Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Northern plains blizzard

I've been following the weather up north as the SD, MN, IA area got slammed. The blizzard in the Black Hills dumped over 43 inches of snow on Lead SD, there were wind gusts reported at over 70 mph in the Rapid City area and thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of cattle died in the storm. Meanwhile tornadoes were ravaging Nebraska and Iowa.

The weather in the northern plains is fickle. The weather can change in an instant at any time of year, and the summers are brief. Some years, such as this one, there are snowfalls in May, and I remember more than once starting a fire in the wood stove in June to take the chill off in the house. Most years there will be a killing frost followed by several weeks of glorious Indian summer, but despite gardeners frantically covering their gardens to try and protect them and extend the harvest the plants seldom survive the first onslaughts of winter. Some years the snow comes early and never leaves until April.  Occasionally this doesn't happen until very late in the fall, but the average first frost date where I was living is Sept 15, the average last frost in spring is May 15.

 The wind is always blowing and the snow flakes are small and dry, they are always moving, like sand in the desert.

White-out conditions make it extremely difficult to drive anywhere even if the roads are open.

There are virtually no trees other than those in farm windbreaks. Once the wind picks up the snow there is very little to stop it, although fantastic drifts will form around any obstacle, a tree, a fence post, even a single stalk of dry grass.. This is the nearest neighbor's place, just under a mile away. 

This is my amazing snow blower that I sold last summer, having no intention of spending another winter up north. The almost 1/4 mile long driveway is visible in the background. The low area in the middle where it crossed the creek usually stayed fairly free of snow since it drops off fifteen feet on each side, but  the hill up into the yard and the slope out near the road drift terribly, and this thing somehow powered through an incredible amount of snow. Once the wind stopped it was a two or three day job to clear the driveway, assuming the wind didn't kick up and blow it all back in again.

This is what happens if you don't have a garage to put the vehicles in during a blizzard. 

Once the snow got more than 3 or 4 feet deep on the driveway I had to call a neighbor to come with the tractor and blower to clear the driveway, no matter how amazing it was my walk-behind snow blower would ever get through this!  The wind driven snow packs so hard that the drifts are sometimes solid enough to drive over.

The county road a mile south of the farm... the roads will clear off in a few days and a good January thaw will warm it up above freezing so you can get out on the bike, but it's not always much fun.

Somehow being stuck in Tennessee for the winter doesn't seem so terrible.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A rainy Sunday drive

I'm quite new to this whole blogging thing, having just started last year after I purchased my 'train wreck' travel trailer. I started following several full time RVer's blogs at that time and have added to the list over time to include tiny houses, vintage travel trailers, photography, van dwellers etc. A couple of the first blogs I started following were Gypsy's On The Road Again and Travels With Emma. It was fun to read earlier this summer when these two gals met up in Minnesota where Judy was working at the wildlife refuge and Gypsy was on a California to New York trip. After my trip to North Carolina to loan my travel trailer to my almost-son-in-law I read that Gypsy was only a day or so behind me and was heading for Paducah KY. I emailed her and mentioned I'd love to meet up since we were in the same neck of the woods, and a date was set.

Sunday morning I got on the road heading north. It was a beautiful sunny day when I left the house in middle Tennessee, but by the time I got to Nashville the sky was solid gray and getting darker by the mile. Just past the Kentucky border welcome center the first rain drops hit the windshield and the rain came down in buckets off and on the entire rest of the drive to Paducah. It's a good thing I had allowed extra time because traffic slowed to 50 mph at times in the heavy rain.

We had arranged to meet at the Caribbean themed Flamingo Row restaurant, and it turned out to be a good choice. The food was good, the decor was super bright and colorful, and the resident iguana was a hoot, nodding her head whenever a staff member walked past and wiggled their fingers at her. Here's a shot of the interior.
I had the server snap a pic of the two of us, but I'm not going to post it since we both have our eyes closed!  lol You'll have to check out her blog for a photo of us and also a shot of the iguana.
The rain let up sometime during the almost 3 hours we sat and chatted, and only dripped on me intermittently for most of the trip home. However there was a huge traffic jam that started just north of  the TN border and it took over and hour and a half to travel about 6 miles, all due to road construction that has one lane shut down.
 There is a fairly large population of Amish in Kentucky and while parked in the traffic I did get to see several buggies going across an overpass.

I also got a shot of this poor old barn which somehow remains standing despite missing most of one wall and portions of the roof. Barns up north with structural integrity issues almost never get to this point and still remain upright, they collapse due to the weight of the winter snow load.

I was also 'passed' - at a creeping pace - by a stock trailer with a couple longhorn cattle inside. It's really hard to see them, but the horns were nearly as wide as the trailer, so from tip to tip they must span six feet or more.

All in all it was a great day, and I hope Gypsy's path and mine cross again one day.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The swallows left and so did I

I suppose an update of sorts is in order, so here goes. The barn swallows left southwest Minnesota on September 15th. There was still a large number of them on the evening of the 14th, probably 150 or so, but the next day the wires were devoid of my feathered friends. 
I had planned to stay up north until the cold weather got to be too much in the travel trailer, but plans changed. My youngest girl's boyfriend has had a couple really bad renter/landlord experiences and has been looking for a 5th wheel to purchase and live in instead of dealing with a landlord that refuses to fix anything. He was in desperate need of a place to live after a heavy rain resulted in an inch of water running across the kitchen floor and soaking the carpet which caused mold to grow in wild profusion but so far hadn't found a 5th wheel he liked. I volunteered to lend him my little home on wheels until he found something. He accepted the offer and a flurry of packing up ensued. Heck, the barn swallows were gone, so it must be time to head south, right?

I don't like towing a trailer of any sort through Nashville during the day, there's just too much traffic going way too fast, so I left MN in the middle of the night. Driving straight through I can make the trip in 18 hours, but with 2 dogs and a cat the pace is slower, especially at potty breaks and I figured on 24 hours so I'd hit Nashville sometime after midnight. Perfect!

Dawn came somewhere north of Waterloo Iowa. It wasn't light enough yet to get a photo of the pair of holstein cows standing in a farm yard that someone made out of fuel barrels and cream cans, but a bit later I did get a shot of these folks who are outstanding in their field.
There's no other signage, so, um, yeah, I have no idea. They make me chuckle every time I drive past them though. 

I got to the KY/TN border and decided since it was 11PM I'd take a short cat nap at the TN welcome center rest area. I had the alarm set on the phone and woke up just fine, but for some reason closed my eyes again and the next thing I knew it was 6AM. Nashville at morning rush hour was NOT on my list of things to do, but there really wasn't any other option. I made it through in one piece and after arriving at the house I went about unloading everything from the truck and trailer. It's really amazing how much "stuff" you can carry around without realizing it until you have to drag it all into the house. 

After resting up for a couple days I headed to NC with the trailer. I snapped a couple "tourist shots" through the windshield of the Great Smokey Mountains before the road got too steep and twisty for that sort of behavior. 

I spent a day with the almost-son-in-law looking at RV's but he didn't see anything he liked at his price point, so we got the little travel trailer moved into the RV park where he will be living. It's a very pretty spot with a creek running through it, well kept up and mostly permanent residents of all ages with a few snowbirds thrown in. I met a few of his new neighbors and they seemed like really nice folks. The lot rent is a very reasonable $125 a month, that sure beats the $600 he was paying for the house that flooded when it rained. I joked that after he's lived in a 20' TT for a while a 5th wheel with slides will seem palatial!

For now I'm "stuck" in TN with no RV, but this is probably a good thing as it will force me to finally get the remodel of the house finished and start on the Caboose rebuild.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lazy Sunday

Even though the forecast is for upper 80's today it's been quite cool so far with overcast skies and a couple small shots of rain. The humidity is very high though, 80% inside right now, and so far I haven't been able to find a way to dry things out inside the TT without running the a/c, which would mean putting on a sweatshirt and shivering until the sun decides to come out and heat things up!  lol

The rain is needed, but probably not very welcome for a gal I met yesterday. A friend of mine had sent a text a few days ago asking if I was interested in letting someone cut the hay on the other acreage I own. I never turn down money so of course I said yes. He hooked us up with phone numbers, and I agreed to meet her there yesterday when she got back from a trail ride with her girls.

She had said they should be back around 4:30 or 5, so when 5:30 rolled around with no word from her I got in the truck and headed that way, figuring the 1/2 hour drive would give her time to get the horses unloaded and contact me. On the way past the pond I tried, for the umpteenth time, to get a pic of the turtles sunning on a submerged log. Even with the truck just quietly idling along, as soon as I cleared the hill and became visible to them they all dove off into the water, and I thought that all I was left with was a photo of the splash as usual, but after zooming way in I can see 5 of them on the stump to the far left that hadn't ditched yet, and a couple that were making their escape are partially visible diving off the stump to the right.

There are often 20 or more sliders sunning there, although the tree, which was taken down by beavers several years ago, has been getting more and more waterlogged and sinking deeper so there's not nearly as much surface area for them to bask on. I'm afraid in another couple years the tree will be completely submerged, and I have thought about putting some form of floating dock out there for them, but I don't own the pond and haven't talked to the owner yet about my plan. I also startled a couple of the ducks into flight as I crept past the pond in the truck...

 and managed to snap a quick shot of one of the red-tailed hawks that hunts along my road.

Taking back roads and wandering slowly, I stopped at my friend's place to feed his cats since his son had forgotten to do it before they left for the weekend. There's usually a whole herd of farm cats at his place, but they must have all been hiding out from the heat when I was there since the only ones that showed up to eat were a tortoise shell mama and her two half grown kittens. Whenever I stop at my friends' place they're always trying to give me kittens, and I always politely decline. This little calico girl really is adorable though.

Her brother looks like a pretty run-of-the-mill orange and white kitty when peering at me from under the truck, but he has the most amazing dark orange spiral markings on both sides.

My friend tried to foist a kitten or two off on me a couple weeks ago when I stopped to buy some sweet corn and green and yellow beans (his wife market gardens, all non-GMO organic produce) and I was strong, firmly saying NO. The little calico female is sure adorable though, isn't she?  I don't need another cat, Mr. K is doing great in the travel trailer, and there are 3 fat orange boys at the house in TN who belong to my daughter, and I don't think any of them would take too kindly to a rambunctious little kitten racing and chasing through the house (or camper).

I actually found myself looking at puppies online the other day. I DON'T need another dog, either. But my Dane and the Yorkie are both getting up in years, this may very well be the Dane's last summer.  I was drooling over a drop-dead gorgeous Smooth Fox Terrier, 16 months old, pointed and being shown until he finds his new home. Smooth Fox and Danes were the two breeds I was vacillating between 15 years or so ago, and at that time I decided on Danes since I knew the time would come when I couldn't deal with a giant breed dog any more, so do it while I still could. IF I was to get another four-legged friend it could possibly outlive me, I have to concede  I'm not getting any younger,and a small dog or a cat can easily live 15 years or more.  But isn't that calico a cutie??

After leaving my friends' place I continued on toward Kenneth, MN. The soybeans are beginning to turn yellow in a few spots, and I saw the first person out chopping silage. Harvest is just around the corner, and winter won't be far behind.

Kenneth, MN is just like dozens of other small, dying towns in the upper midwest: it has a population of a bit under 70 souls, and that hasn't changed too much in the nearly 3 decades I've lived near there. Businesses haven't fared too well though. The bank closed not too long after an armed robbery, followed more recently by the hardware store/gas station and the grocery store, now the the post office is the latest victim of rural economics and the flight to the cities. There is still a great small engine repair place that I frequent, and a small bar and the grain elevator, along with a Lutheran church. There is a stop sign in the center of town, but if you blink you may miss it. The town, not just the stop sign.

As I drove through Kenneth I saw a horse trailer turning in at the house on the edge of town, and figuring it was Heidi I went ahead and drove up to the acreage to unlock the gate. I had to put up a gate to stop people from dumping their garbage there. Unfortunately, even though I brought every Master lock key I owned with me, none fit the lock on the gate. I made a quick trip to the neighbor's to see about borrowing a bolt cutter, and he had to run into town to get it from his shop, he's the small engine repair guy.  By this time Heidi had the horses unloaded so I stopped and introduced myself. 

Do you ever meet someone you feel like you've known for a long time? Heidi and I hit it off right away and spent quite some time talking about politics, the weather, life and everything else under the sun. We discovered that we both have "caretaker" personalities, both have worked in long term care facilities where we loved the old folks but not necessarily our co-workers, both grew up on horses, both take in strays and abused/unwanted critters of all sorts. I did show her the pictures of the cute calico kitty...  lol  Her hubby was just getting dinner ready to throw on the grill and she invited me to stay, but I declined. After talking for quite a while longer, one of her girls came out and said dinner was ready, and by that point I said yes, I was starving, lead me to the food!  LOL 

We talked until late, and I never made it back out to cut the lock off the gate so I left the bolt cutters with her and she was going to return them to Dave. She was hoping to get the guy to come today to cut the hay, so I'll go back in a few days to see if they've baled and hauled it off yet then put a new lock on the gate. Here's a couple pics of the acreage from the driveway turnoff. There's a very healthy row of 100 year old lilacs and a few black walnut trees that I transplanted 20 years ago from my ex-father-in-law's farm in SD, a couple plum trees that I planted which have never borne fruit, and an apricot tree that did fruit twice that I know of, along with an old granary with a large hole in the roof and a basement full of garbage where the old house burned down. There was never a good grove of trees, they had all succumbed to Dutch Elm disease when I bought the land in 1989,and there were only a few struggling apple trees left in the "orchard" north of the house. And time marches on.  

Friday, September 6, 2013


Personal websites are dangerous things, just ask me, I have 3 of them. Sure they start out simple enough, maybe just a place to put some photos to share with family and friends, but before you know it those few dozen photos have started breeding when you're not looking and turned into a horde of  thousands.  My first website dates back to 2001 when I was selling on eBay and wanted a place to host my own photos. I not only uploaded photos to use on eBay, but also used it for hosting pics that I posted on the many forums I hung out at, for avatars, for songs I was sharing with a friend, for short movies I took, for a large database of Great Dane pedigrees complete with photos, for things I didn't want to lose if the computer crashed, and the list goes on and on.

The second website was started a few years later for my second eBay selling ID. It eventually became the place to put all my motorcycle related things -  rally and grand tour photos, strange places and interesting things I saw on my journeys, ride reports. I also used both websites at various times to back-up my desktop computer.

I started blogging very recently. After a very short time I changed the name of the blog. Then my web host sent an email saying they were having a heck of a sale on new domains and hosting packages, so now I've gotten a new domain and will eventually migrate this Blogger blog to a self-hosted Wordpress blog. Oh joy! I thought I'd just move everything off the two original websites and close them down, it would save a couple hundred dollars a year in hosting fees. Turns out that's easier said than done. There are literally thousands (if not 10's of thousands) of items in hundreds of directories on the two sites. Most have terrible names that give no clue as to what they actually are, so I'm downloading everything one directory at a time just to see what they are. Oh look, there's a picture of my grandson the day he was born! Or, why in the world did I think that joke was funny?  Or, awwwww, puppies! Or, who are those people in that photo, and where was it taken? Who took it??  lol

Because I used the websites as a way to back-up the desktop before I reformatted it, some of the photos and other files exist nowhere else, therefore I don't want to just delete them without seeing what they are. This whole download thing is made even more problematic by the fact that I have satellite internet with a low bandwidth limit. I can do a few directories a day and then I'm at my limit. Hopefully by the time the hosting comes up for renewal in a few months I will have transferred everything to my laptop and saved the things I really want to keep to an external drive or to the new website. At that point I get to try and learn how to run a self-hosted Wordpress blog. Seems the older I get the harder it is for me to get new information to stick in my brain.

In the meantime, here's some of the wildflowers growing along the driveway taken a few days ago, they're actually hosted on the new website.  lol

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Interesting Craigslist items

I love old and antique "stuff" and occasionally I come across something really unusual. Like this 1880's Sheep Camp/Sheep herders wagon that is listed on Craigslist.


"Antique sheep camp on a 1927 dodge bros chassis...probably originally built in Casper, Wy...
The interior configuration is exactly as seen in their earliest models. I have the original wheels but they were in such poor shape and finding tires (?) So Land Rover fit the bolt pattern....
$7,500 507-865-4661 Serious buyers only, please!"

This is pretty darn awesome, wouldn't it make a neat tiny house?

Or how about this setup? I've never seen anything like this before, basically an entire kitchen in one piece.


"For sale--Dwyer kitchenette. 3 burners, refrigerator w/freezer and sink. Perfect for basement, garage or hunting lodge. Brown with stainless steel top. Outside dimensions 5' 3' long x 2' 1" deep x 3' high. Instruction manual included. Bret (605) 359-0086 Sioux Falls" 

Upon further reflection on yesterday's post regarding music (reflection that included a close encounter with some Bushmills 1608,  I've come to see the error of my ways. After publishing the blog post I actually opened up Winamp and my poor elderly Asus laptop nearly choked to death on the playlist, but recovered and did it's best to perform. I very rapidly realized part of the reason I very seldom listened to music on the computer is due to the extremely poor sound quality squeezed out by the tiny feeble speakers built into the Asus. A search through the house for my Creative I-Trigue speakers ensued, and after a brief period when I feared they may have been left in Sturgis last month they surfaced and were dragged to the travel trailer.  Note to self: the Caboose will have numerous electrical outlets strategically placed where they are needed. Second note to self: the Caboose will have a kick-ass built-in audio system for times when I want tunes.