Sunday, April 15, 2018

I'm Baaaack!

It has been almost three years since I last posted. Not sure why I stopped. Maybe it was caring for the new chickens. Maybe it was finishing up two years of professional writing and deciding I was done with WRITING AND EDITING AND RE-WRITING. Maybe it was something else. Don't remember.

But I just found my blog--sitting there since my last post in 2015. This afternoon I fired up Pinterest and was studying the image of a lovely painted-brick house with a drive of pea gravel. When I scrolled to the bottom of the page, lo and behold, there was Larkspur and GardenMother. Weird!

Since I have some time on my hands these days (I am retired now) and because it is cold and windy...and snowing in the middle of April!...maybe I should catch up.

In the intervening years, I have renovated an old farmhouse with my sister (2015-2016); discovered kayaking (2016); cleaned out my basement and set up a 3-day "you price it-you haul it" garbage sale that was so worth it $$$! (2017); and fashioned a basement space where I could rehab old furniture and work on a variety of projects during the winter (2018).

Speaking of projects, we also bought a mobile home (the "MoHo") in 2016 when my daughter was accepted into the vet med program here at Iowa State University. The MoHo park is located next to the vet college, so these mobile homes are coveted by the students not only for their proximity, but also as an inexpensive alternative to the high-rent apartment living in a university town. So, I have kept busy as landlord, groundskeeper, and Mr. Fix-it.

That's enough post for now. I have some ideas for future posts, like a story on the "before and after" of the MoHo, or tales of paddling in the Current Designs 12-foot Kestrel, or even some photos of the farmhouse project.

Next time....

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Our family's Best Friend, 2002-2015

Saturday, August 8, 2015

New Digs for the Hens

This is an image of the new housing unit for the chickens, taken last March 2015. It is amazing what one can do with a new DeWalt drill and impact driver, as well as a chop saw! 
I needed to have this done before we left for Iceland the end of March. It was a lesson about process... I sketched, I constructed, I assembled.  

Here is the chicken pen today. The veggie garden has filled in.

There's Cora, scratching in some radish tops I just threw in the run.

Working, Working

I am closing in on my final day in the trenches. I have been researching and writing reports for the National Park System, through my major professor in the Landscape Architecture department at Iowa State University . I do this part-time (contracted for 18 hours per week). Of late, I have been consumed with finishing a rough draft of a NPS report--a historic narrative of Arbuckle, aka, Chickasaw National Recreation Area in southeastern Oklahoma.

The Arbuckle Reservoir Project was a 1960s water project built by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. The project supplied water to several surrounding communities and the Kerr-McGee oil refinery in Wynnewood, OK. Pretty interesting stuff, eh?  Well, actually it is. A couple of months ago, I wandered off the research path and turned over a stone that led me to some interesting information . In the research world it is known as going down the rabbit hole, or better yet, collecting shiny objects like a magpie. The shiny objects paid off one day when I found out the Kerr-McGee oil refinery was owned by the 12th governor of Oklahoma, who later became a U.S. Senator.

I don't have any doubt that the Kerr-McGee founder and Oklahoma Democratic Senator Robert S. Kerr (1949-1963) was key to President John F. Kennedy's authorization of the Arbuckle Reservoir Project.   Water and oil were the only thing that mattered to the man known as the “the uncrowned king of the Senate." I prefer another quote: “Mr. Kennedy asked; Mr. Kerr decided”.  If Kerr's oil refinery needed water to produce petroleum-based products, then Kerr's oil refinery got water--one to two million gallons per day for pennies per gallon. Unfortunately, the American taxpayers paid over half of the total cost of $13.1 M for the Arbuckle water reclamation project that delivered water 18 miles north to Kerr-McGee Oil Refinery. 

I love my job. Research is fun, especially when you discover the shiny objects.  I am here, glued to my chair for a few more weeks...writing.

Monday, February 2, 2015


I was in the basement workshop the other night re-organizing; it was during a snowfall that garnered a Winter Storm Warning. I found this Polaroid attached to a work lamp and thought it was worthy to post. This is Evan on a day that he spent with his grandmother Yia-Yia. She slicked his hair and posed him in a rocking chair that belonged to Paul, Yia-Yia's oldest son and Ev's dad. (Notice the bruises on his shin. He was a busy guy.)

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Looking over my blog, I realize that have been living and breathing chickens for the last couple months, but I should alert you all that I do have other interests. One, in particular, is another animal who has taken up residence on Friley Road.

lucky kittie
Way back in July, I was with a friend at her family's cabin situated on a beautiful lake northeast of St. Paul. We were not vacationing, but had just made a quick trip north to slap down a coat of asphalt to a leaky section of the cabin roof. Having finished this goopy chore, I was carefully peeling away my sticky clothes for a change into something less sticky when I heard my phone ring from the back seat of the car. And then I heard a message come through. As I was cleaning my hands, there was a text being delivered. And then another round of ringing.  And more voicemail. Once I was creosote-free, I dug for the phone and saw that it was my daughter who had called. Looking at the number of attempts displayed onscreen, it looked serious. Imagining the worse, I punched the call button.

Tess answered immediately, breathless, but assured me she was all right And then her story tumbled out about how she had just rescued a kitten from the middle of a busy, four-lane highway. At first glance, Tess saw what she thought was a chunk of rubber in the road and attempted to drive around it. When it moved, she realized it was a kitten. Knowing time was of the essence, she decided that a heroic effort was needed. She saw an opening in the traffic, so she pulled a u-turn, parked the Mini on the shoulder, and bounded across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic. Tess says she doesn't remember the bounding so much as the "stop, look both ways, and listen" and then the scooping up of a terrified animal. Once she made it back to her car, she wrapped the howling furball in an old work shirt, counted her blessings, and then headed to the local animal shelter.

Over the course of the next week, we learned that this little mutt was a farm cat that most likely climbed up into the engine compartment of a family car and then made the harrowing 40-mile road trip to Ames. The kitten was "released" onto the road when the car exited off the interstate and onto Highway 30. Long story short. That baby cat had just used up four of his nine lives: #1-cavorting with a running motor; #2-traveling at excessive speeds on the open road; #3-jumping from a moving vehicle; and #4-lying in the middle of a well-traveled highway.

Having rescued the kitten from what would have been a gruesome end, Tess decided to adopt the critter. How could she not???  Her father and I were on board with the adoption, knowing full well that we would be raising this kitten once Tess headed back to school within the month. We couldn't say no to her, or to this tiny creature separated far too early from mom and his litter mates. We also knew that for the short time he was at the shelter, he barely ate or drank; he just sat forlornly in his cage. The staff at the shelter called it "failure to thrive", so Tess was allowed to bring him home as his foster parent with the hope that her one-on-one care would bring him around.

And 'round he came! This kitten never looked back. He hit the kitchen floor running, stopped long enough to gobble down his food, and then settled into the loving arms of a very special young woman who brought him home to live on Friley Road.
Today is December 4th. Do something wild next!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Chicky Cam in the Winter Coop

Four for Four

I just went out to lock up the chickens and I found another egg. That is the fourth egg today. All the hens are now laying. Hooray! Hooray!

The Local Line-Up

About 4 weeks ago when the garden was winding down for the season, I decided to let the chickens out into the yard to free-range for the first time. After some initial trepidation about leaving the security of the chicken yard, they ventured forth, and then never looked back! They gossiped among themselves as they strutted and scratched, finding grubs and bugs like no one's business. Every once in a while, one of the hens would fan her wings, set off running, and then take flight. Never mind the low altitude and short distance. They were free and they loved it.

It has snowed twice since the hens have been free to roam the back yard. Boy, were they bewildered by that first snow. They gingerly stepped from the coop, and then stopped in their tracks. Unsure on how to proceed, they either ran or flew to the Adirondack chairs where they roosted off the frozen ground and its icy covering. After about an hour, I couldn't bear watching any longer--they were huddled en masse and covered with snow. I donned my boots and trudged out to the clump of snowy feathers. One by one, I carried each confused bird back to the covered chicken run, where the flock spent the entire day self-confined, but protected from the NW wind and blowing snow.

By the following morning, the winds had died down, but it was still close to zero degrees. However, the sun was out and it was a new day. When I opened the coop, the hens hopped down, checked out their new landscape, and waded out into the snow. Before long, they were dancing their two-step--scratch, scratch, dip; scratch, scratch, dip. With the snow pushed aside, there was grass to nibble, along with fallen safflower seeds from the bird feeder. These happy birds even found the pumpkins left for them on the terrace where they had a go at the stringy flesh and seeds from the sagging jack-o-lanterns.

So here is the line-up:

Nettie Zook, a Silver-laced Wyandotte

Olive Batman, a Black Australorp

Cora Stenges, a Buff Orpington
Ida Grove, a Barred Rock