Category Archives: Theatre

Queens of Heart

On Thanksgiving morning, while enjoying my coffee and watching the parades, I discovered that there is a popular musical comedy on Broadway right now called Six – The Musical.  It’s about the six wives of Henry VIII.  Really?  Of his six wives, only one truly survived (Anne of Cleves) and came out of her marriage debacle in relatively good shape.  So now we have a musical about a wife cast aside, two wives beheaded, one wife dead from childbirth complications and his last wife, while surviving, also dead in childbirth after marrying again to a man whom history suggests only wanted her because she was the Queen Dowager.  Somehow all this death and destruction doesn’t seem like the stuff of comedic song and dance.  (Of course who would have thought the plight of five women accused of murder in Chicago would make for a compelling musical?)

If you look up “historical fiction” you’ll find definitions that all seem to include any story that takes place in the past but that’s just silly – unless it’s sci fi, set in the future, wouldn’t every book written be historical fiction after about a week in print?  I’ve always thought of “HF” was any re-working of a historical subject/figure.  Like Hillary Mantel’s book on Robespierre and Danton during the French Revolution (and all her Wolf Hall books as well).  Or King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips.  Or The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory. And I haven’t read Nefertiti by Michelle Moran yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly fiction and very little historical, since even Egyptologists admit to knowing extremely little about the ancient queen.

As these books sell well, I worry that future generations will think of the plots and characters as more historical than they really are.  Of course in looking up Six online, it looks like the plot doesn’t even attempt to portray history, so hopefully no one will come away thinking that wearing a choker to represent that you got beheaded is a meaningful fashion statement.

When was the War of 1812?

Looking Forward and Ahead

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Been nice, sunny, warm-(ish) weather this week and looks nice into the coming week. Good time to get all those outdoor summer projects finished up.

We ended the growing season with about 3000 GDU’s, +200 above normal. Last year was +511.

Rosie and Guildy are fine, but they barely come out of their pen, and they’re not mingling with the others, and it will certainly complicate winter chores if those two keep being so anti-social. In a slight attempt at unification, I moved their water buckets a few feet further away and took the fence down. We’ll see.

This week was all about getting the college show up and running. It opened Thursday. It was mostly ready. Set was finished (well, to a point) and the paint was dry. Costumes… well… we made do. And it wasn’t for lack of ambition or determination by the costumer, it’s just that, well, life happens. So, it wouldn’t do the director or I any good to get mad; we know she was trying. And we had a good laugh about how we would have handled this 20 years ago. I said I would have had to take his clipboard away. (The joke is he used to throw it across the stage. Course now it’s an iPad) Now we sigh, and we laugh, and we know it will work out somehow.) And we go home and complain to our spouses.

There’s always one set piece that’s a challenge. I have a ‘ball of fire’ that the Fire Troll pulls. (That joke was “Fire BOWL?” or “Fire BALL?”)  A wood frame, some plastic tubing wrapped around it, muslin soaked in paint covering it all. Painted yellows and reds.  And then inside some fans blowing streamers up to be flames. I can’t imagine why that didn’t work. Sounded like a good idea! Evidently there is a lot more physics involved in air movement than I imagined. This was my ‘do-fer’ one night.

I walk past these photos every day.

The farm in about 1930 something.

An arial view of the farm in the mid to late 1950’s.

My Grandparents, before my Dad was added to the mix so this is about 1924.

And then this family, my grandparents and uncles. Don’t know who they are, but I can’t get over how tiny the mother is! Eleven kids!

Ever had a ‘Tiny Grandma’?  

Have you mellowed or gotten feistier in the last 20 years? 

Snow?

Today’s post comes from Ben

Today it’s snowing. I’ve learned from meteorology class this happens because the air is cold from the cloud all the way to the ground. I think I kinda figured that.

Glad my soybeans got harvested last week. They started late Friday afternoon and finished on Saturday. They ran better than they have in the past ending up with about 52 bushels / acre. I heard one guy complaining about his crop and the drought and how they were only running about 45 bushels / acre and not 80. Must be nice. I’m happy with 45 so to get 52 is very satisfying!

Could have been the fungicide applied this year, could have been the good growing weather. If it wasn’t for all the trees shading out the edge rows, and if it wasn’t for all the deer eating off the tops, maybe I could get 80 bushel beans too. It is what it is. Price is good and we got $12.81 / bushel. It made a real good check. And it will almost cover all my expenses this year for fertilizer and chemicals. Once corn is harvested, (and that looks to be a good crop too, and price is good on them yet at around $6/ bushel), I’ll be able to pay off the seed bill and make some loan payments and have some left over. I spent a night this week figuring out next year’s crops and I’ve already ordered some fertilizer before a price increase. Urea (nitrogen) fertilizer price is down a little this year, other things are up even more than they were for this year. Man that hurts. And I need to order 500 gallons of diesel fuel one of these days. That’s over $5/ gallon.

Sigh.

Oh well!

The ducks, Rosie and Guildy, and the poofy and the two black ones, and the other mallard looking ones are all good. R&G still spend most of the day inside. That’s a good place to be today. Kelly had to rescue another upside down chicken.

I’m busy at the college building a set for our fall show, “One Snowy Night” by Charles Way. Based on a Norwegian Folk tale, I’m building an ice block and a fire ball that they drag across the stage.

I heard a song on the radio by the band Traffic. The song was ‘Am I What I Was or Am I What I Am’. That’s a fun question so we’ll let them set the tone. Last week we had The Turtles, this week it’s Traffic.

FAVORITE MUSIC FROM THE 1970’S? ARE YOU WHAT YOU ARE OR ARE YOU WHAT YOU WERE?

My Star Wars Name Is…..

I’m a Star Wars Fan.  Not a rabid fan and I have to admit that I haven’t even seen the last few movies because they haven’t come around for free yet.  But I will always remember when Star Wars IV came out in 1977.   I went to the first night it opened at The Grand Theatre in Northfield; I hadn’t heard anything about it but some other friends were going so I went along for the fun.  When the curtains pulled back and the screen filled with stars and the music blared out, I felt as if somehow my life had changed.

Night 2, Night 3 and Night 4 found me at The Grand again, each night with a different group of friends.  I was a bit like a CGI proselytizer – trying to get as many people as I knew to see and fall for the new special effects that were on the screen. By Night 5, my friends were starting to give me grief, so my streak ended. (There have been only two other movies that got the Night 1, Night 2, Night 3, Night 4 treatment – Blazing Saddles and Princess Bride. Oddly enough Blazing Saddles was also at The Grand.)

Over the years I’ve watched IV, V and VI over and over again. The others not as much. I’ve never been to a convention, although I’ve certainly thought about it. When May 4 began to be known as Star Wars Day, I noted it but didn’t go crazy over it. YA did give me a book a few years back on May 4, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope. Kind of my wheelhouse, right?

I do enjoy all the memes and puns that are associated with Star Wars – and there are A LOT of them. Here’s a new one I found a couple of weeks ago.

Q.  Why isn’t Leia married in A New Hope?

A.  She’s been looking for love in Alderaan places

Where is this going, you all ask? This is where it’s going. When I found the phrase “May the Horse be With Ewe” last week, I fell off my chair laughing.  Almost immediately I started thinking about making a card and ended up with the design you see above. On the inside of the card, in the Star Wars font (yes, there is such a thing), I do have “May The Horse Be With Ewe”.  I couldn’t help myself. So far a couple of folks who have received it have called and laughed with me.  I’m pretty sure that Nonny is not going to get the joke.  I’m not even sure if she has SEEN Star Wars.

Which Star Wars character do you like best?

Waiting For Einaudi

Latest November I decided to treat myself to a CD of the string group La Pieta playing the music of Ludovico Einaudi. He is a modern Italian composer, still living, and I love his compositions.

I ordered the disc through Amazon from a place in Oxfordshire, England. I was told the order would arrive in time for Christmas. By the middle of December there was no indication that it had shipped. Husband was anxious for it to come because he knew I was really looking forward to getting it. Our conversations were reminiscent of dialog by Samuel Beckett.

“Has it arrived?”

“No, but they said it was coming.”

“When will it come?”

“They said it would be here by now.”

I got a message in mid January that the package was lost in transit. I reordered from another US company, and finally, in mid March, the disc arrived. Of course, although it was brand new, it required substantial cleaning before it would play without skips and pops.

Who is your favorite or least favorite modern composer? Any interesting delivery stories? Have you ever seen Waiting For Godot?

Farming in February

Lost a few ducks the last few days… don’t know what happens: the dogs don’t seem to act like anything is amiss, yet there’s one less poufy and one less cream colored duck. And there used to be 19 mallard type and now there’s only 17. They’re still avoiding their pond for the most part, which is odd. Unless that’s where the “Disappearances” are happening. (They may be ducks but they’re not dumb.)  There’s no signs of struggle, and the only tracks I see are deer. And bunny poop. The poor ducks; when it’s gets cold the poufys get to be looking pretty poorly. And one cream colored one had a frozen chunk of something hanging off it one day. Last Sunday was so nice the poufy ones got cleaned up and the frozen chunk fell off. 

And then one day it was sunny and they were down in the pond over the noon hour and hungry and wanted to eat. You can see the duck butts sticking up as they eat corn off the bottom. 

Maybe it’s just night time they don’t want to be down there.  
I’ve talked about the coyotes before and how many ducks and chickens they take. I heard some of the neighborhood guys were hunting coyotes and got 20 or so.  Which you’d think would be good news for the ducks, but evidently not. 

Our dog Humphrey- he’s such a good dog. And polite. He’ll take a drink, then come to us to burp him. It’s so weird. We pat his chest, he burps, and then he’ll go lay down. He does need the sensitive stomach food. We’ve always said he’s a delicate flower. 

Bailey: she’s the one burying her treats in the snow or dirt and eating dead things and she loves playing in the snow.

 

My shoulder is good. I go to the doc Monday to get stitches out and start physical therapy. I’m hoping to lose the sling but I kinda doubt PT will say that yet.
It really hasn’t been bad. I did Velcro myself to the wall one day. This thing has so many straps and so much Velcro and I sat down on the bench in the entryway and stuck myself to the Velcro on the sleeves of my jacket. Which was still hung on the wall. Can’t reach the hook, can’t reach the Velcro. It was kinda funny. 

I’m back at ‘work’ work and I’ve been lighting the musical ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ at the college. It’s a dark musical. I’ve got some pretty looks, even though it’s not exactly a “pretty” show.

It’s not a college production; we don’t do musicals (they’re too expensive). This is a local group renting the space.

CAN YOU STAND ON YOUR HEAD OR  WALK ON YOUR HANDS? 
GOT ANY STORIES ABOUT MAKING BODY NOISES?

Deep Folk

Because we are sustaining members of MPR and the pledge drive gets tedious, and because we always have some sort of music playing, I put a random CD on the other night, The Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell. I learned about it from Dale and TLGMS and Radio Heartland, and I was somewhat surprised to see Husband’s reaction to it. He was entranced by the music and stories. He charged downstairs and brought up a massive document he had printed off after purchasing the right to do so, of English Folksongs of the Southern Appalachians compiled by Cecil Sharp and Olive Campbell. Some of the Child Ballads were in that compilation.

Husband has always been fascinated by any music that has come from the British Isles to the Appalachian region, as that is the region his mother’s people from Scotland and the north and west of England, settled. We have a vast collection of old and obscure hymnals and song books that he has found on our travels and brought home. We both love folk music, but that music from that time and region holds special meaning for him. He took the The Child Ballads CD with him this week to his job in Bismarck so he could revel in it in the drive there and back.

What are you listening to in the vehicle these days? What folk music are you drawn to? Did you know Anais Mitchell wrote the lyrics, music, and book of the Broadway musical Hadestown? Why is folk music important?

That Crazy Minnesota Weather

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Last week this time we were preparing for a blizzard, and this week we had record high temperatures and tornadoes and extreme winds. If you’re smart enough to pay attention to the weather extremes going on you would call it global warming. Or you could just shake your head and say, well that’s different. Oh, it was different all right. I’d rather not have to go through that again.

I was glad the snow melted, I really just wanted the banks to melt down on the sides of the road. Guess I should be more specific about what I wish for. White Christmas or brown Christmas won’t bother me.

From the winds, we have a lot of branches down. We have an old maple tree in the front yard. A branch falls off if you look at it funny so it lost several in the winds. I have some trees down around the fields, some minor damage to some of the buildings, and most of the snowfence is gone. None of that is serious. I spent a few hours out with the Townboard guys clearing trees off township roads. I saw a couple trampolines folded in half, I saw metal roofing of a house peeled up over the top. You know if it’s windy down in our valley, it’s really windy out in the open.

I was supposed to have a choir concert at the college last Friday night. We postponed it to Monday. It was a very nice concert. The photo up top is my view from the booth with the Lighting Console as I programmed.
It was nice of Santa to stop in at the concert on Monday.

End of the financial year here so I am settling up with the neighbors. I mentioned a week or two ago about pre-paying some fertilizer and doing tax planning for next year. My neighbors that do the combining and hauling of my crops sent their bill. Combining soybeans is $38 per acre. Corn is $39 per acre. And it’s eight cents per bushel to haul. They also made some round bales of straw at $13 per bale and I sold them 200 bushels of oats at $3.58 per bushel. I’ll be writing them a check for $7310. It’s a lot of money, but it’s cheaper than owning my own equipment and having the time to do it. And the neighbors with the cattle here, they pay rent on the pasture, I pay them to combine the oats, and they will buy the round bales of straw. I did some work for them and we pretty much balance out at the end of the year.

The chickens appreciate the snow melting. You can see them here gathered in a bare spot last week.

They don’t like the snow, they’ll walk over a little, but nothing deep. Except one white chicken. Evidently her feet don’t get cold. There were a few days last week when she was the only one out. Maybe she just doesn’t get along well with the others. She is kind of ornery, biting Kelly twice when she tried to collect eggs. Bad move chicken, bad move.

The MRI on my shoulder last week showed massive tears. Still waiting on the surgery consultation. Some days it hurts more than others. If I’m going to have surgery done, I’d really like it sooner than later. In the meantime, I wait. I remember reading in a John Irving book a phrase something like, “Does anyone in love ever want to ‘wait and see?’ “

How do you feel about waiting? How many other heteronyms do you know? 

Winter Farm

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Well I guess it’s winter this week. We had 4 inches of unexpected snow on Tuesday. maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention to the weather but I don’t think anybody expected that much snow. At least it was light and fluffy.

And then it was cold. I had one below zero Wednesday morning! I went down to open up the chickens and they were in no hurry and had no interest in coming out. One chicken, who always ends up in a different side of the pen, ran to the door, stopped and looked, pecked at some snow, and turned around and went back inside. Didn’t blame her a bit. Even the ducks weren’t too interested in leaving the water. I threw corn out to them at the pond. 

The deer have started to group up. I took this picture coming home one night. That’s just one group. Usually there’s about three groups this size. This is why I don’t like the deer. Too many of them.

Almost done with class. We had to write a paper about a park or an area and of course talk about the rocks, waters, and land uses etc. I wrote about our farm. Understanding the history of the glaciers coming through and the forces that have shaped the land and the types of rock underneath is really pretty interesting. I will have that submitted before you read this. And then a final in class on Monday and then that’s it. Then maybe I can start working on my basket of farm bookwork.

Or maybe not. My left shoulder has been giving me trouble for years. But not enough to really cause any issues. Until about two weeks ago. One night out of the blue I went to lift my arm and it hurt like all get out. Then it got better then one night again it hurt so bad I went to the ER, but of course by the time I got there didn’t hurt so bad. Had an MRI done on it and as of now, still awaiting results on that. But I foresee rotator cuff surgery coming up shortly. well, that will certainly make me reevaluate some things.

My good friend Paul, the one who occasionally comments on here, had rotator cuff surgery about a year ago. He had a terrific recovery so he can be my guide.

Tuesday night after the snow, Kelly rode in the tractor with me as we bladed the driveway, so she’s ready to tackle that on her own if necessary.

I think I can still design lights with one arm. I need the computer to program and record cues. Obviously someone else should be climbing ladders. Notice I said “should“. No, if it comes to that, I will behave. I can still program the light board with one arm.”

So we’ll see.

Ever received or sent a dear John /Jane letter? How did that go?

Farming In August

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Actually, hasn’t been much farming the last few weeks…

I’m back at “work” work now, and I lit another show, and we moved my mom to long term care.

Here’s a theater space I was working in and the genie lift that’s my best friend because it means no ladders!

And the view from up there.

With the lights.

And the lighting console in the loft.

And some of the finished product. The colored lights? That’s what I did.   

It’s a show called ‘Head Over Heels’, music of the GoGo’s (which apparently I only know two songs.

Mom is 95 and has just kinda lost her self confidence in the last few months. There’s been a few falls (nothing serious) and I think she kinda likes it when the firemen come to help pick her up. And I’m lucky I have siblings here and everyone is chipping in to pack and deal with things.
Moving to a long-term care apartment was her idea so that makes it a bit easier; we were over there more and more and balancing the cost of more Visiting Angels or Assisted Living or LTC, she decided this was the thing to do. I can’t say enough good things about VA; they’ve been great.

She was already in a Senior place so we’re lucky that she’s just moving into another section and not across town or anything.

There is a large metal bin down by the barn that holds corn which I use for the chickens and ducks. I opened the top lid one day to climb up and check how much was left inside, and then forgot about it and left the top open for two weeks and that’s when we got 3” of rain. Oh fer….

I spent an hour one morning taking an access cover off the bottom and digging out about 30 gallons of wet, stinky, moldy, rotten corn. I’ll try not to forget to close that again. Thank Goodness it’s almost empty. I’ll be ordering 100 bushels of cracked corn to refill in the next few weeks.

They say August is bean month. Beans have pods, but how big they’re going to get depends on the weather in August.

I was just reading about how corn develops and how the yields are determined by the weather. It takes roughly 90,000 average kernels to make a bushel (56 pounds for corn, remember?). The guys who are winning the yield contests can get that down to 65,000 kernels (bigger, heavier kernels). Final yield started with how many plants emerged back in April. The girth of the ear was determined at the 5-leaf stage; If the plant was happy and it had all the right nutrients and moisture, it can have 20 kernels around. 12-14 is average so any more than that means everything was going right at that point. Now the kernels are there and it depends on the weather as to how much they fill and what the test weight will ultimately be. If it gets stressed now, it won’t develop fully to the tip as the plant sacrifices them to fill the bottom. A lot had to happen already, but the weather this month can still make or break a crop. It’s pretty fascinating.

The ducks have moved outside and now it’s all muddy out there (I swear; everything is wet when you have ducks).

Here’s some ducks!

Any Questions?

Boil or microwave your sweetcorn? Who’s done mud wrestling?