Tuesday, March 31, 2009

more of the same- but better!

a few weeks ago, i wrote about how relaxing and theraputic it is for me to knit. a dear friend taught me how to make these round dishcloths. almost too much excitement to stand, isn't it? (although i will say, if you have any amount of testosterone running thorugh your veins, you will probably think that this round dishcloth is a doily!)

i quickly got started on a yellow one, and although they look complicated, it's an easy and repetitious pattern, and quick to learn. i splurged on a small ball of the blue variegated cotton, and made another round dishcloth. then, just be frugal and unboring, i made another square dishcloth in both the blue and yellow.

here's the pattern, if you'd like to try one yourself:

CO 16
Knit 1 row
* K 4, YO, K 10, turn
K back
K 4, YO, K 9, turn
K back
K 4, YO, K 8 turn
K back
K 4, YO, K 7, turn
K back (20 stitches)
BO 4, K to end
K back *
repeat until you have 13 points. bind off, sew together.

then topping off this dishcloth extravaganza, on another of my trips to town i bought some netting. actually, alot of netting. it's only 69 cents a yard, so i bought 6 yards. i cut it into 4" strips (lengthwise) and using a size Q crochet needle, i made these pot scrubbers. they're pretty easy, as well. just chain 5 stitches, and single crochet in each chain. (don't forget to chain one before turning the row) in no time at all, you'll have a handy-dandy scrubber of your own!

Monday, March 30, 2009

last week in review... in no particular order

last week was exceptionally busy, much more than usual it seemed. here's a brief re-cap of the highlights, and an overview of all the things that we got done.

Dave celebrated his birthday on Saturday. not quite a milestone, but nearly so. the girls helped me make his cake and the icing- chocolate cake with peanut butter icing. and of course, they were more than happy to help blow out the candles.

besides the 9 (nine) cases of mountain dew he received,and 2 magazine subscriptions, i made him this wall hanging. in case you can't read what it says: "hands to work ~ heart to God"

G and i worked on the pathway from where we park to the back porch (mud room) door. some of the rocks were very large and heavy, so we were glad to have the tractor to help with that part of the job.

A and B came out to help after their nap. there are still a few more rocks that I'd like to place, but that will have to wait a few more days. next we'll be working on the pathway from the parking area to the front door. we have an old barn foundation that we can get some more really cool rocks from.

i just love cool rocks, and sometimes i wonder why i didn't grow up to be a geologist!

right where the tractor is parked is where the 2 evergreen trees were until just a few weeks ago. this is where we plan on putting the orchard. we also laid out where we are going to put the apple and peach trees, and G started digging the holes.

Dave and both boys worked hard this week clearing this portion of the hillside. it was formerly covered with dried weeds, brush and wood, as well as a trash pile. (which G and i burned 2 weeks ago.) this hillside will come up all in naturalized (orange) day lillies, so the pressure was on to get it cleaned off in time for the new spring growth, which you can see has already begun.

they also continued the cleanup well to the left of this picture. the plan is to pasture the new pigs in that area. I'll keep you posted on that.
although this is not the greatest picture (it's actually a picture of a photocopy of a picture) this is what our house looked like in 1930. if you look closely, you can see in the lower left hand corner some stems of day lillies getting ready to bloom. while we are not deluding ourselves that we can afford to restore this wonderful old house to its former glory, we are hoping for a reasonable compromise!

i already told you about the cold frames that G built for me. I'm very pleased with them, and already have them filled with pig manure and dirt. i have been excitedly monitoring the temperature inside, and was thrilled to observe that so far, it's been warming up to 84 degrees, and holding a mild temperature of 50 degrees inside at night. we'll see how it continues to do as some of the nights can still get quite chilly. the high tunnel is now over part of the garden, and filled with a wonderful mixture of hay and manure that i hauled over from a farmer friend. Dave will soon cover it with plastic. after the high tunnel has a chance to warm up, and its been tilled, we'll be able to plant our tomatoes in there!

both the broccoli and cauliflower are up. I'm thinking that this will be a gigantic amount of both, so I've started collecting recipes that i think my family will eat. of course we'll freeze alot, and i hope to have some to sell. i also plan on plating a second crop of broccoli and cauliflower, either in July, or later in the high tunnel when the tomatoes are done. these crops will go in the lower garden, and even though I'll be planting either side of the rows with marigolds, there is no guarantee that i will actually harvest any of these plants!

we also bought another greenhouse. (it was the last one that Lowe's had!) there are still many seeds to plant, and it was obvious that we didn't have enough room. the second greenhouse has grow lights, but the "heater" is just a 100 watt bulb on the bottom shelf.

the pigs are getting ginormous, and in fact are not long for this world. while they are certainly not wild or mean, they are very large and aggressive. i was a little hesitant to jump in there with them to measure their girth and length to see how much they might weigh. maybe later this week i can bribe G to do that for me...

meanwhile, i plan on moving them twice a day, instead of just once as we have been doing. that's because i don't have anything better to do than pull my pigs all over the field with the tractor. *ahem* actually, i would like to have them root up as much of that lower garden as they can before we haul them off the the butchers on April 13th.

after such a busy week, i had promised the kids that we would have a campfire on Sunday afternoon. so after naps were over, G and i bundled up A and B, loaded up the wagon with our supplies and headed down to the campfire ring.
N had a nice fire going, and we enjoyed a relaxing time, filled with hot dogs, smoke, lots of chocolate, graham crackers and copious amounts of marshmallows.

now we feel relaxed and refreshed, and ready for another busy week!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

this is as good as it gets. (for now)

15 months ago when we purchased this house, our beautiful kitchen was only a dream. through God's blessings and continued provision for our family, (and the fortuitous placement of the Marcellus shale formation) we were able to do this wonderful and efficient kitchen much sooner than we anticipated.

if you'd like a shocking before and after comparison of the work that we did, just click here. for a few in-progress reports, you can click here and here.

for now, the kitchen is, for all intents and purposes, done. there is still some trim work, leveling of the dishwasher and stove and the garage door to fix. (i had to tape it down to take this picture!) the floor is still undone, and we will work on that as we are able.

the spring rush is on, and we are concentrating our work efforts outside, so these last few details will have to wait until it's dark or raining. or dark and raining!

but I'm not complaining. it's a beautiful kitchen and my wonderful husband did a great job!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ready or not, here we come!

this morning at half past o'dark early, we received a phone call from the US Government. (actually, it was just the Postmaster from Towanda!) our peeps were waiting for us at the post office. so off Dave and A went, to bring home the newest members of our family.

these 50 Cornish rock cross straight run roosters are actually the first of several installments. next week we will get 25 more buff orpingtons, followed by 6 Indian runner ducks when the weather is warm enough to ship them. then, around the end of July, we will receive 50 more Cornish X chickens. so i guess by the end of the summer we should be on a first name basis with the Postmaster!

A was eager to help get the chicks settled in to their new home. we have a kiddie swimming pool that we keep in the mud room. the bottom is covered with pine shavings, and the chicks have a heat lamp, as well as fresh food and water at all times. the peeps will stay in here until i get sick of them in my house they are around 2 weeks old.

although both A and B would love to hold the chicks, we've had to tell them that only petting is allowed. even though these little guys will grow to be plenty big and fat, right now they are fragile and easily hurt, especially their legs.

now they're all settled in, and contentedly making little peeping sounds. we eat around 100 chickens a year, and we've raised most of our own chicken meat for the last several years. this year we hope to be a bit more efficient. we've found this breed to be the best for food to meat ratio, and I've already written the butchering date on the calendar. (June 17)

today G has been working diligently at making me a pair of cold frames. he's doing a great job so far, and in the next few days, I'll get them filled with some manure and dirt. after the soil has a chance to warm up a bit, I'll plant some cold hardy crops in them. i'll also use the cold frames to harden off some of the colder crops, freeing up more space in the little greenhouse.

we used the old window sashes from the house. after replacing all the unbelievably old and leaky windows, Dave had the foresight to save the sashes. now we're re-using them to make our cold frames.

and here's a (very poor) shot of our little greenhouse. it's already chock full, and I'm not nearly done starting seeds. last night we were up late getting some things started. so far we have:

1 flat broccoli

1 flat cauliflower

3 flats tomatoes (many different varieties)

1 flat peppers

1 flat mixed tomatoes and cabbage

so, even though the calendar says spring is officially here, the weather outside is still a bit nippy. but that's OK- we're going on faith... spring always comes; and we're going to be ready!

Monday, March 23, 2009

heating with wood, round two!

yesterday afternoon our tri-axle load of wood finally came. we paid what we feel is a very reasonable price. better yet, it was a fully packed load, consisting of mostly ash. i remember only the very end of a poem that i read somewhere about wood, and the quality of heat it would give: "ash wood wet and ash wood dry, a king can warm his slippers by."

anyway, it was quickly unloaded under the close supervision of Dave and both girls. thankfully, it was mostly smaller trunks, so G and N will be relieved that there won't be much splitting to do.

we plan on building a wood shed, so next year we'll be storing our firewood under the pole shed, instead of under tarps. slowly but steadily, we're making progress, and improving things around here!

Friday, March 20, 2009

it's almost as good as 10 acres of pasture and a hay field!

today Dave's newest acquisition arrived straight off the boat from China. (in a wooden box, no less! when was the last time that you saw that?)

what is it, you may ask. well, I'm going to tell you! it's a meat grinder. a 1 horsepower meat grinder. as in, grind up anything and every thing in sight that doesn't move fast enough! (including the neighbor's dog that has the nasty habit of coming down and eating my chickens!) soon the pig will be large enough to butcher, and this is something that we needed to do that job. Dave is the ultimate e-bayer, and that's where we got this. (he looks for everything on e-bay. everything!) we plan on making lots of sausage, and this nifty grinder will be just the ticket!

and another of Dave's great ideas: next fall we are going to buy a cow. a large cow. a very alive cow. and then we'll bring it home, and after the proper preparation and such, we'll run it through this grinder and have boatloads of ground beef! so, just remember that you heard it here first!

because we're all about cutting edge in the frugal country living department. (no pun intended!)

p.s. i was TOTALLY kidding about the neighbor's dog. but i had you going there for a minute, didn't i?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

spring is (begrudgingly) coming!

there has been a flurry of activity around our little homestead in the last weeks, preparing for the inevitable and anxiously awaited event of SPRING! we know it's coming, and have seen signs of the impending death of this long and cold winter. some of the things that we have observed are:

* robins
* mourning doves
* MUD!
* a dwindling wood pile
* crocus blooming
* daffodil blooms
* perennial plants awakening

there are still several projects that i was hoping to finish (or have Dave finish) here in the house, but it's getting harder and harder to stay inside and do them. Dave is off and running with some of his spring ideas and things to build, and I'm afraid that i might not see him here in the house again until October! (the kitchen is *almost* done, and I've been waiting for those final small, but important things, to be completed before posting some more pictures. in light of the way things have been going, I'll try to get some pictures up of where we are now. very soon.)

our latest project is the high tunnel. after looking into buying one already made, and experiencing profound sticker shock, Dave decided we could easily build one ourselves. the size is approximately 20' X 12', and will be big enough to house many tomato plants and other stuff, too. we're still on our learning curve about this newest venture, and we'll be learning as we're going. a very helpful book that we'll be gleaning TONS of information from is Four Season Harvest, by Eliot Coleman. he and his wife, Barbara, have successfully grown a multitude of things in their high tunnel nearly year round. while that sounds a bit unrealistic ambitious for us in our first year, we're enthusiastically going to give it our best shot!

here we have our little helpers: a contrast in personalities! baby B is anxious to get outside, notwithstanding the fact that she has no pants on! B just knows that her beloved Dada and brother are out there, and she doesn't want to miss one thing!

A, on the other hand, is perfectly content to stay inside, with her faithful companion Phoebe. like i always say: "you can't go wrong with a warm quilt and a good book!"

Dave and G have made good progress with the hoops for the high tunnel, and just as they are nearly done, the electric company shows up to cut down our 2 trees. never mind that I've been repeatedly calling them for over 6 months! it just goes to show what a well placed phone call can do... this little knoll gets wonderful sunshine, and we plan on planting our little orchard here. we haven't made the final decision on what varieties of trees we want, but we plan on planting 4 apple and 2 peach trees that we'll buy from Miller Nurseries.

the electric company makes short work of the 2 trees (causing me to wonder what took them so long to come, anyway?) and while Dave gets right to work hauling away the carcasses...

...A and B are working at finishing up the high tunnel.

many hands make light work!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

i'm the eternal optimist!

a few weeks ago, Dave came home with a mini-green house from (where else?) Lowe's. we quickly got it set up in the mud room, complete with a thermostat and heater, as well as some grow lights. Dave and his happy little helper wasted no time in starting some of our tomato seeds.

here's how they look today- very healthy, not too leggy, and they have a respectable showing of their second leaves. they are growing quite well, if i am permitted to brag just a bit! so far we've only started tomatoes, but soon it's time to start a plethora of other seedlings as well. tonight I'd like to sit down with Dave, and plan everything out on a spare calendar, so we can have a clearer idea of where we are going. Dave is in the process of building me a high tunnel (pictures later) and i hope to start some cold tolerant crops as early as the middle of April. we're still looking for a 2 bottom plow (with coulters) so i can plow up the lower garden for all my root crops. we're not having much luck locating one so far, but we still have a bit of time. i have grand plans for my lower garden. it's all good bottom land, with wonderful soil and nary a rock in sight. i plan on planting 50+ pounds of seed potatoes, 50 sweet potato plants, as well as carrots, onions, beets, butternut and acorn squash, pumpkins and watermelon. ( i think that's it!) i also have a gazillion marigold seeds. I'm going to plant them around the perimeter, as well as the individual rows, in hopes of keeping out the rabbits. I'll have to let you know how that goes!

here's our collection of seeds so far! i need to stay home just a bit more, i think. every time i go out running errands, i find myself drawn to the seed displays, and invariably come home with a dozen more seed packets! our pile of seeds does seem heavy on the flower side, but i do occasionally buy some vegetables.

I've probably bought far too many seeds, and come fall I'll be begging and pleading God to send the killing frost, won't You please? but for now, it's fun to daydream about the wonderful (and bounteous) garden that we'll have. and of course, we will all be happily working in the garden in the cool of the morning while wearing a straw hat. neither will there be any bugs.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

there is no snow in the forecast today!

although it does not seem remotely possible, today is G's 16th birthday! several years ago i was able to *finally* finish his baby book, and of all the children he has the best birth story, hands down! today i'd like to share it with you.

we had planned to have a home birth, but the baby (and the weather) had other plans! i woke up that morning in labor, in the midst of a huge snowstorm. (which later came to be known as the Blizzard of '93) we quickly came to realize that we would not be able to get to our midwife, Mary, nor would she be able to get to us. Dad called the emergency dispatch center of Union County, just to make them aware of our situation. they sent us a frantic, sweaty and nervous EMT on a snowmobile. one of the first things that he said to me was to ask if i thought that i would have the baby soon, and he blurted out that he had never delivered a baby before, he had only read about it in a book! i ended up reassuring him that should it become necessary for him to deliver the baby, i was confident that he would do fine. (actually, not really, but what was i supposed to say?) my labor ended up stopping for a while , so while i took a nap, he played Candyland with M. eventually, Dr. Ward, a retired doctor from a nearby town, came out to the house. after checking me, Dr. Ward informed me that i wasn't even in labor! anyway...my labor did progress, and it was time for us to head to the hospital. normally, our road was one of the last in the township to be plowed, but that March 14 we were the first to be cleaned off! the ambulance came, and more frantic EMT's came down the driveway. before i could let them in, i had to haul off Jake (our dog) who was ready to defend me to the death, barking his head off and lunging at the door. (and this was in spite of several painful contractions!) after coming in the door, the EMT's indicated that they expected to carry me up the driveway in a stretcher! yea, right! no thanks. i walked up on my own, stopping to breathe several times as i had even more contractions. finally, i was in the ambulance, and fairly settled. the ambulance followed the snowplow, and dad followed along behind in the mini-van with M, D and N. it was a very slow and bumpy trip, but we finally made it in to the hospital. Dad took the children to a friend's house, and Mrs. Hied watched them for us for a while. we had called Dr. Brown, to let him know i was in labor, and to see if he was willing to come into the hospital to deliver the baby. (he was, even though we had caught him in the middle of a bath!) i went upstairs to L&D, and was worried that dad, who was downstairs filling out paperwork, and Dr. Brown, who had to stop off at his office for my records, would not make it in time. having a baby will wait for no one, and it came time for the baby to be born. dad did get through the mountain of paperwork in time, and Dr. Brown came skidding in at the last minute, still in his coveralls, and barely managed to catch G as he was born! Dr. Brown said "it's a boy!" and even though i had been sure that this baby was a girl, and was really looking forward to another daughter, i remember thinking- oh boy, I'm so glad that it's a boy! i wasn't even disappointed for 1/3 of a second. however, it did take several days to convince the children that the baby was a boy, and his name was not Rebecca! then they thought that his name was Donald Duck, but by the time he was a week old, we had it all straightened out and everyone was calling him G.

after the hub-bub of getting to the hospital, my stay there was fairly uneventful. most of the nurses had been on duty for 3+ days, as most of the other nurses could not get to the hospital to relive them. somehow Dr. Ward came to the hospital, i think to do rounds for another doctor, and when i saw him in the nursery, i refrained from asking him if he still thought i wasn't' in labor! we did not have any visitors, as it was still impossible to travel for several more days. the children came to gramma's house, so dad was able to walk them over for a little visit to see their new baby brother.

soon, we were able to go home, and on the way, dad drove around town, so i could see all the snow that we had gotten. it was amazing, and to think that i had missed it all since i was so busy having a baby!

interestingly enough, there still persists one of those local urban legends, which says that i rode to the hospital on the back of a snowmobile. (while in labor, no less!) of course, that is not true, but even today i will encounter that bizarre fact in casual conversations, and try to tell briefly of story of the day that G joined our family.

the whole crowd, just a few months later. M is 4 1/2 D and N are 3, and G is 8 months old.

Friday, March 13, 2009

blissful AND idyllic, not to mention delirously happy!

four years ago today I became Mrs. Jennifer Caplinger the Luckiest Woman in the World! Dave and i were married in a simple ceremony conducted by a friend, surrounded by more friends and family. M was my maid of honour, and i had daffodils in my bouquet.

i went from a single (homeschooling) mom to a happily married and cherished wife.

Dave catapulted from a bachelor subsisting on steaks and starch, to a father of 4 teenagers and all the challenges that naturally go with it.

the benediction that was spoken at the end of our wedding is especially meaningful, but most importantly, a true picture of our lives together:

May you live your days in joy,
May you live in one another's company in peace.
may you experience daily the gift of God's love to you
as you share that love with each other and your family.
May you endlessly delight in one another and your love daily grow stronger.
And now may the grace and blessings of God be yours, now and forever.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Morning Chores

a few weeks ago, i wrote about our afternoon routine of chores, and our desire to instill in both little girls the pride and satisfaction that a job well done will bring. while i will be the first to (proudly) say that all the big kids are hard and diligent workers, i think that i could have done better in teaching them to work for the satisfaction of accomplishment, rather than just doing the job to get it over with.

in light of that goal, the girls and i also have morning chores that we work at daily. however, our morning tasks are more of the domestic variety. it's good for me, also, since having the primary responsibility of teaching these future wives and mothers, it gives me accountability, and no room for excuses.

after getting dressed, A will gather up her dirty laundry, and put it in the hamper, which is in the bathroom closet. she also puts the night time (disposable) diapers in a bag to be thrown out later. then both girls brush their teeth. either G or i will help them, as neither is old enough to do it alone. then i will fix A's hair. B likes me to do hers, too, even though she almost doesn't have enough to do into a little ponytail.

A is expected to help unload the dishwasher. she puts away the silverware, and all her and B's sippy cups. the cups usually need to be dried, since we usually air dry the dishes to save a few more pennies.

A and i also start the first of several loads of laundry, and empty the drying rack of all the dry clothes. then we fold laundry, which can vary from just a few pieces, to several baskets full. she will also help to fold the diapers, as well as put them away.

lastly, we will tidy our room: make the beds, pick up clothes, blankets and books, and make sure that it's neat. sometimes we even dust!

depending on Dave's work schedule for the day, i may need to start our main meal, or just make sure that i know what I'm making for dinner and that the meat is thawing. A may or may not help with whatever kitchen tasks I'm doing.

we were away last weekend at our church retreat, and one of the things that the women chatted about was keeping house, and more specifically, the challenge that it can be to keep our houses clean and organized! i know that i have a long way to go, but I'm encouraged by the support, understanding and camaraderie of other busy wives and moms just like me. we all struggle with many of the same things, but with the sense of community that our friendships bring, we can all strive together to be better housewives, and give our husband and family the gift of a peaceful and organized home, and bring honour to God while doing so.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

this works great for me!

we love getting all the photographs and yearly updates from far-flung friends and relatives every year at Christmas time. it's nice to stay in touch, and hear about what thier family has been doing, and listen good naturedly to some bragging about their children's accomplishments. i display all the cards in the archway of the living room, and we enjoy looking at them all season long.

but after it's time to take down the tree and pack away all the nativity scenes, it seems a shame to put away all those cute pictures of our friends and their families. (and if their family is anything like ours, i know that it can be a nightmare getting a nice picture of all your children in the very same photograph. someone is either not looking, blinking, or itching their nose...)

in order to enjoy these photographs for much longer, i display them on the inside of my kitchen cupboard. i just taped them up with painter's tape, and whenever i open up the door, some of my dearest friends are there smiling out at me! (i also like to do this because it doesn't clutter up the front of the refrigerator) i've also found that this is a good place to display some of the children's artwork, as well.

for more great tips, pop on over to Kristin's site, and maybe you'll find some ideas that will work for you!


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