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They Say Derecho, I Say Firewood

They Say Derecho, I Say Firewood

Weather experts call the storm that devastated much of Iowa on August 10 a derecho. Every time they say derecho I saw firewood. Here's why.

They say derecho, I say firewood.

That’s the tune I’ve been humming since weather experts christened the August 10 windstorm that blew through Iowa as a derecho. Also known to the citizenry of our state as #iowaderecho2020. If you don’t know what I’m talking about google those three words, watch a couple You Tube videos, and you’ll never forget the meaning of derecho.

They say derecho, I say firewood.

Living in northwest South Dakota for seven years has that effect on a person. Especially if you lived in an area where almost every home owner installs a wood stove to help with heating bills. Where chainsaw ownership is close to 100%. And where, from August through October, more people gather by the river to cut firewood than to be baptized.

Now you understand why when they say derecho, I say firewood.

Long time readers of this blog may remember how I affectionately referred to my husband as the man of steel. In the wake of the derecho he’s been cranking up the chainsaw so often, I’ve altered the spelling of his nickname to man of Stihl. He’s applying everything he learned in South Dakota about how to weld a chainsaw to the broken limbs, wooden yard light pole, and an entire cottonwood tree.

They say derecho, I say firewood.

I mutter those words every time my husband fills our clunker pick up with another load of branches. I watch him drives away toward the wood chipping station outside of town, and I calculate how long it would have taken to burn in our wood stove. Living for seven years in northwest South Dakota has that effect, too. It gives a person a different perspective, a sense of resourcefulness, and an appreciation for the gifts scattered throughout creation.

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From Gravel Road to Home Again

From Gravel Road to Home Again

From Gravel Road to Home Again

Jolene Philo and Anne Fleck

September 22, 2017

Good news, readers–The Gravel Road is back!

Well, sort of anyway.

Here’s what happened. In January of 2017, we moved from our big, roomy farmhouse along a quaint, gravel road on the edge of town. The house we moved to came with 4.5 acres of land smack dab in the middle of a different town. Once the moving dust settled and the urge to blog again returned, the old blog title didn’t feel right. Because we now live on a paved road, though as the picture shows, our driveway is gravel.

Our new intergenerational home, which still has a gravel driveway

The old farmhouse down the gravel road

More than that, the old title doesn’t reflect the intentional, inter-generational living adventure happening where we now live. In 1 house, we have 2 boomers, 2 millennial, 2 kids, 1 dog, and as our tagline says, nobody’s dead yet.

In case you’re wondering if you read that right, you did. Our daughter Anne, her husband Kailen, their toddler Tad, a new baby scheduled to arrive in February of 2018, and their dog moved home again in May of 2016. On purpose. And we’ll be living this way, God willing, until the Man of Steel and I are carried out of here after we die.

Which won’t be any time soon.

We hope.

People who hear about this living arrangement are polite at first. But they can’t wipe the skeptical look off their faces, and we can almost hear them thinking, They must be crazy. Pretty soon, their skepticism is replaced by curiosity and the questions begin:

How does it work?
How do you handle expenses?
How do you keep from killing each other?
How do you…?
How do you…?
How do you…?

In June, after fielding 2 days’ worth of questions at a writers’ conference, I said to Anne, “Maybe we should start a blog about your family coming home again.”

“Not a blog,” the hipper, more tech-savvy member of our duo said, “a podcast.”

“I don’t know anything about podcasts,” I responded.

“Well, I do,” she said. “And we can record in Kailen’s audio studio. Plus, he can edit them for us.”

“We could rename the Down the Gravel Road website.” I was warming up to the idea. “But what should we call it?”

Anne shrugged. “Home Again.”

Bingo! I thought.

“And you can still have a blog page,” she added magnanimously. “Just don’t ask me to blog. Please?”

And that, dear Gravel Road readers, is how Home Again came to be.

Of course it took a couple months to get things rolling. My wonderful virtual assistant and tech wizard, Sarah Broady, revamped the website to house the podcast, show notes, and blog. (She also created an archive to house all the Gravel Road blog posts so you can still find them.) She also created our new Home Again Facebook group and set up our Twitter account. Graphic designer Amanda Grout created the Home Again logo. Anne created Home Again accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, and Patreon, and at Apple podcasts, while I set up our Google + page.

Anne and I also spent hours meeting about topics and recording the first four, so they would be ready when the podcast goes live. We were extremely proud of ourselves afterwards. Until our editor discovered we hadn’t turned on the second microphone (that would be mine) so we had to record them all again. As soon as they’re edited, they’ll be loaded onto the podcast page and the show notes will go live, too.

Until then, thanks for stopping to visit Gravel Road.


What I meant to say was, welcome to Home Again!

P.S. From Anne:  The above dialogue has been shortened by about two weeks of name-batting-around for dramatic effect.  I am not some naming wizard.  And I might blog, if I feel like it, but not on any sort of schedule.  I had a blog.  I did not enjoy it.  But I’m really happy to talk about our unique living situation, at length, once a week, and I hope you all tune in.

A Fantastic Friday Salute to Teachers

A Fantastic Friday Salute to Teachers

A new school year is about to begin. Here are 10 ways to show kindness to the teachers who will be part of our kids' lives for the next 9 months.The teacher in our town went back to work this past Monday. So this Fantastic Friday features ten reasons to be kind to educators in the next few weeks and months.

My teacher friends and former co-workers in our school district went back to work yesterday. Speaking from 25 years of personal experience, here are 10 reasons to be kind to teachers for the next few days and weeks.

10.  Contrary to popular opinion, most teachers didn’t sit around the pool eating bon bons all summer. Most teachers spent much of the summer going to school to hone their skills. They even turned in assignments, sat at the other end of the red pencil, and received grades.

9.   During summer school classes, teachers wore flip flops. At home they went barefoot. And now they have to shove their feet into teacher shoes. Remember those teacher shoes? Not a pretty sight.

8.   The first few days back to school, before the kids return, are packed with meetings about exciting topics such as Proper Procedures for Cleaning Up Bodily Fluids (I’m not making this up) and the latest No Child Left Behind government regulations. The powers that be grant these topics higher priority than things allowing teachers preparation time in the classroom.

7.   Teachers know those meetings will eat away their preparation time, so they’ve already donated several unpaid days to get their classrooms ready, plan lessons, and prepare materials. And because of budget cuts, they often pay for materials out of their own pockets.

6.   At some of those meetings before the kids come, teachers learn about newly assigned duties that take away their scheduled planning time and in some cases much of their lunch hour.

5.   Once the students return, teaches spend much of their lunch hour doing one of the following: running home to let the dog out, eating at their desk while preparing for afternoon classes, or supervising students.

4.   You know how hard it is for your kids to adjust to the school schedule every fall? It’s that hard for teachers, too, because they’re big kids at heart. That’s why they’re teachers.

3.  Teachers would rather help kids succeed than mark assignments with red pencil and fill out report cards. But their job description requires they do both.

2.   Teachers spend all day supervising 25–30 people who are crowded together reading and doing paperwork in a small space without privacy cubicles. Can you think of businesses that ask adults to work in conditions like that?

1.   Your child’s teacher cares about your boy or girl. A lot. Your child’s teacher cares about every student. But teachers know they can’t give students everything they need. Teachers know that no matter how hard they works, at some point they will fail students. They will obsess over every failure and try to do better the next day, knowing they will fail again. But they keeps trying because they believes kids are worth their best effort. And if you tell teachers they’re doing a good job, they’ll remember your kindness and pass it on to a child. Because that’s what teachers do.

What would you add to the list? Leave a comment!


Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser Sweet Success

Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser Sweet Success

The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!Saturday evening was sweet evening for all who attended the Wonderfully Made Family Camp fundraiser in West Des Moines. Not only was over $2000 raised (how sweet is that?) to get us closer to our goal of $15000* to cover expenses for the 30+ families registered to attend, but those in attendance enjoyed a sweet evening of fellowship, music, and dessert. But don’t take my word for it. Observe it yourself!

The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!

Sweet spring nosegays on a chilly, blustery evening.

The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!Sweet desserts up for bid in both the silent auction and the noisy one. (See top photo)

The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!A sweet picnic meal in keeping with the evening’s camp theme.

The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!A sweet chocolate fountain compliments of Chocolaterie Stam.

And sweet music performed by the Harwoods, a family familiar with the challenges and joys of special needs. They drove from Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the fundraiser because they have experienced special needs family camps and know the worth of such camps.

The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!The Wonderfully Made Family Camp Fundraiser was a sweet success. See for yourself!You can watch and listen to the Harwoods at their website. Be assured, it is worth your time.

*Sweet and successful thought the evening was, more donations are needed to meet our goal of $15000. If that goal is exceeded, extra funds will go toward the purchase of a portable lift so every child can enjoy Hidden Acres wonderful pool. Learn more about how to give at the Hidden Acres donation page. As much as donations, we need people to serve as one-to-one volunteers with the children and in other capacities at the camp. Volunteers need to apply, pass a background check, and attend the training that will be held from 9:00 AM–3:00 PM on Friday, June 10 before camp opens at 4:00 that day. Volunteer application forms can be downloaded here. The deadline for submitting applications is May 15, 2016.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or send an email.