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!


Anonymous said...

Hello there!

Yup! I made it back home to the hills! "There's no place like home, there's no place like home!"

I'm sorry to have missed Prairie Days but got quite an education and a fair amount of inspiration from my travels all the way to the gulf coast and back.

Like I said, "There's no place like home!"

Marci said...

Lynn, Prairie Days sounds like a wonderful time. I do encourage you to learn the chores and learn to milk. That is one regret that I have. I made Joshua do most of those type of chores. Now, I wish I had done them with him. The goat milking is all mine now, so I have had to jump in. =)

It is always good to hear from you.

Lynn said...

Thanks for your comments, Marci. I have discovered (and can hopefully some day pass my experience on to others) that I do feel much more a part of farm life if I get out of the house and all the domestic chores there to get right in and care for the animals. Makes life here much more satisfying and enjoyable.