Further Adventures of Ridder Erling

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Medieval Norwegian records being what they are – I’m not even sure this is the same guy that rescued SKAARVANGSOLE. If it was – he was plenty busy before and after raiding Sandbu, burning Ivar Gjesling’s buildings and making his leap across the Ridderspranget. As the account below shows – he was certainly capable of it.

By 1152, Christianity was well established in Norway, but the urge to go “A Viking” was not quelled and Ridder Erling Ormsson took off with 15 ships on a Crusade together with a friend, Eindride Unge. Unge was lensman for King Inge Haraldsson (The … Read more…

Skaarvangsole – or A Norwegian Love Story


Norwegians! We’re just a bit odd!

In the 1160s, Erling Sigvat, a Ridder or knight of Kviden lived at Valdres on his estate at Melby. A member of a powerful family, he was the most powerful person in his district.

To the north lived Ivar Gjesling, an older man with the ear of the king. He was the most powerful person in Gudbransdalen, besides being the king’s Lansman (judge and ruler) of the district. As a member of the nobility, Ivar had his own army and navy. He and Ridder Erling were often at odds as both laid claim to … Read more…

Grandma Artichone’s Got a Gun

Ojibwe Snowshoes


I didn’t know Grandma Artichone. She died before I was born. But I heard many stories about her, as I was growing up – usually around a campfire. I’m not sure how many of the stories were true, but I do suppose there was some truth to them. That she lived, I have no doubt. I had photos of her, before our flood two years ago. She was a tiny thing. I’ve seen her old cap-lock shotgun, one of my great aunts had her maple syruping kettle and I’ve got a pair of … Read more…

Tracing Norwegians

John Johnson Eastvold

Somewhere, in one of the relative’s collections, there is a photo of my great-great grandmother Karen Austvoll – saying goodbye to her sons as they leave for America, circa 1885. A rather unusual photo for that era – no one is dressed up in their Sunday clothes – the shot seems almost candid. Karen, or “Mutti” as she was affectionately known, appears distraught with all the sadness evident on her face of a mother who will likely never see her sons again.

Karen “Mutti” Austvoll’s husband, John Jakob Hodnefjel

In the background are stone fences reminiscent of a scene from … Read more…

Florida, March 2014


It’s been a long winter in NE Minnesota. for the last decade or so, our winters have been mild. This year we paid for it. Snow and cold were prevalent and unrelenting.

Old friends, Steve and Rosie Forsyth, have been after us for a couple of years to come visit them in Florida. I’ve never really had much interest in Florida, and though we made plans a couple of times, we allowed day to day crisis to de-rail these plans.

Finally, though we didn’t really feel like we could afford it – off we went to Florida.

I’m not terribly … Read more…



I believe any serious and honest researcher would have to admit America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. To proclaim otherwise is indicative of ignorance or an ideological or personal bias.

John Adams, in a letter to the Officers of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division of the Massachusetts Militia, dated 11 October, 1798, says: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

While some of the founding fathers had slipped into Deism, a European export of the “age of Reason” – Adams among them – no one questioned … Read more…

Irish Food


I’m not Irish. Well, maybe just a bit, but you’d need a microscope to find that bit.

Last year Sara, our daughter, spent a semester studying in Ireland. First thing you know, JoAnne has it in her head we need to go see her in Ireland. I was fairly dubious. I’ve never been out of the states before, except fishing and paddling in Canada, and a day-trip over the Mexican border to Tijuana when I was 13. Besides which, seems like every time I’ve had any dealings with an Irishman, he was drunk and trying to hit me in the … Read more…

Cooking Over An Open Fire

Steak & Veg

Venison may be an acquired taste. Some people don’t care too much for it. Often, this is because it is not properly butchered. When butchering venison, it is necessary to remove all tallow and membrane possible. This is less necessary in farm country, where the deer often feed on corn. It is extremely necessary in our forest lands where the deer are eating anything they can find, including spruce and pine boughs. Leave in the tallow – and you’ll likely get a pretty good idea of what turpentine tastes like.

Cooking over an open fire: For roasts, I like venison … Read more…

Making Maple Syrup


Went to the sugar-bush with taps, bit-brace, and half my buckets. Nights are freezing. Day-time is in the 40s. Time to tap maples.
I’ve been tapping maples on the same 80 for years – belongs to a friend. Maybe I should have kept in closer touch. Upon arrival I met the new owner – who informed me my friend had sold the land and moved to Nebraska!?!

I guess there will be no maple syrup this year. I’ll mostly miss the time in the woods. I’m the only one in the family who likes the stuff anyway. Everyone else says … Read more…

Harvesting Wild Rice

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Near the homestead there are many rice lakes and rivers. Wild rice is not really rice at all, but is actually a water grass. The Ojibwe call it menomin, the early French explorers called it folle avoine, or wild oats.

My favorite ricing lake is one my ancestors named Rabbit Lake. It has a different name on today’s maps. The reason I like it so well – it has a hard bottom and is easily poled.

To harvest wild rice you need a canoe, a pole, two people and a set of sticks, known as “knockers,” or “knocking sticks,” about … Read more…