Friday, July 27, 2007

Checking In

Yes, it has been too long. We six spent a lovely week at Golden Lake with the Nordlund & Cedarleaf clan. Swimming, sunning, sailing, surfing, Kubb-ing, eating, reminiscing, fellowshipping. Full report and photos to come.

We've also been busy the past few days since returning from idyllic Golden, trying to survive wicked heat and humidity at home. But we were rewarded at the end of each sticky day with dinners of fresh beets, summer squash, potatoes, pesto and herbs.

A snapshot of current and upcoming projects at the farm:
Sawing, chopping, storing wood for the winter
Chicken coop/greenhouse combined structure
Harvesting and preserving vegetables
Replacing windows in the house
Buying and installing a wood cookstove for the kitchen
Discussing, planning, thinking, brainstorming, researching addition to the house

The last item is the biggest and most exciting and least determined project. We have many ideas and dreams for ways to make our living and community space all that we want it to be. Aside from the task of determining what our needs/wants even are, we will be faced with the next step of connecting with people and resources who know best about construction, building green, and sustainable practices. Let's start with you, fair blog readers... if you have any ideas or resources, or people we might want to think about connecting with, please comment or email any of us.

This post will be brief as I'm off to the cities in a few minutes to catch a plane to California for a friend's wedding. (Also my first weekend away from Ellis - bittersweet!) I wanted to touch base and prime your thinking caps for what we hope will be more dynamic blog-interaction to come.

Bon voyage!

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Nabes

One of the things I've found most frustrating about living out here in the stix is that "service" people (aka electricians; jacks-of-all-trades; construction workers; masons; excavators, etc. etc.) either a) never return our phone calls or b) schedule appointments and then stand us up without bothering to let us know they won't be here. I've never known why, thinking perhaps its because our jobs here are too small, or gas prices are too high to wander this far to give an estimate, or maybe because something better comes along or the Packers game goes into overtime.

At any rate, I had a little "aha" moment when our friend Dave came over the other night. Dave is basically like a character written especially for our little drama here on the farm. He's got "classic Midwestern farmer" written all over him: not unlike many of our other neighbors here, he's stoic until we get him going (usually by plying him with outlandish questions and a few beers) and seems to enjoy the company. He runs the plow and mower for the county, and will always pull over when he sees us walking, and lately, pops over on his old motorcycle some evenings for a chat on our deck. He seems to be able to fix anything, most recently reviving our riding mower from certain death like the motorized equivalent of Lazarus - all for the ridiculously low price of $20.

So my moment happened after I asked Dave if other city slickers like ourselves had moved out here, and wondered if they stuck around, and Dave, as is his custom, was silent for a space and then said, "Yeah, the ones that don't end up staying out here, they're the ones that pretty much keep to themselves." OOOOOOOooooohhhhhhh, I thought. Mental clicking sound: wheels and cogs making their circular journeys. It all kind of came together for me then, dovetailing with why we can't get a break with the repairmen - here, it's all about relationships. If you want to get something done, make friends with someone around these parts, who is sure to have a brother-in-law who lays foundation. Or a son who installs windows. Or is best friends with the guy who repairs septic tanks. So you don't call somebody when you need something done as much as you might tell them all about it when you run into them at the Colfax Cenex and Farm Supply.

This theory held recently as my farrier (horse foot trimmer for the non-equestrians out there) bailed on me and my horses' feet just got longer and started to chip and I made one frantic phone call after another trying to get ANYBODY to call me back. Meanwhile, a woman I knew who had her baby at the birth center was selling organic, grass-fed beefthat she had raised and butchered herself. Jay went to buy beef from her and learned she had horses and voila, a farrier's phone number materialized out of thin air, and I talked to his wife today.

So those repairmen we wasted time calling at the beginning were most likely out plumbing their sister's daughter's friend's new bathrooms or something.

It's all about community, people!

Living rural takes a particular kind of patience and some specialized learning, to be sure. But I'll trade sitting in a traffic jam for it any day.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I Heart Houseboats

Last week, Chris, Ellis and I spent 7 days and nights exploring the lakes of Voyageurs National Park by houseboat. An ideal trip for everyone from toddler to 92 year old...we basked in the sun, beautiful night storms, and the company of Chris's family, including his Nana, brother, sister inlaw, cousin, and dear friend. While there is something pristine and simple about experiencing the profound beauty of northern Minnesota & Canada by hiking, camping, and portaging a canoe, this houseboat (while simple in its own right) was a shameless luxury.

We loved every minute of fellowship with one another, good food, lots of reading, swimming, playing, relaxing, and utterly gorgeous sightseeing from the top deck. Nana, the boat's matriarch, kept the Scrabble games rolling, stayed up later than anyone else...every night...and regularly reminded the boys that any crazy driving or cliff jumping into the lake or illegally treading onto Canadian waters would cause her a great deal of stress and therefore ought to be avoided at all times. Let's just say that Nana spent a fair amount of time clutching at her heart and tsk-tsking those unruly men. And she loved it.

Ellis was in heaven - as is most evident from the photos. I had a hard time finding photos to post withOUT him in them...he was sheer joy to watch and be with...discovering, squealing with delight, talking up a storm, basking in the love and attention of everyone on board.

We are grateful for such a trip - for good time away with dear family. And it's good to be home, of course. I'm listening to my favorite jazz cd of Jay's - Jessica Williams - sipping a glass of white wine, listening to the birds and bugs buzz as the sun heads west after a short and sweet downpour. Ellis is asleep, Chris is at work, and Charis, Jay and Owain are on the road home from the cities.

In less than two weeks we will dive into another beautiful summer vacation - Golden Lake with the Nordlund clan. My, my, we are blessed.