Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Part IV: A Welcome Set of Visitors

I thought I better get busy once again, before people begin to think we gave up on our project!

Here goes ...

As I explained in my last post, our pop up camper was situated across the field from our semi trailer, refrigerator, "compost toilet" -- and electricity. That meant a lot of activities centered around the electrical outlet. I was used to taking a shower every morning while living in the city. Well, the only real way we could clean up now was to make a 4 mile trip to Metigoshe State Park to use their facilities. We sure made good use of our state park pass that year. Approximately every 3 days we would hop into our station wagon to take showers. That was one time I was glad I had boys instead of girls, since Jim had the job of making sure the youngest to the oldest got cleaned up. There was one time when I had to take David and Andrew in to get them cleaned up in the ladies side, so I had to make sure it was just us. This park has very rustic facilities, with no source of heat other than the water from the shower. We had to stand on wooden grates to keep out of the drain, and try hard to keep towels from landing in the not so quickly drained floor to dry off and get dressed. I was thankful that it was after Labor Day, so the park was very sparsely populated and we pretty much had the facilities to ourselves. I did end up with a nasty case of something like Athlete's foot, and was thankful to discover friends in Texas that had developed a salve that took it completely away.

The boys just told me about times when someone would come into the shower room -- only to discover the place was full. There were only 2 shower stalls and 2 toilet stalls, so Jim and the boys made for a full house. I wonder how popular we were in the park.

The state park also was our source for drinking water, so we filled up our 7 gallon water carriers any time we made a visit over there.

Doesn't this look like a good way to wake up? Dump water on my head and make an attempt to style my hair! I am standing in between the power pole and the refrigerator.

Nine days after we moved onto our land we had a visit from Jim's folks. They pulled their camper all the way from Gilmanton Iron Works, New Hampshire to northern North Dakota. In fact, they pulled through the border station at the International Peace Gardens just after the memorial service for 9-11 (in 2004). We sure were glad to see familiar faces. It was a bit chilly, as you can see by the winter jacket Grammy is wearing. Even Jonathan had to keep a hood on to keep warm! The boys had picked her a bouquet of local wild flowers.

Grandpa received a bouquet of Canadian thistle! Of course he played right along with the boys' joke.

Here we are: middle of September, and we are all wearing warm jackets! I used my 18 quart roaster to make everything, from bread to stew to whatever. I did discover that it took much longer to cook something out here, because it was cooking in cooler weather. The same went for my crockpot. I plugged everything into an extension cord that ran from the semi trailer (where I set up my "kitchen" on the workbench in there) to the power pole.

Grandpa B brought an old pump with him to see if we could use it in some way. They decided to submerge it in the lake to draw water up to the top of the hill for using in any way other than cooking or drinking. The boat Jim is in is a little 12 foot sailboat that he and the boys built in the office of our house in Fargo. I think when we moved there was still epoxy glue on the carpet ...

I will have to ask my experts (the boys), but I think this photo shows Grandpa B setting up the piping that would run from the pump to the top of the hill. They purchased a small Culligan filter like the ones used under a sink to filter the water. However, every time they would siphon the water up the hill the filter would become clogged since the water was so dirty.

It's a bit hard to tell in this photo, but by the time Grandpa came into their camper from working with the pump he was soaking wet! It had begun raining.

Grandpa B felt sorry for me, as all we had was the "compost toilet" in the woods (check out my Part III blog entry), and decided his next contribution to the farmstead was a good old fashioned outhouse. This is how it looked as they brought it over to its present location. Thanks, Grandpa!

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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Part II: Our First Night in the Country

This is a "rebroadcast" from my very first attempt at blogging back in January 2006. In order to chronicle our adventures, I needed to add this one to the story.

My husband Jim and I and our 4 sons moved the end of August 2004 to the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota from the "big city" of Fargo, ND. Having lived in the city for all of my life, living in the country has been a whole new experience for me. The boys immediately took to country living and have loved it ever since. My experience has been more like throwing a cat into water! Yes, it is possible for a city girl to become a country girl, but the adjustment takes more time for some than others!

We arrived on our property around 6:00 p.m., later than anticipated. I had only seen the land once, to see if I thought this was the property that God had planned for our next residence. Jim and our sons had already spent two weeks here, living in our 1974 model pop up camper. Jim had decided not to close up the camper the last time he was here, thinking everything would be okay and it would look more like someone was living here. Well, during the week they were gone the area received about 7 inches of rain, and there was a terrible wind storm. When we arrived we discovered that one of the cables to hold down one side of the canvas tent on the pop up camper had broken during the storms, allowing rain to enter the camper. One half of the camper was soaked, including the foam cushions that made up two of the beds. We hauled out the mattresses, and tried to clean up as best we could. I am not a camper, as I enjoy the comforts of a nice bed and bathroom facilities, so this was not the way I had anticipated adjusting to a life of camping!

I did not know what to expect in the way of food storage, so I brought only the bare minimum of food. We had been given a refrigerator, but I soon discovered that Jim was utilizing it for the storage of tools. My chest freezer was also sitting outside -- with many tools inside. We did have a dorm size refrigerator, and that was large enough to store a half gallon of milk and some eggs, but not a whole lot more. Thankfully we had stopped in the town of Rugby to eat supper before arriving, so I didn't have to tackle using the camp stove that night.

Our bathroom facilities consisted of a compost toilet in the woods, located across the field from where the camper was situated. The toilet was originally close to the camper, but Jim had moved the camper across the field to make sure it was out of the way from construction of the basement. The boys had thatched a roof and one wall for the compost toilet, but there wasn't any other source of privacy!

I struggled to figure out a way to sleep all six of us in the camper with half of the sleeping facilities completely soaked. I managed to place Jim on one of the tables that converted to a bed, and used a mat to cover up the wet plywood and rolled out his sleeping bag. The "dry side" table was brought down and Peter (10) and Jonathan (13) slept on that. The trouble was the camper's manufacturer's idea of a double bed is a lot smaller than mine, and Peter kept falling out of bed. I placed myself, Andrew (8) and David (5) on the dry double bed side, and now know the meaning of being "stacked like cordwood."

Bedtime was interesting. We took turns telling each other to "don't look" as someone would change into nighttime clothing. Thankfully everyone cooperated and we all were ready for bed. I needed to "use the bathroom" one more time, and as I was more than a bit on the crabby side I decided to find it myself. I took a flashlight and proceeded across the very dark field and into the woods. I found the compost toilet and did what I needed to do, then got turned around and ended up walking deeper into the woods instead of out. All I could think of was how many beady eyes would stare back at me as I shined my flashlight to try to find the way out! Thankfully I calmed down enough to find my way back to the compost toilet and out of the woods, but my heart was certainly pounding.

I don't think anyone slept that night, as a wind came up and blew in a circular motion around the field and through the trees. I remember one set of trees in particular would rub together and make a kind of squeaking sound. This was the first time in my life I had heard the howls of coyotes, and wondered if they could or would chew their way through the camper's canvas and to us. I felt guilty as I had the two younger boys sleeping with me on the side of the bed toward the outside (they were smaller and the ceiling was lower over there), and was afraid the coyotes could get to them before me. It's interesting how many unreasonable thoughts can go through a person's mind when overtired and very much under stress.I neglected to mention that we did not have electricity since the electrical pole with an outlet was now across the field, not far from the compost toilet. It was a cloudy night, and as soon as the last flashlight was extinguished there was nothing that could be seen -- not even my hand in front of my eyes. It was a very strange feeling to not even be able to see the boys that were sleeping right next to me.

Later that night the rain began to fall. The camper's roof was metal, and what was probably a soft rain sounded more like BB pellets bouncing off the roof. We all lay as still as we could (who could move?!), waiting for daylight to arrive.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Our Move to the Country

I decided I better get busy and journal a bit about our move to the country. My sons had posted these photos quite a while ago.

Our family lived in Fargo, ND, in the heart of the city. Jim taught in the Engineering College at North Dakota State University, and the college was right across a busy street from our house. It was a blessing that he could work from home, then walk over when it was time for his office hours or to teach a class. Jim's desire was to permanently work from home, and no longer had an interest in teaching in a secular university. Many times he would be squelched when attempting to bring his Christian faith into what he was teaching. Besides, he felt the Lord had something else in mind for our family.

We have four boys, and our backyard was too tiny to keep them occupied. We did not allow the boys to play in the front yard unless Jim or I were out there with them, since there were so many people walking by on their way to the university. Jim would take the boys out to state parks or the national grasslands -- anything to give them the freedom they desired to run around and enjoy themselves.

We felt the Lord stirring us to sell our house in Fargo and use the money to purchase land in the country. This search took approximately three years. Jim is originally from New Hampshire and I from Minnesota, but we both felt strongly that we wanted to stay in North Dakota. Our family spent a lot of time doing internet searches, putting out "feelers" by asking people if they knew of land available, and praying for the Lord's direction.

I will blog another time about the adventures we had while searching for land. Finally, on June 30, 2004 Jim called me on the phone to tell me he felt he had found "our land," and gave the owner earnest money. Later that week the entire family took a trip up to Bottineau, ND, and we prayed and felt that this indeed was the land the Lord had for us.

We figured the best way to transport all of our worldly goods was in a semi trailer. Jim found a company that sold old trailers, and one was driven up from the Twin Cities and came to rest on our front lawn in Fargo. I'm sure it was quite an eyesore for the neighbors, but it gave the college students something new to look at as they walked past our house to school. While Jim was spending time up here trying to contact companies to bring in power, phone, water, concrete, etc., I was back in Fargo, feverishly packing up. It was quite a trick to pack everything so the contents wouldn't shift when the semi hauled the trailer the 5 or more hours up to our land.
We were very thankful to have the Kenney family help us with the "big stuff." What a challenge to fit everything in! The work benches you see in this photo are now my kitchen counters in the basement we are living in. Boxes were loaded first, and then Jim's shop tools were placed at the end of the semi trailer.

There is an ordinance in Fargo against front yard parking, so approximately 5 days before our actual moving date a police officer showed up and asked Jim when the trailer was going to be moved. When he heard it would be within the week, he let us go and we breathed a sigh of relief.

This is the Bartlett version of traveling like the Beverly Hillbillies. We borrowed the Kenney's trailer and brought up to our new land (5 hours away) anything that could sit outside and be exposed to the elements. As Jim was pulling away with this load he almost couldn't make it out of the driveway, since the back end of the station wagon was too close to the ground to make the dip down to the road and the trailer hitch touched the ground. Whew! He made it!

Since we really wouldn't be unpacking for a while, I decided to use a recipe card box and list on individual cards the contents of each box. This made it much slower going in the packing business, but at least I knew when I needed something it would be easier to find. I can't remember the exact count, but my numbers on the boxes reached over a hundred (not to mention what Jim and the boys had packed of their own stuff!). We also packed all of our furniture into the trailer; good thing we never did have much, and what we had was almost all second hand! All the wooden objects needed to be wrapped to prevent scratching, etc,. and I was very thankful that on Mondays a certain thrift store in Fargo had 99 cent sales, so I came home with a lot of cheap quilts and blankets to do that type of packing.

We were thankful that one of our neighbors had a brother who did over the road trucking for a living, and offered to pull the trailer up for a better price than what another company had quoted us. I was a bit apprehensive, as this guy was very eccentric and I thought that if I didn't know whose brother he was I would be afraid we would never see our possessions again! He told us to relax, as his main job was to haul million dollar jet engines all over the country. His family had a lake cabin not too far from our location, and wanted an excuse to go up and do some fishing.
Well, we arrived at our pop up camper about 6:00 in the evening, and at approximately 8:00 the next morning our semi trailer arrived. Nothing to worry about, most everything survived without damage. The trailer was a life saver, as it was parked next to our utility pole where the outlet as located, and I could plug in my toaster oven or crock pot and do a better job of cooking than on the camp stove! I could also store some of our food items in the trailer, and it became our "home away from home."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Always Learning Something New

Our family can add one more item to our growing list of new things learned. Yesterday we got going early and drove 1-1/2 hours to help our friends the Hendersons with butchering and processing pigs.

It was very cold outside, and I felt sorry for the men having to work in such a biting cold wind. Donna and I stayed in the house with their younger boys while everyone else did the pigs in. I must admit I was thankful not to have to watch that process! The pigs were killed and gutted, and then it was time for lunch. When I really stop to think about it, it's amazing that anyone could eat after gutting a pig, but activities like that just become another fact of life when living on a farm. A friend once asked me how I could stand working with dead animals, and I guess I can honestly say if you have to do something -- you do it. Must be part of God's grace in helping me to do just one more farm related activity.

Later in the afternoon we were ready for the actual processing of the meat. Hendersons have a bandsaw that was purchased specifically for meat cutting, and it did a very slick job. They also use it for processing venison, and Jim and Jonathan had a lesson from a great teacher in how to do the various cuts of meat. My job was to wrap all the meat. I sure hope I did a good job, as I don't want to waste any of it. I don't remember how long it took, but I thought we were done with the first pig; however, I was informed that we had only processed half of it! Porkchops, steaks and ribs just kept on coming my way.

We didn't make it home until 1:30 a.m., but we certainly weren't empty handed. One of those processed pigs came home with us. What a blessing it is to have home grown chickens, venison, and a pig raised by friends in our freezers.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just Stopping By

We are in the midst of processing the 2 deer our son Jonathan shot during hunting season. We had planned to take care of the venison during Thanksgiving weekend, but Jim was sick and we just let the meat freeze upstairs. Unfortunately, we didn't let the venison thaw out long enough, so we are kind of butchering rather than processing! That's okay, though, as we love to use hamburger. Goes farther that way.

In spite of the very cold wind chills, the basement has stayed warmer than it did last week. Jim decided to try keeping the floor heat going along with the woodstove, and that has helped immensely. It's still quite breathtaking at night when crawling into my sleeping bag (!!), but it isn't unbearable any more.

My oldest son Jonathan and I are in cahoots together to work on a book this winter (don't ask me where we'll find the time, but we'll manage), facetiously titled, "Improvisational Homesteading: Making Do." The boys have 2 posts already for me to work on in the "drafts" file, so I better get busy. Jonathan posted some photos and wrote about our first goat shed over at his blog. (The link didn't work, so try going to .) You folks will be our guinea pigs, in trying our hand at writing. Jim tells me I need to just do a little every day, but my personality would rather spend lots of time in stretches! Guess I need to just do the best I can.

By the way, I found an interesting little tidbit when going through the mail the other day. This came from a little booklet in a sample issue of "Country Woman Magazine." Here goes:

"Here's a trick to save your hairdo, especially during plowing and planting time. This trick works for me when I sleep, too. I wrap toilet tissue lightly around my hair, holding it in place with thin bobby pins. I tie a nylon net scarf over my head and clip the sides. It's cool because the air blows through, but every hair stays in place while being protected from dust."

Maybe us farm ladies could start a new style! I wonder how it would do under the hood of my parka ...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


After a very cold night, we awoke to 48 degrees in the bathroom area (and not much warmer in the other areas!). It's always the coldest part of the basement, since we section that area off with quilts. The woodstove just can't make the heat go that far back, especially with the quilt barrier. Our trip to Menard's for styrofoam insulation is being expedited, since the weather will only be colder as we progress into winter.

How appropriate: Our 7-year-old had to read the following poem this morning:


I better unplug the computer before we experience another power surge.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Guess the Weather Bureau Wasn't Kidding

This is what we received from the Weather Service for tonight (Brr!):



I guess we are definitely back into winter!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back into Winter

If the weather forecast proves to be accurate, by tomorrow night we will have about 10 inches of snow. Welcome to winter! In the next day or so, nighttime temperatures will drop into the negative digits as well. I am definitely not ready for this, but it will come whether we are ready or not.

I was thinking this afternoon about the bountiful harvest we had this fall. Even though the weather is blustery and we may not be able to get out until the township grader or plow makes its way into our driveway, we have plenty of food to eat. What we have stored is nothing like we used to stock up on in the city, but here it's home canned vegetables. We also have our home grown chickens in the freezer, and upstairs in our shelled in main floor we have a freezer filled with the 2 deer that Jonathan shot for us. It's time to head to our friend Paulette's and pick up more of our potatoes that are stored in her root cellar, but for the time being we are doing okay. What a blessing to be a bit more self sufficient than we have ever been before.

The local radio station reported that the power company is gearing up for possible downed power lines due to very windy conditions, so we filled a few bottles and jugs with water in case we lose electricity and our water pump. The animals are safe in their shelters, and that is a blessing as well.

Jim and I are trying to think of creative ways to keep it warmer here in the basement. At the moment I am reliving the memories of being in our pop-up camper, scrunched up in sleeping bags and piled high with blankets. Our bathroom area in here is reminiscent of our trips to the "compost toilet" (a bucket with a toilet seat) in the woods. The thermometer reads a chilly 55 degrees back there! The first winter in the basement we had 12 inches of insulation at the ceiling, but since we had no windows or upper floor the insulation became soaked with trapped humidity, and rained on us. Last year we had our neighbor that baled our hay make square bales for us, and we used them to cover the roof and then had a tarp that secured them. We were a bit apprehensive, but it proved to be a good way to keep the basement warm. This fall our main floor was built but not insulated, so there is only plywood and rolled roofing between us and the cold air. We are thinking we will have to do some sort of insulation again this winter inside the basement, and I'm hoping it won't be the pink or yellow stuff that sprinkles Fiberglas all over when it's being installed.

A year ago Jim's Mom sewed window treatments for us from materials purchased at JoAnn Fabrics, from a company called Warm Windows. They do a very good job of keeping the cold air that seeps in from the windows out of here. We do have to open the shades in the morning, because without any heat in that area the windows develop ice on the edges. It's also much harder to wake up in the morning when it's so dark in here!

I don't suppose reading this blog encourages anyone to move up to the frozen north country, but as they say, the cold keeps the riff raff out!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm Thankful

I read Marci's blog , where she is asking for our lists of what we are thankful for. Well, one of the top items on my list is my Dad.

Ten years ago, Dad unexpectedly needed open heart surgery, when he had his aortic valve replaced and also had double bypass surgery. At that time he literally died twice, but thankfully was brought back to life. Our third son was only 8 months old at the time, and with these added 10 years, Andrew and also our 4th child, David, were able to get to know and love Grandpa along with their 2 older brothers.

This fall Dad was experiencing much difficulty with his breathing, and we were all concerned. The cardiologist set up an angiogram for him, and that procedure was done this morning. I am so thankful to say that no blockages were found! Dad will need a procedure called cardioversion performed to bring the beating of his heart back into sync, but it won't involve surgery.

I guess it's so easy to take people we love for granted, and it isn't until there is a possible life threatening condition that we realize how short life really is. We are all so thankful for Grandpa!
(Grandma, too!)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Not Quite "Countryfied"

I thought I was doing well with learning to cook wild game. However, when late this afternoon Peter brought in a squirrel he had shot, I balked at the idea of having it for supper. So, the boys went ahead and cooked it up themselves. In spite of the rather charcoal flavor, their comment was, "Well, it tastes like chicken!"

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Back to Blogging

I feel like a broken record when I say that life has been very busy lately ... I really feel that our life up here is even more hectic than it was when we lived in the city, and that is very frustrating for me. To be honest, I'm looking forward to being snowed in!

Speaking of snow, a week ago yesterday we had about 8 inches of the stuff, but by today it was reduced to slimy mud. Not only did the snow melt, but what frost we had came out of the ground and we really have a mess. After a quick walk outside you suddenly discover how many inches you have grown with the help of mud sticking to your boots! We live about 2 miles down a gravel road, and when I took Jonathan to his vacuuming job I discovered the main road is worse than what our driveway used to be! Late in the summer, construction crews removed what tar there was in order to widen and redo the road, and now it's a huge sloppy mess. I'm glad I don't have to travel that road very often.

Last week's midwife conference was a real blessing to me. I was able to get to know some very special homeschool graduates, and hear how they desire to please the Lord in their vocations. I'm sure not all of the girls attending the conference will become midwives, but they will be better prepared for their own deliveries and helpful to others if called upon for assistance. I could tell I was missed at home; this week is being spent trying to catch up and clean up!

I have added some new culinary skills to my list: Cooking ruffed grouse and wild turkey. Both are very flavorful and easy to cook. Crockpots are wonderful for making any meat tender.

On Saturday our friends the Hendersons came to join us for fellowship. Our 4 boys always enjoy having their 5 boys around for a fun time. Their big trek was to head to our pond and trap muskrats. I'm not sure they actually caught one, but they sure had fun trying. The best part was they left with our billy goat; we have a pleasant break from the bellering and his odor! I remember when we first got Ned last May. He was such a nice goat, and I had always thought that billy goats had a reputation for being ornery and stinky. Well, I think he is only a year or two old, and suddenly has matured and the stinky part has come to pass. Hendersons will bring him back in a month, and hopefully he will have accomplished his mission with their goats. Then it's our turn with our goats.

The boys have moved the goats and chickens into the shed that they built just down from my clotheslines. I am so proud of the way Jonathan designed and figured out how much lumber he would need; and then with the help of his brothers, built the shed. Talk about a homeschool project! We are very thankful for life in the country, as they have learned so many life skills.

Deer hunting season opens on Friday, and we are looking forward to the venison. I'm not looking forward to the mess of butchering deer on my kitchen table, but that's the way it is. I think I better place "cleaning freezers" on my to-do list for tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Winter in the Hills

Looks like winter made its official entrance yesterday; woke up to lots of blowing snow. I heard we may have as much as 8 inches. The boys spent yesterday afternoon attempting to get our 1970's vintage snowm0bile to start -- with no positive results. Maybe it feels as sluggish as I do, with all the snow and cold.

Canning is almost done. I would like to try canning a few potatoes, squash and pumpkin, but it's on hold until I have more time to experiment. I am spending the week helping out with a midwife conference that will run until Friday afternoon. I have no expertise in that area, so I am helping with cooking lunches and suppers. Having recently turned the half century mark, I feel like a grandma to all the young girls that are learning this valuable art. What a blessing to see so many homeschooled young women eager to learn all they can about midwifery.

Hope all is well for you, in your neck of the woods!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Trying to Keep Up

It's heading toward the end of October, and I am still canning! We have an interesting time trying to figure out where to store all the jars of produce. We've used up all the good spaces, and now it's time to get creative. I think we plan to build up our bed and use the newly created space for storage of boxes of canned goods. I think I better detail on paper just where we have stored the various fruits and vegetables so I can find them when we need them!

Our son Jonathan and I decided we should try to write a book entitled, "Improvisational Homesteading." Maybe we could tell others what we have done -- due to a lack of materials, finances and knowledge -- with the hope that it would help others to not repeat our mistakes!

One thing I would recommend is if you plan to have a big garden and want to attempt to grow enough produce to last your family for a year: first construct a root cellar! We grew approximately 1200 lbs. of potatoes, and they are now sitting in a friend's root cellar. However, that cellar was constructed of railroad ties which are saturated with creosote, so hopefully they will be okay. We also are working on processing 3 barrels of carrots, and Jim worked hard to rig up something in our semi trailer that will keep them warm enough until we either eat or can them. I have a feeling they won't survive a night of -30 weather, so we'll have to do something to help us out for next year's harvest. I have to keep in mind that we not only processed food from a large garden but also roughed in our house this harvest season, so hopefully we will never have another fall that would be quite as hectic.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Praying for the Fuller Family

Brian and Christina Fuller have a farm in Kansas, and Christina has a blog called "KS Milkmaid". They are in need of prayer right now, and I wanted to share some information so you could help pray with us.

This is Christina's entry from October 10:

Our battle with cancer explained
Posted October 10, 2006 @ 7:57 am

'Dear Friends,

Many of you are aware that we are facing a great battle here on our farmstead. Just when our dream of having a dairy barn is coming to fruition, we learned that my husband has pancreatic cancer. I have been reluctant to address this issue directly on this blog because we have been sorting through all of the information, assessing our options, and trying to figure out how to share this information with loved ones. In the past few weeks, we have been sorely challenged, and drop-kicked out of our comfort zone in so many ways.

His pancreatic cancer is a level IV cancer with a high mortality rate (only 5-20 percent surviving). Often, by the time the medical doctors find the cancer, it is so far advanced that it is nearly untreatable. The cancer has additionally directed itself to Brian’s liver and right kidney. We were led to an alternative practitioner in Oklahoma who is well-known for treating people with cancer with using herbs. After a thorough work up, he shared that he has hopes that Brian can win the battle with cancer. Brian is on 42 different daily herbal supplements to treat the cancer, and build his immune system.

Many of you have gathered in prayer already on our behalf. Thank you so much for your fervent prayers. This is a devastating situation, but one that did not take us by surprise. Brian has been sick for the past year with chronic pain, sudden weight loss, headaches, and stomachaches (all chronic). We knew he was facing something serious. The first medical doctor he saw sent him home with a clean bill of health, saying his only problem was borderline anemia. This doctor said Brian was very healthy. This “very healthy” man spent the next few days in bed, unable to go to work because the chronic pain was so severe. We located an alternative practitioner with the help of a customer, and learned the severity of what we were facing. We chose to go the alternative route because it was less risky to our family and our farmstead business. The medical field admits a very poor survival rate with this kind of cancer. Of course, a medical doctor would insist on chemotherapy and radiation, which would debilitate my husband. His off-the-farm job would be at risk; likewise, our farm would be at risk. Using alternative approaches to healing allows Brian to continue to function with mild side effects in comparison to standard cancer treatment.

Brian has been taking this course of treatment for almost three weeks. He has noticed changes in his health already. For example, the dentist noted that Brian’s tongue was exceedingly brown during his last appointment. It was a hoot, and rather encouraging, seeing him show me that his tongue had regained a normal pink color after only two weeks of supplements. He has also regained five pounds. In addition, Brian has dealt with a severe dry skin condition for over thirty years. It is so severe that his feet crack and bleed. I was suspicious of a fungal infection that invaded the first and second layer of the skin. I sent him to the doctor, who ignored my armchair assessments. The good ole doc gave him a prescription for fancy lotion to keep him comfortable. In essence, he was told he would live with the dry, cracked, bleeding feet the rest of his life. After two weeks of taking yeast and fungal detox supplements, his feet are healing. While these are all very hopeful signs, we still have a long road ahead of us. For every good day Brian has, he has a few bad days. There have been enough ups and downs to cause this milkmaid to feel a bit psychotic. Sadly, today was one of the bad days. Despite being ill, Brian still works his day job, and works here on the farm, refusing to let his illness prevent him from normal activities most of the time. Today, he is home in a great deal of discomfort.
In the past three weeks, I have learned so much about cancer, alternative treatments, the power of prayerful saints, and so much more. I hope to share some of the conclusions of my findings in future articles. The following quote has encouraged me to be an active advocate for my husband’s health. Further, it has taught me that prayer and discernment are vitally needed in this kind of battle.

"Do not let either the medical authorities or the politicians mislead you. Find out what the facts are, and make your own decisions about how to live a happy life and how to work for a better world." Linus Pauling, two time Nobel laureate (Chemistry and Peace)

There are many well-intentioned people practicing a wide gamete of healing. Walking with the spirit helps sort through the chaff so we can claim the kernel of wheat. I pray as you walk through this journey with us you will not feel sorry for us, but join us in seeing an amazing display of God’s love for his people. Yes, God’s majesty can be displayed even if the outcome we dread comes to pass. God bless you this beautiful day! '

Thanks for praying.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Finishing Up the Harvest

Well, fall feels like it left, and winter is in the air. This photo was taken a couple of days ago, and after a night with 40 mph gusts of wind, there are now hardly any leaves left on the trees. I think the prediction was for a high today in the low 50's.

It would be a good day for walking in the woods and crunching leaves, but it's a little bit chilly outside for me! Guess I haven't adjusted yet to the major weather change. Yesterday we were walking around in short sleeved shirts.

Just before our first frost, our friend Steve helped us by covering the rebar and remaking our hoop house. We used it to store our produce that I haven't had time to process. Notice the tomatoes; I have lots of work to do yet!

I've never worked with hubbard squash before, and these are monsters! I will need some boy power to help me with these. The pumpkins are sugar pumpkins, and I am told they make great pie filling. We also have acorn and butternut squash to process.

Here's another crop that came in yesterday. Andrew and David harvested our sunflower seeds, and they were sure covered with a very sticky residue. Looks like we need to buy some Goo Gone.

Looking forward to snacking on those sunflower seeds!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My New House

Our house is all wrapped up!

Jim has been trying to help me post some photos of the "finished product", but Blogger won't allow more. Anyway, the house is all wrapped up for winter! We will do more on the inside, weather and finances permitting. We are so thankful for everyone that gave of themselves to help us get to this point. As I write I am listening to 40 mph winds blowing around the house, and I have a feeling we'll have to do something tomorrow to better secure one piece of house wrap.

Guess we need to find something for a makeshift door, or we may have some furry visitors. Jim plans to store our firewood up top for the winter, so we won't need to make a woodshed out of haybales to keep the logs dry.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Unexpected Visitors to the Construction Site

One morning when my construction workers climbed to the roof (before the shingles were in place and just after the tarpaper was rolled onto the roof) they noticed there was a lot of residue from birds up there. We caught them in the act! The boys have had to chase our Bourbon Red turkeys off the scaffolding on a regular basis -- and they don't give up easily. I've never seen such a curious gang of birds in my life!

Unfortunately, they also leave a "residue" on scaffolding as well!

This is a photo of the completed roof -- hooray! Today they added more house wrap, and are finishing up the sides with sheathing (I hope I have the correct name for the siding). I'm hoping before they are finished for the season (we will be doing insulation, etc. inside as time and finances allow) they will add a door of some type, because our curious turkeys also enjoy coming in for a visit.

This photo of our cat Squeaky kind of snuck into my blog. He was a wild as a kitten, and our sons captured him with a live trap and tamed him. He is definitely a farm cat; very tough and yet friendly to our family. He reminds us all of a lynx, as he has black tips on his ears, with dark tufts of hair there as well.

Friday, September 29, 2006

We Even Have Fun!

In spite of our busy times here, with building, canning and just living, our boys manage to find time to have fun. David and Andrew built a sled for winter sliding, but decided it would be just as fun to use it in the fall! No need for snow, with the help of Mountain Fire Keeper's garden tractor. Maybe some day we will actually use the tractor to till the garden!

There are advantages to pounding on shingles, since the sunsets are beautiful from up on the roof.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Big Game Hunter

My brother and his wife are here visiting for a few days, and brought our son Andrew's gift from my parents for his 10th birthday. Andrew was thrilled to receive a .22! Just as he was on the phone thanking Grandpa and Grandma, our son Jonathan came running in to say there was a muskrat near the house, and for Andrew to get his gun! Andrew handed the phone to me to explain what was happening, and ran out. He then came in a short time later, stating matter of factly that he had shot the muskrat!
Here is Andrew, the big game hunter.

Andrew, enjoying the cake that Aunt Pam made for him. David is enjoying all the attention as well!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Our Friends,The MacDonald Family Singers

Just wanted to write about our time with the MacDonald family. Actually, I will send you to Carol MacDonald's blog and Bonnie MacDonald's blog since they have already told about our adventures!

Our son Jonathan first "met" the MacDonald's son Vincent in a discussion group called the Banjo Hangout, and began corresponding when they discovered they both were homeschooled. Jim's parents went to hear them when they were ministering not too far away, and became fast friends. We were so blessed to have them come and spend 3 days with us. We worked them kind of hard and they had quick lessons about homestead living, but hopefully they enjoyed their time here.

If anyone would be interested in having the MacDonald Family Singers minister in their area, you can check out their website here.

Just an update: My brother Mike and wife Pam are here helping us out; the men spent the entire day yesterday feverishly working to tarp the roof once again, since rain was predicted for late afternoon and night. It is raining off and on again today, and I can very thankfully report that the rain stayed outside this time! What a relief!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Checking In

Just a note to let you know that we are still here, but a bit worse for wear. This past week we had 2 families staying with us: the Henderson 7 from 1-1/2 hours away, and the MacDonald 10 from Massachusetts. we had some fun times together, and the men and older boys in the families worked diligently on our house, installing sheeting on the sides. One side is completely finished, with 2 more well on their way. Then early Friday Jim came down with the flu! While he was in bed all day, Victor MacDonald and Paul Henderson led the charge and directed the other workers' efforts. By Sat. morning Jim was feeling better, but then it began to rain, so that was the end of construction.

The rolled roofing on our flat basement roof took quite a beating with all the activity, and Sat. night's rain decided to join us in the basement. We had just about every bucket, wastebasket and bowl in use, catching water. Unfortunately, someone left Jim's computer monitor uncovered, and now it isn't working. I am now without a monitor while it's being used at Jim's desk. Hopefully we will get our old laptop up and running for the boys and I. Until then, I won't be able to post any photos or blogs unless we can sneak in and use Jim's computer when he isn't busy.

The rain has stopped for now, and we expect frost on the pumpkins tonight. Thankfully, Mountain Fire Keeper was over while we were heavy into the construction, pulled all the tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and onions for us, and reset the plastic for the hoop house back into place so we have all the vegetables inside, covered with blankets. I haven't had time to do any canning lately, so I have a bunch of ripe tomatoes in the house awaiting the water bath. My brother and sister-in-law will be arriving for a visit and work detail on Wed., and then there is the possibility of more families coming to work on the weekend. Never a dull moment around here.

I'll post more when I am able to do it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Photo Journal

Well, the truss company was supposed to let us know when they were going to deliver our trusses. Instead, on Wed. afternoon we received a call from the local lumber comany, telling us the semi driver of the truss company couldn't maneuver his truck into our driveway, so he left the trusses at their business! Thankfully, the next day the lumber company brought them in with a pickup truck and a flatbed trailer. Jim and the boys and the 2 men were able to unload them from the trailer.

One family arrived on Friday night, and set up their tents for a cold night of approximately 40 degree weather. Other families arrived on Sat. morning, and the men set to work on the house. The ladies and young children occupied the kitchen, preparing meals and having a great time of fellowship. It was tough to get the men to stop long enough to eat! Two families came from over 3 hours away, and had to get up early enough to do chores before they headed to our place. I am constantly amazed at how the Lord has blessed us with so many caring friends, willing to sacrifice their time and money to come and help us out. I think both days we had approximately 30 friends here -- including children.

This was the challenge for the weekend: installing 19 trusses up at least 16 feet on the house.

This is a photo of one of the trusses being brought in through my future kitchen window.

Looks VERY SCARY to me! I'm thankful I was inside taking care of children and food!

Getting closer to being done; I think this was taken as the men were finishing up for the day on Saturday.

I think a prerequisite for carpentry is to be part monkey.

What a blessing to have been able to borrow so much scaffolding.

Now it's starting to look like a house -- or a barn! Someone said it looks like they could store their combine in it!

Part of the crew in action.

Getting down to the end.

Is that my son Jonathan way up there??

A job well done. We are so grateful to the Lord that there were no mishaps.

It definitely looks like fall is in the air.