Friday, March 29, 2024


 It looks like spring has sprung up here in the north land! The birds are singing, the turkeys are gobbling, and the cows are calving. True signs of spring. 

The robin is the first sign of spring in our area. They start appearing one by one, then flocks of dozens. Next up is the bluebird with their colorful breeding plumage. We see them mostly in the open country sitting on fence lines and checking out the bluebird houses.

The last bird to show up in the area and the truest sign of spring is the meadow lark. They too are open country birds whose call can be heard from a long way away. We saw our first meadow lark earlier this week. I went out on a hunt for one with the camera, but of course they did not cooperate. 

We continue to go for "Shed Walks" but have yet to find any. We did find the last resting place of this coyote. One has to wonder how it met its demise.

Of course, when we do not take the girls the wabbits show up!

We have been reserving our past few Sundays to work with Kevin. That is the only day he takes "off" so he can work on his bunkhouse. This past Sunday was no different when Barb and I went over to help him put up some tongue & groove planking in two bedrooms. 

Kevin and I worked on the ceilings while Barb worked on putting blocking in some sidewalls. We had a system; Kevin was in the house shouting me measurements, I would cut it, bring it in and using two ladders we would get the piece in place. Kevin would then nail it in while I went and got the next piece and he would shout another number at me. I did not get any action shots as we were always running. 

6 hours later we had one room completely done and another room 1/2 done. Barb had all the blocking done. If you compare the before and after pictures you can see the blocking that Barb put between the studs on the walls. She not only did this room, but every room in the house. 

One thing I forgot to mention. See the grooves on the ends of the boards on the "after" picture? Each one of those had to be hand beveled into the boards. Not terribly difficult, but a pain and time consuming. 

Later in the week we were off to one of Kevin's job sites to get some free garage doors! This is the same site that we got the trusses from last week. To give you an idea of the scope of this job I need you to use your imagination. In the picture below imagine just a plain garage with a normal roof, nothing on either side of those garage doors; no windows anywhere at all. Kevin replaced the roof with a steeper pitch, (that's how we got our trusses) added the dormers on top, added the RV garage on the right, added a kitchen area on the left (the room with the 3 windows) and added the open patio on the far left. 

The owners want new garage doors, and they were generous enough to give us their old ones! So away we went! Although it looks like Barb is doing all the work, I did have my own impact and did my share of work too.... no really I did!

Like much of the country, we went from spring back to winter at the end of the week. It will be 4-5 days before we see temperatures above freezing again. So, what does one do on a snow day? Taxes. Ugh! But after that, I set up the tripod and took a 2-minute video of the activity at the bird feeder. Those little critters sure flock to the feeder on cold days! I did a slow motion of a little fight between two birds. It is amazing what happens in the matter of a second or so. How many different species of birds do you see in the video?

There are several other species of birds using the feeder, and I am trying to get pictures of each, but some are more elusive than others. I now have by camera close by so hopefully I will capture them in the coming weeks. 
Did you know the nuthatch is the only bird that can walk down a tree face first? Other birds have to face up and kind of bounce their way down whereas the nuthatch can actually face down and just walk.  

Of course when the snow flies, it means a fire in the fireplace. Which means Zoey gets toasty warm! I do not know how she can stand it!
Over the past couple of weeks Barb has slowly been working on some stone stairs in front of the house. We go for drives in the side by side in search of the perfect flat rocks for the stairs. They have to be at least 18"x18", preferably bigger, but not so big I cannot lift them. We have been out three times now and have brought home over a dozen rocks. It is slow and tedious work, but she is getting there!
Meanwhile, I finished hauling all the gravel for the garage. Kevin came over the other day and flattened it all out. We used his laser level to set the final grade. An hour later, it was all done, and he was off to his next job!
Now, we just need mother nature to do her thing and let it settle over the summer. With luck, we will get the slab poured this fall! 

The highlight of the week though was when the dogs got a bath in the dog wash. As you can see, both were over the top excited!
Have a great week!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Tears & Laughter

A strange title for a blog post, an even stranger title for a book. No, I am not writing a book. I sometimes wish I had the skill and confidence to write one, but that day will never come. Instead, I read. 

The book I am currently reading is the title of this post, Tears & Laughter by Gene Hill. One of the best outdoor writers of all time. He had the ability to write in such a way, it takes the reader back into the forests and marshes of their youth, reminiscing about past hunts, lifelong friends and of course dogs. Even if you are not an outdoor enthusiast, I think you would appreciate his writing. 

But it is not his writing that inspired me to write this post. It is the book itself. 

I have written before about how we search for Gene Hill books whenever we are in antique stores. We have found a couple, but when Barb found a complete set on an on-line auction, I just had to have them. We won them and they are now displayed proudly on the bookcase in our bedroom. 

I pulled down Tears & Laughter this week and started reading it. The first thing I noticed when I opened the book was this. 

A handwritten note from Bill to Paul dated Dec. 1985. That got me to wondering; who was Bill? Who was Paul? They were obviously hunting buddies but from where? Below that were more handwritten notes I assume Paul wrote, noting the dates he had read the book. I assume he read it once when he got it, then picked it up again in 2004, 2010 and 2021. A few pages later, it was even signed my Gene himself!

I was on the second chapter of the book when some newspaper and magazine clippings fell out of the back. Intrigued, I unfolded them and looked them over. The only date I could find on any of them were from 1981 which happens to be the same year the book was published. The article on the far left was about writing contest winner; this one featuring "A Listening Walk" by Gene Hill. The middle article was torn from a magazine. "I Never Met a Dog I Didn't Like" by Bill Tarrant. A quick search of Bill showed that he wrote for Field & Stream magazine in the 70's and 80's. I got a kick out of the cigarette ad on the back of one of the pages. The last clipping was out of an old Fins and Feathers magazine and showed several ads for hunting dogs. 

Paul, I assume put these in the back of this book decades ago. Any hunting dog he may have purchased has long ago passed away. But what kind of bond did those two have? What memories did they make? What marshes and fields did they walk? 

As all this transpired, I was sitting on our bed on a snowy afternoon with Dakota lying beside me. I folded those pieces back up and put them back where they belonged, got up, put on a coat and took Dakota for a walk in the woods. 

Although it was still cold and snowing, she was having a blast. Nothing makes her happier than a walk in the woods looking for rabbits. She runs from brush pile to brush pile sticking her nose in there looking for a wascally wabbit. Some she would pass by and give a cursory sniff, while others she would dance around sticking her whole head in. 

When she does find one, she harmlessly chases it for a few yards before the rabbit heads off to another brush pile somewhere further into the forest. She's a good dog. Had a rough beginning, but now is living her best life.

No rabbits were to be found this day, but she was still happy. Ears up, eyes alive and tail tagging. She'll be limping tomorrow, but it is worth it. As for the book, I will finish reading it, start my own "read" log and put it back on the shelf. 

Gene passed away in 1997, I am guessing Bill and Paul are probably gone as well. Someday, if all goes as planned, Forrest will read this book after I am long gone, see my handwritten notes and the dates I read the book, think back at past hunting trips we've had together, the dogs that he had and perhaps, take whatever dog he has at that time for a walk in the woods. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Here we go Again!

Here we go again, just when we thought we were going to take it easy for a few weeks we come up with another project. Just a little project, nothing too big or time consuming. Just a 24x48 garage to put our junk in. 

To think, just a few years ago, all our worldly possessions fit in a 40' 5th wheel. Now we have a house garage and shed that seem to be bursting at the seams. It's really Kevin's fault. We had been thinking about a garage in a few years and I mentioned it to him. He then said he was remodeling a garage that required different trusses and we could have the old ones. That is how this mess started. So, Barb and I went over there, loaded up the old trusses, brought them home and have them stacked and waiting for us to start building. 

We won't get it done by the time we leave for Alaska, but I do hope to get the dirt work done. We started by scraping all the topsoil off and setting it aside. 

Once that was done it was time to set grade and level out the site. But here's the deal, there is not much level on our property. This spot requires 2' of fill in one corner, 1' in two other corners and nothing in the 4th corner. Rather than pay for all that fill, I went down to the pond and scraped a few loads of loose dirt around the edge and loaded into Neighbor Jim's dump trailer.

Once I got all that I could take from that area it was off to the local quarry for road base gravel. 4 loads so far and it looks like I will need about 6 more. Once it is all leveled out, we will let the rain and weather compact it over the summer and carry on with this project in the fall.

Several of you commented on the map program we used to document our travels. The program we use is Travellerspoint. We looked at several, but this is the one we settled on. Travellerspoint gives you a variety of options for mapping your route. We've tried several and prefer the Curved Line.

This screenshot shows the "Drive" and Straight Line" options.

The website also has other features including a Blog feature, but we have never tried them.  Speaking of blogs, Blogger has been giving me trouble lately. Not as much as it has given other people, but I spent an hour or so putting a couple dozen blogs in the "Our Favorite Blogs" section. This is how we keep track of the blogs we read and it tells us when one of them posts a new post. They were all there initially, then some, randomly, started disappearing. Not enough that you would notice but eventually I would say to myself "XXX has not posted for a while". I would go to their blog and sure enough, they had been posting but had disappeared from our sidebar. Very frustrating!

We, along with Kevin and Cheryl, went over to Dan and Bonnie's for salmon supper one evening. It turned into quite the crazy night. There may or may not have been a video taken of Kevin near the end of the night showing him shirtless, flexing his muscles. I was traumatized seeing it in person and since many of you are probably eating breakfast as you read this, I will save you from having to view said video.

We did play a couple of dice games. I don't know if they do this in other states, but in Wisconsin almost every bar has something called Shake-a-day where everyone puts in a dollar and with 6 dice you have 3 shakes to get 6 of a kind. If you do, you get 1/2 the pot. If no one gets it, the pot carries on until eventually someone gets it another day. You can only play one time a day. 

We also played Sh#tbox which is what you see in the picture below. It is really called Shut the Box, it seems to have taken on this new name. Everyone putting in a dollar. The winner with the lowest total wins the pot. Here are the rules if you are unfamiliar with it. Of course we do not use real money for either of these games, that would be illegal!  

Last Sunday, we spent the day over at Kevin's helping him cut shiplap boards out of rough cut for their bunkhouse. I cut the boards to length, Kevin dado'ed the shiplap groove into each side of the boards, finally, Barb and Cheryl sanded them. We headed over there today (Sunday) again to continue to help them get the bunkhouse ready for renting this summer. 
Let's see, what else have we been doing? Oh! we made three Bluebird houses! We have plenty of scrap wood around the garage so we thought we would put it to good use. 
We've had a few checking them out, but so far, no one has taken up residence. 

We went for a couple of walks looking for sheds. The elk and deer have started dropping their antlers. You see a lot of interesting things out in the forest. I did find this pile of chocolate covered peanuts in the middle of the woods.
They were a little fibrous and earthy, but otherwise they tasted okay. We knew we were in the right area but have yet to find anything. There are bearing trees scattered throughout the forest. The geological service uses them instead of permanent markers. We also found numerous elk rubs like the one on the right below. 
Lastly, the weather has finally warmed up enough for us to enjoy the gazebo. We put the TV back out there, restocked the bar and hung two signs we picked up on our travels. Life, is good!

Saturday, March 9, 2024


 I am actually a month late, but it is official, our blog is 10 years old! 

But today, is the 10-year anniversary of the day Barb and I started our great RV adventure leaving Spring Valley, Wisconsin for parts unknown. 

Not only that, but last week is also 10 years since Barb retired.

Some of you have followed our blog from Day 1 and what a journey it has been!  86,769 miles, 47 states, 9 provinces and of course Mexico. So, where have we been in 10 years? Let me show you.....

You'll notice a couple of things; even before we bought and built here, the Black Hills of South Dakota was one of our favorite places. As was The Farm in North Dakota and of course Pasha north of Thunder Bay Ontario. We wintered many years and have great memories of Quartzsite Arizona only missing that area in '21 &'22. Both the kids lived in Salt Lake until '17 when one moved to Pennsylvania and the other to Oregon. Some of the years you can see where the year ended or started, like 2017 where the trail ends in Fort Stockton, TX and picks up again there in the 2018 map.

So, what will the next 10 years bring? Let's start with this....our big travel adventure for this summer. I will let the map tell the story.....
Summer of '24
A three-month adventure to Alaska! Barb has the route all planned out to hit some new places, a trip to Fairbanks to see Barb's cousin as well as hitting some of our favorite fishing spots, including a month in the Homer/Soldotna area! 

We are beyond excited for this adventure. Here is to 10 more years of good health, happiness and great adventures!