On South Dakota Sunflowers & Camping

Did you know South Dakota is the largest producer of sunflowers in the nation? I did not until I learned about it on the South Dakota Tourism Facebook page.

South Dakota sunflower field

South Dakota sunflower field

It may explain why I see them everywhere. The biggest field I see is along the drive to the Missouri River, where we love to camp even though it’s only 15 minutes from the house. 15 minutes exactly; I’ve timed it because I’m weird like that.

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I’m not sure if you camp or not, but it’s one of those activities I did not grow up doing but could now go every weekend if possible. Being married to a busy farmer has changed me. Even 15 minutes away, it feels like a vacation and a chance for him to “take his hat off.”

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It could also be inherited, as my mom used to love it and would camp alone before she met my dad. She now loves to come out and camp with us, and will sit along the river for hours on her little floatie device. Apparently her dad used to live on the Missouri river, so the connections run deep. I still need to learn more about that.

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Summer is coming to an end and we only have one weekend left to camp. We’ll be winterizing it as the sunflowers are being harvested, and my drive toward the river will be replaced with that of barren fields and cattle moved back.

However, this weekend is the South Dakota State Fair, and I can’t wait to bring our little guy out to enjoy the activities! We’ll keep you posted.

Camping waffles

First camping breakfast unsuccessful

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Buffalo

Sometimes this is my morning view.

The Buffalo, who mostly ignores me, stands tall with his head held high.

It’s like he knows he is a rose among thorns. If cattle were thorns, that is. Which they’re not of course. But the Buffalo stands out, nonetheless.

I get the sense his understanding of his heritage goes beyond the horns and faraway eyes, as if he’s aware that not that long ago his kind were driven off cliffs to be eaten and worn.

A couple hundred years later, he’s on a farm in South Dakota in a pen with the bulls.

I haven’t even tried to drive him off any cliffs yet.

Either way, he’s a pretty amazing creature.

Not a bad view from the window I’d say.

September First

It’s a small joy, the moment the sd card is removed from the trail cam after a long week and placed into the computer.

Husband trail cam

The first photo appears, evidence of the hands behind the curious camera and the even more curious mind of what lurks when no one is around.

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Will a record-breaking buck step out from the shadows for a taste of sweet corn?

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This hope is why the dusty cameras find themselves back in place, year after year.

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Another year of scrolling through the activity of the cautious, hoping something great will expose itself.

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It’s all pretty great, really.

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A new week begins, the cycle continues.

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What will appear?…

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Happy Labor Day!

Walk Along the River

I don’t know about you, but we’ve had a non-dog days month of August so far.

along the river

It has been 60s in the morning and 80s at the highest throughout the day. July behaved poorly though, but August swooped in for the save. For our sake and the electric bill… not the crops so much.

along the river

By the water I seem to find myself much of the time this summer. It seems the older I get, the more I appreciate the privilege of being near the catfish and walleye (and garfish!) filled river.

Along the river

Some of my best Sundays are spent walking along the beach, helping Country Man look for arrowheads while behind us easily distracted small pups try to keep up, to later find their short legs tightly wound with burrs and weeds.

frog toad

During these excursions, we watch as the pups chase toad and butterflies along the riverbank until something else becomes more alluring. The sounds of fish splashing can be heard in the background.

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On one side of us is the water, responding to the sun with a twinkling fury, the other a lane of tall murky weeds where the sneaky ones prey. I feel them watching us whether they exist or not. In my mind a bobcat is stalking, fixating on Milo because he lags behind and would be the tastiest.

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Soon enough it will grow colder, and my boots will replace summer sandals, sweaters with swimsuits to go on our walks. It will be a different experience.

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One of these days I will find an arrowhead.

Replanting Fruit Trees One More Time

Growing houseplants (or fruit trees, in this case) is a labor of guilt. At least it is for me.

So often I want to give up on them, since only the pomegranate has produced fruit in the five years we’ve had them.

It’s around springtime that I think it’s time to let them go; start fresh with something that will do what it’s supposed to do.

But every year, I repot, breaking off the old soil from the roots and replacing it with the nutrient-rich.

One more year, why not?

At least I have good, yet trouble-prone, company while I decide if the plants will receive a thumbs up or a thumbs down this year.

Before I go, I wanted to mention we’ve been doing some shed hunting these past few weeks and thought I would share a not-so-old post if you’d like to see what that all entails.

Welcoming Spring

There are no shortage of reminders that spring is here.

All people and animals were winter weary, including our frozen pipes that led to backing up of water, then to the rationing of water, then to me feeling like a hand-sewn prairie dress and bonnet away from the late 1800s.

Thankfully, though, spring has come. In all her imperfect glory, she has come.

You know what this means… shed hunting. Calving. Fencing. The many great and wonderful activities spring brings to us on the farm.

Though this was a long winter for us all, it’s already forgotten as the sun warms our face and cool air cleans out our lungs.

It’s another season in weather and in life.

Looking forward to what’s ahead.

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well hello

Do not pass by my epitaph, traveler.
But having stopped, listen and learn, then go your way.
There is no boat in Hades, no ferryman Charon
No caretaker Aiakos, no dog Cerberus.
All we who are dead below
Have become bones and ashes, but nothing else.
I have spoken to you honestly, go on, traveler,
Lest even while dead I seem talkative to you.
– Ancient Roman Epitaph

It would be nice if I could filter death, compartmentalize the reminder of mortality and pain and move on. Instead, it seems to stay with me, whispering the images in my mind, creating a mental scene that I hope is worse than the truth.

So when the cattle died out west, and I drove past them on the interstate, their bodies lying against the fence, one with her head against the wood post leading her nose to the sky, I couldn’t stop, I just had to drive.

I thought of their fear and confusion as they traveled with the wind, and wished more than anything for a Superman to come down and put Mother Nature in her place.

That is why I haven’t blogged about it. I am eternally unforgiving of random senselessness.

~~~

You know what else has been going on in this girl’s world? Combining.

South Dakota combining

Lots and lots of combining.

Also, gardening.

Lots and lots of gardening.

I dug up a row of sweet potatoes, regular potatoes and carrots this weekend. So much dirt goodness.

Well, I hope you have a wonderful Halloween. I am loving the nostalgia it brings. Talk to you soon.

We Made National News

“We” as in South Dakota. That doesn’t happen often, so you know it’s serious.

We’ve had some crazy wild weather these past few days, west river receiving a mixture of heavy rain turned snow combined with powerful winds that the unwinterized trees couldn’t support, causing many to break and fall over. My Mom said 80% of her trees are down.

I will be going out there next week with my camera to document the damage, so I will update with pictures then. I don’t want to see it, really, because those trees are as much part of my childhood as the three girls who lived down the trail from us.

Until then, let me tell you about apple butter.

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Apple butter is deliciously simple to create. We hand-picked tart apples from our tree, the one Country Man’s grandparents planted some 30 years ago.

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The Quick How-To
Wash and slice them, and then mix the apples and spices in the slow cooker.

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Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, less if you use smaller apples like ours. Once the apples are softened, you can easily mash them with a fork.

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You can refrigerate the entire batch for up to three weeks, or do what I did and hot water bathe them. I placed them into pint jars, twisted the lids on, and gently plopped the butter in a pot of boiling water on the stove top for 40 minutes. Take out and let cool. You should hear the *pop* of the lids as they seal.

apple butter

Apple butter on the right

Full Recipe {found here}:

12 medium Granny Smith or other cooking apples, peeled and cut into fourths
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Enjoy!