Friday, April 29, 2011

Green & chilly spring days

We are in that glorious phase of spring where the open space around our house is greening up and starting to look really nice as if we spend a lot of time caring for it. Soon we will be in that stage where it's obvious that they are mostly non-native species, and lots of noxious weeds at that. We have a few areas of actual yard grass, 2 areas in fact, that we seeded last spring after doing a bit of moving dirt around with a day tractor rental.

One grass area is on the east side of the house by the fruit trees, making it really nice in the evenings in the heat of summer. The dogs and Little M and I go back there after summer suppers, when the shadows start getting long, and we relax in the shade. Sometime this spring & summer we are hoping to build a play structure, and it will go on the edge of this patch of grass, in the late evening shade from the house. I can imagine hot summer evenings spent pushing Little M on the swings and sending her down the slide, the dogs relaxing in cool green comfort beside us.

Ah, the warmth of summer... It has been rather windy and chilly the past couple days here. On Wednesday I volunteered at the region's Envirothon competition, which was fun as back when I was in high school my friends and I competed in Envirothon as well. In fact, I partly thank Envirothon for where I am today in the work world -  employed in the biology field. The poor students must have been pretty cold, though, and not all of them came prepared for the windy chilly weather we experienced. When the sun was out, it was nice, but unfortunately that wasn't all of the time!

At home, even though it has been cold some days and many nights (we even had a frost yesterday morning), we have had enough warm periods and sunny days to get the fruit trees up and going. The apricot in particular is almost ready to burst into bloom. I took a bunch of pictures that I was planning on sharing, but at the moment I think my computer is needing a reboot and I can't seem to upload anything... Oh well! I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To-Do List Update

I just realized it has been almost two months since I last updated our to-do list on here, and almost as long since I sat down and tallied up all the projects we had crossed off the list! Oops! If you want to check out what I had on the last list, check out February's ongoing project to-do list here. Although I gave you an update on what I did off of that list at the end of February (here), I am realizing that although I updated the to-do list for March and put it up on the fridge, I never blogged about it, and still haven't updated and printed a new list for the fridge for April - double oops! Since it's now almost May (wow, how did that happen?), I guess I really need to move on and focus on May!

We've had some very busy weeks since the end of February, with several interesting little upheavals in our lives. Although there have definitely been some downsides, one upside has been in the amount we've gotten done around the house & property! Can I hear a YAY for spring?!

So the reason I'm updating this list now, when we're sitting near the end of April, is that we have some deadlines coming up - the chicks will be arriving in early July, so we need the chicken coop to be ready by then, and my parents are visiting in early June and my Dad would feel lost if we didn't have a project for him to help with while they are here.

I figure if I set a deadline at the end of May to get a bunch of items on our To-Do list done by, then we'll have just over a month to cross items off our list. I even think I'll make a weekend plan for each weekend or week between now and the end of May to put up on our fridge, so that we know what needs to happen weekly to get everything done on time.

The neat thing about going through that old To-Do List from February is I am realizing that I have crossed (or mostly crossed) several things off the list and although I know I took pictures of the process, I obviously haven't managed to completely finish them or blog about them. Look out for some reno-type posts in the next week or so when I have some more time.

Current To-Do List:
Finish black trim in hall/living area
Screw down the connector trim between hardwood & the kitchen floor & same for the front hallway
Finish the exterior nails & insulation & trim on the sunporch
Finish setting the west sliding glass door in place & sprayfoam it inside
Finish chicken coop
Design play structure
Order play structure components (large beams, slide, etc) that we can't get locally

Next Goals:
Nursery Trim
Bedroom Trim
Build 2 garden gates

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chicken Coop - progress update

Well after weeks of slow work we finally have the doors hung on the inside of our coop! We left off a section of chicken wire that should separate the two pens, so right now we have one large pen on the inside where longer term there may end up being two (hence the two doors!).

On the outside, my husband has been hard at work stripping and smoothing out logs to serve as posts for the outside fenced in run. I think the posts make the run look really beautiful, and makes the old run-down coop look pretty ratty!
My husband went to elaborate lengths to make sure all the posts were the same height, leveling out trenches to make it all look perfect for me (he's such a keeper!).

And check out how he cleverly hid the screws in the half posts he attached directly to the coop! He whittled little sticks to pound into the holes, and then planed them off to match!
notice the screw hole in the shadow of Little M's head

tapping the whittled stick into the opening

hidden screw - looks just like a branch grew from there once!
Little M had so much fun spending the day outside with us working on the coop. Her dirty little face just lights up my day :)
Little M helping Papa hold the post level
 I'll be linking up to the homestead barn hop, head on over to check out what homesteading families all over have been up to this past week!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bright new color in the kitchen

I'm finally done enough in the kitchen to share our new color. It's Mirage Lake by Behr. And I LOVE it. I got the color from this rug that I've had for years. When it ended up in the kitchen several months ago, I realized how nicely the color went with the cabinets. Even though we intend to totally redo the kitchen at some point in the future (I'm talking in the next decade here!), I thought a fresh bright color in there would some of the dingier aspects of the space more bearable :) We really don't like the open cabinets (I mean, some would be nice, but all of them?!), and the floors are livable but in pretty rough shape, but we are saving up for other things and having a beautiful new kitchen isn't high on the reno list right now since the kitchen is in good enough shape to use.
Isn't the color so bright and cheery?!
Here are some bits that I was very happy to remove from the room. First, the crazy wallpaper that was hidden behind the window trim - crazy, right?!

Then there were all of the gouges from whoever it was that removed all that wallpaper from the rest of the room. Oh, and the pin marks everywhere. I can't imagine what all they had up on the walls... but it was bad! I had to patch everywhere! And I can't easily forget the various shades of tan & white all over...
I was lucky when I selected the color though, I had the best helper ever! She was very interested in the paint color chips, and playing with them kept her busy for quite some time :)

Here is the end result again - it took me several weeks to get it all ready to paint, paint the first coat & all the edges, and then roll on the second coat. Totally worth all the time I spent! Sorry that in this picture the kitchen is pretty messy with dishes and things all over the counter, but I have been finding that the only times it's clean during the week is after dark!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Planting bulbs - a bit late

After I forgot about our new dafodil and tulip bulbs last fall and didn't plant them before the snow came, I stuck them in the fridge to chill them properly before planting them out this spring. The existing daffodils are budding out, but I needed to make sure the bulbs had been in the fridge long enough to mimic overwintering outside. This past weekend I planted them in our weedy bulb bed amongst the surprise bulbs we discovered last spring.
our 'surprise' bulbs showing their buds

our new bulbs ready to be planted (please ignore the weeds, I obviously do!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Surprise pea plant & garlic shoots

I planted my peas - sugar snap & shell peas- last weekend, and was hoping there would be some sign of them by now. You know, some sign that spring is here! But there weren't any little buds poking up through the soil in the rows where I planted the peas.
Near the garden gate I noticed a little bud that already had leaves - a leftover pea from last fall, that must have grown to maturity unnoticed, and when I tore the bushes out in the fall it must have fallen to the ground!
 I also noticed the garlic I planted last fall starting to poke its leaves up through the mulch.
A few of the garlic chives made it through the winter under their mulch too!
I guess I can wait a while longer for the peas given all the other shoots and sprouts coming up around the garden. I'm joining up to the Homestead Barn Hop today, head on over to see what spring is bringing to families all over!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Preparedness Challenge

For several weeks now Amy over at Homestead Revival has been holding a Preparedness Challenge on Saturdays. I've been meaning to join in, but haven't been doing very good at fitting preparedness into my weekly routine. This week my husband and I decided that over the weekend we would start working on our Bug Out Bags (BOBs), so I was thrilled to wake up this morning and read that Amy was working on hers as well!

This week I am working on our 'take everywhere' bug out bags. For me that means a backpack that will go in my car with me to work, or when I am out with Little M. So my BOB has to carry things for me and potentially for a one year old. My husband's BOB needs to hold slightly different things. Since he is in law enforcement and is into hunting, his bag will hold guns and ammo, and more woodsy things - firestarters, rope for making shelters, etc. Of course, my bag will hold some of that stuff, but as I will be limited by having Little M, I need to have things that are easier to use & make (lighters instead of firestarters, emergency blankets instead of rope to make a stick shelter). Longer term we will need a larger 3 person kit at the house, including items for our three dogs.

For now I am focusing on the basics - food, water, & shelter. I've ordered several stainless steel water bottles (to avoid plastics, and in theory they could be used to boil water in if we needed), some energy bars, and some paracord (thin strong lightweight rope). We already have a couple of emergency blankets and iodine tablets. I'm thinking about also getting one or two headlamps & a couple of whistles depending on how far I can make our money stretch. We already have things like knives & extra clothes, but we still need to work on our first aid kits.

We set aside money from our tax return this month to pay for these items, but for the future we need to think about whether we want to have a budget line for preparedness items so that every month we can beef up our preparedness kits a bit more, or whether we want to get preparedness items when we have extra money come in one month.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Seedling progress & a lime!

Well on the weekend I had to add another bin tower to add space under the sunporch grow light. There wasn't any space for any more new starts! So far I've started 3 types of peppers - chocolate beauty, golden treasure, and now jalapeno too. I traded pepper seeds with a friend at work and now I need to start the marcono rossi peppers from her as well. I've got a bunch of marigolds, all 3 types of tomatoes that I will be growing this year, and some onions that I'm doing to test whether direct seeding or starting inside works better here for me. Oh, and some lavender sprouts to see whether I can grow them to larger plants or not!

Not really seedling related, but my husband ordered a dwarf lime tree with some sunflower seeds for his bird garden, and it came on the weekend. We potted it up in a planter and it will live on the sunporch year round, although when it gets bigger we will likely put it out at times over the summer. Maybe even for insect pollination when it starts to produce limes!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A new farming toy

Yesterday we went for our first family bike ride, with little M in her chariot behind my husband's bike. We went up past our house to the end of the road. In the summertime the road continues back for miles and miles via 2 forest service roads, but they aren't plowed during the winter, so it's a dead end. There are only a few houses up past us, and we know our neighbors.

As we biked by, one of our neighbors was out dragging his alfalfa field to level out all the gopher tunnels and cow pies. We stopped to say hi to him, and my husband happened to ask if he had an old disker laying around that he no longer used. It just so happened he did, and he was very happy to get rid of it by giving it to us - what are the chances of that?!

It's an old, rusty piece of metal, that's for sure, and my husband had to make a quick trip into town to get some chain to connect it to the back of his old jeep to be able to tow it around. My husband was very happy though, and after the neighbor kindly delivered it to our place using his tractor, my husband spent a happy afternoon discing our bottom field!

Way cheaper than the tractor we rented last spring to rototill my garden space and the bottom field. Granted last spring we also had some leveling to do around the house that made the tractor necessary. So for stopping and chatting with our neighbors, we got a great piece of old farm equipment that hopefully will  be useful for years!

I'm linking up to the Homestead Barn hop today - hop on over there to see what homesteads all over the place have been up to this past week!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bathroom Cupboard - Hot Spot #5

Well at first, when Tsh announced that the final Hot Spot in her 5 weeks of organizing was the hot spot of our choice, I felt a little let down. Wait, I thought, that means I need to pick an area on my own! Then I realized that with my hectic life these last few weeks, that would work really well - I could pick a cluttered spot around my house that is just the right size of project for me to accomplish in the amount of time I have - perfect!

First I thought I would do the kitchen/dining room table. But then I realized that I could simplify it twice a day and things would still end up there - and that's ok for this point in our lives. Then I thought I could do the front hallway/entryway. But I realized that to really make that better would require some restructuring of how we store things in other areas of our house - and I definitely don't have time for that. So then I thought of the bathroom - although I have sorted and purged things from the wall cabinet above the sink, the cupboard under the sink hasn't been touched in months at least, if not almost a year. Ahah - perfect! Here's my before picture:
First I pulled everything out onto the bathroom floor. First to go were the assorted screws and old toilet parts - either to the garbage or to the front hallway where we store our tools and spare parts. Next I sorted through our cream, soap, and shampoo bottles and tossed the empty ones and the ones that haven't been used in years. Several items went into the wall cabinet above the sink, and several more were tossed. Then I put the keepers back in, arranging bottles, boxes & toilet paper rolls to make everything look nice. Here's my after picture:
Head on over to SimpleMom to see what everyone else has simplified this week!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chicken coop room dividers

We've been really busy around the property in the last week getting the chicken coop ready for chicks. Its been slow work since we typically have only had an hour or two each day to work on the coop, and that's with a one year old needing entertainment & getting into everything!

We still need to add doors and put the chicken wire up on the interior walls, and finish the outside fence, but it's looking worlds better than when we started.

What we did:
  • scraped & swept out all the junk and poop
  • hosed out the inside
  • scrubbed & swept the dirty water out several times
  • sloshed vinegar over the floor and a bit up the walls (see this post by Jill over at the Prairie Homestead)
  • scrubbed the floors again
  • hosed the coop out again
  • scrubbed and swept the water out one last time
  • left it to dry
  • started building walls!
Here are some progress pics. I hope I'll be able to do a full 'reveal' sometime on the weekend or early next week, then it will be time to wait for the little chickies!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pantry & Fridge - Hot Spot #4

Well, after skipping Hot Spot #3 last week, I figured I had better put my best foot forward and make a real effort with this week's hot spot. In the past week we have some home stuff that has kept my husband and I busy with some planning and strategizing, and occupied me later in the week when I would normally have been working on house cleaning and blog posts - hence my lack of a post on or progress for Little M's clothes & toys which was last week's hot spot.

This week's hot spot is the pantry & fridge. These are 2 areas that although I try to keep simple, and take action on every couple of weeks, they are always getting cluttered and definitely needed some attention this week! Here are my before pictures of my pantry areas & fridge (ignore the patchy paint & uncovered electrical outlets, I'm mid-project and still need to do the second coat!)

I basically just shifted things around and organized, but it was amazing how much more space I ended up with! I threw some things out, but the space they were taking up was definitely less than the free space I ended up with. Here are the after pictures:

Head on over to check out everyone else pictures at SimpleMom!
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