Home Sweet Home

I think we can finally say our move is finished. Four months of weekend trips to do construction work on the little ‘shed’ that would ultimately be our home for the next 9+ months and a few days of intense packing, hauling and un-packing. Even the posting of this blog means we’ve finally be able to ‘connect to the world’ and now have wifi.

If you missed the renovations blog, here it is. Might be helpful to have a little of the back-story.

Hubs and I are back to 1-room living, a bit reminiscent of our first year and a half of marriage. Here is a shot of south end of the house; the kitchen, dining room, bathroom and office. (Don’t worry if you can’t differentiate which area of the room is which!)

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(Above & Below) A few close-ups of both sides of the kitchen area.

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The little bathroom. We have a lot to be thankful for with this little shed/home but if I can acknowledge one ‘bummer’ it’s that we don’t have hot water. Freezing January temperatures in Central PA mean some super chilly water comes out of our bathroom and kitchen faucets. Nothing like a quick splash of ice water to wake you up in the morning or washing dishes in chilly water to toughen the hands!

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And here is the other half of the house, the bedroom area. Let’s just say that under the bed storage totes are the best thing ever! Our dog Calla has embraced the new place as her home as well with her super plush bed right next to ours.

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The wood stove has been such a champ the past few nights with the blustery weather in the teens. That coat rack next to the stove is a big plus to, our Carhartts are always toasty when we slip into them.

We enjoyed our time in the Philly suburbs and tried to make the most of the stay there but to be honest, it was a pretty big adjustment for us both. It was a bit of people and store overload for us. People, traffic and stores everywhere. It was super convenient, sure, but there wasn’t a lot of green open space to just chill. Everyone was in such a hurry; I was either driving too slow for the driver behind me or I was lost on the matrix of busy side streets and highways. I’m sure it’ll be a bit of an adjustment to live back in Central PA again but at least we both know that’s where were meant to be and for the next 9+ months, it’s home.

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Winter Renovations

We’re in the process of moving.  In the dead of winter.  From Eastern PA to Central PA.  And there’s a snow storm on the way.  It’s all good though, who doesn’t love a fresh start in a new place in a new town?  We’re moving out of a 1-room apartment in the suburbs of Philadelphia and into a 300 square foot ‘shed’ that we have been converting into a little home over the last 4 months.  The building sits on my husbands parents farm.  Every time we’ve gone back to visit his parents over the last few months we’ve been working on the place little by little.  Care to see our progress?

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(Above) This is the one end of the building where we had to dig a water/septic line in the fall before the ground froze.  That ditch in the concrete is where our pipes all now lay.

(Below) This is the other end.  We have three pretty exposed beams.  The walls originally had textured beige paint and a fair amount of sizable cracks between the ceiling and walls and in the peaks of the ceiling.  My first task was to use a palm sander to remove all the sand from the textured paint.  We needed a smooth surface to start with.  Next came ‘muddin’ and tapping all of the cracks.  In this photo you can’t even see any cracks!  They were pretty rough, believe me!

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(Above, Left) The building was all one room but with the generous help of my father-in-law, were now have two rooms!  This small room is our bathroom.  You can see the floors around it are all unfinished concrete.  We’re keeping it that way. The bathroom is the only room that will have a tile floor, see above, right.

(Below) Here’s a shot of the same end of the building where we had our water/septic pipe ditch dug.  It’s all filled in now and the bathroom is separated off.  The exposed beams were all re-surfaced with pretty pine boards from the Brown’s farm. The walls and ceiling have primer on as well.

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(Below) Here’s that same end a few weeks later.  Looking a little different now!  The ceiling and trim are painted ‘Vanilla’ and the walls are painted ‘Olive.’  We moved an old sink/cupboard unit in that was second-hand and you’ll also notice the first major appliance we bought during ‘Black Friday’ sales at Lowes!  This is the largest refrigerator we’ve ever had!

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(Below) Here’s the opposite end of the building.  Pretty simple, just a clean canvas to work with.

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(Below) Here is that same end of the building a few weeks later.   The new light fixtures are up and we even have a nice little wood stove in the corner!

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(Above)  Here’s a shot of that same end with the wood stove, cleaning out some of the ‘junk’ that accumulated in the center during construction.  That pretty dress and mirror set was built by my husbands great-grand father for his daughter, my husband’s grandmother.  It’s on loan to us while we’re living here.

(Below)  The kitchen-end of the building again, this time we have our small propane stove in the corner and some shelves above the kitchen cupboard.

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So far, that’s it folks!  Final photos will come next week when we’ve finished renovations and have officially moved in!

 

 

A Cattle Drive to Bid 2014 Farewell

The last day of 2014 was celebrated with a morning cattle drive at Thistle Creek Farms.  About 25 cows along with a few calves and one bull were driven from the ‘lower farm’ right next to Camp Kanesatake to the main farm about 2 1/2 miles down the road.  Thankfully the chilly morning followed an even chillier evening and the mucky muddy ground was frozen solid.  Dogs and people alike were spared super muddy conditions, yippee!

There were a few key players in the drive.  The first was the lead truck towing the full hay feeder.  Not only did this hay feeder serve as a blockade to keep the cattle from rushing too far ahead but it also served as bait to entice the more reserved members of the herd along.  Lastly, and probably the most obvious reason for towing the hay feeder out of the pasture at the lower farm was because it was full of valuable hay and an empty pasture doesn’t need a feeder full of hay.

The next ‘band’ of key players in the drive were the Border Collies.  Mack, Riggs, Finn and Calla served as the ‘pushers’ and ‘gatherers’ in the drive.  Their first task was to round up the herd at the lower farm and drive them to the main gate.  The next task was to get them moving in the correct direction down the road toward the main farm.  A few rascals tried to bail early in the drive and the dogs drove them back into the herd.

The final cast of characters in the drive, and probably, least important, was the crew on the four-wheeler.  I can say this because my dear hubs was in this crew.  I’m not trying to belittle the ‘humans’ in the drive because they are certainly important and very much so the drivers of the dogs and brains of the operation but they pretty much just supervised and guided the dogs to do the real work.  I’m willing to bet that this team of dogs would have performed perfectly without their ‘drivers’ calling commands from the four-wheeler.

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I love this picture.  The herd of cows are wasting no time going where they need to go and thankfully the hay feeder is keeping their pace at bay.  There’s a wide spread between the main group and the dogs which means all is under control and the dogs can take a breather.  You’ll also notice the straggler of the group, a calf.  Mack is the dog flanking the calf and gently coaxing it to keep moving by walking along side of it.  The fastest dog of the group is next to the four-wheeler.  Finn starts each drive or move at the speed of lightening and then slowly fizzles out until he’s accepted onto the four-wheeler for a ride on the last leg of the journey.  Looks like he’ll have to walk that last leg.  You’ll notice one of the dogs was lucky enough to hitch a ride on the four-wheeler, that’s Riggs, he’s the yearling-in-training and Mack’s son.   His young age entitles him to special privileges.  Calla, the dog to the far right belongs to hubs and I.  Looks like she’s chosen to be unsocial for some reason; moody girl.

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And that’s a wrap folks!  Here’s George, owner and main man at Thistle Creek Farms.  Trailing him is the main farm hand, Chris (not sure why he’s running up that hill!)  Finn, Mack and Riggs were lucky enough to hitch a ride on the back of George.  I guess Chris wasn’t so lucky.

The Joy of Second Cutting

1063714_10104679875918034_113962042_oThis weekend I learned that there was much more to the chore of baling hay than simply lifting bales off the wagon and either throwing them into the mound or placing them onto the elevator to be stacked ever so carefully in the barn by someone with more hay storage wisdom than myself.  Prior to this weekend, I was the lowest man on the ladder performing the most unskilled task when it came to baling hay.  Prior to this weekend, I was only valued on hay baling weekends for my massive muscles and work-horse drive to exhaust myself.  This weekend, something miraculous changed!

Little back story here– last year I learned to rake hay.  This ancient Massey Ferguson and I teamed up to learn the art of raking hay properly into windrows.  I was pretty thrilled to learn this new skill, as you can see!  But that ain’t nothing compared to the crazy useful skills I learned this past weekend.

The hay was cut by my father-in-law on Thursday morning.  It rained almost an inch Thursday afternoon.  Friday it was in the mid-70s with very little humidity and a wonderfully strong breeze.  Friday afternoon my hubby tedded the hay and Saturday morning my mother-in-law raked the hay.  (Good family team work right there!)  By Saturday afternoon, it was show time.  The hay was ready to be baled.  My father-in-law had gone away for the morning and hubby and I were given a 5 minute tutorial on how to start baling by noon should he not be home by then.  I listened about as well as a 2-year-old listens to her grandmother attempting to discipline her.  “Yeah, whatever Grammy”.  Noontime came around and hubby and I loaded into the tractor and I mentally settled down to enjoy watching.  We got our little parade of hay baling equipment into line and flipped on the PTO shaft for the baler to work its magic.  I cheered and clapped enthusiastically when the first perfect bale was launched out of the ‘kicker’ with surprising speed and into the empty wagon.  The 2nd and 3rd bales jammed but the rest poured out like cookies on a conveyor belt.

Hubby baled until the wagon was about half full.  I contentedly watched and ogled over the genius design of the baler.  fetch_fileCheck this thing out…(internet stock photo, but the one we used looked just like it.)  The way I observed this baler to work was the long teeth or tines worked to snatch the loose hay and windrows up and feed them into an auger.  The hay around the auger went into some mysterious enclosed box that I’m guessing pressed it really tight and formed it into a rectangular bale and somewhere along the lines, tied two pieces of baler twine around both ends.  Once the bale was formed, tied and ready to ship out, it rested for about a split second on this steel pair of hands that immediately kicked it away from the baler and into the hay wagon that followed.  That glorious part of the baler is called the kicker and I came to both love and fear the kicker.

With half of the wagon filled with bales, hubby asked if I wanted to give it a try.  “Oh no, thank you.  You’re doing splendidly!”  “Keep at it Love.”  Next thing I knew I was sitting in the driver’s seat listening to directions on what lever controls what and what speed it should be in.  I clung to the steering wheel with white knuckles and wide eyes and did my best to not mess this party up.  When I had baled a few windrows and the wagon we were hauling was nearly filled, I saw my brother-in-law coming into the field toting an empty hay wagon.  How thoughtful of him!  I guess this now means I’ll be banished to the barn to unload the assembly line of filled wagons about to be made.  To my HUGE shock, hubby hopped out shouting some encouraging words of support and went to join his brother.  I was given instructions to proceed baling the rest of the hay fields.  “Ummm…wait, can’t we talk about this first?”

So he’s long gone and all that remains for moral support is our dog lying at my feet looking up at me with eyes that read “why did you stop?  Keep going!”  And so we did!  Sweet farm dog “Calla” and I set off on this newly discovered journey to fearlessly bale the remaining hay fields like Lewis and Clark set off to explore the West.  (Pretty comparable analogy, right?) Baling went fine and dandy when I was on the flat, straight stretches of the field.  The sweat began to trickle when I had to make turns on slight hills.  I also found out that the kicker needs to be controlled, especially around turns.  When the tractor and baler make it around the corner and the wagon is still working to catch up, bales start flying unless you aim them to actually go into the wagon.  Who knew!?  The kicker is amazing.  You tell it to shoot the bales to the far right, by golly it does it. You tell the kicker to shoot the bale just gently to the front of the wagon, it obeys.  Aiming the kicker is almost as important as steering the tractor.  My father-in-law returned when I had finished my first wagon load.  I eagerly offered to pass the wheel over to his decades of hay-baling experience but he told me to keep at it.  The nerve-wracking part was he stayed to watch.  The sweat began to trickle faster.  Mistakes started happening.  In my feverous attempt to aim the kicker to the precise location I wanted the bales to land, I accidentally shot 5 out of the wagon in a row, FIVE!  IN A ROW!  I lost a few bales going around the turns and just about jack-knifed the entire parade of equipment taking a turn too fast.

15960_10104804653517724_1368306361_nWhen my first wagon was filled, my hubby and his brother came back with an empty wagon.  We swapped wagons and I went out for another round.  My father-in-law did agree to bale a few rows while I went around to collect my rogue bales and kick loose windrows together again.  When the third wagon was filled and switched out for an empty wagon, I found myself back in the driver’s seat preparing to finish the task.  A few super helpful nuggets of advise were given to me and I was off for the 4th and 5th wagon loads.  My grip on the steering wheel loosened and I began to relax a bit.  I even began to enjoy the job, like…A LOT!  It had not yet become second nature to me like it was to my father-in-law so I still enjoyed the challenge of multi-tasking the steering, control of the speed and aim of the kicker.  This was way more fun than heaving bale after bale off the wagon and into the mound or on the elevator.  Sitting in a barely AC cab with our sweet dog at my feet feeling like queen of the hay-field was way more fun than sweating bullets and inhaling hay dust.  Things were looking up in the world for this girl!  The only wagon I helped unload that day was the final wagon load I delivered to the barn when the baling was done.

All was right with the world.

The stars might need to align just so before I’m given that privileged task again for the 3rd cutting but I sure soaked it up this past weekend.  I know a lot of my ‘super farm girl’ friends have probably been baling hay since they could walk and think nothing of it now, but for me to learn this fun skill at nearly 27 years of age, I loved every minute of it and cherished the freedom given to me to learn.

Ok, out with it.  I know some of you have found hay baling memories of your own to share.  Let’s hear them!