Good bye city life! Our family designed and built an industrial but old fashioned farmhouse on nine acres. Now we are building our homestead ~ or is it building us? Grab your boots and join us on our journey to country living.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bountiful blackberry

Blackberry season is here and boy, are they big!  Tonight, two of the boys and I went out and picked and picked and picked.  This is our second huge bowlful of the most delicious berries I have ever had.  Our veggie garden may not be producing but the berries are bountiful.  Tomorrow, I am doning an apron and making jam and maybe another cobbler too.  That is if my husband doesn't eat them all first.  They are his absolute favorite!

I mean, have you ever seen blackberries this big?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sleep simple

Our master bedroom is simple.  That is the only way I know to describe it.  We kept it small so that it would have a cozy feel.  The three bare windows over the bed keep the room lit during the day and let moonlight in at night.  They are high enough that we can see sky and no one can see us.

When we moved in our new farmhouse, our classic bedroom set didn't stay long.  In fact, we brought it in the room and took it right back out.  My husband said, "This furniture just doesn't belong in this house."  Being tired of sleeping on a mattress on the floor, we were off shopping.  What we found was a wrought iron bed at Ethan Allen.  It has a pewter gray finish that goes nicely with the barn door hardware.  The antique looking clover top table was picked up there too.  Wayne needed a table for his side and we were out of budget so we got creative.  Don't you love how economy brings creativity? Anyway, we repurposed a black barstool that had a loose top.  We removed the saddle seat and nailed on a pine top.  It matches the pine cabinet on the opposite wall.  A couple of antique ladderback chairs are the only other pieces in the room. 

For bedding we have a white linen bedskirt topped with soft sheets and a new old fashioned quilt set from my favorite store, Pottery Barn.  A rug will be a welcome addition at a future date.  But as my mom says, houses are works in progress.  So true.

Looking at photos of farmhouse bedrooms, we found a reoccuring theme.  They were for sleeping.  A bed, a lamp, a chair for taking off your shoes.  They were definitly not for lounging away the day.  There is too much to do on a farm. Incorporating this idea into our home, we have found that this simple farmhouse bedroom style is comforting.  It fits our new lifestyle.  It is functional, not fussy, simple, not showy, and a welcome retreat that is right at home on a farm.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

City girl meets John Deere

Our addition of horses has brought many decisions to be made including what farm vehicle will do the jobs that need to be done.  So yesterday we took a trip to the John Deere dealership a few towns away.  My husband talked over the features with the salesman while I tried to keep up with differences between the 3038, the 4000, and the F-16.  He had done lots of research, like always, so he was prepared to talk tractor.  They all looked the same to me - green.  Some were just bigger than others.

Then they had me drive one, actually two. The first was an automatic, no problem.  It had a enclosed cab, a/c, and a cupholder but big.  The second was more my size.  It was a small tractor but still those tires are just huge!  They adjusted the seat but my feet still didn't reach the floor, just the pedals.  No room for a purse on this one, hubby had to hold it.  I got down the road a little way toward the really big ones and thought to myself, "Ok, which one would be harder, backing up or turning around without hitting one of those green monsters?"  I decided on turning around.  Upon doing that successfully, I decided to go for a higher gear.  Forgetting about the clutch, I shifted up, grinding to a stop.  Getting it going again, I bounced up and down in the seat swinging my feet and generally having a good time.  Unbeknownst to me, the salesman was telling Wayne that I should always wear my seatbelt.  Really, there is a seatbelt?  Yeah, I should probably do that next time.  For this city girl, meeting John Deere was fun.  A chance to do something that I never thought I would be doing. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bird watching

Bird watching has become a past time at our farmhouse.  I have always fed the wild birds but out here it is a little different.  We have different birds than we had in the city.  So finding what attracts them has been challenging.  The bluebirds are especially beautiful.  Bright and graceful, they are my favorite by far.

This spring, I put up a bluebird house in the middle of the flower garden. I had yet to see one on our propery but I knew they were in the area so I was hopeful.  After several months with no activity, I disappointedly gave up the house to some sparrows.  Then this week, here they came checking out the house.  Now, bluebirds won't kick sparrows out but sparrows will boot out bluebirds.  I decided the bluebirds needed some assistance.  Springing into action, I destroyed the sparrow nest to make way for the blue beauties.  Then sharing the information with my sweet mother-in-law (who lives 200 ft.away), she went out and bought three bluebird houses.  Well, what do you think happened?  They decided against my old Walmart house and moved next door in the new cedar condos! She gave me one to put up too so I am hoping to attract more.  Meanwhile, the sparrows have moved back into their old comfy home.  We have spotted several more bluebirds though, so I'm still hoping to have a pretty pair in my backyard.

Taking our past time seriously, we have binoculars and bird reference books in an accessible place in the mudroom.  They sit below a painting of cosmos that my great grandmother (lovingly called "Pink Grama") did years ago.  Isn't it sweet?  It reminds me of her.

Common birds that we see are Western Kingbirds, Nighthawks, Red Tailed Hawks, House Finches, Great Egrets, an Orchard Oriole, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (lots of them!), Barn Swallows (so fun to watch), Eastern Bluebirds, & of course House Sparrows.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

7 days / 0 kids

My 3 boys are gone for a whole week!  The boy scouts are off at camp sleeping in a tent in 100 degree weather.  Poor guys!  They love it!  Mom isn't telling them to close the door or wash their hands.  It is so quiet in the house, it just feels weird.  Actually, now that I think about it, it feels really nice.  I haven't had to vacuum or wash clothes for 3 days!  I think that is a record.  I'll pay for it when they get back.  There will be a mountain in the mudroom. I have learned to just throw the socks away though!  There is no saving them.
I miss them really.

Wayne and I picked the first bowlful of blackberries last night.  They are wonderful!  I'm going to make a cobbler right now.  I can smell it already!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Farm critter update

After watching closely for over 24 hours, it appeared that the momma rabbit hopped away.  Sadly, we found one more bunny out in the pasture probably killed by one of our dogs.  The only one that was left was hopping around the flower garden looking lost.  We searched on the internet to decide what to do with the little fur ball.  It seems that wild things are best left wild even if they are young.  So, we relocated it over by the pond so it would have access to water and left him in God's hands.

Last night, while watching the chickens (our evening entertainment) one of the neighbors was making a lot of noise behind some trees.  The hens weren't happy about it and it seems that other critters weren't either.  He roused a fox out of the wooded area and it ran from behind the coop.  The combination of fox and chickens isn't good!  We will have to be sure they are locked up good at night lest they get eaten.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Baby bunnies in the strawberries

I know now why I kept spying Peter Rabbit in of the strawberry patch.  It turns out that Peter is a girl and she has babies!  It is a great place for a nest really - shaded, somewhat protected, and a growing food supply.  Around lunch today, my middle son, Jonah went out to chase a mockingbird off of the blueberries when he found 2 tiny bunnies in the garden.  Sadly, one was dead.  The other was huddled up by the blackberry bed looking lost.  It was obviously too young to be out of the nest so we went on a search to find where it belonged.  While looking through the strawberries, we found a third bunny.  Wayne put gloves on and scooped it up to put it back.  It squealed loudly but was glad to be in the nest, I'm sure. I am going out to wrap chicken wire around the blackberry bed to try to keep them out of there.  I guess we won't have anymore strawberries this year. I'll have to sacrifice them to the cute little fuzzies.
God makes baby creatures of every kind so sweet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Growth chart adds history

At our old house, we kept a growth chart on a door jam.  Precious to me, I left it there when we moved with paint for the new owners to cover it up.  I didn't have the heart to do it myself.  Here at the farmhouse, I knew I wanted something that could go with us if we ever did move but that would look permanent.  The solution was a 1x6 poplar board matching our baseboards running up the wall.  Standing 7' tall it has plenty of "growing room".  Nailed to a stud, it is caulked and painted to match the trim.  I then transfered the boy's chart and one from my husband's childhood home onto the board.  Now it has two generations of growing boys on it.  My dad was 6'7" at his full height and when he was here last we added him to the top.  I told him that I was sure he will always be at the top of the chart.  Although, our oldest is nearly 6' now and at 16 still has time to get there.  We will see.  The growth chart is a priceless thing.  It has added the feeling of history to our new home.  I hope one day to add a second one next to it for grandchildren.

Misplaced morning glories

Mom's perspective:
The other night Wayne and I were sitting out on the back patio watching the chickens run free. We often let them out in the evening and they love to come up and eat the gravel patio and pick at my flower pots.  I have been trying to train our dog, Scout aka guardian of the chickens, to keep them away from the flowers.  It has been unsuccessful. My husband was teasing me about my determination to keep them away from the flower pots when out of the corner of my eye, I saw them eating my morning glories.  But they were over behind the flower garden fence not in the flower garden.  Now how did that happen?  Surely they have not been in the flower garden! 

Boy's perspective:
Jonah and Jared, our two youngest boys have a designated dirt pile in the flower garden.  It's really an empty flower box that is reserved for army bunkers and dirt forts.  They love it!  It happens to be right next to the spot that I have been trying to get the morning glories up from seed.  "I can't believe Mom let these weeds get so big," Jonah said to Jared.  Pulling them up root and all, he chunked them over the fence to the chickens.  Wow!  Chickens really like eating weeds! 

Sweet son.  He was trying to be helpful. Putting them back in the ground and watering them in did not work.  We all got a big laugh over it.  Obviously, the morning glories were misplaced or at least misunderstood.  Everyone knows now that the remaining ones on the other fence are not weeds.

Last evening we had more excitement in the garden.  A snake.  The boys thought it was great!  I didn't.  I keep telling them that Biblically, snakes are the enemy of woman (Genesis 3:15). Never the less they marched outside to catch it.  Our oldest son loves all things wild so he was the holder of the snake. With shivers running up my spine, I could only snap a quick picture and come back inside. They let it go in my flower garden.  I can tell you this, I won't be weeding for a few day.

Jake with the little garder

Slimy snake next to the pink coreopsis in full bloom now.
I hope it doesn't make a home there.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Riding down the farm road

Horses have always been in the plans for our farm.  It is one of the major reasons that we moved out here.  We just didn't know it would be this summer!  We have made an aquaintance that has had us over many times to ride and even sort calves.  It has been lots of fun getting into horses.  A few weeks ago, he called and offered to sell a couple of his horses to us for quite a bit less than we had talked about before.  After thinking it over for a couple of days, we decided to go for it. 
This means that Phase 2 for building our farm needs to happen now.  Interior fences for pasture and pens, a small barn, a riding arena and a round pen are all in the works.  Of course, we will do most, if not all, of the work ourselves.  But hey, we built a house, we can do this!

Meet the additions at the Little Red Farmhouse...
My horse is a 7 yr. old paint mare named Lena. Her registered name is Denero Doll and will soon be called Doll since my husband's grandmother's name was Lena.  That would just be weird.  I think Doll suits her better anyway.  Wayne's is a 3 yr. old gelding that is finishing off his training.  He is young but that is what his new owner wanted.   He is full quarter horse and will be registered Red Diamond Diggers.  We got to pick the name so that was fun.  He will go by Red which fits his shiny red coat well.

We decide long ago that we wouldn't buy horses for our boys.  They need to see what it takes to care for them and feel the pleasure of working toward a good goal.  They can save and buy their own if they decide to.  We will have the room if and when they do.

We are super excited and a little anxious too. For now the horses will stay at their current home until our place is ready. It's just another step on our journey down the farm road. Only now we are gonna ride instead of walk!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Going and growing

The flower garden is going well. This is my first try at anything perinnial.  At our old house we had very structured beds of shrubs, you know, very landscapey.  I always added some pretty annuals for the seasons and it was beautiful.  But out here, we needed something different.  And a fenced flower garden needs perinnial blooms all summer.  Trying to create this on a budget has been challenging.  And of course, you want it to look spectacular as soon as you put them in the ground.  It is finally hot enough now to get some of these flowers going and growing.  I'm hoping they all fill in.  So far here are some of my favorites...

Purple coneflower. It is still very short but here is the first bloom.  I just love the lavender petals drooping around the bright orange center!

Purple verbena next to orange & pink snapdragons.  A hot pink knockout rose is in the back.  I love those three colors together.

This coreopsis is looking promising.  It is loaded with blooms.  I can't wait til it is a mass of tiny pink petals.

Who knew cilantro was so pretty?  What a wonderful surprise! We love it in mexican food.

The blackberries are loaded and still blooming.  Blackberry cobbler and blackberry jam are favorites at our house. I planted these last year and of course you don't get any until year two.  I've been on the lookout for the rabbit.  He better not start eating them or I'm gonna eat him for dinner!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Open staircase

Our staircase is open.  We didn't plan for it to be that way but it ended up looking the best.  First we started with sprayed in foam insulation underneath before the sheetrock went on.  This keeps them nice and quiet with three boys running up and down.  Wanting a classic look with a contemporary twist, we painted the risers white to match the trim in the house and had pine treads made.  Yes, I said pine.  I know pine dents, wears, marks, and will get roughed up.  That is exactly what we wanted despite the many contractors that tried to sway us from doing it.  They have a natural finish on them to match the glue laminated structural beams.  A simple metal railing like we wished to have wouldn't pass code.  Nothing less than jail cell bars would pass code!  So, my dear husband made a aluminum railing (his business is in aluminum) that would pass and took it down as soon as the inspector drove away.  He literally had the wrench in his hand as he was said goodbye.  I had a hard time keeping a straight face!  We planned to make another like we wanted originally but now like it all open.  Since we don't have little ones anymore, it works for us just fine.

Of course we have a railng upstairs.  It is simply unfinished square aluminum tubing attached to leftover laminated beam pieces at either end.  The room above is completely open to the stairs so it wraps around in an L shape.

Leaving the stairs open underneath gave us a nook to make into a reading spot.  It is cozy and our youngest uses it often.  We had lots of ideas for this area - desk, storage, bookcases, partially enclosed dog beds, even a built in lounging couch.  Someday we may change it and do something different.
And my favorite thing around the stairs is the old fashioned J. Murphy Blacksmith sign.  I tore a picture of it out of an Ethan Allen catalog years ago.  For my birthday last year, my hubby bought it for me.  I just love it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Goodbye to two roosters

When we ordered chicks this spring we got a few extra males.  The hatchery made a mistake on one of the barred rock females and also sent me an extra barred rock male in case the one that I ordered died.  Of course, they all lived because I was a good chicken mama.  But a flock of 19 hens only needs one rooster otherwise they will be bare backed from his attentions to them.  For weeks now we have been trying to decide which rooster to keep.  One was obviously going.  Mr. T earned his name for two reasons.  One he was so tall and skinny that he looked like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The other was for the A-Team Mr. T because he was half bald by growing his feathers in strips.  He is the one lying down as usual.  The other one was the prettiest rooster. Calm and mannerly, he was quite the country gentleman.  He paid no attention to the hens however and was usually off by himself. The third chicken is with the ladies most of the time.  He is a hog with the treats but he protects them when a hawk flies over and herds stragglers back to the group if they get to far away.  He was not my favorite but he seemed to be the girl's.  In fact, I call him "fat head" at times because he acts so bossy.  My friends at backyardchickens. com said to let
the hens decide.  And so "Fat Head" becomes our "Mr. Darcy."  I guess Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice is proud and arrogant at times but in the end he takes care of everyone especially his lady.  The other two boys went to live in another flock hopefully to be liked better by those girls and loved by their new chicken mama.   

Our proud Mr. Darcy (otherwise know as Fat Head)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mr. McGregor's daughter in law

My inlaws live next door here at the farm.  Lately, my father in law has been tormented by a rabbit helping himself to the vegetable garden.  Reminding me of Mr. McGregor in Peter Rabbit, it has become his life mission to rid the farm of cottontails. He trapped one and relocated it but it was so small it couldn't have been the culprit.  "Not to worry." "We have lots planted." "He has to eat too." Or so I said.  Until yesterday.  I was walking through the flower garden when I spotted some weeds growing in the strawberry bed.  Now the strawberries plants look wonderful and they were really producing, but the last few weeks I have gotten no strawberries.  So bending down to pull the weeds out, I was surprised to find that big rabbit hop out and away as fast as he could go.  So that is why I haven't had any ripe berries!  I'm gonna get that rabbit!  So much for making fun of Dad. It's personal now.  Watch out Peter, Mr. McGregors daughter in law is looking for you too!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sealed Concrete Floors

One of the things we wanted in our new farmhouse was concrete floors.  We loved the idea of being able to really clean them and we also like the price.  What we didn't want was the dark stained look.  What we have is natural colored sealed concrete.  It is mostly gray but has some brownish tones from some very watered down stain that I sprayed on it.  Honestly, most of  the brown came from dirt during construction.  It's not perfect but we feel that the hairline cracks, pits, stains, and worn areas give it a casual, well worn, comfortable look.  It is not polished but you wouldn't know it to see the light reflect off of it during the day.  It looks contemporary too.

This was one thing we did ourselves.  After framing, we hosed it off and sealed it with a water based concrete clear sealer from Home Depot.  Spraying it on with a pump sprayer was a cinch.  Aftere it dried, we covered it with heavy brown paper and miles of masking tape.  When the sheetrocking was done, we took that up.  Finished floors!  We did have to remind other contractors not to write on it.

Because we have 3 boys and 2 big dogs, we vacuum nearly everyday.  To really clean them, we mop once every 2 weeks.  After construction was done, we mopped on a wax which we will reapply every year.  Basically, sealed concrete floors couldn't be easier.  They are a great fit for us and our farmhouse.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Weeding out the garden of my heart

Before the weeding
I'm not a morning person but I do like to work in the garden in the earlier hours while it is cool.  This morning I headed out to weed the flower beds.  I don't know what happened.  They were looking great and all of the sudden I had weeds everywhere.  I need to tend this more often!  So as I knelt down and dug my fingers into the dirt, I thought about how similar it is in the garden of our hearts.  God gives us beautiful flowers that we can share with others but if we don't pay attention the weeds will soon take over.  A little neglect and the ugliness dominates.  Selfishness, pride, a quick temper - all weeds.  The only way we get them out is to get on our knees.  And unlike in a flower garden, He does the weeding, we just have to recognize that they are there and ask Him to remove them.  It will  look pretty again if we do.  So today, I am weeding my flower garden and also the garden of my heart.

That's better.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Old eye sign

I just love old signs!  Older is better but even new ones that look old are great.  This one is authentic and actually belongs to the family.  It was the sign that hung outside my husband's grandfather's optometrist office. He was the first eye Dr. west of the Pecos River in Texas.  My father in law found it going through some old things in the garage after they moved here to the farm.  He thought it would fit right in with our house and he was right.  I absolutely love it!  It is all hand painted with chips around the edges and in the original frame. The funny thing is where I put it.  I needed a picture in the little toilet room in the mudroom.  Now you feel like someone's watching you in there.

Building Begins - 1 year ago

Building our house was against all odds but we were able to do it with God's help.  I decided that I would share our experience in order to encourage those that may want to build something out of the ordinary.
One year ago as of yesterday, we began building our house.  It seems like so long ago.  We had much opposition before we even got to this point.  We had secured a construction loan and been preapproved for the final mortgage six months prior but got the loan yanked the a few days before construction began.  This was when the housing market crashed and the banks got scared.  We had to work really hard to find someone else to work with us.  We had great credit, and nearly 1/2 of what it would take to build with our equity in our other house and cash combined.  We also owned the land outright.  Still, convincing a bank that a farmhouse would have value in a city that is only tearing down old farmhouses was difficult.  We did find a banker that caught our vision. The key was finding a bank that keeps their own loans.  So, on June 1st, we were finally on our way! 

My first job was to secure the building permits.  This was a process that a rookie might be intimidated by but I was so excited that I didn't even think about it.  I went downtown and got in line with my rolls of plans, my checkbook and a pocket full of dreams. The female gender was not the norm down there.  The only women I saw were dressed like the men.  In makeup, capri pants and flip flops, I was more than a little out of place.  An older seasoned builder asked me what I was doing there.  The conversation went like this:
Me:  I'm building a house.
Him:  By yourself?!
Me:  Yes, my husband and I are contracting it.
Him:  Ha ha ha! Without a builder?
Me:  Yes, sir.
Him:  (shaking his head) Have you built houses before?
Me:  Nope, just this one.
More conversation about our plans...
Him:  Well, good luck with that, little lady (still laughing)
Me (what I wanted to say but wish I had): Well, if a bunch of old men can do it, so can I!

Leaving there that day, I felt like I had conquered.  With my excitement still intact, I left with permission to build our dreams.  Little did I know that it would be the hardest thing that we have ever done.


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