Monday, October 25, 2010

An Apple A Day

Wednesday night found us in Roswell, NM, at the Red Barn RV Park. This is a small, family-owned park and most of the spaces are occupied by "permanent" residents. They did have a couple of pull-through spots, though, and we just fit in one of them. The owners were very accommodating, and the laundry is convenient and on the "honor system." We enjoyed our short stay there and moved on to Cloudcroft on Thursday to get ready for the wedding of my son, Brian Wann and his fiancee' Debi Hoskins.

Sugar Pines RV Park is similar to the Red Barn in that it's small and family-owned. It's more expensive, though...$40 per night for full hookups and no other amenities. However, it's convenient, just 8 miles or so from Cider Mill Farms where Brian and Debi were married. The farm is owned by Brian's dad, Trenton Wann, and his wife, Barbara. They have their home, and an apple orchard and truck farm on ten lovely acres between Cloudcroft and Alamogordo. We, as well as a gaggle of other family and friends, spent time there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, helping with the apple harvest and preparing for the wedding.


The house has a magnificent view of the farm and White Sands Monument

It's a great place for dogs, too!

During the day the group picked apples, manned the sorter, and boxed the apples for shipment.  Picking must be done very carefully to avoid damaging the apples or the trees.  However, there is always time for sampling some of the fruit. 

Myles and Mallory pick the best ones

Gage samples a Staymon Winesap

Myles is a great chauffeur
Lucky Dog enjoys an apple snack

The sorter is a real workhorse

The venerable apple sorter dates back to the 1930s, and has been rebuilt to handle some 40,000 - 60,000 pounds of apples per season. Each box holds a bushel of apples, and weighs 40 pounds. 

I don't know how many pounds per hour the sorter can handle, but it kept the sorting crew very busy! 
Brian and Debi load the apples

Sorting the apples is a team effort!

Boxes and Boxes of Apples!
All those hard workers get hungry.   On Saturday night, some of the apples which were not "grocery-store perfect" were pressed to make cider. Saturday night, Brian's step-brother, Brad Hlista, made an enormous pot of green chili stew for the group who had worked on picking and sorting apples, and helping with the cider-pressing.   John assembled a new gas grill to help with the cooking, and everyone pitched in to get ready.

Michal, Justine and Audrey shell beans from the garden.

Brad, Brian and Justine collaborate in the kitchen.

John assembled the gas grill

Kids and rejected apples wound up on the compost pile!

Trent adds apples to the cider press

Pressing the cider was quite a production as well.  Each forty-pound box of apples had to be lifted up and poured into the press.  The machine ground up the apples, which were then encased in heavy porous cloth, placed between slatted trays, and stacked in layers to be pressed. 

Then hydraulic pressure was applied, and out came all that wonderful cider!  What a treat!

Gage and Trent inspect the press.

And finally....out comes all that wonderful cider!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And On We Go

We said goodbye to our HDT friends and left Hutchinson on Sunday, October 17. The trip south and west through Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle was uneventful. The corn and maize harvest is still going on. Most of the grain was going into the big silos, but in some instances there was more than they could hold. A couple of time we passed large piles like these beside the road, waiting until there was room for them, I suppose.

On Monday night, we stopped at Beaver Dunes State Park. It's an unusual place; right in the middle of the Oklahoma Panhandle it looks like the beach! There was no ocean in sight, though, just miles and miles of beautiful, soft sand, and this lovely, small pond.

This area is a destination for four-wheelers, and we met several people who had come to ride in the dunes. As you can see, they are covered with dense vegetation, and the only way to see them is to follow the "roads" cut through them by off-road vehicles. I tried walking some of the roads, but the sand is so deep and so soft that it's very difficult going. It's beautiful, though, especially at sunrise.

On Tuesday, we continued south and west across the Texas Panhandle. When we stopped for lunch, we were amazed to find ourselves on the rim of a canyon with amazing vistas in all directions. At the bottom of the wide canyon was the Canadian River. At this time of year, in this particular spot, the stream flow is minimal. However, the canyon it has carved is testimony to its power in times past.

Dogs at Play

In case anyone is wondering how Dakota is fitting in, I just wanted you to know that Nickie is teaching here the fine art of dog tussling. As you can see, Kota is an apt pupil! Such nonsense is beneath Lucky Dog. She watches from the sidelines and only intervenes if she thinks the play is getting too rough. Life is good for the Bagley Pack.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bigger is Better

From North Platte, we traveled some 145 miles down the road to Grand Island, arriving on October 6. There we stayed in one of our favorite destinations, Hall County Park. It was a short stop...just two nights this time, but we enjoyed the park and took some lovely long walks.

On Thursday, Nickie and I drove an hour south and east to Clay Center for a herding lesson with John Holman, a friend of our Leander Herding Coach, Sheryl McDonald. Nickie still remembers what herding sheep is all about, but was too excited to pay much attention to my commands. That's just as well, because I had forgotten more than she had. John (Holman) said we both had a lot to learn, and that I should try not to "micro-manage" my dog. He said as a Border Collie, she is very smart and should be encouraged to think for herself. As he said, we both have a lot to learn and I'm looking forward to getting back into our herding lessons when we get home.  While we were having our lesson, corn was being harvested in an adjacent field.  A big harvester like this one with a "12-row header" was harvesting 12 rows at a time.  The corn was going into a big hopper, and the stalks and leaves were being ground up and distributed out the back as mulch.  It's farming on a scale we don't see in Hamilton County!

We arrived in Hutchinson, Kansas, on Friday, October 8, and were thrilled to find a number of our RV friends already in camp. The HDT (Heavy Duty Truck) Rally started on Sunday and continued through the week, with seminars every day, as well as plenty of socializing. For folks new to this blog, the HDT group is made up primarily of people who pull their RVs (mostly fifth wheels) with big trucks that normally haul heavy cargo on the highways. These HDTs have been modified for personal use, and are a very safe way to pull the heavier RVs. (Not only can they pull them effortlessly, more important, they can stop them!)

Henry and Davena Szmyt

All during the week, the guys poured over each others' HDTs, examining everything from hitches to beds to stuff under the hoods. Several times each day, I would hear the deep rumble of one of the big trucks (Volvos, Peterbilts, Kenworths, Freightliners and a Western Star) starting up. It's different from the sound a Harley Hog makes, but just a compelling, comforting even.

Photos from the Rally, and some of our other activities follow.

The RDBE (Rigs Driven By Estrogen) Women at Yoder, Kansas

Line Dancing with Danielle Mayer and Pat McFall

Potlucks are always popular!
   As usual, there were plenty of pets in attendance, including

Poppy Mayer

Marty Dixon

The Rally ended officially on Saturday morning, but quite a few participants stayed over for a couple of days. On Saturday night, the rumble of the big trucks gave way to the deep-throated roar of race cars. A large group of us attended the Auto and School Bus Races at the Kansas State Fair Raceway. We were told that auto races have been held there for 100 years, and that 2010 marks the 100th Anniversary for the Raceway.

Our Group in the Grandstand
We watched races for "Semis,"

as well as for "Sprint Cars."

Between heats, we were entertained by School Bus Races. Here are a few of the school buses warming up the croud before the races, as well as shots of their "competition." I'll have to say that the semis and sprint cars are a lot more exciting!

The races were exhiliarating, but it was also fun to visit the pits. Sweaty mechanics and drivers worked feverishly to ready their cars for the next heat, or to repair damage from the previous one. The smell of hot rubber tires, fuel and exhaust filled the air, and you couldn't help but be energized by what was going on around you.

John Checks Out the Pits

It was a fantastic week, and we look forward to more fun and fellowship next year!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another Doggone Good Time!

We said a reluctant goodbye to South Dakota and headed south back into Nebraska. Evening on October 2nd found us at Holiday RV Park just off Interstate 80 in North Platte. The sites are narrow, but shady, and the park is very convenient to the local WalMart, and more important, to Waggin' Tails Dog Park! It's a great two-acre fenced park with grass, water, shade, seating, and lots of dog friends. There is also a nice walking trail adjacent to the park if humans want to stretch their legs as well.

Nickie and Lucky Dog enjoyed their first off-leash time since leaving Custer, and Dakota enjoyed her first romp with the Bagley Pack! As you can tell from the following photos, it certainly gets their stamp of approval!


We had a doggone good time!  Wish you could have been here!