Skunk Skunk Baby 2

Warning: If you love woodland creatures and the thought of their somewhat gruesome death makes you uneasy, you aren’t going to want to read this.

For the rest of us: two days now the Family Skunk has “taunted” us and we have now located their home base. Mama Skunk got the spring on me last night, but tonight was different. While doing some yardwork, Hubby nonchalantly drove his pickup to the north side of our property, grabbed the shotgun(because that’s inside the pickup anyway…obviously) and blasted Mama and there seemed to be other movement, so shot both sides of the grass next to her for good measure. When he went in to investigate it turns out, it wasn’t mama, it was three babies!

He took the old red tractor, Moon, and gave them a proper burial, while keeping an eye out for Mama…still no Mama.

Since there was gunfire just a few yards from the baby chicks, I told Hubby that I was going to go make sure they didn’t all die of heart attacks and make sure they have food, water, fill up their sandbox, and give them a little grief counseling. At this point Hubby decided chicken run or no chicken run that skunk-haven was going down! He pulled out a push lawn mower and was going to take out the tall-grassed oasis once and for all!

As I sat in the chicken coop watching baby chicks scratch at the sand, peck at their crumbles, and try out their newly feathering wings, I heard Hubby pushing the lawnmower through the thick grass. It was groaning and sputtering through the through the tall grass and then winding up again when it chewed through the patch adequately. Then all of the sudden there was a CHUG! It sounded like Hubby hit a tree stump? Rock? Grass too thick to mow? Then I hear: “Oh no!” and then in a semi-triumphant, somewhat horrified tone “ I got one!”
“One what?” I needed clarification.
“Another skunk.”
“Was it Alive???”
“Kinda. It isn’t now.”

The death tally at the end of the day was four half-grown skunks, and a baby rabbit(apparently woodland creatures REALLY like where I wanted to put the chicken run). The executive decision was made to leave the murder-mower outside to air out.

I’m fully expecting Mama skunk to come on a vengeance-fueled rampage through my yard in response to Hubby’s merciless attack, but maybe we’ll just be skunk-free and the chicks can live in somewhat peace…

…that is until butcher day.IMG_5536.JPG

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Skunk Skunk Baby I

It isn’t even Friday and Hubby and I have had more skunk run-ins than any person has the right to have this week. Last night we were checking on the cats and saw an adolescent skunk by one of our grainbins, which just so happens to sit next to our chicken coop(Hooray! The chicks live outside in a coop now!). Because the girls were asleep, this skunk had the opportunity to live another day. Then tonight night after Miss A went to sleep, I saw an adolescent skunk in the same spot. Hubby and I went to investigate and there appeared to be a skunk nest behind our chicken coop.

Several weeks ago, I told Hubby we should stop mowing the grass behind the chicken coop because I want to build a chicken run(an outdoor caged space) for the chicks until they are big enough to free-range forage on their own. Apparently this tall-grassy area under a tree is not only an excellent location for a chicken run, but also for a skunk family to call home.

Forced to choose blasting the skunks into next Tuesday and waking our children, or leaving the skunks alone for one more day and letting our little banshee-angels sleep, we chose the latter and the skunks got to live another day. Even though Hubby was CONVINCED they were “getting cocky” because later that evening one was out near another building “taunting” Hubby. I thought it looked a lot like it was foraging for mushrooms, but I’m sure it was all a diabolical skunk-plan to drive Hubby mad.

When I realized we weren’t going to be shooting the skunks with some buckshot, I went and grabbed my camera and decided to try to shoot the little buggers with my camera. After all baby anythings are generally adorable. We have a rock pile on the edge of our tree line, so I perched on the rock as the sun went down watching the tall grass move and hoping the little fella would poke his striped head out. The birds were singing, everything was still and calm as night crept in and it was very peaceful. As I sat there enjoying my moment with nature and watching the tall grass wiggle, I heard some rustling in the trees next to me. Usually birds hopping branch to branch trick me into thinking I’ll see something more exciting, so I ignored it. Then I thought, that sounds bigger than a bird…it must be a rabbit. We have dozens of rabbits in our trees, but then I realized this rustling was constant where rabbits usually pause and scurry. I turned my head to see big ole Mama skunk maybe 15 feet away from me. I could see her eyes she was so close.

For a moment I thought I should turn my body and snap a picture, because that would be cool. Then I realized a skunk’s precision 10-15 feet is pretty good and I’m within range, so I did the only thing that made sense: I jumped off the rock and RAN! I am not a small person. I am not a “runner”. I do not run unless being chased by something scary. This qualified. Hubby watched me come running across the yard and to the house and didn’t say whatever was behind his smirk. Good for him. The skunks may have won this day, but the battle isn’t over…IMG_5583.JPG

Chicks, Posers and Farmers

Today’s lesson in ag-etiquette North Dakota style. Some people, especially farmers, are very particular about the difference between “farmer” and “rancher”. If you have tractors and combines and grow plants in a field, you’re a farmer. If you have tractors and balers and grow livestock in a pasture, you’re a rancher. If you have a house with a field around you that you don’t own and you do not grow plants or livestock, you are a POSER. Ha! Just kidding. Not really. You just live in the country at that point and if you have a little bit of critters or field, you may be a hobby farmer.

I’m pretty excited because I just elevated myself from Poser to Hobby Farmer with the introduction of poultry! This week we welcomed chicks onto our little piece of NoDak Heaven. We now have 12 baby chicks and 6 keets. In a couple of months, with luck and without predators, we should have 12 chickens and a half-dozen guineas! The four things to keep babies alive to the point of adulthood:
Water, fresh and clean is best
Food, available when wanted
Warmth, these babies are not sitting under a big, fat hen, so they need a heat source
Shelter, creatures besides us like the taste of chicken

Before their blessed arrival I looked at the list and checked things off: water-check, food-check, warmth(heat lamp)-check, shelter…shelter? Hmm…

We have a few somewhat-sketchy granary buildings on our farm. Before grain bins became the hip grain-storage method, people used wooden buildings to store grain. Did you know that rodents can chip away, and even eat holes through the walls of a wooden building with enough time and motivation??? They sure can so we have some fairly sturdy wooden buildings that have a few holes in them. Coop solution: plug the holes, solidify the building, and voila! Chicken coop!

In this century-old building update process, Hubby decided it would be super-cool to cut out the rotten wood around the door and replace the door with a larger one. Okay…times a factor: the eggs were in the incubator and the babies were growing waiting for their arrival. To make a long story shorter:

Hubby and Father-in-law were out in yard fashioning a door to the front of the soon-to-be chicken coop the NIGHT BEFORE the born birds were scheduled to arrive. They finished it. It wasn’t going to be on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens anytime soon, but it worked for now and that’s all we needed. The next day Miss E and I brought the babies home in a cardboard box and went out to stage their coop for them: feeder, water dish, we hung the heat lamp, and made their coop more cozy. Then I noticed some daylight next to the doorframe. That’s okay, I’ll just get a piece of wood and nail it in place. I had Miss E go out and shut the door so I could get in touch with my inner chicken…my inner chicken noticed an inch or so wide gap under the door, the entire length of the doorway.

That wasn’t keeping any weasel out(weasels LOVE them some baby chickens) and it might not even keep the baby chicks in…my carpentry skills aren’t stellar especially with the help of a five and one-year-old so I relented. We now have our family of four, two dogs, and 18 baby birds living in our house…at least until the weekend when I can get out to the shop with some tools.

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Explore ND

I love me some North Dakota, which is funny because I was the teenager that was going to move as far away from here as possible, and never come back. I hated it: it’s flat, it’s boring, it’s windy and dusty, and no one famous and cool ever came from North Dakota!

The reasons that I love North Dakota are directly related to some of the reasons young NoDakKelli hated it. Winding roads make me nauseous, so mostly flat and straight is just fine with me! There’s always something to do in North Dakota and we have ALL four seasons, so if you don’t like the weather: wait. Sometimes you only need to wait a day. We have had all four seasons in a week before. It’s windy because we’re on the great plains and Montana blows and Minnesota sucks. Okay before you get all offended the two of you who read this. That’s an old pro-NoDak joke my daddy used to tell. I actually am fond of both neighboring M states. It’s dusty because of the fields(I could get onto a large soapbox right now about the importance of cover crops to reduce soil erosion and enhance soil health right now, but I’m going to keep this on the loving-NoDak trail). We feed people. That takes land and fields and dirt roads so dust is sustenance. My definition of cool has changed as I have gotten older and there have been some pretty cool famous people who have come from NoDak: Lawrence Welk??? What-What!

Even with all of this love of North Dakota, sometimes a person must leave. We took a family vacation recently to the state that shares space in my heart: Alaska. When you think about two states that differ greatly, North Dakota and Alaska might be put on that list. Maybe that’s why I love them both so much? Who knows how the murky inner workings of my brain work.

Just like here at home with the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Sheyenne river valley, Lake Sakakajawea, and our multiple state parks that are great for exploring, one of my favorite things to do in Alaska is to go hiking and exploring. If you know me, you know that I’m not the most athletic of people. When I “Do a 5K” it’s walk-jogging and sometimes there are donuts at the finish line. That’s what’s great about exploring. If the terrain gets too tough, you can slow down, find an alternate route, or just go explore another area. Returning from my other top state in our nation, I thought about how I felt like my “best self” while we are vacationing and I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then I thought I had this same feeling when I was with Hubby in Watford City the previous month. We were exploring. We were somewhere we hadn’t been before. We were OUTSIDE and we were seeing animals(I’ve found that’s a big happy-box-check for me). Exploration! NoDakKelli needs to explore to be her best self(why am I talking in third person?)

This applies not only to physically exploring but mental exploration and development. That fundamental yearning to learn and find something new is why I looked into Rural Leadership North Dakota. It’s why I’ve released the tether of previous jobs that were safe, where I excelled and was a “good” employee, because I’d hit the ceiling. I’d stop feeling challenged. I wouldn’t have new experiences. I would just be existing.
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I cannot just exist! You can’t just exist! Find what moves you and explore. Find a class, a park, a hobby, a documentary and grow yourself a little bit. For the next year, I’m going to take the Hubby and kids to explore a little more NoDak. There are places here I haven’t been. Did you know there’s a gorge??? What can you find?

ADDICT

I am an addict. I have suffered from a disease I haven’t even realized I’ve had. I am addicted to technology. Miss A will toddle over to me and say “Phone” and hand me my purple smart phone anytime I don’t have it in my hand. She has associated mommy with her phone. I don’t like that association. I am more than a placeholder for a phone or a lap that is topped with a computer. I don’t want my children’s memories to be of their mom surfing the web peering at a little 2 1/2 by 5” screen. I don’t want my children to feel like that thing in my hand is more important than them or more deserving of my time.

Miss E will ask me to sit and snuggle with her and watch a cartoon. She’ll ask me to put away my phone. She realizes it: if mom’s on her phone, she’s not HERE. I miss the funny thing that Deputy Peck did on Sheriff Callie. I won’t share the laugh of Marshall taking a spill on Paw Patrol. I’ll just be sitting next to her but a million miles away.

I tried an experiment last night. When Miss E, Miss A and I arrived home yesterday, I left my phone in my car…on purpose. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary with our evening. We did the usual: dinner, watered plants, checked on the kitties, ran around the yard, but I didn’t have my phone. I had no choice but to be present in the moment with my children. I had no obnoxious distraction. I wasn’t able to check Facebook 137 times just in case something Earth-shattering or share-worthy happened.

When I was on vacation, I found myself on my phone and wondering: WHY? I was sitting playing Scrabble with a dear friend who lives thousands of miles away. I was experiencing something that I yearn to experience 363 days out of the year, but now when I’m in that moment: I’m on Instagram or Twitter or F’ing Facebook. The thing that killed me: I didn’t want to give the impression I was disinterested in the situation in front of me. I was annoyed with me as I was in those thumb-scrolling moments. I wasn’t trying to make my friend feel second-fiddle.

I was doing this OUT OF REFLEX. I wasn’t even thinking about it. It’s natural for me to be attached to my phone. HOLY CRAP. This isn’t me. This isn’t my life. This is a phone. What I’m looking at is the glorified, filtered, half-truths that are posted for the enjoyment and envy of others. I know: I do it too. Sometimes I’m shopping. Do you know how much time I spend online looking for “deals” filling my virtual cart only to exit the site and never buy the items I’ve spent oh-so-much time looking for??? That’s right: more than I should. I bet the percentage of time that I actually checkout the items I place in my virtual cart are less than a half of a percent. I can think of three different sites I have done this with in the past 24 hours. What the Hell Kelli?!?!?

I know I’m not the only one. I can name five people right this second who have it “worse” than me(or do I just think they do? Maybe I am the worst but have never realized it). Oh mind games!! I have to stop. I need to be in the moment.

Another excuse I’ve used for always having the phone in my pocket: photos. If I don’t have my camera on me, I might miss an opportunity to take a picture. You know what? I might miss an opportunity and I LOVE to take photographs. It’s probably in my top three hobbies, but I love being a good mom and a good wife and a good ME more, so I can still take pictures. I know this because I have a big fancy camera bag sitting in my closet made for just that reason. Now I can take pictures intentionally. I can experience things intentionally. I need to start living more intentionally.

Do what you want. You’re probably reading this right now from a phone, and for that I thank you, but if you have tech-addiction tendencies like me, maybe you want to think about locking the phone in the car for a few hours. It might make you feel better.
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