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Thursday, May 29, 2008

9 Loads in 1 Day

Last week I got a bit behind on the laundry since we spent the weekend working on the farm. I wasn't too concerned though. I figured I would just catch up this week.

Monday night, after we finished pulling fence, I decided it was time to start washing the laundry. I had our regular clothes to wash, Ethan's soccer clothes, a full load of dirty diapers, and just as full of a load of poison ivy infected work clothes. One problem. Our washing machine broke before the first load was even finished.

Instead of emptying the hampers this week, however, we have just been filling them more. I know I have added at least another load of clothes and cloth due to my oozing poison ivy. On a side note, I have gotten it almost every year since college - never had it before then. This is the worst I have ever had it, except for last year's encounter with the poison ivy tree that led to 3 weeks of rashes and a trip to the emergency room with blood poisoning. Even with this one being quite bad, it is has been one of the most bearable. I think I have finally found out what all to pull out of the cupboards to calm it down quickly!

Okay, back to the laundry. We haven't been able to pick up a new washer (new to us at least - we have located a few used ones we are going to try to get) since we have had quite the full week. Tuesday we met with our builder to go over the final plans before materials are ordered, and Ethan had a soccer game in the evening. Yesterday we went and bought an old camper for the farm and started fixing it up (you can read about why we got it here on my husband's blog), and Ethan had a full day of work today.

Since I am going to be gone over the weekend, I decided that the laundry NEEDS to get done. So today I loaded up all of our dirty clothes into our truck and drove to the laundry mat. An hour and a half later and over $15 poorer, I headed home with 9 loads of wet laundry which are now cycling through our drier and hanging out on racks on our deck. Hopefully Ethan will be able to pick up a washer somewhere this weekend while I am gone. I think I took as much dirt out of the laundry mat as I took in. I can't imagine having to do that every week like some families have to. Not only for the cost of it, but also just the work of hauling everything there.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

A Clean Fence Line - Thanks Dad!

Last week I got a call from my parents asking what we were going to be doing over Memorial Day weekend. We were planning on going to Des Moines to pick up some things we found on Craigs List, but when they threw out the offer to help do some work on the farm - coming armed with two chainsaws and a rototiller, we quickly changed our plans!

The forecast for the weekend was great weather on Saturday and rain and storms on Sunday and Monday. I called up my cousin, Tim, who has graciously been offering help every time we see him, to let him know what we were up to. He said he would be around Saturday morning to pitch in too.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast was quite wrong, and we woke up with rain on Saturday. Since Tim had plans in the afternoon, he had to take a rain check. The rain did clear up eventually, however, and our family and my parents were able to go out and work from 3 until 7. With the forecast of rain all day also being wrong for Sunday and Monday, we were able to go out again today for another long morning of work that ended around 1.

Here is a summary of what we got accomplished:

Saturday, Ethan worked on tearing out the last of the woven and barbed wire that was left on the farm. My dad took his chainsaw to the trees and bushes that had grown in and around the fence line, and I threw what was cut into the ditch. (We hope to clear out the ditch next fall, but until then there will be some good wildlife habitat!) Also, my mom helped out by playing with the kids on top of the hill where we have mowed.

Today my dad cut down some rather large trees that were along the fence line, along with more bushes and smaller trees. Ethan and I followed to clean up the trimmings. My mom had bought some fun new toys for the kids at the dollar store and played with them again on the hill top.

With the two days of work, we were able to get the entire overgrown fence line cleared. Now we just need to pull out the last of the posts, run the mower along the line, and the farm is ready for new fence!

We did try to plow up a spot for the garden, and my mom would have helped plant it - but it was just too wet with the unexpected rain Saturday morning. Hopefully it will dry soon, and we can get that garden in.

It was a great two days of work, however, I did run into a couple of things that weren't that enjoyable - seeing the unexpected things that can happen with chainsaws, continuing to flick ticks off and pull them off of our kids, and the welts and blisters that come from poison ivy. (I saw I was working in large patches of it, but how can I let others work through it who don't even own the land if I'm not willing to.) Thankfully, it seems if I am the only one who has reactions to it. (Tim- I bet you're glad you didn't have to find out if you do or not!)

Even with the more uncomfortable parts of farm work, I do really enjoy hard work outside, and I find it refreshing to work up a sweat doing physical work (as long as I know a shower is coming!).

I am extremely thankful for all of the hard work my dad put in helping us and that my mom was able to play with the kids so I could pitch in easier too. Also, I have to send Tim a thanks for offering his help even if it didn't work out.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

House for Sale!

Our house is officially for sale. We have actually had the sign up for a week and had our first walk through house shopper today.

Because we were meeting a reporter on our farm this morning, last night Ethan and I were both up past midnight getting the last minute cleaning done - Ethan was actually up until 1:30.

I don't remember the last time our property has been this clean. The yard is picked up and spruced up, our living space and dungeon basement are sparkling, the youth house side is polished . . . We even had a crew from church come and haul away to the dump two loads of old construction garbage that was left in the scary youth basement from the remodeling 4 years ago.

Now if we can just continue to keep everything in order while we continue to get our new property set up and going. At least a lot of the one time jobs are done and now it is just reshining things when someone else wants to come through.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pulling Up Old Fence Posts

Today we went out to the farm to scope out our new garden location. Since we bought out the CRP land yesterday (all but 5 acres that we don't plan on using), we are now free to do whatever we want to the land. So tomorrow we are going to hook up a borrowed plow and turn over some dirt!

We went over lunch time, so we took the kids and had a nice picnic on the loader. When we were done eating, Ethan wanted to do a little work and pull up some fence posts.

Ethan hopped on the tractor to operate the loader. I wrapped the chain around the posts, stepped back so Ethan could pull it out, and then he drove to the next post where I would unhook the removed post, throw it into the loader, and hook the chain to the next one. It worked out quite well.

The kids also followed along. I'm glad that they were able to. It gave me a good chance to do some teaching about where they need to be when equipment is running. I explained to them how they should never stand behind a tractor that is running (or any vehicle for that matter), and they need to stand where the driver can see them and be a safe distance away. It was nice to be able to walk them ahead each time Ethan moved to a new post and talk to them about tractor safety and safe distances. I also knew that when I was helping out with the posts, the tractor would be stationary.

I figure that if they are going to be living on the same land as a working tractor, this is probably one of the best opportunities to teach them about tractor safety - when it is actually running and they can be highly supervised.

We still have lot more posts to go, but wire needs to be removed before we can pull the rest. The next thing to be taken care of on the farm, however, is the garden!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Waiting for a Garden

Ethan and I have been discussing our garden plans a lot this spring. With moving, we have had a twist thrown into our garden plans though - mainly, where to have it.

We do have a nice here that has been established, fertilized by chickens and coffee grounds, and has a nice community of earthworms and other little creatures that benefit a garden. The problem with this garden plot is that we will be moving away from it. We aren't sure when the house we are in now will sell, but it could very likely happen that someone else would be harvesting what we plant if we put our garden in here.

The other garden location is at our new farm. There are a couple problems with that location though. One, we don't live there yet so keeping it weeded and keeping animals out would be a lot more difficult. Two, there is no bare ground. As of now, the land is in CRP and has a pretty good cover of tall switch grass.

I thought about starting a spring garden here, and then putting the plants that produce their crop later in the summer out at the farm, but after talking about it, we decided that we are just going to do one garden at the farm. So right now my garden is on our deck in planting pots waiting for the ground to be broken up on our new property.

Last night, however, we got one step closer to getting our garden started. Ethan's uncle sent a plow down for us to use with Ethan's dad, who was passing through. We still have to buy out the CRP before we can break up any land, but this Thursday or Friday we hope to get our garden plowed. We will then rent a rototiller from the farm store and hopefully be ready to start planting seeds.

As far as the animal and weed concerns, I think that I will mulch the garden pretty heavily between the rows and just do spot weeding where needed. This will help keep moisture in and encourage the worms to come make their home in the garden too. We'll definitely have to put up a fence to keep the rabbits out, and we might end up having to put up an electric fence around it to keep the deer out. We'll see.

It sounds like a lot of work and hassle to even do a garden this year with all of our transitions and building projects, but it is really important to us to grow and preserve as much of our own food as possible, and we also want to do some more experimenting with the garden this year. So we'll see how it goes, and hopefully we will be moving onto the farm sooner than later!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Picnic at the Farm

Last night we had our first meal at the farm.

Ethan wanted to drive the tractor from our house to the land so we could be more set up to start doing some work. He hooked up the hay rake to the tractor, took off, and we followed 45 minutes later. It was pretty good timing. He arrived about 5 minutes before we did.

Ethan raised the loader a bit, and then we all sat down for some sandwiches. Afterwards, we took a bit of a walk around the land. Caleb had a great time poking the ant hills, I enjoyed scouting out the blackberry and raspberry patches, and Hannah sang and held flowers while Ethan carried her.

It was a very enjoyable evening. The only thing I could have done without was all of the ticks that we flicked and picked off. Everyone had at least one left on them when we checked at home. I will gladly take a few ticks each evening, however, in order to be able to enjoy more evenings like we had.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Planting Pots at Work

Last week I pulled out some of my homemade newspaper planting pots from their tray. They are working great! As you can see in the picture, the roots are coming out of the side of the pots.

That is exactly what is supposed to happen with planting pots. It prevents the roots from becoming root bound - there is no reason to loosen up the roots, possibly damaging them, before planting the plants.

When I go to plant these, I will just stick planting pot and all into the garden. The roots will continue to grow out of the pot, and the newspaper will decompose in the soil.

I will definitely do this again next year!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Building News

Last week I mentioned that it was our rush week and that we were trying to turn in the papers for our loan. Unfortunately, we continued to have delays with the perk test and septic bid so I wasn't able to meet my goal. Even so, this week has been more relaxed. Pretty much it was just a wait to have things finalized on the contractors end.

We finally got the results in for our perk test. Not good. We have some nice thick clay 1 1/2 feet down. Instead of the $3200 system, we are now looking at an $8000 system. There will also be some extra expenses with moving the building a bit further from the road to make this system work.

Even though this is a bit more than we were wanting to fork out for the septic, I think it will be better in the long run. We had planned on just putting in a second septic system if we build a stick house down the road, with the purpose of keeping our costs down right now. But with this one costing so much, we are going to position it so that we can use it for the house if we end up building one.

Ethan was concerned about placing the septic system in this spot because it is in the middle of the pasture land. You can't drive or graze over a lateral septic system (the cheaper one), but you can graze and bale hay over a sand filtered system (the more expensive one.) With going the route that we are forced to go, we will have a septic system in the pasture area that can be driven over and grazed over and that can be used for a stick house down the road. So although the price seems discouraging now, it is probably the more beneficial route for the long term.

Finally, the news I've been waiting to share. Today I turned in 25 pages of pictures, drawings, bids, and material lists to the bank!!! I have been waiting to do this for a LONG time! We first set our eyes on this piece of land in January, and I have been setting aside housework since the beginning of February until now piecing this all together.

I can honestly say that this project has taken more planning and time than planning our wedding did. I had no clue how it would all fit together or even what needed to be fit together when we started. So I thank everyone for the prayers and encouragement that were sent to me! It was amazing to see how right when we thought we had hit a locked door in our project (which happened A LOT!), we found a window to crawl through to keep things going.

What now? Well, we wait for the appraisal for our construction loan, the land to be released between the two lenders, and then we can start building! I will be very relieved when we get the okay to build. Hopefully I will be posting construction photos in June. :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Work Hard, Play Hard

I want our children to grow up knowing what it means to work hard. (I also want them to know how to have fun too, of course.) Yesterday, my 4 year old son made my day.

He was playing with Hannah in the living room, and he came to the kitchen where I was cleaning up after lunch. Here is our conversation:

Caleb: Mommy, you work all day just like Daddy works all day.

Me: Oh really? What kind of work do I do?

Caleb: You clean up and wash things.

For a stay at home mom, that was such a blessing to hear. A lot of times people hear about moms who stay at home and think they are lucky because they don't have to go to work. I take my job at home seriously though and believe I should work as hard at home as I expect my husband to at his job. I feel like it is a huge, sometimes overwhelming, responsibility (just like many other jobs) to teach children responsibility encompassed in love, be a constant support for my husband, keep the house in order, manage a budget, and complete the many other tasks that pop up with all of the other things outside of the home that go on too.

With all of the planning that I have done the last 3 months, I have felt like I have let the house slip a bit. And when I look around the rooms, I feel like I am not doing my work. (Although if I peek at our housing file folder I can see where all my time has gone!) So when my 4 year old acknowledged out of the blue that he thinks I work hard, it made my day!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Taking in the Strays

Across the street from us is a dear lady whom I've gotten to know over the last 4 years. She is 70 now, has always been single, and lives with her dog, Cookie, in a small, square stucco house that has been handed down through her family for generation.

She serves lunch at the school during the year and cleans houses and runs errands for "older ladies." When the sun is shining, she will often be found mowing her yard, even if it doesn't need mowing. She also sweeps the street by her curb, and last year she even found a ring worth a couple hundred dollars while she was sweeping. I have learned she enjoys "watching the neighborhood" too.

I am a big fan of building community and have gone over to say, "Hi" and visit since we moved here. Over the last year, she has started coming over to our place for various things.

Today, I heard a knock on my door. Outside was our neighbor lady. She thought that she should let me know what she had just observed.

Apparently, there was a crew from the city filling in potholes. She noticed that they had found a snapping turtle and were putting it into the tar where they were working. She wasn't really sure why they gave up their fun with the turtle, but when they did, they decided to deposit it in our front yard. She just wanted to let me know since she was afraid our two young kids would find it and get too close.

I will keep my feelings to myself about what I think of the road crew sticking a large snapping turtle in hot asphalt and then dropping it in our yard, but why they dropped the turtle in our yard, I really don't know. There is a really nice railroad ditch with a dry run not 50 feet from where they dropped it. Our neighbor lady, however, watched the turtle from her porch and said that it eventually made it's way to the ditch on it's own.

This did get me thinking though. With moving to the country, it is time for us to prepare for the stray cats and dogs to appear in our ditch. Hopefully there won't be any more snapping turtles dropped off though.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

New Bibs for Hannah

About a year ago I made two bibs for Caleb. The bibs that he had just weren't keeping up with his power-eating. I really liked the pockets that some of his smaller bibs had, so I used them to help design his new ones.

Here's a picture of the store bought bib and the bib I made.
When I first made Caleb's bibs, Hannah could still use the smaller bibs. Over the last year, however, she has become a little more independent with her eating. Because of this, she ended up needing a larger bib as well and has been using Caleb's bibs.

After washing the two homemade bibs after every meal and then hearing how they were wet and cold at the next meal, I decided that maybe I should make some bibs for Hannah. Ethan was gone for the weekend when I took on this project, so I decided to spend a little extra time with it and take some pictures of the process.

I started off by using the same newspaper patterns that I had made to make Caleb's bibs. I traced the pattern onto a heavy piece of upholstery type plastic that I bought in the Walmart fabric department.
Next, I cut out the plastic to the same size as the red canvas fabric shown. I then pinned them together on the outside of the bib so the bib won't have holes in it.
After the two pieces were pinned together, I sewed them together with the surger following the outside line on the bib.
If you have a serger, you don't have to do any cutting. I just followed the lines I had drawn while sewing. The serger does the cutting for you, and you don't even have to pull pins if they are on the outside. If you don't have a serger, you will need to cut out the pieces and then sew around the outside. You will also have to pin on the very edge of the bib itself. The binding will cover the holes made.

After the perimeter of the bib was serged, I serged down the neck line and into the opening, with the serger doing the cutting. Next, I serged around the circular neck opening, and again the serger cut out the circle. Lastly, I surged up the final part of the neck opening. (Although this picture has a scissors in it, it was just used for weight for the photo. The machine did all of the cutting.)
Here is a picture with the serging completed on both bibs.
Next step . . . the binding. I cut strips of fabric 2 inches wide. (2 1/4 inches to 2 1/2 inches probably would have worked better.)

I then cut strips of plastic about 5 inches tall and 4 inches wider than the width of the bottom of the bib. I bound the top side of these with my binding. These will be the food catchers. I thought about showing the steps I used to put on binding, but I think that would have to be a post all in itself. If you aren't sure how to do binding, here is a good tutorial.
Here is a picture of the plastic strips in relation to the bibs. Once the binding was on the plastic strips, I pinned them in place on the bib, placing the pins on the very outer edge of the bib where the binding would cover the holes. When I pinned the strips in place, I puckered them out about an inch to allow for an open pocket that would catch falling food. If the strip isn't puckered, it will stick to the bib and the pocket will not work well. I then surged around the pocket, again, letting the machine do the cutting.
After the pockets were sewn in place, I finished up the binding around the outside of the bibs. Here is that binding tutorial again.
To finish off the bibs, I added 3 snaps. I like to use 3 to make the neck adjustable. The snaps that I used are set with a hammer and a plastic snap setting tool, which comes with the snaps that I bought at Walmart.
And here are the completed bibs. They are not perfect, but I wasn't too concerned about keeping things even. It cost me around $3 to make both of them and took a little under 2 hours.
As far as time/cost savings, I am happy with the price, but they take me a bit longer to make than I would like. Even so, I haven't found anything similar in size and quality that I could buy, and if I did it would probably be more than I would want to pay anyway. So, I guess the time and cost in this project is well worth keeping food and stains off of clothes.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Sweet Potatoes :: Week 7 1/2

I have finally had a chance to take a picture of my sweet potatoes. This week I decided to snap off the shoots and get them started on rooting.

I was told by the resident sweet potato expert to put them in water to get them to root. Then, when it is time to put them outside, separate them out and plug them into the garden.

Well, I deviated a bit from his advice, not that I thought that I knew better. I was just a little unsure of how to make it work right. My concern was that the shoots would slip into the water, and I couldn't think of anything that I could divide them up with to keep them standing.

So I just did what I did last year. I took the shoots and poked them right into moist soil. I had a few of my newspaper planting pots left, so I utilized what I could of those. For my remaining shoots, I just used the bottom of a milk jug container filled with soil. I'm not sure what the difference is in how fast they root with water vs. soil, but this works fine. You can even put your shoots directly into the garden this way if you run out of starting time. (Just be sure to keep them well watered and maybe put a milk jug greenhouse over them to keep warmth and moisture in.)

I think that my updates on sweet potatoes won't be as frequent now that they are in the soil. If there are any big changes or if I do anything different, I'll post about it. If you don't see anything for a week or two, however, just assume they are growing in their planters. (Which, by the way, are by a grow light at night and out on the deck when the day is sunny.)

I hope everyone else's are doing well. Feel free to drop any questions, and I'll do my best to answer.
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