Tuesday, August 29, 2006


June 22, 1989-August 16, 2006

Well, a couple weeks ago the inevitable finally happened. Our old family friend Bernard had to be helped along into the hereafter. We were hoping he’d just pass away in his sleep, we’d wake up one day and find him gone in his favorite bed. But, it was not to be. He just had too much spirit to give it up that easy.

For those of you who knew Bernard know he had his share of brushes with death and by all rights defied it on numerous occasions throughout his little but, certainly not uneventful life.

The last year or so brought about all kinds of wild speculation as to just how long the little white (more like dirty dish water) wonder dog would tarry. By the smell of his potent breath people might have thought his demise had already come about. Indeed these last couple years Bernard will be better known for his pungent odor. It’s hard to describe really, just how terrible it was. His breath is sure to take on mythical proportions in the coming months and years.

Bernard turned 17 this past June, a fact that for anyone who knew his history, usually brought about expressions of wonderment and reminiscing of his many harrowing adventures and near misses he had with untimely end.

But, poor Bernard’s failing health finally got the better of him. It was a combination of numerous things really. Nearly blind, almost deaf. Tumors, cysts, a nagging cough and loss of bladder control. In spite of it all, always the happy camper never losing his appetite for food or a even a little romance should opportunity come his way. The month or so he really began to suffer and we all had to sit down in a family pow wow and agree that it would be best to take him to the vet and have him put to sleep. We all struggled with it of course. After all he’s been a fixture in our family for a long time, ever since he was a tiny pup. Actually I didn’t like him much when we got him but, over the years he grew on me and I had to at least admire him for his heart and his enthusiastic approach to life. Tons of spirit that little dog.

Anyway I even contemplated putting him down myself a couple weeks ago thinking it might be a more fitting way to go but, in the end we decided to take him in. Actually I’m glad that’s how it went. The folks at the Foster and Smith clinic were extremely understanding and professional in how they handled it. They reassured me it was the best thing to do. Now I imagine that’s what they always say but, I’m confident it only took one glance ( or one whiff) to know we were doing the right thing. Actually they probably wondered why we waited so long. I know that a number of our family and friends were wondering that. But, we had to give Bernard the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he would rally? Maybe he would go on his own terms? Those were just a couple reasons why we held out as long as we did.

I think that some day I might write a book about our old faithful companion and family mascot. I’ll give it a little time though . Time to let the legend of Bernard grow and take on mythical proportions. Not that his remarkable little life needs it of course. But, he was an amazing little fellow. A pain in the rear sometimes but, amazing nonetheless.

Until Next Time

Monday, August 28, 2006

Harvest Time

Harvest time is my favorite time of the year. We got a late start on our garden but, it looks as though it is going to finish well. The first signs of Fall are in the air in the North Woods. Geese flying south. Leaves here and there starting to turn. The bracken ferns are turning brown and of course we are eating well out of the garden.

This is our second season with this raised bed which is giving us an ample amount of green beans this year.

I was surprised Sunday morning when I went out into the poultry yard to find a momma hen with 5 baby chicks. Didn't even know they were being set on. She must have been hiding some place. Haven't gotten a chance to snap a picture of them yet.

Basket full of Crab Apples, hmm good.

I didn't think I'd have enough time this evening to write much for this post so I thought I'd share some pictures our daughter took from around here with her camera. I don't know what I was thinking since it took just about forever to download all these.

We are truely blessed to be surrounded by such beauty.

Below are just some of the cool sunsets we get to see on a regular basis. Someone is always calling out to everyone to come look at the most recent spectacular display.

Here is one of our kittens (Clyde) that is surely becoming a full grown cat. He is already on mouse patrol as he sits perched here on a fence rail.

And to wrap up this post here are our three shetland sheep, the friendliest little critters we've ever had around. They love to be scratched and petted.

Until Next Time

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Escaping The Rat Race

If there’s ever been a perpetual motion machine it would have to be that of mankind chasing after worldly riches. Surely the rat race is reminiscent of the meaningless “chasing after the wind” so accurately described by King Solomon in the old testament book of Ecclesiastes. You chase and pursue yet never have enough, never able to obtain lasting satisfaction. We seek ever more yet never have enough, to be sure.

Growing up in a far north suburb of Chicago I saw the constant increase of the masses of people running along to and fro every day on that ever spinning hamster wheel called the rat race. But, back in the spring of 1998, I made my escape. Free at last! Free from the meaningless drone of perpetually doing the same thing week in and week out, always spinning my wheels but never seeming to get anywhere.

But, as everyone knows freedom is something that must be vigilantly maintained because there is, it would seem, some unseen diabolical force which is constantly at work seeking to re-enslave all those who would find that elusive but, coveted freedom. This is a sobering fact I have found to be true over these past 8 and half years we have lived in Northern Wisconsin.

For every would be agrarian there is this ever present tension between living the “simple” life and earning money. I have touched on this topic many times in the past. For me I am very sensitive to the plight of all of us who are seeking to live with a foot in both worlds. As the Amish buggy in a Wal-Mart parking lot fully illustrates, in one of my past posts, no one it seems, is exempt from this vexing dilemma. Not even the Amish.

Here we are, already on the back side of summer. Most of this year my family and I have been on a precipice of change. We’ve been doing some serious soul searching as to what exactly we feel the Lord would be directing us to do. I am fundamentally opposed to participating in the rat race yet to be honest that is exactly where we have wound up once again. For me the desire to not want to be running on a hamster wheel goes way beyond just a mere whim or fanciful notion. It’s spiritual thing. When I read the words of Jesus (Luke 12:22-31) expressly telling us to not “worry about our lives concerning what we will eat and what we will wear, for the pagan world runs after such things” I really take it to heart. Jesus showed little regard for worldly wealth and possessions. That theme runs all through out the Gospels.

When we moved to the country there wasn’t any financial security here waiting for us. It was hard to take that leap. To really believe the Lord and to bide by His timing, trusting Him to provide. To live by faith rather than by site. It was hard to do that yet that is exactly what I felt we needed to do. All the striving and scheming before that to try and figure out how to keep a certain standard of living always came to frustration. It seemed I could never quite get it all figured out. But, we new we needed to go. We had to. We were being called, drawn, even prodded to move to this place.

Sometimes over the years I have succumbed to the fear that maybe God would let us down. That He would embarrass us by not providing. Yet my fears have never once been realized. We have always had enough. We’ve never gone without. At least not without our own choosing. There are lots of things we just don’t have or don’t do like we see the “Joneses” having and doing. You know the Joneses they all have the toys and stuff. They have the cars, boats, motorcycles, ATV’s and big screen televisions with the latest cable or satellite packages. They take regular vacations too.

We weren’t here long when it dawned on us that we were living below the poverty level. I admit I had to mull that over a little. Hmm, I’d never lived in poverty before. I had to wrestle with that a bit. Then I realized there is a big difference between being impoverished and living frugally. And besides with all that we have, being “poor “is the farthest thing from our minds. We’re money poor it is true, even to this day but, we are rich in many other ways.

As I mentioned earlier, we have found ourselves back on that dreaded hamster wheel again. Mostly it has to do with running the trash route. That’s pretty much our only source of regular income. I was really bummed out last month when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to take off a few days to attend Mountain Fire Keepers, Country Living Skills workshop for July.

As things stand right now the garbage business really isn’t working that well for us. It’s at a real awkward stage. The way we’re doing it is just plain hard work. Harder work than I want to be doing at this stage of my life. Yet it doesn’t generate enough money to hire help or to even buy the proper equipment. We’re sort of in the same kind of plight as the American farmer. “Get Big or Get Out!” I can really relate right now with those folks. It’s a very wearying place to be in. Yet if we don’t do this for money what will we do? Back to scheming again?

I know God has a plan for us here. Sometimes I see it so clearly I can taste it but, other times it’s not so clear. Some days the enemy gets in and tempts me to doubt and to sit down and quit, underestimating the Lords provision and perfect will.

Recently I read a good book called The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson. It helped me kind of get back to the basics of faith in regards to setting aside silly fears and not believing the lies of the devil. Waiting for God to give clear direction can be a very trying time and makes us subject to all kinds of unbiblical thoughts.

In a future post I hope to give a little more in-depth report on this encouraging book. I’m still processing much of what I read.

The heat wave has pretty much let up in the North Woods. Just yesterday and again this evening I saw flocks of geese heading South. I thought, “wow, it’s that time again.” I never cease to be amazed at how God built the migratory urge into certain creatures. How do they know where they’re going anyway? When you think about it, it’s a total miracle.

Until Next Time

* A note about the guy on the hamster wheel at the top. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn a suit so it doesn't really represent my life in the rat race but it does represent many folks. I got a kick out of the animation. I found it on Yahoo. It was linked to http://jacobsmedia.typepad.com/jacobs/2005/09 Just thought I should give credit where it is due.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Farmer Arrested For Driving A Vegetable-Powered Truck

"A French farmer faces prosecution for driving on public roads in a vegetable-powered truck."

Though this news story is from another country it should give those of us interested in alternative fuels a little food for thought as far as the government getting in and messing up a good thing.

Click here to see the full story.