Monday, September 27, 2010

I Love Alpacas!

Yesterday (Sunday) we visited Wisconsin Driftless Alpacas in outside of Cashton. Mark Blackbourn & Jan Hesson are the owners.
It was the first time we've been "up close & personal" with alpacas. It was great! They are beautiful animals.
We asked a lot of questions & learned a lot about them. I think it is a definite "yes" to owning a pair. I have to share something funny ...someone asked how you can tell if they are pregnant.

Mark takes the male & female into a pasture by themselves. If the female lays down, she isn't pregnant & the male will mount her. If the female spits on the male, she is pregnant. Bet you that happens with humans, too :-), the spitting part I mean. Seems like alpacas will be a good fit for our farm. We would raise them for the wool. There were a couple of people showing how to spin the wool. One was Kathyrn, the owner of Ewetopia Fiber Shop in Viroqua. Something else I have wanted to learn. Maybe Steve could make me a spinning wheel...hint, hint.
Mark answering questions about the alpacas.

The newest member of their alpaca family. So cute & with really unusual coloring.

Other things we did this weekend... mowed (hopefully for the last time), picked more strawberries (who knew we would still be getting strawberries?), a couple squash, one tomato :-(, and chocolate mint. Steve worked on the platform for the wood stove. We took it kind of easy this weekend. It was a stressful week last week & we needed to relax a little.
 On Saturday, I went up to get eggs from Lizzie. She wasn't there but Levina (the oldest child) was & we visited a bit. They have ordered the lumber for the barn & almost have the plans finished. Their porch is back together & looks great. There are still a lot of trees down in the pasture but it will take a while for that to be cleaned up.

It is going to be another long, stressful week here in Illinois until we get back to the farm to hopefully start putting up the river rock for the wood stove. Installation is set for the last week in October. We are hoping the garage doors will be in next week. It is also time to plant the garlic which will take a while with thirty different kinds to plant.
Have a great week!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weekend With Amy & Rob

We had a fun & relaxing weekend with daughter Amy & her husband Rob. We started out by going out to eat at Chilitos. We decided to sit outside since it was so nice out. Not too many nights left to do that. The weather man was calling for scattered showers both Saturday & Sunday so we decided to take a chance on going to the fair on Saturday. Steve really wanted to see the horse competition so it worked out great when it didn't rain after all.
There were many different competitions during the day. The one above had three eight horse teams. These are the Clydesdale's. Such beautiful animals. It is unusual to have eight horse teams compete so we were lucky to see them. The ground shakes as they gallop by.
There are a lot of animal barns to walk through & we did them all. I love seeing all the horses, cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep & bunnies. We also went through the exhibition building where our neighbors, Jim & Nancy had entered in the competition. Jim's pumpkin won 4th place & Nancy's crocheted place mats won second. I picked up a booklet that tells all the categories so I can enter next year., baking, wool felted items...I better start getting busy.
We really behaved as far as food goes. We ate lunch at Organic Valley's booth. The walnut burgers were pretty good. Steve & I had some pie too.
Waiting for our lunch.

Have you ever had a fried Snicker Bar or any other candy bar? Rob & I were tempted, just to see what texture it was on the inside.  So if you have ever had one, let me know.
Later in the afternoon, we left to go to Driftless Books. What a great used bookstore. They used to be located in Main Street Station but have moved to the old tobacco factory. So much more room now & a great atmosphere. They even have tricycles for the little ones to keep busy on. There were two cats there too. One had the loudest purring motor I have ever heard.
One more stop. The new music shop in town, Parrish Music. Rob bought some guitar picks and I asked about renting a fiddle. Yes, a fiddle. I have wanted to play for a while now. Don't know if I would be able to because of neck problems, but would love to take a lesson or two to find out.
When we got back we took a nap before heading to The Driftless Cafe for dinner. (Okay. I only cooked breakfast this weekend :-) It was a great pizza (Kay's Kitchen), as usual.
A new radio station started broadcasting from Viroqua Friday morning.  It is WDRT. This is a BIG DEAL. It is hard to get a license to broadcast & it took many years to happen. Congrats to all involved. So of course we (esp. me) wanted to walk down to the window & wave at the DJ just like on the  "Northern Exposure" TV show. We did & got invited in by John, the owner of the Driftless Cafe. He is one of the DJ's and will be on on Friday nights. Fun!
After a big breakfast & some work in the garden, Amy & Rob had to leave to get back home to their two pups, Hero & Ivy. We don't have a fenced area for them to run around in, so for now, they stay home.
 After they left for home, Steve trimmed out the opening for the new garage doors. We are all ready now. Just waiting for the call that they are in. While he was busy doing that, I made three burlap bags for storing potatoes.

This weekend we are planning on going to an alpaca open house on Sunday. I can't wait. Hope you are all having a great week! Oh & Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back in the Old Days...

Sometimes at work we are given a chance to do something a bit different than the usual custom cabinetry. This was the case about a month ago when a lady from the Geneva Historical Society came in with a project she hoped we could do. Our shop is near Fabyan Forest Preserve. It was  part of the country estate of George and Nelle Fabyan. They came to the Fox River Valley in the early 1900's, and bought a farmhouse and ten acres. Over the years they bought over 300 acres & developed it into an estate they called "Riverbank". After their deaths in the 30's, the Forest Preserve District of Kane County purchased 235 acres of the estate and created the preserve. It is a beautiful spot that we often walk or bike ride through. There is a windmill, Japanese Garden & the Fabyan Villa Museum.
While working on "the project" we went over to take some pictures of the grounds & the garage, which is what the historical society was dedicating soon. Here are some pics...

The Japanese Garden

One of the buildings Col. Fabyan housed wild animals.

Back of the villa

Front entrance of the villa

Some of the unusual stonework that is on the estate

And finally to our project....
Here is a a couple of pictures of the garage back in the 30"s (I think). Love that car...

And here is Steve measuring for a new sign.

Just finishing it up in the shop.

After installation...not the best pic. It was a drive by. We'll have to go back & get a better one.
It was a joint effert by most of us at the shop. My brother pitched in to paint it. I drew the letters to match the old sign & Steve cut them out & made the sign.
Although we had to scamble to get it done in the midst of a lot of other jobs, it was worth it. Now every time we drive by, we can be proud of being a part of the history of the area.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This weekend we hung around the farm except for a trip into town to get more nails & wood for trimming out the garage door frames. It rained a little Friday night, so while waiting for the grass to dry so I could mow, I cleaned the attic space & found a few boxes of fall/winter clothes that we will need soon. I also looked through the wool I had felted to make more dryer balls. Later on while Steve worked on the framing, I dug another 5 gallon bucket full of potatoes.

Both the openings are framed out now & ready for the doors. The old metal sliding doors will be removed & used for something. Maybe part of a new chicken coop or an alpaca enclosure. We should get the doors in a couple weeks. So excited! 
Saturday morning we awoke to a different view. We slept in the new bedroom! It was great to look around & imagine living on that side of the barn. We have a northern and western view from the new bedroom so the sun didn't wake us up as early as we are used to like the eastern view of the cabin room bed. Haven't decided if will miss that or not.
Steve did more drawings on Friday night of the kitchen cabinets. We (especially me) would like to get the "L" shaped counter done this winter so we can have a sink to wash dishes (instead of going to the utility sink in the basement) & a real stove (instead of the camp stove) to cook on. I will be so thrilled to have both of them. Not that I don't like what we have now and not that I won't miss "the old days" of roughing it a bit. It will be a luxury, though.  
This coming weekend we are going to the county fair with Amy & Rob. Neighbors Jim & Nancy have entered a huge pumpkin and some crocheted place mats. We are hoping to see a draft horse competition on Saturday if it doesn't rain. There is also a dog obedience contest on Sunday that is fun to see. And of course eating a bunch of junk food is fun too :-)
On a different mom is in the hospital with congestive heart failure. Hoping she gets out soon and can live comfortably where she resides at the assisted living facility. She had a strep infection in her blood which she was hospitalized for last month & now this. Her memory has been affected maybe by the lack of oxygen to the brain (?). Get better soon Mom!
Hope you are all having the great fall weather that we are & are enjoying every minute of it while it lasts :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Win a Cake Plate & More Details On T-Shirt Totes

Check out my niece's blog about how to make the t-shirt totes I wrote about. She will also be having a raffle once she get 25 followers.  She makes these awesome cake plates...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Garage Doors Ordered

These are the garage doors we ordered last Saturday morning.
We really like the crossbuck design & think it will go well with the look of the barn. We are working with Doug Swenson at Swenson's Doors in Viroqua. A really nice guy just like all the business people we've met here so far. They even throw in a key pad. It takes about 3 weeks to get them so we have until then to do some framing around the door openings we have now. Can't wait to get them installed. It will change the whole look of the barn. (And make it more weather tight). We still need to replace the entry door in front that goes into the laundry area but will try to get that done before the weather changes too.

It will look so much different in a few weeks!

Friday, September 10, 2010

T-shirt Shopping Bag

It seems like we all have old t-shirts around. Some are favorites that we hate to get rid of. Here is a good use for them. The pic above is a t-shirt from the Viroqua Food Co-op. We forgot to bring in our own bag so they lent us this one. A company in town donated these after having a t-shirt drive and had them sewn into bags. It might be hard to tell from the picture, but the sleeves and the neck are cut off then the bottom is sewn shut with a zig-zag stitch. To carry around, just put your arm through the arm holes and put stuff in through the top (neck opening). Since it is stretchy, it holds a lot. I love this idea. Steve has so many old & new t-shirts that I could make a lot of bags.
What is your favorite t-shirt from your collection?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

I got a better nights sleep last night so I'm not dragging around as much today :-). I promised in my last post to put up some pics of our Labor Day weekend with Kristin, Tim & Jaelyn.
Dakota wanted to snuggle up to Jaelyn. Very curious about her.

Before my daughter & family got to the farm, we set up the queen-size bed in our new, unfinished bedroom area. I finished 2 curtains & started on a third so it made a "nap-friendly" area for Jaelyn. I didn't get a pic before they came, so here is one after we stripped the bed when they left.

We are starting to be able to picture how it will all come together now.

This is the curtains I made from 2 full-size bedsheets. No sewing needed, just open up the side hems at the top & stick a rod through. I used a bamboo pole we had laying around. These all are temporary curtains until I make insulated shades when we live there. We turned on the radiant floor heat & it was nice & toasty for them.

Jaelyn had fun in the new bedroom before going outside to see the horses.

Saturday night we went to the Driftless Cafe in town and had an early night. Sunday we woke up, had a big breakfast & started on the siding. Later we cooked out brats & hot dogs (veggie versions for Steve & I). The co-op in town had a 15th anniversary party so we headed there around 5:30. It was unbelievable how many people were there!
This is part of the line to get in. It's almost a block long. We decided not to wait in line for food so when we got back we heated up the left over pizza from the night before. Tim played with Jaelyn before it was time to put her to bed.
She is starting to anticipate when the "tickles" are coming.
After a beautiful sunset, we headed down the hill to have a campfire. It was partly cloudy with no moon so we could still see quite a few stars. It's a nice, relaxing way to end the evening.
Jaelyn got to pet Mia. Mia was surprisingly calm.

Steve, getting in some Grandpa time.

Monday morning it was time for them to head back home so we harvested some fresh veggies to take with. Kristin is making all Jaelyn's food and we love being able to provide organic produce right out of the garden. They took home, zucchini, winter squash (pumkin & butternut), pototoes and carrots. I was hoping to give them some apples but they all blew off the trees the other night.
It was nice to have family time up at the farm again. Next time they come up Jaelyn will be walking & we hope to have the house put together a little more.
In a couple weeks, Amy & Rob will be coming up to see us for the Vernon County Fair. We are looking forward to that.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I am back home in Illinois after an eventful week at the farm. If you read the previous post, you know about the tornado that burst it's way through our quiet countryside Tuesday night. And if you are a long-time follower, you know about my post traumatic stress disorder from the accident. What does that have to do with the tornado? I am in high gear again. Say "boo" I jump. Loud noise...scared to death. When I was little, I had reoccurring dreams about tornadoes. I am not a huge fan of storms as an adult but have learned not to fear every little storm that comes around. I think I have to start over again. Every time I close my eyes at night, I feel the fear I felt Tuesday night. I hear the tornado. I remember running as fast as I could with the cat in my arms to the basement, not knowing how I made it there so fast without tripping down the stairs. The pressure against the barn as I sat in the basement shaking & dialing the cell phone. The worry of what happened to my neighbors. I know it will eventually fade as time goes by, but for now, ugh, I need to relax.
I talked to Lizzie & Eli & they are both still very shook up. Their clean up is progressing. The buggies are being repaired. As of yesterday, the porch roof is still off but plans are being made to fix it soon. Eli is working on plans for the new barn too. Nancy & Jim had a crew of helpers at their house on Wednesday cutting up trees. He brought me a load of pine needles & wood chips and put them around the blueberry bushes to help the soil acidity. Have I said it before?  I love our neighbors. Lizzie brought us a large amount of homemade butter yesterday right before we left & told me how sorry she was that they didn't check on me right after the storm. I told her that was silly. It was storming until 1 am. No one could go walking around anywhere then.
We were so lucky that my daughter & family were at the farm for Labor Day weekend. Tim helped Steve put up the new pieces of siding.
It was windy on Sunday when they did this. I was glad I wasn't up on the scaffolding with them. It now looks good as new.
Steve & I picked up branches & mowed before we left on Monday. We still have a couple downspouts to fix and a chimney cap to buy along with cutting up a tree that fell in the pasture but we are 100% grateful that that is all we have to do. Eli & Lizzie will be busy for quite some time with repairs around their property. We will do what we can to help them.
I will keep this post short. I am exhausted & need a good night's sleep. Next time I'll post pics of my granddaughter & about what we did besides put up siding while they visited.
Eli's horses pulling the tree from the pasture up the hill.

The path the the twister took. The farm at the top of the hill lost a garage & had a machine shed damaged. Next was Jim & Nancy's , then ours, then Eli's. A farm after Eli's lost a barn & had their orchard destroyed.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This is NOT the Kind of Excitement I Need

So I've been up at the farm for the week, getting things done on my huge "to do" list. If you recall, the last time I was here for a week ( a few weeks ago), we had a pretty intense storm with heavy rain & low, rotating clouds. So Tuesday after I finished painting the ceiling in the new space, I had some dinner and then checked the radar. I have been going to to get video forecasts while I'm at the farm since we don't have TV. They update it fairly regularly. Anyway, it wasn't pretty. I huge line of storms showing red & orange on the radar heading our way. They said it could be strong winds. I saw two of the Amish neighbor boys walking back up the driveway from putting the cows in the pasture and told then to let their mom & dad know in case they needed to put anything away before the storm. I shut all the windows except the two in the "cabin room" where we live while the construction is going on. I heard a loud "wind" noise & the curtains started to blow in a little. I shut the windows, walked back to the couch & the wind hit. It was loud. I thought the building was going to come apart. I grabbed Mia (the cat) & the flashlight & ran down to the basement. I could hear a huge roaring noise that just didn't quit. I was so scared. I could hear a metal-type noise but couldn't figure out what it was. I called Steve as soon as I got Mia in her carrier. The phone was shaking in my hands, I was so freaked out. I'm sure he probably though "she is just scared cause she's there by herself and it is probably nothing." I told him I heard something outside before I ran to the basement like maybe the tree next to the house when down...I wasn't sure.  We talked a few minutes & he called me back 15 minutes or so later. It was still storming, lots of lightening. I sat downstairs for about 45 minutes I think until I decided to be brave & go upstairs & look around. I really didn't know what to expect. I looked at all the windows & none were blown in. Then I went up to the attic & the roof was still on. I was only brave because I was on the phone with Steve. So I didn't see anything that was damaged. I stayed up worrying about the neighbors & how they came through the storm until I finally got sleepy at 1am.
The next morning it was cloudy & I woke up before 7am. As I got out of bed, I looked out the closest window.The tree was still there.  Then I looked out the front window & noticed that the water trough for the horses & cows was gone. I ran over to the window facing Eli & Lizzie's. I knew something was very wrong. I could see their house (usually blocked by trees) but it looked different. The front porch roof was gone and it was too clear in their side yard. I quick got dressed & saw Eli walking down the driveway to Jim's house. I called Steve & told him what I was seeing as I looked around. I saw a piece of red metal in the pasture on the other side of our driveway & told him that it must have blown off our junk pile of stuff. He asked if I had gone outside yet & looked at the building so I walked out & it was a piece of the siding right below where he just put in the new windows.

No wonder I heard a  "metal" sound! I was one the other side of that wall.  There was also a piece of metal way up in a tree between Our house & the neighbor's.
I looked in the front of the barn (where the wind hit) but there was only a downspout damaged. There were a couple trees down in the pasture, the solar panels were okay, the rest of the barn was untouched. By that time Lizzie & a couple of the kids were walking down to see how I was. We all walked up to their house to look at the damage. I will tell you this one was hurt.
Their buggies were crushed by the barn that collapsed.
The roof was torn off the barn and everything thrown around.

Porch roof is laying in the foreground.

They also ran for the basement & stayed there for some time. They were worried about me...I was worried about them.
Neighbor Dave came over then & said he would help whatever way he could. He didn't have any damage at his place. In a half hour or so (thanks to Dave), there were two burly guys at Eli's helping cut up fallen trees in the pasture.  He also took his big end loader up there to help move debris. Jim came there next & told us that most of the large trees in front of his house were down.

At Jim & Nancy's house. Lot's of trees down.

Jim told me of the damage at Mike's house up the road from him.
Garage roof collapsed & machine shed & silos damaged.

As I went into town later that day, I noticed another barn down in the path of the storm.

The neighbor behind us didn't have any damage but a few tree limbs down but she saw the funnel cloud as lightening lit up the sky. Jim's wife saw it too. 

I am so very thankful that no one was hurt and grateful for kind neighbors. They have all offered a place for me to stay if I am frightened.  I am also happy to know that I didn't "freeze" when it hit & reacted correctly by grabbing Mia & running to the basement. ( I have often wondered what I would do)
I found a tomato in the yard by the driveway from the garden as I went to pick up a branch. It looked perfect. I picked it up & it was bruised on the bottom. It had been picked up & dropped by the tornado, and close by, a straw bale was tossed into the driveway and metal was wrapped around a tree 20 feet in the air. Amazing. I write this, I am getting freaked out all over again, so I must stop. I might write more about it some other time, but enough for now. This weekend when my daughter & family come here to visit I will be giving them an extra big hug as I will to everyone I love....and when Steve gets here tomorrow, I think I will feel safe again.