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About Ruby Girl

Grand Forks Herald Staff Writer for 23 years now a free-lance Herald "In The Spirit" columnist. Column appears the second Saturday of each month. Born and raised on a farm near Newburg, N.D. Married, mother of two sons and grandmother of four. Loves to read, sing, dance, play drums with my worship band at church, garden and ride my ole Schwinn bicycle. Plus, shovel snow in winter and mow lawn in summer.

God hath not promised . . .

This is Thanksgiving week. We all are eagerly preparing our feasts or packing up to travel elsewhere — to spend a few thankful days with loved ones and friends. In the midst of all the joy we also hear of sadness. Requests come in and prayers go out for those we know and love and some we don’t know who are in treatment, facing surgery, pain and sorrow.

Such a request for prayer came to me just a few moments ago and as I stopped from cleaning a closet to pray for someone I don’t know, I realize what a gift memorization can be.

Somewhere in my youth or childhood, somewhere in our house on the farm, my mother had a Helen Steiner Rice poem that I have never ever forgotten. To this day I can recite it word for word. It’s message is such a comfort at times like this.

The poem is titled, “God Hath Not Promised.” May I suggest you pause to reflect on it and perhaps even memorize it so it will be in your heart when you need it.

It reads

God hath not promised
skies always blue,
flower-strewn pathways all our lives through.
God hath not promised
sun without rain,
joy without sorrow,
peace without pain.

But God hath promised
strength for the day,
rest for the laborer,
light on the way.
Grace for the trial,
help from above,
unfailing sympathy,
undying love.
Until Soon

Orlan Hall – my veteran cousin

Each and every day and most assuredly on Veteran’s Day, we boldly express our heartfelt “thanks,” to the military men and women we encounter who have served and still serve our America, our beloved land of the free. We also remember those veterans whose names we see on tombstones and wonder who they’d be today if their lives had been spared, if they hadn’t given them for us.

I have a cousin who served with the U.S. Army in Viet Nam. He came home a hero and yes, safely, but forever changed. Sometimes Orlan talks about his combat experiences. Very often he’d rather not because in order to speak of such things, you need the right setting and the right listening ears. He’s found there are people who just don’t understand.

Orlan grew up on a farm near Upham, N.D., where he graduated from high school in 1962. He is especially dear to me because he’s my double cousin: our mothers were sisters and our dads brothers.

While in the Army, Orlan earned (if I’m counting correctly) 30-some badges, ribbons and medals. Among them: Combat Infantry Badge, Good Conduct Medal. US Viet Nam Service Medal with Bronze Star, Viet Nam Campaign Medal. Because of his strong work ethic, which goes hand-in-hand with growing up on a farm, and because of his kindness to a fellow soldier, he was promoted to Sergeant.

Recently, another cousin of ours, Dale Niewoehner, Rugby, N.D., gathered all of Orlan’s medals and beautifully arranged them in a shadow box.

Max Zurcher, a good friend and neighbor who also hails from our neck of the woods (Newburg and Upham) presented Orlan with the shadow box. Max also served in Viet Nam and came back with his own stories, awards and badges. Both Orlan and Max live in Minot now and because of their back-home ties and their military service camaraderie, these two veterans will be forever friends.

Orlan and Max

Orlan and Dale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Orlan and Max are featured in a new book titled, “Minot, North Dakota and Area War Years and War Heroes,” by Bruce Anderson. Online I see that in his first of several photo history books on Minot, Bruce has skillfully crafted a tribute to the patriotic sacrifices so many have made to guarantee freedom as the cornerstone of our American way of life, and he has done so with dignified respect and reverence. To order the book call: (701) 852-5604 or (866) 302-8885.

Near the beginning of this post, I mentioned that on Veteran’s Day and other days of the year we often stop at veterans graves and thank them for their service. But, have you ever wondered what a fallen soldier might say to us, if he or she could?

Twenty some years ago, with Viet Nam still fresh in his mind, Orlan sat down and wrote a poem titled, “Freedom’s Sacred Call.” It is as if his words are coming from a soldier who gave his life for his country. Orlan prefaced the poem by writing: “The Bible admonishes, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ a reflection of God’s love and teaches, ‘No greater love hath one man for another than that he be willing to lay down his life for him.’ The names inscribed on the war memorials across America and around the world are the names of men and women who have done that, laid down their lives that we might live ours in freedom. They are heroes. They are the source of our freedom.”

Here is Orlan’s poem, “Freedom’s Sacred Call.,” Just imagine it as emitting from a Hero’s Place of Rest.

Think not,

As you read my name,

That I did not for freedom fall.

Say not.

As you see it here,

“The awful shame,

His life is lost; He died in vain.”

For everywhere man lives,

He seeks a sacred treasure.

He lives and works, fights and dies,

For freedom in full measure

Before I lived, others died

That I might be born free.

A strife to win that prize for others,

Drew life’s last breath from me.

Too much to give that others live?

Too much to sacrifice?

Which of you would bear the cross;

Take the place of one whose loss,

Paid your freedom’s price?

Rather say then as you read,

“A hero’s name is here inscribed.”

Rather say then as you see,

“I feel the pain endured

I mourn his death, I live with pride,

In the freedom he secured.”

Remember,

As you stand here awed,

That you stand here “Free.”

Remember all of those who’ve died,

For this blest reality.

Though my battle’s now still,

Remember too,

I’ll not be the last to fall.

The world’s free men ever will rise,

In answer,

To “Freedom’s Sacred Call.”

____________________

Guess there’s no more to say – on this blest Veteran’s Day.

Until Soon

Remembering North Dakota’s first governor

One morning last week, I had a very nice surprise phone call from my cousin, Dale Niewoehner. He was on his way to Grand Forks from his home in Rugby, N.D., where he and his wife, Marilyn, own and operate Niewoehner Funeral Home.

DALE NIEWOEHNER

Dale is one of my favorite first cousins. His late father, Henry A. Niewoehner, was my late mother’s beloved brother. Down through the years those two remained very close siblings which only seems to bind the tie between Dale and me.

When Dale got to Grand Forks that day and had completed his purpose for coming, I met him for lunch at the Great Wall Buffet on Gateway Drive. We had a wonderful hour or so of catching up on one another’s lives. He always, always, amazes me with the things he’s interested in and the things he accomplishes.

His latest has to do with our Flickertail State. Quite timely since Sunday is North Dakota’s 125th birthday.

With his latest project all said and done, Dale wrote and submitted a news release to the North Dakota Newspaper Association. It has to do with the state’s very first governor, the Honorable John Miller, and the restoration of the mausoleum where Miller is entombed in Green Hills Cemetery, Dryden, N.Y.

There’s erroneous Information on a website that states Mr. Miller is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Duluth, Minn. Dale has contacted the sexton there and has verified that this is not true.

Dale gave me permission to share his news release here. Its headline states:

North Dakota First Governor’s Mausoleum Restored.

The release reads:

John Miller was a wealthy bonanza farmer in the Red River Valley in North Dakota, but his legacy extended beyond this rich farmland.

JOHN MILLER, North Dakota’s First Governor

In 1878, Miller came from Dryden, New York, located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. He purchased 17,000 acres of land in Richland County, North Dakota. Mr. Miller had no political ambitions, but after serving in the Constitutional Convention in mid-1889, he was persuaded to run for Governor, and was elected in November, 1889.

Miller was known as a strong and honest leader for the new state. He would not be bribed or swayed by the many powerful political forces forging their thoughts in the new government and organization of North Dakota. Miller served in office until January 1891 then returned to his business to manage and expand his farming and grain operations in the Red River Valley.

He was a partner with Herbert F. Chaffee in an operation of milling flour, feed, and other agricultural services. The company had offices in North Dakota and Duluth, Minnesota.

On October 26, 1908, Miller died in Duluth, three days short of turning 65. His family and Mrs. H. F. Chaffee accompanied the body on a train from Duluth to Dryden (N.Y) for burial in Green Hills Cemetery.

In 1910, a grand mausoleum constructed of light gray granite was built on the Miller lot for the burial of Governor Miller. Over the years, his wife and their two daughters also were entombed in the mausoleum. The fact that a state governor is buried in the Green Hills Cemetery has long been a sense of pride for the cemetery.

For some time the tomb has been in need of minor repairs. Rugby funeral director, Dale G. Niewoehner became aware of these needs while in communication with Ray Harris, Sexton of the Green Hills Cemetery. Harris informed Niewoehner that two windows needed replacement, a bronze door hinge was in need of repair and the buildup of 100 years of tree sap and dirt needed to be cleaned from the outside of the building.

The cemetery also asked that a bronze plaque be mounted on the outside of the mausoleum to inform visitors of the occupant. A flag pole outside the mausoleum proudly displays the North Dakota flag.

A modest fund drive, orchestrated by Niewoehner, was successful in raising the necessary funds for the restoration of the Miller mausoleum. Among the supporters Niewoehner contacted was Grace Link, widow of former North Dakota Governor Arthur A. Link. Mrs. Link was proud to participate in the project, adding “that our state’s history must be preserved and this would certainly be a way to honor our state’s first governor.”

Additional generous contributions from former U.S. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and former Governor, now U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), generated the necessary funds for the restoration project.

Also an interesting piece of history is that Herbert and Carrie Chaffee were first class passengers on the R.M.S. Titanic in April, 1912. Mr. Chaffee died in the sinking of the ship and Mrs. Chaffee is buried in the Amenia Cemetery, north of Casselton, N. D.

___________________________________________

See what I mean? Every meeting, every conversation with cousin Dale becomes a history lesson. I love history and look forward to the next time we break bread together.

Until Soon

Grab the rake; batten the hatches

Out the window, I look – north, south, east and west. Leaves, everywhere golden leaves, floating down like tiny parachutes to their green grass landing strip.

I go outside and look up. Millions still cling to the branches of our tallest tree, But a girls gotta start somewhere and so I do. And while I rake I reminisce.

I love every season of the year and even though fall is perhaps my favorite, it does conjure up some sadness. It’s hard to see the moss roses, petunias, impatiens, alyssum, pansies and geraniums bite the dust. They have been especially beautiful this year. As I tended and talked to them over the last few months they became an extension of the friends in my life — always more beautiful than I deserve.

It’s been a summer of many very good hours on the deck with family and friends – grilling, fellowshipping, talking, laughing. The space is too quiet now and much too spacious since the furniture has been stacked, covered and arranged along the west wall under the overhang. The grill and air conditioner have been outfitted with their winter garb secured with bungee cords and the decorative bricks that always hold two containers of geraniums on each side of the big garage door have been stacked under the work bench.

Makes everything look too barren for my liking!

The very hardest thing to see go, however, is the spray of American Beauty Rose impatiens that fan out beneath the mailbox out front. I’ve had such an arrangement hanging there every year for many. I get them in the spring from either All Season’s Garden Center or Shea’s Nursery where they are planted in skinny green plastic pouches. They never, ever let me down with their beauty, but now they are gone, too, and in their place hangs a fall welcoming arrangement all in orange.

It seems to get harder and harder each year to say goodbye to summer and fall, but because we know what’s coming, we must rake and batten down the hatches. As we anticipate the upcoming winter, however, here at our house we will keep a little bit of summer ever before us.

When its all white outside and freezing cold, we will simply have to cast our gazes upon the garage and at least our hearts will be warmed, for in the garage windows we have transplanted two things that always adorn our deck in the summer.

Guardian angel and little lady watch over bed of moss roses that have seen better days

One – an amber glass guardian angel with wings; the other, a little hatted girl holding a sprinkling can and shading her eyes from the bright sun. I suspect both will stay toasty warm all winter on the other side of those panes via solar heat. For sure, just by being so visible, they will pass some of their warmth on to those of us in the house.

I know for a fact, though, that the angel and the little lady will hit the deck again in the spring.

Ah spring! Is it here yet? .

Until Soon

This day in the year 2000

I would not want to be in a small plane flying over North Dakota today. It’s much too windy. But that’s what I was doing 14 years ago on this day.

On that October day, I had an exciting and most welcome phone call that brought about a never to be forgotten day. I wrote about the adventure I had with my nephew, Tom, in my Grand Forks Herald “In the Spirit,” column. Allow me to run it by you one more time for old time’s sake.

Come back in time with me and  think about a beautifully still fall day as the wind whistles outside. It was a Sunday and it began like this:

Our phone rang at 7:45 Sunday morning.

It was my nephew, Tom Hall, calling from Fargo.

“What are your plans for today? he asked.

“Church and Bible class,” I said. “That’s about it. Why?”

“I was thinking of renting a plane and flying up to see Grandma,” Tom said.

In other words, Tom was asking if I’d like to fly along.

Would I?

Tom, (27 that year) is a design engineer at CNH Global N.V., a company formed from the merger of Case Corp. and New Holland.

He’s also an ace pilot, who took my husband, Jim and me and our friend, Gary Euren, up to circle our Grand Cities during the Flood of 1997.

Tom’s mentioned flying to Minot to see Grandma before, but so far, we hadn’t been able to coordinate our schedules.

On what was to be a gorgeous day, what could be better than being with Tom in the heavens over North Dakota, seeing God’s glorious earth below and surprising my mother?

By noon, I was headed to Fargo, where I found Tom and a Piper Warrior waiting at Vic’s Aircraft Sales.

“The weather looks good for now and later in the evening,” Tom said.

He ran his finger over the propeller. No nicks. He checked the fuel tanks and bounced the plane to check the shocks. He did a few more things before jumping onto the right wing.

“I’d say ladies first,” he said, “But I have to sit on the left.”

Buckled in, Tom went through his checklist, primed the fuel pump, started the engine and told the Fargo tower the Warrior was departing for Minot.

I sat on a cushion, and still I couldn’t see over the dashboard. As we ascended, I lived the words to a song: “And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings . . . . . . and hold you in the palm of His hand.”

“We’re going up to 4,500 feet,” Tom said. “Not bad, huh?”

Oh no, it was awesome.

Except for an occasional bounce, I hardly could tell we were moving.

“The bumps are caused by uneven heating in the ground by the sun,” Tom said. “On a cloudy day, typically, the ground temperature is a little more consistent, so it may be smoother flying on a cloudy day.”

This was the most crystal clear afternoon in some time.

Below I saw a fall patchwork quilt of beautiful squares: greens, golds, rusts, black. Above were strips of cottony clouds that I imagined would make perfect batting for that quilt.

Tom had maps and pointed out two TV towers. We were 2,000 feet above them.

As we passed over Page, N.D., I learned we were 47 degrees north of the equator and 97 degrees west of Greenwich, England.

Tom pointed out Lake Ashtabula north of Valley City, N.D., and dipped the plane’s nose so I could l see railroad tracks and swans in front of us.

“It’s interesting to see the change in the terrain after you get out of the valley,” Tom said. “There’s more grass and pasture land. The valley is square and more orderly, like it’s been arranged. The valley looks like it has a mother.”

What a beautiful concept. What an insightful young man.

Some fields looked paisley, others mosaic and still others pinstriped and tie-dyed. We saw lines in the fields that looked like ripples in a living room carpet, and you could see different planting and harvesting directions.

About the same time, we saw the outline of the Turtle Mountains to the north, Tom spotted Fallkirk Mine near Washburn, N.D., to the south.

“That’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve never seen that before.”

We spotted Lake Sakakawea, then Minot, and soon we were down to earth.

My mother was thrilled to see us. Tom’s parents, David and Margaret Hall, came from Newburg, N.D., with a pie made from apples from Mom’s tree. We ate, talked fast and 90 minutes later, boarded the Warrior for an equally wonderful flight back.

In was dark as we neared Fargo. In one fell sweep of our eyes, we saw the lights of Cooperstown, Fargo, Grand Forks, Hillsboro, Jamestown, Mayville-Portand, Valley City and Wahpeton, N.D.

In both his Minot and Fargo landings, Tom set the Warrior down like it was a western meadowlark lighting on a wild Prairie Rose bush.

No sooner were we out of the plane than Tom’s eyes lifted back to the sky.

“Look at the Big Dipper,” he exclaimed

“Being in the heavens,” Tom says, “puts things into perspective. The size and the vastness of the earth God created makes you realize how small a part of it you are. You realize there’s a lot more to life than just the little details”

His aunt couldn’t agree more.

______________________

All these years later, thoughts of that memorable day bring about a peacefulness within as the wind of today rips the leaves from the trees.

 

Until Soon

Happy sewing machine day!

I see in the Herald’s Red River Valley calendar titled, “The Spot,” that on this day (Sept 10) in 1846, Elias Howe patented the first sewing machine.

(From Wikipedia)

Because I so appreciate this pioneers’ efforts and creativity and because I dearly love my old Singer, I googled Elias only to learn that he and I have something in common.

We both are 9th of July babies.

Not long after Jim and I were married and while living in Cheyenne, Wyo., he bought a Singer sewing machine for me. When our sons were little and I was a stay-at-home-mom, I sewed up a storm. Made most of my own clothes and even sewed sport coats for father and sons. The ones I made for Jim came complete with lapels. The boys I made lapel-less.

Below is a photo of Jim and our oldest son, Troy, sporting their fall plaid sport coats in the year 1967.

The time came when I thought I wanted one of those new fangled do-everything Singers on the market, so one day Jim and I took my Singer and went to the Singer store to look at them. I was quite surprised when the sales associate actually talked me out of trading in my old Singer because what I had, he claimed, was the best one could get. He said that was so because mine is all metal with no plastic parts.

So we took my Singer back home.

Many years have since passed and I still have my trusty ole Singer, thanks to Jim. That machine and the boxes that hold every story I’ve ever written for the Herald were the last things he brought up from the basement the day we evacuated our home during the 1997 flood. Below is my Singer machine, a far cry from Elias Howe’s first machine shown below mine.

 

(From Wikipedia)

Here’s what I learned online about Elias Howe:

He was born in Spencer, Mass., on July 9, 1819. After he lost his factory job in the Panic of 1837, Howe moved from Spencer to Boston, where he found work in a machinist’s shop. It was there that he began tinkering with the idea of inventing a mechanical sewing machine.

Contrary to popular belief, Howe was not the first to visualize the idea of a sewing machine. Other people had formulated the idea before him, one as early as 1790, and some had even patented their designs and produced working machines. But, Howe originated significant refinements to the design concepts of his predecessors, and on September 10, 1846, he was awarded the first United States patent (U.S. Patent 4,750) for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design. His machine contained the three essential features common to most modern machines:

1. a needle with the eye at the point,

2. a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lock stitch, and

3. an automatic feed.

I no longer have a box full of Simplicity patterns and I haven’t made something from scratch in years, but my trusty ole Singer never fails me when I need it. That’s because every so often it gets a tune-up at Dietrich Sewing Machine Co., East Grand Forks.

I must sign off now as I have a new pair of jeans to shorten.

Until Soon

We were and remain a corny bunch

Ever since I discovered Lyle Rose’s home grown sweet corn, my freezer and I will have no other.

I happened upon it a few years ago when a sign by the sweet corn in the produce department of a Hugo’s store stated: Locally grown by Lyle Rose, East Grand Forks.

I had never met Lyle Rose until this summer and now I’ve made three trips to his farm which lies not far out from my end of East Grand Forks. He’s a very gentle, kind and friendly soul living in a beautiful place.

On my second trip to the Rose farm, my grandchildren Elyn and Ethan, and my daughter-in-law, Sheri, were with me. We were setting out to have a corn-filled day.

Several years ago, I showed and told all four of my grandchildren how to can peaches. This time Elyn and Ethan and their mom were eager to take part in all that’s involved in freezing sweet corn. There’s nothing like freshly frozen sweet corn on a day in the dead of winter. No one knows that better than all of us.

At the Rose farm, Elyn and Ethan eagerly emptied a gunny sack of corn into our big red tub.

When we got home we set our system in place: a circle of chairs just outside the garage, a red tub in the middle holding the corn, two garbage cans at the end of our elbows for the husks and tunes coming from the radio on the work bench. A motto handed down to me by one of our sons is this: “all jobs are made easier with tunes.”

So, we set the dial on Christian station 97.9 KFNW and husked-away.

When all the cobs were free of their husks and silk, we moved inside to blanch them in boiling water for about 2 minutes in my big speckled canner. Next, with tongs, each cob was placed in a cold water bath followed by yet another cold water bath followed by a plunge in ice water. Then the cobs were placed on towels to drip dry.

When all the blanching was complete and the cobs cool enough to handle, Elyn and Ethan observed me cutting the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife over a large kettle. When the cutting was done, we scooped the corn into 1- quart freezer bags, flattened the bags and pressed out all the air before zipping them shut. When bags are flattened they take up much less space in the freezer.

Before going to the freezer, however, Ethan thoroughly enjoyed labeling each bag.

One thing I’ve observed while toiling with my grandchildren is that they love to work. They love being given jobs whether it’s in the kitchen breaking eggs to scramble, setting the table for dinner or around buckets of corn to husk by the garage. Seeing them work and making it fun for them makes all of our hearts happy. I hope they one day will pass all this on to their children and grandchildren.

Yes, the corn is ready, but I do hope the dead of winter is a long way off.

Until Soon.

 

You can’t beat beets and their leaves are delectable

Why some people don’t care for beet greens is beyond me, But, I’m OK with it. Just leaves more for me.

When I go to Allard’s vegetable stand at the Home of Economy I almost always come away with free beet greens. That’s because some people ask to have the leaves removed from the beets they buy and the gals at Allard’s save them for me. Lately I’ve been encouraging people to try the greens, too. If you like spinach, if you like Swiss chard, you will LOVE beet greens.

Beets and their greens have long been a favorite of mine. This week I consumed some of both and they consumed me.

Our good friends, Jeannette and Harold Tanke gifted me with a big black garbage bag full of beets and greens gleaned from their lovely Grand Forks garden. I was going to preserve the beets by canning them in pint jars until two people told me they freeze their beets. Online I also learned you can freeze the greens as well.

I’m happy to report that as this week nears its end, all those beets and all those greens are in bags tucked away in our freezer just waiting for winter.

Here’s how to prepare beets for the freezer:

 

 

 

 

 

1. Trim all but 1/2-inch off the top of the beet. Leaving that ½-inch prevents the beet from bleeding its redness. Also leave the root intact. Wash with a vegetable brush or a cloth.

2. Sort by size and put beets in a large kettle. Add water to cover and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beets are tender; about 20 minutes for small beets, 45 minutes for larger beets. They have cooked sufficiently when you can pierce them with a fork.

3. Drain cooking water and place beets in ice water for about 10 minutes or until they are cool enough to handle.

4. Slice off the top of the beet and by rubbing your hands against the beet slip off the skin.

5. Either slice or dice the beets. Do not leave whole as I’m told whole beets don’t freeze well.

6. Place beets in quart-size zip-lock freezer bag and label content and date.

7. To avoid freezer-burn, the air inside the bag should be expelled. I don’t have a vacuum sealer so I inserted a straw at the end of a bag, sealed it up to the straw, sucked the air out through the straw then quickly sealed the tiny opening. Works like a charm.

Now for those yummy greens:

I was so delighted to learn that beet greens freeze beautifully as they are a great addition to soup, stews and omelets.

I cut the stems off the leaves, gave them three washings in cold water and watched them perk up right before my eyes.

I blanched the greens in boiling water one to two minutes, drained them, tossed them in an ice bath and swished them around a bit. Then I squeezed the water from the greens and put them in freezer bags once again expelling all the air with a straw.

The greens hang onto their vibrant green color. They have a wonderfully earthy flavor that is hard to describe. I like to serve them with a bit of bacon grease (adds a smoky flavor), salt, pepper and vinegar. My husband, Jim, loves vinegar on many things. In fact, he puts vinegar on his hot buttered beets and imagines them as beet pickles, which we also love.

Here’s what they say about beets and their greens:

Beets contain valuable nutrients that may help lower blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost stamina, and support detoxification

Beet greens are equally, if not more, nutritious with nutrients that may strengthen your immune system and support brain and bone health.

Just so you know — if you only eat beets and chuck their greens you may be doing yourself a disservice. Research shows that the greens also may help ward off osteoporosis by boosting bone strength and they may fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Yes, the beets, the greens and I consumed each other this week, but I’d take another big black garbage bag full any day.

Until Soon

Rejoicing with family in the beautiful land of life

At nightfall the 10 of us bedded down under one roof. It capped a two bedroom, one bathroom cabin with a living room large enough for a futon and an air mattress. It was cozy of course, but then, we are family.

During the light of each day, we were on the pontoon casting our lures and pulling Northern Pike, bass and Sunfish (sunnies) from the clear and cool waters of Mudhen Lake near Siren, Wis. When the rods and reels needed a rest, the four grandchildren, one mom plus the dads (including the granddad) jumped from the pontoon into the refreshing water to swim.

The week of Aug. 3-8 was the second time our entire family has vacationed together on the banks and on the waters of this 530-acre crystal clear lake. Back in July of 2012, we had such a good time here that we wanted to go back. Grandpa Jim made that happen by again being the top bidder on this vacation spot during Concordia Academy’s fund-raising banquet. CA is a Christian high school in Roseville, Minn., where our son, Dean, is a faculty member.

Our family consists of son Troy, his wife, Sheri, and their children, Elyn and Ethan; Dean and his wife, Jyl, and their daughters, Amelia and Grace. And of course the matriarch and the patriarch

Albert Einstein once said, “Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life,” and that’s exactly what we did during those six days. When one pauses to consider life on this side of heaven, you realize that the greatest of happiness is family happiness.

We caught lots of fish but also threw lots back so they could grow bigger. We’ll get them next time. All in all we had 40 keepers.

See this sunnies beautiful colors?

A stringer full of fish

When we weren’t fishing we did other fun things.

Having a kayak date with my one and only grandson, Ethan

When we weren’t on or in the water, we played such things as Catch Phrase, and Bananagrams, a word game that, wouldn’t you know, was invented by a man with the help of his family.

One night we played what Grace calls, “a silly camp,” game that she learned this summer at camp. The living room was filled with frolic as we stood in a circle and acted so silly movin’ and shakin’ that two among us actually went to the floor in a heap of laughter.

This silly camp game is a fast paced/mind boggleing/memory taxing/changing places game where so many people mess up that you can’t help but be in stitches. That evening was one none of us will soon forget.

We shared cooking and kitchen patrol duties. The first dish washer among us, and the first outdoor shower taker didn’t happen to mention the fact there was no hot water at the kitchen sink or the outdoor shower for the first day and a half. But, there WAS hot water in the bathroom.

I sent a txt message to the cabin owner and learned there’s a separate water heater for the kitchen/outdoor shower. The owner said she could call their plumber OR, if our guys wanted to brave the storm shelter where the second hot water heater is located, they could check to see if it was plugged in.

The boys jumped into action. We moved the kitchen table off a braided rug, opened a trap door in the floor and Troy and Dean descended the steep steps to check the water heater below. Alas, it was not plugged in.

When that problem was solved, Troy called from below: “Elyn, Ethan, Amelia, Grace, come down here. You need to experience a storm shelter.”

Kids are always ready for an adventure so the four came running and one by one lowered themselves below deck. As they explored the shelter they decided it was a pretty neat place to be. I was glad they could check out a storm shelter while there was no storm.

Ethan, Elyn, Amelia and Grace peering up from the storm shelter

Mudhen Lake is eight miles from Siren, a neat little Wisconsin town about one hour mostly north of St. Paul. We went into Siren a couple times for groceries, bait and to return to a gift shop we found and loved in 2012.

Another highlight of the week, for all of us, was driving to Grantsburg, Wis., about 8 miles in the opposite direction of Siren. There we visited Burnett Dairy, a cooperative owned by farmers since 1896. In 1988, Burnett Dairy Cooperative earned the title of World Champion Cheesemaker. Their yellow cheese sample of the day was indeed delicious.

Get this: Burnett Dairy brings in just under one million pounds of milk per day from farmers within a 60-mile radius. It takes approximately 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese, so that’s 100,000 pounds of cheese per day.

The dairy also has a Bistro and an ice cream shop. Some in our family prefer hard ice cream and some love soft serve. We hit the jackpot because Burnett offers both.

A novelty new to us also caught our eye at the dairy. It was a cob of popping corn that pops right off the cob while in the microwave. Each family took a cob home to try it out. We discovered it holds true to its claim and one cob fills a good sized bowl with delicious and crunchy popcorn.

Every day of our Wisconsin stay was perfect in every way. We had great family time, the weather was perfect, the water refreshing and the fishing fun.

Added pleasures were watching an eagle soar through the air, dive down to snatch a fish from the water and fly away to its nest. All this as well as listening to the beautiful call of the loons.

We are 10, but we also are one and together we do love to rejoice in the beautiful land of life – wherever it may be.

Until Soon

You ought to meet organic farmer Ronny Reitmeier

NEAR CROOKSTON, Minn. — Being a farm girl, there’s almost nothing I enjoy more than going for a drive in the country. Recently I ventured out to a lovely spot near Crookston to which I had never been before.

The beauty and anticipated forthcoming bounty of the fields along the way nearly took my breath away. Then it was for sure gone when I gazed upon Ronny Jaeckel Reitmeier’s high tunnel tomatoes.

A party began late that afternoon on the very farmstead Ronny’s great-great grandfather purchased in 1919 for Ronny’s great grandfather and his new family. Ronny, the adopted son of John Reitmeier, is the fifth generation caretaker of this land. He says absolutely everything done there is with sustainability as the No. 1 goal.

John Reitmeier threw the party for two reasons: To celebrate his son Ronny’s graduation from the University of Minnesota, Crookston, with a degree in agronomy, and so that all extended members of the Reitmeier family could meet Michael and Debby Terry who were visiting from Charles Town, W. Va.

It may all sound somewhat complicated, but it really isn’t. First of all you should know that adoption is in John Reitmeier’s blood. He and his sister, Jane Reitmeier, were adopted by Willard and Grace Reitmeier now both deceased.

Two years ago I was blessed to be able to help John find his biological roots. We learned his biological mother, Virginia Terry, died in 2001, but that he had a brother (Michael Terry), a sister-in-law (Debby Terry) and two beautiful nieces, Megan and Meredith. In fact, I traveled to Charles Town in April of 2012 to be with John and his sister Jane when they met Michael and Debby for the first time.

Unforgettable.

Now, Michael and Debby were in Minnesota and with Ronny’s graduation it was time to rejoice with good food, beverages and celebration cake on the patio.

Seated from left: Michael Terry and John Reitmeier. Standing left: Debby Terry and John’s sister Jane Reitmeier

 

As an organic farmer, Ronny is in his glory. And, does he ever have a story to tell.

From Berlin, Germany, Ronny was orphaned as a young child. “I grew up very very poor,” he said. After their parents died, he lived with an older sister. Some years later, John heard about him from a former foreign exchange student. After learning that help was needed on the Reitmeier farm, “God decided it should be me,” Ronny said. “There are no random acts. I had to be brave, too, and I feel so blessed. I never realized my life could turn this way after being orphaned at 11.“

Ronny thoroughly enjoyed showing guests his organic gardens where he is growing carrots, squash, potatoes and corn. He has a high tunnel hot house chock full of tomato plants and is selling his produce to Sanders 1907 restaurant, Grand Forks, and at area farmers markets.

Tomatoes in a high tunnel hot house

Check out Ronny’s website at: http://ronnysfarmtotable.com

It surely was nice being out at the Reitmeier farm and meeting members of John and Jane’s family on both their mothers’ and their fathers’ sides.

I loved seeing Michael and Debby again, too, and I came away totally impressed by Ronny.

Until Soon