A new citizen approacheth!

Let me start off by letting you know up front that this is a repeat of a posting I did over at my friend Mark’s blog, The Idiot Speaketh. He was kind enough to let me hijack his blog for a little while tonight, and let me post this sight unseen.  I commented in my last post I thought so much of what Mark was doing that I wanted to give him an honorary North Dakota citizenship. Not just because he’s an all around great guy, but because he flat-out earned it. What I posted at Mark’s blog is as follows:

A few weeks ago, Mark did a most amazing thing. He rode his stationary bike 201 miles in only one day, and invited all of his many blog friends to make pledges in support of the flood recovery effort for my beautiful city of Minot, North Dakota. Not only did he pull off a personal best, but funds were indeed donated to the Red Cross on Minot’s behalf. It makes me tear up just thinking about the effort that Mark, and many others, went to…I thank you all on behalf of my community. (HUGS)

In my estimation, Mark is the embodiment of the word neighborliness. Here in North Dakota, being neighborly is important, because your survival just may depend upon your neighbors helping you out at some point. The climate can be harsh and deadly here on The High Plains, and folks up here just help each other out as a matter of course. Not because they have to, but because they can. He lives in Texas, which is on the other side of the country from North Dakota, and yet he is a good neighbor. A fabulous neighbor. Neighborlicious. That’s right, Mark…I made that word up just for you.

Mark’s reward for being outstanding in the neighborliness department doesn’t stop there. As promised, I have decided to make Mark an honorary North Dakota Citizen. As befitting any occasion where one gains citizenship to a new place, a little pomp and circumstance is in order.

After long thought about how a Statehood Citizenship Ceremony might go, I’ve determined that the symbols of the Great State of North Dakota should be incorporated. However, we’ll have to forgo the buffalo as it just wouldn’t cooperate and let Mark ride it into the Blogiverse Auditorium this evening. (Mark, my humble apologies about him having bucked you off and trod upon your toes!) Ahem…let’s get started, shall we?

(Mark enters, stage right, adorned in lei’s made of the Wild Prairie Rose, and escorted by a jubilant Western Meadowlark)

Here now, in the presence of the entire Blogiverse, all bear witness to Mark’s brave and unselfish deeds:

For initiating acts of Neighborliness from far across the country…

For behavior befitting a Native North Dakotan by coming to the aid of others, just because he could…

For having a “can do” attitude…

For exhibition of stamina, as demonstrated by riding the same distance in one day on a stationary bike (200+ miles), that would take almost four hours by car (like driving from Minot to Grand Forks)…

For having a heart the size of the sky over The High Plains, and as golden as the wheat fields that cover the rolling prairies of North Dakota…

And, for having a sense of humor so great as to make the most stoic farmer crack a smile…

(Whacking Mark about the head and shoulders with a shock of ripe wheat) I dub thee, Mark Pakulak, a true North Dakotan, with all of the rights an privileges wherein. You and your family will always be welcome here with open arms. I wish you joy, peace, and all the good things life has to offer you. May you never hunger, may you never thirst, and may the roads you travel always be clear of potholes.

As is befitting any event done properly in North Dakota, a pot luck will follow!

(uh…Mark…make sure to exit stage left. The buffalo is still behind the curtain on stage right, and he’s looking longingly at your toes…)

Blessed are mundane things

Today started out being not such a bad day. My house wasn’t considered to be in the flood zone, and we had made some progress on going through stuff in the basement that needed to be gotten rid of or brought upstairs. There was a sense of it needing to be done, but not that we had to kill ourselves to finish up.

My Sister calls this "Frog in a Blender"

Then we went out to run some errands. Older Son came with me and on the way home, I thought it would be nice to stop at Starbucks and get us some coffee. Or, in my case, a nice Green Tea Frappuccino.  We sat outside the drive through speaker for a long time, and then a girl came out and apologized, letting us know that they were closing due to the evacuation zones being expanded.


Yep…we came right home and turned on the tv. The big news is that someone just discovered that double the water was coming our way, and those close to the original evacuation zones were to evacuate as well. Well, that threw things into a tizzy. Later on we would find out that we weren’t in an expanded evacuation zone, but that someone had jumped the gun on that announcement. We are still getting double the water, though. It’s going to be what I come to call a Prairie Tsunami.

So, Older Son and I began to get things up from the basement, double time. Younger Son was at Driver’s Ed all afternoon, but got home early. We hauled stuff up and stashed it in bedrooms, we hauled crap out to the curb for garbage pickup, and we took some stuff to a friend who had use for them. It got to be about 9:30, and I walked across the road to see what’s going on closer to the river. I could see straight down one road to a main drag that runs over a bridge across the river. It was still dry, even though the West end of town is flooding. I’m hoping to get up tomorrow and still see a dry road. We’ll see what the new day brings. Until then, time to hit the rack.

Older Son’s bed is smack in the middle of the living room, so he’ll be comfortable enough until this whole thing is over and we can get him back into his bedroom in the basement. He suggested that we watch a movie, Battle: L.A. It’s an alien attack movie, just the kind of sci-fi thing we all like to watch. I sat here earlier flossing my teeth and catching up on the news on Facebook, and realized how nice it was to just do something as mundane as take care of my teeth. Watching a movie together is a nice mundane way to try to normalize after a long day of tearing up your house, and watching your community go under water via the television.  For now, we are just a family hanging out together, discussing the best way for the protagonists to kill the attacking aliens. Run of the mill stuff around these parts.

Good night all…


Hear now, the Mouse roars again

In 1969, the Mouse River flooded the city of Minot, North Dakota. After that, the river was known as The Mouse That Roared. It flooded again several times in the 70’s. It now roars again, only this time it’s a roar of epic proportions. This time around, the Mighty Mouse River is estimated to reach 7 feet higher than the worst flood ever recorded for the Mouse River Basin.

Earlier in June a crest was predicted and it was thought that the river would indeed inundate the city once more. Mandatory evacuations were put in motion and the valley went quiet for several days. Then the water receded and the people were allowed to return to their homes, with the admonishment that they may have to be evacuated again.

Today, the Mighty Mouse River roars louder. As I type this, the water is seeping over the dikes in the North West quadrant of the city. Soon it will reach a sea level measurement of 1,556 and it will pour over the dikes. People have been evacuating again for the last two days…everything they own is being moved out. Many will lose their homes, and there are some who will never return. Several people I know have moved out lock stock and barrel because they have relatives or friends who can store their things. I also know people who can’t take everything with them because they just have nowhere to take it to. These poor people will lose most everything except what they can cram into their vehicles. It’s estimated that around 11,000 people will have had to evacuate. That’s one-fourth of the population of the city. That also doesn’t count the businesses located in the valley that will be lost.

What about Sparrow’s little nest? Well, I’m fortunate in that I have a home that is at an elevation that should keep us out of the way of the river. The thing I’m worried about is that the sewers will be infiltrated by rushing water and then be forced back the way the sewage came from – right into people’s basements. My Dad came over and plugged up my drains for me, complete with wood and sandbags on top, hopefully to keep the pressure from blowing the drain plugs out altogether. I have high hopes that it won’t be a problem but, just in case, I’m making Older Son pack up his room, and we’re bringing all of his stuff upstairs; bed, carpet and all.  I’m also going to spend the afternoon going through what’s left of the boxes left in the basement, and much of it will get donated or pitched today and tomorrow.

Once again, blessings come in ridiculous packaging. Either way things turn out, I’ll have ended up with a cleaned out basement that is ready for remodeling. And, if that’s only as bad as it gets here, I will consider myself truly blessed. So many people here will lose their homes.

Here is a link to the map of my fair city that shows the different original evacuation zones. It also shows, appropriately, in blue how far they expect the water to inundate the valley, which now exceeds the evacuation zone areas. This map in the link is a PDF file and you can zoom in to see specific areas of town a little clearer. Please bear in mind that the water will be one foot higher than this map shows: http://www.minotnd.org/pdf/temp/1562_evacmap.pdf

Here is a still image of this map. It’s a little on the small side, but it gives you a feeling of scale, and how big an area we expect to go underwater. Our mayor said, during a television interview that the valley is going to become a giant lake:

Please send the people in my beautiful city all the good vibes you can…the people here can use every bit of good luck they can get.

Water, a blessing and a curse. But isn’t everything?

It’s 9:13am, and I am sitting here glued to my computer listening to the ongoing coverage of the efforts to fight the flood in my home town of Minot, ND, and all the little towns in the located up and down the Mouse River Valley.  It’s a little mesmerizing and I find that I’m having a hard time looking away, kind of like a mosquito flying toward the disaster that is a bug-zapper. Not blinking doesn’t help, and certainly doesn’t take you out of danger.

I read a post on Facebook from a friend of mine with a 5-year-old child that had to do with the fact that she wouldn’t watch her cartoons, or play. All she wants to do is watch the news and keep tabs on what’s going on with the flood, even though they aren’t in the affected area. I wanted to post back to my friend to shut the tv off for a while and give her little brain a rest. Then I realized that I was doing the very same thing. I’m so concerned that I will miss some important announcement that I just can’t seem to shut it off.

So, I shut it off.  The reports last night said that the water was expected to spill over the top of the dikes made me concerned so I got up a couple of times in the early hours of the morning to check to make sure the sewer hadn’t backed up into my basement. As things stand right now, my basement is dry and all is well.

It got me to thinking about how everything in life can be a blessing and a curse. Take the obvious example of water…it means everything when it comes to sustaining life, but it can just as easily kill you. Fire keeps you warm and helps cook your food, but it also burns. A nice breeze on a hot day is refreshing, but too much wind blows things over. The steady, grass-covered Earth is a wonderful thing to lay on in the sunshine, unless it’s heaving and moving. A nice cold beer with a pizza is a fabulous thing, but too many beers can poison you.  Hm…I could use a nice beer right now. Best leave that until after Noon, huh? lol…

So, instead of sitting static, focusing on what might happen, I think I will get up and organize something. Or, perhaps Older Son and I will go out and plant his herb garden. I know one thing…no more news until a regularly scheduled news time comes along. It’s going to be a nice sunny day, weather wise, and I think I will make the best of it rather than stew on a disaster than hasn’t occurred yet.


A blessing in strange packaging

I’ve lived in my crappy little fixer-upper of a house for the last eleven years, and I’ve never really liked it. It was supposed to be a starter house, on the way to something bigger and better. Well, here we are all these years later and there’s really no sign that we’ll be “moving on up” any time soon.  Some improvements have been made, but this little house is just tired. It’s old and definitely feeling its years. Who’d have thought that it would be a blessing in disguise?

My Dad always told me there are three things to consider when choosing a home: 1. Location, 2. Location, and 3. Location.

When we originally bought this house, its most outstanding feature was that it fit into the budget. It’s a tiny little house, and it came with a manageable monthly mortgage payment. The location didn’t appear to be that great because there is a busy highway in the front, and on the other side of that, not 100 ft from my front door, is a rail road track. It’s a loud, dusty place to live. But, it was what we could afford and as long as it keeps the rain and cold out that’s the most important thing.

I live in Minot, North Dakota, and my beautiful city is flooding. Due to more days of rain than we could deal with, and the ground already saturated with water, the Mouse River (a.k.a. Souris River) has risen past the flood stage of 1549 ft, and could possibly rise to 1558 ft, which will engulf much of the valley.  Almost everyone that lives in the portion of the city located in the valley has been ordered to evacuate immediately. People are having to move the contents of their homes, and are expected to have to stay away possibly for weeks.  Right now the City is building emergency secondary dikes to save infrastructure like lift stations, and schools, etc.  My heart goes out to them…I desperately hope that their homes are salvageable after all is said and done.

Here’s my good news. My crappy little fixer-upper is located very close to where the snow plows are kept, so we are always one of the first areas to have clean streets to drive on after a blizzard. Something else I didn’t realize when I signed on the mortgage dotted-line is that the train tracks across the road from my front door is what’s keeping our butts from getting flooded. That’s a pretty important feature of my location which may just cause me to learn to love the train.  The only thing we have to worry about is the possibility of the sewer backing up into our basement. I have all my basement drains plugged, but you never know. So far, so good…all we can do now is just wait. I’m feeling blessed by living in this little house. Fixer-upper it might be, but perhaps it’s not so crappy any more…turns out my location is pretty darned good as things stand today.

The Mouse River is supposed to crest by Thursday or Friday, and then start to go back down again this weekend. We are expecting good weather, with the exception of thunder storms projected for Thursday night. With any luck, that storm system will miss us all together, and then the river can get on with the business of shrinking back into its banks.

Below I’ve posted some useful links for those of you who might be from this area, or have relatives in this area:

City of Minot Website 

Minot Flood Evacuation Map

Ward County Website

KX13 News

Good luck to everyone who’s in the affected area…here’s hoping the Mouse River doesn’t get as high as the Army Corps of Engineers is predicting.

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.

Emerald Ash Borer…a nasty little bug

I just got in from my morning walk, and I feel very lucky that I have a nice place to walk through. There’s a little dead-end street not far from my house called Arbor Ave, which is aptly named as the houses on that street are nestled into an almost woods like setting. You don’t see places like this in Western North Dakota very often, and it makes for a nice place to walk and relax. The nice thing about trees is that they provide shade and beauty. In many cases they provide food and a place to hang your hammock.

Sometimes they also provide danger.

The valley I live in is full of Siberian Elm, Ash and Cottonwoods. There are also Oak trees, but mostly only down by the river. We even have a very few American Elms that survived the Dutch Elm Disease that wiped them out in the 80’s across the country. The Siberian Elms (like the one I just chopped down) have a tendency to commit suicide and just die, but they are prolific in their reproduction.  The tree of primary concern these days is the Ash. The Emerald Ash Borer is on its way, and will devastate my little valley once it gets here. I’m lucky in that I got rid of the last of my trees. They were old and dying, so I don’t have anything to worry about, but the rest of my community will have an interesting fight on their hands. This parasite has been detected in Minnesota in 2009, so it’s only a matter of time before it spreads West.

In many cases, the houses here are packed in tight together, and there’s little room for cheap tree removal. In a lot of cases, these large old trees hang over power lines. It’s going to be a mess. It’s also going to be ugly and dangerous.  Now you can look down into the valley and see a nice lush blanket of green, and after the Emerald Ash Borer gets done with us, it will not be so pretty any more. I know that will change with time, as people replace these trees with something else, but it will be hard to watch them die. There will be a lot of people who won’t be able to pay to get these trees removed, and there will be a lot of dead trees standing around for a while, unless the City pitches in.  It’s my hope that these dying trees get replaced with hearty fruit and nut bearing trees, and then an element of permaculture can be implemented in our little valley.

So, why are these dead trees going to be dangerous? We have pretty high winds a lot of days here in North Dakota, and it’s not going to take much to blow down some of these very tall, very dead trees, and they will land on power lines and homes. Did I mention I was glad I don’t have to deal with that issue any more?! Down the street I see one of my neighbors has a very tall tree hanging over the power line that provides service to the whole side of our street. It would be just our luck that it fell down in the winter time, but that’s just the frightened little pessimist in me talking.

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