In earlier American rural life, communities raised barns because many hands were required. These events occured in a social framework with a good deal of interdependence. Members of rural communities often shared family bonds going back generations. They traded with each other, worshipped with each other and celebrated with each other. Barn raisings were an integral part of life and socializing.

In our modern American life, communities don't mean nearly as much as they did back then. It is our family's goal to bring a sense of community back to our lives and those lives that touch ours.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

More of the Big City

We lived in Fort Collins five and a half wonderful years. We have lived in ranchland two months. Already ranchland feels like home. I still hold an insanely sweet spot in my heart for this city and especially all of my friends here. But I feel like I am just visiting Fort Collins. Which I am. With no homesick feeling about leaving here. Today we wandered around downtown. Well, Hubby and I wandered while the children leapt about. While we wandered we came up with a list of things we love/miss about Fort Collins and a list of things we don't love/miss about Fort Collins. Here they are for your reading pleasure.

In no particular order the things we love/miss:
Amazing restaurants
Tree lined streets
Good, healthy grocery stores
Bike lanes
Running into familiar people in random places
Trains rolling through downtown
Parks galore
Our homeschool group

Downtown Fort Collins
In no particular order the things we don't love/miss:
Inconsiderate bicyclists
College students
Dirty, dirty hippies
Light pollution

I guess the things we don't love/miss are fairly typical of most cities. To be fair, without all of those annoyances, it would be too easy to take Fort Collins for granted. Thank you little big city for giving us all that you gave us and setting us free when we needed to go.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Big City Visit

Here we are, back in Fort Collins for the next few days. T has his last follow up eye appointment. After this we should be good for another year as far as eyes are concerned. It gives us an excellent reason to stay with my Sister and catch up with friends though. The drive over the mountains was as uneventful as it gets, which is just the way I like it. We did go through the standard minor March snowstorm between Vail and Denver. It is good to be back in this neck of the woods even though I already miss my barn and all of its' occupants. Tonight we ate take out Chinese food, which we can't get in ranchland. I was able to catch up with a dear friend and my Sister and Hubby was able to go hang out with some guy friends. We will soak up the city life and live it up while we can before heading back to our quiet mountain town.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Feeding Time

I start my day feeding all of our beautiful barn animals. There is a special feeling that comes when you are solely responsible for the health and well-being of animals. And it makes it even more special when those animals show how excited they are to see you. Just getting into the barn means I have three dogs to scratch and praise. The goats hear me and they start to bleat. All of this wakes up the cats who yawn and stretch and try to look equally bored by and annoyed at the noise. The chickies are already cheeping, because really, they never quite stop. I feed the dogs first, all separately from different bowls, although it still doesn't stop Mollie from trying to steal bites out of Jessie's bowl. I lock them in their stall and move on to the chicks. I water them and check their feed, scooping a few up for a little lovin' cause they are too darn irresistable. I make sure they are safely covered up again and go to the goats. I give them fresh hay and grain and make sure they have fresh, clean water. Then I sit on the cinderblock in their stall and let them rubbings commence. Roxy loves to be scratched all over. Luna and Nelly avoid me until they think I am not looking and then they try to climb my back. Luna will eventually climb in my lap and let me squeeze her a bit. Nelly takes a bit more coercion. But once she is in my lap she settles in for a scratch of her own. After a bit, I come to realize that my children might actually need me and after a quick goodbye and another scratch I head over to the cats. They are easy due to their almost complete disdain for me. I can generally get a swift scratch down Adams' back before he has too much, but Liza would scratch back if I even dared touch her. A little kibble in their bowl and they are set. Although, maybe the cats like me just a little since I got an oh-so-special kitty present today of half a dead mouse. After releasing the dogs to roam once more, I head upstairs to feed the rest of the animals, oops, I mean my children.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Weekend

Todays' post will include all of the things that have happened in our barn from Friday through last night, Sunday. I will post again tonight for today. Allright, here goes. On Friday we added to our brood by bringing home 16 chicks. We have a mixed flock of Dominiques, which are a heritage breed and are prolific brown egg layers; Aracaunas, which are beautiful as adults and look like chipmunks as chicks and which lay green and blue eggs, sometimes even pink; and a mixed breed bird of which I can't remember even one breed, that is a good winter layer and also a good meat bird. I am not sure we will turn any of them into dinner, but I can't wait for them to start providing us with breakfast. In the meantime, they are being loved fully by the two older children. T will poke at them with one finger and one finger only. He absolutely does not want to touch or even see their feet. He mostly enjoys looking at them from our bedroom window. We set them up in a big rubber trough with chicken wire over the top in the stall directly under our window. That way we can keep watch over them. I was afraid the barn cats might think we had brought them home a very special treat. Which proved to be correct. While curiousity might have killed the cat, it has not, as of yet, helped the cat kill any chickies.

 Our other big addition on Friday was one that I have been dreaming of for years. We are now the proud owners of three Nubian Goats! We adopted Roxy and her twin girls from a local farm/CSA, Zephyros. The baby girls are now named Nelly and Luna. They are 6 weeks old and Mama Roxy is four. We are going to keep the girls on Roxy for another week and a half and then we will start bottle feeding them and milking her. Fresh, raw goat milk and chevre (cheese) will soon grace our table. The addition of goats to our barn has already brought much joy and amusement. Baby goats are hilarious. I love that our barn is now home to more than dogs and cats.
M and Luna

Roxy, Luna and Nelly

Friday also brought the long awaited visit of my big Sister, her Mister and their sweet pooch, Cosette.
Cosette wearing a very special crown made by M.
 While not necessarily being country people, they at least know how to enjoy it. Friday night we had a potluck with them, our folks and Hubbys' folks. Saturday they were able to feed the cows, ride the mule and tractor, eat out at our towns best restaurant (which is and isn't saying a lot...), and to meet and love on our whole crew. The Sandhill Cranes gave us a spectacular show on Sunday morning. They spiralled upwards directly over the barn. The noise and sight is something to remember. My sister and I have always lived close by each other, if not actually in the same house, which has happened twice as adults. There was one short period of time when we lived in Colorado and she still lived in Arizona. Living five hours away from each other is a hard thing to do. But I am so grateful for the time that we do get to spend together.
I don't know why the only picture I managed to take
 of them this weekend was when we were out to eat. 
I think that about sums up our weekend.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Coming soon...

We are enjoying a wonderful, but very busy weekend with my Sister and her Mister. Blog will be caught up tomorrow night. There is so much to post and so many pictures to share.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Water Witching and Such

For todays' readers pleasure, a picture heavy post. We have had so many new experiences since moving to ranchland. I feel that some are best expressed by picture.

S, Papa and the Frog dog driving through the fog.

M water witching. Sweet thing couldn't get it to work for the life of her.

Me water witching. Turns out, I'm quite a witch!

It's so weird to have the rods turn in your hands all by themselves.

T "driving" the feed tractor with Papa

S on the old tractor in the shop

M and Papa in the feed tractor

T bottle feeding "Flame". Calves are so strong, they really
 push the bottle back at you. T didn't know what to make of it.


Our internet is down so I am double posting today. The older kids and I are up at Meme and Papas' place using their computer, so there will not be any Mollie pictures added or any pics for the Wednesday Wonder. The next post will have some pics for the Thursday/today post.

Our Wednesday Wonder is stars. I know, I know, generic. Millions of things have been written about stars. But here is our version. We have always had a deep love and fascination with the stars. Generally though, they are not easily viewed unless we are camping. Or at an observatory. Living in the middle of nowhere has changed that. The stars are breathtaking. They are so clear and so bright it makes you feel like you could climb to the top of the ridge and touch them. What is it about the moon and stars that make you feel so big and so small at the same time? The stars are timeless. I glimpse them, turn my head to focus on them and have to catch my breath everytime. I love learning the lore of the constellations. I love it when the kids learn something about them and share it with me. I love a full moon night when everything is lit by lunar light, but I equally love those moonless nights when the stars have their turn to shine. The stars are a wonder every night, not just Wednesday, but with the waning of the moon, especially after the "Supermoon", the stars deserve their chance to be a post.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The second addition to our family is our amazingly sweet, overweight-no-matter-what-she-eats, floppy eared Mollie. I wanted a Beagle as soon as I saw one as a puppy and thankfully a dear friends' Beagle had just had pups. Her moms' name was Henny Penny Jenny, called Jenny, so we named ours Hollie Pollie Mollie. Her dad was called Gump, as in Forrest Gump. Mollie came into our lives about four months after we were married and about three months after Jessie came along. Mollie has had a strong personality from the beginning. I thought we would never get her house trained. She still enjoys messing in the house when she perceives that she might be getting a little neglected. As in, we went on vacation. Or, we moved across the state. Or, Mom got sick. You know, that kind of neglected. She is the smallest purebred Beagle we have ever seen, but what she lacks in size she makes up for in attitude. She is definitely the leader of the pack. Which has made it hard for her since Ranger came along. He is a big, dumb pup that is still learning to listen to Hubby and I. He really doesn't know what to make of this small snarly thing that he often runs over in his excitement to be alive. And she doesn't know what to make of this ugly beast with a tail like a whip. I know she is plotting away and will someday soon rule her small kingdom again.

 She endlessly makes us laugh with her "smile" that she makes when she is getting scolded, or her snorty sounds that she makes while eating, sniffing and sleeping. She has many nicknames such as: Wolverine, Fatty Kazoo, Mollie Mollie Two by Four, Emoll (which is what S called her when he was learning to talk), etc. We love her so much and like her big sister Jessie, wish that she could always be with us. This year she will have her eleventh birthday. Here's to many more years of loving and being loved by this special dog, Mollie. 

Monday, March 21, 2011


We went to our first 4-H meeting in ranchland tonight. This is the second year the children have been in 4-H. M is still a cloverbud and therefore cannot do too much, but S is full-fledged this year. He has chosen to be in the model rocketry club, the sport shooting club and the leathercraft club. What this means is that I am going to be even busier! Apparently, so is Hubby since he decided spur of the moment to be the sport shooting leader.  I love 4-H and was heavily involved in various clubs growing up. The lessons a child can take away from their experiences in 4-H will stay with them a lifetime. Our new club is small and new and still figuring everything out, but I think it will be a great club to be involved with.
Todays' weather was some kind of crazy. The wind blew with such force all day and around one p.m. dirt and smoke started blowing through. I have no clue where the smoke came from, but I was told the dirt came in from Utah. Is that because Utah blows? It didn't clear up until nightfall and now the wind is blowing again. It just isn't Spring in Colorado without the wind.
The children had so much pent up energy from being inside today that I thought we would all lose our minds. They must have just a little, because tonight they decided to sleep on the shelves in M's closet. This might have worked if the shelves were longer than two and a half feet. It worked about as long as I thought it would. Maybe five minutes. Sometimes you just have to let a child see for themselves.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Thank you for allowing Hubby the opportunity to have his voice heard last night. And for allowing me to rest my weary brain. Sometimes just thinking ahead to all the things that need to be done is exhausting. Cleaning stalls has to be done this week in preparation for our new lovies. The house needs to be cleaned, as usual. My sister and her mister are coming at the end of the week and I want to be done before then so we can play.
Todays' Sunday Creation is food, yet again. But, really, is there anything better? I want to be crafty, I want to sew and knit and create beautiful objects for my children to play with and to wear, but everytime I get out a project, something comes up. Or generally, someone gets into it. Ahem, T... So food it is. The thing that I can at least once a day pour my heart into and create for my family. It nourishes body and hopefully soul as well. This might be why "Like Water for Chocolate" is one of my very favorite books. Tonight I made a four bean chilli and cornbread. I love cornbread. The recipe I use calls for honey and buttermilk. So delicious. I have to say, I can make a pretty awesome pot of chilli. I don't have a recipe for it, so everytime I make it it comes out just a little bit different. 

Today, other than eating, Hubby and I watched through our front window as a calf was born. Considering how many times that has happened recently, you might think it wouldn't be so exciting anymore. This is, in fact, not true. Always fascinating. Always will be. Please don't ever let me get jaded to the birthing process, no matter what creatures it involves.

See the baby lying in the grass?

S woke up not long after the grand event.
We took a moment to soak in the splendor of the day.
You can take a moment to soak in the splendor of our bed hair.
 Later, we went to Montrose, that bigger "city" to the South of us. We needed to get some new hoses and gloves for the kids. We got home just in time to discover a leak in the barn. Thankfully it wasn't bad and all was soon fixed and put back to normal. Follow that with the scrumptious dinner and reminiscing with my parents, and over all, I call it a good day.

Hubbys' Work Day

Hey, Hubby here. Just subbing in for tonight
My day starts at about 6:00 in the morning. I fumble my way out of bed and grab my computer and log in to tech connect to see what direction I get to go today.  I check on the kids, cover them up and kiss Mom goodbye and hit the door.  Most mornings I have about an hour drive to my first job. On my way out I usually get to see the herd of deer that hang around and lately, I get a glimpse of all the sandhill cranes that came in the night before. It seems ironic to spend the day away from my family, installing satellite t.v. for other peoples' families, when we don't even have t.v. programming at home. I have long days, but at least I have 4 days on and 3 days off.
I put in a long day of work and can't wait to come home to the ranch.  When I get back home, I somehow get a boost of energy. The kids run up and want to tell me of the adventures that they had today. S tells me about the cows that he got to herd or all the driving he did in the mule. M seems to have a story or a new dance that she made up that I just have to watch. T has his own stories to tell, in his own language, about pushing the chairs around the house and driving Mom up the wall. A kiss and a smile from Mom make it good to be home from a long day out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ups and Downs

Life on a ranch is lovely, gratifying and heartbreaking all at once. The ups and downs of an average day are as varied as the cycles of the moon. So it goes. Today was a very up and down day.
The morning started out with a heavy grey fog and a dusting of snow. By afternoon, we were in the sixties with blue sky and a radiant sun.
 We cleaned out most of the the chickie pen for our new arrivals coming next week. 1/2 a stall down, 19 1/2 to go. I can't wait to see the chicks running amok.

Hubby using a come-along to move the horrificly heavy
 mats in the pens so that we can level the ground under them.

Nosy Liza, checking out the action.

Me scrubbing the bars. Possibly the most
 pointless job I have ever undertaken.
 We also had to shampoo the carpet in parts of the house due to Ranger being sick as a, well, dog. We were already planning to go to the vet to have him microchipped. Which really translates into driving in an Outback with three kids, one Hubby and a smelly dog for 30 some odd miles, just to get there and have the vet say, "Yep, he must have gotten into something." Gee, thanks. Clean vomit out of  the back of the car, load everyone back up, take a driving tour back home, including being charged and nearly sprayed by a skunk, only to have the dog get the runs a half mile from home. Oh, Ranger, I love you anyway.

Big dog sleeping in a small space. He chose it, not me.
We had a loss in ranchland today. Our sweet little/big heifer, dubbed Belle by Meme and the children, died today. Hers was a hard, short life. But not one that was missing love. Born broken, we tried everything to help her be strong and whole, but Mother Nature won this battle. A tough thing to witness for certain.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I am going to introduce you to our pets one by one. New additions have already been introduced, but our ladies that have been with us for quite a few years deserve their 5 minutes as well. Hubby and I were married in May of 2000, at the ripe old ages of 19 and 20. One month after we were married we adopted Jessie from the Humane Society and it has been love ever since. She is a Border Collie mix that was originally picked up as a stray. We chose her for her eyes, her love of water and her playful spirit.  Her playful spirit  translated into a very energetic dog for the last decade. When we first brought her home, we couldn't run without her chasing us and nipping at our heels. Now, at almost twelve years old, she has calmed enough to be trusted off the leash. She still loves the water and actively seeks out even the shallowest of rain puddles. Her other favorite things include the Hubby, our other dog, Mollie, peanut butter, car rides, carrots, and long naps. She amuses us with her groaning and grumbling and her never ending quest to catch those darn rabbits in her sleep. We are grateful for her nearly eleven years with us and though we know it is not possible, we would love the chance to share at least another eleven years with her.
Back when S was tiny.

M and Jessie on a camping trip in Wyoming

Opening her Christmas gift
Mollie and Jessie

Sandhill Cranes

For todays' Wednesday Wonder I am going to talk about a subject that I have been wanting to talk about for some time now. Today it is time. There is a fascinating natural event that happens every year at Fruit Grower's Reservoir. It is the migration of the Sandhill Cranes. It is truly a wonder. These birds start in Southern New Mexico and Texas, have a one day stop over at Fruit Grower's and then fly onward, I believe to Idaho. They mate for life and generally lay two eggs a year, with only one surviving on average. They are noisy and beautiful. We have been observing them on and off for a couple of weeks. When they take off on certain mornings, they fly right over the ranch and our barn. Truly a sight to behold. They catch the thermal updrafts and it can take them half an hour to get high enough to fly over the Rockies. This weekend marks the beginning of Eckert Crane Days. I am very excited. In my free time, I am an amateur birder. Someday when I am not busy raising munchkins, I plan to be less of an amateur birder. Much like this fascinating woman,, we met giving a presentation at our local library.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kids and Cows

The kids are loving this life.
S spent the day working with Papa. They fed cows, moved a cow and her calf into the "hospital" to give Mama some antibiotics, worked on Papa's side job at a home off the ranch, etc., etc. S's favorite part of the day was driving the mule around. The mule is a suped up four wheeler with a roll cage and a mini truck bed. S is so confident in his ability to drive the mule that he thinks he will be driving a car any day now. We'll the mean time, he makes us quite proud that he can keep up with the men.

 M and T got to spend their day with dear ol' Mom. We went thrift store and antique shopping followed up with a sundae at the local soda fountain. M did all of this in full ballet attire. She even helped feed the baby cow in this getup. How I love this girl. With her love of sparkly things, animals, food, dance, books, dirt and make believe. Today according to her, she was the sugar plum princess and the ruler of wind, sky and dance.

T continually makes us laugh, even as we tell him no. And then no again. And again. He loves to throw dirt, harass the animals by over loving them, wave big sticks, push chairs around and wash his hands.

The big heifer calf that was pulled the other day is not standing well on her own. Her front legs were splinted today and Meme is determined to make her walk. I see our barn possibly becoming a secondary hospital. Meme has a big heart for animals that she has passed to me and I have passed to the children. I think we would try to save everything if it were possible.   

Monday, March 14, 2011

Itchy Spring Feeling

It's March. It makes me itch. I want to plant things outside and watch them grow and grow. But it's March. Things can't go in the ground until at least May. Not unless I want them to freeze so I can start all over. I like gardening, but not enough that I want to do the same things twice. Besides, I have A LOT of work to do to prepare the garden. Like burning out the weeds so we can build raised beds. Yea, I technically don't even have a garden yet. Just all the beautiful green things that are already growing in my overabundant imagination. So today, I appeased myself with planting a few herbs inside. Cilantro and rosemary so far. I thought I still had basil seeds, but I must have already used them up.
Cilantro in the two end pots, nothing in the center.
The kids have had the opportunity to help feed a calf that has been relegated to the "hospital". He was born a twin and after initially being the chosen one, his Mama decided she was going to instead choose his brother. Not all cows will shun a calf if twins are born. But this is what happened this time. Meme and Papa have been put in charge of the "hospital" which means that out of the four times a day he has to be fed the kids get to participate in two or three of them. What a life for them. A quick word about these twins. They were born at 74lbs and 76lbs. Can you even imagine carrying that around inside you?! Combined, that's an average sized adult!


Hubbys' parents came by for a visit this morning. It was so great to see them. His mom, aka Nana, has been in Michigan helping her Mom with the loss of her Dad for the past few weeks. It is a hard thing to know that someone you love suffers and harder still to have them gone, but Nana is a strength to her family and now we must be a strength for her.
I am having a hard time writing tonight. I have a heartfelt post I want to write and I hope it comes across as such. Here goes. I try to avoid the news because so often it just ends up breaking my heart. Tonight I finally started reading stories and looking at the pictures coming out of Japan. I don't know how to even comprehend the total loss that these families, these friends, these fellow human beings are having to deal with. With so many disasters on Earth in the past few years, it really puts things into perspective. These are some of the lessons I am trying to take away from it all.
First: Love. Love your family and show them every day just how much they mean to you. Love your friends and be appreciative of the time they give you. Love your neighbor because you never know when you might need to lean on each other. Love strangers for no other reason than that they are on this Earth at the same time as you, struggling and learning their own lessons. Just love.
Second: Material objects don't matter. In the blink of an eye, it can all be gone. Be comfortable in your own home, but remember that ultimately what is hanging on your walls or sitting on your shelves doesn't matter. What matters is life experience and what we do with the time we have here on Earth.
Third: Be prepared. What we hear time and again is how people look for water and food and medical supplies. Try and be as prepared as possible by storing your own food and supplies. Again, it could all be gone in the blink of an eye, but if it isn't, you will be so much better off. And you may be able to help others in need.
Fourth: Learn how to take care of yourself off the land. Learn one thing wholeheartedly. Be as self sufficient as you can. Anyone can garden. Anyone can learn CPR. Anyone can take basic classes to learn how to do anything. Anything. Learn and then practice what you learn.
Fifth: Remember that if all else fails, I will be here loving you from afar.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Today we took the kids to the library for St. Patrick's Day crafts. This is another obscure holiday that I don't entirely understand. If I was an Irishman in Boston and enjoyed being a drunken roustabout, then it would be a different story. But I like a reason to wear green and make crafts with the kids so, hey, let's all be Irish for a day. I am quite happy that our small town has events for small people at the library. As home educators, we spend a lot of time and energy at the library. Choosing their own books has inspired more reading and asking to be read to than I ever could have imagined. We have always enjoyed our library, no matter where we have lived. Our little library has not failed to impress, despite it's size.

M and S crafting away.

The end result. Pinwheels and mobiles.

T did amazing at crafts. He ate the tissue paper, staining his lips blue,
 tried to use the glue stick as chapstick, wrestled me for the scissors
 and finally gave up and decided he was done, leaving me to finish by myself.
Here he is trying on my sunglasses with his blue lips.

As promised, a picture of Mama and Baby from yesterday.

And here's the little/big heifer all by herself.