Seed Swap Garden Adventure


Seed Swap Garden Adventure

The boy (5) and I went on a bit of an adventure. We went to the Seed Swap hosted by non-profit Community Crops and Open Harvest Co-op in Lincoln, Neb., to get some seeds for our garden this year. Before we could go, I had to clear several weeks of snow off the van without an ice scraper and jumpstart it.

The event was something my wife told me about. She didn’t give me the details, but we had gone two years ago. I wanted to look up the address, but it was hard to find using Google. There was a seed exchange in Lincolnshire, England, that popped up first.

There were a couple of table full of seeds. We picked out a bunch for our garden. The boy made a friend with another kid his age and filled himself with sesame seed and honey snack balls. Though snow still blankets the ground, I am eager to get our garden in the ground.


Prize package


We made a trip to the Nebraska Game and Parks headquarters a couple of miles from our house to pick up our Backyard Birding prize package we won in the Nebraska Great Park Pursuit. Included were a pair of birding guides, two bird feeders, seed and suet, and a couple of children’s bird books. @NEGameandParks @GreatParkPursuit

Loss and Gain

When I compare

What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what attained,

Little room do I find for pride.
I am aware
How many days have been idly spent;
How like an arrow the good intent
Has fallen short or been turned aside.
But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this wise?

Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Getting my health back on a Roll


The subhead of Rich Roll’s book Finding Ultra caught my eye at the library: “Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself.”

His journey from overweight father barely able to climb stairs to tuck his kids into bed to premier ultra marathoner resonated with me. I have little desire to compete in marathons, triathlons or any similar ordeal. I do want to be fit. I do want to be able to see my kids graduate, get married and provide grandkids (if that’s the path they choose for themselves). I will not be able to do that on my current health trajectory.
Roll’s struggles with alcoholism did not directly resonate, but swap chronic binge drinking for fatty foods and binging on late night video streaming, and you’ve got my addictions pegged. Instead of watching anime for hours, I could be doing yoga, meditating and sleeping. Instead of snacking on sausage and cheese, I could eat carrots and kale.
I’m not about to go full vegan like Roll did, but I have taken steps to replace unhealthy food choices with more intentional eating. For a while, I was tracking my daily intake. I stopped. Sustainability is key to a lifestyle change. I never intended to track my meals forever, but I wanted to get baseline awareness. Unfortunately, when I stopped tracking my meals and snacks, my intentionality left with the accountability. One pack of snack crackers became two, then six. A fast food burger a month became one a week, or two … plus a pizza or Jimmy Johns. I lost a lot of ground on the progress I had made since beginning my running program this spring.
I know what I have to do. I have healthy food choices in the house. Roll’s book served as further inspiration. I’m not forking out $400 each for a top-of-the-line blender and juicer as he suggests, but I am replacing pre-packaged snacks for fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Portion control is back on the plate. Even for Thanksgiving.
Instead of full vegan, I’m working in food from the Okinawa Diet Plan (Bradley and Craig Wilcox). I love the basic miso soup with sweet potato, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, tofu and buckwheat noodles: Low glycemic index, healthy, tasty and filling. Even Mandy and the kids like it. I’ve been adding some frozen turnip or kale greens and mixing up the contents based on what’s in the house. Brown rice has replaced white and I bought pinto beans in bulk. Oatmeal is on again for breakfast instead of snack cookies and I may start trying tempeh as an alternate protein source so I don’t get tired of beans and rice or miso soup. We’ve got plenty of  chicken and turkey in the deep freeze, plus a few rabbits and tilapia: all lean, healthy meat (not ready for vegan yet).
And, I was inspired by Roll’s philosophy of going slow to go fast. I’ve been able to run a full 30 minutes at a stretch. Unfortunately, that means my heart rate is getting well into Zone 4. Roll noted that for endurance training, a sustained Zone 2 heart rate is preferable. Fortunately, my Garmin watch has a setting to keep me in the zone, so to speak. Now that I have the ability to complete a sustained run, my focus will shift to endurance training, which means I may have to slow down to go fast. I am OK with that.

30 minutes


When I started running this spring, I alternated between running 30 seconds and walking two minutes for half an hour four days a week. I completed my first 30-minute run today without a walk break. To date, I have run 187.05 miles. My pace was just under 13 minutes per mile, so there is plenty of room for improvement, but it is a significant milestone. Injury and illness delayed achieving the goal by about a month, but I stuck with it and made it. Now, I need to continue running and work on pace and distance. The biggest challenge lately has been the shortened days. The sun rises after my previous morning run time and soon will be setting before I get done with work. This month I began running on my lunch break and taking a quick shower before heading back to the office. This works for weekday runs. Weekends (except for Sunday’s blizzard) I tend to fit in a run when I can around chores and family events. Weight loss has happened, but I lost focus on my food intake the past two months and lost some ground, gaining back about half the 20 pounds I lost. A caloric imbalance of 100 calories a day gains 10 pounds a year, so I must have been six times that. I gotta stop snacking on cookies and crackers at work.

Great Park Pursuit finale



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Our trip to collect the final seven parks in Nebraska’s Great Park Pursuit took us to the panhandle on the three-day odyssey of fun and misadventure. We left midday from Lincoln headed to Kelley Park in McCook.

After a 6-hour drive, we arrived at a pleasant park with some vintage and modern playground equipment that the kids explored after a fast-food dinner. An hour or so later, we were at remote Rock Creek Lake State Recreation Area. We spied more than half a dozen wild turkeys, pheasant and numerous red-tailed hawks on the final stretch through dirt roads in an unincorporated town.

We circled the 50-acre lake to find a pretty campsite nestled in trees near the water and a vault toilet. We set up our new tent and a hammock on sloped terrain full of ants. I walked through the gloaming to water pumps near the entrance and spied a barred owl perched near a private cabin along the road.  Luke slept in the tent with Mandy, while Sylvia snuggled in the hammock with me.

The next morning after breakfast, we tried our hands at fishing with no luck before packing up and heading to Oliver Reservoir. Our GPS would not connect and the maps I’d printed had our location wrong, so we took a slight detour into Colorado before arriving at our destination, where we had a picnic lunch here and it was fine, but Mandy didn’t really like it. The GPP kiosk was easy to find and we were on our way to the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area on the Fossil Freeway.

It was brutally hot by the time we arrived. Too hot to leave the dog unattended in the car, even in the shade. He and I explored the surrounding trail, while the kids went inside to look for the 25 million-year-old fossil of a pair of sabertooth cats intertwined in death. Though Mandy asked to see the fossils, there was only a small dig area for kids and they never found the advertised main attraction. The lady at the desk didn’t know what I was talking about when I went in to ask and get water as Mandy loaded up the kid and dogs. Anyway, though Sylvia had fun exploring, there wasn’t much for them to see, so my hike was truncated.

Next up was Bridgeport State Recreation Area. Lots of little lakes with areas for boating, camping, swimming and picnicking. We guessed wrong and ended up driving around quite a bit before finding the kiosk just a few hundred yards from the entrance in the other direction from the way we chose. We stopped only to use the restrooms before heading to the next stop: Chimney Rock.

We didn’t want to pay the fee to visit the nature center (this is a national park, not a state park, so our pass was no good), so we took a slight detour to get a better photo opportunity from the county road, got some ice cream at a nearby shop and headed to Lake Minatare State Recreation Area.

This was by far our favorite park to date: gorgeous lake with plenty of forest and camping spots. We picked on right on the beach near the lighthouse. You can drive right onto the sand. We set up the tent and hammock again after exploring the lighthouse, then grilled hotdogs on our camp stove at a table near the lighthouse overlooking the lake.

The 55-foot lighthouse was built in 1937-39 by the Veterans Conservation Corps out of natural stone as a shelter and observation tower. It offers a good view of the lake. The kids and I took a sunset hike along the beach while Mandy rested before we all snuggled into the tent on the soft sand. Thunderclouds flickered on the horizon and I had neglected to set up the rainfly on the hammock.

After an oatmeal breakfast at the picnic table, we headed to Fort Robinson State Park. Here are quite a few opportunities and Mandy remembered visiting with her grandparents as a child. The kids were most interested in the Trailside Museum — part of the Fossil Freeway — that features a pair of dueling mammoths fossilized with tusks entangled. Mandy’s membership in affiliated Morrill Hall museum gained us free entry. We visited the playground near the place where Crazy Horse was killed and toured some of the outpost recreation buildings before heading to Chadron State Park.

The kids fell asleep and we didn’t stop but to capture the kiosk near the pollinator garden, but did drive along the scenic road winding through the mountain-like and pine clad hills of the park, stopping at a magnificent viewpoint shelter for a picnic lunch. Next was a 3-4 hour drive to Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge.

I took a slight wrong turn and we had to backtrack slightly. The park office was closed when we arrived and the kids were asleep, so we just captured the kiosk and decided to head home. Initially we were going to camp one more night, but threatening storm clouds and Mandy’s migraine made us decide to push onward. We’d arrive home around midnight and could sleep in the next day and relax.

We stopped at Big Alkali Lake State Wildlife Management Area for a picnic dinner. Wind whipped the wide, shallow lake into a frothy gray. Foam gathered in the reeds along shore. It was a surprisingly scenic area. I had no idea at the number of lakes in the Sandhills. This particular lake was further off the highway than we anticipated, but was worth the stop. Other lakes would likely have been equally scenic picnic points closer to the road, but we had no idea they existed at the time.

The return drive was uneventful until around 8 p.m. near Halsey, Nebraska, when the front left tire blew. I pulled into a paved area that extended a short distance beyond the shoulder on the opposite side of the road, unloaded the dog and all the gear in the back of the station wagon and commenced changing the tire. The jack was preposterously small and collapsed as I attempted to put the spare in place, getting pinned beneath the unbolted tire that rested precariously on the wheel hub. We called Volkswagen Roadside Assistance. After about 45 minutes, they told us a tow truck would be there in an hour. The truck never showed. Several farmers stopped to check on us, but the jacks in their jacked up trucks were too large for our small Jetta. Eventually, a different truck was dispatched. More hours after our ordeal began, we were on the road again.

We could have stopped at a hotel in Broken Bow, but were uncertain of the quality and cost and were just about out of money. We had used the last of our funds putting fuel in the car and were just barely likely to make it home on fumes. I decided to push through. We attempted to nap in a parking lot, but 45 minutes of the kids caterwauling as we uncomfortably closed our eyes in the front seats had us back on our way. By the time we reached Grand Island, it was practically morning and my road-bleary hallucinations had stopped. A couple hours down the interstate and we were home with the sunrise.

Twinkle, twinkle

The patio pavement is warm on my back as I stare at the night sky. Crickets and cicadas serenade in an euphonic chorus. Trees frame a window of stars; city lights glow dim on the horizon. Still, it is dark enough to see the brightest of flashes. There! A meteor streaks suddenly across the sky, burning quickly into dust. The Leonids are peaking. My wife heads in and I harvest cucumbers by flashlight with the boy, who won’t go back to bed. With enough in hand to finish a batch of pickles, we head in and preserve the garden’s bounty. We lie on the patio again and gaze into infinity. There! Another rock quickly slides to oblivion and I tuck the boy into bed.

Great Park Pursuit: Sylvia and Dad

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My wife and son stayed home to go to one of his friend’s birthday parties. That meant Sylvia, 2, and I got to go camping. She was very excited to go and talked about camping all week. 

We took several Great Park Pursuit (GPP) trips this summer and this was to be the latest. The GPP encourages participants to visit up to 20 GPP sites located across Nebraska between May 1 and Sept. 17, 2018. Players follow clues that will lead them to a GPP post, where they use a pencil to make an impression of the post or use the mobile app to prove they were there. We used the phone app.

While we were packing the car, Luke sent George with us and let Sylvia take his fishing pole and hiking stick (we didn’t use any of it, but it was very nice of him to offer).

We left Saturday morning after breakfast (frozen waffles). The first stop was Heartwell Park in Hastings. We had a picnic lunch of turkey sandwiches and chips. Sylvia watched ducks by the “treasure” (our name for the GPP posts that were the goal of the trip), located on a small island. Then, Sylvia changed into her swimsuit to splash her feet in the wading pool for a few minutes. 

The next stop was Melham Park in Broken Bow. The “treasure” was right next to where we parked but we didn’t see it and ended up walking around quite a bit. Sylvia wanted to go to the splash park. It was only $4, but I didn’t know what the camping situation would be at our destination and thought we’d be able to swim in the natural spring-fed lake at Victoria Springs. So, we headed to Victoria Springs State Recreation Area. It was a very cute little park with camping areas nestled amongst the cottonwood trees. There weren’t many places where we could hang the hammock because most trees were well beyond 10 feet apart. The best was near the campground entrance but far from the restrooms. This would come into play later. Sylvia enjoyed playing on the vintage playground equipment, especially the tall slide and merry-go-round. We also went on a paddleboat ride in the small lake. She picked the shiny, red boat. The lake was coated with a thick layer of algae, so swimming was out. Fishing was out too; the park staff guy said all the fish had died off. Interestingly, Sylvia recognized the park guy after we had spoken to him briefly and then later went looking for him to rent the boat. 

We set up the hammock, bug net and tarp and cooked hotdogs and baked beans on the Coleman stove. After clean-up, it was about time for bed. I took Sylvia to the potty and we settled in around 8. Over the next 2.5 hours Sylvia had us get up and walk the several-hundred yard trek to the bathroom to potty or poo. We’d get to the bathroom, Sylvia’d sit on the toilet and pee, or not, then say she was done, wash and dry hands and I’d carry her back to the hammock and she’d wave at the campground host. Then, just as we laid back down, Sylvia would say “I have to poop.” So we’d get up. Go back. she’d sit a moment and say “all done,” and repeat. The last three trips (of about 8), Sylvia actually did poop … all three times. Like, she wasn’t done and didn’t realize it until we were back in the hammock. Sylvia finally fell asleep near 11 and we woke up around 6, got up, made oatmeal and tea and headed out to the next park.

Calamus State Recreation Area was a little disappointing. It was a gorgeous lake and the drive through the Sandhills to get there was quite pretty. But without a boat, there was little to do (actually, the fish hatchery would have been cool but Sylvia refused). The playground was pitiful and dominated by bigger boys. We left right after finding the treasure and headed to the last stop: York Ballpark Complex (at her request we ate pizza at Pizza Hut before). It was actually closed and the access was barred with a chained gate, but we jumped the gate, found the kiosk, took the picture then headed across the street to the Family Aquatic Center. Her admission was free, but I had to pay $6. They had a kiddie pool with sprinklers and a toddler slide. Sylvia tried the slide, but her head dunked under water at the bottom and she was too afraid to try again. We got Sylvia’s flotation vest from the car and she played with some of the sprinklers for a while before she said she wanted to go home. Then we went home. 

#NE @NEGameandParks

“If” by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!