Thursday, August 30, 2007

a girl and her dog

Starflower has a new boyfriend. But I'm not worried at all. In fact, I'm happy, because I haven't been able to give Togo all the attention he deserves lately.

Yesterday when we took Togo for a walk, Starflower took him back home...all by herself. He's 3 years old now, and settling down into a nice family dog, but yesterday was the first time we realized that a) Starflower is old and big enough, and b) Togo is just gentle and sweet enough, and c) he really doesn't just R-U-N-N-O-F-T (O Brother Where Art Thou influence showing). So suddenly when she realized she could put him on and off his leash by herself, and that he greatly appreciated her attention, she has been taking him for something like four walks daily, all by herself. As you can clearly see by his face, Togo thinks this is a great thing. I hope it's not just a phase.

By the way, that's my old high school cheerleading sweatshirt she's wearing. Can you imagine me as a cheerleader? Exactly. I didn't last long.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lord help me; school shopping

I'm taking the day off work tomorrow (Thursday) and taking the kids shopping in Duluth. At the MALL.

I hate malls. Hopefully we won't have to venture further than JC Penney. Luckily, my stepdaughterinlaw-to-be took Starflower shopping on Sunday, so she's taken care of. I just have to find some boy jeans, and athletic shoes for all. Hallelujah.

I'll be making my usual stop at the Shack, best damn liquor store in Superior, Wisconsin. And treating the kids to lunch somewhere, hopefully someplace I find something edible. I'm getting way too picky these days!

Wish me luck. I'm not good at this.

UPDATE: We made it! My pocketbook is now a lot lighter; thank goodness it's payday tomorrow. I actually had fun; we did most of the serious shopping at JC Penney, bought shoes at Payless, and had lunch at Applebee's. I feel like a normal mom, one that shops once in a while!

Monday, August 27, 2007


I bet you've been wondering..."just how is Deb's house coming along?" I know. I get asked that all the time, by friends, acquaintances, family members.

The quick answer is, not as fast as we hoped, but we are making progress, and as soon as the roof is done and everything closed in and we have a heat source, we're moving in. I'm so glad we don't need to get some "certificate of occupancy" from the local government. We probably could not have gotten one for our current living quarters!

This last weekend The Hermit's two adult sons came up and helped put the synthetic roofing paper on one half of the roof. It's a big job, just getting brackets and 2 x 8's up so they can walk along the roof safely. It means a lot too; with wind and all that, the tarps that were covering the roof had been blown off and ripped to shreds, leaving the roof very leaky. This has been a drought year, so we haven't had too much rainfall to worry about, but still you never know when a downpour is coming. As luck would have it, we had one this morning about 4 AM...and the roof was way more protected than it had been before.

There was a time this summer when we thought, there's no way we're getting this done ourselves, we'll have to get a mortgage and hire it all out. But that never happened, thankfully. I want to own this house, right down to doing as much work as we can ourselves. I keep reminding myself, The Hermit and I dug the very well from which we get our water, ourselves. And that's a good feeling. I've done roofing, and laid the tile and brick for the hearth myself. I can do it again.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Autumn is creeping in, and some bunny blogging

This is a maple in our woods. Seems a bit early, doesn't it? Actually, the trees have been turning since early this month, gradually giving up on having enough water to grow and carry on the functions of life. I wish them steady rains next spring. Anytime after our roof is done.

Awww....These are two of our bunnies in their outdoor pen where they spend the day nibbling on cucumbers and a bit of fresh grass and clover. I think the one on the right has got the "disapproving" look down already. "We disapprove of chicken wire!" The whole "disapproving rabbits" thing comes from Sharon the Birdchick.

And this (I think) is Cedar, the bunny not pictured with the other two. She (I think) was too tired to participate in a group photo. The other bunnies have names, Cocoa and Brownie, but I don't know which is which.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

High adventure on a low river

My job is way too fun sometimes.

Like today, when I got to go out electrofishing on the Rum River west of Cambridge, MN. The Rum flows from Lake Mille Lacs in central Minnesota to the Mississippi north of Minneapolis. As I understand it, naming it the Rum River was a serious misunderstanding of Ojibwe language; it was actually called the Spirit River in Ojibwe, but there are spirits and there are spirits. The alcoholic variety won out.

Water levels in this part of the state are very low. Which is kind of strange since there has been catastrophic flooding in the southeastearn part of the state this last weekend. Anyway, we had to maneuver the boat upstream in some areas that had barely six inches of flowing water. Add to that the downed trees in the river channel. We brought a chain saw, and we used it a couple of times, jut to get through.

But the area we were getting to was beautiful, in a strange sort of way. The river was bordered by bottomland forest, and swampland. We saw numerous cedar waxwings catching insects and spotted sandpipers, sandhill cranes, and even an immature bald eagle that looked huge.

In our official sampling we caught more than a few 4.5 pound smallmouth bass. They were all concentrated in a few deep holes near fallen tree cover; the rest of the river was just too shallow. But smallies that size are an awesome sight. Makes me want to get a fly rod and try to fish for them.

We had to walk the boat through some shallow areas. On what had to be the last one, while we were making our way back to the access, I was walking in six inches of water when suddenly I hit a hole two feet deep or greater, way too deep for my hip boots. My pants were soaked, and since I had no changes, I rode home in them.

Oh well, could I trade this for an office job?


Sunday, August 19, 2007

the bunnies are here

I'm too tired to post much tonight, but I had to get a picture of the kids and their new pets. We spent the day building an outdoor bunny cage, then went to the fair to pick up the wascal wabbits. While at the fair I got to see the tail end of a performance by Minnesota bluegrass group Monroe Crossing. I wish I had seen more; they put on a great show and I ended up buying one of their CD's.

It was a cool weekend, with highs barely topping 60, overcast skies, and occasional misty rain. It felt more like late September, so a big pot of beef vegetable soup with homemade bread made a warm comforting meal both Saturday and Sunday nights. I cut the tops off the garlic, coming up with seventeen pounds total, and cut the tops off the red and yellow onions and spread them out in the new house to dry a bit for storage. I estimate maybe forty pounds. Then I dug potatoes today, and although there were a lot of tiny tubers, I ended up with 62 pounds of usable spuds. I think a good potato, onion, and garlic soup is in order! I'll post more about the potatoes later; I need to get some pictures because the eight varieties I planted all have their unique qualities.

Back to work tomorrow. Where did the weekend go?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Critter House

Living in the country, I have found, leads to an inescapable conclusion: you become host to many critters. Especially when you have kids.

The above picture is the new Turtle Hotel, the ten gallon aquarium I found at the thrift store at the same time I found fellow blogger Gina. The turtles seem to like the increased amount of space per turtle, and we like being able to see them better.

I had also mentioned purchasing rabbit food. Long story, the kids rescued a baby rabbit from a cat, tried to keep it indoors, and perhaps inevitably, it died this morning. But The Hermit took the kids to the Carlton County Fair this afternoon, and for some reason I had a feeling they would not leave the fair rabbitless.

We are now the owners of three brown lop eared rabbits, which we are picking up Sunday. Add them to the cats, the dogs, the sheep, the geese, the chickens, the horses...oh wait, yeah the turtles.

So...I've never been a rabbit person. I just don't understand keeping rabbits as pets. I know there are a lot of you rabbit keepers out there, so please tell me: What do you like about rabbits? Any hints for rabbit keeping success? I guess we have two boys, one girl, and we're supposed to keep the boys apart so they don't fight, but if we have a girl that means baby bunnies in the future...unless we keep her away from the boys...I'm so new to this!

Morning temperature 32 degrees. Frost damage in the garden, although I covered a lot of beds last night so that probably helped some. No month without frost here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

guess who/what I found at the thrift store?

A fellow blogger! GTR of Raising Frolic!

Well, and jeans for Starflower and myself, and an aquarium, which will be the new and improved Turtle Hotel. But that's another post.

GTR happened to be on the way home to Duluth from a meeting in the cities, and she had stopped at the store in the town where I work to browse. I had decided to leave work early, because The Hermit had to leave in the afternoon for a meeting so I wanted to be home with the kids.

A few other errands probably were crucial for the timing of our chance meeting. I had to mail one bill at the post office, then swing by the feed store for sunflower seeds, dog food, and rabbit food. (Again, that's another post!) Then I parked downtown to put the garbage bill in the drop off box so I could save 41 cents. The drop off box is conveniently located next to the thrift store; I hadn't thought of stopping there today, but then I thought "Maybe, just maybe, they happen to have an aquarium." I walked in, did my usual browsing, picking out $5 and $3 jeans, and tried to figure out where they would put an aquarium if they had one. I had almost given up, when I remembered a back corner of the store I hadn't searched. Success! One ten gallon aquarium, $10. I was just grabbing it off the shelf when a nicely dressed, slightly familiar looking woman came up to me.

"Are you Deb?"

"Yes!" (where do I know her from? Think, think...)

"I'm Gina, from Raising Frolic!"

Wow. What are the odds of THAT happening! We talked a little while we paid for our purchases, and made open ended plans to get together in Duluth sometime in the future. She's pretty much the way I expected her to be, very nice, soft spoken and down-to-earth. It was a real, unexpected pleasure to meet her!

Gina- our chance meeting really made my day! Thanks for having the courage to come up and ask me if I was who you thought I was-- I don't know if I could have done it! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Happy belated birthday to the most kind hearted, beautiful, strong-willed, lovely daughter I know!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

down at the old swimmin hole

It was a sultry 93 degrees when I arrived at home yesterday. I'm glad I live in a state that only has a few of these days per year.

I'm beginning to think a pond is more than a luxury. The pond is our air conditioning, our quick relief, and our cheap entertainment on evenings like this. In retrospect, we were very lucky to have chosen this piece of land with an ideal spot for digging a pond. For one thing, the pond is dug in a fluvial deposit of sand and gravel; for non-geologists, that's sand and gravel deposited by large rivers that formed when the glaciers of the last Ice Age were retreating. There isn't a lot of fine silt in this kind of soil, so the pond water stays very clear, and there's a firm bottom for swimming.

For another thing, it's not too far down to groundwater, so the pond does not rely on runoff. The groundwater keeps the pond cool, and keeps it from drying up, unless the water table drops drastically. However, we are in a drought year, and the water level is way down. Compare the above with this photo from April 2006:

This photo was taken from about 30 feet behind where the first was taken. The lounge chair I was sitting on when I took the photo yesterday would have been in the shallow water in this photo. We did get some rain last night, but it's going to take a lot more to bring the water levels back up where they should be.

Low water or not, we still had fun. Calvin spent a lot of time on the other end of the pond in the kayak, gazing intently into the water. I was wondering what he was up to, but I soon found out.

Turtle hunting. Calvin found not one but two young painted turtles, which now are residing with two others in our Turtle Hotel at the house. I'll have to post on that later.

I was really pleased with the above photo, especially the lighting. I look at it and I see my boy in all the innocence of turtle catching, but at the same time looking more and more like a handsome young man. And look at those eyes--very deep, warm, thoughtful, and sensitive. Much like his dad.

It seems like life just gets more and more hectic, I feel like work takes away too much of my time, like my kids are growing up and I hardly get to spend any time with them. But then I think of moments like this at our pond, splashing and kayaking and turtle hunting, and realize that, for all its hassles and trials, life is...good.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

eight random facts...

I was tagged for this meme some time ago by Larry, and probably even longer ago by Tracy. It's about time I got this over with, and I need a new blog post anyways.

1. I'm 1/4 Norwegian, 1/4 Swedish, 1/4 long line of American history beginning in the 17th century with my Dutch ancestors on Manhattan. 1/4 I don't know. My paternal grandma was adopted, so there goes that line of history. Her maiden name was Katherine Salter, I was able to find that out on the Internet.

2. I'm left handed, as are my brother and father, and husband. But I bowl right handed, and I think I was right eyed in archery, when I took a class in college.

3. My blood type is O+. Good for donating, which I will be getting back into very soon. Years of breastfeeding kind of put donation on the back burner for a while.

4. My lowest college grade was a C minus in Organic Chemistry. I just didn't get it, and I didn't know how to ask for help.

5. But I must have gotten something right. I was a National Merit scholar, one of three from my high school graduating class of about 600, so the scholarship money was nice.

6. The bird that got me all excited about birding was a Painted Bunting, sighted at a feeder in St. Augustine, Florida around 1973.

7. Besides Minnesota, my home state, I have lived in South Dakota, Missouri, and California (the northern half of the state, and for a very brief time.)

8. I'm an INFP, by more than one test. That explains a lot...

9. I have had the privilege of interviewing Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, and Mark O'Connor, three of the best musicians on the planet. I used to edit this small bluegrass music publication with The Hermit...until I decided I wanted to play music, not write about it.

10. I'm still trying to find my voice in playing music. It will happen.

Hey, that's 10 random facts. I have revealed way too much about myself!

Monday, August 06, 2007

if you want to dance...

...I guess you gotta pay the piper. I'm paying the piper with interest these days. My feet hurt. Bad.

It all started Friday, when we took in a small town festival, Braham Pie Day. Not much dancing, but a lot of walking. We went there because my 88 year old grandma wanted us to come and have a celebration of Starflower's 8th birthday (8-13) and my niece Katie's 10th birthday (7-7). My brother was leaving for Singapore on business the next day, so it was also an opportunity to see him for the last time in half a year or more.

Also, I am reminded of the John Prine song "Hello In There". My grandma is perhaps Braham's most senior resident. But she's getting on in years, starting to get perhaps a little confused and hard of hearing, but she just loves when her family comes to visit. So it's my family duty to say "hello in there" once in a while.

At least Braham had some taste in selecting music, as they hired The Whistlepigs to perform two sets. Unfortunately Chris, the guitar player, could not make this gig due to recent surgery (get better Chris!) so the band sounded about 75% or less of normal. Which is still good, but they had to cut out a lot of original songs that the fill in guitar player didn't know. And it seemed like the Braham crowd had maybe not heard of bluegrass music before. And the sound left something to be desired. Not blaming The Whistlepigs at all; they give 110% at every gig.

I have to brag about my daughter here. She got $25 in birthday money, which we allowed her to spend at the various vendors at the festival. She spent $6 buying me a T-shirt, a markdown from the 2001 festival, because she just wanted to buy me something. I wore it to bed that night. Sweet.

So...back to sore feet. Saturday Calvin and Starflower had arrangements to sleep over at friends' houses, so The Hermit and I took Mr. Attitude out for a night on the town. The town of Mahtowa, MN, population 100 or so, and home of the Highway 61 (yes, the one Dylan sang about) Folks Festival.

We listened to local musician Charlie Parr, pictured above with his excellent washboard player. We were dancing before the end of his set. Then came Pert Near Sandstone, a rootsy old timey bluegrass group with attitude. I couldn't help but dance with Mr. Attitude. And dance, and dance like a maniac.

The next morning when I hopped out of bed, my feet nearly gave way underneath me. Not only did the left ankle I had slightly sprained the week before hurt, not only did my right knee twinge with some new injury, but the soles of my feet just hurt, especially near the heels. It hardly got better all day Sunday. Today I learned that there is a name for this kind of pain, plantar fasciitis, and I'm hoping it's just a temporary thing.

Getting old sucks.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

best. Allium. harvest. ever.

This is half of my onion crop. The other half is still in the garden. I've never been a heavy onion user; they don' t always agree with me. But maybe we'll come to an understanding. These are Walla Walla sweet onions, which apparently don't store well, so I'll have to be creative in the next few weeks. It looks like at least a ten pound sack to me.

I still have at least this many red and yellow onions in the ground. With the right conditions, those will store throughout the winter.

Why the bountiful harvest when I've never been too successful with onions before? This year I ordered onion starts from Territorial Seed instead of the dried out onion bulbs from the garden center. It made a world of difference.

And then there's garlic. I harvested the last of it yesterday morning, and added it to the bulbs already curing on the floor of the new house. So in addition to the smell of fresh lumber, the new house already has a slight garlic aroma. I counted around 90 heads total, about three times the amount I've ever harvested. I'll save about a dozen of the best heads for planting this fall, and use the rest throughout the winter. The varieties I planted were Music and German Extra Hardy White.

We should be safe from vampires, anyway.

I ordered half a hog today at the farmer's market, from a guy I used to work with a few years back when we had just moved here. He has since made the transition from office job to organic farmer, with absolutely no regrets. I feel so much better buying meat from someone like him rather than at the grocery store.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

ignorance is bliss

I was blissfully ignorant of major structural failures last evening, until 1 AM. We don't watch the 6:00 news, or the 10:00, or even listen to the radio much in the evening. Our main news source here is the Internet, and I didn't hit on my nightly rounds. That was probably a good thing.

So in my blissful ignorance, I made the first major garden harvest of the year, including broccoli, green beans, a Diva cucumber, some lettuce, and TWO TOMATOES!!! They were Stupice, an old favorite, early variety I haven't had success with in the last few years. The flavor of the tiny bites we had (think golf ball size fruit) was worth it. Much better than the Glacier golfballs I planted last year. The green beans were Jacob's Cattle, an all-purpose bean that can also be dried. I don't know; they were delicious as snap beans.

While I enjoyed the fruits of the harvest, catastrophe was unfolding 90 miles to the south. But, I can't help but think, despite the tragedy, how natural it is for disaster to happen. 113 years ago, at the very place I sat in my office today, 400 people lost their lives in a catastrophic wildfire. We have not succeeded, as humans, to eliminate disasters, and I do not think we are capable. The blame game will go on and on about the 35W bridge, but it all boils down to one thing: we as humans are not infallible. And I don't think we can ever get around that.

After I heard the news about 1 AM, I was unable to go back to sleep for a long time. Finally, when I drifted off into a restless sleep, I had a vivid dream. I was driving home from work, on the 4 mile stretch of I35 I take sometimes. I was approaching my exit, when I hit an unmarked bump so large it sent me and my car airborne. I could actually feel the dizzy sense of falling before I woke up. Empathetic dreaming? perhaps.

Well, at least Minnesota's on the map now...

Unbelievable. I'm sure by now most of you have seen reports and footage of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. I didn't hear of it until about 1 AM, when The Hermit got up for midnight Web surfing. Actually, I had talked with my grandma on the phone earlier in the evening and she mentioned something about how my dad had crossed "the bridge that went down" earlier that day. It didn't occur to me to ask her; sometimes she gets a little confused about things, and I just thought she was talking about some small bridge somewhere.

This wasn't no small bridge. It is THE major north south route through Minneapolis. I was on it two weeks ago when we picked up the new car.

As far as I know, no friends or relatives were involved. My prayers are with those who were.