Category Archives: Kids


Now that the weather is nicer, YA’s inner-pyromaniac has emerged for the summer. 

Years ago I inherited a backyard fire pit from a friend.  At this point I think the rust is the only thing holding it together but it has provided many years of enjoyable backyard conflagrations.  YA is good at sweeping the yard for twigs and branches that she piles up in the very back of the yard; she is always on the lookout for kindling.  She is the initiator of 98% of our backyard infernos and is generally in charge of any arranging and poking that is needed.

It doesn’t take long after the first couple of the seasons blazes that she asks about graham crackers and chocolates.  We always have marshmallows (Trader Joe’s – vegetarian).  I knew this was coming so I had already stocked up; we were able to have our first s’mores of the season that day!  We even used the s’mores trays that I bought at the state fair a few years ago.  These are clearly unnecessary toys but I love them anyway. 

We have a gas stove; we could easily have s’mores all year long, but we never make them except over the fire in the back yard.  I suspect that the sunshine, the smoke from the fire, the joy of finally being outside after a long winter contribute to why having summer s’mores is just the best way to go.

Do you have any seasonal rituals?

Life Goes On

The Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

I saw a sticker in a YouTube video: “Life is -f**king- relentless”. Boy, they got that right.

Tuesday morning, I was a little overwhelmed. The college shop was a mess with stuff from the play, and from the concert, AND from commencement. Plus, I had to build the set for the show opening the 24th, not to mention farming. By Tuesday afternoon I had gotten a lot done and I didn’t feel so bad.

About noon on Tuesday, there was a crane placing the heat and AC unit on the roof at the Rep Theater, that was fun to watch.

On Thursday, as the heat and AC guys did final measurements for the ductwork, they inadvertently dumped about 30 gallons of rainwater that was trapped inside a temporary roof opening, into the theater. I was there just to unlock some doors, but I heard the gush of water and I kind of knew what it was, but why was there THAT MUCH?! Of course, it ran along the steel joists and dripped over a 20-foot area on the first and second floor. So that was fun. And unexpected. And not what I meant to be doing. It didn’t really hurt anything.

Kelly and I had supper at a Middle Eastern restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. A new place for us. There was only one other couple in there. The food was great! The owner / host didn’t speak English and there was a lot of pointing at pictures in the menu, and I didn’t get the appetizer I thought I was ordering, (I didn’t get any appetizer) but the entre was good. And I even tried the coffee!

Sundays, Kelly and I take the gator around the farm and check out what’s happening. It’s a pleasant Sunday drive.

With all the rain, it’s a little wet in some of the fields.

Mom celebrated her 97th birthday with ice cream with friends.

Her birthday was really Friday, but they celebrated Thursday. Mom gets very anxious and had called to be sure someone was coming. When she plays music on her Alexa device, she turns the volume down. Then when she calls someone, she can’t hear us. It’s rather comical. There’s a lot of shouting and interrupting each other. Kelly and daughter plug their ears when I talk to mom.

The family reunion was really nice. Got to see nieces and nephews I hadn’t seen in a  while. A couple of them came to the farm to relive memories, and I made friends with a grandniece who wasn’t too sure about me until we got on the tractors.

Taking a gator ride, we found blue bells, wild leeks, and they showed me jack-in-the-pulpit’s that I didn’t know about.

Thursday I finally went back to planting corn. Finished one field and was doing a food plot for a neighbor when the tractor got hard to steer. I had blown a hydraulic hose and lost all the hydraulic oil. Course it was after regular business hours. The other day we talked about good customer service: The parts guys are willing to come in after hours if you need. When I called, the guy was half hour away from the store. I’m half hour away too, but I also wasn’t sure they could make a new hose or it’s something they need to order. I decided it could wait until morning.

Since I was a few miles from home with a broken tractor and the planter in the ground, Kelly came over with the gator to pick me up. I took the other tractor with the soil finisher and went out doing field work. After one round, I found one of the shovels of the digger laying in the field. The big bar it attaches to, called a ‘Standard’, had broken off. Well, there’s 30 other ones on the machine, so missing this one isn’t the end of the world. I worked until about 9PM, went home and backed it up to the shed and used lots of new tools. I used the 4 foot ‘under hood’ cordless LED work light that Kelly gave me as a gift, I used my new cordless grinder that I bought myself as a gift, I use some pry bars that I got recently, and I use the air hammer, which I don’t get a chance to use very often. Considering there was only two bolts to get out to remove the standard, I’m surprised it took that many tools.

All the parts manuals are online and they take a little digging sometimes, but it sure is convenient. I placed a parts order online about 11PM, to pick up the next morning. Hydraulic hose, bolts, standard, ect.

Kelly and I burned the pile of winter sticks one night and had a nice time being outside.

The first corn that I planted on whatever day it was, it’s already out of the ground. I picked up soybean seed this week, so I’ve got all the seed now.

We found some guinea eggs in the chicken’s coop one day so we put them in an incubator. We’ll ‘candle’ them next week and see what we got. We put 8 chicken eggs in there too just because. 

Guinea eggs are kind of pointed. They’re the ones on the bottom of the photo. The cradles they’re sitting in ‘rock’ them gently; in effect, turning them like a momma hen would do.

There was a male duck hanging around here one day. And over in the field where I was planting corn, a male and female duck were hanging around. They weren’t bothered by the tractor so I suspect they’re one of my pairs.

The chickens, while down a bit on egg production, are doing well.

Still got coyotes coming around most every morning, but Kelly and the dogs are keeping a good handle on them.

A bear has been spotted on some security camera’s in the neighborhood.

One day at a time. Life goes on.

Who’s your newest friend?

What’s the last present you bought yourself?

Attack of the Red Clippers

Normally I’m pretty careful in the yard.  Obviously you’ve heard a few times where I wasn’t as careful as I should have been, but those are actually pretty few and far between.  It’s been two years since I dropped the patio stone on my toe.

I have two pairs of red clippers and they stay closed most of the time, especially if I’m walking around or doing steps.  Kinda that old “don’t’ run with scissors mentality.   The reason I have two pairs is that when one has to go to the hardware store for sharpening, I still have one at home.  Can’t go a week without my red clippers!

But last week something new happened with the clippers.  I was trying to get as far down on the root of a “volunteer”; I probably should have used a bigger tool for this project, but the bigger tool was in the garage and I was in the front yard.  Enough said.  Anyway, it took a bit of force and then suddenly the root gave it up and the clippers slammed shut.  Unfortunately my index finger got pinched between the handles.  I mean seriously pinched.  I said some very colorful things, pretty loudly and had to sit down for a minute as I got a little dizzy. 

The mishap didn’t break the skin, but the blood blister rose up immediately and the whole tip of the finger turned a few ugly shades of purple.  And it hurt like crazy.  Right about then Jenai came home from some errands and brought me a wet paper towel, some antibiotic ointment and a bandaid.  The rest of the gardening that day was done left-handed.

It looks much better now but still hurts if I put any pressure on it at all.  I have to say I’ve been VERY careful about the red clippers since then.

Do you have a favorite gardening tool?


Several years ago, YA came home with an unpainted plywood birdhouse; I don’t even remember where she found it.  It sat for a couple of years before she dragged out some of my paints and made cheery design in bright colors.  Then it sat for a couple more years until I put a layer of marine varnish on the outside of it and finally hung it up in the backyard. 

I only hung it up for decoration but was amazed last week to see that there are birds using it!  Assuming there are or might be baby birds; I’m terrified of what might happen if baby birds end up in the yard during their in-flight training.  So far I’ve been searching the back of the yard for any signs of life before letting Guinevere out.  

Never have I ever had birds in a birdhouse to contend with.  I’m happy but anxious.

Any advice?


On Sunday, we played in the church bell choir accompanied by the High School band director on timpani and a very accomplished group of High School brass players.

Being musicians, the bell choir players had some rather acerbic comments about the brass players. One of the trumpet players was always late for our rehearsals, and a bell player who is also a music teacher commented that trumpet players were notoriously full of themselves and didn’t think they had to follow the rules everyone else had to follow. I commented that my father advised me in all seriousness when I was in High School to never marry an oboe player, since they had to blow so hard on their double reed that they eventually went mad.

As a psychologist, I always love discussing personality types. I have known humble trumpet players and perfectly sane oboe players, but I wonder where these stereotypes come from. I was a bass clarinet player, and I don’t know of any stereotypes of those who play that instrument. Perhaps an unusual affection for the Grand Canyon Suite?

What are some occupational stereotypes you feel are accurate? Inaccurate? Who are some people you know who defy stereotypes?

School Days

I recently spent an hour observing a child in a Grade 4 classroom in one of our smaller local schools. The children were quite well behaved and engaged in their activity, which was Reading. The teacher was young and energetic, and the classroom itself was organized but colorful.

My Grade 4 teacher was my worst teacher ever. She spoke frequently about her deceased husband, and how a door to door salesman fooled her into buying a bible that he said her husband had ordered before he died. She found out later that it was a scam, and the salesman just read obituaries in the paper and showed up on the relatives’ doorsteps asking for payment.

My mother taught Grade 3 and loved every minute of it. She taught from the age of 19 to her retirement at age 55 due to MS. She would have kept teaching for years had her health not worsened. I think Grade 3 is a perfect age to teach, as they are not too close to their teen years or too immature. I could never teach Middle School students. They are the worst for drama. Some people just love them, though.

If you had to teach kids, what age would you teach, and why? Who were your best and worst teachers? Know any good traveling salesmen stories?

Signs of Spring

I am waiting for a blizzard to hit while I write this. We are expecting up to 6 inches of snow to add the the 96 inches we have had thus far this winter. We are told that after this it will warm up, with highs possibly in the 70’s next week. I will believe it when I see it, but I will try to be hopeful.

If it warms up quickly it will be a muddy, mucky mess for a while. Our daughter in law sent a video of our grandson riding his bike gleefully through large puddles that had accumulated in their street. Kids on bikes in puddles are sure signs of spring. There are also dismal looking lawn and Christmas ornaments that are emerging from under the snow piles, which I suppose could also be signs of impending spring.

I have a third cousin who a couple of Baboons also know who is an expert about snakes and amphibians. He is excited about finding garter snakes coming out of hibernation already this year, signs of spring for him. I have yet to see robins or other migratory birds, but Husband saw hawks on his drive back from Bismarck on Monday, more signs that winter is losing its grip. Here is a favorite Canadian folk singer from Saskatchewan who understands about spring.

What signs of spring are you noticing? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of April? Know any good poems or songs about spring?

Passing The Time

Daughter’s visit last week was an opportunity for us to finally celebrate a very belated Christmas. She got her father a 1000 piece puzzle of Birds of the Backyard, which we have been working on daily since he unwrapped it. We haven’t worked on a jigsaw puzzle since the kids were young.

The puzzle It is set up on the dining room table, and we will just eat and work around it until it is completed. The dog got a couple of pieces but only did minor damage to them.

We may have a lot of opportunity to work on the puzzle this week, as a snow storm is coming that the National Weather Service says could be a blizzard of historic proportions. Their models are showing wind speeds that are the strongest they have seen in 20 years.

Husband is traveling to Bismarck for work Sunday and Monday, and will return Monday before the storm hits on Tuesday. We are rarely bored, but a puzzle will be just the thing to help us pass the time if we are snowed in.

How do you like to pass the time when you can’t leave the house? What is your most memorable jigsaw puzzle?

Grand Travel Plans

We are planning a trip the end of May to visit Husband’s sister and brother-in-law in eastern Wisconsin. We will drive, and will spend about three days there. It is 700 miles one-way from us, so that means one night on the road there and back. I don’t like driving more than 500 miles in a day. We also plan to visit Son and Daughter-in- Law in Brookings on the return trip. We will leave the Tuesday after Memorial Day and return the following Monday.

Husband is a hopeful traveler who likes to make elaborate but unrealistic plans of what we can do while on the road. When we were moving to North Dakota from Indiana after Husband finished his psychology internship, he insisted that we meet up with some Canadian friends of ours who were driving east from Manitoba to Ontario the same days we were driving west. We met up in a campground somewhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It really wasn’t a very direct route, and our visit was extremely short, perhaps an hour or so, but it was really important to Husband that we see our friends.

I don’t know why I was surprised last Monday as we were finalizing our travel plans to Wisconsin that Husband was trying to figure out how we could find a way to visit Baboons in the Twin Cities as well as my third cousin TJ in St. Peter without lengthening our trip. While I would love to visit everyone, the logistics as well as the limited time we have made such plans pretty impossible. I appreciate Husband’s sweet consideration for me and my friends, but sometimes he wants to do too much.

When do you try to do too much? Do you prefer to mosey or get to your destination?

Fridge Update

Had my annual check-up yesterday.  Nothing momentous and I was only gone from the house for about an hour and a half.  When I got home, bearing Taco Bell, YA informed me that she had taken the handles off the refrigerator to wash them.  Apparently when she wiped the handles down, she felt there was dirt in crevices that she couldn’t get to without removing them.

I’m torn.  It’s nice to know she’s handy and can figure things out (apparently there was some YouTube assistance) but there’s also bewilderment that she would be driven to this task.  I’ve looked closely at the handles and honestly, they look the same to me as they did this morning.

Refrigerator magnets/artwork – yeah or nay?