Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mission accomplished!

So... This week I've been writing about our trip to find my great-grandparent's homestead. The last day I wrote about was Wednesday (otherwise known as Mudday), the day we tried to drive out to the homestead and became hopelessly stuck in the mud and never made it...

Here's what happened next.

I slept fitfully Wednesday night, waking often... my thoughts going in circles as I tried to think of some way to get to the homestead. Thursday was our last day in Nebraska... it was now or never.

I finally thought of a plan that seemed reasonable, and might even work. I'd go back to where we'd turned to go to the homestead, but instead of turning on the first road I'd go straight up the road to H's place. It's the closest farm to the homestead (I believe H's own the Cannon land now, or parts of it), and I hoped there was a back way... a passable way... through their place, to get there.

I fell asleep holding onto that hope and woke up the next morning ready to go. I was happy to see that the day was sunny and warm (the better to dry dirt roads!) and we quickly grabbed breakfast and headed north again.

I wanted to give the sun as much time as possible to do it's work, so we drove into town first and I decided to stop at the Catholic church. It had been a very important part of my great-grandparent's lives and I wanted to see it. The doors were open and as I walked in I felt like I was going back in time... it reminded me so strongly of the church we went to when I was a kid in Omaha. The old, ornate,wooden confessionals were still there, and stepping into one of them immediately transported me back to about the age of 8. The words even came, without conscious thought, to my mind... "Bless me Father, for I have sinned..."

It's amazing how strong and vivid the memories of that other time were. I lit candles for my great-grandparents, grandparents and parents, spent a few quiet minutes in prayer, and left again. I hadn't planned on stopping at the church, but I'm so glad I did... It was a wonderful way to bring our time in Greeley to a close.

Next I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a little gift for JM (I saw no gift shops in town, so the grocery was the best I could do!), then swung by her house and left it on the porch for her. I was sorry to have missed her, but knew she was in St Paul (the town we'd just come from) and wouldn't be home until later.

Finally I turned the car back towards the homestead. Part of me thought it was incredibly stupid to drive back out there, but I just couldn't leave without trying one last time...

I went straight towards H's this time, but after about a quarter mile I was stopped by mud. A long, low, curve in the road was inches deep in mud, and after getting stuck the day before I just couldn't chance it. There was no room to turn around, so I had to back the car down the road again...

I stopped backing when I came to the first road we'd taken the day before, the one we'd seen a glimpse of the homestead from. I'd driven it fine on Weds. and it looked even better now... so, of course, I turned onto it. Even if I couldn't get to the homestead, I wanted to see it one last time before heading home.

I drove south until we could look across the corn field and see the tumble-down old house that my great-grandfather had built. And once I saw it... clearly this time, sitting nestled in the hills... I knew I couldn't turn back without going there.

I drove down to the end of the road (stopping just before the turn where I'd gotten stuck), and told the kids I was walking to the homestead... Were they coming? R was excited and ready to go. She and Cody (her little dog) were out of the car and happy (yes, really!) to slog through the mud with me.

M refused to go. I couldn't talk him into it, so after thinking about how we were at least a couple of miles from civilization (meaning trouble for M), I decided to just leave him there. He was seriously unhappy, honking the horn at us as we walked away... but it was his decision to stay, and it wasn't long before he either stopped honking the horn, or we were too far away to hear it. ;)

It was about a mile and half walk to the homestead. It was too muddy to cut across the cornfield, and the road itself was still a mess too. We walked in the driest part of the road we could find until the mud got too thick and heavy on our shoes, then we moved onto the side of the road where the the grass helped clean a little of the mud off as we walked. Unfortunately, there were lots of holes, rocks, and old wire hidden in the grass on the side of the road... making it hard to walk there (I can't tell you how many times I twisted my ankle walking along the side of that road... too many!)... so we kept moving back out into the road.

The day was beautiful though, and the meadowlarks were singing, which reminded me of home, and it was a pleasure to walk after spending so much time in the car.

It felt so good to come up over that last hill and see the homestead right there in front of us... We just had to climb through a couple of barb wire fences and we were there!

The homestead is in pretty rough shape. It's definitely leaning, and much of the roof is gone, but enough of the house is still there to get a little bit of a feel for what it must have been like.

I thought it was odd that the old glass windows were neatly stacked in what I'm guessing must have been the living room...

There wasn't much plaster left on the walls.

There was a very old car, sitting rusting out back... R thought it was so cool that a tree was growing in it! There is also a windmill hooked (with modern equipment) to a well. I wondered how old that well is...

We didn't stay long (my worry about M was growing the longer we were gone) but I did take a few things from the homestead. I got my shovelful of dirt, and also took a brick from the chimney (the top had fallen down, although inside the house it's still intact) a funny rusty round piece of metal from the car, and.. in the kitchen... I found an old, rusty, Coca-Cola bottle opener. I tucked it in my pocket.

(The bottle opener went from the homestead kitchen wall to my kitchen wall...)

The view from the homestead

R and I must have made a funny sight as we walked back to the car. Her cute little dog was on his leash, still dashing happily through the mud, she had the leash in one hand and an old brick in the other, and I carried a old rusty car part, and a bag of dirt, as I slipped and slid along through the mud.

Luckily we didn't run into anyone.

I almost ran the last little bit back to the car, sure M had done something terrible or hurt himself while we were gone...  My feeling of dread increased as I got close enough to the car to realize that I couldn't see him. He always sits in the front seat... where was he?! I started scanning the horizon, looking for him walking someplace... but he wasn't there either. I finally got to the car and opened up the door and found him... laying down, sound asleep. Whew!

We turned toward home then.. heading south towards St Paul.  I was tired from the walk, but felt great... I couldn't believe we'd actually found and explored the homestead.

As we drove through St Paul, heading out of town, we had one more happy surprise. JM was still in St Paul and had driven around looking for us, hoping to catch us before we left for home. It was good to see her again, I had really enjoyed spending time with her and was glad for the opportunity to say good-bye one last time before we left.

Me, JM, and R

Before long it was time to say good-bye again. She headed north, and we headed south... towards Grand Island.  The trip home was going to be slow and leisurely... we wanted to take the time to stop at some of the cool museums we hadn't taken the time to see on our way out.

But this has gotten looooong enough... so the places we saw on the way home will have to wait for next time.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Buckshot and Ellen

I never knew much about my dad's family. He died just a month after my 18th birthday, so I never knew him as an adult... my only image of him is through the eyes of a child. He rarely spoke about his family (or maybe I just wasn't listening when he did!) so I was intrigued when I started researching that side of the family and discovered that my father's grandparents had been homesteaders.

Here's what I learned about my great-grandparents... and what led me to Greeley County Nebraska.

My great-grandpa was born in or around Westport, Ireland in 1847, he immigrated to the States on the ship the Tripoli, arriving on April 25th 1870. He was a laborer, and he settled initially in Boston. He married Ellen O'Grady (also from County Mayo) the next year and in 1874 John Jr (Johnny) was born.

In the mid 1870's, General John O'Neill, a Civil War hero who also took part in the Irish Fenian Uprising, had a dream of creating of colony of Irishmen in the vast land that was opening up in the west. In the area he envisioned for his colony, which would soon become Greeley County Nebraska, there was not only government land open to homesteading... there were also thousands of acres of railroad land for sale. Gen. O'Neill had a plan to form an association to buy up the railroad land and sell it, at easy terms, to prospective settlers. He presented the idea to Bishop O'Connor of Omaha who, believing that the Irish immigrants in the eastern cities were living in "crowded and unhealthful surroundings", offered his full support.

The time was ripe for his idea, and he must have promoted it well, because settlers began arriving in Greeley County even before the association (the Irish Catholic Colonization Association) was incorporated.

John Cannon, my great-grandfather (who would later be known as Buckshot) arrived in the fall of 1877, with the third group of settlers. Ellen, his wife, stayed in Massachusetts for a few more months, arriving sometime in early 1878. With her were their children,  John Jr (4 yrs old), Anna (about 3), and James, who was just a baby. Buckshot was 30, and Ellen 21 the year they came west.

Thomas, their fourth child, was born in 1880 and was one of the first children born in Greeley County Nebraska. Augustine was born in 1881, but died before his first birthday...

Patrick was born in 1883, and in 1885, when Agnes was born, the family... including all six children... were still living in a soddie.

The first few years the crops were good, but still... proving up the land was not easy. Buckshot worked for the railroad to make ends meet, walking the 50 miles to Grand Island to work, and then walking back home to visit the family. Ellen took care of everything on the homestead while he was gone... even driving the oxen to break sod.

It sounds like Ellen was a strong and feisty woman... When she grew tired of hauling the heavy wooden buckets of water three miles home from the well of their nearest neighbor, she starting digging a well herself.

(There is still a well on the homestead, just behind the house. I wonder if it could be the same well they used... maybe even the one she started digging?)

The family continued to grow with the addition of William (my grandfather) in 1887, Johanna in 1889, Peter in 1891 and finally Ellen R. (Ella) in 1893.

Buckshot did what he needed to do to hold onto, and improve his land... even going to Montana for awhile to work in the mines. Ellen, and the children as they got older, worked hard to keep the farm going.

As soon as he could, Buckshot built a modest frame home on the northeast edge of his land. He built a strong barn, and there was a windmill between the two. He also bought more land, eventually doubling the size of the farm.

Undated photograph of the homestead, showing the barn, which is gone now.

As adults, most of the children, including my grandfather, left the family farm and scattered across the midwest.

Johnnie went to Omaha where he worked as a steel worker. He married and had two daughters, Irene and Vern (?). After he retired and was widowed, he moved back to Greeley and helped Annie run a retirement home.

Anna (Annie) taught for many years in the country schools around Greeley, in her later years she ran a retirement home in town. After she retired she lived with Buckshot in the big house in town. After he died, she mortgaged her house in town and used the money to "pay on indebtedness and mortgage that was against the farmland" to save the family farm.

Johnny, Annie and Great-Grandpa (Buckshot) Cannon in undated photo

James left the farm to work in the mines of Montana. He never married.

Thomas followed his brother to Montana, where he also worked as a miner. He left the farm when he was 19, and only returned to the farm twice during his lifetime. He also never married.

Patrick served in WWI, and spent time as a POW. There is some mystery about Patrick... In one very complete history of Greeley families (put out by the Catholic church in town), it is written that Patrick never returned from the war. But I found an obituary for him stating that he died in 1944 in Mojave, California. He never married. I wonder about the story behind that discrepancy, it's something I'm going to try to learn more about.

Agnes was widowed young, with two small children... She lived in Greeley and at different times, ran the town general store and, with her brother Pete, ran a dance pavilion. Agnes was JM's grandmother.

William, my grandfather was known in town as Willie. As an adult he went by his middle name, Steve. He also left the farm. He married Anna (Hartman) in 1913, and worked as a barber in several small town before settling in the sand hills of Nebraska... 300 or so miles west of the homestead. It was there that my dad was born in 1918.

Johanna married and lived in Pierre, South Dakota. She had one daughter, Helen...

Pete served in WWI, but stayed close to Greeley once the war was over... running the dance pavilionwith Agnes, and working the family farm. He never married.

Ella married and also stayed close to Greeley. She and her husband Hayes, lived on the family farm for years... they had two children, Ted and Joan.

In about 1913 Buckshot and Ellen retired from the farm and built a beautiful house in town.

Ellen only lived there a few years before becoming ill with "stomach troubles". She died in 1918.

In his later years, during the depression, Anna lived with Buckshot in the house in town and they took in boarders to make ends meet. Buckshot lived there until his death in 1938... he was 94.

Johnny and Buckshot in undated photograph

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mudday... I mean Wednesday

We woke up Wednesday morning to rain... It wasn't pouring, but it was definitely wet out. I made myself wait until 8:30 to call JM (my cousin)... I was hoping she'd remember my phone call of a week or so before, and have time to get together with us.

She did, and she did... so the kids and I quickly packed up and headed back to Greeley Center.

JM gave me directions for getting to her house (she lives in town) and they were definitely not what I'm used to pulling up on mapquest... The directions I wrote down went something like this: "Follow the highway north to the old Scotia Road, turn there, go up a hill and turn again on the other side of the curve. My house is the first one on the other side of the trailer and the empty bins."  The directions included only one highway number,  and no road numbers, street names or her address.

I was confident as I set off though, and except for a little confusion about which "Scotia Rd" I should turn on (she wasn't talking about the road identified on the highway as leading to Scotia, she was talking about another one...) I found her house easily. JM was lovely, warm and welcoming, and since M and R had been forewarned earlier about the need for "best behavior", they sat quietly in her living room giving JM and I the opportunity to look over the wealth of information she has about our family history. She has MUCH more than I had and several times I had to ask her to stop and explain how certain people were related, or what year we were talking about.

Before long it was lunchtime and we all went to a great little cafe in town for lunch and more conversation. JM, who has lived in town all her life, and is descended from pioneer families on both sides, knew everyone of course... there were a couple of curious glances toward us, but no one asked who we were. (I was guessing though that us being in town was "news" to a minor degree... While we were at JM's house, she got two phone calls... each time, after saying hello, she answered in response to a question the caller asked "Yes, they are here now..".)

I'm pretty sure we were "they".

After lunch we headed over to the sheriff's office to make copies of some of JM's family history papers... It took a long time so M and I (R didn't want to come in) visited with the dispatcher (I'm guessing that's her job) and her brother, and one of the deputies, and a few other people who wandered through. When MM, the dispatcher, heard that we were going out to the homestead she told us to be careful not to get stuck in the mud. She asked if I was used to driving on dirt roads... and I said yes, we live on a dirt road and would be fine.

My mother would have called those "famous last words".

After finishing up the copies and looking at a small historical display in the courthouse (where the sheriff's office is), we decided to make a quick trip to the cemetery and then head out to the homestead. JM joked that we'd better visit the cemetery first, just in case we got stuck trying to get to the homestead and couldn't get back.

The cemetery was quiet and beautiful, and the rain had stopped some time before, so we all got out and visited my great-grandparent's grave.

(This picture was taken on a different, sunny, day.)

My great-grandparents had 11 children and all lived to adulthood except one... Augustine... who only lived 10 months. I was especially moved by the stone they put up for him. It's, by far, the oldest one in our family area of the cemetery and I was glad I got to see it and make a rubbing.

Next stop was the homestead, and I couldn't wait to get there! We headed south from town a ways, then west on a dirt road. My car was doing fine, there was gravel on the road and it really wasn't all that muddy (our neighborhood gets much worse during rain storms). I was feeling pretty good (and somewhat underestimated) as we turned south... the car was still moving along well... and JM pointed west and said we might be able to see the homestead across that cornfield. We looked carefully and did find what looked a tiny gray building (or buildings) a mile or so away... It was so foggy though that we couldn't get a good view of them.

(Here is the homestead as seen from across the cornfield, it's the tiny gray building just to the left of center. This picture was not taken Weds, it had been too foggy to get a good photo of it then.)

We drove south for a mile or so (going around the perimeter of the cornfield) then JM told me to take a right onto a different dirt road. Unfortunately, this road didn't have any gravel on it... and it was down in a bit of a hollow... and there were two pieces of barbed wire laying across it. As soon as I turned the corner, I knew this was too muddy for my car, and started to tell JM that I thought we were going to have to turn around. At the same time I saw the barbed wire and tried to steer around it (BIG mistake)... I realized how big a mistake this was when I felt my back tires slipping in the deeper mud on the side of the road and we slid sideways off the road and the car stopped.

I wasn't too stressed at first, I'd just back up (or pull forward) or something and get moving again. The mud was just a couple of inches deep... it couldn't be that hard to get out.

I tried to go backwards first. I tried so hard to back up that the tires were flunging mud all the way over the top of the car and splattering it on the windshield and hood.

Then I tried to go frontwards and only managed to slip closer to the newly plowed cornfield I was sitting on the edge of.

Hmmm... now this was a problem. M was falling apart in the back seat, and I was trying to calm him down before he did something that scared JM. (Being stuck in a vehicle with M when he's out of control can be VERY scary!) I considered walking out, but JM uses a cane and there was no way she could walk, through the mud, the few miles back to the nearest road (that is traveled)... and I didn't think anyone was likely to drive by for days... at least.. so sitting and waiting for help wasn't a good option either.

I picked up my cell phone and asked JM who would be a good person to call. At first she didn't believe I was really stuck, but finally told me I should probably call the sheriff's office and get D's number and he could probably pull us out.

She gave me the sheriff's number and I picked up my cell phone only to find I had no service. (A pox on verizon, it never has service when I really need it!) Luckily JM's phone had service, so I called the number she gave me.

Unfortunately, it was the bank... not the sheriff.

I asked for D's number anyway... (It's a small town, I figured they knew him).. but they didn't have it. They did give me the sheriff's number though.

I called the sheriff and MM answered. I told her who I was and said that we were stuck in the mud.

She said, "You're kidding, right?"

I said no but I wished I was...

She said she wasn't sure where D was but she'd see if she could find him and she'd send him over as soon as she could. Then she asked where we were...

I'd only been in Greeley a few hours but I already knew I could answer that question without knowing a single road number or street name. I told her we'd turned off on the road that goes to H's place, then headed south and were now on the south edge of a newly plowed corn field.

She said she knew just where we were, and that D would be there shortly.

Sure enough D was there within about 15 minutes... with a big Ford truck and an even bigger grin on his face as he looked at my poor minivan stuck in the mud.  He pulled us backwards, then pulled us forwards, and the mud flew around like crazy...and finally we were out... with the only damage done being the churned up mess that had been the road.

We followed D's truck back to town to his shop. I asked what I owed him and he said nothing.

I had to talk him into taking anything at all...

It was getting late in the afternoon by then, so we dropped JM off at home with plenty of thanks and sorrys (for putting her through such a wild afternoon!) and we headed back to St Paul.

I was very disappointed not to have been able to make it to the homestead...  I'd come so far to go there, and to be so close but not be able to get to it was hard. My mood was a perfect match to the gray and overcast day.

We grabbed a quick dinner in St Paul, went back to the motel, and the kids got ready for bed and settled down for a Hannah Montana marathon on the Disney channel...

I fell asleep long before they did.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The beginning of the trip...

... was dicey, and honestly... the trip itself almost didn't happen.

I always have to work around M's weekly blood draw, I must be at home for that, so I'd planned to draw blood on Monday... our regular blood draw day... quickly get his prescription refilled (which can't be done without the blood draw) and be ready to leave first thing Tuesday morning.

But the weather wasn't looking good... We were under a winter storm watch with up to 18" of snow possible Tuesday night into Wednesday. I knew we could beat the snow if we left Tuesday morning... but was it fair to Joe to leave him to take care of all the animals, with a big snow on the way? The snow was supposed to be heavy and wet, and Joe would have to shovel his way out to the barn to be able to feed. The thought of him here, alone, shoveling a ton of heavy snow made me nervous.

He reassured me that he'd be fine... but we decided he'd feed Murphy and Tucker extra Tuesday night, and... if need be... wait until the worst of the storm was over before going out to the barn on Wednesday.

(I don't normally advocate not feeding my animals regularly... but thought it was a better plan than Joe dropping dead trying to shovel a heavy spring snow!)

Something else was making me nervous though too, and wondering if we should stay home... It was M. He'd been not-so-stable the week before the trip, and his stomach still wasn't right. I wondered how he'd ever manage all the hours in the car, the new places, different foods, etc.

After thinking about it though, I decided I had to go. If I waited for the perfect time for the trip, I'd never go. So come hell or high water...or snow storms, tornado warnings (yes, there was one of those along the route too), psychiatric instability, or GI problems... we were leaving Tuesday early.

The trip out was long... I was trying to beat the bad weather, so we just drove straight through...  stopping as little as possible. It was hard to speed right on by all the neat little museums we passed along the way... and I tried to remember the ones that looked especially interesting, hoping we could stop on the way back home again.

We took highway 76 through northeastern Colorado, then picked up US 80 heading east. It followed the Platte River for miles upon miles, and it was just beautiful... everything looked so green compared to home. Our pastures are just now starting to green up, and nothing here was blooming when we left.

We had originally planned to stay in Kearney that night, but things were going so well that we decided to just keep going. We made it to Grand Island by early afternoon and turned north... heading for St Paul (Nebraska, not Minnesota), the closest town to the homestead that had a motel.

As we drove through Grand Island, I talked to the kids about their great-great-grandfather walking all the way there from the homestead (about 50 miles), to work. It was hard to imagine making the 50 mile walk he made to see his family back at the homestead... sometimes he even stopped in St Paul, about the halfway point, to pick up a bag of flour... carrying it the rest of the way home on his shoulder.

Once we got to St Paul, the plan was to check in to our motel, find some dinner, and just relax for the rest of the evening... I thought we'd wait and go the rest of the way into Greeley the next day (Weds.).

It would have been the sensible thing to do...

But I'm not known for being sensible, and I just couldn't wait... We were only 25 miles from the homestead, and although I knew I couldn't find it by myself, I really, really wanted to drive up there... to see the land and the town.

So...after we found our motel and checked in, grabbed something to eat at a little diner in town, and with M grumbling and insisting he couldn't manage another minute in the car... we got back in the car and headed north again.

It was still light, and the evening was overcast.. and there was a soft mist in the air. I thought a lot about my great-grandparents as I drove. They were both immigrants from Ireland, my great-grandfather arrived in 1870, married my great-grandmother in 1871, and they lived in Boston for awhile before deciding to head west in 1877. The land I drove through was exceptionally beautiful... soft rolling hills, some partially hidden in fog, tiny ponds dotting the low areas... with deep green patches of trees keeping them company...

I wondered if it had reminded my great-grandparents a little of Ireland.

I wondered if that was part of the reason why they stayed... working so hard to farm the land and help settle the area.

As we got close to the town (a village really) I wondered if any of the land we were passing through had been part of the homestead. I took pictures, but didn't stop...

We got to the town, and as we drove through the village of Greeley Center, I was impressed by what a nice tidy little place it is. It's still a living, vibrant community... I was happy to see that it didn't have the gray, small-town-on-it's-way-out atmosphere that so many tiny towns in the midwest seem to struggle with... with their blocks of boarded up buildings, vacant lots overgrown with weeds and soda cans, and an almost palpable sense of hopelessness about the future hovering over it all.

No, Greeley Center was different, and the difference was clear from the first sign on the highway...

I was hoping JM, my long lost cousin, wasn't one of the "crabs" ;).

We didn't stop anywhere, or stay in town very long (M was still griping about how he couldn't stand one more second in the car, and I know not to push my luck tooooo far!), so after just a few minutes in Greeley, I turned the car around and headed back to St Paul and an evening of endless, mindless, motel-supplied Disney channel. (We don't have cable, so the kid's tend to OD on the Disney channel any opportunity they get!)

So.. that was Tuesday... all in all a nice, if somewhat uneventful, day. Wednesday ended up being a lot more exciting.

making plans...

When M and R were younger, we took awesome field trips...

On our Oregon Trail field trip, we drove into central Nebraska and followed the Oregon Trail west into Wyoming... stopping at all the places of historical note along the way. We liked that field trip so much we did it twice... stopping at Chimney Rock, Scotts Bluff, Register Cliff, Fort Laramie, etc. On another field trip we headed south, through the Great Sand Dunes, then on to Mesa Verde and Four Corners.

We really loved road trips, and the kids always learned so much from them...

Anyway... we used to take these great major field trips a couple of times a year, but then M's schizophrenia started getting in the way. He needed weekly blood draws (still does!) but even more importantly, he'd become so unpredictable... and his pdoc just threw fits every time we left town. And she was probably right to worry, we did have a couple of scary situations... being hundreds of miles from home, just me and the kids, and M's sz would start thrashing it's ugly self around... forcing us to drop all our plans and scurry for home (and psychiatric care!) as fast as we could go.

So we stopped taking our wonderful field trips... The kids and I missed them, but M was too unpredictable to make it through even a two hour car trip, so a long trip seemed impossible.

Then, about a month ago, my beloved 17 year old Toyota Previa died (at 200,000 + miles!) and I had to buy a new (to me) car. I bought a Kia Sedona, and it came with a DVD player.

Hmmm... a DVD player in the car opened up all sorts of possibilities... like M being settled enough (compliments of DVD induced-sedation) to really go someplace.

To go on a field trip like the kind we used to make.

I knew just where I wanted to go...

I wanted to go to Nebraska and find my great-grandfather's homestead.

I'd done my research and knew *approximately* where it was... but I knew I would need help if I was ever going to find it's exact location.

Fortunately, my sister knew of a distant relative who still lived in the part of Nebraska where great-grandpa homesteaded... and happened to have her phone number.

I called "JM" (who, as it turns out, is my cousin many times removed) and she said she thought she knew where the homestead was... and could probably take me there.

(I can't tell you how excited I was to hear that!)

So I made my plans... The primary purpose of the trip was to visit the homestead, or whatever was left of it, and bring home a shovelful of dirt... I wanted just a tiny bit of the land that meant so much to my great-grandparents. The land they worked with almost superhuman strength and endurance, raised 11 children on, and grieved the loss of one child on. The land that took care of their family for decades, even as they, and later their children, took care of it.

I also wanted to see their house in town (the one they built after they retired from the farm), and visit the town cemetary and make some rubbings of the old family gravestones. I'd originally planned to follow my family's "generational trail" west from the homestead... visiting the town my grandfather moved to after leaving the farm... the town my dad was born and raised in. But the weather report was HORRIBLE for that part of Nebraska (rain and cold for the whole week) so I decided not to extend the trip... We'd spend more time at the homestead (just outside Greeley Nebraska) and save the rest of the trip for later.

Any free time we had would be spent at little museums or historical sites we ran into along the way...

The kids and I (and R's dog Cody) left Tuesday and got home yesterday, and the trip turned out to be quite an adventure.

My next few blog entries will be about family stuff and our trip. They might not be very interesting to most people, but I thought my siblings would enjoy it... and it will be a good record for me too.

If you don't want to read all about our trip to a town of only 500 people, you might want to skip reading my blog for awhile.

I'd understand... ;)

Woodstone Prairie will return to it's regularly scheduled programming in a few days.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where we are now...

Out of town.

This trip was my Mother's Day gift to myself...

More later.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Where are we?

Sheila left a comment on my guest book page yesterday asking where we live..

She wrote: " I don't know that I've noticed if you've mentioned where you live. Do you mind revealing the state?  I always tell my husband how it snows there allllll the time. Something we don't get here in north Florida"

I do try to avoid saying exactlywhere we live, ever since I had some (minor) problems with a blog stalker a few years ago (when I blogged on Xanga). I do believe my "stalker" is long gone though, and don't mind telling you we live in Colorado. We are east of the mountains, on the far north edge of the Palmer Divide area. Our elevation is about 6,300' (which is why we get all that snow. :) )

Thanks Sheila for stopping by and "signing" my guestbook!

So... guess what I spent way too much time doing yesterday?

Yeah, I got the guitar out (for just a few minutes, of course)... and then I got the banjo out (I had to... to see how/if something I was doing on the guitar would translate to the banjo)... and then I wanted to try just a couple more things... and then I needed to practice them (for just a few minutes)... and one thing kind of led to another.

One of the wonders of the internet is all the free music online...

 I did get dinner made though. ;)

I guess it could be worse... At least I'm not wasting endless hours watching daytime TV! :)

It's a medical sort of day today... We have to be at Children's Hospital this morning for an MRI, and M sees the pdoc later in the day.  I'm going to put the banjo and the guitar back into their cases, and hide the music away so I'm not even tempted...

I've got too much to do today to get sidetracked.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oh deer!

It's been warm and sunny so far this week, and my perennials are growing quickly...

The deer have also been around though, which means I have to protect my flowers or they'll eat them all!

The ate all the blooms off my pansies a week ago or so, but luckily pansies are tough little flowers and are already blooming again. (See the stem with no flower in the foreground of the picture? ...a leftover from last week's deer "pruning".)

I try to remember to spray my flowers frequently with this...

... the deer really don't like the smell and it keeps them from eating the flowers down to nothing.

I do love the deer though, and never get tired of watching them...

They are still shedding out the last of their winter coats and look a little shaggy.

In about another month it will be time for this year's fawns to be born.

Last year there were two set of twin fawns born close by. Sadly the mother of one of the sets died just a few months later... the babies were old enough that they survived... following the other twin mother around. I'd watch that doe, with the four fawns following her, crying...trying to nurse... and feel sorry for her...

I can't imagine trying to nurse quadruplets!

Monday, May 3, 2010



May 3, 2010

Outside my window... the day is warm, with little trace of the snow, wind, hail, and fog we had last week. I've been watching a couple of pigeons (mourning doves?) sitting on the wire outside the window, grooming themselves and each other.

I am thinking... about the "field trip" the kids and I are taking next week, and hoping it goes well.

I am thankful for... what's been a good day so far, and the return of the sun and warmth.

From the learning rooms...I was so excited the other day when R used the word "din" correctly in her conversation. Picking up new vocabulary  is a difficult thing for her, and we've been using Wordly Wise for a long time, hoping it would help with her vocabulary skills. It was amazing to see her take a word she'd learned in a recent lesson, and transfer it into regular conversation!

From the kitchen... I'm still having to be very careful about what M eats (which means the rest of us are on a somewhat restricted diet too), but little by little I've been able to add some foods back. I'll be so thankful when he can just sit down and eat the way he used to!

I am creating... still playing around with my banjo. I practice a little each day, working on the banjo until it gets too frustrating, then picking up my guitar for awhile.  I'm not sure which one I like the better... I think it depends on the day.

I am going... to stay home this afternoon and get school done, regardless of how much the kids would rather run around town.

I am reading... all sorts of things. :) I've picked up Undaunted Courage again (Lewis and Clark have met up with the Shoshones, traded for horses, and are starting what will be the last leg of their journey to the Pacific). The kids and I just finished our read-aloud The Penderwicks (a wonderful book!) and are starting A Wrinkle In Time this evening. I'm also blasting through Not Lost Forever, an quick, easy read about a young girl who survives a horrific crime.

I am hoping... we get through Thursday's MRI without any trauma (or drama)

I am hearing... the quiet murmuring of the book on CD M is listening to. The kids are in quiet time...

Around the house... the focus has moved outside. We got the pasture harrowed yesterday, and Joe started rototilling the big garden. I need to get fertilizer on the grass in the back yard, turn the soil in the little kitchen garden, and re-do the fencing out there so Lili (the chicken) can't get in and peck my plants.

One of my favorite things... new buds on the fruit trees, lilacs getting ready to bloom... springtime in general.

A few plans for the rest of the week... same old stuff, blood draw, pick up meds, riding lessons, and PT for M. We also need to be at TCH on Thursday, and are looking forward to ending the week with a long overdue, much anticipated, lunch with Granny.

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