Is this for you?!

This is for you, if you have the following: a sense of humor, understanding of sarcasm, if you aren't easily offended by what is reality in my world and if you like to follow someone else's life so you don't have to think about the pile of laundry, sink full of dirty dishes, overflowing trashcans, unkempt lawn, dusty surfaces and unswept floors at your own house! Oh, and if you can handle this girl referring to herself in the 3rd person...(see, not for everyone!) This is not for you if: you can't handle all of the above (and more). For those of you who can, welcome to my world friends! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why Farmers Don't Wear Flip Flops...

While our farm came pretty well 'move-in ready', there were a few things that we wanted to change/update.  One of them was the landscaping.  I mean, I realize that red pricker bushes were 'in' in the 90's, but I hate them and they are a threat to myself and the well-being of my children. Some of the Cedar trees were dying and much of the rest was just overgrown, in general.

So we discussed ripping it out.  My husband tends to be a sort of 'business man'.  If you mention some 'business' you're even thinking about handling, you better be ready to strap on your boots (or flip flops) the next day because, you'll be ripping out landscaping with an over-sized tractor before you know it.

So he got to the office on Friday morning and decided that he could spare a little work time, to spend some time with his family.  So he waltzes through the door just before 9am, I'm still a hot mess in my pajamas, however, both kids are dressed.  [In my defense, Graham did go outside before 7am and came in with grass clippings up to the top of his boots, tracking through the house, and that mess needed to be taken care of before much else.]

So the Slave Driver, I mean my husband, packs us all up and takes us to Lowe's in the F-350, pulling a 24 foot gooseneck trailer (32' if you consider the 8 feet of neck in the 'goose neck'), in West Des Moines, which isn't known for it's livestock population if you know what I mean...

So boys got lumber, to install a venting fan in the shop (more on this in another post) and the girls headed to the Garden Center, to make our selections.  In the end, we needed the boys to push a second cart, this was no small job.

When we got home, we first, needed to rip out what was left after The Boss took his chainsaw to the prickers and most of the Cedar trees. This resulted in a bent spade, and a trip to the local hardware and the addition of a pick axe to our ever-growing tool collection.

The bushes were cut at the base, so you can't really tell how out-dated, over grown and dying, much of the landscaping was.

 The pick axe was effective, but far too much manual labor for all we needed to remove.  So The Boss went and got a hefty chain to attach to his tractor bucket to lift them out.

Now, I staunchly avoided getting behind the wheel of this tractor for several reasons. The fact that it is expensive and I don't want to be the one that dents, chips or in any other way defaces it, or the fact that the wheels are taller than I am, or that driving it involves a clutch (never mind that the last thing I drove that had a clutch was my mom's Mazda Miata, in like 1999).  Oh, I could go on and on, really I could.  But there was no getting out of it on this day.

So, I got up there, and took about a 10 second lesson (I'm usually the type that needs to hear something twice to get it) and off I went. Nervous as hell, maneuvering an enormous tractor only feet from the house we paid too much for, so that our kids could grow up on a farm (not because my husband isn't happy unless he has four-legged ovine mouths to feed) and here I am about to wreck the house and the tractor.
My view from the Big Girl seat.  Chains wrapped around the base of this dying Cedar bush.

And we have lift off.  No that is not his middle finger, it's his pointer, telling me to stop taking pictures and continue to raise the bucket.
It was nerve wracking, but no one died and I'm pretty sure no one was hurt, well, besides my poor, exposed toes. The only hiccup that I may or may not have had, involved forgetting to push the clutch and the brake at the same time, and almost running over my husband and in to the house.  This was when I panicked and smashed 2 of my toes on my left (clutch side) foot. Note to self: Farmers do not wear flip flops for good reason. I did, however, learn something from that after I got the evil eye and hand signals correcting my misbehavior from The Boss: diesel engines do not stall when brake is applied sans clutch (they jump pretty good, but they don't stall). Good to know if you are driving a tractor through a major intersection that may involve an incline, I suppose.

In my defense, I did manage to push, pull and turn all the knobs, dials, pedals and joysticks necessary and in proper sequence, to pull this and several others like it, out of the ground.  It was exhilarating, ripping Mother Earth's guts out after trying to manually chip away at her with a pick axe for hours.  Take that!

Then, of course, like any good steward of the land, we replaced what we took with sweet, little, dwarf landscaping that we hope we won't have to #1 touch, ever, to maintain and #2 have to do this again for another 20 years-or at least until Graham is big enough to maneuver the tractor.  Mommy is out, and so are my piggies. 

Here is the finished result-maybe we need to post another set of pictures next year to you can really see the end result.  I still have a couple of 'holes' to fill, but it's complete for the most part. Whew! All in a day's work around the farm.
By the front door, I liked one of the small flowering plants, so I kept it, you can see it in the foreground.

The right side of our front door, with some small cedar bush and hydrangeas in the shade of the birch tree.

The left side of our front door dwarf trees and lilies and another little bush that I can't remember the name.

Lillies and a dwarf evergreen
Mom, should I leave all my tags on my plants, like are still on my Waterford Crystal?

Friday, May 16, 2014

This is NOT OK...

I'm still learning the ropes of being a 'country wife'-though again, this is the closest I've lived to the city since I moved out of it 6 years ago. Technically, we are rural-or zoned that way by the county, anyway.  But to put it in perspective, I can now make it to the grocery store in under five minutes and when we lived in Small-town, Iowa, it took me 15.

There are some things and I am told I'll, ' just get used to'.  This, I don't think this will ever be acceptable:
No hooves in the house! No exceptions.
Not only are the children and my husband tracking in straw and manure, but now the sheep too. I vacuum 3 times per week. Clearly the people that lived here before us (and installed the just-off-white carpet) did NOT have animals.

I'll bet you can't guess which sheep this is tempting the balance of Animal vs Man?  I'll give you a hint, he's not my favorite.

And let's forget for a moment, that this is the deck off the back of our house, and move to the fact that this door, leads in to our breakfast nook/kitchen and most importantly, my sewing area.

Then, in true A**hole-fashion, he leaves this prize on the porch (no, not my husband...).  I might faint. I hate poo.
I don't think this requires a caption...
Then someone had the brilliant idea of attaching sheep to dog.  Mind you, 13 pound, prissy, indoor dog does not care to mingle with sheep unless it's from the other side of their pen... 
She's looking at me like, "please, Mama, this is NOT OK. Take it off!"
And then my sweet baby is trying to set him up. Look at those snazzy boots! Make no mistake, setting them up and holding them in the set position is not easy work.  Though I still think the grimace has more to do with the smell, myself.
Look at my baby working hard.
 Nope, still NOT OK, A**hole.  Get out!
In other news, our first show is this weekend.  Should be an interesting couple days of preparation and showing!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Feeding my flock...

I get to call them 'my flock', because my husband travels enough, that we might be neck in neck on how many times each of us has fed them.  And, when I say feed them, there are numerous things to consider here. You don't just give them some 'hay' or put them out to pasture.  These 'high performance' animals require a highly regulated diet.  So much so, that my husband bought some fancy scale to weigh the amount of food we're putting in each trough (I call it trough-he calls it feeders, whatever) and another fancy scale, to weigh them!  Then there are thing like this liquid stuff that is supposed to get them to eat more (don't quote me on this, I'm not sure if it is to get them to eat more or gain weight, I probably need to clarify) and then probiotics (in powder form), and then there is the forage, they eat.  Not hay, hay is bedding, alfalfa is consumable (well, not for you and me, but for them).  The food components need to be mixed/added in the right order for some God-forsaken reason (again, I probably need to clarify this with the boss...) And of course water, in a 10 gallon bucket... I'm going to be ripped by the end of the summer carrying these dang buckets.

Sometimes, one or two of the sheep need additional attention, whether it be treating for an illness, or trying to nurse them back to health after an injury, or in this case, a prolapse.  Oh, you don't know what prolapse means?  It means the bottom falls out...literally.  No bueno... NO bueno.

So anyway, you have a valuable sheep, that you just can't bare to lose, so you tube it (I'm not going to go too far in to this, but you insert a tube in to the bottom-that fell out and when things get back to being right, you remove the tube). The process can involve antibiotics and other medications to prevent infection, etc.  In the case of this sheep, she survived and we're now trying to get her back on track as far as food and drink goes. Imagine how enthusiastic you'd be about eating and drinking after the bottom fell out...exactly.

She seems to have come around on the eating thing, but the drinking is still a little iffy, so, to fix this, we do something called "drenching".  I wish this was as easy as pointing as hose at or dumping buckets of water on the sheep, but it's not.

You need to use this tool, to suck up water, put it in the sheep's mouth, and coax it to drink.  We're not talking foie gras here (stuffed goose liver, Google's not like this), but coaxing them to get hydrated. So we 'administer' water and let it drink...So you can lead it to water AND make it drink.  Crazy, huh?  I'm learning that sheep are NOT the smartest of God's creatures, but with a little assistance, they can be quite dynamic.
The tool, it sucks up water and the inverted metal tip goes in the back corner of the mouth to encourage consumption.

Now, just to be clear, drenching at the State Fair, I know for sure is illegal and we do NOT do that.  But for now, before the show season, and while we're trying to get this sheep healthy again, it is necessary.

So tonight, I feed the sheep, then I 'drench' the one, and while I'm doing so, the other one in the coat, is trying to bite the bling off my jeans.  This sheep, I have nicknamed, 'A**hole' (I know, I'm sure my mother-in-law is reading this and I'm not sure she's ever said a swear word, or even thought of one in her life, but if she saw this sheep and it's antics, she might).  It sees me and charges the fence panels in the pen to tries to get me.  It's just naughty. And furthermore, I don't think it cares for me.  At all.
This is A**hole...I know, he just looks so sweet right here...WRONG!

Baker's Rack (in the background, For Sale...) Any takers?

The other one in the coat, with the black legs, is the one that was drenched. The vet at ISU (where the sheep was for a few days after being tubed and spiking a fever) suggested that the sheep is now physically OK, but mentally has some 'issues'. We appreciate that diagnosis... Anyone that watches it for a while could figure that one out.  Anyway, this weekend, I am tending to my flock and this is a sample of what that's all about...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gargantuan Garden

I have always felt that I was able to do anything, to make, or plant or produce anything I really needed.  Baby clothes/items for my kids, knitted items, I try to save money where I can by doing things myself, though it usually ends up getting more expensive, as per my husband. I'm not sure if this was nature or nurture, but what I do know is that most always, I have had the confidence to do (or at least try) anything that came to mind, and still do.

It doesn't always end in success, like when my husband told me that I probably shouldn't try to paint that piece of furniture I was going to attempt to re-purpose and use in our daughter's nursery. He was right, it was too slippery (even after sanding and priming) to re-purpose. I was too stubborn to listen and painted 2 shelves before I gave up and decided it wasn't do-able. 

I have always liked the idea of growing my own food.  At our last house, we had two, 8'x8 'garden beds and a few potted tomato plants on our porch.  Now that we live on the farm, this, is my garden.

The open space/yard north of our house.  We're also planning to add a wind/sound break just west of here to cut down on the motorcycle/plow noise in the summer/winter.

This is the garden...look how small by baby looks next to it!

GULP!  It still needs to be tilled up one last time before planting, and we're not quite sure the frost is gone for good yet.  What a horrible, horrible winter we had.  When we do plant, it might take me an entire day to get the seeds in!

This year, we have seeds or starters for: Potatoes, spinach, 4 packets of green beans, zucchini, butternut squash, sweet corn, cucumbers and pumpkins.  We also have blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes and strawberry plants to plant in a separate area.  I plan to add rhubarb in the fall, when it's ideal to plant it.

Graham had to have pumpkins, and he loves blueberries. We are in the 'sweet corn, sweet spot' in our area (apparently it's prime soil for sweet corn) and one of the most delightful fruits of our summer gardening labor last year, was to be able to serve green beans from our garden for Christmas dinner.  You just can't buy them that sweet-especially in the dead of winter.

Here is my problem with gardening: I am terrible at plants. When they start to emerge, I have a tendency to pull the plants and leave the weeds.  Idiot.  Though in my defense, the last couple of years, I've either just had a baby or had a young infant (or two) and been unable to spend the necessary time outside to properly maintain the garden.

So this year, my goal is to maintain the garden on the days I am home, with Graham's help.  As a parent, I want to instill in my children the value of hard work.  You want to eat the vegetables? Then you need to help with the upkeep.  You want to show the sheep? Then you need to collect pop cans and other change to afford the entry fees (or at least part of them).  I don't believe that he he is too young to learn these lesson. He may not be able to cover the entire entry fee or want to eat everything we grow, but as a parent, it's my job to teach him these things don't come easy or without hard work, dedication and committment.

In high school, my economics teacher, Mr Phillips, always said, "there's no free lunch." And boy was he right.  I just hope that I can raise my children to be compassionate, independent, self-sufficient, productive members of society. Too often, we try to make things easy for our kids.  Sometimes, letting them fail while the stakes are low, teaches them the most in life and helps them to be good problem-solvers and better decision makers in the long run.

[Off my soap box]

So it's my goal to make our family garden, a labor of love until the fall brings frost.

Monday, April 14, 2014

We clearly need to establilsh some rules around here...

(WARNING: No photos...sorry)

OK, when the sheep and all the stuff that goes with them was at my in-laws, I could really get in to this sheepin' business. Yeah, go out, play with them, vaccinate them (well not me, but I'll watch), even draw blood (OK not this either, but I can shake the vials so the blood doesn't coagulate), shear (I draw the line at bathing them-I don't even like to bathe my 13 pound dog).  It was fun.

Fast-foward a few years and now on OUR farm, this weekend...

My husband put sheep blankets and towels and other washables in my washer.  The washer that is in the house, that I wash my babies clothes (and mine) in.  And my sheets.  And my dish rags and other kitchen linens.  When I figured out what my husband had done, my mind raced.  Will bleach kill diseases like ring worm and sore mouth and scrapie and whatever else (I don't even know if scrapie is contagious-I need to do more research on that, but that is not the point here...)? How about those washer cleaning packets? There is no way those are cut out for this task. Eugh, can I just put my washer in a pot and boil it for 10 minutes?  Will my clothes ever be clean again?  Or am I destined to have that tangy smell of poo following me around forevermore?

I realize that this may sound crazy to some people who live on farms, I've never noticed it on any of our friends, but still in the back of my head, I cannot get over this.  It's the City Girl coming out in me.

So back to my story, my husband opens the washer and the smell of poo, slowly begins to creep deeper in to my house down the hall to our bedroom, toward the kitchen.  Then, [GASP!] he turned the load pink (this would not be the first time he's dyed a load) and decided to wash it again.  Sheep laundry run through twice?  I could hardly breathe.  Seriously.  So we decided to put some Oxy Clean in the load (I mostly thought this might help my washer recover from being violated, I didn't really care about the sheep laundry).  We washed again. On Hot.  This morning, he opened the washer door and again, the smell began permeating our home.  So maybe my washer doesn't work?!

Then (I know, how could there be more?!) he hung the sheep laundry in the garage to dry.  This is MY garage. Where MY car is parked (because his enormous truck won't fit in it), where my treadmill sits collecting dust (I'll be honest,  I don't use it much, but it's still there).  This is NOT a place to hang sheep laundry to dry.  My husband must have noticed the smell on his way out as there was a tick of cinnamon vanilla air freshener looming in the air when I went back out to get the kids in the car to take them to school.  It works about the same (except worse) as when you use it in the bathroom...I'll just leave that there.

You have no idea how fast that sheepin' smell creeps up and engulfs your skin and hair.  It's truly remarkable.  Crap, I wonder if I smelled sitting at my desk today?  Anyway, I got home, pulled in the garage and wham!  There it was again! And it will remain there until my husband gets home and does whatever he needs to do with them.

So, here is the start of my Sheepin' Rules:

Rule #1 If you are washing sheepin laundry, you must use a washer cleaner packet AND run a bleach cycle after.

Rule #2- We do NOT hang sheepin' laundry in the garage

That's as far as I've gotten, because as I am writing this, the washer is making a terrible grinding noise instead of spinning and my laundry is locked inside soaking wet-all I can think about is MOLD. Who knew I was such a clean freak, anyway? [This will shock my mother.] I fear my poor washer is headed to the washing machine graveyard. Excuse me while I continue to try to get my wits back about me and processes the violation to my laundry room and the subsequent breakdown.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Eagle Has Landed...

To begin, I would just like to say, the people that we bought this farm from were amazing to deal with. They were so accomodating and we truly appreciate all they did to make our experience a good one.  They took good care of the home and shop/barn and there were only minor things we chose to update upon moving in, at this point, mostly paint, kitchen backsplash, cupboard pulls, etc.

However, they were big in to eagles-I think it had something to do with their affinity for Harley Davidson.  Anyway, there were two large statues of eagles that needed to be removed to make the home ours.  The first, was mounted over the stone fireplace.  That one was gone before we went to bed the first evening we spend here.  The other, was a 600# lawn ornament (complete with up-lights to accent it at night).

The latter was a bigger 'fish to fry'.  As it turned cold, we accepted the fact that we were not going to be able to deal with it right away, plus, we had no place to deposit it (other than to ding-dong ditch it to a deserving party).

Well, lucky for my husband, we were at his holiday work party in January and I found it a home!  I was describing it to a co-worker of his and her eyes were lighting up (I'm gathering that if you like eagles, you gotta have this one...).  I decided to offer it to her, I'm pretty sure at first, she thought I was joking. I was not and neither was my husband.

Problem solved.

Today, it finally got nice enough to get the kids outside and do a little prep to get this place ready for the spring/summer.  Priority #1, move that eagle!  Nevermind getting pens ready for the sheep that will be arriving here next weekend...

My brother just happened to be here, which was good, because I wanted no part of this moving the eagle business. So here's how it a nutshell.

Attach strap to tractor and lawn ornament (this took longer than I had expected out of these two)
Holy smokes!  Maybe it's top heavy, or bottom heavy, I don't know, but we almost lost some feathers! That was close!
Air traffic control.
Sayonara Sucker!  In the coming days, it will be loaded on a trailer and deposited at it's new home.

It's a win/win for everyone.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with the enormous hole right next to my front porch, but trust me, I'd rather have that problem, than the eagle. 

End note: The entire time all this is going on, Graham is inside the tractor sitting in the 'Buddy Seat'.  Before he went to bed tonight, he asked his dad if he could 'move the parrot again tomorrow...'  I think he spent too much time with his Grandma down south!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lean In? I think I'll just stand tall...

In the end, this is where my heart is...At home, with my family.

This blog is meant to be light-hearted and fun, and though I have not blogged in what, maybe 2 years, I decided to resurrect it.  However, for today only, I am diverging from it's main purpose (poking fun at a city slicker-who now lives on a farm...) I have something on my mind and someone needs to say it for everyone. So after today, I'm back at it and off of my soapbox.  Here goes:

I was gifted, Sheryl Sanberg's book, "Lean In" for Christmas. I read it and I am glad I did. I agree with some of what she says, most is simply not for me. But it did help me learn a lesson about myself. 

I think instead of 'Leaning In', I will choose to 'Stand Tall'.  We all make decisions in life-and at 31, I'm starting to feel like I am finally comfortable and confident in my own skin.  Yeah, I could have married someone that hadn't already been married.  Sure would have make life a 'heck of a lot easier', right?  I could have kept that high profile career and been making tons of money, but how about taking a day off with a sick kid, like I did yesterday? I could worry that women still only make what, $.71 on a man's dollar and protest this, I could have fought harder for more of a raise this year.  Heck, I could do a lot of things differently, I suppose. While many things that my mom says resonate with me, especially the older I get, two standout especially:  'we all have our own cross(es) to bare' and 'you need to pick your battles'.  And you know what, I've found, my Mama is a wise woman.

I would like to encourage my friends and family, especially the women, to not look down on someone because they may or may not have chosen to "Lean In". 

For me personally, I'm going to 'Stand Tall' I specifically chose to take a position at a public institution because unlike my former high-profile sales/marketing job (which I loved at the time but was days on end of traveling-however, I do credit for my visiting many places in the beautiful country I may never have seen otherwise and many good times), I could count on the 8am-5pm and very few 'after-hours' events. After hours, is reserved solely for my family or personal enjoyment.  I also went in to the position with the attitude that if I changed careers, I still needed to make myself virtually irreplaceable.  And I did.  Now, I truly believe for me, I have the best of both worlds, I am on a 70% appointment at the office and I spend the rest of my time with my family.

For our household, I am not the breadwinner-just a little gravy on the top. I have been blessed to be able to make the decisions that I have because I have this fantastic opportunity.  However, don't be fooled, it doesn't come without sacrifice of other things. But it is what is right for us, right now.

At this point in my life, I'm not interested in "Leaning In".  But let's not confuse this with I have no idea what is going on in the world-or that I only know what facts my kids' cartoons impart upon them.  I pride myself on keeping up with current events, news, books, magazines and otherwise, my home stocked with groceries and home-cooked meals are on our table almost every night.  I believe that both stay-at-home moms and working moms have good heads on their shoulders and we're all just trying to do the best that we can, are we not? For me, I know I should be better at keeping up with friends, but the good ones, they love me whether we talk twice a year or twice a day.

I'm going to 'Stand Tall', because you know what, there is something rewarding to my heart in nurturing a sick little guy back to health, making those home-cooked meals for my family, crafting for them and being there for them as much as I can.  I'm going to 'Stand Tall' because I truly enjoy the work that I do at the office. I enjoy assisting families through the process of finding a university that is right for them and getting them on campus as an admitted student.  And I'll be honest it, I also like dropping my children off at 'school' (daycare) and letting them interact with others their age and learn and play-it doesn't mean I'm not thinking about them. It's what's right for me.

I guess for me, I'll be leaning in to my family because, after all, making the little people is the easy part, right?  Teaching them to be productive members of society takes a village and includes those working in and out of the home, and somewhere in between, too.

So maybe the message here is, do what is right for you and try to be respectful to others. I know in my heart, I'm right where I need to be.  And I sincerely hope that you are too.