Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Beautiful Birthday

I couldn't have asked for a better birthday adventure than today. Amazing weather, kayaking buddies and one of my favorite places on earth.

Raspberry Island, Lake Superior; a fine place to celebrate turning 35! Thanks, Susan and Ray! (And Corny, the kayaking dog!)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back from the Island

Ahh... We managed to get away again for another short adventure. Can you guess where we landed?

White-ish sand beaches? Check. Crystal clear water? Check. Exotic island location? Check. Tropical palm trees... wait, nope. Just white pines and cedar! Yes, indeed, this is Lake Superior. We went to Stockton Island, part of the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin.

I grew up in Minnesota and had never heard of this place until I was offered a job there. I had the good fortune to spend part of a summer on this island, way back in the "good old days" when the Park Service had some healthy funding. In my day, there were at least 4 staff people on this one big island. Now, there is usually just one interp Ranger and perhaps a volunteer- yikes! I am still in touch with some of the other staff from my time there; it would be a totally different experience alone.

I haven't been back in years: it's a hard place to get to if you don't have your own boat. I was entirely entertained, however, to find that a picture of my very young Ranger self is still part of the trail guide- some history does endure!

The weather for this trip was spectacular, with very few bugs. It's been very dry, so that might have wiped out some of the bugs. The blueberries were plentiful, but the lack of rain has made them small and even crunchy; very odd. Many other plants had not set fruit this year. But otherwise, the island was much the same as I remember it. We swam, we hiked, we read, we ruminated and then shared a campfire with some friends from town who just happened to be there at the same time. It was lovely.

It's now raining at home; welcome precipitation that very politely waiting for us to return and even catch up on a bit of laundry first. Blessed be!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oh, Deer.

This is a picture of our front door, taken a couple weeks ago when the cucumber vines were "small." We do not plant many ornamentals around here; it's usually pretty utilitarian, but beautiful nonetheless.

So, what does such a door say to you? Welcome? Gardeners live here?

Apparently, to the neighborhood deer, it says something entirely different:

The cucumber vine, which has gotten much loving attention and was producing many cucumbers, is now about half the size it was this morning. It's too dark (and disheartening) to take a picture now. Suffice it to say, cucumbers are missing.

I do beseech the damn deer: WHY eat prickly cucumber vines and tomato greenery (green tomatos included?) WHY graze so close to our house when there's tons of other green stuff to eat out there? WHY?

The deer have no comment thus far.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thrifty Bloggers!

Ohmygoodness! A celebrity blogger sighting! In a thrift store, rather far from home. What are the odds of that!? It was Deb from Sand Creek Almanac! She's already written it up here (she's usually a bit more speedy on posts than me) and now I feel all celebrity-like, too! Hehe...

I suppose the thrift store part doesn't surprise me; many of us in this little homestead/nature midwest blog world love a good thrift store. Deb found a great aquarium for the kids. I made some good scores: a few books and a cast iron corncake pan. At least one booklet will be making a blog appearance later!

I do love a good thrift store. That might surprise my mother, who had to drag me to such shops years ago as a mortified teenager. Really, Mother! How embarrassing! Now, most of my clothes are from thrift stores (or at least from a big clearance sale at a "regular" store). More variety and less environmental impact that way!

But this blogger meeting location WAS quite random, as Deb explained. Just completely right timing and unusual circumstances. I am NEVER in that town on a weekday, but happened to driving home from a very rare meeting in the Twin Cities. I throught about visiting the museum briefly (remember, history nerd) as a little "lunch" break, but felt pulled to the thrift store instead. I've been there a few times while driving through town and found some nice things.

After driving by the museum, I thought to myself: I'll check the thrift store first. Maybe something exciting will happen there, and I don't want to use up all my limited time at the museum. Well, intuition turned out to be right. This fellow shopper looked so "familiar" (from the new pictures, I guess) that I couldn't resist asking if she was Deb!

Great to meet you Deb, and I hope we can catch up sometime later when we both have more time. I had to hit the road and get back to work. And so it goes...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Time Travel

Ah, yes. That's right. It is 2007 and there is the blog thing to update. Sorry, I was back in 1912 for a little bit.

It's a lovely place; nice to visit but I'm not sure I'd like to live there. The corset and lack of voting rights would have done me in. But to live at a Lighthouse; that would be nice. I actually have lived at a lighthouse (in '95 and '97; seasonal NPS jobs). Perhaps that's why I love to go back and portray a keeper's wife from time to time at our local Marine Museum. They appreciate the free interpretation, and I get to tell the stories again.

The 2007 homefront is fine; still dealing with some cat poop issues and chasing the chickens off the deck so they don't spread poop there. I swear, I never thought my rural life would involve quite so much poop.

The non-poopy gardens (fenced for exclusion of deer, chickens AND cats) are producing tons of cucumbers. We even cooked some in a mixed saute; it was quite tasty. We're getting creative! I do wish I had more time to be home; I'm scheduled to be in town most nights this week. I appreciate my freedom to work (and vote!) in 2007, but sometimes long for the opportunity to try the traditional homemaker role, too. Perhaps someday?

Monday, August 06, 2007


We're finally reaching the time for harvest of actual PRODUCE around here. We've had wonderful greens for months now. I haven't purchased lettuce or kale since May, all praise the absent groundsquirrels!

I really love growing greens, because the whole darn plant is edible; no wasted effort on inedible stalks, etc. Sometimes tomatoes and other plants seems like such a waste of good biomass! But I must admit that picking the first ripe tomatoes or zucchini has the thrill of an actual, hardwon product; it's SOMETHING. We've been gathering a few peas, small tomatoes and even cucumbers from a climbing plant that wants to take over our entire doorstep. It's great!

And so, the other day, I realized that even if I'm not participating in the One Local Summer project (just no time to plan and document my less-than-inspiring local meals), I DO have something local to show. May I present to you: TWO LOCAL SALADS!

Tada! A selection of fresh greens, veggies and even eggs, all collected that very day on our own property. Yes, the harvest is sweet! More to come...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Chick herd

Chickens enjoy summer watermelon, too!

We ARE still thoroughly outnumbered by chickens around here. The young'uns are doing well; they are about month old now. All 8 are still with us, after a small scare that we'd lost one. This momma hen is doing a good job, and isn't ready to bolt just yet. I gave her a tasty watermelon rind yesterday, and even though she ate MOST of it herself, she did still think to drop some sample bits to the chicks. They had not yet figured out the rind was safe to peck.

WF's afraid that 5 of the 8 might be roosters, but I think it's too early to tell. They do seem to be growing up awfully fast, but that's good. They've mixed with the whole flock for a bit and things have been OK so far.

Older chickens are doing well, with some over-roosterage symptoms beginning. We probably need to get tough pretty soon and, ah, process one or both of the roosters, but there's a bit of emotional resistance to that. It's hard when they're so much more "individual" than the hens. We've got saddles on some of the "favorite" hens, but one still got a big gash in her side last week, likely from elder rooster's spurs. Yikes. She is recovering OK. I still do trust him around people.

A hen DID peck my toes the other day, but that's just because I got a little crazy and painted my toenails for the wedding (first time in YEARS). Gotta be careful with this primping: it apparently makes me look more edible!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Travel Tidbits

OK, let’s see… it’s been a while, and this naturey/homesteady blog has certainly been trending toward travel reports lately. But that’s what feels worthy of posting right now, so here goes one more! Next post will be more chicken-centric, I suspect.

Trip tidbits and thoughts:

We drove down to Winona (without air conditioning) in rather record heat last Thursday. Traveled over the now-famous tragic 35W bridge. Thankfully, all was stable while we were there, but it’s odd to have so consciously noticed the construction project that later was so much in the news. I’m not in that area very often anymore; hard to fathom such an event.

We had a lovely rehearsal dinner Friday night at a country club (!) and stayed in the air-conditioned Holiday Inn. I experienced TV for a couple hours; very weird. WF hid under the covers. I’m often surprised at how much I DO recognize in my once-a-year or so visits to TV-land, but this time it didn’t feel as familiar. Just a totally different world!

The next day was a hot one, but we were able to visit some museums and experience a bit of Winona. We’re such history nerds. I was excited to breeze through the Watkins museum; not because I use their stuff, but to glimpse some everyday, ephemeral products from long ago. It’s not the normal stuff you see in museums. And sad to think back to the day when being female needed a “remedy”, probably containing toxic/scary compounds to boot! I’m going back to 1912 for a couple days pretty soon; Lighthouse Days, you know. I don’t think my character would have used the Female Remedy, but you never know!

The wedding (of WF’s kindergarten and after-college friend and the best man at OUR wedding) was a very nice event. WF’s parents were there as well, and we had a good visit. Great local food at the reception, too! The only sad part is that the new couple have already moved to Korea, and not sure when we’ll see them again. She’s been teaching there for the past year, and had a local tailor make her dress. I never thought I would be interested in wedding dresses, but ever since our wedding and my history costume forays, I notice (and admire) such things. Lovely, eh?

The next day we got up early, traveled up the Mississippi (sadly, by car and in a rush) to get me back to Edina for a Reiki class. It wasn’t lightning-bolt material for me, but I’m intrigued by the concept and hope to pursue it more. We are all healers in some way; we just need to remember our own power. Maybe more details on that later…

Then, continuing the whirlwind, we headed into Wisconsin to visit some friends who moved to a rolling piece of raw land this spring. They are living in a tent with a 3.5 yr old and a dog. They were pouring footings for a new sauna/cabin right before we got there. Ah, the TRUE homestead life! I envy the “simple” life and hands-on projects, but they are also very tough, adventurous people; cooking and living outdoors in the heat and bugs every day. A different world, as well! When I was younger, I thought I’d find myself in a life like that someday, but now I feel rather old and cubicle-bound, so who knows? It’s enough for me just to keep up with our currently-built house and the never-ending projects that go along with that. But fun to visit and tent out for a while.

Finally home last Sunday, to a nice, HOT house and unfortunately an elderly cat with issues. Bill-dude really seemed to be going downhill, and I had to talk to the vet this past week about a possible final visit (gulp). I’m trying to be tuned in to his needs and respect that it might be his time to go; he IS after all, nearly 18 and has health issues. But after all that dire talk, he started getting better on about Wednesday, and today I had to shoo him off the counter! Friends who planned to come pay their respects found him running to greet them yesterday, so it’s not just me who thinks he’s better. So, Mr. Bill is on his 20th life or something of the sort. We’ll see where this goes; always an adventure!

OK, now I feel caught up. It really was a nice trip to lots of different worlds. It’s always hard to get OUT of the house and make sure the housesitter, cats and chickens have everything they need. I was short on sleep and about ready to swear off the whole travel thing before we left, but it was worth it. Now I’m trying to motivate myself for some decluttering or other projects this weekend; wish me luck! Oh, and yes, more chicken content coming up!