Monday, December 28, 2009

house update . . . day six - nine

Christmas day we attended a church really close to our new house. In the afternoon I went back up to the to do some more work and stayed the night so I could work most of the day Saturday. After coming back home to "freshen up" (there is no plumbing on in the house as well as heat) I went back up to work more and stay the night. Sunday my sister came up to help me for the day, and we had a great time working and talking most of the day. The plan was for me to come home Sunday night, but we had a bit of a snow storm Sunday late afternoon so I decided to stay over again and just continue working. I got most of the downstairs finished with painting, and am excited to get back up there tomorrow to continue getting the rest of the house ready for us to move in.

The plumber came today and isolated more of the bad radiators and deduced that 5 out of the 11 in the house actually work! He turned the boiler system on around 3:00pm and by 4:00pm the radiators that were working were HOT. It felt really good to put my hands on something warm in the house. For the past week I have been using kerosene heaters and a small electric heater to take the edge off the cold in the house. Since it is a chilly 38-40 degrees in the house, it takes the paint a little longer to dry as well. Good thing . . . I can leave my brushes out ALL DAY and they still don't dry up. :)

Yesterday I also installed a wood burning stove in the family room. I bought the used cast iron heat stove from an Amish man on Saturday, so I painted it that night, took it outside and burned wood in it all day Sunday to get most of the paint smell out. That little stove should heat the whole family room and kitchen.

In addition to some of the radiators working, the plumber is going to turn the water on to the house tomorrow. Yeah! That means no more using the camping port-a-potty. For the last few days, while I am staying there, I have been using a portable toilet and using a pot system on the stove for my water supply. The skills I gained while camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with my family has come in handy.

The plan is still to move in by this weekend. I want to be in the house before I go back to school on Monday. That is if I can get enough heat into the house that we feel comfortable to live in, and the water/plumbing is working. I sure hope it comes together before Saturday.

Tonight I spent a little time on the computer answering emails, catching up on my online store, and posting here. As well, I found a craigslist ad for 17 radiators, all working and various sizes, that were taken out of an old house a couple of hours from us here. I'm going to call on them tomorrow to see if he has the size radiators I need. It would be great if I could find just what I needed from his discard pile of radiators. :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

day four and five . . .

Wednesday we worked on getting more of the paper off the walls. I ended up getting some paint to re-motivate us and painted the kitchen and back hallway. It's nice to have something "finished" looking already even if we are still swamped in peeling paper. Wednesday night I brought the family back to our rental house and headed back up to stay the night and do some more work. I worked late, and then worked this morning until this afternoon.

Tomorrow morning we we will go up to a church in the area for service and then have a little Christmas time at the new house. After I drop the family back at home, I'll head back up to stay the night and do some more work. The goal is to get everything done before we move in. All of our earlier moves we worked on the homes as we lived in it, but I want to have this house finished so that when we move in, we just put the items away where they go.

I do need to replace all the old registers in the house before we get the heat turned on. And Saturday I find out when our wood cook stove comes in. I'm hoping that I can get it all done ready to move in by next Friday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

day three . . .

This is the view into the older portion of the house. After coming out of the kitchen and family room new addition, you walk straight though a hallway with the basement door to the right, the master bedroom up a little and to the left, and the room furthest in this picture is the entry way from the front of the house. It is not used as a front entry though because there is no sidewalk leading up to it.

This is the entry room view. Two big windows, a door to the left, and stairs up to the right.

To the left of that room is the formal living room. Both this and the entry way are two of the three rooms downstairs in the 1900 built part.

The third room downstairs, in the older part of the house, is the master bedroom. One of the closets in the room is directly above the stairs from the outside that leads to the basement. So, the ingenious previous owners built a "step up into" closet to store clothes. There are 3 sets of drawers that are around three feet deep, that once you step up into the closet, you pull out. What a great way to use all the space in the closet!

Monday, December 21, 2009

day two . . .

More paper to be peeled off the wall. This day, we peeled the paper in the entry way and most of the paper in the living room. The entry way was a wallpaper peeler's DREAM COME TRUE. For some reason (must of been the kind of paper) it all peeled off in big sheets, and without separating. The living room was a different story. Painstakingly slow to get the vinyl color part off, and tomorrow we will wet the walls down to peel the glue layer. Only 3 bedrooms and a bathroom to go before the paint!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

day one . . .

This was the view today as we pulled up to our new farm home. UNBELIEVABLY pretty with the fresh blanket of snow we got two days ago.

Walking into the side door, there is a bathroom and a "hallway" of sorts that leads to a "T" in the house. It's the separation of the 1900 build, and the new addition to the home.

To the left is the kitchen and family room. Don't let the warmth of the sun shining fool you into thinking that it was warm in the house. It was less than 32 degrees! Since we have radiator heat, and there is a problem with most of the radiators, the water is not on in the home yet. Hence, NO HEAT. Today I brought along some electric heaters and a couple of kerosene space heaters.

Day one consisted of tearing the wallpaper off the kitchen and family room walls and washing out the BEAUTIFUL oak cabinets in the kitchen. Because the house was so cold, the children wore their winter coats while they worked.

Ildi decided to bundle up even more than the children did!

Tomorrow I am going to get an earlier start with the children, and the plumber will be meeting me at the house to help get me some water. :)

in the house . . .

Today, my 45th birthday, will be celebrated by going to our New farm and doing some work. I want to get it ready to move in by the end of December.

For those that don't know me well, you might think that working in a house on my birthday seems like "work" and that doing something special for the day would be fun. Well, working on my home, on my birthday or not, IS a whole bunch of "fun" for me. I love painting walls, cleaning out cabinets, re-arranging furniture, and building things to fit in the home.

Living in a rental house this past year with white walls has taken its toll. (living with white walls is not bad, nor is it like living in a prison camp) But as an artist, the physical aesthetics of a place is extremely important. We have decided on colors to paint, and I just purchased a wood burning stove, and ordered a wood cook stove for us to cook on and to use for heat. It's all really exciting!

On another note . . .

We, the FOUTFOLK, wish everyone a very
Merry Christmas
and a
New Year
filled with God's Peace and Joy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

it's a DONE deal . . .

Trust me, I had my doubts. I'm not sure why, but I had this little conversation of doubt during this whole process of purchasing this farm. Not that I was not trusting God. Not that I doubted that it would happen. But I had this little doubt that was still nagging during this entire time. I think it was due to renting for so long and living in temporary situations for the last 2 1/2 years. My view of what was normal had changed. Actually, 3 years ago in January I was aware that we would be moving out of California. So this January it will be 3 years that it has taken us to get into our family farm. Three years of uncertainty is a long time for me. I honestly don't see how others who live in transit situations do it. It would be a huge stress for me.

Today we signed the title and I signed the formal loan document. What's crazy is that our loan payment here for our 31 acre farm is half of what my renters pay for a 1500 sq. foot home on less than 1/4 of an acre in Los Angles. What a huge difference.

Saturday we are going up to the home to start on the cleaning and painting process. We want to get everything (most everything) done BEFORE we move in. I'll be sure to take some photos and post them here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

closing the deal . . .

It's all coming down to the survey. As soon as it comes in, we are closing on the farm deal!

On Thursday we have an appointment with the Title Company to sign off on our new purchase. We should be able to get the keys by Friday, then we are free to move in anytime after that. I have written out a "work" plan for us to get started on and am glad that I will have Christmas break to do it. I really want to get a decorated Christmas Tree in our new home by this weekend, play some music, eat some cookies, and work on it to move in by the end of December. We plan to peel the wallpaper and paint before we move in.

This move will be nice because we are only moving 45 minute away form our rental farm. The last two moves out of the state was hard having to get everything into one gigantic move. This time, we can take our time and move things slowly and not be rushed to get it done.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

updates on the homestead . . .

When you buy a house from Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) it is always with the intention of buying it "As Is." Fannie Mae, owned by private investors, buys homes that are heading towards foreclosure so that money is still available for people to borrow for home purchasing. (just a little about the many things Fannie Mae was created for)

This farm we just purchased was in that same situation. The previous owners were not able to keep the place for some reason, so Fannie Mae picked it up. I knew that when working with a corporation instead of a family owned house that I was buying it as is and would get no help with anything that needed repaired in the home.

Two weeks ago we got the word that the boiler/radiator heating system needed work before we could heat the house. The inspector was unable to check the water system during his inspection and recommended that I get a plumber to come in and give me a professional opinion on what the problems were. So I did. When we were at the house, it toook him a few hours to locate the problems, come up with a solution, and a quote on what it would cost us to get EVERYTHING up running and up to code in the house. I expected it to be a large number, and it was! 10K would do the trick. OUCH! Knowing that this was the house we all want to live in (the rest of my life) I thought it to be doable.

As I was working through more of the paperwork necessary for the loan to close, I got a check up call from my realtor. He said the plumber hired by Fannie Mae was going to the house the next day to fix the radiator system as per their request. Confusing, but who's to complain about them fixing things in the house that I am purchasing. The realtor even called me and asked if I wanted old style radiators to replace the ones that don't work, or new updated ones. What has been interesting in this whole situation is that someone is footing the bill for all this work to be done to the house that I agreed to buy "As Is." In addition to figuring out the heating system, which will need more work that he'll get to this next week, he has aslo fixed SEVERAL other of the plumbing issues of the home that I had gotten a quote on. I told the realtor to have the plumber keep a list of the items he has attended to so I can check them off my list of things to get fixed. The realtor has no idea why Fannie Mae is deciding to do this work in the house. They have not done it with any other As Is home he has sold. However, we know the source of this work on our behalf. God has orchestrated yet another way for Him to show His kindness to us.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

trip to historical Ohio . . .

Sunday morning milking is done and I am waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. It is wonderful to be up so early relaxing, collecting thoughts about the day's activities, and praying/thanking the Lord for what He has done for us and in us. And life on the homestead here is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It's 19 degrees!

Yesterday I took some Amish friends to the historical Holmes County Ohio to do some shopping. It's an hour and one half drive from here and they usually want to go every three to four months. The ladies I took this time have small country stores and buy bulk items there to sell in their stores here to the local community. I ended up buying a few items for some friends and getting the children some warmer winter hats. I also bought a few antique photos from an antique shop that i plan to use as cards.

Speaking of antiques, Roseville Ohio was once the site for a pottery company named after the town. The Roseville Pottery Company was a 19th and 20th century American pottery manufacturer that made mostly housewares. But later on, like most companies, the company started to create decorative art pieces. I ended up getting three of these fabulous looking Arts and Craft style pitchers for only $3 dollars at a used clothing store a few weeks ago! When at the Berlin Antique Mall yesterday in Holmes County, I saw a pitcher the same as the one I have, and it was $35.00 dollars. I love deals like that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

renegade chickens . . .

This week will be our last week for chicken butchering. Since we've started, we have probably processed around 50 birds altogether.

Tonight my job was to find out where the RENEGADE chickens roosted for the evening. These are the cocks that we let roam the land and forage for food. We see them throughout the day sometimes in the fields, and sometimes on the property. They usually travel within a two mile radius but they always return to the same spot each night to sleep. So tonight, as the sun went down, I walked out closely to see where they laid their heads down for the night. Apparently it is in the drainage tile on the side of the road! Here I am riding Lady right by the place they call "home" for the night.

I watched four of them cautiously circle around the ditch while they watched me, and then saw one quickly slip into the tile. I stalked them a bit and finally caught one for butchering tomorrow night. I ended up catching three more tonight that roost near the chicken mobile as well. (there is a reason why you catch them at night; they are laying down and trying to sleep) It makes it a WHOLE lot easier to catch a chicken when they are not running from you. :)

I decided to butcher a few each night after school and give the children a break from the smells and mess of it all. The girls are especially thankful. :)

a few more won't hurt . . .

Since we already have animals, I decided to let the children get a dog. One more animals couldn't hurt huh?

My neighbor's mother had gotten a dog that was a little frisky than what she planned. She told her son she was going to get rid of it, and he mentioned it to me. Last week we went to see her, me and the children, and decided to give her a try at the farm. We kept her tied up for a few days, and the children led her around the property so she could get the smells and the sounds of our place here. We didn't want her running off and trying to find her other home.

It has been just over a week and we are working with her not to chase the chickens around the yard. These past few days she has done well. However, yesterday she chased a cock around and actually picked it up by it's neck. It looked like she killed it, but after we got to her we realized that it just played lame the way chickens do when faced with the pecking order. the rest of the day yesterday and some today she has to spend tied up to get the idea that she is NOT allowed to mess with our food supply!

In addition, we attracted a stray dog as well. A lot of times people who don't want their animals drive to the country, and drop animals off to fend for themselves. I am not sure why, but it seems like they think it is more humane to abandon it rather than putting it down, or taking it to the dog pound. Anyway, for the first two or three days we just ignored it. It stayed close to the house, was very friendly, and when led down the road, still returned. After a little debate, and after calling the warden to have it picked up, we decided to keep her as well.

It seems that both dogs get along well and it gives them a running mate to play with.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

an old window pane . . .

It's nice to have the same usual Thanksgiving dinner every year, and look forward to the familiar tastes and textures of food. It always takes me back to earlier celebratory times we have had as a family with the same smells in the house.

In addition to the regular Thanksgiving foods, this year we added some fresh lettuce from our garden garnished with delicious homemade dressing. In NOVEMBER when it is 38 degrees outside!

After some reading about cold frames, Ildi come up with this idea of growing food under glass. This lettuce is her first attempt of stretching out the growing season in a cold zone. Here our lettuce is in the ground as usual, but is covered with an old window pain to allow the sunlight to get through. Today I added the dirty straw from the horse stable around the cinder block base to shield the current icy rain from freezing it. We'll see how long we get to eat fresh lettuce. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

a note to friends . . .

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

We hope your celebration time is filled with God's peace, a thankful heart, and laughter on your lips.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

everything working out . . .

It seems that everything is working out for this move. Thanks to all of you who have been praying for us. I've found renters for the CA house, have gotten all the information needed for the loan, have the inspection tomorrow, and get to move in right around Christmas break time. Could not have orchestrated it better than the way it is falling together now. Thanks be to God for His handiwork!

Monday, November 23, 2009

the real work starts now . . .

Now the real work has started. I forgot how much work it takes to get loans from a bank. It's a good thing that I have paperwork in order here at home. Trying to find tax bills, pay stubs, and things like that are sometimes crazy if they are not in an organized place.

Wednesday we have the house inspected. I get out of school around 10:00 am to hang an art show, then will be on my way up to the house to see what all I need to fix. I have a few more things to turn in to the credit union and then it will be all about the packing . . . again. This time, hopefully, will be the last one. The thought of spending twenty or more years in a home sounds peaceful. (the longest we lived at any one place was 5 years)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

it's official . . .

IT'S OFFICIAL . . . We're moving to the country south of Defiance!

I got word today that Fannie Mae officially accepted our offer and we are moving forward to the purchase of our farm. Whew! It's been a long time coming.

Today I drove up to the realtor's office and signed the purchase agreement and wrote him a check for a HUGE amount as a deposit. I am going to be getting a loan, so we are not paying cash for it yet. In a few years, I plan to sell the house we own in CA and then pay off the loan amount here. Hopefully my scheme will work out. :) Here are some photos of the home front.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

unoffically YES! . . .

According to the realtor . . . unofficially . . . WE GOT THE FARM!

Now the quick work needs to happen. Approving loan info, signing more papers, and anticipation for the the final word.

Monday, November 16, 2009

letter of approval . . .


This "finding a house/farm thing" is getting old! I think sometimes the emotional parts of it are harder than the physical work of moving all of our stuff. We have spent a year and four months looking for that perfect place and now are in the mix of getting/or not getting THIS place.

Friday night I drove up to Defiance to put an offer on this house. At that point, we were the only ones interested in the place. (here's a picture of one of the barns on the property. . . during the bicentennial, the state paid for one barn to be painted in each county. . . this barn was chosen for Defiance County) I told the realtor that I would be able to get a letter of approval by the early part of the week. Well, last night I spent some time online applying at the credit union I am a part of. Long story short, I got a letter of approval that I printed and emailed to the him. He called last night to let me know that another person (someone from California) also put a bid on the property. Now it has become a realtor game of "highest and best."

All highest and best offers are due in by 3:00 pm tomorrow and then Fannie Mae (the owner of the deed) decides who gets the house." Life is sure full of excited waiting times!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

in a variety of ways . . .


Here's the gurney I found in the barn after we cleaned it. I started sanding it off so I can wheel it around and use it in a variety of ways. The most exciting thing I have thought about for its use is a MOBILE CHICKEN PLUCKING STATION. I thought about cutting a square out of the center and putting a stainless steel sink in the middle. If I did that, I could wheel it over to the outside water supply and have a movable sink to wash up the birds.

Any other ideas for this FABULOUS find? (no comments like "Yeah, throw it away . . . it's yucky!" please)

Friday, November 13, 2009

what we've been looking for . . .



Lady is the newest addition to our family of animals. We got her today, after I came home from looking at the house/farm I am going to put an offer on at 5:00 pm today. What a day of excitement!

Earlier this week Ildi found a house on the market that I later called on. We went to visit it, and both Ildi and I felt like it the house that we have been looking for. The children all said they really liked it as well. It is on a busier road than what we want, but has all the other things we have been looking for in a homestead. 31 acres, fenced pasture, open pasture, large barns, 5 bedrooms, and three bathrooms. Hopefully this one will be the one that we actually purchase, move into, and settle our lives into an area of this world. And hopefully for a LONG while!

As well, I told the children if they cleaned out the barn here at the farm, I would buy them a horse. Well, they worked hard cleaning out all the junk, shoveling out the dirt/glass/and trash, and so I made good on my word and picked her up today. Today we rode her a bit and all were excited to take turns riding her around the place.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

a good experience . . .

Several changes have happened over the last few days. The biggest being that our first born is now DRIVING! What a trip.

Saturday we went to the BMV and Nolan did well on his written test. I told him if he passed, I would take him on a drive with me that day and have him drive the entire time. Since he passed, he drove us to a small town about an hour from where we live. We dropped off an amish lady so she could visit her family. It was a good experience for him to not only drive on the country roads, but also to drive through the center of some towns.. I am also excited because this means when I need someone else to drive besides Ildi or I, we have someone to call on. :)

Our chickens started laying this week. The children found 3 eggs in the barn (a place they should not be laying them) and were shocked that they found a different spot to put them. Over the next few weeks we have to be diligent to keep the hens in during the day so they will get the idea that we want them to put their eggs in the nesting boxes. All this so we don't have to run around the property trying to do the fall version of an Easter egg hunt.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

a few days visit . . .

Miss Leisa came to visit us again while she was on ANOTHER one of her many travels. Must be nice to take work off and travel the world huh?

We first met Leisa when she was a tenny little 16 year old exchange student from Down Under. She came to stay with us for a month during the summer, and since then, we have stayed in touch. This year, she decided to "pop in" on us at the farm on her way back home from another world tour and visit for a few days. Little did she realize that she was going to be doing some real, down to earth, homesteading activities. Along with milking Janey, she has ridden the go-cart around the property, and tomorrow she will butchering her own chicken. Nolan is also going to teach her how to shooot a rifle! She is going to go back home with lots of stories and new experiences to share.

Friday, October 16, 2009

training time for everyone . . .


Officially her name is Intercept Golden Jana (American Jersey Cattle Association) and she is a Registered Jersey. The previous owner called her Baby Jane, but since she has had a couple of calves, we decided to call her Janey.

It seems that what we have been doing is working. And we are learning quite a bit about her. The first few days were a little rough being new at the milking thing, and the whole cow thing, however, after a week of it, it's running pretty sMOOth.

The children are taking turns, like everything else, by milking on their day of the week. Years ago we assigned a day to each child to have for their day to pray, get the mail, and things like that. Well, it was only natural to let them milk on their day as well. Nolan is taking on most of the work and he is the constant milker along with me. In the evenings, the others join in to get the practice to be able to milk her by themselves. It's a training time for everyone.

The first few times Janey moved around ALOT and it was like milking in a moving van. She wanted lots of feed (which is like candy for her) and was ready to move on real quickly. Now she is eating her small cup of grain we give her, and patiently standing and waiting for us to get our work done. And currently, she is giving us about a gallon and a half per milking. We are almost swimming in milk! The benefit of having her as well is that we are able to have cream regularly for our coffee without going to the store, and the children have been making really rich BUTTER from the cream as well. What a treat.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

hard to believe . . .


SHE'S HERE! SHE'S HERE! SHE'S HERE!

Two years in the thinking, planning, and praying, and finally the time has come for us to get our milk cow. It's hard to believe she is actually here.

Janey came to us last night via a wonderful young couple from Leesburg, Ohio. Last Wednesday, I took a half day off from school to drive down to their farm and look at the Jerseys they were selling. My neighbor Steve went with me to help me since he has had quite a bit of experience with animals, including cows. I decided to get the one they took to the local elementary to let the kindergarten students milk. He said she was real calm and would make a great family cow.

It has been fun to watch the children dawdle over her already. Milking her this morning and evening was a real learning experience for them. The morning milking yielded a couple of cream filled gallons. However, this evening's milking was a bust not being able to keep her feet out of the milk pail. :) The things you learn in a day with a cow.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

hole in my pants . . .

The same morning that the chicken incident happened, I also had a little accident at school. In the process of cleaning up the storage area of the art room, I was taking a poster filing cabinet off the table to store it in a different place. (I needed the counter space and the cabinet looked a little shabby as well) As I was pulling it off the counter, I realized that it was a "little" heavier than what I expected, so I used my knee to hold it up and lower it slowly . . . stopping it from crashing on the floor and putting a hole through it! The last few seconds of the descend it ripped a hole in my pants at the knee, and finally dropped to the floor. "Whew . . . that is over" I thought to myself as I wiped the sweat from my forehead. A minute later my knee area started filling up with blood. I sat down on a small stool, raised my pant leg and noticed that I had torn the skin on my knee all the way to the cartilage! About an inch long altogether. Blood was soaked into my pants at the knee, and was now running down my leg. It's a good thing I did not panic, because right then, my third grade came into the class for art.

Long story short . . . even though I was advised by the school nurse to go the emergency room where I should have gotten 5 to 10 stitches to close the wound, being the MacGyver kind of guy that I am, I just used some bandages and some tape for a make-shift butterfly to close the wound and to keep my knee from bending. And one week later . . . God has brought about a complete healing! Don't hate me Mrs. Thompson.

Friday, October 2, 2009

right on top . . .

Today we had our first chicken tragedy. It was one of those situations that had we been a little more prepared it wouldn’t have happened. Since we've been raising chickens, we have only lost a few to inexperience; splayed legs, accidents, and a few things we don't understand about birds. But last night we had a situation that caused the loss of 4 of our meat birds. Not a good thing.

I bought a new tarp to cover the birds and to keep the elements away from them. Elements like ripping winds and rain that is harsh at times. The wind and rain out here is vicious! The tarp I bought big, and was very sturdy. I was really happy about my purchase and was excited to show Nolan . I brought it home, and Nolan fitted it perfectly onto the chicken “play yard.” Last night we had quite a bit of rain, and the tarp collected a whole bunch of it. RIGHT ON TOP! It probably collected it because it had a flat roof. Duh! When Nolan went out to check on the birds this morning, the top of the structure was broken in and the birds were all huddled in the corner and were wet and cold. One of them had died. (the fact that it was 45° and rainy didn’t help the situation) We spent about a half hour changing the structure to another one we had and trying to get the birds under the lights and sheltered from the rain. What a mess!

When I got home from school today Nolan told me that three more had died. :(

Sunday, September 27, 2009

as a family . . .

Another weekend to rest around the farm. :)

Yesterday my mother came out to visit AGAIN! I am pretty excited that she takes the time to come and visit. When we lived in Los Angeles, she came to visit a total of 8 times during the 21 years I lived there. Seems like such a small time to spend. And it was. However, since we are now local, she has made it a point to come and visit several times so far. I like it for many reasons. The children have never really spent any time with relatives at ALL. Ildi's brother and sister don't have children and never visit so that means no cousins or aunts and uncles to rub elbows with. And since my family lived so far away, we rarely made it across the nation as a family. The last few years Ildi's mom visited us more often, and we have all not met her dad due to an early car accident death. So, having grandma here is really a treat for them. It is good for them to hear the stories of my youth. My mother tells them of when I was young and the types of things I did. For good and bad. It is great for them to hear about me being just like them! I also like that they get to learn new things from grandma. As well as learn how to treat elderly people. There is such a benefit to having older people in and around your life.

As well, yesterday we went to pick up around 300 pounds of feed for the chickens. We had been getting the feed from our neighbor, but I decided that I would save him from picking it up for me and go to the source myself. We are getting feed from a local "natural" farmer who is growing and grinding his own feed. It is extremely interested to get involved with the processes involved and learn as much as possible about this whole thing called HOMESTEADING.

Today I am going to be doing a little plumbing work in this old house, and then we will probably spend a relaxing day outside by the fire. Hope your Lord's Day is restful, contemplative, and honoring.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

over the barns . . .

A few more fun things to do to before the cold winter comes! All the children have been on a bow and arrow kick for the last few days. They are finding sticks in the woods and making all the parts of their Bows and Arrows set themselves. I guess the big fascination is to see who makes the arrows that fly the furthest. They are using their knives we bought them for Christmas last year to whittle the wood down, and the pencil sharpener to sharpen the arrows that they have adorned with electrical tape and feathers from the chickens. They have been shooting them at targets, over the barns and house, and as far into the sky as they can. Kids gone shooting crazy.

In addition to the shooting that is happening, this summer my sister let us use her go-cart that she had for her son. Since he is college now, and they live in the city, she decided to "store" it out here on the farm. This whole summer the children have been riding it around the property, and enjoying learning how to drive it. Nolan has actually been learning a little auto mechanics on the side as a benefit of having it. He has also mowed a path through the tall weeds as a track for the transporters to follow. Macy and Asher are now driving it by themselves, and just today I solicited a ride from one of the new drivers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

playing with fire . . .

Since the weather has been getting a little cooler, I have been spending time on the weekends building fires in the pit out on the side of the house. I LOVE building fires, and living out here where no one is around, reminds me of our camping times in the Sierra Nevada Mountain in California.

In addition to me loving fires, it seems EVERY single child of mine loves building them too. What does a parent do when children love to play with fire? Well, I let them play with fire! (I do watch them in case you are worried) On occasions in the mornings, I let them take kindling and start the fire again from the hot embers from the night before. As well, they also play with "fire sticks." Fire sticks are sticks of their choice that they poke in the fire until the end starts to burn. After it catches on fire, they "write" in the air with the smoke, they start other parts of the wood on fire, and all other kinds of cool things. Gresham is allowed to pick up any bark or wood he finds and throw it in. What a joy it is to watch children "play" with something so potentially dangerous and have a respect for it at the same time. My attitude and thinking is that they will learn the respect needed for fire by getting experience working with it. And the benefit is that each one of them can build a really mean fire!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

the "horse" bug . . .

Part of the joy of living in the country is doing things that we have not done before. Like riding horses. Last weekend, and some today, the family got the chance to ride some of the neighbor's horses. Just recently they purchased two new ones and have been letting the children ride them when we visit. I have to admit, it has sparked the "horse" bug in me and I am REALLY open to buying a horse for the children, Ildi, and ME to ride and enjoy.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

at their stations . . .

Yesterday was another processing day for us out here. Since last weekend was our VERY first time and we only got to 6 chickens to put in the freezer, this week we needed to finish the rest of the batch. Altogether, we purchased 25 birds, one died, so that left us with 17 to process. The day was great for the job. A little breeze, cool, and the sun was out all day. This time the children and I decided to work at stations to make the job a little easier, quicker, and do the jobs that we all find the easiest. Below the children are at each of their stations, along with help from grandma, and we went through the whole process in three hours. Start to finish. That means bleeding, scalding, hand-plucking, dressing, and ready for the freezer in 3 hours. For those that have processed chickens before, this might not seem quick at all. But, for us city-turned-country folk . . . I thought it was a great time! Here are some stats to get you motivated to raise your own meat.

Average pounds: 6
Cost per pound: $1.05
Time investment: 8 weeks

Asher: Scalding, removing feet and head, loosening craws, removing oil glands.


Macy: Evisceration. removing and saving gizzards, hearts, necks, and liver. removing all other parts and cleaning inside out.


Amory (and Grandma): Removing feathers and layer of oily skin.


Nolan: Bleeding out chickens.

From our last experience, we learned a few things that were necessary while we all worked. Maine took on the job of watching and keeping Gresham busy, and helped to keep the cats maintained. This time we put the cats into an outdoor cage to keep them off the chicken things!

Since the last post, we received another 25 birds and are starting the process all over again. Along with our just-now processed meat, the half batch of other birds we have, and this new bunch of 25, we will have total of 60 to 75 birds in the freezer for the following year as well as our 15 or so layers to keep us in eggs. Seems like tons of meat, but for a family of eight, that really is only 1 to 2 chicken dinners per week. Nolan did that math cost analysis for the whole process and decided that if he did this whole process himself, he would make $510.00 every eight weeks. Not bad for 1/2 hours worth of work each day, and a few hours work on butchering day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

capturing video . . .

This is were technology meets the country! Tonight, I watched part of the Star Wars Episode III out by the fire. Using a LCD projector, my laptop, and some speakers, I captured the screen on the side of the big barn out back. It was sort of the test run before I let my family watch a movie at the FOUTFOLK CAMPFIRE THEATER. I walked down the lane out to the road to see how the image looked on the side of the barn. The image projected to a 40 x 60 foot size. It was like I was at the Drive-in-Movies! I think we will have one movie night outside to rap up the summer season, and then get prepared for the upcoming COLD.

Monday, August 31, 2009

what to do . . .

Yesterday was an interesting day mostly because it was really cold outside, and it felt like camping weather. The sun was shining brightly, the breeze was blowing, and there was a chill of fall coming right across the fields. So on a day like that, what is one to do in the country?

Well, to begin with, for such a cool day I built a fire. After it was tended to a bit, I altered and added some details to our butchering station. Seems like I got the "chicken" fever now! I stained the wood a dark walnut oil to help diffuse the red color and to make the drippings a little easier to clean up. In addition, I added a wooden decorative finial, some burnt coffee cans to catch the drips, and some more wood for the footing to make it more stable (and give it a Frank Lloyd Wright design look) As an artist, it's hard just to make things functional without making it aesthetically nice as well. Beauty and function is my motto.

After that project, I decided to butcher another chicken to practice cutting the bird into parts. Here's the result of my work. Two legs, two wings, two boneless breasts, two tenders, and a neck. Looks like it came right out of the store!

I had to take it one step further and grill the fresh chicken on the open fire. I had a make-shift grill on the fire I started in the morning, and the embers were ready to cook the meat. Ildi decided that she also wanted me to cook some steak.

While I was cooking and tending to the dinner, I let the boys practice a little before this upcoming hunting season. It is fun to watch them them scope in their rifles and work at hitting their targets.


We had a short visit from the neighbors after supper to make this one of the most pleasant days I have had. As we were sitting out by the fire while the sun went down, both my neighbor and I thought "It doesn't get much better than this!"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

the learning curve . . .

Wow did we ever learn a heep tonight after going through our very FIRST butchering session! It was one of those times that as we were doing it, we were already making changes for the next time we process birds. It's a good thing that we only went through a few birds to learn some needed, valuable steps for next time we work on it. I started off demonstrating the way to bleed, scald, and pluck the feathers first. The children were a little nervous, and excited, to process their own birds.

Grandma came over for a visit today not knowing that we were going to be butchering. She helped out by giving the children encouragement and instruction on taking out the pin feathers. Notice the bird in the cone behind her. :) The first attempt at bleeding taught us that we needed to cut the cones shorter so we could get their heads out the bottom of the cone. And as well, that we needed sharper knives. I had an Amish friend of mine build me the cone station were we can process four birds at a time.


The children did a god job working through the whole process from start to finish of the whole butchering process. Next time we are going to work at individual stations to make it run a little smoother, do the jobs we are good at, the work we like best in the process, and to get more done in less time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

sharpen your knives . . .

This first week of school is now over and I am actually looking forward to starting next week. I am teaching at two different schools, and am working with elementary students this year. What is making me excited about work is the amount of enthusiasm and support I am receiving at both schools. Not only are people excited that I am working there, but I am also getting the chance to use the technology equipment that it stored. Why is it stored away you ask? Because it is new technology that teachers are not familiar with. Hopefully I can entice some of the staff to use it, and have it make their teaching delivery more engaging.

On the home front, we are one day away from butchering our meat birds. Last night the children and I watched a couple of youtube videos done by the Salatin family on processing chickens. Tonight they sharpened their knives and have been getting they other essentials ready for the big day. I'll be sure to capture some photos of the event. It really has been a long time coming!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

all together . . .

The mad rush was on yesterday. Since I moved schools this year, and went down to teaching the elementary students instead of teaching at the middle school. Instead of teaching at one school full time, I am teaching at two schools part time to make a full time position. What that means, is that I have to set up two rooms for art. For the past few days I have been working on making two sets of everything, like procedures and rules, and today need to split up all my materials to accommodate each school. I am almost done with one school, and on Monday I need to set up the other classroom. School starts the following day so I need to get a move on it!

On the home front we have been gleaning lots of vegetables from the garden. Notice the family collecting the potatoes we harvested this year. All together we probably grew three bushel of them. Next year we will have to plant way more than that to create a surplus for winter, and to keep some for seed.


And Macy celebrated her twelfth birthday this year. Lemon pie was the "cake." We had the neighbors over for supper and desert to commemorate the event. Small event celebration. . . but nice!


I'll upload a few more pictures on my FB account of the things here around the farm.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

a few new things . . .

A few new things to post about this late Saturday morning.

Grandma's visit for a few days was pleasant. She was also surprised how nice it was to be in the country! When we talked, she said she was not sure how she would like being in a place that was so quiet. For example, only a few cars go down our road a day. She is used to traffic noise all day, and most of the night. She also falls asleep to the sound of the television. She is a news junkie, and like most people, has the TV on all day for background noise. Well, at our house, we haven't had a television for several years. No background noise happens here except the cicadas, occasional birds, and children. The first night she said it was difficult to fall asleep. After the first two days, she started to acclimate to the "no noise" sound of the country.


The chickens (meat birds) are getting close to butchering. I have three weeks to solidify the process of dressing out the entire bird. Two weeks ago, I visited a new friend's home while he was butchering. After he dressed out the first one, he walked me through the process of going from start to finish on butchering. It wasn't difficult at all, and I feel somewhat confident about butchering my own now. I do want to spend some time learning all the part of the insides so I can use it as a biology lesson for the children.

Schools about ready to start. Next week I will report for the teacher in-service days and then the students come the following Monday. This year my time is split between two schools, and I will be working with the kindergarten through fourth grade students. I am glad that I won't have as much of the attitude the junior high students had last year.

This summer has been full of making and shipping art. In addition, I started "hauling" for the first time. By "hauling," (the term the Amish use to describe driving them places) I have visited Indiana and several areas of Ohio that I had not previously seen before. Not only have I visited new places, but I have also learned a lot more about the Amish culture. Years ago, I knew quite a bit about the Amish folks, but now after being friends with so many families, I feel like I know more about who and what they are, because I know them personally, and have had long conversations about their lifestyle and belief systems.


And lastly, I finally hired a property management company to rent my California house. It is so hard finding and dealing with renters so far away that I decided to give someone a chance to do it for me. Last year, it sat empty for most of the year, and then a family needing a "quick fix" rented it for a few months. Hopefully the company can get a family in it that is willing to stay for a few years until the market for homes changes a bit. I intend on keeping it for awhile longer, and then completely cutting the ties with banks and properties in CA. Being a landlord from afar is not going to work for me. :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

grandma's visit . . .

The last couple of days has been a nice treat for us out here in the country. Grandma came to visit!

On Thursday afternoon, we went to Columbus to pick Grandma up. She flew in from Los Angeles, and will be staying until Tuesday. This is her first trip out here to visit, and her first experience with us living on the farm.

Monday, August 3, 2009

spending time . . .

Years ago I used to volunteer to do a lot of the extra-curricular things at school. The Yearbook was one of those jobs. One of the great pains of doing the yearbook for a school is that it was due right around Spring Break time. So inevitably, I would spend some of my break time finishing the yearbook before going back to school. At times, if I didn't finish the page layouts then, I would mentally punish myself saying that "I need to get them done" and then drag them back to school when break was over only to finish them for the next two weeks AFTER SCHOOL! Meanwhile, my break time was not mentally relaxing at all.

In another snippet, Christmas break was always fun except for the part where I would count the days of break I had left dreading that as each day passed, I was one day closer to going back to work.

Summer break was the same. Time off, relaxing, going places, doing things, and the nagging notion that it would one day end and I would have to be back at my post at school.

I am writing about these mental gymnastic ideas to talk about a change that happened in my thinking years ago. It has been extremely helpful, and after you experience the same change, you to will find that your time spent "at work" and "at home" will be much more meaningful, pleasurable and productive.

The first change came with a change of phrases. When I worked in the restaurant industry, people used to say "I have to work" when talking about what shift they were working. I decided to change my phrase to "I get to work." Seems small and insignificant, but it sure did change my attitude about going to work. I no longer wasted my off work time by dreading the fact that in a few hours I needed to go to work. Simple action with huge results. I used the time I had off instead of wasting it thinking and dreading about going to work.

The second change came with taking work home from school on my off time to "catch up" on. The yearbook example above is a great illustration. I spent most of my break time badgering myself about what I needed to get done instead of spending time relaxing and getting refreshed to go back and teach again. And then there was the paper grading guilt. I took papers home each evening to grade thinking that I was going to grade them after the children went to bed. By that time, I was tired too, and should have been going to bed as well. Instead, I spent time punishing myself that I again did not do it, and then added the EXTRA work of hauling the papers back and forth to school. Undone. Now I don't take any work home from school. School work stays at school, and home work is at home. What I don't get done at school simply waits until the next day. It has helped me to be more productive at school, and instead of choosing to relax and talk with colleagues, I do some of that work knowing that my time spent there affects my time spent at home.

I could give you several other examples that detail how thinking affects the physical circumstances of your life. I think though, the point has been made. In summary, the way we choose to THINK about our time, directly affects the way we SPEND our time. We all have the same 24 hour period. It doesn't slow down, or speed up for anyone. Each of us "has" time to do the things we want to do. The question is . . . "Are we doing what we want to do?" If not, it is time for a change.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

inspiration . . . be inspired . . .

I recently received an email from young lady we hosted as an exchange student. She wrote that she reads our blog, and has been inspired by it several times. This is part of the response I sent back.
The blog, which chronicles our "move to the country" was intended to do just that. To inspire. Not necessarily to inspire others to move to the country, (which is a good move) but to inspire others to do what they set their hearts on doing. In contrast, fear usually grips people and they feel stuck with fulfilling their family mission. They are afraid of the financial aspect of moving, of losing friends, and just plain afraid of change . . . I know so many people that feel stuck doing what they feel like they have to do, instead of what they want to do. Certainly I am not talking about being irresponsible, but given that God gives us plenty of choices in our lives, we get to decide how we are going to spend our time. This blog has been a great testimony of our desires turning into reality. We set out to value something and have now started that process with our actions.
Many times we think that our lives have been planned for us, and that we are bound by some, or if not all of our circumstances. And sometimes we feel that God has given us a "lot" in life and we must endure it, whether we like it or not. Truth is, God has given us aspects of our lives to sanctify us, challenge us, and mold us. But then He has also given us free will to choose many parts of how we will live. Choosing to do some things as a family means that you are also going to be choosing NOT to do some things with others. That's not new news. Fear however, should not guide our beliefs and actions. Values should. For example, if you value family and family time, where is your family and how much time do you spend with your family members? What kinds of relationships do you have inside your family unit?
This year has been a wonderful challenge for me and my family. Being out in the country, and pretty much on our own, our time is not filled with church meetings, visits from friends, running to the stores, decorating, beach visits, and the usual busy lifestyle that we are all accustomed to. In fact, a lot of time is spent here together, doing things around the place. Deciding on the best way to house the chickens, watering and weeding the garden, and keeping up with the daily tasks of laundry, meals, and cleaning to name a few. This time together gives us PLENTY of time to rub elbows, AND to get on each others nerves. This has been a time for us to really see, and evaluate, what kind of family relationships we have. Sad to say, they are not great. Sad to say, we don't have the model family that others should emulate. We have a family of self-serving sinners that need grace from God to recognize the value and the need of each other. We have the desire to function well as a family unit, and we are getting the opportunity to work on it without most of the distractions we have had in the past. I knew this move to the country was going to require some change physically and was up for the challenge. I am looking forward to how it will develop emotionally, spiritually, and relationally as well. :)
Inspiration . . . be inspired.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

the creative process . . .

I like how I am all over the page with blog posts. Sometimes chickens, sometimes art, sometimes gardens . . . there just seems to be a potpourri of things to write about.

When I first started blogging, and throughout this process, I have sometimes thought about always staying to a certain theme. Helpful messages, chronicling our lives . . . you know, st
ay on topic like a good writer. I wrote something like this before, but it is nice just to write what pops in your head, spur of the moment kind of thinking and sharing.

Years ago when I tutored young students, I had them do this type of writing to start the creative process. I called it a Fast Write. The first few minutes of our session they wrote anything they wanted in a fast write journal. The goal was to get them thinking and putting thoughts into words on the page. I told them to not worry about spelling and grammar, but to concentrate on communicating what they wanted to say. We sometimes went back and
edited it later, but most times just left it as is. If they had no thoughts, and didn't know what to write, they were instructed to write "I don't know what to write" as many times as they could in the five minute exercise. After a couple of times doing that, they got tired of it and came up with something to say. I also wrote at the same time, practicing putting my thoughts on paper. I have/had so many pages of notebook paper filled with crazy writings, just like this. Maybe one day I'll post some of them here.

Here is another scribble portrait I did for a friend to give away as a wedding gift. A simple drawing of the couple, and a themed gift that matches the wedding invitation. I felt like I grew on this project and went somewhere I have not been creatively. Since I did not know the couple, or their style/tastes, I used the invitation to direct me. What came out was a packaged product that I was REALLY happy with. The drawing, card, frame, and
embellishments were all themed to match, and it came together almost like the Fast Writes from years ago. I just started . . . and then something came out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

personal, creative art . . .

This is the final piece . . . mat, frame, glass, and embellished with the person's name. These are the kinds of personal, creative artworks that I love to make for others.