Category Archives: Daily life

River Views

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, Jesse and I decided to take our two-person kayak down the river.  It had been a week of tragedy in our small Minnesota town.  Earlier in the week, a swim teammate of our daughter was killed in an automobile accident.  She was only 18 and had just graduated with our daughter in June.  We went to the funeral on that Saturday to offer our support and represent our daughter, who is at school out east and could not be there.  It was heartbreaking.

And then on Sunday morning we learned of another community member, a business person and father in his 40’s, that had passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. More tragedy.  Although we did not know him well, an untimely death of someone in a small community is always a shock.

Having a quiet and relaxing day seemed appropriate…so we decided to head to water.

We put the kayak in the river in the backwater behind the house and made our way on to the main part of the river.  Fall is a great time to kayak here because the mosquitos have mostly died off and the air is crisp and fresh.

I took my iPhone 4s along and was snapping pictures along the way.
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I still cannot believe that it took us a decade of living on the river to finally get around to buying ourselves some kayaks. Why did we wait so long?

I took a bunch of “selfies”, but this is the only arguably decent one of the bunch.  The angles are not real flattering for us older folks.  I guess selfies are best left to the younger generation.  🙂

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Going down stream is very relaxing and for the most part, requires little effort.

Most of the foliage was still green, but some Sumac along the shore was starting to show some fall color.

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The Rum River is a fairly messy river, with trees down and random stumps protruding here and there.  The DNR or someone else must cut a path through the debris occasionally to keep the waterway open to kayaks and canoes. We are grateful for the efforts, whoever it is.

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Because of the frequent changes in the water level due to spring and summer flooding, there is a lot of erosion.  Trees along the bank gradually have the dirt around their roots washed away and some tip into the water, creating the clutter.

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The sun sparkled on the water in open areas.

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Sometimes when we are kayaking, we just stop paddling…and coast…and listen…to the silence…to nature.

It is so peaceful.

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A few random maple trees were showing off their colors already.

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The river is very shallow in some areas, but we almost always are able to skim across the surface in the kayaks.

You can see more fallen trees along the bank. The erosion and fallen trees are not alarming.  I would imagine this process of transformation has happened for decades on the Rum River.

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I was so busy taking pictures around every turn that I did not paddle much.

It made the ride even more lovely for me.  🙂

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More signs of erosion where the sandy river banks are washing away.

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After about an hour, we coasted into Riverside Park, where we had dropped off the trailer ahead of time.

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What a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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We are so grateful to be alive and living this blessed life.

Lynell

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The Front Door

Fall has definitely arrived here in Minnesota and as usual, I am way behind in drafting posts about what has gone on around here.  I have taken hundreds of photos over the summer, but putting those photos into a post takes time…something I always seem to be lacking.

I took this photo of our front porch today.  We harvested our pumpkins a few weeks ago and have kept them in the barn until yesterday.  With a cool and rainy day upon us, we decided it was time to bring them out and display them on our front steps.  The bright orange sure livens up the entrance to our house!

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We have decided to take a year off from growing pumpkins and squash after a nasty infestation of squash bugs for the second year in a row. (You can read more about squash bugs here).

If you have not dealt with these buggers in your garden, be happy.  They are disgusting and we just do not want to deal with them next year again.  We are hoping the absence of their favorite feeding ground for a year will break the cycle and we can resume growing pumpkins and squash without battling those bugs all summer long. We took a year off from growing potatoes after repeated infestations with potato bugs and it seemed to work. Being cautious, we planted a small row of potatoes this year and enjoyed a potato bug-free  season!

On the bright side, we did manage to battle through the squash bugs and grow some pumpkins before they totally destroyed the vines.  Our squash crop however, was a total loss.

My ferns on the porch are continuing to thrive in this cooler weather.  I hate the thought of them being killed off by the frost.  I may try to bring them inside and see how long I can stretch out their life into the fall and winter.

I hope you are enjoying the fresh air and bright colors of fall in your part of the country.

Lynell

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Filed under Daily life, Flower, Gardens, Vegetable

Woodland Carpet

Spring time brings with it a beautiful display of woodland flowers in the woods surrounding our house.  Wildflowers carpet the ground and because the mosquitos haven not yet hatched, it is still enjoyable to stroll through the woods and take in the views.
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I wrote a post a few years back in which I identified some of the flowers growing in the woods.(Woodland Wildflowers)  I could not resist photographing them again though. They are just too inviting.

Sanguinaria canadensis, or Bloodroot.
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Claytonia virginica, or Virginia Spring Beauty.DSC_0333

At the time I took the photos in my earlier post, the Trilliums had not yet bloomed, so I did a later post featuring them. (Trillium’s Turn).

For some reason, this year all the flowers seem to be blooming at the same time.  Maybe the late spring?

Trillium grandiflorum, or Trillium (Large-flowered Trillium).

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I came across one flower that I did not photograph or identify in my earlier post.  I headed over to the Minnesota Wildflower website again to help with identification.

Uvularia grandiflora, or Large-flowered Bellwort.

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I spent some time photographing this flower when I noticed this big bumble-bee enjoying it.  I found it very relaxing to sit quietly among the flowers in the woods watching the slow and methodical work of the bumble-bee.DSC_0348

And finally…a stroll in the woods with my camera is always peaceful, but rarely solitary.  Eventually the animals always decide to check on me and see what I am doing.

DSC_0359I don’t mind though.  After all, keeping us company is what pets are for, right?

Lynell

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Love my Magnolia Tree

We are loving spring around the farm.  We are getting in the gardens, raking the leaves out and tilling up the soil.  My Star Magnolia tree is bursting with its showy blooms.
photo-1aIt is such a beautiful sight.  I love this magnolia tree.

-Lynell

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Spring? Finally.

Last Friday we received about a foot of heavy wet snow.  It was depressing and everyone was complaining and crabby, including me.  It felt like spring would never arrive.  April has been a strange and very snowy month.spring1

One week later and it looks like this…

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Yes, I think spring has finally arrived.  The last two days we have enjoyed temperatures in the low 70’s.  It is not expected to last all week, but it sure has helped to melt the snow and get spring kicked into gear.

Last weekend, when it was still cold, we hosted a smoking party at our house.  Jesse was going to fire up the smokehouse while the temperatures were still cool with the snow on the ground, so he invited friends to bring over anything they wanted to smoke.  We had a real assortment of good stuff:  almonds, peanuts, cheese, cheese curds, leg of lamb, pork chops, pork roasts, ribs, and chickens.  Once the smokehouse was loaded up, we enjoyed chatting and having some beverages while we waited for the smokehouse to work its cold-smoking magic.

We also started cooking sap to make maple syrup the same day.  The sap ran very late this year due to the crazy spring.  We were not sure if it would run at all, but the trees finally started dripping and actually produced a lot of sap.

Jesse found this stainless steel pan at a restaurant equipment store and it works great on our outdoor stove to cook the sap.  It has a lot of surface area to help with evaporation and to cook the sap down faster.  The sap looks just like water when you first collect it from the tree to start cooking.

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As it cooks longer, it starts to brown up and begins to have a sweet caramel-like aroma.  We cooked down enough sap last weekend to make one gallon of syrup.

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This past Thursday evening Jesse fired up the stove once again and cooked down the rest of the sap overnight.  In total, we ended up with two gallons of syrup.  Yum!
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Yes, spring is here.  The birds have been singing, the geese are honking, and the frogs have awoken and are singing their lovely spring song.

All varieties of wildlife are on the move. During the day yesterday, I was working at home and as I glanced up from the file I was reading, I noticed these turkeys come walking past the back of the barn and headed towards the river. I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots.

We joke sometimes about living in a nature preserve.  I guess we have the river to thank for the wide array of wildlife we get to see and/or hear (the owls hooting at night are my favorite) on a daily basis.
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Along with the melting snow comes spring flooding.  The water has risen rapidly in the last two days and the river is overflowing.
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We spent yesterday evening and today outside enjoying the warm temperatures by starting our spring cleanup.  I cut down any perennials that stood through the winter and raked all the leaves out of the gardens.

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Tired of the chickens coming up by the house and digging in the dirt of my perennial garden, we decided to lock them in the vegetable garden fence today to enjoy the sunshine.  Ironically, we built this very fence in part, to keep the chickens out of the vegetable garden.  They loved kicking around the bit of straw, pecking at the grass, and digging in the dirt all day.
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Underneath the piles of leaves I discovered some flowers eager to get growing.  These tulips had obviously decided that spring was here, despite the foot of snow we received just a week ago.
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Likewise, the peonies are bursting out of the ground.  I love peonies so much.  They remind me of my grandma.

spring8Our old girl was out soaking up the sunshine today too. I love her an awful lot too.

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The beehives are sitting empty across the field awaiting their new residents.  We ordered two nucs of bees that should arrive in about 10 days.  The nucs contain some frames of brood and a queen, so they are already somewhat established.  Since we are starting over again after a year of bee-keeping drama (swarming, robbing, etc.), it will be nice to have the hives get up and running quickly.
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So, after a very long winter, it seems as though spring has arrived.  Finally.

There may likely be a few more bumps along the way, but we are definitely headed in the right direction.

Lynell

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Filed under Daily life, Food, Maple Syrup, Miscellaneous

April 18th and Still Waiting…

We are still waiting on spring.  The six plus inches of snow we are receiving today is certainly not a welcome sight. As you will notice from the picture below, we have not gotten around to taking down our Christmas lights yet.  This picture could so easily be from the Christmas season, but sadly, today is the 18th day of April!!
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These views from the farm might actually be considered pretty if taken during the Christmas season…or maybe even if it were February.

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But it is not Christmas and it is not February. Did I mention it is the middle of April?!

Snow is not necessarily uncommon at this time of year in Minnesota, but this winter has been very long and we have had very few spring-like days.
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The good news is that snow does not last long this time of year because the sun’s rays are much too powerful.  So, if the sun does ever come out, we know the snow will melt quickly.  I will cling to that thought..that’s all I can do at the moment to stay positive.

I hope the weather is better in your part of the country, wherever that might be!

From snowy central Minnesota,

Lynell

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Filed under Daily life, Miscellaneous, Outbuildings

Waiting on Spring

Spring is slow to arrive this year.  We finally got outside yesterday afternoon to work in the yard a bit and to roast some hot dogs in our fire pit.
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My mini-greenhouses are waiting patiently for some warmer temps to get the seeds going.  I peeked in them and saw that the kale seeds have already sprouted!

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The chickens enjoyed their first day outside free-ranging.

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Our vegetable garden is a sad sight.  Last year we were already in the garden tilling by mid-March.
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The frost has not gone out of the ground yet, so in addition to the remaining snow,  standing water is scattered all over the grounds.
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Everything is brown and drab.

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Wildlife is on the move though.  We noticed hundreds of robins out in our hayfield and in the trees over the weekend. Geese were honking down by the river and a few flew right through the yard headed in that direction.

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We also noticed some strange-looking birds down by the river.  I didn’t have my telephoto lens on the camera, so I snapped a few photos and zoomed in on the images once I uploaded them to the computer.  It took me some time searching through images to identify these crazy looking birds, but I finally did…Hooded Merganser. We have never seen them around here, or at least we have never noticed them before.

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The bird identification site had this to say about the Hooded Merganser:

“Hooded” is something of an understatement for this extravagantly crested little duck. Adult males are a sight to behold, with sharp black-and-white patterns set off by chestnut flanks. Females get their own distinctive elegance from their cinnamon crest. Hooded Mergansers are fairly common on small ponds and rivers, where they dive for fish, crayfish, and other food, seizing it in their thin, serrated bills. They nest in tree cavities; the ducklings depart with a bold leap to the forest floor when only one day old.

So, although we are impatiently waiting on spring around here, there are still some interesting things going on…if you take the time to notice them.
Lynell

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Project Planning

The planning of summer projects is in full swing around here.  Jesse has sketched out ideas for the pergola that we plan to add to our new patio and fire-pit area that we put in last year.  By drawing it out to scale on grid paper, we can better judge the proportions of the structure and how it relates to the rest of that space.
pergolaPlanning for our spring projects helps to ease the misery of this long Minnesota winter.  Spring must be around the corner, right???

Lynell

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More Snow…and Tulips

Winter seems to just keep going on and on here.  We received several more inches of fresh snow this morning.  February is almost over though, so logically, I know the end is getting near.DSC_0006

Nonetheless, the drudgery and length of winter here in Minnesota can sometimes get me down.

This morning, as I walked into Target, I saw bouquets of tulips on display.  I knew that a splash of spring in the house would definitely lift my winter weary spirits.
photoSo, I decided to treat myself and I chose a beautiful pink color for big impact.  I couldn’t wait to get them home.
photo1I feel so much better already.  Life is so dull without flowers.  Thank you, Target, for this lovely pick-me-up.

Come on, spring!  Hurry up!

Lynell

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Making a Farm Table from Salvaged Lumber

With the completion of the first phase of our patio and fire-pit area last spring, I went in search of finding a suitable table to add to the area.  We visited many outdoor furniture stores and I searched endlessly on-line, not knowing exactly what it was I was searching for.

patio15I felt like too many of the table sets looked modern and would seem out-of-place with the barn as the backdrop.  Finally, I stumbled across a table that caught my eye on the Restoration Hardware website; it was a big chunky farm table made from 100-year-old salvaged elm doors, with a hefty price tag of around $3,500.00…and that was on sale.

I showed it to Jesse and after he studied it a bit, he told me he thought he could make something similar.  He forwarded the picture to his dad, who is a skilled wood craftsman, and they discussed how to tackle the project.

larkspurWhen we first purchased the farm twelve years ago, an old farmhouse stood on the property.  Before tearing it down to build our current house, Jesse and his dad salvaged materials from the old structure; bricks, wood flooring, baseboard and trim, doors, and floor stringers made from rough sawed wood.  We used some of the wood flooring in our new home and stored the rest of the salvaged wood in the barn for some unknown future use.  Jesse thought he could use some of the salvaged elm floor stringers to make the farm table.

We planned the project so that our oldest son would be home on leave from West Point.  He is very interested in woodworking and we thought it would be a great learning opportunity for him.  We also coordinated with Jesse’s dad to make sure he could come down to advise and assist.
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After digging the boards out of the loft of the barn, the first task was to remove all the nails.  The next challenge was to plane the boards down to both make them smooth and to create some uniformity in their thickness.
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Basing the table measurements off the dimensions of the Restoration Hardware  table, they started to assemble the table and square up the ends.

DSC_0027Once the boards for the table top were planed and cut to the proper length it was time to work on the structure that would hold everything together. The guys decided that 1 1/2 in. angle iron would provide the proper strength and be consistent with the rugged appearance. Our son started to measure, mark and drill the holes in the angle iron that the carriage bolts would be bolted through.
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With the angle iron prepared it was time to square up the table and begin to drill the holes and mount the angle iron. Measure twice and cut once 🙂

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There was quite a bit of discussion on how to design and build the legs for the table. Jesse’s dad does a good job of explaining what they are doing and why. Jesse and his dad have done so many projects together over the years that they usually quickly understand where they are going, so bringing our oldest son up to speed is an important step.DSC_0025

They clamped the boards for the legs together and drilled holes to attach the angle iron that will connect the legs to the table top. To better drill straight holes and minimize errors, they modified a jig.DSC_0026

Without too much trouble, they attached the legs and marked the holes for the table top through the angle iron supports.
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The guys were surprised how heavy the table was now that it was completely assembled. They turned the table over and stepped back to admire their handiwork. Things were looking pretty good.
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We have had some outside furniture over the years and have tried many stains and varnishes but they have never held up to the elements. To avoid the peeling and to keep a rustic look, we decided to use a natural oil sealant. The old dry lumber really soaked up the oil and highlighted the grain nicely. We will need to apply a fresh coat each spring, but this approach should avoid having to sand and reapply varnish every 2-3 years.DSC_0002

I used a small art brush to get the oil in between the boards. DSC_0007

Here is the finished product as the second coat of oil is still soaking in and drying off. The shine goes away and a nice natural feeling surface remains. DSC_0014

And finally…our new farm table!  Total cost of the table was around $200 for the angle iron and carriage bolts.  Much better than $3,500, don’t you agree?

DSC_0017I absolutely LOVE our new table!  The price was right and I think it fits perfectly with our farm setting.

Most importantly though, I love it because it was made by these three special guys working together.

Lynell

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