No more chickens in the house!!

My buff Orpington and black Australorp check out the new "roost" that fell from the tree during a storm today


Upstairs floors: progress report

The sanders came at about 11:30 this morning and were here for at least 6 hours.  I was kind of surprised, since I don't remember the living room sanding taking very long.  But it might have seemed like less time since I was the one doing it.  Plus it was a smaller area, and unlike the upstairs, it wasn't broken up into little rooms and closets.  By 6:30 pm I had freshly sanded floors, and it was time for me to get to work.  I swept again, then put on my first coat of shellac.  I don't have any photos of the fresh shellac (I'll get some tomorrow), but here is a shot of each room with the newly-naked pine.

More shellac tomorrow!

Floor sanding today!

And I don't have to do it this time!  Lately we've been taking the "Y" out of DIY and just paying people to get it done.  This was supposed to be finished last summer.  Before I had the baby.  Yeah...

But at least it's finally going to happen.  The crew will be here sometime after 11 am, so we emptied the entire upstairs into the living room.
Thank God it's temporary.  I cannot believe there are people who live like this all the time.  Granted, they probaby don't have 2 large dogs, a cat, a boxful of chicks, and a baby, but still.

And speaking of the boxful of chicks... The coop is nearing completion!  [insert happy dance here]  We're done painting except for the trim that we will put up over the exposed ends of the hardware cloth, and then we just have to staple up the wire and glaze and install the windows.  The girls will be in there within a few days.  I can't wait.  They're very cute, but the constant cheeping is making me crazy.  I've never had a bird as a pet, and I can now promise you that the only birds we'll ever have will be yard birds.  There's no way I would tolerate this all the time.  3 weeks is plenty.

I finally got the tomatoes planted (Thanks Mom #2!), and I'm thinking that another 6 plants wouldn't be a bad thing.  I'm going to have romas everywhere in August, but I plan on making lots of sauce.  I still need to get a pepper plant or two, and maybe potatoes if I can find them.  I'm kind of late...  As usual.

More later...


We don't meet with the realtor til tomorrow, but I already know that the 19 acre property isn't meant to be.  I went to walk around it again a few days ago, and after I left, I just got this feeling...  And I knew we should wait.  So we will.  But we're keeping our appointment anyways, since we want to talk with the realtor in person about exactly what we're looking for.  As far as I know there's nothing on the market right now that matches it.  Which is good, since we're obviously not ready to move.  Or rather, we are, but the house isn't...

But we'll be at least one step closer by the end of the week!  The floor sanders come on Thursday, so I should be done shellacking the upstairs by Sunday or Monday.  It's going to be a huge mess with all of the upstairs furniture sitting in the living room and dining room.  I think we're going to have to move in with my mom for a few days, since there won't be any room at all downstairs.  That unfortunately means I can only apply one coat of shellac per day (otherwise I'd be driving back and forth way too much), but each coat will have plenty of time to dry. 

I'm not looking forward to this, but at least we'll be done with the major work upstairs.  One step closer...!


My brain hurts...

Well, we might be nuts, but we've set up an appointment to check out the house with 19 acres.  I'm of two minds about it.  On one hand, if it's a dump I can stop thinking about it.  On the other...  If it's livable and has potential, I'm going to drive myself more crazy than I already have been. 

Here's the Good: The property itself is pretty much everything I could want.  With 19 acres, there's plenty of room for a pond, livestock, outbuildings... whatever.  With the little barn and the littler barn, we could get some of those livestock without having to build anything to house them.  Two car garage, trees for shade, and no neighbors.  The closest one is about a quarter mile away.  No more bar, no more trains, no more Metallica at 2:30 am (Nothing against Metallica, but I don't like it blaring in the middle of the night when I'm trying to sleep).  There's also a fireplace and a big mudroom/laundry area.  It's within the 5 mile radius of town that allows Shayne to keep his take-home car, and it's also near the highway that goes into the city for easy shopping.  Even though it's about 7 miles further out than our current house, they're all highway miles so it wouldn't be a hassle to run errands.

The Bad is that the house is quite probably a little smaller than the house we're in now.  Only a partial basement, but there is a walk-up attic.  No workshop outside, and I'm not sure there's space for Shayne to have his "Man Cave"/LED workshop inside.  It's also a 1950s house, which here in backwards Indiana means it looks like a '40s house.  I don't have a huge issue with that, but it just doesn't have the character of a bungalow.  But since this house is in need of updating anyways, I could always add architectural details.  And maybe raise the roof and finish the attic.

The Ugly: the septic.  Just having walked around the property, I know the septic needs to be updated/replaced.  The existing one is concrete block-lined holes in the ground.  I know that's pretty much what we have in the Prairie Box, but at least ours is buried.  These you can see into from the yard.  Yeek...

I dunno if this house is "The One".  But it's definitely got me motivated to finish work on the Prairie Box so that when The One comes along we'll be ready.  It's also really solidified in my mind that I want a farm.  My mental picture is of an old farmhouse or bungalow amidst rickety old outbuildings, but my logical side knows that would be too much work.  A guy I work with bought a house with an old barn.  The barn is in good shape, but there are lots of gaps in the siding where the boards have shrunk.  The cheapest estimate to make it weathertight again??  $13,000.  So large barns or many buildings would be very expensive to maintain, and aren't really worth the postcard look. 

And as much as I love old houses, and am dying to own a bungalow or another foursquare, I'm willing to compromise if we can find the right piece of property.  You can always change a house, but you can't make a piece of property bigger, or change the neighbors, or its proximity to bars and railroad tracks.  When they say that location is everything, they ain't kidding.

Ugh.  Lots to think about.  I'm looking forward to Monday, so I can see what this stupid house looks like and get my head together.  Even if I still want this property, at least it'll be with full disclosure instead of all this wondering.


Making butter (in a blender!)

 Add this one to the list of things I never thought I'd do...!  But it was very easy, and I'm thinking that this will probaby turn out to be a bi-weekly thing.  Or maybe I'll do it every week to get up a freezer stash for winter baking... 

Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Use a turkey baster or ladle to remove the cream from the top of the milk.  Put into separate container and leave out on the counter for about 12 hrs.  This allows the cream to sour slightly and will give the butter a more "buttery" flavor.

Step 2: Pour cream into the blender and mix on medium for several minutes.  You will notice the consistency start to change and become thicker.  The little curds of butter will rise to the top when you stop the blender.

Step 3: Use a spoon to scoop out the butter curds and place them into a separate bowl.  Using the spoon, squeeze all the buttermilk out of the butter. 

Step 4: Rinse with cold water, then work the water out of the butter. Rinse until the water runs clear.  

Below is a comparison shot.  My butter is on the left, Meijer organic butter is on the right.  I'm guessing that the beta carotene from the cows eating grass accounts for the brighter yellow color in my butter.

I used about 16 oz of cream and ended up with around half to two-thirds cup of butter.  Now I've got to figure out what to do with my buttermilk...  Pancakes anyone?


Real milk!!

I got my first "delivery" of milk today!  It came out of the cow yesterday morning, and I picked it up today at the farmer's market.  I'm pretty excited about this whole "real" milk thing. The idea of being able to make my own butter, yogurt, and cheese seems sort of incredible. But by simply buying non-homogenized, un-skimmed milk, it's opened up a huge realm of possibilities.

Even though the picture was taken on my cell phone, you can still see that there's a good 1"+ of cream at the top of each jar.  Time to learn to make butter!


The weather was perfect today, even early this morning, so I plopped Ethan on a blanket outside and did a little work in the garden.  We got our truck fixed this week, so yesterday Shayne and I picked up and unloaded another truckload of dirt, which filled 2 of the beds.  A third was nearly filled, so I think a half load will finish us up.  Finally.  This morning I planted my peas, carrots, and lettuce, plus leveled the beds.  While I was messing around in them, I found lots of worms, so I know the soil is good!  I'll be planting my tomatoes soon, and I'm planning on a fall crop of broccoli and maybe spinach.  Not as much as I wanted to plant this year, but.... eh, life happened.

Shayne's also been busy on the chicken coop.  It now is fully enclosed!!  Only another week and the girls can take up residence!!  I can't wait to have them out of the house, because Ares is about ready to climb into the brooder and eat them.  Awful dog.  

And in other news...  We've scheduled our floor sanding for May 26.  I'm off work for 12 days, and that falls right in the middle.  If all goes well, we should have a newly shellacked upstairs floors and staircase by June!!

Real milk!!

One of the things I've been wanting to do for a while (about 2 years or so...) is to find a local source for milk and dairy products.  I visited a few cow share programs, and even bought goat milk for a while, but just wasn't satisfied.  I eventually want to buy and milk my own goats, where we are now, that's just not practical.  The county government requires agricultural zoning or 5+ acres for "farm animals".  And while we obviously fudged on that to keep the chickens, I wouldn't want to risk goats.  Maybe if this was going to be our forever home I would give it a go, but I can't imagine trying to sell this house with a goat shack in the backyard.  I just don't see that being a selling point.

So I went back to the Walkerton Dairy Herd Association.  I've known about them since I first started looking into "raw" milk, but the first time I visited, their pasture was only in its first year, and they were supplementing with alfalfa hay.  And the milk tasted like alfalfa.  Big time.  Now the association is in its 3rd year, and their pasture is bigger and better.  I know the milk will probably still taste alfalfa-y in the winter when there is less grass, but I can deal with it for a short time.  And, after drinking some super-goaty goat's milk, I think a little alfalfa will be fine.  (Regarding goaty-tasting milk: males and females were kept together at this particular farm, which gives the milk a strong "goat" flavor.  Good goat milk, though, is nearly indistinguisable from cow's milk.  I found some locally, but at $10/gallon, it was a bit too pricy for me!)

After visiting again today, I'm now the proud owner of 1/20 of a dairy cow!  I should get about 5 quarts of milk per week, which is more than enough for me.  Shayne isn't big on milk that has a slight grassy flavor...  Depending on how much I drink, I think it'll be enough to make some butter and maybe yogurt - at least in the summer.  Milk production seriously tapers off during the winter, so I might even have to freeze some to make sure I have enough for year-round consumption.

So, until I can get my own goats, at least I have a safe, local source of fresh, organic, grass-fed milk!


More chicken coop progress

Shayne was busy outside today, and he got 3 walls of the chicken house sided.  The remaining "wall" will actually be double doors (to facilitate cleaning).  Tomorrow he's going to work on that, plus building a door to the coop itself.  Once those are done all that's left is to install the trim, add the windows (which will be hinged for ventilation), paint, and staple up the hardware cloth.

Having chickens in the house has been something of an adventure.  They're not smelly, but they do cheep constantly.  And the cheeping drives Ares nuts.  He's always over by the "brooder", peeking his head over the baby gate to see what's going on.  We've held chicks near him, and he either sniffs them violently, licks them, or tries to bite off their head.  We'll need to do some serious doggy training.  And thankfully we plan to build a chicken tractor.

The girls are growing like crazy.  In the past 10 days, they've gone from little balls of fluff to half-feathered.  They've grown wing and tail feathers, and they're starting to get body feathers as well.  They're also much more curious, noisy, and skittish.  At first I could just reach in and grab one without much fuss.  Now it's like a game of keep-away.  I'll get some grit soon so that I can start feeding them treats.  Hopefully they're like me more if they associate me with good food!


This house is making me crazy.  Seriously.

I love it so much I could sometimes cry, but I'm dying to own a farm.  I want chickens and goats.  I want a barn.  I want to raise Ethan away from bars, and train tracks, and blaring radios.

I know that tonight I'll go home, walk in the house, and feel so comfy-cozy that I don't ever want to leave.  But right now, sitting out in the middle of nowhere and looking at a house and 19 acres that's for sale (and conveniently has a small barn, a mini-barn/goat shed, and lots of mature trees...  Plus lots of pasture with a little woods.  Plenty of room to dig a pond.  And did I mention that we can afford it?)...  Ugh. 

I'm not really sure how this happened to me.  I had a normal urban/suburban upbringing.  Of course I was obsessed with pioneers, native Americans, and such, but nothing was there to make anyone think that someday I'd have chickens living in my dining room and dreams of maybe raising grass-fed beef and pastured poultry and eggs.

And so now the fact that the house isn't done and ready to sell is making me nuts.  I keep thinking of all the time I wasted before we had Ethan, since now it's so hard to get anything done.  I suppose we're pretty close.  If I'm lucky, maybe we can get it done by fall, then start thinking about moving on.  There is a lot left to do, but it's all little things that can be done in baby steps (thankfully).  Just brainstorming, here's what I come up with (in no particular order):
  1. Drywall kitchen ceiling
  2. Remove kitchen wallpaper
  3. Paint kitchen
  4. Lay some kind of new floor in kitchen and back mudroom/porch
  5. Frame in kitchen doorway
  6. Drywall new kitchen doorway wall
  7. Refinish dining room floor
  8. Shellac stairway and its trim
  9. Replace upstairs trim
  10. Refinish upstairs floor
  11. Remove bathroom wallpaper
  12. Repaint bathroom
  13. Replace basement carpet
And maybe those 19 acres will still be there waiting...  But if they're not, at least we'll be ready when the right property DOES come along.


Still no house progress...

Baby + working full time = nothing gets done

There's so much that I want to do, I just don't have time.  It's gotten a little easier as Ethan's gotten older (I can sit him on a blanket outside and do 30 minutes of yard work), but if I can't do it in 30 minute increments, it ain't happening.  Like the floor sanding.  We were going to do it a month ago.  You can see how well that worked out...  I'm going to be taking some time off at the end of the month.  Floor sanding will happen then.  I hope.

One thing we did accomplish is paying off our car!  Yay!  Having Ethan means that we're not following the Dave Ramsey plan to the letter; I'm not comfortable only having $1000 in the bank, just in case something happens with the baby and I can't work for a while.  So even though we had enough to pay off the car before our tax refund came in, I just wasn't able to take the money out.  But once we had our tax money, the car got paid off!  Now I just have one student loan left.  And again, we have enough money in the bank to pay it off, but I just can't seem to write the check.  But that's okay.  Within 6 months it'll be gone, and we'll be debt-free except for the house.  [Picture me doing a happy dance here]

The other progress has been the chickens.  I've wanted chickens for a few years, so just getting the chicks was a huge step.  Even better is that Shayne has really warmed up to the idea.  That's why I got chicks instead of adult hens.  With cute little babies in the dining room, he's been picking each of them up at least once every day.  I figured he couldn't resist their cute fluffiness, and I was right.  I'm such an evil, scheming wife...  :)


Backyard chickens have arrived!

My homestead has farm animals!!  I finally got the call from the feed store yesterday morning.  My chicks were supposed to be in Monday afternoon, but there was some kind of delay in shipping.  But at 10:30 am, I drove off to the feed store and returned with a little peeping box.  I got 4 chicks: 2 Australorps, 1 buff Orpington, and 1 gold-laced Wyandotte.  This is Shayne holding one of the Australorps:
So far, everything is going well.  They're living in our old recycling bin in our dining room.  We have a 250 watt heat bulb about 3 feet up to keep them warm.  The only other things they need are pine shavings for litter, chick starter, and water.  They've been sleeping a lot, but that's normal since they're only 2 days old.  I've been trying to handle them often so that they get used to me.  Once they're old enough, I'll give them little chick treats (like bugs or vegetables), but that won't be for a few weeks yet.  Once they start to get some real feathers, we'll move them out to the (currently unfinished) coop.  More on that later...