Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lean to door and twister tool quilt

We're definitely into winter here now, with ice storms the last couple of days and snow storms due tonight. Ryan got to attempt our new driveway in the snow and said it is steep, but doable. 

Here is the driveway with less snow on it so you can see the gravel.

Ryan has also been hauling hay like mad, three bales at a time. We bought 25 bales from a guy about a 45 minute drive away, and we bartered a few cows for a flatbed trailer a while ago. Hay is fairly scarce and expensive right now (these bales were a steal for $50 each, the only nearby hay was not as good and $90 a bale) and a bale lasts about three days. 

Ryan hauls the hay to the cows using hunting sleds two at a time. We're getting quite a herd now, with almost all ages represented. 

About three winters ago on the coldest day of that winter (-13 deg. F) Ryan got frustrated with our lean-to door getting stuck in the ice. It actually got frozen to the ground. So he got out the reciprocating saw and cut it off the building. Then he propped it against the door frame and used a cinder block to keep it shut. I know I've mentioned it in my other "doing chores" posts. But a few days ago he built a door out of scrap lumber from around the farm and a window he picked up at a hardware store!

 He got it hung, but it still has some finessing yet to do. I think it's really cute and is a vast improvement over either no door or the camper/RV cast off we inherited. No joke; that's where the old door came from. 

On the quilting front, I finished a little baby quilt for a friend of mine who had a baby girl just before Thanksgiving. I used the twisting star ruler and a bunch of charm squares from my stash. I will tell you that before I used the twister ruler on it, it was actually kind of an ugly quilt. But I like how it turned out

And I'm still liking putting a blessing on the backs of my baby quilts. This one says:
May the sun shine all day long,
everything go right and nothing wrong.
May those you love bring love back to you,
and may all the wishes you wish come true.

In random house news, our cat Fumbles has a favorite napping place. Unfortunately it is the room where Z sleeps, so we use his carseat to block entry. This cat can pry the pocket door open with his claws and slip in, which inevitably wakes Z up.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Driveway and Steampunk

So recently we decided we weren't going to be able to make much progress on the driveway at the pace we were going. Here are some pictures Ryan took in early November after he did some more dirt moving.

He was making some progress, but the little tractor's backhoe was badly underpowered for the amount of dirt that needed to be moved.

A lot of the work was in taking down the trees, which Ryan did do. So we hired a local guy to dig the driveway. One Monday Ryan went out to the site to do more tree clearing and found this waiting for him:

So with the right tools, the guy did it in about a day. I feel fully vindicated by the whole process because everyone kept telling me how crazy this driveway was going to be, and it was going to be steep, and yadda yadda yadda. But I did the math (those of you who know me are not surprised by this) and suspected it would actually work quite well. You can see the road off to the left in the picture above, so you can also see that the driveway isn't parallel to it. Yet I think it's perfect and it avoids the dreaded waterline the county decided they didn't want in the ditch.

Here is the equipment the guy used to dig the driveway; he's not messing around:

I was mad at Ryan for not taking a picture of his little tractor next to this monstrosity of a backhoe just to show how big it is.

We also now have gravel on this driveway, but we haven't been back out to look at it. I'll post pictures next time. Everyone seems to keep asking me whether we will pave it, and the answer is definitely no. This is one of those country/city things, I think. Not only would it be expensive (the driveway is something like 200 feet long), but you actually don't want a paved driveway if you are going to drive a tractor or other equipment on it. It's hard on both the driveway and the equipment tires (and those suckers are PRICEY!). 

Now back to the old place, we discovered that cattle will eat fallen leaves if they are raked into a bit of a pile. That and loaf in it. Here a mama and relatively new calf had a very autumn moment together. We don't manage our herd access to bulls very closely, so we basically have calves at any given time. We had one born just a couple of weeks ago. So far our cows have done very well with this, which is nice. Cattle have a long lead time to beef, but they are some of the easiest animals we deal with.

Sheep also spent some time in the front yard right before moving to their winter pasture. I love that sheep mean you really don't have to mow the yard. It's extremely easy to see where the manicured yard idea came from, because after the sheep our front yard really does look like someone mowed it. I think we had the mower out about 3 times all summer. The yard is a little brown in this picture just because the sheep had been there too long. You can also see cattle in the background on their winter pasture; we have quite a herd going. 

Another thing that happened this month was that I turned 30. Not much of a milestone, but a little one just the same. A lovely friend of ours hosted a joint costume birthday party for me and her husband (who turned 30 about a week before) and we decided to go steampunk. (Don, before you ask me what steampunk is, click the link and Wikipedia will tell you....) We were more "steam" than "punk" generally.
I had great fun making a costume. Ryan found this duster on Craig's List and made his fake gun out of a variety of parts. I made him a vest and kerchief. Z we just put in a vest we happen to own, he wasn't very steampunk. But at the age of one, he wouldn't keep any of that stuff on anyway. I'm wearing a corset I got years ago from Forever 21 and has been hanging in my closet, along with a basic button up shirt. Then I made a hat and used some safety pins to pin up the skirt I wear with my renaissance garb over a petticoat I'll be wearing under a bridesmaid dress for my brother's wedding next month. 

I also made a necklace out of odds and ends from Michael's craft store, among other places. 

Here is the skirt pinned up. This worked pretty well, but the petticoat was definitely needed as well (and is under the skirt in this picture). 
And here's a closer view of the hat.

Here's H, who is actually wearing an Alice in Wonderland dress my parents had custom made for me at about her age. It's a little big for her, but it was OK and I steampunked it up a little bit. The hat had some cards (a queen of hearts, a 10 and a 6 in nod to the mad hatter) and feathers on it, along with a white rabbit. She's playing with a key and glass vial I had at her waistline, and there were a few gears scattered throughout. She LOVED wearing her hat and would not take it off. 

In other crafting, I tried my hand at ombré dyeing. I have a quilt idea in mind, but couldn't find an ombré long enough, so I decided to make my own. I rigged up what can only be termed a "contraption" in our kitchen sink to do this, while Ryan looked askance at me and tried very hard not to ask. I used supplies from Dharma Trading Company, and I have to say I highly recommend them. Good prices, fast delivery, good tutorials. I actually decided to mix up super concentrated dye, then lower the fabric a little at a time while also adding water. I think it worked better than trying to mix in dye and raising the fabric up out of the water if that makes any sense. I took enough pictures for a tutorial if anyone wants one (leave a comment and I'll post one). 
And here is the result! I'm very happy with it, it will suit my needs perfectly. I didn't need perfectly straight lines because I'll be cutting it up for a quilt. I just needed a smooth progression. Hopefully you'll see the quilt someday too!

Ryan also insists I post a picture of my Thanksgiving schedule.
Is this unusual? Don't other people do this? I save it every year, and then pull it out the next year and rewrite it. I still inevitably forget to put something on the schedule anyway, this year it was the stuffing. It doesn't take long, though, and I so far have always managed to remember it. We had a small Thanksgiving this year, with only seven adults and only my two kids. It was kind of nice to not have 16-20 people in my house, though. 

As usual, the kids are growing well. Here H is showing me a "friend bug" she caught. She has named box elder bugs friend bugs because they are slow moving (translation: easy to catch), do not bite, are common, and are surprisingly long lived in captivity. She doesn't much like spiders, but she could catch friend bugs all day.

Z celebrated his one year birthday, and Ryan's parents brought us a cupcake for the occasion. He basically posed for this picture. 
It's like these two pictures of the kids are the same pose! They are each a variation of "Look what I have, Mommy!!"

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dirt Moving and Little Bat

Today is a red letter day. Why, you ask? Because today Ryan became a farmer. We've been farming six years or so, but today Ryan became a Farmer. Today, he fixed our tractor. It wouldn't start, and so he did some consulting with his uncle, went to the parts store, did some praying and cursing, and got it working! I'm so proud. It was a clogged fuel filter. 
Here's where it died; thankfully he got it off the road with its momentum as it died so that it could sit while he worked on it. This is particularly good because it sat there for a few days while Ryan did his troubleshooting.

And yes, you see dirt in its bucket! Hurray! Ryan has started construction on the driveway!
I'm excited to see progress. He's also been working on the orchard, and already has some trees planted.

I don't have any finished quilting or sewing items this post, but I did make good progress at a quilt retreat this last weekend. Hopefully I'll have something soon to show you.

With Halloween coming up, H got to be a bat at dance class last week. 
In other activities, we went to the science center two weeks ago and the kids had a good time.
Z had a blast chasing balls around at the ball wall,
And H built giant carbon nanotubes with Grandpa. 

The weekend before that we went to the Covered Bridge Festival in Winterset, since I figured it is our new equivalent to Pella's Tulip Time. They had the greatest "toy" for kids there - a 10 or 12 foot sandbox full of corn. The kids loved it and played with it for probably an hour. better than sand as far as I can say. Less messy, easier to manipulate, less of an issue if they try to eat some (although still not good), etc. 

I also recently finished up my MBA finance class. I'm sitting the current class out until next summer because I just have too much going on right now. At the end of her nap H came down and saw me working on homework, so she asked for a piece of paper and pencil too. I love her rendition of what my homework looks like. My little engineer!

I also captured a picture to try to show Z's eyes right now, which are a perfect shade of hazel. Ironic, I know. I'm not sure if they will stay there or darken to brown. If you're wondering about the two fingers, he has been sucking on those fingers from the day he could get coordination together to get them into his mouth. Always the first two fingers on his left hand, he's not a thumb sucker. 

And that's all I have for today. Goodnight Moon!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Turkey loading and modern placemats

They say the days are long but the years are short. I definitely experience that whenever I decide it's time for a blog post and discover it's been a month since my last one.

Ryan's been working on our new farm quite a bit, mostly chainsawing to clear out trees for our driveway. He's making progress, although slower than both of us would like. 

We're also finishing out our primary growing season, so Ryan has been to the poultry locker twice in the last week and a half and the lamb locker once. Animals are actually looking to be normal weights this year! First time in three years we have a normal batch of turkeys. Still higher loss rates than we would like, but a normal batch is much appreciated. 

We load turkeys in the dark (otherwise they are very difficult to catch!), so I snapped a shot of them on the trailer. 

And what would farming be without something jury rigged somewhere? In this case, it's trailer lights. Our trailer lights don't work because, frankly, they're probably older than I am. We have a trailer lighting kit, but it's for a car being towed and doesn't exactly mount to an ancient livestock trailer well. 
If you're thinking: "Duct Tape!" you would be right. Except we didn't have any handy. That means electrical tape!
Yeah, this lasted about 60 miles before Ryan had to bungee it. I tried. 

We have a fox around the farm again (big surprise). About a week before the first turkeys went in to the locker, the fox got one moments before Ryan saw it, so I can now say I have field dressed a turkey. It wasn't actually as bad as I expected and it was delicious. I know, horrible picture. I forgot to take one when I had more than one piece left because it was yummy and we ate it first. 

I've been doing a little quilting, I had a friend request some placemats. She's young and far cooler than me, and considers pink to be her signature color. So I whipped up some placemats for her. 

I have enough pictures taken for a tutorial for these, but I don't know if anyone wants one. So leave me a comment or send me an email if you want one. 

H and Z and I had a bit of a date at a local place called Goldie's in Prairie City. Best tenderloin in driving distance. H was all three-year-old, in full princess getup. 
Here she is in crown, tutu, "necklace", and "wand". Yes, that is a ball of rubber bands beside her. No, I'm not sure why.

Z has been taking halting steps, he takes a couple and then falls down. 4 days shy of 11 months old, and that kid is walking.
Still no movement on selling our current farm. Sigh. Hopefully soon, but I don't know how optimistic to be as we head into fall!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Water line, Tractor, Peaches and Aprons

I think we could have predicted that nothing in life is smooth sailing. The Saturday after we closed on our new land we went out to visit it. Ryan's uncle and parents both came by since they had been visiting Ryan's grandfather. They mention, almost in passing, as we're on the way out there to mark our driveway, that there might be a water line 20 feet in from the fence row. Wait, what?!? What was the point of all that legalese we had in the offer about how any easements had to be disclosed, anyway? Seriously. So we went searching for signs of the mystical waterline running through the middle of our property. Yep, sure enough. Along one of the fence rows we found this little beauty:
So we called Iowa One Call. This is really what we should have done first, by the way. There is no handy little Standard Work document on how to build a house on blank land in the middle of nowhere. (Yes, I asked. The county came just shy of laughing at me. You just have to figure out what to do next.) Either way, I will tell you that step one: Call Iowa (or Illinois or Nebraska or Alaska or whatever) One Call. Even though there's an easement on file your grandfather-in-law was legally required to tell you about and didn't, Iowa One Call can still locate the blasted waterline before you go digging into it. Luckily, we didn't go digging into it. It could have been way worse. More looking revealed this thing:
Also bad. So our original plan for the driveway was to basically plow through the middle of the land, move a heck of a lot of dirt, and go right to the center of a hill where it was sheltered from the wind. Doing that would have resulted in waterline about waist high 30 feet into our driveway. Instead, we're going to angle our driveway up to go into the house yard.
By the way, Google Earth is So Freaking Cool (it's even to scale!!). Yes, I'm an engineer. No, I don't care that this is not what Google Earth is for. No, I don't care that you now realize the depth of my geekiness. I did draw out my wedding layout on CAD after all, including a diagram of myself in my dress from above so I could be sure the aisle was wide enough for my train. But we digress.
The second step to building a house in the middle of nowhere is to contact the County Engineer for permission to build an access as well as some guidance. We actually did this step first, but that is OK. Next step is the septic guy. We found that out when I went asking about how to get an address, and then we learned we have to apply for the building permit first. And the septic before that. Etc. Etc. 
Today we went to measure this whole thing, and it all ended up moving in and being a little tighter, but we will still probably tweak it again. This enables us to get up to the level of the hill before we hit the water line, letting us avoid hitting it entirely. Not to mention, this is where we wanted our house and building, so this driveway configuration might actually be easier to build.

We measured it with Ryan's 300 ft measuring tape and marked it with flags this evening.
Can you see my beautiful orange flags? I love them. They are the most beautiful thing in the whole wide world. Here's Ryan with the measuring tape the first time we attempted this (operation: Straight Driveway Fail).

And here's the ensuing man pow-wow with Ryan, his uncle, and his dad. I love man pow-wows. They crack me up. And no one does man pow-wows quite like a couple of farmers who also happen to be related. 
Yes, Little Z is crawling around in my car in the bottom of the picture. Don't worry, Grandma is holding him. He just wishes he was old enough to be part of the man pow-wow. Don't worry son, soon you will be. Did I mention it has been crazy hot? That is why the dark spot on the back of Ryan's shirt is not a shadow.

We also had our new tractor delivered today. Tri-Green Interstate in Ohio sold it to us, and then they included delivery in the price of the tractor. By the way, they have been FANTASTIC to work with. Ryan searched far and wide for a tractor and settled on this 1988 New Holland 2120 with factory attached backhoe. 
Here he's learning how to use it while his uncle looks on. It's being stored at "the Home Place" while we continue putting together what we need to on our land. 
H insisted I take a picture of her stuffed sheep in this setting. Perhaps I should start a series with that sheep in the foreground and Things happening in the background.
H required a photo of herself as well. We are happy with the tractor, Ryan keeps saying "it's more substantial than I thought it would be." This is a Good Thing. He's not as worried about its ability to pick up a bale now, and thinks the backhoe will reach further than he originally thought it might. 

It's also peach season! Yay peaches! A friend of ours came over to help me can and also to learn about canning in the process. 
We put up about 16 quarts of regular peaches and about 12 pints of spiced peaches. I apologize right now for looking like such a mess in this picture. It was hot. I was working. Ugh.
I will really miss that peach tree when we move. Although we learned you cannot sell them off-farm, they bruise too easily. They are very delicate and our attempt to sell them on the Iowa Food Cooperative ended badly. 

We have some friends getting married in October, so we went to a bride and groom shower for them. I whipped up a couple of aprons using my Williams-Sonoma apron as a template. 
I know they're super wrinkly, I didn't have time to iron them before giving them away! I like how they turned out, and I already had the canvas in my stash. I'm currently working on a couple of other projects (yes, in between everything else), and as usual I'll post when I complete them. 

And of course, current kidlet pictures.
H at her first dance class. WOW did that child love dance class. And I was super impressed at how well she did exactly what the teacher asked her to do (I swear it, even though it doesn't look like it in this picture). 
And Z getting a bath.
A little fuzzy, I know. Sorry, that child Never. Stops. Moving. He is always my Bouncing Baby Boy.