Category Archives: Kids

Scrapping By

I inherited a few nightmares when I purchased this house (hence the excellent price).  The folks who lived here before me had a fairly “jerry-rig” attitude about things.  Although I can completely get behind the path of least resistance, over the years I’ve had to fix and/or update a bunch of stupid stuff.

One of the biggies is the textured paint that they used in several places.  I’ve managed to get rid of in most places, but the front porch is going to be the end of me.  The porch is concrete and has been painted repeatedly; the first layer was a peach color, the second layer was a pale green and the final textured level was beige.  Over the years, it was cracked and chipped and generally become an eyesore that is driving me crazy.  Then several years back, I ripped out the ratty indoor/outdoor carpet that was stained and torn.  I bought a bunch of stick down carpet squares from a neighbor who was moving and I thought, this is the time to re-finish the porch.

The paint was in such bad shape, I assumed (yeah, I know….) that we would be able to fairly easily scrap it off like we had in the other rooms.  Surprise, surprise.  Several authorities (hardware store, paint store) have basically said that we’re hosed unless we bring in professionals who can sand blast it.  $$$$.   So we are scraping by hand.  This is very boring work and hurts my hands; the only way I can make myself stay with it is to keep each session down to 20 minutes.  Otherwise I don’t go out there.  All this hot weather hasn’t helped.  Last summer YA tried some stripper, but it was nasty and messy and didn’t actually work all that well. 

This project is in its third summer.  YA started out strong but now that she’s working full time, her interest has dwindled significantly.  I’d really like to get this done before the cold weather arrives, but I’m not holding my breath.

Any projects that took an embarrassing long time?  That you’ll admit to?

Lots of Dogs, No Raspberries

Photo credit: Shutterstock

I’ve known about the Hopkins Raspberry Festival for years but have never attended.  Usually when I think about it, it’s already happened or I have something else scheduled.  This year Chris mentioned it the day before and I realized that this was the year.Having never been, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We headed for the Mainstreet Marketplace – booths, vendors, food!  Part of Main Street is the parade route, so we passed a lot of saved spots as well as a lot of showy cars.  It was definitely a convertible kind of day and I wondered if some of those cars would be in the parade later in the day.

We expected to see a lot of raspberry-themed booths and food options; in this we were surprised.  Except for the Festival Committee doing small raspberries sundaes for $1 donation (which were quite yummy), we didn’t see any other raspberry stuff.  Even in the Farmer’s Market side street, none of the vendors had raspberries for sale.  A friend told me that there aren’t as many raspberry farms around Hopkins these days, property being snapped up for housing and shopping.  I don’t know if this is true or not.

What we didn’t expect was how many dogs attended the Festival.  Everywhere we turned, there were dogs.  Big, small, on leashes, in baby strollers.  YA and I are not capable of passing up a dog, so we met and talked with quite a few owners.  One dog was wearing an “adopt me” vest and two other dogs were being fostered.  One of my favorites was the Golden Retriever at the Airport Dog booth. If you’ve ever encountered “relaxation” dogs at the airport, dogs who are just there so you can pet them and de-stress a bit, this is one of those dogs.  He was big and fluffy and so friendly.  When I commented to the owner that YA might want to take him home with us, she replied that he would probably like that as well. 

So lots of dogs, no raspberries.  We had a good time anyway and we have a few of our first round of raspberries left in the fridge.

Let’s talk dogs.  Favorites?  Stories?  (Apologies to the cat people today.)

July on the Farm

As I write this, the oats is looking good, quickly turning color, and I’m getting my hauler, Craig, (a neighbor with a semi) and Parm, the neighbor with the combine, lined up. We’re thinking it will be ready in 10 days or so. There are some pretty severe thunderstorms predicted this week, with high winds and heavy rain. And another round in the evening is possible with more high winds, large hail, tornadoes, and heavy rain again.

Sigh. I really don’t want the winds… or hail. Fingers crossed we just get some rain out of this.

I have crop insurance on the corn and soybeans, including hail coverage, but crop insurance isn’t available on oats.

Beans are setting flowers which equals pods. They’re only knee high, but they’re filling in and getting bushy, just not too tall yet.

The neighbor’s field of peas was harvested. Kelly collected a shirt full of left-over peas during her evening walk. And the next day, neighbor was planting soybeans in that field. He’s pushing it planting a crop this late. I talked to him about it and he said, “I’ll tell you this fall whether this was a good idea or not.”

July 1 is usually about the latest you should plant beans and expect a reduced crop. To plant on July 13… well, it just depends how the fall weather goes. An early frost and they won’t get anything. A normal year will give them a reduced yield. Planting this late automatically means a reduced yield, but if they get enough to cover their input costs then they win.

The coop comes out a few times during the year to scout crops. They have more knowledge and a better eye than me. Usually it’s the interns. I can’t imagine how far they walk in a day, just on my farm, the first time they’re here they start on one end and, not knowing the field roads or shortcuts, they may end up on the other end of the farm and the truck is a few miles over that way. Kelly gave one a ride back to the truck one day. Since then they’ve driven to this end of the farm.

Kelly is on jury duty for two weeks. She hasn’t had to report in yet.

Daughter started day camp. Her first group activity since March of 2020. She was nervous of course, but she knew some of the staff and some of the other clients and she gets to go swimming every day, which she loves. We’ve had to try and shift her schedule a bit to make this work. She knows everything so that hasn’t worked the way we’d like. Have I mentioned she’s a teenager? Stays up too late, sleeps too late, knows everything, thinks mom and dad are ruining her life. We hear about it every day when she goes to her room and talks out loud. Kelly and I challenge each other to see who gets talked about more. She did tell Kelly she’s enjoying camp and she’s glad she’s there. I’ve noticed I have to do more household chores myself since she’s at camp.

Last week I woke up to 3 dead chickens. Bailey had one at the front door, found another in the garage, and another outside. I’m not sure what happened. I don’t think Bailey killed them; she does get excited sometimes and will run through a group of chickens. And one day she kinda harassed one hen, but I’m not convinced she killed them.

Yet, if it was a coyote, and we’ve been hearing a lot of them lately, they wouldn’t just kill it; they’d grab it and run. And racoons kill it and eat the head off. So, it’s not that either. The chickens go into a building at night and I don’t always lock them up. It’s an unfortunate mystery. My chickens are all free range. But that comes with risks. I keep a puddle down by the barn so they always have water (besides the fresh water in buckets) The puddle gets kinda gross in the hot summer months so I make a fountain with the hose. The ducks swim in there too.

I fixed not one, but TWO lawnmowers! I finally figured out where the transmission oil was coming from on the big mower. Had to pull off the seating platform, and gas tank, and there was a seal leaking under the drive pulley. As long as I was in that far, I changed the drive belt too.

And then the lawnmower that came from Kelly’s farm, and has been sitting in the shop for 4 years because it quit moving, well, I discovered I had done something kinda stupid (that I’m not going to even tell you about) and it was an easy fix. I put the mower back on that and it runs too now. Whew!

It did require another trip to Plainview for parts. Kelly (and the dogs) and I had a parts date complete with Dairy Queen again.

The storms predicted didn’t amount to anything serious for us. There sure was a dark red cell that went over, and there was a little wind that blew a large cardboard box away from the shed and a tree broke off, but no oats down. Got .82” which is real nice.

I’m spending a few days mowing weeds along the edge of fields, waterways, and pastures. In the oat fields, it’s nice to have the waterways mowed because that makes it easier to cut the oats, and also I don’t have a pile of grass or weeds when baling the straw. ‘Waterways’ are a path through the field where water is intended to run. The low spots, or valleys in a field. Since we have hilly, rolling ground, I may have 4 waterways in one field. They’re kind of a pain; I feel like I spend more time lifting and lowering implements than I do actually in the ground. And 95% of the time they don’t seem to be doing anything. Then we get a hard, ‘gully washing’ kind of rain and without the waterway, the dirt runs. And that’s why they’re there.

What’s your favorite DQ or ice cream treat?

Ever dipped a toe in an Ocean?

Fashion Faux Pax

Thursdays this summer are Craft Beer Days at my company.  Supporting local breweries, craft beers are served on the patio (our outdoors party spot – and yes, we have an indoor party spot as well) at 4 p.m.  So when YA’s team decided to go into the office for the first time, now that their building’s updating has been finished up, they chose Thursday. In preparation for this, YA has purchased a few things for her cube: pencil holder, markers, a frame with changeable letters. 

On Wednesday afternoon we got an email encouraging us to wear our “Pride swag” on Thursday as well.  I didn’t have to worry about this because I would be working from home, but YA was obviously pondering her choice.  I laughed when she told me this and asked if she had any yoga pants that could be considered pride-worthy, since that is her primary outfit choice.  She haughtily (actually VERY haughtily) told that she doesn’t own any yoga pants; she wears leggings or joggers, not yoga pants.

I was dumbfounded; if you had asked me, I would have said she had at least 25 pairs of yoga pants.  Guess I’m wrong.  I looked up leggings and joggers and yoga pants online.  If there is a difference between these, I can’t tell.  Once more, fashion has left me in the dust.  I pulled out what I have always called my yoga pants and YA says they are not yoga pants, they are leggings.  Of course, it doesn’t really matter, since I haven’t worn them since the pandemic started.  It’s been mostly sweat pants and jersey shorts for months with an occasional pair of jeans or khaki shorts.  I actually wore a sundress to Blevins on Sunday – it felt weird.

What fashion choices leave you scratching your head?

Good City

Husband and I spent six days in Tacoma last week, with a couple of days on the Olympic Peninsula. The trip to the peninsula was rather more eventful than we wished, with daughter slipping into a deep tidepool and breaking her wrist, but, overall, it was a great trip.

Our Tacoma hotel overlooked Commencement Bay on Puget Sound. The city has made a nice development free and open to the public along the Sound, full of piers, shops, restaurants, running paths, and green space for people, pets, otters, sea birds, and sea lions to coexist. We watched sail boats, container ships, canoeists, and paddle boarders. I saw otters swimming around close to shore.

I took the header photo from our hotel room window. Just below our window we had a lovely view of a large cement area about the size of half of a basketball court that had recessed colored lights and sprays of water shooting out that all members of the public could access. Children, dogs, skate boarders, and adults ran through it. Lots of people sat on benches and talked. We also watched lots of bicyclists of all ages along the path that borders the Sound by the hotel, and families with small children in strollers. There was ample, free public parking. What we most appreciated was the diversity of ages, races, and income groups amongst the revelers. This area was meant for all, and not just for the privileged. On our last evening it looked as though the whole city had come for a visit. Husband commented that this is what a city should be like.

What are your favorite cities to visit?

The List

I’m not going to bore you with my love of lists – this has been catalogued many times on the Trail. 

As I was straightening up in the breakfast room after my return from St. Louis, I found a folded piece of paper on the table.  Having been burned more than once by tossing out something that is needed, I opened it up to see what it was.  I found a list of various foods sorted by whether they were to be picked up at Target or Trader Joe’s. 

It took me a minute to realize that this was not a list I had put together (although it could have been) but something that YA had done in my absence.  And not just a list jotted down on a post-it note, but clearly a computerized list.  With a title!   I’ll admit I got a little teary.

Do you have a trait that you’d like to pass on – either to offspring or acquaintance?

Late June Farm Report

Last week of June – The crops are looking better. Still need some rain, (all day rain on Saturday only gave us about 1/4 of an inch), so better than nothing, but keep it coming. I say that carefully.

Corn is finally tall enough and filling in enough I can’t see all the bald spots.

Soybeans are looking good and starting to get bushy and fill in.

Oats is all headed out – looks pretty good, looks like there will be a lot of grain out there. Knock on wood.

I changed some field boundaries this spring, so I’ve got one corn field that used to be two separate fields. This particular corn field was corn last year on half of it, and the other half was soybeans last year. (Normally crop rotation: soybeans last year means corn this year. Corn becomes oats, oats becomes soybeans. That helps with weeds, soil pests, and erosion.) But what’s really interesting is the corn on corn looks better and is taller than the corn on soybeans. And the only difference is the corn field was plowed up last fall, and the soybean field wasn’t. Is it soil compaction? Root structure? I will dig some up and investigate the roots. It’s very interesting; I need to ask more questions about why this looks so different.

I dug these up when the corn was about a month old. Notice the seed still down in the roots. And the other seed that just never sprouted. That was our spring. 

Been fixing stuff. Picked up parts. A bunch for the corn planter (new fertilizer disks and bearings) and some belts for the lawn mower, a new mower bearing, and other odds and ends. The lift bracket on the corn planter, the thing that actually raises and lowers the planter, was just wore out.

Replaced the pin and bracket, added some weld to the hole in the cylinder end so it’s more ‘round’ again. Then I ran into something and broke a big chunk out of the lawn mower hood so had to buy a new hood. I told Kelly I could just take the hood off and we could go ‘red-neck’. (And I did for a day while working on other parts) A friend put it best when he said, ‘You go redneck and pretty soon you’re judging yourself’. Yep. Good point. No trip for parts is complete without a stop at DQ.

Then the electric clutch that starts the mower wore out so replaced that. I’m also trying to get an older mower running again to use for around trees and to mow in the random areas. I’m mowing more area than I used too; behind barns, up in a grove, all in an effort to keep the weeds down.

I mentioned the barn swallows that have two nests by our front door. Here’s the kids’ double nest.

The parents’ condo is on the left side of the door. The kids took flight the day after this was taken.

My chicks are out in the world now. Of the 45 chicks we received on April 14, a few died as chicks and we let 36 out into the open. So far so good out in the world.

I’ve ordered 30 ducklings of mixed breeds. Be here July 27. I really do enjoy having the ducks around, but my goodness are they messy for the first month or so. Water and muck everywhere. I have a bulk bin down by the barn where I store cracked shell corn for the chickens and ducks. I toss some on the ground and I have some in feeders. They prefer it off the ground, I think. Course that also attracts squirrels, rabbits, birds, and, in winter, the deer and turkeys. 

When I was milking cows I had protein supplement stored in this bin. It feeds from an auger into a box inside the feedroom and I fill buckets from that box. It holds maybe a week’s worth of corn in the box. A few weeks ago, when it was so hot, I just got corn from the box and I didn’t run the auger at all. Never really thought about it. And then when I did turn on the auger, no corn came out. Well, sometimes that happens as the bin gets low; cracked corn doesn’t always ‘flow’ very well and sometimes I get a hollow spot. I climb up on top and I have a long stick that I use to knock the corn loose. (I do not get inside).

And what came out was this brown, liquid, sludge! Ewww! I don’t know what that was!! EEEEWWWWW!! It was really gross. There was a fair amount of it, like maybe a couple gallons. Here’s what I think happen: Sometimes when I get corn delivered, the previous load may have had liquid molasses added to the feed. I used to do that when I had calf feed made. And I’m wondering if maybe there was some of that old feed / old molasses down in the bottom, and it go so hot, the molasses all melted and sank to the bottom. Could that be a thing?? Because I’ve never seen it happen before and this stuff didn’t stink like anything rotten… Once that slug was out, it was back to corn and it hasn’t been a problem since. But I run the auger every few days too, now.


Wild black raspberries are out; they’re early this year. But just as yummy especially early morning when they’re still cool.

A former college student has been coming out to help on the farm lately. I enjoy the company and It helps me focus and get some jobs done. He’s also applied for a new job and the hours won’t be compatible to here. Such is life.

Got some big summer plans? Making any progress on them?

Timmy, The Brawler

Today’s post comes from Steve.

Timothy Gruncheon Grooms, born in a barn in Iowa, was adopted into my family in 1946. He was officially my sister’s cat and always seemed to understand that. Although she did things to him that were beneath the dignity of any cat, he slept each night in the crook of her arm.

Timmy was a fighter. My parents had never heard of a cat being confined, and they would have been appalled at the suggestion pets should be neutered. So Timmy was a free-range tomcat who roamed the neighborhood fighting with other cats and filling the world with orange and white tabby kittens. All the fighting he did caused Timmy to have a fat face because so much scar tissue built up on his cheeks. His ears were riddled with cuts and holes. I did witness one epic encounter in our backyard, Timmy relentlessly chasing another cat, and I was shocked by the violence of it all.

Timmy obviously lost some fights. Once he came home with a chunk of tissue the diameter of a nickel missing from his left cheek. Our vet gave us a spray to keep the wound clean, but our dog had a better idea. Danny, a sweet golden retriever, began following Timmy, licking that wound. Danny and Timmy never had physical contact before or after that incident, but Danny licked Timmy’s wounded cheek until fresh skin formed over the hole.

My sister bonded with Timmy as if he were her child. As I recently wrote, she dressed him in doll clothes, including a bonnet. She plopped him on his back in a baby stroller and went about the neighborhood with him that way. The set of Timmy’s ears were a clue to how he felt about this, but he accepted it all. When Nancy’s fascination with medical issues led her to subject Timmy to some treatments, including an enema administered by eyedropper, he put up with that, too.

Timmy was the most remarkable athlete I’ve ever known. Two stories established his legendary status.

Once our family was in the dining room watching television (eating Swanson’s TV dinners on our TV trays). A bat entered our home and began flying from room to room. Timmy was sitting on a braided rug in the middle of the dining room. As the bat wobbled through the dining room a second time, Timmy shot off the floor like a jack-in-the-box, snatching the bat midair. To my eye, Timmy’s leap took him five feet into the air, and it could have been higher. With the bat in his mouth, Timmy went to the back door and asked to be let out.

In our last home in Ames my mother kept her precious chinaware in a cabinet by the front door. Timmy’s way of letting us know he wanted to be let out was jumping to the top of that cabinet. One afternoon he did that, just as he had countless times before. Timmy, from the floor, could not see that my mother had filled the cabinet’s top with stacks of china. My mother screamed in terror when Timmy walked to the cabinet and launched his leap. Once he was in the air, Timmy saw the china and performed a desperate midair gymnastic maneuver. He managed to land with his four paws in the tiny openings between the stacks of teacups and plates. Standing there, Timmy was unable to move, and he let out a dismayed yowl so we could rush to his rescue.

By 1964 our family, Timmy included, was living in Wayzata, Minnesota. He acquired one annoying habit late in life, crawling around inside the family Christmas tree in the middle of the night, eating tinsel and knocking glass ornaments to the floor. Timmy still lived much of his life out of our sight, and he still got in fights. His health declined. My sister, who was then a student at the University of Minnesota, fell in love with a young man, and they soon got married.

In 1965 Timmy disappeared for four days. We feared we would never see our 19-year-old cat again, but at long last he dragged himself home in terrible shape. He clearly had lost a big fight. Stroking his scarred old head, my mother had a heart-to-heart talk with him. “Timmy, old guy, you have been Nancy’s baby all these years. She is now married and will soon have a baby of her own. You look like you’re at the end of the line, but I’m asking one last thing of you. Can you keep it together a few more months? Can you keep alive until Nancy’s new baby arrives?”

Nancy’s baby arrived in August. A few days later, Timmy died.

Timmy was a vivid character in our family life for nearly two decades. Have you ever had a pet with a distinctive personality?

Lemonade Stand

Our city council declared June 19th to be Lemonade Day, and encouraged local children to get out there and sell lemonade. Our next door neighbors, ages 5 and 7, rose to the occasion and set up a stand in their front yard with the help of their mom. She baked cookies and brownies. They had pitchers of plain and pink lemonade. A glass of lemonade and a baked good cost 25 cents.

It was a hot and sunny day, and we were out in the front yard working hard in the garden. We were, of course, invited over to sample the lemonade and goodies. Husband paid them $1.00 for each of us, and the children assured us that we could come over for free refills. They came over to help us pull weeds in between customers. When they got really bored they played kickball in the driveway. By 4:00 they were done, and the stand was dismantled.

It was really nice to see all the people stop. The children were so excited when they had customers. There was a near disaster when their two year old brother tried to carry a lemonade pitcher over to our yard, presumably to fill our glasses. He likes watching us in the garden, too.

Did you ever have a lemonade stand? Describe a memorable summer day.

Adventures in Pet sitting

We took care of our son’s West Highland Terrier while he and his family took a trip to Alabama to see his wife’s new niece. There was too much kennel cough in the doggy motels in Brookings, so little Baxter had to stay with us in ND.

Baxter is 5 years old, and just getting out of his puppy stage. Terriers are puppies for a long time. He is a very well trained (for a terrier) and on a very regular schedule for eating and eliminating. He loves to play fetch and tug. He is accustomed to being in a crate at night. He is a good traveler.

The visit went well. He didn’t bite the neighbor children. He didn’t get into fights with other dogs. He didn’t get loose or lost. He didn’t chew anything up. We spoiled him by leaving him out of his crate when we weren’t at home, and let him sleep under our bed sometimes.

With a terrier there are untold calamities that can occur. None occurred. We find ourselves missing his tearing around the house and demanding walks and to play with his chew toys.

Tell about your experiences with pet sitting or baby sitting. Any calamities?