Monday, December 16, 2013

10 Days & Stuff

The mister is visiting his little sister in Hawaii right now as she graduates from university this week. In his absence we've likely overbooked ourselves with fun (busy) activities to keep everyone from missing him too badly. Of course since it is the Christmas season, most of our activities have been christmas parties, but yesterday we celebrated an early solstice with the girls' (waldorf inspired) daycare.

This year, as I've been slowly decluttering our (relatively small) home, to make space for one more (albeit still tiny) human, I've almost been dreading Christmas and all the stuff it typically entails. Little M is not yet quite at the point of totally grasping the concepts of limited space, of too many toys, or of the impact of clutter. She's slowly getting used to how we are trying to stick to the concept of one in, one out, and she has gone through her toys and chosen some to give away to make room for new toys to come at Christmas. But she is still young, and still has a hard time parting with things, and understanding that there is a limit.

The baby on the other hand is quite easy going about my efforts to reduce the size of her wardrobe and the number of baby toys she owns. She still has more than enough baby toys, but we were able to pare down quite a bit, which was really great. In fact I have 3 boxes of kid clothes and toys to give away, if I ever get around to bringing them into town to donate!

As most people do, I get attached to things, but after several long distant moves, and many short moves, I don't have a lot of things compared to many people. Something about moving out west in your truck with your dog and another person, and having basically all your worldly possessions in the truck does that to a person! I don't like clutter, and all the time drain that having lots of possessions means, so I've tried to be pretty selective about what I bring into the house. As are most things though, it is a constant work in process, and I'm still adapting to the new level of complication that having 2 kiddos brings to the de-cluttering & simplification process!

Anyway, all of this is to say that at the (early) solstice celebration, I was really in love with the simplicity and connectedness of the celebration. Celebrating the shortest day of the year with friends and light rings much more true to my non-religious background than all of the consumerism and focus on stuff that American Christmas seems to entail. Especially for our family, with 3 sets of grandparents, and 2 in-state Christmases to attend besides our own family of fours' Christmas, it just seems that we focus too much on gifts and stuff, and there is less emphasis placed on the importance of spending time with these special people that we see so rarely.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Planning to plan, dreaming to dream

I've been doing a lot of thinking about plans for this coming year. We've started the initial brainstorming of what our financial goals will be, and that has meant a lot of thinking about future projects and ideas to be implementing. My problem always is overloading my plate with too many good ideas, and I'm definitley feeling that right now in this process, as we look at a huge list of potential things, and try and narrow the pool down and prioritize it!

Some of these goals are family goals, but the more personal ones, or ones with the kids that I'm taking the lead on, are fairly overwhelming me at the moment. Since I often use this blog as a sort of settling ground for my ideas to help me decide which I want to take further, I thought a brain dump was in order to help me sift through all these great ideas and prioritize them. I suspect when I redo my winter darkness goals into my 2014 priorities/goals I will use these as a guide.

For the Kids
Finances/Allowance - Little M is a good age to start learning about money (saving/giving/spending)
Chores - with some being paid and some being unpaid
Speech Therapy - Little M has a hard time with her initial consonants, and we're getting extra help
Bottle Feeding - Baby E is having a hard time learning to use the bottle, which complicates daycare
Ontario Grandparents - keeping in touch with them (skype, emails, photos) since we rarely see them
Weekly Rhythm - redoing it to better work with our schedule, especially as it changes come January

For the Farm
Expanding the garden - doing it in a manageable manner, choosing crops wisely, cover crops
Seed Selection - need some new seeds & varieties this year - irish eyes/seed savers/west coast seeds?
Fences - both for garden & yard space for the dogs as well as the orchard - plan, length, cost, poles
Chicks - having a broody hen raise our own fertile eggs vs. ordering new chicks (of what breed?)
Pigs - fitting them back into the budget, number (brothers again? friends?), source/breed question
Fruit trees - pruning the ones we have, new ones for the side chicken area if the fence goes up?

For Mama
Essential Oils - learning how to use the ones I have, reading up on ones to get in the future
Reading - for pleasure & bookclub, augmented by our weekly library trips, fit in during naps/bedtime
Simplifying - purging stuff, one in - one out, creating a handmade home, living more intentionally
Friends - keeping in touch with local & distant friends, via skype, phone calls, play dates, dinner
Crafting/sewing - meeting my creative needs, also inspiring Little M to create too
Finance/work balance - meeting our financial needs through paid work while still meeting family/house/cleaning needs around the home, also dictates daycare balance, and also wrapped up in here is meeting the little family checklist goals we have/will set for the next year

Back Burner things for some year in the future:
soap making
fixing the house up!
a 100 dollar startup (something sewing/crafty, etsy? still very much in the dream phase)
more animals - fish/lizard/snake/bunny for the kids inside, cow/sheep/barn! for the farm
all those saved bookmarks! (move to pinterest??)
a new (thrifted obviously) wardrobe to replace the failing remnants of my (thrifted) grad school garb!

Do you keep a list of back burner type ideas? Those things that you want to do some day, but know you can't fit them in right now? How do you keep those future dreams in check to focus on the dreams for today?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Catching up

So the kiddos are finally getting over the cold that had one or the other (or both) of them down and out for the past 3 weeks. So I was slowly getting caught up on all of the things that fell through the cracks while they were needy, sleepless little monkeys. And then today one of the kiddos at daycare was sick so I unexpectedly had Little M, so decided to stay home and get a couple hours of work in while they napped in the afternoon. Well, let me say, I needed this day off! We did all sorts of fun mama-daughter things, but also got caught up even further, and perhaps even got ahead on our christmas list.

Big exhale coming from this mama today. Relaxation time is so important, but always one of the first things to be ignored, especially when there are sick kiddos needing their mama.

But today, oh today, was a thing of beauty. Baby E is sitting up on her own for longer and longer periods before falling (thump) over, and Little M is loving on her little sister so nicely these days. Having two girls just makes me so content and happy. And having basketfuls of clean laundry? And a relatively clean kitchen? And having time to do a sewing project with Little M? And finishing up christmas gifts early? All so satisfying!

However, its a good thing I'm finding these inside, at home things satisfying, as we've been experiencing some cold temperatures here, down into the single digits, dipping to zero. Not a lot of wind, thankfully, but gosh that is cold! And with barely any snow to speak of, the ground is freezing solid and deep. I'm wondering about my newly transplanted herb and bulb bed, and hoping that those plants are hardy enough. Because, well, if they aren't, this will be the year that proves it!

We've been enjoying the cold and dark days though, we got our tree right after American Thanksgiving, and thus had it set up on December first this year, it isn't totally decorated yet, but the lights are on it, and having them on, plus the ones around the fireplace and kitchen window, just make the house so warm and cozy! We've definitely been huddling in more than ever this year, doing crafts, getting out the sewing machine more in the past 2 weeks than all past years combined, baking homemade goodness, and the mister and I have been playing board games once Little M is down to bed in the evenings too.

Anyway, just wanted to stop by here and chat for a bit, it has been longer than normal between posts all fall, and again its been a while since I last posted. Not to worry though, things are just fine here, just busy and full of life with two littles! Hope your winter season has enjoyable so far and you are happily preparing for Solstice and Christmas and New Years!

Friday, November 22, 2013

These days I'm ...

Thought it was time for a these days post!

These days I'm ...
-- wondering how these weeks with both me & my husband working weekday days can seem even busier than usual when he's on night shift!
-- surprised how late in November it is!
-- looking forward to spending American Thanksgiving day with some local friends and their extended family
-- wondering how it seems every day I think about it that I think I've just posted on the blog but then I realize its been at least a week!
-- missing my best friend from back home who visited for a few days at the start of the month
Visiting with Auntie A

-- eagerly anticipating our first snowfall that sticks & lasts more than just a week days - next week?, later?
-- hoping said snow arrives soon because these nights down into the (low) teens are quite chilly and snow makes the cold so much more bearable!
-- dropping Baby E off at her first day of daycare with her big sis, and marveling at how quickly these past months have flown by - she's ready for more interaction than my office provides, but I'm not sure I'm ready for her to be this ready, although she had a great first day & I managed just fine too! :)
all ready for Baby E's first day accompanying Little M to daycare down the road!

-- looking at the expanse of new garden space that I've slotted for expansion next spring and wondering how on earth I'll manage to keep it all weeded!
-- busily in the midst of scheming for homemade or homegrown Christmas gifts, and thinking of ideas to add to the garden next year to make even more
-- enjoying weekly knitting get togethers with a local mama friend while our kiddos play
-- hoping this (last) slow weekend in front of us before holiday craziness starts helps the kiddos get over this nasty cough that Little M has had for the past week, and that Baby E has clearly gotten a bit too

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Herb and Flower Area - Part Four

So, at long last, here are the after pictures of my new flower and herb area. I'm loving this long expanse even now, when there is a dusting of snow over the healthy layer of leaves I used to tuck the plants and bulbs in for the winter. (Missed earlier posts in this series? Here are parts one, two, and three.)

Once I got my husband to help with the back breaking work of using the pick axe and shovel to break up the stoney, quack grass filled soil, it was fairly straight forward to pick out most of the rocks and weeds, mix in some pig manure, and transplant the herbs and bulbs from the various areas around the property that they were growing at before.

It was a several week process, done in bits and spurts when we had some free time with either sleeping or cooperative kiddos.

But I was pretty motivated to get it done, so we cranked away at it and it was done before the first snowfall. When I was planning it out on paper, I wasn't sure we had enough time to really get it in this fall, and thought it might be a project that needed to wait until next spring and fall, but I'm pretty happy we got it done. It means that much more space in the lower garden for growing veggies next summer, and the herbs will be so much closer to the house in this area. Not to mention the flower viewing will be much more appreciated in this spot, near the chicken coop, where we are a lot more frequently than down in the lower garden.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Herb and Flower Area - Part Three

Missed earlier posts in this series? Catch up with part one or part two.

So the new area was born once I realized that we would be expanding the side garden again next spring into part of the past summer's pig area, and once I realized that the new herb area I set up in the side garden this past spring was really not large enough even for the plants presently in it. Looking at the space we would be expanding in to, I realized that for at least the next few years, there and potentially longer, there could be a slice of space between the garden and the chicken/orchard area that could definitely be a permanent flower and herb bed.

 After scoping the area out, I started making a list of all of the plants I would like to put in there. First I listed all of the plants, both flowers and herbs, currently in the lower garden. Then I included the additional ones in the side garden that weren't just duplicate herbs. Next I thought about what other plants from around the property could or should get moved in. I came up with a few that may get moved in as well as all of the bulbs and herbs you've seen from the past posts that are in the gardens currently.

I also added some new herbs/flowers to my list that I would like to try in future years: echinacea, bee balm, lemon grass, mint. Some of these are on the list to add for next spring, some are likely further down the road, and some likely will end up elsewhere than in this bed, but they were all added so that I had a list of what I might like to fit into the new bed.

Once I had a list of all of the plants I might want to put in this new bed, I did some sketching. I went back through my old pictures of the plants throughout the last couple of gardening seasons, and wrote notes about the timing of the flowers on the herbs and bulbs, how tall the plants were, how big they got, etc. This sort of information helped me decide where each plant would go, and what other plants would look good near it. My ultimate goal was to have a bed that looked good throughout the summer, not just at certain time periods. Thus I wanted to have the flowers intermixed so that the early ones weren't all clumped together, etc. I also looked at the plants in terms of splitting some of them, specifically some of the flowers, so that I had more of some of the daffodil and iris clumps if they were getting larger, especially some of the ones we like the best.

Then I measured the bed, measured some of the spacing that was and wasn't working in the existing gardens, and I sketched some more. Finally I came up with a plan of what would go where. Then I needed to wait until the pigs were gone so I could turn this grassy space into garden - ripping all of the grass and weeds out, adding some pig manure, and transplanting lots and lots of plants.

In the next and final part of this series I'll share the after pictures, of what the plan on paper translated into on the ground! I know I promised pictures this time of the finished product, but I thought a bit more explanation of the process I went through in deciding what went where was in order first!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Exhaling into November

October is always a crazy-busy month for us. The first weekend is always spent over at duck camp, checking out our duck hunting lakes before the duck hunting season opens, hoping to see some upland birds to hunt during our drives. Getting our time in before the rest of the family descends for weekend after weekend of duck hunting.

The second (and all subsequent, really!) weekend is spent duck hunting and camping at duck camp, with a varied assortment of my husband's dad's side of the family. My work schedule is such that the fall is when most of our construction happens, since that is outside of the irrigation season (ditches turn off October 1st around here), and when our in-water work is least likely to disturb any endangered salmonids. So work life is also busy.

Then there is Halloween to end the month out, and this year to start the month off my parents were here for a week. They visit infrequently (that's what happens when you move across the country then south across the border unfortunately!), but we pack so much into visits that I swear we accomplish more when they are here than the several months on either side of their visits combined! However, it means when they go I need a day or so to recuperate by packing in some down time!

In between this month my dog (the oldest of our three, who has been with me since my university days back (near) home) had a mass surgically removed from her leg near her paw that turned out to be cancerous. She's healing really well from the surgery, although we've had twice weekly bandage changes at the vet's to ensure it heals well, plus twice daily medicine, supervised outside time, and nightly cone-wearing. We're hoping it doesn't come back, although chances are it will. Hopefully at least it will take some time to come back and get to the point of interfering with her ability to walk, so that we still have some time left with her. She turns 11 in January, so I've had a good many years with her, but we are savoring our days with her more now than we have in years, which has been really special.

The pigs were slaughtered and the meat just came back from the butcher today (adding to the good things in November's court - a freezer full of meat!). Then there was deer hunting season, which this year entailed the mister running around the woods with a couple of friends trying to help them get their deer (he got his up in the mountains on an early high hunt). Then my husband's car gave us a bit of a scare this past week, although our trusty mechanic & good friend ran the diagnostics and the warning lights were just due to the gas cap being not quite tight enough (talk about a HUGE sigh of relief!).

Not to mention that my husband's new work schedule is doing it's usual throwing-us-all-out-of-whack, so that we're having to refigure what things get done when! Note to my future self - when he's working weekday days, mama time is best in late afternoons prior to picking Little M up from daycare, on the one day a week that she can stay there until 5 or so! Clearly once both girls are going to daycare, this plan won't work so well... but we'll cross that bridge next year when he is next on this schedule!

All told, I'm looking back at October and heaving a huge sigh of relief that it is a new month. Ah November, already you are exciting me with predictions of snow flurries to come, limited garden chores to finish (although I'm a bit further behind on snow-flying yard preparations than most years), and the promise of weekends at home with the family once the lakes freeze at duck camp! What about you - enjoying the steady approach of the dark, cold, snowy winter months? Stopping to recuperate after a full-out busy spring, summer & fall?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

My herb and flower area - part two

Once we had the new side garden area in the works this spring, I decided to take some of the overflow from the main garden's herbs and use some of the area in the spacious but potentially weedy and underwatered new side garden to expand our herbs. Some plants, like the Dill and Cilantro, really were only planted in this area this year. Others, like the Oregano, Chives, and Garlic Chives, were broken off of their clump in the lower garden and moved up. My theory was duplicates have twice the chance of surviving! Partly the new area was a test, to see how well those plants would do in the new area with minimal watering and care. And partly, it was to get those much used herbs closer to the house! How convenient to pop down to pick up a couple eggs and be able to also grab some herbs for the next meal on the table, creating a one-stop-shop sort of experience

The area filled in really nicely, and was looking really great even after the weeks of neglect both gardens received around Baby E's birth.

However as the end of the summer approached, the situation was looking a wee bit overgrown. Again I had failed to give each plant the space it really needed to have enough space as it got big. I seem to plant everything so it looks nicely filled in about half way through the growing season. Which works fine when I can pull some of the plants part way through, but not when each plant is important like this area! Below you can see dill flowering and going to seed, oregano flowering in the back, kale and parsley competing for space with lavender and cilantro, and both common and garlic chives feeling out-competed! Yup, it was a mess, and add in the weeds that I never really got around to dealing with in the side garden this year, and if it hadn't of actually produced a heck of a lot of dill seeds (among other small harvests of kale and parsley and chive flowers), I would have written it off as a disaster!

Instead I'm considering it lesson learned, and thus decided that a new herb and flower area in the soon-to-be expanded side garden area is in order. The pigs did a great job tilling the area up, and we're essentially doubling the side garden next year, with the lower half being planned for pigs again. Next up is a late fall look at the new area - transplanted plants and everything!

Missed a post of the herb and flower area series? Read part one here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Herb & Flower Area - Part One

The first spring we lived in this house, we were surprised and excited to discover spring flowers emerging from bulbs in a neglected weedy bed by the carport. First daffodils, then tulips emerged and bloomed, adding some cheer to our front area.

When we had moved in, it was mid summer, and we assumed that the bed had been used for something in the past, but it was filled with dried up weeds and grass, so we didn't think it had anything else in it. For 2010 and 2011, we tried to water the bulbs occasionally, but they didn't really get much attention otherwise, although we tried adding some more tulips and daffodils one fall from cheap on-sale bulbs from the grocery store.

Then the year before last, in late fall when my best friend from back home was visiting, we dug all the bulbs we could find from that neglected bed and put them in the end of the lower garden, right beside the gate. At first it was more for safe keeping until I could come up with a better spot where they would get the water and weeding they deserved and needed to flourish, but quickly it became more than just that with the addition of more bulbs from the rental as it finally sold the next spring, and the area started filling in with flowers.
spring 2012
Then the area started to transition into what it still is today with the addition of herbs. I grew my own herbs from seeds, which transitioned the area from the temporary flower spot to the herb area. The garlic chives that overwintered from the year before got moved from their row to a discrete clump - unintentionally being the first herbs of the spot. How I ended up with those seeds I have no idea, but for whatever reason I threw them in the ground the spring before and they grew, then overwintered, and that clump has since started so many more by seed around the garden that I've gone past giving them away, as everyone who wants them now has them, and I pull them as weeds!

spring 2012
The rest of the herbs have since flourished through the last couple summers and the close of this gardening season has brought about my realization that this spot is not big enough for even the ones we have, let alone room for more that I'm planning for next spring.

mid-summer 2012

fall 2012

spring 2013

early summer 2013

mid summer 2013

late summer 2013
As you can see, I vastly mis-judged the amount of space each plant would need - and some of the smaller (shorter) plants have been totally overgrown by the taller herbs. More space for each plant is definitely needed for them to grow!

Stay tuned for part two, an update and tale about the herb area in the new side garden area we started this past spring. Part three will involve a sneak peak at the newest garden area we are currently working on, and might include pictures of a new herb & flower bed over there!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On eager anticipation

I've been wrestling with some things lately, as I mentioned in a past post. My husband is now on weekday day shifts until the new year, and I'm looking back on the last 6 months of night shifts and am a little undecided on a few things. I was totally counting down days until he ended night shift, and I'm trying to figure out whether I'm ok with that. I know that the last 6 months have had a lot of stuff going on (read, new baby!) that won't have quite the same impact on future night shift sessions, but there was a lot of time that I felt like I was simply biding my time until he was back on dayshift and more present in the day to day of me and the girls. Waiting for the next 6 months is no way to live my life for the other 6 months of every year...

The mister loves his job, and his favorite shift is night shift, but the toll on me was more than I had counted on now that Baby E is here. Each week, from Tuesday evenings until Sunday afternoons, I really didn't get any breaks. He was only awake for a couple hours, and most of that time he spent getting ready for work, eating a bit of food, and doing his evening chores. Some days he didn't even get to the chores, and they fell to me. There wasn't usually time for him to watch the girls so that I could get a break and run down to the garden, let alone go and do something more, and with the two girls only intermittently matching up their nap schedules, and the baby typically falling asleep around 10, there just wasn't much time for me to escape and do my own thing when he wasn't around, awake, and capable (not to mention willing!) to look after the girls for a bit.

So to say I had been eagerly anticipating him being on day shift, home for supper and bedtime every night of the week, and being home (and on the same sleep schedule as us) both days on the weekend is likely a huge understatement. Since its looking like half of his years will be on night shift, and half on day shift, I'm having a hard time figuring out how to manage the night shift time, because personally, biding my time half of my year is no way to live. Clearly I've got to get the night shift game figured out, but I'm ok with not being quite there yet this past go around. Come January, he's on night shift for another 6 months, so that will be the true reckoning of how to best manage keeping my head well above water during night shift!

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the extra time with him on evenings and weekends, and try and get a bit ahead of the game on things that otherwise could wait until the first half of the coming year. I'm proud to be a cop's wife, and definitely willing to sacrifice to help him serve, I just need to figure out how to better manage our home life under these new-to-us schedules - we had never done even a month of night shift before this past 6 months, not to mention night shift with a new baby - so overall I think we've pulled through just fine :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Garden

Well, we haven't had any frosts yet, although there have been some chillier nights in the past week that have started dipping down into the upper 30's. That means that some plants are still holding on in the garden, but I've yanked a lot of stuff out that was past its prime or not really going to produce anything more of substance this fall, to make way for the start of the big manure push of 2013. Hah!

That being said, here is the garden tour of late September!
The chickens have been enjoying all the garden scraps and plants lately, and check out the new rooster at the very right of this picture. He's still rather shy and reclusive, and the ladies aren't tolerating his young adultness very well, but he'll grow up and we'll see how he does next spring! Chicks maybe? Yes please :)

This is the last remnant of the sunflower row beside the chicken coop, the rest have been happily devoured by the chickens over the last couple weeks. We've started clipping ones from down in the fields and feeding them to the chickens too, as they love those sunflower seeds so much!

The pigs were very happy with all of the corn discards, and are sizing up fairly well. We aren't as happy with these mixed breeds as the Berkshire of last year, in terms of food interest, rooting around, and weight gain, but I'm holding my final opinion until we see what the cost/weight is at butcher time.

Little M is rather looking forward to carving this volunteer huge pumpkin!

Yup, this supposed to be two rows of strawberries... needs weeding much?

My happy place.

The lower garden. Tomatoes, zucchini, and marigolds remaining. Potatoes, lettuce, garlic, and onions all pulled up and the areas well chicken manured.

Green beans and kale remaining, unproductive squash, corn, and cucumbers all pulled up. Piles of pig manure waiting to be turned in.

I love these large orange marigolds! Grow them every year.

Pitiful tomato plants, but producing enough to keep our daily needs for tomatoes satisfied. Next year there will be better fertilizer and more plants!

Well, that's the fall garden! I hope your fall garden is winding slowly down to winter too :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest post over on R-Dub Outdoors!

Thought you might all want to check out a guest post I wrote for the mister's blog, about grouse hunting these past 6 years.

Grouse Hunting Through My Wife's Eyes 

Rory and I met online back in 2008. Our first date was at a Starbucks, where I proceeded to shock him by ordering hot chocolate on a 100 degree day. I'm not sure if that is what prompted him to follow up and ask for a second date (a hike up nearby 'mountain' looking for Shorthorned Lizards), and then a third (another hike on another very hot day), but whatever the reason, a bit over a month later I found myself out hunting for basically the first time of my life.

Read the rest after the link

Friday, September 20, 2013

The upsides of night shifts

Its been a long couple weeks here, and actually its been a long couple of months here, with the mister on night shift plus fall hunting starting up. In actual fact he's nearing the end of a 6 month stretch on night shift, where he's left at either 5 or 7 in the evening, to return shortly before 5 of 7 in the morning. I've only noticed it being especially hard since he went back to work at the end of June after Baby E was born, and more-so since hunting started at the beginning of September; before Baby E came, when it was just me and Little M, it was more do-able. Needless to say I'm looking forward to next month when he starts on day shift (during the week, with both weekend days off with us no less!). I've actually been writing a post about how I feel about this whole night shift process, which I may share next week sometime if I can manage to get it a bit more coherent :)

In the meantime, I needed a pick me up, and decided to write a post about the things I love about this schedule, with him leaving at 7 every evening, getting home just before 7 in the morning, and working mid week through the weekend. So, here goes, what I've been loving...

  • evenings with just me and the girls that are incredibly low key. I mean, he leaves at 7, and we can just start getting Little M ready for bed if we want, including a long bath, bedtime snack, bedtime story, brushing teeth, going potty, bedtime songs, getting tucked in, the whole bit.
  • evenings with just me and the girls that are more active. When it was still light until easily 8, we would go for walks down the road shortly after the mister left for work. That was fun.
  • now that it's dark about when he leaves, lighting a candle on the table and having the flickering light and nice smell in the main room. Even better - having my twinkle star lights in the kitchen window turned on as well.
  • having the whole bed to myself (and Baby E) almost every night. Ah, stretching out space how I am going to miss you once all three of us are in the bed every night come day shift next month!
  • friday afternoon walks with Baby E along the block and a half of back alleys between my work and Little M's 'new daycare' where she goes once a week right now, and the subsequent errands around town that the three of us girls do to productively waste more time between daycare pickup and the mister's wake up time of 5 o'clock.
  • having one or two mornings a week of breakfasts as a family when we wake up about when he gets home and he stays up a bit to hang out with us.
  • dashing down to the garden for a brief mama interlude for a few minutes some time between 5 and 7 on the nights where he actually wakes up at 5, supper doesn't take too long for me to make, Baby E isn't too fussy, and it isn't too smoking hot outside at that time of the day.
  • the couple of days where he has had some hunting or fishing stuff going on right after work so hasn't gotten home and to bed until mid day or later on his last shift for the week, when that we can be as loud and productive as we want all morning.
  • needing only 3 days a week of daycare for Little M, as he is (somewhat) awake and able to be with her during the day the other 2 days a week.
  • having supper with him, where he is at least present at the table if not always particularly interested in eating a full meal, every night of the week.
  • having limited daily dog chores myself as most mornings and basically every evening he is in charge of feeding them and letting them out.
Ok, well that's all I can think of right now, but this will serve as a great reminder for myself come January when he starts back on night shift, of what positives to focus on to help me start the next 6 months off right :) I think it is helpful to focus on the positives, because then it's them that I remember. Clearly our lives are full of both good things and bad things, but thinking about the past positives makes me a happier person than remembering the past negatives!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On future goals and things to learn

I started this post near the end of last month, before the craziness of September hit, and then never had time to come back to it and publish it. However, looking back at what I drafted up, I'm finding it amazing to see what progress I've already made towards these future goals I almost shared! I inserted my progress in bold italics...

I'm slowly surfacing from new-baby-itis, and I'm realizing that since back in January I didn't really set goals for the year other than having a healthy baby, I'm starting to feel a bit aimless. Now let me assure you that my number one goal this year is still to have a healthy baby - that doesn't stop just because she's out in the world. Oh no, I'm still breastfeeding her like crazy, and we won't be starting to introduce solids until she's good and ready (whenever she decides that is). So really, for the rest of the next year plus, I'll still be primarily focused on keeping myself well watered, de-stressed, and eating as healthy as I can manage in order to keep her as topped up on breastmilk as I can.

But I'm starting to feel a bit restless, which generally means I need to define my future a bit more clearly for myself. Some things I'm thinking of putting on my learning goals list in the near future include:

  • making our own vanilla (I happen to know a great recipe book with this in it is hidden somewhere in the house for my upcoming birthday!)
  • making soap
  • looking into essential oils, maybe buying a first one or two - peppermint? lavender? (I'm hoping next month to get an intro pack of 3 doterra oils - peppermint lavender and lemon) 
  • making and freezing/canning? our own chicken stock
  • sourdough. I wanna bake bread with it - thus my own starter is needed... need to learn more!
  • ferments? not sure about this one, still don't know enough to feel comfortable
  • brewing my own beer now that I'm not pregnant!
  • decide on a chicken breed or 2 to stick with from the seven we have currently... and decide whether to add to the flock this coming year or try to hatch our own - need a rooster first for that though! (We brought home a free americauna cross rooster last week, he's young still, and apparently pretty shy, but we'll see how that goes over the winter and then perhaps settle on Speckled Sussex if he doesn't work out) 
  • getting back on the cloth diaper bandwagon I've not yet got started on with baby #2 - every time I put her in them she has a crazy blowout poop. totally coincidence, but not making my life easier! (I determined that the problem is our old ones have shot elastics, and the inserts needed to be replaced, something about using them solid for almost 3 years with Little M! I've started to order replacements, 5 should be coming in the mail later this week, and I'll slowly build my stash back up!)
Other future plans I need to think more about in my free time (usually when I'm walking the baby getting her to sleep, or nursing her at night)

  • setting some (easy) rowing goals
  • doing a better job recording our garden harvests for planning for next year - for example 22.5 & 6.5 lbs of potatoes needs to be written down somewhere or I'll forget come next spring let alone next fall! (I've started developing a spreadsheet that I'll print and put in my home notebook once it's finished, with columns for seeds sown, amount eaten & preserved, etc)
  • figuring out a plan for next spring's most likely outside big chore - in-ground irrigation and some grass seed, plus figuring out the ideal fence location on the east side of the inner yard.
Well, there you have it, some plans and dreams for the future year. Hopefully this will give me some guidance on lonely evenings and quiet days for what to research and think about! Nothing like setting goals to get me motivated :)

Monday, September 9, 2013

What excitement looks like in our life

On Saturday in the late afternoon, after a busy day spent over in the next valley going to some bigger town stores and the county fair, we were greeting grandpa who had just arrived for the weekend to do some hunting and meet Baby E for the first time (he was off on his boat for the summer and only just got back home recently). I looked over and heard him talking to someone, but Little M was right beside me, and papa was still in the house sleeping. It was one of the newish neighbors a ways down our little side valley, actually a cousin of a really good friend of mine, who we had only barely met in passing once or twice, although we know the rest of her local family very well.

She was saying she thought she saw a fire. We walked back a little bit and sure enough, there was smoke coming off the hillside just up from the house. Now my husband and I had been smelling little wafts of smoke on and off for 2 days, since a big storm rolled through after dark one night, but we figured we were either just imagining things, or it was from some distant fire. Nope, it was just smoldering slowly, and hadn't really picked up yet.

After calling it in to dispatch, I ran up and took some photos, which of course didn't turn out as I wasn't checking my settings closely enough and didn't glance at what the shots were turning out like until I got further away from the fire. I did get some neat ones from down on the road, and sometime later this week we'll hike up as a family and show Little M what it looked like and get some pictures of the tree that had been hit by lightning to start the fire, and the burn scar around it.

So after taking my pictures, I quickly hiked back down, as I had left grandpa in charge of the baby and Little M, so I wanted to get back down to them. When I got down there, grandpa asked if I had seen papa (he's visible in the white t-shirt in some of these pics!), as he had hiked up with a shovel and was starting to get the fire under control before the firefighters arrived on scene. I had totally missed him the way I came back down the ridge, but there he was, making sure the fire didn't spread. After a quick call in to the neighbors up valley on that side of the road, I just sat and watched my husband through the zoom lens of the camera, and kept an eye on Little M as the fire trucks started to arrive.

The mister came back down soon after the firefighters got up to the fire, and said he had gotten it out by the time they got there, but there was still hot spots to deal with so the local guys stayed up there for an hour or two taking care of those and cleaning up, then the DNR crews arrived to finish up and stayed until almost dark. It was pretty exciting, and the pictures were really neat, especially what with the double rainbow that was visible over the fire to us down on the road. The whole experience made me really grateful for neighbors & firefighters! Oh, and grandpa's who watch the kiddo's while the parents run around dealing with slight emergencies!

And that's what excitement looks like in our quiet, slow, rural life! :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I've been a little less than thrilled with the amount of produce coming from the gardens this year. Let me restate that. Given the input of time from me and the plants generated, I'm a little disappointed with what we've been getting out of the gardens. Not just compared with past years, or others' gardens, but with things like the amount of potato weight out from potato weight in, the pitiful vine growth on the squash & cucumbers initially in the old garden compared with those in the new one. These 2 big flags, and any number of little ones, have pretty much told me that I need to add more fertilizer to the old garden this year than I have been in past years.

I've added a couple of wheelbarrows-full of chicken manure each fall, but this fall I'm going to aim to do a bit more. I've already dumped 2 wheelbarrows-full of chicken manure in the old garden this past weekend, from cleaning out the coop. With the digging of the last of the potatoes I had enough room for a huge pile, so I finally got that chore checked off my list. But to add more than just those 2 loads means either bringing down some dirt from the chicken's outside run, using some pig manure, or bringing some manure in from off the property.

The chicken's outside run has only been in this location since the spring when we moved the coop & created the new side garden. I'm really not sure how much good stuff that dirt contains, since it was pretty barren before it became their outside run. And even if it were great, there are so many little rocks in that soil that I would really hate to add it to the old garden, which is fairly free of hoe-breaking pebbles! The dirt from the chicken's old run, which had been used for almost 2 full years, was great for the new garden this spring though, so I am going to plan on using the new dirt in the gardens next fall perhaps, once it has had more time to accumulate the good stuff.

There are 2 pig manure options right now. The old spot got somewhat dug up by my husband and moved to the new garden this spring, but there is still a lot of dirt there that should be pretty good. However it is a barren weed-filled wasteland right now, not having had any water or attention since the spring when he removed about half of the top layer of pig poo & dirt. 

The other pig option is the inner pen of the current pig area, which has a fair amount of poo given the two pigs this year, but its pretty fresh, and it might be rocky. Also, that is future garden space, hopefully for next year as long as we get our fencing acts together, so I would hate to be doing a 'rob peter to pay paul' with that, especially since the main poo and mucked up area is going to be in this coming spring's garden expansion.

The third option, bringing some manure in from off the property, is really not appealing, as I like to move towards self-sustainability - not away, and generating our own compost/manure is something that we really should be able to do. So this leaves me with the pig manure in the old spot perhaps slightly topped up with the new area if needed.

 In the future, I hope to be working on our own compost bins and compost piles in addition to the manure generated from mucking out the animals' pens, however the grass/manure-dirt pile you see in the background of the above shot was just started this past couple months, so no useable compost yet. Also, I think I need to have the piles in a spot that gets at least a bit of sprinkler-water, as it is so dry here that I think it impedes the compost breakdown. Definitely something to put on my winter goals list - learning more about compost building! We generate a fair amount of green matter due to the extensive fields my husband has been working on for game animals and future pasture animals, so having a great compost heap should be completely feasible for us.

 Well, there you have it, the state of our poo :) I hope you are all enjoying the start of the Fall. Upcoming we've got entirely too many hunting trips, family visits, and harvesting tasks to reasonably fit into the month ahead. However, I'm sure we'll manage to make it through, although I'm sure blog posting will fall a bit by the wayside, as it does every September! Happy harvesting to you, and if you are a hunter, happy hunting!
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