Family – Mark

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.

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!

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 12, 2014 – A Brief Respite on the Oregon Coast

Before I spent most of the week in Portland, I was able to catch up with some long-lost neighbors living in Portland. I was able to catch up with their family and they treated me to a trip to the coast.

By the time we reached this part of the coast, the fog and rain broke.

Earlier, I felt like I was trapped in an asian style painting.

This is a view from Ecola Point, a state park.

There were high surf warnings out for this day, with 20 foot waves crashing in.

Yep, I was really there.

Had a chance to walk in the forest and see moss growing in tree branches.

Part of the trail along the coast as the park.

August 24, 2014 – Reykjavik and Good Bye to Claire

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

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

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

Downtown pedestrian street in Reykjavik.

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

A view out to the harbor from inside Harpa.

Imagining my life with a fixer-upper fishing boat.

Claire a the harbor just outside our flat.

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

August 1, 2014 – Niagara!

Since we were only 90 miles from Niagara Falls, we decided we could get there on a weekday at the time it opens to beat the crowds.

Falling water always seems to put a smile on your face.

It was refreshing to see vast quantities of clear water thundering over the falls.

Of course we took at the boat tour and this was about as close as you could get a picture before the mist and water covered the camera lens. It was rather ethereal to be in the middle of this mist with falls thundering down around you in a half circle.

And we had to take the boardwalk down to the bottom of the falls.

Enroute down to the base of the falls.

Hardly ever a picture of Dad, so here ya go.

Standing in the “Cave of the Winds” at the base of the falls – feeling and looking for all practical purposes the middle of a hurricane.

More reveling in the tumbling water.

A look down from a bit up. Yeah, it’s touristy. But it’s also the highlight of the trip for a 13 year old boy!

July 31, 2014 – Roger Tory Peterson Institute

This was a day to explore out of Chautaqua a bit.

One stop was Allegany State Park, New York’s biggest state park.

Spent some time hiking through the rolling hills and fungi season was in full swing in the high-canopied forest. This critter, known as ghost plant, Indian pipe, or corpse plant, is actually a herbaceous plant and not a fungus. The park was nice, but seemed to be devoid of many vistas. I’m used to climbing/hiking up and getting rewarded with a vista, but this forest was so dense that the routes I chose did not afford any vistas. Nevertheless it was nice to get out for a long walk.

Another stop was the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. Many of you, like me have the Peterson’s Field Guide to the birds. This place had many of his original drawings and memorabilia, including a half-finished plate from an upcoming publication. Even at a young age, he was attracted to nature. At age eight, he asked for and got a special permit from the chief of police to be out after curfew to collect moths! A teacher early on recognized his artistic and cataloguing talents and encouraged him.

A couple of guys!

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.

July 12, 2014 – Getaway Day 2

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

The dining room was ok.

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

We headed down the hill to explore the lakeshore.

I’ve got the whole lighthouse in my hand…

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

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

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 31, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 2

With the threat of rain for the day, we made a quick trip to Gooseberry Falls early in the morning and found the wildly popular park, usually covered with people like ants, to be nearly empty.

The middle falls.

And one part of the lower falls, with an example of one of the most iconic and under-appreciated trees, the Cedar, its gnarly roots, holding of for dear life on the rock.

The drizzle and fog soon set in as we made the annual pilgrimage to Palisade Head.

Hiking to the north of the cliffs reveals a tundra-like landscape of rock, mosses and lichens, and small trees.

Did I say it was wet?

It was wet down at the beach as well, but as a bonus, made the rocks look their best.

We finally relented and went to Duluth in the evening and sampled some of the fare at Fitger’s Brewery – both dinner and beverage locally sourced. I was surprised to learn they had their own herd of Scottish Highland cattle for meat for the restaurant – lots of spent grain to feed hearty northern cattle.

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!

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 28, 2013 – Historic Park Inn/Frank Lloyd Wright

Merry Christmas to us! Linda and I decided in lieu of Christmas presents, we’d do something together.

The lobby of the Historic Park Inn, the only remaining hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Now part of the complex is the Wright-designed City National Bank, attached to the hotel.

Some detail of the second story windows.

Typical hallway carpeting.

Our room, complete with square pillow, for what, I’m not sure!

Also connected to the hotel is the 1910 Grille, where I was bold enough to walk from my room to the restaurant in my slippers!

Linda peering out the windows in the Ladies Parlor. The hotel was rehabilitated only a couple of years ago. It would be a nice place to go for small conferences or get-aways when you wanted to focus on the people you were with in a tasteful atmosphere. Did I mention is was away from it all? No, it’s not in Oak Park, Illinois, but in Mason City Iowa. I hope all the hard work the local citizens did to renovate and re-open the hotel gets rewarded and that the hotel has a long future.

December 24, 2013 – Together on Christmas Eve

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

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

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

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

July 14, 2013 – Checking up on the Girls

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

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

Self-portrait family shot.

Le Voyageur room at Wolf Ridge.

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

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

Linda and the “morning pages.”

One of the magical pools below the Inn.

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

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 😉


June 3, 2013 – Temperance River

Our second night was at Temperance River State Park.  The river is so named because, unlike most other tributaries to Lake Superior, this river does not have the characteristic rock or sand “bar” at the mouth of the river, thus it’s name!

Temperance River Campground, eureka apex 2-person tent

We snagged a good campsite, with nothing but trees and a short hill between us and Lake Superior.  I do not like the Eureka Apex tent – as you can see the rain fly makes you guess from which direction the the driving rain might arrive as the fly only covers 60% of the tent area.

hidden falls on temperanceriver

On up the river.  At one point, the entire river seems to emerge from a dark cave.

Up above, the entire flow of the river is constricted to this narrow passageway, very deep and bubbly.

A bit further upstream, the gorge widens a bit, and provides a permanent rainbow (at least on sunny days).

Temperance River

Upstream even further from the narrow gorge.

Finally around the bend, the river is at its “normal” width.


Spring catkins!

lake superior, bou at lake superior at dusk

Finally after dinner, we watched the evening ebb along the shore of Lake Superior.

May 25, 2013 – High School is Over!

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

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

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

Emma being a boss at the podium.

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

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

April 3, 2013 – Willow Revenge!

Many of you may remember that last year when I was cutting down the willows, the chain saw took a slice out of my leg (allowing me to recover and watch the first weekend of the NCAA BB games without guilt).

No such luck this year.  After donning the chaps and steel-toes, I was able to cut down all the willows.  This is a shot after the fact as we are collecting them all for the burn pile. I’m keeping them coppiced for ornamental and forage purposes.

February 9, 2013 – Time to Get Out

On a day that felt more like mid-March than mid-February, Martin and I headed out to Ledges State Park a bit southwest of Ames.

At the end of the day, we headed to an overlook over the Des Moines River and the cloudiness broke for a time, giving us an awesome view of the river valley.  It’s still rather shocking to see the river this low.

We spent most of the day exploring up a small creek that enters into the river.  Knowing that it is only a few inches deep made for great fun trying to stomp through the ice and listening to the glistening sounds of the ice as it cracked and splintered below our feet.

In some spots, a clear layer of ice situated on top of the whiter fractured ice gave an optical illusion of floating on air with out boots.

The ice was particularly slippery today and was good for running and sliding, especially downhill where a bit of slope gave us even more speed.

On this 35 degree day we were surprised to see many of these bugs scooting around on the surface of the ice.  Any ideas what they are or what they are doing on the ice in winter?

Finally, the obligatory self-portrait.   Thanks to Martin for letting Dad have an excuse to go out and play in the woods for an afternoon!

January 18, 2013 – End of an Era

It saddens me when expensive, well-built mechanical devices meet their end while they are still in good operating condition.  Now they are practically worthless.  I’ve held onto these for a decade or two, thinking the digital thing might be a fad, but in the latest, more determined closet cleanup, it was time to let them go to an artist who can repurpose the parts. I did keep the lenses, which can be used on new SLRs with an adapter.  Back in the early 80’s I saved up money, including one whole season of selling Christmas trees to buy a Canon- AE-1 SLR camera and lenses.  The camera was my companion on trips out west – to the Canadian and American Rockies, on adventures on the North Shore of Minnesota.

One of the most memorable was a trip to the top of Mount Timpanogos in Utah.  Timp is the 2nd highest peak in the Wasatch range, which is the range running north and south of Salt Lake City/Park City and contains Alta and Snowbird ski areas.  At any rate, I was young and adventurous and found myself on near the top of the mountain without any mountaineering gear – not even a shovel or hammer for self arrest.  The hike up was difficult, with parts in steep snow.

Some more experienced hikers with ropes, crampons and the like were in disbelief to meet us near the top.  In no uncertain words, they explained  our stupidity to us and explained we’d have a hard time going back the way we came without slipping and falling as going down a corny snow slope is harder than going up.  They said the best worst option for us was to slide down the Timp glacier instead of risking the ridge trail.  I don’t have any digital pictures from the day, but I found some at this website that shows the trail in the heat of summer.  Imagine the trail in those pictures mostly covered in snow at the higher elevations.

So, I bundled my day pack and camera in my lap and slid over the edge down the glacier.  At one point, my camera (in a case) and day pack separated from my body and while I was eventually able to stop, the pack and camera continued to gain speed down the glacier, bouncing higher and higher.  On the lower reaches of the snowfield, openings appeared in the snow where a creek ran down the middle of the valley.  My memory is that these holes were about 5 feet across and went down 10-15 feet to the roaring creek underneath. My camera bounced over at least two of these before stopping.  Miraculously, the camera still worked after the journey.

I just read the following on the Wikipedia entry on Timp that makes me even more frightened, 30 years after the fact:

“undercutting of deeply drifted snow by streams creates a hazard that has proven fatal on more than one occasion. Climbers can fall through the undermined snow fifty feet or more into the icy stream underneath.”

“The Timp Glacier is one of the major sources of injury or death to hikers on Timp, particularly when some attempt to “glissade” (or slide rapidly) down the snowfield’s surface with the assistance of a shovel or other device to save time descending. There have been many cases of injuries from buried rocks under the snow as well. There have been numerous life flight rescues on the mountain, often caused by this activity.”



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.

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 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 25, 2012 – Gallons of Water

With the continued onset of hot, dry weather, and much more ahead, it was time to augment soil moisture.

We filled a stock tank and dragged it around to give some plants a drink. We drained about 750 gallons from our wqter collecting tank.

The blackberries are vigourous this year, so they received some, in addition to the tomatoes and peppers.

June 5, 2012 – Got Fish?

Today we settled in at friend’s cabin near Duluth.  Spent some quality time on the dock.

In between kayaking and floating around on the lake, Martin still found time to join us on the dock for some fishing.  He also managed to catch the biggest fish of the day.

Her looks a bit apprehensive about holding the prehistoric-looking pike.

A few ours on the boat yielded few fish, but fishing from the dock provided some pretty good action!

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

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

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

And one of Martin as well.

The crew the last night before heading into the wilderness.

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

March 17, 2012 – Man v. Chainsaw

With the advent of the warm weather, I’m behind on the pruning.  Today, I thought I might catch up by speed-cutting down the willows by using the chain saw instead of the hand pruners.  Perhaps the execution was faulty.  While I failed to separate my leg from my body, I did manage to turn it into an ER room visit for 6 big stitches right near the inside of a knee.  Claire was home, and while I felt I could drive, I wasn’t sure I could drive home, so off she came with me.  The two hours there went quite quickly as the basketball tourney was on the waiting room TV and the suturing room TV, which was decorated in a Nemo theme.

The doc said it was easy as chainsaw stitch-ups go as the chain didn’t “bounce” two or three times making a road rash like some chain saw incidents.




February 14, 2012 – Norse Unite!

On a college visit with Emma to Luther College, I picked up a knitting pattern for a Norse hat.

norse hat

Here’s father and son proudly wearing the hat on a rare snowy day (it melted with 24 hours).  Linda was kind enough to knit them for us.  We do attract attention wherever we walk wearing these beauties!

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.

September 24, 2011 – A Sweet Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2, 2011 – Boys Week Out Begins!

Martin and I journeyed north with another dad and ten-year old for a father-son wilderness excursion! As it is over 500 miles to the final destination, we took it in a couple of days. The first day we drove to Tettegouche State Park in Northern Minnesota.

backroads, northern Minnesota backroads

There are some nice journeys on the narrow, if not beautiful backroads of the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Palisade Head

One of my favorite sightseeing points is Palisade Head, now part of Tettegouche State Park.  It’s a wonderful cliff overlooking Lake Superior.

Here, Martin dares to peer over the edge!

Finally, Dad and Martin on the top.  Shovel Point is in the distance and a destination for later in the trip.

one year ago…”Lemon Tree”

July 12, 2011 – Fishing Waters

One of the things I most look forward to is fishing in beautiful surroundings.

boy with northern pike

Here Martin shows off a baby northern pike he let go.

smallmouth bass

The nicest fish of a pretty lousy fishing week – the biggest of three smallmouth bass caught right together in some swift water – this one was 19 inches and was released.

Me in my natural habitat – on an island in a channel, baiting up.

Lake One Rapids

The rapids entering into Lake One from Lake Two.

Rapids to Confusion Lake

The head of the rapids from Lake One, heading to Confusion Lake.  I could spend a lot of time wandering down this river to the next lake!

one year ago…”The Resort”

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”

March 15, 2011 – Japan Retrospective – Events and People

Today I’ll wrap up the review of my trip to Japan, but not my thoughts for the country.

The trip was sponsored by the Iowa Department of Economic Development.  Here at an official function our group is introduced.

Patty Judge in Japan

The head of the delegation was former Iowa Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge. Here, Patty seems just a little unsure about the different seating arrangement at a restaurant.  The woven mats on the floor are for sitting on, and there is a recessed compartment in the floor for your legs to dangle down.  You can see some of the place settings on the table.

Always toasts to friendship and success before every meal.

In order to do business in Japan, it takes much more cultivation of personal relationships than in the U.S.  Typically, before getting an order in the food business, you’d get introduced on one trip, exchange some *preliminary* thoughts on products and prices.  If all was well after that, you could expect a trip by your Japanese counterpart to the U.S. to meet with you again and tour the farms/facilities the food would be coming from.  Then, there’d be another visit to Japan to make final arrangements.  During this trip I was representing an organic meat company that lasted about five years before high feed prices doomed the products.

Tokyo Street

Navigating Tokyo was unlike most cities I’ve been in.  Addresses are not on a logical grid of any type.  Unlike western address that go from most specific to least specific (address first, state last) Japanese addresses are the opposite.  In a way, that part makes more logical sense.

An address begins the the prefecture (state), city, ward, district, block, building, and street number.  Only the last three are typically numbers.  To make things more confusing, the blocks although numeric, are not in any order, so block 15 may be adjacent to block 76.  Nor are blocks of a standardized size.  Then buildings are also in a block, but not in numerical order, followed by address.  Even though our guide had lived in Tokyo his whole life, he frequently stopped to ask shopkeepers more specific directions as we arrived closer to our destination.

Finally we’ll end with a gentleman from Nippon Organic Agriculture Products.  Fortunately for us, even though it was just after lunch, he was proud to share a bottle of organic sake with us during our meeting.

one year ago…”Checking the Beehive”

March 13, 2011 – Japan Retrospective – Tokyo

Today, the Japanese retrospective continues.  I continue to be deeply saddened by the horrors the people there have experienced.  It is impossible to imagine the collective agony of all the people washed away or crushed.

There’s so little we can do so far away, so I’ll continue my impressions of the beauty and wonder of Japan.

Mount Fuji from Tokyo ANA Hotel

Tokyo is a big town!  About 35 million people call this home and it was named most livable megapolis in the world.  Here’s a view of Mount Fuji in the distance from out my hotel window.

Tokyo Rooftop Garden

There’s more green space than you might imagine – sometimes in unusual places – like this rooftop garden visible from the hotel.

Tokyo Side Stret

And some of the side streets in the city are very beautiful.

Ginza District

This is the Ginza District, known as one of the highest-end shopping districts in the world.

Moat of Imperial Palace

The moat around the Imperial Palace.  It is the home of the Emperor and is generally off-limits to the public. During the height of the Japanese housing bubble in the 1980’s the UK Telegraph reported that the grounds and property were worth more than all the property in California.


This is the entrance to the Senso-ji Shrine.

one year ago…”Tree Pruning”

February 25, 2011 – Belated Valentines Day Dinner

Monday night didn’t seem like such a good night to go out for Valentine’s Day, and tonight was the first night that Emma could watch Martin for us to get out.  Where to go?  How about the “Accordion European Restaurant?”

When I first proposed a visit to this restaurant in Valley Junction in old West Des Moines, Linda asked if I looked up a food review.  My response was “any restaurant whose web site has in broken English “We have live music performance every night” and brags about “extended accordion show” doesn’t need a review of the food!

I’m assuming this is Sergey Lozovich.  In the Des Moines Register, under type of music it is listed as “alternative.”  Sergey was also the cook, and when there was a break, he would come out and play a bit.  He had a this button accordion and a Hoehner with the keys on one side.

It was a nice meal with some European brew and some food you usually don’t get.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #197″

February 12, 2011 – Ready for a Texas Dance Hall!

I dropped a bunch of old suits at Goodwill today.  Before the floods of ’93, I used to have to wear a suit to work, but it’s been 18 years since then, and by golly, many of my suits no longer fit me.  Having finally given up on the fact that I’ll fit into them again, I dropped them off.  While I was there, I browsed for some replacements and found this wonderful western sport coat for $5.99.

Circle S Sport Coat

Emma said that my brother would be drooling over such a sport jacket, and I think she’s right!  This is the real deal, a made in the USA Circle S western sport coat from Dallas, Texas.

Circle S Sports Jacket

I love the western yoke on the front and back of this jacket.  Next time I find myself in a Texas dance hall, I’ll have something to wear!  Now, George in Texas, I know you are a faithful reader and I look forward to your  comment!

one year ago…”Claire Interviews for World Food Prize Internship”

January 5, 2011 – Happy Birthday to Mark!

OK, it’s not a milestone birthday, but it’s getting close!

Linda surprised me with a couple of great items.  First she made the northern Minnesota wedding/funeral dish, gulumpkes (cabbage rolls).  It was her first time, and they were great and it won’t take 20 years to make them again.

Following up the gulumpkes was a difficult task, but then she rolled out another item suitable for the northland waters – a graphite composite canoe paddle.  This paddle is so light, it feels as though you are holding air.  It will be a nice match to the black and wood trim canoe and should last as long as I do!

one year ago…”Winter Color”

December 25, 2010 – Christmas Deck Rescue

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

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

Martin gets the heave out the window.

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

one year ago…”Merry Christmas 2009″

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 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”

July 16, 2010 – BWCA Day 2

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

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

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

boy fishing

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

largemouth bass

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

teenagers paddling

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

portage puddle

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

wet portage

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

one year ago…”International Wolf Center”

July 6, 2010 – Hauling Garlic

Today’s news flash is that all the garlic is curing up in the barn. I didn’t get photos of the entire process, just the getting it up in the hayloft portion.  With a rare break in the weather, it was time to get it out before the next rains waterlogged the soil even more.


Looks good!

Here’s a bit less than 1/3 of the crop freshly pulled out of the ground.

One of the loads was picked right in the tractor loader and the bucket lifted up to the 2nd story loft door of the barn.

Unloading the loader bucket and ready to haul to the drying screens.

Martin, the ever-cheerful worker!

Here he is again, about to lay down a big load on the drying racks.  It’s a good feeling and even better smell to get all the garlic up in the loft, harvested, and ready to cure.

one year ago…”First Pear”

June 22, 2010 – Father’s Day

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

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

one year ago…”Septic Day 1″

June 14, 2010 – Putting Martin to Work

Martin put in about three hours working pretty consistently tearing shingles off the roof.  It was about as long and hard as he’s worked on a project with me.

He was a bit fascinated with the pattern and arrangement of the shingles. Unfortunately, there are two layers – I had hoped for just one.

It’s been hard to get much done lately.  It’s been an exceptionally rainy June to date – it’s rained 12 of the 14 days this month – and many of those heavy thunderstorms. The garden is really starting to get out of hand with weeds.

one year ago…”EZ Barn Door”

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”

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”

February 22, 2010 – Snowbanks Along Hwy 20

This weekend Linda had a speaking gig in Storm Lake, IA. We’ve had a lot of snow, but up in northwest Iowa, the snow is even more extreme.

snowbanks on highway 20

Large stretches of Highway 20 west of Fort Dodge have long stretches with snow this tall along the north shoulder of the highway. With our current forecast of temperatures far below normal, the longer the snowpack stays in place and doesn’t incrementally melt, the more the chances of a quick meltoff and subsequent flooding are a threat. The normal highs for late February are in the mid 30’s and we haven’t seen that for a while, nor is it in the forecast for the next week or so – the danger is we’ll go from 10-15 degrees below normal to 10-15 above normal with rain and have a big, quick meltoff.

one year ago…”Claire to Girls State”

November 22, 2009 – Beer and Soap Day

This afternoon we went over to Morning Sun Farm to make soap and beer. It was set up as a nice learning experience for me, as I saw two important steps in beer brewing – the initial ingredient mixing and cooking, and the bottling of a batch previously prepared up to the bottling stage.

The final product – waiting in the bottles.

Some of the supplies all ready to go..

One of the last steps – siphoning into clean bottles. I did not attempt to get a step-by-step accounting of the process, but just walk through it.

At the same time as the beer brewing was happening, a couple of batches of home-made soap were mixed and poured – here’s the results of one batch cut and curing. These bars will sit for at least a couple of months before use.

one year ago…”Stringtown Grocery Visit”

August 18, 2009 – New Part-Time Gig

I’m about to embark on a temporary, very part-time gig with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. The center get a variety of calls that they don’t have staff time to respond to in an adequate manner. One typical call might be from an absentee landlord – some one who has recently inherited land or has a change of heart on how to manage the land and want to know what they can do to be better stewards of the land. They might want better conservation practices, alternative or organic crop options. Or a call may come in from an existing landowner who want to explore an alternative crop. My role will be to mull over some options for the landowner and point them to resources that can help them meet their goals. I look forward to working on this project and helping more landowners have the land they own reflect their values.

one year ago…”First Day of School for Martin and Emma”

July 5, 2009 – Old Machine Shed Progress

The renovation of the old machine shed is nearing completion. I reroofed the good part of the building a few years back, tore down part of the building that was no good early this year and the last few days put on a new sidewall and remaining few roof pieces.

The side after framing up.

Up on the roof putting one of the last pieces of roofing up.

The view from inside – I love the clear panels that bring natural light into the shed without having to turn a light on.

The building after new siding is applied. It’s not perfect, but it’s done! I’m on the Joel Salatin school of farming equipment – good enough and done is better than perfect and undone. The roof rolls like the ocean, but the building will now stay dry in the rain.

one year ago…”Fruit in Season”

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 12, 2009 – Shed “Implosion” Part 1.

I’m usually the last guy to tear down old buildings – I’ve received some serious guff for saving some pretty decrepit buildings, but this one was too far gone.  I’m saving the “good half” which has white roofing and tearing down the rest and can use the cement foundation for some other purpose, like a lean-to or the like.

Here’s what the shed looked like after I ripped of all the board and batten siding from the part I planned on imploding first.  I saved the boards, which would look nice in someone’s rec room.

The first pull was to remove the center post, via a tractor and long chain.

Martin was instructed to try to get a photo while the building was collapsing – here’s what he got as I was pulling out the corner post.

In a quirk of good luck, the collapse went just as planned – no more, no less.

The collapsed roof.  Now the fun part starts.  I won’t burn the asphalt shingles, so will need to tear those off and send them to the landfill before deciding whether to disassemble or just burn the remaining wood.

one year ago…”Local Food Challenge”

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″

February 8, 2008 – Bonus Poo!

What better to do on a 50 degree day than shovel out the barn.  Today’s photos are all courtesy of Martin!

The barn floor was getting kind of ripe.  Usually, it means adding another layer, but the warm day and melting snow afforded another option – removal!

Since some of the snow was gone, but still not the path to the main compost pile, I made a new pile close to the barn, as to not rip up too much soft ground.

Martin captured many salient features in this shot, the tractor operator, the wind turbine, and on the left-hand side, the newly piled “pile.”  All in all, doing it today makes the spring cleanout that much easier.

one year ago…”Smartest Cities in America”

December 9, 2008 – Oh Little Star

Once again, it’s time to get the holiday lights up.  Although I’m not necessarily out for the best display in the neighborhood, I do like to add a few touches to the farmstead.

This is as Clark Griswoldesque (Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation) as I get.  Using the tractor loader, and a couple of ladders, I can reach fairly high up on the barn. Â  Once again, the star is put into place.

one year ago…”Gift Box Assembly”.

October 4, 2008 – Hops Harvest

I’m guessing its time for the hops harvest.  I’m a newbie at this, so if anybody out there knows the best time to harvest hops in this part of the country, give me a shout out.

They’ve grown very well on a 16 foot cattle panel propped up against the shed. I wasn’t sure how they’d do with the heat from the western sun bouncing off the wall, but they do fine.

These are Cascade Hops which I’m told are good finishing hops.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #90″.

August 13, 2008 – What to do with Peaches?

Ok, we’re almost ready to say uncle with the peaches, but there still might be half the peaches left on the trees.

Here are the trays right out of the dehydrator.

The contents of each tray fit nicely into one bag in what I call the “suck and seal” machine.  It’s always a bummer to see how small the fruit gets after drying.

Canned peaches and blackberry jam on an intermediate canning day.  The most we’ve done this year is 28 quarts of peaches in one afternoon.  We’re packing them in quarts, pints, and jelly jars for single-serving jars for lunch. Emma is a gifted peach and tomato skinner.  She has great hands for removing the skins from peaches and tomatoes after blanching.

one year ago…”Restored Marshall County Courthouse”

July 21, 2008 – Red Green Alive and Well at High Hopes!

Today’s creation is inspired by Handyman’s Corner from the Red Green TV show.

To many of you, this might look like an old, tired gas grill that missed trips to the dump over the last two years. But sometimes keeping things around too long pays off. We also have an old cooktop from the kitchen remodeling that is usable, but awkward to carry and safely use. We also like to can outside in the summer – nothing like taking the hour long boil of a batch of tomatoes outside the house on a hot summer day. Sooooo, I’m thinking the two units need to be combined…

First remove the cover and all the old propane connections and tubing.

Hmm, after the cover is gone, it turns out the cooktop won’t slide inside, so I need to get the sawz-all out with the metal blade to make the frame relatively level. Then, slip a couple of boards in where the grates used to be, screw the cooktop into the boards and the unit is almost ready.

Here’s the completed unit! Note that the duct tape concealing the joint between the cooktop and old grill is for aesthetics only – it does not provide structural support in this case.  Now we have a portable unit with wheels, a self-contained and hidden propane tank and a battery of knobs that to the untrained eye, do absolutely nothing – but I’m wondering if I could wire them to the controls of a radio and use the grill knobs for tuning and volume of a hidden radio…

one year ago…”Harry Potter and the Dilly Beans”

July 13, 2008 – Tribute to Dad?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”BWCA Trip Day 2″

July 12, 2008 – Rainy End to Vacation

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”BWCA Trip”

July 10, 2008 – Dock Life and Bushwhacking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 9, 2008 – Catching Bait and Fish

Another popular vacation pastime is fishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Fishing at Sunset”

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″

May 11, 2008 – Finished in 18 Months!

The attic remodel is now complete – it was a long, slow project, about as long as two pregnancies, but it is now nearly ready to accept furniture! We just have some touch-up painting, another coat of floor paint, and some insulating in the storage areas behind the bookshelves.

This is how it looked after we removed all the “storage” and took the chimney out. You may notice the place where the chimney went through the roof in the upper left and through the floor. It wasn’t the greatest time tearing it out and hauling the bricks down two flights of stairs, but it made a good family project.

Steven of Two Friends Farm was the brains behind the project – here I am testing the reinforced rafters that added strength and additional depth for insulation.

As the old layers of shingles are torn off the house, the opening for the south dormer is apparent.

Here’s the view of the same dormer after the window is in and the insulating starts.

Finally, the completed south dormer! The black floor grate was salvaged from the old house and covers the hole where the chimney was and is now a new heat run.

The existing west dormer in process…

The completed west dormer, taken a bit further back than the previous shot.

The view to the north, during the insulating phase. This was not a fun time as the distance between the rafters varied from 13 inches to 23 inches, with very few 16 inches, so standard insulation widths didn’t fit and each piece had to be custom measured and cut – not to overlook all the triangular pieces due to the three dormers and no flat ceiling anywhere.

The completed view to the north, the only side without a window. There’s great views and great cross-ventilation and wonderful light up on the third floor.

Finally, a look to the east. The railing around the staircase was original – everything else is new. It was a challenging project to trim, with all the weird angles and inherent unsquareness of the old house.

One of the features I like the best are the built-in bookshelves we added – three of them built into the storage space behind the walls in the east and west dormers. I was going to square off the tops, but decided to follow the roofline and I think the top shelf will be nice to accept both tall and shorter books without wasting a lot of space. We originally thought we’d send a daughter up there, but decided it has Mark and Linda’s bedroom written all over it!

one year ago…”Little Projects”

April 6, 2008 – Tree Gone

After a day and a half of cutting, dragging, and hauling, I had removed all the portions of the tree g that are reasonable to handle for firewood.  I was left with a big long stump.  Since it is a soft silver maple, it is not good for lumber, so I needed to drag it away.

This is one of the invaluable tractor tasks!

I was able to drag it down to the near the burn piles, where we can sit on it for many years or throw it in the pile, however we see fit.  It was nice to get the site cleared and lots of wood added to the shed.
one year ago…”Cold!”

April 5, 2008 – Cleanin’ Up

Today the cleanup of the tree began. Martin and I started and worked on it from about 10 to 5 and Linda pitched in during the afternoon.

We got to play with many of the farm toys today – chainsaw, truck, tractor, hay wagon, and trailer. The truck is connected to a hay wagon full of branches, the trailer is full of cut-up wood and the tractor is there to help when the chainsaw gets pinched in a log and needs a lift.

So far, we stacked about a cord of wood in the woodshed. Today we stacked the short row we are sitting on and the row behind us. There’s still a lot out there, primarily the bigger pieces near the bottom of the tree.
one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #66″

March 19, 2008 – Pruning

Today was the beginning of fruit tree pruning.

Some of the apple trees we planted are now large enough to climb up to prune the top branches.

The goats enjoy a little roughage and chew on the tips of the prunings.

Cherry trees generally don’t need a lot of pruning – primarily to get rid of the watersprouts near the base and any crossing or dead branches.

You can do your own “Where’s Waldo” to see what branches were cut from the previous photo.
one year ago…”When I Grow Up…”

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”I’m Melting”

January 5, 2008 – Rain in the Desert

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

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

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

Cathedral Rock in the rain.

The beginnings of dry washes filling up with water.

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

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

one year ago…

January 4, 2008 – Hanging Around Sedona

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

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

Here the kids start building their own.

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

January 3, 2008 – The Grand Canyon

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

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

Oh, the horrors of the abyss!

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

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

one year ago…

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

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

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

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

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

Linda and sis yak it up with the park ranger.

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

Emma and Nana through a window of the ruin.

Mark and Linda at the top of Tuzigoot.

one year ago…

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

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

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

Next stop was the Painted Desert National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 14, 2007 – Random Shots from Claire

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

July 12, 2007 – BWCA Trip

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

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

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



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

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

one year ago…

June 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 10, 2007 – Fathers and Daughters

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

April 13, 2007 – New Committee Duties

I have a new committee committment.  I have been asked to be a member of the Advisory Committee for the Value Chain Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture currently facilitated by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. 

There are currently a number of groups funded by the project, including the pork niche working group, regional food system working group, flax working group and bioeconomy working group.  As advisory board members, we will be asked to help evaluate the benefits/results of each group and help determine funding levels for each group going forward.  It’ll be a great way to keep connected to what’s going on in this neck of the woods.

one year ago…

March 24, 2007 – Getting Piled up Chores Done

The weatherman promised rain most of the day, but it really didn’t seem to come as heavily/often as we were led to believe. That gave us a chance to get some much-awaited spring chores done. First was overseeding the back pasture.

Martin’s job was to reseed the cow trail. He did a good job and seeded all the way to the property boundary. We spread about 25 lb of seed over the 2-3 acres.

I’m also behind on fruit tree pruning. Between the cold until early March, ice storm/snow, and week away, it is a little later than I’d like.

I was able to get 90% of it completed. Linda started all the seeds that need a jump – flowers, tomoatoes, peppers, etc.

Martin was a good helper, filling the peat pots for Linda. I also got new fittings on a water tank, so it comes out a one inch hose instead of a garden hose. So the things that had to get done, got done today.

one year ago…

March 16, 2007 – “Artists in My CD Collection” Night at SXSW

After a great couple nights of listening to new bands/artists, I thought I’d take one night to see old favorites.  In the afternoon, we went to a day show featuring Carrie Rodriguez.

Again, it’s a great place to actually meet and talk with your favorite musicians.

Carrie was at Jovitas with her band and fiddle.  The act before was Dale Watson, a traditional Texas swing band and Carrie was out on the floor swinging with the best of them.

The first evening act was Chip Taylor.  One of my favorite recent albums is the one he did with Carrie Rodriguez, “Red Dog Tracks.”
His band this evening consisted of a newly discovered fiddle player/vocalist from Canada who he dragged to Austin and he is producing her debut album. His guitarist moves between him and Van Morrison, and was with Chip this evening. Chip Taylor has a long career, most notably as an Americana/Country artist, but is also the writer for the rock song “Wild Thing” and pop song “Angel of the Morning” recently remade by Shaggy to a #1 hit and 14 million copies.  Chip is an artful, widely varied artist.

Just to let you know, the photo police continue to patrol, so the pictures aren’t as good as they could be.

County artist Steve Earle was next, most known for songs like “Guitar Town” and “Copperhead Road” he played to a very enthusiastic crowd and was the only performer who came out for an encore.  He had a great new song that he dedicated to Pete Seeger that wished for a time we could “throw that hammer down” because we didn’t need it any more and it is getting heavy to keep carrying.  I look forward to hearing the new disc.  Allison Moorer joined him for a couple of songs as well.

It was then a mile sprint down 6th street to the Molotov Lounge to see Michelle Shocked. An incredible performance and rapport with the audience. Â  She played more rocking versions of “Anchored Down in Ankorage” and my favorite song of hers – 500 Miles (Been a Long Time).

She told a story about learning to drive a manual transmission car and then said it wasn’t a very interesting story, but she didn’t want us to leave without hearing a truthful story from a Texan.

The night ended with Rickie Lee Jones.  I liked Rickie Lee’s jazzy, folky, past albums but wasn’t quite ready for this performance.

She came out and played thrash speed-metal songs, pretty much devoid of melody or much else.  We left after three songs after it became apparent it wasn’t just a song or two, but a new direction.  I’m also not sure her trance-like state was entirely naturally influenced.  It was the only performance of the festival that I didn’t stick around to watch. However, a great number of people did not seem taken aback, so I guess I missed the last album review and new direction.

one year ago…

March 14, 2007 – Americana Music Night at SXSW

Today was the first day of the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX.  Over 6,000 bands send in demo tapes and the top 1400 or so are selected.  There are about 60 music venues throughout town and for four nights, about 6 bands play at each venue.  I’ve wanted to go for a long time.  It’s been a great way for up and comng bands to get exposure.  We went to the Americana Music Showcase and stayed at the same place all night. The first band we saw was Charlie Louvin – a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and has played with everyone from Cash to Elvis and a staple at the Grand Old Opry.

Next on stage came Sunny Sweeney who was thrilled to play the Opry just last weekend for the first time.  Watch for her, she’s got a great country voice, country lyrics that turn a song in a phrase, and a good band.  Her new album is #7 in the Texas music top 40, just ahead of the Dixie Chicks.

The great thing about SXSW is that you are able to meet and greet the artists after their performances.

Sunny takes some time out after the show with me!

Next up was the Holmes brothers, a blues trio from NYC.  It sure sounded like these guys have played a blues lick or two in their lives.

Next was Ruthie Foster, a great singer with soul, folk, and rock influences.  Imagine rolling up Aretha Franklin, Tracy Chapman, and Lucinda Williams all in one person.  She was very energetic and has great pipes.

Finally, Ray Whylie Hubbard came on.  He was a rather irreverant player with another great band.  His latest hit is Snake Farm.  SXSW is great for its unscripted, unrehearsed aesthetic.  Ray, at different times brought on his 14 year-old sun to play a mean stratocaster, Buddy Miller, and the band that a few minutes earlier won best new Austin band, “Band of Heathens.” Musicians effortlesssly slide from band to band throughout the festival.

one year ago…

January 30, 2007 – Do I Still Have Sucker Imprinted on my Head?

Here’s a picture of what I think I usually look like:

Here’s a picture of what I think I must look like to a car salesman at Kia of Des Moines:

Now the story…

Last week I caught the tail end of a radio ad about new 2006 close-out minivans at the Des Moines Kia dealer. I have been starting to look around for a replacement for the ’98 Grand Caravan with 143,000 miles. I did a quick bit of research and found the Sedona was a decent car – a Consumer Reports best buy, the safest minivan on the market, 10 yr 100,000 drivetrain warranty and 5 year 60,000 bumper to bumper warranty.

I stopped in to the dealer to find out what the fine print was on the new $16k minivans. After transport, this and that the final price was $18k+ Since I was only planning on spending up to 13k, I wasn’t interested in paying 18k, so I left. I tell the salesman if he can find a way to get me into the van for a total of 16k he’s got a deal. A few days later he calls me back and after a conversation says he can get close. I repeat – I’ll come in there with a check for 16k and drive out with a new van, you’ve got a deal.

Of course, he has to get back with his sales manager. Right. Anyways, the end of the promotion looms, and two days before the end of the month he calls back again to get details on the trade-in. We agree to a deal over the phone, pending my van is as I represented it. I scurry with my banker to get the money lined up in less than 24 hours.
We arrange for me to come out and take a test drive after work. After that and some conversations about financing (I told him I’d go with him if I could get the 2.9% deal they had.) At any rate, we’ve been playing the sit and wait in the cube for about an hour and he finally comes in with the deal. He says he can get me into the van for 18K+. I look at him and say “What kind of a game are you playing? I’ve been working with you for two days on this, got financing arranged and it’s as though nothing happened as we are back to the original price. Quit wasting my time I don’t play these games.” He says he’ll go back to the sales manager and see what he can do (which he’s already said he did the previous day). At that point, I got up and walked out.

I thought these kinds of tactics were a thing of the past. It did not run into them in my previous good buying experiences at Rochester Ford/Toyota and Southview Chevrolet in Inver Grove Heights, MN.
one year ago…

January 21, 2007 – Snow At Last

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

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

one year ago…

August 21, 2006 – Last Martin-Daddy Day!

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

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

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

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

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

July 24, 2006 – News from the Farm

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

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

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

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

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

July 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 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.

July 5, 2006 – Working with the Cub

Today’s entry doubles as this week’s Photo Friday Contest entry. This week’s theme is “Summer.”

I had just a little bit of raking to do today on the buffer strip in the neighbor’s field. I borrowed the neighbor’s rake and hitched up the Farmall Cub to rake the oat straw.

Nothing says summer like making hay on a hot day.

June 30, 2006 – Martin/Daddy Matching Tractors!

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

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

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

We also got for more lambs today.

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

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

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

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

June 13, 2006 – Martin Behind the Camera

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

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

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

June 6, 2006 – Recognition

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

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

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

April 24, 2006 – Boys and Their Toys!

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

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

Mark took this picture.

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

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

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

April 21, 2006 – Planting Raspberries

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

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

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

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

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

April 12, 2006 – Flamer!

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

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

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

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

March 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!

March 13, 2006 – Taos and Rio Grande Gorge

Today was nice than yesterday, but still chilly. We drove up to Taos on the high road and stopped in a Santuario de Chimaya, which is reputed to be the Lourdes of America. It is in this small village nestled on a hillside. There was a wonderful poem about it in the Palace of the Governors, so we wanted to see it. You can read about the legend by clicking the link.

Our next stop was at a weaving shop in the same village. We had a very difficult time not walking out with a lot of fabric! Then it was on to Taos – since there was so much snow the day before, cross-country skiing, not hiking was the activity on the trails. We had lunch and bought some day of the dead fabric in Taos.

We headed back towards Santa Fe in a different direction and finally got out to hike along the Rio Grande Gorge after talking to a local. It was quiet, beautiful, and just a little desolate. We only saw one other car, and it was from Iowa!
The rest of the pictures are from that hike.

I wasn’t to sure about the road – it was a bit steep and muddy.

Linda along the trail.

Mark at the end of the trail.

Some dried flowers along the trail.

Finally a look from the bottom of the canyon at the river.
We ate dinner at the “Cowgirls Hall of Fame” where our spicy food adventures continued.

March 8, 2006 – Attic Update

Attic progress is slow but steady. It seems to require an inordinate amount of time laying on the back close to where the roof meets the floor.

Disclosure: I have not spent the most time on the floor – Chief engineer Smith gets that honor.
The roof strengthening/adding space for insulation is almost done on one side. The non-amended part is where the new dormer will go up.

February 11, 2006 – Composter Built

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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.

November 6, 2005 – Corn Crib Done Until Spring

I’ve completed the goal to get one side of the corn crib sealed from the elements so I have a place to store lumber instead of boards scattered about in nearly every building. It looks kind of silly this way, but now it is on to roofing part of the old machine shed. I also have some work inside the crib, getting the other interior half to have usable space by removing some of the cross-members that were used to hold the walls in when there was corn pushing against the sides. These buildings were solidly built and it is the squarest of any of the outbuildings.

Doing the partial side (and the opposite side as well) took much longer than the entire west side. Lots of cutting and ladder work on these sides. I’m not sure my ladder will reach to the top of the building – we’ll find out next spring. I’m now looking for a solar-powered light. It will be dark in there after it gets all wrapped up and I don’t envision ever needing a lot of power in there, so small solar panel and battery may be perfect for lighting instead of an overhead or underground electrical supply.

August 16, 2005 – New Mower

I’ve made an upgrade in mowing from the old riding tractor to the not-so-old mower. They are both green. This one when you turn a tight circle leaves about a 6-8 inch circle of uncut grass. The old one left about 6-8 foot circle. Mowing time is probably cut in half. The first time I rode it, I thought I might need some Dramamine to prevent getting dizzy from whipping around the trees.

July 21, 2005 – Lake Superior/Emma Search & Rescue

We started the day off with a lunch on the shore of Lake Superior. Of, course, swimming was part of the deal.

The water’s a bit colder, but still fun to wait for the waves.
After lunch we hiked the 1.5 mile path up the Baptism River to the High Falls, the highest waterfalls in Minnesota.

Dad and Martin hiking across the river. Martin earned a t-shirt of his choice by walking the entire way – there and back. We all wished we could walk one mile less than our age in an afternoon!

We had a bit of a project, building a dam across the river – you can see we got about 15 feet of rock dam built before it was time to go. It’s never too early to embed a love for civil engineering in a child.

On the way back, Emma was separated from the group, and at a fork on the trail, headed on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail, instead of the trail back to Lake Superior. Linda, Martin and I were the last ones out and when we got back, the rest of the party said – where’s Emma?

So, Linda and I drove up highway 1 where the Lake Superior Trail crossed the road, Mike and Lori, retraced our steps, and Grandma stayed at the vehicles with the rest of the kids. It’s rather unnerving, walking through the woods, calling out your lost child’s name. We made it back to the falls with no sign of Emma. All the things that run through your mind – she fell in the river, fell off a high place, was abducted, or just dazed and confused and lost. Near the falls, we talked to a party that had seen a young girl in a swim suit go up over the falls, to the footbridge, with another party. That trail, went to another campground, so I took that trail, gave Linda the keys to the van, she went back to the ranger station, and I continued on to the Tetteguche trailhead.

Emma was found shortly after we left – she said the trail suddenly climbed up a steep stone stairway before coming to a big rock outcrop and she knew it was the wrong way. So she turned back, took the other fork, and found her way back to the lake. There were some moments of apprehension for daughter and parents!

July 10, 2005 – More Food for Winter

Today, Linda was the food preparation maniac. She picked and froze 10 packages of beans (we’re getting the hang of our new vacuum-packed seal-a-meal). I am probably one of the few guys in the world who was actually excited to get it as a Christmas gift!

Martin and Daddy snapping the beans before blanching.

Linda also made a batch of raspberry jam.
I was more of a sloth. I worked a couple of hours for the town job, taking advantage of the quiet as the girls and Michael are off with grandma to Maquoketa caves and the grand water park hotel and Mississippi River museum in Dubuque. I also replaced a rotten wooden post in the household compost holder. We made it in a hurry when we moved in 8 years ago out of scrap wood, and now all the posts are rotten, so this fall, I’ll have to make a new one. I also shored up the bottom of the garage door, which is starting to rot and Martin and I started gathering vacation stuff.

This morning some Brazilians came over and bought some chickens and slaughtered them here. It all went well, things were cleaned up tidy and they seemed to prefer the old laying hens over the broilers. Maybe there’s a niche there?

July 2, 2005 – Trophy Dandelion!

Today was a day of long-overdue work around the place. Spent most of the morning weeding the gardens. Check out this trophy dandelion root. It was about five feet long. I kept pulling and it just kept coming and coming, and coming.

Also spent a couple of hours on thistle patrol – mowing patches in the pasture, cutting them out of fencerows, and pulling them out from around the new trees. Everybody hates thistles, so I am doing my part for neighborhood harmony. We also picked the last peas and took out the trellis and poles and moved it over to the just planted pole beans.
Had a nearly all-farm meal tonight – our chicken, beets and green beans. Froze the peas, some beans, and some raspberries as well. Planted the last of the Gladiolus (I think we put in about 450 this year). Also planted some buckwheat where the peas and a weedpatch were as buckwheat does great as a summer cover crop. Did a little work on the trailer while Emma and Linda took the dogs for a walk at dusk.

Martin has been dwelling on his birthday and what it means. He was asking where he came from and where he was before he was born. We told him that half of him came from mommy and daddy. That was good enough explanation and he seemed pleased with that answer. Then he said something to the effect of “But I have my own spirit, right?” I thought that was rather amazing that he would consider the non-physical part of himself after finding out his body came from Mom and Dad.

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

May 30, 2005 – Luckenbach, Texas

Today Linda’s at the conference, so it was off to Luckenbach, TX. I was surprised that it is not really a town. It looks like a set from on old western town, with only an old open air dance hall, general store with the emphasis on “rustic.” It is more like someone’s run-down ranch/summer camp, with lots of bikers sitting around drinking and listening to some guys play guitar. I can see how it is a place you may expect to see Willie Nelson at – it couldn’t be more laid back and less commercial. Here’s the feed shack and dance hall.
Here I am with Martin’s cowboy hat in front of the general store.
Here’s some of the bikes and the general store.

We ate lunch in Fredericksburg – our waitress was wearing shirt with “inmate” on the back. A manager came out and yelled at her that she wasn’t wearing her ankle bracelet and her parole manager needs a call immediately.

Last night we had a hard time finding music – but it was about 11 before we went out and it was Sunday night. Lots of people at the dance clubs. Tonight, the plan is the banquet at the conference and then out for more music

May 13, 2005 – Cleanup

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

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

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

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.

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.