Day 16 – Need to get my hands in the garden dirt


As I sit here wrapped in my shawl, slurping my post-walk coffee, I feel longing for warmer temps and green things.

It’s about this time every year that I begin to wonder if I will have the time to garden this year and, if I think I do, what will I plant?

I always plant tomatoes. I love the little grape tomatoes the most. They are my favorite snack to eat while puttering around my back yard. I don’t often get to putter, but when I do, I have a handful of these lovely little beauties. It’s like sunshine on a vine, the best flavor, and one of my most favorite things about Summer.

This year, I think I am going to try to spruce up my front yard a little bit. It’s been a blank slate for the whole of the almost 17 years I’ve lived in this house, with the exception of one summer when I planted flowers down by the sidewalk. This year, I think it’s going to be fruit bearing shrubs. I might just get wild and plant something different like Lingon berries, and maybe some blueberries. I’m hoping to create a space that is pretty, yet useful.

Some years ago, I planted some trees on my western property line, and they have made a difference in how the snow blows through my yard. I even had quite a few Nanking cherries on my bush last year, but the birds and squirrels got them. This year maybe I will net the tree to  keep the birds out, so I can have enough to make some jelly for my Dad.

My Dad told me a story about eating Nanking cherries off of bushes as a kid, just out playing in the neighborhood. They grow so well here, that they just grow everywhere if left alone. That’s the kind of plant I like.

I have a rule for my property, and any plant that lives here. They must enjoy neglect and abuse. I am not home a lot, and anything I plant here cannot be delicate or needy.

Or, maybe I just need to be home more so I can plant a larger variety of things? That’s certainly a consideration that has bowled across my brain consistently this winter, for a whole host of reasons.

If you enjoy gardening and the itch to dig around the soil and plant things has got you, here’s hoping you have fun planning your garden. These last months running up to Spring seem to last forever! Blessings all!

 

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Of role models and fishing trips…


Today, I had to dig a little deeper through the murk collected in my mind to find the blessings that were just waiting to be picked up and marveled at.

Thus, cup of coffee number two. I don’t know exactly what it is about a second cup of coffee that does the trick for me, but I am guessing that it’s just the time it takes to drink the first one and start on the second that gives me time to think and work through the garbage floating in my head. Sometimes it’s easy to mistake the garbage in your head for truth, or for something worth keeping. It took me a little extra long to sort through all of that floating rubbish today.

And, the coffee just tastes and smells good. Hmmm!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Father’s Day, and do wish all of the Dad’s reading this blog a very happy Father’s Day…especially for those who’ve stepped up to be a role model in the absence of a child’s father.  You could be a friend, a neighbor, step-dad or boy friend of a kid’s mom, grandfather… or just a guy on the street who chooses to do the right thing, regardless of who is watching.

Being a role model is not something a person always chooses to do consciously, but it is something everyone is anyway, all the time. For the purposes of this post, let’s narrow the scope a bit. A while back, I wrote a post about what it takes to make a person a mother. The long and short of it is that not all people can be Mom’s, but sometimes people just step up and do the job. The same goes for Dads.

Yesterday was an eventful day. The Flirt picked the boys and I up at 9am, and we drove to another town that was holding a “Ribfest”. It was a nice day, and the food was good. We shopped a little and then came home. Later the boys and I went to pick up supper to take my parent’s house, as we celebrated Father’s day early with my Dad. As we waited for our order, Older Son noticed a car in distress. It was half hanging in the ditch, and the driver couldn’t get the car started again. After we got through the drive-thru, we parked the car and went to see if we could push them back onto the road.

The car contained an elderly couple, with the husband driving.  I’m not quite sure how he ended up with his tail end hanging in the ditch, but the car wouldn’t start and his nose was sticking out into the lane. I offered that we would push him out, and we tried but the three of us weren’t strong enough to push this big old car back up onto the road. Pretty soon a big burly guy came out of the chicken joint and tried to help, but the four of us still couldn’t get it done. Then a kid came out to help, and he couldn’t have been any more than ten or so, but his was the last bit of strength we needed to get the car back up on the road and parked the nearby hotel parking lot. It’s amazing what people can accomplish, regardless of size, when you work together.

Something struck me about these two who came out to help…nobody asked them, they just did it. I wonder if they even knew each other…probably not, but they both had something in common: Someone at sometime modeled that behavior for them.  It’s one thing for me to tell the boys to get out of the car to do this, but it was another thing altogether for them to see two other strangers come out to help, unasked and didn’t ask for anything in return…I hope it’s something my kids remember and repeat. These two guys, even though they were a kid and a twenty-something, were good role models, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they will make good dads, uncles, neighbors, grandparents, etc…

Fishing is something that I used to enjoy as a kid, and Younger Son has expressed an interest in learning. The Flirt and his family are all very much into fishing, and are willing to take us with them when they go. While at my parent’s house last night, I asked my Dad if he still had any of the fishing poles they used to use. Amazingly he did, and tackle boxes too. The poles need some help, but the tackle boxes are FULL of all kinds of interesting things. What’s in them is not nearly as important as who they belonged to. One tackle box belonged to a close uncle that my Dad spent many summers with, and the other one belonged to his own father. I don’t know when he acquired these, but I am willing to guess that these two tackle boxes hold more than just fishing supplies. There are a lot of childhood memories wrapped up in both of these boxes for my Dad, and I am feeling pretty privileged that he gave them to us.

I tried to talk my Dad into coming fishing with us, but fishing isn’t so much his bag. My Mom loves to fish, so I’m hoping we can get her interested in coming out. More on how that progresses later.

Fishing is an interesting way to get conversations started, especially if there are just two of you alone in a boat. I once went fishing up the river with my Mom’s father, whom I never did get a chance to get to know very well. He and I chatted the whole time, and I am kicking myself now for not having the wisdom to pay closer attention. The only thing I remember him talking about was something that happened during the time he served in WWII. He told me a story about how the plane his group was in got shot up by the enemy, and the hydraulic line got a hole in it. He stuck his finger in the hole and left it there until the plane landed. He giggled like a kid when telling me that the government gave him a medal for putting his finger in a hole…he really thought that was the funniest thing. Many years later after he passed away, I found out that the military had awarded him a Silver Star for this because he kept the plane in the sky and saved the lives of his crew members. This is a huge demonstration of how little things count.

The purpose of telling that story isn’t to brag up my grandfather’s heroism, though he is deserving of it, but to point out that those quiet moments when you are hanging out with someone who matters mean a lot. That one fishing trip up the river was the most time I ever got to spend with him at any one time, and I am grateful for it. While I don’t remember a lot of the conversation, I remember having a really good time. He was a good guy and I wish I had been able to get to know him better.

I am fortunate in that my Dad still lives, and I get to see him often. Yet, there are so many other men that have come and gone from my life, related or not, who have made a difference. They have not only taught me things, but they have helped shape who I am. While my kids aren’t so lucky to have a father who wants to be a positive role model in their lives, they sure are lucky enough to have men in their lives, most especially my own Dad,  who are willing to step up and help shape them into the men they will become.

To all those who are Dads, or just have the fortitude to step up and be the Dad or role model a kid needs…I hope you have a tackle box full of memories from your past you can pass on to someone, and that you share those memories, knowledge and values with wild abandon. Happy Father’s Day!

Saturday mish-mash


I sure have missed my blog.

Generally, my problem has been that I have a terrible case of writer’s block and can’t write. Recently, though, I’ve just not had the time. Today I have a few precious hours to myself as I don’t work until later this morning, and the boys won’t be reading over my shoulder as Older is still sleeping and Younger is at work. It’s just me, the cat and my coffee….ahhhhh!

I’ve had so much going on that I find I have an over abundance of things to write about, so I will just babble until I run out of stuff, or run out of time. Here goes:

Yesterday I asked my Dad about blogging again. I’ve been pestering him about it recently as I think he’d be really good at it, but he is resisting. I don’t know if he doesn’t think he has anything to say, or if he doesn’t want to be tied to it and feel obligated to keep up with it daily, but he flat refuses. It’s a crying shame as he has a keen intellect and plenty of interesting opinions. Personally, I think he might be a blogging addict once he got started, and I’m going to keep working on him.  I’m going to pester my Mom too. She can be wickedly funny, and I’m betting that she might like blogging too, if I can just get her started.

My Dad recently has begun to tell stories from his youth that I’ve not heard in all of my almost 43 years. Mom has always told me things about from when she was growing up, and I would imagine that she has more to tell. I’d like to get my parents to commit as many of these stories as they can to some form of permanent media, whether it’s paper or digital.

My kids have not read my blog, that I am aware of, and I am hoping that it will serve as a window into my perspective for them when they get to be older. I should take my own good advice and get on the stick and write about my childhood too, and perhaps this blog is the best spot for that.  I should also write about my kids’ childhoods. There will be a lot they don’t remember, or never knew.  I’ve been looking for a direction to take this blog, and perhaps that is it. Mixing the old and the new, comparing the happenings of today with stories from the past? Much food for thought there.

So what’s new in my little corner of The High Plains? Well, I’ve been working at The Red Big Box Store since just before Christmas, and it is a VAST improvement over The Blue Big Box Store. Not only do they have a very good sense of organization and communication, but it’s so much cleaner. Just about the only thing I have to complain about is how they do their scheduling. So far, it hasn’t been enough to make me want to leave, though, so I’ll hang with it. I also got a promotion at the Cube Farm. I’m going to a department that I worked in before, and I’ll be working for a lady who is just the bee’s knees fabulous. The job I have been in since my last one was liquidated is good, and I have amazing people to work with, but I have been feeling stagnant and bored with it. This new job will give me the variety I need and a lot of opportunity for growth. It also has the added bonus of a little extra pay, so I’m hoping to drop down my hours at The Red Box Store, which will give me some more time at home.

Speaking of home, not much has been done in the home improvement department…just not much time, and the weather has been terrible. Tomorrow, I’m going to be a Domestic Goddess and do laundry until my washer and dryer cry for mercy. I’m also going to do some basement organization so that everything is ready for the next phase of the remodel: The Pantry!  I’ve already got some extra non perishables stocked up, just waiting for a place to go. I can’t wait to get my new pantry filled up! Being prepared for emergencies is something that has been weighing heavily on my mind, and something I’ve not been able to do much about. If a person has a well stocked pantry groceries (and other household necessities) are going to be the least of your worries if something catastrophic happens. This is what a lot of people call “prepping”. It’s another topic I will be blogging heavily about in the coming year, and something you can definitely hear more about if you check out Jack Spirko at   The Survival Podcast. Jack is an interesting guy who has a lot of great ideas about how to live a good, and well prepared, life.  More about that topic later.

Well, my coffee has run out, and Older Son has risen from his man cave. Time to get showered and get on with my day!

 

New steps, and the basement remodel moves forward!


All has been quiet in the last while regarding home improvement projects here at Sparrow’s Nest, until this last couple of weeks. I’ve had trouble with my basement steps, as they were constructed poorly when they were put in.  My Dad was kind enough to come over, take them apart and put them back together correctly with new treads.  He also pounded out the drywall that line the steps, as it was on the wrong side of the wall, and put in a new light where my pantry will go. He’s got plans about how to put a wall in on the steps side of the wall, and is helping me think about how to construct a pantry on the other side and underneath the stairs. My Dad’s amazing…he can pretty much build or fix anything, and I am so grateful that he’s put his considerable skills to work in my house. He’s definitely helping me make my house more of a home. The best part is that Older and Younger Sons have both helped, which gives them a sense of accomplishment, as well as a stake in how their home is fixed.

Here’s what it looked like to start with:

  As you can see the risers were installed incorrectly by overlapping the treads of the steps. This caused uneven wear and splinters to form. You can see where there was drywall on the wrong side of the stair wall, causing several Black Holes of Doom between the studs where things would fall down from above and get lost under the stairs.

Dad came over to make all the measurements and then we went shopping for new 2×10 boards for the new treads. Since the risers aren’t so visible, we didn’t buy new plywood, but reused what was there. Not having done this before, Dad was a little afraid of how much time it would take and so he came over on Saturday around 11:30 so that we’d have Sunday too, if need be.  Younger helped with this part of the project and it took them a little bit to get started, but once they did it seemed to go really smoothly, and only took about three hours to get finished. They started from the bottom, and did one step at a time. Younger Son has been talking to me about putting a finish on the steps, which I think we will do, but it will have to wait until the Spring when we can keep the windows open all day.

Later on that week, Dad came back and Older Son helped him pound out and haul out the drywall, and then he installed a light in the back of what will be my new pantry.

Here are pictures of the results:

This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a huge step forward…if you’ll forgive the pun. By Spring I’m hoping to have  my new pantry ready to go and on the way to being filled up. I’d like to have a year’s worth of supplies banked away eventually, and this little project has gotten me that much closer to making that plan into reality. I have some other thoughts on pantry building, and being prepared, but I’ll leave those for another post.

Hopefully soon I’ll have some more pictures to show you regarding the progress on my basement remodel!

Where is Barbara Eden when you need her?


Holy cow…life has taken be for quite a ride these last two weeks. The end of the school year, combined with everything else that’s going on has left me with my head spinning and my house is a complete disaster. Here it is, Friday already this week, and I have company coming this weekend. Uff da.

I woke up today thinking how lovely it would be if I could have mad skills like Barbara Eden’s Jeannie. I would love it if I could clean my whole house with just a sharp bob of my head.  In my youth, when I spouted off about how I wished something could be different, my Dad would ask me if I had a pile of wish in one and a cow patty in another, what do you get when you rub your hands together? Better to get your hands dirty with work than to rub them together wishing things were different. Well, I’m unhappy to report that Dad was right. Wishing doesn’t quite fix the problem, so I guess I’ll stay up a little later tonight and get everything in order.

In other news, we’ve had a few gloriously sunshiny days. We deserved this nice weather, and I even got a little bit of a sunburn at the garage sale last weekend. Today we have 100% chance of rain, but I’m hoping that things will dry out enough this coming week that we’ll be able to put the garden in.

In North Dakota, we have a LOT of different Seasons, all of which overlap each other. For example, right now it is Spring, but it is also the beginning of Road Construction and Home Improvement Seasons. We have a lot of pot holes in the streets after a long hard Winter…axle-busting pot holes…and it could very well take most of the Spring and Summer for them all to get repaired. Home Improvement Season will be long too. There’s just no end to the work of art in progress that is my home. Thank goodness for my Dad, who has a handle on all things that have to do with home improvement.

Last year I had the roof replaced, the bathroom gutted and redone, and all of my windows were changed out. This will be the Summer of Small Projects. Lots of paint, lots of organizing and much getting rid of stuff that I don’t need anymore. I’m looking at doing some different things with my garden this year too, but more on that later.

Today it will rain and wash away the dust and dirt that covers everything, and make the air smell good. I have lunch with my Sister by Choice today, and work should be light….at least at the Cube Farm. It’s going to be a good day.

Drowning in Testosterone


Testosterone...it only looks harmless in the picture.

I’m a single mother, raising two boys ages 17 & 15. Generally speaking, our house is a veritable testosterone swamp. It’s all about video games, sports, boys clothes, and boys stuff… and boy issues. It’s so pervasive that when I recently renovated my bathroom, I found myself  leaning to a more masculine decor than I might otherwise have liked. My basement has become Older Son’s personal Man Cave.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not a girlie-girl. I don’t like pink or yellow, unless it’s on flowers, and I sure don’t dig flower prints on my furniture. I don’t care for lace much, and don’t even think about trying to get me into a dress…unless it’s that really cool wine-colored celtic dress a dear friend gave me some years back (It rocks, thank you Hel’wyse!). As I child, I spent way more time climbing trees, riding my bike, shooting a BB gun and playing catch with my Dad than I did playing dolls.  Oh, I tried the whole hair and make up thing between the ages of 15 and 22, or so. Turns out I’m allergic to all that gunk that women put on their heads, so I decided just to go natural and quit trying to swim upstream. I itch less and it turns out it’s a very much cheaper way to live. I don’t know how some of these women support their make up/hair habits.

So, given that I am a tom-boy (still) at the age of 41, why would I have any problems with living and breathing in a testosterone-laden atmosphere? I guess it has to do with the lack of balance. I don’t get out with my friends much. I do work with a lot of women, but that doesn’t really count. These last two weeks, just about every time I go out with my boys, I’m meeting my Dad and my Favorite Nephews to go to some neat cultural thing. Not that I don’t want to spend time with them, but I’m starting to feel the lack of not having enough women around. My one fleeting moment of estrogen-wrapped fun this week was my Friday lunch with my friend Brea. It only lasted about 20 minutes or so, but we laughed, and chatted, and it was nice (thanks again for the bracelet!).

So, tonight the boys and I were to pick Dad and the Nephews up and go to the Dakota Territory Air Museum. They had some special shindig going on, with lots of vintage airplanes. Uff-da…another testosterone-soaked activity. I just couldn’t take it any more. So, when we arrived at Mom and Dad’s, I gave Older Son the keys to the van, packed Dad and the Nephews up in the back with Younger Son and wished them a good time. I stayed with Mom while they were gone and it was nice. We chatted awhile, and I helped her out with some stuff on the computer. There were no loud noises, no exhortations on why one aircraft/tank/weapon/ship/video game/computer game is better than another. There was also no arguing (I swear to the Gods my kids argue some times like old ladies fighting over who gets the better bingo card) and there was no COPS on the television.

After they all came back from the aircraft show, I took my boys out to supper and we picked up some movies. The one we watched tonight was called “Whip It”, directed by Drew Barrymore, which is a new release in video stores right now. It’s all about women’s roller derby. I loved it! So, I got to spend time with Mom, and then watch a good movie (it really was good…go rent it) about a girl who is coming of age and trying to be tough enough.

It was a good evening. I think the only thing that would have made it a spectacular evening is if Hel’wyse could have joined in. We miss you, honey!

Inch by Inch, Row by Row


We (me, my boys, my Dad and my two nephews) just came back from a concert in our Oak Park, where we listened to Dennis Warner sing. He was absolutely wonderful, and I think my favorite song that he sang is called The Garden Song. I couldn’t find Mr. Warner’s version on You Tube, but I found a good version of it by John Denver, and wouldn’t you know it but he’s singing on The Muppet Show:

As much as I love John Denver’s music, I have to say that Dennis Warner did it better. He has a You Tube Channel, and I urge you to go out and give his songs a listen. His music is really worth taking the time:

I think the nicest thing about his concert tonight is that he had us all singing together, and it was a such a beautiful evening. I’m so glad we advantage of the opportunity to go hear some great music and enjoy a nice evening outside. Mr. Warner has published eight albums as well as a children’s book titled Beads on One String which is now being used in elementary school education programs.