My Wish

Spring of 2007, I graduated from University with my Bachelor’s Degree in English Communications at the ripe old age of 20.  I remember driving home from school, my cute, purple Sebring Convertible loaded down as full as I could fit it with all of the important things that I pulled out of my dorm room.  I drove alone, my parents and sister in other cars, and spent the three hour trip back to my parents’ house listening to Rascal Flatts “My Wish” on repeat.

I sang along, the lyrics making life sound almost easy, like it would make sense.  In that moment, the song resonated, maybe because it’s really just about figuring things out, and at twenty, I had a lot of things to figure.   I’m not sure life ever makes sense the way you hope it will while it happens.  In my admittedly somewhat limited experience, you are seldom allowed to see the path you’ll be walking until it’s behind you.

Two nights ago, Jeremiah and I packed up and moved our bed, clothes, and other everydays across the river to the ranch.  It was after dark and wildly cold, but we did it.

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He drove the truck and trailer; I followed behind, driving my cute little Jetta and listening to the radio.  This time, I didn’t have a song on repeat.  (Although, Rockin’ Me by Steve Miller Band popped up and felt apt.)  I did have the same feeling though.  I was in the middle of one of the big moments, one that I could recognize even as a turning point.

When I drove home in the Sebring, I honestly thought I knew what direction I was going, but I hadn’t the slightest.  That drive took me back home.  The path it started me down was towards a Master’s Degree, then a husband, then, fourteen years after I started working there as a teenager, the path brought me right back to the ranch.

 

 

Also, just in case you were curious, here are the lyrics to that song I played on repeat driving home:

Rascal Flatts – “My Wish”

I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want to go,
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window,
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,

But more than anything, more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

I hope you never look back, but ya never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you left,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake,
And you always give more than you take.

But more than anything, yeah, and more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

This is my wish
I hope you know somebody loves you
May all your dreams stay big

 

DIY: Renovating the kitchen

So, as you all know, we have been undertaking massive renovations on not one, but three houses.  Right now, the most important to me is the main house at the farm.  It isn’t terribly functional yet, and it is the one we’re planning to live in.  As such, we’ve kept busy with constant projects.

The thing is, there is a bizarre-o event that takes place when your house is updated: Suddenly, the rooms you thought were fine, the one you thought you could deal with, start to look shabby.  In my case, that room is the kitchen.

Originally, we thought we would use some of the equity in our Heights house, once it sold, to re-do the kitchen.  Later, when realizing the inherent troubles that come with attempting to heat such a large house with propane, it became obvious that the reasonable thing to do would be to use the money to put in geothermal heating.  Given that gutting and reconstructing a new kitchen will probably cost us our arms, legs, and firstborn child, I decided to deal with the kitchen as-is.  It became the “one day” project.  One day, when we have less debt and fewer projects that HAVE to be done, I will get a new kitchen.  I have no issue with that, but the more we updated around the kitchen, the more dated and out of place the kitchen started to look.

In addition, it isn’t terribly functional for my purposes.  The oven works, but is quite small.  The stovetop has one working burner.

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That’s when the crazy voice inside of my head–let’s call her my Inner DIYer (ala Mother Hen’s Inner Comedienne )or Di–began to follow me into the kitchen.  Every time I crossed the kitchen threshold, she was there.

I’m pretty sure I first met my Inner DIYer when I was seven, and she convinced me to cut my own bangs.  That turned out about as well as you might imagine.  Since then, she has gotten me into a lot of trouble…

“You know what would be nice in here???”

“What?” I mumbled, paying very little attention to her and sorting through likely the millionth llama halter that I probably don’t need.  (Hopefully I will check “donate extra llama halters” off of my list eventually, but at the moment, it’s just one more thing I need to do.)

I have to be honest, it’s dangerous to let Di talk to much.  She has big ideas that will quickly unleash chaos.

“A coffee bar.”

“No.”

“But why???  All you would need is a small island, and like, a few other things, but it wouldn’t be that hard…probably.”

“Because you’re pointing to the washer/dryer…”

“Oh yeah.  Those would have to move, which, by the way, is totally cool because you don’t want house guests to see your dirty underwear on the way to the sunroom ANYWAY!  Besides, think about how bad your barn clothes smell!  Do you really want that in your KITCHEN!  Your food is here.”

I glanced up.  She had a point.  I mean, who wants dirty underwear in their kitchen…and my barn clothes are pretty bad…and Jeremiah’s shoeing clothes are way worse.  Gross…

Di grinned.  She is excellent at reading the room and always knows when to push an issue.

“Know what else?  If you knocked down the wall in front of the washer/dryer, you could put in a breakfast nook.”

“What about the coffee bar?”

She shrugged.  “It will probably still fit.  Or you can just put it in the sunroom.  You’ll be repainting, right?”

“This room?  No.”

“Because you’re in love with the orange and blue floral wallpaper?”

“Because it would require me to REMOVE the orange and blue floral wallpaper.”

“But just think of how good it would look.  I mean, I wasn’t going to say anything, but this room looks ridiculous next to the new dining room.”

I glanced around.  She had a point.

“And it’s dated.”

Also true, but holy cow, whining much?

“And really, I mean, I know it looks small now, but this is a big space.”

I looked around, confused.   “It really isn’t.”

“No, you’re looking at it all wrong.  You have to sort of wipe the slate clean in your head.  Just, like, mentally remove all of the cabinets and appliances…and the washer/dryer.”

It took a moment, but once I did that, I realized she was right.

“So,” she continued, “if you take out this island with the cooktop,” (she slid a finger across it like it was going to infect her with unimaginative design or something) “which only one burner works anyway, and  you took out the cabinet where the stove sits and replace it with a standard oven, you can maximize floor space and open the floor plan.  It will look way bigger.”

“If we take out the island, we’ll have to replace the floor.”

“And…?”

“And that’s expensive and time consuming.”

“Well…yes.  BUT, you could wait on the floor.  Put a rug down in the meantime.  You don’t even like the current floor so who cares.”

“That’s true…but really it’s the cabinets…”

“Yes?”

“I mean, if I could only change one thing…”

“Yes???”

“I would change them.”

“I knew it!”

“But it would be WAY too expensive.”

She scrunched up her nose and looked around.

“We’ll paint them.”

“Oh god…”

“Yeah, I saw it on Pinterest.  Can totally be done.  And it’s going to look great.”

She grinned.

“But first, the we’re going to take down the wallpaper.”

 

 

So, we’ve been tearing down wallpaper (big thanks to my friend Vicky who helped me remove almost all of it), sanding cabinets and prepping for paint, both on the walls and the cabinets.  And we’re discussing tearing out the island, putting in a few new appliances, a new backsplash…

Maybe a breakfast nook…

This is the room I wasn’t going to touch.

 

 

A week at the ranch.

It’s been an eventful week at the ranch. Despite not living there, we’ve been busy!

For example, I pulled in yesterday morning and found this.  He started with power washing and proceeded to paint by the end of the day.

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Not sure if you can really tell, but by evening most of the front of the house was done.

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Fall has officially made it’s way to Central Illinois.  The weather yesterday was perfect: sunny, no hotter than 70 with a beautiful breeze.  We’re doubling down on outdoor efforts.  Lady Fall is enticing and beautiful, but she’s followed quickly by Old Man Winter, and, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, he’s going to be a doozy.  It won’t be terribly long before we get weathered out of the outdoor work, and neither of us want a half painted house all winter.

We also bought the most perfect dining room table last week.  Jeremiah and I found it in an antique store a few towns away. (In addition to all of his other wonderful qualities, Jeremiah actually enjoys going to antique stores on occasion.  I’m a very lucky girl…)  It’s a farmhouse table, new construction, but made out of 100+ year old barn wood.  I’m a little bit smitten with it.

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Jeremiah and his little brother bringing it in. Apparently it’s absurdly heavy.
The table, moved into our dining room.
The table, moved into our dining room. (The middle piece of wood you see is actually a table runner made of a 200+ year old barnwood beam.)

One of our friendly neighborhood hummers got caught in our mudroom while it was opened up to dry.  Jeremiah eventually got it to go outside.  The little bird was not overly grateful.  (If you’re not familiar with hummers, they are very cheeky little things.  We love them anyway.)

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This one may gross some of you out, but I think it’s funny.

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The chickens have been thoroughly enjoying their free range time, and a few of them discovered the manure pit.  I know the phrase is usually “happier than a pig in poop,” but as I understand it, pigs actually prefer to be clean.  The chickens, however?  They think it’s pretty great.

Also, see below for the inherent hazard of letting your chickens free range:

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They are pretty darn thrilled with their discovery of the hay stall.  It has excellent dust for dust baths, AND there’s a nifty, secluded corner to build a nest.  Now I have to check for eggs there every time I let them out.  But c’mon, how cute is the little nest with the colored eggs?

And finally, we took out Vinny’s stiches yesterday.  I expected a total freak out, as Jeremiah wanted to try it without sedation first, but we were pleasantly surprised when Vin stood like a champ.  He’s come so far since he came home with us!  This horse used to run away like a maniac anytime we came in the pasture, and now, this.

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He stood and chomped down grain the whole time.  God love him.

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All done!  He’ll probably always have a scar, but this one ended up way better than it might have.  It healed up very well.  Thank God for great vets and good horses.

Over the next few days, we’re hoping to move back in.  (We’re both losing patience with the constant driving back and forth.)  The house is vented with airmovers exchanging air in the basement 10 times per house.  The vents were cleaned earlier this week…  Hopefully, that will be enough to make the place livable again.  Fingers crossed.  If not, the movers are hopefully coming at the end of the month to clear out the basement, and then we will be free and clear to get the mothballs and the mold professionally mitigated.

Things will be good, but they won’t be easy…a brief update.

Things are a little dead out here at the airport.  Today would feel warm if not for the wind; it’s been pretty fierce out here today.  It’s the sort of day when recreational pilots don’t go up in the air; only my dad, who has almost 10,000 hours of flight time behind him, seemed to have bothered to go anywhere today.

Jeremiah and I spent the morning at the ranch, helping L and her husband move some bigger furniture then trimming toenails on one of the especially difficult llamas.  The present owners/caretakers are leaving on the 12th of this month.  We will be in charge of the animals after that, but, looking at the sheer number of their belongings still in the house, I have a feeling that we wont actually be able to move in until June or July.  They will be back in town on and off throughout the summer, to see family and pack more.  They plan to have everything completely moved out in August.

You might say things are complicated.  Until we can move into a full room or two, and have unhindered access to key areas (like the kitchen, bathroom, etc), we won’t really be able to stay there.  That means we’ll be caring for all the animals from offsite.  While I will have more time for ranch work, as I will be done teaching at the end of the week, it still indicates nearly two hours everyday just in commuting.  With so much going on, it’s getting difficult to prioritize everything that needs to be done.  If I’m being honest, I’m getting pretty overwhelmed, and I don’t see it getting much better anytime soon.

It looks so peaceful, doesn't it?
It looks so peaceful, doesn’t it?

*OH! But I did find out that I have a trip to Florida in my future!  Jeremiah finally has a farrier clinic in a fun location, so I’m going with him.  The 2nd week of June can’t come quickly enough. I cannot wait!

 

 

 

Ranch life…and chickens in my future!

I’m a little afraid to say it aloud, but I think, maybe, Spring is actually here to stay this time.

Not two days after my “Spring!” post, Central Illinois fell back into another round of winter with temps in the 20s and near an inch of snow.  I got cranky.  While I’m not usually a winter hater, I am fully sick of the cold this year.  When the snow came back–I’m fairly convinced in was actually the same snow as before that just refused to die–I wanted to crawl under my heated blanket and wait there for summer.

But the sun triumphed!  It’s sunny and beautiful today.  Temps should reach mid-sixties.  The ten day forecast is showing 60s and 70s for the foreseeable future.  *Giant sigh of relief*

Things have been progressing, albeit slowly, at the farm.  After my riding drama last week  ( with Cinco ) we decided that we would have to put in an outdoor arena.  L picked a spot for us, and Jeremiah has been busy clearing trees and brush from the area since.  I stopped in and checked on him earlier, and I found him covered in brush and sweat, with a four foot pile of woodchips and a plethora of firewood to show for his effort.  Full construction on the arena will have to wait until we complete financing for the rest of the property, but we do plan to have it in this summer.

With three weeks left in the semester, I’m feeling increasingly anxious to finish grading and teaching and move into ranch life.  Jeremiah has promised to till up my garden patch and spread compost this week.  I probably won’t start really planting until after finals, but it will be good to let it sit a bit.

Looks like we will order our chicks in about two weeks.  I’ve researched chicken breeds for the last few months, and, just when I thought I’d settled on something, I found out that mypetchicken.com offers sexed rare breed assortments.  Sold.  Since we don’t have to have everyday layers, and we don’t intend to show chickens ever (llama shows…horse shows, maybe…), I think the surprise mix could be a lot of fun.  I can’t wait for my little chickens.  And it will be so exciting to get a mix.  I think Katie–my cousin who will be moving into the guest house (if you don’t regularly follow this blog)–and I will order a dozen rare breed assortment chicks.

To my readers who have chickens, what is your best advice for starting chicks?  What do you wish you had known?

On my last semester of teaching and beginning to pack.

Looks like I will proctor my last final exam three weeks from today. At this point, that day cannot come soon enough.

For the last two years, I’ve taught English 101 at a four year University. For the first year and a half, I really enjoyed it. Last semester, I decided that I couldn’t continue beyond this Spring. Once we move to the ranch, my commute time will nearly triple. Given what adjunct professors are paid (FYI – once we divide our stipend by our hours, it usually ends up just under minimum wage), I really can’t afford to continue to teach. If you factor in time lost from other work (i.e. my real job), I actually lose about three or four times as much as I’m paid.

My decision made me a little sad at first. There is nothing quite like helping someone understand a difficult or unfamiliar concept, especially in that moment that you see the “light bulb” go off. But now? After a semester with some of the worst students I have ever had in class, I can’t wait for all of it to draw to a close. I have had some great moments as a teacher, and I will treasure them, but I think it’s time to open up a new chapter.

And on that note, I started packing this week.

I know, right?

Bedding packed up.  Labeled and everything!
Bedding packed up. Labeled and everything!

I bought this comforter set for our bedroom last winter.  Jeremiah doesn’t like it…so it’s been living in the basement since.  In the new place, I will use it for a spare bed (since we’ll have spare bedrooms!)

Also, I packed up some books and all of my stinky stuff.  (Most of the box below is scented candles.)

Candles and scentsy and all sorts of stinky stuff.
Candles and scentsy and all sorts of stinky stuff.

This time, I hope to pack everything nice and neat.  And by room…

And I definitely want to move my own clothes.  I will never forget last time we moved.  Jeremiah brought his family in to help us.  I was occupied elsewhere for part of the afternoon, and they got to my dresser before I did.  The moment that my husband’s mother carted in my lingerie drawer and handed it to me….

Anyway…one last thought….

Turns out cats are remarkably easy to pack…

This box should be labeled books and Sontar
This box should be labeled books and Sontar

They do it for you!

 

What a difference 6 weeks can make…

If I’m being completely honest, I have no idea when we will actually manage to move out to the farm 100%.  I do know that Jeremiah said “two weeks” about a week ago, but then he spent nearly a week at his conference, and four days out of the next seven are chock full of shoeing.  I also know that there is still no water to the guest house, and the bathroom isn’t finished even if there were.  I’m beginning to have suspicions that we will finish things up just in time for Katie to move in and for us to start this all over again with the big house.  But who knows for sure.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the four years that Jeremiah and I have been together?  Don’t bet against him.  Not ever.  Somehow he almost always manages to accomplish more in a day than most can do in seven.  He may surprise me yet.

Jeremiah and Minnett.  Jeremiah and I had only just started dating; this is just after I explained that if he wanted me to pick between him and the llama, I was going to choose the llama.
Jeremiah and Minnett at the Ranch. Jeremiah and I had only just started dating; this is just after I explained that if he wanted me to pick between him and the llama, I was going to choose the llama.

In the meantime, I’ve been alternately stressed about moving and excited about this new chapter for us.  (By the way, I packed one box while my guy was gone.  One.  Box.)  I specifically remember a day when I was younger (probably 15), wandering up the drive to the llama barn and thinking that I would really like to own a place just like that one day.  Of course, I mostly dismissed the idea, unable to come up with a future where I’d be able to afford such an amazing place anytime before my retirement.  Now that’s it’s happening, I keep waiting for someone to pinch me awake.

Even so, if you’re no familiar with running a ranch or renovating a house (in our case two), you should know this: the work is infinite.  You can always find something that needs to be done or purchased, and the size of the “To-Do” list is longer than the “Done” list, no matter how many things you check off.  And, of course, this is on top of everything that needs to be done everyday.  (Clean water buckets, feed animals, clean stalls, sweep barn…sleep, eat, work, etc)

And, on top of both of these lists, you can add mine.  I have plans to add chickens to the menagerie (laying hens…in my world, broilers would invariably become useless pets…at least the laying variety will be useful pets).  I plan to have a big, giant vegetable garden.  I plan to add a strawberry patch.  (Side Note: There is LITERALLY nothing on the planet that tastes as good as a homegrown strawberry.  If you don’t have the privilege of growing some yourself, do yourself a favor and buy some from a local farmers’ market.  Trust me. Your taste buds will thank you.)  I have been getting super excited about composting.  I have no idea why.

I keep wondering what it would look like to flash forward about 6 weeks into the future.  By then, we should be living on the ranch.  I will be done teaching. (Huzzah!)  The chicks I plan to order at the end of this month should be in, still little fluffs living in the garage.  The garden will be tilled, possibly sown.  And my sweet, dear husband should be losing his mind over a whole new house full of renovations to start.

What a difference six weeks can make…