With some hesitation, and perhaps a bit of depression, we have once again concluded a trip to Red Gate Farm.  My mother in law moved out earlier in December, so this was our first visit where we were in our home as just our family.  We also had a our longest trip so far there, staying for 2 weeks.  What an adventure it was, too!!  We always have fun, but man, oh, man, did we have some unexpected adventures this trip!

It all started when we loaded up the van with 2 weeks worth of food and supplies, and hitched up a u-haul trailer to haul back about 150 t-posts.  We left about 8:00 in the morning, for what it is typically a 15 hour drive.  We quickly learned that hauling that trailer decreased our gas mileage by half!  This meant a couple extra gas stops.  It also meant we had to drive quite a bit slower than usual.  Mind you, we are serious travelers.  Even our 2 year olds know to go potty when told, because we aren’t stopping for a while!  Because of the extra delays, we decided to forego our usual food/exercise stop and just eat food out of the cooler as we traveled.   We finally reached the state line (for the state our farm is in) around 10 pm. 

The kids had dozed off, and we realized we had about 2 1/2 hours of driving left, and less than half a tank of gas.  So, we began looking for a gas station, knowing we would soon be on back country roads.  It seemed like every exit we passed was some country road, and there were no services offered.  Finally, when we were down to about a quarter tank, we saw a gas station–after we had passed the exit for it.  There were no exits where we could turn around for miles, so we looked up “fuel” on our GPS.  It said there were a couple stations up ahead, so we didn’t worry about it too much.  An hour later, we still hadn’t seen another gas station.  We arrived at our exit for the last long stretch of back-country highway, and at the same time, watched our gas gauge continue to drop.  GPS told us there was one station on our route, about 20 minutes ahead.  We figured we had no choice but to chance it, so we started praying.  By now, it was around midnight, and the low-fuel warning light came on.  We were in trouble.  Finally, we arrived in the little town with the anticipated gas station.  Wouldn’t you know, it was closed!  We were literally running on fumes, and there was no life to be found in this tiny town.   So we pulled up to a stop sign, parked, and shut the engine off.  We pulled out our GPS again to see if there was a police or fire station where we could get help.  This town was so small, it had neither!  The nearest one was 40 miles away!  At that point, I glanced over, and saw the infamous neon lights of a bar tucked back into a little side street.  It was the only possible solution, so we drove over to the bar, and S walked in.  This is where the story gets really cool! After some time, the owner of the bar walked out back to his garage, and produced a full 5-gallon gas can.  He poured it into our gas tank.  When S offered to pay, he refused, explaining that his adult son had run errands for him just 2-3 days before, and returned with this full tank of gas.  He asked the son, “What am I supposed to do with that?  It’s not like I’m gonna mow the grass for the next 4 months, so why did you get this?”  The son responded with something like, “I’m sure you’ll find a way to use it!”  The man then put it in his garage, rather annoyed at the fire hazard he would have sitting there all winter.   Then we showed up, and he said, “Now I know exactly what that gas was for!”  Is God totally awesome or what!  He can even work miracles in the back garage of a small town bar!

So back to our farm visit.  We finally made it to the farm around 1:30 in the morning.  My mom, Nana, had arrived earlier that day, so we were all thrilled to see she had arrived safely to spend Christmas with us. 

Nana playing the piano and singing Christmas carols with the kids.

We spent the next week working on our scheduled fence projects.  S and his brother, M, worked on stretching 2×4 wire for our perimeter fence.  He claims it’s so solid, “a truck can’t drive through!”  Hopefully, we won’t ever have to prove that!  I’ll be happy if it keeps the farm critters in and the predators out! 

S and his brother, M, working on a section of perimeter fence.

I spent a lot of time working on an interior semi-perminant electric fence–using those t-posts we brought–in preparation for the orchard we will soon be planting.  The kids spent lots of time playing–inside and out. 

Furnishings at the farm are pretty meager right now. Here's all 4 kids sharing some of the limited seating!

We also visited with family and friends in the area. 

One family gathering we attended.

The following weekend, we got to experience our first big snowfall at the farm, when it snowed about 4 inches on Christmas eve.  It was gorgeous, and so peaceful out in the woods!  The cool temperatures also meant we got to utilize our wood-burning stove.  We love relying on that for heat whenever we get a chance. 

"Over the driveway, and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go!"

Nan fell in love with the four-wheeler, and we couldn't keep her off of it! She had a blast joy-riding through the snow covered trails!

We then spent a wonderful Christmas day with Grandma, Uncle M, and Nana–no doubt the biggest Christmas we’ve ever experienced! 

Lots of presents to go around this year!

The following week started out with some yucky weather, so S and I decided to do one of our “standby” indoor projects.  The kitchen had poorly designed and installed wooden beams lining the ceiling.  While such a thing could have given a lot of character and charm if done properly, these were just in the way of our future plans.  So we pulled them off.

S figuring out how to remove the set-up of solid wood beams.

After some teamwork between S, me, and Nana, the beams were down, and were left with a kitchen to appeared twice as large. Now it's just waiting to be painted.

Nana left the next day, S and Uncle M continued plugging along at the perimeter fence, and I finished up my interior fencing.  Just as we were finishing the final stretches, JR walked out to where we were working and proclaimed, “We’ve run out of water!”

We have a great location, with a 50-foot well.  For some mysterious reason though, we randomly run out of water.  It only happened once or twice with my mother-in-law, but it frightened her enough that we installed large water tanks in the garage, and had them plumbed into the house pipes.  Anytime we visited, we would hire a guy to haul water from a local source and fill the tanks for us to use during our visit.  This time, there was snow on the ground, the creeks were flowing, and temps were cool, so we decided to try to survive on the well water.  We almost did it, but with just 3 days left, it ran dry.  We like a challenge, so we decided to haul water from the rain-collection bucket at the barn to fill the toilets with, and I went and bought bottled water for us to use for drinking, cooking, and teeth-brushing.  We eventually decided to go ahead and have the guy come fill our tanks again, though it seemed silly at the time, and I couldn’t have told you why we did it then.  Then the next interesting thing happened.

Our last day there, New Year’s Eve, we were coming back from running errands in the big city.  We were driving through a little town about 5 miles from our house when tornado sirens went off.  Imagine that…tornado sirens on December 31!  S and I just looked at each other trying to figure out what on earth that was all about.  The skies did appear a bit stormy, but we hadn’t seen anything concerning.  With S’s weather training as a pilot, and my background as a storm chaser for the NWS, though, we knew we should take it seriously.  We flipped on the radio to hear them confirm a tornado warning…in OUR city a few miles away, and heading toward us!  We immediately started looking for shelter.  Not finding anything promising, we drove to a good overlook point where we could get a better view of the storm.  We found the wall cloud (the area where the tornado usually comes from), and saw it had already passed the road we needed, and was headed away from us.  We decided to head home, where we would have a safe basement if there were any more warnings.  We arrived home safely, and after the all-clear was given on the radio, S and JR headed into town to run more errands.  That’s when we realized how blessed we were!  The tornado had ripped a path through the outskirts of town, less than a mile from our farm!  Later deemed an F3, it had destroyed one of our favorite barns to see along the road, damaged or destroyed 22 homes, and scattered debris for miles.  Miraculously, no one was killed in our area.  We calculate that had we not taken the time to drive around the little town we were in looking for shelter, we would have driven within a 1/4 to 1/2 mile of the tornado as it was passing through. 

So that basically sums up our farm trip.  The last few nights we were there, when the kids said their nightly prayers, both of them would pray something like, “…and God, please help us not have to leave on Saturday, because we really want to stay at the farm!”  It was so precious, and so sad all at the same time.  I knew exactly how they felt!  Early on New Year’s Day, we headed back to CO, arriving safely home with no adventures to speak of (thankfully!). 

Oh, and remember how we decided to fill those water tanks for reasons we couldn’t really come up with?  After we arrived home, we got word that several families have been displaced by the tornado.  So, we have offered the house to a local lodge owner we know whose rooms are filling with these folks.  While it’s nothing fancy at this point, between the full water tanks we left, and the toys, food, and other basic household supplies and furnishings we left behind, it is ready for a family to move right in.  Once again, God is amazing!!