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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dry Land, No Building Progress

Well, the rain predicted for this week didn't come so our land is now dry. Even so, our contractor hasn't been by again this week so he must have headed over to the other job. With only a few days needed to get the building done, we are anxious for the crew to return - especially before it starts raining again.

We have enjoyed the last couple of nights on the farm now that it is dry though, and we have done a bit of clean up after the workers so we are closer to being able to start building ourselves. Ethan also enlarged the pig area some more, and I picked enough blackberries to try a batch of jam. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have pictures of my jars!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 9 of Construction

Yesterday morning when Ethan went out to our farm to take care of the animals, our builder showed up. He came out with one of his workers to tack the Tyvek back up since some of it had blown off in the storm the night before.

Ethan talked with him a bit, and he mentioned that he was going to head over to a different job site for awhile. Although a bit disappointed, this is what we expected since our farm is so incredibly wet. I'm sure the builder was wanting some drier ground, and this other site was in a different area of the state.

A bit after Ethan came home, we loaded up the kids and went to Des Moines for an appointment. Since Mondays are usually the day Ethan takes off, we also did some shopping (actually, just looking at things) and just hung out for the day. On the way home Ethan decided to drive by the farm to see how it was drying up.

We were a couple of miles away when Ethan picked out the white roof of our house. He mentioned that it looked like he saw some red on the sides. I told him not to get his hopes up since the builder told him he was going elsewhere.

When we pulled up to the farm, however, Ethan had been right! Although the builders weren't there anymore (their usually work day wasn't over yet), the front of the house had been sided!

We aren't really sure how long they worked - if they decided to just do some things since they were already out there and muddy, and we aren't sure if they plan on coming back this week or going to the other site. We will take it though!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 8 of Construction . . . Still

It took awhile for our farm to dry up after the last rain. Saturday we had to pull one of our vehicles out of the mud with our tractor. But yesterday the ground was finally starting to look dry enough for construction again . . . for awhile.

We drove out to the farm at about 5 pm to watch a storm roll in that would bring with it 60 mile and hour winds and around 1 1/2 inches of rain in 30 minutes. It continued to rain through the night, and I'm sure it would be safe to say we got around 3 inches of rain. And there is more in the forecast this week.

So we will continue enjoy just one side of the building red until it is dry enough for the builders to come back out. It goes so fast when they are out there - it's just getting the conditions right so they can be out there!

Even with the farm too wet to enjoy, I still have plenty of things to do with the project. I have paperwork I can do, and maybe I'll price shop for the materials we are going to need once the builders are done. There is also plenty to do with selling this house and preparing for our eventual move. Although, I'm still hoping for building progress out on the farm.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sweet Potato Update

I realize that it has been quite awhile since I have done a sweet potato update. I was hoping that at this time this summer I would be able to show you my massive vine of sweet potatoes in the garden.

Unfortunately, my sweet potatoes spent much longer in planting pots and garden pots than I would have liked. While we were waiting for our garden to be workable, they were quite stunted.

This picture was taken mid June. I finally planted them in our garden the first week of July, and they weren't much bigger.

After only a couple of weeks in the garden, they have kicked back into growing gear. They are all looking about the same as this one now.

So while I probably won't have the bumper crop I was hoping for, maybe I'll get one or two for a nice fall treat.

I am going to continue to experiment with them this year though. Once the vines are a little more established, I am going to clip off some tips and try to root them as house plants.

I have heard that they make beautiful vining house plants, but that is not my reason for doing this. I am going to see if it is possible to skip the potato rooting phase of the process next year (although I'll do it again next year just in case) and just plant some slips of my house plant.

Wouldn't it be cool if I were to have grand children some day and they were able to plant sweet potatoes from the same vine their grandma did?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Cabinets!

Since we didn't get out to the farm today, I don't have any pictures. We are assuming the builders didn't get out there either though, since it was a rainy night and day. Instead, I will share some pictures of what will be inside. :)

If you take a peek at our drawing for the dining room/kitchen, you may notice that we didn't have many cabinets. We decided to only plan for them on one wall since the more money we put into this building, the further we are away from building a stick built house down the road. To make up for the loss of space, we included a long pantry in the hallway opposite the kitchen. This is to store the overflow. We also left one wall of the kitchen open as a "just in case". It could be used for kitchen furniture or in case we wanted to add more cabinets down the road - especially if this house was the only house we would ever build.

There was one more just in case for this second wall though. Just in case we found some used cabinets at a good price.

Well . . . we did! A young couple in the high dollar part of Des Moines decided to redo their 7 year old house's kitchen. Including the cabinets. We caught the add on Craig's list before anyone else did and got a great bargain!

To give you an idea, one wall of cheap Menards cabinets was going to cost over $800. We now have 2 walls worth of 7 year old high end oak cabinets for less than that price.

This is a big answer to prayer for me! I know I could have worked with the few cabinets we had planned, but I was concerned about being able to cook from scratch the way I have been with such limited counter space while still trying to keep the kitchen area from becoming a complete disaster zone!

I am very happy with these cabinets. They will work well with our design, and they will make making homemade egg noodles and bread much easier!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 8 of Construction

Today the steel was put on the roof, and just in time. We are supposed to get around 2 inches of rain tomorrow, and it is supposed to keep coming into the weekend. Although the ridge vent isn't on yet, the majority of the roof is covered.

The north side of the house also got its steel on, and now our house has some color! It was really cool to drive around to the back and get a glimpse of how things will look once it is completed.
I will admit, the windows on the back of the house are kind of sparse, but we did this on purpose. We could have added a third window on the back with the new third bedroom, but we preferred to have it on the end of the building instead. Doing this allows us to have a view out each side of the house to observe what's going on in the pasture. Also, since this is the north side of the house, fewer windows means less heat loss in the winter while the cold winds blow. Besides, there are only two houses past us on the road that runs by the north side, and then it turns into a class B road - basically a dead end. So not many people will look at the house from this angle, including us.

So all of that to say, we are really happy with what we see and how things are coming along. :)

Camper Cushions

I have spent quite a bit of my "free time" in the house working on new cushions for our camper.

Not only had this camper been used for family vacations, but a bachelor had lived in it a year while building his house and the last family used it as a hunting camper. The 40 year old cushions covers that came with the camper had broken zippers, shredding fabric, outdated colors, and were just plain nasty. Because of this, the covers went straight to the garbage. I didn't even want to save them to use them as patterns.

After we sprayed off the cushions and sanitized them twice (leaving them smelling just like new), I started on the cushion covers.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the covers, but I wanted them nice. I got some cheap used sheets from a 2nd hand store for the first cover. I then measured the cushions, cut the fabric to size, sewed them up, and worked the cushion inside. These first covers are going to be permanent, so I finished them off by stitching the end closed by hand.

Next came the removable covers. I used some surprisingly heavy $1/ yard promotional fabric from Wal-Mart. I was really happy with this since it is similar to upholstery weight but so much cheaper! I adjusted my measurements just a bit to get a really snug fit, and then I sewed these covers up.

I wasn't quite sure how to finish them off to make them removable though. I could have used zippers, but I would have spent quite a bit of money and time on them. Buttons were another option, but also would have added up with money and time. Velcro wouldn't hold for sure since the fit was so snug, and snaps might have popped too. I didn't want to whip stitch the ends, since I wanted them to be easy to remove and wash. So I just ended up getting a box of quilter's safety pins and pinned the ends shut. These ends will be pushed against the wall anyway so they won't be seen. I did leave enough fabric, however, that if I ever wanted to add snaps or buttons I could.

We hope to pull the camper to the farm soon. We should be able to have electricity next week. So this week I am busy working on lined curtains - all 16 of them! It will take some time, but thankfully I found some more $1/yard promotional fabric that will work and have some leftover old sheets for the lining.

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Tools of My Trade
Shock Wave was the chemical that the mold remediation service referred us to when we were battling mold in the house we were living in. We were told it is what is used to clean hospital rooms that have had hazardous organisms, and that is is EPA safe. This is what we used to clean our camper and cushions, and we were very pleased with the fresh smell of the previously musty smelling camper.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 7 of Construction

Tonight all of the windows and exterior doors were in, the Tyvek was up, and some of the trim to hold the siding was in place. It was fun walking around inside and looking out all of the windows in each room - checking out the views. It's really starting to take shape!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 6 of Construction

I'm not really sure how to count the cement work in our construction days. They worked 1 1/2 - 2 days preparing it, one day pouring it, and spent some time the following day cutting it. So maybe 3. For the ease of counting though, I'm not going to include the cement work in the day count of building construction. So I guess we are on day 6.

Our builder actually came out last Friday to start again, but it had rained so much the night before (2-3 inches) that he called us in the morning after stopping by the site and went back home.

If you remember, our land failed the septic perk test, meaning that it doesn't drain well. With all of the equipment tearing up the ground lately, it really isn't draining at all now. It is quite a mess out there!

It continued to rain over the weekend some, but he must have decided that it wasn't going to get much better anytime soon. So even with water standing on the cement slab and muddy ruts threatening to get trailers stuck, they were out there working today.

Ethan and I pulled up to the farm around 5 and were happy with the progress we saw. The mudroom was now framed in, and the openings except for the mudroom doors and windows were framed in. It was neat to see it starting to take a bit more shape. With the windows cut out, we could better visualize the rooms. Also, seeing the big picture window openings in the living room and dining room made us itchy to sit inside on a cold snowy day with a cup of hot chocolate and the wood stove crackling and look over the hillside. But that's awhile off . . . :)

We asked what he thought the time frame looked like for the rest of the project. He thought maybe 5 days or so and he would be done with the building. Tomorrow, weather pending, we should see doors and windows in with Tyvek around the house.

You can always click on the pictures to enlarge and see more detail.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Farm Progress Photo Tour

Although the weather has been nice this week, not much has moved forward on the construction of our house. Our builder needs to finish a project he started when we were having our cement work done, but he should be back to our place soon. I did take some time this week to recheck and rework the window placement in our house so that is a little step ahead I guess.

Even so, we have had some productive time at the farm. We have been able to go out with the kids a few times in the evening with the nice weather. They had fun using sidewalk chalk on the new slab while Ethan and I got some things done.

One of the things Ethan and I worked on was enlarging the pig pen. We more than doubled its size with some more cattle panels that we picked up at an auction awhile back. As you can see, this project took us late into the evening, but it was much needed. The pigs now have access to more of next year's garden plot. There is just a small corner left to be extended and they will have full access to plow up our garden. They are doing a great job, however we are looking forward to being able to move them out on pasture once we get up a perimeter fence.

I also worked a bit in the garden putting tomato cages around all of my tomatoes. I won't get a bumper crop this year due to our garden's late start, but I am hopeful that I will have some to can. I am also hoping to be able to can some green beans. I planted 3 different varieties. One of the them really took off. One has about 5 plants up, and the third didn't have any germinate. I think I know which I will choose next summer, but I'll give the others one last try for fall plantings before they get crossed off the list.

We now have chickens again too! We brought back 6 hens from Ethan's uncle last night. This time they are residing at the farm which will make some happy. I am looking forward to having farm fresh eggs again, as well as homemade egg noodles. Boy, have I been missing those!

Tonight I also took a walk down to the ravine to check on the blackberries. There were a small handful that were ripe enough to pick, but there are bucketfuls soon to follow. Thankfully the blackberries have decided to grow above the ravine, instead of in it like the raspberries did. The raspberry season is now pretty much over, and although they are a bit sweeter and more delicate than blackberries (which have a core that remains), I am excited about the blackberry season. I have considered trying to make some blackberry jam. Do any of you have any favorite blackberry suggestions or recipes?

Also, you might notice my new berry picking bucket. One night when Ethan was gone I took his drill to an ice cream bucket's bottom and sides. I am hoping that all of the holes made will help some of the little critters who end up in the bucket to escape. It would make cleaning and washing them much easier if they did!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Missing Socks?

I don't know why it happens, but it seems like many times I do laundry I have socks leftover without a match. I am thankful to know that I am not the only one this happens to though. :)

Over the years, I have tried many different methods of getting these socks reunited with their mate. Some of these have included just sending them back to the drawer, making a pile of them in the closet, and throwing them back in the hamper to be washed again in hopes that they will reunite on their own.

None of these methods really had me sold on them. Recently, however, I have found something I think I will stick with. I now have a basket on top of my dryer. When I am done folding laundry, the mismatched socks get tossed into the basket. I will sporadically grab this basket when I am folding socks (every few weeks or whenever the basket is full) and start matching up the mismatches. Any left that don't have a match go back into the basket for the next round.

Do you have any laundry tips you would like to share?

(Check out these two posts from This Abode for more laundry discussion.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cement is In!

We haven't spent much time at the farm lately because it is so muddy out there from all of the rains lately. Even so, they were able to find a break in the weather at the end of the week to get the cement poured. (Although it looks like the cement truck just about got stuck in its own ruts!)

This week our builder should be finishing up a job where he is at now, and he should be back to frame in the doors and windows, frame up the mudroom, put on the siding, and put on the roof.

After that, the pounding of nails gets turned over to us!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Secret House Plans

You might remember our original house plans from an earlier post. If not, here is the picture.Well, we have had an alternate plan that we haven't shown until last week. There are a few differences: We parked cars in our driveway, the storm shelter has moved from a basement to the mudroom slab (plans are from FEMA), and I rearranged the porch. But the main difference is something we had to keep silent to keep our secret.
A week ago, Ethan and I surprised our families with the announcement that we are expecting a baby in mid November! Next week I will be starting my sixth month of pregnancy. :)

In our original drawing plans, we had two bedrooms and an office. When we made these plans, we knew we were expecting, but we had decided we could make two bedrooms work. We could use the office for a bedroom for awhile if we needed and then eventually add another room in the storage area down the road. Ethan pondered the design for awhile and decided that it would be better to just relinquish some of the storage area and make the extra room right now.

I agreed with him. It will cost just a bit more now, but it will save a lot in remodeling. Also, it will be nice to know all of the areas that could have a little one sleeping will have a window in case of a fire.

As for the office, it was taken out and the furniture was scattered around the house. One desk will be in the living room and the other in the dining room. The bookcases will be against the hallway walls. I played with the design and furniture awhile on (where you can scale all of your furniture to size and pick colors), and we found a set up that would work out.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Slab Prep Work

Today the cement contractor was able to come out and prep the building for the cement. The ground still has to dry up a bit before the cement truck can make its way out though.

Other than that, things have been pretty slow this week due to the wet weather. It has been nice to have had some down time to catch up with things in the house, however, we are anxious to keep things moving along . . .

Monday, July 7, 2008

Our Farm Garden

The cement contractor was supposed to be out at the farm to start setting up this afternoon after he got the materials in the morning. We weren't able to go out and check on things though. After a busy week last week which included two house showings, building starting, being gone for a wedding Thursday and Friday, and house guests over the weekend - we needed to clean house and get some work done around here, especially since we had a house showing again tonight (number 9) and VERY tired kids.

So instead of a building update, I thought I would give you an update on the garden. If you remember from previous posts, our garden has been a challenge this summer. The wet weather has made it very hard to get into shape.

We decided this year we just could not get it going as much as we wanted to. Ethan worked quite hard tilling up a small section of the garden to get just the basics for preserving in - corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, yams, and pumpkins (for the kids).

The majority of the garden is being worked up by our new pigs until they get into the pasture. They are doing a wonderful job at it too. So next year we will hopefully have a plentiful garden.

As for this year, the tomatoes are transplanted and seeds are just starting to pop up. We will put in a fall planting of some crops too and preserve as much as we can.

Day 4 1/2 and 5 of Construction

Saturday we got back out to the farm and were finally able to see everything that was completed on Thursday. We found out that all of the framework for the porch and house (minus the mudroom) had been completed.

On Saturday our plumber and septic contractors came out and worked through the morning. We were able to get our hydrant in, the waterline run to the house, and all of the plumbing ready to go for the cement to come in.
We were hoping that we would get the cement poured early this week, but we will have to see. Saturday night and last night we had unexpected storms, so we might have to wait for things to dry up again.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 4 of Construction

Today we went out to the farm at 10:45 am to take a peek at the house.  When we pulled up, this is what we saw.  

I was pretty surprised with how quickly they got the trusses up. We didn't get a chance to see what else they did today, and we won't be able to see until Saturday.  I'm assuming that they worked on the porch though - the posts in front that are still free standing.  It will be fun to see it all together!

The plumbing is still scheduled for early Saturday morning.  Ethan is going to go out and help with that since the plumber is from our church.  Today I also talked to the concrete contractor.  They plan on coming Monday morning, weather pending.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Day 3 of Construction

We started out this morning with a bit of rain and some lightning. Thankfully it cleared up until after supper, when it really poured.

We have been going out to the farm every evening at supper and doing work until we could keep the kids up no longer, but tonight we just went out to take some pictures and come back in since the weather was not the best.

When we got out there, we were glad to see that the builder was able to get quite a bit done today. The rest of the sides have their framework completed, the posts have been cut down to size in preparation for the trusses, and the trusses and other lumber have been placed to start work right away. (You can click on the pictures to get a close up of the work.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sweet Ravine

We have a pretty big ravine on part of our land by the woods. Ethan has written about it a bit on his blog looking for advice on how to stop the washout and repair the land. Someone before us decided to dump rolls of woven wire in it, which might be helping. Even so, we would like to go a different route.

Not only are there rolls of barbed wire in this ravine, though, but there are brambles. Black raspberry brambles. And this ravine is about the only place on our farm where the black raspberries are going to be fruiting this year. (Blackberries on the other hand are a different story! If they continue like they are, I will have buckets full.)

So I was faced with a choice. Do I let the ravine swallow the crop of black raspberries this year, or do I go in after them. Keep in mind, the picture above was taken in the spring when the grass was short. Now the grass is at least chest high, making the drop offs into the wirey depths a little harder to see.

Well, I talked it over with Ethan, and we decided it was safe to go in. I found a decent path down into the washout where I would be free from wire if I would slip. Once down, I could maneuver my way around and get to the fruiting vines.

It was hard work, but I ended up with a nice freezer bag of berries. (This picture makes them look a bit red, but they are really deep purple.) I will probably wait a bit before going in again to make sure I can get another decent picking's worth. It is well worth it this year, but I am definitely going to start my own black raspberry patch by the house!

(Be sure to check out my post below for today's building progess.)

Day 2 of Construction

Today our builder had a rough day. His rear end gear (or something back there) went out on his truck so he lost most of the morning dealing with that.

Even so, progress was made on our house. The boards around the base are all in place, and the horizontal boards on the frame are set on the front and back - these are the boards that will have insulation between them and that we will attach the drywall to. (The picture is kind of dark. If you click on it though, it will enlarge and you can see the work better.)

Today our water meter was set up by the rural water company too. They were out yesterday but had to leave to work on a broken pipe somewhere.

Our builder is still shooting for Thursday to have the frame completely put together. Our plumber is scheduled to come on Saturday to rough in the plumbing, and we will hopefully have our slab poured early next week. Then comes the siding and roof.

Keep peeking, and I'll keep putting up pictures as I can.
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