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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Projects

Each year I like to make something for the kids for Christmas. As I was looking at the photos of last year's projects (one is similar to what I'm doing this year), I remembered I started a post last year that I never published. So here it is. I will admit, I wish I could have made as many gifts this year, but since tomorrow is Christmas Eve, I will be happy to just get done what I have planned for my kiddos. I'm close! Now back to work!!

This Christmas (2009) I wanted to make some gifts, but with watching spending and with fabric stores 45 minutes away (Walmart no longer has fabric) I decided I would have to do it from the fabric on hand. Making gifts is sometimes tricky for me - trying to think of something that someone will appreciate and that matches who they are. Right now my main "homemade" skill is sewing, but hopefully I'll pick up some more skills down the road.

Here's what I made:
This is a Tic Tac Toss game for our son, Caleb. (5 yrs old in 2009)

A bib for our son Isaac. (Just turned 1 in 2009)

A blankie and pillow to go with our daughter, Hannah's, baby doll. (Just turned 4 in 2009)

"Grandma's Memory Gameboard/Placemat" This was for my mom. I made it out of scraps from my grandma's (my mom's mom) fabric stash. Memories for her of her mom and for her to make memories with her grandkids. The spring side: My grandma always had a cheery flower bed in the spring and summer.

The fall side: This is the other side of the placemat. My grandma's kitchen was deep browns and yellow.

A gardening apron for my mom. This was actually for her birthday, which is right before Christmas.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Absence = A Glimpse

If you have been following my blog, you have probably noticed my absence. As much as I would like to blog more, I think that my lack of blogging compared to when me moved to the farm paints a bit of a picture of what life is like as a beginning farmer's wife. I could pass it off to homeschooling, pregnancy (which I'm in my 9th month now), or a variety of other things.

The reality is that any free time I had before we moved to the farm has now been given to the farm: marketing, juggling meat and inventories, deliveries, monitoring our business Facebook page, outside work, etc. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. Most of the time I really enjoy farming related things as my "free time" activities. All of this to say though, keeping a journal - which is what I wanted my blog to be for me - has fallen lower on the list. Instead of recording my farmer's wife activities, I'm just doing more of them. :)

If you are a follower of my husband's blog, The Beginning Farmer, you may have noticed the same pattern with his blog since we moved to the farm. He is going to try to get it up and going again though, for farm reasons rather than journal reasons (although it will definitely still have journal type entries), so I encourage you to hop on over and follow along. By the way, it's definitely not because he has more free time than I do. He's just able to get less sleep than I can. And he has a wife who will wake him up in the middle of the night encouraging him to come to bed after he has fallen asleep from working too late.

Also, don't give up completely on me. I hope to sporadically post yet. (If you want to catch them all, you can subscribe to my blog on the right and receive them by e-mail.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Keeping Calm and Consistent

We try to be quite consistent with our parenting. The kids do a lot better when they know what we expect and know what consequences will be if they misbehave. I have found the big issues are sometimes easiest to deal with. There is need for a definite consequence, it usually needs to be handled right away, and it is usually not to hard too figure out what that consequence will be.

What was a struggle for me for quite awhile was the "little" things. Things like whining, scowling, not following or ignoring instructions, things that didn't make me drop everything I was doing to handle the problem but made me start repeating myself: "Don't whine.", "Did you hear me?", etc. I also noticed that these were the things that started getting me frustrated to where one time I would not give any consequences and then all of the sudden I was fed up and gave a big one. Not very consistent.

So, here is what I came up with for some of those "little" things. The Magnet.

I took a recipe card, wrote each kid's name on the card, and, drew a line across the middle. I then cut small pieces of magnet off of a craft strip of sticky magnets and stuck it on the back of each card so the card would stick to the fridge. Next, I let the kids choose a special shapes from their little foam sticker collection. (The number can depend on the maturity of your children.) I also stuck little pieces of sticky magnets on the back of the foam stickers. The sticker magnets would then be able to stick to the fridge over the card.

Here's how it works. When something goes on that is not a character trait I want my children to have, but really doesn't require a big consequence, I tell them that they have lost a magnet. They then go over to the fridge and move a magnet under the line. If they don't do this, or do it with a poor attitude, I inform them that they have just lost 2 magnets, which can turn in to 3, etc. When they run out of magnets, they have earned a consequence. Sometimes this is no desert, sometimes it's time in their room - it really depends on what their magnets were being dropped for. At the end of the day, all of their magnets are reset.

I feel that this allows me to be consistent to where the kids know what they are doing isn't appropriate, it gives them chances to revise their behavior, and it allows me to give a significant consequence for a "little" thing to help them learn while remaining consistent in how I react.

Here is one of my favorite verses for parenting. A lot of times it is quoted to the children, but I think that if it was studied by parents more (including myself), children wouldn't have such a hard time with the first part of it.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-5

I'd love to hear some of the things you do to keep your parenting sanity. :)


Friday, October 22, 2010

A Raspberry Patch: Free and Simple

Here's what you need:
~ A spot to plant raspberries
~ An established raspberry patch (and permission)
~ Heavy gloves
~ Pruners
~ A bucket of water

Here's what you do:
~ Find canes that have arched over into the ground. Look for brown stems at the bottom which turn green at the opposite end. The green end, if in the ground, will have just started to shoot roots.
~ Clip the vines about 2-3 feet from where the green end goes into the ground first. (This will allow the old cane to not be damaged.) Then pull steadily on the cane with the green end until you pull the roots out of the ground. This will work best when the soil is wet or there isn't a lot of weed cover at the base of the vines.
~ Put the root ends of the cane immediately into water.
~ You may then take them home and plant them with a small trowel or you can allow them to soak a bit more in water to establish more roots before planting.

For the planners:
If you take the arching canes in late summer and place them in a bucket of water before they reach the ground, they will sprout roots and you won't even need to pull them. :)

Here are some pictures of some black raspberries I cut and pulled from my parents last week. My transplanted berries from last year all root rotted with the rains mid summer, so I am trying again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


A couple weeks ago I received an e-mail asking if we used cloth diapers. We have actually been using them for the last 6 1/2 years, since our oldest son was born. I have recovered a lot of my prefolds, made a few more diaper covers, and added in some washable wipes, but other than that I am still using everything I started in with Caleb. I wish I knew just how much we have saved over our 3 kids who have used these, and soon to be 4.

Well, this week I opened a package to find these great diapers sent from Sarah, who is the owner of Wallypop in Des Moines, IA. Not only are they cute, but they are well constructed and very soft! I've never used diapers like this before, although I have admired them and wondered about them - so I am very excited to give them a try!I encourage you to head on over to Sarah's website,, and check out not only her diapers, but also her other products for natural living.

Thanks so much for the great gift, Sarah!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lentil Soup

Things have been wild here, to say the least. With around 2 1/2 months left in my pregnancy, I'm really trying hard to make an effort to keep a good varied diet - something that I have slacked on for awhile with the busyness. The things that I have put up in the pantry during less crazy times have been so helpful. Earlier this week I pulled out some ham hock broth and meat that I had canned earlier, along with some home canned stewed tomatoes to make lentil soup. I changed my recipe a bit to match what I had on hand, and I think I am going to keep it like this now. Even though I have not become fond of its appearance yet, it is delicious, very nutritious, and one of my fall/winter favorites!

Crooked Gap Lentil Soup

6 cups ham hock broth and meat (see recipe for Crooked Gap Ham Broth in CGF Pork and Pork Recipes photos - Facebook page)
1 pint (2 c) stew/diced tomatoes
2 c dried lentils
2 c chopped celery
2 c chopped carrots
2 c chopped onion
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf (remove before serving)

Slow cook until lentils are tender or simmer 35-45 minutes.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Get in or Get out

We have had a change in plans around here. Originally, when we started up on our land in 2008, we had hoped for it to have the capability of providing somewhat part time for our farm after 5 years, if we would chose to have it do so. After the first year, we realized that at the risk level we wanted to jump in, 5 years might be a bit early.

If you have followed along, this year has brought some unexpected changes for us. One of which, Ethan's full time job of 6+ years at the church became a 20 hour a week job. In order to fill in the financial gap, he took on an additional 40 hours at the NAPA department at the farm store. This gave him 60 hours of town work plus the work on the farm. This has been his schedule for the last 2 months.

It recently became evident that there would have to be some changes on the farm. Either we would step out for awhile or just jump in. If you have been following Ethan's blog, you will probably guess that the decision was made to jump in - and that is what we are doing.

We hadn't really ever planned on jumping in at the risk level that we are now taking, but we are. The next year will be our judge as to if the farm is able to provide a decent enough portion of our income to lighten the in town work load that Ethan has, providing for a balance in our family, ministry, and farm.

So here is our request to you - if you enjoy our meat and would like to see us continue to provide healthy, local food to the communities around us, spread the word. :) Although we have a nice balance of products and customers right now, we are planning on having a significant amount more meat next year compared to this year.

Stay tuned as we continue to discover where we are heading . . . here we go!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Social Networking

A big part of getting our name out for our farm has been social networking. Obviously, our blogs have played a part. If you haven't found our other sites though, here's a list:



Our Website:

Ethan's Blog:

Another big part of getting our farm going has been all of the help we have received from others, including the help we are continuously getting from my parents as we press on in our set up. My dad has recently retired from John Deere and is now getting his woodworking business back in full swing again. (He did his woodworking full time for around 10 years when laid off during the farm crisis and part time once called back again until retirement.) My dad is also jumping in on the social networking scene. You can check out his craftsmanship and sites here:

His Facebook:

His Etsy Page:

His Website/Blog:

Just for a snapshot, here is one of his latest pieces of furniture - perfect for a farmer's mudroom (unfortunately, not ours).

This set of lockers includes 4 open lockers and 1 locker with a door for storage. Glove and hat cubbies are above each locker. Under and extending in front of the lockers, making a bench, are 5 divided boot boxes with individual hinged lids. This set of lockers is made of oak and raised panel construction.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Storing Sheets

I was visiting my friend in Minnesota last year, and she had the genius idea of storing sheets by keeping the sheet set inside the pillowcase. Now why didn't I think of that?!

Fold the sheets (You can even skip this step if you don't like folding sheets!)
Place the sheets inside the pillowcase
Fold up the pillowcase

Friday, September 17, 2010

House Construction and Demolition

If you have read my to do lists, you might have noticed that there were 2 water issues on the list. One was installing our mudroom sink, and the other was to replace and seal up some tile around the bath tub.

I don't know if many people know this about me, but when I get something in my mind to do, there is not much that can stop me. Sometimes it is a good trait. Usually it isn't. Mainly because when these "things to do" pop into my mind, I don't think to take much time to think about what all it entails. (Hmmmm . . . kind of like starting a farm with a young and growing family on a completely bare piece of land. At least this one wasn't all my idea!)

So about 3 weeks ago I looked at our bathroom floor tile and noticed that two of the pieces looked a little lose close to the tub where the wall tiles that needed replacing were. These tiles should be stuck down pretty firmly, but these two were not. So I pulled up a corner and yup, they were damp underneath. I could have done two things.

1) Push them back down and decide to fix them when I fix the tile, leaving our bathroom looking nice and the shower working perfectly.

2) Rip them up, along with multiple other tiles that I would find to be wet. Find the reason that the wall tiles and floor tiles are wet is because water is getting behind the shower tiles and running down the wall. Decide to investigate the faucet. Break the shower knob on the faucet. End up with a torn up bathroom floor and no showers, just baths, for everyone (including 6 months pregnant me) for over 2 weeks.

I picked option number 2.I do have to admit that I was pretty upset with my choice of options that I had picked that first night. (Although the kids were quite happy with the prospect of baths instead of showers for awhile.) It turns out that what I call one of my "things to do" rampages turned out okay this time.

I pulled out my faucet paper work (yeah, I organize funny stuff), called the company, and they sent me a new faucet - no questions asked, and the shower is once again working. I found out the real reason for the tiles coming off (which I thought was just from wet wash clothes being draped over the tub and dripping down - then soaking upward since I missed a spot caulking), and now I won't go through the trouble of fixing them only to fix them again, and the floor, later.

Since our broken faucet was limed up and we couldn't get it off, a friend from church who is a plumber was kind enough to come out and help. While he was here, he also hooked up our sink in the mud room. So now not only will our bathroom stay cleaner and free of filthy farm hands (adults and kids), I also don't have to wash eggs in the kitchen sink (ie - clear out dirty dishes, clear dishes drying, wash eggs, sanitize sink, put dirty and the clean/drying dishes rack back in sink. uh - I mean put clean/drying dishes away. Yeah . . . That's what I do.)So even though I still have some floor tiles, wall tiles, and also some trim to replace, I do have to say this rampage worked out quite well!

Friday, September 10, 2010

To Do Lists

A while back I made a house construction to do list and an outside to do list and am trying to keep things highlighted as I check them off. I am keeping a link at the top of the blog to these lists to remember to keep checking things off, and for those interested - you can peek on my progress too.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer Changes and Summer Trouble (spelled MOO)

This past summer has brought some significant changes to the farm. Ethan has gotten the cattle on a good rotation through the pasture, and he is following them with the tractor mower to knock down whatever weeds they don't get (which are a lot this year due to our land just coming out of CRP). The improvement to the pasture is impressive, and I'm sure it will continue to be the longer we are here.

The hogs have also made a move into the woods and are doing a great job of clearing out the woods. Our woods are quite thick, with lots of undergrowth which makes it almost impossible to get through. The area the hogs have been in is now completely bare ground except for the older trees. We are excited to have our woods become more usable as they continue to rotate through.

This summer we also started doing a farmer's market at the Living History Farms. It was a smaller market, which worked well for getting our feet wet. We were able to meet some great people and have some wonderful new customers.

This summer we processed our first grassfed beef as well. It has sold fast, and now we are waiting for the next round to become ready. From processing the beef though, we became aware of our need for freezer space. We ended up taking our home deep freeze and transitioning it over to a business deep freeze as well. Even so, with the both beef and pork, we struggled to make everything fit.

It seems like our farm is growing wonderfully and we are needing to take steps to help bring it to the next level. This is always a challenge, and even more so this year. Ethan is now just working 20 hours at the church as the youth pastor. In order to make up for the difference, he is also working 40 hours at the NAPA center at the farm store. I do have to say, working at the farm store does have some nice perks, but the extra hours also bring some challenges to the farm set up.

Thankfully, we were able to get our perimeter fence up last year, although we were waiting to do around the yard until this year. The fence is working great, but we have found we need to make some rotation changes with the cows to help keep the voltage its strongest. The reason we have found out is because we have 6 small cows/calves who are able to work their way out of the paddock of the day and come terrorize the yard - scratching on trees, walking through the garden (which isn't that big of a deal this year if you have been following along), and tearing apart the shed.

Ethan has plans to put up a semi permanent fence around the yard soon to stop the recent wanders, and hopefully we will get the permanent fence layout figured out early next year. Until then, I decided that enough was enough in the shed. So today I strung some wire across the front and made gates between each post. I didn't charge it, but it can be. Hopefully they will just see that there are multiple strands and not bother.

When it comes to farming, I starting to feel that you need to devote 25% of your time to the expected and 75% of your time to the unexpected. I guess such is life on a beginning farm, or maybe even any farm. Even so, we are still moving along and amazingly still moving forward. :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pears and Gadgets!

As you may remember from my last post, I haven't really had anything this year to preserve. I have canned some ham hocks for meals like ham and noodles, but my garden and berries were pretty useless this year due to all of the rains. I was hoping that someone, somewhere, would have an overflow of something that I could put up, and I have been blessed by some friends with an offer for pears!

So tomorrow I plan on going and picking pears. I am thinking of doing canned pears, pear juice for mixing with grape juice, pear sauce for our oatmeal, and dehydrated pears for fresh eating and adding to breads maybe. Any other suggestions?

As I also mentioned in my last post, offered to let me test out a few of their kitchen products. I decided to choose a couple gadgets that would help me with stocking my pantry.

One of the products I chose was the Hamilton Beach Wave Power 12 Speed Blender. I burned out my last blender a year ago when making applesauce. It took me awhile to pick out a blender, but I decided to go with Hamilton Beach again, even though the one that burned out was a Hamilton Beach. Here's why: The pitcher is a 48 oz pitcher. The majority of the others were smaller. It is also a glass pitcher, with most others being plastic. I also looked at the power, and the Hamilton Beach had 550 watts - which was higher than many others. My old blender (which is now in the garbage) was only 450 watts so hopefully this new one will not have the problems my old one did. And an added perk is that my old pitcher fits my new blender, so I now have a spare.

I will admit that I don't use blenders much, and really don't know many of the ins and outs to using them, but I was able to make a yummy strawberry smoothie after some fiddling around. I always have trouble getting things to mix well in them, but after some adjusting I got it going and got all of the ice crushed.

LinkAnother item I gave a try was the Progressive International Food Chopper. I'm not much for filing my cupboards with gadgets (since I don't have much cupboard space), but thought this might be helpful when making and canning soups since I spend so much time chopping.

I have found when using this that it works best not to use it with the bottom in place. The blades don't seem to go all the way down, so there are pieces that are not cut all of the way through. Putting it on a cutting board seems to help. As I was guessing, it also does not cut all of the pieces into uniform size like I can, but when making sauces and soups, I don't think it matters that much. What I will probably use it for most is for chopping onions. I usually chop these in large amounts and freeze them in 1/2 cup size baggies so they are ready to go. I haven't canned any soups yet, but I think it will be helpful when I am doing large batches of soups too. My verdict - I probably wouldn't use up my cupboard space for this if I just did small amounts of chopping, but I think it will be handy for when I am chopping lots and lots of things that I don't care if they are uniform or not.

So now that I have my gadgets, I am ready to stock up my pantry. I'm looking forward to getting my pears, and will probably start canning soups when it cools off this fall.

Full Disclosure: I received this product free in exchange for an honest opinion of a product-this review represents my true feelings.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Still Waiting for a Harvest . . .

I have been waiting for a harvest all summer. I am still waiting, and I am also preparing. CSN has offered for me to do a review, and with their great selection of kitchen products like le creuset, I couldn't pass up the offer. Especially since my blender died last year during canning season, and I am hoping to still put up some produce this year.

Hoping is the key word, though. After my garden fizzled out with root rot this spring, I set my eyes on my blackberry patch - which was loaded with blackberries waiting to ripen. I got a couple of early handfuls, but last week the majority of berries dried up. All it took was one hot week without much rain. I did get some beans replanted finally last week, but this year I think I am just going to have to be dependent on the overflow from others if I hope to put away any food. Usually my parents have an abundance of apples so right now I am thinking applesauce.

So I will continue with hopes of a harvest and preserving while getting set up again thanks to the great products of I'm excited to share about my new kitchen gadgets soon, and if you get a chance, check out all of the great things they have to offer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Garden Lesson

Today is a beautiful, sunny, great drying day. And we need it! As of Sunday night we have officially broken all known records for rain this month in Marion County. Even though we don't have a rain gauge out yet, I'm sure it was well beyond broken on our farm too since Ethan noticed that somehow the heaviest part of the cells were usually right over our house.

So with the drying day today, I decided to go take a peek at my garden. If you remember from a post a few days back, there wasn't much left surviving. Basically potatoes and onions were all that looked promising. Today, all but one section of my onions were gone. The leaves were not only brown, but many of them rotted to the ground. So I dug onions. I ended up with about a gallon of small onions good for roasts. There was one area yet where the leaves are yellow/green. I left those and will watch them closely.

Next I peeked at my potatoes. About half were still nice and green, the other half were browning quickly. I dug up a couple of the browning plants to find that the potatoes had turned to liquid. I then decided to dig up a couple of the green plants. Although those potatoes weren't liquid, they were mush. I dug up every single plant in hopes of finding SOME potatoes. Every once in awhile I would find one, and I ended up with about 1/2 gallon.

Last week I was threatening to mow my garden. Now I'm going to. And then hopefully till it again to do a fall planting. There's really not much left. I have a few tomatoes and pepper plants that are hanging on for dear life. They are small, however, so I will be surprised if they produce anything. I also have about 10 yam plants. Also small and just hanging on, but I will leave them for now. Other than that . . . well, that's it.

It is pretty disappointing. Not only the cost of seed, but the time that I've spent out there. It was a reminder though of life in general. Really, my responsibility in life is to be faithful and put forth my best. I can do everything possible in my control, but the fact remains that life is out of my control. This would be a pretty depressing fact, except for my trust in the Lord. He is the one in control, and He is faithful and good.

Things still fall apart in life, but the Lord provides for our needs. I have seen it time and time again - especially on the farm here. From a rather low demanding/high paying job that covered almost exactly one of our house payments while we were paying two - for almost the exact time we were paying two, to friends helping to finish our house when our house suddenly sold and the buyers wanted in NOW, to a truck load of firewood showing up unannounced every time we would be burning our last supply of wood.

My garden this year has been quite disappointing, but it is just a "hobby" family garden. It has reminded me of a good lesson though for the more significant things in life. Be faithful in what you do, realize that not all failures (and even successes for that matter) are dependent on us, look for lessons that can be learned, and trust in the Lord even when things just don't seem to be working out. He knows our needs and is faithful and good to supply our needs (many times in Himself alone).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Outside To Do/Wish List

This has been a full week of sport evenings for Ethan since Monday - 3 nights of softball games, a soccer game, and umping tonight before his game. Next week slows down a bit and then softball is done - which will most likely be the end of my blogging spurt, if not before.

The ground is also starting to dry up a bit outside, and I was able to do some mowing during nap this afternoon. It's still wet enough that I sink down in the garden, and I couldn't really think of much else to do outside this evening that wouldn't create a mess.

While I was mowing, however, I thought that maybe I should make a list of non-farm related projects that I would like to get done outside - both things that should be done and things that would be fun to have done. I will probably keep adding to the lists as things pop into mind (I already added to my house list in my last post) and then try to highlight things off as I get them done. Sometimes it seems there is so much to do that I just think about what needs to be done yet and forget about what has been accomplished. So although looking at the lists can seem a bit daunting, I think it will end up being encouraging as I see things highlighted off.

So here's my list of outside projects (some of them will double from the list before) and a picture of what I have somewhat envisioned the property looking like some day:Things that really should get done:
* Get the kids' play tower and swings set back up.
* Get a clothes line up. ( fall 2012 - put a cheap round one up.) Put a long clothes line up.
* Bring in field rocks from one of our farmer friend's rock piles to line the walk to the porch from the drive and the walk from the mudroom door to the porch.
* Bring in a load of river rock for the walkways.
* Have Ethan use the loader to move some more dirt on top of the storm shelter. (I mentioned earlier that I spent about 5 hours balancing the dirt out on both sides by using a shovel, but we need to add more dirt since the layer is so thin in places the cement shows.)
* Plant some viney/ivy plants on the storm shelter that will develop a good root system to hold the dirt in place. (My mom has more than what she wants in a flower bed at her house that I'm going to bring. Don't know what they are called yet.) (Decided to use marigolds 2012)
* Seed muddy areas of the lawn where the ground got torn this spring or we just missed with seeding last year. (spring 2013)
* Put up bluebird houses. (My mom made me a bunch of homemade bluebird houses for my birthday when we first moved here to put on our property since we have bluebirds around.) (Fall 2011)

Things that I really hope to get done:
* I have a friend about 7 minutes away with 200 or so railroad ties in a pile. I would like to bring over a load or two to put a border around the garden, around the wood pile, and a few other places. :: Scratch that one - hadn't thought about them being treated with creosote.
* Decide if I want to put border around the garden, what I will use, and then put the border of whatever around. (Spring 2013 Tilled up a boarder around the garden fence to plant annual flowers each year. The yearly retilling of this area will keep weeds away from the garden.)
* I would like to put a walkway (gravel or grass) through the middle of the garden from the hydrant to the orchard. (Decided against this one.  I am now mulching the garden well and create a walkway with mulch.)
* Set up the picnic/fire pit area. (Spring 2012)

* Plant a few larger fruit trees in the orchard. (We were blessed by some friends with an orchard of seedlings. They are doing well, but I left a few places to plant some maturer trees that will fruit within 5 years or less.) ** Hy-Vee had trees 75 % off so I bought and planted 2 apple trees for $15 each.
* Make a designated strawberry bed behind the house. (Placed it in the garden in an area that is rotated every 3 years to keep nematodes at bay.)
* Bring up some more blackberry and raspberry plants to have berries by the house. (Fall 2013)
* Finish conditioning the garden so that it can get going in full swing. (Right now we have pigs on half of it for fertilization purposes. The quarter that had hogs on it already does inconceivably better than the quarter in use that didn't) (Spring 2012 - The full garden is finally ready!)
* Get perennial flowers and asparagus/rhubarb/etc. planted in the front of the garden. (Spring 2012 - planted asparagus from my brother's yard.  Changed perennial area to a rotation with strawberries and melons.)

* Figure out what I want to plant in the triangle of the walkways to the house and plant it. (Fall 2010 - small ever greeny shrubs. I forgot the name. Have to check the tag!)
* Replant some trees that didn't make it from the ones that I planted this spring. (The nursery said it ended up being a bad spring for planting trees.)
* Decide if we want a walkway to the storm shelter and make it if we do. (Spring 2012 - Decided against)

Things that would just be nice to do:
* I would like to build a raised fire pit. When Hannah was 2 she tripped by a campfire and fell straight over it. I was even being the on the edge of the seat "stay away from the fire, sit down, walk BEHIND the chairs" parent that night. She just got off her chair to walk behind and mis-stepped. By God's grace
her hands landed on a rock at the edge of the fire and instead of her hands or face going in the fire she was able to hold her head up just long enough for me to pull her away without any burns. With having little ones here and friends and family with little ones, I would feel much safer having campfires if they weren't at ground level.
* I would like an arbor built over the hydrant area that I could plant a flowering vine on.
* Seed/plant some pampas grass and ditchy type flowers in our ditch - starts all from my parents' place. (Spring 2012)

So there you go. There are my lists for now. I'm sure I will add some things as I think of them, but for now I am going to go hand trim some grass around the beehive that didn't get mowed (didn't want to mow too close with a busy hive) since the bees are probably most all going to bed now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

House Construction Update

*Pictures eventually. They have to be loaded and sent from another computer. Can't wait to have a camera again!)

We have been living in our house about 20 months now. It's pretty easy to remember since Isaac was born a month after we moved in. (It's also easy to remember how long we have lived in Knoxville, since Caleb was 6 weeks old when we moved.)

Since I'm doing a blogging spurt and don't know how long until I will do another one, I thought I would give a quick update as to where we are at with the house construction.

We have gotten a few things done since the new year, mostly in the last couple weeks.
* At the beginning of the year I hung the shelving units in our laundry room to help put away tubs and find room Christmas presents. (Only a small pile left in our room of things that don't have a spot yet - can't wait until it's gone!)
* I got tired of tripping over a transition strip that was never really fastened between the bathroom and hallway. I ripped it off and glued it down with liquid nails about 2-3 weeks ago. It took a good week to dry, with weights on to hold it down, because of the high humidity in the house.
* We still hadn't gotten the air conditioner in, and due to the high humidity and heat this spring, it was becoming quite musty smelling in our house - clothes and all. My dad came down last week and he and Ethan spent a day installing the air conditioner. Just in time for more heat and humidity with all of our storms!
* Ethan wired the electric for the air conditioner so we could turn it on. Very important!
* While my dad was here he rehung a kitchen cabinet that had detached from the wall a few weeks prior. He is a woodwork and even made his own cabinets for his house. He had a lot to say about how even "good quality" purchased cabinets are made. :) By the way - you can check out some of his work and items for sale on his Tom Kies Woodworks site.
* While the guys were working on the air conditioner, I finished up the edging on the deck while my dad cut the boards to size.
* I hung guest towel hangers in the bathroom and rehung with bigger wall anchors the hand towel hanger that had been pulled out of the wall by the kids. (I also moved it so it was easier to reach!)

Those were all projects that I am so thankful to have done. They were all either big annoyances or bigger discomforts.

We still have quite a bit to do yet, although some of them are not really that big of an annoyance, they will be nice to just have done.

Inside the house construction:
* We need to put trim around the air conditioner and custom make an outlet cover.
* Our dryer needs to be vented outside. It is nice to have the extra heat and humidity in the winter, but not in the summer.
* The fire alarms need to be wired in and wired together. We have an alarm in the attic by the stove pipe that will sound an alarm in the house. We do have battery alarms right now though.
* The mud room sink needs to be hooked up to plumbing. This will be nice to keep dirt out of the bathroom and off the bathroom towels. It will also be a lot easier to wash eggs - I won't have to use the kitchen sink. (Fall 2010)
* The mud room ceiling light fixture needs to be hung.
* There is a mud room outlet that needs to be installed and hooked up to the breaker box.
* The mud room window trim needs to be painted.
* The telephone jacks need to be wired in and hooked up. (Since we don't have a land line, this is one of those things that gets overlooked easily!)
* Touch up painting needs to be done. We had great help on painting day before we moved in, but it went later into the evening when light was scare so there are quite a few missed spots.
* There are some switches that were switched when wired that need to be switched back to reduce walks across the room.
* I need to redo a few tiles on the wall around the base of the tub. ** Actually, now I found out I need to redo the flooring, trim around the tub area, some plumbing, and even more tiles. A piece was left off or out of the package that prevents water from getting behind the tile and we now have a mess!
* We need to construct a movable heat barrier to put between the desk and the wood stove for the winter. (We have a make shift one now that balances on a wire basket and tips frequently when bumped.)
* Blinds need to be hung and/or curtains need to be made or bought. (I will admit that we have some bath towels and blankets that serve as curtains.)
* Springing doorstops need to be attached to walls.
* Door handles need to be put on closet doors.
* The nail holes in the trim need to be filled.
* The rust on our wood stove needs to be sanded off and it needs to be repainted. (Too much humidity.)
* And not really construction, but I would like to do a bit more decorating and hanging up of family photos.

Outside the house construction:
* To go along with the dryer vent, I need a clothesline outside. I don't dry much in the dryer, but hang drying it inside still adds the humidity even if you don't get the heat. I've tried drying on racks outside, but they either get blown over or the clothes get filled with bugs that will then be brought in the house.
* The pallet in front of our mud room door needs to be removed and replaces with a real step or entrance.
* The outdoor house lights work but the fixtures need some bolt cutter action to make them hang right.
* The outdoor house outlets need to be wired in.
* The door bells need to be installed and hooked up both inside and out.
* River rock needs to be brought in to make the walkway from our drive to our house - now we just have mud and feed sacks if you don't walk on the lawn. (PLEASE feel free to walk on our lawn if you visit!!!)
* The porch overhang needs to have a roof underneath to finish it off and keep birds from nesting under it.
* We need to trench around 2/3 of the house yet to install the foam frost barrier.
* We need to spray foam under the house between the cement and 2x6 boards, as well as spray foam around the air conditioner we just installed.
* We need to put a rock border around the house to keep the chickens from scratching to and eating the frost barrier foam.
* Gutters need to be installed.

House shed construction:
* It needs to be cleaned out of construction materials and reorganized so it is more functional than storage.
* Lots and lots of shelves and hooks need to be put up once cleaned out. :)
* It needs to be wired
* We want to make a freezer room on the far end of it since we will have a hard time moving forward in sales with our current freezer. (It only holds 2 hogs or 1 beef. I am having to turn over my home freezer - it had been inspected too - to hold more, and we still have serious space issues!)

I'm sure I forgot some things, but that is what comes to mind right now. Don't even get me started on the list of things to do outside/farm wise yet - it is much, much longer and more time consuming! I so want to be set up and settled in all around, but you can only chip away at things so fast. As overwhelming as all of the work seems yet, I do have to remember that this property was just sod and prairie grass with some old overgrown fence line to rip out when we bought it in 2008. Also, I'm sure you all have fix it and to do lists just as long. :)

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Garden Woes

*Okay, so I've been blogging a bit recently. The reason: It is too wet outside to do much, Ethan has had a lot of evening activities lately, and by the time the kids are to bed I am tired of indoor housework. It's still there. I'm just being lazy. So I am taking a blogging unvacation (or a break from housework. Whichever way you put it.) I'm thinking that my blogging unvacation will last until things slow down for Ethan or until I can get outside again and get my much needed change of scenery for the day. :)

Back to my post. (Picture to come soon)

I have had high hopes for our garden the past 3 years. Now my hopes are for next year.

The first year we had our property we didn't have much of a garden. Since we weren't living here, it was nearly impossible to take care of.

Last year we were quite late getting the garden tilled. I also planted the majority of our garden in newly broke land. There was one section where we planted the sweet corn and gourds where the hogs had been the previous summer, and the corn and gourds did amazing! But that was about all. The rest of the garden left much to be desired - you might have experienced the same with a first year garden.

This year was going to be the year I got my garden going full swing. Unfortunately, this is not the year yet. Due to late plowing this spring (still trying to condition this 14+ years untouched prairie sod), countless projects this spring delaying planting, an extremely cold and wet week after planting that led to seeds rotting in the ground, more projects, transplanting raspberry and strawberry plants (a step ahead but not much fruit this year), finally replanting, and now the garden turning into a lake from all of our rain . . . the garden is leaving much to be desired again.

I did manage to get potatoes and onions going early, and they are doing great - especially with being in the old hog lot section. The wind storm last week did tear apart a lot of my onions, but hopefully they will pull through. So while the first year was the year of not much, last year was the year of corn and gourds - and a small batch of beans and tomatoes to can, this year will probably be the year of potatoes and onions.

I am a bit disappointed with not having a good variety of vegetables. Especially after we were able to put away so much corn last year and some beans and tomatoes. I was really hoping to can a lot of tomatoes and beans this year, freeze more corn, and try to make pickles and salsa for the first time. I also wanted to have some pie pumpkins for pumpkin pie, and all the great tasting veggies to just eat fresh.

Right now I am making plans on next year's garden: condition the soil this fall (that was a plan last year too, but surprising *said sarcastically* we had a lot of other things going on), set up panels for plants that vine before the frost, level out the soil so there aren't water holes for heavy rains to drown plants (my poor tomatoes this year!), and have my layout figured out before February.

Like I said, I am hoping this year to at least get a good harvest of potatoes and onions. Not my first pick of a crop, but it will do. I might even try to get some fall crops to replace some of the spring ones I'm missing out on - peas, lettuce, beans (to hopefully can). Any other suggestions on how to try to redeem this season a bit?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blown Away . . . Nearly

Things always go crazy here on the farm when Ethan is in town. After I finished my lawn mower post, I looked outside to see the boar and feeder pigs had broken out of their pen. Our land is completely saturated with all of the rain we have had, and they are just popping posts out of the ground. Ethan was playing softball and didn't have his phone on so I started rounding up the the feeders. By the time his game was over, I had most of them in. We got the rest of them and the boar in around 10:15 - after they had had some fun in the shed with the feed bags.

Last night was an even crazier night. There were more storms, and this time they were bringing tornadoes. One particular cell, that had a tornado on the ground about 35 - 40 minutes from our house, was slowly making its way east - right on track to where we live. Ethan was on his way home from Des Moines, and actually took a different route to avoid the tornado area while the tornado was on the ground. I was here at home with the kids: Caleb now 6, Hannah -4, and Isaac 19 mo.

We don't have a TV due to reception issues in our house, but we have a NOAA weather radio, and I get NOAA updates on my e-mail. They usually give a good amount of warning time so I was watching them really closely. And I was watching the sky looked uglier and uglier. It soon got quite dark and started raining. I rechecked my e-mail and didn't see any "take shelter" updates and there hadn't been anything come across the radio so I thought I would wait a bit longer before going to the storm shelter. We haven't cozied it up yet with benches and things, and since I didn't know how fast the storm was coming I didn't want to spend an unnecessary 30 minutes or more down there.

I should have listened to my instincts, however, about the sky rather than waiting for the weather radio. Almost simultaneously, the wind got crazy, I saw the hog feeder blowing across the yard as the kids' wooden playset was blown into the hog fence, and the weather radio started going off. I didn't take time to listen to it. (It turned out that from my NOAA e-mail that I read later it was the tornado warning), I grabbed my kids, who were in hysterics about the playset, and headed out to the storm shelter.

When I got to the end of the porch, which is protected from the wind, I wondered how I was going to get all 3 kids 15 feet to the shelter by myself at once. I didn't want to take them in shifts because I didn't really know what was going on out there. So I held tight to Isaac and told Caleb and Hannah to run.

I will admit that is when I got a bit freaked out. We managed to get to the storm shelter, but I could hardly get the door open due to the wind. I had to hold Isaac with one arm while pulling on the door with the other. I vividly remember seeing Isaac leaning away from me and feeling as if he was being pulled out of my arm. At the same time, Caleb and Hannah were being blown to the ground, away from the storm shelter. Every time they would stand up, they would get blown down away from the door again. After I managed to get the door open and got myself wedged in front of it, I was able to use my free hand to pull them back over to the door.

Once we were all down, I called Ethan to tell him to just stay where he was at. And I as I was sitting in our "glorified septic tank turned on side" - without benches, I had never felt safer and cozier!

30 minutes later, I half expected to come out and see something completely blown apart or away, but the only thing missing was the cows. Their water wagon had gone on a ride through their temporary fencing, thanks to the wind, and they had gotten out. I noticed that the pigs were also starting to get out where the playset had hit the fence. I got them in before they went too far, fixed the fence (quick fix), and then went inside and waited to round up cows (they turned out to not be too far) until Ethan got home (who had to turn around and take another route because of a tree across the road).

I am curious to just how strong the winds were and am thankful they were just strong winds. It looks like most things can be put back together just fine, including the playset. Although we would have been fine staying in the house, and although I miss having a basement, I'm glad we have our shelter - and next time I might just head there a bit earlier!

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feeling Manly

Our camera is broken so I don't have any pictures again, but I just had to post about my accomplishment today. I have been trying to mow the lawn the last couple of days (the second mowing of the season - lots of other things to do but it needs to be mowed when I feel like I will lose the kids in the front yard). So the lawn mower would work fine until I started the mower up. Then it started popping, slowed down, and died. I was lucky if I got 2o feet.

Today I pulled out the manual and went to trouble shooting . . . hmmm . . . engine runs erratic . . . maybe I'll try that. So here were my options and thoughts:
* Unit running with choke activated - nope
* Spark plug wires loose - umm, might try that later
* Vent in gas cap plugged - hope that's it! . . . It wasn't
* Dirty air cleaner - hasn't been changed/checked since we got it and is overdue
* Water or dirt in fuel system - yikes, lots of bug parts in the gas tank
* Blocked fuel line or stale fuel - good chance with all of the bug parts

So here was my attack. I started with cleaning the air filter since the steps to clean it didn't look that bad. Unfortunately, they didn't write the manual for a woman though because they didn't have anything in there telling WHERE the air filter was! After a five minutes of flipping through the manual and a few minutes of staring and looking around, I found some yellow wingy nuts holding on a cap and looked under there. There were some things that looked filterish (they didn't have a picture of the filters either), so I decided to just clean those assuming they were the right ones. :) After washing the foam filter with detergent, letting it air dry, and then re-oiling it with engine oil, I put it all back together with the little yellow wingy nut things. Next step - the gas line.

Thank you manual writers for again writing the manual for people who probably don't need it. This time there was not only no pictures of what to do, but also no description of how to do it. But since the trouble shooting guide told me to, I was going to figure it out by following their "corrective actions" with or without their pictures or descriptions (okay, I guess just without).

So after spending another 5 minutes looking through the manual and more time staring at the engine, I found what I thought might have been the fuel filter that I was supposed to "replace if so equipped". It looked pretty secure on there so I got on the internet just to make sure that was what it was. It was. So I proceeded to take it off of the fuel line and eventually got it off. It was no surprise that there were bugs stuck in it. Well, I was not "so equipped" to replace it, so I shook it and tapped it around until it seemed I got all of the bugs out.

Next, the buggy gas tank. (Don't ask me how they all got in there.) After staring yet again for some time, I decided that I was not going to be able to get the bugs out with the gas in the tank. I went inside and got an empty milk jug and lowered the fuel line into the jug to drain the gas. After draining the gas (and momentarily trying to picture what would happen if I capped the jug and threw it into a fire), I checked inside the tank. Gas out. Bugs in. Shoot.

So then I got the idea to just take the gas tank out of the lawn mower. It wasn't too hard since I had already unattached the gas line, but I felt cool when I got it out. I took it over to the hose and washed the bugs out.

After I got the tank put back in and gave it sufficient drying time, I reattached the lines, fuel filter, and poured in some gas. One problem. The gas was blue.

I called Ethan and found out that I had chosen the gas can for the chainsaws that had oil mixed in it. Thankfully I hadn't poured that much in, but I did have to take the hose back apart and redrain the tank.

Thankfully we did have a small bit of mower gas around so I could see if my time spent was worth it.

I am pleased to say that I ended up mowing the front lawn without any mower problems! And that is why I feel manly.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What's She Up To?

Now that schools are getting out, I think I can call it summer. So I thought I would would give a quick spring update. Although I feel there is still a lot to be done, I feel a lot has been done too.

Among other things, I have spent a lot of time this spring planting the garden, transplanting berry plants from the woods, moving dirt to level anthills and to balance out the storm shelter, planting trees (about 30), cleaning up the yard of winter "debris", cleaning out the hay shed and storage shed, and getting our new farm name set up. (Which we are still in the process of, but it's coming!) I have also been busy inside with the kids, their schooling, continuing to get the house settled in, and just your usual housework.

I usually whip out out my list of projects at nap time and on the evenings when Ethan is in town. Because of this, I was starting to find myself saying to my sweet kiddos, "Just a minute. Mommy is almost done with her post." Since I never want to make keeping a journal or the computer more important than my kids, (and want to visit with or help Ethan on the evenings when he is home and the kids are in bed) I decided my blog has to wait until I can write my posts again when the kids are sleeping and the rest of the house is empty.

So where am I now . . . well, I still have a nice to-do list for outside and just as nice of one inside for rainy days. I also have, it seems, just as long of a list in my head of things I'd love to blog about! The last list will have to wait, however, until the previous two are done and I 'm looking for something do during nap time again. Unfortunately, I don't think that will ever happen on the farm as much as it did in town - but I'm not throwing my list of things to blog about away yet!

Thanks to all who keep checking back! Feel free to sign up on the right to get new posts by e-mail to save some internet bouncing time. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tending to Fruit

* another old post I found that didn't get posted . . .

I mentioned in my last post that last fall the rabbits started attacking the fruit trees early. I didn't have much time to hunt down rabbit guards in fear of my orchard completely being destroyed. (My fruit trees are just seedlings and not much wider than the diameter of a pencil.) Not wanting to spend a lot of money or take the time to run into town, I started brainstorming. Somehow the thought of feedbags came to me. I gave a quick call to the Master Gardner's for their opinion on my idea, got an okay, and got to work.

All I did was flip the feed bag over the top of the trees (cutting a hole in the bottom which was now the top for the few tall trees I had), poke a fence post threw the bag and into the soil, and then use the stitch from the bottom of the bag to secure the feed bag to the top of the fence post - to keep winter winds and snow from laying the bag over and breaking the trees. It worked great!

Today, during nap time, I went around and took off all of my feed bags. The trees looked wonderful underneath. And I actually could have taken them off sooner since a few were starting to bud. (I need to find out the exact time to remove winter coverings - when cold weather bark splitting and rabbit chewing are not longer a threat.)

After I was done with the trees, I took the rabbit guards off of my blackberry vines and peeked at my blue berry plants. They all looked good, although I need to do some research on blueberries. I hear they are particular with their soil.

I finished a bit earlier than I had though, so with some nap time left I also planted my black raspberry vines in their permanent location. I have around 25-30 vines now. I'm excited to see what they do this first season. I'm also excited to watch them spread!

Next in line with my fruit is planting my grape vines (that are growing and spreading in our kitchen) and transplanting strawberry plants from my parents' place. Although the holes for the grape plants are dug, there is a bit of work to get the strawberry beds ready.

Can you tell I like my fruit? :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pulling Raspberries

* an old post I found that didn't get posted . . .

Today, while the kids were napping - and after mine, I took a walk with Ethan down towards the woods. He was going to take down some temporary fence, and I was going to get some fresh air and just spend some time with him.

We are in the middle of the spring thaw right now, and we just got another 4-5 inches of snow over the weekend. With the cooler temps from the recent snow, I decided to put on my fleece lined jeans and also my winter boots.

I'm glad I did! Not only for the soppy pasture, but for raspberries!

When we got to the bottom of the hill, I noticed that where he was pulling fence was also where a mini ravine is. Although these ravines frustrate me with the fact that they are eating away at our pasture, I also love them. I love them because they are the only place I have found black raspberries to grow on our farm.

The first summer we owned our place, I hopped into our biggest ravine to pick the berries. I was 6-7 months pregnant at the time, but if you know me you know I love berries. So I got my berries but decided that I didn't really want to crawl into the ravine anymore - and not because I was pregnant.

With the multiple mad outbreaks of poison ivy I have had here, I have also decided that hanging out along fence lines and timber lines isn't the best idea. Even if it is to get berries. So what's a girl to do?

Well, last fall I hopped back into the ravine and dug up some berries to move to by the house. Unfortunately, the rabbits knew what was coming this winter and went on a early rampage of chewing off vines and fruit trees. (Even the master gardeners commented on the rabbits' early destructive activity.) In an effort to save my fruit trees (which I did), I didn't get around to protecting my transplanted berry plants before most of them had been nipped off.

Which leads me to today. And to the mini ravine I started talking about. When I saw it I was excited to see that it held quite a few black raspberry plants. I was almost equally excited that I wore my heavy boots and flannel lined jeans.

So as Ethan was rounding up fence I was down in the ravine pulling thorny raspberry plants, which pull quite nicely in ravines. (If the end of the vine touches a wet spot, it will start to root. Just pull this end out since the roots aren't very established, and break it off from the mature end.)

I was quite happy to get 20 or so rooted vines. Not really enough to fill buckets with berries, but enough to replant and start my black raspberry patch and get some berries to nibble on while avoiding ravines and poison ivy. At the moment, my vines are healed in by the house. I hope to plant them within the next week or so.

Also, by the way, I did have a nice time visiting with Ethan too. One of the things we talked about was getting sheep.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Clean Up

It has been a long winter. I can't remember one that seemed longer. And boy has the mess of winter surfaced around here. Hopefully we can do some spring clean up and get things back in order for the summer. Until then, I think I need to take another blogging break, not that I have been too consistent. :) So if you regularly check in, you can subscribe for a notification of new posts to save some internet bouncing time. Praying you are blessed this spring!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pre-Spring Reminders

Today I saw a lot of snow disappear, a lot of mud appear, and could even see the ground of the garden. You can check out Ethan's blog next week to see a video of what this March melt is doing around here.

One thing it is doing, however, is reminding me that it is garden preparation time. I've have now started my sweet potatoes to vine out and am starting to collect milk jugs to put over my transplants. (I had great plans to keep a vine of sweet potatoes going inside to use again in the garden but lost it in a science experiment last month with our homeschool group - totally my fault!)

If you want to read past posts about these things, head on over to the bar on the right of my blog where you can do a search within my blog.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Corner of the Farm

Lately I've been thinking about my little corner of the farm. I say that kind of jokingly because we both enjoy the whole farm. This little corner is where I spend most of my time, and it is also the area that holds what I love to eat best. So while I've been waiting for the snow to melt, I've been doing some planning. I pulled up and guesstimated where we have put our house, shed, garden, berry plants, and orchard.

After that, I planted my grape vines, yard trees, lilac bushes, some flowers, and set up the kids' swing set/play tower. I also set up our fire pit, put a clothes lineup, made some walkways to the house and storm shelter, fixed up the hydrant area, expanded the garden and added a path, plowed up some strawberry beds, finished the perimeter fence around the yard, put in some gravel to the shed and winter lot gate, and cut some wood and built a wood pile for next winter (by the green electric box).

If only it were that easy. And if only trees grew that fast. Oh well. A little at a time. It is fun to see it on paper (or computer), and it helps to have a plan for our trees in case we ever build a stick house a couple decades down the road. I just need to remember when we lived in town and the only way to see the house we are in now was to pull up floorplanner. (You can check that post out here.)

So for now, I'll just keep dreaming - and enjoying my new grape plants sent from my aunt in Oregon, which came out of dormancy quite well above my cupboard this winter. I think they will be one of the first things to get put in place from my dreaming . . .

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Naming our Farm and 1901 Plat Map

Ethan is very interested in Early American history, especially the 18th century. John Adams has been a man that he respects, and when he found his farm name to be Stoneyfield Farm, he thought that would be a good name for our farm as well. We did quite a few searches to make sure it was a unique name, and we didn't find any matches. So Stoneyfield we became.

Well, it has become apparent to us that we are not along. Since naming our farm, we have discovered another company with the same name, although spelled differently - the reason we didn't come across it at first. Stonyfield Farm, which makes organic yogurt, has been around for a bit now and has grown into a well respected business.

Because of this, we decided that this year we are going to change our name.

SO - we are brainstorming! Here are some of the things we hope a name could reflect:

1- Early American history, particularly the 18th century, founding fathers, and/or early American farming
2- Family farms
3- Farming naturally, or "old fashioned"

Some other things:
We are starting to focus on heritage breeds. We have had Dexter Cattle, but we are also starting to focus on Hereford hogs - a heritage breed originating from Iowa and Nebraska.

We have also pulled up a plat mat from 1901 in hopes of finding something that would spark an idea. Although not much was sparked, it was interesting to see nonetheless.

The yellow square is our 40 acres of land. It was once part of Noah Simpson's 80 acres, which is the additional orange square. The homestead was on the far east of his property.

To the north was another homestead. From seeing this map and others, we can be fairly confident that we are the first homestead on our land.

There were also 3 schools in the area (purple), 2 churches (green), and 1 cemetery (white).

The 2 original homestead cites listed and the cemetery are still being used. The churches and schools are no longer around or have visible remains.

We are going to continue to do some digging around and brainstorming, and hopefully we will have our new name by summer so we can continue setting up our business.

p.s. We also checked out George Washington's farm names: Muddy Hole Farm, Union Farm, Mansion House Farm, Dogue Run Farm, River Farm, and Little Huntg. Creek Farm. Struck out there as well, although Ethan was particularly fond of Muddy Hole Farm with all of the rains we have had since we bought this place . . . sure has made things tough to get going.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cloth Napkins, Hankies, and Milk Jugs

I'm always looking for ways to cut down on spending. One of the things that I have tried to cut down on is household consumables. A few years back I decided to make some cloth napkins and hankies.

To do this, I went to Walmart, when they still had their fabric department, and bought some inexpensive flannel. I then surged around the outside to make squares. I ended up with stripped wash cloth napkins, pink hankies for Hannah, and blue hankies for Caleb.

These have worked out really well. The napkins are great for cleaning spaghetti stained faces, and the kids can keep their hankies in their pockets or on their dinner chairs. They can go through as many as they would like, and if one get's left around, there's no guessing as to who's germs it holds.

I've tweeked the laundering of the napkins and hankies a bit to keep laundry hampers from becoming musty and gross. I now have a milk jug (easy to toss when needs replacing) under the kitchen sink that these napkins get dropped in. I put a touch of vinegar in the water, which keeps the water a bit more fresh and have a drip protector under the jug in case the kids don't get a cloth in all of the way and it wicks water out.

I also have a post it note sticker on my warm wash cycle, so whenever I do a load of warms I remember to retrieve the milk jug.

This seems to work out great for our kids, and it has really cut down on the paper napkins and kleenexes that we buy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Simple Joys on a Snowy Day

This afternoon, Ethan, my dad, and I went down to woods (while my mom played with the kids) to get some firewood for the next couple weeks of winter.

It was a beautiful day for being outside in the woods with the large fluffy snowflakes quietly floating down. The air was cool enough to keep me from overheating too much while carrying logs to the wagon, but not too cold to become uncomfortable if I would stop just to look around.

We were able to get a good number of trees cut and into the wagon today, hopefully enough for 2-3 weeks of heat if it doesn't get too frigid in February.

While I was working, I came across another reason why I love it here. Many times I find myself in wonder at the simple things that amuse and bring joy to my one year old. Often I wish to be that easily thrilled. Today, was one of those days where I felt just as amused and thrilled as Isaac: Taking in the beauty of the quite snowy woods, staring wide eyed while watching an 18 inch diameter log accidentally roll 30 feet down a hill - opposite the direction to the wagon, laughing as I tried to roll the log back up the woodsy hill and amused as it gathered the wet snow while becoming increasingly heavy but looking more and more like the bottom of Frosty the snowman, and also becoming confusingly excited over finding a large dead oak tree (where the snowman log originated from) that meant hotter fires and fewer loadings of the stove.

When we first started on this farming journey, there were a lot of romanticized thoughts about starting a small farm from scratch. Many days it has been anything but romantic, and even today brought its share of farm troubles. Cutting wood this afternoon, however, was one of the ways that the Lord not only refreshes me but also reminds me of the simple joys in life.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pig Parts?

Right now I am in Minnesota while Ethan is at home with the 2 older kids. I stole away to help some dear friends who are getting ready to adopt 2 girls from Ethiopia. Since I have a couple free minutes, I thought I would throw out a question.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with a customer who purchased some of our pork, who also happens to be a chef. He was interested in having us save pork shanks and hoofs. Although we have had requests to save jowls and lard, this is a new request for us. So my question is . . . do any of you cook with any out of the ordinary pig parts - things that you wouldn't see at your typical meat counter? If you do, how do you prepare them?

I look forward to hearing responses, and hopefully I can toss up some pictures once I get back home. (We are in the process of setting up a new computer since our home one has pretty much officially died after months of squeezing every last bit of life out.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Personalized Plaque Giveaway - Winner!!

Out of 43 eligible responses, picked number 28. So the winner is . . . Suzy!
Congratulations, Suzy! You can check out her blog, Life at the Big Red Barn. Thanks to everyone for being a part. :)

I'd like to thank all of my faithful readers for continuing to check in this winter. And for checking in this week, I have a great giveaway that you can take part in! CSN stores has offered to give away a garden or house plaque to one of my US or Canadian readers.

For this giveaway, CSN has offered your choice of a personalized plaque - which is up to a $75 value. You can either chose the tractor plaque (9.25" H x 15.75" W ) or the chickadee plaque which comes with steaks (10.75" H x 16.125" W ) shown below. These plaques can be personalized with your family name, farm name, house numbers, or even a favorite phrase.
All you have to do is leave a comment with a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you win. To protect from spam, you are welcome to leave it in the "johndoe at email dot com" format. I will also delete all comments after the giveaway.

All comments with e-mails left until January 18th will be placed in the giveway. Comments must be left on this post and not sent to my e-mail. Multiple comments from the same reader will disqualify the reader. I will use to pick the winner and will announce the lucky reader shortly afterward.

Remember, you must have a US or Canadian mailing address to enter, and be sure to leave your e-mail address in your comment. :)

Thanks again for stopping by!
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