Motherhood

Raising Kids and Dogs: The Run-Away

“I was a perfect parent until I had kids” starts many a story in my life. I laughed at the thought of baby harnesses and leashes. What type of parent needs a leash to control their kid when my Labrador can walk on a heel and has a pretty solid recall. Well apparently this parent needs one!

The little one is a runner. To be fair I raise my kids like a raise my cows….free range! The joys of farm life are the freedom to run and explore while still understanding the dangers of animals with hooves, teeth, or beaks and of the risks of large equipment with poor visibility going thru the yard, that balance of promoting exploration while wanting to swarm over them as the anxious helicopter parent.

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I admitted the problem after our family vacation. There are about 10 ways to die for every mile in Yellowstone National Park so we had some serious talks on safety.  That being said the 1 year old was determined to see just how serious we were. Every board walk required he be tightly held for fear he bolt off into certain horror. Every hike he found the “edge” of the trial and if there wasn’t an edge he tried to climb the rock walls. I turned to Amazon for options for safety harness or hand cuffs to force him be by my side…if they can deliver to middle of nowhere ND maybe I could set up a delivery for Old Faithful!

We all survived the trip (even after the little one took off after a rabbit in the camp ground like a frenzied wild hound dog!). But we had a problem.

We had successfully taught the concept of “range” and “recall” to our dogs so how hard can this be right. He is an intelligent, communicative toddler…but with a clear mind of his own desires and ambitions! We worked on emergency stops and recalls as a “game”. Turns out cheese cubes make a nice reward treat for young dogs and kids in training (Mother of the Year I know). We discussed consequences and safety as much as you can to a 1 year old.

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The farm life provides many “live and learn” lessions

Then the other day the little adventurer slipped between two corral panels just 4 inches wide, luckily into an empty corral. I found a cow halter and fashioned a leash…yup I did it! I leashed my child for his own safety! This is a problem.

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A few evenings ago we were enjoying one of those free range evenings when I thought I would test the little one. Maybe he was just testing me so I hid behind a tree while he wandered ahead. He turned his little blond head and uttered a “Mama?” realizing I wasn’t following behind. Then newly aware of his freedom, he promptly found a new gear and headed off with dust rising from his little cowboy boots to the chicken coop. How can something with such little legs be so dang fast?

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Just like we taught the new puppy to enjoy a “collar grab” in the event we need to quickly restrain him maybe we should do the same for the little one and fit him with a baby restraint handle. The final test came when we headed into town.

Town brings its own unique safety dangers…namely cars! The rules are clear…no roads, stay on grass. No bolting and stay with an adult. So of course the little one bolted. I stayed back to see if he was testing and this only resulted in my having a undeniable handicap in our race to freedom. My shoe-less feet hit the steaming hot payment and I envisioned those zen persons walking on hot coals to prove their inner peace and here I was running on hot asphalt to prove my worth or dis-worth as it was as a mother!

I envisioned the road being lined with fresh lined baking sheets and I mind over matter chased “The Bolter”. Then I hit the dry crisp brush and weeds…my feet were screaming at me so I called for help, like there may have been a shoed super hero nearby that would swoop in to collect my unruly toddler. My mind quickly surveyed for danger… a child-hating dog could soon emerge from a home, the black bird flying over was probably a hawk ready to swoop in and carry him off, and of course for CARS! Dangerous speeding cars!

I had failed as a mother as he ran faster and faster while I was perishing on our own version of parental “Survivor”. He was making a large circle and I was rounding the corner. I parked bike caught his attention and I used this distraction to gain some ground, screaming “Stop” and “No”. In hind sight when my dogs had taken off I had most luck running the opposite direction screaming “Who wants a treat?!” so apparently my mind didn’t translate that into a parental version.  Then came the broken glass part of this feet on fire motherhood walk. Why had I not had shoes on?! One must always be prepared for emergencies like a run away.

I finally swooped him up and gathered him in my arms only to have him protest, squirming and fussing. I didn’t know wether to have flames of fiery rise from my head or tears of joy that it ended with no harm. We limped back to the house and I nursed my wounded soles, pulling slivers and scraping the pieces of tar and gravel from my heels.

I had read in our dog training books no off-leash activity until your dog is solidly recalling and can be safely and reliably trusted. So back to “training” we go. My children need to be self-aware of the dangers in their world and learn to take appropriate risks. They may just be doing it with their baby harnesses securely fastened and their long-lines in tow!

Community, Motherhood

Parade Time

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There was no raining on this parade. Though with our recent drought conditions a downpour would have likely been more celebratory than the parade itself. Yesterday we partook in our annual RoughRider Days Parade. Small town life is friendly waves and an enjoyment of days much the same as the last. But every year 4th of July brought a big celebration with rodeos, street dance, 4-H activities, fireworks, and parade.

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As was tradition, every year on that designated Saturday morning in July, we sat street side to see the local businesses parade down Villard, with hopes of filling our pockets with candy. Now I share that same tradition with my own kiddos.

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My sister and nephew. His 1st parade of many.

 

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Aunt Stephie time

 

 

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There is an excitement and nostalgia. No float is really that extravagant. The only requirement it seems is a business banner and maybe some streamers or balloons. If you have a unicycle, old car, or vintage tractor your are welcome too.

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Suckers were his favorite! He picked up each and every one!

 

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Look, more candy!

 

 

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It was quickly overflowing and they moved on to the next container.

 

For years I carried flags horse back in the parade and my sister painted her face and placed on her clown nose to take her part in the parade.  Those traditions continue.

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DSC_3939pIn the past, there was more of a celebration of our agriculture and western edge heritage. With the resurgence of oil in the area, the companies have brought prosperity and wealth to many in the area and they sponsor many local happenings. There addition to the parade demonstrates a changing time.

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It was a great Saturday enjoying our local community and celebrating with family! Happy 4th of July everyone! Anyone else take in a parade this year?

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Motherhood

Top Reasons RVing with Kiddos Rocks!

My RV Cowboys

I had long dreamed of an RV adventure and it remained at the top of my Bucket List. We typically do an annual vacation to the Black Hills but Hubby had suggested we head to Yellowstone. Imagine my joy when he agreed to renting an RV.

Leaving the hotel…final day living out of and hauling luggage

As RV and really any sort of camper virgins, there were some worries but  really this trip has been a dream and here is why:

1. Kitchen and snack drawer on wheels. No one likes a hangry kiddo or adult for that matter. Eating out with kids while pleasant in my imagination usually involves waiting too long to decide to eat, then suffering through the finding of a restaurant and “The Wait”. I really am trying to raise decent human beings but whether it is 30 seconds or 30 minutes until the hangry kids get their food that time is usually among the most stressful of my life with desperate distractions of crackers, color crayons, or people watching. The joy of just pulling over for a snack or meal without worry of destroying someone else’s dinner plans…amazing! One afternoon we had broccoli cheese soup and sandwiches while watching a fox catch mice. Best lunch entertainment around.

2. Immediate bathroom access. The reality hit when I passed a long line of poor full-bladdered people. Do you know how much time is spent finding a rest room, standing impatiently in line, and peeing…. a lot. And one of mine is still in diapers so that is hit or miss if their is a changing area.

3. Keeping a routine.  When staying at single hotel it isn’t so bad but the packing, unpacking, and new sleeping arrangements of hotel room hoping made for some stress in the past. Not in an RV. Unpack once and enjoy a routine of consistency.

4. No need to pack a 72 pound diaper bag anticipating the variety of weather patterns you may encounter and then potential for dirt and spills! Especially in Yellowstone where the weather is variable, it has proved invaluable to have all our clothes within arms reach.

Big Windows. Big Views. Happy Kid. 

 

 

5. Travel entertainment. The kids stayed buckled but bigger windows and a table to sit by meant more opportunity for wildlife viewing and table top activities. RVs mean lots of room to spread out and enjoy some travel games, coloring, and activities.

 

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Completing his Junior Ranger Booklet as we saw wildlife

6. See more. Do more. Especially for a big park like Yellowstone this allowed us to go with less concern of keeping within distance of our hotel. If the kiddos were needing a break we simply pulled over and often enjoyed a great view or short hike for the kiddo still in good spirits.  A cranky kiddo at the museum meant one of us headed out to the RV for a quick nap while the other continued to get some sights in. Historically, with a hotel experience that meant heading back to rest and re-coop, then loosing any motivation to venture out again. With a hotel, we usually  planned a single big daily outing to factor in grumpy or down time.

 

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A suctioned shower container made a great binoculars holder. They were in ready reach and didn’t get lost.

 

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More shower containers held cows, crayons, fruit snacks, and whatever needed to be in easy reach of the kiddos.


CONS

 

1. The biggest con is the RV parks and camping arrangements.  I haven’t had “neighbors” or lived in a “town” in a while.  Due to our shorter notice and Yellowstone’s popularity, the reservable camp sites were full. The RV parks are quite nice but still leave you feeling a little too close to your neighbors and very suburb-y.  I soon realized I can never move back to town with the manicured postage stamp shaped yards and neighbors within view.

My kiddos are semi-feral, free range sorts who spend most days semi-dressed, with no concern of their decibel level, and more awareness of staying out of the corral than a street. So it was a bit of a lesson for my country bumpkins! But riding their bikes on actual paved roads proved novel and fun.

The exception was the Cody WY KOA. While “neighborly” there was some breathing room and it didn’t feel so rectangle lot suburb. Plus there was a ton for the kids to do, including a pool and giant jump thing, so they loved it.
2.  Another con… hot showers. The RV water heater was a waste of propane and only served to heat the water to just above chilled! After our community shower episode where I probably mooned a nice retired couple while struggling to keep the kiddos from reverting to their feral naked states, I thought kiddo camper showers were the answer. Nope!

3. Safety. In my research, many argued traveling with kids in a RV was unsafe due to non-secured items and seat belt arrangements. We had an initial strawberry fiasco where a carton of strawberries shot out of the unsecured refrigerator when the refrigerator wasn’t properly latched on take-off.

Overall, our maiden RV voyage was a wild success and may have sparked the “bug”. The kids loved it and small home living wasn’t all that bad.

Motherhood, Ranch Life

Branding- A Celebration and Call for Community

I wrote this post weeks ago and it just sort of sat here. Now that we have moved into haying, breeding, and another season I figured I would share my branding recap. Time just slips away some times it seems.

The branding season is winding down. This season is marked by weekends spent in the dust and dirt, working cows and calves, prepping them for summer pasture. Branding marks the end of the spring calving season and a celebration of the product of careful attention to matings, nutrition thru pregnancy and lactation, and surviving months of stress and sleeplessness. While calving fills my camera lens with images of cute calves, it also means restless nights forcing tired  and brace against the cold night air to check the herd in the event one of the cows may have calving troubles, emotional fatigue with the loss and struggle with nature’s unkindness, and planning your life events in less than 4 hours chunks of time less we not be available to the needs of the cows and sheep.

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Country kids entertaining themselves

 

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Country kids get dirty

 

Branding as it is so-called is really the opportunity to carefully examine each calve as they come thru the calf cradle (a small chute that allows the calf to be restrained) or via cowboy or cowgirl restraint. Each calve is given vaccinations to protect it against respiratory bugs and other diseases it may encounter later in its life and the bull calves are castrated. Each calf spends about a minute or less for this entire process to reduce stress to the calves and improve efficiency. Most ranches do at least 100 calves, if not hundreds in a day’s work.

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Branding is also a celebration of family, friends, and community. Much like days gone by, branding is done with the help of our neighbors and friends. Many hands make light the work to be done. Neighbors are miles away but in true selflessness they are as available to give a day’s work as a phone call and quick pickup ride down the road. Often more family and friends join for branding day than Thanksgiving or Christmas, and the meals that follow are often as impressive.

There is hierarchy amongst the branding workers, with the job of bringing in the calves and doing the physical restraint job left to the young and fit “whipper-snappers”. The youngsters watch and learn, hoping to gain years and pounds so as to be a calf pusher at the next branding.

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Teaching the next generation proper calf restraint

 

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Much the same today as generations before

 

Not all calves are branded but for those moving to common pastures or where ownership must be proven a hot iron is applied to the tough haired hide, leaving behind a permanent mark of ownership. The brand itself often represents generations of ownership and legacy. My own registered brand once belonged to my grandfather. The mark of a brand must not be “blotched” or “smeared” as it may become unreadable and be a permanent mark of poor workmanship for the life of the animal. So the “brander” position is reserved for the skilled and experienced. The remaining jobs sort of fall in order with those available but often years of experience absolve one of the more physical jobs, leaving vaccinating, re-tagging, or castrating.

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Sometimes even goats take part

 

Working calves may well be a necessary task at a ranch, but more so it is that coming together, sharing of food and stories, struggles and drama, and involving the next generation. More than just a “job” to be done it is a reflection of generations of care and concern for the animals and land in our care. Ranchers strive to raise healthier, improved cattle that meet the needs of the consumer.

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Watching and Learning

 

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“This lifestyle isn’t just about the animals. It is about beliefs and values passed down through the generations. Ensuring things are left better for those yet to come. It is about legacy.”

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Motherhood, Ranch Life

“Do We Farm in Heaven?”

IMG_6819panoramicThe Kiddo was riding in front of me on the 4-wheeler as we journeyed to the sheep pasture to check the newly turned out flock and to ensure their water tank was sufficiently filled. We had awoke before 6am to the sound of noisy cows escaping to green grass and the promise of bull romance. The hubby had left early that morning to help at a friend’s branding and my brain was smarming with what needed to be done for the day without him and hoping the boys would be agreeable after such an early and out-of-routine start.

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As we pulled up to the gait, the Kiddo who has fully embraced the persona of an old western cowboy with his plaid snapped shirt, denim, and boots turned his little head back, tips his dusty black cowboy hat and asks, “Do we farm in heaven?”. He goes on to say, “The grass is tall and shiny. The sky is blue and the sun is shining. The sheep are sooo happy!”

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It was one of the those mom moments when your little person says something so profound that you stop in your tracks. I am a bit of an emotional gal anyway so it doesn’t take much to bring a mist to my eyes and his observation did just that. Here was this little guy so in tune with the wonder and beauty around him and recognizing the wonderful blessing this moment and day was. I sometimes think God gave me these little beings to remind me of the extraordinary within the ordinary and to teach me to embrace the blessings amongst the chaos.

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The Kiddo asks things like “Was today a good day?” and the only requirement for a good day is that we spent the day as a family or he got to ride his bike an extra hour before bedtime…those simple joys I have so lost in the to-do list of life. The other day he declared it “The Best Day Ever” with as much enthusiasm as I reserved for my wedding day or the day my kid was born. I don’t know when we loose that childhood enthusiasm, where the simple joys really make the day “The Best Day Ever”. In adulthood, we strive for mammoth moments that make us take note of a day well lived.

“The Farm” as it has long been called (though now we don’t farm a single acre, just livestock and hay) can be this monstrosity of to-dos, where there is never enough time in the day and where time and nature always seem to get the upper hand. There have been times I resented where we live, with the commute, and the aging farmstead that called for more time and money to restore it then we had to give.

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The truth is “The Farm” has become our heaven, the place my kids run free to explore and discover, to learn to appreciate the extraordinary amongst the ordinary, to seek reverence for the land and animals we care for. I am glad for this little escape, where I can appreciate the simple joys of quiet evenings spent with my kiddos and menagerie, and see the beauty of the light hitting the farm yard buildings, or feel alive in a sea of green grass blowing in the breeze.

Where is your “Heaven on Earth”? Maybe it isn’t a grand location but a favorite chair to rest and relax or the porch where evenings are spent watching the kids in the backyard.

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Motherhood, Pet Care, Uncategorized

Observations on the Raising of Puppies and Kids

DSC_9607pHaving kiddos brings its own kind of crazy to life. Add a puppy and it is borderline insanity!

Pregnant woman go into a nesting stage where they want to love and care for another creature and at around 6 months pregnant the urge is strong but there will be no baby for months. It seems the next best thing to love and cradle is a puppy or kitten. I myself grew up with a dog, Bud, that was just 8 weeks older than I. My mother thought “Well I will be home anyway. I might as well get a puppy to housebreak, train, and love while I have the baby.” Now as a parent the story sounds like a disastrous bomb waiting to go off and not the makings of a beautiful friendship between the family dog and a household of daughters.

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First family photo with “Bud” and “Skeeter” 1982

 

For many families the cute and cuddly puppy grows older, more boisterous and reckless. Keeping a tiny helpless infant alive while surviving on minimal sleep is hard and so the puppy child may get forgotten and the  training and direction promised isn’t given priority. The 6 month old formerly adorable puddle of wrinkles Lab is now a wild maniac teenager and becomes too much. Puppies as future parent trainers often fail.

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This is a big “Dog Bite Prevention” NO! Dogs as furniture is not recommended.

 

So when we thought of getting a puppy we looked at pros and cons. Our first dog, Brody, was a surrogate child. I didn’t say that then but now that I have human children it was pretty obvious. When my human children arrived I had to pick the camera back up afraid of the shame if they discovered the “dog child” had more baby books of pictures then they would have.

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Our first family photo with “Brody” 2006
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“Brody” the First Born Parent Trainer

 

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We added a human first born to the mix in 2012
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“The Pack” but no puppies

 

 

 

 

This new puppy would not be just our baby but a member of this new family unit that has been created since our last puppy.  We realized that this puppy would be the dog of childhood memories. We all remember our childhood dog and they are always PERFECT….never chewed or barked, as well trained as Lassie, and saved us from our certain destruction in childhood.  The connection to this new puppy would be different…not a surrogate but an addition.

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“Ripp”

 

We are about a month or so in and having a toddler and puppy at the same time is for fools I tell you. As if your hands aren’t full enough keeping a rambunctious and daring toddler from certain self-destruction, now you give him a side kick in crime.

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I have learned that puppies and kiddos can thrive on some common principles though:

  1. Feed them well. But here is the kicker…both Sidekick Puppy and Toddler love dog food and cat food is a delicacy for unrestrained gluttony. Forget those silly baby fruit-flavored puffs. If they made a complete baby kibble or adult kibble for that matter I’d buy it by the case. We have to keep the food locked from both pets and toddler. More than once both little creatures have shared the after breath of those disgusting faux bacon treats. Excuse me while I dry heave after doing a mouth sweep of kibble from Toddler and disgusting cow placenta jerky from Puppy!
  2. Consistency is key. Rules are rules until well the young ones look cute and you are tired and weak. Then rules are broken and you vow to be stronger next time. It is good to have a partner that will start to see the cracking and intervene so that consistency remains.
  3. Life is stimulating and sometimes you just need a time out or a nap. Both puppies and toddlers get cranky without!
  4. The best toy is the one you can’t have or that wasn’t even meant to be a toy in the first place. I just throw some boxes around the house and the cats and toddler love them. I bought that $30 Sophia the Giraffe teething toy because that is what good mothers do in today’s society. Guess what…Kongs rule in our house.
  5. Imitation is a step in learning. But it gets tricky when the toddler mimics the dog. The other night toddler brought a toy in mouth and requested a game of fetch. But there is hope that by watching older brother pee in the toilet and older dogs pee outside there may be a spark of discovery for toddler and puppy.
  6. What is mine is mine and yours is mine too. Sharing is hard. The other night toddler was sleeping with pacifier in mouth (and yes I was that mom that vowed no pacifiers at this age, ever, ever and then I decided sleep and peaceful living was more important than this pacifier war.) and puppy just stole it in one swoop. So lesson is: if puppy has a toy don’t steal and if child has a toy don’t steal. Teeth and/or tears could be consequences.
  7. Showing love can be a bit rough for the littles. Bite inhibition and hand inhibition training are real. Toddler please note pets don’t love hugs, especially if there is risk of a head popping off and Puppy please note we people don’t like your mouth on our flesh.

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I think it is a start of a beautiful friendship and I hope that in the years to follow we look back with fond memories of their childhood dog. But for today I will just take a deep breath and vow to keep on teaching, guiding, and preventing mayhem and destruction.

“Got to go…Toddler is using the dog food bin as a tasty sensory bin and Puppy is torturing the cats.”

Anyone else crazy like me raising a puppy and a baby? How is your adventure going?

Motherhood, Ranch Life

Party Like a Pioneer

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The Evoniuk Brothers General Store

We love a party and better yet if it is a themed party! So in the spirit of the homesteaders, we thru a Pioneer Party to celebrate the kiddo’s 5th birthday. Friends and family obliged and dug out their pioneer garb to celebrate.

Brad’s great-great grandfather homesteaded our ranch in the late 1800s after his arrival from the Ukraine. We currently live in the fourth home to be built on the homestead and grow much of the same crops and livestock today that were first produced here. By walking the same ground Brad’s family did before, there is a reverence for the land and an importance in carrying on the story and traditions of the generations before us.

 

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The Kiddo designed his own cake

 

 

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Frankly, by living here it sometimes feels like we still live in the pioneer era. I joke they have internet in the jungle and on top a remote mountain but we still don’t have internet on the ranch. I use my cell phone service and we ration “data” just like the pioneers of days before rationed sugar or flour. Neighbors actually live miles away and when something goes down in the ‘neighborhood’ like a fire or downed power line there is a “party line” of phone calls to half the county.

Gorham was a small town just north of the ranch. It was in its heyday around 1937 when 5 families and 5 businesses made up the town, including the Gorham Store and Post Office. The store operated until 1972 when the post office was lost and eventually Gorham became a ghost town. The store building now sits with shelves full just like it did decades ago at the Dickinson Museum Center. So of course our pioneer party needed a General Store. The kiddos were “paid” for doing pioneer work and could use their pennies to “shop” at our General Store.

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The first activity was making butter.  You just need cream and some mason jars, patience, and strong arms. The kiddos tired after about 2 shakes so the adults took over but at least there was work was rewarded with homemade fresh butter for the Easter bread and homemade bread made by the Grandmas.

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The kiddos then headed outside to collect eggs. The weather was not so agreeable but unlike finding anything lost within the house, they made short order of finding all the eggs.

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“Collecting Eggs”

 

The next activity was to be handwashing clothes on a washboard. The weather didn’t cooperate and having wet kiddos didn’t seem like such a great idea so that was tabled for another day. Another activity they had planned for was hunting for wild game but the wind and rain kept the party pretty much indoors.

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Each kiddo received a handmade pioneer journal. We also made spinner toys… I practiced and finally got the hang of it a day later. We used about 36″ of string and some cut wood with two holes drilled in the center. Large buttons would have worked well too. The kiddos weren’t as enamored…honestly there is probably an app for this now days.

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Each person receive a “quilt square” (Oriental Trading purchase) and worked together to make a quilt. I was actually surprised how popular this activity was.

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Making their Friendship Quilt

 

We still have an Outhouse but due to weather we allowed everyone to use the indoor plumbing…just kidding. We have had indoor plumbing and electricity for a few decades now but the Outhouse still sits in the yard.

It was great to celebrate a traditional meal with family and friends…ham, scalloped potatoes, corn, homemade breads.

The Kiddo so wanted a hay ride so Brad put a rack together and we tested it out. In typical North Dakota style we experience all four seasons in the 30 minute hay ride…snow, sleet, rain, sun, and rainbows. Everyone was a trooper and we cuddled up under the quilts. Our “farm safari” took us thru the pastures to see the new calves. One thing I didn’t prepare for was the cow that choose to pee next to the trailer with 40mph wind gusts. Cows are large creatures and produce a fair bit of urine. It was a urine shower but worth a good laugh and a memory for sure.

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The All-Seasons Hay Ride

 

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Thanks to all the family and friends that were able to join us to celebrate! It was a great day!

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