Category Archives: Special Events

Dragon books give-a-way, with Shawn MacKenzie

red-dragon[1]Do you know I’m a fan of Dragons? I’m a Welshman after all.

But since I met Shawn MacKenzie, I’ve become a Dragon fanatic. Shawn blogs about Dragons at MacKenzie’s Dragon’s Nest.

Quotes from her books, published by Llewellyn –

From Dragons for Beginners9780738730455[1]

In Wales, land of many Dragons, there is a saying: Y gwir yn erbyn y bydd! “Truth against the world!” And nothing imparts truth like a tête-à-tête with a Dragon. It is an experience guaranteed to beat back the darkest night like Dragonfire, and to remind us that, across leagues and eons, Dragons remain the one universal, familiar bit of magic we carry with us. And in return they carry our awe.

In the end, the fight for Dragons is a fight for ourselves, and it is our very need that keeps them with us. From the smallest house dragon to the grandest emerald Queen, Dragons are the sinew that binds us to Earth, to the mystical, and to each other. They are the joy and truth—the inspiration, even—of the universe. We hold on to them, we thrive; we let them go, we die.

It is simple. Without their glory and grandeur, their supernal nobility lifting our eyes, we would still be struggling to see beyond the next hill, not looking to the stars.

From The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook – 9780738727851[1]

Once you cut through the layers of archaic spin, the fact remains that we don’t particularly pique their appetites. If Dragons want something that tastes like chicken, they go for the real thing.

There will always be people who cling to what is safe and familiar, who look at Dragons and see only monsters to fear and slay. The fault, dear reader, is not in our Dragons but in ourselves.

It’s up to us to change. We did it before, we can do it again. It is up to us – Dragons and Dragon lovers alike – to keep the flames of magic, the songs of Dragons, alive.

Here, There Be Dragons, standing with us, alone in one place together. And when we are gone, a Dragon will be here still, shouting to the Universe: I am!


During Shawn’s MONTH OF THE DRAGON in October, I commented on every post. Not because I wanted to win her books – I have both Dragon books already – but just ‘cause I love her MOTD posts.575204_384488221601463_987865384_n[1]

I said if I won, I’d gift my prize to someone else. And I won! 

Now for the re-gifting give-away – one rule

You have to go to one of Shawn’s MOTD posts and make a comment. You should read a few of her blogs, but even if you cheat a little and don’t read the blog, you’ll be treated to some of the most fantastic Dragon art you’ll ever see.

Deadline – post a comment on one of Shawn’s blogs by November 10th at midnight. Winner will be announced November 15th.

The prizes – signed copies of both

Dragons for Beginners & The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook

Here are just a few of Shawn’s Month of the Dragon posts –

Adopt a Dragon Week 2 – Adopt a dragon, AAD

Habitat Loss and Mischief in the Night – Dragons of Madagascar, India, and China, et al

AAD Week – Planet Out of Whack, Dragons in Need – With Dragon flags of the world, Finland, Canada, Russia

AAD Week – Near Eastern Dragons, The Hatchlings of War – With more Dragon flags of the world, Persia, Petra, Egypt

Kid-friendly Dragons and Their Tales – Where Shawn shares some her favorite dragon tales. Did you know How to Train Your Dragon started as a book?

St. Francis Knew Best – Kiss a Dragon Day – “Also, keep plenty of lip balm on hand…”

Keeping the Dragon Fires Burning, Safely – “And be sure to have your insurance premiums current, just in case.”


So go to one of Shawn’s blogs and

make a comment and be entered to win

Dragons for Beginners and The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook.


Filed under Special Events

North Dakota’s magical sunflowers, by Jenny Dewey Rohrich

Article by Jenny Dewey Rohrich

Until I stepped foot into North Dakota, I would have never imagined North Dakota to be a national leader when it comes to production of many different crops.  It’s safe to say I had never before witnessed fields of crops that are seemingly endless. But let me tell you, there is something magical about coming across a field of blooming yellow sunflowers as far as the eye can see. It literally makes you stop in your tracks and takes your breath away.Sunflower Photo 1

So how did sunflowers end up here?

Sunflowers actually originated here, in North America. They were a common crop among American Indian tribes throughout North America. There is evidence that the cultivation of sunflowers began before corn in about 3000 B.C. in some areas of Arizona and New Mexico.

Around 1500, sunflowers made their way to Europe by way of Spanish explorers. The plant was cultivated and began expanding its way through Western Europe for uses from ornamental to medicinal and culinary. By the early 19th century, Russian farmers were growing over 2 million acres of sunflowers. It is also during that time that many Russians (Germans from Russia) settled in places like Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

It is likely that the seed movement is attributed to them and by 1880 seed companies were advertising “Mammoth Russian” sunflower seeds in catalogues. In 1946, Canadian farmers built a small crushing plant. With an ability to get the oil from the flowers, sunflower acreage boomed in Minnesota and North Dakota. And since the 1930’s programs have been in place to hybridize sunflowers to provide additional yield, oil enhancement, and disease resistance. To date, however, there are no GMO sunflowers grown or sold.


Sunflower Photo 2Where are sunflowers grown?

Since 1977 North Dakota has ranked in the top states when it comes to sunflower production, producing nearly 51% of the nation’s total sunflowers. In the past several years, North Dakota has battled with South Dakota for the title of top producer. You would think with North Dakota being the leader in sunflower production that sunflowers are grown across the state. But this isn’t quite the case; in fact, I would venture to guess that some people living in North Dakota have never even seen a blooming sunflower field.

Reasons vary as to why sunflowers aren’t grown across the state. Disease is a limiting factor in growing sunflowers; some areas of North Dakota simply get too much rainfall, which makes sunflowers more prone to disease. In some areas of North Dakota it simply isn’t feasible to add sunflowers into crop rotation. Birds and large wetland areas (pot holes) go hand in hand as two more reasons which limit sunflower growing in some parts of the state. Large communities of birds can devastate a sunflower crop and usually birds flock to large areas of water and cattails. Also large wetland areas simply aren’t conducive to growing sunflowers because sunflowers are more of an arid plant and like less water. For more specific information about where to find sunflowers in North Dakota, visit this post, Where to find sunflowers.


Sunflower Photo 3How are sunflowers grown?

On our farm, sunflowers are planted on a four-year rotation cycle meaning a particular field will be planted in sunflowers once every four years. To see more about our crop rotation, you can check out this post on Community, Crop Rotation on our Farm. Sunflowers are usually planted from early May until mid June and require soil temperatures to reach at least 45 degrees or above. Sunflowers are planted typically in rows about 20-30 inches apart.

Sunflower seeds require pollination to mature. Bees are responsible for the pollination of these fields. Farmers contract bee hives to be set near fields and the bees go to work. Because of the symbiosis between bees and sunflowers, North Dakota ranks number one in the nation’s productions for both sunflowers AND honey!Sunflower Photo 4


Sunflower harvest usually begins in late September or early October with a typical growing season of about 120 days. Sunflowers are harvested using a specialized header for our combine with trays that catch the sunflowers to minimize loss of any heads.


Sunflower Photo 5What are sunflowers used for?

There are three primary markets for sunflowers: oil production (oils), de-hulls, and confection varieties.

Sunflower seeds produced for oil are usually smaller and all black in color. Sunflower oil is the primary use for the seeds and has a variety of different uses from a healthier alternative for frying potato chips to even fuel! De-hulls (or basically de-shelled) are what you would find in your local grocery store to put on salads, chocolate covered, or to simply enjoy them without having to fight a shell. The confection varieties are roasted in the shell and sometimes flavored for you to enjoy at your favorite baseball game or an afternoon on the patio. Sunflower seeds are graded according to size and then separated. The largest size goes to be roasted and enjoyed in the shell, medium sizes are usually de-hulled, and the smallest size goes into the bird and pet food market.


Sunflower Photo 6As one of the few sunflower growers in our county, we hold them near and dear to our hearts. Sunflowers are a challenge and unique which are qualities that set them apart from other crops. They are also, as you can tell, beautiful. I hope you make a visit to a sunflower producing region of North Dakota in August and you will fall in love with the fields of yellow blooms too. Sunflowers are a challenging, but rewarding crop on our farm. And at the end of the day, we take pride in the fact that we are one of many helping to produce an important commodity to our state.

Sunflower Photo 7 copy



Jenny Dewey Rohrich smallJenny Dewey Rohrich is a born and raised Californian. She grew up in her parent’s local butcher shop and deli. She loved where she lived and vowed to never leave, but life had other plans for her. She met a farmer from North Dakota via social media and fell head over heels in love. Jenny followed her heart and her dreams to Ashley, North Dakota. Jenny and her farmer are now married and cultivating a legacy of family, food, and farming on the rural prairies of North Dakota. You can find Jenny at Prairie Californian where she writes about the things she loves: farming, family, food, photography, and fitness.



Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

Scoria Road, by Danielle Hanna

Article by Danielle Hanna

DSC00559 (640x478)Instead of getting me into trouble–like you’d think it would–my bent for aimless wandering keeps turning up new treasures I never would have found any other way.

My dog Molly and I were driving home on Highway 83 one day. The sky was blue and full of big summer clouds and the pastures were the vivid green you only see in North Dakota in spring, before the Indian summers scorch everything brown. South of the tiny town of Wilton, we passed the wind farm just off the highway.

Since the first time I saw them, I wanted to photograph the windmills for my blog and Facebook page. The setting that particular day was ideal. And I had my camera.

I slowed the car a little bit and waited for the perfect composition to fill my windshield. When it did, I pulled off the highway onto the first turn-off to make itself available. Unfortunately, the few hundred yards it had taken me to find the turn-off placed the windmills squarely behind a hill.

I was about to pull back onto the highway when I took a second look at my surroundings. The turn-off I’d randomly chosen at 60 miles per hour was a narrow scoria road wending between waves of lush grass and disappearing over a spur of the hill.

Dorothy could keep her yellow brick road. This looked awesome.

Since the scoria road could get me closer to the windmills just as well as the highway, I decided to follow it.

Molly was all anticipation in the back seat. A new road! We’ve never been here before! Where does it go?

In that regard–and so many more–my dog and I are identical.

Just as we crested the hill, a little splotch of black in the pasture to my left caught my eye.

A foal, curled up in the deep grass at the base of a telephone pole. I gasped and slowed down. Serious Facebook factor! Where was my camera?

Just as I was ready to get out of the car, a much larger object cloaked in black entered the stage.

It was just like you see in movies: The noble horse prancing high; buff muscles rippling beneath its shimmering sable coat; mane, tail, and feathers billowing in its own wind. This vision of awesomeness came straight at me–and convinced me to stay in the car. In the presence of such majesty, the barbed wire fence between us appeared puny.

The horse veered off from her charge of the barbed wire to stand protectively over her foal.

I smiled. What an amazing mom. I think that mare was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life.

I looked over the rest of the pasture and found it full of black mares and their foals. Behind them, the windmills rose toward the sky.

I got out of the first mare’s comfort zone and photographed the other mares and their young.

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By now, completely entranced by this magic scoria road, I drove on, and every crested hill seemed to reveal more wonders.

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I spent an hour on the scoria road without encountering another soul except the horses. Now, as I stood fifty feet from my idling car, I turned from my camera at the sound of approaching tires. A pickup was coming my way. I eyed my car. I’d pulled it half-way off the scoria road, but the space left over still wasn’t big enough for a pickup.

I ran back, dove into the driver’s seat, and pulled into the grass just as the pickup closed in.

But instead of passing by, the driver slowed and waved out the window. This was infinitely more demonstrative than the rural North Dakota one- or two-finger wave from the steering wheel. I figured the guy wanted to talk. We stopped beside each other.

The man leaned a meaty arm on his window. “Runnin’ yor dog out here?”

I assured him my dog had been in the car the entire time and explained that I was just getting photographs for my blog.

“Hold on. Ya got my bad ear.” He cut the engine. “Now. What were ya sayin’?”

I turned off my own engine and repeated myself. He still didn’t hear me.

“Well, you can run yor dog here any time. So long as you don’t bother the mares and foals, is all. But it’s nice n’ quiet back here.” He went on to rattle off the names of everybody who lived on the scoria road. “All nice folk. All of us old. We won’t bother ya.”

I gave up on trying to explain the blog and just smiled and said thanks. It was nice to have an open invitation to come back.

When I got back to the highway, I found more turn-offs that would have gotten me better photos of the windmills. But I don’t regret for a moment the unplanned selection that landed me on the scoria road. It was like the magician’s hat that kept producing wonders. I was overwhelmed to think I had zipped past it so many times at seventy miles per hour and never known what I was missing.

The more I follow my wanderlust, the more I’m amazed at all the secret spots I find here in North Dakota–places that will never be advertised as tourist destinations, but are beautiful in part because they are only known to the locals and those brave enough to turn off the highway.

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Danielle HannaDanielle Hanna learned how to read and write at age four and knew she wanted to be an author by the time she was seven. She now writes Christian mysteries. When she’s not riveted to her computer, you can find her camping, hiking, and biking with her dog Molly in her home state of North Dakota.

Follow Danielle on her blog Embark on Adventure: Adventures of a Girl and Her Dog, Facebook, and on Twitter.




Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks – They’ve got the bases covered for fun

Article by John Steiner

Redhawks-11Fargo, ND

When someone mentions Fargo, it’s been my experience that they reference either the extremely cold winter climate or the Coen Brothers movie of the same name. Some people might find it hard to believe, but the residents of Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, her “twin” city just across the Red River in Minnesota, have a real life outside of these two stereotypical references. Though many of us North Dakotans enjoy winter and winter activities, very few of us use a wood chipper to grind up our neighbor.

In the region centered on Fargo, much of the emphasis on sports revolves around three schools; North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University at Moorhead and Concordia College. However, in 1996, a new professional baseball team based in Fargo-Moorhead joined the Northern League. Teams in this league are not affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB) and serve markets that are not served by the MLB or their minor league affiliates.

Redhawks-5Newman Outdoor Field is the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawk’s home turf. The team’s winning ways have drawn the crowds and the family friendly entertainment keeps the youngsters entertained. I will admit to not paying attention to the team in their early years. At some point, a chance invitation to attend a game taught me that there’s a lot more going on than just waiting for the 20-minutes of action that’s crammed into three-plus hours of a typical baseball game.Redhawks-6


Between innings during pitcher warm-ups, games are played on the field that ultimately wins a prize for someone, and occasionally prizes (mostly discount coupons) for entire sections.

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks finished that first season with a league-best 53-31 won-lost record. Though they didn’t win the championship that year, losing to the St. Paul Saints, that season set the bar high for these boys of summer. Over the years, the team showed themselves to be winners with 2011 being the only season in their history with a losing record of 44-56. The loss resulted in their missing the playoffs for only the second time in their history.


Their mascot, Hawkeye, a 15-year veteran of the team and the players themselves make personal appearances in the off-season. Hawkeye energizes the fans, during breaks in the game play. There is even a well-equipped playground at Newman Field for those younger fans who simply get tired of watching the game.Redhawks-3


Ole, the “ball boy” entertains the crowd during home games. Ole’s original responsibility was to occupy a red rocking chair and make sure the plate umpire was supplied with baseballs. Since his introduction, though, Ole’s role has expanded. Ole wanders the stands while greeting and talking to the fans. Ole always draws a big round of applause when they play “Cotton Eyed Joe” and Ole does his signature dance.

I submit for your visual diversion, a gallery of images taken at Newman Field during a game between the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks and the Winnipeg Goldeyes.







John SteinerJohn Steiner is a retired educator with a multitude of hobbies. John started in the classroom, however he transitioned to Information Technology in mid-career.

Since retiring, John and his wife, Lynn, alternate between winters in Arizona and summers in North Dakota. John’s interests include aviation, photography, technology, hiking and travelling. John has always enjoyed writing and has written four books, now long outdated and out-of-print, published by Prentice-Hall. In the 1980s, John was a columnist and also wrote “over-the-transom” articles for computer magazines.

Since John retired, he shares his interests in photography and travelling via his blog at Journeys with Johnbo.




Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events