Looking For The Midwest

Husband and I left Brookings, SD yesterday to get back home to Southwest North Dakota. We typically go north from Brookings through Fargo, and then west on I-94, but there was a pesky snow storm in the James River Valley in Jamestown and Vally City that would have been distressing to drive through, so we chose a southern route on Highway 212 to Gettysburg, SD and then north to the Interstate just east of Bismarck.

Husband grew up in Wisconsin. He misses the Midwest with its small farms and rain. He spent our time through South Dakota gauging where the red barns ended and the terrain got flat. There, he declared, was close enough to the 100th Parrellel to say that is where the Great Plains begin, and his Midwest ended. I don’t know where the last of the red barns comes into this. I was just glad to be back home, no matter what colors the barns were.

For where do you yearn? Where do you think the Midwest is? What snowstorms have you driven through?

Baking with Oma

We spent yesterday anxiously watching the weather and spending our last day with our grandson. Daughter in law made Spritz cookie dough, and grandson and I sprinkled them with colored sugars. We only had pastels, and no Christmas colors, but he certainly didn’t mind. The dog hung out under our stools and gobbled up what ever we dropped. A good time was had by all.

Grandson likes doing things with us. He is a champion builder and train operator, shaping his wooden train tracks into interesting shapes and making up stories about the train trip with himself as the conductor. Many books were read, especially “We’re going on a Bear Hunt” by Helen Oxenbury. It was read multiple times, and was a sure bet for getting him all revved up.

I had good experiences with both sets of my grandparents, and I feel very fortunate to have had them around into my adult years. I am grateful that our grandson isn’t allowed to watch much TV or videos, and is always eager to do things with us instead of sitting around, exhausting as it may be.

What do you remember about your grandparents or older adults in your life? What did you like to do with them? What do you like to do with small children? What are your favorite holiday cookies?

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?

Christmas Past and Present and Future

We are having a lovely time with family, and I must admit this is a pretty wonderful Christmas. Everyone is getting along, the food is good, we aren’t being driven and perfectionistic. We are taking naps.

Son reminded me of a Christmas when daughter was about 2 when we traveled to my parents in Luverne and we all promptly came down with the stomach flu. My favorite Christmas pasts were those when my parents were at our home with us and the children were old enough to participate in the festivities without being too old to be snarky and disinterested.

My only hopes for the next Christmases is for us to be together and to keep having peaceful times with one another.

Beliefs aside, what is your favorite way of spending Christmas? What are your more memorable Christmas Pasts? What are your hopes for Christmas Future? What are your favorite Christmas movies, stories, and songs.

The Tortoise and the Hare

Husband and I drove to Brookings. SD yesterday. It is a seven hour drive. I was very anxious to get going as early as possible.

Husband and I operate at two different places. He is slow and deliberate. I am quick and speedy. I have no patience. He is very patient. I wanted to leave this morning by 7:30. I knew in my heart it wasn’t going happen, even though I had the car all packed up by 7:00.

At 7:00, we noticed that the cat was almost out of food, so I ran to the farm store to get some when it opened at 8:00. I was gratified to be able to listen to The 1812 Overture, compete with cannons as I drove to the store. It helped my frustration immensely.

I often forget that I can move more quickly than most people, in terms of packing and loading the car, doing chores, etc. Husband is thorough. While I was getting cat food, he carefully emptied the fridge of leftovers, washed the dishes, and cleaned the counters. He made some nice sandwiches for the trip. He started packing on Monday, so that was done. I was ready to go before he was, so I made myself sit quietly in the living room while he carefully cleaned the lenses of his glasses, put on his socks and shoes, and got his coat. I reminded myself that one reason I am able to get going in the morning is that Husband gets up before I do makes coffee for me every day.

I suppose it is anticipation that makes me so irritable and impatient when we are getting ready to go on a trip. I think watching someone who operates so differently just amplifies my anxiety to get going. Slow and steady may win the race but it makes the hare a nervous wreck.

How do you prepare for a trip? Are you a tortoise or a hare?


I found out earlier this week that I have to provide testimony to a State legislative committee as part of my role as member of a regulatory board. The committee is concerned that over-regulation and regulatory board inefficiency is causing shortages of health care professionals in the state. My job will be to disabuse them of this inaccurate assessment. That means I will have to provide lots of statistic on the number of license applicants, length of time between the receipt of the application and the issuance of a license, number of people denied a license (one in total my five years on the board), efficiencies we have introduced, and so on.

I plan to be plain spoken and professional, calm and patient. I will rely on the fellow board member who is doing this with me. I have testified in court on many occasions, but this will be slightly more nerve-racking. Besides, when I testify in court at home, I know al the judges and attorneys, and we all joke around and tease one another. I run into them in the grocery store. It is my understanding that the committee is comprised of very reasonable legislators, mostly Republicans, which is a comfort. If things go badly, I suppose I could find a way to casually mention that I am related to Lawrence Welk’s son in law. That might soften their hearts. I won’t mention my other relatives who were leading lights in the Non-Partisan League in the early part of the 20th century, North Dakota’s Socialist Party and the forerunner of the current State Democratic Party.

When have you had to change someone’s mind? Any advice for how I testify? What are your experiences providing testimony?

Never Enough Dragons

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned dragon books.  Right after that, one of them came up for check-out at the library – Here, There be Dragons by James Owens.  It’s part of a series called Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica and true to it’s title, we had imaginary creatures (dragons) on the first page. 

As the story unfolded we also got references to King Arthur, Captain Nemo, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, trolls, dwarves, centaurs, Pandora’s box, Stonehenge and, of course, talking badgers.  Although the story starts out in WWI London, almost all of the story takes places in the “archipelago of dreams”, a world which is apparently one of many alternative realities. 

As the first in a series, this one was a little bogged down by all the explanatory bits related by various characters, but the fascinating weaving of all kinds of myths and stories into the plot was just enough to keep me going as well as the quote: “Did he now?” said Charles as a smile began to cheshire over his face.”  That alone was enough to make me want to pick up the next volume.  And no spoiler alerts but the last chapter was worth its weight in gold, in terms of pulling together the strands of the story and leaving you with a tingling feeling that you should have known it all along.

If you could make one fantasy/imaginary place come alive, what would it be?

Last Minute Tasks

Ok, all you ND cattle ranching Baboons. You have until December 31 to renew your cattle brands. 91% have been renewed already. About 1,900 brands will lapse at the end of December. If you don’t renew on time, another rancher could take over your brand! Send your renewal into the Stockmen’s Office in Bismarck as soon as you can!

The Christmas season is busy enough, and then there are these extra things that need to be done. We paid our property taxes early to save $128. We renewed our professional licenses. We made sure our church pledge was all paid.

I am amazed by the number of cattle brands in my State. I would love to know their history, and who designed them. I have never attended a branding. They are real social events. It would be fun to incorporate a brand into signing my professional reports in addition to my signature. Wouldn’t that confuse the insurance companies! I would need to consult an artist to design one for me.

What design elements would you use in your brand? What do you need to accomplish before the end of the year? Are you happy with your signature?

Right Brain Baking

We got a text from our daughter the other day, lamenting the dismal failure of two Christmas treats she tried making-those Special K wreaths you cover with green-dyed almond bark, and a pretzel, M & M, and white chocolate, milk chocolate chip confection. Neither set up, and were real messes.

Daughter has turned into a very fine cook of soups, casseroles, and main dishes, but admits she is no baker because she “cooks from the heart”, adding what she thinks would be good and deviating from the recipe. That just doesn’t work for baking. Baking is a first and foremost a science. The decorative part is secondary.

Daughter’s cooking style is that of a person relying more on their right brain than their left brain. I am a left brain person, who rigidly follows recipes until I get brave enough to alter things. Artists, poets. and musicians do a wonderful job using both sides of their brains in their arts. You just can’t wing your way through it when you bake. Flour can only absorb so much liquid, you need just the right amount of leavening, chocolate melts at a certain temperature, and you have to understand how fats interact with all of it. It is amazing anyone can bake.

How do you approach a recipe? How are you at following instructions? What science classes did you like/not like?

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? 

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