Beilieve in spring


Although the snowdrift on the driveway garden is still about 4 feet tall, look closely and you can see a tiny rhubarb leaf inching out of a plant breaking dormancy. The snow drift developed as we snowblew and neighbors plowed the driveway, depositing the excess accumulations on the garden. The snow is mostly melted off the open areas, but its sticking around in the woods and on the north sides of buildings. I hope this is the end of winter. I have cole crops and basil started under lights. They’ll want to go outside in a week or two. I have a plastic cold frame for them and then into the gardens.

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Family circuit


A A trip to the south is a good way to shorten winter for us northern Minnesotans. Doug and I took off the first couple of weeks of February, but not to Arizona or Texas. We started the trip with an overnight at Phoebe and Dave’s home in Mora, Minn. to drop off the dog, Spirit.
That leg of the trip was fraught with problems. Two days before, I hung the van up on a snowdrift and had to call our local towman to pull it out. He didn’t have good enough traction with the tow truck, so he had to winch the vehicle to the road. I detected a different noise immediately upon rescue, but decided it was minor. On the way to Mora, at about Big Sandy Lake, the noise became more pronounced and was accompanied by a bad vibration. By McGregor, it had turned into a loud grating sound along with a howl. We called AAA whose dispatcher said the truck would be coming from Finlayson and arrive in about one hour. I took a stroll around Mark’s Bar parking lot where we had holed up. Within a few minutes Dave, the tower, showed up asking if I were Molly. Turns out, he was returning from another tow and had stopped at the McGregor Dairy Queen – a block or so from Mark’s – for ice cream. Dave loaded the van up on his truck and delivered us to Lenny’s Service (closed early on Friday afternoon) in Mora. The positive side of this late arrival was an after-ski-race nap for Phoebe and Dave. Lenny determined the problem as a bad wheel bearing. I called Click and Clack to ask if there was any connection with pulling the van out of the snow drift, but they’re on encore programming and don’t answer the phone.
On Saturday, we met our Minneapolis hosts, Paul and Cam Rogers, at the GREAT Theater in St. Cloud where Joel was performing as the prosecutor in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” We took the Rogerses, Aimee, Joel, Adelaide and Henry to an early supper after the play. Another positive to no car was that I didn’t have to drive in the dark into Minneapolis.
Overnight at Paul and Cam’s, then Amtrak Empire Builder (late as usual) to Chicago where we just made our connection on the Lakeshore Limited by a bare 15 minutes.
Josh picked us up at the Boston train station (late) and we spent a week visiting with Josh and Stephanie and their 2-year-old daughter, Billie Rose. Stephanie is French and they speak French at home so Billie will grow up bilingual. Billie’s language skills are impressive already, says Mamy, the proud grandmother. Doug is Papy.
We spent a day in Boston touring the USS Constitution, but the rest of the time, we stayed at Stephanie and Josh’s playing with Billie.
The trip home was uneventful (but late) and Paul had to drive us the next day to Mora to pick up the now repaired van. We and the dog headed home to Pinesol. Neighbors had tended to the horses and chickens while we were away.

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Pete Seeger

During the summer of 1963, I had a job in Little Compton, Rhode Island as nanny to four children 10 and younger and housekeeper for a rich family, heirs to the Brooks Brothers men’s clothing franchise. (They owned a big house in Little Compton, as well as a New York City apartment and a farm near our home in Sandy Hook, Conn.) I received $25 per week plus room and board with Thursdays off. I also took Sunday mornings off to go to the Episcopal church a 10-minute walk from the house. The family went to Mass in the next town. One Sunday, there was an announcement that Pete Seeger would lead a singalong that night following a pot luck supper. He was to perform at the Newport Folk Festival that week and was staying mwith some other summer residents in Little Compton. I asked my employers if I could have the night off for the event and they agreed. I got the kids bathed and ready for bed and took off across lots for the church. After supper, Pete Seeger led the singing in the church basement. He sang a few songs accompanying himself on the banjo. Then he divided us into six groups – low bass to high soprano – and led the songs. I remember “Wimoweh” especially, but we sang for at least an hour. I was amazed how good we were harmonizing. Seeger would sing each group’s part and each group would try it out.
Now, at 94, Seeger has died. I’ll never forget how he just assumed everyone wanted to sing with him.

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Polar Vortex


Maritime Canada map

The extreme cold this winter makes morning, afternoon and evening dog walks not eagerly anticipated, except by the dog. But we bundle up and put on the Mad Bomber helmet. (It’s lined with rabbit fur and smells a little gamey when frosted by my breath.) The windchill warnings make the weather sound even colder. However, the most interesting radio weather and road reports we’ve experienced were when we lived in New Brunswick, Canada. The radio announcer would offer “snowpacked and slippery from Fredericton to Miramichi (accent on last syllable)” or “free wheeling from Kouchibouguac to Tabusintac.” But the really scary report was the freezing spray warning. In the subzero cold, sea water can splash up onto ship riggings, freeze in thick coating and make the vessels top heavy and likely to turn over. That warning was for all the fisherfolks who supplied our haddock , halibut and founder.

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Extended Christmas



In reverse order:

Dave grooms the trail
Phoebe makes turkey dressing
Henry tries his first skis
Spirit and Dave skijoring
Adelaide on her first skis
Auntie Phoebe and Adelaide the Munchkin on the opening nihjt of “The Wizard of Oz”

Two thirds of the Mirons gathered for Christmas weekend at Phoebe and Dave’s new house in rural Mora. Dave (nurse anesthetist) was on call for Christmas. Joel and Aimee and their young’uns, Adelaide, 7, and Henry, 4, arrived on the Saturday for the celebration. Joel (pathologist at St. Cloud Hospital) was also o call during Christmas. We opened presents with Adelaide, a good reader, as Santa’s helper. Supper was a homegrown Tom turkey (18.25 pounds) from Kelly Larson’s Northern Flights flock. I’d picked him and his smaller brother out before Thanksgiving. They were Royal Palms, very beautiful white spangled with black feather tips.
Before supper and the main present opening, while there was still daylight, we all went out and skied, Henry and Adelaide for the first time on their Christmas skis. Spirit has skijored before, but she was too distracted by Riley, Phoebe and Dave’s Lab mix puppy, and Ophelia, Joel and Aimee’s Great Pyrenees, to do a good job. The visiting partiers left on Sunday.
Then on Jan. 10, we returned to the Mora folks’ place to travel to St. Joe where the GREAT theater company is performing “The Wizard of Oz” in St. Ben’s Escher Auditorium. Adelaide had tried out for a Mumchkin part and told me at Thanksgiving “I’m in.” There were 77 Munchkins. The play is impressive as the company had rented the costumes, sets and special efects (including smoke, fog and pyrotechnics) of the New York City production. Wow! It runs through next weekend. After the last curtain, Adelaide joined the rest of the cast in the autograph line.
Super extended holiday.

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No time for TV

We haven’t owned a television since we moved to Minnesota in 2000. However, we used to watch football and Masterpiece Theatre on a 26-inch 30-year-old computer monitor hooked up a an FM tuner and Hifi speaker attached to a length of wire (read antenna). This contraption was Doug’s doing. We haven’t used it since broadcasts went digital. We don’t seem to have time for TV.
The equipment used to sit harmlessly downstairs in the basement (which in this old farmhouse is really a cellar.) But we cleaned out the cellar this summer and moved the “entertainment center” upstairs. Quite a haul as the computer monitor weighed 85 pounds and has nothing to hold onto.
It’s been sitting in the window seat blocking the view, so last week we decided to get rid of it.
It works, but is inconvenient. Our frist stop was Good Will. No thanks, the intake person said. So we tried Restore. Rejected again. But the volunteer suggested trying ARC United Thrift Store. The manager there accepted it and seemed to understand how to hook it up. Success. I was thinking the next stop would Waste Management.
This isn’t the first time recyclers have refused to take our giveaways. We ended taking a perfectly good recliner chair, with just a few mended seams to the transfer station because nobody wanted it.
I hope someone who needs a TV takes it off ARC’s hands.

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a quiet day for us at Pinesol – no feast except for our usual good fare. However, the day after, we went to Phoebe and Dave’s in Mora, Minn. and left Spirit to be doggiesat and stayed the night. Saturday morning, we continued on to Joel, Aimee, Adelaide and Henry’s home in Sartell for the festivities. They had bought tickets for us to the community theater performance of “White Christmas.” It was wonderful, especially the company dance numbers. We were able to get a walk in before Joel came home from work at the St. Cloud Hospital (these health workers are on call at inconvenient times). Then Adelaide helped cut up crudites for snacks. We had dinner of woinderful sides and a heritage turkey from Kelly Larson’s flock. Tom was delicious and gave us leftovers to leave and take home. The other Tom will be for Christmas. On Sunday morning, we returned to Phoebe and Dave’s for a tea break and to pick up Spirit. Then home to our animals. The chickens were still well supplied and the horses had a few whisps of hay left from the six bales we left for them. The horeses have water in a heated Ritchie fountain, so they’re good waterwise.
It was a fine celebration.

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October adventures


Doug and Captain on the schooner Windy

Flamingos at Chicago Zoo

Chicago’s Shedd Acquarium

Whitney Sims and Trey Braswell

My namesake, Molly Sims

In September, we received an invitation to the wedding of the daughter and granddaughter of North Carolina friends. We met the Sims family about 20 years ago when we lived in Brookings, S.D. When we were visiting other friends, Marv and Carolyn Petersen, in Hickory, N.C., they took us for an evening’s entertainment to the Sims Country Barbecue – food, live bluegrass music and dancing. When Keith Sims, the grandpa, stopped at opur table he was interested in South Dakota, so I invited him and family to come and stay with us for pheasant huntings season. He and his wife, Shirley, the grandma of the bride, did come that year with another couple. The next year, more of the Sims family visited, and eventually after a couple of years I think we hosted 18 of the clan at one time.

Some Simses also visited us here in Pinesol, but years go by, children grow up and old folks age. We hadn’t seen the family for about 10 years.

So, when we received the wedding invitation for a girl I last saw when she was about 14, I automatically sent my regrets. Then Doug said, “We could go.”

Oh, yeah, we’re retired. We have time. So he made reservations on Amtrak and we took the journey our 44th anniversary celebration, as well as Whitney’s wedding.

The trip was an adventure. The Empire Builder – Amtrak from Seattle/Portland to Chicago – arrived in St. Paul (where we had overnighted with Minneapolis friends) three hours late. With pull-offs to let freight trains go by (Canadian Pacific owns the tracks and give prioirty to freight) we arrived in Chicago five hours late, missing our connection with the Capitol Limited. So, we had a day in Chicago. Fun, but not when we planned. Amtrak put us up in a fancy hotel (Hyatt Regency) and gave us cash for cab fare and toward meals. During the Washington, D.C. layover, we went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Doug wisely had given us an extra day for travel, so we didn’t arrive at our debarking station in Gastonia, N.C. at 3:12 a.m. on the wedding day, but the day before. Whitney and her father, Joe, met us. We visited, stayed with Shirley and Keith and celebrated the wedding and day after breakfast with Joe and Whitney’s mother, Glennie.

The next stage was a train ride farther south to visit Doug’s Aunt Lee in Loganville, a suburb of Atlanta, Ga. We spent an afternoon with Doug’s Cousin Barbara Hefferon, at the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta, went to the National Zoo during our D.C. layover and sailed on the schooner Windy on Lake Michigan during the Chicago wait.

All in all, a good vacation.

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Garden joys

The Grandpa Ott morning glory started with seed Diane Ott Whealet inherited from her grandfather. Those seeds were the beginning of Seed Savers Exchange, which now offers a catalog of more than 14,000 heirloom varieties.

The tomatoes are mostly heirloom varieties, too. It was a good garden season even though I had to water several times during the dry months.

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Appliance swap

In 1972, Doug and I moved from a suburb of Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada, where he worked for the University as a technician in the artificial hands and arms lab, to a country place – 100 acres of pasture and woods north of Stanley and south of the Miramachi River. The settlement was called Maple Grove, although it was just a series of farms, the last ones on the lane unelectrified. Our place had electricity, though, and we decided we needed a freezer for garden preservation and meat.
We bought a 32-cubic-foot Gibson deep freeze for $250. (The land, substanard house and two barns – one falling down – cost $4,000 cash.) We have moved that freezer at least five times, including a winter stint unplugged in a South Dakota friend’s granery. For 41 years, it has chugged along faithfully keeping contents at 10 below zero. This summer, I froze 30 meals of green and yellow beans when they were at their peak. Last month, I open the freezer to pop in the packages of processed broccoli. The thermometer read 60 degrees and the beans smelled like compost. All lost. Lucky for us, our winter meat supply is in a newer freezer in the cellar.
We went to Sears in Belmidji and took advantage of their Labor Day sale and bought a new 25-cubic-foot freezer. We also had a garage fridge that needed to be held shut with bungee cords. We decided to replace that, too. So, Sears delivery/installation guys John and Steven arrived with the new appliances. The newer old fridge went into the garage and the new fridge replaced it in the kitchen. The old freezer, body rot and all, went to recycle, as did the oldest fridge. The new freezer cost in 2013 U.S. dollars just double what we paid in Canadian bucks 41 years ago.

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