Thursday, February 3, 2011

Slow news day

It certainly isn't every day that your kids make the front page of the paper. And yet, that is exactly what has happened! And it's not the local weekly paper, either. We're talking the state capital's city paper.

We were contacted Tuesday evening about the photographer coming over to get a few shots of the kids doing their morning animal chores in the cold. We agreed. I thought it would just be a photo with a caption...human interest. But then, we were interviewed and told that they might even want to do another story every few months of our progress through the year. And last night, we were told that unless something happened big in Egypt in the next few hours, we'd be on the front page. Talk about shock!

You can see the article here. I don't know how long that link will be good, but for now, that's the place.

So far, the comments online are tame. Hopefully, it'll stay that way. People tend to use those comment sections to sound off. Of course, I know I shouldn't care one way or the other! But I do.

Anyway, take a look! I'm so proud of my hard-working kids!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

She talks. And talks.

One of the big things that happened while I was "away" was that Abby started talking. I mean really talking. Before, she had been a master of communication, but used almost no real words. She was able to use grunts and sounds to make us understand what she wanted to say. With amazing accuracy. To outsiders, it looked like a mystery. Like Lassie telling the folks that Timmy fell down the well.

She still isn't always clear in how she says things, but she is getting better by the day and adding new words at an alarming rate. The funny thing is that Josh is really not very far behind her. I, though, am enjoying her new-found freedom in words.

The other day, we had this conversation occur about whether or not she could join us in a game.

Abby: "Abby play too?"
Meagan: "No, Abby. You are too little."
Abby: "I'm 3! And I'm tall!"
Meagan: "Yes, you are 3 and you are tall, but you are still too little for this game."
Abby, after a moment's reflection: "I need get heavy?"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Copper-colored glasses

When we started adding on to our house, there were lots of other projects that came up. Things like needing to take the power line to the barn down & bury had been on a pole that was really leaning badly after a large branch came down on it. Things like ripping out some of the old wiring in the house and replacing it with new. And things like laying new water lines to new faucets. All that added up to scrap copper laying around.

Don suggested that the kids start gathering it up to sell. And they jumped on that suggestion. They read a little about it online and found that stripped wire was worth more than burned wire. And so, for several months, when they had spare time, they'd sit in the garage and strip that copper wire. It was probably more tedious than any monetary bonus could justify in most of our minds, but it gave them a project to do together.

They finally finished last month and it sat in the back of the van since then, waiting for us to get to town to sell it. But last Friday, we actually made it there. As a total sidenote here, can I just say that scrap yards are a man's world? I felt so completely out of place there. I had tried to figure out a way to get Don to do the deed, but it didn't work out so I had to suck it up and do it myself. No problems, but I just felt like I entered another world when I crossed the tracks down in the industrial area. My minivan looked a bit conspicuous.

But anyway, here are the happy entrepreneurs!They got $100.03 for their efforts. They were in copper heaven. Don warned them to not go around yanking wires out of our walls now! They assured him they wouldn't, but they did start thinking of other possible sources. Hey you think you need that outlet there???

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not really Halley's Comet

I could talk about the snow, but I'm in denial. Actually, it's not the snow that I mind. It's the cold that accompanies it. The high today will be 6. And that isn't Celsius. Actually, since I seem to be talking about it anyway, I'll go ahead and complain about the mud puddles inside the door melting off of boots. And remember, when I say "mud", I mean manure. It's almost more than this firstborn can stand. At least it's sunny. Though I do think it's some sort of cruel joke that the sun can be shining like crazy and still only get the temperature up to 6. That's just wrong.
At least someone likes it.

So, what I'm really going to talk about is our 2 new additions to the farm.
This is Halley. She is an 18-year-old mare who is in need of some love and attention. She was given to us because the owner is a traveling musician with his family and couldn't give her the time she needed. She needs to put on some weight, but when she does, she'll be able to be ridden. She is a sweetheart and loves a good apple.

This is Comet. Comet is not from Halley, but since the two came together, and Comet was still unnamed, we couldn't resist. Comet is an 8-month-old filly. She is completely not tame, but she seems to be a bit calmer now that she's in with Halley. The previous owner had her off by herself. She has to get older, of course, before we can break her to ride, so right now, she's just a pet. She will be great experience for us in horse training. Our ultimate goal is to own draft horses, so we felt like this was a good opportunity to get some horse experience before that.

The horses are enjoying the barnyard with the cows. Annabelle, who will calve sometime this month, Snowflake, who is our yearling heifer who needs to be separate from her mama for a little longer to make sure she doesn't continue to nurse, and our 2 Holstein oxen in training, Buck & Doe, are the cows that are normally housed in the same yard. Right now, though, we've taken pity on the usually pasture cows and let them into the yard so that they have access to the barn during the frigid, windy weather. They'll head back out as soon as the weather gets a bit more reasonable.

The cows are pretty sure we've lost our minds by putting these creatures into their turf. They were completely terrified at first, but have now settled into just giving the horses a wide berth. At any rate, they'd rather things go back to the way they were.
And yes, the horse pictures were taken before the snow!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Turn about is fair play

Remember this picture I posted last March?

Yeah, well, Josh is getting even.

Friday, January 7, 2011

My little wood gatherer

Josh absolutely loves to go outside. So I knew he'd love the job I had for him. There were lots of wood scraps in the yard left from Caleb's wood splitting so I sent all of them outside, telling them to help Josh gather them up.

He had a blast. He filled 2 buckets & 2 boxes with sticks and bark and bits of wood. Now, if I could just figure out how to get him to pick up his toys!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If I Had a Nickel...

Oh wait. I do!

This sweet kitty showed up on our doorstep one cold morning a couple weeks ago. I'm pretty sure he is a "drop off" as he is extremely friendly and thought he belonged in the house. Meagan named him Nickel right off the bat, even though I told her that he might not stick around. He has though, so it looks like he's here to stay. He doesn't even mind the dogs' big noses following him around.

We had just been thinking we needed a second cat. Our head mouser Chief Wahoo was killed last winter by a coyote (we found the tracks and evidence of the skirmish in the snow) and though Johnny Cash looks good in black, he just hasn't been able to keep up with the mice. As a result, I've been catching mice in traps like crazy ever since the weather started to turn cool. In only 3 days, Caleb caught 24 mice in the barn! And there were several times I caught 4 mice in just a night in the house. We needed a second cat. And Nickel seems to be the answer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sewing desk

I have dreamed of having a sewing desk for as long as I've been sewing. I've always thought how nice it would be to have a desk permanently set up with everything I need and a space to leave a project out mid-stitch. Well, just having the desk wasn't the only problem. I also needed a spot to stick one.

When I re-did our old laundry room into our new library, I snagged the perfect opportunity to claim a spot under the window for a desk. Now, to build it...

The desk is essentially 3 simple bookcases put together with a table top. I had 6 wicker baskets, so I built 2 bookcases with 3 cubbies each to fit them. I turned one toward the front and one toward the side.

On the right-hand side of the desk is another wider bookcase to hold fabric. It faces the side and so I was able to add my thread organizers onto the bookcase's side, which now faces the front.

I added a rectangular piece of 3/4" plywood, screwed all the pieces together, and painted it white.

Please ignore, by the way, the clutter. I thought about cleaning it all off for the picture, but then I decided to keep it real. Or maybe I'm just lazy. Anyway, you can see Meagan & I's newest project...a braided denim rug. That one is going to take a sweet forever. We contemplated changing it to a doll-sized rug, but we are going for the big one.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Too beautiful to waste

It was absolutely gorgeous here yesterday. A bit windy, but it was in the 50s and mostly sunny.

We could've spent time at the park. We could've gone hiking. We could've done a million leisurely activities to take advantage of a rare winter day of mild temperatures. Instead, we butchered chickens.Two visiting boys catching chickens

Our homemade Whizbang Chicken Plucker

You see, a beautiful day just simply cannot be wasted when you've got a chore needing to be done like that. If we hadn't butchered yesterday, we might end up doing it on a day when the chickens start to freeze as soon as they come out of the scalder. We've done it on days like that. It is not a process I'd like to repeat. When everyone is competing to be the one to do the gutting because having your hand INSIDE the chicken is the warmest place there is, you can bet the day is not pleasant. It is much better to use a beautifully warm day to do it. In fact, I'd rather do it on a day like yesterday over ANY summer day as well. Things smell better in the 50s than they do in the 90s.Picking off a few remaining feathers

We did 38 chickens and 6 ducks. We had 6 extra sets of hands with friends, including a friend of a friend who is wanting to get more involved with his own food after watching Food, Inc. He wanted to experience this to see if he might want to raise some of his own food because he has opportunity to buy a small farm near the city. Butchering is always more fun with friends to get bloody with!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The shelves. The shelves that led to a complete room makeover!

I am a woman who loves power tools. How did this happen? My eyes used to glaze over when Don wanted to stop in at Home Depot. Now, I know several of the employees at the Menard's in Lincoln. One of them is convinced that I am there every time he is. He may be right.

I've been building like crazy this summer/fall. It all started with needing a shelf for boots in our new mud room (I'll post about that outcome another time). I discovered Ana White's website and thought, "Hey, if I can build a stanchion for the cows, surely I can put together a shelf!" I did, and the rest is history.

We were needing a bunch of bookshelves as we had been borrowing Don's folk's and they were going to need them back as their house gets completed. So, I found some shelves I liked and got busy countersinking some nails.

Again, I adjusted the plans a bit to better meet our needs. They are individual base and hutch units, but it all comes together nicely and look built-in. The bases are 16" deep and the hutches are 12" deep. I may someday put doors on the base units, but for now, I'm happy.

The hardest part about these shelves was that the wall they were going on had the only heat register and 3 of the 4 outlets. If I didn't do something about it, we were going to be cold in there. Cold and using extension cords.

So, I used some duct tape and some insulated cardboard to build out underneath the shelf so that I could extend the "ductwork" and put a register on the front of the bookcase. It isn't perfect, as the picture shows, because I had to improvise a little...maybe a little caulk would hide the gap though. The other thing I did was to run wires underneath one of the bookcases so that I could put outlets on the front. The big deal is that everything worked! I didn't even cause any fuses to blow!

And new, white bookshelves required me to paint the walls and wood trim. And, put up new window treatments, and rewire the outlets & switches with white. And, put up pictures on the walls and bring in a comfy chaise lounge. The end result? A cozy new library (that doubles as a sewing room with the new sewing table I built...more on that later as well!) A library, by the way, that doesn't even hold all of our books. Back to the workbench!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's just grand.

Last week, I had arranged with a guy off of Craigslist that I would come and get his free upright piano. It had a few missing ivories, but it would be free. We'd just work around the "issues".

Friday night, though, Don asked me to meet him in Lincoln after he got off work. He told me the intersection, but wouldn't tell me the store he wanted to take me to. It turned out to be a music store. Ok...I thought he maybe wanted to browse through sheet music. I'm game.

But then he asked to see the used pianos they had. I gave him that look that says, "Have you lost your mind?" Didn't he remember that we were getting a FREE one? FREE. That is much cheaper than NOT FREE. He reasoned that we may as well look at them and see what was available...with all the ivories.

Anyway, long story short, this is now in our home...
The kids are having so much fun pounding away at the keys (and my ear drums). Meagan figured out which notes to play to get the first part of "Three Blind Mice", which doesn't sound like much, but it's not bad, considering she's had no exposure to a piano before.

And thankfully, I have not forgotten everything I knew. It is coming back to me. It is funny to me that I enjoy practicing now, when practicing was the most torturous thing I could think of as a child. Of course, I like onions now, too. Life is full of surprises!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

File this under "Things You Never Thought You'd Hear Yourself Say"

The other day at breakfast, these words actually came out of my mouth: "Don't blow your nose in your tortilla!"

Ahhh, motherhood. It really is different from anything you could've imagined!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Splitting wood

Caleb has been building up a nice set of arm muscles this winter. Winter is usually a slow time of the year. One in which we rest & recuperate, getting ready for the sprint through the year that begins when the first seed goes in the ground. But, this year, we have a wood stove and a pile of wood that is too big for the opening of said stove.

Enter Caleb's arms. He has been faithfully hacking away at the wood. Truthfully, he likes it. Yes, it makes him tired and yes, it makes his muscles ache. But, he gets to wear a pair of too-big steel-toes boots. Like a man. And that makes it all worth it.

Since Opa returned from a short (4 month) trip to Ukraine, Caleb hasn't been all alone out there. The two of them have worked at it together some. And if you thought wearing man boots to split wood was fun for an 11-year-old, then think about adding an Opa to that mix. An Opa with an wedge and a sledge hammer, no less.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Building memories

Meagan had one wish for her birthday this year (she turned 9 in July!) and that was to build a stand that she could sell from. We were, at the time, involved at a low level in a farmer's market and she so wanted to have her own stand, her own goods, and her own business.

So, for her birthday, I gathered up a bunch of scrap wood, bought a few pieces we didn't have, and presented them to her, with a promise that we would build the stand together. Just us girls.

Here it is in it's finished form. We will add a sign in the pink area, naming her stand, eventually, but at the moment, we don't have a name. We are also toying with the idea of making it changeable so that she can name it "Meagan's Melons" one day and "Meagan's Mushrooms" the next. We're brainstorming as to how to do that best.

I used the plans from Ana White's website as a basis, but modified it as Meagan is now 9 and these were designed for much littler girls. The hutch part comes off, as we attached it with bolts, so that we can easily stick it in the back of the pickup to take it somewhere else for selling things. It is a bit heavy, but manageable in two pieces. If you are interested in the plans and how we modified it, that info will follow...

Here is the base unit as is.
My cut list was:
A) 2 - 1x12 @ 31 3/4" (sides)
B)3 - 1x12 @ 34 1/2" (shelves)
C)2 - 1x4 @ 34 1/2" (half shelves)
D)2 - 1x10 @ 34 1/2" (center dividers)
E)2 - 1x12 @ 8 3/4" (bin dividers)
F)1 - 1x8 @ 36" (top of bins)
G)1 - 1x4 @ 36" (front of bins)
H)2 - 1x2 @ 22 1/4" (front side trim)
I)1 - 1x3 @ 33" (front footer)
J)1 - 1x4 @ 36" (back of bin trim)
K)1 - 1x2 @ 36" (back top trim)
L)2 - 1x2 @ 5 1/4" (back side trim)
M)1 - 1x3 @ 36" (back bottom trim)
N)2 - 1x2 @ 20" (back side trim)

The new overall dimensions are 36" wide, 13" deep, and 32 1/2" high.

In step one, the top measurements are the same, but the side will measure 25" instead of 15 1/2".

Step two is the same.

In step three, the bottom shelf will still be 1 3/4" off the ground, but there will be 3 shelves instead of 2. There is 9 1/2" BETWEEN each of the shelves, with 8 3/4" remaining at the top. So, the bottom of the bottom shelf will be attached at 1 3/4", the bottom of the 2nd shelf at 12", and the top shelf at 22 1/4", leaving 8 3/4" over the top of that last shelf.

In step four, we will add 2 half-shelves instead of one. The lower half-shelf will have 6 7/8" from the bottom to the ground, and the top half-shelf will have 17 1/8" from the bottom to the ground.

Step five is the same, except that there are 2 of the D pieces instead of one. Obviously, one between the bottom & 2nd shelf, and one between the 2nd & top shelf.

Steps six through fifteen are the same, just using the new cutting measurements. Locations & methods are the same, though.

Here is the hutch unit as is.
My cutting list was:
A)2 - 1x6 @ 32 3/4" (sides)
G)2 - 1x3 @ 25 3/4" (front side trim)

The new dimensions are 36" wide, 7" deep, and 36" tall.

All the steps are the same, with only the side heights changing. You won't notice any difference in the instructions.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nine months later

So, we were sitting in foster care training (What?!? Where did that come from? More later...) a few weeks ago and they were talking about the importance of keeping pictures and stories of a foster child's life so that they have something to look back on. "Imagine," the instructor said,"growing up and having no pictures from your childhood!" I leaned over to Don and said, "Josh is coming dangerously close to that." His response, in true Don form, was "Josh...which one is he again?" The short one, Don. The short one.

You see, I have taken almost no pictures over the last nine months away from the blog. I've recorded almost nothing. And I realized that I don't like it. So, I am in a search for balance. Balance between way too much time being sucked into this Macintosh friend of mine and a complete neglect of something important to me.

In order to spare you a list of randomness incorporating nine months of ridiculous busyness, I will slowly dole it out whenever I feel like it! Hey, nine months of happenings may just give me some topics for a while, right? It just may take me a bit to get in the habit again.