Walking through the garden, the dust swirls around my feet and is picked up by the breeze transporting it to every surface. The newly planted seeds lay dormant in the ground, waiting for the rain to bring them to life. Beating down from a blue sky, the suns rays warm the cool earth below me to almost scorching. Plants that were up and vibrant begin to dull and droop as the warmth chases out the remaining moisture along with the nights cold.

As I crawl slowly down the rows, pulling out weeds that quickly wither and die, the first clouds begin to build off to the west. They start as a few white strands against the brilliant blue and build to a mountainous wall blocking out the sun. A cool breeze blows through the garden brining with it the sweet scent of rain dampened earth.

Moving closer, the once brilliantly white clouds change to gray, their tops no longer visible. The first few heavy drops make a low thud as they hit the soft dry ground, leaving small dimples in the parched soil. Those dark spots quickly bleed together as the clouds let loose a steady downpour.

Listening closely I can hear the plants sigh in relief as the rain rinses the dirt from their leaves. I can imagine the hard seeds underground starting to swell as they absorb the water passed to them through the soil. All around me the grass, trees, and buildings that were dulled by dust regain their color. Puddles form in my footprints between the garden rows and in the ruts in the road. Water flows in sheets from the buildings eaves, washing away the soil at the base.

The steady thunder of large drops turns to a soft whisper of light mist. As the clouds move on, they leave a freshness in their wake.  Emerging from its brief slumber, the suns rays splinter against each remaining drop, sending explosions of color from every surface. Heat quickly returns, this time rejuvenating the life it previously had drained.

Now I walk happily through the garden. The soil beneath my feet compacting and picking up the mud, adding to the weight of my boots. A bird takes flight from a nearby tree, the leaves sending down one last shower. The moisture will not last long, sun and wind will quickly cause it to evaporate, but for now all is well. Because of this rain those seeds beneath the soil will quickly sprout, the plants will flower and then bear fruit. No amount of water from a hose can compare to a good rain.


Planting 2016

Just a quick list of what’s been planted and what’s popping up so far this year.

The first planting done in early April, was not expecting much, has exceeded my expectations. What didn’t come up: beans, zucchini, turnips, rutabaga. What is coming up: potatoes, onions, garlic, peas, beets, kohlrabi, broccoli, cabbage, dill.

The April 21st planting did a bit better with no total losses. What’s up: kale, sunflowers, carrots, and lettuce.

Planted May 3rd and is up: green beans, lima beans, 1st planting sweet corn, watermelon, cucumber, pumpkins, winter squash, cilantro.

I took a bit of a hit on the tomato plants that went in on May 15th, mostly because we went on vacation and it got hot and they didn’t get water. So those were replanted this week. Along with some new tomato plants(75) and some pepper plants(100) these seeds were added this week: 2nd planting of corn, peas, beets, kohlrabi, beans, broccoli, lettuce, carrots and the 1st planting of eggplant, sweet potatoes, parsnips, basil, peppermint, spinach, parsley, purple beans, and chamomile.  Along with another try at zucchini, turnips, and rutabaga.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be adding more sweet corn, beets, kohlrabi, and possibly trying for a late planting and fall harvest of peas.

As of right now, I’m looking to start up the CSA shares the week of July 11th. The first day of Mandan Farmers Market is Saturday July 16th starting at 9am.

Planting 2016

Me Versus the Calves


I’m in the garden minding my own business and glance up to see two calves outside of their pasture. This always makes me a little nervous when my husband is not around. I don’t have much experience with animals in general let alone cattle. They are big, smelly, and some of them have an amazing death glare. That is about the extent of my cattle knowledge.

I always call my husband first just incase one of the calves that is out is a woman eater. This way he knows to look for a body if I don’t come home. He laughs, tells me to just push them through the yard and put them back. If you’ve ever met my husband you know that his vehicles are not always pristine, where they should be, and  probably don’t have brakes. When I find the four wheeler it is located  behind a tractor that does not start. Great. Jumping in the farm truck, I turn the key and say a quick prayer that it will start, and head off after the possible woman eating calves.

Once close to them I first try to ask nicely. I point in the direction of the yard and the open gate and say, “Hey guys walk this way and everything will be great. You won’t take out a fence trying to get back to your friends and I can get back to planting, weeding, and watering.” This did not work. They just stared at me like I was missing half a brain. So I drove around them and tried to push them into the yard. My husband can make this sound so simple. It’s not, he lies, or at least leaves out key directions for moving cattle. This time I get a slightly irritated look as they run two steps in the right direction and then both head in different directions. Neither one moving towards the yard.

On to plan C. I’ll push them through a gate in the middle of the fence, but that is closer to their friends than the route through the yard. As I’m deciding this I remember another thing about cows. They can find a down wire anywhere on a fence but when you want them to go through an open gate that is not in a corner they get confused. So I decide to make my own little corner by parking the truck by the fence. This way when the calves walk towards the gate the truck will direct them through it. The flaw with this plan is that I have to get out of the truck and move them towards the gate on foot.  I start my slow walk up the hill and around the calves. One of them gives me a death glare and I quickly turn around and walk as calmly as possible back towards the truck. I’m a chicken, feathers and all.

Back in the truck and with a bit more confidence I drive around them and start to move them towards the open gate. This is when they decide they want to explore a little. I’m now yelling not very nice things at them. Something like, “You rooster lollypops, get your baby making butts through the gate! Not that way!” This may have been inflated and repeated many times.

By now I am sweaty, I can hear the blood in my ears, and I want to cry or at least call my husband and yell at someone who understands English.  I’m not sure what to do next and just before I break down, those scoundrels turn and grin at me before walking peacefully through the gate.

I want steak. A big juicy steak, grilled and eaten, right in front of those calves.


P.S. As I read this to my husband, he is laughing and pointing out all the things that I did wrong on this little adventure, along with what he would have done. He is also trying to defend his vehicles. It’s not working and he should consider himself lucky that I’m not a cannibal.


Me Versus the Calves


Mom’s hand

Our hands tell the story of our lives. Pampered or scarred, young and smooth, or old and wrinkled. Seeing the marks and lines bring back memories causing me to think about where they have been and where they will be.

I remember my mom commenting about how old her hands were starting to look when I was about ten. Looking at them I remember thinking she was crazy. All I saw were her hands not the story behind them. Now I know what she was talking about. Looking down I see the starting of age. Comparing them to my daughters they look old and used, next to my sons they look ancient.

On the surface there are lines and scars. My fingers starting to slowly twist. No matter how hard I scrub there is dirt around my nails. My palms are slightly calloused and rough. The backs of them starting to darken from the sun and taking on a more leather-like appearance. A small scar between my little and ring fingers reminds me of a car accident. My thumbprint marked from kitchen knives. The ring on my left hand a steady reminder of my marriage. Another scar on the back of my hand from a barbed wire fence. The rough texture a contrast to my sons delicate skin as I rub his back at night and snagging my daughters hair as I braid. Each element telling my story.

Looking at them I wonder what will be added to the story. Will I strike it rich and have them transformed into elegant beauty? Will I come on hard times, further enhancing the lines and scars?  Will they continue to steadily pick up the bits and pieces that are who I am now? I constantly worry that they will fail me in some way. My fingers one day refusing to be bent or straightened. The strength gone, never to return. What will happen then?

I wonder what my mom thinks of her hands now and if she looks at mine and sees the age? Do my children see it or are they youthfully blind to the aging process that will one day tell a story on their hands too?

When I look at my mothers hands now I can see the age, but more than that I see the love, compassion, and kindness that she uses her hands to spread. Each line and scar a reminder of the years spent creating her story. Mom thank you, thank you for looking at your hands and making me aware of what they really hold.


Farmers Market

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Community is the best word to describe the farmers market. It is a diverse group of individuals, coming together to provide a service for the surrounding community. Here you can find local produce, canned items, baked goods, soaps, and crafts. Along with these three dimensional items you’ll find more important things; passion, friendship, and competition. Each vendor contributing their unique goods, talents, and wisdom. All willing to share these things with each other and anyone else who may wander through.

Market begins long before reaching the parking lot. It starts with planning, planting, meetings, baking, cleaning, sorting, crafting, and packing. Long hours, thought, money and sweat are invested before any customers show up. Every vendor honing their processes through the seasons to bring the best they can to their booth. The market as a group working together to promote its presence.

As a vendor, pulling into the lot, I’m greeted by the sight of friendly faces and hurried waves of other vendors unloading. Each vehicle as varied as the people and supplies they carry. The process begins with tables, then boxes, bags, crates, coolers, and baskets. Each item pulled from its container to be lovingly displayed. Rows of brightly colored jams, pickles, and salsa. Baskets filled with fresh beans, peas, carrots, and tomatoes. Mounds of squash and pumpkins. All topped with a large tent for shade. A few eager customers mill around the activities edge, waiting to make the first selections.

After setup, as you look down the once empty sidewalk, you now see each individual booth as a part of a whole. Like departments in a store, each offering a different selection of goods. Closing your eyes you can smell the dill, earthy veggies, herbal soaps, and baked goods. The sound of friendly conversation, the gentle splash of the fountain, and the rustling of bags greets your ears. The sense of community is heightened with each new person who walks through, getting and receiving warm greetings along the way.

Customers are the heart and soul of this community. From them vendors gain so much more than revenue. They share with us their stories, recipes, likes and dislikes. We learn about their families and hobbies. Most have wonderful advice about gardening and farm life that they’re willing to share. Exchanging traditions and knowledge that would otherwise be lost.

Joining this community is not hard. Just stop by a local market. Take in the atmosphere. Talk to vendors and other patrons. You don’t have to like gardening or even veggies. Most markets offer so much more to see and do. Become a part of something that elevates each individual by offering fresh locally grown produce, crafts, and most of all a kinship within a community.


Farmers Markets depend heavily on the surrounding community for support in order to grow and offer more services. Feed back is always welcome. Please  share with us your comments, observations, and suggestions. Without feedback it’s hard to change, grow, and enhance the Farmers Market experience. Also check out the links below to make comments or find a market in your area.

Barnhardt Farms Contact Info

Mandan Farmers Market

North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association



Farmers Market


The bonds that tie us to each other and the things around us are stronger than we realize. Can those bonds actually be broken or do we just move those things, to which we are connected, to a pile in corner somewhere until we stumble upon them at a later time? I’m realizing that I’ve made some interesting connections throughout life. Some good and some bad, but with each I’ve taken something away, some lesson, without which, my life would not be the same. Every person, place, and thing that I encounter has a reason and what I choose to do with them, or not do, is up to me. Add to that people that depend on the decisions that are made, based on connections that they don’t even know I have.

Our first bonds are with family. As a tiny baby we learn to trust and interact. Growing up comes with friendships and enemies, love and heartbreak. Entering a career brings working relationships. Through it all we are collecting objects that attach us even more. Memories and places, days and times, joy and sorrow are all stored for us to reference as needed. There is immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and those that we just pass by without thought. Each one touching us in some way and slowly helping us to mold ourselves into being. But ultimately the choice of how to be is up to us. These things all influence us to a degree that we get to determine.

So after breaking an object that connects us to a certain time or place, is that connection lost? We mourn when these things happen but the memories are still there. They are now just removed from our everyday sight. The object will only be thought of when a similar one is noticed or maybe when we think of the person who gave it to us. Or it may be stored in the back of our minds for years until a smell triggers a memory, taking us back to a long ago time when that object existed. Even with the object now gone the connection remains.

We can suppress bad thoughts and feelings but they still have that tie that creeps up and throws itself around our necks reminding us of what we’ve been through. Do we let those thoughts control us or do we force them back down and chose to make decisions based from positive situations? Maybe we choose to dwell on the negative and never put it away. Is there a way to overcome those negative connections and learn from them instead of suppression or dwelling on things no longer in our control?

People that we encounter give us connections and interconnections. Through the people in our lives we create memories and are given theirs. We are given and take objects, thoughts, and lessons. What is kept and brought forward again for future use is up to us. Connections can also be left to dangle in the wind through neglect, whether conscious or not. Can these connections be picked up again or do they wither away with time? If we do pick them up again is that thread that we hold the same as the one we kicked aside? Maybe more delicate? Can it be strengthened?

Children give us a way to view these links forming. We get a chance to watch as they learn and grow. Adding to their connections through experience, friendships, sports, and school and in turn adding to ours. How do we teach them which relationships to focus on and which ones to walk away from?  Unless we also teach them self reliance and interdependence, showing them positive ways to use life’s connections, they will use our reactions as a basis for theirs. As their guardians we are their strongest connection in life, be it a positive one or a negative.

We get to control our own lives with the help and hindrance of our many connections. All the connections we make in life can be equally strong if we let them be. It’s our choice what we take away from each link in life. Which ones we strengthen and which ones we let gather dust.




Ode to Caffeine

An ode it meant to be sung. Not quite sure it works with this one 🙂

Awakening smooth
Bitter scent
Invigorating rush across palate

Rich dark creamy
Shiny foil wrap
Delicate calming reward

Pop fizz
Cool metal against palm
Nourishing parched souls

Burn sugar rush
Nuisance on splendors path

Refreshing life
Ever changing constant
Gift from gods

Bleak dark scary
World without you
Cold and alone

Ode to Caffeine

My 1st Garden

I’m not sure what made me plant my first garden. Raising my own food had great appeal even though I didn’t know hot to go about it. My husband was against it, saying it’s just a lot of work and that the soil in our yard wasn’t good for a garden. I convinced him to dig up a ten foot square anyway. But he firmly refused to do more than that.

Books are a great source of knowledge and I try to put into practice what I learn from them. At the time the only books I’d read, with reference to gardening, were written by Laura Ingles Wilder. Yes, the Little House on the Prairie series. A line I vaguely remembered went something like this. One for the worm, one for the crow, and one to grow. Meaning plant three seeds per hole, outside. Imagine my surprise when each little seed cup had three sprouts. I didn’t remember reading anything about thinning the plants.

Amusing is the only word for that first year. I started all my seed in the house, including corn, in February. You’ve heard the saying knee high by the forth of July. What we had was knee high and falling over by April. As you can imagine these plants had to be scrapped and once my husband could catch a breath between laughter he decided to help.

Now that the hubby was on board he reminded me that we don’t have birds or worms in the house and the sprouts need to be thinned. We started the proper amount and types of plants inside and when the weather warmed planted the corn seed, outside.

My daughter and I oohed and ahhed as sprouts started and the plants grew. It slowly dawned on me that some of these plants were not ones I wanted, but which ones? Did I mention I didn’t know to plant in rows and/or mark what was planted. And that my husband was getting great enjoyment from my lack of knowledge, therefore providing  very little input. This probably wasn’t the first time he doubted his choice to marry a lunatic town girl and it won’t be the last. I’ve come to believe he sticks around to see what I’ll do next. With my learning curve, we will have a very long and laughter filled relationship.

This first garden ended on a better note than it started on. We ended up with corn, peppers, pumpkins, and enough tomatoes for me to try my hand at canning. Canning came with more laughs at my expense and very few successes. I had been bitten by the gardening bug and each year I’ve expanded the garden, my book collection, and my knowledge through trial and error. Which is probably the lesson my hubby was trying to teach me. It’s best to learn by doing and gain knowledge from your many mistakes, than to have someone do it for you and not know why it worked out.


My 1st Garden

Morning Sounds

It’s early and I awaken to the chirping of a bird. The sun just starting to lighten the cloudy sky. More trills and tweets join the first sound of the morning.

Stepping outside, wood creaking below my boots, I close my eyes and listen. Water dripping off the roof  from last nights rain becomes a steady beat to natures song. The breeze ripples the water laden grass, a soft whisper around the cows hooves. A gust causes loose tin on the corral to bang loudly against a wooden post. Puppy paws slapping muddy ground and his playful pant are added to the methodic munching from the cows.

Opening my eyes, I’m reluctant to add my harsh voice to this magical symphony. Instead I pat my thigh to call the dog. Stroking his soft fur I strain to hear the gurgling of the stream as it flows lazily past the cabin.

Light mist brings the days introduction to an end as I retreat inside. Closing the door on the sounds of morning.

Morning Sounds


“Mom can I bring the tablet?” “No!” This is my standard response as we head out the door to the farm. It’s not going to kill any of us to have to talk to each other or sit quietly on the way. Maybe the ride would be more peaceful with the devices, but we miss out on so much when everyone is plugged in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sure what I’d do without Google some days but I’d like to think that I’d survive.

Last week the kids were arguing while out of town. With nothing to distract them they had to work through their problem, come up with a solution, and execute the plan together. This particular problem was who would be riding the horse. My daughter, who is 7 years older, won. I didn’t step in and tell them to take turns. By letting it play out they both learned. Looking at her younger brother, my daughter, decided that his tears weren’t worth it. She rode for a while and then gave him a ride. My son had to be patient, trust that his sister would come back for him, and realize that sometimes life isn’t fair. Next time it will work out that he gets his way and she has to wait. Or maybe not, she might win next time too. That’s okay, they will both survive and hopefully come out ahead by having to figure it out for themselves.

Anytime that my kids complain that they are bored because they can’t use a device they get a great lesson in work. You’re bored? Come pull some weeds with me. Nothing to do? Grab a shovel and help unload the grain. She/he won’t play with you? There is the lawn mower. There is always something to do. Most of the time any mention of work and their brains start to function. All of a sudden taking a walk sounds like a good idea, the book that’s been forgotten is remembered, digging a random hole would be fun or maybe helping out is just what’s needed.

I’ve learned so much about my children and them about me while pulling weeds. It’s silent going for a while and all of a sudden the lack of chatter gets to them and they reveal some pretty amazing stuff. Likes and dislikes, friends and enemies, worries and hopes are all pored out when there is nothing to compete for attention. These times are some of the best.

Not all of our time at the farm is devoted to work. It rains, is windy, too hot, too cold, or maybe we’re just having a lazy day. With no electronics other than the TV, which has 5 channels, we have to make our own fun. And being that there is only one room in the cabin, we have to do it together. The best days this last winter were spent snuggling while watching a movie or playing card games. Spring has been a time for long walks and playing catch. Again, we are forced to talk to each other and it’s nice.

So much of our time is spent in front of a screen. Farm time is devoted to getting to know each other and ourselves. It’s spent learning how to verbally communicate, reading emotion, working through confrontation, and so much more. All things that are getting lost in our digital world. I’m very grateful for our time unplugged.