Potatoes Galore!

Planting potatoes is hard work.

Digging potatoes is sheer delight!

A few weeks back we began the glorious work with fork and and buckets of bringing up the potato harvest.

It was a good harvest, but we think the year might have been a bit too wet and figure the company who came to spray for dandelions may have hurt our production a bit too with a bit of drift and the yellowed, curled leaves that resulted back in June.

But we had quite the harvest none the less and now have several buckets of potatoes in the basement.

Working together.
Finding the hidden spuds.
Potatoes Galore! (Is ‘galore’ the only adjective in English that follows the noun?)
Digging potatoes with Grandpa – a family affair.
Picking a few apples as well and enjoying fall.
And lots of Butternut Squash.

Katie’s Malt Shoppe in Marion, South Dakota

Katie's Malt Shoppe on Broadway in Marion.
Katie’s Malt Shoppe on Broadway in Marion.

There is not much better than a frosty malt on a hot summer day in rural America.

For far too many small towns in the rural midwest though, declining populations have lead to the closure of many of the eating establishments that once anchored Main Street.

One by one the restaurants have closed.

The cafes have closed.

The opportunity to enjoy a frosty milk shake has disappeared.

Such was the case in Marion . . .

Until today.

Plenty of seating for a small town cafe.
Plenty of seating for a small town cafe.

While we came in for an afternoon malt and missed the morning and lunch rush, Katie’s Malt Shoppe packed in local customers for it’s grand opening this Memorial Day weekend.

Preparations have been underway for weeks turning the old, outdated cafe building – a building that had housed cafes for the last 50 years or so – into an updated and chic new malt shoppe and cafe.

Owners  have done their work to create a friendly environment with a nice menu of great food and of course, malts.

Named for the family’s teenage daughter and – on opening day –  the main waitress, Katie’s Malt Shoppe is a welcome addition to the Marion business district.

So if your looking for some great ice cream, a cold malt or just a bite to eat, be sure and stop by Katie’s Malt Shoppe on Broadway in Marion


My daughter enjoying her root beer float!
A wonderfully tasty vanilla malt.


Over the Memorial Day weekend, Katie’s will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm.

From then on they will be open the same hours every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If you have any questions you can give them a call at 605-760-2479.

You can find Katie’s Malt Shoppe in the heart of Marion’s small business district on Broadway Avenue.

Marion is 35 miles west of Sioux Falls just north of Highway 44.

Planting Potatoes

Ready to be planted.

It has finally come to pass that we were able to plant our potatoes.

Our goal is to grow enough potatoes to last until March or April of next year – we did that once a few years before moving to Turkey and would like to do it again.

I’m not sure if we ordered enough seed though – it’s been a while since we’ve done this and so we lack the recent experience we need to know exactly what we are doing.

But we are keeping records so that we can keep track of what we planted, what did well and how much we produced.

At any rate, it was a lot of fun to prepare the garden beds and plant.

Colorado Rose potatoes – we’ll see what these are like.

In so many ways, gardening and growing our own food is just another part of cobbling together a lively hood, a life here in the states.

It is a slow journey, one that recently has felt a bit buried in the darkness of discouragement and wondering if we can do this.

But there is something about digging in the dirt, about laying down seed with the hope – and the faith – that from that dark grave, new life will grow forth.

I believe.

Planting peas as well.

Weeding, One Day At A Time

As we have returned to the farm, we have taken up the daily task of tending to the small garden’s Consuelo’s mom has planted around the yard.

There’s sweet corn and potatoes in a large patch out by the machine shed.  There are all the vegetables back behind the house; green beans, spinach, tomatoes, swiss chard, onion, etc.  And there is the magnificent flower garden out back.

We’ve been planting new flowers and veggies, watering regularly and in daily doses, I’ve worked to weed each of the gardens in turn.

Weeds are tough.  They just don’t quit – ever. Their roots go deeper faster than any other garden plant and they are nearly indestructible.

Weeds are perfectly created to test the human soul.

Patience. Stamina. Determination. All are needed to defeat the weeds.

Weeds seem best controlled when I attack them a little everyday.  I don’t ever let them get a grip, but keep them on the run, daily cutting off new growth, laying down suffocating mulch and digging them out by the roots when I can.

If I slack off for a few days, they become so thick it becomes discouraging to even fight them.  I wear out and want to quit and run away.  The work is then much more difficult.

My life would seem like that as well.  I need to daily fight off my demons – cutting off new growth, laying down a suffocating layer of mulch and when I can, digging some out by the roots.  If I slack off, I pay for it.

And so daily I fight the weeds of life. 

13 Years of Wonder

An anniversary breakfast in the garden.

Today marks Consuelo and my 13th wedding anniversary.  Back in South Dakota, we were able to return to the backyard flower garden that hosted our wedding reception and enjoy an anniversary breakfast served by our kids.

It was wonderful.

The kids, with much help from grandma, laid out a fantastic little garden retreat; a small table and two chairs, the fine china, our favorite music playing (Andrew Peterson, Gungor, U2, Sandra McCracken to name a few) and a fun little meal of homemade apple muffins, a blueberry sauce to die for, and . . . bacon.  Mmmm.  The gateway meat!

Consuelo began crafting this little garden back in high school and she, and now we, have worked at caring for it and cultivating it ever since.  It has seen two weddings and one (our) wedding reception and is a little sanctuary of peace and a place to work out life’s stress.  In our absence, Consuelo’s mom has done wonders to keep it up and it looks great even if the hedges need their yearly trim.

But thirteen years!  Thirteen wonderful years.  Marriage has been the joyous dance of friendship and faith, personality and passion, love and loyalty all wound around the rhythms of joy and pain and life.  I could never have imagined marrying so well, having such an amazing friend and partner in life.  My sights were set far too low, my hopes dim and dreary compared to the reality of life as I know it now.  My imaginings as a 22-year-old of what a life a marriage would and could be like were dull and morose compared to what I’ve received.

I guess I feel blessed.  Blessed that through the good and the bad, things have turned out far better than I could ever have even imagined.  I just didn’t know.  I had glimpses of course in the relationship of my own mom and dad, but much of deep love and friendship lies below the surface and out of the public eye.

It’s as it should be.

Here are a few more pictures from our anniversary breakfast.

Enjoying some quiet conversation under the watchful eye of our wonderful little waitress.
Enjoying the many flowers of the garden.
The living entry to our breakfast.
Turkish Tea!
My beautiful bride.

Wild Garlic

Our family went for a walk around the neighborhood last night with a quick foray into the woods.  We are working to breathe deep the sights and sounds and scents of our Turkish world as we enter our last two weeks here.

It was a typical walk.  The air was cool, the sky clear and the neighborhood alive with the sound of kids playing – ours included.

Walking down from the hill behind the block, we came across a new flower, one neither Consuelo nor I had seen here in Turkey.  We’ve seen a lot too – picking flowers is staple activity in our family.

Right away we thought it looked like an onion – long narrow stem with a bulb like ball of its unopened flower on top.  We picked one and sure enough it smelled an awful lot like onion but not quite.

Consuelo thought is smelled a bit more like garlic and so we pulled one up.  There at the bottom of the stem was an acorn sized bulb of garlic.  Breaking a clove off and biting into it, the taste was most certainly garlic, though much milder than its larger domestic cousins.

Our little discovery highlights what we have loved so much about our neighborhood here on the edge of Istanbul.  It also gets me excited for our return to the states.

Before moving to Turkey, we regularly had gardens that produced garlic and onions and potatoes and a whole assortment of good food that we ate all summer, into the fall and, in the case of potatoes, onions and garlic, clear through till spring.

I look forward to gardening again, to getting up early to spend an hour or so digging in the earth, planting, tending and harvesting.  I look forward to eating food that we have grown – not that Turkey doesn’t have the most amazing produce.

I guess that little garlic glove was a symbol perhaps of the life that is before us – filled with hope and flavor and the chance to grow.

A symbol for us all.

Cobbled Together

As I have contemplated our return to the states from over four years of expat life in Istanbul, Turkey, I have desired to return with intentionality.  Consuelo and I have had many late night conversations about what life will look like, what it could look like and what we would like it to look like.

Turkey has been an amazing experience of growing in faith and in learning to trust God, of learning a new language and to love a new culture, of stepping out of our comfort zone and of making a home here. We will miss our life in Turkey and the many friends – both Turkish and other expats – we have come to love.  Turkey’ stain is one that will not go easily – and for this we are grateful.

But in less than three weeks we will return to South Dakota.  It is there that we will begin to cobble together a life for ourselves.  The dictionary seems to put some emphasis on the hurried nature of the cobbled together project, but I want to focus on the idea that something is being put together from a bunch of various materials.  It is the story of my life after all.

My faith is in many ways, cobbled together.  I am the sum of over thirty years of interacting and exploring, of reading books and of studying the Bible, of conversations with friends and to listening to speakers, preachers, theologians and more.  I am not defined by any one denominational doctrine but am shaped by many.  I believe in the Apostle’s Creed and agree with Augustine when he said,

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.

It is in South Dakota as well where we will begin to cobble together an income for ourselves.  My online ventures and language coaching will supply part of our needs, but in the beginning at least, not all of them.  I hope that this site might generate at least a little income as well.  We’ll probably do some substitute teaching, help local farmers and will work to reduce costs by growing as much of our own food as time and energy allows.

I would also love to be able to cobble together a structure or two for a home office and guest house.  I’ve had a dream for sometime to build a straw bale house with as many recycled or handmade items as is possible and hope to be able to explore this dream in the coming  years.  A small home office will be a great place to ply my skills, master a few new ones and discover the feasibility of using recycled materials in “new construction”.

There are other areas of life as well: our kids education, continued work in Turkey, church life, living strategically, encouraging community and sharing our faith to name a few.  This and more is what I mean when I talk about living the cobbled together life.