Tag Archives: Featured

Beautiful Soup

Daughter likes to give herself cooking challenges. Last year she made a different kind of Mac and Cheese from scratch every month. A few weeks ago she began a weekly soup challenge. The first was a roasted tomato, which she said was quite a production. Her efforts paid off though, when she shared it with a friend who said it was the best soup he’d ever had, and that it was better even than the soup at the Metropolitan Market, a fancy Tacoma food store.

Next was a Creamy Chicken Gnocchi, similar to a soup at the Olive Garden.

Roasted Red Pepper Gouda was on the menu the following week. She only took a photo of the peppers being roasted. She said it was so good she had to have it for breakfast.

Last weekend was Tomato Mac soup, a local soup from The Cowboy Café in Medora, ND. We got the recipe from her best friend’s aunt, who owns the Café. The soup ends up much creamier than it appears in the photo. This early in the process.

We have a large tureen with platter given to us as a wedding present.

It seems like so much work to heat up the soup and put it in the tureen and then have to wash the tureen, so we don’t use it much. It all seems very Victorian, and makes the soup the main focus of the meal, which put me in mind of this:

What is your favorite soup?  What character from  Alice In Wonderland? would you like to be?

Claiming Your Space

Today’s post comes from Steve.

I paid no attention to home decor in the early years of my marriage. We were grad students living on sketchy incomes. Our furniture—sagging, mismatched and threadbare—came as gifts from our parents. Moreover, my former wife dominated all decorating decisions. When I ventured to suggest something that might make our home attractive, she was amused that the spouse with lousy taste was offering advice to the spouse with good taste.

Then, rather suddenly, the marriage ended. Within a few weeks I lost my father, my job and my wife. Everything about my life changed almost overnight, with my address being virtually the only thing that stayed the same. When my erstwife suggested I was now free to sell the home and move anywhere on earth, I panicked. Like a man who has suffered a shipwreck and now clings to floating parts of his old boat, I needed security. I needed my home to be constant and comforting.

But there was a problem. The upstairs of my home had become a place where I did not belong. I lived in the basement, rarely venturing upstairs where everything reflected the taste of my former wife. That began to bother me. After dithering for half a year, I decided to take on the challenge of changing everything about the appearance of the upstairs of my bungalow. I had to make my home a place where I would not feel like a trespasser.

Home decor, something I had ignored all my life, became an obsession. Although I had never bought furniture, now I haunted furniture stores and consulted catalogs. Having never bought a lamp, I bought seven, all with stained glass shades. I gave away the art that my erstwife had put up and replaced it with original art, a big tapestry and a triptych. I collected fine art pottery and a handsome Mission clock to promote a turn-of-the-century look. I bought six rugs, including two hand-tied Bokhara orientals from Pakistan. I changed the color of every wall of every room. I installed new sconces, chandeliers and light switches. I studied the Arts and Crafts movement in American domestic architecture, and educated myself about the fascinating home design movement that produced the bungalow. My home had been built in 1925, and now I honored that by filling it with lovely objects from the early 20th century.

Reclaiming my home took about four years. I understand that the way I accomplished it was unusual, but I had been put in unusual circumstances. It was the perfect project for a divorced gentleman who was not as young as he once had been. Buying Chinese knockoffs of Tiffany lamps was healthier than other ways I might have processed the divorce. When I was done, virtually nothing was the same. It was all different and it was all me. The upstairs became a place that made me smile, a place where I could—finally—feel “at home.”

Have you ever taken a serious interest in the look of your home? Are you fond of any particular style of domestic architecture (Colonial, modern, Gothic revival, Arts and Crafts, etc)? Or, like most people, are you happy with an eclectic approach?


I was tickled last week to see this story from Fargo, about a guy who has problems with an industrious red squirrel.


For one thing, I am amazed that a walnut tree could be so prolific. I am also pretty impressed by the tenacity and single mindedness of the squirrel. I truly can understand this from the squirrel’s point of view. I don’t know what it is about having fresh produce, but every time we swear that this is the last tomato or eggplant or green bean we will pick, Husband and I automatically start to think of new ways to use them or preserve the ones that still are coming. We give what we can to the food pantry, but they are only open two days a week.

Husband picked a bunch of Spanish Giant sweet red peppers yesterday, and swore that he was going to pull up the plants. He didn’t, though, as he decided that would be wasteful. So, here I am, watering the garden again as it is going to be in the 80’s this week, because the peppers and tomatoes are loaded with fruits yet to ripen. The lack of a killing frost has made the garden last far longer than usual. I made two spanakopita on Saturday using up three pounds of our garden spinach leaves. There is a feverishness to harvest. Sometimes I think we are nuts with our garden. I lay the blame on our parents and grandparents.

How did growing up with Great Depression-era parents impact you? When have you been industrious? Got any good squirrel stories?

October Already?

Today’s post is from Ben.

Kinda quiet around our farm. The neighbors are all busy and working like crazy, but it’s quiet at our place.

The stuff I write about our farm, it is exactly that, just ‘Our’ farm, it’s certainly not how everyone is doing things or the way anyone else does things. I had someone at the theater comment that they figured I’d be busy farming. No, since I have the neighbors combine my crops, I just wait for them to get here. I try not to get impatient about it. That works best when we have these nice fall days. If the weather starts to crash I have to work harder to stay patient and remind myself it’s out of my control. The neighbors have been doing this for years; they’ll get to it when they get to it. Might be a couple weeks yet if the weather stays nice. Might be November if it’s not.

Corn can stand out there for months without too much damage. Oh, the deer and raccoons get more, but some guys leave it stand until Spring (if they don’t have the animal pressure). But soybeans aren’t so tough. They need to be harvested before we get too much snow. The stalks will break and, depending on the weather, they may not dry out again. The big farmers are going hard on soybeans now, and I know some have already finished and moved into corn. Because you never know when this nice weather will end.

Soybeans go fast; yields are generally 40 – 80 bushels / acre. They don’t need to be dried, so two combines in a field, one dump cart, a couple trucks, haul, dump it in the bin, back to the field. Nothing too it. (Fingers crossed and it all goes well).

Corn takes longer; yields might be over 250 bu / acre. More trucks, more hauling, usually drying time and expense, and it’s just more involved. And if it’s raining or the fields are muddy or something breaks down, it takes longer yet. You just never know. And that’s why the big guys are rushing now even though it seems early.

I have so few acres, they’ll finish my beans one day and corn another. Sometimes my guys fill all their stuff at home, then come over to my place late in the day, fill all the trucks and carts, and finish the next morning.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have my own combine. I saw one at an auction once that sold for $2000. But I’d still need a bean head and a corn head and trucks or wagons. And time. That’s the biggest thing, time. So, I’m really OK waiting for the neighbors to get it. They’ve never missed a crop. One year it was so wet and muddy they had to wait for a freezing cold day to come back and get into one field which was too muddy otherwise. But they always get it. Good neighbors’ matter. (I saw three combines sell at an online auction this past week; a 2005 model sold for $36,500, a 2000 for $34,000, and an older, well used one for $7,600. No heads included. Those sold for $15,000 for the corn head and $12,500 for the bean head. Add another zero at the end for brand new stuff. Roughly.)

As we were talking about enjoy fall on the blog, lately Kelly and I spend some time in the evening sitting on the steps outside the garage. We play with the dogs, watch the chickens settling in, watch the ducks, and just generally enjoy the quiet and the smells and the time.

Kelly tries to get a walk in after work. It’s getting harder as the daylight shortens. The dogs though, they love the walks more than Kelly does. Just once she’d like a walk by herself. The three dogs go nuts when she starts off. Barking, fighting (playing), knocking over the little old Granny dog, Allie. It’s a little bit crazy they’re so excited. And if Kelly lets them out the front door, then she sneaks out the back door, it’s only a matter of time before they sniff her out. She could be up around the corner and out of sight, but they’ll find her. Last night they were circling the house making sure they didn’t miss her. She said it was like being stalked by wolves.

Anything you’re anticipating?

Do you like to walk? What’s the farthest you’ve walked? Got the app showing your steps?  

The Presidential Suite

Husband works in Bismarck every Wednesday, 90 miles away from our town. He drives there every Tuesday night and stays in a hotel in Mandan, just across the Missouri River from Bismarck, and 15 minutes from his office. He drives home on Wednesday afternoon.

He has a standing reservation every Tuesday night at a fairly inexpensive, sprawling, older hotel that used to be called the Seven Seas Motor Inn. There is a large statue of a pirate in the lobby. The pirate remains although there is no longer any nautical theme in the hotel. They also serve a good, free breakfast every morning, so Husband can get a quick start to his day of work.

For some reason, even though his reservations are for a standard, one person room, the hotel staff puts him in grander rooms at no extra cost. He doesn’t ask them to. Last week he was in the Presidential Suite, which boasts an office, bedroom, living room, and bathroom with a jacuzzi. The hotel is never full. Husband says every Tuesday night he has been there, a local club has had bean bag toss competitions in one of the larger meeting rooms.

When Husband worked on the Three Affiliated Tribes Reservation, he was housed in a double wide trailer that formerly served as the Women’s Sober House. He certainly has had some interesting digs over the past few years. I am glad his commute, which is the same distance from home, is now on interstate highways and not hilly, oilfield roads.

What have your work commutes been like? What is the grandest hotel you ever stayed in? Which was the worst?


Good grief.  Is it pumpkin spice season already?  Is there no product that is not marketed at this time of year without pumpkin spice?  Coffee creamer. Pancake mix. Syrup. Oreos. Cookie dough. Chocolates.  Candles.  And of course the ubiquitous muffins, lattes and breads.  Even if I liked pumpkin, this is just an onslaught.  Every year!

Tell me what you like about autumn.  (Or don’t like.)

Clash of the Ash

I’m almost to the final chapter of my adventure with the Forestry Department of Minneapolis.  Back in April, we came home to see our two ash trees in the very back of the yard splashed with green lettering.  Someone had painted our trees.  Having lived through the city’s Dutch Elm debacle (plant thousands, wait too long when it’s clear something is amiss, cut down every one regardless of health, give citizens little to no notice), I was pretty sure this was the end of our ash trees.  Despite knowing for the last two years that this was coming it was a little sad nonetheless.

The green paint was followed by a form left on our front door stating that the city required the trees be removed (of course at my expense) and that they would be collecting quotes from various tree services on our behalf.  I called the Forestry department twice when we didn’t hear anything for a few weeks; at the end of the second call, the department representative made it all too clear that I was to await the letter than would eventually show up and not to call again. 

All summer I’ve looked out the back to see my green-trunked trees, impatiently waiting for the Forestry department to get on with it.  Finally the first week of August we got a letter.  The city had to get a special quote because of where our trees were located on the property line.  At the end of the letter they listed two different quotes.  One was for $3,500.  The other was for $18,000 – this is NOT a typo.  This time when I called the city, I got a more helpful person.  She sighed when I squawked about the 18 grand figure and said she wished that the companies would just say they didn’t want the business.  I was a little concerned that some computer somewhere would assign this company to me but she said I could fill out the postcard that accompanied the last letter with that request.  I told her that I would like to get my own quote – and after a bit, she acquiesced and said I could write that on the postcard as well.

Well, my tree guy came in at half the price (of the lower figure) and is including grinding out the stumps.  They were here yesterday and the whole job, including avoiding all the powerlines and doing all the clean up took less than two hours.  I’m still in shock about the $18,000 quote. 

Have you ever been over charged for something?

Going to the Mattresses

Years ago when YA moved from her loft bed into a double bed (and moved from her smaller bedroom to the next size up), I will admit that I bought her a cheap mattress.  I didn’t have much money and between getting her a bed frame and a mattress, it pretty much did away with my disposable income for a few months.  And I figured she was young, it probably wouldn’t deform her for life.  It was a traditional mattress and we drove about 15 miles an hour all the way home from the outlet shop with it precariously tied to the top of our small car.  Had to have a neighbor help me get it up the steps.

A few years later, I was able to get a new box spring and mattress for myself, using the award points that my company gives out (no cash – yea!).  My old mattress had given up the ghost; I actually had duct tape in two or three spots where the springs had poked through.  This new set was delivered and I managed to guilt the delivery guys into wrestling it up the stairs and wrestling the old set down the stairs.  

YA has been complaining about her mattress for a while now and has purchased several different toppers that she says makes it more comfortable.  Honestly part of my reluctance to get her a new mattress is the traditional “how do you get the mattress up the stairs” conundrum.

You can imagine I was a little blind-sided two weeks ago when she announced that she had purchased a new mattress for herself.  My first thought was that we were going to do another perilous trip with a mattress on top of the car.  Then I thought maybe I’d have to negotiate with two burly delivery guys again.  But nope.  She purchased one of the new mattresses that inflate when you take it out of the box.  When the delivery guy brought it, he left the big box sitting on the front sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs – that should have been my clue that it was heavier than it looked.  We managed to get it up the stairs by a combination of shoving and flipping. 

After she got it out of the box, she laid it out in Nonny’s room – apparently it had to “rest” for several hours before you lay on it.  She ended up letting it rest for a whole day and it did seem to get bigger every time I looked at it.  And it was amazingly sturdy once it was done resting.  I’m not really sure of the exact science that goes into these things, but I had assumed it would be more foamy and less sturdy.  Wrong on all counts.

So one more traditional thing evolves… no more big burly delivery folks wrestling a mattress and box spring up the steps!

What do you see as a positive evolution?


Not nearly as any books get recorded on CD these days as are recorded to Audiobooks that can be downloaded.  So every now and then, even though I have quite an impressive waiting list at the library, I find myself without a CD in the car (I know, horrors, right?) l When this happens I just peruse the CD shelves at my local library.  This is how I found Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie.

I’ve said here before that I read all of Agatha Christie’s books when I was in high school.  I need to amend that; I read all of Agatha Christie’s novels in high school.  And of course high school was a long time ago so when I first watched the movie version of Witness, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t one of her novels.  It’s one of her short stories. 

As I often enjoy books more than the movies made from them, when I pulled the CD off the shelf I was wondering how this dynamic would play out.  I adore the Witness for the Prosecution movie made in 1957 with Charles Laughton, Elsa Lancaster, Trevor Howard and Marlene Dietrich.  Great acting, good story, nice denouement and fabulous courtroom scenes.

If I’d had my wits about me I would have made the leap that a short story would need fleshing out to make a full movie.  But  I don’t always have my wits about me, so I was surprised to find that the movie had taken “fleshed out” to new levels.  The Charles Laughton and Else Lancaster characters and all their action and dialog were complete embellishments as was about half of the courtroom scenes.  And the short story ending was a little more open-ended than the movie.

So I’m sure you’re all saying “VS will never watch this movie again.  She’s outraged that Hollywood would take such liberties with one of her favorite authors.”  It’s what I thought I would be saying about now.  But I’m not.  The movie does not mess with the actual story – it’s completely intact – the additional characters, dialog and scenes actually support the story.  Apparently Agatha Christie did not mind the additions and, of course, the movie was released to international acclaim.

The rest of the stories are fascinating, very unlike her novels.  No suspicious deaths, no big long list of suspects with motives and opportunities.  But great stories that capture the imagination.  I’m about half way through the CDs and am manufacturing reasons to get in the car right now, so I can keep listening. 

Have you ever had to give testimony in court? Or been on a jury?

That Fall Smell

The farm report comes to us from Ben

Had a good rainshower Monday afternoon. One of those downpours where traffic slows, and windshield wipers are on high. I could see it coming, I was several miles from home and the sky was dark and I was hitting Every. Red. Light. At one point there was some pea size hail, just a few stones, and I was considering my odds… can I make it home? Where should I park otherwise? But I thought I could make it. (Risk taker, remember?)

And then I could see the rain coming. Boy, just a few times in my life I’ve been in rain that heavy. Thankfully only lasted a mile or so. We ended up with .87”. Thankfully no hard winds with it in our area. I did hear reports of funnel clouds in other areas.

Rain like that in the fall is tough; the crops don’t really need it anymore, and the weather is cool enough it doesn’t dry as fast as it would mid-summer. The corn is tall enough the sun can’t hit the soil and it stays wet for a week. And it just makes harvest harder because now there’s mud to deal with. So, we’ll see how that goes.

I was out checking crops last evening and I noticed that fall smell in the air. The beans are coming along. I saw several farmers out harvesting soybeans in the area today. Soybean pods are fussy; they dry out in the late morning or afternoon, but they’ll pick up moisture after dark or with the dew. Plants along the edge of the field might still be soft and mushy, but the rest of the field is dry, and the pods crack open easy, which is what you need to harvest. The corn is still looking good, it’s roughly 30% moisture which means the ears haven’t tipped down yet. Too much rain and it gets down inside the husk and can cause mold issues on the kernels. Once the corn dries more and the ears tip down, rain won’t cause mold issues.

After the discussion last week on PTO shafts, I was thinking about how some other things have changed.

Hooking up wagons or implements is different these days. One of the greatest inventions is the extendable wagon hitch. LIFECHANGING! Back when tractors were smaller and didn’t have cabs, it was easy to just look over your shoulder and you were almost looking right down at the hitch (called a drawbar) so backing up to a wagon was easy and we got real good at getting lined up so the hitch pin would drop right in. And the tractor or wagon was small enough we could nudge it a little bit to make the connection.

With a cab, sightlines changed and sometimes it’s harder to see the hole in the drawbar, so it was harder to get lined up right. Some people have added mirrors to the rear window so when the window is open, it allows one to see the hitch. (I need to do that on one of my tractors).

But now, with extendable hitches, as long as we get close, we can extend the wagon hitch to connect it, then we back up and it locks back into place. It’s wonderful! Especially when hooking a wagon to another implement, so I’m guessing where that hitch is way back there; the extendable tongues are life savers!

I remember the first wagon Dad bought with an extendable hitch. It was a remarkable thing.

Hitch pins too – at first, they were just pieces of straight rod with a washer welded on the top. Or even a large bolt if you were desperate. But again, machinery got bigger.

I made a couple hitch pins in high school welding class; that’s where I learned about hardening and how to temper them so they didn’t wear out so fast.

I had no idea I had so many hitch pins until I got them all together for this photo.

Then seed dealers started giving away hitch pins with an ACTUAL HANDLE on the top! That was another wonderful revelation! Course, on a hill it was easy for that hitch back there to drag on the ground and push the hitch pin right out. I ran one wagon through a fence and down into the calf pen when the pin came out… didn’t break anything or lose any bales, just the wagon. (And had to fix the fence). Lost the pin on the grain drill one day and didn’t notice until I got home and didn’t have a drill behind me anymore. One time the anhydrous tank came unhooked from the applicator. Knew that right away and thank goodness I was on flat ground and thanks goodness for the safety disconnect valve that separated. But getting it all hooked back up again was a struggle.

If you wanted to be safe, you put a clip in the hole at the bottom of the pin. If there WAS a hole for a clip. IF it stayed when going through cornstalks.  Again, tractors and implements have gotten bigger Now I use locking pins that might be 5/8” or even 7/8” diameter. And the big tractor has something called a ‘Hammerstrap’ hitch that’s about 1 1/2” diameter. And it will actually drop itself in! (if I back up straight and hit the hitch of the implement just right. It works pretty well and it makes me laugh when It does).

In this photo the PTO shaft is the round thing above the hitch.  Bigger tractors might have a pin as big as your wrist. If you imagine the pull on these machines when they’re in the ground, you can imagine why they might need a pin this big.

Duck Report. The three older ones and the younger ones are just starting to hang out together. And nobody goes in the pen anymore; they just hang out down here by the pond.

I saw a duck get a little air the other day… just a few feet, but I’ll bet it’s coming soon.

What do you remember changing your life? What’s coming soon for you?