Monday, January 30, 2006

Tool Sheds - blessing or curse?

NEWSFLASH - for those of you who only get this page. PLEASE change your address for this page to www.benjamin etc etc. For some reason the www is very important. If you don't have it you don't get to read the new posts and we know how important reading those new posts are! Actually, the old website seems to have quite posting anything after toolsheds. For all I know, it is not going to post this either. Oh well
continuation of tool shed) ...
So, the next day we woke to gray skies, but no rain. We had lent our vehicle to a classmate who was also rennovating, so around 3 we picked up all the wood for the floor and by 4 had a floor ready to put the shed up. I had planned to quit at that point because rain was obviously eminent, but my DH decided we should put some of it up. By 6PM we had put the base and frame up twice, fixing mistakes, unscrewing walls, stretching frames and such. It had been raining for an hour and the floor was soaked, we were soaked and were working by the light of a neighbor's bedroom and a really bad motion detector light on the porch (see previous post for description of motion detector light). When Ben asked me, "Do you think it's safe to leave like this till tomorrow?" I realized he hadn't known we couldn't just put part of it up, but had to do all or nothing or else wind could damage what you put up. I had to say, "No it isn't." The forecast of 30mph winds wasn't helping either.
Emily was screaming pretty loudly instead of enjoying playing, so we decided to go inside, feed her, put her down for a nap, and rig up some sort of light inside. We had purchased a couple of happy lights to grow seeds with and I hung one up using my fabric measuring tape and the grill of our furnace with a chair underneath it to support one side. It was fairly close to our window shining onto the back area where we were working, and it was a lot easier than just a flashlight - though we still needed to use the flashlight to see the holes we were supposed to be matching. Emily woke up at quarter to nine and we went in the house, chilled, muddy and ready to quit, but still had 4 wall panels and the roof to put up. We hadn't eaten since noon and decided to go warm up with some Chinese food and a break before heading out to work. We both knew it would be even harder to go back outside to work, but we were too tired and hungry to do otherwise. We got back at 10 and Emily was wide awake. It was raining harder now and we knew Emily would get wet in her cat seat, so I put her in the backpack, attached the rain protector and carried her on my back for the next 2 hours while I held the screws, bolts, washers and nuts, instructions (in a bag so they wouldn't get soaked), level, drill and then practiced my squats with 25lbs on my back in order to reach all the screws and washers we kept dropping in the mud. Emily fell asleep for a while but woke up hungry and our fingers were getting too cold to grip the screws properly, so we went in for a break and realized it was almost 12:30AM. I changed Emily and put her to bed and then we headed back out to put the roof on. Darkness, stepladder, drill, washers and bolts, 1 AM and total darkness are not a good recipe in any man's book! By 2:30 the roof was mainly up (except for bolts on the edges) and we decided to call it a night after Ben almost cut himself on a piece of tin while trying to stop from falling off the ladder. Hours ago we'd stopped trying to keep the hardwood floor clean and just tracked mud all over while we went in and out for forgotten tools, extra parts and coffee, so there was dried mud all over, which Benski so sweetly swept up. We cleaned up and went to bed, where Ben proceeded to stay awake and watch a movie till 5AM because he'd had too much coffee. I fell asleep right away: the prospect of a happy child wide awake at 9 was enough to drive me to sleep as much as I could between 3:30 and 9. Thankfully she didn't wake till 10, when I put her in the jolly jumper and smiled at her from my bed on the couch. She quickly tired of the Jolly jumper, so I moved her to the floor to play and groaned at my bruises and tired muscles. At 11:30 she was ready for a nap and I was too. Ben still hadn't moved and didn't do much moving till almost 2PM. We need another weekend to let us recover from this last weekend!
On a good note, we have gotten the schedule back from the school, and Ben got all the time for preceptorships that he wanted. He may have to trade a few things with classmates so he can do large animal work when there will actually be large animals around, but otherwise he's pleased that he won't have to contact all his mentors to change his preceptorship dates.
Emily is tired of playing by herself, and Ben will be coming back soon to finish studying, so I'd better quit. I also have a porch stacked high with things I am moving into the shed (I didn't think I'd crammed that much stuff into our spare room!) and I found all the parts for my home made alfalfa sprouter, so I have lots to do.
Signing off
Heather, Ben, and Emily

And finally in the mouth where everything ends up
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GOT it on the floor!
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Poor girl had been enjoying the sound of the racks clanging against each other and in her zest had used her head to bounce the racks off of - look at those red marks!
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I called over, 'Emily, what are you doing?" and she said, "Nothing, go back to your typing." Aren't I cute?
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Here she has rolled over, squirmed off the mat and found a treasure - my store of oven racks!
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Finally got a few pictures taken. Here is Emily just lounging around on her play mat.
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Friday, January 27, 2006

tool sheds - my personal thorn in the flesh

Remember my wonderful ideas of putting the tool shed together last night? Well I had forgotten that our outside light has a dead bulb, so after standing in the dark peering at the instructions for 2 minutes, I decided not to bother putting anything together. I woke up feeling a bit shaky and weak (it was very humid all night and morning and I should have eaten breakfast), and it wasn't until about 3PM that I was feeling normal. So Ben and I headed out to start the base of the tool shed and after the frustration of working with horrible equipment and instructions, we got about 8 pieces done. Then a classmate stopped by and we chatted for about 45 minutes, so it was getting dark. I had to nurse Emily and put her down for a nap and by the time I got back out it was 5PM. Ben remembered a classmate had asked to borrow something so we had to try to locate the cell phone which ended up being in the van. While he phoned her I tried to figure out the sliding doorway which was all Greek and awful (if Ben had been doing it we might have been alright as he knows Greek). Finally when he got everything straightened out it was dark enough that I couldn't see much. He said if we had a spare bulb he could turn the outside light on to work in the dark, but I had to tell him we didn't have any spare bulbs(Don't ask why we didn't just go buy one). So he turned the motion detector light on and that's when it really all went down hill. Most motion detector lights stay on for 30 seconds to three minutes. Ours stays on for 3 seconds tops. I am being 100% honest, no exaggeration. Have you ever tried to barbeque while waving one arm to keep the outside light on so you can see the steaks? I have and it isn't the most relaxing way to cook food. Anyway, I was determined to get the last 4 screws in while Ben waved his arms to keep the motion detector light on. It still didn't work well, as he had to take a step closer to it every time it shut off - I don't know if it gets weaker every time or what. So we decided to do it tomorrow but just found out that rain and thunderstorms are predicted tomorrow and snow for Sunday. So, I guess I'd better run outside and pick up all the pieces and tools from the porch and bring them under cover. Ben and I enjoyed a midnight discussion of Luke 19 last night. Of course when I asked him something at almost 1AM, I realized he was asleep, and I was talking to myself, so maybe I enjoyed a conversation with myself for a while. :) Signing off Heather, Ben, Emily, Tia and Frank in balmy 50 Iowa

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Ben and I have been enjoying our discussions and research on NAIS (National animal Identification System), R-Calf, Federal Reserve, herbs, and health care attempting to discern between ignorant and fear based responses and valid concerns.
Our discussions about all of these things reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago when our family ran ourselves in circles discussing vaccinations, cancer therapy, cooking foods, herbal supplements, antibiotic use in food animals, government vs. privatized health care, the legality of income tax, and so many other personal choices people have to make and all the conspiracy theories linked to them.

Now in the past I have always enjoyed a good Conspiracy theory, although my hunsky is much more logical and doesn't stoop to give credit to many of the ones I am intrigued by :). After getting myself royally confused by talking from one side to the other on everything, I sat down and wrote this article.
Disclaimer: the opinions and views expressed in the article below do not necessarily reflect with complete accuracy the views and opinions of the Iowa veterinary student, his wifely sidekick or daughterly protegee. I can't speak for Tia or Franklet.

My story started just a bit over 10 years ago, when they first talked about making raw milk illegal. I had read with horror about the raw milk farmers who found their cows dead, herds taken away, and equipment broken, but I knew I was safe because I didn't sell the product. It was for my own use. I nodded my head in agreement with the others at coffee row when we decried the injustice of a government who will let us abuse our bodies with drugs and cigarettes, but finds it vital to keep us from access to one of life's healing foods.
As most bills are passed, bill 1D10T (otherwise known as idiot) was brought into the House and passed with no publicity. The bill stated
"AS of June ... it will be illegal for any person, animal or being other than the government to produce, sell or consume any form of raw milk..."
"How are they going to stop us from raising our own animals for milk?" We had a good laugh as we poured undiluted, pure 30% fat cream into our coffee and clinked our mugs together, thumbing our nose at the government. We didn't realize just how this bill would affect our lives AND our livelihood.
We went on about our quiet little existence, bothering nobody and nobody bothering us. Slowly stories began to filter into the news regarding farmers being prosecuted for illegal substance possession. Milk an illegal substance? No, not milk: RAW milk. At this time, I did not understand the impact this creamy, sweet, white beverage could have on a person.
WE still did not think this would affect the small producers with one or two cows raised solely for personal use. I was wrong.
The larger places had been shut down months ago, and now they started honing in on the medium sized producers who sold to family and discreet friends. They used subtle machinery, which could detect concentrated calcium and an infiltration system including highly trained agents who were masters in the art of detecting illegal substances. These agents worked their way into the hearts of the families and even married sons or daughters, biding their time until someone slipped up and gave them a sample of this luscious nutritious food.
With more and more reports of arrests, some of us began to spend our once treasured quiet time of the day - milking - looking over our shoulders for observers. We took to stabling cows in the barns 24/7 and milking with music going so no one would hear the melodic ting ting as the forbidden fruit hit our metal pails. A few even lined the pail with sponges, but from firsthand experience, I will say that sponges go down a lot harder than pure milk. We stored plastic 4-liter jugs of bought poison in our fridge in case friends came by unexpected (WHO were our friends now?), and if anybody was to ask about our cows, we stuttered and denied raising animals for anything other than meat.
Something unsuspected was also dealt with in the new bill. The wording had been so carefully thought up by the writer, and so quickly passed over us.
"It will be illegal for any..animal to consume any form of raw milk..."
Within a short while, it became illegal for any animal to drink the raw milk of its dam or otherwise. The government had experimented with portable pasteurizers, which were glued onto the animal's udder and ran off radiation and mercury, but found that the udders burned badly when the temperature rose above 110F. A new plan was developed and put into motion. At no cost to us, the government would take our newly born animals and feed them off their own specially developed newborn liquid, giving the cows a shot to dry them up in 2 minutes. After the animals were beyond the age of needing newborn liquid, they would be given back to us - for a nominal fee of 100% of the animal's worth - to raise for our very own. There was a public outcry, so the DOBFO (Doing Our Best For You) agents closed in on breeders of milk goats, sheep, cows and water buffalo, making sure the progeny of such animals were given the well-known sterilization vaccine, to ensure future raw milk fanatics would not use them as breeding animals. The secret antidote for the sterilization vaccine was administered to your animals only after you passed the 3-year orientation and brain washing of the POGS (Pasteurization or ..Go Somewhere). Superior animals were confiscated for the governments use on their well-run breeding farms.
Next it became illegal for any animal to produce milk. You will never know pain until you have seen your family's beloved friend taken away in chains and thrown into prison, denied essentials such as fresh air, sunshine and grass. Even they learned to deny ever having produced milk. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief when a second shot (given 2 minutes after the drying off shot) was given which caused the mammary glands to go necrotic and slough off - guaranteed not to affect the health of the cow in any way.
We now sensed the need for extreme care. Some housed animals in their basements, in secret rooms, in sound proof caves, and even underwater, using the secretly developed oxygen tank for ruminants available through e-bay - yes, it was hard to collect milk underwater when you milked by hand, but it was worth it in the long run. We took to drinking it straight from the animals, not even daring to catch it in some container, lest traces of the unmentionable drink be discovered. We fantasized about milk, rushed from bed for our first gulps, and carried it in flasks knowing nobody would suspect a far more dangerous addiction was developing.
Because of these exciting inventions made by raw milk proponents, a new breed of agents was developed. Marmooka: Men Against Raw Milk Or Otherwise Known As ...
It killed us to not know what they were otherwise known as, and they knew it. Just another one of their ploys to strike terror into the hearts of the common man.
Impromptu roadblocks were everywhere, and random drivers were forced to go through severe tests. Breathalyzers, which noted any raw milk on your breath, walking a straight line while an agent held a glass of raw milk 10 feet to your left, weaving in and out of raw milk filled pylons without touching them, and worst of all, driving over a bag filled with raw milk without wincing when it exploded and it's precious contents ran wastefully over the road. It was humbling to see drivers leap out of their cars to lick the side of the road after the car ahead of them had run over the bag, and then watch as the drivers were cuffed and read their rights while weeping family members stood by and swore they never touched the stuff.
One by one the neighbors began dropping like flies, folding under intense scrutiny and questioning. People informed on friends and family, knowing the rewards of full confession and the horrendous punishment of silence and loyalty to the family.
We had been more cautious than most and had put much thinking into our plan. Original herd members and most of their progeny had been sold to the licensed government milk facilities before the sterility vaccine was enforced, and only 2 cows and (and a bull) remained to keep us supplied with IT (milk). We had bred them to a size small enough to fit into the innocent looking case of a computer. Who would suspect modern day computer technicians would be housing miniature cows in the very equipment they were fixing? Possibly only those who strayed into the off limit working area and surprised a technician who pulled his head out of the machine he was "fixing" and was caught with white liquid dripping down his chin.
One of the reasons why I am where I am today. MARMOOKA POGS maximum security penitentiary. I am housed with all the other substance abusers, and though I have only been here 2 years, I am learning to love the people and now understand why "milk: it doesn’t do your body good unless it's pasteurized". I am under less strict supervision and have been given the illustrious position of training amoebas for the MARMOOKA yearly parade - you should see them juggle rotifers without hands. Some day I hope to work on the GENE (gene) committee which is trying to produce a GMO being that has no brain and just follows orders without needing supervision. Oh sorry, I stand corrected. I've just been informed that they already developed those 10 years ago.
During my stay in prison, there have been many changes to the outside world. Mothers raising their own children have been abolished, and babies are raised in sterile but loving environments on ABTAM (Anything’s Better Than A Mom) Formula. Via the normal childhood vaccines, a mutant was introduced that recognizes and destroys genes in the brain linked to production of breast milk, so that is no longer a concern.
Store milk as we know it has been done away with and is available in pill form. It has been pasteurized, homogenized, and dehydrated at inner earth temperatures until there is nothing but fine powder and no dangerous nutrients left. Add powdered dolomite and presto - a milk and calcium supplement in one. If you wish, you can make your own milk drink by adding water and stirring. Directions state:
"Do not inhale powder while mixing and hold nose while swallowing", but I find the powder only causes mild seizures and headaches, and after 3 years of taking it intravenously, I find the flavor is not objectionable orally.
I've only got another year before they will let me have my own unisex, udderless cow, and I will love it and hug it and call it George/ette.
Doctor, why are you looking at me like that?

mud and walks

I love spring. Today it was 60F and like an April day in Saskatchewan. What I don't like is mud. I spend all day long sweeping after the dog and humans who track mud just stepping into the house. THe floor is all scuffed and the mat in front of the door is no longer gray. And why do dogs find the ickiest puddle to stand elbow deep in to drink just before you call them to go into the van? That kind of mud only washes and scrubs off or else they shed mud and dirt for the next 2 weeks if you leave it. Of course, we have a crate for Tia so she doesn't get mud all over or drive us crazy the way she does if she is loose in the van. For some odd reason she hyperventilates and pants constantly when she is loose. Then she tries to force her way in between the front seats while we yell at her to back up, squishes her head through the crack between my seat and the door and then gasps and wheezes when she gets stuck and can't get her head out, or smashes her face against one of the windows gasping for air that isn't coming in through the closed window. Definitely not a very good passenger. Then there's shaking and shadowing for two days before we go on a trip (in case we are thinking of leaving her behind) and the queasy stomach which has often resulted in explosive diarrhea in the van (crates become a real blessing!). Two times now we've had forced stops at gas stations to find pepto bismol FOR THE DOG and hose down the crate so we can continue without dying from the fumes. And why do we have a dog? Because the rest of the time she is eating us out of house and home, making those annoying licking noises as she licks every microscopic piece of fluff and dirt out of her paws for two hours, shedding all over everything and all those other little endearing things dogs do for us to justify having them ;) Actually she is a very sweet dog who is loyal, friendly to most everybody, leans on us and rests her chin on our chest while wagging her tail, tries to sit in our lap, woowoowoowoowoorourourourou in her Great Dane way to say hello and that she's happy to see us and so on. The woowoowoowoowoorourourourou is worth it alone.
All of us went for a nice little walk out in the country today. Ben and I do some of our greatest talking on walks, and whenever we are in the mood for a good discussion we go for a walk. Today we were talking about future plans, where we would like to live, houses, clinics, cows, building roads, rivers and everything in between that could be discussed in the half hour walk we had time for before Ben had to head back to class. I was motivated and energized thinking, "We can do this, only another 15 months", and Ben became a tad depressed with how much longer we have here. :<) Which always results in a pep talk from me and after I get him out of his blues and depression with excellent arguments and suggestions, I realize he's made a lot of good points and I end up depressed. :) Today was not one of those days - it was too lovely and springish. I think the dreary grey skies here often get is a tad low, as we always feel better when the sun comes up. That reminds me of happy lights. Do any of you have Happy Lights? We'll see just how many people read this and ask what a happy light is.
Just a second, I need a slipper to throw at Franklet. He and Veiner (the cat who is no longer with us) developed the most annoying habit of chewing on the edges of the living room blinds so they could make a hole to poke their heads through to look out the window. Do you think I can convince him to stop? No, not at all. We replaced the blinds (no, not with lead ones . . ) and now I try to remember to leave one open so he doesn't get tempted to chew on them. Even then he bends them as he pushes his head through.
Agh, ach, agh, ach, agh. . Emily is in her noisy evening stage. Often it means she is starving and wants to play with some food. So I offer her bread to pull into a million bits and scatter all over the floor. Oh for a vacuum dog who finds and scarfs down crumbs. Instead I'll sweep again, because I took 2 steps in my shoes before sitting down and now there is a little dried mud on the floor again. *sigh*
I opened the kit we got for making a small metal shed and am overwhelmed by the two volume instruction book. And the fact that it starts with "Do not attempt this unless you have 7-8 hours to finish the shed." Seven to eight hours! That means it will be at least 16 hours trying to decipher everything, locate missing tools, run to Lowes 10 times for things we need and try to find pieces they didn't put in. I was a good girl and counted all the pieces before starting and found out we don't have any of the 4 "acorn nuts" that are supposed to be in there. I'm wondering if the manufactuerer thought it was some hilarious joke on all we cheap shed builders to claim there is such a thing as an "acorn nut" other than the edible kind . . . I mean really, an "acorn" nut??? It took us forever to drag the 200lb thing out of the van and now I can't put it together because the 4 acorn nuts are missing?? I looked through the instructions and can't find out what they were for, so I think I'll just hope that was a misprint. I'm going to be really industrious and put together the parts that don't require two people so that tomorrow afternoon it will be ready to just bolt together when Ben gets home. Emily might like the change in scenery from looking at my back while dancing in the jolly jumper to looking at my back while outside in her car seat.
We had a lovely supper of caesar salad with burned BBQ chicken wings. Next time I will check the grill a little sooner ... Signing off
Heatherlet, Benski, Emskers, Tiamaria and Franklet

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Boiled egg and tea

Tonight I'm wondering if it is the British side coming out in me to have a bedtime snack of a boiled egg and a cup of tea - though my tea has whipped cream in it instead of weak skim milk. Of course for all I know, we may not have British blood in us, but my Mum (pronounced Mum the British way!) was raised in a British boarding school in India, so odd things come out - though I've never seen her eat an egg with tea. Tasted pretty good til a minute ago and now the tea doesn't like the egg, and as I like the tea more, I'll side with it and eliminate the egg.
Speaking of tea with whipped cream, my Dad gave my Mum a neat gadget that has a whipper at the bottom of the cup to whip your cream before you add coffee. It ends up with the delicious consistency of a latte, with the cream coating your tongue as you sip it and it is mmmm mm good. I am not usually a fan of coffee drinking, but could become a coffaholic easily with this kind of coffee and a good dollop of sugar (there's nutrition!). Well, my cup stopped whipping, so I've taken to resting my little blender on the counter, so it is easily available for me to whip my cream before I add it to my drink. Because I try not to drink much coffee, especially at 10 at night (I'd be awake till morning!), I decided to add it to tea. Not half as good, but still nice and warm.
Why is it so embarassing to return things several times when the sales people don't really care who returns what or how often? I purchased some back up dvd's from Sam's club two days ago. When I got them back to the trailer, I yahooed my Dad and asked if I got the right kind. Yes I had, but while there I had noticed some even cheaper ones (by half!), and so he said the other brand would work just as well and to return them. So I went back to Sams club, nervous as can be because I do not like returning things. I feel like a criminal, as though they are going to grill me for making a bad decision and not choosing the right product first. I am afraid I'll give them the wrong answer and be thrown into the DPRP jail (dumb person returning product). I gave her the spiel of getting the wrong product, and she waited patiently while I found the other product and then decided to not just get one but three of them. I traded, paid the extra and left feeling great knowing I had gotten a really good deal. That only lasted till I got into the van and started to have a sick feeling as I read the side of the package. Some letters were missing in the title of the product. Letters that were vital to being able to work with my dvd machine. I thought back to my conversation with Dad and decided to double check with him when I got home... I am shaken: I have to return not one item but three AND re-purchase the exact same item I had purchased originally. So the next day as we drove back to Sam's club, I hoped for not only a different sales clerk, but a different doorman, so neither would recognize me. Ben, Emily and I walked back into the store with everybody staring at me - they knew what I had done! Actually they were staring at cutesy Emily the way everybody does, and the fellow returned our money without any hesitation, making me wonder why I let returns bother me so much.
Why do I always feel like having a hot bath when the power is out due to an electric storm? Every time the power goes out, I want to light a candle and have a bubble bath, or even just a hot shower, but I can't! Or at least my Mum said I can't. I believe it had to do with me getting electrocuted if the house got hit by lightning. I did go wild and risk it once, but it was the fastest, most nerve wracking shower I have ever had in my lifetime. I couldn't get my Mum's warnings out of my head, and it wasn't worth the year it took off my life.
I am noticing a horrible trend. My Hunski's posts were deep, thought provoking and full of wisdom and my posts are ... shall I be nice to myself and say that mine are slightly the opposite? I think my problem lies in the fact that at night I do not like to start thinking about all the things Benski and I usually like to discuss during the day, because then I can't wind down and go to sleep. I think I'd better write some posts in the middle of the day, so that I have something worth while for the readers to read. Signing off
Heather, Ben, Emily, Tia and Franklet.
Oh, Hunski is "hun" (short for honey) plus "ski". There. That should clear up the confusion as to who my hunski is.
I believe it was the Norwegian in my Dad that started the tradition of adding ski to everything. So Aaron is Aaronski, Stephen is Stevinski, Anna is Annaski, and now Ben is Benski. Ben tends to add "let" to things so I often am Heatherlet. And Emily is Emskers.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Here I am posting again. Is it a sign of my interest in writing or too much time on my hands?
Is it safe to post this often or will people, not used to reading more than one post every month, not even get to read the posts before they hit the bottom of the page and disappear into wherever posts at the bottom of the page disappear into?
If I sat on a 4 foot by 4 foot laptop would I get as warm as the cat does sitting on Ben’s laptop? Would it save any money on heating the trailer?
If I can save $15 a month line drying clothes would I save $30 if I didn't wash them?
Reading a friend's online journal about conserving water by having fewer showers and less laundry reminded me of how much money we save by having a dryer try to burn down our trailer and then be evicted from the premises. It went out the door to sit on the lawn for a month while I contemplated fixing it, testing it or chucking it, before I decided an apartment sized dryer was too much of a hassle to fiddle with. Now that I've had two months of electric bills show a $15-20 decrease in our bill (I always had to split one wash load into two dryer loads to fit into my miniature dryer), I've decided that not having a dryer forces me to utilize my frugal side instead of my "should use the line but don't feel like hanging clothes up" side. Plus it makes me feel farmish even in a 60x12 trailer in the middle of a university town. Initially I proudly hung a rope hither and yon across the curtain rods in the living room and cut the living room off from the kitchen with 8 layers of clothes. Then Ben said it was too oppressive in here like that and suggested either a dryer or a Laundromat. My pioneer instincts recoiled in horror at the thought of resorting to that after only half a day without a dryer: is it right to not have to go through a few days of misery and doing without? I mean, would it be any fun or create any memories if you actually called the plumber to fix a sink the day it broke instead of hauling water too and fro for 3 months waiting for it to fix itself?
So, for the sake of memories and money, I ran my rope back and forth 7 times in my 10x10 spare room. In order to practice my sewing skills, just a few days before the dryer died, I had reorganized that room to in squeeze a small desk and my sewing machine amongst the washer, dryer, playpen, four 30 gallon Tupperware tubs, and 4x2 floor to roof shelves. Since turning the "spare room" into a Chinese laundry, I haven't been able to find the desk or the sewing machine. And after 2 months, I have drying clothes down to a fine art - no more than one load of laundry every 2 days, because it takes 2 days for the diapers and jeans to dry in a 56F house. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, I turn it between 64 and 68 on the cold days depending on how frugal I'm feeling and how much sun is shining. I guess if I only washed a load of laundry once a week before I was married, having to wash 3x a week with 3 people (including a baby in cloth diapers) is not too horrible. While I got away with eliminating the weekly bleaching of underwear, socks and undershirts my darling husband did before we were married, I don’t think he would allow me to cut out the washing altogether.
DH and I have been having some interesting conversations regarding NAIS, R-Calf, the Federal Reserve and buying gold. If it wasn’t almost midnight I’d go into that instead of boring you with several paragraphs on laundry – which are some of the best ways of letting me know just how late it is.
Signing off
Heather for Ben, Emily, Tia and Franklet the disgruntled cat (disgruntled because Ben shut the warm laptop off and he has to settle down to a night of cuddling with the Great Dane)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Musings from the wifely Sidekick

Ben is finding it hard to do anything besides study and do assignments, so after being gently reminded by a great many people that our blog has not been updated since early December, I decided to learn how to do it. Unfortunately sometimes when a person learns something it then becomes their job, which I'm guessing might just happen in this case...
We thought we’d better mention something we noticed about our recent blog posts: they tend very heavily to pictures in Saskatchewan and very few to none in North Dakota. The reason for this has nothing to do with our affection for family members in North Dakota, but with the fact that our family in Saskatchewan take pictures while we are there and send us pictures which we then post to our blog. If the pictures on our blog were all from our taking, there would be few from Saskatchewan either. Just in case people were wondering why they weren’t seeing the Stegman side of the family on the blog page. :)
For the past 18 months I have almost daily realized the need for a journal, but have yet to start one. One month after Emily was born I remembered I had such good intentions of keeping a journal while I was pregnant, but was forced to rely on my not so good memory to start a journal for her...hence the reason there are only 3 days of "memories" written down. Why am I rambling? In case I accidentally remember something wrong, I have a caveat.
Life has been very busy since December 16th. We enjoyed a great many long discussions with both families in ND and SK, bringing back so many memories and stimulating questions about Christian agrarianism, where to go in the future, NAIS – INTERRUPTION
Ben just informed me that it was high time I wrote something since for the past 18 months his blog has said "Thoughts, News and Ruminations of an Iowa Veterinary student, his wifely side kick and his daughterly protégée". Emily would get her 2 cents in but is busy in her jolly jumper trying to get a spoon in her mouth but not succeeding because her jumping causes her arm to bounce up and down and her mouth never opens in time to catch the spoon as it goes by.
And now I’ve forgotten what I was typing about! Oh well..
We enjoyed a very busy first week working at the clinic, Emily and Tia included. Tia and Emily slept till almost noon every day before waking up for an hour or two to visit, entertain clients and then fall asleep till closing time, making it very easy for me to do inventory. As she only takes 2 short hour cat naps per day now, I can’t imagine taking her to work and getting much done. Not to mention trying to keep her quiet as she’s developing new vocal talents which include low guttural grunts and high pitched shrieks while she talks to her toys.
Christmas Eve came and with it a lot of enjoyment from a variety of hand made gifts and an evening of indulgence with Grandma Barnes, Aunt Tina and Uncle Sam’s delicious gifts of cheese, crackers, goodies and the like.
Christmas Day came bright and early with lots of wild trading and haranguing at our annual Christmas Breakfast. For those that don’t know, Christmas morning is when the Hudson’s Bay trading company opens in Stegman’s Isaiah building. Everybody gets in their requests for their favorite foods which may mean you get a huge block of cheese and a gallon of chocolate milk, while somebody else gets the crackers and chocolate cookies (yes, it is all highly nutritious;). So you trade to get a ... balanced meal ;) – or you don’t trade and you hoard all your goodies. It is all done in fun and by the end of the day everybody is giving things away because they never want to see another Oreo cookie or raspberry cream chocolate. Unfortunately Eric, Lance and I got sick that day, so not much looked very good to us – although it benefited the others greatly. :)
Boxing Day (December 26th to you Americans) saw us on the road to Saskatchewan. We had a wonderfully peaceful trip compared to the one at Thanksgiving when the van broke down 10 miles from Cavalier, and then started to die 10 miles after we got into Canada, requiring us to turn around and go back to switch it for our hastily licensed truck.
We had a wonderfully lazy week in Saskatchewan and enjoyed an East Indian feast on my birthday. I had tried to make a pitiful version of it for Ben last year, but Mom did it right and I believe he enjoyed it far more than my Americanized version.  I opted not to ride the horse bareback the way I did at Thanksgiving (I had forgotten how many muscles have been "resting" the past 18 months ...), but instead trimmed his hooves (reminding me of another set of unused muscles), wandered around the farm reminiscing, de-wormed cats, spread straw for the steers and even recorded a few songs for Grandma and Grandpa Norton. Ben and Stephen recorded a couple of beautiful guitar pieces, and we were wowed after being given a quick listen to some of the boys finished songs that are going onto their cd, which they hope will be finished soon.
We came back to Iowa early for a veterinary law course Ben was taking and after spending the weekend with a smoking van, a quick call to the local service center and $98 dollars later we had a $1300 estimate on a cracked head gasket. So on Thursday, we had a short visit from mechanic brother Andrew who brought the truck and trailer down to haul our dead van back to ND to be fixed at a more reasonable price. We had hoped the van could be fixed in time, but found a few extra problems while taking it apart, so our faithful little white minivan is back with us in Iowa. We have many things to be thankful for, the least of which is having the van not die on us while we were driving to Iowa!! After trying to help Andrew fix the problem, Ben and I had newfound appreciation for those in Andrew’s line of work. Ben has often told me that of the entire specialties one could do in veterinary medicine, the least enjoyable, and job he would never want would to be a surgeon. After a few hours of helping Andrew he said being a mechanic rated about 10x worse than being a surgeon. :) So many thanks to Andrew for his patience with our vehicle problems!!
We are down to one cat after Veinerschnitzel ran away from home in November. We were almost down to none as Frankfurter (ie Frank, Franklet etc) decided to disappear the day we left ND for Iowa. Buddy cat and he conspired to make sure we left him in North Dakota that time, but we got the better of the two this last trip and locked Frank up the night before we left – ha!
5 month old Emily is growing like MRSA (if you don’t know what this is – ask Ben!) and getting the sweetest little voice and cutest head of blond hair. She is sure a lot more active and rolls back and forth all the time. She spends a lot of time in her jolly jumper and little high chair playing with things and yelling at the top of her lungs. She and Auntie Anna Nasby will get along splendidly some day. (Auntie Anna is also known to be very loud when she plays) While I haven’t been able to convince her to stomp on the piano keys, she finds the computer keyboard very interesting and loves to sit and help me type...
Jkjajh;hh - there we go. Emily’s 2 cents.
We are also starting to teach her to leave things alone, as she finds assorted things very interesting and tasty.
"You have given birth to a goat," was Ben’s comment when she shoved a place mat into her mouth the other night. She also likes bubbles, shirts, weights, hair, and bits of bread, and dislikes potatoes and fruit and most other edible items. Here it is already 11PM and ½ hour past her bedtime. God has been good to bless us with so many friends and loved ones who support us in this sometimes trying and stressful venture. City life gets hard for those who long for life back in the country, and professors, exams and lectures get old, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel and sense God’s direction every step of the way.
Heather, Ben, Emily, Tia and Frank.

A stressful moment when a veterinarian tries to become a mechanic.
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Isaac, Tim, Emily and the top of Justin's head - Emily doesn't think Isaac has it tuned quite right.
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Emily had nothing to sit in and was looking bored, so we pulled the bassinet into the kitchen so she could watch us work.
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Christmas in Saskatchewan - Emily (sitting on Uncle Aaron's lap) looks rather shocked by something.
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