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" 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.....

Monday, September 25, 2017

More South Dakota Visitors!

Our time here in South Dakota is quickly coming to an end. When we arrived the end of August thinking 6 weeks was a long time but now with only a couple days left we wonder where the time went.
Granted our days were busy with working on the property and visiting but time just seemed to fly by. Jim and Brenda Jordan arrived on Thursday the 14th, a few hours after the Belisle’s departure and we put them to work almost immediately.
Our latest visitors Jim and Brenda!
Still discovering the best eateries in the area we went to the catfish fry Friday night at the Hitchrail in Pringle with Rudee and Phil from Custer as well as the Jordans. It was no shore lunch of Canadian walleye but both the fish and company were good. We were amazed at how much Jim and Brenda had in common with Phil and Rudee. Both had belonged to different chapters of the same motorcycle club and even though they lived more than a thousand miles apart, they had attended some of the same events and had probably walked within feet of each other. Now years later they met in Pringle, South Dakota…..what are the odds?

Next up was a trip to Custer and the Purple Pie Place! It is well worth the visit if you are in the area, both for the food and the pie.

While in Custer we took in some of the sites..... Did you know there is a herd of buffalo roaming the streets of Custer? Almost every street corner has one. We were not able to capture every one on camera but we got a few!

Kevin arrived Saturday morning and so started a busy week of working on each other’s property. He had brought a hammer drill with a 2” bit so we spent several days drilling holes into the rock so we could eventually get T posts into the ground. Some of the holes went good while others took up to 20 minutes to get down the 24”s. When we return in November we should be able to pound the T posts in and finish this project.
Barb and Brenda were busy with their own project which involved tearing apart an old wooden fence that was on the property. Barb hopes to use some of the wood for a feature wall in the house so they carefully took the fence apart and stacked the wood on a pallet.
We have also been kicking around some different names for the property. Being in the west (or at least western South Dakota) we are thinking of something with a “-“ (bar) in the name and since it fits in with Barbs name, all the better! We are thinking of J - - (pronounced J bar bar), or J – B (pronounced J bar B). Still thinking about it but we are leaning towards the last one…..

Meanwhile over on the Filip estate Kevin was doing some grading to level his building site and getting his driveway in!
Kevin digging in the electrical line

The driveway going in on Kevin's place
 Once his site was done the same excavator came over to our place and started leveling our site.

The dozer cleared the site and is pushing some trees
This meant that we had to move to another part of the property and live “off grid” for a few days until our site is ready. When we come back in November we should have sewer and water right at our site!
After having to move parked near the cattle pen (Jordan's in the background)
But the biggest excitement for the week was the fact that bow hunting opened on Saturday the 23rd. We had seen a couple of nice bucks on the property with one of them definitely being the one I wanted if the opportunity presented itself.
Nice, but not the one I wanted.....

This is will be nice next year....

This is the one I wanted!!!
Opening day arrived and it was cold, overcast and rainy but with only 3 days before we headed to North Dakota I headed to my stand at 5am an hour before first light. While I was waiting for the sun to rise I heard a deer walk by near where the trail camera was positioned. It was still too dark to see it but in my mind I just knew it was the big one!
As the night turned to day, I saw 3 smaller bucks and several does and when I headed in at 9:30 for a break (I was wet and freezing!) I grabbed the SD card out of the camera in front of my stand. When I got back to the camper and looked at the pictures….sure enough, the big guy had walked by just before shooting light!
Still raining/misting I went back out at 11:30 with plans to sit until sunset. I saw two of the same smaller bucks from the morning but not the big guy. Then around 3:30 I noticed movement off to my right and there he was! Walking through the woods about 40 yards in front of me, I drew back my bow and waited for him to stop. He stopped several times but he was behind some brush the arrow would never make it through but just when I thought I could not hold the bow back any more he stepped forward into a clearing and I released the arrow.

Almost immediately the buck turned and ran but it looked like the arrow hit where I wanted it to. I got down out of my tree and went to the spot where he was standing to see if I had hit it but found nothing…no arrow, no blood….nothing, just some tracks of him running away. I followed the tracks for 50 yards expecting to start seeing a blood trail but found nothing. I spent an hour scouring the trail looking for my arrow or the tiniest speck of blood…nothing. Did I miss? Did the arrow hit an unseen branch and deflect? Dejected I walked back to the camper and relayed my story to Barb.

She said lets go out and look again so we went back out into the rain for another look. We covered much of the same area and found nothing. As we were walking the back fence line looking for any sign I looked up and laying 20 yards ahead of me was the deer! It was obvious that he had been dead awhile so my shot had been good. We backtracked the trail and could not find any blood, the deer had traveled about 100 yards with no blood trail at all. Upon closer inspection I saw that the arrow hit a couple of inches higher than I was aiming and did not pass through so the blood stayed inside the animal. 
Dejection turned to elation as Barb and I hugged each other right there in the woods. After taking a few pictures, we loaded it up in the 4 wheeler and hung it in a tree for the night. The next day we processed the deer, packaged up the steaks and took the rest to the processor to make some sausage and burger. Now we need to find someplace to store all this meat!
Next up is North Dakota to see our good friends Bob, Deanne, Chris, Holly and Bob and Sue for some farm work and with luck some ducks and bucks!    

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Our First South Dakota Visitors!

All work and no fun makes for a grumpy couple. Luckily we averted GCS (Grumpy Couple Syndrome) by infusing some fun into our week.
After working all day, we started taking drives at night right at sunset to see if we could run across some of the area wildlife and boy, did we ever!

Our most exciting events of the week was the fact that we had lots of visitors! Our first visitors were a local group of turkey’s who discovered that we put up bird feeders. Now they visit 3-4 times a day and have become so accustom to us and the dogs that they walk within 10 feet of us when we are outside sitting in front of the rig.
Our daily visitors

Our first human encounter this week was dinner with friends Phil and Rudee, on Phil’s birthday no less! Phil and Rudee are originally from Indiana and were fulltiming RV’ers for over 5 years until they started their “summer” job at Crazy Horse Memorial just outside of Custer. They liked the job and area so much they decided to buy a house in Custer and have taken a temporary hiatus from life on the road and enjoy life in Custer for a few years. For dinner, we met them at Lintz’s Pizza in Hermosa. We are slowly but surely learning the places to go for good food in the area.
Rudee and the birthday boy in front of their bike
Next up was a 3 day visit from virtual friends, bloggers and fellow fulltimers Jim and Diana Belisle. Although we had not personally met until this week, we have been virtual friends for several years following each other’s blogs and travel adventures. They have been on the road for about 3 ½ years and are passing through the area on their way back to their home state of Michigan after spending the summer in Oregon.
They are a great couple, we spent one day visiting the Prairie Berry Winery for a wine tasting and the Alpine Inn for a great lunch. Then it was off to Crazy Horse Memorial. Having never been here before we were amazed at the size of this complex and the number of displays there were to see. And bonus, if you are from Custer County, you get in for free! They just ask that you bring a few items for the local food self.
Diana and Jim at Prairie Berry

One of the many displays at Crazy Horse

With the temps up into the 80’s most of the week it was hard to work past noon so we tried to get as much done early in the day and spend the afternoons running errands or doing other nonphysical activities. One afternoon this included a tour of the local 4 wheeler trails by the owner of Country Charm Cabins. Owen and his wife Lois have owned their campground/cabins and horse camp for over 15 years and know the local trails like their back of their hands so when Owen volunteered to take us on a ride, we could not say yes quick enough!

He showed us a section line road where we could access the National Forest within a mile of our property. From there you can access literally hundreds of miles of trails. We saw some really cool country including an old homestead, an elk carcass and some beautiful scenery. Thanks Owen!

Ruins of an old cabin

This tree was growing right out of a rock!
But wait there’s more, we our second visitors arriving today! Jim and Brenda were too on their east after spending the summer in Alaska and are stopping by for a few days on their way through! Stay tuned for more Black Hills adventures..... 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Work and Fun in South Dakota!

Back when we were working we would often drive 8, 10 even 12 hours or more to get to our destination. Now our daily treks rarely get over 4-5 hours. We are not in a hurry, there are no deadlines so why push ourselves? MapQuest said our trip from Ontario to Pringle South Dakota was somewhere around 1,100 miles and 18 hours. We were so excited to get there we reverted to our former driving habits.
Day 1 found us rolling out of Pasha Lake Cabins at 9:00 EST. 2 ½ hours later we were pulling up to the border. The crossing went without incident and we were headed towards Princeton Minnesota where we were scheduled to have dinner with our friend Joe. It rained most of the way, we stopped several time for fuel and to walk the dogs before we pulled into the restaurant at 7:00 CST. Day 1, 11 hour drive totally exhausted. We had a great dinner with Joe then headed to the local Walmart to park for the night. Let me tell you what a vast difference this day of travel made trading the sound of loons serenading us at night with the sound of trucks and traffic. We were already missing Canada but were equally excited about our ultimate destination.

Day 2 we decided to take it easy, rolling at 9:00am and only drove 6 hours from Princeton to the Cabela’s in Mitchell, South Dakota. We walked the store (did not buy a thing!), ordered Chinese food (disappointing) and just had a lazy evening.

Day 3 we were up and rolling at 7:00am, 7 hours later we pulled up to the gate of our property, we made it! After setting up we went for a walk around the property. It was good to see that the prairie dog population did not double while we were gone. We also checked our trail cameras which had been out in likely hunting areas between our place and Kevin's since our last visit in July. There were whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, turkeys and coyotes on camera, how cool is that!?

Three nice bulls headed to water

This is before I fixed the time and date on the camera

This little guy made an appearance
Young fawn running and enjoying the day

That night when we went to bed, it was quiet, too quiet. No loons, no truck or traffic sound, nothing….we had to turn on a fan for a little white noise just to get to sleep! On top of that our bodies are still on Pasha time which is not only Eastern Time is it also get up early stay up late time. For the past two weeks we had been getting up between 6 and 6:30 and going to bed between midnight and 1:30am depending on how many bears came in. Now that we are in Mountain Time that has turned into getting up at 4:30am. I am sure that will change over time but for now it is kind of a pain.

So here we are for the next 3-4 weeks. We have several goals we would like to accomplish while we are here. The main one is fixing and installing new fencing around the property. The current fence is in disarray and is a combination of barbed and barbless wire on 2 sides.
The current fence is broken and falling over.....
We would like to remove all of it and put up high tensile electric fencing as we plan to lease the property to a local livestock rancher. There is a huge tax benefit to do this. So the next day we made a list of necessary parts and made the 1 hour drive to Running's and Menards in Rapid City for supplies.
First on the list was a 50amp outlet, a breaker and some 6-3 wire for the rig. The temperature is supposed to get up into the 90’s later this week and we wanted AC! This project was not too bad and within an hour we were hooked up to power.
Power is in!
Next up was fencing supplies, T posts, wire, splices, springs and ratchets. The first fencing project was to replace the fencing along the road at the front of the property. Barb and I spent several hours cutting down the old fence and pulling the T posts.
Barb working hard ripping out the old fence

The dogs just sat back and watched.....

As did the other "dogs" on the property
The next day our friend Kevin arrived from Wisconsin to give us a hand for a few days. During his visit we were able to get the front fence line in and lay out the fence line for the east and west property lines. Let me tell you, this is no easy feat to draw 2,600’ straight line through the woods! But with the use of our GPS and a chainsaw we were able to get enough stakes in the ground to see that we were installing the fence right along the property line.
Kevin putting the finishing touches on the front fence line
Over the next couple of weeks we plan on continuing our projects around here but we also want to make sure we get out and about and enjoy the sights of the Black Hills!