Free Association On The Topic Of My Help

I am a carpenter.  Love what I do. Been doing it full-time for 40 years.

For the past 20 years I have intentionally hired young men (and in two cases women) with whom I could teach for a year or three with the understanding they would probably find another job and move on. I’ve enjoyed the process immensely…until the past couple of months. Today I said to my wife, I am finished.


Nada mas.

When I finish the two large projects I am currently on, I am not sure what happens next but for sure I am letting go  both of the guys I am currently dealing with.

Freud and Fashion had a blog post yesterday where she used the technique of “free association” on a topic…here is what she said about it:

Free association is a psychotherapy technique where a patient talks or writes freely about whatever comes to mind in relation to a specific topic, with the goal of bringing unconscious thoughts to the forefront or the emergence of repressed memories, which can provide valuable insight of a patient’s problems.

So, with this exercise in mind, here goes my attempt at free associating by typing nonstop for 5 minutes on the topic of:  “My help”


I am done .  I am done coddling adults with whom I have had an agreement to work with. Whether they are employee’s or other sub contractors.

Proverbs talks about hiring a drunk, and ending up with one heart ache after another. That has been my experience since the beginning of April, in fact, most of last year with one guy in particular, and 3 others this spring/ summer.

While none of them have been drinkers (as far as I know) they have all proved undependable.  Showing up late, not showing up at all,  and a host of other issues besides.

I used to love to mentor and pour myself into someone who was teachable and willing to learn…but as of this week, the fire is out.

Coddle. That is the word that comes to mind.

I am weary of coddling

Weary of taking the heat.  One incident last week finally tipped the scales with my latest hire.  The homeowner with whom I am working for on an hourly basis, caught my guy, sitting on the ground texting, while I was on the other side of the project.



Hummm..I’ll need to reread this one in the morning and see what insights I may have uncovered (feel free to chime in, if you have any thoughts after reading that rough draft of a bleep 🙂 DM


“The Greeks didn’t write obituaries when someone died…they just asked one question….”Did he have passion?”  From the Movie Serendipity

In 1999 I read an  article in Reader’s Digest  that changed my life.   It was called “50 Things to do before you die.”

Wendy Swallow Williams, the author  suggested  writing a list of things you’d  like to see happen.

This was 10 years before The Bucket List  craze.

Anything could be on the list.

As you would write the list, don’t  let money be a factor; just take some time to dream.  Before you die, If God would make a way, what are fifty things you’d like to do?

Maybe you’d like to take a trip…or several trips.

Maybe you’d  like to learn how to play the piano or ride in a helicopter.

Maybe you’d take a 6 month extended trip across the United States and see people and places.

The key was  to take some quiet time and let your mind dream.  Wendy  had listed several places she wanted to visit, skills she wanted to acquire, etc.

I spent some time and identified 25 things I wanted to  do…if you’ve never done this sort of thing before, it is not as easy as it sounds.


It’s been 16 years since that first list…here is a portion of  my current list:

1.  Take a cross country motorcycle trip

(I did end up getting an 800 CC Suzuki  Intruder/  got my license…rode it for a couple of years then changed my mind…too many people locally were getting killed on bikes.  I’m not so concerned about dying.  It’s getting into a motorcycle accident and living the rest of my life in a wheel chair...that concerned  me.

2.  Work on a potter’s wheel   (done)

3.  Take a trip to Ireland

4,  Write a book   (done)

5.   Run the mile without stopping

6.  Learn how to swim.

7.  Take an extended trip (several months if possible) across the US and see people and places

8.  Record a song  (done)

9. Take a painting class  (done)

10.  Have a Bed and breakfast  (done)

11.  Speak in front of a large crowd  (I’m thinking @ least 5000 ) (I love to push that fear envelope)

12. Take a class in self -defense  (done)

13.  Learn how to make wine

14.  Visit Germany. Sprekenze Deutch? 😉

15.  Visit New Zealand

16.  Host an outdoor concert among our apple trees (done)…(  and we’ve had 7 16 of them since I first wrote this list)

17.  Be totally out of debt including our mortgage ( 99% done on this one)

18.  Go whitewater rafting, (done)

19.  Float down our local river until it connects to the Mississippi River.

20 .  Take up kayaking w/ my wife

21. learn to fence (as in swords)

22. sing or perform in a band or music group that sounds excellent

23.  plant apple trees and beautify our grounds (done)

24.  get up close to a gorilla/ look into his eyes.

25. ride 1 day @ least in RAGBRAI  (it is a week long bike ride across Iowa)

26. not be overweight and keep it off  (I dropped 35 pounds 2 years ago/ got too thin/ I’m just 5 pounds above where I’d like to be currently)

27. complete a Narnia display  on our property complete with a wardrobe and false back door leading into the woods

28. learn how to play fiddle

29.  scuba dive with tanks

30.  get a really good camera w/ a zoom and close up lens so I can perfect my picture taking abilities

31.  grow 75% of our own food

32. learn how to butcher a large animal

33. visit Muir Woods

34.  Ride the train from Saint Paul to  Seattle too see friends

35.  Take a road trip down the coast of Oregon from Seattle into California

Hopefully you’ll not come away with the thought I’m advocating  a ‘health, wealth, and prosperity gospel” because I’m not.  On the other hand, some of us have gone to the other extreme, thinking it would be nonspiritual to have such a list.

As much as anything, my bucket list has enriched my life 10 fold.  It has allowed me to channel my energy (passion) for life and see tangible fruit.

My mother-in-law was in her mid 60’s when she passed away.  She told me just a few years before she died of brain cancer not to wait until I was her age to travel and do those things she’d always wanted to do but never seemed to find the time or money to pull off.   Her husband (my father-in law) had already died by this point (He  was in his early 60’s when he’d passed away)…so at the time of my conversation with her, she was planning a trip to Ireland with a girl friend…

She said to me:

      “Doug, do those things  you want to do while you can…there  is no guarantee you’ll be able to  later….look at me.

 Jack and I planned to travel and do these things when he retired…we never made it….”

That conversation gave me permission to pursue my life with even more passion, if that is possible…

 Someone with passion

Better Than Pumpkin Pie


Last September, during the busiest part of harvest, I had several smaller pie pumpkins left over.  I hated to just throw them away  but I didn’t have much time to mess with them either, so after a little research, cubed the pumpkin into chunks and stuck them raw into 1 gallon freezer bags.

Fast forward to December.

I decided to make a pumpkin pie out of  the fresh pumpkin. There was more pie filling left over than could fit into my pie crust.  Hated to just throw it away so I baked the excess filling in some little oven safe bowls.

When it came time to eating the extra, I put a spot of cool whip on it, and honestly, it tasted just as good w/o the pie crust.

Fast forward a week.

On a lark, I pulled another gallon bag of  cubed pumpkin out of the freezer,  this time, skipped the pie crust all together…just baked it in oven safe containers.

It disappeared in 2 days.

Fast forward another week.

Made another batch of fresh pumpkin pie custard, (which I decided to name it)  this time dumped the whole 6 cups of pie filling into a 9 by 13 pan.

It is to die for.

It is a completely different animal than your store-bought pumpkin pie filling from a can.

10 times more tasty and has a unique texture that has really grown on me.

Here’s the deal.  I am all about saving time and keeping it simple.

Blanch the pumpkin if you want at harvest time before freezing. (I’ve done both and have not noticed any difference in the finished product.)

Thought I would post this easy, made from scratch, fresh pumpkin pie custard (pie) recipe and share it with you.

Side note- Before I bagged  the fresh cubed pumpkin, I  froze the cubes on a cookie sheet over night, so they were not all clumped together when it came time to use it, in case I didn’t want to use the whole gallon at the same time.   (In my case, I am using the whole gallon bag at a time.  1 gallon bag =  about 6 cups once it is cooked and mashed down)


Fresh Pumpkin Pie filling

(or custard)

Remove frozen pumpkin from freezer, place in a large pot of water and cook it on low to medium heat. (covered)  Normally, it starts to boil about an hour into the process.  The goal is to let it come to a  low boil for about 30 minutes.  Total time from taking it out of the freezer to done boiling approx. 1 and 1/2 hours.

Drain off careful, might want to let it sit for a little bit to cool off so you don’t get a face full of steam….

After water is drained off, you should have cooked pumpkin cubes 😉

I have just been leaving the pumpkin in the large pot after I drain off the water,  adding all the ingredients (which I will list in a second) then beat it with a beater for a couple of minutes on high.  Totally a preference thing here in terms of texture.  If you have a food processor and want to puree the pumpkin more, that is up to you. I am just telling you what I am doing (remember, I’m all about keeping it simple) 😉

Add 4 eggs

1.75 cup of milk (I’ve experimented with whole milk, condensed milk, 1% milk,etc.  At this point, I just use whatever I have in the frig that is opened.

1 cup of brown sugar (again, I’ve experimented, with various sweeteners.  currently using some Demerara Cane Sugar crystals only because I had a lot of it in the cupboard and wanted to use it up)   side note-  this is about 1/2 the amount of sweeter the regular made from scratch pumpkin pie recipe’s call for.  Trying to watch my sugar intake and it still tastes delicious w/1/2 the sugar content.

1.5 to 2  teaspoons of vanilla

Once all the ingredients are in the pot, I mix it w/my little hand mixer for a couple of minutes.

Pour into 9 by 13 pan. Forget about the pie crust. Who needs pie crust 😉

Cook (uncovered) in preheated oven , 15 minutes @ 425 F.

Turn down oven to 350 and cook approx. another hour. (test like a normal pumpkin pie filling…cook until knife comes out clean)

Top with cool whip and you are done. 🙂


I originally wrote this post last Winter on my farm blog…we are again in the middle of harvest season, and plan to start laying up the pumpkin cubes later this afternoon.. DM

Suggestive Remarks In Mixed Company

 We attended a small  retirement dinner last night for a friend.  Of the 7 couples there, I knew two of them.

Now I am no Pollyanna, I’ve worked for  40 plus years in the construction field, and have heard it all.

More than once.

I’m actually desensitized to profanity, having been around it so much.

Before we ate, we went around the table introducing ourselves

What made last night’s suggestive remarks by one of the men on the other end of the table so agitating  were three things.

He started by saying he and his dear wife had been married for 60 years.

Secondly, he professes to be person of strong religious faith.

Thirdly,  his suggestive comments were in mixed company.

There was (is) a real part of me that would have liked to call him out on it,  but last night was not the place.

I am not a self-righteous twit….really I’m not.  But the older I get, the less I am willing to give a pass to old men who think they can get away with telling crude jokes, because they’ve done it before.

Quick story-

I was on a tour of the Pella Window company manufacturing plant , along with several other builders and their clients. (There were 15 to 20 of us.)  One of the contractors, (who happened to be a preferred Pella contractor)  had  brought along a young couple  who were thinking about building a home.  The contractor was 10 to 15 years older than me. Sharp dresser, quick wit, and a dirty mind.  One suggestive sexual comment after another. (I’m not talking one slightly off-color comment but multiple.)   I got home and vented to my wife about the unprofessional behavior I’d been witness to for a couple of hours. All I could think about was if that was my wife he had been hitting on, there would have been scene.  Normally, if something like that is bothering me after talking about it with my wife, I am able to get it go…but in this case, I was still ticked, and not sure if I should say something to someone from Pella or not..

This was not a black and white situation, but because the guy did have a business relationship with Pella, I decided to follow up with a  call to  my Pella Rep. After I gave him specifics he said he was going to follow-up on it.

(Tour was on a Friday afternoon.)

The following Monday morning…6 AM, I was just starting to get ready for the day.  My phone rings.  It was the contractor I’d Narked on.  He had some pointed questions for me and I gave him some pointed replies…in spite of the fact I was just waking up. 🙂

Normally a little sense of humor can go along ways in diffusing these kind of things…maybe it was the blatant hypocrisy that got me last night.

Sorry if this post is a little bit of a downer.

I try to stay away from venting here as much as possible…..  but I do feel better now having written it out.   🙂

Any thoughts, comments, or questions?  DM

Short Clip Of Our Newly Acquired Antique Apple Polishing Machine

Week ago, I made a quick 600 mile trip to Northern Wisconsin to pick up an antique apple polishing machine, that I had found on e-bay.  We fired it up yesterday while some friends were here visiting.  Check out this 40 second clip:

Let me know what you think.  DM

Grandfather’s Soapbox

Willow's birthday, meeting big brother Owen - Copy

Owen and his new sister Willow Christine

The first of August our son, his wife, and their one year old son. moved in with us for a few weeks while their remodeled farmhouse was finished. Wife was  8 months pregnant when they moved in, and guess what happened night before last… 🙂

We’ve been empty-nester’s  since 2012 so this has been an unexpected treat to connect with all of them on a deeper level while they have been with us.

Side note:  As we were raising our own little brood, (we had four ) one of my main goals  (as a parent) was to work myself out of a job.  I believe by the time each of them hit 18, my role as their authority figure was 99% finished…. and 100% once they moved out.

Forgive me for a moment, while I stand on a soap box….What boggles my mind, is the number of my peers who still believe they are called to  try and control some aspect of their adult children’s lives.

Boggles my mind.

 So as son and family moved in short term, all of this was firmly in place.

If you were to stop by our place most nights the last month,you might find Owen and I jamming to some  Celtic drummers on Youtube, or my all time favorite cover artist Mike Masse.

Mostly wanted to post this brief update to celebrate the birth of Willow Christine.

I’ll close with another song that always gives me pause when I take the time to listen to the words…it’s called Generations by Sara Groves.  She talks about the choices you and I make now, (both good and bad,) that have a way of touching our children, their children, their children’s children…you get the idea.

Well, time for a nap 🙂  DM

Peace and Quiet. It Is Not For Sale, But…..

aspire to live quietlyChris and I were doing our normal random conversation gig @ coffee break last week.   I told him @ this point in my life “peace and quiet” are a high priority for me.  I proceeded to quote something I’d  written on an index card, which I have stuck on the dash of my truck..

“Aspire to live quietly…to mind your own affairs… 

He jumped in and finished it, “to work with your hands, so that you may command the respect of outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

Wow, I said..I’m impressed! 

Turns out, when he took my truck to town earlier that morning, he read (and liked) that  verse as well, and had already started putting it to memory.

If it were possible for you to crawl into my head and  listen to the self talk that goes on behind the scene, you would discover  I actively, (ruthlessly?)  guard and pursue some very basic and simple things in my heart and mind….

peace and quiet


It has not always been this way, and I would be the first to tell you, I have not yet arrived.


I am miles down the road from that season in my life where I thought it was my job to stay  continually  busy…especially in the arena of “christian” outreach and  service.   Youth group, men’s group,  couple’s group,  Sunday school, worship service, body life service, weekly Saturday work days.  Yep,  what I just described to you was a typical week in my life from 1985-1988…oh, and I forgot to mention, one day a week attending counseling classes @ CCEF, coming home at midnight to a wife and  2 small children, only to get up and go to work @ 6 AM the next day.

Someone compared my life to a gushing fire hose.

I still meet people on occasion who remind me of my younger self.  People pleasing, adrenaline junkies, who confuse business and a packed calendar with a productive fruitful life.

Burning the candle on both ends in the name of “ministry”  or  career advancement is not a virtue.   Might  be a way to drown out the inner poverty, but definitely not  a way to live life that  I  aspire to  (anymore.)

Feel free to disagree and do otherwise.  😉

side note- (Ever seen an apple tree grunt to produce fruit?…. – No, me neither)

At one point, Chris  said  , -“As the outer, so the inner.”

“What does that mean,” I asked?

“I think it means, the ideal is for our inner life and our outer life  to match.  Not just look peaceful on the outside, but practically speaking experience peace on the inside. “

(Now isn’t that a novel thought, I  thought to myself)

I’ll close  with a quote from the book The Anxiety Cure by Archibald Hart which also continues to shape the direction of my life :

You can’t escape the realities of our high-stress world.  You certainly can’t turn back the clock to simpler times – although, I must confess, this is a wonderful fantasy that I occasionally indulge as a form of escape.  I frequently reflect on the many happy childhood times I had with my grandparents.  They lived a simple, country life.  They were totally self-sufficient, tilling a small piece of land and raising their own food. ….With only a shortwave radio to connect them to the rest of the world, life seemed siple yet luxurious to me as a child.  There was a sense of unhurriedness and simple pleasures.  All the money in the world couldn’t buy such luxury in today’s world.  It is not for sale; you have to create it.”


I’ll close with some random pictures  from our  home, which we’ve created since that painful fateful season in my life when  I stopped confusing business with fruitfulness:

August night2012

to the east


crates in the cooler2011

sq ft gardening4

Originally wrote this back in 2013 on another blog.

Reposting it this morning as a reminder to myself.  🙂 My inner self talk recently has had more low grade anxiety, and stress than normal.

(See Bill’s post this morning on a similar train of thought)

It’s Labor Day weekend.  What do you have planned?  

And what do I have planned you ask?….

Dropping off some apples at  the farmers market, bake some apple turnovers with my wife, and maybe  get started on another harvest table…it is supposed to look like this when I’m finished:

truss beam table for Katie fuller