Family – Linda

June 30, 2016 – That’s All Folks!

I’ve come to the end of the line for this blog – eleven years filled with 2,815 posts. It may be repurposed into something new, but this segment is over with this post.

Let’s look at the big picture – the tagline for the blog which never changed:


By any account, the farmstead is revived. Twenty years of updates and improvements to the house and outbuildings make it ready to face the beginning of its second century with a new growing family. Outbuildings on the line between restore or tear down, restored. Totally new infrastructure above and below ground. Electricity derived from nature itself. But most importantly, three children raised in an atmosphere of unsupervised wandering, creativity, and hard work, with the self-confidence to travel the wilderness, or live in Iceland or Australia without knowing a soul before traveling there.

So yes, the farm has been good to us, and us to it.

Can we just bask in the glow of one of the final sunsets on the farm?

Gaze one last time at the wide open spaces and spectacular skies?

I thought I’d look back to one of the first posts to see what I wrote. Following is the second blog post, Valentine’s day in 2005.

The kids couldn’t wait to go back in the pasture and check out the “pond.” All three came back with varying depths of soaked jeans, mudstreaked faces, and wet boots. The remaining snow and warmth (in the upper 40’s) has made a quagmire.

Completed an outdoor counter/drainer out of cast-off materials today. Part of a vintage 70’s harvest gold accent countertop from our kitchen remodel, a couple of metal old refrigerator shelves, and wood salvaged from the original farmhouse for the frame. The outdoor counter will be useful in washing and cleaning vegetables outdoors.

Also wrapped up some seed ordering. Lost my Peaceful Valley catalog, but was able to use their website www. to order some beneficial insect plant and pasture improvement mixes.

That seems a fitting end as well – it speaks to three of the biggest themes of our time here – raising kids, readying the house for the next century, and raising food.

I’ll leave you with a song. This one by Jimmy LaFave. It’s been a theme song of ours over the last four years as we readied to leave. But instead of the song being about a girl, it’s about leaving Iowa – at least in our heads. The chorus is below and a link to the recording follows.

There’s a car outside
And there’s a road
There’s a time to stay
And a time to rock and roll
You’ve been a real good friend
But I’m on my way
If I don’t see you real soon
I’ll see you down the road someday

See you down the road someday – maybe 1300 miles down the road in New Hampshire.

June 12, 2016 – Thanks for Your Support! Auction Day

Auction day! The worst case scenario did not happen. There was not a thunderstorm or rain and the weather was less hot than previous days. These photos are credited to neighbor Nancy.

Gathered around the auctioneer.

Cars in the yard and lined up on the road past the top of the hill.

More stuff we don’t have to move!

Auctioneer Fred Van Metre in the red hat. Fred did a good job for us.

Martin on auction day sampling from the food wagon.

More folks looking for treasures.

We all look on as our stuff changes hands.

The view from the pergola.

Can’t give this man enough credit – good neighbor Don. Brought his loader tractor over and helped folks load up heavy stuff.

Our first couple of life-long neighbors and friends.

The sad looking eyes on the JD 2510 say it all as we depart from the farm.

May 24, 2016 – Quincy Bog

While we were in Plymouth for candidating week, we often awoke at 5:30 am. Rather than staring at the ceiling, we often went for a short morning hike.

Coffee in hand, we arrive at Quincy Bog, just a few minutes from the hotel.

It’s an interesting area of wetland, bog, and wildlife. We saw many spring flowers, lady slippers, and one evening Martin and I saw one of the beavers that live here, including a great tail slap on the water.

There are many boardwalks that cut through the trail, giving you access to territory you would not normally be able to walk to.

And no, the bugs were not bad at all (perhaps the early morning chill helped).

October 5, 2015 – Final Day NY->VT->NH

It’s not hard to travel through a number of states in the NE.

On the ferry across Lake Champlain, as is the case most of the time, a Subaru is ahead of us.

Near Plymouth, NH is Squam Lake.

Looks a lot like Northern Minnesota, in fact, it is a similar rock formation as the North Shore of MN.

The view from our cabin window the morning before heading back to Boston to catch a flight back home.

October 4, 2015 – Whiteface Mountain/Lake Placid

Can you say windy? It felt almost dangerously windy on top of Whiteface Mountain.

We cheated and took the leisurely drive up Whiteface Mountain instead of hiking 10 miles, but still had to climb up the last 300 feet.

Not that the last 300 feet was a superhighway, but there were rails.

It was a different season on top of the mountain than in the valley.

Fall becomes winter.

The view looking southeast.

Obligatory selfie on summit.

With Lake Placid behind her, Linda is stunned to find out Team USA defeats the Soviet Union 4-3!

Back down, the light from the heavens shines down on Linda.

Taking her pose in a BWCA-like campsite along a lake. Scroll down to see what Linda’s looking at.

Another lake, about a 480 rod portage from the nearest road.

October 3, 2015 – Adirondacks Day 2

Another day devoted to hiking in the morning and driving in the afternoon.

Yet another “pond” along a trail.

Another view of the pond.

Another pond on a different trail.

A mountain stream showing its fall colors.

Some planty stuff for the flora lovers.

For Emma – a gazebo roof gone wild with lichens and moss.

Finally at our resting place for the night, an old fashioned 1 bedroom Adirondack cabin.

October 2, 2015 – Adirondacks Day 1

After a couple of days in Boston and fortunately missing the hurricane that was a possibility for the coast, it was off to greater New England. First day was in the SE Adirondacks in a cabin on Brant Lake near Lake George.

Linda dutifully signing in the trail log book in case we don’t come out, they know the names of the bodies.

Someone ahead of us had a sense of humor – you’ll see a presidential candidate with the final destination cut off the picture – the White House.

The forest here is spacious and open for the most part.

This was the steepest hike of the trip – about 1400 feet elevation gain – pretty much always up without any switchbacks.

A wonderful mushroom that looked edible, but since we did not have a mycologist aboard, let it be.

October 1, 2015 – Baahston

Finally the day has arrived for Linda to make the pilgrimage to Boston appear before the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee to get the green, yellow, or red light to apply for positions as a minister.

We hoped entering on the Red Line was not an ominous sign, nor the downpour which closed down the red line shortly after we exited.

Later, we met up with another of Linda’s fellow seminarians. In the background is a spot on the Freedom Trail – King’s Chapel – the oldest Unitarian Church in the U.S. Another night we did attend services there as well.

Evidently the forbearers of the American democracy did not feel compelled to use particularly religious symbols on their tombstones as this motif was the most common in the graveyards that included the Revere’s and John Hancock among others.

Linda as she happily exits the MFC interview with a green light to move ahead!

July 10, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – On the Trail and in the Woods

There’s a lot of interesting flora in the wilderness.

Here’s a showy lady slipper, the Minnesota state flower (within a few paces of Emma’s tent to boot).

This soft little orb is known as pincushion moss.

One of the most spectacular plants we encountered was this colony of Sundew growing on a log in Cherokee Creek.

This is a carnivorous plant. The end of the red hairs on this plant look like little drops of inviting dew. Surprise, if you are an insect looking for a dew drop or bit of nectar. It is sticky and “eats” the insects in the highly acidic, nutrient-deficient bog.

Another carnivorous plant of the floating bog – the pitcher plant. Named for the inviting entrance that attracts insects and small children (OK, maybe not small children).

The insects slide down, the hairs inside the pitcher facing down, where a reservoir of liquid drowns them since they cannot crawl back out.

Once more sporting the Meadville-Lombard swag, Linda portages the canoe between two lakes.

Martin get in on the action as well. The biggest portaging day was 4 portages totaling about 432 rods, or about 1.25 miles. Yes, that means carrying the canoes, all the food, tents, and equipment for over a mile – over rocks, through mud, up and down hill.

Here we are hiding out in a grove of cedar trees on Sawbill Lake while we waited an hour or so for the lightning to stop. We had originally planned on staying the last night on Sawbill, but the rain, and unsettled weather led us to get out at about 4:00 in the afternoon and power-driving home to avoid the big storms.

We raced the storms out of the BWCA, then also raced the storms in the car from Duluth to Minneapolis.

Finally, the aftermath – getting everything unpacked and dried out before putting it away.

July 10, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – At Camp

This post collects photos from around the campsites.

Emma enjoying the night after arriving at Cherokee Lake.

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

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

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

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

Hanging out waiting for dinner.

Martin on KP duty.

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

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

July 9, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – On the Lake

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

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

Sometimes there’s paddling out in the open lake.

Other times it’s more of a river.

Or a narrower river.

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

Another hearty stern paddler.

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

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

June 7, 2015 – Linda Gets “Robed”

Linda wrapped up her two-year internship at the Des Moines UU church this weekend.

Here she debuts her new minister’s robe – a gift from her internship committee.

Speaking of them – here is most of her committee.

Linda with her mentor and colleague-to-be Rev Mark Stringer.

And finally, some old (or shall we say long-time?) friends from the previous ministerial search committee in Ames that came down for the occasion.

June 1, 2015 – Trail Ridge Road

Today was a bit lower-key so we drove the trail ridge road, which has a peak elevation of 12,183 ft above sea level, making it the highest paved road in the U.S.

How’d you like to plow the right lane?

We always told Martin he would get to go places his sisters did not. Well, here’s one!

Even though it is June, the snowpack is still quite impressive along the road.

And even higher near the pass.

Part of the alpine visitor center is dug out – the snow is still up to the roof to the left and right of the entrance.

The building next door was not faring much better – the restaurant and gift shop had only a few opening for some of the windows.

Why they needed an area closed sign down this trail was a bit perplexing!


Near the pass.

Our long-time traveling companions enjoying a warm and bright mountain afternoon.

Back in the lowlands, the elk grazed.

We hiked to within a few miles of the headwaters of the Colorado River.

Mrs. Moose peaking out from the trail along the Colorado River.

May 31, 2015 – Mills Lake Hike

Our first big hike was up to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The trail started out dry, then as we moved up, a little wet… and then a little white for much of the way. But the weather was warm and it was shorts weather.

Around the bend, approaching Mills Lake.

The intrepid hiker nearing the lake.

Martin with what we call his “outdoor advertisement” look.

Finally at the lake.

This place was reminiscent of Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies with the numerous peaks surrounding the lake.

Depending on the elevation the Aspen leaves were out…

or not, but the pasque flowers were.

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.

March 15, 2015 – Driftless Getaway

Linda and I snuck out for a couple of days to a nice AirBnB in SW Wisconsin.

We found a nice place to stay.

The view out the windows was a classic Driftless region valley.

Complete with Amish farmers in the bottom of the valley.

Wildcat State Park was nearby for hiking. For mid-March, temps in the 60’s was a great change of pace.

A great outdoor amphitheater overlooking the valley.

The approach to the ice cave.

Sizing up the hunk o’ ice (actually more of a frozen waterfall).

A look up the formation.

I’m sure we could write a nice story about the ghost trapped inside the ice.

Help, I’m melting!

We also had a nice visit and meal with some relatives we get to see about once a decade!

March 7, 2015 – There’s something happening here, What it is ain’t exactly clear

The basement door is open, the loader bucket is attached to a chain. What’s up on the farm today?

When we moved in about 18 years ago, one of our first upgrades was to replace the aging fuel oil furnace. While the furnace is long gone, the three fuel oil storage tanks are not. We’ve been using the oil left in the tanks to persuade bonfires to start over the years and finally the tanks are empty.

We tried manually moving the tanks up the basement stairs. No go. Wasn’t thrilled about cutting them in half in the basement. Enter a long chain, a tractor, and a three member team to guide them out without taking out a doorframe, door, or wall.

Victory is ours as tank #2 is dragged to the tank graveyard.

It’s a dirty, ugly, smelly job, but now they are finally gone.

October 25, 2014, Backside of Fall

We are on the backside of fall, with November on the horizon next week. We had a day in the mid 70’s so took a break from the grind of studying and working around the farm for a trip to Ledges State Park.

They grow big leaves here!

It was a great day to take a hike up a creek, especially this one with lots of sand on the bottom. (Emma will be bummed she missed the green stuff near Mom’s head.)

Even though the leave are past prime, there is still enough color to make things interesting. Yes, there are places like this in Iowa!

Martin “owns” the sandstone outcrop.

First time noticing this shrub with brilliant pink berry protectors – this is a spindle tree or Euonymus europaeus.

A peek at the berries inside.

July 30, 2014 – More from Chautaqua

Martin tried the Boys and Girls club at Chautaqua.

Here’s one of the gyms. We were disappointed with the day camp. The duration was only 5 hours a day and it was very unstructured and not programmed nearly as well as the adult programs. We abandoned the camp and attended other events inside and outside Chautaqua that were more rewarding.

Our front porch is the equivalent of the dock at a cabin.

Hanging out on the porch was a good place to chat and eat dinner.

This is the Hall of Philosophy where most of the lectures in the inter-faith studies were held for her class from Meadville-Lombard. The broad range of speakers and faith traditions made it a good place for such a class.

Lake Chautaqua is a 17 mile long lake that is along the Institute.

June 1, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 3

Day three is only a few hours in the morning before the long drive back home.

However, the Beaver River called as we drove over the bridge on highway 61, so we stepped out for a closer look.

I love the minty green of the trees sneaking out of the fog.

Yet another perspective.

Finally one more look at Gooseberry middle falls after a night of rain.

Gooseberry lower falls.

Finally, Mark and Linda selfie.

I was struck with the stark contrast between a story on my phone with my location and experience this morning. While enjoying the clear waters and parks of Minnesota, I read that the governor of Iowa had cut $9 million dollars from the state parks and outdoors budget and $11 million dollars from the clean water budget, despite being passed by both parties in the state house. Of course, there is enough money to give $110 million to a private company to build a fertilizer plant.

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!

April 10, 2014 – People to remember

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

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

Linda tagged along on a regional minister’s meeting.

Some spouses waited patiently for the meeting to end.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

April 9, 2014 – Teaching at the seminary

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

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

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

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

She spent the most time with the students in seminary.

For one assignment, they were split up into groups.

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

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

April 7, 2014 – Transylvanian churches

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

The church in Tordatfalva.

Linda’s there!

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

The raised pulpit for the minister.

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

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

Lajos in another nearby village church.

The interior of yet another church.

The parsonage.

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

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

Coffee hour is chimney cakes and wine!

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

April 6, 2014 – Images from Tordatfalva

Another of the economic enhancements of the villages is tourism.

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

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

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


Linda swears by the naturally carbonated spring water.

Finally, her home for her days in the villages.

April 2, 2014 – Transylvanian Agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

The potato planter follows behind.

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

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

Here’s another part of the crushing/squeezing.

The screen takes out the big chunks.

The vat pasteurizes the juice.

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

boxes, like Americans use to buy wine.

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

March 30, 2014 – Transylvania, Dracula, and Segesvár

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

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

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

The approach to part of the city.

These buildings are all inside the citadel.

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

February 15, 2014 – Linda Named Transylvanian Scholar!

Linda was selected as her seminary’s inaugural “Transylvanian Scholar.” It means a couple weeks in the Transylvania region of Romania – a description of the trip is below:

“Under the direction of Meadville Lombard’s English teacher at the Protestant Institute in Kolozsvar, the Transylvanian Scholars’ primary duty will be to introduce theological and colloquial language to the Unitarian seminarians in various conversational and classroom settings. This may include holding discussion groups around issues of ministry and/or religion, conducting discussions about sermons, assisting the English Teacher with her classroom curriculum, etc. Again, these duties will be directed by the English Teacher.”

Seminary is triangular building in this google map.

Additionally, in coordination with the Unitarian seminary faculty at the Institute and The Hungarian Unitarian Church, the Transylvanian Scholar will be asked to deliver occasional “lectures” to students, ministers and faculty on various elements of North American Unitarian Universalism. Topics to be addressed might include ministry, theological education, international Unitarianism or other topics of interest to the students.

Finally, the Transylvanian Scholar may be asked to assist faculty with English texts. He/she may be asked to proofread publications, web pages, etc.

During the stay, the Transylvanian Scholar will have opportunities to travel throughout the region of Transylvania becoming acquainted with Unitarian culture, history and practice there.

January 18, 2014 – A Night on the Town

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

Mark and Linda before the show.

We “double dated” with Emma and Jacob.

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

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

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.

December 12, 2013 – I Didn’t Get a White House Greeting Card

I certainly didn’t get an official White House greeting card, but someone else in the family did!

And no, certainly not because we contributed any money, but as a reminder of when Linda was honored at the White House where she met with the Secretary of Agriculture and President as a “Champion of Change” for rural America last year.

November 29, 2013 – Black Friday at Unity Church

Today Linda was invited to give the message at Unity Unitarian Church in St. Paul. The front of the church was beginning its seasonal decoration.

The service was an antidote to the rush to buy “things.” Part of the service included stories about gifts that congregants had received that meant more to them over time, and not necessarily gifts that came in fancy wrapping paper. It was a good reminder about what kinds of gifts are important over time.

November 3, 2013 – Linda in the Guest Pulpit

Linda has been invited to speak for the “Black Friday” service at Unity Church in the Twin Cities. So if you are in the neighborhood that weekend, stop in! A short explanation of the service from the announcement:

“Unity Church’s sixth annual “Black Friday at Church” celebration offers you an opportunity to launch the holiday season with spiritual renewal, fellowship, and good cheer, instead of habitual consumerism.

Join fellow Unity Church members, families, friends, neighbors and colleagues on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving Day for a joyous, intergenerational worship service. Activities for children and families, as well as child care, will be provided.

September 22, 2013 – Fillin’ the Freezer

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

The plucker does an amazing job of taking the feathers off. A just-plucked chicken must be the model for a rubber chicken!
It’s nice to know where the chicken we eat comes from and have a year’s worth of chicken in the freezer. Especially now that the U.S. made it ok to sell chicken processed in China in the U.S. without having to reveal county-of-origin labeling laws.

August 15, 2013 – Peach and Pear Season Begins

The best-ever peach, pear and apple season at high hopes continues with the first harvest of pears and peaches.

Taking the earliest-ripening peaches over to the house.

reliance peach

While we knew that pears ripened best off the tree, when the first few started falling, I thought it was time to figure out when to pick them. One source said if you lift a pear horizontal to the ground, if it breaks from the branch, it’s ready to take inside and put in the fridge for longer keeping, or in the house for a few days for immediate eating.

We’ve got three of these baskets of pears in the fridge, waiting…

August 10, 2013 – Back on the Road

Linda has not had any time for acting as a guest minister with the CPE schedule, but today she went up to Okoboji to speak to the Iowa Lakes congregation.  She spoke about her personal experiences in CPE this summer and how might connect to a larger world.

It was a weekend in the car for me – up and back to Rochester on Saturday to drop off Martin for a week with grandma and Auntie. And then up and back to Okoboji on Sunday.

July 27, 2013 – Linda’s CPE Summer

Linda has been part of a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) group this summer at Iowa Methodist/Blank Children’s Hospital.  It’s a 40 hour a week formal gig (educational components in the AM and visiting patients in the PM).   Along with everyone’s favorite, on-call in the evenings, overnight, and weekends.

Here’s her group on bow-tie Wednesday.  Last week was rather typical 40 regular hours plus 4-8pm Thurs, 4-9pm Friday, and 8 am-8pm on Sunday.  Wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t  something you had to pay to do!

Outside on a windy day.  On call duties include meeting every life-flight and ER ambulance admittance, along with every code blue, death, and patient/family request for a visit.  Linda’s advice to all of you – she’d be a lot less busy if you stayed off motorcycles and ladders.

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!

July 13, 2013 – Superior Hiking Trail

We spent the good part of the afternoon hiking on a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail from the Temperance River to the Cross River and back again. Of course the part we covered was less than 1%  of the entire trail (unless you count going there and back – then more than 1.7%!) of the total trail length of 296 miles – Duluth to the Canadian border.

I promised you more self-photos – this along the stretch where the trail goes along the Temperance River.

OK, one more.

Although hard to see in this photo, this is one of my favorite vantage of any north shore stream.  Right here, the river take a sharp 90 degree turn and you can stand on a rock seemingly in the middle of the river and look upstream at eye level with the onrushing waters and look downstream to a waterfall.

Superior Hiking Trail Sign

Finally away from the river, we snapped a photo of a trail marker.

Superior Hiking Trail Boardwalk

Some parts of the trail are wet and have a boardwalk.

Superior Hiking Trail mud

Some portions are wet and have mud.

Other portions are wet and have rock guides.

Superior Hiking Trail maples

Part of the trail passes through a maple forest.

Superior Hiking Trail aspen

Other parts an aspen forest.

Yet other parts, a pine forest.

Superior Hiking Trail ferns

Then there are open areas covered with ferns.

Superior Hiking Trail fireweed

Even some openings adorned with fireweed.

Every once and a while, you get a vista of Lake Superior.

Superior Hiking Trail cross river campground

There is a beautiful campsite at the Cross River.

Cross River

Another rolling and tumbling stream – the Cross River.

Cross River

Cascades, pools, and waterfalls upstream – a great playground.

A parting shot.

July 12, 2013 – Mark and Linda Get-Away

The longest time off Linda will have all summer is this three-day weekend in the middle of July. So we escaped north to Lake Superior. First stop is the always spectacular Palisade Head.

We thought we’d join the self-indulgent trend of self-photos – this is one of many on the trip!

We took a hike along the cliff to the north until we reached the signs alerting us to go no further as not to bother the nesting peregrine falcons – but this is a great view back to the south towards Palisade Head.

Some nifty flowers along the trail.

Fortunately, I was able to hold on and pull myself up from the brink.  But I was a bit perturbed that Linda was snapping photos instead of offering a hand 😉


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.

December 22, 2012 – Solstice Bonfire, Barely

After the howling winds, the Winter Solstice arrived, along with the snowplow about 2:30 in the afternoon.

My favorite wife in the glow of the candle in the darkness.

It took a great deal of effort to get the bonfire to light, but light it did to help light/warm up the longest night of the year.

A couple of the brave sojourners who made it out.  The usual crows od 100-120 was cut way back to about 40 this year.  But that meant more room to move around in the house and enjoy chatting.

December 2, 2012 – Linda Speaking in Burlington

Linda was invited to speak at the UU Fellowship in Burlington, one of Iowa’s classic river cities.

It was a delightfully pearly morning and we made sure to go down the river before the services started and watch the receding fog reveal the bridge.

The suspension bridge headed to… (Illinois)

The river is extremely low and there’s not much barge traffic in the port.

Linda getting ready to head in.

I’ve always thought that the Eastern edge of Iowa was the edge of the East and the western edge was the beginning of the West and this Fellowship had an east coast feel to it.  Met some more great folks and warmly received.

November 25, 2012 – Apple Communion

One of the favorite services of the  Ames UU is the Apple Communion.

Today was the day.  The early spring and regular last frost meant there were virtually no local apples this year, so these came from Missouri.

After bringing us along with the life and story of the apple, she’s finally ready to let us commune!

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.

November 10, 2012 – Late Extraction

We only had one good hive this summer, and for one reason or another, didn’t get around to extracting it until today.

We put the  supers in the back of a car and parked it in the sun to help the honey warm up even more.  It wasn’t enough and still had to hear up the frames to extract.

The yield from one five gallon bucket.

The top of one of the buckets.  We ended up with three 5 gallon buckets about 3/4 full each.  Now we’re set for soap and honey for a while!

October 28, 2012 – Linda Speaks in St. Paul

Here I am, a few days behind. It’s refreshing, though in a way isn’t it? No worry from me about instant tweeting or posting to facebook from a phone, just old-fashioned days behind real time.

We were in St. Paul this weekend to bring Claire back to school after a short break.

While we were there, Claire facilitated for Linda to speak at the small UU church a few blocks from campus that she attends.  Even though we hauled up “bio-orb” a rolling composter for Claire’s house, a case of Annie’s macaroni and cheese, honey, garlic, and a lemon tree, we still were on Claire’s bad list since we elected to spend the night with some folks I’ve known for 30 years instead of staying in her house with her roommates.  Bad parents for that move, but we’ll all get over it!

October 7th, 2012 – Chickens to the Freezer

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

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

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

The chickens before the plucker spins.

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

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

September 30, 2012 – Linda’s Gig at UU in Oxford Mississippi

The express purpose of the visit was for Linda to speak at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford Mississippi.

Here’s Linda and Gail before the service.

And Linda in action.  The church was a wonderful old building, reminiscent of a one-room school house, with a wood-strip floor and the good old building smell and aura.  The congregation is vivacious, bright-eyed and full of life and energy, and unlike many other smaller congregations, has a very young average age.

It was also a reflective week in Oxford as it marked the 50th anniversary of the admittance of James Meredith into the University of Mississippi.  His enrollment was met with riots, deaths, and 30,000 troops to keep order, and he remained under the guard of U.S. Marshalls during all of his time at the University until he graduated.  There was no such hardship when in 2002 his son graduated as the top doctoral student in the school of business.

September 29, 2012 – Road Trip to Oxford Mississippi

Ever just want to hop in the car and drive somewhere you’ve never been before? We first grabbed a sniff of the Mississippi River near Keokuk Iowa, and traced it down through Hannibal, St. Louis, and Cape Girardeau, and the bootheel of Missouri, followed by Blytheville, Arkansas, finally crossing over the Mississippi in Memphis, Tennessee, before continuing on to Oxford Mississippi. Driving time, about 11 hours.

Here are a couple of biologists-turned seminarians, Linda and Gail at Gail’s home outside of Oxford.  I was struck with the rolling densely forested countryside of Northern Mississippi.

Our hosts for the weekend, Pat and Gail in front of a more or less indestructible spider web.  Both are professional arachnologists (study spiders).

Pat shows off one of the 60,000 or so spiders in her collection – this one named after her!

Down South, there are plants that ya’all don’t get to see up north, like this lilly plant that sends up foliage in the spring, dies back, and then sends up the flowers in the fall.

Of course, there are the Magnolia trees as well.

Here we’re kicking back on the back steps of Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home in Oxford.

This was a bit of a rarity in this part of the state – a cotton field.  We actually saw much more cotton in Arkansas.

There was however, no shortage of Kudzu – namely along edges of forests, as you can see along these railroad tracks – it covers nearly everything in sight.

September 3, 2012 – Hot Peppers

The peppers are doing just fine this year.  We thought we’d try roasting some hot peppers just for fun.

Niece Jillian is here for a short visit, trying to keep busy on the farm (not usually much of a problem!)  Here she’s cutting the jalapenos.

A tray ready for roasting.

Linda hard at work, peeling the skins off the peppers.  They are good!

August 15, 2012 – Hazelnut Harvest

Like many things, hazel harvest seems a bit early this year.

basket of hazelnuts

Here’s the yield from about a 15 foot row of hazelnuts.


Some of them are completely dried down, others have a bit more time to go, but with the recent spotting of a new squirrel in the yard, it was time to pick (the squirrel can have all the acorns and walnuts).

boy picking hazelnuts

Martin picking the low-hangers.

Linda looking at the higher nuts.

August 12, 2012 – Pre-dawn Visitor/Preacher Linda on the Road Again

The day started early.

Before sunrise, sometime around o’dark thirty, we awoke to the sound of a car in need of exhaust work revving its engine, dying and starting up again. Then we heard the loud stream-of-consciousness yelling.
“Oh No!”
More silence
“That’s not good.”
More engine revving.
“Now I’m in trouble.”
Silence again.
“Oh, now what do I do?”
I looked out he window and saw the guy who delivers the Sunday paper with his car teetered between the steep ditch and road. I looked at Linda and knew it was a job for me. “You stay in bed, I’ll handle this one.” Better to have someone able to call 911 when the crazy guy who almost rolled his car in the ditch go ballistic on me.

I went out to survey the situation and knew what would need to happen. It was nothing a chain and tractor couldn’t handle. I went out and greeted him.

“Glad I didn’t wake you up.” He said.
“I was just getting up to empty the bladder, you didn’t wake me up.” “Looks like we’ll need the tractor and chain,” I said, and started walking back to the shed.

All the way back to the shed and until the roar of the tractor starting in the dark shed, I heard him stand on the road and tell the details of his predicament and how it came to be. I’m sure Linda and the neighbors down the road heard every word.

It’s always a bit dicey getting a car out of the ditch with a chain and avoiding a roll, but he was more than willing to take the chance. The front a back lights on the tractor were a nice bonus as morning’s first light found us. I got him pulled out and told him to stop and help someone else further down the road sometime.

Then it was off to Ames, where Linda was the guest minister at the Unitarian Fellowship of Ames. Last week she did the same thing in Des Moines.

As usual, her message was well-received, even gathering a rather rare immediate applause upon conclusion.

July 25, 2012 – Linda’s Time in Chicago

Linda spent about half the month in Chicago, finishing up three classes at Meadville-Lombard Seminary after completing reading and assignments throughout the summer.

Here’s one of the classes in front of the Art Institute of Chicago, where they went on an assignment.

Here’s Linda handing out hymnals for an exercise she designed for a class as a “get to know you” – what better way than have people pick out a hymn they would like to be sung at their funeral and tell why.

The school is right downtown on Michigan Avenue, so the lodging and eating is pretty pricey for a college student without an expense account, so she found a place through AirBNB that got her a room in a private house for the time she was there.

July 1, 2012 – Badlands

The final stop on the trip was the badlands.

Emma in the magnitude that is the Badlands.

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

On the ladder on the Notch trail.

Emma taking the ladder.

Emma taking the ladder in years gone by.

A bit of the terrain of the trail.

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

At the end of the trail.

Yes, it was hot!


June 30, 2012 – Jewel Cave and Harney Peak

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

jewel cave

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

jewel cave

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

jewel cave

More funky formations.

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

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

Linda on the “trail” up the mountain.

More “trail” up to the peak.

A look down the trail, from near the top.

cathedral spires

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

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

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

June 26, 2012 – Road Trip!

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

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

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

June 17, 2012 – Early Garlic Crop

Like many things this year, the garlic has matured weeks early. There has been a bit of buzz on some of the local farm listserves about a very poor garlic crop this year, with some reporting “wrinkly, soft garlic” or more culls than in 22 years of growing. That made us a bit concerned and motivated us to go check ours,

For the most part the crop at high hopes looks fine. About the only difference seemed to be the stalks seem a bit more thick than usual.

50 foot row garlic

Here’s the yield from a 50 foot row, briefly drying before getting ushered off. Looks like about 130 plants per double row.

garlic harvest

Here’s about half of this year’s crop, ready for transport in the cart.

June 15, 2012 – Kent McKusick “Fans”

For the last 16 months or so, Linda has been part of a search committee for a new minister – it was an involved process that meant meeting every Monday night, conducting congregational surveys, making a book of “about the church” and poring over applications, leaving town to interview and see the candidates on a neutral pulpit. Tonight marked the last meeting of the committee – a last meal together. Since Kent could only be there in spirit only, I thought it would be good to have a likeness of him present (note: this is my idea and Linda or the committee are in no way implicated).

Moving to Iowa from New Hampshire, Kent must be gently introduced to heat and humidity, and what better way to do that than commemorative Rev. Kent hand fans!

Finally, the faces behind the mask – the search committee together one last time.

June 10, 2012 – Itinerant Minister Linda

This Sunday Linda was invited to present the Sunday service at the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Fellowship in Okoboji.  Since there was no room at the inn, we were graciously hosted by a couple of members pictured below with Linda.

Bob worked for years with a company that I have patronized for as long as I can remember – Berkely – the fishing company that makes Trilene fishing line and other fishing-related baits and products. It was nice to get to know them.

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2012 – UU Sisters of the Planet

Linda’s first full day in D.C. for International Women’s day commenced today.  You may expect that many women of faith may gather for an event aimed to help poor and starving women around the world, and the Unitarian women are no exception.

Among the 70 or so invited women, there were at least five UU’s that Linda found in attendance.  From left to right are Pam Person, TBA, Judy Beals, Dana Jackson, and Linda Barnes.

Pam is from the Maine League of voters and is a co-founder of the Coalition for Sensible Energy and serves on the U of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative.

Judy Beals is from Boston and is Oxfam’s Campaigns Director.

Dana Jackson, a Kansas native who is currently Sr Advisor of the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota,  Dana co-founded the Land Institute in Kansas, served on the Kansan Rural Center’s first board of director. She has continued her commitment to building a sustainable agriculture and food system as an activist and author most recently “The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems with Nature.”

They spent the day learning from women working against incredible odds, including the Prime Minister of Haiti during and after the hurricanes, the Agriculture Secretary of Libya, and many other women facing and overcoming great challenges.  In addition to hearing these stories, they prepped for visits to members of Congress and the Senate the next day.

March 6, 2012 – Linda Counted Among the Powerful Except by Hy-Vee

This morning I dropped Linda off at the airport for an event in D.C. she was invited to participate in by Oxfam – here’s a press clipping about the event:

More than 70 powerful women from around the US and the world, including actor Kristin Davis (Sex and the City), former Haitian Prime Minister Michelle Pierre-Louis, Top Chef Masters competitor Mary Sue Milliken and many more, will join international relief and development organization Oxfam America for a Sisters on the Planet Summit on March 7 to mark International Women’s Day.

The women will also meet with Members of Congress to advocate for policies that support women farmers around the world.

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, will offer keynote remarks to the morning gathering. An award ceremony and reception in the evening will honor Kristin Davis for her work to raise awareness on global hunger and poverty.

The following day, International Women’s Day, women leaders including former high ranking government officials, civil society leaders and veterans and farmers from across the country, will take to Capitol Hill to advocate for reforms to the US food aid program in the Farm Bill that will save money and lives.

Here’s where Hy-Vee comes in – the not-so-good part. On February 28, she dropped off her D.C. clothes at Hy-Vee to be dry cleaned. She asked me if I could pick them yesterday up when I brought Martin to piano lessons. The clothes were not there on March 5. I asked what dry cleaners they were at, so I could go there to pick them up – they said all their dry cleaning drop-offs for the week are sent to Cedar Falls on Fridays and returned the following Tuesday – so it could be a week or more. So I had the privilege to call her as she was enroute to Ames to stop at Younkers before she came home to make a new wardrobe purchase!

January 28, 2012 – Linda Back to DC

Linda is heading back to DC in March, this time for Oxfam events held in Washington DC in recognition of International Women’s Day.

There will be conference sessions, a chance to meet with female leaders from around the globe, and a visit to Capital Hill.  Look for more in March.

January 3, 2012 – Year In Review

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

Kids and baby animals are hard to beat.

Extremes in any domain are interesting.

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

The promise of a neat spring garden always brings hope.

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

“Walking the Talk”

Claire as a professional at her work post in DC.

Dad and Martin up on the North Shore of Minnesota.

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

Emma exploring new foods in Boston.

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

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

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

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

December 31, 2011 – Endless Late October

It has indeed been an endless late October this so-called winter.  Here  we are at New Year’s Eve.

This afternoon, for example, it was in the upper 50’s a far cry from the common sub-zero usually on this day.

Heck, we were even able to get laundry out on the line!

December 21, 2011 – The Days Once Again Lengthen!

Once again, the earth turns and the days will once again lengthen!  Tonight we had our annual bonfire/potluck to try to bring the light back.  After the fire, the house was crammed full of people yet again, probably somewhere between 80-100.

Linda Barnes

Linda with a candle not in the wind.  It was the warmest winter solstice in memory.

solstice bonfire

The bonfire fueled by the wreckage from this year’s windstorm, was one of the hottest and brightest ever.   There were some trunks 4 ft across that didn’t burn much, so will be a bast for next year’s fire.  Oh yeah, and we still have three more piles from the storm sitting in wait – we might have to increase the party occasions to get rid of them all.

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”

August 17, 2011 – Big Changes at High Hopes

Over the next few years, our lives are taking a bit of a turn. After years of people telling Linda “You should be a minister” after a talk at church or presentation, she’s finally taking the bait. She’s now enrolled 1/2 time at Meadville-Lombard Seminary in Chicago.  She feels as though it is important to be with people along their live’s paths – through births, deaths, and everything in between.

This means many changes for us.  Linda will continue her teaching job and hope to get many of the courses completed over the summer and during J-term.  There are also a community service portion of the curriculum which will require volunteer work at a local hospital, hospice,Veteran’s Home or other such place.  There’s an internship with an existing minister, and a special project as well, so while she won’t be spending much time in Chicago, her energies will be directed at ways outside the farm.

Of course, that means something substantial needs to give – and to that end, activities at High Hopes will be curtailed.  We’ll probably concentrate on providing solely for our own needs and not growing and marketing crops and animals for others.  It’s hard to predict what that transition will look like, but it will be different.  She’s still committed to being an advocate for sustainable farming, through education and whatever other kinds of speaking engagements arise.  We just won’t be “farmer.”

When we started down this path 15 years ago, there were very few people also doing it.  Now, there is a local food group, the importance of diverse and healthy foods is once again approaching a main stage in the American psyche, and there are many good people behind us.

To that end, here’s a link to a story about Linda in the UU World magazine.

one year ago…”Linda at Roundtable with Secretary Vilsack”

July 31, 2011 – Bees Gone Wild

We have a couple of beehives at a friend’s farm. The hives are at the edge of a woodlot adjacent to about a 20 acres of prairie. Lots of flowers and pollen out there.

beekeeper next to hive boxes

Today we went and checked, and had to add some more supers to the hives. They’re almost as tall as Linda. Should be a good year for honey, even if it isn’t a good year to get all dressed up in a bee suit.

one year ago…”In Theory”

July 6, 2011 – Linda’s Visit to White House With Bonus Obama Visit!

Pretty good day, as those things go. Linda and the other rural America “Champions of Change” first toured the White House. As no cameras were allowed, use your imagination!

She was able to get this photo outside the White House.

From the photostream of the event:

Linda Barnes, Farmer and Educator, Marshalltown Community College (MCC), IA, at the White House Rural Champions of Change meeting at the White House, in Washington, DC, on July 6, 2011. She was asked to participate along with President Barack Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the President’s Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes and rural communities leaders from across the country for the White House Rural Champions of Change event to strengthen rural communities and promote economic growth. Linda Barnes is a professor of biology at the Marshalltown Community College and also an organic farmer. She founded the Sustainable and Entrepreneurial Agriculture Program at MCC which is the first associate degree program in sustainable agriculture in the Midwest. The program focuses on improving attitudes related to sustainable agriculture due to their practical, hand-on focus and local connections. I believe there is a significant component of this program that is geared towards immigrant communities in the area. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Linda briefly spoke to the President, no doubt the part of their conversation that delved into the preferred s’more marshmallow roasting habits of the Obama family, probably did more to make her visit more memorable than a barrage of policy questions!

one year ago…”Hauling Garlic”

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”

June 25, 2011 – Emma At Dorian Music Camp

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

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

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

one year ago…”Cherries to Food”

May 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 21, 2011 – Linda Presents

The session Linda spoke at was filmed by HBO for an upcoming four-part special on the farm bill and health.  Linda relates that at one point, she may have rubbed one of the panelists the wrong way as a former US Secretary of Agriculture bristled at one of her comments regarding the importance of local and regional food systems to help America become more self-sufficient by 1) eating a healthier diet based on varieties that taste better (and therefore eaten more) than those bred for shipping long distances  2) in case of a disruption of supply from other countries or the Central Valley of California, for regions to grow more of their own food.  The former Secretary seemed a bit agitated and responded that there has never been a modern famine in the US.  As the panel’s job was to tackle obesity, the comment about famine seemed somewhat out of place and after the discussion the HBO crew told Linda “that makes great television.” Although you won’t have the more extensive text that went along with the presentation, I’ll post that tomorrow.

As many have and will find out, the “Wall” is a touching reminder to all of us who lost family, friends, and Americans in the Vietnam war.

After the museums on the Mall closed and Linda was walking back to her hotel, she had a “moment.”  The herds of middle school tours in their mobs of different-colored t-shirts were flocking back to their buses – the groups themselves people of all colors and accents.  Then hordes of 20ish young adults, also in their colorful kickball or frisbee team shirts came to use the Mall.  Their temporary bases dragged with them, giant elementary-school balls, all having a good time, sans alcohol on the public green space in the Capital.  I think it made her hopeful for Claire’s upcoming summer in DC as well.

one year ago…”Salads By the Gallon”

May 20, 2011 – Linda’s Trip to DC

I had intended for Linda to write about her trip, but between trying to get the garden in and getting ready for a wilderness trip with Claire, it never happened, so I’ll try to fill-in for her.  Linda was asked by make a presentation to the Institute of Medicine (one of the National Academy of Sciences) regarding barriers to domestic fruit and vegetable production to a panel investigating factors of obesity.  But she had a half day or so the day she arrived to check out the Mall.

She was happy to stumble on this great lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian consisting of a salad of the three sisters (corn beans, and squash, and a wild rice salad – “native foods” so to speak.

She found refuge in a conservatory surrounded by her friends in the plant kingdom.

And she remembered the moon shots of her childhood.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #209″

May 11, 2011 – Linda to Advise in DC Next Week

Linda received an invitation to DC from a branch of the National Academy of Science and HBO to participate in a discussion about obesity and farm policy. The agency is the Institute of Medicine and here’s a bit of description from their web site.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public.

Established in 1970, the IOM is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which was chartered under President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Nearly 150 years later, the National Academy of Sciences has expanded into what is collectively known as the National Academies, which comprises the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Research Council, and the IOM.

Here’s a brief description of the event from the IOM:

More after Linda returns…

one year ago…”Spring Bee Renewal”

January 1, 2011 – Goodbye to 2010

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

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

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

Linda Barnes

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

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

baby lamb and boy

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

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

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

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

ag incuabator, MCC susutainable agricultgure

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

cherry pie

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

Devils Lake

A great lunch spot at Devil’s Lake Wisconsin.

Baptism Falls, Tettegouche

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

one year ago…”Looking Back on 2009″

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”

November 21, 2010 – Three Generations of Chicken Cleaners

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

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

one year ago…”Morning Wake-Up”

Octobert 16, 2010 – Oxfam Event at High Hopes Gardens

We’ve spent the last few weeks spiffing up the farm in anticipation of the event held at our farm this weekend. A month or more ago, we learned that we would be hosts for an Oxfam event held in conjunction with the World Food Prize.

Here we are with the farmers from around the world. After being hosted by farmers and farm-related businesses on our ag trips to Costa Rica, Mexico, and Japan, it was nice to be able to return the favor.

Here the minister at a local church greets the guests from Haiti.

By the time the event was over, about 80 people came to hear the farmers and tour the farm.  Media from the local paper and Iowa Public Radio covered the event – I have since heard that three short stories ran on IPR, but I haven’t heard them yet.

Here, Linda readies some appetizers before the guests arrive – watermelon from our garden.  We provided the watermelon and raspberries for the wonderful raspberry pastries that Kamal from the Phoenix cafe provided in the catered meal that included squash soup, chicken soup, veggie tray all sourced from the Grinnell Farmer’s Market – in addition to rice from the farmers in attendance – a true local/international meal!

This woman from Haiti talked about the challenges of growing food in Haiti.  So much of their crop is lost to dmage in storage (or lack of storage).  She was working to locally transform crops into products that would not spoil as easily (turning peanuts into peanut butter).  She had a hard time getting out of the country in a timely manner as the only place to do government business is the capital, so she needed to make the 6 hour trip to visit the capital and spend 2-3 days there.  She was supposed to arrive days ago, but arrived at the DSM airport at 8:15 and was scheduled to present at the World Food Prize symposium at 9:15!

This Vietnamese farmer was part of a cooperative growing rice in a new production scheme called SRI or System of Rice Intensification.  The local farmers were leery of changing over to a new method of production that did not require periodic flooding of the rice.  Even though he tried it and had great success, the other local farmers would not try until the coop agreed that if they tried the new method and it didn’t work, they would pay the farmer for the amount they usually grew.  That method worked and the coop didn’t have to pay out since the yields were so much higher.

This farmer is from Mali.  He brought along some props, including a big gourd on a rope that they used to have to use to throw water out of a pit, over the top of his head, to the crops above.  They now have a pump and a new non-flooding rice method, so he no longer spends days throwing water out of the pit.

This farmer from India was a real fireball (in center).  Among other things, she invented a new type of weeder for her fields.  At the symposium, she cornered the director of the Gates Foundation and others to tell her story and advocate for funding for small stakeholders.  In the “it’s a small world” category – her project was undertaken by ICRISAT and some researchers from the ICRISAT campus in India where Claire had her summer internship were at our farm as part of this tour!

Finally, at the end there was a Q and A. Here, distinguished sustainable agriculture Fred Kirschenmann brings up some discussion points. Fred arrived early and helped set up. A farmer true to heart, I join the very few people in the world who have had Fred arrange hay bales in the barn for seating! One of the participants said the barn was the best auditorium they’ve ever been in to see a powerpoint presentation!

one year ago…”World Food Prize Symposium Sessions”

October 5, 2010 – Time to Pick Squash

It’s time to bring in the winter’s worth of baked, cubed and roasted, cooked and mashed for pancakes, and many more winter-time recipes that use squash.

It was time to gather them all up – despite the wet weather and chance for wilt and fungus, the vines held up beautifully and the squash came through as a good producer this year.

one year ago…”More Front Page News”

September 25, 2010 – Doing the Parade Thing

Today was the community celebration day in Marshalltown. There’s a couple of new groups in town that wanted to get some visibility.

The “Eat Smart, Move More, Live Well” is the name of the program.  Linda’s involved with a supporting group called Harvest from the Heart of Iowa – a local food group.  Eating healthy is just one component of the larger group.

Linda passed out flyers and Martin carried a local goat!

Even though the day was rainy, some people are perpetually sunny!

one year ago…”Photo Friday – The Face”

September 20, 2010 – Honey Extraction Day

Today was a big day at high hopes – honey extraction day! It was a rough year for beekeeping. We have three hives. Two of the hives were new this spring, so first year’s don’t often produce to much as they have to get organized and numbers bred up. The other hive swarmed, so lost some worker bees as well. Then, with the wet weather, it was hard for the bees to get out.

I missed Linda retrieving the supers from the hive – but here they are in the back of Sube. The idea is to get the supers during the day when many of the bees are out foraging. Then, you need to protect the stolen supers from the hive as they will try to retrieve the honey and the supers will be surrounded by an angry swarm. So, they are locked in the back of the car.

remove honey frames

Extracting is best done in a hot environment. The high today was 90 degrees, so the honey was warm and would flow easily. In addition, I turned on the propane heater in the garage to keep it warm after the sun went down. Since the garage is not bee proof, we wait until after dark and the bees are all back in the hive after sunset. Here Linda removes some frames from the supers. (No we are not on the payroll of the Ely, MN chamber as the car bumper sticker and Linda’s shirt may suggest.)

honey frame

Here’s a blue-ribbon frame – full and robust.

uncapping honey

Worth its weight in gold is the electric uncapping knife to slice off the wax caps from the comb.

Here’s a really angry-looking guy spinning the manual extractor. The spinning of the extractor slings the honey out of the frames. Spin for a bit and them turn the frames around and spin again.  He must have known that the next morning would bring aches of muscles usually not used!

Martin guards the honey gate at the bottom of the extractor.

The honey filters through three filters – a coarse mesh filter and a finely-woven fabric supported by another metal filter.

Finally, the honey safely tucked in jars. We ended up with about 10 gallons in total! The honey this year was very amber. That color is not what is typically is commercially available, despite the fact that dark amber honey has up to 20 times the anti-oxidants of run-of-the-mill commercial light honey.

one year ago…”Inaugural Chicken Butchering”

September 8, 2010 – Sistas

Linda’s sister dropped in from Southern California recently to tuck in her off her daughter, born 6 days before Claire, to another midwestern college.

Even though these two don’t get a chance to see each other that much, they seem to greatly enjoy each other.  They both have managed to be successful in their respective pursuits – Linda in sustainable agriculture and teaching and Kathy is now working as director of International Marketing for Cisco.  I think these two would make a dynamite pair working for the same organization, if they could find such a place.  People at work are starting to wonder how much longer I can hang with Linda!  It’s interesting how much Claire takes after Linda and Emma takes after Kathy.  I guess that leaves Martin to be like old Dad.

one year ago…”North Side of Barn Painted”

August 27, 2010 – Ag Incubator Building Ribbon Cutting!

Today was a milestone for local foods, Marshalltown Community College, and Linda.

It was the ribbon cutting for the new ag incubator building adjacent to the college and serving the farmers renting some of the land on the adjacent 140 acres of certified organic land.  Participating in the ribbon cutting are Linda, Rep Latham, Sue Martin Executive Director of the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation, and Conrad DeJardin, Community College Board of directors.

Our congressman, Tom Latham spoke – he was able to help secure some funding for a portion of the building through the Small Business Administration.

Here’s a shot of the front of the building.

Inside is an office, place for vegetable washing, storage, and coolers.  This is just the first part of a vision put forth by Linda seven years ago to help small entrepreneurial farmers, learn, produce, and market foods.  Next?  An incubator kitchen so producers can legally process foods and test recipes before going to a larger food processing facility.

Dr Linda Barnes Speaks at Ribbon Cutting

Iowa Valley Board of Directors Vice President Yvonne Mallory Speaks at Ribbon Cutting

Congressional Representative Tom Latham Speaks at Ribbon Cutting

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #174″

August 17, 2010 – Linda at Roundtable with US Ag Secretary Vilsack

Linda was invited to be part of a press conference/roundtable discussion of rural issues at the Iowa State fair with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.

linda barnes

Like a “good” Secretary of Agriculture, Vilsack listens as Linda makes her points about the importance of local infrastructure,  rural broadband issues, and local foods.

linda barnes and tom vilsack

Like a “better” Secretary of Agriculture,  Secretary Vilsack takes notes as she talks!  It was a great opportunity for the voices of a female, small farmer, educator and small business owner to be heard along with the traditional commodity farm groups.

one year ago…”Goodbye to Powershot A510″

August 13, 2010 – Look for Linda on HBO

Today Linda traveled to Grinnell to be filmed as part of a roundtable discussion of the farm bill and its impact on farmers who might choose to grow something other than corn and soybeans. It’s an HBO documentary that is not scheduled to air for a couple of years, due to come out before the next farm bill is debated in congress.

The weather this summer seems to finally be taking its toll on me – it seems like it is literally raining, the ground and vegetation is wet, or the dew points are in the tropical range. We’re all ready for a break.

one year ago…”Emma Hits Walden Pond”

July 16, 2010 – BWCA Day 2

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

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

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

boy fishing

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

largemouth bass

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

teenagers paddling

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

portage puddle

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

wet portage

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

one year ago…”International Wolf Center”

June 20, 2010 – Mammatus!

We had a spectacular show Friday night as the second round of storms for the day passed by to the east. A nice field of mammatus clouds developed.

mammatus over barn

I went out anticipating that the thunderheads to the east might have some interesting illumination from the setting sun to the west, but was very pleased to see these clouds and watch as the grew and developed.

skystream under mammatus

The following bit of information is condensed from Wikipedia: Mammatus are most often associated with the anvil cloud that extends from a cumulonimbus (thunderheads). Mammatus are often indicative of a particularly strong storm or maybe even a tornadic storm. These tend to form more often during warm months and are most common over the midwest and eastern portions of the United States.

Mammatus may appear as smooth, ragged or lumpy lobes and may be opaque or semitransparent. Because mammatus occur as a grouping of lobes, the way they clump together can vary from an isolated cluster to a field of mamma that spread over hundreds of kilometers to being organized along a line, and may be composed of unequal or similarly-sized lobes. The individual mammatus lobe average diameters of 1–3 km and lengths on average of 0.5 km. A lobe can last an average of 10 minutes, but a whole cluster of mamma can range from 15 minutes to a few hours. They usually are composed of ice, but also can be a mixture of ice and liquid water.

mammatus clouds

As the sun sank lower, the clouds turned from yellow to red.

It was rather exhilarating to be outside walking under this strange meteorologic phenomenon under a wide open sky!

one year ago…”Emma’s First 5K”

June 6, 2010 – Devils Lake State Park

You could ask for a nicer day, but might not ever get one!  Today, we roamed Devils Lake State Park.

Devils Doorway

I’ll lead with what may very well be one of the world’s most scenic lunch spots.  A nice rock ledge shaped like a chair, an awesome overlook, a light breeze, interesting clouds, and temperatures in the low 70’s!  The featured rock formation is known as the Devils Doorway. The lake’s name was thought to derive from a mis-translation (or marketing gimmick) of the native American names roughly translated as Spirit Lake, Sacred Lake, or Holy Lake.

A look at the same spot, only facing away from the lake.

Devils Lake Beach

The lake is a clear with a sandy or rocky shore that fills the remnants of an old glacial valley with bluffs reaching 500 feet above the water.

West Bluff Trail

After hiking up from the lake along the West Bluff Trail, we pause for a break in the lushness of the spring vegetation.  Since there’s hardly ever photos of me on the blog, Linda took the opportunity to take some of the man behind the camera.

Yet another promontory on the West Bluff Trail.

West Bluff Trail

One of my favorite pastimes is hanging over the edge of precipices, one thing I don’t get much of a chance to do much anymore.

Potholes Trail

This stretch of  steep trail is on the Potholes Trail – which leads to a geological formation called kettles, which are round holes where rocks have circulated in soft rocks in a river and dig out round holes.  I’ve seen them often in Minnesota, but here they were near the top of the hill in 1.6 billion year old rock.

Baraboo hills

Here’s a view from the end of the lake looking east out of the glacial valley.  It was truly a spectacular view in all directions with rolling hills as far as the eye can see.

East Bluff Trail

Finally, much later in the day, another panoramic shot from the East Bluff Trail.

one year ago…”Blue Flag Iris”

June 4, 2010 – First Celery

We had some electrical problems in the barn (like the lights don’t work and the box keeps blowing fuses). At any rate, it was out of my league, so I called an electrician who hadn’t worked here for a couple of years – actually since the wind turbine was installed. But he’s got a great memory and I was slow on the pick-up when he started talking gardening and asked how the celery was growing? I told him we never grew it since it took such a long time.

Well, lo and behold, he drags out a bunch of celery starts for us to try! They look great and Linda already has them tucked away in the soil.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #165″

May 25, 2010 – Getting Tomatoes In

Finally getting around to some gardening.  Getting the tomatoes and peppers in the ground.

Slightly new system this year.  We’re out of end rolls from the cardboard factory, so I picked up some giant tarps from the lumber yard to use instead.  Cut them to four foot widths, then cut holes in to plant, poked some holes in the tarp with a potato fork to allow water to seep through, put in the stakes, slid the tomato cages recycled from old woven wire fences over the posts, covered with some straw.  The sections between are the new alleys of clover and perennial rye.

one year ago…”Hops”

May 8, 2010 – Ecoheartland Film Features High Hopes Gardens!

Today we received a surprise in the mail – our own copy of an Ecoheartland DVD! Back in June, 2008, a couple of filmmakers stopped by – you can see the original blog post and a photo of the filmmaking brother duo on the June 23, 2008 blog entry. We’re in good company among Iowans in the film – Paul Willis from Niman Ranch, Mike Coon from PowerFilm, Inc. in Ames, and Fred Kirschenmann from the Leopold Center.  A film trailer follows:

I’d like to thank Nick and Max for their project and for representing us accurately and professionally. They indeed did produce what they set out to do!

one year ago…”Preview of Maine Trip”

April 10, 2010 – Getting Garden Started

It’s finally dry enough to start getting some of the early season crops in the ground.  Today onions, peas, and lettuce hit the ground.  Enough early season crop beds are ready to go, so we swapped the tiller for the potato digger to trench in potatoes in the next few days.

Here are a couple of the new four foot beds we’re trying out this year.

one year ago…no entry

April 5, 2010 – Linda’s Speaking Gig

Last week Linda was the featured program for Women’s History month at the Ames USDA facility and was simulcast to a facility in New York as well.

She spoke a bit about the generational changes that have been exhibited by the women in her family.  Perhaps if we get a video or soundtrack of it, we’ll post it for mass consumption. Not surprisingly, there were some familiar faces in the audience, including folks from church, past colleagues, including an old office-mate from graduate school days.

one year ago…”April Snowstorm”

March 26, 2010 – Landscape Architecture Class Visit

This week we dragged about 24 members of the Ecological Design class in the Landscape Architecture program at Iowa State around the farm.

We held them hostage for about two hours, showing the various design and microclimate principles we’ve managed to implement on the farm. One interesting comment we received was that the farm was much smaller than they envisioned after visiting the blog and web site.  We attributed the mismatch in reality/perception was due to the fact that the farm is so diverse and has so many different small enterprises that it must be large to contain so much diversity.  But believe us, tending 7 acres intensively with the numbers of different crops we have, makes it seem like much more than 7 acres to us as well!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #159″

March 15, 2010 – Checking the Beehive

Now that the temps have warmed to the 50’s, it’s time to make sure the bees have enough honey left in the hive to sustain them until the first blooming commences.

Linda is taking over the beekeeping this year.

We were happy to see that this hive was still active after the winter.  Today the black cover came off the hive and the honey supply looked adequate to keep them going.

one year ago…”Prunings”

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 29, 2009 – Putting Bees Away for Winter

It’s time to tuck the bees in for the winter.  By the end of this week, the highs are supposed to be in the 20s.

Martin and Linda add the insulated cover to the hive.

Here, they pose after finishing the job – the black cardboard has been slipped over the hive and we wait until spring to do anything else with the bees.

one year ago…”Gift Box Assembly”

October 11, 2009 – Front Page News, Part II

Last Sunday the local paper had the first in a three-part series centered around the program Linda started at MCC.  This Sunday was another above the fold front page story.  There was also another article about a local food system meeting that builds on the work Linda has done.

Creating homegrown food

MCC runs crop trials, begins creating food processing facility


Latino restaurants and grocery stores in this county seat community prefer to make their own tortillas. But when a local supplier in Tama went out of businesses two years ago, these tiendas started looking elsewhere for their white corn supplies.

Jesus Gaytan, who owns Gaytan Tortilleria, now travels to Chicago to get his white corn and other food supplies, but said that he would prefer to buy locally, if the food was available. He needs an estimated 600 to 1,200 bushels of white corn annually.

Enter Marshalltown Community College and several other organizations determined to help Gaytan and other local businesses with fulfilling their local food needs.

“If we can do this right,” said Norm McCoy, director of the Midwest Center for Entrepreneurial Agriculture at MCC, “Locally grown white corn would give him another marketing angle for his customers.”

Among a number of other efforts, the college, under the direction of McCoy, ran a series of white corn trials, trying to determine which corn variety works best in Iowa’s cooler soils. White corn is not only a staple for tortillas, but for other dishes, such as hominy used for menudo, a Latino soup.

McCoy also supervises the certified organic food plots the college rents to community people for growing their own produce and for selling at farmers markets. He has planted nut trees and other crops for a variety of different organizations that are involved in Marshalltown’s local foods initiative.

The college is also building a certified, organic-foods processing facility, where produce can be washed and bulk packaged according to end users’ needs, McCoy said. There are plans for greenhouses in the near future.

Although all this is happening on the college campus, no college funds are directly involved, McCoy said. The trials, the gardens, the processing facility, even McCoy’s salary, are paid through grants and other outside sources.

Trials of white corn

McCoy said he volunteered to run the white corn trials for Iowa State University, in partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, this year. He received 19 varieties to plant in a series of four replications. His site was a high ridge that overlooks U.S. Highway 30.

But things did not go as well as he had hoped.

Spring planting was delayed. The first varieties didn’t get planted until June, because those renting private plots needed to use the program’s manual planting equipment. Rains also kept planters out of the field and when fields were dry enough, tilling created large clods that interfered with uniformed spacing of the corn.

“Sometimes the wind blew so hard,” McCoy said, “it blew the seed away as it left the planter.” Conditions were so challenging, McCoy said, he reverted to planting many of the rows by hand in order to get the crop into the ground. The last of the eight-row trial plots were planted in mid-July.

“This was a real poor year to try this,” McCoy said, adding that he hopes to get a second chance in 2010. If so, he intends to plant the trial plots in a more sheltered area on the south edge of the campus. “But I learned a lot.”

The need to find the right kind of white corn variety for local food processors is still there, he insists.

Tortillas need a minimum-sized kernel, the bigger the better, with a waxy coating that is easily removed with a lye solution. His trials were to determine yield, by variety and soil type, at varying plant populations, and recording any stalk lodging.

McCoy expects to harvest, shell and weigh the corn by hand this fall.

Unique opportunity

“We (Marshalltown) are unique to have the Latino population here,” McCoy said. “It’s hard to get them tied into the local food movement, because of communications and because they are not fully integrated into the local culture yet.”

This local food initiative has had intensive Latino interest and involvement since the early efforts to now. John Paulis, director of the Prairie Rivers Resource Conservation and Development, based in Ames, which is assisting in the overall project, said many of the immigrant population has an agrarian background and prefer to move out of the factories and packing plants and make their living on the soil.

“We want to tap into their knowledge and expertise,” McCoy said, in creating a series of local truck farms to bring human-food grade farming to the local populace.

“They have no pre-conceived ideas about farming,” McCoy said. “This is a local foods system waiting to happen.”

Incubator building

An organic foods processing facility, which is touted as a business incubator, is being built with assistance from a federal small business development grant of $250,000, and a matching grant from the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation, based in Marshall County. Of this second grant, $100,000 can be used for equipment purchases.

One limiting factor to developing a functional local foods system, McCoy said, is the lack of a “community kitchen,” where fresh produce can be washed and packaged, or be subject to value-added processes for specific end users.

Ground was broken for the facility on the campus in September. The building is expected to be available for use by late October, McCoy said.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 732-2141or at

one year ago…”Homecoming 2008″

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 13, 2009 – Catch Sunday’s Des Moines Register?

I’m not too sure how long the Des Moines Register links are live, so I copied the story below, without the photographs.  This story appeared on the cover of the Iowa Life section of today’s Sunday Register.  It’s about “Comida – County of Marshall Investing in Diversified Agriculture” one of the offshoots of the college farm and program Linda spearheaded.

Latino Farmers Remember Their Roots


Benigno Lopez smoothly swings the machete and, whoosh, tall grasses are laid flat on the garden’s border. He takes another fluid swing and another, until his wife grows impatient.

Ramona Lopez yells and whoops in the distance to summon visitors to her side.

“Come look at my peppers!”

“Look, jalapeños.”


“And look at these!”


“Most of the time, I’m not as happy as my husband. But this year, when I come and see my peppers …,” she calls out, finishing the sentence with a look of adoration.

Benigno, who people call Bernie, and Ramona grew up in Jalisco, Mexico, but left behind farm life 13 years ago to move to the United States.

They worked in the meat-packing plant in Marshalltown, became citizens and hoped to one day grow food again.

Now they have a plot of land and are harvesting, thanks to a continuing education program to develop new farmers that heavily taps into Marshalltown’s Latino population.

“Take it,” Ramona says, shoving a green tube of something-or-another at the visitor. “Take it!”

OK, but what is it?

A Mexican yellow squash called a calabacita. Slice it, put it on the grill with a little seasoned salt, she said. Oh, the taste!

Just the day before, as August waned and the vegetables hung ripe with promise, she had a party and served them. It was a special evening in a season of growth.

Years ago, the couple planted a peach tree in their yard and others said it wouldn’t grow. But fruit appeared, not every year, but enough to maintain hope that new ideas, new people, could prosper here.

Bernie’s father and grandfather grew peaches, mangos, oranges and avocados on their farm.

“Bernie is very happy to work outside. Works 10, 12 hours a day,” Ramona said.

Ramona works at Iowa Home Care, visiting the sick and elderly in their homes, then comes out to see her peppers, which grow on plots at Marshalltown Community College.

Its Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture Program (EDA) led an adult education class last winter, “Start Your Own Diversified Farm,” whose goal is to help people learn to farm and contribute to the local food economy.

In looking for farmers in Marshalltown, a town long populated with Latino immigrants, it made sense to tap into their willingness and expertise.

A survey of 111 Mexican and Central American immigrants in Marshalltown and Denison by Iowa State’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which paid tuition for the class, discovered that 83 percent grew up on farms and 93 percent wanted to farm, although buying or leasing land was an obstacle.

A third of the 18 students in the eight-week bilingual class were Latino, joining Anglos, American Indians and Sudanese.

“We always ate. It seemed important that we eat together to help us integrate,” said Linda Barnes, the EDA program coordinator. “The thing we learned is so much of it is about relationships. The reason that is true is we are talking about food.”

Bernie and Ramona helped recruit Latinos, earned certificates from the class in March and joined a dozen who planted plots in the spring.

Some grew excited on the first warm April day and made the mistake of planting early.

Bernie waited until May 5. He had experience, working on a ranch in Mexico. “Never with a tractor but with an ox,” he says. “Old fashioned.”

“He use a tiller here,” his wife adds. “I’m happy for Bernie to use a tiller.”

Just then Norm McCoy, the farm manager of the college’s 80 acres, suggests Bernie may benefit from a weed eater to tackle his chore.

He smiles. New Iowans with unusual ideas like peach trees wisely take some advice from the natives.

It’s a longtime dream. While working at the packing plant, a job she didn’t like, Ramona began attending farmer’s meetings.

“I would go home and look in dictionary what they say. I realized the problems same for farmers everywhere,” she said.

The main challenge for new farmers is money to buy land. But students can establish three years of growing history here, which most lenders require to buy land.

All they want is a few acres, just enough to grow fruits and vegetables and raise a few cows, chickens and sheep to sell to local customers and restaurants.

Claudia Prado-Meza saw the same hunger while talking to traditional Iowa farmers.

“They miss growing food that they know where it goes,” said the Iowa State graduate student in sustainable agriculture, who helps the Marshalltown farmers. “But they are trapped inside subsidized systems.”

Latino farmers remember their farming roots.

“To hear (Ramona) gush about the potential for growing vegetables is like the embodiment of the American dream,” said John Paulin of Prairie Rivers Resource Conservation and Development.

“But the institutional knowledge of growing truck crops has disappeared.”

Paulin hopes the college program, which became part of an effort carrying the acronym for food in Spanish – COMIDA (County Of Marshall Investing in Diversified Agriculture) – helps connect local farmers and buyers.

Only one-tenth of a percent of Marshall County residents get food directly from farmers, a fourth of the national average. If consumers bought 15 percent, according to a study by Ken Meter of the Crossroads Resource Center in Minnesota, $8 million of new farm income would be generated in the county.

So they are trying to grow farmers in Marshall County, dreamers like Ramona and Bernie.

Ramona steers her truck past the rows of white corn for tortillas, tomato plants and twisting vines of melons.

It hasn’t been an easy growing summer with early cool weather and college land that hasn’t built up enough organic materials yet. Still, the group gathers enough produce to sell at the Downtown Farmers Market in Des Moines, in McCoy’s Pine Crest Farm stand.

She is chomping on a just-picked cucumber and had few complaints.

“This place is the future for new people,” she says. “We raise seven kids here, three still at home. Marshalltown open the doors to us. We need to do something to give back to the community.”

Adept at translating, Ramona helps recruit immigrants interested in farming while working to save money to buy land.

Her husband, she says, is never so happy as when he can stop to donate garden items at Helping Hands Temporary Services for the less privileged.

She pulls her truck up to the plot of Jorge Ibarra, a 35-year-old construction worker and father of five who learned to farm from his grandfather in Mexico.

“I like to be farmer,” he says. “I lived on a farm. I like the life.”

He begins filling up boxes of his sweet corn to give away.

Like Ramona, he wants to return something.

As the Iowa sun sets over the standing corn, visitors take home the corn and calabacita to put on the grill, as Ramona instructed.

She also cooked the squash the day before at a party for her daughter Jacqeline, the first in her family to ever leave for college. They ate it near the peach tree in Iowa.

one year ago…”Jim Sinning Memorial”

August 22, 2009 – Visit to a Local Vineyard

One of Linda’s students has started a vineyard.  He’s just getting started, but has a few producing vines in production.

Linda looks over the crop.

A view down one of the aisles.

Some Iowa grapes, about ready for harvest.

We had the chance to take some home – so we did and made about 20 quarts of grape juice.  Here Martin admires a bunch of grapes.

one year ago…”Late August Garden”

July 25, 2009 – 1,000 Friends of Iowa Conference

Today we attended the annual conference of the 1,000 Friends of Iowa held in Iowa City.

1000 Friends of Iowa promotes responsible development that 1) conserves and protects our agricultural and natural resources, 2) revitalizes our neighborhoods, towns and cities, and 3) improves the quality of life for future generations.  We learned about prospects for increased rail service and economic development around transit stations, particularly the Iowa City to Chicago and Iowa City to Omaha via Des Moines, and a corridor between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.  In addition, we learned about the tribulations surrounding closing of neighborhood schools and building new schools out in vacant land outside of town.

Linda was asked to give the keynote address. As usual, she was well-received and invited for a couple more speaking engagements for other groups. As for myself, I made some great contacts for an upcoming project I’ll talk more about later!

We spent the night before at a farm south of Iowa City (actually closer to the birthplace of Captain James Kirk – Riverside, Iowa) with some friends who recently moved from Marshalltown.  They have a charming old farmhouse and land along the Iowa River, have planted native prairie and trees, along with lots of garden space.  It was a wonderful 25 hours away from the farm.

one year ago…”Chinese Cabbage”

July 15, 2009 – Touring Tower Soudan Underground Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Willow Nursery on Track”

June 30, 2009 – Lake Shetek State Park

We certainly are a couple for all lodgings – from the luxurious Dayton House one night to a rustic cabin without a bathroom or kitchen the next!

This is at Lake Shetek State Park in Southwestern MN.  Linda is getting some veggies ready to stir-fry.

Some rice, a pack of cole-slaw mix, some peppers and onions and stir-fry mix and call it supper.

The fishing wasn’t great – while I tried hard to catch some fish, Linda opened a book, threw out a bobber and noticed her bobber was gone at one time and pulled up the only fish of the evening – a  walleye.  I didn’t bring a book down to the lake, so I couldn’t emulate her technique and thus didn’t catch any.

one year ago…”Nellie the Goat”

June 29, 2009 – Blue Mounds State Park

The 20th Anniversary travel junket to SW MN continues with a stop at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, but nowhere near Shirley, Minnesota, although it is close to Marshall.

blue mounds top view

The outstanding feature of this park is the Sioux Quartzite cliffline that runs along the park.  This is the view from near the top of the cliffline looking towards the east.

blue mounds cliffline

A view from the bottom of the cliffline looking west.  Again, in the middle of the flat prairies, this anomaly of billion and a half-year old rock outcrop is quite stunning to see and contemplate.

The top of the cliffline is prairie with a bison herd, but along the base is a forest of oaks on the top and other mixed hardwoods further down the cliff.

Part of the rock was used as a quarry in days gone by.

manfred house

Noted author Fredrick Manfred built a house at the end of the cliffline directly into the rock.  His special room was the top where there was a commanding view of miles of prairie.  He wrote many books, and if I recall the info correctly, was nominated for Nobel prize for literature four times and gave the eulogy at the funeral of Sinclair Lewis.

manfred house bathroom

Even going to the bathroom in the house “exposed” a bit of nature.  Ultimately, the house was plagued by moisture problems from seepage from the bare rock that made up one side of the house.

Linda admires the 1.5 billion-year old Sioux quartzite.

yellow prickly pear

Prickly pear cactus were in bloom on the top of the cliffline.

Near the bottom, all kinds of fissures in the rock make for interesting places to explore.

If you restrict your gaze to the red rock fissures, you might be able to imagine that it looks  a bit like southern Utah and the Canyonlands country.

one year ago…”Late Cherries”

June 27, 2009 – 20th Anniversary Trip to Dayton House in Worthington, MN

Time and $$ (see septic tank installation) prevented us from celebrating our 20th anniversary on a long trip, but we wanted to get away and note the milestone nonetheless, so we planned a trip to everyone’s favorite vacation destination, the prairies of Southwestern Minnesota!

Dayton House Front View

The first night, we stayed at the historic Dayton House in Worthington, Minnesota. When I booked the room, I didn’t realize it was Dayton as in Dayton-Hudson/Target. It was the family house of the Dayton family for many years before the Daytons purchased property on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.

Linda lounges in one of the lovingly restored bedrooms. The house was restored as a joint venture of the community and the Dayton heirs.

Dayton House Staircase

The house was a shell of its former self in 1992 when it was sold for $15,000. This staircase was walled over, which in some ways protected it.

Dayton House Hallway

This is a small sitting area between the two suites on the top floor. Since no one else was staying at the house that night, we were offered the run of the house, including the downstairs. In addition to a bed and breakfast, the house is a great setting for showers, and piano recitals, among the furnishings a Steinway piano.

We ate breakfast on the front porch. The house was a wonderful place to stay and we highly recommend it if you are looking for a getaway in SW Minnesota.

Ethiopian Restaurant

You’ll never know what you’ll find in small towns, and in Worthington, we found an Ethiopian Restaurant. As we’ve never had food prepared in that style, we jumped at the chance. We found that Ethiopian food is generally served without silverware. The base is this large bread/pancake-like circle and the food is brought in separate dishes and is served by ripping a section of the bread and wrapping the meats/beans/toppings in the bread.

Lake Okabena Rainbow

After dinner we took a walk around Lake Okabena – about a 5 mile walk. About halfway around the lake a storm rolled in and we were about three miles away from the house and were without our cell phones. We found a picnic shelter along the lake and waited out the rain before the rainbow came. A few steps back onto the road, the host at the Dayton House was driving around the lake looking for us, because we had told her we might walk around the lake after dinner. How’s that for hospitality!

one year ago…”Chickens Need Rethinking”

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 8, 2009 – Sunday Afternoon Class

The last eight Sunday afternoons Linda’s been part of a team that is teaching a class for aspiring new farmers.  It is designed as a quick start/introduction as opposed to a two-year degree program.

After completing this class, the graduates will be able to rent a portion of the college farm to start their farming enterprise.

The class attracted a wide range of people, including Anglo, Hispanic, Sudanese, and Meskwaki members.  The class has already started planning some cooperative marketing and looks forward to the planting season to put into practice some things they’ve learned.

one year ago…”Faith”

October 12, 2008 – House Painting

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

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

one year ago…”Mexico City”.

August 11, 2008 – Presenting… Linda at the State Fair

The current president of the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers was with us in Costa Rica and for 10 days pestered Linda to present in the ag building during the State Fair. It was easier to say yes in February than it was in the midst of back-to-school and peach season.

Here she is making her presentation about “Holiday Gift Baskets.” I enjoyed a previous segment on pruning Christmas trees. Gotta love the cordless mic, turning her into a fair demo person or customer service rep, wherever that takes you!

one year ago…”Party on the Farm”

July 28, 2008 – Digging Potatoes and Garlic

It was a day to dig up some of the potatoes and garlic.

Unfortunately, the kids were so efficient at cleaning and putting away the garlic in the hayloft, that I was’t even able to get a picture of this year’s garlic crop!  Linda is sporting a new potato fork – the old wooden fork broke last fall and was replaced with a new fiberglass model.

 One year ago…”A Night on the River”

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 11, 2008 – Young Girls and Moms Overnight

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

Canoes all packed, ready to embark on the trip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda at the helm, maneuvering the canoe back home.

one year ago…”Soudan Underground Mine Tour”

July 7, 2008 – Settling in at Kawishiwi Lodge

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

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

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

Here’s home for most of the week.

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

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

one year ago…”Garlic Harvest Begins”

June 28, 2008 – Des Moines Art Festival

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

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

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

The neices and nephew with auntie!

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #78″

June 27, 2008 – Chickens Need Rethinking

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Milestones”

June 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 2, 2008 – Linda Passes the Torch!

As many of you know, Linda met a long-awaited goal a few weeks ago. While teaching full-time, she managed to create a new academic program and get it certified by the State, converted 140 acres of cash-rent land to certified organic production at the college farm, and raised around $600,000 for some infrastructure (including some Leed-certified buildings), planning, and three year’s salary for a farm manager in her “spare” time. Since projects like these are ongoing and never seem to end, I thought that this would be a good time to stop and recognize the work she’s done.

The recently hired farm manager is a graduate of the Master’s Program in Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State and also holds an MBA. He will be a great person to lead the charge full-time to train young and old, new residents and old-timers in theory, field production, marketing, and business management for entrepreneurial farmers.

The program aims to be an “incubator farm” that people who want to start farming can access land, take classes as necessary, and a be part of a network of like-minded people who see opportunity in value-added, niche, and organic products. A planned second phase will include an incubator kitchen where packaged food can be produced and sold. It’s been a long and eventful four years from idea to where the program is today.

one year ago…”Most Used Piece of Equipment on the Farm”

May 4, 2008 – Finally Something in Garden

Finally, the potatoes that sometimes get planted in March, most times get planted in April, this year didn’t hit the ground until May.  The wet, cold spring is delaying all planting.

Potato planting is greatly simplified with the trencher attachment on the tractor.  Linda also got small amount of the usual early season crops such as radish, lettuce, spinach and the like.  I spent most of the day battling tillers, bit finally got rolling.

one year ago…”House Under Cardinal Attack”

April 19, 2008 – Moving Fence

After another rainy week, it’s important to keep moving ahead, even though the saturated ground prevents us from getting the new trees and grapes in the ground. So today, we moved a fence to enlarge an exclosure in the pasture to accommodate the trees, even though we can’t plant them yet. With saturated ground, it was easy to pull and set the fence posts. It was foggy and drizzly in the morning, but stayed relatively dry in the afternoon.

Linda’s working with the post puller. This is one of my favorite pieces of equipment – it’s easy to use, virtually indestructible, and hard to lose! Since we don’t have much land to play with, we’ve opted to use cattle panels for much of the interior flexible fencing. We like the ease of installation and don’t have a lot of permanent fences, except the property boundaries, so even though it is more expensive initially, we never bought too much at a time, so the extra expense is worth it to us in ease of installation and flexibility.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #68″

February 5, 2008 – Ordering Seeds

We’re a little behind schedule on the 2008 garden already!  We usually have our seeds ordered by now, but that’s one of the things that fell by the wayside due to the trip over Christmas/New Years.

So once again, it is the hopeful time of year when the garden is full of luscious vegetables, the weeds are magically in check and the temperatures are warm!  We are moving “up” this year.  We ordered more vining/climbing varieties and plan on growing more on trellisis (or is that trelli?) – at our advanced ages, it only makes sense to be able to pick without bending over quite so much!

We’re excited about getting some 12-16 inch long pole beans (they should be great for dilly beans) climbing cucumbers, and some climbing pumpkin to go wild in the corn – the variety is even called “corn pumpkin.”
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…

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

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

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

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

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

Linda and sis yak it up with the park ranger.

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

Emma and Nana through a window of the ruin.

Mark and Linda at the top of Tuzigoot.

one year ago…

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

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

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

Next stop was the Painted Desert National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day dawned clear, crisp and cold.

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

Another view of Oak Creek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 25, 2007 – Animals out on Christmas Day!

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

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

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

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

December 2, 2007 – Make a “Snow Day”

I think we needed a snow day. Yesterday while everything was shut down outside, it was time for something completely different.

It was time to make gingerbread cookies and homemade bread! The tasks that should availed themselves (house cleaning etc,) were just too risky because you just never knew when the power might go out in the middle of vacuuming a rug!  So, it was cookies and bread.  Martin loves the honey wheat bread – so much so he calls it “dessert” and doesn’t want anything on it.  He even wanted to bring a PB&J sandwich to school instead of a school lunch of corndogs!

Here Martin shows off his moose and Minnesota cookie with important places in Minnesota for him marked with an X. He’s at the age where he loves cooking.  A few days ago we were working in the attic and as soon as we got up, I realized I needed another tool, so asked him to find a good radio station on the dial while I went to fetch it from the garage.  When I got up,he had dialed into NPR and was listening to Lynne Rossetto-Kasper on the “Splendid Table” and he was all excited because they were talking about spices and reported that most cinnamon in the stores is fake.

one year ago…

November 24, 2007 – Change of Season

The shorts and straw hats are now packed away and out come the layers of clothes and boots to replace them.

Last Thursday’s snow recedes from the fields as well now that we are in the unofficial season between winter and fall. Shall this season be called “finter” “wall” “fallter” “wintall?” It’s getting too cold to work on some outdoor projects, but not cold enough to make you cringe when stepping outside.

one year ago…

November 17, 2007 – Doesn’t Get More Old Fashioned Than This

After yesterday’s entry about sustainable enterprises and earning it – I can safely say that moving small amounts of manure from a barn to a garden are sustainable enterprises (however negligibly rewarding they may be).

It is strangely satisfying, though to move the fertilizer with only the labor of your own hands along with with a pitchfork and cart.

It’s a time of year we can directly put it on the garden now that the growing season is over.  This will be a tilled garden in the spring and although there is no financial reward, we will avoid having to purchase outside petroleum-based fertilizers, so I guess there is a reward of sorts.

one year ago…

October 27, 2007 – Planting Garlic

Today was a catch-up day.  We missed the window of opportunity to plant garlic and fall bulbs early in the month, and it has just been way too soggy up to now to get in the garden.  So today we got the garlic in and some purple allium, and three kinds of peonies (Duchesse de Nemours -white, Sarah Bernhardt -pink, and Red Magic – red).  We also collected a bunch of seeds from flowers and beans, among other things.

A few days ago, I wouldn’t have bet that I’d be able to dig this trench with the tractor.  Our neighbor filled our two wagons with corn and I went out after I got home from work after dark to haul them back home.  On the way home, the tractor seemed like it was running a very rough and might not make it home.  In my paranoia, it seemed like the exhaust had a white tinge to it, but it was night, and I hadn’t yet run the tractor at night, so I wasn’t sure what it looked like normally at night.  My fear was coolant in the combustion chambers.  Or, I thought maybe the heavy load was straining it because one of the wagon wheels was nearly locked?  But when I got home and stopped the tractor, it still was acting up.  I turned it off and a few minutes later it wouldn’t start.  So I went and got the 2nd wagon with the truck (I felt some urgency as rain was possible in the forecast) and felt lucky not to get stuck in the soft waterway with a two wheel drive truck and gravity wagon full of corn and a dead tractor unable to pull myself out.

Over the night, ruminating about how much a cracked head or other major repair would cost, I remember an old mechanic telling me that if I ever put gas that had a mixture of ethanol in an engine that had not run it before, it would dissolve and break loose all kinds of gunk that might be in the gas tank/fuel system.  I may have grabbed a gas container that had ethanol in my rush to get out in the field.  So in the morning I thought I’d drain the carburetor and check out the gas, and if necessary drain the gas tank and start over.  But after draining all the gas out of the carburetor, it started up and ran just fine – so I am attributing the problem to a fuel line problem that has worked it self out.

Having the tractor to dig trenches to plant garlic, gladiolias, and potatoes is a huge back and time saver.


one year ago…

October 20, 2007 – Final Thoughts on Mexican Immersion

Our last full day in Mexico was in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan.   A few of us made a final visit to a market where we found many stalls packed with sweets.

Among those sweets were the sugar skulls.  These were, for me, the most “Mexican” thing we encountered.  Between the stone ruins of women who died in childbirth, the difficulty of an infrastructure the cannot (or will not) provide safe water, which can no doubt affect infant mortality, this is the thing that epitomized the experience.  Dance with death, dance with those that have died, live for the moment for you will join the dead. It was a good lesson.

Finally, a final shot of our Raices participants.  What a great group.  They have big hearts and even bigger dreams about the way the world should be. They made the experience a once in a life time from me.  Gracias.

one year ago…

October 19, 2007 – Visit to Village of Nocutzepo

Making tortillas.  This is a really beautiful kitchen.  Here Odelia’s sister is preparing tortillas for our lunch.  Note the wood burning stove, the tortilla press and her can of corn flour.  I have never had such fresh tortillas.  Later, at lunch, we were given an impromptu cultural lesson by Marisella on how to eat tortillas. She found the way we held them to be amusing, perhaps what I  really ought to say is that she found our tortilla-table manners laughable.  We gave it our best effort to improve!

Marisella, Odelia, and myself.  We are talking after lunch about sustainable farming and I am showing her a photo album of our farm in Iowa.  Marisella is serving as interpreter, she got  good at this (maybe through too much repetition) that she could pretty much tell the story of our farm with out much input from me!  Odelia is an innovator.  In her back yard is amaranth, chard, peaches (which no one thought would grow here) a fish pond, and a bread oven.  She and I share a passion for trying new ways to feed ourselves without depleting the garden.  I really enjoyed this conversation.

Odelia’s back yard.  Here fruit trees included banana, I’m jealous.  She was using the sediment from the fish pond for fertility in the garden.

This is the cemetery at Nocutzepo.  It’s adjacent to the cathedral there.  I don’t know why some graves are surrounded by wrought iron and some are entombed above ground.  I can just imagine the picnics held here for the Day (and night) of the Dead (Nov. 2).

Here a wagon of fresh cut alfalfa is carted in a wagon pulled by a single horse.

We saw plenty of interesting fencing.  This was my favorite.  If you look closely in the center of this wire fencing is a set of rusty bed springs.  Waste not, want not.  Not far from here I saw something I’d been looking for in every village, the three sisters, corn, beans and squash grown together.  The corn provides the trellis on which the beans grow, the beans provide nitrogen to the corn, and the squash serves to reduce weeds by shading them out.  These three also provide a nearly complete meal!

one year ago…

October 18, 2007 – Visit to Village of Arocutian

This is the view of Patzcuaro Lake from Arocutian.  The lake is very visibly receding and quite contaminated by erosion from the deforested hills.  The native fish once famous in Patzcuaro, are now locally extinct.

Thursday was another immersion day.  Lest you think these days were easy or comfortable, they were not.  We were required to venture forth without our guides/interpreters to locate various institutions and people.  This day we were given the names of two women who were willing to talk with us, the possibility of visiting the elementary school and a prearranged lunch & meeting with a family who made their living farming. First, we visited the school.

This is from the first grade classroom.  Oh, how I missed Martin when surrounded by six-year-olds.  They had the requisite missing teeth of 1st graders and unfettered enthusiasm mixed with a complete willingness to be engaged with complete (and no doubt strange) strangers.  They would beg to have you take their photo then rush to your side to view the picture on the camera screen.  Quite frankly, I loved being among them just to take in all their youth and brilliance.  I was really beginning to miss my own family.

I see a confident young woman in this girl’s face.

We spoke with this woman for quite some time about her children and how immigration to the U.S. has impacted her life.  Her husband spent eight years, off and on, in the U.S. during the 70’s and 80’s.  It was just long enough to bring home the money they needed to build their home.  She was grateful for that and he remained in Mexico when their home was complete.  She gave birth to her last child at age 40 (same as myself).  We enjoyed a laugh over the joys and trials of being older mothers of sons.  She was also caring for the wife of one of her sons who is in Chicago.  He left shortly after his wife gave birth to their second child.  He hurt himself going over the border and can now only work intermittently.  He sends money when he can.  She hasn’t seen him in four years and he hasn’t seen his son.  It made her very sad.

Ironically, I was unable to get pictures of the farmer & farm we visited.  I used too much camera memory on the 1st graders!  My “take homes” from this visit was the fact that these farmers were actively working to increase composting, they saved seed from open pollinated corn, planted and harvested by hand, used shared veterinary care, and rarely used tractors due to their expense and then typically this is shared equipment.  The corn was delicious.

one year ago…

October 16, 2007 – Visit to Village of Erongaricuaro

My first excursion into the villages was to Erongaricuaro.  Here we visited the market and two schools.  The trip out was made by Combi.  These are vans converted to act as small public buses that people can ride for a reasonable price.  They run all day, we never waited more than ten minutes to catch a ride.  I have no doubt we served as a curiosity to the villagers.

This was taken from the combi.  Between the line of stacked rocks midway through the picture is a fence for livestock.  These are volcanic stones held together only by gravity.  In the foreground is a road sign indicating the presence of a speed bump.  I swear this is the only thing that would slow drivers down.  We saw a lot of accidents mostly minor, one more serious.  The roads typically lack shoulders and drivers frequently failed to heed “do not pass” signs.

In the village of Erongaricuaro, this photo shows the upper level of a home. Potted flowers and bright paint were common everywhere.  It was beautiful.  It made me feel my own home quite dull!  I also noted how seasons were different.  Not only were poinsettias starting to flower but so were irises, geraniums, and begonias.  There also seemed to be a lot of wild cosmos.

Here is yours truly at the market.  I’m standing next to vendor stall selling dried beans (frijoles).  While prepared very nicely and served in various forms, I was ready to pass on beans by the end of the trip.  We were offered beans for breakfast, beans for lunch and, you guessed it, beans for dinner.  These people are getting their fiber!

These pictures come from the elementary school. Above is a 3rd grade class in their school uniforms. They were very engaged in their studies. Cooperative learning seemed to be very successfully employed. It seems they do particularly well in math. Those that migrate to the U.S. often come here with better math skills than their peers in the U.S.

Recess time – today a tug of war. A bulletin placed on an outside school wall listed the budget for the school.  For one year, the school ran for about $7,500 per year.  Amazing.  The teacher/principal (wears one hat in the morning and the other in the afternoon) talked with us about her students. Like us, she was concerned for students who spent their school years in two different countries.  She was very generous with her time and commitment to her kids was evident.  As we were about to leave she asked to take good care of her kids (students in the U.S.).

one year ago…

October 13, 2007 – Teotihuacan Ruins

Mexico Day Two.  We were treated to a day of Mexican history beginning with the Teotihuac¡n Ruins.  These were founded around 200 B.C.E. and ended around 700 C.E. The history was a way to help us understand the country better.  I think it was effective when looking at the class structure that still exists today between those of indigenous descent and those of Spanish descent.

Here I am at the Temple of the Serpent (I think).  In the background is the Temple of the Sun.  It was very exciting to climb to the top of that temple, especially at this altitude.  The steps are very steep.  My new good friend Alyson took this picture.  Thanks Alyson.

These are a few of my fellow travelers.  They are people of action, dedicated to their communities  as mayors, educators, and just generally people who wanted to help others achieve their potential.  I felt privileged to be counted among them.

A view from the top.

A view from the plaza.

These were figures from the museum of Nacional Athropologia.  I was particularly struck with these because they represent the spirits of woman who had died in childbirth.  Their hands are clenched and faces haunted with unfulfilled promises.  They are said to make the sun set and to haunt the living children as they seek what was lost to them.  Grief is universal.

one year ago…

October 8, 2007 – Linda’s Gone to Patzcuara, Michoacan

Linda is on her 10-day trip to Mexico (see August 7 entry for more details).  I’m sure she’ll have several days to share her impressions sometime after her return, but in the meantime, here’s some info about the town they will spend most of their time in and around – Patzcuaro, Michoacan.  The following entry comes from the Wikipedia entry about Patzcuaro.

Patzcuaro, which means “place of stones” in the Purepecha language, is a city and its surrounding municipality in the central part of the Mexican state of Michoacan. Patzcuaro was founded in 1540. The city was developed as a religious center, and its early inhabitants believed Patzcuaro to be the doorway to heaven where the gods ascended and descended. The Purepecha people first settled in Patzcuaro in 1324, led by Rey Curateme. It has always been of interest to Mexican history buffs because it was central to the careers of two diametrically opposed characters in Mexico’s colonial past. The first was Nuao Guzman de Beltran, the vicious conquistador who plundered the area for gold. He burned alive the local Purepecha Indian chief when that man couldn’t or wouldn’t tell him where Indian gold was hidden. Eventually his crimes against the Indians became so extreme that the Spanish were forced to arrest him. In his place they sent Vasco de Quiroga, a former judge from Mexico City who had become a priest. Vasco de Quiroga helped the Purepecha Indians in the Patzcuaro area by introducing new crops and establishing schools and hospitals.

Patzcuaro is hidden high in the mountains of Michoacan at 2200 m (7130 feet) of elevation. It is veiled from the outside world by a curtain of high pine trees. To the north is Lake Patzcuaro, one of Mexico’s highest lakes. The butterfly fishermen, who dip their nets into the lake in search of whitefish, have become a trademark of Patzcuaro. The town retains its ancient atmosphere. It consists of largely one-story adobe or plaster-over-brick buildings with red tile roofs. The streets are dusty cobblestones traveled by horse and car. Plaza Vasco de Quiroga, known by locals as simply the Plaza Grande, is Patzcuaro’s central square. Grass covers much of the plaza, and a statue of Vasco de Quiroga stands in its center.

On the east side of downtown is the beautiful Basilica of Our Lady of Health, the city’s patron, built between 1546 and 1554. The College of Saint Nicolas, south from the basilica, was founded by Don Vasco in 1540 and now houses the Museum of Popular Arts and Archaeology, which has exhibits of carvings, pottery, weaving, and archaeological artifacts. The Cathedral of Michoacan was built by Don Vasco and was opened in 1546. Today it is the temple of the Jesuits. The House of Eleven Patios is the former monastery of Saint Catherine, founded by Dominican nuns in 1747. It is now a center for local artisans, and you can watch them work.

The Dance of the Viejitos (Old Men), one of the best and most widely known native dances of Mexico, is presented twice weekly. The dancers wear wooden masks that depict smiling old men to show that, at least in Mexico, old age is not a time of listless despair, but rather a season to enjoy the fruits of life.

Patzcuaro’s eateries tout the traditional whitefish in a variety of preparations, though not all of it comes from the nearby lake. Another unique, delicious dish is sopa tarasca, a local variation of Mexico’s ubiquitous tortilla soup with large pieces of roasted dried chiles and crumbly fresh cheese.

Many shops line the main plaza, selling all kinds of textiles, tablecloths, clothing, and more. Shops around town carry henequen rugs, lacquered trays, serapes, Indian masks, and wooden boxes. Patzcuaro’s lacquered trays are quite famous; the lacquer is supposedly made from the crushed bodies of purple insects, which provide the deep, rich finish and durability.

After yesterday’s entry about aches and pains, I’m ready to join in the Dance of the Old Men!

one year ago…

September 15, 2007 – Mid-September Frost!

It’s early for a frost.  Very early.  Here’s Linda out last night covering some of the flowers in the garden.  We rolled out every tarp, old sheet, and even an old dish towel or two to try to survive the night.

We’re especially worried about the flowers since we have 25 centerpieces for a dinner to get out this week.  It was a hectic night – the horse came, and with the imminent frost, we picked raspberries and tomatoes and covered flowers, peppers, and a few tomatoes racing against the sinking sun.

I’m not 100% sure but I think the work paid off – we had a light frost here and it killed some things, but I think the plants that were covered will be ok.

one year ago…

September 4, 2007 – Marshalltown Garden Club

Linda was asked to give a presentation to the Marshalltwon Garden Club, so she snuck out of school (didn’t really have to sneak) and gave a presentation over lunch, then that evening offered a tour of the farm.

Here, they are gathered around the paw-paw tree, just one of the off-beat plantings at high hopes gardens.  About 25 folks made the drive out here, including some neighbors who I’m sure where just plain curious about some of the things we are doing.  It was a nice group of people who have an understanding of how things work (or don’t) out in the field.

one year ago…

September 2, 2007 – Another Big Canning Day

Today was another big canning push.

We moved the stainless steel table out under the shade – the heat has returned, but not the humidity.

Today’s haul was 35 quarts of tomatoes and about 55 jars of raspberry jam.  It’s not bad with many hands.  One of Emma’s favorite tasks is blanching and cutting up tomatoes.  Even after all this, we still snarfed down sliced tomatoes at dinner – it’s hard to get sick of something so good!

one year ago…

July 9, 2007 – Fishing at Sunset

Linda and I snuck off tonight to go canoeing and fishing.

Here she is on Lake One and I only wish her smile was because of the great mess of fish she was pulling in.  But being on the lake and having a moment when bugs aren’t around is reason enough to smile.  We paddled to the rapids that spill into Lake One and I was quite surprised not to catch any at the head, tail, back eddy or anywhere near the rapids.

The route back to the cabin is directly into the sunset and around the bend.
one year ago…

June 29, 2007 – Welcome Facets Readers!

Today Linda and the girls were featured in a monthly magazine published by the Ames Tribune – the July version of Facets.  As soon as I can get a link up, I will.  This issue focused on “green women” in central Iowa.


Linda contributed “little green gems” numbers 51-63 in the issue.  The only correction we would make to the article is the photo captions switched Claire and Emma!  Thanks to Sue Ellen for making the drive out and meeting with the girls of high hopes.

In other news today, A little birdie told Linda that a local foundation contributed $75,000 to the Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture program that Linda founded at Marshalltown Community College. Â More good news may be on the way soon as the farm bill and other federal appropriations are announced.  She has worked extremely hard to get this program off the ground and do her part to support sustainable agriculture in this part of the earth. More on that in upcoming weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

June 12, 2007 – Workin’ on the Farm

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

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 26, 2007 – Half-Rainy Day

This morning some more welcome rain came. OK, so not everyone welcomed it – a writer/photographer from a monthly magazine in Ames came out to interview and photograph Linda for an upcoming issue featuring “Green Women.” It wasn’t nice for outdoor photos to dodge the raindrops.

I’m still plugging away up the in the attic – by Wednesday the last of the wiring should be in and then the remaining 20% or so of insulating can be completed.

One of those projects we just haven’t had the activation energy to resume is completing the upstairs bathroom. All that remains is tiling around the tub, making an access panel to the plumbing behind the tub and some trim work. The bathroom was fully functional, so the rest of the tiling didn’t bubble up until today. We at least made a start, finished tiling the back and side walls. We went with the classic black and white tiles to complement the smaller black and white hexagonal floor tiles.

one year ago…

May 21, 2007 – Walkin’ the Dogs Down a Country Road

A late spring evening, a determined breeze, two willing dogs, and miles of empty roads make for a good walk.

Linda is very good about hopping on the exercise bike or going for a walk nearly every day. She puts me to shame when it comes to regular exercise. Next winter, I’ve vowed to join her on the bike when the activity gets lower on the farm.

one year ago…

May 5, 2007 – These Boots are Made for the Hen House

This afternoon’s main job was cleaning out a winter of “processed” chicken food and bedding from the chicken coop.  Linda decided to splurge and get a new pair of boots.  I can only imagine the tight advertising copywriting that led to the impulsive purchase of these beauties.

These boots boast the color of black patent leather made of a 100% neoprene high-top that sit atop a 3/4 inch heel. The high-cut vamp features a rolled edge design (to allow your foot to slide easily into the boot without snagging your hose (water) on slippery mud. The suede-like leather heel lining cradles your heel while preventing slippage on wet manure. If you prefer “a little more boot” to cover the sides of your feet when the going gets deep, this is your best bet. 

Claire had to be at school for a band thing at 5:45 am and Emma had to be at her school at 6:45 am. So we had a full day of work today. The hen house is all clean, bedding hauled away and doused with water to start the composting. I was able to get some temporary fencing up in the back pasture to let the goats roam wide, and finished applying the last of the wood chips on the property and only have about 20 pine trees left.  Linda got the brooding room all ready for the 125 chickens that will arrive on Tuesday. 

one year ago…

April 28, 2007 – Starting to Plant 150 Trees

Over Saturday and Sunday, we managed to get 150 white pines in the ground.  All the kids were out of the house on Saturday night, so after a leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning, we got 55 in before heading off to church!

Here’s Linda near the end of the row along the east pasture.  Notice the two boards used to measure the distance between trees and the distance from the fenceline.

Stage two is watering the trees – the mobile water hauler (stock tank and garden tractor) work better than the big tractor when it is this muddy and wet.

one year ago…

March 25, 2007 – Ice Storm Cleanup

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

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

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

one year ago…

March 12, 2007 – The Batholith

Today we visited the Enchanted Rock park, home to the 2nd largest batholith in the US. For the geologically challenged, a batholith is a solid mass of granite-like rock that cools miles under ground.  Half-dome in Yosemite is another batholith.  On the way to the batholith, we needed to cross a creek that usually has stepping stones across.  Because of the high water, we needed to wade across.  Only a few hours earlier, the water had been about 4 feet higher in this creek.

We pittied the jr. high group that had been camping in the overnight deluge, trudging back to the park, wet bags and packs in tow.

Some of the cactus were in bloom as well.

Linda standing near the top of the batholith.

Here’s a great view of the exfoliation (weathering) of the granite eroding like giant puzzle pieces. These pieces are taller than I am.

one year ago…

March 3, 2007 – Still Waiting

The high winds continue, rather unexpectedly today, although the sun is out. Yesterday, two out of four vehicles made it by our place. Making it through was a power company truck with a trailer of new power poles, and a 4-wheel drive pickup truck with chains, that, as it crashed through the drift, became airborne and made it through. Just like one of those “tough truck” commercials.

Of course, the squad car and this minivan didn’t have as good a time.

Good neighbor Don came over with his tractor to clear the road and pull him out.
The drift in the driveway continues to grow.

The plow went by this morning and made a path.

It only took a little bit of digging to get the mailbox open.

one year ago…

December 8, 2006 – Photo Friday “Fresh”

This week’s Photo Friday Contest theme is “Fresh.” Here’s a shot from the high hopes archives of milk about as fresh as you can get it!

This is one of our milk goats, Paulina.

We all know there’s more than one meaning to “fresh” so keeping that in mind, and in keeping with the goat theme, here’s another photo.

Back up to about 6 months before the milking picture for Mr. Billy getting “fresh” with his lady!

one year ago…

October 15, 2006 – Soap

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

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

one year ago…

September 4, 2006 – Gift of Heirloom Apples

Today Helen Gunderson stopped by the farm and dropped off two Wealthy apple trees she grafted from an 80 year old tree on her childhood farm. I’ll have to ask her where the tree was in this arial photo shown in the previous link.

We were able to pick two of the trees to plant at High Hopes. To facilitate this project, Helen learned how to graft and brought these trees from grafted twigs to these nice potted trees over the summer. She is spreading the apples around the state, a modern-day Johnny Appleseed (except the true story of Johnny Appleseed involves lots of hard cider and profit, but that’s another story for a diffent 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.

August 15, 2006 – State Fair Grooming

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

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

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

It’s a small fox snake.

August 6, 2006 – CSI: Melbourne

OK Sherlocks, here’s today’s “CSI: Melbourne” episode. Our investigators run across some deep red internal organs and what looks like the leftovers from a deep fat fryer. What happened here? Back at the lab the organs are identified as beef kidneys and the leftovers are beef fat that has been heated to a high temperature, but the kidneys have not been heated. What’s going on?

Here is stage one – Linda and someone from Morning Sun farm are cutting the fat from around beef kidneys (the best kind of fat for this activity).

Here’s the pot of chopped fat in the stock pot.

Here’s the stock pot that used to be full with fat, with just the crispies left after cooking.

Finally, here’s the vat of fat cooling to 100 degrees before an equal amount of water is added.

Of course, by now, all of you know that this is the first stage to rendering beef fat, which is a precursor to making soap.

July 26, 2006 – A Time for Dreaming

Last week Linda went to Athens, Ohio to tour ACEnet, one of the nation’s most successful incubator kitchens. An incubator kitchen is a place where a person or aspiring company can process food for retail sale, or ramp up a recipe in a batch food environment before building or taking it to a food manufacturer. So, you may be a sweet corn farmer who sells frozen cobettes (corn on the cob broken in half) to a rib restaurant – you could rent the kitchen for a week to legally process all your corn. You may have a great family dressing or salsa recipe you’d like to try to sell – this is the place to produce test batches and do some test marketing.

This is a picture of Bill, the food scientist/chef at ACEnet. He helps people with ideas batch up their recipes, among other things.

An incubator kitchen is one part of the dream for the entrepreneurial farm Linda is planning at the community college. They hope to use the 140 acres adjacent to the farm to rent out small plots – 1/2 to many acres for someone wanting to start an agricultural enterprise. Along with the classes, incubator kitchen, and farm – it could be a great way to recapture lost food dollars, begin a local food economy and provide meaningful employment. Linda has spent her “work” summer researching other entrepreneurial farms in planning the use of the land at MCC.

It is frustrating that this type of community-based agricultural venture does not gain traction. Especially in light of the farm subsidies paid to commodity farmers to produce crops that result in overproduction. The Environmental Working Group has published all the taxpayer money that goes to commodity subsidies. In Marshall County Iowa alone, the data is from 1995-2004 and the largest farmer received $1,302,739 in taxpayer money (or national debt as the case may be). It’s not an isolated case. There were 44 farmers who recieved over $750,000 and 164 farmers who received $250,000 or more. Just the payments from one of those farmers would go a long way to helping many more entrepreneurial farmers create community wealth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 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 11, 2006 – Away from the Lake

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

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

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

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

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

July 7, 2006 – Little bit of Oat Hay

Today, the oat buffers along our farm were baled. Since all my wagons were occupied and there were only 13 or so bales, we just used the truck to pick them up.
There was a short waterway that we couldn’t get to using the tractor and baler, so we snuck the truck in and picked up the loose straw hay (still has the oats attached)

We’re looking forward to using this as bedding in the chicken coop in the winter as it will give the hens something good to scratch in the winter.
It was good work (it didn’t take long) and there’s something about making hay that is rewarding, no matter how little.

June 19, 2006 – Summer Fencing

Today was a day for some fencing configuration. First we put up the portable electric netting fencing.

Martin is hauling over the “power posts” for the netting. You can see it is all laid out, the path is mowed, and today’s good fortune was that the 164 foot length was about perfect from the side of the chicken coop to the fence next to the pine trees. It was also close enough to the electric fence in the main pasture to hook onto that instead of putting the solar charger out.

Here’s the fence ready for action – works on chickens and goats alike. Love this stuff.

We also took an odd portion of the main pasture and fenced it in with cattle panels to keep the cows out. Thought it was time to put the goats on a different pasture for a while, plus there are some mulberries they’ll mow down first.

What more could a guy want than a tractor to do the heavy lifting and a wife to do the pounding! It was nice to have the tractor to save the back by pulling out and putting in posts.

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!

May 28, 2006 – Cleanup Begins

We spent a bit of time cleaning up this afternoon. We put the tractor to good use. The limb that fell on the machine shed was to big for me to budge, so… loader tractor to the rescue.

A chain, a tractor, no problem. We loaded a hay wagon with branches from the yard. Here is a photo Martin took of Linda unloading the wagon.

Stay tuned for pictures some day soon that Martin took today.
Here is the little guy on the biggest limb that we loaded on the burn pile.

It is probably not noteworthy to all you long-time farmers out there, but having the ability to lift up and move a log like this is just a treat and saves the back!

April 12, 2006 – Flamer!

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

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

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

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

April 1, 2006 – Soap Poured

Our first batch of elemental soap, made from scratch, is sitting in the mold, waiting to be cut. It was a long way from raw beef fat to soap!

Here Linda is cutting up raw beef fat, straight from the locker – look how thick that fat is from that cow! This fat was cut up, melted, water added and allowed to harden, water poured out and remaining fat remelted and water added again, cooled and water removed.

Here are all the ingredients lined up – lard, rendered beef fat, sodium hydroxide, and rainwater. It’s still bizarre that someone could put melted animal fat and a caustic material together to make soap. What’s more, greasy animal fat and caustic chemicals mixed together can be used to clean!

Alchemist Linda stirring the brew.

Still more stirring.

Finally, pouring the soap into the mold. It needs to cure for a day before removing from the mold, and 4-6 weeks before use.

March 15, 2006 – Pecos Ruins and Casita

I thought I’d put up a couple pictures of the small house or casita that we rented in Santa Fe, just south of the Capital.

It’s a very “cozy” neighborhood – there’s a 5 way intersection about a block before the casita. The inside had a big room, kitchen, and bathroom.

On the way home we stopped at Pecos Ruins, which was a very large settlement of upwards of 2,000 people in Pueblo days.

The settlement had a stone wall around it – it was a boundary as many visiting tribes would trade and camp in the meadow below and were not permitted to cross the wall after dark.

Like other ruins, this one had a number of kivas, or underground ceremonial spaces.

This photo shows a juxtaposition between the traditional and colonial. There is a kiva in the foreground and the ruins of a large Spanish mission church. The first missionaries built a church much larger than this one, converted the Indians and forbade their customary practice. A while later, there was a revolt and the church was destroyed and the colonizers kicked out. About 60 years later, the missionaries came back, built a smaller church and looked the other way at the traditional worship.

March 14, 2006 – Bandalier National Monument

Today was a most excellent day under sunny skies. We drove to Bandelier National Monument, but on the way stopped at the White Rock overlook, which is between Santa Fe and Los Alamos and overlooks the Rio Grande.

The park was lovely in the early morning – here’s Linda with a cup!

The building behind Linda and the courtyard you can’t see is one of the largest CCC building projects ever completed. Bandelier is home to many ruins dating back thousands of years.

This is a picture of the Tyuoni Pueblo which is very close, as are the other ruins in Bandelier to a small stream. You can still see the outlines of the rooms, which at one time had a roof and ladders going in the ceiling as an entrance.

These ruins are along the cliff – some rooms are carved out of the cliff and others were built up with adobe blocks. This is called the Long House as you can see the ruins stretch along the cliff to the distance.

I forgot my hat, so had to get a new one.

Linda is about to embark on the 140 foot ladder climb to a cliff dwelling. Our previous history at the Grand Canyon portend that this is an activity not to be taken lightly!

Just like a mountain goat, we scrambled up to the top.

The last half of the day was a wonderful hike down geologic time and through botanical biomes. The hike was 2 1/2 miles down the canyon to the Rio Grande. The hike started in Ponderosa Pine forest and went down through sage, oaks, and finally to a flood plain. The geology was equally spectacular!

January 7, 2006 – April Day in January

Today it was so warm, the kids were running around in short sleeves outside for a bit. Barn cleanup called us today in the warm weather. We’ve had a few more goats than usual with Billy “the stud” at High Hopes. We didn’t realize it was quite so deep.
The doors are narrow, and there is no way to get equipment, other than the “Armstrong pitchfork” in to help cleanup. The cleanup is simple, scrape the stuff out, load it into a two wheel cart,
cleanbarn and haul it away.

It is a rather dreadful job when it lasts more than a couple of hours or so, and this job helped me make friends with it by thinking of it in a new way. Rather than the drudgery of sraping and cleaning it out, like many things at our farm, we like things to have multiple uses.

The good part of barn cleanup is fertilizing the fruit trees and gardens. I used to have to truck the stuff in, now it was a direct trip from the barn to the soil in one trip – mush more efficient than driving and reloading the stuff and then distributing. So, most all of the garden space, fruit trees, and raspberries have been fertilized, and there is some to spare in the compost pile.

December 23, 2005 – Dr Barnes, Goat Medicine Woman

We’ve had an outbreak of Pink Eye amongst the goats, both those visiting and resident. The treatment is similar to humans, ointment in the eye. You can imagine the fun it is to administer ointment to a goat’s eye twice a day. We had a few who had an especially bad case and needed shots of anti-biotic to help them recover. Here is Dr. Barnes, Goat Medicine woman, before administering the remedy.
goat shots

November 21, 2005 – Glads

Today we (Linda) started digging the gladiola bulbs out of the garden.

When we planted them this spring, they were less than half the size they are now.

It’s nice to see so much growth – and we can use them again next spring and will probably get bigger glads. There’s still more to get and freezing ground is not far away.

November 13, 2005 – Sunday Dinner

We had a splendid dinner tonight.

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

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

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

October 12, 2005 – Aftermath

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

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

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

September 11, 2005 – Day of Rest

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

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 7, 2005 – High Hopes Salon

Today was the day for goat pedicures at High Hopes. Nothing but luxury here! We are rookies at the goat hoof trimming experience, but here’s how it goes.
goat hoof trim

Paullina is led into the barn to the goat stanchion for trimming.

goat hoof trim

Here’s a before picture of a very overgrown goat hoof.

goat hoof trim

Linda hard at work trimming the hoof. It doesn’t hurt the goat, but the material is very hard and needs special goat shears.

goat hoof trim

Here’s a newly trimmed hoof.

goat hoof trim

A picture of all 4 hooves neatly trimmed!

Besides this, we also got the chicken house shoveled out and lots of mowing and trimming around this year’s tree planting.

July 30, 2005 – More Corn

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

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

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

July 25, 2005 – Garlic Bread!

Today was the last hot day for a while – so it was a good day for a dentist visit and to clean the house to get ready for an appraisal for a refinance. It’s nice to have a clean house. In the evening we cut some of the black-bearded wheat we planted for ornamental value. Martin, however, is convinced we are going to make wheat flour with the wheat, so here’s a picture of “garlic bread” for Martin.

July 19, 2005 – Blueberries

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

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

July 17, 2005 – In the Canoe

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

July 14, 2005 – “Sweet Winter Chickens”

Today Claire and I were up at 4 am and off to the locker. She has written about it, but I haven’t seen it yet. We got the assembly line going today cutting up chicken – breasts in bags, soup parts in bags, etc. We left a few whole, but got quite a few cut up. The new portable outdoor counter I made out of the old kitchen countertop and some old refrigerator grates worked very well – the birds could drain on the grates, and be cut up on the counter, built for tall people like ourselves. Then the meat was into the vacuum seal-a-meal.
Marty helped carry bags into the freezer telling me. “Dad, these chickens are for winter, right?” I replied, “They sure are.” Martin’s response was “These will be sweet chickens in the winter.”

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.

June 24, 2005 – “Sweet 16”

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

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

16th anniversary

June 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 5, 2005 – Memorial Service

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

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

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

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

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

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


May 16, 2005 – The Leaning Goat of Melbourne

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

May 14, 2005 – Kitchen Floor

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

April 23, 2005 – An Entire Saturday!

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

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

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

April 13, 2005 – Those Gone Before Us

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

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

April 3, 2005 – Light!

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

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

March 27, 2005 – A Good Day’s Work

It was a warm calm day and a laundry list of things were completed. We moved 62 of the cattle panel fencing and some of the poles to the pasture. We had them on a small hay wagon, but it was dicey hauling it as the panels were too long and tractor couldn’t hitch to the wagon, so we had to drag it with a chain. But we got to a place where the wheels got twisted hard to the left on a hill and we had to stop since the tie rod is weak from a previous bent out of shape experience hauling hay on the road, flat tire and a longer story than I care to repeat, but we found that we could slide 10 or so off and just drag them with the tractor and chain.

dragging cattle panels

After spreading those around the pasture, we loaded up the posts we had and as I drove the tractor slowly, Linda threw one off the wagon every eight feet or so.

unloading posts

I was able to pound in the posts and put the fence up on the northern border, about 300 feet of fencing altogether.

The girls helped as well today, picking up sticks from the trees that were cut down last year, cleaning the aspargus patch, and general hauling. Linda got one row each of spinach, lettuce, and radishes planted in the garden and the statice (flowers) planted in the house. I had to bring Claire to Ames, so while there, took the truck and loaded up a pick-up load of free mulch.

It’s officially spring according to my definition – spring comes the day I see the first earthworm in the soil. That means the ground is unfrozen and life once again appears in the earth.

March 13, 2005 – Sunday, Sunday

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

Linda Pruning

March 8, 2005 – Rythym of Nature Misses a Beat

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

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

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

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

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