Snow is melting off the roof as I write this week's column. A large flock of mallard ducks is circling the open water below the dam that flows through Pine River. Just a few minutes ago a group of huge, white tundra swans wafted over our house. Sun rays are packing a little more heat as they pry the frozen slush off my pickup, exposing the rust underneath. Groundhog's Day happened this past Tuesday. There is a light faintly glimmering at the end of winter's long tunnel.
"All the great men are dead and I'm not feeling so well myself." That was a line used in many high school annuals when it came to describing a certain graduating senior during my high school years. The past two weeks brought that thought to the forefront of my feelings. In just two weeks the world lost several of its great musical giants - Glenn Frey from The Eagles, David Bowie and Natalie Cole. All of these were famous musicians and singers from my generation. I'm not feeling so well myself.
Our home sits among a group of friends. They don't talk. They don't walk. They're always there when you return home. They're called trees. Back in 1978, my wife and I built our home. After searching the area for a location we liked, we settled on a piece of land at the outer edge of what had been a Christmas tree farm. The house site was surrounded by young Norway pine trees, oaks, aspen, birch and ash trees.
I received a video clip last week from my brother-in-law, Bill. The clip was sponsored by my old hometown, Hinton, Iowa. The town was advertising to the public, inviting them to take a look at Hinton as a place to live and raise a family. The film clip mentioned a number of assets the community could provide, and if I would have been in the market for a new home or a place to move to, Hinton seemed to be a good choice by viewing the video.
Pond hockey tournaments are on hold. Ice fishermen are treading lightly atop lakes. Snowplows are rusting in the driveway. Geese are deciding the north country isn't really so bad in winter and are seen swimming on open water. Cherry blossoms are budding in Washington, D.C. Those of us who have actually experienced and enjoyed a real winter are wondering, "What happened?"
The following Last Windrow "Classic" column was written in 1990 when my daughter was 5 years old. It was to be her first excursion to a Christmas tree farm that she could really remember. I wrote it as a Christmas card to her and I'm sending it out to my daughter Anna and my readers during this Christmas Day week as a tradition I started 15 years ago. I hope you enjoy reading it again! "The Ugliest Little Christmas Tree" It stood there in the midst of tall evergreens, Roots planted in the sandy soil. Its scattered branches bending low,
The price of a partridge in a pear tree has gone up. I read recently that the current value of the items listed in the popular holiday tune, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," has hit a new ceiling. Evidently labor costs, commodity prices and high musician fees have put a strain on the money belt of givers of those gifts. According to this report, if you were to purchase the items mentioned in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" today, the grand total would come to a bit over $34,000. Now that's a real Christmas present!
"It's 5 and I'm leaving for the barn." Those were the words I heard coming from downstairs in the farmhouse on that cold and snowy Dec. 12 morning in 1960. Those words from my uncle were my prompt to climb out from under the thick feather tick and head downstairs. I could see my breath hovering over me and the wind was pounding against the side of the two-story farmhouse. I pulled my jeans up under the feather tick to warm them a bit before I shoved my legs into the two slots. There was little heat that drifted upward from the huge octopus of a furnace in the basement of that house.
If I seem a little frustrated in this column, you have to forgive me. I've been untangling Christmas light strings. I like to reuse things, so why do light strings that brightened the holiday nights a year ago go dead in the middle of the string this year? And, trying to get those tiny fuses out of the plug and back in isn't an easy task for someone with fingers larger than a needle. I like the holiday bulbs of days gone by when you simply had to screw a new bulb into place and go about your business.
A turkey never entered our farmhouse oven. Why would it? Thanksgiving is on the horizon and many of us are anticipating the annual food fest. We toss out the diet books, don't listen to the commercials that boast about weight reduction, forget our doctor's advice about eating too much high carb dressing. Basically, we go back to our caveman roots and choose to eat anything that looks chewable. It is as it should be. Life is too short to not enjoy the fruits of our land and labor. All summer long we who garden labored in our fields trying to secure a winter's worth of vegetables.