I’ve set up a home office. It’s nothing special, but it suits me.

A new standing desk arrived a few days ago. My old Onkyo stereo is set up. Stacks of vinyl are at the ready. Got a weight bench. And it’s actually getting used!

But the best part might be the view. You might not think a lot goes on in a lower North Mankato backyard, but when you’ve got attention deficit disorder and you’re an elite-level procrastinator, it doesn’t take much to steal my focus.

So, I bring you scenes from a Lakeview Avenue backyard …

Mom of the year

Just about every year a robin sets up a nest underneath our deck. When she makes 25 trips back and forth from the nest to wherever she goes to gather nest-making materials, it's hard to not notice.

Then we keep watch for eggs. A couple of weeks ago I peered between the deck boards to see if there was any news to report. Sure enough, three perfect blue eggs were nestled perfectly among the twigs and grass of her nest.

A few days later, during a FaceTime conversation with my daughter, I hoisted the phone up to show her the eggs. Only instead of seeing eggs, she saw three tiny brand new birds.

Ever since, mom robin has done nothing but work to feed them. From the back door I can see her approach flight to the nest. She zooms in, parks in the nest, and immediately starts shoving worms into open maws. Once she’s done, she heads out to find more. It’s a relentlessly selfless display of raw and perfect motherhood.

Cuteness overload

If the robin wins mother of the year, the squirrels might take the award for cutest animals.

Have you ever seen a squirrel bury a nut?

With the nut in his mouth, he bounds through the tall grass, bushy tail sticking straight up like a marching band plume, until he finds a good spot. Then his little arms furiously dig a tiny hole. Then the nut drops from his mouth and his little arms bury it.

He scrambles away, presumably to find another nut.

It’s just too much cuteness. It’s just too good.


He probably doesn’t have a master gardener’s certificate hanging on his wall. And he can barely speak English (he's from, I think, Vietnam). But my neighbor Lee’s veggie garden, humble though it may be, is a sight to behold.

He’s generally sitting out near his garden when I report to my home office. He’s a got a patio chair perched just on the edge of the dirt where, in just a few weeks, he’ll be fussing over garlic, kohlrabi, onions and other delights.

He takes care of his garden the way the robin takes care of her babies: meticulous attention to detail, never takes a day off.

Lee also likes to share. Just the other day, in fact, he delivered a pair of chickens to us. (The chickens, actually, might have been payment for the wood scraps he borrowed. Don’t know, don’t care.) I like that guy, and I love the way he gardens. Every year, when the garden I wanted to grow turns into a tangled web of uncared-for vegetative mishmash, I can always look over at Lee and see how it should have been done.

Merry Christmas

Each year after Christmas we take the Christmas tree and throw it under the deck. And it sits there until summer. Why? Because we like to burn it. It’s fun.

But there’s a better reason this year to have that tree sitting there. It reminds me that, even though things aren’t great right now with all the sheltering in place and social distancing, it could be worse. We could be going through this disaster in the middle of a cold winter instead of a beautiful spring.

We can’t gather at taverns and pizza parlors right now, but we can enjoy the outdoors. And so far it’s been a delightful spring.

Wait, that kid’s how old?

The kid across the yard had a nice little bonfire the other day — cut logs producing perfect dancing flames, the kind that beckon you to feel their warmth, or perhaps roast a marshmallow.

Seems like it wasn’t that long ago that this kid was barely old enough to ask me if he could jump on our trampoline. Which he did. Many times. It was very cute in a small-town America kind of way.

Now he’s driving automobiles and presiding over backyard campfires. Where did the time go?

Rubble and waste

While some of the sights outside my window are beautiful and cute, one that isn’t is the pile of rubble that’s been waiting for curbside cleanup in North Mankato. Only they aren’t doing curbside cleanup this spring. So I’ll have to haul it to the public works site myself.

I was going to come up with some clever “poor me” phrasing here, but I’d better just be thankful that our city even does a citywide cleanup. A lot of cities don’t do them. And ours, if we weren’t dealing with a pandemic, would have come to my house and picked up all my unwanted crap for no additional fee. Which is nice.

That’s the view from things here in lower North Mankato. See you next week!

Robb Murray can be reached until June 12 at rmurray@mankatofreepress.com or 507.344.6386.

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