Sunday, August 28, 2022

Meet Hannah Savana

Last Winter and early Spring we had made lots of traveling plans to take Big Eddie (the Ford Expedition) and the C.O.W (Cabin On Wheels) and go camping up North, maybe a road trip or two to South Dakota or somewhere else. And then it happened…

Gas prices shot up close to $5 a gallon. The grocery bill went upward as well as our other monthly bills. All in all it has been about a $300-$400/ month increase in the daily budget. That’s not including any traveling money we would need to take the camper out. So all Summer, between the rising costs coming to us and having a construction crew at the house the month of July and well into August, well let’s just say, traveling hasn’t been happening this Summer.

In discussing traveling with an outfit that gets about 10 mpg, we decided we needed to re-group and weigh out other options. While I would be fine to pitch a tent and have a decent air mattress or cot and camp, my Best Half isn’t that outdoorsy. He wants a bed to get out of that doesn’t require getting up off the floor. He wants to sleep in something that won’t wash away if there is a good hard rain. We are quite different in what we each consider comfort when camping in one place for a few days. But I also would prefer not having to pitch a tent every night when traveling cross-country. I like being able to pull into a rest stop if needed and fall asleep in a vehicle or camper. 

So came the dilemma. We want to do some cross-country travels like we did when we had the conversion van. It had a bed, plenty of storage and was dry and safe when parking for the night. Big Eddie alone did not fit that need, especially when traveling with the 100 lb dogs, Zoe and Max. 

We started looking for conversion vans that would also haul the C.O.W. for longer trips where we park and stay a few days or weeks. I searched Marketplace and found a couple vans that were described to be almost new. When we went to look at them, it was all I could do to not puke from the stench of one and the garbage sprawled all over the other van.

After looking online and chatting we finally found a possible lead on a conversion van with low miles and extra headroom. It was about an hour North of us, so we hopped in the minivan and headed North to see it. 

When we got there it was pretty nice looking and minimal Minnesota rust which is always a bonus. The price of used vehicles around Minnesota right now is pretty steep and there was no way we wanted to pay the price the guy was asking. We offered considerable less, as I was holding all the bills in my hand. He agreed to it and off we went home with our “new” vehicle. It was beautiful and quite roomy with a bed that folds with the push of a button. 

We got it home without any problems and then took a look at Big Eddie, remembering the awesome trip to Texas the past Winter. Big Eddie kept us safe and warm for those 3000 miles. But the new GM Savana could let us get away on trips without having to haul the camper. Saving us at least 50% more gas than if we took the camper. So the decision to sell Big Eddie came relatively easy.

As usual of our vehicle selling, an ad was put in Maretplace and within a few days, we sold the big lug of a vehicle. I am not sure why, but I get kind of connected to our vehicles, so when they get sold and I see the taillights going down the road, I get a little sentimental. But not for long.

I went to the new van and measured the floor area and got a rug to put down over the van carpet. This always is easier when hauling Zoe and Max.The rug can get yanked out and hosed down to get the hair and dirt off it.

I got the phone cords hidden and tucked in and a small cooler with us up front.I have all the kitchen supplies and a tent under the bed where there is a ton of storage. The bed is made up for sleeping and the blinds on the windows are all fixed and tight. They had been slipping down when we drove, so I went on YouTube and figured out how to re-string them. They are as good as new.

Over the next few weeks we are planning some short trips to check out the new camper/van. Some with the C.O.W. and some solo. Is this the one that we will keep and use and be content with? Who knows. Our poor insurance agent can’t keep up with all the wheeling and dealing we do with our vehicles. He is hoping we will keep this for a while I am pretty sure. I am hoping we keep it for a while too. It is the perfect size for the two of us, I can drive it, and bonus…I can stand up in it in the back  part. There are advantages to being 5’4” sometimes. 

As always, we needed to give the new vehicle a name. After discussion and contemplation we named her Hannah Savana who will get us to Montana because we would need a boat for Havana, but maybe someday we can drive her to Louisiana to buy a banana. Here’s to some good trips with Hannah Savana.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

How We Are Spending Our Summer

A few months ago, we had a major wind and hail storm go through and do some pretty significant damage to our house. Our siding got pummeled by the hail that was blowing sideways on the house. And the trim on the South side of the house was torn away from the house in some spots. All the screens on the South side windows were full of dents and holes from hail hitting them.

Figuring that it was enough damage to file an insurance claim, my Best Half made the call to our insurance agent and set up a time to get an adjuster out to survey the damage. We figured we would get some help with repairs but weren’t sure how much.

The day came when the adjuster came out and met with us and the contractor we had called to do the work. The two of them went up on the roof, all around the house and then wound up in the backyard with us watching them. The adjuster, just doing his job, gave us a ridiculous estimate of about $1200 of damages. The contractor pointed out all the dents in the siding from the hail, the flapping in the wind trim and the screens with holes. The adjuster just kept saying that the damage was from the lawn mower throwing rocks at the house. Well considering it was all new dings and dents in the house and we hadn’t even had the mower out yet for the season, my Best Half lost it. And so did I. A person can only be “Minnesota Nice” for so long before having to stand up for yourself. That day wound up with us calling our agent while the adjuster was there, the contractor talking to our agent and listing all the damage and us asking the adjuster to leave as we would need another opinion. He packed up his stuff and high tailed it off the property.
It would be a few weeks later before another adjuster came out and gave us an honest assessment of the damages. We would be getting our house completely re-sided and new trim as they didn’t make the color siding anymore and would need to replace it all.

Fast forward two months and we now have new siding on our house. The siding job was completed about 3 weeks ago. We decided to get 3 windows replaced and the trim and windows have been on backorder. Meanwhile there is a huge dumpster sitting right in the middle of the driveway making it impossible to drive into the garage. Not to mention the stench coming from the dumpster. While only the old siding was put in there, it is hard to say what was in there before it was set in our driveway. But there is a definite stench coming from it and coming in through the windows.

FInally, last week we got a call from the contractor and the trim and windows are in stock. The plan was to come the next morning to “get ‘er done” once and for all. But after a period of 2-3 weeks of no rain, the skies opened with some good much needed rain for a few days. And then came some high winds…no trim or windows l
delivered no one here to do the work. And so we waited another week for the work to be done. And another week of the stinky dumpster in the driveway.

I’m sitting here this morning looking out at a beautiful blue sky and dry morning. The sun is shining on the dumpster and heating it up to provide some more stench. Will today be the day we get the work that is left finally done? It is halfway through the morning so I am thinking probably not. In the meantime there is a 6 foot window box and several feet of rain gutters sitting in our yard. We continue to move it around the yard when we have to mow. I’m still thinking the original workers forgot to rehang the flower box when the siding was finished. Will the next crew get it rehung, who knows? 

I never knew large home remodeling could take so long. Between trying to get the supplies, getting the weather to cooperate and having workers driving the 50 miles up from the Cities, it is going on month two for completion. It has been quite the mess and undertaking. I am just watching it all and in the back of my mind wondering if it will ever all get done. 

In the meantime, waiting for the workers to show up when they say they are coming and trying to be around when they are getting it done, we have missed out on a good month of going camping this Summer. And also some overnight fishing. Each day gets closer to Fall…and each day closer to Fall gets closer to Winter. It is a little hard trying to stay patient when there is just a little left to do to get it completely finished so we can get on with Summer.

Minnesota Summers fly by so fast. One moment you are seeing the ice off the lakes and the next you are seeing ice houses headed out on to the frozen lakes. It is just that fast. It is probably good we had no definite travel plans for the first Summer of our retirement. It did kind of make Summer seem to linger some. We did get a lot of projects done around the house and garage and barn. But just wait…when it is all done…I’ll be up on the Gunflint trail with my kayak and fishing pole. Here’s hoping I don’t have to cut through ice to launch my kayak.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Policing My Brothers and Me

I was fortunate to grow up in a household with 2 older brothers. One is about 5 or 6 years older than me and one is about 3 years older than me. Both were great brothers growing up and to this day I look up to them. They always looked out for me and for the most part they kept me safe from the everyday things a kid could get into back then. I’ll probably never know if it was genuine concern for their little sister or the thought of our dad finding out they weren’t watching over me. You see our dad was a St. Paul Police Officer back in the days when rather than arresting a kid and bringing them to the juvenile detention center, the officers would bring them home to face their parents. Sometimes that would be way worse. And our dad lived by that principle…when we heard “Wait til your Father gets home”, it was the longest time spent waiting for whatever the consequence was he would deliver. Our Dad was a great Dad but we knew to behave…just because he could give us “the look””…or a good swat across the behind. Never abusive, but always effective.

Being the only girl and the youngest, I am sure I got away with way more than my brothers did. Being my brothers were older, they seemed to get into more trouble and shenanigans than I did. Or at least it seems they got caught more often.

One of the most memorable times I have of my oldest brother was one St Patrick’s Day. He was a junior or senior in high school and decided to skip school and go to the big parade downtown celebrating being Irish and St Patrick’s Day. St Paul always had a huge festive parade with lots of green beer and many people out marching and celebrating St Patrick’s Day. My oldest brother decided it would be fun to march in the parade. Mind you, we are not a single bit Irish.

The day started like any other school day, my brother got to drive the newer Chevy Caprice we had to school. Me and my other brother went our ways off to school. I was in grade school and my two brothers were at different high schools. Our Dad always allowed us to choose what high school we wanted to go to…as long as it was Catholic. 

The school day came to an end for me and I walked the mile home and came into the house to find my oldest brother sitting on the footstool holding his white T-shirt up to his bloody nose and our Dad sitting in the chair facing him. My brother was apologizing and crying and our Dad, sitting there in his police uniform, was trying to find out what had happened. 

Well seeing the sight and how upset my brother was and how calm my dad was, I knew it was best if I just went to my room and holed up there until the coast was clear to come back downstairs. It would be a long time until I found out what happened that day. 

My brother made it to the parade and was marching in it along with many others who were drinking and drunk. He and his friends got into an all out fist fight with another group of guys. All had been drinking and my brother got his nose punched and broken. This was just one of the many times he got his nose broken in his youth. Hockey and other sports took its toll on my oldest brother’s nose. And back then we didn’t run to the doctor every time he got a pop to the nose. My oldest brother has a nose that looks like the boxers you see pictures of on tv…pretty flat.

Not only did he get in a fight, but he also had been drinking the green beer and somehow managed to wreck the car that day. It was a time when our dad’s quietness was way more scary than if he would have blown his cork and yelled at my brother. We were all more used to getting a firm yelling or even a belt to the behind. Well at least my brothers were. I can honestly say I never got many spankings as a kid, my dad would just use a tone of voice that scared me straight into behaving.

A few years later my other brother managed to get the wrath of our dad at a wedding up North. We were at a family wedding and it was the traditional My Big Fat Hungarian Wedding. There were many relatives, lots of drinking and polka music, just like all the weddings on my mom’s side of the family. It was a time for us kids to hang out with all of our cousins while the adults ate and drank and would Polka and Waltz and Schottische. It was always a great day of celebrating when my mom and her family got out on the dance floor.

Meanwhile while the adults were celebrating, my 16 year old brother and another cousin were sneaking drinks and feeling the effects. They were out on the church steps when our dad found him sloshed. My brother was hauled into the back seat of the car with our dad’s face beat red. We were ready to make the 120 mile trip home with my brother full of whatever he had been drinking and our dad fuming mad at my brother’s choices.

The drive home consisted of my brother saying he didn’t feel too good and our dad having to stop the car often so my brother could throw up. Somewhere between our dad setting his jaw and being silent and about the 2nd or 3rd stop for my brother to puke his guys out, our dad lost it. He looked at my brother and threatened to make him stand there and drink a quart of whiskey. That caused my brother to puke some more. It was a long drive home but we made it and my brother lived to see another day… hungover. 

My most memorable story of me in getting trouble with our dad was when I was about 10 and my mom found matches in my pocket. When she asked what I was doing with them, I froze. She asked if I had been playing with matches and I shook my head yes. I got the “Wait til your Father gets home” comment and trembling went to my room to wait out my fate. It would be hours before he got home.

When he finally got home I came downstairs and found him holding the match book from my pocket. I started crying and told him I had tried starting a campfire between the garages. He stood me in front of him holding my arms both firmly and gently at the same time and told me never to play with matches again, I could have burned down the garages. I was sobbing at this point. I think he figured he had gotten his point across and that was the end of me and matches and fire until I was older. 

My second oldest brother turned 68 this week. I find that so incredible to think that me and my brothers are getting old. My brothers and I have outlived our parents and the ages they left us by many years. We have been so fortunate  to see our kids get married and start families, something our parents lost out on for the most part way back when. 

My brothers and I now have grown kids of our own and they are raising their kids to be the best they can be. And they all are turning out to be caring and decent human beings as they are entering into adulthood. Is it because our kids are doing a great job with their kids? You betcha. Is it also a result of them being raised by us,their parents? Of course. But that only happened because we had St Paul Police Officer Dad to make us who we are today. If you’re listening and watching Dad, you did alright by all of us including your great grandkids. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Summer Critters Come to Visit

The other day as we were sitting at the kitchen table, my Best Half pointed out the window and yelled “look!”. As I looked up from my morning peanut butter toast, I saw the biggest black bear I have ever seen around here! It was right out in the backyard, jaunting across towards the river that is just across the next field.
We have bears in the area and will see a mother bear and a couple cubs, or the cubs from one or two years ago. It is not super often, but it is becoming more regular this Summer. Our backyard has become the path to the river.

There is a reason for the increased bear population near us. It seems that if any bears wander too far South towards the Twin Cities suburbs and become a nuisance, they trap them and release them near us at the back entrance of the state park. That is about 5 miles away and if they follow the river (which they do) they will eventually wind up in the field and woods by us. I read once that bears have about a 50 mile radius they wander around in.

Bears can be quite the nuisance at times. Our neighbors have replaced many bird feeders as a result of the bears smashing them to the ground. Our neighbors now wind up gathering their feeders every evening and storing them in the garage until morning. We are a bit more lazy when it comes to summer bird feeding. We don’t fill the feeders until late Fall or early Winter when the bears are going into hibernation. It’s just quite a hassle to do every evening.  And bears also love to rummage through the garbage cans when they are set out the night before the pickup.

Along with the bears ambling through our yard, there are also a field fullof sand cranes and wild turkeys, many deer grazing each morning and evening, a multitude of rabbits, yipping coyotes nearby at night and the little red fox that wants my chickens badly.

A few nights ago I was having trouble falling asleep, which is not an unusual thing. I tried reading, listening to music and yet I was tossing and turning just getting more agitated at myself for not being able to fall asleep. But finally around 1 am I dozed off.

Just as I was getting into the good sleep, you know the REM sleep, I heard loud yipping. I now was lying there wide awake once again. I figured it was a coyote out behind the barn, in the field of soybeans, and would soon scamper off to the river. It was a cool night and the windows were open so I could hear stuff out there quite well. I soon realized it wasn’t a coyote as usually there is a pack of them being very vocal. 

As I was lying there listening, I realized it wasn’t the yipping sound that I was used to from the coyotes around here. It was a lone critter with a kind of sassy yip combined with a high pitched bark. But not a dog. As it kept barking, I could tell it was getting closer than behind the barn. It was sounding like it was about 10 feet from the chicken coop. 

I turned on the video camera I had hooked up to check on the coop, and all of the chickens I could see were very content. They were perched on their roosts and not looking like they were in any distress. Meanwhile the barking and yipping was getting closer to the coop. I got up and looked outside to see if I could see anything roaming in the yard. I couldn’t, but I did continue to hear the ruckus it was creating for a few more minutes. 

Just as I was getting ready to go out and see what the trouble was, all yipping and barking stopped. I crawled back in bed and listened intently to see if there was any more noise. All was quiet and I dozed off and got a few hours of sleep. With the help of the electric fence, the fox couldn’t get near the chickens. At one point I think it tried and got zapped. I had heard a more injured type of yelp and then nothing but silence.

The next morning I went out to the coop to make sure all was well. And it was. The hens and our rooster, Top Hat, greeted me at the gate for their morning Fruit Loops to peck at. I obliged and flung them a handful of Fruit Loops and a bonus handful of mini shredded wheat squares. 

I went back into the house and sat at the kitchen table once again and watched as the critters started coming out from the woods to graze on the grass and soybeans in the field. There were a few short of a dozen turkeys, several squirrels, and rabbits hopping around by the old swing set left from when the grandkids and their parents lived here. It was a regular peaceful Saint Francis of Assisi moment.

As I sat there intently watching all the wildlife bounding carefree back and forth in the yard, I looked up and saw an eagle flying above and circling the buffet of critters on the ground. All of a sudden there were rabbits and squirrels and even the turkeys running for cover. The yard and field was emptied in a matter of seconds. It kind of reminded me of in the movie Toy Story when Sid the not so nice neighbor kid would show up and all the toys would disappear and tremble. Yep, that eagle is now referred to as Sid. Sid, the eagle, circled  a little longer and then flew on down to the next field looking for breakfast. 

From rambling bears, to tiny creatures like the toad that comes into the garage to cool down on the concrete, the wildlife is a sight to behold each day. Well…until I see the enormous bull snake stretched end to end across the driveway… or worse yet, lying in the garage cooling down. That has happened and yes I am not ashamed to admit it…I screamed like a girl when the Beatles came to America…but not in a good way. I don’t do snakes ever…never…nope, I don’t like snakes.

Each morning as I sit at the kitchen table or out on the deck and look out on the field, it is such a reminder of my surroundings. I look around, I listen, and at times I even get a wiff of fresh cut hay. And it never ceases to amaze me of all the beauty that surrounds me every day if I just will take that moment to stop and become aware of where I am in the greater scheme of things. Here’s hoping we always take the time in our busy lives to just stop for a moment and become in tune with the moment.