Saturday, April 28, 2012

Surprise in the Cellar

The other day I went into the cellar to refill my potato basket that I keep in the kitchen pantry (it only holds about 3-4 pounds of potatoes).  I opened the cellar door, leaned in to grab the pull chain for the light in order to turn the light on, and simultaneously stepped down into the cellar.  As my foot was about to hit the floor, the cellar was bathed in light and I got a surprise.

Quickly I halted my foot's progression toward the floor in order to not squish the toad.  Then I noticed another toad nearby.  Then I ran back upstairs to get the camera in order to document this strange occurance.  :0)

Two toads in my cellar which has no access from outdoors!  In the 10 years since we've built the cellar, I've never had toads there.  Mice, yes.  Not surprising, since mice climb and squeeze through little openings, as well as chew wood and anything else houses are made out of.  But toads?!?  Where did they come from?  How did toads come to find my cellar?

All I can think of is that these two must have burrowed down from the outside, then come up through the dirt floor.  Which, since the ground level is, at the lowest point, about six feet higher than the cellar floor, seems like quite an undertaking.

Now I'm wondering if I should allow them to live in my cellar, or 'rescue' them to the outdoors, since I don't think the cellar will provide enough toady foods to sustain them through the summer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Busy, Busy.

Oh my, it's that time of year again.  The busy time of spring.  I can't believe it's been an entire week since I posted.

In that week, I have:
  • watched DD1 play in 3 softball games, all of which her team won, and at which she accumulated 6 RBIs.  I think she has only struck out once so far this year in twelve games.  The other times she's been walked, or hit the ball to one of the defensive players for an out, but mostly has gotten herself on base.  Her bat is on fire this season! 
  • bought myself a new pair of work boots, as my old pair died beyond resurrection.  Hated to spend the money, but do have to admit I am enjoying having new and comfy boots.

My new boots, before they went outdoors for the first time.

  • planted potatoes, onions, a short row of peas (more to come), and a Catawba grape vine.

    Seed potatoes ready to be hilled

    My handy dandy four pound sledge, for pounding stakes in the garden (and anything else I want to drive into the ground).
    Purchased because I was tired of using a 'wimpy' old 22 oz. hammer to do the job.

  • taken 4 more old hens to auction, fetching a price of $7.00 each this time (lots of chickens at last Saturday's auction).  Not bad for birds that would have been in my stew pot (I really prefer roast chicken to stewed).
  • attended the high school honors night, where DD1 gave a speech on Leadership for the National Honor Society Induction Ceremony, as well as received a few awards.  Her 'better half' of the past 10 months received a full ride scholarship to the local community college, so that was really cool.  We're happy for him.
  • pulled weeds from the front walkway.  If you could have seen it, you would know what a feat this was!  It is not a short walkway.
  • eaten fresh asparagus from the garden, about a month early!

    Mmm, 2012 "spare guts"!
    The skinny ones are 1st time harvest from those plants, they thicken as they get older.  The really thick ones are 5th year harvest.
  • made my first ever batch of dandelion jelly.  It turned out kind of runny (will boil longer next time), but tastes very good; honey-like.  It was really easy to make, next time I'll take photos and write a blog post about how to do it.

Two of my six jars of dandelion jelly.

  • ordered my new couch!  Hooray, new couch (last new couch was in 2000)!  Will be getting it the first weekend in May; we ordered it from DH's friend up north, and will pick it up when we go to dig more pine trees from the cabin to transplant at this little place here.
Hopefully it won't be another seven days before I get a chance to blog again.  I'm about to burst with some news, but I have to wait for the main characters to make it public knowledge before I can speak of it here.  (How's that for a teaser?  LOL.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Beware the Teenage Driver

I think somebody replaced my Wednesday with a Monday.  Or maybe switched the two of them around, since this week I had a great Monday.  Maybe that's why today is not going well.  Perhaps I'm doing penance for having an enjoyable Monday this week.

Let me start this story with a little info about this little place here.  We have a long driveway, about 500 feet or so.  It comes off the road, then after about 300 feet, it splits and makes what we call the Circle.  The Circle allows you to approach either the barn or the house at a pretty straight shot to make backing trailers to either one fairly easy.  At the house part of the circle, you can pull straight into either of the two garage doors.  Or, if you go right on the Circle instead of left, when you get to the house area you can pull forward onto a gravel pad that is 3-vehicles wide that we call the Teenager Parking.

It's called the Teenager Parking because that is where we have our teens park.  Because both of our garage doors have dents in them from teenaged sons.  DS1 hit the east door from the inside when he was backing out and didn't check to make sure the door was up all the way before he began.  So it dents out at the bottom.  DS2 hit the west door from the outside when he was backing up to park in front of it.  He was 17, and pretty new to driving a stick shift, which was what we'd recently purchased for him to drive to his dual-enrollment classes at the community college.  Being a teenaged guy in a cool red car, he thought he'd try backing into place.  Only he didn't quite have clutch, gas, and knowledge of his rear bumper mastered yet.  Ever after, that door has dented in at the bottom.

So, all teens were banished to the Teenager Parking alongside the cement approach to the garage, in order to make it a) easier for them to pull or back straight in and out, and b) prevent further damage to the garage!  As an added bonus, DH and I can park in the garage, and can go in or out without having to shuffle vehicles first.

Okay, enough background, on to today's story:

This morning.  DD1 was driving the new truck--yes, the one we bought 11 days ago--and for some reason backed the sharp corner from the Teenager Parking to the cement approach instead of backing straight up, then pulling forward around the Circle to leave for school. Since I wasn't home at the time, I don't know exactly what speed she was going, but it was fast enough that when the truck hit the pillar between the east and west garage doors, she did some major damage.

From the outside it looks like this:

See the black smudge on the 5th 'board' of the siding?
That's a bumper mark.
Look at the bottom of the siding.  Doesn't it look a bit crooked?
It is.
Note how the two garage doors don't appear aligned.
They aren't.

What it looks like from the side.
OSB sheathing cracked and bent outward, taking siding and trim with it.

Very close up.
You can see inside the wall.
Which you shouldn't be able to do, as it's OSB & siding on the outside, and drywalled  on the inside.
Stud is broken off  the sill plate.
At least the block foundation appears unmoved.

This is what it looks like on the inside:

East side of west door--left one in picture--is pushed forward by broken stud inside wall. 
Hence the bright white on the lower edge of the door, that's the sun coming in.
Door track is attached here, so no way is this door operable as is.

Close up of bottom of damaged area.
Door track should be back where the other door track is in the far right of picture.
Pushed out of position 4"? 
Or more.

Sigh.  Count to 10.  No, make that 100.  Or 1,000.  DD1 is long gone to school by now, leaving me to break the news to DH, who is currently in Colorado for work (and having his own not-fun issues to deal with there, from what I hear.)

So, I thoroughly examine the damage so that I can explain to him precisely what it looks like and he can get an idea of what we will need to do to repair it.  Good thing I have a construction background, sort of.  At least as much of a construction background as a person can get gutting and remodeling one house, then designing and building from the ground up another house and a barn.  So I know a few technical terms, LOL.  I also know I'll be involved in the deconstruction then reconstruction of this particular area of the garage.  And so will DD1. 

As per DH, she will also be riding the school bus for at least the rest of the week.  A very stern punishment for a high school senior.  She might die of embarassment.  But at least she'll be more careful driving from now on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chickens to Auction Update

Got a check in the mail today from the local auction, the place I took two older hens and my 'extra' rooster to.  Since the prices from last Saturday's auction haven't been posted online yet, I have been wondering what my poultry culling fetched.

$8.50 a bird!  Woo hoo!  I'm a happy lady!  I really only wanted to pare down my flock and didn't feel like beheading the ones who needed to go.  They make rather a tough meal, good only for soup stock, really.  So to get over eight dollars per bird for them was a welcome surprise.

Now I'm looking at the rest of the flock with a critical eye. . . Perhaps I shall take a few more of the older hens to auction this weekend. . .  For maximum feed efficiency any hen older than a year could go, and that would still leave me with about a dozen currently laying.  A dozen eggs a day is quite enough, even when I'm baking like a fiend during the farmers' market season.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chicken Pictures, and More

Saturday morning I loaded up my third rooster, "Trouble", and a couple of the oldest hens and took them up the road to the local auction.  It began about five years ago as just a weekly hay and straw auction, but has since expanded into small animals and poultry. Three or four times a year, they also do consignment auctions of horses and farm equipment.

With the departure of Trouble, the remaining two roosters, Animal and Hot Stuff, jockeyed for who was going to get Trouble's small harem of hens.  Animal is the head rooster, and he set himself up on the trailer king-of-the-mountain style to proclaim his superiority and let all the ladies admire him.

When he didn't get quite the response he apparently had hoped for, he set off across the backyard to round up those silly hens.

By the end of the afternoon, the remaining hens had been redistributed between the boys.

The pair of house finches that return every year to nest in the curve of downspout outside my dining room window have taken up residence.  Mr. Finch sings most of each day on the railing of my back deck.  He's quite photogenic with his red head, throat and breast.

Not to be left out, our remaining barn cat (her two brothers disappeared in March; unfortunately because of the healthy coyote population out here this is not uncommon with barn cats), had to get her share of time in front of the camera.  She is not a bashful barn cat at all.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Recent Sights

It's been a busy week at this little place here.  Not much time for blogging.  Instead, I'll post a few pics of what's been going on recently.

Tall, dark and handsome

An enormous tom turkey was sighted one morning back by the woods.  This picture is zoomed in from about 250 yards, so not the sharpest. But in it you can see that his beard extends all the way into the weeds growing in the field.  From the house, he looked black, in fact, DD1 spotted him first and for a brief second thought he was a young bear, he was so big.  Then she realized we don't have bears here (they are a few hours north at the cabin near Mother-in-Law's place) and that it must be a turkey.

new strawberry bed

I have been working on transplanting my strawberries from their neglected and out of control bed into a new area of the garden.  I now have about 250 row feet of weed- and grass-free strawberry bed.  The challenge will be keeping it that way!  (Need mulch, lots and lots of mulch. . .)

telltale black pillar of smoke

zoomed in to show more of size of area

The neighbor two properties to the north of us--1/2 mile away and across the road--did his annual burning of his field.  He owns about 40 acres, 2/3 to 3/4 of which is in field, that he keeps mainly as wildlife area.  He plants switch grass as cover for the deer, turkey, and pheasants, so each spring burns off the old dead growth from the previous year.  Seeing the big pillar of smoke rising from his place is an annual sign of spring.  It's really interesting to watch; the flames get higher than his pine trees, but the fire never gets out of control due to his careful attention to firebreaks, wind, and ground conditions.

All the trees in my small orchard are in bloom.  And of course we've had 4 consecutive nights of frost this week, so not sure if I'll actually get any fruit. But they sure look pretty right now.

peach blossoms

apple blossoms

pear blossoms

cherry blossoms

Last weekend I moved the chicken coop from it's winter spot east of the barn (closer to house for hauling water, and blocked from prevailing winds) to behind the barn where there's more air flow and pasturage.  The chickens are loving eating the tender grass and clover.

happy chickens

Late this afternoon while the chickens were out ranging, I happened to look out of the kitchen window and spotted a visitor coming to join them.  It was a wild turkey, a tom, who crossed the road and was making a beeline for the chickens.  Unfortunately my turkey calling (solely by impersonation, we don't have a "real" turkey call) in an attempt to get a good picture scared him off.


more free lumber

Our friend with the junk hauling business who brought us an old deck aka free recycled lumber last fall called up yesterday morning.  He had another load of lumber he thought we might be interested in.  We sure were!  This load has lots of long boards in it, 2x4, 2x6, even some 2x12, and several 4x6s also.  Looks like that woodshed DH has been wanting to build might get erected this summer, with all free lumber.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A New Truck!

We finally found it!  Our new old truck has been purchased.  After nearly a month of searching and test driving, and being disappointed in what was out there, we found the truck for us.

It is fourteen years old, but looks like it has slept in a garage most nights of it's life.  There is just a little rust on the rocker panels.  It has no dents, dings, or scratches. It's a half-ton, with an extended cab. The four wheel drive works.  The radio works.  The heat and air conditioning work.  The power windows and power seats work. The cruise control works.  It has no fluid leaks of any kind. It only has 160,000 miles on it. It's even my favorite color. 

An additonal bonus of our new truck is that the price we paid is $2000 less than what we had saved up for a truck purchase.  Which means a new couch is in my immediate future (ours having a bent frame and worn out fabric with tears in it after twelve years of being mauled by children).

Life is good.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Dressage Fairy Godmother

Last week, my dressage fairy godmother waved her magic wand over me.  Did she make me a Grand Prix rider?  No.  Did she bring me a new horse?  No.  Did she fix the indoor arena so I could ride on rainy days like the day I was visiting her?  No.

Then what in all the world did she do when she waved that magic wand?

She brought me new breeches!!  Not just one pair, but two pair of never-been-worn, made in Germany, genuine leather full seat breeches.  Purchased by herself on a trip to Germany in the early 1980's.  On that trip she had purchased a few dozen pair of breeches, in various sizes, for herself and to sell to her students and clients back home in the U.S., as at that time full seat breeches were hard to find in America.  Once home, she had put these particular breeches away to save for herself for when she gained more than a little weight (thinking ahead to the inevitable middle age spread.)  However, that day never came, as health issues crept up on her and eventually ended her riding career.

When I told her how great it felt when I rode again after a seven month break (indoor arena not functional this winter), and how since I've lost 20 pounds (yes, 20!!  Hit that on last Monday's weigh-in), my breeches that I've owned for 10 and 12 years are getting baggy, her eyes lit up. 

That was when she asked what size I now wore, and told me she had some breeches that might fit me.  Because of her bad health, she has been unable to ride for nearly a decade.  Those 30 year old brand new breeches would never see a saddle with her.  So she had me try them on.  They fit! Then she gifted them to me.

I am blessed.  I've never owned two new pair of breeches at the same time in my entire 27 years of horse involvement, let alone breeches as nice as these.  For being 30 years old, they sure don't look or feel any different than brand new ones.  The leather seats are still supple and buttery soft.   I can't wait to go ride in them!

my new beige breeches

my new gray breeches

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We Interrupt Homesteading . . .

The past three days are now kind of a groggy blur.  I've done a lot of traveling in that time, and not any homesteading.

First, DS2 was down to Ohio for a competition of colleges.  Back in the fall, when he first started his college life 500 miles away, one of the first things he did was join a group called "Concrete Canoe".  As a first-year student, he was at the bottom of the ladder in the group, but he still gave it his all, attending paddling practices in the canal until it froze up, then moving indoors to the college's Olympic size swimming pool.  He helped with hull designing, he helped build prototypes, he helped build the actual competition canoe.  Because he's a first year, he didn't get to paddle in the competition, but he did get to go as support and for experience.

DH & I went to see DS2, and to get our curiosity satisfied over this concrete boat stuff, of which we'd been hearing since August.  I have to say, we weren't disappointed.  It was a very neat experience, and an enjoyable excursion.

The day started as cool, overcast and windy.  As the hours went by, the clouds burned off, the sun came out, and the temperature rose to over seventy degrees.  I loved the sunshine.  Unfortunately, I did not even think of sunscreen, so I came home from that day with a face about the color of a cooked lobster.  With the exception of the wide band where my sunglasses had been.  That was white, like a mask.  I guess you could say it was an April Fools prank I inadvertently played on myself.  Because it sure looked foolish.

The good news is that DS2's college dominated that competition.  They won every single race with their concrete canoe.  In the three non-race areas: Design Paper, Oral Presentation and Overall Design (which includes the hull design, the actual construction and the finished appearance of the canoe) they got first, third and first.  They were the Overall Winners of the Regional competition, and will head to Nevada for Nationals in June.

the prototype, made of wood

the competition boat, made of special concrete and with finished paint job

the compass rose painted inside the boat

dominating the girls' sprint race

dominating the co-ed sprint race

turning on the turbo boosters for the final part of the co-ed sprint

After the concrete canoe competition, DH & I returned home to pick up DD1 to take her for a college visit.  She has all ready been accepted at this college, and it is her first choice school, but because it is 750 miles away in Minnesota, we had never been there.  She is determined this is the school for her, but really wanted to see it in person once before arriving for Freshman Orientation this coming August.  Since she is on Spring Break this week, now seemed the perfect time for the long drive to Minnesota.

My goodness, what a drive!  Yes, long it was.  Seeming twice as long as the 500 mile drive to DS2's college in Michigan's U.P.  Not a bad drive (other than Chicago--I'm not a city girl and two lane roads are enough for me, thank you), it was a nice drive.  Just very, very long.

The college visit itself was good.  Beautiful area, small city, small college.  The college itself is only about 4 blocks in size.  A perfect fit for my girl who went from a K-8th Christian school with an enrollment of about 50, to a small public high school with an enrollment of 300, and now on to a Christian college with an enrollment of less than 800.  Yes, it's the place for her.

Back into the car for another 11-hour marathon drive home, so DH could go to work this morning (the entire Minnesota trip he was fielding phone calls from work).  With the change in time zones on the return home, it clocked at twelve hours, but felt more like days, LOL. 

Now I'm home, with car-lag, and needing to get back into the homesteading swing of things.  My lobster face has finally faded to brown with a white eye mask.  Yesterday I looked like a box of Neapolitan ice cream: brown to the bridge of my nose, white from there to my eye brows, and pink on my forehead.  That is one April Fool's I won't forget.  Bring on the sunscreen!