Monday, June 26, 2006

Taking Time Out for Friends

Yesterday we were invited to join 2 other families for fellowship. As we were heading out on our 1-1/2 hour trip to reach our destination, Jim commented that this was our first longer trip together as a family in quite a while. He was right. Having farm animals sure changes the way we do things. The first year we lived here the friends we went to visit yesterday came our way for a couple of days, and actually brought their milking goats with them on a trailer which was lined with hay bales. They just milked them there on the trailer. We're not exactly set up to do that, and it's pretty hard to bring along a little over a hundred chickens and some turkeys as well as our goats! We didn't get home very early, and Mustard Seed our milking goat was not so patiently waiting for the boys when we got back. Our German Shepherd was apparently bored while we were gone; we discovered this morning that he had managed to chew off the cord that is used to connect the station wagon's electrical system with the trailer's lighting system. Guess that now goes onto Jim's "to do list" of repair items.

The day yesterday was great. No one was lacking for friends, as with just the 3 families there were 20 children -- with only 3 of them girls! My boys were thrilled. It was great to catch up on what has been happening with everyone, and the day passed too quickly.

Later in the afternoon, one of the men did a demonstration on making biodiesel. I normally wouldn't pay any attention to something like that, but it sure was interesting. I think a little less than a gallon of biodiesel was made. Andrew told us that as soon as he perfects his technique he will begin making large quantities of fuel.

We had an interesting ride home ... The fastest way means taking a gravel road that stretches for 20 miles. The sun had already set, but up here it seems to stay twilight all night long, until the sun once again begins to rise. Thankfully we didn't run into any deer, and my husband commented that for that entire 1-1/2 hour trip we only met 2 vehicles. I guess that is why we like it up here!

PS: I would like to post more photos, but somehow, somewhere, someone lost whatever it takes to download them from our digital camera. Guess we'll have to spend some time tomorrow looking for whatever it is!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Joke's on Me

I was happily telling others that we had 4 male cats -- I didn't want to deal with kittens! Well, today we discovered that our youngest cat is a female; not only that, but she is pregnant! I guess it will be a learning experience for all of us, and the joke's on me!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day Activities

Back in Fargo we lived across the street from the university, and every year about this time all the North Dakota kids involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA) would gather for a week's convention. We used to sit outside and watch them as they waited for their group photos to be taken. Well, this is our rendition of the FFA, only our letters stand for the Future Fathers of America! The local drive- in had free sundaes for dads, so we took Jim up there and of course the rest of us had ice cream cones.

In the background you can see Lake Metigoshe, the big recreational lake in our area. Thankfully we live 2 miles from there, so we are away from all the vacationers and their activities.

After eating our ice cream in the rain (yes, it finally rained!), we took a drive around the lake. Just for the fun of it, we drove up to the Canadian border (2 miles north), and this is what we saw:
That is all there is to the border -- no fence or barriers of any sort. The road just ends, and then you are touching Canada.

I wanted to show you another one of our "once in a lifetime" activities up here -- mud sliding! The boys decided they would take the garden hose and run water down the hill to make a slippery, muddy slide. What they didn't realize was that not only was there mud to slide on, but quite a few rocks as well. I now have lots of denim for patching other pairs of jeans.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Present and Past Memories

What a nice, quiet evening ... Jim and 3 of the boys are sleeping out in the pop up camper, but my little guy decided he wanted to stay inside with me. Now to get the dogs to stop barking/howling at the coyotes! We lived in that camper when we first moved up here, and I can honestly say I'm not ready yet to move back in.

Yesterday Jim finally was able to check out my washing machine that died the 2nd day he was gone. Unfortunately, the needed repair part would cost half as much as the price of a new machine. So, for the time being the machine is sitting in 3 pieces under our semi trailer. I was very thankful that a friend offered us one that she had in storage; for a while there I was afraid that Jim would hand me a scrub board and wringer! A couple of days ago I tried hand washing socks and underwear, and ended up with blisters from rubbing clothes together to try to get the boys' socks clean. I'm very thankful to be back in business again and able to slowly reduce the mounds of dirty laundry. Now I need some longer clotheslines to hold everything.


My folks let me know a couple of days ago that our next door neighbor had suddenly passed away. Jack had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure a few years ago, but his death still was a shock to everyone. Hard to believe that our families have been neighbors for almost 50 years. The incident started me thinking about my childhood years in that neighborhood.

Carlton had a grand total of 862 people back then, and I don't think it's grown much since. We lived in a housing subdivision about a mile out of town. Most of the houses came in wall sections and then were set up; my Dad bought our house on the GI bill for $13,000. I was 6 months old when we moved in.

This morning I checked out the online guest book for our neighbor, and it was so much fun to read what some of the now grown up kids in the neighborhood had to say about him. There were probably only 20 houses in this neighborhood, and we all knew each other well. Some families had older kids, but most were close in age to my brothers and me. There was a real sense of community back then, even though we weren't country folks. Pretty much all the parents kept an eye out for the neighborhood kids as well as their own, and we knew if we did something wrong our parents would surely hear about it. If someone was sick, there were meals brought in. I remember my Mom going over to the neighbor's to start up the coffee pot and get things ready for company while the family was at their child's graduation ceremony. We all cared for each other.

It sure wasn't like this when Jim and I married and moved into our house in Fargo. One neighbor came over to introduce herself, but it took a while before others made any effort to get to know us. One set of neighbors did a very good job of keeping their distance, and we knew they weren't interested in the give and take of what I knew from my growing up years. We lived in that house for 13 years, and the neighborhood went downhill very quickly. Private homes were becoming rental properties, and quite a few of them were used for parties every weekend.

I found it very interesting when we moved up here, because very quickly all I had to do was mention my name and people knew who we were, and where we lived. I had forgotten what it was like to live in a small community, and remember determining not to tell the lady at the counter in the post office my name. The first time I was in the post office I was horrified to hear her asking all kinds of personal questions of the people standing in line -- right in front of everyone! I wasn't going to volunteer any information to her! I guess I didn't need to worry about it, as Jim had already gone before me and answered all her questions. Later on I heard the statement that I have found to be true: Most will gossip about you, but when something happens, they will be the first ones in line to lend a helping hand. I don't know if it's true about other farming communities, but it seems like life up here is at least 20 years behind the bigger cities, such as where we lived in Fargo. I like it that way.

I still haven't visited with the lady at the counter in the post office, but I guess I should do that one of these days.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Our Week in Review

I'm sitting here by the computer, trying to keep warm! Amazing that I have been running the woodstove for the past 3 days. When we got up this morning the thermometer looked like it was around 40 degrees, and it didn't seem to inch up much all day long. We are still waiting for a significant amount of rainfall so we won't have to water all the garden areas again, but with all the 50% chances of rainshowers, it just never materialized.

Jim and Jonathan have been away since last Wednesday, so Peter (12) was placed in charge of the farm. And I must say, he has done a wonderful job! No complaining, no procrastinating -- but just jumping right in and meeting all the needs that have come up during these days. Andrew (9) has been his right hand man, and David has pitched in whenever he can. Sometimes I think we sell our children short by not challenging them to new duties and responsibilities.

Peter starts his day by jumping out of bed and taking care of all our chickens and turkeys, and then finishes off by milking the goat and making sure the sheep and other goats are fed and watered. He has also been blogging about his experiences, and you can check out his stories at

Jim and Jonathan will be very surprised at how much the gardens have grown in almost a week.
Last week I spent some much needed time outside in my herb garden, covering the soil in between the plants with hay. We have had such little rainfall that we need to do this as much as possible to keep what little moisture we do get in the ground and not evaporate from the heat of the days. I had asked Andrew and David to help me collect hay, so they asked if they could use our old Cub Cadet tractor to get it for me. I was so thrilled to watch the two of them interact and just plain have fun together. They had attached our old red wagon to the back, and would head to the large round bales, pull off some hay and place it in the wagon; then David would hop on top of the hay so it wouldn't spill out, and off they would go to bring it over to me. When David finally got tired of this, Andrew had him sit on his lap and drive the tractor himself. I really think living in the country has helped to cement some close friendships for life between our sons.

On Friday we headed to a friend's farm about 1-1/2 hours away to pick up our turkeys. They live down on the prairie, and I was amazed how cold and windy it was, compared to being up in the hills. They had had plenty of rain, so it was a good thing we all wore our mud boots! The trip was a very spur of the moment thing, and yet by the time we got there the house was full of people, and we had a good time of fellowship with everyone. We all participated in bringing food, so it was easy to pull together a hearty meal. Chris' sister Rebekah had taken care of our turkeys for us, and it was great to hear her explain how to care for them. They are Bourbon Reds, and I had been hearing how turkeys are touchy when they are newly hatched. We found that out, as out of the 24 that had been brought up to their farm, only 16 had survived. In spite of my protests, we ended up taking 10 poults (I didn't know until tonight when someone emailed that turkey chicks are poults!). Got them home safely, but one died the next day. So, we are down to only 9. I sure hope these survive! I was able to see mature Bourbon Reds at their farm, and they are certainly beautiful birds.

Saturday was another cold, sort of wet day. Our friend Paulette showed up after lunch, and we decided to check out a couple of garage sales that were being held around Lake Metigoshe. The boys were thrilled, as the 2 sales we attended had lots of free stuff, and they came home with lots of new treasures! At our 2nd stop there was a box of microphones, speaker, older 2 way radio and other items that was marked at $2.00; when the older gentleman noticed the boys' interest, he just gave it to them! They have been intrigued and spent quite a bit of time figuring out how everything works. Afterward we took a tour of the local state park, since it was free admission for the day. We spent a lot of time there when we first moved to the Turtle Mountains, because living in a pop-up camper meant no running water or shower facilities, and we would head to the park to fill up with water and take showers every 3-4 days. Talk about feeling grungy! Our day with Paulette was lots of fun, and even relaxing.

David had been bugging me all week that he was hungry for donuts, so I pulled out Jim's recipe from when he was a teenager and we got to work. I mixed, David cut them out, and Andrew manned the deep fry. Then we all ate! As they ate donuts I read to them from a set of books called, "The Kingdom Series" by Chuck Black. It is an allegory of the Bible, written by a homeschool dad in North Dakota. The boys sure enjoy them. I think we have read 2-1/2 books of the 4 book series since Jim left last Wed. The books have been picked up by Multnomah Press, so they will be redone and offered as a 6 book series in 2007.

Today was another relaxing day for us. Peter decided to make a lean to shelter to house more of the goats and sheep, and Andrew and David were working on a wooden pull behind wagon for the Cub Cadet. They were using bicycle tires, but the first prototype fell apart, so they will start up again tomorrow. Later in the afternoon we headed to Metigoshe Ministries to do Jonathan's vacuuming job. We will be glad when he gets home!

Well, tomorrow if all goes as planned, Jim and Jonathan will spend time at Good Farmer John's place in Minnesota. If it rains, they will also stop to see Northern Farmer, but if it's a dry day they will have to plan that visit for another trip through Minnesota. It's haying season! I will be very glad to have them home soon, and one reason is because my washing machine died the 2nd day they were gone! Talk about mountains of laundry to get done!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Interesting Newspaper Article

The farm referred to in this article in located in our area, and Pride Dairy is located in the closest town to our place. I know nothing about cows, but thought this article to be very interesting.

Revitalizing the family dairy farm in N.D.
By Terry DeVine
The Forum - 06/04/2006

John Daniel may live in Los Angeles, but he spends a great deal of time thinking about North Dakota and what he can do to improve the quality of life for farmers in the state.

"The family dairy farm was one of the great cultural and character-building backbones of this country," says Daniel, whose wife, the former Sonja Gillberg, was born in Carpio, N.D., grew up in Minot, N.D., and eventually graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead. "I have been figuring on ways to resuscitate the family dairy farm in North Dakota, ways for people to come back to the state and make a living on a family dairy farm."

Daniel says the production of the highest-quality cultured creamery butter and white cheddar cheese is the answer to the resurgence of the dairy farm in North Dakota.

He says the milk to make that butter and cheese will come from Dutch Belted dairy cows, a breed distinguished in color by a wide swath of white hair encircling the animal's middle in an otherwise black coat. The large belt of white, which inspired the nickname "Oreo-cookie cows," makes this breed instantly recognizable.

The breed was developed from black and white dairy cattle in Holland. Holstein cows, by far the most popular and productive dairy breed, share a common ancestry with Dutch Belted herds. There aren't that many Dutch Belted herds in the United States, but Daniel hopes to change that in North Dakota. Daniel and other investors have formed the North Dakota First Corp. and recently purchased nine head of Dutch Belted dairy cows in New York state, which they will be transporting to North Dakota in July. The cows will be arriving by July 15 at Pay-Dak Farms of Towner, owned by Dale Kuhn and his wife, Pat. Daniel says the Kuhns have a 270-cow dairy operation. The milk will be taken to the Pride Dairy Cooperative in Bottineau, says Daniel, where it will be processed into cheese and butter. He says North Dakota First's goal is to be making butter by October, but cheese has to age six months before it can be sold.

"We plan to make North Dakota First Old-Fashioned Cultured Creamery Butter, a hand-made product with a taste that rivals anything you've ever put in your mouth, followed by North Dakota First Dutch Belted White Cheddar Cheese," says Daniel. He says North Dakota First Corp. will buy milk from the dairy farmers, paying them a higher price than they would normally get, and pay them part of the profit on the butter and cheese that it will distribute to markets around the country.

"We want to help underwrite loans so farmers can get into the business," says Daniel. "We hope to have a million-dollar Dutch Belted herd in North Dakota within five years." Daniel says that once North Dakota First is up and running and making money, he plans to put together seminars and will bring in cheesemakers from around the country to show dairy farmers how it's done.

"Our goal in all of this is to increase the number of farmers involved and their ability to make money in a family dairy operation," says Daniel.

Transportation is a problem in North Dakota, says Daniel, but he is confident North Dakota First will be able to ship cheese and butter by truck to markets around the country.

"I'm just a person with some ideas who wants to make a difference," says Daniel, a lawyer by trade who is working on a book. "We're going to do business with people, and when we finish doing business with them, they'll be happy and better off economically than before they went into it."

Daniel says he admires the work ethic of North Dakotans and always has. "We're going to develop products, markets and opportunities for people. The desire to excel is great among North Dakotans, and we're going to help them do it." Daniel says there are lots of details to work out, but North Dakota First is in the process of doing just that.

We'll hear more from Daniel when those Dutch Belted cows arrive in July.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Photo Journal

I thought you might like to see some photos of life in the Turtle Mountains:
Here is our almost year old German Shepherd, Samson.

This is Ned, our billy goat. We found out last weekend the reason he is so friendly is that he was bottle fed.
This is yesterday's photo of the inside of our hoop house. The watering trough is where we placed the 50 Cornish cross chicks we received last Saturday. We have since then moved those chicks to an outside makeshift coop, and the new chicks picked up at the post office this morning ( Cornish rock -- 50 more of them! and 14 Buff Orpington chicks) are now brooding in the trough. It's hot out today and the chicks were getting overheated, so we opened up the entire back side of the hoop house and will check often to make sure there is enough air flow to keep them at a good temperature.

This looks kind of funny, but it's our makeshift chicken coop! We covered it with a tarp yesterday because we were in for quite a thunderstorm and didn't want anything to happen to the chicks. They seem to be doing just fine in there. We will take another photo when it is uncovered. The structure in the background is where we are currently living -- our walk-out basement. One of our garden areas is located behind the van.

Here is Ebony and her twins, You (no spots) and You-Too (spotted)! Jim named them, as he was the only one of our family here when they were born. They sure have grown up. You is up on our milking stand.

This is a photo of our Cornish cross chicks before they were moved out of the hoop house and into their own coop. Sure didn't take long before they started growing their feathers.

Here is Andrew, driving our "4-wheeler!" It is an old International Cub Cadet that we used when I was growing up (long time ago!). The boys use it for everything, including trips to the mailbox. They have attached our little red wagon to it so they can haul water, rocks, brothers, etc. In the background you can see the hoop house, our new chicken coop, our wood pile that needs to be cut and stacked, and concrete chunks that will some day be used to finish off our walkway. The majority of our garden areas are located on the other side of our hoop house.