Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How do you like your ratio?

Today let’s explore the Spectrum of Mathematical Ratios.
I live in a state that is part of a region vaguely designated as the Upper Midwest. It is not so northerly to suggest all Paul Bunyan all the time, nor is it so mid-westernly to bring to mind exclusively cornfields, wheat and the occasional soybean.
There is much to commend this state.  Rolling hills. Picturesque farms. Colby Jack cheese. And many bodies of water.
The problem is that there are only 2 months of the year during which one can fully,  with no accoutrements or encumbrances, enjoy and participate in the outdoors.
Let’s begin with October.
Isn’t it pretty?
Many people spend the entire month of October outdoors.
Because they know that November through May often bring this:
We are either anticipating it, living through it, or cleaning up after it during those 7 months.
But we endure. Because after May, when the final threat of snow is over, comes June. 
And once again many folks remain outdoors for the 30 days June hath.
With good reason.
Remember those bodies of water that make this Upper Midwest state so appealing?
One of their primary functions is as mosquito hatcheries.
They perform this function admirably, and from July through September 
we all don our Deet, erect our screen houses, engage in the state dance (The Mosquito Swat, Slap and Sidestep) and cower indoors after dusk like the residents of Transylvania evading Count Dracula. The mosquitoes don't depart till October.
You may be asking- I see the geography in this post. I see the analogies and the foreshadowing. Where is the promised mathematical ratio?
Read on.
2 months out of 12 (2:12) are months of bliss, aka 1/6th of a year.
Leaving 5/6ths (10:12) of battling the elements and the winged creatures.
Is it worth the struggle?  Mathematically the odds are against us.
But aesthetically it can’t be beat.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let's Party!

Spring is nature's way of saying "Let's party!"
- Robin Williams

Punxsutawney Phil is unreliable and disappointing. Sorry, Phil.

Year after year, the Pennsylvania-loving Phil sees his shadow dooming us to six more weeks of winter. Or, is it that he doesn't see his shadow? I get confused.

Whatever the tradition, we can agree that Phil rarely brings us good news.

When looking for signs of spring, it is probably best to ignore the furry, orthodontia-needy prognosticator.

Instead, I am on the lookout for the first robin of spring. While turdus migratorius can and sometimes does stay through the frigid Midwestern winter, most of the members of the American Robin family pack their bags and head south on vacation and begin to return in early March.

My creative, family-loving friend, Margaret, has made a family game of spotting the first robin of spring. First prize is a stuffed robin. Second prize is robin eggs, the kind you find in Easter baskets. Most importantly, it is one more way they connect as a family and inspires them to pull their heads out from under the afghan, to look outside their warm and cozy homes and soak in the first signs of spring.

In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv has written about the impact of technology on the hearts and minds of children. Many are removed from the things of nature - such as spotting the first robin of spring- by electronic devices. Mr. Louv has coined the phrase "nature deficit disorder" to describe the changes taking place in our children and grandchildren's generation as they detach more and more from the beauty of the world around them. My friend is doing her best to draw her family into a greater awareness and joy for the world around them.

Punxsutawney Phil would have us don multiple layers, wind our scarves around our necks one more time and hunker down in our houses for another few weeks.

I defy Phil! I may be jumping the gun, but I am on the hunt for the first sings of spring.

So, come on crocuses! Peek your head through the soil you beautiful daffodils! Swans grace our pond for just a few days. Soft, gray pussy willows make your debut!

Let's party!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love

- Thomas Chisolm

What is your favorite first sign of spring? Have you seen a robin yet? How can you encourage the people you love to move away from the screen and be nurtured by nature?


Monday, February 27, 2012

Four Baton Lessons

I transferred from a small school (50 students K-12) to a big school (about 83 graduates) in my sophomore year.

Gaylord had a band.

I loved football Fridays. I loved the half-time shows--the drums, the horns, the cymbals, the marching,

I wanted to join that band!

Bad. Really bad.

But I couldn't play an instrument. None. Zilch.

Dead dream.

But what if I learned to twirl?

My mom knew a little about twirling. She showed me with a broom. And then bought me a real baton.

I spent the whole summer learning to twirl in front of me, pass behind my back, pass under my leg, spin across my wrist, throw and catch.

Practiced. And practiced more.


I showed up for tryouts in my junior year.

I thought I would throw up.

But I made the cut. Although now I can't really remember if they actually cut anyone. But at least I didn't stink enough for them to say, "Strut on out of here."

Miss Majorette. Band member.

That's me with the glasses.

Lesson 1: If you want something bad enough, you can find a way.

We majorettes practiced alone and then practiced with the band. I loved strutting on the field. I loved dodging horns and drums. I loved freezing football nights when my baton turned to ice and strangers loaned me blankets. I loved throwing my baton. I particularly loved catching it. I loved feeling like I had done my best.

Our band instructor used to scold us. "Michigan State walks on the field. U of M marches. We march!"

Lesson 2: Learning doesn't stop once you realize a dream.

My senior year. Head majorette. I don't remember how, and I think my only job was to schedule practices. But I got to wear a big furry hat! And I had to learn how to balance it while dashing through the horns--who thought it was fun to try and run us over.

The majorettes led the band in parades. I loved marching to the drum cadence and then breaking into our routine when the band struck up the music. One day my hat tumbled to the pavement. I hesitated, but then did what any professional would do. I stepped over it and kept on going. I don't know who rescued it and returned it to me unscathed at the end of the parade.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you just have to step over obstacles and keep going.

The summer after graduation, I ran for Alpine Queen (now Alpenfest Queen.) I chose to perform a routine with my baton, probably to a Sousa march or something. I don't remember. Anyway, I tossed--and missed. The baton hit the stage and bounced on the large rubber end--right back into my hand! And I kept on going. Some thought it was just part of the routine. I knew I messed up.

But I won the talent competition.

Lesson 4: We might experience failure, but winners always bounce back.

How have you claimed a dream?
What obstacles have you had to step over?
Have you ever had to bounce back from a failure?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

One of Our favorite Memories is with My Sister Cathy

Cathy and I in Warren, Michigan

Bob and I have many favorite memories, but one of our favorite ones is with my sister Cathy.  She has special needs and is physically challenged.  She's my Irish Twin as she is only 11 months older than me.  

One year she was visiting us during Valentine's Week.  Bob and I went out to get lunch for all of us and when we returned we got a really big Valentine's Day surprise from Cathy.  She swung the front door open and shouted, "Happy Valentine's Day!"  She had redressed in red from head to toe.  She had on a red headband, necklace, and bow.  Her shirt and vest were red.  Cathy's skirt was bright red and so were her socks.  Big red shoes adorned her feet.  (The sweetest thing is that all of these shades of red were different colors such as dark red, pink, ruby red, periwinkle, maroon, orange, and mauve, but Cathy didn't care it was about love not fashion.)

She was telling us Happy Valentine's Day with her whole self.  She was all jazzed up about Valentine's Day and wanted us to feel loved.  We love you Cathy!!
Cathy and I in Warren, Michigan

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cabin Fever Relievers

It's that time of year again. The snow is the color of Crayola nubs all melted together. It's too cold to wear that flouncy spring blouse yet, but it's too warm to go ice fishing. Yeah. I've got cabin fever big time. What to do?

Well, there's the obvious...spring cleaning. No thanks. I'd rather park my behind on the couch and read. So I did. And here's some cabin fever relievers I can heartily recommend to you.

If you know nothing about cloning, you will after reading this one. Replication deals with the morality behind cloning humans. But don't worry. This isn't a dry, scientific study. In fact, the main characters are teenagers. There's a lot of interesting twists and turns and LOTS of humor tossed in to make this a highly palatable informative exploration into a subject that's controversial.

Take a delightful visit to the a maid. Margaret Macy, pampered rich girl, run
s away from home to protect her virtue from a grasping uncle and his nephew. She disguises herself as a maid and the fun--I mean drudgery begins. The thing I love best from author Julie Klassen is that I always learn so many tidbits about history, and this book doesn't disappoint.

This is the first of 3 in a fantastical journey to an alternate reality...a reality that grabs your heart. The Sword of Lyric series was first put out by NavPress but this new edition is expanded with LOTS more goodies to check out. If you happened to miss this the first go 'round, do yourself a favor and do NOT miss it this time!

Thyme for Love by Pamela S. Meyers

What I love about this author's work is not only her attention to detail but her deep point-of-view. I swear I'm in the character's head. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if I looked in a mirror and saw someone completely different. This one's got it all: love, mystery, charm. Heroine April takes a job at an old lakeshore mansion and that's when things really go awry. She runs into her former fiance and her boss gets murdered. Quite the recipe for intrigue!

Undercurrent by Michelle Griep

You didn't seriously think I'd pass up this opportunity, did you? Leave behind your slushy snow and stomach flu and travel back to the past with Professor Cassie Larson. After falling off a ferry, she's sucked into a whirlpool and ends up in the Viking age - an era of honor, violence, and passion.

There you have it. My picks to relieve your cabin fever. Anyone want to add to the list?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy to be Here

A short distance from my childhood home stands this nine-sided barn – the only barn of its kind remaining in the US. It is one reminder of a rich local history. Named “The Door” by French traders in 1670, La Porte was the Pottawatomie trail head leading through the forest to the
western prairies.

Unlike towns which sprang up helter-skelter out of men's immediate needs, speculators bought land in 1831 and planned the City of La Porte around a small chain of picturesque lakes.

La Porte flourished. The first medical school in the Midwest opened. (One student later founded Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota.) Meinrad Rumely's Oil-Pull Tractor Engine advanced agriculture in the Great Plains area. Other businesses produced everything from food to bicycles and automobiles, affecting the world at large.

As a child I didn't appreciate the “old stuff”, but I was aware of it as I walked the shady maple-lined avenues or sat on grass in the shadow of the courthouse.

Perhaps it was pride passed down like blue eyes from my parents or maybe the land itself infused this young resident with its essence. Whatever it was, I've never wanted to leave. I love it here.

The Door Prairie Barn remains a symbol of my hometown. It's the welcome home sign I look for when I return from traveling. It's a standard of history I show off to guests. For me, La Porte is both childhood home and a door to opportunities, and for the present, I'm happy to be here.

Telling you this bit about myself seemed a proper first posting to The Barn Door. I'm happy to be blogging here. I look forward to sharing love of the Midwest with others. So a hello to all of you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Traci Hilton-Half a Heart in Buhler Kansas

Welcome my guest, Traci Hilton.

Every year, in the middle of winter, when God has closed the iron lid on the City or Portland and trapped us inside the foggy, wet, dark world, my wonderful husband, a Kansan, bundles us up and whisks us off to his home. Kansas. The sun shines all year in Kansas and as we step out of the airplane and into the world I can feel the walls of the box that we’ve been living in all year fall away. The wind whips around us, drying us out and catching our breath. The sun lights our path, welcoming us to a world that still feels like a story book.

I don’t exaggerate. If you are a reading this blog from the comfort of a Midwest home, you might not notice the magic anymore, but I hope that isn’t so. I hope you still smile on the inside when you catch a glimpse of the sweeping fields of wheat, or drive past a roof stuck to the ground—I promise we don’t have “basement houses” like that on the left coast. Or when you catch a glimpse of a farm house with its wind break of trees twisted and gnarled, and in the winter, set against the blue sky like black lace.

I sound nostalgic because we didn’t get to go back this Christmas. We went in the summer. Summer in the Midwest has its own miracles, like firelies. But it’s the winter in Kansas that I miss right now.

Two years ago when our girls were five and three, we took a side trip to a castle. A beautiful short little castle, like one the hobbits would build, perhaps. Coronado’s Castle. It’s a WPA project built by a hopeful nation trying to find lost riches, a monument to honor a man who passed through in 1541on his mission to find the city of gold. We had a hike and a picnic. And as the pictures will show, I found gold there. Glowing, bountiful gold in the fields all around, gilded by the sun.

Traci Tyne Hilton is a storyteller, novelist, Sunday School Teacher, wife and mom with half of her heart and half of her family in Buhler, Kansas

The Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For the Love of Fog

We've had some foggy mornings lately and I've loved every one of them...

Since I have a couple kids who are click happy (like me), I rounded them up and we took off...

This was my second trip out that morning and the fog was already lifting. The kids still loved it, but I hurried, knowing it would be gone soon...

One if their favorite places for bike riding led to nowhere. Seemingly.

There's something about the fog that softens the world, making it almost magical...

Right around two corners from that farm the fog had lifted. Amazing to see it vanish in the sunlight. These tracks are maybe half-a-mile from that farm and the fog was almost totally cleared.

But since we were out, we kept clicking and enjoying the morning. =)

The beauty of back roads is that you can stop in the middle of road, jump out, click some shots, jump the ditch to click a few more, then wander back to the car without worrying. If someone comes along you just smile and wave and if they ask if everything is okay, just let them know you're taking pictures.

I love living in the country, at the edge of the corn fields in the middle of nowhere. It's the best place to be.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

3 Things Your Spouse Needs to Hear and You Need to Say

3 Things Your Spouse Needs to Hear and You Need to Say

Recently, several couples in our church family renewed their wedding vows. We shared three short statements that inspired this article. I believe these simple, heart-felt statements will deepen your love for your spouse.

I Did

At our wedding ceremony, I chose you to be my spouse.
I promised to live with you according to God's holy Word.
On that life changing day, I promised to love you,
to comfort you,
to honor and keep you.
I swore to stand by you
for better or worse,
in sickness and in health.
At our wedding I renounced all others
and promised to give myself to only you, so long as we both shall live.
The pastor said, "Will you take this one?"
and I did.

I Do

Today, I choose you to be my spouse.
I promise to continue living with you according to God's holy Word.
On this ordinary day of our life together, I promise to keep on loving you,
to keep on comforting you,
to keep on honoring and keeping you.
Today, I am standing by you
for better or worse,
in sickness and in health.
Today and every day, I renounce all others
(no websites, no magazines, no videos, no lingering leers, or secret meetings).
I give myself to you and only you, so long as we both shall live.
People may ask, "Will you take this one?"
and, you must know, I do.

I Always Will

Tomorrow and everyday God gives us, I will choose you to be my spouse.
I will continue living with you according to God's holy Word.
 Every day we share by God's grace, I promise to always love you,
to always comfort you,
to always honor and keep you.
As long as I have breath, I will stand by you
for better or worse,
in sickness and in health.
I will always renounce all others
and always give myself to only you, so long as we both shall live.
Our great-grandchildren may ask, "Will you take this one?"
and, you can count on this, I always will.

I did. I do. I always will. Your spouse needs to hear these 3 things and you need to say them as you gaze into his or her eyes.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chocolate Mint Day

What’s not to love about chocolate? According to a CNN report, chocolate contributes to a happier heart, better blood pressure, muscle magic, TLC for your skin, brain gains, and is an aphrodisiac as well.

And mint? Health reports reveal that mint is good for digestion, skin care, freshening breath.

Is it any wonder February 19th has been declared Chocolate Mint day? Our research did not find the creator, or the origin of this day.  It was most likely started by a candy confectioner, or an ice cream company, because Chocolate Mint Day celebrates anything and everything combining chocolate and mint flavors.

Strangely enough, not everyone craves this flavor. But for Chocolate Mint lovers, like my husband, this is a great day.

Husband has never figured out why it doesn’t fall on his birthday. We did not find any congressional records or presidential proclamations for this day.

But we are assured the day always falls on February 19. So, whether you prefer candy, ice cream,  or other dessert, this is the day to enjoy Chocolate Mint.

If you have any further information about this holiday, please let us know.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Third Generation

I thought I would share a little of our family and farm history.

I grew up on the east side of Michigan while Farmer lived in the West Michigan area his whole life.

On a visit to my grandparents, I met Farmer at their church. The rest is a complicated story, but the end result is after 40+ years Farmer and I are together here at the farm.

Farmer and I have raised four sons and added three beautiful daughters-in-law who have multiplied and supplied our family with 7 wigglies.

Farmer is a third generation farmer with our sons following. It’s been difficult the past few years trying to sort out where and how to fit three of our four sons into the business and to have the legacy passed on intact. It’s a challenge that still isn’t settled, but I have faith it will work out.

The farm has with stood many changes over the last two decades – man am I old or what?

Today we farm around 1000 acres. We own about 800 and rent the rest. We grow corn and hay for feed for our BEBs (Brown Eyed Bossies).

We have approximately 1500 BEBs.

We milk about 700 BEBs three times a day in a parlor. There are 12 milking machines on each side so there are 24 cows milked at a time. Because of the number of cows we have and the time it takes to milk them, the parlor is being used 23 hours a day. The hour we are not milking is used to clean.

Each BEB wears an ankle bracelet that identifies her as she comes into the parlor and we receive data that tells us what stall she is in, how much milk she gave and other important information.

A tanker truck picks up our milk daily. Actually, an empty tanker is traded for the one we fill each day.

We average 3 calves born each day and usually have a couple sets of twins each month.

Most of our cows are artificially inseminated.

We have our cows divided into three groups and each group is fed their own special diets. We have nutritionist who evaluate the feed and determine what other additives are needed – such as protein and minerals.

With all those BEBs who produce an average of 65 pounds of poop each day, one of our biggest issues is manure management. Our manure is spread on our fields as fertilizer. We have soil samples taken and are limited to how much each acre can hold.

There you have it in a very small nutshell.

I feel I am the richest woman on planet earth to live where I do with my family and the land and critters God has given us to tend.

If you are ever in our area, we would love to take you on a personal, much more informative tour. We love to share the glories of God we enjoy each day.

Check out for more stories on the farm, the family and whatever pops into my head at the time.


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