Category Archives: Family

Lest we ForgeT

My cousin who recently died loved butterflies. As her casket was lowered into the ground, those in attendance set free butterflies they had been given, housed in paper packages. Her sister ordered them half frozen, packaged them, thawed them, and then distributed them to be released at the appointed time. They were Painted Lady butterflies. I will never see a butterfly and not think about my cousin.

As we drove home on Friday, we passed these long rows of trees, each about half a mile long and about 100 feet apart, planted many years ago about 15 miles from our town. They were planted to combat erosion in the 1930’s. When my dad lived with us just before he died, he said those trees always reminded him of Franklin Roosevelt. Now, when I see them, I think of my dad and Franklin Roosevelt. How interesting that one thing can remind us of other, non-related things.

What reminds you of people or things? What do you want people to see that reminds them of you?

Keeping Connections

I am really glad that we were able to get to my cousin’s funeral. She was the daughter of my mom’s youngest brother, Harvey. I was the only (and oldest) cousin there. Two cousins from my Aunt Leona’s family live in Pipestone but didn’t attend, and two other cousins from my Uncle Ronald were too far away to attend. We brought Norma, Uncle Ronald’s widow, to the funeral. She was so happy to get out of Watertown, SD, and get to see nieces and nephews she hadn’t seen for a long time.

We all caught up with eachother’s and our children’s lives at the funeral lunch. Of the four remaining children of my Uncle Harvey, all but one lives within 30 miles of Pipestone. That cousin, Alan, lives in Grand Island, NE. He plans to move closer to the Pipestone/Luverne area near to the others after he retires. Alan said he thought it really important to be closer to his siblings. He and the others were delighted to hear our plans to move to Luverne when I retire. Connections are important.

The Methodist pastor who conducted the funeral was one of my high-school classmates. It was good to catch up with her, too. Despite the sad occasion, it felt so good to be with people who knew me, with whom I had a history, and who appreciate the connection we have.

Who are your important connections? What do you do to keep those connections going?

Role Models

About two weeks ago, Husband and I were in the front yard veggie garden planting tomatoes and peppers. This was unusual for us, as we never, as a rule, put tender plants outside until after Memorial Day. The weather here is too unpredictable, and there is often a late frost. This year I convinced myself that it would be different, as the weather service stated the chance of frost in our region was very low for the rest of the month.

One of our neighbors stopped by to ask what we were doing. We explained, and he said it was good information, as he always watched us to see when it was time to plant. I was rather taken aback by this, and felt pretty guilty as last week, we had to cover our tomatoes and peppers because the weather service was wrong, and temperatures were predicted to reach 31 last Friday night. Moreover, there was light snow predicted, and a high wind warning. I don’t know if the neighbor took our cue and planted his garden. I sure hope not.

We dutifully covered our plants with large tarps. Nothing froze, but it made me again vow I would never plant before Memorial Day. I don’t know if I like being a role model. I make mistakes. I don’t want people to emulate my mistakes. I never had any siblings I had to be a role model for, and I can imagine it must be really annoying to be in that position.

Were you ever considered a role model for others? Who were your role models? Ever felt like a fraud?

Intro to the Classics

We had a lovely time last weekend with our son and his family. We were busy with cooking and eating and visiting and all the things you do when there is a three year old in the house. Grandson loves to dance and has a pretty good sense of melody and pitch, so I thought it would be fun to introduce him to some classical music.

We have a CD of Peter and the Wolf and The Carnival of the Animals performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and duo pianists Alfons and Aloys Kontarsky, with Karl Bohm conducting. Both are narrated by Hermione Gingold. I love her voice and expressiveness. She sounds so plummy, except when she drops into Cockney when she gets to the part where the wolf eats the duck “And he swallowed her rye tup!” The Carnival text was some cheesy poems by Oden Nash, but even that was ok with her narrating.

Grandson loved the stories. We acted out the motions of the animals with the music. He thought being the wolf was the best, even better than being Peter. It is so much fun to howl and roar, you see, even when you are being taken to the zoo. He especially liked marching to the lion’s music and roaring, jumping like the kangaroos, and waltzing like the elephants. I told him to imagine that the finale of Carnival was music for the monkeys in the zoo.

As we were saying our goodbyes on Monday, Grandson rather spontaneously called out from his car seat “Thank you for the lions and the wolfs, and the elephants, Oma”. I was pretty touched, and thought we had a pretty good intro to some good music.

What was your first introduction to classical music? What are your favorite classical compositions? How would you introduce them to a three year old?

Mayhem at Chuck E. Cheese

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Several years ago Dale Connelly rejected a story I offered him about a school outing to a Chuck E. Cheese mall store. Perhaps recent tweaks to that story will make it usable now.

When Molly’s fourth grade class asked me to volunteer as a chaperon for this field trip, I agreed. As a freelance journalist working from my home, I had extra time. And, heck, I enjoy ice cream as much as any kid. This outing could be interesting.

I didn’t expect to like the venue, and did not. Chuck E. Cheese is a chain of family event centers catering to kids. Loud, garish and built to be “fun,” these places are not subtle. The one my daughter’s class visited in Rosedale featured an animatronic band of figures that pretended to play instruments. Chuck E. Cheese was an oversized rat blowing a flute, backed by a gorilla on drums and a bear flailing at a banjo. The music, while dreadful, promoted a frenetic atmosphere where kids could be themselves with no limits. The business area itself was divided between a stage, some dining tables and a large room in which kids could play arcade games like the then-popular Ms. Pac-Man.

I began noticing one kid in particular, a red haired boy who dominated the room. He was over a head taller than the others and was easily the loudest and most aggressive kid in the room. Jealousy triggered him. He didn’t enjoy whatever game he dominated but was sparked by envy when he saw another kid having fun with a different machine. I tried to tune him out, and yet this kid was was getting on my nerves.

Then it was time to go back home. We queued up to get back on the bus that would return us to school. The red haired bully was pushing to be first on the bus, but then spotted a little girl doing a last bit of play with Ms. Pac-Man. That tripped his trigger. He screamed and rushed the machine. By coincidence, his path to that machine would take him right by me.

I am not decisive, athletic or aggressive, and yet in that split second I became all three. As the bully swept past me, I shot my left ankle out to hook his left ankle. With a full head of speed already in hand, the bully launched into the air with arms outstretched in the famous flying Superman pose. He flew and flew. Then, lacking a functional cape, he crashed on the waxy tile floor and slid on for some more distance, arms still outstretched.

His face contorted with rage, the kid pointed at me and roared, “He TRIPPED me!” Of course, I was by then bent at the waist, deep in fatherly conversation with my daughter. Only two people in the room knew what had just happened, and only one of them had credibility.

The return trip to school would have presented few problems for the bully. He lived in chaos and strife, so he probably smoldered with a sense of injustice that quickly burned out. That was his life.

Things were more complicated for the man who had just assaulted a kid he didn’t know. That man had never thrown a punch in anger and had, in fact, never raised his voice in a dispute. A sweet, people-pleasing man, he was suddenly haunted by visions of The Lord of the Flies. Who in hell was that man who suddenly tripped a kid he had just met? Would he ever suddenly come again?

Have you ever been shocked by the sudden appearance of emotions you didn’t know you held? Have you ever thought about what it would take to make you take a public stand? Have you ever suspected that the veneer of civilization that protects us most of the time is actually quite thin? How have you dealt with bullies?

April Showers

First part of June. Everything is growing, been a wet week, a little over 1.5” for us and a nice gentle rain. Just had a real cool spell; we had 31 degrees down in our valley… will have to wait a few days to see if there was enough frost to kill the soybeans that are 2” tall or was the dirt warm enough and releasing enough heat to keep it OK.

Back in blogworld, still planting corn.

My brother, Ernie came out again. I appreciate Ernie‘s help; he’s not a natural, but it gets done and it sure saves me time. It’s interesting what he remembers and how things have changed. The fields roads he remembers that I haven’t used in 30 years. Kinda fun to hear his memories.

It’s very dry;

The weather channel keeps predicting rain, but the arrival time gets pushed back and chances diminish until now there’s only a 30% chance and yet I’m watching a big red storm cell out the window as I try to finish planting this one field. Finally, when this dark cloud is almost on me, I lock everything up and make a run for home. The fertilizer wagon does not have a cover and it’s sitting outside so it needs to get in the shed before it gets rained on. I get everything under the roof with seconds to spare as it starts to rain. And then rain hard. And then it starts to hail. Five minutes of pea size hail. I put the pick-up truck in the shed because I’m right there and I know the key is in it. I put the gator in the shed because that’s close and the key is in it. My car key is in the house. Priorities you know: truck then gator and then the car. 

7/10 of an inch of rain in about 10 minutes. The worst time of year for heavy rains like this, all this freshly worked soil. Could be worse. I can see water standing in the fields already, I can see where it’s run through the fields. Some small, shallow gully’s, but it hasn’t really hurt much. It will soak in quick. Ended up with 1.1 inches of rain total. Looking at weather maps, there was a narrow band of us that got over an inch. Most people only had half an inch.

The next morning I did Computer stuff in the morning, made maps for the co-op for spraying, made a Menards and Fleet Farm run, refilled LP tanks for the BBQ grill, took the maps to the Co-op in Plainview, made a few phone calls, picked up three more bags of corn seed just in case I run out, and check township roads for new rock.

Unloaded the truck, set up straw bales for garden, and spend some time watching the chicks.

We moved them into the bigger pen yesterday.

I spent Friday morning at my moms, delivered Straw Friday afternoon and saw baby goats there. All the neighbors are out in the field and I still think my fields are too wet.

Saturday morning had someone pick up straw, then delivered Straw to Winona and had our first meal out in over a year at a little bar in Wikota MN. Our first meal out should have been better than this…

Finished planting corn, did some fieldwork, and had friends out for pizza on the deck. First time for pizza with friends in over a year. 

Talking rain Sunday. 

I go to mom’s in the morning again, rain isn’t predicted until 4 o’clock Sunday. I rent 10 acres down the road; I got that dug up and a couple fields at home dug up, so the spring flush of weeds has been dug up at least once in every field.

I’m racing a rainstorm again even though no rain is predicted until 11 o’clock PM. It’s 2:00 PM. Darn weathermen…

Daughter is home alone when I see some big lightning strikes. I head for home. Power is out; fuse on pole blown meaning lightning hit a line fairly close. Rain amounts to 15 drops. Didn’t I just tell daughter that storms don’t usually cause power outages? How rare that really is? Thanks Lightning.

Soybean fertilizer next. 

What’s the biggest hail storm you’ve been in?

Just Here for the Food?

I’ve heard a lot of people say “I don’t go to the fair for the food.”   I’ve said it myself and I’ve always wondered if people believed me, if I believed myself.  Yesterday I found out.

When the State Fair announced they would have a mini-fair open for Memorial Day weekend, I was online in a flash.  You had to enter a lottery to be able to get a time slot during which you could buy tickets.  Luckily I did OK and we got out first choice.  There were two time periods each day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then 4-9 p.m.  You could arrive any time during your time slot but you had to leave at the end. 

It was more crowded than I had anticipated although nothing compared to a regular fair day in August.  There were folks with masks but mostly not; it was easy enough to do social distancing if you needed to, except in the cookie line.  The open part of the fair was about four square blocks and included the giant slide, the DNR stage, the grandstand (although just a seating area and a bingo area).  A handful of vendors, a few musical groups and food.  LOTS and LOTS of food. 

If I had been on my own, I would have stopped and listened to music as I walked around but YA’s musical sensibilities don’t line up with mine.  So we walked around for a couple of hours, bought a couple of t-shirts.  We got some Greek food and some cheese curds.  YA got some toffee peanuts.  We sat for a bit and decided that we’d had probably enjoyed it as much as we were going to – we headed home.

There were a lot of people who were clearly going to hang out the whole of their time slot and the lines in a few place were unbelievable (Pronto Pup had two lines going in opposite directions, at least a block long each way).  But even sharing, neither YA nor I can simply plow our way through massive amounts of food.

So I guess it IS true for me.  I don’t go to the fair for the food.

You doing anything out of the ordinary for Memorial Day?

Planting Corn

This week’s farm report comes to us from Ben.

Been having some nice rain the last few days. Over an inch now, plus the heat and humidity and we’re almost 200 Growing Degree Units (GDU’s) above normal. I figured we were behind, but we got that warm weather back in April. Crops have almost all emerged, and things are off to a good start.

Back in Blogworld, It’s the end of April and I’m just about to start planting corn. The wild leeks are up so I’ve been nibbling on them. Oats is just coming up, anhydrous fertilizer (nitrogen) is done, planting is next. My brother, Ernie comes out and drives the 8200 tractor and the soil finisher to get fields prepped. He says it’s the first time he’s driven a tractor since he was 18. He joked it was still just as boring going around and around. Plus, it’s hard to get run over by the tractor when you’re in a cab. (Hold that thought.)

I’ve been clearing edges of the fields with the 6410 tractor and loader. We have so many box elder trees and brush and weeds that come in from the edges, it’s a constant effort to keep the edges open or we lose them back to nature. Every year I go around and knock down the big branches, but sometimes I spend time literally pushing back everything, 7’ at a time, (the width of the loader bucket) back and forth, back and forth. Ernie thinks fieldwork is boring? But it’s good to get it done.

Back in the fall of 1968, Ernie was using a John Deere 720 tractor and a 3 bottom plow and his long jacket got caught by the tractor tire and pulled him off the tractor. The 720 is an open tractor and we’d often stand up when driving them. He got pulled off the tractor into the freshly plowed ground, right in front of the rear wheel. The rear tire went right over his chest, and he rolled out of the way before the plow got to him. My parents had just built the new house that summer and they were working on that and painting the roof trim when someone commented that the tractor was going in circles and Ernie was chasing it. Dad ran over there and somehow, they caught the tractor. Took Ernie to the clinic and he was fine; doctors couldn’t believe he was really run over, but he had the dirt on his shirt to prove it. They figure the soft dirt is what saved him. Plus, the tractor wasn’t that big or heavy. Another instance of luck or miracles to grace our family.

I took the loader off the tractor, order the corn starter fertilizer, get corn planter out and greased, get the fertilizer wagon ready, and make a trip to Plainview with Amelia and the dogs for the headlight bezel on the 6410. Pushing the trees off is hard on the tractor; I’ve broken a lot of little things doing that. And sometimes some pretty major things. But this year it was just the plastic bezel around the lights on the cab.

About 4:30PM I get out to plant. I have made some dumb mistakes in my life. Here’s another. The middle fertilizer tank auger is backwards. (My dad taught me to only put a little fertilizer in to start to be sure everything is working.) The tanks hold about 750 lbs each, so I fill it maybe half full or so. When planting corn, there’s a monitor to tell me seeds are coming out each row, and when I lift the planter on the ends, I look to be sure fertilizer is coming out the tubes. There’s a shaft I watch to make sure it’s turning because that’s what makes the fertilizer come out.

But if I put the auger in backwards fertilizer will not ever come out. At the end of planting season, I pull the shafts and augers out, clean and oil everything, and put them back. I try to keep everything lined up so it goes back the right way. And normally, I look in there and make sure they’re all going the same way. Clearly, I forgot that step this time. So, I made 2 rounds to use up some fertilizer, then use 5 gallon buckets to shift some fertilizer from the middle tank to the right, and put the left fertilizer in buckets, because I have to slide the left auger out, and then the middle one out through the left tank to reverse it. Remember back on oats and the shaft broke and I dropped too much fertilizer in a row? Well, now these two middle rows won’t have any fertilizer and I’ll be able to see that too; the corn will miss a boost this starter fertilizer gives it.

A lot of guys are using liquid fertilizer these days. I still use dry; it’s just what I’m set up for. I have a 6 row planter. Small these days of 12, 18, 24 row, or bigger planters. So, I have three fertilizer tanks, each doing two rows

Kelly and Amelia and the dogs take a walk, when they come back Bailey comes across the field to find me so she can ride in the tractor. She’s such a sweetheart. 

Kelly comes out in the field with the gator and gets in the tractor and makes a couple rounds with me. There’s not an extra seat in the 6410 so riding along isn’t that comfortable. The 8200 has an “instructor seat” and it’s more comfortable riding along. Humphrey goes back home. I spend some time checking seed planting depth and spacing; all critical things to a good final yield. You want it about 2½” deep and about 6” apart.

(It’s not 6” deep, that’s just the way the ruler is laying).

The seed is treated, that’s why it’s blue / green to prevent bugs like corn root worm, soilborne and seedborne pathogens, and to keep it healthy if it sits in cold ground for a few weeks before it gets enough GDU’s to emerge. (It takes 100 -120 GDU’s to emerge) and this year it took a few weeks before it finally came out of the ground. The random red color seeds are the ‘refuge’ seeds to prevent corn borer resistance.  

I finish planting at 9:30 PM. Out of both seed and fertilizer. I had added six bags of seed, each bag holds 80,000 kernals. So, 6 times 80,000 kernels equals 480,000 divided by the 14 acres I planted means 33,500 seeds per acre which is a good planting rate.

After they start to emerge, if you measure out 17’6”, that will be 1 / 1000th of an acre and you count how many plants are in that length and that’s your final stand population.

Ever had a seed of an idea that blossomed into something?

Red Cross Day

My phone pings me every day with a “this day in history” note.  Yesterday’s was about the founding of the American Red Cross in 1881.  I already knew that Clara Barton was instrumental in the beginnings of the Red Cross, but didn’t realize that she had worked with the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian war and that she began lobbying for an American organization when she came home after that.  She headed up the Red Cross well into her 80s. 

This tidbit of history caught my eye because the very first charitable work that I headed up was for the Red Cross.  I don’t remember what was going on in the world and I also don’t remember how I got interested, but when I was in the sixth grade, I started a drive to make care packages that were sent to the Red Cross.  My school let me mimeograph some flyers and kids brought items that we used for our kits:  soap, washcloths, socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste.  We had two or three meetings to put the packages together using paper lunch bags.  I don’t remember how many we made, but it seemed impressive to me at the time.  I felt very proud when my mom drove me to the Red Cross center to turn them in.

Like I said, this was my first organized good work but not the last of my support of the Red Cross.  The following summer a friend and I went all over the neighborhood (repeatedly) with a wagon, collecting pop bottles from people.  Then we carted them up to the Kelloggs store and collected the refund, which we donated to the Red Cross.  It wasn’t very much, but it felt like we were doing something important.

Do you have a cause that you’ve been passionate about?

I Can’t Remember What I’ve Forgotten

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been donating blood for many, many years. And for many of those years, I did not know what type blood I had coursing through my body. I asked a couple of times and then promptly forgot it. When I decided that I just wanted to have it in my brain when I needed it, I figured I’d better come up with a good mnemonic.
It turned out to be pretty easy. I have type “O”, which is the most common. (It’s also the only blood type that doesn’t have an antigen, which means I can donate to any other blood type.) So I thought, “O = Ordinary”. I’ve never forgotten since then.

I use mnemonics quite a bit but I’m having trouble finding a good one for my new car license plate. Not that you need to know your license plate all that often, but every now and then it comes in handy. My last license plate was pretty easy. It was RDJ 430 and I used “Return to Darling Jenai at 4:30”. 4:30 is quitting time at my company.

But the state in all its wisdom decided in January that I had to have a new license plate. I’m not sure why they do this; it’s not like they wear out. Anyway, my new license is MZZ 798 and for the life of me, I can’t of anything good to help me remember it. I suppose I could just write it down someplace and not try to come up with a good memory jog, but knowing myself, I’ll forget where I wrote it down!

Any thoughts to help me remember?