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If you follow me on Facebook, you know that we recently spent a week with our family in Minnesota. My husband’s parents live in a small Swedish community that is most known for the church scene in Grumpy Old Men. My father-in-law’s Swedish ancestors settled in that area as farmers and his parents built the 100-year-old farm house that my in-laws now live in. We love visiting “the farm” and do so as often as we get the chance. We lived there for a year or so when our two oldest were still in diapers and our third wasn’t even on our radar yet. The kids loved going to the barn to visit the chickens and collect eggs, then run over to the garden to pick some tomatoes and raspberries for lunch. I have no doubt that is where they learned to love fresh, real food and am grateful they had that experience at such a young age.
On this last trip, rather than staying in the crowded house (my sister-in-law, one niece, and three nephews were also visiting), we took the opportunity to travel 16 hours with our little camper in tow. With all the land available at the farm, we just set up in the side yard and had a nice view of the lake across the road and the garden behind us.
Although we’ve only been in Colorado for two years, having moved here from Minnesota and Florida three years before that, I was still completely taken back by the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes when we got to Minnesota. I have apparently completely acclimated to the dry heat in the west, because I started suffering from anxiety my first couple of days back in that sweltering weather. It was most likely made worse by the fact that we were sleeping in the camper at night and not in the air conditioned house, and some mosquitoes made it in at night. But it was short-lived so we were able to bear it for the time being. And we were with family that we hadn’t seen in a couple years, and that made it all worth it.
Because of all the rain they’ve received lately, the growing season got a late start, so the strawberries were not quite ready (except for 2 which my son promptly devoured), and radishes were the only other crop that was ready for picking. I was really hoping for rows and rows of ripe raspberries, but since we were there in mid-June, I knew that was wishful dreaming on my part. Let me tell you, there is nothing better than a bucket of fresh-picked raspberries (especially the goldens, oh my gosh!) on a hot summer day. They are infinitely better than anything you could ever buy in the grocery store.
Another thing missing on this trip was the farm fresh eggs. The chickens are pretty old now, so they are no longer producing eggs. They are more like pets (and bug control in the garden) at this point. When we lived at the farm, I was the one that would take care of the chickens as often as I could. The one winter I was the sole caretaker for them, it was -40 degrees at night and I would bundle up, covering my face with my scarf, putting on gloves under my gloves, a hat under my parka hood, and a sweater under my parka. My eyelashes would freeze solid as soon as I walked outside, and frost would form in my nostrils. As a girl who grew up in Florida, this was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. And I loved it.
I would bring the chickens hot water so their water dish wouldn’t freeze, make sure they had enough feed, and that the heat lamps were working so they would survive in their coop in the barn. I did this every night for 2 weeks during one of the coldest MN winters in recent history. I also assisted with the butchering of a few of the roosters in the freezing temps of late winter. I did not love that so much (oh, the smell!) but I am very grateful for the experience anyway.
While we were in Minnesota, we went for a little swim in one of the 10,000 lakes. When I say “swim”, I mean I stood off to the side and took pictures while 2 of my 3 kids timidly touched the water and my husband made our nephews do pushups on the dock. But swimming was easier to say.
Russell and Katie were pretty nervous to get in the water. Katie would only walk in up to her knees and beyond that, she had to be carried in. Even with her daddy holding her safely above the water she was still pretty nervous. And Russell was okay to be in waist-deep water, but her preferred to hang out on the dock, fishing around the water surface for floating shells. He gathered quite the pile. Too bad I made him toss them all back because they smelled like the rotting corpses of a million snails. And that’s putting it nicely.
Leah, on the other hand, is like a fish in the water. It’s her home, she loves it. While I thought the water was frigid, she was perfectly content to just float around in her own little world. And I simply couldn’t resist the picture of my little Katie in the arms of her big cousin, Malcolm. Those two just hit it off. When I met my husband, Malcolm was just 5, so to see him as this nearly adult man being a gentle giant with my little baby girl, it’s pretty fantastic. My sister-in-law is raising some wonderful boys.
So for now, we’re back home. We actually went on another camping trip 5 days after getting home, but due to some camper problems, I think we’re out of commission for a couple weeks, so maybe that will give me more time to test out some new recipes. Hopefully. I’ve got a few ideas that I need to get out of my head and into my mouth.
That sounded weird…