Saturday, September 8, 2018

Residency Woes and Triumphs

When I think of the word “residency” I cringe and shrink back a little bit and feel some tender tightness in my throat. That’s pretty much how those three years felt. Cringing, and shrinking so much I wished I would disappear more often than I would like to admit, and a tender tightness in my throat that kept me suffering in quiet darkness most the time.

It’s not fun to write a post about a season that was so dark and dismal at times. It isn’t the pretty picture of “I’ve got my crap at least moderately together” I would prefer to portray. Sometimes I think, if I just could have done this, or just could have done that, maybe it could have been different?

Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

Maybe, it was just a really difficult season.

It doesn’t matter now.

Thankfully, it was just a season. Seasons change.

I remember when I first started to get a taste of what lay ahead for me as a wife with a husband on the medical training journey. Squire was visiting me at my parents’ ward (congregation) the Summer before we were married. My mom pointed out to us from behind, the family whose bread-winning husband who had just completed residency to become a medical doctor.

The scene stretched as a silent horror film before my eyes. His eyes had bags under them that stooped to the floor. I caught a glance between his and her eyes that looked like needles had been exchanged. They looked miserable and beyond tired yet with just enough energy to potentially snap at each other if the wrong word was spoken. They sat with a few ragamuffin red heads between them. Their posture was slumped. Their body language toward each other was cold and deliberately dismissive of each other. There was some silent treatment going on I surmised. The whole scene was upsetting, but seeing the red-headed children between them was as if an omen of misery in a future day was being passed onto my red-headed fiance and myself. I cried for the rest of that meeting. And I didn’t stop for quite some time.

Are you sure? Are you sure you want to do this?!”

Yes, he was sure.

It is what he felt God was calling him to do.

And so, by miraculous means we made it to medical school with our last dime earned from Plasma-donation money and the inspired donations of other angels.

Medical school. That was a hard time, too, but mostly it was dear to us. Our friends were so good to us. Our ward was like family. I cried and I mourned the loss of the close regular contact I had with so many wonderful friends when we moved at the end of those 4 years.

Thank goodness for phones!

Missing my friends, yet also excited for the next step on our journey I jumped right in to my life in Pocatello. I was bound and determined to make sure that when I left that town, by golly, I would be crying to leave it, too! I wanted to make a difference! To suck the marrow out of the life I had to live in this town! To explore, connect, and serve and grow!

The day we moved in to our home – the first we had purchased – it seemed like it was going to be all we hoped it would be. Many families came to welcome us in. We received meals to ease the transition of moving to a new place.

We anxiously hosted the first engagement for our residency class at our home. One of the children of one of the residents’ families decided to climb down a windowsill instead of a ladder off a landing in the playhouse and needed stitches. It cast a damper in the air on the party and on my spirits.

Despite this, I tried to initiate several other events to engage a sense of togetherness with others in the residency after that. For several, none responded or showed. For another, only one kind stalwart came. I gorged myself on the homemade pretzels I had made to serve the crowd that wasn’t coming. Another time I hosted a bread-making class/playgroup. I discerned a glance that was exchanged between two of my guests at that event and knew my name and views were not safe in their mouths. This was confirmed at a residency Christmas party several months later. I could detect that quiet contempt at every residency event I attended for some time even when it wasn’t obvious to every residency participant like it was that night.

My name was not safe there. I was not safe. I was accidentally a nuisance!

I wasn’t a complete nuisance in my ward (though maybe a little.) I made some dear friends there. Though, there were many – uncomfortably too many - people who repeatedly asked us when we were planning to leave from the day we moved in until the day we left. It was strange and disheartening. I was counted as a “visitor” on our very last Sunday there. That bugged me. I know it was petty to let it, but it did. I had been in wards where most members only stayed for 3-6 months and we still found ways to be incredibly close. 3 years was an eternity in comparison, but not to the old-timers there I guess. We were just passers-by.

It was a sad day to realize that the influence I had enjoyed in Tucson, where I could quickly slap a great party together with a large turnout and hours of lovely meaningful conversation were over.

We planted three fruit trees together at our Pocatello home – “Christmas,” “Coyote,” and the Plum tree we never named. We picked off the unripe fruit from them the first season to make sure their roots could grow deep enough to establish long term. The following season a late frost killed off all the blossoms and budding fruit. When we sold our house, their limbs were heavy with green unripe fruit we never got to taste.

It was a sad to day to realize that the beautiful and carefully planned, prayed about and inspired home birth from our days in Arizona was cause for rumors and official emails to be sent to my husband about his somehow medically wayward home birth activist wife that might prevent him from achieving certain training from certain doctors in the program.

Speaking of birth. . .My Pocatello midwife, after Wren’s birth, warned me that “Post Partum depression sets in when moms feel like they don’t have a support system.” That was me. Me, without a support system. I mean, I had a couple of friends. But I couldn’t ask for what I needed from them. I needed a whole community. I couldn’t be vulnerable there completely. I didn’t want to let them in, I’d already been hurt. I could get counseling. . . though I tried that once early on in the residency journey with Squire. That proved a disaster for more reasons than I care to elucidate, here. I considered counseling for myself, but I didn’t want to waste my time or vulnerability on a counselor I didn’t trust. It is worse to go to a really bad counselor than to not go to one at all. I didn’t want anyone to know I was going and in small towns – as I had already painfully discovered – word always managed to get around. I didn’t know who to ask for a recommendation without giving away my cover. I didn’t know how to get a babysitter and lie about what I needed them for. I never went.

It was a sad day, several months after Wren’s birth when I had to plead for my husband to stay home in my postpartum craze for just a couple of days. I needed him to stay home. We had tried to put the request in well over a month before, but it was denied. But now, there was no denying me. He had to take two days off. Squire was concerned that doing so would make it so he didn’t graduate on time. I let him know it might delay his graduation even further if he came home to a bloody wife on the nice new white bedspread I had purchased with the time he’d spent working elsewhere. He was able to get two days, for the price of a relentless last few months. I greatly appreciated my bosom friend, Mickelle – the one who had been there for me with funeral potatoes after my miscarriage in Provo – showing up again, but this time on the phone. It was an immense relief to hear her laugh at my macabre statement when I shared it with her. That’s a true friend - one who acknowledges, then laughs at and simultaneously dispels the darkness.

I decided to hire a Mother’s helper for a couple hours each day after school. What a blessing she was to me! Truly. A blessing and a literal lifesaver while I was dangling from the edge of a rocking ice chunk in the arctic. She steadied me, gave me a reason to get dressed each day. She gave me the time to get some things done and to not be touched for a couple hours. Her presence helped me regain my sanity. She gave me what I so desperately needed and was missing – support. Consistent, regular, dependable support. I will always be grateful for you, Denali.

Residency ended with me missing my husband’s graduation dinner because of poor communication skills and some other problems I still haven’t identified but for which I’m sure we still need to go to counseling. I arrived, shrinking back from people who tried to comfort me in my late arrival or just to congratulate me for having made it through to this special moment but from whom I could not be gracious - I was trying desperately to hold back tears for the regret of that night. The regret of so many years. The regret I wasn’t that sad to leave. The regret of what I wasn’t able to give. The regret of the cost of it all – and the debt that was still to be paid in the future. The regret of the gap between my husband’s and my world views which were oftentimes (though not always, most thankfully) exacerbated by his training.

That night, Squire won one of the coveted teaching awards, as voted on by his fellow residents – given to the graduating resident who was most revered for their teaching. I wasn’t there to watch him receive it. But I was there to quarrel with him in the hallway and put on a face for pictures and the dinner that happened afterward.



That’s about how residency went down for me.

And yet. . .

I could never think of residency without thinking of our friends, the Downey’s. The friends who demonstrated beautiful family life, selfless Christian-living, joy in marriage and parenting. Seeing our kids build stick forts together from the fallen branches in my yard, and run wild on the Cherry Springs trail in all seasons, and on the trampoline and tire swing in their yard. Getting lost in conversation about all the most meaningful things and sharing good food and celebrating birthdays and whatever else the Downey’s conjured up as a reason to celebrate – and they always had a reason to celebrate. Their home bubbled over with lovely traditions and fun. Comforting each other with dark chocolate bars when the rotations were long and the kids were crazy. I’ll never forget how loved and known I felt when I saw the new package of paper plates on my front doorstep when my dishes were out of control. How we celebrated good news and shed tears and shared hugs for personal tender losses. We watched each others’ children when the other had an appointment or surgery to go to. We perused the Wild Hare Estate sale together and went Wildcrafting for Choke cherries and Elderberries. We canned until 2am for a few days straight once and enjoyed the delicious spoils of our labor for at least a couple years after that, and relished in the fact that we still never got bored talking during all that time and never have gotten bored chatting we each other since then, either.

I could never think of residency without thinking of Heather Neeley barging into my house on the first fateful day of our meeting past a confused and unimpressed Squire without even introducing herself, “Where’s Jami?” Her first impression was bold and the impact she has made on my life since that day was no less bold. She connected me to the other homeschooling moms in the area, we talked all things home school, Permaculture, prepping, gospel living, herbs, medicine, gardening, healthy eating, student life, mom life, the joy of animals. She taught me about keeping bees, Dragon Tonic, and making soap in the crock pot. And the food. We shared so much good food and so many lovely recipes. The tips and exchanges of information and the encouragement we share with each other in living our very best dreams to the fullest and being our very best selves continues onward.

I could never think of residency without Erin – my doppelganger in so many ways. One of my rare, trusted friends for babysitting. Encouraging each other in all the good things we could muster. Sympathizing through the crappy stuff. Our children played so beautifully together and could entertain themselves forever without screen time in the wild outdoors.

I could never think of residency without thinking of Danielle Curtis. Danielle (and Richard!) who brought me dinner and washed my dishes after Wren was born. And who cooed over my sweet baby Wren every chance they got! Danielle who soaked up every tidbit I had to share in my research on permaculture and made it come to life in her own backyard. Danielle with whom I shared heartfelt testimonies of sacred experiences and of things to come until 3am to the dismay of her lovingly/angrily concerned husband. Books and a few book club meetings, we shared those, too. We shared Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners together and I expect in a future day we will eat more special holiday meals together again.

I could never think of residency without thinking of. . .

Our wonderful next door neighbors “Grandpa” Norm and “Grandma” Sharon. The mail they would pass through the hole in our fence. Sharon taking us on field trips to favorite places in the area, and sending texts and stopping by to say hello to make sure I was ok from time to time. Slip and sliding and enjoying popsicles in their back yard. Seeing them find delight in the quirkiness and liveliness of our funny little brood. You are always welcome to come be our neighbors in Gardnerville!

We enjoyed Debby and Mike, our neighbors on the other side, too. We exchanged honey and eggs for oregano, tomatoes, potatoes, Armenian cucumbers, and other home-canned goods – and some occasional neighborhood gossip.

Brother Cummins telling me every Sunday he saw me how much he loved our family. And my expressing that we loved him, too. And his response every time, “I know.” His encouragement at church always seemed to come on some of my lowest days, often when I was bringing our 3 (and later 4) children to church by myself while Squire worked long hours.

Brother and Sister Evans always expressed their love for our crazy little family, too.

Emma Wood and our long chats about feminism, life after loss, marriage, the challenges of child-rearing, education, prepping, prophecies and happenings of the last days, Mormon culture, gospel doctrine, Roller-derby. Those things and the million other little tidbits we shared with each other reminded me that I still had a viable brain rolling around in my skull somewhere. I was/am grateful for a thoughtful PhD friend with whom to share these ideas! The texts she always sent when I was missing at church for one reason or another, I loved those, too.

AnnDy and Emma always coming by our home to play at our house or in the backyard. Their visits made it feel like we were back to an older and more golden era. Singing primary songs and reading scriptures together. Their baptism day. <3

The lovely classics book club that really was “The Best Book Club Ever” and full of energetic and fascinating women with wisdom to share.
The incredible setting-apart blessing from Brother Mackenzie when we first moved to Pokey.
Chatting with Nellie at the Garden Party at Hollie’s house. Getting our family pictures taken by Hollie – twice! I will always think of Hollie, her friendship and kind words when I look at her photos on my walls.

Teaching the Sunbeams with Sister Snyder at church and loving each one of them.
The heartfelt moments and shared struggles and triumphs of serving in a Primary presidency with Sheila and Tammy.
Carolyn’s soft heart and amazing testimony in the face of great adversity.
Playing the piano for Tara, Emma and Danielle’s Christmas Trio, “O Holy Night.”
The handful of prepper meetings Lynda, Jennifer, Robin, and many others attended – and everything I learned there.
Serving in Cub Scouts with Christiana and getting to know her loving heart and story. Such a lovely person – a calming and encouraging friend.
The home school moms’ book club with Tanya, Marcie, Alicia, and others. I didn’t make it to as many of these as I would have liked. But it never ceased to amaze me what inspiring and spirit-led women they were when we would come together to discuss a classic or a home schooling approach, or a self-help or parenting book. They are wiser than they realize.
Laughing and crying together over meals as my friend Shaleah prepared to give birth to her sweet baby girl with Arthrogryposis. And that time she rallied the young women to come clean out my suburban and she hand scrubbed my kitchen floors as a birth prep gift.
The handful of meals we shared with Kasia – the laughs and the uplift that would always inevitably follow.
Leading the music in Primary.
Game nights with Clint and Ashley and Andy and Melissa.
Meals and real heartfelt conversations with Andrew and Jenna.
Impromptu visits with Heather and her brood.
The Impromptu Cafe Rio lunch and hike at Cherry Springs with Holly and Carissa.
Carissa’s birthday tea party.
Long and fabulous chats and delicious lunches with LeeAnn about everything fascinating, conspiratorial, health, energy and gospel related. And some much needed encouragement.
Swimming in the lazy river at the swim center.
Dance classes with Miss Caitlyn.
Baseball lessons and games and chatting with Nora on the grass while we watched.
The Days for Girls Relief Society service activity.
The residency meals we hosted for interviewees and current residents of the program. Lots of good food and what felt like a real contribution to the cause.
Lance and Camille’s trailer trash party.
The sweet couple I taught a Hypnobabies course to while in Pokey.
The dumb funny signs in front of Taco time that always made me laugh.
The time Ashley and Jessica invited me out to ice cream after I stood up to bullies publicly, just to make sure I was doing ok.
Weekly chats with my local farmers when picking up raw milk.
Visiting the Ure’s small grass-fed dairy farm.
Visiting Lynn’s small goat dairy.
Buying sweet rolls from that one lady at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday.
Eating dinner (or breakfast for dinner) at the Cafeteria or in the Doctor’s lounge in the hospital with Squire so we could see him sometimes.

The time half my ward came out in droves and with smiles on their faces to help me finish prepping our Pocatello house for sale while Squire was on an away rotation in Boise. The help on two more occasions when it was time to move.

And of course – our tent life and the myriad memories there and all the friends who visited us at the end there as well. And so many more sweet moments and memories that I didn’t list here, but that I treasure nonetheless.

The last several months of shopping and running errands around town, I realized I never went out without seeing at least one person I knew.

And how could I forget receiving an email from Mavis, my Relief society president, in the very moment I was crying to my mom while packing up boxes, about my regrets for my time in Pocatello. How I had wished I had more to give during such a trying time in our lives. How I wondered whether I would be missed or whether I had even done an ounce of good in my time there. Her email said,

Jami our Relief Society and our ward, is so very grateful for all you and Squire have done for us. You came, you served, and you blessed our ward. You have added so much to us and you are going to be missed. My presidency and my husband and I pray that this next chapter in your life will be all that you would like it to be.”

Maybe residency wasn’t all that bad. 

Or. . . the triumphs were are least as savory as the woes were woeful.

Onward – and upward? - we go.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

What's in a Roly Poly's name?

The Roly Poly habitat Lincoln created for his Isopod friends.
Lincoln sauntered into the kitchen this morning, holding a lively roly poly on the back of his hand with a semi-toothless grin on his face.

"Mom! Look! This is Spotback! See how he has one grey spot in the middle of his back? I found him all alone in the garden, so I decided to take him in so he wouldn't be alone. I think Roly Polys get lonely, don't you? I think he might have been sick when I found him because I read that sometimes Rolys get white when they aren't doing well, but he is doing well now. Look at him crawling! He is adventurous!"

"I love that you have names for your Rolys, Linc. And I love that you care about each one and notice things about their lives. What are the names of your other rolys?"

He proceeded to tell me that he "hadn't named that many," but he did have:
  • Spots - "With one lighter and one darker spot."
  • Blackback
  • Matchy - "He looks just like another Roly Poly that Atley has."
  • Edward
  • Fred
  • Sleeper - "He's not that active."
  • Little Digger
  • Lineback - "He has a little line that goes all the way down if you look carefully."
  • Key locker - "Look at him from the side, it looks like he has lots of keys on him."
Did you know that your garden variety Roly Polys (aka Pill bugs, Doodle bugs, etc.) each look unique and behave differently from each other?

My seven year old son does.

Maybe it seems silly, but in that moment this morning, watching him talk about each Roly Poly's name, I saw something great in him. A spark of something ancient and divine. Something akin to when Adam named all the animals in the Garden of Eden. This moment, like too many others I haven't taken the time to document, reminded me that my children have great gifts and lessons to teach me.

It reminded me of the moment in Patricia Polacco's lovely picture book, Luba and The Wren, where Luba's insatiable parents - after receiving increasingly greater and larger-than-life requests as fulfilled by an indebted and magical Wren - discover that their request to become "like the Gods" is granted with the return to the simple cottage life with their daughter and animals that they had at the beginning of the story.

Oh, the wonder of learning the names and modes of being for the roly polys in my yard, cherishing them and developing a wonder about it all - that is at least one application way Jesus' command to become as little children spoke to my heart today.

"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me." (Matthew 18:1-5, emphasis added)

What do you think it means to "become as little children?" 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Angels at My Goat-Milking Stanchion

God is real. God is good. God is a God of miracles.

Today I want to share a miracle that just came to pass in my little backyard, on my rickety old goat stanchion.

My friends on facebook know my day didn't start out the greatest yesterday. See Exhibit A, below: 

Exhibit A. The dirty oven baked pyrex dish and (former) lid.
It was all good. It gave me a laugh and my friends a laugh.

That event, however, led to another and another and another. Almost comically, so, you know? I feel like this has been my theme song this week. ("Hey, hey, hey, what can I say? It's just been one of those, one of those days. . . its all going just so perfectly wrong.")

Some of those other perfectly wrong things include my phone dying. I am still working on figuring out if I need a new battery or a new phone.

Our bunnies are out of their usual feed and I need to run to the store to restock.

The check we need that should have come several days ago is still not here.

My husband is on day 7 of an 11 day stretch working 15 hour days.

My baby girl has been more restless due to teething, I assume. Last night, though, she got a sniffley cold and nursed all night so I got even less sleep than I have been getting. (I have unsuccessfully been trying wean her down to fewer nursings a day.)

Due to this fact, I slept in late and woke up only to nurse my babe again and to hear a goat screaming at me from her shed. Her scream sounds a bit like a grown man coming off anesthesia drugs while yelling out in agony from a broken leg.

I remembered several other things that I needed to take care of but would not be able to do without a phone. 

*Sigh.* *Another very big sigh.*

I sent a message to my mom and sister on the computer to ask if they could come help me get things in order. They were able to make some calls on my behalf but weren't sure when/if they could come by today.

I trudged over to the sink to wash the milk pails I hadn't gotten to the day before to the serenade of my screaming goat. "HEY! YOU! COME HERE! LET ME OUT!"

Amelia and her baby Miss Daisy; our sweet Nubian goats. <3 
I got a prompting to pray before I went out to the door. So I knelt by the side of my bed. I was directed to pray only for the things I was thankful for. Even in the difficulty I could clearly see God blessing us. I could nurse my sweet sick baby to comfort her and to give her body the nutrition it needs to heal. I have beautiful, wonderful, curious children to care for who I love dearly and who make me laugh and see the beauty in life all around me. My husband is a good man. He seeks to live his life in accordance with God's will. He is capable in mind and body to work long hours to provide for our family and he hopes to bless others through that work. I know God has provided what we needed in just the moment we needed it in years past and I know He will take care of us now. I am living in a wonderful town, close to my family. I can see the stars and the milky way each night. I am grateful for modern technology which makes my not having a phone not that big of a deal. I have nutritious food to eat. Dishes to eat my food on. I have a bed to sleep in, a home to live in. I have the means to plan for and accomplish many dreams. I am living my little farming dream right now. I have many close friends who I have made on my journey who I love and who love me. I have been given gifts and talents that bring me joy. I feel God's direction in my life daily. I know He cares for me and I feel myself enveloped in that love. I am richly and abundantly blessed.

Atley and Jocelyn headed out the door with the obligatory treat offering to appease our sweet goat while she is being milked. We're out of barley, but we have beet pulp, black oil sunflower seeds, molasses and more alfalfa for her to munch on.

Getting her set up in the stanchion, hobbled, and her udder and teats cleaned goes smoothly enough at first, but as I begin to milk her, the milk is hardly coming out at all. Amelia isn't having a let down or is intentionally holding back, I don't know which. Jocelyn is sitting behind her and begins to scream when a few wasps start to circle around her and land on her dress.

Amelia doesn't usually begin to kick until the end of a milking when she is out of her favorite treats (the barley.) We don't have that at all today. Additionally, I know she feels the stress Jocelyn is feeling and she begins to let us know she is not pleased to be there. She begins to kick so hard the back of the stanchion is lifting up off the ground. Panic and overwhelm starts to set in. So I turn to The Peace Giver.

I quietly but vocally pray, asking God to protect us from the insects who would do us harm (the wasps) or would compromise the quality of milk. (The flies are out in full force as it is later in the day than our normal milking time and the sun is beating down on us. If a fly gets into our milk bucket, we can't drink it.) I also pray that angels might be sent to help us all - including Amelia - to have a spirit of peace. I pray that they can help us to finish the milking at hand. 

The Spirit guides me to go onto Amelia's other side and wait for her to cough up some cud. She starts to chew it and I start to milk. The milk is now flowing at full speed. Several times, I notice Amelia beginning to rear up her legs like she is preparing to kick, but it is as if her hooves are glued to the platform. They never lift for the rest of the milking. I milk her out completely in only one bucket. (I always have two buckets in case one gets compromised with a hoof in the bucket, flies, etc.) Even applying udder balm to her teats - a practice she thoroughly dislikes - goes more smoothly than it ever has.

This miracle is not lost on me. I shed tears of gratitude for the angels God has sent to help me to complete this task.

I bear witness that God is there. He is in the small details of our lives. Gratitude can open the windows of heaven. Angels are real. God is good.

I bear witness to this truth, in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!

What miracles have you seen? How is God working in your life, today?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Long Term Camp Gear Recommendations or Awesome Gift Ideas for the Prepper in Your Life

In my last post, I gave the memoir of our camping experience. This post contains the nitty gritty of our camp set-up. I have had several people request more information about where we purchased our gear. This post contains all of that. If I forgot anything you want to know more about, let me know and I’ll respond in the comments section or edit this post. 

*Full Disclosure: Many of these are affiliate links which means if you decide to buy an item from my link, I will get a portion of the proceeds. This doesn't cost you extra, it just gives me a tip for having given the recommendation.*




 





Long Term Camp Gear Recommendations

Our Tent:

I poured through prepper forums to see what other people liked and didn’t like about their tents. I wanted a tent that could be lived in year round in any kind of weather and would hold up to a considerable amount of sun damage as well. I considered Wilderness/Montana/Spike tents and the Wilderness or Yukon stove found at www.walltentshop.com, military tents, Alaknak Tents (sold by Cabela's), teepees, yurts, and geoshelters. Geoshelters were my favorite but they were the priciest. We decided on a Davis Wall tent which was very close in comparison to other wall tents, but their tents were made of SunforgerR treated canvas which is supposedly stronger, lasts longer and is treated to resist water, mildew and fire. It seemed like the best value. And testing it out, we were very happy with it! The customer service was great, too. I had so many questions and all of my questions were patiently and sufficiently answered. I am very happy with our purchase.

Things we liked about our tent:
  • You could stand up completely everywhere in the tent without hitting your head!
  • The canvas held up very well against some serious downpour and some very strong winds. We were dry and comfortable inside every time it rained or stormed.
  • The extended awning was wonderful in making a protected outdoor space to cook as well as a porch transition. We really enjoyed that element of our custom tent.
  • The tent was beautiful to look at! Maybe that isn’t always top priority, but it did spark joy in my heart to feel like it was a homey space.
  • We arrived very late to our campsite to set up. We got there at 10pm. Luckily we had some moonlight and another overhead light from the site though it was still very dark. With Squire, my dad and I, we were able to set the tent up for the first time in just a couple of hours with some wild kids underfoot. I bet next time it would be much faster as we would know better what we were doing. I think for its size, it is a simple tent to set-up.
  • The storage organizers were very helpful, especially the large one that we used as pantry snack storage. They were strong and held up well with considerable weight in them at times.
  • It was worth it to pay the extra for the 3 windows for cross ventilation both ways.
  • The metal frame made it easy to attach our Fenix lantern wherever we needed it.
  • The space was great for our family and it felt very roomy and comfortable at the same time. Fit 2 sets of bunk cots easily (we bought the second set at Costco after we had already set up.) Could hold many more people comfortably.
Things we didn’t like or would amend somehow in the future:
  • The stakes were straight with a very think lip around the top. I think it would be worth it to weld a hook onto the end of each stake for more grabbing power or else just buy new ones altogether. Also, in the installation video, he instructs you to install the tent stakes straight up and down, “even though it might seem counter intuitive.” I took his advice against my intuition. . . perhaps on perfectly level ground that might be true, but in our case it wasn’t and we had to re-do the stakes after a few days of the ropes repeatedly coming off their stakes.
  • If the tent was built on a platform, this wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but because we were on the ground it was. Our tent floor piece just rested on the top of the fabric piece that curved under around the tent. Seeing as we weren’t on level ground, we had to readjust the floor piece sometimes, or bugs or other critters occasionally made their way into our tent around that outer perimeter. I don’t know what the solution is yet, but by the next time we go camping in our our canvas tent, I would like to have some sort of weighted chain or stones to place around the outer edge inside the tent to keep things a little tighter sealed off from the outside elements.
Want to order the exact same tent we have? Here are the specifications of the tent we ordered:
  • 16x20
  • Internal frame - angles only
  • water mildew and fire treated
  • organizers - one large, two small
  • tarp floor and stove mat
  • rain fly - oversized to make awning
  • 5" stove - 6" stove jack opening on the right side
  • canvas tent bag
  • pole bags -3
  • We cut our own poles from Electrical Metallic Tubing (cut list was included with our tent purchase)
Side tent recommendation: For recreational camping, shorter term camping, or camping that would require more mobility, we own a Pineview 8, Black Pine Sports Turbo Tent. It is purported to be a 4 season tent. It says it could sleep 8, though I think it is better suited to sleep 6 comfortably. It is very easy and quick to set up, fits our whole family and is comfortable in cooler temperatures because the fabric of the tent is thick and is reflective on the inside. It is high quality and we have enjoyed every short camping trip we have used it. No crying kids due to cold temps! We sleep soundly in it. We purchased our tent used off of eBay and saved a great deal on it. We love our little tent and heartily recommend it if you are just looking for something for shorter camping trips.

Sleeping bags and other related equipment:
  • Camp Mattress that won’t pop and folds into a sofa: LUCID 4 Inch Folding Mattress - Queen size – they don’t seem to have this exact one on Amazon anymore, but this one looks similar to ours. Very comfortable. Have slept on several camping trips with the mattress, even on rocky ground, and slept soundly with this underneath.
  • The kids all have a -25 degree Nitestar sleeping bag. I have not been able to find these since I bought them several years ago. Maybe they will come back seasonally, closer to Wintertime? I bought them as a group buy with some other preppers. I don’t know where the guy who organized it found them, but they are really great.
  • Each kid also has a fleece sleeping bag for hot Summer nights or as an extra layer of warmth in extreme cold
  • Thermarest Z lite Sol Ultralight Foam pads – We own a pad for each cot. Having one of these underneath the sleeping bag on top helps to prevent the cold air flow on the backside that is known to make cots uncomfortable. These pads are nice because they are reflective on one side and not on the other so that you can increase or decrease the heat as needed.
  • Disco-O-Bed Bunk cots – These are very helpful to have around, though they are heavy as sin. We use these when we have company over and we need more beds for kids to sleep on. The bunk feature makes them extra appealing to kids and the organizer is nice as well. They are great for making the best use of the tent set up.
  • Coleman Oversized Camp Chairs/Coolers - Great comfortable and handy camp chairs.
Camp Kitchen Supplies:
  • Our Deluxe Camp Sink was probably my favorite purchase for making tent life easier. Maybe with a little time and some jimmy-rigging you could figure out how to make one of these yourself? Time was of the essence and I figured I could give credit where credit was due to the guy who designed these. Seriously, he thought of everything. There is a foot pump so you don’t contaminate your water source every time you turn the water on. A soap dispenser was attached as well. He has a sink that includes a filtration bucket as well which would be very helpful if you didn’t have clean water access. We did, and we also had our Berkey water filter so this wasn’t a concern for us. If I was going to rough it again, especially if I wasn’t as fancy of a campground, I would definitely invest in one of his shower systems. Great customer service as well.
  • Blue Dish Pan Wash BasinA little pricey for what it is, but just the right size. Made washing dishes easy peasy.
  • Dish drying rack (Kitchenaid brand?) - Costco. Very helpful.
  • Stainless steel cups - I ordered three sets of these. Engraved on the side of each cup was a color: blue, pink, red, green, purple, or orange. They were all gray colored in their stainless steel so the word for each color became sort of an ironic joke. This engraving system also made it really simple to make sure we were all only drinking out of our own cups.
  • Stainless Steel Bowl/Plates -These 8.5 inch stainless steel plates were great for eating and quick to wash up. They had a mesh bag for storage, too. Amazon says these aren’t available right now, but I posted the link so you can see what they were and find something comparable if you are interested.
  • Stainless Steel Utensils - These sporks also had a lightly serrated knife edge. No one was hurt in the using of these utensils which was pleasant surprise. These were great.
  • Coleman 4-in-1 Packaway Table – held our dish washing basin, dish drying rack and our Berkey water filtration system.
  • GCI Outdoor Slim-fold Camp Kitchen – This was very helpful for organizing our cooking bowls, kitchen cooking utensils, cooking gear, apron and cleaning rags, spices, oil, etc. I had a couple of bins that I set up on it for further organization. Especially helpful was having the kitchen utensils cooking/baking utensils in a plastic bin with a lid that locked closed.
  • Big tote with paper towels, paper plates, bowls and plastic utensils for company. Also stored cutting boards and a couple bulky bowls and kitchen cooking items, and smores stuff, etc.
  • Lifetime Folding Table for food preparation and serving (Costco)
  • Another plastic tote for storing extra kitchen supplies, paper plates/bowls and plastic utensil for company, cutting boards, stainless steel saucepan, smores stuff, etc.
Cast Iron Pieces:
  • Large 15” Lodge Skillet with glass lid
  • Vintage Wagner Smaller Cast Iron (10” or 12”?) Skillet
  • Lodge Dutch Oven
  • Lodge Griddle/Grill (came with our Camp Chef Purchase)
Tips for purchasing Cast Iron Cookware and Dutch Ovens:
  • Make sure that it isn't warped, and sits flat (as you see in ads or in person)
  • Vintage have a smoother surface than Lodge cast iron, easier to clean. Already stood the test of time.
  • Wagner or Wagnerware, Pre-1960 (Griswold quality, but much cheaper)
  • Website for being able to know the year of the cast iron you are looking at: http://www.castironcollector.com/trademarks.php
  • If you need a lid for your cast iron, bring your piece to a thrift store and buy a glass lid that fits for just a couple dollars.
  • Check out www.webstaurant.com for purchasing Lodge pieces. The prices are good there.
Low Power Cooking/heating Resources:
  • We bought the Outfitter Cylinder stove with chimney oven here. High quality construction. Very pleased. Made in the USA, too. VERY heavy! I barely managed to set it up alone.
  • All-American Solar Oven - can buy drying racks to dehydrate in the Sun Oven also.
  • Extendable Roasting sticks - These are solidly made, the prongs bend backwards so they are less likely to be poked into an unsuspecting eyeball when your kid insists on cooking their hot dog or smore by themselves.
  • Our rocket stove (super handy for if the propane runs out or if you want or need to cook in a low fuel setting. Can set your dutch oven directly on the burner. Just requires sticks, twigs, pine needles, etc. for fuel. Would be ideal to use with a thermal cooker in a power outage or other camping applications.
  • Saratoga Jacks Deluxe Thermal CookerIt is like a super low power crockpot! Bring the food inside to a bowl and let sit inside its insulated thermos for 8-10 hours and you’ll have a hot meal ready to eat. Excellent for low power/fuel applications. I was very pleased with this purchase.
  • Let’s Make Sense of Thermal Cooking CookbookThis cookbook is a must have with the thermal cooker as well. It broke down the important elements to consider and had a lot of great recipes. Included recipes that could be prepared in advance as meals in jars as well.
  • Fan for blowing hot air around a room/tent on a wood stove - without electricity: Caframo Limited Ecofan UltrairI did not use this on this trip, but we would have used it had we been camping in the Wintertime. 
  • Camp Chef - we bought our Camp chef on a deal from Sportmans Warehouse. It was a 2 burner, propane powered with the wind guard and it also came with a Lodge grill/griddle which was great. It generally worked well for our purposes. However, if I could go back and buy again, I would go for a three burner camp chef. When we had friends over for meals and I used both burners (one for the meal and one for dessert), I lacked a third burner to boil water for getting dishes going and that had to be done after the meal. A three burner camp chef would have made life a little simpler in that way.

Water Filtration:
  • I could write a whole post on my Berkey Water Filtration System. I love it! We use it for all the water we drink and cook with – not just for camping trips. We bought our Berkey off of this site. We just use the two black filter elements in ours and it is great. It is the only filter that both filters and purifies, but it leaves all the good minerals in. We have the Royal Berkey and it works well for us now, but we might upgrade to the Imperial or Crown if our family grows any larger in the future.
  • We didn’t need these for this camping trip, but I think it is worth investing in Seychelle Water Bottles for your bug out bags: www.store.lds.orgthis is the most inexpensive place to buy them!
High Quality flashlights, glow sticks, and batteries/chargers for them:
Miscellaneous Stuff:
  • Foam tiles for front of tent (Costco) I purchased a few packages of these large foam tiles for a couple purposes – to make the transition from dirt/grass to tent a little cleaner and easier to maintain. It also made cooking a little gentler on my back with the added cushion underfoot.
  • Shoe rack organizer (Costco) These are everywhere. I loved having one though. We had a strict rule of no shoes in the tent. It helped keep everything cleaner to have a clear place for shoe storage. The rack made it easy to find shoes when we wanted to wear them (as opposed to a bin.)
  • Organizer with fabric bins (Costco) I can’t remember the brand. It had three tiers and held several fabric bins. It was very helpful for keeping our important things and clothing sorted.
  • 3-tier wicker organizer for food storage.
  • A wicker laundry basket for dirty clothing collection.
  • A wet bag for storing peed on clothing until wash day.
  • A large hand mirror hung on the front wall of the tent by a rope for convenient grooming. It did move with the wind, though! That was a little annoying. Perhaps it could have been attached with a PVC tube somehow to avoid that? Something to think about for the future.
  • A clothesline with metal clothespins for hanging up swim suits, towels, etc.
  • Other plastic totes with drawers for the kids’ clothing.
  • Mini fridge (Costco) – If you have access to electricity. . . ;)
  • Rug (Tuesday Morning)
  • Hand crank ice cream machine (bought at a Thrift store.) It was fun to use at our site!
Related Prep Products I am interested in buying in the future:
I hope this was helpful! If you have found some awesome supplies for long-term camping, I'd love to hear about them in the comments section of this post!

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