Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hungry Spirit

Sigh. More snow. Laying heavy on the ground and heavy on my spirit. This has been a very long winter, made longer by an onslaught of illnesses. Colds, ear infections, RSV, strep. I had strep for six weeks, going through various antibiotics until one of them finally did the trick.

My spirit is worn down. Starving. I need something to feed it. Fortunately the rest of my family is unaffected by the winter doldrums. The heavy wet snow is great for snowmen. But not so good for gardening.

The tomato seedlings I have started in my basement offer a small glimmer of hope. At the end of March I started a batch of heirloom seeds that I had saved from previous years. Two weeks later I counted my few sprouts and realized I needed to start a whole lot more if I was going to have enough plants for myself, my friends and a free tomato give-away day at work. So I started a ton more. Two weeks later I am swimming in tomato seedlings. At last count I had over a hundred. Looks like the mystical and mysterious tomato fairy will be visiting my neighbors' doorsteps this spring.

Spring. If it ever arrives.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Winging It

Hello, my name is Benjamin. I'm two years old, the youngest of three boys that live in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Mom and Dad live with us too; in fact, the reason we live in the middle of nowhere is because Mom got a job nine years ago at a state park in western Minnesota. They lived in town for a few years, then bought an old farmstead ten miles out.

Most of the time my parents are just winging it. They really have no clue what they are doing in the country. They got chickens: injuries, disease and predators took most of the early ones. They planted a garden: three years later it's being turned into a goat pen to try to eradicate the weeds. They planted an orchard: deer ate all the buds off of the branches, and now the old orchard is where the new garden will be when we get the goats.

The old-timers who have lived out here for decades just look at my parents, shake their heads and smile. My Mom's dream is to get a dairy cow. Fresh milk, butter and cheese all of the time. Has my Mom ever cared for a cow before? No. Does she know anything about cows? Not much. Is this going to stop her? No way.

By the way, the expression on my face in the photo above is the one I have on most of the time. Nothing gets Mom and Dad's attention faster than a good old-fashioned yelling fit. I figure I've got to live it up while I'm young, because by the time I'm ten years old I'll probably be milking a cow and shoveling manure all day long.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Irresistible Mud

My kids can't resist a good mud puddle. Fortunately for them, but not so fortunate for my car, there are several large depressions at the end of our driveway that fill up with water fairly frequently. Spring melt is a great time for mud. Sometimes my boys go through three pairs of socks in one day in the spring.

Laundry is a small price to pay for watching the look of pure joy on the face of a little boy playing in the mud. Again, it's just another great thing about living in the country. In the city you might have a puddle at the end of your driveway after a rain, but it's not very muddy and it's drained away into storm sewers before you can find your rubber frog mud boots.

We're forecasted for 8-12 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow, with temps rising into the 50's and 60's by early next week. That means that Sunday will be another great mud day. I might just have to find some frog boots of my own.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


This morning's sunrise. Actually, the sun is just to the left, already risen above the treeline. "What a pretty sunrise," I said while walking my son out to catch the school bus. "No time for that," he said as he ran ahead down the driveway. Looks like I have to work with him a little more on life's priorities. I love being able to see across the prairie to the far horizon. Sunrise and sunset and everything in between, outstretched and unobstructed.

Whenever you see trees in rural western Minnesota, it means either a windbreak between fields, a farmstead, or a slough. Slough is pronounced 'slew.' I had never heard this word before moving out here. Basically, a slough is a wetland in the middle of someone's farm field.

There used to be a whole lot more wetlands out here a hundred years ago, but most of them have been ditched or drain-tiled away to make more cropland. Actually, compared to the rest of the midwest, we have a high number of wetlands remaining in our county. But that's not saying much for the rest of the midwest.