Ode to Minnesota

Thursday, June 30, 2011
Minnesota, Minnesota - We are south of Manitoba
We are east of North Dakota
We've got something really rare
It's fulfilling, entertaining
It's true culture you'll be gaining
- Ann Reed

Oh Minnesota. Home of Post-It notes, Bob Dylan, Cheerios, 10,000+ lakes, the Boundary Waters, MPR, the Mississippi River, the Mall of America (wait a minute, how did that get in there?), and . . . me.

 Just look at all that green on that map. That's a lot of national and state forest. No wonder people come here on vacation.

Minnesota, you've given me so much. Even if I didn't develop sweat glands thanks to you and growing up on the frosty shores of Lake Superior, you have given me the ability to stand still in -0F weather with my mittens off. Kudos on the cool education options and for making the woods feel like second nature.

Although I sometimes often wonder if I should try some place new, perhaps some place where the amenities are a little more tightly spaced, or where winter driving is kept at a minimum and where planting things that take 90 days to mature isn't a "gamble", I never do. No matter how far I travel from Minnesota's landlocked lands, I always find some reminder of my Minnesota roots -- whether it's riding in a cab in Ireland with Bob Dylan playing softly in the background or running to fetch Post-Its from a London office storeroom -- that warms my heart, that makes me want to return.

During high school, my brother spent a week in Chiapas, Mexico. On the return trip, he described the surge of pride and joy everyone in his travel group felt when they touched down on the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport tarmac.  This is our home. Minnesota pride is run deep in our veins. I identify more strongly with being a Minnesotan than I do with being an American, although that's partly because with both my accent and the cabin's location, I feel just a couple steps shy of being a Canadian.

Oh Minnesota, even if you make it a habit of threatening to shut down the state government because the governor and legislature can't reach a budget agreement, I still love you.

And no, I'm not just saying this because I thought ahead and already got my fishing license.

Government, scmovernment, right? I'm all set to enjoy to the best of Minnesota this summer, regardless of what's going on in that far off city of St. Paul.

You never were great at offering convenience and easy living, anyway Minnesota. And this penchant for government shutdowns? It's just one more quirk we'll have to learn to love about you. Through it all, you'll always be . . . the best.

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Wordless Wednesday: Garden Scenes

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The moonlight marigolds just bloomed!

Little bitty tomatoes
Row of tomatoes
Raised bed
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You Don't Know What You're Missing

Monday, June 27, 2011
Lately Andy's taken to eating avocados.Which is fine. They're loaded with healthy fat and I can think of worse things to eat, even if these aren't exactly a shining example of eating locally.
But the other week, as Andy cut into yet another avocado, I felt I needed to mention something. "Just so you know," I said. "Each one of those little avocados you're so fond of costs $1.99."

Last week, the lowly avocado was up to $2.05 . . . each.

Now, I know avocados don't grow anywhere nearby; that they're getting shipped cross-country to make it to the local produce shelf. I understand that mileage means money, but holy smokes, $2.05 for a little bit of produce, a big portion of which is an inedible pit? These aren't even organic!

The other day, I was talking with a snowbird who had just returned from Arizona. As we talked about the "roadkill" produce we often settle for at the local grocers, she mentioned that in Arizona she can often buy four avocados for a dollar.

"But if you're not used to lower prices," she said, "you don't know what you're missing."

She wasn't meaning to be condescending or flippant. But even I know that $2.05 is an exorbitant price for an avocado. Even I know that our slow internet is really slow and recognize that cell service would be handy thing to have at times around here. These little inconvenient realities of living in the woods aren't lost on the permanent residents. Rather, they're accepted, yet often bemoaned. These things are simply out of our hands.

We're rural, but not necessarily insular and ignorant. As a matter of fact, I've got an inkling about what we're missing.

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The Advantages of Crap Weather

Friday, June 24, 2011
It's been rather damp around here. For the last week, we've had a steady drizzle all day and all night. I've begun to expect little fairy rings of mushrooms to pop up in the backyard and fish to start living in a driveway puddle.

I don't mind it. The rain reminds of London and Ireland and Pacific Northwest and I find the temperate temperature easier to move about in than the typical hot sunny summer day. Besides, putzy weather's good for business at the museum and my blueberries needed some rain for plumping up purposes.And it offers me a break.

During the long summer days, it seems pointless to spend free time indoors. Not when there's gardens to weed, fish to be caught and exploring to be done. Although we did get out for a soggy hike on Wednesday afternoon, when I woke that morning to hear the steady pitter-pat of raindrops on the roof, I knew I had to cease my opportunity.

I washed the stack of dishes that were starting to teeter on the kitchen counter. I vacuumed and dusted. I even scrubbed the floor.

It wasn't glamorous,but with the crap weather outside, I had a moment to delay my crap summer housekeeping. I'm no neatnik, but I do feel a clean living space is an easy way to elevate your sense of worth and quality of living. That said, while a dirty house nags at my sensibilities, I'm pretty adept at tuning out those naggings. We spend most of the year in various states of squalor.

This morning I woke to shadows on the floor and the mercury in the thermometer steadily rising. Never fear, the cabin will look like a hurricane went through it before the day is done.

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No More 3x5s

Thursday, June 23, 2011
Didn't have a camera by my side this time/Hoping I would see the world through both my eyes/Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm in the mood to lose my way with words -- John Mayer

I've been forgetting my camera a lot lately. For the last week or so, the same scenario has been playing itself out over and over again.

We get halfway to wherever we're headed.

Andy: Did you bring the camera?
Ada: No . . ..

I don't really have an excuse for forgetting it. It has a snazzy new Duluth pack case, which makes it easy to throw the camera in the boat, truck, or over my shoulder. But maybe the past week straight of rain and drizzle has left me feeling visually uninspired. No matter what happens lately, I can't seem to remember my camera until it's too late to turn around and go fetch it.  

And when I don't have your camera with, sometimes it feels like I'm missing things. Without a camera to capture the views we found when we clamored to lake's highest point at sunset, how can I share what it felt like to pull myself up the charred, shattered granite cliff face to find the lake and all its islands spilling out before me under a rose color sky. Does it even make sense if I tell about the stark cliff we found on yesterday's hike with such straight, sharp edges it looked like we'd stumbled into some Aztec or Inca realm?

Without the pictures to prove I saw it, it gets harder to share my experiences and make them immediate and real. But that doesn't mean I'm missing anything. I'm still seeing it. By not having my camera with, I'm forced to remember more than just the image.

I have to remember the sweet little cheeps coming from the two grouse nests we've stumbled upon in the past few days, as well as the sight of agitated Mama Grouse, neck all puffed out, trying to defend her little cheepers (baby grouse). I can tell you about the rain, but what I really remember is the cold feeling of water instantly gushing into my old, tired tennis shoes as I soon as I set foot on the overgrown path on yesterday's hike and the squelching feeling of water squishing between my toes with each step I took. I could tell you the midseason wildflowers are in full swing, or I could tell you about gathering bright red wintergreen berries in my palm while batting off buzzing mosquitoes divebombing my head, taking a moment to hold the berries close to my face so  I could breath in their minty smell.

I'm seeing plenty these days. And for the time being, I'm trying to see it with both my eyes. 

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Take Me Away

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
No, not another post about how I'd rather be traveling, although I did discover that a decent compact washer/dryer combo for the cabin would cost less than a plane ticket to Australia, the next bullet point on my "to travel" list. (This puts me in a serious quandary about the future of my summer savings.)

And no, I'm not having washing machine amnesia. I'm still well aware of how awful compact washer/dryer combos can be. I've spent enough time in the British Isles to be well acquainted with the half-day long dry cycles with your clothes locked inside the washing drum that these little (lovely) machines can present you with. However, I have no issue with turning the cabin into a Chinese laundry if necessary. Maybe I should just get a washing machine . . .

But I digress.

What I meant to write about when I sat down this morning was the need to escape, even in the slightest, most figurative way. It's this time of year, when I get asked 30 times a day if I "ever see any wildlife around here," that I want to spend my evenings somewhere far, far away. Some place where I don't have to explain why you can't take pontoon boats into the Boundary Waters. Some place where moose spotting isn't some sort of competitive sport.
Not that the moose aren't impressive.

But I'd rather be bickering about whether or not you should let the hot water boil when brewing a pot of tea than reasons why the moose population is on decline. It's the time of year, where you'll find a Phillipa Gregory novel on the coffee table and plenty of British costume dramas clogging the Netflix queue. Forget hard hitting documentaries, fluffy puppy season is upon us. I just want a not-too complicated plot to transport me into a completely different world each evening.

I once talked to someone about my tendency to overlook nonfiction as "good reads." It's not that I never read nonfiction (although a memoir seems to exist in some funny half world between fiction and nonfiction) but in general, a biography or some other factual read aren't what I want to curl up with at the end of the day. "I think it's just not enough of an escape," the person I was talking with said of nonfiction, and it's true. Most of the time, I'd rather be in some made-up place, watching fictional characters deal with universal problems.

Downton Abbey arrived yesterday (albeit, a day late . . . ahem Netflix!) and I plan on immersing myself in upper crust British life circa early 20th century this evening. Something tells me I wouldn't have enjoyed this kind of life very much if I actually had to live it, but I sure don't mind visiting it nightly.

Happy Solstice all! Any big plans for celebrating the longest day of the year? How do you escape?

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Sweet Dreams Are Made of THIS?!

Friday, June 17, 2011
As an adult you find yourself getting excited about the strangest things and your dreams take on a rather dull, realistic tone. Lately, as I lay my head on the pillow each night, visions of these guys dance through my head.

Yep, happy little heel-clicking washing machines haunt my dreams. (Or they would, if washing machines had heels.) 

We bring our laundry into town to wash, usually on a weekly basis. But last week, the stars aligned only for  brief dash through town to grab the gas and groceries we needed to make it through another work week. There was no time to sit around and wait for the laundry to finish a spin cycle. Now as I sort through my work clothes options, things are looking pretty grim. How I wish I could come home from work and pop a load of laundry in my very own machine. Just imagine listening to the washing machine whir quietly in the background while I fix supper and hanging the clothes out on the line to get that wonderful air-dried laundry smell. 

But since, given the size of the cabin, I have a choice between a washing machine and a pantry (and I love to eat), maybe something like this is more my speed:

Or how about this guy?

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go put my pants on inside out. Maybe no one will notice. . .

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Send Me To Summer Camp

Thursday, June 16, 2011
Mama’s Losin’ It

As a homeschool jungle freak, I spent most of my childhood wanting to conform. I pined for the typical American childhood/tween years that Nickelodeon and kids literature presented, the one filled with home rooms, babysitting, crushes, shopping malls and summer camp.  

Now, why a girl who basically grew up in the woods felt summer camp was a necessary element of her childhood, I'm not quite sure. But I blame the Babysitter Club books. Jessi and Mallory were always having formative experiences at summer camp. Salute Your Shorts might have influenced this conviction as well.

When I was thirteen my dream was realized. I packed up my bags and headed off with my friend Kati for a week at her church's camp. It was a very Lutheran camp located on the west end of the national forest we live in, which meant we drove for about four hours and ended up in a place that looked just like where we'd all come from. 

Any previous references I'd seen about the typical summer camp experience lead me to believe scavenger hunts, jumping off floating rafts into the swimming area, arts and craft hour, and singing around the campfire were to be expected. Although we did a fair amount of singing around the campfire, the songs were all the religious songs, I'd learned during my Vacation Bible School days and our major project of the week was rewriting the Lord's Prayer in our own colloquial. Ah man. I totally thought I'd be learning map orientation skills. Imagine my disappointment when not one of the counselors walked around with their nose smeared with a thick layer of sunscreen.

To make matters worst, somehow on the bus ride over to the camp, every girl on the bus seemed to have gotten their periods. A week with cranky, hormonal thirteen year old girls? Awesome!!  

On our camp-out night, a thunderstorm prevented us from paddling over to the island campsite. Instead we were forced to backpack to a campsite where we prepared to pitch our tent on the side of the hill only to find we'd forgotten the tent stakes. (We used twigs to hold the tent in place that night as we slept at a downwards slant, blood rushing to our toes all night long.) When the camp counselors, who had the time seemed super old but were probably recent high school grads, couldn't get the fire started in the drizzle, our cabin's special needs girl started eating cold hot dogs straight out of the package.

It wasn't all a disaster. My memories of that week are pretty blurry, probably in part because of the sunburn  shown in my one and only photo from that week, but I have fond memories of making wax sculptures in the sand of the volleyball court, weaving yarn around two twigs to make "God's Eyes" and writing letter after letter home chronicling my adventures. My cabin swept the clean cabin award that week (anal and competitive even in those days) and one afternoon at the swimming hole, I felt my legs whip around behind me in a perfect breaststroke kick, a stroke I'd struggled with since joining the swim team early that year.

I never went back to camp. I got a big enough dose of conformity to last me a long time . . . well, at least until I started to feel like I ought to go to prom . . .

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Wordless Wednesday: How Does Your Garden Grow?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
No silver bells or cockle shells to be seen, but the little gardens have been growing, growing, growing since their move out to their permanent summer homes.

Onions in the foreground, then cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, and various squash plants
Zucchini with sunflowers in the background

Tomato blossoms

Tomato Escalade is turning into a jungle!
Happy Wednesday and happy growing!

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Imperfect Timing

Tuesday, June 14, 2011
This blog post has been delayed twice.

First I took a Facebook pause to finalize Summer Crafting plans. The whole crafting tribe is headed north for some crafting good times at the cabin. It took months of planning, but at long last, the dates are set!

As I untangled myself from Facebook's vicious grasp, the phone rang. Not a telemarketer, not Andy checking in, but an actual source for the article I'm currently working returning my call and willing to give me all the information I needed. *gasp!*

These are both very good things.

Now, having missed lunch, I'm cramming a plate of nachos into my face while trying to get at least one more thing done on my to-do list before Andy and I sprint to town for gas, groceries and banking after his work day and before he heads over to fire training.

I had a feeling today might have a thing for imperfect timing.

The sneaking feeling started when I began making phone calls for my article over my breakfast oatmeal, only to find my two main sources I'd been counting on were out of town. Now what?

Frustrated, but undeterred, I hopped in the shower. As I lathered up my hair with shampoo, the power went out. As soap suds dripped down my back in the dark, I wondered what I supposed to do. Run down to the lake naked and rinse off? That didn't seem particularly environmentally friendly and even the more conservative option of wrapping myself in a towel and grabbing a bucket full of lake water to dump over my soap head at least 150 feet away from the shoreline seemed less than ideal. But just as I slid back the shower curtain, the power came back on. Disaster diverted! 

Full rinsed off (and clothed), I headed back to the computer to hammer out the first of two articles due on Friday. After what seemed like forever and many a grumble about "this being my day off," a perfectly formed article appeared in the Word document and I decided to take a break to check the mail. But when I opened the mailbox there was no mail inside! Either we received no mail today or I'd beaten the mail lady to the punch. *grumble, grumble, grumble*

And then I sat down to write this post and everything, sort of, magically, came together.

Like the saying goes: "Pobody's Nerfect." That goes for timing too. But that's okay. I can wait.

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Keeping "Genuinely" Cool

Monday, June 13, 2011
This probably isn't much of a confession because y'all have probably figured out that I have a soft spot for romantic comedies. In particular British romantic comedies. Especially anything with Hugh Grant. Namely, Notting Hill. (Who knew . . . oh right, you guys did.)

I like Notting Hill so much I have the webpage that hosts the movie's entire script bookmarked because often IMDB fails to list my favorite quotes from the movie. (You know you're a nerd when . . . .) It's not that I find the movie particularly deep, hard hitting, or even that intelligent, but it's comforting -- like a cup of tea held between both hands during your first morning hour and there always seems to be some line from Notting Hill  that sums up my current mood completely. Take this little gem from Honey (William's googly eyed sister who has feathers for hair) for example: 

Oh God this is one of those key moments in life, when it's possible you can be really, genuinely cool -- and I'm going to fail a hundred percent.

Oh God, yes. This is exactly how I feel right now.

It's also no secret that I've been a wee bit absent from the blogosphere as of late. As much as I mean to stick with my Monday-Friday posting through the summer, lately my creativity's been feeling a little tapped out. After spending all winter getting words onto paper, with the return of the 40-hour work week, I find my brain not even working in a writerly way. For the second commentary in a row, I find myself utterly stumped about what to pen my next radio commentary about. When I sit down to write, I feel like I'm trying to get a stubborn lawn mower to start. I yank and I yank and I yank on the pull cord and all I get from my writer's engine is a cough, a choke, and then, nothing.  

I'm not sure why I expect more out of my writer's engine these days. After all, I'm pretty much expecting it to perform when it's running on empty.  Mornings are spent trying to get a couple words hammered out before heading to work. When I come home, there's supper to make, the gardens to tend, and yet another wedding afghan to knit.

Oh excuses, excuses, excuses.

Except I don't have time for excuses. The next commentary must get written and two articles are due on Friday. Luckily one article just needs to be written; the other I still need to track down interviews for. (Yikes!)

I'm trying to be genuinely cool, I swear. It's just that I'm failing a hundred percent.

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What's In A Name?

Thursday, June 9, 2011
I will probably never get over the fact that my live "in the woods" means I'm surrounded by way more people during the summer months then I ever was when I lived on the outskirts of "town" as a child and adolescent. The phenomenon can be boiled down into two simple words: summer homeowners.

Summer homeowners are an interesting breed. They feel an intense connection with this land and often exude a deep sense of "living" up here. Yet, few summer homeowners spend enough uninterrupted time up here to really become part of the landscape and get to know the true character of the land and the year-round residents. Often, summer homeowners' total avoidance of the winter months means they totally fail at earning any credibility from the cynical locals.

And here's the thing: these summer homeowners put their name on everything. Every trip out to the mailbox I pass a sign board filled with the names of people I would not recognize if they walked right up to me and shook my hand.The mailboxes themselves are another matter. Although each summer homeowner on our road has a mailbox, complete with their name, only four mailboxes in the row of nearly 20, are used all year.

It's like a wild animal marking their territory: the summer homeowners peeing their last name all over their property to try to leave behind a sense that; "I was here, I was here, I was here, I belong here."

Maybe I don't really feel that I belong here, but I have absolutely no desire to plaster my mailbox, the road, and our cabin with Andy's and my last names. This may stem mostly from the fact that I find the majority of house "name plates" tacky. Your name and a moose carved into a lacquered board? Ick, ick, ick!

But I realize we're most prone to sprinkling our name around when we're proud of something. As a writer, I like nothing better than seeing my byline in print. And if you really look into where you make the most money as a writer, it's actually usually not from penning magazine articles or novels or other things that you get to paste your name on the top of it. If you wanted to make a nice steady income as a writer, one of your better bets is to write for the projects no one else really wants to tackle: brochures, press releases, marketing materials, et. al. But it's a little harder to get really excited about the marketing campaign you edited and people just don't respond as much when you hold up a brochure and exclaim: "I wrote this" as when you turn to the magazine pages to hold up your article in print.

Sure the name might not need to be there. But it must feel as good to find your name posted at a crossroads at the end of a long drive as it does to see your byline on the glossy pages months after you completed an assignment. It makes you feel like you belong; like at long last, you've done something really right.

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All God's Critters . . .

Wednesday, June 8, 2011
My parents won't admit they're hippies, but I know it's true. For one thing, my brother and I grew up listening to folk music. Yep, not the golden oldies; folk music. My parents did a good job of instilling "love the earth; eat granola" mentalities in both of us, (My childhood memoir will be very boring) but lately I've been questioning the reasoning behind one folk song I remember from my childhood: Bill Staines' All God's Critters Have A Place in the Choir. 

The song has an inclusive nature. The chorus goes like this:  
All God's critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws
Or anything they got.

The lyrics go on to mention the following animals, in no particular order: bullfrog, hippopotamus, cow, dog, cat, honey bee, cricket, donkey, pony, coyote, birds, hoot owl, jaybird, duck, possum, porcupine, ox, fox, grizzly bear, alligator, hawk, raccoon, turtle dove.

That's right: not one stinkin' reference to biting insects. I'm of the mind that there's a reason for that . . . biting insects are not God's critters; they're the spawn of Satan.

Blame the wet, late spring, but it's been one buggy spring around here. We've had more than our fair share of black flies and wood ticks and even those of us who aren't particularly bothered by bugs are ready to wave the white flag and declare a truce against these nasty little buggers.  

It was bad enough when I found my first tick of the season crawling across my belly late this April. But then the black flies had a massive hatch last week. Now I can't venture outside without fearing something is crawling up my pant leg and batting manically at the mosquitoes who find the exposed flesh on my sandaled feet. (Note to self: stop wearing flip-flops.)

The bugs sneak through the screen of our open windows at night, leaving angry welts at my waistline that I itch frantically when I wake the next morning. The ticks are pros at finding my body's darkest, most secret spots and then latching on. While I've pulled (and flushed down the toilet) many ticks who have been crawling across my body, I've also found two ticks attached to my body: one under my sock line, another on my side, underneath my bra band. They make me feel violated; like I'm the one who did something wrong.

What do these lovely biting bugs ever give me other than some welts, itches, and a growing sense of insecurity as the spring months press on. They irritate loons into abandoning their nests. I understand they're part of the food chain and we Minnesotans trying to make ourselves feel better about things by subscribing to the folklore that black flies pollinate blueberries. I could easily forgive the nasty black flies if they really did have such virtuous qualities, but the fact of the matter is that the blueberry/black fly connection just isn't true.

So seriously . . . do these little critters really need to exist? Would their disappearance really cause a major disturbance in life as we know it? All I know is that mosquitoes, black flies, ticks . . . they have no place in my choir.

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Nature is Not Always Nice

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
When you live in the woods, it grows easy to assume the wild animals are part of our extended family. Just take Al the pine marten for example. He (or she, for all I know) was nothing more than a nuisance who spent the winter days getting into the bird seed, garbage, and compost. Despite his mostly destructive nature, we gave him a name, imposed a personality on him, and acted like he was a friend. Although we never (intentionally) feed him, our relationship with him smacked of faux familiarity, pretending he was the wildest of pets.

When you live in a place where your path commonly crosses with that of bears, moose, foxes, and other critters it's easy to forget that we're the ones tangled in their webs of existence, not the other way around. We're the ones imposing on their world and we're meant to be casual observers.  

The first week of May, a nesting platform for loons was set up in the bay outside of work. A week ago Thursday, a loon climbed up on nest and stayed. Within the first two days, it became clear a loon couple had laid two eggs in the nest.  "Hot damn," we thought. "We're going to have a loon chick sometime during the last week of Jue." 

But on Sunday, as I sat at my desk, I heard a terrible scream. At first I thought the loon was bothered by the moose I'd just seen swimming in the bay, but there was something about the heart-wrenching nature of the scream that made me think the loon was in true trouble. When I made it out on to the porch to get a view of the nest, I saw an eagle sitting in a gnarly jack pine about twenty feet from the nest. In the distance, another eagle soared in the sky. The loon, probably driven off the nest by the pesky black flies, was swimming near the nest, calling out in distress.

The eagle in the tree swooped down towards the nest and the loon raised up on its back quarters to protest until the eagle returned to his perch. But the second time the eagle swooped down, he seemed to catch something in his talon which fell in a spray into the lake.

I hoped I hadn't seen what I suspected I had, but yesterday morning when I arrived at work and saw no loon on the nest I knew it was true; the eagle had destroyed both of the loons' eggs.

Although the loons no longer had eggs to incubate, they visited the nest a couple times yesterday. They swam around the nest, climbing on top of the floating platform and softly cooing in some sort of heartbreaking loon conversation. It's early in the season and loons will likely use the nest to lay another egg. But it's still no fun to watch and it's easy to feel angry at the eagle who didn't even get a tasty snack out of his raid.

It all goes to show that we can't assume wild animals live some Disney-fied cartoon existence. Every animal is fighting hard for its survival. It's not all wildflowers and butterflies and happy little fawns with Bambi eyes. The critters of the forest play by a whole different rulebook than us humans, one that can horrify us and that can be difficult to justify. But, whether we like it or not, it's a dog-eat-dog (or eagle-eat-loon egg) world out there and nature is not always nice and we're in no position to interfere with the laws of Mother Nature.

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Because That's A Laugh . . .

Friday, June 3, 2011
I must be on a "not my job" kick, because I suddenly feel the need to share with you all another career confession. This one's pretty silly.

You see, a couple years back, disillusioned by the terrible job market I found after college, I decided I needed to go to school . . . to get my elementary teaching certificate.

Let me explain. The "decision" came about a year and a half after college graduation, when I was in my hometown, living in my childhood bedroom. A few months before that I'd ended my first long-term relationship and had almost immediately started a less than great "rebound" relationship which mainly involved me throwing myself at someone who really wasn't willing or able to be what I wanted him to be. I was ready to get on with my life, to go all confidently in the direction of my dreams like Thoreau recommends, but on the way between here and dreamland, apparently I'd lost my map. When at the proverbial fork in the road, I figured, best to go back to school.

At the time, teaching didn't sound like a bad gig. I like kids and I'm actually pretty good at developing educational materials. For several years during high school, I'd coached little munchkins (K-2) in hockey and soccer. I'm not going to say I was great at it, but I wasn't half bad either.And summers off for writing? Heck yes!

But, needless to say, I didn't go back to school for my teaching certificate. It's shame really, because sometimes I really regret not getting to deal with situations like this on a daily basis. 

Yes, these children are taking turns strangling each other. I mean, how precious is that?! 

We keep having field trip at work and whereas each field trip goes a little better than the last, I'm always amazed by just how much crowd control is involved in public schooling and how little "schooling" gets done. I mean, were we this bad on our school field trips? (Of course we were!) I'm also always pretty astounded by how bad I am at getting the kids to listen and get my point across. Although I assumed I'd be a natural at the whole teaching thing, the truth is that teaching does not use one single skill from my "best skill set."

So no, I don't have a teaching certificate and you know what? I'm okay with that.

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Knock Yourself Out Mark Zuckerberg

Thursday, June 2, 2011
We watched The Social Network the other night and it got me thinking about a lot of things; namely, Mark Zuckerberg. Before watching the movie, I'd heard a statement that Zuckerberg's goal for the year is to eat only things he kills with his own hands. Huh?

Now we all know by now that I'm a little idealistic when it comes to trying to live locally and sustainably. I love the idea of cracking open a can of my own locally grown canned goods or pulling some local cut of meat out of the freezer. I feel that if we all ate a little closer to home, the world just might be a slightly better place.

But I also live in northern Minnesota, where eating locally means some wild rice, a lot of blueberries, and a bit of meat when you can get it. And there's just only so much venison with blueberry sauce that a 21st century palate can take. While we eat a fair amount of meat which Andy has shot, the majority of the meat we consume at the cabin isn't even organic.

Why? Well, it takes a lot of food to feed two people for an entire year.

The venison Andy got last Novemeber was all gone by April and we only used about a pound of the meat a week. During grouse season, Andy and I went out hunting nearly every night and while we managed to get enough poultry to provide one or two weekly dinners, we never even stockpiled enough grouse to have any in the freezer for "later." Believe it or not, all that's left of last year's blueberries is less than a cup of berries, rattling around in a gallon bag in the back of the freezer. Even what, at the time, can appear to be massive amounts of food can disappear quickly.

Then there's the price issue. In a world where time is money, we can't afford to spend every waking moment scrounging for food. And much as I'd like to eat only organic, that ideology is a little rough on my pocketbook.

Just yesterday I came back from the grocery store with a nominal amount of food in my (reusable) bags and one honking total on my receipt. "That's it," I declared. "No more fresh produce for us." Forget the yummy red strawberries at $3.65 a pound; next week I'm just going to pick up some cans of Flavorite fruit cocktail in lieu of all the (expensive) fresh fruit salad ingredients I picked up yesterday.

Now, I'm not sure what Zuckerberg means when he says he's only eating food he shot with his own hands. Is he counting produce too? Because let me tell you, as Andy and I ran around last night covering up the gardens to protect them from the latest frost advisory, I realized even a little garden can demand more of you than you ever expected.

With his unlimited funds, maybe Zuckerberg is in a better position to succeed at this "with your own hands" eating game. But while I may consistently cry "busy", I have a feeling Zuckerberg has a couple more obligations and commitments than I do.

Mark, if you figure out how to do this: 1) You're a better man than me and 2) Let me know how you did it.  

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Wordless Wednesday Part II: More Wildflowers

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Lookie what we found! We went out blueberry scouting and stumbled upon a patch of Moccasin Flowers just behind the cabin.

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