Nissan Pathfinder Falls Short, But What’s the Alternative?

I drive a Nissan Pathfinder, which is considered a mid-sized sport utility vehicle or SUV.

But I don’t drive an SUV just because it’s cool and I’m a soccer mom (although it is, and I am). I drive an SUV because I drive six miles on gravel roundtrip each time I leave my home, and we thought it would work best for our country lifestyle

The Pathfinder features four-wheel drive power and control. It also has plenty of clearance between the ground and the bottom of the vehicle. Lastly, it is constructed on a frame much like a pickup truck, so it should be better equipped to withstand the gravel roads than a car or minivan, for example.

We haven’t been completely satisfied with our Pathfinder, however. We’ve had some mechanical problems with the Pathfinder, which I’m sure I’ll address at another time. But our biggest complaint has been size; the Pathfinder isn’t nearly as spacious as we would like. Yet we’re hesitant to commit to something larger like a GMC Yukon or a Chevrolet Suburban. These vehicles come with a much higher sticker price in the first place, and then they consume even more fuel. What if the price of gas went back up to the $4 or even $3 per gallon range? I wouldn’t want to be filling one of those tanks, always wondering if there’s a whole in the bottom.

We looked briefly at buying one of the new crossover models on the market. But let’s be honest. Isn’t “crossover” just a new way to say “station wagon”?

I actually loved the Dodge Grand Caravan that I drove for almost eight years before we got the Pathfinder. But you almost can’t even get an all-wheel drive van anymore as manufacturers are focusing more on seats that fold up and disappear and other convenience configurations. And even if you could, there are still the clearance and unibody (lack of a true frame) construction issues.

So what’s a family of five who lives in the country to do? We’re hoping to drive this vehicle for at least another year and then decide. Perhaps a new and exciting vehicle model will come along. Or perhaps the nation’s energy crisis will be solved. We can always hope, right?

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Feet of Snow + 40˚ Temps = Muddy Country Roads

The vehicle was so muddy that I didn't even have to blur out my license plate on this photo before posting it!

The vehicle was so muddy that I didn't even have to blur out my license plate on this photo before posting it!

The feet of snow we have piled around has started to melt with our 40-degree temperatures and sunny skies the last few days. The result? So far, just lots of mud!

And much of the mud was becoming attached to my vehicle – literally! I struggled all this week to overcome my urge to wash my Nissan Pathfinder. It would be like shoveling when it’s still snowing, I rationalized to myself.

But today I finally broke down and drove the car through the wash. My reasons were many including safety, image and practicality. Regarding safety, I couldn’t see a thing out my back window. And my image was on the line as I was planning to make some business stops. And finally, I thought it might make some practical sense to remove the mud before it got so thick that I could no longer get the vehicle through the garage door!

Look at all of the mud accumulated on my tire, wheel well and running board.

Look at all of the mud accumulated on my tire, wheel well and running board.

The mud hasn’t completely dried up, so I am driving slowly on the mucky three miles of gravel leading to our even-muddier quarter-mile driveway. But at least I can see out the back window – for another day or two, anyway!

Little Lamb Lost

If you watched the videos and did the math from yesterday’s post on our five lambs, you might have figured out that we have four ewes, but I only mentioned three of them lambing.

All four ewes actually did lamb. Unfortunately, the last one lambed at the start of the first blizzard two weeks ago, and her lamb did not survive. It was our first sheep loss since Sports Girls first started showing in 4-H almost six years ago. And while that’s a respectable survival rate, it didn’t make the loss any easier for us.

Handsome Hubby said the ewe, Cocoa, was acting strangely when he went out to feed the sheep at 7:30 a.m. But by the time Sports Girl went to check her again later that morning, she had given birth and the lamb was dead. It was Cocoa’s first lamb, so we really don’t know if she experienced any complications giving birth or if the lamb died as a result of exposure to the cold, snowy weather.

Sports Girl said Cocoa was nudging at her dead baby; that’s how she knew the lamb was there under a light dusting of freshly fallen snow. Sports Girl carried the lamb up to the house, but it was already cold to the touch and certainly wasn’t savable. It was heart breaking to watch Cocoa continue to sniff all around her pen for most of the day looking for her baby. She was new to this lambing stuff, but she knew things hadn’t worked out right.

Sports Girl said she felt a little guilty about not checking on Cocoa sooner, and I even felt guilty over not telling her to check on the ewe sooner. Who knows if it would have made a difference, but I’m sure next year we’ll all be more attentive when the sheep are due to lamb

And while I didn’t actually see Sports Girl cry, I think she probably did shed a few tears over losing the lamb. It’s certainly reasonable to think a 13-year-old girl would be affected by such a close encounter with death. I know I would have been at her age – it was actually still difficult for me at 38!

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (& White, Too!)

We have had five baby lambs by three of our ewes this spring – two sets of twins and one singlet. One set of twins is all white, while the other set of twins and the singlet are black-faced lambs. They are as cute as can be and are growing as fast as Aunt Myrtle’s mustache!

Here is some video footage of both sets of twins, which were born on Saturday, Feb. 28. They are only a couple days old here.

Four of the lambs are whethers (males) and one, a white lamb, is a ewe (female). Sports Girl and Horse Lover are now feeding, worming, docking, neutering, vaccinating and taming the lambs – with the help of their dad, of course – all in preparation to show them at our county fair in August.

I’ll keep you posted …

Oh, Snow! And More Snow!

This is the scene outside my east door. I don’t think we’ll be using that picnic table for a few weeks anyway.

This is the scene outside my east door. I don’t think we’ll be using that picnic table for a few weeks anyway.

We have officially weathered our fourth blizzard of this winter season (and the third in less than two weeks)! At least this one hit on the weekend and no school or work was missed.

These last three blizzards brought us more than four feet of snow in two weeks – but thankfully some of it melted in between.

Take a look at these big piles of snow down the middle of the streets in town after the last blizzard. Views are pretty obstructed at the intersections!

Take a look at these big piles of snow down the middle of the streets in town after the last blizzard. Views are pretty obstructed at the intersections!

I think the folks in town are having a harder time with all of this snow than those of us out in the country – at least as far as cleanup is concerned. Even after hauling some of the previously fallen snow away, they are still running out places to put it all. With piles of snow taller than most vehicles running down the entire center of some city side streets, driving in town can leave a person feeling a bit like a mouse moving through a maze!

I haven’t been to town since Thursday morning, and Busy Toddler hasn’t been there since last weekend. She spent Wednesday and Thursday at Grandma’s House – which is just a few miles away – and that’s been her only trip out of the house this week!

Now Busy Toddler is getting a serious case of cabin fever. She actually went out with Dad on the sled yesterday afternoon to help feed critters – she just needed to get out of the house!

Coming Out of the Country Music Closet

I realize that living in the country doesn’t mean I have to like country music, but I do.

I don’t even own cowboy boots or a cowboy hat, and I don’t wear Wrangler jeans, but I do listen to country music. It’s not that I’m opposed to cowboy boots and hats – my husband and two older daughters wear them – I just don’t prefer them for myself.

The same is true of my opinion of country music. I do listen to other forms of music from time to time, especially when my oldest daughter has control of the radio dial, but I keep coming back to country. I think I prefer this genre over others because the songs generally tell a story – the words actually make sense and often apply to everyday life. Here are some examples:

• Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink” uses a centenarian (a 100-year-old man) to tell folks how quickly life passes.

• Tim McGraw sings about living life to the fullest in his song, “Live Like You Were Dying.”

• Rodney Atkins details the influence parents have on their children with his song, “Watching You.”

• John Rich gets political with his song about the recession, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down.”

• And in the current most-downloaded country song on iTunes, Taylor Swift tells of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet in “Love Story.”

Not that these are my most favorite songs – they just illustrate my point that country songs often make a point. And as a trained journalist, I can appreciate that – especially if the “point” is positive.

I’m Definitely Not GaGa Over ‘Poker Face’

I traveled thousands of miles in my youth listening to Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap and Emmylou Harris, among others, crooning from the 8-track stereo system in the back seat of our family station wagon featuring the classy faux wood side panels.

When I finally discovered my peers listening to Top 40 music in my teens in the 1980s, I quickly conformed. And I swore I would one day be the cool mom who still listened to the “in” music after I had kids. Unfortunately for my kids, that only lasted for me until my oldest started school, and she doesn’t even remember those days.

How is it possible that the Top 40 music of each generation just keeps getting crazier? I’m not saying these artists aren’t talented – and they are definitely creative – but the line between creative and weird is incredibly thin. I speak specifically now of Lady GaGa’s performance of her number-one hit “Poker Face” on last Wednesday’s American Idol results show. For those that missed it, you can view it by clicking here. (I’m sorry, but the originator of this video won’t allow it to be embedded.)

Sports Girl informed me during the Idol performance that she has this song on her iPod, and that Lady GaGa must have just cut her hair – it used to be really long. I try to keep from smiling, or even from laughing, as I ask her at the end of the song if the “eye zipper” is a regular part of her costume? (She says it’s not.)

Compare Lady GaGa’s performance to that of Carrie Underwood and Travis Tritt from two weeks ago. Now, I will admit that the black bow in Carrie’s hair is a little weird, but it’s no worse than the black star rising off Lady GaGa’s left shoulder, and it’s certainly much milder than the eye zipper.

I have long prided myself on my ability to enjoy many genres of music, but frankly, these days I prefer country music to most others.

At 13, Sports Girl has started turning the radio dial to the local Top 40 station when we are in the vehicle, and I handle it pretty well, I think. Better than Horse Lover, who at almost 10 still prefers my country station.

I guess that’s the good news – I’ll only really be considered “uncool” for the last five or so of the 18 years my daughters will live at home. Things could be worse – at least I can’t WATCH Lady GaGa while I’m driving my car – not yet, anyway!