May 19, 2013

Kitty Pile!

Living in a house with three playful, soft kitties is pretty much a dream come true for me. I scoop up these little babies every chance I get and smother them with kisses. This morning I found them engaged in the world's cutest kitten pile with their mother, Kristen.

Kitties from left to right: LeBron, Skyler, Katie.
Mama Kristen

Kristen is an amazingly cute and attentive mother. She dutifully follows them around, showering them with licks and kisses. She is quite chatty as well. If she's not sleeping, you can hear her chirping, squawking, and purring and making sure that all three are somewhere nearby. Or begging for food, because of course, mothering is quite hard and makes you very hungry!

The kitties themselves are pretty typical wee babes. They flop around and chew on each others necks and tails, constantly squeaking and getting into trouble chasing all the big cat's tails! With the exception of Vinny the orange cat, all of the other cats are perfectly terrified of these petite creatures!

Irresistibly cute!

May 18, 2013

Morel Hunting!

What better to do after some heavy rain than to go morel hunting! AGP and I dipped off to a spot Mark had showed us last week to see if any tasty, edible morels mushrooms had sprouted from the recent rain and warm weather. Our previous visit had been so dry! We were hoping that this particular jaunt would provide us with a bounty, although, we weren't holding our breath. Firstly, because neither AGP or I have any experience hunting for morels and secondly, Mark had told us that since the flooding the delta region had a couple years back, these sprouting beds had been covered up with silt and not many morels have been produced since.

Anyhow, it was a nice, damp day so we decided to talk a walk down to the White River delta to see what we could find.

Looking east over the White River delta
Descending into the delta
Golden currant blossoms
The White River delta is a strange and unique environment, boasting a micro-ecosystem with habitat, ecology, and even weather that is remarkably different than the short grass prairie and cattle grazing land that surrounds it. The recent rains had left it quite soft and muddy, albeit much greener than our last visit. 'Twas a very sticky mud, however, and it was quite a workout carrying around all that extra weight on our boots.

The geology of the area is pretty interesting as well. The bedrock of the local lazy, rolling hills is all Pierre Shale intermixed with silty alluivial (from the rivers) and eolian (from the wind) deposits. What we get to see in this riparian environment is stunning exposed bedrock consisting of heaps of blocky and fissile shale that seem to spill into the delta.

The yellow calcareous claystone gives a nice burst of color
Where delta meets shale

We did spot one mushroom! However, it wasn't a morel, so we let it be. We are expecting some more rain in the next couple of days, so maybe we will be luckier next time. 

Hope you all are having a nice day and are exploring your world!

Lightning Strikes

Maybe once, maybe twice? Or in our case, all night long! 

Provided by

We have been having some pretty intense weather around these parts of South Dakota! Last night it nearly rained an inch!! That is a pretty profound amount for an area suffering from a relatively severe drought. We were also afflicted with very gusty winds and lots of thunder and lightning. It looks like there's a little more on the way over the next couple of days as well, so I hope our newest tomato transplants make it through okay!

Last night's spectacular lightning show was actually a pretty intense experience. With our tiny house perched on the crest of a hill, I found it difficult to tell if we were actually in any danger or not! Severe thunderstorms on the prairie are nothing to scoff at-- loud, unpredictable, and intimidating, that's for sure-- and it definitely is an extreme way to experience some jaw-dropping action. Lightning bolts were striking the ground all around us for the better part of the night. What a thrill!!

I tried to snag some cool pictures of the bolts, but the strong winds and the sense of impending doom kind of messed with my concentration. I did get some cool shots of things being lit up by the epic blasts of light. Please mind that I am a pretty inexperienced photographer and that I was making changes with the settings quite frantically and moving around a lot.

I did manage to grab at least one blurry bolt. Maybe tonight will prove more fruitful!

May 10, 2013

Inside the Tiny House...

I will eventually get around to sharing with you all the saga of the tiny house-- where we built it, why we built it, what happened when we took it on the road, where it is now-- but I thought I would start with a couple cool shots from me and AGP's going away party. My dad installed these awesome LED color-changing strip lights in the kitchen (and under the sofa) for extra awesome party effects. Yea, my dad is pretty awesome!

May 9, 2013

The Muddy Pumpkin Farms, Oacoma, South Dakota

I realize that I am a little behind schedule on posts that are relevant to my current situation. Like, how can I blather on about how awesome it is to be back at the Muddy Pumpkin if I haven't even mentioned anything at all about it yet? So here are cliff's notes on how a suburban-born city-dweller ended up falling in love with the remote and extreme lands of the White River delta region of South Dakota.

First off, I will start of by once again reminding you all that I am a lover of flat lands and prairie grasses. The first time I entered South Dakota in 2008, I was instantly in love with it's exotic fields of wheat and the overall massive scale that everything seemed to be on. I felt like Super Mario in Giant Land, if you get my reference. And the first time I saw the Badlands, I was reduced to tears at the beauty of it all.

So, when AGP and I were planning our roadtrip last spring, I knew I had to take him to South Dakota. So I arranged for us to WWOOF at a farm called the Muddy Pumpkin. (For those who don't know what WWOOF-ing is, it stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is an organization that facilitates placing volunteers at organic farms. And it is awesome.)

Towards the end of June last year, AGP and I found ourselves heading towards South Dakota, me brimming with delight. As we drove the loooooong dirt road from the town of Oacoma to the farm, we found ourselves winding along the hills of the Missouri River towards our destination. It was a sweltering 100 degrees F. As we approached the farm, we were greeted by a small orange cat, lots of antique looking farm equipment, several cars in various states of disrepair, gnawed on animal parts strewn about, and not much else. Apprehension settled upon me. And it's funny how wrong first impressions can be.

The Muddy Pumpkin is a farm that is operated on land that has been in the Werner family for decades. Today, the youngest brother, Mark, and his dad toil loyally on the land to do something that pretty much no one else in the entire state of South Dakota is doing: growing organic vegetables. And that is no easy feat. As I write this in the kitchen of a farm house that is both peaceful and hectic at the same time, this region of South Dakota (and many other parts of the country) are experiencing what could possibly become the worst drought since the dust bowl. And all the while, they continue to grow organic veggies, despite the brutal conditions (no rain since two falls ago), the pests (drawn to the farm since it's an irrigated paradise), and the overall lack of organic vegetable culture in this remote South Dakotan outpost.

Where exactly am I? For all intents and purposes, I am in the town of Oacoma, South Dakota on the west coast of the Missouri River with a population of about 450. The farm site is located about fifteen miles from Oacoma, on a wedge of land that not only abuts the Missouri River, but also the White River. The population in his particular locale is usually 1 (Mark), with a cat to human ratio of 13:1. AGP and I make the ratio about 4:1.
 I was pretty much smitten with the Muddy Pumpkin after only a few short days. We were staying as WWOOF-ers when we first arrived, so along with Mark and a smattering of seasonal employees and other WWOOF-ers, each day we weeded and hand-tended five acres of vegetables, trellised tomatoes, and transplanted seedlings, harvested garlic, and completed all sorts of other farm tasks. We also ate insanely delicious food, played games, and made awesome new friends. And I kissed kitty after kitty after kitty after kitty. It was pretty much heaven.

After staying a week longer than anticipated, AGP and I moved on west with fond memories of the Muddy Pumpkin. But it wasn't enough. I wanted to go back. A lot. So I did, as I am wont to do. Here's how: After Burning Man, AGP had to fly back to Boston from Reno to go to classes. This was something we knew. I was in charge of getting the car from Reno back to Boston. I was also conveniently unemployed. Solution?: Muddy Pumpkin.

After an epic three day solo journey across a good portion of the country (with a detour across western Nebraska, of course <3 <3), I arrived back at the Muddy Pumpkin to help out with the end of the harvest. This time for a month and a half. When it was finally time to leave again, I did so with an even heavier heart than before. I loved this place and I wanted to stay forever. So when I found myself with another convenient break in employment responsibilities, I packed up my boyfriend and our tiny house, and drove across the country through long dark nights

It is nearly impossible for me to properly and literately condense the reasons I love this place. Okay, yea, it's full of cats (and three brand new kittens!!!!) that I adore, and there is a local horseradish cheese that I have already eaten a block of. It is quiet and e x p a n s i v e and painfully bucolic in an apocalyptic kind of way. But it is also harsh and demanding, windy and hot and dry. It is prickly and full of ticks and the typical hectic-ness of farm life. There are fresh eggs and fresh food. There is an epic roof deck on a two story house. There are rattlesnakes and coyotes you can hear all night long. There is the joy of dirt under your fingernails and streaked across your face. There is life well spent with your hands in the earth.

But what I think I like most about the Muddy Pumpkin is living close to nature and to the prairie. We spend the majority of our days outside transforming this fertile flood plain into an organic food growing environment. That's not surprising for me, because even though I was raised in the heart of the suburbs, I grew up telling people with bewildered looks on their faces that I wanted to drive directly into the heartland and never leave.

I also like growing vegetables in a place that no one else would even think of, and I like giving those vegetables to people. I think it's noble. I love the history of this land and the fact that the Werner's haven't given up on this difficult and seemingly outdated lifestyle. I think that is noble as well. 

Oh, and did I mention the cats?

Sky, Katie, and LeBron