Finals week musings

The sandhill cranes woke me up this morning. It’s wrong to be unhappy when that happens, but it’s never stopped me before.

Actually I’m feeling fairly upbeat for a 51-year-old who is back in school with no idea what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. It’s finals week at St. Cloud State, and I’m finishing my first semester since returning for my license to teach K-12 English as a Second Language. Not sure if it was the right thing to do, but I had few options after quitting my job and not finding a new one. I was under the impression that my unique talents would be in high demand. Not the first time (or the last, I’m sure) that I overestimated my value on the job market.

I’ve spent about 15 hours a week tutoring international students, and Fridays with Somali kids — elementary in the morning and high school in the afternoon. I’m not at all certain if I can handle life as an ESL teacher for the next 15 or so years, but as I said, my options are limited — especially with one kid in college and one soon to start. I’d love to retire early and spend my days with goats and chickens and guitars and books, but I have to make money.

Fortunately, children and animals keep me too busy to think much about where I’m heading in life.

Leif went to prom on Saturday. He and his date, Bailey, looked sharp and had fun. The kids rode buses to an events center in Annandale, got back at 2 a.m., then drove to Perkins in Elk River. Leif rolled in just before the cranes started trumpeting.

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(Why Annandale? I have no idea, but compared to Milaca, it must be … something else.)

I drove down to Chicago Sunday to get a load of Cedar’s stuff. It’s finals week for her, too. Left at 10 a.m. and got there at 5:30. Loaded up some stuff and went to supper at the Chicago Diner, a vegan place on North Halsted. I got a seitan Reuben and a beer, and Cedar got chick-un fried steak with a vegan shake. Came back to the car, which had a $75 parking ticket on the window. Then it was back to campus to load up, and back on the road at dark.

I was planning on going to Beaver Dam to see if I could find out anything at the paper or the courthouse about my grandfather’s death in a car accident in 1936. He was killed when my dad was 10. My grandma was driving. Dad told me later that after his father’s death, no one ever talked to him about it. Swedes, don’tcha know.

I got to town at 11 but didn’t want to get a hotel room because of the parking ticket. So I changed plans and drove back to 94, pulled off at a rest stop and made a bed on top of Cedar’s stuff. Slept from 2 to 6 and drove home.

Did some more work on my new chicken/goat condo. It’s 6×4 and about 8 feet high, with room for goats on the bottom and chickens on top. I’m building it onto the west side of the barn so I can tear down the old coop on the north side and build a 12×32 addition later this summer, once the broiler chicks are off to market.

After Diane got home we were saddling up the horses when Melvin and Gertie, our new Amish neighbors, drove up in an open-topped buggy pulled by their sorrel pony Holly. We had a nice visit. Told them we’d seen all their visitors on Sunday, and they told us they had church at their place.

Diane and I were on a walk Sunday morning and saw four buggies drive by. We were watching birds, so we had our binoculars, which we used to spy on the Amish across the hay field. There were about eight men in black clothes and black hats standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the white pole barn, facing east.

I didn’t ask Melvin and Gertie if they knew anyone who would want to butcher my chickens for me. That’s a question for another day.

Melvin told us about investigating the lake that’s formed on the north side of our property due to a blocked culvert. He brought in a friend with a track hoe and tried to dig it out, which caused the road to collapse on both sides. Now there’s just one lane down the middle. The township supervisor had to come up and put warning barriers on the sides.

Melvin said where they come from, down by Rochester, the culverts are all maintained. “Everything works,” he said.

Welcome to Mille Lacs County.

Soon it will be the peak of the bird migration, and I hope to have time for a full day of birding on my property. Maybe I’ll top the 57 one-day list I had last May.

On Saturday I’m going to pack up my canoe and put in at the swimming hole. It should take me three or four days to get to the Mississippi in Anoka. I’ll have plenty of time to think about where I’m not going and how not to get there.

As for where I’m going, I have no idea.

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