Category Archives: Gatherings

Christmas on the Farm

Today’s post comes from Ben.

It’s the Holiday season. And the season might last over several days; that’s how it works in our family. The immediate family Christmas, then Christmas with one side, then the other, and somewhere in there our family too.

Growing up, Christmas eve, we’d open presents after milking, then go to midnight service. I could never get out of the barn fast enough at night to open presents.

When we took over the farm, Christmas Eve was with Kelly’s family and we’d be the last ones there after milking.

But those nights in the barn, I clearly remember Christmas Eve being a special time down there. I tried to be extra nice to the girls; a little extra hay and a scratch on the head for each of them. The barn was a cozy place at night. It’s warm from the cow bodies, in fact we needed exhaust fans or it would get too humid from them breathing. So it was always a nice warm place in the barn. By the time I finished milking, got the equipment washed up and got them fed, most of them were laying down and they were comfortable, and it was just very nice.  

Walking to the house in the winter with the yardlight and all the usual noises of cattle or pumps running, was nice. It was just a good feeling.

All that taught me the animals should come first; it’s our responsibility to them.

I do my chicken chores first thing in the morning and it’s similar that there’s more chores in the winter than summer. Make sure they have water, break ice or get fresh as needed. Refill feeders. Bedding isn’t really an issue as it lasts a long time for chickens.

And once / week refill the bird feeders too. Do that before I get my breakfast.

With the cold temps, but no snow, the springs in the swamp are still running, it’s making an ice path that we can’t usually see.

A little too rough for skating, but interesting to see.

End of the year coming up fast. I’ll be recording mileage and hours on all the vehicles and tractors (Machinery goes by hours rather than miles. 10,000 hours is slightly used. Over 50,000 hours is well used.)

Time to update the farm balance sheet for the year too. I love this kind of thing; seeing the changes from year to year.

I’ve had my fill of Christmas music and I’m ready for the 1940’s station to come back to XM radio. My checkbook register is full too; I’ve had this register since November of 2017 and I’m not about to get a new one for the last couple days here. Whatever I have to do yet, I’ll wedge it on the page somehow.

Have you noticed in your own life what you do first? With my bad shoulder, putting a jacket on is an issue some days and I’ve noticed I put my hat on first. Which is a problem getting the jacket on then.

I do my left shoe first. Usually left sock first too, then right. It’s curious.

What do you do first in your routines?

Virtually Fun

Since my local State agency and Husband’s State agency in Bismarck are considered health care facilities, we can’t have in-person office gatherings in which we share a meal due to pandemic protocols.

Yesterday, the social committee at my agency held our annual Christmas party over lunch hour. We all filed in to the main meeting room, filled our take-away containers with deep fried turkey, knoephla soup, and all manner of casseroles and baked goods, and returned to our offices to fire up our computers to play trivia games in a Microsoft Teams meeting. We also had a scavenger hunt to find things in our building that were either red, gold, green, or silver, based on on the team we were assigned to. I was on the red team. I took the red fire extinguisher off the all outside my office to show on-line, along with all the red items in my play therapy room.

In Bismarck, Husband’s party was also virtual during Wednesday’s lunch hour. Each “work team”, in its own space, staged a tableau from a well known Christmas movie, again, with computer video, and others were to identify the movie via chat. The Psychology Department depicted a scene from “Jingle All The Way”. This was followed by an all-out, virtual Pictionary game drawn on a white board for people to guess the Christmas song depicted. Everyone’s answers were delivered via Microsoft Teams chat. The food came from the Pizza Ranch.

We all want to engage with one another, and we miss the camaraderie. We enjoy our coworkers so much. Virtual is as good as it gets for now. Oh, for the days when we all got together for a catered meal and live music at the Knights of Columbus Hall with spouses and partners in tow, and the Regional Director would get blitzed and start singing, and there would be pinochle into the wee hours. We were all younger then.

What are your best and worst Christmas parties ever? What kind of party would you throw if there was no pandemic?

Unprepared

Last evening, our handball choir performed in a musical holiday extravaganza put on by the local college at our church. We played along with the Community choir, college vocal ensembles, college band, and smaller vocal and instrumental ensembles for a very ambitious 90 minute program.

Our practice schedule was interrupted by COVID early in the fall, and we never caught up. We weren’t prepared for all our pieces last night, and our main goals were to not get lost in the music and to end together. Only an experienced bell ringer would have caught our mistakes, but we each felt our individual errors keenly. I made mistakes and got lost in places I never got lost in before. Husband described it afterwards as a musical ordeal. I believe it was Gustav Holst who said that if it is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. We are just relieved it is over and now we can focus on our last two performances on December 17 and 19.

Any performances you would like to forget about? What pageants have you participated in?

A Man For All Seasons

Dear friends,

My sweet dad, Steve Grooms, died at home early on Thanksgiving morning. I feel so incredibly lucky that we spent most of Wednesday together as he wasn’t feeling well that day. Two visits from 911 paramedics and multiple calls to advice nurses and his doctors couldn’t shed light on what was happening, and the ERs were/are full due to COVID and couldn’t take him. Despite normal vitals and no pain (just discomfort), he and I both knew something was wrong enough to warrant our needing to be together in what I know now were his final hours. It appeared he passed in his sleep sometime after I left to go home and sleep, and I hope against hope that he didn’t suffer.

Please don’t regret the timing. Dad had so much to be thankful for. A long and rich life full of love and laughter. Beloved family. Wonderful dogs. Adventures and stories; oh so many stories. Stories told with the richness of his appreciation for human nature, for humor, for empathy and compassion, history, and nature. So many stories told to you. And just as much as he loved the telling, he loved the gift of receiving a good story. My greeting, dear friends, isn’t accidental. I feel as if I know so many of you through his recounting of your presence in his life. And I am humbled, grateful, and so deeply appreciative for what this community meant to him.

You sustained him in the dark years following his divorce. You showed up to help when rheumatoid arthritis and congestive heart failure made life alone in his home almost unsustainable. You sawed up fallen trees and eventually helped him pack up and leave Minnesota to join us in Oregon. You were with him in words and spirit through the new lives he created, first in Oregon, then Michigan, then finally back in his beloved Minnesota. He carried you, his community, with him. You were a daily, if not hourly, gift to him. The people he wanted to process his life with, the friends he treasured.

I am beyond heartbroken right now and can’t seem to figure out what happens next. I keep reaching for the phone to call Dad to tell him how awful this all is, until I remember… Know that we will gather sometime in the future, likely in the Spring, to honor his life and you will all be invited. Until then, I invite you to share your memories of him here, in the space he so loved. Renee can forward anything you wish to send to me directly and know that I will respond as soon as I am able. 

Thank you. My family and I are so grateful for the gift of your love and friendship toward Dad in these years. It means everything to us, as it meant everything to him. All my love,

Molly

Waiting for…..

My annual wine advent calendar adventure was Wednesday morning.  The experience was very similar to last year although I was #4 in line this year – one spot up from last year!  All of us in the first ten were in festive moods, there were multiple conversations about the advent calendars, where we were all from and there was also shared chocolate!

I had only shared with one co-worker what I was up to on my day off but she clearly blabbed because yesterday, when I was in the office, quite a few people asked me about my adventure and wanted to see pictures.  However curious they all were, everybody shook their heads and made comments on the unbelievable-ness/silliness of my endeavor.  There was one lone gal who said it sounded fun and maybe she could join me next year.  All others think I’m nuts.

Clearly there are plenty of folks who don’t think it’s too silly to sit out for 3 hours to get a wine advent calendar (the above photo was taken at 8:20 a.m.) but my co-workers aren’t among them. 

Any looney tune adventures for you lately? 

Rock Bend 2021

Today’s post comes to us from tim.

this years rock bend was a solo trip for me

it had been mentioned earlier that maybe a group effort would be fun and i responded with a yes but as groups sometimes do it got lost in the shuffle

i am not as good as i could be at putting x on my calendar when i’m doing something so without a reference i signed up to do my delivery ditty on saturday night. i get dibs early because those spots tend to disappear quickly and friday and saturday nights are prime time so i had committed for 5-7 & 7-9 on saturday which would mean leaving rock bend about 4.

i looked up when it started and who was playing and discovered that the family who does a nice foot stomping version of old timey and appalachian banjo kind of stuff started things off at 12 and city mouse which is mike pengra’s band was at 1 with special guest pat donahue and then pat was to play on the little stage where krista used to work at 3.

the first group was good city mouse was great and pat donahue was a treat as an addition and pats solo performance on the songwriters symposium on the little stage was fantastic

i really like him and his songwriting talent is something i really admire

i went in packed light. i had a thermos of tea and a tea cup that’s it. i walked in 15-20 minutes early and looked to see if vs or linda might be there and not seeing them plunked down in a similar front row position to what we usually achieved. this was easy with one butt and a thermos as the required space criteria. after i got steeled in i noticed i recognized that many of the surrounding faces were familiar from years gone by.unfortunately the way these memories were tweaked was by the fact that after i was seated a bunch of folks showed up and set their folding chairs up in front of the front with no regard for the views they were blocking out who had gotten their prime spot by showing up on time and choosing unobstructed site lines.

i have a problem with the people who are so self important that they just do it and never think about what a crappy thing that is to do to someone else. bad enough on the freeway to line butters who go up to the front and cut in line in front of all us minnesota nice wimps who let them in but at a concert to block someone view is unforgivable . this was followed by an observation that maybe had been going on previously but i hadn’t noticed because of being there with a group but all around me people were in conversation while the music was playing. if the music got loud they had to raise their voices to be heard over the music. this combined with folks who stood and chatted with someone who they knew in front of a group they blocked the view of.

i felt like an old curmudgeon who was spoiling my own fun but it really bothered me

at the final ditty where pat donahue was on stage with two other songwriters i had front row seats and had talkers laughing and exclaiming and paying no attention on either side of me.  there was empty turf between me and the stage and so me and my thermos went and laid down in the grass and a couple little kids cam and the their moms and sat down closely with me ans i thoroughly enjoyed the show glad i letting the talkers back there as they continued to expound

sunday i have scheduled a football bar b que get together at my house carte blanche this year an hour before kick off so my mom at age 92 has somewhere to celebrate her football enthusiasm, she had to leave at halftime to go to another meeting called by someone who is not football sensitive. it was a good gathering and i thought about heading over to bbc afterwards but as sometimes happens these things drag on and it was 430by the time things wrapped up

too late for bbc

too late to go catch the end of rock bend

i’ll probably put an x on next year and tri it again now that i know it’s the weekend after labor day but i may be

setting myself up for misery

it was easier with friends and wine but isn’t everything

what kind of calendar are you using these days to keep yourself on track?

Rome, Prague, or Sioux Falls

We are planning a Christmas holiday in Brookings, South Dakota this year. Son and Daughter in Law will host in their new home. We will drive from western North Dakota, and daughter will fly to Sioux Falls from Tacoma.

Daughter texted me in exasperation last week to inform me that she could fly much cheaper to Prague or Rome than she can to Sioux Falls. That is the sad state of airfare costs in the Dakotas. where flights cost an arm and a leg if you fly out of the secondary hubs of Sioux Falls, Bismarck, Fargo, or Rapid City.

Well, I would rather be in Prague, too, but family is in Brookings, and that is where we will be. We will help daughter with her airfare so she won’t be out so much money. This made me think of what Christmas in Rome or Prague would be like, and something for us to think about in the next couple of years.

Where was the farthest from home you ever spent the holidays ? Ever been to Prague or Rome? If you planned a trip over the holidays, where would you go? Got any good stories about Sioux Falls?

Eating Our Way Through the Fair

My stomach is just now starting to feel “normal” after four days at the Fair.  I don’t go to the fair just to eat but I will say that a lot of eating gets done anyway.

YA and I always purchase two of the fair coupon books and we go through them carefully.  This year YA put post-it stickers on the things she didn’t want to miss.  And we both spent time on the fair website on the “New Fair Foods” page.  YA takes this much more seriously than I do; on the last day we went together we had a map with all the places she wanted to make sure we got to marked in red!

Here are some of the things we consumed:

  • Hawaiian Shave Ice (they took the competitor’s coupon!)
  • French Toast Bites (with pop rocks – better than you’re thinking)
  • Cheese & Potato Pierogies with horseradish sauce (for breakfast)
  • Waffle with Ice Cream Sandwich center, kettle corn, whipped cream & sprinkles
  • Siracha Cheese Funnel Cake Bites
  • Sweet Martha’s Cookies (of course)
  • Roasted Corn
  • Mac & Cheese Bites (better the first day I had them)
  • Cheese Curds (of course)
  • Tipsy Pies (yummy by not very boozy)
  • Sota Sandwich (almond butter & blueberry jam on toasted sourdough)
  • Pretzel with Cheese Sauce
  • Chocolate Malt
  • Potato Cheese Crepe (this is YA’s hands’ down favorite every year)
  • Mocktails (our favorite new food this year – over 4 days we tried 4 of them)
  • Paneer Pakora (OK but could have been so much better)
  • Cream Cheese Wontons (also could have been better)
  • Mac & Cheese (absolutely could have been better)

I know this seems excessive, but remember it was over four days.  And two of us.  But while I love the fair, I don’t think my digestive system could handle too many more visits!

Any guilty favorites when you’re out and about?

 

One Trick Pony

Both YA and I love to spend time at the Pet Pavilion and Dog Meet/Greet booths at the Fair.  The other place we always hit is the Stunt Dog Show that features dog dock diving as well as some trick dog demonstrations.  It’s amazing to me what they have taught these dogs to do.

I’ve had dogs my entire life but for most of that time, I didn’t think much about tricks.  All my dogs went to basic obedience but the basics for me have always been sit, down, come and off.  Growing up my folks never even did basic obedience.  YA’s dog, Guinevere (who has issues) has been to a LOT of obedience, mostly just to have her around other dogs and people.  Because of this we’ve managed to teach her some tricks (roll over, double dance, shake, high five, bark) along with the basics.

Growing up my folks never even did basic obedience with any of our dogs so “tricks” is outside of my experience, although one of my dogs as a kid was really smart.  Princess (named by me when I was 5) was a shepherd collie mix who came to us as a small puppy.  My mom and sisters and I started to call her Princess the Wonder Dog after she was gone because my father’s stories about her just got wilder and more inventive.  He used to tell folks that she was so intelligent that when he told her to go get his slippers, she would run upstairs and come down with them.  Of course the only problem with that story was that my dad never wore slippers in his life!

Princess did actually know one trick.  If you had her sit and stay, you could put a treat on her nose; she would sit patiently until you said “OK” and then she would deftly toss the treat up a bit and then catch it.  We didn’t ask her to do this much, but she could do it – no exaggeration from my dad needed.  So when the elementary school that my middle sister and I were attending had a family fair with a pet contest, Sally (said sister) really wanted to enter Princess and have her do her one trick.

Sally, who was in the 3rd grade, practiced with Princess for several days before the fair.  She packed up bologna, a really high value treat; she was convinced that Princess would win hands down.  When the time came for Princess to strut her stuff, there were a lot of people, a lot of other dogs and she was nervous.  Sally dutifully had her sit, stay and then put the bologna on her nose.  Sally stepped back and it didn’t take long for Princess to jump back, drop the bologna on the ground and then promptly scoop it up and chow it down.  Sally was absolutely mortified.  I can still hear her say in her trembling angry voice “bad dog, bad dog”.  Princess hung her head in shame.  Sally never volunteered her to do that trick every again.

Have you ever had a pet with a good trick?

Fair Joy

I know we talked about joy the other day, but… I want to talk about it again.

At the State Fair yesterday, a woman with two kids sat down next to me on the curb, waiting for the parade to begin.  The son was about 8 or so, the daughter was maybe 3.  She was adorable with bright blonde hair that curled around her face and the back of her neck.  She also had quite a dirty face – a combination of what looked like chocolate and something berry-ish. The berry stain had found a home on the front of her shirt as well.

The most interesting thing about this little girl was the fact that she was completely suffused with joy.  Everything about the parade was fascinating to her.  She couldn’t sit down, swaying and dancing as each band went by.  She ooh’ed and aaah’ed over the stilt walkers, the art cars, the waving princesses and especially the big bovines.  As each attraction reached us, she would turn to her mother, her face alight with pleasure, pointing out this newest discovery.

No matter how you measure it, nobody enjoyed the fair more yesterday than this toddler. 

When was the last time you got dirty (and enjoyed the process)?