Sunday, August 13, 2017

Family Visit

Sean's brother and family came to visit us for a few days, leaving this morning. We don't get to see them very often so it was great getting together and letting the cousins play. Oh and play they did! We were thrilled the loft got finished just in time for their visit because they spent most of the three days up there camped out.

It was supposed to rain the entire time they were here but instead if just remained slightly cloudy and cool which was perfect weather for a visit to the zoo. We have a top notch zoo and try to go every year with the kids. I'm so glad they got to come with us this year, it was really a beautiful day and not crowded at all.

That bird was our tour guide for the rain forest building.

The brothers had a rousing game of Mario Cart while the gals went shopping. Boy do I like having a gal pal to shop with.

My sister-in-law and niece are both gluten free so we decided to make some gluten free vegan cupcakes so we could all enjoy dessert. It can be done! They were very good.

I sure wished they loved closer, we had a great time.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer Picture Dump

I have some fun summer pictures that don't seem to fit into any one category so I am dumping them all into this post.

I planted six packets of zinnias up by the house this year and I am in love with them! They are so tall and lovely and make me smile each day. I've been collecting the prettiest flowers and drying them to collect the seeds for next year. I'm going to make next years flower bed at least three times as big. Zinnias are by far my favorite garden flower.

Winston turned one year old last weekend. The kids insisted on a birthday party, complete with hats and presents. He's just the perfect dog for a family with active kids. He can keep up with those kids when I can't.

Not sure why Jessica is holding Winston, this picture makes me laugh.

Greta has become quite the Minecraft player. She builds all sorts of buildings and barns. I don't mind them playing Minecraft and love seeing their creations. I took this picture because she cracked me up sitting there in her unicorn blanket.

Coco the goat only likes the finest hay which lives right in the middle of these older hay bales. I told all of the animals they have to eat all of the 2016 bales before they can have the new hay. They aren't too happy about that.

We discovered the local shaved ice place this summer and have been trying to go weekly. What fun!

I can't not post this. I have been playing this game, Battle Run, on and off for three years now. I'm pretty good (if I do say so myself) and finally made it to the highest rank of Big Boss. Only the top 200 players in the world make it to Big Boss. I was so excited I promptly took a picture. It's the little things in life. :)

I love this picture of Sean. I took it while we were waiting for the firework show on the 4th of July to start. That's my cutie.

Monday, August 7, 2017

If you build it...

When we moved into this house 13 years ago the master bedroom was on the second floor. It had a vaulted ceiling and was hot in the summer. So in 2007 when I was very pregnant with Wesley we decided to move the master bedroom to the main floor and convert a large second living room/family area into our bedroom. Sean had to erect a large wall and in the process created a loft above our bed. Here is a picture taken several years ago when we got carpet so you know what I'm talking about.

Sean did a great job on the loft. He put electrical outlets up there, lighting and laminate flooring. The only thing missing was a way to get up there. Shortly after building it (like two weeks) I had Wesley and then I didn't want to put a ladder up to it....because nobody wants a toddler climbing a ladder all day long. So this is how it's sat for a decade now. But you see, my kids aren't toddlers any longer so we have no excuses. They've been asking for months now to build a ladder so they can play up in the loft. So we built them a ladder.

We researched all sorts of ladders. Wood ladders, bookshelf ladders and pipe ladders. In the end, a pipe ladder seemed the neatest. So plans were drawn and parts ordered. In the mean time we had to do a little sheet rock work to cover up the original plan from ten years ago. We cut out a hole in the sheet rock to build a built-in bookshelf ladder. It was neat in theory but neither of us were quite the carpenters to pull it off. So we filled in the hole, pasted it and painted it.

Then Sean started cutting pipe to the correct lengths. The motor on his metal band saw melted so he had to use a cut off saw.

Then I got to sand the pipe, wipe it down with acetone, prime it and paint it. The pipe had some imperfections (it is a water pipe after all) so we went with a hammered Rustoleum spray paint.

Then after letting the paint cure for five days it was time to assemble it. Turns out we had no idea what we were doing and had to try a few different methods before finding one that worked.

All done!

 The kids love it! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hay Gods

Every year we face the impending day of hauling hay. In the past it was hauling small square bales which were labor intensive. But the lady we buy from sold her equipment and now has the farmer down the road bale it into big round bales for her. He takes the majority of the hay in trade. Last year we rented a large trailer and the farmer loaded it for us in the field. We hauled it with Sean's Jeep that has a decent towing capacity. It wasn't ideal though, the weight of the trailer and hay was pushing the limits of the Jeep. So we started looking for a farm truck to haul stuff around here. Enter the big black F250 we bought back in February. It's main purpose is to haul hay every year...and the occasional milling machine.

We didn't want to keep renting trailers from the rental place like we've been doing for the last 13 years of living here. Heck, we probably could have purchased a trailer with all the rental fees over the years. Oh well. So Sean researched trailers for several months before finding the perfect trailer for us. He wanted something that would be easy to load the skid steer on and found a company that makes car haulers that tilt. We ordered an 18 foot tilt and picked it up the beginning of July. So now we have a tow vehicle, a trailer and a skid steer to load the big round bales. We were set!

I was running out of hay last weekend and we decided to head over and pick up a couple of last years hay since the new hay had yet to be cut. It was also a good dry run for the big day of hay hauling. The skid steer was loaded, strapped down and we were off for the 20 minute drive to the field. I followed in my car with the kids. About half way there Sean pulls into a driveway and pulls open the hood to coolant bubbling everywhere. The serpentine belt was shredded. A quick drive into town and a new belt installed and we were on our way. We were thankful for the big driveway as doing this on the side of the road would not have been fun.

We were able to pick up two of the old bales and get home. The tilt trailer worked great, I would crank it up while Sean drove the skid steer onto the trailer. The I'd release the pressure and let it down.

So that was last weekend. The lady with the hay called Friday and said the farmer was baling the hay and we can come pick up our 20 bales whenever we'd like. So Saturday we headed out. We took our skid steer out again and loaded five bales on the trailer, two side by side in the front, one in the middle and two side by side in the back.

 I don't think I mentioned that it was 106 degrees out on Saturday. The heat index was well over that. Miserable would be an understatement. Oh and the air conditioning in the truck decided to break a week ago. The clutch and pulley went out. Sean didn't have time to fix it. So that was fun too (please note the sarcasm). We took turns driving to and from the field which was about a 25 minute drive, the other got to follow with the kids in the Ford Edge (with great air conditioning).

We got three loads home (15 round bales) and went to start the truck and it blew a spark plug. Apparently very common in the v10 engines. That was it for the truck. So we parked it and the Edge and connected the Jeep to the trailer and I followed in the F150. We didn't want to over do it for the Jeep so we did three bales and one in the back of the truck. And then a final load to bring home the skid steer. The final load was brought home at 9pm and all the rearranging of bales was done in the dark. It was the longest day. ever. We escaped with only slight heat exhaustion, one dead truck and a skid steer that is dripping some unknown fluid. So glad this is only once a year.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Juicy Fruit

I do love growing my own food. It's very satisfying. The thornless blackberry bushes are growing like the weed they are. The three pathetic tiny bushes I put in the ground a few years ago are gigantic and popping up suckers in all different directions.

Daily harvest
 The kids and I go back there daily and pick several bowls full. The stash in my freezer was to the point I had to do something. In the past I just freeze gallon bags full and use them throughout the year to make cobblers and sauces for waffles. But this year I wanted to become a jam maker. It has intrigued me for awhile but I always put it off. Wish I would have started years ago, it's super easy. I made 14 half pints of blackberry jam. Half with seeds and half nearly seedless. So delicious!

 This made me want to make more jam. There is a peach orchard not 4 miles from us with big banners out telling customers to come pick their own peaches. I'd been meaning to take the kids there for a couple summers but the heat index has kept us home. Well this year we went out early and were there when they opened up at 9. It was so fun, although the kids were whining about half way through of the's been pushing 100 for the last few weeks so even at 9 am it was in the 90's. We picked 15 pounds with a nice mixture of white and orange flesh peaches.

I wrapped them up in brown paper bags and let them ripen on the counter top for a few days before a majority of them were ready for jam. I got twelve half pints of peach jam and still have about 6 pounds to do something with.

Can't wait to put more stuff in jars this year. I have about 20 pounds of tomatoes on the counter right now....what to do with them. I'm thinking salsa.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tortoise Bath

The tortoises have gone to live outside for the season and now that they are getting bigger they are outgrowing their water dish which just happens to be a quiche dish. I've been wanting to pour them a concrete pool for awhile now and decided this summer was the perfect time. It's hitting 100 degrees now for the past week and it's important to keep these reptiles hydrated.

I did a little research online and sort of adapted several methods I found into one for our pool. I bought five 80 pound bags of concrete, not knowing how much I'd use. I also picked up a roll of chicken wire to provide some structure.

I set to work creating a nest shape out of the chicken wire. Putting several layers in each direction until it looked like a big bird bath.

We took turns mixing up each bag until it was a good sculpting consistency, not too runny. We used a metal bowl to smooth it out and make the edges a few inches taller than the middle. I didn't want them to have any problems getting in or out of their pool.

Three bags seemed to be enough and when done we loosely covered it with a tarp and weighed it down so it wouldn't blow away or get rained on. Twice a day I removed the tarp and sprayed it down with water per instructions on the bag of concrete.

On the fifth day I took the tarp off and sprayed it down with the hose to remove any film and filled it up. I did research sealers but wasn't able to find any good aquatic sealer for concrete. I also read on a bird bath forum that they don't need to be sealed if they are thicker than two inches, which I believe this is. It's been in use for a week and it doesn't leak or absorb into the concrete. I also rinse and refill it daily. The tortoises seem a little weary of it for now so I'm picking them up and plunking them down in the middle each day to show them where the water is. They take a drink and scoot out of it.

Yesterday was particularly hot and I plopped Billy Bob the sulcata (in the above picture) into the cool water and she sat there using her front limbs to spray water up on her back. It was cute and made me feel like they may actually use it. So that's one of the projects we did over the 4th of July weekend.