Monday, October 31, 2011

And Now for Something Entirely Different

Clark, Skovs & Moores - Oh My!
Happy relaxed Halloween!

Yup. Relaxed, for the first time in 15 years. Well, relaxed on this specific day/week/month.

The only costumes I worked on were the ones Dale and I wore. I did help my Dear Old Dad with his Pirate Chief make-up a little bit. But Deb had his costume ready to go and he was pretty self sufficient.

The only laundry I had to do was my own. I didn't have to help anyone discern what to be, nor did I have to lament over the fact that the costume they love is simply not their size.

The young 20-somethings carved pumpkins during their fall break and I used my favorite Halloween decorations from the now-defunct-shop to actually decorate my house for the first time in a decade and a half. I've been working pretty normally scheduled days and the only cooking I've been doing is for my own family. No extra vacuuming, sweeping, sorting, or drinking.

And on Friday of Halloween weekend we kenneled the dog at Beauty and the Beast and drove down the spectacularly gorgeous river valley to my home town-that-time-forgot, Galena, Illinois. We visited with friends and dressed up for the Halloween Parade and costume contests. My step-sister's family joined us and a great time was had by all!

Today was a relatively normal Monday and I realized that a woman with an orange, vintage motorcycle really should take it for a ride on All Hallows Eve. So off I went about an hour before sunset for an exhilarating ride on the gravel roads of the Cannon River valley.

Tonight I lit all the candles in the house decorations and posed my Gnome, Gnorbert II, with various decorations. It was all very relaxing and non-stressful, and probably healthy.

But there are no trick-or-treaters at our rural door. And the costume shop looks simply pathetic.

And I miss my friends the Costumers and our faithful Customers.

* * sigh * *

I guess I will need to find something entirely different to do next year! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Update

In February I posted an entry titled T is for Tuesday in which I confessed my issues with weight. I had done a little bit of research about my particular situation and felt compelled to make a public pronunciation at the time. I tracked back to that particular post because I realized that it is time for an update.

I got off to a very slow start . . .

But in April an announcement went around my office in New York inviting staff to participate in another round of an office pool "Biggest Loser" contest. The rules also stated that one must work from the New York office to participate. I objected from my home office in Minnesota. When they explained the need for someone else to weigh me and report my progress on the same scale every three weeks, I suggested that I could exercise my YMCA membership and have a personal trainier weigh me and send my results. My colleagues agreed and I paid my $20 participant fee. Let the competition begin!

I received some tips from the office, but I also had a new iPhone and a friend introduced me to the MyFitnessPal application. You can access this very helpful interactive tool on the internet with a regular computer, too. I began using the app to help me simply track my food intake and calorie output with daily activities and planned exercise. Over the course of six months I have lost 20 pounds and placed second in the office pool. I couldn't be more pleased and proud. My body Mass Index has dropped to 28.3 so I have officially shed enough of me to downgrade from being obese to overweight. My next goal is a BMI under 25 to be deemed officially "healthy" weight.

I know many, many people who struggle with food and weight and my heart goes out to each and every one. I dropped my first ten pounds by willing myself to cease drinking Coca-Cola. But knowing that this woman needs incentives and rewards, I gave myself permission to drink one Coke a week (usually on Friday) and to take one day off each week: I eat whatever I want and don't track it at all. I do my level best to eat healthier foods, smaller portions, and I track all my activities using the fitness calculator. THe daily net calorie goal really works for me. I try and walk at least twice a day for a minimum of 20 minutes, and if I can't fit that in I crank up the tunes on my iPod and take a 3 pm Dance Break for 10 minutes. (Yes, I have danced like a maniac in my assigned cubicle in the New York office. It caused incredulity and hilarity. I think it helped releive stress for others, too.)

I haven't lost as much as quickly as my friend who enrolled with Slimgenics. And I have other friends looking better and better using Weight-Watchers. It is clear to me that we have to do what works for us and not the same thing works for everybody. And our national bipolar culture of food, obsessing about being skinny yet producing food in huge portions with far to many non-nutritive fillers, designed to be eaten quivkly, sabotoges healthy eating habits.

I am grateful for the 20 pounds I have lost. I am even more grateful for feeling better in a healthier lifestyle. I am also hitting one of those dreaful plateaus. I began my backslide last week and gained two pounds. In fact all but one of us in the office pool gained in the most recent three-week segment. We appealed to the HR Department for help through our medical plan and we were warned. In the fall, when days grow shorter and temperatures grow cooler, human metabolism shifts to prepare for the colder weather to come. We naturally feel hungrier. So this is the time to lock elbows in our effort, support one another with good habits, be diligent in counting our calories and taking time to exercise.

It is also clear to me that guilt, shame, and helplessness are all completely unuseful in this journey. It really has become for me more about how I feel, physicall, emotionally, and spiritually, not about how I look. (Although someone noticing how I look now and then certainly doesn't hurt. Thank you!)

The next 20 pounds won't be as easy. Dropping the Coke habit was a good boost to get me started. Now I actually have to work at it, especially since I am not yet willing to give up my beloved beer! So I guess I just need to exercise more.

Feel free to friend me at MyFitnessPal where I am known as Bskov. Or just keep an eye on my counter on this blog on the right. I'll cheer you on and share my tips and trips in an effort to be accountable to myself, my community, and my committment.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Sale is On . . . . Almost

For the past 15 years I have spent this particular week of October, post-wedding-anniversary-week, cleaning and organizing the costume shop in preparation for the annual opening for the Halloween season. It usually entails me spending every available minute in the shop and pacing back and forth between the old granary and the laundry room in the house, hauling loads of laundry across the driveway.

This year I'm spending the week saying good bye to costumes that have become old friends. My Halloween season will only be three days long this year, October 6, 7, & 8, as we attempt to sell off the inventory with all of its accessories and decorations for good. Once and for all. Forever. Wow.

Little did they know it, but Arthur and Marisol and some friends gave me the unexpected pleasure of costuming one more group as they prepared to go to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival on Saturday morning. I manhandled a couple of costume rookies into a monk's robe and a musketeer costume. Robin Hood mostly costumed himself, as did Arthur, Ian, and Marisol. They indulged me by posing for pictures. Little did they know they would be the last group I sent out in costumes expecting to welcome them back. It was such a gift.

My best friends are all showing up to help with various preparations this week. Peggy keeps volunteering for "slave labor." I continue to advise her that it isn't slave labor when one openly volunteers. Peggy and Norma spent the afternoon with me painting signs today. Truaxes and Wanamakers came out to pitch the tent for the premium costumes tonight. Dale and Arthur have been helping haul heavy stuff around. And Janet, Peggy, and Mary have helped divide the personal keepsakes from the salable inventory. Over the next four days I will be blessed with help from the nine most dedicated friends and volunteers. Kathy, Mary, Barb, Dani, Beth, Linda, Phyllis, Janet, and Katie - you will never know how grateful I am for the help, and mostly the companionship and friendship, you have offered over the years. I can't wait to see everyone this weekend. We have to pack our entire Halloween season into three days!

Tomorrow I begin the pricing game and Thursday we open the doors on the tent and the shop to send it all off for good. I'm really not sure how I feel about all of this. So if you're in the neighborhood, drop in to say hello. We're charging for costumes and other household treasures, but hugs are always free!

FYI - we're selling some old furniture, antiques, camping equipment, and miscellaneous household items, too. Should be a good sale. Hope to see you this weekend!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Escape and Explore!

Upon returning home from a week in New York City, my own rural home on the Ten Acre Wood wasn't enough for this country girl. Saturday morning Dale and I packed up the pickup truck, loaded up the pooch, and headed north in search of a quiet campground and some fall color.

After a series of disappointing phone inquiries (we were a bit silly expecting to find a good campsite on a Saturday afternoon), we landed in the last possible campsite available in the electric loop of Banning State Park. As you can see, we were right next to the bath house with flush toilets and showers. At least it didn't smell like a pit toilet. It was a bit more noise and traffic than we prefer, but Cribbage games and a campfire with an amazing starlit night were worth the trip. I'm glad we packed the propane heater, too.

On Sunday we slept in, had brunch around 10, and set off for a hike. Banning has a self-guided trail along the Kettle River where pink sandstone was quarried at the turn of the last century. It was pretty fascinating. And we learned about the geology of the area while scrambling around on the rocks of the Kettle River, peering through potholes, and helping the Jack Russel Terrorist improve upon her Mountain Goat and Portuguese Water Dog imitations. We viewed Hell's Gate and Dragon Tooth rapids. Kayakers were enjoying the challenge. We stayed high and dry. Well, except for the dog.

I managed to get myself onto one ledge about 25 feet off the ground with a sheer cliff below me and no footholds low enough to climb back up to the trail. After handing the dog up to Dale, I needed him to lift me part way up so I could get purchase with my feet and haul myself up to the trail. Arthur could have pulled himself up with his fingertips. I still can't do a pull-up. But I am working on it.

The fall color was just starting with a few early maples displaying their fiery yellow and red. I'm thinking we may have to travel north again next weekend. We'll see.

Mostly I'm grateful that the State Parks are open so we can enjoy our traveling home away from home whenever we so desire.

And I'm grateful for a husband of 24 years who still likes to go outside to play. Thanks for the guided hike, Dale. I'll never forget what a Horst is, and I think there are still a whole bunch of Minnesota State Parks that we have yet to explore. Whatcha doin' next weekend?

Sunday, September 18, 2011


This weekend I took a Basic Motorcycle Safety Training Course. It all started with a test on Thursday to renew my permit, which I aced. That was followed by evening classroom instruction, and a test, which I aced. On Saturday morning I was the stellar student on the driving range, feeling pretty good about myself and a little too smug, perhaps.

Sunday was my dose of humility. I think I will blame it on forgetting to take my blood pressure medication. I was miserable in the rain on the course and was clutched up with too much feedback and too many instructions and techniques crowding my brain. This confusion in the little gray cells bled down into my shoulders resulting in a tense neck and an unsteady throttle wrist. Then they made us ride these tight u-turn, figure-eights in a little painted box on the pavement marked with tiny little "cones," and they kept saying "DON'T LOOK AT THE CONES, DON'T LOOK DOWN!" But if you run over a cone or go outside the box you might not pass the test for your license. I tied myself into a really good knot by the end of four hours when, in the drizzle, my cheerful, encouraging instructor, explained that he now had to switch roles and become the "objective, state test dude." I launched into full blown, hyperventilating, test anxiety. No shit!

But I don't really want to talk about that. It's behind me. I need to move on.

So when I got home my kitchen was filling rapidly with Skovs, all invited to come and help with the Garden Window installation in the kitchen. My brother-in-law, Larry, is pretty handy with remodeling projects and agreed to come help us with this one. The window looks fantastic. I really hope the siding and the wall around it improve as the week goes on. But I don't want to talk about that either.

The priority for me today was to complete the never-ending birthday sewing project I had initiated to make lunch totes for our twin goddaughters, Karen and Grace. (It was only never-ending due to my busy-ness and prioritization. So I designated today as THE day to wrap it up and ship them out.)

So the pattern (Wine and Dine) found Dale and me as we were wasting time in Cannon Falls at Fourth & Main Fabric. It's a great little quilt shop and more. They have this very cool fabric that is already laminated so that it's easy to wipe clean. And there is an amazing assortment of zippers to match all shades of color. Dale chose the lunch tote fabric and I chose the accessories. (I think Dale's choice was inspired by the ice bucket he won at New Year's Eve Bingo!)

I constructed the bags themselves, wove the lanyards for zipper pulls, and found water bottles, sandwich containers, "sporks," toothbrushes, hand soap, and ID tags at a variety of my favorite retail haunts including REI, Target, and Coborn's Foods.

Sewing and making fun things for friends and family have always been passions of mine. I hope and pray that Karen and Grace enjoy the lunch totes for awhile, at least. I certainly had funworking on them.



Yes, I passed the motrocycle license test. Thanks for asking :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Almost Autumn

When I walked the dog out back this morning, even though the mercury was past 75 and on it's way to 90 today, the marks of autumn were certainly in the air and in the fields.

Soybeans are just beginning to morph from green to gold, and much of the corn has already begun to dry and rattle in the wind.

Everything is dusty and dry for lack of rain. Hot as it got today, it really felt like a blustery bravado harkening the cooler weather following this front. My favorite time of the year approaches.

I love late September and early October when flowers are still blooming, fall crops are ripening for harvest, cool fronts keep humidity low, skies brilliant blue, and clouds puffy and white.

Sunsets and moonrises are typically spectacular. And in 10 days the equinox will mark the official change of season.

I could tell it was close tonight when I witnessed a simultaneous sunset/moonrise 180 degrees apart on the horizons.

Very cool.

(Posted this with my Blogger App on my iPhone - we'll see how it works. Loading the picture worked - placing them didn't.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Becky Thatcher

It felt like a Becky Thatcher sort of day.

Let me back up a little bit to explain. Last week marked the beginning of the late summer birthday season in my family. My father-in-law turned 79 on Wednesday, my father turned 72 on Friday, my stepmother turned 55 on Sunday, my youngest turns 20 this Saturday, and my Most-Perfect-Uncle will turn 60 a week from Wednesday. And the birthdays continue into September, too!

So last week my father-in-law asked if the family could join him for fishing on the float in Alma on the Mississippi River to celebrate his birthday. "Bronny, you should come, too," he insisted. (Yes, there is a small population of humans who get away with calling me "Bronny;" my college classmates and my husband's family. Period.) Today worked out as the only day most of us could show up. So my husband, his brother Larry, one of our sons, Joren, and I piled in the pick-up truck this morning to go join Grampa on the raft for a day of fishing.

My father-in-law is a bit of a prankster and I take it as a sign of affection and approval that he likes to tease and try to play pranks on me. But now and then I have to zing him back, just to maintain respect. So today I grabbed my antique fishing pole to take to the raft. Last month Dale and I found a 14 foot long bamboo fishing pole in the rafters of one of our sheds. We're relatively certain it hasn't seen the light of day, much less the kiss of cool water, for over 30 years.

Grampa DuWayne just laughed when I brought my over-long, unsophisticated fishing pole on the raft today. It got all kinds of longing looks from the old timers. And the youngsters (anyone younger than me at almost 50) looked at it like it was some strange device, perhaps akin to a telephone that actually dials and doesn't require electricity. Using a combination of DuWayne's tackle and my fly fishing gear, I tied a line to the thin end of the bamboo, loaded it up with a big, old red and white bobber, added a sinker, a modest hook, and a juicy big worm. I tossed the rig into the water and waited . . . .

I had a sunfish on the line in less than three minutes. WooHoo!

So here's the Becky Thatcher part. I got to spend the day on this amazing raft below the Alma Dam on the Mississippi fishing with a bunch of guys, and no one gave me grief when I just swung my Sunfish over to them for removal. I did grab a couple off the line myself, and I dealt with my own worms 95% of the time. I caught 14 Sunnies with the antique equipment and five of them were keepers.

The guys were mostly spin casting. They caught a lot of Sheepshead, which we keep and donate to the Eagle Center in Wabasha. They were catching Sunnies, too, and a northern and a few Small Mouth Bass. It was a good day to be on the water; upper 80's and humid. Cloud cover that rolled in in the early afternoon kept us from truly baking. Joren caught a nap in the recliner on the porch as well as a number of fish.

We had some excitement over the course of the day, too. Grampa DuWayne caught a 42 inch, 6 1/2 pound Gar with a split lower jaw. This is the kind of fish, that as an avid River Rat, who frequently swims in the Mighty Mississip, I would rather not see. Confirmation of prehistoric fish with a long jaw full of sharp teeth does not warm the heart. But is was impressive, nonetheless.

Several turtles were also caught. After I tired of the knots on my old fashioned fishing rig I switched to Arthur's spin casting Shakespeare rod, in honor of his absence due to work. (He put in a 14 hour day today!) I caught my biggest Sunny with his rig, and the biggest snapping turtle of the day! What a hoot.

And when they finally got him loose from the hook and the landing net, I was perched atop a bench to stay clear of the turtle temper tantrum.

Like Becky Thatcher, as much as I like hanging out with the boys, I'm still a girl who likes to wear pretty dresses at heart. (I did wear my Hawaiian Seahorse Sundress for fishing today!)

We concluded our antics with a stop at the Eagle Center in Wabasha to drop off a five gallon bucket of fresh fish and got a free pass to the staff area after hours and a personal audience with Angel, one of the Bald Eagles in residence. VERY COOL.

Did I mention that while on the raft we were buzzed by the biggest immature American Bald Eagle I have ever laid eyes on.

Wow! What a day. Thank you, Skovemen, for taking me fishing today. It truly was a blessing. Sunnies for supper were outstanding.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Grampa!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cutting the . . .

 . . . GRASS!

Mowing the lawn.

Curtailing the prairie.

Call it what you want, but in this family we have a backyard that never ends. And taking a two week vacation during the summer monsoon season equals a big mowing job upon return.

Our fleet of vehicles to tackle this job includes two derelict lawn tractors that no longer run, one all-but-dead mower that Dale drags behind the tractor (the same tractor he uses to drag the slightly functional snow-blower each winter that leads to using the front loader-bucket and scraping most of the gravel driveway into the yard), two push-mowers; one that I bought used a few years ago to do the trimming and a new Honda Dale bought last Summer to replace the most recently dead rider-mower, and two weed-whackers; one that functions and one that hasn't whacked for years.

(FOUL LANGUAGE WARNING: I grew up with a father who can really swear. And then I started hanging out with a bunch of River Rats who can really swear. And then I went to college, and my swearing was not frowned upon. And then I married a Baptist who very occasionally swears. It hasn't cured me of swearing. Sorry. Consider yourself warned.)

So the mowable area of our yard is currently LONG and juicy as a result of lots of rain, high dew points, and plenty of shade. Yesterday we finally had dry enough grass to tackle the part south and west of the driveway with the push mower. Joren took it on and when I examined his brief effort I realized that he was moving faster than the mower could handle. His tracks looked like 1/3 of the blades were actually cutting grass. (I am aware that it only has one blade. But earlier this summer during a different temper tantrum my husband reported that the mower was "cutting like horseshit because some moron had the blade upside down." Hmmmm . . . wonder who did that?)

Tonight Dale fired up the tractor to start knocking down the tallest stuff and I fired up the "new" Honda to take up where Joren had left off yesterday (with the blade right-side-up). BAD IDEA.

First of all, Dale's tracks with the big tractor looked like some strange wind gusts had blown through the yard. Some of the grass was clearly cut, but most of it simply looked crushed or blown over. The Honda push mower, purchased approximately one year ago, no longer has the exit flaps attached. It simply blows grass, sticks, stone, and dog shit right out a gaping hole on the right side of the mower deck. All the fancy plastic shit that should attach to the deck to direct the spew of crap from under the mower is broken beyond a duct tape or McGyver sort of repair. So it's mowing at your own risk with crap flying all over. Eye protection is required and a flack jacket is recommended.

It wouldn't be so bad to power through the shit storm if this mower actually cut the grass.

But the "self-propelled" assist creates its own problem. It's a pain in the ass when you need to back up, and when the grass is long and wet the front wheels simply sit and spin. Hell, my immobile mother could run this outfit smoking her precious cigarettes as fast as I can push it in the hopes that it actually cuts the grass in front of it!

I worked myself into a frenzy of disappointment in about six rounds of the driest, shortest part of the yard when Dale pulled up with the less-than-adequate tractor rig. I motioned him to slow down in the belief that if he went slower the mower behind the tractor would actually cut all of the grass it encountered. He stopped to get clarification of my hand signals. I started harping about all the stupid lawn mowing equipment on the property and he climbed off the tractor and started the push-mower when I was in mid sentence.

FUCK YOU! I thought.

He said, "Let me take it for a spin," as though I am incapable of understanding the finer points of pushing a goddamn mower through the fucking grass. My father at least had the sense to purchase solid beasts that cut the fucking grass. As I turned to walk away I simply said, "Oh, I wasn't talking or anything. . . ."

I shoved four bottles of beer into my bright red neoprene six-pack carrier, tucked the carrier against my belly under a tucked in t-shirt, donned my helmet, and kicked my trusty Yamaha Enduro 250 into action to ride to Peggy's house. (She lives less than two miles away through the corn and bean fields with less than 100 yards of gravel road from the field driveway to hers.) Upon arrival I walked in and asked the residential population who wanted a beer. Peggy asked what I was up to.

I responded, "I am AWOL from mowing."

We sat in her room chatting about lovely subjects, reflecting on the best parts of Summer as we sipped a couple of beers together. Her grandson, Kaden, and I discussed the merits and technicalities of sword fighting vs. light sabers and force-field shields. I vented about my husband who has no sense of urgency about fixing any damn thing. She delighted in having the summer off from work. I expounded on the excellence of having had a three week vacation that included projects at home, traveling with friends, and celebrating a wedding with family. I high-tailed it home just before sunset.

And there was my friend Mary's motorcycle in the driveway upon my arrival home. I am completely blessed with friends who are where you need them when you need them without even asking.

Lawn mowing be damned.

Classified: WANTED - sturdy, steel, sharp, powerful lawnmower that requires no TLC. Must be able to cut long, wet grass. No frills. Willing to pay $50 or less for used yet dependable machine. Call me if you have a machine that truly fits my criteria. I am not looking for a lawnmower that will groom a landscaped yard. I need a power machine that will cut the fucking grass. We live on a farm, not in an association-organized suburb. Will consider higher payment for demonstrated excellent restoration of a used Terraferminator. Kitten Clippers need not apply. (You really should watch the clip linked on the Terraferminator :) BCSkov

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

D is for Dirigible

This afternoon the air cleared up, the clouds began to part, the drizzle came to an end, and the day was transformed into a perfect evening for a motorcycle ride. I hopped on my trusty WeedHopper (1974 Yamaha Enduro 250) and Dale straddled his Barney Bike (Purple Kawasaki Concourse 1100) to head for the Uffda Shop in Red Wing to acquire our traditional Danish Wedding Gift for my Most Perfect Male Cousin, Adam, who will be wed to his beloved Jen on 23 July.

It was a perfectly harmless and purposeful mission on a cool, windless, sunny summer evening before dinner with our rural friends, Tom and Beth. As we were clearing Miesville and gaining speed Dale kept pointing ahead, so I sped up to come alongside and see what he wanted. I used the best left-hand signalling as I could, while keeping my right hand fast to the throttle, to indicate that I wanted to take the scenic, curvy route to Red Wing through Welch Village. He nodded affirmation but kept pointing ahead. I was puzzled.

Then what to my wondering eyes did appear?!?!

A big dirigible!

I have since learned from the folks at KARE 11 News that we witnessed the world's largest Zeppelin coming into a local airport for a weekend of aerial sight-seeing tours. I flagged Dale over to a side road so we could stop and take a picture. We called our friends in the flight path and they were already on to it. It simply isn't a sight one sees every day.

It also caused me to wonder; blimp, zeppelin, or dirigible. Following is what I learned from a quick Google search on dirigibles at Airships:

What is a Dirigible?  

A dirigible is any lighter-than-air craft that is both powered and steerable (as opposed to free floating, like a balloon).  Blimps like the Goodyear blimp, rigid airships like the Hindenburg, and semi-rigid airships like the Zeppelin NT are all dirigibles. The word “dirigible” is often associated with large rigid airships, but the term does not come from the word “rigid,” but rather the French verb “diriger” (“to steer”). 


Needless to say this opportunity presented itself as the Vacation Day #5 POTD (Picture of the Day) post on FaceBook. I love when random things like this happen in the countryside.


Now on with vacation with two days to the Harry Potter midnight finale and three days to departure for New York and New England!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Has Started!

For me it didn't feel like summer truly started until the Independence Day weekend. Spring and early summer were full of cool, rainy days and I was preoccupied with a pretty heavy workload preparing for the Episcopal Youth Event held in the latter part of June. I enjoy hard work and the event was a great success. I snuck in my days away from the job and managed to get some gardening and camping in as mental health days in my work-a-holic weeks. But it just didn't feel like summer yet.

I don't know about you but I really loved those lazy summer days when my kids were little and we had nothing to do but play all day. Ah, to be so young again.

This Minnesota family does still take summer very seriously. We've added two motorcycles to the fleet this year. Arthur purchased a used Kawasaki Ninja 250. I bought a more familiar 1974 Yamaha Enduro 250. It's fully restored and feels just like the two Enduro's I learned on when I was a teenager in the 70's.

As soon as EYE was over I got us started on some projects. The holiday weekend weather cooperated and last week we started all manner of things. I have a new clothesline tree in the backyard that has already provided me with sheets that smell of sunshine. I LOVE that. And we scraped all the weedy pea gravel from between the house and garage to create space for a new patio. It looks great. (Pictured as Blog Background)

During a summer in which I have no boat for the river I will require some creative distractions to avoid being Mrs. Crankypants. Motorcycling, camping, and my backyard will have to serve to keep me distracted. Although Capt. Steve and Princess Kathy have already provided some excellent boating. And last weekend on the river with my hometown River Rats in Galena, Illinois, was a fantastic time.

As I type I'm on Day Four of my three week vacation and am attempting to post a Picture of the Day for the entire vacation on FaceBook. Here's today's POTD.

Go Cubbies!!!!!

Have a great Summer and I hope you enjoy your backyard as much as I treasure mine.

Monday, June 6, 2011


We've been having Red-tailed Hawk drama in our backyard this spring. It began in late March as we became aware that a pair of hawks was refurbishing an old nest in one of the skinny, tall pines in our west grove of woods. Years ago a pair tried to rear a hawk here and we think the nest failed that summer. But a beautiful, big Red-tailed Hawk seems to like our woods and when the boys were little they named her Odyssey.

In April I was home alone one afternoon when our new neighbor to the south pulled in and asked for my help in rescuing a hawk that was hit on the road just in front of our house. We gloved up, armed ourselves with an old blanket and a dog kennel, and foraged into our south grove to capture the injured hawk. We think he was the male and that he is Odyssey's mate. Rob took the hawk up to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. Holding a bird of prey in your hands like that is a pretty awesome experience. We have since learned that the hawk had a badly fractured wing, underwent surgery, is now in physical therapy, and if able to fly well enough to survive, will be released on our property.

We never thought the egg(s) would hatch, especially given the cold, wet spring and only one parent on the nest. But during the second week of May, it was apparent that a hawkling was in the nest. We kept track and kept the woods loaded with squirrels and birds by putting corn cakes out on stumps to make for easier hunting for the single-parent hawk. (There is no shortage of squirrels or birds on our ten acres!) We were treated to many amazing views of this fuzzy, awkward hawk living in the nest over the next couple of weeks.

Memorial Day weekend there was a terrific wind storm an the nest blew down. We were sure this would be the end of the little hawk. But then we found it clinging to lower branches in the trees under the nest location. It is very good at being extremely quiet and still, and blinking at you with one eye closing at a time, all the while  Odyssey shrieking warning from above.

On Sunday of this week we heard a racket in the woods and Arthur and I went out to explore, having seen and heard no sign of either hawk for a few days. Nessie, the Jack Russel Terrorist, spotted the hawkling on the ground and rushed at him. She pulled up short when he rolled on his back, thrusting some powerful talons toward her face. We corraled the dog, took some pictures, convened the rest of the family and called the Raptor Center.

Bronwyn: "Hi, Joey, this is the family of hawk case #XXX and the mate hatched the egg and now the hawk looks like it can't really fly but looks fine otherwise. The only problem is that it's on the ground. What should we do?"

Joey: "Capture it using a blanket and a cardboard box and put it in some branches at least six feet above the ground so the parent won't abandon it. What? You have a platform built near the nest 20 feet up? Awesome! That's ideal. Relocate him and see what happens. You guys are doing great work with these hawks. Let me know how it goes."

Next scene: four Skovs, two cell phone cameras, one Mexican blanket, two sets of leather gloves, and a cardboard box. I think the pictures tell the rest of the story.

The platform is in the Bandit Camp on our property. The young hawk is now named Tenacious H. Bandit. He has already left the platform and we can hear him in the woods. We truly hope he makes it.

We might be friends for life.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

X is for Z. But Y?

Here I am at the tale end of my alphabet theme for blog posts and I am STUCK.

Today I had to resort to the unabridged dictionary to try and prompt my brain into a post for a word that begins with X.

What I noticed was that most words spelled with X at the beginning are pronounced as though it was really the letter Z in the starting spot. Hmmm. . . .

Which made me think, "Y is it spelled with an X if it's really a Z sound?"

Yup. That's how my brain rolls. The end of this series is short and sweet.

I'm ready for my next blogging assignment - suggestions?

Friday, April 15, 2011

W is for WeedEater ....

 . . . . and for Winter.

Last week I hauled out the old rototiller to stir the dirt in my vegetable garden plot. This is the third location on the property in 14 years for said garden plot. The one thing in common for all three is that we dig them up and till them with the indefatigable WeedEater rototiller that my in-laws donated to the cause when we moved to the 10 Acre Wood on Labor Day weekend in 1997.

This sturdy little beast starts up every spring with very little coaxing. Somewhere along the years I managed to lose the belt shield. It had a spell of spitting the belt off it's wheels now and then. I would have to remove the guard to re-thread the belt and lost track of it at some point. Seems the belt doesn't jump off at all now that it's not guarded.

I love tilling dirt in the spring. The smell is so promising of good things to come.  This year we committed to building a raised-bed Asparagus trench. I can hardly wait to get the new crowns planted. There will be no harvest this year, but worth the wait.


Oh! The W is for Winter part? Well, it's Friday, April 15 (normally Tax Day but for a strange holiday celebrated in the District this year), and the temperature is dropping with the extremely persistent and blustery wind that is bringing SNOW. Yes, snow.

So the perfectly tilled garden awaits warmth and future activity. The trusty Weedeater stands by in the shed, ready to loosen the soil again. Spring will come.

It will!

I'm certain of it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

V is for Verizon

I made an impassioned plea to T-Mobile to release the three remaining Skovs from our contract with no penalty. I was articulate and impassioned in my statement, pointing out that I had never chosen them as a service provider in the first place. They inherited me in a corporate merger many years ago. I thanked them for their excellent customer service and their assistance in getting my youngest son off of the family plan when we determined that there simply is no T-Mobile option for a college student residing on campus at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. They were gracious and allowed us to "port" Joren over to Verizon.

I went on to explain that having a Verizon phone in our home and visiting our aging parents provided clear and compelling evidence that Verizon's coverage is superior to T-Mobile in the geographic locations we frequent most often. I told them I would be leaving at the end of the contract time anyway and asked that they indulge a long term customer (over 12 years) by releasing us from the current contract (approximately 14 months left) with no penalties. I sent the two page tomb with a stamp, a prayer, and crossed fingers.

I am pleased to report that old fashioned letters still work. And here I publicly proclaim that I left T-Mobile a satisfied customer and only departed over terms of coverage. THANK YOU, T-MOBILE!!!

So, Verizon, time to step up. You are more expensive, but there is a saying, "You get what you pay for." We are now a Verizon family, including a MiFi for Internet coverage. That would be because CenturyLink still has ZERO OPTIONS for anything other than dial-up at our residence. I would have ditched them long ago, except when one lives in a somewhat isolated rural home, one is inclined to keep a land-line for purposes of calling 911 in an emergency. Yes, we still have a phone attached to the wall that requires no electricity to operate.

So I pay a lot of money to Verizon and Dish Network for connectivity to the technologically and electronic part of the world. And we're having fun utilizing our new gadgets. Arthur LOVES his Droid and has become the App Acquisition King of the household. Dale just learned how to answer incoming calls on his phone the third day of possession. He still hasn't set up his mailbox and he's struggling with the "tiny" keys on the keypad.

I am loving my iPhone. So far my favorite App is Euchre 3D - but the Kindle App is running a close second.

So call me or text me or FaceBook me or send me an email. I can receive them all where ever Verizon goes!

Monday, March 21, 2011

U is for United States

I travel a lot for work, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel a good amount most of my life. I have been trying to organize my life list for states visited to determine how many and which states I have yet to visit. Sometimes I fly in for a meeting and never see much beyond an airport and a conference center or hotel. Other times I am vacationing or have been blessed with the opportunity to explore. Here's my list. Those in bold are yet unvisited to the best of my knowledge.

Alabama - en route to FL
Alaska - mission trip
Arizona - grandparents, mother
California - meetings only
Colorado - many trips
Connecticut - one meeting
Florida - spring break!
Georgia - Atlanta+
Hawaii - two cruising spring breaks
Idaho (or not memorable?)

Illinois - raised there, father GO BEARS!
Indiana - most perfect uncle, etc.
Iowa - state next door all my life
Kansas - driving west, KC meeting
Kentucky - Berea Episcopal Youth Event!
Louisiana - Credo during Gulf hurricane
Maryland - during DC visits
Massachusetts - goddaughter support
Michigan - born there, cousins
Minnesota - Home Sweet Home
Missouri - Kansas City?
Montana - camping, sister, nephew
Nebraska - driving to somewhere else
Nevada (no, never been to Vegas)
New Hampshire - brief meeting
New Jersey - Princeton and Newark
New Mexico - camping, cousin
New York - I work there sometimes
North Carolina - Kanuga and more
North Dakota - Highway 2 and Salem Sue (MOO!)
Ohio - passing through
Oklahoma - driving only
Oregon - quick consecration celebration
Pennsylvania - Philly for sure
Rhode Island
South Carolina - many meetings
South Dakota - can you say Black Hills?
Tennessee - Nashville
Texas - San Antonio EYE and more
Utah - stood at Four Corners a couple times
Virgina - DC, Richmond & more
Washington - Seattle Office
West Virgina
Wisconsin - first legal beer!
Wyoming - Laramie EYE & Yellowstone

By that account I have 41 states leaving nine to go. But I have still never vacationed in or visited the continental west coast states for anything other than meetings. For a girl from the Great Lakes states, it should be no surprise that I still haven't made it to much of New England, the Deep South, or the West Coast.

How does your list compare?