Friday, October 28, 2016

Weeks 3 and 4 in North Dakota, the Harvest is Done!

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. We have not gotten out hunting but we are still enjoying ourselves with the farm work. Several back to back days of dry weather allowed Bob and Chris to harvest the remaining soy beans while I carted and transferred the beans from the combine to the semi-trucks. I could tell that both Bob and Chris were relieved to have the last of the crops off the fields so they could now focus on other chores around the farm.
They combined during the day.....

....and at night
But they got it all done!!!!!
There were several large rocks and a fence line they wanted removed before the fields were prepared for the spring planting. Although I had plenty of experience removing rocks and fence when we owned our hobby farm, we did not have the cool tools to make these jobs so much easier! They have an attachment for the bobcat that digs, lifts and secures the rock so there is virtually no physical labor involved. In fact, this is probably the first time I have ever enjoyed removing rocks from a field!
That's one big rock!
Next up was a ½ mile fence line that they wanted removed. Again, they had an attachment for their tractor that did most of the work for you. After walking the fence line and removing all the post connections you simply hook the fence line up to fence wheel and use the hydraulics to slowly start winding the wire onto the wheel.
Fence winder, one cool invention!
Barb even got in the action when she used the rotary mower and Case tractor to chop up 20 acres of oats residue!

Barb getting some tractor time!
One of my favorite tasks was continuing to use one of the semis to take Canola to the elevator. Previously I had just driven the unloaded semi back from the elevator. This in itself was a learning experience as unlike any other manual transmission I have driven you don’t shift these trucks using the clutch. Instead you have to “RPM match”.  It takes a while to get the knack of this and if you miss a gear or cannot find a gear you may have to come to a stop, use the clutch to put it in gear and start all over again. This is not something you want to do on a busy road! Luckily this never happened to me (yet) although there was definitely some gear searching going on a time or two!

Next came driving the truck while it was loaded. Having 60,000 pounds of grain on your truck really changes the dynamics of starting, stopping and even taking corners. It really gave me a new appreciation for the truck drivers out there.

Arriving at the grain elevator is another experience in itself. As you pull in you have to scan yourself in so they know which farm to credit the load to. Then you to pull up to the “Probe Station” for your two probes. You pull up until they turn on a red light, you stop and an automated arm dips into the front hopper and takes a sample of your grain. The light then turns green and you pull up a little further and stop so they can probe the back hopper. Among some of the things they check for are moisture content and overall grain quality. You could be docked if any of these things are outside their specifications.
Once the light turns green again you pull up onto the scale and scan your card again accepting the weight.  
Coming in at almost 87,000 #'s
Then it is on to the dump station. These certainly are not like the dump stations we are accustomed to while full timing. They are long tall buildings with grates on the floor. Once you are inside you stop, park and get out and open the hopper doors dumping the canola into the grates.
Approaching the dump building
Opening the hopper to dump the canola
Once empty, you head out to the exit scale where they weigh you again and you get your ticket which details your weight and grain quality.
Going out at 27,000 #'s
Then it is back to the farm to load up and do it all over again. Depending on how long you have to wait in line to dump a round trip can take anywhere from 2-3 hours. Add the 30-40 minutes it takes to fill the truck back at the farm and you can make 2-3 roundtrips a day.

There is a lot of waterfowl headed south and we will get back into the field hunting in the next week or so. The other day thousands of Sandhill Cranes flew over no doubt headed to south Texas.
Sandhills headed south
The deer activity picked up the last two weeks and we checked the cameras several times to see what was in each of the areas. It is like Christmas every time you check the cameras as you don’t know what you are going to get! We have seen everything from pheasants, raccoons, coyotes, fox, squirrels, deer of course and the occasional moose!

This little guy stopped by for a photo op
North Dakota Prairie Moose?

This deer should be in the circus!
These two were not getting along.....

Then of course there are the monster bucks.......

Sequoia is doing well and we could not be happier! We changed her name to Dakota as it is one of our favorite places and is rolls off my tongue better when giving commands in the field. I figured if I can respond to all the different names Barb calls me she can learn one new name. She is a very smart dog and is already responds to it.
We have been working with the retrieving dummy 2-3 times a days and she is doing awesome! We took down the ramp and although she is not as agile as she was with the ramps she is getting in and out just fine. We have been working on introducing her to new noises and environments and although she is initially nervous, she gets calmer and calmer with each repetition and as you can see she is becoming quite comfortable within our rig!
Which is more comfortable.....the couch or.....

....the recliner?
Barb is becoming quite the Sushi Chef! She has been to two sushi classes in the past few weeks and we have been having some delicious sushi!
Caterpillar, Dragon and a Fried Roll

She also finished her crocheting project, something I honestly did not think she would get done in the next year.

Last but not least, she got her annual haircut! Holly was able to get her into her stylist and she looks even more beautifuller, if that is even possible......

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