Archive for the ‘Small Town Life’ Category

Update


Holy hell have we been busy!!

As you probably know, we had a “catastrophic loss” of the dollar store and retail/residential building we (mostly Lois) spent seven years nurturing. Click here to read that post. That was over two years ago now, in June of 2013.

My sister already had quite the menagerie of pets–mostly “needs a good home” types, and now she had to figure out how to feed them.She’d always wanted to do animal therapy, but the store and life kept getting in the way. Now we had the time, and some insurance money that needed to be put to good use, so we went for it, and Cook’s Country Connection was born.

Last Labor Day was our first day open to the public (we’d been shooting for May, but you know how these things go!). We got a few field trips under our belts and worked out many kinks in that first two months of operation.

I also became a grandma in October of last year!! My Middle Spawn Harley had a baby boy, and he is the seventh generation to be on the farm! She is an awesome mom, nursing him and using (not to mention MAKING) cloth diapers.

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I love being a gramma, and helped a lot with babysitting his first few months while his mom worked midnights. Naturally I overdid it. Now we are easing back in, but wow is he faster and stronger than me some days!! The Toddler Corral is a great safe place to plop him when I am busy in the Farm Store.

LW and chicks at farm (8 of 8)

The Baby Exhibit!

LW and chicks at farm (6 of 8)

LW, perilously close to the poultry.

 

My Eldest Spawn, Bethany is getting married later this month! She has always been the party planner of the family, so of course everything is ticking right along on schedule. Her step daughter calls me Gramma, too, so that’s been arip.

I spent the winter being an artist…photographing and making jewelry which we sell at the Farm Store and the gallery in town, and writing. I even joined a writers’ group at the gallery, which helps force me to make time to write. Youngest Spawn has attended the group with me all summer, and it’s been really good for him, too. I always tell him how talented he is, but sometimes it means more from strangers.

I also signed up to teach a couple of Community Ed classes at the farm. Making a bowling ball gazing ball, vermiculture, and yoga at the farm. Yoga. What the hell was I thinking??? I was thinking that since my yogini moved out east, we could still do yoga at the farm if I taught it. Ugh. My procrastination is in high gear on that one!! Not to mention Imposter Syndrome! My rheumatologist thought it was a great idea, so we’ll see!

What else is new??? Mr. Wonderful would like me to tell you I’ve also been busy making him sammiches. I shouldn’t have to tell you that is BS. I have, however, made lots of jelly.

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Loveyabye! Talk to you soon, and hope to see you at the farm!

PS: You’re welcome, Dawny B!!!

 

 

 

Sunflower Ghosts


Ok,  my hands are killing me, but I wanted this post done before Halloween’s over.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

Back in September, I covered my sunflowers with old white curtains to protect them from frost. My neighbor thought I was just decorating early for Halloween! Which was a great idea; I’d already tried coloring eyes and mouths with Sharpie but was a failure. I was muttering about the problem when Paul (aka Mr. Wonderful) suggested using fabric. “But it hurts to use scissors!” I whined. Then I remembered the cutting board and rotary cutter I invested in a few years when Cook got a quilt shop (Thanks again, Susan Covey of Cabin Quilting!)

Sewing hurts too, so Paul suggested fabric glue. Woohoo! We were business. I have almost no range of motion in my wrists lately, so he helped position the ghosts, too.  One of the best things about making Halloween decorations is that they don’t have to be perfect! Get a kid to help. Or someone with crappy range of motion. It could be therapeutic. 😀

sunflower ghosts-2 sunflower ghosts-3 sunflower ghosts-6 sunflower ghosts-7 Tadah!!

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Another Halloween craft project that’s fast, cheap, and easy. Like my sister. Just kidding! Please Pin, Like, Share, or comment this project, or better yet, do it yourself!

Werewolf Costume


A couple of years ago, youngest spawn was unexpectedly at my house for Halloween (it wasn’t my turn), without a costume. My sister came to the rescue and we took a quick trip to the closest store with costumes, 30 miles away. The plus side of shopping for a costume on the last day is that everything was on clearance, which worked great on the low-child-support budget! It felt so cheesy just grabbing something last-second, that I wanted to do something creative to the whole thing.

He chose a creepy werewolf mask and hands set that freaked me out. The clothing part of the costume was pretty cheesy so I got to thinking.

I wanted it to look like he was bursting out of his clothes, so we grabbed some jeans and a white button-down shirt from before the last growth spurt that were ridiculously small on him. Then came the hard part—talking him out of a toy that had similar coloring to the hair on the gloves and mask. No go.

Lucky for him, he has two older sisters, so I was holding out hope that I could find something…some doll or ratty stuffed animal no one would miss. I tore through boxes and totes from the basement to the attic, and the only thing I could find happened to be mine. Remember Beanie Babies? When the bottom dropped out of that market (thank you Ty, for flooding the market and thus reducing demand), Ty Co. created a line called Beanie Kids. They were homely yet cute in a Cabbage Patch kind of way. We ended up stuck with hundreds of the damn things, so I had one of each stuffed in a box in the attic.

beanie kids, halloween, costume, werewolf, mother of the year, diy, crafty mom,

When I got out the scissors, he bolted. When his sisters saw the remains they asked, “WTH happened here?”

after photo, nailed it, halloween, costume, mother of the year,

I TRY to be a good mother, honest I do.

 I scalped the dolls and sewed the pieces into holes we tore in his shirt and pants.

And he swears he wasn’t scarred from the experience since he didn’t have to watch me cut off the faces.

Phone-829

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Not bad for $10 and an hour of work!

Here are a few other posts you may like: Feel free to Like, Share, and Pin away!!

bat

Our Halloween Adventure

 

 

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Dancing Ghost Bride Tutorial

 

wolf spider 001

Eight Great Uses for Plastic  Spiders

 

asparagus

Killer Asparagus

Tea With Auntie Linden


What, you don’t name your trees? This is one of our favorite trees. Mine (Laura) shades my whole front yard in the summer. Lois’ shades the old wood shed/ice house at Cook’s Country Connection. Listen, if Pocahontas could have Grandmother Willow, we can have an Auntie Linden. And like Grandmother Willow, the Auntie Linden in our yard has smacked a guy or three in the head. So shush.

Linden, Basswood, tea, make your own tea

The last time I read Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series, Ayla used Linden flowers to sweeten something. Finally! Something that grows in the near-arctic conditions of Cook, MN!! I searched Wikipedia to be sure it wasn’t just literary license, and discovered many other fun facts.

There is a Linden tree in Gloucestershire that is coppiced (omigod, I didn’t even know there was a word for that!! It means to harvest by cutting tree down to the stump, then letting its shoots start over. It’s technically the same tree) thought to be 2,000 years old. If you live up here, imagine a willow after attempted chainsawing.

coppice

Coppiced tree +1 year. Image Wikipedia.

The name of Linnaeus, the great botanist, was derived from a “lime” tree in Europe–what we Yanks call Basswood or Linden .

Linnaeus… You know, the guy who came up with a universal system for naming things. Binomial nomenclature. ie: Tilia americana. Ringin’ any bells??

There’s more.   “The excellence of the honey of far-famed Hyblaean Mountains was due to the linden trees that covered its sides and crowned its summit.” Beekeepers love Linden/Basswood/Lime trees! The first time I noticed a buzzing noise coming from the tree I park under (Auntie Linden), and looked up to see thousands of honeybees I called my sister in a panic. “Don’t come over!! You will DIE!!” (She’s allergic to bee or hornet stings.) She laughed and said ” They’re just doing what bees do. Leave them alone, and they’ll leave you alone. Just don’t piss ’em off.” Roger that.

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I read on:

“In particular, aphids are attracted by the rich supply of sap, and are in turn often “farmed” by ants for the production of the sap which the ants collect for their own use, and the result can often be a dripping of excess sap onto the lower branches and leaves, and anything else below. Cars left under the trees can quickly become coated with a film of the syrup (“honeydew”) thus dropped from higher up. The ant/aphid “farming” process does not appear to cause any serious damage to the trees.”

Well, that’s pretty awesome… and it explains all the ants in that area. And it doesn’t hurt the trees! Huh. Here I was all worried that the ants were a sign that one of my favorite trees in all the world was sick. Whew!

It’s also good for making guitars, and even clothing. You can eat the young flowers and leaves, too!

Linden, Bassweed, tea, make your own linden tea

But coolest of all, it has medicinal properties that my body needs, like fighting inflammation and healing the liver.

“Most medicinal research has focused on Tilia cordata, although other species are also used medicinally and somewhat interchangeably. The dried flowers are mildly sweet and sticky, and the fruit is somewhat sweet and mucilaginous. Limeflower tea has a pleasing taste, due to the aromatic volatile oil found in the flowers. The flowers, leaves, wood, and charcoal (obtained from the wood) are used for medicinal purposes. Active ingredients in the Tilia flowers include flavonoids (which act as antioxidants) and volatile oils. The plant also contains tannins that can act as an astringent.

“Linden flowers are used in herbalism for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), and as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. In the traditional Austrian medicine Tilia sp. flowers have been used internally as tea for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, fever and flu. New evidence shows that the flowers may be hepatoprotective. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and cellulitis (inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue). That wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection such as cellulitis or ulcers of the lower leg.

Linden, Basswood, tea, make your own linden tea

Thus, last year I made tea from the flowers and the smaller leaves they were attached to. Honestly, I don’t know if it helped the Stupid Rheumatoid Arthritis. But I’m sure it didn’t hurt. 😉 And it tasted good. Want to make your own? Good. Here’s what I did:

  • when flowers are mostly open, gently pick them and the smaller leaf they are attached to from the bigger main leaves. This year, they are a month behind normal. Big surprise.
  • I spread them evenly on trays in my dehydrator and when crumbly I separated leaves from flowers and put them in old, airtight mason jars for winter.
  • Then, come January I added some Rugosa Rose hips for Vitamin C and voila! Yummy, healthy, tea for two.

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

As you can see, the tea has very little color to it. Go by taste- not color- to judge strength. 3 or 4 minutes should be fine for a cup to brew.

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

You’re welcome.

As usual, if you liked this article, please click “Like” “Share” “Pin”, or leave a comment. Thank you for reading! Loveyabye!

 

 

 

For Fox’ Sake…


That may be my favorite blog post title EVER.

On Sunday July 6, Mr. Wonderful, Male Spawn, and I took a day trip to the Vermilion Falls and Vermilion Gorge hiking trails. Northern MN has been getting a lot of rain and so I hoped there would be lots of photo opportunities. The weather didn’t cooperate, but the wildlife did!

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Next time we’ll take video, too. On the short walk back to the car, someone pointed out a dragonfly.

Dragonfly, mn, pajari girls, cook's country connection, photography, pretty bugs

Then Danny grabbed my arm and pointed up the trail…

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

 

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

 

Could it be a Red fox? They come in many colors…including Silver, which is different from the Gray fox,  which are one of only 2 members of the Canidae family that can climb trees…but the Gray fox has a black tail. Crap.

This was driving me nuts! (I really really really hoped that it was a young Timber Wolf. That opened another can of worms. )

I sent the photos to my friend Colleen who works at the USFS, LaCroix Station. The biologist there said it was a Cross fox. 100% sure. At first I didn’t understand. Was that a cross between a Red and Gray? Nope, it is a TYPE of Red fox. At one time it was thought to be it’s own species, but DNA study changed that. However, “fur farmers and trappers continued to treat each red fox colour form as a distinct species long after scientists concluded that they were variations of the same one”, according to Wikipedia. Well, that clears things up!

I have hauled my Nook around everywhere with me, even to a Little League game. Jeremiah’s dad (John) said he would look into it, too. He works for the DNR. **JUST IN** The DNR says Cross Fox, too! Thanks, John V.!

 

I posted the pictures on Facebook, too, getting several different opinions.

At this point, my vote is Cross fox.

What’s your vote? Please Like, Comment or Share…for fox’ sake!

 

 

PS: If you liked this post, check out Cook’s Country Connection’s Wild Neighbors page. Chop chop. Tell Lois The Employee of the Year sent you. Loveyabye!

 

 

Another Mysterious Burrow


We have been seeing a new critter in the pit at the House On The Hill  and became mostly sure after consulting  my North American Wildlife book and Wikipedia that it was a pine marten or a woodchuck (aka groundhog, aka the critter who lies about winter almost being over EVERY. YEAR.), yet it moved like a beaver. However, when the trail cam captured the photo below, we all got a little nervous, thinking a woodchuck might not be the only new neighbor.

badger, woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

I tried and tried to zoom in with all the photo editing software at my disposal, but this grainy crop was the best that I could do; he was just too far away.

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a badger to me. This made us all nervous, because badgers will eat your face off! (Plus, they don’t care; they don’t give a SHIT. This link goes to the Honey Badger video, but they are closely related to the regular badger, whose link is here.)

Then another mysterious hidey-hole appeared behind the barrage. (That’s a barn/garage combo.)

hidey hole

getting this shot made me nervous, because on

This was a little closer than I should have been, but the only way to see the hole through the equisetum. Threw out my ankle some, too. You’re welcome.

ANYWAY…I had managed to get a few grainy shots of this little guy with the Canon, so when I found the hidey hole I placed the trail cam on it to be sure it was him living there, not a badger.

woodchuck

 

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

He or she is very cautious, pausing regularly to stand up and take a look- and sniff- around.

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

She or he seemed to have gotten used to us, and even has a shortcut through Squirt’s playhouse. The white metal to the left is his gate.

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

Hiding in the Lupine…

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

And in front of the barrage.

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

These are my favorite facts from  the wiki link.

  • weighs up to 10 pounds
  • burrows are up to 46 feet long and five feet or more underground, with several exits
  • the average woodchuck (groundhog) moves 35 cubic feet of dirt when making a burrow
  • they are perfect for Hep-B -induced cancer research
  • they do NOT chuck wood…the Native American word for them just sounds like “woodchuck”
  • that does not stop people from yelling out my back door, “Hey you dang woodchuck! Stop chucking my wood!!”

Which may or may not have something to do with why we haven’t been seeing it up as close to the House on the Hill, but did show up on the trail cam when we placed it near Pajari Pond. But that’s another story.

You wanna watch that Geico commercial now, don’t you? So do I.

PS: Do you have a trail cam? What kind of creatures have you seen on it? I’d love to see the pictures!

An Easter Adventure


I know, I know, you thought I was lost. But I haven’t been really lost; just preoccupied. My sister is opening a petting farm, and I am helping with the web stuff and taking photos. (AFTER you read this, you can go see what we are up to there.  🙂 )

We spent this Easter with Mr. Wonderful’s family in North Dakota. It was nice, low-key, relaxing, etc.

The one stuffing his face? That one’s mine.

 

Until the egg hunt. See, it took us a while to talk the spawn into participating. (They are hitting teen years.)

easter canon 001

By the time we got outside, there had been a thief in the yard.

 

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So we set up the trail cam, replaced the malted milk balls with sunflower seeds, and went for a walk. Six hundred sixty eight pictures later…

 

Trail Cam 056

 

False alarm

False alarm

 

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It was a big ‘ol mama squirrel…

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with cravings!

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Ok… NOW you can go to www.CooksCountryConnection.com

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