Tuesday, October 20, 2015


We weren't home long, just passing through.  Just like Traveling Tom used to do.
But we did find time to pick tart apples on an ancient tree.
We played with the best cat ever.
And we also went through my Uncle Brent's corn maze in the dark. Afterward, we laid down in the damp field and watched the blood moon transform.  Pretty cool.

The bountiful harvest was used by Jasper to make a delicious apple cider.  You will never see that shade of pink in a store-bought apple cider! The rest was used for apple pie filling, which will be pulled out in the long cold winter.

Ancient Apple Tree
Traveling Tom, no more.  He's in retirement now.
The Best Cat
A Local Gentleman Farmer

Nice Pictures

I was trying to get a "nice" picture.  Jasper doesn't take those.  But i like these just as much.  
Look at Tullaia and Avery trying so hard for it to be done.  

Minneapolis and Saint Paul

We traveled far up the Muddy Mississippi to the Twin cities for the Minnesota Shape Note Singing.
The weather was remarkable and I was surprised there wasn't snow.

If the boys go to a singing, i ask that they participate for a short time and then they can run wild outside.  They did a great job leading a song.  I asked the lovely arranging committee for a favor... The boys got out of there in a flash and made some wonderful friends.  They announced that they would like to come to all the singings with us.  Um, maybe.

The singing was in a historical village called The Landing. It was beautiful that weekend and the old buildings made me feel like i was in the "utopian" village in the movie called ...i can't ever remember the names of movies.

Our hosts were lovely and they had a cute little cottage playhouse in the back yard, which is magical to anyone who can fit inside.

The Mississippi was pretty, even while we snapped photos out the moving car.  Hard to believe that's 'Ol Muddy.

Photo by Paul Figura

Photo by Jim Pfua

Photo by Jim Pfau
The Mississippi 

St Francois

Sick goldfinch

Coonville Crick

Avery age 1

And here is Avery standing on the waterfall in the exact same spot.  He is a little taller now. 
Avery age 8
Small kids on waterfall

Tall kids on waterfall 7 years later!

I know we shouldn't, but we do.  We love to turn over logs and see what's underneath.
Southern Red-Backed Salamander

Wild onion is pretty

Coonville Crick

Mooner's hollow, at St Francois State Park, has always been a family favorite.  The hike is a strenuous 3-ish miles. The waterfall seems to be halfway, and depending on the current rainfall and your current size, there might even be a place to swim.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

LaBarque Creek Conservation Area

Wild Onion

not sure...

Tall Thistle

Marais Temps Clair Conservation Area

We went to Marais Temps Clair conservation area in hopes of seeing a lot of reptiles on the levees in the early morning.  We didn't get there early and it was blazing hot and humid that day, so didn't see much.
We did find a Fowler's Toad, which Tullaia identified without a guide.
Isn't he a sweetie?

Fowler's Toad

The marsh is an old oxbow of the Missouri River and the streams were filled with large groups of long nosed fish.  We all thought muskie, but after reading more I don't think they live there.

Chicken Drama

This was the egg cache discovered under the porch in a nest-like structure.  
Even though they have a spacious coop, the chickens have high expectations and wait excitedly to be let out into the yard to roam.  
But we are done with that, since all of these had to be tossed.  We aren't feeding them for free!

The chicks and chickens never realized their group potential.  But thankfully, we have a neighbor who intended to get chickens and took the bossiest ones.  I surely miss them, especially Bessie.  She was so social and sweet.  But i don't miss all of the 'pecking to the skull' bit.  

Pidgie survived and all of her feathers have grown back. It amazes me what a body can recover from.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ekans spells snake...

and she had babies while we were out of town!

Midland brown snakes give birth to live snakes and i wish we had witnessed it.  There were 7 in all.

Jasper found "him" in the yard this spring and wanted it to be a boy, but guessed it was a "her".  He also guessed it to be pregnant, due to the plumpest belly you'd ever see on a little snake.
Good job sleuthing Jasper!

We let them go in the hugelkultur bed and they are hopefully eating all the slugs.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Girl on Moss



August Solitude


Forest Sidewalk

This is what mating Japanese beetles look like

This is what the leaf looks like when they are done.

I thought a lot about fear while i was at Windridge.
Oftentimes, it stems from the unknown.  But sometimes the things we are most comfortable should cause us more alarm.
A co-worker and I had a conversation about camping, in which he assured me he would never go camping.  Or go into the woods, for it was too scary.
This man lives in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in one of the most dangerous cities.  We laughed about this peculiarity.
Recently, he was arrested for a double homicide, which occurred in the alley behind his house.

I have been coming here for years and i enjoy a camaraderie with the land.
I love to see how much a creek changes.  Our area had record rainfall in June and the creek had been washed clean of all it's gravely rock.  Instead, there was smooth, flat rock underneath and all of the rock had been pushed into tidy piles.
The extra rain made the meadows lush. There were pools of water throughout the creek bed, a rarity in August.
I went for a 4 hour ramble, down the creek, up into the forest, through the meadow.
Headed inside around dusk to get supper.  Left again with a flashlight and walked down the creek, up into the forest, and through the meadow.
I grabbed a chair and set it up in a clearing to watch the stars come out.
The sounds and smells were deafening.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August garden flowers

Sweet Coneflower

Globe Amaranth


Pink zinnia, blue sky

Pink zinnia, red brick

If only you could smell the yard...i plant for the birds, butterflies and bees.  And humans.  I am lucky Tullaia got a nice camera for her birthday.  She likes to take photos of flowers too!

8 years ago...

Usually i reminisce on the kids' birthdays with old pictures of them.  But this year it's me.

I loved being pregnant.  But Avery's pregnancy was so hard.  I think back on those times and can't believe we all survived.  
Not too much medical detail, but my pelvis bones separated and caused excruciating pain.  It wasn't alleviated by anything.  Sitting hurt, standing hurt, walking hurt, lying down hurt.  
Tullaia was 4 and helped me get dressed in the morning.  Jasper was 2 and had to learn how to do a lot on his own.  Justin was going out of town for work.  
The kids were super as we traveled to all of my appointments.  
We went to physical therapy and i got taped from boob to thigh in an attempt to hold everything together. 
We went to senior swim classes at the Y so i could alleviate the pain in water.  
I, the one who doesn't do needles, sat through acupuncture sessions.  It wasn't helpful and I was told i had things in my past that prevented it from working properly.  Quack?
The chiropractor tried...
The OB felt the gap and spoke kindly to me. 
I never thought we'd make it through.  And then we did.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fantastic Negrito

March 09, 2015 by BOB BOILEN • It says a lot that, with almost 7,000 entries to choose from, we selected Fantastic Negrito as the winner of our Tiny Desk Concert Contest. For his winning submission, he performed "Lost In A Crowd" in a freight elevator in Oakland. It was his passion, his voice and his backing band that landed him an invitation to perform behind my desk. We're proud of our choice.

As we learned after choosing him as our winner, Fantastic Negrito — a.k.a. Xavier Dphrepaulezz, pronounced dee-FREP-ah-lez — has a remarkable backstory. One of 15 children, he grew up in a strict home, and later signed a contract with Interscope Records in the '90s. That deal fell apart, though, and soured him on music-making. Then, a near-fatal car crash put him in a coma, and eventually left him without the proper use of his hands; he struggled with physical therapy for years to get some movement from what he now calls "The Claw."

These days, bolstered by a new outlook on life and music, he's reawakened and reemerged under the name Fantastic Negrito. You'll see that newly rediscovered purpose in his eyes and hear it in his voice, as he performs this Tiny Desk Concert with his fantastic band.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Chicago and Midwest Convention

Tullaia leading 300, taken by Martha Beverly

Here is Tullaia leading 300.
She is a quiet powerhouse when she leads and i always wish i had recorded it to show papa.  
But i get caught in the singing.  Imagine.
I am thankful Clarissa recorded part of it for me.  

Leading 564, taken by Martha Beverly

I love to see singing pictures.  They aren't necessarily flattering, but do demonstrate the intensity of what we do.  

I am the first leader in this section.  Thank-you to Bob Borcherding for all his hard work video-recording.  John Seaton follows me.  He was our gracious host for the weekend.  We were quite comfortable in his cozy bungalow despite the bone-chilling rain.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Jose Gonzalez.

We discovered him when Tullaia was little, so hearing him reminds me of bedtime attempts.  I tried all sorts of crazy attempts to get her to sleep.  Including Jose Gonzalez

Life lost

Several months ago, we saw some eggs in a puddle.  They were in a gelatinous line instead of a clump, so we knew they were toads.  And we wanted a toad!
We took some.
We raised them up from small and legless to small and 4 legged.
Have you ever seen this up close?  It is one of the best things.
They ate boiled lettuce, flakes of egg yolk and chicken feed.  We used water from the gutter for their pond.  We split pieces of rotten wood filled with ants to feed them for days.  They hunted the ants down with joy.

And on Thursday, I noticed they were out of ants.  So i took them outside to locate some more.

I set them on the log and peeled bark.  What an abundance of ants!  I watched them hunting in the stonecrop.  And then a friend called.

That night it stormed so hard that our basketball hoop fell over.  So did the corn that was waist high. A blue bucket previously out by the chicken coop ended up on our porch.

I got up in the early morning to shut windows and things were ruined with water.  Ruined!
It rained so hard.

I didn't think of the toads.

I went to an outpatient surgery early that morning.  All went well and i came home and slept for 20 hours straight.
When i got up, i felt pretty good.  The kids made breakfast which we all enjoyed.

At some point i noticed the toads weren't there and it all came back to me.  I had left them outside.  

Perhaps it was the narcotics, maybe hormones or pain.  But i sobbed and couldn't stop.  I just needed a private moment to mourn.
I felt bad for the toads and the kids, but i also felt the pain of loss in general.

How MUCH more so for my friend who recently gave birth to her daughter, Annalisia.  She died 10 minutes later and my friend will continue to grieve her loss.
For everything, seen and unseen.
For putting all her best into Annalisia and never getting to see that to fruition.

I am not equating the loss of our 3 toads' lives to a human baby.  Not at all...

But all life is precious.  And the loss of it should smart.

Tiny Desk Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

Love!  And then find out they are a mother/son duo.  Love more!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fiery Searcher Beetle

We found this beautiful beetle outside today.  It eats caterpillars, mostly tent caterpillars, which I dislike.