Mankato Magazine

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MAY 2023

Volume 18, Issue 5


Riding solo

In the month of Mother’s Day, we decided to dedicate our cover story to a few moms out there who are handling all parenting duties on their own. Single moms have a tough job. While single-parenting comes with significant challenges, the moms in our cover story won’t let those challenges define their families.


Great Expectations

No matter how old your children get, you never run out of reasons to be a mom for them. Although the problems may change, they’ll never stop needing to reach out to mom for help.


How does your garden grow!

Yes, it’s time to get going on your 2023 garden. We tapped the brains of a handful of master gardeners to give you plenty of tips and expert advice so that, come August, you can’t blame us for any flora failures.


Single mom Dinah Langsjoen of North Mankato and her son, Torin. They were photographed by Pat Christman.
4 • MAY 2023 • MANKATO MAGAZINE DEPARTMENTS 10 MAY 5TH SPACE DAY FUN FACTS ABOUT SPACE 1. The Sun weighs about 330,000 times more than Earth. 2. Footprints left on the Moon won’t disappear as there is no wind. 3. Because of lower gravity, a person who weighs 220 lbs on Earth would weigh 84 lbs on Mars. 4. Pluto is smaller than the United States. 5. We know more about Mars and our Moon than we do about our oceans. 6. There are more stars in space than there are grains of sand in the world. 7. Light travels from the Sun to the Earth in less than 10 minutes. 8. Outer Space is only 62 miles away. Honor & Remember allwhohaveserved May 29th Ho o on n noor r Remembe embe Memorial mothe Da y may 14t h M y 29th 9t Ma 2 29 Me Day 29 26 30 34 24 Coming Next Month A celebration of Juneteenth. 36 From This Valley Casey and the Bear 29 Comic Fun facts about space 32 Garden Chat Hot takes on ground tempatures 30 Lit Du Nord: Minnesota Books and Authors Readers will heart the Harts 34 Ann’s Fashion Fortunes Live, laugh, viva magenta 10 Beyond the Margin Debts of winter, rewards of spring 7 This Day in History 6 From the Editor 26 On Tap Hefeweizen 28 Wine Restaurant wine redux 24 Let’s Eat! North ‘Kato’s Mi Pueblo 8 Faces & Places
MANKATO MAGAZINE • MAY 2023 • 5 507 - 625 - 5064 Windows•Siding•Gutters•Roo ng FamilyOwnedandOperatedforover25years LIC.#BC-20272178 Ext.22 Ext.34


DESIGNER Christina Sankey



CONTRIBUTORS Ann Rosenquist Fee

Dana Melius

Robb Murray

James Figy

Jean Lundquist

Leigh Pomeroy

Pete Steiner

Nick Healy

Nell Musolf

Jane Turpin Moore


Jennifer Flowers

Jordan Greer-Friesz

Josh Zimmerman

Theresa Haefner

Tim Keech




PUBLISHER Steve Jameson



We’re empty nesters here at the Murray abode these days. So no more dealing with our kids’ problems, worries and life decisions. Right?

Good lord, no.

One of the things that amazes me, with each phase of life our kids enter, is how they never really stop needing you.

I was under the impression, early on as a parent, that as the children grew older their problems would become easier to solve. Convincing a 2-year-old to eat green beans seemed so much harder than guiding them through the chaos of adolescence.


Dealing with mean girls, bullies and algebra seemed hard at the time, and I looked forward to the college years when, I’d thought, problems would evolve to a much more reasonable flavor.



The problems your kids have at each phase of their lives open up new, uncharted territories on the parenting landscape. I can’t imagine trying to handle it all alone. Tackling these issues as a parenting team seemed like a better option. I think we did OK. Perfect? Heck no. No parents are perfect. And no kid gets through childhood without a few cuts and bruises at the hands of parenting mistakes. But our kids are happy, healthy and, for the most part, normal.

Our cover story this month is about single moms, true heroes in the parenting landscape. While there are single dads out there — and we tip our collective hats here at Mankato Magazine to them — the vast majority of single-parent homes have a mom at the head.

The three moms we feature come at the task from a few different angles. For each, though, the struggle is similar, the challenges the same. Each wouldn’t have chosen this route. But each tackled it with the kind of gusto every kid deserves.

Let’s be clear on one point: We’re

not featuring single moms to shine light on some perceived problem. We’re not hoping anyone reaches out to help. This isn’t about pity.

We’re celebrating them, thanking them, holding them as great examples of not just single moms, but MOMS. They are extraordinary women. We think you’ll be inspired by them.

Elsewhere in this issue, we’ve an excellent essay by Nell Musolf, whose column appears weekly in The Free Press. In an essay perfect for May, Nell takes a look at parental expectations through the years.

She writes, “I think about new moms today raising children in a world that has changed so much since I had my kids. Talk about new frontiers. I thank God I never had to deal with social media and cellphones and the internet when my kids were small. But the new moms will make it, and their kids will make it and the moms won’t be Wonder Woman and their children won’t be Baby Einsteins. But it will all be OK. It will be more than OK. It will be wonderful.”

Writer Jane Turpin Moore is back with a fantastic primer on getting ready to make this year the one that you become master of your own garden. Jane spoke with a handful of experts and compiled enough tips and advice to get you fired up for success.

And in our restaurant feature, writer Dana Melius visits Mi Pueblo, one of the Mankato area’s great Mexican restaurants. Mi Pueblo might be a great place to take mom for Mother’s Day, our should we say dias de las madres.

6 • MAY 2023 • MANKATO MAGAZINE MAY 2023 • VOLUME 18, ISSUE 5 Mankato Magazine is published by The Free Press Media monthly at 418 South Second Street, Mankato MN 56001. To subscribe, call 1-800-657-4662 or 507-625-4451. $59.88 for 12 issues. For all editorial inquiries, call Robb Murray 507-344-6386, or email For advertising, call 344-6364, or e-mail
required Robb Murray is associate editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at 344-6386 or rmurray@
No man


The council watchers

May 8, 1975

(This story ran fourth in a series of six)

For Agnes Maxa, the weekly visits to the Mankato and North Mankato council meetings began when the Mankato City Bus Lines Inc. announced it would stop service in the cities in 1972.

Although Maxa owned a car, she relied on the bus to get her where she wanted to go, including work. Maxa served as a member of the Mass Transportation Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee. Even after the public buses were running smoothly in both cities, Maxa continued to attend City Council meetings for years.

The meetings ended too late to give Maxa a ride home, so to save her the cab fare, often a member of the council would give her a ride home.

11,616 polio shots given in county

May 22, 1956

The polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk was licensed in 1955. Before that, the polio epidemic kept many people isolated.

Many school-age children received their first inoculations that year. But in 1956, 11,616 more were delivered to doctors in Blue Earth County, largely to supply the second doses of the vaccine.

Not all doses were delivered to Blue Earth County residents, as many doctors had patients that came from the surrounding area. The vaccine was still considered scarce because of the strong demand for it.

With the delivery of the 11,616 doses in the county, many parents were able to breathe easier for fears of poliomyelitis infecting their children.

University Square to get a mini-grocery

May 8, 2007

The grocery store that students indicated they needed through surveys and focus groups conducted by University Square management was considered to be a “sure thing,” and would open by mid-July.

It was to be managed by the same people who operated Ray’s Grocery in North Mankato. The location was to be where the A-1 Bike Shop had been located.

Although the store would serve the surrounding residents, it was geared toward college students. It would feature frozen foods, fresh produce, and would have narrower aisles and higher shelves, since fewer elderly customers were expected.

Not intended to be a full-blown grocery store, it was designed to replace some “trips across town to Cub or Hy-Vee” for students.

Albert Lea hen lays large egg

May 5, 1936

Many people lament how “newspapers used to be so much bigger.” If that is true, it’s likely because of news stories like this one from 1936.

Biddy, a 1-year-old white Jersey giant hen, laid an egg that astonished her owner. It was 11 inches in circumference from end to end, and 7 3/4 inches around the center. Biddy’s egg weighed just under half a pound.

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Mankato Bridal Show

5 6 7
FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports
2 1
1.Susu Sadaka announces The Venue On the Hill. She shares with future brides information about the historical chapel and the stunning venue located on top of Good Counsel Hill in Mankato. 2.Aaron (left) owner of Diva NYX Event Center and Photography offers his help to a future bride. 3.Owner of Bare Roots Event Florist Sophie (center) talks about the services they provide. 4.Lisa Manthe Lead Florist for Parties and Wedding Plus poses by their stunning display at the Mankato Bridal Show. 5.Music by Hattie Peach of the Penny Peaches performs at the Mankato Bridal Show. 6.Lizzie (left) owner of LM Photography shows potential clients her photos from past weddings.
3 4
7.Sales and catering manager of N.UC.C., Brittany Kelly explains their services.

FACES & PLACES: Photos By SPX Sports

Mankato Home Show

1.Becky Wilson and Hannah Meyer (left to right) of Minnesota Valley Federal Credit Union. 2.Ericka Mikkelson and Courtney Kietzer (left to right) of Landmark Real Estate. 3.Martha Croyle, Sean and Chelsea O’Connell (left to right) of Edina Realty share some laughs at the Mankato Home Show. 4.Gabriela and Avi (front to back) of Ladyled Luxury pose for a photo. 5.Joel Oltman (right) general manager of MCI Carpet one Floor and Home helps a customer. 6.Jalen Day tests out the arcade games from Retro Replay Arcades. 7.Lisa Spurr of Leaf Home shows off their Leaf Filter gutter protection.
2 4 5 1 6 7 3


Debts of winter bring rewards of spring

The snow fingers gripped the county road tightly as the March wind directed and as the March sun fought back.

It was nearing March 15, the “Ides of March” that put Julius Caesar in a bit of bind, as he was assassinated on the 74th day of the Roman calendar in 44 BC, an event that forever changed the history of Rome and the modern world.

Since Caesar’s death, the “Ides of March” have become the day for settling debts. We have to pay this debt all winter in the transition to May.

Signs of this battle are everywhere. The phenomenon known as the polar plunge plays itself out in small towns and big cities. Well-meaning and college-educated people try to raise money for children who are smarter than those who plunge because they would rather play basketball in a sweaty gym with crowds cheering their efforts.

Crowds cheer at polar plunges but only because it is the Minnesota thing to do to carry on the deception that winter can be fun and jumping into freezing water can be more fun. But the kids are better because the adults show no fear in battling winter. Good example.

This winter has been particularly brutal and our only solace is to believe the victory of spring will be equally triumphant.

Shortly after the Ides, we were battling the eighth worst winter for snowfall. And we live in a place where some call it the eighth “best.” Some 83 inches were recorded at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport when the norm is 50.

But the cold was not persistent as it can be, draining all hope by the “besters” of enduring another polar vortex as a badge of honor.

But this year’s cold was less endurable than normal. It was irritatingly uneven and every single-digit day was teased by a day above freezing, approaching 40. That torture of tantalizing a warm

day amid the cold we know can be permanently damaging psychologically and lead well-meaning people to move to places like Florida (too many gators) and Texas (too many armadillos).

When we speak of armadillos, we think of the Texas politician Jim Hightower, the commissioner of agriculture when liberals were still elected in Texas, who once rejected middle-of-the-road politics and said something like: “The only thing that is in the middle of the road is a dead armadillo.”

a winter sport give way to an ending that says there may be fewer reasons to sit in a sports bar and watch TV.

And we can be happy that the Old Farmer’s Almanac prediction of the winter did not quite come true. The “sages” at Farmer’s told the local newspaper the winter would be colder and snowier than normal.

They were right about the snow, but a bit off on the temperature. November’s average was 33.4 degrees vs. OFA’s predicted 27.5, and normal is 34. So we were near normal, not colder.

They were closer in December, predicting 1 degree below normal when it was actually about 3 degrees below normal with an average of 16.7 degrees.

January was 1 degree (averaging 18 degrees) below normal, not like the 8 degrees below normal Farmer’s predicted.

It’s notable digression here because it’s a rare use of the word and animal in political speech.

We come to appreciate bears and coyotes whose main attribute is they are not gators and armadillos. Bears, in particular, offer inspiration as they emerge from hibernation, in a signal to some to begin wearing shorts and T-shirts.

We know that male bears emerge from hibernation about mid-March, but cub-bearing females stay in longer, until mid-April, likely glad that the male left a month early after enduring his complaints and mansplaining for a whole winter and hoping he scrounges up some grub.

But as we approach May, we’ve been building our forces against winter. Spring training comes to us, like golf and NASCAR, all suggesting the warmth of a new summer, especially the burning tires of the NASCAR vehicles as they careen into walls, giving fans their money’s worth.

The high school hockey tournament holds us over as we see the last vestige of

They really blew February, predicting an average of 5 degrees where the normal is 19 and the actual was right at that number.

So they were about half right, but when you think about it, it can’t be that tough.

When you forecast normal, above normal, or below normal, you’ve got a 33% chance of being right. Not exactly Powerball odds.

Eventually, the snow fingers release their grip of the county road in late March as the sun takes over and the lamb takes a breath. April showers bring May flowers like crocuses and sometimes, if we’re lucky, irises.

And as we race down that road clear of snow and ice, we only hope the raccoons have taken a lesson from the bad decisions of armadillos.

Joe Spear is editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at or 344-6382. Follow on Twitter @jfspear.

“Bears,in particular,offer inspiration as theyemerge from hibernation, in a signal to some to begin wearing shorts andT-shirts.”

Singular Strength

In the month of Mother’s Day, it’s time to celebrate the moms doing it alone

As two adults chat about the wonders of children’s books, 2-year-old Aurora’s ears perk up. She’s heard two words she knows very well.

“Yes, ‘Goodnight Moon’ is a classic,” one adult says.

Aurora’s eyes spy that book, perched on the edge of a coffee table in Jenny Jones’ Mankato apartment. She points to it, then

bashfully takes a few steps back.

“Do you want Mommy to read that book for you?” Jones asks.

Aurora nods, smiles, flips her hair back. Jones grabs the book — its edges slightly frayed, the story already memorized — and begins.

Jenny Jones and her daughter, Aurora Jones-Templin, spend some quality time together in their Mankato home. Photo by Robb Murray

In the great green room there was a telephone

And a red balloon

And a picture of the cow jumping over the moon.

And there were three little bears sitting on chairs.

And two little kittens and a pair of mittens.

And a little toy house and a young mouse.

And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush.

And a quiet old lady who was whispering hush.

At the word “hush,” Jones leans into Aurora, an index finger pressed vertically to her lips to emphasize the hush.

Jones finishes the classic tale’s final words — “Good night noises everywhere” — and mother and daughter clap, smile and rejoice in the wonder of a well-read story. Aurora hops on mom’s lap and lays her head on her shoulder. They embrace, and Aurora gently pats mom on the back.

In a few short minutes, a perfect picture of parenthood emerges. Happy mom. Happier child. A well-read book. Soft music playing. There’s even a fluffy dog perched on a dog bed in the corner.

What this picture does not have is dad.

This isn’t a story about single moms lamenting the absence of men. It’s a story about single moms who, despite significant challenges — social, cultural, systemic, stigmatic — are killing it in the most important area: raising children.

We’re taught to think two-parent households are the ideal, and in a perfect world, every child would grow up with two parents who A) both love each other, B) want to live together, and C) want to raise children together in the same loving household. But over the years, the “norm” has been evolving.

In 1968, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 85% of children grew up in households with two parents. By 2020, that number had dropped to 70%. Single-parent household numbers, meanwhile, grew quickly. Single-mom households grew from 10% to 21% in that same time period. And singlefather households grew from 1% to 4.5%. In 2021, 40% of all babies born in the U.S. were born to single moms.

While there remains work to be done making it easier for single moms to do their jobs — and it still is a more challenging row to hoe when raising children solo — it’s also true that there are plenty of them who are doing just fine on their own. You might say they’re killin’ it.

These are their stories.

Sk8er girl

“I grew up in Mankato,” Jordyn Erickson says. “By the time I was 14 or 15, I couldn’t wait to get away and go anywhere other than Mankato. However, at the end of my senior year, I found out I was pregnant.”

Erickson had dreams. Big, bold dreams.

Instead of the basketball court or band room, the place you’d be most likely to find her was the street, zooming down alleyways and launching off driveway slopes on her skateboard. In high school, she idolized her sister, who was already an accomplished skateboarder pulling in sponsors and living the kind of carefree Montana life Erickson wanted.

So that was the plan: graduate from Mankato West High School and pull out of Mankato to win.

And then …

“I was terrified,” she says of learning she was pregnant. Suddenly a dream she’d had of heading west and finding a career in the skateboard industry — her goal was to become a writer for a skateboarding magazine — seemed to be vanishing.

She thought about her options.

“I knew that — while some people don’t agree with this —

there was the option of abortion,” she says. “I’m not going to deny that I thought about it. However, I couldn’t get myself to do it. I had an appointment and everything, but I couldn’t do it. And I guess I never really completely understood how my life was going to change other than the fact that I was now stuck. I had all these future dreams, and this was going to potentially interfere with those dreams.”

Her outlook brightened after talking to her sister, who gave her some big-sister advice.

“She said it doesn’t have to interfere with my dreams. It just might take a bit longer to get there,” Erickson says.

And then, a funny thing happened to her on the way to getting out of Mankato.

Mankato happened to her. There are countless people who thought of Mankato as a pit stop or detour on a grand journey to someplace bigger, better, more important.

People get into the layers of Mankato where the schools are good, the people are helpful and the amenities are better than they thought, and they suddenly begin considering Mankato as a destination rather than a pit stop.

“Once I had my daughter, Eliza, I realized that I didn’t want to leave Mankato,” she says. “This is the perfect place for a child. And now I actually love Mankato.”

One of the things that made the parenting journey’s early days easier was the support of her family. Erickson says they jumped in immediately to get her through what could have been a difficult time.

“If I didn’t have a supportive family, I don’t even know if I would have made it.”

She says her parents helped watched her two children when she was taking classes at South Central College and, later, Minnesota State University. She and her children also lived with her parents.

It was the kind of help she wishes every single parent had.

“For those first three years it was very helpful,” she says of

Jordyn Erickson (top right) is the proud single mom of Elyzah, 14, and Liam, 6

the time she lived with her parents. “I feel for those single moms who don’t have the support that I had.”

In the early days of living on her own, however, it wasn’t so easy.

Her water was shut off and her car taken away because she couldn’t afford payments. Her second child was extremely colicky and no one else could take care of him. She was barely sleeping, dealing with depression, had to quit her job and eventually filed for bankruptcy.

“I was miserable,” she says. Eventually, her son improved and she was able to start working part time, which led to a full-time job at Cultivate Mankato, where her son goes for day care.

Erickson has been through a lot, and she still loves Mankato. But there are areas where the community — and society — could improve, the most dire of which is affordable child care.

“We need that so people can go get an education,” she says. “Or work full time and not have their whole paycheck going toward child care. But that whole system is broken and I could go on and on about the child care system. There needs to be government funding for child care, and we need way more access to affordable housing.”

The Dinah & Torin show Some people are proud of their children. And others are PROUD.

If you were connected with Dinah Langsjoen on social media, you’d no doubt say she’s the capital letter variety, and in the most adorable way. Thousands of photos on Facebook and Instagram over the past three years

leave undeniable evidence that these two are best friends for life.

The single-mom concept isn’t a foreign one for Langsjoen. She grew up in one. In fact, her mom at one point was raising seven children on her own. Dinah was the youngest.

“I remember from a really young age not really understanding what the need of a male was,” she recalls. “I remember meeting my best friend and wondering why there was another man there. Like, ‘Oh, who’s that?’”

Single motherhood, she says, felt natural. She’d watched her mother do it for years and then, when she found herself in a similar situation, it didn’t faze her. Why should it, she thought. Her mom did it with seven. She only had one.

“It just felt natural. It just felt like I already knew what to do. I knew it was possible because of my mom’s story,” Langsjoen says. “In my head I was like, What do I have to complain about or worry about? That was my mentality. It’s possible.”

Possible. That, in a nutshell, in Dinah’s take on single parenting.

She urges single moms or single dads to not change anything about their approach to parenting just because a family doesn’t look like the “norm.”

“Do the same things dual-headed families do,” Langsjoen says. “I’ve talked to so many people who are like, ‘Why would I do family photos?’ Because you’re a family! You’re identifying your home as a family. That’s you, I can’t say that one enough. Why not document the fun that you have. It’s your life. Just because you don’t match what other people are doing with theirs doesn’t

Dinah Langsjoen watches as her son, Torin, 6, trace rocks and other interesting objects into visual diary.” Photo by Pat Christman

mean that you’re less happy than them.

“And it’s not like a show of ‘I’m trying to overdo it so that I can make myself look super happy,’” she adds. “It’s like ‘We are happy.’ It sucks a lot of the time, but it’s also really awesome a lot of the time because I get to be like a dictator.”

She doesn’t mean that in the Benito Musollini/Joseph Stalin type of way. More like a benevolent dictator — which is sort of how most parent-child dynamics work, for obvious reasons. She’s not having to temper parenting decisions with anyone else. It’s her values that dictate the decisions. And she likes it that way.

Langsjoen has plenty of advice for single moms and anyone dealing with single-parent families.

For schools: Don’t assume every child has a mom and dad at home.

For people dwelling on past mistakes: “Because like I said, on your past like there’s nothing to be ashamed of even the choices you’ve made, mistakes you’ve made. They were right for you in the time you made them. That’s why you made that choice. Two years ago, five years ago, whatever. It was right for you at that time. You don’t have to feel guilt on it.”

For moms or dads: Don’t wait for other people. Do the things you want to do; live your life the way you want to live it.

“When I was buying this house, I was kind of in a relationship, or I thought I was, and it was like, do I want his opinion on this house? No,” she says. “Do the things you would do without the other person involved. Because it’s still your life. My longest relationship with was Torin’s dad, and it was six and a half years. When that ended, it ended. You can’t just wait.”

Lady Fire Dancer

Statistically, when it comes to motherhood, Jenny Jones was a late bloomer.

“I never thought I could get pregnant and then I got pregnant,” she says.

But it didn’t work out at first. She lost two pregnancies in her 30s.

“It broke me,” she says. “And then I just gave up.” She was living in Georgia, a place she says — at the time — didn’t mix well with her worldview.

“They were really racist and just not very welcoming,” she says with nervous laughter. “No Minnesota nice there.”

She returned to Mankato, her hometown, where she still had family and a supportive friend group. (In her younger years, you may have seen Jones performing at a park or festival. She was a member of a fire-dancing troupe, and could be seen twirling flaming sticks.

She no longer has her “fire things,” though; they were lost when her storage unit was burglarized.)

Not long after returning to Mankato, she became pregnant a third time. This time brought Aurora.

“It was like surprise, surprise!” she says. “It was a miracle and a blessing. I love her. I thank God for her every day. She’s just amazing.”

She says Aurora’s father and her had just started dating when the surprise came.

“We never really had a chance for us to be us before we had to deal with this whole other person,” she says. “We tried ... We tried. But it’s just better for some people not to live together. He’s still around.”

Venturing into single motherhood, she says, was unnerving. She worried about finances, of course. And she learned right away that her friends and the community were not going to let her fail.

Friends launched a GoFundMe page to help make sure Jones and Aurora had enough money to survive.

“That helped a lot. Bless them,” she says through tears. “So I’m very thankful.

Jones says she’s noticed a disparity in the way society views different forms of public help. When it comes to child care assistance, “nobody bats an eye,” but when she’s paid for groceries with public assistance program funds such as EBT or SNAP, people glance at her. And not in a good way.

“I work two jobs and I have a small business,” she says. “I work hard and those extra things help. And nobody should feel ashamed because it’s there for a reason. It’s there to help you know, it’s there for support.”

Jones works as the gambling manager at the Eagles Club and delivers pizza for Pizza Ranch. She also is a salesperson for the Scentsy scented candles company.

Mankato, she says, is an ideal place to raise children.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and I’m glad this community is raising mine,” she says. “There’s good people here. That’s the attitude here. Happy to help. What can I get for you? What can I do for you?”

One helper in particular is someone she calls the “feeding every baby” lady (find her on Facebook). Jones says that, for the first year of Aurora’s life she relied on Feeding Every Baby, which is an official nonprofit based in Eagle Lake, for food and diapers.

That kind of help, she says, is what makes Mankato special. It’s also the kind of thing newly minted single moms

should seek out and use.

One of the not-so-glamorous things about single motherhood, she says, is housing. It took her months to find the place she’s in now, a two-bedroom basement apartment that rents for $900. The place is adequate, she says, but not immune to some of the things that often plague rental housing, such as that burglary.

“Finding a place was so hard,” she says. “Every place we looked at was just so expensive or didn’t allow dogs. This place is $900 a month, we live in the basement and our view is the sidewalk. I don’t control my heat here. My hot water doesn’t work half the time, the neighbors are loud and my stuff got stolen.”

As for advice to new single moms, Jones says to focus on the positive — and give yourself grace.

“Don’t beat yourself. Everybody makes mistakes. The best thing is just to have a lot of patience and enjoy it because it goes way too fast,” she says. “Even if they’re driving your last nerve into the ground, take a deep breath and love them because it’ll pass and pretty soon they won’t be living with you anymore and all you’ll have are your little memories of these peanuts.” MM

Authentic MexicanFood andAmazingDrinks 1404MADISONAVE.,MANKATO 507-344-0607| CincoDeMayo-May5th MothersDay-May14th

Great Expectations

When my children were small, I was continually amazed by the fact they listened to me. Not all the time, of course, but when I told them to stop doing something such as trying to tie-dye the cat or to start doing something such as brushing their teeth, generally they did as they were told.

That they obeyed me always came as a surprise because I would think, “Why are they doing what I’m telling them to do? Don’t they know I can’t make them do anything? Don’t they know there isn’t a backup plan? Don’t they realize that I have

no idea of what I’m doing?”

Thankfully they didn’t, which looking back, makes sense. I was their mom and the adult they hung out with the most and, of course, they believed I knew what I was talking about. If only new mothers could realize how much power they are about to wield. Moms make Wonder Woman look like a wimp.

My husband and I were married for 10 years before becoming parents. They were 10 good years, filled with “Why not?” moves to other states, jobs and adventures. We generally did exactly as we pleased, exactly when we pleased, and it was

‘Suddenly your baby is a toddler … then a teenager … then … gone. And you’re left at home wondering what happened, why time went so quickly before you could read one more story’
By Nell Musolf
The author is shown here with her sons (left) and her mother.

fun. But as our 20s began to recede, I found myself longing for something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, something elusive but that felt elemental. And then I realized what I was missing: I wanted to be a mom.

Around that time the first line of the opening monologue of the old “Star Trek” television series kept running through my head. “Space, the final frontier.” That was how I thought about motherhood. Motherhood was the final frontier to me. It was uncharted territory I wanted to explore.

When our first son, Joe, arrived a week before our 10th anniversary, we were ready. Still, going to the hospital as a couple and leaving as a family was a little shocking. I kept looking at our new baby, small, safe and snug in his brand-new car seat, and wondering if we had a clue what we’d just gotten ourselves into. This wasn’t a puppy or a kitten. This was a tiny human being, and we were 100% responsible for him for the next 18 years. Gulp. (More about the “18 and out” fantasy later.)

Joe was an easy baby, so easy that we had a second baby a couple of years later, our son Hank, and poof! Our family was complete. As Shari Lewis used to sing on her old “Lambchop” show, those were the fairy tale years. When I look back on them now, my memory colors the light a kind of shimmering gold and it seemed as if we were all always smiling.

We weren’t of course. If I dig into those memories a little deeper, the shimmering gold light recedes and I’m able to remember how quickly, like within a day, it became apparent that being a mom was not all walks in a sunny park pushing a stroller, sipping a latte and humming Barry Manilow tunes. Being a mom wasn’t endless Mommy and Me playgroups. There were dirty diapers and stomach bugs and never enough sleep and exhaustion that finally illustrated what being “bone tired” truly felt like.

But what really got to me was the slow realization that there were no breaks. Ever. No time off for good behavior. No matter how many silver stars you collected for potty training, shoe tying or multiplication tables, the only time you got to yourself was during “Barney,” and that wasn’t guaranteed.

Let’s face it: Being a parent is a relentless 24/7 proposition unless you’re rich enough to have live-in help and even then, you’re not off the hook because no matter what, having a baby makes you the parent of record and there’s no escaping that label. You are the mom, the end of the line. To paraphrase Harry Truman, the buck stops with you and your spouse, not that most parents would want it any other way. Still, that youare-completely-responsible piece of the uncharted territory took some getting used to.

It is said that new moms think newborns are the hardest phase of motherhood, which is logical since they’ve never experienced anything else. Mothers of school-age children think those are the toughest years, what with getting the kids to school on time and dealing with all those play dates, not to mention fifth-grade math homework. Mothers of adolescents know those are the hardest times, and it would be hard to argue with them. I still cringe whenever I smell Axe aftershave as it brings back instant anxiety as I recall our boys when they were teenagers, piling on the Axe before getting behind the wheel of the family car and disappearing to God knows where on many a summer night. Those were the nights when sleep was completely evasive until the Axe-wearing adolescents arrived home safely.

How about mothers of fully grown offspring? Well, they have been raising their kids long enough to have finally accepted that it never really gets better. Once a mom, always a mom. Or, as a grandmother I once knew used to say, “You had it, now you’re stuck with it, so you’d better do your best raising it.” A bit blunt, but accurate.

Which brings me back to the “18 and out” fantasy. You can

tell yourself, “Once they are 18 and adults, I’ll get my life back and I can stop worrying about them.” Many parents think that, and some manage to adhere to it, but most of us can’t because we discovered five seconds after giving birth that “worry” is the invisible middle name between “parent” and “hood.” From the early days when worries revolved around babies putting everything and anything in their mouths all the way to that magical 18th birthday when a fairy doesn’t appear after the candles on the cake have been blown out to wave her magic wand and release you from your parental duties.

Those worries simply never go away. They just morph into different shapes. You’ll worry about grades when they’re in grad school and mates when they start thinking about marriage. You’ll marvel at how you thought your child would turn out as opposed to reality. And you’ll wonder sometimes where you went wrong and other times what you ever did right to have such a great kid.

The way I see it, time is the culprit. It has a way of tricking you into thinking that things — good or bad — will last forever, which explains why it’s so hard to break the worry habit. It also explains why it is easy to put things off until tomorrow, and then regret that decision a few decades later.

When your baby is small, you lull yourself into believing he’s always going to be the same adorable size, sitting in his highchair with pureed peaches stuck in his hair. Believing that, you can tell yourself that you have plenty of time to put off plucking him out of that highchair and rocking him until he falls asleep in your arms. You can do that tomorrow, but right now you’d better toss another load of laundry in the wash and maybe attack the dust bunnies under your bed because you have all the time in the world to enjoy your baby. Right?

Then suddenly your baby is a toddler … then a teenager … then … gone. And you’re left at home wondering what happened, why time went so quickly before you could read one more story, listen to one more tale about school, and tell your child everything you wanted to tell him, needed to tell him, like how to pay his taxes and make spaghetti sauce and pick out the perfect present for his latest girlfriend. The things you meant to share, but somehow didn’t get around to.

I wouldn’t call time a deceiver. Time is simply time. We deceive ourselves. Who knew, no, who believed time goes on without our permission? Who knew we weren’t really Wonder Woman who could control everything, even time?

Now, as an older mom, I know. I was never Wonder Woman, not even close. The mugs I got on Mother’s Day saying Best Mom Ever were given to me by children who didn’t know any better. Children who loved me when I woke up cranky and loved me when I was at my finest. That’s another little secret of motherhood: Your kids will always love you no matter what. In that respect, they are slightly like puppies.

Once when I was pregnant with Joe I got on the elevator with another pregnant woman. Turned out she was expecting her third baby. Hesitantly, I asked her, “Is it as hard as everyone says? Birth and being a mom? Everyone says how tough it is.”

The elevator stopped on her floor. Before getting off, she said to me, “It’s tough but what no one ever says is how wonderful it is.”

And she was right. I think about new moms today raising children in a world that has changed so much since I had my kids. Talk about new frontiers. I thank God I never had to deal with social media and cellphones and the internet when my kids were small. But the new moms will make it, and their kids will make it and the moms won’t be Wonder Woman and their children won’t be Baby Einsteins. But it will all be OK. It will be more than OK.

It will be wonderful. MM




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How does your garden grow?

Master Gardeners share tips and tricks for a successful growing season

After the wearying winter Minnesotans endured, it’s understandable that impatient residents can’t wait to splash colorful blooms across their patios, porches, backyards, walkways and decks.

But three wise women — otherwise known as experienced Mankato-area Master Gardeners Diane Dunham, Karen Wright and Barbara Lamson — advise you to hold your hoes.

“To this day, I don’t think about getting out into the garden

Barb Lamson is a Master Gardener who lives in Mankato. She can be heard weekly on KMSU 89.7-FM, with fellow Master Gardener — and radio host — Karen Wright. Photo by Pat Christman

until after Memorial Day,” said Lamson, 80, a Master Gardener since 1982.

“We’ve had late frosts, and my mother always said, ‘If in doubt, don’t go out.’”

And while Dunham soaks up any warm spring sun while cleaning out flower beds and doing early weeding, she too cautions against jumping the planting gun.

“May 15 is the mean date for final frost in Minnesota so you shouldn’t put out items — especially warm-weather crops — too soon,” said Dunham, 64. “It does no good to stick plants in cold soil, and it’s the soil temperature more than the air temperature that will affect the success of your plants.”

“People are always in a hurry to buy, but some tend to start way too early,” she added. “If you have urges you can’t control, get a bag of potting soil, stick your hand in it and play around awhile.”

That’s the kind of practical, straighttalking advice you can expect from this trio of gardening experts, each of whom has serious cred in the world of plants.

Wright, KMSU’s operations director and host of “Minnesota Morning,” achieved Master Gardener status in 2016 and, with Lamson, hosts the weekly Friday spot “Gardening with Barb and Karen” on the public radio station.

Dunham, president of the Mankato Farmers’ Market, is retired from being a longtime horticulture vocational instructor with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She’s a Lakeshore Landscape specialist and Woodland Stewardship Master Gardener.

Lamson holds claim to being one of the first three Master Gardeners in the area and has a lifetime of gardening experience from which to draw.

“Here I am, still going strong,” Lamson said. “I’m honored to be part of the Master Gardener group because what we do is so important for our environment and for all of us.”

Better late OR May days

So what’s an eager gardener to do?

The bad news: It all depends on the weather. The good news? You can still take action.

“In March and April, I start seeds inside for my vegetable gardens and for some of my annual flowers,” Wright said.

She places her overwintered Elephant Ear, dahlias and caladiums in pots to help them break dormancy and get a seasonal head start.

“And I work on my landscape plans to figure out where new plantings will go and on my raised garden bed plans to make sure I am rotating the crops,”

Wright said.

One trick Wright reveals: “I take photos from year to year to see what looks good and what needs to be improved. Gardening is like a big, fun, experimental work of art and things can always be redesigned.”

Similarly, Dunham recommends taking notes to keep track of what works — and what doesn’t.

“Maybe you planted a million zucchini and not enough tomatoes, so read your notes before indulging again,” Dunham said.

She suggests paying attention to the effect of wind on your garden plots, reminding that closer-to-the-ground heights stand a better chance of surviving the transplanting process.

“They suffer less in wind than a 2-foot-tall plant, and they can gain strength and develop thicker stems,” Dunham said. “Or put up a wind barrier

— maybe an open 2-liter bottle — to protect plants from the wind in vulnerable sites.”

Lamson grew up on a farm in northern Minnesota, and that aided her knowledge of cold- vs. warm-weather crops.

“Things like radishes, lettuce, kale and spinach can go in in April — they’ll survive,” said Lamson. “We get so energized when the sun comes out, but annuals need warm soil to thrive.

“You need to stop and think, ‘Is this soil warm enough?’”

Working smarter, not harder, might mean waiting until the first week of June, notes Dunham.

“The plants I put in then grow fast,” Dunham said. “Planting in cold soil can set you back two weeks, or they die and you go buy more. People create a lot of chaos for themselves.”

These images show the colorful backyard of master gardener. Photos by Karen Wright.

Growing in health

Besides adding color and sustenance to Minnesota’s growing season, gardening goes a long way towards promoting good health.

“There’s a lot of research showing that being in nature is really good for us,” said Emily Stark, a psychology professor at Minnesota State University.

“It can lower anxiety and stress in measurable ways and improve our immune systems. With gardening specifically, you get all the benefits of nature, plus you add on the idea of caring for something else.”

The benefits of seeing that what you do matters — whether that’s dead-heading flowers to encourage new blossoms, watering plants and witnessing them produce food or blooms — are myriad.

“That’s a cool piece beyond what you gain from, say, a hike in the woods,” said Stark. “But it’s less stressful, and less anxiety-ridden, than caring for a pet or another human.”

Even without maintaining a large garden plot, something small — like a few plants on a patio or windowsill — can allow one to realize similar benefits, Stark asserts.

“Watering is a simple but important task that doesn’t require a whole bunch of mental attention, but you can still feel good about it and see the difference it makes,” said Stark.

Yet those who relish tending expansive gardens have additional gains.

“The light physical activity from planting, pulling weeds, getting up and down from the ground, is healthy, although a lot of times gardeners think, ‘I’m not working that hard, I’m just gardening,’” Stark said, noting that gardening often improves people’s moods and lowers stress levels because “you’re focused for the moment on what’s in front of you rather than on the things you were anxious about — and anything that gets us out of our own brains is good.”

What if you’re worried about “killing” plants or aren’t a natural green thumb?

“If you’re not the best gardener in the world, maybe try getting involved with a community garden so the responsibility doesn’t fall solely on you,” said Stark. And gardening feels great because it touches each of our five senses — sight, smell, touch, taste (with edible plants) and sound.

“Gardening really engages all of our senses,” said Stark. “If you’re outside listening to birds, insects and the wind, those natural sounds can be really soothing.

“Often we turn to similar sounds, like rain, to help us fall asleep.”

Personally, Stark enjoys perennials due to their lower maintenance profile.

“But I always have a few annual flowers because I like picking them out and potting them,” she said.

“And watering them — even if that’s every day in July — is such a peaceful task, something you can check off your list before moving on to the next thing.”

Start small, think big

With seasoned gardeners like these, anything seems possible. Their optimism — plop in some seeds and trust that green sprouts will emerge — is contagious.

But if you’re an emerging gardener, don’t expect a yard full of lavish blooms or a bounty of vegetables on the first go-around. Patience, along with trial-and-error, is key.

“Start small or you will be overwhelmed,” Wright said. “If you start too big, thinking you can plant it and forget it, you may be disappointed because things will get out of hand and you’ll conclude you’re a ‘brown thumb.’”

Instead, Wright suggests trying some container gardening, using vegetable and flower varieties that are right-sized for patios or balconies.

“And get your plants at a nursery where knowledgeable employees can help you choose the right plant for the right place,” Wright said.

Doing so will contribute to a first-timer’s success rate and likely result in less wasted money.

And don’t overlook free resources right under your nose.

“Contact the Extension Service for a wealth of information regarding any type of gardening — and it’s free,” Wright said. “They can connect you with a Master Gardener who will provide education and advice.”

The University of Minnesota’s Extension Service can even conduct a soil test to help you ascertain what nutrients your plot needs for maximum success.

Keeping unnecessary chemicals out of your garden and off your lawn is healthier for everyone, these gardeners agree.

“Extra chemicals end up polluting our waters, and planting native plants is another good way to eliminate the need for chemicals,” Wright said.

“The native plants are meant to grow in our environment and do well without any added inputs.”

Fan favorites

Dunham is fond of peonies — she formerly had over 40 varieties, though she now fosters “only” 25 — partly because she remembers helping one of her grandmas water them years ago.

“I like them all — the bomb style, the Japanese, the Sarah Bernhardt — because they offer a great mix, they bloom early and there’s always something blooming.”

She now has about 40 varieties of iris and tends to grow beefriendly flowers such as salvia, lilies, echinacea and Russian sage.

As vice president of the Minnesota River Valley Master Gardeners and an active member of the Minnesota and North American Hosta Societies, plus the North Star and North American Lily Societies, Wright can’t say no to lilies or hostas.

The back side of Karen Wright’s home — just as beautiful as the front. Emily Stark

“Hostas are my favorite,” said Wright, mentioning that one of her hosta gardens will be on the Minnesota Hosta Society’s June 24 tour.

“I also love hydrangeas, Lilium, hardy roses, tulips, daffodils and so many more.”

A continual process of trial and error, along with an ever-increasing concern for safe environmental practices, has led Lamson to cultivate red currant, daffodils, flowering shrubs, forget-menots and a pussy willow, among other earth-friendly choices.

“The pollinators just love the pussy willow,” Lamson said. “Little by little, by observing nature and noticing what was surviving and thriving, I’ve kept changing things.”

Besides displaying the common traits of patience, a strong work ethic, environmental awareness and keen observational skills, Lamson, Wright and Dunham all share an utter devotion to gardening.

“I love gardening,” Dunham said. “I can’t wait to get out and do stuff.”

Said Wright, “I can’t imagine life without a garden. I grew up on a big dairy farm, and my 4-H projects included all kinds of gardening and landscaping, so this has been part of my life forever.

“Gardening is my happy place,” she continued. “There’s something amazing about being among the plants, feeling a gentle breeze while I work and watching the pollinators and other miracles of nature.”

Summarized Lamson, “I’ve planted my garden so it reminds me of a symphony, with its highs and lows and birds singing in the background.

“I love inviting people to see it, not because it’s grown to be shown but because it’s what I love to do.”

For more information about Master Gardener training or services, contact the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office, Mankato, at 507-3896714 or email MM



Mi Pueblo es su pueblo

North Mankato’s Mi Pueblo Mexican Bar & Grill, the third in Minnesota, stays busy

Moises Diaz speaks with pride of the authentic Mexican food at Mi Pueblo in North Mankato, which he manages and has joined as partner. Mi Pueblo has two other Minnesota restaurants, in Lakeville and Eden Prairie. The North Mankato site opened in October 2021 at 1754 Commerce Drive, formerly Vero’s Tacos.

The rest of the ownership team includes Guillermo Valdivia, who also works the front end in the North Mankato restaurant, Jorge Gomez and Simeon Cuellar. And it’s a family-run business enterprise.

“All the owners' wives are sisters,” Diaz said.

In the ever-changing and competitive regional scene for authentic Mexican food in the Greater Mankato area, Diaz

24 • MAY 2023 • MANKATO MAGAZINE F o o d & B e e r Food & Beer SOUTHERNMNSTYLE
Manager and partner Moises Diaz and owner Guillermo Valdivia have kept the popular Mi Pueblo Mexican Bar & Grill hopping in North Mankato. Photos by Dana Melius

You can find all your favorite Mexican dishes at Mi Pueblo.

said the North Mankato community has provided a strong customer base. And the Commerce Drive location is a busy spot.

Diaz has been in the United States for three years, most recently coming up from Oklahoma. But nearly all of the 10 employees at Mi Pueblo’s North Mankato restaurant hail from the Guanajuato region, a city and state in central Mexico with the city about 340 miles northwest of Mexico City.

“It’s about the opportunity to do better things with your life,” 24-yearold Diaz said of the move to the U.S.

He credits the early success of Mi Pueblo’s North Mankato location to a dedicated staff, “good marketing” and authentic Mexican food that keeps bringing customers back for more.

“You don’t need many people to run a place if they do it right.”

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. The bar-restaurant business is competitive, the landscape often changing, and customers’ tastes everevolving. And the industry can be tough on startups.

“It’s really hard to start,” Diaz said. “But so far, it’s been pretty good.”

Mi Pueblo’s 2021 opening was actually only for take-out and delivery as the North Mankato site geared up its inside look. When the doors opened, Diaz said the place was packed. Today, the restaurant’s business has moved into a more predictable pace, one Diaz likes.

“Now, you pretty much know what it’s going to be like. The first

couple months, it was super crazy. Now, it’s stable. Now, it’s like the real numbers.”

The Parrillada Mi Pueblo dish is a specialty and popular menu item:

“Cooked different from other fajitas, this new fajita contains grilled chicken, grilled carne asada, shrimp, carnitas, grilled squash, nopal, mushrooms, onion, chiles toreados, all marinated in homemade sauce and covered with queso fresco…”

While this one is prepped for two, Diaz said it can easily feed three or four. But he also acknowledges that the locals have other favorites.

“People here love burritos and tortillas.”

Taco Tuesday also is a popular attraction, with offerings from street tacos to mango tacos, best with shrimp.

Customer comments love Mi Pueblo, too. Natasha Frost, who owns and operates the Wooden Spoon in Old Town Mankato and the Southern Minnesota Food Recovery nonprofit, said this on the restaurant’s Facebook page:

“Mi Pueblo has been an excellent supporter of My Place (the Mankato Youth Place). Thank you for all you do for our community.”

Customer Pam Soma of Mankato kept it simple: “This place is really good!”


The basics: Hefeweizen

Itry not to be too controversial, but here goes: I like hefeweizen.

I don’t love the style. I don’t plan special trips to breweries just because they have a new one on tap. But I also don’t scoff if someone suggests one. It’s refreshing, pleasing to the eye and delightfully fragrant with the prominent notes of banana and clove.

What was surprising in writing this article was the idea that hefeweizen is often a love-hate style. To me, it’s a middle-ofthe-road summer beer, something for everyone. But Dave Berg, brewmaster at August Schell Brewing Co., has encountered some pretty extreme opinions.

But I’ll say it again: I like hefeweizen.

Hefeweizen is a type of weiss beer, with “weiss” meaning “white” in German. And I know they didn’t have Pantone back in the 1400s, but the liquid appears generally hazy yellow. The name hefeweizen denotes yeast (“hefe”) and wheat (“weizen”).

Not every weiss beer contains wheat, but every weizen does.

The style has existed for half a millennia, starting as a peasant beer that was fermented in open vats. The flavors of banana and clove, along with the billowy head and signature wheat glass, are the most iconic elements of a hefeweizen.

However, no banana or clove is added during brewing. The traditional flavor profile comes from esters created by heirloom yeast strains, open-air fermentation and a special rest to boost the release of ferulic acid. Also, a range of other flavors can often be present, such as vanilla, anise, apple, lemon and more.

Schell’s Hefeweizen was the first wheat beer to be brewed commercially in the U.S. after Prohibition. (August Schell Brewing Co.)

Beyond some solid Bavarian imports, local brews have major followings, too.

Love it or hate it, hefeweizen is a ubiquitous traditional style, making up more than 10% of German beer exports, according to Jeff Alworth in “The Beer Bible.” (James Figy)

Just last year, Utepils Brewing Co. caused a kerfuffle by an April Fool’s Day social media post suggesting its Ewald the Golden had passed away. Fans of the beer, and even some distributors, were calling the brewery to ask why it would make such a bad decision.

As it turns out, another Minnesota brewery deserves the credit for the style’s resurgence stateside. When Schell’s released its first batch of Hefeweizen in 1984, it was the first brewery in the U.S. to create not just that style, but any wheat beer, since Prohibition.

To understand why, I spoke with Berg about all things weizen. Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, focuses on the challenges of crafting a good hefeweizen and tradition that draws so many people to Team Love.

James Figy: How does Schell's Hefeweizen stick to — or depart from — the traditional definition?

Dave Berg: At their core, these are beers brewed with wheat. We try to stay close to the traditional German methods, so our Hefeweizen uses at least 50% wheat and traditional yeast. For us, the remainder of the malt bill is two-row malt. If you're looking for a little deeper color, a touch of Munich would be appropriate.

There are some nontraditional changes. We skip the decoction, and it’s not open fermented.

JF: Are there any unique challenges to brewing a great Hefeweizen?

DB: The toughest part is getting the correct balance between the clove and banana flavors. The clove is caused by the yeast converting ferulic acid to 4-Vinyl Guaiacol, which is an aromatic phenol.

The banana is a yeast-driven ester, isoamyl acetate. Esters are a ff ected by many things — temperature, yeast growth and hydrostatic pressure to name a few. Thus, it's important to understand your yeast, pitch the correct amount, and ferment at the correct temperature.

I know some folks are terrified of open fermentation, but I spent the first six years of my professional career with only open fermentation. So it's not particularly concerning or difficult to me — we just don't have open fermenters.

JF: Schell’s Hefeweizen became the first wheat beer brewed in the U.S. after Prohibition, according to your website. That's mind blowing. Why do you think it took so long for them to come back and catch on?

DB: First, lagers returned and then ales much later! Still, there wasn’t really a great demand for more niche styles. And hefeweizen is kind of a love-hate style. There really isn't a middle ground, so it doesn't automatically have a mass appeal.

JF: Do you think there's any hope to see related styles break through too — weizenbock, dunkelweizen, rauchweizen, etc.?

DB: Obviously, brewers make all of those styles today. Snowstorm 2010 was a weizenbock. But once again, as a lovehate style, they will probably only pop up as seasonals.

JF: As an ale with such a long tradition, do you see anyone pushing the boundaries and really innovating?

DB: Quite frankly, no. A number of people add more hops or dry hop. But that's not really innovation. It's just adding more ingredients.

For myself, I don't really need the style to be any different than it is. There's a reason it's been made for as long as it has been.

JF: Final question, and it’s a big one. Do you drink your hef’ with a slice of citrus? DB: I think you can guess my answer.


James Figy is a writer and beer enthusiast based in St. Paul. Mankato, he earned an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University and a World Beer Cruise captain’s jacket from Pub 500. Twitter and Instagram: @ JamesBeered Fun story: Drinking beer in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia in 2019, I was asked by the bartender, “One, dunkel? Or, two, weissbier?” I replied, “Two,” thinking that indicated the second option. Turns out, it indicated the quantity, too. (James Figy) Hefeweizen falls under the weiss beer umbrella due to its light color and cloudy appearance. However, not all weiss beers contain wheat. (James Figy)
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Restaurant wine redux

Ioften feel like a broken record complainingaboutwinein restaurants. For the most part, the offerings are often mediocre, the choices meager and the prices grand larceny.

Periodically, one stumbles upon a wine list that shows inventiveness and fair pricing, but these are few and far between.

Fortunately, I was able to spend a large segment of this past February and March at the family home in Newport Beach, California. It's an old-fashioned beach house, much remodeled but still basically the same since it was originally constructed over 100 years ago.

All but a few of the other original beach houses around it have been torn down and replaced, except for the brick mini-mansion two doors away built shortly after ours, still owned and occupied by one of the sons of the second owner.

Our house sits behind a sidewalk and a beach on the bay. Docks jut out into the water. Beyond them is a channel, then many powerboats and sailboats on buoys. They all just sit there. I rarely see anyone taking any of these boats out. They are owned by people, I guess, with too much money and not enough inclination to make use of their floating investments.

Humphrey Bogart used to park his sailboat, the Santana, on a buoy in front of our house. He and my grandfather would drink martinis together, though Bogie also liked Scotch, at the nearby Newport Harbor Yacht Club. And my uncle, Peter Rabbitt — yes, you've read this correctly — would row out to the Santana and hang out with Mr. Bogart.

Once, when Bogie and my grandfather were at the Yacht Club drinking together, my Uncle Pete, who at 9 or 10 years of age was tagging along, was bugging my grandfather about getting a gun so he could go shooting birds in the nearby Back Bay. (Times were different back then.)

"Murray, why don't you just give the kid a gun," Bogie offered. "Hell, I'll pay for half of it." Uncle Pete got his gun, but Bogie never ponied up.

My Uncle Pete is today a member of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, and periodically he treats me and sometimes my guests to dinner there. My son

Ross still remembers a tuna steak with broccoli dinner he had at the NHYC some 15 or so years ago. Today an excellent cook, he calls the meal "a foundational food memory" and "the first truly fancy meal I ever had." He also remembers the never-ending stream of popovers the club is known for.

The NHYC has a small but well-chosen wine list with reasonable prices, but in order to enjoy the club's excellent meals, popovers and wines, one needs to be a member or the guest of a member. I'm not going to even tell you what it costs to become a member, even if the club has openings at all.

But to get back to our subject at hand: restaurant wine lists.

In the Newport Beach area there are many excellent restaurants, including excellent wine lists to match. We end up eating at mostly Italian establishments, because my sister's companion, John Bell, a former Boeing engineer turned winemaker, loves Italian food. One, called Trattoria, his favorite, is on Balboa Island and has only eight tables.

Another we just discovered on this trip is called Foretti's, located in

nearby Corona del Mar. It features an extensive menu of appetizers, soups, salads, risottos, pizzas, pastas, gnocchi, main courses and desserts, plus a wellchosen (albeit pricey) wine list. The black (squid) ink infused linguine with Manila clams, calamari, shrimp, fresh fish, tomatoes and pomodoro sauce is absolutely phenomenal!

Like all quality restaurants, they welcome customers who bring their own wines, charging $25 per bottle corkage fee. In our case, they waived the corkage fee for three of the four bottles we brought the second night we visited in less than two weeks, but that's probably because we invited our server to sample the $450-per-bottle Châteauneuf-duPape we brought the first night.

In Europe, where wine is considered more an essential part of the meal than in the U.S., restaurant wine prices are much more reasonable, save for the toptier, Michelin-starred establishments. Unfortunately, for most restaurants in this country, wine is considered a profit source used to subsidize their food. Little do they realize that charging exorbitantly high markups for wine just forces would-be customers to seek out restaurants with more reasonable wine prices or eat at home.

Before going out, it's always a good idea to check out a restaurant's wine list if it's been posted online. And certainly, when making a reservation, ask if they allow customers to bring their own bottles and what the corkage fee is. A reasonable price is from $10 to $25, though some don't charge any fee at all.

Two rules, though: First, never bring a wine that the restaurant has on its list. And second, don't just bring cheap swill to save a buck or two. Bring a wine that is interesting (though not necessarily expensive) and unique. If the restaurant staff is knowledgeable and sees your choice, they'll think of you more highly for your wine savvy. Also, it never hurts to o ff er your server or wine steward a taste of the wine, especially if it's a rare or unique one. Who knows? They may comp the corkage fee that night or the next time you come in.


Leigh Pomeroy is a Mankato-based writer and wine lover.

Humphrey Bogart




1. The Sun weighs about 330,000 times more than Earth.

2. Footprints left on the Moon won’t disappear as there is no wind.

3. Because of lower gravity, a person who weighs 220 lbs on Earth would weigh 84 lbs on Mars.

4. Pluto is smaller than the United States.

5. We know more about Mars and our Moon than we do about our oceans.

6. There are more stars in space than there are grains of sand in the world.

7. Light travels from the Sun to the Earth in less than 10 minutes.

8. Outer Space is only 62 miles away.

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Readers will heart the Harts

Gwen and Roger Hart, now nearly 20 years removed from their time as graduate students in creative writing at Minnesota State University, have done the work and kept the faith season after season since they left the Key City in 2004.

Early this year, the stars aligned, and the couple both had new books released within a two-month span.

Roger’s second collection of short stories, “Mysteries of the Universe,” came out in early April, roughly eight weeks after Gwen’s third collection of poems, “Never Be the Same,” had been released. The new works show the Harts in fine form. Both books are wise, funny, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

The first poem in Gwen’s book comes with this lovable title: “The Easy-Bake Oven Presages Disappointment.” It’s one of more than a few of her poems that seize upon pieces of the Gen X experience, and Gwen is up to something more compelling than merely ruminating on artifacts of her youth.

She writes from a Gen X perspective, and in a culture saturated by boomer-vs.millennial noise, her perspective feels rare and rich.

“IwasatBreadLoafWriters’ Conference a few years ago, and fiction writer Charles Baxter gave a talk titled ‘Things About to Disappear.’ His assertion was that it's the writer's job to document all of the things about to

disappear, things the next generation will not be familiar with, and I found that really compelling,” Gwen said. “I think those generational touchstones like Garbage Pail Kids trading cards or being latch-key kids are important to get down on paper.”

The Garbage Pail Kids make an appearance in a poem called “We Loved Them and She Didn’t,” which provides readers with pleasures such as this: “They’re disgusting, / she complained, pointing to Brainy Jane’s / cracked-open skull and Clogged Duane / screaming as he was sucked down the drain.”

The latch-key kid experience comes into focus in the closing lines of Gwen’s “Endangered Species,” which places readers among the passengers on an afternoon school bus.

“Our numbers dwindled until / there were only a few of us left clinging / to the green vinyl seats, an endangered / species winding our way through / the wilds of suburbia, huddled inside / our moving imaginations,” she writes.

While Gwen’s interest in popular culture enlivens her work, Roger’s knowledge of and passion for science help make his stories stand out from the crowd. He spent 30 years teaching science in high school classrooms, and even while busy with that work, he read and wrote fiction in the summers and in stolen moments between Labor Day and Memorial Day.

“I wrote during the years I taught,” Roger said. “Sometimes, late at night, I’d fall asleep on the computer as I was writing, a case of my own stories putting me to sleep, I suppose. Once, I stopped in the middle of a class I was teaching and pretended to write a note about a boy who was misbehaving. I was actually writing the first sentence of a short story.”

The title story of Roger’s new collection begins with the first-person narrator experiencing a worrisome premonition as he walks toward the college campus where Sloane, his live-in girlfriend and a professor of physics, is busy at work.

Readers quickly come to understand the narrator’s bind when he confides, “Sloane says space-time is curved by gravity and virtual particles pop in and out of existence, but she doesn’t buy into premonitions, prophesies, omens, or signs.”

Several of Roger’s stories poke at the space between what’s science and what’s magic, but when asked if that is what’s going on in his mind, if his storytelling tendency shows his artistic brain interacting with his scientific brain, Roger paused and reflected before answering.

“I’ve never thought of it that way, my interest in science conversing with my interest in art, but, yes, the scientific and the artistic are closely connected in my


mind and, I think, in reality,” he said.

“The mysteries of the universe sometimes illuminate the mysteries of the human heart and maybe the reverse is true as well. Raymond Carver wrote, ‘A writer sometimes needs to be able to stand and gape at this or that thing — a sunset or an old shoe — in absolute and simple amazement.’ The same can be said of a scientist and the stars.”

In the years since they completed their MFA degrees in Mankato, the Harts have lived in Ohio and Iowa, and now reside in Montana. Gwen teaches at Montana State University Northern in Havre, a town of about 10,000 people in a beautiful but difficult place along U.S. Highway 2, a few hours east of Glacier National Park and a short trip south of the Canadian border.

As they approach their 25th wedding anniversary, the Harts believe that being married to a fellow writer helps keep them going.

“We both know it's important for the other person to do their writing, and we cheer each other on,” Gwen said.



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Hot takes on ground temperatures

It’s finally over — the winter of 2022-’23, that is. The last date of likely frost for us in the Mankato area is May 15. That feels good!

Of course, I’ve been working in the garden already, finishing up the cleaning I didn’t get done last fall, and planting radishes. My first radishes should be ready to eat any day now.

As we head out to the garden, especially early like this, paying attention to the soil temperature is important. As the saying goes, “Some like it hot.”

Of course, for starters, we’re planting seeds that like it cold, or at least cool. First to go in the ground usually have instructions on the packet telling us to “Plant as soon as the soil can be worked.”

This instruction refers not only to soil temperature, but also to moisture levels. If the soil is still icy at a lower depth, water pools on the surface, and seeds will rot.

Bare soil warms faster than grass-covered areas, but surface temps are not what we need to go by. Temps at a depth of 2 to 4 inches are needed for sowing seeds, and at 4 to 6 inches for


There are several thermometers you can use for taking soil temperature readings. Some have a long probe connected to a cable that connects to a gauge held in your hand. Others look almost like a kitchen meat thermometer. Some look like digital thermometers found in a bathroom medicine chest.

The one I use is a little more fun. It is a non-contact infrared thermometer. It’s hand-held, and all you have to do is point and shoot. There is a digital readout on the back of the device that gives the temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius with the push of a button. (I think it’s more fun because I can also check the temps of my dog, my cats, the fence posts, etc.)

Prices range from about $8 for the lower-end thermometers, to the hundreds, if you choose to spend that much. The one I use costs about $30 and requires a couple of AAA batteries.

The first seeds and plants to go in the ground are cold lovers such as radishes, kale, spinach, cabbage, peas and kohlrabies. For most of these vegetables, the ground can be about 50 to 75 degrees.


Because not all varieties of these veggies are the same, be sure to read the package and follow directions. For example, some radishes won’t germinate and grow unless the soil is much warmer.

Green bean seeds need a soil temp of at least 60 degrees to germinate. Basil, peppers and squash also fall into this temperature range for optimal germination. Okra, tomatoes, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes like temps even warmer to get a good start.

I have never purposely grown tomatoes from direct sowing in the garden, but I have had great luck from many “volunteer” seeds left in the garden from the season before. They never sprout right away, but as soon as the soil warms up, they pop up.

If you want to hurry soil warming along, you can always cover the garden with something like black plastic to gather and trap the heat. To maintain an even temperature, it’s probably best to just let the sun do its work in its own time.

If you use raised garden beds, they will warm much more quickly than the ground. In some ways, raised beds reduce work. Weeding is much easier and the area to weed is smaller. The other side of that coin is that they need watering a lot more. Often, they require watering several times a day in warm weather.

I have made the decision in the past to plant the entire garden all on the same day. If the day and soil were too cold, plants died and seeds didn’t germinate. If the day and soil were too warm, I didn’t get any radishes, for example. They put up foliage and went right to seed.

Having a green thumb is a gift. This gift is always backed up by science.

Jean Lundquist is a Master Gardener who lives near Good Thunder.
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Live, Laugh, Viva Magenta


I have a lot of costume jewelry from my mom and my grandmothers, mostly crystal and pearls and some kind of painted glass beads. I can tell it’s all good quality stuff but it’s just not my style. Is there some way I can enjoy them without dressing like my grandmother? And please don’t tell me to up-cycle it into artsy modern jewelry a la steampunk, because I don’t have the tools or skills for that, and steampunk is also not my style. I would take any other suggestions, though. Thank you.


Not only will I not send you running to the craft store with a shopping list of supplies and materials just so you can make a different version of jewelry you won’t wear, I’ll give you an option so thrifty and practical, your grandmother would be impressed.

Pack up the jewelry along with any random housewares you’ve ever been gifted but don’t really like. This might include

but is not limited to: Candlesticks. Paperweights. Wall hangings commanding you and your houseguests to count your blessings. Wall hangings commanding you to live, laugh and love. Any vase from flowers previously delivered from a florist, and you knew without a doubt you’d never use for flowers or really anything else, but it was a nice glass vase and now you’re stuck. Wind chimes too cheap to make pleasing music, but also too nice to stash in the shed with the tomato cages from that one ambitious summer long ago.

Pack it all up in whatever box is lying around, and then bring it to Sidetracked, the “curious art salon and art thrift shop with a free studio space called Art for All” at 420 Park Lane in Mankato, open 2-7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.

Founded and operated by artist-entrepreneur-force of nature Patti Ruskey, Sidetracked’s Art for All community workspace is exactly where you need to dump out that box, look at each piece of jewelry literally in new light, and start pairing earrings and beads and whatever else with the housewares that need a makeover.

Ask Patti for the tools and materials you need, which will probably have her asking, “What do you need, exactly?”

And you’ll say “Well, I don’t know. I don’t even know where to start,” and pretty soon she’ll be handing you a small plastic tub full of wrapped wire in various lengths and colors and thicknesses, bits of chain, balls of yarn and waxed cord, glue, all these lovely odds and ends from other people’s finished or abandoned art projects.

I have walked both sides of the craft supply acquisition line, and I can tell you with certainty that a decades-old half-roll of cloth-covered wire is infinitely more inspiring and permissiongiving than a newly purchased top-quality full roll of anything.

The project I most recently took to Sidetracked was my greatuncle Bill’s classic Erector Set, which I turned into a bunch of wind chimes and mailed one to each of my sisters and cousins last Christmas.

I like thinking of all five sets chiming in the winds of our different homes in different states, creating a perpetual ethereal harmony that keeps us connected to our long-gone relatives and to each other.

I encourage you to do something similarly reckless, decorative, and joyful with the matriarchal jewelry that’s been entrusted to you. Good luck.

DEAR ANN: Someone just told me the color of the year is beige, a paint color called Blank Canvas. That seems like not even a color. Is this a joke?

DEAR READER: Behr Paint Company was the one to declare “Blank Canvas” its color of the year, "a warm, cozy white paint color … just enough pigment to give it some depth and interest, without being quite dark enough to be considered an off-white color.”

It’s worth noting that other “colors of the year” declared by

Here’s my great-uncle Bill’s classic Erector Set reincarnated as a wind chime, thanks to tools and inspiration and various odds and ends provided by sidetracked, Patti Ruskey’s art salon/art thrift shop/community workspace.

equally notable companies — Valspar, Benjamin-Moore, Sherwin Williams — tend toward full-on earth tones and warm sunny hues, while Pantone gave the title to “Viva Magenta,” which Travel+Leisure Magazine describes as “brave and fearless, and a pulsating color whose exuberance promotes a joyous and optimistic celebration... (It) revels in pure joy, encouraging experimentation and self-expression without restraint.”

Why Travel+Leisure? Because in January they published a piece on where to find Viva Magenta urban and rural settings across the globe. There are some gifts endemic to these polarized times, and the freedom to choose Blank Canvas or Viva Magenta or basically anything in between is one of them.

Got a question?

Submit it at (click on Ann’s Fashion Fortunes).

Ann Rosenquist Fee is executive director of the Arts Center of Saint Peter and host of Live from the Arts Center, a music and interview show Thursdays 1-2 p.m. on KMSU 89.7FM.

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C a sey and t he Bear Casey and the Bear

End of an era for Mankato Radio

On Sunday morning, April 22, 1973, Barry Wortel walked into the main KTOE studio hours before dawn.

It’s the loneliest shift in radio, one that few want to work. It’s also where many aspiring announcers are forced to start, mostly doing station IDs, a little news and monitoring pre-recorded programs.

I am guessing nine out of 10 who pull this shift wash out in a year or two; it’s too hard getting up at 4 a.m., especially on Sunday.

Wortel, or “The Bear,” as he is affectionately known, doesn’t do Sunday mornings any more. He kept at it, kept moving up the ladder, wearing various hats: afternoon announcer, program director (in charge of hiring and scheduling announcers) and then part-time sales.

Now he’s been on-air at KTOE an astonishing 50 years. He interviews at least six high school and three college coaches every week. Some of those coaches will likely join him when he does his final “Benchwarmer” show on Sat., July 1.

The Bear, a 1970 Loyola grad, had been driving cab after attending Brown Institute. He started talking to KTOE’s Bud Quimby and others, and eventually scored that Sunday morning gig.

When sportscaster Ben Dickmeyer stepped down, avid sports fan Bear asked management to “give me a chance.”

Thousands of games down the line, he says, “This has been the best year.” That includes a standing ovation at halftime of the East-West basketball game, a presentation of special gifts at the reunion of the undefeated 2003 State Champion Loyola boys’ basketball team, and being presented the State High School League’s Outstanding Media Service Award at the recent state basketball tournament.

'It’s not a job'

Sports announcers are renowned for their long careers — look at Vin Scully (89 when he called his last Dodgers’ game) or Dick Vitale or Jim Nantz. It’s not only their loyalty and dedication, it’s pure love of what they’re doing.

Last year, another veteran local sportscaster, Casey Lloyd, stepped down after 50 years of calling MSU Maverick football, basketball and other sports.

As “The Voice of the Mavericks” told The Free Press last September, when he called a game for college station KMSU in 1970 (the campus then was still “down in the valley” and the studio in what is now Old Main Village), Casey in no way expected it to last. Instead, he got hired by KYSM, and since, as he told Chad Courrier, “MSU has been my life.”

Lloyd, who is about a decade older than The Bear, was honored by MSU Athletics last fall with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. He got a standing ovation from the hundreds of staff, coaches, community supporters and alumni packed into the CSU ballroom.

Casey, who estimates he’s called 3,000 games, told the MSU Reporter, “It’s not a job. I just love it.”

Sports guys also tend to have amazing memories of a certain play or player, or of a particular game. Barry still remembers his first play-by-play, Mankato West at St. Cloud Apollo in football in September 1975.

“I did OK,” he smiles.

For Casey, that first game for KMSU was UNI versus the thenMankato State College men’s basketball team.

I was fortunate enough to work with both Casey and the Bear at different times in my career. The first word that comes to mind to describe them is “devotion.”

I was fortunate enough to work with both Casey and the Bear at different times in my describe them is “devotion.”

An emotional Casey, who was seldom accused of objectivity as he called Maverick games, told the crowd of “…how much energy I get from the students, the potential I see in them.”

A bit later, Alex Andrews Shepp, who helped give Casey one of his greatest broadcast moments back in 2009 when she helped lead the Mavericks to the national women’s D-II basketball championship, took the stage and said, “Casey has a way of making you feel valued.”

Maybe that’s why both Barry and Casey lasted 50 years in one market: that personal touch, their dedication to the coaches and the players, as well as to the fans.

I am guessing that, over a halfcentury, they probably took a total of four weeks of sick time between them. Regardless of headaches or sniffles or blizzards or long drives to Winona or Bismarck, they were going to be mic-side for their games.

Casey will continue pursuing another passion, announcing at Brainerd International Raceway (where he once met Paul Newman). The Bear will continue leading trips for the Travel Center and admits he’d be open to calling some games at tournament time when stations often need extra announcers.

But as Barry put it to me recently on his 2 p.m. show, “It’s time, I’m ready. I’ve had my fun. Fifty years of tremendous memories.”

Longtime radio guy Pete Steiner is now a free lance writer in Mankato.



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Articles inside


page 39

Casey and the Bear End of an era for Mankato Radio

page 38

Live, Laugh, Viva Magenta

pages 36-37

Hot takes on ground temperatures

pages 34-36

Readers will heart the Harts

pages 32-33

Restaurant wine redux

pages 30-31

The basics: Hefeweizen

pages 28-30

Mi Pueblo es su pueblo

pages 26-28

Growing in health

pages 24-26

How does your garden grow?

pages 22-23

Great Expectations

pages 18-19

Singular Strength

pages 14-17

Debts of winter bring rewards of spring

pages 12-13


page 9


page 39

Casey and the Bear End of an era for Mankato Radio

page 38

Live, Laugh, Viva Magenta

pages 36-37

Hot takes on ground temperatures

pages 34-36

Readers will heart the Harts

pages 32-33

Restaurant wine redux

pages 30-31

The basics: Hefeweizen

pages 28-30

Mi Pueblo es su pueblo

pages 26-28

Growing in health

pages 24-26

How does your garden grow?

pages 22-23

Great Expectations

pages 18-19

Killin’ it!

pages 14-17

Debts of winter bring rewards of spring

pages 12-13


page 9
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