Monday, October 13, 2014

A Busy First Summer On The Farm (Part 2!)

In addition to all the garden/preserving work I mentioned in Part 1, we also dove into the house remodeling. I love living in an old house. I like that is has a history and (crazy as it sounds) I feel like there's a certain warmth and comfort from past years that stays with the house. I like to think about the fact that in a house over a hundred years old, anything we go through, this house has probably seen it before. Other people got through their troubles, and had lived their happiest times, and loved their families within these same walls. I'm not the only one who feels this sense of warmth in this old house.  The first time my Dad walked in the door he said "this feels like home". We've had many family, friends, even my kids teachers come to our house and immediately say that it feels like "home" or reminds them of wherever home is to them. (Which often leads to their childhood stories of Mom's pot roasts and pies, climbing trees, or playing in old barns!) I would like to take credit for that and just say that I've made my house very comfortable and homey somehow....but I know that's not it!

Anyway, the other side of having an old house is that there is much work to be done to fix old damage and spruce it up a bit. We are doing all the remodeling ourselves so it's kind of a long road. But I think we've come a long way in just a year!

The first thing we really needed was a shower on the main floor for my parents (who live with us) to be able to access easily. We actually did this last Winter. We built an area onto an existing bathroom by pushing a wall out into another room.

 Existing (but showerless) bathroom.
Room commonly known as my sewing room although it's more of a multi-purpose space!
And walls going up for the new shower area to be built.

When we get around to remodeling the whole bathroom I'll have an"after" picture.

We also completed the sewing room, but then we started the living room and had to move everything into the sewing room temporarily (sigh) so pictures of that will  have to come later too.

Next up was the kids rooms. They have great oak floors that didn't need much work, and other than a couple new windows, most of what needed to be done there was cosmetic.
The kids chose their own colors and this one wanted a wilderness/cabin feel. I was a little concerned that all these deep colors would make the room too dark, but it actually looks great!
We added some antlers and lots of framed pictures of the Rockies. 

Here's another bedroom before....

And a very girly after! 

Last,but definitely not least, is our current project...the living room. We knew there was some old damage to the floor we would have to fix,but we didn't know how bad it would be until we got the carpet pulled up....
 ...ands saw this! Hello, basement!

Long story short, we ended up taking out the entire floor,
 replacing many of the floor joists...

...and putting in a whole new sub-floor.
 This project is still underway, the sub floor is complete, the new wiring is hooked up, new heating system installed, and walls patched just waiting to be mudded this week. We have a new wood stove coming next month, I'm sooo excited about that, last winter was our first winter without one and we really missed it! Then paint, flooring, and finally done!

So, that's what's been happening inside the house this summer. Next up....animal updates!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Busy First Summer On The Farm (Part 1!)

Hello! I'm back! :) I never planned to take a "summer vacation" from the blog, I just never seemed to get a spare moment! Well, I did, but it was 1 AM and I was TIRED! I'm soooo looking forward to catching up with all of you now!

Our first full Summer here was very eventful and productive, although somehow we're always left feeling like there was more we wanted to accomplish.

One of the big things to start out our Summer was that we sold our old house.
This was something were so anxious to get done because it allowed us to pay off the last of our student loans and FINALLY reach our goal of being debt free! We made this goal and started working toward it as soon as we got married. There were times it didn't seem like it would ever happen, so getting this close was both exciting and stress-inducing...just hoping the house would sell for what we needed to put us where we wanted to be financially. 
We had completely gutted and remodeled this house, so it makes me happy to think of the person who bought it hopefully enjoying it!

Once we got that out of the way, we settled in for a Summer of crazy weather. It wasn't so great for the gardens, but it did make for some beautiful skies.

It also brought enough rain to wash out fences, turn our road into a river, and bring lots of snapping turtles down the creek and into our pastures with the cattle!

What plants didn't get washed away, destroyed by hail, or blown away with the wind, did manage to produce enough to keep me busy canning, freezing, and dehydrating! I wish I had taken more pictures of all this, but with fresh produce piling up on the counters, floor, and porch, photography didn't seem like the best use of my time!

We were also blessed to be surrounded by some stunning flowers, some we planted, some just turning up on their own.

I have so much more to tell you...but I'm thinking you have have other things to get done today besides reading my we'll pick this back up soon with animal news, house remodeling, and and some small town summer fun.

Can't wait to catch up with you all! What was the highlight of your Summer?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Apricot Jam

Our apricot tree didn't produce any fruit this year because of the very late freeze we had. We were all pretty disappointed about that! However, we've been very fortunate to be able to go to our cousins' house this week and get some from their tree! I may freeze some later, but first I wanted to make some jam. I've made one big batch today and am planning to make another this evening, but I thought I would take a few minutes to share the recipe with you in case you are lucky enough to have apricots this year and want to give it a try!

This is a simple old-fashioned recipe, so be warned....there's a lot of sugar in here!

First you will need to peel your apricots (very briefly dipping them in very hot water will make this much easier) and take out the pits. Farm Kids are great at pitting the apricots!
Next, you'll crush them, I used a potato masher for this. For this recipe you'll need two quarts of the crushed apricots.

Put them in a large saucepan and add 1/4 cup lemon juice, then add in 6 cups of sugar (I warned you!) and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Heat slowly until it boils, and then boil rapidly and stir frequently, until it gels. Once it has the desired consistency, pour into your hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and put the lid and ring on.
Then just process in a boiling -water canner for 15 minutes.

If you are new to boiling-water canning (or canning in general) the Ball preserving books (check our Facebook page for a link to one of my favorites) are great for great step-by-step directions. Anytime you're preserving foods you need to be very careful to follow directions exactly, so refer to a canning guide for more detailed instructions if needed.

Well, back to jam-making!

What is your favorite fruit for jam or jelly?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Farm Updates-Finally!

I guess it's about time for some farm updates since so much  has been happening that I haven't had a chance to write in nearly a month! 

The garden is growing, or tying to between hail storms, very strong winds, and enough rain to flood our creek!
We have a fantastic Kale crop this year, I'm getting ready to freeze some for winter soups.

One of the things I'm most looking forward to watching grow is this White Cushaw. It was a favorite of my Dad's family when he was growing up and it's my first time growing it.

We also got a start on our new orchard! So far we have apple, pear, and cherry trees of a few different varieties.

When we moved here there was no longer any way into the top of the of the grain barn. We eventually made our way up there and discovered that it was still FULL of oats and corn from many many years ago. After hauling lots of truck loads of that old grain away we built some stairs and a door to go up there (instead of having to use a ladder and go in through a little hole!). Now we'll actually be able to use the whole building!
There are stairs where that ladder is now but I haven't taken a picture yet!

If you follow us on Facebook, you know we adopted two English Shepherds last week. They are brothers who needed a new home where they could still be together. So far, they're doing well and adjusting to farm life!

We added 50 more chicks to our these, some of them are so pretty!

We've also been spending lots of time with my sister and brother-in-law, working on things at our place and theirs. 
This is the drive up to their house.

They had a fire last winter that burned down their big chicken house, so this spring they bought this cute little one to start a few chickens again.

They also have cows....
....and my brother-in-law works for a dairy, milking cows... we got to go with him last weekend for a tour!

Here's the big girls...

...and the calves!

Have you guessed where this is going?

Yep, we got our first Holstein calf! 

And all that is why I've had a little trouble finding time to write!

What about you guys? What's been going on with you?

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Storm Season

This week we had a pretty strong storm blow through our area. We had a few nervous moments watching the sky turn black, the wind start to blow, severe thunderstorm warnings and then tornado watches issued for us while we waited anxiously for my husband to make it home from his job site.

We even ended up spending a little time in the basement as we listened to reports that a strong storm system was headed our way. Our power went out, but fortunately we had someone watching out for us and texting me with the latest storm updates! As soon as the lightening and wind calmed a bit we switched our generator on and were back to normal. The worst of the storm ended up going to our South and we only had some branches blown from some of our trees. 

Not everyone was so lucky. Two of the tiny towns to our South had a lot of damage (though, thankfully, no fatalities). The next morning when the Farm Kids heard about the trouble our neighbors to the South were having they immediately wanted to go help. With buildings down, metal grain bins shredded, and power lines down everywhere, it wasn't a situation where small children could really be in the yards and streets working on clean up. But there's always a way to help and it's so important to me that the Farm Kids know that. So we decided that since it's hot and humid out there we would pack up our wagon and buy a load of water, sports drinks, and juice boxes and head into the towns to hand out cold drinks to everyone working on the repair and clean up. We parked in the middle of town where it would be easy to go back to our SUV to reload the wagon as needed, and then headed out to walk through the town.

The damage was significant.
 These piles of metal were grain bins like the ones standing behind them.

These were not run down buildings, this is all damage from this storm.

 The vast majority of homes looked like this. This is damage from baseball size hail and very strong winds. The storm seemed to come from all directions and most houses have damage like this on all sides as well as many broken out windows.

 This tree was in the front yard of one of my favorite people we met today, a very lovely 82 year old lady who already had nearly her whole yard cleaned up (by herself!) as she had been out working on it since early morning! She was hauling loads of brush into her big pickup truck and hauling them away, had already boarded up her 11 missing windows, and was getting ready to start cleaning out the remains of her many flower beds. She showed us where each of her treasured bushes and flowers had been (nothing remained) but then happily showed us a planter of bright pink flowers that had been safely in her garage when the storm hit. They are now the only bright and colorful spot in sight! She was happy and optimistic, telling us that she was just fine, her insurance would cover the windows and she was just glad her house hadn't blown away with her in it! We will definitely always remember her and her wonderful outlook! 
By the way, we don't know where the top of this big tree went, it was nowhere to be found!

While we were out handing out our (very appreciated!) drinks, we saw others come to help as well, some of them just walking up to strangers and saying "What do you need? We can help."

It's always upsetting to see this kind of damage that people have to deal with, especially knowing that many of these folks don't have much money to work with. But it is also so uplifting and inspiring to see that every single person we encountered was smiling, telling us how happy they are to have their families safe and their homes (if maybe not their garages and barns!) still standing. They know they can find a way to fix the damage and are just thankful to live in a place where they know they can count on their community to be there to help them.

I am so very thankful to be a part of this community and to have the chance to watch my children learn from these wonderful people.

Are you having a stormy Spring? As I write this we are in another severe thunderstorm warning!

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