Saturday, May 31, 2008

Whose Kid Is That?

Of all the decisions I have made throughout the years, I like to think that one of the wisest was choosing to rear my children in the country.

There are also many times that I doubt my wisdom.

One of the primary benefits I can usually cite for living rurally is that I can protect my kids from some of the harsher elements of urban life. It is that very protection, however, that can sometimes cause trouble when I take my sheltered children to town.

For instance, my youngest son does not know that he cannot run out into the street. He doesn’t even know what a street is. If he sees a tractor coming across the field, he knows that he needs to avoid it. But since we live well off the county road and rarely spend time anywhere with pavement, he is completely unaware that a street poses any danger to him.

Ignorance of traffic can be a benefit of sorts as well. I always try to obtain a window seat in busy restaurants because my sheltered children are fascinated with traffic. All the city kids in the place completely ignore the cars whizzing by their windows, but my kids sit quietly and stare out the window at the unfamiliar sight.

They are not always so well behaved in the city, though. When my oldest child was three, I was browsing through a clothing store when he suddenly disappeared. I was nearly frantic with worry until I saw a fellow customer jump back in alarm, stifling a scream. There, with his head poking out from a circular rack of dresses, was my son, playing an impromptu game of hide and seek.

I have also found that sheltering the kids in the country may not provide them with all the social skills they need as they encounter people in town. This point was proven when my child pointed at the checkout clerk and said, “Do you have a baby in your tummy, or are you just fat?”

At least that episode provided a teachable moment. Some skills are more difficult to teach, such as the concept that not everyone in a city is interested in who you are or what you are doing. My kids are used to a small-town grocery store in which everyone has known them since birth. They can happily rattle on to the clerk and the customers about their daily lives and accomplishments, and they always find a receptive audience.

Thus, when we are in a large department store, I find myself dragging my daughter away from strangers that she is trying to engage in conversation. She has no understanding of why they would not be interested in her full name, age, interests, and opinions.

Managing naïve and inquisitive country kids in the city can be an exhausting experience, and it is usually at that peak of exhaustion that I begin to question my wisdom in a) rearing the children in the country, and b) bringing such countrified children to the city to begin with. Such was the case one summer when my four-year-old daughter and I were waiting in the parking lot for the rest of the family to pick us up.

My daughter informed me that she had to go to the bathroom, and I was not about to re-enter the busy store that I had finally escaped with a cart full of items. I told her that she would have to wait a few minutes, and I continued to scan the horizon for her father.

When I turned to make sure she was still there with me, I saw the sight that no mother wants to see. There, squatting by a pencil-thin tree in full view of the world, was my half-naked daughter.


She was surprised at my gasp of horror. After all, her brother taught her that when you are outside and you have to go, you simply find a tree and do your business. It’s a lesson that his father passed down to him, and it’s one that is completely acceptable on the prairies of Montana.

In the largest city in the state, however, I believe it is generally frowned upon.

Although I attempted to explain that logic to my daughter, I’m afraid that the lesson was lost upon her happy little spirit.

At least the big city provides one amenity not found in rural areas: anonymity.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Just Busy

I was thinking that no one would notice if I just skipped a day of blogging.

I was mistaken.

After the third phone call from a concerned family member asking if I was okay, I decided I better blog tonight.

Yes, I am okay. I'm just busy. And tired. And busy.

The little ones have had colds, and the coughing and fevers have kept me up at night.

School is out, which means that everyone is scheduling activities this week. We have had 4-H work days, Vacation Bible School meetings, t-ball games, basketball camps, and slumber parties. I think I actually met myself on the county road yesterday morning.

Last week's rain has resulted in this week's explosion of weeds and grass requiring spraying and mowing. It finally quit freezing at night, so the flowers and the garden needed to be planted.

My intention was to plant the flowers and the garden as a family bonding experience, taking pictures of our progress throughout the day. My reality was that the toddler kept ripping plants out of the containers, shredding the roots, and the older kids were arguing about who would plant which seeds where. The wind blew most of the day, and by early this afternoon, everyone was tired and cranky. A brief hailstorm blew through, and we all retreated to the house.

I finished the garden alone, and I enjoyed it. I didn't take a single picture until I returned to the house. I thought that this photo summarized all of our feelings tonight.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fading Away

After traveling to my hometown on Memorial Day, we took a detour on the way home and drove through the town where my father-in-law grew up. Like many other Montana towns, this one is slowly fading away. There is a melancholy sort of beauty in abandoned places that words cannot touch. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It Must Be Summer

Here's a recap of my day:

* Moved cows to greener pastures

* Dropped off one child at basketball camp (which is really misleading since it's a two-hour event which doesn't involve camping at all)

* Picked up one child from basketball camp and dropped off another child at basketball camp

* Did a few loads of laundry

* Paid some bills

* Picked up one child from basketball camp

* Drove an hour with all four kids to a t-ball game where I coached first base because all the other moms were hiding in their vehicles because the "Real Feel" temperature registered somewhere between zero and freeze your tail off

* Thawed myself out while driving an hour home

* Narrowly missed hitting a porcupine, a few deer, a cat, and a cow on the road

* Giggled for four miles after the following exchange:

"Mom, what was that?"

"A deer. Oh, look, it's a whitetail!"

"A whitetail? I love them."

"Yes, they are pretty, aren't they?"

"They're delicious!"

You know you're a redneck mama when your daughter appreciates wildlife for its flavor.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cutest Contest

We did some Memorial Day traveling today.

I took along my camera because I had a hunch that sheep might be involved in our day. My daughters both have an affinity for lambs, and my dad just happens to have some.

In the course of the day, I took around 100 photos. Half of them were of sheep.

I can't decide which one is the cutest, so I thought I'd gather your opinions. Cast your vote!

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1. Freckles

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2. Oreo

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3. Bleater

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4. Knobby Knees

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5. Skunk

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6. The Twins

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7. Brownie (Girl Not Included)

What do you think?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Precipitation

I like the word "precipitation."

It sounds so much more profound than plain "rain." In this business, precipitation is quite profound.

We have just witnessed a rare display of precipitation in Montana. In the past few days, the skies broke open and drenched us with around four inches of rain. Words cannot describe the impact this will have on the crops, the pasture, and the hay.

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Puddles are exactly what we needed.

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In Montana, May showers bring June flowers.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gardening

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Behind every good gardener

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Is a good boss.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Root Cellar

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Around here, a person doesn't have to look far to find a reminder of the hard work involved in homesteading this country and the progress that has been made since then.


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In my case, I simply have to walk out my front door and go down a slight slope that veers off to the right.

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A root cellar was an essential component of a homestead. When we first moved here 12 years ago, we found this one stocked with canned vegetables and a couple dozen snakes.


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Through the years, my husband has painstakingly cleaned out most of its contents, including the snakes.


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DSC03708He has also added some treasures that he has found in various buildings and strewn about the place.


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He tells me that this cellar once had three doors, which provided excellent protection from heat and cold fluctuations. Now it only has two doors, but it is still quite functional.


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I'm not quite as ambitious as the previous generations of women who lived here. We eat or freeze most of the garden produce, and the shelves of the root cellar now hold empty jars.


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Since this area has experienced several tornadoes in the past few years and we don't have a basement, the root cellar provides a viable escape option for us.


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It's much more appealing now that the snakes have vacated the premesis, and it is now equipped with a radio and lantern for the comfort of the occupants.


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This is why we don't have a basement; digging through rocks like this would have been quite a task.

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Every time I look at the combination of rock and logs that comprise this structure, I am in awe of the hard work it took to create it.


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It sure makes me feel silly about complaining when I have to clean out the refrigerator.

It Takes Electricity to Run a Computer

I know I said I would post the answer to the Photo ID contest last night. I know I said I would share more pictures.

They're pretty neat pictures.

And I will share them.

Just as soon as my photo editing program stops burping and starts functioning again.

Two things happened yesterday. First, I decided to upgrade my photo editing program because I have been having problems with the old one. It seems it doesn't play well with Vista.

Secondly, just as I was about to sit down to upload those photos I promised you, the power flickered and died for the third time in 48 hours. By the time our heroic rural electric cooperative employees drove out here and braved the soggy weather to restore the power, it was well past my bedtime. If I was going to get my required five or six hours of sleep, I would have to forego the photo uploading.

Turns out that was a good decision, because when I attempted the upload this morning, my newly upgraded photo editing program burped. I'm trying to give it an antacid right now, but it may require more intensive treatment.

Meanwhile, for your entertainment, here are a few more phrases that people have googled and then, inexplicably, found themselves here.

"what to do when foster kids run away"
I would look for them. It might work better than sitting in front of the computer googling for them.

"toddler repeats phrase until a response is given"
Sorry, but this behavior is typical until the child reaches the teen years. It goes right along with whining, tantrums, lost mittens, cutting a sibling's hair with safety scissors, and cussing in front of your grandparents. It's a rite of passage in parenting. Just answer the child and get on with your day.

"should husband shave his legs"
I've gotta vote no on this one. But I'm not sure you should be soliciting others' opinions; it sounds like a personal issue to me.

"shaved my eyelashes"
Thanks for sharing. I'm hoping this is the end of the "shaving" queries.

"raising a cowboy"
If his mama wasn't successful, you won't be, either.

"kids racism its just not funny"
Well, sometimes it is.

"how to make my front yard look beautiful"
Trust me; you will not find the answer to that question on this blog. Coming soon: my pathetic attempts at landscaping.

"having another child when you have an autistic son"
It's a leap of faith, and I'm very thankful that we took that leap several times. The best thing we ever did for our oldest son was to give him siblings.

"funny photo manure pile"
I guess some people never overcome the bathroom humor stage.

"cute redneck girls"
I have two of them, and their daddy has a shotgun.

"root cellar pictures"
Funny you should ask. They should be uploading any minute day now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Photo ID

Here's a challenge for you.

Identify this photo:

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It's part of an old structure, and it's close to my house. What's the structure?

I'll reveal the answer and more pictures Thursday night. . . but I bet someone will guess correctly before then.

Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy the beautiful rain that has finally made its way to our part of the country. It is truly an answered prayer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Daddies of 'em All

I have introduced you to the mamas and the babies on the place, but I seem to have neglected the daddies.

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They're feeling rather lonely this time of year. They've been without their female companions for many months.

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They're a little bit cranky about that.

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They're picking fights for no reason at all.

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They're doing the usual head butting.

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They're whispering not-quite-so-sweet nothings into each other's ears.

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But it's really all half-hearted. They're bored with each other, and they're even bored with fighting.

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So, for now, there's only one thing left to do. . . until next week, when they will be very, very busy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nesting

A couple of weeks ago, our mama cat came back from the hay corral much skinnier than she had been when she departed.

Finding kittens in the haystacks is a difficult task, and since you never know what other critters you may encounter in those crevices, it's quite a dangerous task as well.

Our oldest son was determined to find those kittens, so he began stalking the mama cat. After a time, his sleuthing paid off. He discovered a nest.

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Spot, as we so inventively named the mama cat, had hidden her offspring in a stack of very old straw bales.

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They are so well hidden that we have to remove a bale to access them. I guess she had an intense nesting instinct.

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They're awfully cute.

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The proud father is inventively named Blacky. He's black.

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The kittens may become Spot 2, 3, and 4.

Also residing on the farm are Yellow Kitty 1-8, Grey Kitty 1 and 2, and some miscellaneous others that are so wild that we cannot determine their color as they are streaking past us.

Ten years ago, I caught all the cats and took them to the vet to be spayed, neutered, vaccinated, and wormed. I wrote the check, brought the cats home, and they all promptly died or ran away.

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I don't spend money on barn cats anymore (with the exception of the inordinate amounts of cat food that they eat each month).

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But they are well loved.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Irony

I'm a fan of irony.

I can sit through an entire movie that is supposed to be a comedy without cracking a smile, but unexpected irony makes me laugh out loud.

When I opened up a package a few days ago, I certainly was not expecting to see this.

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My doctor recently asked me to read the book The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and let her know my thoughts from an agricultural perspective. I was slightly embarrassed that I had not yet read the book. It was published in April of 2006. Everyone else in the world has read it. It is logical to think that I, being a farmer's wife and an avid reader, would have picked it up.

For some reason, I had not. In fact, I have never read anything written by Michael Pollan. Or Barbara Kingsolver. Or anyone else besides the authors of autism behavioral technique manuals or parenting books.

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In 2006, I was busy making Pooh Bear cakes and figuring out what had caused that rash on my three-year-old's cheeks.

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I was nursing a baby. Frequently, by the looks of those cheeks.

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I was sending my little girl off to kindergarten and admitting to myself that I must relinquish control over the wardrobe choices of my third-grade son.

I was not up to any kind of book with a title that included the word "dilemma." I had enough dilemmas of my own.

Now that my baby is (mostly) sleeping through the night, the birthdays are over until October, and my brain is almost fully functional again, I thought I would tackle Pollan's work, so I ordered it. While I haven't yet read it, I know that a basic premise of the book is that McDonald's food is not terribly healthy.

That's why I laughed out loud when, upon opening the package, I found a coupon for a free McDonald's sandwich on top of the book.

Pure irony.

And, knowing me, I'll probably read the book and then use the coupon anyway.

 
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