Wednesday, 31 December 2008

And.......uncovering the fireplace......

And.......uncovering the fireplace......
A lovely surprise. :)

All clean!

Fitting that their first snack in the farm house is apples. They were contentedly munching for a good 20 minutes, which is how I managed to get everything swept and the downstairs windows washed. The boiler guy was up and down and in and out draining radiators, but the kids were amused. I put together their toy bins Nana got them (me) for Christmas and then we explored.

What I found in the "not really a room" secret space I will post later this week. I just about teared up with glee. It was like old house karma cashed in. I hope we can find a way to put it back......I know, I don't blog for a week and then I leave with a cliffhanger, unfair!

Dearest is staying at the farm all alone this week and we just bring him food and more blankets (thus the effort to get the fireplace working and I wouldn't be surprised if he moves his bed to the main room.....). He's making progress on the heat situation, the bathroom issues, and such. We miss him terribly, but are faring well packing and baking and cleaning.

I was contacted this week through facebook by a very long lost friend. That plus packing reminded be to be incredibly grateful for Dearest being in my life. We'll be celebrating our ten year wedding anniversary on Sunday. Yes, TEN. Time sure does fly. Of all the times I moved as a kid, they were all sudden, sad, and abruptly cutting off with established relationships. As an adult, we've moved around Des Moines, but always because we wanted to and because it meant adventure and promise. I found the Dutch hex Dearest's grandma gave us on our first anniversary, it happens to feature the colors I picked out for the farm house. We never hung it here at the haunted mansion because we were pretty sure the neighbor delinquents (the 8 year olds behind us) would use it to perfect their egg aim. Anyway, sorry for the ramble, its been a long day.

And yes, I'm on facebook now. And yes, if you're my "friend" you can see the photo she tagged me in and check out my 1990 3-4 inch tall bangs. Geesh. I think there's as much product (specifically Aquanet) in my hair in that photo as I'ved used in the last 15 years! *(Edited to add said photo....I am in the front row, right side.....):

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Day 2 of Farm Livin'!!

We took possession of the farm on Monday. MP has done some cleaning, but is mostly just still watching the little ones and making sure I get fed. I stayed overnight yesterday (and tonight) - mainly to make sure the heat situation was under control. I'm glad I stayed . . . I noticed that the downstairs (heated by the brand new hot water boiler) couldn't climb above 60 degrees all day, and dropped to 50 slowly over night. I watched the boiler cycle a few times and found that the temp was to heat the water to 145 when it dropped in temp to 115. Way too cold. It's now set to heat the water to 200 when it drops to 180 - first floor still isn't warm, and I need more blankets. Brrrr! We're going to have some more radiators added to the system. I spent the evening fixing 2 basement doors that the previous occupants had broken while moving stuff out, and insulating the wall of plywood in the basement that used to be a drive in garage - seems to have helped the basement a lot.

We've been lucky not to have had any significant water damage on the main floors, but we did have some pipes break - we now have no water running to the 2nd story. Boiler guy noticed the water pouring into the basement when he was in to put the boiler in before we had taken possession. He found a shut off valve quickly so no damage to speak of (that we've found) apart from the pipes. If I get lucky, the damage will be to the portion of the pipes I have easy access to and I can cut them off and run new line to them from the basement without too much trouble - this may be the case as that is the most likely place for the pipe to have frozen - I can see where the insulation should have gone, not sure where it went : ).

Tomorrow I buy some propane or kerosene space heaters to use in case of emergency, and (hopefully) start tearing out the first floor bathroom.

Other stuff . . . internet is ok with wildblue satellite, but VPN is slow. Telecommuting will be rough.

MP's laptop will be traded with a comparable but less marketable version of her current laptop rather than spend the 300 - 400 to repair. It's a good trade on both ends, but MP is a litle sad - she was attatched to that thing.

Temperature check!

Outside - 22 degrees

Main floor shows 60 degrees on both thermostats - we often set our thermostats this low at our old house, but we can make it hotter if we want - this is as hot as the 1st floor can get at the moment. shiver but it could be worse so no complaints.

Basement was super cold under the addition (no plumbing there), but much warmer under the main part of the house. I turned on two of the space heaters down there just in case, but I think it would have been fine without them. I need to get some thermometers down there - running the space heaters will get expensive soon.

It's lonely out here - I'm eager to get the new bathroom and the hot water installed to MP and the kids can start staying here with me.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Day

My mac powerbook broke. The power plug stick thing broke off in the plug hole. Gah. Panic. Stupid.

I watched Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer for the first time. How I missed that childhood classic for 31 years is completely beyond my understanding.

Dearest and Lil'Bug made a snow dragon and a sitting snowman.

Stam's chocolate was consumed. Lunch was had at Nana and Pawpaw's. Yummy.

Read aloud Spiderwick book 3. Thank you Uncle Jason!

That's about it. Simple, quiet, lovely.

I'm blogging from Dearest's work laptop while cuddling sleeping nursling, but I won't be updating much more until my computer is ameliorated. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

speaking of heartwarming . . .

Heat is officially on in the new house! Part arrived and was installed today.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Eve! aka Vaguely Related Heartwarming Photos.......

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

When it rains it snows. . .

More good luck - the propane kit didn't arrive, so still only the cookstove heating the main floor and space heaters in the basement (furnace for the second floor is working fine). If it comes in tomorrow they'll install it then. If not it won't get there until Friday and we'll have another few days of this. At least it's warmed up to the twenties outside . . .

Stuff and things.

Boiler install wasn't completed yesterday - wrong LP conversion kit had been shipped. Should be installed today.

Also, when the boiler guys got there to start the install, two of the space heaters we had brought down had blown breakers (despite being set on 'low' (750W) setting AND having each on a separate circuit). They said the temp in the basement was 35 degrees.

just a sec . . . .water freezing point . . . Fahrenheit . . . 33 mumble mumble . . .so 35 minus 33 . . .


So we had a whole degree to spare - no worries!

The last few days have been the coldest so far this year (highs in the negatives) if another breaker had blown we've had been at freezing soon after. The boiler guys are leaving a propane heater there tonight to supplement the space heaters just to be sure we don't have problems.

It's been a rough week trying to manage that situation - I can't express how happy I am that the boiler will be in today. I've been lying awake at night worried about freezing pipes half a state away. Basement pipes wouldn't be a huge deal (not that it would be nice) but we'd replace them and move on. I've been more worried about the upstairs - the plaster is all intact or repaired in this house, floors and woodwork are done, etc. If that were water damaged from freezing pipes . . . . I suppose we'd be able to fix it eventually, but it would be a big blow to the pocketbook and to morale, which is generally lower than it should be at the moment.

On the upside I talked to the family yesterday evening and they are planning to be out on saturday. We'd hoped for yesterday, but the cold snap is causing them just as many problems as it's causing us. So various errands and Christmas prep today, then Christmas eve and Christmas, then move prep on friday and actual moving stuff and taking possession on saturday - not a bad schedule. I'll get the plumbing on bathroom number one torn out and fixed and make a final call on the plumbing in bathroom number two, then get the hot water heater installed, then move down the family! Good times.

I'll get MP to add some heartwarming yet vaguely related photos to this so it's not so boring to read.

Go Team Stamps!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

only 98 million miles . . .

Between our farmhouse and what amounted to pretty much the only heat source for a few days. The wood cookstove the current family uses just wasn't cutting it with all the wind and the cold snap - add to the equation the cracked boiler and furnace with no ductwork - the pipes they were a-freezin'!

We drove down to put the space heaters in the basement during the ice storm that was making life fun for everyone a few days ago. When we got there I broke off an icicle from a leaking pipe - about 5 minutes later the icicle was back - I'm glad we decided to make the drive.

So current state - boiler to be installed monday. Furnace up and running yesterday. Wood stove (which actually does put off enough heat for the first floor) won't be gone until the boiler is up. In the meantime we put space heaters in the basement so the pipes down there won't freeze again.

deep breaths. repeat - "the pipes won't freeze", "the pipes won't freeze" . . .

So the emergency appears to be mitigated - we are releived, and thankful. Thanks to bluegate farms for the offer of help!

Friday, 19 December 2008

What our life looks like right now......

Blueberry sat up for the first time from crawling position this week. This photo is of the 3rd time she did it!

So serious, this one.

Our house has been invaded by self multiplying boxes. Which means loads of wild fun for a four year old! Her energy is amazing. She's been helping me pack and bake. I can't believe we take possession of the farm next week and next week is Christmas and then after that I get to see a few friends that I haven't in almost 5 years (or more!). It'll be like a debate team reunion only without Paul.
See? She's up to no good. No good at all.

She's teaching the little one how to make faces at the camera. Good times.

Blueberry is also cutting fangs. Just like her sister, her first teeth will be vampire. Oh how the time flies. Also, the bow is merely a tribute to her amazing hair that, even at 6 inches long, will not lay down. Ha!

Oh Christmas Tree!

I am really enjoying some of our new traditions. We may not get a "real" tree this year, but a couple days ago Dearest brought home this rosemary tree and Lil'Bug found it the next morning and was so excited that Santa brought her a tree after all!

We will be eating some might fine "dark days" bread!

Swamp Fire in a Bottle

A few years ago I was asked what is in "Cajun" seasoning. The store blends never get it just right they said. This is funny to me since my very Cajun family always uses store blends. My favourite is Slap Ya' Mama. The ingredients are so simple and no MSG. One day we ran out! It was the end of the world until I decided to give making our own a try.

Mmmmmm. So good it's burns. Kosher salt, cracked white pepper, cayenne, granulated garlic, and a wee bit of turbinado. It's not the same ingredient set as SYM, but it is absolutely divine on broiled Iowa chops, steak, chicken, bread, pizza, soup, cheese, salad, my licking get the idea.......

It will be one of our very first add ons.........

Thursday, 18 December 2008


Spent the day yesterday with my Dad at the farmhouse getting the basement sealed up and the heat turned on. Pipes had started freezing - the family living there now will be out next week, in the meantime we'd hoped their wood burning stove would be enough heat . . . no such luck.

But some good news - no damage from the pipes, boiler is on and working, furnace will be operational by the end of today. This is work I'd hoped to do myself but the cold snap forced my hand a little so we're having a local heating/cooling place run the new duct work for the furnace and get the boiler operational.

**edit - Good news! The boilers cracked and we have to buy a new one! Or the whole house will freeze! @$%^

Monday, 15 December 2008

The Busy-ness of Moving

Now with the December open house out of the way, we begin the messy work of packing our thousands of books. It is funny really. We each have a bags worth of clothes and then hundreds or thousands of books. Even the kiddos.

I will also pack up the good dishes and breakables.

Then there is the business of connecting and disconnecting utilities and whatnot. Working on those.

Plus grades had to be reported (for my job).

In the mess of all that there is Christmas. Yay!

When I finally got a moment to reflect on it, this is the first time we have moved where we did not just move in the day of the closing. It is strange to think that the house is ours, but we can't move in just yet. It's like being 40 weeks pregnant. Will you go to 43 weeks? Probably not, but its a messy uncomfortable time with a whole lot of to do's!

Moving our food stores will probably be the most complicated thing we do. We have two deeps freezes full of meet and veg. When you move a freezer you have to let it sit unplugged for 48 hours for the compressor to do something. The details of that elude me, but I do know that it is important. So it looks like we'll be getting a third freezer, a larger one. Then we'll move all the goods into that one.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Last night was the coldest moon. It was stunning, bright, and bold against the icing snow.

Tonight the sky held low clouds, blazing pink overhead at dusk. Not a horizon sunset, but a canopy of candy. It was amazing.

As we approach the solstice, the nights get longer, but we hope for the turn towards Spring. We spent the afternoon looking at appliances and making holiday cards. I graded papers, tended the nursling Blueberry, watched movies with Lil'Bug, and listened to the twinkle box play carols. We will begin the move into the new house just after the holidays, just after the seasonal change is officially winter and we begin the push towards Spring. It is incredibly symbolic for us, as this is an enormous change in our lives and has revitalized hope within each of us in our home. Even our sickly bird stopped plucking her feathers and began a proper molt (after 7 years!).

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Wow, this is really late coming out of the Draft box.

the rules: "Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Change all the answers so that they apply to you.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I have MAD wrapping skillz. I can get really crazy with the foof and glue gun too. I learned from a master chocolatier and those chocolate guys really know how to doll up a classy package. My MIL does bags though and sometimes we just use those.

2. Real tree or Artificial? We had a real tree once when I was a kid. I was very allergic. It may not have been the tree though, and my intention is to get a real tree from now on. In fact, I sold my big pretty fake tree last summer. Real trees are awesome.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually, right after Thanksgiving. I LOVE decorating the tree. I love stringing lights. My fantastic tip: get icicle lights (if you string lights and don't have a pre-lit). It's easier to cover the tree, you only use 20 ft, and you can move the strands around to fill gaps. I've never had a tangle issue and I just dump them into a crate at the end of the year (no fancy wrapping and twisting).

4. When do you take the tree down? When the issue becomes one. Once it was in May. ;)

5. Do you like eggnog? Fresh from a local farm! I love eggnog lattes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, candy, bon bons, cake, soda, oh man I love eggnog.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? My teddy bear. When I was two. It was a gift from a cousin and I doubt much thought went into it, but that bear got me through some hard times. Yes, I still have him.

My favourite gift as an adult? My camera. Oh man. It is still awesome.

7. Hardest person to buy for? Husband. He doesn't like spending money or surprises. He likes very specific things. This year I got him really warm socks to go winter hiking in. Two pairs. I gave them to him a couple days ago and he's worn nothing else on his feet since. Seriously, socks. Who knew?

8. Easiest person to buy for? My daughters.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No. But I am looking for one. We had one as a kid that I loved that was carved wood and had sticks and leaves glued to it. I used to want one of those white porcelain with gold paint sets, but I am over that. I would like to make one next year.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Hand deliver, handmade. We started making ours yesterday.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Not so much received, as didn't. One year my parents forgot to wrap my gift(s) and I got nothing. No one noticed (but me, obviously). I was old enough not to say anything or cause drama, but it really made me sad. Later that week I was looking for something and found the gift, a whole collection of Margurite Duras novels. The whole family was horrified about that happening, but then they thought it was funny. I'm not sure funny is how I would label that memory.

One year I was the only one in the family with a job, I was 19, so I gave my siblings money to buy presents with and took them to the mall. They bought presents for everyone but me. I didn't really expect them to, I guess, but no one in the family ever said thank you either.

Actually my husband thinks it is sad/funny that all my holiday memories end with a tragic/sad punchline. Like, I once starred in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, it was a blast, a worked really hard and got rave reviews from everyone......but I am not sure my family came to see it.

You get the idea. Still I love Christmas! I love giving gifts, making gifts, and watching others feel loved. Now that I have my own family, I feel loved as well. My husband always makes sure I do. I love that man!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Muppet Christmas Carol!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? All year round. This year, I'm not sure we've even started.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No. Never. It breaks my heart when people do this with the things I make them.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Pecan pie and cream cheese pecan pie (the kind where the layers switch places while it cooks). I once ate an entire pie one year while waiting for everyone to arrive for dinner. One of the guests caught me, left (I thought to snitch), but returned with two forks. Well, yes, I was eating it with my hands. How awful is that? Later someone was setting out the pies and the missing pie was finally noticed.

The following year, M. gave me two forks for Christmas. She is so funny!

16. Lights on the tree; colored or white?
colored, lots. I love all the colors. In fact, when looking for colored lights to buy, I seek out the 5-7 color ones as opposed to the 4. It's just not the same with out purple!

17. Favorite Christmas song? Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Just to Grandma and Grandpa's across town.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Nope. But when I do, its usually recited with a Cajun accent.

20. Angel on the tree top of tree or a star? Star. I know the secret to getting it to fit. ;)

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Nutcracker, lots of toys and fun stuff., so its easy to throw everything on and claim the theme is Nutcracker.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Ham. I love pig meat.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? To see my girls smile on Christmas morning. Also, to start moving!

26. Who is most likely to respond to this? no idea. this is a long meme, so maybe no one.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Writer's Blogk. Geesh.

With all the exciting things going on, I sit here with idle fingers?

So, couple things. Hobbit (wonder pup) is finally doing better. Yay.

We packed our first boxes that go straight to the farm instead of storage! Woot.

No, I did not finish grading stuff early. I am still plugging away. Not much left though, enough to make me stressed.

My kitchen smells funny and I ate Chinese food at the mall (ie, nauseous......) so my kitchen will still smell funny tomorrow.

Open house went poorly. Gah. BUT I finally got the listing up on! Crossing fingers that someone from, say, CA, will see it and be all, "What? A mansion like that for only 199,000$ Seriously? Bad neighborhood whatever. Ever driven through LA? Yo, sign me some mortgage papers, yo." and buy our house for Christmas. That's my Christmas wish.

Good news. Pressure test for farm propane GOOD! Except on the range and stove. Secretly I was hoping for that. I was dreading cooking on them. Perhaps it was my inner Yoda that was telling me that they were actually not working/dangerous...... NEW range and stove for Mama Podkayne. Glee! The Force is with me!

That's it for this week. We move soon. I must pack. I am missing park days something fierce and I am thinking about having a moving tea for my park day friends. Thoughts?

Friday, 5 December 2008

It's That Time of the Year.....Again.

Yes. It is finals stretch at work. Which means I have finals to grade, revisions to grade, last week's assignments, quiz corrections, and grades to calculate and submit. For 3 classes (about 55 students total). It's actually a relief to get done. I am grateful to be able to have such an awesome job. Next semester I am only teaching two classes, both Literature (Children's and SciFi), and I am very excited.

Sunday we also have an open house, so on top of grading I must clean, clean, clean.

Today I also must finish making phone calls for the impending move. (Closing happened last night!)

I figure to add to the chaos maybe I should bake bread and make a turkey feast. Why not? I am already operating at maximum capacity......

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Dish on Internet

Ok, so Internet at the farm is a problem and that is a problem for moi since I teach online classes.

So it boils down to either dial up (gasp, the horror!) or satellite. The dish people don't seem to know where to send me when I say Internet only, I'm not interested in TV. I'm not. We watch movies, play Wii, and sometimes I watch a crime drama on my laptop. So I have spent 45 minutes on hold collectively only to be disconnected repeatedly.

I'm going to try again after lunch. Advice and feedback if any of you all have dish Internet would be welcome.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Septic What?

The idea was planted in my head that I might have to change laundry soap/toilet paper/cleaning products because of the farm's septic system.

Well, that snowballed into me researching septic systems and how they work which led to making a few calls which led to finding out that our new farm's system hasn't been inspected in a long time according to the regional health inspector.

Crap. (See, I can be funny.....)

So today, I am working on this problem.

And I also ask......what other things are commonplace, common knowledge to you farm folk that I might be missing? What other surprises are in store for me and mine?

A tale of five one.

In the last couple years we have been touring farms, reading about farms, produce, and livestock. We stepped up the study when we finally put our home on the market in September and suddenly, graciously, we received invitations to several farms. I meant to write about these visits when they happened, but alas.....

The first one, the home and garden of fellow unschooler Meg and her family. 3 acres right outside of town, nestled between neighbors, but far enough out to feel like a secret world. We tagged and let loose monarchs, roasted marshmallows, and picked white peaches by moonrise light. It was magical. I loved talking breastfeeding, unschooling, and history with Meg and her family. Her kiddos are older than Lil'Bug but they were all fast friends. What I came away with is that I aspire to be Meg. Her garden was overflowing and messy, her kids happy and curious, and she could count the stars if she wished.

The next farm we visited was 10 acres to the West of town. Close to a major road, lots of wide open space, a tree stand at the back. Lots of lawn, lots of wind. Their garden was overflowing as well. We shared a meal and talked gardening. Good time. What I came away with there was that the home is just as important and how your family lives inside and out must be comfortable and work for us. They built their own home and it is beautiful. We also got a feel for what our 10 acre minimum actually played out. We decided on the drive home that to make the farm do what we want, we'd need more than 10 and we wanted a water feature to draw wildlife.

Then we visited Sugar Creek Family farm. Another 10 acre farm, but this one is/was a working CSA. We toured her garden, and chicken set up. Ate amazing food and let Lil'Bug get messy. We went back later to learn how to butcher and pluck chickens. We added to our list of requirements good fencing and more distance from neighbors.

The next farm we visited was a 40 acre horse farm. They had a neglected apple tree to harvest, but also a pond, pasture, timber and nice out buildings. That farm was an hour and 45 minutes away from Des Moines. We adjusted how far we were willing to drive from home to work. Not quite that far. ;) We had a nice visit and tour, met some of the neighbors and our host's family. Picked so many apples!

Last year and this we attended the Farm Crawl. An unschooler from our local yahoo list posted the event and we toured and toured! This year I paid intense attention to the Blue Gate CSA because they farm like we intend to, on a property most like what we wanted, with many of the elements (like bees) that we have our hearts set on, AND our new home is nearby in the same county. This past Saturday we visited with Jill and Shaun again, without the busy chaos of a crowd! It was a delightful time. Lil'Bug harassed their cats a bit though. We are working on that with her, she just gets so excited about animals.

I'd like to add, Blue Gate's eggs.....we scrambled them up for breakfast and Dearest and Lil'Bug thought I had added cheddar cheese to them. I did no such thing. The yokes were orange and the flavour....cheesy! Wow. I can't wait to have fresh eggs of our own.

The plus one? Ours. We close either tomorrow or Thursday? Wahoo!