Monthly Archives: May 2010

A Different Kind of Summer Camp

Each one of our three children have attended various summer camps through the years.  We have packed them up and sent them off to the woods for church camp or off to a college for a sports camp.  In anticipation of their week away, they eagerly pack up their clothes, sleeping bags, swimsuits, bug spray, sunscreen or sports gear.   When they were younger, I could sense both their excitement and hesitation about being away from home for an extended amount of time.  As they have grown older, any hint of hesitation has disappeared.  Going away to summer camp is one of many steps on the road to independence from their family.

Yesterday we once again sent our oldest son off to summer camp.

But this camp is different from all the others.

Yesterday we put our oldest son on an airplane to New York to attend the West Point Summer Leadership Seminar for the next week.  You see, he decided some time around his freshman year that he would like to attend a military academy.  He has been working on achieving his goal ever since.  As part of that process, he applied to the summer leadership seminars at both the United States Military Academy at West Point and the United States Air Force Academy.  He was accepted to both.  After finishing his week at West Point and spending a long weekend with us in New York City, we will put him on an airplane to Colorado Springs for his next summer camp at the Air Force Academy.

We have no idea where his interest in this path originated, as we have no significant military background in our family.  Nonetheless, we are very proud of him and marvel at his focus and determination to reach his goal.

Sending this child off to summer camp feels very different this time.  Although we still packed the clothes, sleeping bag, sunscreen, and other necessary items, this time we sent him away for the next two weeks knowing that his experiences could help him make some very important decisions about his future after graduating next year.  To say that his attendance at these summer camps is a step on the road to independence is an understatement.


Filed under Daily life, Kids

This Year’s Vegetable Garden

Finally.  I am finally done planting my vegetable garden.  With the heat wave we have had lately here in Minnesota, everything has sprouted and is growing quickly.

I have planted all my typical crops:  lettuce, spinach, carrots, cilantro, onions, beans, tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, corn, pumpkins, gourds and zucchini. Continue reading


Filed under Gardens, Vegetable

Punishing Minnesota Heat???

It seems like just yesterday that I was lamenting about the frigid May temperatures we were experiencing here in Minnesota.  Actually, it was only two short weeks ago when we woke up to snow one morning and frost the next.  Scenes like this in May are disheartening for anyone, but especially for a gardener.

My perennial gardens endured these frigid temperatures, however, and bounced back quickly.

This past week we have seen much warmer temperatures and starting yesterday, the humidity rolled in too.  Today, just two weeks after temperatures in the high 20’s, it is in the mid-90’s with a dew point of 64.  The air is thick and oppressive.  The National Weather Service has even issued an “excessive heat” warning.  Bottom line is that it is damn hot and miserable.

Instead of snow and freezing temperatures, my perennial gardens must now suffer under this punishing Minnesota heat.  The same Autumn Joy Seedum plants pictures above with snow look like this today.

They are wilted and look pathetic, as do the Shasta Daisies. Continue reading


Filed under Flower, Gardens

Queen Bee Update

Our adventure as beginning beekeepers keeps providing us with new challenges and opportunities for learning.  After getting our two packages of bees in early April, we soon discovered that the queen in one of the hives had not survived.  I picked up a new queen from our supplier and re-queened that hive (read about it here).  Following his instructions, we did not open the hive to check on the how she was doing for a full two weeks.

Excited to see how things were coming along, it was finally time to open the hive.

Even with our limited experience as beekeepers (one season), we knew right away that things did not look right.  The brood pattern was uneven and had this popcorn look, which are actually drone cells.  Drones are the male bees, which are from an unfertilized egg.  The drone cells are similar to, but larger than worker bee cells.  The number of drones per colony should be only around 15 percent of the total population.  We saw very few worker bee cells. Continue reading

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Controlling Lily-of-the-Valley Plants

Located in my front yard, covering up the electrical box for the septic system, is a bed of peonies.  I have collected these gorgeous flowers from various places, including saving some from an old farmstead that were doomed due to a road expansion project.

Some of the plants even descend from a plant that I divided from the farm that I grew up on. My obsession with gardening escalated when we purchased our first home in the city in 1991.  As a young married couple, we had absolutely no money and, as any gardener will tell you, gardening ain’t cheap.  So, I went home to my parents one weekend and took a division of some peonies to start my own perennial garden.

About four years later, when we moved back to our home town, I took some of those same peonies with to our new home as a foundation for my perennial gardens.  A few more years passed and we purchased the farm.  Once again, I got out the spade shovel and dug up those peonies to bring them along to my new home.

The roadside peonies that I rescued brought with them another beautiful flower, lily-of-the-valley.  These plants were a cute addition to the flower bed the first few years, with their delicate and fragrant bell-shaped white blossoms appearing in the spring.

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Filed under Flower, Gardens

Actions for Photoshop Elements from Pioneer Woman

I have never used any photo-editing software, other than doing some basic cropping or red-eye removal.  As part of my quest to improve my photography skills, and after being inspired by seeing the photos of other bloggers, I decided to take the leap into photo-editing.  I purchased Photoshop Elements (PSE) 8.0 for my new Mac laptop as a Christmas present for myself. 

It was immediately clear to me that one can get completely sucked into this photo-editing stuff and spend several hours playing with photos.  I happen to have a lot of time to experiment with photos as I wait for kids at lessons, rehearsals and practices.  I have experimented a lot with PSE and have found that while fun, it can also be completely overwhelming. 

Luckily, out on the web, there are many generous bloggers who have developed “actions” for PSE that they share with others at no cost.  Once downloaded (which can sometimes be a challenge in itself), these actions allow you to quickly apply the photo effects of the action by simply clicking on the icon in the Effects area of PSE. 

My two favorite sites for free actions that I have found so far are from Pioneer Woman and the Coffeeshop Blog

Last week, I took this straight-out-of-the-camera shot of a bee pollinating our crabapple tree. 

I loved the picture, but wanted to see the bee a little closer, so I first cropped it down.  I also boosted the color a little by using the “soft light” effect and then sharpened the image with the “unsharp mask.” 

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Filed under Bees, Photography

The Problem with a River is…

it is unpredictable and constantly changing.  The lazy, winding river by our house is no different.  It rises and recedes as the rain comes and goes.  You would think we would have this figured out by now.

After all, remember our maple syrup miscalculations?

In preparation for collecting sap, we placed our pails safely next to the maple trees in the backwater area of the river.

After a week of rain, we returned to the river bottom to find this…

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Filed under Daily life