My cabin in the woods

In 2011 one of my regular customers asked me to help build  a new loafing shed for his dairy set up.  The first phase of the project  was for him to tear down an old limestone barn, dating from the 1800’s.  Wish I would have taken a picture.

There is something about old limestone buildings that stirs something in me.  I asked him what he was going to do with the old stone…long story short.  He gave it to me.  13  dump truck loads worth.  The only investment I had, was my time and the fuel it took to haul it home….

So this pile of limestone has been sitting there patiently waiting for me to do something with it…

That something has finally begun to stir…

We have a quiet spot out in the windbreak that looks north… In June, the wild black raspberries make an appearance.

One of my favorite places.

It is very easy to slough off the clamor when I’m out there.

I’m thinking I’ll just run a garden hose and a drop chord out there for some basic creature comforts…Murphy bed, barn beam interior, small loft.  16 ft by 20 ft tops/ with a small front porch like this….

 

I plan to do this on the cheap, using all recycled materials.

Want to help?

Think… Thoreau/ Walden/ tiny house…

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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Stoke’n the fire

There is a fire that burns most days, way down in the depths of my soul.

Not just figuratively, mind you, but literally.

This morning as I was going over my notes for a series of speaking engagements this weekend on local history, I  could  literally feel the burner kick in…..

On the gas water heater and furnace that heats our house, you can hear both of them when they get ready to fire up. There is a distinct sound as the igniter kicks in….then after the flame lights/ the fan kicks in…..

 

That fire (passion) burns 85 % of the time when I am at work.

It also burns on days like today, when I’m talking somewhere.

Not even sure why I’m telling you this…. 🙂

I’m speaking this morning @ 10:30 and again @ 1:45.  I will let you know how it goes.

Can you see the fire in this guys eyes?

Photo compliments of google

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:

rockn-the-lederhosen

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. )

pict0022

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”

pict0063

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:

pict0017

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.

 

On Writing…(2)

Memorial Day morning someone stopped by our place for a visit.  During the course of our conversation,  our guest brought up my newly published book.  They’d read it, and wanted to get two additional copies.  Can’t remember who said what next, but the next thing I knew, we were talking about several things they’d wished I’d done differently.

I genuinely wanted to hear their thoughts, because after the dozens of times I’ve been over that manuscript, revising, editing, deleting, correcting, etc.  my brain has become jaded.   Back in 2008, I’d shown the first chapter of my rough draft to someone else who considered themselves a writer of sorts.  After I listened to their input, I ended up with a writer’s block for three years. 😉

Lessen learned.  Be very careful with whom I share my rough drafts.

As we sat at our kitchen table Monday morning,  my guest told me he wished I’d spent more time talking about such and such.   Then later in the book, he wondered what book it was he was reading?  I seemed to be spending much more time talking about certain people than I needed.   I’d included the lyrics of a song by Alison Kraus half way through the book..He felt that I’d stolen the thunder for the story it was supposed to be introducing, not to mention, in the song, the  story happened on a mountain, whereas, in my book, the incident took place on the plains…..

My guest is a thinker.   I like him.

I said to him, “Where were you a year ago???!

“Next time, I write something, I  said, I would love to get your feedback.”

I  may have taken some of his suggestions into account if we’d had this conversation a year ago, but at this point, the book  is what it is.

I was thinking  more about our conversation this afternoon.  Before submitting my final (11th) revision  to the printer,  I had  eight different sets of eyes perusing all or parts of my earlier drafts.

Eight sets of eyes.

Some specifically, looking @ basic grammar and others,  giving input on readability and flow.

I gave it my best shot and I’m thrilled with the end product.

I’ve never had a class in writing.

Not that I wouldn’t be interested, but it would really depend on who was teaching.

I do read books and articles on the topic to improve my skill.  Couple of years ago, a young woman with a bachelor’s degree in writing spent a few afternoons trying to mentor me, but other than that, I am a work in progress.

Are there still details I might change, after listening to my latest guest…?

Maybe…

And maybe not.

Last night, a quote by Theodore Roosevelt kept coming to mind.

   ” It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”

 

Thanks to all of you that stop by this blog and interact.  Work is currently taking up  most of my creative energy  so I’ve not replied to several of your comments like I would normally do.

Good night 🙂

DM

 

 

Red Cloud

Tuesday morning we headed west.

Hit the road for Red Cloud Nebraska.

A month ago, we were kicking around the idea of taking a road trip to see my wife’s Uncle L.   He is the last living connection my wife has with the small town of Red Cloud Nebraska.  When we were first married we would stop there every couple of years to visit aunt and uncle L.  When her grandpa was still alive we would see him too.

L. is 94.   All of his siblings are gone.   His wife passed away in 2011. His son lives out-of-state. L is  hard of hearing and has been for years. Talking on the phone is out of the question.   I haven’t seen him in  years, but always enjoyed bantering with him to the degree we could.  He had his own plumbing and heating business for years, so our conversations tended toward construction.

When you have a relative who is 94, you know it’s just a matter of time until you get “the phone call” so I really encouraged my wife that we should take the trip now.

We decided not to let him know we were coming until the day before, just in case something fell through.   Tuesday afternoon, wife called  the  facility where L lives, and  talked with Melissa.   She was excited  and  promised to give uncle L a note, to let him know we were coming the next morning at 10.

He never got the note.

L’s neighbor, Lavae (who lives two doors down ) got a message to expect a Mr and Mrs DM  about 10 AM. ) Lavue didn’t know who that was, figured maybe someone working on genealogy so he placed an order with the kitchen for some extra ice tea to serve his guests.  He waited two hours but they never came. 

We found this out while we were sitting in the large dining room table over lunch with a dozen other 80 and 90 year olds…

😉

After we finished eating,  we checked uncle L out and  headed to his house to check on things. He moved into this facility this past December, so everything is just as he left it.

Just as I remembered it too…

The several dozen trophies in the trophy case he’d won racing go carts in his younger days. The cart still hangs from the ceiling in his garage.

The  Indian figurine in the hutch, the calendar still turned to  2015. The picture of his baby sister sitting at a desk when she was two, who has long since passed away herself.  A Christmas card on his desk from the nurses at the VA.

He has one of those walkers that has a fold down seat on it, so for a while we sat quietly in his living room, him on his walker seat, wife and I on opposite sides of the room in  stuff chairs.

You could hear a mourning dove just outside the window, singing that quiet mournful song they make. That bird’s song matched the emotions that were sloshing around in my head.  L said it felt good to just be in the house for a little bit.

We walked out into his garage.    We talked about a tool he wants to give his grandson when he’s gone.

I imagine, after living 94 years, to  get to the place where you are no longer able to live on your own, and have to leave 99% of your earthly possessions behind, it would feel good, even for a half hour,  to smell the familiar smells,  touch the old tools, look at old photos, and just sit.

I’m glad we went.

 

Simple Things

Last night we watched the final two episodes of Pioneer Quest, a documentary filmed back in 2000. Two couples stepped back in time to 1870 to carve out a life on the Canadian plains  just north of  Argyle, Manitoba.  I’m not ashamed to tell you, I shed a couple of  tears myself last night as they said good-by…good by to neighbors, the family milk cow, then returned to the twenty-first century.

My guess is, you may be familiar with the series, considering how long ago it was originally released. That’s one of the joys of not having a TV….we have literally missed out on 95% of what’s played on TV since our TV broke back  in  1983.

Several things struck me as we’ve watched that nine part mini series.

Both couples, after their year was up, purposed to not get sucked back into the rat race. Their relationships with their mates had become much more of a priority, after their year together.

I already tend to be thankful for the simple things in life…but watching that series made me even more thankful!

Thankful for hot running water…. I can fill up our bath tub in less than five minutes and soak to my hearts content. I am thankful for an indoor toilet, soft toilet paper,  a stove that provides instant heat at the turn of a dial…a refrigerator (and freezer) both full of food.  A furnace that keeps me warm with the flip of a switch…a roof that keeps me dry when it rains….on and on….

I stepped out of the rat race  in the late 1980’s and for the most part have continued to keep my distance. (not get sucked back in.)

I’ve written on that topic before  here,   here, , here and here so I won’t repeat myself.

After watching Pioneer Quest, I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

I am not stuck in the rat race, relationships are a priority in my life, AND, I get to enjoy the plethora of modern conveniences that many people tend to take for granted in our 21st century.

east before going under

View on the way to town.

Whoever said, Iowa is all flat, and full of bean fields has never been to my part of the state.

view throught the walking trail #2

Sunrise in our wind break.

What simple things are you thankful for?

 

My Book Manuscript

My grandpa  used to tell me stories from his days when he was a kid growing up on a farm a mile from where I grew up.  One of the stories he told was about a train wreck just south of town.  If I heard that story once, I heard it fifty times.    When my son John was 10 years old, I took him over to interview Grandpa and record him.

 

train wreck

Picture of the train wreck south of my grandpa

That was in 1999.

In the interview, I asked grandpa about the train wreck, farming with horses, the story about his brother and him making moonshine…was it really true?

It was.  In fact, Grandpa and the boys had an actual route where they delivered the stuff, and on this occasion, Grandpa told me something I’d never heard before.

He gave me the family recipe for making moonshine.

The interview lasted about 40 minutes.

It is priceless to me now that he is gone.

In 2007 I came across that tape and listened to it again.  You can hear the coffee pot percolating in the background the first several minutes.   After the interview was over, I decided to do an Internet search on  local history.

I found a gold mine.

I came across an account of two men retracing a hundred mile long, early pioneer trail on foot in the early 1920’s, that passed right through our area…this was 75 years after the fact. It stirred something in me.  The desire to retrace that same route myself on foot…but before doing so, I decided to immerse myself in local history.   I purchased old maps, out of print county history books, anything I could get my hands on which might give me clues into life in Eastern Iowa from 1839 to 1900.

Through a chance conversation with a woman who owned a local antique store one day, as I was looking for old books, she told me me  her dad,  had also spent considerable time researching that same route.  She asked me if I would be interested in looking through the many newspaper clippings and personal correspondence he’d had with various people he’d interacted with.

I have included several of those things in this book.

I came across enough material to make  several movies. (Think Little House On The Prairie.)

Last Winter, I finally finished the rough draft of a book.  A compilation of many of the stories I read, plus some of my personal reflections.  A friend of mine lined up two different people to edit the rough draft, and just last week I finally finished making all the corrections.

All I have left to do is find someone to help create the cover, tidy up a few loose ends then send it to the printer.  I plan to create a small Kickstart or Gofundme page in a few weeks.  Print on demand publishing prices have dropped considerably since my last book. With any luck it should be in print by this May.

It is an act of love, 9 years in the making.