Friday, January 30, 2009

Living the Dream

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the before & after of the room we are using now in the barn. I thought I would look back at what has been done on the other side of the barn. This is a before look since we haven't made it to the "final" after yet. Slowly but surely it is changing.

Earlier I posted pics of how it looked when the Amish lived here. The following pics are from the time we closed on the farm until now.

This is the room that all the machines were in when the Amish owned it. There is another room (on the west side) that was also used as a sewing/bedroom. The wall you see divides them.
This is the view facing east of the same room.
The doorway you see is what is now our living area. It really is a huge space. The barn measures about 38 x 66. With three floors, that's a lot of square footage. Since we have the custom cabinet business, that will take up a big chunk of space. Our living area will only be around 900 to 1000 square feet on the main level with guest bedroom/craft area upstairs. Until we get the upstairs done, the room we live in right now will be for guests. Here is our son Shane, tearing down the dividing wall. Having no electric in the barn made it easier since we didn't have to worry about wires. The power tools we used were run by a generatorThe wall is down. It really opened up the room. We were also working on the windows.
They needed painting & some were warped.
That day, Shane built some walls for our "bathroom". Steve made a sawdust toilet that worked fine for an indoor toilet. It was an adjustment getting used to that but it wasn't all that bad. It had a regular toilet seat & was at the same height as a "normal" toilet. Better than going outside to an outhouse when it is cold outside. Now we have indoor plumbing which was celebrated by calling our kids & flushing the toilet so they could join us for the momentous occasion! The oval object on the wall is a solar light.
A small panel is mounted outside the window.Blue jean insulation was added to the wall adjacent to our "living room".
We only have heat from the wood stove in that area so we made it as warm as we could.The only way to get to the basement was by the stairs that were under a heavy door on the floor. They were pretty shakey & I always worried about the door falling on my head. Here we had already taken down the basement stairs & were using a ladder.After many hours of planning the layout of the living area that we wanted,
Steve started working on the new basement stairs.It was spring & was warming up, so we turned our efforts to outside projects & the garden. Then the accident kept us from traveling to the farm for a while & we had a lot of mowing, weed pulling & tending to the garden when we did get back to the farm. In August, Steve put up the bathroom walls. By October, we had plumbing.
After a year and a half of using a sawdust toilet & a solar shower,
having a real bathroom is HUGE!
And that brings us to the new picture window & French door.And finally the stairs.
This is where we are now in the process. Last weekend we set a couple new support posts & this weekend we hope to put up some 2x4 walls in the new living area. As I go through all these pictures, it brings back all the dreams we had that got us to this point.
We have to step back every once in a while & remember, we are living that dream.
And as excited as we are to finish the house,
we know that what we are doing now will be looked back on and cherished.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pump n' Seal & Other Stuff

Yesterday the Pump & Seal came that I ordered.

I've been trying to decide whether to get a seal-a-meal type preserver. The thought of something else on the counter just didn't appeal to me. So after a little research Pump n' Seal won out. We needed something to help us keep stored food longer. I'll be trying it in the next week or so & let you know how well it works. It even comes with a video (which they show on their website) on how to use it.

Went to my first therapy session of the year yesterday. It was frustrating as usual but I am glad to be back into it. Seems as if I am still at the same place I was when I started, but I have hope for a change.

When I got home yesterday afternoon, I turned on the TV expecting to see no cable. Well, we still have some stations & some are gone. Very strange. Thought every station would be gone. We still have the digital box (which I need to return) so some signal is coming through. Maybe I'll wait & see if they miss it! I was kind of looking forward to no TV though. We alway have so much to do but end up some time during the evening watching TV. It seems a waste. It like a vacuum that sucks you in. Sitting there glassy eyed, staring at the screen. Books & making plans for the farm is so much more interesting.

Started some seeds from last years garden last week to see if they are viable and they are popping out now.

These are Dickenson pumkin seeds.

These are garlic seeds from the flowers of the cloves that came up last year.

These are radish seeds.

These are lettuce seeds.

This is a sweet potato I started. Want to try it for the garden this year.

I really need a taste of spring. I'm going to plant all these in starter mix & harvest the leaves of the radish & lettuce plants. I bought some wheat berries at the food coop last week that I'm going to start for wheat grass. If you take a shot of wheatgrass or just chew it, you won't need that cup of coffee in the morning.

I'm dreaming of spring...

The One Week Challenge

Tuesday I started a new personal challenge. I read on a blog about a better way to shampoo. I have been using Organic shampoos for years but am still looking for a more natural way. So for a week, I am trying this new, natural way on my hair & see what happens. It involves using baking soda & water. How simple is that. Today is Thursday & my hair looks like & just washed it. How natural can you get! If you are looking for a way to save money & keep nasty chemicals from absorbing into your body, try it. It's so simple.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reflection of a Windmill

This was taken Sunday of an Amish house on our road.

Bragging of a Great-Aunt

These are my great-nieces Addy & Noelle. I love being around them. They are so full of life, sillyness & giggles! We get to spend a whole week with them in June on vacation in Minnesota. We always look forward to that. This is their Christmas picture.

Monday, January 26, 2009

We Did It!

We've been talking about it. A lot. Thinking over different scenarios. Making phone calls. The decision was made.......
We canceled the cable & the home phone!

I called the cable company today. We have a combined bill with internet, cable & phone. We now just have the internet. I just can't do without that. How would I blog? How would we watch
I told the chiropractor who is also a good friend about it today. He only has internet too. I guess his three kids are bugging him for some "real" TV so he is looking into buying an antenna for about $100 to get the local stations. We will be saving $80 a month by canceling the cable & internet so this might be an option for us too. We'll have to see how it goes. I know I can do without TV, I'm just not sure Steve can :-).
I'm going to find out more about the antenna & I'll let you know. Supposedly, each local station (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) have about 3-4 stations. Plus public television comes in with the antenna. So excited to be free of the cable!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Improving the Back Side

Oh, you thought I meant that back side :-).
This is what the back side of the barn looked like when we closed on the property. There was an additional structure connected to this "porch" that was used as a spray area for their furniture business. They sold that to another Amish family & it wasn't part of the deal. The structure was on the cement blocks.
We used it as a loading dock of sorts at first.
It wasn't in our plans to keep it, so off it went.

The landscaping was done next. A new driveway was put in & everything leveled off.

Steve put in the new front door.
Then the windows (bathroom & bedroom) , Tyvek & insulation next. Then replacing the siding. We re-used some from a pile left
over when they built the barn & bought some additional from
Eli that he had in his barn.This was the noisiest part of the project.
Cutting steel siding is not something you want to do every day!

The finished product. The other doors are to, at the far left,
our current living area & the middle one is the shop area.

The Old & the New

This is a solar lantern which was our only light source
(besides candles) when we first bought the farm.
It works really well & for quite a long time.

The Amish coming home.

We had another great sunset last night.

It's another beautiful morning. Two degrees but there isn't much wind. Finishing up setting posts in the new living area & doing a good cleaning in our "cabin" room.
When we leave today, we'll stop at the food co-op & stock up on bulk items like flour & rice, get a few snacks for the drive and head out. Stopping at an antique/junk store in a town on the way home is in our plans. Going to look for a straight edge razor for Steve. Chris W. from A One Acre Homestead in Ohio blog suggested this as away to save money & have less to recycle. It's been a good weekend here but too short as always.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Afternoon at the Farm

Went down to get the mail. Just taking off my mitten for a few seconds to take a picture, my hand started hurting from the cold. Eli came over for a visit around noon. It's good to catch up with him on how the family is doing. Some of the things we talked about were buying & saving seed, the root cellar & their new puppy. We also talked about an Amish widow down the street who died last week. People came from all over to attend the funeral. Ohio, Minnesota, Canada. This is done by bus or train. The only time they all get together is for funerals or weddings. They write letters to communicate with friends & relatives the rest of the time. Can't just pick up the phone to call.

The sun is beating down on the solar panels. I just checked the temperature of the tank and it is 121 degrees.

I haven't got a lot of motivation today. It's it's so warm sitting here by the fire & Steve doesn't need any help on the stairs yet. I guess it's time to get out the knitting. I am determined to learn to make hats by next winter. Knit, purl, knit, purl.....

Cold Morning in Wisconsin

It's a cold morning in Wisconsin! As I write this, it is -4 with a windchill of -19. Steve went out to get more wood for the stove while I made breakfast. His eyes hurt from the cold. We left to drive up here around 5 pm last night. We usually get off work around 11 am on Fridays but Steve had a job on the north shore to finish up. When we got here, the thermometer in our living area was 33 degrees. In the bathroom (with the little heater on a timer since we've been gone) was also 33 degrees. The one in the basement was just below freeezing at 30 degrees. The last time we were here we put heat tape on the copper pipes to the water heater. Good thing. The rest of the lines are pex which will expand quite a bit before breaking. We shut off all the water too.

We stayed up until midnight reading & the room warmed up to about 60. Steve got up twice during the night to re-stock the stove. It was 66 when we got up this morning.

It's a beautiful day. Clear blue sky. As I look out the front windows, I see some kind of animal track that I don't recognize. We'll go out & investigate that later. Plans for today are to finish up the stairs & start thinking about putting up walls in our new living area. Now that the stairs are almost finished, we can start to imagine what the area will be like when it is done. Our son Shane & his girlfriend Kristi will be coming up here in a few weeks to help us with whatever building we will be doing at the time. He is a custom trim carpenter & does a great job. It's so nice to have help with projects. So far we have been lucky in that regard. When we need a helping hand with something too heavy for us to handle, one of the neighbors will come over to help.

Time to quit writing & get busy...

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Decision

Since my last rehab appointment at Marionjoy in December I have been trying to make a decision. Should I continue (at a great cost) or keep saving as much as I can for the "economic downturn" so we have some backup in case we get slow at the shop. With both of us working there, it would be a hardship if that happens. I have insurance but have to meet the deductable again, which means that dreaded "out-of-pocket" expense. An easy decision would be to just quit. It is very frustrating to go to these sessions. It magnifies all the things that I have problems with by doing specific exercises to help those areas of brain function. After a brain injury, in your every day routine, you normally do the same things, don't go beyond what you know you can do. Sometimes stretching the brain a little to complete a project or learn something new (which is very hard now). That is a way of protecting yourself. You don't let yourself feel inadequate. It's too big of a downer. I don't like to feel bad. But taking a test to see what your brain isn't doing anymore shows you what is missing.
After an injury, the brain is capable in some instances of retraining itself for about a year. If you are not improving after a year, you probably won't. It has been over six months since the accident. I have six more months to see what I can do. Oh yeah. Age is against me too. Brains over forty are much harder to heal.
Helping people through natural medicine has been a dream of mine for almost six years. I know right now I'm not capable of studying & retaining information. I also know that I may never be able to. But, if I don't try, I will never know. So that is my decision. I'll go back to Marionjoy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Inside Look at An Amish Home

I found some pictures that we took when we first saw the farm. This is the kitchen & mother-in-laws bedroom which is now our living area in the barn. I wish the wood cook stove was still there! This was their main living/working area. It was a workshop for building furniture, a sewing room for their tailoring business and the kids slept on mattresses on the floor. Most Amish do not live like this. The business they run is usually in a separate building. I don't know how the little ones could sleep right next to the machines that were running. They used diesel to power the machines & that was pretty stinky too. I know some people have different ideas about the Amish & the way they live. The well kept houses with flowers out front, no junk in the yard, nice buggies. That is the well-to-do Amish. We live by the poor Amish. Our neighbors struggle to make ends meet.

This is the attic area. I think the older kids & parents slept here.

Fom what we have seen, they are very happy. The kids seem happy.
You don't have to have money to be happy.
Just a loving family.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Recipe to get your greens!

I am not a big kale eater, but this recipe changed my mind. Kale is so easy to grow, lasts well after the first frost & keeps producing more leaves from the same plant.


2 Bunches of curly or dinosaur kale, stems removed
¼ c pine nuts
1/3 c kalamata olives, sliced (I used raisins instead)
1 red bell pepper
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
¾ tsp sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
Stack 2 or 3 leaves of kale & roll tightly. Cut the kale into thin strips. Repeat with remaining leaves of kale. Add ¼ tsp of the sea salt & massage kale well for several minutes. Add lemon juice, olive oil, remaining sea salt & black pepper & toss well with hands, working the dressing into the greens. Gently toss in olives, red bell pepper & pine nuts. Allow to stand 15 minutes before serving.
Note: golden raisins can be used instead of olives.

Tip from an Organic Gardening reader

Someone wrote in that they quit watering their garden in the morning. Plants make the most nectar overnight when the plants are closed. By watering in the morning, nectar for the bees is being washed away. So he only waters after the flowers are closed. He has noticed an increase in the amount of bees in his garden. Hey, I'll try it. Anything to help the bee population.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Getting ready for Spring!

I started ordering seeds last fall as the garden was winding down. I got them out this weekend so I could see what I still need to order. The garden at the farm is big. I mean like football field size big. It probably isn't as wide but it is as long. Steve thinks I'm crazy but I want another garden that same size up the hill from it. Just enough room in between to mow hay. I would like to rotate crops on a larger scale & use cover crops to increase the nutrients in the soil.

Here is a video of the garden last spring right after planting.
(Sorry about the wind noise, turn down your speakers)

We'll see if we have time to till another garden this spring. We have a lot to do at the farm once it warms up. There are apple trees to prune, 25 one year old apple trees to graft, fence to put up between the Amish next door & us (to keep their cows, horses & sheep out of the garden) and 100 hazelnut bushes to plant while still working on the inside of the barn. The list goes on & on but it is the kind of work I like to do. Being outside in nature is so much more rewarding than sitting in an office all day.

I went ahead & ordered potatoes yesterday. I ordered twice the amount as last year since I know now that I can grow them. I grew Yukon Golds & Yellow Finn which I will grow again this year. I had a pretty good harvest but it could have been better if it wasn't for the potato bug infestation early on. Not being on the farm during the week makes it hard to keep up with that kind of thing. We just do the best we can. I added a new potato this year. It's the Rose Finn Apple. They say it's a good keeper & perfect for potato salad, steamed, boiled, grilled, roasted or fried. That about covers everything! I do want to try growing sweet potatoes this year too. Adding it to my list...

We are storing last summer's potatoes in the garage in a cooler. It works really well. The potatoes still look like when we put them in there and taste great too. The other night for supper we ate potatoes, beets & applesauce all from the farm . It is a great feeling of satisfaction to produce your own food. We know there are no chemicals, just pure food.

I still need to order raspberry bushes. We have some at the farm but they are out of control. Have to read up about growing them. Would like to get a good yield. More strawberries will be added this year too.

We have a section of the garden that's marked off now that isn't to be tilled. Eli has tilled it the last two years with his horses so we'll have to remind him not to do that section this spring. We have the blueberries, asparagus, strawberries, Jeruselum Artichokes, horseradish & some herbs planted there. I am anxious to see how many blueberries we get this year. Last year was the first year & we got a handful off of 24 bushes.

I splurged on something I have wanted for some time.
I know it isn't what most women want, but I will be able to preserve so much more food because of this. And that makes me happy! (talk to me next summer when I am sweating over the stove, canning away) This pressure cooker/canner doesn't have a rubber gasket so that will save money & it is made in Wisconsin. Yes, an American made product.