Saturday, October 22, 2016

Say Hello to our Little Friend!

When we started full-timing in March of 2014 four of us loaded up in the truck and left Wisconsin. There was Barb and I along with our two faithful companions Daisy and Bailey. Our first journey took us to Salt Lake and then onto Oregon where we were to have our solar installed at AM Solar. Unfortunately only three of us made it to that destination when we had to put Bailey down in Coos Bay Oregon due to some aggressive cancer.
We have had a hunting dog of some sort for most of our 30 year marriage; a Springer Spaniel, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and most recently Bailey, a Golden Retriever so there was definitely a void in our family.  We have talked on and off over the past two years about getting another large dog but as many of you know that is a huge commitment, especially with our lifestyle. If we were going to do this we had certain criteria: #1 we wanted one of two breeds, a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever, #2 we wanted a female and #3 we wanted a dog between 2 and 6 years old and did not want to go through the puppy stage, the chewing and potty training could ruin our rig in short order!

With this criteria Barb has been searching for the perfect companion. There are a number of websites that she searched on a regular basis;, and were the three primary sites she searched. In addition she contacted breeders in areas we were in to see if they had any older females for sale. There are not a lot of dogs out there that fit these requirements but the ones we did find were either it was too far away, too much money, the timing was not right, too much of a risk given the dogs issues or it just did not feel right.
We thought we had found the perfect dog twice before; once was in Minnesota in the spring of ‘15 when we found a 3 year old Golden. We met the owner in a park and spent an hour with the dog and it just did not feel right and we passed. Our next opportunity was the fall of ’15 when Barb found another 3 year old Golden also in Minnesota. Barb drove over 10 hours from Ontario to see the dog and eventually bought her and took her to a friends house to spend the night before returning to Ontario. That night Barb called me and said that she just was not sure about the dog. Trusting her judgement she called the owner and returned the dog the next day.

Over the next year Barb continued to contact owners when we found a dog that might fit. In each case we would include a link to our blog and explain our lifestyle asking the owner if they thought it would be a good fit. Many of the older dogs that were for sale were with breeders that were being retired or breeders that were not working out for one reason or another. Almost all of them came with some kind of issues as many of these dogs don’t have a lot of social interaction and life experience other than having puppies. As a result not all dogs could easily adapt to our lifestyle. To their credit, we had several owners tell us that their dog probably would not be a good fit and needed a more stable environment.
Then there was the “perfect” dog that she found in California. The ad did not say how much the dog was but everything about it sounded perfect so Barb contacted the owner. The owner replied and said the dog was still available and she thought it would be a great fit with our lifestyle! Then at the end of the email we saw the price; $15,000! Excuse me? At first we thought perhaps the owner made a mistake and added an extra 0  but possible but when we contacted her again she said that the dog was really $15,000. I think we will pass on that one! At the same time Barb had been communicating with another breeder in central Minnesota who had a 2 year old female that they were considering selling. Barb again sent the owner a link to our blog, explained our situation and asked if she thought the dog would be a good fit. The owner replied that she thought the dog would be a good fit but were going to try to breed the dog during it’s heat cycle to see if she took and if she didn’t the dog would be available in a couple weeks.

Two weeks later the owner emailed again and said that she did not take and the dog was available. We met her the next day in Fargo. As we were pulling into the Fleet Farm parking lot and I saw the owner walking the dog I knew in my gut that this was the dog for us! We spent about an hour talking to the owner, petting and walking the dog and getting a feel for her.  She was very shy hiding behind her owner but considering this was the first time she had been off their property and the first time she had been for a car ride it was totally understandable.
These are pictures from her ad

An hour later we were on our way back to Douglas with a new addition to our family! We went directly to Petco where we bought her a name tag (Sequoia) with our phone number on it as if she got away she would probably start running for Minnesota!
On our way home!
We have now had her for 4 days and we absolutely love her! Each day is getting better and better, the first day she stuck to our sides like glue and was afraid of everything in her new environment. She did not know how to get into the truck and we had to lift her in and out. She did not know how to use stairs so we had to lift her in and out of the rig and she would try and bolt at any strange or loud noise. Think about it, all this is new to her, I can only imagine what is going through her head. Now, just a few days later she knows how to get in and out of the truck and uses the stairs to get in the rig and a ramp to get out. We moved our dining room table and fit a crate next to the couch. This is her "safe zone" where she sleeps and goes to when she is nervous. We leave the door open during the day and at first she spent most of her time in there. Now she only goes in there at night and a few times during the day when she gets confused or overwhelmed.
Custom built dog ramp!
Her safe zone
Daisy on the other hand is not sure about this intrusion into her domain. Although they are getting along I think Daisy is waiting for this stranger to go back to where she came from.
It is absolutely hysterical to watch her experience new things. Like the first time she saw herself in a mirror she did not know what to do and crawled up to the mirror to sniff the image, now she has taken to staring at you in the mirror. Or the first time she watched TV, she did not know what was going on. During one of her more confident times after a walk we approached the rig and she bolted up the stairs to get into the rig. Problem was the door was not open and she slammed into the side of the rig! Lesson learned there and she now waits for us to open the door.
I see you!
She has been off leash a few times and loves it when we throw a ball which she promptly retrieves so I am hopeful to have her hunting by this time next year.

 She also has a crazy habit that Bailey had, like a proper lady, she crosses her front legs when she is laying down.

I know this is a long post just to say we got a new dog but as many of you know, it is not always about the end result, it is about the journey. This was a long 2 year journey but it was definitely worth it in the end!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

More North Dakota Fun!

Large fluffy snowflakes floated lazily to the ground slowly covering the landscape in a blanket of white. Barb and I have always enjoyed an early season snow storm, often watching it from the comfort of our warm home with a fire crackling in our fireplace. This scene however played out in the open flatlands of North Dakota where our furnace fought to keep the temperature inside our rig above 50. Although it was still beautiful, it was a might chilly. The good news is that we finally had the opportunity to break out a pair of hats that my sister Carol knitted for us to take on our Alaska trip. It was never cold enough in Alaska to wear them so we took the opportunity this cold spell presented and sported them on the snowiest of days!
Thanks Carol!
But despite the cold we have been very busy here on the farm. There are still several hundred acres of soy beans to harvest and even more acres to till. Soy beans can be a very temperamental crop requiring almost perfect field conditions to harvest. Too much moisture and it is not only hard to get in the field but the plant themselves will bunch up in the combine header making it almost impossible to harvest them. It will take a couple of dry warm days after any kind of moisture before they are ready to harvest again.
The soy bean harvest continues when the weather cooperates
Daisy even got to drive the tractor!

This is what happens when you drive a semi into a wet field.....

.....a Ford gets to pull you out!
Even when we cannot get into the fields there is still plenty to do. There are round bales to get out of the field and stored for easy access throughout the winter.

There is grain to get to the elevator to free up some bins in anticipation of the remaining soy beans. If you are driving the roads of north central North Dakota, beware, I have learned to drive the semi-trucks so if you see me behind the wheel your best bet is just to head for the ditch.

There are miles and miles of ditches to be mowed. Little known fact; landowners are responsible for mowing the ditches adjacent to their property on township roads in this area. In fact, not only are they responsible, they can get fined if they are not mowed by mid-October. Failing to mow the ditches will result in snow holding in the taller grass which also act as a snow fence of sorts and more snow on the roadways.
Gotta love the look of a freshly mowed ditch

Then there was the corn bin that needed to be cleaned out resulting in a hacking cough and me sleeping on the couch for 10 straight days due to a severe reaction to corn dust. Lesson learned.

Of course let’s not forget the hunting! The colder weather has pushed a lot of northern waterfowl in the area so every pothole seems to be filled with birds. Although we are still a few weeks away from the peak of the rut the bucks are slowly getting more active and Chris was the first on the board this year harvesting this monster buck last Friday!

We were able to get over to nearby McClusky to visit friends Dan and Jeannie who own and operate Prairie Smoke Ranch, the waterfowl camp located on our sidebar.  Barb has been busy continuing to look for that perfect apple dessert recipe. We have been delighted with various types of apple bars but my favorite is her hot apple crisp with ice cream!
She went to a Sushi making class/wine tasting with Jeannie in Minot. She even bought everything she needed to make sushi and it was very good! She also got down her bike and has been riding that. This alone is a small miracle as I don’t think they have been of the rack in well over a year. Mine on the other hand, continues to collect dust on the back of the rig. She and Daisy have been visiting me in the tractor and taking photography walks throughout the countryside. 

An old D6 Caterpillar

The wind is really hard on flags around here!
Full moon coming over the horizon

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Fall in North Dakota!

The crisp cool mornings, frost on the ground, changing of the leaves, harvest time and hunting season. Without a doubt fall is our favorite season of the year and there are two places that really speak to our hearts and bring all this together for us; the woods of northern Wisconsin and the farmlands of North Dakota. What is interesting about this is that Barb and I were both raised in suburban or city settings but soon after we married we moved out to the country and have never looked back.
Although we have not gotten back to Wisconsin during the fall since being on the road fulltime, we have been lucky enough to spend several weeks at our friend’s farm in North Dakota each of the last few years.
With anticipation levels high, we left Salt Lake City, spent one night in Casper, WY, and two nights at our favorite campground; Ditch Creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This is a great little campground we have a knack of hitting in the off season. Which incidentally is free after Labor Day. We arrived to find only two other campers in the campground. Perfect!

This little guy was just down the road from the campground

We spent two days driving around the area getting to know it better as this area is on our short list for our future home if and when we decide to get off the road. We are looking for 5-50 acres bordering National Forest property and are open to vacant property or a fixer upper and if we find the perfect place we would probably buy and slowly get it ready for that someday when we RV part time rather than full time.  We are prepared to buy if we find the perfect property. Although we saw some great property, saw some elk, sheep, turkeys and other wildlife, we did not find the perfect property this time around.
Moving on we spent one night in Medora before we arrived at our final destination for the next several weeks at the Finken/Sobieck Farm in Douglas, North Dakota. In addition to getting to spend time with our good friends Bob, Deanne, Chris and Holly, we get to pursue a couple of other passions; hunting and helping out on the farm.
The day arrived I was able to jump right in a tractor and help out while Barb got the rig ready for our long stay.
Our home for the next few weeks
They were in the middle of harvesting soy beans and I was able to “Cart”, something I have never done before. Carting involves driving a tractor and a grain cart alongside the combine when it gets full so the combine driver can dump the beans into the cart. It was a little intimidating at first as you need to drive within a foot or two of the combine lining up the chute of the combine with the middle of the cart, otherwise it was be a costly mess. Once the cart is full I dump the beans into a semi truck. They then go either to the grain elevator in town or a grain bin like one behind our rig in the picture above.
My farm toy this week!

Chris unloading into the cart when we were stopped

Going to get some more beans!
Over the past week the weather has not cooperated with farming, the lows have been in the upper 20’s and high’s in the 40’s the last couple days. This has made for some frosty mornings in the rig! We can see our breath when we wake up and turn up the furnace. We have come to realize that the perfect temperature is one where the dormant flies hiding in the rig can walk around but are not warm enough to fly. Combine this with 20-30 mph winds and it makes for some bone chilling cold that we are not used to!
We were able to get out duck hunting a few days with varying success but it was great to get out in the field.
Opening morning on a North Dakota Pothole!

Could she look any hotter?
A beautiful morning of field hunting
Although the bow deer season is open, I am going to wait a week or two longer before hitting the field as the bucks become more active in late October and early November. Deer sign looks promising however and the cameras are showing some nice bucks in the area. With luck we will be able to but some venison in the freezer this fall!

What's Barb up to you ask? Well, she has been making herself busy with a crocheting project she started in Alaska. (Ask me in 3 years how this project is going). She has also been baking all sorts of apple desserts using the fruit from a couple trees in the yard and last but not least she ahs been taking walks working on her photography. I must say I am very impressed with some of her pictures!

If you look REALLY close you can see a coyote howling on top of the round bale

Here's a closer look

As much fun as all that sounds, our biggest discovery came when we saw a new appliance in Holly's kitchen. We were telling her how hard it is properly cook a pizza in our oven and she pulls out this appliance that she says not only cooks the perfect pizza every time but will also cook toll house cookies and....wait for it......Tater Tots, another thing we have a hard time with in our oven! I was like an instant infomercial in Holly's kitchen!

I am happy to report that we are now the proud owners of our very own Pizza Pizzazz Plus!

Until next time.........