Shocking Before and Afters! 2 Photos to Remind Myself How Far We’ve Come

This farmhouse renovation has been and continues to be so all consuming that I sometimes lose sight of how much has been accomplished. Emma chastised me Sunday after church when we pulled up outside the house and I just sighed and my shoulders slumped as I thought of all the work left to do. She got a little irritated and asked why I couldn’t see all that work that has gotten done instead. 

With that in mind, I stumbled across this before picture, of the plank wall in the kitchen and I was truly shocked to see where we started. OK, and that’s not even where we started! This is after all the demolition and pulling out the old chimney and pulling off the crappy sheetrock. So I’d say this would be a halfway point. 

I took another picture just now from the same angle (and positioned the dog in the same place) to show just how striking the contrast is and yes, just how far we’ve come! 

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This is a picture from January 2013, on the day Emma and I started nailing planks salvaged from elsewhere to the wall, to cover up the patchwork of damaged original walls and the channel where the chimney used to fit.

 

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This is a picture from this morning, 8 1/2 months later, with the plank wall done and pictures and plates hung, new floors, trim work, furniture…and the dog.

 

OK, I live here and I am still shocked at the difference! I promise to try and stop looking at what is yet to do so often and to sometimes take a look and smile at what has been done. OK, Emma?

Soon enough we will be done with the farmhouse and can turn our attention to starting a small farm at last. 🙂 

Frankenbabies…

Ten days ago, these little buggers showed up in the mail. They’ve been in a pen in the barn until tonight when I moved them to the chicken tractor. I didn’t want to move them to the chicken tractor tonight! The weather has cooled and it was rainy part of the day and windy all of it. But they are Frankenbabies and I couldn’t keep the little eating/pooping/growing machines cooped up (pardon the pun) any longer. Even with adding new bedding twice a day, I couldn’t keep their cage clean, they make so much poop.

moved the babies outside Aug 26 2013

See, these are Cornish Cross chickens, monsters bred for industrial ag…bred to grow unbelievably fast in a factory farm and provide cheap meat for our grocery stores at a rapid (and cheap) pace. We grew this breed the first two years we had meat chickens and I swore never again. The last time we raised Red Broilers instead and were very happy with their normal growth rate. In fact, we still have three from well over a year because they started laying eggs. Cornish Cross chickens don’t get to age. They can grow so fast that their legs can’t support their weight. It’s awful. And it’s what you typically find in the grocery store. Yuck.

But I wanted to make sure we had chicken in the freezer for winter eating when Bob gets back from his deployment which meant ordering some summer chicks, and when I placed my order, the hatchery was sold out of Red Broilers and sent me the Cornish Cross kind instead.

Well, at least I know I can schedule the mobile slaughter guy ahead of time, because these birds grow like clockwork!

It is sad, how fast they grow. They are bred to simply eat and eat and eat (which means they also poop and poop and poop). This time around, I am only feeding twice a day, not letting them eat whenever like I’ve done in the past. I am hoping to make their growth at least a little more normal. And they will–unlike their factory farmer counterparts–be out on grass and eating bugs for their short lives.

Our goal as we start a farm is to get as self sustaining as possible and hatch our own chicks. That’s why we got our rooster in the first place. But the farmhouse renovation has been so all-encompassing that the only baby chick we’ve had born on the farm so far was a surprise. Still, it’s what we are aiming for, so these Frankenbabies are like the green beans I bought from a local farmer last week: They get us closer to our goal of being in control of much of our food supply, although our end goal is to do it ourselves.

And we won’t be raising Cornish Crosses, no way! No, our handsome rooster is a Speckled Sussex and when the renovation if done, we’ll shop around for some Sussex hens and take it from there.

For now, I’ve got a night of worry ahead of me as I’m sure I moved the Frankenbabies outside too soon, but… I spent quite a while wrapping the chicken tractor in tarps to keep the wind and rain out, and I put in a block of wood as a step to help them get into the box, and if in the morning I no longer have 16 live chicks, well, that’s farming and a lesson learned. 🙂

Snapping Green Beans All Afternoon…It’s All Part of the Dream

It’s 9:30 at night and I am almost done with today’s project: freezing green beans. I picked up 20 pounds of green beans from a local farmer yesterday and, unlike tomatoes, green beans don’t wait. I didn’t like waiting a day even, but that was the timing. I will soon be done blanching the second batch, dropping them into cold water, drying them, and packing them into plastic bags for the freezer and then finally going to bed.

Snapping green beans all afternoon

Although my husband is gone, he will be back and I am trying to do what little bit I can to move forward with our dream of eating local food and starting a small farm by getting some things canned and frozen for winter. The green beans aren’t ours, but they are local, and next year we will have time to get the garden going and then yes, the green beans will be home-grown. For now, at least it keeps us eating a little local during the winter months and reminds us of what we’re working towards. When he gets home, I don’t want it to feel like we had to take a year off from our dream…just the six months. 🙂

Green beans ready for freezer

 

Stairs and Upstairs: The “Sort of Before” Photos…

Ever since we got the key to the farmhouse back on December 30, 2011, I have been bad about before photos because we wouldn’t realize just how “before” things would have to be, and all the layers we’d have to pull off and repairs we’d have to do. This week we are paying someone to do the mudding and taping upstairs, and to hang some ceiling sheetrock. Then I will be back to painting. So I thought it would be a good chance to get some before photos finally, even though these pictures are after a whole lot of work, meaning they aren’t really before we started photos, but they are before the drywall guy photos at least. 🙂

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When You Want to Start a Farm, Winter Comes in August

It rained today. In fact, it’s still raining. I can hear and smell the gentle summer rain through the open windows. We’ve had an unusually dry summer, so the rain is welcome. We went all of the month of July without rain, which hasn’t happened since 1926. Or at least that’s what I heard reported on the local radio station.

The rain today did several things. One, it showed me putting gutters on the chicken coop is not going to help to keep the chicken yard dry after all…

rain running off roof of chicken coop August 2013

The gutter will likely help some (once I get the drainpipe added to and draining away from the coop), but watching this rain running off the chicken coop roof and onto the ground was a little disappointing.

The rain also reminded me that it is time to prep for winter. This will be when I miss my deployed husband the most. If you want to start a farm, you quickly learn that summer is spent getting ready for winter. For us, since the farmhouse has taken up most of our time and energy (all of our time and energy??), we don’t have a lot of farm yet at our place. But we have a lot of winter prep just the same because our place was in such disrepair when we bought it.

We’ve got as much of our hay as we can fit into our broken down barn, with a verbal agreement with the neighbors down the road that we’ll buy 100 bales of their second cutting, an agreement we’ll make official this week with money. But that’s about all that is done.

I was putting off winter preparations until my work on the farmhouse was done, but Hubby and I have agreed that it’s time to hire out drywall to experts. There are only two rooms left that need mudding and taping, but they include ceilings and some of the sheetrock needs to be redone and it has been 10 days since I was supposed to start on this and I still haven’t. (I have been trying to only hire people to do work I can’t do. But in this case, I can do it…but don’t want to.)

Once these two rooms are done, then it’s back to me to finish the house, and we prime and paint, and then we are ready for floors throughout and after floors comes trim and then all focus can go on finishing the kitchen…. The two upstairs rooms might be small, but they are significant in our progress.

Maybe this rain is a sign that yes, hiring someone to finish the drywall upstairs is a smart move so I can move on to figuring out why the barn floods, seeing if I can get someone to help fix the barn doors (to protect the hay), finding affordable firewood…and I started canning applesauce yesterday because the Transparent tree is dropping apples all over and we eat a lot of applesauce in the winter. Speaking of, I would like to at least get some green beans and corn frozen, and can some corn relish and blackberry cordial and more…

I also need to fashion some kind of winter paddock for the horses, and figure out the bedding for the chicken coop. Plus I’d really like the pastures mowed. And then there’s seeing about getting someone to close in all the places the contractor didn’t do outside the house–but that’s another story.

For now, it’s raining, and it’s a good reminder that my past 10 days of taking it easy are done…and how much more I am going to miss my husband these next few months. I am very proud of his service! But I miss him, his hugs and his strong back always, and there are times when his absence is felt even more strongly than others. Today is one of them.

Lazy Cats Keep Me Hopping

Lazy cats August 2013I’m pretty sure these three think I don’t have enough to do. That is why they find it necessary to bring dead mice in the house and start devouring them in the dining room, puke on the furniture, spill cat litter all over the mudroom, insist on being fed only an hour after they’ve been fed, and come inside to use the litter box after being outside for 8 straight hours…with plenty of opportunity to do their business outside. Because really, my plate isn’t already full enough (in their minds).

Meanwhile, they sleep the days away, as you see here on our disgustingly ugly garage sale couch (that I won’t get rid of until the farmhouse is done…and this is also my bed until the upstairs gets done and I can move into our bedroom!).

The black one, he at least does his part paying rent almost every day in the form of shrew left on the front or back steps. Not that the shrews are a problem–but at least he shows a little appreciation. And he’s the one who got himself locked in the attic crawl space for 72 straight hours…and didn’t want to come out. He got locked in there on a Monday morning and it wasn’t until the following Thursday morning that he poked his head through the insulation in the kitchen ceiling–where we had yet to cover the old chimney hole–and announced he was ready to get out. Ever since then, I’ve yet to hear mice in the walls. He doesn’t do much, but he at least did that.

I can’t say anything similar for the other two, except the Calico does keep me company as I do chores, following me from barn to chicken yard to clothesline and back again. She’s not at my feet, but she’s usually close by. And I guess the Tabby thinks his job is simply to give and seek love, loudly purring whenever I try to sleep.

If we should decide we need real barn cats as we start a small farm, we’ll likely need to get new ones. Because these three are pretty well set on being lazy house cats…and filling my days with their care.

Good thing I adore them all. 🙂