Spring had come. The warm winds smelled exciting, and all outdoors was large and bright and sweet. Big white shinning clouds floated high up in clear space. Their shadows floated over the prairie. The shadows were thin and brown, and all the rest of the prairie was the pale, soft colors of dead grasses…
The dead grass was so tall and thick that it held up the sod…
“I do believe it’s going to storm,” Ma said, looking out of the window. Laura looked, too, and great black clouds were billowing up in the south, across the sun.
Pet and Patty were coming running from the field, Pa holding to the heavy plow and bounding in long leaps behind it.
“Prairie fire!” he shouted. “Get the tub full of water! Put sacks in it! Hurry!”
Ma ran to the well, Laura ran to tug the tub to it… Ma was pulling buckets as fast as she could. Laura ran to get the sacks that Pa had flung out of the stable.
Pa was plowing, shouting at Pet and Patty to make them hurry. The sky was black now, the air was as dark as if the sun had set, Pa plowed a long furrow west of the house and south of the house, and back again east of the house…
Laura stayed close to the house, She could see the red fire coming under the billows of smoke…Pa was going along the furrow, setting fire to the grass on the other side of it. Ma followed with a wet sack, beating the flames that tried to cross the furrow. The whole prairie was hopping with rabbits…
Pa’s little fire was all around the house now and he helped Ma fight it with the wet sacks. The fire blew wildly, snatching at the dry grass inside the furrow. Pa and Ma thrashed at it with the sacks… they stamped it with their feet. They ran back and forth in the smoke, fighting that fire. The prairie fire was roaring now, roaring louder and louder in the screaming wind. Great flames came roaring, flaring and twisting high. Twists of flame broke loose and came down on the wind to blaze up in the grasses far ahead of the roaring wall of fire. A red-light came from the rolling black clouds of smoke overhead…
Pa’s little fire handmade a burned black strip. The little fire went backing slowly away against the wind, it went slowly crawling to meet the racing furious big fire. And suddenly the big fire swallowed the little one.
The wind rose to a high, crackling, rushing shriek, flames climbed into the crackling air. Fire was all around the house.
Then it was over. The fire went roaring past and away.
Pa and Ma were beating out little fires here and there in the yard…
The air smelled scorched. And to the very edge of the sky, the prairie was burned naked and black… But Pa and Ma were cheerful because the fire was gone and it had not done any harm..
…from Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
We’ve had a very dry late winter here in Lincoln County. We have a burn ban here now. This means there is no burning allowed under any circumstances and that we must bring our trash to town and not burn it.
Fires were a problem on the Kansas prairie for the Ingalls family in the 1870’s. They are a problem for us on the Colorado prairie now, too.
There was a recent fire in the Punkin Center area of Lincoln County that burned 2286 acres of land. It didn’t burn any structures or house, thanks to the heroic efforts of the local fire departments. They say it was started by a smoker tossing out a cigarette. The fire “jumped the highway”, that is went across the paved road, which is actually unusual out here. It is all very scary and unchecked, it could have burnt my little house on the prairie down, too. We are grateful for our fire fighters.
Almost four years ago, there was a fire in our pasture. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the fire departments and neighbors, we were also unscathed. The fire did not touch our house, outbuildings, firewood or garden. We are truly blessed. Now on with our pasture fire story…
Thursday, June 28, 2012, when it was very overcast and had cooled down quite a bit, I went outside with the kiddos to work on my project in the chicken house. (I was working on a stall for the goats. I wanted to be able to keep a few separate for times like this when one [Jade that time] has an injury.) The children were contentedly playing while I checked the chickens, took some clothes in, gave water to all the animals, etc. I happened to notice my closest neighbor drive by my house away from her house. I gathered some of my tools. It got darker and darker.
Suddenly I heard the loudest thunder that I had ever heard in my life. I turned to the children. “We’re going in the house,” I said.
I happened to glance south to the pasture. FLAMES! Straight south of me, my pasture was in flames!
I ran into the house. I intended to get the cordless phone to dial 911, going outside to get the children as I called. I could not find the phone. I tried the corded phone. It was dead. That’s right, the baby had been playing with the phone earlier. I looked for the cordless phone. I couldn’t find it. The pager on the cordless didn’t work, it must have been off the hook, too.
OH… MY… My babies were outside, by the chicken house. I went outside to get them. I saw the pickup in the driveway. It was closest. I ran and grabbed the baby and yelled for my other two to run to the pickup. I literally threw them in the pickup. Snuffles the dog jumped in. The children were on the floor of the cab. The dog was on the seat. The baby was in the car seat, but not strapped in. I took off. I somehow remembered that I had seen my next-door neighbor drive in the opposite direction as her house.
I drove to my next closest neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful-Neighbors-One. I kept hoping that I would see someone drive by that I could flag down to call 911. I did not. As soon as I got to the road that goes to Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful-Neighbors-One’s house, I started honking.
When I got to their driveway, I ran to their house, banged on the door and flung it open. I was frantic. They called 911 for me. They called my in-laws for me. I called Kevin at work. I spoke to the shift commander. I told him that I needed my husband home now, I think. It’s all a blur. Mr. Wonderful-Neighbor-One went to my house to check everything out for me. I called Mrs. Wonderful-Neighbor-Two who lives further down the road. I asked her to come help me with the animals.
I found out later that My-Other-Wonderful-Neighbor had come home, saw the fire and tried to rescue us. “I’m surprised your door is still standing,” the neighbor said. “I banged it that hard.” The neighbor didn’t know we were at the other neighbor’s house.
I felt so helpless. I was at Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful-Neighbors-One’s house. Their dog jumped in my pickup at one point. I had my dog and my children, but I left all my possessions, my van that I had just dropped comprehensive on, my cats, my goats, my chickens, my cows, etc. I didn’t know what to do to fight the fire myself. I thought about dunking the stocktank, getting a hose and all sorts of other crazy things.
Mrs. Wonderful-Neighbor-One offered to stay with the children while I went back. I hopped in the pickup and went back to my house.
On my way, I ran into Mr. Wonderful-Neighbor-One. We stopped in the middle of the road. He said the fire had blown east and they pretty much had it under control. My house was OK. I still went back to the house. I found my father-in-law in my driveway. I must have hugged him forty times. There was at least a fire truck in the pasture. There were some little flames, but not much else.
The Genoa Fire Department came. Mrs. Wonderful-Neighbor-Two came. Some man came with a red pickup and a water tank on trailer. Kevin came home. I hugged him. My father-in-law left to pickup the children from Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful-Neighbors-One’s house . I really don’t remember the order of all of this.
Mrs. Wonderful-Neighbor-Two left once she’d seen that Kevin was here and that the house and animals were OK. Kevin and I went out to the pasture in the pickup. We saw Kevin’s brother, my brother-in-law. Although he doesn’t live close by, he happened to be visiting my in-laws (his parents). He was out there with my father-in-law’s pickup with a trailer hooked to it and a giant water tank on the trailer. Sure I knew my brother-in-law, but there were all these people. It was kind of like giving birth in a hospital- all these people in and out of your room or your pasture.
Kevin left to get a shovel. When he got back, he kept sending me to get him stuff. I got rakes. I got him his farm boots (since he didn’t want to ruin his work shoes). I got water. I got the baby formula and sent it with my father-in-law who had come to get it. I think I was making him nervous as I was trying to put out the little embers with the rake. I was six and a half months pregnant.
On one of my trips back and forth, I drove so quickly through the pasture that I knocked down the spare tire holder thing and was dragging it on the ground. I think that’s the time my father-in-law had come for the formula. He crawled on the ground and put the spare tire holder back up with wire.
On my way back into the pasture, Mr. Wonderful-Neighbor-Three stopped me. “I have your spare tire,” he said. He took it out of his pickup and put it in the back of mine.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m So&So,” he said, using his real name. “I live blah-blah.”
“Oh, you live in the blah-blah-house.” I said. I asked him the ages of his kids, since I knew he had little ones. I told him that since our kids were the same age, we’d have to get them together for a playdate. We still haven’t.
Again the order of exactly what happened when was blurry. Mr. Wonderful-Neighbor-Four happened to own an entire water truck which he brought over. More firemen (and some fire-ladies) came. More neighbors came. I don’t think I even knew who was here, or who they were. I think Kevin knew most of them. I know I asked the red pickup man his name and he told me, but I forgot it. “I know your husband,” he said. We still haven’t figured out his name. I still run into him in town now and then and I mention it to Kevin and he still doesn’t know who I mean.
Mr. Wonderful-Neighbor-Five came over. He had a fire down the road on his land, and he came over to help here when they were done with his fire. All the wonderful neighbors, all the wonderful firemen and fire ladies and my brother-in-law all left.
The smoke was still smoldering in little areas where there were cow manure patties. Kevin and I went around and put them out with the rakes.
I shudder to think about the what-ifs. What if it went towards the house? What if I didn’t see it right away? What if the first time I noticed it it was already in the house? What if my neighbors weren’t home?
The fire was only about a football field away from our house. It blew east, and a little north and south, too. If it had gone north before east it would have taken out our outbuildings, our animals and our house. It didn’t burn our garden or even our firewood. The area burned was on two sides (south and east) of our house. It was about 30 acres-ish burned. I can’t imagine what the results would have been if the fire blew in a different direction, or if my neighbors or firemen weren’t there. Thank you God for your protection. Thank you neighbors and firemen.
|This is looking north… I don’t have any pictures of actual flames…|
|This is looking northwest. Those are our trees…|
|Yucca and cactus don’t burn…|
|Thank you, Hugo Fire Department…|
|Thank you, Hugo Fire Department…|
|My father-in-law’s trailer with the water tank and the Hugo Fire Department…|
|Cactus still doesn’t burn…|
|Some weeds don’t either…|
|Cow manure patties on the other hand burn really well…|
|These are most of the fire trucks when they were just about done…|
|An overview, looking east…|
|The steers seemed pretty excited about eating the yucca. Of course this was after the fire
trucks left and the steers went out the open gate and Kevin had to get them back in…
Although the yucca did not die in the fire, it did die shortly within a year after the fire.
|The cows still seem pretty excited about it…|
|The fire even missed (barely) the wood that Kevin had dragged out there to cut for firewood…|
|On the left you can see our property line with the neighbor. They got a little damage, too.|
|The tire tracks are from the fire department putting the fire out…|
|The fire went almost to the southern border of the property, but did not take out any farm fields there…|
|I think it’s amazing that that little strip of grass didn’t burn…|
Posted in A Day In the Life by Laura with no comments yet.
ALCO in Limon has closed its doors for the last and final time. ALCO was a chain of “general stores” headquartered in Abilene Kansas. They filed for bankruptcy in October 2014 and have now closed permanently.
The best way that I could describe ALCO (in my Jersey experience) was an old-fashioned K-mart, or a K-mart on a smaller scale. They sold a bit of everything and rotated items on sale with a weekly sales paper. They knew that they were no competition for Wal-mart and targeted rural areas where Wal-mart was far away.
The closing of ALCO is detrimental to the rural areas it served. I’m going to use Limon as an example here because that is the location that I’m most familiar with. The closest Wal-mart to Limon is about 60 miles, and the closest area where there are other “real” stores is about 70 miles.
When any place closes, the natural and most frequent commentary is “I feel sorry for those people who lost their jobs.” In a place like Limon, there’s a lot more to it than that. Don’t get me wrong- I feel extremely sorry for the people who lost their jobs. Being out of work stinks, there’s no doubt about that. Even with unemployment compensation, loosing health benefits, 401Ks and opportunities for advancement is detrimental to anyone.
But there’s more. I’m not an economist at all and I have nothing more than two introductory undergraduate economic courses. Remember this as I say what I’m saying here, as my definite un-expert opinion. The closing of ALCO in Limon (or other similar areas) will decimate the area more than the closing of a store in a more developed area. This is a no-brainer. Let’s say, for example, we could figure out the GDP of Limon. How many businesses are contributing to this GDP? The answer is a way smaller number than an area like Denver or New Jersey. Even if you took the great 2 square miles that Limon is and took another 2 square miles of Denver or New Jersey, the GDP of Limon will be radically lower. Even if we took all of Lincoln County’s GDP, can we compare that to, um, the entire State of Delaware, which is even a little smaller geographically? If one store closed in Delaware, would that impact the economy of the state as much as ALCO closing impacts Lincoln County, Colorado? Of course not. My point here is that since there are few businesses in Limon, one business closing will have a greater impact than one business in another place where there are a lot more businesses. It’s simple percentages. ALCO is a higher percentage of the GDP of Limon than another store would be in another area. If we measured the impact of ALCO’s closing in percentages of the economic activity, we could see the real impact.
And there is still more. ALCO’s closing leaves a gaping hole in the community, a hole of where to get stuff. We have a wonderful supermarket in Hugo. We have a Dollar General in Limon. We have some wonderful hardware stores in both communities. We have a drug store in Limon. We have grain elevators. We have some restaurants and even some chain fast food places in Limon. We have a convenience store in both Limon and Hugo. Need an antique vase? We got you covered because we have a plethora beautiful antique stores.
But there is a lot more that is just not sold in this community anymore. Necessities. Let’s say I was in desperate need for a car seat. I used to be able to buy one in ALCO. Now I need to go at least 78 miles to the closest Wal-mart where there used to be car seats for sale a half hour away in ALCO. (I have enough car seats so this is just an example.)What about jeans? Or shoes? These necessities now require a road trip or Amazon Prime. And that doesn’t include other niceties of living in the 21st century, like a blender or a toaster or toys for the kids.
I have AmazonPrime. I have credit cards that I can use to order stuff online. I have a capable fully insured vehicle that I can drive back and forth to the Front Range cities to go to real stores. But what about the people who don’t or won’t? I mean the elderly, the sickly, the poor.They might not have the wherewithal or the stamina for a Marathon Day. ALCO’s closing hits these people the hardest. It’s almost as if ALCO’s closing widens the class-gap. You’ve all heard the term food desert. Maybe we can now call Lincoln County a “stuff desert”.
So, bottom-line, what I’m saying here is that ALCO’s closing is devastating to Limon and the surrounding areas on many levels. Any business closing hurts the local economy, but the impact of ALCO’s closing is so much more to extremely rural areas:
1. It stinks that people have lost their jobs. This is true for any closed business.
2. Because Limon is such a small town with such few businesses, one store closing will have a way bigger impact on the economy than one store closing in an urban or suburban area.
3. ALCO’s closing leaves a gap. Certain goods that were readily available now require a road trip or online ordering, which some people (the poor, sickly, elderly, etc. ) are not capable of.
Posted in A Day In the Life, Touring Eastern Colorado by Laura with no comments yet.
“Now, Laura, you gotta hunker down.”
-my former boss
At one of my previous jobs, my boss would sometimes feel frustrated at my enthusiasm. He was from central Pennsylvania. I never heard the term “hunker down” until I met him, so I don’t know if it was his expression or a central Pennsylvania thing. He’d tell me to “hunker down” often. We had different points of view on a lot of workplace issues, but we got along well.
Now I hear his words echoing in my head at times like this- times when we’re preparing for severe snow storms. We really hunker down, but I think my boss and I have different definitions.
In this blogpost I will give you a quick summary of what we do here at Kevin’s and Laura’s Little House on the Prairie to hunker down when we’re expecting bad weather…
1. We already have flashlights and candles in the house. We don’t use a whole lot of battery-operated things, so we don’t have too many batteries. I have tons on candles.
2. We kind of count on loosing power, and that’s OK. We live a pretty simple lifestyle, so it’s be OK if we lost power for a while. We’ll loose the computer, the oven, the lights, the appliances and the water. That’s OK. We’ll be fine.
3. We prepare for not having water. We shower so we’re good to go there, at least for a little bit. We have some outdoor plastic containers with water that can be used for flushing. We keep bottled water in the house.
4. We put away our vehicles. We have a garage for them all but rarely use them. We put away our vehicles when we’re hunkering down.
5. We feed the critters extra. We give extra food to the goats, pigs and cows. It’s a lot easier to do a quick checkup on them in a blizzard and not have to feed them, too. We give them enough food to last a few days. We make sure they’re all snug. We make a backup plan if we loose power and have baby chicks (which we don’t have right now).
6. We make sure we have plenty of wood. We heat with wood, so loosing power won’t affect us. Our backup heat is a floor furnace, which also doesn’t need electric. We make sure we have a lot of wood next to the front door and in the indoor wood box. We overfill the indoor wood box with enough wood to last as maybe 36 hours, even if the temperatures are cold and we need to constantly feed the wood burning stove. (I have a huge deck box that I keep in my living room for wood. It holds enough wood to get us through blizzards, is durable and not too tacky and keeps all the wood debris and dirt contained.I seriously recommend a deck box like this to anyone else who heats with wood everyday. This deck box is the best I’ve found and I’ve tried a few different indoor wood holding systems.)
7. We have a propane stove. We can use the stovetop to cook without power. We can also cook on top of the wood burning stove. I’ve done this in the past when we used to have an electric stove.
8. We catch up on everything beforehand. I try to be caught up on laundry. I’m never really caught-up-caught-up, but I make sure mostly everything is done and dried before we’re expecting bad weather. Even if we don’t loose power, we don’t use the dryer and we can’t dry clothes on the line outside in a blizzard. We’re a family of seven and laundry is critical. We burn the trash, take out the compost and what-not, too.
9. If Kevin has to work, he prepares to be stuck there. He takes the pickup which has four wheel drive. He packs extra food. We hate for him to be stuck there, but it’s happened before.
10. We’re always really supplied. Living out here, it’s a road trip and an all day adventure to go to real stores. We always have stuff in the house.
What do you do to hunker down? How do you prepare for blizzards?
Posted in A Day In the Life, Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Heating the House, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Laundry, Laura's Little House on the Prairie and tagged blizzard, wood burning stove by Laura with no comments yet.
Friday was the Fourth of July. Hugo, Colorado, the local town, really goes all-out for the Fourth of July.
A relation, who lives in another state, was staying nearby. She went over to my in-laws to visit. I love all the relations, so I look forward to seeing them. My wonderful in-laws invited me over to see her. My oldest son, SonOne, got up and was then groggy. He was just mushy, just not right. He told me his tummy hurt and sure enough, he had to run. At least everything ended up in proper places. I was heartbroken. We missed the relation’s visit.
It must have been an isolated incident. SonOne seemed fine after that one specific incident. We spent the morning hanging out on the couch and reading. I actually kind of enjoyed hanging out like that, even though I hate when my kids are sick. We did go to my in-laws where SomeOtherRelations were visiting by then. I’m glad that I got to see SomeOtherRelations even though I didn’t see the first relation mentioned. We went home and ate lunch. My husband went out to the field. He started cutting wheat. My children napped.
I took the children to town for the “Free Swim” that they had for the Fourth of July. They just went in their bathing suits. (I’m pretty fearful of sunburn, so I make sure all of their shoulders and chests are covered.) When we got there, the pool appeared closed. There was lightning in the distance.
Note to Pool People: When you close the pool, put up a sign. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone and it’s been closed. A sign would be nice so I don’t have to guess.
We were all dressed up with no place to go and in town. I took my kids to the playground. At the playground, I ran into AnotherMother, who was there with her children. She told me that the pool had closed because of the lightning. I unbuckled my oldest four kids and let them go play. I didn’t take the baby out of the van because there were a few drops of rain. I closed the minivan door to make sure the oldest ones were into the playground area. (I had my van pulled right up there. It was not a dangerous situation, FYI.)
I turned around and tried to open the minivan door. Uh-oh. It was locked.
All the doors were locked.
SonThree was locked in the van.
And so was my phone.
I asked AnotherMother to borrow her phone. I first called Kevin to see if he had put a spare key anywhere on the outside of the minivan. Nope. Not yet. We have only had that minivan 11 months.
So I called the Lincoln County Sheriff and explained the situation.
“What’s the call back number?” the dispatcher asked.
“I don’t know. My phone is locked in the minivan, too. I borrowed this phone from someone else. I don’t know the number.”
The dispatcher seemed not to get this.
There has been a lot of stories in the news lately of people leaving their babies in cars and then the babies die. In the middle of all this awareness and campaigns, I had to go lock my baby in the minivan. Way to go, Laura. At least SonThree was smiling and seemed pretty happy, content and undisturbed. And at least it wasn’t too hot out. We had cloud cover.
It seemed like an eternity, but it was probably about a minute later when the Hugo Town Marshall Policelady came to break into my minivan. A Deputy Sheriff Policeman came to help, too. They were able to quickly open the minivan and SonThree was OK. Phew.
Thank you so much to the policelady and policeman! They rescued my son!
After SonThree was back safe in my arms, I called Kevin to tell him everything was OK. He told me the little bit of rain was just enough rain to make the wheat too wet to cut. He had to stop. He was on his way to town in his pickup.
Back into carseats for four blocks, we met at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. We ate at the free barbecue there. My kids had a blast running around.
The original relation was there! It was so nice to see her! I’m so happy that I got to see her, even though it was brief.
Kevin parked his pickup near the fence to have a good spot for later.
We left all together and went home. We got the kids into their pajamas.
We got back to town back to the Fairgrounds. We brought ice cream, glow sticks and camp chairs and headed back to our pickup which had one of the best spots for fireworks viewing. We were still in a parking lot, a dark parking lot. I am paranoid about my children being run over or kidnapped. Last year we sat in the bleachers which was very hard to see in the dark. This year, having the children kind of contained in the pickup bed was great! It really helped me feel confident. (I really can’t call it tailgating since our tailgate is broken.)
As a matter of fact, I’m going to call this a mom-top and make mom-tips a thing here on my blog.
Mom Tip Number One: When viewing something crowded and outdoors, keeping young children in a pickup bed keeps them more manageable. They can’t run around the parking lot if they’re in a pickup bed. They can also move around enough that they aren’t unnaturally cooped up (like in a stroller). I recommend this for parades and fireworks and the like. It’s a win-win.
Posted in A Day In the Life, Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Mom Tips by Laura with no comments yet.
We have been waiting on a few things to come here and by accident it all happened today…
We have been working getting the basement ready to have some foundation repair work completed. We needed to move the water heater. It was ailing and needed replaced. It was stupid to move the old water heater and its plumbing when it needed replaced anyway. We had ordered the replacement through Home Depot. We actually ordered a kick-butt one because with all the rebates that our electric company offered, it ended up being the same price as the cheaper ones.
The man bought the water heater today.
The plumber came to install it.
I’ve had this idea in my head to raise pastured pork. For years. I took the plunge and bought a pregnant sow (girl pig). The old owners delivered her today. Her name is Mouse.
Lowes also brought our new oven today. They took away our old old one. (I have always hated that oven. ) The oven had broken. Someone gave us their old oven. That one broke, too. Hooray for the second new oven! Kevin will get that installed soon. Goodbye, old old oven. Thank you Lowes Man for bringing our new one!
Yesterday I was in Suburban Denver for a day of appointments. I stopped at Home Depot and bought some purple lumber to build Mouse a new stall. (Purple lumber is crooked lumber that Home Depot discounts 70%.)
Posted in A Day In the Life by Laura with no comments yet.
Here on the Colorado prairie is certainly where the tumbleweeds tumble.
So what is a tumbleweed? you may ask. A tumbleweed is usually Russian thistle, an invasive plant that has overtaken areas of the American west. It dries out in the fall, becoming almost woody. Then when the wind blows, the tumbleweed breaks off and tumbles everywhere, spreading its seed and reeking havoc. They will get stuck in fences, against house, etc. They are also a fire hazard.
During the 2013 summer season, conditions were very favorable for the Russian thistle. Russian thistle grew taller, fatter and more plentiful than usual. This winter and spring, we have a huge tumbleweed problem. This means that there are tumbleweeds tumbling everywhere and being even more than a nuisance than normal.
This spring (2014) is proving to be more work than usual. Before one begins anything, one must first dig out…
I’ve linked this to the Prairie Homestead’s Barn Hop 153.
Posted in A Day In the Life, Weeds by Laura with 4 comments.