Monday, May 16, 2022

Best Mother's Day Present Ever!

 I know you have heard it before, but this week was just another of many examples of how I am the bestest of all the husbands. But more on that later. 

Leaving The Farm, we headed east towards Fargo.  We had a 6-hour drive ahead of us to the Super-Secret Undisclosed location just inside the Minnesota border known as The Oliveri Compound. For those of you who have not been there, this compound is strategically located in a dense wooded area surrounding by swamps and marshes on two sides and a river on another. It was specifically designed to protect the occupants from the inevitable zombie apocalypse that will no doubt happen in the next few years.

We were warned in advance that in order to gain entrance within the fortified gates we would have to go through a rigorous security screening to ensure that we were not zombies in disguise trying to penetrate the compound. I was expecting some kind of blood test, eye exam or something of the like but instead immediately upon arrival we were given a Busch Light which we had to drink within 1 minute of our arrival. Now, we have met a lot of conspiracy theorists on our travels, but Dino took it to a whole new level. Apparently, Dino believes that this bottom shelf beer has some anti-zombie oxidants that sends them into a frenzy exposing the blood thirsty creatures for what they are. Who knew?!?!  Having passed that test we were allowed access to the grounds.  The other thing we did not know, but Dino informed us of very quickly, is that zombies will not attack anyone with a blood alcohol level over .15 so anyone on the premises has to maintain that minimum at all times. 

Now, no pictures are allowed on the exterior of the grounds, but we were able to take a few inside. Dino and Lisa have two cats; Moose and Journey. Moose is quite friendly to two and four legged creatures. Journey on the other hand looks like she will rip your face off if you just look at her the wrong way!

Meanwhile, Zoey and Moose reacquainted themselves with each other. Zoey chased Moose around like crazy, they only place she was safe was on her cat condo.

Yes Harry, another cute animal video! The next two days were a whirlwind as we worked hard to make sure our BAC stayed above that minimum level. Apparently, there is no maximum level as that was not discussed at all.

We went on several adventures during our stay. We are always looking for treasures on our travels so our first adventure was a stop at several antique stores in the area where I found these two treasures to add to my collection.

We were in the middle of one antique store when Lisa said “Oh oh” and pulled out little black pouch that looked like a medical kit. She pricked her finger and put a drop of blood on a tester of some sort. Barb and I were concerned, we had no idea that she was a diabetic. After testing her blood she urgently exclaimed “Oh my God!” and showed the results to Dino. After seeing the results Dino immediately grabbed Lisa’s arm and ran out of the building towards the truck. We had no idea what was going on and quickly followed.  We thought for sure she was having some sort of medical emergency and needed to be rushed to the hospital. Once in the truck Dino tore through the streets like a wild man telling Lisa “Hang in there, it will be alright”. We were shocked and confused as Dino raced right past the hospital and came to a screeching halt in front of another building, and he and Lisa ran in leaving the truck running and both doors open. Confused Barb and I followed behind and entered the building to find out it was one of the local breweries. Lisa was chugging a beer as we walked in and Dino turned to us and said “That was close, she was at a .10!”

Well, rest assured we made sure that did not happen again during our stay! We hit 3 breweries during our stay (well, 4 but one was not open). One of which was a cider house that was actually very good!

1910 Sip House

Pretty cool building
All too soon, it was time for us to leave and continue on our journey. I had a special surprise in store for Barb today. Since we were at the farm during Mother’s Day and I was working, I was not able to get her anything so I wanted to make it up to her. Barb realized very quickly we were not taking the route on The Plan and asked me where we were going. I told her I had a special surprise for her today! She quickly said “Not today Honey, I have a headache”. I reassured her, telling her that this was a really special surprise as I secretly set our GPS to Walker, Minnesota and went on our way. 

Once we arrived, I blindfolded Barb and led her into the store right up to this very special display. I removed the blindfold and shouted “Ta Da!” She was beyond words as she opened her eyes to see that she was at Reed’s Sporting Goods standing in front of the fish finder display! “You shouldn’t have” she said. “No, I insist, you are worth it”, I replied and started going through the features of each with the salesman. I guess she wanted her Mother’s Day present to be a surprise as after 20 minutes she turned to me and said “I’ll be in the women’s section”.

I picked out the perfect unit for her, the Garmin 93 SV in ultra-high definition of course! The salesman asked if I needed anything else and I told him that my wife is so special she deserves the portable kit, the Canadian Lakes Map chip and of course the optional lithium battery! He gathered up all the components and had someone ring me up. Once the transaction was complete I went to find Barb. Sure enough, she was in the women’s section looking at purses. She turned to me and said with a deadpan expression on her face and said “I’m getting this purse”. I thought it was kind selfish of her to want a purse on top of everything else I just bought her and told her “But Honey, I just bought you all this stuff?”. She repeated, “I’m getting this purse” and walked off towards the cash register. Some women, they just never get enough!

You may have noticed that Barb's eyes were closed in that picture. That is because she was crying as we left the store and most of the way to our next destination. She was so overwhelmed with joy by her gift, she just kept muttering "What did I ever do to deserve this". Me, I too had a tear in my eye for making my wife so happy. 

That evening we landed at the Grand Portage Visitors Center just a couple hundred yards from the Canadian border. They have a beautiful waterfall there so after setting up in the parking lot we took the dogs for a hike to the falls.

The water was so high and falls rushing so fast that the overspray made it so like it was raining all over us. Very cool!

At 120', the High Falls are the largest in Minnesota. We spent the night in the parking lot/truck stop where the crickets and frogs sang us to sleep. When we awoke the next morning we headed to the border crossing.  After our last crossing where we were everything but probed we were a little nervous but this one was a breeze and we were on our way in two minutes.

30 minutes later we were in Thunder Bay where our first stop was…..

And our second stop was……

Then it was back in the truck for two more hours until we reached our final destination.


We will be here for the next 2 weeks or so. Bring on the walleye extravaganza!

Friday, May 13, 2022

Farm Life

What a difference a year can make. This time last year a major part of North Dakota was classified as having Extreme Drought Conditions. This year, not so much. Last year, most of the sloughs and potholes were dry with nary a duck to be seen. This year, not so much. Last year we started planting on April 15th, this year, it was May 4th.  This delay puts them behind the schedule already as have deadlines they need to hit to meet crop insurance requirements. For their area these dates are approximately 5/20 for Canola, 5/31 for Wheat and 6/10ish for Beans.

The first couple of days we were here it was too wet to get out into the field, so we kept ourselves busy doing maintenance on the Landoll. The Landoll is a piece of equipment designed for maintaining the fields and keeping them smooth and level. Think of it as a giant rototiller. It has a series of discs and tines that break up and smooth out the soil as you pass over it and as with any piece of equipment things break. So Dylan and I set out to get it ready for the field! 

Most of the tines were just loose so we replaced the bolts, those are the shiny replacement bolts in the picture. Some of the tines were broke and some were missing altogether. It took us anywhere from 15-20 minutes per set to get them back in shape depending on how frozen the bolts were and how many tines needed to be replaced. Not a big deal until you see just how many tines there are!

We replaced over $600 in bolts and washers alone and this did not even count the cost of replacing the tines! Farming ain't cheap!

Once that was done, the fields were still too wet so I went out and started cleaning tree rows. The recent ice storm really did a number on the trees and all the limbs needed to be cleaned up before planting could start. I spent probably a total of 5 hours cleaning just this one row hauling countless piles of brush off the field and this was just one of dozens of tree rows they need to take care of.

They also picked up another quarter of land over the winter. A quarter means a quarter of a section. A section is 640 acres which is a mile x mile square, so a quarter is a quarter of that or a 1/2 mile x 1/2 mile square. It had several rock piles on it so they hired someone to come in and move them with a huge excavator and dump truck. Well, it was not long until we received a call that they had buried the dump truck.

So off we went with the quad track tractor to pull them out. I took a video of the process but before I get to that I want to explain the number of videos I have in this post. I think there are 6. In past posts I have been putting in cute videos of Zoey and Dakota but apparently not everyone likes those. I recently received this message from my dear friend Harry.....

Apparently, Harry does not appreciate my cute dog videos. The only thing I can take from this is that Harry in fact hates dogs and probably all things cute and cuddly. Taking the high road, I did not include his last name in the picture above as I am sure he would be inundated with hate mail from my millions of followers. So instead of sending the hate mail directly to him, feel free to lambaste him in your comments on this post. 

I will however, include a picture of him. This picture was taken last summer while he and Dino were at their family reunion. I never even knew that he and Dino were related but here they are side by side. They have one of those very special family trees. You know, the ones that go pretty much straight up with very few branches?
That's puppy-hating Harry on the right, feel free to walk up and punch him in the nose if you see him on the street. 

Anyway, back to pulling the dump truck out with a video I am trying to E M U L A T E Dino's video.....

Speaking of getting stuck, I too got a tractor stuck working on clearing a tree row. 
I also spent several hours picking rocks. It seems every year a new crop of rocks pop up when the frost leaves the ground. When I was young, I recall walking behind a hay wagon picking up rocks and putting them on the hay wagon. Thank God they have automated rock picking equipment as this old man ain't pick'in up no rocks. With their rock picker, you go along the field until you spy a likely rock, sneak up on it, turn on the picker and capture the wiley rock! Here is another educational video on how this process works. 

Many of the fields have bee hives on them. Beekeepers ask permission to place their hives on the fields in exchange for a few jars of honey each year. It is a win/win for both the farmers and beekeepers. Back in the day I had a few hives until we found out Forrest was allergic to them. That was the end of my beekeeping career. I went to get a closer look at some of the hives and took this video. 

The closer I got the angrier the bees got. unlike wasps and hornets, honeybees only sting as a last resort as once they sting you, they die. So, instead of stinging they slam into the side of your face to let you know they are not happy. As I was taking this video, I was getting pummeled by some not so happy honeybees! Someday I might get a hive again, I really enjoyed having them in the past. 

The day finally came that we were able to get into the field so away we went! The first step is to load the trucks with fertilizer, urea and seed. 

Urea going from the hopper bin into the truck!

Then treating the seed from the hopper into the treater and from the treater into the truck.

Then it is out to the field we go where we load the seeder.

Speaking of seeders, they got a new one this year. This new seeder is 66' wide and can plant 86 rows at one time! Here is another education video on the new seeder in action. 

Depending on the crop and the field they can plant about 200-250 acres a day. The seeder can hold 1000 bushels of product so he can go about 6 hours or so before he has to fill back up. The seeding days started about 7:30 in the morning getting everything ready for the day and ended around 9pm with the last fill for the seeder. Chris carried on a few more hours to 2-3 in the morning before going home and getting a few hours of sleep and starting all over again!

This went on for 5 days and we got about 1,200 acres planted. Then it rained. A small amount of rain will not impact the seeding but too much and things get too muddy to seed. 

Then you need to wait a day or two for things to dry up. So, we took advantage of the day off and went golfing! I am not a big golfer, in fact I had not been in over 10 years I think when we had a outing for work. In fact, my old boss sent me this picture a week or two ago to remind me of my golfing days.  I don't mean to say that my boss is old, just that he is my old boss. Who am I kidding, he is both! (I know you read the blog once in a while, so Chuck, that comment is for you!)

We were promoting a new meat brand

So off we went to the Garrison Golf Course! Bob, DeAnne and I golfed while Barb was the score keeper. 

We all had a good time, I did better than I thought I would, but it will probably be a few years before I get on the course again. 

Barb did have one adventure when our friend Jeannie came over to give Barb an accordion lesson. We may not have a lot of room but Barb did manage to find room to bring along her accordion!
So, for your viewing pleasure is yet another educational video. Jeannie is playing the keys and Barb is playing the cords. Not bad for a beginner!
I also found the time to install some airbags on the truck. We initially thought we did not need them but after getting to the farm I decided to get some. 
Air Ride Kit
It was a fairly easy install, taking me less than 2 hours. I noticed a difference right away. The pictures on the left show measurements before the airbags, the measurements on the right are with the airbags at 120psi. As you can see, we picked up about 4" of drop.

The other thing we noticed is that the ride is a lot smoother as well. Rather than bouncing over bumps the truck kind of floats over them. 

During the rain break Chris drove down to Bismarck and picked up their new tri-toon! We broke it in by having happy hour in it the night before we left.
Barb and the Sobieck clan
Dylan, Barb and DeAnne
DeAnne and Bob
Sadly, after the rain I never got back into the field again and our time at the farm was up. With the late start and about 20% of their over 5,000 in the ground, they have their work cut out for them. We wished we could have stayed longer to help but according to Barb's plan it was time to hit the road in order to get in everything we wanted to do and meet the dates for the reservations we do have. 

To all you dog lovers out there, don't forget to send your hate comments to Harry, I know he will appreciate them! So, down the road we go to a Super-Secret Undisclosed Location in the northern forests of Minnesota in a hunt for the elusive sasquatch! Wish us luck!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Camper Life

 "How do you do it?". "We'd kill each other". "I could never do it". Those are just a few of the statements we hear when people find out we will be traveling together for 3+ months in a pickup camper with just over 100 square feet with a spouse and two dogs. To be honest, I don't know how I do it either. For those of you who know Barb, you know the anguish and burden I have to put up with. But I get by, day by day.

To take on an adventure such as this one has to be extremely organized. You have to think about everything you need for the trip and find a place for it. Good thing my middle name is "Mr. Organization". If it was not for me, this trip would be utter chaos for sure.

It starts out with the motto of "A Place for Everything and Everything in it Place". Who am I kidding, the only thing I bring to the table is the chaos. Barb puts everything in its place. Including me! She has this place so organized that we even have cupboards and cabinets with room to spare!

So I thought I would give you a little tour of how we do it and if you have any suggestions on what we could do it better, we would love to hear them. Besides me, there are two main things that take up most of the room in the camper; food and clothing. Having never been to the Maritimes area before we do not know what to expect for weather so we are packing for both. Our hunch is that is going to be on the cooler side so we brought lots of sweatshirts and warmer clothes. For our clothes, we have a closet and three cubbies up in the bedroom area. We plan to do laundry once a week so we kept clothes to a minimum. So. if you see pictures of us in the same clothes all summer, that is my excuse. Jeans, shirts, sweatshirts. Actually all our outerwear goes in the closet. 

All of Barb's clothes are neatly hung up while mine are in a 3-drawer storage units with the jeans on top. And the area above the closet is DVD's hats and gloves.

The cubbie on my sides contains my socks and what not, while the cubbie on Barb's side contains the same. The upper small cabinets have a couple pair of rolled up jeans, and books.

The area above the bed  is where we keep the extra blankets for those colder nights.

Moving on to the kitchen/dining room, we of course have a place for Dakota who loves her spot under the kitchen table. She will join us up in bed once in a while but usually only for a few minutes just to say hi. 
The main areas in the kitchen are the pantry and fridge. The fridge is packed! Barb was mortified when I took a picture of it.

The freezer is just as  tight! At least it was when we left. Since then we have had a few meals out of it. Barb starts a menu well before we leave on our adventures. When she decides on a meal, she will make it while we are still at home then freeze half of it in a 1 gallon ziplock laying flat so it stores perfectly in the camper freezer. When we hit the road we will have 6-8 of these frozen and ready at a moments notice. Most of the other meals are what she calls One Pot Meals so it does not take a lot of dishes for the preparation, 

The pantry is also stuffed to the gills. There are two cabinets in the back of the camper; one very shallow on for spices and a deeper one that contains paper towels, towel and our toaster. It is amazing how much storage is in these little campers. A place for everything and everything in its place. 

Bread, English muffins and bagels are all stored in the microwave, The oven stores her skillets and baking sheet. And the area above the sink contains all our dishware. There are long, deep drawers under each of the benches of the table. One side is pots and pans, the other side is for all things dog - toys, treats, clothing for Zoey, medicines and brushes. 

I know a lot of people put things on their beds while traveling. That causes too much anxiety for Barb, if something is not it's home....well, lets just say life is much better when things are in their home. The shower is the one place that we have to move things around if we want to use it. That is where we store the dog food, soda, shoes and laundry basket. This works out pretty well as a lot of places we stay have a shower we can use so we only use ours when camping remotely for days at a time.  

In the truck we keep the big bag of dog food, some more beverages and our all important "Snack Bag" which is always within arms reach while traveling!

One of the hardest things to fit in are our recreational equipment; fishing gear, hiking boots and items like that. We installed a cargo carrier on top of the camper a couple of years ago and it is now stuffed full of those specialty items that we do not use every day. The perfect place for items like this that keeps them out of the way. 

Our flyrods fit in the carrier but our longer rods are in that black tube you see to the right of the carrier. 

We finally got out into the field to start planting and have been going non-stop for the past 4 days. Too much to cover in this post so that will have to wait a few days. But while I have been doing that Barb has been busy in the camper. She replaced the faucets in the bathroom and kitchen! 

The original faucets they put in were so stupid. The kitchen sink as a divider and the faucet barely reached the left section. The new one reaches it quite nicely!

In the bathroom they had this super small faucet with a nozzle that only went over the lip by about 1". This first picture was taken after Barb replaced it but you did not even have room to get your hands under it when it was mounted. The new one gives us plenty of room!

Last but not least, she installed a couple of "3500" protective stickers on the inside of the truck doors. Our hope is that they will protect the paint from the dogs paws. 

So, there you go. That is how we do it. We are ready for our 8,000+ mile adventure! You now know where we keep everything should you wander into our camper and need to find something. Stuffed but not too stuffed. We would love to hear your ideas on how we could improve or do things differently.