River Bottom Beagles


Three thousand trees

That’s what I’m planting this year. All by hand. No mechanical devices involved. That’s not counting the 500 or so that I already moved from road ditches and places where they will never be left alone to grow and planted where they will get lots of sunshine and space.

This is how I spend my vacation time, planting trees. I’ve been doing it every year for a long time. I get lots of questions and strange looks. People think I’m a little crazy at best. They may be right.

I’m not young anymore. This is a lot of hard work (and expense). I won’t be here to see these trees grow up and get harvested. The land I am slowly turning into forest could be farmed and provide some income. The look people give me tells me they are trying hard to figure out why?

The easiest explanation is that we raise beagles. It’s our business. Hardly a way to get rich (or even break even) but better than, say, milking cows or raising beef cattle for a living. There are still a few people around here hanging on to the family farm way of life. No one wonders why they work so hard baling hay and doing chores.

Beagles need rabbits like cattle need hay. Rabbits need young forest. In this area where every kind of hungry predator spends all it’s time trying to catch dinner, rabbits need escape cover more than anything to survive.

I can get up in the morning and turn a pack of young dogs loose in the yard and they will soon have a rabbit going behind the shed in the pines I planted a few years ago. We can sit at the kitchen table and watch the rabbit run down the road and turn in by the mail box and then watch the dogs as they try to figure out what happened to the track.

That’s the main reason I plant trees. But there’s more to it. Seems like I just like planting trees. Spending hours doing hard physical labor that doesn’t require much brain power is something I enjoy. I don’t get that in my real job.

It’s quiet where I spend my days planting trees. No trains or blacktop roads. Some days the only car that comes down our road is the mailman. Human noise is replaced by drumming grouse and the ancient call of cranes.

This is hardly a wilderness, but we do have long stretches of time without any man made noise. Places like this are going the way of the family farm. No room in the modern world for quiet anymore.

And yet quiet is something I have a hard time living without. The background noise of a busy, man made world that we all live with adds a level of stress and anxiety to your life that you don’t realize is there, until you live a few days without it.

Working up and down the field between the river bottom woods and the swamp with a few dogs keeping you company and watching the eagles and coyotes and deer can do a lot more for your health than Snap Fitness ever could.

When the trees are all in the ground the rest of the year is spent hoping for rain and trapping gophers and bud capping in the fall and making brush piles for the rabbits. And walking in the moss that comes up in the shade under the pines in what was a bare field with the sandy top soil slowly washing and blowing away not long ago. This forest is a landscape that I created.

Some people paint or make quilts or take pictures or make music or do woodwork. They don’t do it for money or fame, the reward they get from making something good from nothing is more than enough to keep them going.

I can’t sing. The only musical instrument I can play is the radio. I do my best, most creative, least profitable work raising beagles, and planting trees.

Mothers Day bouquet

Lisa spent Mothers Day in a hospital room. She hasn’t been able to see all the trees in bloom around the kennel this spring. They just last such a short time, then they are gone for another year.

Here’s some pictures you can look at any time you want. It’s not the same. You can’t hear the birds singing, your missing the way the whole yard smells like flowers, but next year will be better.
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Good morning

The dogs were in a mood to talk this morning.

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Rocky Roads

That irritating part of my brain that can’t ever be late for anything was telling me “Wake UP! Almost time to go!” The alarm wasn’t going off yet so I was determined to stay asleep and make the most of a short night, it was going to be a long day. I could feel dog feet walking across my legs and even smell dog. Tried to stay sleeping. Woke the rest of the way. No dogs. They are all out in the kennel tonight. Weird. Must have been the cold medicine I took before bed?


We left early and made the long drive down to the Mayo in Rochester. Lisa had a busy day going to appointments. We got a sandwich for lunch and Lisa struck up a conversation with an older gentleman that touched on all the important things in life. She can do that. He was there making another run at his battle with cancer. Part of the conversation I remember went like “Doesn’t do any good to complain. You just get up every day and be thankful your still here and then maybe do something to help someone.”

Today was supposed to be a big day for Lisa. Happy’s puppies started leaving home. Lisa is always a little sad to see them leave after all the time they have spent together, but at the same time she loves visiting with all the great people that come to get their new puppy. Seeing how happy little kids, and even older “kids” get when they hold a beagle puppy is what makes Lisa happy. But today Lisa was too sick to get outside. She made herself go when the first puppy left but never left the house after that except for a trip to the emergency room.

The people that came later got short changed as I have a personality that is much better suited to entertaining dogs than people. When Lisa is at her best sometimes people stay for hours and she has two or three groups here at the same time.

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Lisa would say this is just another bump in the road. The weather is getting nicer, the trees are starting to bloom, the yard is full of birds. There are better days coming soon. Sometimes I just wish Lisa’s road wasn’t so rough!

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Big Tree Forest

She calls this The Big Tree Forest, a place of magic and mystery. Always wanting to pitch a tent under the pines by the river and can’t understand why grandpa doesn’t like to sleep all night on the hard ground.

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