Two weeks ago , I spoke at our library on  the publication of my latest book on local history.  At one point during the question and answer period, Terri asked me if I had any new projects in the works.

Her question took me off guard, but since I sensed she really wanted to know I told her this:

“Well, actually I do. There are two.  One requires a good chunk of money so until that piece of the puzzle comes together ….

My first project in the wings is this….I would like to retrace (on foot) the Scottish pioneer settlers that came to our area late 1830…they started in the Red River Area of Manitoba Canada..worked their way down through Minnesota and into eastern Iowa.   All told, a 1300 mile trek on foot.  Realistically, I would need two and 1/2 to three months to pull that off. and because I would not be working,  enough money to off set the lost income…so until that piece of the puzzle comes together…..

 I have discovered another area of life, that combines several things.  I have been intrigued for years about various processes (making cheese, fermenting wine, starting sour dough starter from scratch with wild yeast… etc)  I realized a few weeks ago, they all fall under a general category of fermentation….so my latest quest is to become a “Fermentation Master”   (whether it’s sour dough, wine, sauerkraut, or cheese, curing meat, food preservation, etc.  I want to understand the theory behind these life skills…”

(Fermentation master is a term I DM have coined for myself…like acquiring a masters degree in college).🙂


If you were to stop by our home currently, you would discover I have 2 things currently fermenting.   A two quart jar of peach mead, (from local raw honey and some peaches off one of our trees)  and 2 jars of red sauerkraut.  I’ve been nibbling out of one jar of  sauerkraut the past few weeks just to have a handle on the taste…I’ve noticed my incessant food cravings have tapered back between 50% to 75%…(which I have battled for years.   I’ve also dropped 8 pounds).  In some of the literature I’ve read about lactic acid fermentation  (which is what is going on when making sauerkraut)..it mentioned the link between food cravings,  obesity, healthy gut bacteria, the brain/ probiotic links etc.

So last night, I messaged a friend who also happens to be a family doctor that specializes in nutritional and lifestyle choices  (who is much more up to speed on the medical angle of these things) and asked her if there could be a connection…here is what she said:

“It makes perfect sense, Doug! What happens is that by eating the sauerkraut you have been changing the microbiome of your GI tract. You may have had an imbalance of yeast, which ALWAYS causes you to crave carbs and sugar.”


Anyway,  here is a link to a great blog with  information about fermentation and some recipe’s you can try yourself at home that I stumbled across recently:


And here is a link to a user friendly, in depth book on fermentation by Fermentation Master  Sandor Katz.  I  got my hard cover copy two weeks ago.   It is  so readable and full of practical wisdom.

It should be on every person’s book shelf.


And finally, here’s a link to Sandor Katz  on Youtube talking about how to make your own sauerkraut and the health benefits.  Check it out!

So that’s some of what’s been on my mind the past month.   DM


Pay Dirt


Couple of years ago, my aunt Rosie gave me a a cardboard box filled with hundreds of 35 mm slides her aunt Annie had taken before she died.  The pictures are mostly from Germany, Ibiza and  who knows where else  ???  A handful are from her trips to America in the early and mid 1960’s.

If you’ve ever spent any time holding old slides up to the light, looking at images of old buildings, and people you don’t know, until your neck hurts, and your brain starts shutting down, then you’ll have an idea what I was feeling last night  until……

Until I hit pay dirt.

Bingo…I saw  some familiar faces.

Even found a few  new ones with me in them.

Here are a few of my personal favorites:


Rock’n the Lederhosen

(That’s my mom on the left, then me, my brother and cousin Carol.  I can still feel those stiff leather lederhosen chafing against my legs. )


Picture of my dad picking ear corn 

Doing the math, dad would have been about 37 here…about the same age as my eldest daughter. That is just surreal.🙂

Butch and Feedie

Butch and Fede  

These guys are my grandparents two farm dogs.   My aunt Rosie said this about Butch and Fede  when I posted this on Facebook last night:

“If either of them heard the word “Pickup” ; they would be there before we would… was funny… Butch was a b’day gift to Johnny for his birthday one year and Fede just happened to come around the farm and we adopted him”


Re-thatching a  house roof in the old country

I have no idea where that house is or who is on the roof.  Not sure if Annie took that picture because there was a family connection or just because it was a scenic shot.  It doesn’t matter.  ;-)  It made the cut.

Good thing I didn’t just pitch the box.  You can’t tell who or where 95% of the pictures were taken..it’s that 5% that makes it all worth while.

I’ll close with one more.  If you’re a long time reader, you may have seen it before:


That’s me on the left, Aunt Annie and my brother Steve.  Same trip to America…1961?  Out on Grandpa and Grandma’s farm house porch.   Looks like they were still trying to dress me up.  Probably the last time I wore a bow-tie.


Sort Of Like This…

At break time this morning Jason  had this forlorn look on his face as he told me he is not making any money on the job we are currently doing. (It started out as a $30.000 landscape project)

He said he way under estimated how long everything was going to take…

Which caused me to break out laughing….

Not just a chuckle, but a one minute belly laugh…

Came home tonight and saw the following on Facebook.

Watched it three times.

Reminded me of this morning.




I know that feeling.    🙂






When (Not If) The Flower Falls

going to seed

“All flesh is like grass…and it’s glory, like the flower of grass…the grass withers, the flower falls…”

Growing up, I secretly thought I was ugly.

(I don’t feel that way  anymore.)

(Although I am on the fast track to losing what’s left of my petals)

Petals = my youthful look.

The interesting thing is, the longer I live, the inner person of my heart continues to grow more and more contented and secure, even as the exterior husk which is my body, continues to dry up.

As I was setting up our self serve apple wagon this morning, my mind was thinking about the various motivations that drive people….ambition, greed, lust, anger, love, self sufficiency, quest for knowledge, justice, religious ferver, physical beauty…and my mind went to a brief encounter I had with a nurse on Friday as I was walking the halls of a local clinic.  I’ll call her Jean.

We knew Jean before she was a nurse.  Haven’t seen her in years.  Always liked her.  She’s sharp, articulate, and I’m sure makes a great nurse.   I’ve always felt a little sadness when I’ve interacted with her.   She’s  projected this neediness with her beauty.  On a scale of 1 t0 10, (physical beauty)  I would give her a 10.   That’s all well and good when you’re 20, or 30, or in her case 40, but now that she’s getting into her 50’s  that same aging process that has been working me over, has finally started showing some effects on her perfect body.   Her face was puffy.

I’ve said it more than once to my wife...”How is Jean  going to deal with it, when  she looses her youthful look? ” At that point, she better not have all her eggs in the “I am beautiful” basket.

There is external beauty and their is an inner beauty. (This applies to both men and women.)

Have you ever met a 70 or 80 year old person who radiates beauty?  I have. It’s the hidden person of the heart.  I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know, but just like an ice burg, where 70% is below water,  so too, the bulk of who we really are is hidden, below the surface, and it has absolutely nothing to do with our exterior body.

So, if you’re concerned about the aging process and how you are going to deal with it…I have some good news for you.🙂  You do have control over how you respond.  If until now if your self worth has been wrapped up in your looks, it’s time to let that go.  By all means, do your best to make yourself as physically attractive as you can, but it’s a loosing battle.

Here’s a suggestion…if you’re game🙂 Find an older person who radiates beauty, (they’re out there) and ask them what makes them tick.  Ask them how they dealt with the loss of their youth…

or go talk with a counselor.🙂

We had a friend named Helen who passed away last Fall.  She was well into her 80’s. I’ve written  about her before.  Helen was one of those people who radiated inner beauty. After the death of her sister, husband and grandson (by suicide) in less than a year’s time,  in a candid moment, I asked her how she was able to deal with all of that heartache???

I really wanted to know.

Because she was not living  in a state of denial.

Here’s what she said…“Doug, it’s not like I don’t grieve (because I do). It’s just that I’ve learned you have to let things go…or they will consume you.”






Back when I was eighteen, I used to bum a menthol cigarette off Mike Cooper at break. It  started when he teased me and offered me one, knowing I didn’t smoke.  Not wanting to look like a sissy I  smoked it.
This  went on for ten days.  I can still remember the day,  I went from doing it to fit in, to actually thinking about it, and looking forward to having a smoke at break.

Right then I knew something had shifted in my mind….I was on the precipice of taking up smoking as a habit…did I really want to do that????

Naaa….better quit while I was ahead…sissy or not, in the eyes of my construction co-workers, I decided to back away from the ledge.  No  more cigarettes…that’s not to say, I didn’t try a few other things, but those are conversations for another day.

Pause-  (I hope those of you that smoke don’t think I’m judgmental, because that is not where I am coming from.)

I’ve never regretted that decision to stop before I really got started…especially after watching my grandpa Conley, laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to oxygen struggling to breath. He whispered, it felt like someone had a pillow over his face….all because of a lifetime of smoking.

Anyway, a new interest,  has gradually been  creeping into my life the past few weeks.  It started  when I got a call for a gallon of freshly pressed apple cider.    Merle, who is a foreman at a business I occasionally do carpentry work for, wanted to find some fresh apple cider for his wife.   She was making “apple pie” for a labor day get together.  Legally, I can’t sell fresh cider, but I can give it away..so I  pressed a bushel of ginger-golds  for Merle,  and quipped, “I wanted a sample of this “apple pie” when it is ready.”

.  The following Monday, Merle called and said, he wanted to return my plastic jug, and send home a quart of apple pie..

Oh my.

It was the sweetest, most tasty drink I have sipped on, since I don’t know when….

His wife also sent home the recipe.  Fresh apple cider, cinnamon sticks, a little sugar…and…190 proof alcohol.

Moon shine…Ever clear…and one of the things about this concoction is you can not taste the alcohol.

I had one small glass of it, the night I brought it home ….

and been thinking about it ever since….

In my worldview, having an occasional drink of alcohol in and of itself is not wrong. The issues lie more in the areas of self control, moderation, financial,  addiction, and the butt load of spin off issues that come with it.  Alcoholism runs in both sides of my family, and my wife’s as well.  I have experienced first hand (some of) the long term heartache that comes with alcoholic addictions.

Do I really want to go further down that road?

At some point,  and I’m not sure where that point is,  our physical body, and the alcohol start calling the shots, and and as a friend of mine who struggled with  this addiction told me, “It’s like there is a monkey on your back, and when he pulls the chain, you feed him.”

So, right before logging on this morning , I dumped the rest of the apple pie down the sink.

Side note- I’ve written before about my grandpa sharing with me the family recipe for making moonshine.  It is a piece of family history I found intriguing.  There is a little part of me that feels some sort of connection with the past, (by entertaining the idea of cooking up a batch or two of my own apple pie)…  but then I think, you know, that same grandpa that shared that recipe with me, also had his battles  with the bottle…

and that is a part of my family history, I would just as soon not repeat….ever.



Have you ever gathered eggs?

To this day, it feels like Christmas morning every  time.

Our Austra white’s have finally started laying.🙂

I still remember when I was  nine  and the excitement of gathering eggs.  The chicken nests were along the south wall of our old chicken house.

The sound of fifty nervous clucking birds wondering what you were up to.  Dust…and chicken feathers. The smell of chicken feed.  The dirty glass on the windows…chicken wire over a rickety screen door.

None of that mattered.  All that mattered was finding the eggs.  Once in a while,  a hen would still  be sitting on her nest. I was too young to realize (or care) that I was interrupting her in a most private  moment….

I (who had grown up in small town USA) had never experienced any of these things before moving to the farm at nine.

I remember slipping my  hand under the sitting chicken, feeling around for eggs..Sometimes, the hens wouldn’t have any of it, and gave me a peck.


Feel like I just popped a cork off a bottle of early farm memories….

The smell of fresh curing hay in the summer.

The smell of a freshly plowed field in the spring.

Siding up next to a nine hundred pound Guernsey with my two-legged milking stool, with the intention of milking her by hand.  The feel of her letting down her milk as I washed her utters.  It  took five minutes to milk all four quarters. The farm cats knew when it was milking time and  hung out, hoping for a squirt.  Rich Guernsey raw milk. After we strained it and put it in the frig,  there would be an inch of cream float to the top. Sometimes mom would let us make butter with it.

The biting raw subzero cold in the dead of winter doing chores.  Pulling the small square bales of  hay out of the mow.  I remember my hands feeling like my finger tips  were on fire.

Then later… raising pigs…The contented grunting sounds of the mama sows nursing their litter. The warmth of the barn. The radio tuned to  AM 600 WMT so dad could hear the farm markets.

Side raking hay. Clipping along listening to Band On The Run. Dust. Insects with big wings trying to fly into my ears as I turned the hay over.  To this day, whenever  I hear that song, it immediately takes me back in time.

Did I ever tell you about the first time I hauled manure?  Ancient manure spreader pulled by a John Deere A.  Two bangers  the old farmers called them.

Put put put put….

Dad said to spread the load just behind the barn.  Made it to the field no problem and saw where he’d been working.  Got the tractor facing west,  pushed the hand clutch ahead without killing the motor..and I was off!  Then reached down to my right and pulled up on the power take off lever…the rumbling sound of the power take off…engaging the manure spreader…and like magic..the chunks of cow dung and hay flying fifty feet in the air.

I was bonified!

And then…chunks of cow manure began to rain down upon me like fire and brimstone. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was the wind….



Life lesson:  Never spread manure with a stiff breeze at your back.


What song (s) take you back to your summers growing up?

Keep It Simple

When I stopped by our self serve apple wagon on Saturday, there was a van parked in the road, with eight Jr high girls milling around  and a mom trying to take their picture.

The mom said to me….”So you’re the guy who always wished he could have had a lemonade stand when he was growing up?”

Her question took me off guard,  then it dawned on me, she’d read the instruction sheet on the apple wagon:


General Instructions

This is a self-serve stand because…

  1. We trust you
  2. We’re busy
  3. Inside of me lives a little boy who always wished he could have had a lemonade stand.

     We  do spray so make sure you wash the apples before you eat them.

The apples are $1.50 a pound, just put them on the scale leave your $ inside the chicken.

There are plastic bags in the hanging dispenser if you need them.

Thank you for your business! DM’s Orchard


The wagon and how it’s run does several things for me.  It is a social experiment…. I am convinced the majority of people today will live up to your trust in them if given a chance.  And that trust is validated week in, week out, where I live, and has been for the past five years.

Second, I like to mess with peoples heads and challenge their ability to trust the next guy.  Here’s how it works:   When you buy apples off the wagon, you stick your money  in an un-attended peanut butter jar, sitting inside a metal chicken🙂

If you’re like me, you’ll probably think as you drop your money in the jar…

What about the next person ??? Can they be trusted to leave that $5 or $10, or even $20 bill alone when they stop?  And the answer is most of the time yes.

Finally,while yes, we can most definitely use the income from the apple sales, at the end of the day, this is a hobby for me.  This is a fun way for me to spread a little serendipitous joy in a world that is seriously in need of it. There is more to life than the almighty dollar.

Here is a picture of some Cortlands after going through the antique polisher equipped with horse hair polishing brushes that you will find on the wagon:


I didn’t know this until just last year.  Apples naturally have a wax on them but due to the way  commercial orchards process apples, many times that is removed and an artificial wax is reapplied.

I like to keep it simple.

Simple is good.