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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Enjoying the Farm

Tonight was really our first chance to enjoy the farm as a family since we have moved here. We have had lots of rain, mud, and cold weather, along with some colds, that have kept us inside. But tonight the weather was great, the kids are feeling better, and everyone was finally home at the same time too.

Ethan took the kids out to help with chores while our supper of mashed potatoes, veggies, and ham was cooking. I snuck out as soon as I could to follow along and take some pictures.

After the animals were fed, we had a little extra time before supper yet so Ethan hooked up the hay rack and took the kids and myself for a hayride.

It was nice to be able to see the property for the first time with large portions of the prairie grass down. (I haven't had the chance or felt like walking around since the hay was cut.) The kids also had a lot of fun riding behind the tractor and going down to the woods.

Although we still have lots of work to do in the house and around the yard, I'm glad we are able to take little breaks to just enjoy being here.

(Even though this last picture is blurry I still like it with our house ahead, the bale of hay, and the transition between the cut and uncut grasses.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stormed By the Combine

Right across the road from us is a field of soybeans. I’ve been waiting for the combine to show up since beans started coming out here probably two weeks ago. We really enjoy watching the combines, especially Caleb.

Today, however, I could have done without the combine. You see, today the conditions were just right for the perfect storm.

We just got done with some pretty cold weather that left water outside frozen in the morning, but today is a beautiful fall day. It has warmed up considerably and the sun is shining bright. Which leads me to the storm.

You see, this morning the bugs decided that after hiding from the cold for about a week, they better come get some sun. First we saw the flies. Then a few Asian beetles started showing up. And then the combine showed up.

If you haven’t lived by bean fields before, you may not know that they are home to Asian beetles here in Iowa. These are the little bugs that look like lady bugs, but they aren’t. These guys are not red but orange, a bit bigger, and a WHOLE lot smellier! In fact, they just plain stink.

So when the combine started across the road, the beetles got stirred up from their home. Then they realized that it was a great day to fly around and catch some sun. If it was colder, they might have hunkered down a bit, but not today. Today is a great day to be a bug and fly.

Now there’s one more thing about these beetles. They originally weren’t from our area, but from an area where they enjoy hanging out on the sides of rocky cliffs. We don’t have sides of cliffs here. But we do have sides of houses. So after they fly around a bit, where do they go? To the sides of houses. Or barns. Or barn houses.

Our whole house is now covered with these little guys. Here are some pictures I took.

I should have known that they would be all over the side of the building like they were the windows. But curiousity got the best of me, and I went outside anyway. (Don't be fooled by the red siding, they are all over that too. You can click on the picture to enlarge it if you want proof.) My mistake. I flicked quite a few off before I attempted to go inside again.

That’s alright though. We don’t have our screen/storm doors on yet, the ones with the tight seal, so they are finding their way in without my help.

Fortunately, we have some Ortho Home Defense spray my mother-in-law had left before we moved in. Unfortunately I haven’t sprayed any of it since I am at the very end of my pregnancy and am being overly cautious (and Ethan has been super busy so I haven’t bugged him about it - no pun intended.) Since they like to hang out high on the walls though, we’ll just vacuum them up at night. (By the way, use an old vacuum for this or at least be prepared to throw away your vacuum bag when you are done. Remember - they stink!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hold On to Your Hat - And Your Chickens

Last night, or early morning (whatever you want to say), Ethan and I were woken up to our NOAA weather radio's alert alarm. The warning - high winds for the upcoming day. Okay. We went back to bed.

In the morning, all was still calm. Off to church we went. By the time church had gotten out though, we understood what the alert was all about.

We were in sustained 30 mile an hour winds with gusts up to 60 miles an hour. On the way home from church a dumpster blew across the road right in front of us. And that was in town.

Now, about our property. Our farm is on a hill. And we built our house on top of that hill. And there are no trees on top of that hill. Just our barn/house.

We are experiencing every bit of those 60 mile an hour gusts. I was relieved to pull up to our drive and see the house still intact. :)

Although, not everything up here has faired as well as our house.

Do you remember our chicken coop?

We thought we over built it. It is a movable coop, however I could barely manage to scoot it to its next spot on my own. Ethan could a bit better, but when it came time to move it any large distance, he would get my help.
So here are the nest boxes, the feeder, and the waterer. But where's the coop?
Oh . . . Here it is. A good 50 feet from where it should be. Lucky for the chickens, they weren't inside. Lucky for us, it decided to obey the road sign.
The same gust that blew away the coop also blew open our sliding door on the end of our building. Thankfully it didn't rip it off. Ethan is working right now to secure it a bit more.

The chickens, however, are going to have to fend for themselves for awhile. With winter coming, and a baby in a couple of weeks, they are pretty low on the priority list. Among other things we still have to install our wood burning stove, insulate our mudroom, take our pigs to market, and prepare the property for the cows to arrive.

So hopefully all of those coyotes that howl at night don't notice the flattened chicken coop that is in the ditch.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ethan Hits the Air

Last week someone came out to do some recording for Weekend America, a radio program on National Public Radio, for their Conversations With America series. They interviewed Ethan about what we are up to.

Although we don't get the program in Iowa, we were able to check it out here where you can read it or download the audio - which includes some extra sound bytes. The link to download the audio is above the picture.

Also, there is a little slide show under Ethan's picture. When I say little, I mean little! It has two pictures, but one of them is of our bull who is a little too much like a teddy bear and will back you into a corner to get a good scratch.

Hope you enjoy. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Joys of 10 Foot Ceilings

We decided to make our house with 10 foot ceilings to give us more options with the building down the road. It is a bit more to heat, but with ceiling fans in all of the rooms and a wood burning stove, we weren't too concerned.

Even tough I'm not quite sure of the the decorating rules for high ceilings (to tell you the truth, I'm not sure of them for regular ceilings either.), I do have to say that I really like having 10 foot ceilings. It really helps with making the rooms feel bigger. I was also excited about the size of Christmas tree we could have.

There was one thing that I didn't think about though until I started lunch today . . . boy is it fun to toss pizza dough!

Pizza Crust* 1 c hot water
* 2 1/4 tsp yeast
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp sugar
* 2 T oil
* 3 cups flour

Stir in 1/2 of the flour with the other ingredients, and then knead in the last half. Fold into a mound shape until the dough is smooth. Set aside 20-30 minutes, allowing dough to rise.

Preheat oven to 400

Gently push the air out of the mound of dough after rising is completed. Flatten the outer 2 inches of the mound, forming a flat ring around the mound.

Carefully pick up the dough and use fists to toss the dough out. Gently finish shaping on the pan.

Puncture the dough with a fork to prevent bubbling while baking. Prebake the crust 7-10 minutes. Top and finish baking pizza.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy Hens

Now that we are living at the farm, our hens get to roam free. We had them in a movable pen, which got moved daily (when we weren't wrapped up with construction). They still use that pen, but now we just open the door and let them hop out in the morning and lock them back up in the evening.

It is amazing how tame these ladies became while they were in that pen though. Our hens originally came from Ethan's uncle and were not too fond of people.

Now, however, as they enjoy wandering around the farm, they can often be found just outside of our door. (Maybe this is due to me considering a chicken part of the farm garbage disposal, as long as the scraps aren't poultry products of course - to prevent disease not cannibalism.) They have also came right up to my 2 yr old daughter a few times, probably looking for handouts. (For those of you who know how cautious Hannah is, she did look a bit concerned but managed to go about with what she was doing.)

We are really enjoying having our chickens where we live again. It is nice being able to rescue their eggs and fun to look out the window and see what they are up to. It is also nice to see the hens are content and happy. I'm not a big PETA fan or environmentalist, but I do appreciate seeing creation in its more natural state. To me, there is just something peaceful about it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Attack of the Centipedes

We have now been officially staying in our house for over a week. Although we haven't had much time to settle in (we have been slowly emptying out the "town house" over the last week), I do have the kitchen all put together. The cabinets are filled, the appliances are up and running, and it is the one room that is void of mountains of boxes - a few hills of them, but no mountains.

Now that the majority of the in and out of construction and moving is done with, we can start keeping the doors shut. Because of this, our house is slowly emptying of the little critters that have come in - thankfully none with less than 6 legs! At night Ethan becomes the great fly hunter and vacuums up all of the flies he can find that have gone to sleep on the ceiling. During the day, I keep my eye open for things I can sweep up as well. We had quite a few large, ugly wolf spiders move in before all of the walls were up, and I think I have gotten the majority of those.

The one pest that we just haven't won the battle with yet is the centipede. These little annoyances continue to surface throughout the house. Some days I wouldn't be surprised if we swept up over 50 of them. At first I thought that they were just coming out of construction hiding like the wolf spiders, but upon further investigation it was determined that they are actually coming into the house.

I'm not that worried though. I have seen where they are coming in at, and it is where construction hasn't been completed. We still have some foaming and caulking to do around the doors - you can actually see outside through where the door jams meet the walls in the mud room. There are also a few other spots that will get foam and caulk too to help seal things up. (We did caulk around the entire floor before walls went up, so I know that is sealed well.)

Thankfully, these are the one pest that I can put up with for awhile since foaming and caulking the tiny cracks are low on the priority list right now. (It will probably get done in the next week or two.) These little guys are slow, they stay on the floor, and the kids love to hunt for them and sweep them up. The only thing I could do without, besides them of course, is the crunch they make when they are accidentally stepped on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tonight I Sat in My Head

Tonight, while Ethan was at meetings, I unpacked a bit and then just sat. As I was staring into the kitchen, the weirdest feeling came. It was like I was sitting in my head . . . and in my computer . . . and in my file box.

Since February this whole project has not only consumed my mind, but is has been continuously passing through my thoughts, being drawn up on the computer, and shuffled through the file box. And tonight I was sitting right in the middle of it all, seeing it with my eyes. Very strange.

I do have to say, even with the flooring not completed, trim needing to go on, and boxes all over the place - it is exactly what I had envisioned. It is actually even better. When I look around, not only do I see what was in my head, but I also see the generosity and love of so many people who have helped out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sweet Potatoes and Another New Closing Date

If you are trying to figure out what sweet potatoes and new closing dates have in common, you might be thinking awhile because there isn't much besides the fact that they are sharing this post.

First off, we just found out today that our new closing date, which was supposed to be tomorrow, is not going to happen. Closing will now be at the end of the week at the earliest . . . maybe . . . Even so, we are still moving out completely. My due date is getting close, and we don't want to be in limbo anymore. Hopefully things will get finalized soon.

Next up, sweet potatoes. I was reminded by Lindsie's post at This Abode that I should probably give another update. Yesterday I took a look at my plants but didn't get around to digging them. If you are wondering when you should dig yours, 100-140 days after planting them is recommended. Although, you will want to get them out before the first hard frost since it could damage the roots (which are the sweet potatoes). If you would like more information about how to harvest them and prep them for storage, you can check out this site.

Oh, and just in case you want to do some experimenting, I am going to try and root a cutting off of my plant and bring it in the house. I heard they make neat house plants. But the reason I'm doing this is to try and skip the rooting process by using cuts off of a house plant instead. (I'll still root some next year just in case!)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Moving Day . . . Again

Today is our new moving day, and it looks like this one is holding. We are going to be moving furniture and then boxes today. We have until Tuesday to be all moved out, so what doesn't get done today, we will pick up the next few days.

With that said, I might be a stranger for the next few weeks. I hope to keep posting, but with the baby coming soon (my due date is mid November, but both Caleb and Hannah were early), I might just take a bit to rest up and recover after the move. Although, sitting and typing has been one of my most restful activities the last few months. So maybe there will be lots of posts before the baby comes! If not, picture me sitting outside under our porch watching Caleb and Hannah play on the farm. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Progress and Pictures

We are continuing to make progress at our house, and we are knocking off projects that will be good to have done before we move all the boxes and furniture in. We were actually going to start staying out there last night, but the rain from Monday night made the roads (and trailer) a little too wet and messy to want to move our mattresses.

We do hope to start slowly moving things over now. We have planned on Saturday being the big moving day, where we will take the majority of our things over that are still here in town. We have until Tuesday to move out though, so we will use the last couple of days to grab anything that we didn't get Saturday.

Here are some pictures:Our bedroom floor is completely laid.
The kitchen counter tops are in.
Outlets and fixtures are being put together.

After Ethan gets done at work today, we plan on starting to lay the floor in the kids' bedroom. We are also going to hook up some more outlets and fixtures, and maybe scoot the kitchen appliances in place. (If someone else comes out - I can't be of much help with that right now.)

Some of the other things left to do (but things that we will probably work on after we move) are laying the floor in the baby's room, finishing up the floor in the main living area (we are very close to being done with that), base and window trim, doors and trim on the upper closet storage, tiling for the shower walls, and finishing the mudroom and storage area. It sounds like a lot, but it will be much easier to work over there when we are living there - especially in the evenings after the kids's bedtime.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Our Missing Link

If you have kept up with our livestock, you might know that we have Dexter cattle. These are a smaller breed of cattle that come with a number of reasons people would want them. They can be used as oxen, milk cows, for beef, or some people just have one or two for the family's pet cow. As of now, there is a market for them also as seed stock, or breeding stock.

The reason that we decided to get this breed though, is because they are great foragers (they do a great job converting grass into weight gain), and because they are the perfect size for a family freezer.

Even though we don't plan on breeding them for seed stock, Ethan and I have still kept a careful eye on the genetics that we are bringing into our herd. If we are buying them, we might as well get ones that can be sold for different purposes if need be.

Over the last year, we have picked up almost all of the genetic variations that are available in this breed: with and without horns, long and short legs, and black and dun. The only thing we were really missing was a red heifer/cow - the most uncommon color. Our bull is a carrier of red (although he is dun in color), but without a red heifer/cow, we wouldn't be getting any red calves.

Ethan has been telling me all summer about the red calves that come up for sale. I have always been a bit hesitant about them, and Ethan has just moved on. Well, a couple of weeks ago, the price got dropped considerably on one of these little red heifers since the owner really didn't want to winter it over. So Ethan asked again, and I found myself saying to go ahead.

So on Saturday we went to pick her up, and she is a cutie! It worked out quite well since I was needing to go see my new nephew before my due date gets any closer. Ethan also helped my brother do some reshingling while we were in the area, and we introduced my aunt to our Dexter too. They have been tossing around getting some for their farm, and they now plan on having some by winter.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Good Food, Good Friends

When we first got the news that our closing date had changed, and then we decided that we wouldn't move but use the extra time to finish up some projects at the new house, I was a bit overwhelmed.

If that news had come a week or two earlier, I would have been pretty excited about it. But it came less than 36 hours before we had planned on moving - and I had the house packed and ready to go.

So the first thought that came to me was that if we weren't moving, I was going to have to unpack to live in town longer and then repack things up again. And I was exhausted. And I had JUST been put on a 20 lb lifting limit with my pregnancy since I had been overdoing it a bit and was pulling muscles. (I was trying to get the house packed in time by myself since our closing date was soon approaching. Grrr . . . )

On Friday, which was supposed to be our moving day, I took the kids to the activity day group that we attend. We just started going last year, and I have been enjoying getting to know everyone. So on Friday, I was still pretty frazzled about the whole thought of not moving yet. (At that point we didn't know when the new closing date would be so we didn't really have any plans made as for when we might now move. We have since found out it is the 14th of October - we are going to move trip by trip starting Monday I think.) I mentioned to some of my friends our situation since they had heard that particular day was supposed to be our moving day.

Once I mentioned that I just planned on eating a lot of fast food for the next few weeks to keep from unpacking the majority of the kitchen, one of them came up with a different plan. She sent out an e-mail requesting meals for us. And this whole week we have been blessed with just that - casseroles, calzones, homemade breads, homemade jam, fruit, vegetables, desserts . . .

With all of the yummy meals we have received, it looks like I won't have to unpack our kitchen until we unpack it for good in the new house. What a blessing!

(By the way, this is the youth center fridge next door in case you were wondering.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Floor

The last couple days we have been laying floor as we get the chance. It is coming along well. Slow, but well.

Last night we also had our first camp out at the farm! It was nice to put the kids to bed while we worked past bedtime, and it was nice to wake up in our new house. :)
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