Cassie and Daddy’s Big Adventure


My youngest daughter got a new job as the Visiting Assistant Professor of Costume Technology at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Her prior job was Costume Shop Supervisor at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had promised to help her move, either to Dallas to look for a new job, or to Athens, if she got that job. So, on rather short notice, we arranged for me to fly back with her and drive a the 16 foot truck, with a trailer for her car, from New Orleans to Athens. She was already planning on being up here for my 60th  birthday, so it all fell into place rather nicely.

On August 11th, we got up about 5 am to drive to the Twin Cities to catch our first flight, which was to Houston. The second flight took us to New Orleans, where Cassie was reunited with her car, nicknamed Teenie Tiny.







We went from the airport to the hotel she had booked for us, right near the French Quarter. After relaxing for a while we decided to go to one of the local restaurants, Cochon, to eat. We started with Fried Livers with Pepper Jelly and toast. They were so good, that we almost ate all of them before remembering to take a picture. We did eat the fried boudin (a cajun pork sausage) with pickled peppers before thinking to take a picture.

My main course was bourbon glazed pork belly with peaches and creamy grits. Out of this world good.







Cassie had  pork rib with coleslaw and grilled peppers

The meal was one of the best we’ve ever had, and I know she will really miss access to such great food in her new home.

The next day was going to be a very busy one, as we had to pick up the truck and go to her storage unit and load all of her belongings into the truck. We started off the day with a hearty Southern breakfast at the Ruby Slipper Cafe. Both of us had their Southern Breakfast, consisting of Two eggs any style, served with stone-ground grits,
applewood-smoked bacon, buttermilk biscuit and a fried green tomato. Food was great, and it gave us plenty of energy for the day.

IMG_0616After breakfast, we went back to the hotel to get her car and go to the truck rental office. There I met the truck and trailer that I would drive from there to her new home. The truck was 16 feet long with a trailer that Teenie Tiny would ride on for the trip. This was my first time driving such a rig, and it was a challenge to keep it in the traffic lane at times. We made it safely to the storage unit, and started loading all of her stuff. The storage unit was four floors up, and we used carts and the elevator to go back and forth. The temperature was in the mid-80’s and with humidity, felt like 96. I remarked that it was good I spent most days this summer outside working in the heat and humidity, as it conditioned me to be able to function outside in New Orleans.


Within two hours we were done loading the truck. We then parked it at the storage unit facility and took her car back to the hotel to relax and clean up.

While on our way back, we made a couple of stops, including picking up a Muffuletta at Central Grocery for lunch while on the road.

Our evening’s entertainment was all within walking distance, so we first went to the famous Roosevelt Hotel and had drinks in their Sazerac bar. The sazerac is a drink created in New Orleans. It consists of rye whiskey, Peychauds bitters, a sugar cube, and herbsaint (an anise flavored liquor) We sat at the bar and really enjoyed the atmosphere.

The Sazerac Bar

We then took a short walk to a restaurant we visited the last time I was in New Orleans, the Acme Oyster House. This time we were able to walk right in and get a table, which was great. We started out with a dozen chargrilled oysters, and Cassie had their oyster and fish platter, while I went for the soft shelled crab platter. Sorry, no pictures 🙁

On Wednesday morning, the Big Adventure began in earnest. We went to the storage unit and loaded teenie tiny on the trailer, an interesting feat to say the least, and headed out across New Orleans towards our final destination for the day, Nashville, TN. Getting used to the truck was a challenge, especially when semi’s would pass, as the draft would try to move the truck and trailer. But keeping a close eye on the side mirror helped me prepare for all that jostling.

IMG_0621Cassie served as navigator extraordinaire through New Orleans and the rest of our trip. She also used my phone to post progress notes, such as crossing into a new state, on my Facebook page, so my wife and other daughters would know we were safe and making progress. Each time we entered a new state, or stopped along the way, she would update Facebook. These updates also helped me in composing this posting.

We made it across New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana, and Mississippi with no problems. The day was going along quite well until Birmingham, Alabama.

blown tireWe had a passing motorist point out to Cassie that one of the tires on the trailer had blown out. I quickly pulled over, under and overpass, and we spent the next 1 1/2 hours sitting there before the tire was fixed and we were on  our way again.

We finally arrived at the hotel in Nashville about 9 pm. Cassie found the last parking space our rig would fit into and it ended up being right near our room. The desk clerk looked a bit surprised with Cassie let out a whoop when she saw our room location. After supper at the Cracker Barrel next door we settled in for a good sleep before driving to our final destination.

On Thursday, we were up and going early, trying to beat some of the rush hour traffic. Both of us had to work hard at navigating, as there are several interstates that cross through Nashville, which meant lots of lane changes. The other big change was the number and height of the hills we encountered, which lasted most of the rest of the trip.

When we went through Lexington, KY, we got off the interstate and took a route that would allow us to bypass Cincinnati. The roads varied from four lane down to two lane roads with really no shoulder, which made driving even more interesting. But, we pressed on into Ohio and took SR 41 until we reached Highway 32, which was a nice four lane and took us the rest of the way to Athens. The scenery was breath taking, as we drove through, or more correctly, up and down the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. We arrived in Athens and then proceeded to try and find her new apartment, the upstairs half of a duplex. From prior research, it didn’t appear to be places to turn around, so we had to go around to the backside of the big hill she lives on and drive to her place that way. It was a rough, almost two lane road that we bumped along for a while before finally arriving at our destination.

IMG_0630Arriving at her new apartment was a great feeling after two long days of being on the road. She had talked with the realtor company about help unloading and they put her in contact with a college student and his friend who are on the wrestling team. With them doing the heavy lifting, especially up the stairs, we had the truck unloaded in less that 45 minutes.

After doing some unpacking we went into Athens to have some supper and do a little shopping. Once back at her place we did some more unpacking, and then spent the rest of the evening on her deck, seen above, looking at the stars and relaxing from all we had been through.

The next day started early, again, as we had to drop off the truck and then get me to the airport. The apps we used said the trip would take about three hours, but it ended up being almost four, and we still can’t figure out why as there were no delays along the way. Cassie followed behind me, to block the lane behind me if I needed to change lanes. The apps did lead us right to the drop off place, and I was very glad to hand over the keys and not have to drive that rig anymore. The Cincinnati airport was about five minutes away, so I was still there in plenty of time to get some lunch and get ready for my flight. It was sad to leave Cassie, as we had not spent this much time together since I moved her from Dallas to Madison, WI after she graduated from college.

While at the airport, I received a text message from United indicating my flight from Chicago to Minneapolis was delayed about 1 1/2 hours. The flight to Chicago was on time, which meant I had plenty of time to stroll to the other terminal and begin the long wait. The next flight left the gate about 3:30, but a problem with an alarm message caused us to go back to the gate while they replaced the sensor. We took off at 4:45, about three hours later than originally scheduled. I returned home at 9:30 pm, about 16 hours after Cassie and I left earlier that morning.

Overall, the trip was wonderful, because I was able to spend so much time with Cassie. We’ve gone through long stretches of time without being able to see each other, but have kept in touch via Facebook, text messages, and phone calls. Now we both have some memories that will last a lifetime, which is another reason I put this posting together, so those memories are recorded somewhere. I am hoping my wife can travel there to see her this fall, and we are making plans for her to come up home for Christmas. Hopefully, this will be her last move, or the last one for a very long time, as she wants to stay in one place for more than three years.

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Decade after Decade after Decade

Updated 8/16/2014

While lying awake the other night and thinking about turning 60 next year, I thought about major events in my life as I turned 20 through 50. I would like to share these reflections with you, which also include other memories I’ve recalled since that night.

The biggest event in my life before I turned 20 was the death of my father on June 9, 1961. We were living in Stoughton, WI at the time and moved back to Brainerd, where my mother’s parents, mother in law, and lots of relatives lived.

In 1974 I turned 20 and the most significant event was meeting the woman who would eventually be my wife. We met on January 18th, which coincidentally was my grandmother’s birthday. Since getting married on July 10, 1976, we have remembered January 18th as an anniversary and will be celebrating 40 years this January.

The other treasured events in my 20’s were the birth of our daughters in December 1978, December 1980, and May 1983. There was also tragedy during this time period, when Denise and our oldest daughter were in a car accident on April 4, 1980, and our 16-month old daughter received a depressed skull fracture that caused a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). She was in a nearly coma like condition for nearly eight weeks, and had to learn to sit up, crawl, and walk again, which took a long time to achieve.

In 1984 I turned 30 and in May of that year, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, at the age of 50. The doctors had given her three to five years, but because of some complicating factors, she died from a stroke on June 5, 1985. Prior to her becoming sick, she was the primary caregiver for her mother, a role I took on after her death. My grandmother was in good health for nearly all her remaining years.

My 30’s weren’t all filled up with different tragedies. When I was 34, I felt called by the Lord to become a Catholic. I was raised as a Lutheran, but was practicing that faith for many years. Attending my daughter’s classes for First Reconciliation and First Communion, helped prepare me for becoming Catholic. I began taking classes the fall of 1989 and joined the Church at the Easter Vigil the following Spring. In my late 30’s I began to sense a calling to be a Catholic Deacon, and began the initial process to discern if that was truly what I was called to be.

In 1994 I turned 40, and shortly after my birthday that year, began the formation program to become a deacon. The program consisted of one weekend a month, September through May, along with a Monday through Friday study week in June. The weekends in Duluth started at supper time on Friday and concluded at noon on Sunday. Saturdays were devoted to six hours of lecture, along with some follow up time that evening. We did a lot of reading and writing during the first three years, and spent the fourth year learning how to function as a deacon at mass, as well as performing baptisms and weddings. The program isn’t like what people experience in attaining a degree. The classes were taught at a Master’s level and you were only in the program for one year at a time. During the study week there was an evaluation and at that time you were asked to come back for the next year. After the third year, you are told, God willing, that the Church believes you are called to be a deacon. I was ordained on November 23, 1997.

Though I had hoped my grandmother would live to see me ordained a deacon, that didn’t happen. She died on December 21, 1994 at the age of 96. A few weeks before her death, I was able to video tape her telling some of her favorite stories. That tape has many treasured memories of hearing those stories while growing up.

In 2004 I turned 50 and it was quite an eventful year. I had applied for promotion and got the job, which meant moving to Madison, Wisconsin, where the corporate headquarters are for my company.

2006 was a challenging year. First, I had surgery in June for precancerous polyps, and the test results were negative for cancer. In December, Denise was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent chemotherapy in Madison until August of 2007. I arranged a little surprise to cheer her up for Mother’s Day in 2007. I secretly arranged for our daughter who was living in Dallas at the time to fly into Madison to surprise her. You should have seen the look on Denise’s face as I announced her Mother’s Day gift had arrived, and our daughter walked through the door She has been cancer free for seven years.

Update below:

Her diagnosis with cancer and the subsequent chemotherapy with its side effects, really drove home the fragile nature of our lives. I decided that it would be a good idea to take a trip to celebrate life, and gave Denise a few destinations to choose from. She decided we should go to Italy, and so Cassy and I started planning the trip. Cassy and her older sister graduated from the University of Dallas, a small Catholic college, and the college had a campus outside of Rome, where students would typically spend one semester of their Sophmore year at this campus. Cassy was able to spend her Spring semester there, which made her an ideal travel guide while we were there. We spent about 10 days in Italy, first in Florence, and then in Rome. It was truly the trip of a lifetime, and gave us many great memories.

We had planned to be in Madison for about 10 years, and then retire back to the Brainerd area to be around the grandchildren. But, our plans weren’t God’s, and as a result of some downsizing in the management group I was with, ended up moving back from where we came in March 2008, when I took a different position with the same company. Fortunately, Denise still had her job back here, and was very excited when I told her about the chance to us to move back. We ended up buying a house about 1/2 mile from the one we sold while living in Madison.

Update below:

In June of 2012, our oldest daughter was married, the one mentioned above who was injured in the car accident. She and her husband live nearby and are doing well.

God’s hand was definitely in our move back, as we have been able to really help out our grandchildren and their parents. In September 2012, our daughter and husband separated, and she started living with us. The kids are with her at least half the time, so the house we bought with four bedrooms has really helped out during this time. If we were in Madison, the situation would have been much more difficult.

In 2014 I will turn 60 and it looks to be a year with lots of changes. The department I’m part of is undergoing another round of downsizing, the second in about three years, and I’ve decided it’s time to leave and take an early retirement in April. I will have to find another line of work and am already working on a few options. I’m hoping to have some time off to expand where I garden, work on the landscaping, install some fencing, and dig a couple of ponds. In August we’ll have a big party for my 60th birthday, and hopefully all will be well at that time.

I will be adding to this posting from time to time, as other past events come to mind that I think would be interesting for my readers.

August 16, 2014 update

I made it to 60 and the party was a big hit. A lot of work happened in the months prior to the big day, but it was all worth it.

My youngest daughter got a new job, on the faculty of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. The Monday after the party, we flew back to New Orleans to get her packed up and moved to Athens. I will put out a separate post detailing our big adventure.

After I returned from moving her, a 16 hour “adventure”, I was delighted to see ripe tomatoes in the garden, so now my attention will be turned to preserving the food coming out of the garden, so we have high quality food to eat over the winter.

August 17, 2017 update

It’s a little hard to believe I haven’t updated this in three years, but then I’ve been busy with more important matters. The rest of 2014 was pretty good, lots of veggies to can.

I started substitute teaching in October of 2014, which has been a bit of an adventure. Most classes I just have to tell them, and remind them, to sit down, be quiet, and do there work. Shop classes are a little more exciting, as I have to make sure they leave with as many body parts they had when they arrived, as well as no blood spilled. 🙂

2015 was a year we’ll long remember. Near the end of February, Denise was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. As a result of this diagnosis, she underwent a double mastectomy, followed by chemo, and then radiation treatments. So far there’s been no sign of cancer returning anywhere else. She also underwent genetic testing and found she had Lynch syndrome, which makes people 10 to 20% more likely to have a variety of cancers, which explains her colon cancer with no family history.

2015 did have a major highlight, as our youngest daughter had a little boy the end of April. We drove down, in hopes of being there when he arrived, but had to leave a little early to get back for Denise’s next chemo appointment. He arrived later that same day, and we were sent pictures soon after he made his appearance. Denise, and others, went down that June to spend time with him, and his mother. In October, we took everyone down there so I could baptize him. The fourth grandchild I’ve had the privilege to baptize.

The most exciting thing that happened in 2016 was our daughter (the one with the baby) bought a house, and we went for a nice visit, and to help her fix it up, as it was about 100 years old.

On a more positive note, this past December we celebrated the 10 year anniversary of her colon cancer diagnosis. My daughters and I put together a surprise dinner of crab legs (her favorite) and other wonderful dishes. We were able to keep it all a secret until the time dinner was served. It was a very emotional dinner, given all we had been through the past 10 years.

In May of 2017, our daughter (with the small one) lost her job. We had already planned a trip there before she received the bad news. We had some fun while there, and also helped with packing, and moving boxes to one room so that the movers would have a little less to do. They moved to Dallas the beginning of June to stay a while and look for work. Our daughter’s best friend, who had been helping her take care of the little one, got another teaching job in Arizona, and so that’s where they are for the time being. We hope to visit this coming February, and enjoy some sun and warmth during our long winter.

If anything more exciting happens, I’ll try to remember to update this page.



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A wonderful Spring weekend

IMG_0321The weather finally warmed up this past weekend, and we did our best to enjoy it. I had to shovel a good amount of snow off the deck in order to get to the grill, but it was worth it. Put some polish sausages on the grill for lunch, to kick off another grilling season.



Spent most of the afternoon getting seeds planted in flats in the greenhouse. Planting them much later that I would have preferred. Had problems with the electrical wires I ran to the greenhouse last Fall that took a bit of time to resolve. Was able to get everything started and now the waiting begins. The spinach, lettuce, and kale I planted earlier this spring in the raised bed in the greenhouse are slowing coming up. I also planted some sugar snap pea seeds about 14 years old to see if any would germinate, and much to my surprise, a number of them have sprouted and are growing. I will be saving all those seeds, and they have to be very hardy.

IMG_0322daughter and munchkins helping out with various chores and projects on Saturday, and decided to grill some steaks and red potatoes for supper. The steaks were from locally sourced beef raised on grass, as they should be. Munchkins weren’t too hungry, so had leftover steak for breakfast yesterday and today.


IMG_0323The munchkins wanted smores after supper and had gathered twigs and branches left over from the trees taken down this past Fall. They started the fire and got it going to the point it was ready for cooking marshmallows. Of course, they had to find other  sticks to put in the fire, and play with the fire. 🙂


IMG_0325Once the fire was going, daughter and granddaughter got involved and cooked their marshmallows for smores. By the end of the weekend, the snow right behind them was gone, and the snow on the other side of the driveway went down quite a bit. Spring has been very slow to come this year.


IMG_0324On Saturday, the boys asked about getting up on the roof, not to do anything, but just for the experience. Sunday ended up being a good day to spend  little time on the roof. Once granddaughter saw her brothers climb up on the roof, of course she had to join them. They all behaved quite well up there, which is a little surprising 🙂 Their mother helped get back down onto the ladder and safely on the ground.

After having wonderful weather this past weekend, we are now facing several days of temperatures in the 40’s, with clouds and rain. One thing about living in Minnesota, is that we enjoy good weather when it happens, as it sometimes doesn’t last long. I am hoping the weather improves a lot by later in May when I’m on vacation and hoping to get the garden planted. At least the rain will take care of the rest of the snow and provide some more moisture for the garden and our landscaping.


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New Orleans trip, Part Two

Our third day was spent visiting some plantations further up the river from New Orleans. We visited three plantations and took guided tours through two of them.


The first one was Laura Plantation, named for the granddaughter of the woman who ran the plantation for most of her life. We didn’t  take guided tour, but did purchase a DVD of the PBS documentary of this plantation. One of the most disturbing parts of the story was how the owner increased the number of slaves. While visiting the slave market in New Orleans, she noticed how inexpensive the  young girls were, and decided to buy a number of them, and four males to hopefully impregnate the young girls. She referred to the unborn children as her “crop”, which highlights how little regard she had for the slaves.

IMG_0304Here is a picture of the restored plantation house, built in Creole style. Creole style dwelling were built off the ground on stone pillars, to allow for air flow to help cool the house. There were only three rooms, and no hallways, with large windows to help cool the house. The large pot in the foreground was originally used to boil the sugar cane.


IMG_0301The second plantation we visited was Evergreen Plantation. Evergreen Plantation is the most intact plantation complex in the South with 37 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including 22 slave cabins. Evergreen has its country’s highest historic designation and joins Mount Vernon and Gettysburg in being granted landmark status for its agricultural acreage.

IMG_0288Today, Evergreen Plantation remains a privately owned, working sugar cane plantation. People live here and work here. The woman who owns this property lives in the French Quarter and will come up here to entertain guests. Because it’s a private residence, we were not able to take pictures of the inside. The house was originally built in Creole style, but later modified to the Greek revival style you see in the picture.

IMG_0289One of the very interesting feature of this property were a pair of building on either side of the big house, called garconnaires. The purpose of these dwellings was to give the young men of the family a place to live once they turned 15, as they were not allowed to stay in the big house.


Evergreen is noted for having 22 intact slave cabins, something very rare. The main reason they are still standing, is that sharecroppers lived in them until the 1940’s. The cabins are 12 x 24 feet, with a wall down the middle that had a hearth for each side to share. A family lived in each half of the cabin.

IMG_0277The third plantation we visited was Oak Alley, the largest of the three, named for the majestic oak trees in the front.




IMG_0276While waiting for the tour to begin, you can purchase mint juleps to sip on while relaxing on the front porch. Here are Denise and Cassie relaxing with a cool drink while taking in the scenery, partly shown in the picture above.



IMG_0283One of the most impressive parts of the tour was the dining room. The large piece of fabric over the middle of the table had a rope tied to it that ran over pulleys to the corner. A servant would pull on the rope to get it moving and create a cooling breeze for the people at the table. Some times an ice sculpture would be in the middle to provide more cooling for the air.


IMG_0307On Tuesday, we toured one of the famous graveyards, which are unique for the above ground burial structures. Our daughter then showed us some of the other areas of New Orleans and we did some shopping, including picking up some steak and other items for supper.


IMG_0309On Wednesday, our last day, we did some more shopping in the French Market, to get some last minute items for the munchkins and others. We then went to Tulane University, and I helped Cassie load costumes in her car that were used in a recent play and needed to be dry cleaned. Then it was off to the airport for the first of our two flights that would get us to Minneapolis that evening.

IMG_0310This it what greeted us when we got back to the hotel. I did clear a some snow off before taking the picture. We arrived home a little after midnight, and were glad the day of traveling was finally over.



I am considering trying to make it back to New Orleans this fall, to relax by the pool and eat some more great food. Until then, we’ll have the great memories of this trip, especially spending time with our daughter.


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New Orleans trip, Part One

Earlier this month, Dense and I were able to take our first real vacation in a long time. We went to New Orleans to visit our daughter there for five days.  This posting will cover the first two days we spent in NOLA, as we visited several restaurants and did quite a bit of wandering around. The apartment she shares with her best friend from College is in the French Quarter, which made getting around that part of town very easy. Even though it wasn’t very warm the first two days, it was certainly much nicer to look outside and see green plants, instead of snow.



For supper that first evening, we went to Mandina’s Restaurant and had some great food and laughs. Took a while to get seated, but the wait was worth it, as all the food was excellent and the atmosphere very relaxed. For some reason, the ladies started singing songs they remembered from Girl Scouts (Denise was a leader when our girls were young)

After dinner, we went to Angelo Brocato Ice Cream from some coffee and gelato, which was  very good. We had a great time that night and after all the excitement, were ready for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we walked to mass at St. Louis Cathedral. The oldest Cathedral in the United State. Catholics have been worshiping there since 1727. After mass we met our daughter and friend at Cafe Du Monde, world famous for their beignets. the beignet is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. They are served in orders of three. The beignets were so good that I didn’t think to take a picture until they were gone.

Once we were done with that snack we wandered around the French Market looking at all the items. The French Market is a combination of a farmer’s market and flea market, catering in large part to tourists. After wandering around for a while, we decided it was time for lunch. We ate at Frank’s Restaurant and had a wonderful meal with a muffuletta  (Baked Ham, Genoa Salami, Imported Swiss and Italian Olive Salad on Italian Bread), some red beans and rice, and seafood gumbo.

After lunch we did some more wandering around and killing time until Denise and I went for a ride on the Steamboat Natchez. About a half hour before departure a person started playing the calliope on the top deck


IMG_0269The ride was about two hours long and went down the Mississippi for a ways, before turning around They pointed out a number of historical sites along the banks of the river. Perhaps the most interesting is the building where Andrew Jackson met with pirate Jean Lafitte during the Battle for New Orleans. Without the ammunition and extra men Lafitte supplied, the battle would have been lost.

After the ride we met up with our daughter’s roommate  and walked back to their apartment. Before supper she took us for a driving tour around the 9th Ward, as I wanted to see some of what had happened since Katrina. While a lot of the damage had been cleared away and/or rebuilt, there were still buildings marked for demolition, which gave us a better idea of the destruction of that hurricane.

Supper was at another wonderful restaurant, Acme Oyster House. We were dropped off to get a place in line, as they don’t take reservations. The line took about 45 minutes to move forward enough so we could get a table. We started with char-grilled oysters, which were fantastic. I had a fried oyster Po-boy and Denise had a Fried Stuffed Crab, which she really enjoyed. After dinner, since the walk back the apartment was a bit too far, Denise and I took a bike taxi back to the apartment.

The next two days were great, with warmer weather and seeing some very interesting sites, and those days will be covered in part two.






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Having trees removed

IMG_0259I have one big tree in front of my house that has a lengthwise crack that is growing, so I decided to find someone to take it down, along with some other trees on my property. Found a small, local, one-man business that does tree removal at a reasonable price. He and his helper showed up this morning to start removing the trees.

They are also chipping the small branches, which will provide great mulch for our perennial beds and garden.

IMG_0260They started in the front and made short work of the trees I wanted removed. Seems like they are leaving the big one until later, as one of them will have to climb the tree and start cutting the top branches before taking down the main trunk. They are cutting up the trunks into 18 to 20 inch lengths so I can later split them for the wood stove I hope to add this year.

Beyond my garden there are two trees being removed which cast a shadow on part of the garden during the later part of the summer. Both were older and needed to be taken down, which will help the garden do better this year. There was also one to the south of the garden that also cast a shadow during part of the summer, and so I had them remove it. Really looking forward to having more sunlight on the garden this year.

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Reflections on 2012 and a look forward to 2013

2012 brought many changes to our lives, both positive and negative, which is how most years turn out. In this posting I will discuss those changes, some I’ve written about before, and some that will be new to readers.

The early part of the year was fairly routine, with teaching classes at church two evenings a week, seeing K (#2 daughter) and the munchkins on a regular basis, and getting seeds started for the garden. Other “spare” time was taken up with planning for A’s (#1 daughter) wedding that took place on June, 23, 2012. Denise’s health was a bit of a concern during this time, and that concern increased in March, leading up to her surgery on April 19th, and six weeks of recovery.

During the time of her initial diagnosis (possible cancer), the trips to the surgeon in the Cities, and her time in the hospital, there was a palpable sense of God’s presence. The first experience was when she was anointed by our priest, who then prayed over her. I felt the presence of God envelop us and sensed that the outcome would be a good one. Of course, we had many others praying for her, such as our bishop, various priests and deacons, wives of our deacon friends, and many others whose names I don’t know. While she was getting prepped for surgery a Catholic chaplain visited with us, and when she prayed for Denise, God’s presence descended over us once again, to provide strength and healing. To God’s glory, no cancer was found during surgery or in the tissue examined later. Denise recovered well, and went back to work for a week, before taking time off for A’s wedding.

IMG_0085While everything was going on with Denise, new garden beds were added and the whole garden planted, with a lot of help from K and the munchkins. In this picture, Denise is supervising the munchkins planting one of the new beds.



IMG_0106I also took vacation the week before the wedding and had lots of things to get done, and errands to run. C (#3 daughter) and her best friend flew in from New Orleans to help with preparing for the wedding. They were a great help and contributed, along with many others to a very wonderful day for A and her new husband. This is my favorite picture of my three girls. A, of course, in the middle, K on her right, and C on her left.


IMG_0137Here they are at the reception, with C’s best friend in the yellow dress. She worked most of the day at the reception site, helping my youngest brother, our chef, his son, and my other brother get the place set up, food prepped and cooked, and ready to serve. Everyone loved the prime rib and the rest of the food they served.



Here is a good picture of my brother, the chef, his wife, and my other brother wearing the Hawaiian shirt, who was simply functioning as “eye candy” (his words) at this time. This will be test to see if either of them actually read my blog.


We moved back to this part of Minnesota in April 2008, after I was given the “opportunity” to take a supervisor position back here, as we were expanding the locations for having call center people to other areas of the country. The primary reason I took the transfer back here was so Denise and I could help take care of the munchkins, and God has shown us too many times to count, why He brought us back. We had built a house in Madison, WI and tried to sell it in the declining housing market. We ended up trying to do a sort sale on it, but that fell through, due to the lack of urgency on the part of two financial institutions for getting their part of the sale approved. The house was foreclosed on the Tuesday before the wedding, adding to the “excitement” of that week.

Once the wedding was over and the “other” house gone, I began wondering what the “new normal” would be in our lives. That wondering lasted until the middle of July, when K told us she and her husband were separating and she would be moving in with us later that summer. Fortunately, the house we bought when we moved back has four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Not a very large house, but plenty of room for Denise and I, and occasional guests. We had turned to of the bedrooms into offices, and over the next few weeks, cleaned them out so they could become bedrooms for the munchkins, whenever they are over here, which is at least half time. All of them moved in Labor Day weekend, and the new normal began.

With kids once again in the house, and all the business with school, homework, etc, the Fall just flew by. The munchkins started attending the public school in this area, and having the schools close by does help. #1 munchkin ran track this Fall, and I would pick him up after work once or twice a week, since his school is next to my workplace. We attended his band and choir concerts last month, and Denise and I laughed about how many hours we had spent in that same auditorium when the girls were attending there.


Princess in one of the guildsThe only really bad thing that happened last year was the death of our dog, Princess. She was only six years old, and losing her has left us heartbroken. We miss her dearly and are slowly adjusting to this most unwanted new normal.



IMG_0257The plan, since last Christmas, was for C and her best friend to come up here for Christmas. They had quite an adventure driving through the aftermath of the pre-Christmas blizzard, but made it up safe and sound. We had held off on doing a good part of the baking until they got here, so they could enjoy helping. This picture shows C, with the apron on, her best friend next to her, and granddaughter getting ready to put powdered sugar on the rosettes being fried in oil by C.


IMG_0256Their next big project was to cook the lefse. C had used an old recipe that called for lard, and everyone thought they were the best we’ve made in many years. There is one munchkin next to C, and K is the one with the glasses on. We did a lot of cooking and eating while they were up here, and really enjoyed ourselves.


While cooking the last big meal before they left last Friday, I told them how much I was going to miss cooking with all of them. If plans hold together, all of us will be able to cook together in two years, when the New Orleans gals return for Christmas. K drove back to New Orleans with the girls to spend her birthday, New Year’s Eve, with them in New Orleans. She has had a great time and I just got a text from her at the airport, getting ready to board her flight home in a little while.

Once the girls left, the house was very quiet, as the munchkins were with their father. Denise and I had a relaxing weekend, not doing much at all, and I even was able to read some books. We celebrated New Year’s Eve quietly, as usual, and were asleep when 2013 began. Tomorrow brings a full scale munchkin invasion and busyness will return to our home.

While Denise was in the hospital, I was able to finish reading two books by Fr Walter Cizek, a priest that spent 23 years in Soviet prison camps and gulags, until being released. From his writing I learned more deeply the importance of turning all my life over to God and letting His perfect will guide my life. Everything that happened last year, good and bad, is part of His plan for my life. I know I won’t understand why it all happened until I meet Him in Heaven. I have only to trust and have faith.

I have plans for 2013, such as expanding the garden, growing plants in my greenhouse, adding more fruit bearing trees and shrubs, and other improvements on our property. We are planning a trip to New Orleans before Spring, to see the girls and eat some great food.  I also hope to take an early retirement in April 2014, assuming I have something to retire to, meaning some other type of work. Hopefully, I can keep everyone updated more frequently during 2013, and show how we’re transforming our one acre lot to produce more food for us and also be a place where munchkins can roam and enjoy themselves.




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The Day Our Princess Died


Princess had not been feeling well for a couple of weeks, and so I took her to the vet last Monday. She was put on some medication, but did not improve. Today, Denise took her in and the vet discovered she had liver cancer. The tumor could not be treated, and there was nothing that could be done to relieve her suffering. So, the decision was made to put her to sleep. About 1 1/2 hours ago, she ceased to be an integral part of our lives.

She was only six years old, and we bought her while we were living in Wisconsin. Six years ago, Denise was diagnosed with cancer, and after the treatments had begun, asked me if she could get a dog. I relented, in the hope it would help her during this time. We bought Princess that April, and soon after I noticed Denise was smiling for the first time in four months. I also fell in love with Princess, and over the years she tended to be daddy’s girl, a bit of a sore spot with Denise 🙂

Princess was Denise’s companion when she traveled back and forth from Madison to Brainerd for work. She kept her company on the long trips and the nights away from our home in Madison.

When we moved back to Minnesota, Princess had a lot of room to run around and chase the various “beasties” on our property. She also loved to tag along with me whenever I was working outside. The picture above is from this summer, when she was in the garden with me, while I was putting in some more raised beds.

Words cannot express the grief we are experiencing at this time, now that Princess is no longer with us. We have many great memories of our time with her, but wish that time had been much longer.

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Rebelling Against Winter

Thanksgiving Day started out nicely. The weather was partly cloudy and temperatures were in the mid-forties. But the forecast for the day let us know the nice weather was not going to last, as a cold front with strong winds and snow was heading our way. By mid-afternoon, after the Thanksgiving meal had been eaten, and leftovers put away, the wind began to pick up from the Northwest, signally the front’s arrival. The temperatures continued to drop and snow began falling by late afternoon. I woke up this morning to temperatures in the teens, a wind chill in the single digits, and about two inches of snow. Winter has officially arrived, and no one was really happy to our “other” season beginning again.

My inbox was filling up with Black Friday deals, and I decided to go with one from Tomato Fest and ordered my tomato seeds for next year.

  •      San Marzano
  •      Yellow Gooseberry
  •      Camp Joy
  •      Martino’s Roma
  •      Chocolate Stripes

Ordering the seeds was my way of rebelling against the onset of winter and the long, cold nights ahead, by focusing on the promise of warm Spring days and tomatoes ripening in the  greenhouse and then outside.

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Chicken and Garlic

Fall is the best time to plant garlic, and I’ve had varied success with it in the past. This past Spring, I let the chickens in the garden area to do their thing, and unfortunately, they dug up a number of the garlic bulbs I had planted the previous Fall, resulting in a much lower than expected amount of garlic at harvest time.

The picture is from this Fall’s garlic planting and you can see how curious the chickens are after spotting the cloves lying on the ground. I had to keep shooing them away so they didn’t mess with the garlic.



I laid out the cloves on top of the ground so they would be properly spaced. I ended up planting an entire 4×4 foot bed with garlic and half of another one before I used up the six heads of garlic I had ordered.



This is what the garden bed looked like before I planted the garlic. I just poked a hole in the soil with my finger, put the clove in the hole, and covered it with soil. When the entire bed was planted, I covered it with a two-inch layer of compost. I did the same process for the half a bed planted with garlic. I have more garlic on order, which will finish the half bed and likely fill another 4×4 foot bed.


I put a plastic fence around the bed I planted, using two metal posts to keep it semi-upright, and keep my garden “helpers” out. I laid the fence on the second bed to keep them from scratching the freshly planted garlic and will surround the bed with it once I’m finished planting it.


The chickens do a great job of cleaning up any veggies that may have landed in the garden beds or walkways, and help break up the soil in other beds. It’s quite entertaining to watch them scratch and dig around the garden, even if they make a mess at times. Yesterday, I dumped some compost on a bed, and let them scratch and peck in it, resulting in a garden bed evenly covered with compost. They are good garden workers, and also give me eggs 🙂


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