Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Country Life - Family Dynamics

In my personal opinion, careful consideration of one's nuclear family dynamics is critical when making the decision to move to the country.  One needs to consider each family member's mental and physical health, work ethic, educational goals and interests.  Each family is unique and thus, each family has differing needs, interests and long-term goals.  It is not fair, or a healthy family dynamic, for only one person, usually the father or mother, to be the deciding force in determining that a family wants to, needs to, or should, move to rural America.  

Mrs.B's children, minus one.  L to R:  Farmer Boy, Songbird, The Middle Child, Miss N, Musician's Bride, & Musician

Why do I believe it is so important to consider family dynamics?  Living in the country is a lifestyle of isolation.  Our closest neighbor to the north is 3 miles, to the south - 1 mile, to the west - 4 1/2 miles, to the east - no one between us the 1st town across the state line.  Now, not everyone who moves to the country will be quite as isolated as we are ... some will be more isolated, while others will be within a few acres of their neighbors.  But, there isn't anyone "next door" with whom you wave hello to while mowing the yard on Saturday mornings.  Because of this isolation, the negatives within one's family tend to become exaggerated when "next door" doesn't exist.  There are also certain interests that may go un-fostered and long-term goals that may be very difficult for your children to achieve because of a rural lifestyle.

Whether we like to admit it, or not, ALL families operate within varying degrees of dysfunction.  Thus, when contemplating a move to the country, one needs to be very honest with themselves about mental health within their individual nuclear family dynamics.  Although, the urban lifestyle is not one I personally prefer, it does have some advantages and safety nets that are not available when living in a rural area.  Realistically, next door neighbors can be a deterrent to a spouse or child who may, occasionally, show symptoms of a possible abuser.  The fact that the neighbors may witness abuse can, sometimes, be a deterrent to someone who titters around the edges of an abusive personality.  The networking advantages through churches, schools, and extra curricular activities can make all the difference for families who struggle with a  member who has behavioral or mental health issues.   If someone within your nuclear family struggles with seasonal or clinical depression, the isolation of country living can significantly exaggerate those symptoms. 

Family counselors and mental health services are not readily accessible in rural areas.  When one does seek out such services, there is usually a very long drive and a very long waiting list.  Sadly, there are a minority number of families within our society whose dysfunction is severe.  In my opinion, if your family fits into the "severe" category, I'm begging you with all my heart, please do not, ever, consider a country lifestyle.  The isolation will put you or other family members at an even greater risk of serious injury or even death.

Is your nuclear family blessed with excellent health or is someone chronically ill?  Healthcare is not readily available in rural America.  The nearest emergency room is nearly 50 miles from our home and for very serious illnesses or injuries, that small local hospital only has the ability to stabilize the patient before transporting them to Billings, MT,  more than 240 miles one-way.  We are fortunate to have a small health clinic operated by 2 nurse practitioners that is open 4 days per week within 15 miles of our home. This is a cherished convince in our community when someone has the flu, a cold, needs regular blood pressure monitoring, etc.  Many people in rural communities have to drive more than 100 miles one-way for a regular doctor's appointment.  If anyone in our family contracted a serious illness, injury or disease, obtaining quality healthcare would be very burdensome. Fifteen years ago our middle child contracted a life-threatening illness that required DAILY specialized wound care that was not possible in a home setting (7 days per week for 2 months). If we had lived where we do now, we would have had to rent some sort of furnished apartment in the city because a 240 mile drive one-way, every day, is not realistic.  Not to mention that Mr.B often works out of town, so who would have been here every day to do all the daily farm chores?  Now days, we have financial savings put back just in case we find ourselves facing a serious healthcare crisis that would require Mr.B or myself to temporarily move into the city for a child's daily care that can not be obtained in our area.   If Mr.B or I were hospitalized in the city, we would be in the hospital alone, without a family member to act as our medical advocate, for days at a time.  Each family needs to strongly consider their healthcare needs and plan accordingly before moving to the country or even a small rural town.

The urban next door neighbor can also be a helpful resource when you need someone to feed your dog while you are on vacation.  Good neighbors may also notice if you haven't been out and about for several days prompting them to stop by or telephone to see if you are ill or in need of anything.  Realistically, your isolated country lifestyle will keep you so busy, you most likely won't have time for a vacation. But if you somehow carve out some vacation time, you realize your neighbor is just as busy with his own place. This makes you feel like asking for help would be a terrible imposition.  As far as someone noticing the lack of your routine comings and goings ... the neighbors are generally too far away to observe your daily routine.  No one is going to come out or telephone to see if you and your family are in need.

Are you and your spouse driven self-starters?  Do you and/or your spouse need deadlines, a time clock or boss directing your daily routines?  Successful country folks are self starters and have a tendency to lean in the direction of being workaholics.  The country lifestyle is most certainly one that requires 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration.   Country folks have long project lists, and more chores than most urban dwellers could ever imagine.  In addition to projects and chores, at least one spouse generally works outside the home.  On the larger farms and ranches in our area where the husband runs the operation, the wives do not have just a job outside the home, they have CAREERS such as nurses, doctors, attorneys, engineers, teachers, etc.  Of all the full-time ranching/farming operations within our community, I only know of 3 where the wife does not work long hours away from the home. When these working wives return home at the end of a very long day, they still have some chores and  all the yard work, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child rearing duties to tend to.  These wives spend their annual vacation time from their employers working on the ranch or farm during, calving, haying, planting or harvest seasons.  Needless to say, if your spouse needs routine "prodding" to get things done, it won't be long before you are perceived as a "nagging" wife or a "controlling" husband.

Does your family home school, utilize public school systems, or prefer private education facilities for your children?  Rural families do not have access to private schools - they are simply located too far away.  In rural America, most children will only have access to the extra-curricular activities offered through their local public school.  In our area that is a sports program (6-man football, basketball, track and volleyball), band and choir.  Our local school does not have a symphony, a chess club, a debate team, etc.  There aren't any dance studios, gymnastics or soccer leagues  near us.  If you are a home educator and live in a state like Montana or Texas, your children will not have access to any school sponsored extra-curricular activities.  If you currently home school in an urban area, you probably enjoy the blessing of some sort of co-op that offers various extracurricular activities, like we did when we lived down home.  Our home school support group was so large it offered basket ball leagues, a band, a symphony, a choir, art lessons, etc.  Outside our home school group there were little league sporting teams, dance studios, gymnastic studios, chess clubs, debate clubs, youth book clubs, literally anything our children were interested in, an urban setting gave us access to it.  As rural home educators, when Farmer Boy played baseball, we drove 45 miles one-way several times per week for practices and games.  Our community is  one of the few that is fortunate to have a local piano teacher.  When Songbird wanted to learn to play guitar, a lady from our church generously provided her lessons.  If we had lived here when our oldest was a youngster, he most likely would have never grown up to be a professional violinist because youth symphonies and violin teachers are not available on the Montana prairie.  Our youngest children have excelled in the Montana 4-H program and enjoy the sport of rodeo.  These are the two extra-curriculars that are common in rural areas, but does not, and will not, interest all youngsters.  Evaluating each family member's interests and goals is a very important aspect when considering your family dynamics and a country lifestyle.

Today, I've covered only a few aspects of family dynamics that should be strongly considered when dreaming of, or thinking about, a life in the country.  While reading this you may have realized that your family's health care needs would not be adequately met in a rural setting.  Maybe you've had to admit to yourself that your spouse is not self motivated enough to "be his/her own boss".  Or you maybe you have a child or children who are passionate about the arts, science, or sports.  Once you've rendered some sober thought on this subject, I hope you will be able to form a realistic idea of whether a country lifestyle is one that could possibly suit your family.  Maybe through this first installment, you've realized that you are the only one in your family for whom a country lifestyle would be blissful.  If that is the case, it's O.K. You could  make a country life for yourself right where you currently are.    There are millions of urban "farmers" in America today.  They've turned their front yard flower beds in to edible landscapes and they've turned their backyards into a country oasis filled with vegetable and herb gardens, mini fruit orchards, laying hens, meat rabbits ... all sorts of other country life experiences.  Just because you don't have acres of land out in the middle of nowhere, doesn't mean you can't enjoy a tiny bite of country living right where you are.

In my next installment of "Country Life", we will think upon your own personality traits and personal habits.  Looking forward to next time!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Did I Hear You Say ...

... You want to move to the country?

Throughout the years as I listened to others who also shared my dream of country living, I came to realize the romanticism of a rural lifestyle has been so exaggerated that most of my former urban neighbors would surely fail, and fail miserably, if that opportunity ever materialized.  Since I am one of those former urban dwellers whose dream came true, I've decided to share some plain, and sometimes hard, truths about country living with all who continue to find themselves chasing after a dream that I actually caught.

So, between now and the beginning of our insanely busy spring and summer seasons, based upon my personal experiences, I will post some, hopefully, helpful hints and tips for all those who continue to dream of a country lifestyle.  At the end of my "Country Life" series I am sure some of you will be more driven to reach for your dream, while others may choose to re-evaluate that dream.  Regardless of which, I hope my honest insight, trials and errors will solidify the realities of rural living and assist you in setting realistic goals for you and your family's specific situation.

I invite you to pour yourself a cup of hot tea, coffee or cocoa and join me.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Crazy, Unpredictable Montana Weather

WoW!  Who would ever believe that we have been experiencing 40-50 degree F days during the month of February in Montana?  Yes, for the past two weeks our daytime temperatures have not only been above 0 F but, we've also been working and playing without coats and jackets.  Now, before all the "global warming" folks begin using this as "proof" of their hypothesis, one must note that since mid December through the first of February our temperatures were steadily more than 20 degrees BELOW average.  The weather is also forecasted return to our average, bitterly, cold February and March temperatures later this week.

Songbird and Quatro doing pattern work in our "almost done" arena.  We hope to have it finished by May.
In the meantime, most of our 4 - 6 ft. snow drifts have melted and the littles have been taking advantage of the warm temperatures and bare ground to exercise their horses and practice for their upcoming spring rodeo circuit.  There are only 10 weeks left before we hit the road for 3 days each week for that exhilarating and insane thing they call RODEO.
... By the way, wasn't the sky a beautiful shade of blue this evening?

Farmer Boy ground roping his calf dummy.  Earlier today Songbird towed it while he practiced roping from his horse.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Today Is Day One ...

Image result for exercise pictures

... and I hope it will help hold me accountable.  I hope I will succeed this time.

What am I doing?  One of the younger moms in our church signed up a 10 member team for a 90 day "Shape Up Montana" program.  I joined the team and am now logging my activity levels.  I was very happy to discover that my routine household and barn chores count toward this program.  However, I am also trying to make a commitment to add an additional 45 - 60 minute exercise routine.   My goal is to spend 30 minutes on our treadmill, work up to 20 repetitions on our household staircases (2 containing a total of 28 stairs) and work up to 15 minutes on our "Simply Fit Board (sfb)".  Today, I spent 30 minuets on our treadmill, 5 minutes on the sfb, and climbed the stairs 5 times.

Do you exercise daily?  Share your routine with me in the comments section.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Something to Chew On

I'm re-posting this quote because I think it is, once again, worth pondering...

"You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.  You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.  You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.  You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.  You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.  You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.  You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.  You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Quote Worth Pondering

"A gyrocompass is an amazing device, used in ships and airplanes because no matter where it's put, it always enables the pilot to find the horizon and identify true north, especially in rough weather. The Word of God is our cultural and spiritual gyrocompass."

 - Bryan Fischer

Farmer Boy's Provision

Regardless of one's opinion on the subject, my guys, and our little girl, are hunters.  Even our older boys, who now live in big cities and are married to vegetarians or city girls, grew up learning how to hunt wild game.  Albeit that when the "bigs" were youngin's and we lived on the Gulf Coast of Texas, Mr.B had to drive them quite a distance to find the wild game.  One of the best aspects of living on the Montana Prairie, is that hunters do not have to travel because the wild game comes to us. 

This autumn, our Farmer Boy turned 15 and was allowed to go on an independent hunt.  After obtaining permission, I drove him a couple miles over to a neighbor's ranch and dropped him off.  After finding a nice resting spot on a small bluff and enjoying the scenery while the warm sun shone on his back, Farmer Boy eyed a nice Buck.  In less than two hours he was phoning me to pick him up.  I was proud to find that upon my arrival, he had already field dressed the buck and was dragging it up toward the gate, about 3/4 mile from where he harvested it.  When we arrived home, he skinned, quartered and iced the meat all on his own, as Mr.B was working out of town that week.  I am proud of how grown up our "little caboose" is becoming.  Yes, Little Caboose, is my nickname for him, although he's not so little anymore.

Farmer Boy proudly displaying his provision for our family.
As you can see this buck is quite large.  And at the bottom of the photo is our late, and beloved farm dog, Sam, anxiously awaiting one of those legs.

When most folks eat venison from our home, they never know it's venison because their pallets do not detect a "gamey taste" that is typical in wild game.  We process our venison in a manner that removes nearly all that "gamey" flavor.  What do we do?  After quartering the deer we age the meat in ice for 10 days (we drain the water off daily) before we butcher and wrap it in food saver bags for freezing.

This year, I did not have the time nor energy to butcher the harvest myself. So, after our 10 day aging period, we paid a local butcher to process it into breakfast sausage, ground meat and stew meat.  This one buck yielded 123 lbs. of meat for our freezer.  That's about 1/2 our family's annual meat consumption.  Add that to the lamb and hog we butchered after fair last summer, and we have enough meat to last more than a year. 

Which begs another question:  How does one prevent freezer burn if needing to freeze meat for more than six months?  A Food Saver System, of course.  It draws the excess air out of the packaging, preventing freezer burn.  My darling Sister-Friend, Mrs.A, blessed us with one a few years ago and, I must say, it is one of the best appliances we own.  The butcher we used this autumn uses a commercial type food saver and our meat will keep for more than a year, as his commercial version works as well as our home Food Saver appliance.

Is anyone in your family a hunter?  Do you have any tips for processing or storing wild game that you'd like to share in the comments sections?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

45th Presidential Inauguration

 Our Songbird was selected to go to Washington D.C. through 4-H's Citizenship Washington Focus this past summer and again for the 45th Presidential Inauguration.  There were only 500 4-H students, 10 from each state, selected to attend the 2017 inauguration.  Our Songbird is truly honored to be among those 500 students representing 4-H in D.C. this week.  Since Songbird LOVES the U.S. political system and history, I personally do not know of a youngster who would benefit more from these trips.

Here are some highlights of her trip:
6, + chaperone, of Montana's 4-H delegation flew out from the Billings airport while the remaining 4, + chaperone, flew out from the Bozeman airport.  Songbird is on the right.

While in D.C. last summer, Songbird met Montana's U.S. Senator Steve Daines.  Earlier this week, when boarding the plane out of Billings, she saw him sitting in his assigned seat.  She, of course, stopped for a short visit and introduced the other students in her delegation.  Songbird is the sort of girl whose never met a stranger and if you've had the pleasure of meeting her once, you will from then forward be a life long friend.

While on their way to witness Montana Congressman's, Ryan Zinke's Senate Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Interior, they met Songbird's hero, Dr. Ben Carson.  She is so impressed and has so much respect for all he has accomplished in his life, she incorporated portions of his bio in a 4-H competitive speaking completion she participated in a couple years ago.  She says he was exactly as she expected him to be.  I am so happy she was not disappointed when meeting this man for whom she holds so much admiration.

The students were housed at the National 4-H Conference Center in Washington D.C.  Not only do they room and board here while in D.C., they also attend various workshops and participate in mock political processes.  The 4-H CWF trips fully immerse the students in the workings of the U.S. political system.

Songbird and few others in her delegation gearing up for volunteer work at  the University of Maryland.  This week they spent a day weeding the gardens.  An activity in which Songbird has plenty of experience.

What a site!  500 of 4-H's best and brightest.

January 20, 2017, President Trump's and Vice-President Pence's Inauguration Day.  Songbird was there.  Thanks to U.S. Senator Steve Daines, Montana's 4-H delegation was seated as close as the general pubic could be seated. 

4-H always hosts a formal evening at all their State and National events.  Here is Songbird, and two others from her delegation, dressed "to the nines" at one of the Inaugural Balls held aboard a cruise ship on the Potomac River.

I sincerely hope this post doesn't come across as braggadocios.  Those who know me personally know that I share this out of genuine excitement for our daughter.  4-H has helped develop so many life skills and afforded her amazing opportunities and experiences, I can not imagine a better extra-curricular for her.  I am fully confident that Songbird's participation in 4-H has been God ordained and He is using this venue to develop attributes within her that will Glorify Him as she continues her journey through life.