Sunday, June 26, 2022
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Hi this is Sue from Solid Rock Minnesota. Thank you once again for taking the time to listen to our podcast or read our blog or check out our website. As always it is fun to see where our listeners and readers are from. There are many from all 50 states and close to 50 countries all over the world.
Sunday, June 19, 2022
About 2 years ago one of the Grand-daughters and I turned an old metal falling down shed into a chicken coop. While neither one of us knew much about construction, we did figure out what we wanted the coop to have in terms of housing a dozen chickens or so.
We set out one early morning and found a bunch of used lumber in the barn and bought some hard mesh wire at Fleet Farm and set out to make the “ultimate” coop. Remembering the old saying of ‘measure twice, cut once” we got some old 2x4’s cut to make a wall and a door for the front of the coop. We partitioned off the back 4x8 feet of the metal shed and then proceeded to put the mesh on it.
After patching up our cuts on our legs and hands from the sharp wire mesh, it was time to make the nesting boxes. While I like to watch the chickens and gather the eggs daily, I do not like walking into the coop to get the eggs. So with the help of the Grand-daughter, we made a big wooden 3 sided box, with the top being hinged and able to open it into the nesting area from outside the coop that wasn’t partitioned off. Then we separated the box into 3 areas so the girls could choose where they wanted to lay their eggs.
We finished the 2 day project and painted the nesting area and put down vinyl flooring in the coop for easy cleaning up the floor mess of shavings and chicken manure. We then put a chicken wire fence 6 foot high around the coop for a run. We don’t free range the chickens due to dogs and coyotes and weasels and other chicken grabbing critters out in the yard.
About a week after putting the 3 month old chicks in the coop they were let loose to forage in the fenced in area. And then one night it happened…something got into the pen and grabbed 2 of the hens we had. I came out that morning to feathers all over the yard and the chickens left in the coop all huddled in a corner. Something had gotten to the run.
Beyond being upset that we could have gotten the whole flocked wiped out, I was determined to fortify the area so nothing could get in there again. I found an old chain link 6 foot high dog fence on Marketplace and with the help of the Grand-daughter once again, we got the start of Fort Chix set up. I then found an old electric fencer from when we had goats and horses. I strung up 4 strands of electric fence around the run from 4 inches high to 6 feet at the top. After accidentally bumping into it, I knew it worked just fine. And then came the outdoor lights on a timer that would go on at dusk until dawn each evening. The coop was set, with the exception of security guards posted on the corners of each side, it was fortified for anything that may try to hop the fence. I had to hope nothing would fly and swoop in the small area.
That night I had the window open and was awake most of the night on and off listening for any ruckus down at the coop. I was dozing off when I awoke to a yelp and a yip. Just once. I went down to the coop to make sure everything was ok and found the chickens all tucked in safely in their coop on their swinging perches. I didn't see what caused the yelping but figured a coyote as I had heard the pups in the field earlier yipping. The wire worked and since then we have never had an invasion since.
Last winter, before we left for Texas for a few weeks, I decide to rehome the chickens we had so that we didn’t have to have our neighbors out in -30 below weather caring for them. It was a good decision at the time, but eventually we got Spring here in Minnesota and I was missing having the chickens. I was especially missing a crowing rooster in the morning.
So I cleaned out the coop and plugged in the electric fence and off I went to a nearby farm that had a few chickens and a rooster. I was able to pick out 4 hens and a silly looking crested rooster with feathers missing off his supposed to be fluffy head. He wasn’t the only rooster at the farm and he obviously was last in line for the lutefisk as we say here in Minnesota. He was picked on by the other rooster who outweighed him by a good 5 pounds. I took him out of pity.
We got home and got the flock settled into their new coop and run and immediately the rooster started to crow, strutting and puffing out his chest. I was glad we chose him, as goofy as he looks right now. He was officially named Top Hat and hopefully will grow feathers again and live up to his name. We have been enjoying his crow in the mornings.
A few days later as I was looking at the 4 hens, I realized that we could house a few more hens for more eggs. This for all that haven't heard the expression is called…chicken math. One is probably too many and a dozen are never enough. So I convinced my Best Half that a couple more wouldn’t be any more work than what we have already.
Off we went to another farm where they had some chickens to rehome. They were about the same age as the ones we had already and all were laying already. So now we have Top Hat and 8 hens in the area. Once again eggs are starting to show up in the nesting boxes. I feel like we have a bit of a farm once again. As for Top Hat, he crows every morning and a few times throughout the day. He is happy and content to be the only rooster and is taking care of his girls making sure they are safe.
As for the flock of 9…..I still have room for a few more…according to my chicken math!
Sunday, June 12, 2022
It seems it is finally Summer here in the North Country. The trees have all their full foliage, the grass is growing like crazy and needing mowing every week, the corn has popped up and maybe it will be knee high by the 4th of July. The mornings are cool but heat up quickly into the day and maybe for the next few months we won’t have to worry about frost in the garden…or worse freezing temps and snow.
Sitting here this morning looking out on the back field and watching the turkeys and deer wandering in the soybean field, I am amazed by all that is green and all the life surrounding our farm. The sounds of Summer echo all that is good and all that is abundant outside while I sit here listening and watching. It really doesn’t get any better than this for a morning of reflection into my surroundings.
I’m listening to the sounds of silence mixed with a woodpecker knocking on the tree in the front yard. It sounds almost like morse code coming through the tree bark. I wonder just what he is saying. Meanwhile out on the ground in the front yard, a few bunnies hop around near the woods and a bunch of squirrels are chasing each other in what seems like a game of squirrel tag. The birds are chirping and sweet sounds are coming from the trees. Out in the back field there are turkeys and pheasants squawking back and forth while the deer walk across the field leisurely with younger ones following close behind. It is truly a picture to behold while I sit at the kitchen table with my mug of tea, looking out this morning.
Sitting here each morning always gives me a few minutes to wake up and to be present to the day that is headed my way. Soon it will be filled with the dogs barking at the bunnies and deer, a car or two or the mail truck going up and down the dirt road kicking up dust and noise. Or the sound of tractors in the fields nearby and lawn mowers going again and reminding me it is once again time to mow here too. But for this moment, this present moment I am sitting at the kitchen table with the windows open and breathing in the fresh air and watching and listening to the yard and field come alive with the new day. I am grateful for sitting here and taking in all of life’s blessings that surround me. Today is my best day ever.
Sunday, June 5, 2022
Over the past several months I have taken to looking at the Zillow app for lake cabins and land by a lake that we could buy for what we could afford…like a dollar or two. I have surfed the internet with Zillow and looked at so many properties up North of us that I could become a real estate agent and tell you all the good and bad parts of the properties I have looked at virtually. I’ve looked at just that many.
The really neat thing about Zillow is the virtual tours they have and the satellite photos you can look at. I love to look at the lay of the land on satellite. You can see if it is high ground, marsh or surrounded by swampland. Or even worse, surrounded by mansions and glorious manicured yards.
The past few weeks I found some more remote lakeshore properties, which we can’t ever afford, but it sure has been fun looking at them and daydreaming. One was an old fishing camp with 2 small cabins set back from a small lake. Unfortunately the 4 acres was only about ½ acre that wasn’t swamp and marsh. But looking at the pictures brought me back to a way simpler time in life…summer's up at the cabin when I was a kid.
My parents and a few of my aunts and uncles owned lakeshore property that once was part of the farm they grew up on. My one uncle owned the main land with a typical Minnesota farmhouse, barn, pump house and other outbuildings. They ran dairy cows and some crops. Another aunt and uncle had a farm on the other side of Grey Eagle and also were dairy farmers.
Our cabin was a one room building, not insulated and no indoor plumbing. The outhouse was out back and water was hauled in with a 5 gallon metal cream can that had a spigot on it. The cabin was partitioned off into a few bedrooms by way of some wire strung across the rafters with curtains hanging down that you could pull closed. There was a kitchen area with a propane stove and a small electric fridge in the corner. And a big round kitchen table off to the other side. And one of my favorite spots, the chairs that sat near the pot-bellied wood stove. There also was a front screened in porch overlooking the lake where you could always hear the waves lapping up on the rocky shoreline. Here was a big overstuffed chair in the corner of the porch where I would sit sometimes and listen to the water hitting the shore and fall asleep for a while, usually with a dog on top of me sleeping. It was some of the best times of my childhood spending Summers at the cabin. It was the only time I got to be a free range kid…you know, no real rules and hardly any boundaries.
For the most part the cabin was surrounded by the lake on the front side and pasture land with dairy cattle grazing all around the one side and back of the cabin. On the other side in later years my uncle Ray had a trailer next door where his in-laws spent most of their Summers. Down the road and across the creek (or crick as it’s called up North) was my Uncle Ed’s farm and more pasture between us. Down the other way along the road were a few cabins from other people and at the very end was Doug and his family who had kids the same age as my brothers and me. And his in-laws Grandpa and Grandma Louie and Clara. They weren't cousins or even relatives. How did non-relatives get to be down the road from us? Well Doug was my dad’s partner on the police force where they both worked. They were as good as brothers and each looked out for the other and their families. So all up and down that dirt road was family and friends. A mile long road where everyone knew you and looked out for each other.
Summers at the cabin were always fun because there were really no boundaries for me, even at a young age of 8 or 9. I could wander around up and down the road looking for agates, or head out to the pasture when the cows were in for milking. Out there my brothers and I would catch big frogs and bring them back to the cabin. Our Grandma Grey Eagle ,as we called her, would skin them and fry the frog legs up in a pan for a special treat for us. And yeah they taste like a sweet chicken. To this day I will choose frog legs over shrimp any day. A casino near us used to have that on their buffet menu on seafood nights. Not only was it good eating, but it flooded my mind with all memories of the cabin. Unfortunately, Covid kind of wiped out the buffet and it hasn’t reopened yet. I keep hoping.
Up at the cabin, I always woke up early with a cow staring in the window chewing its cud. The smell of the cow manure, alfalfa and lake water and the feeling of the sun warming up the cabin in the morning was one of the greatest things ever to experience, even to this day. I would jump up, get dressed, and head with my Zebco fishing pole down to the shore. There I would sit and cast my line and catch big sunfish that would pull my line out to deeper water. And sometimes a big bass or Northern would sink its teeth in my nightcrawler and would break my line, hook, sinker and bobber. And I would watch the unattached bobber swim out to the drop off on the other side of the bullrushes. I would sit on the dock for what seemed like hours with my feet dangling in the water waiting for someone to wake up to take me in the boat. You can imagine my thrill when my day came and my dad told me I could take the boat out by myself. At first it was only rowing and not going out past the rushes where the drop off was, but eventually I got the tutorial on how to start and run the Johnson 5 hp motor on the row boat. It was such an incredible feeling to be zooming with my hair blowing and the water splashing my face. Granted I was still only allowed in front of the cabin and not out in the deeper part of the lake, but it was a feeling of immense power and excitement for a kid about 10-11 years old. Even though the boundaries were set on where I could go, I was free to take the boat anytime and fish…as long as I could be seen from the front porch of the cabin.
In the afternoons I would take my BB gun and go “hunting”. I do admit a few barn swallows lost their lives perched on the electric poles. But I realized pop cans were a better target since I could put them anywhere and shoot the same one until it was too full of holes to hold a BB. I would wander the fields pretending I was on the frontier scouting for buffalo, the black and white Holstein cows were the buffalo. The only concern running through the fields was the electric fence and making sure I didn’t zap myself touching it as I crawled under it. In later years my cousins and brothers would dare each other to touch it. Looking back now after being a nurse for decades…it reminds me of when a patient is cardio-converted…a zap sent to the heart to get it regulated and beating normally. Wonder if any heart trouble was warded off by the electric fence?
My biggest thing I didn’t like back then was the outhouse, I always had a fear of my big brothers locking me in there, or worse dangling me head first over the toilet hole. I would run in there as fast as I could and run out before they knew where I was. Being the only girl with two big brothers sometimes had its disadvantages. But mostly my brothers were always looking out for me whether in the Cities at home, or up at the cabin. And because of them I learned to stand my ground and take care of myself pretty well. I do love those 2 knuckleheads I call my brothers.
I probably will continue to look at Zillow properties on a lake, knowing affording it is a dream, but it sure brings back memories from a simpler time in life up at the cabin. I’ll always remember the family, massive numbers of cousins and aunts and uncles doing a picnic next to the lake, my uncle Al and Uncle Ray playing a polka song on the accordion. And my aunts singing ”roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun”. Here’s to that simpler time in life.
Sunday, May 29, 2022
We have 2 dogs here with us. Zoe, our 6 year old Yellow Lab and Max, our 3 year old Labradoodle. While both are great dogs, each definitely has their own personality and agenda.
I like dogs and I like training them to do odd jobs for me and feel like they are contributing to the household. Dogs are awesome companions for most any person that is willing to take one in and feed and care for it. Dogs have that unconditional love for their human that in my opinion outshines many people’s love and respect for their fellow humans.
We have had many dogs over the years and every one had a certain job they did for us. Whether it was doing rounds down at the barn and henhouse or chasing after the kids when they went hiking by the river and out in the woods, all of our dogs learned what they were needed for at a really early age.
I guess over the years there have maybe been favorite dogs we have had. The ones that got a little deeper into our hearts than some of the others. For my Best Half it was definitely, Rainey, his Aussie, that was also his ears for about 10 years. She was a gentle soul that eagerly helped him through parking lots with cars coming up behind him that he couldn’t hear. She was a one in a million dog.
I have had a few dogs that have left their paw print on my heart over the years too, but I have to say, the 2 we have right now are in the top running for best dogs ever. And both couldn’t be further apart in personality and learning.
When I got Zoe 6 years ago, the plan was that she would help me with some of the things that I wasn’t fond of doing, the things that hurt my back. Mostly it was the laundry and picking stuff up off the floor. Being a Lab, she was all about retrieving any and everything she would find. And so I put her retriever brain to work at doing the laundry with me. From the time she was big enough to put her paws up and stand against the washing machine, she was grabbing the dirty laundry from the floor and putting it in the washer. For her it was a never ending game that she loved to do. When the dryer would shut off, she would reach into the dryer and get all the clothes out for me and either give them to me or drop them in the laundry basket. She was like having a Merry Maid at the house, only she just was paid in scruffs and a piece of salami here and there.
She also learned how to open the fridge door and fetch bottled water for me. I had a rope tied to the fridge door and she would put it with her mouth and tug on it until it opened and then grab the bottled water off the shelf. I eventually had to put the kibosh on her fridge skills as she started bringing me the salami for her treat. She was taking it upon herself to surf the fridge for any snack that seemed appealing to her at the moment. And as we all know, there isn’t much a Lab won’t eat.
Zoe still helps with the housework, she will pick up toys left by the grandkids, and every morning will bring us her and Max’s bowl after she eats. But lately, since Rainey is no longer with us, she has taken it upon herself to be at my Best Half’s side all the time. She will sleep on the floor right next to him if he is out at the kitchen table, waiting for him to make a move so she can
follow him. At night when we are kicked back watching TV, she will place her head on his lap and doze off while he strokes her soft velvety head. They have developed quite a relationship the past few months.
While never being specifically trained like Rainey was to be a hearing dog, Zoe has picked up where Rainey had left off. At times, I think Rainey and Zoe worked out a deal that Zoe would take over once Rainey was gone from us. It was almost immediately after Rainey was gone that Zoe picked up the job and became a new support for my Best Half. After 6 years of having Zoe more or less as my dog, she decided to join allegiance with my Better Half. A concern we had when Rainey left us was who would be his ears when I wasn’t with him was fixed by Zoe taking on the role. So I am OK with her doing that. She just intuitively knows to alert him when someone is calling his name. Or turn around when there is a car behind them in a parking lot. The same things we had spent teaching Rainey to do. While I could feel a bit sad handing Zoe off to work for someone besides me, I have Max. For good or for bad I have Max.
Max, our 3 year old Labradoodle, came to us when he was about 12 weeks old. I had been looking at Goldendoodles and Labradoodles for a few months and was planning to get one eventually to train as a hearing dog as Rainey was getting older and possibly would be retiring as age was starting to show. The plan was that it would take about 3 years to train a new hearing dog and by that time Rainey would be close to 11 and probably ready to kick back into retirement.
It became pretty clear that after we had Max for about 6 months he was not hearing dog material. For a dog to be a hearing dog, it must be able to react to sounds quickly and consistently. Max had a thought process that seemed to be slow at best when asked to do basic stuff like sit. He would look at you with his head tilted to the side, then look beyond the person making the request to see if there were any better offers out there. After about 5 seconds he would comply and do what was being asked of him. Max is just a really laid-back dog. So much so that even when he is getting clipped and groomed, he will fall asleep and I will have to lift him and move him around like a rag doll in order to get the other side of him clipped. Because of Max’s extreme calmness…or laziness (I haven’t figured out which) we disqualified him as a hearing dog candidate. We figured by the time he saw a car in the parking lot coming his way,and figured out what to do, it would plow the two of them over. Max just doesn’t have the quick decision making ability needed for a hearing dog.
So Zoe is now officially teamed up with my Best Half and they continue to work together with the hearing and her alerting him. And that leaves Max to be teamed up with me as my partner. While he is slow moving to process things in his brain, he is an incredible dog and actually pretty smart. He is about 75 lbs of muscle and has begun bracing his long tall body to help me up off the floor. I call him my “Help, Ive fallen and can’t get up” dog. Whenever I am down on the floor doing something like picking up or rearranging a bottom shelf, Max will stand next to me the whole time waiting for me to pull myself up with him. He is solid and strong and when I put my arm around him he will walk backwards and assist me up to standing. His one command that he doesn’t have to process for any length of time. I just say “brace” And he gets in position. He is constantly by my side. He knows how much I hate picking stuff off the floor because of my back and balance, so he will bring me anything I point to. There may be a few seconds process delay, but he always comes through. So while he would have made a terrible hearing dog, Max is an awesome Merry Maid housekeeper helping around the house with those things that are hard for me to do. He earns his keep right along with Zoe.
While we have always had a few dogs around the house, Max and Zoe seem to be the ones that have found it in themselves to help take care of us. They have unconditional love for both of us, while at the same time bonded to one they want to assist. They are always willing to help us out. Now if I could just get them to team up and do the snowplowing and empty the dishwasher and vacuum.
Sunday, May 22, 2022
Down the dirt road from us we have neighbors that we visit back and forth. They are our friends Karen and Wayne. Over the past few years we have had the chance to get to know one another and share many interests and activities living on the same road for the past 20 years or more.
Last weekend was the fishing opener for us here in the Minnesota North country. It is one of the few things in Spring that offers a glimpse of coming out of a long winter and the beginnings of entering into the mosquito and thunderstorm and tornado days of Summer. While usually around the opener it is cold and rainy or a mix of sleet and snow and some of the more Northern lakes not even having ice out, this opener was an exception to the rule. It actually was warmer than it has been and there were sunny skies. Oftentimes, being that we are close to lakes and can get out on the lakes anytime, we skip the opener and leave it for those that drive up from the Cities and make the trek out to the busy lakes on opening day.
My Best Half and I had a chance recently to meet up with our friends Karen and Wayne out at one of the lakes around here to do some fishing for some crappies and sunnies the day before the opener. It was a chance to hit a lake before the crowds of pontoons and bass boats came lurking around the fishing piers and shoreline.
We made plans to meet up at the lake nearby and do some shore fishing and see if we could catch a few fish coming into shallow warmer water to spawn. The plan was to meet around 7:00-8:00 am and spend a little time together.
We got to the shoreline around 8 and Wayne and Karen had already been there since about 6:30 scoping out the shoreline. Wayne had caught some small stuff. We decided to go and try the actual fishing pier since there was no one there fishing. Everyone was on the shoreline as we had had several inches of rain and the water level was pretty high. And no one wanted to walk through the water to get up on the dock, except for one other person. So Wayne and I schlepped through the water and hopped on the dock while our spouses stayed on shore and visited with each other. Unlike Wayne and me, our spouses aren’t as intense and into fishing as Wayne and I are.
Once there we casted out our lines and we came upon lots of huge plump fat crappies and sunnies. One by one with each cast the fish were chomping on our hooks. First a few, then a dozen and then pretty soon the bucket was full to the brim with the huge panfish. All around us few were catching the fish like we were. We were enjoying reeling in some big fish.
This was my first time fishing with Wayne. I like to usually fish alone, often just because I can go where I want and not have to keep a conversation going with another person. It becomes more of a time of a quiet solitude with nature and my surroundings, a chance to re-energize my soul.
That day out on the dock, I realized fishing with Wayne was like looking in the mirror. His fishing style is much like mine. There was no fancy equipment and tackle that he was changing out every few minutes to try to get that elusive Walleye, there was just him and his simple rod and reel with a hook and bobber, slamming and hauling in fat fish one after another.
Our conversation on the dock that day was bits and pieces of other fishing memories we shared as kids and places we had fished. Nothing urgent, nothing that even required a response more than a nod or an occasional “yeah”. There was a quiet solitude and friendship there between Wayne and me. A time to just gaze out on the lake and watch our bobbers dancing up and down on the water. A chance to reel in some nice fish.
It wasn’t too long after setting up on the dock that we had enough fish to call it a successful
morning. It was time to go and walk back into the reality of our day.
As we were leaving Wayne and Karen loaded up the fish and invited us for a fish fry. I’m not sure it could get any better than that first morning fishing this year. Not only did we catch some nice big fish, but we got invited to the fish fry…and it wouldn’t involve me having to fillet any fish! Or really do any frying of the fish. Talk about a win-win situation. That never happens to me. I always have to fillet them and fry them. And it is a lot of work when you have so many panfish.
We headed down the road to their house in the evening and were welcomed into their home with the smell of fresh sunnies and crappies in the pan and a feast that left my stomach full and my heart filled to the brim with gratitude for our friends down the dirt road. Here’s to some more great fishing times. Tight lines, everyone!