Pompous Experts

I keep a writing journal.

It is not for public consumption.  It is an unedited mix.  Sometime diary, catch all for articles that capture my attention,  blog posts,  personal correspondence, recipe’s, etc.  (It is several hundred thousand words long at this point.)

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I’m currently reading through Louisa May Alcott’s personal journal.  It’s one of the ways I unwind at the end of the day. I usually only read a couple of pages at a time, but for some mysterious reason, her journals have a way of grounding me…

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Anyway, in reading through my writing journal yesterday, this entry caught my eye, and I decided to share a portion of it.

5/11/2013

Pompous writing experts

…I am liking keeping a writing journal.

It taps into a different “voice” than  when I write blog posts.  There is definitely this creative pulse I feel inside that wants to escape.  I would love to hone my writing skills and yet @ the same time am not interested in getting feedback from people like S. H. or especially  M. K. who ripped a rough draft of my first book I shared with him several years ago.  

Those two well meaning “writers” were brutal and deeply wounded my spirit, causing me to second guess anything I would write….

Now I get it…writing well is definitely a craft and like teaching,  there are some fundamental principles a person wants to master to be  effective..  The trick is who is giving the feedback and in what spirit.

       I want to learn how to write  clean, crisp, honest, work.  I really do, and I know I have the humility to learn…I’ve proved it in other areas of my life.  Just give me a teacher filled with Grace – like Brenda Uhland.  I would LOVE to have sat under her mentoring.  In the mean time…I will continue to  learn.  No more pompous writing experts for me. 

None.

Nada. 

I would rather go to my grave with just this journal I’ve written for my own personal pleasure than listen to fools tell me what I’ve done wrong….

    At this stage of my life, I have no interest in telling someone else how to live their lives- whether how they raise their kids, grow a garden, tend honey bees,  or whatever-  I aspire to live quietly, to work with my hands, be dependent on no one…. Period.

Ruth Stout is my role model for mentoring others… She had it (deep mulch gardening) figured out.   She did not want to be put on some pedestal.  She just did her own thing and then reported the results, and let people make their own conclusions.

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One more thought.  While this entry is mostly about being mentored in writing, it can really apply to any area of life.  I’ve seen it played out with gardening, raising honey bees, guns, carpentry, small engine repair, computers, parenting, marriage relationships, money management, fermentation,  etc. etc.

Good mentors are hard to find.

If you have one, I’d encourage you to  let them know how much you appreciate them.

Just a thought.

Take care.

DM

 

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Love your neighbor as yourself

Here’s three short stories from my life this past week…

On the gardening front…

I texted my  neighbor Mark on Friday : “Next time you are hauling manure, would you mind dropping off one or two bucket loads? … whatever $25 would buy.”

(I’m planning ahead for next seasons garden and fall is the perfect time to apply manure.)

He wrote back, “OK  Yea, how about $0?”

I am still savoring Mark’s generosity.

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On the honeybee front…

My bee mentor has been managing bees for about 40 years.  His name is Curt.  When I checked on our two hives earlier in the week, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.  It looked like  capped brood (that’s up and coming new honey bees) above the queen excluder and a dark uncapped substance lower in the bowels of the hive.  I was concerned I may have some nasty  disease getting a foothold in the hive.  The excluder is a screen that (in theory) prevents the queen from  going where you don’t want her to go.  Normally, queens are slightly bigger than her smaller worker bees and she can’t squeeze through, although once in a while, it happens.  There is just so much I can learn via the internet or a phone call.  What I really needed was someone who knew what they were looking at to make a house call.  Texted Curt, Next day we set up a time for him to stop.  He manages a 120 hives of his own, and I didn’t feel right about having him stop without compensating him something, so I addressed it right up front.   All he asked for was a few yellow apples when I start picking.

I was SO appreciative of his generosity of time.  I’ve mentioned it before but Curt is the perfect mentor.  He doesn’t come across like a know it all. He asks great questions and doesn’t feel like he’s in a rush when he’s here.

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And finally on the construction job front.

I’ve been  framing walls on a commercial project the past month.  Couple of weeks ago, the electricians were “trying” to pull their main wires through some buried conduit.  There were two of them (Brian and Joe), and  Joe was having a heck of a time.  Joe didn’t ask, but  I stopped what I was doing and grabbed onto the pulley rope with him.  Couple of big tugs later and the first wire was through.   He really  appreciated it. He told me that final joint at the end is always a bugger.  He had one more wire to pull, and It turned out to be even tougher. The two of us, side by, side, both covered with sweat, pulling with everything we had.  I’m not an electrician, and it wasn’t my responsibility but  he needed a hand.  I didn’t do it for any other reason than that is how I was raised.

Met Fred (the owner) of the electrical company later in the week.  Introduced myself and told him how much I enjoyed working with his guys.  (There have been other random interactions throughout the week. besides me helping pull wire.)  On Thursday I asked Brian if need be, could I borrow one of their scissor lifts to install a handful of hangers?  (Ours was going back to the rental store the first of next week.) Absolutely he said.  He showed me where they hide the key in case their crew were not around.

On Friday Brian told me they had their weekly shop meeting  and was told not to hide the key on the lift.  Fred the owner told Brian to “give Doug the combination to the job trailer, s where I could find  the key for the lift.”

I was humbled by their trust.

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I had a great encounter @ the Lowes customer service desk this week as well.  This post is getting long enough, so I’ll save that story for another time.  How about you?  Any good encounters lately that left you encouraged?  I would love to hear about it, and I love details 🙂 DM

 

One of many (thoughts)

I mentioned an hour ago, my mind is a tangled up mass of  thoughts.  There’s a song in my heart so the tangled up knot is not stress related. (For which I’m thankful) 🙂

Thirty minutes later, I was out in the orchard picking up branches.  My mind went to a comment I’d left on a Dave Ramsey facebook group this morning.  (Dave Ramsey in case you’ve never heard of him is a money management, get out of debt author and speaker)

Someone on the group asked the question:

 Where would you love to retire?

Why?

Out of the 82 people who answered, only one person mentioned they loved where they currently lived, wouldn’t mind being able to go somewhere warm in the winter, but 81 of them  said something other than where they were.

While I rarely leave comments on an open forum (except with those of you I know via blogging, I decided to say something….

“Two thoughts.

Love what I’m doing, (I’m a carpenter) as my dad was fond of saying “retirement” is not a word in my vocabulary, so plan do keep doing some variation of that as long as I’m physically able.

Secondly. Love where we live. Plan to stay right where I’m at, as long as I have any say in the matter.

Years ago, when my life was spinning out of control with too many commitments,  small children, work, financial stress..you know, the normal every day, stuff all of us deal with, I remember wishing things were different.  I remember saying to someone, “Peace and contentment are entirely under rated.” 

What I wouldn’t give for a more peace filled life.

Here’s a picture I’ve shared before from that season in my life… I taped it to the wall to remind me business does not automatically equal progress:

When I read later about  Henry David Thoreau  tromping off to the woods to live on Walden’s pond, I remember thinking to myself,  why did he only stay there the better part of two years?  Why not stay there long term?  I made up my mind at that point, to do just that…create my own version of Walden.  I hate water, so I didn’t need a pond 🙂  (I can’t swim, don’t have the patience to fish, plus with standing water you have to deal with mosquitoes).

And so, since  1995 I have been slowly moving in the direction of a life that I don’t need to take a vacation from. Here’s what it looked like in 1995:

…an old run down acreage with a set of 100-year-old farm buildings. Curb appeal it did not have. The house and out buildings hadn’t been painted in 50 years. Nothing appealing except that it was 4 miles from town, and the foundation on the house was still solid.

I  have been  slowly  carving out my own version of Walden here ever since….Laying hens, apple trees, honey bees, lots of flowers,  garden beds, a dog, no TV, lots of books to read.

My vision of Walden  would probably looks different from yours.

But I would suspect it would be built on the same foundation stone.

The stone of living life intentionally.

Talk to me about living life intentionally. What does that mean to you?

It is never to late to start.

Take care. DM

 

Thoughts

My brain is a tangled up knot of thoughts this morning and has been for several weeks.  Ever cut open a golf ball?  A tight mass of rubber bands.  Yep, that’s my brain.

Job related thoughts.

Honey extracting thoughts.

Relationships thoughts.

Ordering Your Private World  thoughts.

Early morning thoughts when I hear  crows talking to each other in the distance.

Photography thoughts.

Fermentation thoughts.

Gardening thoughts.

Henry David Thoreau thoughts.

Louisa May Alcott thoughts.

Older parent thoughts.

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Think I’ll just post a quote call it good.

 

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”

― Henry David Thoreau

 

The tree was humming…

I  didn’t want to go to work this morning. (And I love my job) 🙂

I wanted to stay home and putter.

The  apple trees are simply loaded with flowers…

 

The honey bees are scheduled to be split this morning.  (I found a local bee keeper who was willing to come by and see  if they’re ready to be split into two hives.)  He has 40 years experience…This  is my 3rd season…even that is hard to believe.   Wow,

He’s supposed to be here at 9 AM.

Let’s hope he is a good mentor

Sure looks like a  queen cell to me 🙂  (That little peanut shaped thing sticking out from the bottom of that frame).

And..well, it’s morel mushroom season again.  Two weeks of serendipitous discoveries. 🙂

Grey morel mushrooms on the edge of the windbreak.

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And in the garden, I’m experimenting with a combination/ square foot gardening/ heavy mulch (think Ruth Stout) layout, with wood chips covering everything this growing season.  I do have (6) 4 ft by 12 ft long wooden boxed beds, but the level of the soil in the bed is the same as the walkways.  The problem with raised beds is that the water leaches out, so a lot more time is spent watering.

Simple is better.

2019 garden layout.

Doubling the size this year with three more 12 ft by 16 ft beds. Still need to put wood chips over the cardboard. I do this to smother the grass.  Next Spring this will be ready to plant.  No tilling, no weeding, no watering, and the earth worm count will be off the chart.   I have 6 to 12 inches of black Iowa top soil I am planting into.  There used to be 3 feet of topsoil, but now it’s measured in inches.  Much of it (Iowa topsoil) has wound up in the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s sterile.

One quick story.

Last week after work,  while I was hunting  morel’s in the orchard, something caught my attention.  The tree was humming…. I’m not joking, it was literally alive with noise…the noise of dozens of  honey bees (our bees)  moving quickly from one flower to the next.

What a joy.

Several of them were caked with yellow pollen:

Photo by Google

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Couple of years ago now, I gave a link to my farming blog to a friend of a friend who ran  a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) on the East coast.  Since she had been gardening on a much bigger scale, and for a lot longer than I, I was genuinely interested in getting her input..

Big mistake.

Condescending and impatient.

I had an equally disappointing relationship with a local bee keeper the first season I had bees.  Nice guy, big heart, but that is as far as it went.  He wasn’t verbal,  I got this sense he was making things up as he went. 🙂 (turned out he was)

 

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Good mentors are hard to find.

A mentor is a teacher.  Someone willing to pass on to another person their practical wisdom in an area of life.

Have you ever been mentored?

Have any stories to tell?

Anything else on your mind?

Take care. DM

 

 

 

 

Overlooking Main Street and other short stories

I’d heard my urologist was a fellow bee keeper, and that he’d lost all of his bees this past winter, so when I went to see him yesterday for my annual visit,  that’s the first thing I asked him about.

“I heard you lost  your bees?”

“Yep.”

He said this was his 4th season as a bee keeper.

He told me he bottled 185 honey bear last year.

He asked me how mine did?

“They came through great!” I told him.

I struggled to find the words….I’d never seen anything like it, this thick mass of bees, just milling around in the middle of February. (On a rare 50 degree day in February, I  had opened the hive to slip in some extra winter pollen patties.)    I told him, on a hunch, I’d  put a couple of extra inches of Styrofoam on 3 sides of the hive when it got really cold, and since it was their first season, I decided not to take any honey.  I suggest to him that doing those two things, plus the mite control in the fall  all contributed to their surviving.  Who knows.   It sounded good. 😉

Then we moved onto the reason for my visit.

My psa number had dropped again for the 4th time in a row. (Happy dance.)  The psa  number is a reference point urologists use as an indicator for possible prostate cancer.  It is not an exact science.  You can have a low psa number and still  have cancer, or as in my case, a high number and no cancer present.   Mine was off the chart 2 winters ago (26) which resulted in a biopsy where they  put me under.  (They took 40 some core samples.)    Six months later my psa dropped to 17, then 11.5 and yesterday 10.

As I was leaving his office my doctor came around the corner with a honey bear. He said he had just two left…

Made me feel special. 🙂

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Since I still had  a good hour before I was supposed to be on the job, (we’re repairing a deck,)  I called my sister  just to see how her weekend went with my parents?   Sister mentioned she was down at her store, and since I was in the area, wondered if I had time for a cup of coffee….?

When I got to the store, there was nobody there except her, so we sat in her front window over looking main street.  Just my sister and I.   First, we caught up on her weekend, then  we started talking about childhood memories growing up…..the good and the not so good.  We also talked about various “what if” scenarios, as my parents age.  Not saying this is how things will ultimately shake out, but how much better to have these conversations, before.   Ended up having  a 40 minute therapy session, right there in the front store window over looking main street.

It was awesome.

I texted her last night  to tell her again, how much I enjoyed our visit.  She texted me back,  said she felt the same way.

One of my life goals is to age gracefully.

I’ve known both types , so I know what it looks like.

Absolutely, there needs to be a place where I can process the loss of my youth, and it will probably be right here on a personal blog post, just so you know.  🙂

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Got time for one last story?

Last Tuesday I was invited to take one of my chickens to school.  Grandson was studying farm animals, and his mom asked if I would be willing to come to school with a chicken?

“Absolutely” I said.

As I thought about what sort of things Kindergarten kids would get a kick out of, I decided  to tell a couple of stories, then let them pet the chicken.

I told them about how my last batch of chickens and their love for cat food…Told them how when I let them out in the morning to free range, the first thing they did, was run around the back of our house, into the entry and clean out the cat food bowl.

First thing/ every morning.

 

Then, at some point they discovered our neighbor, an 1/8 of a mile west of us, also had cat food in a bowl, so that’s where they would head next.  (It wasn’t long after that, that I sent them packing.)

So as I was wrapping up my visit, I asked the kids that age old question, “So, why do you think,  the chicken cross the road?” 

One little girl said,  “Because they were going to the neighbors to eat cat food.”

Now you know.

Henny Penny and I visiting school

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Well, I better to get to work.  DM

Ten Reasons Why You Need To Plant An Orchard

Few years ago, I got an e-mail from a college professor.  Seems some of his students at the time had stumbled across the following blog post on another blog of mine.  He wanted me to know  he’d heard them talking about my blog outside of class around the campfire on a class trip.  Talk about honored. Anyway, Spring is in the air.  If I want to do any pruning it needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.  So, to kick off the 2019 apple growing season, I  would like to repost the following musing.

Ten Reasons Why You May Want To Plant An Orchard.

(and if not a whole orchard, at least a couple of trees) 😉

 

Hanging scale in our sales area

1.  Photo opportunities.   Our apple orchard constantly changes with the seasons.   There is always something catching my eye and bringing me joy.

Apple blossoms

2.  It provides the perfect blend of solitude and social interaction.  I love my peace and quiet.  There is nothing more nurturing for me than spending a Saturday morning alone, picking apples.  At the same time, I do love meeting and bantering with the public on occasion, and when the mood strikes, I will load up the pick up and head to our local farmers market.

Hawking apples at the farmers market last season

3.  Supplemental income.   Sure there is some work involved in tending an orchard, but not nearly as much as you might suspect.  One Semi dwarf tree  will cost you  $20 to $25.00 and once it’s mature, it can produce between 2 to 4 bushel of apples a year. = 80 to 160 pounds of fruit @ $1.50 a pound that’s $120 to $240 gross, from one tree…per year..not bad for some additional pocket change if you ask me ;-)

4.  mental stimulation.    While the basics of tending an apple orchard are pretty easy to grasp, there is always something new to learn.   Did you know there are over 750 different varieties of apples in the United States alone, and over 2000 varieties world-wide?

5.  Keeps you physically active. Keep those muscles moving”  my grandpa used to say.  Between the pruning in the early spring, to the picking in the fall,  having an orchard provides me with lots of  opportunities  to be physically active outside, all the while,I’m getting paid  and enjoying some fresh air.  As I  get older  I will probably do more of that “you pick” marketing, but for now, I can still climb and honestly, I love picking apples.  Last Saturday, I picked about 1200 pounds of apples in about 6 hours.

6.  Provides me with lots of opportunities to bless others.  I’m not going to brag and tell you how this works itself out except to say, I try to sell mostly our #1 apples, which means, what to do with the seconds?    The opportunities  to give are all around.

7.  Get to enjoy some varieties of fruit that are hard to come by normally – plus if you can find them, you’ll pay through the nose.  Sure we have Honey crisp, was told last year they were charging up to $5.00 a pound for those little rascals.   So far this year, I’ve picked 11 crates of them and probably have at least another 8.  My personal favorite is called the Ginger Gold:

Ginger Gold.

It is every bit as crispy as the Honey crisp and sweet.   Last year we had 32 crates of these little jewels.

8.  Fresh apple cider.    You haven’t lived until you’ve had fresh apple cider pressed from your own apples.   It’s got a texture and taste you’ll never , ever find in a store -ever.  If you come to visit, and the apples are in season, you can help me press out a batch. ;-)

9.  You’ll  give the bees something to talk about.  Ever hear of the “waggle dance”?

10. Provides me with lots  of spiritual insight.

Life is full of mystery.    I believe God has hidden the answers to some of our questions about life in the apple orchard.

Pruning and suffering.  I hate it when people try to slap pat answers onto my life when I’m in the middle of something hard.  It makes me angry.  So I will not disrespect you and do that now.  Sometimes it feels like I’m getting “pruned”  and when it does, I barely have enough energy to survive, let alone  do more.

Fruitfulness (ever see an apple tree grunt?  :-)   Me neither.

Seasons.   Apple trees don’t produce fruit 12 months out of the year.  In fact, they need large blocks of “down time”  in the winter..to get ready for the next season.  They literally need that time, which is why apple trees don’t do well in warmer climates.

Variety.  Already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating.    Apple trees vary widely and differently in the type of fruit they produce.  I think people are created much more varied than culture tries to tell us.   I found an apple tree on an abandoned farmstead a few years ago like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Some heirloom variety I’m sure.  It looked and tasted just like it was designed to taste.  Definitely not some domesticated boring apple.  So why do you and I sometimes think we have to look like everybody else?   Nothing more beautiful than someone being 100% alive just the way they were designed:

As always, thanks for reading my stuff ;-) DM