Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Jim and Barb’s Favorite Things

Because we are famous like Oprah, we thought the world is waiting with bated breath for our list of Jim and Barb’s Favorite Things! Having been on the road almost 4 years we have bought a lot of things for both everyday living or entertainment. Some of them are okay, some have been flops and some we absolutely love!
So with Christmas approaching, we thought it timely to create a list of our 10 favorite things along with a few items that we are sorely disappointing with that we will never buy again. I may have mentioned a couple of these items in previous posts, that just goes to show you how happy we are with them. And bonus, if you buy off the accompanying link you not only get the great product, you also support us and our blog!

So with no further ado, here it is…
By far Barb’s favorite purchase this year was her InstaPot. Over the past year almost all of our RV friends and several of our non-RV friends have become members of the InstaPot community. I describe it as a combination crock pot/pressure cooker that reduces cooking time without comprising flavor. As a frequent boondocker cooking time and how much power we are using is always top of mind and this item seems to be the ticket.

Her second favorite item is her Dyson Animal Stick. This is actually her third vacuum in as many years. Our rig came with a built in system which just did not cut it. Her next vacuum was a bigger bulkier unit that did okay but just took up too much room. The Dyson Animal Stick has great suction power, is cordless and takes up very little room in the rig. Barb said she would not go back to a traditional vacuum again.
Her third favorite item takes us back into the kitchen. When I asked her to list her favorite items I really did not see this one coming. She absolutely loves her magnetic measuring spoons. When asked why this made the list, she said she just loves the way that these nest together and take up very little room in the drawer.

Her next item may appear to be Christmas related but she actually uses them throughout the year anywhere we are set up for a week or two. Solar String Lights are a great way to light up your perimeter any time of the year. Barb puts ours around our sunscreen when we are in Quartzsite and on a tree/bush during the holidays. She just ordered more of these as Dakota took out our most recent set by running through them and dragging them behind her. 
Daisy said I just HAD to include the next item. Daisy is really rough on her toys. We have bought numerous stuffed toys for both her and Dakota and they usually have them torn apart in a day, two tops. That is until we discovered goDog toys. These things are virtually indestructible and is now the only toy we buy for the dogs.

Our favorite thing for Dakota is not her favorite thing but we really like it. She sheds like crazy and because her hair is so light it shows up everywhere. So one of my daily….. weekly…… once in a while duties is to brush her with the FURminator. It works great and really helps keep the shedding down to a minimum. 
I know you are all wondering “What are Jim’s favorite things?” Well my favorite thing is sitting on the couch next to me and is not available on Amazon. As matter of fact she is not available at all so I will tell you few of my other favorite things. (It just dawned on me that I did not make her list of favorite things, I was actually beat out by measuring spoons! )

The first is my camera. Fellow fulltimer Ingrid takes incredible pictures with this camera so I bought one so I could take some too. Although not up to her standards I am very happy with my Lumix FZ200. Not the newest model in this line but affordable and easy to use.

But what to do with all those pictures after you take them? This leads to my last two favorite things. The first is an external hard drive. We actually have a couple as we don't feel comfortable saving all these memories and other important files on just one storage unit and we try not to save too many pictures on our computer itself. 
The last thing is pretty simple actually. It is a 5x7 picture frame where we can display some of our favorite pictures. Ours is a clip on style where we can just clip the picture on the frame so it is easy to switch it up when a viable replacement is taken.
But wait, those of you who are paying attention know that was only 9 items. Well my last favorite item is something I have not found yet and leads me to our first least favorite thing. We hate, absolutely hate our water hoses. They are the same ones offered at every RV store, Walmart or anywhere else you buy RV related equipment. They are stiff, they are impossible to roll up when cold and heaven forbid you ever kink them. They are totally worthless. So my last favorite thing is a kink free/tangle free drinking water safe hose. If anyone knows of one, please let me know. 
Our other least favorite thing is Barb's camera. We have bought two of these, the same model in the past couple years. It is the Lumix DMCZ550. I know others have had great luck with them but in both cases dust has gotten behind the lens creating spots on the photos and grit in the zoom mechanism preventing it from operating properly. We have taken them into and called repair shops trying to get them cleaned and were told the labor cost would not be worth it. Barb attempted to take apart her first one to clean it (It is now in multiple pieces in a plastic bag and is why we bought another one). So we are once again in the market for a small pocket camera for Barb. Recommendations are welcome.
Well there you have it, that's our list. We would love to hear what some of your favorite things are as we don't know what we may be missing. If these items are not up your alley and you shop Amazon, we would appreciate it if you would use the link on our sidebar when you do your shopping. It does not cost you anything additional and helps support our blog!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Snowy Welcome to South Dakota

We actually left North Dakota a day earlier than we had anticipated as we wanted to miss a forecasted snow storm on that Friday. So what did we run into on our way south? A snow storm of course. Actually there were only two stretches that were sketchy. We had the back end of the truck do a little fishtail on a slippery bridge just before the South Dakota border but that was nothing compared to what we ran into when we hit the Black Hills.
We arrived in Rapid City about 5:00pm, there was a light snow but it was melting when it hit the surface. Barb was driving and although we were going to arrive at our property after dark (something we try not to do) life was good. Until……we hit the hills and the temperature plummeted and the roads became slick. Normally I am a pretty good passenger but with all the up hills, down hills and curves combined with the slippery roads I was like a cat on a hot tin roof. Finally Barb had had enough (of me) and pulled over and said she could not take me being a passenger-seat driver and told me to drive.

The 30 minute drive between Rockerville and Hill City was the worse with multiple spinouts along the way. We kept it in slow and in 4WD and arrived safely about 6:30. Tired and somewhat uptight we pulled onto our road and let out a sigh of relief. As we rounded the corner we saw the Jordan’s truck at the end of their driveway. We had a welcoming committee! They both jumped out of their truck as we pulled up and rolled down the window. Brenda immediately handed up a big dish of warm chili, bread sticks and freshly baked brownies! What great neighbors we have!!!!!
That night we just parked and put out the slides, ate some excellent chili and crashed.  The next morning we work up to......

To the east

To the north
..... then we went over to visit our neighbors and thank them for the great dinner. They weren't home but when we were about to leave, look who walked out of the trees......
These Floridians seem to be adapting well
The temps have been a roller coaster, with highs anywhere from the mid 20’s to 40 and lows from the low teens to 30. If the winds are not too strong being outside with temps in the mid 20’s are quite comfortable.
We did have one mini crisis the other day when we ran into Rapid City. It was 18 when we left, when we arrive home 7 hours later it was 28. Walking into the rig we knew something was not quite right, it was too cold. We like it cold but not that cold. We quickly determined that we had run out of propane. No biggy, we just put in a new bottle and we were good to go. Except……there was no water….not even a trickle….we were froze up! Ugh! 4:00 in the afternoon, with the temps getting down into the low teens I had to get to work. I ran to town and bought a small ceramic heater, tore everything out of the belly and took down the belly walls so I could access the water pump and assess the situation.  
So many hoses, which one is frozen?
I was able to determine that the freeze was somewhere between the pump and the water tank but unfortunately the supply hose to the water pump heads towards the back of the rig into no mans land. You just cannot follow it without dropping the entire underbelly and for those of you who have done this know it is not something you want to do.
So I put the ceramic heater in the belly (making sure nothing would catch on fire), turned up the heat in the rig (looks like I will be sleeping outside) and hoped for the best. After a hot restless night we turned on the water pump, turned on the faucet and prayed……nothing…Nerts!

Time to move onto plan B…. Install foam board all around the rig and heat under the rig. Just as I was getting ready to head to town for foam board we heard the rumble of a truck coming up the driveway and in pulls in a belly dumper full of gravel. Ugh! Even though we have the house location staked out we still needed to stake out the parking area and the shed. So I ran out and told him where to dump that load and Barb and I went to work staking out the rest of what needed to be done.  
Belly dumper unloading one of many loads of gravel
Then the skidsteer and mini excavator went to work leveling everything
A hour or so later we came back in the house and just for fun I turned on the pump and the faucet….and….we had water! Whew, that is one stresser we can cross off our list. So while I stayed home and babysat the gravel project Barb went into town and pick up some foam to put around the rig. Since it was warming up a little and we thawed, the project was not as urgent as it was earlier in the day but regardless, we got it done over the next couple of days while watching the gravel project take place as well.
While she was gone I dropped the underbelly pan and what did I discover? The waterline going from the main tank to the pump ran within 5 inches of the outside sheet metal before it went into the insulated floor leading to the pump. The only thing protecting it from the elements was a thin piece of sheet metal. Talk about a bad design! I also saw a kink in the vent hose so I fixed that at the same time. 
All of these hoses were exposed to the elements
 So I set about protecting it with 2" foam and covered it with two bottles of spray foam. Only time will tell but I am thinking that should do the deal.
2"'s of foam and spray foam should do the trick

Now it was time to put the foam skirting around the rig.......
We had enough gravel delivered to prep and level our building site as well as finish off the RV and shed area. Now we should be ready for concrete in the spring if we are ready for that phase of the project.
In our spare time we have been continuing our fence work putting in the remaining T posts and put up a couple more strands of wire. Barb also transplanted a few trees hoping to get a line of trees growing to the north.  

Meanwhile over at the Jordan's Jim and Brenda have been busy with their own project of running sewer pipe down to their drain field.
Jim trenching his sewer pipe
Sound like a lot of work? Well, we have managed to get out twice with Jim and Brenda as well as Phil and Rudee. Once to dinner and once to watch the Thursday night football game at a bar in Custer.
With all this going on we feel like we have been back here for weeks but in reality it has been less than 10 days. It has to slow down sooner or later!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

All Good Things Must Come to an End.......

Well, the bottom fell out of the weather here in North Dakota. What was crisp cool mornings with mild afternoons turned frigid mornings and downright cold afternoons. This past week, we have not seen highs over the 30’s and the lows have been in the teens. So why have we not left the North Dakota frozen tundra and headed to warmer climates?
Well, three reasons really, 1)This is the best time to deer hunt in this area, 2) my brother Bob has come to visit but the third and probably the driving reason is that Barb is still not back from her hiatus in Pennsylvania and I have no vehicle to move this beast!

Brother Bob came up to do a little duck hunting, visit and get a little taste of “farm life”. Unfortunately the weather really put a damper on the duck hunting. Within a matter of hours overnight all but the largest bodies of water froze solid and the ducks, apparently being smarter than us, moved south. We did get out once breaking ice, setting decoys and waited for the birds. As dawn broke ducks would fly over, look down and see some of their brethren frozen in what looked like a solid block of ice while others saw an opportunity find some open water. Although we had a good hunt the funniest part was watching the ducks landing on what they thought was open water. The landings were gentle but then they would skid and slide across the ice looking somewhat confused when they came to a stop.   
They also put brother Bob to work burning a few bales of cattails from sloughs that had gone dry due to the drought this summer.
Brother Bob, the pyro!

He left the day before Barb was to arrive home from her trip in Pennsylvania. She sent me a few pictures to show me how much fun they were having!
Dylan and Kendall ready for Trick or Treating!

Of course Shane, Jess and Barb went to a brewery

Baby K having fun

Fun at the pumpkin patch
I in the meantime went to work cleaning the rig. Over the past two weeks it became painfully apparent that Barb is the glue that holds everything together around here. I had done laundry several times while she was gone so now I needed to transfer all my clothes from my temporary closet/dresser (aka, her side of the bed) to the real closet and dresser. It had been a few days since I did laundry so I was not sure what was clean, what was dirty, it was all kinda intermixed so I have to resort to……..the smell test. This is an effective but not recommended way to determine what is clean and what is dirty. In the future I need to remember to maintain separate piles.
On the farm side it has been a busy couple of weeks! I attended the Ward County Farmers Union annual meeting with Bob, Deanne and Holly. (Bob is the president) I went mainly for the free meal but was pleasantly surprised when my name was drawn for one of the door prizes. A $25 gift certificate to Cenex! When I raised my hand with the winning ticket I know everyone in the room was wondering “Who is this guy?”.
Bob reading off my winning ticket number!
I also attended the annual steak fry at the Max Civic Club. This is the third year in a row that we have attended this event and everyone knows everyone. (Except for me and my brother Bob) When  you walk in you have to write down your name and how you would like your steak then they bring it to you when it is done. Every year we have to write "with the Finkens" on our piece of paper otherwise we would never get our food!
I also got to drive one of the tractors from Minot back to the farm. A rocker arm had blown out a couple of weeks ago (I won’t tell you who was driving it at the time) and it had to be trucked in for repairs. The dealer charges over $500 to truck it back to the farm so instead I drove it the two hours (at 20mph) from Minot to the farm. Kinda weird as you have to go right through the heart of Minot and the rest of the way is on the key artery into town. But I figured I was bigger than everyone else and they would move out of the way.
Headed down the highway!
Speaking of farm life, one of the main crops here is Canola. An interesting little plant. Growing up I had never really heard of Canola and for good reason. It did not exist until 1978 when it was invented to describe an oilseed that was selectively bred from rapeseed.
Canola Plant

With seeds about the size of poppy seeds, there are several uses for Canola but the most well know is cooking oil. The seeds are crushed and the oil is extracted and ultimately it makes it way into the cooking oil bottles. Imagine how many seeds it takes to fill one bottle and multiple that times the world wide demand. That is a lot of those little seeds being crushed!
A dried Canola pod

The tiny little seeds
One of the things that makes this crop so appealing to farmers in this area is the fact that there is a processing plant in nearby Velva North Dakota. So while other farmers may drive several hours to get to this facility, the Finken's have a relatively short drive.  
Along with the cold came….. you guessed it snow. Less than an inch but snow nonetheless. We were hoping to avoid the white stuff and be long gone before it arrived. I did some final harrowing on the day it snowed as that was probably the last day they will be able to work the fields until the spring thaw.
The snow geese also arrived. In the tens of thousands. This picture does not do it justice but almost every field was covered with geese.
Geese were everywhere! 
Despite the cold, the wind and the snow I went out deer hunting each of the last 6 days but unfortunately no shooter bucks presented themselves so we are going home venison-less. Luckily we received a call from the butcher in Rapid City that our South Dakota deer is ready for pickup!
Brrrrr... it was chilly out in the deer stand!
But alas, all good things must come to an end. Barb arrived home safely after a 16 hour travel day and was greeted by getting hugged,  mauled and licks to the face (you’ll guess who did what). She looked around the rig and said “Oh my”….. I knew my cleaning was not up to her standards but you have to give a guy credit for trying!
Now we are off to our property in South Dakota where we plan to stay as long as the weather will allow us. I would tell all our RV friends to stop by and see us but most of them have had the common sense to head to warmer climates and are in a land far far away……

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Déjà vu

Well, she did it again….. she packed up her bags and drove off leaving me and the dogs needing to fend for ourselves. Sounds like the perfect beginning for a country song…. no, she would have taken the dogs and the truck. Wait, she did take the truck....... Those of you that really know us know that I cannot function without her. So here I am walking around the farm dazed and confused, one shoe on, my shirt on inside out and backwards looking for any scrap of food the Finken’s may have thrown in their garbage.
Truth be told, she must have been worried herself as she premade meals, labeled them put them in the freezer. The Finken’s must be worried as well as I have had more than one invite to meals in the past week. Funny thing is that our Facebook memory this week was a blog post titled “Bach’ing it in North Dakota”. I had a sense of déjà vu, it seems we have come full circle.

It is going to be a long two weeks that is for sure. Where did she go you ask? She traveled to Minnesota for a few days then flew to Pennsylvania to visit our daughter Jessica and her family. So here I am alone in North Dakota watching the landscape transition from autumn into what will all too soon become winter. Other than the few trees and the crops changing colors there is not a lot of fall color in the area. But the contrasts of what color there is against the browns of most the fields and greens others are absolutely beautiful. 
A shot of the farm with the drone. Chris and Holly are building a new house!

Harvest wrapped up this past week with the last of the beans off the field and for the first time ever they let me run the combine! Granted they put me on the flattest field so I could not screw anything up but they let me do it nonetheless.

I can now see why they don't let just anyone do this. Even when everything is all set up for you, not only do you have to keep an eye on several screens to make sure everything is going properly you also have to watch the wheel, sections and terrain in front of you for gopher mounds, rocks or anything else and can obstruct the conveyers.

One of several screens you have to monitor

And then there are the buttons and switches.....
The attention now turns to preparing the farm and fields for winter and next spring’s plantings. Work on the farm is never done. This week has been busy with mowing ditches, picking rocks, hauling grain to the elevator, cleaning grain bins and harrowing some fields.

Last post saw me hauling soy beans from the field to the grain bin at the farm, this week I hauled the same beans from the bin to the elevator. It seemed like a lot of work to just turn around and take the beans to the elevator a week later. Why not take them right away and avoid the additional labor and expense of putting them in the bins?

Putting it in......

Taking it out....
Price is the reason, in the last week the price of soy beans went up .36/bushel in one day so they contracted 8,000 bushel and a haul’in I went. This resulted in several thousand dollars in additional revenue. I say revenue instead of profits as there are so many expenses related to farming. Since then the price has come down somewhat so timing is crucial!
There becomes a point when the internal auger cannot pull any more beans off the bottom of the bin so you have to put in the drag auger.

Drag auger working its way around the bin
Once the bin was empty I had to clean it, a dirty but necessary job. Unless they are putting the same item in there, all remanents of the previos grain have to be cleaned out. To say it is a dusty and dirty job is an understatement. A facemask is definitely required. How do I know this? I only lasted 10 minutes without one. Eye protection would be helpful as well, my eyes were burning by the time I was done.
It's a dirty job but someone has to do it!
My funnest task of the week was rock picking. Each fall after harvest Farmer Bob will go out and flag all the larger rocks in the field. I then take the Bobcat and rockpicker out and dig them up. Only a small portion of the rock is epxpoaed so you never know how big the rock is going to be until you start digging.
How big will this one be?
It is kinda like a treasure hunt. Most of the rocks are no bigger than a medicine ball and weigh a couple hundred pounds. But once in a while you run into a monster weighing several thousand pounds. It can take 30-45 minutes to get one of these bigger ones out of the ground.

This big!
Once you get the bigger ones out you have to go get some dirt to fill in the hole it left.
By the end of some days you are too tired to really do anything else. Which is why I have not posted in over a week, it takes some thought and mental energy to write a post and being in a state of depression since Barb left I just have not had it in me. After the day is done, you just want to eat and go to bed, but it is a good tired, we love it up here!

I have only been out deer hunting twice, the first time I saw a decent 8 pointer and the second time….well, we shall see as I am writing this post from the deer blind. (Update: No deer, but I did finally get the post written!)
We are getting South Dakota updates from the Jordan’s several times a week. They closed on their property this past Tuesday so now they are officially our neighbors and have changed their residency to South Dakota! They say the excavtors are done at our building site and everything is ready for our return.

They have started doing some work on their property by fixing the fence on the front of their property.
A load of posts ready to go in
First post in!

Jim and Brenda rented a post auger and got to work on their fence
They moved to their property, ours in is the background

Deer and turkey sightings are still common and the prairie dogs are running rampant! 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Lessons Learned in North Dakota....

We arrived in North Dakota with high anticipation. Duck hunting, deer hunting, farming and seeing our friends. These are the things we had to look forward to upon our arrival. And to top it all off we had received several emails and texts from our ND hosts asking when we were going to get there. Little did I know it was not the anticipation of seeing us that they were looking forward to. No, they were looking for a scapegoat, someone to blame when something goes wrong, something breaks or generally anything that does not go right. Evidently it does not even matter if I am around, just the fact that we were on our way and I was being blamed for stuff…..
Bob swathing along the lakeshore.....
The first thing I got blamed for was getting the swather stuck. I was not there an hour when I was asked to run out to one of the fields and pull Bob out of a mud hole…….
My first view on Bob on our visit.
So far this week I have been blamed for a connector rod going out on one of the tractors and a U joint going out on one of the PTO. Granted, I was using both pieces of equipment when they broke down. But what about the residue spreader on the combine and the coffee spilled when I was nowhere in sight? Oh well, lesson learned and scapegoat or not, it is good to be back at “The Farm”.

Most of the week has been spent harvesting soy beans, they had a little over 900 acres left to harvest when we arrived. Since the tractor went down I switched from carting to driving the semi from the field to the farm where I unloaded the beans into a grain bin.
View from the cab of the combine
These bins can hold up to 30 truckloads of beans for a whopping 1.5 million pounds of beans!
Unloading beans from the semi into bin

As the weekend arrived we were excited to go duck hunting and get Dakota out for her first hunt. We have been waiting for almost a year and working very hard for this moment. So how did she do? I would love to say she did fantastic but she was a little confused on what exactly her role was supposed to be……she is not sure why we are getting up an hour before sunrise to go and sit in the cattails but she is slowly catching on and we are happy with where she is at for her first week.
Dakota going on her first retrieve.....

Someone is going to need a bath!
She had multiple retrieves throughout the week.....

Can you see her smiling?
Waiting for more ducks to come in!
What's Barb been up to you ask? She has been doing a season change over in the rig. Now you may think this is a simple task in a rig like ours but it is actually quite involved. She is pulling everything out of the closets and our cold weather totes in the belly. She then went and sorted through everything into three piles putting all our warm weather clothes into totes, cold weather clothes into the closet and a donate pile. It seems there are still clothes that we have not worn in over a year!
She also attended Hostfest (pronounced hooostfest). The festival is a week long event celebrating the Scandanavian culture filled with food, exhibits and entertainment which included the Doobie Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys , Little River Band and Jeff Dunham.

She has also made several trips to Minot to do errands. It was on one such trip that I learned my second valuable lesson for the week..... Since she was going to the sporting goods store anyway I asked her if she would mind picking me up a deer license so I could bow hunt while I was here. So I handed her my drivers license and told her I needed a non-resident archery license. It was about an hour later when I received the following text:

Lesson #2, never have your wife buy your deer tags!

Speaking of deer hunting, we have several trail cameras out. We captured some interesting pictures so far.....
This doe was about ready to kick some butt!

Coyote out for a evening stroll

This guy escaped from somewhere!
Meanwhile back in South Dakota the Jordan’s are keeping a watch on our property and sending us updates on the progress. Over the past week the excavator put in our cistern, the septic tanks and the drain field! 
Cistern ready to be buried

Septic Tank 
Pipe from septic tank to.....

......the drain field
Jim and Brenda have also been doing some work on our property while we are gone! Dismantling an old wooden fence and taking up some old barbed wire fence in preparation for new fencing.....
Dismantling and carrying away the old fence 

Jim with a load of barbed wire
But the most exciting news of all is that we have new neighbors! The 40 acre parcel next to us is for sale and after a few days of staying with us a few days and seeing what cool people we were they asked us if we would mind if they put an offer in on the parcel next door. Well Barb, Daisy, Dakota and I had a family meeting and put it to a vote..... The vote came out 2 for and 2 against (Daisy and I are people persons while Barb and Dakota...not so much...) so Barb said "Lets flip a coin" So we did.... then she said "Flip it again", then she said "One more time"...by then it was obvious that she was not going to win and resigned to the fact we were going to have new neighbors. The Jordan's put in an offer and are now are set to close on the property in less than 2 weeks!
Lesson #3, don't invite people to come stay at your property, they will love it so much they will never leave! In all seriousness, we could not be happier for them, they are great people and what more could we ask for but having like-minded neighbors.....