little USA trips


I’ve driven through, ridden through, and flown over Nebraska.  I also spent a year in Broken Bow, Nebraska one week, but I’ve never really taken a good look at it beyond the flat corn fields and cattle dotting the hillsides.


It’s time to take a closer look at Nebraska!  For starters its nickname, The Cornhuskers,  came from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Campus’  intercollegiate athletic teams.  This replaced the previous nickname “The Tree Planters State” in 1945.  Other nicknames include “The Beef State”, “The Antelope State”, “Blackwater State” and my personal favorite “The Bug State.”

Next week we embark on a little USA trip to  discover  the REAL Nebraska.  Follow us as we explore Nebraska’s peaks, valleys and rivers.

Our primary destination is Grand Island, Nebraska where we hope to witness approximately 600,000 Sandhill Cranes  stopping to refuel before heading to their Canadian summer homes.

Planning for this little trip involves a lot more preparation than I would have thought.  First is the clothing. Warmth is stressed from head to toe even though the temperatures don’t seem to be that frigid.  It appears rain gear will also be in order for a couple days.  The other area stressed is photography, while in the blinds and out of the blinds.  Prep will begin tomorrow and you will be kept informed as we pack for this little trip.



I never intended this blog to become involved in politics but it’s necessary that we — all of us – step up to preserve our heritage.   This administration seems to think it’s okay for them to just move in and acquire or use our public land.  The Enviromental Protection Agency will soon be history if Scott Pruitt has his way.  The Koch brothers will be mining for uranium in the million plus acres around the Grand Canyon.  The Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act failed to pass in October of 2015 . It was supported by the Navajo Nation, Zuni, Paiute, and Yavapai leaders and the proposed Monument Act would have protected 1.7 million acres of tribal homeland around the Grand Canyon, including water sources and sacred sites, and it would have banned new uranium mines and claims.

When they mess with one of the Seven Wonders of the World it is time for all of us — regardless of political party — to say “NO”.






In the beginning farms across America provided us with food and fashion.  Today they also provide us with alternative energy sources, skin care products, candles, furniture, woven baskets and other home decorations.  Farms are undeniably the most critical and important industry in the United States.

During the last decade farm owners and operators started opening their farms to visitors.   They are giving those of us who have never experienced country living a glimpse into a self-sustaining lifestyle.  They also provide a venue for artistic workshops, entertainers, a place for children to get to know the animals, and a place to just get out of the city and spend a few hours in the peaceful atmosphere of the country.

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit a very unique farm which was on the 2016 Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour.  What makes Windswept Hill Farm so unique is that much of it was built in De Stijl, which means “the style” in Dutch.  De Stijl became popular in the 1920s and 1930s and was made famous by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.  The style was an abstract using basic geometric forms and primary colors.  It’s interesting that this style became most noticeable in architecture.  The other feature that makes this farm so unique is that most of it was built with re-purposed materials.

The first thing you notice when arriving at the farm is “The Little Free Library”.  We have all seen the little library houses as we drive through neighborhoods in the city, but this one is different.  The Wustenbergs thought of everything.  There is a bench for you to rest a bit, and if you have your dog with you there is water for your companion.  The little library is an old ice box with geometric formed doors and painted in primary colors.



Continue up the long driveway and all of a sudden you are drawn to a burst of color which is, in my opinion, a true example of Piet Mondrian’s vision of art.

“The emotion of beauty is always obscured by the appearance of the object. Therefore, the object must be eliminated from the picture.”                               Piet Mondrian                

In front of us was the most wonderful structure that made the field come alive.  The object, the sheep barn, was lost in its color and “emotion of beauty”.

Wendy Wustenberg designed the MondriBarn and it is built with re-purposed building materials and cast-off steel siding, and, of course, it has been painted primarily in primary colors.

Wendy and Bill Wustenberg have spent years building a farm that is practical and sustainable and implements environmentally friendly practices.  How does a family decide to build such a farm.  Wendy explains it here:

“Our daughter Lauren (BA Environmental Science-Northwestern) is the conscience that prompted us to spend a decade remodeling the farm with re-purposed materials, best practices in energy efficiency, and a constant eye toward conservation practices with the animals and land. We have forested the 12 acres over the past 25 years, adopted pasture rotation, barter hay for beef with a neighbor to keep our pastures clipped, and practice “eat local” almost all year with free-range chickens, a small orchard, and raised-bed vegetable garden.”

Lauren.. the inspiration and the conscience behind Windswept Hill Farm

Lauren.. the inspiration and the conscience behind Windswept Hill Farm

Here are the sheep who are privileged to live in that amazing barn.



“Harmon Killebrew –  The beloved English Leicester who had extraordinary crimp in his fleece. That close-up is of a raw fleece showing the “zipper” of the long wool fibers that are characteristic of this breed. It locks together very well for handcrafts.”

Skeins of Wool bear the name of the Sheep the wool came from.

One of the handicraft projects that took place at the farm was making angels out of fleece.  The fleece was dyed breast cancer pink and participants made angels to give to survivors or to keep in memory of a loved one.

This house, located on the farm property, obviously has inspirational vibes that inspire the Wustenberg family –   Wendy, Bill, daughter Lauren and son Russell are all spirited, creative, free-thinking, talented people.



Here is just a glimpse of what you will see as you stroll around Windswept Hill Farm….

So here you have sustainable, practical, beautiful farm, and there is one more thing you need to know about this farm — it is magical.    If you look real close among the flowers, shrubs, or maybe on the back of a horse or sheep you just might see a fairy.

Stay in touch with Windswept Hill Farm by liking them on Facebook:



Other Farms on this site:




Northfield , Minnesota is a RiverTown with a population of 20,000 and it is located within two Minnesota Counties – Rice and Dakota.  The Cannon River runs through it and sometimes when there are heavy rains it runs over it!  (Not Really, but this weekend it looks pretty threatening.)  River walkways follow the river on both sides.  You will find a lot of shops and boutiques in Northfield.

And when when the rains come….September 23, 2016

Like many Minnesota River Towns Northfield was built on lumber and water powered flour mills.  Unlike many River Towns Northfield still has a bit of the mill history left.  If you are one of the rise and shine people that have a bowl of Malt O Meal for breakfast, you are eating a bowl of Northfield’s past and present.  Malt O Meal is still made in Northfield and is the sole survivor of the wheat boom there.


Northfield was founded in 1855 by John W North and Norwegian-American immigrants from New England who called themselves Yankees.  Many of the buildings have been preserved and represent architecture of the 19th and early 20th century. What I like best are the pathways between some of the buildings that have steps down to the river walkway.

The City’s motto is “Cows, Colleges and Contentment”.  The beef operations are no longer predominant in region, but it is home to one of the most prestigious colleges in the Midwest – Carleton College.  It is also home to St. Olaf College.  Both colleges contribute to the common cultural and historical heritage of the town.

Northfield’s real claim to fame, however, is not its architecture, its colleges, its river or its economic stability.  They are best known for the events of September 7th, 1876.  That is the day the Jesse James-Younger Gang rode into Northfield and attempted to rob the First National Bank.   Their plan was thwarted and it turned out to be the last bank they robbed or rather attempted to rob.  Killed in the raid were the bank cashier who attempted to stall the “boys” by telling them the vault was on a timer  (it was not), a Swedish immigrant who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and 2 members of the gang.   The Younger boys were captured near Madelia and James and Frank escaped into the Dakotas.

Every September on the weekend after Labor Day Northfield holds a festival called the Defeat of Jesse James Days.  Thousands of people descend on Northfield to witness the re-enactment of the bank robbery.  The festsival includes a championship rodeo, parade, car show, carnival, musical performances and an arts and craft fair.  In addition to the food vendors there are some wonderful restaurants in Northfield and many have patios that overlook the river.

Here is the highlight of the festival!


I love the Juried Arts and Craft vendors.  I rarely highlight one on my blog but every once in awhile there is a special person with a special talent.  Layl McDill is one of those special people.  She sculptures are magical and you can watch her for hours create her whimsical characters.

Check out her website:

Northfield is a very special little town — One you will want to visit there soon and often!




It all began in 1863 when Dr. William W. Mayo arrived in Rochester MN.  He was invited to Rochester to be an examining surgeon for men being inducted into the Northern Army serving in the Civil War.  The history of the Mayo family is not unlike other famous families.  It is filled with secrets, intrigue and speculations.  However, unlike other famous families, this family is known internationally as leaders in research and treatment of medical illness.  They are the Mayo Clinic!  They also left their mark on Rochester, the community.

Dr. William W Mayo and his two sons Dr. Will and Dr. Charles formed medical institution today treats patients from 151 countries and serves over 400,000 patients annually in their hospitals located in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida.

Veranda overlooks Zumbro River Valley

Veranda overlooks Zumbro River Valley


The historic Mayowood Mansion was built by Dr. Charles H. Mayo in 1911.  Dr. Charlie was a man of many interests and he played a very active role in the architectural design of the home which was constructed of stone, reinforced concrete and tile.  The home sat on 3,000 acres on which Dr. Mayo satisfied his interests in farming.  He was also interested in conserving the natural beauty of the area and Mayowood overlooks the Zumbro River Valley.  The vast gardens on the grounds  were influenced by European and Japanese gardens.

When Dr. Charlie passed away in 1939 his wife Edith, who had served as hostess to dignitaries, kings and visiting doctors, retired as mistress of the house and moved into the Ivy Cottage and Dr. Chuck, his wife Alice and their six children moved into Mayowood. They lived there for 30 years and Alice, the daughter of a Pennsylvania butter and egg man, made her mark on the home.  So many of the old mansions you visit are so dark, with heavy drapes and tapestries.  Alice let the light into Mayowood with expansive curved glass windows and bright colors.  It is really an amazing home.

You will drive behind the Mansion to park and enter the home.

The Mansion was given to the Olmsted County Historical Society in 1965.  It was in July of 2013 that the historical society could no longer take care of  it.  It had fallen into disrepair and the costs of renovating would be astronomical.  At that time title was transferred to Mayo Clinic.  Olmsted County Historical Society continues to provide tours of the mansion.  Mayo Clinic has currently spent millions on the renovation and the work continues.  They have remodeled some of the rooms into conference rooms and they use the facility.  It’s nice to see a historical building being used.   It keeps it alive!

You will enjoy touring this Mansion and hearing its history.  With few exceptions all furnishing are original to the home.

Unfortunate but understandable — NO PICTURES ARE ALLOWED INSIDE THE MANSION

April 16th through October 27th       Tickets:  $17.00   Age 13 and older;  $5.00 Age 2 to 12

Monday, Tuesday and Friday — NO TOURS

Wednesday & Thursday — 11 AM, 12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM

Saturday — 11 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM

Sunday — 12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM



It was September 7, 1876, when the Jesse James Gang rode into Northfield, Minnesota to rob the bank.  Their plan was thwarted by the bank’s cashier who told them he couldn’t open the safe because it was on a time lock.  (It wasn’t)  A teller made it out the back door to notify the townspeople who surrounded the bank and chased the gang out of town.  As it turned out this was the LAST bank Jesse James tried unsuccessfully to rob.  There is a lot more to this story and you can see the re-enactment of the Defeat of Jesse James.

Northfield’s Defeat of Jesse James Days begins Wednesday, September 7, 2016, and runs through Sunday, September 11.   See the re-enactment Friday evening, throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday; visit the Historical Museum which is located in the Bank that the Jesse James Gang tried to rob; and check out the Archer house — a hotel then and still a hotel today.

There are many, many other events also scheduled during this annual celebration.




Celebration Events List


An ode is a lyric poem marked by exaltation of feeling and style, It varies in length of line, and complexity of stanza form and it expresses a strong feeling of love or respect for someone or something.

The Ode to Montana brings to life the beauty and lifestyle of Big Sky Country.  The artwork that accompanies the poem is by Kathy Phillips Smith, Montana artist portraying western life and landscape.  Kathy lives in Montana and her paintings, like the poem, portray her love for her home state and brings to life its beauty and lifestyle.





With your great blue skies and rocky mountains
You are my home away from home
Where I spend my winter vacations and summer days
Making memories most memorable
Skiing on your slopes with my best of friends
Fishing in your rivers with my brother

Swimming in your ponds, splashing and laughing
Sitting by the campfire with boys
Throwing snowballs like its World War II
Spending time with the people I love most
If it weren’t for you old great Montana

I wouldn’t have
Climbed cliffs like a spider monkey



Had my first kiss
Played bumper cars with golf carts
Chatted with Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel
Raced with an Olympic skier
Had the time of my life every year with the most magnificent people I know
Who also are crazier than the cast of Jacka**
But they sure have shown me a good time and a lot of love
The one thing I am thankful for most
Is how you have shown me how to live freely
And figure out who I am and who I want to be
In your arms I have grown to make better decisions
Sometimes things didn’t go how I wanted
But that was how it was and I had to leave and come home
That is how I learned to heal and accept the way of life
Oh how did you know, old great Montana, what was best for me?
Some times you rain sometimes you shine
Either way you are breathtaking
With warm breezes to flow through my hair
And soft sun to kiss my cheeks
At night I gaze up at your million stars
To thank you for another day
That I have spent running wild
Whether it’s winter
Where I have skied too fast laughing and smiling
Taking hot cocoa breaks when my toes get cold

Going in for lunch and getting the biggest table in the lodge
Watching movies down in the theater
Going out for dinner with all my buds
Or if it is summer
Then I have swam and jumped
Laughed and tanned
Played paintball in the rain
Flirted in the sun
Gone to the parties at the camp till the early morning
And thought of what adventure I shall go on next
You old great Montana
Are there when I’m in love
When I’m laughing up a storm
And even when I cry
Just like an old great grandpa
Thank you for giving me some life
My dearest
Home away from home



(To see more of Kathy’s work or inquire about purchasing a painting click here…..  Kathy 


Cordell Keith Haugen, one of the most prolific songwriters in Hawaii over the past decades is a native Minnesotan. Haugen was born in Greenbush, in far northwestern Minnesota. After serving in the Army he lived in Japan, returned to Idaho for college and wound up in Hawaii working for the government in public relations. And he wrote music!

It’s not uncommon for natives of Minnesota to eventually find their thoughts and their hearts back in Minnesota remembering the wonders of their childhood. In 1985 Haugen wrote Minnesota Blue. A beautiful poem expressing a man’s pride in his homeland. “Minnesota was a great place to grow up, and remains a wonderful place to raise a family,” he says today. “I feel a sense of pride when I read about surveys which rank the state of my childhood high in the things that really count — like education, quality of living and concern for the environment.”

A bill was introduced by State Rep. Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo) to honor his words as the state poem.  The following is cited from the Assoc Press “Unfortunately Minnesota has a poet laureate thanks to a law pursued years ago by Minneapolis Rep. Phyllis Kahn. But Kahn, a Democrat, had a dour reaction to the proposed “Minnesota Blue” tribute.

She said it might be offensive to people here to give the honor to a piece written by someone who has lived most of his life elsewhere. And she had doubts about the ability of any poem to stand the test of time that comes with being an official state symbol.

“Having a poet laureate is good enough for me,” she said.” Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Minnesota, how I love you
Minnesota, I’ve been away too long
How I miss your clean fresh air, your lakes and rivers too
How I miss your Minnesota Blue

Do your golden fields of wheat and corn
Still shimmer in the early morn
Waving to the clouds as they drift by
Do moose and bear still rule the earth
In the Red River Valley of my birth
Do the Northern Lights still dance across your sky
Does the North Star still guide you
Do your farmers still provide you
With the way of life that we all learned to share
Do they still follow the Golden Rule
And dress up each week for Sunday School
Do your families still give thanks for living there

Are your skies still free of smoke and haze
Do your old folks still remember days
When your skyline was a grove of Norway pines
Does the North Wind whistle through your trees
Can you still smell wildflowers on the breeze
Do bass and pike still play with fishing lines
Do your children still walk the rails
Or discover hidden Indian trails
Do canoes glide through Minnesota streams
Can you hear the cry of the lonely loon
Do wolves still howl at your full moon
Is Viking Land still Mother Nature’s dream

Do you still have dairies and rolling hills
And mines and quarries and flour mills
Do you still brew the best of America’s beers
Do bobcats still cry at night
Does snow still fall so soft and white
Do icicles hang like crystal chandeliers
So many of yours have left to roam
But they still call Minnesota home
Like geese that fly above your lakes and wilds
And for every one of your million stars
There’s a prairie son who’s traveled far
Oh, please remember this Minnesota child.

Minnesota, how I love you
Minnesota, I’ve been away too long
How I miss your clean fresh air, 10,000 lakes and you

How I miss my Minnesota Blue
Oh, how I miss my Minnesota Blue
Copyright 1985, Keith Haugen


Spread across the United States are 58 National Parks and on August 25, 2016 the National Park System turns 100 years old.

The beauty found in America’s parks have inspired people of all ages to portray them through poetry.



4th Graders, Ruder Elementary School, Columbia Falls, MT, Spring 2007

Mysterious, free
Gliding, pacing, leaping
Hunting for survival
Author: Mary

Frozen, cold
Moving, melting, changing
Slipping down the slope
Author: Cody A.

poetry by Ruder Elementary 4th Graders.


7th Graders, Helena Flats School, Kalispell, MT, Winter/Spring 2007

Glacier Park Winters
Pale powdered mountains in the distant view,
Snow quietly tumbles down the jagged slopes.
The eagle slowly flys over head cutting through icy winds with every
beat of his powerful wings.
Not a sound to be heard, but the moans and
twisting screams of dead
Frosted over evergreens viciously shake off the newly fallen snow.
Footprints in the snow, so many, no one around to fill them.
Hypnotizing, icy streams whirling around and around waiting to
grasp your ankle to pull you into its world of wonders.
Tiny snowflakes under my feet making faint cries as they are being
stepped upon.
The wind whispers its soft melody in my ears as it whistles on by.
This is nothing more, but nature during winter in Glacier Park.
Author: Marnic

poetry by Helena Flats 7th Graders.





Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Bright blue is the sky
Soft white are the clouds
Red intense, is the sunset
Passions sleep in Kabetogama’s heart

Water, Air, Fire, and Land
I come back to life
In the majesty of Kabetogama’s paradise
That makes me feel close to the sky

The green trees
The senses of life
Spontaneous feelings
Flying over the sky

Fresh breeze
Quiet and alone
Sitting over the rock
Softly the waters float

Red sunset
Vivid color
In the sky
Peaceful moments in my eyes

The sound of the lake
Swinging at night
Makes me sigh
And feel alive

Fresh morning
Hot afternoon
Cold night
And the constellations in the sky

The moon, the lake and the stars
How wonderful is life!
Free as the eagle
I hope one day to fly

Hiking through the path
Serenity and peace surround
I found faith and light
To my spirit lost in the dark

Silent green forest
In persistent calm, the lake sings
Picturesque moment
That Kabetogama land created in my heart

Written by Frankie Alvarez

2012 National Park Teen Ambassador


I hope you all had a relatively healthy winter.  I wasn’t so lucky but happy to finally feel relatively human.

April is my favorite month for one reason — It is National Poetry Month.

Poetry is feelings, emotions, dreams, fantasies and it is a vulnerable piece of literature as we put ourselves out there for debate, speculation and criticism. Poetry is an emotional collaboration between ones heart and mind.

In honor of National Poetry Month and the poems dedicated to this beautiful country, we will dedicate this month’s posts to the USA and all of its beauty.

Milwaukee By Storm

Weekly adventures in Milwaukee, WI.

Becky Due - Author

Motivation to Love Your Life

Cool San Diego Sights!

Colorful photos of San Diego places and events.

Fractions of the world

Road trips & traveltips

Gustav Woelfl Verderber

Author, naturalist, nature photographer, professor, husband, son.

Tracy Lamperti

Luke Heikkila

a space for my photographs

Marissa Payne

Write, write, write, write and write some more.


Breaking news and updates from News pictures, video, Twitter trends.

Support Support