Thursday, November 05, 2015

Why this blogger likes Facebook

I was a blogger when it was cool. From about 2005-2009, blogging had hit its stride, and I happened to start this blog in 2005. I thought it was the greatest thing. I shared details of my everyday life, and occasionally wrote in depth essays. I made more than a few friends from around the world. I was part of a book group, "Whorled Leaves", that led to some great discussions. I hosted "I and the Bird", an aggregation of birding blog posts, more than once. 

Then, Facebook happened. I joined in 2009, after some initial misgivings. I joined primarily to keep in touch with news from my high school class. By the way, I am not very close with my high school class of 650 people. I did not know more than half of them, and I have never been to a reunion of the Cooper Class of '85.

I found a lot of my blogging friends on Facebook. I also found family members, ones I was not close enough with to keep in touch with by phone (dinosaur) or email (antique). I started sharing more of the things I would have shared on this blog, on Facebook. I started blogging less. We moved the PC back to the cabin, which meant in order to blog, I had to go out there, which was not worth it. I got an iPad in 2011. It took Blogger a while to catch up with mobile devices. All of which contributed to the near demise, but not death, of this blog. I noticed a lot of my blogging friends had gone a similar route. 

Blogging, meanwhile, somehow became a commercial enterprise.

Now, for my defense of Facebook.

1. I have many more LOCAL friends because of Facebook. We may have met up by chance, face to face, but the majority of my local friends are ones with whom the initial contact was via Facebook. I suspect most of these good friends have a Myers-Briggs personality type that begins with "I". We have a hard time initiating conversation at face to face events, but on Facebook the awkward factor is way less. Most of the dear friends who come to see me when I play at the Chickadee are friends whom I've met via FB. 

2. I have blogging friends from California to Alberta to Nunavut to Vermont to Florida to Alabama to Kansas (I'm sure I missed a few locations), who I now keep up with via Facebook. I met up with one of them at a highway exit in Georgia this spring (yes you, Jayne! Finally finished off the Chattanooga whiskey, but still loving the long sleeved Georgia T shirt!) Our blogs were all so nature based, so unpretentious, that we connected, and I consider these people REAL friends. I mourned the loss of Jim from Big Bear Lake, California, as if he and I were neighbors.

3. I have connected with family. Facebook is now the official way to announce holiday get togethers. With the exception of a few cantankerous holdouts (Telstad clan, yes you), I now have daily reminders of the people I am related to. And yes, some of them are cooler than I ever imagined. :)

4. I hear big family news first hand. Like the passing, a few days ago, of my first cousin Brad. I had not seen him since my teens, but I recently got in touch with his sister, and his stepmother, through Facebook. My great aunt, his stepmother, is one of my dearest friends on FB, and in real life since our  Florida trip in March. She has shared all of the pain and sorrow with me, and I am grateful she trusts me with that.

5. Related to that, I just heard the great news that another of my first cousins will be moving from South Africa to Maine! I have not seen her since I was about seventeen, but we share so many interests. And I have never been to Maine. Road trip!

So, all in all, Facebook has been good to me. And it has been much better since I started using the "I don't want to see this" button. Shut out a lot of useless memes. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Roasted salsa verde

It was a great year for tomatillos in the garden. Above average year for everything, really, but the tomatillos outdid themselves. I planted four plants I bought from the garden center, but a few weeks after planting time I noticed a volunteer tomatillo or two among the cabbages. That's one good/bad thing about tomatillos; onnce you plant them, they will spring up everywhere the next year.

Tomatillos seem to have one purpose in life: salsa verde. This uniquely sweet, tangy salsa goes well with just about any white meat, eggs, or of course, tortilla chips. I used to make salsa verde by cooking the tomatillos in water, then pouring off some of the water, adding the rest of the ingredients, and whirling the whole thing in a blender. This made an acceptable salsa, but I think some of the flavor was compromised by adding water and pouring it off. So this year I decided to try something different: roasting.

Tomatillos are not as squishy as their ripe red tomato cousins, but their cells, like those of all living things, are made up of a high percentage of water. By roasting the tomatillos in the oven, the excess liquid cooks off, and some of the sugars start to caramelize, making for a unique, rich flavor.

I did some searching for a recipe for roasted salsa verde, but all of the recipes I came up with were for small quantities of tomatillos, not the full grocery bags I hauled in from the garden before the first hard freeze. I'm more of an improvisational cook anyway, so what I have here is a "guideline" recipe that can be adjusted for quantity and taste. One exception: for canning, you want to be sure the acidity is high enough, especially if you're doing a boiling water bath. I add one cup of vinegar per four pounds tomatillos.

Roasted salsa verde

Tomatillos, however many you have
Chopped onions, about a 1:4 ratio to the tomatillos
Hot peppers to taste
Garlic, to taste
Salt (use your judgment)
Vinegar (white distilled or apple cider, whatever you have on hand, or lime juice, which tastes pretty good in fresh salsa)
Cilantro, chopped, to taste

First, husk the tomatillos and wash away any dirt. If you have about three times this amount of tomatillos, as I did, I recommend putting some good music on and pouring a glass of something. This will take a while. And your fingers will get sticky.

Cut tomatillos in half; on the bigger ones, cut out the stem. Place on a roasting pan that has been drizzled with olive oil. 

Roast at about 400 degrees, until some liquid is cooked off and the tomatillos start to turn brown in spots. You want some liquid left; shoot for something like this:

Pour into a Dutch oven or stock pot. Add the rest of the ingredients, tasting often and cleansing your palate with a good IPA. for this batch I used some assorted hot peppers that were given to me by a friend; my hot peppers didn't do so well this year. 

Simmer for a while on low- medium heat. I suppose at this point if you want a smoother salsa with no skins you could run it through a food mill. I'm too lazy to do that.

At this point, it's time to can it. You can use either the boiling water or pressure method. Since my old boiling water bath canner sprung a leak, I will pressure can this batch. 15 minutes at 10 lbs, otherwise 40 minutes boiling. Some recipes call for adding a tablespoon of lemon juice per pint for acidity; since I add vinegar earlier this is not necessary.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

What I'm thinking about right now (in no particular order)

I have not had the time (or, more accurately, made the time) for a coherent blog post lately. So many threads in the Dude's head.. So I'll fire some of them off here, more for a mental exercise for myself than for anyone's reading pleasure. So you're warned.

-It is getting green around here fast, and a couple weeks ahead of last year..
-First Ovenbird was heard this morning. 
-Pretty sure I heard an Eastern towhee here yesterday. That's a first.
-My son graduates in less than a month. Yes, I am freaking out about that. 
-My schedule this week is booked solid with baseball games and band concert.
-The band concert was emotional. A tribute to Colton. 
-I knew it would be, and I almost didn't want to go.
-But I did. 
-The East Central Eagles baseball team has won two games in a row. 
-I love watching high school baseball.
-I ran my first 10K last Saturday.
-Found out that people who run a 10 minute + mile do not generally run 10Ks. But I got my goal. 
-It hurts for longer than I thought after running a 10K. I have a bruise on the sole of my foot near a middle toe. 
Running the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon next on June 20. Staying in a suite in Duluth's Canal Park with an old friend and a bunch of other runners. FUN! 
-My boss retired. I naturally applied for the job. We'll see. 
-Yoga felt really good tonight.

That is all. Namaste.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Thoughts for the day on writing

I came across this post by Parker J. Palmer on the On Being blog, via Facebook:

Three Eternal (So Far) Truths about Living and Writing

1. Care more about the process than the outcome.
2. Be generous in order to maximize the chances of dumb luck.
3. Dive deep, dwell in the dark, and value beginner's mind no matter how loudly your ego protests.
 ~and~ don't write about what you know. Write about what you want to know because it intrigues and baffles you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Senior pictures

I am a delinquent mom. Don't most moms of high school seniors have the party all planned, announcements ordered, and senior portraits in a fancy box, ready for distribution by March? 

I admit, I don't know how to do this, and frankly I'm not ready. I can't believe my first born is graduating from high school. But, I am not one to worry about things prematurely. I come from a long line of worriers, and I guess it is my calling to break that chain. 

When I was in high school, we had senior portrait day in August, where a contract photographer would come in and take stiff indoor portraits. We could opt to have portraits taken by another studio, although they usually cost more. It was virtually unheard of to take your own. Of course, we did not have digital photography then. Nowadays I can take a higher resolution selfie than my senior portrait. 

I don't want to diss professional photographers either. They do a good job, and there are times when you don't want your memories left to you and a few friends. That said, I had my wedding photos taken by a couple cousins, and while they are not like the posed shots you see these days, they were fine for me. 

I never could see my son posing indoors wearing a suit. He did not own a suit until a month ago, when I had to buy one for his classmate's funeral. 

So, deadlines were approaching, and we did what had to be done. The first reasonably nice March day, Monday, it was sunny and 55 degrees. He and I had an unspoken agreement that pictures would be taken at Banning State Park, which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. However, Banning is also the home to one of those adventures kids have that parents never want to hear about. It is part of Vinny's story, so I have to share it. 

One day in February 2014, Vinny and his friend Austin had some time to kill before catching the bus for an away basketball game. Since Banning State Park surrounds the school, and the park entrance is just down the road, they decided to check the ice on the Kettle River. Long story short: The ice was thin in places, as river ice is. Vinny had to explain to the coach why his pants were soaking wet on the bus. 

Anyway, the opportunity presented itself Monday, and we had a great time hiking around taking informal portraits. 

This captures Vinny more than any indoor portrait in a suit ever could. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Meteorological spring

This does not look like spring. It certainly doesn't feel like spring. But today, March 1st, is the beginning of "meteorological spring". Hmm. At least it did not get below zero last night. I celebrated with a 4.5 mile run. This picture was at the halfway point, at the top of a hill on a dead end road.

I felt strong, I felt good, even though I have this theory that breathing freezing air into my lungs slows my pace down. And running on half iced roads is a challenge. But the main thing was that I was out there, moving, alive. Last year at this time, a 4.5 mile run would have been a big challenge for me.

Nina and I will be running the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon June 20 in Duluth. And the Brookings, SD Half Marathon in May, once I get us registered. We plan to wear our "Eagles Strong #24" shirts. Such a great thing, to be able to run.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


I am still dealing with the fact that my post about the basketball game is approaching 5,000 page views. I certainly did not think that what I wrote for myself, intended to share with a few friends, would reach that far. It made me nervous, in fact. I was editing the original post while I waited in line at JC Penneys to buy my son a suit for the funeral. I am nervous that so many people have read what was a heartfelt reaction to the untimely death of a friend, teammate, and classmate of my son. I hope I said everything right. I know I didn't, and there are places where I could have done better. I am sorry for that.

Healing has begun here. It can't ever get back to normal, but we're adjusting. Basketball season is over. It was heartbreaking, going to every game. But now there is baseball to look forward to.

There but for the grace of God go I. But where is the grace when a young man is gone? I don't know, and I guess I never will.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

East Central Eagles basketball live stream

The East Central Eagles host the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels tonight at approximately 7:15. This will be the first home game without #24, Colton. Here is a link to the live stream; you can create an account or sign in with Facebook.

Eagles vs Rebels

I'll be there in the bleachers!

Friday, February 13, 2015

No one is ever ready for this

Our community lost a good kid this week.

On Tuesday morning, Nina came into our room in tears. She said, "Something really bad happened last night. Colton Nelson was killed in a car accident."

Words to immediately stop normal life. Nothing, from this point out, will be normal. Shock. Pain. Grief. It is all there. Even if you did not know the kid. But I did.

He was Homecoming king. Played football, basketball, golf. (I'll forgive him for the last one. We could have used him in baseball.) Vinny grew up with him, went to school with him since kindergarten, and was a basketball teammate. I didn't know how close they were, but it turns out Colton was the kind of kid who had many friends. I don't know anyone who didn't like him.

We are a small school. Vinny's graduating class is around 30 something, although most younger classes have more students. But we are small enough, this news hit like a tidal wave. Everyone in the school knew Colton. And, everyone liked him. There was nothing not to like. He was a good person with a bright future. So why???

I don't know. But our small school community has an amazing ability to pull together. I saw it in a basketball game last night.

There was a basketball game scheduled against Pine City the day the news came out. That game will be played on Saturday. There was another game scheduled last night in Ogilvie. This game was nothing short of amazing.

To give some perspective, East Central (our team) is in the middle of the conference standings. We have lost some games we shouldn't have, and except for a couple matches, our losses have been close, well fought out games. My son Vinny has shown amazing ability as a 6'5 center. (shameless parent bragging) On the other hand, Ogilvie is a team that does its best with what it has. The town, population 369, is on the crossroads of Minnesota highways 23 and 47, on the way to somewhere but not quite there. They have the shortest outfield fences of any I have ever seen. And, they have a new basketball coach, and a team that lacks experience. Nevertheless, in their first match against East Central, they won by 4 points, but key EC players (including my son) were out sick.

Last night, though, was destined to be different. I don't know how many people from East Central showed up, but it was probably about 200. Ogilvie had about 75 including the pep band, which played in tune and was small but good.

There was a moment of silence before the National Anthem. Appropriate.

We (actually Vinny, center) got the tip off, and Traivon scored within three seconds. That set the tone. Although, the gym was kind of quiet during that first half. I think it took time for East Central fans to get out of a grieving mode, into a cheering mode.

We stood up when our score reached 24. That was Colton's number.

I actually felt kind of bad for Ogilvie. Here we were, claiming this game for Colton, and they had to deal with the fact that they could not compete with the spirit that drove our team that night. Nevertheless, they presented our team with a sign, signed by every student, expressing their condolences. Ogilvie now rates in my mind as the classiest other school in our conference.

The East Central Eagles played like I have never seen them before. They had a purpose, and an energy. This season they have struggled with internal things, like most teams; players have quit, and others have had issues. But last night it seems they forgot all that. They played for the joy of playing, for the first time I have seen all season. They played for Colton. And Colton was there, the sixth Eagle on the court.

East Central ended up winning, 73-35. Vinny scored 14 points, if I did not lose count. Usually after the end of a high school ballgame, the crowd disperses quickly. But, while the Ogilvie fans filed out, no one from East Central was ready to leave.

(Photo by Lizzy Swanson)

We formed a large prayer circle. A student, accompanied by Hana, Colton's girlfriend, led us in prayer. It was perhaps one of the most profound, beautiful, tragic things I have ever experienced.

The energy at that basketball game moved me. It took a tragedy to get that going, but yet it was there. Somehow, I believe in people.

#24 forever

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The power of frozen water

I had the opportunity to drive to Brainerd, MN for a fascinating meeting on the progress of research on our "Sentinel Lakes". The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, along with the MN Pollution Control Agency and the US Geological Service, among others, have partnered to do unprecedented intensive research on selected lakes across the state, to quantify the effects of land use and climate change. It's really amazing, and too much for this post, to summarize the work that has been done on these lakes, and the implications. I am proud to have been a part of this project since the beginning.

I always like to take the scenic route when I have the time. So on Wednesday, after the meeting ended at noon I took the northern route around Mille Lacs, instead of the southern/casino/bigger traffic route. This pressure ridge was present along the entire northeast side of the lake. Pressure ridges are formed when the volume of ice formed is constrained by the physical form, of the lake. Ice expands, when there is nowhere for it to go, this happens. And it is beautiful.

In the words of Eric Krenz, one of my favorite blogging friends, "That would have been one of Earth's ~greatest~sounds." I agree.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Musical progress report, because 2014 actually was a good year for music

In my profile, I say I am a musician. It would be more accurate to say "someone who occasionally picks up a musical instrument, when really she wants to have a musical instrument in her hand and be singing every minute of the day." Why I do not live up to what I really want is complicated. Motivation comes and goes. I lack self discipline. And last winter...

Last winter, when I would come home to a cool house (propane was at record prices and I didn't really want to use it when I didn't need it), I spent my evenings getting a fire going, cooking dinner, and sitting gazing blankly into the fire the rest of the night. It was a brutal winter, with low temps in the -30's and -40's. My fingers would not thaw enough to play an instrument.

Still, I ended up playing a couple gigs in late March.

This night, at the Chickadee Coffeehouse in Barnum, MN, was perhaps the best gig ever. The Chickadee is a great, cozy venue, but what made it special were all of my friends who showed up. My Facebook "fan club" took up an entire long table and consisted of people I'd met in real life, and people I hadn't. Good friends all, and I am so grateful. Here's the set list:

Let the Mystery Be (Iris DeMent)

Birches (Bill Morrissey)

Souvenirs (John Prine)

Carolina Pines (Kate Wolf)

Sing (original)

Across the Great Divide (Kate Wolf)

Arrow (Cheryl Wheeler)

Tecumseh Valley Townes Van Zandt)

Redtail Hawk (Kate Wolf)

Irish set- flute: Lark in the Morning, Cooley’s/Sheehan’s, Tobin’s/Banish Misfortune/Smash the Windows, Danny Boy

Our Town (Iris DeMent)

Why Don’t You Just Go Home (Greg Brown)

Tower Song (Townes Van Zandt)

Here in California (Kate Wolf)

Angel From Montgomery (John Prine)

Barroom Girls (Gillian Welch)

Early (Greg Brown)

Rexroth’s Daughter (Greg Brown)

The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore (Jean Richey)

Girl From The North Country (Bob Dylan)
Tomorrow Is A Long Time (Bob Dylan)

Josefin’s Waltz (flute) (Vasen)

Then on March 29, I played at the Black Cat Coffeehouse in Ashland, Wisconsin. The Hermit had arranged this through someone he knew there. This was a slightly more challenging gig. It was in the afternoon, when people weren't there specifically to hear me, and I didn't have my tribe of Facebook friends there. I had hardly any support from the staff, except "you can set up there". Not to say the staff there are not good, this was just an anomaly for them. And, I had to borrow a couple of microphones (thanks Nathan Frazer!) and bring my own sound system, which consisted of a Crate acoustic guitar amp with mic input. It worked, I guess.

To sum it up, that gig I felt awkward; hard to find the chords, hard to find my voice. Or so it seemed. So I stuck with what was familiar to me, which, I had to remind myself, this crowd had never heard before. Some things worked though. I remember two people specifically: one young woman, probably a Northland College student, who had seen on my poster that I played Kate Wolf, and had come to hear me play Kate Wolf. So I played a couple requests from her. The second was a hippie-looking father who had brought his young daughter and who seemed to really enjoy my selection of music. Thanks to both of you, you made that gig feel worth it to me. Because it's all about the people you connect with, never mind the ones who keep talking through your songs.

I also played a Wednesday night series at the Carlton County Fairgrounds in Barnum on July 31st, and at the Sunday morning farmer's market at TJ's Country Corner Store in Mahtowa, MN a couple weeks later. For the latter, I finally invested in my own microphones and stands.To be honest, I have not used them since.

On the docket this year: As yet nothing, though I need to call the Chickadee. I think I could be ready for another March gig. Then in June, The Hermit and I will be attending our first music festival in a while, the inaugural Blue Ox Music Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Awesome lineup. And, did someone say "Airstream"?

Yep, this is our new "home away from home". The story of how we found it will have to be another post.

I'll leave you with this: "Why Don't You Just Go Home", by Greg Brown, from March 14, 2014 at the Chickadee.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Returning to the path

To me, blogging has always been about truth. Speaking the truth, and in doing so, trying to find the truth. I am inconveniently blessed with the desire to find the real truth, not some version that carries great authority, nor some version that feels good and brings me close to a circle of like minded people. 

Truth is an elusive thing. Every artist, every composer or musician creates their version of it, honed by experience. Some come close to getting it right. I was playing a Bach partita on flute today, sight reading it actually; I have had this sheet music for over 25 years and had never looked beyond the first movement. Life has this sneaky way of getting in the way. But when I play Bach, whether it is a piece I know or one that is new to me, I feel a sense of "rightness". The phrases progress precisely the way they need to. There is truth in that. 

So maybe my lack of blogging frequency in recent years has been due to a feeling that I am not completely expressing the truth about my existence. I'm not telling outright lies, nor do I have the need to, but there are truths out there that I am not comfortable putting in words for everyone to see. Is there anyone who can't say that? 

For example, when I started this blog, I (rather pompously) considered myself a "homesteader"--you know, the self sufficient lifestyle, to various degrees. I even included the term in my blog description. But over the years, the term has lost its meaning to me and I no longer identify with it. To tell the ongoing story, of how we built our own house and all that, means leaving out some truths that don't fit that "homesteader" image. The human fallibility. The stuff I don't want others to see, mostly. 

But now that I'm older (50 is on the not so distant horizon), I'm inclined to care less about what others think, and so long as I do not go dramatic, a little raw honesty is a good thing. In fact, it may even help me write those songs I've been trying to all these years. You see, I'm not a singer songwriter, like I want to be. I'm
a parrot, a cover artist who just happens to be able to pull it off because I sound a bit like Emmylou Harris. :)

So what am I trying to say here? What in God's name am I blathering about? It is this: I want to return to a time when writing came more easily to me, but I want to add the wisdom and honesty that only years can bring. Who knows where it will go; the fact that I am sitting here typing this out on my iPhone is a miracle in itself. So, we'll see.