Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'm Tired

More planting today ... I think if all goes well we will have enough celery, tomatoes and peppers to feed an army! But then at the rate we have company, we are feeding an army. Jonathan told me today he thinks we have the potential to harvest 700 pounds of potatoes; I shudder at the thought of trying to store that much and not have them spoil. We'll cross that bridge as we get to it, I guess. I also know that we go through 10 pounds of potatoes any time I make mashed potatoes, so they disappear quickly around here. Hopefully we'll have time tomorrow to post some pictures of our garden areas. I depend on my 9-year-old son Andrew to download and bring the photos into my blog, and maybe some day he will teach me how to do it.

I sure wish our chicks would arrive soon from the hatchery. The chicks that were brought up here with friends last Saturday are doing well, but I keep wondering how we will manage with over 100 at one time! Last year we started with 25, and Jonathan managed them well. Hopefully we can do just as well this year. Guess I better convince Jim and the boys that the next thing they need to construct is one of Herrick Kimball's Whizbang Chicken Pluckers!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Gardening Express

What a busy day! It was finally my day to get out in the garden and plant; and plant we did! Our whole family was out in force to work in the garden areas. Even Paulette came over to help, and we still didn't finish by the end of the day.

I wish I knew how many transplants we got into the ground today, and it amazes me that we started them all from seeds. I planted all my herbs today, along with peppers of all kinds, different varieties of tomatoes, melons, squash -- and lots and lots of flowers. Our son Jonathan decided we didn't have enough peas, so he planted another row. Then Andrew thought we needed more sweet corn, so he planted 3 more rows! The problem with this is that we haven't had a decent rain all spring, so all of our fields must be watered by hand. We have been using Mountain Fire Keeper's pickup truck with a water tank in the box, but he needed his truck today so we mounted the tank on our trailer and had to take double the trips to the lake to fill the tank only half way instead of full. Jim has the procedure down pat, but as he is leaving next week for a trip, we need to take over the job. All the chores have been shifted down one boy as well, so life has stepped up a pace.

We started our planting experience in bouts of light rain and much wind, and then the clouds would break and it would become almost hot. This went on and on all day, until finally the sprinkles quit about mid afternoon. I can't imagine what the grain farmers around here are doing, as they certainly can't be watering their fields. It's becoming a very big problem.

Paulette and I had just gone into the house to make a very late supper, when the boys announced that our friend Chris and Mountain Fire Keeper were here! Apparently Steve got as far as an hour away from here when his pickup broke down -- conveniently in the town near where Chris lives. Steve had parked his car over here, so he took off for his appointments in Grand Forks, and Chris stayed for supper. Never a dull moment around here.

Hopefully tomorrow I can finish up planting the rest of my flowers. No rain in the forecast for the rest of the week, so we'll be busy watering.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Little Bit of Everything

Well, it was another busy weekend. Lots of fun, food and fellowship! Three families met at our place on Saturday, which made a group of 22 or so. What a grand time for our boys, as out of 13 children (including ours), 12 of them were boys! The only time we saw them was at mealtime.

Sometimes it takes new people to help you learn to appreciate what you have. One family had never been up here before (they were the ones that sold us our goats), so Jim took us all for a grand tour of our property. Dawn was so excited at everything she saw, commenting on such things as all the burdock plants and how they could be dried to go into essiac tea to take for cancer. I had been told last fall by neighbors that they are noxious weeds and should be destroyed! We walked down by our old log cabin to where the barn used to stand (there is nothing left of it now); there is a slough there, and as we were talking a loon swam as close as I have ever been to one to check us out, and another from a distance away began its long, mournful cry. It was beautiful! Made me appreciate where we live.

We now have 50 Cornish Cross chicks brooding in a metal watering trough, which is situated in our hoop house. Our son Jonathan rigged up a heating lamp, and they seem to be thriving in there. Those chicks were not exactly planned for, and our regular order from the hatchery will arrive some time this week. Then the flock will swell by about 65 more chicks. The Cornish Cross chicks came with the company yesterday. Life is getting interesting! I need to learn how to care for these chicks as well as milking the goat in one short week, as Jim and Jonathan will be leaving for a trip to Iowa, where Jim was invited to speak at the Iowa homeschool convention in DesMoines.

This morning our son Peter and I spent quite a bit of time trying to scrub used motor oil from the hair of 2 of our cats. I have no idea what or how it happened, but our one long haired cat must have gotten dunked in the oil. Jonathan found him when he stepped out to milk the goat, and he sure looked miserable. We scrubbed and scrubbed him with Dawn soap, and then rinsed him and used a hairdryer to dry him off. Needless to say, he was not a happy camper. I just hope he didn't ingest too much of the oil, since we don't know when it happened or if he tried to clean himself off during the night. I had just taken a shower to get cleaned up myself when Peter brought in the other cat to clean up! This one fought any attempts to clean him up, so I cleaned him up as best as I could and let him go. Haven't seen him yet tonight, so I hope he is okay as well.

Then 2 days ago we discovered that our German Shepherd is having skin problems. The troubling thing is it is located where he had his hide pulled back during a fight with something about 2 weeks ago. No one seems to know what it is exactly, but a couple of people have wondered about mange. We are treating him often with colloidal silver, and hope that will help. Samson is losing hair in that area and has small spots that are scabbed over. I sure would appreciate it if anyone has a clue on what it is and what to do about it. So far it hasn't seemed to bother him, but it sure bothers me.

Tomorrow is garden day for me. We drove over to Paulette's health center to pick up plants today, and it was then that it decided to start raining. So, we'll give it our best shot tomorrow. I have been so busy with getting ready for company and working that I haven't done much in the gardens yet, so this is my turn. I can't remember all that I picked up, but there were peppers, tomato plants, melons, herbs of all kinds, and lots and lots of flowers. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Just the Highlights

Our family is still around, just been too busy to write on our blogs. I feel like it's been hard lately to even catch my breath! Forget about putting away our winter clothes, jackets, etc.; they were all thrown into our semi trailer to put away another day, as we are into gardening with both feet. Mountain Fire Keeper has kept us all busy with everything you can think of -- and that has been good for us. We are so new to this agrarian thing that we need him to coach us in what to do when. Today we spent the afternoon planting annual flowers in Paulette's health center garden areas, and hopefully tomorrow we can get busy on our own flower beds.

The weekend whizzed by, as it was filled with company. A family of 8 stopped by on Sunday, and when they found out that more mutual friends were coming on Monday they decided to stay over and fellowship with them as well. I think I ended up serving supper for 25 people on Monday night! I am so much looking forward to some day going into my root cellar and pulling what I need off the shelves for crowds of company. With the size of our gardens this year that would be a real possibility, but we have yet to even think about building a root cellar. I just discovered tonight that this weekend will once again be filled with company, as 3 new families will be coming on Saturday.

I was more than a bit tired after the activity of last Sunday through Tues., so Tues. afternoon I thought it would be a good idea to get my 6-year-old to take a nap by taking one myself. It was rather hot and muggy out, and I had been attempting to wash clothes. Anyway, I was almost asleep when I started feeling water dripping on me! Turns out the copper pipes that run from our wood stove into an old shell of a water heater on top and then across the ceiling to the regular water heater at the back of the basement were sweating from humidity! My side of the bed hugs the water heater, and so I receive the drips from above. Needless to say, Jim needs to get those pipes insulated as soon as possible! I guess it felt like sleeping in a leaky tent.

Jim had a real education in what it would have been like to have girls in the family (we have 4 boys) ... The first family that came to visit had 6 of their 9 children with them, and 5 of them are girls. We took them for a walk through our property, and more often than not there would be a scream from one of them because of the numerous woodticks that kept accumulating on their skirts! I have been around boys for so long that I found it quite amusing. Even I have gotten hardened enough to pick the critters off by myself without so much as a shudder! I draw the line at pulling off the large blood filled ones from the dogs, though!

Tomorrow will be another day of cleaning up, baking, cooking and gardening.

Jim and the boys built this little 12 foot sailboat (in Jim's office!) when we still lived in Fargo; it has provided hours of fun for them. Since we moved up here they use it to sail to the deeper part of the lake, then jump off and swim. The edges of the lake are very slimy and full of leeches, so it's much nicer to swim in the middle of the lake.

Two of the little girls that learned about woodticks while they were visiting us!

Susanna visiting our goats Ned and Ebony; Ebony has the twins which were born on the trailer just an hour after arriving here.

Most of our friends love bluegrass as well as we do, so the boys always take time out from playing "Capture the Flag" and other activities to jam together.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Catching Up -- At Least Trying To

Life seems to be moving at an accelerated pace these days. I have been working the past 3 days at Metigoshe Ministries, where we lived for almost 2 months after it become too cold to live in our pop up camper and before moving into our basement. They have a summer camp for children, and I helped another lady clean up in the kitchen area. Talk about heavy duty cleaning! I am still sore from scrubbing and painting. It sure was beautiful out there, though, as the camp overlooks a lake.

Life didn't stop here while I was gone ... The boys continued to plant and water in our garden areas, as well as working on other projects. Today I got home about 6 p.m. to discover our friends from an hour or so away had brought their tractor with an attachment to break up enough land to double our garden areas! I think we will then continue to work on that land so it will be ready to plant next year. This family consists of Chris (24), and 3 of his younger brothers, and also Chris' sister and family. It's so amazing to me how people are willing to bring a tractor from that far away to help us out with our garden areas. We then all ended up at our friend Paulette's (she knows this family as well) for supper. We all contributed to the meal.

Another friend showed up today to help Jim check our bees. She came from an hour away. Linda has her own hives, so is very knowledgeable in bee keeping. They discovered that one hive was gone. Jim suspects that something happened to the queen bee, so the rest just moved into the other hive. He is going to try to figure out what happened, but we may never know. We are very thankful for Linda's help.

North Dakota is a very interesting state. I was reminded at supper tonight that the population is somewhere around 600,000, which isn't much for a rather large area of land. One of our discussions concerned how interconnected so many families are, in spite of large distances separating us. When we lived in the city we started getting to know other families in the state that would be considered Christian agrarians. Most of these families homeschool and live in rural areas. Knowing one family leads to getting to know other like minded families, and this is how the network began developing for us. Our goats came from friends that live about 4 hours from us. Much of our bee keeping equipment came from another family living almost 4 hours from us. Our German Shepherd came from a family living 5 hours away. And yet, we keep in touch and it doesn't take much for the families to find a reason to get together.

Last summer friends put together the Bottineau Gospel Music Festival in town, and many of our networking friends attended and even played and sang at the Sunday afternoon event (lots of us are into bluegrass music!). Quite a few stayed overnight at Metigoshe Ministries so we could have times of fellowship, and in the morning there were 65 of us eating breakfast at our friend Paulette's health center! I don't know what is going to happen this summer now that the gas prices are skyrocketing, but I have a feeling there will be the same desire for fellowship and people will continue to meet.

On Saturday Jim and everyone but our youngest and me will travel 3 hours to Bismarck to the homeschool graduation ceremony there; Jim will speak and the boys will play a few songs. I will stay home to milk the goat! We have a couple coming on Sunday from at least 4 hours away to visit with us (they sold us our goats), and more from the Bismarck area may arrive on Monday. Fellowship is so sweet -- and so necessary! I guess I may have to wait a while longer to try to catch up on things.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

This is Not a Hobby Farm

While the boys and I were on our trip east we visited some friends. The boys were asked to play some of their bluegrass music, and they were more than willing to oblige. Afterwards one of our friends said something like, "I think I see why so many famous musicians came from farms; they had nothing else to distract them, and played music all the time." I had to bite my tongue not to dispute that statement, but thought I would do so now.

I don't think people realize just how much work it is to live on a farm. I am busier now than I ever was, even busier than when the boys were younger. Sometimes I feel badly that we keep the boys so busy they fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow at night! It is a good kind of busy; not busy work, but actual getting something done type of busy, when you really feel at the end of the day that you have accomplished something worthwhile. I remember a friend's reaction when I first told her that we had found our "place in the country;" she told me I didn't know what stress was -- just wait until you move to your land! And she was very right.

When people would ask us what on earth we were going to do with 160 acres, Jim would tell them we were going to farm. Even I thought he was crazy, as neither one of us were raised on a farm. Jim is a visionary, and knew what God had in mind for us well before I could catch the vision. I guess I was too caught up on the details of packing and moving. How do you jump in and start farming when our 160 acres was raw land, with no buildings, utilities or even a road in? It really wasn't until we met our friends Paulette and then Steve (Mountain Fire Keeper) that Jim's vision began to take shape for me. I began to see the possibility of raising our own food, and becoming more self-sustaining in other ways. We are seeing progress, but have a long ways yet to go.

We do not have goats just to give the boys more chores to do, but to actually use the milk and maybe eventually the meat. I want to use the milk to make soap. The chickens that are coming soon will provide us eggs and meat. If everything goes well we will have our own honey, and may even have some home grown grains to work with. Our garden is huge this year, and we will be busy come harvest time. I better find more canning jars at garage sales! Can't wait for our raspberries to produce enough to make jam; the boys are more anxious than I am, since last year's supply barely made it through the winter (they like a little bread with their jam). I've always wanted a horse, but the horses we'll have over here will be work horses. Jonathan will purchase an extra deer license this fall -- not just for the sport of the hunt, but because we love venison.

Anyway, this is what the Lord has in store for us. I guess it's time for me to take out my mountain dulcimer and get practiced up.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Trying to Get Back to Business

The boys and I are back after spending 8 days on the road and visiting with friends and family in northern Minnesota. My family lives over there, and it was such a blessing to see everyone after almost a year. That is way too much time in between visits.

Our travel time was so much different from a year ago ... Instead of being bored with the scenery of endless plowed fields, the boys were noticing how dark and rich the soil was in the Red River Valley of North Dakota, and even my 6-year-old commented, "Wow, they must have put three inches of sheep manure on that field!" I guess we are slowly growing in our knowledge of farming! They even spent a lot of time checking out all the tractors and other farm machinery they saw along the way.

Jim was very busy while we were gone, managing the animals and garden areas. We now have 1/3 acre of raspberry plants, along with a large area of potatoes. I gasped when Jim told me on the phone that he had picked up 50 pounds of seed potatoes! Needless to say, we have quite a few yet to plant! We still have transplanted strawberry plants and other things to go into the ground. Tonight may hold snow for us, so we have all the plants in the house to keep them safe.

On Sunday some friends delivered a billy goat, along with a milking goat and a pregnant goat. In about an hour our number of goats increased to 5, as the pregnant one gave birth to twins! Jim did a great job of milking, and the boys have started to take over that chore. I must admit it's a bit overwhelming to be mobbed by 3 goats and 3 sheep whenever someone enters the pen! Jim tells some very interesting stories of how he had to milk the goat when we were gone and the billy goat wouldn't leave the other one alone. Glad it was him and not me!

Every time I head to my folks' home I feel sad, because I have to drive by land that was once farmed by my Grandfather; it is now scarred by a very large, hideous gambling casino run by the local Native Americans. It's amazing to me how many of the locals have spent their retirement money in that place. I also felt sad when we took Hwy 5 across ND to get home Monday night and saw many abandoned farmsteads. What a common sight these days.

Well, I better close for now and try to catch up on a few of other people's blog entries; I have missed hearing about what everyone has been up to!