Sunday, September 23, 2018

Front Yard Project - Part 1

We put together a video of Emma and I working on the front yard.  It was soooo hot when we did this!! But now that it's fall, it's already starting to cool off!

Hope you enjoy!

September 2018


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ice Storm 2017

We thought you might like to see what we drove through to get to Church last Sunday morning.  If only the camera could capture the beauty of it all!!

 Esther and I had fun making this video, hope you like it.
Oh, and Cooper picked the song.

(Sorry we can't figure out how to add video here with a picture)

Sandy and Esther

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

When the World Seems Sooooooo Dark.......................

This was a bedroom, and will soon be the kitchen.

...................cut a hole in the wall and put in a window!!

As part of our construction process, we girls decided that we needed a window in the main part of the house because it is so dark and it needs, NEEDS more light!!  So we took a window that Barrett salvaged from a job up in the Chicago area that at this point, wasn't doing anything but taking up storage space.

Later, when we decide on the final layout of the two walls that meet in the corner, we'll make the windows look similar, but for now, we'll just live with it and let the sunshine in!!!

It can be frustrating to live like this but like I said before, I think a major advantage is that we can put things in order temporarily and live with it for some time while we decide if it works or not.  We've determined the basic design of the kitchen, now it's just a matter of coming up with the finer details.

Shane, Landon, and Cooper are working on the new "window to the world"! 

A window to the beautiful night sky!

Now we can watch as the guys work!!

Don't be distracted by all the "stuff".  This will be the corner of the kitchen and the once again, the windows are just temporary.  But the amount of light that comes in now is amazing.  Next spring, we'll work on the outside and think about adding some flowers and things.

I picked up these feathers as I was walking out to the garden last night.  I thought the black one was unique so I thought I would show you a picture.

So, if you ever need some more light in your life, just cut a hole in the wall 
and put in a window.  But I must to warn you!!  It can become dangerous because you might end up living in a glass house.  

October 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Layout of the Mud Room

This room is missing the porch.

I thought I would share this part of our project even though the pictures don't look too exciting.  For me, this was one of the most important parts of the job because I was able to stand inside the room and draw the layout on the floor with chalk to see how the room is going to "flow".
The bathroom and closet on the left.

It's one thing to plan and draw up the plans on paper and try to imagine how it all fits together.  It's another thing to be able to stand in the room and pretend that it's a functioning room.  This way we could change walls and placements if we needed too.  And we did make quite a few minor, but important changes. 

Corner bathroom.

That's the beauty of doing the work ourselves.  I don't have to answer to a general contractor who I know I would drive crazy!  And he would drive me crazy too because he would tell me that we can't make any changes because the plans have already "been approved".

Then I would cry, and try to fire him so it's best we just do the work ourselves anyway.

Closet next to the bathroom.  The left corner is where we'll cut a doorway into the house.

We're going to put a little door in the wall into the storage closet from the bathroom so we can drop dirty clothes into a bin to carry to the laundry.
The panorama of the room makes it look bigger than it really is.  The dimensions are 16' x 18'. 

The back wall.  The window on the left will be over the sink.
Cooper stocked the roof with bundles of shingles.

And the work continues........... 

I quickly wrote a list of the things that need to be done and now I have to put them in order of what happens next.   

September 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hamburger Buns from Home?? Well, of Course!!

 Even if you've never made anything with yeast before, you have to try these!

Just out of the oven, sorry you can't smell them!
I've been making bread for almost 25 years now and I wish I would have had this recipe back when I started, because if I did, I would have made thousands of these buns!!

Over the years I've tried a few hamburger bun recipes and they haven't been as good as I would like.  I don't like to settle for "good".  I want something to be great(!), if at all possible.  And the buns that I've made in the past were either too heavy or too strong in flavor so the taste of the hamburgers would be lost in a sea of bread dough.  

The bun is just the carrier of the meat and the toppings, so it should be light and have a subtle taste.  Not being able to obtain what I was looking for, I gave up (not my true character).

But!! good things come to those who persevere!!

Buns rising and soon to be baked!

Rural living has it's challenges, but not something that we cannot over come.  One of those challenges is not being prepared when it's meal time.  

We needed hamburger buns for dinner.  And a drive to town is about 25 minutes one way.  It didn't make any sense to drive to town just for buns.  So what were we to do?  Well, we only had two options.  Either don't make hamburgers for dinner or try and make some buns.  I thought it was best to try again to make some buns.  So that's what we did.

In the back of my mind, I wasn't too confident, but not willing to give up, we gave it another try.  I did a quick search online to see if we could find a new recipe.

After putting two recipes in My Pocket, I let Esther decide which one she wanted to make and she choose these.  They looked like the easiest of the two and had the least ingredients.

They came from the Taste of Home magazine.

40-Minute Hamburger Buns Recipe
Total Time: 
Prep: 20 min. + resting Bake: 10 min.
YIELD:12 servings


2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough.
2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let rise. Divide into 12 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets.
3. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake at 425° for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Yield: 1 dozen.

My Notes for the Recipe:

I'm not crazy about the amount of yeast in these buns, so each time we make them, we're going to slowly decrease the amount of yeast to see at what point it has an effect on the buns and then we'll stop at that point. 

Resting time:  We let ours rest longer then the 10 minutes, maybe 20 or 30 minutes or up to an hour.  We were looking for size more than anything.  But remember, they will always get larger in the oven too.  Conditions change, so times will vary, just don't let them rest too long.   

For sandwich buns, just brush on some beaten egg whites before you put them in the oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper, caraway, poppy seed, dried onions, or whatever spices you like.  It's easier to add your toppings just after you form them otherwise you risk deflating them with your brush.

We're planning on using these for hotdog buns also, we'll just have to change the shape.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You can make these buns faster then you can get in the car and drive to the store and they are sooooo much better!  Plus, planning to be home more often gives you more time to get beyond the things that you need to do, so you can have more time to do the things you want to do.  It opens up more time to be creative!!

I had to share even though I had a protestor. :) 

September 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Labor Day Weekend 2016

We had a great Labor Day weekend this year with a lot of projects going on at the same time.  Everything wasn't planned to happen all at once, but it did and thankfully we had enough of us to do what we needed to do because it was sort of a "race against the clock".

Ember is NOT liking the noise from the saw on the back side!

And that's just one reason to be thankfully for a big family!!

Oh, but unfortunately, we were missing one of our family members:  Barrett.  

And boy did we miss him!!  Not for the work, although he would have been a great help, but just to have him here with us.  

We've always been a really close family and when one person is missing, it just isn't the same!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Preparing for this weekend was a story in itself, but I won't be able to tell you what happened.  Unfortunately, it takes me too long to write already.  Maybe someday, I'll do a podcast or something like that or learn to write better and faster, whichever comes first.

But trust me when I say, "You can not write a better script", then the way our family life just plays out.  

 We sometimes laugh and talk about having a reality TV show, but then again, who wants to be famous?!?  Sure we might make a lot of money, but being "famous"?  No thanks.

Thankfully we all, for the most part, can just go with whatever happens and keep a positive attitude and laugh about it later.

Hey, and it keeps life interesting too!

Here is just a glimpse into what we did for the extended weekend.   

But first...................................

The foundation of our addition was laid about 3 weeks before we started the building project thanks to our friend Mr. Balmer, the concrete extraordinaire, aka "expert".

I've been dreaming of and designing a new mud room for that spot right there.

Our shirtless friend Mr. Balmer, the concrete expert.

Side view of the house.

Our weekend projects:

Shane was on the excavator digging trenches - about a 1/4 of a mile in total and dealing with wire and water pipes.  It might not sound like a lot, but it is and was.  Lots of hand digging also needed to be done so we wouldn't break any phone, electric, or water pipe lines. 

Road Block!  "Did I hit a phone line?"

A little over whelmed.

Our intersection is the spot where everything branches off in different directions so there are orange flags and spray paint lines everywhere.

Esther stopped by to help too.

Dakota, and Tanner working on their construction skills.

Landon working on lines in trenches and working with Cooper in our hay field and a neighbors field working hay.  Cutting, raking, and baling, loading, and stacking about 600 bales of hay.

In the trenches.
First load of hay.

Tim working on the new room and stopping to help solve whatever problems were going on.

The girls preparing and serving food and helping when needed or when they just decided too.

And me: the designer, the one to offer moral support, the go-getter, the photographer, the disciplinarian, the encourage r, etc. 

That was the basic assignment, although the jobs just fell into place and there was no discussion about who was to do what.  And if anyone needed help, then whoever could stop what they were doing, they would go and help somewhere else.

The trenches were dug for new electric wires to get rid of an ugly electrical pole and it's overhead wires that were in the front of the houses.  Also to bury wires that were strung up in and through the trees from the main pole to a few other places around the farm.  Those wires were hung there before we purchased the farm and the electric company strongly recommended that we bury those lines as well, and now was the perfect time to do that.

A long time ago, someone (who shall remain anonymous) said that we could get rid of the ugly pole that was in the front of the house.  When I heard that, I got really excited and was anxious to see what we could do, because let me tell you, that pole is an eye sore!

But my excitement quickly faded when it just seemed to be too overwhelming.

The Ugly Pole

Then months later, the electric company in town started to replace all of the electrical poles in our valley and that's when I started asking questions again.

It worked out, and after a lot of planning and talking, here we are:  digging trenches for new wires!!  But little did I understand what was all involved in moving just one little pole.  $$

While digging the trenches for the electrical wire, we found out that that main water line was only 1/2" water pipe, so we changed that over to a 1" pipe - not something that we had planned on doing.

Water pipe.
Everything ran pretty smooth the whole weekend except for the fact that on Monday afternoon we broke a water pipe.  Fixed that one.  Then we broke another pipe on Monday night, just before we were getting ready to be done for the night.  

Nice face Landon!!  (It's funny at what point the photo is actually captured.)  They're trying to find the water leak so we can fix it to take showers.  I don't know what's worse, no water or no electricity?!

At this point we all needed a shower from sweating all day and being covered in dirt and grime.  And to top it off,  some of the kids had to go to work the next day which meant they had to be up early.  So for the next hour or so the guys worked on fixing the pipe.  And that they finally did.

Unfortunately the extended weekend had to come to an end.  That was a sad time.  The projects aren't finished, but we are still working on them.  We stayed dry for almost a week but we got hit with a lot of rain today.  Thankfully it didn't do any harm although we weren't able to get all the hay into the barn before it rained.

So in a day or two when the rain stops, we'll have to go back into the field and cut the twine on the bales of hay, spread it out to fluff it up so it can dry.  Then we'll have to bale it once again.  It's not something that we would ever plan to do, but it's the only way to save the hay which amounts to almost 300 bales.

First wall and they forgot to put on the vapor barrier.  Oops.

Sorry for the blurry photo.

Lots and lots of wire!!

Feeding electric wire.  It doesn't look heavy, but it surely is!!  Oh, and Tanner's photo bomb - his ball of tape he threw at Dakota.  That kid is in just about every picture:  physically or mentally.

Tanner having to pose for EVERY picture!

Getting closer.

Girls can climb too!
The cat found a place to nap in Dakota's tool belt.
Dakota and Emma finishing the wall.
Preparing the nails for the ones swinging the hammer.
Setting the first wall!!  Yeah, it was HOT outside!!  I wish we could have had six more boys!!  Oh, and a few more girls too!!

We'll keep you posted as we move along with these projects.  One thing that would have made the mud room move along a little faster was if I had drawn my plans for it more specifically on paper.  That way the guys wouldn't have had to stop so much for me to measure and think and change and measure again.  That was a little frustrating to them, but I told them that they're learning great character skills this way.  I don't think they thought that was to funny.

But I have to say that because we are doing this without having to submit plans to anyone, we can change as we see fit.  Sometimes if you draw something on paper and follow it exactly, you don't realize what you did until you're done with it.  And then it could be too late.  

This way, we could stop and talk about something and then go ahead and build it.  

Also, we're making our own windows and doors so we don't have to use standard sizes.  I think that's the most fun about this project.

September 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Our Boar, Oreo - Part 1

We bought Oreo from our friend Mike at Vesterbrook Farm in Clarksville, MO, when he was about 5 months old and raised him until he was just over 2 1/2 years old.  We never "cut" (castrated) him.  Once he's been cut, he would be forever changed and there is no turning back.  Then instead of being called a boar,  he would be referred to as a *barrow or a *stag.

Oreo at about 5 months of age when he came to our farm.

People say that if you don't take away his "manliness", he will be mean and aggressive.  And that can be a scary thing!

For one, we didn't really think about castrating him when he was young and if we did, we wouldn't be able to have piglets any time soon.  We had two *sows/*gilts that we were looking to breed with him that were the same age and that we also purchased from Mike.
And then many months later, when he grew so big, we knew that castrating him was something that we didn't want to put him through. 

Oreo was a very tame boar, although we knew to keep at least one eye on him when we were around him especially when he was out of the electric fence just roaming around.  

His favorite place to relax.

He loved to have his back scratched and when he did, his long body would swing back and forth as he stood still.  It was funny to see him enjoy having so much attention.

Oreo lived out on pasture in an electric fence and we rarely, if ever, had to worry about him getting out on his own.  He was rotated to new pasture on a regular basis during his whole life.  He ate mostly Non-GMO feed, food scraps, grass, weeds, nuts, roots, and toward the end of his life, we started to feed him just a little bit of regular conventional corn - but not because we wanted too.   

"What do you mean, regular conventional corn?"  You ask.

Well........................regular conventional corn is just feed corn that we would purchase at the local feed stores.

There is so much controversy out there about GMO's and Non-GMO's that I can't even begin to touch on it.  But here is an article if you're interested in getting a quick lesson.

We stopped feeding our pigs Non-GMO feed only because we would have to drive about 4 hours one way to pick up feed and bring it back.  On one trip we would haul almost 1500 lbs. back at a time.  

And who was the first person to say that a pig had to eat grain anyway?

When the corn goes in one end and out the other and it doesn't look any different, who are we kidding?  It seems like a big waste of money to me anyway.  

Driving over 8 hours round trip just got to be too much driving for us, so we had to resort to conventional feed that we could pick up locally.

"Did you ask at the local feed stores if you could purchase Non-GMO feed?"  Yes, I did.  They would have been my first choice to support them, but they couldn't get it.  And at first, they didn't even know what it was either.  Neither did the company who they purchased their grain from.

So see, all you farmers and ranchers out there, we still have a lot of educating that we need to do.

  Oreo's ration of daily conventional grain/corn was pretty much just a snack because he had to share it with all the other pigs that were in the same paddock, so in reality, he didn't get that much of it:  thankfully.

About 3 weeks before Oreo went to the butcher, he didn't eat any grain at all, only grass and a few kitchen scraps.  And did he miss the grain/corn feed?  Um, not really.  He never acted like he was missing something.  He seemed happy to just eat whatever vegetation he could find.

Our view of Oreo from the kitchen window.

When it was time to get serious about what we were going to do with Oreo, we started to ask more direct questions.  And the question that got the most heated response from people was whether Oreo was castrated or not.

I think it would be interesting to have a friendly debate over this topic, don't you?  But then again, would it remain, friendly?  I can't say for sure.  That's how passionate this topic seems to be.

"You won't be able to eat him!" 

 "He'll taste so bad that you'll have to just feed him to the dogs!" 

"He'll have Boar taint!" 

"You won't be able to be in the house when he's cooking, he'll stink!"

 And then on the flip side, "Just turn him into sausage and he'll be amazing!" 

"Have you ever had wild boar?  It's amazing!" 

Over and over, the same type of response came from so many different people, so who were we supposed to believe?

Even when I was doing research on the web, I would come across the same type of responses.


What were we to do?  

We had 2 years into him and now he wasn't going to be any good?!?  

How depressing!!

Well, the only thing that we could do at this time, was to just take the chance:  butcher him, and see what happens.

And that's exactly what we did.

Worse case scenario, we would have dog food for a very long time. 

Even more depressing!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Oreo, on his way to the butcher.

I wanted us to do the whole butchering process ourselves, but we didn't have a hoist that was strong enough to hold Oreo up while we did the beginning steps.  

So we took him to the butcher, who, killed him with a .22 LR (which kills him instantly), hoisted him up, bled him out, skinned him, gutted him, split him in half, and then hung him in the cooler where he would hang for just over a week.  After that time, we would go and get him and finish the job ourselves.

Cooper and I were able to watch the whole process, except for the killing (although we heard the shot).  And I have to say that we were both very happy with the whole process, so far.  

Oreo's last steps.

Oreo lived an amazing life and his life ended the say way.

barrow:  a male castrated before puberty
stag:  a male pig castrated later in life
sow:  breeding female, or a female after her first litter 
gilt:  a young female pig not yet mated, or not yet *farrowed
farrowedgive birth

Part 2:  On the Way to the Butcher 
Coming soon.

August 2016