Sunday, July 5, 2015

The 4th with Friends

Well, the title isn't quite accurate. It was actually the 3rd, but for us it was our 4th of July celebration cause we just drove on the real 4th. So just play along with me and let it be the 4th with friends. It has a better ring anyway.

We left the house Tuesday last week. With it being a holiday week, things weren't ideal as far as loads. Independence Day wasn't till Saturday, but a lot of stuff was closing on Friday. So we ended up with a long weekend.

There were 2 good things about so much time to get our weekend load to it's destination. First, we have been able to take our time getting over here, and ease back into work, rather than hitting it hard and exhausting ourselves right off.

And as it so happened, the route took us through the part of Nebraska where Malcolm did a lot of his growing up, and right past the home of some friends. So Malcolm gave them a call and since they were going to be home, we planned to stop and visit.

These guys are more than just old family friends. They also are involved in trucking, hauling cattle around the mid-west mostly. So Malcolm stays in touch with them, visiting on the phone frequently, and we occasionally run into them out on the road.

These guys stay really busy. They are either on the road, or bustling around the ranch working. This weekend they were busy hauling in their hay, and working on stuff at home. We arrived just in time to hop in the pickup and go check cows with Boyd.

It was maybe a 30 minutes drive I guess, out away from everything. Out to the quiet where you can hear the wind in the prairie grass, and the meadowlarks, and the Earth. We drove the pickup out to the pasture, and then the guys took the horses out to check the cows...

...while I chose to soak in the peace and quiet. I was offered the chance to go on the ride out, but I was wearing sneakers instead of boots and figured the guys would enjoy the time more like this.

Don't feel sorry for me. The chance to walk out across the pasture, all alone, and just soak it in is awesome!!! I used to do that all the time when we lived in Montana. I haven't had the chance to stand in the midst of the grass and be the only living soul in sight in almost 3 years!!! It was like spreading a soothing balm on the skin.

I walked around a bit, admired some flowers, got exited about finding a prickly pear cactus in bloom...
...admired the explorations and singing of a lark bunting. I've missed those little birds, and he sang me several long choruses of their beautiful song. And I found a good spot to just sit in the grass and let the sun bake my head and feel the Earth. Tennessee is wonderful and beautiful and I have no doubt that God has set us there because we belong there. But there is nothing like being out on the prairie, and I'm pretty sure it will always own part of my soul.

My favorite picture from the day:
These were blooming here and there. I dug around on the internet the day after our visit and I think they are probably "Prickly Poppies."

I did finally get on the horse just as they guys finished riding back in from checking the second group of cows. Sneakers or not, I couldn't pass up the chance to get on a horse, even it was only for a few minutes.

Back at the house, Jarred had got some ribs going on the smoker and the guys fixed us an awesome dinner! It was one of the best meals we've had in a while, including what I cooked at home. Boyd's youngest son, and his girlfriend joined us too, and we all sat around visiting while the ribs cooked.

After dinner, we visited a bit longer, and then it was time to get going. All in all, it was a delightful way to spend the day. You can't beat good company in a pleasant environment, doing things you enjoy doing, and coming home to some great food!

So a big thanks to Boyd and Jarred for a wonderful day! It was a treat! Maybe one of these days they will get down to Tennessee and we can return the favor!

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Home is where the heart is, truly! I enjoy our time on the road, and when we are home, there are certain aspects of our road life that I miss. But deep down, and always, my heart is at home.

We've been here since the end of May. We came home for first cutting of hay. See, we truck for a living, but both our hearts are more in farming. And so what started as cutting a little hay for our horses turned into a side business which gives us an outlet for our love for farming.

We bale enough round bales to meet our needs,

and then we square bale the rest and put it up for sale.

We've learned that first cutting can be tricky because it's still raining quite a bit here in June. Last year we had a hard time getting the hay up before it got rained on. So this year, we sat back and tried to take things slower. It meant a longer haying period, but we succeeded in getting all our hay ground put up rain free! And maybe to some that seems like not a big deal, but considering how the weather goes around here, I feel like we accomplished something grand! And even better, we sold almost all of it, so we have very little to store in the barn. Best of all, we already have orders for most of second cutting in August! There is a demand for square bales and not many people putting them up around here anymore, which works in our favor. And we're starting to have repeat customers. Our goal is to eventually have it all sold in pre-orders before it's even cut. And we're almost there!

With the rain that was coming and going, we'd get a field or two cut, dried, baled and picked up, and then have a few days before we could cut the next one. So we filled our time with other pursuits. Malcolm worked on the equipment, tinkered in his shop, and enjoyed relaxing in the evenings.

I have spent the days doing all the things I love and enjoy and dream about while I'm driving. I worked in the flower beds, pruning, weeding, planting, and admiring.
bee balm - mom gave me a little bit from her garden last year and now I have a large patch of it
I worked on and finished a quilt top that I had started this winter. And enjoyed that so much that I've been fiddling with a couple other quilt projects that I had started over the years and not yet finished.

We had guests a few times, for lunch, for the day, and some special girls and their grandparents came and stayed overnight, enjoying much farm fun during their time here.

When we got home the weather was unseasonably cool for early summer, and I was outside as much as possible. And then it immediately turned unseasonably hot for early summer, and I stayed indoors as much as possible, sneaking out to soak in the rare moments of comfortable air.

And of course I spent lots and lots of time enjoying the horses. I miss them when we are gone, so even just standing and looking at them makes me very happy. I seem to do that a lot.

One of the most exciting things that happened around here this month is that Duke bred the mares! I'm pretty positive that Reba is bred. Fancy came back in heat after breeding and Duke didn't seem to have much interest in her the second time around. So she may still be open, but I'm hoping they took care of business when I wasn't watching. Time will tell! Either way I'll be happy. I'd love to have a Fancy foal again, but I'm really eager to see a Reba baby! It will be her first, and she should foal sometime around May 19. It's going to be a long 11 months of waiting for me!

Can't you see the pretty babies standing in this picture in your imagination? If Fancy foals it will be prettily painted for sure. She's homozygous for the tobiano gene. So I'll get a painted baby from her regardless. With Duke and Reba it's a little trickier. They both are half paint/half quarter horse. (for those that don't know, you can breed American Paint horses to Quarter horses or Thoroughbreds and still register the foals as American Paint horses. All American Paint horses are descended from "crop out" quarter horses and thoroughbreds, or horses that were not allowed in those registries because they were born with unwanted white markings. But some people liked those markings and started their own registry, which became the American Paint horse breed. So all American Paint horses are essentially quarter horse and thoroughbred descendants. Now you know...maybe more than you cared about.)
So back to what I was saying....trickier with Duke and Reba's foal. They each carry a solid gene and a paint gene, and each will contribute one or the other to the foal. So we could end up with a solid baby. What I'm hoping for is a roan paint! That would be my first favorite choice. But we all know that when that baby hits the ground, I'm going to love it no matter what it looks like.

All this stuff we've been doing has been so fun. But one of the best and most important things we've kept busy with was spending time with family. June has been an eventful month for our family. I haven't shared on here yet about what's been going on, and I may do that at some point, but I'll keep it brief for now.

First, my nephew was born in March with some rather serious heart defects that needed attention. He had his first open heart surgery at 9 days old and it went well. The surgeon had planned to wait till he was 2 or 3 years for his second heart repair surgery, but Tyson wasn't able to wait that long. So on June 18th he had his second surgery. It was a tad scary and known to be risky, but it went really well and the recovery has been amazing and just a little over a week later, he's about to go home! Praise God! I'd got to visit him once when he was just a few weeks old. And mom and I drove to Nashville the week before his second surgery to visit and I got to hold him for the first time. Me and this kid are going to have a lot of fun together!
a great big thank you to the staff at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital for all your love, caring, and hard work to save this boy's life!

The day we arrived home, actually still on our way home that morning, we got the news that my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and that it was aggressive and the whole first couple weeks was kind of overwhelming with information and how fast they dove into treating it and just everything. We hadn't really ever been through anything like this in our family before. It's been a lot at once. But Mom's doing really great, the chemo is working like it's supposed to, and there's been more good news than bad recently. So where I had planned to stay home when it was time to go back to work, I feel comfortable now heading back onto the road with Malcolm. And I know if I'm needed, he can get me back here in good time.

I have two links for you. If anyone who reads this wants to keep up with my nephew's story and progress, my sister is keeping everyone updated through her blog, My Lens on Life

And my mom had started a new blog right before her diagnosis. She planned to write about her gardening and other activities, but now she's added to it and is writing about her journey with cancer. Her blog is Rabbit Valley Gardner.

Our house has it's centennial birthday sometime this year. We don't know when it was built exactly, just that it was 1915. We've started a Facebook page for the farm where we can share a few pictures, and let people know when we have hay available for sale, or other things of interest. If you want to, check out Thatch Farm on Facebook, just follow the link.

It's almost time to get breakfast and then get ready for church. That's another thing we've been doing while home. I've missed and longed for a church family for years. Growing up we always attended services and Sunday school nearly every week. It was a big part of my childhood and I benefited from it tremendously. We've visited a few churches off and on, more off than on, through the years. But this year I decided that I really needed church! And right about that same time, we went to one fairly close to home and it just feels right to be there. Sunday morning is something I look forward to all week, and I know I'll miss it when we're on the road. I enjoy so much the opportunity to worship our Lord with other Christians, and also to fellowship. That's something I want to do more of. Now that we think we've found the church where we belong, I'm looking forward to getting to know the people better, to building some relationships and friendships, and getting involved, at least as much as I can when I'm here.

So I'm off to fix something to eat, and start this beautiful day. Church, lunch, visiting with family, and then it's time to pack the truck because the road is calling us back out. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cloudy Skies

Busy is the word to describe the last two weeks, which is a blessing and what we were hoping for. But it means I become a slacker in other areas, especially updating this blog.

Not much of interest to share now either. Just the two of us, sitting in a parking lot, waiting for a call and a load. We are in Virginia and hope to work our way home from here. Time to start haying! More importantly, just plain time to go home for the sake of our sanity.

I do have some pictures to share though.
A week ago today, we were loading in Oklahoma. And it was a week ago on Wednesday, that they had all those nasty storms and tornadoes. And Thursday was still rather rocky in the weather department.

We started our day in Fort Smith, AR delivering, and the skies didn't look too friendly as we were pulling out.

Maybe for most, the potential for bad weather is a cause for concern, but I'm weird in that I'm a bit of a nut for storms! The sight of ominous gray clouds gives me a little adrenaline rush, although, I was hoping for smooth sailing. I wanted to admire while making good time. 

A little ways into Oklahoma and it was looking more promising for an easy ride.
We loaded fertilizer in Muskogee and after getting some fuel and food in Billings, OK, Malcolm went to bed and I headed north into Kansas. 

I was deep into my audio book when I reached Wichita and things turned ugly.
Seems like if I get into bad weather, it likes to happen when I'm also getting into traffic. So here at this point, I got off the toll road and headed up through Wichita, right on the cusp of the going home rush. The temperature dropped 17 degrees in a mile and a half, and the buckets fell out of the sky at about the same time. To add to all this pleasurable fun, the windows fogged over and the defroster chose that moment to go on one of it's strikes (it's a problem we've been trying to figure out and finally have it fixed that we probably won't need it for several months). 
So there I am, thickening traffic, torrential down pour, completely fogged over windows, my driver and passenger side windows rolled down half way trying to compensate for a failing defroster, and my face getting pinging with pea size hail and rain water. Such fun!

 Not so much of a storm lover at that moment! 

Fortunately it was one of those intense but short deals. A few miles later I had gotten north of it. It looked a lot uglier in my mirrors but I couldn't get pictures of that. Storms seem to look a lot more nasty on their backsides than when your in front, as I would rediscover later in the day.

Onward we roll, because we are more determined to get the job done that even the post office. You know that whole "neither snow or rain or wind or flu...." however it goes. Yeah, that's Johnson Trucking's motto. Sometimes I question it's logic.

About a half hour later I was off the interstate and on the two lanes, and on a route I'd never taken which is always a thrill for me, as I shared in the previous post. It doesn't happen that much anymore!

It was still over cast, but patchy, and I was thinking, "I'm in the clear." Then the road would turn and I'd think, "not so clear." Then another turn, and ....those two lanes wind quite a bit even when they look straight on the map. So it was back and forth in my mind for a while as I watched two more little rain storms in the distance, trying to judge whether or not I was going to get rained on or not.
Really didn't look like much. I figured if I did end up under it, I'd just get wet and it would be brief. No big deal.

But a little further down the road I was still trying to guess if I was going to get into it or not, and it was looking a tad bit more like a little bit bigger deal.
And there was this AWESOME pull off just ahead of where I took this picture, right on the lake, with room for a truck or three to fit, and I was DYING to park and do a little storm watching. But I really didn't want to disturb Malcolm because he'd been so tired when he went to bed. 

So onward, ever onward.

 I had just skimmed the north side of the storm clouds and right as I was getting around behind them, right as I was reaching the intersection where I had to turn north which would put the storm out of my line of vision, Malcolm woke up and told me to pull off on the wide shoulder so we could switch drivers. 

It was PERFECT timing!!! Because right as I pulled off on the shoulder, I looked off to the south, but really not that far south, and the sky had done THIS!
Pretty cool isn't it? 
Here's the other end of it.
We stood on the shoulder enjoying the breeze and listening to meadowlarks and cows and admiring this beautiful wicked ugly thing. A few minutes later another truck pulled off and the driver got out to watch and talk to Malcolm. 

I've never seen anything like this. And it kept changing, getting more defined and changing shape.
Little clouds would form almost at the ground, out of no where, and rise up into it. And formations would appear and just as quickly, like blink your eyes quick, they would seem to vanish.
Then this appeared, for about 2 minutes. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but for the first time I have a clear image of what Laura Ingalls Wilder was seeing when she talks in her Little House books about seeing a finger descend from the clouds towards the earth and withdraw. It may not have been the real thing but it looked close enough to it to make me stand there captivated, watching to see what it would do...
...which was disappear into the cloud. Probably for the best.

We probably stood there and watched for a good half hour. The other driver finally drove off, which I appreciated because he'd left his truck running which was drowning out the meadowlarks, and wind whispers, and distant thunder.
I was captivated. I'm probably crazy. I've wanted to see a tornado on the plains for.....forever! (from a safe admirable distance knowing that no one was getting hurt of course) This wasn't the day, but it's about as close as I've ever come. There was so much movement in the clouds. The lower level of that odd line moving one direction, and the upper level moving in the opposite direction, just slowly churning there in the sky. And the whole thing was nearly stationary so we had lots of time to watch. It didn't seem in a hurry to go anywhere, which I suppose means those poor farmers to the south were getting pounded.
It was moving towards the east and was safely south of us, but eventually we were getting hit with an icy cold wind and we were starting to get random little rain drops, so we decided to get in the truck and pull out before the hail arrived. 

It seemed like the drama was winding down anyway. As we pulled away, the clouds were stacking up instead of stretching out, and looked like they were kind of disintegrating.

We were headed north towards Nebraska and the storm was headed east towards Osborn, KS. Hopefully all they got was some rain. 

An hour or so later, we enjoyed a Kansas sunset under mostly clear skies.
And we parked shortly afterwards and went to bed. 

The rest of the weekend, all the way to Washington, was windy, and it snowed on us in Wyoming, which I find rather insulting in May. But I was thankful it was just flurries because I know after we left they got a lot more than that. It was doubly insulting to wake up Sunday morning near Butte to discover it was 23 degrees. Summer is so slow to come out there sometimes. Or rather, Winter fight a long, but thankfully losing, battle to hang on. 

So, now you know. I'm an idiotic storm watcher who stands on the side of the road gawking at violent storm clouds and just barely containing my giddy joy. Didn't get to see a prairie tornado this time, but it may still happen for me one of these days.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April Showers and Mountain Views

This time last week we were in southern Michigan heading towards our morning delivery destination in Ludington. Since then we've been down to Oklahoma, and then from there into western Colorado and up to Idaho, where we are now sitting. We stayed busy, up till yesterday morning. But this 
weekend is kind of a dud. We did a little piddly load last night, 250 miles across Idaho, and delivered this morning. Now we can't reload till Monday morning over in Oregon. 

But that's OK. A break is nice once in a while, and it give us time to catch up on things that aren't as easy to do when we're hurrying down the road. Things like blogging, and napping which is what's going on at the moment. I'm blogging, and everyone else is napping. This is how I get my "alone" time on the road. Put everyone else to bed and close the curtain between the sleeper and the cab. 

The weather was perfectly cooperative this week. We got to admire the April showers and Spring storms while avoiding being in them. This one was coming up over the Rockies just south of Colorado Springs. 

We were bouncing down to Monte Vista, CO for a morning reload. A little while later, when we got off the interstate and headed west, the clouds and late evening lighting were playing with each other. Evening will always be my favorite time of day for pictures.

The next morning, after loading in Monte Vista, we headed north up the two lanes into the mountains and towards Utah. But before we left the valley, I tried to get a few more pictures. Those crystal clear skies of the evening before had given way to haziness. I only ended up with one I really liked, and I hit the shutter button a split second too soon, so I only ended up with half of the three horses. But I liked the reflection in the water, so I kept it.
Taking pictures while zipping down bumpy roads has it's challenges to be sure. Timing being a big one.

We delivered our Colorado barley in Blackfoot, ID yesterday morning, and then sat most of the day waiting to see what would come up for the weekend. Something eventually did, though not what we had hoped. Still, like I said, weekends like this give us a chance to catch up on other stuff. 

We pulled out of Blackfoot Friday evening and headed down to a fertilizer plant near Soda Springs, ID. On the way there, on US 30, we crossed Fish Creek Summit. It's a spot where the view is awesome, no matter the time of year! I always enjoy that particular view.
Yesterday evening there was some kind of system moving through. We were just behind it, which we appreciated when we noticed the slushy snow in the grass along the wet road. Nice to admire the drama of the storms again while avoiding their effects. Things looked more ominous from the valley floor, but we never got into anything more than an intense, but brief rain shower while we were loading.
Again, evening light....always my favorite. And when it comes to storm clouds, that angle of the evening sun always makes things look so much more dramatic than they really are. And more beautiful!

During all that waiting yesterday, one good thing did happen. A rather awesome thing actually, and the big event of the week that we'd been looking forward to for a long time!
Yesterday we paid off the truck! 

And it feels so good to have that done! One huge step closer to financial freedom!

At the beginning of the year I had told friends that 2015 was going to be a big year for us, and this was part of it. I expect it to just get better as we keep moving forward. 

Four more weeks and then home to hay! Can't wait!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Something New

It's not that often that we get to go down new roads. Not saying that we've traveled all the roads there are to travel. It's just that having been doing this for a number of years, and working with the same broker for most of that, we have lots of customers we haul for, but they tend to be the same ones, or in the same areas. So new roads are rare and a treat.

This past week we were north of Seattle delivering and we had to get over to Wenatchee, WA to pick up apples. We decided to take a shortcut on US 2 across Steven's Pass instead of sticking to the interstates. I was happy about this for 2 reasons: it's such a novelty to get to see new areas, and I'll do anything to avoid Seattle. I simply do not like driving around that city.

So turns out, US 2, or that segment of it, is breath takingly beautiful! It quickly earned it's way onto my top favorite drives list. For my local friends from Chattanooga, it's like the drive up through Ocoee, but about 100 times grander!

We spent the night in Wenatchee with the windows open. I love when the weather is the right temperatures that we can turn the truck off and sleep with the windows open. I didn't think, though, about the three hundred million blooming apple trees that fill the valley there. So I've been battling a bit of an allergy/sinus thing for a few days since. Essential oils to the rescue and I'm finally getting over it!

This was our view as we sat in construction traffic waiting to leave Wenatchee and head to Michigan with our apples.

We could have actually taken US 2 nearly all the way from Wenatchee to the delivery in Michigan. This is one of those loads where things got messed up and we have too much time to get it done. The extra time would have been idea for a 2 lane excursion, but it also provided the time to stop in Billings, MT and pick up some horse mineral I've been wanting to try, and so we decided to stay on the big roads.

I got my mineral and can't wait to get home with 5 more weeks. (I'm dying with impatience to get home, but what's new.)

The weather has treated us quite nicely this trip across. Warm but not too warm, no rain, and the North Dakota wind even treated us decently.

We are down to our last 300 miles, so today we will get around Chicago, and then find a place later this afternoon for the girls to get out of the truck and run.

This next week has to be a faster paced week though. I know when we're busy I complain about being tired, but when we've got so much extra time and we're getting plenty of sleep, I have too  much time and too much brain space to dwell on things I can't do anything about. Right now, my mind is consumed with home and horses. I need to get busy so I won't have time to miss them so much.

Our boys, Sky and Duke! 
And I just realized that if your not one of my Facebook friends, you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Duke yet, so I'll introduce you to him in a later blog post.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Start of April

Hello there! I've been gone a long time. I'm acting on a random impulse to share a few pictures with you. And we will see what comes of it. As I've said before, like a broken record, I want to blog. But when it comes down to it I just can't get motivated.

Now that we live in Tennessee instead of Montana, our loads have switched around a little, and not just because of our location, but also because freight is in a constant state of changing, depending on what the loads are paying. No cheap freight, and all that goes with that.

So lately, one of the places we tend to get loaded at when we're leaving the house and heading out for a round on the road, is a quarry north of Stevenson, AL. It's actually in Tennessee, just barely. It sits, quite literally, just there across the line, as you'll notice in the last picture.

But the point, and what I wanted to share today, is that the last 12 miles of the drive are lovely. Once we head north out of Stevenson, it's a little two lane drive winding through the hills. And when we left home a week ago, the clouds were low, shrouding the hills behind a curtain of mist. I love the Tennessee (and Alabama) hills, especially when they are like this.

Quarries are not pretty places. They tend to be more like ugly scars on the landscape. But this one is pretty hidden, tucked into the valley like it is. And I'm thankful for it because it gives us a good source for loads to get out of the southeast and back into the areas where we do most of our trucking. We generally load ground limestone there, and haul it to a few different places. This time we went to northern Indiana to a fertilizer plant. The limstone is used as the carrying agent for the fertilizer (they coat the limestone grounds with the fertilizer).

It was a pretty decent week last week, at least compared to first quarter, which was pretty slow. We're hoping the following weeks go as well if not better. Time goes by much quicker if we stay busy.
Six more weeks and then we will head home to start haying! As always, we can't wait to get back home.