Sunday, June 28, 2009

See the USA, the Mystery Shopping Way: Intro

Everyone has dreams and goals. Ours is to truly SEE the USA. We've dreamed of doing it "when we retire" all of the 36 years we've been married. Thanks to a bad economy my husband found himself suddenly "retired" in March, or as some put it "he became unemployed."

We spun around on our heels for about two minutes, going UH OH! Then we went, "Yippee! It took us just a blink of an eye to realize that we could truly "See the USA" now. I know that sounds crazy, no income and we are going to travel right?

Well wrong, sort of. Not exactly, no income. You see I am a Mystery Shopper, a merchandiser, and a vendor. You can Mystery shop anywhere in the US except Nevada. In Nevada you must have a Private Investigator license.

Are you starting to see my plan? No? Let me explain it.

The job my husband was "retired" from is in a field that hundreds of others were let go at the same time, my son being one of them. That means the pickings for a new job are pretty slim.

In today's age everything is done via the Internet. You file for unemployment on the web. You apply for jobs on the web. You network in your chosen field on the web. I get my mystery shopping assignments and file my reports via the web. So we do NOT need to be tied to the house. So why should we?

OOPS! There is a little thing called the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch, with its large flock of free ranging birds that need to be watered and supplemental fed. That's a pretty big anchor. Only, there is my son who is also unemployed, and job hunting, who lives in our home while the home he was building is put on hold until he finds a job.

So...he becomes zoo keeper and rancher while we hit the road pulling our fifth wheel behind us. Mystery shopping as we go. Camping, boondocking, and exploring the US. Bills paid, and a dream fulfilled. We've been doing it for a on and off for four months now. Testing the waters to see if it could be done. We have been home about every two weeks.

This trip out we going to try not rotating home, but string shops together to keep us moving from place to place. . I've decided to blog and scrapbook our travels.

The blogs will include the sights we see, review the places we camp each night, give traveling on a shoestring hints, recipes, photos and whatever else pops into my mind. I hope you will "See the USA with us."

Jan who always signs her posts with whatever she is doing in or away from OK

Sunday, June 21, 2009


His name is Elf, he is the son of Freckles and Fairy and perhaps the Houdini re-incarnate. He's a young escape artist of the number one caliber. Just today he had defied the humans and escaped them three times, hobbling on his injured leg faster than most could do on two good legs. Determined to be with his family. For only with his family would he truly be safe.

Even now he was hiding under a building the humans called a coop. He had seen them coming for him again, before they saw him he was certain. Here in the dark gloom behind the rain barrels he watched with alert eyes as the male human paced back in forth, calling his name and begging him to come out.

No way was he being separated from his family again, it was just too awful. Past the pair of pacing legs he could see his beautiful mother, her graceful white feathers curling from the center of her back toward the ground. His father, tall and spotted with the knob of his crown on his head stood behind her.

He knew if he could get to his parents and the safety of the aunts and uncles who guarded him day in and day out everything would be okay. He was the favored child, the heir apparent. The only young one since his sister Imp died in the big rains two weeks earlier. He needed their guardianship. They would protect him. He needed the warmth of his mother's wing over his back. He was so afraid, and so alone. His leg hurt and he needed his mother.

Just as he was ready to run for them his mother shook her head ever so slightly, through the air came the silent thought "No, stay put." His father nodded in agreement. Fighting the desire that welled up inside him he sat down between the barrels to rest his injured leg. He would wait until the human left, then he would be back with his parents. Then and only then would he be safe.

Suddenly he heard a noise behind him. Whirling his head around on his long graceful neck he saw in terror the female human laying on the ground half under the coop, pushing a long straight stick in front of her. She was coming straight at him.

"Mama!" He screamed, squeezing between the two barrels, looking for a place to hide away from the nearing danger. "Mama, HUMAN, help!"

Wings spread his mother and the rest of his family ran toward him calling "Elf, Elf, we're coming!" Soon surrounding the rain barrels and placing themselves between the humans and Elf they swarmed to save him. Hissing warnings at the encroaching humans. Silently he eased himself between and under the larger family members moving en masse toward safety from his captors.

Just as they thought he was safe the man's large hand closed around him. "Mama, Mama, I want my Mama!" Elf screamed. Biting at the man's hand.

As one his family turned on the man, wings spread long necks low and hissing "Let our prince go!" they demanded, but the human turned and walked off with their future, moving into the coop. They followed hissing and squawking until he closed the door in their faces.

"My baby," Fairy moaned.

"We'll find another way to get to him," Freckles reassured her, then lead the others off to look for another way into the building. Fairy crying took one last look at the closed door then followed remorsefully, certain Elf was lost to her forever.

Inside the gentle red head man said "It's okay Elf,"as soon as your leg heals you can go back to your mama." then added. " You've got to stay in the nursery or your leg won't heal right. Now how did you get out this time?"

Sitting the screaming Elf into the nursery the man showed him the provided food, water and soft bedding. Then he inspected the nursery door. This time the man figured it out. Testing the door the man found the same weak spot Elf had found earlier. Repairing it, he secured his captive for the night then left as little Elf cried for his mother. This time there would be no escape.

"Mama, Mama" the little one cried. it was getting so dark, he'd never been alone in the dark before. The dark was dangerous. Tucking his head under his wing in fear he whimpered.

"Elf, are you okay?" his mother called softly. Peeking out from under his wing he saw the worried look on his mother's face. His father had fulfilled his promise and lead them through the front of the coop to him.

"My leg hurts Mama and I can't follow you. He locked me in."

"It's okay Elf we're here" she said while pushing her bill through the mesh of the pen, touching it to Elf's. One by one he heard the soft foot steps of all the gaggle of geese coming into the coop. Soon the nursery he was in was surrounded by all those he loved. Fairy, Freckles, Spot, Jennie, Pebbles, Pal, and Whitaker, they were all there bringing the safety of being part of a flock with them. But most important of all he could touch his Mama, and she him. It didn't seem quite so dark any more. Soon his leg would be well and he could be back with the flock, but for now this was good. Slowly, comforted by his family's love he drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow would be a better day.

Author note: Elf is a real three week old gosling who truly lived this adventure today. His mother, Fairy, is a dainty white Chinese/Sebastopol goose cross. While Daddy Freckles is a brown Chinese/Tufted Roman cross. Elf is Elf. He's a mutt who definitely shows his Chinese lineage with a long graceful neck and triangular head. Right now he's still all down, pale yellow and grey in color with a dark bill and feet. It's anyone's guess to what he will look like as an adult, but for now he's adorable.

We aren't sure how he got injured, but he's definitely favoring one leg. It's better today and we are hoping it will heal quickly so he can be returned to the parents who love him so much, before they lose his bond with them. The entire gaggle is very protective of the little guy. If all goes well he will soon have several cousins to play with. He is just one of the many stories of the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch.