Family – Claire

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

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

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

The class, both honorary and real graduates.

Linda and the kids.

The spousal duo.

The dinner for the graduates the night before graduation.

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

The inside of the church.

Linda happily in the procession.

With her major professor. Congrats to Linda!

May 16, 2015 – A Trip to Chicago

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

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

and by day.

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

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

Linda and Water Lillies.

February 16, 2015 – Claire to Paris for Climate Talks

Claire rather casually dropped in a Facebook message this morning that she got her plane ticket to Paris and living accommodations finalized. She will be attending the U.N. global climate talks this upcoming December. One of the faculty at the University of Iceland is Iceland’s chief negotiator and invited Claire along as an observer to the two-week long talks. She will only be able to attend one week as finals are during the other week of the meeting.

The main goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The objective of the 2015 talks is to achieve a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. Should be able to wrap that up in two weeks! Actually, the work has been ongoing for 20 years, through meetings and agreements in Kyoto, Lima and other places.

August 24, 2014 – Reykjavik and Good Bye to Claire

The last days were in Reykjavik – spent getting Claire settled into her apartment, getting groceries, household goods, a cell phone and the like.

We stayed three nights at this place – a flat adjacent to the harbor above a wood carving shop.

This shot was taken out of the front window of the flat.

Downtown pedestrian street in Reykjavik.

This is Harpa, Reykjavik’s answer to the Sydney Opera house. In the clouds and fog and daylight, the shimmering fish scale effect of the glass panels is not as apparent.

A view out to the harbor from inside Harpa.

Imagining my life with a fixer-upper fishing boat.

Claire a the harbor just outside our flat.

Finally, the reason for the trip – Claire in front of the University of Iceland. I took my parental duties seriously to settle her into her new location. Such a sacrifice to spend eight days in Iceland with her on that mission!

August 23, 2014 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Just to fess up, I think a few days earlier I said that the day along part of the south coast was my favorite day, well, this day on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula really was my favorite. The day had a lot going for it – a rare sunny day, a beautiful peninsula with a volcano with a glacier on top of it, and a journey to the top of the glacier-topped mountain, with some beautiful coastline thrown in for good measure.

Snaefellsjokull glacier in the distance. Oh Icelanders, why use 7-8 letters per word, when 15-20 letters will do? Snaefellsjokull is visible from Reykjavik on a sunny day, 180 kilometers away. Did I say there were only two sunny days in the entire month of July and I had sun my first three days!

In this cleft in the rock, a small stream comes out and forms a very narrow canyon.

Inside a larger room inside the narrow canyon.

Near the end of the so-called road up to the glacier – you have the option of driving most of the way in your own car, or adding a ride to your tour. The 2.5 mile trek in the car takes about 30 minutes. I was a bit hesitant to take the rental car, but it would have been 40 more bucks to get a ride and I would have missed the adventure of the drive.

The last few minutes, they take you in the truck until the road really ends.

Heading up Snaefellsjokull.

Still going up.

Approaching the top.

Claire on top of the world, with a view up and down two coasts of the peninsula and the ocean.

There were many seemingly scattered and remote churches throughout Iceland. Typically, a prosperous farmer would build a church and hire a minister out of his own pocket. It was both a status and point of pride to provide a church. The farmer would however get half the tithe from the church for his efforts.

Another epic shot along the coast.

August 22, 2014 – Stykkisholmur, the Sea, and Icelandic Horses

Stykkisholmur is a small coastal village in western Iceland.

Claire overlooking adorable Stykkisholmur. One of the yellow buildings to the left of Claire’s head is where the helicopter/bar scene from the Secret Life of Walter Mitty was filmed.

We headed out to sea here for a cruise to look at wildlife in some of the thousands of islands off the coast in this part of Iceland.

Many of the isolated islands have sheep that graze. You might be able to see a few white and black spots on this island. In order to get lambing timed, the ewes and rams are placed on separate islands. At one time ewes started lambing at the wrong time of year on a few islands. Eventually, they discovered that a ram named Magnus took to the sea and swam between islands visiting the ewes on many islands on his schedule!

At one point, they dropped a net overboard and hauled up scallops. Claire’s not too sure if she is a fan of fresh scallops on the half shell.

On the way back to our lodging, we went for another small hike an encountered these horses along the way.

August 20, 2014 – Reykjanes Peninsula

This area is around the airport, which is about 40 kilometers south of Reykjavík. It appears as a vast wasteland of lava flows from the air, and after leaving the airport, but there are some surprises here and there.

At the Seltun geothermal area. A Yellowstoney-type place with mud pots and steam vents.

Yeah, not the fresh scent that is usually around the country.

Most of Iceland’s power comes from geothermal and hydro power – 85%. The water in Reykjavik comes directly from the ground and goes through all the houses, offering heating in radiators and hot water. You do not want to turn water on the tap only hot. It is much hotter than hot water in the U.S. Even though the outdoor temperature is commonly around 50 degrees F, most houses have their windows open most of the time, as the hot water that constantly flows through the house, is also virtually free. The downside is there is a sulfur smell to the water. Cold water is from another source, and is untreated with chemicals.

Here is the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are spreading apart a few millimeters a year.

July 12, 2014 – Getaway Day 2

We absolutely lucked out and got a great campsite at Split Rock State Park. We happened to walk in just after a cancellation came in for one of the sites that you use a cart to haul all your stuff in, far away from other sites.

The dining room was ok.

But the view from the living room was spectacular, overlooking the lake and the lighthouse.

We headed down the hill to explore the lakeshore.

I’ve got the whole lighthouse in my hand…

This is a rather unfortunate composition of me against the lighthouse – Minnesota’s most photographed place, perhaps has never quite had this vantage point.

It was a wonderful night with the moonrise. Can’t decide if the close-up, middle, or wide angle views are my favorite, so all follow.

July 11, 2014 – Dad and Kid Getaway Day 1

Heading North for a rare weekend with all three kids. Might be the last time in a long time they are all together, except for a day before Claire leaves for Iceland.

Since we had some extra time, we stopped at one of those places we always drive by on the way up north, Moose Lake State Park Agate and and Geologic Center. After ogling the agates in the display, it was time for some impromptu swimming. Martin decided it was time to try the experimental sand hair exfoliate.

Next it was off to Jay Cooke State Park, just south of Duluth – another one of those drive-by parks that often gets missed on the way up the North Shore. It is one of Minnesota’s truly under-appreciated parks.

The St Louis River battles through strongly tilted slate beds as it runs into Lake Superior.

A broader view of the valley, downstream from the park.

A closer look at the tilted slate beds.

We lucked onto a primo camp site – not too close to other sites, with a nice rock backdrop.

The swinging bridge is replaced after the floods of 2012.

Martin gazes into what we called the “cauldron of doom” where the river drops into a maelstrom of water and foam.


The forest along the river near the highway bridge.

May 17, 2014 – Claire’s Graduation from Macalester

Graduation day at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.


The assembled audience and graduates.

The president addresses the student body.

Claire moments before grabbing diploma.

And immediately after grabbing the diploma.

Posing for the professional photographer.

With some responsible parties.

Her dad trying to embarrass her by bringing out the Iowa State Honor cords.

Claire and Nana.

Yep, it’s got her name on it!

She wanted a shot on her summer and winter mode of transport.

On the swing at graduation…

and on the same swing at first college visit to Macalester.

In front of the wind turbine at graduation.

and again, on her first tour.

Congratulations Claire. I hope Iceland is prepared for what you bring!

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

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

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

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

January 2, 2014 – A Peek back at 2013

It’s time for some of my favorite or most important shots of 2013.


Still January.


March, hope.

April in Iceland.


Well-earned state track meet berth.

June on a big lake.

June on a little lake.


The summer.

Fruitful August.

Work vultures.


Fall pie.




Ready for the next year.

December 24, 2013 – Together on Christmas Eve

It’s getting to be rare when all five of us are at the same place at the same time.

Here we are after the Christmas Eve Service – a rare family photo.

The traditional shot of the kids in front of the Christmas tree.

With Linda in minister training and at two Christmas eve services, it is time for some new traditions mixerd with old. First out of the gate was the girls preparing the clam chowder and potato soup, along with goblets of beverage and yummy apple dumplings for a late Christmas eve dinner.

July 14, 2013 – Checking up on the Girls

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

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

Self-portrait family shot.

Le Voyageur room at Wolf Ridge.

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

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

Linda and the “morning pages.”

One of the magical pools below the Inn.

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

May 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.

April 16, 2013 – Tour of Iceland!

I’ve been captivated with Claire’s photographs from Iceland. It was an optional trip in her study abroad in Denmark. The vistas, water, and absence of power lines and other human marks upon the landscape make it an interesting place.

The first stop, was of course, Reykjavík, the largest city, consisting of about 120,000 people.

An Icelandic harbor.

Can you say layers?  Claire’s got it down.

The Lutherans do it up in grand style in Iceland!.

Claire’s comment on this outfit: “Icelandic fashion, go home, you’re drunk”.

I hope she doesn’t drag this fellow home!.

Beware Vikings ahead!  Claire was quoted in an article in the Copenhagen paper asking about American impressions of what Vikings are like.

She had a chance to do all the things you’re supposed to do/see in Iceland.

This at the Whale Fjord.  The only picture out of water where she isn’t bundled up!

An Icelandic farm with the famous Icelandic horses. This breed is the only kind of horse in Iceland. Importing any horse is illegal, and if one of these leaves the country it cannot ever come back.

Here she is with one of the horses.

They took the horses on a ride through the countryside.

The intriguing Gullfoss waterfalls .

Another view of the falls.

In Claire’s own words “The most awkward titanic photo ever!”

Another of Iceland’s features are the geysers.  in fact, this place geysir is where the word “geyser” comes from.

Thar she blows, this one, every five minutes.

Of course, there are hot springs from all the geothermal activity. This is the BLue Lagoon.

How cool is it to be in water in Iceland?.

Out in the countryside.

This crack is where the european and north american plates meet.

With some fellow students at a late sunset near the harbor.

January 14, 2013 – Is There Still Something Rotten in Denmark?

We sent Claire over the pond for a semester abroad in Copenhagen – she’ll let us know.  It was considerably easier than sending her to India for the summer when she was 17!

Some of you may noticed the new button at the top of the page entitled “Over the Øresund” which is the name of the bridge from Sweden to Denmark and the title of Claire’s blog.  She’s already made a few posts, since they are a day ahead of us!  You can click it to get to Claire’s thoughts there or here.

November 19, 2012 – Brief Morning on Lake Superior

Before the noon funeral, we were afforded a few brief moments on Lake Superior.

silhouettes on rocky beach at sunrise

We awoke before the sun and headed down to Brighton Beach.

ore boat at sunrise, lake superior

Merchant vessel Walter J. McCarthy Jr. heads out of port for points east.  She’s a modern great lakes boat, about 1/5 of a mile long, measuring 1,000 feet long.

November 20th on the lake in fall coats?

lester creek, creek in late fall

We also took a short walk up Lester Creek.  All of the shots today were taken within the city limits of Duluth, a great place to get outside.

June 7, 2012 – Someone Else’s Canoe Trip

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

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

Aa beautiful day to hit the water paddling.

Emma, at the stern in her element.

Claire portaging the canoe between lakes.

All settled in at the campsite.

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

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

Some of the crew at the head of a portage.

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

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

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

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

And one of Martin as well.

The crew the last night before heading into the wilderness.

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

May 18, 2012 – Hog Barn Refresh

There’s only two sides of buildings that haven’t been painted since we moved in. The north side of the old wooden machine shed, andt this, the east side of the hog barn.

Since Claire is one to keep busy, I put her in charge of taking care of it (except for the high parts).

May 9, 2012 – Big Gardening Day on the Farm

It was a great “getting things done on the farm day.” It was the first day that Linda and Claire were home all day, so the garden and other things were transformed.

First, Claire volunteered to clean out winter from the hen house. About five overflowing loader buckets (liberally soaked with water to aid the composting process) and the hen house was ready for fresh bedding, and next year’s compost is on the way.

Many plants and seeds and mulch found their way into the garden as well. We got the recycled lumber tarps out of the barn, Linda planted a bunch of peppers and tomatoes. I went to the neighbors via the bumpy dirt trail between the crop fields and retrieved two loads of loose straw from the loft of their barn and put the tomato cages on, pounded the stakes in, spread the mulch and wet it all down.

This photo shows some hearty garlic on the right, a cattle panel trellis that we put up this weekend.  It has pole beans on the outside and lettuce and spinach underneath, hopefully to last a bit longer into the summer with the shade of the beans.  To the left of the trellis is some space reserved for viney plants before a row of tomatoes.  It’s nice to have that mulched portion of the garden already weeded for the whole season!

At the end of the day, I took some time to pull thistles from the pasture.  It appears that last year’s pulling them out by had greatly reduced the population in the paddock we tested last year.  We’ll continue that on the other paddocks this year.


January 3, 2012 – Year In Review

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

Kids and baby animals are hard to beat.

Extremes in any domain are interesting.

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

The promise of a neat spring garden always brings hope.

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

“Walking the Talk”

Claire as a professional at her work post in DC.

Dad and Martin up on the North Shore of Minnesota.

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

Emma exploring new foods in Boston.

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

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

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

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

January 2, 2012 – Claire’s Caucus Quest

As Claire was running out things to do at home with all her college friends gone away and most of her high school friends on a band trip to Florida, she thought it might be educational to visit all the Republican candidates running around in pre-caucus-mode.  In the matter of a few days, she was able to see four of them in Marshalltown, and was able to make a trip to Cedar Rapids to pick the last two in an afternoon.

newt gingrich iowa, newt and callista gingrich, rock with your caucus out, student with gingrich

Interesting juxtaposition of Claire’s t-shirt and political candidate!.

roan paul iowa caucuses

Claire with everyone’s favorite grandpa politician.

According to Claire, warm monster cookies provided by the Romney camp might be enough to swing anyone’s vote!

Rick Perry speaking to what he knows about in Marshalltown.

michelle bachmann iowa, michelle bachman with student

Claire with the only other declared female presidential candidate.

Rick Santorum live on the campaign trail. All in all, a good week for a poly-sci major to see candidates in action.

December 11, 2011 – What do They Have in Common?

What do the following people have in common?

They all met Claire at an “event” in a 37th floor penthouse in downtown Minneapolis!  A few days before the event, the chair of the Political Science department at Macalester College asked if she could provide the name of a handful of students who might want to attend.  Claire was picked and got to meet Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, Iowa Congressional challenger Christi Vilsack, Former VP Mondale, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback.

Claire enjoyed it immensely and in a debriefing with her professor the next day, she told Claire, “I’ve never seen a student work a room like you.”

The next day she received a call from the Governor’s office inviting her to interview in two days for an internship and by Friday she had the new internship.  Her schedule is now set for a bit – Spring semester she has the internship in the Governor’s Office and her work-study internship in the Children’s Museum.  She’s lucky to have two of her classes at night, so she has time during the day for these experiences.  This summer is also set, as she’ll be back in Secretary Vilsack’s office in DC as she was last summer.

October 19, 2011 – More Oxfam Pictures

A while back I posted some pictures from some international visitors brought to high hopes by Oxfam.  They had a professional photographer with the group and following are some of the pictures taken by Ilene Perlman. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves (except for one that needs some explanation).

This type of water pump handle was familiar – it was interesting to see this woman “pump” the handle up and down, like I remember the pump on my grandfather’s farm.

one year ago…”Signs of the Times”

October 16, 2011 – World Food Prize/Oxfam Visitors

Once more this year, we were fortunate to host some amazing folks who were in town for the World Food Prize Symposium.  This year’s event was much smaller than last year’s, but just as interesting.

Many of the folks who stopped by were international visitors who are used to living in rural areas, and were thrilled to get out to the country after spending a week in hotels downtown.  One of my favorite moments is when one of the visitor’s eyes light up when they see or smell something familiar to them – whether it be the aroma of a fresh herb in the air or seeing and old standard-breed chicken.

Mrs. Silas Samsom Buru

Here Linda speaks with Mrs. Silas Samsom Buru, a farmer from Ethiopia.  Although she had never traveled more than a few miles from her village in her life before this trip, she was on a panel at the symposium panel with VPs from Wal-Mart, Kraft Foods, and NGO Director Generals and was a natural at expressing her viewpoints.  She spoke about a new crop insurance program that pays out not based on an individual farmer’s crop loss, but instead if average yields fall below a certain level in the region.  Farmers can pay with cash, or improve their long-term farming sustainability by soil organic matter improvement to make the soils hold more water through droughts.  She said the program has the possibility of improving the lot of the next generation so they will not need so much outside food aid.

Nelly Velandia

The woman in front of Linda is Nelly Velandia from Columbia.  Nelly practiced civil disobedience by setting up a farmer’s market in towns where they were not prohibited, on the steps of the government building.  The markets were a huge success and the rules were changed.  In Bogotá, she even convinced the mayor’s office to help cover the cost of setting up markets in parks and public squares.  The markets offer poor rural farmers a much more profitable return and urban residents cheaper, more nutritious food.

It was uplifting to share stories among these women of their efforts to improve their corners of the world.

one year ago…”Oxfam Event at High Hopes Gardens”

October 15, 2011 – Claire’s In the State

At least I think she is – she came home late Monday night/Tuesday morning and then used the one of the high hopes rental fleet and drove to Des Moines for the week for the World Food Prize activities.

Here she is on a shopping mission to Wal-Mart, a place she seldom if ever steps into, so she made sure to learn from the now famous Wal-Mart fashion tip she read on the internet:

Claire had a week of volunteering and attending events.  She marveled at the new Hall of Laureates, which saved the old Des Moines downtown public library from the wrecking ball.

The building hopes to meet LEED Platinum standard – among other things, it maintained the character of the old building and new by covering the roof with solar panels, invisible from the street.

one year ago…”Claire Back in Town for World Food Prize Events”

September 19, 2011 – Mark One More Off Claire’s Bucket List

Claire was able to cross one item off her bucket list.

Ay guesses, where she is before scrolling down?

It’s Garrison Kellior’s annual meatloaf dinner and street dance outside the Fitzgerald Theatre in Downtown St. Paul.

We have subjected her to weekly doses of the Prairie Home Companion and stories from Lake Wobegone on many Saturday evenings while preparing dinner or driving somewhere in the car.  She, however, gets to be the first one to attend the meatloaf dinner!

one year ago…”Mushrooms Ready to Dry”

August 20, 2011 – Expanding Claire’s Horizons

Today, Claire and I woke up bright and early to bring most of this year’s lambs to the sale barn. Although, sharp-eyed readers may debate that either “Colfax Lives” or that we should have brought Linda’s latest knit socks along instead of some lambs.

Isn’t it nice to see Claire on a gravel parking lot wearing knee-high rubber chore boots? Better yet, inside, was no one younger than me, nor of the opposite sex, save for the teen running the concession stand. Surely a different world than that of Washington DC or college. We aim to produce well-rounded children with a wide variety of experiences second to none – and surely, few, if any of her classmates at school or co-workers in DC, have had parents to avail their children to such an experience!

one year ago…”Bees Keeping Cool”

July 5, 2011 – Linda Visits Claire in DC

Linda was able to drop in and see Claire (and actually have a sleepover at Claire’s place one night while she was there).

mother and daughter at USDA

Mother and Daughter in front of USDA building, Claire’s work station for the summer.

intern at work

After all the photos of her out and about town, there’s at least one of her at work!

founding farmers

Claire picked out this place for them to dine.  This acclaimed restaurant is owned by the North Dakota Farmer’s Union! Great food and atmosphere.

mother and daughter at capitol

At the Capitol at dusk.

one year ago…”Hauling Lumber”

July 4, 2011 – 4th in DC

Since Linda and I had to wake up at O’dark thirty to get Linda to the airport (3:30 am), we were not thrilled about driving to fireworks, so the kids lit snakes and sparklers outside with the fireflies.  Claire, however, had a different experience.

There was the parade down Constitution Avenue and here’s Claire’s perch in front of the National Archives.

I’m glad she filmed the finale of the fireworks – probably better than what we might have seen!

one year ago…”Are You Smarter than a Dean of Agriculture at Iowa State?”

June 22, 2011 – Visit with the Secretary of Agriculture

Internship day three brought a visit to the top dogs at the USDA.

USDA Photo by Tom Witham.

Here Agriculture Secretary Vilsack talks to Claire, much as he did to her mother last summer.  Watch out if those two ever team up!  Claire said that the Secretary’s days are very scripted – sit in a specific chair from 8:05-8:15 for small talk with xyz, then move to next room and stand to greet someone else, and so it goes.  But he told the interns he wanted to go off script with them and show them his office.  Claire was impressed that the centerpiece of his office was a photo of George Washington Carver and Henry Wallace, namesakes of the Wallace-Carver interns.

USDA Photo by Tom Witham.

Here, Lona Stoll, Senior Advisor to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack briefs the interns.

USDA Photo by Tom Witham.

Finally, a picture of the whole gang.

one year ago…”Father’s Day”

June 21, 2011 – World Food Prize 2011 Laureate Announcement

The interns were invited to the 2011 World Food Prize Laureate announcement press conference at the State Department.

Interns mingle with the crowd in the Benjamin Franklin Room.

Claire thinking about taking the podium!

Claire hangs out with random documents in the State Department – in this case with the Treaty of Paris.

More interns at the podium.

Photo: World Food Prize

Claire was near the front at the presser (lower right).  Hillary was supposed to make the announcement but got held up at the White House where Obama evidently held her over (the day he made his announcement on troop withdrawal in the Middle East). Pols in attendance included Iowa congressional representatives Steve King, Tom Latham, Leonard Boswell, and former Senator George McGovern.
one year ago…”Summer Tradition”

June 18, 2011 – Claire Leaves for DC

Who could imagine this girl from the middle of nowhere in Iowa, setting out for a summer in DC, following a summer in India! Claire has certainly taken advantage of opportunities and shows what a bit of dedication and persistence can do, no matter where you live.

Here she is, with her summer full of bags, ready to take off to the airport to begin her summer.

Following is a brief summary about this summer’s internship lifted from the Carver-Wallace intern page – you can read more about Claire and the other interns at the Carver-Wallace Intern page.

“Fulfilling the shared vision of Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack and World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman Borlaug of inspiring the next generation of American scientific and humanitarian leaders, the United States Department of Agriculture and the World Food Prize Foundation have partnered to create the Wallace-Carver Internship Program.

The prestigious USDA Wallace-Carver Internships offer exceptional high school and college students the opportunity to collaborate with world-renowned scientists and policymakers through paid internships at leading USDA research centers and offices across the United States.

Fifteen former Borlaug-Ruan International Interns were selected to participate in the inaugural program in Summer 2011. These exceptional young leaders will be stationed at USDA research centers for eight weeks over the summer, where they will analyze agricultural and economic policy; assist in the management of food, nutrition and rural development programs; and take part in groundbreaking field and laboratory-based research.

The Wallace-Carver Internships kick off with a dynamic leadership and orientation training week in Washington D.C., hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, where the students have the opportunity to:

  • meet privately with the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture;
  • discuss global and domestic food security challenges with key officials from USDA, the State Department and USAID;
  • attend the World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony at the State Department and interact with a range of global leaders in science, industry, and policy;
  • meet with the scientific leadership of the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and tour the world’s largest and most diversified agricultural research complex;
  • engage with World Food Prize Laureates, as well as young scientific, congressional and humanitarian leaders working to end hunger and poverty in America and abroad during intimate dinner discussions around the District.”

As I told Claire, I hope that only the discussions turn intimate in the District.  Many in the District seem to have troubles knowing when to share their intimates!

one year ago…”High Hopes Flowers Grace Cover of Midwest Living Magazine”

May 29, 2011 – Daily Life of the Camper

Claire writes today.

Camping is a completely different style of life, and it’s so easy to forget everything but your basic needs which is endlessly refreshing.  We pride ourselves on building one match fires, and all of the fires that we cooked on in the Boundary Waters were made with a single match.

Claire stirs the food while tending to the fire at the first campsite.

One of the beautiful things about camping is that your whole life for that period of time can fit into a canoe, and you can carry it anywhere in two trips.  The efficiency of all the equipment is a beautiful thing.

Typically you try to find a campsite somewhere between 2 and 4 so you have time to set up camp.  Portaging and canoeing all morning and afternoon is exhausting.  Linda rests on a rock here after arriving at a campsite.

It gets cold at night.  One morning we woke up with ice in our water bottles.  Linda had the luxury of a brand new sleeping bag to keep her nice and toasty!  The tent also held up quite well and it was affectionately nicknamed the “Emerald City”

Sometimes the weather doesn’t go quite your way.  We were fortunate to have glorious day time weather all up until the last day when we awoke to raindrops.  That’s when you pile on the rain gear and put a smile/grimace on your face!

one year ago…”Garlic off to Great Start”

May 28, 2011 – Boundary Waters Adventures

Claire writes today. One of the conditions of going on the Boundary Waters trip was that Claire carried the canoe on some of the portages.  She and Linda split the portages about 50-50.

Here she carries the canoe on a portage

Claire paddles the bow in the canoe in one of the lakes they visited

Linda does her share of the beastly portages here.

The most useful (threatening) tool we had.

one year ago…”Smallest of Habitats”

May 27, 2011 – Mother-Daughter Get-Away

Claire requested a BWCA wilderness trip with her mother in the time between school and the start of her internship. Three weeks after ice-out isn’t necessarily the best time, but the bugs and other people are slow and sluggish at the end of May.

Here’s the route – plenty of portaging on this route.

At the Poplar Lake landing, ready to go!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #210″

May 13, 2011 – Claire’s Back

Now that Claire’s back, we get to shake up the menu a bit by adding Indian dishes to the rotation.

Tonight she made naan, a bean-carrot fry, a spinach potato curd curry, and a type of rice pudding.  We’ll let her cook anytime! It gave me occasion to try out a whole new series of puns, some of which have very small audiences. First, it’s the early 90’s band “4 Naan Blondes,” or the pile of naan that have sight, smell, and touch, or “Naansense,” of the newspaper headline after the 747 takeoff was aborted after encountering a pile of naan on the runway “Naan Stop Flight.” The family has had enough groaning, so I’ll stop there!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #208″

March 16, 2011 – Mushroom Logs Inoculated with Spawn

Wednesday was a good day!  Claire’s been home fro spring break to escape the lingering Minnesota snow.  I ordered small amounts of six different types of mushrooms, 3 oyster varieties and 3 shiitake varieties.  We order the plugs, and I got 100 plugs of each kind – so we have about two logs of each variety.  Of course, we have plenty of wood as the giant maple was cut a few weeks ago – and now is the perfect time to inoculate the logs.

Claire drills the holes in the logs.

Martin pounds the dowels in the logs.  As you can see in the background, the maple syrup boil continues.

The ends and dowels are sealed up with beeswax and the logs moved to to a shady spot to wait to bloom with mushrooms.

one year ago…”Three Cats in the Sun”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Sheep Bagging Up”

February 8, 2011 – Claire’s Lemon Meringue Pie

OK, it’s back to Iowa farm-grown produce.  Today, we feature lemons. I neglected to post these back over Christmas break, when the lemon harvest began in earnest.

cut lemons

Yes, these lemons were grown at High Hopes Gardens, albeit indoors for some of the year.

Claire shows no remorse shortly after ripping these baby lemons from her long-time companion lemon tree, named Panda.  Being raised on a farm, and around farm animals, I guess she had no troubles tearing this lemon from its mother and immediately cutting it up.

The non-meringuey part of the pie.

lemon meringue pie

The completed pie.

Never one to know when to stop making Panda feeling bad, here Claire returns with a sinister smile to taunt Panda with what her babies looked like after being knifed, crushed, and cooked!

one year ago…”Home DNA”

January 2, 2011 – Claire Out of the Country Again!

Claire had spent virtually no money at school on “mad money” and between her miles to India and thriftiness, she had enough dough to fly to Montreal for an Indian Reunion of sorts.

One excursion an aspiring political scientist might want to make is a trip Ottawa to see the Canadian Capital.  Here they are on the approach to Parliament Hill.

The Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa.

Claire was relieved to see that “Women are Persons” in Canada as well.

Of course, this revelation that Women are Persons, doesn’t mean the people in America’s attic don’t have a sense of humor and make female Supreme Court justices wear clothes reminiscent of a holly, jolly, philanthropic fellow!

Of course, no international trip is complete without sampling the local foods.  In this case, Claire displays the maple beaver tail.

Back in Montreal and some brightly colored row houses.

Claire, excited to be reunited with her luggage after a three-day break-up, courtesy of United Airlines.

one year ago…”Putting the “art” in mARTin”

December 25, 2010 – Christmas Deck Rescue

What says Christmas like shoveling off a deck?  The deck at Nana’s place needed to be shoveled off  according to homeowner’s association rules.  There were only a few problems.  The door opened out to the deck and snow blocked it, the screen door did not have a removable window, and there are not stairs from the outside up to the deck.

Here Claire psychs up Martin to ready him for his journey out the kitchen window above the kitchen sink!

Martin gets the heave out the window.

The shovel shortly followed and Martin was able to get enough snow off the deck to open the door and get more help in shoveling the snow off the deck.

one year ago…”Merry Christmas 2009″

November 25, 2010 – The Feast

After yesterday’s uncomfortable outdoor experience, thought it best to lead with something warm and turkey related.

smoked turkey

Here’s a slab of turkey in the smoker.  We baked one turkey and smoked another half outside in the smoker.  I was the best-smelling guy all day, tending the smoker.  This turkey was out of this world good.

Pie master Linda at work on the lattice top for the cherry pie.

cherry pie

The completed cherry pie.

apple pie

An apple pie.

pumpkin pie slice

And of course, a so-called pumpkin pie (actually it was squash from our garden –  many folks don’t know that even store-bought pumpkin pie filling from the store is squash).

Getting the vittles ready.

Still more vittle preparation.

Making the cranberry sauce from scratch (great with port).

turkey dressing

Finally, the turkey dressing getting ready to mix.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

one year ago…”Turkeys Ready to Go”

October 30, 2010 – I’ve Got a Pumpkin as a Head

Claire came home this weekend, although I hardly recognized her.

She fell in love with this warty pumpkin.  Reminds me of a song with the following lyrics.

Head full of tricks and treats
It leads me thru the nighttime streets
Black cats and falling trees
Under ladders always walking
Salt shaker spills just throw it over your shoulder, babe
I’ve got a bad idea again, i’ve got a
Halloweenhead, halloweenhead

Bonus cred for anyone who can name the artist.

one year ago…”Fall Mushrooms”

October 15, 2010 – Claire Back in Town for World Food Prize Events

Along with the other 15 Borlaug-Ruan interns in the good seats at the World Food Prize Laureate Ceremony, Claire smiled at the news during the ceremony that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack appointed these 16 young women and men Wallace-Carver as interns at a USDA office and will bring them to Washington D.C. for another week of learning and interacting with USDA staff in addition to the internship.

The details aren’t yet fleshed out, but Claire is quite pleased! (This photo was grabbed off the TV broadcast of the ceremony, available to view any time on Iowa Public Television.)

Before the ceremony they made all kinds of preparations at the Iowa State Capital Building.

Earlier in the day, the participants at the youth institute packaged 24,000 meals.

Looks like they had some time for fun as well..

one year ago…”World Food Prize Ceremony”

September 3, 2010 – Claire Settles in at Macalester

It’s going off to college weekend for Claire (and us!).  Macalester has an extremely long parent orientation – three days!  We’re calling it the helicopter parent orientation and doubt Linda will stay for it all.

Here all of Claire’s “stuff” neatly fits in the new Subaru.  She refers to the contents of the car as the essence of Claire.

New student on campus.

Her room, all set up – noticeable in my eyes are the Indian tapestry, mommade quilt, and sock monkey.  OK, throw in the Indian disco ball and periodic table as well! We look forward to the reports from her next adventure!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #175″

June 8, 2010 – Barn Staining Update

Looks like Claire managed to complete staining the east side of the barn.  There is not complete agreement as the window frames are left unpainted, but daughter claims that was not part of the instruction since no white paint was left in an obvious location.

At any rate, the stain-splattered body tell me that she indeed make a good-faith effort before her looming trip to India!

one year ago…”Spring Lettuce”

May 31, 2010 – India Looms for Claire

Less than two weeks before Claire boards a plane for the unknown!  I encouraged her to take up the blogging torch, so I wouldn’t have to keep up with her activities so closely (a good father gracefully lets go, right?)  So Claire has started her own blog called Namaste, Veggies!  and the location is and has already posted some pre-trip background and thoughts.

one year ago…”House Painting”

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”

May 22, 2010 – Graduation Party!

The day finally arrived!  Our first-born’s graduation party.

No party is complete without the graduation “shrine” to the graduate.  We made Claire prepare her own shrine.

Claire with one of the graduation cakes.

I made a video entitled “Claire: The Movie” and took out a few snippets below.  I’m particularly fond of my role as disappointed father.

Part 1 – Musical Intro

Part 2 – Friends Speak Out

Part 3 – Family members remember Claire.

one year ago…”Chimenia”

May 19, 2010 – Jazzed Up

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

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

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

one year ago…no post

April 26, 2010 – Claire’s Envirothon Team to Nationals Again!

I get another day off and let someone else write the story today. Today’s photos and story is from Andrew Potter of the Times-Republican.  Unfortunately, Claire will not be able to attend as she’ll be in India at the time of the competition.

California dreaming

MHS wins state event, heading to Fresno

A group of five Marshalltown High School students takes learning about the environment seriously throughout the year and not just on Earth Day.

The MHS team won the state title last weekend as part of the Iowa Envirothon.

The envirothon included the 14 Iowa teams which had advanced from regional competition in which students tested their knowledge on aquatic ecology, forestry, soils and wildlife at Springbrook State Park in Guthrie Center.

Team members are Alex Cope, Molly Finn, James Lindgren, Matt Paar and Claire Runquist. Susan Fritzell, an MHS teacher and advisor for the team, credited her students’ dedication the past few months to the team’s win.

“I think our team is very consistent,” Fritzell said. “I have five students who will always commit to being here.”

The MHS team won two of the five individual categories including forestry and wildlife.

Lindgren said it was an exciting moment for the team when it was announced they were state champions.

“We all jumped up when we heard it,” he said.

Finn said the team thought they did well but they weren’t sure if they won until the announcement.

“We felt confident that we did decent but we thought it would be close,” Finn said.

The Marshalltown team advances to the Canon Envirothon national competition held at California State University in Fresno in early August.

The trip is partially paid for by the envirothon so the team will do fundraising to make up the rest of the money. Winning the state envirothon title has become a tradition for MHS as the school has now won its fifth in the last eight years.

one year ago…”Gully Washers”

April 12, 2010 – Claire to India!

Claire has been selected as a Borlaug-Ruan Intern by the World Food Prize! As a result, she gets an all expenses paid internship at the World Vegetable Center near Hyderabad, India for eight weeks this summer.

Here’s a story from the Marshalltown newspaper:

MHS student lands internship to India

Runquist one of 16 in nation selected


Marshalltown High School senior Claire Runquist will have plenty of learning to do before she heads off to college this fall – and she is ready for the challenge.

Runquist was recently selected for a prestigious internship with the World Food Prize Foundation and will be spending eight weeks in India this summer beginning in mid-June.

She will work at AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center in Patancheru, Hyderabad, India.

Runquist said her internship will involve work in nutrition and family gardens. She said she was overwhelmed when she found out she was selected.

“I think it’s the most excited I’ve ever been in my life,” Runquist said. “I started screaming and crying.”

Runquist is one of just 16 students who were selected to receive the Borlaug Ruan International Internship this summer. To be eligible, she submitted her school transcripts and essays on ways to stop world hunger. She then participated in an interview after she was named a finalist.

All of her expenses will be paid for by the World Food Prize Foundation. For someone who has never even been out of the country before, Runquist is expecting to learn a great deal during the trip.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be completely life-changing,” she said. “It’s going to be terrifying and thrilling at the same time.”

Her parents, Mark Runquist and Linda Barnes, have a farm in rural Melbourne where they grow their own food, so it appears their interests have rubbed off on their daughter.

“It’s a great opportunity for her,” Mark Runquist said.

After the trip, she has plans to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.

Claire has been very focused and deliberate to be in this position.  It has been a long process and we are all thrilled for her. Following are some former blog posts showing part of the journey to today:

World Food Prize Symposium Sessions
World Food Prize Ceremony
World Food Prize Youth Institute
World Food Prize Intern Interviews

one year ago…”Shed Implosion: Part 1″

April 9, 2010 – Claire’s College Search is Over!

It’s now the end of digesting college guide books, filling out applications, completing essays and financial aid forms, and touring colleges.  Claire seriously considered Grinnell, St Olaf, Iowa State, and Macalester.

The last two days we attended a “sampler” at Mac.  We were able to check out the food in the dining hall, attend classes and info sessions.  The weekend ended up confirming what Claire had decided – that Macalester was the best match for her.

Here’s Claire in front of the “skywalk” to the library we we hope she ends up spending at least a little bit of time!

This is one of the newest buildings on campus a LEED certified Platinum building.

Another shot (notice her carrying the fresh bread from the bakery across the street from campus) with a small turbine on the south side of campus.

She was even welcomed in the college chapel with a UU banner representing the UU student group on campus.

As if she didn’t need any more convincing, the straw that tipped the scales firmly on the Macalester side was the adult size swingset outside the rec center!  All in all, we are very pleased witht the outcome of Claire’s search.  We hope that it will be great for her to be smack dab in an urban environment, minutes away from the State Capital.  As a bonus, she’s only 15 minutes from my brother.  Watch out St. Paul!

one year ago…no entry

February 12, 2010 – Claire Interviews for World Food Prize Internship

This week we ventured to Des Moines for Claire to go through the final cut for a World Food Prize all expenses paid summer internship at a location somewhere in the world.

The interviews were at the Botanical Center in Des Moines for people living in the Midwest – the others will be interviewing via Skype. For this final round of selection, about half of the interviewees will be selected. Claire has her fingers crossed and hopes she’s looked favorably upon!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #153″

January 20, 2010 – Want Ice with That?

Another ice storm fell from the heavens today.  Ice is much harder to deal with than snow or rain.

It’s hard to read electric meters.  It’s also hard to open garage doors that face in the direction of the wind.  It took lots of pounding with a rubber mallet to pound the hundreds of pounds of ice off the door to open it.

The hay wagon out in the pasture shows off the ice.

Now, for a story that might belong in the “you know you are a redneck if” department.  I took the shotgun outside and started shooting trees.  I hit them too!  The last big ice storm cracked some branches high up in the maple trees in the front yard.  The branches have been dangling down, just waiting to fall for over a year.  I thought – Eureka – with the branches laden with the heavy ice, a well-placed shot to the place where they are tentatively attached to the tree, might be enough to drop them down now – instead of later on a dog, person, or car.  Voila – it worked like a charm and two branches no longer irritate me hanging down from near the top of the tree.

What good is an ice storm if the power doesn’t go out?  Dinner accompanied by beeswax votives.  Martin had all the gear from Christmas for the occasion – a hand crank LED lantern, and most importantly, night vision goggles that really work!

one year ago…”Local Foods Moves to Mainstream”

January 1, 2010 – Looking Back on 2009

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

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

one year ago…”Burning up the New Year”

December 18, 2009 – Now this is A Christmas Tree!

This is the year we have been waiting for – the first Christmas tree grown on our farm. This summer Martin and GJ put an orange tag on the best tree after much deliberation.

girl on snowdrift over fence

On our way down to get the tree, we thought we might be in trouble when the snow started rising almost high enough to bury the fenceposts!

When we got to the tree (or at least we thought it was the right tree because the orange flagging was buried!) we saw we were in for some digging!

With shovels and hands around the branches, we started trying to release the tree from the snowbank, being careful not to break branches.

The digging crew after they had dug down to the ground.

Martin stands in the excavated hole where the tree used to be. After we dug down a couple of feet, we found the orange flagging!  In addition, there was a bonus as there is a bird nest in the branches.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #146″

November 6, 2009 – New Layers

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

The girls bringing the pullets into the chicken coop.

speckled sussex chicken

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

band chickens

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #140″

October 21, 2009 – Garlic Planting

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

The garlic cloves, recently separated from their bulbs.

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

one year ago…”Mortgage Meltdown and More”

October 17, 2009 – World Food Prize Youth Institute

The final day of the events centered around the youth delegates.  The students were split into groups of nine.

Here Claire is with her group, Ambassador Quinn, 2009 Laureate Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, and 2003 Laureate Catherine Bertini. Her group included students from Peru, Tanzania, Chicago and Iowa.

The students first met to present their papers to the other students and panel.  Claire’s panel included Laureate Catherine Bertini, 2003 Laureate.  The students answered questions from other students and then the panel of adults commented and asked questions on their research papers.

After the papers were presented, they chose a group leader, Claire in the case of her group to lead a session to pick common themes of all papers, a summary of which would be presented to the entire conference.

I must say it was a proud moment for me to get to see Claire represent her group and speak before a group of distinguished people, including past Laureates, ambassadors, heads of state, and scientists of worldwide distinction! If you have any doubts whether the younger generation has capable, caring, smart and eloquent young men and women, this group would certainly be one to look to!

one year ago…”Reading Like a Cat”

October 15, 2009 – World Food Prize Ceremony

Claire had a fantastic opportunity this week – she was selected as a participant in the World Food Prize Symposium Youth Institute.  Usually a teacher accompanies the student to the three day all-expenses paid trip to the symposium, but Claire’s teacher had attended before and asked if Linda or I would like to attend in her place due to our professional and personal interests in agriculture.

The ceremony awarding the World Food Prize, essentially the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture, was held at the Iowa State Capital Building.  It was a formal affair.  Here the students line the stairway, ready to greet dignitaries and attendees to the ceremony and dinner.

A huge illuminated earth was placed in the capital rotunda.

Here, winner of this year’s food prize, Gebisa Ejeta, gets down with dancers from his native Ethiopia as part of the ceremony.

The actual ceremony itself was the only event that the accompanying teachers could not attend as the ceremony had sold out of the $450.00 dollar tickets.  In the past, it had not sold out, so teachers attended live – instead we were ushered in to the state capital law library and watched the broadcast of the event live, as it was broadcast statewide and on the internet via Iowa Public Television.

one year ago…”Pepper Harvest”

October 2, 2009 – Applesauce Day

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #135″

September 20, 2009 – Inaugural Chicken Butchering

Today was the day we’ve been anticipating for quite some time. Two years ago the closest locker that butchered chickens (about 25 miles away) stopped processing chickens. Last year, the next closest locker (about 80 miles away) stopped doing chickens. Rather than drive even further – twice – once to drop off and a day or so later to pick up, we decided to try to be more efficient and do it ourselves.

Here’s the initial setup.  I made some makeshift killing cones out of some aluminum flashing I had lying around.  Hiding behind the cones is a 35 quart turkey fryer for a scalder, then the new featherman plucker, (we looked into making a homemade whizbang, but the price was 2/3 of a featherman so we went in with two other farmers to get this plucker). Next is the table for cutting up, finally some big coolers for chill tanks.  We decided to take it easy and only do 20 birds the first time to test out our system.

Linda working on cutting up a chicken.  We are very pleased with the way the afternoon went.  It probably took about an hour and half to do the 20 birds, not counting set-up and cleanup.  It’s not often that something goes better and takes less time than you plan for, but that was the case today.  I think the key was having great information.  The featherman web site has a great couple of YouTubes showing how to butcher that were very helpful in addition to GJ from her butchering many decades ago.

I was pleased for a number of reasons.  The plucker worked like a champ – it tumbled the feathers off in a matter of seconds.  The makeshift scalder worked well enough and kept the temperature very steady.  I’m pleased with the flexibility as well.  Before, you needed to get appointments at the locker 8 weeks ahead of time.  Now, the birds can be done when they are ready, not when the schedule says.  We’ll probably end up doing a couple of times per batch – give some of the smaller ones time to catch up or have batches with different sizes.  The threat of transporting in hot weather is gone as well.  I also think it’s cleaner – for the birds and the people.  No co-mingling or cross-contamination with other chickens.  There was not a noticeable smell doing this outside.  That is in contrast to the waterproof-apron- wearing employees in a hot, humid soup of water vapor and chicken dander in the plants. I also like the more humane killing method, to my way of thinking, using the cones instead of the wildly flopping birds of other methods.  We also ended up much cleaner than I imagined

All in all, we are very pleased with the event and will have the rest to do in a while and then turkeys at Thanksgiving.

one year ago…”Claire’s Birthday Event”

September 19, 2009 – Joint Birthday Parties

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

Emma moves through the food line.

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

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

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

one year ago…”Emma’s Birthday Event”

August 20, 2009 – First Day of School

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

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

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

one year ago…”Peach Basket”

August 19, 2009 – Completion of First Round of College Visits

Today was a trip up to Northfield, MN to visit a couple of colleges – St. Olaf and Carleton. These are the last two on the initial list. Now, we may or may not do visits when school is in session. It looks like Claire will have a difficult decision, but perhaps it will come down to finances in the end. If the top three school choices are a toss-up, it might depend on the financial aid package each is able to offer.

one year ago…”Costa Rican Agaratum Folklore”

August 5, 2009 – Iowa Youth Leadership International

Over the first couple weeks of August, Claire is participating in the Iowa Youth Leadership International program. She won a scholarship to attend. Students from around the world are participating.

The group has two weeks of activities – things like visiting lawmakers, including the Governor, Secretary of State, Mayor of Des Moines, many local business leaders and so on. She’s having great appreciation for Dad’s commute after she drove to Des Moines every day for a week!

one year ago…”More Garden Space”

August 4, 2009 – College Visits

I haven’t talked about last week’s college visits. We visited Grinnell, Cornell College, and Macalester. I didn’t take any pictures, but noted one observation from the two colleges with largest endowments – the key to large endowments seemed directly linked to contraband livestock.

At Grinnell, they relayed the story of a student named Robert Noyce. It was luau night at the college and Robert thought it was appropriate to have a pig roast at a luau, so he ventured out in the country and stole a pig from a nearby farm. He brought it to campus and butchered it in the dorm shower. The next day, felling regretful, he returned to the farm to confess his larceny. A series of events nearly caused him to be expelled from Grinnell. Only the intervention of a physics teacher on his behalf prevented his expulsion, and instead he was granted only a one semester suspension. Later on, Robert went on to form a little company called Intel and left a billion dollars in Intel stock to Grinnell and he urged them to diversify it. They did, and in a rare case of a bad result of diversification, had the college not diversified, the endowment would have been over 70 billion!

At Macalester, Dewitt Wallace led a cow four stories up the old main building. Cows go up stairs, but do not go down stairs (at least while they are alive). This event, along with others, led him to leave Macalaster before graduation. Later he went on to publish Reader’s Digest and also left a large endowment to his old school.

one year ago…”Oppressive Weather”

July 17, 2009 – Rain, Rain

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #124″

July 15, 2009 – Touring Tower Soudan Underground Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Willow Nursery on Track”

July 14, 2009 – Overnight in the BWCA in the Rain

In the every other year take a couple of kids to the BWCA for an overnight, this year was the oldest girls and the dads.  Given the windy conditions, we opted to stay off of the open lakes and go up the Kawishiwi River instead this year.

Here’s Claire, happy at the end of the first portage.  Although you can’t see it, she insists on making it in one trip, so she has the other Duluth Pack on her pack and all the rest of her gear in her hands as I carried the canoe.

First order of business is to gather some firewood for later in the evening.

There were two different pathways for water to flow between these branches of the Kawishiwi River. The main channel is where the portage is, but this smaller channel also travels between the two bodies of water and is little, if ever explored.  So, Claire and I grabbed our rods and reels, some spinners and wandered up the stream until it met the lake.

It was great fun to catch smallmouth in the small pools below every riffle.  We must have caught a dozen on the trip up the creek.  It’s great fun to catch fish in the same water you’re standing in!

Did I mention yet that is was raining a good part of the day.  Here’s a makeshift shelter near the campfire that rivals and EZ-Up Canopy!  On this trip we forgot the fillet knife and ended up releasing a large number of good-sized smallmouth and walleye – some smallmouth and many walleye bigger than the one I caught off the dock in a previous picture were released on this trip.

one year ago…”Tubex Verdict”

July 3, 2009 – Girls State

Claire is guest blogging today.

Recently I had the chance to attend the Iowa American Legion Auxiliary Girls State.  The Auxiliary unit from my town sponsored two girls to go to ISU for a week and be completely immersed in the fictional state of Hawkeye.  We were all citizens of cities, counties, and the state, and had to run for office, campaign, give speeches, and vote.  We also had guest speakers and lots of singing!

This photo is of the final candidates for state level positions from both political parties.  On Inauguration night, wee all got to do the flag lowering.  I ended up being the candidate for attorney general of my party, and lost by a small number of votes.  I also became city manager, after losing mayor by one vote.  I was also the parliamentarian for my party state convention, received the director’s choice award for my party and city, and I was an alternate to girls nation.

At the inauguration all 300 girls sang in a choir. Â  There were city council meetings, ordinances passed and failed, county trials, and the House of Representatives and Senate passed bills that the governor signed into law.  Even though Hawkeye was a fake state, the whole process felt completely real, like real issues were at stake.  It was an amazing experience filled with amazing people.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #123″

June 16, 2009 – Debate Nationals Preview

All this week Claire is in Birmingham, Alabama participating in the national debate championships.  She is in the “Congress” portion of debate and sent us a few snapshots via email.

This is the five points district, an entertainment district.

Claire sends the following explanation for this photo:  “This is a keep Birmingham beautiful sign…I was joking that I was helping contribute to the cause, so we took a pic.”

I’m not sure if it should concern me that of all the pictures she sent, not one was of a debate topic, but more of Birmingham nightlife and tourist locations 😉

one year ago…”Strawberry Season”

May 29, 2009 – Workin’ on the Barn

I’ve made a commitment to paint part of the barn (I bought 9 gallons of stain).  We’ve never painted the barn, so we are starting on the easy sides, the west and east sides.  I’ll have to think some more whether we attack the north and south sides with their more dizzying heights above the ground and figure out how to reach there.

It’s so weathered that’s there’s not much scraping to do as most of the paint is gone.

Martin was excited to do what he could to help stain the barn.  It’s more like pouring the stain on rather than brushing as the boards are very thirsty.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #120″

May 21, 2009 – Missing in Action

I know we’ve been missing in action for a few weeks.  I’ve finally resolved that it is ok if I don’t post every day after 2 1/2 years of daily posts.  After falling behind due to the trip to Maine, and spring bursting out, time for blogging, or anything else, has been sparse.

A promise to return soon and this goofy picture of Claire will be the best I can do until I return to semi-regular posts.

one year ago…”Final Connections for Skystream”

April 28, 2009 – Claire with More Opportunities

Claire was selected and awarded a scholarship to attend this year’s Iowa Youth Leadership program!

Students from around the world will attend and go through a two-week program. The following is from the organization:

The Iowa Youth Leadership International (IYLI) prepares international students to assume active leadership roles in their community and global society. Through IYLI, students embark upon a lifetime of meaningful participation in their local and global communities. Signature academic programs based on the framework of history, culture, geography, environment, economic, education, music, sports, and community provide training and exposure to prepare well-informed leaders and citizens. IYLI emphasizes the connections between local and global conditions, challenges and opportunities.

Some of the activities include a day at the Capital talking with representatives, time in US Senator’s Iowa offices, law firms, banks, outings to natural resource areas, health institutions, utilities, and many more places to get a sense of important community institutions and opportunities.

one year ago…”Hot Chicks and Cold Nights”

April 25, 2009 – Prom

Today was prom day for Claire. She and a friend had dinner at our place before prom.

We served as much from the farm food, including barbecued chicken, grilled asparagus and grilled mushrooms among other things.

In contrast to the last school dance where Claire debuted in a hand-made duct-tape dress, her nod to non-conformity has softened, this time to wearing green converse low-tops.

Her prom companion was a fellow debater and neighbor.

one year ago…”Egg Season”

April 11, 2009 – Serious Garden Progress

Today was a serious garden day.  I bit the bullet and got the tiller attached to the lawn tractor.  Since it seemed to be running so well, I surprised myself and let Claire drive it.

I don’t suppose there are too many 16-year old girls who are dying to till a garden, so I did not waste the opportunity to relinquish the seat.  Much of our garden is mulched and not tilled, but part of it is tilled.

Even Martin and Nana got into helping by cutting the seed potatoes to dry before planting.

Again, knives and 7-year old boys have their place in cutting potatoes with Nana, but not many other places!

Today we got in some early spring crops -potatoes, onions, lettuce, radish, spinach, and more that escape my mind at the moment.

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Fragile

April 4, 2009 – Conference Day Two – Ice Breaker

The second day of the meeting was highlighted by singer/songwriter Peter Mayer.

Peter spent time talking about and playing his music

In the afternoon we wandered down the downtown skywalk and found by pure serendipity that a US Coast Guard Ice Breaker was docked at the port and open for public tours.

The ship was the Mackinaw, a fairly new ice breaker to the fleet. The ice breakers don’t “slice” or cut the ice, but rather the bow of the ship pushes up on top of the ice and the weight of the ship collapses or breaks the ice.

Some of the heavy duty chains on deck.

This has got to be a top of the line coffee maker! (and spill resistant as well).  Another item that did not escape my attention was a big Weber gas grill strapped to the aft deck rail of the Mackinaw.

Linda and Claire from the top deck of the Mackinaw overlooking the aerial lift bridge.  It was great fun to get a close-up look at such a unique piece of Great Lakes craft.

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Far From Home”

April 3, 2009 – Linda’s Keynote

On Friday evening Linda gave the keynote address at the Prairie Star District Annual conference, this year in Duluth, MN.

The conference theme was “Our Blue Boat Home” and Linda’s talk was accompanied by photos from around the farm and Midwest.  The talk was well received and Linda got a standing ovation from the 320 or so in attendance. A rebroadcast of the speech (1 hour and 15 minutes) is available online (go to the conference page and click the video box below the talk description – Linda is first introduced by Rev Brian Eslinger in the video.

To loosen up our speaker, we went down to the lake before the talk to “center” the speaker.

Claire with some rounded ice chunks from the lake.

The ice is a wonderful arctic blue pushed up along the shore.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #112″

March 17, 2009 – Washer Broke

A few days ago, our relatively  new front-load washer started making bad noises on the high spin cycle.  I called the appliance store and over the phone they said it sounded like a bad tub bearing.  They also said that the tub and bearing where integral to each other and that the tub would also need to be replaced.  Needless to say, I was not pleased at the prospect of throwing $400.00 into a two-year old washer.  Long story short, after a long time on the phone complaining, they finally agreed to pay for the bearing and tub.

However, when the tub got in the shop, they discovered it was a chapstick container that got caught between the drum and tub.  Curiously, now no one in the house uses or has used the particular brand of chapstick that was found in the washer!

Until the washer was fixed, Claire got to do one load of laundry in the tub.

one year ago…”First Bouquet of the Season”

February 22, 2009 – Claire to Girls State

Claire was selected for another honor this week – “Girls State” sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.  The best description I’ve got is the following from the acceptance letter.

Congratulations on being selected to attend Iowa Girls State. You are joining an outstanding group of young women from across the State of Iowa dating back to 1946. During this week you will experience government coming alive through a hands-on process. It will be a special week in which you will make many new friends while learning that you can do things you never thought you could do!

If the week deals with government and meeting new people, Claire will have a great time. The event will be held in Ames in June.
one year ago…”Costa Rican Organic Farm Tour”

February 15, 2009 – Claire to Debate Nationals!

Yesterday our in-house debater earned a trip to the national competition!  She competed in the District tournament in the Quad Cities (Davenport/Bettendorf/Moline/Rock Island) and won her house of Congress.

This particular debate event is organized around the format of the U.S. congress and participants propose and debate bills.  Over the course of the day the judges pick the top members of Congress based on the presentation and content of their arguments.  After the adults pick the finalists, the Congress, or students, pick the winner from the participants selected by the judges.

She has a date sometime in June in Birmingham Alabama for the national contest.

one year ago…”More Fun on the Road”

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Winter Visitors”

December 3, 2008 – Another Licensed Driver!

Today is one of those milestones for Claire (and her parents).  She picked up her driver’s license today!

So now our baby is out driving alone.  It seems like we spent a lot of our time in a car dropping off or picking up kids.  Now, some of that is relieved, and we will be driving fewer miles since an activity no longer will require a trip to town to drop off and later to pick up (60 miles) but now will be one round trip (30 miles) and an hour less of a parent’s time.  Driver’s Ed itself was a pain – class between 8-9 pm three nights a week for 2 and a half months.  She’s been driving with us for over a year now, so the only thing we really worry about is learning to drive on ice and snow and other drivers.

one year ago…”In the News”.

September 28, 2008 – Octemberfest Parade

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

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

Have you ever soon a better group of tubas?

The clarinet section leader keeps the players in line!

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

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

one year ago…”Duct Tape Homecoming Dress”.

September 22, 2008 – Apple Peeling, 2008 Style

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

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

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

September 20, 2008 – Claire’s Birthday Event

For her birthday event, Claire chose to take a friend to the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, spend some time in the East Village, and eat out for lunch.

Here the day’s quirky food finds are displayed – elk jerky and caramel apple popcorn.

This fellow had a nice job – roasting peppers over a flame – they smelled delicious, but at 10:00 am, I wasn’t ready to bite.  We bought some t-shirts at Smash (I’ll display those later) and ate lunch at the Olympic Flame.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #88″.

August 23, 2008 – Bioblitz

This weekend Claire’s Envirothon was comped a weekend at a “bioblitz” inventorying animal and plant species on a new parcel of land acquired by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in northeastern Iowa.

Here’s a good portion of the group.

One of Claire’s favorite tasks was mussel inventory in the river.  They were accompanied by experts in mussel, bird, plant, and others in completing a biological inventory of the land parcel.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #85″

August 15, 2008 – Gun Safety

Many years ago, I promised Claire, I’d teach her to shoot a gun safely.  I’ve either forgotten about it, been too busy, or it wasn’t the right time because of animals in the pasture, but she asked again recently and I said, “Let’s go.”  She was a bit surprised, so we went to the back pasture in a paddock without any animals and went over the basics.

We went over the characteristics of a rifle and a shotgun and got a chance to shoot small versions of both – a .22 rifle and .410 shotgun.

I told her about how I learned to hunt.  The first year I went, I was not allowed to carry a gun, but just to watch and observe.  The second year, I was allowed to carry a gun and “practice” shooting, but wasn’t allowed to have any shells – just the empty gun.  I still remember the first time I followed a duck on the bead of the gun right in front of another hunter’s head.  It was a sobering lesson in losing track of the situation when game appears.  The third year, I was allowed limited shooting with a single-shot gun.

So today was just the introduction – we set up a milk carton on a stick and she was able to hit it with the shotgun but not the rifle.  We’ll take more target practice in the next few months to get competent.

one year ago…”Building the Hives”

August 3, 2008 – Envirothon Part 3: Competetion and Wrap-Up

The competition was extremely strict and regulated.  The first day was a training day.  They took all 57 teams (representing different states and provinces) to an undisclosed location, which was the Flagstaff Arboretum.  There were 5 stations, for each of the categories.  Wildlife, Forestry, Aquatic Ecology, Soils and Land Use, and Current Issue (which was the Recreational Impact on Natural Resources).

There were official people at each station with little headsets that regulated exactly when it started and when it stopped.  Once it was over, the speaker was cut off, so everyone would get the same amount of time.  We also had official notebooks and couldn’t bring anything but water and the “Learning Logs.”

The next day was testing.  They took us to another undisclosed location, Catarac Lake, and tested us over the 5 stations.  Then, Thursday was the trip to the Grand Canyon.  Friday we had training for our oral presentation in the morning, then we were sequestered in a room with only the 5 team members for 8 hours.  There were people that were essentially prison guards, to escort us to the bathroom and drinking fountain.  Everyone was given the exact same supplies.  At one point, our scissors broke, and it took 2 hours for them to check the scissor’s policy and get back to us with a new pair.

The next day was the oral presentation.  It was a 20 minute speech about a recreational and restoration plan for a park in Arizona.  Our group, being musical, incorporated Beatles music in both the introduction and conclusion.

This is a team photo on the last night, at the awards banquet and dance.  Our team gets along, most of the time, but we can get on each other’s nerves, as we did at the competition.  By the end of the week, we had decided that we had enough team bonding for a while!

Here are Iowa, Illinois, and Idaho, the “I states.”  Indiana was not included in this.  Over the course of the week, these 3 “I” teams became pretty close.  Whenever we saw each other we’d yell whatever state they were, or “I power!” or something to that effect.  We also had our “I” state symbol- holding up the pinky.  So when Idaho got 10th place, all of the “I” states were going crazy, and holding up our little “I” signs, as did Idaho on stage.

Many of the state champion schools were special charter schools, or special science and technology magnet schools, or college prep schools.  We were just a normal public school – we weren’t expecting to do extremely well, but we finished 21st out of 57.  We were very happy with those results.  We did our best, and could not have expected any more.

It was an amazing experience to find about 250 other “environerds” like ourselves, very refreshing.  We all had some amazing discussions about invasive species, cryptogamic soils, and watersheds, which was very refreshing!

one year ago…”Mousehole Days”

August 2, 2008 – Envirothon Part 2: Touring Arizona

This is at Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona, the first of many team photos taken.

Here’s Sunset Crater.  A volcano that exploded relatively recently.

Here are two team mates by a large chunk of volcanic rock.

Here are the San Francisco peaks, visible from everywhere in Flagstaff.  The highest is at 12,000 feet or so.

My lifelong dream of going to the Lowell Observatory was also satisfied on this trip.  This telescope is 128 years old.  It was the telescope that first found Pluto, and was the telescope that was used to provide evidence for an expanding universe.

This is at one of the ancient ruins in the area.  It was amazing to me that these structures could still be standing after so many years!

This is at Wupatki.  It’s my new house.

This is the Grand Canyon.  We journeyed here during the competition, on our one free day.  It was gorgeous, and we had several nice hikes while learning about its environment and recreational impacts on it.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #82″

August 1, 2008 – Envirothon Part 1: The Long Road to Flagstaff

Our journey started long ago, after qualifying for regional and then winning the state contest.  Over the summer we busily fundraised and studied for the competition.

The journey to Arizona was a bit more eventful than we had bargained for.  At  6 am, the day we were scheduled to leave, we received a phone call, saying that our plane had broken, and that we would not be able to leave.  Later, when our advisor called the airline back, we discovered that another plane would be able to take us.  So, we journeyed to the Cedar Rapids airport, a 5 gate complex, to catch our flight.  When we arrived, we discovered that our flight would be late, due to bad weather.  This would leave us a 15 minute window to board our connecting flight in Minneapolis.  After checking every other possible flight combination and receiving about 5 different boarding passes and flight assignments, we decided to take the risk of spending the night in Minneapolis.

Soon, we discovered that our flight had been delayed, even more.  To the point that we would miss our flight by more than 45 minutes.  Luckily, we were able to convince the airline to put us up in a hotel for the night, for which we were extremely grateful.  We also got food vouchers for breakfast.  We worked really hard to raise money to go, so this saved us more than $150 overall, which was pretty thrilling.

Here I am on the first flight, displaying the information cards that everyone has memorized after their second flight.

When we arrived at the Phoenix airport, a day late, we discovered that they had given away the van we had rented, and given us an SUV instead.  This was a rather problematic arrangement, because there was no trunk space, and only enough seats for the 7 of us (team members and chaperones).  Thus, we had an extremely uncomfortable 3 hour ride from Phoenix to Flagstaff completely piled with luggage and unable to move.

But, the one thing I can say about the trip there was that it was extremely eventful, and not at all ho-hum.

one year ago…”Bridges”

July 25, 2008 – Chinese Cabbage

It has been a most excellent year for Chinese Cabbage.

It’s a great vegetable for stir-fry or boiling and has much less insect pressure than regular cabbage.

Today Claire left for Flagstaff, AZ as her Envirothon Team from Marshalltown High School heads to the National Finals. There was a plane delay in Cedar Rapids and they ended up missing the connecting flight to Phoenix in Minneapolis.  We had my brother in Eagan ready to provide lodging in Mpls to prevent them from sleeping (or not) in the airport terminal, but the airline put them up in a hotel, but they ended up missing about a day of their early arrival to explore Arizona.

one year ago…”Turkeys Arrive”

July 22, 2008 – Hosting Costa Ricans at High Hopes

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

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

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

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

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

Whoo! The circle comes together!

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

Lonna did the calling for the dancers.

Swing your partner.

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Dilly Beans”

July 13, 2008 – Tribute to Dad?

A few weeks ago Claire was part of a Father’s Day service at church and she wrote and read this at church. We had requests to post it, so for better or worse, a 15 year-old’s perspective on her father!


Fathers are one of the core places that we form ideas from, whether they are good ideas, or ideas of what not to do, fathers shape our lives, for better or worse. I am one of the fortunate ones to be born into a family with one of the good dads. One of the dads that helps me become a better person, protects me, while giving me independence, and listens to my thoughts and feelings and takes those into consideration.
However, being a good dad means that your child may not always agree with your decisions (especially related to chores and saying no to things!) But these actions by a dad show love and care. They teach us that the world is not a fair place, and sometimes we don’t always know what is best for us. Call it building character, discipline, whatever you will, but it is a crucial part to being an excellent father.
I would like to share the top 10 lessons that I have learned from dad so far. Many may seem humorous, but when you look beneath the surface, there is a greater lesson.

10. Duct tape can solve anything
From a young age, when something was broken, out would come the duct tape, and a quick easy repair made. Duct tape had many uses, innumerable uses. Dad showed me that. This philosophy soon rubbed off on me, whether I realized it or not. At homecoming I found myself in a hand-made duct tape dress, and I have made myself many a duct tape ball, and now I almost always keep a roll of duct tape in my backpack. Although dad has moved on from duct tape to greater things, that mentality from duct tape still stays with me. This gift of creativity from my father is a unique and useful quality, and I plan to find many more uses for duct tape in my life.

9. Scam off your kids
When you want to teach your kids responsibility, there is nothing like giving them the money they will need for everything and tell them to manage it. This was the system that my dad came up with three years ago. As a result, when I recklessly spend my money on something and I’m left lunchless, he will give me a pay advance- but, there’s a catch. I have to pay him a service fee. Or the time my sister Emma and I had our own mini business making and selling dog treats, dad charged us for electricity for the oven. These little things seemed ridiculous to us, and to our mom, but they are a great lesson in responsibility and accountability. I have learned not to take things for granted because of his little fees and charges.

8. Imitating singers with high pitched voices does not gain you popularity within the family
Dad also has a habit of singing along with rather sappy singers on the radio every once in a while, mostly to annoy us. These impressions are usually met with moans and groans from the back seat of the car. This lesson could be interpreted in many ways, tolerate people, or accept them for who they are, but I think the real lesson is be able to let loose, be free, have fun, and have no worry about what others may think of your little meandering into the wild and sometimes obnoxious side.

7. Even if photo documentation seems a bit excessive now, someday you’ll appreciate it.
Or maybe not. Who knows? In either case, Dad makes it a daily habit to photo document anything and everything around the farm and family. He’ll then compose a blog entry and post it for the world to see. Needless to say, we have countless photos of spring flowers, summer sunsets, fall harvests, winter icicles, family events, and hard labor around the farm. These photos really capture the spirit of our farm and family. It’s a way of showing how far we’ve come (the before and after pictures of remodeling projects or gardens). It can be a fulfilling experience of WOW! Look how far we’ve come. Or it can be a reflection of what went wrong. It’s a wonderful method of self reflection, and recording of memories for generations to come, or just for us in the future.

6. Being a nerd is not bad
Dad is a prime example of this. You’ll know exactly what I mean if you saw his middle school basketball picture. He is the tall skinny kid with the big glasses, the shortest shorts, and the highest socks. In high school, he was a sousaphone player for the marching band. Nowadays he is our computer guru, and fixes problems, and sets things up for the whole family and neighborhood. Dad also has a few strange hobbies including avid interest in Henry Wallace and collecting license plates. Coupled with high intelligence, an avid interest in Ebay, and a degrees in geology and English make him a top of the line nerd. Needless to say he has passed it on to his kids, and we appreciate it. Nerds run the world, they make a difference, so we all need to embrace any inner nerdiness that we may have.

5. Never set dates on when do it yourself project will be completed
This one is more something that he learned from me, that I in turn learned from him. Since we moved to the farm, we have been constantly remodeling our house (before this remodeling, it had been redone in the seventies. Let’s just say that it was far from attractive.) Until last month, my sister and I had shared a room since she was born (approximately 13 years and 9 months ago). At a young age, I was promised my own room by the age of 10, then it was 12, then 13, and then 14, and then maybe never. I of course, being a teenager, was rather bitter about this promise had been broken. As a result, my parents never put a time frame out for any project (at least to me anyway). In this way, I became extremely grateful when something was accomplished. And I do finally have my own room.

4. Family is not a democracy
This lesson was often learned the hard way, usually in some argument, or me whining how life wasn’t fair. Or even asking for a simple vote. On certain issues, yes, we could vote. But on other issues, the true nature of the family government came out- family is a dictatorship. A benevolent dictatorship, but a dictatorship nonetheless. This means, that in order to sway decisions in your favor, you have to get on the good side of the dictators. This could involve helping out with whatever task they are doing, or doing chores without being asked, or just being nice. This taught me that life isn’t always fair, and that you don’t always know what’s best for you when you are a kid or teen, and that those dictators will be there for you, to protect you and keep you safe.

3. Debate arguments do not hold up against the word of a father, no matter how logical
This relates to the concept of family not being a democracy. Last year, I became avidly active in debate, and I love it. But, when I tried the techniques (unconsciously of course) out on my dad, well, let’s just say it didn’t work. Because in debate, the argument, “Because I said so and I’m the dad,” doesn’t work. So he would automatically win any argument that we may have chosen to embark in. Of course I had no response to that, no matter how logical my argument may have seen. Debate may have useful skills for the rest of my life, but for home arguments and decisions, it does not have a place. Here too, the dictators rule the decision making process. And at this point in my life, it’s not a bad thing.

2. If you happen to have children, you might as well use them
Sometimes I wonder if my parents had children solely as farm labor, until I realize that we moved to the farm after they had children. So then I think we moved to the farm because they had children to help out with the work. But really, they have us trained pretty well in a variety of different farm chores. Doing all that hard work does definitely not seem like fun 80% of the time. But when I reflect upon it, it has also shaped who I am. There is something about hard work that changes something in a person, although it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly. I think a good general synopsis of that change is that it adds a different perspective to things. In any case, I am grateful for this perspective, despite the amount that I may gripe and complain.

1. How to start the car, but not how to stop keep it going
Recently, my dad taught Emma how to drive the stick shift car. He showed her how to start, about the delicate balance between letting out the clutch and pushing down the gas. Soon after, she had the car running down the driveway. When they began approaching the cluster of farm buildings at the end, Emma realized that she had not been taught where the brake was located. This relates a lot to the role a dad plays in your life. He helps you get started, and nurtures you, helps you through the tricky balances of things early on, but he’s not going to tell you how to finish your life, or what to do with it, just like he didn’t teach Emma how to stop the car. A dad has to know the balance between launching and controlling a child’s life. The car incident also shows that life can be scary. Letting a child figure out something for themselves and exploring their own life is the mark of a truly wonderful father.

We do not choose our fathers, but if I did have a choice, I would choose the one I have.

one year ago…”BWCA Trip Day 2″

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”

July 10, 2008 – Dock Life and Bushwhacking

An important component to vacation is adapting to life on the dock.

The dock is a great place to be as it is a good place to watch the world go by – it’s usually a bit breezier (less buggy), and a place to watch bobber and read a book.  Over the years, there has been a steady escalation in discovery and procurement of the ultimate dock chairs.

The trade-offs are portability vs ability of chair to withstand wind and not blow into the lake.  This chair is firmly anchored to the dock!

One day when the younger girls and moms were out on an overnight, we looked at our map and decided we’d try to get to a location up a series of rapids and pools to another lake. There was not a trail or portage between these lakes, which is rare – we thought “how bad can it be?” and especially if we weren’t in a hurry or had a lot of gear, we could find our way over land or water and find the remote fishing hole that receives few, if, any visitors.  Here Martin catches his breath after we bushwhack over the first group of rapids, paddle over a short pool and try to plot the next rapids, whether it would be better to drag the canoes up the rapids, or make a path over land.

The water path was not very feasible – long stretches of inches-deep water flowing over a bed of boulders.  The over land path was not much better – stretches of mud interrupted by steep rocky ledges all along a winding stream with thick growth.  We tried for an hour or so before resigning ourselves to the obvious fact that there was a perfectly good reason there was not a portage trail between these two lakes in this location.

We brought some gorp (good old raisins and peanuts) along for a snack which the kids enjoyed on the adventure.

one year ago…”Blueberries for More than Sal!”

July 9, 2008 – Catching Bait and Fish

Another popular vacation pastime is fishing.

This year we added a minnow seine to our list of stuff to drag up to the cabin.  By all accounts it was a wildly successful venture as we were able to catch as many minnows as we needed.  In past years, if we wanted minnows after the first 2-3 days, we’d have to fetch them in town, 23 miles away, so we often went without.

Marty and I quickly got the hang of the seine net and scooped up no where near our limit of 24 dozen!  It made catching the bait almost as much fun as catching the fish.

Not all the fish are this big!  Here is a tough decision between taking off a fish or eating a smore!

One evening we paddled out to a rocky, treeless island and fished in the middle of the lake.  One of Martin’s new lures gave him a thrill – he bought some impregnatedfishysmellingrubber crawdads and had the pleasure of a small pike jump out of the water to get his lure as he was lifting the crawdad out of the water.  I decided the rubbery crayfish was the perfect 7-year-old bait as it is equally alluring being reeled in or lying on the bottom when attention wanes.

Here I am modeling my new line of “Fidel Wear” as I realized all my clothes that day were olive green and brown, unofficial colors of the revloution.  Fishing was not great – probably caught about a dozen keepers.  We found that a snapping turtle found the docks to be an open buffet.

One day we caught some fish in the morning and a few hours later, all that was left were the fish heads on the stringer.  The next day, on a deeper dock and with us gone for just an hour for dinner, the turtle got another meal.  So, on the annual mid-week shopping run to Ely, I got one of the old fashioned collapsable steel mesh baskets to keep the fish in and officially closed the all you can eat buffet.

one year ago…”Fishing at Sunset”

July 8, 2008 – Swimming and Biking in the Northwoods

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

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

and frontwards…

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Road Trip!”

July 7, 2008 – Settling in at Kawishiwi Lodge

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

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

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

Here’s home for most of the week.

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

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

one year ago…”Garlic Harvest Begins”

June 28, 2008 – Des Moines Art Festival

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

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

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

The neices and nephew with auntie!

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #78″

June 21, 2008 – Dedication of “Boreas” Wind Turbine

Today was the big day – one we thought might not happen. We were very close to postponing the party a week ago in the wake of the flooding and water in the basement that demanded all our time – but we went ahead with the triple bash of wind turbine dedication, 2nd Annual Logan Township Music Bash, and Summer Solstice bonfire.

Linda kicks off the dedication ceremony with a welcome and introduction to all the guests, estimated at about 150.

Mark Tinnermeier, President of the Board of Directors of Consumer’s Energy speaks on behalf of our electric co-op, which was wonderful to work with through the entire process.

Todd Hammen tells a little bit about his story and the turbine he installed.

Todd was so dedicated to getting things up and running and working out any kinks that came along, that he deserved another photo!

As Brian Eslinger, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames, gazes upward to the turbine, he places the turbine into a perspective of being indigenous to a place and using all the resources of a land judiciously.

I spoke briefly about the christening and how we had a hard time deciding if the turbine should be “christened” as a ship or having a ribbon cutting like a new structure. With great clarity, she looked at me and said – “a christening – it is a vessel of the wind.” So it is.

Although it wasn’t captured on film, I did break a bottle of red wine over the foundation of the turbine and named it “Boreas” for the north wind.

A couple of attendees gaze upward at the turbine in thought and conversation.

We found a recipe for windmill on a stick cookies and thought that would be appropriate for the day!

Party favors included these mini pinwheels.

Linda readies the nighttime landscape with luminaries.

My mom tends the beverage cart with a smile!

One of the bands led by the multi-talented Reggie Greenlaw. I think this might have been the first time the band was “wind-powered.”

The second band (told you it was a music bash) led by neighbor Annie Grieshop. It was wonderful for people to sit and listen to the band or listen to the music blowing in the wind around the farm.

A caller, gets some dancers organized into a circle for promenades circle dances under the turbine.

Later in the evening towards dusk the solstice bonfire was lit, preceded by a procession led by the scottish bagpipes.

I particularly like this photo with the bonfire, people, and turbine in the background just after dusk.

Another viewpoint of the spectacular bonfire.

As the bonfire ebbs late in the evening a couple of people enjoy the night air and waning fire.

Special thanks to Nancy Tepper for being places I wasn’t and forwarding the photos to me – many of her pictures are used in this posting.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #77″

June 19, 2008 – Claire in Washington DC: Episode 3

I had an amazing experience on this trip, both sightseeing and making new friends. It was also informative about the role of electric cooperatives, and how they serve rural consumers.

Here’s the White House, at night. There was a lot of security in D.C. It seemed commonplace to have to have to go through airport worthy security to get into any building!

While on Capitol Hill, we visited the Library of Congress. I noticed a rather ominous lack of books. I’m assuming they were away from the tourist area, but that was a bit confusing!

Inside the capitol, on the dome, there is painting. It’s in the style of traditional Greek mythology paintings, and it is the only painting that makes an American president into a god.

We also visited Arlington National Cemetery. This included a journey to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Eternal Flame of JFK’s grave.

Last but not least, is a picture of the National Archives. This is where famous documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are held here.

one year ago…”Veggie Tour”

June 18, 2008 – Claire in Washington DC: Episode 2

While on the youth tour, we saw all of the famous memorials and monuments.

Here’s the Washington Monument. It was visible from everywhere in D.C.

This is a close up of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

We also visited the National Cathedral. There is some beautiful stained glass there. Of course the pictures turned out nothing like the actual windows. My favorite was a window depicting the United States’ adventures in space. It is also the burial grounds of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.

One of my favorite stops was Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington. Here we toured his mansion, which is mostly original, with little restoration needed. We also saw his tomb, along with Martha Washington. It was nice to get on to a farm like place after the busy streets and sidewalks of D.C.!

one year ago…”Flower Tour”

June 17, 2008 – Claire in Washington DC: Episode 1

I recently had the privilege of going on an amazing and free trip to Washington D.C. The trip was sponsored by my local energy co-op, Consumers Energy (thanks!). Rural electric co-ops from all over the United States could sponsor a student to go on the Rural Electric Youth Tour. There were about 43 students from Iowa traveling to D.C. It was really amazing to be able to meet people from all over the country. Every state had a different sticker or pin that you could trade, and it became a great way to meet people (in case you were wondering the Iowa sticker was an ear of corn that said “Iowa” on it).

This is me and a group of Iowa friends in front of the Capitol. My favorite part of the tour was our day on Capitol Hill. We got to meet with both Senator Harkin and Senator Grassley, we discussed energy and electric issues and asked their opinions on the oil drilling bill that was currently in the Senate. Later, we toured the Capitol, and then went and sat in the Senate, while it was in session. They were debating the oil drilling bill. As a debater, that was absolutely fascinating to me, seeing real live debating in action.

While on Capitol Hill, we happened to run into Barack Obama, the democratic presidential nominee. Just kidding, we went to a wax museum and there was a wax, but very realistic, statue of Obama.

Here is my group of friends that I mostly toured around with, Kayla, Katelyn, and Erich

one year ago…”Hank’s Guitar”

May 28, 2008 – New Car for the Girls!

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

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

one year ago…”Memorial Day 2007″

May 18, 2008 – A Stroll in the Park

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Garden in Full Swing”

May 12, 2008 – Peaches!

In addition to Reliance peaches, we recently planted some “Iowa Peaches” which are evidently smaller and white-fleshed. They bloomed for the first time this year.

The blossoms of the Iowa Peach are much larger and deeper pink than the Reliance peach.

Here’s a “starter” bird nest. It’s nestled in a sturdy place, but at about 18 inches off the ground, probably isn’t in a very safe place from cats and dogs.
one year ago…”Putting the Lambs to Work”

April 22, 2008 – Claire Strikes Again – Awarded a Trip to Washington DC!

As if earning the trip to Arizona yesterday wasn’t good enough, today Claire found out that she won an essay contest from the local Rural Electric Co-op and earned an all-expenses paid+ trip to Washington DC this June! It is part of the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour.

Here’s a brief description from the Youth Tour web site:

The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has brought high school juniors and seniors to Washington, D.C. every June since the late 1950s. Students compete for slots for this unique opportunity and are selected for this program by their local electric cooperative. Usually the selection process takes the form of an essay contest, personal interviews or a speech contest. The selection process is different for each individual cooperative.

Students on the tour learn about electric cooperatives, American history and U.S. government and walk away with a greater understanding of their role as a citizen. They participate in National Youth Day, visit with their representative and senators and explore the sights around the nation’s capital.

Congrats Claire!

one year ago…”Plums Out of the Gate”

April 21, 2008 – State Envirothon Champions!

Today the Marshalltown high school Envirothon team won the state competition! It means Claire and her teammates get an all-expenses paid trip to Flagstaff Arizona later this summer to participate in the National Envirothon Competition. Here’s a part of the press release:

A team of five students from Marshalltown Senior High School beat out 14 other teams to win the 13th annual Iowa Envirothon contest held Monday, April 21, at Springbrook State Park. Marshalltown won or tied for first place in four of five areas of competition, edging out the Decorah Propaganda Pandas from Decorah High School for first place overall.

Marshalltown will compete at the national competition, the Canon Envirothon, held at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz., July 28-August 3. In addition, each member of the Marshalltown team received a $500 scholarship from Iowa State University. The Envirothon tested the student’s knowledge in the areas of aquatic ecology, forestry, soils, and wildlife at stations throughout Springbrook’s Conservation Education Center. Each team also gave an oral presentation on “Recreational Impacts on Natural Resources.”

Judges said the key to Marshalltown’s victory was a dominating performance in the oral presentation, easily outscoring the competition. The Envirothon is North America’s largest high school environmental competition. The goals of the contest are to increase students’ knowledge and awareness of the interrelationship of our natural resources; promote environmental awareness and stewardship; develop students’ critical thinking, cooperative problem solving and decision-making skills; present balanced options for management of natural resources; and provide awareness of and accessibility to resource organizations offering assistance in environmental issues.

(Photo from Iowa Envirothon)

I must say it is not surprising that the team did so well with a member of Two Friends Farm (and state speech winner), along with Claire who gained much experience in debate and mock trial. We look forward to hearing more about the details of the upcoming trip. I tell Claire it’s important to be well-rounded and diversified (if you look at the previous day’s entry, you’ll see how well she goes from manure shoveler to state champion in consecutive days)!

one year ago…”First Round of Garden Planting”

April 20, 2008 – Manure Handling 101

Even though the ground is still very wet, we couldn’t put off cleaning the hen house much longer. The last few years we were able to do an early spring/late winter cleaning, but this winter did not provide that opportunity.

We had a better system this year – to keep the scoopers engaged the whole time, we alternated between loading the tractor bucket and a small trailer – while one was off dumping, the other could stay and be filled.

We also moved much of the winter household compost as it never really heated up this winter and acted more as a storage area than true composter. This bin is designed with removable panels, so here it is with the front panel removed, ready for scooping.

The resulting pile ‘o stuff – soon to be properly turned and magically turned into black compost for future gardens.
one year ago…”Putting Down Roots”

March 31, 2008 – Claire at Mock Trial

Claire’s high school Mock Trial Team made it out of their region and competed in the state tournament in Des Moines this week (in unrelated, but similar news, Linda is in the jury duty pool in April).

The mock trial team consists of student lawyers and witnesses, they are given a case and argue before a judge and the team members are judged on their knowledge of courtroom decorum and performance.  Claire seems to be eating this up (but don’t anyone tell Grandpa Dave)!  But hey, Grandpa, I’ll leave you with one lawyer joke.

Q: What do you call a lawyer gone bad?

A: Senator.

one year ago…”March in AND Out Like a Lion”

March 30, 2008 – “Solo”

The kids have officially named the baby goat.  The first name that hung around for a few hours was Henry, but eventually it turned to Solo.

The name was no doubt inspired by the fact that Solo was the first single goat born on the farm.  He’s already walking around in the pasture.  I’m thinking the next kid could be Hans.  Hans, Solo. Maybe the next kid could be Franz to to have Hans and Franz to “pump you up.” 

 It reminds me of the story of a confused student assigned to write an autobiography in a high school English class. Â  Through a google search of “Tito” the student wrote the fascinating and far-ranging story about “Marshall Tito Puente” and his amazing life as Yugoslavian dictator and latin bandmaster.

one year ago…”Mushroom Planting”

March 23, 2008 – Happy Easter

Happy Easter from our house to yours.

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

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

one year ago…”Guest Lecture”

January 27, 2008 – Pearl City Invitational Debate Congress Champion

Yesterday Claire ventured to Muscatine, Iowa for the Pearl City Debate Invitational (Muscatine is called the Pearl City because there used to be button factories along the Mississippi that made buttons out of mussel shells).

This is the first time Claire has finished first.  In a Congress event, the participants act as congressmen (less the lobbyist money and other vices) and introduce, argue for, and vote on timely issues.  We know Claire has finely honed her debate skills at home and we’re happy that she’s finally rewarded for sharing these skills with the world at large!

one year ago…

January 5, 2008 – Rain in the Desert

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

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

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

Cathedral Rock in the rain.

The beginnings of dry washes filling up with water.

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

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

one year ago…

January 4, 2008 – Hanging Around Sedona

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

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

Here the kids start building their own.

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

January 3, 2008 – The Grand Canyon

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

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

Oh, the horrors of the abyss!

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

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

one year ago…

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

The day dawned clear, crisp and cold.

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

Another view of Oak Creek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 29, 2007 – Fiesta Bowl Competition/Parade

The band raised money for a year for their trip.

Here is the Bobcat Marching Band in the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Phoenix, AZ.

Here is the Bobcat Marching Band on the field. In contrast to most events – the more expensive tickets were furthest away from the field.

Here’s Claire getting ready just before the field show.

A close-up shot of Claire in her uniform. All pictures courtesy of gj.
one year ago…

December 19, 2007 – Band Day & Drug Sniffing Dogs

Today Claire’s band had a “day off” of school and they rented the indoor football practice facility at Iowa State and practiced their Fiesta Bowl program all day, then played at an Iowa State basketball game where they filled in for the ISU pep band that was off on winter break and not on campus.

The real band is down to the right and on the video screen Claire is behind the red-head (as if you can see it!)  But many of you have much better imaginations and eyesight than I do and will be able to make her out.

I sure appreciate the director, Mr. Lee.  They aren’t leaving until after Christmas, but their luggage and most of the instruments left for Phoenix in a truck yesterday.  All of the students were to have their luggage at school before the morning bell and Mr. Lee used the “Trust, but Verify” method.  He had all 130 some kids line up their luggage, introduced the town police and drug sniffing dog to the students and invited the students to wait in another location while the dog verified the luggage was clean.  It was, but I thought it was a nice touch, just to reinforce the expectations set before the trip concerning behavior and representing their school, town, and state in a positive manner!
one year ago…

December 18, 2007 – Morning Chores

Just because it’s cold and dark, doesn’t mean that chores can slack.  Winter outdoor chores are greatly reduced – the horse, a couple of goats, laying hens and pets.  Everybody needs water and food for the day and eggs need to be gathered.

We’re on a seasonal rotation, with duties changing with the turn of each season – so starting in a few days, the chores will rotate once again.
one year ago…

November 3, 2007 – Child Labor!

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

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

one year ago…

September 28, 2007 – Duct Tape Homecoming Dress

Claire has taken to heart the wide-wide world of duct tape with this application that I have not yet run across – the duct tape homecoming dress, with lacey frills.

duct tape dress
Even the shoes are duct tape and lace. It kind of reminds of the old song by Don Henley and Stevie Nicks with the lyrics, “give to me your leather, I’ll give you my lace.”  Well, duct tape and lace are lot less expensive.  I’m not sure if Claire’s home-made duct tape dress was a statement against the excesses of high school dance outfits, or if her allowance forced her to economize on her apparel. She reports it was difficult to get off and on, but it held up quite nicely throughout the dance.

one year ago…

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

August 10, 2007 – Claire in Boston, Part 2

We spent an afternoon on the Freedom Trail in Boston seeing historical grave yards, churches, and Paul Revere’s house. Among the most famous churches we saw included the Old North Church and King’s Chapel.

This is Paul Revere’s grave. We saw a bell that had a sign next to it that said that the bell was warranted for 12 months. It’s still working!

We also saw the House of Seven Gables about which Nathaniel Hawthorn’s popular book was written.

We spent a large portion of time in Salem. This is me with a new buddy of mine at the Pirate Museum.

It is a bit of a tradition for our group to pilgrimage to Ben and Jerry’s every night (and sometimes morning) for ice cream. The last night, we divided into two teams to conquer the Vermonster- a delicious 20 scoops of ice cream with tons of toppings, bananas, whipped cream, and sprinkles. Above pictured is my team, before we conquered the mighty beast.

It was an excellent trip- I couldn’t have asked for better

one year ago…

August 8, 2007 – Claire to Boston Part 1

Claire is our guest blogger the next two days – reporting on her church trip to Boston.

I just returned from my second trip to Boston. This time I went on the trip as a touch group leader, which gave me some responsibility. It was a group of 20 from our church. We explored many places in Boston, Salem and Concord, including Walden Pond, the Freedom Trail, Louisa May Alcott’s house, and the locations of some of the witch trials and punishments in Salem. The first part I’m going to talk about is our experiences on and in the water.

We went to the ocean for an afternoon

Here are the girls in the group getting buried in the sand. Get buried was a common occurrence in our experience here at the beach. The water was nice and refreshing, especially since the first few days were in the high 90’s. We also journeyed to Walden pond and saw Thoreauâ’s cabin site. We then spent a portion of time swimming in the perfectly clear water.

We spent an enjoyable morning whale watching. We were lucky enough to see 5 whales total. There was a mother calf pair who came up right to the edge of the boat and looked at us. It was an amazing experience (except for the people who got seasick and spent the time in the bathroom). The whale watching boat was 3 decks high, with indoor cabins and then decks out in the fresh air. It was also equipped with a knowledgeable naturalist who told us everything we could possibly want to know about humpback whales.

one year ago…

July 30, 2007 – Claire’s First Road Trip

This weekend Grandma Jo took Claire on a road trip to get some driving experience.  They went down to Keokuk, in the tiny SE portion of the state that juts into Missouri.

Over the course of a couple of days, Claire drove 11 hours, down to Keokuk and back up the river.

One stop was at the house where Grant Wood painted his famous “American Gothic” work.  You can look back at our visit to Grant Wood exhibit at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art a couple of years ago.

Claire was challenged to drive down “Snake Alley” in Burlington and reports only touched the curbs once!
one year ago…

July 13, 2007 – BWCA Trip Day 2

In the afternoon, a series of storms blew in.  We were taken aback, when paddling in the rain squalls in the 65 degree weather, to have a bolt of lightning seemingly appear out of nowhere (it didn’t seem like thunderstorm weather as it had been raining off an on all day and cold).  We quickly skeedaddled to the nearest shoreline and used the time to have lunch.  By the time we finished there were no further bolts, so we continued into Lake Three.

Here’s my “magazine cover” shot near our campsite on Lake Three.  Just an hour or so before this, we had already found a campsite as it looked like unstable weather continued to approach, so we abandonded plans to go further.  It was a good decision as there was about three hours of lightning and intermittent rain after we had camp set up.  Some other folks out on a trip sought shelter in our campsite as they were out and some didn’t have rain gear, they had no shelter, so we perched them under a tarp we set up for a few hours.  Amazingly, we saw many parties paddling across the lake during the lightning storm, betting the bolts would not hit them.

The night before, we instruct the girls on the finer points of hanging the food pack in the air, to make it harder for critters, large and small, to get the food back overnight.

Here are the girls after a squall moved through.  Shortly before this, we could hear a big wind coming at us far off in the woods, and with a bit of trepidation listened as it moved closer.  When the crescendo of windswept trees intersected with our campsite, we could see out on the lake a section where the wind actually lifted water off the surface of the lake and danced it around up in the air.

Some woodland flowers in bloom.  If my northland botany is still trustworthy – I think these are called pippsissewa.

one year ago…

July 12, 2007 – BWCA Trip

Today, we left for an overnight trip in the BWCA with the two dads and two oldest girls.  Next year the two younger girls and Moms will go out from the cabin.

Here we are set for departure under sunny skies and great anticipation to continue the girls along the path of wilderness camping.

Clouds move in on route and scattered sprinkles bring out the rain gear.  The temperature is in the low 60s.



We were able to portage with one trip.  Claire double packed and I took the canoe.  This is on the portage between Lake One and Lake Two (there are so many lakes in Minnesota, they must have been tired of thinking of new names and this chain consists of Lakes 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The adolescent girls were especially proud of their portaging expertise when we were able to make it in one trip and the group of 8 men and boys needed two trips and 4-6 people to carry the canoes across.
One of the camp chores is cutting firewood, here in the rain for the evening campfire.

one year ago…

June 27, 2007 – Milestones!

Today our baby girl got her driver’s permit!  We’re hoping that the clutch holds up in the Prizm and we’re not quite ready to let her drive the new van yet.  She drove to the post office on her first trip and library on her second trip.  I’m alive to blog so you know the drive must have been successful! In typical Claire fashion, she wanted to let everyone know that her shirt does not say Wal-Mart, it says “Mall-Wart – Your source for cheap plastic cr#$”
one year ago…

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

June 12, 2007 – Workin’ on the Farm

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

June 10, 2007 – Fathers and Daughters

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

May 27, 2007 – Soap-Making Day 1

Today was soap-making day with Morning Sun farm. We assembled all the basic ingredients (beef and pork fats, lye, rainwater) and went to work.

By far the most tedious part is cooling and stirring the soap back down to the temperature required to pour it in a mold. It’s a lot of stirring!

Finally the soap “traces” or leaves a small mark when dripped on intself from a spoon. Then it is poured into the molds.

Here are te soapmakers standing next to four batches of soap – one naked goat milk soap, one cornmeal, one lavender, and one orange.

one year ago…

May 13, 2007 – The Tempest

Last night was Claire’s first high school drama production – she played one of the they nymphs in Shakespeare’s Tempest.  We enjoyed the show and even Martin liked it until the last ten minutes when he got sleepy.  He especially liked the parts where flatulence was part of the play!

Here’s Claire after the show.  Mom and Dad had a hard time letting her go to the cast party, but the group had worked hard on the the show and were good kids (despite the fact that the cast party was at the home of the character who played a drunken sailor!)

one year ago…

April 24, 2007 – Congrats to the Hermnivores!

Yesterday, Claire’s “Envirothon” team from Marshalltown High School (The Hermnivores) competed at the state Envirothon competition. Here’s a description of the program from the sponsor web site:

The Envirothon is a team competition for high school students. In the field and classroom, teams of five students are challenged to use their knowledge and critical thinking skills to conduct hands-on investigations, solve real-life scenarios and answer written questions covering five categories: Aquatic Ecology, Forestry, Wildlife, Soils, and Current Environmental Issues. The Iowa Envirothon is a state-wide program developed in conjunction with the National Envirothon policies, with the top team in the state representing Iowa at the Nationals. Past participants have equated the Envirothon to the competitions Odyssey of the Mind, and Mock Trial.

Claire’s team placed 2nd in the state, just behind Decorah, and ahead of Iowa City (any time a school from this part of the state can beat a school in Iowa City, it proves things are right in the world)! It is nice to know that Claire and her peers can stand academically with any other school in the state!  If for any reason the Decorah team can’t make the national competition, the Hermnivores will go.

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…

April 10, 2007 – Claire and Emma Visit Wind Farm

Today Emma and I (Claire) went with the 4-H Jr. Conservationists to visit a wind farm in Blairsburg, Iowa. 

The farm has over one hundred wind turbines located on farmland in the area.  I went representing the high school Envirothon team, along with 2 other members of the team.  We learned a great deal of information to help us with our presentation for the state competition. 

Here’s a picture of me and the other two envirthon members that went on the field trip.

The wind turbines were much larger than they appeared.  The base was the size of a small room and had a ladder leading to the top.  This picture is one of 2 platfroms inside the turbine for workers to rest on.  It’s about 85 feet above us to the first platform.

This is my friend (let’s call her “Polly”) posing against the turbine. On the trip we also visited the Calkins Nature Center.

one year ago…

March 30, 2007 – Mushroom “Planting”

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

March 25, 2007 – Ice Storm Cleanup

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

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

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

one year ago…

December 27, 2006 – Fencing Me In

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

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

one year ago…

November 24, 2006 – Working off the Feast

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

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

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

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

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 8, 2006 – Corn Wagons Filled

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

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

September 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 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 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.

August 28, 2006 – Stuck Goat

This evening the goats were bleating like they do when one gets separated or they need help. It’s a different kind of sound than the “feed me” or “milk me” sounds.

Nellie caught her head in the fence.

Trying to get her head out every which way – neck first, nose first, and on…

Finally, it’s time for the fence bending blocks and levers to try to bend the wire just enough to release the goat. If this doesn’t work, the ultimate solution is the sawz-all!

Free at last!

Last night it started raining (about 2.25 inches worth of driving rain) about 3:30 am and strong east wind and unseasonably cold August temperatures in the mid-50’s. I started to worry about the chickens outside, but tossed fitfully until first hint of light, hoping not to see a pile of dead birds. Just one died – a turkey – but I jerry-rigged additional shelter with tarps to get them through the rest of the day.

August 26, 2006 – Putting Food By and By

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

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

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

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 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 15, 2006 – Last Day

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

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

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

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

July 12, 2006 – On the Lake

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

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

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

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

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

June 30, 2006 – Martin/Daddy Matching Tractors!

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

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

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

We also got for more lambs today.

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

June 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 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.

April 29, 2006 – Spawning

We started the mushroom “planting” today. The dowels innoculated with shitaake mushroom spawn arrived and the logs were previously cut and ends waxed and ready to go.

Martin is holding the bag of spawn.

First holes are drilled in the log to one inch with a drill and collar. They are spaced about 6 inches apart in rows about 2 inches apart.

The dowels are pounded into the logs next.

Finally, wax is put over the holes to seal them up as the log needs to stay moist. According to the directions, we should move the logs into a shady spot, keep them moist, and in 6-18 months the picking should begin! This is a job that requires many hands and everybody can help.

April 21, 2006 – Planting Raspberries

Today, among other things was raspberry planting. I ordered about 75 feet of fall berries, golden and red, along with 75 feet of blackberries. We hope these spread our berry season out a little more and offer a little more variety.

Here I am using the wheel hoe to make a shallow trench to plant the berries. Yes, I do feel like a horse. The berries are being planted in the place we had the paper and straw laid down on sod last year and had tomatoes planted.

Here are the newly planted berries. The new plants will come up from the roots, not necessarily from these stumps.

ere’s Claire helping put a little mulch along the side of the berries to conserve moisture and help keep weeds out. We lucked out and had some calm winds at nightfall, so were able get the paper down and mulch.

Martin had an interesting few days. We had been getting him ready for Kindergarten roundup today and he was very apprehensive saying he “didn’t want to sit at a desk all day.” He goes to day care two days a week and is home the rest of the week, and at day care, he was hugging everybody and saying good-bye (including getting in trouble with his friend – see here at this blog entry) by hugging her and not letting go! He thought he was saying goodbye to eveyone at Tiger Tots forever as he thought Kindergarten was starting today, not next fall. In his mind, he was saying good-bye forever, and everyone else thought he was saying good-bye for the day. At any rate, he was excited about school after going through an abbreviated day of books, recess, singing, and snack in the lunchroom.

March 18, 2006 – Full Farm Press

This afternoon we engaged everybody in completing some tasks. Martin and Linda scrubbed the chicken waterers.

Claire and I destroyed the old composter, separated the composted from the uncomposted and put the new composter around the pile. Linda and Emma cleaned out chicken doo-doo from the hog barn.

Claire taking out the last of the rotted wood from the “temporary” composter we built when we moved in nine years ago.

Claire putting the cedar slats to separate the “done” from “undone” sections in the new composter.
Early this morning, the buck goat went to the sale barn. In the evening we were recipients of a wonderful St Patties dinner at Two Friends farm, featuring real corned beef, Irish soda bread, potatoes, cabbage and goat milk cheesecake!

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 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 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 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 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!)

December 4, 2005 – Hike to the Past

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

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

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

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

November 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 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.

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 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.

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 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 28, 2005 – Around the Farm

Thought I’d share some of the nice sights around the farm these days. Here’s Claire next to the broom corn – it’s tall!

I continue to be struck by the combination of the blooming buckwheat and amaranth.
amaranth buckwheat
This amaranth is very striking in its deep maroon color – even from a distance, it is the first thing that catches your eye and is much more striking against the green backdrop than this photo portrays.

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 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?

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 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 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 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 3, 2005 – Quick Trip to Iowa City

Claire was available for visiting from 8-12 this morning, so we all piled in the van and made the trip to see her. I think she was glad to see all of us. We walked around a bit and went out for brunch. Here are Emma and Claire at the place Claire wrote one of her assignments – to watch people in the pedestrian mall and then write a story about them. She wrote about some kids playing in this fountain.

After we arrived home, it was lawn mowing afternoon and the Guiness Book of World Record tall amaranth curator came out to check his crop in our garden. Also continued work on the trailer and it’s about time for the Sunday night homemade pizza and movie night.

June 25, 2005 – Des Moines Art Fair

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

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

art fair
The girls at one of the entrances.

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

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

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

June 23, 2005 – Girl’s Road Trip

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

June 21, 2005 – Summer Solstice

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

June 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 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.

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 8, 2005 – Pine Lake II

Half the day was at the lake. Wonderful sand castles were built…
sand castle

canoeing on the lake…

girls in canoe
and boys hanging on the beach… boys on beach

The coolest thing in dad’s eyes was a snake suspended on a branch of a sunken tree out in the lake.


It was a good weekend with lots of talk about the future of sustainable agriculture and ecology as attendees at this week-end’s getaway are highly engaged in the discussion at large.

Dana Jackson, Associate Director of the Land Stewardship Project gave the keynote address at the Upper Midwest Organic Conference this year.

Dana and Laura are co-authors of The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems to Ecosystems a book that supports progressive farming practices as providing great environmental benefits.

Laura’s husband Kamyar Enshayen works on local food initiates in Iowa, including leading the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign in Black Hawk County.

James Pritchard, environmental historian, author of A Green and Permanent Land: Ecology and Agriculture in the 20th Century and along with his wife, Diane Debinski wrote a field guide to Butterflies of the Yellowstone region.

Matt Liebman studies crop/livestock/soil interactions.

His wife, Laura Merrick works on historical forest and land use projects and is one of America’s finest squash breeders!

As for us, we’ve got this blog, a few acres, and a few animals.

May 6, 2005 – Loaded for Bear

We’re off (mostly) for a weekend in a cabin at Pine Lake State Park. The kids and I are heading out after school, but Linda has commencement and a speaking engagement tomorrow morning, so she won’t be joining us until then.

It seems like you need the same stuff whether you go for a weekend or a week. Here we are, all ready to go! Packing is always such a delight (but you’d never know it from these smiling faces).van loaded

April 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).

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 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 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 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…