Saturday, August 20, 2016

End-of-summer gardens, creatures, and outings

It has been a fairly dry summer at the farm, much to Ryan's chagrin. Pretty much every storm that has come through has petered out right at our farm and then fired back up once it's past us. For example, last night there was heavy flooding about 10 miles east of us in Des Moines, but we got 0.3" of rain, which is amazing! Farmers really do live and die by rainfall amounts, we pretty much never miss the weather on the 10:00 evening news! There have been some truly lovely sunsets, though.

There have also been a couple of nice rainbows.

We had a turkey that didn't get out of some of the rain a couple of weeks ago, and a cold wet turkey is not likely to survive. So we brought it into the garage to warm up and dry off. This is almost the only thing my hair dryer ever does!
The turkey made a full recovery once we had her dried off and we were able to take her back to the flock.

I also told you I would update you on my garden, so I took a picture of my garden this morning. "Horribly neglected" is somehow insufficient as a description...

The yellow cherry tomatoes decided to go nuts, and I did a bad job of harvesting my radishes (they are off to the left of the picture, out of sight). It's still a more successful garden than any I've ever had, so I will continue to get better at this garden thing. 

My morning glories did grow well up my back porch, this is the first year that some of the variegated variety have shown up!

I took a picture of a very large garden spider hanging out by our pumpkins (which are not in the garden)--she's a beauty, but didn't feel like posing for me.

Also in critter news we adopted a puppy. This is our fifth attempt at a dog since starting a farm (with varying types of failure), but is our first attempt at a puppy. She's a border collie mix, we think mixed with rat terrier since she is not shaggy enough to be pure border collie. She's very smart, but also very puppy-like and we've been working on house training and getting her to not herd the children around. 

We took the kids to Living History Farms a couple of weeks ago, where they got to see some of how people used to farm. They aren't quite old enough to really make the connections and see how things are the same and how they are different from those farms to ours. 

At the fair this year the kids were old enough to start playing more, including the tunnel of squash (?) that they put up near the agriculture building. Here they are running out of the tunnel:

I'm biased, but I think those are pretty good pictures of both of them!

H and I just got back from our annual trip to Clearwater Camp's family camp, where we had a great time! The weather was just perfect.

We did some fishing, here I caught H right at the moment she had touched the fish and is currently saying "Eww!"

And we also tried archery for the first time, with some help from a counselor.

'Til next year, beautiful North Woods!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hearth and Garden Growth

On Father's Day, Ryan pulled Father's Day privilege and insisted I work on a house project that wasn't on my priority list but was on his. So I worked on the hearth in our living room. We purchased the slate a couple months ago and sorted it for the pieces we liked best.

Here it is after putting on the cementboard:

And we discovered that the hearth was just a little larger than would be an even distribution with the tiles, so Ryan came up with another pattern. I like it better than just a standard grid!

It's still waiting for grout, but I'll get there soon. It's also waiting for our custom dragon tile, which will be here in a couple months.

My garden is looking well. I planted all of the seeds we had of varying ages, so of course all of the rows next to eachother came up instead of something logical, like every other row. But the rows that came up look pretty good! Here it is a couple weeks ago:

And here it is tonight, the watermelon is growing nicely on the left. And yes, the radish on the right has totally gone to seed. I don't like to eat radishes, they're just satisfying to plant because they grow so quickly. The chickens are also looking at me through the garden fence, can you spot them?

It's lily season, so my new double tiger lilies are blooming. Aren't these cool?

Also a plant (but not in the garden), we're indefinitely babysitting my mom's jasmine plant. If she ever decides to reclaim it, I'm going to have to get my own. This thing smells divine and is super happy in my house. It had almost 200 blooms on it a couple days ago (the blooms only last one day)!

In farm news, on the way home from the locker we stopped to eat dinner. I took a picture because this is a classic farmer park job. Five spots for the win!

And here the kids are "helping" daddy with the morning chores.

And Daddy and Z are surveying the landscape:

Until next time, enjoy the summer!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Spring goings on, bird quilt, and Christmas Lone Star quilt

Things are going well in our neck of the woods, it has been much warmer out, after a very long, cool, dry spring. When I was working on staining the windows to our bedroom, this was my view. I had the window open (because of the fumes) and I'm pretty sure the cows were trying to figure out what I was doing:

The new calves have also been chasing one another around the farm, here the four youngest played their own version of cow tag:

Back in March, Ryan spent a lot of time chainsawing the scrubby timber out of our pastures and spent most of that month burning piles. Our pastures are now starting to look like someone cares about them again after more than ten years of neglect.

Ryan's also been trying to run a water line past our building, which means digging in the cow's area. The one in this picture is watching him dig raptly.

It's been a rough spring for chickens, we had an illness or bad ventilation or something and we lost about half of them. They are also growing very slowly, so we are going to have to miss our June deliveries. :-( Hopefully we'll be back on track soon.

Taking a walk the other day, I also took a picture of our house from the back side, so I thought I would post that too. The fence in the foreground between the trees marks the eastern edge of our property line.

The garden is also filling in nicely, here are our lilies and roses next to some violas. Ryan has done a very good job of starting and cultivating the garden, it looks great.

I also got a garden planted, here is what it looked like on May 15th. It now has a few things growing in it, but a raccoon got into it and seems to have eaten all the carrots. Many of the seeds were also very old, so were not viable (which I expected). 

In quilting news, one of the nice things about posting infrequently is that I get more done in the interim. 

I call this one Murmuration Minuend. A murmuration is a group of starlings, and a minuend is a quantity from which another is subtracted (so in 5-2=3, 5 is a minuend). 
It was not inspired by the poem "Starlings in Winter" by Mary Oliver, but that poem does capture my thoughts very well. This is a modern quilt style and I have entered it in quilt shows and hope to find out soon if it makes it in. 

I also finished my Christmas lone star quilt, which I started when I was pregnant with Z. I named it Christmas Star-light after a starlight mint.
The construction on this quilt is not amazing, but it will do. I think a Lone Star quilt is on the bucket list of many quilters, myself included, but I can now say I've attempted one. I might try to do another someday and do the construction more carefully, we'll see. In the meantime, I'll hang this one at Christmastime.

Recently my 18-year-old sewing machine has been showing signs of dying, piece by piece. So my father gave me an early Birthday/Christmas present and bought me a new one. It's a Bernina and I'm thrilled with it. It has a lot of features I've been drooling over for a while, but it also feels almost exactly like my old Bernina to sew with. I haven't decided what I'm doing with the old one; perhaps I'll pull it out when H is ready to sew. 

Speaking of H sewing, she and I actually had a little sewing session earlier this spring.
She made a small blanket and pillows out of couple fat quarters and loved it.

H also insisted that we participate in Earth Day this year, so we did so by going and collecting garbage out of our ditches. 

H has also started losing teeth, but so far she just lost the one. No other loose ones yet!

One of Z's favorite activities recently is making cookies with daddy. They do it about once a week, although I think in this picture he may have been helping make a cake for the birthday of a friend of ours instead.

Ryan and I have been dancing at the Red Friar's Dance Club in Ames as a monthly date night; it's been very helpful for us to have a night out once a month through the winter. I bought the dress I'm wearing in this picture when I took a trip to Singapore in February to visit my Dad, who is a professor there for a couple of years.

I'll leave you with these pictures of H, this is her on Friday at her last day of school:

As a point of comparison, here she is on the first day again:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Long update: Stuck, little sewing projects, winter goings-on

Fair warning: this is going to be a long catch-up post, and is likely to be scattered. I'm on a business trip and have access to internet, which is a rarity. My workplace blocks this blog site (for good reason), so I just have to have extended access to unbridled internet to update it.

First, farm news. In early November Ryan was working on our drainage behind the house and into a kind of a creek we have there, and got stuck. And by stuck, I mean really stuck:

We ended up calling a neighbor to pull him out of all of the muck, the truck just wasn't even beginning to cut it.
He had a little helper working back there too (on a different day, a little farther up the slope):

Speaking of little helpers, I had one come with me on turkey deliveries too.

We ended up doing Ames turkey deliveries amidst fresh snow, and at that point in the season snow was still a fun novelty!
Last Saturday we did our business taxes, and only filed for a $200 loss for the business this year! That is awesome and means we're getting much closer to profitability. Without writing off our mileage and our depreciation, we did make about $6000 last year. Total sales are around $18,000 and were about 40% beef, 35% chicken, and 25% turkey. I usually like to tell you all how we are doing as a business, partially because I think it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we are a business. I feel like the business had a good year overall, and I'm optimistic as we settle into our new location.

For my sewing, I mostly worked on a bunch of little projects. First up, Ryan needed a new Dopp kit. He threw out his old one when he opened it up to pack it for a trip and found it covered in mold inside and out. I did some googling to find a tutorial, and sewed something up:

The purple bag on the left is my Dopp kit (purchased from Target). That sad, mopey creation on the right was my first attempt. Not so much a win. So I thought about it, changed some dimensions, and tried again:

Much improved. This one actually looks like something and functions (and doesn't make Ryan cringe when he looks at it).

I also made some table runners, here is one example:

The pattern is "Triangle Frenzy" if you're curious; it's easy and fun and involves cutting striped fabric into 60 degree triangles.

For whatever reason, I also seem to know a lot of people having babies right now, so I made another small baby quilt, this one is about 3 ft square.

It was inspired by a pattern called Hugs and Kisses by Tamarack Shack, but I didn't quite get it right. Ah well, it's done and when it comes to baby quilts, done is definitely better than perfect.

On the house front, we've continued to work on all of the finishing projects. We almost got the outside painted before it got too cold to work outside, so this picture doesn't have all of the trim done and I do know it. Sigh. I blame Iowa winters.

I do like the color a lot, and I will get the rest of the exterior done when it warms up again!

Recently I've been consumed with tiling our master bathroom surround. This was an all-consuming project and I am SO glad to have it done. We actually took our first shower in it this morning, so that made today a good day for me.

Most of the tile is just basic 6" off-white tile, but my one luxury here was these beautiful heron tiles from a company called Earthsong Tiles in Canada. It's a couple that does them by hand out of their home, and I just love them. Here's a closer look:

I also had a little helper working on cleaning grout with me a few days ago, she did a nice job helping!

My last house/crafting item doesn't classify well so it's going to go here. When my grandmother died a couple of years ago, I inherited a piece of needlepoint from my great grandmother. It's floated around my house in a horrendously ugly frame since then:

My apologies if this frame is your style, but it's certainly not mine. So I had it reframed and it's found a place in our bedroom.

I also had them frame it a little tighter to get rid of some of the awkward space around the embroidery, and I'm very happy with how it turned out.

The kids are doing very well, and are happy and healthy. When fall color first started, we made some window decorations using clear contact paper.

The kids were much more into this than I expected, with H making houses and flowers and Z making storms and monsters (can you find them below? Some imagination required).

Then in October we took a family trip to Disneyland with my dad, stepmom, brother, and sister-in-law. It was a great trip and it was nice to all go somewhere together.

For Halloween we had a cowboy and a princess. Not a lot of creativity here, I'm hoping they forgive me when they're older. There was a lot going on in October.

For Christmas, we did our traditional tree hunt, which meant trekking into the pasture and chopping one down. It definitely had a very seedy look to it, but it worked! (and there's my ham of a daughter being a camera hog.)

H and I also took a ski trip in December where she had her first skiing experience. Here we are all ready to go:

And here she is at the end of her first day, tired but you can see the satisfaction and accomplishment in her face. She enjoyed it and did well.

And since this blog has been a little heavy on my daughter, we'll finish up with some pics of my son.
Z sandwich - Daddy, Z, Nermal!

And Daddy indulged him with a motorized toy train engine for his train track. It's like heaven for him. Those of you who know us well know that I have a general "no batteries" rule in my house for toys because all of their noises and lights drive me up the wall. I hereby pin this one on my husband and maintain that I'm still trying to hold the rule...

And finally, the last few days he's been sick and on Saturday morning we persuaded him to take a morning nap in our bed. We lured him in with cuddles and let him fall asleep, where I couldn't resist taking a pic.

Sleep well, little one!