Monday, April 30, 2012

Livin' the Dream - or the Nightmare

As much as I share about our projects and successes, I like to throw in some of our more relevant failures in hopes that you can learn something from our mistakes/stupidity.  It's all a part of keepin' it real, right?

Let me just say this before you read on: no animals died.  I hope to never have to post about that, unless it has to do with processing chickens!

Mistake #1: When you get goats, someone always warns you that they are escape artists, but you never think your goats would dare escape!  That was until Akea spotted Sugar, the one-year-old female, making her way toward the house on Saturday evening.  Perhaps she was hoping to join us for dinner?   I caught her fairly easily with the dog collar I had bought that day, but not before she had spotted her reflection in the sliding glass door at the back of the house.  She stopped, backed up, and then promptly began rearing, ready to charge "the other goat!"  Tragedy was averted, and as I walked her back, I wondered how on earth she could have gotten out of the electric fencing.  But after returning her to her family, the way of escape became clear, as she promptly gave it a go again.  Akea had to drag her out from under the shed.

She escaped under this shed, as the portable electric fence had stopped at either edge of it.  I promptly re-positioned the fencing to run in front of the shed.

And just to give you an idea of her size, here she is with Akea, who is seven.  Yeah - she's the incredible shrinking goat.

Mistake #2:  Since Byron has had some other responsibilities lately, I've been moving the cows to fresh pasture frequently.  He usually has everything set up for me, but this time, he told me that I had to move some loose fencing outside of their pasture, which I did...but apparently left it within easy bovine reach.  You know that saying about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence?  Let's just say that the expensive portable electric fencing is chewier on the other side of the fence:

I'm shamelessly linking up with the Homestead Barn Hop #60.  Because I don't want it to happen to you!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kids for the Kids

After our nasty bout with poison ivy last year, Byron started asking around about getting a goat.  Our friend, Don, has a friend, Fred, who raises goats, and Byron had spoken to him a couple times about getting one goat as a living weed whacker.  We knew it would probably be a male, and that was fine.  However, on Monday Fred called Byron and told him he had a family of goats that needed a good home.  Not only did he want to give us the goats, this family of four included three females!

These Nigerian Dwarf goats are great with (human) kids, and thus far my own two have spent hours hugging and feeding their new companions.  Fred also has an unrelated male he's willing to give us for breeding, which means I maybe need to start researching milking goats! 

Any advice out there on raising and/or milking goats?  We have a bit of a learning curve to overcome, but are enjoying them in the meantime.

At Fred's place, meeting the goats.

Cinnamon, the "Mommy" goat.

Sugar, her one-year-old daughter.

Merry, a twin born right after Christmas.

John, her twin brother.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Confessions of a Tomato Killer

It happens every year.  I buy tomato seeds and tell them (and myself) that they will grow into luscious, leafy, thriving plants that will provide us with copious amounts of tomatoes.  And every year, I end up with something like this:

I pity the fool (me) who tries to transplant these sorry seedlings.

So I have to buy something like this at the farmer's market:

This is how the pros (not me) do it.
I've tried everything.  Jiffy pots.  Compost.  Lights.  The hoophouse-turned-greenhouse.  Singing.  Okay, maybe I need to nix the last one.  That could be what's killing them.

Does anyone have any age-old secrets for starting tomatoes from seeds, and being successful?  I mean, seriously, this can't be rocket science! 

I would be remiss not to mention that I did have some success, but it was more along the lines of finding those peach trees growing in the garden.  Here's what happens when you compost rotten tomatoes:

Budding Brandywine

And Mystery Variety.
Might as well transplant them, right?

I'm linking up to the Homestead Barn Hop!  Click here to visit!

Friday, April 20, 2012

An Inconvenient Project, Revisited

I just re-read my post, An Inconvenient Project, from over a week ago.  And I had to laugh.  Yes, it is done, but not without a delusion or three:

Delusion #1: Laying floors would take "a good part" of Byron's spring break. 
Fact: It took his ENTIRE spring break.  I felt so badly for him, but he did a FANTASTIC job!

Delusion #2: The fridge would reside in the parlor for the duration of the project, and the stove/island would stay where it is.
Fact: The fridge will be residing in the utility room for a while, especially because we're re-thinking kitchen configuration. AND because we had to remove the (refrigerator) doors to get it to fit through the (utility room) door.  That's what you do at 11 p.m. on a Friday night when you DIY.

And the stove/island?  We moved it, and not in the Lost sense of moving an island. We strong-armed that baby into the parlor. And though we're supposed to wait seven days to place anything back onto the floors, I called Waterlox in desperation and the good folks over at Waterlox gave me the go-ahead to wait only 3-4 days to move the stove to its new spot. 

Delusion #3: Byron was going to bring the kids to his parents' house and hang out for a few days while I put the Waterlox on the floors on four consecutive mornings.  During my kid-free days, I would read, garden, eat bonbons, chase the rooster, and sneak out to see The Hunger Games again.
Fact: See below.

Making sure this run was in a perfectly straight line was a crucial, tedious, and time-consuming part of the project.

Be gone, Filthy McNasty sunroom floor!

Here's the same run, looking the other way.  The kitchen is on the left.

Byron had to install some sheathing in the kitchen to make the floor level even with the rest of the area in which he was installing the hardwood.  Hardwood does not like uneven floors.  It will buck, kick, and spit nails at you in protest.

This is what I call DIY LOL.  Want a closer look?

Termite tunnels!  Unexpected surprises and installing hardwood flooring well made the project take a lot longer than we thought.

On Saturday, it was my turn.  Since these floors were brand new, I only used a hand sander and 100-grit paper to smooth them down.  Waterlox requires no sanding in between coats, so I only had to do this once!

Here's Sparkling McClean sunroom floor, after the final coat of Waterlox had dried. 

Same view as above, with the kitchen on the left, minus the island.

Looking back the other way.
We still have a bit of work.  Painting, nailing the trim back up, reconfiguring the kitchen within our budget, and procuring BOOKSHELVES (YAY!!!) are just a few.  My books have been in boxes for two years, so I'm especially excited about that last one.

And a shout-out to friends and family who made this all possible:

Our parents: for childcare, food, and shelter.  We couldn't have done it without you!
Our neighbors, Julie and her family: Thanks for the use of your stove and for taking care of our ornery beasts!
Our friends, Ralph and Julia: Thanks for the wonderful dinner last night and lunch today!

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Inconvenient Project

Since New Years, we've had 660 square feet of heart pine flooring occupying a significant area both outside the kitchen and in "messy room."  ("Messy room" is where we've put all the stuff we don't have space for due to the massive renovation project this house has become.)  Anyway, Byron is dedicating a good part of his spring break to installing much of said floor in the back part of the house.  And I have a few gallons of Waterlox waiting in the hallway for when he's done.  But first, I need to re-read the post on my first experience using Waterlox, so I don't make the same mistakes twice.

As you may have guessed from the title, this project is just a little bit inconvenient for us.  For one, I'm going to be kitchen-less for a few days.  We're going to move the fridge into the parlor, but stranger things (i.e., motorcycles) have occupied that room in the past.  I won't be able to walk onto the floors during much of the day and evening, so I'll have limited computer access as well...but I can deal with that.  And since Waterlox stinks over to the next county, Byron is going to take the kids to visit his parents for a few days.

Oh, and Byron might be going to get two new baby calves this week to add to our herd. 

So I may have to excuse myself from the blog for several days.  But at least our floors won't look like this anymore:

The sunroom after Byron ripped up the carpet on Friday.  Filthy McNasty
The back of the house has these same floors, and though I keep them much cleaner than this, I've never felt at liberty to walk barefoot on them.  As much as I've scrubbed, I've never been able to get all the dirt up from these old floors (and I promise I'm not related to Howard Hughes).  And having the hardwood done in a significant portion of the house will mean we can start to create some order to the relative chaos we've been living in the past couple years.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Cold

A frost?  I wish.  No, I'm fighting a spring cold.  As in lounge-in-bed, let-the-dirt-and-laundry-pile-up, turn-me-into-monster-mommy cold.

I'd seriously rather have one of those 24-hour flu deals going on.

I'm whining, and maybe you're thinking, "There are worse sicknesses out there, you know."  I heartily concur.  But the reason I'm posting about this is because I'm literally fighting the cold this time in battling to keep it at bay.  And the good news is that it's working.  I woke up with a sore throat on Sunday, but it was gone by the end of the day and I have gone through only a handful of tissues rather than my typical two boxes.  Here's my secret:

A friend of mine, Trish, recommended sipping on raw apple cider vinegar, which fights viruses and bacteria.  She emphasized the raw portion of this equation.  Bragg's is a good brand, and it's carried in many natural/organic sections in grocery stores.  Mind you, it doesn't taste great.  Actually, it can downright burn going down, so I watered it down.  And when you put it in a mason jar and sip on it during your homeschool group, you may just want to go ahead and put out a disclaimer that it's not moonshine, even if you didn't bring it in a brown paper bag.

I also did a little Google search and found that if you blend raw apple cider vinegar, raw honey, and garlic, you get a little concoction that will keep in the fridge for 3-4 weeks and help boost your immune system by taking just a couple teaspoonfuls a day.  I decided to try that, too, and it actually doesn't taste that bad.  The combination of this and the diluted vinegar have really kept this cold from coming on full force.  I'm not sure what it's officially called, but I've dubbed it "Hippie Juice" because it sounds like something hippies would dig and I'm feeling very non-creative.  Any suggestions for a better name?

Hippie Juice
(adapted from somewhere on Google)
1/2 cup raw* apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup raw* honey
4 cloves garlic.

Place the above ingredients in a blender and liquefy.  Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.  Drink 2 tsp per day to boost immune system.  Keeps for 3-4 weeks.

*Raw is important, as non-raw means that it's been heated to temperatures that have annihilated the enzymes.

I'm linking up to the Barn Hop.  Be sure to visit by clicking here!