Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas 2019

Seasons Greetings!

Here we are again, winding down another year. I’ll never get used to how quickly time flies. This was another busy year in our house with changes and accomplishments, despite the usual two steps forward and one step back.

The house is really starting to come together. Last winter we converted our basement family room into a home gym, and it’s been really nice to have a place to work out without leaving the house. We also made our way into our master bedroom, which used to be a garage, and was easily the ugliest room in our house. It had wallpaper that had been painted over and the most hideous hunter green carpet I’ve ever laid eyes on. The carpet made a nice drop cloth for me while I was stripping wallpaper and painting. 😊 Last month we finally had new carpet installed. We still have trim work to do in the room, but it’s so much better than it was.

As usual, summer went by too quickly. Clark did a lot of traveling. A lot. I felt like he was gone more than he was here, but truthfully, that’s probably an exaggeration. I spent my entire summer working outside on landscaping projects, and whenever Clark came home, he had projects waiting for him as well. Hmm, I wonder if that’s why he traveled so much? Besides the garden, he put in a nice back sidewalk and an arbor, with my occasional assistance.

Zoe graduated from high school at the end of May, and at the start of summer she left Cal Ranch to work part-time at an emergency vet clinic. It was a relatively relaxing summer for her, not taking online classes or volunteering at the zoo. She needed to rest up so she could start college fresh. In August she started college on an academic scholarship at Idaho State University in Pocatello. She lives on campus in one of the dorms, and she absolutely loves it. Freedom is a beautiful thing. She used to be a morning person, but she transitioned easily into a night owl college student. She is majoring in Biology on a pre-veterinary track. She really likes her science classes, but Chemistry has been challenging. She’s a hard worker though, so we’re confident she’ll get through it.

I’m trying to get used to having an adult child. Even though I knew our kids would grow up and move away, I didn’t really think it would ever happen. It’s a strange place to be. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my mouth to give Zoe some unsolicited advice, as one does with their children, and then stopped, mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. I keep having to remind myself that she’s an adult now. This is the part where we push her out of the nest to see if she learned anything from us. So far she seems to be exceeding our expectations. She is more responsible than either Clark or I were at her age. She just finished her first semester at college so she’s home for a month now.

Since Zoe left for college in August, Annika has had the exclusive use of the Subaru, and it’s been so nice for us not having to accommodate her transportation needs. She is still over involved with interests and activities, but the little slacker has yet to get a job. I tease her, but I don’t know when she would have the time to work. In June she was accepted into the Naval Academy’s Summer STEM program, and she was able to spend a week in Annapolis, Maryland, at the Naval Academy. Then in July she went to Pennsylvania for Civil Air Patrol’s Ranger School. That was about ten days of rough living with only two showers, neither of them involving soap. Most of what she ate was packaged or came out of a can, and when the cadets in her squadron were given a McDonald’s hamburger each, they fell to their knees and wept.

When she came home she stunk to high heaven and her boots were rotting. It made me laugh because she is such a germaphobe. Then she had three days to clean all her gear, catch up on her sleep, and pack to leave for Civil Air Patrol Encampment where she had the honor of serving as First Sergeant over all the cadet flights. I saw some videos of her leading P.T. on the Encampment Facebook page, and I did not recognize the command voice coming out of my baby’s mouth. I don’t know why she can’t seem to answer a simple question at home without mumbling.

Gunny and Bane are alive and well. Gunny has slowed down a lot and it takes him awhile to get up and down, but he’s still happy as ever. I can relate to the struggle. When I get down on the ground I look around for a piece of furniture to help me hoist myself back up. I miss the agility of youth.

Baney has really settled into life on the farm, albeit inside the house. He’s such a big baby, he doesn’t like to be outside without a human, and he throws quite the fit when we keep him in the paddock. During the nicer months, both dogs are put in the paddock while we’re at work and school, and we quickly learned that Baney is an escape artist. The first time he got out, he left a toddler sized hole in the gate. When the girls got home they found the goats grazing in the driveway, Gunny swimming in the canal, and Baney running up to greet them. That happened half a dozen times, at least. Multiple repairs were made to the gate. Annika welded several metal panels to the gate, marching higher up the gate with each escape. When he could no longer bust through the gate, he started on the fence. We finally had to nail cattle panels to our goat proof fence and that seems to have done the trick. Of course now it’s colder and they are lounging inside the house while we’re at work and school. Since they aren’t trustworthy, we have a routine before leaving each day wherein we put stools on the couches and lock the trash in the mudroom. One day we came home and Baney had consumed a 24-oz. container of raisins, including most of the package. Many Facebook friends warned us that raisins were poisonous to dogs, but Baney didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects, except for being extra regular. The next day, he got into Annika’s 24-hour pack and ate two MREs, although he struggled a little with the packaging because it was so intricate.  The MREs made him very thirsty and the laxative gum that sometimes comes in the MREs really works.

We still have goats, horses, and chickens. They keep us from sleeping in too late on the weekends.

We also still have Lucinda and Cecilia. Clarkie never got me that kitten I wanted so badly last Christmas. He keeps saying “When one of the two cats we already have dies, then we can get a kitten.” To which we reply, “But we live on a farm!” So far he hasn’t budged. He’s very stubborn.

So that’s life on the farm. I’m doubtful that you will see this letter before Christmas as we just had our pictures taken today, so I won’t be ordering the cards until tomorrow after work. If we get lucky and all the stars align, you’ll get this in time for our “Merry Christmas” wishes. If not, there’s still “Happy New Year!” Either way, we hope this letter finds you happy and healthy.


Clark, Jill, Zoë and Annika

Monday, February 18, 2019

Farmhouse Love Episode 14: Mud Room and Storage Room

Good-ness. Fourteen farmhouse love episodes? When will this end? Well, by my count I still have at least seven more spaces to paint and cute-ify, and I do still have that day job, so it could take awhile.

Welcome to our mud room. This room is a work horse in our house, and it does have mud in it on occasion. This is real life right here. Except for that pitcher of flowers. That is totally staged. It would get knocked over in a heart beat if I for real left it in this room.

The mud room looked like this when we started on this project in early November. It was pretty cluttered, and I'm not going to lie, it's still cluttered, but there are things in this room that we need.

The shoe organizer for the gloves and winter hats worked well for us. A little unsightly, perhaps. I would have hung it on the back of a door, but both of the doors to this room are pocket doors, so that wouldn't work.

It was at this point that I realized I needed to take before pictures. I had already started removing everything off the shelves, so you aren't even getting the full picture of how much crap I was able to cram onto these shelves. I will say that there is not less stuff on these shelves in the after picture.

And that's it. I took three before pictures. Then I took everything out of the room, washed the ceiling and walls, and started painting. 

The rest of the room came together pretty slowly. 

We took it one storage solution at a time, starting with the upper shelves to store all of our paper products.

Now we can really stock up so we're ready for the zombie apocalypse.

After the upper shelves went up, we made this coat hook board from another gnarly piece of wood that Peanut Head drug in from the field. He's really good at that.

I found the cee-ute farmhouse hooks on Amazon. You can find them here (affiliate link). I like them so much that I bought another pack of ten after I bought these. I don't even know what I'm going to use them for yet, but I have them.

I feel like I should tell you that we never have only three coats in here. I moved all of them to the kitchen table while I took these staged photos.

We have more boots than you see here too, but Peanut Head and Zoe were wearing a pair each. I did take the boot trays outside, in our 20 degree weather, so I could clean all the horse poop off them. I didn't want to gross you out, but you should know that they regularly have horse poop on them because these boots were made for walking around horse poopy areas. Our backyard. And sometimes our porch. 😱

Here's a real life picture of our coats, although there are two coats missing that Zoe and Peanut Head are wearing. Remember, it was 20 degrees when I took this picture. This morning it was zero degrees. Usually there are so many coats hanging up that you can't even see the coat hooks. And that's sad because they're so cute.

After the coat hook board went up, Peanut Head put the shelf above it. These cute bins came from IKEA, and they hold our gloves and winter hats. Each family member gets exactly two bins. If you want them, don't buy them from Amazon. I saw them for $25 there, and IKEA sells them for $2.99 each. The internet is cray-cray.

The bins are working out well because we can easily reach up and bring a bin down to rifle through it. It's a stretch for some of us, and sometimes I trip over boots that certain family members suck at putting away properly. I get cranky about that.

I know this is cluttered, but I need all of it. All of it. Believe me, I did consolidate and simplify. Remember though, real life.

The cleaning implement board (I don't know what else to call it) was made from another piece of gnarly trash wood. We added some hooks and a mop/broom hook bar (??) we found at The Container Store. If you haven't been to The Container Store, I'm telling you right now that you haven't lived. 

We used to have two small key hook strips over the light switch with exactly eight hooks. I asked Peanut Head to make me a barn door looking key hook rack and he went a little Tim the Tool Man Taylor on it.

Now we have fifteen hooks so we can even hang our sunglasses up. We have a lot of keys, I know. Four of those carabiners have exactly the same keys on them too. We have several outbuildings with way too many doors because every structure was built onto trailer park style. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

The only thing I'm going to say about that, besides what I've already said, obviously, is that plywood is not siding. Seriously.

Anyway, we have four sets of the same keys because we tend to misplace keys. At one point we had a full set laying out in our pasture for an entire winter. Keys fall out of coat pockets, get left in coat pockets, fall off the ATV, you name it, it's happened. Although to my knowledge we haven't had an animal eat any keys yet.

And that's it for the mud room. I'm very happy with the way it turned out, even if it took three months to finish. To be honest, that's the only way we could have pulled it off because we were using it for all but maybe two days while the painting was done. While the coats and boots were out, and mostly on my kitchen table, I was twitchy.

We also tackled our basement storage room, but this one came together much faster. We worked on it over two or three days on our Christmas vacation. This project provided me with so much relief. It was a disorganized mess and it was so depressing to try to find anything. I didn't take any before pictures of the disorganization though, so you'll just have to imagine it.

This is actually a before picture, but it was taken after I pulled everything off the shelves. This particular section of shelves was used for canning jars. I can say that with confidence because the former owners left some canning jars here. We do not have that many canning jars, so something needed to be done to be able to use this space.

Enter Peanut Head, a crow bar, a level, and some other assorted tools. I'm just going to put this out there. There was a fair amount of cussing.

The shelves are actually sturdy now, and everything is level. Always a bonus.

When he was finished he asked me if I was going to paint them. I snorted at him in response, and he walked away with his level and his hammer whilst shaking his head.

Now all my paint fits, and dare I say it, I have room to grow. Don't tell Peanut Head that I said that last little bit. 😉 He's a little grouchy about my paint habit.

I like to gaze at all the possibilities.

I easily spent a day just making labels for all our bins and organizing their contents. We started this project while putting away Christmas, so I used the opportunity to purge some things.

This section makes me so happy. We had all this stuff for our annual holiday bake-a-palooza scattered about, and we didn't know what we had until we rounded everything up and counted them. This had to be done every year. No more. We have a running inventory now.

This is the other side of the storage room, and we have dedicated this to Peanut Head's garden prep and seedling birthing area. Indoor nursery? Call it what you want, it's where our garden takes root, literally.

All that wood there is the leftover from the dismantling of the shelves on the other side. Maybe Peanut Head will build more shelves on this side? Maybe we'll build another exterior structure with plywood siding? We don't know yet.

Peanut Head is giddy about adding a second grow light. Well, as giddy as Peanut Head gets. He has plans to run some plumbing over here so he can water his babies without making umpteen trips up and down the stairs with his watering can.

This cute little section is right under the stairs, and I'm using it for my empty canning jars. We only have four onions left from our garden last summer, so we've decided that next year we need to grow more. We also have a 5-gallon bucket of potatoes on the floor there.

When our neighbor delivered them to us, Banebridge retrieved a fallen potato from the ground and ate it whole, dirt and all. He has a voracious appetite.

Baney and Gunny Man have been naughty dogs. Since Baney is vertically inclined, he has the ability to scan the countertops at eye level and easily dip his head into our 2-1/2 foot tall garbage can to retrieve yummies. In this picture you can see the detritus from an entire loaf of bread, a bag of hamburger buns, cold medicine (which thankfully he was not able to penetrate), a half gallon ice cream carton (empty) and who knows what else. Baney was not picky about discarding wrappers, and I know this because I poop scooped the yard after the binge session.

I'm giving most of the blame to Baney because I know that Gunny was merely present. Since I witness the dog food consumption daily, I know that Gunny didn't have a chance. Baney inhales his food so fast that he has this little snorty routine where he has to clear the crumb dust from his nasal passages after hoovering his meal. Then he looks over longingly at Gunny Man delicately nibbling at his food. After that, he saunters into the mud room to make sure we didn't spill any delectable morsels. I will say that Gunny has never eaten so well since Bane has joined the household. He knows if he doesn't eat it now, it will not be there to eat later.

You may have also noticed the stools on the couch and chair? That's our attempt at keeping the boys from lounging on the furniture. My favorite is to see a cat curled up between the rungs of the stool legs. It's like the cat is mocking the dogs. Cats are the best.

That's my DIY update for this month (or two). Next up we are putting the finishing touches on our home gym, and after that I get to tackle our master bedroom. I'm super excited about the bedroom. I've been buying things. Until next time . . .

Friday, January 18, 2019

Farm Pants Are Becoming a Thing Around Here

It's time for my annual Christmas letter as blog post. Actually, it's a month late, but how much does it matter, really?

About this time last year I was making fun of Clark’s farm pants, and ironically, now I have farm pants too. Several pairs. I wear them on the weekends when I should be relaxing, but surprisingly I’m not.

There are things to be done, you know.

In fact, Peanut Head made a multiple page spreadsheet for all the things that need to be done around here, color coded by priority and difficulty level. For real. And one day last spring he came right out and declared one of our weekend days “Family Ditch Day.” He did. Just like he was King. It was so bizarre, that we were stunned into compliance. Now you might be thinking that “Family Ditch Day” sounds like it could become a fun family tradition, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not a day that we want to repeat. We know we will have to though. L

Peanut Head and I are physically and mentally preparing ourselves for Zoë to leave the nest in the fall when she goes off to college. I’m not ready, and I probably never will be. Regardless, it’s going to happen whether I want it to or not, so I’m going to hold her close as much as I can this year.

We bought a 2002 Subaru for the girls to drive into the ground (and to protect our cars). It has about 200,000 miles on it, and it’s not pretty to look at, but it’s a vehicle. 

The best part is that we spend less time driving them to and from all their activities. Zoë has been enjoying the freedom that comes from having wheels, and she now has a job at Cal Ranch. She started out as a cashier, but quickly moved to the floor where she can sling bags of feed and restock shelves. 

Zoë also has a boyfriend, but we’re not even going to go into that because ick. We choose denial.

Stinkerbell is still doing Marching Band and Pep Band, and has also added Jazz Band to the mix. 

She’s also still in Civil Air Patrol, and it doesn’t look like that is going to go away. Peanut Head was also sucked into it as a leader, and now they both have lots of extra responsibilities and grooming requirements. Stinky has set her sights on trying to get into the Naval Academy for college and then going into the Marine Corps as an officer. Of course I am completely against that because DANGER! It doesn’t matter what I think though. She is her own person and she always has been. I will cry when the day comes that she leaves me, I’m not going to lie.

The horses are good. The two that we were boarding moved to Boise, and it’s strange not having them around.

Gunny is good, still dumb as a post and very happy.

We got another dog this year. His name is Bane, which I’m not a fan of, but he’s five and probably wouldn’t appreciate a name change. I lucked out and found him on Facebook where his owner was trying to rehome him. He is a 170 lb. Great Dane/Mastiff mix, and he is the sweetest big galoot I have ever laid eyes on. I love him more than I ever thought possible for a dog. He’s my baby.

Aren't his little crossy legs adorable? That's the Dane in him.
My only complaint is that he drools. I’m not talking about elderly person sleeping with their eyes open drooling, I’m talking DROOLING. Long strands of thick, stringy drool which hang down from his jowls precariously, taunting germaphobes everywhere (Stinky and I). We have a dozen or so hand towels that are just for Bane’s drool. 

Bane wearing a drool towel :)

When we see the drool, we run to clean it up before he tries to shake it off his face. When that happens one of two things will result. Either the long strands wrap around his snout in a slimy rope, or they let loose and fly in an unpredictable trajectory, usually splatting on a wall somewhere, although there are still uncharted territories that remain. We count ourselves lucky when it doesn’t hit us. Walls can be easily cleaned and there is no mental anguish involved.

Bane can curl himself up like a cinnamon roll when the
opportunity presents itself. This is unauthorized behavior. 

Lucinda and Cecilia are still alive and meowing. I’ve been begging for a kitten, but so far nada. It’s my Christmas wish. [Wink. Wink.] We need a baby in the house.

We still have the two goats, Clementine and Trinity. Clementine is a bully and she has taken to slamming Gunny up against the fence when he gets too barky or she’s just feeling PMS-ey. She doesn’t mess with Bane though, because 170 lbs. is intimidating, I guess.

If you can believe it, we have eleven chickens now. Eleven. Who has eleven chickens?  We do. [Actually, since I wrote this letter it's now an even dozen. It's like we're chicken magnets or something.]

Zoë is responsible, as usual. It’s the same old story, although a slightly new variation. She was taking an animal science class. They hatched babies. She brought babies home. Three were hens and one was a rooster. We were never going to have a rooster. We now have a rooster. He’s ugly, and he’s mean.

You can be walking along the driveway, innocently minding your own business, and he runs up and starts attacking you. If there’s one thing that ticks me off it’s a rooster provoking me. The embarrassing thing is that it’s surprisingly more difficult to kick a rooster and be successful in actually connecting the kick than you might think. Maybe it’s just me. I’ve found that I’m more effective if I just turn and start chasing him while crazy screaming. 

We haven't had a dull moment since we moved to the country, and I have to admit, I wish we would have made this move a lot sooner than we did.

No complaints though. We are very thankful for everything we have, and most of all for each other and our health.

Here's to another year. Late as it is, Happy New Year! I hope it's a good one for you.