Saturday, March 22, 2008

One of Those Days

My day actually began about 2 a.m., when my youngest woke me up with the statement that he couldn't breathe. David had an eventful day on Thursday, when he threw up 11 times (we counted). The next day the flu symptoms turned into cold symptoms, and he was stuffy and had lots of mucus in his throat. Somewhere along the way I came down with the same thing, and now Jim has the same symptoms. I was hoping for an uneventful day.

Right after lunch I was folding towels when our son Jonathan came in with a "Mom, we have company!" Friends stopped by on their way to visit the husband's parents, who live at Lake Metigoshe. It was nice to see them, although I had a little trouble talking since I was so plugged up. At least being sick gave me an excuse for the mud that had been tracked in and not cleaned up, as well as other things sitting around. Right after they left the boys informed us they had discovered the big chest freezer we have upstairs must have quit working somewhere along the way, as everything in there had thawed. Oh no!

Samson our dog thought it was the neatest thing, since he was the recipient of some of the thawed food. We all sorted what was okay to keep and what was to be tossed. I got busy and pulled out the pressure canner, as the raw pork and venison was thawed but still cold. I think I should have raw packed the meat, as the finished product looks a bit mushy, but I'm sure we will use it. I'm very thankful for the experience of almost 2 years ago, when our friend Steve, along with our family purchased 200 former laying hens from a Hutterite community about 3 hours from here, and we spent quite a few days canning the meat. I sure was tired of the odor of chicken fat by the time we were done! That canning marathon helped prepare me to do this meat canning on my own.

We left some chicken and other mostly frozen meat in a couple of coolers outside, but the weather forecast calls for temps in the low 40's tomorrow, so we'll have to do something with it in the morning. I sure hope whatever Jim did to the freezer worked, and it works, so I won't have to do any more canning.

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's Official: Some of Us Must Now Be Farmers

I think we have crossed the threshold of officially being considered farmers. (At least my 11-year-old son Andrew must have crossed over!) Here is a comment I received from friends who live the city we used to live in; we caught up with them at the homeschool convention:

It was great to get a chance to talk and catch up on your life and the happenings in your family. I know your boys are getting a great education because when Andrea showed Andrew the juggling balls she bought he said, “They feel like a chicken gizzard when it’s full of grain.” I must admit my kids will probably never know what that actually feels like, but now they have some idea!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We're Back

Our family returned on Sunday evening, after attending the North Dakota homeschool convention. It was very strange to be gone for 4 days, and during that time, we lost a lot of snow. Mud season is now upon us, but we still have snow in the fields. Maybe our septic system will finally thaw out!

We were packed like sardines as we traveled the 4 hours to Grand Forks. After unpacking we headed out to do some errands. I must admit I felt like I was in Heaven to have had the opportunity to visit 3 thrift stores on our way to the city! I just don't understand how people can pay full price for the clothes we were able to purchase for such inexpensive prices. We even managed to hit the Salvation Army thrift store on a day that gave us half off on any clothes we purchased. That was wonderful, since our second son has grown over the winter to just 1/4 inch shy of 6 feet tall, and was in dire need of jeans and shirts.

It didn't take us long to become very tired of shopping, with all the noisy, irritating music, too many selections, and too many people.

It's amazing how the homestead spirit can also be used while in the city; on Thursday another lady and I managed to serve 50 people out of our hotel room for both lunch and supper. The group consisted of convention volunteers and their families, and it went very well. I remember when our family made a trip out to Montreal back in 2002 and I carried along everything but the kitchen sink; I have since moving up here learned that "making do" is actually less stressful than trying to pack too much and then dealing with where to put it all.

We were blessed to have "Farmer John" Mesko and his wife Lisa and girls of Lighthouse Farm and Authentic Agriculture participate at the convention. John gave a workshop and had a booth, where they visited with many farm families and agrarian hopefuls. Meskos just completed a new instructional DVD concerning fencing, and we were happy to receive a copy. The boys and I also tasted some of their cheese sausage, and it was great!

Conventions are a lot of work, but so worth it. The keynotes were Reb and Bev Bradley of Family Ministries. Steve Demme of Math-U-See was also in attendance, and gave a couple of workshops. Jim did workshops regarding college at home and ND legislative action. Our oldest son Jonathan did a workshop on evaluating a political candidate. I spent most of my time manning the homeschool association's booth, and really enjoyed visiting with people. Compared to other states, North Dakota has a small convention, but we encourage parents to bring their children and make it a family time together. It was so enjoyable to meet a lot of new people, and I even met a new friend who reads my blog! Thanks, Janice, for introducing yourself to me!

This week we are trying to pick up the pieces of everything we let slide until after convention, and looking forward to warmer weather and more time outside. Spring can't be too far away, since we've already spotted Canadian geese overhead.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Can't Wait for Spring

I have spring fever, and can't wait for the snow to melt. It seems like this winter has been dragging on and on. I think it was a month ago when our toilet stopped flushing ... Not a good sign, when we are so new to all of these things. Jim and the boys did all kinds of things to figure out what was wrong, using a snake, garden hose -- you name it -- to see if something was blocking the pipe to the tank. We had the tank pumped out last May, so we didn't think that could be the problem.

Friends came over to see if they could think of anything that could be wrong. They brought over some type of equipment that is used for blockages, and it seemed to help. However, when one of the guys went out to open the cover in the area where the sewage would head to the drain field, they discovered that it was frozen! Now what? Jim contacted a guy that pumps out septic tanks, and he said he would come out the next day and do the job. I guess there have been other places out here with the same problem. We've had some very cold nights (with wind chills of -40 degrees) and the days not being much better, with not enough snow cover. I guess that makes the frost go deeper than we would like. We also should have laid more hay across the drain field last fall, as it probably mulched into the ground.

Andrew had to use the snowblower to blow enough snow out of the way so the man's truck could get to the cleanout (sorry, I'm not good with proper names of things), and after about 3 tries the truck made it up the slight incline. I find it interesting that out here it's okay to take the stuff and spread it onto any available field. We had to make sure the guy wouldn't get stuck wherever we wanted the sewage spread, so Jim had to drive around a bit to find a good spot for the deed. After all that, we were charged $95.00 -- his winter rate. We breathed a sigh of relief, and hoped for an early spring to thaw things up and get the septic system running again like it should.

Well, this weekend the toilet once again stopped flushing. There's a pipe opening just outside the bathroom window (we are still living in the basement), and we've discovered that if we take the cap off and pour some hot water down there, it will help to get the toilet flushing again. Jim went through all kinds of contortions to figure out how to do our own pumping, and got some equipment all set up. However, whatever he did wouldn't siphon anything out. His next thought was to use an extra sump pump we have, but decided to wait it out a few days and see if something would resolve itself. At least the toilet is flushing again, but we are being careful with it.

I have discovered that one very important personality trait to have when living in the country is flexibility, and the ability to roll with the punches. Another important trait to develop is a good sense of humor.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Morning Visitors

Last Friday morning Jonathan and I were the first ones up, and when I let the dog out, he started barking. Jonathan looked out the kitchen window, and the above photo is what he saw. There were two moose in the valley! The white area in between them is our cow path that leads up to what we call our big field.
By then, everyone else was up, wanting to know what was going on. The boys snapped a couple of photos, but by the time the moose stood up and walked away, there was no more room on the digital camera's card. I guess our object lesson for that day was to always make sure the card is empty!
On the bottom right side of this photo you can see something that is made of poles and standing tipi fashion; that is my clothesline. The 2nd winter we were here we had a cow moose staying close to that area for three whole days during hunting season. I guess these moose like our area, as we discourage snowmobilers from utilizing our land, and they are less bothered here. A friend came by on Saturday, and said he had just seen a moose down in our bog area.

Guess we never know what we will see next in this beautiful Turtle Mountain area!