Thursday, January 30, 2014

Look! An Egg!

I got an egg this morning!  This is the first egg I've found in the nest box since Helen and Mrs. Hall started molting at the beginning of the winter.  Does this mean spring is almost here?  I've been checking the nest box for the past few days because lately Mrs. Hall, the friendliest of the two, greets me in the morning by squatting in front of me as I'm trying to walk to their breakfast area.  I tell myself that she wants to be petted, and I give her a few pats and some chicken baby talk, but I know it's really just the posture a hen takes for the rooster when she's ready to mate.  It's a little weird, I know, but at least she likes me, right?  She hasn't been, um... "in the mood" all winter while her feathers have been growing in, so I knew to start looking for eggs when she started getting friendly again.  The egg was so cold that when I brought it in the house to admire with Brandon little droplets of moisture started to condense all over it. I'm thankful it wasn't frozen and cracked.  I hope this is the first of many.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

1927 - The House is Born

We recently found a newspaper wrapped around one of the original wall studs of the house we are working on, from April 1927.  This is the oldest one so far.  All the other newspaper has been found on the plaster and under wall paper, and most of that was from the 1950's.  I think this newspaper from 1927 must have been placed there when the house was being built, or not long after, which means our house is at least eighty-seven years old.  This fits with my friends guess that the style of the house is similar to the 1920's or 30's.  Notice the title of the article on the newspaper that says 'Man Should Take His Turn At Being Continent'.  Huh?  I had to look up the definition of continent, since I've never heard it used as an adjective before.  Should man take his turn "exercising restraint in relation to the desire or passions"?  Or take his turn "controlling urinary and fecal discharge"?  Probably both, really.  

It was achingly cold while we worked on the house last Sunday, but it didn't stop us from making a little progress and admiring the view from the upstairs window.  We think we will make the room with this view be our office. I wonder if the view has changed much since 1927?  I did some quick interweb research to see what was happening in the world in 1927, just to give my self some perspective about the folks who last looked inside these old walls, as we are doing now.  It's very likely the people who built this house had a radio, but no television, since 1927 was the year the very first television images were demonstrated.  I would guess that these people were listening to the live radio reports about the great flood of the Mississippi River in 1927, where the levee's broke in over a hundred places (which, by the way, was the flood that inspired the song When the Levee Breaks, made famous by Led Zeppelin).  

They might have also heard about the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight from New York to France, and about a new national monument that was being carved at Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota.  Iraq  may have been in the news then too, since they gained independence in 1927.  

It's unlikely that these Kentucky farming folks were roaring around listening to jazz and hanging out with gangsters in speakeasies, but if they were readers, it would have been a wonderful time to live.  I skimmed the list of books published in 1927, and so many famous writers were still in action.  Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Faulkner, and Franz Kafka - such big hitters!  How fun would it be to look forward to more work from these writers?  Of course, it seems more likely that the people building our house would have been enjoying the brand new radio program called the Grand Ole Opry, but you never know.  

This is the closet in the upstairs bedroom.  Notice how the closet was made into a square, but those triangular shaped spaces in the eves of the house were walled off (also notice there is no insulation!).  Since storage space is in short supply in this house, I think we could do something fun with these spaces and make some cabinets or cubby-holes.  I don't know how much junk people had in 1927, but it must have been less than I have now.  

Same thing with the space near the top of the stair, on the left side of the photo.  I could cram a lot of stuff in a space that size.  In this photo you can see how low the ceilings are in these upstairs rooms.  Because of the way the roof is built we can't take all these low boards off like I hoped, so we will have to get creative with the ceilings in these rooms so it doesn't feel too claustrophobic. Were people shorter in 1927?  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Frozen Doggy Bits and The Best Laid Garden Plans

Saturday was a real snow day.  We didn't work at the farm or visit with anyone, I didn't leave the house at all.  I did venture outside a few times to admire the snow, and admire my animals in the snow.  Watching Puck trudge through the snow always makes me laugh and remember an old friend of mine, who, after watching Puck waddle around in snow up to his belly, commented that he really felt sorry for my dog.  Why, I wanted to know, because to me he looked pretty adorable, like a mini snow plow.  My friend, who is a man, just gave me a funny look and said "Rain, think about a boy dog's anatomy.  His legs are so short, It's dragging in the snow!"  And then he shuddered.  Ha!  I guess men do have a different perspective about some things.  Puck does look a little uncomfortable in the picture, doesn't he.  

I don't feel too sorry for the dog since his discomfort is temporary, and he spent most of the snow day snoozing on his fancy pillow keeping all his critical parts warm.  The chickens, however, get all my sympathy.  Can you imagine walking through the snow on bare feet?  I can tell their feet are cold because they mostly stand on one leg at a time, like they are trying to thaw one out by sticking it in their belly feathers. I've looked closely at their feet, and they don't seem to be suffering any damage, but it pains me to think about standing on ice and snow without shoes.  I doubt they would thank me if I tried to fashion shoes for them though.  I wonder...

I've come to realize that one of the best times of year for enjoying the garden is a snowy winter day.   It's so enjoyable because right now, before a single seed has been planted, my garden is perfect (in my mind), and I don't allow my imagination to include droughts, hungry raccoon, deer, bugs, neglect, weeds, or rogue lawn mowers.  No, the 2014 garden has been dreamed up and planned out, on paper even, and all I have to do is follow my carefully laid plans, right?  I have the seeds. I have the seed packages labeled with the planting dates, and organized. I even have the fence designed, and boy is it a beauty. I have the garden layout planned, which includes spring, summer, and fall crop rotation, as well as companion planing.  Too ambitious for someone starting a new garden, who also has a house to build and job that requires lots of summer travel?  Nah, I'm not afraid.  I've even thought so far ahead that I have my mental root cellar stocked and my non-existent pantry lined with sparkling jars of healthy foods.  Right now, at this moment, I truly feel that nothing can go wrong because I have spent an entire snow day making A Plan.  See what I mean, the January garden is an inspiration, and I didn't even have to change out of my pajamas.     

A friend of mine asked me what I planned to grow from seed this year.  Since I had my list of seeds all written out, it was easy to count.  Forty-one different kinds of plants?!  Yikes!  I give myself permission to fail - so full steam ahead.  With this variety of seedlings in mind, I have decided to try to raise the bar on my seedling labeling system.  In years past I used wooden popsicle sticks, which absorb water and get dark, making it hard to see the letters.  I've also just labeled my newspaper cup, but it tends to get soggy and also hard to see.  So this year I'm going to try labels made from strips of plastic from things like milk jugs.  So exciting!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cluster Flies in the Walls and Chickens Talking in the Snow

Of all the gross things we have encountered while working on this old house, and there have been many gross things, including dead mice, snake skins, hair filled plaster, moldy drywall, and plain old dirt, the grossest by far are the cluster flies.  Have you ever seen a wall teaming with millions of dopey cold flies?  Lucky you!  The upstairs windows always have loads of slow moving fat flies trying to get out by banging their bodies against the glass.  I noticed them when we first bought the place and did some research to find out that they were called cluster flies and that they were common in old houses, especially around the windows.  I even read that they "cluster" in attics and wall voids.  I imagined small groups of several dozen flies hanging in the attic in dark corners.  Gross, right?  I had no idea how gross until yesterday. 

Yesterday, Brandon ripped off the drywall in the upstairs bedrooms and found that the south facing wall, which would be the warmest, was full of live flies (hm, I wonder what the insulating R-value of flies would be...).  All those black specs in the picture above are flies!  Millions of them.  He said by the time he was done the room looked carpeted in flies.  Dead flies would be bad enough, but these are alive and wiggling!   Oh, the horrors!!  I did some more research and found out that they are an introduced species from Europe which hibernate in warm places, like the wall of a leaky house, and in the spring go back outside to lay eggs in the soil.  Unless they get confused and trap themselves behind the window glass, that is.  The larvae find an earthworm to be a parasite on, before becoming an adult fly.  Several life cycles can be achieved in a summer, but the last batch needs a place to hibernate through the winter.  This old house must be a perfect place for cluster flies to hang out.  But not any more!   If I have to caulk around every board in the entire house and fill every wall void with insulation I will, because walls full of flies are gross even for me, and I'm gross.   

Brandon also found thousands of these little dirt nests, which I'm pretty sure are dirt dabber wasp nests, which explains why he has been stung more working inside the house this winter than he did working outside all summer.  We keep finding wasps roaming around in the house.  I don't like to be stung, but I would rather have wasps than flies any day.  Maybe the wasps eat the flies?  I'm sure the snake eats the mice.  We have an entire ecosystem in the walls of this house. 

I will try not to dwell on the dark side (ew, creepy creepy flies! bleck!) and instead will focus on the beautiful snow we had this morning.  It was the kind of snow that doesn't blow around, but gently lands on every little twig and gives definition to every horizontal surface.  It was so pretty that I even admired the circular pattern of my tomato cages instead of feeling guilty for not putting them away at the end of the season like I meant to do. 

And instead of apologizing to my messy asparagus for not removing their tops like I normally do, I appreciated the woolly texture and the way the many house finches like to hide in it when I come outside.   

The still snow on the sides of the chicken tractor made it seem like a peaceful place to roost, and even the chicken wire has substance when the pattern is outlined in snow.  Everything looks clean instead of muddy and jumbled, which is how I've been viewing the garden lately. 

I didn't get to experience the stillness of the snow for very long before Mrs. Hall came to see what I was up to.  Meaning she came to see what I had to eat.  Because, really, why would a person stand in the snow unless there was something to eat, right?   

She talked about food for so long that she coaxed Helen from the coop to harass me about food too.  Did you know chickens talk?  Old McDonald would have us believe that chickens talk with a cluck-cluck here and a cluck-cluck there, but in reality, clucks are reserved for egg laying, strange dogs, and other exciting events, like finding a worm in the compost.  Normal conversation is held in long whining coos, which have a questioning inflection at the end. 

For example, in this photo Helen and Mrs. Hall are discussing why I am standing in the snow, and the probability that there must be something tasty on the ground that has either been produced by me (i.e. I dropped some) or has enticed me to that location (i.e. I found some).  Either way, they are searching the snow and encouraging me to participate in the conversation.  This is how the conversation went (exactly):

Helen:  "EEEERRRRrrrrrr?  rrrrrrreeeeRRRRRR!?  oooo? ooo?"
Mrs. Hall: "hhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmm?   mmmmmmmmhhhhrrrrr?  ooooooooorrrrrr?"  
Helen: "EEEEErrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmRRRRRR?!   ooohhh?"
Mrs. Hall: "er? er? oo? ooooooo??"   

Forgive the rough translation, and realize that the English language has it's limitations, but this is what they are saying: 

Helen: "Food?  FOOD!?  Is this food?"
Mrs. Hall:  "I want food.  Food?  Do you have food?" 
Helen: "Food?  Do you see food?!"  
Mrs. Hall:  "Food?  Foooood?  Got food??"

It's like translating poetry, you get the point, but something is lost in translation.  Somehow it sounds prettier in chickenese.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

One Board at a Time

Happy Birthday Blog!  I can't believe that I have been writing this blog for an entire year!  I know time seems to pass by faster the older I get, but it's starting to go alarmingly fast.  Yet somehow, it seems like we are making progress on the house slowly.  We joke that we seem to only put up one board on each workday, and we are literally fixing up this old house one board at a time. Today, however, Brandon nailed up five boards, and I filled in two wall gaps with insulation.  So there.  The number of boards that go up isn't really a good indicator of how much was accomplished though, because for every board that goes up, mountains of old rubble comes down, and much time is spent scratching our heads and pondering the mysteries of how a house should be put together.  And since we have never done this sort of thing before, everything is a mystery.   

In the photo above, Brandon is shoring up the kitchen wall.  He is putting in new two-by-six boards at each wall stud, and using these to brace a new top plate board for the roof to rest on.  He is doing this to strengthen the wall, which was so rotten he could push on it and it would move, and to make sure the roof has a strong support, especially since we are planning to take the horizontal boards that were the ceiling out.  We're pretty sure they aren't structural, but just in case they are somehow keeping this old house standing when so much of it has been eaten by termites we wanted to make sure the wall is strong.  We can also put more insulation in this wall if the studs are six inches instead of four.  

This is not the most exciting photo, for sure, but this represents some strenuous labor on Brandon's part, and some anxiety for both of us since we weren't sure we were making the right decision.  This is the doorway from the kitchen to a little room which was added to the house a long time ago.  One of the many problems with this little room, which will someday be our bathroom and laundry room, is that the ceiling is very low.  So low that Brandon's hair was rubbing the old saggy drywall on the ceiling.  To make it seem even worse, the kitchen floor is higher than the floor of the little room, and the step was in the doorway.  So it was kind of like a little hobbit door, and while we didn't actually have to duck to enter, it felt like we needed to.  To alleviate this, we decided to move the step out of the doorway and into the kitchen area.  If it works like we plan, then we can step to the level of the little room before going through the doorway, so at least we don't feel like we are going to konk our heads.  But this meant that we had to cut a chunk out of the old original beam that the house sits on.  Should we do that?  To late now, we did it.  If you can see the hammer on the ground in the photo, this is where the beam was cut away.  Now we just have to pour cement at the same level as the little room cement slab.  This little task turned into a big job, and it doesn't look very impressive either.  

All of this work has been going on in the cold.  This is the end of the new water line that we recently installed by digging a trench through the yard and breaching under the house.  We turned the water off to the house and then opened this valve, which will be under the kitchen floor, so that any water still in the line could expand out the end of the pipe instead of swelling and bursting our new pipe when it froze.  As you can see by the icicle hanging from the end of the pipe, this was a good idea.  It's cold in there! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Making Sauerkraut the Lazy Way

Isn't my new dinning room table centerpiece lovely?  And what you can't discern from this photo is that it has a pungent aroma too.  Not quite the same as a bouquet of flowers, but similar in essence.  I feel bad that you aren't getting to experience it fully. 

Peel back the snazzy pillow case wrapping, and what you find is giant wine bottle full of water weighing down a plate in a crock of homemade sauerkraut.  Ta -da!   

Give this stuff a stir and the krauty aroma will greet visitors at the front door.  I could tell it was getting ready to eat when my normally well behaved cat kept trying to get on the table to investigate the centerpiece.  This is an indicator that wasn't mentioned in any of my research on kraut making.  And let me warn you, if you have never researched making sauerkraut on the interweb, and think you might give it a google, be prepared to meet some serious kraut fans.  There's a whole world out there with folks getting funky with their vegge.  I went so far down the rabbit hole that I now own books about fermenting vegetables.  I'm not sure how it happened really, but it's always a danger when learning about foods with a fan base that I get caught up in the mania and find myself admiring a pot of old cabbage on my table.      

And despite all my research about various technique, and my admiration of all the lovely and diverse jars of multicolored fermented vegetables that I've viewed on-line, my experience has been to just chop up some cabbage, mix in some salt, and let it do it's thing.  I'm even too lazy to store it, so we just eat it up.  The kraut fans insist that it's healthiest when eaten without cooking, which suits my lazy kraut style just fine.  Last night I dished up the bowls in the photo for an evening snack.  Brandon was super excited, as you can imagine.  He did give the complement that it's tastes better than it smells, which it truly does.  I am learning to like the smell too though, which could be problem if I continue to experiment with fermented foods.  There's plenty of room on the table for more crocks! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Playing in the Dirt and Dancing on the Floor

Look, four whole pieces of plywood nailed down!  You would think that we created a dance hall judging by our excitement and the number of laps we did walking around "testing" the floor.  Yep, it walks real good.  I try not to let my imagination run too far ahead of our progress, but I can almost imagine that this space could be a kitchen.  A smallish one, but still, it could have a sink, and a stove, and maybe even some cabinets.  Wow, a floor.  There is plenty to be done before I start picking out appliances though.  We have exciting plans for the ceiling, a window upgrade, and, of course, electricity, plumbing, and walls.  We even have plans to block up the holes to the outside in order to prevent a brave pair of house wrens from coming in to criticize our work.  Although I think Brandon enjoys feeling like Cinderella while he toils and birds twitter around his head.    

In addition to being Brandon's assistant, debris clean up girl, and expert door frame caulker (stupid door we installed still leaks!), I played the role of soil scientist on Saturday, and collected soil samples from around the farm.  Joe is taking soil samples from his farm to the county extension office for a chemical analysis, and volunteered to take my samples too, in exchange for borrowing my soil probe.  Apparently, they will test the soil for free, and even give recommendations for soil improvements based on what's planned for the ground. 

The soil sample above is from the garden, or at least where I plan to put a garden.  I think the soil in this spot was used for a garden in the past too, because it's darker and has more organic matter than the soil in the rest of the farm.  Joe told me to take dirt from at least four places in each field, off the top six inches, and mix it together for each sample.  I decided to take samples from four fields, and also one from the garden.  Other than the garden, all the others looked the same to me, so I will be surprised if there's much difference in the results. 

I made sure to include soil from places where the broom sedge grows.  I enjoy watching the golden hued broom sedge wave in the breeze, but for some reason I have the impression that this grass is not something preferred by farmers, and may indicate that our soil is acidic, or lacking in some nutrient that good pasture grasses prefer.  Once, when requesting permission to work on a farmers land, the farmer apologized to me for his broom sedge and told me he knew his land needed lime.  I guess it's sort of like feeling compelled to explain to someone stopping by that the floor needs to be mopped before they even get in the house. 

Our neighbor tells us that other than a few horses for a short period, our land hasn't been used for animals in the recent past, but has had the vegetation harvested for hay.  This means the land has been stripped of organic matter and nutrients, without anything being added.  I look forward to learning about pasture management, but I think I would miss the pretty broom sedge if it wasn't there.  Would saying that to a real farmer be like saying I prefer my floors to be dirty?  Muddy doggy paw prints are kind of cute!  

I'm anxious for the soil test results.  Other than walking around the farm and doing a casual vegetation survey and a few probes to make sure there wasn't rock an inch under the surface, I didn't do research into the condition of the soil before we decided to buy it.  But, based on the surrounding land use, which is mostly cows and hay fields, I felt that the land was probably useful, if a person can figure out how to use it. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Doghouses are for Dogs.

Hidden in the weeds by the barn was this cute little doghouse.  On Sunday, we dragged it from the brambles and set it near the old locust tree, where Puck likes to sit and gaze into the distance while we work on the house.  I thought he might like to lay in the dog house, out of the wind, and look through the open door.  Really, I just wanted to see how adorable he would look in an honest to goodness dog house, like a real dog.  He was absolutely not going to humor me by pretending to be a real dog, even for a few moments so I could take his picture.  And if you can't tell by his laid back ears and tortured expression in the photo above, he was insulted by the mere suggestion, and is posing near the doghouse just so I would take the picture and stop nagging him about it.   He  made it very clear to me that he knew the doghouse was for an animal, and he was having nothing to do with it.   

The inside of the farm house isn't quite fit for animals yet, but it's getting closer!  Working on the kitchen floor has been an interesting project, because at some point since the house was built, most of the kitchen floor was replaced.  Probably because the termite damage was so bad.  The folks who fixed the kitchen floor before, obviously believed in working with minimal materials, and preferred to piece things together using scraps.  I appreciate frugality.  They also didn't want to take up the kitchen sink and cabinets (I also appreciate half-assedness), so that part of the floor was never replaced and severely slope to the rotten corner of the house.  I'm sure it made doing the dishes more interesting as the sink was tilted to one side and could probably only hold so much water or it would slosh out on the downhill side. So, Brandon has been shoring things up and straightening things out as much as possible without taking it all out and staring over, which sometimes seemed like it would be just as hard as working with the mess that was there.   But, after screwing down two pieces of the new plywood floor, and taking them back up to work on the floor joists some more, no less than three times, he finally got it just the way we like it - Ah, it's good enough.  We do have some standards, after all.   

While the kitchen floor repairs were underway, I was busy working on cutting pieces of insulation board to fit between the studs in the walls.  You would think this would be pretty straight forward.  That the studs would be sixteen inches apart, and that I could cut rectangular strips and stick them in.  Easy, right?  I wish!  This house is so crooked, and has so many strange features, like the diagonal corner braces shown in the picture above, that I have to measure each side of every gap and draw out shapes with diagonals and tapers.  Then, with great patience I cut each shape out, realize that it doesn't fit, try to force it in anyway, get frustrated and start hacking at it with a knife until something breaks and I finally get the mangled mess crammed in the wall.  Ah, it's good enough.  

Joe delivered a bunch of carpet roles that he pulled from an office space he was helping to renovate.  We stacked them in the corn crib for now.  We have plans for garden expansion and some u-pick berry patches, but before we role them out to kill the grass Joe wants to check that this method meets organic standards.  I'm curious too, because if the carpet is leaching toxins from the plastics in the backing, or maybe residual glues, into the soil as it is exposed to the elements I would like to know.  In theory, it's only on the grass for long enough to kill the vegetation, and then gets moved to a new spot, so it's not like it stays there indefinitely and decomposes in one place.    

We also had a visit from family this weekend, and my nephew, sporting the overalls and rubber boots I gave him for Christmas, broke in his new shovel and rake by helping me fill some holes in the yard.  If I could harness the energy of a five year old every work day, we would have this place in top shape in no time!  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jabba the Rock

Today, I really enjoyed my job.  Not that I don't normally enjoy my work, because I truly do, but today turned out to be one of those days where I kept thinking, "I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this!".  When these kind of days come along I try to pay close attention, so the next time I'm squinting at a computer monitor for too many hours in a row, and I begin to question the point of my existence, I can remind myself that it's not so bad because some days I get paid to go hiking in the woods.  

I think I was more appreciative of today's pleasant job than normal because I was dreading it so much.  I knew the temperature was going to start in the single digits and only climb to the teens for most of the day. When I stepped outside this morning to feed the chickens and my nostrils froze I was sure I was going to suffer all day.  And because the whole point of this job was to search for caves that could provide habitat for bats, and it was described to me as a cliff line, I imagined slipping and sliding on dangerously icy rocks while trying to scale a wall before plummeting to my icy death.   It would be impossible to retrieve my frozen body, so I would be eaten by vultures.   Needless to say, I was dreading it.  

Turns out though, that all I have to do to be instantly too warm in my many layers, is to walk up a hill.  There are advantages to not being super fit!  Not only was I toasty warm due to the constant climbing, but the cliff line wasn't horribly steep, and all the extra clothes I was wearing made it possible for me to bounce off the icy rocks like an overstuffed teddy bear.  We hiked all over the forested slopes looking for caves.  It was the perfect day for a snowy hike in the woods.  

Jamie and I were admiring the tree in the photo above, which was growing in a crack on a rock outcrop.  I took the picture of him on the rock, and when I showed him the photo he pointed out that it looks just like Jabba the Hut, from Star Wars.  The more I look at it the more it looks like Jabba.  It's Jabba the Rock!  Jabba wabba wookie, ah ah ah ah ah Jedi.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Farm Auctions are Fun

We recently discovered how much fun it is to go to a farm auction. Dangerous, right?   But, considering it's the shopping season, it seemed a very appropriate way to spend a Saturday morning.  Especially since the setting was so idyllic.  The farm belonged to my friends parents, who have earned their new house in town after years of running a smart little farm nestled in the hills right next to a lovely creek and forest.  The farm is at the end of a country road, and when we came around the final bend in the road we drove right up to the farm house with the expected barns and outbuildings, but also with the unexpected blue and white striped small circus tent.  Despite the cold and rain, it was a very festive atmosphere.  There were even folks set up in a barn selling chili dogs and cans of soda.  With my love of junk stores I can't believe it's taken me so long to discover auctions.  Combining used treasures with tents, vendors, announcers, and an entire group of like-minded folks to shop with -it's like a shopping sport!

We arrived a few minutes before the scheduled start time so we could wander around in the rain checking out all the goods.  We aren't quite ready to invest in tractors and cattle haulers, but it was fun to inspect these things, and educational when it came time to auction them.  I have a better understanding of how much people are willing to pay for used equipment now.  The tractor was a major attraction for most of the crowd.  

Despite the rain and the cold there was a really good turn out, and everything that went up for auction was sold.  Some folks got some really great deals.  Including me!

The auctioneer stepped in front of each item that was placed around the yard and barns and used a microphone.  When he got to the smaller items most were lumped together in bundles, so sometimes we would bid on a bundle when all we really wanted was one of the items.  The harder it rained the bigger the bundles got.  If no one was bidding on a bundle they would start adding stuff to it until it was all sold.  

Inside the tent were tables with piles of fun stuff.  Everything from butter churns to horse shoes, to old oil cans and glassware.  And when the bidding started it went fast!

And the auctioneer sounded just like I hoped he would.  I asked Brandon to do an impression of the auctioneer while I typed it up.  If you read this next sentence straight through, with a pleasant hillbilly accent, it surprisingly accurate!  "Hammity hammity hobbity hobbity tin tin tin can I get a five now ten now fifteen fifteen fifteen can I get a two now twenty now one now two now five now twenty five can I get a thirty thirty thirty SOLD number 60!"  We were number 60.  It was very exciting.  

I made this short video of our very fist bidding war for a ceramic crock I had on my list of must haves.  It's only half a minute, but I think it captures the thrill of the win quite well.  

Not only did I win the bid for the big crock, I also bought this giant cast iron kettle on a stand.  My friends parents used it for rendering lard over a camp fire when they would harvest a pig.  The long wooden paddle is so you can stir the melting fat without getting too close to the fire.  I am weirdly excited about this kettle.  I also got my friends mother's butter bowl, which is a shallow wooden bowl with a spatula that is used to press the churned butter from the whey.  Even though this is not a bowl from my own family, it seems special because I've heard stories about the folks who used it.  It come with a built in story, and it's fun to imaging making butter in the bowl someday and knowing a little history of someone who did the same thing before me.  

I was really excited to get a bundle of garden hoes, some post hole diggers, an ax, and even a frog gig, which is that trident shaped thing in the photo above.  I don't plan to ever gig a frog, but it was bundled with the other tools I wanted, so now I'm the proud owner.  Maybe I can use it to stab pears out of the pear tree?

I couldn't pass on this stainless steel sink either.  I'm not sure how I'll use it, but it was a great deal.  It was used in their dairy, and is in really good shape.  I've always wanted an outdoor sink for washing mud off of vegetables and I think this may be just what I need.  There were so many things I didn't know I needed!  Farm auctions are fun, but dangerous. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Is it just me, or does it feel like it's been a long time since I wrote anything for the blog?  Life has been extra full the past few weeks - full of holiday festivities, travel, projects, and lots of family gatherings.  I took time off work, and naively thought I would be extra productive and get to do all the projects I wanted to do with my "extra" time.  There must be some rule of the cosmos though, that dictates that if I take time off work, that will be one of the rare times I succumb to a cold.  Or it could be that eating junk food, drinking booze, staying up too late, and spending time with sick nieces creates the perfect conditions for a cold.  Why does the universe want to punish me?!  So instead of spending days working on projects at the farm or in the kitchen, I spent days shivering on the couch watching romantic comedies while I coughed and drank hot tea.  I would have rather been at the office!

Brandon, however, has not been wasting his time nursing a cold, and has been squeezing in as many work days as possible on the house renovation.  He made some excellent progress on the steps, which are assembled now to a point where we can actually use them.  We think they look pretty too.  

The kitchen floor joists have been leveled, and all the old wiring has been taken out of the house.  We have had some awesome rain storms lately, which is helping us find all the places where moisture get into the walls.  I had some lovely hours learning the finer points of caulking doors and windows.  It's thrilling stuff.  

After bringing in the new year with friends and family, Brandon and I drove out to the farm today and spent some time organizing the little barn, which had become a nightmare pile of everything we have pulled from the house that we didn't want to throw away.  It wasn't a chore either of us expected to do on our first day of 2014, but after we were finished it felt very fitting.  It's nice to start the new year with a little organization, even if it is just one old barn.  

The sunset tonight, on the very first day of this year, in the picture at the top of the page, was maybe the most spectacular one we have enjoyed.  I was standing with my jaw dropped trying to absorb the beauty and figure out how it changes so slowly and subtly without me seeing it change, when Brandon wandered by carrying something for the dumpster.  I said "Brandon, look at the sunset" and he glanced over and said "oh yeah", then started to walk on.  Then, he stopped, did a double take, and really looked at it and said "Oh, WOW!".  Oh yeah, it was that amazing.  Then we both sat on the step of the corn crib and watched the show until we got to cold to sit still any longer.  I really need to get a real camera so I can try to do justice to these sunsets!

Before the sun set, I did manage to spread out all the cardboard I collected over the holiday.  I used bricks to hold it down, and I'm hoping this will kill the grass and expand the garden I started by laying out carpet last summer.  Not only will it kill the grass, but as an added bonus, it looks lovely!  I love that we don't have neighbors to offend with my ugly cardboard and old carpet garden.  

Dad gave me a box full of black walnuts from the trees in his front yard, so today I played Johnny Appleseed and walked around the farm dropping nuts and stomping them into the soft ground.  I either planted a walnut forest, or gave the squirrels a very happy new year.  
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