Sunday, September 8, 2019

Labor Day Weekend Camping Trip in Iowa

 Last weekend we had fun meeting up with Mara and Thomas (who we hadn't seen since just after their wedding in May when they headed down to Kansas) for some camping in Iowa. It was a really fun weekend. It was fun to be together, we saw some beautiful creation that God made and we had fun seeing the character of some of the little towns we were in.

A statue in Waukon that made us think it was trying to copy "our" Paul and Babe. Hence the funny photo.
   We camped in Waukon, Iowa (North Eastern Iowa) in a campground we had used very quickly on our trip to Texas last year. Aaron and Megan really wanted to go back to that campground again and all of us thought it would be fun to visit that area (Pike's Peak State park and small towns on the Mississippi) again as it looked like a neat area. Last year we had been on a tight schedule and we just didn't spend the time there that we wanted to.

    We got there Friday night after dark as Ken had needed to work until noon. But we found our campsites without much trouble and got set up. Mara and Thomas pulled in around a half hour after we arrived.

  The next morning after making and eating a good breakfast we headed down to Pike's Peak. When we got to McGregor, Iowa (just down the hill from Pike's Peak) we had to stop because the road was currently being used by a parade. So we were wanting to explore that town a little anyway so we found a place to park and got out. By the time we parked the parade was over but we got to the little central park and found a group of bagpipers and they played for a while and we had fun listening to that.
You never know what cool things you will come across when you are out exploring. I do really love listening to bagpipes and good Scottish music.
 Then we walked downtown. We went to "By the Spoonful" a coffee/ ice cream and specialty food shop. I had hoped to get some extra things that we needed for our picnic lunch there but it was a little pricey and didn't have much of what I needed. Ken and Jonathan did get some coffee however. We ended going to an Aldi across the river in Wisconsin a little later to get lunch stuff.
 We also went to "The Paper Moon" a book store with character.
 You could buy a blind date with a book there. I think that is a cute idea.

 After going to Aldi we headed up to the State park. I am not sure if this is true of all state parks in Iowa but this one anyway doesn't have an entrance fee. This is the fun view from the Pike's Peak overlook.
 We really enjoyed hiking on the trails there. We went to Bridal Veil falls but my camera had died by that time.
 Aaron loved all the different cliffs available to get on the edge of.

We found a bunch of old grape vines in the woods that we could swing on. It was quite a bit of fun. It brought back fun memories of college days in Iowa and the vines we found then.

  Aaron had brought his mountain bike along and there was a bike trail from Pike's Peak down to McGregor so he went off on that. The rest of us hiked a little more and then drove down to meet him in McGregor. Then Ken took him up for another run down (he thought it was a lot of fun) and the rest of us checked out some more little shops.
 At one antique shop Megan tried out this ensemble.
  We found out that the Ringling Brother Circus had been inspired and started while the Ringling family lived in McGregor. That was pretty cool. Actually we found out about many cool characters from McGregor. It is now just a small town of around 800 but in the 1800's there were 5,500 people there and it was a booming town. There was a free (donations excepted) historical/dramatic tour that was going on this particular weekend either on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon and Mara and I wanted to go. So we went back on Sunday afternoon and learned about a Pirate and his wife, a millionaire that was into silver mines, boats and trains, a trick pilot and his pilot wife (Tuffy and Esther -they were fascinating!) , Andrew Clemens a deaf child/man who made incredible sand art from local sand of natural colors (We saw some of them and they were simply amazing) and several more.
 Mara in front of a cute cabin that was downtown.

We did try out an icecream shop while in town too. Mara can't have dairy but they had pie made with lard (not butter) in the crust and she enjoyed that.

  I had looked for a church to go to on Sunday but the ones I had checked into didn't work out so we ended up having our own little church service. We found a quiet place in the park and Aaron played the guitar and we sang, Thomas shared some scripture and thoughts that he had prepared and we discussed them and then had communion together. It would have been fun to visit some church but it was neat to have our little church together too.
 The campground provided free wood which was nice and we enjoyed having several campfires. Other neat things about the campground/Waukon City park was all the cool playgrounds, a volleyball court (that we had fun using), some pretty paths and a swimming pool with a water slide and diving board. That swimming pool had been a big attraction but unfortunately they had already emptied it for the year. That was a big disappointment for some. I guess I should have checked on that ahead of time. The playgrounds were really cool even though we didn't have little kids. We explored them several evenings in the dark and had fun going on an old, cool merry-go-round. Then we had an exciting game of tag at dusk in a castle style one. There were around 5 or more totally different playgrounds in that park.
 I had fun making this basket as a gift for Mara while on our trip. She has been doing a lot of wild food foraging and I thought maybe she could use it for that. Speaking of that we found and got to pick and enjoy quite a few blackberries at the park. That was a fun surprise.
 Across from the entrance to the park was this dairy place that sold their own homemade ice cream, cheese and cheese curds. We figured we should go and check it out. I had found out about it ahead of time when I was seeing if I could find a good deal on 40 pound cheese chunks somewhere. The place that I used to get them from closed so I have been on the look out for a new supplier of economical cheese. I was so excited when I found out that they had them and then I asked the price. Even with it being a 40 pound block the cheese was still over $5 a pound. I can buy it a lot cheaper than that in small chunks in our grocery stores so I didn't get any.

 As we were leaving on Monday both carloads had to drive through Decorah, Iowa on our way home. I had read about a cave there so we went to check it out. It is called the Ice Cave as is tends to be quite cold and have ice in it a lot of the year. There wasn't any there right now but we had fun exploring the caves.
 This cave was down a closed road so we had  to walk a little ways but it wasn't that far. Once there you can go in without any entrance fee. It is owned by the city and you enter at your own risk. The main cave wasn't huge (though I think if we would have slithered on our bellies we could have gone on to another section) but it was fun to explore anyway.
 Then we proceeded to explore the area a little more, do some hiking and climbing on the rocks and we found that there were more caves.
 It was a really pretty area and just full of interesting rock areas.

 We found another cave that went back in a little ways and then just had this short tunnel farther. Thomas decided to slip through horizontally and Mara, Jonathan and I ended up following him. Aaron and Megan were exploring elsewhere at the time and Ken didn't want to try going through that little spot and was left outside to call for help if needed. :-) We were quite obviously not the first people every to go back there as there was some old bedding back in there and some painting on the walls.
 I haven't gotten to do very much cave exploring before (we just don't have them up here) so it was really fun for me.

 After that we parted ways with Mara and Thomas. We probably won't see them again until Christmas time. It was so nice to get to spend that weekend together.

We headed north of Decorah. Not to far away was the town of Burr Oak, Iowa. This was a place that Laura Ingalls and family lived in but she didn't write about it. It was where they went after the grasshoppers wrecked their crops at Plum Creek. Their only boy died just before living here (while staying with some family on their way) and Grace was born here. I wanted to stop here as I have seen most of the other places she lived (I really the little house books as a child and I still do) and I wanted to add this to the list.

   We didn't take the time or money to take a tour but we had fun looking around outside quickly and went into the gift shop.
 The Ingalls family lived (for a while anyway) and worked at the Master's Hotel which is still there today.

Our trip home went well and as always it is good to be home again! :-)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Jonathan, My Adult Son

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   We recently celebrated a birthday here. Jonathan turned 18. It is kind of crazy that now half of our children are adults. But we could see it coming. Jonathan has grown and matured in so many ways in the past couple of years that it isn't hard to consider him an adult - in most ways he totally acts like one.

  I won't say that teen years have been super easy, Both Jonathan and I have had to work together to figure out how it works to have a son grow up. There is an interesting learning time of a child (and I think maybe especially a son with his mother) becoming more independent and making their own choices and the parent still guiding, still deserving respect and obedience too but yet really allowing the child to step out on their own. I have felt the learning curve of this most with Jonathan but I think it has truly caused us both to grow a lot spiritually and I am so thankful for the man he is today.

  Jonathan has always been my serious guy, the lover of rules (and really loving getting to make them) , the child that always likes things neat and orderly. He is very much like his Dad. When he is passionate about something he can be rather intense and work super hard at it. If he is not passionate about something he can be challenging to inspire. He likes to focus intensely on the task at hand and doesn't much appreciate getting interrupted when he is in "the zone". He tends to be incredibly responsible. At his places of employment his employers tend to give him a lot of responsibility and have wished he was older at times so that they could give him more (he doesn't work at Burger King any more but when he was there at 17 they told him he could be a manager as soon as he turned 18).

   In this last year of school at home Jonathan is working to start a business doing something he is passionate about - Videoagraphy. He would like to do wedding, real estate, business and music videos for others. If any of you live in this area and need any of those services he would be happy to give you a good deal as he gets his business going.

Jonathan is a dreamer, a hard worker, a serious student of God's word and he loves Jesus Christ. I can't wait to see how God uses him.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Jackpine Work Weekend

  This past weekend we went camping. There is a family camp called Jackpine Retreat that we always like to go to in September and this year there was also a work weekend planned before it so that whoever could come could work together to get things ready for it.

   Jackpine Retreat is something that I have attended since I was a baby. I have missed 2 years in my life time but hope not to miss anymore if possible. :-) I loved it as a child and my kids love it too. It is rustic camping in Northern, MN in often chilly September. You can expect to get cold, often wet but there is something about it that warms our hearts. It is a time for Christians to get together and fellowship, to sing around the campfire, to encourage one another, to listen to God's word shared together. We can unwind a little bit from the normal busyness of life and grow closer together through shared experiences that can be challenging.
 The work weekend was not very cold (though the nights did have their chilly times) and we did some sweating during the day but it was fun to see things get cleaned up and more organized. Rotted buildings were torn down, dead trees were cut down and firewood made and stacked, brush was piled and some of it burned and things were cleaned up and painted.
 Lucy and Megan did some painting in the morning and then decided to take on a building project. They aren't probably ready for a carpentry job yet but they had fun and practiced some building skills.
 Water was enjoyed by many.
Sometimes you need to spend a little time regrouping before you tackle the next project.
 Old nails were pulled out of lumber.
 A new outhouse was set in place.
 During a rainstorm we did some relaxing and waiting for supper under the shelter.
 At normal Jackpine Retreat each family/group prepares their own meals except for a group meal for Sunday lunch but at the work weekend we organized meals and all ate together. That was fun. On Saturday we had 29 people there.
Games were played a little bit too.

 On Sunday I believe there were 15 of us still there and we had a nice service around the campfire. Aaron led some songs and Ben L. share some neat thoughts on Unity/Being One Body and then spoke of what Jesus did for us and then we shared communion together.

  I do feel so incredibly blessed to be part of the body of Christ and to be able to spend time and work together with other parts of the body.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Garden Harvesting Time!

 I am so thankful for my garden. God blesses us with an abundance every year. Not in everything - we usually have something or several somethings that struggle in some way but over all we are truly abundantly blessed.

 Our garden got a late start this year due to a wedding and a trip but it is looking fairly lush and lovely now.
 I have harvested quite a bit of rhubarb using some for jams and then freezing more. It is still looking good and I will probably harvest again soon.
Usually my garden gets to be a bit of a jungle as I tend to plant things fairly close together but I love it.
 We have eaten a lot of salads from the garden this summer. This romaine lettuce has grown slowly but we have been blessed by it.
 I love the herbs, many of which come back year after year.
 Aaron has just one lovely looking watermelon this year.
 This was a volunteer sunflower and it is very fun and cheerful.
I harvested a bunch of mint today. That is what we use to make mint tea all Winter (and Spring and Fall) long. We pretty much never by herbal tea but we drink it almost daily. It always comes back year after year and we save so much money by having it.
 Today's lovely harvest. I made one batch of pickles, took 2 buckets of cucumbers to share at baseball and made a chocolate zucchini cake which I also shared at baseball this evening.
 My pepper plants have grown fairly slowly but they are looking healthy and are working at producing so I am happy!
 Megan picked Hazelnuts today. I think we may have beat the squirrels and worms on many of the nuts this year. That is rather exciting.
Another garden picture.
 I heard somebody talking about if you want to save money just skip the garden because it is expensive. I totally do not agree! Yes our fence (to keep out the deer) did cost a bit but there would be cheaper options. However now that we have the fence we pay very little each year. I just buy seeds which I get from Fedco for a good deal. I could spend even less on seeds to provide for our needs but I am generally tempted to try some new flowers or veggies. If I just stuck with the basics it would not cost much. Also, once you get going you can save a lot of your own seed. I start my own plants as much as possible. This year may seedlings didn't do so wonderfully but a friend had extra that she gave me. Use compost, leaves and manure to improve your soil. Mulch with free tarps for the lumber yard, leaves and boxes. We get so much good from our garden each year. It is totally worth it!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

They Have Gone Home

One event we love to go to each year is the Itasca Family Music Festival. There we see lots of our homeschooling friends (and some that don't homeschool but that isn't so common) and get to meet new ones too. We hear lots of wonderful music played mostly by family bands in the Bluegrass style. They have really good bands on the main stage and then at various times there are side stages that are open for anybody to sign up to sing and play at. Aaron and I did that at one of the stages. They also have workshops that you can go to and this year there was a duet contest which was really fun and I got to be a scorekeeper for that.

  People come from all over the country to go to this. If you like good family friendly entertainment you might want to check it out.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Picking Berries

 One of my favorite summer activities is berry picking. I never get to do it quite as much as I would like to but I truly enjoyed the times I was able.

   Our first major berry picking of the summer was to go to the up-pick strawberry farm. My sister, Keren and boys and my Sister-in-law, Bea and boy went with us. 
 We got quite a few pails and ate a bunch while we were picking as well. They are so good when they are very fresh and perfectly ripe. It was so fun to see my nephews enjoying the strawberries. They also really enjoyed riding in the ATV that took us out to the field.
   We froze most of our strawberries but Megan also made a batch of jam and I made a fresh strawberry pie which is something I always like to have when we have fresh strawberries.

   We have also been blessed to be able to pick some strawberries from our garden but just a small bowl full at a time so we have enjoyed them fresh or in smoothies.
 Blueberries were next on the picking schedule. I love picking them. It is so fun to get out in the woods and just find yummy berries. Keren and boys, Aaron, Sharyl (my mother-in-law) and I were the ones on this outing.

   When we went to pick up Keren and boys we figured that they would be excited to go with us as they (Ephraim who is 3- especially ) had really enjoyed going strawberry picking with us. This time however Ephraim was a bit reluctant and nervous. We found out that he had been thinking a bit to much about the book "Blueberries for Sal" (super cute book by the way in case you haven't seen it) and was nervous about meeting a bear the way Sal had. After a few tears we went on our way with Aaron promising to scare away any bears that might come and distracting Ephraim with other books.

   When we got there the fears seemed to have disappeared and Ephraim had a grand time playing in the woods.
 Mathias liked the taste of blueberries pretty well and I gave him some for his little tin bucket which he would happily eat but then he did figure out how to just sit down and pick his own berries.
 My lovely berries.
We did make it to the blueberry patch a couple more times and we are happy to have some in the freezer and I made a batch of jam.

Ken and I also went and picked some raspberries at my parents one evening and Megan and I picked some wild ones around here. With the wild ones I made some raspberry rhubarb jam. I have been finding rhubarb very nice to use in addition to berries in jam to complete the quantity needed. It tastes really good together too!

   I am so glad God made berries!

   We miss Mara at berry picking time especially as that is something that she loves to do. She was sad about missing our berries up here but has been abundantly blessed to find many other things to pick in Kansas. She has picked strawberries and blackberries at her in-laws and then has found gooseberries, mulberries and plums to pick at areas around her apartment. She has been making lots of jam as well. We are so blessed!


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