Singing with the Birds

I had written earlier about our waiting for the birds to begin to show up at our kitchen window feeder and boy have they come.  We now regularly feed 30 or more birds and a grown variety of species.  We also have three very hungry squirrels who show up occasionally to entertain us.

Here are a few pictures of our feathered friends!








Schmechfest: A Festival of Big Tastes in a Small Town

It is a grey, windswept and cold day with intermittent flurries breaking forth here and there, not so gentle reminders that winter’s grip remains still.  I’ve been hoping for spring, for a warming of days and a thawing of the ground, but it has not yet come.

Today we traveled over to our old town, Freeman, for the annual event that is Schmechfest.  For a small town it is an amazing event, held on the Freeman Academy campus and featuring a yearly musical and the Schmechfest meal, a smorgasbord sampling of German Mennonite food.  This year’s musical, Fiddler on the Roof, is once again being hailed as a masterpiece for a small town to put on.

Sausage Making! image credit

One of the more important stops while taking in Schmechfest is at the German Sausage making presentation.  Not only can you watch them pack intestines with sausage, you can pick up some the best tasting and freshest sausage around, you can get it for a really affordable price.  In the same building you can get delicious sweets like New Years Cookies and Rosetts – you’ll just have to come down next year to see what those are.

Tevya talks with God.   image credit

The idea that a town the size of Freeman can put on such amazing musicals year after year is truly remarkable.  There are few in the area who haven’t at one time or another been a part of a Schmechfest show.  This year Fiddler is getting the rave reviews that all shows get.  I was able to write the review for Cinderella a few years back – that was a fun challenge.  While each years production does happen in a small town, the quality of the productions are far from small town.

Homemade jams, jellies and other good treats! image credit
One of the servers who helped feed nearly 1,000 people a night.  image credit

Schmechfest means festival of tasting and this is one area that – for fifty five years now – Schmechfest really shines.  There is so much food and so much of it is so good.  I was able to serve coffee at the first evening’s meal and enjoyed seeing nearly 1,000 happy and well fed people eat family style.

Schmechfest happens over two consecutive weekends each spring.  It will happen again next year, the third and fourth weekends in March.

Mark your calendars!

Waiting for The Birds


We are waiting for the birds.

Last week we put out a bird feeder.  I suppose we put up a bird feeder is a more apt description as this first feeder is a small, window mounted feeder that now hangs just above our kitchen table.  So far the suction cups have held it well though we have not yet had any visitors.  It takes time though I think our neighborhood will soon bring our feathered friends for a meal.

I have been putting up bird feeder since I was sixteen.  I love the idea of having birds around and look forward to creating a thriving habitat for song birds in our yard.  When the ground thaws I’ll put a post in for another feeder or two and then put out a birdbath as well.

For now, our window feeder – plus the handfuls of seed I throw out on the ground – will have to do.  And we’ll continue to await the arrival of our first visitor.


Moving In

We have now found ourselves moved into a new home.  Our house sitting arrangement was an amazing blessing and served us well for the last six months but we are ready to begin settling a bit more.

We are renting for now.  Perhaps we will buy this house and settle here for good  . . . at least for now.

Settling for good sounds a little too presumptuous for us though we would like to settle for a while at least.

Our reading corner.
Our reading corner.

The new house is filled with memories as it was Consuelo’s grandparents house for the last fifteen years.  This has been both a tremendous blessing – it really feels like home, and a bit more complicated – every change we make it a change to those same memories.

But it is good for now.  With just two bedrooms the kids now have to share a room for the first time in a while.  So far so good, but at some point in the future it would be nice to have another bedroom.  The house hasn’t been updated in probably 20+ years and so there are a lot of little projects that all need to get taken care of if we buy it.

But we like it.  It’s cozy and feels like a home we could grow into.

Seed Catalogues and Planning for our First Garden in Five Years.
Seed Catalogues and Planning for our First Garden in Five Years.

One of the most exciting prospects of being back in the states is to be able to garden once again.  I saw a great TED video yesterday and the speaker, Ron Finley said, “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”  That is of course just one of the benefits of gardening, but a big one.

I mostly love gardening for the chance to work with my hands and grow things but I’ve looked forward to it ever since we returned last summer.  It is still below freezing here, but we both have the bug and have all of our seeds and our seed potatoes are on their way.

On another note, we checked out an interesting movie from the library yesterday called No Impact Man.  The movie is a documentary fill sharing the story of a man, his wife and young child’s quest to live for one complete year in New York city with zero carbon footprint.  It was an experiment to see what they could live without: no car, no elevator to get to their 9th floor apartment, eating only food grown within 150 miles of the city, no trash, no coffee and a lot more.

The film asks some interesting and no important questions and pushes the limits of what it means to live a sustainable, no impact life.  I think there are a lot of great takeaways from the film and it has certainly given me much to think about.  I certainly don’t agree with all the reasons behind what Colin Beaven does but I think there are more than a few lessons to learn from his experiment.

You can follow along with No Impact Man at his blog HERE.

[The link above to No Impact Man, the movie is an affiliate link.]

The Latest News

Artwork by my wife.
Artwork by my wife.

Here in southeast South Dakota, we are in a “blizzard watch.”  Not sure if it will actually hit with the full fury that they’ve warned us about, but we have had a nice four inch snow to start our Sunday.

I’ve been AWOL from Cobbled Together lately.  It’s been a busy few months and my need to cobble together an income has meant  more time and mental energy has gone into places other than the creative outlet that is Cobbled Together.

I’ve been putting together a new resource for language learners, working with more clients as a language coach and am creating a new online course that I’ll feature at a very cool new platform called Udemy.  The course is called Language Learning 101 and I’ll begin shooting the lectures next week.

On top of that we’ve begun packing in order to vacate the home we’ve been able to live in for the last six months and preparing to move into a new home at the end of the month.  We are excited to get to a place we can call home for a while.

We ordered seeds for a garden and my wife and kids are talking seriously about raising some chickens for eggs in the back yard.  I’m dreaming up ways to build that home office I’ve been thinking about for the last eight months.  (after a chicken coop perhaps)

I’d like to build it completely (mostly completely) with second hand or natural materials.  Strawbale has always been a dream of mine, but I’ve recently come across a new idea that excites me to no end.  Building with shipping pallets.


A small guest house built with pallets.
A small guest house built with pallets. Image Credit

Malachi is pretty insistent on whatever structure I build having a living roof.  Better insulation, cost savings and another place to grow strawberries are all part of his reasoning – and I agree.

A living roof.
A living roof. Image Credit

I am going to create an email reminder to put a little more emphasis on writing more regularly – namely each Sunday if I can.  Once a week, just for fun and a change of pace from all the language writing I do.  We’ll see how it goes.


First Snows

Our first blizzard in five years.
Our first blizzard in five years.

Our family have been enjoying listening to the Little House on the Prairie series as we travel in the van.

The rawness of frontier life  lies in stark contrast to our comfortable and well maintained life in the 21st century.

For Laura Ingalls and her family, a winter storm meant the cold cruelty of hard work and suffering, offset only by evenings gathered around the glowing cookstove and the sound of Pa’s violin.

For us, the first snowstorm of the year, a certified blizzard in itself that kept us home from church today and which has cut off our view of the football stadium across the road from our living room window, has meant a quiet afternoon listening to stories on the iPod, drinking hot chocolate and jaunts outside with the kids to pretend we are arctic explores.

I love winter for this reason.

It slows life and by coming in, we are able to slow down and come out.  Ideas from the long months of business begin to settle, to sift themselves into the spaces between activity and to come alive for the first time.  It is as Annie Dillard writes about in her winterish book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  

It was also Annie Dillard who reminds us that:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

Today, I’m spending mine with my kids – inside and out, with a few cups of hot apple cider, a visit to the nursing home to visit my wife’s grandfather, with games and stories and a bit more.

Small Town Realities

Small town fun:  Using a combine inner-tube as a trampoline.
Small town fun: Using a combine inner-tube as a trampoline.

I live in Freeman.

It is a rural town of just over 1,000 fine folks located in the southeast corner of the state of South Dakota.

Freeman is a fine place with a teeming main street, two schools, a museum and plenty to do.

But it’s not Disney World.  It’s not Chicago.  It’s not the Rocky Mountains.

Here in our corner of the prairie, we have a matrix for how much friends from other parts of the country love us:

  1. If they don’t  visit, they probably still love us.
  2. If they do visit, they are crazy about us because no one comes to South Dakota.

If they take pains to travel to tiny Freeman in the southeast corner of South Dakota, they have come to see us – there is nothing else to see.

If you live in New York or California or anywhere else really, well, they may just be stopping by on their vacation to the beach.  There may be mixed motives.

You may just be a free motel. 

But if someone comes to visit us, they aren’t on vacation.

We are their destination.

And we feel loved.

Small town realities.

Wandering and Wondering

I began this blog in a rocket launch flame of glory back in June and did well to break through the stratosphere in the first three months, publishing three to four weekly posts.

But then I got lost in space.

I’ve wandered a bit as I worked to gain focus on other aspects of life – namely resettling after four and a half years living in Turkey and working to get my income generating corners of the web up and running in a way that pays the bills.

Well we aren’t really resettled yet and, while the other sites are not yet paying all of the bills, they are beginning to pay more of them.

Thankfully, our bills are pretty minimal right now.

Anyway, I’d like to work at writing more here again.  A little every day perhaps.  A few times a week if I’m doing well.

We’ll see how it goes and I hope I’ll keep up with it all.  I’ll do my best because I know that:

Good intentions are fodder on a field of broken dreams.

If you are on Twitter, you can tweet that.