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

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

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

Near Plymouth, NH is Squam Lake.

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

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

October 4, 2015 – Whiteface Mountain/Lake Placid

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

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

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

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

Fall becomes winter.

The view looking southeast.

Obligatory selfie on summit.

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

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

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

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

October 3, 2015 – Adirondacks Day 2

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

Yet another “pond” along a trail.

Another view of the pond.

Another pond on a different trail.

A mountain stream showing its fall colors.

Some planty stuff for the flora lovers.

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

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

October 2, 2015 – Adirondacks Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 1, 2015 – Baahston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This soft little orb is known as pincushion moss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – At Camp

This post collects photos from around the campsites.

Emma enjoying the night after arriving at Cherokee Lake.

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

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

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

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

Hanging out waiting for dinner.

Martin on KP duty.

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

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

July 9, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – On the Lake

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

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

Sometimes there’s paddling out in the open lake.

Other times it’s more of a river.

Or a narrower river.

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

Another hearty stern paddler.

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

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

June 2, 2015 – Wild Basin Hike

Today it was off to yet another area of the park – Wild Basin.

The trail followed a stream for a good portion of the time.

These bridges were either not washed out or rebuilt from the Sept 2013 floods.

The water really couldn’t decide the best path down the mountain, so it just kind of went every which-way.

This was probably the last day for this little Frosty.

Not many days I’ve hiked through snow and seen a hummingbird!

Unfortunately, even though they are given explicit exemption from domesticated animals on the trail, we did not see any llamas!

Lilly Lake.

The parting group shot! We left just in time. Three of the next four nights there were tornado watches and 8 inches of rain the following two days after we left, a tornado touchdown nearby, and knee-deep hail in parts of Denver. Just like I brought sunshine to Iceland, I’m evidently a vacation good weather charm at the moment.

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 15, 2015 – Driftless Getaway

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

We found a nice place to stay.

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

Complete with Amish farmers in the bottom of the valley.

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

A great outdoor amphitheater overlooking the valley.

The approach to the ice cave.

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

A look up the formation.

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

Help, I’m melting!

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

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.

October 13, 2014 – Back to Work in Portland

I was also able to geek out with about 300 hundred or so new friends at a conference centering around content strategy and user experience. It was good to get some time away from the urgent tasks at hand and think about some longer-term ideas.

Welcome back to you Portland!

I guess the bridge in the opening credits of Portlandia doesn’t really open up that much. Pretty much wasted three days waiting for it (OK, maybe that was a slight exaggeration).

It’s easy to get into Portland, but not so easy to get out, unless you can figure out how to drive your car up a bridge piling.

October 12, 2014 – A Brief Respite on the Oregon Coast

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

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

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

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

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

Yep, I was really there.

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

Part of the trail along the coast as the park.

August 24, 2014 – Reykjavik and Good Bye to Claire

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

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

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

Downtown pedestrian street in Reykjavik.

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

A view out to the harbor from inside Harpa.

Imagining my life with a fixer-upper fishing boat.

Claire a the harbor just outside our flat.

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

August 23, 2014 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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

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

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

Inside a larger room inside the narrow canyon.

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

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

Heading up Snaefellsjokull.

Still going up.

Approaching the top.

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

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

Another epic shot along the coast.

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

Stykkisholmur is a small coastal village in western Iceland.

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

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

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

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

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

August 20, 2014 – Reykjanes Peninsula

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

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

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

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

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

August 19, 2014 – South Iceland

This day on South Iceland was my favorite – sunny skies! The only bummer was that Claire’s flight was delayed 24 hours (and her luggage delayed 7 days), so I was solo on this beautiful day.

Welcome to Iceland!

The black sand beach near Vik, in the Dyrholaey nature reserve. A gorgeous place with black sand beaches, imposing rock formations, great columnar basalt, and puffins!

Another view from a bluff above Dyrholaey.

The Puffins were almost all gone for the season, but there were still a few stragglers.

The airbnb organic farm I stayed at near Vik. Missing in this photo is the hoophouse and miles of mountainous pasture behind where this farmer’s 2500 sheep roam up to the foot of a glacier. In 2010, when Eyjafjallajökul blew, his place was covered with 4-5 inches of ash. You can also see the trout stream and white forage bales as well.

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 29, 2014 – Music and More

There are so many chances to see music and attend lectures.

Perhaps my favorite event was a radio show, much like Mountain Stage or World Cafe, called Rolling Hills Radio. This episode featured an alt-country band called The Farewell Drifters on the left, a stunning singer songwriter that I’d compare to Patty Griffin named Liz Longley on the right who had one of the most poignant moments of the week when she sat down in front of the piano and sang a song called “Unraveling” about her grandmother’s descent into Alzheimers. She also had a few bad boyfriend songs to lighten things up. The other musical act (center) was a local teacher who won the inaugural Grammy for best musical educator.

The big events were held in an outdoor amphitheater. It was rather nice to be covered by a roof, but be able to see outside and in the evening feel the cool air descend down into the amphitheater.

Photos were generally not allowed during performances, but I took one while the in-house symphony was warming up. This was a unique seat as we could sit behind the stage, in what was the choir loft, and actually read the notes on the score of the players ahead of us and see the conductor’s expressions and instructions during the performance.

Other performances I enjoyed included the Charlotte Ballet, in residence for the summer who delivered four pieces that showed a wide range of dance – first a performance with loud “club” music. The second was a multi-media integrating photos of the civil rights era, along with speeches from the era, and the dancers using six chairs with their dance representing the sit-ins of the 60’s. The third act was a classical piece. Finally, and experimental debut piece called “Environment” which among other things featured a dancer in a huge white piece of fabric probably 20 feet on a side that other dancers could fluff, roll in, and do a variety of other expressive actions.

Another night was Bruce Hornsby opening for jazz great Pat Metheny.

The opening night was an ambitious stage performance called Go West that interlaced historical speeches from the time of western settlement, pieces of poetry from modern poets like Langston Hughes ,and songs from Neil Young, along with classic Aaron Copland, and bits of musicals like Music man and scenes from an opera, along with a scene from the movie Paint your Wagon.

Of course, there are many lectures throughout the week with world-renowned speakers. Each week has a theme, and this week was Brazil as a Rising Superpower. But not all lectures were on that subject, here Grover Norquist founder of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax reform speaks. Grover is an interesting fellow with wide-ranging positions like opposing all tax hikes, but advocating for immigration reform to allow more immigrants into the U.S. and prison reform to reduce the number of Americans in prison, while serving on the board of the NRA and GOProud, a conservative advocacy group for gay, lesbian, and transgendered. His wife is Muslim and he also co-founded the Islamic Free Market Institute.

One of the more interesting tours was of the Massey Organ – the worlds’s largest outdoor organ. We had a tour of the bowels of the organ. This shot is of the top of the organ. We traveled below to the air handling and had a view up to the tree story tall pipes and the long snaking bass pipes as well.

July 28, 2014 – Chatauq-what?

We are set for a week at the Chatauqua Institute in Upstate NY. Linda is attending an interfaith religions class and Martin and I couldn’t say no to tagging along. It’s hard to explain exactly what the place is like. Here is what historian and author David McCullough says about it: ‘There is no place like it. No resort. No spa. Not anywhere else in the country or anywhere else in the world – it is at once a summer encampment and a small town, a college campus, an arts colony, a music festival, a religious retreat and the village square.” More later, but here’s a quick walk around.

Our lodging for the week – the second floor had two bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen for the week. Most of the streets were fairly steep on the way down to the lake.

A typical scene at Chautaqua – lots of walkable streets and Victorian homes – most with prominent porches, typically on all levels of the houses.

The square consisted of a library, places to eat, post office, bookstore and shops.

Out of our price range is the Atheneum Hotel on the grounds, overlooking the lake.

One of the four beaches on the grounds along the lake.

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.

June 1, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 3

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

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

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

Yet another perspective.

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

Gooseberry lower falls.

Finally, Mark and Linda selfie.

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

May 31, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 2

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

The middle falls.

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

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

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

Did I say it was wet?

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

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

May 30, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 1

Linda and I don’t have many chances to sneak away, but we did for a while this weekend.

Of course, we headed to the big lake and explored some locations we hadn’t previously visited. While we had visited the lighthouse portion of Split Rock State Park/Historical area, we had not explored the river portion and more remote part of the park. The water is wonderful as it transitions from clear to turquoise to deep blue as it gets deeper.

Here’s an obligatory view of the lighthouse.

A vista from a hill close to shore, looking south towards Duluth.

A special shout out to my mother for remembrances of those who fetched these from the ash swamp many years ago.

The trail soon turned into “animal kingdom” first with this Bald Eagle.

Then this rather skinny doe, no doubt much appreciative of the spring foliage.

Look, Look, Squirrel!! I believe this is a Franklins Ground Squirrel.

A hike up the river leads to a series of waterfalls.

And more cascades further up the Split Rock River.

April 12, 2014 – Keepsakes from Transylvania

OK, so it took a while to finish up the Transylvania series. I end with some of the keepsakes Linda brought back.

Red embroidered cloth is very common in the area. These are only a couple examples.

A village hat is the keepsake, not the guy wearing it! Do I look happy like Pharrel Williams?

Delicate bracelets for the girls (shh, they haven’t been home to see them yet).

This is an impressed copy of the Edict of Torda, issued in 1568. It was an important statement of religious freedom when the mainstream church was clamping down on the reformation as nations were trying to consolidate power by merging the dominant religion with the state and creating a state religion resulting in providing a reason to torture or kill those who were opposed to the state-imposed religion. To refresh your memories, Martin Luther’s 95 theses were posted in 1517. The thoughts live on in the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment a couple hundred years later: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

This document is a copy of the traditional Transylvanian blessing, found in churches and homes across Transylvania.

Finally a couple of tapestries, one them a gift from the Unitarian Bishop.

April 10, 2014 – People to remember

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

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

Linda tagged along on a regional minister’s meeting.

Some spouses waited patiently for the meeting to end.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

April 9, 2014 – Teaching at the seminary

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

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

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

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

She spent the most time with the students in seminary.

For one assignment, they were split up into groups.

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

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

April 7, 2014 – Transylvanian churches

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

The church in Tordatfalva.

Linda’s there!

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

The raised pulpit for the minister.

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

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

Lajos in another nearby village church.

The interior of yet another church.

The parsonage.

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

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

Coffee hour is chimney cakes and wine!

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

April 6, 2014 – Images from Tordatfalva

Another of the economic enhancements of the villages is tourism.

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

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

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


Linda swears by the naturally carbonated spring water.

Finally, her home for her days in the villages.

April 2, 2014 – Transylvanian Agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

The potato planter follows behind.

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

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

Here’s another part of the crushing/squeezing.

The screen takes out the big chunks.

The vat pasteurizes the juice.

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

boxes, like Americans use to buy wine.

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

March 30, 2014 – Transylvania, Dracula, and Segesvár

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

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

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

The approach to part of the city.

These buildings are all inside the citadel.

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

March 16, 2014 – Brief Moments On the Lake

While in Waukegan, I took an early morning stroll down to the beach.

This must be one of the most deceptive photos I’ve ever taken. I’m surprised the photo is so clear, as my hands could only be out of my pockets for a few moments at a time because of the cold. The temperature was 17 degrees, and the wind was blowing off the lake so hard, you could almost lean forward and not fall fall down.

The odd-shaped rectangular objects are sand-covered ice hunks.

It was a treat to see and hear the lake. Walking towards the lake, from behind the dunes, my first sense is that of a deep white noise. Walking closer, the mid-range sounds of individual waves crashing on the beach becomes detectable, finally, crossing over the top of the dunes, the high trebles of the tinkling of the water retreating back into the lake and bouncing ice crystals completes the soundscape.

Oh yeah, and the buffeting wind, howling unobstructed all the way across the lake from somewhere off the upper peninsula of Michigan, meeting my face as the first obstruction it faced in a few hundred miles.

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

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

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

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

February 15, 2014 – Linda Named Transylvanian Scholar!

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

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

Seminary is triangular building in this google map.

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

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

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

December 28, 2013 – Historic Park Inn/Frank Lloyd Wright

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

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

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

Some detail of the second story windows.

Typical hallway carpeting.

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

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

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

July 14, 2013 – Checking up on the Girls

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

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

Self-portrait family shot.

Le Voyageur room at Wolf Ridge.

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

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

Linda and the “morning pages.”

One of the magical pools below the Inn.

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

July 13, 2013 – Superior Hiking Trail

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

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

OK, one more.

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

Superior Hiking Trail Sign

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

Superior Hiking Trail Boardwalk

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

Superior Hiking Trail mud

Some portions are wet and have mud.

Other portions are wet and have rock guides.

Superior Hiking Trail maples

Part of the trail passes through a maple forest.

Superior Hiking Trail aspen

Other parts an aspen forest.

Yet other parts, a pine forest.

Superior Hiking Trail ferns

Then there are open areas covered with ferns.

Superior Hiking Trail fireweed

Even some openings adorned with fireweed.

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

Superior Hiking Trail cross river campground

There is a beautiful campsite at the Cross River.

Cross River

Another rolling and tumbling stream – the Cross River.

Cross River

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

A parting shot.

July 12, 2013 – Mark and Linda Get-Away

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

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

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

Some nifty flowers along the trail.

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


July 6, 2013 – 80/35 2013

Once again it’s time for the mostly totally volunteer-run music festival that takes place at the intersection of I-35 and I-80.

The most intriguing new act that I saw was the Homemade Jamz Blues Band from Tupelo, MS.  When the band took the stage, I turned to Linda and said, “What, is the drummer 13-yrs old?”  I was wrong – she’s 14!  Her brother the bass player is 19 and her other brother playing lead is 21.  But even at 14, it’s already been five years since signing her first record deal.


Photo Credit Patrick Wingard

I missed the headliner Friday night, David Byrne – and how could you go wrong with a tuba, French horn, trombone,  and David Byrne?  Friends said the show was ethereal. But I have a good excuse for missing it as our good friend and neighbor, on the occasion of her 50th birthday, jumped out of an airplane 10,000 feet above her farm and landed at her party.

Looking down at 80/35. Photo by Stefan Hansen.

Photo Credit Stefan Hansen

Saturday’s headliner was Wu-Tang Clan, and I chose to pass on them, although many others seemed to have a good time!


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.

April 16, 2013 – Tour of Iceland!

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

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

An Icelandic harbor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here she is with one of the horses.

They took the horses on a ride through the countryside.

The intriguing Gullfoss waterfalls .

Another view of the falls.

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

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

Thar she blows, this one, every five minutes.

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

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

Out in the countryside.

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

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

January 22, 2013 – Claire’s First Week in Copenhagen

Claire’s been gone a couple of weeks now and it’s time to show she’s really gone over the pond.

As a city of islands, Copenhagen has many bays/canals.  It’s strange for this Midwesterner to see boats in subzero temperature not in ice.  That’s what salt water does for you!

The view from Claire’s school building.

Her cozy little house, complete with”new”parents.

The way into school and back home every day.

Yes, there really are Danish in Denmark!

January 18, 2013 – End of an Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



November 19, 2012 – Brief Morning on Lake Superior

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

silhouettes on rocky beach at sunrise

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

ore boat at sunrise, lake superior

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

November 20th on the lake in fall coats?

lester creek, creek in late fall

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

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

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

Here’s Linda and Gail before the service.

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

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

September 29, 2012 – Road Trip to Oxford Mississippi

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

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

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

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

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

Of course, there are the Magnolia trees as well.

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

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

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

July 26, 2012 – Emma’s Time in Chicago!

Linda’s not been the only one in Chicago this month!

Emma downtown on a bit of free time.

Any guesses where this is?

How about now? Of course, it’s the Bean at Millenium Park.

Emma was part of the High School Leadership Institute, sponsored by Wartburg College.  Here’s the group, with high school students and their mentors and staff.  They first did a service project in Chicago at an inner-city school where they conducted day camp activities.  Emma was struck at how much the kids just wanted to hang on her and tell her about their lives.  After a couple of days in Chicago, it was back to campus.

Wining and dining (ok, just dining) the students back on campus.

The week was worth three college credits.  However, the credit is not awarded until the student performs a community service project.  Emma proposed school-age musicians visit the Iowa Veterans Home and perform.  She thought it would be a win-win for the students to get performance experience and the residents to get some entertainment.  But even more important to Emma was that performing would not be the only component of the program, but to work in time for inter-generational conversation between the residents and students.

July 25, 2012 – RAGBRAI Hosts

Tonight we hosted RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) riders. It was our way of giving back to the world. Last year we were scrambling for a place for Claire to live in D.C. and a Unitarian minister hosted her free of charge for the summer. So, when I learned RAGBRAI was going through Marshalltown this year, I did a search for Unitarian and RAGBRAI. I found an online sermon from a minister in New Jersey, got in touch with him, offered our place, and here is team Woody Van.

Their stuff arrived early in the morning in one of the sag wagons and around 2:00 team members started rolling in.  It was the hottest day in 29 years in Central Iowa, reaching 106. Some riders did a half day, some the whole day, and one did the special “Century Loop” an extra loop that made the ride over 100 miles for the day.  The guy who did it, although being one of the oldest in the group and having ridden his bike coast to coast, said the day was the hardest cycling day he had ever completed – 100 miles, 100 degrees plus, with a 20-25 mph headwind for about 1/3 of the day – all after the two previous days of 100 degree plus riding.

Here’s part of the team – we also hosted part of Team Skunk from Ames.  Most elected to sleep in the air conditioned house, but a few started the night in tents – until the hail, heavy rain and 50-60 mph gusts arrived.  It was an early evening for the crew, some were in bed by 8:00 and everyone by 10:00.  Rev Charlie Ortman from Montclair NJ is hard to miss in his blaze orange.  Other members of the team were from New Jersey, Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, and Minnesota.  One of these guys even did the route on roller blades!  It was a great to get to chat with as many of the team members as we could.


July 7, 2012 – 80/35 Day 2

Final day of 80/35. Most of the bands I saw are below and most I’ve got a link to a performance by the band in the text below their picture. At then end is a rather random mish-mas of bits and pieces from my camera during the day. If you only choose to look at two, the variety of 80/35 is perhaps best captured by the Delta Rae and Leslie and the LY-s!

Fairfield Iowa based Little Ruckus is shall, we say, irreverent?

It’s nice to see brass bands still on the musical horizon as Central Iowa Christopher and the Conquered and his Black Gold Brass Band funk it up.

After listening to a few of this band’s songs, I’m not sure if it was the band’s lineup or its sound, but I thought they could do a killer Fleetwood Mac cover.  And by gosh, they did, they can also go gospel as in this video.  They were recently signed to warner Bros and were a SXSW band.

The Mumfords, another SXSW band from Ames, again show there is a future in this country for trombone players wearing red and white duct tape underpants to make their mark in the world!

Atmosphere is a band that I would never find on my own – the indie rap band was fun for at least 15 minute.  They hail from Minneapolis and had a #5 album on the billboard charts.

Greensky Bluegrass is another SXSW act with a great bluegrass vibe.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit hail from Muscle Shoals – the band is a wonderful spawn of the Drive-By Truckers (plus he looks a lot like my dad when he was young).  I remember hearing one songwriter – it may have been Dylan or Cash or Emmy Lou say, one of the hardest thing to do is to write one true lyric that hasn’t already been said.  I think Jason’s lyric “There’s one thing I can’t stand, There’s one thing I can’t take,  It’s the sound that woman makes, Five seconds after her heart begins to break” counts for me.

Leslie and the LY-s need to be seen to be believed.  Some kind of a glam-dance satire.

My favorite group of the day was Leftover Salmon, what’s known in the trade as a jam grass band – a bit of of the Grateful Dead mixed with Del McCoury band.  The band seemed to have as good a time as the audience.  It strikes me that most people’s musical tastes are much wider than commercial radio suggests – many of the same people fist-pumping for Atmoshpere, danced to Leftover Salmon.

Closing the evening was Death Cab for Cutie, probably the most commercially successful band of the festival, but not quite as compelling as some of the other acts.

Random short clips of the day.

July 2, 2012 – Fishing Wrap up

I bought a three-day fishing license, so was able to get out a bit – either in the morning before everyone got up, or after dinner when the day’s trips were over.

brook trout

Here’s a nice brook trout.

brown trout

I mostly caught Brown Trout, the biggest about 16 inches, which was plenty big for the creek.

castle creek

One view of Castle Creek below Deerfield Lake.

castle creek, black hills trout stream

A great hiding place for some trout.

The last day’s catch, not including an equal number which were released.  It was a great creek to fish.  There was little traffic – I didn’t see anyone on the creek, the fishing pressure is pretty light, based on the lightly used footpaths along the creek, and best of all, there was an old gravel road near, but not too near the creek, so I could fish until dark and not have to walk back along the stream.  There’s not much more satisfying feelings than walking with the coolness of the mountain air enveloping you, moonlight at your back, and gurgling stream in the distance and a fishing trip where the catching was as good as the fishing.

When I said I didn’t see anybody on the creek, it was technically incorrect.  When I drove up, there was a party parked on the bridge where the stream crossed the road.  They looked as though they had all the greatest gear – shiny new creels, fishing vests and fly rods – as though they had just stopped in Cabela’s in Rapid City.  However, the fact that they were fishing off the bridge in a shallow, fast-running part of the creek told me they had more disposable income than fishing sense!

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 27, 2012 – A Cabin in the Valley

Here’s our home for the week – a cabin in a mountain valley tucked up in the Black Hills somewhere between Deadwood and Hill City.

The meadow in front of the cabin was appreciated as a buffer for possible fires that are in the area.

A view of the cabin from further away, showing the setting.  We have used the web site VRBO (vacation rental by owner) many times now and have never been disappointed in the accommodations.  There is enough room for two families to stay here and it is cheaper than two motel rooms – plus you get a full kitchen and all this space!

In the evening after the day’s activities are over, sitting on the front porch is a great way to pass the time.  Even though it was toasty during the day, because the cabin was over 5,000 feet in elevation, it was in the 50’s at night – a welcome relief.

Here’s the great room in the cabin.

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 7, 2012 – Someone Else’s Canoe Trip

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

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

Aa beautiful day to hit the water paddling.

Emma, at the stern in her element.

Claire portaging the canoe between lakes.

All settled in at the campsite.

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

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

Some of the crew at the head of a portage.

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

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2012 – UU Sisters of the Planet

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 13, 2011 – Vacationland Burning Up

Just across the lake from where we sleep for a week (and sometimes exactly where we sleep in a tent) a massive forest fire has already estimated to have burned 100,000 acres in the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota.  The Pagami Creek fire blossomed into an inferno on Monday.

Photo Credit Greg Seitz

Here’s a photo from the narrows between Lakes Two and Three during the fire taken last Sunday, before the fire really got ramped up. According to news reports, the fire makes its own downdrafts and creates three foot waves on relatively small lakes. Also, Kawishiwi Lodge owner Frank was in the news as firefighters used many of his outfitting canoes to set a backfire to prevent the fire from heading north and getting to the Fernberg Trail (being in a fire is probably the only time you’d want a aluminum canoe instead of a fiberglass).

Lake Two, Lake Three

Here’s Linda paddling the same narrows during a trip in 2008. We can now tell our grandkids, “we were there before this all burned.”

Lake Two Narrows

Here’s another shot from the same year, with the same distinctive island and tree visible in the first photo showing the fire. Here are all the photos on the High Hopes Blog to Lake Three.

Here’s a satellite shot from NASA. Just for scale, this photo shows the northern shore of Minnesota, parts of Lake Superior and the coast of Northern Wisconsin.

This map shows where the fire started. For the whole map view with frequent updates, see the national wildfire incident map.

one year ago…”Winter Squash”

August 13, 2011 – Treats from DC

Claire arrived home today, after evading the storms that brought the wreckage to the Indiana State fair. We were tracking her flight online and watched as the line of storms approached Chicago from the NW and her plan approached O’Hare from the southeast. With the plane at a few thousand feet and only a minute from landing, the plane icon suddenly turned away and headed away from the storm front.

The plane landed in Champaign-Urbana, which is about a 15 minute flight. They sat there for an hour, then headed back to O’Hare, taking a circuitous route over Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, and finally back to O’Hare. Of course, she missed her connecting flight home (and the next two scheduled flights) but did manage to catch the last flight out of Chicago for the day.

Before she left, she asked us to choose a cupcake variety from Georgetown Cupcake.

The boxes of cupcakes, ushered through security and three landings and take-offs.

A peek inside one of the boxes – mine was the blueberry cheesecake on the upper left.  Mmm-mmm.

one year ago…”Look for Linda on HBO”

August 8, 2011 – Emma Returns from Boston

While we were in the Boundary Water, Emma had a much different experience – in and around Boston.

She was a youth leader on a church trip to Boston, to the roots of the Unitarian Universalists and founding fathers (many of them both!). This is the first Universalist church in the US, in Gloucester.

They visited some historical sites important to the beginnings of the church in the US.

They also took in other historical sites, like the with this guide on the Freedom Trail – evidently, if he had to choose, he would choose Emma!

They lounged in the fountains at Frog Pond in Boston Common, bordered by Beacon Street, and next to UU headquarters.

They enjoyed a high-speed, choppy ocean whale-watching (and barf watch as well).

A visit and swim in Walden Pond was also on the agenda.

Finally, who could turn down this wonderful seafood pizza in Boston?

one year ago…”House Progress”

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”

July 10, 2010 – Loon Baby on the Lake

We’ve finally arrived at the cabin a few miles south of the Canadian Border. Right across from our cabin is a small island. This year there is a nesting loon pair on the island.

baby loon on back, lake one loon

The sight of a baby loon on a parent’s back to protect it from being eaten by large fish, is one of the neatest views in nature. We’re here for a week to soak up the water, woods, and cool weather.

one year ago…”Goat Milk Cheese (Chevre)”

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

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

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

From the photostream of the event:

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

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

one year ago…”Hauling Garlic”

July 5, 2011 – Linda Visits Claire in DC

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

mother and daughter at USDA

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

intern at work

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

founding farmers

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

mother and daughter at capitol

At the Capitol at dusk.

one year ago…”Hauling Lumber”

July 4, 2011 – 4th in DC

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

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

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

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

June 22, 2011 – Visit with the Secretary of Agriculture

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

USDA Photo by Tom Witham.

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

USDA Photo by Tom Witham.

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

USDA Photo by Tom Witham.

Finally, a picture of the whole gang.

one year ago…”Father’s Day”

June 21, 2011 – World Food Prize 2011 Laureate Announcement

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

Interns mingle with the crowd in the Benjamin Franklin Room.

Claire thinking about taking the podium!

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

More interns at the podium.

Photo: World Food Prize

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

May 29, 2011 – Daily Life of the Camper

Claire writes today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Garlic off to Great Start”

May 28, 2011 – Boundary Waters Adventures

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

Here she carries the canoe on a portage

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

Linda does her share of the beastly portages here.

The most useful (threatening) tool we had.

one year ago…”Smallest of Habitats”

May 27, 2011 – Mother-Daughter Get-Away

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

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

At the Poplar Lake landing, ready to go!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #210″

May 21, 2011 – Linda Presents

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

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

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

one year ago…”Salads By the Gallon”

May 20, 2011 – Linda’s Trip to DC

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

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

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

And she remembered the moon shots of her childhood.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #209″

March 15, 2011 – Japan Retrospective – Events and People

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

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

Patty Judge in Japan

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

Always toasts to friendship and success before every meal.

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

Tokyo Street

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

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

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

one year ago…”Checking the Beehive”

March 14, 2011 – Japan Retrospective – Kyoto

The Japan tribute continues today with a visit to Kyoto.

One thing that usually strikes me outside of the US is the age of the rest of the civilized world. The Heian Shrine is a baby in terms of Japanese history, built in 1895, to commemorate the 1,100th year anniversary of Kyoto.

Heian Shrine

The grounds inside this Shinto shrine were beautiful.

I love the look of supreme confidence, beauty, and protection this new mother gives to the world.


Kinkaku-ji (also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion) is a Zen Buddist temple in Kyoto as well. This temple dates back to the 1300s. The Kinkaku-ji grounds were built to mimic the descriptions of the western paradise of the Buddha, intending to illustrate a harmony between heaven and earth.

nijo castle grounds

Here is a view on the grounds of the Nijo Castle, home of the Tokugawa Shoguns. It was built in 1601, and contains concentric circles of moats and embankments.

zen garden

Ry?an-ji (The Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is a Zen temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The most famous element of this temple is the ‘Zen garden’ which dates to the 1400s. The garden consists of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders, which are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle (other than from above) only fourteen of the boulders are visible at one time. It is traditionally said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder.

one year ago…”Maple Syruping Season Begins”

March 13, 2011 – Japan Retrospective – Tokyo

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

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

Mount Fuji from Tokyo ANA Hotel

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

Tokyo Rooftop Garden

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

Tokyo Side Stret

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

Ginza District

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

Moat of Imperial Palace

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


This is the entrance to the Senso-ji Shrine.

one year ago…”Tree Pruning”

March 12, 2011 – Japan Retrospective – Food

With the horrific photos and stories coming out of Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, I thought this might be a good time to take a few days out of the blog to reflect on the goodness of Japanese culture and the beauty of the country.  A few years ago, I was part of an agricultural trade delegation with the State of Iowa to Japan.  We visited Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.  Today’s entry will be devoted to food!

Norman Makino

The gentleman on the right is Norman Makino, who lives in Tokyo, but works for the Iowa Department of Economic Development.  Norman is the point man for Iowa-Japan relations in Japan.  He helped arrange and guide our tour. I was grateful to hear his voice over the phone on a news broadcast the day after the disaster.

Fugu Tank

I’ll start with something I didn’t eat the “river pig” or Fugu.  This is the one of the most legendary Japanese dishes, as if it improperly prepared, it can kill you with a poison.  The preparation in Japan is tightly regulated and chefs who prepare it are highly trained. It has been part of Japanese culture for 2300 years.  Here’s a poem from the time of the American Revolution:

I cannot see her tonight.
I have to give her up
So I will eat fugu.

– Yosa Buson

Here’s the first course of a more formal Japanese lunch.  I was not prepared for the great quantity of pickled food that appeared on my plates during the ten days.

Here’s the 2nd course of a more formal lunch.  It’s got the aesthetic you might expect from an Eastern chef, with the placement and arrangement of the meat, onions, and peas.  I particularly am drawn to the split pea pod with peas missing.

bento van

The bento van is a fast food version of a Japanese lunch.


Here’s my bento, pretty traditional in that it contains rice, breaded shrimp, meat, pickled vegetables, lemon, and grated vegetable – I’d be much up for this than a Happy Meal!

One of the more exotic and more recent additions to the Japanese diet is this extremely well-marbled beef known as Wagyu.  This beef is so fat, it cooks up like bacon.  Here, it is in a grill built into the center of a table in a Korean barbecue restaurant.

beer vending

Finally, we’ll end with a beverage photo.  This is a vending machine for beer on a sidewalk in Tokyo.  How long do you think one of these would last on a US sidewalk?  And do you think it would only be patronized by customers over the age of 21!

one year ago…”Third Ewe Drops Triplets”

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

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

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

The Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa.

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

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

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

Back in Montreal and some brightly colored row houses.

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

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

October 1, 2010 – Emma Visits River Museum

Emma recently visited the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque with her Envirothon team.  She was gone a couple of days, so could really see and do many things.

They had free run of the museum after hours, which they greatly enjoyed.

You can never have too much instant ocean!

They did some stream biological assessments – here trying to chase minnows and fish into a net.  They also set up fish traps on the Mississippi and were able to catch some monster northern pike and walleyes which was a thrill for Emma!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #179″

July 18, 2010 – At the Waterfall

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

baptism river sign

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

superior hiking trail sign

Part of the Superior Hiking Trail goes through the park.

Lake Superior Lookout

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

high falls on baptism river

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

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

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

one year ago…”Final Day of Vacation”

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 15, 2010 – BWCA Day 1

With the oldest two girls absent from our party this year, we were all able to make a foray into the BWCA.

Entering Lake Three

Here Emma rides the helm with her friend.  They shared a canoe and paddled with strength and confidence.

Two People in Canoe

Mike and Lori take a break in a narrows along the way to the campsite.

Lake Three Campsite

On Lake Three, near the portage to Horseshoe Lake, sits this wonderful island campsite – here’s the view from the water.

Lake Three Campsite

Here’s the view from the land.  This site offered lots of nice rocks, plentiful tent sites, and nice overlooks of the lake.

The crew assembled for a quick lunch upon landing.

One of the nice overlooks on the site.

Emma and Kate cooking their own gourmet wilderness meal!

hang food pack

And finally, a great tree to hide the food pack away from reach of hungry bears!

one year ago…”Touring Soudan Underground Mine”

July 14, 2010 – On the Land

Away from the water, the wild blueberries are abundant this year.

Some fun with a camera setting that just detects one color.

Wild blueberries in full color. Picking blueberries is rather relaxing and it’s a great excuse to get out and tromp around the woods, sphagnum bogs, and powerlines.  There’s a fine line between getting lost and not knowing exactly where you are!  I also managed to scare up a covey of young ruffed grouse.

Blueberries collected for human consumption!  We had blueberries on pancakes, blueberries in mixed fruit salad, and Linda made a blueberry pie as well.

Of course, we couldn’t go a whole week without picking and preserving some food!  In addition to the berries we ate fresh and froze, we canned over 30 jars of these delectable little morsels!

one year ago…”Overnight in the BWCA in the Rain”

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 12, 2010 – The Resort

I think resort probably isn’t the right word for this place.  “Lodge and Outfitters” is probably much better.  There are not any golf courses, on-site restaurants (or probably not any within 20 miles), no pool, and no spa (although I think you could get a massage). Instead, what you get is a cabin in the only resort on a non-motorized lake in the Boundary Waters.

Kawishiwi Lodge

This is the main lodge where the latest concession to modernity is free wi-fi, which is a stark contrast to the old pine and national park-like interior to the lodge.

Cabin 11, Kawishiwi Lodge

Here’s our digs for the week – cabin 11 with 3 bedrooms plus a loft that sleeps four and a couple of bathrooms – really a spacious cabin with a screened in porch.

A late-night card game with everyone except Martin!

Cabin 7 Kawishiwi Lodge

One of my favorite cabins along the lakeside trail to the lodge.

one year ago…”Settled in at Kawishiwi Lodge”

July 11, 2010 – “End of the Road”

Being on the farm, to get away to a place more remote takes some driving!  About nine hours north of us, literally at the end of the road, we exchange our automobile for a canoe and cabin.

This sign is nearly to Canada, in far northern Minnesota and the area is affectionately known as “the end of the road.”  The local community owned radio station WELY is a hoot!  Charles Kuralt was so enamored with Ely and the station from discovering it during his “On the Road” show that he purchased it to keep it going.  It is now owned by the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and maintains its eclectic programming including Lutheran Hour, The Old Town Polka Show, 80’s Night, and this description of a Wednesday Night show called The Feast:

Following Quote by Chris Godsey at Secrets of the City

Dark evergreen silhouettes loom against a wash of indigo sky on both sides of Minnesota Highway 1. Driving southwest out of Ely, toward Tower, the early autumn moon is so bright, so close and full, that driving without headlights seems only appropriate.

After a news update from ABC Radio, the voice of late-night DJ Brett Ross takes over. Ross sounds surprisingly present: “From Alan Watts,” he intones, “‘When everyone recognizes beauty as beautiful, then there is ugliness. When everyone recognizes goodness as good, then there is evil.’” Ross’s conspiratorial baritone is the night’s perfect complement: ominous and comforting and mysterious; distant, yet intimate.

An electronic beat—a tune called “Salted Fatback” from a DJ named Mocean Worker—begins pulsing in and around a sound collage of snippets from the First Amendment, Martin Luther King, Jr.—“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord!”—and other revolutionary sources. After the beat runs on its own for a minute or so, Ross is back: “End of the Road Radio W-E-L-Y,” he announces, “at 94.5 over the FM airwaves, streaming live at, around the globe on the World Wide Web.

“It’s The Feast. So very good of you to drop in for another course.”

That’s WELY as in: owned by Charles Kuralt in the 1990s; saved from Minnesota Public Radio homogenization by a local buyer after Kuralt’s death; now owned by the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa; it’s a station that is inevitably compared to KBHR from the TV show Northern Exposure, primarily because they’re both eclectic community bastions in wilderness towns populated by plenty of delightfully eccentric and intellectual people.

Introductions accomplished, Ross launches into an hour of music and words: “Rolling” by Soul Coughing; “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” and “Life During Wartime” by the Talking Heads; Pink Floyd’s “Fearless.” He reads Emily Dickinson’s “To fight aloud, is very brave” over the tune “Invocation” by an Italian ambient-electronica duo called the Dining Rooms, then spins Pearl Jam’s “Footsteps” and “W.M.A. (White Male American),” Sara Softich’s “Whiskey,” and “When the Ship Comes in” by Bob Dylan.

Perhaps none of that would be remarkable anywhere, on its own or during daylight. But late at night, driving through a forest in northern Minnesota, it’s perfectly unique, unexpected, and thrilling.

More about the trip later…but thought I should make an appearance for the faithful.
one year ago…”10 Hours in the Car”

June 7, 2010 – Parfrey’s Glen

Another spot worth visiting was Parfrey’s Glen Natural Area – the first such declared area in the state because of unique and sensitive fauna and geologic features.

parfreys glen

The walk is about .7 miles and follows a small creek – as you walk along the broad open forest continually constricts.

parfreys glen

At the end, it’s a small rocky canyon and with a small waterfall.


The canyon held something for everyone (in our party). The cool, canyon walls provided shade for many interesting plants, among those, these liverworts Linda found fascinating.


FOr others in our party (me),  the walls showed off great geological formations, here a couple of bands of conglomerate (the rock layers made up of many small rocks.

Our last stop of the day was at the park chateau  which buts out into the lake for great views – the chateau also has an old-time wooden dance floor, much like the one in Luchenbach Texas.


We stayed at a B&B on a retired dairy farm.  This was an early morning view from a hayfield on the farm.

morning silo

Here’s “Lucky” a shaved collie who accompanied me on an early morning walk at no extra charge!

one year ago…”Painting West Side of Barn Complete”

June 6, 2010 – Devils Lake State Park

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

Devils Doorway

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

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

Devils Lake Beach

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

West Bluff Trail

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

Yet another promontory on the West Bluff Trail.

West Bluff Trail

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

Potholes Trail

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

Baraboo hills

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

East Bluff Trail

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

one year ago…”Blue Flag Iris”

June 5, 2010 – Frank Lloyd Wright – Taliesin Tour

To celebrate getting one child safely through high school, GJ volunteered to watch the kids while Linda and I picked a place for a two-night get-away.  We headed to south-central Wisconsin.  Our schedule was kind of loose, and since it was pouring rain, we opted for the tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home of 60 years along the Wisconsin River – Taliesin.  The tour featured the Hillside Studio and Theater and Wright’s Home.  The price seemed steep – $52, but we plunged ahead.

Hillside Studio

This is the view of the north of the Assembly Hall.  Only exterior photos are permitted, and even so, I have way more photos than are usual for a blog post, so I just picked a half-dozen.  This building was originally used as a boarding school, and eventually was used as a school of architecture which is still operational today.

Hillside Theater

Here’s a view looking from the north into the theater.  It contained a great stage curtain, designed by Wright, the original seats, also designed by Wright.  When you sat in this theater, when all the curtains were open, you could see light out all four directions, in some cases for over 100 feet or more within the building.  Behind and to the left is a 5,000 square foot building with drafting tables for the school of architecture fellows.

Exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright Studio

We now have moved out of Hillside and a hill and valley over to Wright’s home – Taliesin.  This is an exterior view of Wright’s personal drafting studio, where he presumably designed Fallingwater and the Guggenheim. The windows here are numerous and high, offering light, but not the distraction of people entering and leaving the house as the windows are above the height of the visitors.

Taliesin Courtyard

The courtyard at Taliesin shows part of the house.  The house is 37,000 square feet.   Next year, parts of the house will be 100 years old.  It was very interesting to tour the property and see the genius at work.   The house and buildings were seen as experiments – lab experiments and not necessarily designed for long-term use.  For example, he added a room above his own for his 8-year-old daughter, scaled appropriately for her, with short ceilings.  Of course, the question is why would you design a room for an 8-year-old that would be useless later – well, Wright thought, then you’d try something else and re-do the room.

While his style that has been so broadly adapted throughout North America, these particular structures require tremendous upkeep.

Wright Estate

A view of part of the 660 acre estate looking from Taliesin towards the Hillside school.  Wright thought that this landscape was the perfect human scale – the hills and valleys were something that you could imagine walking to without much trouble – unlike the great plains or mountains.

Wright Hog Barn

Finally, as a farmer, I had to include the Frank Lloyd Wright designed hog barn with the roof sloping down towards you (and noting how the slope of the hog barn also slopes away from the resat of the house!

The tour was worth the $52.

one year ago…”News Flash – Crunch Berries Aren’t Really Fruit”

February 27, 2010 – Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference

For the last few days we’ve been attending the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, WI. Each year it seems to get bigger. When we first started attending, it was at a convent, then it moved to UW-La Crosse, and now at the La Crosse convention center. Nearly 3,000 attended this year’s meeting, and the La Crosse Center now seems too small.

I thought I’d just put in a shot of the river right behind the conference center since few pictures are more boring than people sitting around tables or chairs talking.

For me, the best part of the conference is sitting down for meals. The food, is, of course, outstanding and without exception, the people you meet at your lunch table are interesting and likable. This year, we seemed to meet many people who were just starting out on their farms and there to soak up information, just like I was years ago.

I’m told be people outside the organic community, that this farm conference is rare in the large number of young people that attend. I got to speak a bit with a reporter from Successful Farming magazine, a mainline farm publication and he said he’s never covered a conference with so many young people – he said it was rare to see a person under 55 at any of the other mainline farming meetings/conferences.

one year ago…”What’s Your Type?”

August 15, 2009 – Atlantic Whale Watching

More guest blogging from Emma…

I had the opportunity to go to the marine sanctuary outside of Boston to look for whales. We were fortunate enough to see around 6 whales.

A boat that was the exact same kind as the one we took.

The boat ride was very windy and I let down my hair and enjoyed the wind in my hair and the salt spray on my face.

We were lucky enough to see several whales feeding. The birds surround them and pick off fish that rise to the surface. The whales swim under the surface around the ocean and scare the fish to the top and get them there.

We had a truly beautiful sunset while on the boat ride. A humpback whale was kind enough to pose for this shot.

We were farther out enough not to see the city in the sunset.  A parting shot from the boat.

one year ago…”Gun Safety”

August 14, 2009 – New England Dining

Emma’s blogging again today…

While we were in Salem and Boston, we had the chance to eat some really great seafood and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. A little restaurant I really enjoyed was a little seafood place with lots of open air places with a view of the sea. I went for lunch and I liked it so much, I went back for dinner the same day.

Fried clams for lunch.

A devoured plate of mussels. A favorite with the group.

Very delicious spring rolls in a mango sauce. Not exactly seafood, but good all the same.

While at the seafood restaurant,  I tried several new things including lobster, swordfish, and mussels. My personal favorite was the swordfish.

Following a long standing tradition of getting a “vermonster” on the last night, We got three. In less than ten minutes, all there were clean and washed. That’s approximately 60 scopes of ice cream, 16 ladles of hot fudge,  at least 2 containers of whipped cream, a jar of sprinkles, 12 cookies,  and 16 toppings including; gummy bears, bananas, Oreo cookies, and many others. It was, needless to say, very filling. A sweet end to and even better trip.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #128″

August 13, 2009 – Emma Hits Walden Pond

We also went to Walden Pond. It was where Henry David Thoreau chose to live for two years of his life.  He chose to live out of society to see what it was like.

Where his cabin used to be. All that’s left is a pile of stones.

A view from the hiking trail from the beach to the cabin. A very worthwhile walk.  It reminded me a lot of the boundary waters in northern Minnesota because of the lake and the types of trees around it.

And of course, you have to go swimming. The water was some of the clearest water I have ever seen.

one year ago…”What to do with Peaches?”

August 12, 2009 – Emma Around Boston

Emma is guest blogging today and the next few days…

My coming of age youth  group of 27 youth went to Boston recently. We spent a week around the Boston area learning about Unitarian Universalist history and touring around.  It was definitely in the top three best trips I’ve been on.

Paul Revere and Old North church.

The oldest organ in Boston, inside Old North Church.

These represent fallen soldiers in the war memorial garden.

We toured the house where Little Women was written. I never knew how many famous  people the Alcottt’s knew.

The now beautiful site of the very first battle of the revolutionary war.

one year ago…”More Fruit”

July 16, 2009 – International Wolf Center

Ely is also home to the International Wolf Center, a place that “advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wild lands and the human role in their future”

Part of the exhibit is an observation enclosure where visitors can try to get a glimpse of the wolves in their 1 1/4 acre enclosure.

The wolves are fed road-kill deer!  The center has webcams so you don’t have to go to Ely to see them.

one year ago…”Fruit on the Verge”

July 15, 2009 – Touring Tower Soudan Underground Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Willow Nursery on Track”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Tubex Verdict”

June 29, 2009 – Blue Mounds State Park

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

blue mounds top view

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

blue mounds cliffline

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

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

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

manfred house

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

manfred house bathroom

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

Linda admires the 1.5 billion-year old Sioux quartzite.

yellow prickly pear

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

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

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

one year ago…”Late Cherries”

June 28, 2009 – Pipestone National Monument

The second day of our 20th tour, brought us to Pipestone National Monument near, strangely enough, Pipestone, Minnesota.

Pipestone National Monument Sign

This monument interprets and protects the site of native American pipestone quarries.  Most famously it was the stone used to carve peace and ceremonial pipes. It was a sacred site and was off limits for war and available for all tribes.  They didn’t even camp on the ground when they came.

Winnewissa Falls

Here’s a rare shot of a waterfall in the tallgrass prairies. This is Winnewissa Falls along Pipestone Creek within the park, falling over a ledge of the Precambian (very old) Sioux Quartzite.

Go ahead, look through for guidance!

Oracle at Pipestone

See the oracle in the rock?

The pipestone layer is at the bottom of this small quarry – about 12 inches thick.  Native Americans still mine and craft the pipestone and by law are the only ones able to do so.

one year ago…”Des Moines Art Festival”

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

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

Dayton House Front View

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

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

Dayton House Staircase

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

Dayton House Hallway

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

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

Ethiopian Restaurant

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

Lake Okabena Rainbow

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

one year ago…”Chickens Need Rethinking”

June 16, 2009 – Debate Nationals Preview

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

This is the five points district, an entertainment district.

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

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

one year ago…”Strawberry Season”

May 13, 2009 – Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park

My favorite hike of the trip was around Eagle Lake.

Here’s the lake in all its calm splendor.  Acadia National Park was the first National Park east of the Mississippi River.

The park has over 50 miles of “carriage roads” around lakes and through the forest.  They are great for easier hiking, biking, or cross-country skiing.  They were built by Rockefeller before the park was founded, so he’d have a pleasant place to ride his carriages!

Now the trail is starting to go uphill away from the lake.

One of the dangers of hiking with Linda is that she’s  not yet met a bryophyte she didn’t like.

Here’s a close up of the latest object of her affection.

Continuing further up the carriage trail.

Finally, a view of the lake from up near Cadillac Mountain.

one year ago…”Queueing up the Next Project”

May 12, 2009 – Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

We cheated and drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  I say cheated because I’m with Edward Abbey that not every beautiful place in the world should be accessible by auto.  There are hiking trails to the top of the mountain, but it is disconcerting to get to the top and find a parking lot and RVs.  Abbey believed that the true splendor should take some sweat and effort, to help appreciate the journey.

Here’s proof that we were together on the trip, thanks to the self-timer on the camera.

A view to the north, I believe.

And a look towards the south.  I was struck at this place at the similarities to Olympic National Park in Washington overlooking Puget Sound.  The two parks are bookends to the northern coasts of the US, with Acadia being the drier, shorter version of Olympic.  I marveled at all the parts of the world I have yet to visit and for a moment was overwhelmed with all the unseen beauty across our planet.

one year ago…”Peaches”

May 10, 2009 – College of the Atlantic

I had a chance to roam around campus for a while.  It’s in a great location – one side is the ocean and literally across the street is Acadia National Park.

The college concentrates on environmental arts, sciences and design.  Claire would be a great fit for this place.

It’s the first “carbon-neutral” campus.  This is the new wood-pellet fired boiler that heats the campus.

This is the administration building, among other things.  Parts of the campus were formerly a monastery.

Here’s a formal herb garden overlooking the bay.

These are the student dormitories.

The shore right on campus property.

Finally, for Martin, a whale skull!

one year ago…”Glorious Spring”

May 9, 2009 – Bar Harbor, Maine

We had the chance to take a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine as Linda was invited by the College of the Atlantic to speak about sustainable agriculture.  So I tagged along with her.

One of the streets heading down to Frenchman Bay in “downtown” Bar Harbor.

A sailing vessel moored out in the bay.

Sunset on the pier out in Frenchman Bay.

one year ago…”Asparagus”

April 4, 2009 – Conference Day Two – Ice Breaker

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

Peter spent time talking about and playing his music

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

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

Some of the heavy duty chains on deck.

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

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

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

April 3, 2009 – Linda’s Keynote

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

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

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

Claire with some rounded ice chunks from the lake.

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #112″

November 25, 2008 – Waiting for Turkeys

I was up at 5 am to bring the turkeys to Milo, about 30 miles south of Des Moines.  It’s first-come first serve and my turkeys got in about 11:00.  Then it was about a three hour wait until they chilled in ice water so they could be transported.  After dropping some off in Ames, it was home about 6:30.  In the three hour wait, I visited a park close by the locker, Lake Ahquabi State Park.

There was a unique structure out at the end of a dock.

Inside the structure was an opening that went to the lake.  It was an indoor fishing shack.  Could be handy on a wet or hot day!

one year ago…”Last Lambs of the Season”.

August 10, 2008 – State Fair Day

Today was the family day at the Iowa State Fair.

A fair day with low humidity and temps in the low 80’s really brings the people out!

Martin was captivated by the demonstration of the kitchen slicer/shredder/peeler.  He spent a good 10 minutes taking in the demo and even squeezed his way to the front of the crowd.  You put a mechanical device together with food, and you’ve got this boy hooked!

Tuckered.  That describes this duo on the fair grounds.

one year ago…”Claire to Boston: Part 2″

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Mousehole Days”

August 2, 2008 – Envirothon Part 2: Touring Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #82″

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Bridges”

July 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 12, 2008 – Rainy End to Vacation

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”BWCA Trip”

July 11, 2008 – Young Girls and Moms Overnight

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

Canoes all packed, ready to embark on the trip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda at the helm, maneuvering the canoe back home.

one year ago…”Soudan Underground Mine Tour”

July 10, 2008 – Dock Life and Bushwhacking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 9, 2008 – Catching Bait and Fish

Another popular vacation pastime is fishing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Fishing at Sunset”

July 8, 2008 – Swimming and Biking in the Northwoods

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

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

and frontwards…

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Road Trip!”

July 7, 2008 – Settling in at Kawishiwi Lodge

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

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

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

Here’s home for most of the week.

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

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

one year ago…”Garlic Harvest Begins”

June 28, 2008 – Des Moines Art Festival

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

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

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

The neices and nephew with auntie!

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

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

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #78″

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Veggie Tour”

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

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

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

This is a close up of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

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

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

one year ago…”Flower Tour”

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…”Hank’s Guitar”

May 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 3, 2008 – All Work and No Play Make Mark a Dull Boy

Linda and I snuck away from the farm for 20 hours this weekend to Iowa City.  We had tickets to see Steve Earle and Allison Moorer, a couple of acts I saw at SXSW in Austin, TX last year.  Steve is a rare hippie country singer, but his latest CD is more folk with a hint of hip-hop and won the Grammy for best contemporary folk album this year.  I got the last two seats in the house about a month ago.  The Englert was a nice venue, restored by a big community effort.  There is a tuxedoed man to greet you at the door and volunteer ushers wearing black pants and white shirts.

He played a good mix of his old tunes like Copperhead Road and most of his new CD.

Before the show we ate at Devotay – a fine dining restaurant that features hordes of local producers and run by Chef Kurt Friese, who is one of the founders of Edible Iowa River Valley magazine.

Of course, we stopped at Prairie Lights Bookstore as well and did well to keep the bill near 100 bucks.  We picked up Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, a compilation honoring the late Paul Gruchow entitled The Grace of Grass and Water, The Flower Farmer, by Lynn Byczynski, which updates the Organic Flower Farmer which is the single most valuable how-two farming-related book we own.  We also picked up the latest Wapsipinicon Almanac, a seasonal magazine still using the traditional Linotype press and good writing published in Anamosa, Iowa, and Red Bird, the latest book of poetry by Mary Oliver.  We couldn’t wait to read her latest, so after the show, we took turns deliciously reading alternate poems until we finished the book.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #70″

April 9, 2008 – Paragon Prairie Tower

There’s a new landmark on my way to work – the Paragon Prairie Tower in an office park in Urbandale, IA.

The placque adjacent to the tower gives this as part of the explanation of the tower.

“The Paragon Prairie Tower rises from the landscape as a dynamic symbol of the the accomplishments and aspirations of the people of Iowa and the Midwest…The Paragon Prairie Tower recalls the presence of agricultural structures such as grain silos, where for generations we have traditionally stored the bounty of our harvests.”

The description mentions that the scene is of native prairie plants dancing in the wind – but I also see human figures in the tower.

The tower is made up of hundreds of thousands of glass fragments from Ravenna, Italy and stands 118 feet tall.

Here’s a close view of the individual tiles that make up the mosaic of the tower.
I just wish they would honor the tower by planting the native grasses depicted on the tower in the grounds around the tower instead of the same old irrigated kentucky bluegrass and fescue that is ubiquitous around every midwestern office park!
one year ago…”Equipment Day/Fresh Air”

March 2, 2008 – Final Thoughts on Costa Rica

All told, we were 10 days in Costa Rica.  We stayed in San Jose for six nights, Liberia for two nights, and Punta Leona for a night.

These are our digs in San Jose.  It is tucked in a corner of the University of Costa Rica and had a nice grounds and exterior and functional rooms.  Most of the time we had hot water! The place also had nice gathering spaces where many people could sit and chat if they didn’t want to be in their room.

san jose traffic
I wouldn’t mark down San Jose as a “can’t miss” tourist attraction. It’s a city of one million plus with european size street and american style traffic.  Most of the homes were gated and even had razor wire on top of the gates. I would not consider driving a car there.  Most of the streets are unmarked/unnamed and driving takes different skills than U.S. drivers possess.

Here is Javier, the “most valuable” player of the trip, our bus driver.  He negotiated both city driving and country driving with reliability.  Out in the country, the roads seemed to be about as wide as a driveway, with no line markings, and equal numbers of buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians and no shoulders.  Up in the mountains we saw semi-tractors backing down the road because they couldn’t make it up the steep road.  We had one particularly harrowing night in the fog on a winding road up a mountain when numerous semi trailers were dead on the road without lights or caution markers, often times right after a sharp curve. Through it all, we felt safe with Javier at the helm!

bird of paradise flower
I’ll leave you not with urban sprawl and bad roads, but a bird of paradise flower which are common throughout the country.  Shortly after I got home, I realized that if I wanted to, I could probably retire tomorrow and move to Costa Rica and live the rest of my life without having to add any more to the retirement account!  One of the days we were walking out in a rural area, I think either after the visit to Alvero’s farm or the strawberry farm and commented how there are many worse lives than spending your time tending crops and animals with your family, without all the conveniences of modern life (dishwashers that don’t drain, for the most recent example from our home!).

So, that’s all from Costa Rica for now.  We look forward to the Ticos who will come visit Iowa this coming July from Costa Rica!

one year ago…”Storm Day 2 or Day 7?”

March 1, 2008 – Costa Rican Beaches/Pacific Forests

At the end of the trip, we had about 20 hours at a place on the beach (Pacific side).

This woman’s Midwestern modesty cannot coax her out from behind the palm tree!

Later in the day, some folks tried their hand at fishing and were not successful.

There were some rocky stretches as well where we could explore the tidal zones and all the fun creatures living there.

Here’s our lodging.  Say, don’t those plants in the foreground look like the houseplants that never look quite right?

Behind the pool and nestled in the trees is one of the restaurants at the resort.  The literature claims no trees were felled to construct the buildings – many had trees growing through them. Most of the restaurants where we dined were open air and bugs/flies were surprisingly never a problem.

Here’s Costa Rica’s version of the raccoon. This one was searching the restaurant (one of the hazards of open air!)

The resort had a number of trails through a forest.  Here is the base of a giant tree.  This one had a zip line way up that you could speed above the rain forest canopy.

Martin, our resident rain forest expert said this picture had too much light to be a rain forest because rain forests only get 2% of the light down to the ground and this photo was more than 2%.

One of the most fascinating parts of the hike was coming across colonies of leaf-cutting ants.  This particular group was disassembling a fallen flower.  It was a treat to see a long line of ants, each carrying a piece of this flower back to the nest.

These ants were carrying bits of leaves.  Unfortunately, the dark conditions and difficulty of close-up focus without a macro lens made photos problematic.  I could say the ants were moving so fast, they were a blur, but that wasn’t the case.

Here’s a “Where’s Waldo” challenge for you.

one year ago…”In Like a Lion”

February 29, 2008 – Melon Farm

All about melons!

Here’s one of the few photos of the two of us together on the trip.

This melon farm was on a floodplain adjacent to a river.  Across the river (which isn’t visible in this photo) is a national park.  It was a stunning place for a farm field.

These melons are ready for harvest.  This farm needs five melons per square meter to be profitable.

The farm had a number of beehives for pollination.  The river had a number of large mean reptiles up to 15 feet long that make it not such a good place to swim.

melon wagon
The melons all loaded in the wagon and hauled to the packing house.

The side of the wagon is tilted down and the melons tumble into a light chlorine bath.

The first round of hand sorting as the melons float by.

melon processing
The melons are packed and sold according to size (how many fit in a box).  These were labeled “Honeydew” melons destined for Europe, even though they looked like squash, they tasted like a honeydew melon.

one year ago…”leap day! – no year ago today post

February 28, 2008 – Mango Farm

The first stop this day was at a mango farm and packing plant.

Again, this was a large expanse of mangoes, several hundreds of acres.

Some mangoes hanging on the tree.

The perimeter of the orchard is lined with this wall of recycled plastic to protect the orchard from wind.

The mangoes that cannot be harvested by hand are harvested one at a time in this tool that has a snippers and bag to catch the cut mango.

The freshly cut mangoes extrude a milky liquid that is irritable to skin.  Workers turn the mangoes stem side down on metal grates for a half hour to let the liquid drain before further handling.

We were able to find some irregular mangoes that were not harvested for sampling.  Uniformity and consistency is very important for the export market.

At the loading dock are a couple of government inspectors looking for fruit infected with pests. Again, on the cutting board is the machete.

The workers dump to mangoes from the field crates into the waterway that leads to the plant.  You can see the crate in mid-air thrown from one worker to another.

The first hand sort separates the mangoes to be further processed with those going back out (on top conveyor belt) for other uses.

After the initial sort, the mangoes float through a fungicide bath.

An automated sorting track is the next step.  The trays tip at various locations based on the weight of the mangoes.  A number of conveyor belts are arranged perpendicular from this sorter for further packing and sorting.

Another treatment is to dump the mangoes in 105 degree water for 15-17 minutes for additional pest control.

A spray of wax is applied to the mangoes.

There is one final packing by size.  Notice the packers with the rolls of stickers that they apply to the fruit – those are the stickers that you find on fruit in the stores.

In the afternoon we visited a large fish farm where photos were not allowed.  We visited acres of ponds and toured the processing plants where my favorite new euphemism was the “relaxation chamber” where the tilapia first enter the plant.  They come in as wiggling fish and leave as frozen fillets.

one year ago…no posting one year ago

February 27, 2008 – Sugar Cane

Sugar cane day was one of the most interesting days of the trip.

They used to burn the canes before harvesting, but at this farm, they use this giant chopping machine.  It has a chopper arm that stays about 6 feet above the ground to chop off the top of the canes, and a chopper on the bottom that cuts the canes near the ground and sends them through the machine to chop into 6 inch pieces.  There is still much sugar can harvested by hand.  This was the only machine like this in this part of the country.

One of the workers grabs a machete and opens up some cane for us to taste.  It was really quite sweet and fibrous.

Next we visited a sugar mill.  This mill is a co-op that has been in existence since the ’40s.  Here a farmer comes to the mill with a load of sugar cane.

Farmers are paid on the weight and quality of the canes. This machine drills into the load and retrieves a sample.

The sample is collected and brought to an onsite lab for evaluation and ultimate payment to the farmer.

The canes are stored in piles awaiting processing.

The first step is to load the canes into this giant conveyor.  When the bundles are dropped by the crane, a guy runs out on top of the moving canes and unhooks the chains holding the bundles.

The first step inside the mill is this giant chopper.

A secondary chopper further reduces the cane.

The whole series of choppers follows down this line.

Looks like solid state technology on the control panel!

Finally, the sugar is separated and liquefied and brought to a new part of the mill.

Large vats of bubbling liquid are part of the next steps.  It felt a little like going into a Willy Wonka factory gone bad.  There were all kinds of open vats, exposed belts and gears, narrow walkways over chopping conveyor belts, steam escaping everywhere, open augers and spinning centrifuges.  To top it off, we didn’t even have to remove our jewelry and rings!

Part of the mysterious part of the plant – large vats of heated and pressurized sugar.  We couldn’t hear a thing throughout the tour.

A place where the process is checked by sampling the product.

Finally, a brown slurry come out and into a spinning centrifuge.

About 90 seconds in the centrifuge turns the sugar white and crystalline.

At the end of the line, Nicaraguans take the 120 lb bags off a conveyor belt and load them onto a truck.

The truck outside being loaded.  We weren’t too sure what they had against pallets and forktrucks. At the next stop, these bags will also have to be unloaded by hand as well, but it will be much harder to reach down and lift them.

one year ago…”Storm Day 5″

February 26, 2008 – Ferns, Strawberries and Coffee

The first stop today was at a fern farm.  It is one of the largest fern farms in the world.  The ferns are background for flower bouquets – the stuff that’s left weeks after the roses die!

The farm has a lab that has done extensive research on fern diseases and they do some top-notch research here.

The fern farm covers acres of land covered in black shade cloth.

The shade cloth is now 72% sun block.  It was recently 66% sun block.  According to the farm operators, the intensity of the sun has increased over the past few years requiring thicker shade cloth.  There is not an explanation.

Inside the packing plant, the ferns come sorted by size in the field and come in for trimming, vacuum packing, and packing.

Here’s the machine that vacuum packs the ferns.  The ferns are put into a bag and the table comes down, pushing out the air and sealing the edge, like a giant seal-a-meal.  The ferns are then put into boxes and into refrigeration.  These ferns were headed to Europe for Easter arrangements. They ship out about two shipping containers a day.  For this enterprise and others shipping to Europe, the GAP standards aim for pest and disease control with minimum hazard to workers, neighbors, consumers, and the environment. The standards require extensive record-keeping for compliance and they have frequent unannounced inspections.

Up high in a strawberry field in a beautiful setting.

Here an entomologist gazes deep into a strawberry leaf.

The covers over the berries have a simple plastic over and under adjacent wires.

During the day, the plastic can be moved up or to the sides.

We had a 20 minute walk to the fields that was not passable by bus. It was a very beautiful walk through the countryside.

The last stop was at a coffee plantation where we received a tour a bit too cheesy for most of our tastes.  I can’t remember the guide’s name, let’s call him “Fernando.”  He had a booming voice and an aura of an afternoon Spanish soap opera leading man, invoking all the romance and care of the coffee bean!

Here’s coffee out in the field.

This is an old coffee mill that is part of the tour with some coffee out for drying.

A few days later we went to a “real” coffee mill that was adjacent to the sugar cane mill.  This is where the trucks back up to unload the coffee.  Notice the high-tech abacus counter above the chute.  One of the running jokes during the trip occurred at nearly every loading dock.  Early in the trip, an employee was explaining in Spanish to us and talked a relatively long time.  The interpreter simply said, “The trucks unload here” in explanation of a long-winded explanation.

Coffee goes through many processes to remove the hull around the bean.

The coffee spends a fair amount of time soaking and fermenting in these big holding tanks.

After the beans are dried, they are sorted on this shaker doo-hickey.

Finally, the beans are bagged and ready to be sent to the roaster.  Have you seen a bigger smile on Linda’s face yet on this trip?

one year ago…”Storm Day 4″

February 25, 2008 – Banana and Pineapple Production

We visited a couple of banana locations.  The first was a banana germplasm preservation center where they were growing many varieties of bananas to save and use for possible future breeding.  The standard Cavendish banana for export teeters on extermination because of devastating disease problems.  They have not yet been able to develop another variety that has the same shipping and taste qualities of the Cavendish.  The Ticos eat another variety that does not ship well, but one with a superior taste.

Amy explains some of the problems with banana culture here in the banana reserve.

The banana tree grows its stalk and produces fruit in about a year.  Then the stalk is cut off and a new one sprouts.  The old brown stem in this photo has rings like a tree, but they are not like tree rings, more like leaves on a garlic plant.

Here’s an example of a banana bunch with its deep red flower dangling below.

Now we are in a banana plantation of many hundreds of acres.  The yellow strings are used to support the stalks.  Migrant Nicaraguan workers walk through this maze and cut the ripe bunches and haul them through the maze to the banana monorail.

Here’s a young worker pulling a train of bananas down the monorail banana trail by hand.  There is a trail that goes down the middle of the plantation about a kilometer and the workers put each bunch on a hook and pull them by hand down the monorail track.

Here the monorail crosses a road as the banana puller crosses the main road with bunches of bananas.  Bananas are very prone to insects and a plant fungus, black sigatoka.  To control insects and sigatoka, the bananas here are aerial sprayed every week of the year, in addition to the blue bags containing insecticide.

Here the bananas approach the packing shed.

The first rinse, while the bananas are still on the monorail.  The bunches usually weigh between 120 and 160 pounds.  I wouldn’t want to weave through the jungle of yellow strings to carry them to the monorail!

The bananas are put into a tank – this contains a light chlorine rinse if my memory is correct.

Next, workers cut the bunches into the bunches the size you see in the store.  These ladies are very adept at using their knives.

Bananas floating to the packers after getting cut into retail bunches.

Packers put the bunches into trays before the bananas are sprayed with another fungicide to get ready for packing in boxes for shipment for export.

We’ve now moved onto the pineapple fields.  This is a field of newly planted pineapples.

Pineapples require well-drained soil, so there are deep ditches for drainage every 50 feet for so.  In the background you might be able to make out the earth-movers preparing the drainages for the next pineapples to be planted.  The land is scraped, then backhoes dig the drainage channels, followed by bed shapers.

Here are more migrant workers harvesting pineapple.  They walk through the field and put the fruits ready for harvest on the arm that comes out from the tractor/wagons.

This is not a job I’d like.  The pineapple leaves are hard and stiff, the workers need to wear full body protection and work in very hot and humid conditions.

Here a worker catches an ride on the harvester boom to get across a drainage ditch.

The pineapples packed inside the wagons.

The exterior view of the wagons with the first layer of pineapples supported upside down so others can rest on top without damaging the crowns.

The wagons are brought to the plant for packing and picked up by a crane.

The wagons are dumped into a chlorine water bath and moved towards the packing plant.

Here a worker finds a ripe pineapple and uses the ubiquitous machete to cut it up into pieces for sampling.

This was the best fruit of the whole trip!

The plant is following the same composting regime as Alvero is on his organic farm and the plant has noticed better production on the areas where this compost is applied.

one year ago…”Storm Day 3″

February 24, 2008 – San Jose Farmer’s Market and Poas Volcano

Since most farms/factories are closed on Sunday, today was a less intense learning day.  The Farmer’s Market was open, so we spent the morning there.

It seemed like it was about 10-12 blocks long – full of strange fruits and vegetables, noisy vendors, and people hawking lottery tickets like ticket scalpers.

Linda tries some coconut milk straight out of the container.

This vendor has a big block of ice and shaves off shreds and dumps in some fruit juice for a real icee.

A vendor who specializes in root crops.

The green, spiny fruits are guanabanana – commonly used for flavoring in desserts and in juice.

The watermelon from this booth was just fantastic.

Ticos have different understanding about egg handling.  The eggs here and in the grocery stores were unrefrigerated and sold in two dozen quantities.

These boys at the meat booth were happy to show how strong they are!

You could get fresh fish at the market.

Or even fresher fish as this vendor was selling aquarium fish nearby the fish vendor.

I couldn’t pass this vendor truck up. I’m hoping it was a problem in translation…

Next was the long and winding drive up to the Poas Volcano.  We never saw the volcano as it was shrouded in fog and clouds, but we could smell it, so we know it was really there.

Even though it was disappointing not to see the volcano, we were able to enjoy the trail through a cloud forest at the top of the mountain.

Look for Linda at the base of this massive tree fern!

This would make a heck of a floral filler for a Paul Bunyan-esque bouquet!

This plant that looks like giant rhubarb leaves is called Poor Man’s Umbrella.

Here’s a flower from some jungle flower.

one year ago…”Storm Day 2″

February 23, 2008 – InBIO Park/Group

Today we visited InBIO park, kind of a rainforest research theme park in San Jose. Lots of different concepts going on, and I’m not sure it all works together, but it is certainly worth a try.

Here are some beetles. They even had samples of the pupae you could look at in jars. A part of the park’s mission is to catalog all the species in Costa Rica. They have scientists collecting plants and insects throughout Costa Rica and keep one sample here and move another sample to their partners in the U.S. including the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The taxonomists here identify on average of four new species each week!

Here is a bird I’ve only seen in my Peterson Field Guide to Birds, the Anhinga. This bird sulks under the surface of the water with only its elongated neck and head out of the water, looking much like a cobra sticking out of the water.

A handsome iguana.

Our friend the sloth comes down the tree about once a week. We were lucky enough to spot it while it was descending. As our interpreter so kindly put it the day before, the sloth is coming down to “dump” – a once a week excursion.

Here is Felipe, one of the arrangers/hosts of the trip and a professor at the University of Costa Rica. The 22 members along on this trip were a diverse lot. Included were large corn/soybean farmers, extension professors and scientists, small farmers, and a famous state horticulturist and entomologist (if you listen to Iowa Public Radio call-in shows). It was kind of like summer camp all over again – with a lot of together time in the air, on the bus, eating meals, and touring farms. The group jelled well and really seemed to enjoy each other’s company.

one year ago…”Day 1 Storm of the Century (so far)

February 22, 2008 – Organic Farm Tour/Wal-Mart Brokers

Our first tour was to an organic farm.  The farm was located up in the mountains outside of San Jose, the capital city.

The man in the white hat is the farm operator and the woman is the daughter of one of the professors at the University of Costa Rica who came along as the interpreter.  Here Alvaro discusses his composting/soil fertility system.

There is a commercial potato farm across the road from Alvaro’s farm that struggles with pest and disease problems, requiring many applications of fungicides and insecticides.  Alvaro’s potatoes do not suffer the same problems and his explanation is the soil characteristics and the potato variety.

Here is an intercropping of carrots and radishes in one of his diversified beds.

Farming on a slope in a place that receives 120 inches of rain a year requires some ingenuity.  He digs these holes throughout his farm along natural drainages.  They receive water during rains and if the erosion starts moving soil, the holes catch the soil so it doesn’t leave his farm

Alvaro had many scarecrows to try to frighten off birds.  Here’s one that give the illusion of movement.

Here’s one wearing a cap from Iowa State! That should be good enough to scare any pest away!

Alvaro also uses vermiculture to help break down organic materials and improve his soil.  He piles up weeds and wast organic matter in the field and seeds them with the vermicomposting worms to break down the piles faster.  Here we are admiring a sample of the worms and the powerful castings.

Alvaro is very much an innovator. Here is a drainage that comes from his pig pen to an inlet pipe.  The interpreter used a kind word to describe the animal manure.  She said “the dump from the animal.”  Alvaro has recently been convinced that his system would not work nearly an well without animals as part of his system.

The dump goes to what he calls his artificial intestine, a makeshift methane digester.  He made this system for less than $100.  The slurry goes into the digester, there’s a relief valve for the methane and a water lock for the liquids leaving the bladder.  He pipes the methane to a stove that he uses to dry things in a nearby shed.  He hopes to someday build his house here and use the methane for the cookstove in his house.  Again, a really neat low-tech solution to making nearly free energy from a waste product in most modern non-integrated production systems.

Finally, he didn’t let us go without providing the 22 of us with lunch!

The second half of the day we visited a fruit broker that was recently purchased by Wal-Mart.  We visited the warehouse where the farmers dropped off the products and they were routed to trucks.  We were not allowed to take photos, had to take off all our jewelry, including rings, earrings, and the like.  The warehouse was essentially a building with loading docks on both sides full of crates of products in the middle.  They were happy to take many pictures of us (although we were forbidden to do likewise).

The owners were very proud that Wal-Mart purchased them, but their formula for offering farmers credit to expand, offering growing assistance, and cornering their market sounded a lot like business from colonial days on forward – get farmers in debt, become the primary source of information, and control access to markets.  The farmers in this system even have to buy and package the products.  So, if you are a potato farmer, you have to bring all the potatoes already weighed, cleaned, and bagged in the retail containers/bags and purchase all the packing materials and handling equipment.  The morning and afternoon could not have demonstrated a bigger contrast in growing and distribution systems.  Interestingly, the organic farm was the most popular visit for most of the trip participants.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #62

February 21, 2008 – Arrival in Costa Rica

After a 10 day absence we are back! We’ve been in Costa Rica and just returned.

As I get time, I will have about 10 days worth of photos from an agricultural tour of Costa Rica. We were invited to trek to Costa Rica by a group at Iowa State that is the beneficiary of a global agriculture grant. About 22 of us went down to Costa Rica and this summer about 15 or so Ticos (Costa Ricans) will come to Iowa to do likewise. Our hosts were from the University of Costa Rica and they arranged the itinerary that included a variety of farms and lodging as you’ll see in the next few entries. It was a rare chance to get an inside view of tropical agriculture, with great variety – from a small organic farmer high up in the mountains, to a fruit broker recently purchased by Wal-Mart.

In our introduction to Costa Rica we learned some interesting facts. Costa Ricans have a slightly longer life expectancy than the U.S., a nearly equal literacy rate to the U.S., but only 10% of U.S. income. The country has a much higher standard of living than its Central American neighbors and when we asked the presenter why he thought the reason that Costa Rica was so much better off than its neighbors, he said in part, it is because in 1948 Costa Rica abolished the military. In so many cases, Ticos saw Central American countries using military force most often against their own citizens, with frequent civil wars, military coups, and the like. They reasoned that the country was so small, if a big country really wanted to invade, their military would not be able to stop an invasion any way. So, they funneled all the military spending into education, health care, and other services and the result is a country that many immigrants from other countries flock to for work and a chance at a better life.

one year ago…”Last Snowbanks?

January 6, 2008 – Leaving for Home

We left the house very early this morning, and I had just a few photos of the house we rented.

Not many houses have a better view than this out the kitchen window!

The house was great for us – there were 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, along with a large kitchen and great room for hanging around.  We’ve had great luck renting houses instead of hotels on vacation.  It’s cheaper and better as you can “stay on your feed” and cook meals as you wish.  This house was well stocked and was a good base for our travels. We’ve had good luck finding houses and cabins, including this one at the vacation rental by owner web site. Interestingly, after we left, the caretaker commented to us, they liked our organic jams we left (from high hopes gardens) and her mother was (and still is) one of the pioneering organic farmers in Pennsylvania!

I was a bit worried we wouldn’t be able to drive out as some dry washes cross the road and in high rains, the road is flooded and there is only one way out.  With a day and night of light rain, I was a bit anxious about getting out in the early morning to catch our flight. I walked out the front door in the morning darkness and there was light hail, rain, and it sounded like a raging river.  I quickly got Linda and we drove to the place where the temporary streams cross the road to see if that was where the noise was coming from, which would mean we would miss our flights – but there was just a little bit of water flowing across the road – the roar must have been from Oak Creek down the hill a bit further.

one year ago…

January 5, 2008 – Rain in the Desert

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

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

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

Cathedral Rock in the rain.

The beginnings of dry washes filling up with water.

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

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

one year ago…

January 4, 2008 – Hanging Around Sedona

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

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

Here the kids start building their own.

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

January 3, 2008 – The Grand Canyon

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

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

Oh, the horrors of the abyss!

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

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

one year ago…

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

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

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

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

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

Linda and sis yak it up with the park ranger.

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

Emma and Nana through a window of the ruin.

Mark and Linda at the top of Tuzigoot.

one year ago…

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

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

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

Next stop was the Painted Desert National Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day dawned clear, crisp and cold.

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

Another view of Oak Creek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 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 29, 2007 – Fiesta Bowl Competition/Parade

The band raised money for a year for their trip.

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

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

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

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

December 28, 2007 – Claire is Here!

Claire’s band is Marching in the Fiesta Bowl National Band Championships in Glendale AZ.

She’s somewhere in here. GJ is there watching her and when she gets back, we’ll post some better pictures. We were able to watch the performance on the internet last night – it was fun to see them on a big field and venue. Today is the parade, then they relax for some sightseeing.
one year ago…

December 3, 2007 – In the News

There have been a couple of recent stories in the news about our neck of the woods. NPR produced a story about immigration and visited with people in Marshalltown, including a woman that went on the trip to Mexico with Linda and Claire’s high school principal. In addition to the audio story, there is a video story link below the story photo from a local coffee shop talking about the caucuses that features some folks we know. The old ladies steal the show in my book!

The New York Times travel writer gushed about the renewed downtown Des Moines. He said in part:

It was not long ago, as most Iowans will tell you, when East Coast stereotypes about this Midwest city were fairly accurate. Bleak and foreboding, a city with a desultory and desolate downtown, few places to eat and little to do once the candidates returned to often dreary hotel rooms. For the hordes of campaign staff members, reporters, television crews who have encamped here for the caucuses over the past 30 years  – great story, yes, but suffice it to say that Des Moines wasn’t the draw. But the other night in Des Moines, I had dinner with a colleague and the Iowa state director of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign at a vibrant restaurant, Lucca, in the heart of a gentrified neighborhood called the East Village. The restaurant had more panache and better food than many places I’ve eaten in Washington, D.C. The East Village streets, spread out under the State Capitol, were aglow with lights – lavender, icy blue and, of course, red and green  –  strung out for Christmas. They were bustling with boutiques, bookstores, coffee shops, culinary stores and Smash, an edgy T-shirt shop where the proprietors were listening to Band of Horses while making slightly off-color T-shirts celebrating the Iowa caucuses.

Although Iowans still can’t quite put them up to talking smack about the improvements in their state, at least there are outsiders who can come in and do it instead.

one year ago…

October 20, 2007 – Final Thoughts on Mexican Immersion

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

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

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

one year ago…

October 19, 2007 – Visit to Village of Nocutzepo

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

October 18, 2007 – Visit to Village of Arocutian

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

October 17, 2007 – Uruapan: Water Everywhere

On Wednesday we took a break between immersion days in the villages to act a bit like tourists.  We were treated to the beautiful and steep (remember little shoulders on the roads) countryside of Michoacan.  Instead of combis we now luxuriated in the comfort of a full-sized bus.

Our first stop was Zirahuen Lake where some of us took a boat ride. Avocado orchards and raspberry farms grace the hillsides around the lake.  On the “it’s a bit strange note,” the restrooms cost 50 pesos for women but were free to men.  I guess it’s the toilet paper?

After the lake we drove on to the city of Uruapan.  It seemed much more urban than Patzcuaro.  In the city is a beautiful park that included a natural spring from which the water was diverted to many different man-made waterfalls.

For a biologist it was a wondrous place as it hosted many butterflies I’d never seen and many different liverworts (a plant), mosses and ferns.  All and all it was very peaceful.

Note the ubiquitous painted flower pots at this restaurant near the lake.

In Uruapan were were treated to a very nice restaurant.  Kathy here enjoys a steak and fries.  She was craving some “American” food.

After our day out we had a much more sober event visiting a family in a small village and discussing immigration with two young men, a 15-year old girl (with her baby) and their relatives.  It was a time for questions and answers.  I learned that one of the young men had been deported recently and now has a pregnant wife in the States to whom he’d like to return.  The other young man would prefer not to return to the U.S.  The girl, to me, was the most tragic case.  She went over the border at age 11 with her parents.  In the U.S., she was raped by another immigrant.  She became pregnant.  She returned to Mexico and family to have her baby.  Her parents remained in the U.S.  She has no power.  The remittance sent home from the U.S. keeps these families in their homes and clearly elevates the standard of living.  What I took away is that nothing about immigration is simple or necessarily what it seems.

one year ago…

October 16, 2007 – Visit to Village of Erongaricuaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

October 15, 2007 – Self-Directed Excursion

After a long day listening to a panel on (im)migration to the U.S. and the implications for rural Latino communities we were encouraged to take a self-directed excursion.  A few of us chose to return to downtown Patzcuaro and avail ourselves of cerveza (beer).  This was found in a little outdoor establishment on the plaza.

This is Dan.  He’s our trip evaluator.  He’s evaluating this beer.

Alyson.  She evaluated beer too.  We both prefer beers with nice labels.

Another street scene.  Paving was cobblestones.

one year ago…

October 14, 2007 – Destination: Patzcuaro, Mexico

We spent the bulk of our visit in Patzcuaro which is a town in the state of Michoacan.  Our first assignment was to do a scavenger hunt in town in small groups.  We were asked to purchase items such as a kilo of bananas and find places such as the public restrooms and the the atm machine.  Not knowing Spanish made me nearly useless in the exercise.  I got better as the trip progressed!

In the larger plaza performers were resting after performing the dance of the old men.

This is street in Patzcuaro along with my fellow scavenger hunters, Kathy, Amy and Amy.

Once we completed our search in town we returned to calculate the cost of the items we’d purchased in town and compare those to the cost back in the United States.  We then calculated how long one would have to work in the U.S. and in Mexico, both at minimum wage, to acquire these products.  We were surprised to learn that you would have work over an hour to buy a Pepsi.  Pepsi was less expensive than milk.

one year ago…

October 13, 2007 – Teotihuacan Ruins

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

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

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

A view from the top.

A view from the plaza.

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

one year ago…

October 12, 2007 – Mexico City

I was invited to join a group of people from four states on an educational trip to Mexico.  We were sponsored by the Northwest Area Foundation and Raices.  I went as a person interested in helping Mexican immigrants gain access to land and the participate in farming in our community.  This was my first day in Mexico city. At 21 million people, only Tokyo is larger.  Not only was I struck with traffic, congestion, and air pollution of a city this size but the degree to which it has maintained its Spanish architecture.

This is one door to the cathedral that borders the ancient Templo de Mayor, the central plaza in the city.  It is built of stones that once formed the temples of the Aztec people.

The city cannot dig for subways without unearthing structures from the Aztecs.  Here are some excavated ruins of  Tenochtitlan Temple the Spanish built over in the colonial era. This is located just 1/4 block from the cathedral.

This is known as the Plaza de Constitucin or El Zcalo,

Around the plaza are scores of vendors selling everything from tortillas to lady’s underwear.

We were treated to a very elegant dinner at a fine restaurant near the plaza.  You’d never know it was there from street level.  The dining room opened out into night and a view of the Cathedral.

one year ago…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

August 12, 2007 – Iowa State Fair Day

Today we went to the Iowa State Fair.  Since it was so hot, we decided to try something a bit different.  Rather than battle 100,000 or so people for a place to park, eat, and stand in line in the heat, we arrived there about 5:00 pm and stayed into the evening, to experience the fair after dark.

There was virtually no line at the butter cow, at the big boar and farrowing exhibit, and other places there are usually long lines.  We’ll do that time period again!

Of course, you can get nearly anything on a stick at the fair.

But to my mind, the coolest is the new “Energy on a Stick.”  Over a year, this wind turbine will produce enough electricty to run all the power needs for the 11 day run of the state fair – midway, lights, cooling etc.  In total, it will provide 1/4 of the fairground’s annual power needs (the grounds are open to other events year-round). 

We always look at the displays and compare the blue ribbon winners to stuff at our farm and think that if we ever were organized enough, we may do quite well!

This morning Linda and I presented the service at church where we talked about the sustainability of local foods.  So today was a bit of a relief day after getting ready for the service and party simultaneously.  The service was well received – we even got applause at the end!  Dennis Keeney, former director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture was in attendance and thanked us as well. 

one year ago…

August 10, 2007 – Claire in Boston, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

August 8, 2007 – Claire to Boston Part 1

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

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

We went to the ocean for an afternoon

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

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

one year ago…

July 30, 2007 – Claire’s First Road Trip

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

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

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

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

July 20, 2007 – Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge

Today we took our out-of-state guests to the Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Prairie Learning Center near Prairie City, Iowa.

There is a beautiful interpretive center nestled into a prairie hillside.  The site was at one time destined to be the site of a nuclear power plant, but those plans fell through, and it became the largest reconstructed prairie in North America. It is a grand experiment to try to turn corn and beans back into native vegetation to give those around here a small taste of what it might have been like when the first pioneers came this-away.

Blazing Star – commonly naturalized for home and butterfly gardens – liatris.

Cup plant – Saves water by the design of the stem and leaf – you’ll see this one is holding water just below the flower.

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 13, 2007 – BWCA Trip Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

July 12, 2007 – BWCA Trip

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

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

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



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

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

one year ago…

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 10, 2007 – Blueberries for More than Sal!

We tend to enjoy things on vacation that others might not think are enjoying!  Being the preserving/putting food away folks that we are, we bring canning jars along in case we get enough blueberries!

The blueberries this year were exceptional.  I had resigned myself to a bad year since there were fires earlier this spring and the whole arrowhead region was dry.  But the rains must have been well-timed for the blueberries.  The berries were large and plentiful.

We made sure to “eat local” even while on vacation!  We had fresh blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberry cobbler and fried walleye.  In addition to all the blueberries we ate fresh, we brough home 24 half-pint jars of whole canned berries and many gallons more fresh to make jam and freeze.  I think we must have picked about 6 gallons of blueberries throughout the week.
one year ago…

July 9, 2007 – Fishing at Sunset

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

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

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

June 9, 2007 – (Close to) Home On the Range

On Thursday everyone but me went to Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, Iowa, about 45 mintes south of us. Â The refuge contains over 5,000 acres of reconstructed prairie, with funding to add about 2500 more acres.  It’s been about 17 years since the first reconstructive plantings, so it is starting to look like a real midwestern tallgrass prairie!  There is an engaging interpretive center, appropriately built low into the ground as to fit into the open spaces. Great place for kids and adults alike.

There’s not many places in the US you’ll see a sign like this!

The bison currently graze about 800 acres of the refuge.

It’s nice to have a peek at what the original landscape may have looked like – although it is thought that this part of the tallgrass prairie was home to more elk than bision.  There are elk in the refuge, but this trip the bison were out.

Photo Credits for this day go to Claire.

one year ago…

March 17, 2007 – Leaving SXSW

It was back home today.  A parting shot of the scene in Austin.  This is 6th Street, the main entertainment district in town – blocked off to traffic for about 8 blocks and full of people most of the time.

You never know “Who” you will see on the streets.

Here’s Pete Townsend on his way somewhere else.

All in all, it was a rather overwhelming few days of music.  Like the space between atoms, it’s hard to get your mind around so much music at any one time.  I enjoyed the sponteneity and “non-packaged” nature of the performers and performances.  Most were winging it, discussing what song to play only after finishing the previous one.  Not one performer made mention of CDs for sale in the back (if they even had any – I didn’t see any tables) and the physical and virtual space that separates most of today’s concerts and tours was absent as musicians switched between performer and audience. One night you’ll be standing next to a performer you’ll see the next night, the next night a member of the Replacements will be next to you or you’ll walk by Pete Townsend on the street.

one year ago…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year ago…

March 15, 2007 – Red House Records Night at SXSW

In the mornings there are music industry panels and workshops. We went to see an interview/performance by Emmy Lou Harris.

Buddy Miller joined her to play some songs – she played six songs and shared some of her musical and personal history. A great musical career, spanning many genres of music and collaborations.

When she was just starting out, she was “discovered” with the help of her babysitter. The babysitter was a groupie backstage at all the concerts at in Washington D.C. and when the late Gram Parsons came to town and was looking for a female backup singer, the babysitter connected Gram and Emmy Lou and that was her entry into music. She toured and collaborated with Gram until his death. (His wish was to be cremated in the desert, but his family was not going to honor that request, so one of his friends stole the casket and secretly took it out to the desert and fulfilled Parson’s wish. The only thing they could charge him with at the time was theft of the casket.) She played some songs from her old days “Love Hurts” and some newer songs from Wrecking Ball like “Orphan Girl.” It was a surprisingly good venue since everybody was quiet when she sang!

First that night we saw Alejandro Escovedo with his string quartet. Alejandro started out in a punk band in LA, moved to Austin and started a roots/alt country career, became sick with Hepatitis C and although a highly esteemed artist among musicians, never had commercial success or a lot of money. To pay his medical bills, artists such as Lucinda Williams, Son Volt, and Steve Earle helped fundraise to pay off his bills. He recovered and was named No Depression magazine’s Artist of the Decade.

His string quartet, pictured above, recently played Carnegie Hall and it was also recently reported that his songs were on George Bush’s iPod list, reportedly much to the chagrin of the artist!

Then we moved to the venue on the 18th story of the Hilton Hotel. The room was nearly surrounded by windows. Just behind the performers was downtown and the State Capital dome peeked just over the performer’s shoulders. The night was sponsored by Red House records from the Twin Cities. The first performer was a female vocalist (not part of Red House) who was a shy and depressed version of Margo Timmons of the Cowboy Junkies. She was so shy and nervous, it was hard to watch her.

Ray Bonneville was next up, a blues player with Canadian and American citizenship who splits his time between Montreal and Austin. He spent an inordinate amount of time on sound check, carefully wrapping his cords, and working with the sound guy – all for just one performer.
He carefully had a table full of his harmonicas and other equipment. We joked that we wouldn’t probably like to live with him as his perfection would drive the less particular amongst us crazy! He was also the guy standing next to me during most of the Americana show the night before. He was an accomplished player and my favorite was a rather obscure Woody Guthrie tune called “New York.” He had an amplified piece of plywood under his foot for a percussive addition to his guitar and harmonica.

The Pines were the only band from Iowa that we were able to see. The photo police were out, so I wasn’t able to get a photo of them. Unfortunately, the set suffered from sound problems, but they handled it well. The Pines consist of the son of Greg Brown sidekick and Blues player in his own right, Bo Ramsey. I didn’t catch the other guy, but he looked and sang a lot like a young Greg Brown. The younger Ramsey had a haunting Dylan-esque voice and carries on the sparse, heartfelt playing of his father.

Next up was Lynn Miles, is a brash, witty bluesy-folk act from Canada.

Like the act before them, their act too suffered from a bad sound mix. She handled it very well. At this point, we thought Ray should get back on stage and make everything right! It didn’t seem fair to have the musician’s short time on stage disrupted by the problems. If Linda was a singer this would be her – honest, witty, and quick-thinking on her feet. Billboard Magazine has listed her album as one of the top 10 of the year.

Storyhill is a Montana duo with stunning harmonies and guitar playing. Again, the picture police were out, so no photo of them.

The evening ended with Jimmy Lafave, another bluesy-folk act with a big band and a great sound.

Jimmy has played Austin City Limits and twice won the Austin Best singer/songwriter award.

one year ago…

March 14, 2007 – Americana Music Night at SXSW

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

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

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

Sunny takes some time out after the show with me!

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

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

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

one year ago…

March 12, 2007 – The Batholith

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

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

Some of the cactus were in bloom as well.

Linda standing near the top of the batholith.

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

one year ago…

March 11, 2007 – Smokin’ in Texas (Again)

Faithful readers may recall that the last time we were in Texas, we went to an Austin favorite called the Oasis on Lake Travis.  We were among the last customers to leave when the place closed at night and when we woke up, the top story on the local news was spectacular footage of the Oasis burning down.

That brings us to today.  Our guide book recommended the Hilltop restaurant as the best bet for dinner.  It is an old gas station converted into restarurant, owned by a member of the band Asleep at the Wheel, who performs there as well.  As we were driving there, we passed an old fire truck with lights blazing.  I felt bad passing a fire truck, but it was a steep hill and the truck was only going 40 mph.  I joked to Linda that the truck was probably heading to the Hilltop!  When we arrived, there were already three trucks, EMT, and cops surroundig the place.  Evidently, a fire had started in the attic and filled the place with smoke.  So, our reservations were up in smoke.  Linda and I are thinking of picking out Texas restaurants and asking for gift certificates to their competitors!

Earlier in the day we went to the Lost Maples state park in the Hill Country and went for about a 5-mile hike through the hills in the periodic rain.

On the way home we stopped at Stonehege II.

Evidently, the creator of this had nothing better to do than create a 60% scale version of Stonhenge in his pasture.  For good measure, he also added some Easter Island statues.

The night turned stormy – with 3-4 inches of rain across the region with flooding and tornado watches.  I felt safe in the rock house!
one year ago…

March 10, 2007 – Spring Getaway for Mark and Linda

Today Linda and I left for a mini-vacation to the Texas Hill Country. We were supposed to arrive in San Antonio early afternoon, but due to mechanical troubles with the plane coming into Des Moines, we missed our connecting flight and were stuck in Memphis for 6 hours until the next flight. So a half-day exploring the hill country was instead spent in the Memphis airport. Â  We arrived at the bed and breakfast at about 11:00.  There were good directions – turn right at the orchard sign, go .7 miles, then .3 miles, cross over two cattle grates then press the button on the solar powered entrance to get in.

Here’s a picture from another day. We have the whole place to our own.

It’s an old homesteader’s home, with 16 inch thick limestone walls.  It has a kitchen, living room and bathroom downstairs and bedroom upstairs – very cozy.

Here’s the view out of the back porch – out in the middle of ranch country.

one year ago…

November 24, 2006 – Working off the Feast

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

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

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

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

July 15, 2006 – Last Day

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

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

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

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

July 14, 2006 – Fire!

One day when we were out on the day trip, we saw a big smoke plume and a couple of ashes even fell down on us. When we got back to camp, we found out the fire was 5-10 miles away (Turtle Lake Fire) and didn’t pose a current danger to the cabin. Here is a photo of the smoke plume from the dock.

In this picture, the smoke looks like cumulus clouds.

July 12, 2006 – On the Lake

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

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

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

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

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

July 11, 2006 – Away from the Lake

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2006 – Vacation Food

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

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

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

July 9, 2006 – Vacation Begins

Today, the annual trek to the North Woods begins.

We spend our summer vacation at Kawishiwi Lodge, the only resort on a lake in the BWCAW, a federal wilderness area where motorized craft are prohibited. It makes for a peaceful lakeshore and makes swimming out to the middle of the lake more relaxing.

It’s a long trip up there – 520 miles – only a few miles from Canada. We’ve been going to the same place for 9 years and in the area for 12, so the kids are very attached.

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.

March 15, 2006 – Pecos Ruins and Casita

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 14, 2006 – Bandalier National Monument

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2006 – Taos and Rio Grande Gorge

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

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

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

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

Linda along the trail.

Mark at the end of the trail.

Some dried flowers along the trail.

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

March 12, 2006 – Snow in Santa Fe

We awoke this morning to this view of our car out our window. Until we arrived, Santa Fe had received 4/100 of an inch of precipitation this year!

We headed downtown, oblivious to the landscape (what with it obliterated by snow). We got down to the Plaza and first order of business was to find coffee.

We went to the Palace of the Governors, which is the oldest public building in the U.S, built in 1610. All the museum hopping makes you hungry, so we had lunch right next to a fireplace to help warm up.

After lunch it was more museums – this shot is at Museum Hill – home of the International Museum of Folk Art and the Museum of Native American Art and Culture.

Because it was a cold and windy day, taking in the museums was a good thing.

October 16, 2005 – On the Beach

Today Emma is the guest writer of the high hopes blog.

This was our second day at the beach. We rented a six person bike for two hours and got hot and went swimming. Our cousin Jill didn’t want to swim but she did anyway.

I can’t tell you in words how much fun it is to visit a place like CA. The first day we went to the beach I got under a wave six times! The next time, I was better.

On the first day we walked about a mile and a half to get lunch. The next day we walked less to get breakfast with one of Aunt Kathy’s friends. Every meal we had there was very filling and yummy!

Well here all three of us are going down to the ocean for a dip.


If you have ever been body surfing you know the thrill when the wave comes and decides what happens next.


Here I am again, getting used to the water. Brrr!

This is a very nice picture of some shells and Claire.

October 15, 2005 – Travel and the Cousin’s Residence

I, Claire, am blogging today.

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

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

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

October 10, 2005 – Grant Wood Exhibit

Yesterday we visited the Grant Wood exhibit at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

The girls waiting between activities in the museum lobby.
Any cultural understanding of Iowa and the Midwest would include the work and life of Grant Wood, most famous for “American Gothic” the most-parodied painting in the American canon.
I do not particularly count that as one of my favorites. Quite independently and most interestingly each member of our family (except Martin) chose the same piece as our favorite – the appraisal.
This photo is from an art site and does not show the detail – come visit and you can see a reproduction on our wall!
This painting shows a farm woman and a city woman about to sell/buy a chicken. We love the detail of the safety pin holding the farm woman’s coat shut, the fancy purse of the city woman, and their appraisal of each other in negotiating a price. Perhaps as chicken growers ourselves, we can relate!
Grant Wood was nurtured and worked most of his life in Cedar Rapids. A director of a funeral home offered him studio space above his carriage house.

This is the carriage house today – only about 3 blocks from the museum. It is a good show – as the 100th anniversary of the Museum, many of the pieces are on loan from the Chicago Art Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art and so on. The exhibit runs until December 4th and any fans of Art or Iowa History would enjoy the chance to see all the pieces together.

October 9, 2005 – Point Redemption

Each year, the kids earn “points.” They earn points randomly for doing an extra job cheerfully or helping out without being asked. The points can be applied for smaller or larger “prizes.” They’ve elected to go for the big prizes (usually a night at a hotel with a pool). This year we combined the point rewards with a number of other events.
Claire was honored at a ceremony at the University of Iowa honoring the top 1% of Iowa students, and Mom, Emma, and Martin visited the Science Station in Cedar Rapids.

Emma cranking up the skyward wave machine.

It’s hard not to like a dinosaur when you are four. Tomorrow look for the pictures from the Grant Wood exhibit.

August 14, 2005 – Iowa State Fair

Today was the annual pilgrimage to the Iowa State Fair, now rated one of the top 10 places to visit for a family vacation along with the Grand Canyon, Colorado Rockies, and seven other places I can’t remember. Today, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

Here’s Claire on the mezannine of the Agriculture Building. Just over her left shoulder in a refrigerated case is the
life-size butter cow.

The best way to see the fair is on the skyglider floating above the fair.

Among the many agricultural curiosities at the fair are the big bull, big sow, big sheep, etc. Here’s this year’s big bull, weighing in at a shade under 3,000 pounds.

Today was Wells Fargo day at the fair, so we had a free concert by Jo Dee Messina.

Here are a couple of “Fair Girls.”


Garrison Kellior of the Prairie Home Companion, spoke with the winner of a 4-H family research project. He was spellbounding talking about the project and weaving his own stories into the talk. He’s a quick wit!

August 11, 2005 – Claire’s Trip Part II

Claire is guest blogging again for part two.

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2005 – Claire’s Trip Part I

Claire is guest blogging today.

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

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

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

July 22, 2005 – Solitude (well, almost)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 19, 2005 – Blueberries

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

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

July 18, 2005 – Fish

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

Just watch, I can do this.

Wow – I did it myself!

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

July 17, 2005 – In the Canoe

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

June 23, 2005 – Girl’s Road Trip

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

June 18, 2005 – Decorah, IA

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

June 5, 2005 – At the Lake Along the Way

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

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

It was a nice interlude on the way up.

June 1, 2005 – Journey of Lawlessness and Destruction Ends

Last night we went out to the Oasis, a restaurant/bar/entertainment complex 450 feet above Lake Travis outside Austin. We sat out on one of the 40 decks until after “last call.” The decks hold over 2,000 people and it’s a very popular spot. Here’s the Oasis from a distance.
When we wok in the morning we found that we probably were some of the last customers and the place was evidently hit by lighting and burned. It was freaky to see the video of the place we were just at burned crispy.
So, that made our trip one of lawlessness and destruction – between the trooper ticket and the burning of the Oasis shortly after we left. It was nice to avoid the incarceration and incineration.

May 31, 2005 – Man About Town

Yesterday I was interviewed on the streets by a TV station about the Holiday weekend. Members of our group were quite surprised to see me on the news at 6, 10 and the next day as well.

Last night was the conference banquet and the band that was playing was “graced” by Lou Diamond Phillips, who sang much worse than most contestants at a Karaoke bar. He did particularly painful versions of Desparado and Luckenbach, Texas. We then found a Texas blues, Stevie-Ray Vaughn band the Eric Tessmer Band at a club downtown and ended the late evening at an improv jazz club.

May 30, 2005 – Luckenbach, Texas

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

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

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

May 29, 2005 – Club 311

Yesterday afternoon we walked in Zilker Park and then met comrades for a Cajun dinner. Jackie has a “Don’t mess with Iowa Either” T-shirt to complement Barbara’s “Don’t mess with Texas” shirt. After dinner we roamed around a bit and settled into a club that had a band that played R&B standards. It was a bit of an odd band. The drummer, keyboard player and base player were old wrinkled black musicians and the lead guitar player looked like he was about 15 years old and was a ringer for a young Matthew Broderick from the “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” era. About every other song he took a piece of candy (we’re wondering if that was his payment).

Today we’re off to the hill country and ???.

May 28, 2005 – Keeping Austin Weird

We’re off to Austin, Texas (that’s pronounced Ahh-sten, Tex-is) for a few days. Linda is speaking at a conference themed “A Whole New Rodeo: International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence.

As for me, I think I’ll be roaming the streets of Austin, but that’s ok since there’s a strong sentiment to Keep Austin Weird. One of the particularly engrossing pages on the site is a menu from an overly snooty restaurant (I particularly like the entrees, you’ll need to scroll down the page a bit).

I’ll try to keep updated from Austin if I can find internet access.

May 8, 2005 – Pine Lake II

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

canoeing on the lake…

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Matt Liebman studies crop/livestock/soil interactions.

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

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

May 6, 2005 – Loaded for Bear

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

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

March 22, 2005 – Vacation Begins!

Ah, just what you hope for – it’s about 30 degrees and overcast, with wind gusts of 35 mph and a 90% chance of rain this afternoon. It’s not quite tropical, but as the old saying goes, “whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.” In all truth, it won’t make much of a difference as we have plenty of space and room inside the cottage do whatever.

March 21, 2005 – Vacation or Fence?

You know you are a real farmer when you’d rather spend your money on a new fence than a caribbean vacation! I started building the fence for this year’s tree planting. I ultimately decided on the cattle panels as they will be most flexible and “always on” even though they are a bit pricey. Today, I finished pulling the snow fence posts and got about 6 panels (96 feet) worth of fence hauled and up. That means I’m about 1/14 done with the fence. Here’s about half the pieces on the wagon.
Tomorrow morning I leave with Linda on a 2 day get-away to the Villages of Van Buren County. We’re renting a “cottage” and today I went shopping for food and drink. It looks like the weather is going to be crummy, so we’ll probably spend less time hiking at Lacy-Keosauqua and more time working on the farm business plan.