Minnesota Anniversary

Today makes one year since we relocated to Minnesota.

No longer can I say that we “just” moved here. We are officially Minnesotans. This past week we voted for the first time.

It was a long year.

When we arrived, Minnesota showered us with over a foot of snow within a couple weeks. And the rest of the winter was pretty much the same. Welcome to snow country, Minnesota said.

Our first apartment experience in over 29 years was memorable. Too memorable and we hope not to live in an apartment again. We enjoy our privacy and the quiet that a house affords us.

It took us 6 months to move into a house that was original, ie not a cookie-cutter. Our real estate agent, Bridget Crepeau, was an angel who was filled with enough patience to outlast our individual desires.

What have I learned about this state of Minnesota that everyone seems to be afraid of?


  • gets lots of snow in the winter but they plow quickly so everyone who wants to be mobile can be mobile.
  • has lots of sunshine! This is not a mood-depressing state.
  • needs more diversity. With a population of 5.3 million (per the U.S. Census for 2010), white persons make up 85.3%.
  • needs more restaurants with good ethnic foods.
  • can be hard on a car. Too much snow driving can result in getting 2 alignments a year. And watch out for your car getting rusty if you don’t take care of it.
  • is not cheaper than living in Seattle. Actually, I believe it’s more expensive. Seattle does not need snow tires (unless you go up in the mountains), snow plows, chain saws, etc.
  • does not have very good fruits/vegetables. Most are mediocre and go “bad” quickly unless used right away.
  • has churches but they seem spread apart (unless you’re Catholic).
  • has a lot of people who love to hunt deer, pheasant, etc.
  • has people who like to ice fish. Brrrrrr ….
  • has lots of bugs in the spring/summer, especially mosquitoes.
  • can be downright tropical if the humidity gets too high.
  • neighborhoods are varied. From suburbs where all houses look the same to neighborhoods where deer, owl and hawk roam freely as if they live in the wild.
  • people are really nice. Since most towns have a small-town feel, the people have small-town niceness. Thus — Minnesota nice!
We have no regrets in moving to Minnesota. Although, we do wish we were a wee bit closer to the grandkids.
[amazon_link id=”098109418X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Minnesota 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Minnesota and Were Going to Ask Anyway[/amazon_link]
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Another Wood Pile

Okay — I think I’m officially an expert at making a wood pile. The problem is having so much wood!

So I hired a neighbor teen to come and help out. Come to find out, he has never made a wood pile. Here I am, the new expert in the field, instructing him on how to make it.

He didn’t do so bad.

Wood Pile

We have one more pile of wood to stack and we’ll officially be ready for the next 5 years. Well, that will depend on how much wood we use in our fireplace.

I might have to do this one next year. My arms are getting to be too muscular.


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Minnesota Neighbors


We are still having beautiful weather in Minnesota. I’m really enjoying living here.

Today I went out to work on gathering leaves again. One of the neighbors was walking by and she stopped to chat. I learn many things from her about the neighborhood and about our own house. Her family used to be friends with the previous owners.

I never thought that in my life I would have neighbors who:

  • Hunt pheasant
  • Hunt red squirrels
  • Hunt duck
But, I’m surrounded by hunters. Life in Minnesota is interesting. The transition from city life (Chicago and Seattle) to rural life has really opened my mind to the differences between the two.

A sense of  calmness accompanies living in the “country.” It’s hard to consider it country though when a Target and the highway are within a 5 minute drive. Our neighborhood is similar to living “up north” — at least that’s what I’m told. The trees hover overhead and the feeling of being in the woods really hits you when you enter the neighborhood.

We looked at over 100 houses and it took us over 6 months to find this house. Looking back, we made the absolute best choice.

We’ll always be indebted to our Realtor, Bridget Crepeau, from Edina Realty for her patience with us in finding the “right” place.

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Homemade Log Rack and Wood Pile

I had bought a log rack for our first wood pile but had heard that I could make my own and it would be cheaper. I thought to myself “Why not?”

I went to Fleet Farm (similar to a Lowes but a lot more interesting) and met with a man by the name of Pat. He was so nice. He used to live on Bainbridge Island, WA while in the military and we discussed why I moved to Minnesota.

He was one of the best customer service people I have ever met.

First, he made sure that I had steel brackets to hold the 2×8’s that I would be buying.

Open Hearth Log Rack Brackets

Then Pat took me over to where the 2×4’s where. But, I needed five (5) 2×8’s for my project. Pat checked each piece of wood to make sure they weren’t crooked. He told me he is a carpenter on the side.

Once I got the 2×8’s, Pat got a large cart to carry all of this in AND he walked me to the front of the store to the cashier. He then called so someone could help me load the 2×8’s into the car.

So easy! I’m finding that living in a smaller community means that I get better customer service as people pay more attention to me.

After getting my 2×8’s home, I had to saw them to the right size per the instructions on the box that the brackets came in. I needed two 2×8’s, four 2×4’s and two 2×2’s. I used a “straight” saw as that was what Pat said would cut the best. I could have gotten wood that was already treated but Pat said it would be harder to saw.

After I cut my pieces, I stained them with a dark exterior stain.

Once the stain dried, I went and prepared the ground where I was going to place my wood pile. This wood pile would be further away from the house as the wood has to cure (dry) for 6-12 months. I cleared all the debris from the ground and made sure it was fairly level. Then I put bricks down to hold the log rack although the instructions didn’t say I have to do that — extra precaution on my part.

Clear the ground and make it fairly level

Next start assembling the pieces.

Homemade Log (Wood) Rack

Add the wood to the log rack – it’s so beautiful!

Homemade Log Rack

It didn’t take very long to make. The sawing was very quick (make sure you use gloves). The thing that was most time-consuming was waiting for the stain to dry but even that didn’t take too long.

I felt rather giddy after it was all completed. This simple task seemed to bring much joy to my heart.

[amazon_link id=”B0001WU106″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Panacea 15206 Adjustable Length Log Rack[/amazon_link]




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First Wood Pile in Minnesota

Having 5 trees felled, we had plenty of wood on the ground that we needed to have split so we could use it in our fireplace this winter.

I checked on Craigslist and found a young man who advertised splitting wood for $25 an hour. I thought that was more than fair so I contacted him and he came out and split the wood. A small bit of a problem occurred though when he came to get paid. He had brought a friend with him who helped him with the work. When he came to collect, he gave me the amount he wanted.

I was rather shocked as it was double what he had stated in the ad. I told him that was not the price in the ad. His response was “It’s $25 per man.” I explained that the ad didn’t say that. He then started talking about how he worked in construction for awhile and this was the going rate, blah, blah, blah. I told him “Well, I don’t work in construction so I wouldn’t know that. I’m going by your ad which says $25 an hour. It says nothing about “per person.”

Unfortunately, I paid him the amount. First, I felt it was fair. At $25 an hour for only him, it would have taken him double the time. The price included the wood splitter that he brought with him.

It was bittersweet. I was previously told that a cord of wood could be split in 20 minutes. They did 3 cords and it took them 3 1/2 hours. But they weren’t lounging around. The hauling of the wood to the wood splitter (especially because the pieces were large) took a lot of work.

We bought a kit that we put together for him to load the wood onto. It worked very well.

Log Rack Kit
Log Rack

It worked very well and sits about 7 feet from the side door to our garage.

So, we went from this —

Black Cherry Tree Wood

To this …

Split black cherry wood

I also made my own wood pile rack. I’ll post that at a future date.

[amazon_link id=”B0000TPRD6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Landmann 82433 8-Foot Firewood Log Rack Only[/amazon_link]


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Minnesota Sunrise

Beautiful sunrises greet me as I drive my husband to work.

Minnesota Sunrise

Another day alive. I continue to learn to make the best of my moments. Life is not a guarantee.

Back at the house, the smell in the air reminds me of the times I spent at camp when I was growing up. The almost naked trees allow the sun to filter through the branches.

When the leaves turn colors in autumn, I am always drawn to their beauty.  As the season continues, the leaves turn brown, shrivel up and die. I rake them up and shovel them back onto the property.

Life resembles the season of the leaves. In the autumn of our lives, we become more beautiful as we look back and realize how much wisdom we truly have. We allow ourselves to be who we are and not who others want us to be. But then our bodies, like the leaves, start to wither. And slowly, ever so slowly, we fall to the ground and die.

Our words and actions are composted back through those who love us.

We need to stop and see the beauty in the people around us while they/we are alive.


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Minnesota Autumn

We’ve had 8 straight days of 80 degree weather in October — unusual for Minnesota. The normal temperatures are in the 60’s.

I’ve been basking in it and working furiously on our yard. So many things to do to prepare for winter. Unlike Seattle, we have lots of leaves to rake, wood that needs to be stacked, deck furniture that needs to be put away, etc. etc.

The leaves on the trees have been beautiful.

It’s a beautiful season — autumn in Minnesota.


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Autumn is my favorite time of year. When I lived in Seattle, I would put a rake along with some garbage bags in my car and head to where leaves had fallen. I would rake leaves from streets and from a local church yard just so I could use them for my worm compost bin. I didn’t bring my worm bin with me but instead scattered the hundreds of worms throughout the yard. So — I don’t really need too many leaves now. However, I moved into a house that sits on an acre of land with lots of trees.

Trees in Autumn

Since I enjoy raking leaves, I headed to the driveway to begin my first rake of the season. I started at the driveway and worked my way to the house. It didn’t look too bad.

The neighbor’s son from across the street came by. “Nice leaves, huh?” His response “You need a leaf blower.” I told him that I enjoyed raking leaves and he again said “You need a leaf blower. I usually wait until the end of October.”

I assured the man that I would be fine.

It looks so pretty when the leaves are picked up off the ground. Well, it’s pretty when there are leaves too but this is much cleaner.

The next day I woke up and went outside. I can’t say I was surprised. Where’s the driveway? And the walkway to the backyard?

Hmmm … I think I’ll get that leaf blower.


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Tree Frog

Clearing the deck furniture in preparation for winter, I looked back and noticed this tree frog sitting on the chaise.

Tree Frog

He watched me work for awhile before finally taking off when I went inside to get some clean water for wiping down the pillows.

In summer, these frogs would climb our windows at night. Their suction-like feet allow them to hang on.





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TV Adjustment

The house we bought a few months ago came with a TV bracket that was mounted very high up on the wall.

As we watched TV, it felt like our necks were going to grow as long as giraffes as we stretched them up to look up at the local news.

Recently, we had some painting done and I found out that the owner was a handyman. A simple question posed “do you by chance know of a handy person you can recommend?” prompted a smile from him and a quick response “I’m your man.”

Indeed he was. We thought the job was going to be an easy and quick one — moving the TV bracket down a foot or so. But — like most “small” jobs — nothing is easy or quick.

He started by hammering a nail into what was supposed to be a stud in the wall only to find that there was empty space. Another hammered nail produced more empty space as did another and another. As the holes began to multiply, he looked at me and said “don’t worry, I’ll have all of this cleaned up but I have to cut the sheetrock as there doesn’t appear to be a stud going vertically in the wall.”

Puzzled, he cut the sheetrock and found the header that the TV bracket was originally nailed to — it was horizontal. No vertical studs were to be found.

This handyman reminded me of a friend in Seattle who used to always find solutions to what I thought were big problems.

Getting down from the ladder, he said to me “I’ll have to get some 2×4’s and make some vertical studs.” Sure enough that’s what he did. He also attached a couple of them to the horizontal header as it was quite thick and wide. Sealing the large hole with plastic, he put the sheetrock on, taped and “mudded” the edges and left it to dry.

The next day, he came back and sanded the “mud” and added another thin coat. “I’ll be back this afternoon to finish this” he assured me. Sure enough, he came back and sanded the mud again.

After the first "mudding"

A female worker had returned with him and, after he attached the bracket, they hung the TV. Then the worker vacuumed all of the area, emptied the vacuum outside and cleaned it. They took much care to put everything back the way they found it.

The “small” job that we thought would only take an hour took over 4 hours to do.

TV on new lower bracket

I was impressed with the paint work that Wade and his company, Renovation Painting did and I’m also impressed with his handiwork.

In getting to know Wade, I found out that he has a house in northern Wisconsin that he built by himself. He also used to own two larger companies but decided to start a small one so he wouldn’t have as much stress. “Not so” he told me. “Stress can follow you around if you’re not careful.”

I’ve met quite a few interesting people since moving to Minnesota. Our town of Lake Elmo is small but is surrounded by many larger suburbs and is in pretty close proximity to St. Paul. Still, the people I have met all have a small-town folkiness to them. Trust and workmanship seem highly valued.

Good for you Minnesota!



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