Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What a Day!

Well, it was one of those days today ... We looked out the window and down the hill to see our 6 month old German Shepherd in the sheep pen. Peter ran down to get him out, and discovered Samson had pulled some wool from the head of Tilty, the sheep that only has sight in one eye. I don't want him to forever be afraid of us, since as a lamb he was mauled by a dog and lost the one eye, and now it seems to be starting all over again.

We thought we had taken care of the problem, when later in the day we once again discovered both dogs in the sheep pen; this time one of the sheep had a bloody ear. Now comes the fun part -- learning how to train dogs to leave farm animals alone! This will be quite a challenge, and we welcome any ideas.

On top of that -- I came down with the flu!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Packing Up

This afternoon my youngest talked me into going in search of his camouflage hat. Ever since his older brother's camo fabric face covering arrived in the mail, he has figured he needed one as well. So, we headed out to our semi trailer to look for the right Rubbermaid container.

When we finally found this land in the Turtle Mountains 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.

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 individual 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.

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.

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."

Even though we have moved into our basement, we still use the trailer for storage of anything that will not be damaged by temperature extremes. That is where David and I found his camo hat!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Keeping Close

My Mom called today to visit, and told me that she and Dad had gone to the local mortuary and picked out their caskets and made all the arrangements for their funerals. That certainly is a sobering thought. When we moved out here we added another 4 hours to the already 5 that it took to get to see my folks before we moved from the city. It made me think back a bit to my family's upbringing.

Mom was raised on a dairy farm in northeastern Minnesota. She was the youngest of 6 children, and couldn't wait to get off the farm. My Dad was raised in the city on the Iron Range in MN. They raised us in a little housing subdivision a mile from a town that boasted 862 people. There came a time when Dad heard of some land in the country that was for sale and wanted to build out there, but Mom would have nothing to do with it. She wanted to live in town, and so we did. Farm life had been hard for her.

Through the years our family has been compared to one of Mom's sister's families, regarding the fact that they were much closer as siblings and got together for any and every occasion to celebrate as an extended family. I have thought about that, and really feel the major difference between our family and theirs was the fact that my cousins were raised in the country, and we were raised in the city. My brothers and I were not that close, because in the neighborhood we all had our own friends to play with, and who needed then to play with siblings?

Yesterday I took a break and walked down the 1/4 mile driveway (which needs lots of gravel since it was just a cow path when we moved up here and will turn to mud when the frost leaves the ground!) to get the mail, and passed our two youngest boys building a snow fort by cutting blocks of snow out of some drifts that had become crusty on top. They were having the best time ever! They are each other's best friends. The same is true with the older boys as well, and no one has a problem interacting despite the age differences between the oldest and the youngest. They will be close friends for life.

I also keep remembering a comment that Mom made to me a while ago, when I talked to her on the phone and told her of our experiences with helping friends butcher over 80 chickens (plus bantams and ducks -- all in one day). She said to me, "Your Grandmother would be so proud of you!" I guess at this point in my life, that is the ultimate of compliments!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Misadventures with Goats

I thought I would continue my story about our goats.

In May 2005, a friend of our son Jonathan decided to give us one of his best milking goats; her name was Shalom. I haven't been around farm animals much, so that was a whole new ballgame for me! Jim and the boys had created a makeshift goat barn ahead of time, which was mostly of tarp and rough cut logs surrounding some live trees just down the hill from our basement, and near the lake. There was enough room in there for the goat to get out of the elements, and a milking stand that Shalom enjoyed sleeping on. I left the milking to the boys. Every morning and evening they would milk her, and she gave quite a bit of milk.

One Sunday Jim and the boys drove over to some friend's for the day. (There are times when I feel very ready for a day of peace and quiet, so I elected to stay home.) We didn't have any fencing yet for Shalom, so the boys staked her in the valley with a collar, chain and thing that screws into the ground. Needless to say, Shalom must of had it figured out how to unscrew the thing, and she would make her way up the hill and stick her head by the door and bleat, asking for company.

At this time we had just acquired an older dog (maybe about 10 years old), who was Pyrenese/Australian Shepherd. His name was Shiloh. We had another female dog named Selah who was 8 months old and 1/2 Border Collie, 1/4 Blue Heeler, 1/4 American Eskimo, but Shiloh immediately took over as top dog. Selah is a very timid dog, but felt it her duty to try to herd Shalom around; however, Shalom didn't take kindly to that notion. Shiloh kind of stayed away from the goat, but kept a wary eye on her.

Jim and the boys were gone quite a while, and I wondered when they would get home to milk the goat. All of a sudden, Shalom's head appeared in the screen door window, and the dogs started barking fiercely. I ran outside and grabbed the goat's chain, and she took me for a run around the house and down the hill, trying to get away from the dogs. She ran right into her shed and up onto the milking stand -- which was an indication to me that she was more than ready to be milked. Because of my lack of interest in milking I didn't know what to do! So, I called my trusty friend Paulette, and she came right over to help out.

Apparently goats get used to someone's way of milking them, and we weren't doing it the way she liked it. The whole time Paulette was trying to milk her she kept lifting her hind leg; I tried to hold it down, but then she would kick out both hind legs! The milk was spilled, and we kind of gave up after Paulette did the best she could. We fed her some hay and left her in the shed for the night. Turns out on the way to our friends' farm our van had lost its transmission, so Jim had to borrow a vehicle to even get home that night.

My niece was getting married Memorial weekend over across Minnesota, so the boys and I took the trip over there. Jim stayed here so he could work and take care of the animals (we also had chickens by this time). The day we were due back Jim had to make a trip to a city about 3 hours away, so there was a space of time when no one was here. Unfortunately, Jim forgot to put Shalom in her shed before leaving, and somehow after he left she had gotten her stake loose again and came up the hill. Shiloh must have decided it was time for him to do something about it, as when the boys and I got back the poor goat was dead.

There was a mystery about Shalom's death. Though there were claw marks on her body, there wasn't much blood. Some people were wondering if Shiloh had actually killed her, or if she had fallen and broken her neck. The boys and I were so upset that we didn't feel like doing an autopsy but just buried her, so we couldn't go back and reconstruct the scene of the crime. We gave Shiloh the benefit of the doubt, and kept him.

More friends heard about what had happened, and offered to loan us one of their goats. They even brought her over to us! Her name was Esther, and she was a smaller goat than Shiloh had been. She didn't give us as much milk as Shalom, but we were thankful to have her.

One Saturday Jim and the boys had gone somewhere and I jumped in the shower. Esther was staked closer to the house, more in a woody area and she was enjoying eating the brush. As soon as I shut the water off I heard Selah barking hysterically. That meant something was going on, so I rushed to get dressed (not easy to throw on clothes when wet!) and ran outside. What I saw was Esther's head pressed tightly against a tree trunk and Shiloh attacking her! The poor thing had tried to get away, and instead had become even more of a captive. All I remember is getting very angry, and grabbing a walking stick that one of the boys had left outside, I started beating the dog. He ran off a few paces, but then tried to go back at the goat. Finally he ran off. I was shaking badly by then, but managed to free the poor goat and ran with her down into the goat shed. It was then I noticed that Esther's back was torn from Shiloh's claws, and she had cuts in her neck from the chain being wound so tightly around her. I knew Esther was badly frightened and hurting, but what I think is so strange about goats is that they have absolutely no facial expressions to reveal their emotions or physical well being.

About this time our son Peter showed up after cutting grass near an old Norwegian cabin we have on our property, and I asked him to help me do something with Esther's wounds. This is when yesterday's blog comes into action, as it explains about using People Paste to take care of her. Esther quit giving milk that day, and it was the last day of Shiloh's life. Esther's wounds healed up with just a bit of scarring. We gave her back to the owners later in the season, a bit worse for wear.

I want to make goat's milk soap, so we'll have to try again with another goat or two. This time I guess I should learn how to milk!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wonderful Healing Herbs

In October our 6-year-old ended up with a case of ringworm. We have no idea where it came from, or how he got it. The poor little guy had spots all over his chest and back. We treated it first with Tea Tree Oil, and a bit later when it seemed it wasn't helping, we tried Oil of Oregano. I don't know if it was coincidence or if the stuff really helped, but all the spots disappeared. Tonight I was helping our almost 12-year-old son Peter treat his spots of ringworm with Tea Tree Oil, and praying for his healing (can't figure out how he got it when it has been over a month since his brother had had it clear up!), when I thought back to last summer when Peter had an accident.

One Sunday in July we participated in the Bottineau Gospel Music Festival; a lot of our homeschooling friends had come to play in the afternoon of music as well. Many of them stayed overnight at Metigoshe Ministries in the bunk rooms (most have large families) or over at our friend Paulette's health center. Some had originally planned to tent it in our field, but with the amount of rain we had had, they would have been slopping in mud. Quite a few stayed overnight until Monday, and some of us took the children over to a camp to go swimming -- the girls swam where the swimming area is supposed to be, and the boys over in another area. There had been so much rain that spring that most of the landmarks and usual shoreline was under water. As usual, the boys couldn't just go swimming, but had to make a mud slide and took turns sliding down the hill in various contortions.

Blissfully unaware of what was happening, the girls and younger children finished playing in the water, and we hiked over to where the boys were supposed to be swimming. I got there just as my husband Jim was leaning over our son Peter, who was sitting in our station wagon. Apparently under all that water there was broken glass, and after sliding down the hill into the water he began to walk out and felt something sharp. Peter didn't think too much about it, and went up to wait his turn to slide down once again. This time he managed to walk on the same spot, and deeply sliced the underside of his foot, just under the big toe and 2nd toe area. When I got to the car, Jim was packing "People Paste" into the deep wound. Jim is always so cool and calm under emergency situations and I tend to get a lot more excited, so I was very thankful that he was there. We had just begun carrying an herbal first aid kit in the car, so the Paste was available to use.

Peter was very sore, and we had him keep off his foot for a couple of days. Every morning and evening we had him soak out the People Paste in a foot soak of steeped Comfrey leaves (I was very thankful that Paulette had grown Comfrey in her garden), and then we repacked the wound with People Paste. I felt sick when I saw the cut, as I knew if we would have still lived in the city we would have taken him in for stitches, but that wasn't an option up here.

I wish I could remember just how long it took, but for sure within 2 weeks you could hardly detect that there had even been a cut! I was so amazed, and it made me much more determined to learn what I can about the healing properties of herbs and other things found in nature.

For anyone not knowing what "People Paste" is (I didn't until we read the book, "Ten Essential Herbs," by Lalitha Thomas), it is a combination of equal parts of the herbs (in powdered form) of slippery elm, goldenseal root, and myrrh. This is what the author says, "Externally, People Paste is famous for help with wounds, rashes, infections, and burns. In my experience this amazing formula prevents infection while it pulls wounds together and greatly decreases the chance of scarring. Even on larger wounds the use of People Paste has led many to think that the wound had been stitched by an expert." We even used it on our 2nd goat after one of our dogs attacked and wounded her. (Needless to say, that particular dog is no longer living.) With the goat, we sprinkled the People Paste into the wound (the dog's claws had pulled down the skin and exposed the raw flesh) and then wrapped her with an ace bandage so she and the flies would leave the area alone. There was a bit of scarring, but she was fine.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Memories of Metigoshe Ministries

Well, it was a beautiful day out today, so Jim decided we should all take a walk and head to the state land that adjoins our property. It is always hard for me to take time off and do something like that, since there is so much to do around here. We finally got going after lunch. There are plenty of unwelcome snowmobile tracks on our land, but at least they packed down the snow and made it easier for everyone to walk the trails. The air was very still, and so even into the state land we could hear a hymn playing from the carillon located at Metigoshe Ministries, a Lutheran retreat center about 3 miles from our property.

Our homesteading in a pop up camper lasted about 3 weeks. Fall is not the time to do camping this close to the Canadian border, and the night that decided our move to warmer quarters was when the temperature dropped to 27 degrees! Jim's folks hauled their pull behind camper all the way from New Hampshire to be with us, and that was a true blessing. They had enough room to squeeze us all in for a warm place to eat meals and to get out of the rain. Our 4 boys took turns sleeping in their camper each night, and that was a real treat! Grandpa Bartlett felt sorry for me having to use the compost toilet in the woods, so he built me a real outhouse! It was officially finished the day they left, and that was the day we moved into Metigoshe Ministries.

Jim had scoped out the retreat center before we moved up here, and friends of ours had stayed there while visiting us only 5 days after we had arrived here. The center had 2 bedrooms in what they call their Life and Growth building -- part of an old church that had been moved to that location and were willing to rent to us. It was great, as there is a common area just out from the 2 bedrooms where we stayed that had an apartment sized refrigerator and a stove, as well as couches and a foosball table. Upstairs were dorm rooms where people stayed when there were retreats. There was also a nice bathroom with 2 showers on the main floor. It wasn't the most private place in the world as during the day people would be walking through, so we felt we needed to keep things straightened up as much as possible. That could be a stressor for me, as we needed to be out of there for times when the church used that building, and it was my responsibility to keep the bathroom and main area cleaned up.

About the time we moved into MM the contractor began work on the basement and the well driller came to drill our well. The phone company also trenched in our phone cable -- so that day we had 3 things going on at the same time! Jim would usually leave early in the morning for the property, and I would try to get some homeschooling in with the boys -- unless Jim needed the older boys to help him in what he was doing, and they would go along with him. I would try to have meals prepared and bring them over to the property. It was a busy life!

This lifestyle was certainly not what I had planned, but it was definitely ordained of the Lord. Through our 57 days of living at the center (and 118 loads of laundry -- we counted, as they charged me only $1.00 per load to wash/dry my clothes -- what a change from what I was formerly paying!) we developed a wonderful relationship with the staff, and whenever they need extra hands we are called upon to do the work. Our son Jonathan vacuums over there twice a week, which gives him a little income, and whenever they need me I go over to help out in the kitchen, do some cleaning, or work in the office. There are also many other ways that they have blessed us.

The center's carillon arrived the first week we stayed there, and the boys helped to carry all the equipment up to the bell tower where it was installed. On quiet days we can faintly hear hymns playing during the day on the hour from across our lake, and it reminds me of the surprising blessings the Lord gave us through Metigoshe Ministries.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Reminiscing About Water

Well, I have spent most of my "free time" the past 4 days patching jeans! I know there are many people that don't care how many holes there are in their jeans, but I prefer my family to wear hole free clothes. Keeping 4 boys (and a husband) in relatively clean clothes has been quite a chore around here.

I remember back to a few days after we moved up here ... Jim and the boys were somewhere else and I was sitting on a lawn chair in front of our pop up camper, pretreating and sorting the filthy clothes I needed to take to town the next day to the laundromat. Wow, was that expensive! I think I even paid as high as $35/week just to use their washers and dryers! All of a sudden I looked up at the sound of a truck; it was a UPS truck driving up through the field! I couldn't believe he had found us up in the middle of nowhere! What a treat to see something of civilization. He was only delivering a catalog that Jim had ordered, but it gave me someone new to talk to.

The soil up here has a clay base to it, so whenever there is the least amount of moisture we have mud. I should have been used to it as it was the same in Fargo, but it was one of life's little irritations for the person trying to keep the boys clean. Since then I have learned that they don't have to start out every day with perfectly clean clothes, as the only one that cared was me. I'm just thankful that no one sees their underwear, since there are so many minerals and rust in the water that anything white gradually turns an interesting shade of beige. Don't even try to use bleach, as then the whites turn orange! I am thankful to have learned about a laundry product called "Yellow Out," as it really works. I just wait until they are so bad that I can't stand them any more, and then use the product.

While we were living in the pop up camper we hauled water from the state park, since we didn't have a well. Talk about learning to conserve water! We got our money's worth out of that state park pass, since we headed to the park's restroom facilities every 3-4 days for showers. What a change for a former city girl that was used to showering every day! By the end of our travels over there I developed a good case of athlete's foot from using their shower, but thankfully some herbal salve eventually took care of it.

Our well was successfully drilled shortly before moving into our basement; we hit water at approximately 250 feet. That was such an exercise of faith for us, as one well driller we considered wanted us to witch for water. Neither Jim nor I felt good about doing that, so we declined and checked into another driller. Originally Jim had thought the well should be drilled in one location, but the day the drillers arrived with their rig he felt impressed from the Lord to change the location to another one. I think it took at least 3 days for the men to find water. The day the drillers came back to bring the water into the basement (working as the man who dug our basement was doing the trenching) the assistant told me how surprised he and the other driller had been that we had even hit water. For one thing, he showed me that just a few inches from the hole there was a huge rock that would have ruined the point and caused some delays in continuing with the drilling; for another, he said they had tried drilling for someone else just 2 miles away and they came up dry. That was cause for thanks to the Lord, and a celebration!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Getting Started


This is my very first posting! I have thought about starting a blog ever since my son Jonathan started his, but never felt I had the time. That is, until I read a quote this afternoon from an author that was asked about his writing preferences. "... I don't believe the muse visits you. I believe that you visit the muse. If you wait for that 'perfect moment' you're not going to be very productive." So, here goes.

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! The purpose of this blog is not to complain about the difficulties I have encountered, but to glorify God and share with others the life that I experience out here. Yes, it is possible for a city girl to become a country girl, but the adjustment takes more time for some than others!

This will be a bit lengthy, but I wanted to share an article that my son asked me to write for his newspaper, the Dakota Times. This will give you an idea of how I was introduced to "home."

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. My husband 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, as 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, as 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.

Daylight did finally arrive, and the rest is part of the Bartlett family history.