Thursday, April 26, 2018

Family Ditch Day. It's a Thing.

Living in the country has been full of new experiences for us. Last week, Peanut Head proclaimed that we were going to have a Family Ditch Day in the upcoming weekend.

At first I was just stunned into silence because, honestly, that does not sound like a fun day.

And I was correct. It was not a fun day. However, it was the nicest weather day we've had so far this year. At one point while we were moving the 17,689 tumble weeds out of the ditch for the second time, I was giving myself a little pep talk wherein I said "I am not going to complain about being hot. I am not going to complain about being hot."

You might be asking why we even need to clean out the ditch, and I'll tell you, because that was my first question. I mean it's a ditch, right? How fancy does a ditch have to be?

Well, since this ditch is how we get water to flood irrigate our pasture, it has to stay clear.

And just because you clear out the ditch doesn't mean it will stay that way. It's kind of like cleaning your house. You can't evict your tribe just to keep it that way.

This is the ditch after removal of the multiplying tumbleweeds.

My Zoe Bug is little, but she is mighty.

As you can imagine, Peanut Head was the Task Master for the day. Most of the day the girls and I were working together and he was off working in another area.

That was a good thing because we did a fair amount of whining. I'd see Peanut Head coming and I'd whisper shout "Shush! Don't let him hear us whining. He'll get mad and give us more work."

So we'd put on our happy faces and ask him what the next task was. One time I let slip a little "Your Highness" and I was scared for myself for a few seconds. It's like it was out of my mouth before I even knew it was coming.

It's so hard to control the snark. Even in moments of extreme danger.

This was one of many loads of tumble weeds which I lost count of quickly.

The only good thing I have to say about tumble weeds is that they burn very, very well.

And fast. It's really quite fascinating to watch.

No pyromania here.

One of the jobs the girls had was to walk the field and pick up rocks, while I drove around and waited for them to put the full buckets of rocks into the ATV trailer. I had the cushy part of that job.

Then we had to walk the buckets of rocks into the corner of the property where Peanut Head was using them to shore up the eroding portion of the ditch.

Sadly I couldn't even carry one bucket without making some very unladylike noises and hobbling forward a few inches at a time while leap frogging the bucket as I went. After thirty seconds and eighteen inches of this, Stinkerbell rolled her eyes with a huff and impatiently took my bucket away from me.

She's a big show off. 

This is just some of Peanut Head's handy work. Thankfully we did not have to carry any of these rocks. Peanut Head humped all those in by himself, and then some. Ooh-rah!

Stinkerbell can back up a trailer like nobody's business. I have tried and tried and tried to learn how to do it, but so far I have been an abysmal failure.

Zoe Bug kept trying to sneak in little breaks wherever she could. I really can't complain because she's a very hard worker.

This was a little over the top though. She was supposed to be opening the gate for me to drive through. I really need to get a big air horn mounted on the ATV. It can sit up there with my pitch fork, don't you think?

In the end, Family Ditch Day lasted about nine hours. It was nearly the longest day of my life. I almost cried.

It's over though, and Peanut Head was very appreciative for our help so I guess it was worth it.

He doesn't need to know how much whining we actually did. What he doesn't know won't hurt him, right?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Farmhouse Love Episode 10: Home Office

I'm a tad bit behind on my home improvement posts as this room was mostly finished between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If you can picture it, this was the original kitchen in the formerly teeny, tiny farmhouse. It's actually part of the reason I fell in love with this house, because I could envision it as an office or a sewing room.

That window used to look outside, but then two additions later, and now it looks out into the garage--not a pretty sight on the best of days. Although it is somewhat useful for warning me when Peanut Head arrives home, so I can leap to my feet and pretend like I've been busy and not sitting on my buttocks the whole time he was gone.

I don't know why I do that. It's not like I'm not allowed to relax. It must be a list maker thing.

And now he's going to know because I put it on the internet. I feel so much lighter now.

I've dreamt about how I would paint this room and what colors I would use. I was surprised myself when I finally put the brush to the wall, on account of I kept changing my mind about every little thing. In the end, I'm very happy with how it ended up.

As you probably noticed right off the bat, there is too much "wood" in this room. The floor is actually laminate, but it competes with the bead board, which I happen to love. I could get down with new flooring, but I can't get down with the required funds for new flooring.

I really struggled with painting the bead board, even though I love it and I knew I would love it. I just couldn't turn off the voices of my great grandparents in my head, telling me that I should never paint wood. I pushed through it, but I still feel the guilt.

I love the white on the bead board. I think it looks so much better now. In fact, the pictures don't do it justice. The bead board had a lot of gaps, holes, and wonky alignment issues which I was able to camouflage with caulking. Once that was done, I came in with paint and covered all that mess up. If you haven't experienced the magic of caulk, you must become friends. It hides so much.

You might have noticed that we took the ceiling fan out and replaced it with a booby light. The ceiling fan scared me because it was so rickety and wobbly. Also, the light it provided was extremely inadequate.

I'm using both of my IKEA Expedit units in the office. I love them so much.

I used cabinet paint for the insides of the shelving which used to be the kitchen cabinets. It's supposed to hold up a little better than regular paint and provide a more durable finish.

This view is looking outside from inside the office, towards what used to be the original dining room. Now it's mainly a pass through area to get from the elderly part of the house to the young part of the house. Yes, I'm personifying my house. It's my baby. 

As I paint each room we've been changing out all the electrical switches and outlets from beige to white. We're also using rocker switches for the lights, and putting some lighted switches in some areas.

Peanut Head was doing it all for me, but with the office and sewing room he taught me how to do it myself. Again. He's taught me before, but I have Goldfish Brain. And did I mention that I'm terrified of electricity? It's one of my nightmare causes of death. Right up there next to burning alive and drowning. 

Peanut Head helped me turn the window into a gigantic magnet board. I've been obsessing about doing this for over a year. You can't imagine how happy it makes me to have this thing up and doing its thing.

Here's how we pulled it together.

First, Peanut Head cut a 3/8-inch thick piece of plywood to fit inside the window frame. We chose that particular thickness in order to position the magnet board to meet the existing window trim, so that everything would be all matchy-matchy.

I then bought a sheet of 18-gauge galvanized steel, cut slightly smaller than the dimensions of the plywood. The plywood is 35" x 36-1/4" and the steel is cut to be 34-1/2" x 35-3/4." Basically I deducted 1/2" from each dimension so that I would have a quarter inch border all the way around the steel sheet. I did that simply to avoid having sharp edges flush with the plywood. Because if danger is near, I'm a danger magnet, and I really would like to keep all my digits.

I bought the piece of sheet metal at Vernon Steel in Idaho Falls. I just Googled sheet metal in Idaho Falls, and then I went to their website to see what they carried. When I visited their construction trailer office, I told the nice gentleman who helped me that I was making a magnet board, and he walked me into his office to show me his magnet board. It was gigantic! I had magnet board envy. He schooled me on magnet boards and helped me with my order. I went in on my lunch, and I was able to pick the cut piece up after work.

I have to tell you, it was super dirty when I picked it up. That's because the metal has an oily coating on it to keep it from rusting, and because of that, dirt sticks to it. It gave me the willies to touch it. When I got home I cleaned it as best I could with paper towels and windex, and then I cleaned it five times more with rubbing alcohol. The alcohol removes the oily residue. Magnet Board Man told me to do it.

Once it was clean, I covered it with cotton fabric which I pre-washed and ironed. Then I sprayed the sheet metal with fabric adhesive and stuck the fabric to it. After adhering the fabric to the front of the metal, I sprayed the corners of the back of the metal and tucked the corners of the fabric in.

Then I folded the sides in last.

The next step I do not have a picture of, but I stuck the fabric wrapped sheet metal to the plywood with construction adhesive. I'd show you a picture of the adhesive I used, but I used the whole tube, and that was a month ago, so it's long gone. Basically I went to Home Depot and found a person in an orange apron, told him what I was doing, and he schooled me on the various adhesives and their benefits. Since I was adhering the metal to the plywood before installation, it was going to be on a horizontal surface until it dried, so I could go with a cheaper adhesive. If I were adhering it onto a vertical surface, it would be a little more expensive because it then has to fight gravity.

I left Home Depot with my adhesive and popped it in my caulk gun when I got home. Friends, it was an unsightly, gooey ooze, let me tell you. It was the color of snot when you have a sinus infection. It was grody. You should thank me for not taking a picture of that mess.

After spreading the adhesive all over the plywood, we positioned the fabric covered sheet metal onto it and squished it down. Then we strategically placed 300 books atop every square inch of that thing and left them there for three days and three nights. At least.

The final step was to pop it in the window frame and secure it with small trim pieces, which Peanut Head cut to size and routed with his router. I don't know if that makes sense, but basically Peanut Head made his own trim pieces with his router.

I love, love, love the end result.

So now my office is done, and I'm this close to finishing my sewing and craft room too. It's all painted and about 95% unpacked and organized. I'm not a fan of the effort required to finish projects. I much prefer starting projects. Finishing them usually involves yucky stuff that I procrastinate because I don't wanna.

I will conquer procrastination though! Just wait.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Year of the Farm Pants

Happy New Year Friends! I know it's already February, but I am consistently running behind. Every year I try to post my holiday letter on the blog, and I didn't get that out until a couple weeks ago. In fact, our family pictures were taken after Christmas this year, so I just went ahead and ordered  New Years cards instead of Christmas cards. Whatever works, right?

The annual letter is below, although this year I took the liberty of using the names you know, like Peanut Head, instead of referring to my husband as Clark. That's just so weird. I'm also sprinkling in the photos we had taken for the cards, and then some, because I can . . .

We’ve been settling into the farmhouse and making it our own for more than a year now, and we’re starting to see some satisfying progress. There is still so much to be done, but it no longer feels like those things have to happen yesterday. I’m in a groove now where I go from room to room, cleaning, painting, and organizing. With each room I finish, the house feels a little more like home.

Also a little less like a fire hazard, if we’re being honest. We’ve run into quite a few electrical nightmares that Peanut Head has had to address along the way. I’m learning more than I want to about electrical myself, because apparently there is only one of Peanut Head and he can’t do everything. He’s not buying into my version of the marriage contract wherein he has to do the yucky stuff and I get to do the fun stuff.

In fact, I spent the months of March through October digging a drainage ditch. We’re actually calling it a dry creek bed, because we’re fancy like that. I’ve been digging and cleaning dirt, if you can imagine that. I used to make fun of Peanut Head for doing that sort of thing, but it’s strangely satisfying.

Here’s how it works. I throw a shovel of dirt on my wheelbarrow, which Peanut Head has fit with a screen for sifting the rocks and other treasures out. The rocks are thrown into buckets, depending on their size, and later washed [yes I said washed] and then used in my dry creek bed. Never did I ever see myself cleaning dirt and washing rocks, but here I am, living the dream.

Not only am I digging a ditch, but I am also sloping the ground away from the house and the shop so that water flows away from the structures and into the ditch. A very long level and getting down on the ground on all fours is involved. It’s crazy town. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard, and for so long, on anything before in my life. But again, it’s strangely satisfying.

Peanut Head has turned into a farmer. He’s always buying various potions and seeds for his field. He has a sprayer attachment, a seeder attachment, and a rack for his shovel on the ATV.

He has farm pants.

Funny story about his farm pants . . . he ripped them right below the buttocks when he was fixing fence one day, so he patched them up with iron on patches which just so happen to form an “L.” Now we call them his  “Loser Pants.” He is not amused. He also has a walking tractor. He’s living the dream too, except really this was his dream and now we don’t call it that. This is a family letter, so I’m going to keep it clean. 

Zoe Bug and Stinkerbell love living on the farm despite the fact that their chore chart has morphed into a multi-page spreadsheet. Two of the four horses we were boarding now belong to them, and they have continued to take very good care of all the horses, without having to be reminded by us. They have had to tend to horse wounds and do gross things in the care and keeping of animals, and it hasn’t hurt them a bit. In truth, it has made them better people.

Annika (Stinkerbell) and Zoe Bug

The girls moved to another high school in the district where I work, but on the side of town closest to us, so it’s a lot more convenient. I also moved my office to the north side of town, so we’ve cut our commute in half. The girls ran Cross Country this year, and they grew a lot as runners.

Zoe is a junior and starting to freak out about college. She has started filling out scholarship applications, and we get all sorts of junk mail from colleges wanting our money. Obviously they don’t know yet that we don’t have any. At this point she still wants to be a veterinarian. She spent another summer volunteering at the zoo, and also at a local veterinary office. She’s basically Snow White. She goes outside and starts singing “Aaaaaaah-ha-ha!” and birds land on her arms, and rabbits and deer frolic at her feet. Okay, not really, but almost. She’s crazy good with animals. Annie and I just scare them because we lumber up to them and try to control them. Zoe is nice. 

Annika is a freshman and enjoying high school. As usual she is overextended, and by extension, so are we. We’re very bitter about it too. She started the year with Marching Band, which started during the summer, and then required attendance at school during zero period for the first trimester. Zero period is from the Devil, as you can imagine because it isn’t even a proper number, and it starts at 7:00 a.m. It’s stupid. Because that’s not enough, she is also doing Pep Band, which requires attendance at games that we don’t, as a rule, ever attend. And I might add that the word “pep” and Annika don’t belong in the same sentence. She is non-emotive, just like her father.

She also joined Civil Air Patrol, which has been sort of fascinating. She has uniforms, which require meticulous upkeep, and there are stringent rules in the wearing of them. We were told early on that “Cadet Scott’s hair can only be dyed a natural color,” and that was the end of the Elmo bangs.

Cadet Scott

It has been fascinating, because Stinky takes no interest in cultivating her appearance. She gets up, puts on shorts or sweats and a t-shirt, maybe runs a comb through her hair, and that’s it. I watch her dress and arrange her hair for Civil Air Patrol and I’m all “Who are you, and what have you done with my child?”

Gunny regains the top for a few seconds
Gunny is still with us and very happy to be on the farm. He’s still very pampered, and spends most of the winter napping. He and the goats share the paddock, and he is the low man on the totem pole. If he decides to jump on top of his dog house to bask in the sun, one of the goats will promptly knock him off and keep him off. He then walks away like that was his plan all along.

Lucinda Gooseberry, aka Lucy, tossed out of the house in order to expand her horizons.

Lucinda Gooseberry doesn’t seem to know that we’ve moved because she never leaves the house. All she does is eat, sleep, meow, and poop.

Cecilia, Warrior Princess
Cecilia, on the other hand, is the best farm cat we ever could have asked for. She kills mice and other rodents by the dozen. Not only does she kill them, she eats them too. It can be horrifying to watch if it’s not from the comfort of the house with a pane of glass separating you from the sound effects of crunching bones. It gives me the willies, but it’s always good to have one less mouse that can get in the house.

The horses are amazing. We have thoroughly enjoyed having them, and they’ve become part of the family.  

 Sweets is exactly what his name implies, a sweetheart.

Mr. Bo Jangles
Bo is a grumpy old man, but also Mr. Dependable.


Rey is a Mustang and has been known to chase coyotes off the property. She brings a lot of sass to our little herd.

PJ aka Mr. Pajama Pants, Pajama-Rama, Peej

PJ is obsessed with eating and usually looks like he’s about to deliver multiple litters of kittens. PJ is probably the biggest character of the bunch. He and Zoe have a special bond that melts my heart. Zoe has been working with him because he’s a big scaredy-cat over every little thing that’s new. One day she had returned from a training walk with him in which she was exposing him to new sights and sounds, and being the big lug that he is, he stepped on her foot when he spooked over a noise. She was very upset with him and gave him a tongue lashing when they returned. She was all red-faced and yelly, and he wasn’t the least bit repentant. He was snorting and pulling his lips up over his teeth, smiling and nuzzling her. I just want to kiss him on a regular basis. Which I shouldn’t because I’m allergic to horse lips, and I get instant hives when I kiss them.

I should also add that PJ is a Delicate Flower and he sunburns easily. Last summer Zoe was out in the field applying sunblock for babies to his Arabian snout twice a day. He’s a lucky guy.

In conclusion, we have a happy herd, and they have been so fun to have in our family.

Other than the continuous hemorrhaging of money since moving out to the country, life is good on the farm. We are all happy and healthy, and so fortunate for all that we have. We hope this letter finds you and yours happy and in good health as well. Take care of yourselves, and have a fantastic 2018!