Been a LONG while since I’ve written

Boubin's horse drawn carriageAugust has been a very busy month…now I am into teaching two more composition classes. A different kind of busy.  This summer was dedicated to gardening and to restoring the Carnegie building in town.  As a result of carrying heavy water buckets from my rain barrel and also lifting heavy boxes of old documents at the Carnegie, I have suffered a rotator cuff problem in my right shoulder.  No fun for sure.


Sunset on the prairie

I am glad for the good gardens we have and thankful for the produce that we have to harvest. We have had an abundance of snow peas, yellow beans, tomatoes, potatoes, beets, carrots, cukes and much more!  We have LOTS of grapes I need to process and also many, many plums.  They are small but maybe I’ll make the latter into jam.  Oh my, that is more work but at least not heavy lifting.

Then there is the Carnegie that after four days of constant visitors to see the photographer’s framed pictures of outside scenes and also watercolor painters, we brought in over $3,000 of fundraiser monies.  For that we are thankful and hope to do more work on the lower level floor.  Part of having shoulder problems was staining, varnishing, sanding and varnishing again the wainscoting that went in the former children’s library.  Yes, I had to work quickly because three days later we opened up the Carnegie building to the public.

Our best day was showing off the Boubin paintings that people own in the community on Saturday. There must have been at 40-45 paintings, big and small that showed up.

mentor-wagon-for-poster (2)

I should get back to preparing for next week’s lessons. I have 35 students and they are all great students. Some are international students mostly from China but from other countries as well.

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Summer is two-thirds over…then what’s next?


Small room with new look


Looking out to hallway inside the small room

Last Friday I signed my contract to teach two more composition classes which starts up on Aug. 23rd.  That hardly gives me any breathing space to have a summer vacation after all speed ahead with our town’s annual event from Aug. 17-20th.  The big parade, which will change its route to go downtown again, will be the climax of a very busy but fun time at the Carnegie.  We have a LOT of activities to keep up with but we have some awesome volunteers as well.

Yesterday I stained the wainscoting paneling that will go up in the basement of the Carnegie which is where we all went for our children’s library back in the old days.  Memories run long for many who are from this area because we used to have an outdoor swimming pool right next to the library and there were also tennis courts down the hill. A very good hangout for many teenagers and young people which was centrally located in downtown.

Now, we don’t have as many kids and we have older people who can’t ably take the massive steps up to the main floor of the Carnegie. That is where we will have different art exhibits and also a photography display for all four days.  Along with that we will have a class competition to see which class can donate the most money to help with our restoring the Carnegie and the first night we will have people paint and take a canvas home after painting on their own canvas.

I tell people that I feel like one of those clowns who has plates that are spinning on top of poles and that you have to keep them all spinning simultaneously without them falling down. That’s what is going to be happening for FOUR days but there are many others who will be there to help. The only difference is that we will have both levels of the Carnegie in operation with the gift shop downstairs.

I’m showing some of the pictures of what has been happening lately. All good things. With 2/3rds of the summer gone, I’m wondering when I’ll get my summer vacation before I start teaching again.


what our stained wainscoting looks like


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Looking for a particular rock


My flower bed with begonias

I haven’t written on this blog for a week or so, I have either the Carnegie to work on or weeding the many gardens we have on the farm.  I’m not complaining and am grateful for the health and energy to do both.  When one sees vast improvement, that gives further motivation to keep going. The other day, however, I was working with several areas that we see out of kitchen window while doing dishes.  I asked my husband if he could tell the difference and he didn’t.  Oh well, *I* know that the quack grass that I had pulled several months ago was back covering over the cream colored bricks and it was also covering over the other bricks by the bird bath.  I wanted the big rocks to show that had been handled by my paternal grandpa, taken out of our rich, Red River Valley soil. I also have a couple of rocks from my mom’s side of the family that her dad, my grandpa would have handled and taken out of his field in North Dakota. The only thing is that they had to do yearly rock picking because there were rocks that kept emerging. Contrary to that, you have to go a LONG way on our fertile soil to find any kind of rock.

Speaking of rocks, several weeks ago I was using my power gloves to weed one of our vegetable gardens. My folks had come out to help. My dad does the spin trim around buildings or he goes out in the back woods and mows the tall grass down.  I DO remember when I was trying to yank my one left glove off, it was stuck and not moving.  I yanked some more and finally it gave way.  The funny thing is that I never looked to see why the glove wouldn’t give way. Instead, I kept working with pulling out the weeds or raking the ones I had already pulled or what my mom had pulled. I placed (rather threw down) my gloves on the lawn near the south edge of the garden. Later I picked them up again to do cutting of tall, nasty weeds south of one of our barns.  I was outside long past the time my folks went back into town. During these LONG summer nights, my usual time to come indoors is about 10:10 or 10:15 p.m.  The days are supposedly getting shorter, good thing, because that decreases my time to be out working!

I went to bed after a shower to get all the weed dust and dirt off of me.  At 3:15 a.m is when I reached down to my left hand to find that I was missing my diamond that Ken had given to me 23 years ago.  I went to the bathroom to see that only the four prongs were showing and at that moment realized that what my glove had been stuck on were one of the prongs. Thus, my diamond was somewhere in the vegetable garden perhaps covered up by snow peas, tomatoes, yellow beans or worse yet, in the grass nearby. At about 5:30 a.m. I went out with a flashlight to fruitlessly look around for any glint of diamond. I went back inside to write my first newspaper article that I had been struggling to write.  I had a kind of passion or empathy for the person I was trying to highlight due to my own loss.

When I had gotten back into bed I told my husband that I was missing my diamond. Maybe he was not fully awake but he said something to the effect that it was just a diamond and that it would get replaced.  I had that same feeling too…just a diamond that had been worth a LOT back when my husband had money to buy it.  Since I had been trying to write an article about an artist from Czechoslovakia who had been imprisoned for his rallying against communism, I compared my loss to his. For 3 1/2 years total he had been tortured, lost his dental practice, his health and almost his family of wife and two sons.  He got out soon after Prague Spring and ended up in New York jobless and then my hometown.  For almost as many years as he had been in prison, he lived in freedom and painted and painted for a livelihood.  So to compare my losing a diamond to the life he had gone through, that was my thought too, it was just a diamond.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t go out to weed and water my vegetable garden and look for that particular rock.  There are many rocks and broken pieces of glass in this particular place.  It could be that it was not even IN the glove at the time I struggled getting it off and that the prongs were there to resist.  No one had ever told me to get those prongs snug to the diamond but now I know to do that with the new diamond that my husband helped me pick out. I should be getting it any time in the next week or so.  It will have six prongs and I will wear it with pride.  I know I have a husband who loves me and my Mom and Dad do too.  They helped to pay for some of this particular rock.

Yes, lesson learned, I will have to take off this precious jewel whenever I am gardening because that is a lot of abuse it takes as I tug at the weeds that resolutely want to stay in my garden where they are NOT wanted.


Flatlands of rich soil that my dad mows down

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“Journey for Freedom” from Czechoslovakia

I have been interested in what happened in the small country of Czechoslovakia, especially around the late 1960s.  According to my husband who knows such things, there was what was called the “Prague Spring,” This happened when Novotny, who was a Stalinist type ruler of communism, was replaced by Dubcek.  This next leader wanted to present to the Czech people “communism with a human face.” That happened in spring of 1968 where people, who had been living as a satellite nation under communism since 1948, were given fresh hope. However, by August 20, 1968, that is when the USSR invaded Prague and replaced Dubcek with another leader.  Many horrifying things happened during this time period to those living in Prague and elsewhere in the country of Czechoslovakia. I have had students, while teaching in Kyiv, Ukraine, write about what their grandparents and parents survived during that tumultuous time in 1968.

Talking to someone about the artist Antonin Boubin, who lived in my hometown from 1970-1974, they told me about a motivational speaker named Peter Vodenka who wrote a book titled “Journey for Freedom.” He planned with his wife for ten years to leave his homeland of Czechoslovakia to experience freedom in the U.S.  He did NOT even tell his parents or other close family members what they were planning to do. Then he left by way of another country with his wife and two young children. His escape was figured out and subsequently followed by police gunfire before he reached the safe zone inside a free border. I need to get this book. Though it is self published, by all reviews, it promises to be a riveting read. Peter first ended up in Beach, North Dakota working a menial job because he did not know English. However, he has progressed to being a motivational speaker and doing many other things while enjoying his American freedoms. I wonder if he ever met up with the Boubin family members?

While looking up ANY information I could about Antonin Boubin, I found this written by his granddaughter, daughter to his son Olda. She wrote the following about the persecution her family in Czechlozovakia had suffered from 1948-1969.  “Because of increased fear of the death of his family, my grandfather and his family eventually fled from their country. Grandfather and his oldest son (Tony) first travelled to Vienna. Then, using fake passports, my father and grandmother escaped on the last train to leave Czechoslovakia before the communists closed the borders to travel. My dad’s (Olda) last memory of his country of origin was incredible fear that they would be discovered. While on the train, a young boy spat at a Russian soldier. The train stopped and both the boy and his father were shot and killed.  Eventually in 1969, my dad and his family were sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Crookston, Minnesota where my grandfather Anton lived for a couple of years before his death in 1974. Unable to practice his dental profession, he made a meager living providing for his family by painting beautiful paintings from his memories of beautiful Czechoslovakia.”

Antonin Boubin, in order to make a living for his family, during the 3-4 years of his freedom in the U.S. did many paintings which are prized by their owners.  I have made a copy of one of his paintings, I hope to see many more in August when owners will get together to compare notes about what they knew of this great man.

colored poppies for paper

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Two day bus trip with my folks


Man-made lake with pelicans

We came back home last night on the second longest day of the year as the days will be getting shorter.  We arrived to see that the rabbits had done more damage to our vegetable gardens by eating some snow peas that were on the fence. They had already nibbled away on our little delicate beets that were emerging. I hate rabbits even though they might look cute and perhaps are cuddly. I have the same feeling about deer in our woods who ate away at our June berry trees, the young saplings and also on our Ohio buckeye tree.  So, we co-habitate with nature and enjoy the freedoms that we have here but the ornery weeds keep growing next to what I have planted.  I have to get out and do more work in the gardens.


Dragline in the distance while in the coal pit

We enjoyed our rest stops from our two day bus ride and one of them was on a man-made lake where the pelicans were catching fish.  My folks and my husband and I were also fed very well.  We only paid $110 per couple but we had a nice hotel room to stay in with a very good banquet meal and then all other meals and snacks were provided as well.  We went to see an electric generating plant and also how they mined for lignite coal.  All very good to do on these beautiful days.

I need to go out and water plants now so I will just show some nice photos of what we saw.


equipment in the coal pit coming after our bus!

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Teamwork makes progress, AFTER the committee meeting

We had our committee meeting last night with 8 of us in attendance at the Carnegie and then we got a LOT more done in the basement afterwards. Teamwork makes a difference. First we discussed security of the building. There’s been a broken window on east side which was fixed with a temporary board to cover the hole). The president of our organization will talk to the groundskeeper about the need for a security camera. We also need to hire someone to do the lawn mowing on the Carnegie property. Maintaining this 100+ year old building takes much consideration. If the electrical info does not come in time for the upcoming July $10,000 grant application, then there is enough info to write about getting the tin roof in north wing fixed.

We realized after the last choruses concert that we also need FOUR more shades in south wing and on the west side of the north wing. A temporary, cheaper fix like the three we already have should work.  Some shades can cost $300 each (we have ten BIG windows so that is $3,000 just for shades). That might be written into the bigger $100,000 grant for the windows. Another different size shade is needed for the kitchenette window on the east because that brings in a lot of hot air.

In anticipation of our city’s annual event, we will have a Bright Brushes fundraiser – I already paid deposit for two sessions ($175) we need 20 people to sign up for each session. We would get $20 for each person so that is $800 right there if we have all signed up. We discussed where the painting sessions would be located, upstairs in east wing or downstairs?

During our Ox Cart days we plan to have a Antonin Boubin art display on Saturday. We will ask people to bring their own Boubin art like they did last year for Stanley H. Walker’s art exhibition. I will also contact other local artists or photographers for the other two days. Hopefully we will have a good turnout to see the art displays. Simultaneous to this our Ox Cart Days Theme will be Pembina trails and Ox carts. We will use material and artifacts from the museum to show on the main floor. The museum’s president mentioned about using the Amfran oxcart for display out on the front lawn of the Carnegie.

We will have a Gift and Donation shop downstairs with all the other product we have for sale under glass, 1882 city’s etching, framed pictures from old books, etc. Someone mentioned that we should have a card that reads “Donated in memory of___person’s name___)” Also need to update the Carnegie brochure that we used last year.  Should have HUGE price tags hanging from different places throughout the Carnegie to show how much an estimate to restore would cost. (i.e. original dome lights or fixing tin roof ceiling)

We talked about how we cannot afford to pay musicians, they must be free-will. Instead of featuring talent, we would have different graduating classes compete about who can donate the most to the Carnegie cause. Also, have a kind of social hour for them to gather with light snacks.  For instance, Thursday night for those who graduated in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, then Friday night 1970s and 1980s. We would have all yearbooks on display for alumni to look at for the Mount and Central high schools. Then during Saturday would be all classes represented and announce which class donated the most and/or have the most number of donors.  The class(es) would be recognized on a kind of plaque perhaps.  We could have the donating contest on line. Those who come in person to donate, we would have the zip machine ready and handy to receive on-line donations.  Amy said that the historical society’s website could be set up to take in donations specifically for the Carnegie.

Once we know all the details, I will get a Poster done showing all these events to advertise our Carnegie events by mid-July – Bright Brushes fundraiser events on Wed. afternoon and evening. Show the different times and dates on Thurs. and Friday for the different graduating classes to come for their own reunions.

After the good meeting that lasted an hour, our teamwork went to the basement and the small middle room was completely emptied of file cases. It is ready for our expert construction guy to do his work of plastering, readying it for painting, then sanding down the softwood floor. We are making progress because of volunteer teamwork.


fixing the broken window


fireproof file cabinet


room is now ready for painting


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Long Day of HISTORY


Sunset after a few days of rain

Yesterday I had a long day of going to a history conference titled “Expressing History Through Writing” and then our monthly history board meeting to end the day.  The sessions I attended were good and I especially liked the one about putting history up on a website about our own local and regional history. I may pursue that because I have scanned LOTS of pictures and have also written many more newspaper articles for our local paper about people.  The session titled “Writing for the Web” had much of what I already do and helped to see how streamlining content to best meet the needs of web visitors achieves certain goals and makes important history of our locale accessible to others. Many teachers in elementary and middle schools use this material.  We are to set the reading level at 10th grade however and the presenter showed us at what level we write.  Also things should be put in active voice as opposed to passive.

Some of the things I wrote down that the presenter asked for are the following:

Important people: Jimmy Ward, Halvor Steenerson, E.W. Childs, Charles Kiewel

Groups: Women’s business club, Sons of Norway, Ancient Order of Woodsman

Important places: Fournet building, Native American Indian burial mounds

Historic structures: old courthouse on North Broadway, Palace Hotel

Key historic events: bonanza farms, treaty signing at Huot

Interesting artifacts: VANCE bricks, Native American arrowheads


Native American Indian arrowheads

The day before this I had attended a painting session and that was a real relaxer. We will do the same for our annual event coming up in August. I need to pay the $175 down payment or deposit to have this hosted by Bright Brushes.  Should be fun…now out to the garden I go, I have been delaying the weeding long enough!


Bright Brushes painting of fall, rainy scene


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