Thursday, November 30, 2023

Thanksgivings Present and Past

When we last left you, we were just getting ready to shut the lid on the washing machine and clean the girls. Well, after the final rinse cycle, they were ready for the dryer. Sophie is now back with her parents in Spearfish all cleaned and refreshed. 

Now, they are clean and good to go!

Of course, our big event for the week was Thanksgiving, but we managed to get out on a couple adventures. Although Barb filled our woodshed while I was at the farm, we were a little short of dry wood to burn this season, so we headed out to the National Forest in search of some dead trees to cut up and burn this year. We brought both Rangers and filled them up with dried logs. In the span of two hours, we had them cut, split and stacked.

Later that afternoon Barb and I decided to hit the trails to cross off one more hike off our quest for 100. This time we decided to do Little Devils Tower inside Custer State Park. We parked the car at the Sylvan Lake trailhead at 2:15pm knowing we had just over 2 hours to complete the hike. The hike is rated as Strenuous with some class 2 bouldering near the end. We did not know what that meant at the time, but we were about to find out!
The trail is nothing but up, up and up. It lived up to its rating and even though it was only 45 degrees, we were sweating up pretty good. 
The combination of the snow, rocks and green of the pines made for some spectacular pictures. 
We FINALLY made it the Class 2 bouldering area where we learned what that meant. 

We had to climb up several crevices, grippy shoes were a must. 

The nice thing about doing the tallest peaks is the views once you get to the top. The bad thing about them is, unlike a lot of hikes, there is a lot of up to get to the top. This is the 12th highest peak in the hills topping out at 6,960'. Our lungs and calves were burning. An hour and 15 minutes after leaving the jeep, we made it to the top! 

You could see forever in every direction. The only thing higher than us was Black Elk Peak across the way. You can see the watch tower in the picture below. That is a hike for another day, as it is an all day hike. 

The shadows were long and the sun was setting on our way down making for some incredible scenery. 

When we finally arrived back at the parking lot, we were the only vehicle left, what an awesome hike!

Now, for the main course (see what I did right there?) 

We had a great Thanksgiving with the gang. Kevin arrived first to watch the Packers/Lions game. much to Sophie's parents' chagrin, we dressed her up in a Lions jersey. 

The turkeys made an appearance as well. How many do you count? I counted several times and finally settled on 42.

Kevin also helped us take out our old couch and love seat and bring in our new furniture. Once we got it in and unwrapped, we noticed the couch had a tear in it. Nerts! Oh well, nothing we can do about it now. (Barb talked to them the following Monday, and they are bringing us a new couch). We sat down to watch the game and I looked over to see Kevin fast asleep on the loveseat. Well, I guess they are comfortable!

 It was not until a few hours later that I remembered that Kevin is having hernia surgery in about a month and probably should not be lifting anything!

Dan and Bonnie came over about 1:00 and Cheryl a while later. We had supper around 4:00, everything was incredible!

My earliest Thanksgiving memories are from around when I was 8 or 9 and involved mom and dad packing us up driving us south to Des Moines Iowa. Destination Aunt Jean and Uncle Joe's house. I do not recall if all our family members were there at the same time, but if they were, there would have been 16 kids and 4 adults. What I do remember is that they lived in a mansion. Huge 3 or 4 story brick house. We played a lot of hide and seek. I think the last of those Thanksgivings took place around the mid 70's and we have not seen our cousins in decades. I drove my mom down to see her sister a couple of times through the years but now both my parents, as well as Jean and Joe have long since passed away. Still, memories I hope to never forget. I know my cousin Duffy reads the blog once in a while, maybe he can shed some more light.

Later in life, after Barb and I got married, Thanksgiving was centered around deer hunting. We usually got together with my mom, and my brothers and sisters, more often than not, at our house so I could deer hunt in the morning. Memories the kids and us will never forget. 

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, the families of our daughter Jessica, and son Forrest are spending their first Thanksgiving together in years. Brother, sister, cousins and spouses making Thanksgiving memories of their own.

Every year for the past few years our daughter has been going out deer hunting on their property in Pennsylvania. She takes her daughter Kendall out with her every opening morning. Each year, they look forward to spending a frosty morning with each other out on the woods. Hot chocolate, snacks, handwarmers. They do not really expect to get a deer, it is more mother/daughter time than really hunting, it is a special time for each of them.  She sends us pictures every year. 

An hour or so after receiving that picture, we received this text. I took a screenshot of the text just as we received it. Warning, dead deer picture ahead.... 
We were beyond excited for her, and as you can see from her text, she was excited as well! We waited with bated breath for the next update. About 30 minutes later, we received this picture. 
The next picture we got from her.

That is one happy girl, and we are two proud parents. Proud of her for getting her first buck, but prouder of the Thanksgiving traditions and memories are kids are making together.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Becoming an Influencer

Those of you who have read our blog for a while know that Dino and I go back and forth ripping on each other. Those of you who are new to our blog, be prepared to be a ghast that I would do this to a seemingly innocent person. Believe me, Dino is far from innocent, in fact, he is usually the instigator while I am an innocent victim just trying to defend myself. We both have pretty thick skin, and he deserves everything I give him. So, without further ado.... I present you another Dino tale. 

It's all the rage you know. Becoming an influencer.

Who knew that I would become an influencer at least to one person, influencing and motivating the uninspired. Case in point. Apparently, Dino, author of MN Drifters was so touched by my exposé on Wordle, that it inspired him to write an entire blog!  Before you read any further, go read his blog. It will give you more context going forward. 

Let me tell you, this is no easy feat given he has not one, but two grossly disfigured arthritic hands. I would post a picture of them here to show you just how grotesque they are, but I know some of you are probably eating breakfast and I would not want to spoil your appetite. 

Now, here is a man, who is too busy to comment on a blog, who stops everything he is doing to sit down with pen and paper and start writing. Who I am kidding, Dino cannot hold a pen, he cannot even hold chopsticks. We had the horror of witnessing this firsthand a couple of years ago.  My therapist says it is good for my recovery to write about it so if you are done with your breakfast, you can read about that incident here

It was after reading his latest post that I realized that I not only inspired him to write this post, but also inspired him to build his house. I am sure that after reading all our posts about us building our house, he thought. "If Jim and Barb can do it, I can do it". This simple thought (all of Dino's thoughts are simple), resulted in Otter Tail County in Minnesota to rewrite their entire building code to include things no one in their right mind would ever consider in the past. Like, who would ever consider running a pipe straight from their toilet into the Otter Tail River?  Or, they now have a code against using mouse and muskrat pelts as siding on their house. The resulting stench still lingers in the air on hot, humid summer days. 

Dino and I go back years, too many years. 9 years this spring. Since we have some new readers, I thought it might be good for some of you to read about the day we met Dino and Lisa. One would think we would run for the hills after meeting them, but we are gluttons for punishment, it was not until we met up with them in Yellowstone during the fall of 2016 that we finally realized they were in fact aliens simply visiting our little rock. Obviously not very smart aliens as out of the 8.1 billion humans on earth, they chose to take over his body. 

Now that I think about it, we have been inspiring and influencing Dino for years. Let's see....Jim and Barb buy a Cardinal 5th wheel, Dino and Lisa buy a Cardinal 5th wheel, Jim and Barb buy a Lance camper, you guessed it, Dino and Lisa buy a Lance camper. Jim and Barb build a house.....Well, you get the idea.  Or perhaps the aliens are geniuses after all as they chose Barb and I to guide and lead them through life.  Whatever the reason, being an influencer to if only one person, is a burden that I carry. 

Now, for your viewing pleasure, I present you with this adorable video. This is what we deal with every night, x 2 now, with our little visitor. The other night I actually went out and slept on the couch as it seemed like they were having some kind of snore-off competition. 

We continued to send Alana and Ryan pictures each day to let them know Sophie is in good hands. Like this little gem for example. The girls got dirty and needed to be cleaned up so I sent them this picture asking if I should set the washer on delicate or extra soiled. The wash cycle went pretty well, the dry cycle was another story altogether. 

Sophie is usually a Vikings fan (or 9'ers), but when Barb is in charge of the jerseys, all bets are off. Sophie dressed up in a Bronco's jersey for the Vikings/Bronco game. Sadly, her team was victorious. I don't think Alana and Ryan are going to let Sophie come over and play anymore if Barb keeps this up!
Then of course we needed more dress up photo shoots......

I forgot to mention in last week's post that DeAnne made us this awesome table runner. It matches perfectly with Barb's autumn centerpiece. 
Monday, friends Doug and Lisa came over to process a deer. Don't worry, no dead animals in this post, just Barb and Lisa packaging up a few cuts. 
As we were processing the deer, Doug asked me if I wanted to go fishing on Wednesday. "Ah, hell yeah!" We hit the water about 11:00 in search of the ever-elusive lake trout.  We would have invited Barb and Lisa but they both had Thanksgiving prep to do, and heaven forbid we get in the way of that!

Alas, we did not catch any fish, but it was a gorgeous day. Today got up to high of 57, then the bottom fell, and our high today topping out at only 28 and tomorrow is supposed to be 19. Brrrr! 

Today is Thanksgiving, Dan, Bonnie, Kevin and Cheryl are coming over. Food, football and friends, it doesn't get much better than that! We have so much to be thankful for. Each other, our health, our family, our beautiful home, our friends. Especially friends like Dino, who gives me never-ending things to write about.

Wait! I just had another revelation. Dino writing that blog inspired me to write this post. Who is influencing who?!?! God help us all. 

Saturday, November 18, 2023


Yes, we have joined the Wordle craze. Actually, we have been playing for a couple of years. It is part of our routine. Barb will say "Okay, it is your turn to pick the Wordle word" I would look around and come up with a 5 letter word of something right in front of me. Like today, my word would have been "Frost" on this frosty November morn. 

Some people use the same word every time when they play Wordle. Believe it or not, researchers at MIT actually did a study on the best starting word. I won't tell you what it is here, but it is googleable. What is the worst starting word? "Xylyl" of course. I mean, who didn't know that? 

We can almost always guess the word in the allotted six guesses, most times in the 3rd or 4th guess. One a week or so, Barb will get it in the second guess. 

One time, I think it was two years ago now, Barb asked me for my Wordle word. We were somewhere on the road, Florida, I think. It was foggy and dewy, so I picked "moist" Barb plugged it is and one by one, all the tiles turned green! That is the one and only time we have gotten the word on the first try. What are the odds of that you ask? Not as high as one would think. 1 out of 2,315, as there are only 2,315 five letter words that Wordle uses.

But on to other things:

We conquered another peak on our quest for 100 this week. We continue to be amazed at the beauty right outside our backdoor. The Poets Table hike is right in Custer State Park and at 6,606', it is the 38th highest peak in the hills. This was probably our most challenging peak thus far. Not because of the terrain of the hike itself but because the Poets Table is just hard to find. 

The history behind this hike is quite interesting as well. In the 1960's a man by the name of John Raeck arrived in the hills and took a job with the park. He fell in love with the park and stayed, nicknaming himself The Vagabond Poet. He even built himself a table and chair in a remote part of the park where he would write his poetry. This site is now known as The Poet's Table. 

You will not find signs leading you to the table. Nor will you find many people willing to tell you exactly where it is. What you will find is vague and cryptic descriptions of "about" where it is. So, with these vague directions, Barb and I set off to find it. 

We got off to a bad start right away when we headed off in the wrong direction from the truck. The instructions said to follow the main trail to Little Devil's Tower for 900' and look for a faint trail off to your left.  Along the way we passed two elderly couples (elderly = anyone older than us). We exchanged pleasantries and each went our separate ways.  Try as we might, we could not find this faint trail.

Then we ran into another couple who looked as confused as we were. They too were looking for The Poet's Table. Together, we determined we were nowhere near the area we were looking for. Starting anew, we found the faint trail and headed up the ravine. Between the 4 of us, we hunted and pecked up each trail we came across until Barb found this ladder. Having seen this ladder in pictures to the table she knew she was on the right track. Barb, Darcy and I climbed the ladder. Darcy's husband stayed below. 

Once up the next level, we split up looking to catch the trail again. Barb left, me right, and Darcy down the middle. I followed a trail up to the top of some rocks. Nothing. But I did see Darcy below me and those two elderly couples across a ravine. Barb was nowhere to be seen.  I walked back down to Darcy, and we headed up to where we saw those other hikers. Upon meeting them, they noticed that I was with a different woman and asked how that happened. I told them I lost my wife but found this woman on the trail. One of the guys said "That is the western way" and kept on going down the trail. 

A few minutes later, Darcy and I ran across 4 women who asked if I was looking for a brunette woman. They said she is just up the trail around the corner. Upon coming around the corner, we found Barb, sitting at The Poet's Table!

We followed Barb's route on the way back down, less of a trail, but a more direct route. We got back to the ladder, made it safely to the lower level and met up with Darcy's husband (I never did learn his name) and parted ways. What a random but great adventure! This one definitely ranks in our top 10!

After that, we went to Dan and Bonnie's for an impromptu happy hour. Bonnie went to their fridge and pulled out a plastic bag of.... mini's! Fireball, 99's, Rumchata's and a Butterscotch Scotch! Sitting there in their garage telling tales and laughing, Dan sees his bunny friends outside and goes out to feed one. From his hand!
Later that day, we had a special delivery in the form of Sophie, the French Bulldog! She is going to be spending the next 12 days with us while her parents are in Paris. Our house has been Chaos Headquarters ever since. One might think having two Frenchies is twice as fun as having one. But you would be wrong, it is 4 times the fun! These two play and play and play! Not only that, just watching their personalities. They are very jealous creatures. If one has a toy, the other wants it and wait for just the right moment to dart in and steal it. Then the chaos would begin again as they would run through the house. Heaven forbid one of us pay more attention to one than the other!

Although they are both Frenchies, they both have short noses and pointy ears, they are both very different in looks and personalities. Sophie is mottled and she is a snorter. She snorts when she does everything! These two features make me think we have a little piglet running through our house!
Speaking of walking, the other nickname I have for Sophie is Shuffleupagus, as she shuffles her feet whenever she walks. Case in point....

And Harry, just for you, I have included these precious videos and pictures to waste one minute and 25seconds of your life! The first segment demonstrates Sophie's shuffleness, followed by a play session on the bed. This is one of dozens that take place throughout the day and then more shuffleness. As you can see in the video, Dakota pretty much ignores them. That is, until it sounds like things are getting a little too out of hand, then she will get up, stand over them and make them stop. 

Now, prepare for doggie video and picture overload!
Then all of a sudden, they will stop, walk to their respective beds and plop down for a nap. 

We sent Alana and Ryan various pictures each day. We have more, but these are the two we have sent them so far. 
For those of you wondering, the harness in the next picture is specially designed for dogs to hang in so no harm or trauma came to Sophie in this photo.
Just hanging out today
Barb has been busy making plans for our winter adventure. We leave in less than a month. It sounds like we will be staying at quite a few Harvest Hosts on our way down. One area we are having a hard time with is Savannah where we will be staying for 10-14 days. The campgrounds in that area want almost $1,000 a week. Might not seem like a lot for some, but for these two cheapskates, it is way too much.

 Friday was a big day as we got visitors in the form of DeAnne and Farmer Bob! They stopped by for the night on their way to Denver for Thanksgiving.  They brought with them their daughter's dog, Berkley who they were returning home to her. So, for the night, we had 4 dogs in our bedroom!
And.... they brought me a new (to me) toy to play with! They bought a new utility tractor to use around the farm to they sold me their old one! 

The passing of the keys!
As much as I love the Ford Jubilee, it is just not as functional as the Deere and it is time to part ways. So, if you know anyone in the market for a Jubilee in great condition, send them my way!