Tag Archives: Featured

It’s Always Something

Today’s post comes from Ben.

It’s been a good busy week.

Last Friday we baled 337 small square bales of straw. Young Padawan stacked 150 in a wagon that will go to the neighboring strawberry farm.

The other 182 went to the pole barn. If you’re doing the math, that doesn’t quite add up. And that’s because we broke two bales and the first three bales out of the baler were hay from the previous baling.

Oh was Padawan in a mood that day. It was warm and there was a good breeze blowing, but he’s really not used to physical labor like this, and he was in a mood about it. I told him it builds character. He and my brother unloaded the bales into the barn.

The baler camera worked great! This photo does not really show much, but if you know how to see the strings, it’s helpful.

We go a nice rain on Saturday. And again yesterday.

Monday, I unhooked the baler and put the loader back on the tractor. As I unhooked the baler, I looked at the left wheel and wondered why it was sitting crooked. Discovered two of the four bolts that hold the axle on were missing. I put some jacks under the baler to take the pressure off the wheel and that became the number one item on the list for young Padawan‘s next visit.

I worked as an election judge on Tuesday. About 31% turn out in our township.

Wednesday, I started back at the college. ‘Work’ work. Classes don’t start until the 22nd and I use this time to check out all the equipment and get things going again. I picked up the choir risers that have been sitting on stage since April, and I still got to get back over to the sports center and get a couple of lights out of the rafters that have been hanging in there since commencement in May.

I feel like I’ve plateaued in my recovery at the moment. Although evidently, I still have a kidney stone. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s still showing up on tests. And if I don’t get that out on my own by the 24th, they’re going in after it. Every day is an adventure!

With me back at the college, and young Padawan starting school in September, I’m not sure how many more days I’ll have his help.

But he was out the other day, and since he worked so hard last week, we made it an easy day this time. The first thing we did was drive to Plainview to pick up some parts from the John Deere dealership. And we had lunch at Dairy Queen, then we went to check on a Township culvert replacement project and watched a skilled operator in an excavator. From there he got to experience some ditch cleanup by picking up a single size mattress and a very large flatscreen TV. Took those to the recycling center.

We fixed the tire assembly on the baler using impact wrenches and large Sockets with extension pipes for torque and he learned about working in uncomfortable positions.

He dumped a bag of chicken feed in the wall feeder, and then we got two chainsaws and it was time to cut up an oak tree that has been blocking a path since it came down in the December storms. I thought I’d be able to help more. But, it’s still tough for me to walk on uneven ground and with the branches and sticks around I didn’t do so we’ll. But he did great!

He got a basic course on chainsaw operation a few weeks ago. We expanded on that. And this was good practice since it was all on the ground and none of the pieces were too large. He got the saw stuck a few times and learned how to ‘read’ the tree and get the saw out BEFORE he wedges it in there. Eventually.

These rains are sure making the crops look good. Oats ended up at 61 bushels / acre which is decent, but nothing to brag about. I’ll blame the deer.

No corn photo this week; it hasn’t grown anymore since the tassle came out the top. Beans are looking real good! They’re waist high. I’m not seeing very much bug damage. Something is eating some leaves, but not enough to be a problem. Yet.



Puppy’s First Pow Wow

Last Saturday we drove 70 miles to Twin Buttes, a small community on the Fort Berthold Reservation to see dear friends there at the pow wow. It didn’t go well.

Our friend, Linda, was back home and ill. Her husband was there in his camper, so we could hang out with him and his extended family. Unbeknownst to us, Puppy had ingested a whole bunch of grape vine bark from our deck before we left, and hurled in the van on the way to the pow wow. He was terrified of the drumming, even though we were in the campground and fairly far from the arbor where the drums and dancing were. The dancers in their regalia frightened him. (He is Czech, you know and was expecting polkas.) There were lots of clumps of mowed and dried foxtail grass where our friend had his camper, and Puppy started to devour them in an attempt to hurl up the remaining grape vine bark. The grass stuck in his fur and in his throat, and he coughed and gagged, and he was not receptive to the attentions of our friend’s great nieces and nephews who wanted to pet him. He continued to hurl grape bark and foxtail grass for a couple of days after we got home. I am still combing fox tail burrs out of his fur.

What frightened you as a child? What frightens you now? What kind of dancing to you like?

What’s Your Sign?

On our recent trip to Fargo, our family stopped in to the bookstore at Concordia College in neighboring Moorhead, MN to get some Concordia gear. Daughter, son, daughter in law, and I are all alums, and we needed new sweatshirts. I had no sweatpants, so I got some of those, too. Grandson even got a t shirt.

I typically avoid wearing clothes with designer labels or slogans. I don’t feel the need to be a walking billboard. I feel differently about my college, though. The gear is really comfortable, too.

I remember back in the day when it was pretty common to ask people what their zodiac sign was when you met them, as though that would tell you everything you needed to know about the person. I am Aquarius. Husband is Sagittarius. I no longer remember if that makes us compatible or not. We will be married 39 years come September. I still sometimes read my horoscope in our weekly paper, though, just to see what I should expect. It is never correct.

What is your zodiac sign? Is is an accurate reflection of your personality? Ever been to a fortune teller?


About 20 years ago I worked with a young woman who had a tattoo across her wrist.  Turned out is said “I’ll always love” and was in memory of her mother who had passed away a few years earlier. 

Since then I have always thought that maybe somebody I would be a tattoo commemorating the big love of my life – YA.  I wanted flowers with YA’s name, preferably in her own handwriting.  I’ve mentioned this repeatedly over the years and I’m sure that YA was sick of hearing about it.  My questions the last year about who is reputable got next to nothing, although she did once mention Grand Avenue Tattoo over in St. Paul.  I wasn’t sure if YA was embarrassed that her old mother was even considering a tattoo or if she was convinced I would never act on this and she didn’t want to waste her time.

A few months ago I decided I would make this tattoo my retirement gift to myself.  I made my plan for while she was out of town; if she DID think I was pushing ahead, there might be lots and lots of questions and “in my face” stuff.  When I called the shop earlier in the week they said my idea was perfect for a “walk-in” appointment and that sometimes folks start lining up an hour before the shop opens.  I got there a bit after 11 with a book, an umbrella and my printed design, which included a couple of cards that YA has given me over the years that have her signature – I was the first one there and there was a bench!  By the time the shop opened, there were at least 12 folks in line behind me – including another baboon!!!

It didn’t hurt as much as I was expecting – although having your skin pierced is definitely noticeable, it was in fairly short bursts (4-5 second each) and about half way through, the area was getting a little numb and it didn’t hurt much at all. (In all fairness, I do have to say that for the next couple of hours, it stung quite a bit.)  And it didn’t take as long as I was expecting either – even with the different colors, it only took about 45 minutes. 

My artist was a young man named Tony.  He’s from the west coast and he has done art his whole life, including a lot of painting on his own; he started doing tattoo work a couple of years ago.  He has 7 siblings who are scattered, including one living in Thailand these days and he just did a tattoo for his oldest brother two weeks ago.  He was very pleasant and answered all my questions (and I had a lot).   He did a great job… it looks just like my design.  I knew going in that I didn’t want the design on the inside of my wrist and I let Tony guide me as to good placement – a little up on my air from the bend in my wrist.  I love it.

What was the last gift that you gave to yourself?

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

When we got our first Welsh Terrier in 1990, the breeder, who lived in Mankato, was dismayed to find out we were both psychologists, since psychologists, in her experience, were not good at being consistent and structured with their dogs. They allowed too many misbehaviors and were too concerned with the dogs’ feelings.

We now are on our fourth terrier, and I must admit the Mankato breeder has a point. I wonder why it took me 30 years to admit she was right. It has also made me realize that I have too high expectations for the parents I work with to be consistent and structured with their children, and that I can do a better job in helping them do that, rather than roll my eyes over their failed attempts at positive reinforcement. This training stuff is hard!

Terriers are all heart and intellect. Punishment doesn’t work with them. They also need clear rules and limits. Children are the same. One of the first things I noticed with our new dog was our inconsistent message to him about shoes. Husband has a pair of gardening shoes he dislikes, and has allowed our new puppy to chew, shake, and toss them. Now, we both are well trained in behavior theory, and know that it is impossible for our dog to discriminate between shoes we like and shoes we don’t like. This has led to Kyrill raiding our closets for any shoes he can find. All we can do is keep the closet doors shut and praise him when he drops the shoes he has stolen. It is hard to be positive in those situations, rather than angry.

It is often hard to explain to parents how important it is to praise their children where they are rather than punish them for what they fail to do. For example, if the most positive thing you can say to your child is “Thank you for not using the F word at breakfast” then that is where you are. It is hard for for me to praise the dog when he drops something I treasure, rather than yelling at him for stealing it in the first place.

This is the first dog we have had when we weren’t actively parenting children. I think that has made me more aware of what I am doing, rather than doing what was expedient to get things done at home. Live and learn, I guess. We all have feet of clay.

What do you preach but don’t practice? What is hard for you to admit? What new things do you want to learn?

A Sense of Community

Last Friday morning we got a call on our landline from a retired Lutheran pastor named Roger, who wanted to know if one of us would be available later in the morning to give his horticulture club a tour of our church garden. They were touring several local gardens as well as the NDSU Extension gardens in town. I had time, so I met him and his group in the garden along with our senior pastor, Lisa. It was a blast!

I have known of Pastor Roger for years, as he worked in some smaller communities south of us, and also was a licensed counselor. We often referred clients to one another. He is retired and lives in Medora, our cowboy town in the Badlands. He is kind of a character. As Pastor Lisa said “You never know what Roger is going to ask you”. I had never met him in person, though.

Roger and about 25 retirement-age garden club members arrived at the church garden, which is located just behind the church parking lot. Some club members were from as far afield as Valentine, NE and Hermosa, SD. I knew several of them as former foster parents . Most lived in smaller towns in our region. Lisa and I told them the history of our garden, and then the questions started.

Our garden consists of six, waist high. raised beds for vegetables, a central space with a fire pit and benches for gatherings and contemplation, and walkways with flower beds. Husband and I primarily take responsibility for the vegetable beds, all the produce going to the food pantry. We invited the congregation to adopt a flower pot to plant flowers in this spring, and there are about fifteen pots lining the walkways. We planted everbearing strawberries that are spreading all over. The children like to eat them after services. As hard as we try, there are weeds, and congregation members weed sporadically in the flower beds. The questions were numerous.

“Why don’t you have fruit trees? You should plant fruit trees. There are disease resistant varieties, you know. You could have a grape arbor, but if you plant pear trees, make sure you plant two. What kind of cabbages are those? (They are savoy cabbages). What do you cook with them? Cod bundles? Minestrone? How interesting! Where did you get the recipes? What do you use for cabbage moths? Bacillus Thuringiensis? That is organic, isn’t it? What seed companies do you get these from? Do the people at the food pantry even know what pattypan squash are? Cold hardy spinach? How do you spell that variety name? Oh, come here so we can take your picture as we give you this gift card”. I answered the best I could. I was thankful I had reminded myself of all the vegetable variety names ahead of time.

All through this barrage of questions, the club members couldn’t stop themselves from pulling up every weed they saw and pinching off the spent blossoms from the flower pots. It was as though a swarm of weeding locusts had descended on the garden. Roger lectured every chance he got about the link between horticulture and spirituality. Husband and I are now invited to his house in Medora for supper. He has some white iris to give us for the church flower beds.

I love being part of a community. I chuckled all Friday about the meeting with Roger and his group. With Pastor Lisa’s blessing, I plan to use the gift card for more iris.

What communities are you part of? What do you have a hard time stopping yourself from doing? Who were the “characters” you remember in your life?

Oats Done

Today’s post comes from Ben

Weather warmed up this week, then to cooled off one day, then the humidity spiked again. Cooler next week. Jeepers, roller coaster of weather. They say if you don’t like the weather, to just wait a minute.

I did get the oats cut on Monday. I had to run into a local parts store and buy a new battery for it. The old one was just 2 years old, but it didn’t have any “oomph” for starting. Tried jumping it a couple different way and times and when that didn’t work, I gave up and got a new battery. I figured I don’t need the best battery in here; it only runs a couple days in the summer. Well, all the batteries were $179 plus the core deposit and refund, plus tax and I paid $195. Dang. But it started and I cut the oats. Had no issues, It seemed to cut pretty well, even the downed stuff. Whew! That old machine always makes me anxious. It’s almost as old as me and makes more noises than I do.

Got the oats harvested on Thursday. One neighbor, who usually takes a wagon load, wants it all this year. Which is fine, except having not worked all summer, that oat check is what gets me through the last hump before I start back at the college. And we probably won’t exchange cash here, we’ll just keep track of the total and figure the difference this fall after they harvest my beans and corn. The oats didn’t yield as well as I had hoped and test weight was lower than my usual too. It was planted a little later than usual, the weather was maybe too hot at the wrong times for it. Plus we had mix up with the fertilizer this spring so it’s hard to say why it didn’t do so well this year. There isn’t much oats grown anymore so it’s hard to find out how the neighbors oats did. (I don’t have any neighbors growing oats.)

Next up then is baling the straw. I’m only expecting about 2 loads. One load for the strawberry farm up the road, and one for my customers.

I added a camera to the baler so I can keep an eye on the knotters and strings as the one string gives me more trouble. Seems like something that should be fixable, but I haven’t been able to figure out what’s out of adjustment the last several years… so I added a camera so at least I can see a missing string sooner. Caught soon enough, I can add a piece of twine and tie the string back together. Otherwise I can’t see it until it’s coming out of the baler and then it’s too late to fix. So either I pull it out by hand, or if I miss it there, the thrower knocks it apart and that makes a mess. Expect photos of this next week. 

The corn is looking good. It’s way taller than Kelly now.

Interesting how many plants have 2 ears this year.

When there are plenty of resources and the plant can spare them, resources go into creating a second ear. Usually that also jeopardizes the main ear and you end up with two mediocre ears, rather than one really nice ear.  Notice the kernels are all in there, and the size of the ear was determined way back when the corn was only knee high! And then each leaf node starts to create an ear, then when it reaches tasseling, just the top ones emerge and take priority. So now it’s just getting those silks fertilized by the pollen from the tassel and getting all the kernels to fully develop. Man it’s so cool!

Kelly went out to feed the chickens the other day and they all followed her down there. They sure know the routine.

Baby ducklings are doing well too. Two escaped the other day; they found a little hole in the pen and got out, but I distracted them and Kelly captured them and reunited them with momma. All is well.



I have lumbar scoliosis, along with years of cruddy posture. I even slump when I drive. I had physical therapy several years ago, which really helped my lower back pain. Like many, I stopped doing my exercises after the pain went away.

A few months ago I started to have chronic sciatica in both legs, and got a referral for more physical therapy. My new therapist assessed the situation and told me that she was surprised I could even walk, since all the muscles in my lower back and hips that ought to hold me upright weren’t doing their job, and the hip flexor muscles in the front of my body were doing it instead. Sitting at a desk all day in a bad chair only made things worse. (The ergo guy at work ordered a really good office chair with great lumbar support for me last month, so that problem is solved.)

I am currently in a lot of pain all over my back and legs since, as my physical therapist told, all my muscles are mad at me as we are doing exercises to get the back muscles to do their job and the front muscles to do their job. I am also being very mindful of my posture, even when I drive, and that has also stirred up some muscle pushback. All of this has reminded me of the Pushmepullyou from Dr. Doolittle.

My mother constantly harrased me about my posture. Ok mom, you were right! I should have listened! I don’t remember ever liking the Dr. Doolittle books much. I found the writing kind of stuffy, but the plot was fun. I appreciate the tug of war concept with the Pushmepullyou. My hips can relate.

What animals would you like to talk to? Ever had physical therapy? What did you parents tell you that you should have listened to but didn’t.


I was quite amused yesterday on my way to work to see our insurance agent presumably driving to his office. He was riding a motorcycle. HE WASN’T WEARING A HELMET!

It seems to me that being an insurance agent means you exemplify caution and careful living. I remember the conversation we had together with our son when he got his driver’s license, and our agent told him to never hesitate to phone him any time, night or day, if he had been drinking and needed a ride home. Well, I wonder what he says to young motorcycle drivers he insures about helmets?

Our agent goes to our church and has a lovely tenor voice and sings with us in the choir. I can hardly wait to tease him about this.

What do you like to tease people about? What irony have you noticed this week? Any stories about insurance agents or companies?


Husband and I spent four days last week in Fargo with our son and his family, joined for two days by our daughter. She was on a week long visit from Tacoma to friends in various parts of Minnesota. We picked her up in Alexandria on Friday. She hitched a ride back to the Minneapolis Airport on Sunday morning with her best friend who lives in Hopkins but who was in Moorhead visiting her sister. Her trip took a lot of planning!

Son booked an Airbnb with five bedrooms in the historic section of Fargo on 8th St. It is only the second time we stayed in such accommodations, our children far more accustomed to booking these lodgings. It really worked out well, especially since our 4 year old grandson was pretty happy not having to eat in restaurants and could run around and play and make more noise than he could in a hotel. We ordered out from our favorite Thai and East Indian restaurants, and son grilled lovely lamb kebobs on Saturday night. My only complaint was that our mattress was far too soft and gave me a backache.

Fargo was surprising, even after all these years of living in this State. We went to the downtown farmers market on Saturday. It was wonderful, and we scored some fresh, local sweetcorn. There are very few places in North Dakota where you would see many gay couples walking around in public holding hands, but there they were, happy as they could be among the produce stalls. It was also far more ethnically diverse than I remember it being in years past. It was so nice to see.

I imagine there are Airbnb nightmares, but ours worked out swell. We will more than likely do it again, but will have our children help us figure out how to choose them.

What are your Airbnb experiences? What cities have pleasantly surprised you? Where are your favorite places to visit?