Family – Martin

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

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

Gathered around the auctioneer.

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

More stuff we don’t have to move!

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

Martin on auction day sampling from the food wagon.

More folks looking for treasures.

We all look on as our stuff changes hands.

The view from the pergola.

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

Our first couple of life-long neighbors and friends.

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

May 30, 2016 – The Flume

While Linda was off doing “minister stuff” Martin and I took to some exploring.

We are headed to the flume, a natural gorge, 25 minutes from Plymouth. Here is a bridge along the way.

The falls at the top of the flume.

The crazy fun walkway that leads through the gorge. This walkway is removed every winter so it is not destroyed by ice.


Blueberries in bloom.

The view from somewhere near the middle of the mountain.

The Sentinel bridge on the Flume trail.

Maaahtin on the bridge.

A view of Mount Liberty. If you squint, you can see George Washington in repose as the mountain.

Up the road a piece at Crawford Notch.

August 8, 2015 – Canoe Beauty!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This soft little orb is known as pincushion moss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – At Camp

This post collects photos from around the campsites.

Emma enjoying the night after arriving at Cherokee Lake.

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

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

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

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

Hanging out waiting for dinner.

Martin on KP duty.

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

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

July 9, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – On the Lake

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

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

Sometimes there’s paddling out in the open lake.

Other times it’s more of a river.

Or a narrower river.

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

Another hearty stern paddler.

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

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

June 30, 2015 – Martin/14

Martin turned 14 on June 30. The neighbors down the road, drove over in the specially decorated Birthday mobile.

In addition, Martin also had an afternoon at Climb Iowa where he had fun with the climbing walls and bouldering. Happy Birthday Martin!

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 30, 2015 – Settling in to Mountain Air

We found a rental on the banks of the St Vrain river between Boulder and Estes Park.

It is an attractive little cottage.

With a charming backyard.

And a boardwalk right along the river! Especially nice in the evening to hear the rushing water pass by.

Martin spent a lot of time “Hanging Out” in his hammock in the back yard. Tomorrow the adventures begin.

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

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

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

The class, both honorary and real graduates.

Linda and the kids.

The spousal duo.

The dinner for the graduates the night before graduation.

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

The inside of the church.

Linda happily in the procession.

With her major professor. Congrats to Linda!

May 16, 2015 – A Trip to Chicago

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

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

and by day.

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

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

Linda and Water Lillies.

March 22, 2015 – Close to Having to Turn in My Man Card

Had a couple of vehicle incidents that both almost required I turn in my man card, but eked out of both. First, I buried the CRV in the field.

This is a bad photo taken with my phone as I walked away defeated. I USUALLY take a walk to make sure it is not to soft when I drive here, but since we’v had no precip in March and the pond and wet area in the pasture have been bone dry for a week or more, I thought things would be firm. Wrong – once the wheels break through the sod into the black gumbo, you are done. I tried propping boards under the tires to run up on. No luck.

I then went to get the tractor, but all I left with was making these ruts with the tractor. I was able to get the tractor out, but my chain wasn’t long enough to pull from a firm area. Had I buried both the CRV and tractor, I would have had to forfeit my man card.

Here’s the rut from the front wheel of the CRV. Our good neighbors came over with an even bigger tractor and even longer chain and said about dragging it out “The tractor didn’t even know it had a fish on the line.”

The other incident was a problem with the car. Emma reported that she thought she might have left the lights on, but got a jump and got home fine. Next day I drove her to Ames and when I went to leave, again, nothing, not even a turn over. I figured the battery was dead and was eager to get on with my day and called AAA and asked to use the “bring you a new battery and install it” service so I wouldn’t have to mess around with all that. After I made the call, I then popped the hood to indicate to the tow truck where we were. It was then that I noticed the battery cable had come loose from the battery and was resting slightly above the battery terminal. I just put it back on and everything was fine and cancelled the AAA call. Would also have had to turn in my man card if the AAA service man had popped the hood to put in a new battery and found it just unattached!

January 14, 2015 – Swim Season Wrap

After weeks of grueling early morning and after school practices – along with 2 a days over Christmas break, swim season is a wrap.

Wearing the gear on the deck.

A mass of swimmers at the conference swim meet.

Martin doing his favorite event, the 100 breaststroke.

He also swam the 50 freestyle.

Can’t say I blame to woman who can’t bear to look at all the hairless males surrounding her!

January 7, 2015 – Many Looks of Martin

Martin has been the young man of many looks.

The formal for a band concert.

A curly head of hair produced without benefit of artificial curling technology.

The head after months of swim practice and pink dye.

Bozo anyone?

Finally, all gone, ready for final swim meet of the year.

October 25, 2014, Backside of Fall

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

They grow big leaves here!

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

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

Martin “owns” the sandstone outcrop.

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

A peek at the berries inside.

September 1, 2014 – Mini Maker Faire

We headed down to a mini-maker faire at the science center of Iowa this weekend. It was full of 3d printers, CNC machines and the like.

Of course, some of the usual exhibits never quite get old!

How about a keyboard made out of carrots?

Or a cheap DIY microscope that uses a cell phone camera for incredible magnification!

There was also a virtual reality trailer from ISU and a virtual welding helmet as well. Oh, and a traveling Tardis and R2D2 as well!

August 3, 2014 – Catching up

After returning home after an absence of longer than a week, you get an appreciation of all the things that you do, even though you feel like you are never caught up. Seeing what the farm looks like with a week of inattention brings home how much really does get done.

Garlic was ready to pull.

Onions were ready to pull.

Sunflowers went wild.

And we finally got around to introducing Martin to firearms training – one of the many rural skills that have eluded him to date.

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.

July 11, 2014 – Dad and Kid Getaway Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

A closer look at the tilted slate beds.

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

The swinging bridge is replaced after the floods of 2012.

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


The forest along the river near the highway bridge.

March 29, 2014 – Last Year’s Chores

Finally getting a wrap on last fall’s chores that were left unfinished.

Here’s what the pruning of a 60 foot of blackberries looks like!

Other mundane spring chores that aren’t really noticeable by anybody but me include picking th remaining deadfall apples, pruning the fruit trees, picking rocks out of the grass moved by plowing snow, finishing the under deck skirting to keep critters out, cleaning up the dead tomatoes and taking the cages out, moving big rocks and cement blocks lying around to a consolidated neat home, cutting out windbreak trees that were not sold as Christmas trees that were planted 5 feet apart and need to be 20 feet apart when mature, cutting down mulberry trees is fencelines, and best of all, getting the first planting of lettuce, radishes, spinach in the ground.

March 2nd, 2014 – Sigh…

Everybody in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. knows about this winter. Today the temperature is forecast for a high of -1. Then -15 tonight.

Martin against the snowbank on the side of the road.

Just as a flashback, this is a picture from February 20, 2012, getting ready to get a few seeds in the ground! I’d be all for a happy medium between these extremes!

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.

January 1, 2014 – New Year’s Meander

Even though it was a balmy 5 degrees today, we decided to get out for a while.

We returned to a small creek near its confluence with the Iowa River and brought Daisy along for the adventure.

It looked a bit different than a visit to the same place at the height of summer.

The trees adjacent to the river still show the marks from this spring’s highwater flood mark. All in all, a brisk walk to start out the new year.

December 24, 2013 – Together on Christmas Eve

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

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

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

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

December 8th, 2013 – Bellows We Have Heard on High

This weekend the Bluestem Bellows Band played a gig at Rieman Gardens in Ames.

Martin has inspired other young musically-inclined gentlemen to expand their repetoire and join the band.

They provided background music for the visitors on a lazy, snowy Sunday afternoon.

A chorus of Christmas tunes filled the hallways and conservatory.

November 30, 2013 – Last Day for Christmas Tree Sales

We made one final trip to Wheatsfield Grocery in Ames to sell Christmas trees. As in final-final. When we planted our field windbreak years ago, we planted the trees 5 feet apart instead of the usual 20 feet apart to account for trees that might not mature or get thinned for Christmas trees. The windbreak is now pretty much thinned and/or the remaining trees are too large.

It’s a great experience to have in December. I sold trees as a college student, I sold them now as middle-aged, and with any luck I’ll be able to sell them again as an old man.

September 17, 2013 – When will it ever End?

The food preservation extravaganza continues! This weekend was no exception.

The tomatoes are just beginning. These four baskets are enough to make 14 quarts of canned tomatoes.

Here’s our Sunday afternoon haul. After church, Martin and I started in earnest – 14 quarts of tomatoes, 10 pints of pears, and two batches of blackberry applesauce. We had the tomatoes skinned the day before and the apples were peeled and frozen in the freezer, so we didn’t have all the prep work.

September 14, 2013 – Bluestem Bellow Bands Teaser

Martin had his first gig not playing a piano or trombone. The accordion band he’s part of – the Bluestem Bellows Band had their debut public performance this weekend.

The played at the Green Hills Care Facility in Ames. More next week as they are booked at the Ames Farmer’s Market next Saturday morning. I’ll try to get some video of them at that time.

July 4, 2013 – Happy 4th (even to you in the U.K.)

Martin thought it would be good to line up a bunch of sparklers and see how many he could light.

After this, we decided than rather than driving some distance for fireworks, we’d try Melbourne and were pleasantly surprised.  We were close to the launch site (a baseball field away) and at that distance, the fireworks filled our range of vision.  Best yet, from the time the last fireworks exploded to home – five minutes!

June 28, 2013 – Birthday Boy

Martin turns 12 in a few days.  He wanted an overnight camp-out with a few friends,  So we fired up the grill, set up the tent, got a fire going and let the boys do whatever they would do.

On turning 12, Martin is most excited about being able to ride in the front seat of the car!

June 16, 2013 – Musical Martin

Martin spent the week at Dorian Music Camp at Luther College in Decorah this week.

He enjoyed the jazz ensemble, directed by an excitable Cuban bandleader. He also played in a full concert band.

He stretched a bit and even tried choir – you can only imagine the joyous sound from so many young voices.  He also had some private lessons on trombone and did some keyboard work as well.  A full week of music and fun.

June 7, 2013 – Superior Good Bye

The last night before heading home.

We had a nice site on a small hill overlooking an arm of Bearskin Lake.

east bearskin lake

‘Twas a beautiful night, so beautiful in fact, it was one of the rare nights it was so beautiful that the fish were enjoying it with me and refused to bite.  But as a consolation we first heard, then saw a moose getting into the lake and sloshing around for a bit.


Aah, the campfire at the end of the day.  And look – bare legs so that means skeeters weren’t so bad.

Lake Superior Shore

One last stop on the big lake on the way home for lunch.

Lake Superior Pebbles

Superior pebbles.

Flat rocks, water, and a kid.  What else do you need?

June 6, 2013 – A Short Superior History Tour

Since Martin seemed captivated by the history of the quarry at Banning State Park, we decided to to some more history.  First stop today was the St. Louis County Historical Society’s exhibits in the old train depot in Duluth.  Among other exhibits was one room chronicling the immigrant experience.  It was interesting to me since both sides of my family immigrated in the turn-of-the-century timeframe. Perhaps in biggest contrast to today’s immigrants, there were huge dormitories built for incoming immigrants to have a safe place to stay for a few months until they earned enough to get a place of their own.

But the main attraction here is the collection of vintage local trains.  One of the most fascinating to me was this rail mail car. The attendant would reach out with a hook and grab a mail bag hung up at many locations along the route where the train did not stop.  The mail was sorted en route, and the cool part was if the mail was for a stop further down the track, the attendent would throw out the mail bag, which could have included mail picked up just hours ago!  Beat that Fed Ex!  Of course, if the mail was on a stop behind the train’s route, it wouldn’t get delivered that day.

How awesome is this snowplow train!

Here’s a fancy dining car from back in the day.

And here is the mother of all locomotives.  This coal-fired steam locomotive was 128 feet long!  Over half the length was the compartment to carry coal.  This monster burned one ton of coal every six minutes!  It could carry 28 tons of coal in its own coal bin.  It ran iron ore from the Iron Range down to Lake Superior and in its day was the most powerful locomotive in existence.  There were many other trains, including cranes, a rotary snowplow, and the first locomotive to arrive in Minnesota, via boat, of course, not rail.

Then it was off to Split Rock Lighthouse.

When the lighthouse was built in 1910, there were no roads, so all the building supplies were lifted up the cliff via a steam-powered hoist and derrick, including all the bricks necessary to built the lighthouse, foghouse, three keeper houses and barns, along with of course all the supplies and people for a number of years (if the lake was calm).  Five years after construction a tramway was built to make things a bit easier, but it was not until 1924 that a highway was built, allowing more reliable transport of goods.

Martin loved the new slogan of the Split Rock “Before GPS, there was a really big light.”  The lighthouse ceased operation in 1969.

Part of the lamp, with the reflecting glass engineered to produce a beam visible from the furthest distance from the kerosene lamp.

split rock lamp

Some of the mechanics of the apparatus used to spin the light.  On the very top of this photo you can see a green disk that contained 300 pounds of mercury to help keep the light level.

If you find yourself in the neighborhood – drop in.

June 4, 2013 – Itasca Day One

The next day we headed over to Itasca State Park, Minnesota’s oldest and one of the biggest state parks.  An interesting story is about the nation’s first female park superintendent, Mary Gibbs. She was superintendent shortly after the park was formed, but before the lumber barons.  She had a showdown at gunpoint with the local logging boss regarding destruction of a dam at the headwaters, flooding the park, but making it easier to transport logs.  At the end of her life, she was just as fiesty, going on a hunger strike at the nursing home to protest being charged 75 cents extra to take her meal in her room instead of the dining hall.

Itasca State Park Sign

The north park entrance.

Itasca Cabin

Our cabin near the lake within the park.

Inside Itasca Cabin

The cabin is one of the gems built by the WPA in the 30’s. It had logs walls, wood floors, a sink, small fridge, sink, stove, but no oven, and bathroom without a shower.  But it was great timing to have the cabin over the 24 hours of rain on this segment of the trip.

Lake Itasca

One arm of Lake Itasca in the mist.

The light rain didn’t deter us from catching dinner.

rainbow on lake itasca

A rainbow was one reward for the rain.

It was an all white/yellow meal.  Fried fresh fish, rice side dish, applesauce, and with the leftover “Shore Lunch” fish brading, we breaded some onions for onion rings.

Lodge at Itasca State Park

After dinner, we toured the interpretive center and looked around the park.  This is the lodge for dining, with rooms on the 2nd floor, much like some of the classic park lodges in Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

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.

June 2, 2013 – Martin-Daddy Week Begins!

This week is the 2nd annual Martin-Daddy explore the northwoods week in Northern Minnesota. We drag the canoe up for the girls to go on a BWCA trip and bum around waiting for them to come out. The first night we stayed at Banning State Park, which is about 60 miles south of Duluth on the Kettle River.

Boy on Kettle River

Martin along the Kettle River.

Banning State Park Camping Cabin

We stayed in a what they call a camping cabin – a cabin with a table and two bunk beds – no plumbing, no electricity. Good on rainy days or to keep bugs out and to have room to stretch around.

We made some foil dinners.

Hells Gate Trail Sign

We took the trail that was not recommended for young children – although shortly after the beginning of the trail we saw a family retreating with a stroller! I guess the vertical climbs 20 feet up rock faces was a bit too much for the stroller.  This is the friendly portion of the trail.

Kayak in Kettle River

The trail led to a rapids and we sat and watched a bunch of kayakers shoot through the rapids, most stayed head side up.

Martin points to a kettle – a geologic formation formed by rocks swirling in a hole until they drill down in the sandstone, making a pretty good cooking kettle in reverse.

Kettle Hole in Rock

A look up through the bottom of the kettle Martin pointed at in the previous picture. Most of the work was done about 10,000 years ago with the draining of glacial Lake Duluth.

The park was home to a turn-of-the-century quarry. Martin took us through the interpretive hike.

Banning Quarry Power house

This shot is looking inside the power house. It was a rather apocalyptic scene to view the ruins with trees growing inside the ruins of the building.

Before the power house, the holes were created by hand and blasted with black powder.


The woods were full of blooming trillium.

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.

March 17, 2013 – PVC Marimba

Martin has spent a great deal of time making his PVC marimba for a Science Olympiad contest. He let dad use the power tools to cut the pipe and wood, but did most of the rest himself. First he had to calculate the lengths of pipes using this formula:

Tube length = (Speed of sound/2*frequency) plus (Tube diameter/2)

Of course, first he had to calculate the speed of sound = (Tube length – tube diameter/2) * 2 * frequency

But first, he had to have a way to get the frequency, and there is a neat Kindle tuner app that shows the frequency and note.

At any rate, without further ado, Martin playing his home-made instrument!

And a photo in case the video is too slow.

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!

February 1, 2013 – Baked Alaska!

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

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

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

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

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

January 5, 2013 – Accordionpallooza!

It took 51 years before I enjoyed a rendition of Happy Birthday with accordion accompaniment! Today was it.

We (actually Martin) were invited to an Accordionpallooza of sorts. Ten accordions gathered in one room for instruction by one of Ames’ finest accordionists, and a former fellow grad student at Iowa State (so many years ago). Following is a short 30 second intro to his playing.


He even took apart an accordion to show us the inner workings.  These are the bass reed blocks, with the wood sealed with a concoction of beeswax, resins, and oils.  The inside of the bellows and more reed blocks are visible in the lower right.  I neglected to get photos of the complicated bass mechanics and levers.

Following are some of the photos of the participants, young and old alike…

December 15, 2012 – 2012 First Lego League Season

This weekend was the regionals for First Lego League (FLL).

Here’s the team watching a robot run.  This year’s theme was “Senior Solutions” and the competition involved the lego robot challenge, core values, and innovative solution/presentation.

After consulting with a couple of senior citizens, they decided to come up with a simple solution to a problem that both seniors, especially one suffering from arthritis, had trouble with – opening milk cartons with the ring-pull tabs.  They won an award for their innovative and simple design.  Who knows, maybe you’ll see it in the aisles next to the milk cartons some day!

October 7th, 2012 – Chickens to the Freezer

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

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

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

The chickens before the plucker spins.

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

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

September 21, 2012 – Mr. Marsalis and Martin

What a treat last night for a beginning trombone player and his father. We were able to see one of the world’s finest jazz trombonists, Delfeayo Marsalis. The band was crazy good!

Delfeayo Marsalis

The they played at one of my favorite places, the Maintenance Shop in Ames,Iowa. The “sidemen” were all top performers as well. On trumpet was Sean Jones, who was featured on a grammy-winning jazz album, is the lead trumpet for the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra, and has his own group. The drummer, Winard Harper was one of the finest drummers I’ve ever seen and the pianist Richard Johnson also played with the Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis. What a household it must be to have Wynton, Branford, and Delfeaoyo!

Delfeayo Marsalis with boy

After the performance, Delfeayo had spotted Martin in the audience and made a point to stop by to chat with him and give him some pointers and pose for a picture. He also picked up a couple of autographed CDs.

August 24, 2012 – Martin’s Adirondack Chair

I was sucked into Menards for the $25 wooden Adirondack chairs. When I got there I found they were unassembled and unfinished. I thought it might be a good project for Martin and I to build.

But turns out that he was more than able to throw on the outdoor poly, sand between coats, and assemble the chairs.

This will be his birthday present to his oldest sister as she moves off campus into a house this fall – perfect indoor/outdoor furniture for a college student.

August 15, 2012 – Hazelnut Harvest

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

basket of hazelnuts

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


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

boy picking hazelnuts

Martin picking the low-hangers.

Linda looking at the higher nuts.

July 22, 2012 – Take Me to the River

Martin and I needed a new adventure and to escape the heat, so this is what we found!

We went to visit a county park we had never been to before, but soon tired of the oppressive heat, so we broke off the trail and headed towards the river.

Actually it was a sandy-bottomed creek that leads to the Iowa River.

Finally made it to the river, where our wading ended.  In the last month four children under the age of 12 have drowned in the river close to Marshalltown.  We were happy to splash in the creek, but not eager to jump in the river.

July 11, 2012 – What’s a Little Mess Worth?

Rumor has it that Martin and GJ are both known for making a mess in the kitchen when cooking. That’s why we’ll show the end products.

Today was no exception – on the summer menu: potato salad, deviled eggs, fresh cabbage and beans from the garden, along with some grilled pork chops from an heirloom variety.

Oh yeah, and home-made eclairs to top off the meal.  Unfortunately, the instructions say that the eclairs are best eaten within two hours of making them!

July 1, 2012 – Badlands

The final stop on the trip was the badlands.

Emma in the magnitude that is the Badlands.

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

On the ladder on the Notch trail.

Emma taking the ladder.

Emma taking the ladder in years gone by.

A bit of the terrain of the trail.

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

At the end of the trail.

Yes, it was hot!


June 30, 2012 – Jewel Cave and Harney Peak

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

jewel cave

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

jewel cave

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

jewel cave

More funky formations.

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

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

Linda on the “trail” up the mountain.

More “trail” up to the peak.

A look down the trail, from near the top.

cathedral spires

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

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

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

June 28, 2012 – Mt Rushmore and Wind Cave

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

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

mount rushmore, mount rushmore flags

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

The obligatory Rushmore replacement photo featuring Emma.

The same place as a toddler.

The obligatory photo featuring Martin!

Finally, the obligatory Rushmore ice cream.

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

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

Some more delicate cave features.

June 26, 2012 – Road Trip!

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

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

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

June 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 24, 2012 – The Music Never Stops

A local music group is sponsoring a student summer music concert.  Martin’s jazz band was invited to play.

Martin stood out in the band, because he forgot to tell us the dress code for the concert – black and white, while Martin showed up in shorts and a shirt!

June 22, 2012 – Back to the Sandbox

What seems like years ago, the leftovers of a pile of sand from some project was a favorite place for a toddler to play. Now, years later, the sandbox has made a comeback! It was renovated by digging up all the grass and weeds that had found a home there.

Here, the boys wait for the volcano and waterfall to fill the empty river channel and lake with water.  Sand has been sculpted, the hose has been split into two and buried to provide the energy for the volcano and the waterfall.

Success!  The waterfall and volcano have both done their jobs and the river and lake fill with water.

I still remember one day in the sandbox.  I was kindergarten or younger and a friend and I decided to see why would happen if we kept shoving the hose down into the ground with the water running.  It kept going down, further and further, we imaged the surprise the people in China would see when it went all through the earth.  However we had the surprise when the water stopped coming up and the hose was stuck in the each – no amount of wiggling, water, and digging would free the hose.  Dad wasn’t to happy losing a good portion of his hose and fitting!

June 6, 2012 – Last Day

Today was the last non-driving vacation day.  We arrived near Ely with some time to spare before picking up the kids, so Martin and I just hung out at the public landing on Snowbank Lake.

snowbank lake

Lunch on a deep, blue northern lake can’t be beat!  After picking up the canoers, cooking them up a dinner, I took a couple hours of quiet time and went back to Snowbank for a couple of hours.

smallmouth bass, smallmouth stringer

Once I found the pattern, the fish were easy to catch.  They weren’t falling for artificial spinners or plugs, they weren’t falling for leeches or crawlers suspended off the bottom in deeper water, they weren’t suspended over deeper water, but they were hanging out about 10-15 feet from shore, so I actually had to cast towards shore from the dock, not out into the lake.  The night was quiet, I only saw two boats go by, the same number of Bald Eagles that were screeching and circling nearby.

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 4, 2012 – Back to the Beginning/Circle of Life

By all outward appearances, this photo is rather unremarkable. What’s really remarkable is the young boy in the picture. Or rather, how the young boy came to be.

About 32 years ago, somewhere very close to where this boy stood, was an old camp dining hall. All that remains now is the stone fireplace. In the dining hall was where his father first set eyes on his mother, (although she did not notice him that day – that wouldn’t happen until months later in another chance meeting in a calculus class at the University of MN-Duluth). The young boy is standing at approximately the spot where this first encounter happened. Happy Martin! (and Claire and Emma as well).

Part of a challenge course out in the woods.

Martin tries to figure out how this challenge works

A small climbing wall, part of the group challenge.

A lrger rock climbing wall, rare because it is guarded by goats!

While it was “work day” at camp, the staff had activities for the kids, so among other things, Martin got to try his hand at archery.

Part of the seasonal barn and horse corral.

One of the directors while i was there, Mr. Jeff Palmer, on hand for the work day and dedication of a new nature trail.

One stop on the nature trail is right in camp, these two different species of pines, apparently joined at the ground.

Another view of the pines.  I was able to spend a good part of the day staining a cabin and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen for many years.

June 3rd, 2012 – Lock this Day Up, Part II

To top off our day, we spent some time near the St. Louis river south of Duluth.  Eventually the river drains into Lake Superior forming a large estuary and exits through the Duluth and Superior ship canals, and his held behind by Park Point (the beach from yesterday).  The Ojibwe call the river Gichigami-ziibi (the great lake-river).  It is the largest river to empty into Lake Superior.

There was 6-9 inches of rain the week before the arrived, so the river was near its peak flow.  There are the highest class rapids (class VI) at this point and below and ABOVE this picture is the take-out point for white-water rafters and more sedentary class IV rapids.

The root-beer colored water roars through this point in Jay Cooke State Park.

Further downstream, more ordinary standing waves and boils fill the channel.  The river was a loud, brash spectacle of water, rock and energy.

We stopped for dinner at Canal Park, and Martin worked up an appetite trying to pull the William A. Irvin, an ore boat anchored in the harbor.

After our visit to the river, we spent the night at Camp Miller in Sturgeon Lake, where I spent many summers as a counselor, naturalist, trip leader, and camp caretaker.  We stopped in and ended the day with a conversation long into the night with Bernie, a kindred spirit and fellow top-notch gardener and handyman.  The highlight was hearing about his maple sugaring and his first prize ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair for his syrup.

June 2, 2012 – Lock This Day Up and Throw Away the Key

This was a day so wonderful you wish you could lock it up and throw away the key.  Martin and I bummed down from Ely to south of Duluth, stopping as we pleased.  In fact, it was so scenic, I’m splitting it into two days, since it can’t all fit in one post.  We even saw a moose near the road on the drive down to the lake.

shovel point

It was a rare calm day on Lake Superior.  This is a view of Shovel Point, north of Silver Bay.

We stopped in for a look at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center near Finland, MN, to see where Claire will be working this summer.  Here’s a sign taken just for Linda.

The hike up to Marshall Mountain was fun.

Here it is, up on the top of the ridge overlooking Lake Superior.

Raven Lake to the left and Wolf Lake, not visible in this photo, to the right.

A replica Voyageur canoe, capable of taking 24 people along.

wolf lake

From the shore of Wolf Lake, looking towards the south.

The buildings at Wolf Ridge have the seashorey kind of look – this is the science center.  I hope it’s a great place for Claire to live and work this summer.
view from shovel point

A view looking down from Shovel Point towards Duluth.

calm lake superior

A rare calm day – you can see Wisconsin on the horizon.

stones in water

These are some underwater rocks on the shore.  Superior’s got stones!

Straight down from these rocks, we saw a giant fish – hard to tell how big it was, but from the only thing nearby to get an accurate measurement, it appeared to be about 2 loon lengths long.

gooseberry falls

We also stopped a ways down the road at Gooseberry Falls.

park point

The last stop on this portion of the day was a different kind of Superior shore, this one, a very long sandy beach from Duluth to Superior.

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 25, 2012 – Prairie Fire

We helped out at a prairie burn this afternoon at Two Friends farm. I’ll mix it up and take you through the burn backwards.

prairie after burn

At the end of the day, about five acres of prairie is torched.

boy in burnt prairie

Sending Martin out batting cleanup while we go try to find some cold ones (not really).

prairie fire

After setting the backfires, the main fire gets rolling.

ring of fire

A burning ring of fire!

fire flapper

Martin with a flapper to help smother flames along the edge of a fire.

man in prairie fire

Nice flapper work on the right side of the photo!

Starting the fire nice and slow – a back burn against the wind before starting the main fire.

February 26, 2012 – The Sweetness of February Begins

It was a good Sunday.  I had been pretty much cooped up working indoors the last few weeks, so I was looking forward to a nice day outdoors.  Today was double-duty farm work.  It was time to boil down 15 gallons of maple sap and begin pruning the fruit trees.

mobile sugar shack

Here’s the world famous mobile sugar shack.  An old barrel stove on a metal wagon that can be moved around to account for the wind – and it was windy today – near wind advisory criteria.  This photo pretty much shows it all.  Cart with wood, buckets with sap, coffee cup, willing boy, stove and evaporator pan a bubbling, and maple tree with container in the background.

Today’s enterprise is uber-sustainable.  The wood is from the storm last summer, the plastic cartons that use the sap will be converted to tomato shelters in a few months, and the leftover logs that hadn’t burned all the way were snuffed out for some biochar.  To top it off, we produced more electricity than we used.

boy pruning tree

While we wait, it’s a good time to begin pruning the fruit trees.  Martin starts on this one that needs some attention.

boy sleeping in tree

But eventually, the kids tuckers out and finds a makeshift resting place in the branches of an apple tree.

February 22, 2012 – Sap’s Running!

I thought it might be time to tap the maple trees for the spring sap run.  A quick email to our friends at Morning Sun farm found they had just tapped their trees and already had 50 gallons in the hand.

drill tap hole

Drill a hole.

pound tap

Pound in a tap.

dripping maple tap

Sap flow!

tap buckets on tree

About four hours after getting the taps in, this tree has already filled the buckets about 3/4 full.

February 20, 2012 – Ground’s Unfrozen, It’s Warm, Let’s Plant!

With the non-winter we’ve had, it’s hard to ignore the calendar.  Nevertheless, the ground is unfrozen, it’s warm with no subzero cold blasts in the forecast, so it’s time to gamble with a few cents worth of seeds for the reward of some early season produce.

boy with hoe

We found some space with a southern slope and the barn to the north to block any strong north winds, worked up the soil a bit and put some stiff wires in the ground.  I put some wires on the ends straight across and put the rest at an angle.  Then we planted and watered.

easy cold frame

Put the plastic across, stick another round of stiff wire crossing the first wires now inside the plastic, secure the edges, and wait.  I’ll have to come out and open up a side on warm, sunny days so the plants don’t wither in the heat.

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.

December 12, 2011 – Team Mu? First Lego League Shines Again!

The following is from the school website  (I don’t have to write today!)

Lenihan’s FIRST LEGO League team took the overall championship at the regional contest held Saturday, Dec. 10, at Marshalltown Community College. The win advances the team to the state competition Jan. 14, 2012, at Iowa State University.

Lenihan’s Extended Learning Program team won the overall Championship, in a field of 32 Central Iowa teams, by earning the highest combined scores in all four competition categories: Robot Challenge, Technical Interview, Research Presentation, and FLL Core Values.

The 2011-2012 FLL theme is “Food Factor”. Throughout the fall semester, the team has researched milk production and possible bacterial contamination points. Based on this research, the students wrote a project presentation, designed an innovative solution to the contamination problem, and compiled an annotated bibliography of their research sources.

Work on the robot challenge included completing advanced programming tutorials, constructing three robot prototypes and their final robot design, and programming multiple missions using LEGO MINDSTORM software. The students incorporated a light sensor and ultrasonic sensor to input data for an autonomous program as well as utilized a third motor to operate their forklift, fishing net, catch basin, and bumper attachments.

The team will face 72 qualifying teams Jan. 14 at the ISU College of Engineering. More than 200 teams competed at regional competitions across the state.


September 24, 2011 – A Sweet Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 27, 2011 – Putting Tomaotes Up

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

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

A bushel of Romas waiting to be skinned and peeled.

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

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

Then cut out the stem and slip the skins off.

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

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

one year ago…”Ag Incubator Ribbon Cutting!”

August 7, 2011 – Paddle Out Day

Today was a day just to paddle out.  We had reservations at a bunk house, so we didn’t have to worry about finding a campsite or driving home 10 hours.

But first there were 6 portages to cross.  The 2nd and 3rd were a bit intimidating.  It might not look bad in this photo, but from the waters edge, it seemed like straight up – a challenge with an 18.5 long canoe on your back!

The portage trail itself was a bit bouldery and still wet from the night before.  Luckily, the only time I tripped was without the canoe on my back.

Here’s some extra fancy purple fungus on the trail.  Sometimes asparagus and some other things are purple when they are cold, but it had been warm, so I think purple was the normal color for this guy.

The day was mostly overcast, and we stopped for lunch at this campsite, which had the closest fire grate to the water I’ve ever seen at a BWCA site.

one year ago…”Children of the Corn”

August 6, 2011 – Last Night in the BWCA Brings Rain

The morning broke like all the rest on the trip – calm and warm.

That was welcome as we had about three miles of Winchell Lake left before we portaged to some smaller lakes that wind wouldn’t matter as much.

After a little more than a half day of paddling and some swimming and fishing, the skies finally unloaded on us.

I’m not sure you can call it a camping trip without rain.  Martin was eager to try out his new raingear, at least for a short time.

It was time to break out the tarp for a bit of protection around the kitchen.

Martin insisted that I take this photo for Claire, who had given Martin this freeze-dried ice cream for his birthday.  There you go Claire – this package traveled well – from DC to Iowa to BWCA.

one year ago…”Pesto!”

August 5, 2011 – Camping on Winchell Lake

Our next night was on Winchell Lake.  Winchell is a long lake, about five miles long with steep elevation on the south side, fronting the Misquah Hills.

boy with backpack

Martin was a trooper on the portages.  On the first portage he asked if he could take this backpack.  He hauled it all 14 portages on the trip over 700 rods, a bit over two miles.

boys fishing

Here, the boys are waiting for the fish to stop by on their lines.  In the background, a fire relatively recently passed through, thus all the dead trees.  The fire jumped the lake and kept going.

boy with smallmouth bass

The fishing paid off – here Martin shows two of the fish he caught for a fresh dinner!

winchell lake float

There’s not much that’s more relaxing than floating in the middle of a northern lake on a warm day.  The temps were in the mid-80’s which is a tad warm for this area, but the humidity was low, so it was still pleasant.

winchell lake campsite

The boys getting ready to start a fire – always a popular past-time.

duluth pack in tree

This site had a great bear tree.  The pack is hung up for the day, relatively safe from critters stealing the food at night.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #219″

August 4, 2011 – Wilderness Journey Begins Up the Gunflint at Poplar Lake

We left Tettegouche and had final stops in Grand Marais for last minute groceries, permits, bait and the like and hit the water by about noon.  We took off from Poplar Lake, where the other duo rented a canoe.

Here we are, moments before we head out.

Here’s the route – we had no specific plan, but the white is the route we ended up taking – Poplar to Lizz to Caribou to Horseshoe for night one camp.  Then off to Gaskin to Winchell for 2nd night camp.  Then from Winchell to Omega to Henson to Gaskin for 3rd night camp.  Finally last day from Gaskin to Jump to Allen to Horseshoe to Caribou to Lizz to Poplar.

Lizz Lake, our official BWCA entry point.

Martin manning the bow.

James, my Dad partner on the trip enjoying a cup o’ morning on Horseshoe Lake.

Martin manning the breakfast griddle with a pancake almost ready to go!

one year ago…”Getting Ready for State Fair-Like Event”

August 3, 2011 – Tettegouche Part 2

Our campground was within easy walking distance of a number of waterfalls on the Baptism River.

two step falls, baptism river

Here’s Two Step Falls in the fading light of day.

throwing rocks near waterfall

A most popular past-time for 10 year-old boys is throwing rocks in water – here you can catch part of the splash of the latest rock to be launched.

Further upstream the boys found a large log that was stuck in the river and first tried to help it downstream, and then later, maneuvered to direct bubbles in the stream.

high falls on baptism river

Martin thought that perhaps using a lever might help the project.  This is in front of the High Falls of the Baptism – the highest waterfall in Minnesota – a great place to play.

shovel point, shovel point sunset

In the evening, I took a stroll down to the lake to take in the sunset over Lake Superior, and sprinted out to Shovel Point.

palisade head from shovel point

The view from Shovel Point, looking back down Lake Superior towards Palisade Head. It was an exceptionally calm and quiet night on the lake. As a native Duluthian who moved away as a toddler, but moved back for high school and undergrad, the lake exerts a pull on me, even after all these years.  I was happy to spend even this little bit of time alone on the cliffs overlooking the lake in a rather rare calm and pristine mood.

one year ago…”From the “Berries Like the Rain”

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 15, 2011 – Dock Life

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

Emma and Kate greet canoers on their journey.

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

Dock jumping hardly ever goes out of style.

Neighbors one cabin down fish near sunset.

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

A view of the dock facing out to the lake.

one year ago…”BWCA Day 1″

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 24, 2011 – Martin’s First Trout

As long as we had to drive to Decorah to pick up Emma from music camp, we thought we’d take in some trout fishing in the area (yes, I know to most of the world “Iowa Trout” is an oxymoron of the 1st degree).  My brother met us with his camper, so we didn’t even have to sleep on the ground.

boy with trout

Martin had a bot of a struggle at the beginning learning a new kind of fishing that requires pinpoint accurary in casting, but he eventually got the hang of it.

boy on trout stream

And again…

I couldn’t resist this short video of a classic scene of young boy and flopping fish. We look forward to smoking the 20 trout we brought home!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #214″

June 1, 2011 – Hayrides Never Go Out of Style

One of our neighbors was good enough to offer us as much of the loose straw in his loft that we care to haul away – coons and the like have destroyed most the strings. It’s a pain to get out and haul, but offers us great mulch and the chance for Martin to ride on a load of straw under a big sky, with the wind in his air, bouncing up and down on a load of straw.

He was able to ride the mile or so across the field on top of the load – something every kid should have a chance to do. Now, when the wind stops, I’ll spread it on the garden.

one year ago…”Summer Painting”

May 18, 2011 – Jazzy Martin

This isn’t particularly of interest to everyone, but I thought family might appreciate a 3 minute clip from Martin’s first jazz band concert. The quality is poor, but you at least get to hear it (listen for Martin’s trombone solo). The band started practicing in February and consists of 5th and 6th graders.

They’ve made great progress since the 5th graders just picked up their instruments last fall.

one year ago…”Goats on the Ground”

April 13, 2011 – The Streak Continues – 4 Days in a Row

Our ewe Gabby gave birth today.  We can officially blame Martin for the fact that she only dropped one lamb.  The night before she became a mom, Martin asked if ewes ever only had one baby.  We told him not very often and we’ve never had just one.

boy with lamb

So Gabby made liars out of us.  When she was labor, she REALLY wanted to be a mommy!  I moved one of the ewes out of the mommy-baby pen in anticipation of Gabby and her babies needing the space.  As soon as Gabby saw the other lambs from another ewe, she started licking and nursing them as her own while her own birthing process was beginning.  I separated her quickly as to not get everybody mixed up on who’s who.

one year ago…”New York Farm Workers Bill”

April 9, 2011 – 27 Years Later, UMD Hockey Champs!

As a native Duluthian and an alum of UM-Duluth, and a season ticket holder from 1981-1984, I was pleased to witness the Bulldogs win their first NCAA hockey championship.  In 1984, after the Bulldogs painful 5-4 loss in four overtimes in the NCAA championship game, if you would have told me that in 27 years I’d be taking my son to the see the championship game, visiting my oldest daughter in college, and married to Linda (who I knew then and wanted to know much better, but she was already with boyfriend), I would have been overjoyed.

There it is 3-2 UMD in overtime over Michigan.

Martin in his seat at the Xcel Energy center.  I’m thinking the millions the power company spent on advertising was missed on Martin as he asked me “Dad, is this arena related to Microsoft?”   I asked him why he thought it might be and he replied that the name of the arena was a spreadsheet.

The Xcel center is a great place to watch a hockey game – ESPN The Magazine has ranked the venue six years among the top three for “Best Stadium Experience” in all of professional sports. Xcel Energy Center was named “Best NHL Arena” by Sports Business Journal and recognized for the “Best Fan Experience” by Forbes magazine.  Sports Illustrated named the arena its “top choice” among NHL buildings. But until today, I didn’t know what extremes the facility went to make the fan experience so great.

For example, after talking up the guy sitting next to me, he revealed that he was Gregg Moore, who played for UMD the same time I had season tickets.  Not only did he play there, he had 206 career points, which makes him the 4th highest scoring player in UMD history!  Needless to say, there was much happiness in our row.  Gregg’s time ended in 1983, one year before the famous 4 OT championship game at Lake Placid, but he was there to watch it on a break from professional hockey in Europe.

Here’s the obligatory celebration following the sudden death victory.  The game had a storybook ending as the player who scored the winning goal was voted the “most underrated” college hockey player just a few days ago. Kyle Schmidt, only one of four seniors on the team, directed in the winning goal in OT.  He is a hometown boy, growing up a few miles from the campus.  Also, all the team dyed their hair blonde, except for Kyle, whose fianace wasn’t keen on a badly dyed blonde husband in summer wedding photos!

Next year, when the Frozen Four is played in Tampa, there’ll be another banner hanging from the ceiling.

one year ago…”Claire’s College Search is Over”

March 23, 2011 – “Gracious Professionalism”

Today, Martin and one of his Lego League team members traveled to Ames to exhibit “gracious professionalism” – a core value of the First Lego League organization. They traveled to help the “flying monkeys” get ready for their trip to San Diego to compete in a national tournament.

The team was selected on the strength of their innovative solution project (a prosthetic device) and was needing some pointers on robot programming. Here Martin demonstrates some test programs, in this case, following a black line using a light sensor on a test pad.

Here they look over some programming hints and techniques to help make their robot work more efficiently.

one year ago…”The Sap Keeps a Boilin'”

March 18, 2011 – Ducks and Fish

I’ve been trying to be a bit more deliberate about getting out more.  Truth is, I could work 120 hours a week on the farm and still not get everything done.  The last few days we’ve been watching the migration at a local marsh, Hendrickson Marsh on the Story-Marshall county line.  This was the first day the ice was out.

For this part of the world, it’s a pretty big marsh.  It sets in about a mile square block and water probably takes up 1/4 of the square mile.  It’s a magnet for ducks and geese.

The were thousands of ducks here today.

We thought we’d try to catch some garden fertilizer in the stream below the marsh.  I’m going to try to make a fish emulsion.  We didn’t get any big ones, but plenty of little ones and it was a great way to spend a Friday afternoon.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #200″

March 16, 2011 – Mushroom Logs Inoculated with Spawn

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

Claire drills the holes in the logs.

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

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

one year ago…”Three Cats in the Sun”

March 6, 2011 – Martin the Accordionist!

Who’d of thunk that a few weeks after our visit to the accordion restaurant, we’d have an accordion in our very home!

A long-time friend has recently been unable to resist the temptation to buy accordions in the last year or so, and offered to let Martin try out one of her recent acquisitions.  As he already has the keys down, it’s just a matter of learning the buttons and getting the arm strength to move the bellows.  Martin loves music, so along with the piano and trombone, he’s going to see how he likes accordion.

one year ago…”Ewe Lambs Birth with No Problems”

February 22, 2011 – Tree Down

Wow, the giant tree was felled!  I wish I was home to see it crash to the ground (and not on any buildings).

Martin stands by the trunk for scale.

It was a whopper of a tree and provided lots of shade for grazing animals in its day.  Looks like there will not be a shortage of wood for winter bonfires.  I think I’ll also get a bit of firewood from it, and a bunch of mushroom logs as well – think of it as a kinder, gentler version of the Giving Tree.

The space around the tree – compare to yesterday’s post to see the last known photograph of the tree.!

one year ago…”Snowbanks Along Hwy 20″

February 18, 2011 – Early Tap

Can you believe it’s February 16th and the sap is flowing?   Last year at this time, the snowdrifts were still to the tops of the fenceposts!

We’re trying a new collection method this season.  I bought a few of these collecting bags to try.  You just put in the tap and then hang the bag holder and tap on the tree.

Martin putting the bag in place.  As the season goes on, we’ll keep you up to date.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #196″

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Sheep Bagging Up”

February 15, 2011 – Footprints in the Snow

Isn’t the world’s most popular poem about footprints in the sand? Well, there’s not much sand in Iowa in February, unless it’s clinging to dirty snowbanks on the side of the road. But there is snow – and footprints.

Martin and I went on a surveying mission in the back pasture yesterday.  The day before this photo, he walked through the back “pond” through many feet of snow.  When we came back the next day, we saw his footprints led to nowhere, for if you look in the center of the photo you can see the dark remains of footprints that were implanted in deep snow the day before are now under water.

It’s a good time of year to get out and move around a bit.  Water needs to be channeled and drained, trees need to be  checked on for winter rabbit damage, and boots need to get wet.

The foreground of this photo shows some of the willow cuttings I just stuck in the ground in this low area and didn’t mow or graze the last year. They were able to compete with the dense sod just fine.  So, I will continue this spring with their advance down this drainage.  Goats will be very happy to have browse!

one year ago…”Feeding Chickens in Winter”

January 31, 2011 – Piano Lessons

It’s time for some of the day-to-day living that fills our lives.  Music is one of those.  If you’re going to be good at music you have to practice.  There’s no secret code to enter, no extra powers hidden under a rock – just commitment and practice.

You also need a teacher to advance more rapidly.  Here Martin is with his piano teacher.  I can’t help but think of the kinds of information are best passed down person to person, and not in books, in computers, or video.  Music is certainly one of those kinds of information.

one year ago…”Cedar Rapids Post-Flood”

January 15, 2011 – Technic Medics 5 at State Tournament

Today was the day so eagerly awaited by Martin and the First Lego League team.

Here the team gets pumped up during the opening ceremonies.

The event was hosted by the College of Engineering at Iowa State. This gathering shows part of the crowd gathered in the atrium of Howe Hall.  Out of the 400 or so teams in the state, this event gave 72 teams that qualified from regional events the opportunity to compete.

The judges look approvingly during the technical interview where the judges review the robot runs and look at a printout of the code the team used to program, along with notes the team made. If you look closely, you can see under the robot a red light that indicates a light sensor is turned on and is following the black line to push the robot sensitivity sensor.

Getting ready to start the robot.

Changing attachments on the robot during the run.

The team was thrilled to win first place in state for the mechanical design of their robot!

Martin with his chance to hold the trophy.  The team will have one more meeting, where we’ll debrief the team and “decommission” the robot (i.e. take apart).  It will be with happy and sad memories that the robot gets unplugged and taken apart – but the kids will no doubt remember the fun for a long time to come!

one year ago…”Winter Wonderland”

January 14, 2011 – Martin’s First Lasagna

Martin had the afternoon off from school, so he had time for a new cooking adventure. We looked up a lasagna recipe and Martin was off to the races.

This was Martin’s favorite part, layering the meat mixture, noodles, mozzarella cheese, and cottage cheese mixtures.

It turned out wonderfully, and best of all, since we were making a big mess, Martin made one to eat and one to freeze.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #191″

January 1, 2011 – Goodbye to 2010

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

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

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

Linda Barnes

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

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

baby lamb and boy

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

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

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

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

ag incuabator, MCC susutainable agricultgure

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

cherry pie

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

Devils Lake

A great lunch spot at Devil’s Lake Wisconsin.

Baptism Falls, Tettegouche

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

one year ago…”Looking Back on 2009″

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”New Kitchen Floor”

December 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″

December 11, 2010 – A Day at a Lego League Tournament

Today Martin’s team participated in their first lego league tournament.

Here some of the team gets excited during the opening ceremonies of the day.

first lego league

It’s all concentration as the team tries its first run on the challenge table.  Each team uses the same board, with the same “missions” and designs and programs a robot to complete as many missions as possible in 150 seconds.  Only two team members can be at the table at once, so they need to strategize when and how to move team members in. Each team gets three runs and only the highest run counts.

The team’s first mission ran into problems as the light sensor didn’t work the same in the gymnasium as it had in the classroom.  The quality of light was different, so here the team ties to reprogram the robot between missions.

Another part is the team presentation on a topic related to the year’s theme.  The Technic Medic 5’s chose to present their information about the spinal cord in a format entitled “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” Being 5th graders, they thought it was funny.

Another part of the judging is the technical interview where judges review their robot design, look at the code design, and ask questions about both.

Yet another part is an “instant challenge” where the team has a minute to prepare to solve a challenge they do not have any knowledge of before they enter the room.

Finally, teams are evaluated on “gracious professionalism, their enthusiasm, and how well the team members interact with each other.

The ending was like the movie “Hoosiers” for this team.  This tournament was for kids in grades 5-8.  Since it was the team’s first year, they were young, and it was their first year, their hopes to move onto state faded with each passing announcement during the awards ceremony.  Eight of the teams move onto the state tournament.  I kind of thought the team had a chance for the “rising star” award – given to a new team with great potential.  When that, and all the others came and went, except for the overall champion, the kids looked pretty disappointed – until they were announced as the top team of the day!  They practiced many days, took great instruction from their teacher who taught them how to speak and think like gracious professionals.  Congrats Team Technic Medics!  Good luck at state Competition at Iowa State after the new year!

one year ago…”Subersnow”

November 14, 2010 – It’s not Everyday You Meet Someone from Belarus!

Today Martin manned the booth for a project his Sunday School class is supporting – buying solar water purifiers sold through an alternative gift market.

While Martin was giving his spiel, I overheard someone mention the word Belarus and my ears perked up. My grandfather, who spoke Polish and was born in a town that is now part of Belarus (depending on the year, the town was ruled by Russians, Lithuanians, Poles, and others). So I interrupted and introduced myself and of course, they were thrilled to meet someone here with connections to their home country. I saw many of my relatives in their faces and mannerisms.  The translation was very difficult, so we didn’t get to talk too much, but it would have been fun to be able to talk more with them.

one year ago…”Mineral Mix”

November 3, 2010 – First Lego League Practice

It’s Wednesday, so it’s First Lego League.

The team looks over the robots and the mission table.

There’s a lot of concentration during a lego league session.

The robots are programmed via a computer and USB cable.  Here, some adjustments are made to the robot program.

Of course, one of the best parts of Lego league is treat time.  We had “Lego Pie” this week.

one year ago…”City Hams”

October 31, 2010 – Happy Halloween Recital

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Happy Halloween”

October 22, 2010 – Getting Garlic in the Ground

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #181″

October 6, 2010 – Martin on Climbing Tower

Today Martin’s lego league team was able to visit the climbing tower at MCC for some real team building experience!

We first warmed up with some trust games.  Great form here for the faller to remain stiff and the catcher to have great foot placement for proper leverage.

The team getting instructions before donning the climbing harnesses.

Martin all geared up, ready, and excited for the zip line and the climbing tower.

Martin begins his ascent up the tower.

Marshalltown climbing Tower, MCC Adventure Course

First leg completed.

MCC Climbing Tower

OK, keep going Martin now that you are in the jumble of logs in the center of the tower.

On-ground belayers are ever vigilant in controlling the belay lines in case the climbers fall.

Martin happy to be at the top!

He gets a a ride down after reaching the top.  It was a great early October day, in the upper 70’s and a fun activity.

one year ago…”Squash”

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 22, 2010 – FIRST Lego League Team Building

My “off-farm” volunteering this year includes a coach/helper for Martin’s First Lego League team.  We’ll have more about the team later, but today’s event centered around team-building.

The first step was to partner up the kids, blindfold one, and have the the “sighted” one guide the blindfolded one through the lego mine field.  This was a great activity and analogy for making a lego robot as the blindfolded kids represented the robot and the kids giving instructions represent the robot programmers.

Another activity was to raise and lower a stick with each kid always touching the stick with a single finger as it rises and falls (it’s harder than you might think!)

Who can’t have fun with moving a hula hoop down a line without breaking hold of the hand of the person next to you!

The final part of the day was to review the official board and rules of the robot challenge.

one year ago…”Golden Raspberries”

September 20, 2010 – Honey Extraction Day

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

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

remove honey frames

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

honey frame

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

uncapping honey

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Inaugural Chicken Butchering”

September 12, 2010 – Trombone Chooses Martin

This week was band instrument selection week at school.  As a 5th grader, Martin now has the privilege of playing an instrument.  Much like the sorting hat at Hogwarts, the instrument mysteriously selects you.

The trombone selected Martin, so then we purchased him a starter trombone.  At this point I will refrain from posting you tubes of him learning how to play!

one year ago…”Fresh – The Movie”

August 8, 2010 – House Progress

Slow but steady progress is being made on the cascading garage tear-off project. It has spread to putting new siding on the entire east side and both the additions to the original house.

Although with dew points in the 70’s and even in the 80’s some days, and rain every other day or so leaves much to complain about, slow but steady progress is being made.  Today I ripped off the old siding off the second floor and removed the old storm windows and frames.

one year ago…”Hazelnuts”

July 17, 2010 – On the Big Water

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

shovel point

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

kids on lake superior

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

boy at shovel point

Rocks, water, boy – a winning combination!

Emma practices her stone skipping.

baptism river mouth

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

one year ago…”Rain, Rain”

July 16, 2010 – BWCA Day 2

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

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

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

boy fishing

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

largemouth bass

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

teenagers paddling

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

portage puddle

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

wet portage

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

one year ago…”International Wolf Center”

July 13, 2010 – On the Water

A great part about vacation is quiet water activity.

boy in kayak

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

teenager in kayak

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

boy on dock

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

Dock jumping never goes out of style!

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

one year ago…”Something Fishy”

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”

July 5, 2010 – Hauling Lumber

Now that the garage is down, it’s time to put away the salvaged lumber.  There is a good amount of 2×4 and 2×6 lumber that can be reused around the farm (I’d still like to build an implement storage lean-to and a few mobile animal shelters for the pasture and…  OK, let’s stop right there.

In the meantime the lumber has to go somewhere.  I made some “lumber racks” in one side of the corn crib to be able to slide it in and out as in a a lumberyard.  My time-saving idea this time was to write the lengths on the ends before putting it away, so when I need one, I won’t have to slide many out of the pile to find a certain length.  Here they are, ready for transport to the crib.

one year ago…”Old Machine Shed Progress”

June 30, 2010 – Advances in Cat Feeding

With Claire’s recent departure, Martin has assumed the pet feeding duty.

Martin started feeding the cats, and immediately started making changes to the routine.  He added a new bit of technology.  Evidently he was not impressed with Claire’s dump a half pound of cat food out in a pile and run technique.  Martin instituted some new cat feeding technology – single serving cat feeders made out of an old board and tuna cans.  Although not totally apparent in this photo, four tuna cans are screwed onto a board, so all four cats can eat at the same time – portion controlled.

one year ago…”Lake Shetek State Park”

June 25, 2010 – Cherries to Food

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #168″

June 22, 2010 – Father’s Day

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

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

one year ago…”Septic Day 1″

June 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”

May 15, 2010 – Eight Year Old Boy “Records”

See the red spot in the tree?  That’s Martin, the monkey.

A few days ago Martin came to me with a revelation, “Dad, I set a record for the farm.”  Curious, I asked what it was.  He said with some pride and trepidation, “I have the highest pee on the farm.”  Still curious, I asked, how high and where – thinking he might have decided to launch out his window.  Instead, he said, up above the power lines on the south tree.”  So, there it is, a record any eight-year old boy would treasure.  I just asked him to let me know next time he planned on beating the record, so I could plan my travels around the farm without an umbrella.

one year ago…”no post”

May 4, 2010 – Thoughts on Youth Coaches

I didn’t think I’d write about a situation Martin was put in by his little league coach last year – but the triangulation of a few events, brings it finally to bear. Martin played t-ball for a couple of years and last year was in his first year of real pitching ball – at seven years old.

A few games into the season, when it appeared that Martin was still picking up the knack of hitting the ball, he came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. Martin stood and watched as the pitcher threw three called strikes, as Martin stood still with the bat on his shoulder – not even attempting a swing. He ran back to the dugout, tears streaming down his eyes, and bravely took the field with his glove, while his parents and spectators all wondered quietly to themselves why he didn’t even take a swing.

On the way home, Martin told us that he wanted to swing, but before he went up to bat, the coach told him not to swing at any pitches and that he might get walked. So Martin listened, and suffered the humiliation of standing there, bases loaded, and not swinging as the coach instructed, while all the spectators and his parents saw him not even try to hit the ball.

So what’s the coach’s motivation to put a learning boy in that situation? What could possibly be so important as to not let a seven year old play? I don’t know, but can make some assumptions. For what it’s worth in a league of seven and eight year old boys, his son was the “star” of the team. His older brothers were good high school players. Was the rest of the team just an accoutrement to his son’s exploits? Did he have to win at all costs, even at this level?

So earlier this year, Martin came home from school and said he thought he’d “take a year off” from baseball. I commented that there were lots of fun things to do in the summer and remarked that we didn’t even get a sign-up sheet from school. He said that the sheets were passed out weeks earlier and that he (who brings every paper home religiously) had thrown it in the trash at school.

So all you good coaches out there – never doubt that you have the ability to encourage and engage players in a lifelong love of the sport and a team. Martin learned a different lesson. I was thinking about this as I drove home and saw all the fields filled with kids, but not Martin among them.

But when I turned in the driveway, I was happy to see Martin and Emma playing catch in the yard.

one year ago…”A Walk in the Spring Forest”

April 30, 2010 – Takes a While for the Old Guys

Sometimes it takes a while for the old guys to catch on to new technology, even if they have it.

morel mushroom

We were out morel mushroom hunting this evening after the rain passed and Martin asked if he could bring the GPS.

Although we didn’t find enough to justify marking a spot, it could have been just the thing to grab the coordinates and see if they reappear in the same spot next year.

one year ago…”Plum Blossoms”

April 25, 2010 – Locavoring at Church Conference

This weekend we attended our church’s regional conference in Davenport.  The conference put an emphasis on involving all ages, so we proposed a session from the kitchen on “cooking local” thinking it would be a nice change from conference center meeting rooms.

Here Martin is helping us to prepare – we made biscuits form scratch using local flours, and in the background you can see that we also set up to make jam – both raspberry and strawberry with frozen berries from the farm.  About 20 people signed up and all seemed to enjoy sampling the jam on the hot biscuits and bringing a jar or two of jam home as well.

one year ago…”Prom”

March 14, 2010 – Maple Syruping Season Begins

We’re a little behind getting our taps in.  The weather warmed up rather suddenly and with the heavy overcast, has stayed relatively warm.  Good sap run happens when nighttime temperatures drop below freezing, but we haven’t had that for a while, nor is it in the forecast, but it was time to get the taps in.

Here Martin is drilling the hole in the tree in the front yard – our best producer.

Later in the day, he monitors the “mobile sugar shack” -this old woodstove on a small wagon, so we can move it around as needed, depending on the wind and precipitation.  We don’t end up with very much syrup because our setup is so small and we don’t have a lot of maple trees, so this size stove and pan work well enough.  But the syrup sure tastes good!  It is one item not for sale from high hopes gardens!

one year ago…”Spring Exploration”

February 8, 2010 – Home DNA

Even though Linda started out her career as a gene jockey in the early days of biotech, I still never imagined I’d hear this conversation at home between my wife and eight-year old son.

Linda: “Martin, it’s time to get jammies on.”
Martin: “Can I just finish this base pair?”

Martin’s home DNA kit shows just how ubiquitous the technology has become. Much like the comment many teenagers may have had during the Super Bowl half-time show, “Why are those old guys playing the song from CSI?”

one year ago…”Bonus Poo”

January 1, 2010 – Looking Back on 2009

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

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

one year ago…”Burning up the New Year”

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

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

girl on snowdrift over fence

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #146″

December 13, 2009 – Snowbanks

I think the winter is here to stay – we’ve not been above freezing for about 10 days now and the cold weather continues.

Martin went to check out how our natural windbreak worked – and here are the drifts to show that it is working.  Years ago, we’d have to put up an take down snow fences – one less task now that the windbreak trees are doing their job.

one year ago…”Lumberjacking Christmas Tree”

December 11, 2009 – Subersnow

As expected, storm recovery takes a while.  Hear Martin helps clear the snow off the Outback.

subaru outback buried in snow

We bought the ’96 Outback about 18 months ago as a car for our new drivers, Claire and Emma.  It remains our only all-wheel drive vehicle and has seen a lot of use this week.  I feel better with them driving on ice and snow with it. Two days after the snow stopped falling, the plows have still not come down the road.  A neighbor plowed one lane so we could make the 1/3 mile to the blacktop.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #145″

November 29, 2009 – Putting Bees Away for Winter

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

Martin and Linda add the insulated cover to the hive.

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

one year ago…”Gift Box Assembly”

November 15, 2009 – Mixing Winter Grain Ration

It’s a big mixing weekend. The bred ewes eat mostly hay over the winter, but we give a little grain supplement for the pregnant and nursing ewes.

First step is to grind up some corn – ground corn is better than shell corn as it is better to digest. Here Martin watches the electric grinder and Ora the black kitten perches on the apple tree high above to watch!

Again, there are many possible combinations of grain mixtures, here’s what we’re trying this winter – steamed rolled barley, steam crimped oats, and linseed meal.

The final bit of the feed mix is a little bit of probiotics.  Probiotics have many good effects on health, but are especially good for good rumen health.

Martin with the buckets ready for the first group to be mixed.  Here’s this winter’s recipe:

2 parts cracked corn
1 part steam-rolled barley
1 part steamed crimped oats
1 part linseed meal
1 oz probiotics per 125 lb mix

one year ago…”Home-Made Cider Press Info”

October 31, 2009 – Happy Halloween

Martin decided he wanted to be a spider for Halloween – so he made his own costume out of black clothes, black chore boots, and some pipe insulators for legs (Martin wants to let you know there’s eight legs  if you count his legs!).

He learned the benefits of a home-made costume as one of his fellow trick-or-treaters wore a store-bought werewolf and almost every other candy provider asked the werewolf  “haven’t you already been here?” as there were a number of identical werewolves roaming the neighborhood.

one year ago…”Snakes on the Table”

October 3, 2009 – Martin Flying Up to 4th Grade

At school conferences this week, we knew something was up when in addition to Martin’s teacher, the TAG teacher and principal dropped in. (In the small world department, we discovered that the principal is the sister of the guy who installed our wind turbine.)

They presented us with all the data and impressions of Martin’s school work and behavior and recommended he jump up a grade right now.  So, he’ll soon be going up a grade.

In unrelated activity, on a rainy day, he decided to build a giant paper airplane.  After he build it and played with it a while (as the crumpled nose indicates) he thought it might be a world record, so he consulted his trusty Guiness Book of World of Records and did not find a category for largest paper airplane, so until someone comes forward with another, he’s thinking he’s got the world’s largest.

one year ago…”Green Consultant”

September 27, 2009 – Big Tomato Day

We started on tomatoes about 2:30 and with GJ and Martin cutting up tomatoes for about 3 hours, we managed to put up 28 quarts of tomatoes today!  Tomatoes take a while as they need to process for 50 minutes, but there is nothing like the home-canned tomatoes.

Martin had a long time to think while he was cutting up tomatoes and made a step-by-step analogy between the previous day’s chicken butchering and the tomatoes.

Step One – Pick tomatoes/bleed chickens

Step Two – Blanch Tomatoes in Boiling Water/Scald chickens in 150 degree water

Step Three – Slip skins off tomatoes/put chickens in plucker to remove feathers

Step Four – Cut stem out of tomatoes/take out guts of chicken

Step Five – Cut up tomatoes/cut up chickens for freezing

Step Six – Put chicken parts in bags and freeze to preserve/put tomatoes in jars to preserve.

one year ago…”Harvest Table”

September 5, 2009 – Tomatoes Finally Arrive in Bulk!

It’s been a lousy year for tomatoes so far.  We had the bad combination of getting them in late and a cool summer that delayed their growth a couple of weeks.

tomato bushel

The Roma tomatoes aren’t ready yet, but these are ready to eat and hit the canner.

Martin works on cutting up the tomatoes before processing.  He like to style in his Bob the Builder apron!

one year ago…”Market Berries”

August 20, 2009 – First Day of School

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

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

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

one year ago…”Peach Basket”

July 31, 2009 – Midwest Living Photo Shoot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #126″

July 27, 2009 – Curing the Garlic

After the garlic is harvested, it needs to dry and cure in a warm, dry place.  The hayloft of the barn is the best place on the farm to do just that.

Part of the fun is getting the garlic up to the hayloft.  First, we open one of the trapdoors on the loft and send a kid to scurry up a ladder for on loft support.

We fill buckets with garlic and hand up a rope.  Young boy pulls up the garlic.

Once the garlic is up in the loft, the bucket is emptied and repeated until all the garlic is up in the loft..

Old refrigerator racks make great drying platforms for the garlic.  After the garlic dries down, it will be cleaned and sorted for market.

one year ago…”Apple Pickin'”

July 17, 2009 – Rain, Rain

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #124″

July 15, 2009 – Touring Tower Soudan Underground Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Willow Nursery on Track”

July 7, 2009 – Have They Bonded?

Do you think Martin and the new kitten have bonded?

Oragif is very friendly and can’t get close enough to her people! Martin is showing her how to play in sand.  The other cats and dogs are starting to get used to the idea on a new cat on the farm.

Here’s a “self-portrait” Martin took of himself and Oragif. Looks like he got a lot of the cat and not so much of himself.

one year ago…”Settling in at Kawishiwi Lodge”

July 1, 2009 – “Oragif”

A kitten recently wandered on the farm.

We’ve named this kitten “Oragif” in honor of the recently deceased cat “Figaro” (in case you missed it – Oragif is Figaro spelled backwards).  Figaro was a black cat who lived here for many years after mal-adjusting to city/house life.  So when this black kitten came, it had to be named after Figaro.  I thing Oragif is a bit of a mouthful, so it’s already been shortened to something that sounds like “Aura.”

one year ago…”Martin’s Birthday”

June 26, 2009 Birthday Trip to Omaha Zoo

Today Martin got his birthday present, a trip to the Omaha Zoo with a friend.

No, they didn’t call each other about what they should wear, but they look similar but different enough (Cubs and Twins hats, Mount Rushmore and Petrified Forest t-shirts).

Not that seven-year old boys like to act out, but it seems like a theme for the day.

Ok, we’ll ratchet up the goofing around up another notch!

But we can be gentle as well.

The boys after a long day at the zoo, leaving with sharks in hand.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #122″

June 21, 2009 – Rain, Rain

In the last few weeks, if we’ve gone 12 hours without rain it was a relief. Yesterday was no exception, although we lucked out in the afternoon as the storm clouds billowed up literally right over our farm.

Martin and I watched, lying on the ground as this cloud billowed high into the sky. It was fascinating to watch the speed at which the top of the cloud grew in height and width.

After it passed a few miles past, we took a photo with Martin.

Later in the evening as the sun set, a whole new set of colors became available.

The top of the cloud flattens out as it reaches the stratosphere. This series of storms spawned a dozen tornadoes, but none of them very damaging, with only one farm damaged.

one year ago…”Dedication of Boreas Wind Turbine”

June 10, 2009 – Road Hay

Is it free?  Is it easy?  Do kids like to help? Sign me up – it’s “road hay” season again. The county sickle-bar mowers have cut the long grass along the sides of the roads and it seems a waste to just let it sit there.

We can always use organic material, whether for bedding, composting, or in this case, Martin is spreading it around in the area close to the chicken coop where all the plants have been beaten down.  It’s easy to scoop up with a hay fork and Martin likes to pack it into the pickup truck with the topper and we can get quite an amount in one trip and then decide where it will do the most good.

one year ago…”Bad Feeling about Next Few Days”

May 29, 2009 – Workin’ on the Barn

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #120″

May 22, 2009 – Chimenia

The cousins from Minneapolis came down for Memorial Day weekend.

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #119″

May 4, 2009 – A Walk in the Spring Forest

Martin and I went for a walk/bike in the spring forest looking for morels.  Our mushroom-gathering bag remains empty, but we did enjoy the evening nonetheless.

The spring woodland flowers are out in full regalia.  I’m not a botanist, but this looks like a dainty hepatica.

Purple violets.

Yellow violets.


And this funky fungi, I think I’ll call it pipe organ mushroom, although I haven’t a clue to its real name.

Finally, some moss sporophytes end the botanical portion of the walk.

I believe that kids don’t have enough unstructured play, especially unstructured out-of-doors play.  Here Martin crawled down a small ravine about 6 feet deep and was working on making a dam to stop the water.  Great kid work.

one year ago…”Finally, Something in the Garden”

April 11, 2009 – Serious Garden Progress

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Fragile

March 10, 2009 – Maple Syrup at Last!

OK, the results are in and the maple syrup gets five stars! It is amazingly good, and even has a bit of a buttery taste.

Here Martin shows off the pint of syrup (minus what was poured one morning’s worth of buckwheat pancakes) that boiled down from the first five gallons of sap! Getting your own sweets in northern climates is a bit of a challenge, but we can now add maple syrup to honey. We’re going to keep on keeping on, but now the weather has turned frightfully cold, so the sap will not run until it warms up again.

one year ago…”Chicken Feed”

March 6, 2009 – Maple Sugaring Part 1

Today was a wonderful day – in the 60’s sunny and a father-son task that was delightful to both of us! We borrowed some equipment from morning sun farm, so we were ready to go.  Martin had just read about sugaring in one of the Little House on the Prairie books he’s ready, so he was pumped!

Since this is the thrifty way, we’re using washed out milk jugs to collect the sap.  Here I’m drilling a hole that will slip over the tap.

I’m putting a small cut at about 10 o’clock.  That notch will help the jug slide over the notch in the tap.

Martin is drilling the hole about 2 inches deep into the tree.

Insert the tap.  Notice the round shape of the tap and the ridge on the top of the tap.  That ridge is what the extra cut at 10:00 in the jug was made to accommodate.

The spile pounder inserts in the tap and get pounded until the ridge on the top of the tap has enough distance between the end of the tap and the tree to slip the milk jug behind.

Martin puts the jug on matching the ridge on the jug with the notch cut in the jug at 10:00.

The jug is twisted to upright once the back plastic of the jug is between the tree and back of the notch.  I also put a bit of the sticky saran wrap on the top since I didn’t have the lid to keep rain and other things out. Now we wait!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #108″

March 3, 2009 – Getting Ready to Fence Cement Yard

With some mixed species barn, we’ve been having to work harder than we need to to keep the horse away from the lambs.  So, I’m going to put up an electric fence across the cement pad adjacent to the barn, so everyone can easily get outside.  Once the pastures firm up it will be easier to manage, but in the mud season, it will be nice to have a solid place for everyone to be outside.

I’m going to drill holes in the cement, insert some fiberglass poles, and run electric rope.  Since the animals are on a cement yard, I’ve been told I’ll need to run an alternating hot/cold rope fence since the cement prevents a good ground connection – so the animals won’t get shocked until they touch two wires.

one year ago…”Back to Reality”

February 7, 2009 – New Hay Feeder

Another accoutrement that we now need is a hay feeder.  Now that the weather has warmed to the upper 40’s, it’s possible to get outside and do stuff.

I copied this design from a photo in a sheep raising book, except I added the hardware cloth bottom and wheels, and made it a bit taller than designed, hoping goats wouldn’t jump on top of it.  I much prefer rolling heavy items than lifting them.  I made the framing out of AC2 lumber, but used cedar for the slats on the bottom and top, not wanting the hay to have that much contact with the chemically treated boards.

We used a design feature suggested by Martin.  I was trying to figure out a quick and dirty way to keep the hinged lid open when loading hay and Martin suggested a small block that’s attached with a wire that goes in the hinge to keep it open.

one year ago…”Thingamajig #106″

January 25, 2009 – Snowbanks are Back

I was hoping that the odds were low of having two similar winters in a row and that the towering mounds of snow along our road would not reappear this year.

Well, I’m wrong.  This week the plows finally got here and widened to road to mostly the whole width, but some places are about a lane and a half wide.  Beats the single lane we had.  One plow spent 45 minutes just on the 1/3 mile between our place and the blacktop.

one year ago…”Big Fluffy Flakes”

January 21, 2009 – Emma at State Honor Band

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

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

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

one year ago…”Snowbanks”

January 16, 2009 – Photo Friday “Meditation”

This is a bit strange that this week’s Photo Friday theme is “meditation” and exactly a year ago, that was the topic of the blog on this day. So, I guess we’ll repeat the entry, just because!  So, here is last year’s entry repeated:

After Martin got his jammies on, he shouted down the stairs to us, “Can I meditate?”

We gave him the ok to go ahead and meditate, a bit puzzled. We wondered what a 6-year-old meant by “meditate.” We waited a while so he could do his thing alone. Finally, we couldn’t stand the mystery of what he meant by meditate (and he was quiet), so we sent Emma up to investigate. Here’s what she found!

Namaste Martin.

one year ago…”Can I Meditate?”

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Winter Visitors”

December 13, 2008 – Lumberjacking Christmas Tree

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #99″

December 6, 2008 – Dinosaur Farming

Martin, having lived on a farm for all of his seven years, has learned a thing or two about handling animals.

He needed all his expertise in designing this farm to contain these dangerous dinosaurs.  Fencing, animal cohabitation, feeding, and disease management all need to be considered.  These calm, contained, happy dinosaurs are a great sign of a successful design.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #98″.

November 26, 2008 – Boy Work

There’s important work for boys to do.

Here, Martin is busy kicking rocks and sand off a ledge into the abandoned quarry below. Later on, it was important to throw rocks out onto the ice to test the thickness. It’s also a good time to test rock skipping. Other important work includes breaking sticks down into smaller pieces by beating them against tree trunks or the ground.

one year ago…”Winter’s Coming”.

October 31, 2008 – Snakes on the Table

This week was the elementary school science fair.  Martin wanted to do a poster on “Iowa Snakes” and so he did.

He found photos of the 27 kinds of snakes native to Iowa, from the common garter snake, to the venemous kinds – Prairie Rattlesnake, Timber Rattlesnake, Massasauga Rattlesnake, and Copperheads.  I was surprised to learn that so many kinds of venomous snakes lived in the state, but many of them are restricted to the far southern corners of the state.  He also brought along his toy snakes and a live snake from the biology lab.

one year ago…”Presidential Parade”.

October 20, 2008 – Garlic Planting

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 3, 2008 – A Boy, A Bike, A Wrench

We’ve been a bit slow getting Martin proficient on a bike – it’s hard to learn on gravel, but it’s time to get him started.

Here he’s swapping the training wheels off one bike and putting them on another.  He’s handy enough with the wrenches that he is able to take off, install, and lower and raise the training wheels on his own.  There’s a couple of bike options for him – the one he’s pictured with is pink and says “Dream Girl” on the chain guard, and he wasn’t a fan of that, so is moving the training wheels to another bike after Dad said “get over it or change the training wheels yourself.”  It’s good to build self-reliance!

one year ago…”Praying Mantis”.

August 30, 2008 – Honey Extraction

Today was honey extraction day.

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

A beautiful frame full of honey.

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #86″

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

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

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

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

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

July 28, 2008 – Digging Potatoes and Garlic

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

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

 One year ago…”A Night on the River”

July 27, 2008 – Apple Pickin’

Martin is using the fruit picker to harvest the last of the apples from the tree that was laid down on the ground during one of the spring storms.

The tree is literally hanging on by a thread and we’re hoping to get it through this year so we can grab a graft next spring to continue the tree – it’s an old variety that ripens in mid-July and is good for pies and sauce.

one year ago…”Another Summer Thundrestorm”

July 26, 2008 – Reiman Gardens

On Martin’s special request, yesterday was a gj and Martin at Rieman Gardens in Ames day.

Reiman Gardens are Iowa’s largest public gardens, with 11 themed gardens.

Along with the gardens is a butterfly conservatory, thus the appropriately-themed chair in the garden.

Martin took some photos, including this texture-rich photo of a tropical leaf in the conservatory.

One of the butterflies in the conservatory.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #81″

July 22, 2008 – Hosting Costa Ricans at High Hopes

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

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

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

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

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

Whoo! The circle comes together!

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

Lonna did the calling for the dancers.

Swing your partner.

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Dilly Beans”

July 20, 2008 – Martin’s View of “The Swamp”

I thought a seven-year-old boy would appreciate the life in the wetland, so I made it a point to bring Martin over and wax on enthusiastically about the tadpoles and diversity of life in the small exclosure when we were working on the trees in the back pasture.

A bit later, he was helping mulch some trees and ran out of things to do, so he asked if he could go look at the swamp, as he refers to it.  I watched from a distance as he first climbed part way up the fence, peering in.  I made a bet with myself that it wouldn’t be long before he crawled over the fence and went inside to look.  Sure enough, the pull was too strong and he crawled over the fence. 

A few minutes later he came running at full speed towards me, face red with heat in the 90 degree day “Dad, there’s a turtle in the swamp!”  He shaped his hands about as big as a dinner plate and retold the story of the turtle siting.  As I went back to see if I could spy the turtle he turned to me and said “Dad, the farm is getting a lot bigger now.”  I asked him what he meant and he said “Now we have a swamp, we have a baby forest, and a wind turbine.”  Even though you can’t buy that comment with MasterCard, I still thought it was priceless.

one year ago…”Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge”

July 10, 2008 – Dock Life and Bushwhacking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 9, 2008 – Catching Bait and Fish

Another popular vacation pastime is fishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Fishing at Sunset”

July 7, 2008 – Settling in at Kawishiwi Lodge

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

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

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

Here’s home for most of the week.

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

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

one year ago…”Garlic Harvest Begins”

June 28, 2008 – Des Moines Art Festival

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

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

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

The neices and nephew with auntie!

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #78″

June 27, 2008 – Chickens Need Rethinking

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Milestones”

June 7, 2008 – A Rare Storm-Free Day

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #75″

June 5, 2008 – Enough Already – Battered by High Winds

Last night about 1:30 am I awoke to the power blinking off and on and finally off for good. I went downstairs to find a battery radio to find out what was going as it was an evening of many tornadoes and we’re all a bit edgy after Parkersburg. The lightning was very intense and I had a bad feeling that a huge line of storms was heading our way after taking out a power line to our west – but before I could wake up everyone else, the storm hit and we scrambled into the basement – when I got into Emma’s room to fetch her, the open window on the south side of the house blew rain all the way across the room to the opposite side of the room! Any window that was open even 1/4 inch on the south side let in a torrent of water and it was so intense it even leaked through the floor and dripped out of the ceiling in the living room.

We huddled and found out a tornado was in the neighborhood less than a few miles away. I didn’t sleep very well the rest of the night and when we surveyed damage this morning, here’s what we found.

Our biggest casualty was this 60 foot spruce tree just north of Claire’s bedroom and near Martin’s playground. When we saw the big hole in the sky out Claire’s window at night, we new something was up. We shined our flashlights out and saw the tree had fallen. Claire was a bit shaken, thinking the tree could have fallen on her while sleeping!

Our one and only summer apple tree that bears fruit in July is also a victim of the storm. The chair was by the garage, about 50 feet away when we went to bed.

Maizie’s doghouse also got blown away a bit.

This is most interesting to me – we had placed black landscape fabric between our tomatoes and covered them with heavy hog panels – the wind picked the panels up off the ground and wrapped one around some tomato stakes. I literally sunk in 4-5 inches in the mud in the garden.

Even the hay wagon was kind enough to blow up from its usual resting place by the barn to up near the fallen apple tree to aid in cleanup! We were lucky the shed doors didn’t blow off, but they did blow out on the bottom.

The ground is littered with fruit that was ripped off the trees. These are cherries.

This white pine looks a lot different than it did yesterday – it looks like all of last year’s needles were stripped off the tree and mainly this year’s clumpy new growth were undamaged.

We weren’t the only ones – here’ s the view at a neighbor’s directly 1 mile east of us – they lost this pine and others as well.

Our neighbors immediately to our north had the most hassle as one branch is resting on the house, another limb took out a power line and they lost some shingles and siding as well.

Here’s a picture of nothing! You can see the cement forms which were part of a cattle feeder that usually has a building over the top of it – the cement remains and the building is gone. This is on the blacktop about a mile away near the big curve on E63.

Some of it is up to 3/4 of a mile away – the wreckage is strewn throughout the field – the farmstead that it came from is in the distance.

This barn was in sorry state before, but now it’s worse!

The pile of lumber to the left was in the garage, part of which is on the right! This is at the first house immediately to our north.

A part of an outbuilding roof ended up on the roof of another shed on this place, just about a half mile away. Right now we are feeling grateful and heard from our neighbor at the Sheriff’s Office that they think it was a tornado that didn’t quite touch the ground.

You may be wondering about the wind turbine – it’s up and running this morning!

one year ago…”Farm View Series #2 SE Corner”

May 25, 2008 – Skystream Summary

Doesn’t she look good up in the air? I’ll try to use this post to summarize some of the most-commonly asked questions about the Skystream. It is on a 70 foot tower (although they are commonly mounted on 35 foot towers in more crowded locations).

The machine is connected to the utility grid so excess power goes back to the grid (for example, on a windy night when our home load is low). The grid intertie leads to a couple of things people don’t immediately think about – when the grid goes down (when power goes off) so does the turbine. Like a generator, you don’t want current going back down the lines when linemen may be out repairing the lines. Nor does this unit have batteries. If you were in a remote location, far from the grid, that may be an option, but the batteries add substantially to the cost and only last about 10 years, so that configuration is not nearly as “green” as the straight grid intertie.

The unit recently had a software upgrade that changed the top speed before automatic shoutdown from 27 mph in the old one to 30 mph in the new one. It may seem like a small difference, but each time a gust goes above the upper limit, it turns off for 15 minutes before retesting the wind. So, if there’s a 25 mph wind blowing, a 29 mph gust won’t stop it and there is so much more power in the higher wind speeds that the latest upgrade has improved some installations by 20%

There’s also an optional RF USB device that you can plug into your computer and get a read-out of all the data coming out of the turbine. Eventually, the company would like to get this info via an internet connection where they could troubleshoot many potential problems without lowering the tower. Those units have recently been upgraded and the installer wants to wait a bit before I consider getting one to make sure all the bugs are out first. I do find myself going out quite often to look at it and the last few days have been very windy and it has been too windy numerous times.

One thing that struck me is that in a strange way it makes me much more conscious of my energy use – It’s fun those times the household load is lower than the turbine production and electricity goes out into the grid. Like the Prius drivers in the mpg drive challenges, it makes you look closer at the electricity you do use. And it is a treat to know that sometimes the computer is being powered by 100% clean and quiet wind power!

So in a way, I do get more enjoyment than the simple economic payback the turbine provides. I like that what used to be a monthly hole (paying the electric bill) now goes towards paying for a capital asset. Anytime you can convert a monthly payment into building equity (in this case, future “free energy”) it’s good for the long term.

I like the way it looks when you drive up the road to the farm. Like may things, I imagine the first few that go up, people think you might be a bit crazy – but after 5, 10, or 15 go up, then people start wonder what they are missing out on! We’re the third one in our county, so we’re on the way.

Today’s drudge job was piling the excavated soil back on top of the trench. Anytime you move wet soil by hand, it isn’t a fun thing, but in today’s heat and humidity (85 degrees, dew point in the low 70’s) it was less fun, but since there is a tornado watch and flood watch out for tonight, I thought it would never be easier or better than now.

one year ago…”Cute Chick”

May 24, 2008 – Flat Martin (aka Flat Stanley)

Flat Stanley is a popular children’s book where Stanley has the misfortune of being flattened underneath a billboard that falls down on him. He soon discovers that life paper-thin does have its advantages, like being able to slide under closed doors, being used as a kite, and being able to cheaply mail himself for traveling.

The story has been adopted by many elementary teachers to a fun project. Martin’s teacher traced his outline on a piece of paper, Martin colored it to look like him, and then was laminated and sent off to Auntie Kathy in California. The recipient of a Flat Stanley has an obligation to take Flat Stanly with them and document what Flat Stanley does and where he goes, then send him back in the mail with the stories of his journey.

Clint Eastwood brought his daughter’s Flat Stanley as his guest to the Academy Awards. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger brought his son’s Flat Stanley on the campaign trail.

We were very surprised to see that Auntie Kathy had made international travel arrangements for Flat Martin! Here is Flat Martin at a train station in Frankfurt, Germany with a co-worker of Auntie Kathy. Also as part of his European vacation, he visited Amsterdam.

When Flat Martin got home, he went for a ride in the real Martin’s car seat!

Flat Martin hangs out with Martin in the barn.

Flat Martin was getting too lazy, so we made him mow the lawn!

We tried to show Flat Martin how to drive the tractor, but he wasn’t so good!

He was good, however, wrapping around the wind turbine pole where his flatness really helps!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #73″

May 18, 2008 – A Stroll in the Park

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Garden in Full Swing”

May 2, 2008 – Up and Coming Materials Engineer?

I was in and out of the workshop this afternoon and when I returned one time, Martin had a piece of wood in the bench vice and was trying to turn it to observe, and ultimately try to break the wood. Dad counseled him that it is indeed important work, that we should try different kinds of materials, but that we should also wear some goggles in case a piece flew towards his eye.

So, he tried odd pieces of things from the garbage – vinyl, wood, sticks and watched deformation and shear at work!

one year ago…”Tree Mulching”

April 15, 2008 – Utility Boy-to-Be?

The last cleanup from the March ’07 ice storm is taking place. I saw the utility trucks picking up some old poles that have been laying in the ditch and asked if they could bring some over (you never know who or when you could use some 20+ foot poles)!

They dropped some poles off at the end of the day and just left the truck parked at our place. It gave Martin a chance to see what it feels like to be behind the controls of a cherry picker.
one year ago…”Wendell Berry/Barn Burning”

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″

April 2, 2008 – Old Silver Maple Makes Way for Wind Turbine

I got a call a few days ago from the wind turbine guy saying that dependent on weather, April 11 was the day to pour the foundation for the wind turbine. Amazing as it may seem for an Iowa farm, we had a difficult time siting the turbine on our property because of all the tall trees, the 70 foot buffer from the edge of the property, and needing it reasonably close to the house. We eventually chose a site with a full northern and eastern exposure, good western exposure and poor southern exposure. I later found out that the most common wind direction is from the south, although the N-NW quadrant is the most common quadrant. In order help out the southern winds, we opted to take out one old silver maple tree and to place the turbine in the path of the hole in the trees.

Here Martin plays on the trunks of the recently felled tree. I called in a professional to cut the tree down as one main trunk was leaning towards a building and I imagined three possible outcomes (presented in most likely order of possibility). 1) tree falls wrong way 2) chain saw gets stuck in tree 3) tree falls right way.

This shows the view of the tree before it was cut.

The view of the sky after the tree falls. Now it is my job to cut it up into firewood and haul the branches to a bonfire pile.

one year ago…”Willows in the Ground”

March 23, 2008 – Happy Easter

Happy Easter from our house to yours.

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

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

one year ago…”Guest Lecture”

March 22, 2008 – Snow…

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #64″

March 4, 2008 – A First Melting

On Sunday, the temps soared to 46 degrees!

In the back pasture, the four foot high fence is nearly buried and the yellow snow is water flowing through the snow from a drainage in the adjacent field.  We’ve got a lot of melting before spring comes.

A temporary river started flowing through a low spot in the back pasture.  It was strange to see and hear the sound of running water.  Here Martin is walking on a fence over the flowing water.  This time of year the snowpack can be deceptive as the top of the snow can look white and normal, but if you step in, it could be a couple of feet of slushy flowing water just below the surface.  These are fun days for the kids – to run around in conditions that often don’t happen – like water flowing through big drifts where where is usually not any water.

one year ago…”Frustration Begins to Set In”

February 15, 2008 – More Fun on the Road

The plow has been by a number of times and the road is now at full width, but there are 6-8 foot banks of snow along parts of the road.

On the back sides of the banks on a downhill slope, Martin has spent many happy hours sliding, driving his Tonka truck, and pushing his truck down the drifts, kind of like the Hot Wheels jumps I made as a kid, only this is a much larger scale

one year ago…Thingamajig Thursday #61″

February 5, 2008 – Ordering Seeds

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

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

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

January 26, 2008 – Playing in the Snow

Heatwave!  Today, the temperature approached 27 degrees!  We could finally go outside without endangering life and limb.

Martin and I took a walk down the road to play in the snowplow banks on the side of the road.  It was a refreshing change of pace to spend some time out in the sunshine.  Since the next few days are supposed to be even warmer, I took out the tractor and pushed all the snow away so the sun could try to get the driveway back to gravel.

one year ago…

January 16, 2008 – Can I Meditate?

After Martin got his jammies on, he shouted down the stairs to us, “Can I meditate?”

We gave him the ok to go ahead and meditate, a bit puzzled.  We wondered what a 6-year-old meant by “meditate.” We waited a while so he could do his thing alone.  Finally, we couldn’t stand the mystery of what he meant by meditate (and he was quiet), so we sent Emma up to investigate.  Here’s what she found!

There was an exercise in meditation at church last weekend and Martin at least seemed to pick up on the leg and arm posture and felt inclined to climb a platform like the presenter did so people could see him.  Namasté Martin.

one year ago…no entry

January 12, 2008 – Trip Redux – 6 Year Old Style

Martin kept a journal during the trip to Arizona, and I am going to post his thoughts here (to the best of my ability, as the handwriting is that of a six-year-old, often times writing in a vehicle or in bed)! You are lucky that I decided to post Martin’s rather than Claire’s 60 pages of notes from the trip.

I can’t wait to go to Arizona.  Going to Arizona. A book.

Chapter One
We woke up really early this morning.  We had to ride in a plane. We landed in Chicago.

Chapter Two
We get to go on another plane. I have no idea where we are. All I can see is a plane wing.

Chapter Three Arizona
We landed in Arizona.  There are littel cactus and big cactus. and palm trees. We get to go to a picnic and go hiking then we go home and have supper. Good night Martin.

New Year’s Eve I was the 1st one to see the red rock.  We had pancakes and sausage. 1st we went to Oak Creek then I got a turtle.  Then we went to a volcano. then we went to the indian ruins. Good night Martin.

We had eggs for breakfast. We have a long trip to Walnut Creek 7 miles long.  Emma scarde me right now.  We are going to the petrified forest.  We are there now.  We watch a movie. We buy a box of wood. It is a long ride to the wood. We go hiking now. We are going home we watch a movie. We go to bed.

We go to Montezuma Castle. Then we go to tuzigoot. We come home to eat supper then me and Emma go in the hot tub.

We go to the Grand Canyon and have a coca. Then we go on a hike. Then we go home and me and dad have a big pizza. Me and dad go in the hot tub good night Martin.

We pancakes and sausage. Kathy and Jill left today and we went to Red Rock Crossing then we went home the have lunch then Dad Mom and Emma left and I had a nap then I came out and Mom and Emma came home. We had dinner.  We went in the hot tub then we got bed. Good Night Martin

We have omwits today then we went to red rock crossing.  then we have to go home to have lunch then I get a dirt shirt then we go home and then we have dad’s birthday cake!

One year ago…

January 5, 2008 – Rain in the Desert

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

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

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

Cathedral Rock in the rain.

The beginnings of dry washes filling up with water.

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

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

one year ago…

January 4, 2008 – Hanging Around Sedona

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

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

Here the kids start building their own.

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

January 3, 2008 – The Grand Canyon

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

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

Oh, the horrors of the abyss!

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

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

one year ago…

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

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

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

Next stop was the Painted Desert National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day dawned clear, crisp and cold.

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

Another view of Oak Creek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 30, 2007 – Superstition Mountains

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

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

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

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

December 25, 2007 – Animals out on Christmas Day!

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

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

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

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

December 2, 2007 – Make a “Snow Day”

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

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

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

one year ago…

November 4, 2007 – More Child Labor!

Today’s child labor was much more excited to work.

A paint brush in the hands of a six-year old is a treat for this particular boy. Although the brush he was provided was small, he persisted for a long time, painting the bottom few rows of boards. He and Emma got the remaining unpainted lower portion of the hog barn completed. Now that the roof is done, “all” that remains is to tear out half the south wall and rebuild it inside for the “porch” and put in the new windows and doors.

one year ago…

September 26, 2007 – Family Homecoming Royalty!

We found out earlier this week that Martin was the junior boy in the Homecoming Court!

Here’s Martin with the Homecoming Court at the Coronation at the high school auditorium.

Last year he talked often about Ashlen one of his three “girlfriends.” She was the junior girl in the homecoming court. Here they pose after the ceremony. I don’t think either Linda or I ever even attended a homecoming coronation in high school, so it is sometimes strange what your kids get you to do!

He got to ride in a red mustang convertible during the parade and did the royalty thing at the football game as well.

one year ago…

September 22, 2007 – Marshall County Sheriff “Takes Out” Martin

Today was the annual Octemberfest Celebration in Marshalltown.  I forgot to bring my camera to the parade, but wished I had my video camera. 

Here’s what happened.  The sheriff’s department was marching, including the honorable Sheriff Ted Kamatchus.  Like all good county sherriffs he was throwing candy to the kids.  But Sheriff Ted really upped the candy ante for this year’s parade.  No little tootsie rolls, no small caramel chews, but fun size snickers.  He had already gone past us, but turned around and Martin has learned he’s cute and if he waves his arms, candy flies his way.  Well, the sherriff spied Martin and needed a strong throw to get the Snickers to back Martin.  The sherrif has quite an arm – the candy whizzed at Martin at MLB pitcher speed instead of church league underhand softball speed.

Exhibit A
Snickers Bar With Sherriff Ted Kamatchus Fingerprints

The snickers hit him on the cheek and he bent over as if to cry – I thought he was first just bending over to pick up the candy, but he didn’t come back up.  When we got a look at him, his eyes were watering, on the verge of tears, and there was a red welt on his cheek. 

It would have been a great YouTube video of the sheriff trying to be nice, but with unintended consequences.  We made sure Martin ate his prize Snickers first!

one year ago…

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

August 3, 2007 – Mousehole Days

This weekend is the annual “Mousehole Days” celebration in Melbourne. Tonight was the fish fry at the fire station.

Here’s Martin with Fire Engine #1 – the oldest in the fleet.

Here he is on the deck of a middle-aged truck.

This tells you about how big the town is – around 600 people call it home. It’s the 125th year of the town as an incorporated city. Of course, we’re in “suburbs” a few miles out of town.

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 11, 2007 – Soudan Underground Mine Tour

Today brought driving rain, strong winds and cold temperatures, so it was a good day to visit the underground mine in nearby Soudan.  It is now a state park and as part of the tour, you travel down the original mine elevators about a half-mile underground to the 27th level of the mine and then travel about 3/4 of a mile in a small train at the lowest level.

Here onlookers watch the drum and cable that hoist the elevator cars up and down the half-mile to the bottom.

Martin anxiously awaits the trip to the bottom during his last moments before heading underground.

Linda, a half-mile underground heading down even deeper in the mine.

Martin a bit more relaxed now that he is safely down to the 27th level.  The mine stopped operation in 1962 and produced very rich ore – 68%-72% iron. A 12 inch block of ore weighed 350 pounds.

There is now a physics lab at the bottom of the lab that is investigating the elementary nature of particles, shielded from the atmosphere by a half-mile of rock.


one year ago…

July 2, 2007 – The Unheralded Beet

Beets are a lot like the sanitary sewer system – they live underground, people don’t think much about them,  But the analogy only remains true so long.  When the sanitary sewer stops working, people take notice – there probably wouldn’t be much of an uproar if the beets disappeared from the grocery shelves.  But the beet is sweet and tangy all at once.  A good portion of granulated sugar comes from beets – 30% of worldwide granulated sugar comes from beets.

Today we put a few beets up. Martin helped harvest with his tractor and wagon. It was a good outdoor kitchen project.

I saved the tops and blanched and chopped them for borscht – one of my grandfather’s staples – the great thing about borscht is that it is just as good cold as warm. We thought my grandfather ate the same pot of borscht all week. The original pot would last for a few days, then as the days wore on, he’d throw some pork in, maybe some potatoes or turnips, maybe some chicken broth to make it last another day. I don’t know whether it is because of this, or that my people have eaten beets for a long time, but as I was cooking and freezing the beets and tops, I couldn’t resist constantly snacking.

And beets have a place in fiction, as I imagine a few people have had beets anonomously left on their front doorstep (ala Jitterbug Perfume).

As I was skinning the beets of their rough skin and revealing the smooth, blood red flesh below, Figaro (the cat) played with the trimmings, perhaps confused with the apperent dripping blood and dangling long mouse-like tail of the taproot.

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 11, 2007 – Cherries!

We have one cherry tree that produced this year (we are grateful as many trees around here have no fruit because of the late cold snap).

This photo shows cherries in various forms of processing – cherries right off the tree, cherries pitted, and the cherry pitter full of pits.  These cherries are destined for cherry jam.

Martin insisted on getting in a picture as well!

one year ago…

May 9, 2007 – A Day in the Life of Martin

Today, we feature the most photogenic member of the family – Martin. We must have been temporarily insane when we signed him up for T-ball and swimming lessons at the same time. It’s a lot for a 5 year old, but swimming ends at the end of the month, so it won’t be for long.

It’s his first round of swimming lessons at the “Y” in Marshalltown and he’s enjoying the lessons.

All of you that have gone through t-ball won’t be surprised by the stories from the t-ball field.

Here’s a might swing slightly off the mark. Practices are a hoot – they’ll be kids laying down in the grass in the outfield, others will be throwing their gloves ar each other, while a solitary boy tries to kick his way to the lower crust of the earth. Martin’s first time at bat he made it to 2nd base and when the next batter got a hit, he was being waved to run to third base, his response was a big smile and a wave back while the batter ran towards him from first base.

one year ago…

April 20, 2007 – Putting Down Roots

Once you figure out which side is down and up, even a five year old can be a great asset in planting strawberries.  Out current patch is starting to decline as some grasses have invaded from the corners and rather than burn them out with grass herbicide, we will move the patch to fresh ground and cover the old patch with cardboard and straw to kill the old berries and grass.  It takes a couple of years to get a patch into production, so this will be the last year for the old, and will give the new patch a time to settle in.

The roots on strawberries are fairly long and each one needs a hole about 6 inches or more deep.  We ordered 200 new plants and put about 130 in today.

The varieties we put in today are Earliglow, Honeoye, Mesabi, and Jewel.  We order our strawberries from Nourse Farms – they provide a handy variety comparison chart for berry varieties.  We’ve been happy with their berries (straw and rasp) over the years.

We also got 5 new fruit trees in the mail the same day (4 peaches and a nectarine) to replace the trees we lost in the ice storm and got those in the ground as well. 


one year ago…

April 18, 2007 – Martin Brings Home a Tree

Today Martin brought a tree home from school.  He said everyone got a tree in his class.  He didn’t know what kind it was.  sually, the kind of tree would determine where to plant it – how big it may get, its effect on other plants etc.  He said there was a note on the tree.  The note said it was in honor of Arbor Day and was donated by the Izaak Walton league and if it isn’t planted today, keep the roots wet.  No mention of the type of tree on the note. Â Not wanting to discourage the budding arborist, we found a place for it.


He was sure we could find a place for it on the farm as he remarked “Dad has planted millions of trees.”

one year ago…

April 14, 2007 – Finally a Day!

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

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

Marty leads the procession down to the hive.

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

April 1, 2007 – Seder Dinner

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

Here Emma displays the Seder Plate. It contains

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

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

    one year ago…

    March 26, 2007 – Moving Fencing Material into Place

    Another nice June-like day in the upper 70’s. Started working on some more fencing (it will never end). Went to town to pick up wholesale buying club order, got some cardboard sheets and more cattle panels and T-posts. Martin is a great 5 year-old worker. Sometimes he asks what work we can do outside.

    Here he wraps up the rope that held the panels down on top of the truck. It’s a pain to load/unload them from on top of the truck, but I don’t have a trailer that approaches 16 ft and the truck does, so up they go. The truck has now graduated into the heavy-duty farm use where scratches and dents only add to the value.

    Martin was able to drag the panels into position (as long as the location was downhill).

    He also was good at distributing the fenceposts – he moved about 75% of the posts to the correct places along the fenceline. All I had to do was get the panels off the truck, drag the uphill panels, and take the binders off the posts that banded them in groups of five and Martin did the rest. The fence is in position, we just need to pound the posts and put up the panels. This is the fence along the SE property boundary.

    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 2, 2007 – Storm Day 2 or Day 7?

    I’m not sure if this is Day 2 of the storm or Day 7! We awoke at daybreak to the sound of a diesel engine straining. A snowplow was repeatedly backing up and charging forward a few feet at a time. Then we saw some flashing lights behind the snowbank, like an emergency vehicle was stuck. At about 6:30 am, the Marshall County Sherrif’s office called and told us a sherriff’s car was stuck in front of our house and that nobody was stranded. A snowplow and backhoe eventually freed the squad car.

    This is the view down the road where the car was stuck, after it was dug out.

    We’ve got some big drifts in the yard/driveway.
    Here’s Martin next to a drift that is a tad under 6 feet tall and still growing as of 10 am.

    Here’s a drift in the driveway. The 30-45 mph winds are supposed to keep up until late afternoon, so it still may be a while until we get out – but miraculously the power is still on here.

    one year ago…

    February 13, 2007 – Snow Sculptures

    Today after some snow and wind, Martin and I went out to play in some of the drifts in the ditch. Upon looking at the photos his comment was “wind is so creative.” Indeed, the snow sculpting is very interesting.  Martin had fun until a “cave” we dug out of a drift collapsed on him.  Then it wasn’t quite as much fun! Â 

    The morning was a bit hectic, we had two parents and three kids that needed to be in different places, which isn’t too unusual but the different places kept changing.  Emma has been sick for a while and today she took a turn for the worse, so I drove her to Ames through the blowing snow to see the doctor (strep throat), Martin and Claire had two-hour delays and while I was enroute to Ames, Martin’s school was cancelled, but Claire’s was not. Needless to say, I skipped work and it still wasn’t quite enough as Linda had to bring Martin to her lab until I could pick him up.

    When I got home the driveway was drifted shut, so I had to get the tractor out to clear the drift.  It redrifted again a few hours later, so I had to do it again so Linda could get home. At least it was a day with some beauty!

    one year ago…

    February 10, 2007 – Newer Wheels Arrive

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

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

    January 28, 2007 – A Boy and his Fish

    Martin is very proud of his fish. If you look closely, you’ll find a gold and grey goldfish in the bowl. There is much “discussion” of fish ownership between Martin and the girls, who want to hone in on the fish ownership. Martin said “I started the conversation about getting the fish.” The conversation started more like “Dad, can I get an animal in a cage in my room?” Hamsters, rats, ferrets, and guinea pigs were all squashed and he finally seemed a bit shocked, when we agreed to fish. He was one happy boy to get them. It was worth at least two days of perfect co-operation!

    one year ago…

    January 22, 2007 – Skiing at Last

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

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

    January 6, 2007 – Cooking for a Chef

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

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

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

    one year ago…

    December 30, 2006 – Pulling Fence in December!

    It’s not often December 30th brings 50 degrees – we used the opportunity to get a start on some work that is usually done in late March or early April – pulling up and putting in fence. We’re moving the entire line of fence on the north side out another 10 feet so we can plant another row of trees in the north windbreak/Christmas Tree patch.

    Here’s Marty working the post puller. It was actually so wet, that we didn’t need this – the posts could just be pulled out.

    There’s something about working in a warm rain – I’m not sure it reminds me of camping, or if the rain provides a slight sense of urgency to get done before the rain increases. It was not unpleasant and good to get out.

    one year ago…

    December 12, 2006 – Martin’s Portrait

    The other day I had Martin (5 yrs old) take a picture of me and then he asked if he could take some pictures. So I let him have the camera and he wandered around the farm taking pictures – there are lots of pictures of tractor axles, the ground, animals in the distance and this, my favorite one of the bunch.

    This is a head and shoulders self-portrait of his shadow on the shed – you can see the tassle on his hat hanging down from his head. Nice work Martin!

    one year ago…

    December 6, 2006 – Rudolph

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

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

    one year ago…

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

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

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

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

    one year ago…

    November 28, 2006 – Blast from the Past!

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

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

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

    one year ago…no entry

    November 24, 2006 – Working off the Feast

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

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

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

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

    October 31, 2006 – Halloween

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

    This “year ago entry” was particularly popular!

    one year ago…

    October 21, 2006 – Cracking the Code!

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

    I will remember the gusto upon which Martin read:

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

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

    October 8, 2006 – Corn Wagons Filled

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

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

    October 6, 2006 – Shrinking our Footprint

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

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

    October 3, 2006 – Martin Shows “Character”

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

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

    October 1, 2006 – Slow Food

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

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

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

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

    September 15, 2006 – Peaches and Raspberries

    Our raspberries refuse to surrender. We’ve been picking since mid-August. On Monday we picked 2 gallons and today (Friday) 6 more quarts. This is from a 50 foot row!

    The oldest peach tree was ready for harvest as well. Three crates of peaches from it this year – about 1/2 or less of last year’s harvest from the tree, but still lotsa peaches.

    So, time to make more jam, and depending how the mood strikes us tomorrow – canned or dried peaches. I would not be disappointed if it froze tonight (it won’t for quite some time yet). I’m ready for something else besides picking and putting food up (at least for a while). I don’t think I’d do very well in a place without seasons. It’s nice to anticipate, enjoy, and exhaust each season. I look forward to fall – typically a time to fix up buildings/create contrivances in the workshop after the gardens die.

    September 13, 2006 – Fencing

    Recently the cows crashed through the cattle panels and ate all the leaves off the second year hardwood trees I’ve been babying. Now that the broilers are gone, the solar charger is available and so I strung wire around the enclosure and turned it on.

    This SHOULD work to keep the cows out.

    September 2, 2006 – Honey Extraction

    Today was honey extraction day. We went out in mid-afternoon to rob the honey from the hives while many of the bees were out foraging, loaded the frames in the back of the truck and parked it a distance from the house, so the bees wouldn’t find it and start stealing the honey back.

    After the bees went to bed for the night, we drove the truck back and started extracting. The weather had just changed, and our near 80 degree day switched wind directions and dropped to the 50’s. We started the heater in the garage to make sure it was warm enough for the honey to flow.

    The first step is “uncapping” the frames.

    Here’s a beautiful full frame with the caps partially cut off.

    The neighbors wanted to see the process, so they came over and here Marty and a visitor are in charge of the honey gate. The hot steamy garage and cool damp, dark outdoors made for a delightful contrast.

    August 23, 2006 – The World Swallows Martin

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

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

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

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

    August 21, 2006 – Last Martin-Daddy Day!

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

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

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

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

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

    August 14, 2006 – Fair 4H Projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    August 12, 2006 – At the Market

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

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

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

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

    July 30, 2006 – Taste Highlight of the Summer

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

    Yea, it’s still hot.

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

    July 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 22, 2006 – Here We Go Again

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

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

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

    July 17, 2006 – Harvest Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A frame dripping with honey.

    Turning the extractor and draining the honey.

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

    July 12, 2006 – On the Lake

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

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

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

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

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

    July 10, 2006 – Vacation Food

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

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

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

    June 30, 2006 – Martin/Daddy Matching Tractors!

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

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

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

    We also got for more lambs today.

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

    June 12, 2006 – Berry Moon

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

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

    June 4, 2006 – Inland from the Lake

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

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

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

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

    Leisurely rock throwing is under-rated.

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

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

    June 3, 2006 – Superior Day

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

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

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



    Water on body rolled with sand.

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

    May 28, 2006 – Cleanup Begins

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

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

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

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

    May 24, 2006 – “Moma” Robin

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

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

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

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

    May 20, 2006 – Saturday on the Farm

    It’s another keeper of a day. Lots of little things today. Planted a dozen peppers, spent half the morning in town getting lumber and running errands. Built a waterproof top for the gravity wagon that is storing chicken feed. We had some makeshift tarps over it before and a few leaks in the shed found their way in, so it was time to make a permanent solution out of leftover pieces of steel roofing.

    Also got some planting in –

    Martin is helping Mom plant her Mother’s Day flowers. Linda made three batches of soap – among them what looks like a better goat milk effort than the first time around.

    May 9, 2006 – Piano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    April 29, 2006 – Spawning

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

    Martin is holding the bag of spawn.

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

    The dowels are pounded into the logs next.

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

    April 24, 2006 – Boys and Their Toys!

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

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

    Mark took this picture.

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

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

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

    April 23, 2006 – American Gothic – High Hopes Style

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

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

    April 17, 2006 – Fence Repair

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

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

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

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

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

    April 15, 2006 – Easter Weekend

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

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

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

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

    We uncovered the garlic from the winter straw.

    We unwrapped the winter wrap from the peach trees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    March 31, 2006 – Jr. Beekeeper

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

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

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

    March 25, 2006 – Seeding the Universe With Chickens

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

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

    The fun begins as the chicken round-up begins.

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

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

    March 20, 2006 – Tree Cutting

    This morning was a morning of efficient town trip. I ordered some mushroom spawn (shittake) and need some logs to inoculate with the spawn when it arrives. The three old apple trees near the driveway need to go away – they take so long to prune and only one produces decent apples. When we moved in they were old and had reached about 8 feet over the power line and I had pruned them back to 5 feet or so under the wires, but they were a lot of work to keep there and produced lousy apples. The other two just make windfalls that have to be constantly picked up. So, they’ll be cut down and used for multiple purposes – spawn logs and goat browse. One of them will be grafted onto new rootstock for a new tree.

    So, I wanted to make sure my chain saw blades were sharp and one was dull and the other was quickly dulled by cutting up the remains of a big walnut that blew down in a big windstorm years ago. I cut until the blades were dull. It was one of those things that is “on the list” it doesn’t necessarily take that much time, it’s just that so many things are on the list! So we got all but the biggest log sawed up.

    Then we took the truck and dropped off the load of scrap metal, dropped off the chains, stopped by Big Lots going out of business sale and by a stroke of luck, bought a split queen box spring as our box spring will not fit up the stairs to the attic after the remodeling is finished. Then off to the lumberyard for more cedar for another raised bed.

    We had our first appointment regarding Emma’s orthodintia and one of the options was to saw her jaw, move it forward and re-attach it. That didn’t sound like a great idea, even if it would immediately “fix” her mouth. Since there is not a health reason, just a cosmetic reason, we all agreed it was a bit excessive. Emma was very relieved. So I took her to the ISU women’s NIT game and watched them lose in OT to Marquette – but it was a hard-fought, exciting game.

    March 19, 2006 – Seed Starting

    The last few days Linda and Martin started seeds in the basement – things like tomatoes, peppers, some cut flowers, and soybeans. Soybeans are for Martin. Last year after harvest we walked in the field adjacent to the farm and Martin picked up some seeds that the combine had missed. Unknown to us, he had saved them, remembered where they were, and wanted to plant them. So, not wanting to discourage a budding seed saver, we planted some of his beans.

    Martin ready with the row markers for the newly planted seeds.

    March 18, 2006 – Full Farm Press

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

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

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

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

    February 27, 2006 – Kids

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

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

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

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

    February 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 21, 2006 – Little Things

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

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

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

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

    January 18, 2006 – Making Room for the Good Stuff

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

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

    January 2, 2006 – No Fun Project

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

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

    December 30, 2005 – ICE MONSTER!

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

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


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

    December 4, 2005 – Hike to the Past

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

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

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

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

    November 23, 2005 – Good Neighbor/Unrelated Tragedy

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

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

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

    November 9, 2005 – A Turn in the Weather

    The season’s first pot of beef stew is simmering in the cast iron pot and the wind is howling from the northwest. The weather in the 70’s has ended.

    Another afternoon of tucking summer items away for the winter. Martin and I started shoveling dirt out of a stock tank. Hmmmm. What is soil doing in a stock tank? It’s one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. We were digging out the soil early this spring where the playground would be, so we thought it would be good to save the soil and put it in some raised beds we were planning on building. Why not put it in the stock tank – it will be contained, there already was a home-made lid for it, as it was previously used as a swimming pool.

    stock tank

    Well, here it is November and the raised beds are but a memory – so the soil is getting thrown out into an existing garden so the tank can be rescued before winter.

    Last year I replaced all the windows in the coop with the vinyl sash windows. One of the 4 panes of glass in one of the windows broke this summer in a storm and today I was impressed how easy it was to put a new pane in by just unscrewing three screws and sliding everything back together – much easier than the glazing points and window glazing of old.

    October 28, 2005 – Green Machines

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

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

    October 25, 2005 – New Puppy for the Farm

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

    October 24, 2005 – An Afternoon Project

    Today’s project was one of those “good enough” projects. I’ve adopted Joel Salatin’s mantra of making things cheap and just good enough, no matter what it looks like. This was an old cattle chute I put a new tire on and am converting to a mulch hauler (while retaining its ability to still act as a shute. Here’s the before picture.
    shute before
    The rule for this was to use only materials on the farm – no town trip allowed! So, the side extensions are paneling we ripped out of the house to expose the plaster, the front removable section was leftover plywood from the trailer I recently refurbished, some wood was from the old house that was torn down, the electrical conduit was leftover from a project and the handle on the back sliding “door” handle was from an old double-hung window that was replaced!
    Here’s the end result:
    shute after
    Casual observers may not appreciate some of the decisions that need to be made in such a project. Does the nice side of the paneling face out for a good look, or face in so it doesn’t look like an old woodie station wagon which are long out of style?

    Here’s a bit of a close-up of the back shute showing some design features:
    shute after

    October 21, 2005 – RoundTuit Work

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

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

    October 7, 2005 – Jammin’ Me

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

    September 23, 2005 – Childhood Heroes!

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

    Martin meets up with Sir Toppem Hatt.

    September 15, 2005 – “Better than Bach”

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

    September 12, 2005 – Martin-Daddy Day

    Today is known in the trade as Martin-Daddy Day as we are the only ones home most of the day. Today we reconfigured the electric fencing to offer the goats and sheep new browse and pasture. We also unloaded a pickup truck of wood chips into the old machine shed. That was a mistake. I don’t spend much time in there and we haven’t done anything to upgrade it since we’ve moved in. A close look reveals it needs major replacement/removal. More to think about.
    Martin was in a very helpful mode today.
    Martin moves a couple of bags of layer food to the chicken coop. In case you can’t tell, he’s a horsey in this picture.

    Here he is sweeping the remaining wood chips out of the truck.

    September 11, 2005 – Day of Rest

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

    August 27, 2005 – New Market and Tomato-RAMA

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

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

    August 17, 2005 – Joy!

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

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

    August 5, 2005 – Farm Picnic

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


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

    August 4, 2005 – Ouch!


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

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

    July 27, 2005 – Cart-o-Veggies

    Today was root crop day at High Hopes. We dug all the potatoes, and the remaining onions and garlic. Just as importantly, pulled all the weeds and planted buckwheat where everything was pulled. The weather is still pleasant and it was a good day to work.

    We moved the turkeys out of the cramped chicken tractor and got our first electric netting fence up and they had a good time stretching their wings. They were quite hilarious flying up and discovering what the fence does.

    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 18, 2005 – Fish

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

    Just watch, I can do this.

    Wow – I did it myself!

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

    July 14, 2005 – “Sweet Winter Chickens”

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

    July 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 9th, 2005 – Work and Play

    Today was a morning/evening of work and afternoon of play. This morning we weeded the Christmas trees and part of the garden.

    Kids helping to weed.

    The foreground of this garden is gladiolus and dark red are amaranth.

    The kids also peeled all the apples for applesauce. Today we just peeled and froze them to make the sauce another day.
    Then in the afternoon it was off to the aquatic center.

    Martin enjoying the splash.

    Michael and Emma moving down the waterslide.

    Grandma provided birthday cake and ice cream and toppings for an early celebration.

    July 5, 2005 – Knee-High By 4th of July

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

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

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