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Luna’s Great Leap

I have written before about our cat’s fascination with my Julbocken, the Scandinavian straw goats popular at Christmas. She loves to chew on the wheat berries at the end of the straw sprigs that make up the beards. Last Christmas I left them out in the living room instead of putting them back in the closet in January. I had repaired the beard of the largest Julbock and festooned him with a lovely beard and wanted to show him off.

I had three Julbocken and an Austrian straw girl on top of a curio cabinet that I thought was out of the cat’s range for leaping. The figures were at an awkward angle to jump to from the love seat (or so I thought). I thought the angle and the narrowness of the surfaces would dissuade her from leaping. I would sometimes see Luna, the cat, stare intently up at the figures from the floor, as if calculating what she needed to do to get up there. The other evening I heard a strange yowling, and I entered the living room to see her on top of the curio cabinet feasting on the repaired beard of the largest julbock. I got Luna down and put the goats back in the closet. I left the girl, since she had no berries to chew on.

A few days later I took this photo, that I think captures Luna calculating how to make another leap.

She hasn’t, to my knowledge, leapt again to the top of the curio cabinet. The girl has been left undisturbed. Luna isn’t a very active cat, but she is far more calculating than I would have imagined.

When have you taken a calculated risk? Did it work out for you? Who are the most successful risk takers you know?

Party Time

Last week was full of more social gatherings for us than we have had in more than a year. At an outdoor ceremony at a city park, Husband and other officers for the local food pantry accepted a cheque from the city for a new security system. Husband got to rub elbows with city officials, Rotarians, former university presidents, and other local worthies. He then did some church visiting to a shut-in couple we haven’t seen for months. It culminated in a wonderful party on Saturday night in Mandan at a city park about 10 miles outside of town at a man-made reservoir.

Dear friends of ours, the ones who gave us the Arikara bean seeds, celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary. They are a couple older than we are, in their early 70’s. He is Native American. She is white. They are both addiction counselors. They renewed their wedding vows with the help of family, friends, former colleagues, and an Indian Elvis Impersonator from Oklahoma. The party was held in a large, open air picnic shelter.

There was plenty of food provided by the couple and kept hot in huge electric roasters. Guests brought food, too. It was a real pot luck feast. There were about 50 people in attendance. The trick was keeping one’s self hydrated and the perishables cool, since the temperature, at 5:00 PM, was 103. I feared for Elvis in his white jump suit. He sang and danced and gyrated despite the heat.

Elvis was fascinating. He is a member of the Choctaw nation and also is an actor and traditional dancer. Our friend found him by searching YouTube videos under the name NDN Elvis. He sang to a prerecorded accompaniment so he didn’t need a live back up band. He also conducted the renewal ceremony. A former tribal councilman read selections from the Bible. There were flower bouquets, sage bundles, and sweet grass braids. Family had made a photo display of the couple’s years together.

The only thing that didn’t work out was the Indian flute player, Keith Bear. He is a rather well known Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation musician. You can find him on You Tube, too. He had to travel unexpectedly to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to help with the passing of a notable spiritual leader who was present at Wounded Knee. There always seems to be at least one thing that doesn’t go as planned at a big party.

Tell some wedding or anniversary party stories. What worked? What didn’t? What would you want an Elvis Impersonator to sing at your party?

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?

Songs to plant beans by

If any Baboons chance to drive past my house today, they might see a strange sight. They might see me and hear me singing in the garden.

Last winter we got some Arikara bean seeds from a friend of ours from the Reservation. They are a bush bean that produces brown shellout beans. Our friend got them from a tribal elder some time ago. He is a pretty marginal gardener and he gave us the beans to grow in our garden. He is very excited for us to grow them, but he said there were a few things I had to do in order to plant them successfully.

First, I have to wear an apron and a scarf while I plant them. He told me his grandmother wore that when she planted and she was a good gardener. Second, I have to sing to the beans when I plant them. He wasn’t sure of the tune, since his grandmother whistled a barely discernible tune through her teeth while she planted. Oh, and I should make up some words to go with the song. He said not to worry if our Hidatsa pole beans felt jealous. They would be just fine.

My friend’s bean planting instructions are just like the directions he gives to find places on the Reservation-without GPS or a map you would never find your way.

I asked another Native friend what she would sing to the beans, and she said it was important that I compliment them. She is from the Cheyenne River Reservation and is Lakota. (In the same conversation I asked her the address of her new house. She said she wasn’t sure, but I could find it if I went down that one alley, the one with the 15 cats, and then turned left.) I mentioned her lyric suggestion to my bean bestowing friend, and he totally disagreed (Arikara and Lakota rarely agree), saying I had to plead with the beans when I planted them, telling them how much our survival depends on them.

I chose the tune to the Glow-Worm song, and came up with these lyrics:

Grow pretty beans, please heed us, heed us.

We need you so to feed us, feed us.

You’ll make us strong, please don’t take long, so grow pretty  beans, please grow

Part of me thinks that my Native friends are pulling my leg, but hey, if it helps the garden, why not?

Make up some bean growing lyrics. Choose whatever tune you wish. How are you at giving directions?

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?

Stranger Danger?

A few days ago, as YA and I were having some lunch downstairs, she looked out the front window and said “there’s some sketchy woman taking pictures of our house.”  Now what you need to know is that every person that YA doesn’t know personally is “sketchy”.  Secondly, during spring and summer it’s not all that unusual for strangers to take photos of our gardens.  So I didn’t think too much of this until she said “She’s still out there.”  I turned around to see an older woman walking up the driveway between our house and the nextdoor neighbors. 

I went toward the back of the house and I could see her clearly. She was looking into our backyard and still taking photos.  This was the day after the new driveway had been laid, so I thought maybe she was interested in the cement work.  So I stepped out onto the back stairs and asked her if I could help her.  She said “Oh, I’m just looking at the house.  I used to live here 30 years ago.”  I replied, “Oh, are you Claire?”

I’ve heard of this kind of thing happening but never expected it to happen to me.  When I bought this house, it was in terrible shape – I had to have a clause written into the sales agreement that they get all the garbage out of the house or I would pay $5,000.00 less. I spent an afternoon in the house with Claire before the closing date; I was waiting for various contractors who were giving me quotes for painting, floors, carpet, etc.  She seemed a little over the edge at the time and I was glad to get out of there at the end of the day.

Anyway, I talked to her over the fence in the backyard for a few minutes.  In that short amount of time, I wasn’t convinced that she had backed away from thay edge.  She told me she was living in 300 square feet in her ex-husband’s basement in California – not exactly the kind of detail you need to tell a stranger.  Up until that second, I had been thinking maybe I should invite her in.  I’m absolutely sure she would have taken me up on the offer if I had made it.  But I had things I wanted to get done and I had a suspicion that if I invited her in, she might be inclined to overstay any welcome I might offer.  So we talked a bit more about changes to the neighborhood and then I went back inside.

YA was horrified that I had considered inviting her in and while I initially had a twinge of guilt, I got over it. 

Have you ever met any of the previous owners/residents of your homes?

The Driveway

Big doings this week at our house.  After 30 years the driveway is getting re-done!  It’s looked awful for years, the cement seams filled with weeds and the asphalt part crumbling but I let it go as long as I possibly could.  But starting last year we’ve had to be way too careful driving up and down because the ruts in the blacktop were deep enough that if you just drove straight up/down, you could scrape the bottom of the car.

It turned out to be a two-day job because I decided to replace the little paving blocks in the back with a real sidewalk as well.  The first day, they demolished the driveway, moved the paving stones and dug a nice trench for the sidewalk.  Then in a very smart move (amazing how they know their own business!!) they covered everything in plastic; it poured buckets overnight.  Watching them take up the soaking wet plastic and get as much of the water into my yard and my neighbor’s yard instead of onto the driveway was almost painful.

The cement business seems like periods of very hard physical labor punctuated with standing around.  Waiting for the next phase of the job begins or waiting for some piece of the job that someone else has to do gets done.  Just as well – if they worked that hard for 7 hours straight, no one could last in the job!

The cement truck couldn’t get all the way up the driveway so they filled an intermediate container on wheels – looked like a big bug.  Then from the bug to the wheelbarrows, then the hard work of spreading it and shaping it.

All this excitement was hard on the dog and the cat.  Of course, with all the work in the backyard, Guinevere had to do all her business at the end of a leash and overnight she had to be “escorted” into the yard to make sure she stayed off the plastic.  The noise made her a bit anxious but keeping her upstairs helped a bit.  Nimue also disliked the noise and disruption; I’m never quite sure how much she picks up from the anxious dog and how much is her own crabbiness at having her routines varied.  Not that her routine actually varied that much.

There were a lot of logistics for us as well.  First there’s the car issue.  You’re not supposed to drive on the new cement for 7 days.  And after spending the last year reading about people breaking into cars or stealing catalytic converters, we were both a little hesitant to park on the street overnight.  We decided to be a one-car family for a week; hers stayed in the garage and I parked on the street during the day and then in my neighbor’s driveway at night.  Second issue was the dog – she spent three days on “house arrest” – only getting out when she was supervised or on a leash.  Third issue was actually the biggest… this was SO distracting.  YA and I both were fascinated and I think we would have easily just sat and watching the proceedings for the entire 2 days. 

It looks fabulous now and I can’t wait until the first time I can drive up it and not worry about getting all the way to the right or left to keep from scrapping!

What’s a project that you put off too long (currently or in the past)?