January

It’s cold here, really cold, and it’s only going to get colder.   People are freaking out.

Our third child is thrilled, she said to me the other night while we brought horses in from the field that the cold makes her feel more western,  “you know like we live in Alaska, mom.”  Yes, this one is definitely a girl after my own heart.

I’m not sure if I’m a hopeless romantic or merely experience mental breaks with reality, but I think she and I might be on to something. When things are difficult, or the chore is more than you care to do imagining yourself as someone else or somewhere else might just help you get through it.  I distinctly remember enjoying chores more as a child when I imagined myself as Laura Ingalls.  Maybe tonight when I am breaking ice out of water buckets and cleaning frozen manure out of stalls I can imagine that I am somewhere else too . . . somewhere sunny and warm.

The cold has also meant that my husband and I have spent some quality time together visiting while we thawed out hoses in the pig barn with a heat gun.  Not only did we actually get to visit with each other, but if we started to get a little chilly standing there we just turned the heat gun on ourselves for a little bit. . . ok, I did that, I was the one holding the heat gun.

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Date night on the farm was quality husband and wife time thawing out pipes in the pig barn.

The kids have braved the cold to ice skate on the frozen manure lagoon, a leftover cement relic from the farm’s previous dairy days.  Don’t worry they are not skating on frozen liquid manure, we cleaned that out a year ago – this is just collected rainwater and it has redeemed itself as the perfect ice rink!

 

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Kitchen.

Our kitchen is the center of our home, where we begin and end our days, where we gather to share meals, chores, stories, play games, visit and where I often find myself writing.

When we took on our farmhouse project the old kitchen had 6 doorways and 2 windows, which probably worked great in 1878 when a kitchen was more utilitarian and pantries, root cellars, spring houses and dining rooms were used.  Because of the size and lack of free wall space we knew that we would have to make some major changes to the kitchen.  When we started planning our renovation our number one goal was to preserve the historic look while making it fit our modern family.  To do that we kept all of the period details that we could, found old sinks, appliances and had furniture custom made to look aged.

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We uncovered the doorway when we pulled the old kitchen cabinets down off the wall, at one time it had had a swinging door and the arched doorway behind it was a later remodel.  I think originally this doorway allowed them to serve in the dining room without using the door that opened directly into the kitchen.  The Victorians were clearly not into the open floor plan concept.  When we pulled up the carpet (yes, carpet in the kitchen, on a dairy farm – yuck), and then the linoleum that was under the carpet, and then the second layer of linoleum, and then finally we were left trying for hours to scrape what looked like roofing tar off the original hardwood floors.  While we were trying to scrape this tar substance off of the floors we found that they had been patched, and had holes everywhere from previous gas and water lines. The patches were all pieces of metal cut from old tin cans and nailed down.   The coolest discovery was the copper lined hole near the window where a pipe could have run directly from the well outside to an inside sink.  Someday I’d love to put an old dry sink back in there with a hand pump hooked up again, you know just in case the modern world as we know it collapses and we need it.

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I’ve been doing a lot of canning lately.   We took a year and a little more off of growing and raising our own food while we were in over our heads with other projects.  At our old farm we used to run an all-natural CSA , grew in high tunnels, raised bees, chickens, beeves, made maple syrup, made soap and sewed a lot. Our family goal there and here is to be as self sustaining as possible.  And let me tell you what, we have a long way to go (cue New Year’s Resolution #1).

Even though we have been slightly off track from our usual make it/ do it/ raise it ourselves mantra, we had put up quite a bit the year before we decided to move and are just now feeling the need to really start restocking.  In the picture above I’m canning ranch beans for a quick and easy meal on nights that seem rushed for dinner. I’m habitually late to get dinner started so having some home-made convenience foods on hand is a huge help!  In addition to the ranch beans I did seasoned hamburger, and I love to can dried beans so that they are ready to go into a soup or stew.

Below is a brief and slightly out of focus video of our canning room.  We still have a decent variety of items to pull from but next year we will need to make growing and putting up food a priority again.

So you want to do a renovation?

In 2016 our family purchased a 187 acre farm that had been in my husband’s family since 1950.  We are currently renovating the house, barns and the land.  Pictures speak louder than words in this case so here are a few from around the time that we took possession:

 

When we started the house had been empty for 8 years, except for the resident raccoons and ground hogs – who were none too happy to hear of their eviction.

We started the first part of April and moved in at the end of August.  As you can see from the pictures the house is in almost original condition, save for some unfortunate paint schemes and kitchen renovation.

Major renovations completed by us to the house included:

  • digging out the basement and crawl spaces and pouring cement floors and half walls
  • plumbing (including new pressure tank, hot water heater, and softener)
  • wiring
  • windows
  • roof
  • 2 new furnaces & air conditioners, all new duct work
  • patching plaster
  • painting
  • stripping and refinishing woodwork and floors
  • adding on a kitchen where the back porch had been
  • jacking up and reinforcing front porch
  • replacing side porch
  • putting the original pantry back in and creating a mudroom and laundry
  • removing a downstairs bathroom and replacing the floor joists that had been rotted out by a leak
  • adding a half bath downstairs and a full bath upstairs

We entered into this with naivety and optimism – looking back at these pictures I wonder what in the world we were thinking.  Kudos to the producers of Fixer Upper and This Old House who make major projects look so easy!  Wait, did I say kudos?  I meant curses!  In all seriousness we are glad we took on this project and happy to say that we have survived it so far.