Matt Bruggeman has left the building

barnI feel like something is missing at work. It isn’t so much a presence but rather a storage place of good characteristics which I admire. This week I want to talk about my friend, Matt Bruggeman.

Matt recently left the employment which we share. Matt had his reasons and they are his own, I just want to tell you about him because he is a person worthy of a little newspaper space.

I remember a quote about a baseball player, it went something like “when he was out there on the field, you just had the feeling like we could always win.” That’s what it was like to work with Matt, you just felt like no matter how ugly things got, his presence made you confident that things would just work out.

I know Matt and his family pretty well. I’ve always told Matt that while he may not be the “Chief” of his family, he is no doubt its “medicine man.” Matt doesn’t talk big or make proclamations, he finds solutions and uses his own hard work to make things right. He moves quietly and puts out fires in their infancy before they lose control.

Matt likes the music of “Enya.” I don’t know why he does or what it matters, but he likes it enough that I thought I should include the fact. I forgive you, Matt.

I think I will miss Matt at work mostly for the great conversations. Matt is a thoughtful person and his conversations show it. One of his greatest interests is sports and Matt helped re-spark my interest in the Vikings a few years back. Again I forgive you, Matt.

This is starting to sound too much like a eulogy. Matt left our workplace to go to Digi-Key. He will do well there as his positive attitude and friendly manner are infectious. He will also have a brand new audience for his stories. I like Matt’s stories, although they take a little time to build. When I tell a story, I hammer it out quick just in case the world ends in the next minute. Matt carefully fleshes out each story and will “digress” often as he remembers untold details. I have great memories of good times spent talking with Matt; all the while making full ones into empty ones. Matt was also good to help on our little farm and broke concrete with a hammer with the sort of conviction that eluded him when the cattle got a little too close.

I am always happy when a friend gets what he/she wants, even if that means I won’t see them as much. Matt has told me he will now have week-ends off so I will see him more often. Matt, I hope we see you and Angie during the summer, but even if we don’t, I still plan to trash that “Enya” cd.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Project Cupola

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, My day off

Project Cupola


I love projects and I love cupolas so it was fate that these two should meet. This is project cupola.

cupola 2

This is the cupola as it sits on my shed.



I should explain. A cupola looks like a little shed on top of a barn roof. It is there to promote ventilation. Projects are something I do in my shop to keep me from going nuts during the long, gray forth season known as winter. There, now you’re up to speed.








I began the cupola on a ladder. I climbed to the gable-end peak of the shop roof and laid two boards on end along the roof-line so I knew their angle. I then ran screws through the boards where they met. I took this newly-formed template into the shop and screwed it to my workbench. Everything I built from this point out would depend on the accuracy of my template so I checked it several times then began my work.


This is the cupola as it sat inside prior to the finish work on the wooden columns.


The base of the cupola really just needs to transfer the weight of the structure to the roof. The base is sturdy but I was more concerned with it being rigid laterally than anything else. The top side of the base structure consisted of two by fours and covered by a ¾ inch thick piece of osb. After I formed the skeleton of the base, I wrapped it in red barn steel on the side and coil stock on the top.


The top of the cupola was formed by cutting two semi-circles from a sheet of ¾ inch oriented strand board (osb.) I then stood both semi-circles on their flat side 48 inches apart and screwed two by fours to span the distance between the sheets of osb. I formed a structure in between the two by fours where they met the semi-circle of osb with more two by fours which created an almost-semi-circular frame on the interior of the top portion of cupola. If you are lost by now, don’t feel bad. Re-read the previous three sentences and you will probably still be-lost.


It was now time to mount the top to the bottom. I made wooden posts from a sandwich of two by fours and osb. I needed to leave a channel open in the middle of each post so that a half-threaded rod could be passed through it. I used the threaded rod to squeeze each two foot post in between the top and bottom which created an open space, kind of like a church steeple. I also threaded 14 gauge wire through one post as I wanted to mount a light from the bottom of the top part of the cupola.


The roof of the cupola is covered in galvanized steel. I cut the galvanized steel so that it hangs about two inches over each side of the osb board which forms the face of the top. The face of the cupola was covered in red barn steel and slotted into flexible j-channel which rides the upside-down curve formed by the bottom of the galvanized-steel roof. The four bare-wood posts were then covered in Versatex column wrap which was glued and fastened into place.


My nephew, Ben Nelson, brought his bucket truck out to lift the cupola into place. He also let me ride along so I could finish up the wiring. The light is mounted to the “ceiling” of the cupola and is on a photovoltaic switch. I typically overbuild and the cupola was no different as Ben and I had to carry it out of my shop which proved to be a real “milk strainer.”

I included pictures but you’ll notice the cupola gives my shop a southern colonial look to it. This was unintentional as there was no plan included with this project. Anyway, I think it looks nice and it always good to lean on a project as I limp through winter.

My Day Off

barnThe best day at work is no better than the worst day away from work.
This probably isn’t always true however a day away from work is a
treasure. Here’s how I spend mine.

I am going on the assumption that Lisa is at work during my day off.
I work a fair amount of week-ends so this is a safe assumption. I
will also include some recent activities to give shape to my story
however each day is different.

The day starts as I chug one large mug of water while out cat, Magoo,
eats his “pre-insulin shot” meal. Twitch is Magoo’s brother and would
like nothing more than to shove Magoo aside and eat the soft, canned
diabetic cat food. I stand guard with a water bottle and spritz
Twitch to repulse his numerous assaults on Castle Magoo.

Most days, I work-out early. Katie leads us through an excellent
cycling work-out which leaves me climbing steps like an old man.
Katie leads us through the work-out but her followers include Chris
and me. If you’ve ever watched a kindergarten teacher leads children
through a museum then you have seen our work-out. Chris and I are
both talkers and both believe the other is the funniest person in
class. I’m sure Katie would rather teach the kindergartners than us
but she herds us through the work-out. After that, Chris and I get
some Douwe Egbert’s coffee and regale one another with thick-cut

Breakfast is always at Subway. Why don’t more people get breakfast at
Subway? For $4.01 (tax included,) I get a healthy, filling meal after
which I go to Pennington Main to fill my free coffee mug courtesy of
Kyle Miller’s grandmother’s estate. The effect of a work-out followed
by breakfast is a totally-satiated me.

My dad used to cruise machinery lots a lot after he moved into town.
I do the same although RV Sports and Hubert’s Outdoor Power also
consistently make the short list for my morning tour. No day in which
I go to town is complete without a trip to Fleet Supply. I may not
need a thing however a few minutes of walking around Fleet will
typically solve that problem. I also like to pet their Calico cat who
takes her morning brush-out from John at the check-out counter. She
typically holds court from the area in back of the computer as the
residual heat keeps her toasty.

Hardware Hank is a good stop made only better but their recent
remodel. It is like a whole new store to explore as nothing is
located in a familiar spot. The ‘Hank center aisle is now also on a
diagonal. It is a very similar experience to pulling up to Highway
one from the south on the Pembina Trail at Carpenter’s Corner. In
both situations; you have to pull up, then turn back about 15 degrees
so you can either see oncoming traffic or what is newly-located in
that particular aisle.

If you mapped my travel on a day off, it would be similar to that of
a stray dog that had made numerous friends along an unofficial path.
It is random in order but not in location. My days off used to be
more focused on productivity however I now also give value to
fun-much like the stray. If I asked myself what day of the week is my
favorite, the answer would be simple; my day off.

Rural Reflections Radio

Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Owning your stuffRural Reflections Radio

Owning your stuff

barnStuff you own, owns you. The property of which you have title, also has title to you in the way it commands your time and money to maintain it, insure it and repair it. Divestiture feels good; darn fine even plus it offers to potential for change and improvement.


I was born in 1965 so I am not a Baby Boomer. It is ironic that as revolutionary a reflection as Boomers see when they look in the mirror, their relationship with stuff is pretty much the same as their parents. Fine china sits unused in a cupboard, the garage is full of bent aluminum windows frames and old plastic flowers and they still nostalgically hoard the textbooks that were out-of-date the year after they were used by the boomer’s child-the Millennial. The Generation of Cool’s possessions are not viewed by their as children as-cool.


The Millennials are a mobile bunch and as such want nothing of heft or size to move from one rented apartment to the next. The area code on your phone means little or nothing anymore as this younger generation keeps only a cell phone and moves often enough that their location is not linked to the first three numbers of their only “permanent” address. Perhaps this one link to permanence is the reason that Millennials treasure this one piece of “stuff,” their smart phone. Maybe they are not that different from their parents in that they hold some possession particularly important but that that one treasure is intellectual property contained within their phone.


I started thinking about possessions, permanence, nostalgia and stuff when I saw the old “Wetch Hotel” being razed this week. I like old buildings and felt a little sad to see an old building gone. Then I asked myself what connection I had to the building and what direct effect it’s loss had on me. I came up with nothing. Fact is, the removal of that building will hopefully allow a little growth or convenience to the folk who use the space. It may not be a productive space yet but the area sure has more potential than it did prior to building removal.


I think Pennington county is facing the same “nostalgia versus progress” question right now. There is a plan that includes removal of the old auditorium to make space for extension of the courthouse. Thief River Falls, Minnesota seems poised to stimulate the creation of housing to support the population needed to fill our plentiful jobs. All of Pennington County is going to see more population and they will want to register their vehicles, get a marriage license, appear in court, and transfer title to their new home. People need an efficient courthouse with good parking, centralized departments and technological sophistication in which to do business. It would be difficult to prove possession of real estate, vehicles and your own existence without the documentation provided at the courthouse. Commerce would find it difficult to exist without this centralized documentation. We have to decide whether the old auditorium carries enough historical significance or current utility to remain. If the old auditorium scores poorly in these two departments then it exists only for nostalgia and that is a currency which is hard to prove.


It seems to me we can learn from the Millennials in this case. They have kept themselves unburdened by excess nostalgia so that they may react to opportunities for personal growth which help them to a richer life. They also value their intellectual property which in the case of the courthouse would be the collective information gathered and filed to document the possessions owned by Pennington County’s residents. I don’t believe this is an occasion in which we should bow to nostalgia but rather look to build towards better services for those who will occupy new homes and pay for services with their real estate taxes and fees.


In the end, the stuff you need really helps you while the stuff that reminds you of a different time keeps you from forward movement. Sometimes we need roots and those little things that take space help grow those roots. However, if your child doesn’t want great-grandma’s fine china you shouldn’t take it too hard. One day, they will want a connection to the past and want that old china; and it will still be in a box, in your garage-or in a cupboard, on the wall, unused.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections radio program, Letter to Dave

Letter to Dave



(inspiration for the “feeling accomplished from getting my vehicle washed” came from Beth Kezer-my second cousin. Thanks Beth-royalty check is in the mail)

Dear Dave,


Let’s just cut to the chase; winter is still here. It’s not the sort of scary winter like we see in January but rather its little, mouthy brother who looks a lot like January winter and talks a lot like him but doesn’t have the walk to match the talk. Still…little, mouthy March winter is a thorn in my side.

My perspective is probably colored by the fact I have another cold. Sore throat, my lungs hurt, body aches-all the usual suspects. Every time I cough it feels like the walls of my lungs are made of Velcro and coughing rips them asunder. I’ve spent the last few days mounted on the couch and fighting for space with the cats. I usually allow at least 20 square feet per fed steer when I build a cattle structure so you would think that, based on weight, cats would take considerably less space. The truth is that they need about 4 square feet per animal based upon my observations. They are massive square footage consumers.

Dave, I’m sick but I still want to feel accomplished. When I want to feel accomplished, I usually do something outside. I am restricted to base so my accomplishments are now smaller. I updated my laptops so I can share pictures from my phone with either laptop and I can now upload my radio programs to the Public Radio Exchange from either computer. It’s not like I fought a dragon single-handedly but I had to do something. It’s like when you clean your vehicle at an automatic car wash; the level of accomplishment is disproportionate to the amount of effort expended. Oh well, we shut-ins gotta take our wins where we can get them.

I rented out my pasture for cow/calf grazing, Dave. I don’t see the sense of buying feeders, grazing them all summer and then selling them as finished animals for 60 cents less per pound than the purchase price. Therefore, I will take a few cow/calf pairs under my protective wing/shade structure and see them through the summer of 2015. You know, most of the current cow/calf guys suffered through times when farming was mostly a glorified savings account but they are now squarely in the driver’s seat. It will be fun to be a very small part of this period of time when the people who raise the cows that birth the calves that make this industry tick are actually making good money.

Lisa is home sick today also, Dave. She does not want to watch the History Channel all day which is the channel I prefer when I am home sick. It is an issue. Please send healing thoughts to at least one of us because I can’t watch Doctor Oz or old sitcoms for even one day longer. One of us needs to get well before the “Golden Girls” comes on this afternoon or we will need intervention.

You’re little bro’



Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Building Trees