Monday, October 19, 2020

Being a Trophy Husband is Exhausting

It’s a burden I have had to live with for some 34 odd years. Well, not all of them have been odd years but the most of them sure have!

The major role of a Trophy Husband is to make his wife look good and for those of you who know Barb know that I have been doing that aspect of my role very well! I make her look like a great cook by eagerly eating everything she cooks. I make her look like an excellent housekeeper by giving her plenty of opportunity to clean up after me and I make her look like an genius when it comes to finances by always giving her challenges like blowing up truck engines. Honestly, I think she would be lost without me.

But this week I learned a new role which is equally as exhausting. It requires a skill set that I did not even know that I had but apparently I came about it quite naturally. What is this new role? In addition to being a Trophy Husband, I am a Trophy Friend constantly making Kevin look good while we are working together. Who knew there was such a thing! Whenever we are working together he goes about it like he knows exactly what he is doing while I on the other hand look like the total opposite of that. 

This week was all about concrete. Barb and I have been waiting a long time for this week. The week where we pour 151’x8’ of our porch on 3 sides of the house over 3 days. 88’ along the east side, 46’ along the south side and 17’ on the west side. This entire area will someday be covered by a covered porch but for now we will be happy just to have a solid surface to walk on. The first day was spent prepping/leveling the ground, drilling holes for the porch posts and setting form boards.

Leveling and setting forms

Most of the post holes went well, drilling down 48” or more. But with the rocky terrain there were a few holes that only went down 24” or so. The east side has 9 holes. The south side 5 holes and the west side only 4 holes.

This would be the 4th pour with team Jim, Barb and Kevin having already poured at Kevin’s and twice at our place. The first pour was 77’ along the east side. Our 79 year old neighbor Owen volunteered to come over and help and I tell you what, he kept up with us shovel for shovel throughout the entire pour!

Owen helping bore a hole

The truck straddled the forms and backed in

Barb and Kevin hard at work!

The weather and the pour was great, in the mid 50’s. The truck backed right down the side of the house and pulled forward as we poured. Barb handled the chute, shoveled and edged. Owen stood on the outside and shoveled along the edged as we went. I stood by, took pictures and generally made everyone look like they were working harder than me. 

Whew, I am exhausted but I am making Kevin look good!

Later in the day Barb had the camera and was constantly taking pictures whenever she saw me doing nothing and just watching Kevin. Hey, that’s what Trophy Friends do, they make their buddy’s look good!

Dig a little deeper Kevin
The next day we spent forming up the next pour which was to take place two days later on Friday.

Thursday Kevin and I took a road trip to the Yankton area to get a load of hay from a friend of his. Although that side of the state does produce some fine hay, it just was not worth the 16 hour trip. We left at 5:30am and finally got back to Kevin’s at 9:30pm. The trip itself went fine but it is one we will never do again! About 2 hours into our trip Kevin got a call from Cheryl saying that her horse had opened the gate and was gone! Kevin’s horse Willy was still in the pasture but Blondie was nowhere to be seen!

We were too far in our trip to turn around so I called Barb to see if she could go over and help. The gate that Blondie opened was the one that led to miles and miles of National Forest property. Both Barb and Cheryl spent the next 4 hours driving and walking around looking for Blondie. Barb walked and walked the hills behind this house. She and Cheryl were in contact via handheld radios as cell phones are hit and miss in that area. 3½ hours later Cheryl was driving the road she had been driving all morning when she came around the corner and there was Blondie standing along a fence. She was able to walk right up to her but she was over 3 miles from home in rough terrain. The radios were not working this far away so Cheryl flagged down a passerby who drove to Cheryl’s house catching Barb just as she was coming back to the house. Barb hooked the horse trailer to the Jeep (which was way too heavy a load for the Jeep) and headed over to where Cheryl was standing with her horse. They then loaded it up and returned Blondie to the pasture. It was a few tense hours but it all turned out well. Bonus, Barb even found a really nice elk shed on her walkabout!

Barb's elk treasure!

Friday was pour day again. This time it was just Barb, Kevin and I. This pour did not go quite as well. First it was tough to get the truck into position on the south side of the house. The truck was on an angle straddling the form boards and we poured as we went across the front of the house. All was going well until the truck slid sideways taking out the form boards! Ugh! We kept pouring with the intent to pour up to where the form boards were taken out. Then when I was manning the chute I too was standing on an angle outside the form when all of a sudden there must have been more concrete in the chute then my weight like maybe like160# or so, okay maybe a little more than that. Anyway, the chute full of concrete just shot me down the hill on my butt so instead of the concrete dumping in the forms it was dumping on the ground all around me. The truck operator turned off the flow but not before we had a nice arc of concrete outside the form! Funny how you never think of taking pictures when everything is going wrong. 

So as we got to the area that the forms were crushed, the truck moved out of the way and Kevin continued to level out the concrete. Barb was on the shovel and I was frantically ripping the crushed form boards off the bent stakes, measuring, putting in new stakes, leveling and putting new form boards ahead of him. We barely missed a beat and soon we were carrying on with the rest of the pour! They all can’t go perfect right?!?! Once all the concrete is poured Barb and I do the edging while Kevin floats and works on the main sections. Once the edging is done there is not much left for Barb and I to do so I just stand around, watch Kevin work and make him look good!

Front side all done as I again make Kevin look like he is working harder than me!
"You missed a spot to the left Kevin"
That night it got down to 49 with rain which is not a problem, we just covered it so the concrete with poly which helps retain the heat and continues to cure. We had added accelerator to the concrete mix at the plant to get it to set up quicker as we knew the weather was changing. The next day the rain turned to snow as the temperature plummeted into the 20’s and teens. 

We are keeping the concrete covered for now, I am sure it is all set but it does not hurt to keep it covered for a few more days.

Cold and snowy but it is all done!
This week we also put our camper to bed for the time being by winterizing it and getting it ready for the colder weather. I love the Lance campers and how easy it is to winterize them. 20 short minutes and I am done!

Our big purchase of the week was the delivery of our antler chandelier. We had been looking for just the right one when we saw this one on Black Forest Décor. We have it hung and are just waiting to get to town to buy some bulbs for it!

Cannot wait to get bulbs and light it up!
No big projects planned for this week. Maybe work on the loft floor, varnish some windows and generally work at making Barb look good....which is exhausting enough!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Updates from the J-B and 7 Bulls Ranch

We have been back now for almost two weeks and the most significant thing we have noticed is how dry it is. It rained less than 2” in both August and September. 

Our pond went from this….
Dakota swimming in our pond. It was 4-5' deep in August
To this….. in just a few short weeks.

I would venture to say that water is the most important thing to the wildlife right now. In fact a review of the trail camera on the water tank showed a variety of wildlife visiting throughout the day and night. The first 4 pictures are a sequence showing a Redtail hawk landing on the tank, jumping in the water, getting out and drying off then flying away. If you look at the clock on the bottom of the picture you can see that it was there for about 45 minutes!

Taking a bath....

Drying off.....

And away it goes!

 Of course there are the ever present deer. This one got right in the water tank and was taking a bath! 

Not sure what scared these guys but they were getting the heck out of there!

Then there are the creatures that go bump in the night like this bobcat...

 This flying squirrel looks like he was going to land on the camera!

Ahh! There's a camera!

We have been busy as ever. The first 4 days or so were spent over at Kevin’s place putting up fencing for a much anticipated event. The arrival of the Filip horses! Kevin’s horse was arriving from Wisconsin delivered by longtime friends Craig and Paulette and Cheryl was to pick up her horse a few days later!

Craig and Paulette

Kevin and Cheryl were very excited to get their horses home and start riding them.

Speaking of Kevin and Cheryl’s house, they got a lot done in the 6 weeks that we were gone. They got the roof on both their covered porch and car port. They used T&G 2x6’s so it had a tight fit and the T&G is visible from below.
Carport all done!
Front porch with the T&G ceiling

They also put up the majority of the bug wood on the ceiling in their living areas. The finished product looks great and they are well on their way to creating their forever home!
He got the wood on his east wall and elk up!

Dining room area

Bug wood on the living room ceiling
Progress has been a little slower at our place. I redid the stairs as we did not love the way they felt from our first attempt. They are now level and more evenly spaced and feel great walking up and down them!

We also cut the wall down along the side of the stairs. This was the plan all along and we are now to the phase where we could cut the wall diagonally and start putting up posts for the railing. It is slow and tedious as each post has to be cut and notched to fit in its location but we are loving the end result!


After....Diagonal cut done and 3 posts set!

Barb snapped this picture because she was amazed that I knew how to use a vacuum cleaner.
We also spent a couple of days fencing the west line of our property. This line is a little over a ¼ mile through mostly rocky and wooded terrain. We have set the line several months ago now we needed to set all the T posts and run wire. Like a lot of the other fences on our property, setting the T posts in the rock is quite the challenge. We use a hammer drill and a generator set in the back of the ATV to drill a 2” hole every 25’ or so. This allows us to set the T posts directly in the rock and not have to hunt for softer areas where we can hand pound them.

Hammer drill in action!
We got about ½ way done in the two days so another 2-3 days and we should be done.

The highlight of the week was the arrival of my sister Carol from Minnesota. The oldest of my 4 sisters, she was 11 when I was born and basically raised me and my younger brother. This is the 3rd year in a row that she has been able to visit us in the fall. She spent 3 days with us visiting, 4 wheeling, sitting out and enjoying the nature while we worked on the house.

We saw a couple of nice antelope on our ride

The view from the edge of Rim Rock Canyon
She even got out deer hunting one day! A first for her. We spent several hours in the deer blind one afternoon. Although the “big guy” did not walk by, we had a great afternoon watching the other deer in the area.

Carol and I in the blind

We saw a few does

Wednesday  night we went to the Hitchrail in Pringle for burger night. Last Wednesday night we celebrated Cheryl’s birthday and this past Wednesday we celebrated Bonnie’s birthday! How old are they? Well, Cheryl turned….do you really think I am that stupid? Don’t answer that…  

Princess Bonnie
Cheryl with her tiara and scepter 

On the truck front, we decided to go with the new engine rather than a rebuilt. Although this is the more expensive option, it comes with a 3 year warranty and with a rebuilt you are just dealing with too much unknown. We had to put 1/2 down to order it. Once it arrives it will take 3 weeks to get it installed so it looks like we are without a truck for the next month or so.  

We also had a visit from longtime virtual friends Ron and Mary who were in the area site seeing. We had been following each others blogs for several years and this is the first time we have been in the same area. Ron and Mary stopped by our place for a few hours of visiting and getting to know each other. They are great people and we are looking forward to seeing them again soon!

I pretty much had this weeks blog done and was ready to post it when we had an event in the neighborhood. Barb and I were out on the west line putting in a few T posts when we heard sirens pretty close by. We jumped on the Ranger and came out of the woods to this......just a mile north of our house. 

 So like all curious retired people we drove the Ranger over that way to see what was going on. We later found out that the rancher over there was mowing his pasture when a hot wheel bearing ignited the grass. The end result was about 50 acres being burned. Three fire departments responded as well as a helicopter and were able to keep the fire out of the forest and contained to the grasslands. 

This coming week we have lots of plans on the house, if we get them all done we will have lots to update next week!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

A Week of Ups and Downs

This week we were again reminded of how blessed we are to be surrounded by good people and good friends.

We left the farm on a Monday saying good bye to Dylan, Bob and DeAnne. We hope to see them in the spring for planting! We did not say a final goodbye to Holly, Chris and the kids as we will be seeing them at the end of the week for Chris’ sister’s wedding.

 We had a whirlwind week planned with a stop in a different place every night. Our first stop was our friend Dan and Jeannie’s a mere hour from the farm. I have known Dan since high school and is actually Chris’ uncle. The unlikely thing about both Chris and Dan is that both were born and raised in the suburbs of the Twin Cities of MN and both migrated to the remote prairie of ND. Dan and Jeannie own a 900 acre waterfowl hunting operation. Even though it is approaching their busy time, they actually closed down for the season and will have the place basically to themselves!

We spent the afternoon visiting then Dan and I went for a ride on the property while Jeannie and Barb played accordions. We could not think of a better time to leave them to practice. As Dan and I drove around I reminisced about the years of duck seasons I had spent up here. There is nothing like sharing a duck blind that will bond friends for life. So many memories with my dogs Packer and Bailey as well as friends, many of them I have not seen in years.

Bright and early the next morning we hit the road on a super-secret mission we had been given and decided to accept. Our mission? To break into the Fortress of Isolation inhabited by none other than the infamous Tango Allejandro and Gladys Butterpump!

They must have heard of our plan as less than 10 minutes after leaving Dan and Jeannie’s we heard the familiar whop, whop, whop of a flat tire on gravel. I quickly pulled over, got out and did see a flat tire on the inner dually of the drivers side but the other thing I saw was even more concerning. The outer tire was almost completely off the truck and was laying sideways. All the lug nuts were gone and one lug was broken completely off! 

Hard to tell here but the inner tire was flat

Tango must have sent a secret operative out in the middle of the night to flatten our tire and steal all our lug nuts. To make matters worse we were still in the middle of a one lane gravel road and could not move it.

We called Dan who was going to slowly drive the 5 miles from his house and look for lug nuts while I went about changing the flat tire and getting the other tire back on the hub. I quickly ran into two problems. Problem #1….. the truck/camper combination was too heavy for the jack I had. Easy solution…lower the jacks and get the camper weight off the truck. Problem #2….With the camper on we could not get at the port to lower the spare tire with the camper on. Another easy solution…...just raise the camper higher and we could reach the port.

Meanwhile Dan had arrived and found no lug nuts on the road. Now what? We are a good 45 minutes from the smallest of towns minus 8 lug nuts!?!?? Then I was reminded of an incident Farmer Bob and I had the other day when we noticed a couple missing lug nuts on a piece of equipment. He just borrowed one from another tire. Genius! Except in my case I had to borrow 2 from each tire which left me 2 lugs short on all of the tires. I did not see this as an approved method in the owner’s manual but I had to make due.

We were soon on the road and about 30 minutes later were in the tiny metropolis of McClusky. One gas station, one grocery store, a bar and luckily one auto repair shop.  Unluckily for us they did not have any lug nuts for our particular truck so down the road we went. An hour later we pulled into NAPA in Carrington, ND and picked up a set of lug nuts, tightened them down and were on our way down the road and forging ahead with our mission.

Although Dino and Lisa, I mean Tango and Gladys knew we were coming they did not give us an address or directions to their fortress. Instead they gave us coordinates to a remote location in northwest Minnesota. Once we arrived we were told to walk into the middle of a corn field, hold hands and click our heals together and repeat “There is no place like the fortress, there is no place like the fortress….” Over and over again. Next thing we knew it was like we were flying in a third dimension, kinda like the matrix. We saw some pretty weird things in the matrix; flying cows, a sasquatch and I am pretty sure we saw Lisa riding a bike in the air with her cat Moose in the basket on the handle bars.

Then BOOM it was all over and we were in a white cylindrical tube and Lisa was sitting there next to us. Dino opened the hatch, let us out and we were at the Fortress of Isolation. When we emerged, our truck, camper, trailer and dogs were there waiting for us!

Arriving in the portal

Barb emerging from the portal

We had a great night with them. Dino and I took a 4 wheeler ride around their property, the leaves were changing and the contrast of the foliage and water was amazing. 

Their new home is coming right along. It looks like the perfect place to wait out the pandemic, zombie  apocalypse and the election. 

Barb and Lisa discuss the kitchen while Daisy looks ultra bored
We had steaks, a few beers, desert and a great night by the fire. Before we knew it it was time for bed.
Both Barb and I had the most peaceful night of sleep ever. When we woke up we were no longer at The Fortress but were again at the edge of that remote corn field where everything began the day before.

Perplexed but well rested we continued our journey east towards Wisconsin where we were to stay for the next three days. Day 1 was at our friends Doug and Connie. Although we saw Doug just a few weeks ago when he delivered our deer mounts, we have not seen Connie in quite a while. 

They own a great place on the bluff of the St. Croix River.

Day 2 we went to my sister Judy’s place about an hour north where we had dinner with my sister Carol, sister Judy and her husband Mike and my brother Bob and his wife Greta. It had been over a year since we have all been together and it was great to see them and hear everyone is doing well.

Sunset at sister Judy's
We spent the night in Judy and Mike’s spare lake lot which has some great views. After a breakfast with Judy and Mike the next morning in Balsam Lake we were on to my brother Bob’s house to pick up the last of our items that we have stored there for the past 5 years then back to Doug and Connie’s for the day. Doug and I spent the day cutting and splitting firewood. It is so therapeutic to be out in the woods just working.

So far our trip had been filled with highs with only one setback with the tire several days earlier. Had we known what was coming, we would have run to the nearest cornfield and started clicking our heels.

Saturday found us leaving Doug and Connie’s and heading to Minnesota where my friend Bob’s daughter (Chelsie) was getting married. It was an outdoor event at a local golf course. Chris, Holly and the kids were there as Chelsie is Chris’ sister. All of them were in the wedding. The little ones looked adorable in their little outfits. 

It was cloudy and overcast when we arrived. That turned to mist about 15 minutes before the wedding. When we were seated waiting for the ceremony it turned to rain. We all got pretty much soaked. One thing for sure is that this is a wedding none of us will soon forget! First down the aisle were the bridesmaids and groomsmen followed by Gavin, Chase and Calvin who were ring bearers. Gavin and Chase practically ran down the aisle leaving Calvin by himself in the middle of the aisle getting wet with about 100 strange people looking at him. You could see the terror in his eyes and he was about to cry until he saw Barb and dove into her arms. It was actually pretty funny.

Bob walking his daughter Chelsie down the aisle
A soggy start to their marriage
Holly and Chris. Do they look a little wet?!?

The ceremony was pretty quick and soon we were back inside drying off. We stayed at the reception for a couple of hours and decided to get a few hours of road time behind us as we had a long drive back to South Dakota. We only made it about an hour and a half that night before we were too tired to drive any further in the rain so we spent the night in a Walmart parking lot in Mankato, MN.

The next day we were on the road bright and early. It was really windy and we were making pretty good time. About an hour outside of Rapid City our check engine light came on. I thought, “Hmm, we will be home in 2 hours and I will put the code reader on it and see what it is”. An hour later we were going up a steep hill outside Rapid City when the engine lost power. Barb was driving and pulled over as fast as she could but by the time she pulled over the engine was making horrible noises. And when I say horrible, I mean horrible.

We sat there in disbelief for a few minutes on this busy road. We knew we were not going to make it home so we called Kevin and Cheryl for assistance. They were on the road within minutes to come rescue us. I was able to limp it to a turn off so we were at least in safe spot. I unhooked the trailer waiting for Kevin to arrive. Once he got there we put a tow strap on it and towed it about 7 miles to a diesel repair shop that we had been to before. Being Sunday, it was closed so we locked up the camper and just left it in the parking lot.

A sad sight, a Dodge pulling a GMC

Then it was back to the trailer where Barb and the dogs were waiting. We hooked that up to Kevin’s truck and on our way home again minus the truck and camper. That night I was talking to Jim and Brenda Jordan telling them of our woes. They offered to go to Rapid the next day with their truck to retrieve our camper. They were our saviors as we had no way to get it home and we later found out the mechanic could not work on the truck with the camper on.

So the next day we were off to retrieve our camper and talk to the mechanic. The camper transfer was kind of a challenge but we got it done. The mechanic started the truck for about 2 seconds, turned it off and said it was not good. The Jordan’s brought the camper to our place, backed it into the garage where it will sit for…..I don’t know how long but at least it was home.

Two days later we got a call from the repair shop with the news. We need a new engine. An internal bearing went out totally destroying the engine. The cost? I was prepared for and ready to accept a $10,000-$12,000 bill. What we found out is that we could probably get a rebuilt one (if we could find one) for that price but a new one is about $7,000 more. That brought us to a whole new level of depression. With 200,000 miles on the truck and long ago out of warranty we would have to foot the bill. We are going to take the weekend to see what our options are but are leaning towards the new engine.

This week was a good reminder of how lucky and blessed we are to have such great friends. Just the past 10 days or so we spent time with some of the greatest friends anyone could ever ask for from The Farm to seeing Dan and Jeannie, Doug and Connie, our friends at the wedding and especially Kevin, Cheryl, Jim and Brenda for being our rescuers the last few days! It would be easy to get totally depressed by an event like this but we have to remind ourselves that this situation is just temporary and next year at this time this will all be a distant memory…..