Canoeing The Willow

Sometimes the adventure begins in your own backyard.


Our backyard in all its glory, summer 2008, when Danny and Stephen grilled up Hutterite ribeyes for our wedding.


Here is how the yard appears today, with our poor rose garden and apple tree (where we stood to be married) drowning in Sheyenne waters.


Rose garden, front & center with bird bath; apple tree off to the left. Straight back from the bird bath is where our rows of juneberry and gooseberry bushes lie hidden under water.


Our Easter started out perhaps differently than yours. We’ve been having some water problems due to overland flooding, so we’ve taken to going to the YMCA for showers. Of course today the Y is closed for Easter, so we detoured to the Petro on 19th Avenue South, first partaking of the hot buffet breakfast (I recommend the breakfast pizza), and then taking advantage of the truck stop showers. For $10 each, we got a private shower and bathroom, towels and soap. Mine had lots of hot water; Tom’s was a bit more brisk. Showered & refreshed, we dressed for church, looking and feeling rather civilized.

The Petro in Fargo, on 45th St. just off of Hwy 94, at the 19th Avenue S. intersection--great chicken-fried steak and buffet breakfasts, truck stop showers, and even a movie theater.


On account of the backyard flooding, we pre-empted our Easter egg hunt. We did do a little bit of clean-up though. I donned my knee-high mud boots and rescued our canoe from its under-the-tree mooring, pulling it up to rest near the rose garden.

Our workshop is 3/4 surrounded by water, but staying dry inside. The wooden picnic table held the steaks Danny & Stephen barbecued, and our lawn chair has taken a tumble. Our canoe is newly moored at the rose garden, while railroad ties that separated beds in the garden travel at will.


I’ve been wanting a bigger kitchen, and today I got one. We removed the picnic table from the backyard to the front, setting up a new staging area for washing dishes and waving to the neighbors at the same time.

A kitchen with a view.


Having done our chores, we decided it was time for a bit of a venture. So, we clambered rather ungracefully into our canoe and paddled across the backyard. We sliced our way between the gooseberry and juneberry bushes, out past the rhubarb, and into Willow Creek. The Willow is usually bone dry all summer, and while it rises in the spring, it’s often a simple lure for mallards. For days now (and probably weeks to come) it has overflowed its banks, spreading into a Louisiana-swampland like lake. We kept our eyes peeled for gators.

Our backyard. The square set of railroad ties indicates a lovely raised strawberry bed.


Canoeing the Willow.


With all the stealth we could muster, we made our way somewhat silently along the Willow. What this means is we chatted quietly and didn’t bang our oars against the canoe. We weren’t sneaky, however, as our neighbor, fussing to make sure his sump pump was pumping called out to see what the heck we were doing. Nor did we manage to slice through the waters without disturbing the wildlife. Here’s a photo of where a beaver was, but I missed him with the camera.


This little island is where the beaver was. We saw two beavers before our trip was over, both small but, well, busy, as you know . . .


We saw sides of our neighbors we’ve never seen, since we usually look at their houses from the front yards.

A new water slide

A hint of sandbagging going on here.


Where the Willow turns to bar ditch, and the windrows stand in high water, we made our way towards home.

Last leg of Willow Creek takes us through the bar ditch. Photo by Tom Isern.


Here we prepared the canoe for portage and our walk across the road to home, sweet, home.

Disembarking at the ditch-bank in our neighbor's yard, we make ready to carry the canoe across the road back to the remnants of our front yard.

This kind of traveling adventure can make you work up an appetite. It being Easter, and us being somewhat hardy (considering our age and weight), we did not let the waters dampen our holiday spirits. Cooking is a big deal for us, and whether traveling at home or away, we like to sit down to a good meal.

The perfect flavorings for polenta: fresh portabella mushroom, tomatoes dried from last year's garden, chopped green pepper, and an unidentified cheese found in the fridge.
Add the fresh, dried, and unidentified ingredients to a bubbling pot of polenta (corn meal mush).
Serve it all with a grill-seared lamb roast, accompanied by a mint jelly (made from our own herb garden) gravy, and a side of baby carrots in butter, honey, and a hint of marjoram. Notice we are grilling on the patio, not at the backyard beach.

We ate our lovely meal and then soaked our dishes in the pots of our outdoor kitchen, where I’ll do the scrubbing in solar-heated water tomorrow. We hope your Easter has been as rich and rewarding with its own kinds of adventures and memory-making events as was ours.



3 Responses

  1. Janinne Paulson

    An interesting adventure, and one I hope will not be an annual tradition! I see a reference to fracking the Bakken on the back of your sweatshirt. (A phrase that always makes me think of a line from the Coneheads movie. “You shall narfahl the Garthak!”)

    1. Suzzanne

      I love that sweatshirt–just the right weight, and I meet interesting people when I wear it. We attended the Fargo Home Show not too long ago, and my backside (with F-the-B) caught the attention of a woman who is now drawing plans for remodeling our house. She’s from the Killdeer area! I bought F-the-B on one of our Hutmacher trips when my coat was too heavy and my shirts were too light. It seems to make quite the fashion statement.

  2. Mom

    Is this going to be a yearly event? Practice makes perfect and you all seem to be handling everything good naturedly Loved the pictures of your new kitchen (your steps) . Perhaps you should “float” a loan to finish it off.

    Hope it doesn’t get any worse for everyone, but I do admire your courage and the way you are accepting the challange!!
    Love you both..Mom

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