Tag Archives: St. Paul

A lawn. I forgot, ignored, dismissed the idea of a lawn …

My last slog around a lawn sweating behind a push mower was in 2005? 2006? Whenever. It’s just that when my base shifted south of the Mason-Dixon Line, there was never a moment’s thought given to cutting grass – and edging and weeding and fertilizing. I fell in love with Brevard but forgot about the bigger home maintenance picture. Now I’m living it. And to think I’m thinking about chickens, too. More on that foolishness next week.

March 5, 2018

Ellen/Reid: Well, it’s another Monday morning up in the hills and for a change there’s nothing falling from the skies. Until Wednesday according to the forecast. That means that, for the first time in all these years (12), there is a lawn to be mowed while relative dryness exists. Cutting grass was not in the vernacular; I thought mowing was sworn off forever. The neighbor across the street, Sonny, says it takes him 15 minutes to mow his small patch of green but he doesn’t have a back yard quite the size of mine so you can


This is why I moved to Brevard. To walk a couple of blocks to the Brevard College campus and another couple of blocks to the downtown.


Of course, this too is why I moved. There just happens to be a small lawn that comes with it.

tack on another 10 minutes to the chore. Still, this is about one-third the size of the acreage on South Shore Drive. My commitment is to an emissions-free electric mower (which I have yet to buy) so I’m borrowing one to see how it works. Last week the developer volunteered to fertilize (with an organic mixture) and the fescue grass (a derivative of blue grass) has just exploded with growth.

Next up is a raised bed garden. Several weeks ago I walked by a nice example of a well thought out bed that I hope to replicate. I’m really looking forward to small plot to tend to. Probably something in the six by 10 foot range. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, garlic, sugar snap peas, that sort of thing. Maybe some red raspberries and blueberries. Perhaps the size should be upped to eight by 12. The local extension service publishes a gardening how-to guide so that’s a must read. It’ll be fun to get my hands dirty in the good earth for once. That feeling has been missed since moving to the South and was a real drawback to the townhome in Charlotte.

Feeling good two weeks after the surgery. Feeling very good, actually. The doc called me the anomaly among his patients and after less than two minutes in the examination room he gave me the green light (short of doing something super stupid like heavy lifting). I was already performing contortions and gyrations while installing the shelves and came out none the worse for wear. Walked most of nine holes with Sondra and Jody over the weekend and came through that, too. So there’s full anticipation of being able to golf (50 percent swing effort) in roughly two weeks time. I have steered clear of lifting most things. It’s a hard sneeze that’s the killer. That rattles your timbers from top to bottom. You know precisely where the incision is, that’s for certain.

Reid, when is a good time to visit you? You’ve got some deciding to do in terms of Chicago, Oakland or New York. Nice to have some options, although personally Chicago would present the least amount of upheaval if you can parlay your Oakland experience to their Chicago base of operations. Your friends are there and you know the town. Take that for what it’s worth. But it all seems on the upswing for you.

Perhaps I could double dip with a one-trip visit to Chicago while en route up to St. Paul in May. Ellen, let me know when and where and what you want me to do in terms of assistance.

Got a full slate of friends penciled in for visits. That’s how it should be. Hopefully there can be a jaunt to Charleston with Miss Emma squeezed in sometime in the next three to four weeks. I’m very anxious to fish. It could also be that I’ll rent a kayak rather than tote her down as a way to avoid the lifting. We’ll see how the recovery goes. My shelving had to account for all the rods and gear but there’s still some stowage space that needs to be resolved. I’m not ready by any means to ditch the saltwater gear just yet. I will visit Dave H. in early April to pursue tarpon. If we hook into anything of appreciable size that’ll really test the scar.

Well, enough for today. Be good, please, please, please contact me every so often. Hope to see you all in short order. Give the girls a squeeze.

Love, Dad



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Summer in the city: Airbnb and BLTs …

Since neither Ellen nor Reid gave me grief about the idea of their dad as an Airbnb host, I signed on the dotted line – although no one has yet to contact me about the spare bedroom. But the silver lining is it gives me more time to savor tasty BLTs on the front porch. 

June 26, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Well, I bit the bullet this morning and signed up as an Airbnb host. It’s sort of an experiment to see if there will be any takers and if I can end up being a suitable host. If nothing else it’ll make sure the guest room and adjoining bath will be kept clean. There was a little surprise in the pricing arena. Airbnb lets you set the pricing and then, before you take your listing ‘live,’ it weighs in via a price meter as to whether or not what you are asking is realistic. It knocked me down from $79 to $59 per night. And that includes a morning breakfast and coffee. The whole shebang is kind of a slick process that allows you to set dates you want the room to be available or, conversely, not available. I opted to keep quite a few dates open to guests – no kids or pets, however – but can scale that back if need be. We’ll just have to see how it goes. It does mean I’ll have to put in cable TV again since it makes sense to have a small TV in the guest room.

The first sizable tomatoes are coming off the vine so my daily consumption of BLTs is on a rapid upswing. There is nothing like a home-grown tomato. More than half of my production to this point, however, has been given away.


This is how summer evenings ought to be spent – BLTs and roasted brussels sprouts on the front porch. As for a slice of the fresh baked bread that should be shown in the left hand corner of the plate, well, it was already gone.

That’s how gardens ought to work. In your case, Ellen, to bypass the poison of black walnuts, you and Tim might think about a raised bed that would allow you to steer clear of the toxic soil in your back yard. It’s a thought. I still think your rooftop has container vegetable potential, Reid. At least plant some easy care herbs like basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. You’d enjoy those in your cooking.

Really looking forward to the trip to St. Paul and Minneapolis for the wedding. I’ll still plan on a rental car to share you guys the hassle of toting me around town. Ellen, no biggie that Afton will be in town at the same time. That’s cool. If construction of the deck is in full swing I’ll be glad to pitch in with manual labor and/or at least dispense invaluable advice for Tim.

A friend has invited me to golf in the mountains this weekend and it should be a fun weekend. He’s a good stick and is fun to play with. He has a home up somewhere in the hills. I might even lug along a fly rod if there’s fishable water close by.

The saltwater fishing has been nothing short of abysmal. I have not boated a literal game fish these last few trips and it is really deflating. Of course, the guides have been killing ‘em and that just makes me want to try all the harder. There is a strong chance I’ll head for the day on Wednesday to give it another shot. What’s particularly unpleasant is that I tend to do the same thing over and over; hit the same spots with the same baits. A guy was taking his kayak out of the water last week at the same time I was stowing mine and he had been exploring the flats and tidal grasses – none of which I’ve ever put much time in – and he thought there were great possibilities for tailing redfish. I have never seen a fish tailing. Instead, I sit for hours and hours in one spot in the kayak, catching rays (12 – 15 last week) and little sharks (a half dozen or so) and not much else. Tripp the guide didn’t have time for me this week, and this’ll be my final excursion for six weeks or so owing to Minneapolis and Wyoming. I find the lack of fish depressing.

Still have not secured my ticket for Spain. Got to do that pronto. Very confused by all the promotional fares out there – prices that come with ‘strings’ attached. Looks like $1,000 is the floor for tickets all the way up to $3,000 and more. Since I’m a budget traveler I’ll gravitate toward the cheapest options even if it has a couple of stops. But the planning continues and that’s a good thing. My packing list won’t be all that extensive. Everything has to fit into an 1,800 sq. in. pack. Most everything is already secured except for a few odds and ends. But Wyoming comes first.

Love, Dad


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A spiffy space for my girls … and the specter of the knife

One week it’s St. Paul, the next week it’s Florida. By my standards, this is a fairly active travel schedule. Ellen has a completely made-over home and my granddaughters are enamored with it – as is their grandfather.

But the travel is about to grind to a halt, at least temporarily. What’s a month on the shelf?

February 27, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It was great to be up in St. Paul to assist – at least partially – with your move, Ellen. You and Tim did a ‘wow’ of a total makeover to that house. Don’t sweat the stone-topped coffee table. Of all the things that are wonderful about the home, that is a blip on the design radar.

The girls sure seem to love it. What a pair of total goofs; Emma ever the Drama Queen and showperson, Georgia and her angelic little presence. There’s more space for them to roam (and spread toys) but they each get their own rooms.


Bedhead or not, sweet little Georgia loves her room with a view.

The upstairs windows are to die for; such light is magnificent. It seems highly unusual that an older home would have such spacious wraparound windows but that is a real plus for you guys. And you seem to have a nice amount of storage vs. the other house.

The kitchen is the real star of the show. It is a real cook’s kitchen. I could’ve been content to spend all my time in there to whip things up. You’ll love cooking and baking with gas. There is absolutely no comparison to that hard-to-clean glass cooktop that was tough to control temperature-wise. Gas is so much more efficient and manageable. And again, all that storage. Then again, you might jettison some things that aren’t needed; i.e. tupperware up the wazoo. That is hilarious. A whole drawer devoted to the stuff. On a more serious note, I’m already shaking from the DTs after going without Tim’s smoked pork shoulder. To call it incredible is to sell it short. It was unbelievable. 11 hours on a smoker will do that to hunk of meat.

The move didn’t really bother the hernia thing. But it was a mild downer to find out today the March 16 surgery would be a double hernia affair. The doctor said 4-6 weeks of recovery before full activity. There can be very limited movement after a couple of weeks. But I suppose the good news is it’s not very invasive in the sense of not being sliced open. Three small holes on each side of the abdomen. A week of feeling pain and then it should subside. The operation has caused me to cancel a golf/St. Patrick’s day trip to Asheville but it will be a good tradeoff to be able to do my floor exercise and full daily YMCA regimen. I miss the pilates and other floor exercises. Already, I’ve added a few pounds and can feel the lack of hard work in the gym. But he said there were no restrictions on the trip to Florida which will begin early tomorrow morning. That’s a relief. With me will go four rods, associated fishing gear and my golf clubs. We plan to fish offshore a couple of times and golf a couple of times. My guess is I’ll see significant kitchen duty which is okay with me. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll probably make a stopover in Charleston to fish. If I’m up to it. In some ways I’m anxious for the surgery to be over and done with. Still have a few Medicare issues to work out and if those don’t pan out I’ll dip into my own pocket. It’s gotta be done.

Pretty good response to the non-move. People here are accepting of it although there’s been almost no contact with friends in Des Moines. One thing that was noticeable in St. Paul was how cold the wind can really be. It was bitingly cold on the walks to the hardware store and around the block with Henry. Those temperatures are something that won’t be missed by any stretch.

Reid, I do want to plot a trip to Chicago. Let me know what dates in April or May work for you. I’ll be totally on the mend by then. I’ll drive as far as southern Indiana then head due north up your way. Probably a Thursday – Sunday excursion if that’s okay with you.

The next big decision is do I keep the house on the market and find smaller digs in most likely an outlying part of Charlotte. My tilt right now is to take it off the market and stay put since it’s an incredible location and one I like – a lot. Not as nice as your spiffy new space, Ellen, but good enough for me.

Love, Dad

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Staying the hell out of the way…

I don’t get the kids down here to Charlotte all that much, what with their lives and goings on. That’s what the experts probably advise: prepare them as best you can then stay the hell out of the way. So I go to them and that works just fine. It makes when we do manage to get together all that much better. The brood is in good order. I saw that first-hand last week in St. Paul, MN.


May 12, 2014

Ellen/Reid: What I do know after this past weekend is that I will return – today – to the semi-vegan diet that was totally abandoned while around you guys. But it was the sort of weekend you wouldn’t have any other way. It was totally fun and now we can put a wrap on three consecutive weekends of Emma’s birthday celebrations. She had to be on complete sensory overload what with all the people and all the stuff. Her grandfather met his sugar quota for at least the next year. Geez. That was a lot of sweets, much of it admittedly self induced. But a few days in a row isn’t that bad. Here’s to hoping we can all return to a dietary routine.

Ellen and Reid above the St. Croix River just across from  Minnesota. This is what they've become - good adults and good people.

Ellen and Reid above the St. Croix River just across from Minnesota. This is what they’ve become – good adults and even better people.

One thing is for certain, the steaks that Donna and Tom grilled to perfection are not the sort you can find in the South. Those were incredible. Nothing like Midwestern beef. Saturday night was just great fun, and their cabin was beyond belief. This morning I’ll call the wine shop that’s close to them and send them some sort of gift certificate on our joint behalf for whatever wines they normally consume, which would seem to be pinot noir. It was so gracious of them to let me crash at their house. About the only time I had to talk to them, and that was with Tom because he nearly rivaled me in getting up at the crack of dawn, was in the morning since I was hitting the sack so early.

Ellen and Tim are the best of couples - and parents.

Ellen and Tim are the best of couples – and parents.

Emma has just grown and progressed so much even since Thanksgiving. It was such a contrast from then to now. Sure, she’s just two but she’s putting away her toys and being responsible, mostly, much of the time. She’s just a good little girl. It was marv to see Kristin and Jeff. It hadn’t been since the wedding. Kristin seems happy with Delsin, who seems like a really good guy, and Jeff seems relieved to have graduate school over and done with. He seems to like the Twin Cities and I hope he finds the right sort of job.

Boy, you guys sure have good dirt up there. Thanks for letting me plow asunder some of the garden and do a little planting. Other than the weekend Emma was born, that’s really the first time my hands have gotten dirty by handling soil. If only I had a small garden plot to tend to. That would be complete nirvana. A few seeds here and there, plus pulling a few weeds, would be a total joy. A space smaller than the one you have would suit me just fine. Nice to see the raspberries coming up again. That’s the one perennial I wish could be grown down here.

Emma wasn't all that sold on a tram ride down to the St. Croix. Tim's arms seemed to take care of any qualms she had.

Emma wasn’t all that sold on a tram ride down to the St. Croix. Tim’s arms seemed to take care of any qualms she had.

The flight home was pretty uneventful. I hit a jackpot of sorts in that there was a vacant center seat between me and the adjacent passenger. That really was a bonus in today’s age of jam-packed, sardine-ish seating and flights. Got home early and was immediately greeted by heat in the upper 80s. Not that it was oppressive but it was just warm compared to Minnesota. My intent was to walk but I ended up on the couch and closed the evening with Game of Thrones. I don’t think this season is quite as gripping as the others before it.

There was a crush of emails when I logged on this morning about 6:00. But those are all sorted or disposed of by now and it’s back to the work routine. Thanks again for this past weekend. The one thing it bolsters is that there aren’t enough of those long weekends. I’ll continue in my quest to get you guys down here at some point yet this year, so keep me in mind if you have a few spare days.

Love, Dad

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If a dad can’t be proud…

If a dad can’t be proud of his kids, he ought to move out of the way.

(Note: I’ve rattled on – and on – about the Bridger Wilderness. I’m looking for another soul (or two, or three) who wants to hike the incredible backcountry. I’ve got a spare Gregory backpack, Mountain Hardwear tent, sleeping bag, Los Rios Anglers fly rod, plus other assorted gear. It is available for the asking. July 11-19.)


April 14, 2014

Ellen/Reid: Reid, that was so nice of Liz to send me a copy of Abundance. I’m about 75 pages into it and it’s really good. Amazing, actually. I’m not sure what prompted her for that act of generosity, but it was really sweet. Perhaps she perceives that I need to read something other than the newspaper. Tell her I’ll buy her (and you) a bottle of wine when we get together next month.

The tree canopy behind the house is about to burst into full leaf mode. That means my view of the apartments behind me, and their view of me, will be completely blocked off. I like that little nature sanctuary and the protection from other sets of human eyes. It lets me be in my man cave and free to sit and watch the birds and animals come and go. My friend Dave was reminding me that hummingbirds have returned to the area and that it’s time to put up my hummingbird feeder. That’s on my to-do list for this week. I’ve been watching the birds go through some type of courtship/pre-mating ritual. Male cardinals have passed seeds from my feeder to their mates and male redheaded woodpeckers have done the same with theirs. Also on the to-do list are new flowers for the front planters (the pansies have wilted beyond repair) and some herbs. My lettuce has yet to pop up.

Ellen lives for her children in a school in one of the poorer neighborhoods of St. Paul. She represents how teaching ought to be.

Ellen lives for her children in a school in one of the poorer neighborhoods of St. Paul. She represents how teaching ought to be; not constrained by endless tests and paperwork, but by inspiration and adoration for students.

Ellen, the photo of you and your math class doing their work outside is just too precious. You are a fabulous teacher and you’ll be someone they recall, years from now, and say “I was inspired by Mrs. Pommer.” This is true; that’s what they’ll say. I remember teachers like Mr. Darrow, a high school biology teacher, and their inspiration, very clearly. I don’t think schools need more of teachers like you, they need more parents and politicians to recognize teachers like you. You’re precisely the type what drives public education to what it ought to be. Forget all this GOP mumbo-jumbo Continue reading

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The habit-practice-compulsion

Last week’s letter (we are the well into the 11th year of a weekly note to Ellen) never made it to a door side mailbox before it was read.  Reid opened his within minutes of the email attachment arriving at his London office, and Ellen read the post days before her letter arrived by postal delivery in St. Paul.

The habit-practice-compulsion (it is whatever you wish to call it) just keeps rolling along.  It has its own energy and sense of momentum.

But it consists of the energy of one.   Momentum-less is the original dream: prod non-letter writers (parents in particular) to adopt regular letters as a legitimate low-tech means to simply stay in touch with their kids.  The sense here is almost no progress has been made to move even a small number of people from Point A to Point L (letters).  That failure is a super-duper-sized elephant in the room.  Case in point: subscribership remains low.  I’m not reaching parents at the logical separation point when kids flee for college and the nest is suddenly empty.  That’s when writing a letter might seem to be a viable thing.  The dream, it turns out, is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Other factors may be at work.  My blog itself could be suspect or ill-created/managed/promoted or worse yet, just flat-out uninteresting.  Likely on those counts and others.  Maybe the forest is too close and I can’t see through all those infernal trees.  But I wouldn’t label this as a wholesale rant or whine.  Instead, it’s recognition that the formula isn’t working.  One thing for sure, I’ll keep trying.  Someday the light will come on and I’ll spring forward with an approach that is more viable.

So the blog remains essentially a running, public diary of correspondence between me and my two.  Maybe that is enough.

This morning’s letter to Ellen and Reid is freshly minted and won’t be posted until next week.  The same-week release of last week’s letter on the excursion to the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming used up whatever free pass I had on that score.


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The 24 hour all Emma news channel

The 24 hour all-Emma news channel is still going full bore.  The channel is dependent on fresh content from our typical insider sources – Ellen and papa Tim sending iPad photos and updates – but the news feed has slowed in the last few days.

This past weekend Reid made an appearance in St. Paul, in part to see his new niece.  As the photo shows, Reid has apparently not found his comfort zone when it comes to holding babies.  He’ll need to master that if he’s ever to be a politician.  Hopefully, his career won’t come to that.

Our weekend was spent camping and trout fishing along the North Mill River near Asheville.  An unwitting and apparently food starved 2.5 lb. brown trout somehow found my poorly cast caddis.  More on that next week.

Reid experiences two firsts in St. Paul: an up-close experience with his niece, Emma, and no doubt receiving off-camera assistance with the fine points of holding a baby. Reid’s dad didn’t fare much better when he first held the little wonder.

But for now all things Emma remains the dominant news in the weekly letters.  It’s amazing, at least to me, to think how the letters have morphed from the the original purpose 11+ years ago (a moment’s worth of light reading when the kids were in college) to today’s more family oriented tinge.  Not to worry, the pendulum will swing to other issues.  But not right now.


May 21, 2012

Ellen/Reid: The calendar shows a 3 day weekend coming up, but who’s noticing?  There seems to be a long stretch between the faux-holidays like President’s Day and now, but it will be good to have a Monday off.  The plan down here is to head to the western side of North Carolina and maybe camp or do a bit of fishing.  The last time we were up there, Felicia saw a fat, shirtless Bubba-type nutcase spying on us from the bank as we were fly fishing.  He was trying to stay low in the underbrush, but we skedaddled out of there in a hurry.  We won’t go to the same spot but there are yahoos like that traipsing through the woods.  We’ll take the car rather than the bike.

Emma is just more adorable by the day.  That iPad is going to come into some good use, Ellen.  The video was just incredible.  She does seem to be filling out her newborn outfits and it’s good to hear that you are getting around better.  It will just take some time.  We still plan to get up that way sometime in July once all the hubbub has gone away a bit.  We will be good visitors and come in Friday and leave on Sunday.  I’m excited to get back up there to see how the little wonder has grown.  I laughed out loud when Tim sent a picture early, early, early Saturday morning of wide-eyed Emma wishing us a good morning.  Momma obviously was still in the sack.  Tim’s a good dad.  I’ve heard a lot of ‘congratulations, grandpa’ from folks in Des Moines; the Fisher-Freeds, Kenyons, Willits, Allens, et all.  The news seems to have spread quickly.

As you may have heard, North Carolina, in the infinite wisdom of our elective, scared-stiff populace, voted in an amendment to our constitution that bars same-sex couples from tying the knot and denies them couple’s benefits.  It’s unfortunate that a state like this, which will defend gun owner and polluter rights to the teeth, even bothers to vote on such a minor issues because it only demonstrates our widespread, pervasive stupidity.  For all its natural beauty, this is a state that time forgot.  I mean, honestly, what does homosexuality have to do with jobs or anti-terrorism or health care or an educated populace?  If I won the lottery, which no doubt I won’t, I would announce an immediate plan to ship my winnings out of state because the state doesn’t deserve to benefit from whatever money I would spend here.  My guess is that the prejudicial vote will hinder economic growth a little, too.  What employer would want to come here only for nice weather and the proximity of the ocean or mountains?  One step forward, three-four steps back.  Maybe more.

Published the 42nd edition of my church newsletter out over the weekend.  It’s online at caldwellpresby.org.  The production schedule was hampered this issue by a severe case of writers block.  I mean really severe.  If it weren’t for photos that take up lots of space, you could put the entire written contents on one 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper.  It’s pretty much an under-the-radar effort and literally it comes together at the 11th hour.

Got my ticket for the Bridger last Thursday.  The connections will be uber-tight and since I have two stops on the way out, I may ask FedEx to ship my backpack for me to Jackson Hole.  That way I won’t have to mess with it.  If FedEx will ship golf clubs, they’ll ship a backpack, too.  The attendee totals for the trip are still in a small state of flux, but 4-5 seems pretty reasonable at this stage of the game.  That’s enough to still be fun.  Felicia won’t go for fear of the mosquitoes.

Okay, I’m outta here.  This will be a big week of work and I don’t want to wear out my welcome.  You guys have a good, restful Memorial Day weekend, and I wouldn’t mind it if you reported in to me now and again.

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