Sunday, September 28, 2008

happenings at our house this week

it's been a very busy week here, with lots going on. I'll just give you a list, in no particular order, and you can see for yourselves what we've been up to.

*we celebrated my birthday

*i started putting perennials in my kitchen garden

*we butchered and froze 20+ chickens (somewhere along the way we lost count!)

*we canned 19 quarts of grape juice

*we celebrated the twins' birthday

*B is on the brink of walking

*we canned 28 quarts of applesauce, and made 3 apple crisps

*Dave hooked up heating zone 2, completing the heat for all downstairs living areas

*A enjoyed her first story time at our local library

*Dave and i reached a happy compromise about the butler's pantry

*M is doing just fine down in SC, but is very busy, and doesn't get much sleep

*N's stitches were removed, and he will have an impressive scar on his elbow

*Dave put in a new door in the utility room (with a window!)

*we got $10 pump jacks on e-bay, and can start insulating the rest of the house

*we closed up the garden, tilling it all under, and planted it with winter rye

*we played the genus edition of trival pursuit, and Dave and i creamed the boys

*it's my job to feed the wood stove, and I'm liking that chore

*D started his job at Family Dollar

*A is learning about the color orange, with crafts, coloring and snacks

*all 3 boys are working well at their chemistry

*Dave accidentally trapped the master bath shower in the utility room

so that's it- life at our house: full of adventures, escapades and mundane happenings, just to keep things interesting!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

i'm pretty low maintenance- really!

awhile ago i did a post about laundry and how i make an effort to save money in that part of my household. G recently completed my new clothesline for me, and I'm so happy with it that i just wanted to share it with you.

and really, it doesn't take much to make me happy- honestly! I'm thrilled with my new clothes line. the old one was very Amish-esqe. (not that we have anything against the Amish.) it was one of those pulley jobs- you know- 2 *pulley* wheels mounted far apart, with a rope on which you hung the clothes. i know you get the idea. well, mine had the tendency to rapidly rewind after hanging a basket of clothes, chewing up pants, shirts and towels, as well as eating my clothespins and trying to cut off my fingers while it was at it. not much fun, although maybe comical for the neighbors to watch.

but the best part of this new clothesline is the rock. yes, the rock. you can see it there in the foreground, with my basket on it. it's a really cool rock. (and i wrote about our rocks before.) the rock is just perfect for setting the basket of wet clothes on while hanging up the rest of the laundry. and even better yet- it came with the house! we didn't even pay anything extra for it. so how's that for low maintenance- it really doesn't take much to make me happy!

and on another note- this is my 100th post! woohoo! and to think that when i started my blog, i was very reluctant, and only followed one blog. i wasn't really getting what the whole point of a blog was, and what was all the fuss about? now i have several favorites that i follow fanatically daily: PW, the country doctor's wife, OCTAMOM and april showers. I'll freely admit that i am a fan of other blogs, too, but those seem to be my tried and true favorites. I've kind of gathered from my wanderings that the 100th post is a milestone to be marked by posting 100 things about yourself.

but don't worry! I'll spare you all those scintillating boring and mundane details about me, and just point out a few details you can glean from this post alone.

first of all, i love to dress A and B in overalls and denim jumpers; preferably with shirts and tights that have stripes. i don't know what it is about stripes, but i really love striped shirts. when my twin boys were small, they almost always wore overalls and a shirt with stripes- D's shirt had red stripes, N's shirt blue stripes, and G had green stripes. and M was often in a little dress, with a matching hair bow. they were all so cute! but i digress... i love footy jammies- and nanny from Florida makes sure that the girls have plenty! "toasty warm" as A says. also, i use cloth diapers. kissaluvs with the bumpy covers are my favorite. and the whole thing is pretty painless with a snappi- no fumbling with diaper pins like our grandmothers did! i was really blessed when a close friend gave me all her cloth diapering stuff when her youngest outgrew them. chinese prefolds, covers, contour diapers, pocket diapers, wool covers... what a tremendous blessing in a box! so my diapering journey has been made easier. but i really do love to use cloth diapers- it makes me feel all pioneery and frugal.

also, i love to quilt. as i sit typing this, and look around the living room, i can count 9 quilts that I've made. they are wall hangings, coffee table decorations and just draped on the sofas and chairs, waiting for someone to snuggle up and read. I've been quilting for about 20 years now, and have made hundreds of quilts. when the older children were small, i was very prolific, finishing about a quilt a month. that's not possible anymore, but i still drag my sewing machine out once in a while for some therapeutic sewing. the quilt on the line is A's baby quilt. all 6 children got a quilt for their birth day. and then again when they were 5 and 10. M got another quilt for her birthday/graduation that she's taken along to college. quilts have always been a part of our family, and everyone has their favorite. my philosophy is - use it! don't fold it away in a chest to dry rot. if you get it dirty, we'll wash it, and if you wear it out, I'll make you another. (anything for an excuse to buy more fabric!)

and the final thing that I'll tell you from this picture is about our cat, Spooky. she was a package deal when i married dave and most of us really like her, including me most of the time. since she's come to live in our busy household, her personality has changed, so her name no longer fits. she showed up at dave's farm one day with a rat trap on her foot, and after a VERY expensive veterinarian visit (another story) she only has 3 legs. we should change her name to tripod. in spite of her only having 3 legs, and being declawed to boot, she is really enjoying living in the country again, and hunting the unsuspecting chipmunks that come to feed at our bird feeder. amazingly, she is very good at catching chipmunks. (or it may be the same stupid one, we're not sure.) this would not really be a problem, but whenever she catches one, she brings it into the house to show us. usually it's not dead. again, not really a huge problem. but here's where the problem comes in- after catching it, and bringing a live chipmunk into the house- she LETS IT GO! this is a problem! it usually results in some minor chaos involving the cat, chipmunk, a toddler, several teenage boys and a broom, not to mention some excited shouting! i think all the wild rodents are out of the house, but i'm not really sure.

so there was a peek into my life- hope it didn't fall into the category of TMI! thanks for stopping by- whether you're one of my regular readers, or just dropping in, i'm glad to have you, and i hope you'll come back again soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

still loving all those flowers!

if you're visiting from shannon's site, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad to have you, and i hope you can stay and visit for a little while. don't forget to vote to save my butler's pantry before you go. (scroll down a wee bit to read the post that tells the history) thanks!

in the midst of all the other projects we have going on around our house, I've been working on my flower gardens, rock paths and rock walls. we moved in with virtually no flowers, and I've been systematically solving that problem all summer. i had a nice assortment of flowers to bring along with me when we moved, i traded some with friends and new neighbors, and i bought a few at the master gardener's sale this spring. we moved in on a Thursday, and Sunday afternoon i was already outside working on making some flower beds. really. that's how much i like flowers!

the whole flower gardening thing has been going so well that i already have some perennials that need divided. and with a pretty tight budget, and lots of flower gardens that I'd like to do, that's definitely a good thing! today i was able to get out and work in the dirt, and i divided and moved mums, asters, lamb's ear, black eyed susan, blazing star, bleeding heart, lung wort, some sort of dusty miller thingy, and coreopsis to the kitchen garden.

now, here's my WFMW tip: a few weeks ago i walked around and looked at my gardens. how were the plants doing? were they liking where i had put them in the spring, or did they need moved to a more suitable place? was there too much yellow all clumped together? then what i did was take a roll of Dave's surveyor's tape, and mark what i wanted to move, and what i wanted to divide. the plants that i merely wanted to move, i tied one ribbon on, but the plants that were ready to be divided, i tied on 2 ribbons. then i was able to observe for a few days, before i hastily dug out my flowers, without having a clear idea where i was going with them. even though i go for the eclectic, Tasha Tudor cottage garden look, it's good to have some sort of plan of how i'd like my gardens to look. also, it goes without saying, that being patient and then dividing my own perennials saves lots of money at the greenhouse!

following are some pictures i took mostly just for fun, though the concept is pretty simple. maybe you can see in the first picture that the lung wort is definitly not happy! i moved it to another shady spot, with more moisture. i think that it will be happier come spring!

thanks for stopping by! happy gardening!

it's gonna be a rough year!

today is my 39th birthday, and i suspect that i will spend my day (and my year) if anybody asks, firmly stating that YES, i am REALLY only 39!

this particular birthday milestone is an odd one. people will often say- "39 and holding". so what happens when you are really, truly, honest-to-goodness, right-on-the-dot 39? do people look at you askance and mumble- yeah sure. riiiiiight. -all the while thinking "she really doesn't look too bad for early to mid 40's." aaauugghhhhhhhh! i'll have to do a little hoppy dance, and get all energetic and emphatic, and politely say- i'm 39. really. and don't mess with me- i have 3 teenage boys!

so, i'll have to keep you posted on how this whole year of disbelief goes. and i guesss as a last resort i could whip out my driver's liscence. but that might not help, since the picture is really horrible! i look like a romanian refugee. but at least i can prove that i'm a 39 year old refugee!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

we could use a little imput here!

we seem to have a little problem here at our house, and I'm hoping that you can help us! in case you're a new visitor to my blog, we recently moved into our 1807 colonial farmhouse, and are in the process of totally renovating it. as in top to bottom, inside and out. the only thing that is staying is the kitchen ceiling and the attic insulation. really. everything else will be removed and/or redone. really.

anyway, when we first came to look at this house last July, one of my very favorite parts about it was this butler's pantry. (the other was the doorway elipse going into the ballroom upstairs.) we don't know for sure how old the butler's pantry is, but the addition on the house, where it is located, was built prior to 1890. so according to my math, it could very well be over 120 years old. really.

now, here's where the problem comes in. i really love this butler's pantry. i like old things, and old houses, and this definitely can qualify as both. plus, it's really cool. and i can store lots of things in it, too. since it's located in the utility/mudroom, it will help keep our stuff neat and tidy. conversely, dave hates the butler's pantry. he thinks it's junky, poorly built, an eyesore, ugly and dirty. (did i cover it all, dear?) plus, the back wall of the butler's pantry is still covered in plaster and lath, which will need to come out- in addition to the scrubbing, scraping and painting needed to make it presentable. also, the top 3 cupboard doors will need to be replaced, although my FIL has already volunteered to do that for me.

I'll let you look at the following 3 pictures before i go on any further.

so- here's where we (i) would appreciate your input. should we take down the cupboards? or do you agree with me that they are worth salvaging? i know that they will take alot of work, and since Dave is so busy with thousands of other things that i am unable to do, i realize that all the work will fall on my shoulders. however, I'm willing (and rather excited) to do it- i can really see the potential these old butler's cupboards have. and I'm more than willing to invest some time and elbow grease to get the job done.

I've installed a poll on my side bar for you to vote- yes? or no? take the time now to register your opinion- a little piece of history hangs in the balance! and just to put things in perspective- the country doctor's wife doesn't realize how good she has it! she should read this post! but of course, if the butler had come with the pantry, i'd be so happy to have houshold help, that i'd let dave rip out any old thing his heart desired!

i'm so excited i could pronk!

i can't believe it! i have a new reader- and she linked to me in her blog roll! after all these months of regular blogging, there is someone who is reading my nonsensical blather blog, who is not related to me, or knows someone who knows me that met me in the hardware store. how cool is that? i don't think that i'll be able to sleep tonight!

so, go share the love and visit angie- we have alot in common! (and amazingly, we're almost neighbors!) the incredulity just rolls on and on...

Friday, September 19, 2008

200 years- and the wait is finally over!

for several months now, dave's ongoing project has been to get the heat installed (and running). even though we started the stove last week, we've only been heating our water with it. and in case you wanted to know- we have lots of very hot water. it's been a special treat to wash all the laundry in hot water! well, as of last night, our heat is heating! (at least in zone 1!) and take it from me- this is a very good thing!
here is the baseboards in our room- just need to run the pex down to the basement, and hook it up to the maze of pipes down there.

considering all the willing helpers dave has, it's a wonder it's taken him so long to get this done!

soldering the final joint on the copper pipe!

here it is! zone 1 all hooked up and ready to go!

after checking for leaks (there were none!) the pipes have all been filled with water, and all three boys helped to bleed the air out of the lines. this is important, because with air in the lines, the water cannot circulate through the baseboards.

and here we have the most momentous picture of all. the thermostat reading at 68 degrees! (just ignore for the moment that it's mounted to a bare stud in my hallway!) my house (at least zone 1, anyway!) is experiencing a veritable heatwave of 68 degrees! and i can honestly say, that except for that heatwave we had way back in July, the house has never been this toasty warm for the last 200 years!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

tomatoes out the whazoo!

yesterday and today were spent finishing up canning our tomatoes, as well as other things. we have picked the last of the tomatoes and peppers, and are in fact beginning to close down the garden. (i don't want to risk getting any more ripe tomatoes- not sure what I'd do with them now!)

we had several bushels of red and green tomatoes, and with that we made 14 quarts of salsa, 8 quarts of red relish and 18 quarts of green tomato relish. that should be good for the year. and now the house smells funny, too. sort of a cross between cinnamon, vinegar and turmeric. a little odd, really. but anyway, it's nice to see the shelves in the basement filling up. maybe a picture of that later, too.

we've also been busy outside, finishing up the walkway, getting rid of all the extra dirt and building my new clothes line. I'm anxious to finish that tomorrow, and check that off the to do list.

and of course, we've been doing school. we've got apologia chemistry, (regular and advanced), history and BJU bible courses. and of course some math, too. what with everything that is always going on, it's a challenge to get our work done. and I've never schooled with 2 little ones before, so i definitely feel as if I'm still on my learning curve!

and just to make it a bit more interesting, tomorrow N goes in for surgery on his elbow again. no biggie, the dr. assures us, just needs to be debrided, and stitched up. but, still. he should be home by dinner. if i even have time to make it, that is!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

my yard is emerging!

today we were back outside, working on the pathway from the front porch around to the lean to. (the back family entrance)we got some of the path done yesterday, and last week, but my goal today was to mostly finish the path,which we were able to do. there is still some finishing work to be done, but the main part of the work is completed!

this is how the path and my yard looks tonight, after we've finished. it was supposed to be the grand finale photo, but somehow i goofed that up. it's a big giant mud hole now, but we'll tackle that next week after it dries up a bit. and then i can start planting my perennials, too. already i have some that need to be divided! hard to believe, but it's time to start closing down the flower beds for the winter. i'm really looking forward to finishing this project. it's the first thing you see when you pull into our driveway, as well as the view from the road driving by.

Friday, September 12, 2008

the long awaited moment has finally arrived! (almost)

we've had our wood stove installed for many months now, but until today, it's just been sitting there looking sturdy and functional. dave has been feverishly and diligently working on getting all the indoor plumbing and wiring hooked up so we can begin to heat our home, as well as our water with the stove.
here we have our very first fire in the stove. dave has lined it with fire brick.

here he is in the cellar, working on all the mechanical and electrical connections. pretty boring stuff to take a picture of, but really, really important! especially if we'd like to stay warm this winter. and according to the informal poll that i took just yesterday, my family would very much like to stay warm when it's -10 degrees.

this, dear readers, is the Magic Box. it's the heat exchanger. the water from the wood stove comes in here, is magically and secretly routed around the maze of pipes in the cellar, and then sent upstairs to work its way through the hot water baseboards. and then- WahLaa! - warmth!

here is another picture of the Mystery That Is In My Cellar. i understand how it works, but it's boring and long to type out. but- we're going to be warm and toasty, and that's what it's all about!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

come see the progress at our house!

we're still moving along nicely around here- less holes and dirt piles, more yard and pathways. that makes me happy! here are the most recent pictures of what we've been doing these last few weeks. (aside from copious amounts of tomatoes, beans and cantaloupes!)
the boys have coated the foundation with tar. no more water pouring into the basement. always a good thing!

dave is helping with the tractor to put the dirt back into the trenches. unfortunately, he couldn't do alot, because the back tires are for a construction site, not farm work. bummer.

ditch filled in- some by hand, some by tractor.

house wrapping the back of the addition.

D and G are pretty much done with that now.

now they are working on filling in the foundation, and also getting rid of the big pile of dirt in the yard.

this is the old well. it's covered with a large piece of metal, and a huge stone. i wanted to look inside, and this is what i saw. it's about 18 feet deep. pretty cool! we're thinking of how we can maybe build a wall for it, and have a wishing well or something, as part of the kitchen garden. still working on that one.

we've started building the walkway from the front porch, to the back porch, and joining up with the rock path we built earlier this summer around the flower gardens.

we worked on the path pretty much all day Friday, and we're almost done.

A played nicely with the trucks in the dirt. how cute!

G rebuilt the little retaining wall around the cedar tree. maybe next year we'll back fill it with dirt, and plant some shade loving plants in there.

here's the path, pretty much all done for now. i really like the way it looks. it improves the look of the house a great deal, too.

Monday, September 08, 2008

It's Official. We're Ready.

i've been so busy worrying and whining about not having enough tomatoes to can, especially for stewed, to last us through this winter, that hundreds and millions of tomatoes have managed to sneak up on me! the tomatoes that we bought at the produce auction last week were ready to can today, and so were some more of our tomatoes.

but first, before getting to them, we went to pick beans. a friend from church knew a friend who had way too much fun planting beans with his new bean planter last spring. as a result, he now has far too many beans, and is giving them to whoever wants to come pick. what a blessing! so i woke D and N up early, and we went to pick yellow beans with Lorraine. we picked about 3 bushels worth, and were done by 9:30.

we started right on snapping beans when we got home, and with the 4 of us working, it didn't take too long. we got 29 freezer bags full, with 5+ cups in each. what a tremendous blessing that some one that we don't even know shared his bountiful beans with us! i am so thankful for God's provision for my family.

then after lunch, and after the girls were down for their nap, we started on the tomatoes again. we all helped- washing tomatoes and jars, picking the tomatoes from our garden, sorting the ones ready to do today, blanching, skinning, adding salt and vinegar to the jars, preparing lids and bands, filling jars with tomatoes and then boiling water, wiping tops and screwing on lids and bands, feeding scraps to the chickens.... all that work, and we have 101 quarts of stewed tomatoes! i still have about 3 canner loads to process in the hot water bath, but hopefully i won't be up too late tonight!

so i guess it's fair to say- we're ready! i think i will be able to use the rest of my Roma tomatoes from our garden for salsa. and then after the killing frost we will make Green tomato relish. (i know, it sounds kind of gross, but trust me- the kids love it on their hot dogs. and we even add it to our macaroni salad. yum!)

and on a totally unrelated note: in case you were wondering- chickens can not be herded like sheep. how do i know this? i tried that very thing today, and it did not work! the chicken tractor needed to be moved today, and He Who Works At Lowe's All Day And Was Not Around To Help Herd Chickens told us to let out all the white meat birds, move the chicken tractor to the garden, and then shoo the chickens back in. HA! even with the 3 boys and i chasing chickens like, well, chickens with our heads cut off, and A opening the little door for us, it took almost half an hour to catch them all again. just a little lesson for future reference!

but all is well again on our little homestead, and we'll eat very well this winter. at least, as long as the menu calls for beans, tomatoes and chicken!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

we're getting ready for winter

with our northern climate, i've been worried that our tomatoes would not have time to ripen before the killing frost. i'm both thankful and relived to say that we've been getting tomatoes for over a week now, and we've been able to can 42 quarts of stewed tomatoes, and counting!

here N and A have gathered our first big harvest.

last night dave and i went to the produce auction, and bought some stuff to help fill our freezers. we got 1 bushel green beans, 5 bushels of tomatoes, and 30+ dozen of sweet corn. but the deal of the day was our cantaloupe- $.10 each! (yes, the decimal is in the right place!) we are the proud owners and consumers of 45 cantaloupe. and just speaking for myself, in the last 24 hours i've eaten more cantaloupe than i have in the previous 5 years combined! but it sure is good!

our project for today was getting all those veggies (and fruit) canned or frozen. we did it all except for some of the beefsteak tomatoes, which wont' really be ready until tuesdya. here G and D are husking the corn, while N is helping me in the house with the green beans.

we have the beans cleaned, cut and blanched, and ready to bag and freeze. B seems to really like them!

here is our wagon full of cantaloupe! outside of the grocery store, i've never seen so many melons in one place before! A really likes the lopes. good thing! you can see the Roma tomatoes from our garden ripening on the porch railing. most of those will be ready on Tuesday, as well.

B really likes tomatoes! all my kids have done this very same thing at one time or another- eaten a tomato, pepper or cucumber fresh from the garden- just like an apple.

D and G have moved on to cutting the corn off the cob, while N is inside blanching, and i'm getting started on washing jars, sorting tomatoes and cutting up lopes.

N- supremo blanchero

corn is done, and now we're cutting up the tomatoes for stewed, and filling our jars. A is supervising. we did 18 quarts, and only one did not pull a seal. i did them all in wide mouth jars, as that is much easier, and less messy.

B seems to really like the lopes, too!

and courtesy of my MIL, we made spiced cantaloupe. never heard of it, but we did have alot of lopes to use! i made 14 quarts, and they all sealed! i'm not sure if we'll like them or not, but it will be interesting to try them!

all in all it was a productive day- 42 6cup bags of corn, plus enough to eat fresh for 2 meals, 7 bags of beans, 18 quarts of stewed tomatoes, and 14 quarts of spiced cantaloupe, plus enough to eat fresh until we can't stand it anymore! very satisfying , to know that we worked hard today, in order to eat well this winter!


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