Friday, April 28, 2006

History of Home Schooling in North Dakota

Today Jim asked me to read his latest submission to the Home School Report; publication for the North Dakota Home School Association. I thought you might find it interesting, as the events and comments included so closely relate to what is happening with government controls in agriculture. North Dakota has the reputation of being the most restrictive state in the nation regarding home schooling laws. The home schooling families in this state must constantly be vigilant, as there are many in state government that are ready and willing to take away what freedoms we do have. Our family will be in the hot seat, as Jim is executive director of the NDHSA, and will most likely be traveling to the legislature to testify in various committee meetings.

A couple of years ago I scoured libraries, archives and files of the North Dakota courts, universities, newspapers, home school families and the NDHSA which resulted in an amazing pile of information which gives glory to God in many ways.

In order to organize this mass of interesting information, I personally hired Lori Kenney and Lynn Bartlett to help me create a chronological annotated bibliography which is now being made available as a publication of the NDHSA. Over several months, Lynn, Lori and I read through the documents, placed them in chronological order, highlighted the key dates and names, and noted the thoughts that caught our attention.

This 80 page bibliography begins with the Dyck “It Did Happen Here” story of 1978 and Lynnette Dagley’s inspiration to form the NDHSA in 1983. It then proceeds through the legal battles of many ND home school families to the Bismarck Tea Party and Governor Sinner signing the ND Home School Law in 1989. This bibliography also covers the follow-on vigilance, ND home education activities, family stories, and the 1998 memorial of Clinton Birst. Michael Farris has invited me to spend as much time as needed in the HSLDA Virginia archives to finish collecting the legal details, but I’ll either need helpers or designated funding to make that trip happen.

This bibliographic history is like a series of small windows along a long hallway which gives the person walking down the hallway a glimpse into the past. It helps the reader (1) better understand the present attitudes about home schooling in ND, and (2) ponder strategies, defenses, and Biblical perspectives which have been time, court, and legislatively tested in preparation for future legal and legislative interactions. The details in this bibliography also contain powerful testimonies and wisdom worth sharing with friends and families.

Stepping back to appreciate the broad perspective, I think it is very helpful to remember that there are different ways to view history. For example, the religion of secular humanism views history as the history of man’s accomplishments, where the Bible presents history as God’s interaction with man. As R. J. Rushdoony wrote in his book titled The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum(p. 40), “These two perspectives are mutually exclusive: either God is God, or man is God, and history is either basically God’s work or it is man’s work. The teaching of history cannot halt between these opinions. History is not social science; it is a theological science, because it is an aspect of God’s creation.” The events of North Dakota's homeschool history, seen in light of God's perspective are compellingly interesting, because we are actually looking at the hand of God working in North Dakota, not just a series of factual events or the decisions of man. Most of the Christians who lived this history understood this and acknowledged God in their homes, courtrooms, legislative actions, and the press. We can all be inspired by their actions and encouraged to follow in their footsteps.

The following paragraphs provide an example of the content and format of this chronological annotated bibliography which captures and organizes the history of home schooling in North Dakota is a sound bite format.


Samples from the Chronological Annotated Bibliography of the History of ND Home Schooling

Lynette Dagley, family scrapbook, June 1983. “The inspiration to begin the NDHSA began here at The Black Hills Health and Education Center in Hermosa, SD, June 1983.”

“Children told to testify against parents,” Bismarck Tribune, 24 January 1984, 7. “A judge in Minot ordered three children of a Baptist minister to testify against their parents…on charges of violating the state compulsory school attendance law.”
“…North Dakota does not have a law giving children a privilege against testifying against their parents…” Children were interviewed by a psychologist who found them “likely to be damaged psychologically if forced to testify against their parents…” “states interest in the alleged crime is clearly outweighed by the potential harm to the children and family…”

Gannon, Grael Brian, partial letter to Bismarck Tribune. “…People who seek the freedom to educate their children according to their convictions are only asking to work hard, to do good, and to pay their own way. They are not asking for freedom to neglect their children. They are only asking to do what the state says is its compelling interest: to educate them. And to do it every bit as well – or better – than the state can.” The following closing was not included in the Bismarck Tribune: “To use the law as an instrument to persecute these godly people is a terrible wrong. When we break their hearts, destroy their hopes, and shatter their dreams, we diminish ourselves. When are the people of North Dakota going to say ‘Enough of this shame’.

North Dakota Home School Association, January 1985. 1. Clinton Birst’s letter to pastors regarding homeschooling, and the benefits the association can give to them. “Children thrive better in bad homes than in good institutions.” Reference to Dr. Bowly, educator who had done studies for the World Health Organization. “God has designed the home to be a powerful learning center.” Reference to homeschool dads becoming better leaders and contributing to the church.

Hendrickson, Lucille, “Home Schools: The Final Test,” Bismarck Tribune. “In 1984, the Rev. Thomas and Peggy Patzer and Ray and Lorita Larsen were convicted in Stutsman County Court, and the other couples, Richard and Kathy Reimche and Gerald and Sheryl Lund, were convicted in Bottineau County Court…The State Supreme Court upheld the convictions in January of 1985. Chris Klicka,…said it will not be known whether the U.S. court will agree to hear the case until after the fall court term begins. Mike Farris…is representing the North Dakota parents.”

Klaudt, Edna, “Parents Know Best About Teaching Kids,” Bismarck Tribune, Editorial. “Governments have long considered public education their most important tool for indoctrinating and controlling the young.”

Letter to Mark and Lynette Dagley, 14 January 1986. Opposition letter. “I get tired of unqualified persons, thinking they can do better, because of their religious beliefs. We all have to abide by laws for the safety of Americans. If we break the laws, because of our Christian beliefs we sin against God! Because He expects us to obey Christian as well as public laws…”

Anderson, Rev. and Mrs. Larry, Letter to North Dakota Home School Association, 2 February 1986. “…We have 5 children in school now – kindergarten to sophomore year – and have had to return to the public system due to present circumstances. We are vexed daily with the standards and values being taught and practiced in the public system and we’re working to inform ourselves as to the alternatives available to us….Since then, God has increased our understanding and strengthened our convictions and we are compelled by His Spirit to seriously consider what part we can play and, more importantly, what God would have us do, both for our own children and for others who may be in the situation we are in…”

Birst, Rev. Clinton, Letter to Dr. Sam B. Peavey, 4 February 1986. “…The Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Wayne Sanstead, has softened his opposition to home schooling by indicating that some accommodation is necessary in order to get good parents out of court…The most unusual case we have involves a chairman of a public school board who in frustration removed his children from the public school and enrolled them in a Christian correspondence program. This prompted the county prosecutor to charge the children, then nine and ten, with statutory ‘unruliness.’ At this point, I believe the goal was to intimidate by charging the children with a social service charge in civil law rather than charging the parents with violating the compulsory education law, a criminal violation. We have found it more difficult to deal with the civil law than criminal law. Fortunately, we have reason to believe that the North Dakota Supreme Court will consider the charging of children in this instance an inappropriate use of the law.”

Editorial. “Good parents, good homes, good schools.” The Bismarck Tribune. 9 February 1987. This is an editorial by the staff of The Bismarck Tribune. “It’s clear by now that parents who wish to teach their own children are not just ‘kooks’ and zealots, but reasonable people genuinely concerned about the quality of public education or who simply believe in nurturing their children. There is no danger in home schooling as long as the quality of education is preserved. We don’t all have to come rubber-stamped out of the same mold to get along in this world. The current law is unworkable. Some parents are prosecuted, and others aren’t. School officials are put in the role of detectives to identify home school families.”

Herron, Stacy. “Home School effort falls one vote short.” The Bismarck Tribune. 19 February 1987. It talks about the fact that the bill lost by one vote in the House today. It needed one more vote to meet the constitutional majority. “Although the state lets parents home school, it has one of the most restrictive laws in the country by requiring teacher certification for those parents.”

The Home School Court Report. March-June, 1987. Written by HSLDA. The lead article is entitled “The Front Lines” by Chris Klicka. Mr. Klicka states “The real issue involves who has the authority to dictate how the children are educated: the parents or the public school authorities? The state, in the form of the public school system and the National Education Association (NEA), believes that they alone have sufficient knowledge and ability to control the education of the children.” It goes on to say, “One outrageous argument was raised in a home school trial in North Dakota by the prosecutor. He stated that home schooling was inadequate because the children did not have the educational advantage to be pushed around by a school bully! In other words, it is harmful for the child to be sheltered from bullies because he will miss an important social experience which would have prepared him for life.”

“Hard Times in North Dakota.” Jacqueline McDonald. August 1988. HSLDA received the following letter in August 1988. It eloquently describes the fears and joys of a home school family living in ND in the early 1980’s. This home school mother tells her story of home schooling her children on the Minot Air Force Base during the years when home schooling was illegal in ND. She tells of how she was afraid to tell anyone of her children staying home with her, and how God laid it on her heart to home school and she felt compelled to do so. They became good friends with Gerald and Sheryl Lund but tried to tell no one else of their home school. Her husband asked to be transferred to another state where it was legal, and they were finally transferred to Texas which just had won a major court victory in favor of home schoolers in April of 1986. She is praising God for never having to face a court trial in this case as her husband was in the military and they could not face this. God miraculously protected them! Praise GOD!

Gallagher, John. “Those lawless folk who had to home school.” Legislative Front Newsletter. There is no date on this editorial. He is writing for a column entitled “Reverse Angle.” Mr. Gallagher states “The home school lobby came out a winner in the 1989 debate, and has worked to improve its position in subsequent sessions. But it knows, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, so it will have to keep a presence in Bismarck forever. With this year’s graduation, we’re seeing some of the first fruits of that hard-won but bold and brilliant 1989 legislation.”

Clips from a 1989 possible HSLDA magazine or newsletter. The clip says “1989, North Dakota, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio. February 20 - North Dakota. As part of a rally at the State Capitol 150 home schoolers from 11 states celebrated a “Bismarck Tea Party,” flooding the offices of legislators with hundreds of tea bags with the attached message: ‘The consent of the governed for home schooling, too!’” February 27- North Dakota: Judge Dennis A. Schneider dismissed the child neglect charge of HSLDA members Barry and Kim Fisher, and in a five page decision ruled that simply proving that a child is not receiving an education as required by law is not sufficient to sustain such charges.

April 7 – North Dakota: Governor George A. Sinner signed into law HB 1421, ND’s new home schooling law, which repealed the state’s former teacher certification requirement for all teachers.

Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. Deuteronomy 32:7

Jim Bartlett

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

One More Learning Experience

I am learning not to take things for granted up here. Yesterday our hoop house was finished and we planted cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins in there. I foolishly thought all would be well, not taking into consideration that not only was it chilly in the house but it would be chilly in the hoop house as well. When we checked the plants this morning we discovered they had been frozen! A couple of the pepper plants are okay as is one pumpkin plant, but the rest looked pretty tough. I guess it's back to square one, and replanting. To be on the safe side for tonight we covered the plants with quilts.

We have had some pretty chilly nights around here, and I have to remind myself that it still is only April. I was glad when Jim removed the hay bales from the roof, but that left us with no insulation in the ceiling. We are actually dressing warmer at night now than we did when the temperature outside was below zero! At least the woodstove helps to warm us up in the morning, and the spring sun keeps us comfortable all day. Kind of reminds me of our very cold nights in the pop up camper when we first moved here. We have certainly come a long ways from those days, and I am so thankful for all that we have, and all that we have learned. I guess we need to just keep on learning!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hoop House/Water Supply

The above picture is our finished hoop house. We used old plywood for the wooden side, but purchased rebar for the hoops. Our friend Paulette had extra reinforced plastic, so we were able to use that to cover the hoops. With our friend Steve's help, Jim and the boys did a very good job of getting the structure up.

This is the official entrance to the hoop house; I'm glad we can close it off, as the dogs have yet to learn to stay out of there! We will leave it open during the day and also open up part of the back side, in order to allow the breeze to flow through. At night we can close it off and keep the warmth inside. Jim may install an old wood stove to use if the nights get too chilly (as it did last night, and the night before we actually had snow!). We also may add a stock tank in there, so the water we pull up from the slough can warm up before we use it on the plants.

Here is a picture of the inside. Before we left to spend the rest of the day helping out a friend, Paulette and I planted tomatoes, cayenne peppers, cucumbers and sugar pumpkins. We are growing with open polinated seeds this year, so hopefully we'll be successful in saving seeds for next year. Steve said he was impressed with the quality of the soil, as it was just part of the open field last year. Steve had given our boys the job of running around and around the field with his garden tractor, using some sort of attachment (you can tell I am not farm savy yet!) to break up the "summer fallow." He also helped us with getting dump truck loads of aged sheep manure, and that really did the trick. I guess there weren't any weeds to pull out before we began planting.

This is the back side, which can be opened when we want to allow a breeze to flow through the hoop house. The stakes you see sticking up from the ground are markers for the rows of potatoes/peas/carrots that were planted (I'll have to ask the boys which crop was planted behind the structure).

This method of planting inside the hoop house will greatly enhance our gardening this year, as the growing season is very short up here by the Canadian border. We are so very grateful to the Lord for the resources to build it, and also for our friends Steve and Paulette, who have helped us with the knowledge they have of gardening and also their physical labor.

Emily (Straining Onward) asked me about our well water, and why it was recommended to not use it on our gardens. I pulled out the report we received from the ND Dept. of Health after testing a sample, and this is the information we received.

Specific Conductance: 1467 micromhos/cm: This places our water in the C-3 category, which states: "High salinity water should be used only on soils of moderate to good permeability. Leaching is needed to prevent serious soil salinity." It also stated we are in the S-1 category, as we have low sodium; this comment states: "Low sodium water can be used on almost all soils with little danger of accumulating harmful amounts of exchangeable sodium."

The other categories tested stated:

Total Dissolved Solids: 1100 mg/l -- Satisfactory

Total Hardness: 100+ Grains/Gallons, which is very high

Iron: 0, which of course is low

Nitrate: Less than 2 mg/l -- Satisfactory

For a private domestic supply, this water would be usable, but not desirable (sounds like we need a water filtration system for the house!)

For irrigation purposes, this water may be injurious and its effect on the soil, over a period of years, may prove harmful to all but the most tolerant plant life.

So, with the combination of everything, we will avoid using it on our gardens. It doesn't taste all that great, either, but we do drink it all the time. I learned the hard way that I cannot use bleach in my water when washing clothes, as whatever is in the water mixing with bleach causes my white clothes to turn brown!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Events of the Last Few Days

Well, we are pushing full steam ahead. This past weekend Jim and the boys almost finished our hoop house, but today it was windy and cold, so Jim decided to wait until a more calm day to cover the hoops with reinforced plastic. Hopefully that can be done tomorrow so the ground inside will have a chance to warm up and we can plant in there. They also worked on utilizing an old pump to draw water out of a slough to water the garden. I never understood why some people had barrels and buckets of standing water to use for watering their plants, but after our report came back from the local water testing lab I now can say I do understand. Apparently the minerals in our well water could ruin the garden soil if we continued to use it for watering. We did use our well water last year, but this year it will be out of the lake or slough. Jim needs a better pump to siphon the water out of the lake, though, as it's quite a ways uphill to get to the garden area.

I spent Saturday and today trying to get caught up in the house ... just wishful thinking, I guess. In spite of waking up to a dusting of snow on the ground, I still hauled out our winter jackets, snowpants, etc. to pack away in Rubbermaid containers in our semi trailer. I hope we won't need them again until next fall! I am really beginning to see how "stuff" certainly gets in the way of having a well organized home. Since we have 4 boys I save clothes of various sizes out in the semi trailer so we have them ready when a new size is needed. It does get to be a hassle to store that much in clothes, and I am trying to figure out a more efficient way of doing it. I am always thankful when David grows out of a size, since he is the youngest and I can get rid of another bin of clothes!
Saturday evening we headed over to a neighbor's farm. They live a mile north of us, but we have to take a round about way to get there. Brad and Arlene have lots of sheep, and invited us over to take a look at the new lambs. We have 3 sheep, and Brad will come over one night this week to shear them for us. They are getting pretty miserable as the weather warms up. They would like us to take a few lambs, but I'm not sure if the boys want to tackle that or not. We were asked if we would be interested in taking care of their sheep when they go on a trip, so that would be quite a challenge. I wonder if they would have us take care of their 25 sled dogs as well?

After the boys bottle fed one lamb each Arlene was going to feed the lambs some pellets in a small barn area; one of the ewes got wind of that, so she broke through the gate to get into where the pellets were. This caused a stampede and the barn was more than full of sheep -- to the point where some of the smaller ones were getting stepped on and I even saw one sheep laying on its back on top of other sheep with its four legs flailing in the air! It was total bedlam! I now have a better understanding of why in God's Word we are compared to sheep; they certainly are dumb animals! Arlene had to quickly run around the barn and coax the sheep out with more pellets, and as soon as they saw pellets being poured into troughs they all came running. Thankfully none of the sheep were hurt.
Steve (Mountain Fire Keeper) did another excellent job of planning yesterday's Country Living Skills Workshop. It was very good for our family to listen to the discussion of safety on the homestead. We sure have a lot to learn in that area as well. Paulette did a very good job of explaining what she keeps in a first aid kit, using herbs, charcoal, etc. in place of the usual medicines. We need to get one together so we have it ready. Steve also had a talk on pruning trees and did a walk through of the hoop house. It was too cold for me, so I stayed inside! (It was a typical Turtle Mountain spring day: we started out the day wearing short sleeved shirts, and by bedtime it was snowing!) Afterwards there was a very nice time of fellowship.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Solution to a Frustrating Problem

I thought I would let my son Andrew tell you about another one of our goofs. He was actually writing to his grandparents:


You probably heard that we lost the key to the old house.

We went to the old house and took of some boards off (in between the windows) and got in but the key wasn't in there.
but one of the doors was only locked on the in side so we un locked that. We took out the generator (that was in side) out.
With the generator out we had electricity.
Remember that thing you gave to Dad that you mount on a drill to cut metal?
Well we used it to cut the lock. Then Dad got a combination lock.

Love Andrew B.

(Padlocks don't work well around here!)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thursday Happenings

I think our family accomplished quite a bit today ... It was even nice enough to hang clothes outside. I enjoyed that, as I could listen to the sounds of spring. You haven't lived until you hear the sound of a grebe; last spring when I heard them for the first time I thought something was dying! Those birds are terribly loud. They are once again building their nest just off shore on a clump of bushes that are currently in the lake. Last year one of the boys confiscated a few of their eggs to try out the incubator. Bad idea, because soon after they hatched they died. We won't do that again.

We also have had a family of loons spend the season on the lake. I was very glad to hear them again a couple of days ago, so they must be back this year as well. We'll see if the male does what he did last year -- every night just before sunset he would fly over the house, making lots of noise.

Jim and the boys spent the afternoon putting up more fencing for our sheep. Neighbors have offered us some lambs, and I think the guys plan on getting a few. If that's the case, I sure hope the weather stays on the warm side. Unlike Russ of "Log Cabin Homestead," in spite of having a cement floor, I do not want to have lambs in the house!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Life is Getting Busy

I thought it was going to rain all day, so when a phone call came asking for as many as could come to help do a bulk mailing at the retreat center where Jonathan vacuums -- I agreed to do it. David and I made a quick trip to town for Jim (and choked when I saw the gas price of $2.79.9/gallon), and when we returned, our friend Steve (Mountain Fire Keeper) was over tilling one of our garden areas. Jim and Andrew were throwing the now soggy hay off from our roof, and Peter and Jonathan were weeding in one of the other garden areas. After lunch then, Jonathan, Peter and I headed to work on the mailing.

The rain began about 4:30, but before that the men sure got a lot done around here. The roof is now clear of hay, but Jim was a bit concerned with the rain and wondered if the rolled roofing had been damaged at all when the hay was being removed. So far so good, but tonight I decided to cover as much as I could with plastic, just in case the roof does start leaking. While we were gone the guys also planted potatoes, peas and carrots right into the garden area, and started work on our hoop house. Things are sure shaping up around here! It's supposed to rain for the next couple of days (and go down into the low 30's once again at night), so maybe we'll get some inside work done as well. Everyone was sure ready for bedtime tonight!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Getting Gardens Going

Had a good day today ... Our whole family drove over to Paulette's health center to help with transplanting little plants. I like that type of work; there is something exciting about carefully planting the tender little seedlings into a larger pot. The health center was overflowing with the little seedlings, as well as the little greenhouse attached to Steve's (Mountain Fire Keeper) cabin. So, we brought some of the more hardy plants outside and into the hoop house. Jim and a couple of the boys had been over last week to help set up the hoop house, so the ground was all warmed up and ready. We pulled weeds in there and Steve tilled up the soil; then the boys planted corn, cucumbers and tomato plants directly into the ground. Last year we must have forgotten to harvest some of the garlic plants, and they came up on their own and are doing well.

It was interesting to check out the garden area, as there were quite a few spinach plants that had come up on their own. We had such a mild winter that quite a few things survived and had a good start on growing again this year. I'm trying not to think about the forecast for possible snow for this week, as I was too excited to see green plants growing and thriving!

Last week Jim had gone over to Minot (about 1-1/2 hours away) to pick up what was needed to construct a hoop house of our own. It will be very interesting to see how it functions over here, because we have a lot of wind flowing through our field. I hope the plastic survives and the thing never is blown over. I have always wanted to have a greenhouse, and this is a good start.

After we got home from planting, Jim and the boys started to take the tarp off from our roof. The first year we lived here we used tarpaper and rolled roofing on our capped off basement, and then insulated between the floor joists inside. That was a disaster, as too much humidity made the insulated area mold. So, for last winter we piled a lot of square hay bales on the roof and tarped them. On some of the nice winter days we had a brown solution ooze down from the roof and onto our windows and outside walls, so we knew there was either condensation up there or the tarp was allowing moisture in. When the tarp was removed they found a lot of very soggy hay bales.

The problem I was having inside the house was trying to find the source of thousands of tiny red bugs that had found their way into the house; they were all over! I am not overly fond of bugs, and it was very frustrating as I had no idea where they were coming from. Well, when the roof tarp was removed they found these little bugs all over the wet hay. I suppose they climbed out of the hay, down the wall and through the screens of the open windows. Hopefully when all of the hay is taken down from the roof it will eliminate the problem of these bugs crawling into the house!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Our Latest Adventure

I thought I would give you an idea of what happened this afternoon, from the eyes of Andrew, our 9-year-old:

"WELL...... It has been a interesting afternoon we went to Paulette's again and did some transplanting and when we got back Mom went into the house and said that she smelled smoke just then Peter yield FIRE!!...
I ran out side and Jonathan came running to get the fire extinguisher and I'm glad he did.
Dad kept the fire in control while Mom, Jonathan, and I filled up some buckets and brought them over in the van.
When the buckets were empty we went back and filled up them agene. by the time we got back the fire was out.

Jonathan was the hero!!!

Love Andrew B.

After Jonathan brought the fire extinguisher
over he had to lay down because he was
coughing so much. "

We have a burn barrel, and while we were gone, Jonathan decided to burn the paper garbage. By the time Peter, Andrew and I were back from transplanting at Paulette's health center the task was finished -- or so we thought. I had just gotten into the house when Peter discovered the dried grass around the burn barrel was on fire! Just as I heard Peter tell us about the fire, Jonathan ran in and grabbed the fire extinguisher.

I have two 7-8 gallon water carriers that I keep full at all times in case our power goes out, so I ran into the bathroom area to get them to take in the van. Andrew was outside filling some buckets with water, and Peter grabbed rakes and a shovel. By the time we got over there (it's located across one of our fields) Jonathan was laying on the ground and Jim had slowed down the progression of the fire with a fire extinguisher. We used the water to put out the fire that was burning around the perimeter of the burn area, and then Jim raked the burned area to make sure it was out. Whew!!

I was very worried about Jonathan, as in spite of not having a lot of ability yet to breathe deeply due to his lingering flu symptoms he had run at full gallop to the house to get the extinguisher, and then ran back across the field carrying the thing. No wonder he was laying on the ground; he was very winded. I had him get into the van and recline the seat so he could rest. He is fine, but tired. When it was all over we drove back home and debriefed on how we responded to the incident. I thought we all did well, but need to remember to always keep our garden tools (hoes, rakes, shovels, etc.) in the same place so when/if something like this ever happens again we will know exactly where to go to get them. Peter had to hunt a bit to find the rake, but thankfully he did find it. We will also keep at least one bucket of water handy in case a spark ever escapes from the barrel.

There sure are a lot of things to think about when living in the country! Even though the burn barrel was covered, something somehow was able to get out and start the dead grass on fire. From now on someone will stay over there until the fire is completely out. I'm so thankful that Peter spotted the fire before it got out of hand.


I also want to report that last night at supper we spotted our first woodtick; the thing was crawling around on Jonathan's sweatshirt. Tonight when we looked at the window screen in the bedroom area we noted that we were being swarmed with mosquitoes! Not fun -- it's too early! I guess they too are part of life in the country.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Spring is Finally Here!

I think we are finally coming out of our winter slump ... This morning the boys decided to let out the sheep (all 3 of them) and see how they would do. Of course that meant tying up the 2 dogs, but they cooperated. I wondered how we would ever get them back into their pen, but I guess Jonathan looks like their shepherd and was able to lead them in with a bucket of field peas. They will love being out when the grass starts growing. While everyone was outside watching we saw a lot of spring activity. We are in the path of a flyway, and watched different flocks of sandhill cranes, swans and Canadian geese fly overhead. I never get tired of watching and listening to them! We have also seen woodpeckers, robins, killdeer and even mallards, so it must really be spring.

The boys have been out in just sweatshirts, but Jim and I have been bugging them to keep a hat and jacket on (if I'm cold -- they must be as well!), since it hasn't been all that long ago that they were ailing. It sure is good to see them outside playing again.

Another sure sign of spring: at suppertime there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky.

Thankfully our 1/4 mile driveway is drying out. I had a few interesting times while attempting to get in and out last week, and we finally resorted to driving through the field instead of taking the road. I don't exactly enjoy driving sideways up our hill, but the boys always responded with, "Mom, do it again!" Not after my heart was in my throat, I wouldn't!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Porcupine 102

I sure hope the last 2 Sunday's activities won't become a habit ...

Jim, Jonathan and Peter packed up and drove an hour or so to spend the day with friends, and I stayed home with our 2 younger boys who were still a bit under the weather. It was a rather uneventful day -- until later in the afternoon when we discovered the dogs missing. We called and called, and nothing happened. So, the boys and I gave up and went in to make supper.

From across the lake we could hear our "neighbor" shooting, and that didn't make me feel too great with the 2 dogs missing. This neighbor is one of the organizers of the area's gun club, and sets up targets on his own property for use by the members. It was a warm, sunny day; perfect for target practicing. I had been hoping that Samson would never journey in that direction. I knew Selah would never go over there, since she is so afraid of gunshots.

About an hour later, David hollered that Selah was back, and there were porcupine quills on her. Great -- no husband or big boys around for help this time! (My son Peter's blog entry from last week explains Samson's first encounter with a porcupine: ). I was concerned that Samson (our German Shepherd) did not return home with her, and afraid he was having a terrible time with quills and trying to get them out on his own.

Well, the younger boys and I decided we'd better get busy. Selah is a medium sized dog, so it wasn't too hard for Andrew (9) to hold her while I got the pliers and pulled them out. Thankfully, they were more on the surface, with just 2 on her lip that were really stuck. I was able to pull those quills before she started trying to get away. I went outside with her, and she walked over to the side of the house and picked up a piece of hide with hair and claws -- from a porcupine! Of course I took it away from her and checked it out. Now I knew what the dogs had been up to. You can read the entire story from my son's last blog entry ( -- sorry, I have yet to figure out how to link). Those dogs were attempting to eat the porcupine that my son had shot! Just wait until he gets home tonight!

Anyway, about a half hour later Samson returned home. He was a bit more worse for wear. So much for learning the hard way last Sunday: he had quills around his mouth and on one paw.

Once again we hauled him in the house and set to work. I compare it to trying to hold a moose down while pulling its teeth! Samson quite vividly remembered his slow torture last Sunday with removal of quills, so he quickly became too much for Andrew to hold down while I pulled out quills. I traded places with him, trying to hold Samson down to allow Andrew to do the pulling. At one point Samson came very close to biting me, as he didn't want anything to do with the process.

We finally had to let Samson go while still having one quill on his mouth and about 5 left on his paw. I didn't feel too badly about not getting them all with just Andrew and I working on him, because last Sunday it took Jim, Jonathan (15), and Peter (12) to hold him down and do the pulling. I guess the rest will be the guy's project when they return home tonight.