Monday, July 31, 2006

I Guess it's Canning Season

This afternoon I sent the boys out to pick what was left of the peas, and while processing them I asked them to check on the green beans. Well, they finally came in with 15 GALLONS!! Needless to say, I may be up for a while yet, snapping beans in preparation for our big day tomorrow. I'm sure glad Jim is an engineer by training, as the pressure gauge is no big deal for him. I've always been a bit afraid of pressure canners, so this is going to be quite an experience. Hope we do okay in the morning! I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, July 28, 2006

More Family Photos

Here are a few more photos from our time with the New Hampshire Bartletts:

One day we snagged a groundskeeper at the International Peace Gardens (which is about 20 miles from our farm), and asked her to take a photo of everyone. I've heard this area is one of two border crossings across the United States where there is a neutral area and Canadians and Americans can meet without getting into trouble. We have some friends with a situation where the wife didn't want to take on Canadian citizenship and the husband didn't want to become an American; that apparently is not acceptable, and now until some paperwork can go through, they meet at the Peace Gardens since she cannot cross into Canada and he cannot get back into the US. The park is usually a beautiful area, loaded with flowers. However, with the drought, the flowers and trees are stressed, and there are many areas where the flowers have died. There are also pieces of steel girders that came from the Twin Towers after 9-11, placed as a memorial to those who died. When we were getting ready to leave the area, we noted that the temperature was 101 degrees.

Grandpa B. took this photo of the clouds that were overhead one evening. As threatening as they looked, we received no rain.

This last photo was taken the first night after our relatives arrived. Of course, we had to introduce them to our animals!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Family Reunion

Here's a photo of the Bartlett boys (and girl); the four on the left are the New Hampshire branch, and the ones on the right are farm fed North Dakotans.

I'm backtracking a bit, but wanted to show a few photos of our time with family. Jim's parents and brother and family flew into North Dakota to visit us, in honor of Grandpa and Grammy's 50th wedding anniversary. The rest of the family knew how difficult it would be for our family to leave the farm and all its gardens and animals, so they graciously left New Hampshire to come here for a little over a week.

We had a great time, and it had been 4 years since the family was all together. Back then our family took a trip to New Hampshire to visit.

Cousin Keara (9) was the only person willing to try her hand at milking Mustard Seed, and she did a very good job! Peter is also a very good teacher. We were also impressed that Keara was not afraid of bugs, animal excrement, turtles, etc., but fit right in with the guys. Maybe it helps that she is the youngest, with 3 brothers of her own!

The first day of their visit was the Bottineau Gospel Music Festival, and it was a special blessing for Jim and the boys to play to an audience that included grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins. The festival was held in the local high school auditorium.

We were thrilled to find a chalet at the local 7th Day Adventist camp to rent; it was perfect, since the chalet had 3 bedrooms and a loft, 2 bathrooms, living room and kitchen. The last photo is of the sunset over the lake. The beach at this camp is the best one on all of Lake Metigoshe, and everyone enjoyed using canoes, rafts, and peddleboats. What a treat for our boys to be able to jump right in and enjoy the coolness of the lake, when we were experiencing very hot weather.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Back to Business

It's time to settle back in and get caught up around here. Before the weekend, the pump we are using to bring water up to water our garden areas had quit, so Jim had to drive into town to get a replacement part. Unfortunately what he thought was the problem actually wasn't, so it's back to the drawing board. Even though it's a headache to keep having to tear apart that particular pump, Jim is really enjoying the hands on part of farm life. One thing we are learning is there usually is not a quick fix to anything, but many steps are involved in order to get something done. It's just a part of the learning process, I guess.

A friend raises flax, so Jim and some of the boys went over to his place to pick up more flax screenings for our chickens. When they returned, the boys came in grinning from ear to ear, because Wendell had invited them to pick raspberries. Even though we have our bushes they figured one can never have enough raspberries for raspberry jam! I guess I better get busy and make some for them.

Still no rain ... Last night I was awake about 2:30 (it's a bit tough to sleep when it doesn't cool off very much at night), and heard rain falling for all of 3 minutes. By morning it was very hard to tell that it even rained. This afternoon it actually rained approximately 3 more minutes. The rain clouds just seem to float right on by. This year we have grasshoppers all over the place, and I sure hope they don't decide to make a feast of our gardens. Not many mosquitoes, but many of those critters.

Our son David had been bugging the older boys to help him find our cat that had the kittens. I showed them where I had seen Funny Face climb down by a bunch of hay bales, and sure enough, we found her inside our old chicken tractor with her 4 kittens, which must be all of 3 days old. They are black and white just like mom, so we figured dad must be our oldest cat, Shem. He is also black and white, but sleek and short-haired instead of fluffy like the mom. We brought them into the house and set up a large box for mom and babies, and then spent the rest of the afternoon catching Funny Face as she would drag a kitten out of the box and head toward the door. Late in the afternoon she must have gotten the hint that we wanted her to keep her babies in the house, so she quit being so persistent. I have never been around cats before, and this is a whole new world to me! Hopefully they will be on the quiet side tonight, since the box (and litter box) is set up very close to my side of the bed in the bathroom area (we only have quilts separating the various rooms of our basement house).

The boys pulled out a rather large onion today, and I wonder where I will be able to keep them so they won't spoil. We have catnip tied in bunches, drying above the wood stove, and comfrey in the dehydrater, waiting to be crunched and placed into glass containers. There are a lot more herbs to be harvested from the garden, so it will be a busy day tomorrow. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, as are the peppers. Carrots need to be further thinned out, and raspberry jam should be made. It's funny: No matter how many times I make raspberry jam, the boys tell me that I have never made it as good as Grandma Wagman does! Must be all the love she places in as well!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Prairie Days

It's been terribly hot here, but us North Dakotans are tough! After a very busy week, our family packed up and traveled over 4 hours to a farm near Center, ND to attend an annual event called Prairie Days. This is the 4th year the Dagley's have sponsored this event, and we have managed to attend every year. Last year it rained, but this year had a clear blue sky and temps almost over the hundred mark. There were quite a few new families attending, and we also had opportunity to renew acquaintances with old friends.

Before we could leave (the target was to leave by 6 a.m., but we were delayed until almost 7), our son Jonathan ended up butchering a chicken. The day before they had moved the chicken tractor and accidentally crushed the foot of one of the Cornish Cross chickens. He wasn't doing any better the next day, so instead of allowing the rest to peck him to death, Jonathan butchered him. It isn't the right timing to actually do in the rest for another month or so, so this one will be stewed for soup. We finally got on the road just before 7.

The Dagleys have a farm that is in the southwestern part of the state, and it sure was dry and dusty out there. On the way there we went past the Missouri River, and the new interpretive center built for people interested in learning about the Lewis and Clark expedition which took place 200 years ago. From Dagley's farm you can see one of the area's coal plants, which always fascinates the boys. Dagleys are totally sold out to homeschooling, and their whole operation revolves around the interests of their children. One was able to buy a backhoe and start his own business; one raised 600 broilers to sell; the family makes and sells Sanaan goat milk soap; etc. They also love to play, sing and do old style dances. When we arrived there was plenty of action going on, so the boys jumped right in. This is a wonderful event, as so many of our friends (as well as new friends) attend and it is great fellowship for everyone.

I think the highlight of Prairie Days is the zipline that the Dagleys have set up across the river that runs through their property; it is busy from sunup to sundown. They have 2 lines: one for coming and one for going, and it really is fun to see how fast the children can make it across. One of our friend's daughters had a rather rough landing at the other side and then fell backwards into the water, but that was probably the only incident in that area of the property. The brother of this girl spent so much time on the zipline that he had open sores on the palms of his hands from the blisters he received from hanging onto the pulley thing that gets them across.

The day was very, very hot, and drinking water was in high demand. Our friend Paulette and also another friend named Chris S. took anyone interested on an herb walk through the property, but by the time we got into open pasture I was too hot to continue. It was interesting, though, to discover the medicinal properties of plants that most people consider just weeds.

Jim and the boys had 2 opportunities to play and sing, and later in the afternoon Jim gave an update of our life on the farm. He has a way of making our mistakes and experiences sound rather humorous, and I found myself as entertained as everyone else. I guess it is good to laugh at ourselves.

Well, after a shared supper I left with Paulette to head back to our neck of the woods; us farmers can't leave animals unattended, and I volunteered to come back to care for everyone. It was an interesting experience to help Paulette milk our goat in the dark! I really need to learn once and for all to do the milking, but it's always much easier to just let the boys do it. The shed we use for milking is down the hill and close to the water's edge, and it would have been a bit intimidating to do it by myself that late at night -- especially since no one else would have been around if I would have had trouble. I haven't been "on the farm" long enough to stop thinking about wild animals watching me behind my back! It sure was beautiful out that late, though; one advantage of having it so dry is the mosquitoes are very subdued, and the stars are so bright. The Milky Way was almost shouting at me, and the Big Dipper was easily recognized.

I guess I gained a real appreciation for what the boys do for chores every morning. It took me quite a while to feed all the chickens (and figure out how to give the broilers water without having them fly out when I had the top of the chicken tractor open!). I almost killed one of our laying hens, as somehow when I had opened up our makeshift hoop house style coop I had left a larger than usual space in one corner, and one chicken was dumb enough to try to get out. I checked on everyone a few hours after doing chores and heard a lot of commotion coming from their coop, and discovered the chicken that was stuck under the wire. I was afraid that she was badly hurt, but within an hour she was back to doing what chickens do. Whew! We only have 9 hens and one rooster, and I didn't want to be the one to kill one of them. There certainly is a lot to be done, and I noticed raspberries to be picked. I managed to pick 8 cups of them, which I thought was great, since we only transplanted the bushes this spring. The boys are finding more every day. They are begging me to make raspberry jam, but I have decided it isn't worth it yet to heat up an already scorching hot house. Maybe when the weather cools into the 80's I can do it.

Well, Jim and the boys returned later in the evening, and I was glad to relinquish the chores! They were full of excitement, as they recalled all they did that day, and how it went tenting under the stars. I had something exciting to tell them too, as our cat that we thought was a male had given birth to 4 kittens!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hopefully Back to Blogging

Another busy day, but not as busy as for Jim's folks. They stayed last night at a hotel not very far from us, just off from Lake Metigoshe. About 2 a.m. they heard some sort of noise, so they got dressed and checked things out. Nothing seemed to be happening, but they did see a fire truck and police car. No one was around, so they went back to bed. About 6 a.m. they had someone knocking on their hotel room door, and when they opened the door the person told them they were supposed to have evacuated the building! Turns out there was a bomb threat -- in our way out of the way place! Jim's folks were then taken by police cruiser to Metigoshe Ministries, where they stayed for another hour before being taken back to the hotel and then left about a half hour later for Minot where their plane would take them back to New Hampshire. What an end to their time in rural North Dakota!

The boys and I spent the morning picking and processing peas and green beans. I was glad to be done, then discovered another bucketful of beans! Finished them after supper. We froze this batch, but the next time we pick we'll need to do some actual canning. Jim is having trouble with the pump we use to bring the water up from the lake to water the garden areas, and that is troubling. Guess we'll have to go borrow Mountain Fire Keeper's pump and try to fix the other one. We have lots to do before heading out very early Saturday morning to something called Prairie Days, a fun filled day with many other homeschooling families. This event occurs on a friend's farm about 3 hours from here.

We miss Grammy and Grandpa Bartlett, and look forward to sharing some photos of their time here with us. By the way, the above photo is the sunset we watched a couple of days ago from what we call our big field.

Monday, July 17, 2006

We are Still Here!

Just a note to say that we are still here, just exceptionally busy. Jim's family arrived on the 8th, and his brother and family flew back to New Hampshire on the 15th. Now we are enjoying Jim's folks until early Wed. morning.

It's been quite a challenge to juggle enjoying company and keeping the farm on track; we have lots of catch up weeding to do, as well as harvesting and processing vegetables. The boys all came down with colds; probably a result of late nights, early mornings, and running down of immunity. We've enjoyed every minute of it, though!

Jim's brother's family had lots of new experiences, such as attempting to milk our goat, eating venison (some did, some didn't! most thought it good), picking/shelling peas, target practicing, exploring North Dakota, and more. I hope they enjoyed it!

Just wanted to check in and say that hopefully in the near future we will post some photos of our adventures of the past week.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Getting Ready for Company

Things are really getting busy around here ... I feel like I've neglected emails, blogs -- everything! There are 3 big events over the weekend, and I'm terribly behind in getting ready for them all.

Friday begin's the Survival Weekend Workshop, held over at our friend Paulette's health center, and run by Mountain Fire Keeper (Steve). My boys are thrilled and can't wait! As for me, I plan to forgo the sleeping in a tipi and enjoy a nice quiet night here instead. I guess since the tipis will be set up on a peninsula of land they will have to take everything in by canoe. Imagine -- carting picnic tables in a canoe! I'd like to see that one. Steve's lawn tractor that would have been used to cut a path out to the campsite is in a bunch of pieces over here, waiting for new parts to arrive. This event goes on through Sunday, and then Jim and the boys need to be in town by 10 a.m. to help set up for the Bottineau Gospel Music Festival.

The biggest event will be the arrival Sunday afternoon of Jim's folks and brother Doug and family from New Hampshire. They will stay a week, and it will be the country vs. the city! We'll see how they do in weeding gardens and milking the goat. I'm not sure what else we will figure out to do.

Meanwhile, Peter and Jonathan were practicing up by sleeping in their pup tent, when all of a sudden our dog Selah began barking hysterically. She is tied by the chicken tractor, with the hope that she would be a deterrent to any animal trying to get a taste of chicken. Jonathan came running into the house to get his .22, as he said he thought it was a muskrat by the chicken tractor. Sure enough, he came back in minutes later to say he got it. Why would a muskrat be way up on dry land over by our chicken tractor? I thought they were vegetarians! One down, one to go -- too many mosquitoes in the tent, so Jonathan will spend the night out there alone with the chickens and dogs. Maybe I won't have such a nice quiet Friday night after all!

Well, looks like the dogs will have to take care of everything tonight, as Jonathan just came in. I guess I have to do some patching on Jonathan's mosquito netting before the weekend hits. Hopefully we can take lots of digital photos of all the activities and share them later with everyone. That is, if we can find the part that downloads the photos off the card!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Trying to Catch Up

I wish I could say I was caught up on everything over here, but I just feel like I'm falling farther and farther behind. I'm still having trouble figuring out what is important, and what is urgent. I think I tend to accomplish too many urgent tasks, instead of what is important to get done. This week will be a challenge to discern the difference, and do only what is important. Jim's parents and brother and family will be here for a week, and there is so much to do before they arrive.

This past week is very much a blur in my memory ... I can't even remember all the details! Yesterday I headed southwest with my friend Paulette to do some much needed shopping in Minot, the closest city (about 1-1/2 hours away). Jim, the boys and Mountain Fire Keeper (Steve) headed southeast to help friends with haying. I was thankful to have the opportunity to check out a few garage sales, and was thrilled with my finds. Minot has an air base north of the city, and the families that live off base sure get rid of great stuff! We didn't get home until well after midnight.

Jim sent along a list of items for me to pick up at Menard's, and I quickly discovered how much I don't know about hardware. I was asked to get a box of sheetmetal screws, but had no idea the dozens of variations of them! I was thankful that Paulette had a cell phone and Jim was close enough to the house they were working at to let me know just what type he wanted. It sort of went like that as we went down the list, looking for various items.

Jim and the boys were home about 10, and it was then they discovered some of our Cornish cross chickens thought the grass was greener on the other side of the chicken wire. There was a spot on one side of the chicken tractor where 2 overlapping pieces of chicken wire were not wired together securely enough and 8 chickens managed to get out. Our German Shepherd must have discovered them, and it probably was a fun game to make them run and then catch and shake them. The event must have happened not long before Jim drove up the driveway, as the boys said the chickens were still warm. I was a bit concerned when Andrew related over the phone that Jonathan and Peter were out butchering those chickens. We now have chickens the size of Cornish hens in our freezer. At least they cleaned up before I got home. It could be worse; we could have had raccoon or porcupine in the freezer, waiting to be cooked!

This morning Jonathan took a head count of our Buff Orpington chickens, and discovered that 4 of them were also missing. At least we still have our lone rooster! Time to work on those chicken pens.

Today Steve was over to help Jim set up our irrigation system, complete with pump to bring the lake water up the hill and to the garden areas. After a lot of trial and error they now have it working. We are so thankful for no more hauling of water in a tank on our trailer. We are also very thankful for the lake; what a wonderful source of water for the gardens. The friend they attempted to help with haying (the baler broke down) lost half of his many strawberry plants because their slough dried up and he was unable to properly irrigate without traveling 2 miles to find water. The lack of rain is causing many problems in the state for farmers and anyone with livestock. Since we have been able to keep up with the watering needs, our garden areas look very nice. Well, our sweet corn will be more than "knee high by the 4th of July." Steve's prediction is that if the corn continues to grow at the rate it's growing, we will have corn by the truckload!