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.

Of Pallets and DIY Projects

Wooden Pallets.

I have of late become interested in using discarded packing pallets – those ubiquitous wooden piles you see behind most every store – to build things.

I’ve seen a fair share of ideas online and have pallets for the taking – as we all do.

Two projects have wandered in for now.

The first will be to turn a very clean, nice pallet that I found on the farm into a coffee table of sorts for our back patio.

Our future table for the back patio.
Our future table for the back patio.

The second stack of pallets is set aside to become the future home of a small rabbit, a pet for the kids.  I had a rabbit when I was young and now they want one too.

I think I have enough wood in the three pallets to build a good sized hutch for the four footed future family pet.

We’ve done some research, looked at what others have built online and have a fairly good idea of what we want to build.

Malachi insists on a living roof so I think we will grow alfalfa up on top, an easy snack for a hungry hare.

I’ll post more pictures as the projects come together.  Right now we are deconstructing the pallets, probably the most difficult job, but not nearly as difficult as some would make out.

All in all it has been a fun project to work on with my son.  And that makes it worth it no matter what the end result looks like.

Next up, a home office.   image credit

Spring! Finally Here.

April 22nd?  Really?
April 22nd? Really?

Our winter here in South Dakota has seemed to drag on a bit further into spring than I would have expected.

It is our first spring in the states in over five years and so I have been looking forward to it with some excitement.

In Turkey, I always relished that first morning that I was able to comfortably enjoy our balcony for my morning routine of journaling, reading, prayer and quiet.

The birds singing, the air crisp and the feeling of fresh air a marvolous reminder of the beauty of this world.  I’ve been looking forward to that moment here as well.

We have a nice back patio too and I’ve been getting it ready; sweeping off the leaves, cleaning the winter grime from the few pieces of patio furniture we have, and waiting.


Waiting seems to be a theme in my life.  I’ve been back in the states now going on ten months and I’m still waiting to feel settled, to feel like I can settle.

I came across a quote from Paulo Coelho the other day that seems to mark my progress.

Waiting is painful.  Forgetting is painful.  But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.

Perhaps a little melodramatic but it in some ways gets to what I’ve been working through these last months.

For now I wait and hold to Charles Stanley’s words:

The Scriptures contain many stories of people who waited years or even decades before the Lord’s promises came to pass. What modern believers can learn from the patience of biblical saints like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Paul is that waiting upon the Lord has eternal rewards.

This morning I ventured out to the back patio for my first morning outside in the fresh air this year.  It is supposed to be 78 degrees today.

Spring is here.

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.