Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Last Stop - De Smet - Little House on the Prairie

Although we made one more stop (at Indiana Dunes National Seashore - which was a bust and not worth writing about), our last fantastic memory stop was in DeSmet, SD.  We had planned to spend time at both the living history park set on the old Ingalls homestead, and in town.  However, the kids enjoyed the living history park so much that we wound up spending all of our time there.  Even though the drive to DeSmet is long, and there is little to see on the way, it is a not to be missed stop for Little House fans.  The owners are friendly and helpful, the history program is active and engaging, and the campground was clean and peaceful.  A+ in our travel book.  We'll be back.  It was a fantastic end to our trip.

Hay twist

The Woodsman is obsessed with The Long Winter.
He wanted to make hay just so he could have hay twists in case he ran out of wood.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Kid Cat

A throwback post - I know it's not Thursday, but I found this in my draft folder.  I guess I'm not the only one who doesn't always follow through.....

Several years ago I had to rip out a huge patch of catnip.  The kids got super motivated for a few days with big dreams of making money.  They stripped, dried and bagged it.  Then, before they could market their work and sell it, they lost interest and moved on to other summer projects.

We still have A LOT of dried catnip.  Luckily, it's potency for felines seems to last forever.  It's been used for our own cats, and it's even been turned into a few catnip mice for Christmas presents for their two cat loving Aunts.  Mostly though, the box of catnip in the pantry just reminds me of that their self-directed projects often involve intense initial focus, but then a failure to follow the project through to the end. Either way, I love these babies and enjoy watching their stamina and focus develop as they grown. 

P.S. Don't they look teeny?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

After Apple Picking

We always spend this weekend at the farm making applesauce and splitting and hauling in wood for the winter for my parents.  It's a good tradition - three generations are involved, and the weather and leaves are usually beautiful.  This weekend was no exception.

I found myself with two Robert Frost poems running through my head, so in addition to pictures I'm sharing them here. The first one will make obvious sense - it's about exhaustion from the harvest (and about life and death - but that's what all of Frost's poems are about),

After Apple-Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

I have an overactive imagination.  My children will tell you that it annoys them because I often have a What if... scenario running around in my head.  This year, the boy decided that he was going to help my dad and the woodsman with the splitting.  I didn't know that he'd be helping to run the splitter.  When I went to take pictures, I saw his hand perilously close (in my view) to the machinery, and couldn't help having the second poem flying into my head.  The perils of being an English major.

‘Out, Out—’

The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside him in her apron
To tell them ‘Supper.’ At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

Goodness - do you see what my children have to put up with?  Luckily, and because he was safely being taught/observed by his father, the end of my boy's wood helping day was very different.

Anyhow, we are now done with the big harvest projects.  Hooray!  The girl and I have plans to make some apple pies and dumplings for the freezer, the boy and I have sauerkraut and kimchee to make, and I need to continue to bake and mash winter squash, but those are all little projects.  Goodbye canner.  Goodbye jars.  So long to long days of work in the kitchen.  Is it ski season yet?

This photo is actually from two weeks ago, and it's at our house.  But, I found it on my mom's computer and I couldn't resist putting it up.   It's such a good fall picture - blankets in the morning.  

The kittens are growing up.  

We harvested the squash, not the cats.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Rained Out

Because of the boy's fall soccer game schedule, this was the only weekend open for fall camping. I love to go fall camping because we really spend time together as a family, and because it's very relaxing.

On Monday, when the boy and I bought camping groceries, the weather forecast still looked reasonable.  By Thursday, when we would have packed, the forecast had turned to dire predictions of up to 10 inches of rain.  Although it turned out to be much less of an event than anticipated, the weather here on the East Coast did not cooperate - first a Nor'easter and then fall out from a hurricane.  It's been a bit soggy.

So, we altered our plans and said we'd have a Camp In.  The theory was that we would do no work, stay off of electronics, and spend lots of quality time together as a family.  We'd also still cook on the fire (only we'd have to use the wood stove).  

We did a good job of sticking to the alternate plan on Friday, and even Saturday morning.  But, by Saturday evening the girl had been invited to a friend's house for a sleep over, and since Sunday's soccer game was cancelled, the boy and the Woodsman decided to go on an all day Sunday football adventure.  The girl had homework to do, and I had grading to do - both of which meant the computer was needed.  Because the girl was gone, the boy wanted time to play Mine Craft.

Well, at least we still ate like we were camping, and it certainly was a relaxing weekend.  Maybe we'll go in the spring....


Thursday, October 1, 2015

On the Way Home

We made three brief stops after leaving Glacier on our way back East.  One of the strategies we try to employ as we eat up large chunks of miles is to stop somewhere interesting.  We keep moving toward our ultimate destination, but yet we break up the monotony that can come from long hours in the car.  Plus, this is a big country.  There are a lot of excellent places to see.  If you fly you only get to see the big ones.  Car travel allows you to see more of our country's small gems.

First People's Buffalo Jump 

One of our stops was at First People's Buffalo Jump State Park.  This is the largest buffalo jump used by the ancient peoples (before the horse).  We learned a lot from a wonderful Native American ranger.  The ingenuity of the early people and their cooperative living and working was amazing.

The boy plays the part of the brave pretending to be a wolf to scare the buffalo.

The cliff from the bottom.

Bone fragment from an ancient buffalo.

The top of the cliff.

 Missouri Headwaters State Park

Not much to see here, and the campground wasn't much either, but it was amazing to stand in the same spot where Sacagawea was captured, and where Lewis and Clark camped.  We were a bit distracted when we got here because we discovered that our trailer and car tires were in really bad shape.  Of course, it was the weekend, and we had a lot of mile to cover before we could find a place to get new tires.  It was also the last night with my parents, so we were losing a bit of our saftey net in case of an emergency.  This trip is the only time I was ever thankful for Super Walmarts.  Their auto repair shops are open every day.  It took us traveling half-way across Montana, and two different shops, and incorrect work, and five hours of waiting in Wal-marts, but we got safely back on the road.  Stressful indeed.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park

We love badlands, and we were working to avoid motorcycle traffic from the Sturgis Motorcycle rally in South Dakota.  So, we headed to North Dakota to Teddy Roosevelt.  It was rainy while we were there, but we still enjoyed the excellent campground among beautiful cottonwoods (great ranger program), beautiful wide open scenery and colors and close encounters with buffalo herds. 

You just don't get views like this in the East.

We sat waiting for this herd to move for a long time.  I love this kind of traffic.