Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Merry Christmas 2020


We’ve almost survived 2020!

This has been one wild and crazy year, hasn’t it? I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 did not live up to our expectations. Here’s hoping for a much better year in 2021.

We were never more thankful to be living out in the country than this year. We were able to lay low and keep our minds off the pandemic and all that came with it by occupying ourselves with our bottomless to do list.

Zoe came home from college in March and ended up finishing the year online. Annie and I went on spring break and completed the remainder of the school year online. Clark started working at home at the same time and we were all competing for our inadequate internet. The girls and I went back in the fall, but Clark is still working mostly at home. He has been traveling a bit too because the source recovery missions must go on. He is very careful though, and to be honest, Annie and I are the biggest threat to our health as we are around hundreds of people every day, many of them incapable of wearing their masks properly. Everyone hates the masks. We hate the masks. Teaching in a mask and making sure my students wear their masks properly is wearing on my nerves, but it is our reality right now. Complaining about it helps none of us. On that note, I’ll shut up now.

I spent my entire summer working outside in our yard and it was wonderful. Little by little, this place is becoming a home that we love. It’s truly my favorite place to be. Clarkie still regularly exclaims that he hates this *$#@ing place, but we know he really loves it. He has multiple pairs of farm pants to prove it, and so do I. They are my favorite pants and I even wear them to town sometimes. It can’t be any worse than wearing pajamas to Walmart.

I went back to the classroom this fall, and it has kicked my trash. There’s so much stress having to teach in person and make sure everything is accessible online for quarantined and Covid positive students. I just make a to do list each day and get through it, doing what I can with the hours that I have. Many days I fall short, and I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m thankful that I have remained healthy and that I still have a job. I do enjoy the kids. I’m teaching 7th grade math, and there is not a more awkward age than 7th grade, so my entertainment is free.

The dogs are loving Clark being home. With him at home I don’t have to go through the routine of putting the couch screamers on the furniture every day to keep the dogs off. I’m a little jealous, but at the same time I do not want to be teaching remotely. I didn’t expect that  we would be able to stay in person, so I am thankful for that. Clark is not traveling as much as he was before March, but we are hopeful that it will pick up after the first of the year. He likes to travel and we like the miles and hotel rewards that he earns.

Zoe bought herself a car in early Spring. It’s a 2011 Nissan Rogue which is an all wheel drive vehicle, so it’s perfect for Idaho winters. She spent her summer working at Cal Ranch and the vet clinic and she was exhausted working every day of the week. I think she has learned her lesson about that. She went back to ISU in the fall and has been home since Thanksgiving. Her finals were online and her spring semester will start mid January. She will be doing a career path internship this semester in a lab with a plant ecologist. Then this summer she has an opportunity to work on a Fish & Game work crew and continue with an internship with them in the fall. On the work crew she will be doing grunt labor like fixing fences, spraying for weeds, planting to reintroduce native plant species, etc.

Annika is in the middle of her senior year of high school. The little slacker finally got a job last summer. She works in produce at Walmart where she puts her OCD skills to good use inspecting and discarding imperfect fruits and vegetables. She has had to deal with some disgusting rottage which we quite enjoy hearing about because it causes her so much discomfort. Everything she throws away has to be weighed and logged. It’s awesome.

We are in the stage of wondering where our child will be this time next year. She has her eggs in several different baskets right now. She has active applications with the Naval Academy and West Point and they are progressing. We are waiting for Congressional nominations right now. She also has applications with the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Idaho. The latter two she picked because they have ROTC programs. She seems pretty set on the military and Clarkie strongly suggests that she go in as an officer, nevermind that that’s not what he did, despite his own father’s wishes. He forbids her to go to the Air Force Academy because he says if she wants  a business major with a minor in religion she can just go local to BYU. Yes, he is a funny guy. I think it’s a Marine Corps thing. They are very particular about the other branches of the military. The other consideration is that she wants to fly and she will have a better chance at that in the Navy/Marine Corps or the Army.

Gunny and Bane are getting on in years. Gunny had a pretty nasty case of pneumonia in the spring and he’s still not 100%. We’ve had many visits to the emergency vet and he is on a steady diet of hot dogs with his various prescriptions. He has turned into my grandparents with his assortment of pills, except that I’m pretty sure they didn’t need hot dogs to choke their medicine down. Baney had a bizarre case of geriatric something something. I can’t remember the technical term and I have no documentation because his care was free at the Emergency Vet Clinic where Zoe works because he has been a blood donor for them. He woke up one day and he couldn’t walk without falling down because his equilibrium had left the building. I’m telling you, it is not possible to carry a 130 pound dog around to do his business. If it weren’t so frightening it would have been comical. Who am I kidding, it was comical, but it was also frightening. After a back door drive up at the clinic, a shot of anti nausea medicine and a few days taking Dramamine he was mostly back to normal. His head is still a little half cocked, but he’s still Baney and we love him. Although he won’t sleep in his bed now because when he was not himself he overshot his bed and clocked himself in the corner where two walls meet. Now his bed is from the Devil and Gunny quite enjoys having choices.

The goats, horses, and chickens are still keeping us from sleeping in too late on the weekends. Oh, and we have kittens! Well, they are cats now, but Zoe found them as kittens in our pasture in June and we had to keep them because destiny brought them to us. Clarkie is super grouchy about excessive cats, so they are barn cats. It’s pretty funny because cats loooooove Clarkie. 

Work on the money pit continues. This year we replaced our well pump and our roof. In fact our roof just happened and it was a nail biter. I’m just so glad it’s done.

This thing is too long so I’ll wrap it up. We hope this letter finds you all happy and healthy. Merry Christmas!


Clark, Jill, Zoë and Annika

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Black Lives Matter Too

It has been over six weeks since my last post and the world has changed. At the end of May, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. Somebody had the presence of mind to document the whole thing with their phone and it sparked protests and riots across the globe. 

It's still going on, and protestors have called for police reform. 

This was not the first time by a long shot, but something about George Floyd's murder is different. It's like the American people have taken notice in a way that they never have before and people are fighting mad. As a country we are divided, although we were divided before this, it is even worse now.

The Minneapolis City Council voted to disband its police department and shift funding to social programs in communities of color. People are protesting to defund the police in other places too. Although this is a terrifying time in America, I'm hopeful that this will bring about real change for people of color.

It is encouraging to see my white friends and neighbors posting on social media about what they are learning about white privilege and the many things they take for granted that people of color don't have access to. While the awareness makes me hopeful, I still see so much hate and denial and I don't know what I can do about it. I feel helpless and ashamed.

I support the Black Lives Matter movement and I hope you do too. 

Many of the Corona Virus restrictions have eased and countries are opening back up. As a result, infections are up. We're supposed to be practicing social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, but people are gathering in huge numbers to protest. It's difficult to criticize the people protesting for not social distancing when they're the ones out there putting themselves at risk for affecting change.

Idaho now has 3,540 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

We don't know yet if we'll be returning to school in person or online in the fall. Peanut Head is still working from home.

The bright side is that we are accomplishing a lot by staying at home as much as possible.

We finished planting the garden yesterday.

We spent Memorial Day weekend digging a utility ditch, and the rest of the following week and weekend filling it back in after burying some new utilities. It was a ton of work and I'm so glad it's done.

We also finished the Lilac Dry Creek bed which I started working on the summer of 2017.

I'm so happy with the finished product. I still have some exposed weed cloth because our next big project is to tear the patio out and relay it so it slopes away from the house instead of towards the house.

Here's a video of the creek bed with water in it. It's my babbling brook.

And last but not least, we put our pool up. We haven't had this set up since we moved here and we have missed it so much. The only problem is that we haven't been able to find the pool filters in any stores in town. In fact, no one is even selling pools right now. The supply chain is seriously disrupted. We were able to buy some on Amazon, but they don't expect them to ship until the end of the month.

In other news, I've accepted a teaching position to teach 7th grade math in the fall. I'm ready to get back into the classroom (crossing fingers that it will be physically in the classroom and not online), and I'm looking forward to spending my days with students again. I've spent a little time in my classroom clearing things out which were left behind and organizing. However, I'm determined not to spend my summer obsessing about making my classroom perfect. It's my disease.

As is typical of teacher summers, I've been scheduling all our yearly appointments and trying to get my ducks in a row. Dentist appointments are not going to happen though, due to the obvious danger for the dental professionals. Hopefully our teeth don't rot out of our heads before we can get back in.

That's my update. I hope we have world peace figured out before my next post.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Stayin' Alive


It's been six weeks since we started sheltering at home. We've settled into a routine and often we don't know what day it is. Without the boundaries of a schedule, rushing to and from work five days a week, one day bleeds into the next.

Friday we started phase one of the plan to reopen the state. Churches have been given the green light to reopen with social distancing, but most have opted to wait, possibly until June. Businesses that are open are required to have social distancing protocols in place. Some people are wearing masks and some are not. Probably only 25% are wearing masks. Many people think this is overblown. I think it's more difficult for people to take seriously when they don't live in a densely packed urban area where the virus can travel much faster.

As of yesterday, Idaho had 2,061 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Zoe made the observation that we aren't getting the daily notifications that we used to get. As if this is now just the same ol' same ol' part of our existence.

The stores have toilet paper now, but Kleenex is in short supply and hand sanitizer is still very difficult to find. Also, yeast is hard to come by. Stores are limiting meat purchases to one because several meat packing plants have had major outbreaks. I'm worried about those workers and many others.

We are managing. We got out for another hike last week. We barely made it a mile in before we had to turn around because the trail was snowed in. We will definitely be back to hike this trail when the snow melts. All together this is part of a trail that is over a 100 miles long along an old railroad. What we got to see was beautiful.

Baney is really loving the hikes.

The weather has turned and we have had some very nice days. Our pasture is starting to green up, so we have to monitor Pudgy PJ's intake now because he'd eat grass until he tipped over if we let him. Then he'd probably side chew the grass from his reclined position.

We finished widening the driveway and we're pretty happy with the way it turned out.

Peanut Head is happy that he can pull straight out of the garage now.

When the weather is nice Zoe tries to work in riding breaks. PJ needs the exercise too. This picture makes me laugh because I have to ask "Who is the horse here?" She explained that she likes to work them in the round pen first, and she doesn't like them to cool down when she has to walk them back to the hitching post to tack up. She's so considerate.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Farmhouse Love Episode #15

I am a wee bit behind on my Farmhouse Love posts. Mainly that's due to several rooms not being 100% finished, and me not wanting to show them until they are perfect. Well, this house has a long road to go, and it is constantly evolving, so I just decided to post what I have and then when/if I make updates, I can share them then.

Our master bedroom is one of the last rooms I chose to paint because people don't see it like they do other rooms in the house. I have been itching to paint it since we moved in, but the same can be said about every other room in this house, so it had to wait for its turn.

Before I show you the rest of the after pictures, I'm going to show you what we started with.

We looked at this house on two separate occasions, a few weeks apart. The first time we came this is what the master bedroom looked like. The owners were obviously in the process of stripping the wallpaper. If I had to date this room, I would say late 80s, early 90s. What do you think?

When we came back the second time, it had fresh paint. 

What we didn't know is that they mostly painted over the wallpaper they weren't able to strip, and even covered some of it with drywall mud. It was a hot mess.

The master bedroom has two closets on opposite sides of the room. This one is mine.

This bay window is nice. On move in day an observant friend noted that this room likely used to be a garage. It makes sense because the floor is concrete and it steps down from the rest of the house. This window was probably where the garage door was.

Here is Peanut Head's closet, with these odd little Hobbit drawers underneath it. The drawers are deep, very heavy, and not equally spaced apart. They make me twitchy.

Therefore, I covered them with drywall.

Now we can scarcely tell they ever existed. 😊

I started painting the ceiling and walls last May, and once we had consistently nice weather,  I dropped the project like a hot potato.

I picked it up again in October, at Peanut Head's insistence. I had been pinning faux brick walls on Pinterest for the last year or more, and Peanut Head went along with my crazy plan. He usually does, even when he thinks I'm cray cray.

We started by putting up these 4' x 8' panels which we found at Lowe's for $35.98 each. We used four panels for this wall, and they were a gigantic pain in the rear end to put up. After reading various tutorials, we went with the suggestion to cut out the half bricks on the ends. It's not a super precise process, so there was a fair amount of cussing involved. Peanut Head has a potty mouth.

Once they were all cut to fit, we slapped them up with some Liquid Nails and drywall screws. Some of the screws were removed once the adhesive dried.

The next step was to come in with drywall mud and a drywall taping knife to apply a German Schmear. It took a few evenings, but not near as long as it took me to retexture all the walls from the bloodbath that removing the wallpaper was.

I will say I was happy to have that nasty green carpet as a drop cloth. I was not careful at all.

Once everything dried, I sealed it all with a coat of watered down white paint. You can use a clear coat, but I was worried it might yellow over time.

Also, I caulked the corners and where the paneling met the ceiling for a cleaner look.

After this wall was done, we ordered carpet. That was in November.

Throughout this past year working on this room, I was always working on something to go with my final vision. One of those things was to make a half dozen or so dog bed covers. The dog beds get stinky and dirty so fast that I wanted to have a quick way to change out clean covers, so I started making very simple covers using this 10-Minute Pillow Cover tutorial. The only change I made was to add an opening for the handle of the dog bed for easier moving.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been a pillow cover making fool this past year. After my first cover I was hooked because it's an easy way to change your pillows without having to store a bunch of pillows. Of course we still have more pillows in the house than Peanut Head would like. What is it about men and pillows? I love my pillows.

In the making of so many dog bed covers I decided that I really like fleece for the covers. It's super easy to work with and it still looks nice after washing.

Plus, it's soft like my babies.

This one isn't fleece, but I fell in love with the pattern and the color is the exact shade of yellow that I wanted for my accent color in this room.

I also refinished our dressers and nightstands. This particular dresser was a hand me down, and although I don't love the way it looks, the drawers open and close like butter. It's hard to find good quality dressers with drawers that open and close smoothly.

I painted it with some cabinet paint and put some drawer pulls on it and it's a completely different dresser.

I've started folding all my clothes with the Marie Condo method and I will never go back. It's so easy to find what I'm looking for, and my drawers are never messy. I still think Marie Condo is a little whackadoodle, the way she talks to inanimate objects, but she nailed this folding method.

When Peanut Head goes out of town, or Stinkerbell goes to one of her various Civil Air Patrol camps, I sneak into their drawers and Marie Condo fold everything. They don't appreciate it, but it calms me.

I don't have a before picture, but I painted this dresser and the hardware, distressed it, and added some trim and decorative accents. I've had this dresser since I was in high school. It even survived a house fire back in 1984. It used to have a mirror, but that didn't survive the fire. I've been looking for a mirror for it ever since and I finally found one at a consignment shop.

Isn't it beautiful? It's larger than the dresser itself, and it probably weighs more too, but it's perfect. I didn't change anything about the mirror. I fell in love with it and I painted the dresser to match the mirror.

The previous owners left this shelf unit in my closet when they moved, but it needed a little TLC. Even though it's basically particle board with a laminate coating, it took regular latex paint just fine. A couple coats of paint and some contact paper and I was pretty happy with the result.

This area for my jewelry isn't finished yet. I want to make an earring holder and I haven't gotten around to it yet.

After the carpet was installed, it took awhile for Peanut Head to start on the trim. Neither one of us was in a hurry as there is always something to be done around here. He even made my closet door look like a little barn door.

We've had these mission style nightstands since the late 90s, and they needed a little refreshing.

I painted them and added new knobs. Each nightstand has nine knobs, so I just went with a cheap contractor's pack of knobs and they look just fine.

This is Peanut Head's closet and it still needs a major overhaul, but he ran out of winter days to work on it. That is not a problem. Ain't no one ever complained of running out of winter in Idaho. He'll get to it next year.

He did make this little hook board to hang his farm pants on instead of laying the nasty, dirty things on the window seat all the time.

It took me awhile to get things hung on the walls. I think that's one of the hardest decisions to make in a room because it takes some playing around with and holes.

Here's our new and improved window seat. You know I bought some pillows for it and made some new covers for them, don't you?

I also ordered cushions from Patio Lane and I love them. They're made with Sunbrella fabric so they won't fade and they have zippers! Now I can take the covers off and wash them. That makes me happy.

The folks at Patio Lane were super nice to work with and they called me when they had questions and to let me know when they shipped. I wasn't paid to say any of that either.

The buffalo check bedding came from Bed, Bath, & Beyond and the grey quilt came from Pottery Barn before it was on sale. I actually got it for my birthday over a year ago, and I stored it in my closet until we had the new carpet installed. Originally I had them switched so the buffalo check quilt was folded at the foot of the bed, but the grey quilt is slippery because the fabric is velvety. We'd be sleeping at night and the buffalo check quilt would just slide right off the bed like it was catching a wave. Not fun in winter.

I made the bed skirt using another Pinterest tutorial, and yes, I made some more pillow covers. Peanut Head complains when he has to take them off the bed at night, but we're not super dependable about making our bed every day, so he doesn't complain that much.

I still need to post about our home gym and our living room which are also mostly finished, so look out for those soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Hello Spring

We've had a couple very nice spring days recently. Saturday and Sunday were glorious and I was outside the entire weekend. The sunshine really helped my mood.

Idaho currently has 1,802 confirmed cases of Covid-19. We're hanging in there, not increasing exponentially. We're still under a Stay at Home order until May 1st to slow the spread. We are expecting that things will not just go back to normal. We're going to be fighting this virus throughout this year and into the next until we have a vaccine. People are getting anxious and restless. Many people are in trouble financially.

The girls are not enjoying doing school online. It's boring and difficult to focus, and it's definitely not easier. If anything, it's more difficult. They will not be going back for the remainder of this school year. There are whisperings of universities not opening again until 2021.

It's easy to forget there is a pandemic going on when we don't live in town. We tend to be homebodies anyway, so weekends at least, are very normal for us. We're always working, working, working on the farm, and we tend to not drive into town unless we have to. The big difference for us is that we are now working from home.

We got out for our weekly hike, and this time we went to Craters of the Moon. It's closed to traffic, but you can hike four miles in on a paved road to get to the hiking trail Peanut Head picked.

We did.

Some spots were snow covered, but it was mostly passable. Not like last week.

Once we got to the trail, Baney and I said good-bye to our sweet family and hobbled back to the car.

I'm so glad I didn't go all the way with them. My portion of the hike was 8 miles and they went 13 miles. I went to bed at 8 p.m. that day.

Here's my secret to get Baney to look into the camera when I'm trying to get a selfie with him.

Here's another project I started at the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Farm." We have wanted to do something about widening our driveway since we moved into this house because our driveway is not as wide as the garage. That means that when Peanut Head pulls in and out of his side of the garage, he has to drive on part of the lawn. The current driveway was the width of the old garage which is now our master bedroom. I think. I'm speculating, but all the clues point to that explanation. Sort of. There are a lot of things about this house that don't make any sense at all.

Peanut Head used the walking tractor to till most of the grass we need to remove, but we had to do the edges by hand. Well, with a shovel.

This picture is looking out of the garage from inside so you can really see how narrow the driveway is compared to the garage.

Peanut Head is going to level those red pavers as the new edge of the driveway, and we will fill the rest in with gravel. At some point we may cover it with asphalt or concrete, but for now we're going to do this because it's cheap and we already have the gravel.

We were also able to work in another planting area and round out the lawn with another mowing strip. I planted a rose bush for now, but I'd like to add some bulbs as well.

It's not finished, but I'm hoping it will be finished by the time I do my next post. That will depend largely on the weather. Stay tuned.