Went to a new writers group last night

Wasn’t sure what to expect.

Got a Facebook message a couple of weeks ago, asking if I would be interested in a  writers group getting started at our library.  Only three other people expressed an interest in coming, so I thought maybe I had the wrong room  when I walked through the door and saw  9 people.

They ranged in age from 18 to late 70’s,  4 men and 7 women.

Description of the group was: ” a low pressure, open group for people with an interest in creative-self expression…provide a supportive forum of like minded people to provide encouragement and helpful feedback…whatever level of proficiency. age or level of interest, you are welcome to come and either share your piece (of writing) or listen to what people are working on….such as narrative therapy, prose, poetry, short story, blogging, family history/ memoirs, journaling, comedy, Obituaries, etc.”

When it came time to share writing samples….all I can say is WOW.  

It touched me deeply.

One girl, I put her at about 18,  had written something on grief. She’d lost her mom when she was 16, and wrote an essay on what not to say to someone who’s dealing with loss.

Another person had written about his recent experience dealing with their autistic daughter having a melt down in public.

It was raw.

I did share a portion of a blog post I’d written back in 2014 on why you don’t want to move to Iowa.  🙂

At the time, Hillary Clinton had come to town  for the Democratic primaries… Our local newpaper editor was on a bus with a bunch of reporters from the east coast.  She heard quite a bit of mocking derision about our community, and  the Midwest in general.  That stirred the following in me:

Why You Don’t Want to come to Iowa 

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I’m already looking forward to the next meeting.

I guess if I came away with anything it was this….

I need to decide if I have any long term writing goals. 🙂

Well, better get moving.  Starting a new duplex this morning and I need to get some breakfast.   Take care. 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

 

That’s Twice Now

It has been a very productive winter for me as I’ve had the time to work on  family history.  It’s an interest I’ve had for years that comes and goes.  I’ve had individual folders with old family pictures, notes  from conversations from people now passed, two different family trees books I am descended from…a lot of information that begs to be organized.   Last Fall, I happened to run into Diane at a local picnic for a tour group in the area from Ostfriesland.  (Part of northern Germany.) By the end of our conversation, Diane had offered to help me work on our family tree.  She had the time, the know how and I jumped at her offer.

She reached out to me this past January and asked if I was ready to get started.  I gave her some names and she started setting up a family tree.  I didn’t hear anything for several weeks, and discovered in the meantime  that since my wife had taken a DNA test there was a free ancestry account already in existence in our name. So while I was waiting for Diane’s results, I started doing some work on my own…adding pictures, uploaded stories, using the search tools in the local newspaper archives.   It has been a great way to break up some of the time these past few months.

Night before last Diane wrote me a note.  I’d given her a link to the family tree I’ve been working on,  this is a portion of what she said:

“I can tell you that your instincts, Doug as a genealogist and family history keeper are excellent.”

That is the 2nd time someone as given me unsolicited affirmation about that area of my life. (lover of history.)

The first time was in 2009.  I’d shared a link to a history blog I was working on with one of my favorite authors.  Andrea Seu Peterson.

She wrote me back and said : “You may want to call yourself a contractor, but I think you’re a historian. “

I hesitate to share those two affirmations and yet, I believe there is a place in our lives for personal affirmation.  God knows there is enough negativity most of us battle with that goes on in our private thought life.  So, when  a few words of genuine affirmation makes it into my life, I celebrate. :-).

So there you go.

I am a voracious reader, especially when I get on a topic that interests me.  Heck, I grew up in a home where World Encyclopedias were on a bookshelf in our bathroom.

So for me, to receive two unsolicited affirmations  affirming my work in the area of history,  does as much for me as getting a piece of paper telling me I have a Masters degree.

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I’d never seen any of the following pictures before…(except the one of grandma on the boat.  I’ve share that one before.)

Picture of my grandmother (little girl on the left)  She was 13 years old.

My grandma, front row second from left.  Getting together with  her friends right before emigrating to America. March 1929.  She was 23.

Grandma on ship March 1929 coming to America

1949 Picture from my grandmother on her first visit  back to Germany since she immigrated. 

(She is in the center)

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Twenty years had passed…She’d gotten married to an Iowa farm boy.  She’ had three children.  Her father had passed away while she was gone.  She’d endured the Great Depression in America, experienced WW 2 as a German living in America.    I think of the emotions she must have been feeling at that moment.

I miss her.

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I need to get moving.

Thanks for tagging along.

Take care.  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

Why I’m optimistic about 2019

I just ordered  2000 Red Burgundy  Organic Onion seeds this morning.

When they arrive, I’m going to fill a flat with them and watch them grow.

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CS Lewis wrote a little fictional book called The Screwtape Letters.  It is my personal favorite of all his writings.  He was a master story-teller.   He talks in there about worry, fear of the future, fears of the unknown.   If you struggle with fear, and love a good allegory, I can’t recommend it enough.

I think it has shaped my thoughts on this topic as much as anything I have ever read.

Well, I feel a nap coming on.

Later! DM

 

 

 

 

Better is….

Got together yesterday with a few friends to catch up and talk about life.

Lots of coffee….lots of laughs…

Wife made a no-bake, blueberry cream cheese pie.

Wish you were here.  🙂

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Here are a couple of things that I shared…

A week ago, I stumbled across some  words written by an old fool at the end of his life:

“Better is a handful with quietness than two fists full and trouble with it.”

I’ve said something similar myself, probably started saying it about the time we started having children. 🙂

I would say:  “Peace and quiet is entirely under-rated.” 

Second quote (by the same guy) I have been chewing on:

Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work…”

We heated with wood growing up. On those rare times when I picked up an ax instead of a chainsaw, I quickly realized a dull ax was worthless….

I was watching a class online  recently on how to build a timber-framed structure.  The first  thing  covered  was tool care, and keeping your chisel sharp, both literally and  figuratively.

Wow.  That was deep.  I’ve been thinking about what that means ever since.

(ie. how to keep my life “sharp”.)

I am a carpenter and nobody has ever taught me how to sharpen a chisel.   Ever.

In all fairness to me,  with the kind of work I do, (framing, siding, roofing, concrete)  I don’t use chisels all that often, but on those rare occasions when I need one, i usually end up buying a new one.

So I’ve  been on a mission the past week to learn how to sharpen my chisels.

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A friend of ours  recently updated us about  her son. Son  lives on the east coast.   Both he and his wife have great paying stress filled jobs.  Just had a new baby, (that makes 3)  Son recently decided to go back to school to finish his degree, (while still working full-time.)   Made me stressed just hearing about their lives..  I know her son just a little.  Good guy.  I like him.

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Dad is 86.  Didn’t stop farming until just 2 years ago.  Worked full-time as a general contractor into his late 70’s. One of his few regrets was working too much while the kids (myself included) were growing up.  We never saw him except on weekends. Then my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in her mid 40’s.  I had moved out of the house and gotten married by this time. There was definitely a shift in  dad’s priorities after that.  He started taking each of us kids out on our birthday’s for breakfast.

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It’s all about balance.  Finding the balance between work, money, bills, wants, desires, relationships, life…

In my late 20’s as I was chasing my own mechanical rabbits around the track, I came across two quotes that stopped me dead in my tracks…“If you make it to the top of the company ladder, but loose your family in the process, you are a fool.”  and , “If you are a hero to others, yet strangers to your own children, you are a fool.” 

I’ve written about that season elsewhere on the blog so I won‘t repeat it right now.

 

The fifteen or so of you that regularly interact with me here are in a very real sense my on-line family.  I appreciate each and every one of you!  If you’re a somewhat regular reader that has never made a peep, I would love to hear from you..even if you just say, “I’m here.” 🙂

Anyway, this is what has been on my mind the past week.

How about you?

Take care. DM