End of School Year Proves Hectic, Trees Are Planted

It’s been a while since I’ve posted – I apologize. My excuse? It’s the end of the school year, and life sure has been crazy.

Why is it busy for me as the end of the school year approaches? There have been many school events filling my evenings and daytimes these days including (but not limited to) a band concert, choir concert, piano recital, soccer games, open houses and field trips. On top of these, we are starting to get busy with our 4-H projects and our outside work around our place – caring for and working with livestock, mowing, watering, etc.

Conservation staff plants our trees while riding behind the small tractor.

Conservation staff stick our trees in the ground while riding on the planter behind the small tractor.

They came and planted the seedling trees last Thursday, May 14. Then they came back on Monday, May 18, and put the plastic down to keep the moisture in and weeds down. Handsome Hubby and Sports Girl watered each of the more than 300 trees last weekend. That was an arduous process, so tomorrow we are going to the home improvement stores to price supplies for a drip watering system.

Handsome Hubby needs to plant grass between the inside of the shelterbelt and our house, and we may even plant a little garden in some of the tilled ground this year. If we’re going to be watering and weeding, we might as well have a garden, too.

And so as school comes to a close at the end of next week, our farming efforts are just beginning.

Ready or Not … 14th Move Was to the Country

This summer we will have lived in our country home for five years. That’s longer than we’ve lived in any other home in our almost 18 years of marriage.

We had 13 other addresses before we moved here. After some quick math, that’s a total of 14 moves in 13 years.

Our last move was also our first to the country. All of the other places we lived were in town.

Is there some significance between moving to the country and living here the longest? Perhaps.

From the day we were married, I always knew we would one day move to the country, and probably the ranch. It was just a matter of time before Handsome Hubby was drawn back.

And while country life has certainly grown on me, I must admit that I would probably still choose to live in town if it were up to me. But it’s not.

It would just be so much easier to run the girls to their music lessons or sports practices, and then be able to come home until I needed to go back and pick them up. If I tried that now, I would have to turn around and head back to town almost as soon as I got home. So I can’t.

Thankfully, we moved to the country when the girls were young enough to appreciate its advantages. They enjoy being able to have critters larger in size and number than any city kids, and they have fun getting an occasional ride on their grandpa’s four wheeler. They get their exercise climbing the hay bales in the late summer and fall, and they cool off running through the pivot irrigation system – a sprinkler much larger than any city kid could possibly imagine.

Horse Lover has lamented from time to time that none of her friends live close enough for quick and frequent play dates. That is one disadvantage to living in the country. But that frustration generally passes quickly.

Both Horse Lover and Sports Girl sometimes wish out loud, as I have quietly, that I could run them home after their last activity and before their sister’s next one, but there’s rarely time for the 30-minute round trip and it certainly can’t be justified. So we often spend extra time in town. This means frequent trips to the convenience store for snacks, drinks and restroom visits; it also means regular visits to the library, which is always a good place to kill time. A stop at the grocery store is also often on our agenda for these in between times.

I hope making these sacrifices for each other will help teach my girls that life isn’t always centered around them. We must give-and-take for the benefit of others — especially our family. I guess that’s exactly what I’m doing by living in the country. Although it’s not really a sacrifice — just a little bit of give, I guess.

In the end, I think I’m the only one in the family who has really had to make the big adjustment to country life. After all, the kids can move to town when they are out on their own if they want to. I think I’ll be here for the duration. And I’m OK with that.

Preparing to Plant a Shelter Belt

We are about to plant a large shelter belt around our country home.

We put our house on a hilltop so that we could have a drive-under garage and a walk-out basement, but as a result, the wind has been relentless. After four long years of being beaten by the ferocious wind, we finally began the process of planting a shelter belt.


Handsome Hubby takes Busy Toddler for a round on the tractor as he works up the ground one last time this past weekend before our trees get planted this week.

Last summer we decided how we wanted the trees to be arranged around our home — five rows forming a semi-circle protecting us from the northwest, west and southwest winds. Then we selected what varieties to plant and placed our order with the local conservation district — Rocky Mountain Junipers, Russian Olives, Ponderosa Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, and Lilacs.  Next we worked up/tilled up the ground — twice — once late in the summer and then again in the fall before the winter freeze. This was done to remove the vegetation and trap the much needed winter moisture in preparation for tree planting.

Handsome Hubby worked up the ground one more time this weekend. This morning a local conservation fellow came and marked where the trees will go with little red flags. Thankfully, I need to keep Busy Toddler away from them for just a few days. The local conservation district has received our seedling trees from the nursery, and they will come and plant them before the end of the week.

We spent a considerable amount of extra money to have fabric placed over the trees. The fabric actually cost more than twice as much as the trees alone. It is supposed to help keep the weeds down and the moisture in the ground so the trees will have a better chance at survival. The fabric should help reduce the maintenance required by the trees, as well.

Of course it will take several years for us to truly reap all the benefits the trees will offer. These include more than just wind protection. Trees offer shade from the sun and produce oxygen to breathe; our shelter belt will serve as a snow fence and will help reduce erosion. We are excited about the start, and after all the snow we received this spring, our trees should get a great one.

I must say that I find rural folks like us, and especially ranchers, to be among the best stewards of the land. After all, what better way is there to improve our environment than to plant hundreds of trees and tend to them as they grow?

An Early Morning on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day began at 5 a.m. when a crying Busy Toddler jolted me awake.

Somehow she must have caught me in a deep sleep and Handsome Hubby heard her calling, “Mommy,” first. That’s a rare occurrence, and Busy Toddler wasn’t prepared for it. When Dad entered her room instead of me, she immediately began screaming.

Why is it that my girls generally prefer me to their dad? Don’t get me wrong, they all love their dad, and they do spend time with him. But if they are given a choice (and often even when they aren’t given a choice) they demand my attention as opposed to his. Busy Toddler and teenage Sports Girls often request me. Ten-year-old Horse Lover is probably the least selective, but I’m guessing that as she hits her teen years, that too will change.

Honestly, this is one popularity contest that if I could, I would often chose to lose. But then I’m sure it’s an equally hard or harder scenario for Handsome Hubby to endure. He often tries to help the girls, but with little or no appreciation.

So I rescued Dad and Busy Toddler this morning even if it was Mother’s Day, and I was hoping to sleep in. I got out of bed and rocked Busy Toddler for a while before putting her back to bed for a couple more hours of sleep.

I really didn’t begrudge her for wanting me; it was actually a sweet time to cuddle with her. I just wish she wasn’t always so demanding that it be me when her father is already awake and up.

But it’s like they say, “There’s no rest for the weary” and apparently not for Mommys either!

Barbara Walters Sympathizes With Escaped Cow

Barbara Walters announced on The View yesterday that she was getting closer to becoming a vegetarian. This after the top news story of Wednesday in New York City was a cow escaping from a slaughterhouse and roaming Queens.

The cow was ultimately captured, and sent to the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control facility. There she was named Molly, and the plan was to send her to a farm. Read more about the escaped cow story here.

“I am more and more becoming a vegetarian,” Barbara Walters said in the opening Hot Topics segment of the May 7th episode of The View. “This broke my heart.”

She goes further in her discussion of cows. “When you really start to think of them, you know, as having feelings and stuff, I find it very hard …”

Then in typical The View fashion, another of the ladies cut her off in mid sentence. It’s just as well in this case. Does Walters really think cows have feelings? It’s scary when people start assigning human characteristics to animals.

Walters falls just short of offering this cow a safe haven at her home. “If I had a big back yard, I would have Molly the cow,” she said.

Does she have any idea how awful it would be to keep a cow in her yard? It could never be big enough to serve as a permanent residence for a cow. There would be no grass left, and there would be cow pies/piles of manure and hoof prints everywhere. I have a small flock of sheep roam around my yard from time to time, and they leave their own, albeit smaller, mark on the landscape.

But a couple of the other ladies from The View were more reasonable about Molly and eating meat or beef in general. Sherri Shepherd said she had bacon and eggs for breakfast even after reading the morning’s front-page news. Whoopi Goldberg went the furthest to polarize Walter’s comments.

“If I had a big back yard, I’d be having a barbecue with Molly,” Goldberg said. And she even clarified that she wasn’t talking about inviting the cow as a guest.

Sounds tasty to me.

How Many Strollers Does One Busy Toddler Need?

Here are the four strollers I have for Busy Toddler.

Here are the four strollers I have for Busy Toddler.

I have four strollers for Busy Toddler. I actually have five strollers, but I keep one at Grandma’s house.

When I found out I was expecting Busy Toddler, I had two strollers. I needed an infant car seat, however, and I decided to splurge and purchase a travel system – an infant car seat paired with a stroller for easy transitions from car to wherever. I would be doing lots of running, I reasoned, with two older daughters who were in lots of activities. I took one of my older strollers to Grandma’s, and we used the other one around the ranch. I saved the new travel system stroller for trips to town.

My older ranch stroller didn’t move well across gravel, so when my sister-in-law was getting rid of her jogging stroller, I took it. Then I purchased yet another stroller last summer. We were going to be doing some traveling as a family in our Nissan Pathfinder, and I decided we needed an umbrella stroller that would fold small and wouldn’t take up too much of our precious cargo room.

So now I have four strollers here at the house. I can justify having four because each serves a slightly different purpose besides transporting an infant or toddler.

What makes the whole situation really crazy, however, is that Busy Toddler would really much rather walk than ride in any of her strollers. I generally have to force her to ride in one, and I often find myself pushing an empty stroller just to have the storage space available for stuff. This “stuff” can include shopping bags, coats, snacks, drinks, backpacks, cameras and purses.

It may sound funny, but I’m not the only one who pushes an empty stroller. It’s amazing how many people I encounter in the mall or in the park doing the same thing.

I'll have to clean the dust, mud and hay and grain remnants from this stroller so I'm not embarrassed to be seen pushing it.

I'll have to clean the dust, mud and hay and grain remnants from this stroller so I won't be embarrassed to be seen pushing it around town.

We recently lent our infant seat to some friends who had a new baby, and I’m getting ready to part with the matching stroller, as well. It only makes sense – they go together as part of a travel system.

And even though I’ll still have three strollers at my disposal and Busy Toddler is already 2, I’m hesitant to give it up. Perhaps it’s more of a sentimental issue for me than a practical one. After all, who really needs four strollers for one child?

Oh, and did I mention I also have a child backpack for Busy Toddler to ride in, a Radio Flyer Wagon, and a trailer that pulls behind a bike. How many ways can one toddler be transported? OK, maybe my problem is really the nasty grips of consumerism …

Gravel Gets in the Way of Youth Bike Riding

Horse Lover didn’t learn to ride her bike until she was 8. That’s not incredibly old, but Sports Girl had learned to ride without training wheels when she just shy of five. Of course the two are just very different girls.

Horse Lover wasn’t even excited to ride with training wheels when she was a preschooler and we lived in town, and she was even less interested in riding when we moved to the country and gravel or grass were her only options for riding surfaces.

Two years ago in May, Handsome Hubby informed Horse Lover that she was going to learn to ride a bike without training wheels. The news was nothing short of devastating for her.

The process involved dressing Horse Lover in long pants and shirts even if the weather was hot, loading the bike in the back of the pickup, grabbing the helmet and heading into town. We unloaded in an empty school parking lot in a quiet residential area; Horse Lover got onto the bike and either Handsome Hubby or myself would run, holding the bike, while Horse Lover pedaled.

It took several trips to town, a few teary fits, and at least one major setback involving a collision with a tree before Horse Lover mastered the skill. But by the end of the summer she was riding her bike confidently – even on the gravel around the ranch.

Now it’s time for Horse Lover to move to a larger bike that uses squeeze brakes on the handlebars rather than those applied from pedaling backwards, and she’s scared again. We are planning to get her a bigger bike for her 10th birthday coming up on Friday. We’ve actually already told her that she’s getting a bike for her birthday whether she wants one or not, because we don’t want her to be disappointed. It must be a bummer to get something for your birthday that you don’t really want, but a bike is just too expensive to buy for no reason at all as we’d still have to get her a birthday gift.

The good news is that last night while we were all out bike riding, Horse Lover discovered that the county road beyond our driveway offered a much smoother ride. And now with Sports Girl’s training needs and Busy Toddler enjoying her ride in the bike trailer, Horse Lover is actually looking forward to some family bike rides. I hope she maintains that enthusiasm with her new larger bike.

Knee Injury Leads to Bike Riding

Sports Girl dislocated her patella a couple of weeks ago – first in P.E. and then again a few days later at soccer practice. Both were extremely painful and scary experiences for her even though both times the kneecap almost immediately went back into place without any manipulation.

After the second dislocation incident, she visited the doctor. The diagnosis? She hadn’t done any permanent damage to her knee, and she may just be prone to this type of injury because of how her kneecap sits on her knee and how she moves. She should wear a knee brace to give her support (we tried out several and purchased one for her last weekend), and she should exercise to build up her thigh muscles.

The muscles actually hold the knee in place – not the ligaments and tendons. One great way to strengthen thigh muscles is to go bike riding, preferably up hill.

This has prompted us to get our bikes out of the garage, hose the dust off, pump up the tires, grease the chains and get ready to ride. Sports Girl pulled Busy Toddler in the bike trailer up and down our third-of-a-mile gravel driveway earlier today (Sunday, May 3,). The driveway slopes slightly downhill, which requires an uphill ride on the way home. Busy Toddler had a blast and didn’t even mind wearing the bike helmet, and Sports Girl got a good workout to keep her in shape to play soccer.

We are also planning a family bike ride this evening. It’s a nice day – 50+ degrees with little wind, which is unusual for us. The clouds are starting to move in, so hopefully they don’t bring rain. It should be fun, and it will do us all some good to get some fresh air and some exercise!