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Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Sort of a disjointed rambling kind of post. I have been lurking around the bloggosphere for the last couple weeks-lots of ideas in my head and im gonna purge it out today!

I'm not sure when I became so grim. I have always been on the serious side: a hard working, eye on the ball kind of gal. But (I think) I used to have fun, be spontaneous and silly and...JOYFUL. I don't remember how to relax and enjoy and just be.

I am either working or avoiding. I may look like I am cuddled on the couch ENJOYing a good read, but I am really AVOIDing something I feel I should be doing. Since I have decided only I am responsible for my life's story and am acting on that belief in other parts of my life- -this too needs to change. Strive for balance-spend part of my days JOYFULLY embracing my family's needs -dishes, homework help, groceries, etc but then also take care of my own needs; I need to laugh, I need to create art, I need to be able to relax in my own skin. I have a literally never-ending list of shoulds in my head, to find peace and joy I need to push them out the door. I am always telling my 8 yr old that she can choose her attitude -sounds like good advise for me too!

Talking to one of my employees yesterday, I said something like 'i could go home and sleep for a week!' She looked at me and said well why don't you? you never take a vacation. Hmmm why don't I? because i only work 3 days a week -isnt that vacation enough? just to stay home and putter/nap-that doesnt seem valid somehow. asking for help-asking my co-workers to cover for me. sounds like guilt and self worth issues are stopping me, that and $.

I need to stop listening to the news on the radio--recession, national debt, unemployment, economic collapse, gloom and doom. Then add working with clients every day with sick pets and no money; we are broke, please fix fido, we have $100 to pay you but then we can't buy groceries for the kids. No wonder I am getting burned out! I am getting mean -not like sadistic mean, but stingy and miserly mean- the opposite of abundant.

Unless you have balance like a ninja, dont go snowshoeing in 3 foot drifts with out a walking stick! I took a day off work today (yay me!) and went out for a snow day! We have all this beautiful snow (maybe another 6 inches yesterday?). The long grass in the slough creates the most wonderful drifts. Unfortunately I am not a ninja, and down I went-flat on my back shoes wedged under the snow crust, no walking stick. I flopped around, not able to use my arms to get up through the deep snow, finally I had to unstrap the shoes to get up. Not a pretty moment. But I am smiling now!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Our first real winter weather. A much different experience than in town. The little tractor just was not up to the task of a 900 ft driveway drifted shut with waist high drifts, thank goodness for neighbors with heavy equipment. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Swimming in Stuff

Good News:Our house in town has a renter for the next 6 months. What a relief! They can pay the heat bill and worry about shoveling, and oh yes pay a large chunk of the mortgage. Bad News: she is moving in this weekend. We spent all of last weekend sorting and moving the dregs of our household. The stuff we CAN live without but somehow have decided that we need anyway. Our little house is not prepared to store so much detritus. But it is done, all that remains is to spend one day this week boxing the few remaining things to charity and pictures from the walls, clean up after myself and be sure the appliances still work, whew!
Then I will start holiday preparations! January will be tax stuff and figuring out how to deal with the boxes of stuff lining the walls in my house. I can't wait for February!
Other stuff...the hens are up to 5 eggs a day, leghorns started first, now the rhode island reds are joining in. The coop is pretty cozy they seem to do well with no heat source even when it is 5 degrees overnight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I will never win mother of the year

but I think I do a pretty good job. However, I am worried about my youngest. She is 8; smart and charismatic with a very warm, cuddly, happy to please personality 98% of the time. The other 2%...she is angry, in rage even. Stomping around and nothing is right, complete refusal to do something mundane-like brushing teeth even in the face of a punishment -loss of computer time, etc. It then ramps up to 'i'm stupid, no-one cares about me, you're mean, you hate me, i hate me, i wish I were dead', she even accused me once of wanting to kill her! These episodes are usually triggered by homework help, bed times or a rushed getting ready for school, but I hate to say it -these are just about the only times we are actually requiring something of her.

She is an extrovert living in a household of introverts and I feel like I cannot give her the warmth that she wants...(NEEDS?). The other part of me really resents being manipulated by this behavior. Do I try to be something I am not? Can I meet the needs of this 'needy' child, or do I let her find her own way to meet her needs?
I am feeling sad and guilty.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Answer.. my little riddle is that I did it, made one of those big decisions. Borrowing this quote from Judy's blog (fullfreezer)
--Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
-Mahatma Gandhi
I have taken a step towards harmony and happiness. The meeting was with my business partner- I informed her of my desire to sell my share of the practice back to her. I will work my normal schedule until school gets out-then I QUIT.

I began this blog when I realized I wanted something more (actually less) from my life. Less hurry-more meaning, less junk food-more slow food, less debt-more time.

For the past three years I have been a dichotomy, living in two worlds, bread earner- bread maker, business owner- TEOTWAWKI-er (that's not a word but you understand!), six figure income- goodwill shopper, suburban during the week- country by weekend. No wonder I'm nuts lol.

We took a step in the right direction by moving out of town onto our 20 acres of grass. But a house in the country is just a bigger lawn and a longer commute! Now what? Our goals center around two themes: 1) to spend more time -good time- with the girls, to shape and teach them in a positive way 2)to become more self reliant as a household, both from a food and energy standpoint but also income. We wish to build this 20 acres of grass into a thriving pasture based farm, not only producing food for us but an income to see us into 'retirement'. I had posted once about 'when i retire' and this farm is our retirement package.

One of us needs to be at home -to be here for the girls and to be the farm person. We went back and forth but it came down to biology and health insurance. I could embrace the business and its income to become the 60 hrs per week single bread-earner while DH nurtures the farm and the kids. He has the organizational skills and the muscle for farm and running the affairs of house and home. But it didn't feel right to either of us-I was freaked out and trapped by the idea of being the sole income earner and DH was not comfortable with the nurture role and chauffeuring girls to extracurricular activities.

We then 'tried on' the gender roles of male income earner and stay at home/farm mom. In addition to making sense on a number of practical levels, it 'felt' right. I can sell my % of the practice and pay off a number of large bills (student loan, vehicle)to make the income drop tight but do-able and have capital to invest in our retirement/farm. I still have in-demand skills as a DVM for relief or other part-time work if we need the income, whereas DH's income from the manufacturing sector is not so portable. He also has insurance benefits. I priced out very basic, very high deductible health insurance at $800 per month for our family. We have fallen back to genetic programming but that's okay with me, nature is too big to fight with!

I am a little worried about my body holding up to the rigors of farming. I am 40. I am overweight. I have carpal tunnel and a crunchy knee. Self sufficiency is about being responsible for yourself. I am high with the idea that my life is MINE to shape as i wish now -no shoulda's or oughta's. From here on out it's in my hands. My health is no different, time to take responsibility for that too.

Some fall pictures of our grass

Next Post: the winter coop (or my first attempt at building something with power tools)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Signs of Change

I have a meeting today.
My heart is in my throat
butterflies galore
a secretive smile on my lips
what if....

Any guesses about my meeting today??
Hint -the meeting is NOT an OB/GYN apt :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Scarlet Runner Beans

Last year was my first rasing beans for dry beans. Perfect crop for me-get em growing pick what-ever green beans you need and let the rest go until fall. I got even lazier this year and let the pods dry on the vines, I didn't pick them until the green leaves were so wilted and brown that the pods were much easier to find and pick.

My daughters picked scarlett runner beans from the catalog for their long vines and pretty red flowers.

They were pretty and bonus! -edible beans. The dried beans are huge and quite striking. I have to say the skins are tougher than the others I have grown but still good to eat!

Pretty and functional (and saved for re-planting next year!)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Winter Coop Construction/Meet the Hens

This Wisconsin fall has been amazingly mild. Lucky us-lucky hens. They are still in their tractor on pasture-it falls into the 20's overnight but back to the 40's and 50's in the day. No snow yet.

Our plans and construction budget have changed form the original (many times) so instead of a garage with chicken coop added to the back we have a 10x16 lofted shed.
The shed will be partitioned to have a 4 1/2 ft x 10 ft insulated chicken coop on one end. We will use the other portion for storage -think rabbit and chick bedding and food, snow shovels and snowblower!

Yesterday has a work at home day for us. I felt very competent going to the big box store and successfully loading and strapping down wood and insulation in the bed of the truck. DH and I got the partition wall up and the 1 inch foam insulation glued in place -everything but the ceiling! We will put up 'milk board' for interior walls and paint the floor with a couple coats of porch paint. Run a cord for lights, chicken door and perches deep bedding and good to go!

The chicks:

Araucana-the under dog in my pen-pastel colored eggs

Rhode Island Reds-light brown eggs -shy

Welsummer-fearless! chocolate brown eggs

Leghorn-white eggs -heavy layers

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Traditional Chinese Medicine

I spent Friday locked in a fancy hotel conference room, my brain a quivering confused mess. The topic was An Introduction to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. I have read up on TCM, have a superficial understanding of qi, shen, yin and yang. I was still overwhelmed by the complexity of this body of knowledge. If this is something I wish to pursue, it will not be done lightly!

An idea which struck me during the lecture was that TCM theory and practice was developed through thousands of years of observation of cause and effect, of associations which mirrored nature, observation of function. I do not believe there was much dissection or autopsy going on through these years-but there certainly was a lot of observation of relationships, harmony and function. It seems that science is becoming sophisticated enough to 'prove' TCM is valid. Acupuncture points can be located by measuring the electrical potential of the skin-they are areas of decreased resistance. Anatomically they have been shown to have a unusually large number of nerve fibers and blood vessels. Still no luck in measuring Qi though!

I thought this was a very nice analogy: if disease is a mountain, you can approach it from the east or the west. Sometimes the path from the east is quicker than that from the west or vice-versa. I would love to be able combine both 'paths' in my approach.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Love Those Leghorns!

We have eggs! Our layers are nearly five months old and I was beginning to ownder if we would have eggs this winter or if the short photoperiod would delay onset of eggs.
The hens are in a chicken tractor which was remodeled from last year-we boarded up a few of the nest boxes since it seemed like the previous inhabitants only used 2 for eggs and the remaining as toilets :) It appears they can still squeek into those boxes and yesterday i discovered a leghorn sitting on a dozen eggs in there! I did a little dance in the field! Several were cracked but all the rest were beautiful inside and out! The girls and I had a pan of scrambled eggs which bordered on orange.
A little more about our laying hens: hatched on June 6th and purchased from My Pet Chicken-what can i say ... i wanted a few of each kind! We ordered a dozen and although they were supposed to be all hens we ended up with 2 roosters. The order was 3 each: rhode island red, leghorn, welsummer and araucana. My selection process was simple -cold hardy birds with pretty eggs. The leghorns of course are white, reds are light brown, welsummer a deep chocolate brown with speckles and the araucana are the easter eggers. Sadly one araucana chick died early on and another is a rooster. My crew consists of 3 leghorns, 3 welsummers, 2 rhode islands and one araucana.
They are still on pasture in the tractor despite some cold weather (down to 20 Thursday night) and doing well. We are working on their winter quarters now-partitioning off a 5x10 section of the shed and insulating it. We were originally going to house the 2 rabbits in their as well-we'll see.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Just a Sunday evening musing- slightly tongue in cheek? You decide!

I just finished re-watching Braveheart with my girls. I get so immersed in the imagery and emotion of a saga like that-all that idealistic passion. It is easy for me to get swept away--then add hairy men in kilts and well, who can blame me? :)
It had me thinking about things worth fighting for; family, freedom of (or in my case FROM) religion, personal liberty. Unlike the movies we do not have a clear cut villain to go to battle with. A different kind of villainy, a slow erosion of personal freedoms, a kind of golden handcuffs for a very privileged society-the bad guy is? Who? Big Business? Our own government? Apathy? Ourselves? Multiple choice -all of the above.
I think the local food, self sufficiency, voluntary simplicity movements are all forms of mini-revolutions. We are not painting our faces with blue woad and lifting our kilts at the enemy, but being subversive revolutionaries because it's a subversive kind of war.
I heard somewhere (Stoney, chime in if there is a name or source for this)that it only takes a small percentage (17% ?)of population to change their opinion/actions and the rest will follow-I dub it the Sheeple principle. Think of this the next time you wait until you have cash to buy (or refrain entirely), bake your own bread, buy grass fed local beef -or grow your own chickens. YOU are a revolutionary!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Role Reversal

My DH and I have been wrestling with 'a big life changing event', yep another one :) Our farm/homestead/home business goals will/are require time and considerable effort. For this to have a chance we feel one of us needs to be working at home. Home to be the primary child caregiver, chauffeur, etc. Home to be the household manager, bookkeeper, etc. Home to be the chicken/turkey/(beef/goat?) wrangler. We have tried DH working full time and me working 50% with only partial success. Being a small business owner/partner-I find work encroaching on those days off-filling in for emergencies, fielding questions from staff/clients; my days off are never a sure thing. We are both professionals and good at our work; DH is finding his job frustrating and unfufilling, while I have days of intense pleasure (they PAY me to do this?!) alternating with the dread (I can't fix this pet, too many people want too many things from me)of high responsibility and caretakers fatigue.
We are both finding ourselves stressed out because we cannot do a satisfactory job at either our home or office jobs, and feel that the solution is for one of us to be the income earner and the other to be the home and farm manager. The original assumption was for me to stay home and Tom to work. We are each inclined to fulfill our 'gender roles'; he as income producer and I as caregiver. This would mean me selling my portion of the business to my partner and thereby having a nice but not earth-shattering amount of cash. We could pay off my student loan, buy a tractor and put the rest into a college fund. Nice, right? I have been sitting with this idea for a while and it makes me selfishly very happy but hearing voices. Voices that wonder about selling a business which is profitable even in this economy, that wonder about the stability and longevity of DH's employers. The projects we have at home now require a skill set that are not my strong points -carpentry, post holes, fencing-and oh yeah-organization!
So, as much as it makes me want to kick my feet and have a tantrum :) I need to explore what happens if I work full time and DH stays home. It means no cash to buy a tractor or finish the workshop. We will need to come up with 2/3 of the workshop's price tag by next June to fulfill our construction loan (could work with tough budgeting -or a SOLD house!) I have a lot of untapped earning potential and money wise it might cash flow for us. We need to find health insurance since DH's employer carries that. What Tom willing to do dr and dentist and orthodontist and lessons. Is he willing to pay bills, to return library books and go grocery shopping? Is he okay with being Mr Mom? Am I okay with the responsibility of being the sole bread winner-scary!
As I think things through I am excited by having energy to put into the clinic. I am pulled in too many directions now and have been a jack of all trades, master of none lately. We have so many great things about our clinic-if I can take control of our/my direction instead of being the passive receiver of what comes my way...
I am so thankful to have this outlet for my internal dialogue. I am at peace with this option if some of the details can be worked out. It is not what the selfish child in me desires, but the thoughtful adult looking out for the needs of her entire family (herself not the least of all).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

back into the swing of things

I enjoyed reading Sharon's post on whole-life re-design and i would like to nail down some definable, measurable goals for myself and turn some of these pie-in-the-sky dreams I have for our farm into something closer to a mission statement. I am too easily distracted and will end up floundering around without goals and accountability. I am a disco ball instead of a laser light!

I am finally feeling as if things are reaching a certain equilibrium, a routine. I am seeing room for improvement! Too much time in front of the TV, not enough time one-on-one with each other. In some (small) ways I miss the enforced closeness of the camper. If I could get rid of the TV I would (except for movie night!) In a small open house it dominates our energy every evening. I am struggling to find routines for the household chores, bill paying, self care, etc as well as being flexible and responsive to the girls needs, work needs, ug. This is our chance to shake things up and focus on the simple and lead a deliberate life.

Some fun early November I will be taking a course at the UW-Madison VMTH called Introduction to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. I feel this is something of a declaration for me. After 12 yrs of practice I am ready to go my own way. If our small animal clinic is not receptive-that's okay with me.
Another fun thing -now that i have internet again i was able to look up scarlet runner beans-they are edible as well as really pretty-i need to go collect those pods for dry beans! Sauerkraut needs to happen this weekend-the cabbage at the foot of my bed are starting to smell weird! **or is that the laundry-i better go check :)

Friday, October 1, 2010


Where to start? I've been gone from Small Life so long...the house is up, we are no longer living in the camper (yay), we successfully raised and marketed 120 Freedom Ranger meat birds and the girls have adapted well to the small school. We have 9 nearly 4 month old egg chicks on grass in their tractor. Their winter coop will be up sometime in the next month...(think warm thoughts for us in WI). Our house has not YET sold, although I think we have it at the right price now and have had 4 showings in the last 2 weeks (fingers crossed!)

Overall the move is a positive one; I love the space, the views, the sandhill cranes calling and the geese migrating. Now the struggle will be to make this life different from the previous one-not just a longer commute and a bigger 'lawn'. Is 'GrassWorks Family Farm' a business, a hobby farm or a homestead?

We (I) am still struggling with work/professional issues. Sell or don't sell the business, work for the local clinic part-time, local relief work, stay at home? It sure is nice to have options, but choices make me crazy! If GrassWorks is to be a business then we need someone to be home. As I write about it the choices seem clear (but then I pay bills and come to different conclusion!)

I am writing this at a WiFi connected cafe on my 'going to town' errand day. I hope to have internet at home soon but for now the posts will be sporadic.

What do you want to hear/see more of? Questions, suggestions welcomed otherwise I will continue to ramble and diary our progress.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Houses old and new

Too much to do, not much time for keeping up with my blog. I haven't been doing much online except checking the radar-feeling pretty exposed in that camper I guess. The chicks are 3 weeks old and happily (?) in their tractors on the hill. I am relieved to have them out of the coop.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wild Ride

We are officially living in our camper. We have moved our bunnies to as shady of a spot as we have. The two house cats moved out today! They are not exactly pleased about the new outdoor accommodations, but I think they will adjust. (now we hope to avoid a run in with a coyote or hawk.) Both batches of chicks are doing well The layers are a week old already-their little flight feathers are growing in and they run around the pen trying to fly! Both Tom and I are finding it very rewarding to be nurturing these little ones.
Today I had to go to work for a partial day and Tom met me in town to sign paperwork for the construction loan! Our contractor even broke ground today, digging down along the perimeter of the house to pour concrete footing for the frost wall.
Life in the camper moves at a slower pace. We don't smell as good as we did in town, and we are tired often. We remarked tonight that it is a different kind of tired-not a fried brain tired but rather a body tired mind happy kind of tired. I like this kind of tired SO much more.
I have all these pictures i would like to share- unfortunately the internet connection out here is spotty so i will hope that this will publish NOW...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gut Check

I had a moment today. We were in our weekly Dr's meeting this morning and my partner was talking about farmland her husband purchased from a farmer in foreclosure. This is(was) a large landholder and ALL his property is in foreclosure. The parcel they purchased was 560 acres and a cabin on a lake! I had an immediate sinking feeling. 'what am I doing, rejecting that path?' Accumulation of property and power, isn't that the goal? It took me a couple hours to process the emotions that discussion brought up for me. I was such a relief to get back home to my girls (**and my CHICKS). My carefully nurtured plans tend to fade to a poorly defined image when exposed to the values of normal society. This is a big part of the reason we chose to buy property in the boonies. I WANTED the girls in a different district, I WANTED to NOT be so close to work that it was 'business as usual'. I need physical distance to help me preserve this vision and not make it too easy to turn this 'small life adventure' into just another house with a really big yard.

We are on the right path and this is a good thing because tomorrow is D-day. We sign the construction loan and move rabbits and cats into their new home. The 130 meat birds should arrive tomorrow. The 12 (now 11) egg layers have been in the basement for 2 days now and growing like mad. They will join the Noah's Ark-like procession tomorrow.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Future is Here!

The girls last day of school is tomorrow and then our adventure truly begins! Our house had its first showing Sunday (they are coming back with their parents to look again next wekend!) and another showing tomorrow evening. The 142 chicks arrive at the end of the week -130 freedom rangers (the reason behind that exact # lies at the bottom of a wine bottle-never shop for chickens with a credit card and an empty bottle of wine!) and 12 laying hens-3 each of white leghorn, easter-egger, rhode island red and welsummer. I agonized over the laying hens-and ultimately picked for winter durabliity, laying ability (duh) and egg color. I ordered the layers from My Pet Chicken to avoid having to buy a large number of a single breed. I am a bit nervous about the chicks, but there is a first time for everything-go for it!

We begin living in our camper more or less full time at the end of this week. Until the house sells we have the option of coming back here for showers, laundry or as a stir-crazy escape hideout if needed. Tom and I are having a very hard time sleeping in the camper bed. It is big enough-although maybe too soft after putting the memory foam pad on top. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the bed and everything to do with a lack of background noise, or that we are sore from the extra work. Whatever the problem is I sure hope we resolve it quickly!

I am giving up on the homemade bread and yogurt (and homecooking in general) for the time being. Once we get a routine down I may be able to pick those things back up. Right now I am struggling with the transition from camping cooking to everyday cooking. I cannot live on grilled hamburgers, brats and foil dinners for the entire summer. We used the camper oven to make muffins and it worked great-6 muffins at a time!

The girls are enrolled at the small rural school. I have such mixed feelings about this. To go from 450 per grade to 30 is a big change. Some good, others not so. I am most concerned about Erin -our 12 yr old. She just finished her 6th grade year with straight A's in all AP classes. 96% in math, 100% for science last quarter, now she will be in regular classes and I am afraid she will be bored to tears. I need to find some enrichment material she can do at home. The time may come when I can home-school but not for a year or two.

The garden is thriving, now that we have had a little rain. I still have some transplants to put in. I was waiting until I could be around daily to water (or cover!)

I promise to remember the camera next trip out so you can have some visuals to go along with my descriptions! And sorry for all the ranting before this-I am going to remove most of that post to protect identities!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Personal Responsibility

My business partner and I did a very hard thing today. We confronted an employee about theft, fired her, then escorted her (crying) from the building. I am one part madder than hell, on part betrayed and two (or more) parts feeling very bad about the whole thing. We have had inventory problems and small discrepancies in the petty cash off and on for a long time. We chalked it up to mistakes, forgotten receipts, miscounts, etc. Hanlon's razor- 'Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity'.
(content deleted-hickchick)
I am sure she will continue to play the victim in her life. Poor me, look what the bad world did to me. I wish people would take more personal responsibility-as in 'I am where I am in my life because of the choices I have made' Enough rant, maybe I can let this go now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Official

The house has a big bright real estate sign out front! I found our MLS listing yesterday-it's officially for sale...

Other things are happening too, 9 days of school left for the girls. Two weeks until our 130 Freedom Rangers and 12 laying chicks arrive. I am giddy and tired. We have a three day weekend coming up -we are going to need every minute of it I think. We have building projects (bean trellis and chicken tracotrs), possibly moving some rabbit cages out to the farm (we have 2 sets so the buns can stay at home in the back-up cages until we move), and taking stock of what we need to do to prepare for chicks. Oh yes I also work Saturday morning 8-12 at the far away clinic-so tack an hour driving to either end of that. That's okay-I can buy alot of chicken feed with those wages :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recovery and Discovery

Thanks for the public (and private)words of support. There should be a law against stressful news at certain times of the month :)
I think my biggest stress was in putting myself 'out there', pushing my comfort zones a bit. You see we do have the money to do this (I knew there was a reason for driving an 8yr old Saturn!), I just didn't think we would be called upon to have to use it. I was assuming we could have our comfortable cushion to sit on.
I AM breathing again and thinking things through rationally again. Tom and I will do a little brainstorming about how to proceed -the construction loan has a 12 month term, so we can continue to save and accumulate money as we go through the next year. Perhaps the garage will get built this fall? Perhaps we get another bid for the garage, with us doing more of the work? I'm not sure what we will come up with , but there is nothing like a campfire and a couple Mike's Hard Lemonades to help you think outside of the box.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I want to vomit. I have too many things weighing on my mind. This is no way to live. The bank called yesterday about the construction loan. The assessor (appaiser?) valued our future home at $187,000. That is basically an evaluation of what our property would sell for in the current market. Problem is, the market here has really tanked. The bank will loan us 75% of the assessed value or $140,000. The estimates we have collected to build a 1400 sq foot house, 2 car garage, mound septic, well and to run electric out (1,000ft!) is 175,000. That is a big difference.
Do you remember that post about 'when i retire'...well we need to decide if that is all talk or will we put our money where our mouth is. Last night talking it over with DH and a bottle of wine it seemed pretty obvious- we do it, but I am worrying this thing to death (that's what i do). Time for a little yoga and then I will transplant my little tomatoes and see how things feel then.
Oh yeah, I also had a post on HWW about technoloy and commuting.-see side link to HWW

Friday, May 14, 2010

Not For the Faint of Heart

Did you know that the bacteria living in and on you would fill up a half gallon jug? In fact there are 10 times MORE bacterial cells in our body than human ones (good thing they are very small!) The article from Scientific American is here.
Pretty cool stuff-but I am funny that way. Our bodies function more efficiently with these little helpers, in fact 40 of our own genes have been found to be bacterial in origin.
I throw antibiotics at pets evry day...maybe I should be looking deeper. These dogs are not suffering an antibiotic deficiency, something else has allowed the pathogenic bacteria to gain ground. Or maybe not. Just food for thought.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weekend Work

We had a cold weekend, and frankly we were tired so we had a convienent excuse to NOT spend the weekend at the camper. Brrr...3+ inches of sloppy wet snow. I was happy to be in a real house! We spend Sunday at the land. The weather was perfect-very little wind, sunny and 50-60 degrees. DH installed the board walk in front of the camper along with the 10x12 'patio'. Everything is constructed with treated wood in 3'x10' sections so we can use at the house this fall. I am happy to have a spot out of the dirt and mud this summer. We put the 'patio' at the back end of the camper-we will put our deck table and chairs out there along with the umbrella for (a bit of) shade. The camper also has an exterior shower on the back so we can 'hose-off' on those really sticky days.

DH planted his open pollinated sweet corn-I forget the weight -but it was approx 1000seeds. I think it is a little cool for sweet corn, but even with a low germination rate and deer/coon/bear predation we will have alot of corn!

My day was spent in the garden! Yay me! I put in 10lbs of seed potatoes-I ended up with 3 25ft rows ( i must have cut them into smaller pieces this year) About half were the leftovers from our winter storage. I have pictures to help me remember row spacing etc for next year:

We hill the old fashioned way so I think I am still going to wish for more room between the rows...
I also put in two more rows of peas, a whole bed of beets and a row of radishes. The dandelions are taking over the rows and sides of the raised beds. I took the hoe to their tops and that felt very good! I know it will not help long term so next weekend i need to bring stuff for row mulch-I was thinking brown paper shoppping bags covered with lawn clippings. I also need to come up with bean trellis ideas. DH has too much on his plate and after all -I AM HANDY TOO!
The kids entertained themselves -playing 'tennis' on the tractor road:

(we are going to need more balls!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Look What I Did!!!

I am so proud of myself-look what I did!
Our dishwasher kicked the bucket a long time ago and we just didn't replace it. Bah! Modern conveniences-who needs 'em. As I prepared our house for sale, I decided it was time to have a functional dishwasher. I had a bad experience at our local big box appliance store, so I trotted down to our locally owned appliance store (who also will deliver AND take the old washer away). I paid a little more but I feel better about spending where more money will stay in our community. The sales person offered to put me in contact with a plumber who could install the thing, but he said-'they are pretty easy to install -if your husband is handy he would have no problem'. I thought, he is handy -but SO AM I! It took a couple hours and 1 trip to the hardware store for a new fitting and hose but it works and is not leaking. I keep checking to be sure!
It's a small thing but it is giving me a sense of competency, of 'non-helplessness'.
In other news- the paperwork is all with the bank. In another 2-3 weeks we should have a building loan.
I am having moments of 'what the hell are we doing' as I work on our house-I am 'remembering' how much I like it-the yard especially. Then we go out to the camper which is parked in a bare field where the wind never stops blowing. I have to remind myself that I cannot have livestock in my pretty yard, the trees, shrubs and flowers will come in time(along with hot running water).


My blogging will continue to be very sporadic--keep checking back though

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dragon Eggs

What are 'dragon eggs'? Well you will have to go to Homemakers Who Work to find out!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chickens, Worms and Permaculture

I am lazy. I don't want to work any harder than is absolutely necessary. After seeing how beat-up my Dad got in his first couple of years of country living I am trying to learn from his experiences. How to work WITH natural systems and not fight with her so much. I gotta face the facts; me VS mother nature- she's gonna kick my ass every time! So how to set up our homestead in a logical, aesthetic manner which will work with our local ecology ? I need to use my brain not my puny biceps. Permaculture is the answer.
I am not going to lecture about permaculture design or theory here because frankly I don't know alot about it in practice. What I am concentrating on is the idea of using natural laws to achieve your desired ends. For example we plan to raise chickens, both for meat and eggs. Chickens want to be chickens, they want the scratch around, eat bugs, tender greens and seeds and poop (alot). How can I make this work for us?
I found Harvey Ussery's website, the modern homestead, in which he describes his season extending/poultry housing/worm composting hoop house. This is something I would like to emulate on our homestead. The basic premise is a plastic covered green house with laying hen housing at one end (and maybe rabbits as well?), the remainder of the hoop house is garden space for extending garden harvests. The twist is large worm bins dug into the center aisle of the garden space-lined with cement block and covered with heavy duty plywood. The worms eat pony poop or other waste, the chickens eat the worms, the chickens provide some heat and CO2 for the hoop house plants. The winter chicken yard outside one end of the hoop house is garden space covered very deeply with old hay. The deep mulch/deep litter protects the soil from becoming a wasteland of packed down clay, allowing the chickens to turn the deep litter into a living compost by the time the pasture is ready to take them in chicken tractors.
We are 2 zones colder, but I think we can work around this by making the worm bins deeper and using a plywood cover with insulation attached to the inner surface. Putting the rabbits in there is interesting too-they waste so much hay-I bet the chickens would enjoy what the rabbits spill!

Water is another concern for us. Northern WI is experiencing several years of below average rainfall, while the southern 1/3 of the state gets flooded. Will this be a continuing trend? I think yes. Our soil is very heavy clay so it is good at holding on to moisture it has received but how can I spend less time watering and more time smelling the lavender? Our property gently slopes toward the south. We plan to capture every bit of rain water from the roof of the garage and house and put it to use for us. Rain barrels located on the higher ground of our property and the garden, small fruits and orchard located down slope could provide me with a slow trickle -perhaps a system of drip irrigation? I would hate to run the electric well pump for watering all the time, and what if the electric is out? Call me paranoid but I am hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. This is a home I will live in until I die, and perhaps my kids will raise their kids here as well. It seems foolish to not build in some redundancy into our homestead.

I am working on permaculture 'Zones' as well. Zones can be thought of as concentric circles classified according to intensity of human intervention, on-site energy and resources management or physical characteristics. (ugg sorry I pasted that definition!)-Just common sense stuff. Zone 0 is the house, zone 1 is the area immediately adjacent to the house-containing things such as cold frame, greens garden or herb garden, compost site- things which require frequent attention. Orchard and main garden would be zone 2, etc all the way out to zone 5 of no intervention wild area. (judy if you are reading--chime in here about your perm. class -what text are you using?)

Monday, April 26, 2010

moving day

Not out of our suburban house, but moving the camper onto our own patch of earth. I wish i had pictures but it was a very highs stress situation for DH and stopping to take pictures would have been a very BAD idea! We have a nice big Dodge truck but it is not heavy duty or anything. The trailer is a 26 footer at the top end of the Dodge's hauling capacity. When we hooked it up the hitch only cleared the ground by 6 inches on flat ground. The road out is nice for a car but bumpy with curves and runs through a slough which has washed out and been redone a few times since we put the camper up in the woods.

On the right-the road out of the woods and through the slough-taken 2 (3?) years ago

DH was having visions of the camper tipping into the wetland. The hitch began to catch dirt before the slough. DH went to town to put more air in the truck tires (and recover his cool), meanwhile my Dad, brother-in-law and I went to work removing the raised 'crown' of the road and redistributing it to the sides, raising the tires and giving the hitch a low spot in the middle. Success!
Thank you to everyone in our 'work party'. Our camper is now parked on our hill. It looks like redneck heaven right now, but we will get things straightened up over the next few weekends. We watched a hawk float in the wind not more than 30 feet from us. He was dropping towards the grass looking for mice and swooping back up into the wind without a wing flap. The first of many encounters I am sure.
The wind will take some getting used to-we had 40mpg gusts Sat night and the camper sure rocked. I think some some digging may be in order to lower the campers profile a bit-either that or tie-downs :)
We have 130 freedom ranger chicks coming in June along with 12 laying hens, the floor plans are done for the house-just waiting now for the estimates so i can go to the bank and ask for $. It is all feeling very real!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Plead Temporary Insanity

I have a half-baked post at HWW about multitasking and the importance of focus. Taking my own advise, I am putting a moratorium on my blogging. I need to focus on what I am doing here. I want to have my house listed in 2 (or 3) weeks, we have several chicken tractors to build for the 130 freedom ranger meat birds-why 130? Well it involved some wine and all I can say is chicken 'beer goggles'.!

The house plans are drawn up and our building loan is 3-4 weeks away. We will be moving into our 26 foot camper for the summer in 6 weeks and I am feeling a little spastic. I am also still working over in my mind how to make my work life managable, at least until the bank has okayed our final mortgage :b

Peace and send me good vibes!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Too Busy To Post

I am finding it harder and harder to call this place home! We becoming more invested (emotionally AND financially) in the Grass Works Family Farm, and I so look forward to the time school gets out so we can relocate. This weekend I planted onions and garlic and turned over another 2 rows of the raised bed garden. The dandelions were having a field day-but no more! I still cannot get the girls interested in their gardens. They will help me but want to play, not work. I won't push it but they WILL be required to help with the main garden.

View of the building site from Dad's hill. The truck is parked in it's staked out 'garage'. The brown patches of dirt mark the area which tested okay for the drainage field. Below those is a low spot we hope some day to build into a pond!

DH broke in a new tool, the pick axe, to dig a ditch in which to place heavy duty PVC pipe to improve Dad's road through the slough. Every spring it washes out, and every summer more material gets added. Perhaps this new drainage under the road instead of over it will be the answer.

We were both very tired and stiff, so naturally today was a good day to transplant spruce trees for my Aunt's gravel pit (THANKS PEGGY!) to the western edge of our field. In 10 years we will have a nice wind break :)

We are meeting the well driller this week, and arranged with a local farmer to have our field planted to pasture. He will plant a timothy, orchard grass, white clover and alfalfa mixture -along with oats. The oats will grow tall more quickly while the rest establishes itself underneath. He will combine and harvest the oats and straw in August leaving us with a usable pasture by late summer. It is cheaper than buying a tractor this year, but I need to check around to be sure he is not taking these city folks for a ride!
Tired but happy and taking glucosamine for my aching joints!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Peas and Oats

Two more work days in. The last of the charred remains have been hauled away -the entire patch rototilled. We used the garden tiller-didn't want to have to replace one of Dad's tractor tires by running over a metal spike :) Then the girls and I flung a 50/50 mix of field peas and oats over the area. The feed mill guy said the typical application rate was 2 bags per acres--well we used 3x that much -but we aren't machines planting in rows and we had seed fights (I had oats in places where the sun don't shine!) One job complete!
Then DH got out the 'big tiller' which runs behind the garden tractor. He tilled up about 1/2 acre and the peas and oats girls went to work again. He plans to work up another plot this size to plant sweet corn in (for both us and the wildlife), and start a rotation between corn, p&o, and pasture. We girls decided we don't want to seed 1/2 acre of corn by hand--I see a seeder purchase next month!
My next job was to help the girls with their gardens, just lay out the walkways with mulch. That didn't go so well. Erin turned into this evil pouting thing (i think it's a tween phenomenon) Fine with me-it is YOUR garden. If you decide not to plant it I'll turn it in to popcorn, or flax, or sunflowers. It's all good. She will just have to ask me NICELY if she wants help in the future.
I planted a double row of both shell peas and sugar snap peas, a little spinach and lettuce and a few kolrabi seeds. Nothing too crazy. It is still April in Northern Wisconsin and historically speaking we still have 6 weeks before the 'frost free' date. It is just so damned dry and warm already. We had 80 degrees last weekend and only one nice rain this spring. I have an extra package of peas- what do i have to loose if they get frozen?
I just realized I neglected to buy any seed potatoes. I meant to do some research about blight resistance but never got around to it. Does anyone out there know what the latest word is. We didn't have any problems with either the tomatoes or potatoes last year-but we have had drought conditions.
DH is going back out to do some more work tomorrow, while I stay home to catch up on cooking and housework. I love having homemade bread, yogurt and leftovers for lunches but it takes time! My body is tired-i will let Tom dig fence post holes tomorrow, I know he will enjoy the alone time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

not working

I have a post today at HWW about not working, for wages at least. I am so lucky to be in a position where I can make that choice and not have it made FOR me. I certainly cannot quit working for a paycheck altogether, but we are seeing the results of many years of frugality and hard work. We are NOT debt free by a long shot. It is certainly something to strive for, but if I make that a prerequisite for getting off the ol' rat race...well, I can't wait that long.

I have been thinking alot about jobs and personal economy. When did it become mandatory for a person to earn dollars in order to survive? Then families needed TWO income streams to make it. Maybe I have just read too many Little House books. I have also been reading Pop's 5 Rules (one of which is Don't Specialize). When did I become so specialized that I need to pay someone in order to feed and clothe myself, get water and heat for myself, to entertain myself. Am I really so helpless? By specializing I am betting my success on those skills being in demand- if no one requires my skills- well, tough luck. What if someone needs your skills but doesn't have the dollars to pay you. When did our self worth get so wrapped up in dollars? What if I/we could develop my/our skills to a point where we don't require so many dollars to buy the things we need? Notice I said NEED not WANT. Wouldn't thant be something to be able to take your dentist a couple gallons of maple syrup in exchange for a procedure or barter the IRS man twenty chickens to pay the property taxes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Our Ginseng Clean Up

Goodbye YMCA membership -there is a new fitness program in my life. It's called the Grassworks Family Farm and I have never been so tired. It's a good kind of tired, that comes with a sense of accomplishment and a tangible outcome. Two overweight, out of shape, city folks got initiated this week. This is our project:

Ginseng made some Marathon County farmers very wealthy, but like so many things it was not sustainable. Part of our acreage was in ginseng 15-20 years ago, the roots were harvested and the slatted wooden rafters (a ginseng crop needs artificial shade) stacked up for another crop. Except the prices dropped by more than 50% from $40/lb for dried root and $100/lb for seed. So there sit the stacks and stack of rafters. We asked that they be removed before buying the property and they were-mostly. They missed a little bit:

What was left behind was pounds and pounds of metal-staples, spikes, nails, etc-all the hardware which held the artificial shade structures together. We don't have the equipment to bury it so we are hauling it to the scrap pile on Dad's property. Every farm around here has a rock pile/scrap pile where stuff goes over the decades- his has coils and coils of rusty barbed wire, old implement parts, rusted out livestock watering tanks. I used to look at these sites and think ick, what an eye sore-but now I see them as a necessary evil and sort of an archaeological site-lots of information about how farming has changed over the years! Anyway -THANKS DAD!

We spent our freakishly warm (80 degree) April Fool's day raking and shoveling and dumping. When we realized we were NOT going to finish in one day the fight went out of us and we moved on the the garden -something we CAN finish(see previous post). I think we will finish this burn site next weekend and get the area hand rototilled (not with the tractor -I don't want to have a punctured tractor tire to replace!) and spread some sort of grass/clover seed on the site. I will never feel 100% comfortable grazing livestock over here, but since this will be the main 'cross-country' route between dad's place and ours we won't leave it as is. There are 2 more burn sites like this one running parallel to our driveway, we won't tackle these this year.

Ahh, the grass is growing and spring is here. Hopefully next year this will be an established pasture and pond at the low site at the right.

Friday, April 2, 2010

First Workday at Future Farm

Our plan was to get the garden rototilled and organic material hand forked under. This garden is the same one I used last year on my ftaher's property. Since he is 'winged', he will not be able to do much gardening-so our family will have the entire fenced in space-it's big! (1/4 acre??) What ever we don't need for vegetable garden will go to buckwheat, flax, or peas 'n oats for chicken food.

My DH hooking up the rototiller to Dad's garden tractor-I love it when he gets dirty!

See my 'chair' is in the garden already!

Six raised beds to turn by hand-the rest rototilled

The bigger project was cleaning up the burn site, which I will have to write about later as I am late ! (A pile of 20 yr old gingeng rafters15ft high in a 200ftx15ft stack-torched -and we get to clean it all up!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm a BAD Blogger

Now that things are getting interesting I have not been posting very much! BAD BLOGGER! Land purchased, work commencing. I drew up a couple house floor plans and we arrived at one which was workable. Small passive solar ICF construction, very open living space. Three bedrooms, 1 3/4 bath, built on a slab so we want/need a concrete 'safe room' for tornadoes. The plan I workd out has 1150 square feet-no walk in closets or master suites here!

The idea is to really force us to pare down our 'stuff'. I have been taking steps along the way to get us to 1200 sq feet (plus garage!). Many, many trips to donate at Goodwill, getting rid of holiday decor that is not special to the family. The homemade nativity set made by great Grandpa Carl stays, the plastic, plug-in, snoring Santa and outdoor light displays are gone. I'm down to 4 boxes of christmas stuff, 1 box for Easter (mostly the kids baskets) and 3 for Halloween; but I know I can do even better than that! I also got rid of my clothing dresser last year. All my clothing fits in 1/2 (okay, okay 2/3) of our standard sized closet with organizer. The little house will be a challenge as our possessions have grown to fill the space we occupy now -about 2400sq ft -including partially finished basement and 1 car garage.

Anyway, we signed on Friday and met with the builder on Saturday. He will turn my grid paper scribbles into a real code upholding floor plan for the loan officer. They will then loan us 75% of the assessed market value. The assessment and paperwork usually takes 3 - 4 weeks during which time I will be arranging well drillers, septic system installation and the public utility to run electric from the road. When we get the go-ahead from the bank in the beginning of May I can be ready to pull the trigger -so to speak.

I also talked to the real estate broker I wish to list with and told him I would like to list May 1st. So now I (WE) have 4 weeks to pretty things up. It is certainly do-able but this will not be a house to pass a 'white glove' test. It is what it is, a decently maintained older ranch in a really sweet family neighborhood in a great school district. It is lived in, has a butt ugly kitchen, a kick-ass deck and yard, its a HOME not a showpiece. Hopefully we can price it to sell before our new mortgage kicks in!

The beautiful pictures I had in my mind of the land have faded a bit with the realities of the work in front of us. It is a 10 or 20 year marathon -not a 2 yr sprint, I continue to remind myself of that.