I left for Costa Rica, and my husband went on quests and turned himself into a Legolas (yum) /Gandalf (ummm….) hybrid for the week. And by quests, I mean taking care of the farm and constructing things (like exceptionally apt signs), and by Legolas/Gandalf hybrid, I mean he did so while carrying a quiver and wearing a wizard’s hat.
(Interesting side note: He took this photo by himself using his skid steer as a tripod.)
This photo pretty much perfectly sums up my life. Here on the ranch, we live at the intersection of adult responsibilities and utter nonsense.
Just yesterday, someone asked me when I possibly find time to “just relax.” He was astounded that we both work outside jobs while renovating the house(s) and running the farm. I sort of laughed because that question has a different answer depending on the day.
On the one hand, sometimes it gets to be a lot, and I really question why I’m not the sort of person who goes to the spa or travels extensively, instead of the sort of person whose horses eat all my spare money in the form of hay…
On the other hand, there is a sort of Zen that comes from cleaning stalls, or grooming horses, or walking my fields. And very little gives me as much satisfaction as a good training session with one of my critters, or watching the flowers that I plant bloom, or making breakfast with eggs I collected from my own chicken coop the day before.
I mean, really, does life get any better than watching a chicken ride a llama???
(The llama was less amused than we were…He was very polite to her, but Jeremiah said it was clear he preferred his butt to be chickenless.)
These days, things are greening up, and we are starting to shift focus to a whole new sort of work. Fences need mending. Our farm road is in need of repair. The gardens need weeding. Shearing is just around the corner for the llamas and alpacas. New chicks are on order to come in a few weeks. (Sadly, I’ve lost a few chickens to predators this week…but that’s a different post.) Horses will be starting back under saddle soon. And hopefully the ponies will start work towards their eventual jobs as therapy animals this year. There is so much to do, and we seldom check anything off our to-dos without adding more. But this place and this work is my “relax.”
Come to think of it though, I wouldn’t say no to a nice massage to wind down from “relaxing”…
The above might just be the greatest picture ever taken…In the history of all of ever.
The 25th marked our first (hopefully annual) bonfire party at the ranch. The week leading up to it marked 7 days of complete insanity trying to prepare for our first (hopefully annual) bonfire party at the ranch.
I will admit that I sort of scheduled the party as a shove; I knew that we would work harder to finish things if we had some sort of deadline. And we did. I was under the (incorrect) impression that we would work harder over the course of 6 weeks or so. No. That is not how we roll around here. Mostly, we let things roll into major crunch time.
Guys, four hours before the party starting, I was painting baseboards. The morning of the party, I was still hanging and glazing cabinet doors. The night before all of this went down? This is what my kitchen looked like.
(And then Jeremiah photo-bombed things.) (I would like to point out that we don’t live like this; we still don’t live here at all, and about every corner of the house is undergoing renovations.)
Miscellaneous boxes were still piled high in the living room. Any and all dusting that I had done days before had been rendered pointless as Jeremiah had drilled through drywall and installed new light fixtures since then. (Drywall dust…everywhere…)
I spent Saturday morning working on the house. When I left at 2:00pm (to go back to the other house, fix food, and shower), the house was still a mess. However, as I was the one in charge of feeding all the people, I couldn’t stick around. So, I took a deep breath in, explained to Jeremiah what was still left to be done, and prayed for a miracle as I walked out the door.
When I got back, carrying large quantities of food and fearing that I would be met with chaos, I found my miracle wiping down the counters of a mostly spotless kitchen. Jeremiah’s mama to the rescue!
There is no way to tell this story without mentioning that my mother-in-law completely, totally saved my butt. Seriously. Unequivocally. She showed up early and finished all the cleaning…without even being asked, by the way. (I think I hugged her about ten times over the course of a half an hour…I honestly could have cried.)
Anyhow, thanks to her (and a lot of help the day before from siblings, cousins, parents, etc), we had a very presentable home when most of our guests began showing up.
Our tiniest guest showed up with his mama and dad early in the evening. He and his parents were treated to a private tour, complete with pony introductions!
Isn’t this the cutest! Violet and Slash love ALL tiny humans, but they seemed to take an extra liking to this little guy. He loved them right back with grins and pats and giggles. It was adorable. Jeremiah and I gave a lot of farm tours over the course of the evening, but this one was probably my favorite. It was definitely my bitty babies’ favorite.
Of course, farm tours notwithstanding, the main event of the day was the bonfire itself…and holy cow was it a fire.
Have I ever mentioned that Jeremiah used to be a professional fire officer?
Did you know that basically all firefighters are pyromaniacs who have managed to productively channel their “interest”?
Well, now you do. There were no fewer than five firefighters present at the bonfire. I was briefly afraid that we would need all of them involved in some sort of professional capacity. The guy walking around in bunker gear is my dear, sweet husband/personal pyromaniac.
At one point, he brought out the big guns to push the fire around.
(We actually had to build a secondary, smaller fire to roast marshmallows and hotdogs. The actual bonfire was way too big and way too hot.)
Around 30 people came by over the course of the evening. Friends from college came down and stayed the weekend. My grandparents even took the time to travel down several hours to check things out. (Grandma, I know you read this, so I thought I’d let you know that your pumpkin bars were a major hit!)
Good food. Great company. A fire that will probably live in infamy. For a bonfire, that equals success.
I am so glad we had this party. (I am also so glad that it’s over and the pressure is officially off.)
(By the way, the watermarked photos of the fire were taken by an incredibly talented friend of mine, Bob, who actually takes photos semi-professionally. Big shout out to Bob for letting me use these photos on my humble little blog! Also, if any of you are into web design and would like to trade for pictures, he’s your guy!)
(Second by the way, all of the animals were way out of the way of the fire. Even though it looks from the photos that the flames were rolling towards the pastures, I assure you that everyone was perfectly safe. The llamas weren’t even that interested.)
Ever since we moved our horses to the ranch (very early in the pre-buying process), Jeremiah and I have been talking about, finally, being able to entertain large numbers of people. For the first time in our married life, we finally feel like we have the space to have big get-togethers.
A few weeks ago, in my eternal optimism, I decided that we would definitely be moved back in by the middle of October. (I have no idea why I thought that, but I did…) With that in mind, I decided we should hold a bonfire/housewarming at the end of October. You know, really celebrate moving back in after all of the set backs and “rug pulled out from under our feet” moments along this crazy ride. And what’s not to celebrate? We are, after all, moving onto our dream property. Our horses are there! Eggs are fresh every day! I have little ponies! I’m taking care of llamas who I have LOVED since I was a teenager! This place, and everything it is and can be, is amazing and beautiful and a huge gift to our lives.
I figured we could have a lot of our projects done by then. We could be moved back in. All would be more settled and right with the world.
But, the thing is, we’re not actually moved back in yet. And, the more I think about it, the more I have no idea why I thought we would be.
So that started me thinking. (I should not be allowed to do that…)
It’s going to get cold soon. In fact, the cold settled in for a bit over the last few days. Thus far, it hasn’t gotten cold enough to require turning on the heat in the big house, but it will. (And never mind heating a house I don’t live in…) Once it does, we won’t be able to vent out the house like we have been; since we moved out, it has been shut up a few times, and each time the mothball smell and mold issues came back like a raging flood. Jeremiah and I can’t even really work in there when the house is not venting. There is pretty much no chance we can consider moving back in, with the cold, until we can bring Serv-Pro in to clean up the basement.
And while we’re on the subject of things I’m vaguely panicked about, I’ve had Jeremiah’s truck for several weeks while he’s been running around God’s Half Acre with my car. And suddenly I’m realizing how much it costs us to keep the vehicles running back and forth to the ranch every day. (I think it’s around 10-15 dollars a day for the truck…) I could do the math, but I really don’t want to. I am pretty sure that amount would more than pay for our hay for the winter though…
Oh, and speaking of panic, the snow is coming guys. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, who totally nailed their predictions last year, the snow in my area is going to be another snowmageddon… Last year, going back and forth during the worst of the winter was pretty bad. There were times when the roads were so bad that it took over an hour to make the twenty minute drive to the ranch. We were hauling water from one barn to the other, coming out multiple times a day to knock ice off the horses (who didn’t want to go into their nice, bedded stall with the heat lamp), and the only thing that made all of that ok was the knowledge that we wouldn’t have to do that routine from the Heights again. And, it seems, maybe we will.
I am so looking forward to the day when my mornings aren’t split between two houses, two sets of critters, and one coffee maker. At the very least, there should be two coffee makers. Or three. Or seven. (Perhaps I should put one in every stall, or just get an IV.)
Complaining aside, we are making progress. Jeremiah has been putting in ten hour days out there. In the past week, he has managed to almost completely reorganize the main barn, utilizing tool sheds to store things in rather than the aisle ways. It’s looking fantastic. I’ve been reorganizing the feed room, and that’s going more slowly. Partly, that’s because I’m not a working maniac like he is. Partly, it’s because my task involves organizing hundreds of small things rather than tens of big things. (Checking expiration dates on medicines, etc has eaten up hours by itself.)
I have nine chickens moving in before the end of the month. A friend of a client had to rehome her flock. All are under two and good layers, and they asked me to take them. I’m actually pretty excited about it…and oddly terrified that I’ll be a terrible mother hen (not to be confused with THE mother hen of motherhendiaries). (I’ll be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing with chickens. Somebody walk me through a day in the life, because the books I’ve read tell me a lot about splay leg in chicks and various mite solutions, and not very much at all about what to feed the darn things or what kind of waterer to get!)
The house, well, it is mostly just sitting there, being a house. Between the barn eating up all of our time, and the little house renovations eating up ALL of our money and the rest of our time (we’re only $5,000 over budget so far…if I had known how much it would take, I’m not sure we would have renovated that place or had someone planning to live there), we’ve had little of either for the house we’re actually planning to live in. We have a new window purchased for the living room (it’s beautiful!), but it’s sitting in the living room until we can afford to install it. The new floor for our bedroom is bought and paid for and should be delivered to Lowes later this week. (The carpet that had been in the bedroom had to go. My allergist pretty well insisted that I get rid of any carpet…especially carpet that has been down for probably 20 years.) Some of the paint is purchased, but not applied. (I have some lovely people coming to help us paint on July 3rd! Yeah volunteers!) One of these days, I’m almost sure of it, we will move in. When that happens–well, first I will cry because I will truly, truly miss our first home–but then I will sing from the mountains. AND BLOG!
We’re planning to go out of town for a friend’s wedding this weekend (Friday and Saturday), but I have my parents looking after the dogs and Jeremiah’s little sister in charge of the big critters. Everything will be safe and sound while we’re away, and everything will start up again when we get back.
Finally, so to not disappoint, here’s a llama wearing a hat.
One of my goals for the new property has been a big veggie garden. BIG. There are several motivations behind it. The first is that we have the space…and all the free compost you could ever want. (Llama dung compost is literally some of the best fertilizer on the planet. It’s awesome!)
Second, I love the taste of fresh veggies and fruits. Nothing beats it. I especially love the taste of homegrown food in the middle of winter. My frozen tomatoes are far superior to the canned stuff from the grocery store. Completely changes the taste of soups and chilis when things get cold.
Third, and perhaps most important, I’m passionate about locally sourced food, knowing where my food comes from, and sustainable eating. I am NOT perfect about this. But I try. Not only does locally sourced food taste better (because it can be picked ripe), it’s better for the planet. That isn’t to say that I will start raising my own meat (nope…nope, nope, nope), but I will be happy to enjoy my own produce! Besides, locally sourced, sustainably raised meat? That’s what farmer’s markets are for.
Anyway, Katie and I started planting on Sunday. We basically planted until we were exhausted, which was about halfway done.
The garden is fenced on all sides. It’s as big as it looks.
The soil is passable right now. In a few years, with the help of plenty of compost, it should be fantastic.
The garden is surrounded by pastures, so we were surrounded by curious llamas as we planted. Even Cinco (one of my horses) stood at the corner of his field to watch us for a while.
This boy, especially, hung around. As soon as we started watering, he came over to request that this legs be sprayed (if you look really close you can see the water from the hose in the above photo). He then played in the water for several minutes. Llamas love water!
By the end of the day, Katie and I had planted pumpkins (two varieties), lots of squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, rhubarb, four varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers.
We still have a bunch of planting to go…but it’s a start.
This gate/fenceline was started over the weekend as well. I asked my husband for a dog fence with a pretty gate. He is giving me the gate to the Mongolian Empire. I will update you as that project progresses.
Remember when I wrote about the guest house and how it needed dramatic updates before it was remotely move-in ready? Well, I thought I should share some before and durings (we’re not quite at after yet).
After walking into the little house via the mudroom, we were greeted by a very small, very blue kitchen. The cupboards are 1950s retro like I’ve never seen. The stove had been disconnected for a long, long time. I love to cook, and so does the future occupant, so we knew the limited space would be an issue.
The whole thing had to go. There was no place to cook, and, frankly, I’m not sure the inside of those cabinets could ever be completely clean again. It was one of the first things we gutted.
Now the living room.
Jeremiah took out the half wall…
The bathroom. Yes, that is a wooden cover on the back of the toilet. Also, tile was coming off the walls. There was a hole in the bottom of the shower that had been roughly caulked and was leaking into the frame of the house. The previous tenant had painted over wallpaper (peeling) and the adhesive floor was coming up. We had to gut the room down to the studs.
I affectionately deemed the small bedroom “the pink nightmare” or “Barbie vomit.
The big bedroom – Not a good picture.
Now for the in-progress photos:
We put in new cabinets, opened up the wall, and took over some of the living room space to expand the kitchen.
New tub, tile, and backsplash so far. I LOVE the wood tile backsplash. It’s going to look like an old barn!
Repainted in a shade that doesn’t give me a migraine. The floor need to be resealed, but that’s the last thing that needs to be done before move-in.
The big bedroom:
So, that’s my in-progress photos for the little house. Give me enough time, and nearly everything on the property will have some form of make-over. Also, my husband has done ALL of this work himself, including new plumbing and electrical, which you don’t see in the pictures but took many hours. How awesome is he?