A place of her own

 

Back in June, I asked Kaia what she wanted for her birthday.  She went through a few ideas before settling on a tree house.  ”Yes!” I thought.  ”We definitely need one of those on the land!!”  And so the construction began:

 

Leif, as always, was a fabulous construction helper!

 

There was a lot of excitement when the platform was finally done! (They don’t look excited, do they?  It had been a long day of construction, with lots of mosquitoes.)

The house is shaped like an H surrounding two large trees.

 

The siding was made out of donated tin roof and lap siding.  It created a fabulous mash of colors and personality.

It took a while, but thanks to the help of our family, we are pretty much done!  A rope ladder and pully system are planned for the near future.  But, Kaia was able to move in today and is looking forward to some quiet time by herself.   (We’ll see what her little brother has to say about that!)

A little boys dream

We are having our horribly rutted and bumpy road redone… Finally!  I’m so excited.  But even more excited than me is my little construction-obsessed boy.  He would have stayed out there all day watching the backhoe dig if I’d let him.

In case you can’t tell, his left hand is his stabilizer and his right hand is his bucket.

Welcome!

A big WELCOME to all of you coming over from the NY Times!  It’s really sweet to have you here.  I thought I’d put up some more recent pictures of the outside of our home for you.

We’ve been in our home for 3 years now!  The roof is filling in nicely.  It’s planted mostly with varieties of sedum, but that big plant in the middle is a lavender!!  I want to put a few more of those up there.  They seem to do very well!  And see that huge bush climbing up the side of the house on the left?  That is one of our fig bushes!!!  If the squirrels are willing to share, we might just get our first figs this year!  Woohoo!

The patio, walkway, and wall are all settled in (this was a new addition last summer).  The periwinkle is filling in nicely around the stepping stones.  We also have a patch of Chocolate Mint growing here.  The kids love add it to cookies and smoothies, or sprinkle them on top of ice cream.  Yum!

The roof has color throughout the whole year.  Flowers in the spring and summer and colorful leaves in the fall and winter.

This picture is from earlier this spring.  The roses were here on the land when we moved.  Every spring we make a new batch of rose petal jam and in the fall we gather the rose hips for medicine!

Thanks for visiting!

Something I’ve wanted for a really long time!

This was our major summer project, and  I just realized, after all these months, that I still hadn’t published these pictures.  Behold, the new rock wall, walkway, and patio!!

 

 

 

 

 

Now, 6 months after the installation, things aren’t as lush and green during the winter, but you can see how the rocks have settled in.  (Oh, those white ghosts behind the patio are my figs, wrapped up for the winter):

I can’t wait to hang out on the patio in the warm sun this spring.  I hope it will become a favorite space for schooling and play!

 

 

Our week in pictures

We started our week by getting more new chicks … four Easter eggers, to be exact.  I stuck the camera in with them and each one had to have its turn checking the camera out.

This one reminds me of a Skeksis, only cuter

The rock wall began!

And Leif put on his most fashionable rock building clothes.

Kaia and I played Product War. (I’m getting better at using games and play in our school, instead of workbooks!)  You each turn over two cards and multiply.  Who ever has the largest product wins all of the cards in play.

Then she arranged her tiara, sat on her throne and worked in Comic Strip Math and Funny & Fabulous Fraction Stories. We both LOVE these books.  Me, because she does her lesson and enjoys it.  Her, because she thinks it’s more like playing.

Leif, Kaia and I did a little pH painting.  We used Goldenrod paper and painted on it with vinegar or a baking soda solution.  Kaia painted pictures with the baking soda solution, which changed the color of the paper to bright red.  Then she decorated the picture with the vinegar.  It changed the color back to yellow and fizzled a bit, too).

We ended our week with some Fork Weaving and perfume crafting (This is basically what we did except we didn’t use an oil base.  We just added the essential oils to the alcohol and topped it off with water).  Kaia was so excited about this.  She loves being crafty and said “Mom, thanks so much for teaching me how to make flowers and perfume.  Is there anything else you can teach me?” :-)

Have a beautiful weekend!  Mine begins with a date night tomorrow night!  Woohoo!

 

 

 

Blog, sweet blog!  I hope you know that I think of you as one of those steady friends who will always be there even if we don’t speak for a while.  That we can pick up right where we left off.  A long-term friend.  And I hope you feel the same about me.  ‘Cause I’ve been so busy this past month that I just haven’t had the time to pick up the phone keyboard and say ‘HI’.  But, I’m here now, and that’s what counts!!

Since we last spoke, we have:

Built a closet and door way to Leif’s room, built a new wall in the center room and created book shelves to house the home school stuff, painted the screen doors, sewn up many curtains, joined the gym and lost 5+ pounds, weaned Leif :-( , gone to my first writer’s conference (can we say ‘Holy Cow, Overwhelming!’), written two early-reader books, planted peas and 50+ strawberry plants, started spring session of the home school co-op, started driving Kaia to girl scouts, piano lessons, and swimming lessons, and helped Kaia build a car for the pine car derby races, read Princess for Hire (fabulous!!), read Growing Wings (loved it!), took that long awaited trip to Mars, saved 14 kittens stuck in high trees, and climbed Mt. Everest … backwards …  twice.  Yes, you may call me SHE-RA!!

So you see, Blog, it’s not that I was trying to ignore you.  I just didn’t get a chance to drop in.  Please forgive me.  I hope to be around more often … soon.

July Harvest

  • 365 eggs
  • plums
  • peaches
  • tomatoes
  • green beans
  • eggplant
  • cucumber
  • squash (yellow and zucchini)
  • mint
  • black berries
  • red raspberries
  • blue berries

And I put up 5 quarts of ‘mock’ apple pie filling, 5 pints of cucumber relish and 4 quarts of green beans.  My counter tops are covered with squash and cukes!  I need to do more processing!!  We are eating squash burgers, squash casserole, squash waffles, and squash muffins!  Got any good squash and cuke recipes???

Also, sorry posts have been so sporadic.  I’m trying not to spend so much time at the computer!  We are cleaning house, cleaning the yard, getting rid of things that aren’t needed, trying to simplify.  See, Toby recently left his job and has been looking for work (work that would also include benefits and a good salary and possibly working with others!)  But, for the last 2 months, we thought that meant we were going to have to move!   AND I’ve moved 14 times in the last 18 years!!  I am SOOOOO ready to be settled.  So of course, at first, we were not excited about the idea of moving.  Yet, I’ve thought this was my dream life for so long, and now that I have it, I’m resenting it.  I look at my friends who get to play on the weekends or relax when they are done work and I just wish I could have some time off.  We are always tending to something here… animals, buildings, land, gardens… People are always saying to me “I have no idea how you do everything that you do.”  I guess that should be my first clue that I’m doing too much.  Now we need to look at all we do and figure out what truly brings us joy and drop the rest of it.  Really, when we built our homestead, we went about it wrong.  We built so many structures and have half-assed our landscaping.  Now it all needs to be tended and that’s not what I want to do.  I realize that, as we settle in here and the kids get older, the stress load on us will lighten.  But the idea of moving almost seemed like an ‘out’.  We could start over and try to do it better.

BUT!  Don’t worry folks!  In the midst of interviews as close as Raleigh (3 hours away) and as far away as Hawaii, Toby was approached by a friend who may (prospects are good!!) have an opening for Toby that would have benefits, a good salary, let him work with his friend, and allow us to stay where we are!  I have to say, even though we were getting excited about getting a place in the city with no yard, we are relieved now that we won’t be moving!  But all of this has started us seriously paring down what is not needed in our lives, fixing up the yard and house to make it closer to what we want and require less tending…. and it feels good!!!  Today we moved a pile of wood and another pile of rocks, started planning out our patio and retaining wall, cleaned out closets, the fridge, and my apothecary, rearranged dining and living room furniture… Tomorrow we will tackle Kaia’s room!!  (That may take all day :-)

Re-evaluating

We’ve had a great spring here on our land.  Things have felt really productive.  But, I have to tell you, we are beat!  I wake up in the morning, jump out of bed and get going.  Laundry, taking care of the animals, garden care, kitchen clean up, etc. all comes before breakfast.  Most nights I spend preparing for Kaia’s schooling, sewing, cleaning, or researching one thing or another on the internet.  Weekends we do chores around the land (and we usually don’t get done with our list of ‘to do’s).  I’m not complaining.  I’m simply stating how things are right now.  But I’m starting to feel resentful that we have very little down time, fun time, or time to play with the kids.  We have been working towards this life and lifestyle for years.  We now have our own land (25 acres!), our own house (built with our own hands and very earth friendly), we have chickens and gardens and orchards and bees and cottages.  And each of those things requires upkeep.  Well… we are tired!  We are re-evaluating this life style.  We want to live more gently, but this is definitely not more simple.  We don’t have time or energy for those bonfires and potlucks with friends that we wanted.  We have little time for travel and very little time to relax and read.  Having Heidi here helps tremendously, but she has been gone for much of 2010, and we won’t always have her here.  So, we are taking a look at our life and trying to decide what things we truly desire in it, and trying to figure out how to have those things and keep a simple and earth friendly life.  There may be some changes in store…. we’ll see.

Toby's new shirt

garlic and onion harvest

veggie gardens

more veggie gardens

Kaia got some goggles for swimming… Leif stole them!

Yes, the goggles work more effectively if you stick your tongue out.

Weekend projects

The 2 year old roof.

Spots are filling in pretty well.  I think I’ll give it one more year and then plant a few more things if needed.

I absolutely love all the color on the roof right now.  It’s like a patchwork quilt!

And the yard is coming along, too.  After 2 years of having huge piles of dirt and rubble in the yard, we finally had it leveled.  Now I have the perfect spot for my berry garden!!!  Yum Yummy!!

We also put up a bear fence for the beehives that are coming this week.  I finally painted the chicken coop… I just need to trim it in yellow and put some color on the windows… green or blue maybe?

I also made myself a Medicino sundress.  I love this pattern!  It’s so simple and such a cute dress!  Kaia wanted to pose in her dress with me.

Kaia has one more week of ‘official’ school left.  We will continue with math and reading through the summer, and add in whatever else she is interested in.  We are definitely going to do a few lessons on Greek Mythology!

Coop continued

The coop continues to be our main project around the homestead (although it would be a really good idea to get to winterizing the house!!)

Toby’s father came up last Friday and gave us a hand siding the coop.  We still have to put up the windows and doors and then put the roosts and boxes in, but hopefully, hopefully, it will be done this weekend!

coop5

coop6

What does Leif do while we are busy around the house?  He plays with his feet, he smiles, he makes crazy monster noises, and…

He eats seaweed!!  Yes, we have another seaweed fanatic in the house!

seaweed

He just turned 8 months old… got his first top tooth… is trying to crawl… and makes me love him more each day!!

Chicken Chalet

We have started on what I hope to be our last project this year… The Chicken Chalet (I was going to call it the chicken palace, but being in the country, it just seems more like a chalet :-)   Toby and I have promised each other that we will have no more big projects until next spring.  We are both very ready for a break!!!  Let me say that again to make sure it sticks: We are both very ready for a break!!  Kaia has already requested family time by the fire, with hot chocolate, marshmallows, and knitting.  Let’s see if we can make that happen!!

Anyhoo, we now have around 30 chickens and desperately need a larger space for them.   Their new coop is 12 x 12 with a 6×6 corner of it walled off to be my garden shed.  So, they have an “L” shaped coop.  It should be ample space for them (and the baby pea chick that we are still hoping to get once the coop is done).

We had some wonderful help with Toby’s mom showing up with all of her tools, Heidi lending a hand, and Heidi’s man (who just happens to be a professional carpenter)… You can’t beat that!

coop1

coop2

coop3

We put on a couple of panels of clear roofing so that the chickens can have a little natural light.

coop4

And just to prove I was working too… This is what I was looking at all day!

lip

We probably have another full weekend of work before it’s done.  But, then I get to kick my feet up and just enjoy the fall and winter, right???

Heidi’s Home!

YAY!  We are so excited to have our friend Heidi back home after 3 months overseas!  She was nannying for a family in Scotland and we missed her dearly here.  While she was gone, we had grand plans to transform her little cabin.  Well, we all know how our grand plans tend to take much longer than we think.  But, we were able to get a wood stove in her place (so she doesn’t have to freeze again this winter) and we were able to paint the exterior.  It looks so cute!  There are still a few finishing touches needed to the outside, but it’s mostly done.  Cute, eh??

heidishouse

Kaia and I have also decided to try our hand at needle felting.  Ever since we saw the insanely adorable stuff that The Magic Onions creates, we’ve wanted to learn how it’s done.  So, I got a book on needle felting pets and got to work.  We started with something simple, little bumble bees and lady bugs (and I poked myself a few times with the needle!  Yowza!).

needlefelt

Then, I got a little crazy and decided to make Kaia a mermaid!!  It was actually much simpler than I thought it would be and lots of fun.  But, man, my arm got tired from all the ‘poke, poke, poke’ of the needle!  As soon as I was done, Kaia said, “I bet if you started right now you could have her mermaid friend done by dinner time!”  Ha!

needlefeltmermaid

needlefeltmermaid2

Winterizing

This weekend we got started on the project we’ve been dreading for the last year… winterizing the house.  With a cordwood house, there is a lot of shrinking in the wood that goes on the first year.  So, after the first winter, you need to go back and seal the nooks and crannies that have opened up.  We weren’t looking forward to this large amount of detail work.

Well, I’m happy to say that it’s not nearly as bad as we thought it would be!

We purchased some Permachink (a sealant often used on log homes) from a dealer not too far from us.  It comes in huge tubes that you squeeze onto the wall.  Toby would squeeze the ‘caulk’ around each log end and I would go behind him and smooth it out.  The color is an exact match to the white of our walls… unfortunately, the lower part of the exterior walls has some red mud splash back from the rain… so the caulk really stands out here.  I figure I’ll get Kaia to go splash in puddles near the house next time it rains and that caulk should be nice and dirty in no time :-)

spreading on the permachink

spreading on the permachink

permachink on left, none on right

permachink on left, none on right

Smoothing it out

Smoothing it out

We were able to do almost 2 sections (out of 8) this past weekend (with many interruptions!) So, we will hopefully be able to finish this in a few weekends.  Then, it’s on to the chicken coop!

Cordwood workshop

flato2

Picture by Richard Flato

I know some of you began following my blog because of the cordwood home we’ve built.  So I thought it might be of interest to you that there is a cordwood workshop coming up in Asheville the weekend of Oct 10th and 11th.  “This project will be the 18” cordwood infill of a post and beam framed greenhouse.  The workshop host is the editor of Backhome Magazine.  It should be a gorgeous time of year to learn the cordwood technique in a beautiful setting.”  You can find more details on www.daycreek.com, click on Cordwood Workshop near Asheville, NC.  The instructors, Richard and Becky Flato, have been doing cordwood workshops for over 20 years!

flatocordwood

flato3

My Child is driving me crazy!!

sdlkrnyiod!! ltionadfshlk!!! Did you understand that??? NO!! That’s because it is crazy language! I know, all you parents out there are saying “yeah, I know what you are going through”… But OH NO! She is driving me up the wall, out the window, and over the yellow brick road!! How can a 5 year old have such control over my emotions? I truly believe that at the exact moment of her birth, the stars aligned to create a mother-daughter relationship that would encourage me to bang my head on the wall… or the floor… or the door…

Example 1:
“MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM! (said in a loud, whiny voice) YOU WOKE UP BEFORE ME!!” (I’m sitting in bed, not yet having opened up both eyelids!)

“MOOOOOOMMMMM! WHY DID YOU CHANGE LEIF’S DIAPER WITHOUT TELLING ME????!!!” (Oh, I didn’t know I had to inform you of my every movement!!)

“YOU CARRIED MY SIPPY OUT TO THE CAR, SO YOU HAVE TO CARRY IT BACK IN MOOOOMMMMM!!! (While I stand at the door with my hands completely full with groceries and a baby, and she carries nothing)

And as I try calmly to tell her why she needs to help carry things from the car, she puts her hand to her ear pretending to talk on the phone, holds the palm of her hand up to me, and turns the other way! OH no you didn’t just tell me to ‘talk to the hand’!!

Oh My God, child! Get over this phase fast, will you please!!!

OK, end of rant! Momentary sanity has returned…

In other news, we had our house featured in the New Life Journal again. It’s a great article and makes me feel very proud. Though we certainly didn’t build our house to get recognition, it’s certainly nice to get a pat on the back for it!

One of the bee hives survived the winter and one died… I think they starved. But, the hive that survived seems to be going strong. I went into them today to be sure they weren’t getting ready to swarm… but no signs of swarm cells. They were actually very calm and it was nice to work with them without feeling intimidated. This is the first time I’ve gone into the hive by myself.

Two of our hens have gone broody… our silkies. We built a little make shift broody nest for the first one, but now that two are broody, Toby is working on a little broody house for them. He should finish it tonight, so I’ll take pictures and post them.

Speaking of pictures, we spent Wed. afternoon getting family pictures taken. The man who took pictures of my earth belly offered to take family portraits in trade for my time posing for him. Of course we took him up on it. He is such a great photographer, but also a really nice guy! It was fun spending the afternoon with him. Here are some of the pictures… there are a bunch more, but he hasn’t posted them yet. I’m not a fan of the first picture, but that’s my own vanity finding fault with my double chin and squinty eyes… I love Leif’s smirk in the second picture, and Kaia and Leif’s twin stares in the third… and the fourth one just melts my heart!

Roots and wood

I put out some roots yesterday while the moon was in Virgo… potatoes of all colors (red, blue, white, yellow fingerling, new potatoes). I did intensive planting of 50 potatoes in a small raised bed, each potato was placed 9 inches apart in all directions. We’ll see how it goes. I also planted beets (Lutz’s salad beets, which make good greens as well as large beet roots, and Chioggia, which are the red and white bull’s eye beets). And since the onions I grew from seed are still looking puny, I put in a pound of onion starts, too.

I also planted a rose bush. I know that’s not a root, but I’d just received it in the mail and it needed to get in the ground. It’s a Rosa canina rose. I’ve been looking all over for it and found only one supplier, and it was going to cost $70 to get it shipped to me. Even though these aren’t the showiest of roses, the hips they produce are huge and I use them a lot in cooking and medicine. Many other roses produce nice rose hips, but this is the kind you will get when you order them from an herb supplier. So, I thought I would have to be without…then Lizzy Lane found one on Ebay for me… in Italy! I contacted the seller and they were the nicest people! They said they would send me a small start for $11, including shipping. It arrived in beautiful condition on Wed. so I plopped it in the ground yesterday. Yay!

Here’s a rose hip recipe for you:
Rose Hip Jam
Fill jar 2/3 full of cut, sifted & deseeded rose hips.
Cover with apple juice.
Let sit 4 hours to overnight. May be blended for smoother texture. Refrigerate.
Slather it on toast, use instead of jelly, or just eat it with a spoon!! Mmmm

Toby’s started work on a wood shed. It seems to rain every time we need to bring wood in for a fire, so we thought it would be nice to have a dry place to stack it for next winter :-)
woodshed

And, I don’t think I ever put up pictures of the guest house once we finished it… well, almost finished it. Heidi’s been living in it since late last year, but it still needs water, electricity and finish work. It’s cute though, eh?
guesthouse

Spring’s a comin’!!

Though we had a big snow fall this past week, the chickens are telling me that spring is on its way! They have really picked up their laying and our little Welsummer, Rosie, laid her first egg today! It’s the dark speckled one… isn’t it pretty?

eggselection
The top pink egg is from our Easter Egger, Biscuit, (supposed to be an Ameraucana). Clockwise, the next egg is from Buttercup, our Buff Orpington. Next is the small pink egg from (I believe) Vera, our Salmon Faverolle. It’s a really small egg, but I don’t think our silkies are old enough to lay yet, and I saw Vera sitting on one of the small ones…
The fourth, and largest brown egg, is from Rudy, our 2 1/2 year old Black Australorps. The 5th egg is Rosie our Welsummer’s egg. And the Blue one is from our 2 1/2 year old Americauna, Sweetie.
We’re still waiting on the two silkies to start laying… probably in the next month or two.

wintersnow2009
These are from the last snow we had… aren’t the icicles lovely!
winterstalagtitesl

And Leif in his starring role as “the Littlest Gnome”
littlegnome

Check out what I picked off of the roof yesterday! There are lots of calendula flowering, too… if they don’t freeze tonight, I may harvest them and make a nice oil or something.

And, since I begin my third trimester tomorrow (Oh My God!! Where did time go??!!) I thought I’d post a belly picture. I really feel very large! I’m still not 100% convinced that there aren’t two in there :-) And we already know that this child will not sleep all the time like Kaia did, ’cause he never stops moving!

Week in Picture Review

Here’s all the lard after it was canned. Looks like creamy milk, doesn’t it! I’m really enjoying using it to cook up eggs, veggies, etc…

Kaia and I spent some time making some holiday soaps. This was a batch of Wintergreen/Sweet Orange soap, and she’s mixing in a little cinnamon powder ‘to make swirlies!’, while enjoying a piece of Halloween candy.

The next day, we cut it up into pieces and will let it sit 3 weeks before using it (so it cures and isn’t so caustic). The first batch made 20 pieces of soap (~3 oz each)

The second batch we doubled and ended up with another 44 bars! This one is Clarysage/Ylang Ylang with swirlies of cardamom.

We’ve been getting the garden beds ready. Made 8 raised bed frames with scrap wood. Hopefully that will be enough to get us started this spring. Toby tilled the soil and mixed in lots of leaves and some roof dirt (which will help break up the clay and add some compost). I need to add more compost, manure and soil and will plant some rye for the winter.

We gave Kaia a mini-sling to practice carrying doll babies… But she found a fuzzy, wiggly doll baby she likes better… Snuggle or torture? It depends on who you ask.

She’s also decided she wants to learn how to knit. So she plopped down in the rocker by the fire (an appropriate place for knitting, I think) and pretended for a while. We are going to start a kids knitting group with some other moms when we get back from Disney.

And, what post would be complete without snuggling kitties… Isabella, Daisy, and Chub Chub Max.

Progress on the guest house is slow going because Toby only has a day or two a week to work on it, but it’s looking really cute!
This is the view as you drive up:

This is the side view, where the front door will be:

The other speckeled sussex died this morning. We don’t know what happened to her. She was supposed to be a full sized bird, but didn’t really seem like she was growing normally. Her body stayed fairly small, so I thought maybe she was actually a bantam. But, her head just looked like it never got any bigger. Yesterday she was sluggish and the other chickens started picking on her. They didn’t cause any physical damage that we could see, but as the day wore on, she just sat down and stopped moving. She died over night. Any thoughts?

Kaia and I drove up to Banner Elk for the Woolly Worm Festival this past Sunday. It’s a big fall festival where people bring their woolly worms and race them up a string. The winners of the individual heats race each other until there is one final winner, who gets $1000 and their worms color pattern predicts the upcoming winter weather. They haven’t posted who won this past weekend or what the winter prediction is, but supposedly, over the past 20+ years, the worms have a 85% positive prediction rate :-) !
Kaia and I brought our two worms home and hope to keep them through the winter. In the spring they will turn into Tiger Moths. My worm is the one on top of the paper tube… his name is Arnold. Kaia’s is the one climbing in the tube opening and her name is Sunflower. They were both great racers when they were on our clothes, but once they got on the string they kept turning around and going backwards!

Crazy Lady!

You can call me that if you like!

This Sat. Toby helped me finish up a new little chicken hut that I’d started. It’s a 3′x4′ shed that sits at the edge of the fencing of their run. The back side opens so I can put their food and water in. That way, their food and water isn’t sitting out in the elements. It use to be in the coop, but kept getting pooped on when they roosted at night.

This Sunday Toby and I started on our Guest house. It will be a 12′x12′ room with a 6′x12′ loft… a cute little cottage for little retreats. (Our friend who is currently living in a tent will move in there once it’s done in exchange for some help with the land and when the little one is born.) And this one will be painted yellow!
Here’s the location… to the far right of the cabin and storage building, where Toby and Kaia are (can you see them?)-

Kaia helped sketch things out for us on her drawing board-

We built the foundation-

And just like the first time around, Kaia helped Toby put down the flooring-

On Monday, I got out and planted 6 fruit trees… 2 apples, 2 pears, 1 cherry and 1 plum. I wish I’d gotten a picture of me swinging the mattock :-) Don’t worry, I’m taking care not to over exert myself.

Yesterday, I went out to the last hoop jam of the season, and I dressed for the occasion. My hot pants got me asked out! I told him “thanks but I am happily married and expecting my second child”. He said “I don’t care” :-O




Today, I planted 5 more trees… 2 English Walnuts, 2 Persimmon, and one more apple! Wahoo!!! I can’t wait for harvest time!

This weekend, I get to take a wonderful break at the SE Women’s Herb Conference. It’s my ‘ME TIME’ of the year!

Finally, truly settling in

We had our house party (/birthday party/Equinox celebration) this past weekend. Finally! The house is complete, the yard is tamed, the trash is gone… Whew!! So, this past Saturday, we invited our friends and family, and anyone who helped on the house, to come over and see the finished product. I think there were over 70 people who stopped by and everyone loved it. It was so nice to show it off (and to hear everyone ohhh and ahhh :-) The last guests left a little before 1am and Toby, Kaia, and I crashed hard! The next day we spent laying around and trying to recuperate. Toby and I both noted that yesterday was the first time that we really felt like we could step back and enjoy the house. I think part of it is because having the yard cleaned up makes it feel more like home, and partly also because we have been working towards this party for months (project after project to finish up before the showed off the house). We sat by the fire pit last night drinking apple cider and eating apple pie with the neighbors and it was just so blissful!

So, my next project :-) is working on the garden space. I’m hoping to get a bunch of raised beds built before the winter, so they will be ready in spring for lots of veggies! I also have 17(!!!) fruit trees to plant. I got a Celeste Fig as a house warming gift and we planted that on the south side of the house. We are zone 6b, so we wanted to protect it from the cold winter winds. I also have (either waiting to get planted, or on its way here) A HardiRed Nectarine, Sweetheart Apricot, Wilson Delicious Apricot, UltraMac Apple, Pink Lady Apple, Arkansas Black Apple, Grimes Golden Apple, Honey Crisp Apple, BlackGold Cherry, Santa Rosa Plum, Methley Plum, Maxine Pear, Moonglow Pear, Lake English Walnut, Champion English Walnut, Prok Persimmon, and a Yates Persimmon!!!! (Most of these are from Stark Brothers) I ordered dwarf varieties when they were available, but the persimmons and walnuts will get 30+ feet tall, so I need to do some good planning to be sure that they don’t block the garden sun when they are fully grown. I also have a ginkgo that I have babied along in a little pot for over 7 years that I can finally put in the ground. But, Ginkgo trees have been known to get up to 80 feet, so I really need to figure out a good space for this one!!

I also hope to put in some grapes, blackberries, raspberries (and many other berries), passion fruit, hardi kiwi, rose (rugosa… for the rose hips), chestnut, and what ever else will fit!! I can’t wait!!! Now, will someone please come dig some holes in this dang red clay for me! :-)

Busy week already

This weekend, Toby started working on the front steps. We are putting in 4 steps that come from the drive to the front door. We will also be putting in a little landing-type porch, just to keep the mud and dirt from coming in the house all the time.
Since you always get the butt and back shots of Toby at work, I made him turn around this time:-)

The steps will be filled in with gravel once he digs out a little more clay for a drainage pipe to help divert the water that comes down the stairs.

On Monday, Kaia and I took a little drive to get some new chickens. Our three old ladies are looking bored and seemed like they might need some company. They are also not producing many eggs these days. So, here are the new ladies:
The two small ones in front are Speckled Sussex and they are probably about 3-4 months old (the old ladies are in the background).

This cute little one is Poodle Noodle. She’s our Silkie and she’s also ~4 months old. She will be a smaller chicken, but still lays nice eggs and we just couldn’t pass up getting her.

Here are the other three. They are all about 6 months old. The larger one is an Ameraucana Rooster! I never really wanted a rooster in our bunch ’cause they can be so rough with the ladies, and so loud. But this breed is supposed to be more gentle, and if we hatch any of the eggs he fertilizes, those chickens could lay brown, blue, or olive colored eggs! Cool, eh? His name is Crowy. The whitish lady below him is Biscuit and she is an Ameracana female (so she’ll lay blue eggs). The orange lady is a Salmon Faverolle. I’d never heard of this breed until I went out to get the chickens, but she is very docile, friendly and supposedly will be a good layer. She is also really cute! I’ll have to get a better picture of her for you.

And just for the snuggle fun of it, here’s Kaia and her little friend Max :-)

Roof pictures

OK, so I finally got out on the roof and got some pics for you. Kaia and I woke up early and sat out in the hanging chairs on the roof to eat breakfast. It was nice and cool, and very leisurely :-)
These pictures show the stones leading from the window/door to the chairs:

Here is some thyme that is thriving on the roof! (and a crazy kid who wants to be in every picture!)

Another shot. There is a dianthus blooming in the foreground. I love the look of this plant. We tried planting some little seedlings, but they didn’t make it. This was was a larger potted plant and did well.

Here is a blooming Monarda fistula, also called ‘wild bee balm’ or wild bergamot’ (sorry for the blurriness.. I have a crappy camera). I have two on the roof that were given to me by a friend. It’s one of the medicinals on the roof, though I’ve not used it much. I love the feathery purple bloom!

Here is a great patch of roof! The Delospermas (or ice plants) are doing fantastic. Here are a pink and a yellow variety. Later in the day, when it warms up a little, this part of the roof is covered in blooms!

Not all of the plants are doing so well. The Roman Chamomile have mostly died. The calendula are blooming and hanging in there, but scraggly. And you can see in this picture that some of the sedum seedlings just aren’t growing very fast. I’m hoping if they make it through the heat of the summer, that they will have time to settle in and establish roots in the fall, before the cold hits.

The California Poppies are blooming nicely, and the red yarrow is sending up lots of new greenery!

And here’s a shot of another area where the delosperma are taking off!

Updating

I haven’t posted about the house is a while, ’cause, well, I was kind of tired of talking about it :-) But, we’ve been in here almost 3 months and we are all loving it! I’m really looking forward to our first winter so we can use the radiant floors and wood stove.

So, in the last 3 months, we’ve finished up some projects, like shelving in the bath closet, built a computer nook desk, rearranged the furniture about 178 times… we have to mount the door to the secret nook, and finish building the kitchen book shelf and I think the inside projects will be pretty much done! Wahooo! Then there’s tackling the outside (if you can’t hear the dread in my voice, it’s there, believe me!) We’ve still got a boat load of construction waste to deal with. All the left over wood (that is not usable for building) needs to be chopped up and stacked for fire wood. There are big piles of gravel, sand, and roof dirt to deal with, and trash here and there. It’s not actually too horrible, it’s just dealing with it! We’ve given ourselves until the Fall equinox to get stuff cleaned up, ’cause that is when we are finally going to have our house warming party! I would really like to get working on preparing the ground for a garden next year, but I have to say, that totally intimidates me! Our ground is complete hard clay and nothing but ragweed grows in it! So, I guess I need to till it all up and add a ton or two of compost and minerals. We’re not sure if we are going to plant in the ground or use raised beds. Any thoughts on what you prefer? I’d like to pack as much food into as small a space as possible so the space is used as efficiently as possible. I’m also hoping to plant lots of fruit trees and bushes and maybe some nut trees. Right now we have one peach (with about 10 fruits on it), and one nectarine.

Oh, and we’ve had lots of rain in the past 3 weeks, so the living roof is really taking off!!

Howdy

Sorry for the long break in blogging. I’m enjoying getting settled into the house and not wanting to spend much time in front of the computer. Things are getting unpacked… mostly just books and pictures still to be put away. We’ve moved all the boxes and furniture out of Toby’s tool shed, so now he has a place for carpentry. Mice and squirrels had gotten into everything and there was poop and seeds everywhere! I think I did 20-25 loads of laundry. Seriously! I had to wash every piece of Kaia’s infant clothing and diapers! All the toys, furniture and books has to be washed/wiped down. Ugh!

We’ve almost got everything out of the little house. Toby has started using the upstairs for his office, and I’m setting up the downstairs for my office/clinic. So at the same time as moving into our new house, I’ve been boxing up and moving everything from Viriditas! The new tenants are supposed to be moving in on Sunday, so that is just about complete!

Inside the new house, things are looking mostly settled. There are still little projects here and there that need to be finished… shelving in the linen closet, back splash in the kitchen and bath… stuff like that. And the yard still looks like a war zone with construction crap everywhere! We had planned to have a house warming party on June 21st, but have decided not to. I want the house done and the yard cleaned before having everyone over! I think Fall time seems more reasonable.

The roof has been planted. We had some friends over a couple of weeks ago and we got most of it done in one afternoon! It looks nice so far, but the little plugs are hard to see in pictures. I will take more pictures when they start to grow and post them. I can’t wait until they have filled out and covered the roof. It is going to look so cool!!!

I’m really enjoying my space! I go back into the little cabin and think, “WOW, How did we ever live here for two years!!???!!” :-)

Planting the roof

Our plugs were delivered this past Thursday and I’ve started planting.
First, I took some stepping stones and made a path to where we will have two hanging chairs and a little patio area. In between the stones and in other areas of the roof, I’ve put in some accent plants. They may or may not do so well on the roof. I added more compost to hold the water, and put some “hollytone” to bring down the pH (which is ~8). I’ve put in Calendula, Yarrow, Roman chamomile, thyme, Sage, Rosemary, lavender, Dianthus, chive and nodding onion, lambs ear, and a few other things.

The plant plugs look fantastic! Very healthy! The man who delivered them said they should do very well on our roof, and will love the 4 inches of soil. He thinks they will really take off in just a month or so. We will water them every 1 1/2 weeks for the first year, if we have no rain, and put a 10-10-10 fertilizer on them to give them some food to start with. I’m planting them 9 inches apart to allow for spread, and I’m grouping them in clusters, so there will be big splashes of color everywhere (as opposed to totally random plantings). It’s going to be so beautiful!

They are so tiny… can you see them???

Roof Soil

We had the soil blown onto the roof today! They brought it in a mulch blowing truck and it took them ~3 hours total, not including all their travel time. Toby calculated that it would have been ~1012 5-gallon buckets for us to haul it all onto the roof by ourselves. I’m so glad we hired the blower instead!!!
Here they are, just getting started on the top roof. You can also see the finished painting. The color didn’t turn out all that bad.

Here they are almost done…

The soil didn’t always flow easily through the hose. Sometimes you would hear a change in the tone of the pump and you would know that a huge amount of soil was about to push through. The guys would brace themselves and hold tight to the hose while they waited for the soil monster to burst out. It was really cool.
Here’s a close up of the soil. As you can see, it is mostly chunks of slate with a little compost matter mixed in.

Our plants are being delivered next Thursday, so we hope to plant the roof next weekend! I can’t wait to see how it all looks!!

making nests of all kinds

Toby built his first top bar hive today. It came out really nice! Robbyn, he didn’t really follow any design. He mainly talked with a few friends who have built them before and put together what he thought would work well for us. It’s 12 inches deep and long enough to fit 28 frames. It has a partially screened bottom for ventilation, and a tin top that you can lift off to check on them. We had some small cell beeswax, so we cut strips to put in the frames for the bees to build on them. The frames are 3 sided without a bottom, so the bees will probably make more of a rounded comb design.


He drilled some entrance holes for them, too.

I don’t know if we will collect honey from this hive or just let them be. Right now, it’s sitting on some concrete blocks and nicely viewable from our kitchen window. We expect we will have another swarm from our other hive, so we’ll put the swarm in here.

While he was doing that, I closed off a section of the chicken yard and built a little brooding box for Ralph. She wasn’t too happy about being moved at first, but she quickly found her eggs and went back to sitting on them.

And here is the house so far. They need to do all the trim work, but the main body color is done. We were supposed to have a creamy yellow, but the painter called me the night before starting and said he really didn’t think the yellow was a good idea. He said yellow is the quickest color to fade and doesn’t cover as well. He had mentioned this before, but I really wanted to have a yellow… but when he stressed this again I felt like we needed to go with something else. So, we picked out a grey/blue that looked really nice on paper. Unfortunately, I’m really not that happy with how it turned out on the house. I was wanting a cheery, light color that would stand out from the green around it, but still look like it belonged. What I got was a cold color that sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s not a bad color, I just don’t feel like it fits. I know it will look much better once the trim is done. When we get screens, I may paint the frames with a pale yellow or something to lighten up and warm the house color.

Inside, we are done with all the messy work, so we are trying to get things moved in. Then, we can take care of the other little details while we are living in and enjoying our house. Here’s how the kitchen counter tops turned out. We just need to put up a back splash. (I know, it’s hard to see ’cause of all the crap all over them… I’ll take more pictures soon)

A+

Howdy Folks! Just a quick note to let you know we passed our final inspection yesterday!!! The electricity and gas get hooked up today, the phone gets hooked up tomorrow!!! We still have a lot of little details (like shelving, cleaning, oiling the stairs…) before we will completely move in, but we are done with inspections!!!
Painting starts today, so I’ll post pictures later!