Road Trip: Western North Dakota


Yesterday The Flirt and I went on a road trip, which is one of my favorite things to do. He has had a jones to trade in his truck for something new, and so we went to Williston, ND to check out what they had to offer.

Williston is two hours from Minot, and is smaller in population, but it was a good excuse to get out of Dodge, if you will. I really enjoy getting out of Dodge.

I also enjoy it when he drives, so I can bring a crochet project along and keep my hands busy. This afghan is one I’ve been working on for my nephew. I used a modified block pattern which leaves a lot of tails to weave in at the end, but it’s worth the work when it’s all done. I actually made good progress, and am finally nearing the end of this one.

First stop on the way was in Stanley. We heard that all of the Shopko’s in the nation were going out of business, so we thought we’d check out the going out of business sale. Holy buckets… I had no intention of shopping, but the deals were so good I couldn’t help but pick some things up. Having filled up The Flirt’s back seat, we got back on the road to Williston.

We arrived at the dealership, looked over what they had to offer, and he began the process to see if a trade could be made. While the dealership crunched numbers, we went to lunch at a restaurant called Famous Dave’s. Minot doesn’t have a Famous Dave’s, so this was a particular treat. I ate what they called “burnt butts”, which is like burnt ends, but is pork instead of beef. The coleslaw was really good… not bland at all, and not too soupy or too dry. The Mac and Cheese, which had a good spice to it, also included sweet corn. The corn was unexpected, but turned out to be a great addition. There was also a corn muffin, which was a little more like a cupcake than corn bread in consistency, but it tasted good. All in all, it was a fabulous meal, and there was so much we both had to get to-go boxes. Looking forward to going back!

As it turned out, no deal was made for a new truck, so we made our way home by way of New Town, which is south of Williston if you take highway 1804. The terrain here is so lovely. I am a huge fan of the High Plains with its rolling prairies, but western North Dakota is particularly beautiful with more prominent features starting with the Missouri River, Lake Sakakawea, and then the Badlands in the south west.

I love taking pictures, and so I snapped a few from the truck as we drove between Williston and New Town on highway 1804.

Across Lake Sakakawea, you can see Saddle Butte.

Taking pictures from inside a moving vehicle, and the gloominess of the day, make for less than stellar pictures. On top of that, I was using my iPhone, which doesn’t take the best pictures. However, you get an idea of the terrain in this area.

One of the bad things about this area is that it is in the top end of the Bakken oil play and all of this beautiful countryside is dotted with oil wells. In this picture, you can see natural gas flaring:

Oil wells, and wasting of natural gas notwithstanding, it was still a beautiful drive. We made it to New Town, and hit that Shopko as well. We ran into some people we knew, and I found a few more things to buy, and then we drove home.

It was a good day.

I love a good road trip, and have a few more planned for the summer. This fall, I am driving out to NV to visit Younger Son, and a few others. It’s going to be a great adventure, and it’s killing me that I can’t get in the car and go now!

Here’s hoping you all have opportunities to get out of Dodge, whatever that looks or feels like or looks like for you. Getting away for a little bit is a good thing. Blessings all!

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Creeping Jenny gets evicted


As you, my Faithful Readers, will remember, I have rock beds around the foundation of my house. Weeds growing up around the edges of the quickly disappearing plastic under the rocks has become a problem.

The most prolific weed I deal with is what we on the High Plains call Creeping Jenny. She’s quite a nuisance, and is impossible to get rid of. This noxious weed is otherwise known as Field Bindweed, which is an appropriate name, because it winds up all around and inside anything it touches, including the siding of my house, and my air conditioner. I just spent an hour going around my foundation pulling a whole lot of it out by the roots.

Now that I think of it, I may have even blogged about this last year. Well, enough complaining…time to redo the rock beds. This time I’ll put a rubberized pond liner under the rocks, which will help a great deal.

Something lovely I did find tonight, in the old gardens in the back yard, was a strawberry plant. I thought they all died, so it was a nice surprise to find this sweet little plant peeking out between the weeds.

Here’s hoping you all find a sweet little surprise while doing an icky chore. Little things like that can go a long way to lift your spirits. Blessings all!

Don’t mentally flog yourself with a bar you haven’t reached yet


We’ve had some cold wet weather recently on the High Plains, and it has really ramped up the cabin fever. I’ve got the gardening bug bad, and this week I bought plants and got busy outside, cold wet weather notwithstanding. Today, finally, we have bright blue skies and warm temps. So I went out to check on everyone to see how things are progressing.

One of my favorite plants ever is the Bleeding Heart. My Grandmother always had one in her back yard, and it was something I always looked forward to seeing bloom. I can’t believe I just now got around to buying one. Hopefully the deer won’t find it tasty! I lose a lot of things in my yard every summer… it’s like a deer buffet. This year I bought some deer netting, so I hope that it will keep them away, especially from my tomatoes and peppers.

While digging a hole to plant my Bleeding Heart, I found something that looks very much a zucchini. I planted them last year, but nothing came up. This year I have this lovely little volunteer, so I kept it and will see if it’s what I think it is.

I also planted Thyme, Rosemary, and Basil next to the chives. The chives are already blooming, so I’ll let them be and just cut them back when the bloom is done. They are so pretty when they bloom!

This is the 3rd year the zombie hand has been in my garden. It’s survived some nasty winters, so it gets to stay again this summer. I added the little fisherman this year, and we will see how many years we can keep him around.

The front porch always needs so color, so I put some pots together, and I’m hoping they do better than the ones last year.

Over the winter I forget how relaxing it is to putter outside with the gardens. It’s I’m looking forward to a long summer of that.

So, The Summer To Do list is starting to shape up, for outdoors, and indoors too:

1. Paint the kitchen/entry/hallway

2. Finish the side yard

3. Build a compost container

4. Fill in holes in the back yard and plant grass

5. Redo the rock beds- kill the weeds and put down new plastic under the rock

6. Finish the work area in the basement

7. Clear out the pantry, paint it and put it back together

8. Spiff up the basement utility area

It looks like I have my work cut out for me, and the list feels more than a little daunting. Lots of projects to do, and a pledge of help from the Flirt will go along way to get all of it accomplished. We’ll see what it looks like in September! Usually I get to the end of the Summer, and feel terrible and guilty about anything that didn’t get accomplished. No more of that noise. If it doesn’t all get done, I’m not going to have stress about it, and I’m going to enjoy what did get done. Life’s too short.

Here’s hoping you all have plenty of happy projects to keep your minds happy and your hearts full. Just remember having a bar to reach for is all well and good, but only worry about getting done what you can, when you can. Don’t mentally flog yourself with that bar if you don’t end up reaching it. Blessings all!

Day 12- The Car Wash as Therapy


I was supposed to go ice fishing today, but circumstances dictated otherwise. So, I figured I would take advantage of a free Saturday and get my oil changed.

I want to give a shout out to the folks at Minot Automotive. They always do a good job, and get me in and out quickly. I didn’t even have a chance to get my whole coffee down before I was paying my bill and on my way out the door.

Silly as it seems, I have a whole ritual with regard to getting my oil changed. I get up early, go get a my coffee and something to eat, and hopefully arrive in time to be first in line. After the oil change comes a car wash.

Today is a good day to get a car wash. It’s cold enough to keep slush and dirt off the car so it stays clean longer, and warm enough so that the car wash will still be open. Sounds weird, I know, but that’s typical winter car washing strategy up here on the High Plains.

I love going through the car wash. There’s just something soothing about the sound, the warmth, and smell of it. Now, if I could get someone to sit in the back seat behind me and rub my shoulders while the car was being washed, that would be the amazing!

There’s something really lovely about finding joy in mundane tasks. I know people who are perturbed at being made to feel anything but excitement. I have learned the hard way to feel grateful when nobody is making excitement for me. Hum drum is just my speed most days, and it’s awesome.

Here’s hoping you are able to find joy in some everyday task and take solace in the ability to just slow down and breathe, even if it’s only just long enough to get your car washed. Blessing all!

 

Little things mean so much


So much has happened in the last few weeks…

Younger Son was home on leave for two weeks, and it was nice to have all my chicks in the nest again. So much changes, but then again not. My world-traveling baby is still his same self, but so grown up.

We managed to go away for a weekend to visit my brother’s family, and that was good. Older Nephew is going into his senior year and, this time around, I have to make sure to make it to some of his hockey games. Younger Nephew is only four years behind him, and I have missed out on so much with both of them. I did find out that Older Nephew will be attending my alma mater next year, which makes my heart soar!

Today I discovered I was gifted with a blogger award! Wow! I will be passing that one on to some of my favorite bloggers shortly, but I have some revamping of my page to do first, so more on that to come.

I’ve been a bit under the emotional weather lately, and I am not sure why. There seems to be something under the surface bugging me, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps there has just been too much going on, and I haven’t been able to catch my breath. Whatever it is, it seems only to be cured by the simplest things.

Tonight my Flirt, his Giant Dog, and I went for a walk out in the country. It was just what the doctor ordered. There is nothing quite like the rolling prairies of the High Plains. It’s so beautiful, no matter what season it is. Right now, though, is when it’s at its most beautiful – Harvest Season!

In the pictures above, Giant Dog is shown walking ahead. He knows hunting season is around the corner and was so happy to get out and run around the dusty road, and all in the weeds. He even managed to get in the water and go for a swim.

It aggravates me to no end when out-of-staters complain that there isn’t anything to look at in North Dakota. I beg to differ, and I have come to believe that some people are so used to being handed “pretty” scenery on a platter that when something different comes along, something that’s a little more plain, it is written off without a second look.

North Dakota is full of all kinds of wild life, and beautiful scenery. Today, I was able to capture a lovely sunset, and several interesting plants. Above you can see the wild sunflowers. Below is a picture of some plants I was so pleased to be able to find: wild Echinacea and chamomile! If I’d been thinking, I’d have dug some up and transplanted it into my yard. It’s a good excuse to go for another walk later this week. 🙂

Echinacea and Chamomile

All one needs to do is look a little closer, and you will see so much. I suspect that is the way it is with everything in life. Little things mean a lot.

Here’s hoping you find some interesting things in places you wouldn’t suspect you’d find anything. Look closely…there are beautiful little miracles everywhere, if you pay attention.

There is something about the smell of The High Plains in the evening…


Hmmm…oh lovely Summer evening, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. The setting sun paints my precious High Plains with gold, and makes me want to cry for the sheer joy of seeing it.

2. The temperature is just right. So right, in fact, that it’s perfect for a motorcycle ride in the country.

3. There is so much to see along my fabulous countryside ride that I can barely take it all in. It’s amazing how much you miss when driving the same route in a car.

4. This lovely ride in the country is just another good excuse to have my arms wrapped around my sweetie.

5. One of the best part of this whole lovely evening is the smell of it all…

There is something about the smell of The High Plains on a lovely Summer evening that is amazing, and I guarantee you that the smells are different in the evening than in the morning or afternoon. A lovely summer evening can take you straight to olfactory heaven. It’s difficult to describe, but I would have to say it’s kind of a sweet smell, like fresh mown hay, punctuated with wood smoke from people’s backyard fire pits, and the occasional whiff of a farm added in. It’s one thing to smell all of this as it drifts by you while you are sitting in your back yard, but it’s another thing altogether when you are tootling around the countryside on a motorcycle. The way it made me feel to have access to all that good smelling fresh air, at speed, defies adequate description. One thing I can say for sure is that I will sleep very, very well tonight.

The picture I posted here isn’t from my local area, though it easily could be. There is no other place on Earth I would rather live than on my beloved High Plains.

Here’s wishing you all lots of good smelling fresh air to share with your sweethearts, and a lovely night’s rest…sweet dreams all!

Green Schools – The possibilities are endless


Before you read the rest of this post, make sure to watch this video. It will blow you away:

OK. Now that you’ve seen this video about this most amazing school, doesn’t it make you want to visit Bali? I would love to see this school up close and personal. I would love it even more if the administrators of the schools that my children go to would latch on to this idea and run with it.

My eleven faithful readers who know that I hail from smack in the middle of the High Plains are probably thinking to themselves, “But Sparrow…you live on the High Plains, where there’s snow and bitter cold most of the year! How could you possibly build such a fabulous, amazing, wondrous school such as the Green School in Bali?” Well, the reality of it is that open air bamboo classrooms aren’t going to be a reality here in North Dakota. However, schools can be built using recycled materials and Green concepts that are adapted, or unique, to each season we experience here (yes, we have more than one season:  Winter and Road Construction!)

The thing that intrigues me the most is that the children in the video are given the opportunity to not just go to school, but experience life and really get to understand how everything is connected in their world. They get practical experience for living in their local environment by participating in helping to grow and harvest the food they eat, and I could go an and on, but you get the picture from the video.

Here in the Great White North, schools are dictated by a cookie cutter mentality. If a kid learns differently, they are disabled. Done. End of Story. Do not pass go or collect $200, and for God’s sake, see your physician and get your kid medicated. Both of my children were late bloomers, but they were labeled as learning disabled at a young age, because they didn’t fit the cookie cutter mold that 80% of students slide right into. The teachers insisted that we get our kids on medication to “make it easier for them to learn”. They even talked us into taking Oldest son to a specialist when he was in the 3rd Grade to get him diagnosed, so he would be easier to treat and teach. When the specialist was done testing him, she told us, “he could have ADD, or he could have high-functioning Aspergers…we just can’t tell. That will be $400.00, thank you! Next…”. Meanwhile, the physician we’d been recommended to take him to had him taking Welbutrin, which never worked. None of the other medications we tried worked either.

Soon after that, Older Son cornered me in a quiet moment and asked me if he was mentally ill. By this time Younger Son had hit first grade, and his teacher had insisted that he needed to be medicated too. The Ritalin the doctor had him on caused his behavior to hit the skids. I was at my wit’s end, and that’s when I grew a backbone. My kids weren’t sick, they weren’t broken, or damaged. They were just different.

At first I thought the teachers and administrators must know best because they are the professionals, right? Let me tell you what complete and utter B.S. that is. When I finally got it, when I finally really understood what a racket the schools and pediatricians have going on up here with the whole medicated child idea, I was heartbroken for having gone along with it, and for having medicated my kids, when they just needed extra help in reading and math. They needed a school environment that kept them interested and engaged, rather than sitting in a box all day trying to pay attention to dry subjects that don’t have any real meaning for them because their hands aren’t engaged along with their heads.

When I pushed back and fought against drugging my kids, the teachers weren’t happy. In fact, they if weren’t openly angry about it, they treated me as though I was being a neglectful parent by not drugging my kids. I’d like to speak to those teachers who said my kids wouldn’t make it without drugs. Both are doing well. Not only is Older Son doing very well in school, but he also holds a part-time job. Younger Son, who, as far as his Fourth Grade Monster (ahem, teacher) was concerned wouldn’t ever do well or be much of a reader, manages some how to get on the honor roll every freaking quarter. Success with no drugs…I’d very much like them to stick that in their pipes and smoke it, and smoke it hard.

But, I’ve digressed. As you can tell, education of our youth is something I’m pretty passionate about, given my experiences as a parent. And as a child, too. I didn’t do well in the cookie cutter environment either, but back then there wasn’t the idea of medicating your kid if he or she didn’t fit the mold.

Having said all that,  I think Green can have more meanings that just the materials you use to create a dwelling or how you treat your environment. I think Green means fresh thinking. I think it means thinking out of the box. I think it means teaching children how to be live successfully in their local environments by integrating topics across classes. I think it means constructing the idea of schools being more sustainable on their own, and teaching the kids about living sustainably.

Most importantly, kids need to move. Keeping a kid captive in a chair for most of a day without much in the way of making what little movement time they get relevant to what they’re learning is not good. Memory is made stronger when your body is engaged with what you’re hearing and talking about, so what’s being taught will be that much easier to remember and integrate into their daily lives. Teach practical topics along with the three R’s so that it’s all one integrated, meaningful stream of knowledge. Meaningful, I think, is the operative word here. Parental and community involvement is also key. It really does take a village to raise a child. If one leg of the Parent-Community-School triad is busted, it just makes it that much harder for the kids to grow up whole and become ready to face the world as adults.

I think schools in harsh climates have a tougher job, and I see strides toward integrative teaching methods, but there’s more work to be done. I know it isn’t easy, and it’s simple of me to sit here and blog my heart out about it, but I truly think it’s something that can be done.  If you found the video interesting, there is more where that came from. Double click on the video and that should take you to you tube. John and Cynthia Hardy have some really good ideas about education, and I hope it catches on across the world like a prairie fire. It’s not just the structure that houses the school that’s impressive, but what goes on inside.

Fear and loathing of storms on the High Plains


I live on the High Plains. Yes, I capitalized that on purpose.

Let me make something clear to begin with. I LOVE living on the High Plains. The rolling prairie is where I want to be. I love the ability to see for miles. I adore the sun rises and sun sets. I aspire to own acreage one day and grow wildflowers in stead of a front lawn, keep bees and plant orchards.  I love to watch storms roll in across the prairie in all their furious glory.

I have always been an avid storm watcher. The louder the thunder, and brighter the lightning, the better I like it. Torrential rain and hail is to be marveled at, and compared to previous downpours. The rainbows that precede and follow storms here in North Dakota are the best in the whole world. Montana thinks it has a big sky, but I beg to differ (North Dakota’s Mountain Removal Plan was effective, and now we don’t have anything blocking our view – LOL). The process of seeing a storm coming on, experiencing it, and watching it leave again is something I’ve always loved…that is until last week.

Last week a very severe storm came through, and dumped a good two inches in less than an hour. I learned very quickly that I had leaks in my basement that I never knew existed for the 10 years I’ve lived in this house. I learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to check for the small cracks, and not just big ones…the small ones let in lots of water too. Our basement didn’t altogether flood, but we had rivulets of water running down where the water collected in a low spot next to the house, and rose high enough to seep in between the foundation and the house. I also discovered a previously unknown crack in my foundation that sits right on an interior wall.  The good news is that all of this is easily fixed with caulking and some creative landscaping, at least for now. When I see storms barreling across the TV weather map, headed straight for us, I am no longer eager for it to come… I fear it and hope to heck it goes around us.

This picture of a "highly organized super cell" was taken by one of the local weather guys as the storm was rolling towards Minot last night

We had another severe storm last night, complete with tornado warning, and we all sat around Mom and Dad’s TV watching the weather reports break in every 10 minutes or so. We were warm, comfortable, dry and safe, but all I could think about was how things were going at my house. We can’t live there while the only bathroom is being remodeled, so we’re staying with Mom and Dad at least until next Thursday.

The funny thing was I dreamed last night of having exploding man-hole covers in my basement floor, with water gushing out of them. I know it was just my own paranoia playing out while I sleep, and there is no water damage today. I will be going out to get some water proof barrier for my foundation and will be caulking cracks through the weekend.  I will also be fixing my eaves troughs to plug up the holes. Every little thing I do will help.

So, after all is said and done, perhaps I can go back to enjoying a good storm? I hope so!

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