I learned a lot through this experience. Every participant chose a mentor. My mentor was Molly. She was a great mentor to me. We had three retreats and monthly forums. I learned a lot about myself and what I believed. I wrote a poem for Molly and got some pictures of us and put them together in a frame to make a collage. I gave that to her at the end of my speech. We each (all 25 of us) had five minutes or less to talk about general things we learned, the program, and our mentors.

At the third retreat, last weekend, the mentors spent more then two hours coming up with names for us. My name was Ruby Skipper. The reasons, as Molly said are, ruby-a precious gem with many facets, the ruby slippers that took Dorothy home. Skipper-a beautiful butterfly that travels great distances, the captain of my ship as I travel the river of life. I love my name.

We also had to write mission statements about what we believed. Everything was also a lot of fun. All kinds of silly things happened. At the last retreat, a group of mentors and mentees played spoons (actually it was pens). One of the mentors, Kevin, won with no letters. Several of us got minor injuries and there were several fights, but in the end it all worked out. Basically, COA was great. I had a lot of fun. All I can say is, “Dad, can I blog again tomorrow?”

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 16, 2005 – The Leaning Goat of Melbourne

We have recently started miling Paullina, our Nubian goat. We have a nice milking stanchion courtesy of some neighbors. All we had to do to use it was to add a feeding tray so Paullina could eat while she was being milked.
The milking begins traditionally enough, with Linda pulling one squirt at a time.
Soon however, this must become tiresome for Paullina, so she begins to lean on Linda, gently at first and as she continues, leaning more and more.
This reminds me of a band playing in Austin, TX at the end of the month (I was checking out the music listings for when we visit at the end of the month). I’m guessing there is not a steel guitar or mandolin in “Super Heavy Goat A#$” (last two letters of band not faithfully rendered).
I think Paullina may be leaning because whe is a) ready to be done b) wants to have the other side milked, or c) want to see her kids which have been separated from her all night.

May 14, 2005 – Kitchen Floor

Today was windy and cold – got up to about 50 and then dropped and wind advisory all afternoon. Linda and Joanne planted/gardened for a while, but it was too hard with the wind to last all day. coldgarden
Starting after lunch, grandma Jo took Emma and Martin to her house for the afternoon/night, so we could work on putting in the new cork kitchen floor. We just finished getting it in and the first coat of sealer on it (10:30) In 2-3 hours, we need to put another coat on it. It will be a late night.

May 13, 2005 – Cleanup

Today we wrapped up a lot of the cleanup – got the apple tree and gas tank cleaned up and got the big tree that was caught in another tree down “without incident.” Without incident is a good way. I was able to get it on the ground without getting the chainsaw stuck, and was able to pull it with a chain and the truck to get it down to the ground.
cut up logs

The hay wagon was good to haul the debris. We found out our neighbors to the north lost part of their house roof, some shed doors, and bowed out part of a barn.
clean debris

As part of the cleanup, we had a big surprise, when this buck came charging down our driveway!

May 11, 2005 – Hot Chicks (at least we hope so)

Chicks arrived yesterday. We ordered 75 broilers, 25 mixed breed layers, and 10 bronze-breasted turkeys. One thing is certain, whenever we order chicks, the weather takes a turn to cold. Not a problem unless you need 90 degrees to survive. I went out to check them this mid-morning and the brooders and heat lamps were all off. A check of the wiring found that the old-fashioned round fuse in the building they live in was loose – I just had to tighten it.

Here are the chicks all huddled under the light after the power was restored. babychicks

Here’s Martin showing off his favorite! martin and chick

The turkeys are in a separate area – you can see a few sticking their heads out in this photograph.


Last night we finally got a soaking rain – about 2 inches – the first good rain since the trees were planted. It was a wet, blustery day, so Martin and I spent most of the day cleaning out the laundry room, doing laundry, and the biggest time-sucker of all – going through all his clothes in drawers, boxes, and bags and sorting to the right season, stack for future, stack for Goodwill, and stack for resale. Martin was a trouper, trying on clothes for a good part of the afternoon.

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

May 4, 2005 – Busy as a Bee!

Mother-in-law Joanne has picked up the beekeeping torch. It was one of those things we always wanted to do – and had much of the equipment – but never had the time and thought energy to do it. She is ready to set up 4 hives, with the bees coming any day now. Today and the last few days was a flurry of painting, constructing, etc. before the bees arrive.

busy bee

We greatly look forward to the honey and the pollination.

The upper 60’s seemed like a heatwave today. Lots of little things got done – tore apart an old gate made of wood and hog panel, finished watering the hardwoods for the first time, picked up the rest of the mulch that was dying for bedding, mowed the sheep pasture to keep the grass tender for the sheep who have yet to arrive, replaced one of the peach trees that died over the winter, started tearing apart the old trailer for refurbishing, got a row of beans planted and some gourds over this arch made out of a cattle panel that spans an unused portion of the garden where the poles are that will be used to construct grape trellises some day.
planting gourds

April 26, 2005 – Brother Kraig

I would be remiss if after featuring sister Julie, I did not follow-up with brother Kraig. A huge Wilco and Brother Trucker fan, he’s hooked on trout fishing in Iowa (that is a sport, not a band), and his job with CHEP managing reusable pallets.

Kraig also has a passion for fine wine. A worldwide search for the finest viticulture found him in the Burgundy region of France, Rhine Valley in Germany, the back corners of Austria and Hungary, a scan of the Australian landscape, a look at the emerging vineyards of Chile – before finally discovering his all-time favorite reserve variety at a Rochester, MN Hy-Vee store.


April 23, 2005 – An Entire Saturday!

This was the first time in a long time we didn’t have Saturday morning class. So instead of our day starting at about 1:30, we were able to spend the morning cleaning house (I know, you are all real envious of that kind of fun). It was a very windy and cold day, so that precluded planting any more garden.

Then this afternoon the lawn got mowed, some more seasonal fences put up and improved, and the biggest task was cleaning out the biggest side of the chicken coop, which we have never used. We’ve been working on it a bit of a time, cleaning it out, and today was the last bit. Next step is to put cement patch along some parts of the foundation to make it more critter-proof and make a new small chicken door in the back, then it will be ready. I also got a good load of wood shavings scrounged from the pallet company at sundown when the wind let up a bit.

Here’s Marty’s idea of an amusement park – rolling along in a section of a bulk bin – we’re moving it back to where it belongs after it was on a hay wagon to haul wood chips.

April 22, 2005 – Unscheduled Trip to Dr. Paschen

If you don’t see his name, it sounds (Dr. Passion) like a sidekick to “Ladies Man” – but he is our favorite pediatrician and we still drive to Ames to see him. Marty was learning how to clean out bee hives and sliced his palm open. It was a bad cut, but seemed maybe not bad enough for stitches, but to err on the side of caution, we went over to Ames to check it out. The good Dr. himself saw it as a borderline whether or not it needed stitches (or kitty whiskers, as Martin calls them). He decided just to keep it closed without stitches.

On the way home we drove into a dramatic storm, looking black as night from the contrast with the sun as we drew near. There was rain and hail and many folks were pulled over on the side of the road- but we just kept going, hoping for really big hail and a new van! But we were out of luck – no big hail; nor any big hail at home (the roof needs replacing and it would be nice to get some help paying for it!)

Tonight, I squeezed out about 3 hours worth of corn for the corn stove as it is very windy and supposed to get into the 30’s.

April 21, 2005 – Sister Julie

Sister Julie informs me that her radio station finally has a web site up with a page for her. She works for a Country station in Rochester, MN.

I could share a lot about Julie, but let’s just say she’s not to be confused with Julia Child. One of my favorite Julie cooking stories was the time she burned hard-boiled eggs. Yep. Cooked ’em so long all the water evaporated out of the pot and burned the suckers. Here she is with a bite to eat before her wildly successful L.A. Weight Loss diet.


April 20, 2005 – First Morels of Season

Went out looking for the first fungi of the season and had only moderate success – about 20 or so. Martin enjoyed it, but being close to the ground did not help him find any.

This morning was errand time – but some of note – got High Hopes Gardens LLC checking and credit cards set up, went to the county engineer’s office to pay for dust control on the road, got chicken food, dropped off Emma’s library books…

In the afternoon got the rest of the fence pulled up and back in the ground. Now I just have to haul up the unused materials and put the insulators on the north fence and re-run the electric wire. May have to do the same for the island fence. Had some time to finish mowing the yard. The to-do list is now creeping up as so much time was spent on planting.

Missed the rain again today.

April 15, 2005 – Tree Planting Begins

We got a jump on the tree planting planned for tomorrow – brother Kraig down from Twin Cities.kraig
We had many hands tonight working on the northern pine border. emma digging
We planted Canaan Fir today, Iowa’s best equivalent of Balsam Fir. pineplanting
Even the smallest hands helped haul water. Rachel and Martin brought us buckets with a gallon or so of water at a time from a stock tank on a trailer. They also helped move carts.
rachel and martin
Photos courtesy of Claire.

April 13, 2005 – Those Gone Before Us

Springtime has seen the death of many of my relatives. I’ve been the one asked to write and give the eulogies for my father, grandfather, uncle, and great uncle. I guess since I’m the only writer around and my experience as an alter boy specializing in funerals makes me the logical pick? When I was in grade school it seemed that Patrick Endres (wherever you are now) and myself were the only reliable alter boys who would not snicker and laugh during funerals. I’m not sure why the others couldn’t keep a straight face – maybe it was how they were able to handle the grief???

At any rate, I’ve had these eulogies just sitting on my PC and thought that it would be good to have a “cyberspace” presence for them – for family members and others to read. Even I am surprised at what is contained in the eulogies – what I have already forgotten about the men who preceded me. The eulogies and other essay-type writings by Linda are on a special high hopes page.

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 5, 2005 – Claire Goes to DC

Claire is guest blogging today!
senator grassley's desk
Here I am sitting in Senator Grassley’s desk. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in. I had a great trip to Washington D.C. One of my favorite places was the Jefferson Memorial. I also liked all of the Smithsonian museums that we went to. My favorite Smithsonian was probably the natural history but the air and space flight simulator was really fun too. We stayed at the Embassy Suites hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. Three of my best friends and I were in a group and shared a room. Daylight savings time was not a helpful thing especially after going to bed at 11:30 and waking up at 6. We had a great tour guide and a nice bus driver. Some interesting things we saw were the Ruby Slippers from THE WIZARD OF OZ movie, Mr. Roger’s sweater, Kermit the Frog, and the Original Star spangled Banner that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem. The only thing about the hotel that wasn’t good was the pool. I think our rooms were bigger then the pool. Grandma Jo was our chaperone who we eventually called Pepperoni (first it was chaperone then chaperonee and them Pepperoni).

April 3, 2005 – Light!

Now things can happen after dinner outside! Today 10 of the chestnut trees found a home but need to be mulched yet. We continue digging out Martin’s playground and moved the dirt to the chicken yard which has become denuded of grass, in part due to the trenching for new water a while back. So we laid down a thin layer of soil, and spread some grass and clover seed and some hay.

Linda had a meeting with a woman who received a grant to help entrepreneurial immigrants get started in agriculture. There was not a big turnout as expected because there were fears the INS was around and people, even legals, were keeping a low profile. Seems the INS and Swift (the packing plant) have a cozy arrangement. Swift hires illegals, doesn’t pay for health benefits employees for the first 6 months, the INS comes in or is rumored to come in, large numbers leave, and when they come back, they start over for seniority and benefits.

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 28, 2005 – Martin-Daddy Day

Today is another of the ever-popular Martin-Daddy Days. This morning we were errand boys – first emptying the truck of mulch. Martin and I were “mulch guys” and we delivered the load to his playground to be. Then we gathered up a pick-up load of garbage (something the previous owners found hard to do) and went to the landfill – always a Martin favorite. Then we went to town and got gas for all the farm gas tanks, a few more fence posts, some animal food.

This afternoon we worked on putting up more fence. 352 more feet of fence moved up today. Martin was extremely happy to play in the mudhole in the back pasture for a good two hours. It must be pure boyhood bliss to have your boat and shovel and so much dirt to work with. Wouldn’t it be great to focus on play for that long!

We got 6 more sections up after dinner with Claire’s help. The first frogs of the season were peeping.

martin in mud

martin in mud

You know when you do a repetitive task for too long in a day, you shut your eyes and see that at night? It usually happens picking berries or something like that – I think I’ll be seeing this when I close my eyes tonight.

fence glove

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 18, 2005 – No Snow!

Just to the north of us, winter has re-appeared. Instead of the nearly 2 feet of snow, here in tropical central Iowa we enjoyed 50 degrees.

Since my laptop went on the fritz, I went into the office this morning (my laptop has needed 2 new motherboards and a new hard drive and my desktop has needed a new hard drive – it is becoming painfully obvious that I am working much too hard and the computers just plain cannot keep up with me!)

Spent a lot of time today finishing up the labels and getting the surveys printed. We’re now ready to stuff envelopes. By special request from Sugar Creek Farm, another poem by Claire:

The Night Song
The swirls of the milky way
the twinkling of the stars
glittering planets, shining alone.
The beautiful half moon
settling into the sky
surrounded by a
halo of stars
and as I gaze wondering
I softly join in the chorus
of the night song
of the sky.

March 16, 2005 – Fire and Snow Fence

Today was almost as pleasant as it gets – calm, about 50 degrees after a winter of cold, and no bugs! Ran errands in town for a couple of hours with Martin, then we burned the pile of raspberry canes and tomato vines from last year’s garden.

It took some time as I burned the grass around it for some space before lighting the pile, so I wouldn’t have a grass fire on my hands. Burning is one of those necessary dangerous tasks. There’s a sense of skill and care in controlling a fire, especially this time of year when a fire can run for several miles. The vines didn’t dry down enough after we got them out of the garden before wetness and winter set in. Burning helps reduce the chance of disease to spread. So we did!

Then we cleaned the garage and mud room and took down about 150 feet of snow fence. I enjoy putting up and taking down the snow fence. The satisfaction comes, in part, due to the visual nature of the work. So much we do is “invisible work” that putting up and taking down snow fence is highly visible sign of progress.


March 13, 2005 – Sunday, Sunday

The day dawned cold and clear, but it was a pleasant cold and clear after all the wind. Of course, by the time we got around to some outside work, the clouds and wind returned. We started pruning the last three apple trees. Here’s Linda hard at work. Martin has proved himself an able tree-climber, so in a decade or so, I’ll have a monkey to climb the trees on my behalf!

Linda Pruning

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.

March 8, 2005 – Rythym of Nature Misses a Beat

Town jobs are what people who live on a farm, but have to work in town to help feed their habit. Today was town job day, for me equals 14 hours away. My electic work habits make computers melt. My hard drive crashed on my work laptop, just a month or so after the motherboard was replaced, just a couple of months after the hard drive on my home PC came up DOA.

Last week Linda was down and out part of the week and this is what she wrote reflecting on that:

“I’ve been feeling disconnected from nature, it’s been busy and it’s a rather bleak time of year. This week, however, I was brought to my knees (or rather laid flat on my back” “to live in harmony with the rhythyms of nature.” I came down with a virus that, for most of the week has left me feverish, achy, coughy and nauseous.

Nature, in the form of a virus, had found me. While there’s much debate as whether or not we should consided viruses alive, I at least chose to think the affirmative this week. I was playing host to this virus accomodating every viral whim, replication of viral DNA, construction of new viral particles, and the ever important distribution.

I am not separate from nature nor invulnerable to it. We are tightly connected to all that is beautiful, and some that is not. In the end, my appreciation for my own good healt, the feel of the warm sun on my face yesterday, and the songs of the red-winged blackbird newly returned home for spring, reassured me of my place among living things and renewed my gratitude for this place.”

March 7, 2005 – Capricious March

As nice as yesterday was, today is nasty. The lightning and thunder made it here about 11:00 pm, but not much rain. There was nickel-sized hail in the neighborhood, but none at high hopes. Strong north winds make it too raw to do much of anything outside. It’s the kind of windy day that sets up some kind of resonance in the gutters on the house that just hums and the same in the metal machine shed, vibrating the metal panels. I have a hard time making peace with days like today.

Worked on getting the surveys for the farm entrepreneur class ready. It reminds of jobs long, long, ago stuffing envelopes. No thank you!

Today’s poem from Claire
Tree Whispers
Trees are refuge
Refuge from the world
No worries
Just calm
No heed
to the trucks
speeding by
with rolling
clouds of dust
climb up
clear your head
of all worries
brain is calm
relax, listen to the sound
of autumn
the last crickets chirping
the combine
chugging away
the deep soft whisper
of a tree
getting ready
for winter.

Claire Barnes Runquist
Fall 2004

March 6, 2005 – Lightning in Early March

Tonight Linda and I grabbed the dogs and went for a walk just after dark. The south wind was starting to cool after a 70 degree day. We saw the first lightning of the season in the distance. After we got home, we checked the radar, and the storm is still north of Fort Dodge. The gravel has softened and the cusp of a new season is here.

We proceeded to grind up more corn cobs this afternoon. It remains depressing to see how many are left to do in the stall. The stall seems to be in an expanding universe of its own. The more we get out, the bigger the stall seems to get. I guess I’ll look at the bright side and know we have lots of free bedding. The grinder goes back with Ringo the goat who we’ve been goat-sitting for a week tomorrow. We were wondering who and why all the cobs were there in the first place?

We’ve had requests for the budding writer to share a sample of writing, so without further ado, we’ll post some of Claire’s poems the next few days.

The Journey of Water
The rolling hills
of golden plants
clumps of trees,
miniature streams
to land in a
new bigger place.
With big waves
rolling into the shore with
sparkling sand
with pink shells.
With fluffy
clouds under
a bright
yellow sun.

Claire Barnes Runquist
March 5, 2005

March 5, 2005 – Claire’s Day to Shine

It was a good day for Claire Bear. The morning was the state spelling bee she advanced to after winning her school and regional bee. So while Mom packed up Martin and Emma, I went to class in the morning. Claire went out early, which was fortunate, since she also had her team’s Destination Imagination competition in the afternoon, where their team advanced as well. As if that wasn’t enough, a letter came today announcing she won acceptance and scholarship to a two week middle school Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. Each school nominates one student, and the program picks 17 students statewide. Congrats to Claire!

Dinner was courtesy of Emma, who won free pizza for reading the most minutes for Dr. Seuss Day at school.

After we got home, we were able to get the 35 youngest fruit trees pruned – just the three big old trees remain. Pruning is one of the most enjoyable tasks. It’s usually one of the first outdoor tasks in the late winter and it is as much an art as a science – a symbiotic relationship between a tree and trying to bring out the best possible fruiting and health.

February 21, 2005 – Dark Walker

Today was too much computer time – continued work on updating web pages (not yet published), working on surveys for the on-farm store, LLC draft documents, and getting the news that a 50 lb bag of organic turkey food jumped from $11 last summer to $17 today. Must be a good time to be an organic grain farmer!

After dinner, I needed to get out, so Claire and Martin and I went out for a walk in the evening darkness. Martin (age 3) was initially bewildered how you could go out for a walk at night without a light. He keeps a light on in his closet, and from his vantage point, looking out the window, it does look pretty dark out there.

We walked to the back pasture, Martin bravely walking behind us. He tired after about 10 minutes of walking, so Claire hoisted him up on her back. He soon tired of holding on, so he walked again. When we decided it was time to go back, we asked Martin to be our “dark walker” and lead us back home. There was a light snowfall, so it was cloudy, but not as dark as it could have been. He took his duty seriously and marched us right back home without delay.

February 20, 2005 – Dead Dogs on the Side of the Road

Another grey, wet/snowy muddy day. After church the “Secret Friends” lunch was held. As Martin is too small to have a secret friend, his secret friend (Dad) took him out to lunch. He was very grown-up sitting across from me, snarfing his beef-broccoli stir fry. As we were driving to the restaurant, we saw a policeman and Martin said the policeman was gong to lunch. When we left, we met a policeman at the door and he stopped and chatted with Martin and handed out some police deputy stickers! Doesn’t get much better than that.

Linda and Claire went for a walk and April took off from them and they had to return later to get her. They also (the dogs) found a dead dog in the ditch. They didn’t recognize it and wondered if it was just dumped there? It must have been a bad week for dogs as two families in church had to put their dogs asleep as well. We also were planned to host a 4-H “dog agility” training today that was canceled. Hmmm.

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!

February 15, 2005 VFW Day

Tonight we were guests at VFW Post 839, Marshalltown, Iowa to honor essay contest winners. Claire won the Middle School contest and we were treated to dinner and a program of the elementary through high school winners reading their essays.

There was salad along with the sloppy joes and chips for dinner, which is unusual in the Central Iowa food desert as some have tagged the propensity for a dinner to include the basic food groups of meat (optional cheese) chips, and pop. Hats off to the Auxiliary for including salad.

The program was better than I expected. It seems like the winners stressed freedom – freedom of practice or religion, freedom to pursue your dreams, freedom to speak out against your government, and of course, recognizing the veterans who have served. I’ve always wondered how come we don’t really honor veterans on Veteran’s Day by giving all Veterans the day off from work and keeping the postal workers and government workers on the job…