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It’s been some time since I last posted photos of my favorite vintage camper – Ruby but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on her.  In fact I was looking back at the old photos recently and was amazed at just how far she has come.  I thought maybe you’d like to see the difference too.

This is my first photo of Ruby – her baby photo.

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And here’s what she looks like today with her new paint and decals.  I’m still working on getting her shined up a little but she looks pretty good to me.

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Here’s the kitchen before – complete with a large mouse nest in the lower cabinet.

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and the kitchen after:

No more mouse nest!

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Her ‘kitchen’ hasn’t changed much except for the finish was sanded off the cabinets and they are now sealed with a coat of clear poly.  The biggest difference is one you can’t see – her stove, oven and fridge all work now and she has a new propane line that goes to them so hopefully we won’t blow up.  That would tend to ruin a camping trip.  Another big change is that Ruby has a new fresh water tank that runs water into the sink.  Will the wonders never cease?  Life is good when you have running water.

Remember this?  The dining room before:

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And the dining room after.  The seat cushions were redone (to how they looked originally).  The cabinets were refinished and the walls were papered with silk wall paper.  And don’t forget those mosaic windows on either side.  It’s amazing what you can do with a jar of broken glass.

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The bedroom before:  Can you say Yuck?!

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The lady who reupholstered the sofa stripped it down to the springs and built it back to better than it was originally.  She also did the bench seats and I love the way they turned out.  It’s a very comfy place to sleep now and looks much more inviting.  I did leave the supports for the hanging cot (bed).  Originally she had 2 cots – one above the sofa/bed and one above the table which also converts to a bed.  When I bought Ruby she only had one cot left which was in surprisingly good condition so I decided to leave the back bunk but took out the supports for the front.  The canvas cot and the two steel pipes it hangs on stows away in the ‘pocket’ above the back window (there’s a matching pocket under the front windows by the table too).  I don’t know that I will ever sleep on the hanging cot but I figured it would work great for extra storage if needed.

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I still need to strip and refinish the cabinet under the bed but I’ve got some good ideas to work into that area when I get the time.

Do you remember this hole by the door?

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There used to be a rather large (and completely rusted out) furnace which was sold for scrap metal shortly after I ripped it out of the wall and threw it out the door.  Instead, I now have a cute little fake fireplace (electric) heater which is much easier to use and works really well so what could I do to fill this opening?

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How about a nice cabinet with spots to hold fishing poles, books, nick-nacks and a fire extinguisher?  I still need to fill it with stuff but you get the idea.

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And the bottom opens to reveal a first aid kit in an old tool box.   I just need to label it so everyone can see what it is.   Just around the corner of the new cabinet is now a cork bulletin board for memories and a new mirror but this time the mirror is actually made of plexiglass.  I had no idea they even made such a thing.  I even remounted the clock into the hole where it belongs.  I haven’t hooked it up to the battery yet to see if it actually works but I’m working on it.

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There’s still 16 items on her to-do list along with lots of little touch ups here and there but she’s getting better and I’ve been having a lot of fun too.  I can’t wait to get her back on the road.

Happy Trails!

It has been a very eventful weekend in my little apiary!

Matillda and half of her hive decided Sunday was a good day to swarm.

In the spring it’s common for bee hives to split when they become overcrowded.  The worker bees will prepare for this split by raising a new queen.  They will choose around a dozen eggs which will be fed Royal Jelly exclusively.  This special diet will allow the eggs to grow into fully formed females complete with all the reproductive parts needed to mother a whole colony of bees.  It will take 16 days for the queens to mature in their specially built honeycomb cells which are large and look something like a peanut.  When the first queen hatches she will start making a piping noise which makes all the other possible queen candidates start piping too.  Hearing the un-hatched queens in their cells, the first queen will make her rounds – killing the other queens before they can hatch or fighting to the death of any others that may have hatched before she could get to them.  Common belief is that each colony will only have one queen but it appears that is not always the case.  Studies have shown hives can have 2 or more queens.  Survival of the fittest at its best.  But before all the power struggle for the crown starts the old queen (Matillda) and half of the worker bees will just pick up and leave.  They will form a cluster or swarm somewhere as the scouts venture out looking for possible nesting sites.

Fascinating, don’t you think?

I knew this would be a possibility since both the hives had survived the winter so I had split my first hive – Bee-A-Trix and was getting ready to split the 2nd one when the bees got tired of waiting for me.  So after a morning spent rooting around in the garden, I was in the process of getting cleaned up to go to a wedding – blissfully ignorant of what was going on outside.  At least until I glanced out the window and saw something caught in the fence.

I had just stepped out of the shower and didn’t have my glasses on so at first I thought it looked like one of my poor hens hanging upside down in the fence.  This type of thing has happened before.  Thomas, our turkey tried to fly over the fence one day and somehow managed to get his feet caught in the wire.  He was hanging upside down like Thanksgiving dinner ready to pluck when I saw him.  I’m not sure how long he had hung there but by the time I found him he was totally exhausted and a little ‘loopier’ than normal.  Of course seeing a brown mass caught in the fence – I panicked.  Shoving my bare feet into my fuzzy slippers I ran out into the back yard.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – It’s a good thing we don’t live in town!  I did mention I had just stepped out of the shower, right?

By the time I got close enough to see that it wasn’t a chicken I realized it was a beautiful swarm of honeybees clustered onto the boards and wire of the fence.

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It was exciting and beautiful!!!  I stood there in awe – my jaw slack and agape till I realized I had way too much exposed skin to be dealing with something like this.  I high-tailed it back to the house in a mad dash.

You should have seen the chaos that ensued – a buck naked blur of glow-in-the dark white ranch wife flesh which hadn’t seen sunlight for the last 8 months of the longest winter in recent history!

There was no time to waste.  I was throwing on clothes and gathering bee gear as fast as I could before the bees decided to move on.  Of course this was a long, three-day weekend so all the kids and their dogs were home but thankfully it was only me and the dogs at the house while all of this was going on.

I’m not sure if the dogs will ever recover…

They still look at me funny.

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But at least I’m not writing this from a padded cell which I would be if the kids had been home (or the dogs could talk).

Any-hoo.  I managed to get dressed and find everything I needed before whipping the table-cloth off the dining room table and running out the back door to the shed where I grabbed extra hive parts which I tossed into the back of the pickup.

Since the cluster was mainly on the outside of the fence I had to drive out of the yard and around to the other side of the fence.

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I misted them with a couple squirts of sugar-water from my handy-dandy spray bottle and right away their hum dropped down a notch as they went to work cleaning the sticky substance off each other.  I snapped a few pictures and then just knelt there beside them – watching as two bees waggle-danced in the mass.  I assume they were giving detailed location information for possible new housing they had found.

Right then Hubby and our son, Morgan showed up so I ran to them and asked them to keep an eye on me while I tried to gather the bees – you know – for safety purposes.  Needless to say they were less than thrilled and failed to see how they would be able to help if things went wrong.  It appears I might be willing to run into a swarm of wild bees to save them but I’m pretty much on my own if I’m dumb enough to venture in on my own.  Finally, I talked them into keeping an eye on me (from a safe distance of 1/4 mile) and calling 911 if things went bad.  But I shouldn’t have worried as the swarm seemed very calm.  Even the one bee that found its way inside my shirt didn’t even sting me.

 I tucked the table-cloth over the bottom board and gave them another light spray of sugar-water then using my bee brush I swept the cluster of bees onto the cloth.  Some remained on the boards but the majority of them came off in about 3 swipes.

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Using the cloth, I flipped the ball of bees into the box and then opened one corner so they could find their way in.

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Worked like a charm!!!  It didn’t take them long to figure it out.

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A little bit of wild, gaudy canvas and a box of sawdust on top for insulation and the bees seemed happy to move in.  As it turned out it was just in the nick of time.  I added the top cover as the last of the bees found the entrance & the heavens opened and rain poured down on us.

Matillda and her subjects spent the night right there on the soggy ground but early the next morning I was able to move it to the other side of the greenhouse where it will probably remain.  I think I should add the cover with Matillda’s name on it as this is the old queen from the original hive and I will have to come up with a name for the new queen which will hatch out shortly.

Oh, what will it bee?

Well, it’s official.  Summer must be here because the fire season has started – right in our ‘back yard’.

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This was the view from our front porch earlier today.  We had heard the lightning hit close by but didn’t even know we were on fire until our neighbor John stopped by to let us know.

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I had to drive down toward my in-laws house before I could get a good look at it.  The lightning had lit up an old snag – a dead tree that had already burned once several years ago when the mountain burned off in one of the previous fires.   It always amazes me that Elk Mt continues to burn even though there isn’t much left to burn.

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Thankfully, it appears every fire department for miles around are ready and just waiting for a call.  We were very lucky to have trucks and firefighters from Elk Mt Volunteer Fire Dept., the Forest Service and the Weston County Volunteer Fire Dept. – they even brought out a dozer (which I failed to get a picture of) just in case things got out of hand.

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But the guys were quick to put the flames out.  Even the horses were impressed.

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Thank you to all our friends and neighbors for coming to help.  We know this isn’t the easiest country to fight fire in and we really appreciate it!

And just check out the four-legged firefighter in this photo…

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That’s Hubby’s horse Smokey earning his name with a chain saw strapped to the back of his saddle.

Thank you all!!!!!

Bee College

I never thought I’d be able to say such a thing but I have been to Bee College – Wyoming Bee College no less!

I would guess there were around 300 people attending and they had classes on commercial beekeeping, making salves and products from your honey and beeswax, selling strategies,  baking and cooking with honey and one very nice lady told us all about the bumble bee.  I spent last weekend meeting all kinds of nice people who love bees and I learned all kinds of wonderful things about them like:

1.  You should harvest your honey on Mothers Day – winter should be over by then and the nectar run should have started.  That means any honey in the hives should be extra.

2.  One skunk can destroy a hive in less than a week.  They scratch on the side of the hive and eat the bees when they come out to protect their hive.  Bad Skunk!

3. You can dehydrate honey to make powdered sugar.  Sweet!

4.  Beeswax lip balm is easy to make and works really well.

5.  Bumble bee queens can grow up to 3″ in length.

6.  A raindrop falling can kill a bee.

And the most frightening thing I learned:

7.  Snakes will sometimes move into a hive for the warmth and possibly to eat a mouse who has moved in.  Yikes!  Good thing I learned that because if I had lifted a hive and had a snake pop out I would have dropped the hive and wet my pants!  At least now it won’t be a total surprise.  Perhaps I need to add a hoe or a long handled shovel to my beekeeping kit.  I thought about a pistol but I would probably just shoot lots of holes into my hive and totally miss the snake!

I had tried to get a couple of friends to go with me to college but no one could make it so at 3:30 am I hit the road.  Actually, I think that early morning departure time might have had something to do with no one going with me.  Ha!

A storm had moved in Friday night and by the time I left a couple of inches of light, fluffy snow had piled up and it was still coming down but I took off anyway.  The roads weren’t bad and I was only slowed down because of the snowplows that were out.  Those guys take their jobs seriously.  The snow was so light that it was easy to push but following behind the plow there was no way to get close enough to pass because they stirred up such a cloud of snow you couldn’t see a thing.  So since I prefer to arrive at an event alive I just backed off and took my time.  You have to love Spring!  It snowed all day Saturday and then melted and totally disappeared on Sunday and the roads were great coming home.

It has definitely been a ‘bee week’ around here.  Monday night I gave a talk about beekeeping to our garden club in Custer.  This is what my pickup looked like.

Does anyone else ever think about what would happen to you if you rolled your vehicle when it’s loaded like this?  It wouldn’t be pretty.

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I’m not sure if my talk convinced anyone to become a beekeeper but we did have some laughs especially when it came to my crazy ranch wife ‘ bee suit’ which has gotten a couple of new accessories – and I didn’t even have to fight the dog for them.

Happy Spring!!!

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I bet you thought I had fallen off the face of the planet – didn’t you?

Well, I didn’t – but my computer nearly did.  After a long time and a small pile of cash things are finally getting back to normal.

It has been a cold, dark and dreary winter and we are all ready for spring to roll in like a run-away Mac truck without brakes but winter has been pretty stubborn around here.  Even so, I have been watching for any sign of spring and am happy to announce that even though it is only March the first spring flowers are blooming here at the ranch!  Of course they are dandelions and they are growing inside the greenhouse.  I really should take the hoe to them but after last winter I am content to watch them bloom – for now.

The best news though is that it appears both of the beehives have survived the winter.  As cold as it was I was getting a little worried about them and had even sent off an order for 2 more packages of bees to arrive the end of April.  But then it happened – we had a few nice days above 50 degrees and we saw the first activity at the entrances.

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They’re moving slow and they don’t get very far from home but they are moving.  I was sad when I realized they were moving dead bees out of the hive and piling up the little carcasses on the ground out front.

It was a really tough winter.

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I am amazed that they can survive temperatures of -30 (or colder) with just a loose wrapping of tar paper to help block the wind.  We did leave them with plenty of honey – 4 boxes instead of the 2 that all the books suggest so I didn’t really worry about them starving to death but I did worry about the wind.  With those extra boxes the hives were a little bit top-heavy but the straps and cement blocks held them steady enough – at least until last Tuesday morning.

I heard the wind before I even climbed out of bed.  It was howling pretty steady then around 6:00 am the house was hit with a gust that sounded like it was trying to tear the roof off.  One huge blast then 15 minutes later the wind died down and had nearly quit.  It was a bit eerie, but we still had a roof so I figured everything was OK until I stepped out to feed the chickens and found Beatrix’s hive tilted to the side at about a 45 degree angle!   Steve (our Corgi) nearly jumped out of his skin when I screamed and ran across the yard.  He hasn’t seen me run very often and frankly – he doesn’t like it.  He believes I was built for comfort not speed and I tend to agree.

It didn’t take long to realized it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  Thankfully, the blue strap, with the snazzy chain adapter, was cinched down tight enough that the hive had tilted as one solid piece and didn’t break apart in the middle.  The green strap had also caught the top and kept the whole hive from tumbling off of the cement blocks too so it was just hanging there like the leaning tower of Pisa.  It didn’t take much to stand it back up, re-adjust the straps and move a few more cement blocks in beside it.  The roof is still a little tilted like it got crammed down really hard but hopefully our girls are OK inside.  It was too cold to open the hive right then so I will wait for the next nice day before I check.

I have been reading and thinking a lot about bees this winter.  There are some great books out there with lots of good information.  I have also been building 2 new hives (for the bees that are coming), and there’s also plans for a ‘Honey Hoist’ (so I can lift the hives by myself) and a couple of swarm traps to see if I can catch a wild swarm – free bees is a wonderful thing.  From everything I’ve read it’s kind of like fishing.  You set out bait – a swarm trap made out of a hive box that has been used and smells like honey and beeswax and then you sit and wait for someone to fly by and take a whiff.  Since it’s more of a dumb luck kinda thing I should be really good at this.

I have even given a couple of talks to different organizations (and basically anyone who would sit still and listen).  Since I am becoming something of a local ‘Honey bee expert’ (that’s code for ‘crazy bee lady’) I have decided to purchase a few props for my next talk which will be for the Custer Mile High Garden Club next Monday night.

My lovely assistant Steve has offered to model them for you.

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It’s like doggy camouflage for when we’re working bees.  The bees will never suspect that he is a dog and not a actual winged member of the colony.  At least that’s what I’ve told him and so far he believes it.  The wings and antenna really do look better on Steve than they do on me – but even he admits he doesn’t have the legs for the tights – yellow and black strips – way cool!  Now if I could just find a yellow tutu…

Yes, it should be a fun-filled discussion at the old garden club but before I impress the gardeners I will spend this weekend in Cheyenne, WY at the first (but hopefully not last) Wyoming Bee College.  2 days of beekeeping classes, banquets and lots of people who will teach me everything I ever wanted to know about bees but was afraid to ask.  The conference is  presented by the Laramie County Extension Office and is a really good deal at $50 for both days.  It sounds like they have some great speakers lined up and even a few vendors who will sell me wonderful things I simply can’t live without.

So I will leave Steve in charge while I am gone.

And I’m sure things will be fine…

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“Look deep into my eyes.  You are getting very sleepy.”

“Now repeat after me,  I must feed the dog…  I must give him bacon…”

Steve, you crack me up!

Merry Christmas

I only have a minute to wish one and all a very merry Christmas! I hope you are spending this holiday season with the ones you love and are able to eat delicious food till they have to roll you away from the table… just like me!
Merry Christmas and all the best for the new year.

Before the furlough and before the blizzard my sister, the girlfriends and I went on a grand adventure! We went to the Nebraska Junk Jaunt.

I first heard about the Junk Jaunt when I was camping with the Sisters on the Fly. According to them it was a ‘must see’. So the last weekend in September my sister hitched up her big camper, I hitched up little Rattlin’ Ruby and we loaded up 4 of our girlfriends and headed south.

Our first stop was to look at an old camper – I know, hard to believe but this time it wasn’t for me. It appears I have been a bad infulence on my nephew as he is now on the lookout for one of his very own. Unfourtunately, this was not the one. This camper was in really bad shape and the lady who owned it wanted a little to much for it. I’m sure he will find the perfect one soon but I remember how hard it is to be patient.

After our camper inspection we headed for Broken Bow, NE. My sister’s camper is huge compared to Ruby and I know I could have slept in her camper with the others but part of the reason for this trip was to see if Ruby could actually make it that far. And she preformed flawlessly! I really do love my little home on wheels. I have even added a few items to make my travels a little more comfortable.

Ruby is now equiped with a fireplace…

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OK – it’s electric and it only looks like a wood stove but it warms her up really quick and keeps me toasty warm all night. And besides that – she’s cute as a button and fits perfectly in our upstairs bathroom for the winter!

She also has laundry facilities…

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I also added a thick feather tick to her bed along with lots of nice blankets and I slept like a log. There’s nothing like being well rested to prepare for a day of Junking!

We drove down on Thursday. Parked in Wanda’s sisters yard and hit the ground running Friday morning – with all 6 of us girls in my pickup.

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Someone suggested I might need this book. I don’t know why?

Most of the sales open at 7:00 am and run all day till 7:00 pm.

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I don’t think the girlfriends really believed me when I told them it was 500 miles of rummage sales so it took a while to convince them. At the first stop my sister purchased a sofa with 2 matching chairs and a foot stool. They look like something right off an Austin Powers movie set – from the 60’s, harvest gold and avacodo green and in really good shape.

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I figured at this rate we were going to have to strap stuff on the top of Ruby just to get it all home but we left the furniture there to pick up later and headed out. The next stop was a huge metal shop crammed full of stuff. I bought 5 beautiful old window frames which will someday be refinished and sporting stained glass. I don’t know where I will use them but figuring that out is half the fun of junking.

After that we hit sale after sale and even though the girlfriends were a little shy about buying junk it didn’t stop me and my sister. By the end of the day we had pretty well loaded down the pickup and we still had to go back to the first stop the next morning and pick up Jenny’s sofa and chairs. We had lawn chairs for Wanda’s sister, a patio set for one of the girlfriends, a beautiful old chamber pot for Ruby, glasses, dishes, silk pj’s, new chaps (chinks) for me, a new bit for my horse and had pretty much crammed stuff into every cubby hole and storage spot inside my pickup. Everybody was holding stuff on their laps too.

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We finished shopping for the day at Burwell as it started to sprinkle. Thankfully, I had thrown in a tarp and straps which came in pretty handy.  We stopped at Wanda’s sisters friends house (well, that’s confusing) who had invited us for drinks. We never turn down drinks and in this case it ended up that they cooked us some of the best steaks we had ever eaten and a wonderful salad for supper. What nice people!!! By the time we were ready to head back to our campers it was 9:00, pitch black and raining really hard. We soon discovered that the Nebraska Sand Hill country is really made up of sand. The gravel (really it was sand) roads were pretty squishy and we had a couple wild moments just getting out of the driveway but once we got back on pavement we only had the lack of visability to worry about.

Talk about rain! It was impressive to say the least but we crept back to Broken Bow and made it back to a gas station before running the tank dry. Of course that meant that I was standing outside pumping gas in one of the worst driving rain I have ever seen. $60.00 later I was soaked to the skin and shaking so hard I could hardly shut the air conditioner off in the pickup.  One of the girlfriends was a little confunsed by the snowflake symbol on the dash. Oh my goodness – I haven’t laughed that hard in years! I was glad to get back to Ruby and her fireplace!!!

The rain stopped in the middle of the night but the dogs started barking shortly later. Wanda’s sister Sonja and her husband run cattle and also have some very nice horses which they train and also are also used for barrels, poles and such events at rodeos and horse shows by their daughter Jayde. As soon as you step into their house you can see how good these horses and riders are as the place is filled with trophy buckles. They had taken off for another horse show in Denver that morning and left us in charge. They are very trusting people.

So when the dogs started barking in the middle of the night I kept peeking out the window to see what they were barking at. At first I didn’t see a thing but then once the moon came out I looked out to see the outline of a horse in the barn. It turns out one of their horses – Max is quite an escape artist and is able to undo latched gates. I got up and threw on my jeans and boots but as soon as I opened Ruby’s door the horse took off. I cleaned up the spilled oats he was rummaging through and tried to coax him in by shaking the bucket of oats. This always works with our horses but Max is smarter than that and refused to be caught. Since I wasn’t too keen on stumbling around in the dark and it would be morning soon I finally locked the bucket of oats in the tack room and went back to bed after telling the dogs what good puppies they were and to keep an eye on things till morning.  It didn’t take long to straighten things out the next morning.

After a quick breakfast we were off to pick up my sister’s livingroom furniture then back to unload it in the barn and check on things before heading out for another load of treasures. Thankfully, the day had dawned with clear skies and was absolutely beautiful. We hit the fairgrounds in Broken Bow which was filled with lots of venders. We even ended up with several good purchases because of the rain the night before – one vender had 3 large flatbed trailers loaded with all manner of rain-soaked items that were only a quarter each! I just love those rock bottom prices. My best purchase of the day was a box of dishes – a complete 8 place setting of Shakespear Country dishes for $20.00. I had been picking up pieces of these dishes for the last year or so about fell over myself when I spotted a whole box of them so cheap!

We saw lots of unusual things like this chair.  We didn’t buy it but you got to admit it’s got style!

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Of course we came home with another full load and spent the evening sorting and packing away our treasures for the trip home. We also celebrated with a concoction that will forever more be known as ‘Junk Juice’ although I doubt if any of us can remember the recipe.

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Sunday morning found the horses out once again – freed by their ringleader Max but they were quickly gathered and order was restored before we headed down the road to a few more rummage sales and finally home – 1,131.4 miles later and Ruby pulled like a dream.

We saw a lot of beautiful country, met some wonderful people and got a whole bunch of stuff for very little money. I would highly recommend the Junk Jaunt – especailly for a girlfriend get-away but I have a few suggestions if you’re planning on attending the next one.

1. Order the Shoppers Guide from the website before you go. This is filled with maps and lots of information on the different sales and vendors. You can plan your trip and also see which of the sales have items you are interested in.

2. Go through the shoppers guide and mark the estate sales and first time rummage sales. These turned out to be the best spots we found.

3. Drive down on Wednesday and start shopping on Thursday. Not all the sales will be open yet but the shoppers guild will tell you which ones are.

4. Never acept a marked price as the final price. I am not good at dickering but there is definately some people who are. Learn from the masters and practise at home before going.

5. Take a bunch of friends with you as it is always more fun to shop with friends.

6. Take the time to stop and visit with the local people – Nebraska has some of the nicest people you will ever meet!

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7. If you drive past a rummage sale and everybody in the pickup sucks in their breath at the same time and goes “Ohhhhhhh!” in unison you better turn around and go back – that was one of the best stops we made.

We came home with Ruby loaded down and the back of my pickup completely full. My sister’s camper also had piles of stuff tucked into closets, cupboards and corners too. But best of all we collected some pretty great memories of the trip.

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There’s my little Ruby parked at Carhenge – the roadside attraction built by a Nebraska farmer just north of Alliance, Nebraska. There’s a photo for her scrapbook!

Winter has started.  It’s scary but true.

I have started this article 3 times so far but have been unable to post it till now.  Speaking to so many people about the losses of this blizzard has been so overwhelming to me that I’m having trouble writting about it.  Even now, nearly 2 weeks after the storm the first question you ask when you meet someone on the street is “How did you come out on the blizzard.”

In the first week of October western South Dakota was struck by one of the worst blizzards in history.   One to two inches of rain fell before the temperatures dropped and the rain turned to slush then snow.  Winds gusted up to 60-70 mph as the snow stacked up.  Livestock drifted east – pushed by the wind until they couldn’t go any futher – sometimes piling up in the fence corners where they died.  The estimates have been stagering – between 60,000 to 100,000 head of cattle and horses perished and ranchers are still trying to gather what’s left of their herds. 

We were very lucky.  We got the rain and the wind but thankfully only a fraction of the snow others were reporting.  We had 2 foot tall drifts but most of the snow blew past us and the cattle at the ranch were still able to graze throughout the storm.  We also had the protection of Elk Mountain to help break the wind and our cattle were able to find cover in the draws and gullies. 

About half of our cow/calf pairs were still on the Forest Service permit where they had some shelter in the trees.  Most found their way down the mountain and were standing at the gate wanting in when Hubby went to look.  Others, including some of the neighbors cattle jumped fences or tore them down and we spent several days sorting and hauling cattle back to their owners who were glad to have them.  We may still be missing a couple of head from the FS permit but we won’t know for sure until we work cattle this Saturday.  We will be preg checking the cows this weekend and that will also give us a good idea if we have any other problems because of the storm.  Bad weather will sometimes push cows into the trees for shelter but this is not always a good thing.  Ingesting pine needles may cause them to abort their calves and this is not a surprise we want next spring.  But so far things look good.

Our yearlings faired well too.  They were in the summer pasture near Custer – where the snow really stacked up.  By the time we could make it in to check on them most of them were standing near the corral and Hubby was able to lead them in with a sack of cake and a bale of hay.   We were only missing two but we stopped at the neighbors who had already found one of them and was pretty sure the other was in another group of cattle further west.  Because of the snow and mud there was no way we could get a trailer up to the next place so we will have to go back once they can get in and make sure he’s actually there. 

These neighbors had quite a mess at their place.  Just west of their ranch is a lot of government land which is grazed all summer by cattle from several ranches.  With the wind coming out of the west most of those cattle drifted right down into their place where they spent days feeding and gathering other peoples cattle along with their own.  It was several days before the other owners could make it in with loads of hay and it will be longer yet before they can sort and know exactly how many cattle they have left.

So many others weren’t so lucky.  We’ve got friends who have lost better than half their herd and others who have lost almost all.  And that’s just the inital losses.  People are still losing cattle daily as the stress takes it’s toll.  Some of the stories and information coming out of the worst of it makes no sense at all and makes it even harder to understand.

From what I’ve read and heard it appears there were several curcumstances that added up to the horrific losses from this storm.  The first being that the blizzard hit so early in the season.  Most cattle were still in the summer pastures with little or no cover to block the wind.  A lot of these summer pastures are also Forest Service permits or BLM land where cattle from several ranches are run together in huge pastures that cover thousands of acres.  Ranchers check on their cattle all summer long but it’s not unusual to go 3 or 4 months without seeing all your cattle.  These pastures are nearly impossible to gather quickly from too.  Some ranchers will work for a week or better gathering their cattle in the fall.  And if the weather is nice most of the cattle are reluctant to come home until the temperatures cool down and they know winter is coming.

Another problem created by the early blizzard is that the cattle and horses hadn’t grown in their winter coats.  It has been such beautiful weather that nothing – not even our cats and dog were haired up enough to withstand the temperature drop.  Add to that several inches of rain and the wind for a deadly combination.

They are even blaming the green grass as a factor.  As this was such an unusual summer with lots of rain we still have lush green grass growing which never happens around here.  You wouldn’t think it to look at it but fast growing lush grass doesn’t have the nutrients of the dried, cured grasses we bale and feed in the winter.  Even if those cattle could have gotten under the snow and grazed non stop they would still not have been able to eat enough to keep themselves warm through the storm.  Unbelievable.

One of the most incredible facts to me is that they are finding out that all these animals drowned.  It doesn’t matter if they were down in a gully or on top of a hill they had breathed in so much moisture that their lungs were full of water.  I’m sure the wind added to that as well. 

They are also finding that most of the losses were cows – not calves.  One ranch I heard had lost over 200 head of cows but still had every one of the calves.  This is amazing – almost as amazing as the story of one rancher who calves in the fall.  He was right in the middle of calving when the storm hit and even without shelter every one of his calves survived it.  In a normal storm that would never have happened. 

There were also lots of horses lost – most in the 2-3 year old range.  I know people who have ranched their whole lives and have never lost a horse in a blizzard and yet one Bible camp lost nearly 100 head of horses to this blizzard alone. 

The government shut down had sent me home from work 2 days before the blizzard hit.  Even though I was thankful to be home during the worst of it there was very little we could do but watch as we went from warm sun filled days to rain and snow in a matter of hours.  Now that we’re back to work reports have started coming in from local ranchers who have lost a few.  Most of the big losses were north, east and south of us. 

Some of the livestock lost in this blizzard were not insured.  Even the ones that were insured were probably not coverd for loss due to blizzards – very few insurance companies cover this.  And even though they can prove that these cattle drowned the insurance companies are still denying these claims. 

And as for any government help…   The last Farm Bill expired in 2012 so there are no disaster programs in place that will help these ranchers.  Yet there is talk of disaster assistance in the works so we hope and pray that Congress will make this a priority and agree on a way to help. 

There have been so many heart-wrenching stories in the last few weeks.  Stories of cattle that died inside corrals and barns while others on the open prairie survived and newborn calves that survived when adult cows in the prime of their lives perished.  At one sale barn alone over 300 head of cattle died in the corrals while one rancher started with over 600 head of cattle and today has 1 left.  There are people who have lost everything and will probably not survive the economic losses but more importantly there are those who won’t have the heart to start over after seeing years of careful breeding and hard work wiped away in a couple of days.  These are the stories that break my heart.

I have been trying to add a new post to my blog for several weeks but for some unknown reason my computer and blog no longer play well together so we’ll try it a different way and see what we end up with.

Summer has been busy with lots of work, haying, hunters, garden stuff, farmers market and canning but I have taken a little time to work on my old camper Rattlin’ Ruby so I thought you might like to see what we’ve done.

Ruby and I (along with my sister and a bunch of the girlfriends) will be headed off on a grand adventure in just under a week.  We are going Junking!  Last year at the Sisters on the Fly campout I heard about the Nebraska Junk Jaunt – a 500 mile loop in the center of Nebraska of rummage sales, antique dealers, church bazaars and who knows what else.   If you know me, you know this is something I must see for myself.  So I mentioned it to the girls one day and plans were quickly made.  But there was much to get ready if I wanted to take Ruby.

First off I took the old girl down to Edgemont, SD to Jim – a guy who works on campers for a living.   Usually he works on much newer campers but he was willing to see what he could do with Ruby. First he by-passed the old propane lines (since they were kind of scary) and ran a new line to the stove and fridge. He also added a new regulator and pig-tails on her spiffy new propane tanks.

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A couple cans of spray paint also helped to spruce up her hitch a bit.

Right from the start, the stove and oven worked great but we had a few problems when it came to the cute little fridge. I am proud to report the Dometic company is still in business and continues to make great camper refridgerators but it appears that things have changed in the last 50 years. Jim (the guy in Edgemont) had no idea what was the correct way to light the old girl so he called the company and asked for the guy who had been there the longest. Of course they were curious about a 50+ year old fridge that appeared to still be in working condition. I guess the thought of it caused quite a stir. The company rep, to whom Jim was directed, had a couple of ideas but wasn’t sure any of them would work and I’m afraid he didn’t instill a great deal of confidence in Jim because he didn’t jump right in and try to light her after he hung up the phone. So I paid the bill and brought my baby home still not knowing if the fridge worked or not.  I should also mention that written on the bill was the following statement “Appliances are 40 + years old and are to be operated at your own risk”.

OK – that scared me for a couple of weeks but one day when Morgan (who is fearless) was home we decided to give it a try. The pilot light took right off and burned happily all night. I admit I worried about it all night long and sat up in bed to look out the window a couple of times through out the night to see if my little Ruby was a blazing pile of embers.  Fortunately, she survived the night in good shape. Unfortuantely, even thought the pilot light still burned the next morning, the fridge wasn’t any cooler than it had been the night before. I shut off the propane and started work on some other projects while I decided what to do about the fridge.

It’s a good thing I don’t work quickly as a few weeks later as I was cleaning out one of the cubbies I stumbled across a stack of paperwork that had come with the trailer. When I frist bought her I had found lots of papers – dusty, grimy, mouse eaten papers that I hadn’t really bothered looking at but had stuffed into one of the cubbies where all the odd ball stuff went as I cleaned. Thankfully I don’t throw anything away so amongst all these old registrations, receipts and papers were several booklets on the fridge. JACKPOT!!! In nearly mint condition were the instructions on how to lite the fridge along with lots of information on something called a Klixon valve. It also showed a picture of this long metal rod with a funky little pocket on one end. Wait a minute… I’ve seen one of those… You guessed it – in the middle of the pile of odd ball things there was the the ‘lighting rod’ I needed to light the fridge. Thank goodness I’m a packrat. Turns out that the funky little pocket on the lighting rod holds a short piece of lamp wick which you light then slide back to light the pilot light and warm the Klixon valve which opens with a click and starts the fridge.

Sounded easy but I still waited till Hubby could take a break from haying and watch (and call 911 if I blew myself up) as I attempted to light the fridge.

Wah Lah – it worked like a charm. The Klixon valve opened and the old girl moaned and groaned for a couple of seconds then took off like she’d been running non-stop for years. She ran all night (yes, I spent another sleepless night looking out the window) and the next morning I ran out to find the temperature in the fridge was a chilly 29* and the freezer compartment was coated with a glittery layer of ice crystals. Of course I ran in to tell Hubby the good news. I won’t tell you the first words he said but he did mention that at least I could keep my beer cold now. Ha!

I scanned all the important ‘historical’ documents and passed them on to Jim in Edgemont who was going to pass them on to the guys at Dometic so they will be ready the next time a crazy woman calls about an older-than-dirt camper fridge.

After all that excitement I was pumped to contiune work on Ruby. Next I tackled the water system.

Ruby’s water system is simple enough even I can’t screw it up. At least that’s what I thought when I started. I purchased a new fresh water tank and propmtly started plumbing.

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Things look pretty good don’t they? The one itsy bitsy issue with the whole system, which you proably can’t see in this picture is that they no longer make tanks the same size as the original galvanized steel tank that came in the camper so I had ordered the next best thing. It turns out the ‘next best thing’ is a tank that is slightly taller than the original so to fill the tank the water must now run up hill from the inlet on the outside of the camper to the inlet of the tank. Now I’m no expert on plumbing but I’m thinking there might be a little problem with that.

OK – there’s got to be a way to revamp this. The first thought was to cut a hole in the floor of the camper and lower the tank down a couple of inches but because of the metal I-beam that runs the full length of the camper there was no easy way to do that. In a moment of complete insanity I even thought that maybe it would work if I ran that side of the camper up on a ramp while I filled the tank but I’m betting as soon as we headed down the road water would splash out of the inlet until it reached a level inside the tank that was lower than the inlet.  I would have to add a shut off valve somewhere by the tank to make that idea work but what a pain in the butt. I finally decided the best answer is to raise the inlet on the outside of the camper till it is higher than the top of the tank. Of course that means I will have to raise the bench seats up an inch or two for clearence. I guess that will just have to wait till I get back from Nebraska.

I’ve decided when it comes to old campers you cause at least one problem for every problem you solve. Oh well, it keeps me out of the bars.

The third project I tackled actually turned out really well. I hung some artwork on her walls. They are greeting cards made by Leaning Tree.  They are a variety of cowgirl paintings by a very talented artist named Terri Kelly Moyers. Framed in black frames and then screwed right to the walls they look great but you know how it goes – when you fix up one thing it makes something els look bad.

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In this case I thought it just made the plexiglass windows on either side of the dinette area look nasty. I thought about it for awhile and decided Ruby needed some stained glass but since she is a mo-bile unit and tends to shimmy and shake down the road I’m afraid regular stained glass would be too ridgid to survive very many miles – but a simple mosaic would work great instead.

I cut out some red and green glass pieces to form a rose then headed out to Ruby with a jar of busted clear glass and a couple of tubes of clear silicone. Two hours later and this is what those boring windows look like now.

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I really need to get a picture of them at night with Ruby’s lights shining through them.  Now I don’t even need curtains for privacy.  And another plus is if I ever get tired of them I can peel off the glass and silicone and the plexiglass windows are still there. Sweet! I took a few photos as I worked to show you how I did it.

First I drew up a pattern. Usually if I’m working on glass instead of plexiglass I just draw the design on the back side of the glass but I wasn’t sure the permanet marker would wash off of plexiglass so I just drew it up on a piece of paper and taped it to the outside of the window.

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Then working on the inside you smear on some clear silicone. Be sure to open the window when you do this as the fumes from the silicone will run you right out of a little camper in a matter of minutes. Work in small areas of the window as the silicone will set up quickly especially on a hot day. I usually squeeze out enough to cover an area about 6″ square then take a small piece of cardboard to smear it around – covering all of the area. Once it’s spread around you just stick the glass into the silicone and press it firmly into place. You will be able to slide the pieces around for awhile so that you can get them set ‘just right’.  Sometimes when you press the glass in place silicone will ooze out around the edges.  If this happens just wipe it off with your fingertip but be sure to have some paper towels handy to wipe your hands on other wise you will end up with silicone on everything and believe me that’s a mess!

I always have lots of scrap glass around but if you buy pieces of stained glass to use be sure to ‘cut’ the glass into squares or triangles – don’t just hit it with a hammer as you will end up with lots and lots of skinny, sharp shards of glass that won’t work well in a mosaic.  Just buy a cheap glass cutter for around $3.00 at the hardware store and score lines going both ways before you start breaking the class.  Practise on some  old window glass to build your confidence if your nervous about the stained glass.

I’ve also done mosaics like this on the glass in old window frames. These look great hung in windows or even on the front porch. Easy-peasy!!!

Well, it’s back to work for me but at least we’re one day closer to the Junk Jaunt. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures of the treasures we find. If you don’t want to wait for my pictures just jump in the car and head to Nebraska too – I’m sure there’s enough junk for all of us! Happy Junking!!!!!!!!!

Summer has gone by really fast.  The local kids are back in school and tonight you can almost smell a touch of autumn in the air.  It has been awhile since I cleared off the memory card in my camera so I thought I would just see what was on it.

We have never had as many flowers in the garden as we have this year. 

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And what can I say about the veggies?  It is amazing what a little rain and a few happy honey bees can do.

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These are some of the veggies I picked last Friday for the Farmers Market. 

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Amazing!  Just check out that BEA-UT-I-FULL box of tomatoes.  I was so impressed with them that they rode to town Saturday morning on the console beside me so I could admire their beauty.  And I did…  right up till the moment I turned down into the narrow road through Hell Canyon and a sweet little speckled white-tail fawn jumped out of the ditch right in front of me!

I slammed on the brakes…

Our eyes met in wide-eyed horror…

Time stood still…

And foul, four lettered words spewed from my dainty, pink lips.

With white knuckles I clutched the wheel and waited for the impact of tender flesh against hard, cold metal…

I missed the fawn – Thank goodness!

But before I could heave a sigh of relief all hell broke loose in the pickup.

In one felled swoop all the veggies and supplies which had been in the back seat unloaded onto the floor – wedging themselves into a jumbled mass between the seats.  In the bed of the pickup it was even worse.  The pumpkins, beets, squash and gourds which had been neatly stacked in lovely, hand-woven baskets slid forward followed closely by the little red wagon, tables, shelf unit and canopy (complete with the 4 cement blocks I use as corner weights) which slammed into the front of the pickup bed leaving a pile of damaged veggies and busted wicker.  I can still see their multi-colored veggie ‘faces’ pressed against the back window. 

And last – but not least, that whole flat of luscious, BEA-UT-I-FULL, red-ripe tomatoes hit the dash causing them to jump out of the box, and cascade down the side of my leg onto the floor where they rolled around like a class room full of kindergarteners hyped up on cherry Kool-Aid and sugar cookies on the first day of school.  They frolicked around my mud-caked boots before finally lodging themselves under the gas and brake pedals.

It wasn’t pretty.

Hell, it wasn’t even funny.

I pulled over and put the pickup in park before lifting my feet out of the tomato soup on the floor.  I picked up the split and bruised tomatoes that I thought I could salvage then opened the door and kicked out the ones that were beyond hope.  I tell you, there is nothing sadder than smashed tomatoes on the side of the road – unless it is a smashed baby Bambi.  I was glad he had avoided the bumper and hoped he had at least learned a lesson about fast-moving vehicles.  

Yes, I was thankful I had not hit him – at least until I came home later that day and noticed that all the tomatoes I had left bleeding on the side of the road were now gone.  The greedy little deer.  I don’t know how he knew which vehicle to jump in front of but I’m convinced that was his evil plan all along.  Nasty little bugger – I’ll be watching for him this week.

Now, one week later,  there are still tomato guts on my floor mat…

and the dash…

and console…

But even after all that my little booth still looked pretty good and I sold more veggies last Saturday then I ever have. 

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I even sold a bag full of mangled tomatoes.  Am I a salesman or what?

But last week’s trip wasn’t my only memorable trip to the Farmers Market – in fact – the trip the week before was a bit bazar too.  I was just glad I had my camera handy because no one would have believed me without the photographic evidence I now have.

Flashback to Saturday, August 17th –  6:47 am:

It was a beautiful summer morning.  The sun was shinning brightly, its brilliant golden rays glittering across the rain-soaked highway – which was still wet from a storm the night before.  There were no deer in sight and I had almost made it to the outskirts of Custer when I topped a hill and saw this:

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Yes…  Those are vultures!!!  Yes… 24 vultures all in a row!!!

One vulture on each fence post as far as the eye could see. 

I had coasted past them before my groggy brain cells registered what I was seeing.  I grabbed my camera and turned into an approach, checking the traffic from both directions.  I would be late to the farmers market but I had to go back.  Really, how many times does a photo opportunity like this present itself?

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You should know – I am a rather superstitious person so coming across 24 vultures, lined up in a row beside the highway next to a speed limit sign could be taken as a warning or even worse – A REALLY BAD OMEN!!!  Especially to someone like me who has seen every Final Destination movie they ever made.

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It looked like a Highway Patrol commercial meant to scare teenaged drivers into following the speed limit.  All it needed was camera men filming the scene and subtitles printed across the bottom of the fence:

“Go ahead and speed.  We’ll be there to pick up the pieces.  Bahahahahahahahaaaa!”

I looked around.  There weren’t any camera men.

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Frankly, it freaked me out – especially when every one of the birds stayed put and let me move in close enough for some good (and creepy) pictures.

The thunderstorm the night before had been pretty nasty so the logical part of my brain knew they were just enjoying the morning sun, perched there ‘spread-eagled’ (LOL – I crack me up!) to dry their feathers off.  I had seen lots of vultures do this many, many times before. 

The superstitious part of my brain wasn’t so sure.

That part of my brain reminded me that I had never seen a grand total of 24 vultures all in a row, near a busy highway with no sign of road kill and only a speed limit warning sign in the middle of them for good measure!  It also didn’t help that I was the only one out on that lonely stretch of road that early in the morning. 

Talk about your Twilight Zone moments.

Needless to say, I have followed the speed limit ever since and so far I haven’t seen the vulture patrol again. 

After the last two weeks I’m not sure what to expect this week but I’ll be sure to report back to you if anything out of the ordinary happens on Saturday. 

Otherwise, I’ll see you at the Farmers Market…

I hope!  Bahahahahahahahaaaa!!!