Nest Building

Male House Sparrow carrying nesting material

Photo compliments of Wikimedia

Standing in front of the kitchen sink the other morning, I saw a sparrow with his beak full of nesting material….dead grass, and what looked like strands of old baler twine.   Next to him was another sparrow and a starling  with dead grass in their beaks, doing the same thing.  Building nests.

The apple trees are also coming to life.

I took a brief stroll through the orchard last night to see which trees are forming blossoms and which ones are opting to take the season off.  (Last year we had a bumper crop)  Apple trees will do that if they’ve had an extra fruitful season the year before.   (They won’t form any flowers, just new leaves.)  I look at them and think to myself..they have more sense than some of us.   They know how to pace themselves and do it without apology or excuse:-)

I was reading a couple of short blurbs out of the latest Readers Digest to my wife this morning while we were having coffee in bed.   After I finished she said to me, “Thank you for bringing those things to the nest.”  ;-)

I go through spurts…sometimes I’m pretty good about investing in our relationship, and other times I fall into a rut and coast.  I do know the busier my life, the less creative energy there is to invest in anything, period.

My parents will be celebrating their 60th anniversary this coming August….60 years!  And the really beautiful thing about them as a couple is, the magic is still there.  They still go out on dates.




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Grandpa and The Overton Window

I (DM) became a grandpa twice more in 2014.


How can I, a young man of 27  be a grandpa four times over???

Wife was asked to babysit with Kasen  Saturday night so I tagged along.

Sitting on the couch with this grand baby on my lap filled me with a quiet joy. As long as I don’t have to change any dirty diapers I am good to go.

The TV was on, when the words of a song caught my ear:

” Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy
Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn’t seem so hazy…”

(See the end of the post if you want to listen to the song.)

My grandpa used to talk to us about the “good old days.”

He’d say things like:

“Ha – the  good old days….You can have them!”

He was referring to living through  two World Wars,  the Great Depression, delivering babies at home on the kitchen table,  no indoor plumbing until  the 1940’s, and so on.

On those levels,  I would have to agree.

But as I sat there snuggling  Kasen,  my mind  kept thinking about the words, “Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn’t seem so hazy…”
and a  conversation I remember reading between  my favorite writer, Andree Seu Peterson and Congressman Frank Wolf.

Wolf  asked Peterson if she’d ever heard of  the “Overton Window”?


He  held out his hands and framed them into a window.

I’m paraphrasing the conversation as I remember it:

   “Imagine, a yardstick.  On either end are the extremes of  any political issue. Between the ends lie all gradations of thought from one extreme to the other. The essence of the Overton window is that only a portion of the spectrum is within the realm of the politically possible at any time…”

What once was considered unthinkable, goes through several steps until it becomes policy:








The Overton Window is a great analogy to me of what is happening in my culture, not just in the political sphere, but pop culture as a whole.  The lines between right and wrong , truth and lies feel blurred.

“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.” 

Paul Joseph Goebbel   ( Minister of Propaganda for Adolph Hitler during WW II)

Would love to hear your thoughts on any of this.

Do we have “ministers of propaganda” today? (even if they don’t officially go by that title)  The more specific the better.

Any examples come to mind of “lies repeated often enough that they have become truth” in your life time?

What sources of information do you trust to help you  stay informed?

What are some of the things you do in your life to  keep your bearings?

Tell me about your grandpa.

Here’s a picture of my grandpa the day he helped me butcher 100 chickens the Fall of 1982:

opa 1982

If I were a betting man, I think I am going to look a lot like this picture in another 30 years.  DM

Here is a recent picture with the four grand kids.  Rigg was not real happy about getting his picture taken. Kasen (on the right) seems to be thinking “What’s all racket about cuz???”

grandkids 2015

Later- DM

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Taste A Little Of The Summer

Stumbled across this song for the first time this morning.  Let me know what you think…DM

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Spring Potato Harvest

Last year it happened by accident.

This year I did it on purpose.

I left some of our potato crop in the ground over the winter under heavy mulch.

Some of the potatoes  turned to mush and some of them were of awesome quality.

Firm, hard white flesh….and delicious.

Compared to the potatoes still in the potato bin in the basement…well  there was no comparison😉


I’ve been playing around with the heavy mulch gardening model the past 3 years (Ruth Stout’s claim to fame).

Today I  scraped off the mulch  on both garden beds. The soil under the mulch is still frozen solid while the rest of the ground seems to be pretty much thawed. Mulch not only suppresses  weeds it also acts as an insulator and would have kept the ground frozen a lot longer.


spring potatoes (1)

Over wintered potatoes in Iowa soil under heavy mulch.

Just curious if any of you have ever tried (or heard) of doing this before?     (over wintering root crops until spring)

In the pioneer days, I know the settlers would bury apples,  and other crops in earthen pits.    The soil temperature below the frost line remains a constant 55 to 57 degrees which is warmer than a refrigerator but lower than a warm house.

This is a little different process because I know the potatoes in the garden froze, in spite of the mulch…they were not 3 feet down below the frost line.


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Better than Pumpkin Pie


Last Fall, during the busiest part of harvest, I still had several smaller pie pumpkins left over.  I hated to just throw them away  but I didn’t have much time to mess with them either, so after doing a little research, decided to just cube them up into chunks and stick them raw into 1 gallon freezer bags.

Fast forward 2 months.

I decided to make a pumpkin pie out of  the fresh pumpkin. There was more pie filling left over than could fit into my pie crust.  Hated to just throw it away so I baked the excess filling in some little oven safe bowls.  When it came time to eating the extra, I put a spot of cool whip on it, and honestly, it tasted just as good w/o the pie crust.

Fast forward another week.

On a lark, I pulled another gallon bag of fresh cubed pumpkin out of the freezer,  this time, intentionally put all of it in oven safe cooking bowls.  Had a half a dozen containers of various sizes, and all of it was gone within a couple of days.

Fast forward another week.

Made another batch of fresh pumpkin pie custard, this time dumped the whole 6 cups of pie filling into a 9 by 13 pan.

It is to die for.

It is a completely different animal than your store-bought pumpkin pie filling from a can.  10 times more tasty and has a unique texture that has really grown on me.

Here’s the deal.  I am all about saving time and keeping it simple.

Blanch the pumpkin if you want at harvest time before freezing. (I’ve done both and have not noticed any difference in the finished product.)

Thought I would post this easy, made from scratch, fresh pumpkin pie filling recipe and share it with you.  We are now in the middle of winter so I am pulling the cubed, frozen, pumpkin out of the freezer, wishing I had more.

Side note- Before I bagged  the fresh cubed pumpkin, I  froze the cubes on a cookie sheet over night, so they were not all clumped together when it came time to use it, in case I didn’t want to use the whole gallon at the same time.   (In my case, I am using the whole gallon bag at a time.  1 gallon bag =  about 6 cups once it is cooked and mashed down)

Fresh Pumpkin Pie filling

(or custard)

Remove frozen pumpkin from freezer, place in a large pot of water and cook it on low to medium heat. (covered)  Normally, it starts to boil about an hour into the process.  The goal is to let it come to a  low boil for about 30 minutes.  Total time from taking it out of the freezer to done boiling approx. 1 and 1/2 hours.

Drain off careful, might want to let it sit for a little bit to cool off so you don’t get a face full of steam….

After water is drained off, you should have cooked pumpkin cubes😉

I have just been leaving the pumpkin in the large pot after I drain off the water,  adding all the ingredients (which I will list in a second) then beat it with a beater for a couple of minutes on high.  Totally a preference thing here in terms of texture.  If you have a food processor and want to puree the pumpkin more, that is up to you. I am just telling you what I am doing (remember, I’m all about keeping it simple)😉

Add 4 eggs

1.75 cup of milk (I’ve experimented with whole milk, condensed milk, 1% milk,etc.  At this point, I just use whatever I have in the frig that is opened.

1 cup of brown sugar (again, I’ve experimented, with various sweeteners.  currently using some Demerara Cane Sugar crystals only because I had a lot of it in the cupboard and wanted to use it up)   side note-  this is about 1/2 the amount of sweeter the regular made from scratch pumpkin pie recipe’s call for.  Trying to watch my sugar intake and it still tastes delicious w/1/2 the sugar content.

1.5 to 2  teaspoons of vanilla

Once all the ingredients are in the pot, I mix it w/my little hand mixer for a couple of minutes.

Pour into 9 by 13 pan. Forget about the pie crust. Who needs pie crust😉

Cook (uncovered) in preheated oven , 15 minutes @ 425 F.

Turn down oven to 350 and cook approx. another hour. (test like a normal pumpkin pie filling…cook until knife comes out clean)

Top with cool whip if you like,


On a totally unrelated note, as I mentioned on my last blog post, I have decided to post only farm related things on this blog and go back to posting my introspective stuff on a second blog site.  E-mail me or leave me a comment and I will be glad to send you a link  if you are interested.  It is a new blog, not the old one some of you may remember….absolutely no pressure, this will be the last time I mention it here.  DM

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Good morning from Middle Earth!😉

I wanted to write  a quick update and let you know what’s going on around here.  I am retooling the blog.  I   have decided to go back to keeping two  separate active blogs,  a farm blog, (this one)  with farmstead related thoughts, and a  personal blog, where I write about things of a more introspective nature.

If you’d like the website address of the second blog, leave me a comment  and I will be glad to send you an e-mail with a link.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. DM


P.S. I heard the following song last weekend while I was watching one of the grandsons  and wanted to share it with you.





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Musing After A Hot Date

 Girlfriend and I were out on a date last night.

 Yes it is possible to still have the warm fuzzies for each other after 35 years.





Neither one of us was in the mood for “fancy” so we opted for Country Kitchen.    Our waitress’s name was Stormy.    She had a great attitude,  nothing flashy, just upbeat and pleasant, gave us the kind of attention that makes you want to leave a good tip.

      I woke up this morning still thinking about Stormy’s attitude.


Because  meeting someone with a good attitude is both rare and refreshing.   Some of you reading this have one, which is why I love your blogs!😉

While I’m not a motivational speaker, I have discovered a few things about attitudes that are operational in my life, the last blog post not withstanding.

Quick bunny trail – I am of the persuasion all of us sputter on occasion.  Sputter as in getting into a funk.  Nothing quicker than a health set back, to get my attention and see what I am really made of.  Which is why I am not ashamed to ask for help when I need it.  90% 80%  of the time I am Michael Jordan on the court of life.  I can’t miss, but when  that is not happening, I get quiet.  But that ends up painting a sanitized version of my life.

It is not real.

And I LOVE real, which is how I want to live my life.

Paul the writer of several letters in the New Testament put it like this:

“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound in any and every circumstance,  I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need.” 

  “I  have learned.” He was talking about learning to have an attitude of contentment.   At the time he wrote that, he was languishing in a jail.

Having raised 4 children on a carpenter’s  income I can tell you, I have not always been content.  We were paying more on rent than what mortgage payment would have been.  It was driving me nuts. We were living in New Jersey when it came to a head.   I was building new homes for people  driving BMW’s and Mercedes.    (At that time in history, there was no such thing as no  down payment, you needed at least 5%).  The churning discontent, and frustration  anger  were wearing me out.

I chose to be thankful for what we had.

It worked.

The anger dissipated.

Someone recommended  Strengthening Your Grip  and it changed the quality of  my life.

Here is a portion:
“The longer I live,the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes,than what other people think of, say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…. a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you..we are in charge of our attitudes.”


Here is the picture I’m currently sporting on our Facebook header.  It speaks life to me.  It was taken in Europe from the area my ancestors are from.  (Ostfriesland, which translated literally means “the free lands”)    I’ve written about it before -, powerful story.

germany where I am from

Hope you have a great 2015!  DM

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