Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone had a really great Christmas that was all you wanted it to be. We had a nice day here. For the first time in 22 Christmases we stayed home and celebrated by ourselves. I must say I did miss the relatives, the hubbub, staying at parents’ homes, all the food and festivities. But with the kids’ schedules becoming harder to coordinate, I think it was time to make the leap to a new set of traditions. Hopefully the kids will come home for Christmas for a long while.

My sister Melissa and my niece Rachael joined us for the day. It was snowing where they were at; they had gotten about 4 inches when she left home. But by the time they got to town here, the roads were dry. I met her at the base of the mountain and we took the 4WD up. It started to snow here shortly thereafter and it snowed off and on all day; it was nice to have a white Christmas. We enjoyed some sticky rolls for breakfast with a fire in the fireplace and Christmas tunes on XM. Steve’s dad makes sticky rolls every Christmas morning; it just wouldn’t quite be the same without carrying on that tradition. It was so much fun to see a little one who still believed in all the magic of Christmas opening gifts. I had picked her up 10 or so little trinket gifts and Melissa brought a few along from home as well. Every gift was opened with squeals and words of delight. She chattered on incessantly about each one.

The ham from the neighbor was really good, we enjoyed it for dinner. I have a pot of bean soup on the stove this morning from the bone and some scraps. I also bagged up portion sizes, enough for 4 meals and put a large baggie in the fridge for sandwiches for the week. We had a fresh veggie tray, potato casserole (a family tradition), homemade rolls, and salad. Not a fancy meal, but healthy and filling.

Rae was hysterically funny as usual, filling the day with her antics. We laughed till we cried. At one point in the meal, Melissa corrected her for displaying a mouth full of food to everyone while singing and dancing a jig on her chair. She got embarrassed and went to hide. A couple minutes later she was spying on us from behind the living room couch. Steve spotted her and she went to turn. She slipped, landing face first on the floor, cutting her lip slightly. I will say, her moments of anguish are just as dramatic as her happy ones. Although it bled a bit, it was just a tiny cut to the inside of her upper lip. She insisted relentlessly that we put a band-aid on it. We tried to explain it wouldn’t stick and had actually stopped bleeding already, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. At four years old, a Band-aid fixes a lot. So, I broke out the Band-aids and Melissa went to work. We laughed till we cried once again.

They took our greyhound home with them. He is just too much of a city dog for us. If I had an actual fenced-in yard, it would be a different story, but I have to take him out on a leash anytime he is out. Melissa goes for trail runs or some other outing daily, so he seems to be a better fit for them, as he enjoys being able to run and get out a bit. Rae of course loves him; she played with him constantly whenever she visited. Melissa says they both are quite sleep deprived at this point, but I’m sure all her loving will level out. She told me Rae napped on a blanket beside him on the living room floor. I’m glad he is going to a loving home. And of course I get to dog sit when Melissa travels.

I hate to think of taking the tree down and putting the decorations away for another year. We’ve had such a wonderful holiday season. I am looking forward to 2008 I think it too will be a wonderful year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

The kids opening gifts

Rae showing off a candy bracelet

Rae with the band-aid on her lip

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Blustery Day

I’ve begun collecting eggs to put into the incubator once again. I plan to collect them for a week to 10 days and then put what I have in and see how they do. I figure the chicks will be big enough to put out in the coop by the end of March. The roosters are crowing like old pros now. I intended to process a bunch them during the 2 warm days we had last week, but one day was extremely windy and the other was filled with work and necessary errands. I’m hoping to have a few warm days in January to take care of that business. My sister Melissa wants to watch and help, so I hope we can work it out. As of now, with the price of feed, they are eating me out of house and home.

The neighbor closest to us, about ¾ mile away, brought up a Christmas gift basket last night. I was so blown away by their generosity. I had taken eggs over to them this fall and occasional loaves of home made focaccia bread, but really hardly know much about them. I did Google his name a month or two after we moved in and found out he invented something to better process fossil fuel and then sold his business to the tune of 80 million, so I guess he can afford to be generous, I just didn’t expect it. I feel a bit awkward, I was going to take over some home baked cookies, but after the lovely gift basket they showered us with, cookies seem a little trite. The gift basket included a nice 9 lb spiral cut honey ham, some nuts, cheese ball, crackers, fancy imported chocolates and a box of assorted tea. I hadn’t picked up a ham yet, but I can tell you, it wasn’t going to be anything like that. What a blessing! Our hunter friend Ben told me Sunday he has a goose for us as well. Anymore, it seems every time I turn around God is pouring out an unexpected blessing; and like just God it is bigger and better than I would have thought of for myself.

While here, they asked if we have seen the lions much. Of course Steve & I have yet to see them. Turns out just last week he was checking on his horses and came upon a fresh lion kill at the spring just to the north east of our place. There were 2 adults and 2 of this years cubs feeding on a deer just 200 feet from our house. He said one charged him and he backed off. They normally are loners and they normally don’t charge adults so not sure what was up with that. Just 2 weeks ago the neighbor on the other side of us had them attack and kill two of their pets. I guess it’s good that we haven’t seen them.

It turned a bit colder today, starting out at 42 this morning and ending up at about 22 as I sit here typing. The winds were howling further up the mountain, although we did get a bit of a blast here at the house as well, with winds gusting to about 40 mph. It started snowing at about 11 a.m., just small flurries swirling around in the wind. As the day wore on, the flakes began to grow in size and intensity till it finally decided to stop around 4 this afternoon. For all the snow, not much really stuck; we probably have about an inch on the ground. I think it was thanks to the earlier warm temperatures.

As I looked out around the time it started to snow and noticed a small herd of elk cows moving across the meadow. I counted about 30. The grazed all day and by dark had begun to work their way up the mountain to find a safe spot to bed down for the night. I hope to see them work their way back down in to the meadow in the morning. It would be nice if they would hang out here for the winter. Several weeks ago I saw 11 bull elk cross our land in about the same place.

About 18 of the elk, the rest were further down in the draw, hidden in the trees.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Savoring the Season

Christmas is just around the corner. This year I am relishing every minute of the preparations; cookie baking, tree trimming, carols, gift wrapping, the old Christmas cartoons, and all the rest. I’m not even minding the antsy-ness of the kids too much. Em has been bugging to open a gift early for the last two weeks; so far I’ve just laughed it off, telling her she has to wait. I did tell her that it’s an old German tradition, and one my family used to observe, to open one gift a day early. I think it must have originated with the very smart idea to relieve parents of the incessant bouncing off the walls that goes on in the days leading up to the Christmas celebration. We may keep with tradition and open just one a day early.

I’ve been working on some cards, mostly for the folks at church; sorry to the rest of you, I am pretty bad about getting cards & letters out anymore. At least I can have a little feeling of accomplishment knowing that a few people will actually be getting a card from me before the actual day passes. And, we have a lot of news this year to share, oh well, maybe next year. I put it on my list of goals to accomplish next year. Ya, well don’t hold your breath on that. Anyhow, cards and getting gifts wrapped and delivered to neighbors, teachers and the like, has taken up my time the last couple of days, and I’ve really enjoyed the creative outlet it has provided.

I’ve been contemplating my goals for next year. I have a long list, for sure. The move side-tracked me in some ways and I look forward to a new season and a new opportunity to get back on track in those areas. I can tell you the urgent is not always the important and the important is not always urgent, and yet I tend to get caught up in the urgent. Laundry has to be done now, bills have to be paid now, unpacking this, that or the other, etc. It is easy to set aside the important, the time with the kids, time with God, etc. because it is seldom urgent. That’s something I plan to work on this year.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last two weeks thinking about what direction I want to be going in 2008. It is sort of humbling to me when I take time to assess where I am, where I have come from, and where I want to be. I’m thankful to have what I have and to be where I am in life, and yet there is so much more that know I can be doing and accomplishing or maybe should have done and accomplished by now. But I think to press on and continue to reach toward the mark even when we have fallen short of our ideals is crucial to future success. So I have a list and a plan for this coming year that I hope to knock out. I’ll keep you posted on how that is coming along.

Here are a few of the cards I've made over the last couple of days.





Em's teacher gift. Her teacher has been so great, I was excited to make her gift extra special.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Well, I made soap this past week and although I wasn’t sure how it would turnout going into it, it seems like I ended up with a nice final product. I “helped” mom make some eons ago when dad butchered a hog, but that was the extent of my experience. I have to honest I was probably 12 or 13 and not sure mom would agree that I was any help, but mom was always good that way about ‘helping” her in the kitchen.

I have wanted to make some for awhile and figured after Thanksgiving I’d be able to get my hands on a large quantity of oil. People are often looking to get rid of the peanut oil they fry their turkey in and sure enough I ended up with 10 gallons of it from someone in town. So all I had to buy was some lye. Next time, I make my own lye from ashes & rainwater, but being this was the first time I’ve attempted it, I decided to buy.

It was pretty simple, 17 lbs of oil, 3 cans of lye and about 80 oz water; I just googled a recipe and lye calculator. Although I have to say the calculator was inaccurate, only calling for 2 cans of lye which initially didn’t set up. But with the addition of a third can, it turned out just right. Depending on the type of oil used, the lye and water can vary. I also added in about ¾ tsp of oil of peppermint to give it a slight scent. I stirred till it began to trace and then poured into a couple of paper box lids that I had lined with a plastic trash bag.

Once it set up I turned it out and cut it into bar sized pieces. It’s now setting in the basement to dry out and cure for about 6 weeks. Half will be ground into laundry soap, with the addition of some borax to the mix, and the other will remain bar soap. I only used half the peanut oil, so I can make another batch here soon. With all the ashes from the fire place right now and all the snow, I just may attempt to make my own potash for this next batch.

It has continued snowing, with an additional 4 inches overnight. I took the kids to school this morning because I need the 4WD to get around. I’ve been swamped with work -Christmas orders, and need to get those filled and run into town today. Steve gets home from China tomorrow; I hope his flight isn’t delayed. The church gals are having a cookie exchange that I hope to make, however if his flight is delayed much, I’ll miss the fun.

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Just turned out onto the counter and cut

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Here is a bar!

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Hershey guarding the tree. It just looked like a kodak moment.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Snowy Day

I awoke this morning to a 4 inch thick snow blanket standing stately on every branch and frosting every boulder. The still quietness and beauty of it all took my breath away. The snow clouds were thick. Just 100 feet up, the mountain was shrouded in their thickness. Small flakes silently drifted through the air. I donned my coat and boots and set out to feed the chickens. Hershey was excited to take a run in it, dragging her nose as she ran along gobbling up snow now and then and tossing her head in the air as she looked back at me, begging me to play along. I charged at her a few times and she ran in circles around me occasionally changing her direction to run directly at me, becoming more excited as I screamed in apprehension. At the last possible second she swerved off to just avoid a collision and gain speed for another round.

As she circled around to make another run at me we were both abruptly halted by a howling cry. It sounded as if it were coming from the draw further up the meadow, like a coyote or perhaps an injured dog. The sound had been swallowed by the quietness too quickly to determine exactly what it was. Then a second time it pierced out, then a third. Hershey silently pointed, ears perked as she waited again to hear the howl. Fully focused, she stood like a statue; tail straight out. Snowflakes silently wafted, landing on her head and back as we waited to hear it cry out again.

With the last cry I determined it was coming from the chicken coop. My heart sunk as I questioned the safety of my flock. I ran, snow flying off my boots and grains airborne as I quickly carved a trail to their house; thoughts of horror filled my mind. As I got closer I laughed as I recognized the cry. It was that of a young rooster attempting to crow for the first time. It was pathetic. If I was a rooster, I’d practice in private till I had it down; no hen could be too impressed by that ruckus. He seemed pretty proud to be the first to call out his roo-hood, even if it was just something like “ar-aaaaaa.” I wondered when they were going to start crowing, seems they were plenty old. Steve will be glad to hear it; he has been asking me when they are going to start.

I fed them and headed back to the house, Hershey was no longer interested in playing. She was more interested in the eggs I was holding, hoping maybe I had one for her; no such luck. When the hens were sick last fall, I had them on antibiotic and fed Hershey the eggs every day, she still holds out hope after all this time.

I brought in an armful of firewood and started up the wood burner. It was a chilly 58 in the house when I awoke. I had gone to bed early last night with instructions to Josh to load up the fire box before he retired. The chill in the air revealed that detail had been neglected. I raked the coals to expose the glowing embers and tossed on some kindling which quickly ignited. Within in an hour or two the temperature will be much more comfortable.

Looks like a great day to stay inside with a fire. As I pause from my typing and glance outside, the C-9s on the Christmas tree reflect off the front window and the fire is dancing in the wood burner. A rabbit is foraging for a morsel under the snow and birds flit back and forth in front of my window, gracefully lighting on snow covered twigs. I have to ask myself, does it get much better than this? I think I’ll go pop some cookies in the oven and turn on some Christmas music.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Miss you brother

10 years ago today, my brother passed away and I just had some things running deep through me that I wanted to put out there:

Bruce, it’s so hard to believe it was 10 years ago today that you passed from this life to the next. If I could, I’d tell you one more time that I love you and how much I appreciated what a great big brother you were to me. Of all my siblings I was definitely closest to you. I remember going home and crying after your funeral when your co-worker from the dairy told me, “Oh you’re the one from Chicago, oh he really loved you, he liked you best. He talked about you all the time.”

Like me, you were very sensitive and tender hearted; you wore your heart on your sleeve. We were both left-handed, struggled at geometry, loved being frugal, had a penchant for drawing, loved Rich Mullin’s music; it seemed we had so much in common. I loved coming over to baby-sit for you & Diane. I enjoyed spending time talking to you about anything and everything. I miss your guitar playing, our monthly phone conversations and the guidance and direction you imparted into my newly married relationship. I always admired how much you loved your kids and Diane. I remember thinking I want my family to be just like your's.

I remember how you would give everyone Christmas gifts even when money was extremely tight, usually something you had made; a part of your heart. When we were kids, you gave me a set of plastic horses that I LOVED, you used your own money to buy them for me. You were quick to give of yourself, whether it was volunteering on the fire department or at your church, or helping re-roof my house or put in our new fence.

You always had a jillion Robert’s Dairy misprinted containers you were quick to hand out for gardening or other projects. I remember too all the random stuff you collected for future projects. Too bad Craigslist didn’t exist then; you would have loved it! Your house remodel was pretty impressive, loved the kitchen you redid, it was gorgeous. You had a lot of talent that way; you were the original Tim-the-tool-man, with all the grunts and sound effects included.

I’m thankful that you taught me how to draw. Although I never got as good as you, it is a part of you that I will always carry with me. I am also thankful that I got to come visit you and spend time with you just weeks before you passed away. I remember the last walk we took together, talking about God, the Bible and just stuff. I found it neat that when you passed away, your bible was found open on the kitchen counter to the very passage we had been talking about on our walk. I remember talking about experiencing God and how impressed we were with how wide, how deep, how great is God’s love for us.

You’d be proud of your kids; they have grown up into fine young adults. Christopher sounds just like you, he looks a lot like you too, so does Ben. Your girls are sweet young women, you’d be proud.

So much has transpired in the last 10 years, it seems hard to believe it hasn’t been longer. It seems, at times, like that was an entirely different life. I still have a hard time visiting your grave site when I visit back home. I remember you so full of life, it is hard for me to go there and just see a stone. But you do live on in the lives and hearts of so many people. I have great joy that I got to spend time with you and be a part of your life and have you a part of mine. I guess I’m most joyful that you had a strong relationship with God and because of that, this is not the end.

I miss you and love you brother.

Ephesians 3:17&18
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ya, I know I’m a day late, this won't suprise those who really know me. But, hope everyone had a happy one with plenty to be thankful for. We had a nice day even though this is the first time we have celebrated alone for probably 15 years. The last 7 years we have gotten together with my sister Deb. She, from Wichita us from Tulsa, would switch houses each year and usually some of the other family would travel down from Nebraska and join in the festivities. But this year was a much quieter time, just the five of us.

I tried to make it simple, just cooking from what I had in the pantry, with the exception of the turkey. I was hoping to cook a chicken instead, since the kids and I aren’t big turkey fans and I just happen to have a spare chicken running around, but Steve wouldn’t hear of it, so I did pick up a small turkey for the occasion. Otherwise it was a pretty simple dinner. We have some leftovers, but I’m sure they won’t last too long. We took turns going around the table telling each other what we were thankful for. It was nice to hear the kids say such nice things about each other, what mother wouldn’t cherish that? We spent the afternoon just sitting around visiting together and later watched Home Alone on TV.

It has been cold lately; got down to 9 degrees last night and 13 the night before. Tonight it’s forecast to get down into the 20s. To top it off we got 5 inches of snow two days before Thanksgiving and with the cold most of it is still on the ground. It was so nice to stay inside and enjoy the warmth –of family, the holiday and the memories we made.

Emily wanted to drag Steve out to some Black Friday deals this morning, but not being a morning person, he convinced her there was nothing any of us really needed that bad. So, for yet another year we have managed to escape the madness. I’m 99% done shopping anyhow, with just a small item or two left to pick up before Christmas.

I am surprised the wood burner has been able to keep up with the temp being so low. The house is 4100 square feet with almost 30’ ceilings in the main living area and tons of windows throughout. But, so far so good! I try to get up and feed the fire when I awaken in the night, but on those nights that I sleep straight through, we awaken to about 58 degrees in the morning…brrr. It usually takes just an hour or two to get it back up to a comfortable level once the fire is going again. I am going through a bunch of wood though. I figure we ended up collecting about 2.5 full cords of wood and I have burned thought about ½ cord to far this season.

Steve found out Wednesday that the company is giving him a sizeable retaining bonus. That was good news! We had a knowing in our hearts before we moved that he may not have his job for long after we moved, and indeed the company is up for sale. They want him to stay on till the sale; enough to make him a very good offer. We don’t know when that will happen or what will happen after that, but I have confidence that all will workout for our good. I’ve believed for increase out of this all, even though my mind wants to think in the direction of fear, lack and uncertainty. We had no idea that a bonus was coming, but I had a specific figure in mind I had been praying for that I wrote down on a paper a couple of months ago, when he called and told me what the bonus was, it was the exact amount that I had prayed and had been thanking God for. I have peace even though there is uncertainty and am excited to see what 08 holds. My mantra lately has been: 2008, it’s gonna be great!

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Becca snapped a picure just before we chowed down! We had:
Sweet potatoe casserole
Olives/red cinnamon pickles
Jello salad
Home made rolls

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Day Off

Steve took the day off; maxed out on his vacation time he thankfully would rather donate the day to me than back to the company. We took a drive up to Estes and ate at the Wapati. He had a 10.00 gift certificate they sent in the mail for his Birthday, so we were able to get lunch together on the cheap. He got an Elk burger and I got a chicken wrap. Our waitress, a young girl, spoke broken English. I couldn’t quite place her thick accent it almost sounded Russian, but her dark hair and eyes contradicted. We visited for several minutes; she was a foreign exchange student from Moldova only in the sates a couple of months. She mentioned how much she enjoyed the area and the holiday festivities, but teared up when she mentioned how home sick she was. We saw a lot of elk in town, crossing the streets and grazing along the sides of the roads.

After lunch we went up to Rocky Mountain National Park for the day. They had already closed the high roads for the season. Bummer since it was snowing up at the peaks but we could only look from afar. There was some snow on the lower roadsides though, so not all was lost. We kept to the lower part just inside the eastern edge of the park, parked near the Bear Lake trail head and took a hike up to Beirstadt Lake. We took the long way…extra long having to retrace our steps a couple of times when we lost the trail. After 1.5 miles, we finally got onto a well-beaten trail and hiked it the rest of the way up to the crest. Dusk was beginning to descend and the temps were getting noticeably cooler as the sun dropped behind the Continental Divide. I knew the lake had to be just beyond the ridge, but we had already hiked for 90 minutes just to get that far and didn’t want to risk being caught in the dark on the way back, hiking the not so well marked path. So, against my deep desire to press on and accomplish the goal, we decided it was prudent to head back. Bierstadt Lake would be there next time we came and we turned around vowing to head up earlier next time.

After we returned home we found out that it was just another 50 yards or so ahead of where we had stopped. It reminded me that there are times in life when we are so close to the answer but don’t realize it, maybe not even till we have backed down. Sometimes we feel like giving up but need to remember that success is just over the ridge. And when we do retreat in defeat or face a setback, plan a better approach for the next attempt and victory will be achieved.

The minister I do some work for was in town and invited us out to dinner, so we drove into town and met him and his wife at their hotel and went out to Texas Roadhouse. We had a great time visiting. We didn’t have time to stop home between the park and dinner, I felt a bit awkward showing up in my hiking gear and had major hat-hair, but they didn’t seem to mind. I brought a few rolls home for Josh; they’re his all time favorite.

On another note, I put the freezer on a timer last month and got the electric bill today, it dropped by eight dollars, to the lowest since we moved in. I’m going to take it down another notch and see how it goes. I haven’t noticed a change in the hardness of the frozen food, so it was a good move. And, I’ve been running the blower on the wood burner sometimes day and night non stop or it would have been lower yet. I have yet to turn the furnace on this year, even though it got down to 18 a couple of nights ago with a light dusting of snow. I’m trying to holdout till Dec 1st to run it. My original goal was Nov 1st, but it’s been a mild winter so far, so I challenged myself to Dec 1st instead. The wood burner has made it more than comfortable so far. Steve has been asking, a little fearfully I think, if I make it to December 1st will I have a new goal of January first? I had to laugh, that’s not my plan. But, then again, maybe warm weather is just over the horizon.

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A view from near Lake Bierstadt

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A beaver dam. Notice the ice....brrr the water was cold!

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Near Bear Lake trail head where we parked

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Buck

Well, it finally happened; Ben, our deer-hunting friend got his buck today. His tag was good though tomorrow, so I was really hoping to see him get a buck soon. He had been working hard for several days with no results, but I just knew that today was his day.

I awoke to a herd of deer just out the front. I watched them for about 90 minutes as they made their way across the front of the house and up the hill where they bedded down for the rest of the morning. Thinking he was in the middle of teaching class, I texted to let him know what was up: “Deer r out xing the hill 10 does n a 4x buck.” 20 seconds later I got a call asking for info. “Man I wish I was there. I’ll get there as soon as school is out.”

When he arrived, there were deer at the front of the property and 3 bucks fighting over a bunch of does up in the draw above us. “There are does everywhere. Man it’s a doefest!” he excitedly exclaimed as he took is cap off and ran his hands through his short sandy brown hair, his handsome boyish face rough with stubble. “There is a buck and several does the other way too, I’m headed up to the chicken coop, think I’ll hide out there, the chickens will help cover my scent.” I watched and saw he was torn as to which bunch to follow, the one lower down with the big buck, or the one above with the 3 bucks looking to be coming down the draw. I occasionally peeked out to see how things were going; darkness was beginning to encroach upon him. I hoped time wouldn’t run out again as it had a couple of evenings ago when he had a nice 4 point buck in his sight that he had to let go.

I looked out again and saw him slowly, steadily moving up the hill. In stealth mode he crouched and I saw the quick burst of fire as the shot went off. He got up and quickly moved forward, steadied himself and got another shot off. We were all out the door and up the hill to see the trophy. It was a medium 2-point buck, but it was heavy enough to take 3 of us to drag it across some rocks and onto a sled which we dragged down the hill in the now total darkness. Guided by a flashlight we finally got it down to the house where I helped him field dress it.

I’m glad he was able to get one, he seemed pleased with it. Steve missed all the fun as he was out to dinner with his Canada group. Next year I plan to get my own tag and take the rifle out and bag my own. But, I appreciated the experience of watching and helping for now.

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Ben with his 2 point buck

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Hunt

Yesterday I picked up a drill press & arc welder from Carl. He sold me both for $250. I thought it was a pretty good deal. Josh wanted to run out and buy a mask and probably won’t stop pestering me till I do. He also spent a considerable time on YouTube browsing welding videos the rest of the day and invited his friends over to see “his” new tools. Wow, what rednecks we are.

I also got a 55 gallon drum, my new burning barrel. I’ve wanted one since we moved in, now I can put my tiny little burning…uh…barrel?...away. It actually is an aluminum pipe coupling I found in the garage, about 18 inches in diameter and 16” high, but it had worked as a burning barrel for the time being. I knew if I waited long enough, I’d get one for free. He gave me hundreds of feet of ½ inch watering tubing for my future garden too, with the small drip tubes already run from it, I couldn’t even fit it all in the truck; I need to make a trip back sometime. I’m psyched about getting that, since its way to dry to ever grow a garden here without extensive watering.

I told him when he gets back in the spring I want to buy some of his cattle gates and cattle guard off him. I hope to have some sort of barnyard put in by then, and that will come in handy.

Today a couple of friends came out to go deer hunting. They saw plenty of deer, but didn’t even get a shot off. They had a buck tag and mostly does came around today. However we got a good chuckle watching from in the house as a huge 7 point buck came up over the berm just 40 feet behind them. His rack was really nice, but they didn’t even see him, they were looking with binoculars the other direction. We kept hoping they’d turn around and look, but he walked right on by them unnoticed. If we had just gotten a picture, it was priceless! I’ve seen that big buck on our land several times over the past few weeks. There have actually been two of them; I’ve seen them fighting lately, they are in rut. Both are nice sized bucks with large racks. Too bad they couldn’t have taken one home. They hope to make it back tomorrow before church to bag one.

I found a generator today on Craigslist and we went to take a look. But, the poster had slightly embellished his description of it, it was older and more used than he had alluded to; too bad since we drove almost 2 hours one way to see it. Well Steve loves a road trip so not all was lost. It was nice couple time too. I’m sure it was a good generator with a lot of life left in it, but I had a hesitation when I saw it, and being a good idea to listen when you have a check about something, we passed on it. I’m sure something better will come along in the right time. I would like to have one since we are on a well and if we lose power, we lose water. Or at the least, someone has to hike up to the cistern and start hauling buckets back to the house in the snow and 80 mph winds. I’d rather opt for the generator! Hopefully we won’t lose power, but it would be nice to have when we go to build the barn, so we can run a power nailer and such off it. But, for now, the barn is in the future as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Unusual Date

Yesterday Steve took the afternoon off and we hung out. We drove around town and found the local cemetery. For some reason I have a strange fascination with cemeteries; I know, probably makes me weird.

I wish I could interview those who have gone before me and see what their life was like. Why, in one case one couple lost 8 infants. Those must have been such hard times. I’m sure it was probably something minor, something that we have meds for today, but it was a devastating thing for them back then. Or how it must have felt for one family to lose their 5 year old daughter and then a month later to lose their newborn son.

It is odd to think that many of them wouldn’t know what an automobile is, let alone a microwave, TV or internet. They wouldn’t understand how to turn on a computer, what electricity is and so forth. It is odd to think that, in many cases, they are wearing clothing from the early 1800s, buried in a wooden box just 6 feet below where I stand. It made me sad to see all the infants, small children and the graves that just have a plain stone as a marker. The small nameless stones I figured are most likely babies, forever to be forgotten by those who visit today. Babies, whose parents who were so excited by their expected arrival and so saddened by their early departure are now just noted by an oversized, scarcely legible, flat rock barely poking its way out of the ground. It would be pretty interesting to know the stories behind the hundreds families who are brought together in death.

Many stones were just a flat piece of sand stone hand carved with a simple name, no dates. Johannas. I thought of those who painstakingly carved the names. I imagine many tears were shed as the tool slowly and repeatedly ran across the stone etching each letter. So simple, so plain, but yet I it represented a life of potential and joy that was snuffed out so prematurely. I was reminded of my own brother’s premature passing almost 10 years ago, and tears came to my eyes as thought about the grief that each stone represents. How many went to their own grave still mourning their loss? And then I thought about God and the hope that we have that death is not a final goodbye. We don’t grieve as the world grieves, but our hope is in Him, the one who himself came out of the grave.

After walking up and down each row, holding hands and commenting about what was on our heart as we observed, we stopped in town and quietly shared a calzone and went home. An unusual but fulfilling date; I felt somehow more connected to the town we now call home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I love Craigslist, ask anyone who really knows me. It’s helping me make our place what I want it to be; and in the process has brought some pretty remarkable people across my path. Today I answered an ad for some workbenches and met an interesting and wise person.

Carl lives near the county line. He built this home, horse barn, party house, shop etc. with his own hands. A well worn cowboy hat sits perched atop his peppered hair, his dark boyish eyes sparkle as he speaks. His weathered skin, dark eyes and high cheekbones give away his Native American decent; that and the 14’ totem pole in the front yard. My guess is he carved that with his own hands as well. The epitome of a mountain man, I guess him to be in his late 50’s although his life experiences lead me to believe him older.

A free spirit, he has his home up for sale, has purchased a yacht and plans to spend the rest of his days sailing the globe. A former horse trainer, Ferrier and auctioneer, he tells me he is ready for a change. He has spent the last 20 some years taking a blank 10 acre slate and making it into an efficient, well-designed homestead for his family. As he speaks, I find his wisdom innate. It’s natural, instinctive and I can’t seem to get enough of it. I ask questions, trying to unlock the deep-seated expertise he seems to spew so effortlessly at the prompting of a simple question.

He explains in detail how he welded the horse feeders adorning the barn he built and how he put the trusses together to look like an old bridge, as if I were going home to do the same. “Check out my corral and viewing station, when you build one, build it like this…” he quipped as he went on to explain the virtues of his design.. “Come back with a camera and take some pictures; if you need help with your barn design, let me know, I’ve built 24 structures, I can give you some good ideas.” I didn’t plan to build a barn when I awoke this morning, but now I was ready to go home and put my hand to it.

I was there and gone in less than 30 minutes, but I felt I had somehow obtained enough wisdom to go home and actually design and build my entire farm, yet at the same time I felt I had just scratched the surface of what he had to share.

“Keep in touch and come back soon, I’ll clean out my barn and you can have what you want…do you need some corral gates?” You bet I do, I’ll take whatever you have as long as I can pick your brain and get some wisdom along with it. Carl thought he was just getting rid of a couple of well used workbenches worth only a few bucks; I don’t think he realized that what he really gave me was incalculable. I look forward to going back this weekend with Josh to load up on some of Carl’s cast-offs and to pick his brain. I’ll take his advice and bring a camera when I do.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Wind

For Two days straight the wind has howled and whipped leaves & weeds through the air. On top of that temperatures have hovered around freezing. I dreaded having to take the dog out before I retired to bed, but finally decided I had put that chore off long enough. Stepping out into the brisk night air, I heard the wind surging through the pines on the mountain. The roar was deafening, sounding like a mighty rushing river. I had a feeling it would be a long night, full of creaks, bumps and thumps.

Being on a mountainside along a winding canyon brings sustained winds through the likes of which most don’t see. I now understand the pines I saw as a kid that only had branches on one side or were so gnarled that they reminded me of a decrepit old man with a walking stick. Many here have closable shutters to keep the windows from blowing out. We’ve been told by the neighbors that our position, sheltered by a berm and large boulders (several times the size of the house), shields us somewhat from the brunt of things, although for the last two days I’ve not been so sure. We had 106 mph wind the first week we were here, but summer had moderated the winds for the most part. However once again we are in the windy season, said to last till May. Yesterday I awoke to find the grill had blown from the back of the house to the side. It’s a large stainless steel grill requiring two people to move. This morning I found the 210 gallon water tank in the front yard. I had been held in place by a 2’ high deck, but had lifted over and went around the side of the house, planting itself in the front. It has become somewhat of a game lying in bed trying to figure out what just thumped along the deck and blew past the windows. Today things are supposed to calm; I have to walk the property around the house and collect everything.

Steve returns tonight from a two week China trip. I am glad to have him back, as I hate having to be the Mom and Dad at times. I miss the companionship he provides and the stability around the house with the kids. There is usually an underlying power struggle between me & Josh while he is away. At 17 he doesn’t want his mama telling him what to do or disciplining him. It can make for challenging times.

I found out yesterday I got accepted into a cardiovascular study at the University. I’m excited to be a part of that. Its physician supervised and provides me with a lot of free tests, blood work and sessions with a dietitian. The object of the study is to determine the effects of diet & exercise on the cardiovascular system over time. I have my first session on Monday.

The hens have been laying quite well, brown and light green eggs. Lucy has finally matured and is laying mostly large double yolkers. I’d like to add a Black Copper Marans rooster to the flock this spring. They originated in Marans, France and lay dark Chocolate colored eggs…the hens, not the roos. The roosters are just beautiful, strutting around with a stately, old world look.

I finally feel a bit caught up on work this week. I've shipped out all current orders and just need to do some duplicating & assembling of product. I've got a couple of upcoming meetings I need to prep & ship, but otherwise I don't have that just-treading-water feeling. It is nice to have my office just a flight of stairs away.

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The Hens' eggs. They really are green, the picture doesn't do them justice.

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The house, basking in the fall colors, nestled among the rock outcropping & berm. A seasonal creek runs from the back of the house, along the side and down the front.

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A Black Copper Marans roo

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Update

First, no I haven’t fallen off a cliff, been eaten by a mountain lion or come down with bird flu. And, second, I didn’t know so many people were actually interested in what goes on around the old homestead. So, I’ll try to be more on the ball in the future. Actually, I’ve just been extremely busy lately.

My sister Deb & her husband Paul stopped by on their way through to California. It was a short stay, but it was really nice to see them. They managed to get a small moving van up the mountain with little problem. Their daughter is moving out to the coast and they are the delivery service for her life’s accumulation of goodies.

We had Rachel again for three days. She was a hoot as usual. We had so much fun with her. She was dancing a jig and, not being the shy type, decided to let us put the camera on her; I will try to upload that soon. We laughed till we cried. She insisted I let her take a chicken home. But I told her she could have two and keep them at Aunt Denise’s farm and come to take care of them; she liked that idea. So I guess one could say I’m a chicken boarder.

I acquired 6 new young laying hens, bartering plucking services for them. Plucked 8 and got 6, not bad. They are Arauconas so the eggs are green, pretty cool. And, I may have a hook up with the local feed store guy to barter plucking for feed, hope that works out. He has some turkeys he will be wanting to do soon and I can always use some free feed since I’ve had to keep them penned up lately.

We made a trip into Sam’s to stock up on basics for winter, its 60 miles from us, so we made it a day. We replaced the tires on the truck; the old ones are too worn to make the climb this winter. We also picked up some kitchen staples. Among other things, 50 lbs of popcorn for those cold winter nights in front of the fire. I’ve been burning the woodstove lately trying to take the chill out of the night air. We were supposed to have snow last night, but it must have been a little too warm. Thank goodness as we have had about 2-3 inches of rain. That would make for a lot of snow. The high country was in a winter snow advisory, I’m sure they have a foot or two by now. It’s a damp 35 degrees here as I sit and type, but a cozy 71 inside, thanks to the wood burner. As I look out the window this morning, I see a dusting on the top of our mountain, down to about 8,000 feet.

My parents came to visit for a week, they left this morning. Words can’t express how much I enjoyed their visit. We met them in town and Josh drove the truck home while I rode with them, guiding the way up to the house. They laughed in disbelief at the roads, deciding their own country roads were actually in great shape comparatively. It took a good 30 min to get up to the house from town, but we made it with all luggage and auto parts intact. They fell in love with the house and our great views.

We stayed up and laughed and talked till late at night, reminiscing about old times. We also went up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, went out to eat, did some sight seeing, visited my sister Melissa who lives just 40 min from me, puttered around and hit a good “free stuff” garage sale. Mom was amazed at how people just give stuff away here. I got some great stuff for free, including a nice drop leaf table, a rotisserie, 3 sheet sets, 3 boxes of candles, a large popcorn can full of screws, nails and random shop items, and some other random stuff. Dad fixed the kids shower. Finally, after 4 months, they have their shower working. Dad is one of those rare people who can fix anything…and I mean anything. Turns out there were a couple pieces missing from someone trying to repair it previously. It works like a charm and I am so thankful.

We had yet to see a skunk till my parents' visit. Of course, Hershey our lab had to chase it into the garage and corner it there. I was pretty much the largest skunk I’ve ever seen with extremely active spray glands. Why is it that I was nominated to remove it from the premises? First I had to figure out where the heck it was, pretty hard to determine between the watering eyes, burning throat and runny nose. Of course it was dark out as well and rather hard to see. I finally figured out it was between several leftover wardrobe boxes that had been filled with packing paper and stuck in the garage. I grabbed a push broom and tried to poke the boxes near it, expecting it to run out and be on its merry way, but it wasn’t that easy. It decided the garage was a safer place than trying to out run the dog. Several minutes of pushing, with a box between me and it, and I finally managed to push it out of the garage. Almost a week later and the garage still reeks. I burned all 7 wardrobe boxes and various other items in an attempt to get rid of the smell, but with the dampness, it is still pretty strong. A friend who works for a cleaning chemical distributor is giving us some concrete wash specifically for skunk spray and such. Sure hope that does the trick.

The rest of the time has been spent on work, trying to play catch up from the days of having company. I’m behind, but expect to catch up this week. That’s a nice thing about working out of the house, I can work when I want and the office is just a flight of steps away.

I want to say thanks to all who have e-mailed and called wondering if things are okay with us. I’ve just put out so much during the past weeks that by the time I start to wind down I can’t think straight anymore. Mom asked if I ever stop or idle my engines. I think I will consider it when the kids are grown and gone, but till then, I plan to go full bore!

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Mom & Dad's visit. Josh, Em & Hershey saying goodbye.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Aunt Neice's Farm

Once again Rachael is visiting “Aunt Neice’s Farm.” She is a riot to have around; however, when she leaves tomorrow, it will take me a few days to recuperate. She was still interested in seeing the chickens a zillion times a day, with the added benefit of having the one legged chicken “Hopper” conveniently located in the garage. She had to feed Hopper about 10 times a day along with the dogs, Pretty Boy and Hershey. She really loves the chickens, just ask her, she'll tell you. She loves them 670 pounds, I told her I loved them all the way to the moon and back, she thought that was pretty funny.

Pretty boy is an indoor dog. A lanky, old greyhound, he stands as tall as she. He is gentle and took a lot of “love” from her, but by the end of the day, would run when he saw her coming his direction. I just hope he ran that fast during his racing career.

“Aunt Neice, you know why pretty boy is so happy now?”

No but I’m quite sure you’re willing to share that information, ran through my head. But I answered with a simple, interested “Why?”

“Because he just got a new baby.” She said as she wrapped up the stuffed Hershey dog replica.

“Um, ok, well, here’s the problem Boys don’t get babies!!”

“Well” She muttered and gave some serious contemplation. “The mom had the baby in her tummy and then Pretty Boy got the baby. That’s why he’s happy.”

“But you know what?” she continued

Um, apparently not, “What?”

“Pretty boy just has to go to work. He says au revoir, I’m goin’ to work, and then we have to take care of the baby. Isn’t that silly aunt Neice? We just have to take care of pretty boy’s baby all day.”

Oh ya, I’m laughing. That’s your job for the day.

We walked up to the coop and fed the hens. On the way back she exclaimed “Surprise!! I’m not taking a nap today; I’m just going to bed early.”

Ha! Surprise, you’re taking a nap today and going to bed early. At least one of us is, but I get to pick.

After lunch she wanted a “dessert”, so I went to the kitchen to whip something up.

“Put your armpits up or I’ll shoot” she excitedly exclaimed as she ran toward me. I was mixing up a batch of brownies, but paused, stuck my finger out and said the same.

“Noooooooooo” she whined as her eyes began to water. “You’re not playing it right.”


“You can just let me tickle you.” She answered

“I can’t tickle you?”

“Noooooooo” she whined again. She then ran into the bedroom and shut the door behind her, obviously tired and ready for a nap.

I continued with the brownies. She quietly poked her head out the door twice hoping I wouldn’t catch a glimpse of her. I pretended not to notice. On the second time, she piped up, head sticking out into the foyer, “Hey! I want some brownies!

“You do?”

“Yes, I want some brownies.” She said with a touch of indignation in her voice.

“Ok, are you going to stay in there or are you coming out?” I asked

“Well, I want brownies, but I’m just not happy with how you were acting” she scolded.

“Not happy with how I was acting?” I asked holding back a chuckle.

“Yes, that’s right, I’m just not happy with how you were acting. You were not behaving good!”

“Ok, well, I’m gonna have a brownie, you gonna have one?”

“Yes” she muttered as she shut the door and pouted on the way out. “But I just call them browns”

Tomorrow she goes home. I’ll miss her, but I understand God’s wisdom in giving kids to young people. After she leaves tomorrow I’m planning on taking a bubble bath with a good book and a plate of browns. Right now I’ll settle for a couple of Advil and a dark room.

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Pretty Boy, his "baby" and Rae

Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Dude!

Hey Josh, you turned 17 today. Wow, those 17 years have been filled with excitement and mischief!

This is a long post, but I couldn’t begin to summarize what you mean to me in just a few paragraphs. To start off you were almost a month overdue….that should have been a huge red flag. Over the 9 months, I ended up having 4 ultrasounds because they thought there was something wrong with you….can you say red flag? I won’t ask your sisters for their opinion on that.

I was so worried about you. Each ultrasound pegged the due date right around August 28th give or take a few days, but no, you decided to hang out till September 21st, in fact you’d still be in there if we hadn’t taken measures to kick you out. The midwife kept assuring me, baby comes when baby is ready, but I think she finally became wise to your plan to hang out in there forever. Just think, we could have made the Guinness Book of world records, woman pregnant for 17 years, 9 months finally gives birth to active teenage boy. Wow, I’d never fit into my clothing again…come to think of it, I wouldn’t fit in anybody’s clothes after that.

After 3 days of intense labor and no sleep, you finally had to be pulled out kicking & screaming. Of course you entered the world in style; you’d have it no other way, nothing plain for you. You just wouldn’t cooperate for the midwife so the Dr. had to be called in from some function to unstuck you and you were delivered into his tuxedo-clad arms.

Speaking of hospitals, we’ve made 7 visits to the E.R. ….so far. But to really be fair, only 5 were actually you, the other two were merely “Josh induced” visits, once when you tossed Em on the bed, and she bounced into the dresser needing 5 stitches; it’s all fun and games till someone gets hurt! The other was when you lowered her down into the window well on a rope and she slipped and fell in scraping her back all the way down, I think she was three at the time. She wouldn’t stop screaming, but thankfully everything turned out okay. Your visits were for broken bones, your first one when you were five and fell off the monkey bars. Just weeks later we had to take you in again for swinging from 2 chairs and landing on your chin, we were pretty sure it must be broken with all that screaming and crying going on. When the Dr. asked what happened you looked at the Dr., then Dad and then at the floor, paused and said “I fell?” We are very lucky that Dad is still with us.

I’ll never forget the mischief you and your pal Tim got into, probably my favorite was when you were about 5 yrs old and you both ran through the church buck naked during a band practice, singing “We are girls, we are girls”. I didn't think it was too funny at the time but most of the crowd got a chuckle out of it. At that point I would have preferred to still be pregnant with you.

Speaking of church, I’ll also never forget when we were called out of service by the children’s minister. We had a guest speaker at the church that night and turns out you got into an argument with his son and slugged him in the face giving him a black eye. “But he started it!” was your defense. We later became good friends with his family and they often stayed with us when they were in the states.

I’m fond of saying you make my life interesting. I am both sad and excited for you to grow up and move into the next phase of your life. I try not to think about it too much, I wish I could keep you by my side forever, but I know God created you to spread your wings and become the man he created you to be. And I must say He has done an exceptional job with you so far.

I’m so proud of the man that you are becoming. You have great people and leadership skills, you’re a hard worker and try so hard to please me and your dad in all you do. Everyone that meets you instantly likes you, you just have that way about you, I know that God has great plans for your life.

I hope you know how proud of you I am. You stand on your own feet and don’t follow the crowd when they go contrary to what you believe to be right. You have a strong moral compass and although I’m sure you must struggle at times with doing what is right, you generally pick the right way. You have a great head on your shoulders and you’re your cool in stressful situations, I’m guessing it’s due to all those E.R. visits.

You are a wonderful son, who has turned out better than I could have hoped for, and I know that God will continue to perfect the great work that He has started in you. Hope you enjoyed your special day!

Love, Mom

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

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Having a little fun filling Becca's car with leaves

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Becca wan't so happy. At first she cried, she thought she left her sun roof open and nature did its thing. When she found out you did it, she quit crying and after a few minutes thought it was pretty funny too.

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All dressed up for the shoes!

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One of your many passions, along with soccer, drums and girls. You are a great runner, with enough metals to melt down and build a small ship.

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My all time favorite pictures. I went to upload pictures one day and to my suprise you had left me a couple of special ones. I laughed for days.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Thief

My chickens suffered another hit. This time I think it was coyotes, fox, lynx or mountain lion(s)…got that narrowed down now don’t I? Whatever it was, they dug under the coop and began to pull the chickens out by their legs, killing 10 in all. For some reason, even though I put roosts in, the chickens prefer to sit in the corner on the ground. Apparently whatever had gotten them knew that they were on the ground in the corner and that’s where he dug. 4 were completely gone and the other 6 were laying in the fenced in yard, several missing a leg. To say I was really bummed out about it is an understatement.

One of my little black chicks died to, but there ware no visible marks, not sure, but I guess he died of fright or stress. Another two survived their injuries, so far, and are in the ICU which I made in the garage. One is missing a leg and I was going to put him down, but he really has a will to live, drinking and eating and hopping around, so I’ve been making sure he has what he needs to survive, including putting him on antibiotics that I had leftover from the time they got sick. Not sure about the other, which seems to have a pretty minor injury, relatively speaking, but does not want to drink much at all. It’s an awful feeling to put so much time and effort into something and then have it stolen from you.

We fortified the walls inside and out with some very large heavy boulders and although the thief came back the next night, he dug, but couldn’t get to them.

On a lighter note, the plum jelly came out great, really nice flavor and color. The kids seem to be enjoying it.

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The plums before I cooked them. They looked so pretty.

Also, have to share my grocery trip. I got 160.43 worth of groceries for 39.92 after coupons and sales. Here is a picture of my bounty. I love a good deal. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
I ended up with:
4 boxes of cereal
6 5lb. bags potatoes
9 cans tuna
2 pouches tuna
2 cans soup
2 boxes waffles
4 brownie mixes
4 boxes taco shells
6 boxes hamburger helper
2 boxes toaster strudles
6 cans frosting
20 cake mixes
2 muffin mixes
6 boxes granola bars
2 boxes pop tarts
1 box cheese-its
3 boxes fruit snacks
2 boxes instant oatmeal pouches

I think that was all. It was a great haul for sure! Now to keep the kids from inhaling it all within a week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday Mom!

You are 70 today. 70 is so much younger today than it was when I was a kid. I thank God that you are still active and able to enjoy life.

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I love this picture of you. I think first because it reminds me of my kids at that age. They used to laugh with the same expression. And second, it reminds me that you went through a very difficult upbringing, but you managed to turn life around and become a wonderful, loving mother to nine children and raised them to be productive, contributing, loving citizens. Not to mention the over 300 foster children that passed through our doors and your heart. You allowed God to work a work in and through you to set aside some things that would otherwise have held you and us back.

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I love this one too. You look like a movie star…and just days after giving birth. Too bad I didn’t inherit that from you. :o) I remember you could still wear a bikini after the ninth baby, and guys would hit on you then too. I would have settled for a bikini after my first, but it didn’t happen for me. And about the guys hitting on me…ya, well, one can dream.

With a family of my own, I really can’t comprehend how you raised nine. Especially when I think of you having to cook from scratch, work the garden, make your own butter and soap, can food, help on the farm, do all that laundry, make all those sack lunches every day, sew & mend clothing, grocery shop and menu plan, taxi children around, counsel regarding heartbreaks and bullies, and still you remained sane. I have many days where I want to resign and I only have three. And to think that you had 5 teenagers at one time, yikes!

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One of my favorite family pictures, taken before John or Melissa was born. I remember how you used to fix your hair with that Dippity Do gel and hair tape to hold it till it was set. You were strong, but yet still a girly-girl, always taking great pride in your appearance; you always took the time to look like a million dollars….another gene that I didn’t inherit.

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I cherish the deep love you and dad had for each other when we were growing up. You both provided a secure environment for us kids. I remember the times you guys would dance around the living room and how you both would nap together on the floor. Guess that’s how you got your rest in with nine kids.

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There we all are. Not sure how you did it. Many days I wish I could go back in time and relive just a day or two. Our kitchen was the heart of the home, we would all sit around the table on those benches and eat, do homework, spend time together. I remember visitors calling us the Walton’s.

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This picture sits on my mantel; 50 years together. Hope I make it that far. :o) And, to think that you still have your natural hair color. Nine kids and you still haven’t gone grey??? What’s that about? Once again I missed another great gene.

Mom, thanks for taking the time and effort to instill Godly values and morals into me, for giving me a heritage to hold fast to, for instilling in me the knowledge to make a pair of pants from a piece of fabric, how to can pretty much any fruit or vegetable and how to stretch a chicken onto five nourishing meals. Thanks for teaching me how to be a good mom and for being my cheerleader; it’s nice to know you are always just a phone call away.

My blog name originated from the Rich Mullins song First Family, that I think so accurately describes our family. It's as if he had written it for us, I've just made a few minor adaptations:

My folks they were always the first family to arrive
With eleven people jammed into a car that seated five
There was one bathroom to bathe and shave in
Six of us stood in line
And hot water for only three
But we all did just fine

Talk about your miracles
Talk about your faith
My dad he could make things grow
Out of hard Nebraska clay
Mom could make a gourmet meal
Out of just cornbread and beans
And they worked to give faith hands and feet
And somehow gave it wings

I can still hear my dad cussin'
He's working late out in the barn
The spring planting is coming
And the tractors just won't run
Mom she's done the laundry
I can see it waving on the line
Now they've stayed together
Through the pain and the strain of those times

Talk about your miracles
Talk about your faith
My dad he could make things grow
Out of hard Nebraska clay
Mom could make a gourmet meal
Out of just cornbread and beans
And they worked to give faith hands and feet
And somehow gave it wings

And now they've raised nine children
One winter they lost a son
But the pain didn't leave them crippled
And the scars have made them strong
Never picture perfect
Just a plain man and his wife
Who somehow knew the value
Of hard work, good love, and real life

We may not have been a First Family in the eyes of the world, but you managed to make me feel as if we were.

I love you and hope you have a birthday that is as truly wonderful as you are. Wish I could be there to help celebrate your milestone day. Happy 70th birthday.

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Chilly Day

It turned dramatically cooler today. A cold mist enveloped me when I took the dog out at 5:40 this morning. I was still too asleep to notice that the temperature was hovering just above 40. I crawled back in bed and tried to grab a little more sleep, normally I can’t make that happen, but it was so dark that I easily fell back to sleep. When I awoke, there was only 20 minutes till we had to leave for Sunday school. It was nice to be able to sleep in a bit.

A cloud hovered over the top of the mountain all day, occasionally dropping enough that our view down the mountain was obscured as well. The sun eventually broke through in the late afternoon and it warmed up a bit, but then the cool cloudiness returned and it misted the rest of the day.

They are talking snow in the higher elevations later this week. I’m looking forward to seeing the snow-capped peaks again. Josh broke in the new chainsaw and cut a bunch more firewood. I think about 2/3 of what I had collected has been cut so far. With it looking so dreary and cold today, I really wanted to crank up the wood burner, but donned a heavy sweatshirt instead.

Becca was asked by the youth pastor to start up and lead a college and career group. She is excited to have the opportunity to be involved in something that she is passionate about; social and spiritual sharing. They hammered out the specifics tonight. I’m confident she will do a great job at it. She is the party-type social personality; I tell her she should be a social coordinator or something along those lines. She can make anything into an event, complete with balloons, food, games, movies….the whole works.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Weekend

Steve took Friday off and we ran some errands in town and worked around the house. It was a sunny day and the weather was just perfect. We took full advantage of the great weather and in the afternoon went for a hike around the “neighborhood.” We took the Garmin to see how far we would go, the altitude we’d climb, the time we’d spend etc. Its 6.33 miles around the loop and from the highest point to the lowest is just about a 1600 foot climb. It took us just over 2 hours, but we did stop and visit with a neighbor for a bit. Steve said he felt cheated, because the satellite doesn’t distinguish ups & downs, but views it all as flat when it comes to distance, so a 100 foot climb straight up would register as a distance traveled of 0 feet. We decided to take a bike on it in the near future to find out just exactly how much longer it is.

Today we ran a bunch of errands. I had some great target coupons; however the checker missed 6.50 worth of them. I might try to go back and see what they will do about it…I have a feeling I already know…nothing. We took Becca her phone. Seems her texts’s in and out boxes were so full that her messaging quit working. Steve had to call and have them talk him though purging it. I asked her how she managed to get her phone constipated.

We ran to the sporting good store to get Josh new cleats. He has outgrown the pair he has…sheesh! How much bigger can his feet get? He is 16 and wears an 11. Of course the ones he wanted were 79.00 and then there were the $10 socks he had to have. Then we ran to get another load of firewood, I think I have a good 2 full cords out back. We ran to Kmart, I had coupons and all, so got cereal for .33 a box after sale and coupons. Not bad. I ended up getting 30 boxes this week, some for Steve and some for the kids. After that we ran to the farm store for chicken feed and a bag of dog food. They have free popcorn, yum. I love that, it made me want to go see a movie, lol. We were looking for a chainsaw, but they only carried one brand and although it was a great brand, it’s also a really expensive one; the one I really wanted was 459.00. So we ended up going to home depot and spending 200.00 on a decent lower model. Yikes!! It’s still a lot. All in all it was an expensive day.

We did end up cutting a good ½ full cord of wood this afternoon though. I figure we can get a full cord cut by tomorrow evening and there looks to be another full cord left to be cut and split. Once I’ve got all that is out back cut, split and stacked, I should have about 2 full cords of wood. Good thing, since they put snow in the forecast for the higher elevations this coming week. We could see a freeze here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day

Labor Day we took some time to go up to drive around and explore the national forest. It started to rain…as usual, so we mostly explored via truck, but it was really pretty. We stopped at a grocery in Estes and picked up some ice cream sandwiches for the ride back. The leaves are just starting to turn a rich yellow. So much earlier than in Oklahoma; I thought for a minute that a branch on our tree was dying, but then realized that several trees in our creek and around the canyon are beginning to turn. It has also become cooler, especially at night, lows in the 50s mostly, with lows of 40s expected by the weekend. It still reaches into the 70s & 80s during the day; I really like this weather.

I’m looking forward to firing up the wood burner this fall. At this point, I figure I’ve only collected enough seasoned wood to last for a month, but hopefully I’ll get enough to burn all winter before things get too cold. I’ve been monitoring the propane tank and we’ve used 10% (since our June 22 fill) on the water heater. I’m hoping to hold off a tank refill till next summer, putting a little from each paycheck into the savings in anticipation. It’s a 500 gallon tank, so it’s pricy when they do fill it up. Also, still need to get a chainsaw to cut up the green wood that I’ve collected from the tree guy.

The electric company came out today and installed a time of use meter, to see if it would be beneficial to us to switch to that rate plan. Not certain we would benefit, since on peak is 6-9 a.m. and 4-9 p.m., both times when we use the most electricity, but we’ll see. They will come out Friday and remove it and give us the results. Now we pay a straight .07/kwh, but the new plan has off-peak at .04 and on-peak at .13/kwh. Funny, the guy commented on the eagles up on our peak, he said they were the biggest eagles he'd ever seen, guess those chicken snacks are doing them good.

Steve is planning to take this Friday off, he has taken so little of his vacation time, that he is starting to lose the days he does have. Hopefully he will be able to get away from work, even if it’s just for the afternoon. He is constantly reading e-mail via his Blackberry; there are times when I am awakened in the night to the chimes of a new message. Sometimes I just really detest technology.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Homecoming

Steve arrived home tonight from his week long China trip. Normally he goes for longer, but this time a couple of the guys split their time, so he just stayed a week. I’m glad to have him home. No major excitement while he was away, that’s good. He took the shuttle from the airport to our little town, where I picked him up just in time for dinner, which he wasn’t hungry for, since he’s on China time and he would just be waking up. His plane left China 10:20 p.m. yesterday (our time) and he arrived in town at 6:00 p.m. today. It made for a long day and he pretty much looked like a Zombie standing there with his carry on and his computer bag as I pulled up. Now he is snoring away in the chair in front of the television “watching” some old cop flick on the Hallmark channel. He brought back a few trinkets and gifts he was given, which, in light of all the publicity surrounding the great quality of items that come out of China, I am afraid to drink, touch or even look at. :o) He was given a gift box of green tea and a couple bottles of wine. Neither of us drink alcohol; so it’ll probably sit around for a while. I do have a couple of good bread recipes that call for wine, but still. I asked him what the odds were that it contained formaldehyde or lead, lol.

The kids are gone to the first high school football game of the season. I’m not even sure who we are playing, but I do remember the fun of attending my old HS games, hanging out with friends, cheering on the team and stuff. Ah, good memories. Every Friday after the game our church holds Fifth Quarter where the kids can come hang out have pizza, pop, snacks, etc and I think they do a short, 5 minute or so message. All concessions cost a quarter each. The kids usually hang out till 12:30 or so. It’s a huge draw; 300 kids or so show up, not bad for a town of 1500. I should note, the actual town has about 400, the rest of the people live in the surrounding rural area, like us.

Becca is still without her car, they gave an estimated completion date of Sept 6th. Considering we dropped it off on Aug 8th, I think they have taken forever to get the work done. All I can say is it better be good, lol. Perhaps they’ve embellished it or pimped it out…ya that. And I thought I was tired of driving her around before…sigh.

Think I’ll tuck Steve in bed and wait up for the kids to get home, just can’t go to sleep when they are not home yet, besides I want to hear that we won our first game.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Varsity Team

We’re on our second week of school and have begun to settle into a routine. Josh went out for soccer and made the varsity team. He is pretty pumped about it. He is a talented soccer player and is looking forward to the season. His cross country coach is bummed that he chose soccer over XC, but he will run track in the spring. His school doesn’t actually have a soccer team; so he is playing for another larger school in the district. It took him a week and a couple of visits to various schools to decide which one he wanted to play for. I think he made a wise choice. He was steered toward a particular school by a couple of people. I took him over there, but I didn’t have a good feeling about it, thankfully he ended up choosing a different school. I’m glad he made the choice he did. If I would have forced it or told him he couldn’t play for a particular school, he would have been upset with me, but since he made the choice himself, all is good :o)

Yesterday I moved the last batch of chicks from the garage to the big pen. I checked on them several times and they seemed to be doing well so I left them together overnight. This morning I noticed they were pretty mean and had pecked the tar out of one chick’s head in particular, so I spent the morning constructing a pen within the pen for the chicks. I put the chicken wire just high enough that the chicks have full reign, but can run into the smaller pen for safety if needed. I put a waterer and feeder in there and also made them a small chicken house, so they have cover at night or in the event of rain. The big guys were chasing them out of the hen house, so now they have their own place. Hopefully they will get to know each other through the fence.

I also covered the top of the big pen with some deer netting that I picked up on clearance at the farm store. There was a pair of hawks in the trees next to the pen, so I needed to get that done today before I lost any chicks. I saw the eagles soaring around today as well; I’m beginning to think they have a nest on the peak near the west end of the property. I’ll have to hike up there soon and see. We found a previous years’ nest in the trees near the coop. The kids thought it was pretty cool. It’s really huge and had big sticks, amazing how strong they must be to build something like that.

Becca had an interesting day at work, 5 of her coworkers were arrested for theft. Made for an exciting day. I'm sure she will pick up more hours now that they are so short staffed.

I bought a DVD off eBay on the great depression. I love studying that era in history. It amazes me how people made do and weren't afraid to share what little they had with those in need. They pulled together and their faith was strong. Such incredible poverty on the heels of great wealth. I would like to think I would do okay if faced with similar challenges. It sure was a unique period in this country’s history. I’m looking forward to watching it when it arrives.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Miracle

Steve left for Shanghai early this morning. We Skype each other every day…for those of you in the dark, it is an internet program that allows you to talk for free via the computer. He is more than half a day ahead of us, so when he gets to his apartment at 9:00 p.m., we’ll be up and getting ready for Sunday morning service. I love being able to talk to him twice a day while he is gone. I never know what his schedule is, so I just let him call me at his convenience. Also, I know I can call him if the family miracle happens and he is available most of the time.

The family miracle happens mostly when he is gone or I’m under some amount of stress. What’s the family miracle, you ask? That’s when one of the kids suddenly becomes like God and knows all things, while I at the same time have my intelligence diminished to one level above a coma.

We had that very miracle happen this week. I was informed in the truck by one of my dear children that I really don’t know how to drive, nor do I know how to spend money and have a fun time, nor do I know how to raise children. This couldn’t be the same child who put the very truck in the ditch while traveling 5 miles an hour, doesn’t have a dime to their name, or needless to say, a child to raise. I must be mistaken.

Apparently I have lost quite a bit of my intelligence over the summer, perhaps it didn’t get packed or got lost in the move.…good thing school is starting. :o) I had to pull of the road and have a 45 minute talk and try to set some things straight…key word there try. By the end of the 45 minutes, I had visions of sounding like Charlie brown’s teacher, ”mwah, mwah, mahw, mwah, mwah, mahw, son, mwah, mwah, mwah oaky?” His eyes had glassed over by then and I knew he was day dreaming about motorcycles, girls or soccer. It appears I generally have lucid periods of 20 minutes, or maybe slightly longer if I’m lucky, then I’m back to hovering near comatose on the intelligence meter.

And they say these are the best years of my life, someday I’ll look back and know with certainty that they were. I think that day will come when the family miracle begins to occur in my children’s homes. Thank goodness I was never like that with my parents…cough.

On another note, I’ve had to put the chickens back in their pen. Seems a pair of eagles has decided they are a tasty snack. These eagles are massive and just beautiful, but I’m not into feeding them my fledgling flock. At the same time the chicks have picked up some respiratory bug, so I lost 2 that I know of to that. I put them on an antibiotic, when I found the second one hiding in the weeds, dazed and staring off into the distance, waiting to go to the great feed bucket in the sky. When they began to disappear, I assumed they were sick and went off to die, but an hour of searching the weeds and grass around the house revealed nothing. I decided to let them out and keep a close eye and sure enough several hours later an eagle began moving in. At the final count, I have lost 3 Cochin, 1 barred, 3 Sussex, 1 Rhode Island, 1 buff, 3 leghorns and 1 bantam. I’m guessing 11 to the eagles and 2 to illness all in just 3 days. Sheesh! I have just the place for a pair of stuffed eagles above the mantel! Good thing most of my hen chicks are still in the garage, having hatched just 3 weeks ago. Also the antibiotic has kicked in and they are all back to their normal, lucid selves. Perhaps I could use a little antibiotic myself, just ask my kids, they say it wouldn’t hurt.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mom's Taxi

I can’t wait till Becca gets her car back from the shop. I found out yesterday that the insurance company was thinking of totaling it, but it has such low mileage that they decided to go ahead and fix it. I’m so glad, because we have taken meticulous care of it and even though it is 10 years old, I know it will run another 5-10 years easily. It only had 57,000 miles on it when she started to drive it a couple years ago. I’m getting tired of chauffeuring her to work and back every day. Its 100 miles a day there and back twice! I try to do things in town while I’m there to make it more worth spending the gas on. I really hate being a taxi.

I told the kids to ride the bus home today. Josh really doesn’t want to ride it….and wouldn’t you know, they missed the bus. Maybe I should start charing a per mile fare :) He blamed it on the gal at the office who talked too much when he went to find out his student ID number after school. Um…ya…It’s always good to blame things on people who aren’t around to defend themselves. Yesterday he missed the bus from shop class….aaargh! Aparently the school district we live in drives kids 25 miles to a centralized class but then leaves them to fend for themselves with no way back to the main campus. At least that's Josh's view of it. I’m thinking a pair of running shoes are in his near future.

While in town, I stopped at the local grocery and picked up the produce they were tossing. There were a ton of raspberries, so I made a quart of raspberry jam tonight. There was also a half dozen lemons and some pears, plums, carrots, strawberries, kale, celery, broccoli, cucumbers and the usual tons of lettuce. I gave the chickens their share and washed up the rest and put it in the fridge.

I plan to pick apples tomorrow; there is a nice tree full of them just down the road from us near the river. I’m planning to make a bunch of applesauce and some pies as well. I also spied a wild plum thicket along the road, the plums are almost ripe. I haven’t had wild plum jam since I was a kid. Hopefully I’ll have time to make that this year. And lastly, I saw some elderberries along a phone pole in town. I still have quite a bit of jam and syrup from a couple years ago when I made a huge batch, but I’m tempted to go and ask the homeowner if I could cut those as well and make some more syrup. I’m thinking a personal chef is in my near future, lol.

I’m getting tired just thinking of it, I feel like I'm nesting or something. Then there are the peaches my sister and I will be canning this weekend. We are buying 50 lbs and spending the day together canning them. It should be a fun time. Rachael will be along, so it should make for some interesting conversation. Maybe I’ll hit her up to help with the pies and applesauce. I'm glad to have some things put up for the winter. I love having an abundance of fruits and veggies in the winter, it seems to bring a touch of summer to the table.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Shanghai Team

Three of the Shanghai team are in the states on business so we had them over for lunch today and took them to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. We had a really great time; lots of laughter, questions and explanations. One spoke fairly good English, but the others spoke very broken English. It made for a fun time and lots of questions and attempts and re-attempts at explanations.

I had been fretting all week about what to make for lunch. I don't keep octopus or tripe on hand, so I resorted to chicken. I figured that was pretty safe. When Steve travels there, he eats some pretty...uh...shall I say interesting stuff? I wasn't sure I could cook something they would like, but I knew they eat chicken and cabbage and I happened to have both. Although after I had the chicken smoked, Steve told me they don't typically like the western style of smoked food. Aargh! I frustratedly asked what he recommended and if he would like to go out to the grocery, he decided they could try smoked and might actually like it. :o)

They arrived around 11:30. They found the place on their own...well, with the help of a GPS unit...but still amazing. They are the first visitors who have been able to find the place without an escort from three miles out. Hershey had them pinned in their car, but she quickly warmed up to them after being introduced. In fact they loved her and kept commenting on just how much. "Hearshy," as they called her, "really a nice dog"

Earlier in the morning I had grilled the chicken for just a couple minutes over an open fire to give it some good smoked flavor, then put a light sweet sauce on it and put it in a slow oven to cook for a few hours. They laughed when I answered that I had indeed cooked the chicken over the smolderig fire outside...still not sure why they found that funny. Anyhow, it was just perfect when they arrived...and they actually liked it. They ate rather noisily, I was suprised that they ate with their mouths open, but Steve told me later that smacking your lips while eating is a compliment to the cook on the food. And here I just thought they had poor manners, lol.

After lunch we piled into their rental car and headed up to Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park. They were in awe of the mountains and took a zillion pictures. there were lots of ohs and ahs and laughter when we tried to explain things. They hadn't seen a coyote or elk before. They seemed pretty satisfied with the explanation of a coyote as a wild dog with really long legs, they practiced saying coyote over and over for at leas 1/2 mile, asking us to repeat it every now and then.

The snow lingering in the summer was mystifying...."but it ez not cold enough ou, how can it be dere is steel dis snow?" Every time they took a picture of each other on a rock or in front of a mountain view they had to take one of us as well. They laughed as they showed each other the pictures they had just taken. I think they currently have more pictures of our family at RMNP than we do. Then at one stop the sky opened up and poured freezing rain on us. It actually hailed very small hail. They had never seen hail before either. They were amazed and kept saying "Ice, Ice" as they pointed it out to each other and to us and took pictures of it from inside the car. Their eyes got big and they laughed when we explained that in some places some storms drop hail as big as a baseball.

We picked up some pizza on the way home. I don't think they liked it, they each had one piece and insisted they were full. They stood around outside taking in the view and said they liked the farm. They found it funny that the chickens just walk around in the yard, that they are not in a "box." They laughed when Steve told them that the sky is just full of stars at night. About 8:30 they headed back to their hotel and I started to clean up from lunch, dinner and cookies.

It was a day well spent. I really enjoy sharing an other's culture and sharing mine with them. I find the differences so interesting. They invited us several times to come along with Steve next time he travels there and maybe some day I'll take them up on it.