Showing posts from June, 2024

Convergence of History

  St. Louis Fire , illustrated by  Henry Lewis  in  Das illustrirte Mississippithal (The Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated)  from 1857 One of my goals in my spare time is to update a "book" I wrote on the Chicken side of my family. It is 42 pages long but only the first 9 pages were creatively written and detail the immigrant Chicken who came from England to Wisconsin in 1849 and his descendants. When I wrote it more than ten years ago, that was as far as I could trace the line. Since then I have pushed it back two, possibly three more generations and have a lot more information to include. Before starting that process however, I have been creating research documents for each of my ancestors, listing all the documents I have found, what facts they contain, etc., so that everything is easily found in chronological order. Just the act of compiling all that information, usually means I discover overlooked factoids that were skipped over earlier because they didn't pertai

35 Years In the Making

  As I blogged about earlier, I've tried raising sour cherries for about 25 years now after extricating myself from 10 years of living in apartment buildings, but haven't lived in a spot long enough to allow the trees to get mature enough to produce enough fruit to make a sour cherry pie, my personal favorite. Sure I've had plenty of sour cherry crisps or tarts over the years but they have only been tastes and not quite the same a pie full of the fruit. So I was excited when a couple weeks ago I was able to pick enough fruit to actually make a regulation sized sour cherry pie. My eldest daughter pitted the fruit, my wife marinated it in some sugar to take a bit of the tartness from the fruit and I made the crust from scratch. My wife rolled out the bottom crust and poured in the fruit and I gave my eldest daughter a lesson on how to do a lattice which she completed and sprinkled some more sugar on for texture and into the oven it went. Above is the completed pie which we st

Oak Park

  Sometime in the spring of 2023, I heard about a new farm to table restaurant opening up in the fall of 2023 in our state capital. According to the writing about it, they were going to grow their own vegetables to cook with behind the restaurant. It really didn't get much more farm to table than that and I knew that it would be my wife's jam so I cut out the above emblem from a webpage and gave that to her as a birthday gift in September when the restaurant still wasn't yet open. In late October of 2023 it opened up for online reservations and I immediately logged on only to see it was booked for every single night from their open date through the end of February. Not wanting to count on traveling in the dead of winter, we just put off making a reservation for the time being. Sometime after Christmas, I got to thinking about the fast approaching 2024 and how in May it would be a milestone anniversary for us. I logged onto the website to see if I could book a reservation fo

Transitioning From Planting/Mulching to Harvesting

  Finally, after one early morning session with our garden, I feel as if we are finally caught up with it and can sit back and relax a bit. As you can see above, we have mulched more of it to keep the weeds at bay and to preserve the moisture which has been lacking for the last two weeks and is not predicted in the upcoming two weeks of forecasts. The straw is thin in spots where we replanted some okra that failed to come up earlier this spring and some newly transferred eggplants from the greenhouse. The unmulched square in the back right corner is where our late sweetcorn patch was planted. Once they sprout up to where I can see the rows, I'll mulch them too along with around the eggplant and okra and then we will be done except for the reaping which is the part I really enjoy. Speaking of reaping, I bought two different types of potatoes to plant this year. Some golden ones which don't store well for new potatoes and some red ones that store a lot better that will hopefully

The Bluebirds Won... With a Little Help From Their Friends

  Finally, we at long last have bluebirds nesting in our birdhouse after nearly two years of struggles. Older readers will recall that we had a bad year a few years back and the raccoons decimated two batches of bluebirds within days of fledging, leaving behind only sad piles of blue feathers on the ground. Even though the birdhouse is not mine but belongs to a neighbor who does this as a hobby, I sought out revenge and installed a raccoon baffle underneath the birdhouse to prevent such a thing from happening. Since that time, the only birds showing interest are sparrows and we actively discourage them by removing their nests as soon as they build them. This spring, I have probably removed more than 20 sparrow nests built in that box. You can tell them apart from bluebird nests because sparrow nests have more sticks and twigs in them while a bluebird nest is comprised mostly of grass. Still, the sparrow persisted. Then I shot that video I shared awhile back of the bluebirds putting the

Garden Progress Report

10 June This was the state of our garden post gardening session upon our return from Indiana and before the start of the previously blogged about concert. The tilled up areas on the right were the mostly failed peas due to the rabbits and a failed crop of watermelon radishes. It was the first time to grow watermelon radishes so I'm not sure why they never really grew. Also tilled up and partly covered in straw was a row of white onions. I bought red and white onion sets this spring and planted them and they looked fine for a long time but suddenly, every single white onion died. I've never had an onion of any type die before so I'm not sure if I accidentally bought a different type of short lived onion instead of the ones I expected which are supposed to produce large heads of 3 or 4 inches in diameter or perhaps some disease. The red onions are growing quite well still. In those tilled up spaces, I planted some late sweetcorn thanks to a suggestion for Donna's blog aga

Spur of the Moment Weekend

Free from all the recent commitments we have been juggling, I guess we just couldn't relax straight out and so on the spur of the moment, did a road trip. Thursday afternoon, we decided that since we had a free weekend, perhaps we should go to the graduation part of the son of some old friends of ours, in Indiana! So we loaded up the car on Friday morning and drove to Indiana, killed time by driving downtown in rush hour traffic for supper and then after a night in a motel, went to the graduation party the next day. Boy were they surprised to see us pull up. We spent two hours chatting and catching up and then hopped in the car and drove all the way back to Iowa. Their son was born two months before my eldest daughter and is autistic. He scores well above his age/grade level on standardized testing for every subject except for communication. Even his communication skills have improved dramatically over the years so that you can actually have somewhat of a conversation with him thes

Milestone Harvest

I have a thing with sour cherries. Growing up, we always had a sour cherry tree around that we picked gallons of cherries from every spring to keep us in sour cherry pies year round. When I had my first home of my own, the first tree I planted was a sour cherry tree. When I sold that house years later, I hadn't yet harvested enough to make a pie in a single year. So when I moved to this house, I planted another sour cherry tree. It is still there after all these years but only produces a large handful of sour cherries every year. I'm not sure why it hasn't done better. Maybe four or five years ago, I bought another sour cherry tree and stuck it in my backyard. It has outgrown the one in front and is twice the size despite being half as old. This year, for the first time ever in 20+ years, I have enough sour cherries to make a pie, and I still have a lot more cherries on the one in the backyard that weren't ripe enough to pick yet. It might be possible to get two sour ch


  I opened up an Amazon package and found the above inside. I had no idea what they were and certainly hadn't ordered them so immediately, I assumed I had been a victim of "brushing". I only had a vague understanding that brushing was some sort of scam for unsavory companies to increase ratings but didn't know all the details. I set the package aside, intending to toss it in the trash later and went on my business. Later that day, I got to thinking about what harm brushing does to me and couldn't come up with anything. Curious as to how it scams me, I did a little internet research. Brushing is a scam where an unsavory company sends cheap trinkets through the mail to addresses. Since everyone's addresses are online, this doesn't really harm the receiver yet. However, the unsavory company will pay people to create accounts in the name of the receivers of these cheap trinkets and write stellar reviews for the company to artificially drive up their ratings. A


  Two weeks after graduating, my eldest turned 18 years old and in the country of her mother, this is a big deal and celebrated. So still not fully cleaned up after the graduation party we threw for her, we also through a debut party for her two weeks later. My wife and two daughters worked tirelessly on it and I helped out where I could because decorations and party agendas are not really my forte. Still, it would not have been done without the help of my wife's cousins who descended in mass from the coastal regions of Virginia to help us set up for, hold and tear down everything for the big reveal party of my 18 year old daughter. The day was a blur or hauling things down to the rented venue, setting everything up, making repeated trips to get last minute items, feeding all the helpers, making sure everything was just right and then opening up the doors for friends and family. I would like to show you more pictures but nearly all of them are personal in nature so I shall refrain

Our Perimeter Was Breached!

30 May 2024 "There's a rabbit eating my peas!" Not much of a good morning greeting from my wife. I stepped out onto the deck and made some noise. The rabbit didn't even twitch. But after a few seconds, it decided that the best option was to vamoose and so it hopped across to the far side of the garden, hopped right through the fence and disappeared down into the woods.  I then dutifully donned my shoes, grabbed my electric fence tester and went to the nearest side of the garden which was the opposite side from the solar fence charger. I put the probe on the fence and got nothing. I touched it with my finger and also felt nothing. Hmm. I walked around to the charger side and looked at the control panel. It was charged but wasn't sending out any charges according to the display. Then I noticed the little red alligator clip that is supposed to be clipped to the leads on the fence. It was clipped to the side of the charger instead. My wife, who had been out there weed

A Week After Memorial Day

As I have done most years, I volunteer to distribute flags onto the gravesites of veterans and then pick them up again after Memorial day has passed. On Memorial day, our church holds a mass among the graves in special tribute to those who gave all to preserve our country. On this particular day, I set up my lawn chair beside a gravestone that said the occupant was Johnny, killed in the Vietnam war.  I have seen that particular stone many times before, and many times have thought I ought to look up Johnny and see who he was, but always my short memory and a busy life have gotten in the way and I have forgotten... until the next year. This year, I took a picture with my phone after mass, so that I would remember the next time I looked through it for a picture to post. Later that day, I did just that, and immediately typed Johnny's name into a search engine and was surprised to find a two part post that somebody else had done specifically on Johnny and another person. It summed up hi