I've been away from home, traveling due to necessity, during this time we all need to stay home. Now, I'm back home, and self-quarantining for 2 weeks, and reacquainting myself with the house and yard. It seems like we're living in our own little world. It's a glorious time of year here in central Minnesota. Everything is very green, we've had an average amount of rainfall, although the lawn is brown in some spots. We do not keep a manicured lawn! We have some "mowed green space" and we try to keep the surrounding trees and brush and weeds from encroaching. More than half of our lot is still wild. And we like it that way!
We both have spent quite a few hours outdoors the last few days, as we are preparing for the construction of a detached 2 car garage. Bob has done a lot of heavy lifting, hauling, tossing, demolishing, chain sawing and burning. Sounds like a real rough and ready guy, don't you think?! I've been involved in most of that, although I don't want to take on the chain saw! I've also been pulling lots of weeds, both out in the newly cleared area, plus in our flower beds. I guess when I'm gone, those weeds think they can just take over! Bob did keep the garden really cleaned up, thank goodness, during the times when he was home.
Bob and I are diving into a new project at home. Since we don't have any extensive road trips planned, other than to visit some MN State Parks, we are tackling some stay-at-home projects.
As you have seen in previous pages, we have a great little travel trailer that we love. It has weathered 2 winters of snow and cold and ice. We are going to give it a better home by constructing a detached double garage with enough height for the trailer. "We" are not going to do the constructing ourselves, but we are getting some estimates to do all the stuff that it takes to safely put this building together.
Step 1 in the preparation, clearing the site, is something we can almost do all for ourselves. There are about 15 trees and an old woodshed that will be effected. We started on the woodshed and that is plenty for right this week. It was getting decrepit, but it was something that Bob had built without a plan about 30 years ago. We did burn a lot of wood for about 20 of those years, using our woodburning stove as an excellent heat source for the house. So the shed has served its purpose, keeping a roof over some of the wood. More wood was stacked outside. Now, we are tearing down the shed and moving all the stacked wood to a nearby spot. A bunch of that wood has become very wet, and as I remove logs, I have come upon some picturesque gardens of fungus of various kinds. I'm not going to name them for you, but if you know what they are, I wouldn't mind knowing.
Also uncovered a mouse nest yesterday with babies that didn't even have eyes open. We left them alone for a bit, and the momma moved them to a new spot. Unfortunately, I came across that spot today, and scared her so badly that she jumped onto the chunk of wood in my hand and ran right up my arm! She quickly realized that this was the wrong direction and leaped to the ground. Again, we found some babies, just 2 this time, so we left her alone and she gathered them up and hid them somewhere else. Where will we find them next?!
Bob will be able to chainsaw a number of the trees that aren't oaks and aren't huge. We are in an area hit by oak wilt, a tree killer that spreads when the tree is cut or trimmed. We have already lost many (30-40) trees to oak wilt. So I think we will have to wait until September, possibly, to disturb the red and white oaks. There is one very large red oak, one of the tallest trees on our land, that might have to go. We had a tree guy come take a look at it, and told us it would be $2400 to remove that one tree! So we may be able to come up with a plan that will protect it by sliding the new building and driveway over a few more feet.
Oh - if anybody needs some firewood, we have some to share!
I stepped out for an easy walk this morning before breakfast. Actually, there are not many walks here at 7000' elevation that are easy for flatlander lungs of a certain age! Yesterday, I set off on an "easy" bike ride around a neighborhood loop. "There's just one big hill", says Brita. I got to that hill, and just barely got maybe 1/4 of the way up, and stopped, gasping, at the side of the road! Uff da! And it wasn't just the lungs that were complaining, it was those under-used leg muscles, too! We live our lives in East Bethel at about 900' elevation. Our favorite trips are to visit our 2 "kids". We visit our son in Whitefish, MT, at 3000'. And continuing on, we visit our daughter and son-in-law in Truckee at 7000'! That's a big mountain to climb.
The flora and fauna at 7000' are so distinctly different than back at home. Here, it's all about survival. The Donner party, which wasn't really a party at all, found that out the hard way. The flowering plants have adapted over time to find the best ways to grow, and eke a bit of life from the rocks and sandy soil. They are, in general, petite blossoms. I took pictures of some of them along the power line trail, just steps from the Burke house. The powerline cuts a large swath through the landscape, where trees have been removed and a small service road/trail remains for walkers, bikers, runners, etc.
This picture says "old world" to me. And it is old, by American standards! You might see something similar in a village in France, but this is Charleston, SC, in the city center. We were there in early March, pre-coronavirus. It was a grey day, threatening rain, so these photos do not do justice to the views. I was very thrilled that we were able to get on a morning walking tour on the only day that we could be there. I had a teaser for the beauty of this historic city a couple years ago when we stayed at Folly Beach, just to the south of the city. But it was raining and cold the day that we took a driving tour, and we had 3 little kids along, so it wasn't a great idea to get out and see much. But I was fascinated by the beautiful old houses and buildings, all very well preserved. I promised myself then that I would return some day when I could take the time to see the area on foot.
I love to find new little gizmos and gadgets. I'm sharing a few with you today. Some of these are just everyday things with a slight twist that appeals to me. Mostly, when I find something new and useful, I think other people want to know about it, too!
First off, there's a story about these salt and pepper shakers.
Last February in Florida, Debbie and I took a little field trip to find any interesting quilt shops within driving distance. We honestly didn't find much to write home about, but we did find a good lunch spot. Not a fancy place, but a good sandwich. The dining area was a bunch of picnic tables on a screen porch. There were nice little covered salt and peppers on the tables, the lid was hinged and sealed nicely to keep the moisture out. Lots of moisture in the air down there! I had never seen a shaker like this before, and I thought it would be very practical for the trailer. Not only keeping the moisture out, but keeping the stuff inside if tipped over. Things tend to tip over a lot when the trailer is towed down the road, so I have to give extra attention to making sure everything is secured. When we left the establishment, I asked the young woman at the counter where they could be purchased. A very young woman. The look on her face was priceless! It said "Why is this grandma lady asking me about salt shakers?? Why would I know anything about salt shakers? Why would I ever care?" To her credit, she didn't burst out laughing! She did ask someone else about it, and said they were from the dollar store. Debbie was cracking up all the way to the dollar store! No shakers to be found there, so I ended up ordering them on Amazon. Two sets, so I could give one to Debbie!
Something's happened in the kitchen during our coronavirus quarantine. All of a sudden, bread making is popular, and not just for subsistence! No, you can see pretty bread loaf pictures all over websites, like a new art form! Well, I've been trying to buy yeast since mid-March so I could try my hand at the bread dough. No yeast on the shelves for me! So I have dialed back in time to bring out this everyday product that's been there all the time....
Rhodes frozen bread dough! Now, I can get the scent of fresh bread without scrambling around trying to beg, borrow or steal some yeast! These 2 were just regular white bread, for starters. It made us both happy, even though we did have a little talk about who needs the crust pieces most. Luckily, there are 2 per loaf, so that settled that!
The only National Park on our winter trip was Big Bend. Neither of us had been there before, in fact, neither of us had really spent much time in Texas before. We learned a lot about Texas during the ~3 weeks we were there. It is, as they say, BIG! And this National Park is also a biggie. We camped in Rio Grande Village Campground, and we were lucky to get just about the last open site with electricity in that campground. We were on the east side of the National Park, click on this link to see a map of the area. We drove as far west as the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, a very scenic drive. Not for trailers and large RV's, however, with some tight twists and turns. The picture above was taken at an overlook near that center, it's a gap called The Window between the mountains with a very long range view. We also took a hike on the Boquillas Canyon Trail. It's not very long and not very hard, I was kind of wimpy that day. But we had a great view of the river and the Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen across the river.
During the month of February, we joined forces with good friends, Bob and Debbie, at a rental condo in Florida. We were on the panhandle, east of Destin and west of Panama City. It turned out to be a great vacation spot! We had plenty of restaurants, bars, shopping, sight-seeing and beach! Our condo was plenty roomy for us to do group activities or watch a movie, but still room to spread out when we wanted to. The kitchen was large and well supplied, so a lot of the meals were cooked right there. Buddy's was a great seafood market nearby, and we enjoyed the chance to learn more about cooking seafood that's not walleye!
With our extra time at home for who knows how long, we have decided to dive into some home projects that would have otherwise been left on the back burner while we cavort across the country. Inside the house, outside the house, and in the trailer, there is an assortment of things to be done so we have some flexibility with the weather.
Here's just a quick look at the before and after of our out front flower beds. We created 3 long flower beds about 20 years ago from rocks that we hauled in from other places. The picture on the left shows how the short rock walls had deteriorated over the years, and many of the plants (all perennials) had either died off from cold winters or had outgrown their spaces. So we (mostly Bob) dug out all the rocks, then started over with the walls. We were surprised at the amount of rocks that had been completely buried, I guess by erosion. We actually ended up with some extra rocks after building up the new walls. The photo on the right is one of the renovated walls. And now I get to buy some new plants! The nurseries around here are open, with changes made for safety of the public. So I've been able to pick up a few things, and will add more as time allows.
I thoroughly cleaned the inside of the trailer, so now it looks like new again, almost! The interior of a lot of the cabinets are white, and they get marks from pans, bowls, canned goods, etc., during the rattling around that occurs while flying down the road, no matter how much I pad or cushion them. Luckily, it mostly comes off easily with those scrubbing eraser pads. And I needed to hang a few things on the walls, in the shower, at my bedside and in the kitchen. The outside of the trailer really needs a good wash, but we'll wait for a warmer day for that. I put a new quilt on the bed, and we'll be camping in the driveway for now.
Inside the house, I've been cleaning in places that I've never cleaned before! Even Bob cleaned and reorganized his workbench in the basement! I cleaned out my entire food pantry/cabinet, which is the only way I can really clean and sort and reorganize the shelves in there. A few new containers to help fit the spaces helped a lot, too. I would love to have gone to the Container Store for a chance to browse their wonderful ideas and devices. That store is heavenly for someone like myself who likes to organize things, or at least try to organize and stay that way!
Another new-to-us recipe to share, a regular pot roast with a deliciously seasoned coating added. Another recipe that we will do again in the future.
Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pot Roast from Taste Of Home.
Cooking time about 6 hours in crockpot on low.
1 boneless beef chuck roast, about 3-4 pounds, cut into 2 pieces
1 pound medium red potatoes, quartered, peeled if desired
1 cup baby carrots
¼ cup Dijon mustard (or less according to my husband but I liked it as is)
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup chopped onion
1 ½ cups low salt beef broth (sub burgandy wine or brandy plus water for the broth if you like)
Put the carrots and potatoes in the bottom of the crockpot and then the roast on top. Mix together the mustard, rosemary, garlic salt, thyme and pepper; rub over roast. Top the roast with the chopped onion and pour in the broth. Cook on low until meat and vegetables are tender, for 6-8 hours. There's even a video for this recipe.
I'm trying to remember how to do this! I might need to go back to a tutorial to get this blog post done right!
We've experienced a lot since the year 2020 arrived, and I have been pretty quiet about it in this format. So I've got some catching up to do!
We've been traveling to so many new places, then scuttling home to stay safe as the awareness of what was coming with the coronavirus became very clear. So we did shorten our planned travel by a couple weeks, but we still had 2 ½ months of the worst part of Minnesota winter behind us! We enjoyed our travel with our Airstream so much, she's just right for us! Click on the "Read More" below to read more of my story.
Hi! I'm Pam! Join me on this journey through the next steps of life!