Category Archives: __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1981, age 38-39

 Themes and Events:
*  The Rubik’s Cube brain teaser toy becomes the rage.
*  The video game Pac Man shows up in arcades and living room all across the country.
*  The most popular movie of the year was Raiders of the Lost Ark. 
*  The government creates a “superfund” for environmental emergencies and to clean up toxic waste sites.
*  The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in Atlanta publishes its first report on the AIDS epidemic.
*  An article in the New England Journal of Medicine links cholesterol with coronary heart occlusion, the debate over dietary cholesterol begins.
*  Researchers create the first transgenic animal, inserting viral DNA into the DNA of a mouse, such creatures, carrying human genes serve as models for studying human diseases.
*  The Space Shuttle Columbia makes its maiden voyage, becoming the first manned spacecraft to land as an aircraft on its wheels, rather than parachute in and “splash down” in the ocean.
Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Make somebody happy: Mind your own business.
*  Save an alligator, eat a Preppie.
*  Answer my prayers, steal this car.
*  The only way they’ll get my gun is to pry it from my cold dead hands.
Ronald Reagan becomes President
On January 20, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States. George Bush Sr. becomes Vice President. Immediately after the swearing in process, news came out that Iran was releasing all fifty two of its American hostages. The coincidence was delightful, but alarming and everyone wondered what we secretly ‘gave away’ to ‘buy back’ the hostages.
The Society of Mayflower Descendants
After what seemed a long fall and winter of waiting, I finally received my certificate of  membership, from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants at Plymouth, Massachusetts. I was admitted to the society as a descendant of John Howland, on January 24, General Society Number #45302 and Minnesota State Number #547.

[Document photocopy: General Society of Mayflower Descendants certificate #45302, awarded upon confirmation of my descent from Pilgrim ancestor, John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley-Howland]

While waiting for the Society’s Historian General to validate the Howland genealogical line, I sent in  supplemental proofs of descent from Pilgrim Richard Warren, also a passenger aboard the 1620 Mayflower.

[Document photocopy: Mayflower Descendants, General Society of Mayflower Descendants supplemental certificate, awarded upon confirmation of my descent from Pilgrim ancestor, Richard Warren.]

We found that John Howland’s wife, Elizabeth Tilley’s parents, John Tilley and Elizabeth Comyngs, came to the New World with their daughter on the Mayflower[1]. Meanwhile, Richard Warren had left his wife and daughters in England and traveled here looking for business opportunities.
So, counting John Howland, Richard Warren and the Tilley family, that meant my immediate paternal family descended from at least five passengers aboard the 1620 Mayflower.

Books read during the year
I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time or of general topical interest to myself, including:
Better Read Than Dead: The Complete Book of Nuclear Survival © 1981 by Thomas R. Nieman – Effects of a nuclear weapons attack on the USA, fallout shelters. 193 pages.
Cycles of War: The Next Six Years © by R.E. McMasters – Discussion of various economic, social and war cycles that seem to be converging.  217 pages.
Life After Doomsday: A Survivalists Guide to Nuclear War and Other Major Disasters © 1980 by Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D. – How to survive a nuclear war, home fallout shelters, food storage, medical equipment and home defense. 185 pages.
The Alpha Strategy © 1980 by John A. Pugsley – A book touting the purchase and storage of tangible wealth, items produced by man, to counter the effects of inflation.
Stalking the Wild Pendulum © by Itzhak Bentov – On the mechanics of consciousness and experimenting with time. 233 pg.

Music [midi: Dr Zhivago]

Our Bio-Organic French Intensive garden
In May, as soon as we could work with the soil, we began cleaning up the garden. It had been left a jumble of roots, rocks and clumps of top soil from the backhoe work we had done the previous Fall. We removed  wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of old root chunks, small sticks and rocks. There were so many rocks in the garden, and about the yard, that when they were accumulated in one spot, we ended up with a rounded pile about three feet high and eight feet in diameter!

Our neighbor, Bobby brought us two ‘manure spreader loads’ of cow manure, from a half year old, rotting pile beside his barn. One load was spread directly onto the garden before spring tilling, the other was used in the orchard and vineyard.

During the previous winter, Donna and I read a gardening book on the Bio-Organic French Intensive Method. This gardening technique used raised garden beds, deep cultivation, heavy compost additions, and close planting to provide up to three times the vegetable production from the same garden area as common row gardening.

The raised bed method was said to: increase the surface area planted, provide better drainage, while beds densely planted to one species created an environment more compatible with that species. The continuous leaf cover across a four foot to five foot wide bed was said to reduce weed problems and help maintain soil moisture content.

Our first Bio-Organic French  Intensive Method garden consisted of five beds, each four feet wide, and one bed ten feet wide. All the raised beds were twenty-six feet long, with a two foot path between them. Among the crops planted were: Corn, green snap beans on tripod trellises, beets, carrots, lettuce, onions, potatoes, various squash, bell peppers, and tomatoes.

[Photo ca 1982, taken from a ladder: A portion of our Bio-organic, French Intensive garden. We never were able to eat all the vegetables we raised, so frequently gave the extras away to co-workers.]

In our small orchard and vineyard, we planted: three dwarf apple trees, two cherry, two plum, two blueberry bushes, six currents, two Hazelnut, five each Beta and Concord grapes, hundreds of red raspberries and hundreds of Ever bearing and June bearing strawberries. When each tree and bush was planted we added a full wheelbarrow load of rotted cow manure and straw to the hole before refilling. We had spectacular crop success using the Bio-Organic French Intensive Method.

The asparagus bed
(See photo above: The tall wild looking greenery located across the  top, left to center, background is the asparagus bed)
Using shovels and expending a great deal of labor, we dug a five foot wide and twenty foot long by one foot deep hole for an asparagus bed. We shoveled a layer of cow manure into the hole and covered this with a layer of black dirt, added another layer of manure and the top layer of soil.
When the bed was ready to plant, we drove to St. Cloud and bought root stock for one hundred asparagus plants. The individual roots were carefully spaced and each covered with soil.
Over the next couple of years, as asparagus shoots came up in the spring, we added compost, manure from the duck shed and more top soil until the bed was brought up to the level of the surrounding ground.
We allowed the asparagus two years of growth to establish their roots, before we began harvesting shoots. The asparagus bed paid off, providing us with the best tasting fresh vegetables! Over the next few years,  as the early Spring weather warmed, either Donna or I went out to inspect the asparagus patch daily, looking for growth and licking our lips with anticipation.
Fresh asparagus was always cooked and eaten as soon as enough was accumulated for a meal; and those meals frequently included barbequed steak. Hmm Mmm, heavenly!

The Trash Can pit
During late Fall 1980, when we had Butch Chemielewski come out with his back hoe to dig up and turn the garden area soil, we also had him dig a ‘trash can pit’ for the household’s solid, non combustible
waste. The pit was dug in the woods, about thirty feet outside of the proposed  line for our back yard (north) fence. The pit was dug about six feet wide, nine feet long and five feet deep.

Early this spring, Donna and I put a fence up around the pit. When we tossed our first cans and bottles
away, they looked so small compared to the size of the hole, we chuckled and commented that it would take a long, long time to fill with rubbish…and the years passed.
[Photo: The new trash can pit. Used as a landfill for cans, bottles and other non biodegradable, non combustibles. See a picture of the pit in Chapter 2006 when it had become (full) filled with 26 years of family ‘history.’]

In time, the scars created by the backhoe became overgrown with grass, moss, saplings, and flowering wood anemones, everything was covered with leaves that fell every Fall, creating a thin layer of topsoil.

As the pit filled, the weight of the growing refuse column, plus rusting in the lower levels, caused the pile to collapse in upon its self, but slowly we saw the hole becoming more and more ‘shallow’. Eventually, several of the non pressure treated posts rotted away, the fence fell over, the refuse heaped up to become a circular mound contained by the base of the old fence….cans, bottles, tricycles, bicycles, microwave ovens, computers, the jetsam and flotsam of life gathered here in this time capsule of effluent.

The compost bin
During the summer, we built a compost bin to hold the homestead’s raw vegetable garbage, grass clippings, leaves, garden residue, weeds and straw. The composter was comprised of a twelve foot long above ground container made with pressure treated wood. At the corners and every four feet between, we vertically set four inch square pressure treated posts into the ground. The twelve foot long rectangular structure was subdivided into three each four foot square bins, standingthree feet high.

Pressure treated wood planks were nailed along the back and sides, and removable slats were slid into place along the front of each bin, to contain that decaying material.

We filled 2-3 bins per year. Decayed material from one bin was tilled into the garden each spring, another of straw was used for mulch. A third bin, composed of straw and grass clippings were tilled into the garden each fall.

The system worked quite well, by providing a place to get rid of a large quantity of raw organic material in an environment free of hazardous germs and being able to recycle the organics back onto the garden.

Mike and Kay visit
Mike and Kay and their children Joe, David and Laurie flew out from San Bernardino to visit with us between 10-19 July. We picked the family up at the Minneapolis International Airport using both the GMC pickup and Toyota to carry everyone and the luggage home.

Mike, had lived in suburban Los Angeles his entire life, except for four years military service in the US Air Force. Being out in the ‘deep woods’ he was immediately taken with the privacy and natural surroundings afforded our home. Every day during their visit, Mike and I would hike to some part of the property, or wander around the yard discussing in depth the various technologies of gardening, raising livestock, composting, the various types of wildlife, installing a well-drain field- building structures, putting up fencing. We had a great time, it was good visiting with my old friends.

[Photograph facing west: Mike & Kay, David and Joe cautiously inspecting one of Donna’s bee hive frames.
A few months later Donna and I had installed the yard fence that stretched along the edge of the woods in the background and came to the yard gate seen in the photo below.]

Practically every afternoon and into the evening we sat in the back yard chatting, while barbecuing dinner on our red, covered, Weber BBQ. Their son’s, Dave and Joe, explored the woods within view of the house and playing by the pond.
The Air Controllers strike
Between 3-6 August, the US Air Traffic Controllers went on a nationwide strike for higher wages; which they had coming because of the effects of inflation. President Reagan ordered the technicians back to work, but they refused to continue working without either a contract or pay hike. Reagan showed his true colors and sympathies toward the “working man” when a few days later, on Aug 6th, he fired everyone who did not show up for work on the 5th. Twelve thousand Air Traffic Controllers lost their job immediately and the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would hire replacements.

From that date on, the strength of organized unions in the U.S. declined, and Federal support continued to firmly back business at the expense of the worker.

Alexander’s run
Alexander R. Little was an ‘explorer of a bird’. Often, when we’d arise in the morning, we found him roosting on a curtain rod in the living room or above a window in the kitchen, or perhaps just scooting around on the floor. At times, when he was belligerent about going home to his cage at night, we had to close his cage door to keep him in until morning. Usually ‘he had the run of the house’

One afternoon, during the late summer, while we were grilling some meat on the barbecue for our supper, I walked outside with a bowl of barbecue sauce. Now as it so happened, over the last year and a half, I’d become so use to Alexander riding on my shoulder, that I completely forgot that a few minutes earlier, when I went in the house  he landed on my shoulder for a ride. Then going back outdoors to the barbeque, no sooner did I reached the bottom step when I realized Alexander was still riding on my shoulder. As I gasped and slowly turned my head to look at him, he flew off to circle above me.

Alexander had been spending a lot of time sitting on top the front door, just inside the screen looking at all the greenery outside. Now he was outside and free to go where ever he wanted. It didn’t look good from the moment he flew up and circled above the trailer. I called Donna, and we set out following him to a tree about two hundred feet northeast of the trailer. I shinnied up the tall thin oak and coaxed Alexander to hop on my shoulder, but since there were no limbs to hold on to, I was unable to relax my grip on the trunk and try to catch him. Climbing , back down, I called Alexander and offered my finger for him to land on, Alexander swooped down several times, acting like he wanted to land on me, but was in the last instant distracted by his surroundings and flew back to a higher limb. We kept trying to coax him to us until dusk, when he finally flew off into the woods and disappeared.

[Photgraph: An example of the woods on our property. This image take from the side of the driveway looking south, with the yellowish ‘lowland-fen bog’ in the distance.]

A couple nights later we had a light, chilly rain coupled with quite cool temperatures, I don’t suppose the little guy survived; alas, we ever saw Alexander R. Little again. For the next few days I spent some time wandering in a widening circle around where we last saw him, unsucessfully looking for his bright green plumage amongst the litter on the forest floor….

Installation of the homesite perimeter fence
Between 1979 and Fall of 1981, Donna and I frequently worked on the installation of our homesite perimeter fence. Because of the weather and the mosquito problem, we were limited to workingonly  in the early spring and fall.

Before moving the trailer onto the property, we cleared the brush from out proposed fence line and began installing posts. It wasn’t until after we’d actually moved that we were able to come home from work in the late afternoon or run outside right after breakfast in the morning and put in a wood post or two; with quick access to the tools, the fence went up relatively fast.

The nine hundred eighty foot perimeter fence was installed with a east-west width of about two hundred feet and an overall north-south length of three hundred feet. The trailer, garden, orchard were all located in the “upper yard”. Our pond, a shed (built later), and what came to be known as “Snake Flats Wilderness Camping Area” was located in the semi wild “lower yard”. The driveway came into the yard from the west, almost equally bisecting the upper and lower yard.

When we bought the property, we knew nothing about fencing. We borrowed books from the Public library to read, as well as observing how fencing was installed along the local farm fields.

We absorbed a lot of general agricultural technology from the various projects we became involved with around the property.

In order to make our fence line straight we ran a string from a main “corner post” toward the next main support post (separated by no more than one hundred feet) then installed smaller ‘runner posts’ along that line at approximately ten foot intervals.  Usually, I’d wield the post hole digger and pluck out  the top eighteen inches of the hole, then Donna took over to excavate the bottom half foot.

[Photograph: A length of finished fencing on the west side of the homesite, looking north from the driveway at yard entrance. Our Nightstar* sign and eagle are on the tall yard gate post at left.]

It seems that tens of thousands of years ago, a glacier moved across this area and left lots of small stones in passing. These rocks were in every post hole we dug. It was never a simple matter of just digging an easy two foot deep hole. We always hit a good size rock at a depth of about a foot or so and had to pry and dig around to remove it. Most holes also had several smaller rocks, ‘baby rocks’ if you will, accompanying a larger ‘adult rock’. The smaller rocks were simply thrown back in the hole as part of the back fill, the larger rocks were wheelbarrowed to the closest rock pile (down by the pond or next to the (future) compost bin in the back yard).

While Donna held the post upright and level in its hole, I’d carefully back fill soil around the post and begin compacting the soil with the handle end of the sledge hammer. We took turns digging, removing rocks, back filling and compacting. Although we always wore leather gloves, but still, our hands became rough and strong from the work.

When all of a ‘stretch’ fence posts had been installed, between let’s say, a corner of the yard and a gate, we’d lay out a roll of woven wire and secure one end to the corner post and its support. The running
end of the roll was pulled to the gate corner posts where it was secured with a “come-along” and ratcheted tight. The fencing was nailed to the end posts with U-nails then nailed to the runner posts at the proper distance above ground.
Next, we strung a strand of barbed wire at the bottom of the woven wire and three spaced, strands of barbed wire above.
When finished, the fence stood about four feet high. Each season we put in another length of fence and every season the job was closer to being done. Finally, in the fall of 1981 we finished installing the fence and put up the gates.

The fencing materials primarily consisted of:
1) Pressure treated wood: forty seven posts, each six inches diameter by six and a half feet long corner posts ($235.); seventy seven each five inch diameter by six feet long runner posts ($192.); thirty one each four inch diameter brace posts ($54.).

2) Hardware: 4000 feet barbed wire ($74.); 1000 feet of #12 gauge, thirty two inch high welded woven wire ($220.). These prices do not include the cost of our tools, post hole digger, steel U-fencing staples, the come-along, or our many, many hours of strenuous physical labor (love for what we were doing).

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1981.
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  Bosom Buddies
•  Private Benjamin
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo
•  The Greatest American Her
•  Simon and Simon
•  Magnum P.I.
  Masada, a miniseries.

Movies that Donna and I attended during the year include;
Continental Divide with John Belushi, Blair Brown, Allan Goodwitz, Caril Glynn
Escape From New York with Kurt Russel, Lee Van Cleef, Ernst Borgnine
For Your Eyes Only with Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Lynn-Holly Johnson
Modern Problems with Chevy Chase, Patti D’Arbanville, Nell Carter
Neighbors with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Kathryn Walker, Cathy Moriarty
On Golden Pond with Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman
Outland with Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen
Raiders of the Lost Ark with Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Wolf Kahler, Paul Freeman
Stripes with Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles
Superman II with Christopher Reeves, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp
Tarzan, The Ape Man with Bo Derek, Richard Harris, John Philip Law
The Road Warrior (Mad Max II) with Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence,Vernon Wells
Zorro, The Gay Blade with George Hamilton, Lauren Hutton, Brenda Vaccaro

[1]  John Tilley and Elizabeth Comyngs perished of  the “general sickness” that swept through the small party of pilgrims during their first winter at Plimoth.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1980, age 37-38


Section 4:
Little House in the Woods

-=  Beginnings  =-


Themes and Events:
*  Small pox, one of mankind’s worst scourges is “totally eradicated” (Note 2010: It was eradicated from the ‘wild,’ the disease germs still live on in global biowarfare laboratories).
*  This year Tax Freedom Day falls on 1 May, in 1960 tax freedom was two weeks earlier, on 17 April. Tax Freedom Day is insidiously creeping further and further through the calendar, leaving less money for worker expenses; it fell on 13 February 1930, 8 March 1940 and 3 April 1950.
*  A boardless, role playing game called Dungeons and Dragons becomes a big hit to the consternation of preachers who see it as a work of Satan.
The Official Preppie Handbook hits bookstores, advising the class conscious how to be more  “preppie.”
*  Professional women wearing jogging shoes become a common sight.
*  3M introduces the “Post-it” note pad.
*  The world’s most powerful radio telescope is completed near Socorro, NM. Its huge, 27 dish antenna array (called a Very Large Array) forms a massive Y in the desert, each arm stretching 13 miles.
* Inflation declines  from 18% last year to 12.4% this year.
*  The Equal Opportunities Commission issues regulations making it illegal to sexually harass women in the workplace.
*  The Census Bureau reports the U.S. population is 226,547,000.  The average age of the world population is very low as roughly 1/3 are children under the age of fourteen years.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Beam me up Scotty — There’s no intelligent life here.
*  Exxon suxx.
*  Jimmy Carter does the work of two men — Laurel and Hardy.

My resolution for the future
During the last three months of 1979 and into late January 1980, the spot price of gold and silver bullion went into a parabolic rise. Although gold and silver had been climbing during  the previous year, it was in this approximately four month period that precious metal prices simply ‘went to the moon! Gold doubled from about $375 to over $850,  while silver tripled from about $15 to $42 per ounce.

As the days and weeks passed, there were more and more news stories on television discussing the precious metals, there were occasional editorials in the newspaper, and once in a while, someone at work would wistfully mention how they wished they owned some gold or silver. The idea of making a ‘fast profit’, was spreading, it was a topic you could chat about with a coworker.

Donna and I had just paid off the property, had a well drilled and installed, and were presently saving all our extra weekly income to cover the upcoming cost of a sewage drain field, having a garage built– all the things associated with moving onto our property. We were locked into our plans with no cash for speculative investment.

In retrospect, I see that the rising prices ‘snuck up’ on everyone. Most non financial workers are busy with their job, family, friends and hobbies, mentally absorbed with the events of their daily lives. The economic specialists, the brokers and those who track the markets knew what was happening. But it was only in that last few months to a half year, when  the news media picked up on the story, and began reporting the price rise, did we in the general population begin to become aware of the explosive profit potential. The awareness came upon us like awakening from sleep… slowly and comfortably opening your eyes with understanding, conscious realization slowly filling the mind with awareness and implications from the environment.

By the time the we knew there was a quick profit to be made from running down to the coin dealer and buying a bag of silver change or a bullion bar, prices were already entering a parabolic ‘blow off’ phase.[6]

Although silver spiked to its long held record of $50, for a few minutes during one day, the market closed at only $42. The reality of the situation was that the ‘retail brokers’, being fearful of an imminent  price collapse were not paying $42 for bullion, closer to $32, while pre1965 silver coin only brought about $20 per oz silver content. So, the best price the ‘man on the street’ could get during maybe only a couple week period in the latter part of the rise, would have been about $32 per ounce. That $32 was only 60% of the reported, extreme interday blow off price, that historians are fond of reporting. The same situation existed in gold pricing. On 21 January 1980, gold spiked to a market close of $878 per ounce, but the lucky man who sold at the peak would probably have received no more than about $700 from his local coin dealer-broker.

I remember being in the Waste water treatment plant lab and doing arithmetic on how much profit I could have made over the last month or so, if I’d had $1000 invested in silver. A few minutes later, walking about the building, deep in thought, I realized: ‘If gold and silver prices exploded during the inflationary economic times we were  currently having, then at some time in the future, we would again see similar hard times, and there would be another popular rush on precious metal prices, hence another opportunity to profit’.

That morning, I made a mental note: 1) To keep my mind open to any developing ‘sea changes’ in the US economy, and in the years ahead, when there was again a growing concern over 2)  inflation or 3) other financial-military things were not going well, that I should, 4) begin buying gold and silver.

I never forget the object lesson provided by the bullion price rise of 1980, nor the mental note to my future self, meanwhile time and life passed in their normal seasons…

[The homesite on a frosty Saturday morning. Another season’s work is about to begin as we continued clearing the homesite after the 1979-80 winter break. Panoramic view extending from S (at left) to W (far right), taken from in front of our future garage location. See photo of the garage  at the end of this chapter.]

Buying a John Deere, model #70 tractor
Ever since the previous Fall, we’d been thinking of buying a used tractor to help us move brush, logs and level what would be our yard. This Spring, a supervisor at Landy’s mentioned to Donna that he was quitting his hobby farm and had a tractor for sale. We drove out to his place one weekend and looked the tractor over, listened to it run and watched the fellow drive it about and operate its hydraulic front bucket.

It was a John Deere model #70 with a four foot wide hydraulic bucket on the front, just what we were looking for. Actually it was more than we were looking for. It seemed like a great and powerful beast with its fifty horsepower engine that made a loud, deep  roaring sound with a continuous, sibilant, “chug-chug-pop-pop…” The model JD #70 is a large tractor with huge, thick, five and a half foot high back wheels that were half filled with liquid (to make them heavy and increase traction), the top of the engine compartment stood probably a little better than six feet high with a machine ‘dry weight’ of 6,035 pounds. While sitting in the driver’s seat, your eye level was nearly eight feet above the ground. (See picture toward the end of this chapter)

The owner was asking $1,800 for the machine. Later that the day, we conferred with our neighbor, Bobby, to see what he thought of the price, make and model, etc.

On March 29 we bought the tractor, then received maybe five minutes of instruction on how to drive and operate the beast. With Donna following in the pickup truck, I drove the machine slowly back to Rockwood Estates for further inspection, cleanup and storage, until we were ready to move onto our property. Needless to say, I was not comfortable about driving this large, heavy duty piece of equipment twenty miles through the cold March winds, and with only a couple minutes of instruction.

US attempts to rescue “the hostages”
On April 24, the US military launched a covert operation into Iran in an attempt to rescue the Embassy hostages. The effort failed when the US aircraft crashed into one another on their desert runway killing eight American servicemen and creating fires that could be seen for miles. It was a sad sight to see the photographic images that were shown on the evening news over the next few days: Gnarled and burned out aircraft and happy, dancing, gun waving Iranian soldiers. The Iranians had “gotten us again”, simply because we were not using our intelligence and performing properly.

Although this was a brave and daring mission,  the military was not prepared for this kind of exercise and fouled up. President Carter was blamed for the missions failure, which simply added to his growing reputation as a weak, indecisive, “do nothing” President.

We didn’t learn this fact for another ten years, but one of the great things President Carter did during his term was to signed a bill for secret appropriations to build “Stealth” technology into a new generation of jet fighters and bombers. Stealth technology helps aircraft fly undected through radar.

Alexander R. Little, parakeet extraordinaire
When our first parakeet, Icabod died, we immediately bought a second bird and set him up in Icabod’s cage. We bought new toys, perches, seed blocks and other removable items so Alexander would start out with all of his own things. During the long winter months we spoke to him, taught him to sit on our fingers and to ride on our shoulders.

Alexander became fascinated with “wrestling” with Donna’s hand. Ever so often, while sitting on the couch, reading or watching TV, Alexander would come flying into the front room, land on Donna’s knee and walk up to her hand. Donna would curl her fingers to touch her thumb thereby making a hollow spot, and Alexander would crawl inside. Donna would give him a little squeeze, turn him upside down
and tickle his belly feathers, making the bird wiggle in ecstasy. Alexander loved the attention, he was a ‘personable’ bird. Whenever one of us was at the kitchen table, writing a letter, reading, or chatting amongst ourselves, Alexander would fly over to sit on our shoulders.

Purchasing a new Toyota Corolla
Donna’s and my work schedule at Landy’s was becoming erratic, with each of us being required to arrive at different times of the morning. The length of our individual lunches varied and occasional overtime meant we were alternating waiting in the pickup for one another. As soon as we saw our schedules would remain erratic, we made plans to buy a second vehicle.

Visiting a St. Cloud’s Toyota Dealership, we test drove, then bought another Toyota Corolla. The auto was essentially the same as we owned in El Monte, California, before moving to Minnesota; and the same as I owned when living in Hayward, California.

Our new car was a 1980, Toyota Corolla, two door, with a gray body, costing approximately $3,200. As soon as we bought the vehicle, we took it to a commercial automotive radio store and had an AM-FM-cassette tape player and speakers installed. The car served us well, lasting seventeen years, until 1997.

A growing interest in our family genealogy
During the spring, my father and Uncle Bill, began coaxing me into their hobby of ‘family genealogical research’. I think my Dad and his brother, Bill, had been discussing family genealogy for some time amongst themselves, but figuring I wasn’t interested, hadn’t discussed their projects with me. Then when something about our family history was mentioned and I showed an interest, it wasn’t long before I was included in their research loop.

With growing interest, I checked out a couple “How To’ genealogy books from the St. Coud Public Library and read them in an effort to catch up with my elders and contribute some research information to the effort.

While I was still in the introductory stages of learning, both Dad and Uncle Bill announced they were filing their applications for admission to the National Society of Mayflower Descendants! I was incredulous. They hadn’t told me to what depth their research had taken them. They found that we descended from Pilgrim, John Howland, a passenger on the 1620 Mayflower.

The line of descent came down from:  1) John Howland and wife Elizabeth Tilley,  their daughter, 2) Hope Howland who married John Chipman,  their son, 3) John Chipman Jr. and wife Mary Skiff, their son, 4) Perez Chipman Sr. and his wife Judith Draper, their son, 5) Perez Chipman Jr. and Margaret Manlove, their daughter, 6) Harriet Chipman and husband William Horney, their son, 7) Jeffrey
Horney and wife Catherine Janes, their daughter, 8) Margaret Horney and husband Harmon Anderson, their daughter, 9) Anna Flora Anderson and husband George Grubb, their daughter, 10) Elsie Grubb and husband Glen K. Pierce,  their son, 11) Robert F. Pierce and wife Hazel M. Shafer, their son, 12) myself, Larry F. Pierce and wife Donna, and our daughter, 13) Jane E. Pierce.

The Society of Mayflower Descendants is a prestigious organization, the most exclusive genealogical society in the United States.
I had read somewhere in years past, that members of the Mayflower Society have come from all walks of life, from President to beggar, and that on ‘Society meeting days’ they were all one, cousins and, or, ancient friends whom had all worked together to survive as early settlers on this continent, and whose families have worked ever since to make America a opportune and desirable country to live.

God Bless them all…they would turn in their grave now, only a few hundred years later,  to see how those whom we welcomed behind us, gave our heritage away and squandered the future.

——————–  ∞  ——————

Purposes Of The Society Of Mayflower Descendants Section

1.  To perpetuate to a remote posterity the memory of our Pilgrim Fathers. To maintain and defend the principle of civil and religious liberty as set forth in the Compact of the Mayflower, “For the glorie of God, and advancemente of the Christian faith and honor of our countrie.”
2.  To cherish and maintain the ideals and institutions of American freedom, and to oppose any theories or actions that threaten their continuity. To transmit the spirit, the purity of purpose and steadfastness of will of the Pilgrim Fathers to those who shall come after us, an undiminished heritage of liberty and law.
3.  To promote the interests that are common to all the State Societies of Mayflower Descendants which can best be served by a federal body, and to secure united effort to discover and publish original matter in regard to the Pilgrims, together with existing data known only to antiquarians, and to authenticate, preserve and mark historical spots made memorable by Pilgrim association.

——————–  ∞  ——————

Questions about installing a drain field
Since buying the property, we’d come to find that we had a ‘perched, high water table’.
We had two points of concern and both reflected on the type of sewage drain field we’d have to install:
1.  The elevation where our proposed drain field would set, was only a couple feet higher than the soggy, grassy transition zone on the edge of the lowland.
2.  There was a seasonal, horizontal, subsoil transport of water down the hill. In the spring when the soil was very moist, excess water which was initially absorbed by the soil and only penetrated about a foot before hitting a hard pan of clay. The moisture slowly seeped along above the hardpan, through the soil, down the slope toward the lowland.  We found that during the spring, holes dug in the yard, soon filled with water.

During May, we hired a Soil expert from the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud campus to help determine what kind of sewage system drain field we’d need. We met the Soil expert at the property and dug several holes about the yard with the post hole digger for him to inspect. He ran a percolation test and analyzed the soil strata. In other words: The expert timed how long it took for water to begin seeping into the holes I dug, then he took a couple soil samples back to his lab in a plastic bag. We received his written report and a bill for $99 a few days later. We were advised to install an elevated drain field. As such, the drainage pipes would lay on top of the ground and would be covered with a couple feet of soil. We didn’t like the expert’s idea at all, so decided to make a few telephone calls to area contractors and ask around for some other opinions and alternatives.

The eruption of Mount St. Helen’s
Mount St. Helen’s, a volcano in Washington, that was experiencing considerable earthquake activity, erupted violently on May 18. The entire top side of the mountain was blown away or dissolved in a huge explosion.
Part of one side of the mountain liquefied and ran down into surrounding rivers and lakes sending a surge of mud downstream. For miles in every direction, the forests were blown flat and destroyed, everything was covered with a varying thickness of ash. Initially, huge, billowing clouds of smoke and ash were raining down all around the area, creating eerie “thunderstorms” complete with lightning and mud rain. Residents in nearby towns wore masks over their faces while motor vehicles stalled with grit plugged air filters. Telephoto images of Mount St. Helen’s taken a few days later, showed an environment looking somewhat like the lunar surface.  Early estimates of damage caused by the eruption were pegged at $2.7 billion.

The drainfield is installed
Continuing our research into the type of drainfield we should install, we  phoned Butch[1], a local contractor from Gilman. Butch met us at the homesite to discuss our high water table. He had considerable experience around Gilman and Foley, installing septic systems and drain fields in low areas and in perched water tables. His experience said that we wouldn’t have trouble with a conventional underground system, particularly with the addition of one slightly illegal modification…

We pointed where we wanted the system installed: on the south side of our proposed trailer location, under the soil that would eventuallybecome our front yard. Butch was free to come out in a couple days and install the field, all that we needed to do was get a permit from the county.

On 19-20 May, Butch and his nephew, Russell, arrived with their backhoe and installed the drain field. Before covering the drain field, the Building Code Inspector from the county was called to inspect it and give it his official stamp of approval.

[1980 Photograph. Drain field installation. A 1250 gallon septic tank and 726 square foot drain field, covered with rock and straw, are being installed by Butch.]

The basic sewage system included: a round, 1,250 gallon concrete septic tank, a concrete distribution manifold, and four perforated PVC drainage lines.

The drainage pipes were laid out in parallel lines of fifty feet length, about ten feet apart and dug in about two feet deep. The PVC pipes were set in a bed of gravel and rock for drainage, then covered with a layer of straw, and finally backfilled with soil.

After the Building Code Inspector left, Butch installed a additional ‘French Drain’. The purpose of the French Drain was to carry away any potential overflow from the drain field, during the spring, when the water table was high. It was only a way to increase the area of the drain field cheaply. It consisted of a one hundred fifty foot long trench dug past the south end of the drain field. A “T” was made with the long center foot leading across our driveway and extending another one hundred feet. The trench was filled with sand and covered with soil, finally planted to grass.

Installation of the official septic system and drain field cost $900, while the French Drain and sand cost an additional $200.[2]

Our next job for Butch and his back hoe, was to install two yard hydrants. The hydrants were to be located in diagonal opposition across the yard in such a way that when a 100 foot garden hose was attached to each, they would reach almost every point in the upper yard. This would be significant for our future lawn and garden watering and for fire fighting and prevention.

Butch dug a eight foot deep trench about 200 feet diagonally across the yard, then working alone, ran the plastic water pipe, made the connections and brought up the risers. I was concerned that we were going to come back to the property after work one afternoon and find the excavation having caved in and Butch buried in the deep narrow trench, fortunately he got the work done without mishap.

Seeding the driveway ditch to grass
In the early Spring, as soon as temperatures had warmed, and the recently bulldozed soil along the driveway ditch was dry, we began seeding it to grass. The first step was to work our way along the driveway ditch removing the many jutting tree roots, broken limbs and rocks. The soil was then seeded to a mixture of both moisture tolerant and shade tolerant grasses. We raked over the seeds attempting to cover as many as possible and create the best possible environment for growth.

By the end of the summer the ditches were filled with knee high grass and looked ever so much like an overgrown lawn. In the years that followed the terrible scars left by the bulldozer faded. Oak and Maple seedling began taking root on the sides of the ditch, while Black Willow saplings took over in the wetter bottom.  Over the years, the ditch became filled with six foot high Reed Canary Grass, a mixture of other grasses, red raspberry, tree saplings and various other plant life. Squirrels, rabbits and grouse were occasionally seen scurrying though the grass and brush, running across the driveway or to hide in the forest cover.

Bulldozing tree stumps from the homesite
At about the same time we were seeding the driveway, we had the Erdman’s back out to do some work with their bulldozer. One weekend afternoon, Dale arrived with a lowboy truck transporting the bulldozer.
We showed him what we wanted done in the homesite:
•  There were over a dozen tree stumps, a jumble of large logs and several large diameter, eight foot high brush piles that we wanted pushed south out of the yard and back into the willowland.
•  Where the stumps were removed, refill the holes with soil and compact it.
•  Spend a few minutes by our small pond and if it wasn’t too mucky, dig it out a little longer and deeper.
•  Finally, the side of the hill, where our mobile home would be set, needed to be gently worked with the bulldozer blade so we’d have a relatively smooth yard surface.
A few days later when we came back out to inspect the finished work we were happy  to find everything done according to our request.

Music [midi: Working Girl, Let the River Run]

Living and working like nomads on the land
Having begun work on the final homesite, we became anxious to push ahead toward completion as rapidly as possible. At the time, it was our hope to move the mobile home onto the property by the end of the year.
In order to utilize our time most effectively, get the maximum enjoyment from being on the property and from camping, we decided to move the Starcraft fold down  camper out to the land and live there.

So, during June 1980, we took up residence on our property and began living like nomads.

Every night after working a full day at Landy Packing Company, we returned to the acreage to work on the homesite. During the weeks that followed we moved rocks, snipped willows out of the south end of the yard and raked debris from the entire acre size yard.

As soon as we had the camper set up, we drove the John Deere Model 70 tractor out to the property and immediately put it to work.  What a labor saving device!  Downed tree trunks that we couldn’t lift with the bucket were dragged out of the homesite with large chains. The tractor never stuttered performing its Herculean tasks.

[Photograph above: Working and living on the homesite. The ‘Starcraft Galaxy 6’ camper became our primary residence during the summer of 1980, as we rushed to prepare for ‘Moving Day’.]

When moving the largest tree trunks, I’d downshift into the lowest tractor gear and slowly edged forward until the doubled chain grew taught, then, the tractor seemed to growl as it’s treads dug into the soil and we steadily moved forward.

We moved several large wood piles of ready to split firewood, dozens of six foot long large limbs and smaller trunks (each requiring two people to roll onto the tractors bucket), at least a dozen large tree trunks and many hydraulic bucket loads of refuse from the homesite area.

We smoothed the areas that were to become the front and backyards, we stood in the elevated hydraulic bucket while trimming the lower branches of trees that were to remain in the yard, and started a rock pile in an out of the way location in the back yard.

Every other night after her job at Landy’s, Donna would go back the mobile home at Rockwood Estates to feed our tropical fish and Alexander R. Little (parakeet), also to pick up freshly frozen ice for our icebox. On Saturdays, she went shopping for groceries and washed work clothes for the following week.

Our time wasn’t all work. We enjoyed the evenings together in our seemingly wild and remote piece of the Earth. We prepared regular meals on the campers propane stove, washed dishes in the sink, slept in comfortable beds. After supper we either sat at the kitchenette table eating pop corn and petting Griz, or walked about in the nearly completed homesite talking, discussing future plans. The period we spent living in the camper was a happy  time, our days filled with labor from before sun up until almost sun down. You should all be so lucky.

[Donna and I worked on the property every night after our jobs at Landy Packing. Donna went ‘home’ occasionally to do laundry and up pick things we needed. The partially dug pond  is in foreground.  Wood piles at center left and right. Camper in center background.]

Electric and telephone utilities
Even though the entire western boarder of our property was a paved and a well maintained county road, there were no power lines passing, in fact, the electric utility line didn’t even come down the road to our property!

In July, Donna telephoned East Central Electric, the local utility, and requested they put us on the power grid. A few days later, East Central sent a line crew out to install two electric poles, thereby bringing the utility down to our property. A third pole, with a transformer, was set on our land near the front of the driveway.

We  had to pay $0.50 per linear foot to have an underground cable installed from the pole to a transformer set up about fifteen feet behind where the mobile home would eventually be located. This was optional, we could have had an over head power line put in for free, but would have had to knock down an additional twenty foot width of forest for ‘line clearance’. We didn’t even see that ‘free option’ as a choice, the forest was not going to be cut.

When the power line was dug in, we were required to pay an installation deposit of $288. The deposit was tacked onto our electric bill at the rate of $16 per month until we moved onto the property and began using the service. There never was an overhead line on the property, telephone and electric cables came in underground.

Making a power distribution panel
Allan Zimmer, a commercial electrician who worked part time at Landy Packing Company, advised us that we’d need an elevated power panel on which to mount our electric meter. Since the commercial panels cost $120, Donna and I decided to make our own. We used four inch pressure treated posts and for the uprights and redwood planking for the panel. The posts were dug into the ground about two and a half feet. The parts may have cost us $15.

One would think nailing a few boards to a couple blocks of wood would involve just swinging a hammer. No so, like everything else involved with organizing and bringing about the execution of jobs on the property, this was a slow and labor intensive learning experience.

Before Donna and I made the power panel we’d never even seen one. (Houses have panels on the exterior or in the basement, the mobile home park had enclosed connection boxes.)

First, we had to find out what all would be mounted on the panel and the size of each item, power/disconnect box, a distribution panel, local 110v outlet box and electric meter. We had to design the panel to hold all the boxes that would be installed, make sure it stood a certain distance above the ground and needed to be made from wood that would not require maintenance (redwood). We had to choose and buy the wood on Saturday, when there was time to shop in St. Cloud. Back at Rockwood Estates, when the tools were assembled, the was wood cut to length and nailed together. Sunday, the panel was taken out to the property where the post holes were dug, the panel installed, the holes backfilled and tamped in. Between the telephone calls, and questions to determine what was needed, the planning, shopping, construction, transport, and installation, the better part of a weekend went into this one small project.

Table: Weekly family income, 1980

Income information Larry Donna Total
Hourly wage $8.08 $6.76 $14.84
Hours worked 40 hours 40 hours 80 hours
Gross income $323.20 $270.40 $593.60
Federal withholding tax $51.92 $39.77 $91.69
State withholding tax $22.02 $16.28 $38.29
Social Security tax $19.81 $16.58 $36.39
Total payroll deductions $93.95 $72.63 $166.37
Net Pay $229.45 $197.77 $427.33

Finalizing preparations to move
During the first days of August we were  in a dither, everything was coming together as we prepared to move the mobile home. We were making phone calls to organize East Central Electric, Benton County Telephone, Allan Zimmer (our electrician),  Butch (sewage connect) , Traut Well Drilling Company (install and connect our forty two gallon holding and pressure tank) and the truck driver who would haul the mobile home out of Rockford Estates. The people all had to be coordinated to meet at a certain time so each could do his job in conjunction with and overlapping the next.

While organizing the mobile home’s connection at the property, we were also having utilities turned off at Rockwood Estates as well as preparing our personal effects for the move.
•  We phoned the Benton County Telephone and East Central Energy with instructions for our service in Rice to be disconnected first thing in the morning on August 11.
•  The mobile home’s skirting and wooden skirt supports were removed and stacked for transport.
•  After the end of the first week in August, we spent each night packing our belongings into cardboard boxes and distributing the weight about on the mobile home’s floor for safe transit. Everything was being either packed, laid down or secured. Fortunately we took a week’s vacation to coincide with the time of our move.

Moving day
August 11, around 8:00AM: The tow truck arrived as scheduled, where upon the driver began reattaching the mobile home’s towing tongue. When not in use the tongue was disconnected and slid back under the trailer, out of sight.

As soon as the utilities were disconnected, the mobile home was attached to the hitch on the towing truck. Donna and I began removing the concrete leveling blocks and stacking them in the bed of our pickup truck, a job that saved us $65 in labor fees. The mobile homes tires were reinflated to proper pressure for moving.

[Photograph, left: 10AM on moving day, the mobile home being hauled out of Rockwood Estates enroute to our property—about 15 miles due east. Phoro right: Our 1977 Marshfield mobile home entering the homesite. Griz is a happy dog, he, like us have been living on ‘the land’ during much of the summer and are now at home.]

As the tow truck was about to drive out of Rockwood Estates with our mobile home, I inquired about “In Transit Insurance”. The driver informed us there was no insurance; if the home met with an accident: if it were struck by another motor vehicle, if it rolled over in a ditch, if the underframe broke while bouncing over a bump or through a pothole, if anything happened, we would bear the burden. We stood listening, dumfounded, with mouths agape and small beads of nervous perspiration forming on our foreheads. Everything depended on the experience of the driver. We were in the same situation as a pioneer with his covered wagon being ferried across a river on a raft.

We drove to the property on a different route than that taken  the tow truck and our mobile home. There was no way we could follow along behind him while wincing and groaning with every bump and pothole in the road. [The Utility workers prepare: The electricians, telephone installer and plumbers stand about chatting, waiting for the mobile home to arrive. The nearly 5 foot tall electric panel between them is the one I discussed making in this post. The ‘post’ seen standing directly infront of the yellow truck is the back ayrd yard hydrant; barely visible in the shadows to its left, is our well casing with an emergency hand pump.]

Everything was approaching a climax. The trailer was enroute, but would all the utility workers arrive as scheduled? It was an emotionally long fifteen miles ride from Rice to our property, enroute a wave of nausea swept over us. We drove very slow with the heavy load of concrete blocks in the pickup’s bed, but still arrived at the property ahead of the mobile home.

We stopped on the driveway by the county road to wait and watch for the tow truck which arrived ten minutes later.

The tow truck driver required a guide to help move the fourteen foot wide by seventy foot long mobile home up the driveway. I’d previously removed trees along the south side of the driveway and measured distances making sure the trailer would fit, but at a slight turn just two hundred feet from the county road, it was a very close fit.

Once in the homesite, the mobile home was quickly maneuvered into the desired location; meanwhile, our electricians and plumbers readied their tools and parts.

The utility connections are made
While the mobile home was in transit to the property, our electrician, Allan Zimmer, and East Central Electric Company’s electricians had busied themselves installing the required and optional boxes on the power panel, including: electric meter, the main circuit breaker, a terminal box (for distributing cables to the mobile home, future garage, and leaving space for other additions), and a small weatherproof outdoors receptacle box.

Once the trailer was in place, the electricians began making their connections at the back end of the mobile home. I helped the tow truck driver block up and level the structure. Donna had to make a quick drive into Foley and buy a length of PVC pipe so Butch could attach the trailer’s sewage line to the septic tank. It was maddening. There was so much to do, so many last minute decisions, so much hurrying here and there to confer with this person and that…

End of day
Five and a half hours later: The mobile home was blocked up and leveled, we were connected to the power grid, the well and the septic system. When the last worker left, we stopped for a moment, to watch him drive down the driveway, his utility truck disappearing in the woods. To him it was the end of “just another day”, to us it was the first few moments of a new way of life.

Into the night, we unpacked boxes and reassembled our belongings into their familiar places. We put dishes, spices, canned goods and toiletries back on their shelves and in cupboards, we rehung clothes in the closet, dresser drawers were put in place, furniture was scooted back into position.

Yard hydrant #2 at extreme left of picture.

Every few minutes, where ever we found ourselves in the house, we’d pause to look out the window and marvel at the view of our forest, it was hard to believe we’d actually made the transition. Not only had all the work of the last few years been brought to completion, but we were well on the way to finding the relative independence that we had left California to achieve.

[Alone on ‘the land’ at the end of ‘moving day’. Our mobile home has been set up and utilities connected. The service workers have left. We are now alone on our own 39 acres of rural land…an eight year dream has come true.]

Music [midi: Deep Impact]

Return of the Visitor
“The development and growth of the homesite has not gone by unnoticed. We’ve had a very interested, special young person here to visit once or twice. As I write and rewrite [3] read and prepare to print these words on 7:04AM Sunday and 5 June 1983, my young friend is tucked into his bed on a cot some fifteen hundred miles from here, in Arizona.

He is camping out in the backyard. A few minutes ago he awoke and felt chilly, he burrowed down deeper under his covers and is drowsily looking at the stars, beginning to drift off to sleep. In the house where he lives with his mother, father and sister, there is a clock on the kitchen wall. The clock hands show through the deep shadows that it is between 1:00AM and 4:00AM.
On his father’s desk there sits a 1957 desk calendar.

Time is beginning to warp now and my young friend is coming for another visit, he’s tunneling through time. He’ll be here in the Spring, soon after the gardens planted; however I have never known what year.
Perhaps the time of his arrival isn’t important in terms of my daily affairs, because he made all of his visits some twenty five years ago.” [4]

Moving day was the busiest day to date in our lives, we were ‘run ragged’; we’d had to make a dozen important last minute decisions, drive to Foley for parts, do some digging, carry the concrete leveling blocks, it seemed we were everywhere at once–it was a nerve wracking day!

It cost $622 to have the electricians install the various electric boxes, do the wiring, parts costs, and labor for connecting the mobile home to the power grid.

[Photograph at left: ‘Daybreak on the land’. Approaching the homesite along the driveway. The picture was taken about a month after we moved onto the property, we were beginning to live the dream we had.]

The Society of Mayflower Descendants
As Summer came and passed into early Fall, both my Dad and Uncle Bill’s application and rigorous genealogical proofs for membership in the Society of Mayflower Descendants were accepted; by their particular  state chapters and finally at the National level. Once they were officially documented members,  both sent me copies of their worksheets, proofs and photocopies of related documents, to assist me in joining.

I contacted the National office in Plymouth, MA and was given the telephone number of the Minnesota chapter, located in the Twin Cities. The Society’s Historian sent me a set  of preliminary application papers and an interview form. I was instructed to fill out the application and have an interview with another member, whom happened to be, Mr. Southworth, ex-mayor of Painesville, Minnesota.

Donna typed the requested information in my application, including the line of descent and related documentation. I made an appointment to visit with Mr. Southworth and was invited a week later to his home for tea.

Mr. Southworth looked over my application papers to make sure they were in order and that none of the required information had been omitted. We had a short half hour chat about genealogy, mostly his genealogy, as he sized up my character: I was a property owner, had completed three years of college, was a supervisor at a local industry, not upper-class by any means, but a diligent, fruitful member of  society.

[Photograph at right: Early morning view from 200 feet east of the mobile home, looking northeast across our fog shrouded east ‘’pasture’.]

I  think he found it quite unusual for someone to qualify for admission to the Society without having first done years of genealogical research. Indeed, I knew very little about genealogical research. And knew very little about the names, people  and “proofs of relationship” that strung out behind me three hundred sixty years, and twelve generations, back to the landing of 1620 Mayflower Pilgrims.

Shortly after visiting with Mr. Southworth, I sent my application to the Society’s historian in Minnesota for verification of the pedigree. If the application passed the state level it would be sent to the Society’s National office for a final check and membership approval. Receiving membership in the Mayflower Society was a process that would require at least several long, apprehensive months of waiting.

The knowledge that I had ancestors whose names and vital records were proven to go so far back in American history, fanned the flames of genealogical interest in my mind. I wanted to know more about my ancestors, about their lives and times, and so began my research into family genealogy.

Nightstar* and the Eagle symbol
After moving to the property and putting our household back in order, we resumed work on the homesite perimeter fence. We fenced the west side (approach from the county road) first, using thirty two inch high welded woven wire fencing, with a strand of barbed wire on the bottom and three spaced strands of barbed wire above. On either side of our driveway we set a sixteen foot long post, which we dug into the ground four feet. The top of the upright posts were connected by  a plank run between the two, high above the driveway

For the last couple years we’d been thinking of a good name for our property.

About the time we moved onto the land, we’d settled on NIGHT STAR*, an acronym I came up with that meant:  Nodular, Independent, Geotropic Habitat with Techniques for Surviving Tornado’s, Anarchy and Reductions in the standard of living Nightstar*
We  had initially envisioned installing a combination, covered storm-fallout shelter, although the shelter was never built, the name NIGHTSTAR* stuck. We refer to our entire property, including: land, well, woods, low land, garage, fencing, etc., as ‘Nightstar*’.
The name was seldom used in social discussions about the property, it was primarily a private name, a name that was used in my journals and on occasion as reference to the really neat and private place we own and call ours. Amongst our family we simply call the house, “home”, the woods to our east,  “the east woods”, etc.

After the tall driveway ‘gate posts’ were installed, I began thinking about making a symbol for our home that could be attached to the overhead cross members. The symbol would have to be simple yet speak of our achievement on the land, it would have to represent Donna’s and my way of thinking. I mentally juggled some ideas, and drew them in bits and pieces as the finish product slowly emerged as an
interesting totem. The finished idea displayed the symbols:
•  A Bald Eagle with wings outstretched (about two foot high by five feet wide), standing on an ax. The eagle symbolized my early American ancestry, our belief in the American values and ideals, while the ax symbolized how much of our homesite and driveway were cleared– by muscle power and the sweat of our brow.

I drew the image of an eagle standing on an ax on large sheets of drawing paper which were stapled together end to end. The design was traced onto plywood then cut out with a saber saw. After sanding, I painted the eagle and ax in appropriate colors and bolted it to stand atop the cross members of our yard
•  The second item made was a sign, with the letters, NIGHT STAR* individually cut from plywood. The letters were painted white, drilled and nailed to a redwood plank (the plank: ten inches high by four feet long by one and a half inches thick).
[Photograph of the Nightstar* sign. It hung above the driveway’s entrance to the homesite for the next 27 years.]

The next two items made were the silhouette of a tree, symbolizing the forested portion of the property and the silhouettes of three cattails, symbolizing our wetland. The tree and cattails were painted green, drilled and nailed to the sign. The tree was attached to the left  (north side- as seen when driving into our
homesite) of the NIGHT STAR* letters, because the woods were located on the north side of the property. The cattails were attached to the right side (south) for the same reasons.

In regard to the star symbol following the name, NIGHTSTAR*. The star combines the acronym “night star” into a visual star, with added reference to our new home in the far northern part of the United States, nearer the North Star.

List of grocery store products used
Still trying to understand what we spent our allocated ‘grocery money’ on, I had Donna save the weekly grocery shopping receipts for an entire year. Every couple of weeks I went through the receipts an itemized the foodstuffs into nine categories. I then entered each item by category and cost into a small
spreadsheet program which I wrote for our Processor Technology SOL computer. As the months passed, it was interesting to note that we did not purchase many prepared or convenience foods.

A categorized list of the type grocery store products we purchased, is seen in the following table. The items in each category are listed alphabetically, not by preference or amount consumed.

General grocery store products used in our household, 1980

BAKERY peas powdered sugar steak tequila
bread plums rice triple sec
dinner rolls spinach rye flour PRODUCE whisky
donuts wax beans salt apples wine
hamburger buns split peas celery
DAIRY sugar corn OTHER
BEVERAGES 1% fat milk wheat flour eggplant 50# bags dog food
apple cider cheddar cheese white flour grapefruit charcoal
canned soda pop eggs lettuce cigarettes
frozen orange juice various chip dips MEAT onions Comet cleanser
grapefruit juice bacon oranges floor wax
DRY GOODS beef roast pears hand soap
CANNED GOODS baking soda chicken plums Kotex
chilies brown sugar ground lamb potatoes laundry soap
corn cornmeal ham strawberries paper towels
green beans instant potatoes hamburger tomatoes plastic bags
lemon juice lima beans lamb chops razor blades
mixed fruit navy beans leg of lamb ALCOHOL shaving cream
olives noodles pork chops beer Spic & Span
peaches oatmeal pork roast brandy toilet paper
pears pinto beans spare ribs rum wax paper

The sum of money spent monthly, in each food category, was entered on a spreadsheet, where a running total was likewise kept for the entire year. The amount spent on a given months category does not mean that was how much was consumed in that category during the month. We periodically stocked up our
freezer and cupboards with food when products were on sale. Hence, most of the January 1980, $75.00  meat products (seen below) were frozen for future consumption.

One thing that became apparent and which we already aware of, was the large amount of alcoholic beverages bought. We were getting together with our new friends Bobby and Arlene quite frequently, usually at their mobile home on Bobby’s family farm. We usually brought along or supplied the alcoholic beverages during our “get togethers,” while they  footed the expense of snacks and desserts. We had a grand time visiting, but the cost of partying was playing havoc with our food bill.

Itemized list of grocery costs by category and month, between December 1979 to November 1980




















Month Total





































































































































Yr. Totals






















Avg. Wkly Expense











We determined that produce from a large garden and fruit orchard, as well as some meat and eggs from livestock would considerably reduce our food bill. As an added benefit, the garden, orchard and livestock would to a degree make us more self sufficient. Every since early 1972, when Donna and I were first together in Arcata, California, it had become our dream to someday have a large garden, raise livestock and become less dependent on the consumer driven economy.

Garage built
During early November, we had a twenty seven foot wide by twenty six foot deep, green, Menard’s pole building- garage installed. We had the building constructed with a 16 foot wide overhead door facing south to the driveway and a standard entrance on the west. While the Menards crew was drilling the holes for their corner post, I had them dig an extra post hole and install a previously purchased twenty five foot tall pressure treated wood pole for our security lamp.

[Photograph, November 1980: Me on the John Deere, Model #70 tractor, filling in the electric cable trench between the main power board and garage, along  the (north) back side of the mobile home.]

As soon as the building was up, we called Butch to come out with his back hoe and dig a trench from the electric panel to the garage for an electric cable. When the trench was dug, our electrician, Allan Zimmer, came out to do a variety of jobs, including:
•  Lay underground cable from the main electric panel to the garage.
•  Set up a distribution panel and circuit breaker box inside the garage.
•  Connect the security lamps  and run a line to the mobile homes kitchen, so we could turn the outdoor lights on-off from within the house.
•  Install a welding outlet in the garage.
•  Run an electric line to the back of the garage and install an outlet for a proposed, future underground gasoline storage tank with pump.

Our ‘Supernova’ security-yard lamp
The security lamps that we installed were euphemistically referred to as a ‘Supernova,’ because of their brightness.

Photograph at right: [Late December 1980, the Menard’s garage and ‘supernova’ security lights. Six years after moving to Minnesota, and the Blizzard of the Century, we entered our first winter actually living on the land. This was a time of great happiness, comfort and well being. Donna and I were in our mid to late 30s, earned a good family income and lived in a beautiful rural setting. Our canoe carrier (Grummand 21ft) is seen on the back of the pickup truck, the Starcraft camper is parked at extreme right, behind garage. The tractor is inside garage on the left side of the overhead door.]

Twenty feet above ground, at the top of the lamp pole was a large bright sodium lamp, similar to a public street light, that was actuated by a solar sensor. Under normal conditions when it grew dark the lamp would come on for the night and turn off when the sun rose in the morning. It didn’t take long to realize we were wasting electricity with the sodium lamp. Donna and I closed the main gate, by the county road, when we came in and left the property, no one could just drive up the driveway. And no one would walk back in pitch dark of the woods during the night. We lived in a rural environment with low population density, the gate was closed and the road beyond was dark. Our home was invisible day and night, being situated between 600-800 feet back in through the woods, and camouflaged by the surrounding forest. We grew to feel that an overnight security lamp was more of an advertisement that ‘someone was living back in there’ than it was security against the improbable. Besides, Griz (German Shepherd cross) watched and patrolled the yard, nothing moved along the driveway or in the yard without his going to investigate.

The other part of the Supernova was a battery of four each 150 watt flood lamps. This bank of lamps was wired to a switch in the garage and another wall switch  in the home’s kitchen. The lamps looked down on the yard at about a 45 degree angle, in each of the cardinal compass directions. So, when we came home after dark or left early, we could turn the lights on or off and have a well lighted walk across the yard.
One lamp lighted the driveway and approach to the garage, another our walkway to the front and back doors, another looked over the back of the garage, while the fourth looked east towards a yard gate that opened to the woods.

Preparing for the garden and orchard
In the 40 foot wide by 90 foot long location where we planned to put our  garden and orchard, there had until recently stood a forest. Only a few years earlier we’d removed two large trees, considerable dense sapling undergrowth and stands of red raspberry canes with the chainsaw and our lopping shears. Only a few months earlier, when we moved our mobile home onto the property. There was still one large Maple tree standing in the area that would become the garden. We subsequently cut the tree down and reduced it to firewood size logs, all that remained was the stump. The entire ‘garden area’ was composed of an impenetrable thicket of  roots and many rocks.

During mid November, when the ground had frozen about four inches deep, we had Butch come back out to the property with his back hoe-front loader, and at $30 per hour labor, dig up the garden area.

We instructed him to remove the top six inches of topsoil from the large garden space. The topsoil was to be temporarily piled in a location out of the way. He was then to dig out the area to a depth of about two feet.
Each scoop of soil was simply raised and dropped back into the ground. The digging and dumping, loosened the compacted soil allowing for better aeration and root penetration; it broke up the sod roots and myriad of tree and sapling roots; and made it easier to remove rocks. When the subsoil had been dug, redumped and releveled, we had the frozen chunks of topsoil spread back over the top. We also had a large pile of black dirt moved from beside the driveway (from when Dale Erdman bulldozed the driveway) and spread on the garden [5].

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1980.
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  WKRP inCincinnati
•  The Love Boat
•  M*A*S*H*
•  One Day at a Time
•  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  Galactica 1980
•  The Two Of Us
•  Bosom Buddies
•  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo
•  Shogun, a miniseries.

Altered States with William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balabon
Any Which Way You Can  with Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis
Blue Lagoon  with Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins, Leo McKern
Bronco Billy with Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Scatman Crothers, Geoffrey Lewis
Caddyshack with Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight
Private Benjamin with Goldie Hawn, Eileen Brennan, Robert Webber
Saturn 3 with Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett, Harvey Kietel
The Blues Brothers with John Belushi, Dan Aykroid, James Brown, Cab Calloway
The Empire Strikes Back  with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, David Prowse
The Final Countdown with Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katherine Ross
The Formula with George C. Scott, Martha Keller, Marlon Brando
The Mountain Men with Charlton Heston, Brian Keith, Victoria Racimo
Time Bandits with John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelly Duvall
Tom Horn with Steve  McQueen, Richard Farnsworth, Linda Evans, Billy Green Bush
Windwalker with Trevor Howard, Nick Ramus, James Remar

[1]  In addition to being a local contractor, Butch was at the time, also Mayor of Gilman and was sometimes referred to by the local farm population in a jealously disparaging way as, “His Highness”.
[2]  In the following 15 years we never had any problem with the drain field.
[3]  Written into Journal 1, The Gordian Knot, page 29.
[4]  See also “1957: Visions of things to come”
[5]  This pile of top soil was removed from our driveway several years earlier.  See, 1978: Early November: Mechanical work continues on the driveway.
[6] In retrospect, this is how it always works. These are once , maybe twice in a lifetime events at most. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you have to remain alert to the fledgeling development of an economic sea change. Of course, when you begin to buy protective investments, you will be thought of as an ‘odd ball’, but 10+ years later, you could have earned 500% or more on your investment.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987