It took me a minute

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My Lobster Story

I am a blessed man and I know it. (In possession of something very special)

I get to work with one of my kids full time.

Just the two of us.

We are both self employed.

He is a bricklayer, I am a carpenter.

Sometimes, he’s the boss, and other times I’m the boss, depending on who gets the job.

One of my favorite part of working with son John is when we laugh. Can’t imagine having this level of relationship with my father, although I do appreciate the level of relationship I have with him too.

This week I was telling John the video he took of his daughter Meadow dancing around the campfire showed up on my Facebook feed again this week. It reminded me of the story of the lobster…

Had I ever told him the story of the lobster?

Nope.

So I told him the story and we laughed!

Back story..

Last summer we stopped by to visit our son and family when they were camping. The radio was blaring, and his 3 year old was dancing to the music. I said, “Could you video tape her while she’s doing that?”

(She had these large red hot-pad holder mittens on her hands..and she reminded me of a lobster.) The video only lasted 30 seconds, but it was precious. The music on the video is the actual music she was dancing to at the time.

I’ll post that at the end of this

First the story of the lobster…

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Twenty years ago, I was at a party, talking to a guy whose name I have long since forgotten.  Sometimes I think this man came into my life for the sole purpose of telling me this story, which has delighted and inspired me ever since.

The story he told me was about his younger brother, who was trying to be an artist ; it was an anecdote about how brave, creative, and trusting his brother was.  For the purpose of this story, let’s call the little brother Little Brother.

Little Brother, an aspiring painter, went to France to surround himself with beauty and inspiration.  He lived on the cheap, painted every day, visited museums, traveled to picturesque locations, bravely spoke to everyone he met, and showed his work to anyone who would look at it.  One afternoon, he struck up a conversation at a cafe with a group of charming young people, who turned out to be some species of fancy aristocrat.  They took a liking to Little Brother and invited him to a party that weekend in a castle in the Loire Valley.   They said this was going to be the party of the year.  It would be attended by rich and famous and by several crowned heads of Europe.  Best of all, it was a masquerade ball, where nobody skimped on the costumes.  Dress up, they said, and join us!

Excited, Little Brother worked all week on a costume that he was certain would be a showstopper.  He held back on neither the details nor the audacity of this creation.  Then he rented a car and drove three hours to the castle.  He changed into his costume in the car and ascended the castle steps.  Little Brother entered the ballroom, head held high.

Upon which he immediately realized his mistake.

This was indeed a costume party- his new friends had not misled him there – but he had missed one detail in translation:  This was a themed costume party.  The theme was “a medieval court.”  and Little Brother was dressed as a lobster.

All around him, the wealthy and beautiful were attired in elaborate period gowns, draped in heirloom jewels, sparkling as they waltzed to an orchestra.  Little Brother, on the other hand, was wearing a red leotard, red tights, red ballet slippers, and giant red foam claws.  Also, his face was painted red.  This is where I must tell you that Little Brother was over six feet tall and quite skinny – but with the waving antennae on his head, he appeared even taller.  He was also the only American in the room.

He stood at the top of the steps for one long, ghastly moment.  Running away in shame seemed like the most dignified response.  But he didn’t run.  Somehow, he found his resolve.  He’d come this far, after all He’d worked tremendously hard to make this costume, and he was proud of it.  He took a deep breath and walked onto the dance floor.

He reported later that it was only his experience as an aspiring artist that gave him the courage and license to be so vulnerable and absurb.  Something in his life had already taught him to just put it out there, whatever “it” was.  That costume was what he had made, after all.  It was the best he had.  It was all he had.  So he decided to trust in himself, to trust his costume, to trust in the circumstances.

As he moved into the crowd, a silence fell.  The dancing stopped.  The orchestra stuttered to a stop.  The other guests gathered around Little Brother.  Finally someone asked him what on earth he was.

Little Brother bowed deeply and announced, “I am the court lobster.”

Then: laughter.

Not ridicule – just joy.  They loved him.  They loved his sweetness, his weirdness, his giant red claws, his skinny legs in his bright tights. H was the trickster among them, and he made the party.   Little Brother even ended up dancing with the queen of Belgium.

This is how you must do it, people.

I have never created anything in my life that did not make me feel, at some point or another, like I was the guy who just walked into a fancy ball wearing a homemade lobster costume.  But you must stubbornly walk into that room, and you must hold your head high.  Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it.  You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time you were given.  You were invited, you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.

They might throw you you – then again, they might not.  They ballroom is often more welcoming and supportive than you could ever imagine.  You might end up dancing with royalty.

Or you might just end up having to dance alone in the corner with your big, ungainly red foam claws waving in the empty air.

That’s fine too.  Sometimes it’s like that.  What you absolutely must not do is walk out.  Otherwise you will miss the party, and that would be a pity because – please believe me – we did not come all this great distance, and make all this great effort, only to miss the party at the last moment.

By Elizabeth Gilbert from the Book Big Magic

And now the video:

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Thoughts on Swarming, keys, and a man trapped in a bathtub this week

Week ago Saturday, as I was mowing in the orchard, I noticed a cloud of agitated honey bees, around one of my hives.

I knew enough to know they were in the process of swarming.

Dang.

It was already too late to change their collective minds, so I just kept mowing. Fifteen minutes later, everything was back to normal again in the bee yard. The next day, when I peeked into that hive, it looked like 2/3’s of the bees had taken off.

From a financial perspective, that was an expensive event.

It is too early in the season to know for sure, but I’m guessing I will be short at least 2 if not 3 supers of honey. Supers are the boxes bee keepers stack on top of the hive where the bees store their honey. (1 use 6 inch high/ 8 frame supers.)

Mine hold approx. 30 pounds of honey per box.

30 times 2 = 60# of honey @ $10 per pound…= $600 in lost gross sales of honey.

Ouch.

$600 (or more) in lost income, just from one swarming event.

I have no idea where they went. I’m sure they’re miles from here by now.

Sad thing is, this late in the season, I doubt they will have enough time to reestablish themselves before winter.

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I’ve known Alice for 30 years. She’s in her mid 80s now. She’s been a widow for as long as I’ve known her. I’ve done a half a dozen construction projects for her over the years. Couple of months ago, she fell down in her home and could not get back up. None of her kids live locally, although several of her brothers and sisters do. I got a phone call from Alice’s sister Kay, asking if I would go with her to help Alice get back up. Problem was, Alice’s doors were both locked. and nobody had a key. Not a problem for a carpenter with a wonder bar.

I got in, in less than 30 seconds. It’s knowing where to pry. 🙂

Kay, asked me if I could talk to Alice about having an extra key made, just in case she needed to call for help again, so the next person didn’t have to bust the door down.

Sure thing !”I said with a smirk.

Her family has been after her for years to get another key made, but she would have nothing to do with the idea….until know.

As Alice and I talked, she conceded that maybe now would be a good time to get that key. I ran uptown, had one made, and between the two of us, I helped her stash it somewhere, that nobody but her and I knew about. Not even her siblings. She was emphatic, that none of them would know where it was at either. I promised not to tell. Heck, I didn’t even tell my wife where the key was.

Last week Alice had to call the ambulance, and was so thankful for the hidden key. I called to check on her the next day, she asked if I would be willing to stop and help her find a new place to hide her key. Apparently, one of her family members blew a gasket when they found out about a hidden key, no one but her and I knew about. That in itself was a little fishy. The family member was more bothered about not being told about the hidden key, than the fact Alice needed to call the ambulance. Oh, well….

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I got another phone call earlier this week, from a distraught wife. Seems her hubby had gotten himself stuck in the bathtub and could not get out … She was trying to keep it together, but I could tell, she wanted to laugh @ the same time.

“Would I be willing to help?”

My mind instantly went to a Little Feat Song..

My thoughts were many and varied as I headed out the door to that home. Fortunately, by the time I got there, the poor guy was able to drain the tub and get is skibbies on. I asked him what he thought might be the best way to get him up and out of the tub. Having helped with lifting my dad, last winter when he was home bound, I knew about a Gate belt…in the end, there was no belt, just me standing behind putting my arms under his arms, and lifting.

It worked!

A sense of humor goes a long way in those situations.

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Back in 2006, I cut the tip of my ring finger off in a skill saw. Ended up taking a ride in an ambulance to Cedar Rapids. (It looked worse than it ended up being) Long story short, as the lady, I’m guessing in her 60’s wheeled me back to the operating room, she asked me about my injury. I told her what had happened.

“Don’t tell me that!” she said.

Then I told her that the tip of my finger was in the metal bowl that was sitting in my lap.

You should have heard her howl!

“Don’t tell me that!” she said again. 🙂

That conversation will stick with me to the day that I die.

Never know what a week will bring. Later! DM

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Fathers Day musing…2022

I have a spot on our front porch where I sprinkle cracked corn, mostly for our two free range chickens.

It has also become a favorite spot for a two ground squirrels, a couple of wrens and a dozen sparrows.

Wife and I have a birds eye view as the various creatures come up to feed, especially first thing in the morning, as we’re having our morning coffee in bed.

It’ s surprising what you can learn if you’re paying attention.

Ten days ago, I noticed 3 young sparrows being fed, by both the mother and father. (That in itself was eye opening)

The young sparrows are mature enough to fly, but instead of feeding themselves, they would just stand there on top of the grain, chirp loudly, vibrate their wings and wait until either the mom or dad would stick a piece of cracked corn in their mouth We would watch the parents go back and forth, back and forth. (I even watched one of the babies, come along side the parent yesterday, and bump them with their wing. Talk about demanding)

These babies are just as big as their parents, but plumper, and like I already mentioned, they fly. Fly just as quick as the adults….

We’ve been discussing just how much longer this is going to happen.

Found out this morning.

I kid you not, I watch a couple of the babies, chase the male back and forth, and he didn’t budge. Same thing happened when the mother showed up. Then a couple of times, the dad gave in, and fed one a piece or two. For the most part, the adults just ignored the begging.

I even watched a baby go from one adult male to another…Nothing.

Then I watched the same baby, bend over and reluctantly peck at the food.

Talk about life.

Made me wax philosophical for a second…what would happen if they didn’t stop feeding those adult size young sparrows?….

Do you remember this guy?

Happy Fathers Day! DM

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Conversations

I stopped by Menards on Tuesday, wanted to pick up quart canning jars while they are still available. I prefer the wide mouth, easier to clean. Going to try something new this season when putting up garden produce. I much prefer frozen over hot water bath. The green beans taste just like they came out of the garden out of the freezer, vs slightly mushy from the jar. Couple of seasons ago, I experimented with blanching some of the beans, vs just washing, freezing on a cookie sheet, and bagging them in plastic freezer bags. I know lots of people blanch for a couple of minutes to lock in freshness (kill any enzymes) , but to be honest, 6 months later could not tell the difference in taste, texture, etc. So this summer, going to skip the “blanching step” and run with plan B…no blanch/ just freeze on cookie sheet/ then stick in a quart jar in the freezer. I am all about simple. Keep it simple.

And yes you can put canning jars in the freezer, as along as you pay attention to a couple of details.

So, while I was standing in the canning jar area of Menards, another guy pulled up with his cart.

“What are you working on?” he asked.

I had to stop for a second and think how to answer…I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the 3 cases of quart jars in my cart, or the case of framing gun nails…

“Well, I’m building a garage, and picking up some quart jars while they’re still available.”

“How about you?”

“Trying to find some half a gallon jars to make salsa,”

“I’ve heard that stuff can be addicting” I said. “I know two people who love hot peppers, and both of them told me, that it is progressive..Your taste buds get fried, and you keep wanting hotter and hotter peppers”

He told me he was also hoping to make some crunchy sweet pickles, the trick was to keep the heat at 180 degrees for three minutes, then “cross your fingers and hope they seal. If you go much longer than that, the pickles will turn to mush.”

I thought later, that was a fun conversation. Two guys both secure in their masculinity, swapping canning tips in Menards…

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Had another conversation in Menards a few weeks ago with an Amish guy. Not sure what possessed me to initiate a conversation with him…..well, I do actually.

The Amish speak a version of German, similar what my grandparents spoke. It’s called Plowdeutch (low German). I know a smattering of plowdeutch…”Goot-morgan” (good morning) Spreken-z Deutch? (Do you speak German?) Flait-a-mouse (flying mouse, ie. a bat) Danka (Thank you)

When I said “Spreken-z Deutch?” he smiled, and, said, “You must know some Amish?”

I told him about my grandpa….

“Are-veet-a-zeen” (good by!) I said with a smirk as I started walking away…

The Amish guy smiled, then said, “I have no idea what that means.”

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Garden related.

Down the road, in a fence row, a couple of miles west of us, I spotted half a dozen, round bales of something, just rotting away earlier this year. I’ve had my eyes on them ever since. Made a phone call, but could never quite pin down whose field that was. I wanted those rotting bales for my heavy mulch garden. I’m still convinced the heavy mulch/ Back to Eden/ Ruth Stout approach to gardening is the way to go. After the first year, there is very little weeding, You don’t need a tiller, you end up with healthy soil/ filled with microbes, earth worms, it cuts way back on the need to water, and soil fertility is maintained year after year, as the compost continues to decay. You can use wood chips, compost, grass clippings, leaves, bales of hay, pretty much any type of organic material that will decay.

My biggest challenge is to get enough old hay, or wood chips without having to spend a bunch of money or time collecting. Our local electrical company will drop me off wood chips when they’re in the area trimming tree lines, but that has been a few years. This pile of rotting hay looked like it would be enough to last me a couple of seasons.

Well, I hit the jackpot a week ago. Got the green light to just have the bales. I rented my brothers truck and trailer, then hired another farmer/neighbor to get them unloaded. Felt like Christmas morning when I pulled that trailer into the yard…

Here are a couple of action photos:

Several ton of rotting oats fodder

Wet oats baled for cattle feed

I tried to unload the bales by hand, but because of the way they were wrapped, and decayed, it would have taken me two days. Neighbor had them unloaded in 10 minutes.

Mom teaching her eldest how to can.

Are you or someone in your house a gardener?

What are your favorite things to grow?

Do you have any concerns where you live about your accessibility to food, or do you think it is just hype?

What is the price of a dozen eggs where you live?

What is the price for a gallon of milk, or a pound of hamburger?

Fun trivia fact, there is only a 3 day supply of food in most places at your local grocery store. The food supply chain is a finely tuned entity, If you thought it was stressful when it was hard to get toilet paper a couple of years ago, it could get a lot more interesting stressful this fall. Maybe not as much where I live, but globally for sure.

I’ll close with a YouTube song Linda (Varnish girl) shared with me a couple of weeks ago. It gives me good feelings every time I listen to it.

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5/12/2022

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.

These were some early morning pictures I took before heading to work this morning:

Peach trees in bloom…yea

Ended up with 3 of my 6 hives making it through the the winter. Was able to split 2 of them earlier in the week (front row center)

Apple trees are in bloom this week. Looks like all of the varieties have blossoms..so that’s good. 🙂

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The wrens returned Tuesday of this week. Heard one singing his (or her) heart out right outside my bedroom window.

Couple of days before that, I spotted a male sparrow doing some type of courtship dance. His tail was up, and his wings were down, and he was doing a combination, hopping/ circle type dance. Reminded me of a male Tom turkey. I’d never seen anything like that in my life. Not like that.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I saw a Monarch Butterfly. They also migrate.

I announced this morning that I would like to start a new tradition here at the farm on the hill.

A small celebration to mark the return of the wrens. What do you think?

To celebrate, I pulled our last rib-eye out of the freezer, going to fry up a small batch of Morel mushrooms, listen to some music (see below for starters) and have a glass of wine.

Fun food factoid…We buy our meat directly from a local farmer, usually either a 1/4 or 1/2 at a time. They in turn line up a local locker to have it processed. Last September after all the expenses were paid, it came out to just over $2.50 a pound, right across the board..hamburger, T bone steak Rib-eye.all of it $2.50 a pound. Crazy I know

Next year, you’re all invited to the celebration of the return of the wrens…just let me know so I can get things organized.

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Medicinal Garden and other old fashioned thoughts about Wellness

This will be short.

I plan to write more on this topic as the Summer progresses.

Couple of weeks ago, I could feel I was getting one of those strep throat/ chest bugs I get once or twice a year. I normally just let it run its course, assuming it will last a good week to ten days.

It’s just what I do.

Well, ever since we started having our own honey from the bee hives, I’ve paid just a little more attention to the health benefits of local raw honey. (That was not why I got into honeybees/ totally had to do with seeing if they would make a difference in the pollination of the apple trees).

Long story short, I decided to try an old fashioned remedy where you mix a little whiskey/, honey and water. (some people also include lemon) I didn’t have any lemon handy so I just went with what I had.

Side note- I do not drink whisky. Haven’t had any whisky in over 40 years. It just does not interest me.

I have other vices. (Dark roast coffee comes to mind… Star bucks/ french roast whole bean/ not ground)

We had a friend. (Helen) She’s gone now. She was an old school baptist, in her 80’s who carried a little flask of something (Jack Daniels?) in her purse, whenever she had one of her coughing fits. She said, it was the only thing that would help..(so there’s that little anecdotal story in the back of my mind).

So a few weeks ago, when I could feeling that strep throat coming on, I decided to mix up a little concoction of Whisky, water and honey. First I gargled it, and then I drank the rest.

It relieved 80% of the sore throat. Right now.

I did this 3 times over the course of 2 days. By the end of day three, most of my symptoms were gone..no raw throat, nothing noticeable anywhere else. Instead of 10 days, it turned into a 2.5 day bug.

Life goes on, then a few of these natural herb, natural health advertisements started to show up on our FB feed (Got to love those computer cookies) Same thing on YouTube. Began to see a few medicinal and herb garden videos pop up.

I’m sure there is as much quackery out there, as in any other area of life. I plan to proceed slowly, but I am very interested in the whole topic. Heck, many of the ingredients in the drugs we get from the drug companies, are created from things originally found in nature.

Will leave you with one of the clips we watched last night.

I find the whole thing fascinating.

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Dog Story

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It doesn’t get old

“Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

(Something my father is fond of saying)

In case you’re wondering, dad is back at home, has been for probably 3 months. He regained enough mobility and mental clarity that he was able to get discharged from the facility, and for that, we are all very thankful!

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We poured a little cement this morning on the property. I asked my grandson to take a few pictures. (He’s 7)

He made an executive decision to take some video instead..:

I was 14 when I started working for my dad. First job I went to, we were building a new bank. The time just flew at work. You’re constantly learning new things on a construction crew. I learned how to swear, learned how to tie re-rod, pour walls, set steel buildings, run a transit, run a skid-loader, yada, yada…

Like many of you (I’m sure), I wasn’t sure what to do as I graduated high school. My grades were OK, but I knew instinctively, if I went off to college, I would get sucked into the party scene. I decided to work for a year, and then make up my mind, Besides, I reasoned, I could still party on the weekends, w/o wasting money on college tuition if I was so inclined…

After a year, I realized I loved what I was doing, plus the sky was the limit in terms of career advancement, ( I could potentially be self employed, set my own wages, etc.)

Flash forward 45 years and I still love what I am doing. It was a good fit. It doesn’t get old.

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And on a completely unrelated note, I’ve noticed the writing impulse has started to taper off (again). I think it may be seasonal. Things here overall, are good. I have a new side hustle in the works that I am very excited about. It is looking like it could potentially generate as much (if not more) than the income we generate selling apples. I’ll leave it at that.

Take care, DM

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My thoughts while Putin rages and sabers rattle

I try to keep up with current events, just like the rest of you. Saw the following the other day and stuck it on the frig as a reminder. Too good to keep to myself. In case you don’t know who CS Lewis is, you might want to look him up. He lived through WW2. Was a good friend of JR Tolkien. Wrote the best book I ever read on the topic of grief . (A Grief Observed) The guy was solid. Wasn’t talking just theory.

Time to get moving.

Need to check the chickens before heading to work.

Love you all. DM

Posted in apple orchard, bee keeping, blogging, chickens, enjoying life, faith, farming, Gardening, Back to Eden, Heavy Mulch, Ruth Stout, etc, home schooling, Iowa, life in the country, orchard, personal, random, relationships, self sufficient, spirituality, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments