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Monday, April 26, 2010

The sun is finally shining again! Today my mother-in-law came out to help me with the boys, which meant that I was able to actually take full advantage of the sunny day by working out in the narrow strip of garden that has been tilled. I dug four holes with a post-hole digger, set an 8 foot high bean pole in each one, then filled in the holes. Then I took 1”x1” bird netting and hung it with twisty ties in between the poles. After the netting was secure, I used some neon pink twine and tent stakes to stake the poles back. The wind whips through here like a freight train at full speed in the afternoon, so staking is a must if I want my beans and peas to stay upright. Once the kids go down for their nap I’ll go back out there and try to put up another four poles to give myself a total of four 20’ rows. That should be enough for all of my climbing peas and beans. I’ll also intersperse some sweet peas and marigolds to beautify it a bit. If I have enough time tonight I’d like to get it all planted, too, but we’ll see. It’s still pretty early in the season so I won’t feel too bad if I can’t get to it just yet.

The second batch of chicks is now interacting with the older chickens. They are still less than half the size of the first batch, but the Sumatras have taken a motherly role with them and seem to be protecting the babies from the other big chickens. Henry, our rooster, is ambivalent about the little ones. He totally ignores them for the most part, and if they get in his way he simply walks right over them. I’m hoping he’ll take control of them like he has with the older hens. I’m not sure if we got another rooster in the new batch, but I’m crossing my fingers that they are all going to be pullets who won’t fight for dominance with him. I like Henry. I couldn’t bear to see him having to fight for his right to rule. I think any other roosters we may get will end up in the stock pot at the first sign of belligerence. Come to that, I think I will thin out the flock before next winter. With my husband gone, I can’t see us needing more than a dozen birds. I would still like to try letting a hen or two go broody this summer to raise their own babies, but I’ll just use the new ones as meat birds instead of keeping them around. As so how I am going to slaughter all of those biddies myself… I haven’t yet figured that out. I’m open to suggestions, though! I might end up just taking them en masse to a local butcher shop.

Ok, I’m itching to get back outside now. Hope you all are enjoying the weather!

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It’s lunch time, so we’re taking a break from outside. It’s shaping up to be a nice day again out there. This morning was a bit chilly. I made the boys wear their coats, but I was sure to slather everyone up really good with sunblock… coat or no coat. Yesterday I didn’t end up getting back to working on the pea and bean poles any more. I decided that the grass was getting way too long, and that I should mow. After 3.5 hours of mowing, and only half the yard space done, I was tired and sore and burned. I’m pretty fair-skinned, so even on a 60 degree day I can burn to a crispy in no time flat. You’d think that after so many years I would learn. Alas, today I look like I have lobster arms and a face to match. So, now the word of the day at our house is sunblock. And lots of it.

It’s warmed up enough outside that we don’t need our coats anymore, and I have yet to actually get anything productive done. I’ve just been chasing the kids around and trying to make lists in my head of things that need to get done. Ah, the life of a single parent. I miss my husband something terrible, though I don’t like to admit that I have such a dependency on him. I’d like to be able to say that I’m an independent woman who can do anything she puts her mind to, accomplish tasks that would leave other people in awe of my brilliance and organizational skills… but I guess that’s just not who I am. And with two kids to raise and watch over 24 hours a day, I’m really going to have a steep learning curve ahead of me this summer. How in the world did women do it a hundred years ago? I have enough trouble with two underfoot – I can’t imagine living in the country, alone, with ten kids running around.

Anyways, I wanted to make a list of things to get done, so that I can look back here and say, “Hey! Look! I did manage to actually accomplish something amidst all the chaos!”

  1. Put up two more rows of bean/pea fencing, stake it down.
  2. Get the first onion sets in the ground.
  3. Plant the first potatoes.
  4. Plant the peas and vining flowers.
  5. Bang in the fence posts for the children’s area.
  6. Build a swinging gate for the children’s area.
  7. Take the tiller to the welder to get the handle fixed.
  8. Check on the bees and add another super to each hive.
  9. Get the strawberries in the ground.
  10. Start the melons and pumpkins, one more tray of cukes.

Okay. There. Ten things to do. Let’s see how long it takes me to actually get them done. Toodles!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

The trees came yesterday. It took about 3 hours to get 13 of them planted, and we still have a lot more to do. We planted the two Forsythia on the sunny side of the house, in front of the grass that will become the soft fruit patch very soon. All of the sugar maples went on the sunny side of the bigger barn. A few other trees went into the ground where we thought they would throw some useful shade. All we have left to plant is the orchard and the evergreens. The fruit trees are all going on a little hill between the barn and the pond site, right next to where the bees will be situated. The evergreens are all going to be planted along the Northern border of the property, where hopefully in time they will provide a little windbreak.

So today the boys and I will probably spend most of the day digging. Once that is all finished, I think I might go out and search for a few logs that I can use as fence posts. Then I’ll have more digging to do to get those in. I think I finally convinced my husband as to my need for a fenced-in area for the boys. While I was getting the trees in, the boys decided to follow me instead of playing near the trailer where my hubby was working on the axle. Our three year old is such a good boy – he always does what we ask him to do and is very helpful. On the other hand, our soon-to-be two year old is the antithesis to his brother. I know he can hear me when I tell him “no” or “come here” because he stops and cocks his head, then he runs off giggling like a madman without a purpose. Invariably, whenever we go outside, he takes off toward the road or around one of the barns where I can’t see him. His attention span is so short that even if I give him some dirt to play in (which he has been known to play in for 20 minutes at a time) he usually loses interest in two minutes and runs off to find something else to play with.

Ok, to make this story short, he found this old, concrete watering trough that is half-filled with scummy water, chickweed, pine needles, dead bugs, and plan ol’ nastiness. Water! Hey, let’s jump in! He tried climbing into that thing so many times I lost count, and no number of spankings nor any level of yelling was going to deter him. I finally lost my patience, half scared that he would fall into that water, and half angry with myself for not knowing how to control my own child. My husband took a break from his trailer work to come help me with the kids, and eventually he took over planting the last half of the trees while I took the boys in for a bath. I’m really going to miss all the help he gives me with the boys and around the house. But, since missing him isn’t going to help, I’ll have to find something that will. A fenced-in area. I’m thinking the first place I’ll look for posts is back by the pond site. There are still a few downed trees back there, but I can’t remember how thick they are. If I can’t find anything back there, I might ask one of my farmer neighbors if I can rummage through their burn piles to find suitable posts.

I’m going to try to make this fence without spending a lot of money, but I’ll probably have to buy some things. I already have a latch and hinges for the gate, and we have a surplus of screws in the workshop. There’s a lot of short pieces of wood in the big barn that I could possibly use as slats, and a few longer pieces that might work as rails, but there’s not nearly enough of either to make 100’ of fence. We priced out wire fencing for small livestock at TSC, and it would be around $100 for a long enough roll. I think that sounds quite practical, so I’ll probably go with that. Maybe then I could use the wood to build the boys a little playhouse or something to give them a bit of shade on hot days. I have some duck-weight cloth that would work well as a canopy. Ok, now I’m getting ahead of myself. Fence first.

Besides all the digging today, we also have something else exciting happening. The bees are coming today! We’re getting them from a man by the name of Mike Risk up in Lainsburg. He was the one who taught the beekeepers class we went to, and he has been beekeeping for 26 years or so. He recently started raising his own Italian queens, and we’re getting two of them. I’ve seen a few bees hitting the violets and creeping Charlie in the yard already, so at least we know there’s some pollen to be had for our newest additions. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about all of the honey they’ll be making. I’m hoping they’ll also be great for the garden. Ooh! I just thought about something! I still need to go fill the prescriptions for the Epi-pens. See… blogging is helpful. J

I also wanted to add that I am thankful for the advice and kind words I receive in the comments. It really brightens my day to see that there are people who are actually interested enough in what I am doing to leave me a little input. Thank you!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

It has been a busy week with my husband’s flight coming up so fast. I will officially be alone tomorrow around 10am. He’ll be going down to Utah for a month of training, then he’ll come back for a week of off-time. After that, we won’t see him for another 6 months or so because he’ll go right from CRC to Kuwait, where he will then await the first available transit to the base in Iraq. He’ll get two full weeks with us around the 6 month mark, then he’ll take back off again to the same place he was before.

I don’t really know where I am at emotionally. I guess it still hasn’t really hit me that he’ll be gone. I mean, yeah we’ve been running around like crazy getting all of the big things taken care of in the past couple weeks, and yeah we’ve been talking about this for a while. But he’s still here. I don’t know how I’m going to react when he’s gone. I’m sure I’ll be a little morose and reclusive the first few days, but I haven’t really considered what I’m going to do at 5:00pm every day, which is when he usually got home from work to help me with the kids or some task that I needed help with. Now it will be just me. Solo mio. It’s kind of scary. So I’m trying not to think of it. I’m trying to push down the depressing thoughts because I want to look strong for my boys and for the man who is sacrificing so much to make a better life for his family.

That’s all I can think about. I know there are other things I could probably write about, but for now the other things don’t really matter. Wish me luck on this. And hope… I’m going to need a lot of hope.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Today started out bad, and then it just got worse. We dropped my husband off at the airport this morning, and I was so proud of myself for not losing it in front of our boys. I told myself, “Self, you can do this. This won’t be so bad. This is your time to shine, self.” My mother-in-law volunteered to watch the boys after lunch so I could go get new brake pads put on the van. I blasted my music at first, because I am one of those rude, annoying people who like loud music when they are alone in their vehicle, but then I started hearing odd sounds from the van. Thinking it was just the brakes grinding a bit, I decided to simply take it easy on them and let the van naturally slow to a stop as much as possible instead of using the brakes heavily.

This was where the crazy juice started trickling in my mind. After an hour of waiting for some kind of news in the waiting room of the shop, I was told that I needed to see something. Uh oh. That didn’t sound good. So I followed him out to the van that was up in the air, expecting to hear that we needed new rotors. Big deal, right? Yeah, well, that wasn’t all we needed. Apparently it wasn’t just the rear tires that needed new pads, but new rotors as well. Then he brought me up to the front wheel well and showed me the pads and rotors there. And the fun just didn’t stop. On he went to show me just how loose the wheels are because the lower control arm bushings are totally loose and need to be replaced. At this point I felt like the work my van was going to need was the subject of a crazy, shouting-man, infomercial. But wait, there’s more! Not only do you need new pads, rotors, bushings, and an alignment after the bushings are done… you will also need new stabilizer links because that oh so cheap place you found to get your oil changed neglected to grease these and they’ve worn right down! And if you sign your name now, you will get this one time deal for one easy payment of $1624.86!

Ugh. I was in way over my head, and I couldn’t get my husband on the phone because his plane hadn’t landed yet. I had been close to tears already up until this point, but it was hard not to let a few slip through my defenses once this news finally sunk in. The man said that it probably wouldn’t be safe to drive the van any more in this condition, and I totally agreed once I saw how loose the front end was. So my mother-in-law, who has enough on her plate as it is, drove over and picked me up to bring me home. On the way back I had her stop to pick up prescriptions we needed and drop off a book at the library. It was when I was getting ready to go into the library that I thought of my library card on my keychain. Where’s my key chain? Oh, it’s at the shop that’s almost a half hour away in the city with all of my other keys. The sinking feeling just sunk even lower.

It’s been a pretty crappy day so far. My husband is gone. Our van sucks, and as a result our money situation is going to suck for quite some time to come. But… silver linings are always there. Somewhere. At least I have my boys and we are all healthy. Ok, that’s all the optimism I can manage right now. Oh, I hope this slump passes quickly.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Okay, so today went A LOT better than yesterday. Actually, I had a lot of fun today. First thing this morning I made someone laugh. Yep. The sleep hadn’t even quite left my eyes and here I was making someone laugh until they cried. Of course, on the other end I was so embarrassed I couldn’t look them in the eyes for a full quarter of an hour. Here I was thinking I was alone in the house, getting the boys something to eat for breakfast, and I hear a knock at the kitchen door, which has a giant window in it that allows full view of the entire kitchen. I turned automatically and saw a brown coat shrugging back. Ok, so that’s not so funny in itself, but let me finish. I was wearing a tee shirt. That’s it. And in the process of getting my kids something to eat I had to reach up to the top cupboard to grab a bowl. That’s when my mother-in-law decided to look in the window. Let’s just say the moon was full this morning. Gah. When I saw the brown coat I immediately bolted into the bathroom to yank on a pair of pants, thinking that the UPS delivery guy who comes out here nearly once a week with a package had just seen my… ahem… stuff.

Thank goodness it was just her. I mean, geez. That had the potential for disastrous humiliation. Anyway, the day went on. She drove me and the boys out to pick up the van from the first shop and take it to another one because the first shop had quoted us over a thousand and the second shop quoted $330. Hard choice, huh? The van is being repaired now, and should be done sometime tomorrow. I’m not sure when, but gosh that was a huge boulder released from my back. I didn’t know how we were going to pay for over a thousand dollars worth of repairs.

Later in the day, as we are just finishing up lunch and getting ready for naptime, we hear cars honking as they drive by. Curious, I looked out the window. There’s Henry, our super-friendly rooster, standing right on the side of the road like he is some kind of greeter. As each car passes he kind of nods his head. This isn’t the first time he has done this. Actually, it’s becoming somewhat of a routine. He goes around the front of the house and straight to the road, while all of the smarter, less friendly hens stay behind the house to eat grass and bugs. What makes it even more funny (I’m sure the neighbors get a good laugh when they see this) is that when I go outside I say, “Henry! Come here, you!” and he comes flapping and running to the exact spot of turf I point to and looks up at me like some playful puppy. The fun doesn’t stop there, because he expects to be carried. If I turn away and call him, he just stands there cocking his head to the side like he doesn’t understand. Silly, stupid, suicidal, spoiled rotten bird. I’ve never actually thought much about chickens until he came along. I suppose he is sort of a pet now, and seeing as he is the only one of the birds we have named, he’ll probably be the one to get creamed on the road. Figures.

My boys have been really good for me so far. I suppose it helps that we have already had experience going long stretches of time without Daddy around. They are behaving really well, and my three year old has been trying to take on more responsibilities already. He helps out whenever he can, and I just feel so lucky to have him. We took a drive to the library to drop off my books. I parked right out front and told the boys I was just going to drop the books in the drop box and come right back. My two year old is a total Mama’s boy and, as usual, started screaming the moment I shut my door. I ran to the building and back as fast as I could, and when I got back my two year old was sitting there all calm, twiddling his fingers in his lap. My three year old proudly states, “Mommy, I singed a song about patience to him.” Then he sings his song about being patient to me, which turns out to be three words over and over: {name} be patient… {name} be patient. How adorable is that?

Today was better, much better. I’m sure I’ll have lots of up and down days, just the same as if I wasn’t in this wonky situation, but I’m glad to know that at least I still have two funny little boys to distract me if I’m feeling down. And a rooster that has a future at WalMart.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sometimes I think back on my past and wonder if I would change anything about it if I could go back and do it over again. For the most part, I am content with my life, but there are some little things that I wish I could change. One of those things was my involvement with the Environmental Institute at my alma mater. While I agree with the fact that the environment should be protected, I do not agree with a lot of other things groups such as this stand for. And I certainly do not agree with the methodology groups like this use to see their agenda through.

My stay in the group was brief – only a year of my college life. I had fun interacting with other members on various trips around the US, going to lectures on endangered species, and collectively reading books by acclaimed environmental authors on subjects like acid rain and the dumping of sewage into rivers and lakes. I had fun, and I guess that was the hook to get me involved. It wasn’t until near the end of the year that the more serious environmentalists began picking out members whose personalities tended to be more fanatical that I became disillusioned. They began having meetings about global warming, and how it was all the fault of greedy humans. When I mentioned that global warming was a natural process that had happened many times before humans ever made an appearance on the planet, I was shunned. My peers who had welcomed me with open arms suddenly wouldn’t talk to me, as if my ability to reason and read unbiased papers were somehow distasteful to them. It hurt then, but I’m over it now.

It saddens me to see so many youth attracted to movements that operate on fear-mongering and pushing blame. The environmentalists were just one such group. There was also PETA supporters, crusaders for Christ, fructarians, and others on campus. When I look back, I joined to make friends, to be a part of something bigger than me, and to feel good about myself. I thought it would be a group where we learned how to live more harmoniously with the planet, which I was all for. I thought we would learn how to recycle and reuse common household items, grow our own food, depend on alternative energy, and explore natural wonders like parks and trails through wilderness areas. We did some of that, but only a token amount. Most of the time was spent focusing on how humans have “ruined” the earth. We read about oil spills, toxic fumes, landfills, and the evils of consumerism. I’m not saying that I regret learning about all of those negatives, but I think it should have been tempered with more positive. I think instead of focusing on how nuclear waste was stored and its halflife, maybe we should have learned more about how to compost our own waste. Maybe instead of just reading about some company polluting a river so badly that everything in it died, we should have spent some time organizing a clean-up of a local water source. Instead of spending three meetings in a row discussing the evil of Monsanto, we should have learned more about open-pollinated and heirloom seeds.

When a group focuses only on the negative aspects of something, it can be very difficult for individual members to think straight enough to seek positive aspects. For example, on one of our camping trips we went to a national park where campers were supposed to have zero impact on the forest. We decided to set up camp in a large clearing where it looked like many people stopped. The people before us had not done a good job of leaving the place as they found it, as there were broken bottles, burst balloons, crushed beer cans, and tons of trash stuck in the bracken and grass all around. While the rest of my group set up camp cheerfully discussing the horrid effects of some environmental disaster we had seen earlier that day, I left my tent and duffel sitting by a tree, found a garbage bag, and started clearing the campsite of rubbish. My peers looked at me like I was out of my mind as I dirtied my hands picking up candy bar wrappers and bits of string. Even my professor pulled me aside and told me that I was “holding up” the evening, telling me that I should finish setting up my tent and pick up after the night’s discussions were over. I just scowled at him, turned, and continued picking up all of the trash. I guess that was the turning point in my stint of being an environmentalist. I was more concerned about the environment than any of the others gathered around the campfire talking about doing good but doing nothing at all.

Do I consider myself an environmentalist today? No. That word has been dragged through the mud by people who are all bluster about everyone else but themselves. That word means someone who is extremely biased. That word means someone who is bent on the destruction of companies, organizations, and individuals who don’t agree with the environmentalist agenda. It’s a movement of people who, instead of doing their own research and coming up with their own conclusions, have taken the word of one supposed authority or another. It’s followers, lemmings. It’s people who probably want to belong, to be a part of something bigger than themselves, to be swept up in a good movement. But the good is lost when it’s only negativity that is examined. The good is lost when followers turn militant against non-followers, and when blindness to reason is a preferable trait.

I think I would consider myself a responsible citizen. I am taking my future, and the future of our family, into my own hands. I am making my own decisions as to what I think is right, instead of blindly following some charismatic fool in the media. I am trying to be a good person in everything that I do, whether it is for the environment, for my family, for the human race, or for my own personal well-being. I don’t care to put myself into one category or another anymore. I don’t mind not “fitting in” to any specific social grouping. I don’t regret all of the lessons I learned by being sucked into the environmentalist movement, but I do regret that I didn’t stand up against all of the hatred they brewed against outsiders. I do regret that I didn’t voice my opinions against all of the hypocritical nonsense spewed by the in-crowd. I regret the scowl I gave to my professor – I should have grabbed him by the face and dragged him around the campground to see the filth he so willingly ignored.

It’s funny to look back on things like this, because if I could go back as I am today I would have behaved in a totally different manner. I was more of a suffer in silence personality, a shy loner, back then. Nowadays, I am anything but silent. If I see something that doesn’t make sense, or something that is just outright stupid, then I will let it be known. It’s not a bad thing to have regrets about the past, however. Regrets just motivate me to do better in the present, and to look forward to the choices I will make in the future. I think I would like to help youngsters who are so impressionable and so easily sucked into popular movements. I would like to try to show them another viewpoint, teach them how to use reason and to make up their own minds instead of always bowing to some supposed authority. I think that when my boys are a little older I wouldn’t mind having local children of all ages visit the farm to see how we as people can live more responsibly, more independently. There’s so much to learn on a small farm: composting, planting and harvesting, how to build up healthy soil, how to reuse and recycle, alternate disposal methods, animal husbandry, caring for the natural wildlife, water conservation, alternative energy, fixing what is there instead of buying new stuff all the time, organic methods for just about any task one can think of, and so much more.

So, yeah, I have regrets, but I can do something about them. This blog is just an example of how I can make up for my mistakes in the past, by sharing what I have learned with the two or three people who read my words. I like that whatever I write on here can be criticized by others who share some of the same beliefs as I do. I don’t mind other viewpoints. To ignore an opposing view is, in my opinion, incredibly silly, and possibly dangerous. Even though some of my beliefs are nearly cemented into my being, I still have the sense to listen when I hear something new. You never know when or from where good advice will come.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I believe that everyone should strive to learn something new every day. Yesterday I learned how to make homemade hummus. Yum! Even though I had never made it before, I still had to tweak the recipe a little, just to give it some kick. Here’s what I came up with:

15 oz Garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup cold water
¼ cup Tahini (aka Sesame Paste, can be found in the international foods aisle)
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
¼ tsp cayenne (more or less, to taste)
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (toss in a little zest if you like, too)

Mix everything up together in a blender or a food processor. Chill for a half hour to two days. Serve cold with baked pita chips. To make the baked pita chips, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut along the edge of several pita loaves, separating the two sides completely. Brush the crumbly side of each half with EVOO, sprinkle with garlic powder, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 6 minutes with seasoned side up. While still hot, cut into 8 chip-shaped slices. Spread with hummus, and LOVE it!

Today, I learned how to build the floor of a trailer. I’m very glad that my husband knows so much, because I would never have known how to go about it on my own. I went out and bought wood and wood screws. Turns out the wood I got was just fine, but you can’t expect to screw wood to metal brackets with plain old wood screws. My husband picked up self tapping screws on his way home from work, and boy did those do the trick! It only took about a half hour to get the plywood cut, in place, and screwed down. He still has to do a bit of work on the axle before we can use it, but I’m excited to finally have something to haul compost, manure, and other heavy loads with.

Ok, now I have to end this because Glee is on and I am totally hooked on this show like a fat kid is to a cupcake. Toodles!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Today I learned a valuable lesson. My husband and I were working on the back of the chicken coop yet again, and the boys were playing in and around the barn. Suddenly there was a piercing scream coming from inside the barn. Our youngest had pushed over a bike with his hand caught in the chain. I saw blood and went into panicked mommy mode. I ran him inside and rinsed his hand, but couldn’t tell how deep the cuts were because the poor kid was thrashing about so much. So we took a trip to the ER, which, thankfully, is only a few miles down the road. The doctors cleaned it up and told me that he wouldn’t need stitches, but to watch out for infection. They bandaged him up, but it didn’t even last a few miles. He was frantic to get those wraps off of his hand. I gave him some Tylenol to ease the pain a little, and then rocked him to sleep up in his room.

I learned that kids will get into any sort of trouble they can if you leave them unattended for even a moment. I’m thinking that the barn will now be off limits for the boys since it is only serving as a storage facility right now. There’s just too much stuff in there for me to let them run free. I feel so horrible that I let him get hurt like that, but my husband reassured me that it’s just part of growing up. I realize that all boys are bound to break bones and get hurt, but that doesn’t make it any easier. And it’s even worse when I think that it was preventable. I have a guy coming out on Tuesday to give us an estimate for a fence near the garden area. I’d like to have somewhere safe to toss the boys when I have to do something outside. I’ll also be on the lookout for some outdoor play equipment. I’m rather jealous of the set-up that my best friend has. Her boys have all sorts of ride-on toys, tunnels, slides, play houses, and even a large sandbox. I am no longer comfortable just letting the boys run free if I have to be distracted with something else. Of course, we’ll still run around together, but when they have a fire lit under them and I have to get some chores done it’d be nice to have a good place for them to play.

I’m sure my boy will be just fine, but it was an eye-opening situation. One of my least favorite games is the “what if” game, but I can’t help but play it at times like this. What if he had climbed up on one of the high piles of boxes and fallen down onto the concrete? What if he had found something sharp? What if… what if… what if? How in the world did moms do it a hundred years ago? Goodness. Well, at least he came out of this relatively unscathed.

On another note, it is very windy out right now. I don’t know what’s doing it, but every time a good gust blows through I hear different notes playing on the wind. It’s like there’s a series of hollow pipes outside. I feel like I’m in the church of wind or something. I’m really surprised the boys are able to sleep through all the noise. I’m hoping this doesn’t mean something is ready to fall off the side of the house. I wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry if something major needed a repair around here, especially with my husband preparing to take off.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Today was a day for driving. Oh my poor aching backside! I really don’t like being in the car for that long, but I guess sometimes it’s just unavoidable. We left just before 9am this morning to drive two hours away to pick up a hundred strawberry plants. After the long drive, we get to this grubby, dirty, unorganized farm full of mangy-looking dogs and illegal-looking workers who didn’t speak a lick of English. It took a while just to find out who was in charge, and then I had to wait while the woman looked through ten different places where files were piled up in a hodge-podge fashion to find the order I was there to pick up. After nearly twenty minutes of looking, she finally found the small box on a pallet ready to ship out via UPS. Yep. I drove two hours out of my way to a chaotic farm only to find out that our box was going to ship out today anyway.

So, oh well. Four hours and a half a gas tank later, I come home to find a few checks in the mail. Well, the boys had already decided to take a premature nap in the van, so I just drove in to the city to the bank to deposit the checks. On the way back from the city, the boys woke up, so I stopped at the store and let them pick out some sand toys. I also got a cheap little kid pool, you know, the 5’ wide plastic things. A few bags of play sand completed our order, and we headed home. It was just after 4pm when we finally got home. We had just enough time to set up the impromptu sand box in the kiddy pool, then the fence guy showed up. He came to give us a quote for a fence out back to keep the boys in while I garden and do outdoor chores this summer. For a little 50’ x 30’ area with one gate, the cheapest he said he could offer (including installation) came out to $3600. OUCH!

I’m pretty sure as soon as my husband sees the estimate he’s going to just throw it in the garbage. We already agreed that we weren’t going to put a lot of our own money into this place since we’d lose it as soon as we moved. That’s a lot of money. So I don’t know what I’m going to do. I need something to keep the boys boxed in, but I would only be willing to pay a couple hundred at the most. I wish I didn’t need it at all, but with two toddlers and me being here all by myself I’d rather not take the chance of losing one or both of them to the cars and trucks that thunder by on the road all day. I think they would have a lot of fun in a fenced-in area. They already love the little sandbox, and I plan on getting a little slide from Grandma. I’ll probably put their little folding table and chairs out there for drawing and eating on. Toss in a little tent full of cars and blocks, and I think they would be content to spend the entire day outside.

It’s nice to be out of the vehicle now. My back is absolutely killing me. I think I aggravated it the other day when I spent the whole hour at the ER bouncing Gavin around to keep him distracted from his hurt hand. He sure isn’t a baby anymore. It’s amazing how fast they grow! I hope I’m feeling better tomorrow, because I think I’m in for a day of tilling if the weather is nice.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

If the weather is nice. Huh. Seems like I made a backward forecast. Today looks like it will be full of rain showers, which means that my tilling is put on hold temporarily. Oh well. There are plenty of other things to get done: laundry, bread baking, putting together hive frames, and or course – keeping the boys entertained. They already helped me with mixing the bread dough. My three year old helps measure the ingredients and put them in the bowl, and my almost-two year old operates the mixer. They both get a bit of dough to knead after the dough is stiff enough to turn out. Inevitably, my youngest eats his piece of dough raw. Yuck! He’s a strange one, that’s for sure. Then as the dough is rising they run around like crazy people, stopping every few minutes to look through the oven window and check to see if the dough is growing. It’s funny how slow time goes for children. They are constantly bringing my attention to the bread, like it’s just going to explode or something if I don’t hurry up and bake it. I know as soon as it’s done rising the second time, they’ll be sitting there watching it bake. To them it takes forever for the bread to finish. Then, as soon as it’s out of the pan to rest on the wood board, they absolutely NEED a piece or they will die. Hot-out-of-the-oven bread is difficult to cut into slices, but sooooo yummy! I totally agree with them that it’s worth a burnt finger or two and a wonky looking slice. Slathered with homemade strawberry jam or honey, and it’s a meal fit for royalty.

I’d love to write more now, but I have a lot to get done. Toodles!

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Geez, this Michigan weather sure knows how to confuse a body. Just two days ago it was near freezing, and now it’s up near 70 and hot hot hot! We’ve been getting a lot of rain, which is nice, but it’s not helping my plants out too much because I still haven’t gotten any planted. We have a very dear old man who lives across the way from us, who has graciously offered to till up the back 3 acres. The problem is that he also has his 160 acres to farm, and the weather has been uncooperative. It looks like we won’t be tilled out until a few weeks from now, when my husband will surely be gone to his training. It’s frustrating me just a bit, because I would very much like to get going on planting out the berries that came in the other day, as well as spring crops like salad mixes, radishes, peas, and the like.

The folks who own this place put in an order for a bunch of trees a while back, and those are also due to arrive any day now.  Supposedly they were shipped out Friday. I hope that means we have the rest of the weekend to finish digging holes, because it’s proving to be a big job. While my husband has been mowing the lawn, I have been out back with the kids digging huge 3’ holes for the orchard. They ordered 4 apples, 2 peaches, and 3 cherries. They also ordered 6 sugar maples, a couple dozen fast growing wind break trees, and a couple Forsythia. I have no idea how big any of these trees are going to be when they arrive, so I’m digging the holes as large as I can. So far I have worked about an hour and a half at it and only completed 4 holes. Yikes! I had to finally take a break to come inside for some refreshingly cold water and a short sit-down. I may be young and spry, but I am certainly not in good shape. Those holes are making me use muscles I haven’t used in a loooong time, and I’m sure I’ll be feeling it come Monday.

Yesterday we had a fun family outing. We went to the Lansing Gun and Knife Show at the Mason fairgrounds. I have never seen so many guns in one place before. We had a lot of fun walking up and down the myriad aisles and checking out all of the different brands and calibers. My husband has set his sights on a .45 Taurus 1911, but I tended toward the smaller ones. Regardless, we can’t afford a pistol for either of us just yet, as the price range started around $350 and rocketed up from there. I’m very much looking forward to next weekend, when I will take my CPL (Concealed Pistol License) course and apply for my concealed carry permit. As soon as I figure out what caliber and brand I’m most comfortable shooting, you can bet I’ll be paying a visit to a local gun shop and picking one up. There’s no way I’m going to be that woman whose husband went overseas and left her without a way to protect the family. Maybe if I was religious I could believe that some eye in the sky was watching over us, but that’s just not me. I’ll take our safety into my own hands, thank you very much.

The show also gave me a good idea for another small side-hobby that could potentially make some money. There was one table run by a gentle, grandmotherly woman, and on that table was spread a few dozen concealed carry purses. Ingenious! They were drab-looking purses, not fashionable by any stretch of the imagination, but they all had a little locking zipper down the center on the side that led to a hidden holster built right there into the purse. She was asking anywhere from $40-80 per purse, but like I said… they were not too attractive. So I’m thinking that maybe next winter if I get bored and have some time to dilly around with sewing projects, I might buy some cheap purses that look decent enough and alter them to fit a holster with a locking zipper on the outside. If anything, at least I’ll be able to make one for myself and any friends or family members.

Okay, I guess it’s back to the grindstone now. I’ve wasted an entire half hour sitting on the computer writing and playing spider solitaire. I hope everyone else it out enjoying this beautiful day as well!

For the past couple of weeks, I have been impatiently waiting for a good day to start working on the back of the chicken coop. Basically, the entire back wall was comprised of two flimsy, rotted doors that didn’t even shut all the way, nor did they have any kind of latch to keep them shut. So today, thinking I was just so lucky, I decided to start working on them. I took the boys outside after my husband left to finally clear out our storage unit in the city, and rounded up all of the tools and supplies I would need. I was able to unscrew all of the hinges and take both of the big doors down in no time, then as I was coming out of the barn with my first two pieces of wood for the frame I was going to build, I notice my youngest son is making a mad dash for the road. Ahh! So I go and catch him, take the boys for a walk around the property to get it out of their system, and then take them both back to the coop to play with their toys and the chickens. Before I even had time to get the boards up on the stand to cut them, my little one goes running off again.

Ok, so I am thinking at this point that:
a) I need a fence to corral the children into while I work,
b) I need a couple of harnesses and a run for the children, or
c) I should just give up for the moment and tucker them out so they take a good nap.

I decided to go with c. We ran around until lunch time, then we all went inside. While lunch was cooking, I decided to take all 14 flats out of the dining room and put them on the lawn so the plants could get some sunshine. There was a gentle breeze, but nothing too bad. So I went back inside and worked on cleaning up the dining room and kitchen. We ate lunch, and then as I was running some dish water to clean up I looked out the window and noticed that the wind had picked up considerably. The sky had also darkened, and some mean looking grey clouds were moving in quickly. Well, crap. I popped in a movie for the boys, then ran outside to get my plants in, round up the scattered chickens, and put away all of the toys and outdoor stuff before the storm hit. There was no way I could do anything about the wide open chicken coop at the moment, so I left it. When I had done all I could, the first raindrops started to fall.

A little over an hour later I put the boys down for their nap. As it happened, that was the same time my husband showed up with the rest of our storage stuff. He had a work buddy helping him to unload it all into the barns while I went around to the back of the chicken coop to start planning. It was raining pretty steadily by this point. My hubby finished up unloading and bid his bud goodbye, then came to help me. We cut the wood for the frame, then screwed it into place. But that was all we could do before the rain was coming down too hard to do anything else. We decided to just screw the old doors back in place temporarily and call it good.

So my project that started out so promising this morning ended up not getting finished. Que sera sera. Whatever will be, will be. Hopefully tomorrow is going to be another nice day. There’s so much to do before spring really sets in, and so little time to do it in. At least I have all of our plants that needed to be started early going good in the dining room. I’m worried about some of the tomatoes because that wicked wind tore them apart a bit, but I’m optimistic that they will regain their strength and begin shooting right back up.

I’m in a rush to get all of these big types of projects done in the next couple weeks because we might be short one family member very soon. In tough times, we have to do whatever we can to get by, and it looks like that whatever might mean my husband will be leaving the country for a long-term contracting position overseas. Yes, I still plan on continuing with all of our plans. We’ll still be doing bees, chickens, pigs, worms, composting, huge gardens, and whatever other little things I can fit in, but it looks like I might be doing a majority of it alone for the time being. While a bit depressing (being apart for a few days is bad enough…), it’s also kind of exciting. If he gets this job, it will mean our income will quadruple. We’d be completely out of debt in just a few months, and by this time next year we would have enough money set aside to not only buy land and build a little house, but even get into alternative energy and be able to pursue a few hobbies that are out of our reach now. We’d love to learn more about woodworking and carpentry, and I would love to have a small pottery room with a spinning wheel and low-fire kiln.

It’s a lot to think about. Of course, it’s going to be a tough year, but if that’s the price of freedom from debt and bills, then I think we can make it through. The thought of living in the country with just myself and our little ones is a little frightening, but women have done it before me and came out sassy as ever. I’ve already signed up to take a CPL course, and will be looking into other defensive measures for protecting my family. I think we’ll be just fine. Plus, we have a few very good neighbors to lean on if it gets to be too much.

Wish us luck! I’ll post updates on this wacky, unplanned situation as I can. My life certainly resembles a roller coaster ride, doesn’t it? Ok, I have to get going now. Happy Easter, everyone! Toodles!

Easter chicks! Our clucky ranks have grown by 10 with the addition of 4 banties and 6 assorted pullets. I just couldn't resist when I saw them at TSC.

April 2010
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