Saturday, December 16, 2006

Part III: Getting Settled

Since all we had on our newly acquired land in the country was our pop-up camper and the semi trailer, we needed to be creative in how we organized. Jim decided his office would be in the semi trailer -- with his "desk" being the clothes dryer that was sitting on top of one of his workbenches. He kept everything in there: from paperwork to our cell phone (that really didn't work unless we walked to the top of the highest hill on the property).

We did not have a well, so that meant I traveled the 15 miles twice a week to use the town's laundromat. What a job that was! I wonder what the town regulars thought when I would drag my huge sacks of laundry in and take over the big front loading washers. I didn't have clotheslines yet, so I had to use their dryers as well. My youngest used to beg me to take him along, since right across the street from the laundromat was the grocery store and a bakery. The donuts tasted great.

I remember the first week we were on the land ... Jim and the boys were over at our old Norwegian cabin cleaning it up, and I was sitting in front of our camper, pretreating and sorting dirty clothes to take the next day to town to wash. All of a sudden I heard the sound of an engine, and lo and behold -- up comes a UPS truck, driving through the middle of the field! What a welcome sight, and yet so out of character so far out in the boonies. I enjoyed having a bit of conversation, and then off the man went again.

The boys and I drove to town one day to do laundry; I took everyone, because I promised them we could check out the county library. It was definitely a disappointment after having a large university library right across the street from us in Fargo, and we also discovered we could no longer order books through interlibrary loan for free. We would have to pay $2.00/book to make a request.

Anyway, it was raining that day, so I wanted to get back to the camper to try to figure out what to make in the rain for supper. There are two ways we can reach our land: one way takes us past 6 homes on 2 miles of gravel, and the other is a very narrow gravel road, with no human habitation. The boys talked me into taking the uninhabited way in, and I regretted it as soon as we got going. The road hadn't been well maintained, and I was not used to driving on loose gravel with muddy ruts from recent rains. There is a hill not too far from the entrance to our property, and I slid down sideways in our van! My heart was in my throat, and I was so thankful that we didn't roll. When we got to the bottom the boys' comment was, "Wow! Let's do that again!"

I don't remember how long it was, but it took a long time to finally get a cement contractor to begin work on our basement. We spent more than we initially expected on our 160 acres, so we had less than we expected for construction of our house. By this time the days were getting colder, and we wondered if we could live on the property for the winter. We checked with a local realtor to see if we had any options in renting a place for the winter; she had a few ideas, but nothing seemed to fit our needs. One morning we awoke to only 27 degrees, and we knew we had to close our time of living in the pop up camper.

The boys were so proud of the "outhouse" they had constructed for me! They thatched one wall to give some privacy, but the other 4 directions were open to the woods. There was also a thatched roof that did keep out the rain, but not much else. The compost toilet consisted of a wooden box with a toilet seat and cover, with a 5 gallon bucket to catch deposits. The Rubbermaid container held wood shavings that we used to add to the contents of the compost toilet. Toilet paper was also stored in the container, since mice enjoyed chewing on the paper. I also made sure there was waterless handcleaner handy. I told Jim this was not exactly a very private place, and come fall when the leaves in the woods fell there would be absolutely no privacy from the workers who were finally starting on the basement! Jim had great plans to use the compost called "humanure" for eventual spreading on our garden areas, but I have had a hard time with that thought. I guess there is a book written on the topic.

Our beige refrigerator was a throw away from an apartment building across the street from us in Fargo. At first we only had the dorm sized refrigerator on the left to use for storing food, since Jim was utilizing the refrigerator and chest freezer to store tools. That little refrigerator was soon not enough room, so Jim relinquished the refrigerator to use it for what it was intended for. The power pole had our only outlet for electricity and was located across the field from our pop up camper. I had plenty of exercise that fall, because I was constantly running back and forth from the camper to the refrigerator and semi trailer, and back again. The compost toilet was located in the woods not too far from the refrigerator and freezer.

Here is a photo of our first home. The camper was supposed to sleep 8, but it was more than cramped for Jim, myself and our 4 growing boys. I grew up in the 70's and so did this camper; it was decorated with avocado green and bright orange cushions, with a bright orange sink. The tent was used to store coolers before I could use the refrigerator, and also towels and other supplies. The tent leaked, so I had to keep everything in Rubbermaid containers. The little canopy was loaned to us by Jim's folks. They arrived for a visit from New Hampshire just 9 days after we moved up to the land. They were such a help to us, since they brought their big camper. We were able to bake in there and eat inside instead of in the cold and rain. Grandpa Bartlett felt sorry for me, and built me a real outhouse!

This last photo is of our "driveway," which is 1/4 mile to the gravel road and our mailbox. It was nothing more than a cattle path. This was taken from close to our mailbox, looking up into our property.


Goodolboy said...

Lynn you got to type faster. Your story is so interesting. Can't wait for the next blog. Little cold last nite eh.

Anonymous said...

I am loving it. Great story. Can't wait to read "the rest of the story".

Marci said...

What a trooper you were. Sometimes it is hard living in a man's world. They don't think like we do. I grew up with 4 brothers and then it was just me and my husband and son. You were REALLY outnumbered.

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Carolj said...

Wow! You guys are, as someone has mentioned, troopers! Thanks for recounting your story. Keep typing. :)

RL said...

Merry Christmas Bartlett Family!

Carolj said...

Hey are you going to put this in your book??

Authentic Farmer said...


We are so enjoying the recounting of your beginnning on your farm! Many things we can relate to! Also,we so enjoyed your bi-annual letter! Your house looks absolutely beautiful! What love went into the building of it and what stories will be passed down throughout succeeding generations!! You are making tremendous and valuable investments in many more ways than one!

Many blessings to you and yours,

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